Danson rested his head on his desk for a moment, relishing the cool of the plastic on his burning face. Being sick during an investigation was a nightmare, but here he was, bunged up and phlegmy and even more red-faced than usual.
Jase had sent him to work with a flask of broth and crusty bread rolls, and a small box of drugs to combat the cough and sinus headache, but as the day wore on it was slowly dragging him down.
Egs, on the other side of the desk, leaned over, “You need to go home. Sleep. Rest a couple of days. I’ll keep you updated and you won’t make yourself even more sick.”
Danson hauled himself upright, wincing at the sharp stab of pain through his skull, “I’m good, just need more of those pills is all. Besides, what’re you gonna do without me here?”
Egs rolled her eyes, “Without a giant, hawking, dripping slab of beef hovering around to infect everyone? What could I possibly do?”
Danson chuckled a little, then coughed loudly and deeply, “I’ll knock off soon as we’ve seen that woman you looked up.”
Egs sighed, “Aright, let’s go do that now, then.”
After the ghost sighting the night before, Egs had made discreet, and somewhat embarassed, enquiries, and had found Dr Erin Yates, a PhD in Paranormal Studies, nearby. On speaking to her over the phone, Egs had been impressed by the warmth of her tone, and interest in helping – despite not knowing what help she could be – and she had invited them to her home office. She had further impressed Egs by saying she didn’t mind her partner being sick, she had a very strong constitution, just ask him to bring tissues as she had very delicate equipment that could do without being sneezed on.
On hearing this Danson had grunted once, “Normally that’d be the weirdest thing that’d happened in the last day or two, but not anymore.”
Now, heaving his bulk up from the desk even more ponderously than usual, he shuffled his jacket on, reaching in to unruck his sleeves, check his holstered weapon, and confirm his badge was in the inside pocket.
Egs likewise dressed herself for the outside, grabbing a file of carefully chosen information to show to the Doctor in order to seek her help.
Together, they left the station and Egs drove them to the Doctor’s address, a large, pleasantly-kept, detached house on a nondescript street on the outskirts of the city.
The woman who answered was short and plump, with a messy ponytail and a cheerful smile. Inviting them in, they saw the ground floor of the house was crowded with equipment they couldn’t even begin to guess the purpose of.
Seeing them looking, Erin – they must call her Erin, she told them – began to explain some of them. Getting only blank looks in return, she grinned merrily, “I suppose it is all a foreign languge to anyone not in the way of it. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know what any of it does, here’s my office, do sit down.”
The office was surprisingly tidy, given the rest of the downstairs. Situated at the back of the house, looking out into a neatly tended garden, the room housed a desk, a leather office chair, three comfortable armchairs on casters scattered around the room, easily moveable across the polished, hardwood floorin, and a comfortable-looking pullout sofa with a blanket folded at one end, and pillows on top. In the far corner was a mini fridge and various hot drinks equipment, with coffee percolating on a machine as they entered.
“Coffee? I promise it’s better than whatever you’re used to at the police station,” she smiled at their eager nods and poured both a cup, adding milk and sugar on request. “Also, for you,” she presented Danson with a bottle of pills, “Herbal only so they won’t affect anything else you take, but they might help with the cold.”
Danson accepted a dose, and the rest of the bottle when pushed, and closed his eyes in pleasure at the taste of the coffee.
Erin sat on the third of the armchairs, bringing it around to face them, and her smile dropped as she got down to business, “So you said on the phone I may be able to help with a murder? Of course, if I can help at all I will, do tell me what you need.”
Egs handed her the file, “This is what I’m able to release to you, on the understanding of it’s privacy.”
Erin nodded, “Of course, of course,” she began looking through. “Oh, how terrible, this poor young woman.”
“In there is what we know, the technical details and all, but if you’ll allow me to give you a brief precis so we can get to what we need?”
Erin nodded, following along in the file to register the finer points.
“The victim was Janice Copperton, killed as she left work. We first assumed she was killed by the blow to the head, but after the examination it seems she remained alive after this, which means the symbols we found carved into her in various places were begun as she remained alive, though we believe she did die during this process. We arrested a suspicious person, and questioned some witnesses, and so far haven’t found any solid leads, just lots of grey area – but you’ll find abridged versions of the interviews in there so show you that.
“Drew was a solid suspect, until the drug tests came back and we found traces of rohypnol in their system. It’s possible someone tried to frame them and we got to their bloods a bit earlier than expected, because according to character references we took, they have never showed signs of violence – quite the opposite in fact, they avoid conflict even to the point of allowing injury to themselves rather than fight back. So while they technically remain a suspect, we don’t really suspect them anymore, and it’s always possible the drugging was simply a coincidence.
“You can catch up on that information, though. What we came to you for is something more along the lines of your specialist interests.”
Erin looked up and closed the folder, “I suspect I won’t find any of this in here, please, go on, and I can assure you of my discretion.”
“Well…” Egs hedged for a moment, then took the plunge, “The victim’s ghost came to visit me. Danson saw her, too.”
Erin nodded, and leaned forwards, her brown eyes intense, “Tell me everything, every detail, no matter how small.”
Finally home, Danson gladly divested himself of clothing, made strong tea, used it to take more pills, and took himself to bed. Feeling foolish, even by himself, he took one of Jase’s pillows and cuddled it, enjoying the comforting scent of his boyfriend – musing on the previous night’s conversation where that had become their official status – as he drifted off to sleep.
Later, as the sun set, he started awake from strange, dark dreams that reminded him of his childhood though, as they faded, he couldn’t recall why.
He sat up and shook his head to clear it.
“You look rough, my dear,” said voice, both familiar and yet not.
He looked up to see his mother, long dead and barely remembered, sitting at the edge of the bed, looking concerned.
Unlike Egs’ ghost, this woman was solid-looking, real-looking. He reached to touch her, and his hand felt the cotton of her clothing, a solid arm beneath.
“I’m hallucinating,” he whispered. One of his reccent dreams returned briefly to mind, something about the day his mother died. He shook it away, “No, you can’t be real.”
She smiled softly, “I’m real, in a way. I came to warn you. This murder you investigate – yes, I know about it, I’m your mother, I keep an eye on you – is more dangerous for you than you know.”
“What? Ma, how can you be here? If you can do this, why never til now, and what do you mean dangerous?”
“Oh I’m often with you son, don’t you hear me in your head when you try to make the right decision? When you don’t know which way to turn?”
“I-maybe? But that’s just me, making your voice into the voice of reason. Ma, you died, you stopped being able to tell me how to live my life.”
“My beautiful boy, I’m your conscience, since I died and couldn’t be a mother to you that’s been my one job.”
Danson shook his head in frustration, “What?”
“Oh not like you’re thinking, I’m no Jiminy Cricket – I can only try to help when you’re lost, when something inside you cries out for me, for a moment I get a chance to help. But this is different, son you have to listen to me, please, put your confusion aside, and just know I’m here to help, I don’t have much longer.”
Danson closed his eyes for a moment and summoned his strength, “OK ma, I’m listening.”
“I can’t pinpoint anything but I sense the danger, something from your past and mine that I thought was over has returned, and you’re caught up in it. I never wanted that. I made a mistake and I didn’t mind paying for it, but never you, my dear son, never you. They’ll come for you, and for Egs, once they realise who you are. I’ll try to protect you but you must believe in the things you see.”
The figure reached out and stroked his cheek, flickering and fading away.
As Danson wept, trying to cling to the sight of her, the front door opened and closed, and a moment later, Jase entered the room.”Hey big fella, hey – hey…”
Jase dropped the bags he was carrying and climbed on the bed with Danson, wrapping himself around him as well as possible and pulling him down, “I’m here, love. I’m here,” he whispered, “Everything’s ok. I’m here.”
Danson curled as much of his bulk as he could into Jase’s arms and shuddered through his tears, hearing one last echo of his mother, “This one is good for you, son. Keep him safe, and he’ll keep you safe, too.”
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