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November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

After Life 15

By Sand Pilarski

Fifteen: Prophet or Pest?

As the sun rose, Roj left Matt and went up to the roof to sing along with the sunrise. In a way, it was like food to her; when the sun cleared the hemisphere of the world, she felt filled, sustained, replete with the knowledge that life goes on, day after day, and what comes with the day is all part of what is complete in the end.

Except for Matt being nuts with grief, and those bastards with their meth highway being at large.

The big scary dude who had blown her head off, Duchamps, or whatever he wanted to call himself, had shadows on Garrison. Obviously he was more in charge than her corrupt former boss. Unsure about what to do, Roj drifted to the sidewalks, and walked slowly back to the precinct, telling every spirit she encountered to shut up and leave her alone. They all obeyed her, except one.

"I could help you," the crone-ghost pleaded. "I know a lot about this city!"

"I'm not looking for help," Roj told it. "I don't need help."

"But some of us need to help, that's why we're stuck here."

This is probably another one of those nameless soul-sucking pests, Roj thought. Not wasting any time now with banter. "What's your name? Tell me or get lost."

"Don't be so touchy -- I'm Geraldine Teicheira, though people always called me Gerry. Who are you, Miss High and Mighty?"

"I'm not High and Mighty. I'm just tired of the harassment from the opposition crowd. I'm Roj, and I'm looking for answers."

"Just don't listen to them. Don't speak to them. Don't think about them, because thinking about them gives them power. They're parasites, like fleas. You think about them, it's like sticking out a leg and inviting them to bite you. What are your questions?"

Roj had been a hair from sneering at Gerry and saying, "So who asked you?" until she realized Gerry had answered questions about the Voices she hadn't even known to ask.

"What can I do about my corrupt precinct? How is the meth train through this city to be stopped? What needs to happen to keep my boyfriend safe?" Roj thought those were the essential questions she had.

"Oh, child, I don't know the answers to those ... but I can try to find out. Take my hand, I won't hurt you."

Roj reached out and touched Gerry's spectral hand, feeling odd and uneasy. I'm dead, and she's dead. Why am I so suspicious about an old dead woman when I'm a young dead woman roaming the streets of this dirty town? "Now what?"

The old ghost peered up at her in confusion. "Now I can find you when I get some of your information, that's what. What did you think?"

"I don't know what to think about being dead, except that it's been better than life, and yet more annoying than life in some respects.

"Yes, yes it is," Gerry said to her. "Both. I like helping people a lot, but I keep hearing 'All people are worthwhile.' Only I see those Mexicans and Guatemalans and Haitians and Hawaiians coming into this country to find work and make money and it pisses me off."

"Do you think they might do that to find work and make money?" Roj asked.

"Yes, money! Our money! They think they can come move in and take it away from us!"

"But we're dead -- how can they take money away from us?"

The ghost waved its arms viciously in the air. "By taking our money away from us, you stupid girl, what did you think?"

What did I think, Roj wondered. What did I think? That spirits are all-powerful, and perfect?

"I don't know about you, Gerry, but I myself am not packing any cash, so I can be just as stupid about Guatemalans as I am without any trouble to my soul. Sounds like you think money is more important than life. See ya around the campus."

"Yes, see you, you stupid girl."

Her exasperation was so great that Roj was strong enough to leap to the rooftops, and hop from roof to roof to get to her destination, encountering no more aggravating specters.

I need a plan, Roj thought, sitting on Garrison's desk. He was out for the day, and spilling a plastic container of glue from Forensics into his file drawer, along with the new bottle of gin from the sidebar just was not all that satisfying. Time to up the ante. An indelible marker from his drawer was exactly the right medium for the pristine green baize blotter on his desk.

You don't feed
The one in need
He make you pay
A certain day

Roj looked at her words, black on green. It wasn't exactly a lie, not exactly a threat, not even exactly a promise, or well, not an accurate, contractual agreement. However, she did feel the simple poem described Max the Murderer properly. Or it could apply to Matt, and how Garrison was ignoring his plight, and how Matt would some day uncover Garrison's crookedness. Or it could be that Garrison was so stuck on himself that he had no vision of the suffering of the victims of the drug dealing, and that in the afterlife, he would be judged by them and found wanting. "Just wait till you're dead, Garrison."

"Do you think you are a prophet now?" Desai asked, looking at the words from over her shoulder.

Roj turned to stare at him crabbily. "I'm dead. All I am is Dead Roj, and maybe an irritant to a bad man. When did you ever hear me say I wanted to be a prophet?"

"You're thinking that you know what will happen in the afterlife. That implies that you believe you understand what the Most High intends, which is what a prophet relates."

"Well, then, what does the Most High intend, if it isn't to punish bad men?" Roj asked angrily.

Desai shrugged. "I don't know the future. What is, is. I'm an angel, not a prophet."

"You're a jerk," Roj rejoined with heat, but he was already gone. "Desai! I know you can hear me! You're a jerk and you're not being very helpful!" In a wail of prayer like a child, she addressed the universe at large. "God! Desai isn't being helpful!"

She heard nothing in reply, and so turned her attention to Garrison's office again.

In the dark office, Roj went to the window and wrote on the expansive glass, "He's tailing you." There, maybe that will stir things up. Garrison might make a move against Mr. Max if he feels threatened.

When the morning shift came in, Roj flitted about the precinct, trying to find out who, if anyone, was assigned to tracking down the meth trade route. She found exactly no one. Matt had targeted himself by trying to find out who was responsible and where the labs were hidden. Everyone else had steered away from the ongoing crime as if it didn't exist.

Matt had told her of the numerous arrests, the domestic violence ones that had their roots in meth, the traffic accidents that had their causes in meth, the random assaults on the streets, the break-ins, the holdups for cash, the crazy shit that seemed to have no reason except for the highs of meth. It was out there, poisoning a populace, but here, in the precinct, since her death and Matt's leave of absence, no one was interested in finding the source, the fountainhead of the crimes.

The stench of Max's evil was clinging to people, of that, Roj was in no doubt. But why did they buy into the corruption? Out of fear? Of Max's people killing them, like that Thug Boy had threatened to kill Laurella and her kids? They were cops, and they had all kinds of firepower available to them, why would they be so afraid that they let the drug traffic go on?

Could it be because Garrison was at the apex of the police involvement? Roj didn't think so. She didn't remember anyone saying how wonderful Garrison was -- although some of the staff, and probably some of the cops, had a sneaking admiration for his high-rolling lifestyle and his way with women. None of them followed him around like sycophants and partied with him. That crumb Ayers in her department wished he could, but he couldn't, not on his pay. No, it wasn't out of charisma that the corrupt ones got into the scheme. That she would have seen oozing from Hennessey, tendrils of Hennessey's self sliding toward Garrison to feed him, and feed from him.

It had to be for money, but who was the source of the money, and how did they receive it? Surely not in their paychecks, or the snitches in Payroll would have all been killed off for lack of cooperation. They were famous for denying expense reports, one and all of them, under the department head, Gretel Gretenstoff, or, as she was popularly known, Girdlestack. That woman had respect for nothing but the bottom line, as long as that bottom line stood with its spine straight and clicked its heels when she addressed it. The money, the payoff, if there was one, wasn't coming through the system.

How often did they get paid for their blindness? Every week? Once a month? One time cash payments? The only way she could find that out would be by going through bank accounts, one by one, which would be so very, very dull.

I'm dead, I guess I have a lot of time on my hands, she thought, but then something came to her, conveying, "No, you don't." She didn't have eternity to go through bank statements, somehow she knew that, as though she had seen it, like the shimmering in the faintly yellowing cottonwood trees by the river park, telling that autumn was at hand. Her time was limited, whether by a decree that had her particular time in this effort set to a certain number of days, or by the lives of the participants in the crime. She had to get some kind of a move on, and hanging around here wasn't helping. Garrison was out for the day. Where was he?

She shot up to his oft-violated office and searched for a day planner, but he had none. Of course! Personnel! His home address! With a heart renewed in interest, Roj went up another floor to Personnel, and looked up Garrison's address, thrilled that it was in an exclusive part of town. She took off through the clouds with a merry whoop, set on visiting his abode and seeing what could be found in a five bedroom house on a man-made canal with its own little boat dock off the back yard.

"Now this is what you call the house for the honest policeman," she said sarcastically to no one. "What is this, about 4200 square feet of man-cave and private access to the lake? Let's have a look."

Roj passed through the roof and the security systems without feeling them. The stench of Max the Murderer was faint, but present, and sniffing spiritually, Roj followed it through the house to the big living room, where it adhered to some of the furniture, and then to an office down a hallway, where it figured rather strongly. She cast about the huge house, stopping in the kitchen, the game room with its billiard table, and each of the bedrooms. Garrison wasn't here, either. She returned to his home office with another round of mayhem in mind.

He had a computer, with which she would have loved to have played, but she didn't have his password, so she was out of luck with that. And a quick ransacking of his drawers produced no day planner or notebook with information to his whereabouts today. He didn't even have an indelible marker in his supplies, the nitwit. How was she to make him crazy without the proper tools? Okay, wait, she could make do with what was at hand.

With a bottle of ketchup that conveniently had a squeeze top lid, she printed plainly on his cream-colored berber carpet whose expanse stretched across the acre of living room, "He's tailing you." It was magnificent. Not only did it echo the message at the precinct, looking strikingly bloody, the red against the creamy loops, but also Roj knew that ketchup's artificial coloring made a stain that was almost impossible to remove. The little bit of water she'd added to the bottle would only assist the color to remain in the rich carpeting forever.

Not to mention that he wouldn't be able to have guests over until the carpet was professionally, laboriously cleaned, or perhaps even replaced. Roj considered turning on all the faucets in all the sinks and baths and plugging the drains, but all of them had overflow vents, so it would have been pointless. Then she thought about what had been done to her apartment, and a vengeful mood flowed over her. She would empty his kitchen and baths onto his tile floors and smash everything. He'd start to remember what had been done to her, and maybe he'd begin to understand that she was gunning for him.

Or would he? Bill had sent officers to her ransacked apartment, and she had been blown away right there in the precinct ... but she hadn't heard one word about an investigation into her death. In fact, Garrison hadn't seemed at all concerned about the crime when he talked to Max, just wondered why it hadn't been Matt who died. Did Garrison even know what had been done to her household? He knew what had been done to her and Matt, but sure as shootin,' he hadn't been there to see her brains all over the back half of the employee lounge. She'd have been all cleaned up and taken away by the time he'd have shown up the next morning.

Maybe just leaving the destructive message on the rug was enough. "I wish that I could access his computer and erase its memory like I did Hennessey's."

"Should you not speculate that the information on Garrison's computer might be necessary evidence in the future?" Desai asked from atop the fireplace mantelpiece.

"Good point," Roj answered him. "I wanted to access his calendar to find out where he was today, and thought I'd wreck his computer after I found out. No go. And I think that the subtle message on the carpet is better than trashing his kitchen and bath, don't you?"

"I do. It may give him less rage and more thought. He keeps his calendar on his phone, incidentally."

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-02-05
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
Ralph Bland
06:16:35 PM
Roj is relentless, to be sure. I like that the stakes for action have risen due to the realization that she has a limited time to linger.
Hope you are conquering the flu. It's not for sissies.
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