Page 16 of The Body Departed

“He was just here,” she said. “Standing in the dark, doing nothing.”

“Who was he?” one of the guys asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What did he look like?” asked the other.

“Tall. Hair sort of mussed. Then again, he was in the dark.”

“What was he doing?” asked the first guy.

“Like I said, nothing. Just standing there. Looking creepy as heck. I’ve been watching the door from my desk ever since. No one left.”

“Did he say anything?”

“No.”

The men looked at each other. One raised an eyebrow. The secretary saw the gesture and immediately turned on him.

“Look, I’m not making this up, Rick,” she said.

“I didn’t say you were.”

She moved deeper into the room, pointed to the open yearbooks. “Look. These were not like this before.”

“He was looking at yearbooks in the dark?” Rick asked, incredulous.

“I don’t know. Maybe—”

“Sharon—”

“Don’t Sharon me.”

The men exchanged looks again, this one much more patronizing. Luckily, Sharon didn’t see this. Instead, she was looking down at her arms, the flesh of which had dimpled into goose bumps.

“Why is this room so darn cold? It’s usually stifling in here.” She rubbed her arms and shoulders, then felt the air around her. She reached up. “The cold, it’s coming from up here.” Her hand passed through my groin. “It’s coming from here. It’s, like, twenty degrees cooler here.”

The men looked at each other again; cold spots apparently didn’t excite them.

“Sharon,” said Rick evenly, carefully, “no one saw a man come in here, and no one saw a man leave. Just like—”

“Just like what?” she asked, spinning around. Sharon was a young girl, perhaps in college. She would have been cute if she weren’t so pissed off. “Just like the little boy I see in the nave?”

“Yes,” said the other guy. “The boy you claim to see.”

“He’s there, Jules. And I’m not the only one who sees him.” Her voice rose an octave or two.

He held up his hands. “Okay, okay. We’ll take a walk around campus, see if we can find anyone,” said Jules. “Does that make you feel better?”

She nodded, appeased, but still didn’t like it. I felt a little sorry for her. The men exited, and she was left standing there alone, looking up at the ceiling. Looking up at me. She knew I was there. Or a part of her did.

“Whoever you are,” she said, “I command you to leave here, in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Where was I supposed to go? I didn’t know, but I knew when I wasn’t wanted, so I drifted through the wall, out into the hallway, and exited the administrative offices.

I waited until the dead of night to return to the copy room.

Jacob had followed me halfway there but had gotten distracted by some new artwork tacked onto the hallway bulletin board. He was, after all, just a kid. How old, exactly, I didn’t know, but I would guess under ten, maybe seven or eight.

The offices were, of course, dark and empty. The copy machine itself was in some sort of hibernation mode. So I gathered as much energy as I could, no doubt chilling the air around me, and pressed the activation button on the machine. The copier immediately whirred on. A few minutes later, when it was fully charged, I drew enough energy from it to pull down the same yearbook I had seen Eli in.

I opened it and went looking for the same football team shot. I found the photo again in the athletics section, and there he was, a clean-cut kid with a smirk on his face, his wide shoulder pads making him appear much bigger and tougher than he really was. I quickly found his corresponding name in the caption below the picture.

Eli Myrth.

I read it again and again. The name of my killer. The name of my piano teacher’s killer.

And that’s when it hit me. I remembered Eli Myrth.

Lord help me, I remembered.

I need that wallet.

27

I dashed out of the copy room, through the administration offices, flashed down a hallway.

I made an impossible ninety-degree turn at what would have been breakneck speed. Except, of course, I didn’t have a neck to break. I passed the dead boy. He was skipping in and out of a wall covered with photos of a recent school play, humming to himself.

The boy…

Lord, help me.

The double doors to the nave were closed. No problem. I lowered my head, blasted through.

The church, as usual, was dark and empty and eerie as hell. I whipped down the main aisle, up the platform, and into the side storage room off stage left.

The room was pitch-dark. I didn’t need much light, but I did need some, so I gathered my energy and used it all to flick on the light switch. Once done, I headed over to the box where Eli Myrth had hidden the wallet weeks earlier.

Thankfully, the wallet was still there, wedged deep within a tangle of black cables.

I tried to gather my energy enough to lift the wallet, but my thoughts were scattered, laced with images of Jacob falling to his death.

Horrible, horrible images.

Earlier, Jacob’s perspective had been as he fell, looking up at the shocked and horrified faces of the boys who had dropped him.

My perspective—my new perspective—was from above, watching in horror as the boy began to slip from my grasp, realizing with horror that something very bad was about to happen.

Very, very bad.

The boy reaches up, helplessly.

But it’s too late, and now he’s falling, falling…

We just meant to scare him.

I tried to calm down. Tried to focus my thoughts. No good. I paced the small area of the storage room, shook my hands. If I could have taken a deep breath, I would have.

We just meant to scare him.

I needed that wallet. I needed to know what was inside, although I could already guess. I forced myself to calm down, to slow down. Back at the cardboard box, I gathered my energy as best I could and plucked the wallet out from within. It dropped to the floor, flopped open.

I hovered over the wallet, wondering if I really wanted to know what was inside. Yes, I did. Very much so. It was truly a matter of life and death.

Well, afterlife and death.

I leaned down over the wallet, then removed two items from their respective slots. The first was a Subway lunch card. Four holes had been punched—just six away from a free sub. The other was a student ID card. The student in the picture had a minor acne problem, but nothing that time wouldn’t eventually clear up. He was grinning and happy, a spark in his eye. The spark would later leave with the weight of guilt. Eternal guilt.

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