“You know why he’s here, James.”
“If not, then you will,” she said. She was still on her knees and still subvocalizing beneath her breath, her voice audible only to God and me. I felt special. “And as far as how I got him here—easy. I confronted him about the murders.”
“No, the private investigator was with me. Luckily, the guy doubles as a bodyguard. He’s waiting in the foyer, by the way. Anyway, I approached Eli about everything. To say he was shocked was an understatement.”
“How did you explain catching him?”
“Told him we had a witness in the church.”
“How did you explain your involvement?” I asked.
“I didn’t. Not really. He was rather shocked and numb and probably a little high on whatever it was he had last taken. He didn’t ask who I was or how I was involved.”
“So how did you get him to come down here?”
Pauline smiled. She looked tired. I could see this had taken a lot out of her. Confronting a serial killer, I was sure, had been stressful.
“You bet your ass it was stressful,” she said. “You owe me big, mister. Maybe you can ask your friend Jesus to toss me a miracle or two.”
I grinned. “I’ll see what I can do.”
She went on. “So I told Eli, quite bluntly, that I was a medium and that his brother was still haunting the church of his death and that he, Eli, needed to do something about it.”
“And Eli believed you?”
“He’s here now, isn’t he?”
“Okay, so he believed you,” I said. “What’s next?”
“That,” she said, “is between you, Eli, and Jacob. And maybe the police. And maybe even God.”
At Pauline’s request, I retrieved Jacob from one of the school hallways, where I found him trying unsuccessfully to drink from a water fountain.
Now the four of us were standing near the altar, the scene of so much pain and suffering. To the naked eye, of course, there would have appeared to be just two people standing there.
Pauline was holding Eli’s hand, which should have surprised me but didn’t. I felt neutral toward Eli. Yes, I had taken much from him, but that had been a reckless, stupid accident. Eli, on the other hand, had hunted me down and killed me in cold blood.
Tit for tat.
Jacob was by my side, and his little face was screwed up in utter bewilderment as he took in the scene. On some level, I knew the boy recognized his twin brother, but I also knew that Jacob saw Eli as his music teacher’s killer. I sensed the kid’s confusion and conflicting emotions. I looked from one to the other. It was hard to imagine that these two had once been identical twins. I had taken so much away from them. One was so young and bloodied, and the other so much older and damaged. One had stopped growing in death, while the other had marched on into misery.
“They’re both here,” said Pauline gently to Eli.
For the first time since entering the church, Eli raised his head. “Who’s here?” he asked. His voice was soft yet hoarse. A smoker’s voice. A screamer’s voice. The voice of someone who had neglected his body in one way or another.
“Your brother,” said Pauline. “And James, one of the men you killed.”
A mélange of emotions crossed his face at once: doubt, amusement, fear. In the end, I think he settled on dubious trepidation. He was still a handsome guy. Dark hair, flecked with premature gray, perhaps indicative of a life not very well lived. He was also not very tall. Pauline had him by a few inches, which might have given her a false sense of security. Indeed, Eli had wide, round shoulders. Strong for his size.
He said, “You mean, you know, like, here from the other side? Like in that show Crossing Over?” As he spoke, he did so with a pseudo-Brooklyn tough-guy accent. Except, I knew he had lived in LA most of his life.
“Close, Eli. These two never crossed over. They have been with us ever since.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. The Brooklyn tough guy was gone in an instant.
“Your brother has been haunting this church since his death, Eli. For nearly twenty years.”
The bigger twin suddenly looked sick. He also looked like he needed to sit down.
Pauline pushed on. “And James never passed on, either.”
“Never passed on?” he asked weakly, confused.
“Crossed over,” she explained.
“Where…Where are they?”
“Standing by my side.”
He looked to her side, at a place somewhere in between Jacob and me.
“Bullshit,” he said. “I don’t fucking believe it.”
He adjusted his shoulders. The tough guy was back. The street drug dealer, the ex-con, the killer. But Pauline was a tough girl, too, and she was unafraid. I also knew she preferred not to waste her time convincing skeptics, but apparently, this case was different.
“Eli, your brother is standing next to the man you killed. They are both looking at you. Your brother is wearing a school uniform. Dark pants and a short-sleeved white dress shirt. The dress shirt is covered in blood from a massive head wound. His neck also appears as if it might be broken. Your brother understands very little of what is happening presently. Young spirits are often confused, and he is very, very confused, Eli. He needs your help to move on.”
And as she spoke, the drug-dealing, murderous ex-con slowly broke down. I saw his face change shape. The hard lines softened. The lower lip quivered. Eyes watered.
She pressed on without pause. “And the man who accidentally killed your brother is here, too. The man you, out of revenge, killed in return. James is standing next to Jacob.”
Eli got hold of himself at the mention of my name. Pauline was in a near trancelike state now that she was truly locked in to the two spirits in the room. Sometimes I took her mediumship for granted. I knew such focused concentration took a lot of effort.
“James is really here?” said Eli.
“Yes, Eli. He really is.”
But he still didn’t seem entirely convinced. He also didn’t seem entirely stable, either.
“What about Dustin Hicks?” he asked.
“Dustin passed over long ago and is not here, although he is taking an active interest in this from afar.”
Oh, really? I thought. Pauline never ceased to amaze me.
“Thank you,” she said to me.
“What?” said Eli.
“Nothing,” said Pauline.