Storytelling Time: Death Takes a Detour – Chapter 2 Part II
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
Book: Death Takes a Detour
Inside an abandoned church, a dead woman’s spirit asks Abbie to promise she will care for her two children, or she insists on staying behind, even at the risk of losing her soul to the evil creature that killed her.
Yet, promises are sacred. Once you make one, everything changes. Your perspective. Your actions. Even your beliefs can shift. And taking on the responsibility of two kids, well, that could reverberate across the rest of Abbie’s life.
Read the excerpt below to find out how Abbie responds to this desperate spirit’s heartbreaking plea. What would you do in Abbie’s place?
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
(c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 2, Part II
Instantly Abbie found herself back on a crowded London roadway, groggily awakening to body parts strewn carelessly among torn-up bus seats and scrap metal. The stench of burning flesh stung her nostrils. Sirens blared. People moaned. A lone cry echoed in her memory.
Abbie returned to the present, heart-pounding and ears buzzing.
“Please, help us,” Robert said. “I cannot protect them much longer. My ability to affect my surroundings wanes.”
“Who is us?” she asked, confused.
“My daughter,” he replied in a horrified voice.
She swallowed hard as his bizarre words registered. Was he reliving his child’s death as she had the moment her teammates left this life? Did Robert feel guilty, too? Responsible in some illogical way? Is that why he lingered instead of resting peacefully beside his daughter? That brought up another intriguing question. If he was a ghost, where was his grave? Not beside his wife and daughter.
“If there is an injured person in here, it isn’t your daughter,” she said in a gentle but firm voice. Any more than it was one of her teammates. A deep gasp loosened the tightness in her chest.
“No,” Robert whispered. “No, she is not my Lizzy.” He, too, took a rasping breath. “But the children nevertheless need your assistance.”
At his plea, the sense of doom overwhelming Abbie lifted, leaving behind a lingering sense of tragedy.
Abbie ordered her feet to step into this side room and they obeyed without protest as if her body agreed the immediate danger surpassed the old. She was careful to avoid the wet footsteps. Mustn’t spoil evidence.
Abbie flicked her light over that woman’s body sprawled on the floor. This victim was Abbie’s immediate concern. Adult. Female. Dark skinned. Black hair. Face, body, and arms slashed. Again, of South Asian descent. Their mother?
The little boy whimpered. The little girl shushed him. They were looking around as if they couldn’t see the body. If Robert had built that shield, was he hiding the injured woman from the kids? For their sake, she hoped so.
Being careful to avoid the bloody area by her patient’s head and shoulders, Abbie set her torch and first aid kit on the floor, swinging the light onto the woman. The victim’s throat had been slashed and blood had drained out. She was on her side, facing Abbie.
“You’re safe now,” she said to the children. “My name is Abigail Grimshaw. I’m an EMT. I’m here to help.” Squatting, she spoke in a calm, reassuring tone while she checked on the still woman.
“Where are you?” a little girl asked in a tremulous tone.
Abbie glanced up past the body in surprise.
“They cannot see you, Miss Grimshaw,” Robert said, speaking inside her mind again. “I’ve hidden them from the creature who killed their mother but that protection is also hindering their sight of you.”
Was that even possible? And what did he mean by “creature?” Did he use the word as a metaphor? Like the word monster? After noting the victim’s state, that was how she’d labeled the villain who had done such cruel damage to this poor woman.
Holding out little hope, Abbie checked the supine figure for signs of life and found her pupils unresponsive to light. No hint of breath. Abbie pressed her fingers at the bloody throat. No pulse. The skin was cool and wet to the touch, and the body lay as silent as a corpse.
Abbie gently rolled her over onto her front. Pliable, no sign of rigor mortis. Under the flare of her torchlight, the woman’s bare neck and upper left shoulders showed no indication of blood beginning to pool after death yet. This murder had happened recently. While I ran through the graveyard? Abbie shivered at that gory thought and released a resigned sigh. Whenever she died, nothing in Abbie’s kit could revive this poor woman. Why couldn’t she hear the two-tone sirens yet?
“Amma might be hurt,” the little girl’s concerned whisper reached her. “I don’t know where she’s gone but can you please help her?”
The child’s worry was plain in her voice and Abbie’s heart shook. No wonder Robert was so affected. Brilliant of him to hide this carnage from the children. Abbie didn’t know how he’d built his shield but was supremely grateful that, even as she was able to spot the children perfectly clearly, they couldn’t see over to this side. She’d have to ask him later why she could see through his shield.
“That’s good.” Time to get these two out of here, but she had one more thing to do on this side of that ethereal barrier. “I’ll be right with both of you.”
“’kay,” the girl said, and pulled her brother closer.
Abbie quickly looked at the corpse, checking for details to include in her statement as a witness to this crime scene. Definite wounds on her arms. Mother trying to protect her children? Skimming her torchlight down, Abbie noted the simple hip-length dark blue blouse worn over long black trousers. Limbs bent but no indication of obvious fractures. Socks and shoes in place.
Time to leave. Picking up her kit and torch, she walked around the body to reach the kids. Where was Robert? He’d been here the whole time she conducted her examination.
“I need to show their mother the way home,” he whispered.
Abbie nodded, too stunned to speak. Was he talking about the woman’s soul? Did people have souls? Her father disputed it, but her mother believed such things were real. Why else insist on taking her children to church when they were little. Could her father be completely wrong that once a person died, life simply ended? Did this mean there was also a God?
“Miss Grimshaw, she’s worried about her children. She’s refusing to leave this world while their fate remains undecided.” He paused as if listening to the lady. “Seems that her car broke down near here. When she spotted this church, she hurried inside with the children to plead with the deity in this holy place to help her. She believes you and I were summoned in response. Three more are to come.”
“What?” Abbie responded in her thoughts, absorbing shock after shock. What did he mean she’d been summoned? And three more were coming?
“Their mother insists her children are in grave danger, Miss Grimshaw,” Robert said. “That they need your protection.”
“I will ensure they’re safe,” Abbie replied. “I don’t plan to leave until the police take them into their custody.”
“Not enough. She wants you to keep them with you, always, as she would have if she had lived. If you refuse to guard her children, she will not leave this world and she must. The creature who killed her is cautiously returning in search of her spirit.”
Abbie’s thoughts reeled at the possibility of the monster who did this returning. Her gaze swung to the two huddled together and she met the boy’s gaze. He looked directly at her, unblinking and with lips trembling as if he were listening. Could he hear her conversation with Robert? Was that possible?
For his and his sister’s sake, she wanted to say, yes, of course, I’ll protect them. Yet, how could she agree to something that she had no control over? Society would object to Abbie insisting on caring for unrelated children. Rules governed how orphans were handled in England. Even if it were possible, could she take care of these children? Forever?
Since B-Day, she could barely take care of herself.
Earlier, Abbie’s mother had said that anyone who might be in danger in this church was not Abbie’s responsibility. Abbie took a deep shuddering breath as her mind rejected that callous opinion. Margaret Grimshaw was no longer Abbie’s guidepost. Right or wrong, she had vowed that as of today, she would make her own decisions.
The little boy smiled at Abbie and slipped his small hand trustingly into hers.
Abbie nodded to the boy and then focused on the little girl. “What’s your name, love?”
Eyes lowered, the girl did not respond. These two needed something to distract them as they walked around the corpse of their mother. Abbie held out the first aid kit to the little boy. “Will you please carry this for me?”
Once he took it, she extended her torch to the little girl.
The child clenched her fists and shrank from Abbie. “No! I won’t leave Amma. I know she’s here somewhere.”
Not above lying in an emergency, Abbie said, “Don’t you want to help her? The police and the ambulance are on their way and we must show them how to get back here. You must be brave and light the way to the front door for your brother and me. Can you do that?”
The child hesitated, tears flooding her eyes before her gaze met Abbie’s. Then her lips firmed and she determinedly gripped the torch.
Holding onto the boy, Abbie held out her free hand to the little girl. “We will walk together so we don’t lose each other.” It was a tap into a reception class procedure that should serve Abbie’s current needs. She was thrilled as they came willingly.
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