(disclaimer: since the book isn't finished, names, places, relationships and plot points could all change)
The cold chill which crept across her skin told Margaret she was not alone. For some reason, this particular visitor did not want to be seen. It happened from time to time. She knew from asking some of them that it took some effort to be seen, and sometimes her visitors just didn’t have the energy for it. More often than not, though, there was some reason they didn’t want to be seen.
“You can come out,” she stated to the empty space around her, “no one here wants to harm you.”
She received no reply, so she leaned back into the high backed office chair behind her dad’s desk. A deputy leaned into the doorway.
“Did you say something, Meg?” he asked her.
“Just talking to myself,” she answered, and he stepped back out of sight.
She immediately knew what he was thinking. It was what they all thought. She was strange. She talked to herself. She thought she saw things that weren’t there. But Margaret Cooper knew they were incorrect. She was a medium.
Medium is such an odd word for what she was. She had always liked the term spiritist, but no one seemed to know what that meant. The term medium seemed designed to remind her of how ordinary she was. The first person who had ever asked her if she was a medium, she had replied that she was “extra-medium” but they hadn’t understood the pun. Margaret was an average pre-teen girl from a small Colorado mountain town. She had always seen spirits, but she firmly believed that all kids see them until the adults slowly convince you to conform and stop seeing the world around you. You aren’t really growing up in this world until you stop believing in Santa Claus, and you stop seeing ghosts. So, most kids just stop. She couldn’t say how they were able to do it. Ever since the accident, the spirits seemed to seek her out.
Two years before, in the summer, she and her grandfather had been in a car accident. It was bad. They had been taking a trip up to the reservoir to fish, and an elk had run in front of them. Margaret never remembered anything about the crash, but she woke up two weeks later at the hospital to hear that the car had gone off the road and that her grandfather had died. From that point on, she couldn’t have avoided the spirits even if she had wanted to. They sought her out.
“Yeah I will talk to her about it,” she heard her dad’s voice outside the office. The response was from the desk sergeant, it was low and she couldn’t hear it. But she could easily hear the frustration in her dad’s voice when he shot back, “I said I would talk to her about it, Mike. What more do you want?”
Dan Cooper walked into his office. Margaret always loved the way her dad looked in his uniform, all pressed and clean. He was the Sherriff of their small county, and all of the people here worked for him. He had been elected three times now, but had been the youngest Sherriff in Colorado when he had first taken office. Two years ago, just before her accident, they had taken over the city police here in Cripple Creek also. The people of the town, and the people of the county, thought they were better served by having only one law enforcement agency in town. Her dad led them all.
“Have you been in the men’s bathroom, sweet pea?” he asked her as he walked toward the desk, some reports in his hands taking most of his attention.
She got up from his chair and walked around the desk to lean against some shelves. “Why would I go into the men’s bathroom?” she queried.
Her dad looked up at her over his reports, and she knew what he was going to say, “Answering a question with a question is an indicator one is trying to hide something.”
His stare burrowing into her, she knew she had to answer in a manner he wanted it framed. “No,” she answered, “I have not been in the men’s bathroom. In fact, I have never been in the men’s bathroom.”
His curt nod told her that he not only believed her, but that it was what he had expected. “Why did you think I had been in the men’s bathroom?” she wondered.
“I didn’t,” he said without looking up, “Deputy Mike thought you might have been. The soap dispenser is on the fritz again. He says it only happens when you are here.”
She was always getting blamed for the soap dispenser running, the paper towel dispenser shooting out too much paper, or the automatic doors opening constantly without anyone standing in front of them.
“Maybe it was ghosts,” she replied sheepishly.
Her dad put his reports down and looked up at her again. He had little patience for the direction this conversation was going. “Meg. We have spoken about this before. You spoke about it to Dr. Fellows. Ghosts aren’t real. You know that.”
“I know,” she quickly acquiesced, “I was making a joke.”
Margaret had no interest in returning to the psychologist in Colorado Springs which her dad had forced her to meet with after the accident. The man smelled of cheese, and she couldn’t stand watching the spirits which hovered around him while he tried to convince her they didn’t exist. Eventually, she had verbally given in, just to keep from seeing him again. In public, and to her dad, she had to keep up the façade that there were no such things as ghosts. In her own mind, she knew the opposite to be true.
“Well, pumpkin, Dad’s got a lot of work to do before he can head home. Do you want to wait for me, or walk up to the house?”
Dan Cooper almost never used a person’s given name. Everyone was “buddy”, or “brother”, or in her case, “Pumpkin”, “Peanut”, or “Sweet Pea.” The exceptions were when he wanted people to know he was being serious, as when he had just called her Meg.
“Speaking about oneself in the third person is a key indicator that one does not wish to hurt his daughter’s feelings when one sends her out of his office,” she smiled.
A large grin spread across her dad’s face. “You know; it takes a special kind of mind to be that funny right before one gets grounded.”
Margaret giggled, “Okay, Daddy. I will walk home.”
“You have your phone on you, right?” he asked.
“Of course,” she answered, “I am a teen girl.”
“It wasn’t a knock, kiddo. I just want you to call me when you get home. It should take about ten minutes.”
Margaret nodded, “I love you, Daddy.”
His eyes twinkled when he looked at her, “I love you too, peanut. Ten minutes.”
Margaret headed out the door of the office, giving Deputy Mike a glare, as she headed to the front. He just shook his head like he knew what she had done.
“Bye, Deputy Kinch!” she called out to the woman behind the reception desk.
“Bye, Meg,” the young woman called back, “see you around.”
Margaret walked out the automatic doors and turned up the street. A boy her age was leaning against the wall. He had slicked back hair, a white t-shirt, and rolled up jeans, just like he did every day.
“Can you stop with the doors, the soap dispensers and the paper towels? You are going to get me in even more trouble?” She begged him.
He laughed a devilish giggle, “Did it get under that buttwad’s skin again? That guy is such a little weasel.”
“Deputy Mike is my dad’s senior deputy. I don’t need him constantly giving me the stink eye, so cut it out,” she ordered. “Why can’t you take my dad’s work seriously? He deserves some respect.”
“I do respect your dad’s work, Meg.” Suddenly he was very somber, “I respect your dad. I just think everyone in this town needs to lighten up a little.”
Slick had been one of the first spirits she had encountered once she had come out of the hospital. Unlike all of the others, he aged along with her, always seeming to be about her age. His fashion sense told her he had maybe lived in the fifties, but he didn’t like to talk about himself so it was hard to tell. He had been around eleven when she had first seem him, the same age she was. Now he was around thirteen. It was so unusual, in her experience, for ghosts to age. But, she chalked it up to not knowing that much about them, and let it go.
During this conversation, she had turned toward the wall. It was important that the people of the town not see her seemingly talking to herself. The kids at school already thought her crazy. But, she had only ten minutes to get home, so she turned back toward the west to head there. What she saw next changed her trajectory.
Two Sherriff’s cars sped by and screeched into the parking lot she had just left. Deputies Campbell and Devereaux rushed into the office. Something was amiss. Margaret was supposed to go home, but something about this drew her in. She turned back around and began towards the station again.
“Meg,” Slick called to her, “Your dad wants you to get home.”
She heard the worry in his voice, before she even saw the apparitions. Small shadows danced about the two deputy’s cars. They weren’t like other apparitions. There was malice in their being.
“Please, Margaret,” Slick pleaded, using her given name, “Let it go. This isn’t for you.”
Margaret ignored him and headed back to her father’s work.