Drag Shergi Mystery 09 - Excerpt

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By chanthar
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It was the call I never thought I’d get. Sure, we all have to pass on sometime, and in my line of work I see plenty of dead people, but when it is someone you know, it takes a different meaning. Ron Masters was dead. I always thought he’d outlive us all, with his attitude. I’d gotten the phone call from my old partner, Jim Starling, two days ago. Tonight was the wake. It would be a little awkward to go, as I’d been forcibly retired from the police force early in my career, but I felt I had to.

It was a warm summer evening. Though I wasn’t much for drinking, it would be a perfect night to do just that. In the part of town the wake was being held in, there was a bar next door to the church. I found it a little odd, but apparently it brought good fortune to both, so I couldn’t say anything other than that. The side doors of both were open so the two could be connected. Those who wanted to drink and carry on could be in the bar section while the calmer people could be in the church.

I wasn’t late, but I wasn’t early either. Already the church was packed with the people that Masters had touched in his fifty-two years of life. The majority of them were police officers. Many were civilians as well. There were a couple dozen people in the same situation I was in as private detectives as well. While I looked around, I noticed nearly everyone from my old unit was there. I felt a little awkward, but I walked from the entrance of the church to the pew that held them. I sat in the far corner with a faint smile.

“Hey Drag,” whispered a hawkish man as he slid over closer to me. It was Jim Starling. He was dressed in his usual clothes. The only thing different was a black suit jacket over the white dress shirt and black slacks. He put his hand up and adjusted the black tie. “I’m glad you could make it.” As he spoke, his brown eyes glanced from his tan skin. The light brown hair brushed over his cheeks. He put his hand up and brushed the strands in an attempt to go behind his ears. It didn’t stay though, rather fell back.

“I didn’t have anything else to do,” I replied with a weak twinge of a smile. My light blue eyes glanced around the place again. The pale silver strands of my hair fell around my light skinned face, but I had it cut back enough to keep from going in my eyes. “I don’t understand how this could happen, though.” My hands pulled at my black trench coat. I’d exchanged my usual white t-shirt for a dress shirt and my usual blue jeans for navy blue dress slacks. As always, I had my black boots that were all policemen’s uniform.

“We don’t really understand either,” said another man. While he wasn’t one of my group per say, Bour Makas had been one of my informants. Now he was a policeman. We’d managed to keep in touch somewhat over the years. He smiled as he bobbed his head. The goggle-style glasses perched on top of his short gray hair remained in place. His hand went up past his ruddy skin to make sure they did stay as his brown eyes watched me. “It was sudden and violent, though.” When his hand fell I took in his clothing’s appearance. It hadn’t changed. He had a black trench coat over a white dress shirt and brown dress slacks.

“Oh,” I replied with a frown. “But, was it foul play or anything like that?”

Jim simply shrugged. “Even if we knew, we couldn’t tell you.”

“Come on, as one officer to the other asking about a friend, what happened?”

Bour took a deep breath in then let it out slowly. “We just don’t know. It seemed like a terrible accident brought about by old age though.”

With a deepening frown I sighed while I bobbed my head. “I never thought he’d die, not really.”

“Neither did we,” replied Bour.

“Anyway, listen to the service,” said Jim.

The preacher stood up at the pulpit. He placed his hands on either side of the stand. He leaned lightly against it as he cleared his throat then spoke loudly. “Ron Masters was a fine man. Sure like us he had his faults, but he always stuck to his beliefs. With bulldog tenacity he fought for justice in this city... He will be sorely missed.”

I have to confess that I drifted off between the beginning and the end of the speech given about Masters. I was too distracted by my own thoughts. It just didn’t seem possible that Masters would be taken by accident. He had lost all his hair from the stress of work yes, but there wasn’t anything else health-wise that I could think of. He had a face whose muscles couldn’t keep up, which made his jowls flap when he got mad. The rest of his body was all packed muscle though which made up his beefy frame. With his station he didn’t have to worry about being in uniform, but he made sure his clothes were respectful to the spirit of the code.

With the conclusion of the service, it was time to walk by the casket. I stood with the others. As the rows filed into the aisle to the front, I glanced around. There were few that rivaled my height, so I could see over everyone’s head. With a deep breath taken in then let out, I waited for my turn to approach the shell of Masters that remained. I wasn’t sure where he’d gone, but I knew he’d probably have the same attitude there as here. I tried to hide a chuckle as I approached the widow and the family.

Jim Starling went first, I came next, and then Bour Makas followed. With the murmurs of apology, we all shook her hand and tried to find some way to lighten the living people’s spirits. It wouldn’t do much good, but it was the thought that counted. Once done, we continued along with the crowd from the church to the bar.

All of us were of age to drink: Jim, thirty-nine years, me, thirty-five years, and Bour, twenty-seven years. Whether or not we chose to imbibe was something else entirely. Usually I wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure about the other two. Either way, tonight was a special night. It was seven thirty: too late for dinner, but not for drinks. The mood of the place held a faint melancholy air, but we wanted to send Masters off merrily.
I sat at the bar counter. Though I probably shouldn’t join in there, I managed to slide into a stool on the end. With a slight smile, I nodded to the barkeeper. Both of my hands rested on the top.

To my right was Bour, then Jim. They were still in the force, so they were able to chat with the other police easily. A round of beers were sent off to those in the bar to join in the rousing that might wake the dead, if such a thing were possible.

I barely drank, even with the offering at parties. This time was special though. With a soft sigh, I wrapped my fingers through the handle of the mug. I lifted the glass to my lips and took a small sip. My aversion to drink was both from seeing what happened to others as well as feeling what happened to me. When I was younger the age to drink had been eighteen, but there had been laws passed to raise it to twenty-one. I’d managed to legally drink for about a year, but I hadn’t found it as fun as it seemed to be when it was forbidden. Also, the sights of ghosts and the like came tenfold.

This evening I was in such a melancholy I didn’t bother with the usual forms that the others missed. The faded figures wandered through the bar. At times they even wafted through the people on this side of the veil. For the most part I ignored them; the same could be said for the living. With a faint sigh, I took another sip of the amber liquid. My eyes flicked over to watch as my ears caught the sound of the others going into song.

Go home dear brother.
You’ve lived well in this land.
Let no more these earthly troubles worry you.
Go home to the place prepared for you.
Live freely on the other side.
Only if it is your time.
Otherwise, come back to us now.
Come back to live, dance, sing, do anything.
Don’t remain lying down, soon to be underground.
Rise up! Rise up! Rise up!

I smiled faintly as I heard the sound. With each mention of rise, I lifted my glass. There was no one beside me to clink against. Still, I lifted the glass in salute. The song would be played occasionally through the night; there was plenty of time. With a faint sigh, I lifted the glass to my lips for a deeper drink.

From the corner of my eye, I thought I caught sight of something that was unusual for this bar. There was another soul; it had a very familiar build. Even after passing, the form of the deceased could be the same as it was in life. A bar stool was on the side of the bar counter, set singly apart for the deceased. Though it was empty to many, there were a few that could see the vague outline of the spirit that settled there.

To me, it was as clear as those who were still alive. My head turned as the glass lowered. I put the mug on the counter. There was nothing I could think of to do except to stare.

With an expression I’d never seen before, Masters leaned one hand on the bar counter. His weight shifted between his arm and the leg closest to the bar. The look he gave was a mixture of amusement and sadness. Then he spoke, “To think after all this time and with all you’ve seen this surprises you.”

“How could I not be? You were not supposed to die,” I managed to reply. Then I shook my head as a small smile pulled at the corners of my lips. “You’re supposed to live on, like a monument.”

It was his turn to laugh. It felt odd to hear him make those noises. In our dealings, he had been rather cross with me, but I couldn’t blame him since I did everything on the furthest edge of proper protocol. He shifted from leaning on the counter to sitting on the bar stool. “I suppose so. I certainly didn’t think it would have ended like this for me either. It certainly is different from this side. I can see why you were always so ornery.”

The small smile returned to my lips. I lifted my hand then rubbed it through my hair before I dropped it to the countertop again. “Err, yes, but I suppose I should have been more careful with it.”

“With age comes both experience and wisdom,” Masters said with a faint nod. He watched me for a moment then circled his gaze through the room. “Though, over here it doesn’t have the same meaning.”

“So what happened? I heard it was an accident...”

“No such luck, I’m afraid,” he said. A scowl pulled over his lips while he shook his head. His arms curled over the counter top. “At least, it wasn’t the sort of accident one usually thinks of. The others may believe that I simply died in a tragic way, but I know I was killed. Before I died, there wasn’t anyone around, but as I passed over, I could see that there was another someone, another something, there.”

“I see. I’m sorry either way,” I replied with a quick shake of my head. “But, you died in the precinct, didn’t you? How can you wander around just anywhere? Not many can leave the place of death so quickly.”

“I seem to be able to travel the places that I knew well,” Masters replied with a slight shrug. “At times the whole world blurs, but I always manage to make my way into someplace familiar.”

“That makes sense then,” I said with a slight sigh. “But I can’t do anything about it. I’m sure whoever is investigating will figure it out.”

“And what will they do? You can’t catch ghosts and put them on trial here. Besides, I don’t think it’s done yet.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked as my eyes lifted from my drink to stare at him.

“The precinct has been haunted. I can’t go into details. It ties in with another reason why my case was put to rest so quickly.”

“You’re not making much sense,” I said with a sigh. My head shook while I lowered my gaze into the liquid once more. I lightly tapped my fingers on the side of the glass. “But why can’t you haunt one of the people on the force? Bour has pretty good senses himself.”

“He doesn’t have senses like you, though,” Masters said. He leaned in closer to me then quickly returned to his relaxed position. Both of his hands folded over the counter with his fingers intertwined. “I’ve been talking to others over here. I had no idea. You’re something of a legend.”

I coughed faintly. An expression of embarrassment overtook my features. I shifted in my seat then coughed again. “I just do what I can. It gets me into more trouble than it’s worth most of the time.”

“And we haven’t exactly been nice about it,” commented Masters. He ducked his head slightly then shook it. The heavy flesh over his face jiggled slightly. “I have to say to you Drag, I’m sorry about what I put you through.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said with a slight smile. “That’s all in the past.”

“I know I have no right to ask you for this, but would you please help me?”

“You know what I want to say.”

“Yes, but please, would you reconsider? I can’t say it won’t make a mess for you, but I have to ask. Will you help?”

I shook my head. “There are times when one has to put their foot down. I have to say it: no.”

He took a deep breath in then let it go. With a slight shake of his head, Masters lifted from the stool. “Please reconsider,” he repeated, “But I understand your reluctance. I’ll try someone else.” From beside me, he wandered from the side of the bar counter into the crowd beyond.

At the heavy expression his face took, I felt my heart twist. I had to be firm though. It would only cause more trouble if I went into the police station now to ask questions about his death. I knew everyone would have a fit. I’d have to go about it very carefully, even in casual conversation.

“Drag, you haven’t said much.”

“Hmm?” I murmured as I cast my gaze from the faded vision to the solid one beside me. “Sorry Jim, I just find it a bit hard to concentrate.”

“I know, Master’s death has shaken us all,” he replied with a sigh. Taking the seat closest to me, he leaned in on his elbows.

“So what happened? You were so vague on the phone...”

“He had a heart attack. It was in the precinct in one of the interrogation rooms. We don’t know how no one noticed until it was too late,” Jim dropped his head into his palm. His body shifted on the seat. “I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be so helpless. We were right there, but no one noticed...”

“Sometimes things like that just happen. There’s no way to know when, if, or how. Sometimes it’s more than an accident though.”

Jim nodded along with me until he noticed the last of my speech. With a slight scowl, he shook his head. “Don’t start making something out of nothing. Master’s death was an accident, no more.”

“Sorry,” I replied with a quick shake of my head. “I didn’t mean to start something.”

“Just don’t talk about the end of his life,” Jim said with his head pulled in a shake once more. “Only talk about his life and the good things.”

“Yes, and again, I’m sorry.”

Jim simply nodded. His body lifted from the slumped position to gaze around the room. He watched the wake, blissful of the turmoil in and around the occupants. The only thing he noticed was when one of the officers got a bit more than tolerably drunk.

There were a fair number of those through the night. It was no wonder, considering the situation. I thought about just leaving as well, but it wouldn’t do so well to just disappear. I’d done that so many times while Masters was alive. I didn’t want to miss out on time with the people I knew, even if my fear now came from a different place. As the bar cleared out, I craned my neck in search of more familiar faces.
Wrath of the Scapegoat
Drag Shergi Mystery 09
Published through Lulu.com

This is only an exerpt, or preview if you will...
© 2009 - 2020 chanthar
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