Home > The Body Departed(14)

The Body Departed(14)
Author: J.R. Rain

The boy floats over and lays his head on her unmoving shoulder.

Jacob and I sat together in silence.

The church itself was completely devoid of noise. Not even a creak. The structure had long ago settled into place.

After a while, I said, “You miss your music teacher, don’t you?”

“She played for me every day,” he said. “She would say my name and play me songs, and sometimes she would sing for me, too. She knew I was here.”

We continued sitting together in the pew. The nave was empty and quiet and eternal. The boy inhaled, taking a pseudobreath, and rested his wounded head against my own bloodied shoulder, much as he had done with his piano teacher.

I put my arm around him, and we sat like that until dawn.


It was early morning.

I was alone in one of the church’s administrative offices, gazing out a partially open window. It was one of those windows that had to be cranked open. I didn’t do the cranking. Such cranking was probably beyond anything I could do in this form, anyway. Now, through the gap in the frosted-glass window, I could see the branches of an oak tree swaying in the early-morning wind. A bird or two flitted by.

A maintenance worker had come by earlier. He’d looked spooked as hell. He should be spooked. Here be ghosts.

Speaking of ghosts, Jacob was off roaming the nave alone. Or, as some would call it, haunting it. I had slipped away to explore my new home, although much of it was already familiar to me. Call it more of a reacquaintance.

The parking lot beyond the window was mostly empty, but it was still early. Only the maintenance man was out and about; of course, I was out and about, too, but then again, I never slept, either.

It’s hard to sleep when you’re living a nightmare.

Now, as I gazed out the window, I tried to recall what it was like to sleep. I knew I had enjoyed it. In fact, I remembered that sleeping in had been a rare luxury, one that I had indulged in whenever I could. Now, eternally awake, I wondered why I had enjoyed it so much. What had been the appeal?

I couldn’t remember.

I shut my eyes, trying to remember what sleep had been like, and behind my closed lids was a churning sea of eternal blackness streaked with scattered memories and flashes of light and a horrific sense of continuously falling. I snapped my eyes open.

There was no rest for me.

Let’s think about something else.

I knew who the piano teacher’s killer was. Jacob had called him Eli. (And I made myself constantly repeat the name, as I did not want to forget it.) Later, when I had questioned Jacob about the name, he could not recall saying it and was adamant that he did not know who the killer was.

I still doubted that this Eli had meant to kill our piano teacher, probably assumed she would see the gun and simply give up the key.

Instead, she screamed bloody murder.

And his reaction was to quiet her. And quiet her he did, strangling the life out of her.

Then again, maybe I was wrong. Maybe his intent was to kill her all along. Maybe. But I doubted it. He had also been high on something, which accounted for his bloodshot eyes, and that something would have clouded his judgment.

Just a crackhead in need of his next fix—and in need of some extra money.

Which made me wonder, had Eli been high on something when he killed me? I thought back to my own death, to the look on Eli’s face as he stood over my dead body. Yeah, he was definitely high on something, or drunk. Perhaps both.

The morning sun was making its appearance. Pigeons flashed across the window and into the brightening sky. I heard cars moving down a distant street, and one or two of them pulled into the church parking lot.

One thing was certain: Eli was affiliated with the church somehow, either as a worker or as a parishioner. Something. He’d known about the key and the wallet and when to strike—in particular, when the piano teacher would be alone in the chapel.

Perhaps he had once been a student here, too, like Jacob and me.

I thought of the two names: Eli and Jacob. Both names were biblical, and both were from the Old Testament. More importantly, both rang a tantalizing bell within me.

So what was my next step?

Easy. Find out who the hell Eli is.


As the early morning turned into midmorning, I searched the church and its connecting school for any signs of the killer.

I suspected Eli probably wasn’t a teacher here—especially with all signs pointing to a serious drug problem—but he could have worked in other areas of the school: security, maintenance, administration.

I drifted in and out of classrooms and offices and hallways. I came across many people, of course, but none of them was Eli, which didn’t surprise me. Any principal worth his or her salt wouldn’t let an obvious addict around the kids. Unless said obvious addict was an old pro at hiding signs of his addiction.

Except, Eli wasn’t an old pro. He was just a scumbag user with a disgusting habit, a user who was willing to kill an innocent woman to get his hands on a few bucks.

And he was willing to kill me, too.

So how had Eli known about the wallet? I didn’t know. At least not yet.

Although I missed my daughter, I was admittedly glad to get out of my apartment complex and see some new sights, new people—

I suddenly stopped in mid-drift.

Jesus, what’s her name?

Panic washed over me. Literally. I could see my own ethereal body ripple with the effect.

Her name, dammit! What is her name? Maddie? Mandy! It’s Mandy!

Relieved, I continued down the hallway, repeating her name over and over…

And over.

The school was adjacent to the cathedral and thus, being part of the same building, permitted me ghostly access. I had already attempted to leave the church once, only to discover the invisible barrier blocking me. Who invented these ghostly rules, I didn’t know, but they were there and they were damned limiting.

The classrooms all looked just as I remembered: lots of shelving and lots of religious-themed posters. Maybe even the same posters back from my school days. GOD IS GREAT. JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.

The teachers, granted, were younger and far cuter than I remembered.

Sometimes, as I drifted in and out of the various classrooms, students would turn and look at me—then usually quickly look away. Young mediums, all of them. The world is full of such mediums; most just won’t admit to their abilities.

Now, as I drifted through the back wall of a third-grade classroom, a redheaded kid with braces and a thick neck snapped his head around and looked directly at me, then promptly turned bone white. Then again, maybe he was already bone white. Hard to tell with redheads.

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