When Olivia traded her promising career for a more domestic lifestyle as a wife and mother, she expected many things but never to see ghosts, much less be one. Then again, she never expected to be murdered or to have to point the finger at her husband for the crime.
Chapter 16, 17, 18
16, 17, 18
Debbie pressed the doorbell button repeatedly.
She and Olivia had tickets to see Poltergeist and Olivia always called if she had to change plans.
Debbie knocked. Still no answer.
She walked to the nearest window and cupping her hands on each side of her eyes to block the light, she looked through the window. Nothing seemed out of place, yet she sensed that something was terribly wrong. She went back to the door and kept banging harder and louder, eventually forcing the unlocked door to creak open.
Olivia never keeps her door unlocked if Brandon is not home.
Debbie stepped inside. It felt eerily quiet inside the house.
“Olivia!” she called from the foyer.
No answer. Feeling as if she had trespassed, Debbie turned around to leave when she heard Brayden’s cry upstairs.
“Olivia? Are you guys upstairs?” she called again.
She strained her ears and waited a few seconds but when she received no answer, she headed toward the stairs. Looking up half-expecting to see her friend appear with Brayden in her arms, she tripped over something. She looked down. One of Brayden’s Hexbug Warriors burst into an angry buzzing motion.
As she squatted to pick it up, a slight movement in the semi-dark and narrow hallway leading to the kitchen caught her attention. She turned her head toward the movement and heard a moan coming from the same direction. She stood and took a few steps toward what seemed to be a human form sprawled face down on the floor.
“Brandon?” Debbie kneeled beside him.
“Mmmm!” Brandon rolled over onto his back and looked up crossed-eye at Debbie. He yawned, filling the narrow hallway with a choking stench of alcohol.
“Euugh! You, skunk,” Debbie muttered, covering her nose and mouth with her blouse to filter the terrible smell. “So much for staying sober. I hope Olivia wakes up one day and leaves your damn ass?” Debbie hissed looking at Brandon with disgust.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Brandon quizzed.
“Nice to see you too. Where is Olivia?” Debbie demanded, ignoring his question.
“In my pocket,” Brandon replied sarcastically, then he rubbed his eyes and yawned, generating a new wave of disgusting alcohol odor.
Neither Debbie nor Brandon had made a secret of their dislike for one another. “Asshole,” Debbie mumbled then walked back toward the stairs.
Brandon sat and propped himself against the wall. “You’re like gum on my shoe, you know that?”
“Go to hell,” Debbie spat over her shoulder.
The door directly in front of her leading to the garage was wide open. The steely metallic smell, which she had felt when she first walked in, still hung in the air.
“What the hell is that smell coming from the garage, Brandon?”
She walked toward the door to close it and peeked inside. With her hand on the handle ready to pull the door shut, her brain registered what her eyes saw. Blood-curdling scream after blood-curdling scream erupted from her mouth. She screamed and flailed her arms in the air, but her feet felt glued to the floor.
Brandon came running… and froze. A few moments passed and he, like Debbie, seemed paralyzed in place. Finally, he seemed to work through his shock and with trembling hands he managed to turn Olivia face up. There was blood everywhere. She was stone-cold and stiff, her eyes fixed in an empty stare.
“Olivia! Olivia! Call 911!” he yelled at Debbie, who had stopped screaming but seemed still frozen in place. “Call 911,” he shouted again, then clutched Olivia tightly to his chest, calling out her name repeatedly.
Some time had passed until someone tried to unclench his hands from around his wife’s lifeless body. He looked around and became aware that the entire house swarmed with police.
“Brayden… where is Brayden?” Brandon asked in a trance as if consumed by a nightmare.
“He is with Debbie,” someone, who Brandon did not recognize, answered.
Brandon looked up at the woman’s unfamiliar face. “Who are you?”
“I’m Detective Libby; this is my partner, Detective Scott,” she said, motioning towards a heavy-built man in plain clothes.
“I’m sorry for your loss, sir.”
Brandon flinched at the sound of Detective Scott’s deep voice.
“Can you tell us what happened here, sir?” Libby asked callously.
Brandon shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know what happened to your wife? Were you not in the house at the time of the attack?” she pressed.
Brandon burst into tears. “Yes… No… I don’t know.”
“Sir, let’s go outside and get some fresh air.” Scott helped Brandon to his feet.
“Thank you,” Brandon nodded wiping his tears with the back of his hand.
Once they stepped outside, Scott wrote down Brandon’s information. “We will need your statement, sir, and you might want to have a lawyer present,” he stressed.
Brandon pressed his forefingers to his temples to get rid of a splitting headache, then as if just reminded of something, he looked at the detective surprised. The emergency lights cast a red glow as they played on the detective’s face and body. “A lawyer?”
“Yes, we need your statement, and you have the right to have a lawyer…”
Brandon interrupted him. “I am a lawyer. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just don’t know what happened; I was drunk and sleeping until Debbie found me this afternoon.”
“Did you have a fight with your wife last night?”
“No. Yeah… I guess you could call it that.”
Scott’s brows went up. “What do you mean?”
“I mean… look I am a recovering alcoholic. Last night I fell off the wagon. Liv was rightfully upset with me. I don’t remember much after that. I assume I fell on the floor, and she left me there.” Brandon began to sob again. “Oh, God. This is all my fault.”
“Is there anything missing from the house?”
Brandon looked at him as if he spoke a foreign language. “How the hell should I know? I just told you I was sleeping.”
“Okay, sir. Stay put. We may need you to answer a few more questions.”
“You know where to find me. Just find whoever did this to Liv.”
Scott nodded. “Ok,” he said, then he turned and proceeded back toward the garage. “Mr. Olson,” Scott turned back suddenly as if he had just remembered something important. “Do you recognize this?”
He held out a Ziploc plastic bag containing a piece of jewelry and Brandon looked at it for a few seconds. An earring. He shook his head. He didn’t recognize it.
“You mean, this was not your wife’s?”
“I-I don’t know… probably. She has many earrings.”
Scott nodded. “Okay. Stay close, Mr. Olson.”
Through bleary eyes, Brandon looked at him, nodded and then went back to sobbing.
Olivia covered her eyes with both hands to block the brightness around her but unsuccessful she winced and closed her eyes quickly. She tried again, this time she opened her eyes gradually allowing them to adjust to the light. It worked. She looked around taking in her surroundings. An entirely white room. Top to bottom. There appeared to be no doors or windows.
Where was she? A hospital?
How did she get here? she wondered, trying to shake the foggy feeling in her head. Confused, she looked around again grabbing at frail fibers of specifics from her mind about her prior whereabouts.
Nothing. A blank, invisible veil wrapped around her brain making her feel strange.
Then she discovered the source of the brightness. A glare. It shimmered from above. Soothing. Magnificent. She had never seen anything like it so her mind found nothing to compare it with. For a moment she thought she saw human forms floating in the light. Translucent but definitely there. The light, it seemed, radiated from them. They spoke softly, mere whispers, like a mother. Were they beckoning her to join them? Then without warning they faded away and took the light with them.
Olivia blinked repeatedly to adjust to the new light… or lack of light. The house, her house, felt quite dark and still, and something seemed different about her senses. At first she couldn’t pinpoint it. Then…
My vision; what’s wrong with my vision?
She could see above as well as below all at the same time. Her vision seemed to be at three hundred and sixty degrees.
This is disturbing.
Was she dreaming? That was it. It was just a dream. She should wake up now. She could not tell if it was day or night. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to wake up. She opened her eyes. Nope. Still the same hazy state. Was this real? It couldn’t be.
The name popped into her mind and an unexplained fear churned deep inside her. Almost instantaneously, she found herself standing beside Brayden’s crib. He slept peacefully. She blew a sigh of relief.
She reached to tuck Brayden in, but her hands went straight through. Startled, she took a quick step back. It didn’t feel like a step; it felt more as if she floated through the air. She looked down. Her feet dangled above the ground. She did float through the air.
“What is happening to me?” she asked the stillness around her. Her words sounded hollow. What was going on? This had to be a dream, but why couldn’t she wake up? Maybe the dream wasn’t over yet. That had to be it. Okay. Okay, she would play along a little while longer.
No. It didn’t make any sense. She glided down in the rocking chair beside Brayden’s crib and tried to still her thoughts long enough to make some sense of the situation. She shivered, suddenly feeling chilled.
Pipes clanked somewhere below followed by footsteps and doggy toenails clicking on the hardwood floor. More clanking morphed into muffled voices from downstairs. Instantly, Olivia found herself looking at a multitude of people, most of them dressed in police uniforms. They went in and out of the house as if that was the most natural thing to do. Flash bulbs made lightning strikes in the setting sun. Two people—a woman and a man—both dressed in plain clothes, talked to some uniformed officers while pointing, measuring, and comparing notes.
Olivia’s parents sat on the sofa in the living room. Her mother cried uncontrollably and her father had his arm around her, comforting her while he fought back his own tears.
Outside, uniformed officers swarmed in all directions. A coroner’s van parked in front of the house stood out from the rest of the police vehicles. Olivia spotted Brandon. He sat on the curb with his legs swinging, facing traffic. Holding his face in his hands, his body shook as he sobbed. Dark red splotches covered his white shirt. The same dark red substance coated his hands and face.
Why was everyone crying?
Another lightning strike drew Olivia’s attention toward the garage. She drifted in that direction and froze. A lifeless body, which looked a lot like her, lay down in a pool of blood. Detective Libby kneeled down beside the body and looked at something, in particular, then shook her head.
“It looks like she’s been dead for hours,” she said.
Olivia looked at the body in disbelief. It was her body. She was dead?
Sheer terror shook her. Even more confused, she hovered trying to compute the events leading to this moment. Still in a haze, flashbacks began to rush through her mind. She remembered her fight with Brandon… her plan to leave him in the morning. Then the scratch on her arm… Instinctively she looked at her arm. Yep, it was still there. She had walked into the garage… the intense burning sensation in the back of her head. She remembered thinking of Brayden. Begging for help… and a voice instructing her to relax. The stream of blood running down on the cement floor as her life slowly drained from her body. She remembered fading away, knowing she would never see her son again. She never got to say goodbye. Just before she had taken her final breath, her heart sunk for Brayden, for herself. She wouldn’t be there to teach him things, guide him, and see him graduating or getting married. Then everything had gone black. She was actually dead. The finding shook her as shock replaced the confusion. A sense of betrayal began to stir somewhere deep inside her soul as a burning rage hissed through like a deadly poison.
“I am dead. He’s killed me. The son-of-a-bitch has finally killed me. Damn you!” she roared.
Suddenly, she stopped her rumble. This wasn’t right. If she was dead, why was she still here? Wasn’t she supposed to move on? To heaven or something?
“Am I a ghost?” The question hung in the air like a dark shadow. She examined herself trying to find something that would prove or disprove her theory. She was still dressed in the same clothes from the night before… as was the body lying on the ground of her garage. She wasn’t glowing or translucent; she had no halo above her head. She looked normal. Well… if she did not take into account that her voice sounded hollow; or that she glided instead of walking; or that she went through doors and walls as if she were taking a walk in the park.
“Dammit! I am a ghost; nothing more than a spirit without a body.” That bit of knowledge was the first thing that somehow seemed to make sense. She swirled a few times, assessing the situation then she stopped. “He has to pay for what he’s done,” she decided calmly. Then instantly, her calm morphed into anger and resentment again. “I will make him pay!” she shrieked as she flew into a rage. Spinning around the room and around the house she knocked things down in her path.
“Close that door. The draft is messing up the evidence,” detective Libby yelled at no one in particular.
Olivia’s flight continued out the door until she reached Brandon and clutching on to her anger she beat the air with her hands into a frenzy trying to hit Brandon.
“You, son-of-a-bitch! Damn you! Damn you!” she screeched endlessly until she couldn’t anymore.
Exhausted and frustrated, she slouched beside him on the pavement. “Why? How could you do this to me? I loved you. Why couldn’t you just divorce me?” She wanted to cry, but tears didn’t come. Only an excruciating, soul-gripping pain.
Shoulders slumped, she glided back in the house. Her parents came into view again. Her mother sat on the floor still crying violently. It didn’t sound like she paused long enough to breathe. Her father had kneeled down beside her, one arm wrapped around her and the other caressing her hair in an apparent attempt to calm her.
Olivia felt her parents’ pain and wanted to somehow make it go away. Unwillingly, she perceived inside her mother’s soul and felt everything her mother felt. Torment. That was what Dana felt. A pain more agonizing than anything Olivia had ever experienced, came in waves and seared through her like a branding iron. Her mind conceding to the torment, unable to bring a thought to completion. Her only desire was to curl into a tiny, invisible ball while the pain burned and radiated.
Debbie came in the room holding Brayden in one arm and caressing the back of his head with the other, his tiny legs wrapped around her waist. Olivia approached and gently touched her son’s face. Brayden smiled as if knowing his mother was there.
“Why does Debbie’s advice make so much more sense after I screwed up?” Olivia wondered, remembering countless times when Debbie told her she deserved better.
Olivia floated back outside. This was an entirely new experience for her, one to which she knew she must become accustomed. No one seemed able to see or hear her. Instantly, she knew. She had to tell the world that her husband had killed her. That was her reason for being here. She had heard that before. Not that she believed in ghosts at that time. Now she wished she had.
“Help! Please, someone, help me!”
For a split second, she stood somewhere on a highway, waving for help. A bus driver seemed to spot her. He would stop. But… no. He just swerved around her and disappeared from her view. Then she was back at her house in her bedroom where it was quiet. Olivia stilled her thoughts. Though the events seemed crystal clear, she had to focus on finding a way to make her presence known. She had never believed in ghosts, but she had always loved movies about the paranormal. In the movies, the spirit could communicate. But that was Hollywood. This was real life… or death.
“Gah! Just kill me now,” she sneered in frustration. “Oh, wait. Somebody did. Never mind, false call,” she growled looking toward the heavens.
There were a lot of things she needed to work on in her new existence, besides making her presence known. Things like traveling. She could no longer tell time, but she knew she moved too much, too fast because she became easily disoriented.
Thinking of something allowed her to go to the source of the question. It quickly became one of Olivia’s favorite pastimes, much like dessert was a favorite at mealtime. Apparently, she just needed to learn how best to utilize her ghostly senses but a dark pressure-like sensation fogged her attempts. Something she could not describe, almost similar to how there are no words to describe colors to a blind man. Perhaps pain? Perhaps regrets for a life unlived?
The gloom outside seemed as gray as the emotions hovering inside. Though the rainstorm continued to rage, typical for Vancouver, the funeral home filled quickly for the viewing. Umbrellas of all shapes and sizes filled a rack on the side entryway, and those that could not fit in stood lined up against the wall.
Inside the funeral home, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and cookies clashed with the scent of fresh flowers, aftershave, and perfume. Family, colleagues, and friends talked in hushed voices, and now and then a sob pierced the monotonous hum.
The coffin sat half-open with a wreath of dusky red roses laid on top of its closed half. Its gold handles and dark cherry stain gleamed in the faint light as if striving to defy it. Its cushioned silky lining seemed comfortable. Inviting. Olivia laid in the coffin looking as if she was fast asleep.
Holding Brayden on one knee, Brandon sat next to his in-laws staring and relentlessly twisting his wedding ring. Unfamiliar emotions surged with every expelled breath as numbness gripped his heart, his mind unwilling to accept the finality.
Debbie embraced Olivia’s parents offering her condolences and bringing a fresh onslaught of tears from Olivia’s mother. Olivia’s father held her back trying to calm her, even as his own tears fell thick and fast.
A curvy brunette with a thick veil covering her face walked up and patted Brandon on the shoulder.
“Oh, Brandon, I’m so sorry,” she cooed her sympathy. “If there’s anything I can do for you, anything at all, you just let me know.” Her hand trailed down his arm to his wrist and then rested on his thigh as she waited for his reply.
The voice seemed familiar, but Brandon could not place it. He gave up quickly. It didn’t matter. He hardly recognized anyone in the room. He nodded politely, then said, “Thank you.”
She gave his thigh a gentle squeeze before wandering through the crowd toward the coffee and cookie table.
Had she just groped him? How inappropriate, Brandon thought, then went back to staring at the nothingness surrounding him.
A young woman holding a cup of coffee in one hand and a cookie in the other, probably one of Olivia’s old colleagues, went and stared at Olivia for a few moments. “Looks like she’s sleeping,” she said then she walked away.
A hand landed on Brandon’s back, and he stiffened, the brunette’s hand print still burning fresh into his thigh. He turned his head and sighed with relief when he saw that the hand belonged to Debbie.
She sat beside him. “How are you holding up?”
Brandon shrugged a robotic shrug. “As okay as I can be under the circumstances, I guess.”
Debbie nodded then pointed over her shoulder with her thumb wanting to know who the brunette was. Clearly she had seen the woman’s odd behavior.
Brandon shrugged again and shook his head. An older woman sitting behind them answered: “She’s our newest twice-a-year member of the congregation who comes to church on Christmas and Easter.”
From afar, Olivia silently watched her own funeral. The priest said a final prayer before the coffin was lowered into the ground.
As the coffin began to slide down, Dana collapsed in Brady’s arms. The tightness in Olivia’s ghostly chest slowly morphed into frustration and then rage, but it wasn’t until Brandon wiped a stream of tears flowing down his cheeks, that she lost it.
“Damn you!” Olivia screamed and whooshed around Brandon at a sickening speed, twitching her nose in disgust. Moments later her fury came to a screeching halt, brought on by one word.
“Mama!” Brayden chirped, pointing to something in mid-air.
It was his first word and Dana sank to her knees, not caring that the damp mud dirtied her dress. Her tears mingled with the rain and her gasping wails echoed around the gravestones while she looked up to the heavens as if searching for confirmation that her baby was safe up there, comfortable and warm. The pain that flowed from her was as palpable as the frigid rain. Her husband struggled to keep his tears from flowing as he helped Dana to her feet.
“Brayden?” Olivia gently brushed the back of her forefinger on her son’s face.
“Mama,” Brayden repeated and tilted unexpectedly to one side, spreading both hands as if reaching for someone. The sudden move caused Brandon to nearly drop him.
More sobs trembled through the crowd from heavy hearts, no doubt, for the little boy who would never know his mother’s love.
“Mama is not here. I’m sorry, baby. We’ll be fine… we’ll be fine, my sweet boy. I promise,” Brandon said, kissing his son’s forehead and holding him tighter. A new stream of tears spilled down his cheeks.
His words sparked a new onslaught of anger from Olivia. “Burn in hell. You’ll never be okay, you, bastard! You hear me? I will make you pay!” Olivia bellowed, triggering a small twister which caused a wreath to fall from its stand.