01
Aug
07

Extracting Poltergeist by Kat Richardson

Halloween is approaching when Harper agrees to investigate the members of a research group who’ve been attempting to create an artificial poltergeist. The head researcher suspects someone’s been faking the phenomena, but Harper’s investigation reveals something entirely different–they’ve succeeded. When one of the group’s members is killed in a brutal and inexplicable fashion, Harper must determine if the murderer is the ghost itself or someone all too human

The morgue had been in the basement for a long time, collecting Grey, dead things. I’d been down there before–missing persons, insurance, and pre-trial investigations sometimes led to the deceased–but I’d never before been able to see what everyone always imagines: the spirits that never leave the place. There were plenty of them, though as I stared, I realized there were fewer than I would have thought. Most were oblivious to me, but some had gathered around the elevator door, making the apparent crowd. Two or three looked at me as if they expected something.

“I don’t have time for you right now,” I muttered. “Go away.”

A few of them backed away or faded as I stepped out of the lift.
Something whispered, “We don’t know the way.” I wondered if that was literal truth or something more spiritual in nature.

I thought I might regret it, but I murmured, “You can follow me out when I leave. But after that, you’re on your own.” The rest of the ghosts that could, moved aside and let me through, though I still had to step through a couple to get to the desk. Each phantom I touched had a different icy feel as they slid through me. I shivered and was glad of the cashmere sweater.

The sleepy clerk at the desk wasn’t someone I knew, but she was a type I was familiar with–college student working an undemanding job late at night so she could make money and do homework at the same time. Since Harborview was the county hospital and administered by the University of Washington’s medical center, the chances were good the clerk was a UW med student doing work study. She didn’t even close her textbook when she looked up at me, a little puzzled by my natty appearance in such a place.

“Can I help you?”

“I hope so.” I showed her my license. “I’m checking for a missing
person and I wondered if you had any unidentified males who matched his description.” I rattled off the information Cameron had given me, and tried to ignore the cold presence of the dead around me.

It took some scuffling with papers and phones first, but I was escorted back to the cooler by a young man who called himself Fish and looked like a badger in blue scrubs. A small cortege followed me down the narrow hall. Most visitors saw the deceased on a monitor in a viewing room, but there wasn’t time or personnel to set that up before the shift changed and everyone just wanted to get this over with, which I had counted on. I saw the body in person, my retinue of ghosts spreading around to look at him, maybe wondering why he was so important.

He didn’t look like much lying on his metal tray. Just an old man,
white-haired, dressed in ragged clothes, and dead. Just plain dead. I
peered at him from several angles, but couldn’t see anything. I sank as far into the Grey as I dared, but he had no gleam of living power to him at all and certainly nothing like the dark red coronas I’d seen around most of the vampires I’d met. I closed my eyes and thanked every god who might have an interest that he was only a cold husk of empty flesh with nothing Grey to him, not even a ghost.

I shook my head. “Not my guy.”

“You sure?” Fish asked. “You were looking pretty hard….”

“He’s similar. The beard threw me a bit. But it’s not him. I’m sorry
for the trouble.”

He shrugged. “No biggie. At least someone’s looking for someone.
Makes me hope someone’ll come looking for him, too.”

I glanced at Fish as he pushed the corpse back into the chilled drawer. “You care about these guys?”

He nodded. “Yeah. No one should have to stay in a drawer forever.
Couple of these bodies have been unidentified for more than ten years. That’s just wrong.”

I nodded, disturbed by the thoughts he’d started in my head, and took my leave. I was followed by a macabre parade, like the Pied Piper of the dead.

© Kat Richardson

You could win this book. Just read the end of this post to find out how.

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