Three Days later:
Jay awoke inside the smoldering remains of a 2012 Honda Civic. This was a vehicle that had once resided in the Police impound lot.
“You’re alright, Jay.” I didn’t even know if he could still hear me. The men he once considered friends, beat him within an inch of his life, handcuffed him and locked him in the driver’s seat, before setting the car on fire in the middle of Indian Territory. He was left to die.
All because he wanted to be my friend.
I looked to the remains of his truck, which had been torched but otherwise left intact due to the lazy arsonists. In his glove box was a small metal container. The label had my father’s name and a small note-card attached that said to save the item for Officer Fuller who would pay for the release of it’s contents. It was my father’s ashes. And I had a feeling the notecard was meant to keep the transaction on the down-low, but for whatever reason, someone told someone.
And one of those people told; Michael Raven, Conner Harris, Leon Cruz and or Randell Fish. I could see their faces in my mind’s eye. They were men I’d met before, they’d bought drugs from my father, arrested my friends. They were truckers, bar owners, and cops.
And they were quite proud of their work, both the work they got paid for and the work they did on the side, for fun. I was one of eight First Nation prostitutes who ‘disappeared’ at their hands. Eight on record, anyway, there were probably dozens more from neighboring territories, maybe even some from south of the border. (Americans had runaways too.)
I’m not sure about the other girls, but I know that the men, they, did to me, what my father and his gang had done to Jay’s wife. They raped me, beat me, strangled me, they even put a bullet in my head, in the exact same spot. All before throwing my naked corpse off a cliff. Too bad it didn’t kill me right away.
I figure Jay had tried to find me at the hotel. Maybe he asked Cathy if I already left town. But Cathy would’ve told him that I was a good girl, a loyal worker who would never have left town without saying goodbye.
But how did he know where to find my body? Maybe I could ask him that if he ever regained consciousness.
All I knew was that Jay went out alone, after his shift, just to see what he could find. He found what remained of my body. But in a few seconds, he also found himself looking down the barrel of a shotgun.
My spirit stood by his side. “You’ll always be my hero, Mr. Jay,” I said giving my best Harley Quinn impersonation while choking back tears. “That’s a Batman reference.”
“Yes, I know, Harley Quinn,” Jay said out loud. “Does that make me the joker?” His voice was breaking, clearly, he knew what he had walked into. He was going to die, because there was no way they would allow him to leave, knowing what he knew.
The men glanced at him, clearly confused. But then one came forward. Leon Cruz, a fellow cop, someone who had been around since before the loss of Jay’s wife. “Come on guys, just look at him. Jay’s clearly wasted. He probably won’t even remember finding the body.”
There was no reply.
Seeing that he was in the vocal minority, Leon stepped backward his face hidden in the darkness. “Sorry, man.”
“We just can’t take that risk,” said a different man as he cocked his weapon. I recognized the voice as Randell. “Now Officer Fuller, no hard feelings, you know we all love you, but if you don’t mind.” He tossed Jay a pair of handcuffs. “Put these on, and get on your knees.”
Randell fish was the father of the judge who was murdered around the same time as Jay’s wife. His heart was filled with anger, a raging fire that could not be extinguished.
I held Jay close, as he lowered himself to the ground. “Don’t let them see you cry,” I said placing my hands upon his shoulders. I’m here and I won’t leave you.” I knew he was afraid, but not of death.
“Please.” Jay’s eyes were toward the ground, but his message was for all his former friends. “You know my family; you’ve watched my girls grow up. I’m begging you, my kids need me.”
Randell laughed. “How about we do you a solid and not tell them about how you fucked the daughter of the man who killed their mother.”
How did he know that? Did he just assume? Then I remembered the diner and the audience of truckers who saw me kiss Jay. Fuck, this was all my fault.
“He wasn’t one of the men who killed her.” Jay pleaded, unable to stop the tears from flowing. “Tiana was just an innocent little girl.”
“An innocent little girl?” Another man laughed. “Fuck, man, I actually felt bad for you. You’re a traitor to your race.” This started the beating. I saw a fist, then the grip of a gun. metal cut his cheek, as the force of the blow knocked him to the ground. there were several kicks to the face, stomach, and groin. Jay was coughing up blood as he struggled to breathe. he had broken ribs and possibly a broken sternum and a collapsed lung. After what felt like an eternity he lost consciousness.
The men were laughing as they kicked Jay’s body on to its side. I could hear the sound of a gun cocking. And then The torture mercifully ended with a bullet to Jay’s head that exited out his right eye with a fountain of gore.
But the gore was mostly the remains of his eyeball and not his brain. I think it was kind of hard to tell. But Jay’s body was convulsing as blood gushed from his mouth with every breath. That meant he was still breathing, there was still something left to save.
The men grabbed Jay by his legs pulling him towards one of their cars. That was when I caught sight of my naked, mangled corpse. There was a reason the bastards didn’t destroy my remains when they had the chance: they wanted to set a trap. They posed Jay’s limp, unconscious body in the driver’s seat, then placed (or rather shoved) my cadaver in a sexual position. It was actually kind of funny until the fuckers doused our bodies with vodka and gasoline.
Luckily, they were also cowards who didn’t stay to make sure the fire burned to completion. I phased through the car, resting my ghostly form over my corpse as my former flesh burned like meat on a barbeque. I needed to see Jay’s face. I needed to know he was still alive. “Jay look at me.”
What remained of his body was struggling for every breath. But I couldn’t even be sure if that meant anything since the contents of his skull were splattered across the ground. I had never watched someone die, but I had seen animals die. I always told myself that the past spasm of breath in the creature’s chest was the soul leaving this mortal world. Jay’s chest was still moving. I just needed to believe in him as much as he believed in me.
I cupped Jay’s face in my ghostly hands. “Stay with me, Jay. Just stay with me.” The fire burned all around us, but I was already a seasoned veteran of Hell. “Remember what you said to me? you said that I needed to get out of Canada because I’m worth more.” I needed to protect Jay, I needed to save him the way I couldn’t save my father. “I’m going to get you out of here, I’m going to get you someplace safe. I promise.” I needed to save Jay Fuller because he deserved to be saved.
My power acted as a barrier, between Jay’s mortal body and the heat of the flames. It wasn’t a miracle by any means, just enough to allow him to survive the ordeal. I held him for three days, long after the fire burned itself out.
On the third day, I told Jay we needed to walk. He was badly injured, his hands burned beyond recognition. But his legs were strong, or at least intact. “We need to get up.” I moved his weight against the unlocked door causing him to fall out of the vehicle. Putting his arm around my shoulder, I tried to get him to stand but he collapsed.
But at least he was out of the vehicle. And that was when I realized, I could touch him. my soul filled with a sense of hope. Could I touch other solid things?
Jay’s truck was still there, surprisingly untouched. I guess it was all part of the narrative Randell Fish and his men were trying to create. I guess according to their story; Jay met with me to hand over my father’s remains, in exchange for a blowjob in a stolen car? Whatever. All I knew was that we couldn’t stay where we were.
I managed to open the door of Jay’s truck. That was when I found the urn, but also some water. My hand passed through the plastic bottle, on my first try. “shit.” But I had been able to open the door? I turned around to see, no I had not. I phased through the door. But somehow, I had been able to open the glove box? Because that’s where my father was.
“Dad?” part of me wanted so badly to hear his voice. I placed my transparent ghost hand upon the box, letting my fingers pass through. I felt a sense of strength. It was the strength and courage of my ancestors, rippling through my form. I reached for the water again. This time I could pick it up. “Thanks, dad.” I was able to close the glove box and even open the door. But to do what I needed to, I had to put down the bottle. Apparently, this newfound superpower only worked with one earth item at a time. with much trial and error, I made my way to Jay’s side and opened the water bottle, spilling it on to his face.
“Jay? are you there?” I could feel his heart, it was weak but it was still beating.
The man’s breath sputtered, as his remaining eye struggled to blink. he was glancing around in horror, as he looked up at the sky. “I can’t.” The words were barely a whisper. “Oh, God. I can’t.”
I knew he was in pain. I could only hope he could still feel me. “You can’t make it, but we can.”
Jay blinked, his vision seemed lost. “Tia? is that you?”
“Are you able to see?”
“I see only darkness,” he replied, blinking away tears and dried blood. “I hear your voice, but I fear you’re only a dream.”
“Would you be honored if I kissed you?”
That got a smile. “I don’t deserve a friend like you.”
“Nah, you do.” I leaned in and kissed his lips. “Mr. Jay.”
with my spirit guiding him we reached the border, crossing into Manitoba, which didn’t really mean much since we were still in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. But there was water and even a source of food (I knew a little about scavenging edible plants.)
Since the border was in-country, there was no major checkpoint or military presence but there was highway patrol. Truckers had to answer for their sins; drug running, sex trafficking, etc. And just my luck, an officer was pulling someone over.
“Just rest here.” I left Jay’s side, allowing him to succumb to exhaustion. “I need to go do my ghost-thing.”
I made my way to the road, unsure if this would even work. “I’m an angry ghost, I’m an angry ghost.” the closer I came to the unmarked truck, the less I needed to convince my soul to fill with an all-consuming rage.
The driver was an average looking trucker, male, mid-fifties with a beard. Apparently, he had been pulled over for failing to check in at a Weigh station. the driver tried to talk his way out of getting his truck searched, but to no avail. The officer called for backup, and in short order, five more cars arrived. They had apparently been trailing this truck for a while; they already knew this truck was evil.
This far north, it was drugs, intermixed with other supplies that would have gone towards the communities of this area. I watched as the driver was arrested and the truck was taken to impound.
“Hello?” A man shouted. The young officer turned to his partner. “Do you see a girl over there?” his question went ignored, as the other cops were inventorying the contents of the nondescript wooden boxes.
I made the come here motion with my hand, hoping he would be curious enough to follow. Jay was not too far away, so I walked slowly, with my head down, creeping along like a fishing lure. And the man followed. My plan worked as perfectly as it could have.
“Sir!” he shouted at Jay’s bloody emaciated body. The highway patrol officer radioed for medical aid, then checked Jay for signs of life. “Sergeant, this is Officer Miller,” he shouted into his radio, “I found a body thirty meters east of the drug bust. Requesting medical aid.”
“Any identification or signs of life?” the radio asked.
“Appears to be a white male in his late forties, no forms of identification.” the officer locked eyes with me. “Do you know him?”
I nodded. Looking down I saw my clothes. I was wearing a blood-covered nightshirt. My hands were transparent and could only imagine what my face looked like. “Please help him.” The words were clear in my mind, but the sound of my voice was like radio static.
“I can’t understand you.”
Luckily another officer arrived. “Holy fuck this guy’s alive.” He pulled out his handheld, shouting into the speaker. “We’re going to need a medivac!”
Since Jay had no id, (or fingerprints) he was treated as an injured, homeless, John Doe. But since this was Canada that still entitled him to be airlifted to the nearest public hospital.
Jay’s heart stopped no less than three times, and the infection in his wounds was causing fever. If I wanted to save him, I was running low on time. I sat in the corner of the room, just looking at Jay’s bandaged body. He was laying so still, I could have sworn he was dead. But the beeping machines said otherwise. “Jay?” I floated closer, to sit by his side. “I need you to picture your daughters. I know you haven’t seen them in a while but try to remember.” I placed my hand to his open, blinded eyes, closing the one that was not covered with a bandage. moving my hand down his face, I could feel the warmth of his skin; pain, sweat, and a level of fear I had never known.
“You’re thinking what I’m thinking. Randell Fish knows you’re not dead, how long before he does something about it?” I could feel the breath in his lungs, gasping ever so softly. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
I mentally created a message on the fly, while holding Jay’s hand. I was just hoping that Eve or Lucy would be open to the words of a random First Nation angel. Or ghost; yeah, I was more likely just a ghost.
I closed my eyes and tried to focus, on New York, California, happy blonde teenage girls living their best lives. I could see a light, then two. Ok, hopefully, this would work. “Hi, um, Lucy, or Eve, whoever I manage to get this message out to. You need to know that your Dad is in a bit of trouble. He is not safe, in Canada. Look for him in Manitoba, please.” That was all I could get out before the connection was lost. Fuck. Tinkerbelle I am not.
When I opened my eyes, I was back in the hospital room. I rested in Jay’s bed, laying in his arms. The fact that I lost the connection meant he was getting weaker, but all I could do was wait. Oh well, if I failed at least Jay and I would be together.
Time seemed to stand still in the windowless room. I never felt the need to sleep, instead, I existed in a state of emotional exhaustion.
Even with a tube in his chest, Jay was bleeding badly. I could feel his lung was struggling. he had a PICC line in his chest since it would have been too difficult to find a vein in his damaged arms. But even then, he was given only a limited amount of morphine, along with a strong dosage of antibiotics. he wasn’t expected to survive much longer.
“She’s not coming is she?” Jay’s voice spoke to me in my mind.
“Lucy or Eve?”
“Either, but I’d be very surprised if my fourteen-year-old manages to cross the border and travel this far north on her own.”
“If your daughters don’t get here in time, I’ll bring you to your wife, I promise.” I had no idea how, but if she was the love of Jay’s life, we’d find the way. “You don’t have to be afraid, I won’t let you die alone.”
Jay blinked a single tear from his good eye. “But I let you die alone.”
“I won’t hold it against you.” I stroked his hands, tracing the scars. there were new bruises, broken bones, and even a few missing fingertips. He suffered enough.
It would take another two days for Lucy to arrive.
Jay’s nineteen-year-old daughter was a tall, slender girl with her mother’s beauty and her father’s height and rugged strength. By that, I meant she looked like she’d been through hell. The blonde girl ran to her father’s side, falling to her knees as she sobbed. “oh God!” everything else was unintelligible. it was clear it had been a very difficult journey.
Placing my hand upon her shoulder, I could feel her thoughts. Lucy had apparently always known her father’s contact information. she called his house, then the police station. He was missing. She then contacted some of dad’s friends, and family friends but no one had seen him. But many assured her that it was not worth her time to open a missing person’s case. They claimed that Jay liked to travel, and perhaps he went north on a spiritual journey. Knowing how suspicious the whole scene seemed, she traveled to Manitoba on her own.
“Daddy,” Lucy cried, cupping her hand over her mouth. When she pulled herself together enough to form a coherent statement, she declared that she would get him to California. “Me and Sam, we’ll keep you safe.”
“Sam?” I asked. Jay was still too weak to reply.
Lucy chuckled, wiping tears from her eyes. “I forgot you never met my partner.” Lucy’s hand moved to her stomach. Was she pregnant? “It’ll be nice to be a family again. I’ve missed you so much, Dad.”
My ghost-heart filled with joy. “Wake up Jay!” I gripped his hand as hard as I could, causing his muscles to contract.
Jay blinked his eye as a gulp of air caught in his throat. His fingers attempted to fold around mine, but since I was transparent it was Lucy who felt his movement.
Lucy rested her head on his chest, holding him close as she cried.
Jay placed his hand upon her back, stroking her hair. “Who’s Sam?”
“I met her online, just after mom died. She was the reason I moved out to Sacramento.”
“Started out as a friend, then a mentor. When I met her she was a lawyer but now she’s actually a clerk to the current junior senator.” Lucy lifted her head, wiping tears from her eyes. “Sam’s great, you’ll love her as much as I do.”
“As long as she takes good care of you,” the words sputtered from Jay’s chapped, blood-caked lips.
“I never wanted to leave you, neither did Eve.”
“I know.” Jay’s voice was becoming clearer. “And I’m so sorry. Whenever I looked at you and your sister, all I saw was that night.”
“You gave us the chance to run. you sacrificed your sanity so that we could get as far away as possible. we slept by the river and came back only when we saw the police.”
Lucy had gotten married a year ago, and they’d been prepping for IVF. So yeah, she was two months pregnant. This of course meant that her wife took extra safety precautions. In the event that Lucy located her father they could get him out of the country, no questions asked. (Until he set foot on American soil, anyway.)
I listened to Lucy’s plan with great interest.
Maybe if I played my cards right, I could come back as Jay’s grandbaby. His white, upper-class grandbaby who would have no memories of life in Canada.
Maybe, just maybe, I could finally get my own happily ever after.
Jay had suffered a brain injury and he would likely never see or walk again. In time he might be able to survive without a feeding tube.
it took another three days for Jay to get medically cleared to fly back to California with Lucy. (and that only happened because of Sam calling in a few favors.) He had no passport or identification, but after hearing Jay’s story of what happened to him, she knew he needed to get out of the country as discreetly as possible.
I rode with them on the airplane, my first ever. Jay was on a stretcher, suffering from chronic pain, but he was alive. That meant Randell Fish could pay for his crimes, right?
Apparently, that was too much to hope for. As I watched over Jay, I could hear Lucy talking to Sam.
“There’s really nothing we can do?” Lucy asked, crying to her partner.
Sam, an older woman with a motherly demeanor held her close. “I will fight with every resource I have to keep him in California.” Turns out, there was a warrant for Jay’s arrest concerning my death and the missing car that my corpse was found in. Randell and his friends would never face justice.
I went to the roof to scream into the night. Throwing my hands back, the sound that came out of my chest was the sound of a bird screeching. I crossed my arms over my stomach, pinching myself over and over. This life fucking sucks! I had no idea of I could even be reborn or if I was going to move on. Right now I’d even take burning in hell or vanishing into oblivion. Anything was better than the sickening feeling of helplessness. What if I was stuck for all of eternity?
“You need to go back to Canada, you know that right?” The voice was male, deep and scratchy like a smoker. But the volume was strange, it seemed to echo on the wind, wrapping around my head before settling next to me.
He started to form before my eyes; a black and white version of my father, the night of his death. His long hair was pulled back in a braid, with a few strands around his face. His eyes were dark and deep, with prominent wrinkles, as he looked lovingly at the cigarette in his hands. “Hey, baby girl,” the ghost said as he lit up with a flick of his wrist, conjuring a bright blue flame.
“Where’d you get the cigarette?”
“From the pack that I died with.”
“That makes sense.”
“You can’t move on until you send Randel Fish straight to hell. As long as he’s alive, your little cop friend is in danger.”
“Why do you even care? From what I hear you and Jay have some history. I mean I never knew he was the detective who put away uncle Christian.”
My father’s face fell into an expression of sadness and remorse. “I did a lot of shit in my life that I regret.
“Really?” I expected him to apologize for his role in the death of Jay’s wife, but apparently, that was not the sin he sought forgiveness for.
“I never wanted you to turn tricks. You think I liked seeing you do that shit? I wanted so much better for you. But I had no means of making things better for us.”
“What’s going to happen to you?”
“I don’t even know.” My father took a long drag and blew out a glowing blue cloud of smoke. “I just know you’re different, you’re strong. you have a chance to make things right.”
“Killing Randell fish will make things right?” I asked with a sarcastic smirk. “Do you know how many girls across Canada are turning tricks for drug money? or how about the highway of tears; a collection of cases showing just how fucked up it is to be Indigenous in Canada. We’re still being targeted like the lower lifeforms, hunted like animals and no one cares.”
My father only nodded, his eyes glowing in the light of the moon. “I met of few of them.”
“I’ve met a few on my journey. A few have found the strength to cross over but most have chosen to stick around to watch over friends and loved ones. and then there’s Coreen Thomas, she died while pregnant.” he paused to take another drag of his mystical cigarette. “the unborn baby was like a second soul, a source of power that allowed her to ascend.”
“Ascend? so, she went to heaven?”
“For her it’s heaven, but the work she does is still here on earth.”
“Kicking trucker ass?”
“She lives as a mentor, a guardian. and if you need help, seek her out.”
“I want to say goodbye to Jay first. if that’s ok.”
Father shrugged as he put out the cigarette on his hand, creating a small firework-like effect. “Do what you gotta do.”
I will. I floated through the ceiling, landing in the guest room at Jay’s side. He was asleep, looking peaceful for the first time in a while. “this isn’t goodbye. I’m going back to Canada to kick some trucker ass.”
Jay turned his head, to look at me, his eyes fluttering open. “Tia?” his voice was a little more than a whisper. “Are you moving on?”
“No, I think I’m going to be diving back into hell. I don’t even know how I’ll get there but I’ll bring you Randell Fish’s head, I promise.”
“I settle for seeing you again,” he said with a smile.
“Me too, Mr. Jay. Me too.”