Friday, March 13, 2015

Caught Off Guard

Why did I agree to do this? Jayne wondered. She let out a sigh of frustration.

Steve glared at her across the top of the tombstone. He had explained the importance of quiet if they were going to get footage of a ghost.

Doctor Jayne Goodwin was a psychologist with her own private practice. Ordinarily, she wouldn't be crouching behind a tombstone in a cemetery on a Tuesday night. But she had let Steve talk her into being an "expert witness" for his video podcast. She had thought he meant to interview her.

Steve Michaels was working on his first million. That's what he kept telling himself, anyway. He had a long way to go.

Steve had met Jayne in med school, but he had abandoned his dream of becoming a doctor during his internship at Aurora. He was astonished at how cruel both doctors and patients could be. Now he was determined to make his fortune with his web series, Uncanny Universe, which explored ghosts and UFO's and Bigfoot and, for all Jayne knew, elves and fairies.

Tonight he had convinced Jayne to join him here in the graveyard in the hopes of catching a ghost on camera. Jayne rested her arms on a tombstone and stifled a yawn.

Steve raised his hand, indicating he wanted Jayne to be quiet. He panned his camera over the graves.

Then Jayne heard it: a strange, rhythmic scraping sound. It was barely audible.

Slowly, Steve raised his arm, pointing. "There," he breathed.

Jayne squinted. The moon was a thin crescent and gave little light through the high, hazy clouds, but she could just make out something moving behind a tombstone near a large tree. It was roughly the size of a man, and it moved in time with the scraping. Steve aimed his palm-sized camera at whatever-it-was, holding his breath as he recorded incontrovertible proof of the existence of ghosts.

And then the apparition spoke. "It ain't here," a gravelly male voice hissed.

"I told you it's over here," another voice croaked, "closer to Margaret Ashborne."

"Oh, my god, I can't believe this," Steve whispered.

Jayne was certain what she was seeing was not a ghost. It was a man, and as her eyes adjusted to the gloom she could make out the top of another man's head barely visible over a tombstone. Jayne stood, wishing she hadn't left her cell phone in her purse back at the car. She could use her flashlight app about now.

She realized Steve was also standing. "Speak to us, spirit," he called, his voice quaking. Jayne tried to stop him, to silence him, but it was too late. The two men began running.

Jayne gripped the top of the tombstone she had been hiding behind and vaulted over it, giving chase. When she got close enough, she leapt at the nearest one, taking him to the ground. The other kept running.

Steve came running up a moment after Jayne's tackle.

"Call someone," Jayne shouted. "Call 911."

The man on the ground was shouting as the other bounded into a Buick and sped away. Steve shoved his hand in his pocket and fished out his cell phone.

~ ~ ~

"Well, if what the suspect says is true, we've been looking for these two for a long while," Officer Bynes drawled.

They had arrived minutes after Steve made the call. The one who had driven away had been apprehended a few blocks from the cemetery, and the one Jayne had tackled confessed everything. Police were setting up lights and searching the area by the tree and Margaret Ashborne's tombstone.

"Looks like these two robbed a bank," Bynes continued. "Sometime last June. They decided it would be best to bury it, wait for the case to get cold before laundering the money. They were digging it up when you two came along."

Jayne smiled. She wasn't used to this sort of adventure.

"And I got it on video!" Steve exclaimed. "Uh...when do I get my camera back?"

"We'll need that for evidence," Bynes explained. "You'll get it back when the trial is over. And any appeals. Say a year, maybe two?"

Steve sighed. "Maybe we can do an interview," he said to Jayne. "You can vouch for all my viewers that this really happened."

"Careful, kiddo," Bynes said. Steve wondered at the nickname: Bynes couldn't be more than a few years older. "You go postin' stuff about this on the internet and the defense attorney will holler 'mistrial' before these two even get to the courthouse."

Steve looked at the ground, then up at Jayne. "Wanna grab some coffee?" He asked.

She shook her head. "I've got to get some rest. I have a nine o'clock tomorrow." She started for her car.

"What made you jump them?" Steve called after her.

She stopped, turning to face him. "I figured two people in a graveyard in the middle of the night must be up to no good." She glared at him for a moment, but he didn't seem to understand.

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