“Hello?” My phone rang five minutes after the news reported Gardenia missing.
“Hello is this River Fae?” A professional woman’s voice demanded from the other side of the phone.
“This is him”
“This is Detective Hydrangea Blu. You’re half-sister Fern works for me, and she told me about your gift. I need you’re help with this missing person case.” She cut straight to the chase.
“Are you sure this is a good idea? Gardenia is my friend, isn’t that a little too close to home?”
“Non-sense. Besides, you’re the only one who can help me.”
“But doesn’t my sister have the gift too?”
“Yes, but she can’t help me. I need you.” She was pushy, no doubt about that.
“When do you need me?”
“Right now. This is urgent, we need to find her as soon as possible.”
The place was about a half hour drive from my house, but I got there as fast as I could. I was nervous, I really wanted to help but I didn’t know if I could, or what she wanted from me.
I entered the building, inside was a waiting room and a receptionist desk next to a large fish tank built into the wall. It was a nice, professional place.
“I’m here to see Detective Blu.” I stated, hoping to get the attention of the receptionist.
“Well well well, look who it is.” She smiled widely at me and put her hands on her hips. The receptionist was my half-sister, all grown up now.
“Oh gosh, hey Fern. I didn’t even recognize you, you look great!” I complimented her, I felt bad about not realizing it was her.
“Thanks bro. Detective Blu is through that hallway, first door.” She pointed to the hall.
“Thanks. Maybe we can get lunch some time?”
“That’d be awesome River, but you should probably get in there now. Drea doesn’t like to be kept waiting.” She giggled.
“Noted. See ya later.” I waved her off and headed for the office.
I knocked on the office door, and the came voice from the phone call called me into the room.
“Hello, I’m River.”
“Hello River, take a seat. I’m Detective Blu.” She was a very professional looking woman, she had her hair in a tight bun, she was wearing a blazer, a skirt and pantyhose. She was extremely intimidating. Sitting in her office reminded me of being in the principals office in high school.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Fae. We could really use you’re help with the case.”
“It’s my pleasure, anything to help find Gardenia.”
“I do need to ask you some questions about her, it’ll only take a few minutes.”
“When was the last time you saw Gardenia Rico?” She pulled a pen out of her pen holder and started to write before I said anything.
“Last weekend at the winter fest, I was with my friends and my girlfriend. She came up to us and said hi.”
“Then what happened?”
“Um, she and my girlfriend got into a fight.”
“Was it a violent fight?”
I shook my head. “Just a lot of yelling.”
“Interesting.” She commented as she wrote on her paper.
“What do you mean? Are you saying my girlfriend is a suspect?” I tried to keep my voice down but I was getting angry.
“Mr. Fae, I have to look at this from all angles. I will need to question her.” Detective Blu explained. I was offended she would even think Clover could be violent. “What is her name?”
“Clover Lyn.” I didn’t lie, I didn’t object. I knew better than that.
“Thank you. What were you doing on the day of her disappearance?”
“I was with my roommate, we went to the art museum, out to dinner then back to our place.”
“Your roommates name?”
“Tulip Lance.” I said, and her face lit up.
“My sister? You live with my sister?”
“She’s your sister?” I knew Tulip had a sister who was a detective, I just didn’t make the connection.
“Yes, and it looks like I’ll have to question her too.”
“That’s really all I have to ask you.” She closed her notebook and filed it in her desk.
“So, what exactly do you need from me?” I asked, I wasn’t sure how my gift could help us.
“You can communicate with the dead, yes?”
“Well, if Gardenia is dead, you could contact her.”
“And what if she’s not?” I didn’t want to consider the fact that my friend might be dead.
“Then you ask the spirits where she is.”
“I don’t know, they aren’t supposed to tell us things like that. We’re supposed to figure that out on our own. They can’t meddle with the living world.” It was true, I read it in one of the spirit books I found.
“Is there anything we could do to persuade them?”
“There is one thing.”
“A seance, in the cemetery, on a full moon. They still can’t tell us everything, but they can give us riddles, so we have a little more to work with.” Another thing I learned from my spirit books.
“The full moon is next week, we don’t have that kind of time, Mr. Fae.” She furrowed her eyebrows and tapped her pen.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to do.”
“Try to get in touch with her spirit. If it doesn’t work, we know she’s alive. If it does, then we have an even bigger case on our hands.”
“I’ll go there tonight.”
“I’ll come with.” She offered. I’ve never communicated with the dead in front of people before. She can’t see them, so I’m gonna look like an idiot. And for some reason, I really didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of her.
“You do understand that you won’t be able to see her, right?” I asked her for the millionth time.
“Yes, I promise I won’t make fun of you.” She rolled her eyes.
“Okay, just making sure. I’ve only ever done this alone.” I admitted. She started to laugh, but then we heard a large crack from behind us. She jumped up off the bench and looked around the cemetery.
“What was that?” She looked around nervously.
“Dunno.” I got up and looked around too.
“River sweetie, is that you?” A familiar hollow voice asked.
“Yea it’s me, Grandma.”
“River, is someone else here?” Detective Blu asked. I nodded and looked around for her. I spotted her to my right and approached her.
“Take a seat, Detective. It’ll only be a moment.”
“Oh kiddo, don’t call me Grandma. It makes me feel old.” She laughed.
“Okay, I know you don’t have much time, and I need to ask you something.”
“What is it dear?”
“Well, um my friend is missing and-“
“You need my help finding her?” She interrupted. “You know I can’t help you. I can’t meddle in living affairs.”
“I know, I know. I just thought it was worth a try.” I sighed.
“Look, I know it’s not the full moon, but I can give you a little hint, perhaps. It doesn’t interfere with the investigation, just push it in the right direction.”
“Okay, what’s the hint?” I asked anxiously.
“What you’re looking for is closer than you think.”
“So she close to us? Close to where?”
“I can’t tell you baby. But good luck.” I sighed, I knew she wouldn’t answer but it didn’t hurt to try.
“Thanks Flora.” I hugged her translucent frame lightly, I was afraid my body would go through hers.
“Be careful.” Was all she said before she disappeared.
I shoved my hands in my pockets and sighed.
“What did she say?” Detective Blu asked, startling me.
“Oh god. I forgot you were there. How did that look to you?” I took a seat on the bench next to her.
“Quite insane, actually.” She laughed. I felt my face start to burn with embarrassment.
“Don’t worry, I deal with insane on a daily basis. What did she say?” She repeated.
“She couldn’t tell me much. But she did give me a hint.”
“What is it?”
“‘What you’re looking for is closer than you think.’ I’m not entirely sure what that means, but maybe you do.” I questioned.
“That’s a bit vague. It could mean anything.” She glanced at me. “Are you willing to help me? I could really use you on my team.”
“What could you possibly need me for?”
“You can contact the dead. If Gardenia is dead, then you’ll be able to contact her. If she’s dead now, she’s probably hiding until we discover the body. Once we do, she’ll be able to show herself.”
“I really hope that’s not the case.”
“It could be, we have to look at this from all angles, Mr. Fae. Whether we like it or not, we have to consider it. It comes with the job.” She sighed.
“Call me River, please. And I don’t know if I can deal with it.”
“Well River, she could still be alive. We could try to get more clues from the spirits. It could be the difference between her living or dying.”
“Are you trying to guilt trip me?”
“Of course not. It’s just, I know what it’s like to be in that position. Where the decisions you make decide someones fate. It’s a lot to take on, and I guess I’d understand if you don’t wanna do it.” She sighed again, and I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened.
“I’ll do it.”
“So you’re really working with my sister?” Tulip laughed from the floor of the living room.
“She’s a bit, uptight, nowadays. Have fun with that.”
“She seems nice enough.” Detective Blu wasn’t necessarily uptight, but she wasn’t exactly the type you’d see at a party.
“Eh, maybe. I guess I wouldn’t know, we don’t talk much.” She sighed and typed something on her laptop.
“She shut everyone out after the incident.”
“What incident?” She had mentioned something in our cemetery visit, but I didn’t really think much of it.
“It’s not really my place to say.”
“Ah, okay. That’s okay.”
“Yea, so if you’re expecting to be friends or whatever with her, you’re gonna be let down. She only talks to clients and her receptionist. She might seem tough, but she’s not. If this case goes south too, I’m gonna be worried about her.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s just hope we find Gardenia alive.” She looked me dead in the eyes and frowned. “My sister can’t handle failure.”
“Oh.” I glanced around the room until my eyes landed on the kitchen clock. Five-thirty. Shoot, I was meeting with a client at six, and I really didn’t want to be late. I let Tulip know before I ran upstairs to get my jumpsuit.
“Bye Tulip.” I called as I headed out the door. She mumbled something without moving from the floor.
*Many hours later*
When I finally came home from the client’s house, I found Tulip passed out on the couch near her laptop.
I moved her laptop to the other couch and shook her lightly. “Hey, Tulip. Wake up.” She groaned and covered her face.
“No, it’s River.” I whispered.
“Oh, hey. What time is it?” Her voice heavy with sleep.
“About three am.” She pulled herself into a sitting position and yawned. “Why aren’t you in bed?”
“I was waiting for you.”
“Why?” I asked, and pulled myself onto the couch next to her.
“I’m not really sure.” She hesitated.
“Maybe we should get to bed then.”
“Maybe.” She was all jittery and nervous, I didn’t really understand why.
“What’s up? Everything okay?”
“Do you really love her?” She blurted out, then quickly covered her mouth. “Oh god. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.”
“It’s okay. I guess I do. I don’t really know what love is, I’ve only been with her before.” I admitted.
“If you aren’t sure, it doesn’t really sound like love. But that’s just my opinion, it’s not really my place to say.” She avoided eye contact and twirled her hair around her finger.
“I don’t know if I love her, but do I have to know right now? I’m still young.”
“Why are you asking me this?” I asked, and she buried her hands in her face.
“I-I don’t know. It’s late. I’m tired.”
“Then lets get you to bed.” I scooted closer to her to help her off the couch.
“Not yet.” She still had her hands on her face, but now she started to sob.
“Hey, Tulip what’s wrong?” I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to me.
“I w-want to move out.” She gasped between sobs
“What, why? Is it something I did?”
“Not really. I just feel bad, I really like you and you have a girlfriend and she lives here and I just feel really shitty about it. I don’t wanna get between your relationship so I’m gonna leave.” Tulip liked me?
“You don’t have to leave.”
“Yes I do.”
“No you don’t.” I don’t know why, but I pulled her face up to mine, so close I could taste her breath. I wasn’t thinking, it was late and everything she was saying was going to my head.
“Why not? I just ruin everything.”
“No you don’t. You’re amazing.”
“Do you really mean that?” She beamed, and ran her fingers through my hair, making chills run down my spine.
“I do. I don’t want you to leave. It wouldn’t be the same around here.”
“Okay, I won’t.” She whispered.
I don’t know which one of us ultimately closed the gap between our lips. But before I could register it, Tulip was kissing me and I was kissing back. Kissing her was so different from kissing Clover. It was almost… magical. It’s like Tulip and I had a connection that Clover and I didn’t. I really liked it.
Clover. Oh god, I’ve got a girlfriend. I can’t kiss Tulip while I have a girlfriend. I promise myself I’d never be that guy.
We both pulled back at the same time, as if we were in sync. I didn’t pull back because I didn’t want to kiss her, I didn’t want to hurt Clover.
“Oh god.” She jumped off the couch and looked away from me. “River I’m so sorry I-“
“No, it’s my fault.” I interrupted. “Tulip…” I had to tell her I couldn’t do this, at least not while I was with Clover.
“I get it. It’s okay. Goodnight River.”
She flew out of the room as fast as she could without saying anything else. I buried my face is my hands and groaned.