Keaton Mercer sat behind the desk of his P.I. office and sighed. Five years ago this business seemed like a great idea, but now, with no cases and the bill collectors hounding him day and night, he wasn’t so sure. In truth, Tulsa had never been kind to him. It wasn’t an excuse, not one that would get him out out of debt at least.
“Are the coffee dregs that bad?”
Keaton glanced up to see Clara–his only employee–standing in the doorway. A Tulsa native, he’d known Clara since he’d introduced her to her ex-husband. That probably said something about him, but it made her a saint. She’d even stuck around when his business went to hell in a hand basket.
Keaton smiled and leaned back. “When you’ve been drinking coffee as long as I have, you stop noticing the aftertaste, let alone the dregs.”
Clara nodded. “True enough. Anyway, I’ve got a lady who’d like to speak to you.”
Keaton blinked. “Seriously? I’d thought we’d dropped off the face of the planet.”
“Apparently not,” Clara replied. “Shall I send her in?”
A moment later, a petite hispanic woman stepped into Keaton’s office. In her mid-thirties with short black hair and dark eyes, she was beautiful even through the grief that marked her face. Keaton stood and held out his hand.
“Keaton Mercer, mam.”
“Sera Hernandez,” she replied quietly, shaking his hand.
Keaton directed her to his client’s chair before quickly taking his own.
“How may I help you,” he asked.
Sera looked down, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. One minute passed, and then another. The silence stretched until Keaton started to shift uncomfortably. When Sera did speak, it was so softly that he had to lean forward.
“Im sorry to bother you Mr. Mercer,” she said quietly. “But I need help, although you’ll think I’m crazy when I tell you why.”
“I’m sure you’re reasons are legitimate,” he replied evenly.
Sera’s face colored with embarrassment and she refused to look at him.
“Mrs. Hernandez,” he said softly, getting her attention. “You can tell me what you need.”
“I want you to look into my husband’s death.”
Keaton leaned back into his seat. “That seems like a fairly straight forward matter, one that the police would investigate.”
“The police have investigated and arrested a friend of his who put him in the hospital in the first place.”
“The hospital,” Keaton asked. “You’re husband survived the initial attack?”
“He almost didn’t,” Sera said quietly. “His heart stopped on the operating table and he was clinically dead for a full minute before he revived. The surgery was successful and he was expected to make a full recovery. He was doing fine until a week ago when his heart simply stopped. The doctors couldn’t revive him.”
“Then he died from his injuries,” Keaton replied.
“He didn’t,” Sera replied sharply. “The nurse killed him.”
Sera shook her head. “I’d never seen her before. I didn’t even notice her until my daughter ran over to her, screaming almost incoherently. She kept asking the nurse to not let the ghost hurt her father.”
“Ghost,” Keaton repeated. He was liking this less by the minute.
“My daughter isn’t crazy, she’s seven,” Sera said defensively. “And its besides the point. The nurse went into the ICU where my husband was. Five minutes later he flat lined. I told the police to find the nurse, but the staff said that no one matching her description worked there and that I was delusional.”
“I don’t believe you are either,” Keaton replied gently. “But is it possible that you’re misinterpreting the event?”
“I know what I saw Mr. Mercer.”
Keaton crossed his arms and stared at the woman. Her story was crazy. Not only did the police think so, but so did every other P.I. in town most likely. That was probably how Serra arrived in his office. On the other hand, she wasn’t crazy. He could see that in her eyes.
Keaton sighed. “What specifically do you want me to do Mrs. Hernandez?”
“My husband’s friend started this, but the woman finished it. One of his killers is still out there.” Sera leaned forward. “Find her Mr. Mercer, so my husband may know peace.”
Four hours later, Keaton was staring at a recording from the hospital Mr. Hernandez had been staying at. His coffee cup was empty again, but at that moment he was wishing for something stronger.
A lot stronger.
The video showed Mrs. Hernandez kneeling with her daughter before a young nurse who matched the description that she’d provided. There was nothing remarkable about that, except that the nurse was transparent.
Keaton couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It had to be a trick, or a prank. Hell, he’d take a technical malfunction. The only problem was that Mrs. Hernandez hadn’t mentioned that the nurse looked like a ghost. She wasn’t acting like it in the video either.
At that moment Clara walked in, carrying a fresh cup of coffee and placed it on his desk.
“Still going at it I see.”
“Mrs. Hernandez is paying me,” he replied. “And I want to do the best I can for her, especially since she’s my only client.”
Clara chuckled. “That’s true. I checked the hospital records again. There’s no nurse matching the description Mrs. Hernadez gave. If the woman was there, she vanished like a ghost.”
“Funny you should say that,” Keaton replied. “Take a look at this.”
Clara walked around his desk so she could see his computer. Keaton kept talking.
“This is the weirdest thing I’ve seen,” he said, gesturing to the image of the nurse. “I think there’s something wrong with the camera. You can see right through the woman, but no one seems to notice-”
A chocked cry caused Keaton to turn to Clara. The woman was staring at the screen with shocked eyes, her face so pale it was bloodless. He’d never seen her like this.
“Clara, are you all right?”
“It’s Brook,” she said. “That nurse looks just like Brook Jackson.”
“You know her?” Keaton couldn’t believe his luck.
“I knew her mother,” Clara replied. “I went to their funeral when she and her husband died in a car crash ten years ago. I didn’t know their children very well, but that can’t be their daughter.”
Clara turned to him. “Because she’s dead.”
Keaton stared at her. “Come again?”
“Brook Jackson died five years ago. She pushed her brother out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. I went to the funeral and spoke to her brother, Gale. Believe me Keaton, she’s gone.”
“And yet we have a ghostly image of someone who looks like her,” he murmured.
Clara shook her head, clearly as perplexed as he was. Keaton glanced back at the image, a sinister chill running down his spine. He’d only had this case for a few hours and it was quickly going from crazy to utter insanity. Ghosts killing people? It sounded like a horrible cliche, one that would get him locked up in the state mental hospital. He should really just drop the case, refund Mrs. Hernandez’s money, and close his business.
An image of the woman’s pleading, grief sticker face flashed through his mind and Keaton nearly cursed. With a sigh he turned to Clara.
“You said that Brook had a brother.”
Yes,” Clara replied. “Gale Jackson. He moved to Virginia after his sister’s death.”
“Please tell me you have an address.”
In response, Clara pulled out her phone.