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Andrea was considered unique. Not many were able to move up to the rank of special agent before they were 30 years old. In addition to graduating in the top 5% of her class as a police constable, she chose to take additional classes to specialize in investigation techniques. The constable program was heavy enough for the average student.  Many of her fellow “students” in the evening investigation courses, that were already seasoned officers wishing to upgrade their skill set, were impressed that she would take on even more learning at that time. Her professors had taught her to think outside the box. What are you seeing and not seeing. This ability seemed to come naturally to her. From the smallest clue left at a crime scene, or even evidence passed over by someone else on the team, she had the uncanny ability to develop a possible scenario for what took place hours or days before.

As a top-ranked student, she had many opportunities lay before her after graduation. She was courteous and attended all five interviews of various police agencies that were interested in her.

The minute she walked into the building of the Canningdon, Ohio, Police Department, an amazing sensation shook through her body, like an electrical current or being zapped by lightening and a voice inside her head said “Welcome Home”.  

Her family, her friends, and even her professors were perplexed that she picked the Canningdon Police Force job offer. It was a smaller city and the pay was much less than some of the others. At that exact moment, though, she too could not explain it. It just felt right.

She started as a street constable. Working her way up from being the “Newbie” on the job, Andrea quickly earned her stripes as her ability to decipher the clues left by the perpetrator helped to solve many cases. No one knew she had her own police informant. At least not at first.

She and the shadow man were “introduced” one evening as she sat sipping her chamomile tea on her balcony of her apartment. Hearing her name whispered in the wind, she looked around and thought it was her imagination. But it came again. “Andrea, I know.” She jumped up with a start, almost spilling her tea, and looked quickly around for who might be speaking to her. As she looked towards the yard below, she could see a shadow of a man next to the willow tree. 

“Are you calling me?” she asked. She saw a nod. “Do you know something about the little girl that was murdered?” Again a nod. “May I come down and speak with you?” Suddenly the man in the shadows disappeared before her eyes. 

Quickly running down the stairs, Andrea ran out the front door towards the Willow tree, but there was no sign of the man. An odd soft mist hung around the base of the tree, but Andrea didn’t really notice it. On the ground where he had stood was a small piece of paper with the name “Daniel”. Did he drop it or was it left by a passerby?

Back at the office the next day, her forensic team was called into the boardroom to review the case of the little girl, Rebecca, who died a mysterious death. Pictures posted on the wall of all those involved in her young life were labelled with their names and the association to the victim. Her eyes riveted on the picture of a young teenager, her older brother, named Daniel and inside her head was the word “yes”.

Andrea couldn’t just start telling people a mystery man identified Daniel as the potential killer, but when each agent was asked to pick a person to interview and research, she chose Daniel. Two of the more senior agents smirked at her choice. He was the older brother and he loved his sister. That was a waste of time, they felt. But then again, they still considered her the new kid on the block, so she would learn.  

Her sleuthing turned out to be productive.  Daniel and Rebecca had been kidding around, while their parents were out for the evening.  Picking up his little sister, he would throw her onto the chesterfield, making her bounce and fly into the air. They both thought it was fun, until one throw was too hard. Daniel missed the furniture and Rebecca slammed into the concrete basement wall, which knocked her cold. When she didn’t wake in a few minutes, he quickly scooped her up, placing her outside by the swing, to make it look like an intruder had attacked her. A tear trickled from his eye as he watched her lay there, so small and still. When his parents arrived home and asked about Rebecca, Daniel said she had gone out to play in the yard.  They found her crumpled body by the fence. Neighbors and strangers were all interviewed, but that whisper in the night sent Andrea in the right direction, and a tearful Daniel told them the entire story.

The mysterious man continued to appear, often in a wisp of mist by the tree, to Andrea whenever the case was difficult. Sometimes, she could hear his voice in her head, or whisper to her through the wind as she sat on her balcony. Odd as it was, she never felt threatened by this unseen assistant. It was a friendly, almost comforting, spirit speaking to her or at least through her psyche as not once did she see a physical person when these messages and suggestions were made. However, the time he appeared in her dream was a bit freaky. Still a misty figure, he stood tall and proud as he sent her his message, giving her some direction on a tough case and again which helped immensely.

Her successful “instincts” were being noticed among the team and was often asked who her snitch or informant was. She would just laugh and tell them she wasn’t at liberty to say at the moment. Who would believe her anyway?

How do you tell your colleagues that you have “help” coming up with some of the directions she chooses to pursue in an unsolved case? And that help came in the form of an unseen spirit. They would think she was off her rocker, ready for an asylum, yet somehow her shadow man seemed to be on target. He didn’t help her all the time. Just when the case was tough, or the team was heading in the wrong direction.

At one meeting, with all the names on the board of potential suspects, one name at the bottom of the board began to flash. Andrea had quickly looked around to see if anyone else noticed, but it seemed to be only flashing to her. She smiled that day, and in her mind said “thank you” and wasn’t at all surprised to get the answer back “you are most welcome”.

Returning to Canningdon after a week at her parent’s home on the coast, Andrea found her office buzzing with activity. This time the investigation team was called to the training centre on the lower floor of the building. In fact, more than one team was brought in and that is why they chose this location. This was serious business. Andrea recalled being in this room once before, but using it for a team meeting like this was rare.

The meeting had not yet started, so she glanced around the room, looking at new faces from the other teams on different shifts than hers, and acknowledging some of the top brass that were there to address them. On the wall behind the podium were the pictures of all the past Police Commissioners - officers that had worked their way up through the ranks to lead the police department. Andrea looked twice as one picture in particular had a gentle mist around it. As she stared at Commissioner Amos Blackburn, she thought he winked. OMG! It is a picture for pete’s sake. But the mist? Was this her helper. He was, after all, an excellent officer in the service to the community. Amos – now he has a name!  

The current Police Commissioner, Jonathan Wesby, advised all in attendance that, during the night, a pillar of the community, a sweet gentle old lady the community adored for her kindness, philanthropy and infectious laugh, Daria Flad, had been murdered. She was discovered just that morning by the housekeeper and so far it was out of the news. They wanted this solved quickly. After being divided into special teams, Andrea ran up the flight of stairs to her office, grabbed her camera and forensic bag of her special tools, and headed out to the stately home that had been the Flad residence for 100 years. 

Unmarried, Daria grew up in that house, working for her father at the mill, and never left. Because of Daria, many families in Canningdon continued employment when she took over the mill upon her father’s passing.

Investigators did their routine, taking photos and talking with neighbors while Andrea and Carter, her partner, were assigned the forensics part-- brushing for prints, taking samples of blood, hair and whatever else they could find. From the dishevelled look of the room, burglary appeared to be the reason. Her jewelry box sat on its side, open and empty. Her purse had been dumped on the floor. The wallet was also empty. The marks of strangulation on her neck were flaming red, but what she was strangled with was no where to be seen. Perhaps the killer took it with him. The search of the second floor was unsuccessful. The team on the first floor found nothing as well, except for a broken vintage piggy bank.

As they exited the home, Andrea passed a vintage umbrella stand near the doorway. A buzz pierced her ears. “What the heck was that?” she exclaimed, but Carter looked at her odd. “That buzz? It is terrible.” Still looking totally puzzled, Carter said he heard nothing. Andrea quickly looked around as the buzzing continued. Then she saw the mist by the umbrella stand. Looked like Amos did not want her to walk out the door without checking what the other team of investigators had missed. The buzzing got quieter, but seemed to come from the umbrella’s themselves. The mist still hung around the lower basket carrying all the umbrellas. Carter, in the meantime, was trying to figure out what the heck she was doing. There, stuffed into the bottom of the basket between the many multi-colored and multi-sized umbrellas, some vintage, some new, was a black cord. It blended in so well, it was hard to spot. Putting on her latex gloves once again, she gently lifted it out of the basket and put it in an evidence bag. The blood looked fresh. She was hopeful they would find DNA of the killer.

Carter was blown away. “How in the heck did you think to look in their right now?” he asked. Was he going to think she was crazy? She had to tell someone. 

“Carter, let’s get our samples back to the lab so they can get started, and then go for coffee. We need to talk”.




January 16, 2020 18:48

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1 comment

Natalie M.
14:57 Mar 07, 2020

Hi there! A little while back, Reedsy's email about their critique circle recommended your story to read and I loved it! I was super captivated the entire time and never wanted to stop reading. It was vague in an interesting way in certain parts but it was not in a bad way. I was curious and wanted to know more. Overall, you did a great job! Keep up the good work!


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