I thought this would take longer than I thought. A month or two, at least. Three even. But it's here, finished.
Ava and Janie (and Natasha) continue the investigation to uncover Natasha's murderer. With the evidence pointing to him, Jeremiah may or may not have something to hide in this search. How far are the girls willing to go to find the truth?
Twenty-one chapters. I really have my work cut out for me. I'd like to thank everyone who's been with me in the long run. Thank you all. ^_^
Like Ava said, we started the stakeout the next day. After Ava and Janie had breakfast, did some cleaning around the house, and watered the plants outside in the front yard and backyard, the two climbed aboard Mom's car and drove to the city. I wait and contemplate what we're going to see.
Finding the restaurant was easier with the car than on foot. At least this beats taking the bus everywhere. Ava parked my Mom's car across from the diner and watch the restaurant. People mill about into and out of the restaurant, but we don't see Jeremiah anywhere. I glide toward Janie and look over her shoulder at her cellphone. I check the time. 11:24 a.m. It's probably not Jeremiah's lunch hour yet.
"So," quips Janie, closing her cellphone, "what do we do now?"
"Wait," replies Ava, eyes focused on the restaurant doors.
Janie let's out a groan.
"If we're going to be here," quips Janie, "can we at least do something? Like, I dunno, listen to the radio?"
"Knock yourself out," retorts Ava, motioning toward the radio.
Janie turns on the radio, and starts searching for her preferred radio station. She finally finds her station and leaves it there, music fills the car.
"Britney Spears?," quips Ava.
From the way she said, I can deduce that she doesn't like that singer.
"What?," retorts Janie. "She's awesome."
Ava shakes her head and rolls her eyes.
I listen to the song. It's has a nice rhythm. I don't know what kind of genre it is. It must be pop or something similar to that.
"I kind of like it," I say.
Ava looks over her shoulder, arching an eyebrow.
"It's catchy." I shrug.
Ava shakes her head, smiling.
"What?," utters Janie.
"Natasha likes Britney Spears," says Ava.
"All right," utters Janie, bobbing her head. She turns around, looking at the spot I'm floating in. She's looking in the right spot, now all she needs is to actually see me.
I gaze out the window at the diner. People pass by, some going in or out. I don't see Jeremiah anywhere. Maybe he should've given Ava his phone number. And that's another thing. Why didn't he give Ava his phone number? Why did he tell her to meet him in the diner if she wanted to speak to him? I have to ask Ava this.
"I sure hope we don't get a ticket for parking too long," retorts Janie vapidly, eyes staring off.
"What do you want me to do?," quips Ava, eyebrow arched.
"Maybe we should've parked in an alley," snips Janie.
"That's how they do it in Law & Order."
I look from Ava to Janie and back again. I jerk back and hover above the backseat, resting my chin on my knees. I quickly glimpse out the window. I don't see anything yet. I look out through the window.
"We'll just wait a little longer," remarks Ava.
Janie hung her head back, eyes staring straight into the ceiling.
To pass the time, Ava brought a word search book and a pen. Janie looks over at her word search book. I keep looking out the window while stealing a glance at Janie and Ava. I'm just hoping my parents don't call Ava. Now that I remember it, Ava never gave my parents her real phone number. Maybe she'll tell them the truth once everything is settled.
I keep my eyes peeled, and that's when I see him. Jeremiah.
"Ava," I sputter, waving my hand.
Ava looks in the rearview mirror and wordlessly asks a question.
"Look," I say, pointing outside.
She and Janie peer out the window and see Jeremiah walk into the diner. That's when they jump into action.
"Come on," says Ava, shoving her word search book into the glove compartment.
"We should've put suits on," says Janie, looking out her wardrobe.
"We'll just tell him we're off duty," reassures Ava, opening the car door. She slams it shut as soon as she's out. I phase out through the window and spot Janie getting out of the car.
"I just know he's going to know we're actually in high school once he sees us," whines Janie, holding out her arms and turning around. She's dressed in a denim jacket over a pink top, blue jeans and taupe ankle boots. Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail. She looks her age, but she's striving for adulthood.
"Let's go in," quips Ava.
The three of us cross the street and go inside the diner. I survey the restaurant, and spot Jeremiah sitting in a seat at the right side of the building.
"There he is," I whisper into Ava's ear, pointing.
"Let's go," says Ava.
Janie trails behind her.
They reach Jeremiah's booth, who is seated at the moment. Whether he has ordered anything, we'll just have to see.
"Detectives?," he says, looking up at them.
"Hello," says Ava plainly. "May we...?" she gestures toward the seat across from him.
"Oh!," he hoots. "Yes, please, sit."
Ava sits across from him and Janie slides in next to her. It takes Jeremiah a second to register that Ava and Janie are dressed casually. Out of uniform, to be precise. Ava doesn't need to guess what he's thinking.
"We're off duty today," she says evenly. Jeremiah nods.
"Did you two come into a break in the case?," asks Jeremiah.
"Almost," replies Ava.
"We just need to ask more questions," quips Janie, "if you don't mind, that is."
"Oh," says Jeremiah, "no, not at all." He clears his throat. "Go ahead."
"Well," begins Ava.
"Here you go," says the approaching waitress. She's holding a plate of pasta primavera and a glass of iced tea. She places the plate and iced tea in front of Jeremiah. She takes note of Ava and Janie and whips out her pen and notebook.
"I'll have tomato soup," says Ava to the waitress, "and orange soda."
"For me," chirrups Janie, "I'll have the taco salad. And uh...a Sprite."
"Great," says the waitress. She walks away as soon as she gets their orders. I watch her leave. She's not the same one from last time. This waitress is a redhead with grey eyes.
"So," says Jeremiah, picking up his fork, "about those questions you were going to ask me?"
"Right," retorts Ava, placing her hands on the table and interlocking her fingers together. "You see," she continues, "we wanted to know if you really did discontinue all contact with Natasha's family after...the investigation."
"Natasha's family?," he remarks, eyebrows knitting together. "Like I said: I haven't talked to them in years." The way he said it proves that he hasn't seen or talked to them in a long time. I wouldn't have stayed in contact either.
"Not even a little phone call?," asks Janie.
"Here you go," says the waitress, holding up a tray. "Here's your tomato soup."
"Thank you," says Ava. The soup is placed in front of her same with her soda.
"And here is your taco salad," says the waitress, handing Janie her salad. She then gives her her Sprite.
"Thank you very much," quips Janie, unable to pull her eyes away from the salad. It has beef as well as corn, cherry tomatoes, black beans, lettuce, a scoop of sour cream and shredded cheese on top. The waitress hands her packets of salsa.
"Enjoy," says the waitress, "I'll just leave you to your meal."
As soon as the waitress leaves, the conversation continues.
"So," says Jeremiah, "about your question. The last time I talked them was the day after the investigation." He takes a drink of iced tea. "Why?"
"We just wanted to know if you were in contact with them," assures Ava after taking a drink of orange soda.
"Oooh," mutters Janie, fanning her mouth. She takes a big gulp of Sprite. "Spicy," she adds.
Ava ignores Janie. "We contacted the Carters," retorts Ava, "we talked to them...to get the story in their own words."
"Of course," quips Jeremiah.
"And," continues Ava, "after talking to them, going over the routine, our search has become...inconclusive."
She's not wrong about that. At least, it must not be wrong to Jeremiah. He's still part of an investigation that happened years ago. And I still don't know if it was him or Professor Jameson.
"Are you sure you don't remember anyone who might have been involved?," asks Ava, stirring her soup absentmindedly. Beside her, Janie eyes Jeremiah expressionless. She's true to be hard to read and unpredictable. I wouldn't say she's not trying, but she might be trying too hard. She looks like she has no idea what she's doing.
Jeremiah picks at his pasta, unsure whether to keep eating or not. But he ultimately answers her question.
"I don't remember anyone having it for Natasha," he replies, he picks a forkful of pasta and eats it.
I beg to differ. He knows what happened, but he's pretending he doesn't. If only we had one of those lie detecting machines. A...a polygraph. That's what they're called. I swoop in behind him and hover above the cushioned booth seat. Ava looks surprised but suppresses it to not make Jeremiah suspicious. Ava's the only who can see me, so why should she be worried? I'm actually glad no one's sitting in the booth behind him. That would raise a lot of tension between them.
"Are you sure?," queries Janie, eyes locked into his.
"I'm sure," answers Jeremiah. He takes a sip of iced tea.
Ava mulled over the next question.
"I know we're asking a lot of personal questions," states Ava; takes a spoonful of soup, "but this is all part of the investigation."
"Right," utters Jeremiah, "right." He nods his and turns back to his pasta. He seems to be almost finished with it. Seems he has a better appetite than last time.
"But really," says Janie, "you don't remember anything?"
"I'm sure," replies Jeremiah, picking at the pasta.
Janie glimpses away. She picks at the taco salad and eats a small forkful.
A minute passes in silence.
The phone rings. I don't know whose cellphone it is. I see Jeremiah rummaging through his suit until he pulls it out of his pants pocket. It's his cellphone that's ringing. He opens and holds it to his ear.
"Hello?," he says into the phone. He holds up a finger at Ava and Janie, indicating that they wait for him.
I glide across the booth and hover behind Janie and Ava. The phone call lasts about five minutes. Jeremiah's answers are short. Whatever the call is about, it seems to be taking up most of Jeremiah's time. Must be a phone call from work. It must be. It can't be a personal call.
Jeremiah hangs up his cellphone and shoves it back inside his pocket.
"Sorry about that," he tells Janie and Ava, "that was my boss." Ah, so it was work call. "Says he needs me back right away."
"Oh," says Ava, "then we won't take up any more of your time."
Jeremiah stands up and bids them farewell. He goes to the counter to pay for his meal. I continue to watch him while Ava and Janie remain seated, not looking over to watch him.
"Hey," whispers Janie, "think Natasha can follow him to work?"
That question intrigues me, but I can't go against the leash length.
"Janie," quips Ava, "she can't go any farther." She holds up my finger bone. "That's why I wear this all the time."
Janie picks at her salad. "It was worth a shot," she replies.
I look over my shoulder and watch Jeremiah leave the diner. The waitress comes over to take Jeremiah's plate.
"Need anything else?," she asks.
"Oh, uh," says Ava, but Janie interrupts her.
"I'd like an apple pie," chirps Janie, "to go," she adds. Ordering it to go is in case she has to leave the diner.
"Alright," quips the waitress, "let me just get that pie for you and and run your bill." The waitress walks away. Ava takes the opportunity to talk.
"What do you think?," she asks.
"I think he's hiding something," retorts Janie, taking a sip of Sprite.
"That's what I was thinking," says Ava.
The waitress comes back with a white box and a bill.
"Thank you," says Ava, taking the bill. Janie takes the box from her, and grabs the plastic fork.
"You're welcome," replies the waitress.
Ava stands up from her seat and Janie slides out holding the box and fork. After paying for the meals the two leave the diner and cross the street. We get into the car.
"Let's figure out where he works," says Janie.
"We don't even know where he works," quips Ava.
"That's the drawback to this investigation," I say.
"Did he say his work was close by?," queries Janie.
"I guess so," replies Ava uncertainly. She puts the key in the ignition and starts the car. In minutes, we're driving with the rest of traffic.
I'm grateful for Ava getting her license. Having her behind the wheel makes the ride enjoyable. We know that Jeremiah must've walked to and from the diner, so his work must not be that far away. We pass two blocks from the diner, and then we make a left turn. We're driving past a couple of shops; a bank, a shoe store, a nail salon, an antique store. Once we're out of that street, we keep going straight. I glance over to the right to see a clue. I don't see anything.
"We're gonna be here all day," complains Janie, looking out the window.
"Come on," retorts Ava, "we have to do this."
"Yeah, yeah," mutters Janie.
Ava swerves when she almost missed the turn. She drives on, eyes ready to spot anything. I lean forward and do my part. I scan the buildings, the shops. My eyes land on a tall building. I can see the words 'Flux Industries' written in big white letters against crystal clear windows. I don't know how many floors there are, but it's a big building.
"How about there?," I suggest, pointing at the building.
Ava raises a brow. "You think so?," she quips.
"What?," says Janie, turning to look at Ava. "What do you think?"
"Natasha thinks we should check there," replies Ava. She glimpses at the building one more time before turning the signal on turning to the right.
Finding a parking space takes longer than we expect. There aren't a lot of cars, but drawing attention is what we don't want to cause. We drive out of the company's parking lot and speed off into the streets. Ava drives about three blocks away from the building. She finds a parking space in front of an insurance agency. There's a parking meter next to the car.
Ava takes the keys out, turning the car off. She steps out.
"Can I stay here?," queries Janie childishly innocently. She holds up her box with the pie in it, indicating that she wants to stay and eat.
Ava scoffs, shaking her head. Janie groans and shoves the box under the seat. She gets out of the car, slamming the door shut. She searches in her purse is it as Ava's about to look in hers. Janie inserts two quarters into the meter. I don't know how long this is going to last, but every second counts.
"Let's go," says Ava.
I glade along them down the street. The building is not even that far away. I don't know what kind of company this is, but it's prestigious enough. It's up to par with any company I can think of. I don't know much, perhaps Roll-Royce, or something of the like.
Janie keeps her eyes on the building.
"How are we going to get in?," she asks.
"Through the door," answers Ava.
Janie sighs. "I mean," she reiterates, "how are we going to get in without drawing attention?"
"Just keep a low profile," says Ava, as she crosses the street. Janie ambles beside her. "Don't talk to anyone."
"I feel like I'm five again," mutters Janie.
"Just let me do the talking," retorts Ava.
I hover above Ava and Janie. The building has automatic doors. We traipse in. I take in the building's interior.
The floors are immaculate, so polished that you can see your reflection on them. There's a giant flowerpot with a fern inside. I see a receptionist at the front desk. She's blond with green eyes and in a pantsuit. She spots Janie and Ava. These are one of the moments I'm grateful I can't be seen by her or the others.
"May I help you?," she asks.
"Yes," says Ava, waking up to the desk, "we were wondering... Do you know if a Jeremiah Thompson works here."
"Let me check," remarks the receptionist. She taps a few keys on her computer. Ava stands there, waiting. Janie looks jaded while trying to be attentive.
The receptionist looks at Ava.
"There's a Jeremiah Thompson working in marketing on the sixth floor," she says, looking between Ava and the computer screen. "Is that who you were looking for?"
"Yes," replies Ava.
"Do you need me to call him down?," asks the receptionist. "Or do you want to go up—" Janie interrupts before she can finish.
"We'll be on our way," she says, "we just needed to know what time he gets off, so we could interview him."
"About what?," quips the receptionist.
"It's a private matter," says Janie.
The woman blinks, like she's being hustled for getting money out of the safe.
"Well," she says, "he gets off at five." I thought that was only a stereotype.
"Great," retorts Janie, "thanks. We'll be going now."
She grabs Ava's arm and drags her outside. As soon as they're out, Ava begins the questions.
"What was that all about?," she inquires.
"I asked that," begins Janie, "so that we could follow him to his house after work."
Ava is taken aback by her plan. Even I'm impressed.
"We don't even know which car he drives," states Ava.
"We can find out," remarks Janie.
"No," utters Ava, "let's just get back to the car."
I follow them back into the car, where they both climb into and wait. That took quicker than expected. Janie takes out her cellphone. I look at it and check the time. 1:07 p.m. Time flies quicker than you expect it. The receptionist said Jeremiah gets off work at five o'clock. That's just four hours from now.
We'll just have to wait.
Time went by slowly like molasses in winter. Ava had to change parking spaces after a while. She parked nearer to the company diagonally. Passing the time until Jeremiah gets off is as tedious as waiting for it to snow in the summer. Janie spent it getting out of the car and walking around the block Ava stayed and did her word search. She did about four of them. After Janie finished her walk, Ava stepped out to take a walk as well. We went into an a convenience store. Ava bought two soda bottles, two bags of chips, a bag of cookies, zebra cakes and a box of sno-caps.
By the time Ava and I got back to the car Janie had already eaten her pie. She took the soda to wash it down.
Ava checks the time on her cellphone. It's fifteen minutes to five. Just a little longer.
"So glad Mom hasn't called yet," utters Ava, closing it.
"Neither has mine," mutters Janie, checking her own cellphone. She glimpses out the window before closing her cellphone and putting it back in her purse. She grabs a bag of chips and opens it.
Ava quirks a brow.
"What?," utters Janie, grabbing a handful of chips. Ava looks away. Sitting back, she hangs her head to the left, eyes staring into nothingness. I hover behind them in the backseat, keeping my eyes in the company.
I don't know how much longer until Jeremiah finishes working. I sound like a kid waiting for her dad to come home. Considering I'm still the same I was as when I died, and he's over thirty, it's actually pretty funny.
I think about phasing out of the car, but I feel like I should stay in the car. It's not that someone can run me over, but I can phase through the windshield and send a chill through the driver's body. I don't want to do that.
"Hey," chirps Janie, slapping Ava's arm, "there he is!"
Ava turns around and looks. She and Janie see him leave the building and takes a right.
"Which car do you think is his?," queries Janie.
I watch him walk down the parking lot holding a briefcase. He passes a line of cars, about ten or so. Then he finally stops before a navy blue car. I don't know what model it is. He takes out his car keys, and turns on the car. He gets inside and and closes the door. We watch him pull out of the driveway.
"Come on," cheeps Janie, "let's follow him."
Ava turns on the car and puts it in drive. She takes hold of the wheel. She watches Jeremiah drive out of the parking lot. He makes a right.
"Come on," goads Janie, "go, go, GO."
Ava pulls out of the parking space and follows behind Jeremiah. I really hope this doesn't become like those action movies with a car chase.
"I hope he doesn't recognize us," mutters Ava, keeping her eyes on Jeremiah's car.
"He's not," retorts Janie, "he's too busy driving. It's not like he has eyes on the back of his head."
"That'd be freaky," remarks Ava.
"Eesh," I grimace.
Following Jeremiah is moderately easy. So far he hasn't taken any turns; just driving straight. I turn around and see that Flux Industries is further away. If Jeremiah drives to work, he probably lives a little further away than we expect. However far he lives we'll find out, and from there, figure out who he truly is.
Finally, Jeremiah makes a right turn. Ava turns, and then, unexpectedly, a red car gets between Ava and Jeremiah. We're at a disadvantage, or maybe I think that because of that car.
"Hey," says Ava, "Natasha, think you can get out of the car and see where Jeremiah's going?"
I blink. Her request takes me by surprise, but I phase through the car ceiling and levitated in the air. I see Jeremiah's car up ahead. He's turning left.
"Left!," I hoot, phasing back indie the car. I'm so close to Ava, she flinches. She makes a left turn. Good thing that red car drove straight after that red light turned green.
We're not far behind from Jeremiah. We're coming across a street and Jeremiah pulls in to a parking space in front of a building.
"This must be where he lives," quips Janie.
We watch Jeremiah get out of his car. He walks towards the building. Ava parks a little further away from where Jeremiah parked his car.
"Should we go in?," asks Janie.
Ava shakes her head. "No," she utters, "I don't wanna to start up an onslaught of questions. That's what I don't want."
Janie mulls it over.
"We can get Natasha to go in," suggests Janie, "have her follow him to his apartment."
"I don't know," she says, staring at the building, "what if the super asks us why we're looking for Jeremiah? He'll know we're not cops."
"What if we tell him we're relatives from out of town?," offers Janie.
Ava looks at her, stunned.
"So what now?" Janie sits back, crossing her arms under her chest.
I hover above them, watching the building. We've made it this far. Who says we shouldn't go in? But the possibilities that could happen arise. They won't believe Janie and Ava on why they're looking for Jeremiah. They'll end up calling Janie and Ava's parents and then they'll interrogate them on why they were doing this, which will lead up to Ava telling them she sees ghosts. And that could mean that Ava will wind up getting locked up and getting pills shoveled down her throat. No, I can't let her end up like that.
I don't know what to do. I don't know what we're suppose to do. What I'm suppose to do.
"Maybe we should go," I suggest.
Ava glances over at me.
"Are you sure?," she quips.
"What?," retorts Janie, brows knotted together.
"Natasha wants to go," says Ava.
"But what about Jeremiah?," remarks Janie, motioning to the building.
"We can come back tomorrow," replies Ava, she turns to me and adds, "if that's what you want."
"Yes." I'm neither sure nor confused about that plan, but I answer her to not question me any further.
Ava starts the car. "Well," she says, "let's head home."
"Right," mutters Janie, sitting up straighter.
We drive off into traffic. I hover in the backseat, wondering what could happen tomorrow or the next day. Will my murder be solved then? Will I find closure after that?
There's so many oceans of questions flooding up my mind, and I don't see any concrete answer.
Ava's cellphone rings in the kitchen, where she's standing in front of the stove, frying some chicken strips and bell peppers.
She answers her phone.
"Hello?," she utters. "Oh, hi, Mom." A smile spreads across her lips. "How's Dad?"
I listen in on the conversation. It's mostly just random prattle. Just the typical questions of how she is doing and how everything is.
"Yeah," answers Ava, "Janie and I are doing okay. What?" Her face changes from engaged to suspicious. "Come over? No, no, you need to do that. We're fine." She chortles to hide her nervousness. "Besides," she adds, "Janie and I want to practice living on our own, so we know what college is like."
Ah, clever. I like that kind of idea.
"Yes, Mom," says Ava, "I'll call you in the morning." She flips over the chicken and peppers. She puts the spatula down and grabs a bottle of seasoning. She sprinkles it into the pan. "Tell, Dad I say hi. Okay, love you."
She hangs up and puts it back on the counter.
"'That your Mom?," I quip.
"Yeah," she says, she gives the chicken another flip, which gets a sizzle and hisses. "Wants to know if we're all right."
I'm surprised how she was able to lie like that. If it had been me, I would've fessed up the whole truth.
Ava turns off the stove. She grabs the pan, goes over to the counter and serves chicken into the two plates she laid out.
"Janie," calls Ava, "dinner's ready!"
I hear Janie come into the kitchen. She giddily picks up her plate and takes out a fork from the drawer. She sidles over to the table and sits down. Ava takes out the soda Janie half-drank and hands it to her. Ava grabs the Dr. Pepper and sits next to Janie.
"What should we do tomorrow?," asks Janie. "How should we go about sneaking into Jeremiah's apartment?"
Ava eats a forkful of stir fry before answering.
"He'll be at work at around, say," quips Ava, "ten, ten thirty." She takes a drink of her soda. "We'll go in though a backdoor, and search from there."
Janie thinks it over.
"I like it," she says, "just as long as no one asks what we're doing."
"That's going to be impossible," retorts Ava.
"I hope Jeremiah has a fire escape," utters Janie.
"And if he doesn't?," snaps Ava.
Janie sips her soda.
"Have Natasha go in and tell us if there is," she answers.
I don't argue with that. I actually think I can do that.
"We're down to day one," says Ava, "Natasha's parents are coming back Sunday."
"Which leaves us with little time to figure out if he really did do it," reiterates Janie.
I can't argue against that.
"And if we get caught?," asks Ava.
"Have Natasha scare them off," replies Janie, "have her move stuff. I'd totally dig it if she made it like in Carrie—"
"Again with that?," snaps Ava, rolling her eyes.
"What's the fun of having a ghost friend if you can't have any fun?"
I even start to question that, but I want to do things responsibly. I'm bringing up responsibility when I wasn't even that responsible when I was alive. Now I'm willing to do anything to do things right. If it's not right, then I don't want to be wrong.
Only time will know how this will pan out.
How's that for chapter twenty-one? I hope chapter twenty-two's as nail-bitingly engrossing.
I wasn't sure if I mentioned Jeremiah's work or not. I wracked my brains trying to come up with something. I'll be glad when I get the next chapter finished.