The last chapter, yesterday, was quite a chapter. Cali did something that she had never done. She stood strong against an evil that wanted to suck her into it. Every other time, the evil simply wanted to scare her. Not this time. Something has sent her on this quest and she has no idea what it is she is questing for. In this next chapter she is given a few tid bits of information but is not satisfied. She is still confused. But, she has not been left out to dry. Her mother does still pull some strings and she still watches over her baby girl.
Cali took in a deep cleansing breath. The sweet clean air still lingered. On the edge of her senses she could smell the old musty smells returning. But, for one last long breath, the air was sweet. “You’re welcome, all of you.” Her words were low, but not whispered, and she did not look up in some dramatic Hollywood inspired mime. She just spoke from her heart.
The knock came again. This time it brought a voice as well. “Per favore… Signora… il suo protettore… uhh… your pro… Nickola… he ees…worry.” The woman’s voice stopped in a growl.
“Gioia, is that you?” Cali opened the door before the woman could answer. It was Gioia. “Relax, I am fine.”
Gioia, looked around Cali into the room. She was part terrified and part curious. She saw nothing and looked at Cali. “Where ees…fantasma?”
“Working on the verb to be, huh?” Gioia ignored the question. “Ahh, you want to know, where are the ghosts?” Gioia nodded enthusiastically. “I set them free.” It was not exactly the truth, but how do you lie to someone who barely understands you to begin with?
The woman was shocked. She stepped back and cocked her head to the side. “No…” She looked around for anything that would indicate the presence of the ghosts. But, there was nothing. “How?”
Cali considered telling her. But, anything she said would be told in Italian to her friends, and it would be all mixed up in the translation. So, she referred back to basic Police procedure, K.I.S.S., not the rock group, but rather Keep It Simple Stupid. Less words means, less to mix up. Less explanation means, less misunderstanding. Cali shrugged. “It’s what I do.”She turned and headed back the way she had come. Leaving Gioia to question the other women that were in the area. Cali left her there.
The house felt more relaxed now. She was not deluding herself, she was still in great danger. But, she didn’t feel oppressed now. She thought while she walked. If she was going to find Lilly, she would need to find her grave. Rather, she would need to find where they dumped the body. In the trees, that’s where they all are. In the trees. Cali rounded the last corner and entered the room where she had started. It was all but empty now. Everyone was getting drafted for possible war with the men at the gas station.
A couple of older women were there. They were making bandages out of old sheets. Cali absently wondered how clean the sheets were. Before she could ask after Nickola, the man entered the room. Relief washed over his face like a warm breeze. He asked the unspoken question. “I’m fine. It was just a little detour.” Cali thought about how she was going to approach the next topic. “I’m done in this house. What I seek is not here.” If I had asked the ghosts where they dump the bodies, they would have said, in the trees. The orchards were vast. Cali didn’t have the time or the inclination to search them. She realized that Nickola had not spoken. She looked up at him and prompted him to speak
“What would you have me say? I do not know. I am told that you speak with ghosts. You were locked inside a room with some. Yet here you are, you tell me you are fine. But… do you deny that you were locked in a room?” He wanted to demand answers. It was what he usually did. But, Cali was family. He could demand nothing of her.
“I do not deny it. But, I cannot confirm it either. I didn’t check the door.” She only served to make him more annoyed.
“Who was in the room with you?”
“What do you want me to say, Nickola?” She did not want to make this more complicated. “Look, what is important is that I am fine, and I am done with this house. But now… I need to take a quick look at the orchards.”
“Pardon me?” All talk of ghosts, was now on the back burner.
“I would like to know where the bodies are buried… something a bit more descriptive than, in the trees.”
They stared at each other for a long moment. Finally he seemed to reach a conclusion that had previously eluded him. “As you say.” He bobbed his head and left the room.
Cali wasn’t sure if she had just alienated the man or won some kind of mental dual. She wondered if he still thought that she was brave, or if he just thought she was insane.
Cali began to stroll. Why not, I’ve no place to go… yet. Besides, I have to wait for Angela’s men to do whatever it is she is going to do. I might as well take a look around. She wandered outside. The first thing she noticed was that Nickola’s car was gone and everyone was armed. My army. It was a bitter thought.
She climbed up to the top of the wall. The army had put boxes up against it, so that they could fire over it. It was just wide enough to walk on, if you were a gymnast. Cali was not that sure footed. The vantage that the boxes gave her was impressive. Still, there were no ghosts in sight. She climbed down and headed for another section. Maybe, she could get a general direction. She couldn’t imagine one of these goons carrying a murdered whore very far into the trees. But, they could have used a car or something.
Nickola found her climbing down from her fourth pile of boxes. “You will not like this.” He said apologetically. “The bodies aren’t buried, in the traditional sense. When someone dies or is killed, their corpse is added to the fertilizer pile. They are run through the shredder until there is nothing left but hamburger and tiny chips of bone. Then they are mixed with lime and allowed to ferment until it’s time to fertilize again. Then they are thrown into a huge vat and mixed with fertilizer. All of it is spread over 650 acres of olive trees.” He watched her face. There was no visible reaction. “There are no graves. That’s why they say, in the trees.”
“But, her face wasn’t there. I looked.” She was talking to no-one. Did I miss it? Would she have recognized me? Did she just move on when she died? It could have happened that way. Sometimes people just let go when they die, or just before. Their spirit doesn’t hang around if they let go.
He watched her. What is it she is looking for? Clearly she doesn’t hold any affection for this step-mother, yet she wants to find a grave… maybe she is looking for the woman’s ghost. Nickola believed that some people truly could see, and communicate with ghosts. His grandmother was one. She was special. Maybe, I should take her to see my grandmother. “Miss Casey”
Cali jumped inside. She had forgotten where she was at. She chided herself. That’s how you end up dead, you dumb ass! “Nickola…” She glanced at the wall. He had just explained why there had been so many ghosts inside the villa. They had no body to hold them, so they clung to the building. “When we can leave, we should do so.”
He figured out that much on his own. “Where to?” Would she drop this and pursue her father or her siblings next?
“I’m not sure… yet.” I’ve seen what I wanted. This is where she died… where she lived. No-one here remembers her with any kind of fondness. Her ghost isn’t here. If it was, it’s gone now. So then, why do I feel like I’m missing something?
“We will go, we can decide where to… later.”
She nodded at him, but her mind was still spinning. “Let me call Ang, find out what’s happening.” She pulled out her phone and was confused by the time that showed on the face. It had been raining when they arrived. It wasn’t now but, she still couldn’t see the sun. Still, according to the phone, they had been there nearly four hours. Cali looked back up at him. “How long was I in that room?”
“Nearly two hours.” His grandmother often complained of ghosts taking up her time. “I tried to break the door down.” She had come out when she was done, and not one second sooner. “I think you should come with me. You should meet my grandmother.” He waited for the backlash. Why would this woman, the sister of the Lady, wish to meet his lowly grandmother?
Cali thought about what he said for only a split second. It sounded right. “Okay, take me to her. But first let me call Angela.” I can call Connie while on the road.
I hope that you are enjoying the story. I am reading and re-reading it as I go and making changes all the time. But, in the end it will essentially be the same book. Let me know what you're thinking.
Live well and be good to each other.