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"Is this going to take long?" I asked, chipping the neon pink polish off my fingernails.

The officer only smiled. He was a middle-aged man with a kind face and the most beautiful blue eyes. "What's your name kid?" He looked at the paperwork on his desk. "Tiana Running-Elk?" He nodded at the sight of my name.

To be fair I had only been in his office for five minutes. The previous two hours were spent giving my statement and getting my mug-shot.

"I go by Tia. And I'm not a kid I'm nineteen." First nation girls were notoriously short and I was no exception. At just 155 centimeters (or five-foot-one, for any Americans) I barely passed for a high school student. This made it difficult at times to find clients willing to pick me up for anything more than a blowjob. But lucky me, that was the reason I wasn't in a holding cell.

I had a record of misdemeanors, and the fact that I was blowing a guy when I witnessed the two bikers attacking my father warranted me getting in-processed. But according to the arresting on-scene cop, it would be up to Officer Fuller (the on-duty desk jockey with the highest seniority) to press charges or just let me go, like they usually do. Because no one gives a fuck about a First Nation girl giving blowjobs for a living.

Officer Fuller sighed as he placed my file upon his desk. "Where's your mother?"

"I don't know. She works the streets somewhere in the city."

"Saskatoon?"

I giggled. Saskatchewan's largest city was Saskatoon, a word I thought was absolutely hilarious. Just a reminder of how badly I wanted to move someplace classy like New York, or Seattle.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing, sorry, Sir. My mom lives in Regina. I think."

"You think?"

"She did as of the last time we spoke." Which was nearly two years ago when she kicked me out. But the nice officer didn't need to know that. "You have a beautiful family," I said motioning to the photo on his desk. The blonde woman was holding two little girls in her arms, one who looked about five, while the other seemed ten, maybe eleven. Too old to be cute but still young enough to be her father's little princess.

"Thank you," he said with an awkward, professional nod.

"What does your wife do? Is she a cop like you? Or a stay-at-home mom?"

"Actually, my wife passed away." There was an awkward silence.

"Oh, I'm so sorry."

"No, it's fine." He picked up my paperwork and glanced at it one last time. "You're free to go, someone from my squad will contact you if we have any more questions regarding your witness statement."

"Ok thanks," I said, feeling like absolute crap.

"Do you have any questions?"

"Um, can you get me my smokes back? The arresting officer took them with the rest of my shit."

"Sure, I'll walk you to the front." He motioned for me to get up and true to his word he walked me to the front and signed out a baggie of my belongings.

"One pack of cigarettes, one lighter, one wallet, one late-model smartphone, and one leather necklace with a flower pendant." He paused on the pendant. "I want you to take my card," he said as he wrote a phone number on the back of a business card. "This is my personal cell. Just call if you need anything."

"Thanks." For whatever reason, the feel of the embossed lettering made for a good fidget toy. I left the station to smoke at my favorite spot under the nearby overpass. 'Near-by,' of course, was a relative term.

My secret spot was a good forty-minute walk into the backwoods of Indian territory. I checked in with my pimp, via my cell phone. Cathy was an old Indian who once worked the streets alongside my mother. She was pretty understanding since I'd spent the better part of the night at a police station but I had to pull in some money or I'd forfeit my room at her long-term motel.

I walked along the lower path, allowing the trees to shelter me from the internal cold of Canadian snow. I was about to light a cigarette when I saw what looked like a man was standing on the ledge of an overpass.

As I came closer, I swore I could see a gun in his hand. I ducked into the shadows, contemplating my next move. Should I call the police? Would they even get here on time? Then I remembered the card.

I picked up my phone and dialed the number. In the dead silence of the night, I heard what sounded like a ringtone coming from the ledge. "No way." Was Officer Fuller up there? Or just his phone? "Pick up, come on..."

After a few rings, I heard the sound of someone picking up. "Hello?" The voice was male, but it sounded like the caller was holding the phone a good two feet away from his mouth. "Officer Fuller?"

"Yes?" his voice got louder as if he was moving the phone closer to his head.

"Hi, Officer Fuller? It's me, Tiana Running-Elk. You gave me your card earlier." I had to get up there but I had no idea how I could make it in time.

"Hello, it's nice to hear from you. What can I help you with?"

Looking around I could see a tree, with a long, bent branch that could act as a bridge straight to the man's location. I just needed to keep him on the line. "I'm kind of in a bad place. I really just needed someone to talk to." I started to climb the tree, which was easier said than done, holding my phone.

"Um, sure. What do you want to talk about? Are you having thoughts of hurting yourself or others?"

"No, I don't think so. I'm mean I'm not sure." When I was high enough to see his location, I was thankful he had already put down the gun, and took a step backward, away from the ledge.

"Well, what's on your mind?"

"Do you think I'll need to testify against the men who killed my dad? I kind of want to." I could see him leaning against his car.

"If that's what you want, I promise I'll do everything in my power to make it happen."

"Thanks," I said as I climbed along the bridge shaped branch, coming into view of the crying policeman. "That means a lot."

When his gaze met mine there was a moment of silence. His lips cracked a smile. "Are you some kind of supernatural bird creature?" He reached out his hand, getting me safely on to the ledge.

"Maybe."

"Well, that's what I get for going into Indian territory."

"You get to meet all kinds of characters," I said, leaning against his car, as I lit up a much-deserved cigarette.

"Just so you know I wasn't planning on jumping." Officer Fuller leaned back looking up at the sky. "I can't even fire a fucking gun."

I hadn't noticed earlier, but his hands trembled. I'd seen the by-product of gang torture; fingers were broken with a hammer (or the butt of a gun, or whatever the attacker could find.) This usually resulted in significant nerve damage. "Who did that to you?" Jay pursed his lips and shook his head.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It's just another memory."

I felt around in my pocket for the card, the name read, Officer Jayden Fuller. "Can I call you Jayden?"

"I prefer Jay."

I wanted to ask why he was at this particular spot, if not to kill himself, but that felt like an even worse topic of conversation. "Okay, Jay, how about we go someplace a little less Canadian."

Jay seemed confused. "Are you talking about the snow? You know It snows in places other than Canada, right?"

"Not like Canadian snow. Our snow is like a sentient alien fungus, it just stays here and grows. My dad used to tell me that Canadian snowflakes were little cities, working their way north to meet up with the mother ship up in the arctic."

"Your dad sounds pretty cool."

"He was, for a junkie. You're off duty, right? I wouldn't want you to get into any trouble."

"Yeah, I'm off duty." He looked off into the distance. "Can I take you somewhere, like an all-night diner or something?"

"Sure, I'd like that."

"Do you know a place? this is actually my first time in this neck of the woods."

That answered my previous question. He'd come here to die. "There's a decent all-night diner a few miles up. It's pretty popular with ice road truckers." I reached for his hand, stroking my gloved fingers over his bare knuckles.

Jay turned and nodded. "Well, that sounds just perfect."

I got into his car without hesitation. It was a small, late-model truck, the kind popular for driving to and from work. In the darkness I couldn't make out a brand; Nissan maybe Ford. My daddy knew about cars, he was a mechanic (at least that was the job he paid taxes on.) So I knew just enough to be able to be helpful.

I looked out the window, gazing upon the Canadian wilderness. "It's just off the next exit, the place with the weird flower logo." I didn't know the name of the diner, only that it had a Hawaiian-tropical motif, with decor from the seventies or eighties. There was a massive parking lot, to accommodate long haul truckers, (and the diner shared it's truck stop location with a gas station, bringing even more business.)

Jay easily found a space. Given the late hour, we went inside and got a table by the window to enjoy the view.

The waitress, a native woman who was a friend of Cathy's recognized me and I can only assume she thought Jay was a client. "Do you need a menu, Tia? or just the usual?"

"The usual?" Jay asked.

"Whenever I bring guys here or just come in after my shift, I always get coffee and apple pie."

"The usual it is then." Jay lit up a cigarette taking a long drag.

Over six cups of coffee and several slices of nearly expired grocery store-brand pie, we talked about the past. He grew up in Vancouver, the son of an American father and a Canadian mother. They moved to the north when he was a child, for the peace and quiet of the countryside.

"Peace and quiet?" I asked. "More like boredom."

He nodded. "I kind of got stuck here after highschool. I always wanted to move back to the big city or even the states, but..."

"Do you have dual citizenship?"

"One of the few blessings I was able to hang on to." He put out his cigarette on a teacup, before taking a sip of coffee. "A real blessing for my kids. They always dreamed big, too big for Northern Canada."

"And your wife?"

"I lost my wife, Lisa, just a little over six years ago." Jay's hands trembled so badly he had to put down the coffee cup. "Six fucked up years." Jay reached for another cigarette. He tried to work his lighter but was shaking too badly to get a flame.

"Here, let me." I stroked the button, inciting a light. Jay nodded thanks as he leaned in close. He took a few drags to calm himself before continuing.

"I tried to be strong for my girls. Eve and Lucy. But they needed their mother, so eventually, I just had to let them move on."

"Move on? Where are they now?"

"Moving on with their lives, that's what I mean. Eve is fourteen, just started high school in New York."

"Wow, New York?"

"She got into some kind of art school, on a partial scholarship." He chuckled, likely due to the look of shock on my face. "She's happy, so I try to leave her be."

"That's cool at least she knows you love her. And your other daughter?"

Jay's smile crumbled. "My oldest, Lucy went to college in California. I haven't spoken to her in years. I think she blames me for her mother's death."

That was when I realized I never asked how his wife died. I'd assumed the answer was something simple like, 'cancer' or even the flu. People died of the flu all the time. "How did you lose your wife?" "It's a long story."

"I've got nothing but time." I bit my lip, quickly realizing how badly I overstepped. We were not close enough friends.

Jay squinted his eyes, he seemed annoyed, offended. "I should probably drive you home." "Jay, wait!"

Before I could apologize he got up, tracked down the waitress, and paid our tab. Then he sat in the car, lighting up a new cigarette.

I knew I had to go with him, otherwise, I had an hour's walk, in the freezing cold of the night. But I wanted to make him wait, staring him down through the window. A widow or not, I was not about to let this cop disrespect me. After just a few seconds he started to honk.

The waitress, the one who knew the kind of girl I was, probably assumed I was trying to back out of a job, told me to get out or she was calling Cathy.

"Fine, I'm going." I walked out into the cold and proceeded to sit on the hood of Jay's truck like a park bench.

He continued laying on the horn. "Get inside before you freeze to death."

"Blow job is twenty!" I shouted over the annoying honking. "If you want to go back to my motel room it's a hundred, but I'll throw in the blow job for free." "Get in the damn car," he said, in a softer, calmer tone. It was clear he was not trying to make a scene and get recognized as a cop soliciting a prostitute.

"Show me the money," I replied.

The waitress came out along with one of the cooks. "The dude has money. Do your job and get home to your mother!"

Did she really think Cathy was my mother? "I'm going!" I got in the passenger side, immediately leaning my head onto Jay's lap.

"What are you doing?"

"The only thing First Nation girls are good for." Even from the angle, I was at I could see a few truckers were watching from their cabs. "You can drive away if you want."

"How am I supposed to drive?" Jay muttered, his eyes staring forward. "I don't know the way to your fucking hotel."

The fact that he called it a 'fucking hotel' when my home was literally a hotel for sex workers, caused me to laugh. "Have you ever seen the movie Ratatouille?"

"Yes," he said with a groan.

"The one about the rat who controls the guy by pulling his hair." I re-positioned myself to sit on Jay's lap, running my fingers through his hair. I ended with a light tug of his blond locks, that evolved into a scalp massage, as I kissed his lips.

Jay gripped the back of my neck, the frustration clear in his face. "Tell me the name of your hotel and I will tell you the story of how my wife died." I pressed my lips to his ear, "You first, Officer."

Jay nodded and pursed his lips. I could feel his body tense, as he mentally prepared to reveal his darkest truth. "A gang of First Nation fuckers broke into my house, in exchange for letting my family live, they were going to rob me, torture me.” Jay’s crippled hand balled into a fist. “They started by handcuffing me to a chair with tape over my mouth. They just said if I let them take what they wanted..." Jay's voice trailed off as tears welled up in his eyes.

"These men killed your wife?"

Jay nodded, "I remember I had a really bad pain in my chest like my heart wanted to jump out of my throat. Before I knew it, I'd just blacked out. You can call me a coward if you want. All that mattered was that Lucy and Eve got away." Wow, just wow. "Field of Roses motel," I said softly, as I wiped tears from his eyes. "Do you know where it is?"

"Yeah, I do." Jay motioned for me to sit back in the passenger seat. "Put your head down." I did as he asked, placing my head on his lap as he pulled out of the parking lot and drove away.

After about five minutes on the road, I was about to sit up when he gripped my neck, forcing my face to his crotch. "What the fuck?"

He slammed my neck hard as we sped down the highway. I had no idea if we were even going in the right direction.

I knew I had fucked up, provoking a cop's PTSD. But I had one card to play: I just needed to locate his gun. Stalling for time, I undid his belt, kissing his stomach. Logically, the gun had to be in the glove box, but I needed to be sure. There was no lock, so I nudged it with my foot, hoping Jay wouldn't notice.

I waited until he pulled off the highway when I could feel the vehicle slowing down, before making my move. I sat up, hitting him square in the jaw. In the few seconds, it took for him to grab his mouth in pain, I got the glove box open, reaching for the gun. I had held a gun before but this one felt heavier, loaded.

Jay smirked. "You even know how to handle that, little girl?"

Now I was pissed. I struck him in the face over and over, until blood ran down his cheek. And then I cocked the gun. A shiver ran down my spine as I felt the bullet shift into place.

"Just do it," Jay growled through gritted teeth. "Just fucking do it!"

I could have. But that wasn't what I wanted. Instead, I held the gun to his back. "Get out of the car."

"Put down the gun."

"I'll lower the gun if you get out of the car."

Jay sighed and finally did as I asked, all while calling me a few choice words. I led him around the back, to my room on the second floor of the open-air motel. "Up the stairs, room 203." Once I got him inside, I shut and locked the door.

"Now you take your clothes off." I held the gun at my side. For a moment I felt truly powerful.

"What?" Jay chuckled. "You can't be serious."

I narrowed my eyes, to show just how serious I, in fact, was. "Now, please."

Jay took off his jacket, a brown suede coat that had seen better days. Next his white t-shirt, revealing a body full of scars.

"I know you." I walked closer, inspecting the marks on his body. Something about him seemed familiar. Jay had been shot no less than five times. One bullet hitting dangerously close to his spine. the wound required surgery resulting in massive scars. "I had a feeling you did. When I saw your last name. Did your father brag about what he did to me?"

"He told me stories." I walked my fingers down his chest, to a massive scar on his stomach. "My father was the one who broke your hand."

Jay silently nodded, avoiding my gaze.

"I know he was one of the men who robbed your house and murdered your wife. And he did that because his cousin was locked up for drug charges. I heard the story so many times. My father was actually proud of how much pain he caused the judge, the district attorney, and the investigating detective. But you got demoted to an officer, why?"

Jay blinked tears from his eyes. "No longer fit for duty."

"Did you have my father killed?" I pressed the barrel of the gun, to his chest, only because it felt good to do so.

"No, a friend of mine did," Jay replied. I already knew Jay wanted to die, holding the gun to his chest meant nothing. Knowing that, I carefully lowered it to the ground. "Did my father rape your wife?"

"No, his DNA was not found on her body. He was just the one who made me watch."

"Did you mean to kill him?"

"His death was an accident. I wanted your father to face justice. The plan was to bring him to the station bruised and bloody, just a little payback."

"But he had underlying health conditions." I knew my father took medication for his heart, kidneys, and liver, all while still drinking like a fish and shooting up heroin every night. I could imagine my father lost consciousness, during the attack and then just never woke up. Tears filled my eyes. My father was a real bastard but he was the only friend I had. And now, knowing that his attackers were cops (or at least hired by cops) they would never see the inside of a courtroom.

Jay cupped my face, wiping away my tears with his rough fingers. "I'm so sorry."

I swallowed the lump in my throat, as I forced myself to look him in the eyes. "So, you lied to me. I'll never get to testify."

"I'm so sorry," he said again. Jay fell to his knees, reaching for the gun. He slowly guided the barrel to his chin.

"Please don't," I said placing my hand upon his. Yeah, apparently, he had lied about that as well, his crippled limb had more than enough dexterity to hold and fire a weapon. "There's no maid service here and cleaning blood out of the carpet is a real bitch."

"Fuck, sorry." Jay tossed the gun to the floor, letting it slide towards the door. "I should go. I've already done enough."

I shook my head. "Stay the night. It's the least you can do."

"You want me here?"

"Just take a shower first, please."

I laid in bed, facing the opposite wall, to give him a feeling of privacy. But I was unable to sleep. I listened to the sound of the shower, unable to see my alarm clock. But I could feel when Jay took a seat on my bed. I turned to see if he was naked. He was, his waist wrapped in my only full-sized towel.

"Can I hold you?" I requested while pulling the covers over my body so that there was a barrier between us.

"I guess." Jay nodded and laid comfortably, letting me spoon his back.

I kissed his shoulder, stroking my fingers down his chest. "You feel cold." "I've been cold for a while now."

"Let me make you warm." I put my arms around his broad, slender shoulders. I could feel Jay reach for my hand, moving it to his chest. I could feel the warmth of his body, his soul.

Jay was breathing hard, clearly very emotional. "You have a beautiful heart."

This was not my first rodeo. I wanted to comfort him, to tell him he could cry in my arms without judgment. "You're a good man."

Jay released my hand and rolled over to face me. "And you're a good girl. Too good to be living like this."

I stroked his face, tracing my fingers along his jaw. "What would happen if I kissed you?" I touched my lips to his, once and then twice.

Jay was smiling as he closed his eyes. He cupped his hand to my cheek and kissed me again. As a veteran sex worker, I knew what was happening. He was picturing his wife. It was a pretty common thing for clients to do, especially widows.

We kicked the blanket off the bed. Jay kissed me passionately, forcing his tongue in my mouth. He tasted like black coffee; deep, sensual, and masculine. Jay moved on top of me, cupping my face for a kiss. His breath was hot, intense as he found his pace. Then, with a masculine, carnal, grunt he blew his load, kissing me one last time before opening his eyes.

The look he gave me was one of horror. I clearly was not his wife, I was a First Nation slut who probably looked a lot like the men who destroyed his life. I was expecting him to leave, or yell or at least move but, no. Jay was frozen in place, like a catatonic statue, as he blinked tears from his eyes. "I-I'm so sorry, Tia."

"It's okay, you have nothing to be sorry for," I spoke soft and slow, hoping to take the edge off.

"It's not okay, nothing is okay." Jay rested his body in my arms, clearly sobbing.

This was not my first time comforting an emotional client. "Would you like some vodka, or scotch? I even have some NyQuil."

"NyQuil, yeah," he muttered with a nod. "That would be nice."

I held him for a few more seconds, making sure he was comfortable before I left the bed. I returned with a large dark bottle, with its little measuring cup cap. "Here you go."

"Thank you." Jay drank a dose of NyQuil and went to sleep within a few minutes.

Since he was facing me, I stroked Jay's rough jawline as he slept. Tracing the stubble on his face; he looked so peaceful, so strong. Like my dad.

The next day I awoke around noon, to find Officer Fuller already gone. This was not surprising since he had a real job to get to. On the pillow, he left me a hundred dollars in twenties and a note. "Dear Tia," that was all it said. I'd really hoped he would have written more but the fact that he didn't add 'don't contact me ever again,' let me with a sense of hope.

I walked down to the main office to give the money to Cathy. She was at her desk, sipping a can of off-brand cola. "Here you go," I said handing her the stack of twenties. "I'll do better tomorrow."

"Your blond-haired cop friend was a real cheap-ass."

How did she know Jay was a cop? "Did you see him leave?"

"Yeah, he looked hungover as fuck, but I'm sure he'll be back."

"I kinda hope so," I said with a smile.

"Good luck with that, Cinderella."

"Excuse me?" I knew Cathy liked to joke, but that was a little uncalled for.

"Girls like us don't get a happily ever after, we don't get to ride off with the handsome blue-eyed prince."

"Says you." I left the hotel, to sit outside in the cold afternoon air. I was tempted to try to find Jay if only to see if he was alright. Because that's what friends do.

I started walking in the direction of the police station. There was a bench across the street, just close enough for me to loiter with a cup of coffee and smoke my cigarettes until I caught sight of him.

It was around three, and he was leaving with a few other people; men women, people of higher social standing than me. I don't know why I felt the need to wave to him.

But it was one of his friends who spotted me first. The female officer shook her head with a look of disgust. "Really? Turning tricks across the street from a police station?" she already had her handcuffs out.

"I'm not soliciting I was just here to speak to Officer Fuller." The woman laughed. "Yo, Jay, you know this piece of trash?"

"She's a witness in an ongoing investigation." Jay approached, gripping me by the arm. A male member of his group snickered. "So, does this mean you're not going to hang out with us?"

The female returned to her co-worker's side. "Nah, it looks like he's got better things to do."

The entire group seemed to be laughing at Jay.

"Let me give you some money. You can buy a bus ticket and go see your mom."

"No. I don't want your money!" I couldn't stop the tears from falling. I wanted so badly to hit him, but considering the cops were still watching, I knew that was not a smart idea.

"So what do you want?"

"Tell me to leave you alone and I'll leave you alone."

"What happened last night was a mistake."

"Why?"

"I think you know why." Jay cupped my face brushed the tears from my cheeks. "But I'm not going to tell you to leave. You've had enough people leave you."

His words made me cry even harder. I missed my dad. I knew that he would be put in pauper's grave since there was no way I could afford to give him a proper burial or cremation. "I miss my dad but I can't afford to send the body to a funeral home. What's going to happen to him? Did they already get rid of the body?"

"I'll pay for the release for your father's remains. I'll get him to you, I promise. But you have to promise to leave this place."

"Canada?"

Jay nodded. He kissed my forehead, holding the warmth of his lips for a good five seconds. "You are worth so much more than a hundred dollars a night. Now go home."

"Ok," I replied with a nod. But I couldn't exactly go back to the hotel without a payday. "Can you give me a ride?"

Jay looked at his friends who had already started to leave in their respective vehicles. "Sure."

Apparently it would not take him long to have the body cremated and when that was taken care of, he could bring the remains to me in a metal urn. "Just until you decide what you want to do. Maybe you can spread his ashes someplace like California." Jay dropped me off, but the moment his truck was out of sight, I took a walk to the biker bar where I was greeted by well-wishers. Person after person, saying how sorry they were about the loss of my father. I took their free drinks and listened to stories of how much of a bad-ass my dad was. I gave a few blowjobs, pulling in a good amount of money. At around midnight, I walked to a gas station to buy myself some dinner. It took the form of a cup of stale coffee and a packaged cupcake. I ate my meal, leaning against the door of the women's restroom looking out at the starry night sky. I lit up a cigarette and considered hitchhiking. But to where? Not sure, just someplace different.

"Hey!" shouted a male voice. "You working?" "Who's asking?" I replied before looking in his direction.

It was a tall, grey-haired man, speaking to me from the open driver's side window of his Semi. "Just a stranger with some candy." I knew what that meant. I walked to his passenger side door and got in. "What do you got?" I looked around the cab of the truck to see if there was an ID posted. "Randell Fish." He had his license posted, that meant he was safe, or as safe as a driver of an unlabeled truck could be. He handed me a small tin from his glove box. It was a kit, with a pipe, lighter, and what appeared to be crack. "You can get started on that if you like. We'll be on the road for a while." A while? He was taking me miles away into the frozen north. I'd have to hitchhike back to civilization. Oh well, nothing I hadn't done before.

I filled the crack pipe and hit it with the lighter, taking a long drag. "Woah, that feels nice." My mind felt clear, calm, even a little happy.

"My special recipe," Randell murmured, rolling down my window while locking the doors.

Even with the cool breeze caressing my face, I felt dizzy. My vision was fading in and out, as the smoke-filled my lungs. My body felt electric. I couldn't help but laugh. "Are you going to fuck me up?" I turned my head to Randell to see a red-faced demon with glowing eyes. "Yeah, this shit was laced with meth."

That was the last thing I remember. I awoke naked, tied to a bed by my wrists. Looking around the room, it appeared to be a trashed basement with no natural lighting. My body hurt all over. I tried to scream, but there was duct-tape over my mouth.

Above me, I could hear the sounds of police, gunshots. "Kitchen- clear! Bathroom- clear! I'm going to check the basement!" Would the police find me? Am I even in a basement?

An officer came down the stairs in full riot gear. He cut my wrist restraints, wrapped my body in a blanket, and carried me out. "Thank you, Jay. I love you."

At least, that's what I wished happened.

Maybe someday, someone will find my body. From what I can tell, it's near a river, not too far from my father's old shop. My eyes are swollen shut and I can see a distinct bruise on my neck from where I was strangled to death. It's actually kind of nice here. But I know I can't stay. My soul deserves better.

Since I don't appear to be headed towards any kind of white light, I'm going to try to find my dad. "Peace out, earth body."

I suddenly felt darkness, a pain. I guess I wasn't going anywhere.

I saw a car pull up, then three. The same people who killed me emerged, laughing at the fact that my body was exactly where they left me.

The first man removed his belt. I turned away, fully aware of what was going to happen next. My body was still fuckable and at least now they didn't have to pay me.

For the next few hours, the men seemed to be taking turns with my dead body. And drinking, and snorting cocaine. But this wasn't a sick party, no they were waiting.

Under the cover of night, a final car arrived. Jay's Truck.

This was bad.

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Three Days later:

Jay awoke inside the smoldering remains of a 2012 Honda Civic. This was a vehicle that had once resided in the Police impound lot.

“You’re alright, Jay.” I didn’t even know if he could still hear me. The men he once considered friends, beat him within an inch of his life, handcuffed him and locked him in the driver’s seat, before setting the car on fire in the middle of Indian Territory. He was left to die.

All because he wanted to be my friend.

I looked to the remains of his truck, which had been torched but otherwise left intact due to the lazy arsonists. In his glove box was a small metal container. The label had my father’s name and a small note-card attached that said to save the item for Officer Fuller who would pay for the release of it’s contents. It was my father’s ashes. And I had a feeling the notecard was meant to keep the transaction on the down-low, but for whatever reason, someone told someone.

And one of those people told; Michael Raven, Conner Harris, Leon Cruz and or Randell Fish. I could see their faces in my mind’s eye. They were men I’d met before, they’d bought drugs from my father, arrested my friends. They were truckers, bar owners, and cops.

And they were quite proud of their work, both the work they got paid for and the work they did on the side, for fun. I was one of eight First Nation prostitutes who ‘disappeared’ at their hands. Eight on record, anyway, there were probably dozens more from neighboring territories, maybe even some from south of the border. (Americans had runaways too.)

I’m not sure about the other girls, but I know that the men, they, did to me, what my father and his gang had done to Jay’s wife. They raped me, beat me, strangled me, they even put a bullet in my head, in the exact same spot. All before throwing my naked corpse off a cliff. Too bad it didn’t kill me right away.

I figure Jay had tried to find me at the hotel. Maybe he asked Cathy if I already left town. But Cathy would’ve told him that I was a good girl, a loyal worker who would never have left town without saying goodbye.

But how did he know where to find my body? Maybe I could ask him that if he ever regained consciousness.

All I knew was that Jay went out alone, after his shift, just to see what he could find. He found what remained of my body. But in a few seconds, he also found himself looking down the barrel of a shotgun.

My spirit stood by his side. “You’ll always be my hero, Mr. Jay,” I said giving my best Harley Quinn impersonation while choking back tears. “That’s a Batman reference.”

“Yes, I know, Harley Quinn,” Jay said out loud. “Does that make me the joker?” His voice was breaking, clearly, he knew what he had walked into. He was going to die, because there was no way they would allow him to leave, knowing what he knew.

The men glanced at him, clearly confused. But then one came forward. Leon Cruz, a fellow cop, someone who had been around since before the loss of Jay’s wife. “Come on guys, just look at him. Jay’s clearly wasted. He probably won’t even remember finding the body.”

There was no reply.

Seeing that he was in the vocal minority, Leon stepped backward his face hidden in the darkness. “Sorry, man.”

“We just can’t take that risk,” said a different man as he cocked his weapon. I recognized the voice as Randell. “Now Officer Fuller, no hard feelings, you know we all love you, but if you don’t mind.” He tossed Jay a pair of handcuffs. “Put these on, and get on your knees.”

Randell fish was the father of the judge who was murdered around the same time as Jay’s wife. His heart was filled with anger, a raging fire that could not be extinguished.

I held Jay close, as he lowered himself to the ground. “Don’t let them see you cry,” I said placing my hands upon his shoulders. I’m here and I won’t leave you.” I knew he was afraid, but not of death.

“Please.” Jay’s eyes were toward the ground, but his message was for all his former friends. “You know my family; you’ve watched my girls grow up. I’m begging you, my kids need me.”

Randell laughed. “How about we do you a solid and not tell them about how you fucked the daughter of the man who killed their mother.”

How did he know that? Did he just assume? Then I remembered the diner and the audience of truckers who saw me kiss Jay. Fuck, this was all my fault.

“He wasn’t one of the men who killed her.” Jay pleaded, unable to stop the tears from flowing. “Tiana was just an innocent little girl.”

“An innocent little girl?” Another man laughed. “Fuck, man, I actually felt bad for you. You’re a traitor to your race.” This started the beating. I saw a fist, then the grip of a gun. metal cut his cheek, as the force of the blow knocked him to the ground. there were several kicks to the face, stomach, and groin. Jay was coughing up blood as he struggled to breathe. he had broken ribs and possibly a broken sternum and a collapsed lung. After what felt like an eternity he lost consciousness.

The men were laughing as they kicked Jay’s body on to its side. I could hear the sound of a gun cocking. And then The torture mercifully ended with a bullet to Jay’s head that exited out his right eye with a fountain of gore.

But the gore was mostly the remains of his eyeball and not his brain. I think it was kind of hard to tell. But Jay’s body was convulsing as blood gushed from his mouth with every breath. That meant he was still breathing, there was still something left to save.

The men grabbed Jay by his legs pulling him towards one of their cars. That was when I caught sight of my naked, mangled corpse. There was a reason the bastards didn’t destroy my remains when they had the chance: they wanted to set a trap. They posed Jay’s limp, unconscious body in the driver’s seat, then placed (or rather shoved) my cadaver in a sexual position. It was actually kind of funny until the fuckers doused our bodies with vodka and gasoline.

Luckily, they were also cowards who didn’t stay to make sure the fire burned to completion. I phased through the car, resting my ghostly form over my corpse as my former flesh burned like meat on a barbeque. I needed to see Jay’s face. I needed to know he was still alive. “Jay look at me.”

What remained of his body was struggling for every breath. But I couldn’t even be sure if that meant anything since the contents of his skull were splattered across the ground. I had never watched someone die, but I had seen animals die. I always told myself that the past spasm of breath in the creature’s chest was the soul leaving this mortal world. Jay’s chest was still moving. I just needed to believe in him as much as he believed in me.

I cupped Jay’s face in my ghostly hands. “Stay with me, Jay. Just stay with me.” The fire burned all around us, but I was already a seasoned veteran of Hell. “Remember what you said to me? you said that I needed to get out of Canada because I’m worth more.” I needed to protect Jay, I needed to save him the way I couldn’t save my father. “I’m going to get you out of here, I’m going to get you someplace safe. I promise.” I needed to save Jay Fuller because he deserved to be saved.

My power acted as a barrier, between Jay’s mortal body and the heat of the flames. It wasn’t a miracle by any means, just enough to allow him to survive the ordeal. I held him for three days, long after the fire burned itself out.

On the third day, I told Jay we needed to walk. He was badly injured, his hands burned beyond recognition. But his legs were strong, or at least intact. “We need to get up.” I moved his weight against the unlocked door causing him to fall out of the vehicle. Putting his arm around my shoulder, I tried to get him to stand but he collapsed.

But at least he was out of the vehicle. And that was when I realized, I could touch him. my soul filled with a sense of hope. Could I touch other solid things?

Jay’s truck was still there, surprisingly untouched. I guess it was all part of the narrative Randell Fish and his men were trying to create. I guess according to their story; Jay met with me to hand over my father’s remains, in exchange for a blowjob in a stolen car? Whatever. All I knew was that we couldn’t stay where we were.

I managed to open the door of Jay’s truck. That was when I found the urn, but also some water. My hand passed through the plastic bottle, on my first try. “shit.” But I had been able to open the door? I turned around to see, no I had not. I phased through the door. But somehow, I had been able to open the glove box? Because that’s where my father was.

“Dad?” part of me wanted so badly to hear his voice. I placed my transparent ghost hand upon the box, letting my fingers pass through. I felt a sense of strength. It was the strength and courage of my ancestors, rippling through my form. I reached for the water again. This time I could pick it up. “Thanks, dad.” I was able to close the glove box and even open the door. But to do what I needed to, I had to put down the bottle. Apparently, this newfound superpower only worked with one earth item at a time. with much trial and error, I made my way to Jay’s side and opened the water bottle, spilling it on to his face.

“Jay? are you there?” I could feel his heart, it was weak but it was still beating.

The man’s breath sputtered, as his remaining eye struggled to blink. he was glancing around in horror, as he looked up at the sky. “I can’t.” The words were barely a whisper. “Oh, God. I can’t.”

I knew he was in pain. I could only hope he could still feel me. “You can’t make it, but we can.”

Jay blinked, his vision seemed lost. “Tia? is that you?”

“Are you able to see?”

“I see only darkness,” he replied, blinking away tears and dried blood. “I hear your voice, but I fear you’re only a dream.”

“Would you be honored if I kissed you?”

That got a smile. “I don’t deserve a friend like you.”

“Nah, you do.” I leaned in and kissed his lips. “Mr. Jay.”

with my spirit guiding him we reached the border, crossing into Manitoba, which didn’t really mean much since we were still in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. But there was water and even a source of food (I knew a little about scavenging edible plants.)

Since the border was in-country, there was no major checkpoint or military presence but there was highway patrol. Truckers had to answer for their sins; drug running, sex trafficking, etc. And just my luck, an officer was pulling someone over.

“Just rest here.” I left Jay’s side, allowing him to succumb to exhaustion. “I need to go do my ghost-thing.”

I made my way to the road, unsure if this would even work. “I’m an angry ghost, I’m an angry ghost.” the closer I came to the unmarked truck, the less I needed to convince my soul to fill with an all-consuming rage.

The driver was an average looking trucker, male, mid-fifties with a beard. Apparently, he had been pulled over for failing to check in at a Weigh station. the driver tried to talk his way out of getting his truck searched, but to no avail. The officer called for backup, and in short order, five more cars arrived. They had apparently been trailing this truck for a while; they already knew this truck was evil.

This far north, it was drugs, intermixed with other supplies that would have gone towards the communities of this area. I watched as the driver was arrested and the truck was taken to impound.

“Hello?” A man shouted. The young officer turned to his partner. “Do you see a girl over there?” his question went ignored, as the other cops were inventorying the contents of the nondescript wooden boxes.

I made the come here motion with my hand, hoping he would be curious enough to follow. Jay was not too far away, so I walked slowly, with my head down, creeping along like a fishing lure. And the man followed. My plan worked as perfectly as it could have.

“Sir!” he shouted at Jay’s bloody emaciated body. The highway patrol officer radioed for medical aid, then checked Jay for signs of life. “Sergeant, this is Officer Miller,” he shouted into his radio, “I found a body thirty meters east of the drug bust. Requesting medical aid.”

“Any identification or signs of life?” the radio asked.

“Appears to be a white male in his late forties, no forms of identification.” the officer locked eyes with me. “Do you know him?”

I nodded. Looking down I saw my clothes. I was wearing a blood-covered nightshirt. My hands were transparent and could only imagine what my face looked like. “Please help him.” The words were clear in my mind, but the sound of my voice was like radio static.

“I can’t understand you.”

Luckily another officer arrived. “Holy fuck this guy’s alive.” He pulled out his handheld, shouting into the speaker. “We’re going to need a medivac!”

Since Jay had no id, (or fingerprints) he was treated as an injured, homeless, John Doe. But since this was Canada that still entitled him to be airlifted to the nearest public hospital.

Jay’s heart stopped no less than three times, and the infection in his wounds was causing fever. If I wanted to save him, I was running low on time. I sat in the corner of the room, just looking at Jay’s bandaged body. He was laying so still, I could have sworn he was dead. But the beeping machines said otherwise. “Jay?” I floated closer, to sit by his side. “I need you to picture your daughters. I know you haven’t seen them in a while but try to remember.” I placed my hand to his open, blinded eyes, closing the one that was not covered with a bandage. moving my hand down his face, I could feel the warmth of his skin; pain, sweat, and a level of fear I had never known.

“You’re thinking what I’m thinking. Randell Fish knows you’re not dead, how long before he does something about it?” I could feel the breath in his lungs, gasping ever so softly. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

I mentally created a message on the fly, while holding Jay’s hand. I was just hoping that Eve or Lucy would be open to the words of a random First Nation angel. Or ghost; yeah, I was more likely just a ghost.

I closed my eyes and tried to focus, on New York, California, happy blonde teenage girls living their best lives. I could see a light, then two. Ok, hopefully, this would work. “Hi, um, Lucy, or Eve, whoever I manage to get this message out to. You need to know that your Dad is in a bit of trouble. He is not safe, in Canada. Look for him in Manitoba, please.” That was all I could get out before the connection was lost. Fuck. Tinkerbelle I am not.

When I opened my eyes, I was back in the hospital room. I rested in Jay’s bed, laying in his arms. The fact that I lost the connection meant he was getting weaker, but all I could do was wait. Oh well, if I failed at least Jay and I would be together.

Time seemed to stand still in the windowless room. I never felt the need to sleep, instead, I existed in a state of emotional exhaustion.

Even with a tube in his chest, Jay was bleeding badly. I could feel his lung was struggling. he had a PICC line in his chest since it would have been too difficult to find a vein in his damaged arms. But even then, he was given only a limited amount of morphine, along with a strong dosage of antibiotics. he wasn’t expected to survive much longer.

“She’s not coming is she?” Jay’s voice spoke to me in my mind.

“Lucy or Eve?”

“Either, but I’d be very surprised if my fourteen-year-old manages to cross the border and travel this far north on her own.”

“If your daughters don’t get here in time, I’ll bring you to your wife, I promise.” I had no idea how, but if she was the love of Jay’s life, we’d find the way. “You don’t have to be afraid, I won’t let you die alone.”

Jay blinked a single tear from his good eye. “But I let you die alone.”

“I won’t hold it against you.” I stroked his hands, tracing the scars. there were new bruises, broken bones, and even a few missing fingertips. He suffered enough.

It would take another two days for Lucy to arrive.

Jay’s nineteen-year-old daughter was a tall, slender girl with her mother’s beauty and her father’s height and rugged strength. By that, I meant she looked like she’d been through hell. The blonde girl ran to her father’s side, falling to her knees as she sobbed. “oh God!” everything else was unintelligible. it was clear it had been a very difficult journey.

Placing my hand upon her shoulder, I could feel her thoughts. Lucy had apparently always known her father’s contact information. she called his house, then the police station. He was missing. She then contacted some of dad’s friends, and family friends but no one had seen him. But many assured her that it was not worth her time to open a missing person’s case. They claimed that Jay liked to travel, and perhaps he went north on a spiritual journey. Knowing how suspicious the whole scene seemed, she traveled to Manitoba on her own.

“Daddy,” Lucy cried, cupping her hand over her mouth. When she pulled herself together enough to form a coherent statement, she declared that she would get him to California. “Me and Sam, we’ll keep you safe.”

“Sam?” I asked. Jay was still too weak to reply.

Lucy chuckled, wiping tears from her eyes. “I forgot you never met my partner.” Lucy’s hand moved to her stomach. Was she pregnant? “It’ll be nice to be a family again. I’ve missed you so much, Dad.”

My ghost-heart filled with joy. “Wake up Jay!” I gripped his hand as hard as I could, causing his muscles to contract.

Jay blinked his eye as a gulp of air caught in his throat. His fingers attempted to fold around mine, but since I was transparent it was Lucy who felt his movement.

Lucy rested her head on his chest, holding him close as she cried.

Jay placed his hand upon her back, stroking her hair. “Who’s Sam?”

“I met her online, just after mom died. She was the reason I moved out to Sacramento.”

“She?”

“Started out as a friend, then a mentor. When I met her she was a lawyer but now she’s actually a clerk to the current junior senator.” Lucy lifted her head, wiping tears from her eyes. “Sam’s great, you’ll love her as much as I do.”

“As long as she takes good care of you,” the words sputtered from Jay’s chapped, blood-caked lips.

“I never wanted to leave you, neither did Eve.”

“I know.” Jay’s voice was becoming clearer. “And I’m so sorry. Whenever I looked at you and your sister, all I saw was that night.”

“You gave us the chance to run. you sacrificed your sanity so that we could get as far away as possible. we slept by the river and came back only when we saw the police.”

Lucy had gotten married a year ago, and they’d been prepping for IVF. So yeah, she was two months pregnant. This of course meant that her wife took extra safety precautions. In the event that Lucy located her father they could get him out of the country, no questions asked. (Until he set foot on American soil, anyway.)

I listened to Lucy’s plan with great interest.

Maybe if I played my cards right, I could come back as Jay’s grandbaby. His white, upper-class grandbaby who would have no memories of life in Canada.

Maybe, just maybe, I could finally get my own happily ever after.

Jay had suffered a brain injury and he would likely never see or walk again. In time he might be able to survive without a feeding tube.

it took another three days for Jay to get medically cleared to fly back to California with Lucy. (and that only happened because of Sam calling in a few favors.) He had no passport or identification, but after hearing Jay’s story of what happened to him, she knew he needed to get out of the country as discreetly as possible.

I rode with them on the airplane, my first ever. Jay was on a stretcher, suffering from chronic pain, but he was alive. That meant Randell Fish could pay for his crimes, right?

Apparently, that was too much to hope for. As I watched over Jay, I could hear Lucy talking to Sam.

“There’s really nothing we can do?” Lucy asked, crying to her partner.

Sam, an older woman with a motherly demeanor held her close. “I will fight with every resource I have to keep him in California.” Turns out, there was a warrant for Jay’s arrest concerning my death and the missing car that my corpse was found in. Randell and his friends would never face justice.

I went to the roof to scream into the night. Throwing my hands back, the sound that came out of my chest was the sound of a bird screeching. I crossed my arms over my stomach, pinching myself over and over. This life fucking sucks! I had no idea of I could even be reborn or if I was going to move on. Right now I’d even take burning in hell or vanishing into oblivion. Anything was better than the sickening feeling of helplessness. What if I was stuck for all of eternity?

“You need to go back to Canada, you know that right?” The voice was male, deep and scratchy like a smoker. But the volume was strange, it seemed to echo on the wind, wrapping around my head before settling next to me.

“Dad?”

He started to form before my eyes; a black and white version of my father, the night of his death. His long hair was pulled back in a braid, with a few strands around his face. His eyes were dark and deep, with prominent wrinkles, as he looked lovingly at the cigarette in his hands. “Hey, baby girl,” the ghost said as he lit up with a flick of his wrist, conjuring a bright blue flame.

“Where’d you get the cigarette?”

“From the pack that I died with.”

“That makes sense.”

“You can’t move on until you send Randel Fish straight to hell. As long as he’s alive, your little cop friend is in danger.”

“Why do you even care? From what I hear you and Jay have some history. I mean I never knew he was the detective who put away uncle Christian.”

My father’s face fell into an expression of sadness and remorse. “I did a lot of shit in my life that I regret.

“Really?” I expected him to apologize for his role in the death of Jay’s wife, but apparently, that was not the sin he sought forgiveness for.

“I never wanted you to turn tricks. You think I liked seeing you do that shit? I wanted so much better for you. But I had no means of making things better for us.”

“What’s going to happen to you?”

“I don’t even know.” My father took a long drag and blew out a glowing blue cloud of smoke. “I just know you’re different, you’re strong. you have a chance to make things right.”

“Killing Randell fish will make things right?” I asked with a sarcastic smirk. “Do you know how many girls across Canada are turning tricks for drug money? or how about the highway of tears; a collection of cases showing just how fucked up it is to be Indigenous in Canada. We’re still being targeted like the lower lifeforms, hunted like animals and no one cares.”

My father only nodded, his eyes glowing in the light of the moon. “I met of few of them.”

“You what?”

“I’ve met a few on my journey. A few have found the strength to cross over but most have chosen to stick around to watch over friends and loved ones. and then there’s Coreen Thomas, she died while pregnant.” he paused to take another drag of his mystical cigarette. “the unborn baby was like a second soul, a source of power that allowed her to ascend.”

“Ascend? so, she went to heaven?”

“For her it’s heaven, but the work she does is still here on earth.”

“Kicking trucker ass?”

“She lives as a mentor, a guardian. and if you need help, seek her out.”

“I want to say goodbye to Jay first. if that’s ok.”

Father shrugged as he put out the cigarette on his hand, creating a small firework-like effect. “Do what you gotta do.”

I will. I floated through the ceiling, landing in the guest room at Jay’s side. He was asleep, looking peaceful for the first time in a while. “this isn’t goodbye. I’m going back to Canada to kick some trucker ass.”

Jay turned his head, to look at me, his eyes fluttering open. “Tia?” his voice was a little more than a whisper. “Are you moving on?”

“No, I think I’m going to be diving back into hell. I don’t even know how I’ll get there but I’ll bring you Randell Fish’s head, I promise.”

“I settle for seeing you again,” he said with a smile.

“Me too, Mr. Jay. Me too.”


Hitchhiking back to Canada took longer than I thought it would. I had to try to walk. But at least, as a ghost, I no longer required food or sleep.

I also was not cold, warm, or even physically tired, but boy was I board. I walked along the highway, making my way through the desert. After a little trial and error, I found that I could hitch a ride on any car parked long enough for me to form a connection. This resulted in me being stuck in a trunk for a few hours; California to Idaho, Idaho to Montana.

I hung around Yellowstone National Park, searching all of the tourists from all over the country (and the world.) It didn’t take me long to find a family heading to Saskatchewan.

I found a mini-van, anyway. The white Toyota had Canadian plates so I knew it would at least get me across the border. But clearly, the family was staying at the local hotel. In the car, there were books and DVDs, even a few coloring books and dolls; the junk pile of happy children. “I bet all the good stuff’s in the hotel room.” Ipad, Nintendo DS, and other things I never had as a kid.

Reclining my spectral form, across the backseat, I made myself comfortable, staring up at the ceiling. There was an elaborate display of glow in the dark star stickers, creating a whole separate world within the confines of the family vehicle. For the children, I’m sure it was a means of keeping quiet, focused, and maybe even relaxed on long road trips. But to me, the stars symbolized hope.

No matter how many times a soul is reborn, we will always find comfort and wisdom in looking at the stars. I stared transfixed until the light of the morning ushered in the screams of children.

“I don’t wanna go!” “I’m tired!” “I’m hungry! “I don’t wanna go in the car seat!”

I watched as the two small children were strapped into their car seats while an older teenage boy sat in the row in front. “What do you want to watch?” he grumbled before selecting the first DVD in the pile. It was ‘Moana,’ the cartoon about the Maori princess. I always liked that one, it seemed to be the best Disney would ever get to a First Nation princess. I guess that was why I needed to be the hero of my own life.

Hours later, we arrived in Regina. I heard from the parents that they were almost home, so I made sure to make my exit when the vehicle stopped at a gas station.

I was in Canada, I was home. Now, how the hell was I going to find Randell Fish? If this was a movie from the eighties I’d head to the nearest phone booth, and start flipping through the massive directory book. But since this was the age of the internet I would need to try my luck with a public computer. Looking around for signage, I could see there was a library not too far from where I was.

It was not to difficult to find, even as the sun went down. I phased through the doors of the closed library, like a typical ghost. “What was I made of?” I stroked the security sensor by the door to see if my presence would set off any alarms. Nothing, oh well.

I approached a counter, which housed a typical desktop PC. I reached my hand to the power button, with thoughts of Randell Fish. Where did he live? Where did he work? Where did he sleep? I could picture everything I wanted to do to him; make him live through every painful moment. Maybe I could possess a knife or even reach my ghostly hand inside of his body cavity and rip out his organs piece by piece. I felt a rush of energy and then a loud explosion. BANG! “Oh fuck.”

Judging by the sparks and smoke, I appeared to have blown up the machine using only my rage. Lesson learned: I needed to maintain better control. “Moving to the next computer.”

I could feel a steady flow of electric power, wash over me, as I pushed the start button on the PC tower. “Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts,” I said out loud, attempting to find a happy thought to focus on. “Happiness, joy, love, um… childhood?” What did I like about my childhood? “School…” Without touching the keyboard I managed to turn on the screen and navigate to Facebook. How common of a name was Fish?

“Search, Fish, Saskatchewan,” I said out loud. The computer filled in the request bar to my will. And then I remembered; Randell Fish was the father of a former judge, the very judge who sent my uncle to jail. Could I focus on that? “Search deceased Canadian judges with the last name ‘Fish.'”

Google returned an answer: Judge Sophia Rosalinda Fish- Ryder. Apparently, Randell Fish had lost a daughter and a very successful one at that. Her memorial page was covered in graduation pictures; high school, college, various awards, law school, and of course getting sworn in as a judge. Her husband and children were by her side; she had a family, Randell Fish’s family. Jordan Fish-Ryder, a Sophomore at a boarding school in Boston, and little Tanya.

Tanya was only nine years old and still went to school in-state. Part of me wondered if she went to the same school as I did, but of course not. She went to a posh K-8 private school, in the most beautiful part of Northern Canada. I would find her and I would follow her home. “Power down,” I said out loud as I moved my hand backward.

Under the light of the moon, I took a walk. The world seemed to be frozen over, like an arctic wasteland. I had no idea if I was even going the right way. By the light of the moon, I could hear the wind, but it sounded odd. Instead of a soft whisper, it was like a chorus of voices.

“You really think you can do this, little girl?”

“She’s young, of course, she does.”

The mocking was followed by laughter, so much laughter.

“What’s your problem!” I shouted at the starry night sky.

“You actually think you can find peace?” Asked one star, pulsating in the sky.

“I’m looking for justice,” I replied.

“Justice?” That got a lot more laughter.

“Screw you all! I can do this all on my own!”

Suddenly a single beam of light seemed to cut across the sky like a shooting star. “Come on, ladies, we’re better than this.” The voice was American.

“Thanks,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes. “I’m Tia what’s your name?” I wondered if she was one of the victims of the Highway of Tears (a place infamous for its history of missing women of various ages and nationalities.)

The sky went dark as the shooting star launched itself straight at a lamppost. The lamp seemed to shimmer for a moment before going dark again.

I was actually a little scared when suddenly, a girl stepped out from the shadows. “Hi, I’m Vena.” In her ghost form, Vena was small like me, but she wore a recognizable military uniform. Her camo fatigues were covered in dust. Yet her black hair, pulled back in a military-approved bun highlighted her sweet smile. Vena held out her hand, leaning forward with a slight bow. “Where are you headed?”

I had been frozen in place, but hearing her kind, friendly voice allowed me to fully relax. “Up north, to St. Unity prep school.”

“I can walk with you for a while, maybe show you the way.”

“Thanks,” I said, finally shaking her hand. “I’d like that. It’s been a while since I had a friend.”

“Same here.”

We walked like childhood friends, jumping, skipping, with the occasional cartwheel. “So where are you from, Vena?”

“Missouri,” Vena said as she pretended to walk along the sidewalk ledge like a balance beam, ending with a backflip.

“Wow, so you’re from around St. Louis?” I asked, feeling happier than I had in a while.

“St. Louis county.”

“That’s the place with the arch, right? That must have been so cool!”

“Yeah, I guess but after seeing it all your life it just looks like any other tourist trap.” Vena made a small jump on to a new ledge. “Probably why I died where I did.”

“You died in combat?” That seemed to be the logical answer. She looked seventeen, maybe eighteen-years-old. It was not out of the realm of possibility for her to have gotten deployed immediately after basic training.

“Sorta,” she said with a shrug. “I was at odds with a very powerful man in my chain of command. I stood my ground, fought with everything I had but in the end I lost.”

“You lost?”

“I was murdered.” Vena took a calming breath. Clearly, she was able to control her ghost-energy better then I was. “It was a while ago.” She started to skip and even did a spin on one foot. “The army covered up everything. They told my family it was a suicide.” Vena’s body rippled with energy.

“I’m so sorry.” I reached for her hand, hoping to siphon away some of the negative energy.

“They told my poor father, that somehow I put an AK-47 in my mouth. And I did this while naked during the one time of day my roommates would not be in.” Vena took my hand and we both sat for a moment. “They shipped my body home with gloves glued to my hands, so no autopsy could be done to prove or disprove gunshot residue.”

“The powerful people assumed your family would just move on.”

“The US army underestimated my daddy. ” Vena held my hand, releasing dark purple energy.

I easily absorbed the anger and trauma, but with it came memories. Vena’s parents had to fight for every piece of evidence, every ‘classified’ document, name, and image. “Are your parents still fighting the military?

“Yeah, it’s been over ten years but I know my daddy will keep fighting until his last breath. I guess that’s why I’m still here.”

“In northern Canada?”

That got a laugh. “In the in-between,” Vena explained. “I can’t get to heaven, hell, or even be reborn. But when my dad does take his last breath, I’ll be at his side. Maybe I’ll even get to walk with him to the light.”

My hands trembled, glowing with cold blue energy.

“Sorry,” Vena said, gripping my hand. “Blue energy means sadness. I apologize for hitting a sore subject.”

I nodded, but I was not ready to talk to her about my relationship with my dad. (That would only result in more blue energy until my spirit was too frozen to move.) “Do you know the joke about Hell?”

“I know a few, what’s yours?”

“A tribal leader is about to be burned to death by the Spanish army. The executioner asks if he’d like to accept Christ, for a chance at heaven. But the tribal leader asked, ‘Does your kind go to heaven?’ The Spaniard replied, with a tall proud stance, ‘Of course!’ Well, in that case, I think I’ll take my chances in hell.”

Vena doubled over with laughter. “Oh, God, that is so true! I have no doubt that my killer is going to die peacefully surrounded by family maybe even a priest offering him absolution.” She went from laughter to slight tears. “Maybe then he’ll confess his sins and my family can finally have some closure. But that’s my cross to bear.” She looked down at her feet, then up at an elaborate gate. “Anyway, we’re here. Best of luck Tia.

“Thank you.” Hanging out with Vena secured the validity of my plan. The system was against us, protecting the big strong men who took our lives. Only when the overly important bastards admit to their sins could we, the victims, hope to move on.

I stayed outside the gate, watching the sunrise. By the first light of morning, the parents started to arrive, dropping their children off at the security checkpoint. I just had to wait for the name.

“Adam Ryder signing in Tanya Elizabeth Fish-Ryder?” He didn’t get out of the car but the guard typed the name into his tablet.

“Bye, Daddy!”

Tanya, a fashionable fourth grader with her mother’s ebony black hair and perfectly ironed school uniform. The security was strong, I imagine that had I not been a ghost, stalking any of the students would’ve proved difficult.

I followed her throughout the day, living a life that I could only dream of. She went to class with the same teacher for the majority of the day. At lunch she sat with her friends, eating sushi from a shimmery metallic lunch box.

“You painted that yourself, didn’t you,” I said out loud.

Tanya froze. She looked around for a moment, before shrugging.

Knowing there was the possibility she could hear me I kept quiet for the rest of the day. Lunch was followed by art, science, and computer programming. She had after school violin lessons for a few hours. It was mostly her playing around with melodies. She could play along with various pop-songs in various languages. It was actually kind of impressive. After the lesson Tanya walked outside, waiting in the cold, with her earbuds in, listening to music on a small iPod that looked older than her. In less than a minute, she was picked up by her Hispanic Nanny. The elderly woman held open the door to what I assumed was Adam Ryder’s posh Jeep Cherokee. She arranged Tanya’s bags as she took a seat and when they were settled she tapped on the driver’s side window to signal the chauffeur.

I gripped the back of the vehicle, using my energy to create a firm hold as I rode on the bumper. The Fish-Ryder family lived in a quiet cabin a few miles away, in a rather unique, beautiful gated community.

I walked through the door to the sight of a family home. There was a kitchen, a living room, even a fireplace. And pictures, so many pictures. The walls were covered in memories; school photos, vacations, even professional portraits of a happy family. Was this even the home of Randell Fish?

And then I spotted a single photo. It was him, taking his grand-kids ice fishing. “Fucking bastard.”

“Are you talking about my grandpa?”

Before I could reply, Tanya grabbed the photo and headed upstairs. Somehow, I guess, she knew I would follow. Tanya’s second-floor room was a museum of pop-culture from the latest dolls, to teen idols, and even a camera set up. “Do you have a YouTube channel?” My question went unanswered as she powered up her laptop. “Um, hello?”

“I’ll be the one to ask the questions. If you don’t mind,” Tanya replied sounding much older than her years. “I’m just going to assume you won’t show up on film, so if you please will you do something for the camera to prove your existence?”

“For your viewers?” I glared at the camera which was capturing footage directly to the hard drive of the laptop. “Are you some kind of amateur ghost hunter?” I grabbed the photo back from where she had placed it face down on her desk, lifting it to the level of the camera.

“So what do you want with my grandpa?” she asked, like a reporter.

On the screen, I could see Tanya interviewing what appeared to be a floating framed picture. It was actually kind of adorable.

“Did he run you off the road?”

Those were not words I expected from a nine-year-old. “Is that something he does a lot?

“All truckers do it.”

“Your grandpa told you that?”

“Yup. Grandpa told me that your kind are like wild game animals; if responsible hunters didn’t thin the herd you’d drain our nation’s resources dry. That’s why you all have names like John Running Horse or Jane Hopping Rabbit.”

“You can’t honestly believe that.” Just how many people had Randell Fish killed?

“My grandpa has no reason to lie.”

I focused on the laptop screen, watching the photo floating gently in the air. I knew I needed to keep my cool. Tanya wanted a show, that’s all it was. I focused on the door, securing both the deadbolt and the key lock. “Be a dear and contact your grandpa.”

“How?” she asked sweetly, keeping in character. “How should I contact my grandpa?”

Knowing Tanya wanted to capture another trick for the camera, I focused on her phone. I easily lifted the small iPhone from the bed, making it land in her lap. “You can call your grandpa or attempt to call for help, either one works for me.”

Tanya only chuckled, placing the phone on her desk.

Ok, apparently I needed to be a little more forceful. I moved closer, placing my hand to her neck. As expected my ghost hand passed right through. Yet as I clenched my fist I could feel I was gripping something.

Tanya started to cough, and spit as she struggled to breathe. Seeing that she was turning blue I decided that I had made my point. She collapsed to the floor, gripping her neck. “Your kind killed my mother!” Tanya crossed her arms over her stomach, gripping her chest as she sobbed. “Mom was nothing like Grandpa, she supported ‘black lives matter,’ ‘red lives matter,’ ‘all lives matter,’ or whatever. She said as a good Catholic we needed to love our fellow man because everyone is someone’s child, and we’re all equal in the eyes of God! She preached love, supported charities, and even would pick a fight with Grandpa every chance she got!” Tanya struggled to breathe as she wiped snot from her nose. “Do you know what that got her? A bullet in the head!”

“I know.”

“You know?” Tanya sat up. She wiped her tears with her clean sleeve, before looking me in the eyes.

“My father was there.”

Tanya nodded as she took a moment to digest that information. “So, this is all some kind of daisy chain of revenge?”

“Yup, you could say that. But it ends with Randell Fish.”

“I understand.” Tanya reached for her phone. She looked through her contacts, took a deep breath, and dialed. It rang only once. “Hi, Papa.”

“Put the phone on speaker,” I said, hoping my voice was not audible over the phone.

Tanya nodded and did as I asked. “Where are you, Papa?”

“I’m about twenty miles out,” Randell replied. “Why do you ask, sweetheart?”

“I was wondering if you could come to dinner,” Tanya spoke in a sweet energetic voice. “I really miss you.”

“Aww, I miss you too Tanya. What time should I try to be there?”

Tanya glanced over at the clock, it was already six at night. “Seven or eight, whatever’s easier.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can, sweetheart. I love you.”

“I love you too, Grandpa.” Tanya hung up the phone. “So, what now? Are we going to just stay in here until he arrives?”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” I said with a nod. “You have a bathroom and if you don’t have snacks hidden around here you are truly a weird kid.”

Tanya smiled, reaching directly behind her. She looked to be grabbing a leg of her desk, but with the flick of her wrist, a secret panel opened, dispensing a single fun-size candy bar. “What kind of snacks did you hide in your room as a kid?”

“I was always partial for beef jerky or cheap off-brand twinkies.”

“The off brands always taste better,” Tanya said with a smirk.

As she picked up her phone, I noticed the lock screen, it was her mother’s college graduation picture. “You’re really proud of her.”

“There was a lot to be proud of.” Tanya’s voice was soft, filled with genuine emotion.

It was clear she was a lost soul looking for guidance, in the wake of her mother’s death.

We talked for a while, and I finally got the chance to introduce myself.

“Your name is Tianna, like the Frog princess? That’s kinda cool.”

At around seven, there was a knock at the door. “Tanya, sweetie, it’s Grandpa. Why is your door locked?”

Tanya looked at me. “I’m going to open the door, Tianna.”

I nodded, knowing Randell Fish heard my name.

The tall older man wore his work clothes as if his semi-truck was parked right in the front driveway. He took a look around the room. “Who are you talking to sweetheart?”

Without a second thought, I punched Randell Fish in the chest as hard as I could. He doubled over in pain, his body melting into my ghostly form. My hand was gripping something; a bone, maybe part of a lung? Certainly not a heart.

Tanya took a step back. “I’m sorry, Grandpa.”

“You’re sorry?” he said with a laugh, as blood dripped from his mouth.

I gripped harder, pulling at whatever I had my hands on. “She’s nothing like you.” Your daughter, Sophia, was an amazing person and I am truly sorry for her death.”

Randell was still smiling. “Does your dead, drug-dealer daddy know how the police found your body? Does he know you died sucking off that dirty cop?”

“Jay is not…” I pulled towards myself, tearing my hand from his chest, through his neck, to his head. Randell was still smiling like a psychopath as his body fell limp to the ground.

Tanya was screaming, she was huddled in a corner with her knees pulled to her chest.

I looked down at my hand, unable to fully comprehend what I was holding. It was a mass of gore, spilling off my hands on to the floor. As I stood up, moving away from the body, I could see identifiable parts. There was a trail of organ meat that was once his throat, stomach, and small intestines. In my hand was his brain. I started to laugh. “I did it, Jay. I took his head.”

Tanya’s father arrived, along with the cook and the nanny. That was when I heard a beep. It was an alarm from the laptop. Everyone turned to see the pop-up, “Capture limit has been reached.” The camera had been on the entire time.

The next few days seemed to rush by in a flurry of lights, and voices. The police took the laptop and the body. According to what they saw, Randell Fish fell to the floor, hitting his head over and over until (somehow) his brain fell out of his mangled skull.

Tanya had been right; I did not show up on film. The final footage made no sense. The girl was clearly talking to someone for over an hour before her white-trash trucker grandpa arrived. Clearly, he had a heart attack (not uncommon for a man his age,) that was deemed to be the cause of death.

Tanya was given back her computer and went straight to her YouTube page. Since the death had been deemed an accident she was allowed to post the footage (the footage that wouldn’t get her channel in trouble for mature or obscene content.)

She spoke to her followers about the mysterious First Nation ghost. She didn’t mention me by name, only that I was one of many victims killed due to race, age, or gender.

“As many of you know my mom was a judge,” she said, speaking into her mic. “When she died, all I knew was that someone with dark skin murdered the most important person in my life. People around me just repeated that; bad dark-skinned people killed your mother, bad dark-skinned people are what’s wrong with our society. But that’s not the truth.

When you lump all people into one group based on physical traits it doesn’t make us strong, it makes us weak. We need to stand together to help one another, to make this world a better place. One voice at a time.” Tanya looked up from her notes and wiped tears from her eyes. “Now I just have to wait for this to render.” She looked around, “Tianna, Are you there?”

I was about to speak when suddenly I was pulled backward with a strong force. This was the end of my story. I was about to move on.

Tanya, if you read this; I love you, and I know you’ll make your mother proud.

-End-

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