3: The mission

Jack stared at her. He wondered if his clouded brain had processed Jill’s words right. His recently ex-girlfriend was standing above him claiming to be dead. She was either a ghost, a figment of his imagination, or making one of her notoriously bad jokes. None of the options appealed to him much.

“You heard me right,” said Jill. “I was murdered last night. My body is currently lying on a metal slab in a morgue. They’ll cut me open soon, but just so you don’t have to wait for the forensic report I was tied up, beaten, burnt, sliced, strangled.”

“You don’t look that bad,” said Jack. It must be a joke. “I’ve seen you without your makeup on remember?”

Jill ignored the comment, laser eyes focused on his as she continued. “I guess I blacked out before the end. I don’t remember actually dying, but when they found me on Brighton beach this morning, I was looking down at myself. It was hours before anyone paid me any notice.”

The words hung in the air. Jack paused before talking. He was going to play along with her. It was the same way he handled most situations – if all else fails, you don’t know what to do, then just roll with it, and let the chips fall where they may.

“If you’re a ghost, then why did you come back to me?” said Jack. “Why not revisit someone you actually like?”

“Because what I want you to do is dangerous. I think my killer has done it before, they… really knew… what they were doing, that’s why I think they’ll do it again. And I don’t give a shit if you get killed trying.”

That was the slap, a brilliant affirmation of his singular place in the world. Jack was expendable. If this was a joke it was a decent way of putting the knife in, if she was a ghost she’d done it even better, if Jack was hallucinating he’d just managed to stab himself in the heart.

“And maybe, just maybe, you can do something right for a change. You never know, it may be good for you”

Jack stared at her bare feet, admiring the perfect curve of the arch, and the ethereal sheen of her skin poised elegantly on the dark walnut of the floor. She wasn’t wearing nail polish, and they were surprisingly clean for tramping the Brighton streets. “Okay, I’m in,” he said. “Where do we start?”

“Sally Army soup kitchen,” said Jill. She sighed as Jack looked blankly at her. “You know, the place where I helped out? No? Really?” She rolled her eyes. “Look just get your shoes on, I’ll show you the way.”

Jack staggered to his feet, and his stomach swished a little with the alcohol still floating around. “Maybe it’s a little too early for rushing.”

The doorbell rang, the jump almost sending him back on the Chesterfield. “Don’t count on it,” said Jill. “You need to move right now. That was the other reason for you to find my killer. You’re going to be the prime suspect for the murder.”


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