The Barrier: Case Two- Chapter Four

“Speaking of the team, when do you think Gabrielle and Miller will get here?” Emily asked.

“They should be arriving shortly,” Ethan answered.

The three remained silent as they drove through the rest of town and down a dirt road. When they arrived at a Spanish-style house not far from town, Ethan stopped, and they all got out to stretch. Riley was stiff and imagined the rest of the team was not feeling much better. It was nice to get out of the car finally.

Riley turned to look at where they were and was taken aback. She had never really seen a place like this before. The sky was vibrant oranges and pinks, and she searched the horizon and realized that it and the open land seemed to stretch forever and never touch. She had never seen sky so big. She was used to mountains, trees, or even buildings breaking it up. She was also unused to such arid surroundings with only a small smattering of plant life.

“Wow,” she whispered.

“It is different and beautiful,” Emily agreed.

Riley could see the ditch in the distance, and without meaning to, she took a step towards it. Something about it called to her. Emily cleared her throat, though, and brought Riley back to herself. Ethan was stiff beside them, probably remembering Riley at the library, and instantly Riley was flooded with concern over how he might react.

The front door opened, and the group turned and saw an older couple coming out of the house to greet them. The man hovered by the door while the woman hurried her way up to them. Riley was shocked at how strong the feelings were that she got from the woman. She was friendly and almost radiated kindness, but Riley could sense a profound sadness in her. She didn’t think the woman was directly related to the kids, but in such a small town, it must have a strong impact on everybody. Riley was surprised at how quickly she could classify the woman as trustworthy and desperately wanted to help her.

“Welcome, I am Mrs. Sanchez,” the older woman said. “I hope our house will suit. It is nothing fancy, but it is the closest to the ditch.”

“I think it looks lovely,” Riley replied, offering the older woman an easy smile, even though it was something that would not normally come naturally for her. She wasn’t ready to give the woman her life story, but it was rare that Riley met someone that she read such warmth from and couldn’t help but attempt to return it.

“Plus, we stay in a lot of motels. Homes are without a doubt an upgrade,” Emily added.

“Thank you, dears. We have some extra room because we sent the kids away while this is happening. To think they left just a week ago, and it could have been-” Mrs. Sanchez cut herself off and put a hand over her heart. It was not hard to sense the relief she felt that it wasn’t her family but the guilt that came with that relief. Riley thought she might be knocked over by the force of both conflicting emotions.

“You have kids?” Riley asked, trying to pull the woman from her dark thoughts.

It worked, and Mrs. Sanchez laughed. “Oh, thank you for the compliment, but I meant grandkids. Come now, let me show you the rooms.”

“What just happened?” Emily asked, confused by Riley’s ease with the woman.

“Riley is an empath, and she picked up on our host’s good intentions,” Josh answered.

“Are you saying we don’t have good intentions?” Emily replied, mostly teasing but mildly offended.

“A group of closed-off weirdos who are obsessed with the supernatural?” Josh countered with a chuckle. “Good intentions or not, I wouldn’t trust us at the word go. Plus, we didn’t need to be put at ease as our host clearly does. Instead, we were the ones attempting to do that for Riley.”

“I also think it is a little unfair to say that Riley did not warm up to us quickly. She left town with us,” Ethan interjected. His nervousness over the likelihood that Riley was an empath rising. “You are both jumping the gun still,” he said, his tone leaving no room for debate, and followed the women inside.

When they entered the house, Mrs. Sanchez motioned down a hallway. “We have three rooms for you to use.” She pointed out a large room that appeared to have been a family room but was mostly emptied out of everything but a couch and a series of fold-up tables that Riley assumed was put in for the group. Mrs. Sanchez then showed them two rooms across from that one. “We cleared the bigger room as much as possible to give you space, and I think you will all fit in these two for sleeping.” She seemed nervous about the accommodations.

“This will do nicely,” Ethan reassured her. “I would like to get set up as quickly as possible, and then allow my team to rest. I do not mean to be curt or ignore formalities, but with everything that has happened, I would like to get straight to work.”

“I understand,” Mrs. Sanchez replied, shifting back to the sadness they all noticed upon arriving. “There are some basics in the kitchen, feel free to help yourself. The city has agreed to reimburse us, so do not worry about that. I will provide cooked meals when I am able.”

Josh and Mike had already begun unloading while Mrs. Sanchez talked to Ethan. Riley tried to be helpful, but she had completely missed both setting up and taking down the library. She was able to at least help get everything to the right room. The women’s stuff in one, men’s in the other, and everything else in the base.

Mike and Emily got to work setting up the computers and monitors as quickly as possible. Once Emily was set up, she made quick work of finishing combining the research and printing out overviews for the team.

As Josh and Mike continued to unpack, Ethan began going over the case. “This case will present a unique challenge because thus far, all signs of activity have happened outside. We will have to set up as many cameras outside as possible and be prepared to do a lot of foot checks.”

Everyone looked over the notes and began to discuss the best setup for the cameras. Riley observed as they debated over their game plan. Eventually, they did come up with an arrangement for the cameras, and Ethan gave final approval. Two cameras would be set up close to where the children had drowned, the rest spaced a quarter-mile apart, covering as much of the ditch as possible. The unfortunate fact was that this plan, while the best, would not cover nearly as much as they would likely need for the case.

“What is she doing here?” They all turned at the familiar voice. Riley saw Miller walk in with another serious looking woman around the same age.

“I hired her,” Ethan said shortly and sharply. He was in no mood to fight about this.

“Riley?” The other woman asked. She was a bit shorter than Miller with dark hair and skin and vibrant eyes. She stepped forward and held out her hand with a smile. When she smiled, her whole face seemed to light up, and Riley could tell that while she might be serious, she was not unkind.

“That’s me, but I don’t know if I should shake hands right now,” Riley said with a wince. She still wasn’t feeling completely back to normal since the library and the overwhelming feelings of guilt over the kids and the fears related. She didn’t know if touching other people would hurt, but she felt it was likely.

The woman looked at her curiously for a moment and then seemed to reach an understanding. “Quite alright, I am Gabrielle. I sometimes work with the team as a medium and priestess,” she finished her introduction. “I have heard good things about you, although I think we can all agree that we should get to know each other later.”

Riley readily agreed, and gave the two women a copy of the report they were going over. Ethan, meanwhile, divided the group, and everyone but himself, Miller, and Mike went to set up cameras. After setting up the two cameras where the children died, one group went one way and the other another. It was hard to know if this would turn out to be an effective strategy, but it seemed to be the best idea, and only trying would show. Mike stayed on the walkie with the group and gave instructions on adjustments they needed to make as they set up.

When they finished with the cameras, Ethan encouraged everyone to get food, shower, and settle in. He knew he would need to start doing a rotation of naps fairly quickly. The group was getting overtired, and he needed them to recover so they could solve this, and do so fast. The weight of the lives lost was already heavy.

Ethan sat in front of the monitors and glared. He hated cases like this. With everything outdoors, it took away so much from the group. PIRI, like many paranormal investigators, were helped greatly by their technology, so when that was weakened, they were. Yes, mediums and the like could help, but without more guidance as to where a spirit was, you could end up trying endlessly for days and never actually make contact. They needed to zero in on specific points.

Ethan was not the only one tense. As the group trickled in and out, everyone seemed to be carrying a dark cloud with them. Riley wasn’t sure what to do with this new dynamic and couldn’t stop fidgeting with the uncomfortable emotions around her. She also felt like she was violating the group since it was so easy for her to pinpoint who was feeling what. She had always worked hard not to cross boundaries and not read people, but when they projected so loudly, she couldn’t help it.

Once everybody was back in the base after some quick settling Ethan motioned for Emily to present the early details of the case.

“The children who died were 9-year-old Jose and 7-year-old Jennifer. We do not yet have a copy of the autopsy report, but they were found in the ditch, and it was a suspected intentional drowning. Before the recent deaths, we were called to investigate reports of a ghost reminiscent of the La Llorona legend in this area,” Emily started. “Before that, the town had basically had no activity. There

were rumors about five years ago that a group came believing there was something, but ultimately left with no evidence to confirm any haunting, La Llonora like or otherwise.”

“La Llonora is a Weeping Woman type spirit famous in many Latin cultures,” Riley continued. “The legends do change area by area, but what is generally agreed upon is that she drowned her kids, and then her spirit was cursed to forever search for them. The legend is generally used as a warning to children to avoid various bodies of water and not to be out alone in general. In many cases, the spirit is not actually a danger to the children however, there are versions of the legend that paint her as a malevolent and violent spirit.”

Emily took back over. “The people in town have been seeing a spirit walk along the ditch for approximately a month now. She was initially ignored as a likely prank, but once she began responding to people she came across, the town decided to reach out. Until the deaths of the children, however, there was no actual cause for concern over violence.”

Emily made sure to include that much, to try and help some of the weight of the guilt the group was feeling. They needed to be reminded that the case hadn’t been considered an emergency for a reason.

“Is there a consistent reason for the drowning of the children?” Gabrielle asked, looking over the report. Like many others, she had heard the stories growing up, but as the world’s knowledge of the supernatural changed, so did the facts behind many legends.

“Not as such. Like many of the other details of the case, a lot changes depending on location,” Riley answered. “However, there is at least the common thread of it being related to the man she loved. Some accounts say she was actually jealous because the father loved the children more than her. In some versions, it is actually the man that wants the children gone even though the mother is the one that acts on it. There are also stories of her losing her husband and taking her children in her grief. So the only shared thing is that the woman loses both the children and the man.”

“This is where our biggest issue comes in,” Emily said. “No matter what version of the legend we start from, there is no case in this town that is even remotely connected either in past deaths or current living people. No recent marriage, no women who had two children drown until this case. In fact, until a few days ago, there have been no unexplained deaths in the town for many decades, and there is nothing in the town’s history that is reflective of these stories. We have no connection to the legend other than the spirit’s appearance and behavior.”

“How exactly has it been behaving?” Miller asked.

“She appears in white, stays near the ditch, is always crying, and if they are able to get words out of her, it’s always about her children,” Emily answered. “If someone is projecting the spirit through technology, they have to have some really good equipment. The people in town aren’t sure, and until we see it ourselves, we can’t say either.”

“I thought you said she was interacting with people?” Josh asked.

“In the most basic sense, yes. She will stop when she comes along people and stare at them. Sometimes her weeping will increase, it’s never substantial interactions, though and again if she does speak, it is to ask about her children,” Riley answered.

“But nothing that would constituent more direct contact?” Gabrielle asked.

“I suppose that depends,” Emily replied.

“On whether or not she killed the children,” Gabrielle replied with a sigh picking up on what Emily meant. “Spirits that can directly kill humans are not impossible, but it is extremely rare.”

“It would also be a pretty significant jump from wandering around to murder,” Riley added.

“You are still learning Riley, stick to the facts,” Ethan snapped and then instantly regretted it when he saw her face. Her comment was right, and they did need to consider the escalation in behavior. He had just belittled her for no reason other than his own insecurity.

“Well, then I will say it,” Gabrielle snapped back. “A spirit showing up, having no physical contact with anyone, and then killing, all within a month is pretty damn significant and something worth taking into account,” Gabrielle finished glaring at him.

Ethan breathed out. “You and Caroline should go to the morgue and try to make contact as soon as possible. There might be a rush on burial for religious reasons. We are also at a bit of a stalemate, so it might get things moving.”

“Of course,” Gabrielle said and winked at Emily, who returned it. Riley was confused by the interaction.

“Maybe Riley should nap since she helped drive so much, and I know you won’t,” Emily said to Ethan.

Riley stiffened at the suggestion. Something was going on with Ethan, and she did not want to be dismissed so easily at the start of the case. However, Ethan readily agreed, and Riley was even more disappointed when he would not look at her.

Riley’s shoulders slumped, and she left the room defeated. However, Gabrielle quickly caught up with her and made sure to only grab her clothing to get her attention. “Come with me,” she whispered.

When the two women walked outside, they saw Miller waiting for them, and Gabrielle handed the keys off to Riley. Riley was confused but knew enough to follow Gabrielle’s lead. She gave her quick directions, and the three women made their way to the morgue.

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