The Barrier: Case Two- Chapter Eleven

While Emily was helping Riley, Josh took over for Gabrielle, waiting for the police by the ditch. Emily was able to slowly help Riley get dressed, which was difficult with Emily needing to avoid touching Riley as much as possible. They were able to do it and get her back to base, but not without pain for both of them. The blankets had been changed on the couch, and nobody was surprised when Riley fell on the couch and seemed to space out. Gabrielle covered her with a blanket then slumped in her own chair.

Emily was shaking and trying not to cry, and Ethan gave her shoulders a brief rub. He was proud of her for trying so hard not to cry in front of Riley, although he was uncertain Riley would even be aware.

“We need a better plan for empaths,” Gabrielle sighed from her chair.

“They aren’t that common,” Miller replied, having joined the group.

“This is our second, and I can’t imagine she is going to get any easier.”

“She will, with training.”

“Why, Caroline, are you actually being nice?” Gabrielle teased.

“I know what you all think of me, but I am not going to be insensitive to that,” Miller said, motioning her head over to the zoned-out Riley.

Gabrielle nodded her head, acknowledging the point and letting it drop. They each took turns also cleaning themselves up, but mostly the group just hovered around the base nervously. The cops coming was never a good thing. Their whole line of work was likely to be called into question. Despite the fact that more people were believers than not, law enforcement was often the first to assume they were grifters. Grifters that found evidence would encourage many cops to see them as something worse.

It took some time, but Josh finally entered the base with an officer following behind. She was tall, and her hair was pulled back into a tight bun. She had a stern look on her face as she examined the group.

“This is Officer Lopez, everybody,” Josh introduced her.

“What’s with her?” the officer asked, nodding over to Riley.

“She is not feeling well,” Ethan replied shortly. He tried not to make a habit of lying to the police they were forced to interact with, but he also did not give away many secrets. Officers’ distrust of the team was met with distrust of their own in return, and he thought it was only natural and fair.

“Not feeling well?” Officer Lopez replied, raising an eyebrow. She did not buy the excuse, but did not press the issue. “I understand you are nervous around me, I am equally nervous around you. However, I am not stupid enough to believe you had anything to do with the murders.”

Ethan signed and furrowed his brows. “I am not going to go into detail, especially because a lot of it is personal in nature. Will you settle for you would not believe me if I told you?”

“Is she in danger with you?”

“No,” Ethan said stiffly, his defenses rising.

“Alright,” Officer Lopez said, holding up a hand, trying to placate him. “Can you explain how you found the rope?”

“I cannot.” When he noticed Officer Lopez gearing up to respond, he quickly continued, “She found it and then had a bit of a breakdown. I am not trying to be difficult, I just do not know exactly what happened.”

“All she would tell us is that they had been tied down and that she wanted to find more,” Josh added, “By the time any of us got to her, she was already so far gone we couldn’t get much out of her.”

“The rope certainly explains a lot. Drowning in a ditch that empty is not really something that happens by accident, and there weren’t signs of them being held down any other way. I am guessing that once they drown, they were untied so the bodies would move a bit and obscure the real kill site.” Officer Lopez paused for a bit before exhaling and shaking her head. “I can’t believe I am about to ask this but could a ghost or whatever do it?”

“It is not impossible, but not very probable, and she seemed pretty convinced they were human,” Josh answered.

“How did she end up in the ditch in the first place?”

“She was pushed,” Ethan said, motioning for the officer to follow him to the monitors. He rewound to when they first saw movement. “We first spotted this movement,” Ethan said, slowing the footage. “There is no change in temperature according to the cameras or any reason for us to suspect it was a spirit.” He sped up the footage again until he found the moment Riley was pushed. “This is when we were separated, and she is pushed in, then the figure takes off.”

“And once again not a ghost?” Lopez pressed. “I thought they pushed and tripped people all the time.”

“It requires a lot of power for a spirit to be able to directly harm a human,” Gabrielle answered, deciding the group’s best bet was to give the officer more details. She shared the same hesitation as the group, but also saw that Lopez was trying and wanted to hurry things along. “Spirits becoming that powerful is not entirely uncommon, but rare enough that most people don’t experience direct contact. Rather a spirit behaving as a poltergeist will interact with things around people to cause harm. The intent to cause harm and the ability to do so so directly is limited.”

“If it was a spirit, it not only was able to shove her but drown two kids; that’s not likely, especially with the complete lack of other evidence,” Josh added.

“So human,” Officer Lopez replied, understanding.

They all nodded, glad that she both understood and accepted their explanation. Her skepticism did not seem to overrule her logic or desire to find the truth.

“Why leave her alone?” Lopez asked.

“She called out to me to keep chasing after the person we saw, and I knew the team was not far behind,” Ethan replied. “Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it was not my wisest decision. At the time, I was so focused on catching the person, breaking the case,” Ethan sighed guiltily.

“And I am guessing whatever happened in that ditch is the part you can’t explain, or rather don’t want to, which is why you stopped the tapes?”

“Not a bad guess, but no, she disappeared from the monitors at that point,” Gabrielle answered with a small chuckle. “Looking for a new line of work?” She asked but cowered when she saw Ethan’s glare.

“She is in a bad way, and it brings me no pleasure to have her like this,” Ethan said, looking Lopez square in the eye, imploring her to understand and drop it. He did not want to risk someone trying to step in and “help” Riley only to make it worse.

“Alright, I don’t like it, but I will continue to trust that she is not in danger, or if she is, you are equipped to handle it. Do you have any ideas who it might be?”

“Someone that wants attention on the town would be my first guess. In cases where spirits are faked, there are three explanations that are the most likely. People who think it is pranks, people that want the big-time ghost hunting shows to show up, or people who are causing it accidentally,” Ethan responded. “However, this is the first case I can think of where the haunting was faked to include murder. The murder also rules out the possibility of an accident.”

“People, that cause it on accident?” Lopez started but shook her head. “Never mind, don’t have time to sit through that explanation right now. The main issue we have is that we have no real suspect list, and I do not like what your guesses tell us.”

“Do you have any teens or young adults that are obsessed with the supernatural?” Ethan asked. “It would likely be more than one. They might exhibit behavior that you would notice as an officer but not overly so. They would also be interested in getting eyes on the town for whatever reason, possibly as a means of getting out. At least one of them would also need to be wealthy, the equipment required for a believable fake is more readily available since The Event, but it is extremely expensive.”

“I will have to look into it.”

“I am sorry we can’t offer more,” Gabrielle said.

“Nothing to be sorry. Your information is helpful although troubling,” Lopez admitted and seemed to get lost in thought.

“So young,” Riley whispered weakly, causing the team to turn in shock.

“The victims or the people who did it?” Lopez asked, looking at the group. Most of them seemed confused, but Ethan was focused on Riley and finally nodded.

“Officer Lopez, we can help you narrow the suspect list.” He then hesitated.


“I must be certain you will leave my team alone.”

Lopez seemed to understand. “Have you or do you intend to harm anyone?”

“Depends on how you define harm,” Ethan replied, “But no.”

Officer Lopez nodded, and Ethan turned to Emily. “Put together the information I was having you dig up.”

“Yes, boss,” Emily said quietly and got to work. Ethan, meanwhile, went through the footage frame by frame, hoping to get a clear picture of anyone on camera.

“Is there anything I can do?” Lopez asked.

“Would you mind getting us coffee? I know that is not exactly a respectful request, but we are tired,” Josh said with a smile.

Lopez narrowed her eyes at the group but then finally nodded. She did not trust them completely but did believe they were sincere in wanting to help solve the case, so if they needed some space, she’d give it. Their suspect list might be helpful after all, so if this is what they needed to hand it over.

“Wish we could find cops like her in all towns,” Gabrielle said.

“Nice or not, I don’t care. She clearly doesn’t trust us,” Emily replied.

“We are strangers in a small town investigating a case that includes the murder of two children. A little distrust is commendable. She is doing an excellent job of balancing a natural distrust with doing what is best for the case,” Ethan defended.

“Logical people,” Emily said with a huff but a slight smile.

“There!” Ethan yelled, pointing at the monitor. They froze the frame and hit print but then just looked at each other. “Do none of us remember her name?”

Everyone looked guilty before Ethan just yelled out, “Cop.”

“Lopez,” she said, walking back in.

“I apologize,” Ethan said quickly but then motioned to the monitor. “Does that help at all?”

“It won’t hurt, but it’s pretty grainy. Do you have anything else?”

“Yes!” Emily said, hitting print on her laptop. She grabbed the paper highlighting something on it quickly. “This is a list of all the people most likely to be involved in a case like this. These three are all in a club in high school about the paranormal. They are obsessed, not fascinated or interested, obsessed. Two of them are in cross country, which would explain the running, one of them fits the requirement of being wealthy.”

“How did you get these names?”

Emily shrugged in response. “Your killer is on that list, even if not those three. I know my job, and I can tell you that.”

Lopez nodded and took the paper and the printed picture. They also gave her a folder with some of their case notes. “This should be enough to bring someone in for questioning, and hopefully, we can work it from there.” She held up the papers. “I appreciate this.”

The group all gave Lopez various farewells, then turned to each other and glanced at Riley.

“What do we do?” Emily asked softly.

“Wait for her to tell us they are ready. She should be able to once the cops are on enough of the right path.”

“Are we sure that’s what we want?”

Everybody’s faces fell, but Ethan answered. “Of course it is Emily. It will be hard, but it is what is right, and I think we know that Riley would feel the same.”

Emily knew he was right, but her heart still ached. “How long do you think we have to wait?” she asked.

As though Riley could hear them, she sat up and looked at the group. “They’re ready,” she said in a soft whisper.


“The ditch.” Riley slowly stood and began to walk back, with the group following her closely. When she got there, she looked around and turned to them. “I don’t know what to do,” she admitted, ashamed.

“That’s why you have us,” Gabrielle said softly.

Gabrielle and Josh both drew circles into the sand by the ditch and lit a few candles. They turned to Riley, who walked into one of the circles while they knelt and began to chant. As before, a barrier came up separating Riley from the rest of the group, although this time they could still see her and could sense she was in no danger. Gabrielle chanting in Latin and French while Josh in Navajo and Yiddish. Riley was confused, but before she could focus on it too much, a sense of peace washed over her. Gabrielle and Josh both pulled out totems, an owl and bear, respectively. Then Gabrielle also pulled out a rosary and Josh some scrolls. Riley was still mostly uncertain about what was happening, but she allowed herself to just give over to it. She stopped thinking and let the feeling invoked by the ritual wash over her.

As her mind drifted away, she realized she understood what they were saying even though she could not understand the words. They were praying for guidance for the children, a peaceful passing, and to Riley’s confusion that her own suffering not be too great.

“Hi,” Jose said as the kids appeared in the other circle. “Thank you for helping.”

“You’re very welcome. I know they haven’t closed the case, but do you feel like you are ready?” she asked.

Jose nodded, and Jennifer enthusiastically added, “I don’t want to be like this anymore.”

“Good, you deserve peace.”

“We’re sorry, though, for what will happen to you,” Jose said, and Jennifer nodded sadly.

“Are you happy?”

Both kids looked at each other but then agreed.

“Then whatever comes next is worth it,” Riley said with a smile. “It’s time for you to let go and move on to what is next.” Both children returned the smile then started to glow. Gabrielle and Josh continued to chant as the children slowly faded with the barrier. Riley sucked in a sharp breath before letting out a wail and dropping.

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