The Barrier: Case Three- Chapter One

After they had spent a few more weeks close to their home base, Ethan decided it was time to get back on the road. Ethan, Timm, and Riley had a meeting, and while Timm was still nervous, he agreed Riley was more capable of keeping her abilities in check than she had been. Ethan was nervous for her, but knew they couldn’t just keep her at home and needed to at least test how she would be on a case. Still, the ghost of Sarah started to weigh heavily on him again.

Riley could sense his discomfort, and it started to annoy her. He still refused to talk about his past empath and all that had set him off in New Mexico, and frankly, Riley was running out of patience to deal with it. His lack of trust in her was grating, especially as she was fairly certain that if they just talked about it, he might be able to come around. She got in the van and leaned her head back, trying to calm herself as Ethan and Josh went over their checklist before getting on the road.

“What’s up?” Emily asked as she got in the van.

“I didn’t mean to read him, but I can tell Ethan is nervous again, much like he was when we got to New Mexico. I need to know what happened with Sarah.”

“Damn it Ethan,” Emily said, slumping back in her seat. “He should really be the one to talk about it. It shouldn’t even be a thing.”

“Emily.”

“No. You need to ask him. I’m sorry, but it’s not my place. Do it as soon as we get on the road, and I will back you up if he tries to put it off. That’s all I am willing to do, though.”

Riley nodded, she wasn’t happy, but she’d take it. When Ethan got in the van, he noticed the tension and sighed. “What did I do?”

“When we get on the road,” Riley said simply.

“Emily?”

“Same thing I told her, you two need to have this conversation with each other and not me.”

The ride out of the city was awkward. Ethan knew something was coming and likely what it was. He hated the feeling of just waiting for it.

“What happened with Sarah, and how long do I have to deal with you not trusting me because of it?” Riley asked the moment the van was on the freeway.

“Damn girl, don’t hold back or anything,” Emily joked a little, hoping to give Ethan a second before revealing the details.

Ethan sighed heavily, he knew it was coming, but it still hurt that she was so upset with him. He knew he should have talked about it sooner, and that she would sense his nerves. He wouldn’t be surprised if the whole team noticed.

“As I told you, she was an empath that worked with the team for a while. She lived a fairly isolated and lonely life. Unlike you, she came into her powers early and faced a lot of backlash for it. When she reached adulthood, she moved away from her family and sort of shut herself off from the world for a while. As her powers grew, she realized she was attracting spirits to her, and she would not be able to simply turn it off. When she was around your age, she started actually working in the field, and after The Event, she gained some popularity in the community. When I brought her on as a consultant, I did not realize at first that she had never been trained, but also that she had no intention of doing so. Timm and I both encouraged her to reconsider, but it did not work, and so he went back home.”

Riley sat back and listened. She needed to give him a chance to explain the full story before she started to bombard him with questions or talking about her own feelings.

“I had a difficult time deciding what to do. Empaths can be in great danger, which can put those around them in harm’s way, no matter how unintended. However, she was older, had been doing the work for many years, and I could understand her distrust in people. Eventually, I asked the team at the time, and we agreed to just let it go and let her do things her own way. It was a huge mistake.”

“You couldn’t have known Ethan,” Emily said from the back.

“I should have,” Ethan disagreed then took a moment to collect himself. “We got a rough case, and I called Sarah in to help us. The branch had only been open for just over three years, and it seemed like it would be a big one that could make or break us, so I wanted the best chance of success. Selfish,” Ethan added under his breath, but moved forward before either could interrupt him again. “She connected with the spirit and helped it pass on, but what we did not realize is that there was another one. It also connected to her and left with her.”

“That’s possible?” Riley asked.

“Rare, but yes. It began to tell her things, and she did not trust us with the knowledge that a spirit had linked and left with her. I am guessing she thought we would be upset with her for not noticing. Not long after she killed herself, from everything we could tell, the spirit pushed her to it.”

Riley paused a moment to process what Ethan had just told her. “Does it happen a lot?”

“Spirit driven suicide?”

“Yes.”

Ethan thought over this question for a moment and wondered how honest to be. He was not happy with the idea of lying to her, but did not know if it was best for Riley to hear the truth right now. “A lot is a difficult qualifier. It is not an easy thing for a spirit to do, but being a medium or empath comes with certain risks.”

“That is not a real answer,” Riley countered.

Ethan was disappointed, but not surprised, that she had picked up on that. “There were many factors that drove Sarah to that point. Her lack of training was something I never should have overlooked, and while she may have ended up in the same position, I should have insisted she get it or not work with us. I cannot say though that had she gotten training that she would have avoided her fate.”

Riley still felt that he was dodging the question, but decided to let it rest for now.

“I have already admitted I have to give you your own chance, and I am working towards that, but having you around does make me nervous and scared. I cannot change this overnight Riley.”

“But it is unfair for you to let it affect you so much that I can feel that it is. You may not be able to change overnight, but you have to make some progress. I also think if you trusted me more that you would be doing a better job at it.”

“I do trust you Riley.”

“No, you don’t.”

That hurt Ethan a great deal. He did have doubts, but they weren’t based on a lack of trust, at least not in her. He had to stop himself from reacting.

Emily decided now was a good time to interrupt. “Okay, this conversation is going to spiral. Riley, you asked for the truth about Sarah, and he told you. It does weigh on him; it weighs on all of us that were part of the team at the time. You can’t just decide it is a lack of trust. And Ethan, you do need to try harder, I’m not even an empath, and I can pretty much feel your discomfort,” Emily paused, “Also, it’s a little embarrassing that you both need me to be the mature one. I just hope you are aware.”

Emily smiled when she heard Riley chuckle and saw Ethan shake his head with a bit of a smirk, glad she had succeeded in lifting the tension a little. Riley wasn’t wrong; whether it was the actual motivating factor, it was coming off as a lack of trust when it came to Riley. Emily hoped they would work it out, or Ethan was going to drive Riley away while trying to avoid the mistakes they made with Sarah.

Riley finally turned to Ethan and decided she needed to put in some effort too if she was going to demand it from him. “Thank you for explaining to me. I will try to be more patient with you.”

“You are welcome, and I will do my best as well.”

The three were silent for a while before Emily handed up the case folder so they could start on some of their work.

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