The Barrier: Case Three- Chapter Four

When Riley walked into the base, she slumped down in front of the monitors, the earlier conversation also weighing on her. Gabrielle walked over and squeezed her shoulder softly. “Ethan told me about earlier, and I know it has been a bit of a cycle, but he does want to do better. He is also truly feeling unwell, Riley, admitting that is rare for him, so it must be bad. I am not saying to ignore it, but give him some patience.”

“I just feel like I am trying to meet him in the middle, and he is not doing the same for me.”

“He is scared of the middle Riley, it doesn’t make it right, but it is true.”

“Okay,” Riley sighed.

“In the meantime, Emily is going to look more into Tracy. Daniel and I both agree that this place seems entirely devoid of any spiritual activity for a place that has experienced so many signs. Usually, most places at least have an aura if there has been recent activity.”

“What should I do?”

“Whatever you like. If Emily needs help with research, she’ll let you know. I don’t want you to push yet because you might accidentally overdo it looking for something that is not there.”

“Would that be so bad? I mean, if I don’t attach to anything, does it matter how hard I push?”

“You know the answer to that. It would still be a major drain on your abilities and could call something.”

Riley nodded. She pulled out a book and took her spot in front of the monitors with Josh. Gabrielle left, Riley assumed under instructions from Ethan to be well-rested.

When three hours had passed, Riley looked towards Josh. “He probably needs more sleep, but I’m worried he’ll get angry if we let him.”

“You’re right,” Josh agreed, “Why don’t you go wake him.”

“Not sure it should be me.”

“I know for a fact it should be,” Josh replied quickly.

Riley rolled her eyes but made her way down the hallway anyway. She reminded herself of Gabrielle’s words and tried to take them more to heart as she walked in. When she walked over to the bed, Riley realized just how upset he must be. Instead of a relaxed face, Ethan’s brows were pinched, and his body was stiff. Even in sleep, he was carrying tension, and her heart hurt for him. Riley slid off her shoes and slowly crawled into the bed, laying on her side next to him. She made sure to keep some space, not only for propriety but because she could also feel a wall between them, one that would likely hurt them both to breech.

“Ethan,” She called gently.

Ethan’s eyes instantly popped open, but it took him a second before he realized Riley was lying next to him. His head still hurt, but her presence seemed to calm it a little, going from roaring to a dull thud. He moved his hand towards her but stopped when he saw her stiffen. His heart lurched, and he stopped himself. She seemed so sad.

“Riley,” he said equally quietly and reached out again, moving a bit of her hair while making sure their skin did not make contact. He could still feel a prickle like a shock was building if they did touch. He sighed sadly as his mind supplied that she was out of his reach in yet another way. He sat up and turned away, his shoulders slumping. “I take it it is time for us to switch.”

“Yes, do you feel better?”

“A little.”

“I can let you get more sleep.”

“I appreciate it, but I do not want to risk you or Gabrielle not getting enough rest. I know that Daniel seems like an alright sort, but I would rather not be caught depending on him too much.”

“Okay,” Riley said with a sad smile. “I will see you later tonight then?”

“Rest well,” Ethan said and quickly exited.

Riley released a heavy sigh, her heart hurting at all that was between them and how badly he must feel, but made her way to her bedroom to try and get some sleep. It was earlier than she was used to, but she knew Ethan was right, they would need to be rested. She would also have to adjust to odd sleeping schedules.

Ethan, meanwhile, had to resist the urge to slam every door in the house. He was quickly cycling through hurt, anger, confusion, and more than a little self-pitying, he had to admit deep down. Ethan slumped in a chair in front of the monitors and rubbed his eyes. He let out a sigh when Josh set a cup of coffee down in front of him.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I will also forgo the lecture.”

“Believe me, there is nothing you can say that I have not told myself. Nor is it possible to make me feel any worse.”

“I know that, hence sparing you,” Josh said with a smirk. “I’ll hang with you for a bit, then get some sleep myself.”

The two men passed the time while Emily was busy on her computer. The monitors showed nothing, and the boredom was creeping in. Normally Ethan had an easier time with it, but it was hard to focus on reading or research with his headache. Emily left them after about an hour, and Josh was only another behind. At this point, dread started to creep in for Ethan. The group had made their plans while Ethan was napping, and he had a feeling he knew who would be joining him. Damn Gabrielle and Josh.

“Oh, hello,” Daniel said as he walked in, holding a mug.

At least his surprise at being there alone with Ethan seemed genuine, Ethan thought to himself. He only offered the man a nod though.

“This case is bothering me,” Daniel broke the silence.

“Me as well.”

“Myself or your medium should be able to sense something. Activity has been recent, and it’s a small house. Riley, I am less certain if she should be able to as well. With as little as we know about empaths and how new she is to her abilities.”

“How do you know that?” Ethan grew defensive.

“As I told her, I have a bit of a sense when it comes to these things. She will be powerful; it is a good thing she is a strong woman, even if she does not realize it.”

“A sense?”

“Yes, it is how I first learned I should consider paranormal training beyond what my mother taught me. Although for a time, I saw those as just rituals with little meaning. Before I even realized I might excel in training to deal with spirits, I could always tell when someone had something more to them, a few before even they did. It is part of why they wanted me to be a priest.”

“But you never intended to be one? A priest, I mean?” Ethan asked.

“No, and I was clear with them about that fact when they agreed to train me. They still tried to push the issue, though.”

“I thought the majority of the Catholic Church was still against the open sharing of rituals and knowledge.”

“Sadly, that is true. The priest who trained me and a few others were excommunicated, and his assistants were never able to finish taking the orders. I felt a great deal of guilt over it, I still carry it with me to this day. He told me at the time that he truly believed that God would rather I protect his children than honor some tradition. Still, he took his orders seriously, it hurts to know I played a part in taking that from him.”

Ethan nodded. He was glad to see that Daniel seemed to take it seriously. For all Ethan’s issues with priests in his line of work, it hadn’t sat right with him that Daniel seemed flippant about being trained without intending to take the orders. He saw now he misjudged the man. “Where is the man who trained you now?”

“He found a more progressive church, at least comparatively speaking, and they treat him pretty much as though he were still a priest. There are some things he is not allowed to do, but overall the church and the community just ignore what the archdiocese said.”

“It was noble of him, and for what it is worth, I do not think you should feel guilty.”

“Coming from you, it’s worth quite a bit.”

Ethan exhaled a bit. “It is not personal. I have just worked with too many priests who were too quick to destroy spirits, and almost none of them were willing to listen to my team and me. It is a punishment that is far too extreme for simply being a lost soul in a world that is out of balance.”

“Well for starters, don’t apologize. I agree with you, and our host surprised you with my presence. I will reiterate until you believe me that I also think exorcism should be a last resort. It is too extreme of a punishment. However, and it would not encourage me to use exorcisms anymore regularly, but I have always doubted that it’s true that it completely destroys the spirit. Better not to risk it, but I hope, for the sake of all those that suffer at the hands of those like the priests you have worked with, that I am right.”

Ethan paused and considered Daniel’s words. He wished at this moment he had a touch of Riley’s power and that he could tell if the man was being honest. Nothing about him seemed false, but that only served to confuse Ethan.

Daniel continued after watching Ethan observe him, “I do hope to gain your trust. I know of your company and admire you personally. I think I could be of help, and working with strange teams all the time can be challenging.”

Ethan found himself rubbing his brows before turning towards the monitors. His thoughts were racing. Having an extra medium on-call would not be the worst, and honestly, exorcisms were, in fact, necessary at times. If Daniel could prove himself, he would be helpful. There was something else nagging at Ethan, though, something he knew he shouldn’t be considering.

“I am not attracted to her,” Daniel’s voice broke through Ethan’s whirling thoughts.

Ethan’s head jerked up, and he studied the man carefully.

“I know you don’t want to admit that it’s part of it, and we will never speak of it again if that’s what you want. But I’m not. Not to her, not to anybody. I do feel a connection with her, but it’s not what you think it is, and I am willing to bet everybody else on your team has felt something similar themselves. What you fear, and not just from me, is not possible if you decide to go for what you want.”

“This is private.”

“Yes, which is why I will never be the first to bring it up again. I could have made an excellent priest if I had wanted to go through with it. I know what I am seeing and sensing. I also know that your greatest roadblock is you.”

Daniel made sure to focus on the monitors to let Ethan know he realized the conversation was over, hoping not to further upset the other man. He could sense Ethan watching him, and was grateful when Gabrielle came in to relieve Ethan.

The woman studied the two of them for a moment before shooing Ethan off for more sleep. She nodded briefly to Daniel before settling in. It seems the team’s medium had a bit of the ability to sense things in people as well, or at least knew her team.

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