The Barrier: Case Four- Chapter Eleven

Ethan, Daniel, Josh, and Gabrielle had worked late into the night on their plan to get rid of this shade. Ethan was exhausted by the time he made it back to his room, leaving Emily with Riley and Miller and Josh to watch the monitors. He felt bad for Josh, but the cheerful man told him not to worry that he would nap but remain close in case Miller got into any trouble.

When he got back to his bedroom, Ethan collapsed and tried to ease his mind, but it was difficult. He was worried about Riley, worried about getting rid of this shade, and stressed about what would happen after. He felt he was losing Riley. Not just because she was at risk, but because the shade making her doubt him was working so well. Their working relationship had not been great since she left with them, and they needed to fix it. He couldn’t stand the thought that this might be the end. He didn’t want to think about not having her around anymore.

He also knew that meant he would probably have to come clean about a few things, and have a few hard conversations with her being honest about Sarah, his work with empaths, and god help him but his feelings for her too.

Ethan also knew that Timm would need to speed up some of her training, and they would need to look further into whether she was just a powerful empath or she had some other type of ability. Until the other day, he had never seen someone push out their emotions like that, like a shield. Nor could he think of many cases where an empath was able to force themselves into a spirit’s consciousness to discover things about them.

“Relax,” he told himself. They needed to deal with this shade first and get Riley home and make sure she was safe. Then he could stress about all this. Finally, he was able to drift into a fitful sleep.

“Riley!” A voice finally broke through to her. Riley jerked awake a little, saw her left arm in front of her, and had to turn away, which only brought a wave of dizziness.

“Oh thank god you are awake. You are right?” Riley could hear Mike’s desperate voice.

“Yeah, give me a second.”

“Just don’t fall asleep. I don’t know if you have a concussion or not, but your head is bleeding, so I am worried about that.”

“Yeah,” Riley said with difficulty. Finally, she was able to carefully shift herself up while bringing her broken arm in to cradle it. She looked around while trying to catch her breath and push back on the dizziness and need to throw up. They were in a pit at the base of the tree, and it was much too far up for them to get themselves out, especially in their current state. Riley attempted to reach out but felt something like a barrier blocking her. “Damn.”

“What?” Mike asked.

Riley began to shift closer to him. “I can’t reach out to ask the spirits for help.”

Mike sighed heavily and leaned his head back. “I am so sorry, Riley.”

“Don’t be,” Riley insisted, then got close enough to see a large stick was through Mike’s leg. “Are you okay?” she said, starting to panic a bit.

“Calm down Riley,” Mike insisted. “It hurts, but I think I am fine.”

Riley started to look at the wound. “Should we try to remove it?”

“I don’t think so. It was a lot longer, and I broke it down a bit so it wouldn’t catch.”

Riley nodded and then closed her eyes sharply against the nausea that followed, catching her breath a little. She then worked on ripping some of her pajama pants and packing it around Mike’s leg. It was slow, but she was grateful that her left arm was broken and not her right. When she got a decent amount packed around his thigh, she sat back next to him. She felt exhausted from that little exertion,

“Stay awake Riley.”

Riley jerked a little, not even realizing she had drifted. “Sorry,” she said meekly.

“No, this is my fault.”

“It’s not.”

“I don’t even know what came over me.”

“A very powerful shade did. It got me out here too, so if you are guilty, so am I.”

“He tapped into the fact that I am a coward.”

“Like I told you Mike, you are no coward. You have no reason to be comfortable with this life, and yet you are still here. Even though you are afraid and try to avoid being directly involved when possible, you stick around. You help.”

“And like you said, every chance I get, I bail early.”

“And when you can’t do that, you never complain, and you never shirk your responsibilities. Most people would have quit a while ago, and even that wouldn’t be cowardly. You definitely aren’t.”

“It also tapped into my love for you.”

“You don’t love me Mike. That’s the shade.”

“It had to come from somewhere, and I was developing feelings for you before this case.”

“I didn’t say you didn’t feel something for me, I said you don’t love me. You have a crush, and it just pushed that feeling. I also didn’t choose Ethan over you, that’s not how attraction works, and you know that. My feelings for Ethan are separate from any potential attraction I could have had to you. I am also not the only one you like.”

Mike processed this for a bit. “Yeah. Yeah,” he agreed slowly.

“When we get out of here and away from this place, it will be easier to sort and deal with your emotions.”

“It was never going to happen anyway,” Mike admitted.

“What do you mean?”

“There is something there, something between you and Ethan. We’ve all noticed it. It’s special, and I don’t think anybody else has a chance with either of you.”

“We’ll see. I thought I felt it too, but every time I feel like we take a step forward, we end up taking two steps back,” Riley said sadly.

“Why did he do it this way?” Mike asked, wanting to change the subject.

“He probably drained a lot of his power with what happened earlier. He needed to indirectly go after me this time. Also, probably to scare and panic me while we sit here waiting for help.”

“Will we be helped?”

“Yes. Worst case, they will just have to comb the woods looking for us. However, I am guessing that they have a plan to take him out, once he’s gone, the barrier will be too. I can also try to push through it.”

“Should you push yourself that hard? You are already connected to so many spirits and your overload earlier.”

“I will wait for a bit and see if pushing through the barrier is needed. But if it comes down to it, I am ready to deal with the consequences.”

When dawn broke, Ethan stretched in the base and went to make coffee. He had woken up in the middle of the night to relieve Josh. He needed Josh, Gabrielle, and Daniel well rested for the day. He resented the fact that he didn’t have abilities like them at times. He resented it even more on this case because he knew Daniel carried most of the work. It was hard sitting back and just giving orders occasionally. He wanted to be more involved. Help his team more.

Once he had a cup of coffee, he read over the research and the plan again. Lord Thompson and London at the turn of the century were not all that specific, but there was one fitting that description that they were sure was their shade. He had been loosely linked to the disappearance of some young women during his life before he moved to America when suspicions got stronger. Ethan was worried because he seemed so bold in life, so that meant he must be even more confident in death. Thompson hadn’t stuck to lowly people that most wouldn’t notice. No he killed those that were impossible to ignore.

He wasn’t afraid to get caught. He wasn’t afraid of death. He was unlikely to be afraid of the consequences of his life as a spirit. He was powerful and willing to lose it all. It was a dangerous combination. Ethan was also convinced that nothing would ever stop his obsession with Riley, which made a white-hot rage run through him. He would not allow this or any other spirit or human to take her.

Ethan knew the others would be waking soon, and he could not wait. He wanted to get this over with and wanted to get Riley somewhere safe. Even if their conversations moving forward were uncomfortable and even drove her away. As long as she was safe. Timm would stick with her, and Ethan could be sure that she was protected that way. He had opened this can of worms when he worked with her, and her powers would never be dormant again. Even if she wanted to be away from them, he would make sure she was protected. No matter the cost.

“Riley!” Emily yelled out, and Ethan’s head jerked up. It felt like an ice-cold hand was squeezing his heart. “Is she in here?” Emily ran in, looking panicked.

Ethan was about to answer when they heard Josh’s voice yelling out for Mike.

“Oh no,” Emily said.

Everybody quickly arrived at the base, looking a bit desperate themselves.

“Team up and spread out, only look in the lodge and then meet back here,” Ethan barked quickly and moved off with Daniel.

It took the team only 10 minutes to cover the whole of the lodge. “They must be in the forest,” Emily said, moving towards the door, but Josh grabbed her.

“We need to take care of the shade first, Emily.”

“How can you even say that?” Emily yelled at him.

“Because he likely caused whatever happened to them, so will not let us get to them easily,” Ethan answered. “Our best bet is to get this ritual over quickly, then we can search.”

“He’s right Emily. I know you are scared. We are too. The quicker we take care of him, the quicker we can go look for them and get them to safety,” Gabrielle jumped in.

“How quickly can you get the ritual together?” Ethan asked.

“Should only take a bit,” Daniel said, and he and Josh and Gabrielle quickly began to move.

Riley and Mike had mostly grown silent. When the sun rose, Riley began to panic a bit. She wasn’t sure how late it was when the shade called her out, but she knew they must have been down here for several hours. She looked over at Mike, who was starting to turn pale, and his breathing seemed more shallow.

“How’s your bleeding?” Riley asked.

“Not great,” Mike said with a forced smile. “I thought it would stop, but it’s only

slowed a little.”

“Okay, screw this,” Riley said and began to concentrate. As she reached, she could feel the barrier again but kept pushing. She felt Mike grab her shoulder.

“Riley don’t. Wait for the barrier to drop.”

“No, you aren’t dying in this damn hole, and I am not even 100% sure they have a plan.”

“Riley,” Mike tried, but she shushed him harshly.

Riley closed her eyes again and felt down to her core, the place she had tapped into when she pushed out the other day. She focused her breathing, ignoring the buzzing in her head from the fall, and pushed everything out but herself. Then she began to reach. The barrier would be hard to get by, but she could do it. Would do it.

Mike watched her nervously, and felt like he was watching her very life force drain from her. He wanted to stop her, but she had been so determined. He needed to trust her. Silently he began praying that whatever the team was doing would work, and they would come soon before Riley pushed too far.

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