Ghost Trick: Twisted Fates
Chapter 1: A Tough Case
It had been over a year since that single, Fateful Night where all of our fates had changed. I had been happy living with the Good Detective, the Little Lady and the Beloved Mother in the ten or so years that had been born from night, with occasional visits from the Redhead and her Valiant Doggie, as well as the Loose & Lanky Lawman. Usually these visits were a reason to celebrate. But not tonight.
Tonight's meeting was quiet and grim. Only three of my extended family was seated, and they were all deep in thought; the Good Detective's face was lined with worry as he poured over maps, Loose & Lanky was not at all his festive self as he shuffled photographs, the Redhead tried to stay awake as she flicked through pages of reports.
The mood was tense. Finally, Loose & Lanky groaned and let his face fall to the table. "What is it, what are we missing heeere?!" he cried out in frustration.
"Easy Cabanela," reassured the Good Detective. "He'll have to mess up eventually…"
"Sorry Jowd, but I'm with the Inspector on this one," grumbled Lynne, the Redhead, "It's only been a month, but this creep's already killed five people, and he's gonna strike again soon. We don't have time to wait for him to 'mess up'."
"Take it easy Lynne," said the Good Detective. "I've seen hardened veterans lose their heads over these sorts of cases."
"Jowd's right," Loose & Lanky sat upright and stretched his back, clearly trying to fight his exhaustion. "You're not a rookie anymore, but you still lack the long-time experience. We wouldn't think any less of you if you sat this one out, baby."
"No way!" Lynne got up and slammed her hands on the table. "I promised I'd help you guys catch this sicko, ok?! The only way you'd get me off this case is over my dead bod-"
"Watch what you say, baby, you never knooow who might be listening," Loose & Lanky said warningly. "And considering the circumstances, even a simple figure of speech is in real baaad taste."
It was rare that Loose and Lanky was this serious, and Lynne knew it. Shocked, she sat back down without a word.
"I-I'm sorry, sir."
"Its fine baby," he took his fingers and began rubbing his temples. "I think we're all just tired…"
"You three still at it?"
All of us turned to face the Beloved Mother as she entered the room carrying a tray of homemade cookies and a jug of fresh coffee. These vital supplies were gratefully accepted, but the original trio were careful to keep Beloved Mother from getting too close to the table.
"Just what are you three working on anyway, dear?" she asked the Good Detective as he took the tray and jug off her hands.
"It's not the sort of thing suitable for friendly chit-chat, Alma."
"Gosh, is it really that bad?"
He gave a simple nod of the head as his reply. "Please do me a favour when you're done here, sweetheart. Could you go check on Kamila and make absolutely certain she's asleep? This is not the sort of thing I want her asking questions about."
Beloved Mother complied and hurried in the direction of the Little Lady's room.
By now, my curiosity was well and truly stirred. Stretching myself as I got up, I left the comfort of the sofa and made my way to the table where the three were seated, and began the rub myself against Lynne's leg. She looked down towards me, somewhat disinterested.
"Oh, hey Sissel."
I started mewing plaintively, hoping one of them would eventually pick me up and place me on their lap so I could get a look at the files and photos myself, but this only seemed to irritate them, and they were in no mood to bother themselves with me.
"Ugh, not now Sissel!"
"Scat!" said Loose & Lanky, waving his hands and me to chase me away. "Bad kitty – shoo!"
I hoped that the Good Detective at least would understand that I simply wanted to get up on the table without intending to cause trouble, but his mind was clearly on this case. He picked me up and took me towards the garden.
"Sorry Sissel," he said, as he put me outside. "But we're just all too busy tonight."
Perhaps it was too much to hope for the Good Detective to correctly interpret my behaviour. While he and I were among the few to retain our memories of that Fateful Night, we had lost the ability to speak with each other directly. The Valiant Doggie was another who had retained these memories and recent circumstances had reopened our line of communication. But he had been left at Lynne's apartment, and either way I doubt he'd have fared any better at communicating with my human friends as I had done. For a house cat like me, this is certainly frustrating. But I had retained other abilities that proved very useful in situations like this.
My 'Ghost Tricks' were one of the perks that came with walking the thin line that separates life from death. These days I had very little use for them; apart from one unfortunate incident involving the Valiant Doggie, tonight was the first time I had seen a need to use them since that Fateful Night.
Separating one's soul from one's own body at will is always an odd sensation, and don't think I'll ever really get used to it. Some humans claim to have achieved this, but I find these dubious at best. These humans say that when separate from their own bodies, they are able to float around as freely as birds. But I was restricted to whatever everyday items were left within my reach. As I left my unconscious body behind me, I made my way towards the garden hose, and from there I made my way through the kitchen wall into the dishwashing machine, though all the pots and pans, winding my ways through chairs and creeping up the display case and into the ceiling lights. I now had a full overhead view of the table, and could clearly see what my three friends had scattered upon it.
What I saw would've made my fur stand on end.
The crime-scene photos presented the same gruesome scenes – five mutilated bodies, various ages and both sexes, dumped like old trash. Their faces were contorted into hideous expressions, showing they had struggled to the very end just to stay alive.
"We know these few facts," said the Good Detective. "One; he kidnaps his victims from crowded places, two; he keeps them alive as long as possible while he tortures them at an as yet unknown location, three; once they're dead he dumps them in public places for everyone to see –"
"And four," said Lynne glumly, "he doesn't leave any evidence at the scene."
The three of them were quiet as contemplated this awful situation. I knew myself that if I still had my stomach with me it would be churning itself into knots.
Finally, Loose & Lanky took his coffee cup, took a huge gulp and said, "I hate serial killers on the best of days. But I what I reeealy hate is the smart ones."
The next morning, the Good Detective received the bad news – another body had been discovered, this time at the children's playground at Temsik Park. The Good Detective was pretty beat up about it, since it was a particular favourite with the Little Lady. Usually, I avoided getting involved with the work of my family, but since this case seemed to be causing them so much distress, I felt I should at least look around and see if I could pick one something they might have missed, and lead them in the right direction.
I used my Ghost Tricks to follow the telephone line, figuring that the Good Detective's friends wouldn't appreciate a cat messing around the crime scene. I'd left my body in a safe place back home so I wouldn't have to dig myself out of a backyard grave when I returned. One of the few disadvantages of being one of the living dead, I suppose.
When I arrived at the park's public phone, the police had already taped off the area, but there had also been a huge tent set up, covering most of the playground from public sight. I saw Loose & Lanky walk inside. Walk. Like a normal person. I knew that this couldn't be good.
I jumped from the phone onto a policeman's baton as he headed inside the tent. I honestly thought after seeing those horrible photographs, I'd be prepared for what I was about to see. How wrong I was.
This new victim, a middle-aged office worker by the look of him, had his limbs bent into impossible positions and threaded through the spinning globe, it was clear the killer would've needed to break the victim's limbs that in order to achieve this. A chain from the swing set had torn off and tightened around the victim's throat, so viciously that the metal of the chain had started to rip at the skin. The poor man's stomach had been sliced open, and it looked as if its contents were slowly oozing out. As awful as those photographs were, seeing it up close was much, much worse.
What really got to me though was this man's face – like the people in the photographs, it was twisted into an expression of pure and desperate terror. My mind felt numb as I remembered how the Good Detective had mentioned how this murderer liked to 'torture' his victims. Until last night I had never even heard of that word, but from what I understood of last night's discussion, torture was anything that a person did deliberately to cause a person as much pain as possible. And now that pain was permanently etched on that man's face, for the whole world to see. Lynne was already there, along with an older man with a pigeon on his head, who I recognised as the Professor. He was sticking some sort of metal rod into the victim's body.
Lynne was struggling to control herself, "Can you believe this creep?! It's bad enough he's killing these people in the first place, but to display them like this!"
"It's as if he's mocking us," grumbled Loose & Lanky. "Which is all the more reason we've gotta keep our heads on straight."
At this point the Professor pulled the rod from the victim and checked a gage that was attracted to it. "He's been dead six hours," he muttered.
Loose & Lanky let out a groan, "Only an hour before sunrise. How the heck does this guy dump a body in a place like this without anyone seeeeing him?!"
I decided it was time for me to get a closer look at this victim. My plan was simple – I would use my Ghost Tricks to prevent the man's death, but I would also give him the opportunity to encounter the serial killer, just long enough for our victim to pick up any information helpful to the police. A living witness might just be the break they needed.
But that wasn't going to happen. It wasn't that I couldn't find a solution to help this man survive or escape. I didn't even manage to get that far. I had only just switched into the Ghost World when I noticed something very wrong: this man had no "Core of the Dead".
Despite this blow to my plans, I didn't think too much of it. After all, when I was first learning how to use my Ghost Tricks, I had been told that I would be unable to use them on anyone who had been dead for more than a day. I had never truly come across someone who had been dead that long, so I had I not known any better I might've considered that as a possibility in this case. But then again, the Professor had clearly stated that this fellow had only been deceased for six hours – what reason could there be to explain this, then? It was true that I had not used my Ghost Tricks for a while, and I knew from past experience that they could change over time. Had I simply lost my power to prevent death?
I wasn't contemplating this puzzle for too long though, as my thoughts we interrupted by a cry from outside.
"Hold it right there, ya punk!"
That was the voice of the Good Detective, and he did not sound pleased. Just about everyone in the tent rushed outside to see what was going on, including Loose & Lanky and Lynne, although the Professor showed no interest and chose to stay behind. I wanted to see what was going on, so I hitched a ride on Lynne's notebook.
The Good Detective was mad alright, and it seemed to be directed mainly at the young man he was holding in a very tight headlock. The young man, probably about Lynne's age, was a brown-skinned scrawny-looking fellow with messy hair and darks ring under his eyes, wearing a faded denim jacket over a red tee-shirt, pair of stained cargo shots and flimsy sandals, with a sizable camera hanging from his neck. He was struggling desperately against the Good Detective, but was it an uneven match.
"I just got here," the Good Detective huffed, "when I caught him snooping around…!"
Lynne's eye's narrowed, and she looked the Scrawny Fellow straight in the eye and growled out a name, "Reynard Charivari. What a surprise…"
Scrawny stopped struggling and gave a huge grin, "Well, you're looking good, Linny-"
"That's Officer Lynne to you, you louse!"
"We've warned you before, kid," said Lean & Lanky, folding his arms and glaring at the Scrawny Snooper, "this is a crime scene – unless you're a cop it's a no-go zone."
"Aw c'mon guys, whatever happened to freedom of the press?" Scrawny whined.
"There's a time and place for that," snarled the Good Detective, keeping his grip. "And it sure as hell ain't here!"
"Hey, I've gotta eat too pal. If I don't get a scoop on the Twister…!"
"The what?" Loose & Lanky's eyes were bulging in horror.
"The Twister – that's what we're calling this guy! Geez, don't you read 'Tough Truths'? We've got a great celebrity section!"
Loose & Lanky was back to rubbing his temples, Lynne was wearing an expression as if she'd just been slapped across the face with a dead fish, and the Good Detective looked as if he wanted to rip off Scrawny's head. I quickly got the feeling that this Scrawny Snooper was the kind of guy who didn't quite know when to shut up.
Finally, the Good Detective grabbed Scrawny by his shirt collar and started dragging him towards the police line.
"Aw, gimme a break, the chief's gonna have my keister if I don't get results. Hey, I know – you guys give me the exclusive scoop and get y'all a life-time subscription, eh? I'll even put yer faces on the front page and everythiii-woAOH!"
The Good Detective had literally thrown Scrawny back over the police line, and I winced slightly as he landed with a thud on the other side. The Good Detective dusted himself off and stormed back towards the tent.
"Jerk," growled Lynne.
"You heard he said, right baby? The Twister – holy cow."
"This day keeps better and better," groaned the Good Detective. "I'd promised Kamila I'd take her here after school today…"
"They've given him a naaame, Jowd. It's never good news when they get a nickname…"
"I hear you, Cabanela… knowing that they're getting famous just makes things worse…"
I could hear the frustration in the Good Detective's voice, and I knew that I wasn't getting anywhere in helping them by just sticking around here eavesdropping. I must've zipped all over the park looking for something, anything that I might lead the Good Detective and the others to, but nothing jumped out at me and I soon came to the unpleasant realization that I had no idea what I might be looking for. I finally settled at the teeter-totter, frustrated.
Then the swing started to move.
I was certain that there was no wind. I looked towards the big tree just to be sure – not a rustle. It couldn't be, I thought to myself. There were only two ways that one could receive the Powers of the Dead - one had been removed for here long ago and locked away safely in some vault. The other was contained within my own body, back at home, and as far as I knew no one had perished within its presence. But there was no doubt that the swing was moving on its own, and I simply could not dismiss this. I switched into the Ghost World, just to be sure.
Sure enough, a flickering blue flaming was dancing on the seat of the swing – a soul with Powers of the Dead. My mind was swimming with the shock of this discovery, but at the same time I felt that there may be a glimmer of hope, that perhaps I had finally found a clue to the identity of the Twister. After all, who wasn't to say that this soul didn't belong to the poor officer worker hidden in the tent?
I wasted no time in leaping towards this wandering soul, eager for any information they were able to pass on.
"Hello?" I called out to it, "Who are you? Do you remember what happened to you?"
The soul did not take on a human form as I expected, but instead remained as a blue flame.
"That's odd," I thought to myself. "It shouldn't be unconscious if it's made it this far."
"Who's there?!" came the curt reply. "Who's speaking to me? Show yourself!"
I had forgotten that thoughts lost their privacy in the spirit world, so I was caught by surprise. I quickly recovered my senses, and waved a ghostly paw at this strange new spirit.
"Um, I did."
The ghost wavered a bit as if it were about to transform. A most peculiar face began to appear – a pair of staring white eyes, a bulbous red nose, thick black eyebrows with a matching moustache and a downturned mouth. This strange, cartoony face gave me a quick look over, its blank eyes narrowed in suspicion. Finally, he huffed, "What a joke. You honestly believe you can fool me to thinking a cat can talk?"
"Well, I'm not actually talking. It's more like our thoughts are being broadcast to one another – that's how it works it the World of the Dead."
"World of the…? World of the WHAT?!"
"World of the Dead," I repeated, feeling a little annoyed.
"What the hell is this? Where are we? Why are all those people over there ignoring me?"
"Um, well," I tried to pick my worlds carefully as a rather uncomfortable thought came into my mind. "I'm not quite sure how to tell you this, so I'll just say it – you're dead. This is the World of the Dead and right now all I'm looking at is your ghost."
There were a few uncomfortable moments of silence.
"Well then," I continued, "we should start by trying to figure out who exactly you a-"
"THIS IS RIDICULOUS! I have never been treated so shamefully in all my life! I am not dead and if I find you, boy, I swear you will regret it!"
The spirit jumped and sped off in the direction of the main road.
"Wait!" I called to it, "let me explain!"
But it had attached itself to a passing car and sped off before I could stop him.
After that unpleasant encounter, I felt far too frustrated and dejected to continue the hunt for clues, so I simply jumped down the phone line and returned home to my body. The Detective arrived home not long afterwards, and I could tell that he hadn't fared much better in his investigations despite his best efforts to remain cheerful in front of the Beloved Mother and the Little Lady.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, two questions were burning in my mind – what had become of that man's core? And where had that cantankerous, Toon-Faced Spirit gotten its powers?