Nathaniel managed, with the help of both his father and his ghostly grandfather, to bring up his flagging grades just prior to graduation. His hard work paid off, the final report card reflecting a strong B across the board. Taking his father’s advice, he decided to follow his creative spirit and got a job in the writing profession. He saw many things, including the entire reportage of his uncle Braylon’s trial and just what the man had been accused of.
Nathaniel stared at the computer in disbelief. “He killed my mother? He killed my mother!” When he got home from work, he cautiously asked his father about it. Both Ayden and the spectre of Erik sat him down on the couch and explained the whole thing to him.
“I’m sorry you had to read about it like that, son,” Ayden said.
“Why didn’t you just tell me?”
“Because you were only twelve at the time of the trial,” Erik said. “It was terrible enough you were without a mother at that tender age. We couldn’t risk further damage knowing she died at the hands of a heretofore trusted family member.”
“We. You all conspired to withhold the truth.”
“For your own good,” Ayden said. “But, now that you know, please feel free to ask me anything about it.”
“Just who are the Mobwives and are any of us safe from them?” Nathaniel said, keeping his eyes on those of his father’s. He had read all kinds of articles speculating about the possibility of a threat to the then Captain Ayden Cantrell and his family. Nathaniel was well aware security around their house and on their street had been beefed up. Ayden’s sigh was long, and Nathaniel noticed he looked away before he spoke.
“There’s no definitive answer to that I can give. It behooves all of us to watch our backs. Except — well, perhaps Gramps doesn’t have to be on his guard so much.” Ayden gave a wry grin, to which the ghostly Erik just shrugged.
“So, have you looked into what happened to Auntie Patrice? I know she was up there in days, but she was very active. Her death came out of the blue. So — sudden. And don’t bother to sugar-coat it. I’ve seen the pictures the National Simquirer published. Looks like a crime scene to me.”
“No, and I’ll tell you why not.” Ayden suddenly looked older to his son. Clearly the Sim was bearing a terrible burden. “She told me to just let it alone.”
“Before or aft—”
“I see ghosts, you know.”
“So, it was a hit.” Nathaniel blinked back the tears that stung his eyes. Even having read the articles, talking about the situation, the triple tragedy really, that his family had suffered was almost more than he could bear. In the months that followed, he worked hard, trying to make something of himself. Seeing just how lonely his father was, a widower all of these years, he also worked at finding the right woman to help him thrust the Cantrell family forward. The last thing he wanted was to die before his own children married. He had a strong desire to know his future grandchildren — in person and not through some supernatural shroud. However, in some ways he was following more in his grandfather’s footsteps.
He liked Jackie and Jackie appeared to like him, but even when she invited him out for an evening, she would suddenly disappear on him. That left him time, once, to get acquainted with another girl. Laticsha, or whatever it was. Her name was just too hard to pronounce. Before long, the potential for that relationship didn’t blossom, as he’d hoped. Fizzling out altogether. Due to lack of interest on both of their parts, no doubt.
Then one evening Nathaniel looked up and across the dance floor was a very cute blonde Sim. He had just finished showing off some rather slick dance moves before a most appreciative crowd that left him feeling decidedly confident. Nathaniel went over and introduced himself to her. There was something there between them, an immediate spark, an attraction, that he sensed right off. Her name was Sophia. Which, when translated from the original Greek, meant wisdom. He liked the fact he could pronounce it, at least. They chatted, they flirted. She was single, so was he. They exchanged cell phone numbers, something he hadn’t bothered to do with the others. Nathaniel was very excited about her. As if, maybe, he’d found the One.
In the meantime, his father started becoming more social again, too. Nathaniel wondered how much of his seclusion was his mourning Jade, or if the threat of an ‘accident’ was enough to all but make the Sim a recluse. Ayden did seem to really like this Morgan Fryes he’d met on one outing. Morgan was a mixologist, but Nathaniel was always bothered by how often she refused to make drinks whenever she visited and was asked. Also, when she did make drinks, they weren’t really very tasty. This bothered him and he had questions. Many, many questions.
Knowing everything he knew about the crimes and the threats, Nathaniel was still unprepared for what happened. He was up late one night, working on his latest attempt at a novel, since his boss required him to write. Finally, in the middle of the night, he went upstairs to his room to turn in. A short time later, he could hear the whispers and a few outbursts of giggles, as two somebody’s were climbing the stairs to the second floor.
He heard his father’s bedroom door open and shut. Smiling to himself, Nathaniel crawled into bed. Well, the Sim was lonely, after all. A widower for several years, now. He often talked about a certain young woman, Morgan, whom he seemed to have feelings for. But, Ayden was in his late eighties now. Nathaniel was certain he was thinking of him and Jaylen and refused to marry again, not wishing to derail their inheritance in any way. What little there was. The Sim in question was still well young enough to have babies. Shaking off his thoughts, Nathaniel rolled over and fell asleep.
Moments later, or so it seemed, Nathaniel heard a loud thump from the other bedroom and swung out of his bed. That’s when he heard the screams coming from his father’s bedroom, a few feet away. He rushed to see just what was going on.
“Ayden! Oh, my gawd, Ayden!” Morgan Fryes screamed at the top of her lungs. Pushing open the door, Nathaniel saw his eighty-eight day old father prone upon the floor. He glanced over at Morgan, scantily clad in a short black negligee, holding a pillow over herself, doing her best to look frantic. Putting two and two together, Nathaniel realized his father went out with a bang. He must have desired some woohoo and over-exerted his old self. But, why would his father be so careless? Ayden had consumed a Youth Potion to give him more time. This made no sense to him. Mobwives, the thought wafted through his head. Was this a hit, made to look like an accident? They don’t normally investigate accidents …
Nathaniel knelt on the floor, put a shaky hand to his father’s throat. There was no pulse. Fumbling, he grabbed his father’s cell phone from the dresser and called the police. “Hello, no this isn’t Chief Cantrell, this is his son, Nathaniel. Something has happened. We need a bus. Oh, gawd, I think he’s dead!”
Glancing upward, he caught the expression on Morgan’s face. She looked terrified. “Why did you go and call the police?” She all but screamed at him. “We were just having some fun, a night of woohoo. Your father was very flirty, and just so … so, well he just wanted more, let’s say. It was his idea—”
“I — um,”
“Is that true?” Jaylen said from the doorframe. He glared at the woman with steely blue eyes.
“I think I should just be going,” Morgan fretted. She quickly grabbed up her clothing .
“You’re not going anywhere until the police get here.” Jaylen blocked the doorway. Looking at Nathaniel, he said, “You did call the police, right?”
Before Morgan could get one leg into her black leggings, the officers from out front were slamming up the stairs to the only lit room in the house.
“Save your voice,” Nathaniel said, as he pointed behind him. “Right over there.” As the two officers knelt over the body of their new chief, Nathaniel spoke again, nodding his head toward the young woman now seated awkwardly on the edge of the double bed, dressed in a short, filmy black negligee, with only one leg partially into a legging. “You may wish to speak to her. She is the only actual witness,” he said.
“You sound just like your father, son,” one officer said, glancing up. “Sure you won’t consider joining the force?”
“Not cut out for it. I’d rather write, instead. Maybe I’ll become a journalist and just cover these things.”
The wagon was called for and then the two officers went over the perceived ‘crime scene’, leaving nothing unturned. Then they gathered up Morgan in her skimpy state of dress and hauled her downtown to the station for what they called “a chat”.
Nathaniel sat in his room for a long time, inert. Then he finally went downstairs and climbed into the closet in his younger brother’s room and had himself a good cry. He just couldn’t shake the incredible gloom that had settled over him. First his mother, and now his dear father. Ayden, who had meant everything to him. His father who took all care to ensure his sons a good upbringing, alone as he was. Ayden, who despite all the odds and the threats, made it to the top of his career. He was the Chief of Police in Willow Creek. And, now he was dead.
After a time, Nathaniel sent a text to Sophia. A sad text. A few moments later, he sent another one. When she answered, she invited him over to her place. Her text message: You sound really sad, come over and we’ll hang out. First thing Sophia did was wrapped her slender arms around Nathaniel and held him tight. Nathaniel wished he could stay in the cocoon of her arms forever. For the briefest moment, he felt secure and the gloom lifted just a little.
Nathaniel and Jaylen, under the guidance of their ghostly grandfather organized the funeral. There was a huge turnout. The entire Police Force in their dress blues, family, friends. After the grave side service was complete, the Honor Guard gave Ayden a three-volley salute, shooting blanks into the air. Nathaniel jumped with each pop. Squaring his shoulders, he tried to withhold the tears. Before long, he was taking the handkerchief from his pocket. The shots made it so final. Dad was gone.
Standing under the great oak tree where Ayden would be interned, Nathaniel, with Sophia hugged tight to his side, stood silently saying goodbye. Morgan Fryes came up beside him.
“What are you doing here?” Nathaniel said, curtly. “Shouldn’t you be locked up or something?”
“I had my ‘chat’ with the police and they let me go. I didn’t do it, Nathaniel. I just wanted you to know. You’re wrong about me. I loved your Dad. He was the dearest, sweetest man I’ve ever met. He treated me like a lady. No one has ever done that.”
“So you honored him by woohooing him to death! I can’t believe you.”
“Your Dad was lonely and we were just having a little bit of fun. He was tense. I thought I could help.” A tear spilled down her face. “Don’t look at me that way. I didn’t mean for it to happen, I swear. I don’t think I’ll ever woohoo with anyone ever again. You can’t, for a minute, even understand how it makes me feel.”
“You’re right, I can’t know how you feel. I’ve heard of ‘killer women’ before, I just never expected to meet one in person. You know,” Nathaniel looked thoughtful for a moment. “I may have a solution for you.”
“Yeah, what’s that?” Morgan said.
“You could join a convent and then all of Simanity will be safe.”
Sophia drew back from him slightly, slapping him on the upper arm. “Nate,” she said, “you need to forgive her.”
For a moment he looked chastened. Shaking his head, he gazed over at Sophia. “I don’t think I can. Not yet.” When Sophia’s look of dismay met his gaze, Nathaniel shrugged. “I’ll work on it, I promise.”
With that, Sophia held him tight.
For Morgan Fryes, she merely turned on her heel, handkerchief in hand, and quietly left the cemetery.