Tuesday afternoon — 1:15 P.M. University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
Tanesha stepped off the bus and was immediately surrounded by the paparazzi. Twenty or more sweaty men pressed against her. Her only option was to move forward. She pushed and “excuse med” her way out of the center of the circle. Once free, she took off running.
Screaming at the top of their lungs, the photographers followed her onto campus.
They wanted to know about Jeraine.
They wanted a photo of her that could prove that she was struggling.
They wanted to hear how angry she was at Jeraine.
They called her “weak,” “stupid,” or worse for staying with him.
They thought Jeraine should divorce her because she was such an idiot.
On and on they went. Tanesha ran toward the 500 building where her next class was located. She got within ten feet of the building when University of Colorado security ran to meet her. They ushered her into the building.
She bent forward with her hands on her knees and tried to catch her breath. As she stood there, passing by students muttered their own thoughts. She was destroying the school. She was a drama queen and on and on.
If she hadn’t invented this drama, she would have been really crushed by the students comments. She waited for a moment for Cody. Her co-conspirator was supposed to videotape the paparazzi for Jeraine’s big conference. He came through the door.
“Did you get it?” Tanesha asked.
She stood up to walk off her sprint.
“Every word,” Cody said. He held out the smartphone Schmidty had given him. “Did that guy really punch you?”
“Punch me?” Tanesha asked.
“In the ribs,” Cody said. “I think it was to slow you down.”
Tanesha pulled up her fleece sweater and her shirt. Her side was red and a welt was rising.
“I’m going to take a picture,” Cody said.
Tanesha nodded. Cody took a picture with his phone. Tanesha waited while he sent all the files to Schmidty.
“Did you study?” Tanesha asked.
“Are you ready?” Tanesha asked.
“Can you be ready for this kind of thing?” Cody asked.
They were taking practice exams for their year-end finals.
“You know, this should only show your weaknesses so you can strengthen them,” Tanesha said.
“I liked the whole ‘holes in the dike” metaphor,” Cody said.
“Where’s Fin?” Cody asked.
“He said he’ll meet us there,” Tanesha said with a shrug.
“Did his wife have her baby?” Cody asked.
“Not yet,” Tanesha said.
Cody nodded. He gestured to the stairs and they ran up to their class.
“We’ve been in here a long time,” Noelle said. She stood up. “I know we can see the ghosts in the sword, but are you sure they …”
Noelle stopped talking when Katy and Paddie’s heads turned in unison to look at her. Paddie’s big blue eyes and Katy’s large dark eyes gave her a tired blink in near unison. Their faces were smudged and they looked very young. Noelle realized that if she gave up, the kids would do something to appease her and then do it on their own. Noelle nodded and changed tack.
“I think we need help,” Noelle said.
“What kinda help?” Paddie asked.
“Mike said that Val said that there’s a lady ghost here,” Noelle said. “She was really nice to Val when she snuck in here and saw the painting Mike and I worked on. Mike said that if I see her, I should pay attention to what she looks like. He’d like to make a painting of her to say thanks.”
“I don’ like ghosts,” Paddie said.
The boy’s bottom lip showed a glimmer of a vibration before he realized he shouldn’t be afraid. In an imitation of his fierce grandfather, Paddie scowled which only made him look younger. Katy instinctively kissed his cheek and he blushed.
“I think Noelle is right,” Katy said. “My daddy said that he left the ghost here because she was nice and protective of children. I bet she would help us.”
“Okay,” Paddie said.
“You belong to the Sword of Truth, right?” Noelle asked. “And the Sword of Truth belongs to you, right?”
“So you’re like a living extension of the sword,” Noelle said.
Paddie and Katy nodded in unison.
“You should be able to see the children’s ghosts,” Noelle said.
Paddie looked down at the sword.
“With your eyes,” Noelle said.
Paddie’s big eyes blinked at Noelle for a moment as he gathered his courage. He nodded.
“Just say I want to see,” Katy said in his ear.
“But I don’t,” Paddie whispered.
Katy reached for his hand and he grabbed hers.
“We’ll do it together,” Katy said.
Paddie looked at her and then nodded.
“I want to see,” Paddie said.
Katy and Noelle watched Paddie’s face.
“Oh,” Paddie said.
“Oh?” Katy asked.
“They’re just kids,” Paddie said. Looking straight ahead, he said, “Does anybody talk English?”
There was silence.
“What’s happening?” Noelle whispered Katy.
“I don’t know,” Katy said.
“Can you make it so we can see too?” Noelle asked.
With a blink of Katy’s eye, they were surrounded by thousands of child ghosts.
“Eep!” Noelle said with surprised scream.
Noelle jumped back and hit the wall. Katy and Paddie looked at her.
“Spirits are like people,” Delphie said. “They are drawn to warmth, kindness, and love. This school is a safe place. That could have brought them as well.”
Julie’s head bobbed up and down in a nod as she thought about what Delphie said. After a moment, her face contorted with confusion.
“Are you saying the school is on an old Indian burial ground?” Julie asked.
“No,” Jacob said. “In the first place, it’s not on any burial ground. In the second place, the whole Indian burial ground thing is a way of saying Indians aren’t Christians. Since heathens can’t get into heaven, they must be evil.”
“That’s just not true,” Delphie said.
“I never thought about it,” Julie said. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry,” Jill said. “Ghosts, burial grounds — it’s not like the knowledge is taught in school.”
“Do you remember Paddie’s classroom?” Aden asked. He looked at Jill and then Jacob. “I didn’t pay that much attention to the younger grades classrooms.”
“You don’t have any kids there,” Jill said with a smile.
“Rachel will be there soon enough,” Aden said. “I guess I was focused on making Nash and Teddy’s return to the Marlowe School a positive experience for everyone.”
“They’re going to thrive here,” Jill said. Aden gave her a vague nod. Smiling, Jill continued, “And, as for Paddie’s classroom, I remember it, but I don’t have any idea where Katy’s talking about.”
“Hi,” Sandy said as she came in the door. “Sorry I’m late. I was with a client when you called.”
“Sorry you have to come,” Jacob said.
“Hi Julie,” Sandy said.
“Did you bring the plans?” Jacob asked.
For a moment, everyone looked at Sandy. She blushed at their attention and took a roll of paper from the cotton bag over her shoulder. Jacob smiled his thanks and took the building plans. He and Aden went to the table and rolled out them out. Jill went around to the other side. Jacob flipped through the plans until he came up with the floor Paddie’s classroom was on.
“Ugh!” Jacob said with groan.
“What is it?” Jill asked.
“We put a utility space there.” Jacob pointed to a square box that ran the entire height of the building. “Remember, Jill, we put a ladder from floor to floor.”
“And an access panel,” Jill said. “We were going to wire the school for the Internet but found that WiFi was more effective.
“Is this access panel in Paddie’s classroom?” Julie asked.
“Probably,” Jill said. “I’d have to check with Heather to be sure but…”
“That’s where they are,” Delphie said with a confident nod.
“And where did the ghosts come from?” Aden asked.
Jacob slowly moved his head back and forth in “No.” Then he stopped. He stared straight ahead for a brief moment before looking at Delphie.
“We sealed the building,” Jacob said.
“Every wall, door, floor, ceiling,” Delphie said.
“From the inside,” Jacob said.
“Oh,” Delphie said before giving an embarrassed laugh.
Jill, Julie, Aden, and Sandy gawked at Delphie and Jacob.
“What’s going on?” Aden asked.
“We sealed the building from magic, ghosts, really anything paranormal,” Jacob said.
“Dark energy, too,” Delphie said.
“But we just sealed the inside,” Jacob said. “Our thinking was that we wanted to ensure the children were safe.”
“The building is just exterior wall, insulation, sound deadening, interior wall,” Delphie said.
“Except in this utility space,” Aden said with dawning awareness.
“The kid ghost could have come from anywhere and just collected there,” Jacob said with a nod. “I see what Katy means by saving the kids. These souls are stuck here and would need help moving on.”
“Especially if they’re kids,” Delphie said.
Jacob nodded. Sandy watched him for a moment before glancing at Jill.
“I’m kinda missing something here,” Sandy said. “Our children are stuck in the walls of this school with a bunch of dead kids’ ghosts, right?”
“In this utility space,” Jacob said.
“What are we going to do to get them out?” Sandy asked.
“Good question,” Jill said.
The women looked at Jacob. He put his hands on his hips and looked down.