Here is the Link to the Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, and Chapter 8
Hansen ported back to his office, it was 6:30. Only 30 minutes to get some research done before Trout would walk through the door. Enforcement had set up an office in a small two story office building. The office building was owned by a small newspaper. The enforcement office liked it because reporters spent a lot of time in the field, which meant empty offices and places to work. Not that many people, “came to work,” When you can travel anywhere instantly and you don’t have papers, or anything else physically you can work whenever you want. Most people did the majority of their work from whatever they called home. And Hansen was no exception, except that his only home was the office. And as a creature of habit, Hansen liked to sit in Rachel Redgars office. She was constantly gone, not too noisy when she was there and usually left her chair the perfect distance from her desk. So many people would tuck in their chair or leave it in an uncomfortable distance from the desk, but not Rachel. In addition, the office windows were nice and gave views into and out of the office.
He quickly got on his research while the sun began to rise behind him. His search started with trying to find any articles related to the manslaughter charge for Tom. Quickly he found three articles. Hansen looked at the authors of each and was pleased to see that one was written by Gaylord Shaw. Hansen never liked to give too much credit to journalists, but he liked Gaylord’s articles. Most journalists loved the flash of a new story and by the time the most meaningful information was drawn out they had moved on, failing to cover the most valuable points. Shaw, on the other hand, showed a little journalistic restraint and waited until the whole story came out.
Hansen began to read,
“On December 22nd Trish Wall, an accounting student at University of Wisconsin, was on her way home for Christmas. She prepared well for the trip, purchasing snow tires for her Volkswagen Passat, replacing her wiper blades, and even packing blankets in case she got stuck in the cold. But snow storms were not the danger she should have feared. On Highway 62, Thomas Worthlin, high on heroin and anger having just found his girlfriend in the arms of another man crossed into the oncoming lane and hit Trish, head on. Trish died instantly. Detective Bilstiff investigated the case.”
Hansen instinctively rolled his eyes, “I’ll bet he did.” Hansen said to himself.
The article quoted Detective Bilstiff. “While the man driving the large vehicle was clearly self impared, there was no evidence of mal intent on his part and the whole incident appears to be a serious but unfortunate event.”
“But despite the sad circumstances Trish is undeterred stating, “I plan to continue my education now that I'm here. I may change my major since I hear there aren’t many accountants. I’ll miss my parents but am glad for the support I’ve already got from Glena, my great-grandmother, she truly is great.” So while Trish appears to be taking this in stride the same cannot be said for her parents. Mr. & Mrs. Wall are devestated to loose their only daughter, and have faught fervently for a murder charge, followed by a life sentence. However, it appears that a plea deal with a manslaughter charge is more likely.”
Hansen glanced up at the clock and saw that it was 7:05. He had lost track of time, something he was prone to do, and regrettably was forced to set aside the article, “Where was Trout?”
Looking up he got his answer. There he stood looking in the window like a puppy in the rain, just outside the office door.
“Why didn’t he come in?” Hanson thought, and as soon as he thought it, realized his answer. He couldn’t port. He must have walked here and now was stuck outside the office. Hansen ported to where Trout was.
“Good morning Kid.”
Hansen could see Trout was anything but peppy but was not one for small talk so jumped into the one thing he always felt comfortable about, work.
“We have a ton to do today, but you are extremely limited and not as much use to me until you can port. So even though we don’t have time, let’s take a few minutes and learn how, shall we?” Hansen offered.
Trout left home with much on his mind. His wife’s night was particularly hard. And he spent much of it trying to comfort her. But trying to comfort her in his current state was much like trying to communicate over the phone when you can hear the other side but they can’t hear you. It was particularly hard for Trout when she, in her grief, called out to him, he’d reply, hold her and feel that she didn’t have any relief. As a couple they talked very little about life after death and he could sense her inner struggle, wanting to believe he still exists yet doubting its truth. But he was at work and tried to put his personal issues aside.
It was nice that it would start with a lesson on how to port. Ever since he’d seen Hanson first do it he wanted to learn how. When he first died that was the most surprising thing about being dead, he couldn’t walk through walls, people, nothing.
When he stood in front of living people and they walked forward they pushed him as if he wasn’t there. It was equivalent of a speck of dust being put in their path. They didn’t notice just as the dust didn’t bother the people neither did he. He was essentially a spec of dust that happened to be the size of a 6’ 2'' medium build body. This was extremely bothersome, even on his way here today. He was forced to wait until his son opened the door to get out of the house, a breeze sent him 2 blocks in the wrong direction, and then he had waited ten minutes for someone to walk into the front door, and then stood outside Hansens’ office for several minutes before Hansen noticed him there. His goal was to be there by 6:30 and he arrived at 6:59. So perhaps aristotle's pupil wanted breath more than Trout wanted to learn how to port but not by much.
“Porting is simple, which makes it somewhat difficult. And before I tell you anything don’t ask me any of the science on how it works. I have no idea, but it does work. Basically there is a portion of your brain that controls your ability to move. Just like your brain can move your hand simply by thinking it, it can allow you to move quickly. I have heard it is at the speed of light, but I can’t verify that. All I know is that it is fast. Something about the speed also allows your body to compress and essentially travel through the voids in almost any material.
“The best way I can describe it is a baby learning to walk. They have the ability to control their legs but lack practice of how to control it. You need to try it. Put a place in your mind and tell yourself to go. Eventually it will be as easy as blinking your eye.”
Trout took a deep breath. “Should I try now.”
“Yeah, think of the hallway and tell yourself to go there.”
“Okay.” A second later he was gone, but not into the hallway.
Hansen rolled his eyes, thought of Trout and appeared next to him outside Trout's home, as quickly as he appeared Trout disappeared again.
“Why do I agree to take rookies?'' Hansen muttered as he quickly ported again and found himself standing on a rather lovely beach. Unfortunately the wind was also on the beach and Trout was whizzing by Hansen when he appeared. Years of porting into difficult situations made Hansen very quick on his feet. He grabbed Trout’s leg as he blew by and Trout found himself falling to the ground back in Hansen’s office.
“Sorry about that,” Trout said.
“That’s okay,” Hansen said, unconvincingly. “Like I said, it’s like learning to walk. It’s not easy, at first.”
“I’m not really sure what happened,” Trout admitted.
“You need to focus on the right place. Clearly somewhere in your mind you were thinking of home. Then when you tried to come back you had a momentary thought of how nice a beach would be. Was the beach we ended up at, one you like to go to?”
“Yeah, it was. I guess you’re right,” Trout admitted.
“When I first ported I found myself going back to the same place over and over again,” He said as he trailed off.
“Never mind. The good news is you ported. Controlling your thoughts when you port will come with time. Good first try. A few things to remember, don’t panic, no matter where you end up or how bad it seems. Relax, no matter where you port, you can quickly port somewhere else, as long as you keep your wits. For example, your beach. Had the wind been stronger, you could easily have been 10 miles off the coast, but that’s fine, you can port back. The second thing to know is that whomever you are touching when you port will come with you. Lastly, don’t try to be tricky and port into drawers or bottles, most of the time you simply end up porting near them, but if you are successful it’s terribly uncomfortable.
Hansen put his hand on Trout’s shoulder and said, “Go ahead and port us to Caden’s.”
“Caden’s? Okay, here it goes.” They appeared in front of a suburban home that looked somewhat like Caden’s but wasn’t. “Sorry about that. My Sister-in-law lives here. I noticed yesterday that their home was similar to Caden’s.
“Valiant effort,” Hansen said as he put his hand back on Trout’s shoulder and they were now staring at Caden sitting on his couch.
“Good, you guys got here. I was worried you’d leave me behind. I’m finding death a bit boring. I can’t read books, can’t watch TV except when Daisy turns it on, I actually sat through an entire episode of Murder She Wrote yesterday.”
“Did Daisy do anything out of the ordinary last night?” Hansen asked.
“Ordinary for Daisy or ordinary for a woman who lost her husband?”
Hansen didn’t care to answer the question and simply said, “Either.”
“She cried, ate some ice cream, called a good friend, cried again, and then watched, Murder She Wrote. Definitely not her normal routine, but nothing suspicious if that is what you are asking.” Pausing he added, “I hope you don’t think my wife did it.”
“I don’t think your wife did it,” Hansen quickly came back, “but I always assume I’m wrong.”
“Good,” Caden started. “Wait a minute?”
Before Caden could push the issue, Hansen moved on, “We need to spend some time with this Jim before my favorite Captain gets to meet with your wife. But before we go, Caden,” Hansen did something no one thought possible and he got even more serious, “I’m not used to taking a fresh victim with me on investigations, don’t make me regret it. You stay with us, only speak when you are spoken to. You answer questions, don’t ask.”
“Absolutely,” Caden said. “Mums the word. I’m just very excited to be coming along.”
“All right, if you speak out once, I port you back here.”
“You bet. What’s Port?”
“It’s how we get around. It’s amazing,” Trout jumped in.
“I wondered about that. I tried to go for a walk for something to do and couldn’t get out of this place. All my security has led me to build my own death prison. So, how do I do this port thing?”
Hansen jumped in. “Sorry, no time to play babysitter to you greenies. Let’s go Trout.”
“No, no, no, take me. No more questions. I swear it,” Caden said.
“Fine, let’s go.” Hansen mechanically placed his hands on each of their shoulders and all three found themselves feeling exceptionally cramped in the backseat of a car. Trout always wanted to ride in a corvette, but not in the back seat that would have left two new born babys crammed and with insufficient leg room, with two grown men.
They were careening down the highway bobbing in and out of traffic as Hansen tried bobbing himself out of the nonexistent middle seat and pushed his way into the passenger seat. Leaving Trout and Caden still smooshed in the back.
The driver, whom Hansen assumed was Jim, continued his very aggressive driving. With Hanson's move to the front of the car Caden could now lean over enough to see out the windshield, and his nerves began to rise, as Jim cut in and out of one lane to another Caden, forgetting he was dead, began to fear for his life.
“Jim is either training for Nascar or he is worried about being late. “ Trout observed, as Jim swerved across 4 lanes to get off the highway.
“Jiim is always running late,” Caden observed. “It used to drive me crazy. I guess it did him too,” Caden laughed. “Get it, it drives him crazy and he drives crazy.” Caden laughed some more. Trout tried. Hansen made no such attempt, but did question why he had brought this guy.
Caden could sense his joke fell like a watermelon dropped from the 10th story but he didn’t let his audience’s lack of taste affect his actions. They continued their blazing speed and as they approached a building Caden called out, “There it is, Canine Hope.”
They swerved into the parking lot of the building that was a two story building covered with high end stone and glass. The building was all ready about three times larger than either detective would have guessed and it was clear that there was construction expanding the building. Jim grabbed a briefcase on the passenger seat, which sent Hansen slamming against the passenger door.
Jim shut the door as Hansen asked, “Fairly large building for a charity that saves local animals?”
“They have really expanded their work since Jim took over a few years back.”
Hansen followed up with. “How long has the building been under construction?”
Caden eyes moved to the ceiling and tilting his head said, “I guess as long as he has been running things there has always been some form of construction. Drives Daisy nuts, she loves the mission of the place but gets tired of new construction projects. She thinks it’s just an excuse to ask for more money. She’s probably sunk over $100,000 into that place. I hear the board is fairly sick of construction too. Threatened to throw Jim out if he proposed any more construction projects once this wing is done.”
“What is the expansion for?”
“Both floors are being expanded. The bottom floor is to grow the shelter portion. One of their missions is to take in dogs that are set to be put down at other shelters. The top floor is more office space. Jim says both are needed. And he is probably right. Jim is really big on working on the legislative end of things. They have expanded work in all sorts of countries, so the extra staff makes sense. Doing their own sheltering and hiring their own staff is a lot cheaper than contractors and lobbyists. At least that is what Jim says.”
Hansen didn’t care to have a third wheel but this information was useful. They stayed in the car long enough for Jim to get to his office then ported in. They found Jim talking to a man in jeans wearing a hard hat.
“I don’t have time for this Bill. I have a very important donor coming in a few minutes.” Jim told the man who stood across his desk.
“Important donar huh, maybe they can give you the money you owe me.”
“I said we would get you paid as long as you keep progress going.”
“That’s what you said last month and the month before that. You are three months behind. I have staff I have to pay.”
“Next week, the money I have been waiting on will clear next week.” Jim stared at this big construction worker, who was twice his size without a flinch. “Now, get back to work.”
“It better be next week, or I’ll walk and introduce you to my lawyer. He’s not nice like me.”
“Don’t worry.” Jim turned down towards his desk, but a moment later after not hearing the sound of a door shutting looked back up. “You need something else?”
“Why did you tell my forman to fire Thomas?”
“He stole some of the art work in our entry. It was quite valuable. Now, I need to get ready for…”
“How do you know it was him?” Bill interrupted.
“He was the only one here the night it went missing.”
“Yeah, based on your request. I didn’t understand why you’d need one of my carpenters to play security guard.”
“You are correct, it was a bad idea to have a thief watch the lobby. I should have never asked you to hire him in the first place. I’m sorry. Are we done now?”
“I still wish you would have let me know, he was the best carpenter we had. Him being gone won’t help productivity.” Bill turned and was half way out the door when he added, “but maybe I shouldn’t care, if you don’t get that money next week I’ll be letting them all go.”
Jim rolled his eyes and made sure Bill was out of earshot before muttering, “I hope that moron doesn’t get a cent.”
Hansen looked over at Caden, “Did you know your Brother-in-law was working for Jim?”
“Can’t be him. I told you before, this place is past the county line. If he sets one foot out of the county and he’d be back in prison faster than a rabbit on lettuce. Although if it was him, the art stealing thing, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit, he’s stolen art before in order to get drugs.”
Hansen saw no reason to correct Caden. And decided rather to go ahead and walk around the desk to see what Jim was up to. The other two spirits followed. Jim was reading an email as muttered as he opened the next email, “What does that old bat want now?”
Hansen read the email. “I wanted to write and thank you one more time for finding me Dora (that is what I named my new gal.) It is hard for me to fathom that anyone could have ever been abusive to such an angel of an animal. You run an amazing organization and I am so happy you saved her and brought her to me. Despite her horrible past she is friendly and adjusting well. You will never know how much this means to me.”
At the bottom of the email was attached a picture of an elderly woman and a dalmation, with the signature bearing the name, Rebecca.
“Hey,” yelled Caden, “That is Mildred.”
“You know that lady?” Trout asked.
“No, I know that dog.”
Jim laughed, “No one can say Jimbo doesn’t know when there is a hot iron around.” Then he hit reply and typed, “I am so glad that you are getting along with Dora, what a perfect name.”
“Mildred is her perfect name,” Caden yelled.
Jim typed lies even more easily than he spoke them. “When I found her, near dead, in that bleak apartment. I knew you were the one to save her. And while I am happy for you I am constantly reminded of the hundreds of dogs that are needlessly slaughtered every year, if only we had more funds to help others find the happiness you have found. Perhaps to help others we could count on you for an additional $10,000 to match what you so graciously gave when we were able to unite you and Dora?”
“What a snake?” Caden focused his eyes on Jim as he spoke. “I bet he killed me.” At this Caden swung his fist over and over as hard as he could into Jim’s face. Trout was reminded of a Superman movie he once saw where the crook took swings at the man of steel with similar effect. The difference was Superman at least acknowledged the crook's existence. Jim truly made zero reaction and continued to act exactly as you would expect, that is, as if Caden wasn’t there.
Hansen didn’t care for this outburst. “Caden, keep your calm or else you will need to leave.”
“Okay, I’m just a bit upset. I thought he was our friend. We have given tons, left millions to this organization and then you find out he’s nothing but a scumbag.”
“I can appreciate that, but that is why I was worried about bringing you along. There are often uncomfortable relizations when you work on a murder. They are usually not committed by the nicest people. But you can be useful if you will answer questions. So, are you sure that dog in the photo is your dog, Mildred?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Caden said, “You don’t think I don’t know my own dog?”
“How are you sure?”
“I raised her from a pup.”
“Not sure how many jurors would be won over with the, I can tell because I raised her from a pup, defence.’”
Caden got the idea. He wished Jim was still on the photo so he could point things out or verify what was in the photo. He knew the way you would know of the child in a photo was your kid. But how to convince someone else, or explained what was so plain to your face. “For one thing, the only form of abuse we ever gave Mildred was too much food, and you probably noted the picture made that clear, she wasn’t your leanest Dalmation. She always convinced Daisy to give her a slice of Bacon in the morning. But the most clear marking was her ears. One ear was entirely black, and one entirely white. It was a very unique marking for a dalmation. I think it was in the photo.”
Hansen, who of course, took a photo in his visor of the email, now looked, and sure enough the ears were exactly as described. “That is much more convincing.”
Hansen was going to ask if Caden could think of anything else but before he could the phone on the desk range. Jim picked up and a second later said, “Yes, send her in.” He was clearly accepting his secrataries word that the donor was on her way up.
He stood as Caden’s wife, Daisy, opened the door and walked in.
“Hello, Mrs. Mason and to what do I owe the pleasure.” Jims charm on and off switch was extremely effective.
“I have some bad news,” She said as she caught a tear before it could leave her face.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Especially knowing how recently you lost Mildred and Munchies.”
“No thanks to you, you prick.” Caden chimed in, earning a rather stern glance from Hansen.
“Yesterday, my husband was found…” It was still difficult for her to voice it out loud, “dead.”
“No. I can’t believe it, not Caden. He was so healthy.” As he spoke he moved onto her side of the desk and Caden who was standing behind his wife tried unsuccessfully to hold his ground as Jim now stood behind Daisy where Caden once stood.
“I know, I can hardly believe it, but it is true.”
“I’m so sorry, how did he pass?” He now put his arm onto her shoulder.
Daisy was upset with Jim but was willing to take consoling from almost anyone at this point.
“Keep your filthy hands off my wife.” Caden yelled at Jim only inches from his face.
“Caden, I mean it. I will take you out of here if you don’t calm it.” Hansen reminded him. Caden rolled his eyes but kept quiet.
“He chose to end his life.” Daisy half spoke, half sobbed into her the kleenex she took from Jim’s desk.
Jim knew he wasn’t visible to Daisy and the words made him smile. “It’s okay,” he said, his tone not matching his expression.
“But that is not the thing I came to talk to you about,” Daisy said, collecting herself.
“Well anything I can do at this trying time I’d be happy to help.”
“What I came down to discuss was, Tom informed me that he was fired, after he filled a special request from you to work that night. I can’t tell you how upset I am about it. I have enough to deal with without my brother losing his job.”
“Wait a minute, that was Tom he fired?” Caden stepped away from his wife as he spoke.
“I hate to add to your distress. But I couldn’t stop it. When he was doing some security for us some pictures went missing and once the contractor found out he demanded he be fired. It’s really out of my hands. I can’t micromanage the contractor?”
“I’m sure he’d love to hear that.” Caden continued his unsolicited responses.
Daisy now almost pled. “Hire him back, he didn’t steal any of those paintings. Not only that, I was the one who gave the $20,000 that was used to purchase the paintings.”
“We are very grateful for that, I’ll tell you what, I will talk to the contractor and see what we can do about Tom, but the contractor was in here just before you and he was very insistent about the situation. Made a specific point to bring it up to me. It was all I could do to keep him from going to the police, kept saying we needed to press charges.”
“We can’t have that.”
“Well, try one more time. He really needs this job.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Daisy relaxed, “Thank you Jim. Please do your best. I want you and I, and this organization to have a strong relationship, we have a lot of money riding on this place.”
“I understand.” Jim noted, “And I hated to bring it up, but we really are grateful for the legacy you plan to leave and that Caden left for this place.”
“Yes, Caden, did leave a sizable amount of his wealth to this organization.” Jim hoped his face was still not visible to Daisy, because he couldn’t stop the unnatural smile from crawling across his face. “And don’t worry, as the executor I will follow the will exactly as laid out. Once all the stipulations are met you will get the funds.”
The smile fell from Jim’s faster than a greyhound after a rabbit. “Stipulations?”
“The will stipulates that a thorough financial review be completed before the money is transferred. But I don’t think it will take more than a few months.”
“I forgot about that,” Caden said with a smile.
Daisy turned to look at Jim, “I’m sure I can count on your support in getting through the review?”
“Of course, the annual audit is public, and as you are aware we are unfortunately between financial management firms, but we will do all we can.”
“Thank you. Again you will talk to the contractor about Tom?”
“Okay, I need to go,” Daisy said as she got up.
“Thank you for stopping by, I am so sorry for your loss.” Jim said, helping her to the door. As soon as she stepped out Jim’s face dropped in anger. As a deep blank stair over took his whole demeanor.
“I can’t believe it,” Caden was happier than he had been since dying, “I complained like crazy to Daisy when she made me get that expensive lawyer to review our will. Said it was a total waste of money, that he was taking us for a ride. Was I ever wrong. I can’t wait for that guy to croak so I can thank him. The question is what do we do with this snake until then?”
Hansen had the same question as he saw Jim mutter between clenched teeth, “a few months huh, we will see about that.”
Here is Chapter 10