Ghosts in the Wind was nominated in the Pre-editors and Editors Reading Poll, and voting ended a few days ago. I can’t believe it was nominated, I do love that story. So in honor of that occasion I decided to post an excerpt. This is from when Dean first wakes up after he was shot. Enjoy.
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DEAN sat up and stared around in confusion at the sea of emergency lights illuminating the shoulder of the road. A number of people milled about him, talking and examining the ground and van as the sun sank lower in the sky, casting long shadows on the ground.
Andrei. Dean had to call him. He was late getting home, and his partner would be very worried by now. He checked his pockets only to discover that his cell phone was missing. What the hell had happened? Why was he on the ground? His last memories before he passed out were a muddled blur.
“Do you mind telling me what’s going on?” Dean scrambled to his feet as a cop approached.
The cop ignored him as he crouched and dropped a plastic number on the ground next to the lug wrench. “The vic might’ve had a chance to fight back. He looked like a fighter, took more shots than the woman. The perp could be hurt,” he said to another man taking notes.
“Or the perp saw him as the bigger threat.” Neither of them looked at Dean as they carried on their conversation.
A memory emerged from the chaos in his head. The sound of little feet running away from a monster that chased her. Dean tapped the side of his head, struggling for a name that finally surfaced.
“Hey, I’m talking to you. Did you find Inez, the little girl? What happened to the baby?” Dean peered into the van, steeling himself for the horror of blood and small bodies in the thickening shadows, but to his relief it was empty. He ran to his own car, which remained just as he left it except for the pacifier lying on the passenger seat and the door being wide open.
Dean’s confused thoughts bombarded him as he walked back toward the cops who were still talking as they took pictures. What was wrong with them? They couldn’t spare two minutes to talk to a witness?
Then those last few horrible moments came rushing back in a montage of terrible images. How huge the gun had seemed when it had been pointed at him. How Robin had jerked and crumpled when she’d been shot. The sickening fear on Inez’s little face.
Dean stooped to pick up a bit of green hair ribbon and clutched it in his fist. He swallowed hard against the rising bile as he finally noticed the shrouded body lying on the ground next to the van and the other body being loaded into the back of an ambulance. Both adult-sized. Not child.
“Look, you have to listen to me. Inez called the guy Daddy. He’s the one who shot me and Robin. I think maybe I need to go to the hospital, and I need to borrow a phone, my….” Dean’s words faltered as neither cop glanced at him. “Fucking look at me.”
Dean reached out to grab one of the cops on the shoulder, stealing himself for a shove or a punch, and gaped in disbelief as his hand went right through the man. Warmth spread across his chest, and a chill raced through his body as he stared down at the growing red stain on his dress shirt. It was ruined. He’d never be able to get the blood out.
“Will somebody please help me?” Dean pressed his hands to his chest, trying to staunch the blood. Something was wrong. This whole situation was even more surreal than being shot. Why wasn’t he being tended to? Having his statement taken? Andrei should already be here trying to take charge of the investigation.
“You died.” The stark words struck him as forcefully as the bullets had.
He couldn’t be dead. He didn’t feel dead. A dead man wouldn’t tremble like this. Dean shook his head, trying in vain to ignore that voice.
“The blood will go away if you stop thinking about it.”
A young girl stood several feet away staring right at him. She was older than Inez by several years. Her long black hair was caught back in two braids, and there was something familiar about her face, though Dean couldn’t place where he’d seen her before. She wore a red-and-yellow sundress and battered sandals and clutched a stuffed turtle to her skinny body. His confused mind picked out those little details and latched on to them. They were concrete, real, and somehow more vivid than the other people around him.
“Wait, you can see me. Tell the cops what I said. It’s important.” Dean moved toward her, practically vibrating with urgency. He had to remind himself not to scare her away and tried to summon up a reassuring smile, only he wasn’t sure that he succeeded.
“They can’t hear me, either. Most people can’t hear or see the dead.” A sad expression crossed her face. “Some can but don’t want to, so they block us out.”
“I am not dead!”
Dean stared down at the blood that now saturated his shirt and shook his head in denial. Somewhere in the back of his consciousness he could feel his wounds throbbing along with his heartbeat. Shouldn’t they hurt more than that? He’d been fucking shot for godssake. Maybe the EMTs had already given him something for the pain. This couldn’t be happening.
“There has to be some kind of mistake. I can’t be dead. They’re going to resuscitate me at the hospital. I’ll get better and Andrei can go after the bastard and get those kids back,” he insisted, too aware of the sheet-shrouded figure on the ground behind him. The sensation crawled across his skin with little fingers. Fucking creepy.
Dean ignored its intrusive presence by concentrating on Inez and Tristan. He fingered the bit of ribbon in his pocket. They were what was important. He had to find out if they were okay or not. That bastard wouldn’t shoot his own kids, would he? Their mother was horrifying enough, but they were just babies.
The understanding, sympathetic expression in the girl’s familiar, dark eyes drove it home far more than words could. Her gaze was older than her appearance, and Dean felt a shout of denial and rage lodge in his throat. No, no, no… Andrei, oh God…. “I’m not dead, damn you,” he snarled.
“I’m sorry.” Tears glimmered in her eyes, and she hugged the stuffed turtle to her. “Please don’t be mad at me, Dean.”
Great, good job Dean, be an ass and make a little girl cry. He sighed and tried to summon up a smile through the frustration, anger, and fear. “No, I’m the one who should be sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled. Now, don’t start crying on me, okay? Please?”
The girl threw herself into his arms, and Dean let out a startled yelp as she pressed her cheek against his blood-stained shirt and squeezed him tight in a hug. “I’m glad Andrei picked you. I’d never liked any of the other guys he kissy-faced with. You made him happy.”