Authors note: This is a work of fiction. It does not reflect any actual events, and all of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
There is a real city of Oceanside, California. It’s San Diego County’s third largest city with a below-average crime rate.
The Grand Pacific Hotel is fictional, but during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were at least two similar resort hotels that did exist, primarily serving railroad passengers and tourists as described in this book.
— Tom Morrow
Later that morning around seven o’clock, Detectives Saenz and Steins walked into the squad room. Before they could grab a cup of coffee, Lieutenant Hastings motioned for them to come into his office and have a seat. He didn’t appear to be pissed off or anything but did have a concerned look on his face.
“Joe, you want to tell me what you and that forensics lady were doing over at the GP late last night?”
“You heard, huh?”
“All I know is that there was some sort of activity going on over there way past my bedtime. You want to fill me in?”
“Lieutenant, I was there, too,” said Danny.
“We were thinking about calling you, but it was late and didn’t want to disturb your beauty sleep and all and…”
“Well, it was disturbed! Got a call around one 0’clock. What the hell were you doing over there that late?”
“Joe, you better take it from here,” Danny said looking over at him.
“Lieutenant, we found another body.”
“Well, actually bones.”
“In the old boiler furnace.”
“Boiler furnace? Now just how on earth did you think to look there?”
“This might take awhile.”
“I’ve got plenty of time. It’s early.”
“Well, after dinner in San Diego, Sara decided she wanted to….” And Joe went on to explain in great detail the events of the previous night and early morning. Lieutenant Hastings carefully listened while leaning back in his chair with his hands on his belly casually spiraling his thumbs. Danny occasionally nodded reaffirming what Joe was saying.
“So you’re telling me that Sara has some sort of inner gift that she can see death, huh?”
“Well, yeah. I mean … well, it is unusual, no doubt. But the fact is she did find the bones. And after they were removed, her apparitions went away telling her that death was no longer present.”
“And we’re supposed to go along with that?” asked Hastings.
“I see no reason why not. I mean, I was there. I saw her demeanor when she found the bones and when the bones were removed. I have to admit, it was a little weird; but I believe her. She has me convinced.”
“I don’t know. I’m still skeptical,” said Hastings, shaking his head in doubt.
“Look Lieutenant, it’s my opinion we shouldn’t bring any more attention to this investigation. It’s been fairly quiet this past week. If we take the notion to get back in there and start tearing the place apart piece by piece looking for more bodies, the news media will suspect something and start nosing around. And if by happenstance they discover how Sara found the bones, they’ll go crazy and turn this whole investigation into a media circus. We’ll be a laughing stock out there.”
“Yeah, well, you do have a point. They did spoof the mummy angle pretty good. I mean, hell, it went worldwide. What do you think, Danny?”
“Well, at first I was skeptical. I talked to Sara when they were excavating the privy pit, and I thought she was a nut. I mean, a real nut case. I just walked away. But after last night, I don’t know. I mean, she did find those bones. It’s kind of hard to dispute that.”
“And you agree with Joe?”
“Yeah, I guess I do. The bones were safely delivered over to the lab. I’m sure Sara and Laura are probably having this same conversation with their boss right now.”
“I also think we just need to continue on with the investigation like we have been. Right now nobody is to the wiser as to what happened last night. And we should let Del get back to tearing the place down. The quicker, the better.”
“Well, we sort of promised him it’d be soon, assuming Sara didn’t see any more death. And of course, she didn’t.”
“I bet he was confused over that statement, huh?”
“Yeah, he was. And he wasn’t too happy about turning his pickup truck into a hearse. But he got over it. I think we owe him.”
“Lieutenant, Sara has me convinced the place is clean. I think we’re in the clear. You want me to give Del the go-ahead?”
“Yeah, hell yeah. Go ahead and give him a call. We need to get back with the case. Where you guys stand right now?” the lieutenant asked Danny.
“We’ve gathered statements from Aaron Hinkle, the guy who had a little shop there at the hotel; talked to Seth Adams, the old head bellman; and Ned Martin, the old night auditor. But his mind is gone.
“Joe’s going to head over to the library, and I’m going over to the OPD storage building and hunt around there.”
“Well then, go on and get to it. I’ll brief the captain before he gets wind of all the shenanigans. I’m sure word’ll get to him sooner than later.”
“By the way, Lieutenant. Who called you last night?” Danny asked.
“Dispatch. She felt something funny was going on with Officer Bob Talbert. Wanted me to look into it because he had reported Joe and Sara at the site. She thought that unusual thinking Joe should have reported it himself if it was to be official business.”
“Why didn’t you look into it?” asked Joe.
“I told her I would in the morning. But in the meantime I told her not to worry about it because I felt you were on to something important and not to bother you. But I gotta admit, the something important sort of threw me for a loop.”
“Officer Talbert in any trouble?”
“For doing his job? Shit no! Now you guys go on and get the hell outta here. I got work to do.”
At about that same hour, Laura and Sara were in fact having a similar conversation of the early morning’s events with their supervisor, JoAnne Garner. The only difference was that JoAnne was not the least bit skeptical of Sara’s apparitions. She had been around her long enough to know that her forensics specialist carried an unusual gift even though she had never actually experienced anything from her.
But JoAnne was quite familiar with parapsychology herself, believing Sara had the post-mortem apparition—a belief that some undefined spirit of a recently deceased person lingers shortly after death before moving on to a mysterious world known only to the dead. It was a topic for discussion that she and Sara had many times after work. And Laura would sometimes listen in on the conversations just trying to understand the makeup of a person who had these mystical ideas. Even though she had no known apparitions herself, she did not dispute the people who had them—or said they had them.
Sara recapped to JoAnne in extreme detail how she discovered the body and how in some unknown manner the apparitions disappeared once the bones were removed from the site. She explained that Joe was the only one around when her phantasmal spirit revealed that no more death was present at the hotel. It was an unusual experience for him.
“So, Joe is now a believer?” asked JoAnne.
“More so than not, I think. But he was more awestruck when I found the body. It no doubt caught his attention. But what caught my attention was how he reacted following my lead in wanting to keep everything quiet. Had we not, the media would’ve jumped on this thing and turned it into a joke for the late night talk shows. If anybody needs to get reprimanded, JoAnne, it needs to be me. I did coerce him.”
“Sara, I don’t think anybody is going to get reprimanded. All in all, what you did was probably the right thing to do. But by no means was it by the book; then again, how you found those bones wasn’t by the book either if there ever was such a book.
“And you’re right. The media would’ve turned this into another fiasco as we well remember what they did with the mummy. Fortunately, things on that front have calmed and the last thing we need right now is to be world famous—again!
“So don’t worry about any repercussions. I’ll take of it from here. Okay, girls?”
“Thanks, JoAnne,” Sara and Laura said one right after the other.
“Now, where do we stand with the bones?”
“After getting them over here, Sara and I did some preliminary work separating the bones from the ashes,” said Laura.
“How well are the bones preserved?”
“Not too bad, considering. But to be honest with you, that boiler should have fried the body to ashes over time and it didn’t. Something’s not quite right with this scene.”
“Yes, interesting. When do you think you’ll get started?”
“We’re going to contact Southgate Jones and then brief the staff and swear them to secrecy. Don’t want any loose lips to cause us problems. Then we’ll get them to sift through the ashes and try to reassemble the bones as best they can. In the meantime, Sara and I would like to go grab some rest. I’m pretty beat, but I think Sara is wore out.”
“Yes, I can well imagine. Why don’t you both head for the hills and grab some shuteye and be back here first thing in the morning bright eyed and bushy tailed. How’s that?”
“Sounds good to me,” said Sara.
“Yeah, me too,” said Laura.
“Okay, see you tomorrow. Oh, Sara, by the way. How was your date with Detective Stein?”
“Aside from all the hoopla, we had a good time. I think he’ll ask me out again!”