The coroner's assistant opened the drawer and pulled back the sheet, and Calla saw a living woman. Lucy's face was intact, her eyes closed, her long red hair fanned out around her head. She was breathing softly, chest moving just the slightest bit. Even her clothes were there--gray sweater, dark jeans, a chunk of quartz on a thin gold chain. Calla bit down hard on the inside of her cheek and concentrated on now. The image flickered and blurred and vanished, leaving only the waxy, jawless corpse, naked and autopsy-scarred.

Bodies remembered what they'd been.
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 Witholding Information, Nathan
Calla Liu
 Posted: Mar 15 2015, 10:42 PM
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Calla Liu
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It was Aly who answered Whitaker's knock on the brownstone's front door. "Oh," she said, "Hi. Gimme a sec, let me grab the boss." She knew who he was--she'd picked him out of Calla's dreams a couple nights before, while she was still recovering from reading Lucy Ripley's corpse. (She'd also picked out what Calla had seen, and was having some really interesting nightmares. This goddamn job.) Aly ducked back inside.

Calla sat cross-legged in the middle of their living room floor, surrounded by half-assembled pinboards of evidence and piles of paper. Some were Aly's sketches of the rough outline of the spell and Lucy's body and the crime scene. Some were pictures of Ripley's coven. Some were photocopies of spells the Ripley's researcher, Mbatha-Ripley, had thought might be relevant. Some were her own notes, written neatly in blue pen on white index cards. One said SYMPATHETIC EFFECTS in large, boxy letters. Blocky noise-canceling headphones covered her ears, the wire coiled neatly in her lap.

Aly didn't bother trying to shout, just tossed a pen into the middle of the circle. It bounced off Calla's knee. Calla looked up, tugging her headphones off. "That guy from the morgue is here. Gloves, dark hair, punch-me-in-the-face strong? He wants to talk to you."

Oh. Detective Whitaker. She'd been expecting him.

She wasn't really in the mood for people, though. She'd been planning to spend the day alone with her evidence and Aly. This upset her plans. Which annoyed her. Not as much as it would have when she was younger and less used to it, but she was still irritated.

The sooner they got this over with the sooner she could go back to her job.

"Let him in. I'm making tea." Calla unfolded herself and stepped carefully out from her evidence boards. In the kitchen, she pulled out the ingredients she wanted and lined them up neatly at the edge of the counter, while Aly went to get Whitaker. Today was a Thursday, which made it a milk tea day. Her apprentice came back, the detective behind her. Calla turned and leaned back against the counter. She didn't bother trying to pretend she was meeting his eyes--she could; she'd figured out looking at peoples' foreheads gave that impression long ago--because she knew he'd understand and she was saving her energy. "Make it fast, Detective," Calla said, "I'm working. Aly, white noise."

She didn't want him in her head, and she didn't trust him to stay out if she asked nicely. Almost nobody did things just because she asked nicely. White noise was better than a shield--he was strong enough to snap through one of Aly's shields if he wanted, but the white noise would make reading more effort than it was worth. At least that was how it went with telepaths his strength in her experience. If he started looking Aly would warn her, at least. As a last resort she could just drive herself into a meltdown--she'd done it before.

"Gotcha, boss." The tiny I'm-broadcasting wrinkle appeared between Aly's eyebrows. She turned to Whitaker. "Sorry about that. Nothing personal. Go ahead, sit down. You want something to drink that's not tea? Or crackers or something?"
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Nathaniel Whitaker
 Posted: Mar 18 2015, 07:57 PM
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Nathaniel Whitaker
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There were at least three points during any given day that Nathan wanted done with the psychic mumbo jumbo, and trying to talk to another human being like—well, like a human being was one of them. He’d tucked one glove into the breast pocket of his coat and was rolling a small, tumbled quartz crystal in his naked hand. Nothing special, nothing magical—at least, not the way the new agers thought that rocks could be magic. Just good memories and soft projections that helped to keep his mind occupied on a predictable stimulus. His mother had taught him that trick as a teenager, when puberty and self-doubt had made the nightmares even worse.

He’d taken a Xanax just in case. Nathan was beginning to hate relying on them, but they did the job and kept him sane. There was something to be said for that. As he waited outside the door, turning the stone over in his bare hand, he felt as comfortable as he thought he could in a situation where he was out of his element. Although his head was swimming, he felt more than capable of facing the situation.

He knew the girl who opened the door, quite on accident, from Calla’s memories. He might have been familiar with her elsewhere—the duo’s investigations had intersected his own more often than not, as of late, and it wasn’t unlikely that her image was floating around in the heads of the men he worked alongside. The home was familiar too, like a place he’d visited in childhood.

The familiarity ceased when the ringing in his ears began. He winced visibly.

“No offense taken,” he assured her (it was more or less true), holding up his totem as a token of good faith. ”I just ate so I think I’ll be alright,” he added.

He turned his attention to Calla and attempted to look as disarmingly genuine as he could manage. This had been far more difficult ever since he’d gotten a job with a badge; his particular brand of tired was no longer endearing to most people. “I don’t normally enter without knocking, but I understand if it makes you nervous anyway. Makes most people nervous, really.”

Make it fast. Right. That was harder with the ringing in his ears. He’d come with questions, of course, but had he thought to write them down? Of course not. Clumsily, Nathan reached for whatever sounded most professional, which in this case was a weak, “I wanted to speak to you about the other day.”
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Calla Liu
 Posted: Mar 24 2015, 08:28 PM
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Calla Liu
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Good, no argument. She especially wasn't in the mood for that. Aly said, "Well, everybody says that," and dropped into a chair, eyes drifting shut so she could concentrate on evening out the broadcast.

Then the kettle whistled, and Calla poured herself tea (milk first, as always) before answering Nathan.

"You want to know what I have that you haven't seen." It was obvious what Ripley had hired her for. It was equally obvious--at least to people who knew what she was--what Ripley was going to do when Calla found the killer and his backer. So logically, that was what he wanted.

She'd give him some of what she had, of course. That was the best way. When she was a lot younger, just starting out, she'd tried the hardass thing and found herself facing a search warrant for some minor offense. (Cops, when pushed, were inventive.) The cops had seized everything and then made getting it back as hard as possible--massive stacks of forms to fill out, rounds of answering machine messages, people mysteriously not being in the office when she showed up (that last one had taken her a while to notice). She hadn't gotten anything done for weeks. Or gotten paid. With all the stalling, they'd managed to put everything together before she did. So away went the paycheck, and, for about five years, her credibility south of Baltimore. Easier to go along a little bit so she could control what they saw and actually work. "I have notes. I'll show you."

She said nothing about explaining those notes.
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Nathaniel Whitaker
 Posted: Jul 26 2015, 10:19 PM
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Nathaniel Whitaker
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Aly’s white noise wasn’t enough to drown out Calla’s obvious tension. Nathan almost felt bad for observing, almost, but it was written just as much in the set of her shoulders as clutching feeling that lingered in the air. “Notes. Yeah. Notes are good,” he breathed. “Socialization” was not exactly his strong suit, and now he was being forced to go in blind.

His eyes traced Calla’s steps to the room she’d emerged from earlier, and he tried to come off as a mixture of curious and genial. Not altogether untrue, but certainly a little misleading if one considered that he did, in fact, have a goal here. ”So, your, um. Employer. She’s a witch, if I’m not mistaken? Lucy would have been one as well.”

He hadn’t had many run-ins with witches, and few of them on the appropriate side of the law. Curiosity probably killed the cat on matters like this, but Nathan could never tell if the metaphorical cat was alive or dead anyway. Fitting.

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Calla Liu
 Posted: Jul 29 2015, 08:42 PM
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Calla Liu
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"Yes. She's a coven head. The Ripleys are very important. Coven and family." No need to explain further. The rest of it, in Calla's mind, was more or less obvious.

She turned her attention to the living room, and waved the hand not holding her tea at the pinboards and stacks of paper. "This is everything. Theories, evidence, notes from their researcher. If you want those you need to ask directly. Mainly to be certain the copies were done the right way. A shadow in the wrong place could ruin a glyph, Mbatha had told her. "If you pick something up put it back where you found it. Everything's already organized." (It didn't cross her mind that the five stacks might not look that way to anyone but her, at least at first glance.)

"And if you could finish as quickly as possible--" That was probably too abrupt, actually. She could tell when she wasn't exhausted and seeing multiples, or at least try. Calla paused to find a suitably nicer phrase, and went with, "I would appreciate it." There. Better. "I'd like to get back to work as soon as possible. I can't while you're here." Nothing against him. But even Aly was too much of a distraction when she was sorting evidence. Someone she didn't know, someone she'd have to be watching, was a non-starter.

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Nathaniel Whitaker
 Posted: Aug 7 2015, 12:18 AM
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Nathaniel Whitaker
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“Understood.” Nathan was used to working with people he’d never met before, people he wasn’t necessarily comfortable with; it was a part of the job he’d come to terms with shortly after beginning his training at the police academy. That being said, he could hardly begrudge Calla her space. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was a requirement to do the job, he figured he’d keep mostly to himself even on the best of days and never make an effort to even meet new people, let alone allow them into his workspace.

The scattered notes were easier to sort through than they were to understand. Calla’s mental tracks left a trail for him to follow, but he lacked her knowledge of the situation and of witches in general. With Aly’s white noise keeping him in his own head, he was having a hard time following the notes down the rabbit hole. It was not unlike being faced with a database filled primarily with broken links.

"I’m afraid," he began after a moment, taking a deep breath in and a short sigh out. "That I might be working at a bit of a handicap. [b]"I know very little of magic, and even less of the specifics of witchcraft and its practitioners. Emma Ripley’s notes explore a handful of ideas on the on the cause of her niece’s death, but she seems to be very guarded on why she thinks Emma was killed. Dissent within the coven...this would be largely unheard of in most situations?"

Nathan wasn’t sure he thought a member of Ripley’s coven had murdered Miss Lucy, but he had no reason to make any leaps, logical or illogical, to another conclusion just yet. "And this conjecture here,” he added, plucking up a paper. "That Lucy’s magic may have somehow been bound hours prior to her death. Could said binding only be performed by a witch?"

He wasn’t naive. There was more to the world than witches and psychics.
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Calla Liu
 Posted: Aug 8 2015, 07:25 PM
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Calla Liu
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Calla watched him go through the notes, tea in hand. He was neat, at least. That she really did appreciate.

"No. Heads don't allow it. If..." She'd already finished this particular thought. She just wasn't sure she wanted to tell him. After a second, she decided it didn't matter. Holding back just to hold back wouldn't get him out of here faster. "If Ripley thinks that, she won't want it written down. It makes her position look weak." That side of politics was simple enough. A divided coven was a coven that could be attacked. And Ripley didn't trust her, or Whitaker, or the police. Not at all. Even if she did, paper could be stolen, copies made. If the thief was clever enough no one would know the information had been taken.

Fifteen years of dealing with this kind of paranoia made it very easy to imitate.

She shrugged faintly, just with the one shoulder. "I don't know. A witch would be best. But something else might be able to do it. Especially if they had something of hers." As above, so below. So her aunt had said. So the notes said. "Blood, probably. Hair. Nails. Or even an object she owned." Calla would be searching her room the next day. But that she didn't need to say anything about.
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Nathaniel Whitaker
 Posted: Aug 13 2015, 10:02 PM
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Nathaniel Whitaker
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"Blood," Nathan repeated, looping the word over again with an invisible pen as he had in the morgue. The coppery taste lingered on his lips. "Sounds like someone got way too close to Miss Ripley for comfort, in that case." It wasn't a comforting thought, but even with a limited understanding of magic, he could make an educated guess as to why the late Lucy Ripley's postmortem murmurs had been reduced to wet, guttural sounds.

He scanned over another page halfheartedly, and then set it down again. The breathing had started in his right ear again. This wouldn't be a flickering-lights-and-flying-papers manifestation; however angry Lucy was at the terms of her death, the magic that had caused her demise wouldn't allow it. Her spirit was weak, pale, silenced. Whoever killed her had an awful lot of faith in Ripley's thorough investigation skills, or else they had quite a bit to lose.

"Lucy thought she knew her killer. Her memories keep lingering on blood, even from before her death, and whoever killed her made a point to leave a mute spirit. We may not have any choice but to investigate the other members of the coven." Perhaps even Emma herself. Nathan wasn't harboring suspicions about her, but certainty was critical in these investigations.
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Calla Liu
 Posted: Aug 17 2015, 04:37 PM
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Calla Liu
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Yes, they had. Witches like the Ripleys guarded themselves closely. So did Calla. She'd been careless once, fifteen years ago. The curse had nearly killed her and the overstimulation had been so bad she'd been unable to do anything for weeks. Lucy Ripley would not have been allowed to be careless. And the power belonged to someone she'd known. Which meant that everyone Lucy had trusted was a suspect. Everyone Lucy had known was a suspect.

"You can see the ghost?" She was not surprised Lucy had left one--no ghost would have been the surprise, with a death like that. But mediums were rare. And she'd thought Whitaker was only a touch-know, like her. The surprise annoyed her.

But she had other things to think about. If the ghost couldn't speak, that was connected to the removal of the jaw--which meant power. And skill. Though she was hazy on the technicalities, she knew flesh-to-spirit influence was more complicated than flesh-to-flesh. Harder. Certainly not something an amateur could do, definitely constructed before it had been used to kill Lucy. This had been planned.

"I know." And she intended to do it before he could. This was her case. "Our investigations are separate, Detective. There isn't a we."
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Nathaniel Whitaker
 Posted: Aug 18 2015, 11:46 PM
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Nathaniel Whitaker
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"See" was a kind word; Lucy's damp, ragged breathing lingered on the edge of his hearing even when he could manage to push every other stimulus to the forefront of his mind, which made for long nights and short meals. She had infested every corner of his life in the few short days since the morgue, the way his anneanne had done in the weeks following her demise. But Lucy didn't come to him with soft songs in the night--just with flashes of blood and fear.

He thumbed the smooth surface of the stone in his pocket again, concentrated on Billy's face. Breathed in. Breathed out.

"I can respect your reluctance to collaborate," he said, holding up a single hand in defeat. "You're accustomed to working alone. I wasn't meaning to imply anything different. We're simply working on the same case, which means we might be bumping into one another from time to time."

He'd wondered, as a youth, if he'd be like that one day. If loneliness would suit him. Nathan needed constant human comfort these days, though; any less, any time alone, and he felt himself start to unravel at the edges. When things were quiet, that was alright, but how he could feel Lucy clawing to get in. The dead always longed for life, and someone had painted a "charge here" sign on his back.

"Lucy's left a strange ghost, by comparison to what I'm used to. Most adopt something more familiar, but she--" His eyes flicked involuntarily to a picture of the corpse, post-autopsy, and convinced himself that the eyes in the photograph had not moved to meet his. "It's like they ripped everything but her death away from her. The body had a lot more memories than the soul."

"I take it you don't see spirits often, Miss Liu?"
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Calla Liu
 Posted: Aug 24 2015, 08:23 PM
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Calla Liu
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"Alright." That closed that line of conversation for her. She wished the police would stay out of this; she always did. But better Whitaker than a headblind detective. He wouldn't ask hard questions. She wouldn't have to trip over herself to avoid mentioning important parts of the case just because he didn't believe in them. She didn't like saying that things weren't as bad as they could be--it was an excuse--but it wasn't as bad as it could be.

"No. That's not something I can do." She'd had to deal with some violent spirits in the past, but she'd never been able to see them. Where they'd been, yes. Not where they were. She hadn't liked it. Besides the part where she couldn't tell they were going to throw something at her head until they'd done it, she didn't like knowing there was something in the room and not being able to see it. Or knowing it could be there, or it could have left, and that there was no way for her to tell.

She just didn't like ghosts. But there were many things Calla didn't like.

"This means they planned for mediums. Most don't." Then again, someone so strong and skilled would think of that. "Is there anything else you need?"
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Nathaniel Whitaker
 Posted: Sep 3 2015, 09:33 PM
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Nathaniel Whitaker
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It occurred to him then that in all his time with the police department, he had never had a case where the perp had planned for the intervention of a medium. He was somewhat new to the notion of a perp who had planned for psychic intervention at all, but that, at least, was not unheard of. However had killed Lucy Ripley, though, had known what they were dealing with, and the sort of help they would enlist.

Lovely.

"I envy you, then. It makes for some sleepless nights." Like every night since Miss Ripley had followed him home. Billy had taken to sleeping on the couch in shifts when he thought Nathan could be left alone.

"A solid lead, a pot of coffee, and several hours of sleep I'm not likely to get. All of which I'm sure we would both prefer I acquired elsewhere." He smiled in an attempt to be charming, but mostly, he just looked tired. "Off the record, if you ever need any help, please gimme a call? I don't expect you'll need to, but I wanted to put the offer out there." He didn't meet many people like him, but he knew this whole "psychic mumbo jumbo" was a pain in the ass for most people, so at least he'd made the effort to extend a hand.
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Calla Liu
 Posted: Sep 24 2015, 09:40 PM
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Calla Liu
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Not many mediums went into a field like police work. It made it too easy for the murdered dead to find them and latch on. But Whitaker had done it anyway. That took..strength. Skill. A lot of dedication. Excellent control.

That made her like him a little more. Even though he was in her living room annoying her.

"I'll keep it in mind." That was, she'd figured out when she was much younger, the best thing to say in a surprisingly large amount of situations. It was agreeing without agreeing, without actually lying. She would keep it in mind. Whether she would do it was a different question--but she wasn't totally rejecting the possibility. He could be helpful. The police would certainly like him better than they liked her.

There'd be compromises to make if she did ask for his help, but there was always a compromise sooner or later. Better with Whitaker. She added, "Thank you." And, after a moment, "I won't wish you luck with the case, Detective, but I hope you can keep it from following you home. Goodbye."

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