by Ken Dean
forum: Purpose
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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       Sarah was keeping an eye on Tom McFarley, following him near Wall St. and Nassau
before he entered his office building nearby. He entered the lobby and headed towards the first empty elevator with Sarah following behind. The doors cycled closed and he punched the 50th floor button. Feeling a little nervous, he glanced around, but there was no one in the car with him. Exiting the elevator, he headed towards his office, unlocked the door and entered with Sarah closely behind him. Glancing around the office, he locked the door to ensure his privacy. Good, he was alone. Tom also closed the hallway blinds on his office window; what he was going to do had to be private.

       Tom McFarley was all about greed. No matter how much he made at his brokerage firm, he had to have more. Life was just so damn expensive with kids in Ivy League colleges and a wife who wanted and had become accustomed to a certain higher standard of living. What the hell; he loved money too and the power and prestige it brought.

       It was about the right time. Sarah reached into her stomach and pulled out a small DV camcorder. Tom turned on his PC and was met by a hard drive and bios password. He had to be cautious. Sarah had already started recording so that she could capture everything. Plus she was behind him so the camera couldn't be seen.

       Tom logged into another server across town via a secure VPN connection. There he set up a private chat session with 'Niles', his insider informant at a Fortune 500 company.



       'what are the tips for this week?'

       'usual split, right? fifty/fifty?'

       'of course'

       A list of stocks and securities along with their anticipated changes in value came up on the chat text screen. 'Oh man, these look great!' Tom thought.

       'thanks niles—these look like real winners. we'll do the usual place for the split once I do my part'

       'cool. niles out'

       This had been a good assignment. Sarah had caught everything they needed. The boss would be pleased and this brought her a feeling of fulfillment. She closed down the camcorder and inserted it back into her stomach so that it was invisible again. Jumping up effortlessly, she flew through the wall of the building into the morning sun and headed back to the office.

       Gunter Mann made his way through the revolving doors into the building where his office was located in lower Manhattan between Pine and Wall St. He pushed the 34th floor button after entering the empty elevator. It was good to get out of the heat and humidity of the New York summer. Thank goodness for air conditioning; all he could figure was that people were more cranky and irritable back in the days before AC.

       Gunter was a handsome man, what with his German background and stylishly cut blond hair. Women sought after him while men were jealous of his rugged, Aryan good looks. Ah well… you get what you were given. On the business side, he was a professional. In private life he was quite gregarious. The two sides mixed well to his advantage.

       His family had moved to the U.S. when he was ten years old after his father's business had opened up new ventures in New York. His father had made it a priority for them to all learn English and gain their American citizenship.

       'Having a dual citizenship is always an advantage, or vorteil, in any country,' he had said. They wound up staying in America, and their father had made sure that their German citizenship stayed current.

       "You're late as usual, Boss," a voice spoke close to his left ear.

       "Shut up, Tony… You know the rules."

       "Sorry, Boss. See you in a minute."

       He turned right after exiting the elevator and headed towards his corner office. Business as a private investigator had been lucrative enough to allow him to afford that luxury. Not many private investigators had his advantages. Several items from his past helped his present business. He had been with the New York City police department several years, and promoted within to detective, where he excelled. Then came the break where he applied to and was accepted by the FBI. From there he was promoted up to the Missing Persons Bureau. He had a knack for the job, but in his zeal to get a collar, he had tampered with evidence to incriminate a felon that he knew was guilty. But someone else in the department had found out about the tampering and he was let go from the FBI. Gunter felt justified in his actions, but what he did was way out of line by FBI standards, hence the firing.

       He fell back on the one thing he was good at: crime and missing person investigation. Being a private investigator let him continue practicing along with obtaining a good income. His other advantages helped. Gunter opened his office door, which led to the receptionist area. Tami, his secretary, was already here. That was usually the case. He was a late riser, setting his own hours, whereas she was here around nine AM to get started on her work in the office. She was a beautiful blonde with striking blue eyes whom he had hired partly for PR purposes and other personal reasons. He just happened to like blondes. That was his preference and he paid the bills. 'So shoot me,' he thought. She messed with her nails, hair and makeup too much, but did a fantastic job on the office scheduling and receptionist end. She also knew how to treat the clients; made them feel special. No hanky-panky, of course; she just put a tad bit of flirtation in her dealings with them. Plus, Tami was a born organizer, which was what he needed, since Gunter happened to be unorganized to a fault. Tami kept his business dealings and schedule in line, for which he paid her well.

       "Morning, Tami."

       "Hiya, handsome," she pretended to kid, but down deep the thought was real.

       "Back at ya, gorgeous. With that blonde hair, you could easily be German. But you're an all-American blonde, right?"

       "My secret… course, you're probably a closet Nazi."

       "Hah!" Gunter exclaimed. "I keep my secrets too, Blondie."

       Their office banter would seem offensive to some, but they had a great working relationship. Worth every penny.

       "I have to tell you, Gunter, business is really booming. I'm not sure how you do what you do, but you always solve a case. And your rep has spread so much that we've had to turn away some business. How do you do it?

       "Got some outside sources that really help."

       "Snitches, informants, what?"

       "Just some sources who always get the right kind of leads, info, etc."

       "But I never see them on the payroll. You must pay them off somehow."

       "Oh, they get paid. Just can't say how."

       "Well… just keep paying them however. They really seem to help the business."

       "No problem; they're invaluable."

       Gunter entered into his office and shut the door behind him. The room was comfortable with a large couch and several comfortable chairs for clients along with a large desk which sported a new PC. He liked to have plenty of working space. The couch was on the door side of the office facing him. Even though he had a great view out the wrap-around corner windows behind him of Battery Park and beyond, he was always reluctant to have his back to the door. That included anywhere. He had developed the habit after a friend of his was shot in the back of the head as he was facing away from an entrance. Some protection also came from the shoulder holstered, Sig Sauer forty-five automatic under his coat jacket for which he had a carry permit. Of course it came in handy for the job also.

       His three employees were sitting on the couch obediently, waiting for the day's assignments.

       "Tony, quit being the trickster and morph visible. There's a time and a place for that."

       "Sure, Boss." Tony quickly assumed his visible form.

       Tony was his most recent employee and still plenty feisty. 'He'll learn eventually what his situation is and hopefully settle down,' Gunter thought. It was amazing that he had to include some training for the new ones.

       Sarah and Thomas, sitting on the couch with Tony, had been around longer and knew the ropes. They'll help Tony stay in line and keep reinforcing the rules to him. Business was booming and he had to pick up a third employee; hence Tony. And he couldn't just pick up any employee; they had to have certain attributes.

       Thomas spoke up. "So, Gun, what's on the docket for today?"

       "Let me check." He keyed the intercom. "Tami, can you bring in today's case files please?

       "Sure thing," the intercom responded.

       They heard some rustling in the outside office, and then Tami walked through the office door, files in hand. From her perspective, there was only she and Gunter in the office.

       "Here you go," she said, laying them on his desk.

       Tony, having been a young man, couldn't help himself. He flew up into the air and started swirling around Tami.

       "Boss! This girl is it! She's gorgeous! Tell me you haven't been tapping this fine thing."

       Gunter had to bite his tongue and keep from laughing while Tami was in the room, ignoring Tony, lest she think him crazy. He did crack a smile though.

       "Something funny, Boss?"

       "No, just was admiring your hair. Have you done something different?"

       "Just some highlights, why?"

       "Just admiring it. Looks great,"

       Tami blushed slightly.

       "Thanks for noticing. Aren't you the sweetie?"

       "Right back at ya."

       "Teaser. Now about these cases; don't tell me you're going to take all of them on by yourself. You should delegate some of the case load out to your mysterious employees."

       "Thanks. I might just do that for your peace of mind, okay?"

       "You'd better. Don't want to lose a good job because the boss overworked himself," she chided, walking out the office door.

       Gunter, who suddenly developed a pissed look, jumped up from his desk chair and walked over to Tony.

       "Listen, Casper, you need to learn your place and quit the hijinks! We both know only I can see and hear you, but it's damn distracting while I'm trying to talk to her. Do you want to keep your job?"

       This rattled Tony, who sat down on the couch with a 'my dog just died' look on his face.

       "No, Boss, definitely not."

       The two other ghosts on the couch looked nervous as well.

       "Don't let the kid go, Gun," Thomas said. "He'll learn his place soon enough. Besides, he needs the job. It's all he has."

       "He'd better, or I'll let him go in a heartbeat. There are always others."

       People like Gunter were highly prized among the ghost community, since they were among the relative few who could see and hear them, unless the ghost chose to become invisible.

       Ghosts were stuck in a void with no purpose or motive, feeling empty and void. At least that's how it was explained to him. Employment by a mortal was invaluable. It gave them something to do with purpose. That was their payment: purpose. Once they found a 'job' they did whatever was asked of them so as not to lose it.

       Thomas and Sarah had been around for a while, where Tony had been dead only a few months. Gunter had hired Tony on their recommendations. Thomas had been dead five years, but had been a New York detective killed in the line of duty. His knowledge was invaluable. Sarah, who was formerly a homemaker and successful romance writer, had died seven years ago in a home accident. She was just handy to have around for her female perspective. Tony was still up in the air. Gunter had hired him on the impression that he was street smart, hailing from Brooklyn and only being gone a few months.

       Gunter's hiring criteria had to be selective. If they had skills he could use, then they were 'hired'. Not all ghosts were easy to work with. Some wanted only vengeance on a life or person that had supposedly done them wrong. That left few that were level-headed and useful. But they were invaluable; invisible and being able to follow anyone anywhere was an advantage any PI would kill for.

       "Sarah, did you get the info on McFarley this morning after shadowing him?"

       "Yes, it's all right here."

       She reached into her abdomen and pulled out the camcorder and handed it to Gunter.

       He winced a little; still hard to get used to that. Turning it on, he went over the evidence.

       "Sarah, this is perfect! This is exactly what the client wanted to see. Great job."

       Sarah smiled like a kid who had just thrown your car keys into the toilet.

       "After I show the client this evidence, I think it will be over for Mr. McFarley. Okay; for today's assignments. Sarah, I want you to shadow a Mrs. Anna Hunter on request of Mr. Hunter. He wants to see what she is up to."

       He handed her the file so she had all the info, pic, address, etc.

       "Thomas, I have a special one for you. A New York patrolman wants his partner shadowed on his off hours. He wants it handled outside Internal Affairs for now, but he thinks he's dirty."

       He handed Thomas his file also.

       "And take Tony with you; he needs the training."

       "Got it, Boss."

       Tony was silent.

       "Sarah, here's another camcorder for you. And here's one for you, Tom. I need to burn a DVD of the McFarley evidence off the first camcorder. Okay, you folks get to work. I'm going to take the evidence over to my brokerage client and fill him in. What are you waiting for? Shoo!"

       At that, they all took off and flew through the office wall to the outside. They all stopped and were hovering a good distance from the office.

       "You know, I really hate being treated that way," Tom said.

       "Same here," added Tony. "Damn, this view is amazing."

       They were hovering about fifty stories up above downtown Manhattan.

       "You'll get used to it in a while," Sarah interjected. "Guys, come on. Don't you feel good having something to do with some meaning and purpose? Otherwise, we'll just be floating around aimlessly. Do you want that?"

       "No, not really. Just feel like a slave sometimes."

       "Come on then," Sarah said. "Let's just get to work; purpose is everything."

       "I guess you're right," Tom answered. "Come on, Tony, let's fly. See you, Sarah."

       They quickly flew off in different directions.

       Gunter was glad they were gone. He had become accustomed to seeing and conversing with them; that wasn't the problem. It was just that he could always tell when they were in the room; slight chill to the air. He also needed to get to his meeting with the brokerage client. He had a feeling that McFarley would be fired and prosecuted. One of his favorite sayings was 'you do bad, you get bad.' He put the DVD in his briefcase, donned his suit jacket and left his office.

       "Tami, I'll be out for about an hour, meeting with a client."

       "Sure, Boss. See you in a bit."

       The walk was short to his client's building, being right up Wall Street. He was located in the penthouse office.

       'Must be loaded,' Gunter thought.

       Gunter asked the receptionist if Sam Capino was in.

       "Yes. Whom should I say is here?"

       "Gunter Mann."

       The receptionist looked him up and down.

       "Gunman, I like that," she said teasingly. "Go ahead in if you want."

       He knocked and entered just as Sam was sitting down at his desk.

       "Sam, how are you doing?"

       Sam Capino ran the Prosperity Brokerage Firm, and being a rarity in this day and age, he was an honest businessman. That's why he hired Gunter. His reputation was stellar on solved cases and Sam wanted any dishonest inside trader busted good and hard.

       "Is your investigation complete?"

       "Yes," Gunter replied as he plopped down in a chair close to the desk, "and I think the evidence I've gathered will be totally sufficient."

       He opened the briefcase and handed Sam the DVD he had burned off the camcorder. Sam took it and inserted into his office player.

       "Damn, Gun! How did you get footage this close?"

       "Trade secret, sorry."

       "Well, you and your team are amazing. Sure you can't tell me?"

       "Sam, you wouldn't believe me if I did. Let's just say they are very resourceful."

       "I'll say. This will all do nicely. I've suspected Tom for awhile. You can always tell by a change in a person's lifestyle."

       "You got it. That's the place I start in a case like this."

       "Understandable. Let me get you your fee."

       Sam took out a check ledger and wrote out one for ten large.

       "Worth every penny," handing the check to Gunter. "I'm going to grab Tom and have an immediate meeting with his sorry ass."

       "Just keep my name out of it, if you don't mind, unless the feds need my testimony or something. I don't think they will, though. I'll be on my way, too, if you don't mind, before your meeting."

       They both stood up and shook hands.

       "Stay in touch."

       "You do the same. And let me know how it turns out."

       Gunter left the penthouse office and passed Tom McFarley in the hallway. Funny; Tom gave him a look as if he knew who he was, and he had that 'deer in the headlight' look. Could be coincidence. Whatever and what the hell. He made his way back to his own office down the street.

       "Hey, Tami. Anything new while I was gone?"

       "Just a few calls on more prospects. I laid the messages on your desk.


       "How did the meeting go?"

       "Great. Made ten G."

       "Wow, Gunny! Take a girl to dinner later to celebrate?"

       "Name the place and time and you got it."

       "Cool. Mind if I go to lunch in about fifteen minutes?"

       "Naw… I might take a quick nap."

       "Okay. I'll leave quietly."

       Gunter took off his suit coat and sat down in his chair. The ghouls must still be at work. Good, he wanted a little privacy. It didn't take him long to nod off, leaning his head back on the comfortable leather.

       Funny—he felt something cold on his neck. He jerked awake.

       "Don't make a move, dirtbag."

       It was McFarley, holding a silenced forty-five automatic to his neck.

       "How the hell did you get in here?"

       "Your secretary was kind enough to let me in as she was leaving. Luckily she didn't recognize my face. I told her I needed to talk to you about a case. Pretty much the truth."

       Shit! Tom had the drop on him. He grabbed for his Sig .45. All he got was empty holster.

       "Sorry. I took the liberty of removing your piece."

       He showed it to him just out of arm's reach in his left hand.

       "I'm not as stupid of a mark as you think I am. Although I don't know how you got the footage of me doing my trading. Hidden camera, maybe?"

       He pressed the silencer harder against his neck.

       "Where's Sam?"

       "I left him dead in the meeting room with his Human Resources witness. He said I was through and that he would be calling the Feds shortly. I couldn't let him do that. I had to get away where no one could find me, but I wanted to take care of you first, you snoop-ass bastard! You and Sam ruined my life. Now I'll have to fake an identity and probably take off out west somewhere. I'll start with taking your car and be gone before your secretary gets back. That should throw them off my track long enough to get some fake ID."

       "How did you know I did the investigation?" Gunter asked nervously.

       "I told you I wasn't stupid. You're close to the firm and have the best rep for a case like this. Plus you just confirmed the fact."

       'Absolute stupidity on my part!' Gunter thought. He might have been able to talk him out of this if he hadn't opened his mouth. Stupid!

       Tom reached into Gunter's pockets and took car keys and wallet.

       "What kind of car do you drive?"

       "Red Lexus, and I'm not telling you the license number, suckass," he said, spitting in his face for emphasis.

       Tom wiped the spittle from his face.

       "Well, you got some spirit, my PI friend. But this is the absolute end of the line for you."

       The front office door opened unexpectedly.

       "Don't make a sound," Tom whispered.

       "You in there, Gunny? Got down to my car and realized I left my wallet and license up here. Is your visitor still here? Gunny, you awake?"

       Tami opened the inner office door slowly and entered.

       "Tami, get out!"

       It was too late. Tom quickly shifted the gun and drilled five whispering rounds into Tami's chest and head. The thud of the rounds hitting flesh and bone was the loudest part. She collapsed to the floor, smashing the glass in the inner office door as she fell. Blood started to pool around her.

       Gunter took the opportunity to lunge at Tom, trying to get an advantage. But Tom was too quick. Swiveling fast, he fired five rounds almost point blank into Gunter's chest.

       Gunter felt himself falling backwards, head hitting the floor, although he didn't feel it. Everything was fading into blackness. 'So this is what it feels like to die,' he thought, and he was gone.

       He felt like he was out for a short while. He came to and stood up slowly. 'Maybe I'm okay after all.' He turned around and saw his body on the floor in a large pool of blood.

       Tami's body was still over by the office door, and Tom was long gone.

       "Aww for the love of shit!" was all he could come up with.

       Fine mess. He looked around and everything had a washed-out, monotone color. He could walk around okay. He discovered he was able to put his hands through objects or pick them up. He could even walk through the office wall and back in again.

       Thomas, Sarah and Tony flew in through the building wall.

       "Boss, what the hell happened here?" Thomas said, taking in both bodies dead on the floor.

       "Very bad meeting with a pissed mark, and now Tami and I are both dead. I'm not sure what happened to her. I haven't seen her since I came to, so to speak."

       "She probably panicked and ran or flew off somewhere. She'll come to her senses in a while; they all do."

       "What now, though? What am I supposed to do?"

       "It's starting to set in already," Sarah said, glancing at the others.

       "What is?"

       "The feeling of absolute uselessness, having no purpose, nothing to fill the void."

       "Yes, I can feel that. But I should go after Tom. He needs to pay for what he did."

       Thomas spoke up quickly. "Gunny! Snap out of that. He will pay some day. There's nothing you can really do, and it will just drive you insane. Then you won't be good for anything."

       "Okay, I'll fight the urge. But it's strong."

       "Don't worry, it will pass, trust me."

       "Don't worry, Boss. We'll show you the ropes," Tony piped in.

       "You can stop calling me that now."

       "Sure thing, Gunny. But we'll help you through this transition; it takes some getting used to."

       "I do appreciate it."

       "Most importantly," Thomas spoke up, "is that we three and now you need to find employment. The three of us know most of the mortals who can see and hear ghosts. So we need to start pounding the pavement, so to speak, and find a job. Having something to do, a purpose, is all that helps stave off the emptiness. And purpose is the only commodity that someone can give to us in payment. So, are you ready, Gunny?"

       "Yeah, let's fly."

       The four of them flew out the building wall into the afternoon sunlight, high above the Manhattan landscape.

       He figured he would have to polish up his resume.





copyright 2007 Ken Dean.

Ken Dean:

My name is Ken Dean and I live in Hilliard… a suburb of Columbus, Oh.

Several publications have been at Silverthought (www.silverthought.com). Also published several stories in different issues of Down in the Dirt magazine and the anthology collections Chaos Theory and Distinguished Writings from Scars Publications (http://scars.tv.)

You may contact Ken Dean at: kdean4485@hotmail.com and kdean@columbus.rr.com