During lunch, Luke and Hannah discussed some of their interests with the kids, Jordan, and Sierra. Sierra asked a few questions about the curriculum their mother had chosen for them and learned that the bulk of their program was self-led. Sierra found that Susie's homeschooling plans were very similar to what she did with her own family, and offered the Smith kids the opportunity to peruse the library and see what was of interest to them. It turned out that Luke had lined up an apprenticeship at Foxwood, the biodynamic farm that surrounded Liberty Heights. He was very interested in seeing Benning's chickens and rabbit colony, so the two boys headed to the garden space with Caisson, discussing the care and keeping of the animals. After hearing Hannah and Ranger bounce between a variety of scientific subjects, Cadence recruited the two to help her troubleshoot a few issues with her sewing machine. As everyone finished up bringing their lunch dishes to the kitchen for Campbell and Knox, whose day it was to do kitchen clean up, Jordan glanced at his watch.
"Babe, it's a pretty nice day out. Were you still planning on your walk with Kahra?", he asked Sierra.
Satisfied that their kids were pulling Luke and Hannah in and helping them feel comfortable, Sierra said yes and headed to the bedroom to get ready to go for her walk. Placing her Glock 19 in the bedroom safe, she replaced it with her smaller Glock 26 in the compression holster of her Dene Adams concealed carry corset. Readjusting her yoga pants and T-shirt over the corset, she pulled on a hooded sweatshirt and slipped her cell phone and keys into the pockets, then tied up her favorite walking shoes. After saying goodbye to all the children and Jordan, Sierra
headed out the door with Kahra for her walk around the neighborhood.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sierra had finished her loop through a portion of the neighborhood and was walking slowly back home in her cool down phase as she began to pass the Smiths' driveway. As she prepared to turn and cross to her own driveway, Sierra noticed a shimmering out of the corner of her eye. Just as she was about to brush it off as a simple reflection on a window of the house, Sierra felt a tell-tale prickle at the back of her neck. At the same time, Kahra stopped walking and looked at the Smiths' home. Sierra stopped as well, and assessed the area around her. Seeing no threats, she turned slightly more toward the house, looking for the glimmer of light she'd seen. Something blurred her vision, but she couldn't directly see any living beings. Thinking of her Granny's teachings, she said a short prayer and then turned back toward the street slightly.
Using only her peripheral vision to try to watch the area where she'd first seen the shimmer, Sierra spoke softly but firmly. "If you're a friendly spirit who would like to make contact, you are welcome to do so at this time. Please know I am trying to see you, but cannot yet."
Then she waited, watching Kahra for any signs of concern. The dog sniffed the air gently, then stood. Walking a few feet away, Kahra sniffed a flowering cherry tree at the edge of the driveway, looked at Sierra, and sat. "Would the tree help your strength? Alright then," Sierra said, and joined Kahra.
As she did so, Sierra saw the branches begin to move slightly, as though a slight breeze were blowing through them. Looking at an angle, she could see a glimmer begin to form a human shape - a woman's shape. She was slightly taller than Sierra, with blond hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail and wore what appeared to be workout clothes.
"Susie?" Sierra asked.
The woman shook her head and said something, but Sierra was unable to hear her. The woman appeared frustrated and spoke again, Sierra shaking her head again. The third time it looked like she tried to yell her name.
"Wait, wait!" Sierra said. Remembering a mystery series she had read, where a woman talked with a ghost in her yarn shop by pretending she was on her phone, Sierra pulled her cell phone from her pocket. "You look like you're from my time, even if you aren't my neighbor. It seems like you need to get your strength up or we need a closer connection. Maybe we could use my phone - can you try making it 'talk' to me via text message? You have my permission to communicate with me this way for now." (Granny had warned Sierra and her siblings to never write spirits a blank check.)
The blond woman smiled and nodded; it was worth a try. Sierra opened a blank message screen and typed, "Let's test it with your name."
The woman moved slightly closer, Kahra simply watching her contentedly. A look of concentration on her face, she stared at the phone.
Nice to meet you, Sarah. I'm Sierra. Do you live at this house, or in this neighborhood? Sierra typed.
Sarah shook her head and looked at the phone again.
Your sister lives here?
Confused, Sierra said aloud, "I'm sorry - are you looking for Susie Smith? To help her to the other side?"
Sierra almost dropped the phone in her shock. "I ... I was told Susie was killed today."
That time Sierra did drop the phone. Hands shaking, she picked it back up and looked at Sarah, who looked distraught.
Sierra looked around and decided to type instead of speaking aloud. "I'm very confused. I was told my neighbor Susie was killed. Can you please explain what you mean?"
Bob's in danger?
NO. BOB DANGER. WARNED SUSIE.
Bob was a danger to Susie and you warned her?
YES. ON RUN TOGETHER. BOB IN DRIVEWAY. HEARD SHOT AS SUSIE TIED SHOE.
Sierra gasped as the message appeared. Did Sarah mean Bob shot her while Susie was tying her shoe? If so, where was Susie?
Where's Susie? Is she alive? Sierra typed.
BLACK SUV. SOMEONE GRABBED AS SHOT. KIDS OK?
The kids were brought to me; they are okay.
DANGEROUS. PLEASE KEEP SAFE. DON'T LET BOB HAVE. PLEASE!
I'll do my best. I don't know how I could keep them though - he's their dad.
Luke said that too. Is he their step-father?
Sarah shook her head.
NO. NOT FATHER. NOT DAD. NOT BOB. ASK LUKE.
Sarah began to flicker and looked at Sierra sadly.
Sierra nodded and said aloud, "You need to rest. This must be very hard for you. I'll see if there's a way for the kids to stay with us for longer. My husband and I will do our best to keep them safe. Is there anything we should show the police, to help them understand?"
Sarah smiled broadly and pointed at the phone.
HANNAH'S ROOM! appeared, as Sarah faded completely from sight.