"Thank Heaven! the crisis—The danger is past, And the lingering illness, Is over at last—And the fever called "Living," Is conquered at last." - Edgar Allan Poe
Peaceful Pines; a place where very few events of notoriety ever occur. A safe town, far away from the bustle of city life. Secluded near a dense forest of evergreen foliage with chilly springtimes that are accompanied by a light breeze of crisp and clean air.
It is the ideal location to let go of the stressors of the world. A person could enter this town and feel welcomed by the friendly folk, who are more than willing to help the new arrivals settle into their home sweet homes.
That was precisely how Jane Butterfield advertised the town that she detested so much. Still, she couldn't deny that the place held a charm to anyone who is seeking solace and silence… and she would know about its silence.
After all, the deceased tell no tales. For once they were gone, dead and buried, with no one the wiser, Jane could move forward to do her job. There was only one other person in town who had known about her dirty laundry, and he had passed on not long after Jane had succeeded in obtaining the Maitland property.
Arty Reagan, the former medical examiner, had often complimented Jane on her smooth tactics for using the twists of fate to propel her victims into an accidental early grave.
Unfortunately, her former acquaintance was no more, and now the young Dr. Miller was in charge.
Jane did not need to develop a connection with the red-headed know it all. If Arty, The Suicide Detector, could not pinpoint the telltale signs of her committed crime, then this fresh-faced straight out of med school child would be at a loss.
The trick, she discovered, was a plausible and common occurrence for an accident, preferably one caused by disagreeable weather. This time of year was a perfect recipe for just such an event to occur.
Summer was just around the corner, and these properties were prime… so she waited and watched as the cruiser of Officers Dichter and Brown's traveled down the winding path leading to the Deetz house before sloshing a mixture of slick car oil onto the Bridge just in time for the vehicle to go through.
She then set a mirror on the floor angled to flash headlights back at the driver to hopefully cause the cop to swerve just right.
Then she skittered away to her hidden car behind the evergreen trees and waited for the mayhem to begin.
Being in love was, as he often stated, the pits. He could feel the changes between him and Lydia. With each lie or diversion of conversation, he inflicted upon them, his living reason to be would build another wall around her affection for him.
Death could dull most pains but feeling her attempt to put distance between them was like having his skin peeled off his muscle tissue. She was torture.
Pacing her living room, he considered his options while the devil and angel on his shoulder battled it out.
"If I just tell her the truth, maybe it could fix everything. She would come back. She always comes back." Beej reasoned.
Angel Beej nodded and stroked his harp. "Lydia loves you. She has stood by your side after all these years."
Devil Beej cackled. "So we are gonna forget how she bugged you and got you impeached from being Mayor of the Neitherworld?"
A.B rolled his eyes. "She only wanted her best friend back."
D.B continued to cackle, and he zapped A.B's wings, scorching the feathers and twisting the wired halo into a knot.
"Face it, Beej old boy. Lydia knows how to play you just as well as you know how to play her. If you tell her the truth, she'll find a way to break it all off. She still has options."
"Lyds hates it when you trick her!" A.B. screamed in horror. "If she ever found out you were hiding something, do you really think she would let that go? You are risking eternity here Bub. Don't fuck it up."
"Don't fuck it up?! If he doesn't get that ring on her finger ASAP, who knows what'll happen? Lyds needs to either make the kill quota or seal the deal. If ya tell her the truth, you might as well kiss her memory goodbye."
"Eeenough!" Beetlejuice screamed as he picked up his angel and demon by the scruff and promptly threw them out the front door. The two little ghosts didn't even notice the change of their surroundings as they took turns giving each other blows while cussing each other out.
As Beej was about to tell them to buzz off, he noticed some headlights crossing the Bridge in the distance. Through the rain, he could barely make out the car while it turned into an unlikely direction off the main road.
Tapping his fingers to his chin, he decided to take a closer look while his mini counterparts stopped to look on with curiosity.
"Lydia you should totally take Allen with you." Bertha turned her head to look at Lydia sitting in the back seat of the cruiser.
"I couldn't take either of you from the job. I will be alright. It's just the city, and besides, I've been putting this off long enough. I'll just have to get it over with."
Lydia wrapped her cloak around her a little tighter. Regardless of the heater that warmed the vehicle, a chill, and a sense of concern filled her. She wondered briefly if her power was starting to act up due to some stray thought she may have had in regards to her current situation with Beej.
She felt the cooling of their relationship as drastically as he had, though it wasn't for lack of love. She cared deeply for that old ghost, but trust was something, she was starting to realize, they lacked.
If anything she wished she could go back to being caught up in that haze of Neitherworld magic. At least she could pretend that Beej was the best and most caring person in her life.
But wasn't he? Didn't he still treat her like a goddess when they held each other at night? Didn't he kiss her like she was his last gulp of oxygen?
He knew her body down to its core. He touched with expert care to bring her to the peak of ecstasy. She glimpsed the heavens that would deny her entry after her deeds.
She loved Beej. No doubt about that but … could she trust him? He wasn't the goofy, clueless con man she had grown to admire. It was the thrill of their adventures and the glint of darkness in his eyes that excited her. Darkness, intensity, and danger…. Lydia never considered herself inclined to hybristophilia, but it was becoming clear each time she looked into a mirror that her darkness, her innate need for blood and danger, craved a partner as depraved as herself.
"You shouldn't worry about us. I've been on patrol without Allen hundreds of times." Bertha nudged her partner and fluttered her eyes at him. "Besides he's good to look at when you need to take a break from staring at the road."
"Gee thanks, Bertha." Allen rolled his eyes though he was slightly amused. Lydia chanced a laugh at their dynamic.
"I won't deny the good view." She commented with a teasing flirtatious look of her own, which of course caused a blush to appear though it was subtle. "Honestly, it's just paperwork. I'll probably ask B.J. to join me if he's not too busy."
Thin lines pressed between the lips of both cops though neither said anything on that subject. Lydia noted their lack of response and sighed.
"I know you both care, and I know you're worried, but I'm safe with him. Bertha, you know him. Has he ever given you a reason to think badly of him… aside from his gross jokes."
Bertha turned in her seat and relented her stance; she gave Lydia a sad look. "Between you and me, the Beetlemans have always been a hoot but I'm not so sure…"
"Klote!" Allen shouted, and the car veered, skidded, and slid.
The vehicle, unable to gain traction, spun and slammed into the wall of the crisply painted walls of the Bridge over the river that separated the Deetz home to the town.
The wood splintered while remnants of ice spring forth from their trapped location in the planks.
Bertha grabbed for the dash while Lydia in a panic scrambled for any surface or handle available in the back seat of the cruiser.
Only Allen remained visibly calm even though he no longer had control of their fate as the car tipped its nose down into the icy waters below.
Apprehension filled the three as their hearts beat with a horrible syncopation that foretold their doom.
That was until the car lifted and shifted back onto the surface of the Bridge, allowing Allen to pull the car into reverse and safely settle them under the covering that shielded them from pelting, icy rain.
Lydia saw a streak of ghostly energy blink out of sight in a puff of smoke and random objects. Beej saved them.
Allen swore in fluent Dutch while he struggled to regain his breathing. His tone grew argumentative as if he were speaking to his own ghosts.
Bertha reached over and touched her partner's shoulder while she held the other hand over her own heart. With a violent swat in Bertha's direction, she snapped her hand away and turned to face a white-faced and trembling Lydia.
"I'm alright," Lydia said in a rush. "Allen?"
"There is something in the road." He said darkly.
Lydia felt the shift of his Aura as it struggled between two energies, dichotomic in their polarity. Lydia looked around and noted their surroundings. She saw nothing unusual, but she did hear something — the faint screech of a car heading into the direction of town.
Alternatively, another pair of headlights shone as they approached from Lydia's home. Instantly she recognized the sound of her Doomie's beep. Concern filled the rev of his engine as he near screeched to a stop next to the police cruiser.
Beetlejuice jumped out, without bothering to hide his abnormal agility as he ran to the back of the cruiser, opened the door and pulled Lydia into his arms.
He took a look at the hole in the wall, and his eyes narrowed dangerously.
"Mr. Beetleman.." Bertha began as she stepped out of the car.
"I saw everything!" He snapped, and Bertha flinched. Once he was sure Lydia was safe, he kissed her forehead and turned to the grown woman he once knew as a child. He opened his arms for her and pulled her into a familiar squeeze. "Don't you ever scare me like that again, Burp. Do you have any idea how close a call that was!?"
"I didn't do anything.." but she didn't get to say much more as he gave her another squish before relinquishing his hold on the frazzled cop and rather than take hold of Lydia once again, Beetlejuice eyed Allen scrutinizing the changes in the man's Aura.
"You got here pretty quick," Allen commented as he returned the leveled gaze with a slight upturn to his lips.
"Yeah yeah, I've been waiting for my Babes to get home. What of it?" Beej replied in a chilly tone.
Lydia placed a gentle hand on Beej's arm to get his attention. "I'm gonna head home. Beej?" She indicated Doomie with a nod of her head. The car watched the scene with sad, puppy dog eyes. He wanted so much to check on his owner but remained as immobile as possible for a possessed animated vehicle with an abnormal carburetor.
"Allen," Lydia began. "Bertha. Thank you both for tonight. Do you… that is, will you be alright getting home?"
Allen wordlessly shifted his attention back to Lydia's hopeful expression. She could have sworn that he had aged in that swift moment of near-death, but it could have just been the darkness that was slowly starting to develop under his eyes.
"We will be fine, Lydia. Go warm up. I'm going straight for a bath and a shot of vodka after that," Bertha laughed nervously before nodding to her partner.
As the cops got into their cruiser and pulled away from the Bridge back into town, Lydia couldn't help but take note of the cold air filtering through the covered Bridge. She wrapped herself a little tighter into her warmth.
Her ghost embraced her from behind and once again placed a loving kiss upon her head.
"Come on, let's get inside."
Silence solemnly passed inside of the vehicle as Allen drove Bertha back home. For him, the quiet was what he needed. At this time, he was well aware of how he was incapable of tolerating any idle conversation. To his relief and sincere appreciation, tonight Bertha seemed to have an unspoken understanding and held her tongue.
However, he did notice her stealing glances at him periodically, but he paid her no mind. Instead, he dwelled upon the details of their near-death experience and the quick examination that he had performed before they had left the scene. He needed to go back and investigate it in more detail as soon as possible. Precious time was slipping away, and the evidence potentially washed by the falling rain.
Unusual details stuck out upon recollection — for instance, the unnatural shimmer of the rainwater. Not to mention the conspicuously placed reflective surface that near blinded the officer and how the item conveniently disappeared sometime between the arrival and departure of Beetleman.
Then there was the shift in energy when they nearly tipped over the edge and into the rocks and quick icy waters below. He didn't like it, but he knew, oh, he knew that there would be no possible logical explanation for an accident.
They were supposed to have died that night, that he knew for sure. He had felt the air of doom that had surrounded them, but that extra presence had stilled it. Miraculously they were given another chance.
Saying his goodbyes, he wished Bertha well to get some decent rest even though he felt hollow as the words came forth. His mask and show of civility were only in place to grant her at least somewhat a worry-free night. Unfortunately, he knew that his own wouldn't be so carefree.
Lydia places a kiss on the hood of her car, wishing him a good night and sending him home to his garage at the roadhouse. The poor innocent car whined and rumbled his own wordless goodbye as he faded into the ethers and crossed the veil.
Quickly she ducked into the house and used her power to manifest towels and a warm blanket. She wished that she could manifest a roaring fire but the lack of a fireplace in her homemade that an unfulfilled desire. Plus, she didn't dare try to create one with her magic.
Without any indication of his actions, Beetlejuice apparated behind her and embraced her, placing kisses up and down her neck. His ghostly breath sending shivers down her spine as he exhaled his relief into each peck upon her flesh.
"Don't. Ever. Ever. Ever. Do that to me again, Babes." His hands trailed over her in desperate need in what appeared to be an attempt to reassure himself that she was still there, alive and unharmed.
Lydia turned into him and kissed him deeply while her fingers tangled themselves into his damp hair. A slight sound of displeasure at the feel of wet stringy hair erupted a chuckled from Beej as he juiced her towels away along with their soaked clothing.
Her legs instantly wrapped around his body, defying any sense of gravity as she used her power to stay somewhat afloat. Beej had no problems with this since it made it easier to force her against the wall and enter her determined exuberance.
Crying out in surprise and pleasure, Lydia flung her head back, not caring that she would have a bump later that night. Wriggling her hips and writhing against him, she built up her senses. Life… that was what she felt as her blood pumped through her body with each violent thrust.
"Fuck, Lyds. I just can't get enough of ya." Beetlejuice oriented his gravity till both knees were against the wall. He found new traction to slam against her again and again.
It didn't even take long for him, both of them even, to find release.
"Yes, I now feel that it was then on that evening of sweet dreams—that the very first dawn of human love burst upon the icy night of my spirit. Since that period I have never seen nor heard your name without a shiver half of delight half of anxiety."
Beetlejuice chuckled. "No one has said my name."
"Ah, but I will." Lydia yanked on his hair to bring him in for another kiss. "Over and over again, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice."
The tension so recently released began to build again while he gripped her hips and flushed their bodies together. With a flick of juice, they found themselves on Lydia's bed.
Her ghost pelted her body with kiss after sweet kiss, carefully grazing his tongue over her heated flesh. His reward; a generous moan from the beauty before him.
"I'm not ready for you to join me on this side of the veil Babes. Your body is so delectable. Especially when I can feel your pulse and the rush of your blood." He let out a near-feral growl as he dove between her legs and began an onslaught on her sensitive folds.
Lydia hadn't expected him to move so quickly and giggled between moans of pleasure.
"Beej!" She cried out his name to get his attention but only revived a flick deep within causing her to squeal. "Beetlejuice!"
"That don't work any more toots. Now let me finish my dessert."
Lydia laughed and fell back against her pillows, legs wrapping themselves over his back while the heels of her feet massaged him.
It felt like hours as they reunited and satiated their lust and adrenaline — something they both needed to reassure themselves that the end of their journey had not yet arrived.
He held her close while they curled under her blankets, silent as the grave while he thought about the best way to approach a conversation.
Lydia could sense his need to talk, to get something off his chest. Turning her body away from their spooned position, she wrapped her ankles and legs in a tangled mess with his own while facing him.
She propped herself up on one elbow and tapped his pointed nose with her free hand.
"Out with it." She commanded.
Chuckling, he reached a hand around her and gripped her ass firmly before slapping it hard.
"What makes you think I wanna talk?" He asked with a dark edge to his words.
"When have you ever held your tongue?" She grinned and shook her head with a laugh, "Forget I said that. You know you want to say something. I can feel it."
"Huh… didn't realize you could feel that much."
"Don't change the subject." She reprimanded with a shove to his chest.
The ghost struggled with his thoughts. He took Lydia's hand and kissed it gently.
"I almost lost you today."
Lydia nodded and sighed into her propped position. She waited for him to continue.
"We are so close, and I can't risk you forgettin'." He released her hand and traced his fingers on her face. "Marry me, Lydia. It's our only guarantee."
She felt her body cool at his words, slowly shutting down.
"You just won't let that go, will you?"
Beetlejuice sat up in bed and turned his best puppy dog look on her.
"No, Beetlejuice. I'm not ready for that." Her heart ached when she saw the look of hurt on him. She wanted to say yes. She really did but now wasn't the best time. If only he could see her point of view.
"Lydia." His voice warned.
"Beej. Seriously. I can't. Don't make me change things so quickly."
"What is there to change?!" Lydia flinched at his tone but soon found her ire rising at his audacity to force her into a position she was not comfortable with.
"Everything!" She shouted back. "I barely even know myself! How can you expect me to move any faster than I already have!"
"This is torture!" His voice was nearing incredible levels. "I waited years for you to wake the fuck up to the realities of your true nature and I am not going to waste all that time on some stupid breather jitters."
Lydia's face paled as his words hit her like an icy slap the face.
Instantly realizing he crossed a line, he reached for her, but she pulled back and retreated into herself. She slid off the bed and juiced a long wrapping robe to herself from her closet. She hid her body from him in defense to keep her warring emotions to herself.
"Shit Babes. I didn't mean it." He floated to her, but she turned away from him.
"Put some clothes on." She commanded in a flat tone, not bothering to look at him as his boxers appeared on him.
"Lyds." He pleaded and reached for her again surprised that she would jerk her body away from him as if he had with the plague.
"Don't. I need to be alone." She pulled her robe tighter and fought back the tears that threatened to expose how raw she was feeling.
Beetlejuice flinched and pushed his power to her, but nothing changed other than the incredulous look Lydia spun around and threw in his direction. He tried again, and she narrowed her gaze in a look of pure distrust and anger.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Shit." He growled punched the bedpost, cracking his knuckles in the process. "Come on, Lyds! You gotta understand where I'm coming from."
"And you need to back off for a while. I told you I am not ready and after what you just told me-"
"It was so much easier when I could erase your memory," he muttered darkly to himself.
The stunned look on Lydia's face was the only clue that he had said those words out loud and regret flooded him down to his core. Her betrayed expression cracked him, and he wanted nothing more than to take back those words and kiss her till she caved once again to his touch.
It was not to be.
Lydia walked out of the room, leaving Beetlejuice to run after her, only to be shoved back by the door slamming in his face.
The weather had thankfully let up into a very light misting but the darkness of the cloudy spring night would not help make matters easier for him tonight. After a quick stop at home, Allen drove at speeds that would have normally gotten him in trouble but this was an exception. This was a race against time.
Screeching to a halt, gravel kicked up then settled when the engine was silenced and turned off. Allen stepped out onto the darkened but wet road just before the covered Bridge where less than an hour ago it was completely intact. Mud muffled the crunch of gravel under his boots as he adjusted his footing to grab something out of the back seat of his small SUV. Hefting the full duffle over his shoulder, he bounced his maglight in one hand then held it tight before turning his gaze up to the impressive house on the hill.
It was like a beacon in the darkness in many ways, both figurative and literal. Noting the lights that were on, Allen thought about how Lydia was somewhere in there. They were so close, but the distance between them felt like an insurmountable wall. That's just how things were, and he accepted that.
Loud but muffled squeals of delight met his ears and gave him pause as he stared up to her home. He couldn't understand why hearing her like that right now made his heart feel incredibly heavy, but it did.
Sighing out his resignation, he couldn't afford to let it cloud his thought processes at this moment. No, he had a duty to complete, and being distracted wasn't an option. He needed to address the scene that was before him and discern the who, what, how, and whys. Death still crept around this place with silent steps, and he acknowledged it with the reverence it deserved.
Somebody had planned this, and the reasons were nefarious, this much he knew.
Walking along the road's shoulder, he scanned the ground with a critical eye. He was thankful that the rain had stopped when he had dropped off Bertha and that the current light misting would not impede him as the heavy rain would have. Nothing appeared to be unusual until he came upon a tiny clearing behind some tall pines. It was there that he found the muddy and deep tracks that traced back onto the road and had flung mud in all directions.
Shining his light upon the imprinted tracks in the mud, Allen found his evidence. In four places were the perfectly intact and deep impressions of where a car had sat and partially sunk into the soft soil. He silently thanked the stars they had not been washed away, let alone not filled with any rainwater from earlier. Pulling out his waterproof notepad, he wrote down his findings before setting the duffle-bag down and digging through it.
With incredible care, he measured the width, length, and depth before mixing up some plaster of Paris. The viscous white slurry spread and filled the imprint as he poured the remaining plaster out. As the cast began to set, he started a more thorough examination of the soft ground in the small clearing. It was then that he discovered a small reddish-pink fluid settled in a small puddle between the tracks where the vehicle had been. Taking note of its position, he understood that whatever vehicle, which more than likely was a sedan sized car, had a small transmission leak. From where the puddle rested, it was a rear-wheel-drive car with an automatic transmission. Just to make sure to cover his bases, he took a sample of the liquid.
He needed to find more evidence. Just this alone wasn't enough to find fault in anything even if he knew better. Finding the vehicle would more than likely give them a break in the case. It would also give him the face of the attempted murderer who had their eye on the three of them.
With even and slow steps, Allen replayed the whole jarring event over and over as he scanned the ground. As he stepped into the covered bridge, the rush of the swollen stream below echoed loudly on the walls. Only a few steps outside of the Bridge, the river was more muted. The contrast was nearly unsettling, but perhaps that was because of the event from earlier.
He knew exactly what he was looking for and where it was on the old wooden planks. Pausing in one particular spot, he stopped to take a sample of the slippery liquid that was the cause for the cruiser's loss of control.
Next, he walked over to the place that he knew that he had seen the mirror-like object. He recalled the item placed on the Deetz's side of the property. But again, as soon as Beetleman showed, it was gone.
Sadly, there was no imprint of the mirror but what he did find was promising. There he found a washed-out but medium-sized heeled footprint. He could only deduce that the person must've set this down in haste because their foot had slipped in the mud before hurrying back to the vehicle.
After writing down the measurements, he found a dry patch under a corner of the Bridge and sat down to ponder the clues. Who would do this? What would someone gain from this? This well-executed 'accident' wasn't like the MO of the previous cases. Was it even related? What motive would any of the subjects have from this particular incident?
Jane, well, he didn't nor couldn't trust, but he would have to look into that further. Lydia was obviously out of the question because she was in the vehicle with them.
Then there was Beetleman. Nothing was right about this. Like the way that he suddenly showed up as if he was some hero trying to save the day. Thinking on it, Allen couldn't help but notice that Beetleman wore a medium-sized heeled boot. Although tonight they were distinctly not muddy so if he had set the mirror down, he had to have been somehow not walking in this weather.
Allen scoffed as he replayed every detail about Beetleman's interactions tonight. Everything about him left a bad taste in his mouth, and he didn't like anything about it one bit.
Loud but angry voices interrupted the night's silence giving Allen's hooking his attention and shifting his thought process. Old homes, like the one on the hill, didn't like to hide anything, did they? Somehow voices always carried through them like a cardboard box.
Whatever the argument was, it wasn't good, but it didn't sound violent or in need of intervention. Tensions and other emotions had to have been high after what had transpired earlier.
The distinctive sound of a heavy wooden door slamming was the last thing that he heard before he glanced at his watch. To his surprise, he discovered that it was much later than he had realized.
He had been in his head for far too long, and those plaster casts of the tire imprints were more than ready to be pulled.
He would have to send off all of the evidence to be analyzed. He had an inkling that this was soon going to come to light.