"I dread the events of the future, not in themselves but in their results." The Fall of the House of Usher (1842) - Edgar Allan Poe
Bertha couldn't take it anymore. She watched her partner sink into a state of focus that scared her to no end. Much worse than watching Beetleman change before her very eyes and snatch her best friend away into oblivion.
Far worse than when the police force finally crossed the bridge after rescue units brought the fire under control. Detective Bath was beyond livid when he found the three of them standing on the porch while every light in the Deetz house was on. She was afraid he was going to accuse them of aiding and abiding a criminal.
The following day, and subsequent week, grew tenser and tenser as bodies began to show up. Some cases appeared normal for the local cities, while some had the feel of an elaborate kill. The most bizarre were the unnatural deaths—bodies placed in impossible situations.
Physics had no hand in the placement of these crime scenes. These were the cases Allen began to dwell on.
Only once did she try to talk some sense into him—big mistake.
His dark sunken eyes flared each time she stepped within touching distance. Daring her to say something. So when she chose to ignore his shield to tell him that he needed to get a grip, Lydia would be alright with Beetleman, he advanced on her. He pushed her hard against a wall knocking the breath out of her.
"He didn't have to take her." He spoke with a level voice. "We could have… I could have protected her. They would have never suspected me. She would have been safe at my place."
"Allen, please. She will come back. She always comes back." Bertha pleaded, but the anger that radiated inside that usually masked facade burned brighter.
That was until Detective Bath called them into his office. Bertha sat at the edge of her seat, fearing the worst. She maintained her composure in front of their supervisor, but she knew he could see right through her. His eyes could read her like an open book. He didn't even bother to ask what she and Prudence were doing at Lydia's house that night. He ignored them, asking only her partner.
He lied. Allen claimed he had figured out who the true culprit was and gone there to try to bring her in peacefully. After all, Lydia trusted him. He was going to bring her to the station.
Bertha felt betrayed, knowing how easily he could twist the words into the perfect logical excuse. Like an expert, he lied to Bath and cleared suspicion from him, leaving Bertha and Prudence with the feeling they had been thrown under a bus.
"Officer Brown." The detective's voice broke through her thoughts, "I understand that you are still on suspension, but you will have to accompany your partner on this delicate matter."
Eyes wide, she looked between the two men in the office. Allen rolled his eyes, scoffing at her inattentive manner.
"Go with your partner to the state prison to identify a body. Make sure you both report in exact detail what you find."
"Yes, sir," Bertha replied instantly, still unsure why they needed to identify a body. Prisons are usually well equipped with security cams, or so she thought.
Who could possibly be this important for Bath to bring her out of office duty?
When a parent dies, a child is left without their guidance. Usually, the child grieves the loss and seeks a way to fill the void of loneliness within. If only to ease the pain. That was how it felt when Oma and Opa passed, but now, it was just a body.
Allen started at the body on the slab. Carefully placed and cleaned by the mortician of the prison morgue. The body would be shipped to its final resting place soon enough, but first, he and his partner needed to inspect the contents of his father's prison cell.
Good riddance, Allen thought with distance at the face that brought more demons into his life than any ghost he had ever encountered. The devil himself couldn't do any more harm than had already been done at the hands of this deceased monster. As far as Allen was concerned, his father got what he deserved.
The slit throat and stab wounds were enough to prove that anger fueled this kill. Go figure.
They left the morgue soon after, his mortified partner beside him continued to glance his way, expecting some sort of reaction. He didn't have any. At least not in the same way Lydia's disappearance had affected him.
The cell block where Hannus was held during his incarceration appeared to lack the number of prisoners that one would expect. These people were killers, many of them abusers beforehand, like Allen's father. All of them were put away for taking the lives of another.
But, unlike the others in this room, Hannus didn't do it.
Allen could feel the kindred spirits, literal and figurative, all around him, calling him closer. They could feel him, though their conscious minds would never register the connection.
The cell itself showed a horrific scene but no more so than any other crime scene the duo had encountered.
"She was a peach," a cold voice came from the next cell over. Allen and Bertha approached the man, ignoring the insistence of the guard that this prisoner was delusional.
"What do you mean 'she'?" Bertha asked. Her hands placed firmly on her hips—the no-nonsense stance.
"The cutie who came here last night. Took the old guy out… know what I mean?"
Bertha flinched at the recognizable phrase, but Allen ignored the look she shot him.
"You saw who killed him?" Allen asked.
"Saw, spoke to, she's a real hot piece of work. Kept saying something 'bout doin' it for some guy named Allen. Fucker has one saucy dish. I would have loved to bring that fine piece of ass in here to show her a goooood time."
Allen struck out, grabbing the prisoner by the throat for a brief moment before Bertha touched his arm. The guard laughed and shook his head.
"You street cops…." He unlocked the cell to allow them into the crime scene. "Can't let these knuckleheads get the best of you. Hardcore criminals, not like the thieves and domestic disturbances you all get to play with."
Bertha scoffed, unimpressed by the bravado, "As if you ever investigated a murder scene. Get back on guard duty and let the real cops do their job."
Despite the anger that boiled inside of him, Allen smirked at his partner's brutal way with words. The guard had only taken one step in her direction before he spoke, "I wouldn't do that. We came here to do a job. Now do what she says and … Go. Stand. Guard."
The prison employee glared at the cops and the prisoner, who began to cackle at witnessing the humiliation. The guard took out his stick and whacked the bars, effectively startling the prisoner, who only laughed harder.
"Allen, come look at this," Bertha called out, having already started searching the cell. Blood covered the bed, and surfaces had already been dusted for evidence, but not even modern forensics could detect the aura of Neitherworld energy. Only those familiar with the register would see, smell, taste, feel or hear the elements.
They called out to Bertha and Allen, urging them to look harder till Allen noticed a tiny smear of ectoplasmic residue on a postcard. A Neitherworld postcard reading "Wish you were Scared!" while a couple of monsters in bathing suits waved back, beckoning the viewer to join them in a hot tub full of acid. Bertha gasped and backed away once she took in the melted flesh at the base of their torsos.
He picked it up to examine the piece of paper while Bertha took a quick scan to see if anyone had noticed what they were up to.
The card had a message on it written in glowing green ink.
'I'm alright. I will see you soon. Love, Lydia.'
"She didn't, did she?" Bertha asked in a harsh whisper.
"Yeah, she did." He said calmly as he pocketed the postcard. A small bundle of warmth for the love and appreciation from her morbid gift formed in his chest. She had done this for him. Letting the darkness fuel him once more, He gave the cell one last look before returning to the prisoner they spoke to earlier.
The prisoner had a smarmy grin on his face when he saw the cops return—teeth showing and slightly reminiscent of the ghost who stole Lydia. The prisoner waggled his eyebrows at them.
"So what did she leave ya?" He asked.
"Did she say anything to you?" Allen asked in return.
"What'll ya give me if I tell ya?"
Allen narrowed his dangerous eyes at the prisoner, who only cackled.
"I'm yankin' yer chain, Buddy. She told me to tell ya that she is working on getting back, but she's gotta do a few more jobs. Little lady knows her way around a body, that one has some rage."
Allen's attention diverted to his partner as she let out a rather loud exasperated grunt.
"So, Officer, which one are ya fuckin'? The lady cop or the killer? I got an itch that needs scratching if yer lady friend there ain't too attached. Hehehe, I like a woman in uniform. I like em to punish me."
Bertha gagged and walked off but not before Bertha's flair of attraction to Allen was projected right into his mind. He shook it off and left the prisoner to his ramblings and catcalls that followed until Bertha was out of sight.
For the first time in a while, Allen allowed himself to smile at Bertha's discomfort. That postcard gave them both a smidge of hope that Lydia would be returning soon.
Time passed in the Neitherworld as Lydia avoided being alone with Beetlejuice. She couldn't stand the hurt puppy dog look in his eyes when she was the one who should be feeling hurt and betrayed.
She spent most of her time in a spare guest room, attempting to use her power to do the simplest of tricks. Alas, it was to no avail. Lydia could feel herself slipping into a void of misery. She would never have thought she could be so utterly alone in her favorite place.
As she lay in the soft musty old bed, she felt the warm river of tears slip-free and streak across her cheeks till the moisture puddles onto the comforter. With each teardrop, the oddly sentient comforter would fold a corner around her gently rub her back to calm her. Lydia didn't even have the heart to laugh at the literal translation.
A gentle rapping at her chamber door brought Lydia out of her wallow in the land of self-pity. With a sniffle, she sat up and wiped her eyes, calling for her visitor to come on in.
Ginger poked her head inside and smiled when she saw the blanket holding onto Lydia's middle. She slipped inside gracefully, practically pirouetting as she propelled herself across the room and jumping on the bed. The comforter squeaked at the assault and dove under the bed.
"Lydia, tell me what happened. Jacques just told me about your last victim. Did you really murder your lover's father?"
Lydia sighed, wrapping her arms around herself. "Beej has been so unreasonable. I had to pick someone outside of Peaceful Pines."
"So then why dear old dad?"
"More like dear old sperm donor. Allen and his father didn't have a relationship." Lydia snorted derisively. "I just needed to find a way to send a message back home without… being too obvious. Beetle-"
Lydia paused mid-speech, sensing Beetlejuice as he walked outside in the hallway. He paused by her door.
"Just ignore him." Ginger said with a casual wave of her hand. "Did it work, at least? It's been so long since I've felt real flesh bleed out, I mean aside from the bodies you brought down here."
With a wry turn of the lips, Lydia scooted closer to her friend and hugged her. The feeling of a human-on-human hug with the former spider felt like coming home. Ginger patted her gently on the back and brushed the girl's hair back.
"How can I trust him?" Lydia whispered.
"Darling," Ginger giggled, "You have no idea what that fool is going through, but he's gotta learn that you are not like us."
Turning her head towards the bedroom door while still cradling Lydia in her arms, Ginger called out in a loud voice. "Beetlejuice has a thick skull. He needs to grow up before he can handle a woman like you."
Lydia chuckled into Ginger's shoulder when she felt the agitation come through from the other side. They could hear him swearing as he stomped away from the room.
"He's not worth the stress. Trust me. The brute really does care about ya, though. He's been beating himself up in more ways than you can understand if you had known him as long as we have."
"I don't understand."
"Let me tell ya this. Beetlejuice doesn't love. He hasn't loved since he was alive. He won't tell ya this cuz he's a dipshit of the highest order, but I had words with his mentor."
Lydia released Ginger, sitting up with her knees pressed into the mattress. The comforter reached out from under the bed and patted her thigh.
"Juno," Ginger continued, "she picked him. Of all the killers out there, Beetlejuice showed remorse. Not for everything but for what he did to his last victim. You see, he was heartbroken. Some dame, she was killed by accident, but it set off a chain reaction. He killed, then they came after him. He lost everything. His family, his lover, and the last death, well, he made a mistake. Killed his brother."
"Donny!" Lydia cried out in shock and quickly covered her mouth. "But, he's here, and so are their parents."
"Alotta people are here from his time, Lydia. Killing wasn't as big a crime back in his day, but it did leave people scared for their afterlife. Folks here… they killed multiple people. One-timers get a break, even two or three could be forgiven, but after so much blood on the hands, the Neitherworld is the only place that'll take ya. Aside from the Pit."
Lydia thought she was going to be sick.
"So Bea and Gnat…"
"They helped Beetlejuice murder an entire family. They loved that girl too, apparently."
"Who was she?" Lydia asked, afraid of what the answer could be.
Ginger shared a sad smile and sighed. "No one but Beetlejuice and Juno can remember the name. She was young, and both Donny and BJ loved her. Her family worked on arranging a marriage, and it all went south from there. All I know is that Beetlejuice grew more and more insane with every kill, and once he got here, he knew the only way to get more power was to keep making deals with killers."
"He used me for power… figures."
Ginger stood up from the bed, shaking her head. "No, darlin'. Beetlejuice saw something in you and tried to give you a good life. The deal he made with you was different than any of ours, and … he was gonna let you grow up and forget. Don't know why he is so torn up about ya, but you are important to him. Sure, He's made mistakes, but the bad guy habits are hard to kill."
Lydia giggled, genuinely amused by the cavalier discussion of death and murder, "You mean like Jacques LaLean Cuisine?"
"Oh gosh, Lydia. You have to try it!"
"Uh, no thanks. Jane never sat well with me, pretty sure I wouldn't be able to stomach her."
The two women laughed when another knock on the door caught their attention. Not Beetlejuice; Lydia could tell that right away, but she was surprised by seeing the Monster from across the street.
Brown fur and all, he poked his head into the room and removed his hat.
"Miss Lydia. Jacques tells me you'd need some assistance in .. erhm…. crossing over?" He said the second part softer.
"Another kill?" Ginger cried out and jumped on the bed. The comforter scurried under the bed, further to which Lydia laughed when it released her leg.
"I have some… unfinished business with an old friend of the family," Lydia said to Ginger, standing up to greet her monstrous friend. "You look the same as always."
"Yeah, Didn't feel right to shock the Mrs with the old me. 'Sides, I kinda like this body. Bein' a monster here is better than bein' a monster up there."
Lydia touched his arm. The soft fur felt familiar and warm. With a smile, she hugged him freely, feeling that at least one person hadn't changed all that much.
"Ah, shucks, Miss Lydia. You feelin' under the weather?"
"I'll be fine. I'm just glad to have you as a friend."
Ginger crosses her arms across her chest, popping a hip to one side while she took in the sight. "Oh honey, you really have no idea how much you fit in with this little family. Now, if you don't mind, think you can do a gal a favor?"
Lydia let go of her friend as they both looked toward Ginger.
"Let me take ya on the next job. I'm in need of a little... girl time."