Monday, 15:00, route 40 eastbound
Before his dad even steps on the bus, Martin can taste the scent of an accident. The bus itself has a lingering iron smell, both inside and out, which can be attributed to the fact that the bus had likely passed the scene of the accident once or twice that day, but Martin’s dad is so inundated in blood and burning rubber that he must have been one of the officers cleaning up the event.
Martin’s inquisitive side tells him this is an excellent opportunity to dig up new information for himself and Divinity, but he makes the internal arguments that his dad will be suspicious of any questions, and Divinity really isn’t a positive influence. As he weighs the consequences of investigating or not investigating, Martin unzips his backpack and searches for a book. He can’t break his planned act of innocent curiosity before he decides to use it.
His senses keep automatic tabs on Mellie and his dad as they step onto the bus and walk towards him. Their steps are heavy, and their breaths are damp with regret. They speak in whispers, and their voices drop further as they near Martin, but he can still hear them.
“Honestly, Mr. Stevenson,” Mellie hisses, “I don’t think anyone will ever figure out who she was.”
“I’m sure there’s something someone can do.” Mr. Stevenson’s eyes flick towards his son, and he bends down in a vain attempt to keep the conversation secret. “She could have left a ghost, or we could bring in a medium.”
Mellie’s armor clangs with a particularly heavy step, and she pauses to look up at Mr. Stevenson. “I had no idea you were such an opportunist,” she says. Then she puffs out her cheeks and drops into a seat three rows behind Martin. “You and Martin both. Huge opportunists.”
“Well, that explains where he got it from.” Chuckling, Mr. Stevenson lowers himself into a seat across from Mellie and rests his wrists on the back of the row in front of him. “In fact, now that you mention it, he’s probably using his enhanced senses to eavesdrop on us right now.” He raises his voice and lifts his chin, a pristine smile gracing his face. “Isn’t that right, Martin?”
Martin thumbs the pages of his book and listens to the whirring of paper sheets thumping against each other, pretending he didn’t hear.
“Or maybe not,” Mr. Stevenson says. He turns back to Mellie and puts a hand up to his mouth. “But going back to the problem at hand, now that we have access to ghosts and such, I think it wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out who today’s victim was.”
Mellie runs a hand through her fiery hair and groans. “But the investigative team already talked to a ghost from the hit-and-run incidents and learned nothing. The poor girl was hit too quickly, and then she ran off halfway through the interrogation, saying some kind of energy was calling her. Even if we had a medium to summon specific ghosts, I’m pretty sure the results would be the same.”
With one hand on his book to keep up the ruse, Martin fishes his phone from his jean pocket and flips it open. He ignores a slew of private messages from Divinity and Willow, who seem to be asking him to back up their theories on why Drake is single, and selects the group text.
Drake has just updated everyone on the latest conversation between his mother and grandfather, but his longhand way of writing shows in such huge blocks of text that Martin scrolls to the bottom without paying attention and focuses on the conversation behind him. Hopefully, his ears do not swivel or twitch and give him away.
“Even when Rick talked to us, he couldn’t say much beyond what we already knew,” Mr. Stevenson argues. “There’s really only so much witnesses can say, especially when the perpetrator is invisible.”
“I doubt it’s any different for the victims. They couldn’t see the driver either.”
“You never know with magic.”
Martin smiles. That’s exactly what he would have said. He taps a button on his phone to keep the screen lit up and waits for a tendril of information with actual weight.
“And see,” Mr. Stevenson continues, “with this particular victim, finding her ghost may be our only chance of identifying her so that we can inform her relatives of her passing. She was too disfigured for any casual acquaintance to know, but spirits are recognizable, especially if she’s still wearing distinctive clothing.”
Sighing, Mellie taps the wall. Her chainmail dress clinks with every minute movement. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to ask people at the apartment complex to look out for a ghost in a leopard print coat. I just don’t see the higher-ups agreeing with that kind of action if they haven’t done it already.”
“Maybe it will be on the news tonight,” Mr. Stevenson offers.
Mellie huffs, not at all careful to hide her feelings about her superiors or Mr. Stevenson’s ideas, and Martin allows himself to smile at her distaste. She has no idea how helpful this will be.
Careful of his fangs, he licks his lips and addresses Divinity in the group text. Though his phone buzzes moments later with Willow’s frantic, capitalized worries, Martin cannot wipe the grin from his face.