Agent Boone’s good cheer remained intact when he arrived at the park. His smile dimmed when he saw the body, but the somberness didn’t reach his tone as he greeted me. That made me curious. I didn’t want to ruin his day, but it surprised me that showing up to check out a dead man didn’t do the trick. I didn’t give in to the temptation to question him, though. If I opened the door into his personal life, he might expect to learn about mine in return. My trust in him grew the longer I knew him, but I still didn’t think of him as a friend.
“What happened to the tree?” he asked.
“It’s a long story. The short version is that magic healed the area,” I said. He didn’t ask me about the fae and didn’t seem to notice them either. I wondered if Sal knew the enchanted bracelet didn’t let Boone see through all illusions. Did that mean it didn’t protect him from all magic, either?
“Right, and how does the dead guy come into it?” he asked.
“He was the demon’s most recent victim,” I answered.
“The demon possessed him?”
“Yeah. It’s gone now,” I told him.
“Do you need to cleanse the body? I’d rather not hear about magic-fueled brawls at another funeral,” he said.
“It won’t be an issue.” I wished he’d leave it at that, but I knew he wouldn’t.
“How did you find him?” he asked.
“He found me,” I said. I wouldn’t lie to him. Still, I’d see how much of the story I could omit as he questioned me.
“What do you mean? Why?”
“It knows me now. As long as I’m around to keep breaking its connection to this world, it will see me as a threat.”
“So it’s targeting you? Casper, that’s serious. Why didn’t you call for help?” Concerned edged into Boone’s voice.
“He’s too stubborn,” Cormac interjected, unheard by Boone but apparently unable to resist a chance to needle me.
“I had it handled,” I answered them both.
“What happens next time, though? You won’t have the extra power from Peter anymore. Getting some help—” Cormac said. I cut him off by renewing my mental shield against him. Rude of me, but I couldn’t deal with a lecture and interrogation simultaneously.
“Wait, are you saying you killed this man?” Boone asked.
“No, the demon killed him. I banished the demon.”
“Can you prove that?” he asked.
“What?” I must have overestimated how much he trusted me.
“Can you prove the demon possession killed this man?” He repeated.
“You don’t believe me?”
“It’s not about what I believe. You don’t have any witnesses. If anyone else questions this story, you need some sort of proof that the demon came after you,” he explained.
“I do have a witness,” I said.
“—typical of a witch. You think just cause I’m dead, you can press the mute button and ignore me,” Cormac said as I cast a spell to reveal him to Agent Boone. Apparently, he’d started ranting when I closed myself off to him.
“Cormac, this is Agent Boone. Boone, Cormac is a ghost. He was here with me when the demon arrived,” I said.
“How do I know that isn’t some illusion you cast?” Boone asked.
“Now you want me to talk just because you need something,” Cormac groused.
“Your bracelet lets you see through witch illusions. Does he look like any of the illusions you’ve seen?” I asked.
“No. Still, I’m not sure a ghost’s testimony is admissible in a court,” Boone said.
“Why the hell not? I’m dead, not blind.” Cormac argued.
“Well, what’s stopping you from lying?” Boone asked.
“I don’t know. What’s stopping anyone else?” Cormac countered.
“Jail time and fines, assuming we can prove they’re lying,” Boone retorted.
“Oh,” Cormac said, blushing. Boone’s curious look told me he didn’t know ghosts could do that. I didn’t want to get sidetracked by that discussion, though.
“Legally admissible or not, if you believe me, can we burn that bridge when we get there? I banished the demon, but its summoner is still out there,” I said.
The forensic team turned onto the path as Boone hesitated. “All right, but next time you call me. I don’t care what time it is. You got it?”
“Got it,” I answered.
“I’m serious, Casper. Even if you think you can handle something, if it’s related to the investigation, you need an agent with you.”
“I said I got it,” I repeated.
The forensics team took over the scene. All of them unconsciously gave the sapling plenty of room as they examined the scene. I had a more important lead for Boone and me to follow. Confident that none of the DPI team could see the fae or resist the magic keeping them at a distance, I convinced him we should go. Peter told me about his tablet before moving on. The DPI had his belonging in evidence, which meant that I couldn’t work around them this time. I’d need to find a way to get the demon summoner alone, but we needed to find him first.
“So, about Cormac,” Boone said, uncertainty clear in his tone.
“He’s gone,” I said. He’d decided to update Cal instead of coming back to the office with Boone and me.
“Okay, then he doesn’t just follow you everywhere?” Boone asked.
“He’s not haunting me. He just watches my back from time to time,” I said.
“I didn’t see that wrong, did I? Ghosts can blush?” he asked.
“But how? They don’t have bodies or blood flow,” he said.
“Their perception of themselves fuels everything about their appearance. He might stop doing it if he took the time to think it through as much as you have. I’d guess it’s one of those things that comes so automatically that he’s manifesting it without conscious thought,” I explained.
“So they can appear whenever they want?” Boone asked.
“No, I cast a spell to make him visible to you. They can manifest however they like on their plane, but it takes a particularly powerful will for a ghost to show up for everyone to see.”
“Then we just see the strongest ghosts?”
“Mostly, yeah. There are some exceptions, but you won’t see most ghosts without magical intervention,” I said.
“Good to know,” he responded. I thought I saw him considering an idea, but he didn’t say anything else.
“Do you know if anyone’s looked at the tablet already?” I asked.
“Tech went through it, but they didn’t find anything of interest,” he answered. “What are you hoping to find on there?”
“Peter had a website. I’m guessing that’s how the summoner found him in the first place,” I said. I didn’t want to tell him that Peter basically guaranteed the information would be there.
“We didn’t find any websites registered under his name. Just the usual social media accounts,” Boone said.
“The specternet doesn’t have to follow the same rules,” I said.
It surprised me that the DPI’s tech team wouldn’t think to check the specternet. They existed at least as long as supernaturals had been out. Surely, they knew about it by now. Maybe the Minneapolis office didn’t have anyone with access. I wondered if helping them access it would come back to bite the local supernatural community. I’d have to risk it if I wanted to get to the messages between Peter and his killer. At this point, I knew I’d risk worse trying to find Noah Smith.