Sergeant Arpin stood with Detective Durand at the street vendor near the Gendarmerie. The rich aroma of ground beans and the hiss of boiling water fought against the hurly-burly of the Arrondissement.
“How goes your missing ghost case?” he asked.
She watched the preparation and sighed.
“It has become more complicated.”
Before she could answer, their cafés were handed to them and then she walked, in no particular hurry. Arpin followed and sipped his café, very good. When arrived at the front entrance two Chevaliers stood at either side of the door. One was clad in armor made from what looked like sun-baked dirt, the other in plates of hammered silk.
“Follow me,” she said.
They walked along hallways, past offices and interrogation rooms till they came to a small cage lift. It took them to the top floor that was occupied by a small army of broken desks and chairs that sat in wait for the paperwork that would allow them to be disposed of. After making their way through this maze built by bureaucratic ennui, they climbed a wrought iron stairway and on to the roof.
Arpin sipped his café and waited for Durand to speak. Off in the distance, the Wandering Woman, its cables beckoning the bold, sailed its unpredictable course above the Arrondissement. A murmur of people and traffic could be heard under the wind. It felt peaceful, for the moment.
“Half the ghosts have vanished.”
“Do you know where they’ve gone?”
“I do not.”
“How it happened?”
“Again, not at all.”
“Strange things happen in the Arrondissement every day, but this…”
“What did the Captain say?”
“She was occupied by your case, the Spider Gang, or whatever the papers are calling them. That and her resentment of the Chevaliers in the Gendarmerie.”
“It’s not your fault, but thank you.”
“The living give little thought to the dead,” Durand stated.
“What do the ghosts say?” he asked.
“Ironically, they are terrified. Many of the spirits I’ve interviewed have told me that those who have disappeared have done so…painfully.”
“I didn’t know they could feel pain.”
“They can’t, not like the living. Their pain is more emotional. But from what I was told, it seemed to be physical.”
“And there is no explanation for this?”
“None, it should be impossible.”
“There seems to be a rash of impossibly of late.”
“No links between the victims?”
“Other than their state of undeath, none.”
“The Cure-dent de Déant grows centuries worth in a moment, an old man is given a second youth and the dead vanish in pain. The needle is skipping on the phonograph.”
Durand’s eyes went wide and she ran towards the stairs and Arpin followed. After navigating the broken furniture and a slow ride on the cage lift, they arrived at her office. It was located in the back of the Gendarmerie. A small room with two desks, file cabinets and one tiny, high placed window, it was clear to Arpin that the living were unconcerned with the dead, at least in the policing of them.
Pulling out files from the drawers, she laid out two articles, one about the Jardin des Gens and the other detailing the miracle of Willem Molyneux. She looked at Arpin and smiled.
“What do these two incidents have in common?”
“They both took place in the Jardin des Gens.”
“Yes! But what else?”
“Look at the time,” she said.
Arpin read each article and saw that both listed the events as happening simultaneously.
“And your ghostly disappearances?”
Durand pulled out her notebook, in which written the same time as the two other events.
“What is the connection?”
She smiled and said, “I have no idea. Let’s find out.”