«Stop.» Hamilton’s glowing hands sliced through the mist as he chopped the air before him. They had walked all the way from the gatehouse to the small family cemetery. «What do you want? Why can’t you talk to me with Horatio?»
«I will tell you.» Luminescent green fog trailed from the ghost’s fingers. «Pay attention.»
Hamilton missed these thick stocky hands.
«I’m watching.» He lied, rubbing his eyes. A veil of tears frosted his vision. He could hardly see at all.
«It’s almost time to go back.»
«Go back?» Hamilton questioned with a sniffle that came from more than just the cold.
«Flames. Alone.» The spirit’s glowing eyes drifted left and right, his gaze distant.
Alone and flames? His father had been a great man. A godly man. Why should there be fire and loneliness? His jaw clenched and his throat burned.
As if reading Hamilton’s expression, his father reassured him. «Purgatory. I can’t tell you about it.» He looked around again. «But don’t pity me. Just focus.»
Hamilton nodded, waiting for his father’s ghost to continue, heart pounding in his chest.
«What?» Hamilton scowled at his father. Revenge?
«I need you to prepare yourself.»
Mist swirled between Hamilton and his father.
«I did my best for you. Didn’t I? I sent you to the best schools. We worked with the best therapists and doctors.»
«You learned my language.» That was the trump card. No other act from his father could compare to his learning to sign. He could have treated his son like everyone else. Speak slowly. Listen carefully. Try to understand his thick deaf accent. «What is this about?»
«Did you truly love me?»
«Yes.» More than anything.
«There has been a murder.»
A gust of wind dispersed the glowing shape.
Revenge? Love? Murder? None of this made any sense.
«Just tell me what happened, father. I can contact the police before sunrise.»
«I’m glad you’re eager, but I’m afraid this isn’t a job for the arbitrary law of man.» The cloudy figure paused. «It must be you.»
«Me?» Why should Hamilton be more powerful than the Elsinore Police Department or the law of man? He was only twenty-one. He hadn’t even been able to inherit anything after his father’s death. He was useless.
The ghost ignored Hamilton’s question. «How did I die?»
Taken aback, Hamilton touched his chest and punched his open palm. «Heart attack.»
«What do you mean?»
«I didn’t just have a heart attack, Ham. I was murdered.»
Hamilton waited for more information.
His father’s fingers trailed smoke as he spelled out a single word. «K L A U S.»
Hamilton’s brain buzzed. He felt again the bolt of lightning from heaven shivering through his body from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. «What do you mean?»
«My brother killed me.» He signed without expression, as though it was a simple statement of fact.
His throat went dry, and Hamilton ground his teeth ground his teeth so hard he could almost hear them scraping together.
Klaus was an ass. Hamilton knew this. He had swooped in and taken over the company before his father’s body was cold. He had married Hamilton’s mother practically during the wake. Hamilton knew that Klaus was a piece of work, but a murderer?
Hamilton shook his head. «Impossible.»
«Do you remember my favourite lunchtime tradition?» The glowing man changed the subject.
«In the summers, when I was home from school, you napped in the garden after lunch. I smelled the flowers and chased the snakes.»
«Yes. Do you remember what I told you once about those snakes?»
«Be careful of the red, black, and yellow ones. They’re deadly.»
His father nodded. «One day, while I slept, Klaus used the snake’s venom to poison me.»
«Adulterous bastard. He seduced my wife and then killed me so he could take control of my company.»
There was a moment of stillness. Even the wind was calm. The swirling fog stopped its spiralling, and it cascaded to the ground like Verona Falls in slow motion.
«My sweet wife.» His father mused, glowing eyes drifting back toward the house. «Is she at the party with him still.»
His father’s face fell. Actually fell. The misty figure dripped like a melting candle. Faceless, he signed, «I love her. Forever. You know that. But I think I never truly satisfied her.»
«What are you talking about?»
The wilting wax of his father’s head reintegrated, but the eyes drooped with sadness. «Sometimes, I forget how young you still are.»
Young? Hamilton may have been young in years, but in lived experiences, he was a wise old man.
«Did you know the Catholics are right?» His father picked up the discussion again.
«Last Rites. I didn’t get them. So now I’m stuck in Purgatory.»
Hamilton nodded. Of course. Flames and loneliness. «What should I do?»
«You must take charge of the company. Klaus is not a good man, and he is going to destroy my company and my family name.»
This was true. Klaus hadn’t even waited a full day after taking control of the company to divert funding to local charities into the Paris project.
Klaus had killed his father. He had stolen Hamilton’s due. He was ruining the name of Danes. Hamilton ground his teeth so hard his jaw began to shoot twinges into his neck and shoulders.
«Calm down, Ham. Breathe. Think rationally.»
He nodded and took in a cold misty breath.
«No matter how you seek revenge, please keep this in mind: don’t hurt your mother.»
Deep breathing rendered useless, Hamilton’s hands tightened into fists and he clenched his teeth again.
«She doesn’t deserve this anger. She may not always have been the best mother to you, but she loves you. And I know you love her, too.»
Nodding, Hamiton shook out his hands. «Before you were even buried, she was remarried.»
His father nodded. «I know. But it’s not her fault. She’s a survivor. She does what she must.»
The ghostly figure smiled faintly. «She deserves happiness.»
«She was happy with you! Klaus will not make her happy.» He found himself shaking with anger.
«Exactly why you must help me.» His father’s ghostly glowing eyes widened, pleading.
Hamilton took in another deep breath and steadied himself.
«Be careful, Ham. Revenge can be tricky and dangerous. Don’t let it consume you.»
The ghost’s shocked eyes darted from left to right as if searching for an unheard sound. «I must leave. Remember me.»
The green glow pulsed and the mist roiled like a boiling water. The light grew intense as a bolt of lightning. Hamilton clamped his eyes shut against the burning luminescence. It had been cold before, but now the wind gusted with such force that he felt like naked in a snowdrift. Teeth chattering, he watched through squinted eyes as his father’s ghost dissipated in a thousand directions.
The air was clear.
Was that it? Revenge?
A light breeze brought warm air. Shivering despite the warmth, he fell to his knees in the dewy cemetery grass. He inhaled with a shudder.
He screamed. His soul rattled with the power of his fury and grief.
His father had been murdered by his own brother? His mother had cheated on her husband? They had smiled and laughed together like nothing was amiss. There was no justice in this world for these villains. Watching his hands shake, Hamilton imagined hot blood dripping down his fingers as his soul joined his father in the flames of purgatory.
No. Hamilton couldn’t join him in the afterlife yet. He must do what his father could not.
He had promised his father revenge. Death would have to wait.
With a determined breath, he staggered to his feet.
«As long as I live, I will remember you.»
Horatio appeared from the darkness at a run. Hamilton pushed down the remaining emotion and swallowed it like a handful of sleeping pills.
Hands still quivering, Hamilton signed with crisp movements so Horatio could see from a distance. «It’s fine. I’m fine.»
He skidded to a halt before Hamilton. «I heard you scream.»
«I didn’t hear it.» Hamilton tried to smile.
Horatio’s signature laugh was nowhere to be seen. He sneered as though he had stepped in a pile of dogshit. «No. Now’s not the time for jokes, Ham. I thought you were in trouble.»
«I wasn’t. Everything is fine.»
«Right. Fine. Except there’s a ghost taking you to the cemetery. For what?»
«I can’t say.»
«What do you mean you can’t say?»
«I can only tell you that the ghost is real. It’s my father’s spirit.»
«What?» Horatio’s eyes shone with disbelief.
«You’re narrow-minded, Horatio. You need to broaden your horizons.»
Horatio analysed Hamilton from head to toe, eyes squinted in a critical glare.
«You have to promise never to speak of this again.» Hamilton continued.
Horatio’s continued his non-verbal analysis of Hamilton.
«And,» Hamilton continued. «There’s something I have to do.»
His friend’s expression didn’t change.
«It might seem like I’m acting strange. But you can’t say anything about this.»
Horatio continued to stare, motionless.
With a single sharp nod, Horatio agreed.
«Good. Do you want to see if the party is still going?»
Horatio shook his head so slightly, Hamilton almost missed it.
«Right. Then this is where I have to leave you.»
«The world is a mess, Horatio.»
«Why is it up to me to fix it?»
«Nothing. We’ll talk later.»
«And don’t say anything to anybody.»
«I already promised.» Horatio crossed his heart making the old playground oath.
The aroma of decaying leaves and dirt filled his lungs as Hamilton took a calming breath. Finally, it worked. The turmoil of the unjust world that had boiled inside him calmed and became a pool of determination. Without another word he left Horatio standing alone in the cemetery and walked back to Danes’ Manor. He had work to do.