A Ghost Hunter Named Grayson

By Lisa Manes

The picture in my mind was vivid, like the paint by number water colours my sister and I would create as children. I could see the rich yellow of the sun soaked weeds, perfectly plowed rows of a never ending field, and the starburst shape of the sun. One of my favourite aspects of the image was the way the vast sky faded from a peculiar dark blue to golden yellow. These memories filled every corner of my mind until I felt as if nothing else in the world mattered but finding out what lay at the end of the dirt road, dipping up and down like the unpredictable swells of an ocean...

I snapped my head up as I awoke with a start, my eyes slowly adjusting to these familiar surroundings. Worn leather chairs lined each wall of the train, a small group of patrons scattered throughout the otherwise empty seats. As I shook sleep's stupor from my hazy mind, I noticed the man beside me discreetly dabbing at the arm of his sports jacket. He caught my eye and smiled kindly. "Did you need a napkin?" he asked, pausing when he saw the confused look on my face, "for your, uh," The man awkwardly pointed to his mouth. As I brought my hand to the corner of my lips, I felt something wet. Suddenly I understood.

"Oh god," I muttered, blushing a violent shade of crimson beneath my ivory complexion. "I'm so sorry! I have no clue what happened! I'll... I'll buy you a new jacket! Without my," I cleared my throat, "saliva on it." The man ran a hand through his auburn hair and laughed as if this were a joke.

"It's fine. I mean I'm not going to lie; it's not every day that a woman falls asleep on me. It was cute," he said with a crooked smile. I covered my face, horrified. Good one Maggie, a real blonde moment, I thought to myself. This never would have happened if my boss and mentor, Gerry, hadn't convinced me to travel an hour to a remote town on the outskirts of Milton. Though I wasn't complaining. I had worked for Toronto's most recognized lawyer for four years after law school, learning all the loop-holes and tricks in hope of one day opening my own practice, but not once had Gerry given me an opportunity like this one. I would help him on this case, even if I had to return to the one place I swore I would only revisit in my dreams. On more than one occasion they had been nightmares.

I felt strong hands move my own away from my checks, and once again I was brought back to reality by this stranger. "I'm Grayson, by the way," the man introduced himself. I quickly did the same. "So Maggie, what brings you to this neck of the woods, so to speak?"

"I'm working on a case. A court case, that is," I explained, forgetting about my momentary humiliation at the thought of my true passion of law and justice. "Have you read about the Munroe incident in the paper, it happened a couple years back?" He nodded with a whistle, impressed. The Munroe case was a devastating yet enthralling masterpiece painted with murder, deception, and piles of evidence against the accused. Fergus Monroe and his wife Anne had just moved into a new neighborhood in Milton with their five teenagers. A strange man, Fergus worked for farmers caring for the corn fields with Anne. Despite his peculiar air, all was normal until the owner of the farm found Fergus buried in a pile of hay, a bullet lodged in his spine. The gun belonged to Anne, who had confessed in tears to a friend that she killed her husband to keep him from going to the police. Apparently she and Fergus had kidnapped all five children from places like hospitals and daycare centers! Of course Anne denied this confession once in custody despite growing evidence, which just caused more publicity, leading Gerry to take on the case as prosecutor. "An easy case, a touchdown," he had called it. "And how would you like to be my quarterback?"

The train lurched forward on the tracks. "Well, I'm working with the prosecutor to prove Mrs. Munroe guilty. Do you remember her friend who claimed to have been confronted on the night of the murder with a confession?" Grayson nodded, intrigued. "I tracked her down and now am going to interview our star witness," I declared proudly. "So what do you think?" I queered. Grayson seemed to think for a moment.

"What makes you think she's telling the truth? I mean come on, how old is she? One-hundred-and-fifty? That can't be a reliable witness," he said with a straight face, which soon shattered and we both fell into an unexplained and immature fit of laughter.

"She's in her forties," I said in-between giggles, "The oldest person to live was one-hundred-and-thirty, Einstein." Our laughter at the bad joke eventually ebbed, and we resumed our conversation. "She's coming to Toronto to testify for the trial in a month, but obviously we can't go into the courthouse and wing it. I have to make sure she agrees, write down her side of the story, prepare her for the defense's mind games during cross-examination, and the list goes on."

"So, have you ever been to a rural farming area before Maggie?" Grayson asked as the conductor's dull voice announced an approaching stop. I was once again pulled into the memory of rolling pastures and dirt roads, my own personal limbo. Such a beautiful place held a dark past that I was not ready to share, not even with someone I felt at ease with like Grayson.

"Um, no. I've been a city girl my whole life. Just apple picking at an orchard with a friend. What's it called?" I asked quickly, trying to shift the topic.

"The orchard off the highway? I think I know it, I've lived on a farm since I was eight," Grayson proceeded to tell me about the apple orchard I was supposed to be thinking of, but I was still on another planet. I lived in Milton before, on a farm most likely much like Grayson's home. These small, desolate towns are beautiful to raise a family. My own was not so lucky. When my younger sister and I were painting the breathtaking scenery by the road before supper, we saw a rusted truck sputtering down the road. It rumbled like it was about to break down, then came to a complete stop in front of us. I ran home, afraid like any child would be. But my sister was not behind me, and after that night never was again. The Munroe case, though ordinary to any other lawyer, is the case of a lifetime for me. My sister could have been one of those five kidnapped children. I believe that although those kids must love Anne as their mother, those five families deserve to know that their children are o.k, alive, and grew up to do great things. I pray every night that my parents will get that same closure.

The train stopped, and I realized that I would be getting off at the next station. Grayson began gathering his laptop and backpack. I saw disappointment flicker in his eyes, then he said, "Well, Miss, it has been a pleasure accompanying you on your trip, but I must depart." He scrawled something on a piece of paper, then closed his hands over mine as he placed it in my palm. "Call me so we can arrange where I can pick up that new jacket you owe me," he laughed as he held my hands. Slowly we let go, and as he walked down the aisle he called over his shoulder, "I'm a large, by the way, and I don't wear leather!"

I smiled as the train once again came to life. I unfolded the paper, revealing his name and number, with a message. It read: Maggie, I hope you will call me and we can meet up some time. I sighed and looked out the window. We began to pass my old neighborhood. There were the honey-dipped grasses, the dusty dirt road my sister and I had once sold lemonade upon, her blonde hair glistening in the sun's rays. These colours, images, and smells, all were the ghosts of my past which haunted me. But today, I had met someone who was able to chase the ghosts away. Today I was able to see my parents home and feel happy to see them, not guilty for a loss so out of my control. Today I was free, all because of a one in a million chance meeting with a complete stranger who later turned out to be my rock, my new passion, and my new future.

Did You Know

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