Common Denominators

Posted on: September 23, 2014

When we last saw Anna, she was battling a particularly difficult ghost who attacked her in a parking garage. The ghost came to Anna's attention through her client Suri, whom the ghost haunted for fourteen years, inhabiting a series of different men. With Suri recovering from the ghost's latest attempt on her life, Anna plans her next move.  
Read the whole Anna the Extractor Series--"The Extractor," "Bury Their Own," "Beloved," "A Tremor in Your Name," and "Stress in the Workplace," and "Calling" (an introduction)--to learn more about Anna and her supernatural adventures.

Anna leans against the cement wall at the edge of Allen Park with one foot propped up and her hands stuffed in her jacket pockets. Detective Michael Cohen called her yesterday evening to set up an appointment to discuss some of the facts regarding her previous client, Suri. The police found Anna’s profession amusing to say the least; it’s not everyday you meet a chick exorcist. After a few questions and making sure she wasn’t an accomplice for Suri’s attempted murder, they let her go.

A man with light brown hair and glasses approaches her from the sidewalk, an obsessive shine to his dress shoes and a too-crisp look to his windbreaker.

“Miss Hirsch? I’m Detective…”

“Cohen. Yeah, I know. It’s not like all my best friends are cops,” Anna says.

They shake hands and make their way over to a wrought-iron bench, which felt freezing through Anna’s skinny jeans.

“I wanted to ask you a few questions about Suri Mathis, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.”

Anna does not make eye contact, but looks out at the river, breathing in the chill of an early morning. Detective Cohen clears his throat.

“Miss Mathis was your client, correct?”

“Listen, man. If you’re just going to ask me a bunch of questions that you already know the answer to…”

“Hey, I come in peace,” Cohen says, hands lifted in surrender.

Anna meets his gaze and folds her arms over her chest as she says, “She’s been haunted by the same ghost for fourteen years. She hired me to extract it.”

“And were you able to?”

“Not entirely.”

“Did Miss Mathis happen to mention any characteristics about her assailant? His lifestyle, habits, hobbies?”


“What about her previous assailants? There have been at least thirteen others, I’m assuming.”

Anna shakes her head. “She only described her dad. She said he drank. A lot.”

Detective Cohen nods, pulling out a large envelope from inside his jacket. He reveals a handful of photographs depicting dead women, all having suffered from different forms of violence.

“These women died within the last two weeks. There isn’t a common denominator that makes them targets. We’ve detained five of the six assailants involved in their murders. And you know what, Miss Hirsch? They’re the ones with stuff in common.”

Anna frowns, brow furrowed.

“Each one suffered from temporary amnesia when they committed the crime.”

“I didn’t realize that was a thing…”

“At first, we thought they’d all been drinking, blacked out, and then killed their girlfriends, wives, daughters. It was especially compelling when alcoholism came up in some of their histories. But when the blood alcohol concentration wasn’t matching up, it made things a little strange. We couldn’t just call it domestic violence under the influence.”

Detective Cohen puts away the photographs and leans back, draping one arm over the back of the bench.

“Suri’s boyfriend didn’t remember trying to kill her,” Cohen continues. “Neither did any of the others with restraining orders. I checked.”

“So, you’re telling me that the police department is willing to follow a lead suggesting possession by ghosts?” Anna asks through a scoff.

“Well, not the department. Just me.”

Anna scratches the back of her head and sighs, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees. Detective Cohen folds his arms over his chest and sighs.

“My dad beat my mom once when I was in high school. He’d never hurt her before. And he’d never been a drinker, but all of a sudden he couldn’t keep enough Icehouse in the fridge. One night, he just started wailing on her. I got between them and punched my dad square in the eye. My mom screamed his name and was the strangest thing. It was like a light turning on. He didn’t know what he’d just done, only that it was horrible.”

“What’s his name?” Anna asks.

“Huh?” Cohen murmurs, wading through the memory.

“You said he came to when your mom screamed his name.”

“Oh. Yeah. Lucas. His name’s Lucas.”

“Fucking hell,” Anna breathes, standing up and pulling out her cigarettes.

“What’s wrong with Lucas?” the detective asks, startled by her reaction.

She turns on him with a cigarette dangling from her lips and says, “That’s the goddamn ghost’s name, Cohen. The one who’s been haunting Suri. Your dad snapped out of it because your mom said the ghost’s name. That’s the power. She cast him out.”

“Jesus. This is unbelievable.”

“Listen, man. You better start believing real quick if you want this shit to stop.”

Anna finally gets her cigarette lit and sucks in, closing her eyes like it’s saving her life. It’s supposed to be so simple. Get the ghost’s name. Ask what he wants. Give him what he wants. Collect the money. But Lucas is playing a game. He’s making men kill the women they love most in their lives, and they end up alone.

“Just like me,” Anna whispers, remembering what Lucas said when she encountered him last.

Detective Cohen watches her, a question forming on his lips.

“That’s what he said. ‘All alone, just like me.’ He’s reliving something,” she says. “He’s reliving what he did.”

“How do we make him stop?” Cohen asks.

“He’s raging. We’ve gotta calm him down. I’ve gotta talk to him, but I need him to trust me. If I can get him to show himself to me - to haunt me - then I can help him.”

“Anna, he’s a murderer. He doesn’t deserve help,” Cohen states.

Anna grabs the collar of his windbreaker and yanks Cohen toward her with her fists. She looks him in the eye, noses touching.

“Look, asshole. No one deserves anything. We don’t deserve mercy. We don’t deserve justice. But if you want women to stop dying, then I need to help him.”

“And what happens if you help him?”

“He’ll cross over,” Anna says, letting go and stepping back. “And then whatever god you believe in will deal with him.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Nathan Mansakahn

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