A Case of Unrest (Short Story)

The broad man looked like he wanted to slam his fist through the wall. 

“I shouldn’t be here,” he roared, his white beard trembling.

With a sigh, Valerie put down the fountain pen beside her notepad and the open case file. 

“Torbjörn,” she said, “we have gone through this a thousand times. Until you accept what happened to you, you’re not going anywhere. I’m here to help – but you need to take the first step yourself.”

“He stabbed me in the back,” the man bellowed, “literally! I refuse to let that go!”

“You have to, if you ever want to find peace.”

Torbjörn stared at her, his pale blue eyes as wide as barn doors. 

“Go to Hel.”

He swirled around, turning his back on her. 

“No, that’s exactly what you-” 

But he had already stormed through the door. 

Valerie sighed, removed her glasses and rubbed the base of her nose. Vikings had to be most stubborn people in history. 

A soft cough woke her from her thoughts. The woman who had entered the room was young, probably eighteen or nineteen. Her ivory dress reached down to her feet, her hair was raven and falling out of a once neat hairdo.

“Good day, madam”, she whispered, “do you have moment?”

“I do now,” Valerie replied and put her glasses back on. “Please, come on in.”

The young woman floated over to the desk, peeking at Valerie through her eyelashes. 

“I haven’t been here in a long time,” she admitted and chewed on her lower lip. “Not sure what to say.”

Valerie flipped her notepad over to a blank page.

“Don’t worry,” she smiled. “Let’s start with your name and birthday.”

“Mary Elizabeth Greville, born May the 15th, 1820.”

“Mhm. And when did you die?”

“December, 1838. Not sure about the date, but I know I missed Christmas.”

Valerie’s fountain pen was scratching against the paper.

“Great, thank you. Where do you haunt?” 

“Warwick Castle in Warwickshire, England, where I died. I fell down some stairs.” A small smile bent the young lady’s lips. “I especially like to show myself to lonely visitors that look like no-one will believe them… Most of them call me something like ‘the Gray Lady’.“

Valerie smiled politely.

“Let me see if I can find your case file.”

She rose and walked over to one of the large filing cabinets by the wall behind the desk. After a moment of searching and a couple of minor spells, she found what she was looking for. 

“Now, my dear,” she said as she returned to her chair, ”why is it that you haven’t found your peace?”

Mary Elizabeth Greville looked down. 

“I was betrothed when I died,” she murmured, “but he is long gone now.”

Valerie studied the pale face carefully over the rim of her glasses. 

“Just so I understand, was it the kind of situation where you went looking for your lost love at night?”

“It was more of a reenactment of my death, mostly… But as much as I appreciate the whole haunting thing, it does get increasingly dull and lonely. I am ready to move on now.”

Valerie nodded slowly and read through the information in the file once more. 

“Are you Protestant, like the rest of your family?” 

“Yes, I am.”

“Wonderful. So, let me see here…” Valerie paused for a moment, her fingernails tapping rhythmically on the wood of her desk. “Well, I’m happy to tell you that your family are all in the afterlife. This is not strictly protocol, but… I’ll make sure that you can join them. If you go out this door, Protestant Heaven is all the way down the hallway to the right. Go past the gates to Hades, and then it’s the door on the left-hand side. If you see a sign that says Valhalla, you’ve gone too far. Give this to Saint Peter.”

With a decisive motion, Valerie stamped the pre-printed slip, signed it, and held it out towards the specter.

“Thank you, madam – thank you so much!” 

When Mary Elizabeth Greville floated off with the slip hovering by her hand, Valerie removed her glasses and rubbed the base of her nose again. 

In the open file before her, it said:

“Mary Elizabeth Greville. Warwick Castle. Pushed down the stairs by her betrothed.”

“I sure hope he wasn’t Protestant too,” she muttered, and rose to put the file back in the cabinet.