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Vindicating Innocence

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It was a slow day at the office for Detective Sam Beck. He could hear the usual city traffic out of his window. Suddenly, his boss walked up.

"Sam, this is Agent Gallagher and Agent Carter. They're investigating the murder of James Smith, the wealthy judge. I thought you could...em, help them with their investigation."

With a significant look at Sam, his boss left him with the two agents.

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Sam looked at the agents and said, "you're not going to believe me, but there's no way to catch who did this. Nor are you going to find anyone who wants to."

"And why is that Detective Beck?" Asked Gallagher.

"Because that man was a known child molester, and those aren't tolerated in this city."

"If he was known as a child molester, why wasn't he brought in?"

"Because he was too damned smart to leave behind evidence, but everyone knew he did it. With his money and influence, no one could touch him legally."

"When you say, child molesters aren't tolerated in the city, what do you mean? Are you some kind of vigilante who hunts them down, because that's illegal you know."

Sam ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "No, of course it's not me!"

"Well, your boss sure seemed to think you in particular could help us with our investigation." Gallagher stated blandly.

"So, there is some vigilante running around 'protecting the city's children' and murdering those who hurt them?" Carter snapped.

"No one you could touch." Sam said. "Look, we have to go somewhere where I can show you something and maybe explain a little better."

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"Somewhere" turned out to be a massive, looming church. It was one of those old, intimidating stone monoliths.

"No one knows when this place first showed up, but some people suspect it was during time of the Holocaust," explained Sam. "Lets go inside. I'll show you something."

As the three men walked through the heavy oak doors, they were met with a cold gust of wind which made the hundreds of candles inside flicker. The place had an eerie feeling about it. There were sturdy wooden pews and the normal trappings of a church, but the real eye catcher was the huge memorial looking wall at the other end of the cavernous room. Stepping closer, the men could see there were names and dates carved into the wall. Each plaque making up the wall stood out, clearly indicating some kind of compartment behind it.

Sam spoke in a hushed tone, "this is a memorial to children who died. It starts with dates going back to the Holocaust. No one knows who takes care of this place nor how everything arrives here, but somehow things happen in here. If someone prays for a child in here, retribution for an untimely death or a traumatic experience or something like that, whoever hurt the child won't go unpunished. People say that there is some kind of avenging angel who protects the children of this city and takes care of the memorial. Somehow the bones of the children often end up here if unclaimed. It's one of those old stories you know?"

"An urban legend" sneered Gallagher, albeit quietly; some instinct warning him not to disturb the quiet atmosphere of the place.

Sam shrugged, "perhaps, but no one can deny that things happen inexplicably around this city."

"I think you'd better start explaining exactly what you're talking about here," said Carter.

"It's really hard to explain, but I'll try. It started back about 15 years ago that the station was having a spree of child rapings and murders..."

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The station is being run ragged with the sheer amount of child murders going on. The boss thinks there's some kind of ring of child molesters stealing and trafficking children for their sick purposes before killing them once they're of no use anymore. It makes Sam sick to his stomach, and he wants retribution but there are NO LEADS. Clues that don't go anywhere. Hints and whispers, but nothing really concrete. It's driving everyone mad.

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"We had finally gotten a tip about a Carlos Franco who might be part of it. He had unfortunately disappeared about a week ago, and we were utilizing all resources to try and find him, when a package arrived at the station..."

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A suspicious box has arrived at the station. The bomb squad was called, but nobody could've expected what was in the box: a man's severed head...sitting atop the rest of his body that had been neatly carved into pieces. The expression of horror and pain on the face made some people throw up right there. That's not even speaking of the words  like"murderer" and "pedophile"  and "rapist" carved jaggedly into what seemed like every available inch of skin on his dissected body. It was clear he'd been extensively tortured before being killed.

"Oh my god, that's Carlos Franco," whispered someone.

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"That was only the first body of many. As word got out of what was happening to child molesters, some came begging to us for protection, but they'd disappear too, even right out from under our noses in protective custody! We were stumped, but word also spread of a church that was only visible to those who needed it for a child's sake. For a safe place to pray for a child's life and well-being. I began my own investigation into this church..."

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He'd started his own investigation, including the possibility that something supernatural was happening. Going to mediums and fortune tellers often proved a hoax, but he was sure he'd finally hit on something concrete this time...

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The sign outside said 'Pines Fortune Telling' and it looked like a typical scammer's idea of a way to swindle money. As he entered the building, a bell chimed softly to announce his presence. He wasn't expecting a rough looking older man to appear.

"Welcome to Pines Fortune Telling. You interested in getting some question answered?"

Sam almost turned and left right there, but something told him to stay.

"Have you heard about the murders of a ring of child molesters?"

"Hard not to in this city. Seems like everyone's talking about that. Look, you want your fortune told or not?"

"Do you communicate with spirits beyond this world?"

The grey haired man looked a little wary at that. "I can. Need to talk to someone?"

"Yes, I'd like to talk to Jesse Palmer, the latest body that was 'found' connected to the ring. I have some questions to ask him, so I hope you're the real deal."

"Look, you ain't gonna wanna talk to that piece of scum." The man said, adding somewhat hastily, "You know, if he really was tied up in that disgusting business."

"I think that's for me to decide" said Sam.

"Well, then you can just go to another medium if you want to talk to him then, because I won't have his presence in my business," the man snarled.

Sam held up his hands in a gesture of surrender, although he was becoming suspicious this man knew more than he let on. "Well, how about the ghost of Andy Jacobson?"

"The last kid who died due to the ring?"

"Yeah."

"I think he's moved on. Look, I can read your fortune if you want. I'll even give you a discount, 30$."

"What?? That's ridiculous! 30$ for telling my future."

"Take it or leave it."

Sam quailed at the exorbitant price, but his gut instinct said to go with it. He reluctantly handed over the money. The man smiled, "excellent. Just follow me to the crystal ball, and I'll get to reading your future."

Internally grumbling at his instincts, Sam followed. Going through the stereotypical beaded curtain, he entered a fairly plain parlor with a crystal ball on a wooden table. The man sat down at the table and looked into the crystal ball. All Sam could see was swirling mist.

"What will happen to this man in his future?" There was a pause then the man began speaking in an odd tone. "You will find what you're looking for, but you will only find the answers if you have an open mind, Samuel Beck. Seek the church for you will be one of the few to whom the truth is revealed."

The man then sat back seeming to shake off whatever trance he'd been in and smirked "that's your answer."

Sam was creeped out. "How did you know my name? How did you know I was looking for the church? What the Hell was that?"

The man just shrugged and said, "you wanted answers. Looks like another clue. That's what you detectives are good at, right, following clues? Now if you'll excuse me, it's getting late. Have a good night, Mr. Beck." With that, the man stood and disappeared through a door leading out of the room Sam hadn't noticed before.

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Sam wasn't sure how he got to the street, his mind too busy running over the questions bursting into his mind. 'How did he know my name? How could he have known about the church? What is going on here? What did that mean, "you will only find the answers if you have an open mind"? He knows more than he's letting on, but something tells me pushing him won't help... what am I going to do? What CAN I do?'

It was getting dark, and Sam had been walking aimlessly around the streets for hours when he felt something looming over him. Looking up, he saw a massive building that looked like a church in front of him. Could this be the church he had heard about? It seemed implausible, but there was something eerie about it that made his skin crawl.

The heavy oak door was cracked, but no one answered when he knocked. Touching his weapon, he slipped inside the stone walls.

The sanctuary was large and lit by many candles...

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"But you already know this part. We're standing in it. It looked just like this when I first found it..."

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There was no one around that Sam could see, but he swore he felt a presence. It was creeping him out. Moving closer to the back wall, where the majority of the candles illuminated the large area, Sam felt a chill go down his spine. There were hundreds of placards with names and dates on them. With a thrill, he noticed what he assumed were the birth and death dates belonging with the names were all close together. He realised these were CHILDREN'S memorials. They seemed to go from oldest to youngest top to bottom, left to right although the wall was so massive there was no way he'd see the top placards. Moving toward the bottom right, he fell goosebumps down his spine when he noticed the words "Andy Jacobson" along with the kid's birth and death dates already set in the wall. Fury and horror rose in him; the kid had been so young, only 4 when his life had been brutally cut short. How was this placard up so soon after the news only just got out about his untimely death? Was this some kind of sick joke? His rage had him pointing the gun at the wall, without even thinking.

"You don't want to do that." A gruff voice resonated from behind him.

He absolutely did not squeal like a little girl as he spun around, bringing his weapon to bear on...was that the man from the Fortune Telling business? No, he was dressed differently, and there were subtle differences in his face, but otherwise, he was a twin to the mysterious man who'd left him with more questions than answers. He was so startled by this appearance, that he only noticed the ACTUAL fortune teller standing next to him a second later.

"Who are you? What is this place? Is this some kind of sick joke??"

The fortune telling man's twin, or Creepy as Sam had nicknamed him mentally, clenched his fists and looked very angry. Fortune Telling man or Nutjob, looked enraged for a minute, when his brother, (because that's what he had to be, right?) put a hand on his arm. Nutjob seemed to visibly calm himself down a minute before speaking in a distinct and slow tone.

"No, this isn't any kind of joke. We decided to reveal ourselves to you because they said to."

"Who the Hell is 'they'?"

Nutjob responded to his question with a question, "do you believe in ghosts?"

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"Ghosts? You've got to be kidding me." snorted Gallagher.

"I wish I were. I know it sounds too unreal to be possible, but hear me out."

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"Ghosts? I...I'm not sure. I've never seen any personally, but I suppose that doesn't mean they can't exist." Sam answered warily.

"Well, you'd better start believing. 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'  You might want to sit down for this. It's going to be a long story."

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"What does some ghost chasing nut have to do with our investigation?" snapped Gallagher.

"If you'll be patient, I'll explain. They spun me a tale that's unbelievable, yet I have to ask you to give me the benefit of the doubt."

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"What do ghosts have to do with this place or you? I'm trying to investigate a murder here!"

"That scumbag raped and killed that boy. The poor kid was the latest in a long line. You didn't have the information to find the bastard who did it."

"And you did? What are you freaks? Some kind of vigilantes, taking  justice into your own hands with your sick, twisted view of the crime? We have laws for a reason!!"

Again, the nutjob seemed to swell with anger, "YOU WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TOUCH HIM!"

Creepy grabbed Nutjob's shoulder. Nutjob again tried to visibly calm himself.

"There wouldn't have been any evidence connecting Palmer to the crime...s." Nutjob emphasized the 's'. "Those sickos were running circles around your department."

"We...that..." Sam couldn't actually deny the true fact.

"So how did you know Palmer did it?" He asked, trying to suspend his disbelief.

Nutjob looked down, looking sad. "Andy told us."

Sam snorted, although he wasn't as disbelieving as he sounded. It DID make sense. In an impossible sort of way.

"So, you just consort with the ghosts of kids who were killed?"

"They ASK us for help. We're the only ones who can see them and bring their murderers to 'justice.'  We do this for them." He glanced at his brother. "We know what it's like to have no one brought to justice for the horrendous acts they commit."

While Nutjob looked sad and distressed, Creepy's brown eyes blazed with hatred and anger., locked on his. It actually scared Sam a bit.

Sam realised, "you know from experience then?" He asked softly.

Nutjob's eyes snapped up to glare at him. "It's none of your business. What's past is past." But Sam noticed his hand drift to the side to press against his brother's back.

Creepy tugged at Nutjob's sleeve and made some quick motions with his hands. Sam stared for a minute. The man had six fingers on each hand. Of course, it's not like that was the most crazy thing going on right now, he supposed.

"Do we need to tell him everything? Well, I know not that far back, but...you think so? I trust you, Ford."  Creepy, now known as Ford, didn't smile, but Nutjob said, "yeah, yeah. At least you don't have to explain it, stop laughing at me."

"Look, Sam. Can I call you Sam?" At Sam's wary nod, Nutjob continued, "we'd better go in the back and talk in private. Yes, I see your hand on your gun. We won't try to hurt you. The kids told us that you're a good person and can be trusted, so we'll explain everything. Heh, it'd be nice to have one of the 'good guys' in the know for once."

The strange brothers led the way into the back of the church, to a small living area behind a secluded door. Waving Sam to a chair, the brothers settled on a ragged couch.

"So, I'm Stan, and my brother is Ford. We see ghosts." Stan began flippantly. Ford smacked him.

"Ok, you see ghosts. They, what, ask you for revenge on their tormentors?"

Stan exchanged a glance with his twin. "Not exactly. They tell us what happened to them. Or sometimes parents come here and pray for their children, and Ford hears them. We decided to help so other kids wouldn't have to suffer."

Sam noticed the word "other" but didn't say anything, instead mentioning for Stan to continue.

Ford signed something to his twin, and Stan chuckled ruefully. "Yeah, I guess you COULD call us vigilantes, but it's only because no one else can do what we can." He leaned forward, his eyes locked on Sam's.

"It would have kept going on, you understand? It wasn't one person doing this one time. It was a group of people repeating these disgusting acts. They wouldn't have stopped. Most of them were legally untouchable. They were smart. Could you stand by while horrendous things happened to innocent children? It would make us, i don't know, like accessories to the crimes. The crime of the bystander who watches idly."

Sam swallowed, "I understand. But how do you get to these guys? Palmer was wealthy and had a great security system. How did you get to him?"

Stan glanced at Ford and smirked. "We're special."

He then sobered quickly, "It started when we were young. Let's just say we had not the best childhood." Ford nudged his brother and signed something. Stan gave a bitter grin, "yeah. I know."

" Ford here is sort of...unnoticeable sometimes. He can make other things like that too if he wants. When I get mad, i get stronger. Yes, don't say it, like the Hulk. My nerdy brother made me watch the movies."

Sam said nothing, but his eyes showed his disbelief. Stan glanced around. "See my brother anywhere?"

Sam jerked and stared around the room. Then he jumped when he heard "see me anywhere?"  He looked back toward the couch, but no one was on it. Stan suddenly appeared out of nowhere right in front of him, grinning. Sam yelped and knocked his chair backwards.

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"People who can turn invisible or what, how'd you put it: 'hulk out'? Give me a break detective!"

"I swear, I'm completely serious."

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Sam, faced with the undeniable evidence in front of his own eyes, was starting to believe this madness.

He remembered the reports of  doors being torn off the hinges but for some reason the alarms not sounding. Trashed furniture and a ransacking of the apartments and houses with no visible evidence to link anyone to the crime. It looked like someone with some real anger issues had let loose in the residencies, but the strangest part was how there was not a shred of tangible evidence. People with such rage problems usually weren't so careful. Everyone had speculated that maybe there was a "clean up man" but then why leave the home in such a wreck in the first place? Nothing about the cases made sense. Even with video surveillance, police still couldn't figure out how the "gifts" got to the station. They just literally appeared out of nowhere. There were no technical malfunctions, and even keeping their own damn station under watch by trustworthy people led to inexplicable reports of the packages showing up out of thin air.

"There's nothing anyone can do to stop you, is there?" Sam asked resignedly.

The twins exchanged a glance. They shook their heads at the same time, and Stan responded, "we're just doing it for the kids. They ask us for help. Who are we to deny their spirits justice for their murders?"

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"I realised there was no way to touch these men, not that I would want to. What they're doing is good, bringing justice to those who wouldn't face it otherwise. Ok, as a detective, I would prefer  going through official channels, but also as a detective, I  KNOW how many times people can buy their way out of the punishments. Not everyone is incorruptible."

"You've got some nerve, detective..."

Sam sighed. "Look, I've told you all I know about this. Whether you believe it or not is up to you. I have nothing more to say. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to work. Good day, agents."

Sam turned and left the church, as a sudden cool breeze swept through the room.

Agent Carter, who had a love of supernatural things, was jumpy and inclined to believe Detective Beck's story. Even Agent Gallagher was finding the atmosphere in the massive church somehow oppressive. Suddenly, all the candles in the church blew out, and after a moment of pure blackness, a bright light (relatively bright to the dim candlelit church) had the two agents covering their eyes and squinting to see. They were shocked to see they were standing in an abandoned lot, a cool breeze blowing a couple of loose papers around.

A whisper was carried on the breeze, "dead men tell no tales" making both agents jump and clutch each other. Then there was a cackle, "bwahahaha...ow! Not the ribs Poindexter!"

The FBI agents turned and behind them saw two men who looked very similar to each other disappearing into the mist.

The case file the agents turned in when they arrived back simply stated "Unexplained Phenomenon".