Maddie stared at the mess on the roof, there were live wires laying all over the place, warped and broken shards of metal, support beams and steel sheeting strewn across the rooftop. She couldn't even think about going up there until she'd cut off the power to the ops centre.
She'd headed to the basement for a weapon as soon as the ghost detection system went off, but by the time she made it to the roof, the ghost was already gone.
Leaving Maddie stuck on cleanup duty.
After shutting off the power supply she got to work, coiling up the cables and collecting any loose pieces of damaged machinery.
She cursed loudly as one of the metal shards cut painfully through her suit, and she threw her haul at the ground in frustration as she pressed a hand over the wound.
This was the last thing she needed right now, it would take her weeks to clean up this mess, and she'd need to clear out the spare fridge in the ops centre while the power was cut off, and make sure there was no severe structural damage to the rest of the roof. She'd be in a hell of a lot of trouble if a strong gust of wind took down one of the large dishes.
She'd be up there all night making sure it was structurally sound before leaving for Wisconsin tomorrow.
Maddie sat down against one of the untouched antennas, cursing again as she surveyed the damage. Maybe she could convince Danny or Jazz to come up and help her remove the bigger pieces of metal.
A jaunty little tune cut through the dower silence, Maddie pulled out her phone and checked the caller ID, groaning at what she saw.
With some hesitation, she answered.
"Mads what in the fuck do you think you're doin'." came Alicia's gruff voice.
"Hello to you too." said Maddie, rubbing tiredly at her eyes. "Alicia whatever this is about can it wait? This is a really bad time-"
"No, it cannot wait. What in the hell are you thinking running off to Wisconsin with that weedy little rich pig?"
"That is none of your business." Maddie growled, her phone almost creaking within her tight grip. "Who even told you about that?"
"Jazz, who was on the phone to me crying her guts up I'll have you know." Alicia snapped. "Are you really gonna leave those kids alone a week after their daddy was up and killed? You can't be serious Mads."
"It is none of your damn business Alicia." Maddie grit her teeth. "I am doing everything in my power to protect my family, so don't you dare-"
Alicia cut her off with a harsh, humourless laugh.
"Protect them? Leaving them alone for god knows how long while you're off chasin' ghosts is protectin' them?? Listen, I don't care if that damn ghost you're after is in Wisconsin, I don't care if you're hellbent on gettin' even, I care about Danny and Jazz. They don't need vengeance right now, they need their momma."
"Don't," Maddie's voice shook. "Don't tell me how to look after my kids, you don't know anything, you can't even have kids!"
Her hand flew over her mouth the moment the words left her lips. The phone went silent for several agonising seconds before Alicia finally spoke, her voice stone cold.
"I get that you're hurtin' real hard right now, and that is the only reason I'm gonna pretend you did not just say that to me."
Maddie squeezed her eyes shut as tears of regret prickled the edges of her vision.
"If you think runnin' away on the chance that you'll find that ghost in Wisconsin is protectin' those kids, then you ain't got the sense god gave a goose."
Maddie took a few shaky breaths, but didn't respond.
"Did ye even stop to think about if you were wrong? If this damn ghost has just been waitin' for you to take off and leave them all alone? And beside that, you been so caught up in huntin' for vengeance you left yer own daughter to do everything! The funeral prep Mads? You let her plan the whole damn funeral by herself? You're her momma, you're supposed to be there for her, she ain't supposed to be pickin' up after you. When you chose to have those kids you made a commitment, and right now you sure as hell ain't honouring it."
"But I have to catch him Alicia." Maddie insisted, a desperate edge to her voice. "For them, I have to-"
"Bullshit." Alicia growled. "You're doin' this for you and you alone Maddison. If this was really about the kids, you'd actually have listened when Jazz was beggin' you not to go. How the fuck do you call that 'doin' it for them'?"
"I didn't-" Maddie wiped the heel of her palm across her cheek as more tears fell. "I didn't know, they've been so strong, I thought they were okay. I thought they understood, I thought-"
"You thought wrong Mads."
Maddie gnawed at her lip as Alicia's words sank in.
"Do you remember momma's piano?" Alicia asked.
"Barely." Maddie sniffed and wiped her eyes some more. "I think... I remember you playing Old Man River."
"Yeah, momma taught me that. I was pretty good at piano, what momma didn't teach me I taught myself. I loved it, even after she died I could still almost feel her hands over mine helping me play. Man, I really loved that piano."
"Then why did you sell it?" Maddie asked.
Alicia was silent for a moment, Maddie was confused by the abrupt change in topic, but she knew Alicia didn't waste words she didn't need.
"Because after mom died, dad crawled into a whiskey bottle and didn't come out for nothin', not for the crops, not for work, not for me or you. I had to drop outta school to pick up the slack, but like hell was I gonna let you miss out on a decent eduction. When the time came, we needed money for your school books and some new clothes, and I only had one thing of any value to sell."
"Alicia," Maddie's voice shook. "You... you've never told me that before."
"And you know why?" Alicia asked. "Because I was yer big sister, and it was my duty to look after ye. It weren't fair that dad left that on my shoulders, it weren't fair that I had to lose what I loved, but I did what I felt I had to, and I didn't complain one bit because it weren't fair for you neither. Now you think about the kinda girl Jazz is, you think about how much she cares about all of y'all. Do you think she'd complain, even if it hurts? Even if she's givin' up what she needs to be what everyone else needs?"
Maddie didn't respond, but she knew the answer.
"If your daughter is comin' to me for support, then you ain't doin' your damn job. Pull yer head outta yer ass Maddison or I'mma take my shitty old truck all the way to Illinois and show up on yer doorstep to jerk a knot in yer tail."
Alicia hung up.
Maddie dropped her phone to the ground and buried her face in her hands, sobbing quietly as she sat among the wreckage of the roof.
She had a lot of fixing to do.