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The Messenger

Chapter Text

Edinburgh, Scotland
June 17, 1947

 

He was gone.

It was like I blinked and my world crumbled around me.

My beloved uncle. My guardian. My shelter and whole world after the loss of my parents.

Quentin Lambert Beauchamp was dead.

I’m normally a rational person, thinking logically at all possible scenarios to pinpoint an actual cause, especially in my career as a nurse. But something just didn’t add up. 

The police and crime investigators all came to the same conclusion.

Suicide.

First and foremost, bollocks. As much as I loved my uncle, he had a very disconcerting view on one taking their own life.

“Selfishness and inconsiderate. People who resort to killing themselves refuse to see the beauty that their lives have to offer.”

I never said my uncle was the kindest of souls, but he could never be accused of being dishonest, either. Regardless, it didn’t make sense to me for someone with that mentality to suddenly take his own life.

And secondly, there were too many things not adding up relating to his death. No sign of forced entry into the office of his classroom, but they found footprints that were not his around his body? Robbery was ruled out as a motive, but some of his personal effects (a framed photograph of him and me during our time at an archeological dig in Sudan, for example) were missing? The police even had the audacity to interview me as a suspect. The nerve of them, considering I had been at work at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh since early that morning. Seven people even wrote sworn affidavits that my alibi was solid.

In the end, despite all the evidence that clearly pointed towards my uncle’s death as a homicide and not a suicide, they closed the case with that glaring ‘s’ word in mind and went home for tea.

I did everything I could to try and get them to reopen the case. I went to the police station almost every day, and would even camp outside the building on my days off in hopes of speaking to the detective personally, but all that led to was a written warning about “harassing public officials of the law” or some nonsense of the sort. 

I took my case, and every bit of evidence I had collected over the next few weeks to any private detective who would open their door to me. All but one laughed me out of their offices, and that “one” just never returned my correspondence.

“It’s hopeless,” I told my friend and colleagues Mary Hawkins-Randall the following day after being banned from yet another detective agency. “I feel like I’m never going to get someone to listen to me. Is it because I’m a woman?”

Mary, usually tentative and shy, was flushed with fury and outrage on my behalf. Widowed about a year before we started working together, Mary had lost her husband Alexander Randall to a freak accident. Despite it not being the same scenario, I know she would be just as hot and bothered if her husband had been the victim of some ill-fated misadventure at the hands of another, and no one took the case seriously.

“It could be,” she replied stoutly, no hint of her usual nervous stutter audible. “Most men around here know that if a woman was determined enough, they could run the world a hundred times better than they could. And that scares them. So, they use their stature as men to keep women at arm’s length. But enough about the world’s inherent misogyny, there may be something you ought to consider.”

“What’s that?”

Mary peered at me through hooded lashes, a sly look on her face. “Have you ever heard of a medium?”

I blinked at her. “What? You mean...a psychic?

Mary laughed at my incredulous tone. “Well...kind of. This particular one is the real deal. Claire, I went to him not long after my Alexander’s passing, and through him I was able to actually talk to him! He told me things that only I or Alex would have known about! Maybe he could help you. Maybe he could…well...y-you know...”

Mary’s timid stumbling of words returned, and I could sense why. She was, more or less, telling me I should use this “medium” to ask Uncle Lamb about how he died.

While that wasn’t an entirely insane proposal, and if what Mary was saying was true, then it could potentially work. But even if I got the answers I was looking for, what then? Go to the police with my findings? Make an accusation against someone on the word of someone who, what, talked to ghosts? Or was it just a matter of putting my own mind at peace? Maybe knowing the truth about what happened was what I was really seeking?

I didn’t know. I had just buried Uncle Lamb last week; I was still in the deep throes of grief and loss. Maybe that’s why I was hell-bent on finding out the truth. But, whatever I decided, I had no other means of discovery.

“What’s his name?” I asked, not bothering to hide the skepticism in my voice.

Mary, apparently excited I was taking her advice, pulled out a calling card. It was a simple design, white with a black single-lined rectangular border with no fancy calligraphic lettering or cheesy slogan. It read:

Dr. James Fraser, GP.
Full Time Doctor
Part Time Medium
43 Sanction Road
EH13 0LS, Edinburgh, UK
Please Ring M-F 8-4

“And...you’re certain he can help?” I said without looking up from the card.

“The worst he can say is ‘no’, right?” Mary replied.

“Yes...right now...that is the worst thing he can say.”

Chapter Text

“Deep breath in,” Jamie Fraser said from behind the patient sitting on the examination table, the sounds of their congested lungs filling his hearing space through the tubes of his stethoscope. 

“Good, and out.” More sounds, then he moved the diaphragm from their back towards their chest. He listened to the patient’s heart for just long enough to determine there were no abnormalities. He removed the earpieces of the stethoscope from his head, placed it on his desk, and finished his examination.

“Ye really need tae quit smoking, Mr. Bug,” Jamie mused, giving Archibald Bug a sidelong glance as the former RAF pilot and current mail carrier, placed a cigarette between his lips to light up.

“I ‘ootlived me Da and he smoked until he died at the ripe old age of sixty-five,” Mr. Bug grumbled as he blew smoke into the air. “It’s a comfort, ken. Ye may be a respected physician fer yer age, but yer still young.”

It was Jamie’s turn to grumble now. “Aye, aye. Either way, yer not likely tae clear that lung infection if ye dinna at least slow down.” He wrote something down on a pad of paper and handed it to Mr. Bug as the latter slipped his jacket back on. “I’m prescribing that ye cut down on the cigarettes tae two a day fer the next week, then-”

“Two a day?!” Mr. Bug gasped, outraged but unable to keep his congested cough at bay. Hacking up something rather viscous and spitting into the sink in the corner, he continued, “ Fer a week? Fer Christ’s sake, Jamie. D’ye have any idea how deranged that logic is?!”

Jamie heaved an impatient sigh, explained once again that science is emerging that suggests smoking causes more harm than good, and all but shoved the old man out of his clinic before he could be subjected to any more of his complaints. Closing the door, he breathed deeply, but coughed at the lingering smoke from Arch’s cigarette. For the first time since his morning tea, he was alone.

Well...not entirely alone.

“Yer doing the right thing, son.”

Jamie opened his eyes to see the intangible likeness of his father, the late Brian Fraser. Before too long, the ghostly remains of his brother had joined them.

“I mean it, lad,” Brian went on, “many years from now, it will be said that smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer and death in Scotland.”

Jamie huffed, and gave his older brother, Willie, a smile. It was always peculiar to him acknowledging his “older” brother given he was twenty-four and his brother was forever eleven years of age. His father had died during The Blitz in 1941, the grocery store that he ran with his wife and Jamie’s mother, Ellen, having been bombed. The only reason his mother was still alive was because she was at home, nursing a cold. His brother had succumbed to influenza in 1929, just days after Jamie’s sixth birthday. It was his brother’s death that had inspired him to become a doctor in the first place.

It was also the first ghost he started communicating with. 

Willie didn’t talk to Jamie, but he communicated in some kind of spiritual way that only the two of them understood. Soon after his twelfth birthday, more ghosts started appearing to him, seeking help with passing on messages to their still-living loved ones. It wasn’t until he was completing his medical training that he had a real gift, and it could potentially be used for good. So, his services as a medium usually only spreads by word of mouth, but it helps bring in a small portion of his income.

Jamie started cleaning up his clinic as it would be home time soon, and his belly was aching for his mother’s famous rabbit stew recipe, along with his sister Jenny’s homemade dumplings. Just as he was clearing away the clutter of the day, the doorbell buzzed.

Who could be calling? Jamie pondered before he made his way towards the door. His father and brother lingered just beyond the threshold; it wasn’t known how many people were just like Jamie, and if he didn’t want to scare potential clientele away, he had told his late relatives to stay safely out of sight until the time was right.

“Can I help ye?” Jamie called out to the open door, standing just out of sight on the inside.

“Erm...hello...I, erm...I was looking for a James Fraser?”

The woman’s voice was as smooth as warm honey on a fresh oven-baked bannock. A sassenach, he thought with amusement. It momentarily transported him back to a time where his family hadn’t been fractured by premature death.

“Aye, ‘tis he ye speak tea,'' Jamie said, more sharply than he intended. “If ye seek immediate medical services, I can stop by yer residence in about-”

“N-No, it’s...it’s not that,” the woman said. She sounded like she was lost, unsure of where she intended to be. “My name is Claire Beauchamp. I...” he heard her take a deep, audible breath, and exhale exhaustedly. “What the hell, I guess I’ll just come right out and say it.” She cleared her throat, then declared, “I was sent here by a friend, a former client of yours. Mary Hawkins Randall?”

Jamie wracked his brain to match a face to the name. 

“Ahh yes, the young widow with mousy brown hair and a speech impediment,” Brian said from behind Jamie. “Her late husband Alex, remember?”

“Ah, right,” Jamie said, the more loudly said, “aye, I ken the lass. She sent ye my way? Have ye lost someone recently?”

“My uncle.”

Jamie sighed. He looked around the clinic. While it was cleaned to his personal standards, the part of his home where he conducted his medium work was anything but. “I do apologize but I canna receive ye just this day. Can ye come back tomorrow afternoon, say...” he pulled out a pocket watch that rested in the breast pocket of his shirt to check the time, “three o’clock?”

“Yes, that’s perfect. Thank you, Dr. Fraser.”

He smiles at the way she calls him by his name and title.

“Jamie.”

“Sorry?”

“Ye can call me, Jamie, Sassenach,” Jamie replied with a sly grin.

“Now, hold on just a moment,” Claire said with a stern edge to her voice. “I know what ‘sassenach’ means and I’m not too sure I appreciate the insult!”

“Och, I didna mean tae insult ye, truly. Just a...a wee pet name, is all. But if ye dinna wish tae be called that, I can stop. Claire,” Jamie added as an afterthought.

A pause, a deep breath, and Claire replied, “I know you didn’t mean it that way...well, I suppose I shall see you tomorrow. Jamie.”

Without another word, Jamie heard the echo of her footsteps fading as she walked away. He closed and locked the door, and headed down to the first floor to tidy up. Well, it was more like the basement of the split-level building he called home, but nonetheless.

“I like her,” Brain piped up as he manifested in the main living area. 

Jamie had taken out a broom and dustpan to clean the floors. While a vacuum cleaner would have made the job a lot easier, they were harder to come by with the ending of the war and he just couldn’t justify the cost of one at the moment.

“Ye like every lass I speak wi’, Da,” Jamie grumbled, “what makes this one any different?”

“Well first off, ye didna see her face,” Brian chided back, “a bonny wee Sassenach...plus, she’s got something that I dinna think any other lass ye’ve talked wi’ has. A spark of...something different...I canna quite put my finger on it.”

Willie took this moment to appear like he was sitting on Jamie’s shoulder as he swept the floors. The lad liked to do that when Jamie was doing chores sometimes. He used to imagine if this was how their relationship would have looked had Willie not died so young, but as he grew older, he knew holding onto such fantasies was pointless. 

His experiences with ghosts had taught him to appreciate living in the here and now. Tomorrow was never guaranteed. 

“Whatever ye say, Da,” Jamie mused with a smile. He was hoping this latest medium case was a quick and easy one, with an open and closed resolution.

Little did he know, the curious case of Claire Beauchamp and the death of her uncle would be anything but.

Chapter Text

I went home that afternoon with such joy and elation in my heart that I had no memory of the actual walk itself. Though, I do remember stopping by a telephone box to ring Mary to share the good news. She, as expected, was just as ecstatic as I was, expostulating good wishes in the future solving of Uncle Lamb’s case.

Even into the late hours of the night, after dinner and a luxuriously relaxing bath, that euphoria did not die away; I barely slept at all that night. It was understandable though, wasn’t it? For the first time since my uncle’s untimely and unfair death, someone was willing to give me a chance. Or, at least, hear the whole story before tossing me out.

So I guess it was no wonder, of course, that there was the lingering anxiety in the back of my mind that this will turn out just like all the others had. Therefore, I didn’t think it was too terribly presumptuous of me to believe I wouldn’t be thrown out of Dr. Fraser’s offices, too. What was supposed to be a breath of fresh air, and an ease of the tension in my posture, ended up feeling more like suffocation and strangulation the longer I laid awake.

I did so for most of the night, and by the time my morning alarm went off at six, I think I only achieved about two hours of sleep, collectively. Despite this fact, I got ready for my day as per usual, all the while secretly thankful that Dr. Fraser had scheduled our meeting for today. I rarely took time off from the hospital, save for extreme emergencies as if I didn’t work, I did not earn money. But given current events, my boss and mentor, Glenna Fitzgibbons, ensured me that I was free to do whatever was needed to “find peace again.”

“I canna have ye distraught and distressed o’er grief while yer at work! What kind of Head Nurse would I be, eh?” I remember Mistress Fitzgibbons telling me. I had mentioned to her my suspicions of Uncle Lamb’s true demise. She neither agreed nor disagreed with my conclusions, neither did she encouraged nor dissuaded my rants and ravings. She just gave me the unbiased, sympathetic ear I needed at the time. I would be forever grateful for her.

The problem with having today off, however, was that until it was time to head back to Dr. Fraser’s clinic, I had nothing to do but worry about all the possible scenarios that could turn this visit into a drop back to square one.

By the time I was actually standing in front of his door again, the disquiet of my mind had ravaged my mental fortitude. I rang the bell, and what looked like a twelve-year-old boy with curly brown hair wilder than my own answered the door.

“Bonjour madame,” the lad said and, with a wide sweep of his arms, awkwardly bowed to me. 

“Bonjour à vous aussi,” I replied, abruptly thankful for my fluency in French, though I never thought it was a skill I would have to employ in the Scottish Highlands. “Je cherche Monsieur Fraser. Nous avons eu un rendez-vous.”

As I spoke, and before I could inquire any further into the whereabouts of my potential private investigator, a harsh wave of lightheadedness swept me up, and I found myself leaning heavily against the door jam. The yellow cotton dress I wore was swiftly too tight and overheated, and breathing became a ferocious chore.

I’m unsure as to whether or not this onset of anxiety had to do with events of the last twenty-four hours, but the last thing I heard before everything went black was the young boy calling out for his “Milord!”

---

“Och, she’s just as bonny as she were yesterday,” Brian mused beside Jamie’s shoulder.

“Quiet, Da,” Jamie hissed, his stethoscope in his ears, “I canna hear for shite if ye keep talkin’ like that.”

Wee Fergus had called out for him just in time for him to witness his three o’clock appointment faint. The lad was a sturdy fellow, but not strong enough to hold up the woman without her hitting her head on the door jam. 

According to Jamie’s personal experience, there were spirits on his side of the Veil that held some tangible force against objects, living and not. Fortunately for his client, the ghosts of his father and brother held such power, and were able to help Fergus hold the woman up long enough for Jamie to rush out and collect her in his arms. 

He held her close to his body and felt the thurm of her racing heart circulate throughout her flaccid limbs, the shallow yet soft breathing on his collarbone, and the cool, clammy feel of her skin as he carried her towards the examination room of his house.

As he laid her down and gathered his equipment, he started running down the list of possible causes of her malady. But as he made to set up the clunky blood pressure machine on the nightstand beside the examination bed, his father had reappeared. Jamie could tell his was winded and tired from the exertion of force, but it didn’t deter the man from interacting. A good sign.

“She could be a Sensitive, Jamie.”

Jamie grimaced, hating how his father read his mind without his permission sometimes (a spirit trait less useful and more annoying than their ability to manipulate living world objects) but he had been thinking it, and understood that Brian sometimes couldn’t help himself. How would he have passed the time after death?

Rapid pulse, labored breathing, dizziness or lightheadedness, a sudden and unexplained drop in blood pressure and body temperature. All signs and symptoms that he would have diagnosed as an acute anxiety attack.

Or, being like him, at the first exposure. What his late father had called a “sensitive.'' Someone who could perceive, and even interact, with the supernatural. But Jamie was far more than a mere Sensitive. What he always thought was a trait that attracted ghosts and spirits to his soul was actually his ability to summon them. Jamie was a walking scrying mirror, able to conjure up any spirit he knew of on command. Some, like his father and brother, chose to hang around long after the summoning was finished. There were rules all ghosts instinctually followed, of course, like not being able to enter one’s threshold without expressed consent, lest they risk disintegration. From what Brian and other spirits had said, the act of a ghost disintegrating was a nasty process and very painful. It was also the reason why Brian and Willie never followed Jamie anywhere outside his home, not even to Lallybroch, where his sister Jenny now resided. Jamie had forbidden it for their own safety. He had already lost them once; he did not want to lose them again.

Jamie knew his gift wasn’t hereditary. He hadn’t the heart to tell anyone when he started seeing Willie, but when Brian had died, it had taken over six months for him to convince Jenny he wasn’t an invalid; she couldn’t perceive their father, so Brian had knocked over one of his own precious trinkets in front of her. The shattering of glass and ceramic brought the lass to tears, and Jenny swears to this day she felt Brian touch her shoulder in comfort. But what did cause it, or trigger it in his youth, he probably would never know.

Jamie listened to Claire’s blood pressure closely as circulation slowly returned to her brachial artery. “Low, indeed,” he muttered to himself, scratching the numbers on his notepad. He removed the stethoscope from his ears, pushed aside the blood pressure machine, and took her wrist gingerly into his fingers, the pulsebeat quick and light as he counted with the aid of his pocket watch.

“She’s waking, lad,” Brian said, and before Jamie could ask what the devil he was talking about, a moan sounded from the owner of the wrist in his hands.

“Mhmmmm...” Claire muttered as she tried to sit up, but Jamie placed gentle but meaningful hands on her shoulders, stopping her.

“Careful, Sassenach,” Jamie emphasized, his grip becoming slightly stronger as she resisted a bit. “Ye had a wee tumble. Ye didna hit yer heid, but yer blood pressure is verra low. Have ye had anything tae eat today?”

“Y-Yes, I am, but-” Jamie was about to go back to his doctoring, but stopped as she attempted to push him away. “Sir, I’m quite alright. Just...” she trailed off, as if afraid to voice her concerns.

“Go on, Claire,” Jamie appealed calmly, his voice barely above a whisper. “Ye came seeking my help. Help that ye’ve tried tae acquire elsewhere, but wi’out success. Am I right?”

Bewildered, she nodded.

“Weel then,” Jamie reponsed, folding his arms across his chest. “The floor is yers, Mistress Beauchamp.”

---

I told him everything. The whole story. Or, well… as much as I was comfortable, and as much as he needed to know to do his job. Whatever that would be. It just came out of me like a cataract of water over a broken dam. With all the rejections, being labeled a nuisance, and the threats of civil orders against me in my attempts to get someone to hear of my uncle’s story, I didn’t realize how badly I needed to tell someone, anyone, until that moment.

He listened. He didn’t interrupt to ask questions, or to question my judgement or perception of the situation. He just gave me the patient ears and open heart I needed to tell my story.

When I had finished, I took a deep breath, feeling like the oxygen in the room was severely weakened. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized he still had his fingers at the pulse in my wrist. He’d never let go, except when I felt the need to gesticulate while explaining this or that. I wasn’t sure if it was the doctor in him that felt there was a necessity or what, but it was a comforting sign. One that told me he would be different from everyone else, psychic powers notwithstanding.

“Erm,” I asked, a little lamely, “did you, um...have any questions? If you’re concerned about pay, I assure you I can afford whatever your fees are. I can also provide-”

“Quentin.”

I stopped, almost like my heart had instantly turned into a block of ice in my chest.

“What?”

“Yer uncle,” Jamie said, his tone and demeanor now void of any humor. He let go of my pulsepoint, and to my surprise, took hold of his own. The action would have been very inconspicuous were I not also a medical professional. 

“Ye said his name was Quentin, correct?” He asked again. “Quentin Lambert Beauchamp?”

The way he said my uncle’s full name sent a shiver down from my skull to the tip of my tailbone. I felt cold and numb, and the look in Jamie’s eyes were starting to scare me. While I was talking to him, I noticed his eye color, and I could have sworn they were the color of the deepest oceans.

They were now the color of silver icicles, barely any hint of blue left.

“Yes,” I replied timidly, unsure of what was to happen next. I wanted to look away from his eyes, look anywhere but his face, but something compelled me to continue this trance. “Why?”

I must have blinked, or it happened so fast that I didn’t notice it, but when I saw Jamie’s eyes next, they were back to their natural color and he relaxed visibly.

He smiled at me. “He’s here.

Chapter Text

I couldn’t see anything but himself and the young French lad who had answered the door. And yet, unable to explain it in any language I spoke fluently, I believed him.

I...I could feel another presence in the room with us. 

Wait...were there more than one?

“How many can ye feel in here wi’ us, Claire?” Jamie asked, as if he were reading my mind without breaking eye contact with me.

I looked around the room, as if expecting one of these invisible beings to show themselves to me forthwith. “I, uhm...I can feel at least one...but something tells me there’s more than one.” I refocused my attention back to Jamie. “How many are there, exactly?”

Jamie just smirked, and leaned back in his seat. “Three. Two of them are permanent residents here, my father and my brother. My father is looking at ye in a way that I would verra much pummel his heid in for. Were he alive.” 

He glared in the direction where I assumed his late father was standing (or floating? Did ghosts and spirits float or could they stand? I’d have to inquire later.) “My brother is sitting beside ye, looking up at ye wi’ such a fascination, it’s both endearing and funny.” I heard him chuckle a bit while looking at the bottom of the bed. “And the other...is yer uncle.”

In my head and my heart, I quite believed him. He must have a rare gift indeed, because despite Mary Hawkins-Randall’s no-nonsense approach to life now that she was widowed, even she had been persuaded without any doubts or logic to convince her otherwise. Though, I knew I needed to be absolutely sure that I was dealing with the real thing. A real medium who could actually communicate with the actual dead.

“Now,” I put out my best hospital matron voice, “I’m sure you think you have a real gift, and while I am inclined to believe you, I need to be sure. You gave me the benefit of the doubt, and heard my story. Now, I’m going to ask the same of you. If my uncle really is in here with us, there are one or two things about me that only the real Quentin Lambert Beauchamp would have known. If you can tell me one of these facts...”

Out of nowhere, Jamie started laughing. In fact, to my complete horror, he was laughing at me!

“Och, Christ! Ye canna be serious!” He wasn’t looking at me when he spoke. So I had to assume that, while he had been listening to me, my late uncle also held his attention. There were tears threatening to stream down his face as he continued to laugh.

All at once self conscious, heat rising in my cheeks, and wondering if I had made the right decision to come here after all, I muttered, “Wha!? Wha- I...what did he tell you?”

Instead of replying, to my horror, he started singing! Jamie was a right terrible singer too, if I was being modest.

“The moth took off and saw a tree, above a big flower she spied a bumblebee!”

I flushed multiple shades of scarlet and the heat continued to rise in my face as my mind went into overdrive. Not only because Jamie had learned about one of the most horrifically embarrassing events in my childhood, but the fact that after all these years, even with him being dead, Uncle Lamb remembered.

To my chagrin, I started turning red for completely different reasons. Jamie wiped at his eyes and took several deep breaths to calm himself.

“In my defense,” I began, trying to come up with some sort of explanation. I failed. “I was seven years old,” I finished lamely. I was transported back to that time, my throat acting like it was going numb like it did all those years ago. Thank Christ I was not allergic to bees, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

“Seven years old and nobody had taught ye not tae eat a live bumblebee?!” Jamie exclaimed. The hooting laughter returned, his ears going their own shade of red. “Och, Claire! Ye tickle my heart wi’ yer innocence.”

I crossed my arms across my chest hotly and said to no one, “I have half a mind to bring you back from the dead just so I can kill you myself, Uncle Lamb!”

I meant it in jest; I don’t think I was capable of intentionally wanting to hurt anyone, feelings or otherwise. I was willing to believe Jamie and his abilities were real, but what I had suggested (if other cultures’ beliefs were to be conceived as real) was necromancy. I loved and missed my uncle terribly, and always will, but I also believed that what was dead, needed to stay dead.

At that moment, I wasn’t so sure Jamie would believe me if I had said it. Compared to me, he had sobered the instant the jeer had left my lips. His previous laughter and jovial demeanor evaporated within the space of two heartbeats.

“Ye canna,” was all he said, cold and austere. “It isna possible.” 

He was now starting to scare me. I felt a shiver run down my back; something told me that Jamie had some first hand experience in the subject. I didn’t want to know who, if anyone, he had tried and failed to bring back to life. And what price he had to pay to make it happen.

Clearly his throat, and fishing a handkerchief from his doctor’s coat pocket, Jamie dabbed at his face, blew his nose (rather quietly for a man his size, I observed) and tossed the linen square into what looked like a dirty clothes hamper.

I had surmised that this clinic also doubled as his home. It seemed too big to be anything else. He beckoned me to follow him, and we made our way through a dining room, large living room to a staircase that led down to what had to be a basement, or bomb shelter. Most people who had basements converted them to bomb shelters after the start of the war.

It was like walking through a time portal and emerging in another century. The walls didn’t look like they were made of the cast stone that I was accustomed to seeing in a home’s basement, nor the reinforced metal sheets bolted down that most homemade bomb shelters were constructed with. Well, truth be told, I didn’t know what the walls were made of, but it didn’t feel like anything in this time. There were no decorations anywhere in the room. There was only a small rectangular table in the middle that was low to the ground, and two large, fluffy pillows for sitting. I wondered dimly what this room was actually used for.

After removing my shoes at the foot of the stairs, I stood away from it so Jamie could come down. A loud, harsh, whoosh sounded from the top of the stairs, which indicated that the wide, vault-like door had been closed, and securely latched, by the man of the house.

I had never been encapsulated in more darkness and silence in my twenty seven years of life until that moment. The darkness didn’t last long though. Jamie flipped a switch, and the room was slowly bathed in a shallow, red-orange glow. It gave the room of a warm feeling, but only in ambiance. The room was anything but warm.

“Please sit,” Jamie instructed me, gesturing towards one of the giant, fluffy pillows on the floor. I chose the one that would have my back to the staircase. Jamie took the one opposite of me.

We sat there in an awkward silence for a few moments. I wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, and was about to inquire, when I felt that feeling again.

“Who is with us now?” I asked timidly.

“The same spirits,” Jamie answered casually, as if I had asked about the furniture. “My father, my brother, and your uncle.”

“Does your father and brother always follow you around your home?”

“Mostly. It’s a Fraser trait to be insatiably curious, but apparently it doesna die wi’ us.” He smirked towards an empty space at the left knee. “My brother likes ye a lot. I can tell.”

I took that for the compliment I believed it was.

“So, first order o’ business,” Jamie began in a more serious tone, “I dinna usually take on mysterious death cases. In fact, I would like tae have turned ye away the moment ye said yer uncle had died and the police werena listening tae ye. But...” He paused, and I wasn’t exactly convince it was for dramatic effect.

“Uncle Lamb told you something, didn’t he?” 

Jamie smiled. “Ye catch on quick. Mr. Beauchamp told me ye might. But aye...when I mentioned he was here wi’ us, he started beggin’ me fer help. Pleadin’ tae be heard. Tellin’ me not tae turn ye away. He offered his own help, in whatever way he could.”

I took this information in, slowly turning it over in my mind. “So...you’re taking this case not just because I asked for help, but because he did too?”

Jamie paused once again, only this time I have no idea why.

“Aye,” he finally, and lamely, proclaimed. “Yer uncle has given me a place tae start. And, it just so happens I’m in a fine position to get in and look at the crime scene myself. Or...what’s left of it anyway. No doubt the area’s already been cleaned up.”

A leap of my heart had me smiling, but then it faded. “Yes. I’m the one who cleaned it up. After the police were finished, that is. The university faculty told me that what was left was mine to do with what I wanted...”

I let the sentence trail off. If I had had things my way, I would have set the entire classroom on fire.

“Normally I would be asking ye fer details about yer lost relative, and a photograph if available, using that information tae summon them tae me. But that work was already done for me. Ye must have a gift yerself...”

I blinked at that, but wasn’t sure how to reply. So, I ignored the remark.

“Anyway...yer right about one thing. Yer uncle was indeed murdered. And if we’re gonna get tae the bottom o’ this, we’ll have tae work together. I canna do this wi’out ye. D’ye trust me, Sassenach?”

There was that word again. Sassenach. Foreigner. Outlander. I’d been called it before, and mostly by Scots who had no love for the English. Old habits die hard I suppose. But the way that Jamie said it...made me feel like anything but. 

Like I was his Outlander. A treasure that needed to be preserved and protected.

An odd warmth that spread through me couldn’t be explained in any other way. I felt safe here. Like I’d never lost my uncle in the first place.

“With my life.”