The last thing that Claude saw was the determination in the face of de Vries, and then the entire world went black.
Then everything went white.
Then he was floating somewhere near the ceiling. Looking down, he could see de Vries bending over his lifeless body. His wife's frightened voice, muffled through the heavy door, had caught the doctor's attention. "Leave me alone so I can work!" de Vries shouted in the general direction of the door.
With a splintering crash, the door caved in, admitting Es and Quasi. The boy sized up the situation immediately, grabbing the guilty doctor and dragging him out of the cathedral. Struggling did de Vries no good. So much for his final taunt that he would get away with my murder.
But Es threw herself at the dead man and refused to budge, even when Quasi returned and tried to coax her away. Her anguished sobs shredded any satisfaction Claude might have gleaned from the realization that his death had been avenged.
Attempting to reach down to comfort the girl only demonstrated to Claude that he no longer had arms. After recovering from his initial shock, he realized resignedly that this was his fate now; he was a spirit, why did he expect to have functioning arms or legs? His conscious self no longer resided in the human corpse it used to command.
And then, he felt himself being drawn up toward a blinding light in the corner of the ceiling. Unwilling to leave his wife, his first reaction was to kick and struggle—only to be met with the embarrassing reminder that he no longer had a body.
Claude immediately took a disliking to his new state of being. Nothing could be more unpleasant to this controlling man than to realize that he was completely helpless, being dragged around against his will. But true to his usual nature, Claude promptly began to carefully analyze his situation. If outside forces could move him, surely there must be a way of him moving himself. But since he had nothing now but his thoughts, how was he to go about moving? Maybe he needed to concentrate on where he wanted to be. Concentrating was something that Claude was good at; he'd learned the art of meditation early in his life from the monk who tutored him as a boy.
Claude was suddenly shaken from his thoughts when the world again turned to white. He must have been engulfed by that bright light he had seen earlier. But either the light had dimmed somewhat, or his vision had adjusted to the brightness, for a small figure came into focus. It looked like a little boy, with curly blonde hair, wearing a white toga.
"It's you!" the boy shouted with excitement. "I knew you'd get here someday."
Claude hadn't heard that voice since childhood. Jehan?
Then, Claude felt himself flipped upside down and dropped on what would have been his back. If he had a back. Life as a spirit was such an annoyance.
Jehan's face became so close as to nearly obscure his field of vision. "That was for framing me for the sugar cookie incident," the boy said.
The WHAT? Claude filed through his memories.
"You didn't get punished that harshly for my bad behavior." And Claude realized for the first time that he'd spoken, without a mouth. Somehow, he was broadcasting his thoughts aloud. An interesting development, and something he definitely needed to learn how to control. Before someone said "Esmeralda Troullifeau" and he started broadcasting some very cringe-inducing thoughts for the entire spirit world to hear.
"Hey, look what we found!" It was the voice of Phoebus this time. Jehan had moved aside to allow Claude to see the new arrival. Phoebus wore the same white toga.
Claude attempted to address him. "This is awkward and I feel that I'm expected to apologize for stabbing you, even though I'm not really sorry because you deserved it."
….Claude would have smacked himself in the face for that one, if he'd had a hand and a face. His new spiritual voice was much, much too honest for his liking. Perhaps it came from the fact that he now spoke with his thoughts.
Jehan turned to Phoebus. "See, aren't they funny after they first die and they realize that they can't tell lies anymore? Because we hear each other's thoughts now."
"Oh! I just realized something!" Phoebus exclaimed. "Now I can get answers to something I've been wondering about since the minute I died! Because I can't figure out why Esmeralda turned me down for that impossible old git."
"Stop referring to me in such an unflattering manner," Claude said. "Oh, wait, I get it! You are jealous of me!" At least I was able to morph my thoughts into something slightly less embarrassing this time.
"Soooooooooooooo," Phoebus drawled with an air of triumph. "I thought Esmeralda hated you more than she hates being told what to do. How on earth did you get her into your bed the first time?"
What could he respond with that would allow him to maintain some pretense of dignity? "We didn't even make it to my bed the first time. The bed was just too far away. But the floor was already there." Oh, crap, that was bad. Claude rifled desperately through his memories, trying to recall something that he could say truthfully without making himself look like a dirty old man. "Well, she hit me in the jaw. Really hard. I kept a straight face, but I spent half of the next morning nursing my jaw with a cold washcloth when nobody was looking."
What an epic failure.
"Interesting," Phoebus commented. "So, now you have made me curious. Did she hit you before, during, or after the fact?"
"STOP ASKING ME THESE AWKWARD QUESTIONS!" Claude protested more loudly than he intended to. Ugh, now he sounded like a whiney brat.
"Actually, I do have to stop," Phoebus admitted regretfully. "Because unfortunately you have a more important appointment and I'm not allowed to make you late."
"I do not like the sound of 'important appointment'," Claude thought out loud.
"Well, you're not getting out of it," Phoebus grinned. "Because you are about to stand before God to determine the fate of your immortal soul."