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Authors: Margaret Millmore

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BOOK: What Haunts Me
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I blew out a long breath. “Why do you think I can do what other's haven't been able to do?”

“Mr. Sinclair, you have more at stake than the others. If you don't kill Edgar and capture Vokkel, he will continue to hunt you down until he captures you. I also believe that you are the strongest ghost killer to have been born in centuries. Miss Wilkinson is the second strongest…if you can't do it, it probably cannot be done.” With that last statement lingering, Aris drained his drink and stood up from the table.

“I will be in touch very soon. Be careful.” He turned and walked away, I glanced around the room and caught sight of the woman in the corner watching Aris leave; her expression was odd.

Phil leaned back and shook his head. “Man, I had no idea—this is some heavy shit.” He looked over at me. “You gotta gun? I think you're gonna need a gun to deal with Edgar.”

I angled my head at him. I wasn't sure if he was serious or not, so I smiled hesitantly and he smiled back, holding his hands out. “Hey, I'm not like you guys, but I'm a strong dude. I'll help you anyway I can, and that includes breaking into that fortress of a house and helping you kill those two…okay, well kill one of them at least.”

“Thanks Phil, but I'm not putting any more lives in danger than I need to. That includes you Billy,” I said as I lightly elbowed her.

“Don't be stupid George, you couldn't do this without me,” she snidely replied.

Chapter 33

We stayed in the bar for another few rounds, talking about everything we knew and coming up with little in the way of solutions.

“You know Phil, you said you were sort of in the background on all this. You do realize that you're now sitting in the front row,” I said with a smirk.

“Yeah, man, it's weird. Never thought I wanted to know more, but you, you're different…and you too Billy. I just feel….” He shrugged dramatically. “I don't know what I feel.”

“I'm with ya,” I replied, then tipped my beer to his in some strange toast of comradery. “Let me ask you something—I've been wondering, do you think the Watchers had anything to do with me ending up here?” I waved my hand around. “In San Francisco? I mean, it can't be a coincidence that I moved here, near Vokkel, near Justine, the cousin of the woman who helped my mother. Not to mention buddying up with Billy, who's essentially my female counterpart.”

She sneered at me and said, “You mean you're my
male
counterpart.”

He laughed. He seemed to enjoy Billy's abrasive personality. But then he was silent, thinking long and hard, eventually he said, “I don't know…I think you being here is more of a cosmic thing. You know, like the universe getting things aligned or something. I mean, no one forced you to come to this city, right? And you weren't influenced in any weird way to buy your apartment, right?”

I shook my head, and he continued. “Think about it. You two are born from generations of super GKs, and Vokkel's on the verge of changing the game for the worst, turning these horrible demons back into humans. Imagine what sort of evil they'd get up to if they were solid…. I think the gods,” he held his hands up to the ceiling like a preacher at the pulpit, “or whatever you want to call it, needed you two together, and that's what they got.” He had a satisfied smile on his face, like he'd just figured out the greatest mystery of the universe. Who knew, maybe he was right.

We finished up our drinks, said our goodbyes, and left. Before we did, Phil extracted a promise from me that I'd let him know what the plan was going to be for taking out Vokkel. I didn't want to involve him anymore than I wanted to involve Anne, but it was good to know I had their support.

Chapter 34

I was entirely too wound up to go home so I asked Billy if she'd be interested in a little late night ghost killing. She was game, so we headed south to the Western Addition neighborhood. The area was mostly residential and touted an eclectic mix of people and small businesses, but it also had pockets on the seedier side, and that's where we went. The fog had begun to roll in and it was quickly filling the streets with an eerie mist, giving our outing an almost surreal quality.

We'd only walked a few blocks, past a couple of housing projects, when I found my first ghost. She was hovering over a homeless man, who was snuggled under a cardboard box with his equally homeless dog. As we strolled past, I jabbed it with my little yellow friend and it disappeared into the fog that was quickly descending upon us. The dog whimpered and thumped his tail happily, as if in appreciation for saving his master.

By the time we'd walked past a few noisy bars and several groups of sidewalk smokers, I'd killed six ghosts. Much like my visits to the Tenderloin, I didn't bother looking for the victims. I felt assured that they were nearby and tomorrow would be a much better day for them.

I was winding down and suggested we find a cab, but we'd entered a more residential neighborhood and needed to keep going a few more blocks where the taxis would be more available. We approached an empty lot, with a dilapidated chain-link fence surrounding it that couldn't keep anyone out, as evidenced by the encampment of cardboard hovels and loaded shopping carts, and even a few pup-tents. Billy and I gasped quietly at the same moment. The lot looked like a Halloween haunted house—I'd never seen so many ghosts in one place.

“Holy shit,” Billy whispered.

I grabbed her arm and held her back. “The minute we walk in there, they're going to know what we are. How should we do this?”

“Fast…I guess.” She was right, there was no other way.

“Okay, see that opening in the fence?” I pointed to a peeled away section of chain-link about fifteen feet ahead of us, and she nodded. “We go in that way. I'll go left, and you go right. It looks like there's another gap on the far end. We can exit there.”

I quietly counted to three and then we sprinted through the opening. My trusty yellow friend almost seemed to have a mind of its own, jabbing left and right at a speed I hadn't realized I possessed. I took a quick look behind me. I'd stabbed so many ghosts that the remnants hadn't had time to dissipate yet…they appeared like pillars of smoke in my wake. Even though I knew I was moving fast, my surroundings seemed to be passing by in slow motion, and out of the corner of my eye I could see Billy moving with equal speed. There was a low vicious growl and Billy suddenly tucked and rolled, landing squarely on her feet while thrusting her chopstick as if it were a dagger. It took me a moment to realize she'd just killed a really nasty demon, one that was well aware of her intentions. One that was trying to stop her, using its victim….

We both hit the far fence opening at the same time, gasping a little from the exertion of the past few minutes. I looked back. The fog was quickly consuming the evidence of our kills, and by the time we caught our collective breaths, there was nothing left but a light mist and the people we'd hopefully just saved.

“Billy, what the hell was that?” She grabbed my hand and pulled me up the street before speaking.

“Did you see that demon? George, he was controlling that man…he had a knife, he was trying to stab me with it.” Billy was the epitome of confidence, but she was clearly shaken and definitely scared.

“Come on, let's get out of here.” We hailed a cab and rode home in silence. When we stepped off the elevator onto the sixth floor, I said, “Billy, something's not right. I mean, I've never seen so many in one place, have you?” She shook her head.

“I forgot to ask for Aris's number, but I'm going to call Phil first thing tomorrow and ask him to pass this on to him. This is bad.” She agreed and we parted ways into our respective apartments.

Chapter 35

Once inside the comfort of my apartment, I paced, wondering what this new development meant and coming up with nothing. I poured a healthy glass of whiskey and paced some more. Could the demons be calling in reinforcements? Or was there just some sort of unrelated surge occurring?

My mind was in overdrive and I doubted I would sleep, but once in bed, I went down hard and fast. I woke up a little after 4 a.m. with the sensation that I wasn't alone. Lying quietly, I listened for sounds of an intruder, and when I didn't hear anything I grabbed the bat under my bed and walked around my dark apartment. A faint glow from the street light six floors below gave my living room a ghostly luminescence; so did the ghost standing silently in the corner. I stopped and stared at her. Her clean, plain features and long brown hair were all too familiar. It was the woman from the bar, only I hadn't been aware then that she was a ghost.

Not knowing what else to do, I said, “Hi.” She smiled and held her hand up in a gentle wave-like greeting. “Um…you're not a bad ghost.” She shook her head vigorously. “Did you want me to…uh, you know, help you move on?” She smiled again and shook her head lightly this time. “Okay, well help me out here…what can I do for you?” She smiled again and moved over to the bookcase, which held a variety of family photos. She pointed to my mother and then to herself. I'd seen pictures of my mom in a variety of ages, so I knew this woman wasn't her. Then of course, I remembered what Anne had said about my mother as a child in Switzerland. I cocked my head to the side and said, “Are you my mom's friend, the ghost from her childhood?” She smiled broadly and nodded with enthusiasm, and then she disappeared.

I went back to bed, tossed and turned, dozing occasionally, but never achieving that all important REM sleep. Finally I gave up on the idea of further slumber and got myself up and ready for the day. By seven, I had convinced myself that the early morning apparition was a dream. But I was desperate to tell Billy about it. I wanted to know if she had seen the woman in the bar too. She must have…she had been sitting right next to me and had a clear sight line to the corner the woman had been occupying. I couldn't handle being alone with my thoughts anymore and didn't dare wake Billy at such an un-Godly hour. I donned some shorts, a sweatshirt, and tennis shoes, and grabbed my racket in the hopes that Greg would be at the courts.

Since it was a weekday, the neighborhood was coming alive at a steady rate. There were people waiting at the downtown-bound bus stop, most of which were so focused on their smart phones that they didn't notice me when I casually jabbed a ghost with my racket as I passed. I looked back to the man with bulbous cysts on his face to find a wonderfully clear complexion in my wake, and I thought: Nice haircut, you'll get lots of compliments today. I laughed to myself and kept going up the hill to the courts.

I was delighted to find Greg annihilating his competition at a steady pace. I took a seat on the bench and waited my turn. We played three games before I called it quits. At least I won the first one, making my subsequent beatings hurt a little less.

Upon arriving home, I showered, dressed, and made another pot of coffee, and then I sent a text message to Phil, asking him to call at his earliest convenience, which turned out to be two minutes later. “What's up, my man?” he said the minute I answered.

“Billy and I had a very interesting evening after we left you,” I replied, and then regaled him with our little adventure and the ghost/homeless encampment. I also filled him in on my unexpected visit with my mom's ghost friend, but he we more interested in the encampment.

I could imagine his large eyes bulging out of his head as he let out a long whistle-like sigh. “This ain't good at all…how many do ya think were there?”

“I didn't count, but I'm guessing I got at least ten, probably closer to fifteen, I'd say Billy hit about the same.”

He was quiet for a while and I waited him out. Finally he said, “Remember last night when I said you being here was like a cosmic thing?” He didn't wait for an answer. “I was just blowing smoke about the universe and all that crap, but when we first met, I told you that the ghosts and demons were a 'wrong' and the ghost killers were here to correct that wrong. I think it's more Newtonian than that; you know, for 'each action there is an equal and opposite reaction'? What I'm trying to say is, you and Billy come together and suddenly the two most powerful GKs in the universe are like, you know, one. So now that you two are 'one,' the action has taken place and the 'equal and opposite reaction' is this surge of ghosts manifesting.” He went quiet. I could almost hear him thinking through the phone, then he sighed loudly. “Of course, it could be the other way around, you know what I mean? The surge was already happening and the reaction was for you two to join forces.” He went quiet again and for a second I thought he'd hung up, “George, I was talking to another GK buddy of mine. He said it seemed like the ghost population was more prominent lately. He also said they were more powerful than what he normally sees.”

As much as I didn't want to admit it, I thought he was right. I sighed loudly this time. “Yeah, okay. Do me a favor, get in touch with Aris, or whoever. I think we need to move quickly.”

We disconnected and I began to dial Billy's cell phone when I heard a heavy-fisted knock. I found Billy anxiously pacing the hallway on the other side of my front door.

“Hi, I was just calling you.”

She pushed past me and headed for the kitchen; by the time I caught up she was pouring herself a cup of coffee. Using an annoyed mock female voice, I said, “Good morning George, how did you sleep?” In my own pleasant baritone, I replied to myself, “Good morning to you too, Billy, I slept like crap. I had a dream that a woman was in my apartment. She was a ghost, and she told me that she was my mom's childhood ghost. Of course that can't be right, since she was also the woman sitting at a table on the far side of the bar last night, and she didn't look or act anything like a ghost then!”

Billy turned to me and said, “What woman?”

“Directly across from us. She was sitting on the far end, just past the pool tables. Come on Billy, there's no way you could have missed her. She was the only other woman in the whole place.”

She narrowed her eyes at me, the green just a flash between her lashes, and said, “George, aside from the old crooners at the bar, there was no one else in the place.”

I sat down heavily. I was willing to believe that she was a figment of my dream imagination during the wee hours of the morning, but I couldn't deny the fact that I knew I'd seen her in the bar; therefore, she was probably exactly who she said she was. I put my head in my hands and said, “I think my mom's ghost friend is haunting me.”

I heard her gasp and looked up. Her eyes had widened into a frightened stare. “No, no, not like that. She doesn't want to hurt me, she…I don't know what she wants. I asked her if she wanted me to, you know, help her move on and she said no. Well, she didn't actually
say
anything, but she shook her head. Then she went over to the bookcase with the framed photos and pointed to my mom. But let's deal with her later. I know a bad ghost when I see one and she isn't a threat. Besides, I think we've got much bigger problems.” I told her about my conversation with Phil.

She sat down and sipped her coffee, then said, “Here's what I think; I think Vokkel has realized who you are and now he can finally fulfill his promise to the demons. And as a bonus, you can do this confluence or convergence thing, whichever term you prefer, and
voila
, he's all better and his demons are now human and everyone can go along their merry way. But, I think the demons don't trust him, so they've called in reinforcements, and that's why we're seeing this surge of ghosts.”

I thought that over. It probably made the most sense, if any of this was going to make sense that is, but one thing was bothering me. “Billy, how in the hell do these ghosts travel? I mean, they didn't all come from here, right? We know the demons that killed our family didn't. So how do they get around? Are they just hopping planes and moving about like we do?”

She gave me that “adult to ignorant child” look and said, “I don't know George, and what does it matter? They're here and we need to do something about that.” Damn, she was cranky. My ringing phone saved me from coming up with a witty, and most likely snide, reply. I looked at the caller ID…it was Phil.

“Hey Phil,” I answered.

“George, Aris wants to see you right now. He says it's an emergency. Can we come over to your place?” He sounded extremely nervous.

“Yeah, sure. What's wrong Phil? What's going on?”

“I don't know man, but I think it's bad. We'll be there soon,” he said, and hung up.

BOOK: What Haunts Me
3.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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