Ghost dancer, p.1
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           Maer Wilson
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Ghost Dancer


  Ghost Dancer

  A Modern Magics Story

  Maer Wilson

  SmashWords Edition

  https://www.ellysianpress.com/

  Ghost Dancer

  A Modern Magics Story

  Maer Wilson

  © Copyright Maer Wilson 2013. All rights reserved.

  eBook ISBN: 978-1-941637-07-4

  Second Edition

  Editor: Jen Ryan, Imagine That Editing

  Cover Art: M Joseph Murphy

  Formatted by: Rik Hall

  Ebooks/Books are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared, or given away, as this is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

  All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  Other Works by the Author

  The Modern Magics Series

  by

  Maer Wilson

  Novels

  Relics, Book 1

  Portals, Book 2

  Novelettes

  “Ghost Memory”

  “Unwanted Ghost”

  “Ghost Dancer”

  Future Titles

  Magics, Book 3

  “Wedding Ghost”

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  Join Maer’s Book Club and get a free ecopy of “Unwanted Ghost.”

  Just click here to subscribe: https://maerwilson.com/join-maers-book-club/

  Dedication

  For Trish Rippie

  Thanks for believing in me and for your encouragement and support.

  Ghost Dancer

  “I need you to save my dog,” said the young dead girl who had materialized in front of our desks. “I want to hire you to find him and save him. I can pay you,” she continued, looking from me to my husband, Thulu, her face serious in spite of her young age. No greeting, just straight to the problem at hand.

  She looked to be about ten years old, slender, with dark skin and black eyes that were exotic. She wore jeans with a glittery shirt and a pink jacket. Earbuds dangled around her neck and she trailed a scent of burnt rubber and roses. She looked familiar, and I realized I’d seen her face on the news lately. She and her dog had disappeared the week before. There was an Amber Alert out on her, but apparently none of the leads had panned out. I glanced over at Thulu, a sick feeling starting in my stomach. He had already focused on our guest.

  We’d been playing a game on our computers, but a client took precedence.

  “We’ll be happy to find out what happened to your dog,” I said. “But first, what’s your name?”

  “Danika Samms. You’re Thulu and La Fi, right?”

  “We are,” I replied as I looked over our young client.

  We dealt with the dead and supernatural all the time, but the dead kids always broke my heart. I steeled myself and found a shaky smile for the young girl.

  “Thulu can’t hear you, Danika, but he’s good at reading lips, so if you can face him that will be helpful.”

  “Cool,” she said as she turned to face Thulu with a sweet smile. “Everyone says you are the ones who will help find stuff. Well, my dog is kidnapped, and I know he’s still alive. I can pay, too. I had some money I was saving in a box under my bed.”

  “When did you last see your dog?” Thulu asked.

  “When that guy killed me.”

  I closed my eyes briefly. I really hated dealing with dead kids and murdered ones were even worse. I mourned the loss of their potential and what they could have accomplished. The pain they had endured brought a feeling of helplessness. I didn’t like that feeling one bit. Yet there was nothing I could do but treat it as business as usual and maintain a professional attitude. Inside though, my stomach churned with anxiety.

  Danika frowned. “That really makes me mad, you know?” She put one hand on her hip. “I’m a dancer. I was gonna be on TV and everything next month in that big talent contest. I’m real good, too, you know? I coulda won that contest.” Her voice wavered between disappointment and frustration.

  “I’m so sorry, Danika.” And I was.

  “Yeah, well that guy killed me and took my dog. And now I don’t get to be on TV.”

  I didn’t tell her she’d been all over the TV for the last week, along with pictures of her dog. I simply nodded my understanding.

  “Danika, are you certain your dog is still alive?” Thulu’s voice was soft, his brown eyes kind.

  She nodded her head. “I’m sure. That guy has him. And he’s pretending to be nice to him, but he’s hurting him. I just know he is. Can you save him?” Silvery tears sparkled in her eyes and my heart broke a little more.

  “I’m sure going to try, Danika. What’s his name?” answered Thulu.

  “Rudy.”

  “What kind of dog is he?” Thulu asked.

  “He’s just a mutt. We aren’t really sure what kinds, but he’s a good dog. Smart too. That guy will hurt him and Rudy don’t deserve that.”

  Thulu leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. I could feel him gather the energy that meant he was going into finding mode. Thulu was a finder. Anything or anyone that was lost, he could find.

  I smiled encouragingly at Danika and put a finger to my lips, even though Thulu couldn’t hear her. She nodded solemnly and hovered over one of the visitors’ chairs across from our desks, hands folded in her lap, legs swinging back and forth.

  We sat quietly and waited for Thulu. His face bore a faint frown as he concentrated. His brown, sun-streaked hair fell across his forehead and there was no trace of the dimples he ruthlessly used to charm the world.

  Thulu and I had been working with the supernatural since we were kids. After college we opened an office where we could see our clients away from the prying eyes of the living and non-supernatural humans. It was an odd, but lucrative business. The dead paid us with knowledge of treasure, lost money or information. We had even inherited our house from a former client.

  Our services were pretty basic - deliver messages to loved ones, find lost items and get them to the living, or find someone’s killer in rarer instances. I did the translating and Thulu did the finding. It was a great partnership.

  Danika and I waited for Thulu to do his finding thing. The refrigerator in the kitchen section of our office hummed quietly as the seconds ticked by.

  When Thulu opened his eyes, he quickly nodded at me. He gave an address in a less than savory part of town - that wasn’t too far from the unsavory part of town where we deliberately kept our own office. “Does that sound like the place, Danika?” he asked.

  She nodded uncertainly. “I think so. It’s not too far from where I live.”

  “Danika, can you describe your dog to us? Is he wearing a collar with name tags?” asked Thulu.

  “Well, he’s white and tan and he’s not big, but he has a really loud bark, so he sounds bigger than he is. I don’t really know what kind of dog he looks like. Just a dog. My uncle said he had some terrier in him. Rudy has a green collar and a heart name tag. He had his shots tag on, too.”

  She looked from Thulu back to me. “Can we please hurry? I don’t know how long he has with that guy.”

  I nodded, my attention shifting to Thulu. “How do we approach this?”

  Thulu looked down at the desk where he had started doodling on a notepad.

  “I think we do a door to door saying we lost our own dog in the area.” He turned to his compu
ter and brought up a lot of pictures of dogs. “Danika can you look at these pictures and tell me if any look like Rudy?”

  She floated over to join Thulu, and I rolled my own chair over to his as he scrolled through the pictures.

  “There! That looks something like Rudy, only Rudy’s fur is shorter.” She pointed to a picture of a Jack Russell mix and Thulu clicked to bring up a larger picture. She tilted her head to one side as she gazed at the picture. “And Rudy’s legs are shorter.”

  Thulu’s fingers flew over the keys and within minutes the printer slid out a “Lost Dog” flyer, complete with description, picture and a fictitious phone number. He’d called the dog Rudy. I wondered if that would sound suspicious, but I figured only the killer would think that. Thulu quickly printed up some more flyers. For our ruse to work we’d have to go to more than just the killer’s house.

  I mentioned my concern to Thulu.

  “We could call the cops,” he said, one eyebrow raised and a hint of dimples telling me he wasn’t serious. He knew damned well I would not willingly interact with authorities of any kind. Explaining how we knew things would sound nuts, and I had a long-time wariness that the authorities would snatch us up and lock us away in a super-secret lab somewhere.

  “Let’s give this a try.” I said, scowling. “If we find the pup, we can make an anonymous tip.” It wouldn’t be the first time we’d done that over the years.

  We turned off the computers, locked up the office and headed out. Thulu and I shrugged into our winter jackets and set the alarm as Danika followed us. The air outside had a bite to it and it wasn’t the best kind of weather to do house-to-house visits, but hopefully that would make it seem more real. The morning fog hadn’t yet burned off, even though it was almost noon. We slid into our SUV, and I motioned for Danika to join us.

  Thulu drove to a nearby residential district with small, narrow houses and tiny backyards. He found parking around the corner, and we made a show of stapling our flyer to a telephone pole. We knocked on the first door and a tired-looking, middle-aged woman answered. We did our spiel about looking for the lost dog, had she seen him and handed her a flyer. She solemnly said she’d stay on the lookout.

  We repeated the process as we moved farther down the street, closer to the address where Danika’s killer lived. My anxiety level rose with each step, and I hoped it would come across as concern for our “lost” dog. Danika trailed after us, her scent of burnt rubber much stronger and blowing toward us on the breeze. Careful to face Thulu, so it looked like we had stopped to talk a moment, I looked at her from the corner of my eye and asked if she was okay with this.

  “Danika, you can stay in the car if this is too much for you.”

  “I’m okay, La Fi. He can’t see me or hurt me, right?”

  “I doubt he’ll be able to see you. And no, sweetie, he can’t hurt you anymore.” My voice cracked a little on the last words.

  She straightened her thin shoulders and gave me a brave smile. “I’m good. Let’s keep going.”

  A teenaged boy approached us as we moved on. It took a moment for me to realize he wasn’t alive. He was more solid than most of the dead we dealt with and had an energy and life about him that contradicted his ghostly state. He paused a moment when he realized I was making eye contact and that Thulu could also see him. He nodded once to himself, smiled at Danika and joined our group, trailing the smell of peanut butter, with a hint of vinegar. He seemed to be about fourteen, with dark hair and eyes, and the thin look of a teen who hadn’t quite finished puberty.

  “You’re looking for that guy that killed her aren’t you?” he asked without preamble.

  Thulu and I nodded.

  “Are you the people who have that detective agency for the supernatural? I sent her to you. You seem kind of young to be detectives.” His voice was doubtful.

  I nodded. “I’m La Fi and this is Thulu. And we really are detectives.”

  “Yeah, okay. Good. I’m Parker. I’ve been watching this guy. I got here right about the time he killed her.” He lowered his voice to a whisper only I could hear. “He is one sick bastard. He hurt that little girl really bad.” His eyes took on a haunted look. The irony was not lost on me. He nodded his head toward the house we were making our way to. “He’s not home right now. But I think he’s getting ready to snatch another kid. He’s acting all twitchy.”

  “Is my dog still there? Is Rudy okay?” asked Danika.

  Parker looked at her, his expression sharpened and his scent became more vinegary. “Yeah, he’s there and still alive. The guy’s kid was outside playing and heard the dog in the back and thought it was for him, so the man gave him the dog.” He hesitated and turned his attention back to me and Thulu as if he wanted to say more, but shook his head with a glance at Danika.

  There was something about Parker I immediately liked, and I wondered what his story was. There were plenty of ghosts around and not all of them made their way to us, but a good many had over the years. Parker was different in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

  “He has a kid?” I asked. “How old?”

  “Yeah, a little boy about seven or eight. He doesn’t have a wife or a girlfriend there though. Just him and the kid.” Parker said.

  Thulu and I exchanged a look.

  “Does he hurt his son?” Thulu asked.

  Parker shook his head. “Not that I’ve seen, but I’m telling you this guy is super dangerous. Because he’s crazy smart. He passes for normal, you know? So you guys need to be very, very careful. He pretends to be nice, but he’s mean.”

  “Where’s the boy now?” I asked.

  “With the man. He took the kid and the dog to the park, but I’m guessing they should be home soon.” Parker pointed down the street in the direction we were headed.

  We made our way to the next house and continued our cover story, while keeping an eye out for a man with a boy and dog.

  Most people weren’t home, so we didn’t leave anything at those houses. I felt bad about misleading the people who were home, but I also wanted our cover story to stick. As we walked up to the next house, a strong gust of wind cut through the air, blowing my hair into my eyes. I shivered as I zipped up my jacket and wound my scarf around my neck.

  We were about three houses away from the killer’s address when we spotted a man, a boy and the dog we were looking for. From the distance the dog looked just like the one in the picture. I had an idea. I nudged Thulu and cried, “There!” before taking off in the direction of the dog at a run. The rest of our little party followed us.

  “Oh my god, you found him,” I exclaimed as I came up on the trio and prayed that Rudy would go along with my ruse, as I scooped him up. The poor dog gave me a startled look, but my hugs must have let him know he was safe with me and all I received were kisses on the cheek.

  I held his squirming body for a moment longer before handing him off to Thulu.

  “Oh, thank you so much for taking care of our Rudy. I was afraid we’d never see him again.” I smiled at the human monster facing me with his mouth open in surprise and the small boy, who was beginning to get tears in his eyes.

  “That’s my dog,” said the small boy.

  The man was flustered for a moment, but he knew that dog could not possibly be ours because he knew who it really belonged to.

  His voice was deep and gravelly when he spoke, “Lady, I got no idea about your dog, but this ain’t him.”

  Thulu had been examining Rudy, who was still squirming to get down. I realized Rudy sensed Danika and was looking at her.

  “He’s still wearing his collar,” Parker said.

  I reached for the tags and found the one that said “Rudy.” I showed the man. “See here? His name is Rudy, just as I said.” I pointed to another tag. “And this is his rabies tag, but his tag with our contact info is missing.” I waved a flyer at the man showing the picture of the dog, but not letting him look too closely.

  “We lost our dog about two weeks ago,
” I improvised. “We’ve been searching all that time and even had a lost dog page set up for him.”

  The man frowned. Two weeks would have been before he took Danika. I wasn’t sure how long he had watched her before taking her, or if he had watched her at all, but I took the chance that he wouldn’t question the timing very closely. I hoped he’d think Danika had simply found our dog and was taking care of him, just as the man had.

  “How did Rudy get burned?” Thulu asked with a frown.

  The man started to back up a few feet, possibly deciding this wasn’t an encounter he wanted to have after all.

  “I don’t know. I just found him wandering and my son loved him, so we kept him.”

  “And just ignored the tags? Didn’t even try to find out where he belonged?” My voice raised in volume and octave.

  The man peered at me sharply and moved closer again. I didn’t like that. “Yeah, exactly like that. My son fell in love with the dog, so I decided to keep him.” His voice was firm, even and gave no hint of remorse. The coldness made me want to get as far away from him as I could, but I didn’t move.

  I glared at the man, getting into my role as a dog owner. “That is just so wrong.”

  “So what are you going to do about it?” he demanded, his voice was still even and almost quiet, but with a hard edge that left no doubt he was a threat. A very big threat. His eyes hard chunks of granite, I saw muscles bunch at his thick neck.

  I backed away a few feet, knowing that standing my ground was not the tact to take. Pretending a fear I didn’t feel, I stammered out a few incoherent words.

  “Let’s go, honey,” said Thulu. “We have our boy, so let’s just go.” Thulu’s voice sounded uncertain, and I knew he too had figured out our best bet was to let the man “win.”

  “Daddy, they’re taking my puppy.” The tears in the boy’s eyes tore at me, and I could only look at him as I shook my head. “I’m sorry, but this is not your dog, sweetie.”

  The man grabbed the boy’s hand and started to drag him toward us. Thulu and I moved into the street to allow them to pass. We continued down the block. No way were we going to lead him to our SUV. So we made a brave show of going the opposite direction. At the corner we risked looking back, but there was no sign of the man or his son. I breathed a sigh of relief as I leaned against Thulu.

  “Someone has used cigarettes to burn this poor boy,” Thulu said softly. “Let’s get him over to Ally, so she can give him an exam before we contact anyone.” Ally was the best veterinarian we knew. She was also Thulu’s cousin and my best friend.

  We quickly made our way around the block followed by the two ghost kids. Danika was turning somersaults in the air in joy that we had rescued Rudy, who kept struggling to get to her. Rudy was one smart dog if he was able to see his mistress. It spoke of their bond, and I felt a hitch in my stomach that they had ended up as they had.

  Once we got back into the SUV, Thulu handed Rudy to me. I thanked Parker and asked if he’d like to join us. He smiled and nodded as he and Danika floated into the backseat.

  I carefully looked Rudy over to see the burns Thulu had pointed out. I was careful to not touch them, but the poor pup had about half a dozen burns on his back. Some looked relatively fresh, and were very deep, bloody and oozing, while others had scabbed over and looked like they were a few days old. I was pretty sure the man had done that and recently, too.

  I called Ally, and explained to her what had happened. She and her husband, Brent, owned a popular animal clinic. She told us to bring Rudy in.

  Thulu and I had no pets, although Ally had been trying for years to talk us into one.

  My plan was to get Rudy checked out, return him to his family and hope that Danika could move on. I said as much to Thulu who simply nodded his agreement. And I wanted to chat with Parker some more. We needed to get info to the cops about Danika’s killer and do so without blowing our cover. That was going to be tricky because anonymous tips weren’t always followed up as thoroughly as we’d like and sometimes we had to make several calls to get action. I hoped Parker could give us more information that would convince the cops to investigate the man.

  I had Danika lean forward so Rudy could sniff her, hoping he could detect the scents that I was able to smell. I had no idea how much a dog understood. He wiggled out of my arms and tried to jump into hers. He gave a small yelp when he went right through her and landed on the backseat. He sniffed the air, cocked his head to one side and quickly came to terms with the situation. It didn’t take him long to figure out he couldn’t physically interact with her. He contented himself with lying on the seat next to her, obviously happy in her presence. Now and then he tried to get her to pet him, but of course his little head went right through her body.

  By the time we reached the sparkling clinic, Rudy had settled down. Ally wasted no time giving the little dog an exam, and she quickly confirmed that Rudy was on the thin side, but had been fed, so wasn’t exactly starving. She frowned over the burns and shook her head in disgust. She picked Rudy up and explained that she needed to treat the burns and would bring Rudy back when she was done. Danika danced after Ally. I thought about stopping her, but didn’t.

  Thulu and I remained in the little exam room with Parker floating nearby. We waited for Ally to return with the dog.

  We needed to let Danika’s family know he had been found and was safe, but I wondered if we would be better off turning the dog over to the cops.

  “I don’t want this to be a mess, Thulu,” I said quietly.

  “It won’t be.” His voice was firm and reassuring.

  “Parker, do you know where he put Danika’s body?” I asked.

  Parker frowned. “He’s got a building in back. It’s little, but has a basement that’s deep underground. He reinforced it all with concrete. That’s why no one hears anything. And he tunneled out from the basement so the backyard has this underground area for the bodies. It’s really creepy because it’s like he made his own private crypt. He has everything reinforced with concrete under there, La Fi. He made these weird coffins out of fiberglass or something. Each coffin has a window over the top half of the bodies. And there are lots of bodies down there. He goes and visits them. A lot of the coffins have what looks like mummies inside. I floated in to look at some of them. A few are more recent. Like Danika. ”

  My heart sank as Thulu asked, “How many is ‘lots,’ Parker?”

  “Maybe twenty or so? I didn’t want to count them.”

  We had to stop that man; that was first and foremost, but figuring out how to report him without telling the authorities we saw ghosts was going to be tricky.

  Ally returned with Rudy and a serious expression. Danika floated after her with a frown.

  “Hey, guys, where exactly did you get this dog?” asked Ally.

  I gave a nervous glance at Danika. Parker picked up on it and I was terribly impressed with what he did next.

  “Hey, Danika, could you show me where the guy took you from?”

  She nodded and the two popped out of the room.

  Thulu and I explained what had happened. Since Ally was family, she knew quite well what Thulu and I could do. Her face paled as we explained about Danika, her murder and what had happened to Rudy after that.

  “Okay, so we need to let the cops know about all of this, without involving you any more than we have to.” Ally’s voice was firm.

  “How about if we say we found the dog in front of the house and saw his back and brought him to Ally?” I asked and immediately discarded that idea. “Never mind, they’ll want to know why we didn’t call them.”

  “Maybe not, Fi, why would we if we were rescuing a dog sitting by himself in front of a house?” Thulu sighed. “There are all sorts of holes in that story, but I think we need to go with it anyway. I can call that detective friend of mine – Lassiter. I’ll tell him we were investigating another case in the area and saw the dog and you were too soft-hearted to leave him there. We didn’t realize un
til we got him in to Ally that he was the missing little girl’s dog.”

  “And how do we get him to look in that backyard and find this crypt?”

  “I’ll think of something.” Thulu was still frowning, but he was good at keeping us from getting attention from the authorities. I trusted that he could get someone to look without giving us away.

  We all agreed it was a flimsy story at best, but we needed to get cops to that house and none of us had any better ideas. It sucked, but what else could we do?

  Thulu called Lassiter. He explained that we’d found the dog that belonged to the missing child from the news. The dog’s name tag confirmed his name and his description matched that of the missing dog. He glossed over a lot of details, but stayed with the story that we found the dog in front of a certain house, which might mean nothing, but should be checked out.

  It was a waiting game after that. Not my favorite thing. Waiting sometimes annoyed me, but there really wasn’t anything else to do and we’d certainly done our fair share of it over the years.

  Ally left us in the room when one of the assistants told us the cops were there. Thulu held Rudy as we waited.

  Ally soon returned, leading Thulu’s friend, Jeremy Lassiter. He always seemed nice and was certainly competent or Thulu would not have been his friend, but I wanted nothing to do with him, and always stayed aloof in his presence.

  Inside my heart was pounding. I hated lying. It was a big thing to me to be honest. But I also didn’t want to end up as a lab experiment somewhere.

  Lassiter looked at Rudy’s tags, and checked Rudy against a picture he had. He carefully noted the placement of the tan spots on his fur and studied the shape of his face.

  “Okay, I agree that this is probably the missing dog. Now let me get this straight. You were investigating a case in the neighborhood, saw this dog sitting by himself and the bad burns on his back, so you brought him to Dr. Morgan.”

  “Right, we felt it was important to get him medical treatment as soon as possible. We were worried about infection and didn’t want any more time to pass.”

  “There’s a clinic name on the rabies tag. Did you think of calling that to trace the dog by the shot number?”

  Thulu and I exchanged a look. I shrugged. Not being a dog owner how would we even know that?

  “No,” answered Thulu. “I didn’t know you could do that. With Ally being our cousin, we felt she was our best option.” Thulu was smooth.

  “Right, and after you got here, you realized it was the dog that had been with Danika Samms?”

  “That’s correct. Ally recognized him from the pictures, so we called you.” Thulu continued.

  Lassiter raised an eyebrow and looked from Thulu to me to Ally. I got the impression he wasn’t buying our story.

  “And you want me to go to the house where you found the dog sitting?”

  “Exactly.” Thulu smiled, his dimples showing.

  “And why would I do that?” Lassiter asked.

  “Because that’s where we found the dog. He’d been fed since he was taken, so someone fed him, someone burned him. It wouldn’t hurt to check the whole area, but isn’t it logical to start there? I mean you do have a missing child, right?”

  The two men watched each other, and I felt as if some secret guy-thing message passed between them. I frowned, but Lassiter put away his phone, where he’d been making notes and turned to me.

  “I’m guessing you have nothing to add to this?”

  “Nope.” I said. Lassiter waited to see if I’d add anything, but I firmly kept my mouth shut.

  He turned to Ally, “Dr. Morgan, is there anything you wish to add?”

  Ally smiled charmingly, as she petted Rudy. “It’s just as Thulu told you. I recognized Rudy from his picture. He’s been fed, but not a lot. He’s thinner than he was when the picture was taken, but he’s mostly in good spirits and is a very sweet boy. I know he must be in pain, but he’s very stoic about it. I hope you find whoever abused this baby and little Danika and make him pay.”

  Lassiter zeroed in on Ally’s last comment, “Dr. Morgan why would you say Danika has been abused? Do you know something else?”

  Ally wasn’t as smooth as Thulu, but did her best as she stammered, “No, of course not. How could I possibly know anything?”

  Lassiter looked her in the eye for a very long moment, but Ally held her ground. He turned to me once more, but I knew better than to volunteer anything.

  He turned to Thulu. “Would you join me outside please, Thulu?”

  Thulu looked at me and gave me a reassuring nod. “Sure thing, Jeremy.”

  Thulu gave my arm a light squeeze as he left the room. I breathed easier with Lassiter gone.

  With the door closed behind them, Ally blew a heavy sigh of relief.

  “Oh my god, La Fi, how do you guys do this?” Ally whispered.

  I shook my head, “Fortunately, we don’t have to very often. Usually Thulu makes an anonymous call or something. We don’t have live animals to deal with. But this time is different. There’s no way we could just dump him at the police station or even here for that matter. We had to have a connection to that house and this was the best solution.”

  “I know, but still, it’s nerve-wracking. Well, I’m going to get back to my other patients. Let me know if you need anything.”

  “Will do. And thanks, Ally.” I stood and gave her a hug before sitting back on the padded bench with Rudy next to me. I called Danika and Parker, and they popped in quickly.

  Rudy immediately focused on Danika again, but didn’t leave my side. He didn’t bother trying to sniff her anymore. He seemed content to merely watch her. He was a nice dog. Even I had to admit that.

  “So what now?” asked Parker.

  “Now we hope the cops go investigate that guy.”

  “Do you think they will?” Parker frowned, doubtfully.

  I shook my head. “I have no idea. I sure hope so, though.”

  “What if they don’t?” he persisted,

  “Then we think of something else.” I smiled.

  We were quiet for a few minutes.

  “So what’s your story, Parker? How did you come to be there?”

  “I heard her, but I was too late. I didn’t even think of coming to you guys to help before. I wish I had.” Parker shook his head, his eyes full of pain. “I could have saved her. I could have saved others, if I’d only thought to come to you guys sooner and tell you what I saw.”

  “Hey, there’s no sense blaming yourself. You didn’t know us, so why would you think to come to us.”

  “Because everyone knows you help the supernatural.”

  “Everyone?”

  “Yeah, everyone knows that you help the dead with stuff. But I didn’t even think about coming to you guys until she wanted to find her lost dog.” He ran his hand through his spiked hair. “It seems so obvious now. But you know what? Not all of us need help.” He looked at me, and I nodded my understanding.

  Parker continued, “Some of us are just hanging out and we don’t need anything. But I should have thought about coming to you guys for the living who are in trouble.” His tone was wistful and I caught the feeling of guilt from him.

  “Why would you think of it, though? Unless you had dealt with us before, or you needed help with something.” I changed the subject to take his mind off his guilt. “So, you don’t want to go through the light yourself?”

  That worked. “No way! I’m having too much fun still.” He grinned at me.

  “I see.” I wanted to ask how he died, but didn’t want to take away his smile.

  “Well Parker, now that you know us, maybe you can help when you see something in the future? I want you to know you are always welcome to bring us any info you think we can help with.”

  His grin became even wider. “That would be awesome.”

  The door to the room opened and Thulu came back in, followed by Ally.

  “Okay, La Fi, we’re going to keep Rudy here
until the family comes for him. They need to take pictures of him, but he will be okay.”

  “And Lassiter said we can go home,” Thulu added.

  “Come on with us, guys. We can wait at the house,” I said to the two kids.

  “Really?” asked Parker. “I always heard that you don’t allow anyone to come to the house.”

  I nodded. “We don’t usually, but I’m willing to make an exception in this case.”

  I gathered my jacket and followed Thulu to the SUV. Danika and Parker floated after us.

  We were all quiet as we drove home. Once there, Thulu and I settled into our family room with glasses of wine and a quick dinner of microwaved soup and sourdough bread.

  “Danika, Rudy will be returned to your family and I’m sure he will be cared for. Is there anything else we can do for you?”

  The young girl floated cross-legged in the air, next to Parker. We all looked at Danika.

  “Thank you for saving Rudy. Will someone let my mom and dad know what happened?” she asked tentatively.

  Thulu nodded. “My friend will take care of that, Danika. Did you have a message to pass on to them?”

  Danika shook her head. “They’d never believe it was from me.”

  Thulu and I exchanged a glance.

  “The only other thing I’d like to do is to dance on TV, but that’s not going to happen. I really wanted to do that show. I would have been so good. I never got to show my cool moves.” Her voice was small and heavy with disappointment.

  I smiled. “You know, there might be something we can do about that. Not on TV, but a friend of ours has a magic show. I bet we could get him to help you and you could do a show for us. How does that sound?”

  “Really?” Her face lit up.

  “Sure. I’ll make a call and see what we can come up with. I bet we can put the word out that there’s going to be a cool show. We can invite some of the other dead to come, too. What do you think about that?” I was maybe jumping the gun a bit, but I knew Reo would help.

  “I think that’s awesome! Do you think anyone would come?” Danika bounced in the air.

  Parker answered, “I’ll tell people. I bet we pack the house.”

  I got my phone out and called Reo Malone, a friend with a show at a classy hotel. He was also a telepath, empath, psychic and saw the dead. I explained the situation to him and he was silent. I let him think.

  “Okay, here’s what we can do. I’ll rehearse some with your little friend and we can use my showroom. We can use it for a show too…a matinee, maybe? What do you think?”

  “I think that’s a great idea.”

  “Tell her I’ll call for her soon. I’ll chat with her and see what we can put together. Let her know my abilities are more erratic than yours so she doesn’t get frustrated.” Reo sounded excited about the possibility.

  “Will do.”

  I passed the info on to Danika, who left almost immediately. I knew she’d be in good hands with Reo.

  Thulu left the room, and I heard him talking on his phone in the study. I smiled at Parker and held up one finger to let him know we’d wait. He nodded.

  Thulu soon returned, but his earlier mood had darkened considerably and he motioned me to follow him as he talked.

  “That was Lassiter. They went to the house and it was empty. There were signs that someone had packed in a hurry. The cops searched the back building and they found the crypt and everything in it. They’re searching for him now.”

  “But you know where he is, don’t you?” I asked as I followed Thulu back to the study. My husband nodded as he opened the safe there.

  “Yeah, Fi, I know where he is.”

  I felt my stomach drop at his tone. My voice was shaky as I asked him what I already suspected.

  “Where is he, Thulu?”

  “Here, Fi, he’s here.” Thulu handed me my gun and a box of ammo. I quickly filled the chamber of my .38 Smith & Wesson. I wanted to warn Parker, but of course, nothing much could harm him at that point.

  “How did he know where we lived, Thulu?”

  “Well, he must have followed us. We were just too complacent. We’ve gotten too used to the dead, Fi and forgotten that live people can hurt us.”

  Thulu held his 9 mm Glock, barrel pointed at the floor, finger off the trigger.

  I tried to remain calm, but my heart pounded fiercely. Parker floated nearby, his face full of concern.

  “Where exactly? Does he have the boy with him? Did you tell Lassiter he was here?” I kept my voice quiet and was glad we had the shades pulled in the downstairs windows.

  Thulu tracked his quarry, and I watched him as his eyes followed someone neither of us could see.

  “Yes, I told Lassiter we might have been seen taking the dog. The man is making his way slowly around the house and no, the child isn’t with him.”

  I nodded, wondering how long it would be before the cops got there. I didn’t hear any sirens and hoped Lassiter would act on Thulu’s vague information.

  “Did you unlock the back?” I asked Thulu, whispering.

  “No, it’s still locked from when we left this morning.” Thulu paused. “He’s almost to the backyard, but the fence is blocking him.”

  The old house had a seven foot tall block wall fence that previous owners had put up. It enclosed the small yard that connected the house with the garage.

  “He’s going along the fence line to the back.”

  There was no way he could get in by going around. There were no gates in the fence. The only way into the yard was through the garage, the house or over the fence. I guessed that he’d try to climb over once he realized that.

  My heart continued to pound, and my breathing came in rough hitches. Thulu was completely calm. His Karate training had kicked in, and there was no indication that he was bothered in the least.

  I briefly wished I’d at least gotten into the meditation part of the Karate classes Thulu had wanted me to take. His own fifth degree Black Belt and ability to stay calm stood him in very good stead when he had to deal with situations like this. Fortunately, we hadn’t had very many of them. Well, actually we hadn’t had anything like this. This was the closest someone had come to threatening us in a long time, and the first time they had actually come near our home.

  I jumped when my phone sang its ring tone to me. I hurriedly grabbed it from the table and checked the screen.

  It was my empath grandmother. She had picked up on my distress I was sure. I quietly answered.

  “Nana, we can’t talk right now.”

  “Do I need to call the police?” Her voice was calm, but concerned. My grandmother always seemed to know what to do.

  “I don’t think so, Nana. Thulu already told them there was an intruder.”

  Thulu’s phone rang, and he answered it as I quickly disconnected from Nana, promising to call her as soon as I could.

  “Yeah, I thought I saw someone skirting the fence around the backyard from the upstairs window.” He paused.

  “No, we aren’t looking out of any of the windows right now. Just a few seconds ago he was headed back to the garage.”

  Lights exploded all around the house, and I heard a helicopter come in above us that sounded like it was on the roof.

  Thulu and I instinctively hit the floor as we heard a flurry of shots fired from the back of our house. Within moments they stopped, but we stayed on the floor. Neither of us was in a hurry to move. Thulu looked beyond me and smiled grimly. I turned to see Parker stretched out on the floor. He shrugged and gave me a rueful grin, but he didn’t move.

  It seemed like we stayed there forever, but it was probably only a few minutes before there was a knock at the front door.

  Thulu and I exchanged a look, and we both moved to the front door. Thulu looked through the peephole and must have been satisfied because he nodded. He started to open the door, but realized we were both armed. He motioned for my gun and quickly took them both to the study.

  He was back in se
conds and opened the front door just as someone knocked again and yelled, “It’s okay to open the door. This is the police.”

  It took hours, but eventually the police left. Some of them didn’t seem to know our part in the situation. Lassiter took the lead as much as he could. I got the impression he was shielding us, but couldn’t imagine why he would do that. They came to the conclusion that the man had seen us take the dog and followed us throughout the day. Neither Thulu nor I contradicted that theory.

  Lassiter told us that the man was dead. Shot down in the alley when he raised a gun to the cops and refused to drop it. I couldn’t say I was sad, but I did nervously look around to see if the man’s ghost would make an appearance. I wish I’d known if he had moved on when he died. Most people did, but that was no guarantee.

  I never asked his name. I preferred to think of him as a nameless monster. Even though I could have used it to verify that he was gone. The dead responded to their names more often than not. But a name would have humanized him too much. Thulu talked to Lassiter privately for a while. I was sure Thulu got a lot more information than I needed or wanted.

  His expression was grim when he came back into the family room after Lassiter left. I took a fortifying sip of wine, steeling myself for what I knew was going to be bad.

  “There were over two dozen bodies found in his homemade crypt. Bodies of young girls between the ages of eight and thirteen,” he paused.

  I didn’t want to know what had been done to them, but of course my husband knew that.

  “Some of them have been there for over five years, but they don’t know exactly how long, yet,” he continued.

  I watched him, knowing there was something coming that I really didn’t want to know, but that he felt I needed to know.

  “They also found the recently deceased body of one male child. They identified the child as the man’s son. La Fi, he must have followed us, then gone home and killed that boy before coming after us.”

  I felt the tears fall as Thulu pulled me close and held me tightly. We had just seen the child only hours before. As I took his dog away from him. That thought looped through my brain, and I wondered if it was my fault. If I’d left the dog, would that baby still be alive? Thulu kissed the top of my head.

  “This wasn’t our fault, Fi. We can’t think that.”

  “But Thulu, it is, you know? If we hadn’t taken the dog --”

  “Then he would have done something else. Or continued killing more girls. We gave him no indication that we connected him to Danika.”

  “But he had to know we would be suspicious with the burns to Rudy. Even if he believed we lost Rudy and Danika had rescued him. He had to know those burns would at least get some sort of investigation.”

  “That’s way too many suppositions, Fi. I’m not convinced he thought that far ahead, love.” Thulu’s tone was soft, reasonable.

  But I knew better. Why else had he followed us? That child’s death lay directly on my doorstep. I just had to be so clever with my little act about the dog. I’d gotten an innocent child killed.

  I wished I could believe that it wasn’t my fault, but that child’s death would haunt me for a long time.

  Parker left when the cops did, telling us he’d keep an eye out. Not that there was any reason to be concerned at that point. He said he’d also check in on Danika.

  We called Nana Fae and filled her in on what had happened, declining her kind offer to come over. I was exhausted, but sleep was a long time coming that night.

  Thulu and I sat in the window seat in our bedroom, looking out over the lights of the city, tears slipping down my face. I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion soon after we were settled in bed. I felt safe with Thulu tucked around me protectively.

  I woke the next morning safely encased in his arms. When I stirred, I felt him kiss the top of my head. The sun’s angle told me it was late morning. Very late.

  I’ve been surrounded by death almost every day since I was ten, but the dead didn’t usually make me feel uncomfortable. The night before was death as I’d rarely experienced it - real, immediate and senseless. I was more than ready to put it behind me and focus on getting Danika on her path.

  I took a long, hot shower and washed the cobwebs and darkness from my mind. When I finally went downstairs, Thulu had my morning Coke ready for me and had fixed me an omelet and toast. I hadn’t eaten much the day before, and I was starving. I dug into the egg to release the melted cheese as Thulu brought me up to speed.

  “Reo called. He said Danika is very good and they spent the night putting together a little show. They want us to come to the hotel around two this afternoon. Parker came by and told me that he is letting the supernatural world know that there will be a special show this afternoon.”

  “Wow! You’ve been busy. You did all that while I was in the shower?” I slathered blueberry jam on my toast.

  Thulu dimpled at me. “Of course not, love. I was up early and got everything done. I only went back to bed when I thought it was getting really late, even for you. Especially if we want to be at the hotel in a couple hours.”

  I looked at the clock and realized it was almost noon. “No kidding.” Waking up was not my best time of the day. It took me a while to become fully human on a good day. Let alone one following as much drama as we’d had the day before. Even with a shower and food it was a slow process. After brunch, I answered email and took care of a few bills before heading upstairs to get ready for the show.

  I didn’t often wear a lot of makeup, in spite of being blonde and having pale skin. But I wanted Danika to know I took her seriously, so I dressed up a little more than I usually would for an afternoon. Wearing a good pair of jeans, my leather boots with actual heels and a pale green silk blouse, I finally pronounced myself as good as I was going to get that day and met Thulu downstairs.

  My husband had gone with khakis and a long sleeved, soft brown shirt with his leather jacket. We locked up, set the alarm and headed for the SUV. Parker appeared in the backseat just as we pulled out of the garage, telling me he told everyone he could find about the show.

  When we got to the hotel, one of most exclusive in the city, the guard at the express elevator let us go up. The maître d’s stand was empty when we stepped out of the elevator, and as we looked around I didn’t see any live people at all. However, the lobby and showroom were crowded with the dead, I was happy to see.

  Ghostly heads turned as Thulu and I walked into the room. Parker pointed to a table just below the stage.

  “Reo said you should sit there. I’ll let them know you’re here.” I recognized the table as the same one Thulu and I had sat at the night we had first met Reo.

  Thulu and I nodded to the dead who had come to the show. We settled in at the table which held a pitcher of ice water and three glasses. The grand piano and Reo’s chair and table had been moved to one side of the stage. Within moments the house lights dimmed and the stage lights came up. Pop music came from speakers set around the room and Reo appeared in a gorgeous tux. The music faded out, and I wondered who was controlling that just as I saw him pocket a small remote.

  “It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the stage the fabulous, tremendously talented Danika Samms!”

  The music started once again and Reo moved to join us at our table as Danika appeared on the stage in a sequined and feathered dress in shades of blues and greens. After a moment she began to dance. And man, could that girl dance! I wasn’t sure what her style was, not being a dancer myself, but it appeared to be a mix. I only knew she was graceful, controlled and her “moves” were incredible. The audience went wild as she executed steps I could barely follow.

  Song after song Danika danced. I watched her expression go from uncertainty to pleasure to exultation to the purest joy I’d ever seen. I was grateful to get to watch this incredible girl, but saddened to realize that no one else would ever enjoy her talent. I was pretty sure she could have had a good shot at winning the contest had she
lived to enter it.

  As her show progressed and her sheer joy in the dances increased, I realized that the stage was taking on a glow aside from the stage lights. The Light began to pulse and finally settled blindingly on the stage. Danika danced over to our table.

  “Thanks again for saving my dog. And thanks for giving me my show. You guys are all great!” She turned to her audience.

  “Thanks for coming to my show!” She waved and blew kisses, and we all applauded and blew kisses back at her. Danika danced back toward the Light turning at the last minute to call out, “Don’t forget the money under my bed.” And then she was gone.

  The Light remained a few minutes longer as some of the audience slipped into it. After it faded the remaining dead popped out until there was no one left, but Thulu, Reo, Parker and me.

  I hugged Reo. “Thanks for doing that for her, Reo. It was truly awesome.”

  “She was incredible wasn’t she?”

  “She was indeed.”

  The four of us sat staring at the stage that had recently witnessed one of the most beautiful dancers I’d ever seen. Maybe that anyone had ever seen. I smiled to myself, feeling we’d done well by our client. I had no intention of collecting our fee. As far as I was concerned, her dancing was all the payment we needed. The memory of it would stay with me the rest of my life.

  The End

 
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