A ghouls guide to love a.., p.4
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       A Ghoul's Guide to Love and Murder, p.4

           Victoria Laurie

  Turning my attention back to the dagger, I tried to lift the glass housing it, but it wouldn’t budge. I then scanned the crowd for any sign of Gilley, as I was hoping he’d know how to get into the display, but he was nowhere in sight. Frustrated, I dug into my vest and pulled out a few extra magnets, placing them directly on the metal podium that held the glass case and the dagger. They stuck there nicely, and while I could tell that there were a whole lot of other magnets already placed there, my four extra certainly couldn’t hurt.

  “Do you see Gilley?” I asked Heath, who was also scanning the crowd.

  “No,” he said. “I think he might’ve made it to the door and out.”

  I stepped away from the display and looked at the dispersing crowd anxiously. I wasn’t leaving without the dagger, and Gil was the key to getting the glass case unlocked. More scanning of the crowd failed to reveal my best friend, but Phil Sullivan and Murdock were still in attendance. They both appeared quite shaken by the ordeal. But then Phil’s petulant expression returned and he stalked over to us. “I’m going to call the studio and complain,” he told me with a snarl. “Maybe they can’t fire you for pulling a stunt like this, but I hope they fine you or withhold some of your royalty checks. And then I’m gonna call the police and see if they can issue you a citation!”

  “Wait,” I said. “You think we did this?”

  Phil pulled up his own smartphone and eyed it with irritation. “I don’t know how you managed to drain everybody’s phones, but I’m not in the mood for stupid stunts like this. There’re laws against inciting a panicked riot like this, you know!”

  “Mr. Sullivan,” I said firmly, my voice rising, “we didn’t have anything to do with this. Not us and not the studio.”

  “Then who did?” he demanded, his face flushing yet another time.

  Next to me, Heath pointed to the glass case holding Oruç’s dagger. “I’m guessing the ghost and his demon, housed inside that dagger, are flexing their collective muscle.”

  I glanced around the room. There were magnetic spikes everywhere. “How did they get through the field created by all the spikes?”

  Heath shook his head, his expression grave. “Don’t know. But it’s something to worry about, Em.”

  I turned back to Sullivan. “We need that dagger back,” I said. “And we need it now.”

  If Oruç was simply giving us a demonstration of how easily he could get through the magnetic field in the room, then I was worried indeed.

  Sullivan glared at me, then turned to Murdock. “Charlie, throw these two outta here, and if they come back, call the police.”

  Murdock stepped forward and squared his shoulders, and my husband did the same. For a moment it looked like things were about to get physical, but then two other security guards rushed into the room and even Heath knew he stood no chance. Still, when they surrounded us and made it clear they weren’t averse to getting rough with us should we resist, Heath managed to stare one of them down enough that the guy took a step back.

  “We’ll call Gopher,” I whispered to Heath. “He’s got to be able to use his clout to help us get the dagger back.”

  “Yeah, but how long will that take?” Heath said, looking over his shoulder at Oruç’s dagger.

  “Hopefully, not long,” I said, and crossed my fingers. “He knows full well how dangerous that dagger is. He’ll help us get it back.”

  We made it out of the building behind a stream of shaken pedestrians. All anybody was talking about was the ghostbuster exhibit and how freaky and frightening it had been. It was also surprising to see how many people were really upset about their phones being dead—of course this was a regular occurrence in our ghostbusting world, but to those folks so used to having a charge on their phones to accompany them throughout their day, it was shocking and upsetting to them on a level I barely understood.

  We found Gilley in his new car, crying big wet tears. I rapped on the window and he shrieked. “Don’t do that!” he shouted at me before he rolled down the window.

  “We need to talk,” I said sternly. I was in no mood for Gilley’s bullshit. “My condo. Thirty minutes. Be there, or I’m going to hunt you down, Gillespie.”

  Gil bit his lip. I almost never called him by his last name, so he knew I meant business. He nodded meekly and I grabbed Heath’s hand to head toward the parking garage, more furious with Gilley than I could ever remember. And given how difficult my best friend could be, that was saying something.

  • • •

  Gil actually beat us to the condo. I figured he might’ve headed to his own unit ahead of us, which was only down one flight of stairs from mine, but he stood in front of my door dutifully and didn’t mutter a peep as Heath unlocked the door to let us all in.

  Doc—my African grey parrot—welcomed us with “Hi, birdie!” I walked over to him and kissed him on the head. He was such a sweet birdie. I’d had him since I was a little girl, and I treasured and adored him like my own child. I figured that standing close to him would keep me from erupting, which I was damned near close to.

  “What the hell were you thinking?” my husband roared the moment Gilley took a seat on the sofa. I should add here that he wasn’t standing anywhere close to the birdie. “That dagger is the most dangerous relic in New England and you think it’s okay to put it on display?! Seriously, Gil . . . what the hell?!”

  “I only loaned it to them for two weeks!” Gil replied. “Heath, it’s still completely surrounded by magnets, and I personally inspected the exhibit to make sure no one could steal it or get too close to it, and I ensured that it’d be in the center of a magnetic field so powerful that there was no way Oruç or his demon could get out. I swear to you I followed every protocol, took every precaution, made every attempt to keep that thing in check before I even considered bringing the dagger to the museum! Oruç and his demon should not have been able to do that!”

  Heath stared at Gilley like he didn’t even know him. Shaking his head as if he still couldn’t fathom Gilley’s insanely stupid decision, he said, “But that doesn’t tell me why, Gil. Why did you loan it out? Of all the things to hand over to the public, why the dagger?”

  Gil’s eyes misted and he began to cry again. I knew he hated being yelled at like that, but I had little sympathy for him. “It was the studio’s idea,” he said. “One of the producers called me, and he said that he’d seen photos of the exhibit before it opened up to the public, and the studio heads thought it was a little boring. He said that we needed something big to draw in the crowds, and that he’d heard about the dagger from Gopher and had gotten the okay from him to ask M.J. about it.”

  My brow furrowed. “No producer ever called me about the dagger,” I snapped.

  “Yeah, I know,” Gil said. “And that’s because, before you left on your trip, you told me not to give out your location or phone numbers to anyone. And you told me not to call you unless somebody was on fire or dead. So, I made the executive decision to handle it myself.”

  I shook my head. “Oh, cut the crap, Gil! You didn’t call us because you knew I’d say no!”

  Gilley picked at a thread on the seam of his jeans. “Well that may have had something to do with it,” he admitted.

  I shook my head, so angry I could have actually punched him. “Why?!” I demanded.

  Gilley sighed and he seemed full of regret. “The studio threw a lot of money at me and I caved,” he admitted. Looking up at me, he added, “Seriously, M.J., the money was too good to turn down.”

  “You don’t need any more money!” I yelled. “Gil, you were already paid handsomely for the movie, and there are more box office royalties to come!”

  Gil’s expression shifted to something a little closer to petulance. “First of all, Michel and I received a lot less than you and Heath. You guys got the biggest piece of the pie by far. And before you start yelling at me again, yes, that still
meant that we got a really nice check, but weddings are expensive, M.J.! Between the caterer, the venue, the photographer, and the DJ, it’s a ridiculous amount of money! And that’s before the down payment on the new apartment in Manhat—” Gilley suddenly covered his mouth with his hand and shook his head as if he’d just let out a huge secret. Which, of course he had.

  “New apartment?” I said, jumping on the admission. “New Manhattan apartment, Gil?”

  Gil dropped his hand and went back to staring at his lap. “We were going to tell you when Michel got back from the shoot in New York,” he said.

  A lump formed in my throat. Even though Heath and I were heading to Santa Fe sometime in the next few months, somehow, having Gilley announce his move first both stunned and deeply hurt me. “Ah,” I said, blinking hard to fight back tears. “I see.”

  Gilley shook his head sadly, and when he spoke his voice hitched with emotion. “It’s Michel’s job,” he said. “All the best-paying photography gigs are in New York, and he’s starting to be requested by some of the top magazines. We just feel he’ll get a real shot at having his career take off if he’s closer to their offices.”

  To hear Gilley tell me that he was leaving me—it went right to my heart. I’d never lived farther than ten minutes from him since I was eleven years old. And as frustrating, aggravating, annoying, and infuriating as Gil could be, he was still family to me. It hit me all of a sudden that I could never simply just walk down the stairs to have breakfast with him again. Or watch old movies with him on Sunday. Or be wined and dined at one of his fabulous dinner parties. I’d have to fly clear across the country to see him, and we’d probably do that quite a bit for a few years, fly back and forth to see each other, but then our lives would go in different directions and we’d see less and less of each other.

  I realized that the first step in having Gilley mostly out of my life had already been taken, and it upset me more than I could say.

  “Em?” Heath said, moving to my side. “Are you crying?”

  I buried my face in my hands and tried to choke back the emotion, but it came out in small sobs anyway. And then I heard Gilley begin to cry in earnest and a moment later both Heath and Gilley were hugging me.

  After a little while, Gil and I settled down and he squished into the chair with me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders. “I don’t know how I’m going do it, sugar,” he said. “How do I leave my best friend?”

  I caught Heath’s eye and he smiled sadly. “We love our husbands,” I said, laying my head on Gil’s shoulder. “And to have the best life with them that we can, we need to let go of each other a little.”

  He nodded and made a little squeaking noise like he was trying not to cry again. “I’ll always love you, M.J.”

  “I know,” I told him. “Me too.”

  For a while no one spoke. Heath got up after a bit and moved to the kitchen, and Gilley and I just sat cuddled together. I heard the sounds of a meal being prepared, and still Gilley and I sat together. I was still furious with him over the dagger, but there wasn’t much I could do about it at the moment.

  “I’m sorry,” Gil said at last.

  “For . . . ?”

  “For the dagger. For wanting to move to New York. For leaving you here in Boston to fend for yourself when Heath hogs the remote on Sundays to watch football.”

  I smiled. Little did Gilley know that I wouldn’t be staying in Boston. “It’s okay,” I said. “Well, it’s okay about everything except the dagger.”

  Gil pulled back from me a little. “I have a call in to Gopher,” he said. “I think he’ll support us if we tell him we need to get the dagger back.”

  “Can you reach him?” I asked. “I mean, he’s still in Nepal, right?”

  “He is, but I put a call in to his assistant. She says that he might call in from there in the next couple of days.”

  “The next couple of days?! Gilley, we can’t wait that long! We’ve got to get that dagger back immediately.”

  Gil winced, likely because my voice had risen. “I’m trying,” he said.

  “Call that producer who talked you into giving up the dagger,” I said. Gilley winced again. “What?” I asked.

  “I haven’t gotten the check yet,” he muttered.

  “Why does that matter?”

  “Because I was hoping to keep at least some of the money,” he admitted. “I mean, I did loan out the dagger for the exhibit and it was there on the day the Ghoul Getters exhibit opened to the public.”

  “Gil,” I said sternly. “Call him and have him talk to the museum. That dagger comes out of there tomorrow morning. First thing.”

  “Okay, okay,” Gil said. “I’ll call him.”

  “Good.” And then I had a moment to reflect on what’d happened at the exhibit, and I said, “You know, I saw all the precautions you took to keep the dagger neutralized. What I can’t figure out is how that damned spook, or his demon, or both of them, managed to douse the lights and drain every cell phone in that room. I mean, how was that even possible?”

  Gilley scratched his chin. “I don’t know, M.J. It shouldn’t have been. The only thing I can think of is that there were so many people there tonight who were nervous and afraid—especially around the dagger—that maybe they supplied a little fuel for Oruç or his demon to zap the lights and drain all the batteries.”

  I had to concede that Gil had a point. Spooks love inciting fear. For the meaner ones, there’s the added bonus that all that outpouring of terror can actually fuel them; like a vampire sucking blood, it can make them incredibly strong and powerful, able to do things like appear fully formed, or move stuff, or throw things, or launch a vicious attack.

  The more fear emitted by unwitting innocents, the more powerful a spook or a demon could become, so I could understand Gilley’s theory, but it still shouldn’t have been possible given all the magnets in the exhibit room. What I also wondered was, why was every phone in the place drained of battery life—except for mine? Shrugging out of my vest, I set it on a chair with Heath’s. I’d take them back to the office in the morning. “Gil,” I said as I moved to the sofa. “Assuming it takes us longer than the next sixteen hours or so to get the dagger back, can you do a little checking with one of the EMF meters at the museum tomorrow? I want to know if Oruç or his demon is gaining enough strength to overpower all the magnets and escape the dagger.”

  Gil frowned. “Aren’t you and Heath better equipped to do that?” he asked.

  I had a feeling he was scared of going back to the museum by himself. “We can’t,” I told him. “We’ve been banned from showing up there again.”

  “Great,” he muttered.

  “Gil . . .”

  “Okay, okay,” he said. “I’ll go.”

  “Good man,” I said, softening toward him again.

  Heath called to us from the kitchen. “Hey, guys, dinner’s on.”

  Gilley clapped his hands and said, “Hey, over our meal, maybe you two fools can explain why you went off and got hitched without either telling me or including me.”

  A new note of pain lit up in Gilley’s eyes, and a sharp pang of guilt settled into my chest. “We didn’t want to steal your spotlight,” I said gently, reaching for his hand as we headed to the bar off the kitchen. “Heath proposed to me the second day we were there, and, what can I say, Gil? It wasn’t something we gave a lot of thought to. We just didn’t feel like waiting a year or so to be married. In fact, once we were engaged, we both agreed that what we really wanted wasn’t an engagement, but a marriage, right away. And that left us with the choice to either elope, or come back here and risk upsetting you by having our own wedding so close to yours. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was to upset you or your wedding plans. So, we decided to elope and not tell anyone—not even Daddy or Heath’s mom, Gil. You were the very first person I planned on telling, becau
se, next to Heath, you’re the person I love most in the world.”

  The hurt faded from Gil’s eyes and he lifted my hand to kiss my knuckles. “You mean all that?” he asked.

  I nodded. “Yes, honey. And, like I said, we had planned to keep it a secret until after you got hitched, but in all the hurry to get to the museum and reclaim the dagger, Heath forgot to take off his wedding band.”

  Gil looked down at my bare left ring finger. “Where’s yours?”

  “It’s in the safe, where Oruç’s dagger used to be.”

  Gil narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips. “I’ll take that as a hint to get moving on making those calls to Gopher, et cetera.”

  “Nothing gets by you,” I said to him with a wink and a nudge of my shoulder.

  Gil sighed and went to his phone on the counter, where he’d left it to charge from the plug there. I took a seat on one of the barstools as Heath set a plate of steaming vegetables and noodles mixed in a heavenly smelling white wine sauce. “Bon appétit, Mrs. Whitefeather,” he said with a wink.

  “Merci, Monsieur Whitefeather,” I replied before tucking in. The dish was sublime. It was so good, in fact, that I nearly forgot to listen as Gilley spoke to Gopher’s assistant. “Rachel, it’s super important that I get ahold of him,” he was saying. “Isn’t there any way you can contact him and tell him it’s an emergency?” There was a pause, then, “His sat phone was malfunctioning and you haven’t heard from him in three days? Are you kidding me?”

  My shoulders slumped and I looked at Heath, who was also listening. He pressed his lips together and shook his head.

  “When will he get a new sat phone?” Gil said next. There was a pause, then, “What do you mean probably not for a week or two?”

  I reached over and laid a hand on Gil’s shoulder. It wouldn’t do us any good to upset poor Rachel, who was a young girl in her twenties and had no control over the situation.

  Gil looked up at me and took a deep breath. “Sorry,” he said to Rachel. “Just . . . if he gets ahold of you at all in the next twenty-four hours, I need to talk to him. It’s an emergency.”

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