Monday, August 29, 2005

Intangible Assets, Chapter 3

I took my hand off the gun. The plain lead I had loaded wouldn’t do me any good against a ghost. The fact the she and the door seemed to politely ignore one another made the point clearly enough for even the blue boys down at the precinct house. Rather than the gun, I picked up the ring from the same drawer and nonchalantly slipped it on my finger.

Whoever she was, she was a looker, a tall brunette with her hair done up. She wore a red sequined dress that shimmered in patterns that had nothing to with the physical lighting of the room. Her form was indistinct, as if the ten feet between us was filled with a heavy fog.

I couldn’t say that I knew much about ghosts. My training with the Order focused on turning people into ghosts and very little pertaining to the pre-made variety. No point in letting her know that though.

I hoped that my poker face had held, and I asked, “Is there something I can do for you, Miss?”

She gave a start at my question.

“You can see me.” Her voiced was vaguely muffled, the sound having as much difficulty as the light crossing the distance, but the relief came through clearly enough.

I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms, keeping my ring concealed under my left elbow.

“I’ve got a knack for it. Please have a seat.”

She looked at the chair as if she was struggling to remember just what she was to do with it. She sat down tentatively until she was certain that she wouldn’t fall right through. Once settled, her demeanor changed into an air of poise as easily as slipping on a mink stole.

“I suppose we can start with your name,” I prompted.

She closed her eyes as if searching her memory.

“Tierney, Allison Tierney.” Had she still been one of the breathing types, that pause would have been enough to set off every alarm in my head. I gave her a little benefit of the doubt, my education did include that ghosts can be as mentally hazy as they were physically. The benefit was only slight, I couldn’t be sure if she really was that unsure or if she was playing off the reputation. Call me suspicious, but being wary when approached by an unknown supernatural had become a survival tactic.

“And what can I do for you, Ms. Tierney?”

“I think someone is trying to kill me.”

I was proud of myself for not letting a laugh pass through my lips at that. It would have been even better if my face hadn’t betrayed my reaction.

“Yes, Mr. Watson, I know that I am dead,” she spat, “but that does not change the fact that I have been attacked since I died.”

“Attacked how?”

“It was a black shadow, it might have been a man in a dark coat, but I do remember claws. It would come out of nowhere and tear at me. I could not remember anything after that except coming to in my apartment.”

“Do you have any idea why someone would want you, um, gone?”

“No. I don’t know why, but there is so much I can’t remember about before.”

I nodded as if I understood. What I actually knew about ghosts I could write on an index card and leave enough room for the Gettysburg Address. While I was wrapping my mind around dealing with an amnesiac ghost, she started to fade away.

“Please, help me.” Her voice sounded infinitely tired and distant.

“No, wait!” It did me no good as she vanished. “Aw, hell.”

There was no sign that this case could so much as cover my retainer. I could rationalize that it was a case and could bring in some income. I wasn’t kidding myself; I could never turn down a dame in trouble. I had a name and a phone book. I’ve had cases that had less to work with. Too bad so few of them ended successfully.

I started cleaning up the cards off the floor. I turned over the face down card in the hat.

The Three of Swords.


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