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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Paranoia will... something something Part 1

Being a private eye, you learn to spot certain things that are happening around you.  Being a psychic, you learn to sense things that are out of the ordinary.  Being both, when something out of the ordinary happens (even for me) I have been known to... well, let's just say that I can sometimes overreact.  (Gladys is reading over my shoulder and just let out a bark of laughter, by the way.)

Anyway, the other day I was going about my daily business when I suddenly got the feeling that I was being watched.  I was downtown at the farmer's market doing some shopping for the next couple of weeks when I distinctly felt at least one pair of eyes boring into my back.  I casually turned and scanned the market acting as if I were looking for a specific stall, but I didn't spot anyone or anything out of the ordinary.  I focused and brought up my second sight and looked again.  I was assaulted by the auras of the people gathered at the market going about their business.  As I mentally sifted through the onrush of information, I had hoped to catch a glimpse of my audience, but no such luck.  I shrugged it off thinking that maybe I had imagined it and that even if I hadn't, there was no reason to worry at this point.

As I continued shopping, the feeling came over me several times.  Each time I did my best to get a casual look around either by scanning the stalls or checking the reflections in a window nearby.  Nothing caught my attention.  I was wrapping up my shopping and began heading back to the Beast, my clunker of a car, and was in the underground parking lot when I thought I heard a set of footsteps following behind me.

I didn't do anything as pedestrian as freeze in my tracks and whip around to catch the culprit.  My highly developed skills as a detective (Okay, now she is giggling right in my ear) led me to, instead, keep my pace and move closer to the cars so that I could use the windows to take a glance behind me.  However, my stealthy tactic didn't pay off as I still didn't get a glimpse of anyone there.  I decided to change tactics.  Instead of heading to the Beast, I headed to the nearest set of stairs and made my way down a level.

I stood in the stairwell of the lower level for a few minutes, waiting for my shadow to follow me down.  No such luck.  I held my breath and listened closely.  Other than the noises from out on the street, the place was silent as the grave.  I let out my breath in a sigh and headed back up the steps, watching closely around each corner in case someone was waiting to jump out at me, but there was no sign of anyone else in the lot whatsoever.

I made my way back to the Beast and loaded the groceries and sundries into the trunk.  As I pulled out of the lot I decided that maybe it was just stress and maybe I was just hearing things.  I was less than a mile from the market when I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed a blue Chrysler a couple of cars behind me.  It stuck out from the other cars because it was riding right up on the yellow line, which most people tend to avoid doing.  I tried to shrug it off but something about it bugged me.  I decided to take an alternate route home, one with a lot of twists and turns.  After turn three, the Chrysler was still behind me, always staying two or three cars back.  That put things beyond coincidence.  I was being followed, but by who?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Troubled Spirits: Part 5

You have no idea how betrayed and hurt I feel right now!  I shivered as the temperature in the room lowered to new icy depths.  We'd gotten back in the office over ten minutes ago and the thermostat had been making a steady decline since we'd arrived.  Ghosts, spirits, and other spectral beings emote very differently than other creatures.  Their moods directly affect the world around them.  Ever walked through a room in the middle of summer and stepped through a patch of cold that make you shiver from head to toe?  Chances are it was a spirit of one form or another experiencing a particularly strong emotion.  Usually cold denotes fear, anger, or a depression of some sort.  Warm spells indicate the opposite emotions like joy and love.

I was standing in a room that started out in the mid seventies and was plunging down to the low sixties.  This was one of the worst spells I had ever felt from her and I was seriously worried.  Not that I didn't deserve it, but when ghosts get into such foul moods, strange things happen around them.  Doors fly open.  Objects move from one side of a room to another.  In one case, I had witnessed a spirit's mood actually affect someone's pace maker.  The person survived, but only just barely and only because Gladys and I hunted and captured the spirit before it could do more harm.

Gladys' mood was causing my file cabinets to shimmy a little in their places and the guest chair that she paced back and forth behind began to follow her motion inch by inch.

Do you have any idea the kind of trust you have broken between us?  Do you know exactly the line that you have crossed because of your nosy ass curiosity?  The water glasses on one of my side tables wobbled and nearly tipped over.  Well, she asked stopping in place, her cold stare boring into me, do you?

"I know what I did was wrong," I began but was immediately cut off.

Wrong?  Wrong?!  She began pacing again.  What you did was unforgivable!  It was a direct violation of my privacy!  Wrong doesn't even begin to cover it.  I mean, what would even possess you to do such a thing?

"Well," I stared down at my hands on my desk, "I don't know.  I just wanted to know where it is you go all the time.  It's not like you're exactly forthcoming with information about where you go and what you do."  That was the wrong thing to say because a little frost pattern appeared on the coffee pot in the corner.

And you think that I have to tell you every place that I go now?  The floorboards of the office began to give off a low moan.  What am I, your property, now?  Your pet ghost?  I have news for you, you nosy piece of... of...

"Crap?" I supplied, but it was the wrong thing to do.  A file drawer slid open and paper exploded out the top of it.  I'd never seen her this angry and I was starting to fear for my own neck.  "Okay," I put my hands out in a pleading gesture.  "I know what I did was... was far beyond wrong."

It was- she began but this time I put a hand up and cut her off.

"I know," I said coming around the desk and picking up pieces of paper and setting them on my desk.  "I violated your privacy.  I admit that, and I know it was wrong.  It was shameful.  However,"  I felt her move to me like a flash of frozen lightning.

However?  The lights in the room dimmed a bit as she nearly engulfed me in her rage.  However?  You dare add a however as if you have some excuse, some viable reason for such an insufferable act of mistrust?

"Yes," I growled back at her, adding my rage to the storm around me.  "I do!  I'm not saying what I did was right on any level.  I'm not saying that it was understandable or even close to approaching appropriate based on our work relationship or our friendship.  What I am saying is that it was a down right atrocious thing to do, however," I felt her rev up to start again, but this time I overrode her.  "However!  I also feel that as much of a partner you have been to me both professionally and personally, I also feel that you sometimes do and say these cryptic little things for no other reason than to get under my skin!"

I never, she pulled back a bit.

"You do," I said in a much softer voice.  "You do it every day.  I ask what your plans are and you say things like 'Oh, just something I have to attend to.' or 'Wouldn't you like to know?'  And you know what?  Every time you say that, it makes me feel like there is more and more about you that you don't want to share with me.  Like you want to push and see how far you can go until I reach a breaking point.  I don't keep my life secret from you.  Hell, you have free reign to come into the office or my home without so much as a knock or a 'how d'you do,' and I don't say a word about it.  What if I had someone over?  What if I was doing something in my personal time that I didn't want to share?  How is that any different?"

First of all, the room began to warm a little, you would have to have a personal life for me to interrupt.

"That!" I pointed at her and stamped a foot.  "Right there.  That is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about.  My life is just as much a joke to you as yours is a mystery to me.  And both bug the hell out of me."

Oh, she glided away.  So since I am so blase about your personal life that gives you the right to snoop around in mine?

"No, but it..." I shrugged and turned away.  I wiped my face with my hands and took a deep breath before beginning again.  "I let you into my life, all of it.  Home time, work time, all of it.  I hardly ever bat an eye.  But the minute I start to ask or want to know anything about your life outside of work, you shut me out or make cryptic little comments that push me to do some pretty stupid things."

So now I'm the reason you do stupid things?  I could feel a small smile in her words and felt like the worst may be behind us.

"Sometimes," I said turning back to her with my fists on my hips, "yeah.  And considering some of the really stupid stuff I've done in your presence, I'm fairly certain you know exactly what I mean."  I gave her a smirk and a sigh and started picking up the rest of the papers on the floor.  "I know I can be intrusive." I continued as I shuffled around the office gathering bits of file.  "And I for damn sure know that I can be an ass from time to time."

Ha!  The warmth from that laugh felt as soothing as a warm, summer rain.

"But you have to know," I continued as I stacked the papers on my desk, "that I respect you and your privacy.  Hell, Gladys, I love you.  It's just that sometimes my jackassery takes over and... well... you know."

You go and do something stupid like follow a friend, a person you love and who loves you, in her time off, she floated over near me and I could feel her hand on my shoulder.  Maybe I am secretive.  Maybe I do keep a lot to myself.  And maybe, yes, I tend to be "cryptic" just to get under your skin from time to time.  But you have to know that what you did goes way beyond intrusive.

"I know," I sighed and shook my head, "and in retrospect, I'm not at all proud of what I did, if that helps.  And I'm just so damn sorry, Gladys."  I could feel a lump rising in my throat.

Listen, mister, she glided over towards the window, what you did was wrong, I felt her shoot a glance my way, and I am a long way from forgiving you for it.  But maybe you're also right that I don't share as much in our relationship and I'm not as open as you are with me, but that's just who I am.  I'm not suddenly going to tell you all of my secrets.  What fun would that be?

"And I should know you better by now," I shuffled over next to her and stared out the window.  "And I should know that your life is your own and none of my business, and from now on, I'll try to do better to respect that."

Good, she said as she glided closer and laid her head on my shoulder.  And maybe, just maybe, some day I might be more forthcoming with my personal life.

"Like maybe you'll tell me what you had planned for tonight that I so callously ruined?" I bounced my eyebrows at her and she laughed and it felt good that things were a bit better between us.

Not on your life, she said with a small, warm smile.  I'm still pissed at you and you are still in the dog house, ass.  Don't think that just because you apologized and got all pathetic on me means that you are off the hook.  We've still got a long way to go before I can really trust you again.

"I know," I sighed, feeling like a true piece of garbage, "and I am profoundly sorry.  Do you forgive me?"

We'll see what tomorrow brings, she gave me a mental nudge and I smiled.  For now, let's just look at the stars and maybe for once you can try to not ruin it by doing or saying something childish.

"We can always hope," I said as we stared out the window.  A shooting star blazed across the night sky and we both sighed.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Troubled Spirits: Part 4

As I stood there in my ever deepening embarrassment, the saleswoman gave a little laugh and put a hand on my arm.
"Sorry," she said around a giggle, "I couldn't resist.  The look on your face."
"I can imagine," I tried to smile back.  Apparently I failed because she began to laugh anew.
"My name's Felicia.  How can I help you," she asked as she regained her composure with a Cheshire grin.  I was about to answer but my brain turned to jelly as it let my eyes take in her outfit.

She was wearing a very snug bodice that fit her petite frame and curves.  Over that she wore a mostly see-through sash that clung lightly from her shoulders to her waist.  Her lower extremities were covered in a very tight pair of jeans, or maybe they were jeggings.  These days I can't tell anymore.  Her auburn hair flowed in tight curls that hung to her hips.  She had mocha skin and wild green eyes that made the smile she wore all the more alluring.

"See something you like," she purred as she cocked a hip and planted a fist on it.  That pulled my mind from the gutter, but only just barely.
"I'm sorry," I stammered, "but I'm not here to shop or browse."
"You seem to be doing a good job of the latter," she said with a wicked smirk.  "If you're not here to shop, may I ask what you are here for then?"
"I'm a detective," I could feel the heat of another blush rush over my cheeks.  "I was following a... well... a person and I didn't want to be spotted."
"Oh," her eyebrows rose a bit as she moved closer and leaned against me to peek out the window.  "Who's your mark?"
"Well," I was having a lot of trouble concentrating as her perfume flowed over me.  It smelled like lavender and honey.  "The... um... the mark... well, I'm not really working a case.  It was more of a curiosity thing."
"Ah," she said as she continued to gaze out the window, "you're a stalker then.  So who's the lucky lady?"
"Well," I had to focus on my words as they were painting a very bad picture at the moment, "she's not a lady, per se..."
"Oh," she leaned a little further and grabbed my arm to keep balance.  "Who's the lucky fellah then?"
"Wait," that was the bucket of ice I needed to clear my mind.  "No, it's not a guy either.  She's a ghost."  Felicia stepped back from the window but didn't move away from me.  She just gazed up at me with a quizzical look.
"Come again, string bean," she said with that adorable smirk.
"She's a ghost," I was starting to get lost in those eyes again but gave myself a mental shake to keep my thoughts straight.  "She's my partner."
"And you're following her because," she raised an eyebrow.
"Because," I sighed, "she's infuriatingly vague about her personal time and I wanted to see what was so important."
"Oh," she nodded, "so when you said partner, you meant you two were a couple."
"What," I asked a bit shocked.  "No.  She's my business partner with the agency.  She helps me with cases.  We're just friends."
"That doesn't sound like something a friend would do, if you ask me," she grimaced.
Nor I, said a sharp and icy voice from over my shoulder.  Shit.  She caught me.
"Hey Gladys," I said as I spun to face her, "fancy seeing you here."
"HA!" Felicia barked out the laugh and followed it with a tiny snort.  "Busted."
And I was.
I turned back to Felicia.
"Sorry to browse and run," I wasn't blushing anymore, in fact I was quite certain I had gone quite pale.  "Rain check?"
She let out a full throated laugh, patted me on the shoulder, and walked into the lacy store, laughing all the way.
Jackson, I could feel the icy glare of Gladys boring into my back.  I think we need to talk.  She floated out the door and up the street towards the office.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Troubled Spirits: Part 3

As I passed by Gunther's store he gave me a nod and started heading into the doorway, but then stopped for a second with a strange look on his face.  He began to turn towards me to get a second look, but I moved in front of a group of pedestrians and did my best to be inconspicuous.

It was at that moment that I realized how much space I had gained on Gladys in doing so.  I was less than five feet behind her.  If she turned or looked over her shoulder, my cover would be blown.  I scanned the street and ducked into a little alcove next to a pastry shop and gave her a few seconds lead on me.  As I waited and counted to ten hippopotamus, the scent of freshly baked bread and sweets wafted over me.  The mix of cinnamon, vanilla, and yeast smells set my stomach to rumbling.  It almost overpowered my brain as I took a couple of steps towards the shop, but caught myself in time to make a quick turn and continue tracking my prey.

I gathered my bearings and found Gladys' trail again and was on the move.  I passed several more store fronts along the street that I had never taken the time to notice before.  One of the shops was a little fashion boutique filled with frilly skirts and "distressed" jeans.

Can I just stop for a second and ask, why would anyone want to buy a pair of already worn out jeans?  Isn't that half the fun of owning them?  I mean if they had been worn by someone famous or in a second hand store, sure, that makes sense to me, but brand new jeans with rips and holes in them?  Le sigh.  I digress.

Another shop was a butcher shop with a large goat's head over a pair of axes as the sign.  Stenciled beneath the image were the words Billy Gruff's Meat Market.  I stole a peek in the front window and was expecting a troll to be manning the counter, but instead, there was a little, elderly man with a white smock, a pointed white cap, and a grin behind the register.  He gave me a wave as I passed by and I gave him a nod and a smile.  You had to admit, it was some good marketing on his part.  I mean, who wouldn't have to have a look after seeing that sign?

As I turned the corner on the block following the trail, I spotted Gladys near the other corner floating about twenty feet off the ground.  She was perched in front of a window looking in at the residents.  Whether she was chatting with them or just peeping, I couldn't tell from this distance, but with her at that height, it left me too open to being spotted.  I ducked into the first doorway that was open and stepped in to watch out their front window.  After a few minutes, Gladys hadn't moved and I continue to watch but my lurking was interrupted by a small voice behind me.

"Can I help you find anything, sir," a soft female voice asked as I stared out the window.
"Just browsing," I didn't take my eyes from the window.  "I'll be out of your hair in a minute or two."
"Is there anything you are interested in from the window," she persisted in her quiet voice.  "Maybe something for your, um, special lady friend?"  That got my attention.
"What," I asked as I turned to look at the salesperson.  As I did the rest of the shop came into view.  I came to an awkward and spine tingling revelation.  I was surrounded by lacy, silky, and oh so tiny garments.  I was standing in a lingerie shop, and a very scantily one at that.  I could feel myself turning a very bright shade of red.
"Or maybe," the woman that now stood before me was not as meagerly attired as her mannequins, but it was a close thing.  She stood about shoulder height to me and she was standing very, very close.  "Maybe you are more interested in something for... yourself?"  She smiled and gave me a very slow and sly wink.  Her grin was all shades of mischief and seduction.

I swallowed, audibly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Troubled Spirits: Part 2

I'm not usually a nosy guy.  Well I am, but that comes with the job.  What I mean is, I'm not usually one to go prying into the private lives of family, friends, or co-workers, but her habit of disappearing from time to time, sometimes for days or weeks, piqued my curiosity.  So I gave her about a five minute head start and then headed out after her.

Being as close as I am to her and working with her day in and day out has given us a kind of bond and, as a psychic, I was able to get a good idea of knowing where she is if she is nearby.  So when I exited the front of the building that held our office, I could easily track which way she went.  She was heading downtown and I was soon on her trail.  I focused and could almost see a little path where she went and could just make her out about a block and a half ahead of me as she weaved her way among the people out on the street for the night.

She turned a corner ahead on 36th Street and when I went to turn the corner I had to stop short and quickly hop back around the edge of the building on the corner.  She had stopped to look in the window of a local used book store that catered to old literature collectors in town called Spines and Wine.  I had seen it a few times but never went inside as my reading habits usually consisted of mysteries and fantasy novels.  Surprise, right?

She was standing near the doorway talking to what looked to be the owner of the establishment, an older African American man wearing a very old and very worn sweater with honest to gods leather patches on the elbows.  He also wore a pair of fine, gold rimmed glasses that were connected to a similar golden chain.  I could only just make out their conversation over the street traffic and the passersby on the street.

"And it is a lovely surprise to see you tonight, Gladys," the owner said with a very wide smile on his face.  "What can I help you find or read tonight."

Oh, Gunther, she warmed with a blush, it is always such a pleasure to have your company.  So few people are as accommodating when it comes to the spirit bound literary community.  But I'm afraid I was just stopping by tonight.  I have some other plans, but wanted to be sure to come by and thank you for the wonderful reading you gave to our spirit reading group last week.

She had a book group?  Who knew?  Well, apparently this Gunther guy, but I mean, I didn't even know that was a thing.

"Oh," it was his turn to blush, "you don't have to thank me.  It is always such a pleasure to have you and your friends come by.  Gives me a chance to catch up on my reading and brush up on my presentation skills."  He laughed and I could feel the tinkling like little bells of Gladys's laugh.

You are always such a pleasure, Gladys sighed, but as I said, I can't really stay to enjoy your company tonight.  I have plans with, well, you know.

"Indeed I do," the man said with a nod.  "You go on and have yourself a grand time tonight.  I'll catch up with you next weekend."

Count on it, Gladys beamed and made her goodbyes.

So she could share her plans with this Gunther fellow but not with me.  Now I was really intrigued.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Troubled Spirits: Part 1

So, I have a partner, a ghost who goes by the name of Gladys.  She and I have always had a very close but also very complicated relationship.  But what else would you expect?  We live in two entirely different worlds in the same realm.  Most recently she and I got into a bit of a tussle because I crossed one of our boundaries.  It was totally my fault, but at the time I had a difficult time seeing it that way.

It all started on Wednesday when we were working on a case for a client who had lost a somewhat valuable piece of art a while back and the police were getting nowhere on their end.  Now I'm not saying the police are incompetent or that they don't do their jobs well.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone in law enforcement.  However, in this particular instance, they were probably overworked with other cases of much higher importance and had let this one slide a little.  So, the client came to me.

The piece of art that was lost was a painting that they had received from a member of the fairy court of Summer.  It was valuable because it was a piece of art from a fae artist that created seasonal landscapes that actually moved in accordance with the seasons of the Fairy Realm.  In other words, if it was winter here, it may show a spring landscape in the realm of the fair folk, and so on.  Since some areas in their realm changed so sporadically, the portrait would always be something different every time you viewed it.

Well, I had found some leads from a source in the MacD named Edwards that pointed me in the direction of an art dealer that sometimes traded in not so "legal" circles and I was going to go investigate and I asked Gladys to come along to help out.  She turned me down saying that she "had other plans" but when I probed to get more information, she was elusive and dodged the questions.  I told her that it was fine and to have fun.  However, it turns out it wasn't fine and that is where the problem began.  Instead of following up on my lead, I instead decided to find out what she was up to.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Chasing the dragon

So, I've had some strange times in my life and I've been talking to a therapist friend of mine and she said it might be a good idea for me to keep a journal.  Well, here it goes.

Gladys and me got back from a visit to little China today and it was not the best of days whatsoever.  Cass, the lead detective the the MacD (the Magic and Conjuration Department) of the local police, called me in on a case involving the smuggling of dragon eggs from the far East.  Turns out that they were being incubated and sold on the black market so that the little buggers could be used in "herbal remedies" for things like hair loss, virility, or as I put it "mystical ED pills."

Cass, Gladys, and I were following a lead to a known smuggler's den when I suddenly got a strange flash.  Did I mention I'm a psychic detective, oh and I work for Cass from time to time for a paycheck with the MacD?  Anyway, we were down near the fish market and I got a sudden flash of... something.  It was very hazy, but I could feel it drawing me to one of the nearby stalls.  Cass noticed my preoccupation and asked what was up.  I told her that I was getting something and to follow my lead.

I followed the, for lack of a better phrase, mental sonar to one of the stalls loaded with ice and selling red snapper.  Cass started to talk to the owner but something in me made me plunge my hands into the ice.  Things got a little crazy as the proprietor got, understandably angry with a strange guy just leaping hands first into his wares.  I was shuffling around so hard searching for the source of the signal I was getting that I wasn't exactly being careful and the cart that made up the stall wasn't the highest quality and one thing led to another and with all my fussing the front panel came off of the display spilling ice and fish all over the ground.  Cass reached for me but stepped on a slippery bit of fish and as she fell she grabbed the edge of the cart pulling it over.  The owner lunged at me and I jumped back into the stall behind me, which startled me and I grabbed the edge of it and ended up tipping that one onto the pile of ice and fish as well.  It was selling some kind of large catfish and before I knew it, I was on the ground up to my elbows in catfish.  Literally.  One slipped over my hand and up my arm until I was holding it like a puppet.

So there I am, working a catfish like a sock puppet and there's Cass slipping and sliding on ice and fish parts trying to get up while two men are yelling at us in Mandarine.  And what was the payoff, you might ask?  Well, it turns out that behind the first stall, the owner was keeping a jarred pair of fairies behind his stall, they are called Tian Xian Pei if my research paid off, for good luck.  They had been calling to me to set them free.

On the upside, Cass cited the man for illegal capture and imprisonment of sentient beings.  On the downside, we were no closer to finding the dragon eggs, we were covered in fish goo and smelled horrific, and the city had to pay for two new carts that had been destroyed on Cass's watch.  But at least Gladys got a kick out of it.