A series of e-mails over the weekend distracted me from case files. Absola, my vampire-slaying mentor, had stumbled over a mystery in Paris. On Sunday, she sent me a long document to read. I had just opened it up and stared to scan the contents when my phone rang.
“Maryanne Wells,” I answered shortly.
“Hello, Miss Wells?”
“This is Father Blackman, from the church in Pampa.”
A priest was calling me? Odd. “Hi, Father,” I said with more attention. “What can I do for you?”
“I hope you don't mind my calling. I got your number from Father Clive in Amarillo.”
“Father Clive...oh yes. The priest at St. Bernadette's. I've been in there a few times.” I only went in far enough to take the church's holy water for my own purposes, and Father Clive knew it. But he let it slide. “What can I do for you, Father Blackman?”
“It's difficult to explain. If I hadn't seen it for myself, I wouldn't believe it.”
Ah-ha. We were talking about the supernatural. I opened a fresh document on my computer and poised my fingers over the keys. “Vampires, ghost, or other,” I queried.
“Oh. Well, since you asked...ghost.”
“A personal acquaintance of yours, or a member of your flock?”
“Neither. Hank and his wife attended the Presbyterian church.”
Curiouser and curiouser. “How did you come to be involved?
Father Blackman sighed. “It's not to sort of issue Presbyterians address. Their pastor brought the matter to me.”
“Of course,” I said encouragingly.
“And then there's the matter of how Hank died.”
“He choked to death on the communion bread. In the Presbyterian church, during the service.”
Wow. This case might be a new record. To early to tell what kind of record, but definitely something in the broad surrealism category. “So Hank is our ghost?”
“And he's haunting the Presbyterian church in Pampa, Texas?”
“Oh no. No. He's haunting his wife. Or their house...it's difficult to say which. That's one of the reasons I'm calling you. We're hoping you can figure out the exact nature of his haunting.”
“Normally people want me to stop the haunting, not categorize it.”
“We do want the haunting stopped,” Father Blackman said quickly; “But the lawyers need to know what or who is being haunted. There's a homestead issue.”
“Okay. I'll need the name of the attorneys involved, and the name of my client. Have you told them that you would be contacting me?”
“It was agreed that I would use my connections in the church to find an attorney specializing in these kinds of matters. Everyone recognizes the need for a specialist, even the judge.”
“Unusual. So, who's my client?”
“Nora Johnson, Hank's widow.”
“And who's the lead attorney on her side of the case?”
“Steven Mackenzie. He's an attorney from Lubbock.”
“If you're willing to take the case, a copy of the file can be delivered to you first thing tomorrow.”
“Don't bother sending anything,” I said glumly. I walked over to the stack of case files in the living room and tugged the bottom folder free. “I've already got what I need.”