Nora Johnson sat alone on a bench outside the conference room. Her gray and white hair was pulled back in a low, messy ponytail. She looked frail, and closer to a hundred than seventy. Her navy suit hung limp from her frame.
“I'd like to introduce Maryanne Wells. She's the attorney Father Blackman brought in to assist me,” Steve said.
Nora looked up and smiled politely. “Hello, dear,” she said, and pressed my hand.
“It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Johnson. May I join you on the bench?” I asked.
“Oh, yes. Please do.”
I sat down, keeping my attention on Nora. Steve remained standing. He was glaring at me; I could feel the chill of his eyes. If I so much as whispered the word 'ghost' he'd jump into the conversation and drag me away...or so he thought. Heh. He could try.
“How long have you known Steve?” Mrs. Johnson asked.
“Oh, just about my whole life. We're cousins.”
“Really?” Mrs. Johnson looked from me to Steve and back again. “You don't look a bit a like.”
Steve choked back a laugh.
It was true; we looked nothing a like. Steve looked like a Mackenzie – tall, sandy blond hair, and perfectly symmetrical features. In a word, good-looking. I looked like a Wells. Not too tall and not too short, hair of indeterminate brownish color, and a forgettable face. In a word, adequate.
“What I lack in looks I make up for in other ways,” I muttered. “Steve, shouldn't you go and see if the judge is ready for us?”
He frowned as he considered the risks of leaving me alone with our client. “I guess I should,” he said slowly. “But I'll be right back.”
Steve walked down the hall and disappeared around the corner. I turned to Mrs. Johnson, intending to start a light conversation and ease into the topic of haunted houses.
Nora Johnson grabbed one of my hands with both of hers. “Have you been there?” she asked breathlessly.
“The house. Have you been there? Did you hear Hank?”
“Slow down, Mrs. Johnson. Are you asking if I've seen the ghost in your home?”
She stared at me with tear-wet eyes. “Father Blackman said you would try and fix it. I'm not saying I want Hank forced out...it's his house, after all, all his bonus money went to buy it...but I need some peace. Please, Ms. Wells, do whatever you can.”
I put my free hand over hers. “I will do all I can. And I should go by the house as soon as possible, and hear this ghost for myself.”
Nora pulled her hands away and fumbled with her purse. “Here, take my key. I'm staying with my pastor and his wife. Once you've gone by the house, call Father Blackman. He wants to know what you think of the situation.”
I slipped the key into my pocket. Grinning, I said, “You've got more guts than they give you credit for, Nora.”
“Oh no. I'm nothing special. I just,” she paused and dabbed her eyes. “I just want my life back. Having you here gives me hope, dear. Steve is a good lawyer, of course, and his family are old friends. But, well...”
“Say no more, Mrs. Johnson. We'll let Steve be Steve. And I'll be me.”