Contacting a ghost is only as complicated as the character of the specter you're dealing with. For a complex creature with deep bowels and a twisted mind, you need a séance. For a ghost seething anger, like Hank, you have to perform the act that triggers its fury. For a sex-crazed bell-bottom wearing, smack-talking ghost like Anthony, you need only yell.
“I know you've been watching the case, Anthony. Get in here now,” I shouted.
He materialized slowly, reluctanly, it seemed to me. “Hey, baby. Like that shirt on you. Good color,” he said smoothly.
I snorted a laugh. “You like it because it's form-fitting.”
He laughed and nodded. “Sure, gorgeous. Any man would.”
“Have you been monitoring the Johnson case?”
Anthony's smile faded. “Yeah. From the other side.”
I frowned and turned away from Anthony. I stared out the hotel window at the bleak landscape. With little effort, the colors faded in my mind and left only degrees of shadows. With every day it became easier and easier to believe in a colorless world. Life, death, and something drifting in between...but no color. No joy. “What's it like on the other side?” I asked quietly.
“Unsettling. But so is this side, for me. 'Cause I'm unsettled.” Anthony forced a laugh.
I shook my head. “That's not helpful, Anthony. I want to know what its really like over there. Can you see other ghosts?”
“You mean, can I see Hank?”
Anthony drifted across the room. He settled into a standing pose next to me. “What's that thing made of clay, that comes to life if you put a spell on it? The old Jewish legend.”
“That's it baby, that's it. See, some spirits on the other side stand like golums. They put so much emotional energy into what they do on this side that they've got nothing left on the other side but a shell. Hank just stands there, all stiff. He speaks sometimes, too, in a monotone. He talks about whats going on with the rest of his spirit, on this side.”
“A macarbre play-by-play.”
Anthony nodded. “He's got a lot of hate in him, Hank does. Hearing him talk about hate and pain in an emotionless, quiet voice, it's just creepy.”
That made me smile a little bit. Imagine a ghost finding another ghost creepy.
“You're on the right track,” Anthony said suddenly.
“What do you mean?”
He reached out a hand to my face, but drew away when he remembered the futility of trying to touch. “Today, when you spoke with Pastor Ted, Hank sensed that you cared. He said you felt sympathy for him.”
“Then I can reach out to him. Maybe I can persuade him to leave,” I said gladly.
“No. It's more likely he'll hate you more than he hates the rest of the living, once you sympathy has time to really sink in. He doesn't think he deserves sympathy, or forgiveness, or peace. He won't tolerate you offering them for long.”
“He hates himself that much?”
We stood together, silently, looking out at the view.
I sighed and said, “I don't know what to do. Hank's the first ghost I've ever faced that is completely uncooperative and has no exploitable weakness.”
“The only way to get him out of the house is by brute force,” Anthony suggested.
As I feared. The priest and I could try to push Hank into the aftelife, but he might be too strong for us. What then?
Anthony floated over to the little table in the corner of the room. “What's all this?” he asked, looking at the papers spread across the table surface. “This doesn't look like the Johnson case.”
“It's not. They're e-mails and documents from Absola. Have you talked to Charlotte recently?”
He turned away from me and leaned over the papers for a closer look.
“Anthony? Did you hear me?”
“Sure, baby. I hear ya. I saw Charlotte yesterday at your apartment. Dropped in for a little visit. Don't worry; I didn't pop in on her in the bathroom.”
“Did Charlotte brief you on the e-mails from Absola?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, she did. Crazy stuff.”
I joined Anthony at the table. A print-out of Absola's latest e-mail was on top. I re-read it and frowned. “I'm worried,” I admitted. “Absola's taking a big risk. If the situation is as bad as she described, one small wrong move could land her in a heap of trouble.”
“True. But what can you do about it?”
I hadn't mentionned my plans to anyone in the Undead Bar Association because I knew they'd try to talk me out of it. But dang it, I had to tell someone. “I could fly to Paris and help her,” I said aloud.
Anthony stared at me for a long moment. Then he turned away again, pivoting as he floated in place. I could see the back of his head and the wall beyond him, but I couldn't see his eyes. It was like having x-ray specs that revealed everything but his thoughts. I suddenly wished that I could see his eyes.
“You should do it,” he said.
Anthony pivoted back a quarter turn, enough for me to see his expression. But I still couldn't see his eyes. “You should go to Paris and help Absola. Things here are at a stalemate. If you leave now, it won't hurt the Johnson case. So go.”
I stood up and walked around his floating form until we were face to face. “I didn't expect this.
Everyone else is going to try and talk me out of it. And they won't be wrong in trying; there are a hundred reasons why my going would be a bad idea.”
“You should go.”
He turned away again. Dang it, why wouldn't he look at me? “Do you really think my going to Paris is the best thing I could do?” I demanded.
“Okay,” I said simply. “I'll go.”