Monday, December 5, 2011

Homesdead - Part 5. Maryanne Wells.

This is Part 5 of a serial story.  The story began here.

Anthony rarely involved himself in my legal cases. When he did, it was because some odd aspect of paranormal activity caught his attention. “What's so interesting about this case?” I asked.

“You want to know? Okay, I'll tell you. It's the ghost, Hank. He's out-of-this-world-crazy strong. Like, impossibly strong.”

“What do you mean, strong? Paranormal powers strong?”

“That's it baby, that's it.” Anthony bent over and tried to pick up a TV remote. His hand passed right through the controller and the coffee table. “See that? That's normal. But Hank, he can touch anything that doesn't have a beating heart. When he's angry he shakes the support beams of the house. And people blocks away can hear his screams.”

“How is that even possible?”

“Hate. Loads of it. See, Hank worked at a factory near Pampa. There was this explosion, and lots of his friends died. This was years ago. Hank, he carries a grudge against the company. Hates everyone in management. Soul-blackening hate. And his wife, she tells him to get over it.”

“He didn't take that suggestion too well,” I guessed.

Anthony nodded. “You got it, baby. Added his wife to the list of people he thought deserved his hatred. Moved her to the top of the list, 'cause she was close at hand and easier to torture. Twisted every loving thing his wife said into a barb.”

“Tortured her in life and in death,” I murmured. I walked across the living room and picked up the file.

“It says here that she's his second wife. One child from the first marriage...a son.”

“Who wants the house,” Anthony added.

I flipped through the file until I found a copy of Hank Johnson's Will. “According to the will, the son gets the house. The only reason he hasn't been able to claim it, is Texas homestead law. By right, the surviving spouse has a life estate in the house. Mrs. Johnson has the exclusive right to use and enjoy the house until her death or abandonment of the property.”

“Who can use or enjoy a house haunted by a spirit?”

“Not Mrs. Johnson.” I skimmed the case notes. “The son's claiming Mrs. Johnson effectively abandoned the property, because she spends most of the week staying with friends.”

“Can't say I blame her,” Anthony declared. “Technically I've got more in common with Hank than with you, but I'd choose your company over his any day.”

“Gee, thanks,” I said sarcastically.

Charlotte stuck her head around the corner. “Is he gone?” she asked. Then she saw Anthony. “Oh.”

“Sorry I spooked you, Stick,” Anthony said with a grin. “I'll be gone soon. Tell you what. You run out and get some coffee, and I'll be gone by the time you get back.”

“Coffee's a great idea,” I said brightly.

“Sure it is. Maybe Stick can grab you a cup while she's out.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Fine. Am I going for quick coffee, or for quality?”

“Quality,” Anthony suggested. “My talk with Maryanne may take a while.”

“Why don't you go to the Route,” I suggested. “They've got the best espresso's in town. Make mine a double. And be quick.”

“Yeah, the Route. That sounds perfect,” Anthony chimed.

Charlotte stalked past and snagged her purse from the shelf near the door. “Idiot. You don't even know what the Route is.”

“Okay, wise-guy. What is it?” Anthony shot back.

“It's an independent coffee house on the stretch of old Route 66 running through Amarillo. I'd invite you to join me, but it's a trendy place and bellbottoms went out years ago.” Charlotte's left the apartment, slamming the door behind her.

Anthony looked at me quizzically. “I thought bellbottoms came back in.”

“They did, but they left again.” I settled myself on the couch with the case file and my laptop. I needed to send a response to Absola's e-mail. “Why did you call Charlotte 'Stick'?” I asked absently.

“She's too skinny. She should eat more.” Anthony trailed ran his eyes over my figure. “Glad to see you don't have that problem.”

“I will kick your spectral butt.”

“You can't.”

I looked up from the computer and fixed Anthony with my nastiest stare. “Try me,” I said sharply.

“And remember, I haven't had any coffee yet.”

Anthony sank slowly into the coffee table, until only a puddle and a head remained. “Take the case,” he pleaded.

“I'll think about it.”

An hour later, Anthony was gone and I was reviewing the case file. Danged if it wasn't interesting. The widow wouldn't leave the house, because she didn't have money to buy a home somewhere else. She wanted to sell the existing house, but had not right to do so. The son wanted her out of the house immediately so he could sell it and keep the proceeds himself. But with the house's haunted reputation, no one would want to buy the place anyway.

“Interesting,” I murmured.

The front door swung open. “You were gone a while. Did you get the coffee?” I asked Charlotte.

“The what?” she asked dimly.

I looked up. Charlotte stood in the doorway, her pretty face uncommonly expressionless. “Did you get the coffee?” I repeated slowly.

“Oh, that. No, I forgot.”

Forgot coffee? I threw the file down and stomped into the kitchen to make a pot using my own french press. “You know, Charlotte, there are some faux pas almost as great as spectral peeping in the shower. Forgetting coffee is one of them,” I observed.