Liz and Vince follow the trail of clues left by Tim in their search to solve the reason for his murder. The trail turns cold as death, but that’s a good thing for them when the person they want to speak with is a restless spirit with a firm demand: find her body or she won’t give them the clue they’re looking for. Their new case leads them from a zombie encampment to the bowels of the supernatural fighting world and back, all the while being harassed by devils and stalked by the undead. It’s a usual night for the pair as they survive one request after another in a wild night of mysterious mayhem and paranormal chaos.
It was a gloriously sunny day, and I slept through all of it. Every little bit of sunlight was gone by the time I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was an unforgiving hand. When I tried to roll away from it, the hand rolled me back and shook harder. It also had a voice.
“You must arise,” came the voice.
I creaked open an eyelid and glared at the vampire who stood over me. It was Vincent the Vampire, and I still lay on my comfortable bed long after the sun had set. “Just five more minutes, Mom,” I muttered. I tried to roll over, but he still held my shoulder in his tight, demonic grip.
“We don’t have time to waste if we’re to find the answer to the card,” he reminded me.
I glared at him with the power of both eyes. “Card? What card?”
He pulled a half of a card from inside his long coat. It was the queen of hearts from a deck of playing cards. “This card.”
Seeing the card made all the horrible and not-so-horrible memories come back to me. There was our little adventure with Simone and her hexing Vince, and our near-deaths in the lair of the Underground undead. Ah, fun times.
I sat up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. “But how are we supposed to find out something about that? Didn’t Simone say we’d need to do a seaman or something to find someone?”
“Seance, and there are people capable of making the connection for us, but not if we do not hurry,” Vince insisted.
“All right, I’m-” I stifled a yawn and swung my legs over the bed, “-up, or close to it. Where are we going to find this professional seance person, anyway?”
“There are many mediums located in the city. The one I had in mind is located at the edge of the blighted area,” he told me.
I furrowed my brow and tapped a finger on my chin. “Blighted area? Oh yeah, that’s the place where Ruthven shows off his work on the city, right?” I asked him.
“That is correct, but we don’t have time for a history lesson.” He turned and walked toward the door.
“Hey, Vince,” I called to him. He paused and half turned to me. I grinned at him and nodded at his temples. They were still gray from his experience as an old geezer. “I still like the hairstyle.”
He bowed his head and left without a word. I took that as his accepting the compliment, and prepared for our visit to the medium. That involved pressing my wrinkled clothes with my hands and tying my hair back because Vince wasn’t going to give me enough time to wash it. In a minute I was ready, and I met Vince at the front door. We traveled to the car and he drove us through the ruined neighborhoods to the ones wrecked by Ruthven. Run-down buildings were replaced by rotting ones, and litter-filled alleys changed to weed-infested lawns. Flickering streetlights disappeared, and the darkness of the night covered everything.
“Why don’t our adventures ever take us some place more cheerful? Like a cemetery?” I quipped as I watched the depressing world fly by.
“It may before the night is over,” Vince warned me.
I snorted. “I can hardly wait.”
Our new adventure led us to the edge of the blight where there was actual grass in the lawns, but weeds and darkness still covered much of the area. The houses were large Victorian mansions, most in disrepair but a few inhabited by stubborn owners. Tall oak trees grew along the road and draped their branches over the road like a dark, endless tunnel. Eight-foot tall shrubs and skeletal decorative trees dotted the yards.
I noticed a large Victorian house ahead of us on the next corner with its shutters painted a bright firetruck red. The porch looked stable and the front room window shone with light. A few cars sat on the grassy curb, and Vince parked us behind one of the vehicles. We got out and I tilted my head back to get a good look at the gable roof, bay windows, and fish-scale shingles on the walls. A crow sat on the highest peak of the roof and glared down at us with its beady yellow eyes.
It was all so delightfully scary that I shuddered and flickered my eyes to Vince. “About that cemetery. It’s looking pretty good right now,” I mused.
“Perhaps later. The medium we wish to meet resides here,” he informed me.
“Why are we seeing this one?” I asked him.
“She honors her client’s privacy,” he explained. He strode forward to the steps that led onto the covered porch.
“Medium-client privilege, eh?” I quipped as I followed behind him.
“Something of that nature,” he agreed.
We reached the wooden front door and Vince knocked. The entrance creaked open on hinges that needed oiling thirty years ago. There was so much chunky rust on them I could have graveled the road with it. Our greeter turned out to be a young woman of about twenty with beautiful gray eyes and no legs. That probably had something to do with the bottom half of her being transparent, and her upper body floating two feet off the ground. I let out a small ‘eep’ and slipped behind Vince.
The ghost girl smiled at us. “What can I do for you?” she inquired.
“We wish to see Madam Mim,” Vince replied.
I snorted. “Madam Mim?”
“Do you have an appointment?” the ghost wondered.
“No, but I have been a client in the past,” he revealed.
“One moment, please.” The ghost closed the door and I whipped my head to Vince.
“Are we going to be seeing a lot of those types of people on this adventure?” I asked him.
“Undoubtedly,” he replied.
My shoulders drooped and I returned to his side. “I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to this paranormal society. Just when I think I can handle anything that’s thrown at me a ghost comes and throws a transparent monkey wrench into the machinery.” I stood at attention when the door opened and the ghost woman smiled at us.
She stepped aside and gestured down the hall that ran down the center of the house. “If you would care to take a seat in the parlor behind the first door on the right then Madam Mim will be with you in a moment.”
“Well, at least we don’t have to take a number,” I muttered beneath my breath as Vince led the way down the hall.
The old house had peeling flowered wallpaper, but the floor was clean and there was no smell of damp. Vince turned us into the right-hand room and I saw it was a small, square room. The windows were covered in black lace, as were the lamp shades, and plain chairs lined the walls to our right and in front of us. To our left and a little away from the wall was a doorway with thick black curtains. Black wallpaper with dark gold stripes covered the walls, and the carpet was also black.
The atmosphere was made all the more depressing by the inhabitants. A man sat opposite where we stood, and in his hands was a small fire engine. He stared morosely at the toy and occasionally let out a heaving sigh. To our right and close to the wall sat an old woman with a younger one, and the younger one tried to console her sniffling companion.
“I’m sure she’ll be able to find Grandpa,” the younger one whispered to the older woman.
The older woman sighed and shook her head. She spoke with a thick Eastern European accent. “It is of no use. He is lost to me forever.”
Vince led us to a pair of chairs in the corner of the room and we took a seat. My eyes lingered on the man with the toy until I decided the gloomy wallpaper was much more cheerful. After ten minutes of depressing agony the heavy curtains in front of the other doorway parted and a middle-aged woman stepped out. The woman was in tears and blew loudly on a handkerchief.
Behind her was a tiny old woman of seventy who wore a black shawl over her hunched shoulders and a soft, kind smile on her wizened face. She patted the younger woman’s shoulder with her wrinkled hand. “I am sure it will be all right now for you and your brother.”
The other woman smiled and nodded. “Yes, but I don’t know how to thank you enough, Madam Mim.”
“My assistant will tell you my bill. That will be thanks enough,” the older woman returned.
The client left, and Madam Mim swept her eyes over the small room. The man caught her eye and stood, but she waved him down in his seat. “In a moment, sir. I can sense there is some urgency with these other clients. Come into my parlor, please.” She gestured to us, and Vince stood.