Blood Is Life

“…become a Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“What was that, Mrs. Heks?” I was distracted by my new partner, Chen, who was vomiting as if possessed by a demon.

The wrinkly woman scowled.  “Please pay attention Officer Jill.”

I managed not to roll my eyes.

“She’s Detective Kalbag,” Chen joined us, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.  “What did I miss?”

Mrs. Heks eyed him for a moment as if trying to decide whether it was better to deal with a woman, or a detective who was still wet behind the ears.  I must have won because she turned to me. “The neighborhood has become a den of inequity.  Full of criminals.”

“Except for you,” I said sarcastically.

“Of course.”

“Did you know the victim?”

“Her name was Cookie Ruiz.”

“Did she have family?”

She shrugged.  “Who knows?  She was a forty-year-old hooker who rented the apartment over my garage.”

I raised my eyebrows.  “You rented to a prostitute?”

“She paid her rent on time, and never brought clients home.”

I left her to Chen, and joined the medical examiner.  “What’s up, doc.”

“I have to get her back to the lab to confirm, but at first glance, I’d say the crossbow bolt through her heart was the cause of death.”

“This is a high traffic area, so I’m guessing she died sometime this morning?”

“Dead since Thursday.”

“Three days?  So, she was killed somewhere else.”  The hair on my arms stood up.  “Like the other one.”

He held up a piece of paper. “Her body was drained of blood.  He left another message.”

I took the paper and glanced at the familiar writing:

Life is blood,

Blood is life

Creatures of the night

Feed on strife

“What’s it mean?”

I frowned.  “It means Warwick Falls has a serial killer.”

Penance in Pike County

Jenna slept late.  She couldn’t take another day of traipsing through the woods while mosquitos snacked on her, so she made it clear last night that Mary and Tristan should go hiking without her.

As she stood on the back porch overlooking the lake, she watched ominously dark clouds roll in.  Her sister owed her big time, begging that she spend Spring Break in Pike County, Pennsylvania.  She preferred vacationing in warm sunny climates, not places where she had to wear heavy sweaters.

At least Tristan’s cousin was arriving later, so she would no longer be the third wheel.

Mary and Tristan had sung Paul’s praises.  He graduated top of his class from Yale, competed in the Olympics, and spent summers building orphanages for kids.  She got the impression Mary wanted to set them up.

She zoned out, watching the gently rocking tiny rowboat tied at the end of the wooden dock.  Did lakes have a tide or was it just the wind?

The early spring weather could be unpredictable, and she was getting cold. Just as she was about to turn toward the door, movement in the water caught her eye. She squinted.  It looked like someone was struggling to swim to shore.

Rushing down the stairs, she kicked off the flip flops she wore around the cabin, and raced to untie the boat.  Silently cursing whoever had secured it, she wasted precious time untying the knots.  Once undone, she stepped into the boat a little less cautiously then she should have and slipped, hitting her elbow.

At least she had managed not to fall into the cold water.

Grabbing the oars, she pushed away from the dock and headed toward the swimmer.  She had never rowed a boat before, but how hard could it be?  She was working on her doctorate in physics and rowing was all about motion.

She glanced at the figure in the water, who seemed to be staring at her while treading water. She assured herself that she could do this and started rowing.

It was rough going at first.  Her coordination was off, but she got into a rhythm and was making progress.  Or so she thought.  She looked at the figure, who she could now see was a man.  He was swimming towards her.  She had managed to row halfway across the lake.  Unfortunately, it was in the wrong direction.

“Stop rowing!”  He called out.  “I’ll be right there!”

She pulled the oars out of the water, and waited for him to get to her.  She was supposed to be rescuing him.

When he finally reached her, he adroitly hoisted himself into the boat.  Usually Jenna would object to a grown man in a speedo, but this one had the body for it.  He was very attractive, and very angry.  “What were you thinking?  The lake isn’t the place for an inexperienced rower to be out alone.”

“The same applies to a lone swimmer.”  As if to emphasis her point, lightning flashed followed by the rumble of thunder.  “I saw you struggling and was rescuing you.”

“Struggling?”

She nodded causing her pony tail to bounce

He laughed, breaking the tension.  “I was wondering why you were racing out of my cabin.  I expected someone to be chasing you.”

“You’re Paul!  You arrived early.”  Had she known who he was, she wouldn’t have rushed to the lake to make a fool out of herself.  He had been on the Olympic swim team and won a medal.  “I’m Jenna.”

“Mary’s sister.”  He smiled, causing two dimples to appear and reminding her of a clean-shaven Tom Selleck.  She wondered if there were laws about dating your sister’s soon to be cousin-in-law.  “Let me row.”

She gratefully handed over the oars – her arms were already sore.

He made rowing look easy.  She tried not to stare as his muscles flexed with each stroke.

“So how are the lovebirds?”

“Making goo-goo eyes at each other, and forcing me on marches through the forest.  I swear they intend to sacrifice me if we encounter a bear.”

He laughed again, making her wish she had fixed her hair and put on some make-up.  “You’re no longer alone.  I prefer sleeping late, card games, reading on my porch, and watching movies.”

“Salvation at last!”

The chatted amicably as he rowed and Jenna realized she felt more comfortable with him than she had with a man in a very long time.  There was something about their camaraderie that felt right.  And it didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eye.  She wanted to get to know him better.  “Paul, would you like to go out with me tonight?”

He stopped rowing, his cheeks turning red.  “You’re asking me out?”

She wasn’t in the habit of asking men out, but was sure most men didn’t panic when a woman took the initiative.  “Are you seeing someone?  Mary said you were single.”  Perhaps he wasn’t attracted to her?  She blushed, certain she was making a fool of herself.

“Jenna I’m officiating Mary and Tristan’s wedding.  I’m a Catholic priest.”

Her mouth fell open.  The first thing she thought was, what a waste.  The second was I’m going to kill my sister.

“Don’t kill Mary.  You penance is going to be bad enough for lusting after a priest.”  He winked at her and started rowing.

Had she spoken out loud?

Izzy Gaia’s Ghoulish Encounter

Izzy Gaia had her life mapped out.  She graduated from Smith College in the spring, and was spending the summer at home in Warwick Fall.  In September, she would begin law school.  After three years in law school, she would take and pass her bar, and then work for one of the large corporate law firms in New York City. It would mean having to work hard, but she would be able to live the life she wanted and even take care of her parents.  They had sacrificed to put her through school and she would be return the favor.

She should have known better.

That summer, she was earning money working at Cuppa Joe’s coffee shop.  Although she preferred the morning shift, her boss had talked her into working that evening.

She was alone in the shop, about an hour before closing, when the door opened.  In walked a short man in a three-piece suit.

“Good evening!”  She greeted him with the phoney smiled she used on customers.  “How can I help you?”

He looked up at her.  He had ice blue eyes the size of golf balls.  His pupils were slits.

“Those are interesting contacts.”

He blinked slowly. “You smell good.  Different.  I like different”

The hair on the back of her neck stood on end.  “That’s just the coffee.  You want a cup?”  She casually picked up the bat Joe kept on a shelf under the counter.

“What are you?”  He asked.

“Human.”

He sniffed.  “No.  Something more.”

“If you don’t order something, you have to leave.”

“My pet died today.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I need a new pet.”  He held up a leather collar and metal chain that were too large for a dog.

She decided the guy was high on something.  His skin had a sickly green tinge to it.  “Try the pound.  We only have coffee and baked goods.”

“Are you alone?”

“No.”  She lied.  Her heart felt like it was trying to burst out of her body.

He tilted his head and smirked.  “Yes.”

Why didn’t she listen to her mother and take those self-defense classes?  Her grip tightened on the bat.  She might not know karate, but she had played soft ball and had a mean swing. “Get out.”

He smiled at her.

She gaped.  His teeth were all canines.  “What dentist would do that?”  She blurted, sure it violated some ethic clause.

“You don’t know what I am, or what you are, do you?”

“I’m a human and you’re a freak.”

“You’re a witch.”  He walked around the counter.

“Hey, employees only, buddy!”  She scrambled over the counter.  She would need the extra room to get a good swing in.

He calmly turned around and backtracked.

His slow steady movements reminded her of a panther stalking his prey.  Unlike a panther, he was enjoying himself.  “Are you going to run?  Please run.  I’ll even give you a head start.”

Something told her that running would be a mistake.  “I’m good, thanks.”

He rubbed his hands together as he steadily made his way towards her. “You’re more fun than my last pet.”

“I’m not your pet.”

“You will be.  And a witch to boot.”

“Trust me, buddy, if I were a witch I’d turn you into a toad.”

He lunged at her.  She took a swing and connected with his head.  The wooden bat split in two and her arm hurt, but he went down.

She considered checking for a pulse, but had seen enough horror movies to know how that ended.  Giving his supine form a wide berth, she made her way to the phone.

Before she reached her destination, he sprung to his feet, shaking a finger at her as if she were a naughty child.  “That wasn’t very nice.”

“How are you still alive?”

He started stalking her again.

She reached behind her for a chair, hoping she would have better luck this time.  She cursed her boss for guilting her into taking the evening shift.

As she prepared herself for the next round, the door opened.  In walked the largest man she had ever seen in person.  He had a determined look in his eyes and a sword in his hand.

Her attacker slowly turned around, sure that he would be able to handle any intrusion.

Without a word, without even waiting for the druggie to fully face him, her rescuer swung the sword, decapitating the smaller man.

Green goo sprayed everywhere, even on Izzy.  She stood, shocked, staring at the body.

“Piece of advice, ghouls are nasty pieces of work.  Don’t waste time playing with them, witch.”  With those words, he turned walked out.

“Thank you!”  She called out after him. “And I’m not a witch.”

The rest of the night was a blur.  She ran behind the counter and called her boss.  She then called the police.  She wondered what she was going to say when they arrived.  She couldn’t tell them what really happened, or even explain the dead ghoul – although it was clear he wasn’t a human.  That got her thinking.  If ghouls were real, it was possible she was a witch.  Why hadn’t anyone mentioned it before?  The only thing she knew for sure that night was the café was a mess and she wasn’t getting paid enough to clean it up.

Kitty-Cat Where Are You?

The rain fell with persistence.  John hated the feel of wet cloth against his skin and wished he had thought to bring an umbrella.

Arriving at their destination, Ben pulled something out of his pocket and shoved it towards him.  “Eat this.”

John looked at the rock hard pink peep in his hand with disgust.  “It’s been over a month since Easter.”

“Don’t be silly.  They sell peeps all year round now.  I bought this last week.”

”Why is it so hard?”

“I poked holes in the package.  It’s the only way to eat them.” He took another peep out of his pocket and plopped it into his mouth.

“If you say so.”

“Trust me, you’ll need the sugar.”  It was hard to understand him as his mouth was full of marshmallow and sugar.

John did as he was told, making a face.  He hated peeps when they were fresh, and, as he soon learned, they were worse stale.  “Why are we here?”

The older man looked at him.  “The bishop didn’t tell you?”

John shook his head.  The intensity in Ben’s blue eyes unnerved him.  To make matters worse, the older priest recited the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel in Latin as they ascended the stoop and knocked on the door.

A middle-aged man in slacks and a dress shirt greeted them.  “It’s about time.  Come in.”  They barely crossed the threshold when he slammed the door shut.  “I’m not Catholic.”

“No one is perfect,” John joked.

Ben elbowed him.

The man continued as if he didn’t notice the interruption.  “Heck, I would have said I didn’t believe in God a few weeks ago.”

John smiled.  “You’ve had a change of heart about your beliefs?”

Before the man could respond, Ben put out his hand.  “I’m Father Ben.  This is Father John.”

“Bob Smithfield.”  They shook hands.  “I’ve told your Bishop that I’ll be baptized and become a practicing Catholic if he’d help.”

John was intrigued and suspected a hefty donation was promised as well.  He caught Ben’s eye.

“The Smithfields have a pest problem.”

“I see.  An exterminator might be a better option.  My second cousin runs Rid-A-Pest.  I’d be glad to give you his number.”

“We need an exorcism, not a bug bomb,” came a woman’s voice from behind them.

They turned to see a lovely young woman, about twenty-years Mr. Smithfield’s junior.

As far as John was concerned, things were starting to look up.  He missed the fairer sex living in a male only rectory and the woman was a treat for the eyes.

“This is Meg, my sister.”

Father John smiled.  She reminded him of the girl he dated in high school, before he got the calling.  “I’m sorry, Meg, but I could have sworn you said you needed an exorcism.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Ben assured her.

John raised his eyebrows.  He thought the church has stopped performing exorcisms years ago.

Bob looked down at his hands.  “I didn’t know who to turn to.  You see, we inherited this place from our uncle and moved in a few weeks ago.  Since then, there have been some strange occurrences.  At first, we thought someone was playing a joke on us.  Things weren’t where we left them, pictures were knocked off the wall, that sort of thing.”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”  John asked, practically.

“Trust me, my first call wasn’t to the church,” Bob informed him.  “The police were useless.  One cheeky cop suggested we call a psychiatrist.  Can you believe the nerve?”

John could, but refrained from saying so.

“What’s been going on,” asked Father Ben, all business.

Meg spread her arms.  “All sorts of weird things.  At first it was harmless.  The lights would go on and off for no reason.”

Bob scowled at John.  “Before you ask, or recommend some other relation, I called an electrician. The wiring in the house is brand new.”

Meg continued.  “We’ve seen clothes flying across the room – Bob’s socks, mostly.”

“The oven and cabinet doors are always opening and closing, but no one is in the kitchen.  The noise could drive a man to drink.”

Meg held up a dainty hand. “The can opener keeps running.  I’ve tried unplugging it, but it still goes off.”

John couldn’t remain silent any longer.  “Do eggs pop out of their carton and fry themselves on the counter?”

She frowned.  “No.  Is that a thing?”

“Was your uncle a worshiper of Gozer?”

“He was a Presbyterian.  Does that matter?”

John was on a roll.  “Does anyone sleep over the covers?  If so, how many feet over them?”

Ben leaned over and whispered angrily in his ear.  “Stop referencing Ghostbusters.  This is serious.”

“When people die, their spirits go to Heaven.  They don’t play with dirty laundry.”  John shot back.  “These people are either messing with us, being messed with, or totally delusional.”

“You’d be surprised at how little you know.”  Ben hissed.  Out loud, he asked if there was anything else.

“Isn’t that enough?”  Bob asked.

“We like to be thorough.”

The pair looked at each other, and shrugged.  Bob said, “We find the back door open in the morning, yet the alarm isn’t triggered.”

Meg pulled a faded red pillow off a nearby chair.  “Every morning, I find this in bed with me.”

John sniffed.  He wouldn’t want it in his bed.  It was covered in cat hair and questionable stains

Meg pulled up the sleeve of her shirt, revealing long scratch marks.  “The other night, I was watching the evening news when I was scratched.”

Ben nodded sagely, while John resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

Ben continued questioning the sibling.

Bored, John decided to explore the house.  Entering the dining room, he found an old man in the corner.  He wondered why the Smithfields had claimed they were alone in the house.  Putting on a friendly smile, he greeted the man.  “Hello, there!  I’m John.”

Putting a finger to his lips, the elderly man knelt and made a clicking sound with his tongue as if calling a cat over.

“Is your cat missing?”  He asked.

“Lower your voice, boy, you’ll scare Mallory.”  The man whispered.

“Is Mallory your cat?”

“No, I summon my lady friends like this.  It drives the women crazy.  Of course, she’s my cat.”  The man shook his head in disgust.

John wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard the man mumble ‘moron.’  “When did you last see her?”  He asked in a whisper, not wanting to suffer the man’s sharp tongue again.

“I can’t remember, exactly.  It’s been a while.”

It dawned on John that the man might be senile.  “What’s your name,” he asked gently.

“Tom.”

“Come with me, sir.  Meg and Bob are with a friend of mine.  They might know where Mallory is.”

“Those numb nuts?  They’ve been useless up until now.”

“It can’t hurt to ask again,” John said patiently.

The man sighed.  “Fine.  Just help me up.  These old bones get stiff.”

After gently easing the man to his feet, he led him back to the foyer where Ben still stood with the Smithfields.

The small group watched their slow approach.  They had odds looks on their faces.

“Has anyone seen Mallory,” John asked, still holding the old man’s arm.

Bob and Meg looked at each other.  “How do you know about Mallory,” Meg finally asked.

“Tom here wants to know.  He’s been looking for her.”

The color drained from Meg’s face, while Bob looked outraged.  “I don’t appreciate being the butt of a joke.”

Ben’s eyes gleamed with excitement.  “Who do you see?”

John was beginning to think he took a train to Crazyville.  “This gentleman is looking for his cat.”  He patted Tom’s arm.

Meg stared at him.  “Um, Father, Tom is our uncle.  He died over a month ago.”

“That can’t be right.”  John looked at Tom, willing him to contradict what she said.  When he didn’t, the bemused John described the man at his side.  “He’s right here.  Say something, Tom.”

“Ask them about my cat.”

The hair on the back of John’s neck stood on end.  He let go of the man’s arm and took a step back.

“Well?  What’s he want?” Ben demanded.

“He wants his cat.”

“I dropped that think off at the pound weeks ago.”

“Bob, you didn’t!”  Meg scolded him.  “You told me the cat was missing.  I hung flyers all over the neighborhood.”

“I’m allergic.”

“That cat was my companion for ten years.  She was my child.  Tell him to get her back.”  The old man poked John’s arm.

John conveyed the message, while thinking Tom had boney fingers for a dead guy.

“I will not.”  Bob crossed his arms and stuck out his chin like a petulant child.  “That cat was pure evil.  She hated me.”

“She always was an excellent judge of character,” Tom bragged.  “Regardless, I expect them to take care of her.”  He threw out his arm.  The next thing they knew, Bob was being levitated off the ground.

Bob screamed, arms and legs flailing.

Meg grabbed Ben’s arm.  “Do something!”

“Like what?”

“Exorcise him.”

The priest pried her fingers off his arm.  “Young lady, the ghost isn’t an evil spirt.  He wants his cat looked after.”

Tom smiled.  “Finally, someone with some sense.”

Meg looked around, wildly.  “If we get the cat back, will he move on?”

Tom nodded.  “They had better treat her right, or I’ll be back.”

“He says you need to spoil her.  He’ll know if you don’t and will come back to haunt you.  What’s he’s been doing now will seem like child’s play.”

“Fine!  Whatever he wants!”  Tears were running down Bob’s face.

“You’re beginning to grow on me, kid,” Tom chuckled.

It took a while to iron out all the details, including calling the pound to tell them Bob had changed his mind and decided to keep Mallory.  Tom promised to move on once Mallory was safely home.

As the two priests headed home to the rectory, Ben patted John’s shoulder.  “You did well today.”

“How is that?”

“You helped Tom find peace.  Had he been left alone any longer, he would have become a poltergeist.  I would have been forced to exorcise him to hell.  It would have been a shame.”  He smiled.  “You have a future ahead of you in the Church.”

John didn’t respond.  He had seen more that day than he ever expected.  He has so many questions, but decided he wasn’t ready for the answers.  Tom was a good man – ghost? – but from what he gathered, there were times when Father Ben had encounter evil entities.  John wondered if he was ready to physically battle the devil.  Perhaps he should find a post as a music director in a small church?

Lothar’s Fiori

For as long as I could remember, I spent weekends at my grandmother’s house.  She had been widowed for over forty years and I was her only grandchild.

That Friday after Easter break was no different.  My parents were going down to the city for the weekend to watch a play and visit some friends.

Grandma and I had a great night.  After I finished my homework, we made homemade pizza for dinner, played backgammon and dominoes, and then read before going to bed.  Grandma curled up with a romance novel while I favored a mystery.

When she announced it was time for bed, I was exhausted.  I barely had the energy to change into pajamas and brush my teeth.  I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.

I was in a deep, dreamless sleep when I was startled awake.  Before I could react, the blankets were thrown from the bed, hands grabbed my ankles and yanked me to the floor.  I opened my mouth to scream, but whoever was attacking me preempted my move.  Hands tightened on my neck, cutting off the air.  I panicked and tried to claw them away, but there was nothing there.  I looked around, but I was alone.

I couldn’t make a sound, and I was growing weak, not sure what was happening, but knew I had to do something.  I said a prayer in my head to the Archangel St. Michael.  “Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

I heard someone laugh.  Then a gravelly voice whispered in my ear, “You don’t have enough time to properly entreat the saints to save you.”  It was a nasty sound that made the hair on my arms stand on end.

I continued to struggle against my invisible opponent.

The room started to close in.  I was losing my battle to remain conscious when the door burst open.  My father jumped into the room sprinkling Holy Water and muttering prayers.

I was thrown across the room as a figure materialized.  He was certainly handsome, and taller than my father.  I could have had a crush on him if it wasn’t for the glowing red eyes and the trying to kill me thing.  He snarled at my father, “Sal Russo, you’re doing your daughter more harm than good.”

“Get away from her.”  He flicked more holy water at the demon.  I could see it burning his exposed skin.

“I will for now, but there will be others.  Lothar won’t wait forever before claiming his Fiori.”  With that cryptic comment, the demon disappeared.

I leaned against the wall, gasping for breath.

My father came over.  He helped me up and wiped away my tears.  I hadn’t realized I was crying.  “You’re okay now, baby doll.”

He always called me baby doll when I was sick or upset.  It was comforting.  “Thank you, Daddy,” I managed to croak the words out.  It hurt to talk.

“Save your voice.  Go downstairs and tell your grandmother to make you tea with lemon and honey.”

Not waiting to be told twice, I made a bee-line to the kitchen where I found my grandmother sitting at the table.  She sipped coffee from her favorite mug as she read the morning paper.  When she heard me approach, she looked up, smiling her almost toothless grin.

I must have been a sight, because she dropped the mug and ran over to me.

Grabbing my chin, she turned my head looking at the marks on my neck.

“You’re hurting me,” I protested weakly.

Letting go, she demanded an explanation.  “What happened?  You’re bruised.  It looks like someone tried to strangle you.”

“Someone did.”  I explained that I had been attacked.

Before I could go into detail, she grabbed her sturdy wooden rolling pin and made for the staircase.

I inserted myself between her and the stairs to stop her.  The demon was lucky my father rescued me.  He never would have made it out of the house in one piece if it was Grandma.  “It wasn’t a human.  It was a demon.  Didn’t you hear the noise?”  It tossed me around like a rag doll.  At the very least she should have heard me hitting the floor after being pulled out of bed.

She shook her head.  “I didn’t hear anything.  I thought you were asleep until you came down.”

There had to have been some noise.  Why else would my father have raced to my aid?  My head was pounding from when it hit the floor.  And the wall.  My throat wasn’t much better.  “Daddy said tea with honey would help my throat.”

“You were attacked in my home and called your father before coming to tell me?  What was he going to do?”

Confused, I asked, “Why would I call him?”

She stood in front of me, still clutching the rolling pin.  Her hazel eyes were blazing with anger.  “That’s what I want to know.”

“I didn’t have to call him.  He came rushing into my bedroom and vanquished the demon.”

“Don’t be silly.  He’s in the city with your mother.”

“He’s still upstairs.”

“Anna, I haven’t seen your father today.”

I was about to go upstairs to look for him when the phone rang.  I picked up the receiver and forced out a greeting.

“Anna!  Are you all right?”

“Daddy?  Where are you calling from?”

“The hotel we’re staying in.  What’s wrong with your voice? Are you getting sick.”

“Why are you calling?”  I held my breath as I waited for an answer.

“I had a dream you were being attacked by a red-eyed demon.  It was so realistic, I woke up in a cold sweat.”

I heard my mother laughing in the background.  “You always teased me about my dreams, yet the first nightmare you have, you panic.  I told you my mother would have called us if anything was wrong.”

My hands started shaking.  I’d had some bizarre experiences, but things were getting out of control.  I never told my parents about my paranormal encounters before.

Taking a deep breath, I told my father what happened that morning, expecting him to laugh it off.  Instead, he wanted to return home immediately and demanded to speak with my grandmother.  I put her on the phone.

It wasn’t good.  They were speaking in Italian, something they only did when I wasn’t supposed to know what was being said.  At one point, it got a little heated.

Since I couldn’t understand them, I made myself tea.  The warm liquid sweetened with honey helped my throat.

I started to relax, and poured myself another cup.

Marone a mi!  Go to the play.  I’ll take care of everything!”  My grandmother shouted before slamming down the phone.  She stormed across the room swearing in Italian and waving her hands around.

Yanking open the cabinet where she kept her medication and bills, she pulled out an envelope and thrust it at me.  “Here.”

The envelope was addressed to me and had been sent to my grandmother’s house.  I ignored the fact that it have been opened.

Inside was a purple card.  All sorts of symbols framed the main body.  Typed in a fancy script was a message from a Marlow Hope inviting me to call on her at my earliest convenience.  It included an address.

I looked at my grandmother.  “Who is Marlow Hope?”

“She is a psychic and a medium.”

“Why is she writing to me?”

“I knew her mother.  The family has been gifted with the ability to communicate with the dead.”

“Why would you know someone like that?”  I asked.

“If you haven’t realized it yet, our family isn’t exactly run of the mill normal.”

“Gasp.”

“Don’t be sarcastic.  You’re not too old for me to put over my knee.”

“Sorry.”

“We’re special.  All sorts of ghosts and demons seek us out.  I was hoping you wouldn’t be burdened with this, but I was wrong.”

“I’ve been approached by ghosts, and threatened by demons all year.  I told you everything.  Why wait so long to bring this up?”

“I had my reasons.”

“Do they have anything to do with Luther?”

Her faced paled.  “Lothar?”

“That’s him.  The demon in my room said he would have me.”

“You didn’t mention that before.”

“This hasn’t been a good day for me. So, who is he?”

“Let’s go and see Marlow.  Then we’ll talk.”

I wasn’t happy that she was hiding something from me, but I could tell she felt visiting this Marlow person was important and wouldn’t say anything else until we spoke with her friend.  I nodded, hoping that I would soon have answers.