I had no more than touched the screen door handle when my great-grandfather flew to open it.
And when I say flew, I mean flew.
Da is a ghost.
“Colleen! High time you came home.”
I sighed at Da’s impatience. “I told you I’d be back about six,” I said, plopping my purse and briefcase on the catchall table in the mudroom.
“Yes, well, but we have a situation. Come now, someone is waiting for you.”
“You didn’t invite your ghost cronies for poker night, did you?”
Da snorted. “Bigger doings than poker, me girl, but brace yourself.”
Da pushed me through the kitchen I needed to clean and into the sprawling living room where I stopped short and blinked at the man in black who sat in my wing back chair by the fireplace.
Black jeans, black T-shirt, black nylon windbreaker jacket. Only the sneakers had a lick of color – gray and blue. As icy as the look in those blue eyes.
My heart pounded a painful few beats before I found my wits.
“Brick Frasier? What on earth are you doing in my house?”
Brickman A. Frasier, the hot ghost investigator of my dreams and nightmares, glowered at me. His tanned hands gripped the chair arms, and his ashen complexion slowly darkened to a brick red that almost matched his auburn hair. A muscle ticked in his square jaw before he took a breath that expanded his wide chest.
“Let. Me. Up.”
I shivered at the rawness in his sexy voice and took a step closer.
“I’ve been held captive in this chair for half a freaking hour, Colleen. I want out.”
I turned to my sneaky Black Irish great-grand ghost. “Da, what have you done?”
Da’s chest puffed. “Now, now, me wee Colleen, I only made the man comfortable.”
“He’s not comfortable. He’s terrified. Whatever you’re doing to keep him in that chair, stop it this instant.”
With a mighty humph and muttering under his ghost breath, Da flew toward Brick, circled him three times counter clockwise, then settled behind the chair, arms crossed.
An audible pop in the ethers made me jump. I don’t know if Brick heard the sound, too, but he shuddered and slowly levered himself out of the seat, as if bracing to be pushed back down.
“It’s okay,” I told him. “Da won’t bother you again.”
“And who,” Brick asked, “is Da?”
“My great-grandfather, the ghost. What exactly happened?”
“What happened?” Brick echoed with a snarl and paced closer to me. “I knocked on your door. It opened. I was jerked into your house by my shirtfront and shoved into that damned chair. I thought it was a stupid Halloween trick until I realized I was pinned there. Does your ghost do that to everyone?”
“Why did you want to see me at all? As I recall from our last encounter, you said it would snow on the beach before you so much as spoke to me again.”
“I—” He fell back a step, and then ran a hand over his near military-short hair cut, mumbled a curse, and sighed. “My ghost investigation team ran into a wall tonight.”
“And that should mean squat to me?”
“It means something to the client. Martha Harrison. She told us you’d done one of your interventions with her ghost last month, and she wants you on site for our investigation.”
I frowned at Brick’s neutral expression. Clearly he didn’t want to lay all his cards on the table, but then he didn’t have to explain Martha Harrison to me. Elderly even by senior citizen standards and a legend in St. Augustine, she’d taught history to generations of students, fought for civil rights, and won her bout with breast cancer and lymphoma both. Far more steel than magnolia, her will was a force of nature. So much so, that I’d quaked in my sandals when Mrs. Harrison called me to do an intervention with her own home ghost, Zavier.
In her accounting of the situation, Zavier had given her fits for decades and she’d steadfastly ignored him until after she took a tumble on the stairs. A screaming miracle she hadn’t broken a hip or worse, but that was her wake up call to do something about her spook.
Zavier hadn’t caused Martha’s fall, so he refused to go to the Light, or to leave Martha’s house at all. Instead, we’d hammered out an agreement for him to stay quietly in the attic and leave her alone. Last I’d heard, Martha’s home was as close to spook-free as could be.
Then again, if Zavier was acting as schitzy as the other ghosts in town, who knew what havoc he was wrecking?
Unintentional or not.
“Listen, Colleen,” Brick said, his voice placating, his energy set to sooth instead of confront. “I admit we got off to a bad start.”
I snorted and crossed my arms. “Brick, you called me a scam artist.”
“I conceded you might be a legitimate sensitive.”
“Only after you told certain people I’d bilk them out of thousands.”
“I apologized for that.”
“Yeah, when one of my clients divulged to you what I actually charge.”
“Okay, I had some bad information. I misjudged you, slandered you, and was an all-around ass, but that was months ago. Give me another chance. Come to Mrs. Harrison’s house with me. She won’t let us set up one piece of equipment until she talks with you.”
I rubbed my forehead and thought about his request. Much as I was attracted to Brick, I didn’t want to make his life one whit easier. However, if I ignored a command appearance from Martha Harrison, I might as well take down my therapist shingle and go flip burgers. Plus I was itching to know what had the local ghosts acting so goosey, and curious as to whether I could help them regain peace.
“Exactly what kind of problems is Mrs. Harrison reporting?”
“Knocks all over the house, bangs and thuds in the attic, shadows moving. And she’s not the only one who’s called about paranormal disturbances. I’ve fielded more calls in the last two weeks than I have for two months.”
I recalled my own uncharacteristically full calendar of clients. Ghostly activity on the rise. Angelica restless and in fear. No leap of logic to figure something out of the ordinary was afoot.
Normally, ghosts aren’t destructive whether they’re seeking attention or simply going about their spirit lives. Panicked ghosts are another story. They could give off scattered, frenetic energy and not know or be able to control their own strength. Worse, a few spooks might get off on having more power to frighten home and business owners. Could I turn my back on a potential problem of that magnitude?
“Please, Colleen,” Brick said. “I won’t ask anything of you again.”
I gave Brick the evil eye. “If I go, I’ll do it for Martha, not for you and your team.”
“One crack from any of you, and I’m outta there.”
“Fine. Do you have a digital recorder on you?”
“Uh, yeah.” Brick blinked in puzzlement, but thrust a hand in his windbreaker pocket and pulled out a voice-activated recorder smaller than my dinky old cell phone.
“I don’t suppose you had that running while you were, um—”
“Forcibly restrained by your ghost? No.”
“Too bad. I’ll bet Da had plenty to say.”
“Anything I’d want to hear?” Brick teased.
I waved away his attempt at levity. “Just turn the recorder on now, please.” He pushed a button and nodded. “Da, front and center. I need to ask you about the town ghosts.”
“What about them?”
Da answered even as he materialized between Brick and me. Brick put his hand out to feel the cold spot Da brought with him, and nearly stuck his hand through the middle of my great grand-ghost’s back. With a violent shiver, Brick wisely stepped back.
“The spirits in town seem to be stirred up. Even afraid. Do you know what’s wrong with them?”
Brick frowned, but I kept my focus on Da’s craggy, semi-transparent face.
Da poked a thumb over his shoulder. “Do you want me to answer so he’ll hear me on that gadget?”
For the sake of the gadget, I responded in full. “Yes, speak into the recorder.”
Da half turned. Considering he hadn’t been a tall man but Brick was easily six-five, that put Da’s mouth right about at recorder level.
“All I’ve heard,” he said, carefully enunciating, “is that there’s a raid afoot. An attack, girl. An attack targeting spirits.”
“What could possibly hurt ghosts?”
“There are dead who feed on earthbound souls. Not many of the dastards, but this one must be a doozey.”