Home > Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble (Jolie Wilkins #1)

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble (Jolie Wilkins #1)
Author: H.P. Mallory

ONE

It’s not every day you see a ghost.

On this particular day, I’d been minding my own business, tidying up the shop for the night while listening to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (guilty as charged). It was late—maybe nine p.m. A light bulb had burnt out in my tarot reading room a few days ago, and I still hadn’t changed it. I have a tendency to overlook the menial details of life. Now, a small red bulb fought against the otherwise pitch darkness of the room, lending it a certain macabre feel.

In search of a replacement bulb, I attempted to sort through my “if it doesn’t have a home, put it in here” box when I heard the front door open. Odd—I could’ve sworn I’d locked it.

“We’re closed,” I yelled.

I didn’t hear the door closing, so I put Cyndi Lauper on mute and strolled out to inquire. The stetlamps reflected through the shop windows, the glare so intense, I had to remind myself they were just lights and not some alien spacecraft come to whisk me away.

The room was empty.

Considering the possibility that someone might be hiding, I swallowed the dread climbing up my throat. Glancing around, I searched for something to protect myself with in case said breaker-and-enterer decided to attack. My eyes rested on a solitary broom standing in the corner of the Spartan room. The broom was maybe two steps from me. That might not sound like much, but my fear had me by the ankles and wouldn’t let go.

Jolie, get the damned broom.

Thank God for that little internal voice of sensibility that always seems to visit at just the right time.

Freeing my feet from the fear tar, I grabbed the broom and neared my desk. It was a good place for someone to hide—well, really, the only place to hide. When it comes to furnishings, I’m a minimalist.

I jammed the broom under the desk and swept vigorously.

Nothing. The hairs on my neck stood to attention as a shiver of unease coursed through me. I couldn’t shake the feeling and after deciding no one was in the room, I persuaded myself it must’ve been kids. But kids or not, I would’ve heard the door close.

I didn’t discard the broom.

Like a breath from the arctic, a chill crept up the back of my neck.

I glanced up and there he was, floating a foot or so above me. Stunned, I took a step back, my heart beating like a frantic bird in a small cage.

“Holy crap.”

The ghost drifted toward me until he and I were eye level. My mind was such a muddle, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to run or bat at him with the broom. Fear cemented me in place, and I did neither, just stood gaping at him.

Thinking the Mexican standoff couldn’t last forever, I replayed every fact I’d ever learned about ghosts: they have unfinished business, they’re stuck on a different plane of existence, they’re here to tell us something, and most importantly, they’re just energy.

Energy couldn’t hurt me.

My heartbeat started regulating, and I returned my gaze to the ectoplasm before me. There was no emotion on his face; he just watched me as if waiting for me to come to my senses.

“Hello,” I said, thinking how stupid I sounded—treating him like every Tom, Dick or Harry who ventured through my door. Then I felt stupid that I felt stupid—what was wrong with greeting a ghost? Even the dead deserve standard propriety.

He wavered a bit, as if someone had turned a blow dryer on him, but didn’t say anything. He was young, maybe in his twenties. His double-breasted suit looked like it was right out of The Untouchables, from the 1930s if I had to guess. toght="0">

His hair was on the blond side, sort of an ash blond. It was hard to tell because he was standing, er floating, in front of a wooden door that showed through him. Wooden door or not, his face was broad, and he had a crooked nose—maybe it’d been broken in a fight. He was a good-looking ghost as ghosts go.

“Can you speak?” I asked, still in disbelief that I was attempting to converse with the dead. Well, I’d never thought I could, and I guess the day had come to prove me wrong. Still he said nothing, so I decided to continue my line of questioning.

“Do you have a message from someone?”

He shook his head. “No.”

His voice sounded like someone talking underwater.

Hmm. Well, I imagined he wasn’t here to get his future told—seeing as how he didn’t have a future. Maybe he was passing through? Going toward the light? Come to haunt my shop?

“Are you on your way somewhere?” I had so many questions for this spirit but didn’t know where to start, so all the stupid ones came out first.

“I was sent here,” he managed and in his ghostly way, I think he smiled. Yeah, not a bad looking ghost.

“Who sent you?” It seemed the logical thing to ask.

He said nothing and like that, vanished, leaving me to wonder if I’d had something bad to eat at lunch.

Indigestion can be a bitch.

#

“So, no more encounters?” Christa, my best friend and only employee, asked while leaning against the desk in our front office.

I shook my head and pooled into a chair by the door. “Maybe if you hadn’t left early to go on your date, I wouldn’t have had a visit at all.”

“Well, one of us needs to be dating,” she said, knowing full well I hadn’t had any dates for the past six months. An image of my last date fell into my head like a bomb. Let’s just say I’d never try the Internet dating route again. It wasn’t that the guy had been bad looking—he’d looked like his photo, but what I hadn’t been betting on was that he’d get wasted and proceed to tell me how he was separated from his wife and had three kids. Not even divorced! Yeah, that hadn’t been on his match.com profile.

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