Alison headed out the door. The woman had paid her when she came in so that part was already out of the way. She headed back to her car, ready to go straight to Dan Hoffinger’s house. It still embarrassed her the way she had run out the first time. There had been no way to explain at the time, or even afterwards, what she had seen that had scared her so bad. But the guy was willing to let her have a second shot at it, and she was willing to try.
She started driving. Greg was hovering quietly in the passenger seat beside her. After they had been driving for awhile, Greg turned to her, asking, “How’s your head?”
“Better,” Alison replied.
“Bet you’re glad I was there to help this time, huh,” he mused.
The comment made her want to roll her eyes at him. “Oh, absolutely. Since I’m completely helpless without you.”
“You’ll appreciate me someday.”
“I appreciate you just fine now,” she said.
She made it to Daniel’s apartment building about fifteen minutes later. When she got there, she climbed out of her car and went into the building. An electronic directory was set up in the vestibule to the lobby. She dialed for Daniel’s room. Greg hadn’t come with her. He had promised to stay behind in the car until she was done. Alison didn’t plan on taking long and was hoping she’d be in and out relatively quickly so that she could head back home.
After several rings, a female voice came through the small speaker. “Hello?” His girlfriend.
“Hi. It’s Alison McCarthy. I’m back for the mirror.”
“Great. Come on up.”
There was a buzzing sound and the door unlocked. Alison stepped inside. Her gaze fell on the elevator. The sign that read “out of order” still hung on the doors. Looked like it was still broken. She’d have to take the stairs again.
She headed for the steps, picking up her pace when she reached them. Hopefully they weren’t too mad about her running out the last time. She hadn’t quite prepared an excuse for her strange behavior that day either. It had been unprofessional and she wished she had handled herself differently. If they asked, the only thing she could do was be honest with them.
They were on the sixth floor. Alison felt tired by the time she reached the top. Letting out a breath of air, she went to their door and knocked loudly.
Daniel answered. “Hey,” the younger man said. “Thanks for coming back.”
She nodded, stepping inside. “I’m sorry I ran out before.”
“Yeah, what happened with that? You just got really pale all of a sudden. Were you sick?”
“It’s a long story,” she said. “But I’ll be honest with you. I did see something in your mirror. I panicked when it happened.”
Daniel’s eyes grew wide at the news. “No way. What’d you see?”
She felt hesitant to tell him too much more than she already had. Instead, she replied. “It was just a spirit. A big one.”
“You hear that?” Daniel asked, turning to his girlfriend. The woman was seated on the couch, dressed in a jeans and a pink and yellow shirt. “She said she saw a ghost in the mirror.”
The woman looked annoyed. “Well we knew that much. How do we get rid of it?”
“I’ll have to look at it again,” Alison replied. “Have you had any new problems since the last time?”
“Not as much,” Daniel replied. “Every now and then I hear noises coming from it though.”
“What kind of noises?”
He began walking. “Nothing like before. Just tapping noises. They’re really faint. It almost sounds like someone’s tapping their fingers against the wood.”
She followed him to the bedroom as he spoke. “How often do you hear them?”
“Early in the morning mostly. Sometimes later at night.”
“Hmm.” She stepped into the room, turning her attention to the familiar antique mirror. It made her skin crawl just looking at it. Not the mirror itself, but the memories attached to it did. She could never forget her conversation with Death that had occurred in that very same spot.
Taking a deep breath, she moved towards it. She couldn’t let her fear get the best of her. Once it was directly in front of her, she began to inspect it. She looked on either side of it and directly into the glass. She ran her hand over the carved wood.
For some reason, the inspection went nothing like the first time she had been there. She no longer sensed anything from the mirror at all. Why was that? When something so strong and terrifying had already shown itself to her not so long before. Where was it? It was as if all the supernatural energy surrounding the piece had disappeared completely.
“Something wrong?” Daniel asked. He hovered over her as she worked. He was definitely curious.
“No, it’s not that,” she replied. She stepped to the other side of the mirror, looking it over once more. “There’s nothing here.”
He looked confused by the statement. “What? But you just said you saw something the last time you were here.”
“Yeah. I did see something. Last time, anyway,” Alison said. “But it’s gone now. This place is completely fine.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“You said nothing’s really happened since I was here before, right?”
“Nothing except the noises.”
“You said they were tapping noises,” Alison recalled thoughtfully. She went behind the mirror. There was something on the carpet. Bending down, she squinted at the floor. Tiny dark pebbles lined the wall. She moved her gaze a little further, following the wall and the dark spots until she reached a dresser about a foot away.
Pulling herself to her feet, she went to the dresser and grasped it tightly with both hands.
“What’re you doing?” he asked.
“Checking something.” She scooted the dresser a few inches from the wall. Moving around it, she ducked her head lower, peeking at the space between the wall and the back of the dresser. A small hole was in the wall. The opening was surrounded by the same dark pebbles. “Mouse poop,” she said out loud.
“You got a pest problem,” she replied, pulling herself back up again. She began pushing the dresser into its original position. This was the other thing she had to do when she went on her jobs. She had to determine whether hauntings were really hauntings, or simply a mistake on the client’s part. “I think you ought to call whoever’s in charge of your apartment.”
“So you’re telling me those noises were from mice?”
“That’s the only explanation I can think of.”
“But, what about the spirit?” he asked.
“It’s gone. There’s nothing here anymore.” She looked at him. “At least you get to keep the mirror, right? There’s nothing wrong with it now.”
He looked disappointed. “Yeah, that’s true.”
“Consider yourself lucky. The spirit left on its own. That means you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
His hand went to the back of his head. Letting out a sigh, he said, “Well, thanks anyway for coming back up here. I know you didn’t have to.”
They headed out of the room. Even as she said it, Alison found the information hard to believe herself. What did this mean? What had really been haunting their mirror? A regular spirit? Or had it been Death all along? Waiting for her? Had Death left the moment it left its message? Or had something else been causing Daniel and his girlfriend the troubles they were having. If it was something else, why did it decide to stop so suddenly?
“Joan’ll give you what we owe you. You take checks, right?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Alison said. “It’s on me. Make up for how I left early the last time.” Besides, it wasn’t like she really did anything, anyway.
“We appreciate that,” he said.
“Why? What was wrong?” Joan asked. She looked at them from the couch.
“Mice,” her boyfriend replied.
“Mice? Are you serious? That’s what all that noise was?” She groaned. “I feel like such an idiot. I told everyone our mirror was haunted.”
“It was, actually,” Alison said. “It’s gone now though. Whatever it was. But if it comes back, give me a call, all right?” She handed Daniel a business card. “I don’t think it will or anything but you never know.”
“So, then it was haunted?” Joan asked.
“Yeah, for awhile it was.”
Joan said, “Guess that’s better than nothing.”
“You act like you wanted it to be haunted,” Daniel mused.
“I don’t want people thinking I’m a liar. That’s all.”
“Sure, whatever,” Daniel said. He turned his attention back to Alison. “Look, thanks for coming again. We’ll call you if it comes back.”
“Sounds good.” She headed into the hallway. The door shut behind her and she made her way to the staircase.
At least that was one thing taken care of. She had felt guilty for leaving so suddenly the first time and had hoped it wouldn’t ruin her reputation as the dependable, neighborhood exorcist. She hadn’t made any money but that was fine too. It was a botched job anyway. The best she could do now was try and prevent making the same mistake again.
She jogged down the steps until she reached the first floor. Then she left the building and went back to her car. Greg was waiting for her inside, looking bored.
“What’d you find?” he asked as she climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Mice,” she said.
“Mice?” A perplexed expression crossed his features. “Really?”
“Yeah, just mice.”
“What about Death?”
“What about ‘Death’?” she asked, feeling annoyed by the question. Why did he have to bring that up again? She hated talking about it.
“You didn’t see him there this time?”
“No. He’s gone. I doubt he’s coming back.”
“Why do you think he disappeared like that?”
“I don’t know,” Alison replied. “All I know is he’s gone now and now they got mice.” The last thing she wanted to think was that Death had somehow been waiting for her that day to give her that message about the Blessed. She didn’t want to think that it had gone back to wherever it came from once it had done just that.
“If you say so,” Greg said.
She began driving. At least she could go home now. She was tired. It had been a long day. Her head was still sore where the spirit had attacked her earlier, something that only served to annoy her further.
Greg looked at her. “It’s too bad you didn’t see it again,” he commented.
“You mean, Death?”
“Personally, I’m glad,” she said.
“It’s just the thing with the Blessed,” Greg continued. “I wanted to know more about it.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “If it comes up again anywhere, I’ll tell you. I’m keeping an eye out for you.”
“I know you are. Thanks for that.”
Her phone started ringing, catching Alison by surprise. She pulled out the phone, glancing at the screen as she drove. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said.
“It’s Josh again.”
“What the hell’s he calling so much for?”
“Who knows.” She paused. “What do you think? Should I pick it up?”
“I dunno. It’s up to you,” he said.
She pressed the green button to activate the call, bringing the phone to her ear. “McCormick Agency.”
“Alison?” His voice didn’t sound right. She found herself feeling nervous as he spoke. Was… Was he crying? “I’m so glad you picked up.”
“Wait, Josh,” Alison said. “What’s wrong?”
“I… Alison…” He stopped, breaking into sobs. “Emily’s dead. She killed herself.”
Alison froze. What? Did she hear him right? She pulled the phone from her ear. Dead? But why would Emily…? Turning her wheel, Alison pulled over to the side of the road. She put the car into park. After taking a deep breath, she brought the phone back to her ear.
“Alison? Are you still there?”
“I’m sorry,” she said. She closed her eyes, pressing her index and thumb against them. “It’s… It’s a shock. I don’t know what to say.” Emily… Why would she kill herself? “What happened? Did she… leave a note or anything?”
“No. No note. I found her this morning. She had… She hung herself.”
Alison felt sick. She could feel her stomach turning inside her. It was too weird. They had just seen her the night before. They had just… just talked to her. Alison had wanted to make plans again. The woman had seemed perfectly happy at dinner. Why would she just go and kill herself like that without making any sort of indication she was going to do it? No warning signals. No sign at all that she planned to die that night. It was too weird.
“I’m so sorry, Josh,” was all Alison could think to say. “Poor Emily.”
“I feel like I’m constantly dragging you into your family problems,” he said.
“No, you’re not. You’re really not. Emily… was a great person. I loved spending time with her.”
“The funeral’s going to be this Wednesday. I’d love it if you came. She doesn’t have a lot of friends anymore. I’m sure it’d make her happy.”
“Of course,” Alison said. “What about you? Are you going to be okay?” She knew how close he had been to his little sister. The poor man sounded so devastated, Alison wouldn’t have been surprised if the man took his own life then and there.
“I have to go. I’ll call you with the address for Wednesday.”
“All right,” she said.
She hung up the phone.
“What’s going on?” Greg asked, looking confused.
“Emily killed herself,” Alison replied. She still couldn’t believe it herself. Tucking the phone into her pocket, she wiped at her dampening eyes with her hands. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe she’d do that.”
Greg grimaced. “How’s the guy taking it?” he asked.
“He’s pretty upset.”
“That sucks.” Greg looked down. “Makes me feel bad. We spent all last night making fun of him. I feel like a total ass now.”
“That makes two of us.”
A few minutes passed. When Alison felt ready, she brought her car back into drive and pulled back onto the road. She felt awful. Emily was dead. She couldn’t help but think of her own sister. She knew exactly how Josh felt right now. He felt the way Alison had felt all those years ago when Linda had been hit by that car.