Joshua didn’t call the next morning. He did something better, actually. He came over Alison’s place to see her in person.
Granted, she wasn’t supposed to be flattered by this but she was.
He sat on her couch now, drinking a cup of coffee she had offered him. She tried not to yawn as she took a sip from her own steaming cup. “Sorry,” he said. “Did I come too early?”
“No, not at all,” she said. Actually, it was pretty early for her. Nine in the morning. Since she always ended up staying up late, it wasn’t easy for her to get up before noon.
“I work second shift,” he explained again. “So, I end up running all my errands early in the morning.”
“Yeah, it’s no problem.”
He looked around him. “You work from home?”
“Yep. Saves on paying two rents.”
“Sounds like it’s fun,” he smiled. A darling, charming smile. It was awful. “I wish I were my own boss.”
“It definitely works for me. I’m not good with other people telling me what to do. I end up taking it personally.”
“I get like that sometimes.” He reached into the inside pocket of his grey suit jacket. “I have your check too, by the way.”
He pulled it out and she took it into her hand, giving it a quick look. Three-hundred dollars. Not bad. He gave her a fifty buck tip. “Thank you,” she said, tucking it into her purse.
She knew it was also time to get to the point. She had wanted to talk to him for a reason. That reason being his sister. “I know I said this already,” she spoke, “but I did tell your sister there was nothing there.” She paused. “I checked to be sure. Not that I didn’t trust you, but it is what I do. So, I checked to make sure. You were right. I didn’t find anything.”
“I know she can be pretty convincing,” he agreed. “Sometimes she’s even got me fooled with her ghost stories.”
“She does make a convincing argument. But, like you said, there’s nothing there.” She paused. Maybe it wasn’t her right to say it. This was a family affair. Was it okay for her to say anything? “I just think that maybe… she should see a doctor… or someone… A counselor. I don’t think it’s healthy for her to… behave the way she does.” She sighed. “I hope I’m not offending you.”
“It’s all right,” he said. “I understand where you’re coming from. I think you’re right. I do.” He took a moment to think before continuing. “I know you’re right. She needs help. I think… the thing with it is… I’m just worried they’ll lock her up somewhere with a bunch of lunatics. She’s not hurting anyone. I don’t want them to label her as some kind of psychopath.”
“Counseling then,” Alison pressed. “You don’t have to make it a big deal. Just explain that she had the miscarriage. That she’s traumatized and needs someone to talk to about it.”
He nodded. “I appreciate the advice. I know I have to do something for her.”
Alison thought of the face she had seen in the woman’s attic the day before. She bit her lip. It was one of the reasons she was so concerned about Emily in the first place. Who knew what the bad omen was foreshadowing. “You’re going to think I’m crazy if I say this.”
“I’d never think you’re crazy,” Joshua assured her. “What were you going to say?”
Taking in a deep breath, she replied, “Let me just put it this way. Sometimes I get a feeling for things. I got a bad feeling when I was at your sister’s house.”
“A bad feeling?”
“It probably isn’t anything,” she said quickly. “It’s just… be careful. Keep an eye out for her. Who knows? Sometimes the people that are afraid of nothing end up hurting themselves by accident. Paranoia has a way of doing that to people. People get reckless when they’re scared.”
“That makes sense.”
She should know. She had experienced it firsthand once before. A long time ago, when the whole thing had started for her, when she was first able to see the spirits, she had been as bad as Emily was now. “You think I’m weird, don’t you?” she smiled.
“I think you know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I’m glad I hired you.”
“Thank you.” Her house phone began to ring. Turning her head, she let her gaze fall on the ringing phone sitting on the coffee table. “Sorry. I just need to get this.” She climbed to her feet and grasped the phone with her hand. “McCarthy’s Agency.” She usually omitted the ‘Paranormal’ part unless she knew who she was talking to. It got embarrassing and she had been made fun of for having the agency on more than one occasion already.
“Hi. I saw your ad. I was hoping you could come check out my apartment.” The voice belonged to a younger man. Probably in his early twenties or so.
“Sure, what seems to be the problem?” She pulled out a small notepad from behind the phone and a blue ink pen.
“Man, this is going to sound nuts…” he sighed. “I got a big mirror from an antique shop. It was a present for my girlfriend’s birthday. But ever since we got it, there’ve been weird voices. We feel like we’re being watched. She even swears she sees a face in the mirror looking back at her.”
“Have you tried getting rid of it?” Alison asked. Sometimes the most obvious solutions were the ones people neglected to try out first.
“Yeah, we tried getting rid of it! The guy wouldn’t give us our money back at the shop. So we threw it out. The next morning it was back in the bedroom. My girlfriend was so freaked out she was ready to move outta the place.”
“When’d you try throwing it out?”
“Last night,” the younger man replied. “We woke up this morning and found it back in the corner of the bedroom. We flipped.”
“It’ll two-hundred and fifty. Is that going to be okay?”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
“Can I have your name, address, and a number where I can reach you?” she asked, readying her pen. She listened carefully to his reply, jotting down the house number and street. His name was Daniel Hoffinger. She was to meet them later that evening at five p.m.
She hung up the phone when she was finished. Her third job for the week. Not bad. She usually liked to do about three or four jobs a week to make a pleasant wage. A bad week was only one job. A great week was around nine or ten. Her biggest paycheck came after having twelve jobs in a row. That was three-thousand dollars in one week. Unfortunately however, it had been a slow month in the winter, so it didn’t average out as well as she would’ve liked it to.
Turning her attention back to Joshua, she asked. “Did you want some more coffee?”
He shook his head. “It looks like you get a lot of customers,” he commented.
“It’s been pretty steady lately,” she agreed. “And it pays the bills.”
“Do you ever… actually find anything? Like… real ghosts?” He looked interested now. He leaned forward, his eyes curious like a little boy’s.
She gave him a small smile. Maybe he wasn’t a complete lost cause, after all. “I think you’d be surprised. There’s a lot more out there than we like to think.”
“Does it get scary?”
“Sometimes.” She paused. “I’m pretty used to it by now. It takes a lot to scare me. But sometimes, when the spirits get mean. They can be a little scary.”
“So you’ve actually seen real-life ghosts?” he asked, raising a brow. “You’ve seen them in person?”
Oh, gee, did she? Like every second of every day. “Yeah, I’ve seen them. It’s definitely happened before.” She liked to refrain from saying too much. The second she usually mentioned she had the ability to see the spirits, the first thing that popped into the other person’s mind was that she was nuts. They’d usually give her a… ‘oooh so you think you’re sooo special and you’re the oooonly one that can see them? Well then you must be either lying or just delusional.’
People had this firm belief that either everyone saw it or no one saw it. To state otherwise was to admit you were lying to them.
“What do you do then? When the place you’re at turns out to really be haunted? Do you have tools or something?”
She shook her head. Great, he was never going to believe her now. What would he say if she told him she just talked to the spirits to make them go away? “It depends on the case,” she said instead. “Depending on the particular situation, I come up with something to perform the exorcism.”
“That’s cool,” he said. He still looked skeptical, but he was definitely interested. “I have to admit, you’re going to end up making a believer out of me.” He lifted his watch. “Thanks for having me over. I know I ended up staying a long time.”
“I better get going. I still have a couple things I have to get done before I have to go to work.”
“I’m glad you stopped by,” she said. She stood, leading him to the door and letting him out. Sigh. Another man come and gone from her life. Now that the case was over, there was no doubt in her mind she’d never see him again. Would it really have been so wrong? To be unprofessional? To ask if they could see each other one more time? Go see a movie… or something?
He gave her a wave and jogged to his car. His slicked-back blond hair and business suit were just too cute on his oh-so-tall frame. She shut the door, letting out a breath of air. She had a feeling being professional wasn’t the real issue here at all. She had a feeling the real problem was that she didn’t have the courage to ever tell anyone how she really felt.