The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, semi-retired ghost hunter. (Part Four)
Mama Bell’s Number One Rule of Exorcisms: Always tell someone where you’re going and what you’re doing. That way, when you accidentally rip open a portal to the Spirit World and let out all the heavy hitters, everyone can be on their guard. Or if you come back acting weird, they know to suspect ghosts and not drugs. Or if you get kidnapped and sold to sex traffickers en route, someone can tell the police your last known location.
My parents are big on Preparation for Every Contingency, spiritual or mundane. It’s been an agenda item at more than one family meeting.
So after I got off the phone with Father O’Leary and arranged to meet him that night at an address on the Upper East Side, I called Corinna. Every hex-eyed Bell gets roped into the family business to some degree; Corinna was more entrenched than most of the cousins, since she’d come to live with us when her parents died.
Two rings, and the call connected. “Is it true you’re back in the biz again?”
“Hello to you too, my day’s going fine, thanks for asking.”
I sighed. “Not really. Henry asked me to look into something for him. As a favor. I brought in Father Thomas as backup, and in return he wants me to help out his friend with a tricky exorcism later today.”
“Uh huh.” I could hear the smile in her voice, smug little witch. “That sounds like you’re back.”
“I’m not back.”
“If you say so. Listen, I’d offer to come with but with your parents gone I’ve got to handle all the day-to-day and the paperwork is killing me. But call me when you’re done, m’kay? And — where’s my pen — let me get the address.”
“In case of Spiritual mishap.”
“Or missing persons investigation. Okay, shoot.”
I read her the address, and she whistled. “Park Ave in the seventies? Fancy. You might want to dress up a little.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’ll wear a blazer.”
“And heels,” she insisted.
“Flats. In case I have to run away.”
Corinna weighed style against practicality and decided in favor of running. “Okay. Listen babe, I gotta go. Be careful tonight.”
“Always.” I hung up.
I walked down Broadway toward my apartment, tearing up a little in the cold wind. I was going to have to change to a warmer coat. The chill cut through my jacket with barely any resistance from the fleece.
“So how did it go with Thomas?” whispered a voice in my ear.
“Jesus, Henry, you have got to stop doing that!” Most of the people I passed ignored my outburst; the one middle-aged woman who looked at me askance got a fierce glare for her trouble.
“My apologies, Elizabeth. But I am very anxious to know what progress you have made.”
“Frankly, not a whole lot. Thomas hadn’t heard about the problem, but he promised to keep his ears open. I’m supposed to help a friend of his out with an exorcism tonight, tit for tat.” I dashed up the steps to the apartment building’s front door and pulled out my key. “And maybe tomorrow we can talk to some spirits.”
Henry waited for me to unlock the door before he stepped through. It’s funny, some ghosts really take to the whole “incorporeal” thing. Not Henry. With very few exceptions, he acts as if he’s still alive.
“Certainly. What of your parent’s library?”
My building is a walkup, and my apartment’s on the fourth floor. I started up the steps, timing my words with my breathing. “Mom and Dad are away, not sure when they’re coming back, and Corinna’s swamped. I’ll take a look myself but it’ll need to be Friday.” No classes on Friday. “Meantime I’ll call Aunt Catherine.”
I paused on the landing, catching my breath, and unlocked the front door. Henry trailed me as I glanced through my mail, hung up my coat, kicked my shoes into a corner. “Right now, though, Henry, I want you to go away.”
“Because I’m about to get in the shower.”
And if I hurried, I might even have time to make real food instead of ramen noodles. Humming, I made my way down the hall, eagerly anticipating a waterfall of scalding hot water. For a few minutes, I could forget about ghosts and just relax…