I carried three things with me that day.
First, an iron coin. I wasn’t sure what the year was, or even the country of origin. The faces were worn nearly flat and there was only a hint of ridges on its circumference. I was told to punch a hole in it and wear it around my neck. And, so I did with a leather thong.
Next, I was told to get a vial of salt. I politely asked if a salt shaker would do, and I was quickly admonished. Also, the rubber stopper, once removed, made it easier to get the salt out. I surmised this was important.
The next was harder to explain. It was a vial of water.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Just take it,” she said, handing me a vial of clear water.
“It’s just water,” I said, “why can’t I just use bottled water?”
“It’s holy water,” she said.
“Like holy, with capital H, holy water?” I asked, “Like the guy upstairs?”
“How else do you get holy water?”
“You’re going to die screaming today and I’m going to laugh.”
“You’re not the nicest ghost are you?” I asked.
“Generally people don’t become ghosts under the best circumstance.”
“Okay, okay, give me the water,” I said as she handed me the vial.
“How can a ghost touch things?”
“I haunted a physicist that had a fascination with the supernatural. It’s his theory.”
“I’m sure that did his career wonders.”
“Well, the university thought he went mad and he lost his funding.”
“You’re really not one of those Casper types are you?”
“You’re getting off topic,” she said, “do you have the silver knife?”
I pulled the knife from my pocket. I placed a piece of tape over the edge to keep it from cutting through my pants.
“This thing?” I said, “what am supposed to do? Butter his dinner roll?”
“It’s pure silver. It’ll take down a werewolf if you stab him right?”
The look on my face must have told her that I wasn’t buying it as she added.
“Arthur Drake killed nine people and walked,” she said, “and there was hardly any evidence. And word is, he did at least ten more. I severely doubt he’s human. And, you were just going to waltz in and interview him.”
“I’ve interviewed killers before.”
“Back when you were a journalist. That was before the book deal. You’re soft now.”
“I’m not soft.”
“You talked to a ghost all night and didn’t realize anything was wrong.”
“Well, I was distracted.”
“I could tell.”
“Did you know I had this interview before I met you?’
“Who do you think put the idea in the editor’s ear?”
“How did you manage that?”
“You’ve seen Inception,” she said, “I put your books out. Whisper in his ear. Why don’t you get Jameson West to write the article? He’s got to be bored writing detective stories by now.”
“I’m not bored.”
“You are playing detective though.”
‘Because a ghost showed up and asked me to.”
“I didn’t have to work that hard.”
She kept twirling her hair. I wondered if she did that when she was alive.
“Are we all set?”
“Well, I can’t die a second time. But, I think we can prevent you from kicking the bucket. These will at least buy you some time.”
Later that night, I walked down to the little cafe in which I’d be interviewing Arthur Drake. He was surprisingly easy to get a hold of. I got a number from Frank, the editor setting everything up. Drake answered himself and seemed eager to do the interview.
I used to like being the first one there, so I could set up, and get the lay of the land, but I walked into the cafe to see Arthur Drake sitting in a booth near the back of the restaurant. The cafe was mostly empty; it was one of the reasons I picked it.
The air was colder than it should have been, but that was the only thing out of the ordinary. He kept facing forward as I approached, with only his eyes shifting to acknowledge I was there.
“Mr. Drake?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
I sat across from him and noticed that the salt shaker had been moved from the table. “High blood pressure?” I asked pointing to the missing salt.
His eyes narrowed, “Hypertension runs in my family.”
“I see,” I said, “have to take care of the heart.”
He hid it well but I saw the smallest grimace form. The hearts of all the victims had been cut out.
“Yes,” he said, “life is a precious thing.”
“I can pick nine people that would agree with you.”
“Getting down to brass tacks aren’t we?”
“I like to get to the point.”
“That’s refreshing. So many reporters want to beat around the bush.”
“I’m not a reporter.”
“Oh, I know exactly who you are Mr. West.”
I had to play cool but something about how he said my name made me shiver. It was like hearing the principal call your name when you were a child.
“Yes,” he said “the journalist turned detective novelist. I read one of your books. It was quite good.”
“Thank you,” I said. He may be a cold-blooded killer, but a fan’s a fan.
“For genre fiction.”
There it was. Everyone goes there. I was pretty sure this guy killed at least nine people, but this angered me the most.
“I’m working on a new book.”
“Are you? Trying for new literary heights are we?”
“I’m thinking true crime.”
“It’s about a guy that kills nine people and gets away with it. What’s more, the police seem to be afraid of going after him.”
“He seems terribly clever.”
“The only hard part is I have a theory that no one else is going to believe. Maybe there’s something no one else would understand.”
I saw a flicker in the shadows on the back wall near the bathrooms. Emma, my paranormal friend, was watching us. It also suddenly made sense why she was so interested in my interview.
“Have you ever met a woman with brown hair? About 5’3? And talks like she’s a character in an Aaron Sorkin movie?”
“That’s not one of the nine dead people.”
“I know. It’s another case. I think it might be connected,” I said.
“I think you might be wrong.”
That was a yes. He knew Emma. I was ninety percent sure he was the reason she was a ghost.
“Why did you kill her?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“How did you kill those nine people? Why are the police afraid of you?”
“I think the interview is over.”
“I think it’s just starting.”
“Well, you’re asking all the wrong questions.”
“What kind of questions should I be asking?’
“Why am I still breathing?, for one. Why hasn’t the notorious murderer pulled my lungs out through my chest? Why am I not sitting in a pool of my own blood right now?”
The small old man had lost the flat tone. He wasn’t pretending to be meek anymore.
I gulped but tried to play it cool.
“Why would I ask those kinds of questions?”
“You know what they didn’t put in the police report? I didn’t cut their hearts out like everyone says. They pulled their own hearts out. They just reached in and busted their own rib cages, and pulled their hearts from their chests.”
“Why would they do that? What are you?”
“My, my who have we been talking to? What am I? I’m a monster. I’m the thing that goes bump in the night. I’m every nightmare you’ve ever had. I made them give me their heart, and they’d watch me eat it in front of them. And then watch them exsanguinate on the ground.”
“Why would they do that?”
“I’d possess them. I can make them do whatever I want afterward. They belong completely to me. That’s the reason your silly little police force wouldn’t dare touch me. If you control the right people. You can do whatever you want. The only reason I haven’t made you claw your own eyes out is that you reek of iron. Who told you about that little trick?”
I touched the iron coin around my neck. I was glad Emma told me about it. Now, Drake was getting out of his seat. I reached into my pocket and pulled the vial of salt. I popped the top and poured a thin long line across the table.
“You can’t cross a line of salt.”
“Someone did their research.”
I then pulled the silver knife from my pocket. I ripped the tape off.
Drake snickered, “what’s that? Oh, you moron. That’s for werewolves. If you come near me with that I’ll cut your tongue out with it.”
I dropped the knife on the table.
“Now,” Drake said, “let’s finish this. I have other places to be.” He started to get up again.
“You poor idiot. Someone didn’t explain everything. You need to be in a circle. I can walk right around that line. And, just because you can’t be possessed doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with you.”
The lights started to dim. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed us.
“Oh it’s much too crowded in here,” he said. With a wave of his hand, the seven people in the cafe dropped. I heard the tray smash against the floor where the waitress fell.
His eyes glowed red. I was scrambling to get out of the booth.
Suddenly Emma appeared.
“James he’s a demon,” she yelled.
Drake turned and saw her, “You?”
“The holy water James!” she cried.
I remembered the vial I had made fun of earlier. I grabbed it yanking the rubber stopper off with my teeth. When Drake looked back to me, I tossed the water on him. His skin burned and let this terrible shriek out.
I jumped out of the booth and started running towards the door. Emma was next to me, “How do we get away?”
“There is no getting away from a demon. But, I know somewhere we can hide.”