Stan and Ollie #5
SEARCH FOR MISSING TULIP HEIRESS CONTINUES
The headline screams at us from the front page of some online newspaper that Ollie’s managed to find, utilizing his uncanny skills—both Internet and otherwise. It’s hard to believe that when I first met him, he’d never even seen a computer. Now he’s better at using the damn thing than I am.
Plastered across page one is a photograph, and it’s not difficult to recognize the bride to be sitting in our office. I glance from the screen to the spirit, affirming her identity, at least in my own mind. Yes, it’s her, without a doubt. To be honest, she possesses no more color in person—so to speak—than she does in the black and white photo before us. Death is not very becoming to most people and she’s no exception to that rule.
I slip into my chair and peruse the story. It appears that Consuelo here is the only child of one Bodean Fairchild, a gentleman known throughout the South as the Tulip King, renowned for his innovative and unusual cross-breeding methods that have brought him great acclaim in the botanical world, and a great deal of revenue from his chain of florist shops that crisscross the country. Consuelo is—or should I say was—engaged to be married to Egbert Montauk, a geneticist in the employ of her father. A marriage of convenience, I can’t help but think. Money speaks loudly and possession of the same can smooth over a great many things.
The bride was last heard from on the day of the wedding, according to her distraught bridegroom. He talked to her by phone that morning. He offered to stop by her apartment, but she vetoed the idea and told him she’d see him at the church. She never arrived. Her concerned father drove to his daughter’s apartment. When she didn’t answer the door, he let himself in and found the apartment in disarray, no sign of Consuelo.
I glance up at Ollie. “Did you ask her what happened?” Seems an obvious question, but sometimes I guess I’m just master of the obvious.
He nods. “She doesn’t remember.”
That’s not unusual, we’ve found, in our experiences with the dead. Many don’t come through with memories completely intact. Not surprising. Death must rank as a pretty traumatic event in the scheme of things. And when you’re straddling that thin line between this world and the next, it really becomes understandable that certain things become lost in the ether.
Of course, that doesn’t make our jobs any easier. But at least we have some information to go on. And a starting point for our investigation.
Yep, I was right. Road trip ahead.
“Stan.” Ollie nudges me, concern in his voice. He nods toward our visitor, and I can see why. She’s beginning to shimmer, like a poorly tuned television picture. That just means her hold is slipping, and she’s too far from her body to maintain her grip in this place. If it weren’t for the attraction that Ollie exudes, she’d have never found us, but there’s something very special about him that draws them to him.
Still, we need to find out what we can. There’s no guarantee we’ll be able to find her again, when we reach her home town. Or that she’ll be in any condition to speak with us.
Ollie skirts the desk and hastens to the seat at her side, just as that damned cat leaps up into his lap then turns toward me with a hiss and a smirk—don’t even tell me cats can’t smirk, this is no ordinary feline—before settling down. I’d deal with her but we have other fish to fry.
“Try to remember what happened,” he gently encourages her. “You were getting ready for your wedding, weren’t you? Was anyone with you? Your mother? A friend, maybe? One of your bridesmaids?”
I take up a position behind Ollie, but I can see that it’s rapidly becoming a lost cause. She cocks her head and regards him with a faraway look in her eyes, even as she reaches out one hand toward the pampered princess; her fingers slide right through her. “I have to get to the church,” she moans. “Eggy must be wondering where I am.”
Eggy? I think I’d have to change my name.
“Do you remember your address? Where do you live?” I’m trying to get any bit of information we can before it’s too late, but all I receive for my pains is a scornful look, and then she suddenly winks out of existence. Poof! And she’s gone.
Well, damn. Guess we’re on our own. At least for now.
“Here, I made you the shake, you might as well enjoy it.” But before I can reach for the glass where I left it on the desk, Xylina has anticipated me and proffers it herself with a self-satisfied smirk.
“Thanks, Xy.” He takes it from her, then turns to me. “Thank you for making it, Stan.” Ollie flashes me a large smile, and my irritation fades, just like that. “Guess we should get packed.”
“If you think I intend to sit in the back seat,” Xylina fairly hisses at me.
“Who said you were coming, yer majesty?”I take a step closer to her, drawing up to my full height. Unfortunately, she has a few inches on me in that department. On us, I should say. I know I’m wasting my breath. Where he goes, she goes. And there’s nothing I can really do about it. But I still find myself protesting, just because it gives me a small measure of pleasure. And it lets her know just exactly where I stand.
“You’ll be more comfortable in the back seat, Xy.” Ollie attempts to soothe over the spoilt cat’s bruised ego. “Why don’t you pack us some food, Stan, and I’ll pack a suitcase?”
We each have our strengths.
Cortez, Mississippi, here we come.
to be continued
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