Kandy-4-Peter 9. Ghost in the Restaurant 3

Kandy’s fingers wrapped around the sword handle. “Does it look like I need help?”

When faced with a threat, one should respond to such a question with a shake of a head, but Peter had another thought. Whatever trouble Kandy was in, it was obvious to him that she needed something. And he needed rid of her strange ghostly interruptions. This was his restaurant, and he wasn’t about to let some possessive, confused Itoril wreck his business.

“I have your blood,” said Peter. He didn’t actually have the blood or the serum since the canister had been stolen, but he didn’t want to anger Kandy any more than necessary. Anyway, he intended to get the canister back.

“Get out of my home, Peter Gray!”

The sound of the sword ringing free was cut off by a crushing silence, and Peter fell back in his chair. Kandy lunged through a churning fog filling the room, and the desk became pale. The walls paled as well until he could see through them. The room was a ghost except for Kandy and himself. His chair crashed onto the floor flipping him sideways onto the nearly transparent floor. His eyes bulged at the sight of apparitions within the dining room below.

Peter glanced up in time to see the blade flashing into ethereal blur, and the sword wielder melt away into dark fog. As Kandy disappeared, the room returned to its normal color. Sound burst into his ears; clamor from the dining room and the booming laughter of a man.

Feeling like puking his guts out, he climbed to his feet.

Standing in the doorway, arms folded, Tara sneered on the verge of laughing. Her cruel gaze pierced into Peter with a pang to his heart. On the side of her face, just under her hairline, blood slid down forming a trail to her her cheek. Like a valve gradually opening, the stream widened, dark crimson splattering onto her blouse.

Peter’s jaw dropped open. Tara didn’t seem to notice her injury and began to laugh.

“What’s the matter, little brother?” said Tara. Head rolling back, she laughed sharply. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Tara,” said Peter. Stomach churning, he coughed and held his gut. “What the hell happened?”

Tara cackled, the crisp laughter fading away into a silent mime. And then she faded, too. The pale ghost stood there, shoulders shaking and belly jiggling, until a white wisp curled around in the air in her place. A second later, the wisp was no more.

Taking a deep breath, Peter willed his body into motion. He ran down the stairs. “Tara can’t be a ghost,” he said. “She just can’t be.” He galloped to the front, darting around Laura carrying three full plates in her arm, and raced to the group photograph hanging on the wall. He counted everyone, the entire crew, all except Tara whom had taken the photograph from beside the bar.

Nine fell in beside him. “What’s wrong, Peter?” Her voice cracked with worry.

“Tara took the photo,” said Peter. He met Nine’s concerned gaze. “Remember? On opening night. Tara took the picture with Beth’s phone.”

“No, Peter,” said Nine. Slowly, she shook her head.

“She had too! We’re all here.”

“Beth propped her phone on the end of the bar,” said Nine.

Peter shook his head. He couldn’t have imagined Tara taking the photograph.

“She set it to timer,” said Nine, “so we all could be in the picture.”

Arms crossed, Laura crept closer flashing a curious gaze between Nine and Peter.

“What about my sister?” He recalled how Nine had ignored Tara earlier outside the office, but his thoughts turned back to opening night. Hadn’t anyone spoken to Tara. Nine had been right there with the coffin. “Tara was there an opening night. She was with us.”

Face growing long, Nine shook her head. “I’ve never met your sister, Peter.”

He glanced at Laura, and she immediately shook her head. No one in the restaurant had ever spoken to Tara, but him.


If you haven’t yet, you may read the prelude, Old Thyme, to learn about Nine’s family history, or begin Nine’s chapter.

Time Wraith 7. Wraith 3

Katana held low, I faced Peter. He stood there, holding me with his intense gaze. He looked like a marine with a solid build and an unwavering presence. Realizing I still held the saya at my side, I released it, and as I raised my sword with both hands, I leaned into the shadows between worlds.

Silence fell like rain washing the world away.

Fading into pale etherealness, the saya drifted on a current of time. Peter melted away, a smoky wisp gobbled up by the quiet. The hallway was my translucent window on a foggy world.

Creeping through the ghost restaurant, I peered through walls and the floor, searching for Peter. I spotted Laura’s ghost in the dining area along with three other souls. Pausing, I gazed into a room, once empty, but now full of ethereal furniture. A table stood in the center surrounded by six chairs. Behind the wall, a sofa so pale its texture hid on the other side of the shadows. A refrigerator stood in the far corner like a taunting specter.

I had stepped backward in time again.

Glancing back, I searched the empty ghost hallway for a clue: the wraith, smoke in the paleness, footprints. Anything.

Nothing.

I crept along the hall glancing in all directions for anything out of the ordinary. As I approached the closed office door, a disturbing feeling rippled through me. I recalled following the wraith, how it paused, a smoky disembodied dress turning towards the formerly empty room, and floating along the hall again.

I passed through the door like a ghost into the office.

There, I shuddered realizing I had followed the wraith’s precise steps.

Spinning around, I scrambled back towards my world, but the shadows held me. Focusing on the scent of damp air, the routine creak of the building, and the taste of blood, I dove through the shadows. Below me, Laura’s movements sped up. She walked to the stairs remaining a ghost. The floor gained some color like a haze blocking my view of the young woman. Suddenly, the shadows released me.

Ringing exploded in my ears, dampness clung to me, and Laura’s scent tickled my nose. Falling against, the closed door, I gasped. The ringing faded, and I could hear footsteps in the hall.

“Kandy,” said Laura. She tapped on the door. “Are you okay?”

It hadn’t been Peter escaping me here in this office, but my tumbling through time that had resulted in meeting Peter again in hall twisting around each other in time. Nor was it Peter I had been following in the hall. And back when I had been sitting on the stage, no wraith had lured me backward in time. I had simply dozed off.

I opened the door, finding Laura’s bright expression, and let go of the world.

As Laura faded into a ghost, her expression grew long with fear as she witnessed a smoky darkness.

I was a wraith lost in a sea of time.➥

"Kandy Wraith"


Kandy’s story continues in Vampire. If you haven’t yet, you may read the prelude, Old Thyme, or begin Nine’s story.

Time Wraith 7. Wraith 2

It twirled around, a hazy shape like a disembodied dress, moving in the hall. Sweeping one way, it turned facing the wall, spilling smoking tendrils onto the floor, and glided back the other way. A short distance, and the ghostly gown paused. Twirling about, it disappeared through the closed door into the office.

The wraith seemed lost as if trying to find his way through the murkiness within time and space. The creature never grew tired. I could ghost-walk with the best of my kind, but nothing compared to this wraith. All I could think to do was follow him around the restaurant with my sword at hand.

Pulling my phone from my pocket, I checked the time. Nine-eleven in the evening on the second day of March. Twelve minutes had passed since I had first spotted the wraith.

Risking detection, I stepped into the shadows. Silence covered me like a blanket, and color fled the world until I stood within an ethereal hallway. I gazed through the floor spotting the ghostly form of Laura sitting at one of the tables within the dining room. She moved in slow motion lifting a fork to her mouth. Ahead, beyond the closed door, a figure sat behind the desk. He appeared less like a wraith now, and more like a ghost of a man. Another step, I crossed back, the world returning with a pop in my ears, and hid behind the door.

The wall snapped sending a flutter of crackles through the old building. I glanced at my phone again, noting I still stood within the same minute.

Steve Reynolds had taught me how to take shortcuts through time into what he had called, the quiet place. Ghost-walking forward in time had become as normal as running, but walking backward was beyond my skill. I believed wraiths saw time differently. Laura’s backward coming and going couldn’t be due to stolen memories. Perhaps this wraith had pulled me backward with him. If only Steve was still around to answer this riddle.

Slowly, I turned the knob and pushed the door open.

Instead of the wraith, I found a man with a familiar face dressed in a white shirt and black necktie. He sat behind the desk, hunched over resting his elbows on the desktop behind the computer monitor. He watched me with trepidation.

I felt certain I’d seen him before. “Have we met?”

Kandy-4-Peter 9. Ghost in the Restaurant 2

Peter didn’t know what to think. Maybe his blood should have been tested sooner, but for what? Occasionally spotting a ghost could seem almost normal for a healthy person. The old former hotel, like many old buildings in Roseland, was thought to be haunted. Other than being a little banged up, and feeling like an idiot for tumbling down the stairs, Peter felt good. Besides, the doctor had given him clearance without any concerns. A blood test wouldn’t hurt, though. There might be something to that powder from the coffin after all.

Pulling Nine close, Peter wrapped his arms around her. Tongues dancing together, they kissed. He didn’t taste any blood in her mouth, nor did he expect to. Nine felt so natural in his arms, he didn’t want to let go. But this was becoming a bad habit. Willing himself to pull back, he stepped away at arms length. The smile on his face refused to go away.

Nine blushed, briefly, and shivered. She showed him that crooked smile he liked so much, nose pinched and a devious look in her eye. From her pocket, she produced a card colored deep violet with an ink drawing, squiggly lines curving about each other forming the petals of a rose and slender lines forming a stem.

“For you, Peter,” said Nine. She held the card up close to his face. Within the top of the stem, he found a tiny red heart.

Feeling a little like Valentine’s Day in junior high school, Peter blushed. Smiling, he accepted the card. Nine’s darker side often made softer moments like this seem surprising. However, black for the rose reminded him even her romantic side came with a touch of darkness.

“You made this?” he asked.

She nodded her head.

Over Nine’s shoulder, in the hall, Tara glared at them.

Setting the card down on the desk, he pushed it behind the PC monitor while keeping his eye on his sister.

With a wiggle of her fingers, Nine turned and left the office. Tara stepped aside, and Nine marched by her without a word ignoring the icy stare. Melting into the doorway, Tara loomed like death warmed over.

“I suppose you’re sleeping with all the waitresses now,” said Tara.

Peter winced. It was just like her to drain all his happiness away, but they weren’t children anymore. And this much cruelty was abnormal even for her. “Hey, I don’t appreciate you talking that way at work.”

“So, it’s true then.”

“Please, go, Tara. Leave your wine and just go.”

With a huff, Tara spun away and stomped down the stairs.

At the other end of the hall, a woman stood there staring up the stairwell. In her hand, she held a sword by the dark scabbard just below the round guard. It appeared much like the Japanese Samurai sword that he had found in the coffin, a gift from Steve Reynolds, but this sword couldn’t be the same. Could it? The woman didn’t look like a thief. She appeared at ease, studying the stairs. When she turned looking in his direction, he recognized her at once.

Slow, careful steps, Kandice Knight began easing her way towards him. Holding the sword by the scabbard to her side with one hand, she grabbed the sword by the handle with the other. She appeared determined to use the weapon, and Peter felt a his stomach drop.

“I already told you,” said Kandy. Her voice sounded distant, muffled even. “I don’t need your help.”

Not recalling speaking to her before, he raised his hands and shook his head. He tried to think of something to say to calm her down, but words were lost to him.

Kandy’s eyes narrowed in determination, and her silent steps quickened. “Now,” she said, “get the hell out of my home!”

Peter backpedaled into the office, and Kandy faded away like a ghost melting into the air. Banging the corner of the desk caused a loud squeal. Spinning around, he fell into his chair.

His heart thundered.

What did she mean by getting out of her home? This was his restaurant. Kandy seemed like a ghost, but she wasn’t really. She was Itoril. According to Tigris, some Itoril could move in ways through time that they seemed to disappear. Like taking a wormhole, he thought, but Tigris hadn’t been able to explain it well to him. Could it be possible that Kandy actually lived here, but somehow she rarely crossed paths with him?

Glancing about, he searched the office expecting Kandy to reappear out of her wormhole, or whatever it was. Voices from the restaurant below came through the floor like muted mumbles among clattering of plates and one man’s bellowing laughter. The room remained empty.

Letting out a long breath, Peter envisioned Nine’s grinning face while his heartbeat slowed down. Even in his head, Nine appeared playfully wicked. He liked the way she teased him, and how her crooked grin told him how much she enjoyed it. He thought he should do something for her. Go out on a real date, something secret so others don’t think he’s showing favoritism, or worse, taking advantage of Nine by holding her job over dating. With so few employees, one fewer this week, he couldn’t afford any misunderstandings.

Just beyond the doorway, dark smoky tendrils billowed up out of the floor, a swirling mass forming a human-like figure, a dark ghost. As the darkness faded, color appeared until she was plain as day.

Kandice Knight stood at the doorway, her sword in one hand, and with the other, she reached out. She appeared to be turning an invisible doorknob, and pushing the door open slowly as if the door had been closed.

Tingles raced down Peter’s neck.

Not until the ghost door was fully open did Kandy make eye contact with him.

“Kandy,” said Peter. There was something he was about to tell her, but it slipped away.

“Have we met?” asked Kandy. Her voice sounded even more distant like she spoke from another country. At least she appeared friendlier than before with a calm, curious expression. The sword in her hand still looked threatening even within its scabbard. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m Peter Gray.”

“Yes, I know that name.” Kandy bit her lip. “I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?”

“Yes, a few minutes ago. In the hall.”

Her expression darkened.

“Peter Gray,” said Kandy, her voice becoming stern. Her free hand moved slowly reaching for the sword handle. “Why are you in my home?”

“I’m here to help you, Kandy. That’s what Steve Reynolds wanted.” Exactly how he was supposed to help, he still wasn’t certain about. Somehow it involved blood and venom.

Her fingers wrapped around the sword handle. “Does it look like I need help?”

Time Wraith 7. Wraith 1

"katana"

Sitting on the edge of the stage, I gazed over the dusty tables in the dining room and strummed my guitar. I had tried playing my favorite tune, but it was like the notes worked against me. Strange, seeing how I had played like the devil at Red’s without much effort. Music usually came easy to me. It might have had something to do with the state of my mind. I practiced the basics, slowly moving through the chords until I played a quiet, half-forgotten song.

I began to wonder if I’d ever actually escaped my Purgatory Pain. Everything here in Roseland seemed real enough. It was the strange little details. How my roommate, Laura, remembered events unfamiliar to me, and how I recalled things in this former hotel unknown to her. And there’s the disappearing scar where I had bitten her. God, shit wasn’t supposed to work like that.

My guitar threw a fit, squealing over the speakers. After the dining room quieted down, I continued playing the song.

I thought I had left the wraith behind in purgatory, and it still seemed likely so. I felt a presence on this side of the shadows, right here in the restaurant. The more I felt him, the more I began to believe this was another wraith entirely.

It was time to get answers, know my enemy, and find a suitable weapon.

The front door opened and banged shut. Clonking in her most irritable fashion, Laura entered the dining hall with a bag over her shoulder and a long slender item tucked in the crook of her arm like an unused cane wrapped in loose, dark fabric. “Good evening, Kandy,” she said. Stopping at the nearest table, Laura set her bag down. “You’re getting better.”

No, I was playing irrefutably worse than I had in years. Like struggling at a lesson, I continued plucking my way through the song.