Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm kicked back in my booth, romancing my second Corona - or is it my third? - when I see Alise coming my way.

She slips in to sit across from me, a pensive look on her face. "Something on your mind, gorgeous?"

She smiles. "Still the charmer, Jack. Yes, I'm afraid I need your help again."

I grin. "I already told Stoney there's not much I can do to make hammocks more durable; maybe you should put him on a diet."

She blushes. "You'll never let me forget that, will you?"

"Never so long as I live - and you know what that means." I lean back against the seat. "So what's up, hon?"

"You know Rath's servant Laila?"

"Yeah, pretty thing. I like her a whole lot better than I like him. What about her?"

"Well… I am not the expert you are, but I keep thinking I see ghosts hovering near her."

"Uh-huh… you hadn't been imbibing spirits at the time? Sometimes that leads one to see a lot of things, spirits included."

"No, just a glass of wine now and then."

"Okay… how many? What do they look like?"

"There are two, a man and a woman. The man has curly dark hair, a mustache and an olive complexion. The woman looks like Laila herself, but older."

"You think they might be her family? Her parents?"

"I am afraid so, and if they are truly dead, then Laila serves that batard and endures his pettiness, his cruelties for no reason." She seems to reflect for a moment. "Once you die, that is as bad as it gets, oui?"

"Well, I guess it depends on what you believe, darlin'. That minister that's been harassing Rowan - he'd say things could get a lot worse; but I've never see anything to back that up."

"I am not - whatever you are, Jack. I don't suppose there is a name for it."

"No, I'm one of a kind, thank God."

"Could I get you to check things out? Perhaps what I see is born of a wish to free Laila from that brute; you could tell the difference."

"Yeah." I knock back the last of my Corona. "Is Laila still at Rowan's?"

"Yes, but I doubt she's up to receiving visitors. Rowan would know."

"Give her a call and find out. The sooner we check this out, the better."

Alise leans back, fishes her cell from her purse and speed-dials Rowan's number. It rings for a long time, long enough that I wonder if Rowan has called it a night; but finally there's an answer. I listen with only half an ear, knowing Alise will bring me up to date when she's done. The actual call takes less than a minute; then Alise looks up, smiling.

"Laila is heavily medicated for pain tonight, but Rowan says she can accept visitors tomorrow afternoon, so long as we're careful not to upset her."

"Uh-huh… Well, Allie, we're going to have to play our cards pretty close to the vest, then. I imagine learning her family is dead - if they are - might conceivably upset her. And if they've been dead for a while, you can expect fireworks when she does find out. Those Mediterranean types tend to have explosive tempers, I find."

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