I cleaned my glasses on my shirttail to give me something to do while I thought. If this Carlyle ghost was holding on tight, as Rambin said, it had to be holding on to something. There’s always a connection between incorporeal spirits and the piece of corporeal world they haunt, something that binds that spirit to this world. A good banishing should have been able to purge the spirit from the house, unless it wasn’t the actual house keeping the ghost here. “Do you have anything that belonged to the man? Any personal objects?” I replaced my glasses and fished a ponytail holder from a pocket, pulling my hair out of my way.
The vampire shook his head. “The only thing left from back then other than the house itself is the son’s diary. It’s a hell of a read, too. Until the old man started acting crazy I thought about taking it to a publisher.”
Could that be it? Could the son have written so evocatively of his father that the man’s ghost was able to forge a link to the book? I’d never heard of anything like that but until twenty minutes ago I would have told you vampires weren’t real either. “Where’s the diary?”
“I left it on my nightstand. Why?” With his hands on his hips and a curious look on his face, Daniel Rambin did not look the least bit like a monster.
I explained my theory, having to speed it up when a pounding started on the door. The salt would hold, but we couldn’t hide in the bathroom forever. “Okay, I need to get to that diary. Can you draw the ghost away from me?”
“You want me to be bait?” I nodded. “Well, that’s a new one for me.” More pounding, then something crashed against the door. “Damn it. I love this house.” He looked frustrated, furious, a little heartsick. How old was he? How many homes had he owned? What made this one so special that he refused to give it up, even though he clearly had the money to live anywhere. A lot of questions, and I found myself hoping I’d get to know the answers. He may have been a vampire, but he seemed like a decent person. He ran a hand through his hair and nodded. “I’ll do my best. You ready?”
“Let’s do it, bubba.”
He reared his head back and gave me sharp look. “I don’t know about you calling me bubba.”
“You’ll get used to it.” I gave him a tentative pat on the arm. “Now, come on. Let’s get this over with. I need a drink.”
On the count of three Daniel flung the door open and ran, cussing at the top of his lungs like a madman. I bolted for the stairs and found his bedroom. Each side of his bed had a nightstand, both piled high with books and magazines. I went through the closest one first, finding a strange mix of Wired, Playboy, Cosmo, Vogue, and several paperback mystery novels. The other nightstand held more paperbacks, an ereader, several newspapers, and finally an old leather-bound journal. I skimmed a few pages to confirm it was what I needed.
Full of careful old-fashioned handwriting, the journal was well over a hundred years old. What a boon a discovery like this would be to a historian, what an incredible window into day to day life in that particular time and place. What a great shame to have to destroy it. Maybe if I removed it from the house, the ghost would leave. I could find someone at Vanderbilt or the University of Tennessee who’d want to study the journal.
And maybe the ghost would follow the journal and start tearing up some history department. Like it or not, I had to destroy this book. I dug my lighter out of my pocket, flicked it, got nothing. Shook it and examined it for fluid. It looked almost empty and probably wouldn’t light anymore. Spotting several candles around the room, I started searching for a lighter or matches but came up with nothing.
I heard more yelling from downstairs but couldn’t be sure if it was the ghost or the vampire. Then another crash of something breaking, followed by what was definitely the vampire swearing a blue streak. For a moment I considered what to do.
No one else was in the room. No one would see or know what I did.
I grabbed a candle off a shelf and a metal waste basket from a corner and sat on the edge of the bed. Moved everything off the nightstand to make room for the candle. Concentrating on the wick, I focused everything in me on pulling a flame out of it. Soon sweat rolled from my hairline down my face and I trembled with the effort. I felt a little sick to my stomach too but I got what I needed. The wick burst to life, giving me a nice healthy flame. I started ripping pages out of the journal, setting them on fire and dropping them into the garbage can.
By the time Daniel joined me I had a nice roaring fire in the waste basket. He kept his distance but looked pleased.
“I want to go through the house and check, but I’m pretty sure this worked.” I stayed seated, though. I felt like I’d trudged uphill through clinging mud.
“I think you’re right. It stopped breaking my stuff and it made this weird noise, almost like it was sad.”
“Guess he liked tormenting you.”
We watched the fire for a long moment in companionable silence. The vampire spoke first. “You mean what you said, about needing a drink? Cos I got the best private bar in the county downstairs.”
I took him up on his offer. After making sure the journal was nothing but ashes and the fire was out, we went downstairs.
He led me to the bar at the far side of the living room. I took a seat in one of the stools as he walked around. He turned off the Howlin’ Wolf CD then began mixing our drinks. “It’s early evening. Brunch by my watch, so I thought mimosas would be nice.”
He produced two champagne flutes, a bottle of the bubbly stuff, and a container from a small half-hidden fridge of orange juice that looked like he’d squeezed it himself. Next to all that he placed a single shot glass and a long stirring spoon. I watched as he poured the orange juice, then the champagne. He stirred the drinks gently with a steady hand, meeting my gaze with a slight smile. “You’re not scared of ghosts,” he said. He wasn’t asking.
I shook my head once. “No.”
“You don’t seem to be too scared of vampires either.” There was an unasked question in his voice.
I answered it. “I’m not scared of you. But you are the first vampire I’ve ever met.”
He replaced the spoon next to the shot glass and rested his hands on either side of our drinks. His blue eyes seemed to take a measure of me, of what I was made of. I’d already done the same to him so I couldn’t complain. “There’s two things you need to know about me, Roxie.”
“I’m not like other vampires.” He smiled, a warm friendly smile like a summer day. Then his fangs slid out in a quick motion. “But I’m still a vampire.”
I thought of my ability to see auras and ghosts. All the time I’d spent hanging out in graveyards. Using herbs and roots to do magic, throwing the bones for divination. I was no stranger to summer days but night was where I belonged. I picked up a glass and tipped it in a toast. “Here’s to long nights and strange friends,” I said with a grin.
Fangs retracted, he drew another container from the mini-fridge. Stuck it in a microwave behind the bar for thirty seconds, then filled the shot glass with its contents. Blood.
A nervous skitter ran through my stomach.
He stirred the shot of blood into his mimosa, then raised his glass to me. “Here’s to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
We drank our cocktails and talked more about his ghost. Relaxed, got to know each other a little, got comfortable in each other’s presence. I felt no fear at all. Then at one point he turned to the stereo and said, “Hey, you like Rascal Flats?”
I choked on my mimosa. A vampire that liked country music? “Bubba, now you’re scaring me.”