"How do you sterilize a building's emotions?"By the time the women returned to the station wagon, the car's clock read midnight. Brenna helped Missy sit down in the driver's seat, the injured woman's leg still outside. She found the first aid kit in the back and handed it to Missy. As the injured woman tended to her wounds, Brenna gathered all the items Missy had tossed in her earlier search. "Going to live?" she called as she closed the tailgate.
"A dangerous haunted beach house?"
"Missy, don't move."
"Maybe," Missy said, feeling more normal. "Whose dumb idea was this?"
"Why didn't you talk me out of it?"
Brenna smiled. "Because I was lusting after a hot guy."
"Matt's hot, huh?" Missy laughed. "Ready to go home?"
"Sure. Are you able to drive?"
"I better be." Missy swung her legs in under the steering wheel. "Let's go."
Brenna jumped into the passenger seat and buckled up. "Ready when you are."
Missy turned the Volvo around. "Feeling any better?"
"Other than my back being sore, yeah. Thanks, Missy."
"Anytime. However, I owe your sister a smack across the head."
"Gracie called you?"
"From your phone, too, I might add."
Brenna sighed. "Don't hit her too hard. She did call you. Probably the best thing she could have done."
"What the hell was she thinking?"
"Probably not much." Brenna shrugged. "Her plan for the afternoon was to get drunk. I'd rather have you around, drunk or sober, than my sister in any mood."
"Can't blame you."
"You just don't know Gracie like I do, Missy. I grew up around her. She's basically good."
Missy raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, right."
"Okay, wrong word. 'Decent'. Or how about 'normal'? Maybe the only normal one of us in the family."
"I still want to smack her."
"Sure, but not so hard, okay?"
Missy returned Brenna home shortly after two in the morning. Brenna yawned as she unlocked the front door. She crept in, not wanting to disturb anyone. As she placed her foot down on the first stair to go up to her room, she heard her father say softly, "Brenna?"
Brenna froze. "Hi, Dad. Did I wake you?"
"Is everything okay?" Her father sat up on the couch. "You didn't call."
"I forgot my phone." Brenna stepped off the stair. "Sorry."
Gary got up and walked into the dim front light. "Where did you go?"
"Missy heard about a haunted beach house up the coast." Brenna shrugged.
"And was it?"
"Oh, yeah, it was. Poor guy."
"He had to be helped along?" Gary pulled his daughter in to hug her. Hearing Brenna wince, he lowered his arms. "Bren, you're hurt."
Brenna held her arms tight around her father, not wanting to let go of him. "It's nothing, Daddy. Just tossed through a wall. But it was a weak wall."
Trying not to make his daughter's injuries worse, Gary wrapped his arms around her waist. "It was a wall, Brenna." He kissed the brunette's forehead. "Call Dr. Womack first thing in the morning, okay?" He let Brenna go.
"Okay, Daddy." Brenna gave her father a quick peck on the cheek. "You better get to bed. You have work in the morning."
"Yes, dear." Gary crept up the stairs to avoid waking his youngest girl.
After seeing that her father made it up to his bedroom, Brenna slipped into the kitchen. She opened the fridge to grab the orange juice. When she closed the door, her mother was standing beside her. "Hi, Mom," Brenna said without looking.
"You're up late."
"I just got in, okay?" Brenna got out a glass for her drink.
"Two nights in a row." Joni folded her ghostly arms across her chest. "What bar did she drag you to this time?"
Brenna set the juice down. "There's this great strip club over in Tijuana. I got lots of tips. Enough to pay for a new computer."
"Brenna." Joni's tone brooked no argument.
Brenna sighed. "There wasn't a bar, Mom. I was up the coast hunting ghosts, like I'm supposed to be doing. 'Who you gonna call?' and all that."
Joni bristled at the Ghostbusters reference. "Bren, the Soul Blade--"
Brenna cut her mother off. "It's an important responsibility that shouldn't be mocked or otherwise made fun of. It's my most important duty, whether I like it or not." She returned to pouring herself a glass of juice. "Did I miss anything?"
"No." Not one to be undaunted easily, Joni continued, "But you still have to take it seriously."
"Ma'am, I think you're pushing the lass a little much." Brenna turned to see Bertram Stanford manifest in front of her. "With all respect, she's doing well as Bladekeeper."
"This is what I mean, Brenna."
Brenna forced a smile to her face. "Hi, Bert. Mom, this is Bertram Stanford, who came to get me this morning. Bert, this is my mother, Joni Halliday." Brenna returned the jug of juice to the fridge. "I see you two have a lot to talk about. I'll leave you to it." She picked up her glass. "I'm going to bed."
Brenna stopped. "Look, I've had the day from hell today. All I want to do right now is get myself to bed so this fucking day can finally end." She looked over at Stanford's shocked expression. "Er, pardon my French?" While both ghosts were stunned into silence, Brenna made good her escape up to her room. It was only by the time she was halfway up the stairs when she heard her mother and Stanford begin arguing.
Brenna woke up with the sun streaming into her room. She squinted as her eyes adjusted. Her back felt like a massive bruise, making her feel stiff. Brenna rolled out of bed. Her clothes from the previous night were still strewn on the floor. She gathered them up to toss into her laundry hamper, stopping only to check the t-shirt she wore last night. The back of the shirt had several tears across it. Brenna flung it aside, no sense washing it if she was just going to toss it. Her skirt seemed to have survived, though. All it needed was a good washing to be as good as new.
Once her floor was clean, Brenna picked out clothes for the new day. She opened her bedroom door only to spot a piece of paper taped to the wall across the hall. Curious, the young brunette took the paper off the wall and unfolded it. After a few moments of finding the right distance to hold the paper from her eyes, she read the note, a reminder to call her doctor. Brenna refolded the note and set it down on the bookcase.
The shower she took helped her wake up fully. As she dressed, she checked her back in the mirror. Most of the cuts and scrapes were minor and already mostly healed. One long scratch still looked nasty. Brenna finished dressing and returned to her room. On her door was another note, this time on a sticky-note. Again, she had to find the right distance to be able to read her father's handwriting. The note again reminded her to call her doctor, with an added memo to wear her reading glasses. "Yes, Daddy," she said.
Brenna tossed her nightgown into her room then went downstairs to get to the kitchen. Sitting on the island counter was another note accompanied by her cell phone, address book, and glasses. "Okay, Dad. I get the message already." Putting on her glasses, Brenna looked through her address book for Dr. Womack's number.
Grace entered the kitchen as Brenna picked up the phone handset. "Were you just calling Dad?" the younger Halliday girl asked.
Brenna held the handset up so her sister could hear the dial tone. "No." She started punching in the numbers for her doctor.
Grace turned away. "Yep, she's now talking to living people not here. Soon she'll be talking to herself."
Drawing on years of experience of ignoring her sister, Brenna paid no attention to Grace. She heard the line being picked up at the other end and the doctor's receptionist answering. "Hi, yes, it's Brenna Halliday. I need to make an appointment."
"What is the appointment for? General check-up? Something specific?"
"Something specific, yes."
"Can you say what it is?" the receptionist asked.
Brenna floundered for a moment, trying to answer the question. "Um, it's, um, it's hard to say."
"Ma'am, I need to put something down."
"It's hormonal, I suppose."
"Hormonal." The receptionist's tone carried her disbelief. "I'll write that down. The next open spot on Dr. Womack's calendar is in three weeks."
Brenna's heart fell. "Three weeks? Nothing sooner?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am, that's the earliest I have. Can I write you in for then?"
"Yes, please. But can you check with the doctor to see if she can fit me in sooner?"
"Is it an emergency?"
"Yes. No. It's-- It's complicated."
"I'll talk to the doctor. Can I get your phone number, please?"
Brenna gave over the details the receptionist needed. After a few more minutes to finish setting up the appointment, she hung up. She gave her a head a slight shake. After a quick search of the kitchen for paper and pencil, she picked up the phone again, this time dialing a long distance number. She heard the other end get answered. "Hello, Aunt Dawn? It's Brenna."
"Hey, Bren, it's Summer. Mom's out right now. What's up?"
"Hi, Summer," Brenna greeted. "Does your mom still have all those old books about magic?"
Summer laughed, a light trill. "She's had to buy another bookcase to hold the latest ones she bought. Why? Something juicy going on?"
"Not sure yet. Let's just call it weird, okay?"
"Okay. It's weird. What's so weird about it."
Brenna smirked at the humor. "I found a body in a room that had all its emotions sterilized out of it."
"No way! You found a body! Rae is so going to have a fit when she hears about that! Did you get to talk to the guy's ghost?"
"No ghost. Well, no new ghost. But the ghost that was there felt something odd happening and found me."
"What did you want from Mom? Maybe I can do it. Classes are over and my job's boring as hell. I could use the stimulation."
"Sure." Summer's enthusiasm was starting to infect Brenna. "I need to know if there's some sort of magic or ritual or entity or anything that could remove the emotions from a room or destroy a ghost. I think there's something more happening, but I have no idea what."
"I'll get right on it. Want me to email what I find out to you?"
"If you can, please and thanks."
"Anytime, Bren. I'll let Mom know you called. Bye!"
Brenna hung up the phone. As she got up off the stool to get breakfast, the telephone rang. The young brunette picked up the handset before it trilled a second time. "Hello?"
"Hey, Brenna?" Matt said at the other end.
Brenna felt her cheeks and ears grow warm. "Matt, hi."
"I'm just calling to find out how you're doing."
"Better. Matt, about yesterday--" The memory of being in his strong but tender arms resurfaced.
The police officer cut her off. "Don't worry about it. Your father had a talk with me about what happened."
"A talk? What sort of talk?"
"About the hard time you had when your mom died and how finding that woman yesterday might have brought back bad memories."
Relief flooded through Brenna. "Oh, yeah, bad memories."
"Maybe I can take you out for dinner tonight to make up for what happened yesterday?"
"Dinner? Matt, I--" The call waiting signal interrupted. "I have to take this call. Can you hold on?" Before Matt could answer, Brenna answered the incoming call. "Hello?"
"Hi, this is Dr. Womack calling for Brenna Halliday."
"Hi, it's me, Brenna. Thanks for calling back."
"Tina said you called about an emergency hormonal problem? Brenna, does this have to do with your mother's legacy?"
"Thank you for calling back, Dr. Womack. Yes, it's the Blade. The part that wants me to have children."
"Your prescription should still be good for another six weeks. What's happening? Is it still working?"
"Not well," Brenna squeaked. "I mean, I didn't jump him, but it took an effort."
"I see. Okay, come in for five this evening. I'll see if there's something I can find for you."
Brenna nodded. "Five o'clock, okay. I'll be there. Thanks, Doctor." She switched back to Matt. "Hi, Matt? Sorry. Dinner, right?"
"Yes. I can pick you up at six at your place."
"Oh, can we make it later? I have a doctor's appointment and it could be late. Maybe eight instead?"
"Sure, Bren. I'll pick you up at eight. See you then!"
"Great! Thanks, Matt."
"No problem. Oh, and your tail light is fixed. I finished it yesterday.
"Oh, thank you, Matt." Brenna smacked herself mentally for gushing.
"Any time, Bren. I better go. I'm still on duty. See you tonight! Bye."
"Bye." Brenna hung up the phone, smiling. Just wait til Missy heard about-- Brenna remembered Missy, her leg, and the scratches the ghost left. Guilt starting to overwhelm her, she picked up her cell phone and punched the speed dial for her friend. She heard a groggy greeting as her friend picked up her phone. "Hi, Missy, it's Brenna. I'm not waking you up, am I?"
"I should be awake anyway." Missy groaned. "Man, my leg hurts."
"How is it?"
"The doctor stitched it up last night. I went to the ER. No infection, though."
"What about you? How's your back?"
"Stiff. No stitches, though."
"Always good news."
Brenna couldn't hold it in anymore. "Even more. Matt asked me to dinner tonight!"
"Don't you dare squee over the phone."
"Can you believe it? He asked me to dinner!"
"Call your doctor, okay? I'm not picking up the pieces tonight. I have my own plans."
"Already called her. She's going to fit me in this evening."
"Great! Look, Bren, I better get dressed and take care of my leg. Give me a call tonight when you get home and tell me all the juicy details then, okay?"
"Okay. Talk to you later, Missy."
"Bren, you're the goddamn ghost expert, not me."
"You're studying to become a lawyer. Shouldn't thinking evil come naturally by now?"
"Let the cops handle it."
"Maybe it's not the Blade that wants him."