Kristi Thiessen, Ayel Lindeman, and Kieu Vo joined together to create LTV Paranormalists, a partnership dedicated to investigating hauntings and convincing the cause, be it spectral or fae, to move on. They have access to specialized help - Aidan Lockhart, who has security and private investigation certificates, and Ginger, a fae discovered during their first case.
Kristi stepped up to the barista. "Hi, Ayel!"
The tall blonde woman behind the counter repressed a groan. "What can I get you, Kristi?"
"A pot of herbal tea, please." Kristi searched through her purse for her debit card. "When do you go on break?"
Ayel checked the clock on the wall. "In half an hour, at the soonest. Depends on the crowd. Why? And how did you know where to find me?"
"Your sister told me."
"Because of course she did."
"We were her age once. Anyway, I've got a client coming. We have a client coming."
"You and me. LTV Paranormalists." Kristi beamed. "I asked our client to come here to discuss his problem."
Ayel glanced at the short line forming behind her business partner. "Let me get your tea. Herbal, right?"
The blonde woman filled the order, setting down a black pot, tea steeping inside, along with a white cup and saucer. Once Kristi paid, Ayel worked at getting the rest of the queue's orders made. Kristi stepped aside, staying close to the cash without getting in anyone's way. She watched Ayel as the blonde dashed around behind the counter.
With the queue dealt with, Ayel returned to Kristi. "So, today's not good for me. I'm the only one here." Ayel brushed back a stray blonde lock. "I don't know when help is arriving."
"And are you settled in yet? Ginger's getting a little awkward at home. Tiffany almost discovered her."
"And it's going to be impossible to explain why I have a naked elf frolicking in the backyard. She doesn't listen to me."
Kristi laughed. "Sounds like a cat."
"Except she doesn't purr when held." Ayel pointed at the pot of tea. "Better take the tea out. Unless you like your tea stronger than a double espresso."
"Thanks. I'll be in the back if the client asks for me."
Kristi picked up her teapot, cup, and saucer and disappeared into the back of the coffee shop. She found a seat where should could watch people coming and going. The afternoon crowd was small, though high school students started to drift in. Kristi took off her light spring jacket, letting it fall between her and the back of her chair. She filled her teacup, the liquid still steaming. Her ears perked up on hearing her first and last name. Ayel appeared, leading a man to Kristi's table, then rushed back to the counter.
"Hi!" Kristi got to her feet. She extended her hand to the newcomer. "I'm Kristi."
The man, tall with short dark hair and two days of stubble on his chin and cheeks, shook the tawny-haired woman's hand. "Alex. Alex Klein. Hi. We spoke on the phone?"
Kristi gave Alex a warm smile, trying to soothe him. "We did."
"Are we waiting for your partner?"
"The barista who brought you back here was her. She's not able to take her break right now. I'll let her know everything you tell me."
Alex glanced back along the path taken to get to Kristi's table. "Are you sure you'll be able to focus on my problem."
"Of course." Kristi waved at the chair opposite her. "Please, sit." The tawny-haired woman waited for Alex to sit down before she returned to her chair. "Now, you said on the phone that there was something, er, unusual happening at your home?"
"My business, actually," Alex said. He looked around the room. "Are you sure I can talk about it here?"
"You don't have to be specific. We both know what sort of work my partners and I do." Kristi reached over to pat Alex's arm. "Just tell me what's happening. When did the problem start?"
Alex sighed. "Two weeks ago. I think. I mean, it only became a problem last Monday, but there were things going odd leading up that makes sense now. Not that any of this makes sense."
Kristi leaned forward, her focus entirely on her potential client. "What's happening? Are we looking at staplers moving around in an office? Maybe faint laughter when the lights are out when no one else is around? Flickering lights?"
"Not staplers, but, yeah, stuff's getting moved around. Heavy stuff. Printers dragged until their cables are stretched. Cabinets turned around so the drawers can't be opened. And it can't be one prankster. All that is too heavy for one man, not in the time he'd have to move everything."
"Did anything change in the weeks before the odd happenings started?"
"That's it. Where I work, we handle all sorts of packages coming in and out. And my boss is an art collector." Alex let his head drop. "Nothing broke, yet. But people are getting scared and we're losing time putting everything back proper."
"The art, what do you know about it?"
Alex shrugged. "It's art, you know? Some of it matches the carpets, some of it looks decent, and some of it is butt ugly. Hey, it's not my money, right? As long as I get paid, the boss can spend his cash however he wants, right?"
Kristi nodded. She saw Ayel approaching. "Alex, this is my partner, Ayel Lindeman. One of my partners."
"Hi." Ayel pulled over a chair from a neighbouring table. "Sorry about that. Just got some help in. What did I miss?"
"Things at Alex's work are getting moved around. Started two weeks ago."
Ayel pulled out a small notebook from her apron. "And was there anything new that came in just before that?"
Alex faced Ayel. "Like I told your partner here, we get all sorts of stuff coming in and out."
"And Alex's boss likes buying artwork," Kristi added.
Ayel jotted a few notes. "Is it possible to get a list of what's come in and hasn't left yet? And maybe photos of the new art?"
"I don't know," Alex said. "Some of what we get is private, you know?"
"We keep all our work confidential," Kristi said. "We will destroy any record of what's in your shop if you want."
Ayel nodded. "And we'll sigh a non-disclosure agreement. Nothing will get leaked from us. We just need to know what sort of history of the items passing through your shop. Don't open anything sealed, especially if that will get you into trouble. Routing information may be enough for those."
"I can try. Is your email secure?"
Kristi and Ayel exchanged a look. "I'd have to ask our other partner. She's the techie. What if I gave you a memory stick to store the files on?"
"I suppose that will work."
"Thanks." Ayel raised her pen, poised to keep writing. "Is it possible for us to visit your work? It'd help if we could take a look around."
"We could bring the memory stick to you," Kristi added.
Alex relaxed, his posture easing as the tension left him. "That should work. I can't give you a tour, though. I don't own the place."
Ayel passed her notebook and pen to her client. "Can you write down your work address and phone number? And your work hours?"
"Oh, sure." Alex took the writing implements. After a few quick scrawls, he passed everything back to the blonde. "Here. When do you think you can come out with the memory?"
"Good question," Kristi said. "Ayel?"
Ayel read the details Alex had added. "I can pop out tomorrow morning, drop off the memory stick. You can return the stick tomorrow evening here if you want. I'll be working until close."
"Great!" Kristi said. "Can you add the photos of the artwork, too? It'll save time to have everything together."
"Sure." Alex checked his watch. He stood up. "I better go. Thanks for taking me seriously."
Kristi got up as well. She shook Alex's hand one more time. "That's why we're here. We'll see you tomorrow morning." As Alex walked away, the tawny-haired woman sat back down.
Ayel pocketed her notepad. "The address is near in Nepean. Are we sure it's not trucks driving by causing this? Merivale sees a lot of traffic during the day."
"Trucks don't turn around filing cabinets. When should I expect you tomorrow?"
The blonde woman raised an eyebrow. "Because of course I'm driving."
"You have the Mystery Machine."
Ayel glowered at Kristi. "One, I am not repainting my parents' minivan green and yellow. Two, we're never calling my parents' minivan that ever again. And what about Kieu?"
Kristi shrugged. "She's probably asleep. Poor thing needed it. And there's no way in Hell I'm ever getting in a car if she's driving." Kristi took a sip of her now cool tea. "Oh, bring Ginger."
"Are you sure? Kristi, she's still learning about life in a city. Last time she was in a car, she clung to your leg for the entire trip. It's not safe to drive when someone has a death grip on a limb you use for the pedals."
"She'll be fine." Kristi set down her teacup. "I just want to see if she has a reaction out there. Then I can take the memory stick and look over the art. Maybe Alex's boss bought something haunted or cursed."
Ayel shrugged. "I'll research the address and see what used to be there." She got up. "I better get back to work."
The next day
Kristi felt two small arms wrap around her legs the moment she sat down in Ayel's van. "Hello to you, too, Ginger."
"She missed you, I think," Ayel said as she merged back into the light traffic.
The tiny woman climbed up into Kristi's lap. "Where are we going?"
"Not far," Kristi answered. "Just a warehouse that might be haunted."
Ginger grimaced. "No such thing."
Kristi looked over at Ayel. "She learned that from you."
"She never talked to me," Ayel said. She eased the van around a slower moving car.
"Anyway, Ginger, we're being paid to determine what's going on at the warehouse. They people working there think it's haunted. I was wondering if you could tell if there's anyone else like you there."
Ginger sat down on Kristi's leg. "Like me?"
"Um, other fae. Ginger, where are your clothes?"
Ginger shrugged. "You have them."
"Ayel, I thought you were going to get her some clothes."
"Have you tried measuring someone prancing around?" Ayel said. "It's not like she's a standard doll size. Mattel has nothing that would fit her."
Kristi forced a smile. "What about Etsy?"
"That goes back to the prancing and lack of measurements. Look, I thought about just stealing something off one of my sister's dolls, but they'd all be too large and foofy."
"Okay, frilly." Ayel bobbed her head in Ginger's direction. "Our tiny friend here plays in the grass. Tiffany would kill me if she saw grass stains on her dolls' clothes."
Ginger looked up at the blonde driving. "I can wear dresses."
"These wouldn't look good on you. They're way too big."
"I know how to adjust them."
Ayel laughed. "And then Tiffany would still kill me because the clothes would be too small for her dolls. Sorry, Ginger, I need your measurements. Or Kristi can take them."
"Me?" Kristi waved her hands in the air to avoid the responsibility. "I don't have a tape measure. I travel light. It's a pain getting things shipped in from back home."
"We'll stop somewhere you can get one, then. I'm a little tired of seeing a tiny naked woman prancing around."
Ginger stuck her tongue out at Ayel. "I can make my own. I made that cloak and the skirt. What happened to those?"
"They were old, sweetie," Kristi said. "My roomies complained about the smell. And I don't know how to clean chipmunk fur."
"I can get a new one."
"Or we can get you proper clothes, now that you're living in the city," Ayel said. "Besides, summer's coming. Fur is hot around here. Ah, here we are." The blonde woman turned the van into a small gravel parking lot outside a low square building. "I'll go talk to Alex. You and Ginger search for signs of fae. I'll try to keep people busy."
"Okay, Ginger, take a look around."
"The boss has a wide taste in art."
"The magic here is twisted."
"The cat wanted to play."