"I has a buzz."Saturday night
"Happy Ginger is happy."
"I is a magicks!"
"You. Are. Not. Needed! Go. AWAY!"
At the coffee shop, Ayel sat down, giving her feet a brief respite after the after-dinner rush. She massaged the her calves, working out a tenseness she could feel growing. Tabbie set down a tub of dishes and sat beside the blonde woman. Ayel managed a smile for her co-worker. "I'll get those," she offered.
"Sit. Take your break already. I've got these."
Ayel's smile grew genuine. "Thanks, Tabbie."
"No problem. Hey, where did your friends go clubbing last night?"
"Glamour Blue. Why? Want to head there after work and enjoy the rest of the evening?"
"You hadn't heard?
Tabbie sat across from Ayel. "The police found a body there this morning. It was in all the news."
Ayel sat up, alert. "What happened?"
"No idea." Tabbie shrugged. "They found the body aroudn three in the morning, but it looked like the guy had been at the club. The police haven't released any details except that there was a body."
"I need to make a call." Ayel got to her feet.
"Let me know if your friends saw anything. I want to hear the gossip."
Ayel dashed to the small storage area behind the counter. She dug through her purse to retreive her phone. Kristi's number came up near the top of the recently-used list. Ayel pressed the entry and waited for the call to connect.
After three rings, Ayel heard Kristi's breathless voice answer, "Ayel, don't do that!"
"Kristi, hi. Am I interrupting anything?"
"No, nothing. Nothing at all."
Ayel pulled the phone away from her ear to stare at it in confusion. Putting the phone back to her ear, she said, "You're not with some guy, are you?"
"I'm with Kieu. Why?"
"Have either of you turned on the news lately?"
"Ayel, your point. Get to it already."
"Someone died near the club last night."
There was a pause before Kristi said, "Near Glamour Blue?"
"Yes. The police found a body overnight. Have you heard from Sean or Jared today?"
"Shit, I was supposed to call Sean today. You don't think it's related to what we're doing, do you?"
Ayel sighed. "I hope not. It could be a coincidence. Bad timing." The blonde woman hoped she sounded more confident than she was.
"I'll call them now, then let you know. Okay?"
"Thanks, Kristi." Feeling some relief, Ayel leaned against the wall. "Kristi, I didn't interrupt anything between you and Kieu, did I? You sounded out of breath."
"Really, Ayel?" Kristi's tone turned icy. "I don't ask you about your sex life." The line disconnected.
Ayel stared at the phone again before putting it her apron pocket. She returned to the counter. "No news, Tabbie, but Kristi will call me back and let me know if their dates survived."
Tabbie raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't they know already?"
"Kieu had an allergic reaction or something and Kristi had to take her home." Ayel picked up the cleaning supplies. "I'll go start on the washrooms. If we're lucky, it'll stay quiet the rest of the night."
Kristi turned the ring volume of her phone down so that the device would only vibrate on an incoming call. She slipped the phone back into her pocket. "Sorry about that."
"What did Blondie want?"
"Kieu, please. Try to be nice to her. She hasn't done anything to you. Ayel even complimented you last night and came to your help when you had your issues." Kristi rubbed Kieu's shoulder. "You have to work with her, honey. Give her a chance to show that she's not like the blondes from your old high school."
Kieu huffed. "I'll try. It's difficult. What's this about your sex life?"
"I needed her off the phone before she asked what we were doing. What Ayel doesn't know won't get us yelled at tomorrow." Kristi resisted the urge to look at the time. "Where is our little LOLfae?"
"Do you know how long it takes to remove the magic from art?" Kieu shrugged. "We're waiting for a being that is mostly myth and legend to do something that isn't possible to drain an energy that doesn't exist."
Kristi laughed. "Well, when you put it that way." She resumed watching the warehouse. A tiny figure strolled away from the building, a tea towel wrapped around her as a cover up. "There she is." The tawny-haired woman knelt down to greet Ginger as she arrived. "How did it go?"
Ginger reached out to hug Kristi. "All done. Can it be has coffee time nao please?"
"Sure." Kristi opened her shoulder bag to let Ginger climb in. "Was it difficult to get rid of the 'awful magics'?"
"Nope. All gone. It won't be back." Ginger settled in the bag.
Kieu got out her smart phone and launched the Uber app to call for a ride. "Did you see anything else in there?"
"Too dark," Ginger said, her voice muffled by the bag. "No other magicks, though."
Kristi straightened. "That's okay. Kieu, want to crash at my place tonight? Beats having to pay for two fares."
"Are you sure?" Kieu asked.
"Janelle and Zaina won't mind, I'm sure. And your folks want you to get out more, right?"
"Just not out alone, but yeah." Kieu smiled. "What did Ayel call about?" she asked, making sure to use the blonde woman's name.
Kristi smacked her forehead. "Thanks. The police found a body near the club last night. I need to call Sean." She retrieved her phone from her jacket and punched in Sean's number. "Pick up. Pick up. Oh, hi, Sean, it's Kristi! I just wanted to thank you for last night. Oh, yes, Kieu's good. She's feeling better now. How's Jared? Yeah, I heard." Kristi covered the phone's microphone. "Jared's good. He was worried about you."
Kieu felt her cheeks grow hot. "Thanks."
"And they're both alive." Kristi returned to the phone call. "Sean, can I call you later? Kieu and I are in the middle of something. Sorry to interrupt. No, no, go back to your fun. Maybe another time. Bye." Kristi disconnected the call. She sent a quick text message to Ayel to update her. "There. One mystery solved."
"Too bad we can't solve the other one." Kieu crossed her arms. "We're close, Kristi. I'm sure we can find the fake ghost."
"Ayel has a point. We can't continue. Not on our own." Kristi grinned. "But we know someone who can." She looked down the road. "Where is our ride?"
Ayel locked the coffee shop's door. She waved goodnight to Tabbie, then stepped to the side of the door. The blonde woman stifled a yawn, but did stretch to working out kinks in her arms and legs. She pushed away from the building when she spied a a red hatchback coasting to a stop. The car's door opened. Ayel jumped inside. "Hi, Aidan. Thanks."
"No problem." Aidan put the car in gear. "I can't take you home, but I can get you to a transit station. What's up?"
"Do you mind if you take me to your work? I think I need a drink tonight."
Ayel shook her head. "Just a few problems from the other job." She collapsed into her seat. "The others want to keep looking into the Phantom of the Warehouse. That's crossing the blurry line between ghost hunting and investigating. It's risky, and not just for the legal aspects." Ayel sighed. "At the same time, it feels like the job's not done. We found something that might be full of bad mojo, but who knows what we can do about beyond providing a nice show."
Aidan nodded. "You do have me on retainer for this reason. I can poke around and see what I find. What can I do for you?"
"That's the question, isn't it? We're missing who knows how many puzzle pieces. I'm looking for someone who doesn't know anything about Aztec culture but knows how to rig explosives and drive a forklift and is smart enough to not be a prime suspect."
"Kristi texted me to let me know what happened. What were the explosions like?"
"Loud, mostly. The second one especially. And lots of smoke."
Aidan dodged the hatchback around a stopped bus. "Did a fire break out?"
"No. Just the smoke."
"Could have been fireworks instead. They're easier to get."
Ayel arched a blonde eyebrow. "Hadn't thought of that. Aidan, if I emailed you names, could you do some digging on them? I won't have their full files, but it'd be a start."
"Thanks Aidan. Don't tell Kristi? After all the grief I gave her and Kieu, you know? Especially if nothing comes of it."
"Mum's the word." Aidan directed his car into a tight alley behind his workplace, the Plush Oyster. "Come on in. I'll vouch for you to Sandra."
Ayel followed Kristi's friend in to his bar. Aidan stopped at the back door, knocking on it. A tall woman, broad-shouldered with red hair tied into a tight bun behind her head, opened the door. "Sandra, this is Ayel, a friend of mine. She's the one who needed the ride."
Sandra eyed the blonde woman. "Looks harmless enough."
"Gee, thanks," Ayel muttered.
"She is cute." Sandra stepped aside. "Yeah, she can go in. Two drink minimum tonight."
Aidan ushered Ayel inside. "Thanks, Sandra. I owe you one. Anything I should worry about since I left?"
"Not really. A bunch of kids got a bit rowdy, but they're quiet now. It's picking up, so if you can get back behind the bar, a bunch of thirsty people would appreciate it."
"Getting back to work." Aidan led Ayel into the bar proper. The lights were dim, giving the bar a cosy feel despite the large screen televisions showing the baseball games from the West Coast. The clientele were dressed casually, with jeans and sweaters being the most common outfit that Ayel could see. Aidan offered the blonde woman a stool at the bar. "Here. I can drive you home when my shift is done, if you can wait that long."
"Thanks." Ayel watched Sandra as the tall redhead returned to her post by the door. "She's the friendly type, right?"
"Sandra? Sure, once you get to know her. What can I get you. Two drink minimum, remember?"
Ayel checked her purse. "Which is cheaper, the beer or the wine?"
Aidan laughed. "You don't want the wine tonight. We've had a few complaints."
"Draught beer it is. Surprise me."
"One surprise beer coming up." Aidan began pouring the beer for the blonde woman.
Ayel placed her head on the bar. "When did things get so complicated?"
"What, with Sandra?"
"No, with what should have been a simple business where I just handled the paperwork and do a bit of research on the history of someone's home, maybe write a report. There's no such thing as ghosts, right? Just overactive imaginations."
Aidan set down the mug of beer beside Ayel's head. "Kristi has a lot of imagination."
Ayel raised her head. "Thanks. And, yeah, she does. And she has energy. And she has her own vision and the rest of us are along for the ride. You know what's worse?"
"I'm starting to like the business." Ayel took a long quaff of her beer. "But we can't make money off it. I've run the numbers, and the warehouse job is going to pay for our expenses for May. I don't see a way to raise business, either. I'll have to keep working at the coffee shop, which means I don't have time to work on the ghost hunting."
Aidan began working on a new order. "So quit."
"I thought about it, but Kristi kind of grows on you."
"There is that. So, what are you going to do?"
Ayel drained the rest of her beer. "Getting drunk seems like a good idea right now."
"Kristi, I can't move my arm."
"And don't tell Ayel what you're doing, okay?"
"This isn't a code word for prostitute, is it?"
"Found something interesting. Call you later."