"I don't like this, Kristi,."Friday night
"I feel like a spotlight."
"Something about Kieu."
"We'll be right there."
Ayel brought her van to a screeching halt outside Glamour Blue. Aidan jumped out from the passenger's side. After a quick look, he saw Kristi just outside the door. The tawny-haired woman held up Kieu with help from a blond man. Kieu's head dropped, her hair spilling over her shoulder. Aidan waved to get Kristi's attention, then opened the sliding door.
Kristi stepped aside to let the two men get Kieu into the back. "I've seen this happen to her before," she said. "Sean, I'll call you later, okay? Kieu really needs to get home to rest."
"Are you sure?" Sean gave a worried glance at Kieu. "I could call an ambulance."
"It's nothing. Kieu just pushes herself past her limits all the time. She's just exhausted." Kristi pulled Sean away from the van. "Trust me, okay?" She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed the blond man on the cheek. "Maybe we can test your endurance another night." Before Sean could say anything, Kristi jumped into the back of the van and closed the door.
Aidan returned to the front passenger seat. "She's buckled up. Hospital, now."
Ayel put the van in gear. "What happened?"
"No hospital," Kristi said. "Kieu was dancing then just stopped."
"Pink," Kieu mumbled. She tried to raise her head.
Aidan craned his neck to get a better view of Kieu. "She doen't look good. Hospital."
"No!" Kristi patted Kieu's hand. "She's having one of her colour issues."
"Did she taste purple again?" Ayel gave a slow driver a blast on the horn.
"Pink." Kieu managed to get her head up. "I felt pink. I hate pink." She took a deep breath. "It itches."
Kristi felt her friend's forehead. "You're not running hot."
Aidan reached out to rub Kieu's shin. "Kristi, her drink could have been spiked. We need to get her to a doctor."
"It wasn't spiked, Aidan. I tested it myself. Besides, no one had time to touch it."
"You drank it?"
Kristi rolled her eyes. She fished out a chemical test strip, still its natural colour, from her purse. "I'm not stupid, Aidan."
"I'm good," Kieu said, her voice stronger. "It wasn't the drink."
Ayel slowed the van back to the speed limit. "Okay, it wasn't the drink. Could Sean or Jared have jabbed her with something?"
"Not when Kieu was on the dance floor. My girl here has awesome moves once she warms up."
"I wasn't jabbed. I didn't feel anything."
Aidan sat back in his seat. "Kieu, does this sort of thing happen to you at all?"
Kieu shrugged. "I haven't felt pink since Grade 8. I much prefer hearing blue. It has a nice voice."
"Aidan, I'm taking you back to your car. Good thing it's at a Timmie's, because, Kristi? We're having a talk."
Aidan and Ayel stared at Kristi. "I'm telling you both, Kieu is going to be okay," the tawny-haired woman said. She glared back at both. "When Kieu gets overtired, her senses get jumbled. I've seen her in a far worse condition. Nothing happened to her at the club except for her dancing her heart out. That's probably why she felt pink - she danced too hard."
Ayel rolled her eyes. "Kristi, Kieu needs to see someone about her sleep. That can't be healthy for her."
"And I want to question the guys you were with," Aidan added.
"I'm not going to force Kieu to go somewhere if she doesn't want to, including a doctor. It's her choice." Kristi pointed at Aidan. "Now you get all jealous? Really, Aidan?"
Aidan glowered. "I am not being jealous. Kristi, how do you know they didn't do something to Kieu?"
"Why would they?"
"Because they may be behind the ghost at the warehouse?" Ayel got to her feet. She began pacing around the table. "Damnit, Kristi, we're not even sure what's going on there."
Kristi watched her blonde business partner walk around the table. "Then why poison just Kieu and not me? And sit down. You're drawing attention."
Kieu entered the donut shop. She shuffled over to the counter. Ayel, dashed over to her partner's side. "Kieu, you shouldn't be walking around."
"I'm fine." Kieu turned to the cashier. "Large mint tea, black. And a sesame seed bagel."
Ayel pulled out her wallet. "I've got this." She paid for Kieu's order. "And I'd like a receipt."
"I'm better." Kieu picked up her tea as soon as the cashier set it down.
"Go sit. For me and Aidan. Please."
Kieu walked over to the table, her strides getting stronger with each step. She sat down in Ayel's seat. "I am fine. I don't see why you're worrying."
"People don't normally feel colours." Aidan leaned forward. "Kieu, I can take you to the hospital."
"I don't need one."
"See?" Kristi said.
"And it wasn't Sean or Jared," Kieu added.
Ayel returned with Kieu's bagel. "How do you know that?" she asked as she gave the dark-haired woman her order. The blonde remained standing.
"It's the obvious question. 'Did Sean and Jared do something to me?' But they didn't. This came from somewhere else. Not them." Kieu took a bite of her bagel. "And they're not haunting the warehouse."
"See?" Kristi said. "Wait, they're not?"
Kieu brushed a stray strand of blue-black hair behind her ear. "They don't know how to hack the camera. If they did, they wouldn't get caught goofing off."
Kristi blinked as she processed what her friend said. "Oh."
Ayel pulled a chair over from a nearby table. "That puts us back to looking for a ghost."
"Or for Antony." Kristi said. "Ayel, can you call Alex and ask him if we can look at that crate of Aztec carvings?"
Ayel nodded. "In the morning, though. He may be out having fun."
Aidan grinned. "Like you would be."
Middle of the next morning
Ayel and Kristi walked into the warehouse. The tawny-haired woman kept her jacket closed, despite the squirming Ginger inside. Ayel approached Ashley at the reception desk. "Hi, Alex is expecting us. Ayel Lindeman and Kristi Thiessen."
Ashley picked up her phone. "I'll call him." She pressed the button for the warehouse's loudspeaker. "Alex, you have visitors at the front desk. Alex to the front desk." She looked back at the visiting women. "Please have a seat."
Kristi sat down. Ayel remained standing as she looked around. "I see the wall's been fixed."
Ashley looked over her shoulder, moving her chestnut hair out of her sight. "Oh, that. Did Alex tell you about it?"
Ayel nodded. "Good thing no one got hurt. I'd have thought it would take longer to replace it."
"Oh, no, just some paint and some nails and it will be good as new."
Alex arrived, breathless. "Sorry about that. I was out in storage.checking on a few things, since I'm here."
Kristi gout out of her chair. "Thanks for the short notice."
"No worries. Morton wants this solved and the sooner, the better. As long as we don't break anything, we can look at the package." Alex turned to the receptionist. "We shouldn't be long."
"I'll lock up when I leave. Don't forget the alarm. Break a leg!" Ashley returned to her paperwork.
Alex led Kristi and Ayel through the offices to the back, stopping only to get a pry bar. Once in the large storage area, he led the way through the maze of crates to the side wall. "Here it is." He pointed at a small wooden crate.
Kristi walked around the box. "I'll let you open it."
Ayel shot a glance at the way they came. "Is Ashley normally in on Saturdays?"
Alex hooked the pry bar on the crate's lid. "Sometimes. And we were down a day, so there's paperwork piling up."
"I see." Ayel looked back in time to avoid walking into a crate.
With a bit of effort, Alex pried the lid off the box. Styrofoam peanuts clung to the underside. Alex dug into the white and blue packing material, pulling out a figure entombed in bubble wrap. He pulled a box cutter from her pocket and made a small slice, allowing him to unrill the figure.
"May I?" Kristi asked, holding out her hands. Alex placed the wooden figure in the tawny-haired woman's cupped hands. She held it up, turning the figure around to get a better view. The statuette resembled a blocky human wearing a kilt and headdress and holding a shield. "Ayel?"
Ayel stepped closer, then stumbled a little. She looked down. "Sorry. My shoelace got untied." The blonde woman turned away from the others. Leaning against a stack of crates, she bent at the waist to work on her shoe.
Kristi looked over at Alex. While he was distracted by Ayel, Kristi unzipped her jacket. Ginger's head poked out from inside. The tiny woman shot a dirty glare at Kristi. The tawny-haired woman put a finger to her lips to shush Ginger, then held the Aztec carving in front of her. Ginger recoiled, diving back into Kristi's jacket. The tawny-haired woman zipped up her jacket. "Alex?"
Alex spun back to face Kristi. "Yes?"
"Would there be a problem if I took a photo? I won't use flash."
Ayel straightened up. "Kristi's major is Art History, if that helps."
Alex shrugged. "Sure. I don't see a problem. Can I ask why?"
"I want to look up the carving's history. If this shipment is the cause, we'll get a better idea of what we're facing."
A loud bang filled the storage area. Kristi, Ayel, and Alex all snapped their heads up. Smoke dissipated in the far rear corner. Within the billowing grey cloud, a figure hung above the rafters, its cloak flapping. "Flee!" it called in a booming voice. "Flee, or suffer my wrath! RUN!" A second explosion, louder than the first, filled the corner with black smoke.
Ayel covered her ears, trying to block the ringing she heard. "Kristi, Alex, are you okay?"
"What?" Alex shouted back.
Kristi held out a thumbs-up. She grabbed Alex by the shoulders. "Let's go!" She pointed at her ears. "Get your ears checked!"
As the Ayel and Kristi helped Alex back towards the office, Ashley ran in. She said something that neither woman could hear. Ayel cupped a hand around her ear. "Can't hear you!"
Ashley came to a stop beside Alex. "I heard an explosion!"
"Does anyone need an ambulance?"
Alex shook his head. "Did you call 911?"
"You don't have to shout," Ashley said. "Yes. The fire department is coming."
"What?" Kristi said.
"The fire department is coming!"
"Good." Kristi pointed at Ayel. "We have a first aid kit in the van." She pulled on the blonde woman's arm.
"What? Kristi, don't pull!"
Kristi let go of Ayel's arm. "Van!"
Ayel followed Kristi out of the warehouse and back to her van. She tilted her head, showing Kristi her ear. "Am I bleeding?" The ringing wasn't as loud as before, but all the sounds around were muted.
Kristi examined Ayel's ear. "No blood. Can you unlock the doors? I need to check on Ginger."
"Oh, God, Ginger. Poor thing." Ayel pulled out the key fob and pressed the button to unlock the doors.
Kristi opened the sliding door. She sat on the van's floor as she unzipped her jacket. "Ginger? Ginger, can you hear me?"
Ginger's head emerged from the jacket, her hands over her ears. "Too loud!"
"Sorry, sweetie." Kristi gave the tiny woman a light hug. "Something exploded inside."
"The Phantom of the Warehouse made an appearance," Ayel added. Over the ringing in her ears, she heard sirens approaching. "This is going to be a long day. Ginger, hide in the van, okay?"
Ginger nodded, then crawled out of Kristi's jacket. She slipped under the rear bench seat. "There's awful magicks in there. That statue reeks of it."
Kristi pulled out her phone. "I'll text Kieu and see what she can find about Aztec rituals."
"Ginger, did you feel the same magic when the first explosion happened?" Ayel asked.
"The magicks from the statue were too strong." The tiny woman shrugged. "Can it be coffee time now please?"
Ayel stared at the tiny woman. "Kristi, who let her on the Internet?"
Kristi raised her hands in surrender. "It wasn't me."
"And next time we need to distract someone, that's your job."
"Can I help it that Alex is an ass man?"
The fire department remained at the warehouse long enough to make sure that there a fire hadn't started after the two explosions. The police, though, stayed behind, getting statements from everyone. Ayel avoided getting into details of the nature of their business. Kristi regaled the officer questioning her with the short history of LTV Paranormalists. The tawny-haired woman walked away from the officer after trading business cards with him.
Ayel stared at her business partner. "What was that?"
Kristi held up the officer's business card. "Networking. And, he's single and has friends."
"Get in the van."
"Happy Ginger is happy."
"Figures you'd want to bail."
"You are no longer needed."