"Flee, or suffer my wrath!"Late afternoon
"The Phantom of the Warehouse made an appearance."
"There's awful magicks in there."
"Can I help it that Alex is an ass man?"
Kristi led the way into her shared duplex. "Hello? Anyone else here?"
"I'm upstairs," Zaina called back.
Kristi stepped aside to usher in Ayel. The tawny-haired woman opened her jacket to let Ginger jump down. The tiny woman dashed towards the kitchen. Kristi hung up both her jacket and Ayel's coat before going further. Ayel took the shopping bag she carried into the living room, setting it down on the faded couch. "There's gratitude for you," the blonde woman said.
"Try not to upset the capricious fae, Ayel." Kristi dropped down on the couch. "I can almost hear normally again."
Ayel sat beside Kristi. "This is getting dangerous. We need to tell Morton to get real security."
"But we're close, Ayel. The Phantom wouldn't have shown up if we weren't."
"We're getting close? Kristi, what if the next time, the Phantom decides to blow up the warehouse?"
"And destroy what its haunting?" Kristi shook her head. "Doubtful."
Ayel sighed. "And if it is those carvings? Kieu mentioned human sacrifices. I can see angry ghosts from that alone. And Ginger said she sensed bad magic."
Ginger returned from the kitchen carrying an espresso cup filled with coffee. "I said, 'awful magicks.'" She sat down on a green cushion set on the floor, careful not to spill a drop. "Happy Ginger is happy."
"She's not going to be like this all night, is she?" Ayel asked.
"Only if we're lucky." Kristi let her head fall against the back of the couch. "I'm exhausted." She yiped as her smart phone trilled. After reading the screen, she said, "Kieu's on her way over."
Ayel slumped in her seat. "Fun. Did she say when?"
The doorbell rang. "That's going to be her now." Kristi got up to answer the door. "Kieu, come on in!"
Kieu stepped inside. She slipped off her jacket and shoes, then walked over to the overstuffed chair. "Hi. I did that research you wanted." She fell back into the chair.
Kristi sat back in her spot. "Thanks, Kieu. What did you find?"
"First, it's really difficult to find real information. Did you know there's a company called Aztechnology that also sacrifices people in rituals. Not sure why they'd do that. Wouldn't they run out of workers?"
"Um, Kieu, no, that's not real," Ayel said. "My brother played that game. He had a lot of the books for it. There's no Aztechnology."
Kieu glared at the blond woman. "Then why are there so many sites about it?"
Kristi waved to get Kieu's attention. "Ignoring Aztechnology or whatever it is right now, did you find anything?"
"Oh, sure." Kieu struggled to sit up in the overstuffed red chair. "There were human sacrifices made. The priests would carve out the still beating heart of the victim."
Ayel's complexion turned ashen for a moment. "Wonderful. There goes any desire for dinner tonight."
Kristi scratched her chin. "Okay, but why? Why the sacrifices?"
Zaina came halfway downstairs. "That's the easy part," she said as she sat on a step. "Power."
"That's most of history, though, and there are easier ways, like killing the guy just above you and taking his spot."
"No, I think I get it," Ayel said. "That's moving up, but once on top, you have to remain on top."
"And if you believe a sacrifice will transfer the victim's strength into yours, what's stopping you?" Zaina smiled. "You get rid of a rival and become stronger. Perfect combination."
Ayel eyed Kristi's roommate. "How do you know about this?"
"Minor in Religion."
Kristi looked over at Zaina. "Since when? I thought you were taking Math."
"Since Dad called in September and threatened to cut off my tuition." Zaina continued her trip downstairs. "So, now I minor in Religion, which gets weird when I start applying Fourier transformations."
Ginger set down her now empty espresso cup. "I has a buzz."
"Who let her look at LOLcats?" Kristi glared at Zaina.
Zaina became sheepish. "She kept asking about cats. It was easier to show her cat memes instead of explaining why we couldn't get a real one."
Ayel patted the shopping bags beside her. "I hope Ginger appreciates the materials I bought her."
"Happy Ginger is still happy." The tiny woman beamed.
Kristi pulled out the officer's business card. "I'll call Constable Frasier and ask him about the explosions on Monday."
"Explosions?" Zaina's eyes widened. "What explosions?"
Ginger covered her ears. "Loud ones."
"Remember that side business I started?" Kristi asked. She waited until Zaina nodded. "A ghost decided to explode into existance. Lots of smoke, but nothing damaged beyond our hearing."
"Since when did ghosts explode?"
"Since today," Ayel said. "Did the Aztecs have gunpowder or anything like that?"
Zaina shook her head. "They didn't even have steel. They used obsidian for their swords."
Ayel shared a look with Kristi. "Interesting. Sounds like our ghost doesn't know what we do about the shipment," the tawny-haired woman said. "Kristi, that puts us back on being private investigators, something we're not licensed for."
"Aidan is. I'll make sure he's with us the next time we go to the warehouse."
"There is no next time, Kristi. I'll write up the report for Alex and Morton. You can present it to them and get what we're owed."
"Ayel, we're not giving up already."
Kieu gave up on her struggles against the overstuffed chair. "Figures you'd want to bail."
"We're not 'bailing'. We've completed our contract. At this point, we've done the work we were asked to do. Everything else is in the hands of the police." Ayel settled back on the couch. "And, really Kristi? Business cards?"
"Did you want some, too?" the tawny-haired woman asked.
"How much did those cost?"
"I kept the receipts. And it wasn't much. I printed them here. It's not like it's that difficult to create a business card these days."
"I don't see the problem," Kieu said.
Ayel sighed. "We're not licensed to investigate. We could be on the hook for fines or worse."
"But what about those carvings? Shouldn't we do something about them?"
"Like what? I know nothing about magic. I don't know anyone who does."
Ginger shot up her hand. "I is a magicks!"
Kristi stared at the tiny woman. "Ginger has a point. She got us in the warehouse without being seen."
"Ginger, can you do something about the awful magic you sensed in those carvings?"
"Of course." The tiny woman got to her feet. "I am Ginger. I can go now."
Ayel checked the time. "I can't. I'm working soon, and I have no desire to be the getaway driver after breaking into the same building twice."
Kristi and Kieu walked down the sidewalk slowly, trying their hardest to not be obvious. Kristi carried an oversized purple bag. Ginger popped her head out of the bag to look around. "Not yet," Kristi said. "We're almost there."
"I need new air," Ginger said.
"It is not stuffy in there." Kristi adjusted the bag, changing it to her other shoulder to hide the fae from potential cars passing by. "Just get back in there. We're nearly at the warehouse."
Ginger disappeared back into the bag. "I need coffee."
"After." Kristi rolled her eyes. "I'm starting to have some sympathy for my sister."
Kieu giggled. "Ginger is cute."
"And I'm sure she appreciates that."
Ginger's hand emerged from Kristi's bag with her thumb up. A giggling came deep in the bag.
Kristi led Kieu past the warehouse, walking another half block before stopping. She set down the bag. "We'll wait here. We should be away from most traffic. It's Saturday night, right? How many people are going to drive by here if they could be elsewhere." Kristi opened her bag, letting Ginger out. "You know what we want. Sneak in, neutralize the bad magic, sneak back."
Ginger saluted. "And touch nothing else."
The tiny woman darted towards the warehouse, holding her tea towel close around her like a cloak. She picked her away across the gravel parking lot, setting her bare feet down to avoid sharp rocks. Ginger reached the side wall and pressed herself close against it. She closed her eyes, inhaling to savour the scents around. Several animals were nearby; one lumbered towards the back of the warehouse. Ginger crept around to the back.
A skunk scratched at the trash bin behind the warehouse. It whireled on hearing Ginger's tiny cough, it's tail up in warning. Ginger crouched down, meeting the skunk on the level of its eyes. "Hello, Stripey," she said, her voice soothing. "You're hungry. I can help you, but I need your help in return."
The skunk tilted its head. It kept watch on the tiny woman as she approached. The skunk let out a snarl.
"Really? I can help you get in there and get all the good stuff you want. In return, you help me get inside the warehouse. Everyone is happy and nobody is hungry."
The skunk turned back to the trash bin. Ginger walked over, never once walking right behind the skunk. She leapt up, reaching out to grab the lock. After a moment of concentration, the lock clicked. Ginger pulled on it, putting her weight into the action. The lock opened and, with effort, Ginger had the latch open. She threw the bin open, helping the skunk get up into it.
Ginger fell back down to the ground, landing with grace on the tips of her toes. "Enjoy! But you still owe me, Stripey." She leaned against the bin, waiting for the skunk to finish its meal. After several minutes, the skunk jumped down. It looked at the tiny woman, then walked towards the the warehouse. Ginger fell in beside the skunk, following it to a small hole in the warehouse's rear wall. The tiny woman scritched the skunk's ear. "Thank you, Stripey!"
As the skunk ambled away, Ginger knelt down beside the hole. She frowned; The fit would be tight, impossible if she kept the tea towel on. Ginger removed the tea towel and tossed it through the hole into the warehouse. She pulled herself through, head first, with effort, struggling when trying to get her hips through the small hole.
Inside the warehouse, Ginger picked up the tea towel and wrapped it around her waist. Beyond the light coming from outside through the hole, the warehouse was dark. The tiny woman closed her eyes. In her mind, she envisioned a fog coming down inside the warehouse. She concentrated on the image for a few seconds before opening her eyes again. Ginger held out her hand. Motes of light appeared, providing a soft glow. The motes danced together before flinging themselves out around Ginger.
With enough light to see where she was walking, Ginger picked her way through the boxes towards the crate of Aztec carvings. The malevolent scent of the magick imbued in the art allowed Ginger to find the crate. The box was still open from Kristi and Ayel's visit earlier in the day. Ginger climbed up and looked inside. "Your time is past," she said. "You are no longer needed." Deep within her, Ginger felt a rumble growing. "No, they're long gone. There's no one to seek anymore. Not even descendants." The rumble raised in pitch. "I don't care. You can leave. I'm not stopping you."
A shriek pierced the silence. A grey form rose up from the crate, howling in an ancient language. The form loomed over Ginger.
The tiny woman mimed yawning. "Oh, please, I've heard worse. Now, go away or I'll make you leave."
The grey form became a cloud over Ginger. The howling increased, louder and faster. Lighning formed in the cloud.
"I warned you." Ginger grabbed the statuette of the Aztec warrior. Magick pulsed through her arms into the carving. "You. Are. Not. Needed! Go. AWAY!"
Over the tiny woman's head, the grey cloud folded in on itself. Lightning flashed, bathing the warehouse in a brief actinic glare. The howling became a low moan that faded to silence. Ginger waited a moment before dropping the carving back into the crate. She listened to the silence. "No more awful magicks allowed."
Ginger hopped down from the crate and retraced her steps back to the hole in the wall.
"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."
"There's no such thing as ghosts, right?"
"I think I need a drink tonight."
"Someone died near the club last night."