“I know what you mean. Too many in a group, and you just don’t get the effect,” David agreed. “Well, thanks. See ya, Danny. Oh-you working at O’Hara’s tonight?”
“I start at ten there. I am taking out an eight-o’clock tour tonight.”
David waved, and headed down the street. He walked toward La Concha Hotel, and around to the stand where ghost-tour tickets were sold. A young girl was selling tickets. He asked her about Danny Zigler. “Oh, yeah, he’s working tonight. Eight o’clock. He’s a good guide.”
“Yeah. It surprises me that you all don’t use him all the time,” David said.
She shrugged. “Hey, I’m not management. But I think that Danny likes his other jobs, too. Strange fellow, but a good storyteller!”
David bought a ticket and moved out of the way for the couple who waited behind him. He glanced at his watch, and headed back home. He had left the police files on his grandfather’s desk. He set an alarm to warn him when it would be nearing eight.
A long, hot shower and shampoo felt wonderful, rinsing away the cakey salt and effects of the sun and the sea. Katie lingered under the flow of water, then emerged regretfully at last, aware that she should be conserving water-and that she was pruning.
She slipped into a terry robe and towel-dried her hair, then studied her reflection in the mirror. Wet, she decided, was really not her look. But too bad-she loved the water too much.
She looked over at the bathroom cabinet, choosing a moisturizer.
When she looked back at the mirror, there was someone behind her.
It wasn’t Tanya. It was a different entity. She had dark hair, too much makeup and her eyes were red and slightly bulging.
A tear slipped down her astral cheek.
“No!” Katie whispered. “Please!”
The girl remained, that tear sliding down her face.
“Please!” Katie whispered again. “I’m not nine-one-one for ghosts. I don’t know how to help you. I don’t know who you are!” she whispered vehemently.
She closed her eyes, praying for the image to go away. She opened her eyes. It did.
Her hands were shaking when she reached for her cosmetic base and looked back to the mirror.
The image was back.
The girl was no longer crying. She was just standing there, staring at Katie, as if she were in shock. Her face was starkly white. Her features seemed to have shriveled. Her eyes were clouded with red dots.
“I wish I could help you!” Katie whispered. “Please…”
The image faded.
Katie collected her makeup and went running down the stairs.
Bartholomew was perched at the kitchen counter. He stared at her, frowning. “What now?”
“Another ghost,” she said.
He looked annoyed. “What is this-spirit central?” he demanded. “This is my house.”
“It’s my house,” she corrected.
He sighed. “Actually, Katie, once upon a time, I lived in the upstairs bedroom. Well, I didn’t live there, I spent a great deal of time there. Eighteen twenty-six, to be exact.”
“But this house-”
“Oh, the house has been rebuilt. It was just a tiny wooden structure at the time. The place was a shantytown, really, except for some of the places built by big money. Simontons and Whiteheads… Anyway, I had a girl for a while. She wasn’t the kind you brought home to mother. But she was one hell of a woman. Never mind, that’s not the point. This is my haunt. You’re my mortal.”
“You’re being selfish,” Katie said, feeling a new strength. “They need help.”
“Everyone needs help.”
“She was murdered,” Katie said suddenly.
“Most ghosts were murdered.”
“No, Hemingway killed himself, and he’s haunting this country, Spain and Cuba, so I understand,” Katie argued.
Bartholomew sighed. “Katie, don’t let them in. I’m afraid for you.”
“Bartholomew, I’m not saying she was murdered this minute. It might have been years ago. Like…Tanya. Maybe it was the same person.”
He swung off the bar stool and came before her, planting his hands on his hips. “Katie, I am very afraid for you.”
“Sean will be here in another day or two and then I won’t be living alone. I’ll be fine. And I know the cops- I know everyone on the street. I’m from here, Bartholomew. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m sure that’s what Tanya Barnard thought!” he said dourly. “Well, I won’t be leaving you alone for a moment,” he assured her. He looked her up and down in her terry robe, her makeup clustered in her hands. “And you are afraid.”
“I was startled, that’s all.”
“Well, that robe is going to make a lovely outfit when you go to work.”
“I was startled. I’m not afraid.”
“I’ll follow you and guard the hallway, if you’d like to return to your bathroom and further prepare for the evening,” he told her.
She lowered her head, smiling. He could trip people; he could now press the on button to start the coffee brewing. She still wasn’t sure he could actually guard her. But he was quite the gentleman ghost.
“Thanks,” she told him.
But when she returned upstairs, no matter how many times she looked into the mirror and then away from it, no ghosts appeared.
The first ghost, she knew, was Tanya.
But who the hell was the dark-haired woman with the tear glistening on her cheek?
As David had expected, evenly dividing the crowd that night left about forty people in each tour group. He was tall, and he stayed toward the back.
Key West was full of ghosts. Naturally. Since it was a walking ghost-tour, it didn’t take in the cemetery, the Hemingway House, or many other spots reputed to be harboring ghosts. That was all right. There were many haunted places to still go to on the tour. Captain Tony’s was haunted by those who had died at the hanging tree-and those sixteen souls whose remains were found when work was done on the place.
Another favorite stop was an abandoned theater near Duval that was supposedly haunted by the souls of sixteen children who had burned to death there in the midst of a marital scandal-a spurned husband had meant to kill his wife, so people suspected. Instead, he had killed the children. Some of their little bones remained in St. Paul’s Church yard, where the children were still heard to sigh with the breeze on a quiet night. Visitors standing beneath the theater overhang heard the soft cries as well-and the scent of smoke was still on the air, all these long years later.
Artist House was on every tour. The Victorian mansion was stunning, of course, but the real draw was what happened in that house years ago. The story went that a servant of the owners of the house, the Otto family, had given their young son, Robert, a doll. The servant had come from the islands and practiced some kind of magic or voodoo.
Of course, since it was a hideous doll, many people had been convinced that the servant really hated the family. Robert stood about three feet tall, stuffed with straw, and wore a white sailor suit and hat. He had beady little eyes, and the kind of fabric face that was just creepy from the get-go. Having grown up with the story, David was truly amazed that someone in young Robert Eugene Otto’s life hadn’t gotten rid of the damned thing. Instead, the doll had stayed, Robert and his wife had been given the house and they had moved in. The doll spent years playing evil pranks.
But Robert loved the doll throughout his life. When his wife thought that he was preparing a nursery, it was really just a special room for Robert. Robert the Doll tormented Robert’s wife-slowly driving her crazy. Although many believed that it was Robert who abused her and blamed the attacks on Robert the Doll. She outlived her husband and left Artist House, but allowed it to be rented-with the stipulation that Robert the Doll’s room be kept and that he remain closed away in his special place.
Robert the Doll supposedly moved. He looked down at people on the sidewalk. He went from window to window.
Eventually, new owners took over-the doll was given to the East Martello Museum, and was still known, according to popular legend, to escape from his chamber. He was supposed to wreck film, or replace rolls of family film with pictures of himself.
Danny Zigler was an excellent guide and told all of these stories well. David could see the fear and awe he evoked in his listeners.
They walked toward the Beckett museum.
David thought that Danny told this particular story with relish, describing the dead Tanya with amazing detail. And though Danny never used his name, he suggested that someone prestigious had gotten away with murder, and that it had been a case of unrequited love.
Tanya, of course, according to Danny, roamed the now-defunct museum, crying out night after night, shrieking for justice.
David slipped away from the tour. He realized that his hands were clenched into fists at his side.
He’d be damned sure to stay away from Danny until he’d cooled down.
O’Hara’s was quieter than usual that night. Katie did a duet with Marty Jenkins to get it all started-a song from South Pacific, as Marty didn’t seem to care much for any song that didn’t have something to do with ships or the water-and then a soprano down from her job as a character in an Orlando theme-park musical came on and awed them all with a number from Chicago.
There weren’t nearly as many inebriated people as on a Saturday night, but there was a group of ten students with the soprano who didn’t have classes again until Tuesday, so Katie was kept busy. At eleven she decided that she needed a break, and she set the students up to do a six-minute version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
David seemed to have chosen his table at O’Hara’s; he was there with Liam, Sam Barnard and Pete Dryer.
“Katie, girl, lovely night, you keep it moving,” Pete applauded.
“It’s a nice crowd,” she said. “So how about you, Pete? Sunday a better day?”
“Sunday is usually a better day-except folks are moving in big-time now. Fantasy Fest is in the works,” he reminded her. “It officially starts next Friday.”