Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery) (10 page)

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
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Lenny grabbed his head with both hands and let out a muted cry of anguish. “I tried to warn her but she couldn’t see or hear me.” He looked up at Emma. “But little Nicholas could. He just couldn’t tell her anything. Milo also tried and failed. It wasn’t until you showed up that I had any hope of protecting her, but I didn’t know how. How do you tell the living that they are in danger if they’re not sure you exist?”

“You could have talked to Granny, the ghost that was with me.”

“I was afraid to show myself, even to another spirit. I was worried he’d enlisted other ghosts in his dirty business. I overheard him once tell Doll that he was going to get to me no matter what. He’s been dogging her off and on for years, hoping she could be that contact, but she can’t see or hear me. I think he finally accepted that because he hasn’t been around in a long time.”

“He’s been sick and in a rest home. That’s where Dolly visited him, and the last time she was seen.”

The ghost shook his head back and forth. “Why would Doll go to Nemo on her own? She knew he was dangerous.”

“She probably thought he wasn’t a threat because of his age and illness.”

“But his boys still are.”

Emma still wanted that wine—more than ever and not for sleep. “Will you excuse me?” she said to Lenny. Getting up, she went to the minibar and extracted a small bottle of red wine. She undid the top and poured some into a nearby glass.

“Boy, that looks good,” the ghost commented. “I sure miss drinking wine. And eating a nice big bowl of spaghetti with meatballs. Doll and I used to go to this little Italian place just off Fremont Street.”

“Were you and Dolly good friends?”

“Much more than that.” He winked at Emma and pointed the index finger of his right hand at her. “If you get my drift.”

Emma laughed. “I do.” She was sure now that Leonard was the man that showed up in several of Dolly’s photos with her.

Lenny stopped pacing and looked at her, the smile again appearing, replacing the worry. “It’s really difficult to return from the other side and not be able to enjoy all the marvelous modern things you have now. I drove a 1962 T-Bird when I was alive, but man, what I wouldn’t give to get behind the wheel of one of those foreign sports cars I see going up and down the Strip like sleek rockets.”

A car guy
, Emma noted. She took another sip of wine before interrupting Lenny’s happy thoughts with more doom and gloom.

“Lenny,” she said, getting back on topic. “The men who killed you are probably very old or even dead by now. Why do you think they would come back?”

“They won’t,” he said simply.

“You keep saying Nemo’s boys are coming. You asked me at first if they sent me, then in the fortune-teller’s wagon you said they would come for me? How is that possible?”

“They will hurt Doll whether you help them or not.” The worry returned to the ghost’s face. “It’s all so confusing, even to me.” He started to fade. “They’ve already come for her and it won’t end there.”

“Don’t go, Lenny,” Emma pleaded. She put down her wine and got to her feet. “Please. Help us get Dolly back.”

The ghost’s image was disappearing into a handful of dust motes again.

“Please, Lenny,” Emma called after him. “What is it Nemo wants from you?”


through the contacts on her phone, Emma found the one she was seeking and hit the call button. After two rings Quinn answered.

“I’m sorry to wake you,” she said to him.

“You didn’t. I’m actually on Fremont Street.”

“What are you doing there?”

“I was too wound up to sleep so I grabbed a cab back downtown. I was hoping to see this Lady Laura myself. I figured late on a Tuesday night she might not have a line waiting to see her.”

Emma was torn. She wanted to know about Quinn’s visit with Laura, but she also wanted to tell him about her interaction with Lenny. Both were important. “Did you see her?”

“Not yet. When I got here, the wagon was closed up. I talked to a couple of people hanging around in the area and they said she left with two of her clients right after their session.”

“Laura left with clients? That doesn’t sound right.” Emma’s left foot jiggled with nerves.

“That’s what a woman who was standing near the wagon told me when I started asking about Laura. She was pretty annoyed; said she waited forty-five minutes to see Laura, then after these two men were done with their session, Laura came out and left with them. She said it was a few hours ago. She keeps coming back hoping Laura’s returned, but so far she hasn’t.”

“A few hours ago was right after I was there. She had a healthy line even then.” Emma wondered what could have taken Laura away. “Maybe Laura decided to close up after those clients and it just looked like she left with them,” Emma suggested.

“I don’t know about you, Emma, but I’ve never heard of any of these Vegas entrepreneurs closing shop with customers waiting. That’s leaving money on the table.”

He had a very good point, Emma admitted to herself.

“And the woman I spoke to said she’s a regular client of Laura’s and never saw her do anything like it. Said Laura seemed in a daze. Didn’t say a word to anyone, just walked down the steps from the wagon and left. Didn’t put up the closed sign, didn’t tell anyone when she would be back. Just left.”

“That is odd.”

“And there’s more. The woman said that one of the guys was already in line waiting, but when it was his turn, he’d let the next person go ahead. He didn’t take his turn until the other man came so they could go in together.”

“So it was a twofer? A gay couple maybe?”

“Hard to tell. And here’s something even odder. Right before you called, I tried the handle on the door to the wagon. It was unlocked. No one would leave their place of business here, not even for a bathroom break, without locking it up.”

“Did you go inside?”

“No, ma’am.” He laughed. “I would have if no one had been around, but not with all these witnesses.”

“Now I’m concerned for Laura. Did you ask what the two men looked like?”

“Sure did. The lady I spoke to said they were an odd pair. Her words, not mine.”

“Wait a minute,” Emma told him. She got up and retrieved the note pad and pen next to the hotel phone on the desk. “Okay, go on.”

“She said one wore a suit and was of average height. She guessed him to be in his late forties or early fifties with thinning gray hair. The other was unkempt, kind of fat, and quite a bit younger.”

Emma jotted the information down. “Got it. Nice work, Quinn. Maybe they’re father and son?”

Quinn chuckled. “When’s the last time you saw a father and son go to a fortune-teller together? It’s not even that common for men to go, is it? Isn’t it usually women who seek out stuff like that?”

“Yes. At least I know Milo’s clientele are mostly women.” Emma sifted through her memory for a visual on the people in line at Laura’s when she was there. “When I was in line at Laura’s, I only saw two men. One had just come out and one was behind me.” She smacked her head. “That could be him. The guy behind me was kind of unkempt and overweight. Did the woman say who was there first holding the pace in line?”

“Yes, the younger one.”

“I really wished I’d paid closer attention. What I remember is exactly what that women remembers, except for the comic book. The guy standing behind me was reading a comic book. One of those with a superhero. When Laura pulled me to the head of the line, she saved me about forty-five minutes to an hour of time, so the guy I saw could have been one of the men who took off with her.”

After a short silence, Quinn asked, “So what’s up with you? Can’t you sleep either?”

“I got a visitor tonight,” she told him. “It was Leonard Speidel.”

“Lenny the Lightbulb? The same Lenny that nutty Nemo is after?”

“The same. He finally materialized. He’s worried about Dolly and says we’re all in danger from Nemo’s men. But he also seems confused. He left before I could find out what it is Nemo is after.”

“Maybe he’ll come back soon. Don’t ghosts need to recharge?”

“They do, but he seemed disjointed. Fine one minute, fraught the next. Very unlike the cool and collected Nemo, who only died tonight.”

“This is really strange.”

“No kidding.” In the background Emma could hear the clanging of slot machines and loud music. “And I think he was Dolly’s boyfriend at the time he died.”

“Didn’t you say Lenny spoke through Laura when you were with her today?”

“Yes, he did,” Emma confirmed. “I wonder if he’s more comfortable communicating through a living person instead of with one directly.”

Quinn sighed with frustration. “Now I really wish I had connected with Laura.”

“Me, too. Or at least I wish we knew where she was.”


the morning, Quinn met Emma at one of the restaurants at her hotel. After, they took her vehicle back to Dolly’s house. When they got there, two cars were parked in front—a police cruiser and a dark sedan. In the driveway was Tracy’s car. Emma had learned from Milo the night before that his mother drove a silver Honda. It was nowhere in sight.

After parking her SUV at the curb in front of the house next door, Emma glanced over at Quinn. “This doesn’t feel right to me.”

“Maybe they’re just here to take the missing person report,” he suggested, but Emma could see in Quinn’s eyes he was just as concerned.

When they approached the front door of Dolly’s home, they were stopped by a young patrolman. After identifying themselves, they waited on the front stoop a couple of minutes before being allowed in, where they found Milo and Tracy on the sofa side by side, hands locked in support.

“What is it?” asked Emma, rushing to them. “Is Dolly okay?”

“We don’t know yet,” answered Milo. He introduced them to a man in a suit sitting in a chair pulled up in front of the sofa. “These are our friends Emma Whitecastle and Dr. Quinn Keenan. They were with us last night.”

The man got up. He was in his mid-thirties, tall and lean with thick dark hair. “I’m Detective John Foster.” He pointed to another man in a suit standing nearby, taking notes. “That’s my partner, Detective Howard Garby.” Garby, older and not so trim, nodded to them.

“You’re Nicholas’s father,” Emma said to Foster with a small smile. “I met your wife yesterday.” Before the detective could answer, Emma asked, “Are you gentlemen here to help us find Dolly?”

“Yes and no,” answered Garby.

“They think Dolly killed someone,” Tracy blurted out.

“We’re just asking a few questions, ma’am,” Foster corrected. He indicated for Emma and Quinn to sit and they complied, Emma taking a seat on the sofa with Milo and Tracy. Quinn dropped into a nearby upholstered chair.

“They’re saying Dolly was the last person to see this man who died last night alive,” Milo told Emma and Quinn. He looked like he hadn’t slept a wink all night. “They’re
she might have killed him.”

“It was a man by the name of Nelson Morehouse,” Garby told Emma. “He went by the nickname
. You know, like the little fish in that Disney cartoon.”

Emma looked over at Milo and Tracy, wondering how much they had already told the detective. Had they mentioned anything about Nemo’s visit last night? Or were they keeping mum on the subject of paranormal visitations? She wished she knew before she said something that might shed a bad light on the situation. But it was a good indication that Milo hadn’t mentioned Nemo by name.

“As I told Detective Foster,” Milo said to her as if reading her mind, “we’ve been trying to find Dolly after she didn’t show up at her shop last night and none of us were successful.”

On the coffee table was the photo of Dolly with Nemo Morehouse that Emma had brought into the kitchen the night before. She’d left it on the counter. Foster tapped Nemo’s face. “Seems odd that your mother was reminiscing about old times with this Nemo the night he died and she disappeared. Was she looking at this before or after she visited him at the rest home?”

“Neither,” answered Emma. “I’m the one who was looking at that photo. I noticed it on the wall in the hallway and bought it out to show Milo. I was curious about one of the men in the photo and wanted to ask Milo about him.” She pointed to another man in the picture. “This one. I believe that’s Jimmy Hoffa.”

Foster bent forward to study the photo closer. Garby leaned forward and looked at it over his partner’s shoulder. Garby was the first to look up at Milo. “Your mother knew Hoffa?”

“Are you also going to suggest Dolly had something to do with his disappearance?” Tracy, never one to like authority, was getting agitated.

Milo patted Tracy’s knee. “The detectives are just doing their job.” He turned his attention back to Foster and Garby. “I don’t know if Dolly knew Hoffa personally. She’s the showgirl on the right. She took a lot of photos with famous people when she was a dancer.”

“There’s even one in the hallway with her and Frank Sinatra,” Emma added.

Milo nodded. “Yes, there is.” He looked down at the photo. “From this picture, I think it’s easier to assume that Mr. Morehouse knew Jimmy Hoffa rather than my mother and that she and the other woman in the picture were merely window dressing.”

“Who is the other man? Do you know that?”

“Yes,” said Milo with a nod. “I believe that’s Moe Dalitz.”

Foster took a closer look at the photo.

“Dalitz was known as the Father of Las Vegas,” Milo added.

“I know who Dalitz was,” said Foster, not looking up.

Again, Garby checked it out over Foster’s shoulder. “Seems your mother kept some pretty fast company and with known criminals,” he said.

“Those were publicity shots,” Milo stressed. “As I told you, my mother posed with a lot of people when she was a showgirl. Men seem to like having their picture taken with pretty girls in feathers and fishnet stockings and not much else.”

Ignoring the sarcasm, Foster tapped the photo again. “Who’s the other woman? Do you know her?”

Milo nodded slowly. “That’s Madeline Kurtz, my mother’s closest friend and business partner. She died last night.”

At that announcement, Foster finally raised his eyes from the photo to look at Milo. “She died last night?”

“Yes,” Emma told him. “She’d been ill and apparently died in her sleep.”

Garby jotted something down in his notebook then motioned to a police officer to come over. “Check out this name,” he told him as he tore the sheet out of his notebook and handed it to the officer. “Possibly died last night.” The officer left.

“And how did you know Ms. Kurtz?” Foster asked Emma.

“I don’t. When I stopped by Dolly’s shop last night, Madeline’s great-niece Megan was there and told me about Madeline’s passing.”

Foster studied Milo. “Two old people who knew your mother died on the same night. Very convenient.”

“Convenient?” shot Tracy. “Are you suggesting Dolly had something to do with Madeline’s death, too?”

“I’m just saying it seems odd.” He looked over at Quinn. “And how do you know Dolly Meskiel?”

“I don’t. I’m a friend of Emma’s. I bumped into her on Fremont Street last night and tagged along because I’d been wanting to meet Milo and Tracy for some time.”

Foster looked to Emma. “I understand from my wife that you’re a bit of a TV personality, Mrs. Whitecastle. She told me about meeting you yesterday.”

Garby showed interest. “You related to that Grant Whitecastle who’s on the tube?”

“He’s my ex-husband,” Emma answered, her words cool and direct. “I have my own talk show on a cable channel.”

“You deal with the paranormal, correct?” asked Foster. “In fact, both you and Mr. Ravenscroft here are pretty wrapped up in that creepy stuff, aren’t you?”

“It ain’t creepy,” snapped Granny, who popped in at that very moment.

Milo’s eyes went to Granny, then quickly to Foster. He straightened his shoulders. “Both Emma and I are practicing mediums, Detective,” he answered with directness. “I came to town to give a presentation at the university. That was yesterday. As I told the police last night and you just a short while ago, the last time I saw my mother was at that event.”

Garby consulted his notes. “And from there she went to the rest home to see Nemo Morehouse, who kicked the bucket either during or right after her visit.”

“I honestly do not know where my mother went after my presentation,” answered Milo. “She said she had an appointment. Later she was to meet Emma at her shop, The Raven’s Craft, but she never showed up.”

“According to Morehouse’s caretaker”—Garby checked his notes again—“a Frankie Varga, Ms. Meskiel showed up and she and the deceased got into a heated discussion. This Varga guy said when he stepped in to see what the problem was, Ms. Meskiel said it was a family spat and promised to keep it down. Morehouse also confirmed it was nothing. But when Varga checked on them later, he found Meskiel gone and Morehouse dead.”

“That doesn’t mean my mother killed him,” stressed Milo with an excited wave of his hands. “Wasn’t he quite old and sick? Maybe whatever argument they had was too much stress on him.”

“Pssst,” whispered Granny to Emma, as if afraid the cops would hear her. “I need to talk to you. It’s important.”

“Did you ever meet Morehouse?” Garby asked Milo.

“I was a kid when that photo was taken and Dolly didn’t mix her home life with her career.”

“That wasn’t an answer,” Foster pointed out.

Milo amended his answer, “No, I don’t recall ever meeting the man in that photo.”

“Then how did you know he was old and sick?” prodded Garby.

“Come on,” answered Quinn for Milo. He leaned forward in his chair and poked the index finger of his right hand into the palm of his left as he made each of his points. “In the picture this Nemo guy is already middle-aged. He’d have to be in his eighties or nineties by now and wasn’t he in a rest home with nurses looking after him? Old and sick would be a natural assumption.”

“Nice answer,” noted Granny. She floated over to Emma and danced from foot to foot. “I really need to talk to you and Milo. I think I’ve found Dolly.”

Both Emma and Milo snapped their heads in Granny’s direction. Detective Foster noticed and turned to look in the same direction. He saw nothing. “Don’t tell me, folks,” he said with a half sneer. “Ghosts?”

“I thought I heard a car pull up,” answered Milo.

“Me, too,” added Emma. “Maybe it’s Dolly.”

“I told you, I found Dolly,” insisted Granny.

Detective Garby looked out the front window and studied the street. Emma took the momentary distraction to try to signal to Granny to wait. The ghost got the message but wasn’t happy about it.

“Humph,” she groused, crossing her arms in front of her. She floated over to where Quinn sat and tapped her foot with impatience.

“Nothing out there,” reported Garby.

“Does being a medium also give you special powers like super hearing?” joked Foster.

“Sometimes,” answered Milo, being serious. “We are very sensitive to things the rest of you cannot sense.”

“Ah, the famous sixth sense,” Foster said, still sporting a smirk.

“Something like that, Detective.”

Garby laughed. “Can you see dead people, Mr. Ravenscroft?”

“Yes. If they want to be seen.”

Emma sensed Milo was entering shaky territory, but wasn’t sure if she should stop him. Realizing he was serious, the two detectives exchanged glances.

Foster turned to Emma. “And how about you, Mrs. Whitecastle? Do you see dead people, too?”

“Yes,” she admitted. “And hear them.” Out of the corner of her eye she saw Quinn lean forward even more. Even Granny waited to see where this was leading. Emma hated admitting her gifts to nonbelievers. She wasn’t ashamed of them, but she knew most people didn’t believe it possible to make contact with the dead, and exposing her gifts to people like that felt to her like she was cheapening both her talents and the spirits and holding them out to ridicule. “Both Milo and I are mediums who can see and speak to spirits. We told you that already.”

Garby scratched his head with the nonwriting end of his pen, but his face displayed a wide grin. “I don’t know. I thought you folks meant dabbled in scam séances and fortune telling.”

“Speaking of fortune telling,” said Foster. “Isn’t that what your mother does, Mr. Ravenscroft?”

“Yes,” Milo answered. “She gives readings to people in her shop downtown.”

“Can she see ghosts?” asked Garby.

“No,” Milo answered. “Dolly does not have that gift.”

Next to Milo, Tracy fidgeted like an antsy kid.

“Is something the matter, Ms. Bass?” Foster asked her.

“Yes,” she answered, being careful not to look at anyone but the detective. “I’m worried about Dolly. Shouldn’t you be out looking for her instead of grilling Emma and Milo about their paranormal talents, which, by the way, are very real.”

Emma stiffened, sensing the passionate Tracy was about to go on a rant.

“Can you see dead people, Ms. Bass?” asked Foster.

“No, I cannot, but I’ve been around these two long enough to know it’s real and that they are honest people interested in helping others. The people who attended Milo’s presentation yesterday know it’s real, as do the people who buy his books and watch Emma’s show. Instead of making fun of them, you should be out looking for Dolly. And I don’t mean looking for her as a murder suspect.” Tracy gave a final huff and puff, crossed her arm across her chest, and leaned back against the sofa with a scowl.

“Bravo, girlfriend!” said Granny, clapping.

Milo patted Tracy’s knee then turned to Emma, his eyes meeting hers in communication. She gave him a single, short nod of consent. A few seconds later, he turned to the two cops, who were waiting, and announced, “The ghost of Nemo Morehouse came to us last night, Detectives.”

“I thought you said you’d never met the man,” said Foster, clearly getting annoyed.

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
13.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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