Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery) (4 page)

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
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Emma read the rest of the entry aloud. “‘Speidel disappeared shortly after the robbery and the money, thought to be in excess of a million dollars, was never recovered. Charges against Morehouse were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.’”

“Could Lenny the Lightbulb be Leonard Speidel?” asked Tracy. “
Lenny
is a nickname for
Leonard
.”

“If they are the same, we know he’s dead,” said Granny. “How about that Nemo guy?”

“He must still be alive,” answered Milo. “It says here he was born in 1928, but it doesn’t give a date of death.”

A small grainy photo showed a man in a suit, with a round face, almost pug nose, and little hair. The scowl he wore made him look like a piglet with an attitude. Emma studied it, wondering what the man might look like today. “That would put him in his eighties,” she noted. “I wonder if he’s still involved with criminal activities or even in the area?”

“Hard to say.” Milo took a deep breath. “But I’m dying to know what my mother has to do with this, if anything. Or if it is Nicholas who’s the draw. That’s my first concern. Secondly, I want to know why this Lenny guy popped up suddenly. There’s often a specific reason why spirits return when they do.”

“Oh, I hope that Nemo guy’s alive,” Granny said, clapping her hands together in excitement. “Then we can interrogate him. Bet I could make him talk.”

In unison, Milo and Emma turned to look at the ghost. Milo looked worried. Emma shook her head slowly.

“What?” asked Tracy, looking to the spot where they had their eyes trained. “What did Granny say? I just know it was something good.”


CHAPTER FOUR

E
MMA
took off her sweater and placed it and her purse on the passenger’s side of her Lexus hybrid SUV. Before going to lunch with Milo and Tracy, she’d changed from the heavy jeans and shirt she’d worn during the drive to crisp navy slacks and a pale green and white lightweight silk sweater worn over a white tank top. It was early May. The weather was warm, but not yet oppressive like it would become in another month. The sweater had been needed to fend off the air-conditioning in the restaurant.

“Nice duds,” Granny commented, joining Emma next to the car. “That sweater new?”

“Yes, Mother bought it for me.”

Granny looked down at her long, homespun skirt and long-sleeved blouse. “Wish I could wear something like that. It gets tiring wearing the same old thing for a hundred years.” With a sigh, the ghost looked up. “At least Kelly lets me tag along when she goes shopping. I don’t think you shop enough.”

Emma looked over at Tracy and Milo. They were on the phone with Dolly. She turned her attention back to Granny. “Is that where you’ve been lately, Granny? Visiting Kelly?”

The ghost nodded. “I wanted to make sure she was settled in after her recent visit home.”

“Thank you for looking in on her. I spoke to her yesterday and she sounded fine, but she still went through a difficult time trying to help that friend of hers when she was home.” Emma sighed, thinking about how her grown daughter made her feel both proud and older. “Hard to believe she’ll be starting her last year at Harvard soon.” She turned to Granny. “How’s that new boyfriend of hers? What’s he really like?”

Granny scowled and crossed her arms. “I don’t visit Kelly to spy on her for you. You’ll have to ask her about him yourself.”

“I do ask, but she doesn’t say much. That worries me. Besides, you just told me about her shopping.”

“Shopping is one thing. Boyfriend’s another.” Granny gave Emma a wise wink. “What happens in Boston stays in Boston. Isn’t that how the saying goes?”

Emma narrowed her eyes at Granny. “That’s supposed to be what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and you know that. Boston and my daughter are entirely different.”

Granny put her hands on her narrow hips, facing off with Emma. “And what about what happens in Pennsylvania stays in Pennsylvania?”

Emma flinched at the words. While investigating a ghost in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, at the beginning of last summer, Emma had encountered mixed romantic feelings for Dr. Quinn Keenan, a dashing archeologist and Pennsylvania native who had been helping her.

“I told Phil all about Quinn.”

“Even about kissing him?” Granny challenged.

“Yes. Even about that. Satisfied?”

Granny pursed her lips to think about it. “How’d the cowboy take it?”

“You mean you didn’t eavesdrop?” Emma hated the defensive tone in her voice, but couldn’t help herself. Telling Phil about Quinn had not been easy for either of them and had nearly broken them apart. She also knew Granny hadn’t been present during the discussion. Quinn had been a topic Emma hadn’t discussed with anyone but Phil and briefly with Tracy, and had discussed with no one since.

“No need to get all snippy on me.” Granny moved closer to Emma. “This was one time I kept my nose out of things. And it was difficult, I can tell ya that.”

“Phil wasn’t happy, to say the least,” Emma told the ghost, who had become a close, albeit an often annoying, companion. “But we got through it. I told him it was over, and it is. I haven’t spoken to or heard from Quinn since I returned from that trip to Australia in the fall. Last I heard, he’d gone to South America to check out a new dig.”

What Emma left out was that Quinn had asked her to go with him to South America to meet some tribal spiritual leaders. It had been a difficult decision. She’d wanted to go and do research for her show. When he’d asked her to Australia, it had been to spend time at a dig and to learn about the Aborigines. In spite of her attraction to Quinn, the trip had been offered and accepted only on a professional level. Partway through it, Phil had flown down to join her. There had been definite tension between the two men. It wasn’t obvious but ran like an underground current whenever the three of them were together until Quinn left for another assignment near the end of Emma’s stay. Emma was attracted to Quinn, but it wasn’t the same thing as the deep love she felt for Phil. By the end of the trip, she was sure Phil finally understood that Quinn was just a friend, and as a globe-trotting archeologist, he was a wonderful resource for information about ghosts and spiritual beliefs of other cultures.

Granny, sensing the downturn in Emma’s mood, tried to put a hand on her great-great-great-granddaughter’s shoulder, but it just fell through Emma’s solid presence like a warm knife through butter. “Kelly’s new boyfriend seems to be a nice young man,” she offered in place of physical comfort. “He’s polite and smart and quite smitten with her.”

When Emma looked up with a mother’s eager eyes, Granny pointed a hazy finger in her face. “But that’s all I’m telling you, you hear?”

“It’s enough.” Emma gave the ghost a smile. “For now.”

“I’m guessing you’re chatting with Granny.” Tracy had stepped over to join Emma. Milo was still on the phone. “Or else you’re impersonating a crazy person.”

Emma shot a look at the ghost. “Granny makes me crazy.”

Granny stuck her tongue out at Emma like a petulant child. Although Granny appeared older, in truth the tiny ghost had been a few years younger than Emma when she’d been wrongly accused of killing her husband and murdered by vigilantes. Emma liked to tease Granny about being her elder.

“So what’s the verdict with Dolly?” asked Emma, ignoring Granny.

“Milo has convinced her to attend his lecture this afternoon before she goes down to her shop.” Tracy held out a key on a simple leather fob to Emma. “Here’s Milo’s key to the townhouse.”

Emma took the key. “Don’t you think Dolly would be upset if she found out I’d been snooping around while she was gone?”

Tracy shrugged. “I think she’d be okay with you checking out the ghost while she’s not there, and it’s not like you’re ransacking her house. If anyone sees you and asks who you are, just say you’re picking up something for us while we’re at the university.” Tracy paused. “What exactly are you hoping to find?”

“I’m not sure,” Emma answered honestly. “If Lenny is only visiting Nicholas, he’s probably not there now. Even if it’s Dolly he’s interested in, he may not be there if she’s gone. I just want to see if I can coax him out while we’re alone. Ghosts often have a favorite spot they like to hover around. I’m hoping Lenny’s spot is that light. It’s encouraging that he spoke to me once.”

Tracy laughed. “Too bad he wasn’t a dog. You could use a treat to do it.”

Emma grinned. “If it were only that easy.”

Tracy waved to Milo and pointed at her watch, letting him know it was time for them to get moving. He ended the call and joined them at Emma’s car. “Dolly is going to meet us there a little before three,” he told them. “After my lecture and the meet and greet after, we’ll take her out for an early dinner, then she’ll go on down to her shop. She said since it’s Tuesday, it should be very quiet so there’s no need for her to rush to Fremont Street.”

“So she should be there around six?” Emma asked.

“I’d say that’s about right,” he confirmed. “Are you going to go down to The Raven’s Craft?”

“I’d like to see it,” Emma told him. “She invited me down.”

Milo smiled. “She asked if you were going to help me at the lecture. I told her I’d be fine on my own and that you were going to rest after your long drive.”

“I’ve told you, she doesn’t mean anything by that, darling.” Tracy stroked his arm.

“I know she doesn’t,” Milo assured her. “But it still stings a bit, even after all these years.”

“What about the lecture?” Emma asked. “Won’t having her there upset your presentation?”

“Not really,” he assured her. “This is a lecture based on my latest book, not a demonstration. I won’t do demonstrations. Spirits shouldn’t be used as circus animals. They were once people like us and should be respected as such.”

“I totally agree,” chimed in Granny. “People are either afraid of us or think we’re some sort of entertainment. There would be a lot more communication between us and the living if they would just learn to chillax.”

Milo and Emma whipped their heads around to stare at the ghost. Tracy vibrated with frustration. “What did she say?”

“Granny just used the word
chillax
,” Emma told her friend. “What’s more amazing, she used it correctly.”

The spunky old ghost crossed her arms in front of her. “Seems to me, you three need to chillax.”

Milo shook his head with amusement. “Granny, you never cease to amaze me. Where in the world did you pick that term up?”

“She’s been hanging around Kelly and her friends a lot lately,” Emma explained.

“Some of those classes are pretty interesting,” Granny noted. “I even understand some of them.”

“You’re attending classes at Harvard?” Milo asked with surprise.

“I’m simply expanding my education,” Granny sniffed. “You’d be surprised how many spirits are floating about the hallways of that place.”

“Actually, I wouldn’t,” answered Milo as he rubbed an earlobe. “I did some research on it several years ago, but never heard of any spirits auditing classes. You taking the exams, too?” He laughed and translated the conversation to Tracy so she could join in on the fun.

“If you’re going to make fun of me,” Granny said, getting peeved, “I’m leaving.”

“I’m not making fun of you, Granny,” Milo assured her. “I just find it really fascinating.”

Granny began to fade. “Later, dudes.”

Emma turned from looking at the empty air where Granny had just been to Milo. “Some days it’s like I have two children, and one of them is overly sensitive.”

“I heard that!” came a disembodied voice.

Milo fought back laughter long enough to translate Granny’s latest comment to Tracy.

“Then hear this,” Emma called up into the sky. “Meet me at Dolly’s.”

There was a moment of dead air, followed by a faint, “Gotcha, Chief.”


CHAPTER FIVE

K
EY
or no key, entering someone’s home without their knowledge made Emma feel like an interloper snooping in someone’s private world, which she was. There was no sign of Granny, just the silence of a place waiting patiently for someone to return and make it a home again.

Emma immediately went into the kitchen and stared up at Nicholas’s favorite light, looking for the telltale sign of a faint but flickering sparkle that often accompanied spirits. She saw nothing. With deliberation, she moved through the spacious townhouse, keeping an eye out for any signs, small or large, that she was not alone.

Dolly’s home was all on one level with the living room joining with the kitchen and dining area to form an open great room. A large picture window faced the small front yard and beyond that the street. The drapes were open. Off the dining area, sliding glass doors opened onto a sizable covered patio with a patio table, chairs, and a chaise lounge. Beyond the concrete apron a small patch of desert landscaping covered the few yards between the patio and the block fence shared with the next building. The few decorative plants in the back were of the low-water type typically found in desert communities.

Going back through the living room area, Emma entered a hallway. Off the hallway was a large master bedroom and bath and a nice-size second bedroom with a guest bath across the hall. Like the rest of the house, these rooms had been decorated in a kaleidoscope of colors and fabrics. Emma stopped to inspect a display of photos hung on the hallway wall. The hallway was long and dark, so she snapped on the hall light to get a better look.

The photos were mostly older ones. There was a grouping dedicated to Milo’s school pictures. Emma studied each one. As a child, Milo didn’t look that different from how he looked now, just younger and with more hair. His face was studious and solemn, the type of bookish loner other kids would pick on for generations, whether or not he had the distinction of hanging out with half-naked dancers.

Other photos on the wall included several with Dolly and Milo together at various stages in Milo’s life, including both his high school and college graduations and various celebrations. Except for a few with him surrounded by spangled and feathered dancers, none of the photos of Milo had anyone other than Dolly in them. There were none of the budding medium with other children at any age. A gush of sadness for her friend coursed through Emma like warm water. Milo had definitely been a lonely child. No wonder he had discovered his talents at such an early age and that it had taken someone like Tracy to draw him out of his shell socially.

Alongside the photos of Dolly and Milo were many photos of Dolly in dance costumes, both covered and skimpy, alone and with other dancers. In some photos, she posed with other people. Emma recognized celebrities, major and minor, from decades ago in a few of the photos. Dolly had been stunning in full makeup and plumage, standing on long legs encased in fishnet hose. There were also some photos of Dolly in street clothes sitting around tables drinking with friends, both men and women, having a good time, and a few with people in standard outdoor poses. Unlike her son, Dolly Meskiel did not seem to be plagued with shyness.

Putting on a recently acquired pair of reading glasses, Emma took a closer look at the photos. One man showed up in several, both in a group and alone with Dolly, making Emma wonder if he had been Dolly’s boyfriend at the time. She would have to ask Milo.

She was almost ready to move on and check the rest of the house when a particular photo caught her eye. It was of Dolly and another dancer in full showgirl regalia posing with men in tuxedos. One of the men standing to the side looked a lot like a young Nemo Morehouse. One man was older but Emma didn’t recognize him. The third made her do a double and triple take. She pulled her iPad out of her bag and started up the search engine. When she got the results she expected, she checked the time. The event at the university wasn’t due to start for another thirty minutes. She punched one of the speed dials on her phone.

“Hi there,” answered Tracy. “I didn’t expect to hear from you yet. Did you talk to Lenny?”

“No sign of him. Is Milo around or is he already tied up?”

“He’s right here. We’re in the green room waiting.”

“Can I ask him a quick question?”

“Sure. Hang on.”

“What’s up?” asked Milo when he came on the line.

“Milo, did your mother know Jimmy Hoffa?”

Milo let out a big laugh. “So you’re checking out her rogues’ gallery, huh?”

“Yes. That is Hoffa, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. That photo was taken at the opening of Caesars Palace in 1966. Mom and some other dancers were hired to mingle with the guests for color. That photo is one of her prize possessions, second only to the one taken with Sinatra.”

“Yes, I saw that one. Dolly met some interesting people when she was dancing.” She paused. “Do you recall the other men standing with her in that photo with Hoffa?”

Milo hummed a low tune while he thought about it. “It’s been a while since I’ve taken notice of those photos, but I believe one of the men is Moe Dalitz, a mobster known as the Father of Las Vegas.”

“Would that be the older gentleman in the photo?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a third one in the photo that I believe is Nemo Morehouse.”

“Really?”

“I think so. He’s much younger than in the photo I found online.”

Milo paused. “Dolly took tons of PR photos like that. It doesn’t mean she knew Nemo.”

“True, but maybe Lenny thinks she’s connected to him somehow. Anyway, curiosity was killing me so I just had to call and ask. You have a great presentation. Is Dolly there?”

“She’s sitting in the front row, but I’m going to pretend she’s not there.” Milo gave another laugh, this one laced with nerves.

“You’ll be great, as always. I’ll talk to you later, after I visit The Raven’s Craft.”

After ending the call, Emma continued moving through the house slowly, being sensitive to any shifts in air currents or light that might indicate a spirit. She felt nothing, not even the presence of Granny.

Returning to the kitchen, she sat on one of the stools at the counter and looked up at the dark overhead light. “I know you’re up there. I’m a friend and I’m here to help.” She waited. Nothing happened. The house remained still and lifeless. “It’s safe to show yourself,” she continued.

“Got anything?”

Emma nearly jumped out of her skin at the voice so close to her ear. “Dammit, Granny,” she scolded the ghost once she’d composed herself. “You know I hate you sneaking up on me like that.”

Granny looked pleased, not chastised. “For someone used to dealing with the dead, you sure spook easy.”

Granny started to say something else, but Emma held up a hand to stop her.
“Shhh.”
They both stopped and listened.

“Do you hear that, Granny?” Emma whispered.

“Sounds like someone chuckling, or maybe clearing their throat.”

“Sure does,” Emma agreed.

Looking up at the light, Emma thought she saw a few tiny sparkles of light, like a small scattering of spilled glitter.

“See,” said Granny, “I’m not the only one who finds it peculiar that you scare so easily.”

“Granny, please,” Emma said to her. “I’m trying to listen.”

Again a faint chuckle was heard above them.

“If you have any manners,” said Granny to the light, “you’ll show yourself instead of laughing at us.”

While the tiny shimmers remained, the faint sound of amusement stopped.

“That’s a start,” snapped Granny.

“Granny, please,” Emma said without taking her eyes off the light fixture. “We want him to stay, not get mad and leave.”

In a calm voice, Emma asked the light, “Are you Leonard Speidel?” The sparkly haze in the light intensified for a brief instant, but remained silent.

“You think that was a yes?” Granny asked Emma.

“If it wasn’t,” Emma responded, “I think the spirit at least recognized the name.”

Not satisfied, Granny looked up at the light. “Are you Lenny Speidel?” she asked. “Blink one time for yes. Two times for no.”

Instead of responding to the request, a faint voice asked, “Did Nemo’s boys send you?”

Granny and Emma looked at each other, both with raised eyebrows. “Do you mean Nelson Morehouse?” Emma asked.

Instead of responding, the spirit repeated the question. “Did Nemo’s boys send you?”

“No, they didn’t. And neither did Nemo,” said Granny with growing impatience. “We’re here to help you. Do you need help going over to the other side?”

The glittery light went dark for several seconds, then flashed twice.

“Looks like a no to me,” Granny said to Emma, who nodded in agreement.

“Are you Leonard or Lenny Speidel?” Emma asked again. After a long pause, the hazy light above went dark, then sparkled again. Emma sighed with relief. At least now she knew who she was speaking with.

Before either she or Granny could ask another question, Lenny the Lightbulb said, “Tell Nemo I know his time is near.” Then the light disappeared.

Emma and Granny hung around Dolly’s home for about thirty more minutes hoping Lenny would return, but he never did.

“Granny,” Emma said to the ghost. “I’m going to head down to Fremont Street and check out the area and maybe do some more research on this Nemo guy before I meet up with Dolly at her shop. You look like you’re fading. Why don’t you get some rest in the meantime.”

“I’m dead,” the ghost quipped. “I’m eternally resting, or did you forget that?”

Emma shook her head at the sarcasm. “Sometimes I do forget. But you are fading, so why don’t you go recharge your energy and meet me later?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Granny agreed. “Do you think Lenny will turn up at Dolly’s shop?”

“I have no idea. I did find a photo in the hallway in which Dolly and Nemo are shown together, so maybe Dolly is the connection and maybe Lenny’s trying to send Nemo a message through her.”

“But why does he keep asking if Nemo’s boys sent you? It’s like he thinks you’re the connection.”

“Who knows? Maybe he’s confused. You know how sometimes spirits who don’t often visit from the other side get confused about times, places, and people. To Lenny, it might still be the 1960s.”

“Do you think that’s when he died?” Granny was starting to fade even as she asked the question.

Emma thought about the photo on the wall with Dolly and the two known criminals. Milo had said it was taken in 1966. “Could be. It was in the sixties when he and Nemo supposedly robbed the Lucky Buck Casino.” Emma sighed. “I have a lot of questions to ask Dolly when I see her. If I don’t scare her off.”

“She’s a fortune-teller, Emma,” came Granny’s disembodied voice. “And she believes in ghosts, even if she doesn’t believe in Milo’s abilities. Do you really think for one instant when she named the ghost Lenny the Lightbulb that she didn’t have an inkling that it might be the ghost of Leonard Speidel? That’s simply too much of a coincidence, to my thinking.”

“Mine, too, Granny. But why did she ask for me to come here?”

“Maybe to confirm it’s him and to ask him to leave?”

Emma wasn’t sure. “More like to find out what he wants.”

• • •

EMMA WAS ABOUT
to get into her SUV when she noticed a woman dressed in shorts and a tank top pushing a baby stroller down the sidewalk in front of Dolly’s home. Even though the little boy was wearing a cap against the sun, Emma recognized him. She waved to the woman and approached.

“Hi,” Emma said. “Are you Nicholas’s mother?”

“Yes,” the young woman answered with some wariness.

“I’m Emma, a friend of Dolly’s son, Milo. I was visiting Dolly this morning and met Nicholas.” Emma bent down toward the stroller. “Hey, handsome boy, nice to see you again.” The baby rewarded her with a big smile.

Emma stood up and smiled at the woman. “He’s such a good-natured little guy. My daughter, Kelly, was like that when she was a baby.”

The young mother melted noticeably. “Yes, he is. And he really likes Dolly. She’s wonderful with him.” She paused, then stuck out her hand. “I’m Suzanne Foster.”

Emma shook the offered hand. “Emma Whitecastle.”

“Nice to meet you, Emma,” said Suzanne. She hesitated, thinking for a moment before adding, “Aren’t you the lady with that talk show on TV about the paranormal stuff?”

“Yes,” Emma said, pleased always to be known for that instead of as Grant Whitecastle’s ex-wife.

“I guess it figures Dolly would know you, her being a fortune-teller and her son a famous psychic.”

“I’ve known her son, Milo, for several years, but today was the first time I’ve met Dolly. She’s quite a character, isn’t she? And she sure does love your son.”

Suzanne gave off a nervous laugh and looked away for a moment. “My husband thinks she’s very odd. I had to convince him to let her watch Nicholas. He’s still not sure about her, but he sees how happy Nicholas is with her and her schedule is very convenient with ours.”

“Yes, Dolly mentioned that your husband is a police officer here in Las Vegas.”

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
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