Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery) (7 page)

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
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“A ghost, not Granny but the ghost of a former Vegas hood, told me just minutes ago that someone is coming for me. It could be dangerous.”

Quinn didn’t hesitate. “I’m in.”


CHAPTER TEN

W
ITH
Quinn by her side, Emma stepped into the bead store. Megan was still there, waiting on a couple. The woman was eyeing some of the baubles in one of the glass cases while Megan expertly described the stones and the artist who made the jewelry. The man was slouched against the next cabinet looking bored. There was no sign of Dolly. Two older ladies came in right after Emma and Quinn. They went straight to Dolly’s office and eyed the clock. It still said Dolly would return at six thirty, but it was now past that time.

Megan cast an eye at Emma, then at the ladies standing by Dolly’s door. “I’m sorry,” she said to them all, “but Dolly isn’t in yet and hasn’t called. You might want to try back a little later.”

The ladies, looking genuinely disappointed, left saying something about returning after they had dinner. Megan smiled at them before going back to helping her customer, who was deciding between a bracelet and earrings. The man with her looked at Quinn and rolled his eyes, looking for manly sympathy. Quinn chuckled and shrugged in response.

“Looks like Dolly isn’t back yet,” Emma said to Quinn. She turned to him, but aimed her next words at Granny in a low tone. “Granny, would you be able to check on Dolly? See if she’s on her way or still at that rest home.”

“Will do.” The ghost disappeared.

When Quinn and Emma stepped back outside, he turned to her with a grin. “That’s pretty handy, sending Granny to check on people whenever you want. It’s like you have a private and portable surveillance camera. Ever check up on Phil like that?”

Emma was not amused. “No, I don’t, and even if I wanted to, I don’t think Granny would go along with it. She’s pretty closemouthed about things like that. She visits my daughter regularly and won’t say a peep about Kelly’s life at Harvard.”

Emma looked around, trying to decide what to do next. “Besides,” she continued, “Granny can’t always zero in on people she’s not close to and can’t do it at all with people she’s never met. She followed Dolly earlier today. That’s the only way she knew she had visited a rest home. If Dolly’s left there, Granny might not be able to reestablish a connection since she and Dolly have had very little contact.” She looked at Quinn. “If there is something I’ve learned, it’s that working with spirits is not an exact science.”

Quinn gently took her arm. “Since we seem to be in a holding pattern, why don’t we grab some dinner and you can tell me what this is all about. There’s a really good restaurant here with a great view of Fremont Street. It’s primarily a steak house but they also have a nice choice of seafood for you, m’lady.”

Quinn started gently guiding her down Fremont Street, but Emma hesitated.

“You okay?” he asked.

Was she? Emma wasn’t sure. She did need to eat dinner, but would a meal with Quinn mean something else to him, or to their relationship? If he was the “door” Laura spoke of, was she about to open that door with its consequences? Had Laura not said a word, Emma knew she wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Quinn knew she was in a serious relationship with Phil and dinner would simply be just that—dinner with a good friend. But would Phil think otherwise? He was very jealous of Quinn. As far as Emma could see, Quinn was the only man Phil had concerns about. She’d told him about her attraction to Quinn in Pennsylvania and even about the kiss, but assured him that it was just a passing fling with uncertainty and that she was now dead sure she loved him and wanted to be with no one but him.

Still, the words of the young psychic rattled in her head like a snake about to strike. With a brush of her hand through her hair, she dismissed them and with a smile followed Quinn to the restaurant.

The restaurant did have a spectacular view of Fremont Street and of the light show. They were seated by a window just as it began and watched in silence while enjoying a glass of wine. When it was over and they were eating their salads, Emma told Quinn about Lenny and Dolly and everything else she’d uncovered since coming to Las Vegas.

“Wow,” Quinn said, putting his fork down. “All that has happened just since this morning?”

Emma took a bite of artichoke heart and nodded. After she swallowed, she said, “I have a whole list of questions to ask Dolly as soon as I find her.”

“And you think she knows the ghost in her light?”

“I think she at least knows who he is. I also want to question Madeline. That’s her partner in the shop we just left. They were showgirls together years ago and most likely hung around the same people, but she’s out ill today according to her great-niece Megan.”

“Was that the girl in the shop?”

Emma nodded and took a sip of her wine. Her attention had been captured by the people now zooming along on the zip line after the show was over.

“You ever do that?” Quinn asked.

“A zip line? No, never, but I’ve always wanted to.” She looked back at Quinn. “There’s one in Catalina I’d like to do, but haven’t yet.”

“Why not? It’s not far from you.”

“I know and I visit Catalina at least once a year. I love it over there.” She smiled to herself. “It’s just that Phil has a fear of heights.” She looked back at the zip line. “I wanted to take Kelly when she was home visiting in March, but we never got the chance.”

Quinn laughed. “That big gruff guy is afraid of heights?”

“It’s true. He can stare a rattlesnake in the eye and tackle the wildest bronco, but take him off the ground and he’s a mess.”

“But he flew to Australia to be with you last year.”

“And had to be sedated for the flight.” She smiled again, and warmth filled her heart. “One time Phil took one of those tiny private helicopters to Catalina because he thought I was in danger. He did it cold-turkey, without drugs or even a drink. He put my well-being before his biggest fear. My ex-husband would never have done that. That’s when I knew for certain Phil really loved me.”

After their meals were served, Emma started eating her seafood entrée with enthusiasm. Quinn didn’t start eating, but instead took two slow sips of his wine, pausing between each as he studied Emma. “I really don’t have a chance with you, do I?”

Emma stopped eating. She studied the smart, rugged, and handsome man across the table from her. The door had been opened. The choice to walk through it or not was hers. She knew the answer. “Romantically? No, Quinn. My heart belongs to Phil and only him. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he told her. “I kind of knew it when he came to see you in Australia. You two are good together and he’s a great guy. I’d like him a hell of a lot if he wasn’t my competition.”

Emma laughed and put her lips to her own wineglass.

“What’s so funny?” he asked her.

After swallowing some wine and dabbing at her lips with her napkin, Emma picked up her fork. “Phil said exactly the same thing about you when he was in Australia.”

When they were finished with their meal, Quinn pointed out the window. “Let’s say we take a ride down the zip line when we leave here. At least we’ll always have that.”

“I have to get back to the store to see if Dolly’s in.”

“Call Megan and see if she’s arrived yet.”

While Quinn paid the check, Emma stepped into the hallway by the restrooms and called the store. Megan answered and said Dolly still had not come in or called. Emma then called Milo but only got his voice mail. She left a message saying Dolly had not shown up yet and asking did he know where she was? Granny hadn’t popped back in with information either.

“No Dolly yet,” she reported when she rejoined Quinn. “And Milo isn’t answering his phone. He did say he and Tracy were going out for a romantic dinner tonight so maybe he shut his phone off.”

“I really hope I get to meet Milo.”

“I know both he and Tracy would like to meet you. But if you’re leaving tomorrow, there might not be time, unless you’re leaving later in the day.”

“I don’t have to leave tomorrow at all,” he suggested as they got up to leave. When Emma raised her eyebrows, he added, “No strings, I promise. But I don’t have to be anywhere in particular and you might need some help if this turns crazy.”

Emma thought about what Phil might think of Quinn spending more time with her. “I don’t know, Quinn. It might not be the wisest thing to do.”

“Because of Phil?”

“Yes. Both he and I had spouses that cheated on us. I wouldn’t want him to think he has to worry about my faithfulness.”

“Would he have to know I’m here in Las Vegas?”

“Yes,” Emma answered with no thought to doing otherwise. “He would. I plan to tell him tonight when he calls.”

“See, Emma,” Quinn told her with a wry half smile. “It’s exactly that kind of loyalty and confidence that makes men want you even more.” He opened the door of the restaurant for her to exit.

She shook her head and laughed as they left the restaurant and headed for the zip line.

“I was just thinking,” Quinn said after they climbed the stairs to the zip line platform to wait their turn, “maybe you should text Milo. If he has the phone’s ringer off, he might see a text sooner than notice your voice mail.”

“Good point,” Emma agreed. While they waited, she took out her phone and quickly sent Milo a text with the same message as her voice mail.

Emma loved the zip line. After being strapped into the harness and receiving instructions on how to secure her purse, she took off, speeding down the high line at a slight angle toward the other end of Fremont Street. Wind streaked through her hair as she looked down at the people and colorful signs and activities below her. It was exhilarating and made her want to do the one in Catalina all the more. On the line parallel to hers flew Quinn. She looked over at him and laughed, letting him know she was glad she’d taken him up on his offer of the attraction.

The ride was over in a matter of seconds. At the platform at the other end, Emma’s happy smile dropped from her face as she flew through the scowling figure of Granny Apples and landed.

After Emma and Quinn were unharnessed, they walked down the stairs to the street level.

“I take it you enjoyed that?” Quinn asked once they were on the ground.

Instead of answering, Emma walked to a doorway of a closed business, signaling for Quinn to follow. When they got there, she said, “Granny’s back and she’s not too happy.”

“You bet I’m not happy,” the ghost said with her arms crossed. “I’m off working and you’re pretending to fly. And you know I hate it when people go through me.”

“Then, Granny,” Emma told her with frustration, “you shouldn’t have been standing at the edge of the platform in my way. It’s not like I had anywhere else to go.” She quickly gave Quinn a rundown of the conversation, which he found hilarious.

“Laugh it up, Indiana,” Granny snapped. Emma didn’t relay that message.

“Granny,” Emma said, trying to get down to business and diffuse the ghost’s annoyance, “Dolly still hasn’t shown up here. Did you locate her?”

“No,” the ghost answered, still testy. “She wasn’t at that place anymore, but I do have something to report.”

“And what’s that?”

“You know how Laura said someone was being murdered at the moment we were talking to her.”

Emma nodded.

“Well, the man Dolly visited is now dead.”

Emma leaned back against the wall of the building. “He’s dead?”

“What’s going on?” asked Quinn.

Emma held up a hand, signaling for him to give her a minute, then to Granny asked, “Are you sure?”

“I know death when I see it, Emma. Trust me.” Granny sniffed in the air. “He was alive when I saw Dolly with him earlier. Now he’s dead.”

“Did you see his spirit?”

Granny shook her head. “No. It might have left his body already. But I saw several others.”

“What others?”

“Just spirits hanging around their loved ones. Looked to me to be mostly husbands and wives.”

“Any ghosts hanging around the man that died??”

“None that I could see.”

Slowly, Emma inhaled and exhaled several times to steady herself. “But you said before he was pretty old. Maybe he just died of old age or illness. Maybe Dolly was there to say good-bye to an old friend, knowing his end was near.”

Granny considered that option. “Could be. But I will say, no one at the place seemed too upset or saddened by his death, not even the guy taking care of him. You know, his nurse. That was kind of sad to me. I mean, to die and no one cares.” Granny shook her head at the thought.

Emma brought Quinn up-to-date.

“Maybe,” he suggested, “that wasn’t the person the fortune-teller was referencing.”

“He’s got a point,” Granny agreed.

Emma stepped out of the shadow of the doorway, Quinn and Granny in tow. “Let’s go back to Dolly’s shop and see if she’s turned up yet.”


CHAPTER ELEVEN

T
HIS
time when they entered the bead store, Megan was alone, her back to the door. Emma immediately picked up the sound of crying.

“Megan,” Emma said softly, approaching the girl.

Megan held up a hand without turning around. “Sorry, we’re closed.” Her words were thick and wet.

Emma repeated her name, “Megan. It’s me, Emma Whitecastle. What’s wrong?”

Megan turned around. Her face was swollen from crying, and her eye makeup tracked down her face like dripping ink. Crumpled in her hand was a sodden wad of tissue.

Granny moved forward. “The poor child is beside herself.”

“I need to close the store and go home,” Megan said, her puffy eyes darting from Emma to Quinn and back to Emma. “Madeline’s . . .” She choked and couldn’t continue. After blowing her nose, she blurted out, “Madeline’s dead. My mother found her when she went over to check on her.”

A couple of people walked into the store, but quick-thinking Quinn stopped them before they got too far across the threshold. “I’m sorry, but there’s been a family emergency and the store is closed for the night.”

“Even the old fortune-teller?” a woman with a bad dye job and thick glasses asked.

“Yes,” Quinn answered. “The whole shop is closed for the night. Please come back another day.” He ushered them out and closed the door behind them, turning the closed sign outward as he did.

“Madeline was Megan’s great-aunt,” Emma explained. “And Dolly’s best friend.”

“Maybe Dolly knows and that’s why she’s not here?” suggested Granny.

That sounded plausible to Emma. “Megan, is Dolly over there now? Is that why she’s not here?”

Megan shrugged. “My mother thinks Madeline died in her sleep. She didn’t say anything about Dolly.” She wiped her face and hopped off the short stool she was sitting on. “I need to go home.”

“We’ll stay until you lock up,” Emma said.

“And we’ll walk you to your car,” Quinn added.

Emma reached out and stroked the girl’s arm with tenderness. “Maybe I should drive you home since you’re so upset. Quinn here can follow and drive me back.”

Megan shook her head. “No. I’ll be okay, but thanks.” She got out a piece of paper and a pen and jotted down a note, then stuck it to Dolly’s office door. “Just in case Dolly comes in,” she explained. “She’ll want to know as soon as possible.”

Emma, Quinn, and Granny saw Megan to her car in a back parking lot. Before she left, Emma gave Megan a quick hug and promised to tell Milo about Madeline and to find Dolly and tell her.

Granny said, “I didn’t want to say anything in front of the girl, but something’s fishy.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered, Granny,” Emma replied. “She couldn’t hear you.”

“I realize that,” the ghost answered, her face sad as she watched Megan’s car exit the parking lot, “but it still didn’t seem fitting to talk about it in front of her.”

“Why do you think something’s fishy, Granny?” Emma asked. Next to her, Quinn went on alert.

The ghost shrugged. “Two people connected to Dolly dying in the same night.”

Emma conveyed Granny’s comments to Quinn, then returned her attention back to the ghost. “But they were both ill and elderly.”

“Maybe,” Quinn said, rubbing a hand over his chin, “this Madeline was the death Lady Laura was foretelling and not the old guy at the rest home.”

“But Laura specifically said
he
when speaking to Emma,” Granny said.

“True, Granny,” Emma answered, “but just because Laura used a male pronoun, it doesn’t mean specifically a man.” Emma looked to Quinn.

“Don’t worry,” he told her, “I followed that from your comment.” He glanced to both sides of Emma to cover his bases, then said, “Granny, Emma’s right, people use
he
and
him
and
his
all the time when they’re not being gender specific. And from what I’ve seen of psychics and fortune-tellers in my travels, they can’t always pinpoint gender or age, just generalizations.”

Granny wasn’t mollified. “But you don’t think it’s peculiar that two people close to Dolly died tonight within hours of each other. Maybe even at the same time?”

Emma translated to Quinn.

“I do think,” he answered the ghost, “that it definitely bears looking into.”

“Maybe,” said Granny as she paced a small area of the parking lot, “Dolly killed the old guy, then went to Madeline’s and knocked her off.”

Emma conveyed the comment to Quinn, then said to both of them, “I don’t know about the man Dolly went to visit tonight, but she and Madeline were like sisters. And even though I just met her once, I can’t see Dolly murdering anyone, let alone her best and longest friend.”

“I think Emma’s right, Granny,” added Quinn. “Did you by any chance catch the name of the guy who died tonight?”

“No, I didn’t,” the ghost answered. Emma turned to Quinn and shook her head.

Before anyone could come up with any other theories, Emma’s phone rang. She pulled it out of her purse and looked at the display. “It’s Milo,” she told them with a downturned mouth.

“Milo,” she said into the phone. “I’m glad you called.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner,” Milo told her, “but we were at dinner and I just now got your messages.” He spoke quickly with a slightly higher pitch to his voice. “I’m starting to get worried about my mother. I can’t reach her. Please say she’s there with you now.”

“I’m sorry, Milo, but she’s not.” Emma paused, not sure how to pose her next question. “Um, did you ever get in touch with Madeline Kurtz?”

“Why yes. I called her right after I last spoke to you. She sounded awful, but said it was just a cold and that she would soon be on the mend. I offered to drop by but she said she didn’t want to infect me and Tracy.”

“Milo,” Emma began, then stopped to clear her throat. “I have something awful to tell you. Megan just told us that Madeline died tonight.”

“What? That can’t be. I spoke to her just two hours ago!” Milo’s anguish came through the phone so loud, Emma pulled the phone from her ear. Quinn and Granny could both hear his questions of when and how pouring from the phone in a flood.

“I don’t know what happened,” Emma told him after putting the phone back to her ear. “Megan’s on her way home now. She said her mother found Madeline and thinks she died in her sleep. It must have been right after she spoke to you.”

“This is going to break my mother’s heart,” Milo said, his voice cracking. He paused and Emma could hear Tracy’s voice in the background. “We’re going back to the house this minute,” Milo said, speaking to Emma again. “If you find Dolly, please tell her to come home immediately. In the meantime, I’ll try to find out more about Madeline.”

“Will do, Milo,” Emma told him. “And I’m so very sorry for your loss. I know you said you were close to Madeline.”

Emma wondered if she should tell Milo about the man at the rest home when he segued into the topic on his own. “I wonder,” he said to Emma, “if my mother is still visiting that friend of hers you told me about earlier. I wish I knew where that place was and who she was seeing.”

Emma took a deep breath before answering. “Well, here’s another bit of bad news. According to Granny, the man Dolly was visiting passed away tonight, too.”

“What?” Milo said again in a high pitch. “Are you sure?”

“I haven’t confirmed it myself,” said Emma, “but Granny’s pretty sure it was the same person. And Lady Laura told me when I saw her that someone was passing, specifically being murdered, while I was with her.” Emma started to tell him what Laura had told her when he stopped her.

“I’m sorry, Emma,” Milo said, cutting her off, “but this is just too much to take in all at once. Do you mind meeting us at my mother’s? I know you’re tired from your long drive this morning, but I’d rather hear this in person than over the phone.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Emma told him. “I’m on my way.”

When she ended the call, she said to Granny and Quinn, “Milo wants me to meet him at his mother’s.”

“Can I tag along?” asked Quinn, who’d just finished a call of his own.

“If you want, but it might be a long night. And aren’t you supposed to leave tomorrow?”

“I just called my hotel,” he told her. “They said it was okay if I extended my stay.”

“What about your flight?”

“My ticket is transferrable. I’ll just have to pay a change fee.” He gave her a determined look. “Small price to pay to make sure you’re okay.”

After studying Quinn nearly a full minute, Emma started walking back to Fremont Street. “My SUV is parked on the other side of Fremont.”

Granny floated next to Emma. “I’ll meet you at Dolly’s. I gotta charge up good if we’re going to discuss this properly. And I can’t wait to see if Lenny shows. I have questions for him, and if he doesn’t answer, I may have to punch his light out!”

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
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