Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery) (8 page)

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
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CHAPTER TWELVE

W
HEN
Emma and Quinn arrived at Dolly’s, Tracy opened the door before they even knocked. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she told Emma after giving her a quick hug. She was about to say more when her eyes caught the tall, red-haired man standing behind Emma, prompting Emma to make a quick introduction.

“So you’re Dr. Quinn Keenan,” Tracy said with interest as she shook his hand. “Come on in. Milo’s in the living room. He found Dolly’s address book and is calling everyone he can about her.”

As they started for the living room, Tracy held Emma back. “Where in the world did you find him?” she asked in a whisper.

“On Fremont Street at the tail end of a bachelor party,” Emma answered in a hushed voice. “I’ll tell you more later.”

When Milo ended his current call, he greeted Emma with a hug and exchanged handshakes with Quinn.

“I’m sorry to intrude,” Quinn said to Milo, “but maybe I can help should you need another pair of eyes and hands.”

“Thank you,” answered Milo. “Emma has told us a lot about you. I’m just sorry we had to meet under these circumstances.”

“Any luck finding Dolly?” Emma asked after setting down her purse.

Milo ran a hand over his weary face. “None. I called the police but they won’t look for her until she’s been missing at least twenty-four hours.”

“I believe that’s pretty standard procedure,” Quinn remarked.

“That’s what they told me,” said Milo. “But the officer was very understanding and said considering her age they would keep an eye out for her. He took down the description of her car. The couple of friends I’ve called haven’t seen her, and I don’t think she had many others left in the area besides Madeline.” He looked down at his hands. “And now she’s gone.”

“Did you find out anything more about Madeline?” Emma asked.

Milo nodded slowly. “I managed to reach her nephew, Megan’s father. It was his wife who found Madeline. It looks like she died in her sleep.”

“That’s what Megan told us,” said Emma.

Tracy slipped an arm through Milo’s. “Maybe, when things settle down, we should try to get Dolly to move closer to us. She doesn’t have to live with us, just nearer.”

Milo patted her hand. “That’s very generous, my love, but I don’t think Dolly will ever leave Vegas. She loves it here.” He turned his attention to Emma. “So what’s all this about someone else dying and Lady Laura?”

“Are you sure you want to discuss this now?” Emma asked.

“Why not?” Milo said, indicating for them to take a seat. “And who knows, it might help us locate Dolly.”

Emma sat down on the sofa and filled everyone in, starting with Granny following Dolly and ending with finding Megan in tears.

“I still have no idea who that might have been in the rest home,” Milo said when Emma was finished. “But it could just be a coincidence that he and Madeline died on the same night. Both were ill and old.”

“Granny doesn’t think it’s a coincidence,” Emma told him. “And the more I think about Dolly’s disappearance at the same time, the less I do, too.”

“Old people dying does not, but old people who know each other and are dying or disappearing on the same night does sound very odd,” Quinn agreed. “But didn’t Granny say the people at the rest home weren’t surprised by the old guy’s death?”

“That’s what she reported,” Emma confirmed as she walked to the kitchen. From the living room the other three watched her as she passed the kitchen table and approached the counter.

Looking up at the light, Emma said, “We really could use your help, Lenny. Dolly’s missing.”

“Anything?” asked Milo, coming to her side.

Emma shook her head. “Not that I can see.”

She studied Milo. “With Dolly not here, maybe you’ll be able to discern something.”

“It’s worth a try,” he agreed.

“Wait for me!” Granny popped into the kitchen, briefly startling both Emma and Milo. “I don’t want to miss this.”

Milo shut off the kitchen light. Emma stepped into the living room and turned off a small lamp on one of the tables. “Should we turn them all off?” she asked Milo.

He studied the effect of the lighting. “How about leaving that small one on and turning off the larger pole lamp. That will make the kitchen darker but not completely.” He closed the blinds on the sliding door leading to the patio.

Emma turned the small lamp on again as Quinn stepped over to the tall pole lamp and snapped it off. The kitchen, while not dark, was cast into shadows. Milo took a seat at the kitchen table facing the counter.

“You’re not going to sit under Lenny’s light?” asked Granny.

“No, Granny,” Milo answered. “I’ll have a better viewpoint from here. No sense crowding him.”

Emma closed the drapes to the front window and stepped back into the kitchen. “Do you want me here or with the others?”

Milo looked into the living room. Both Quinn and Tracy were sitting on the sofa, the best vantage point to see into the kitchen. “Here, please, Emma,” he said, patting the chair to his right. “Strength in numbers.”

Emma took her seat. Together she and Milo watched the kitchen in silence. Granny hovered nearby. After a couple of minutes, Milo said, “Lenny, I’m Milo, Dolly’s son. We’d really like to speak with you.”

Nothing.

“Please, Lenny,” he tried again. “My mother is missing and I’m quite concerned about her.”

Another minute passed in silence. Milo was about to speak again when Emma’s eye caught a faint shimmer. She put a hand on Milo’s arm as a signal and kept her face pointed in the direction of the hazy sparkle. It wasn’t coming from the light fixture but from an area near the stove.

“It’s show time,” said Granny in a whisper.

“Welcome,” said Milo to the unknown ghost.

“Is Lenny here?” Tracy called to them in a stage whisper.

“We’re not sure yet who it is,” Emma answered, keeping her voice low. “It’s not in the light but by the stove.”

The ghost said nothing but faded, then brightened, pulsating with a slow heartbeat of light.

“Is that you, Lenny?” asked Milo again, addressing the hazy light directly and not taking his eyes off it. “Are you the spirit of Leonard Speidel?”

The apparition grew slowly brighter, coming more into focus. It was a man, an elderly man. The spirit faded again, then brightened, as if struggling to stay. This time they could make out more of his image. He was a shrunken elderly man with very thin hair. He was dressed in pajamas.

“I know him,” whispered Granny, barely able to contain her excitement. “That’s the man Dolly was visiting tonight.”

“Are you sure, Granny?” asked Emma.

“Yes, it’s definitely him,” Granny assured her. “He was wearing those same PJs when he died.”

“He could be coming to see my mother if he was a friend of hers,” said Milo. “The dead often visit those close to them right after they die.”

“If he’s the one in the rest home, then he’s not Lenny,” noted Emma.

Milo addressed the ghost, “Who are you? Can you tell us your name?”

The ghost came more into focus and moved away from the stove. He began floating slowly out of the kitchen, pausing at the kitchen table to look Emma and Milo over, especially Emma. The spirit floated into the living room and hovered near Quinn and Tracy, looking each one full in the face.

Tracy wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. “It suddenly got very cold over here. Is the ghost nearby?”

“He’s right in front of you and Quinn,” Milo told her, “but don’t be afraid. He seems to be studying you. He did the same to Emma and me.”

Granny went to the spirit, who had ignored her so far. “I saw you tonight in the place where you lived.”

The ghost turned to Granny, his face coming more into focus.

“I know you passed away tonight,” Granny continued. “Are you confused about going to the other side? If so, we can help.”

The face of the old man softened, then broke into a wide grin framed by fleshy lips. At that moment something familiar broke through Emma’s mind. It was slight and elusive, like a shy eel poking its head out from an underwater cave, then withdrawing. She tried to coax it out so she could grab hold of it and see what was itching her brain. She watched the ghost carefully, wondering why he seemed so familiar. Then it came to her.

“Where’s Lenny?” the ghost asked Granny. “I was told he’s here.”

The question took everyone back. Emma and Milo exchanged questioning looks. Granny glanced back at them for guidance. With a nod of her head, Emma encouraged Granny to continue.

“He’s not here right now,” Granny told the spirit. “Is he a friend of yours?”

The ghost scoffed at the question, but replied, “You might say that.”

The ghost continued to float around the great room and the kitchen, wandering slowly back and forth, as if pacing.

“Did Dolly tell you that Lenny was here?” asked Emma.

The ghost stopped in front of Emma. “She did. Was she lying?”

“My mother does not lie,” snapped Milo. “She’s peculiar, but very honest.”

Emma put a hand on Milo’s arm. “Don’t get defensive, Milo,” she warned. “It might send him away before we get some answers.”

“You’re right, of course,” Milo whispered to her. “Sorry. I’m just so worried about Dolly.”

Emma patted his arm, then addressed the ghost again. “We know Dolly visited you tonight before you passed. Do you know where she is?”

The ghost shrugged. “Not my concern right now.”

“Well, it is mine!” barked Milo, forgetting again to be calm.

The ghost, now fully in focus, came up to the table and hovered in front of Milo. “So you’re little Milo all grown up. You still look quite the same as when you were a snot-nosed kid.”

“What’s going on?” called Tracy. She was sitting on the edge of the sofa, ready to leap forward to help.

Quinn was more relaxed. He sat back on the sofa next to Tracy, absorbing what he could of the conversation, filling in the blanks with possibilities offered up by his sharp intuition. Taking a lead from Emma, he put a strong hand on Tracy’s shoulder. “
Sh.
It’s going to be okay,” he whispered to Tracy. “They’re safe.”

Tracy looked back at Quinn. He gave her a smile of assurance. Reluctantly, she settled back against the sofa cushions, but not before grabbing a nearby throw pillow. She crushed the pillow to her chest and kneaded it like bread dough.

“You know me?” asked Milo of the ghost.

Instead of answering, the ghost gave him a wide grin. Once again the eel poked its head out from the dark spots in Emma’s memory, and this time she succeeded in grabbing it and holding on. The face wasn’t as round, but the nose was the same. Getting up from the table, she disappeared down the hallway, returning a few moments later with one of the framed photos from the wall. She sat back down at the table and studied the photo, then the ghost pacing the kitchen with Granny on his heels like a guard dog. She pushed the photo over to Milo and pointed to it.

“The ghost is Jimmy Hoffa?” asked Milo with surprise.

“Hoffa?” The question came like a short yelp from Quinn.

Emma shook her head. She pointed to a specific man in the photo. Milo studied the photo, then the ghost, still confused.

Emma got up from the table and went to stand in front of the ghost. She smiled at him. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Morehouse.”


CHAPTER THIRTEEN

G
RANNY
jerked a thumb in the direction of the ghost. “He’s Nemo, the gangster?”

Cool and collected, the ghost of Nemo Morehouse looked Granny up and down. “The term
gangster
is rather antiquated, don’t you think? Kind of like yourself.”

Granny sputtered and crossed her arms in indignation, “Why the nerve!”

Ignoring Granny, Nemo turned his attention back to Emma. He bowed slightly. “It’s always a pleasure to meet a beautiful woman, my dear. Too bad we didn’t meet when I was alive.”

Emma shook her head slightly. Old or not, dead or not, Nemo obviously still thought he was a big shot surrounded by showgirls.

“My name is Emma Whitecastle,” she told him. She turned to Milo. “You know Milo Ravenscroft, Dolly Meskiel’s son. Over on the sofa are our friends Tracy and Quinn. They can’t see or hear you, only Milo and I can.” Next she indicated Granny. “And this is Ish Reynolds, better known as Granny Apples. She’s the spirit of my great-great-great-grandmother. Granny will be assisting us in helping you. So if you want help, it might serve you best to be polite to her. To all of us.”

Nemo chuckled. “I always liked feisty yet refined broads. You and me, Emma, are going to get along just fine.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” Emma told him with the sharpness of a pinprick. “What this boils down to is, you help us and we’ll help you as much as we’re able.”

Unable to contain herself, Tracy blurted out, “What’s going on?”

Milo turned to Tracy. “It’s okay, my love. But I do believe Nemo just made an advance to Emma.”

Tracy’s mouth fell open. “What? Is that even possible?”

Quinn, on the other hand, leaned back against the sofa and roared with laughter. “Poor Phil. Now he’ll be worried about Emma and spirits. I hope he’s never seen
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
.”

Recovering quickly from her shock, Tracy joined him in laughing. “I love that movie!”

“Me, too,” chimed in Granny, for the moment forgetting she was angry with Nemo.

Nemo floated over to where the kitchen met the living room area. “Your friends seem to find this very humorous.”

Emma sidled up to the ghost. “Why are you here, Nemo? Why are you looking for Lenny?”

The ghost of the old man turned slowly and looked at Emma. Though not as short as Granny, Nemo’s head barely cleared Emma’s shoulder. “He has something that belongs to me.”

“But he’s dead,” Granny told him, approaching. “Spirits cannot bring material things to the other side.”

“Oh, I know he’s dead, Granny.” Nemo gave her a close-lipped smiled. “I’m the one who had him killed.”

Milo got up from the table and stood near Emma. “You’re admitting to the murder of Lenny Speidel?”

“Why not?” Nemo extended his arms up from his sides in an exaggerated shrug. “I’m dead. It’s not like anyone is going to prosecute me now.” He laughed. “And it’s not like anyone missed the little weasel all these years.”

“This doesn’t make sense,” said Emma. “If Leonard Speidel had something you wanted, why did you have him killed? That seems rather counterproductive.”

“Seems downright idiotic to me,” groused Granny.

Nemo shook his head, but still maintained his smile. “And you would be right, both of you. Lenny wasn’t supposed to die, at least not until he gave me the information I wanted, but he tried to run and my boys got a bit rambunctious.”

Boys. Nemo’s boys.
Emma looked straight at the ghost. “By your boys, you mean the thugs who worked for you?”

“My employees, at least at the time. Not the smartest two lugs, but I certainly thought they were smarter than Lenny Speidel. Turns out I was wrong.”

The ghost of Nemo Morehouse wandered around the kitchen and great room again while Granny, Milo, and Emma kept a close eye on him. “So where is Lenny? Dolly told me tonight that he’s been hanging around here.”

“So you did know my mother?” asked Milo.

“Why yes,” Nemo answered. “And quite well back in the day, but she hadn’t been to see me in a long time until tonight.”

“Why tonight?” Emma asked. “Is it because she confirmed Lenny was here?”

Nemo nodded. “She knew we had unresolved business, Lenny and I. I went to Dolly years ago when she first set up shop as a fortune-teller. I had hoped she could put me in contact with him, or be able to tell me the information I wanted, but she didn’t seem to have that ability. Pity.” He looked straight at Milo. “She never told me her son did. It would have saved me a lot of time.” He turned to Emma. “She only told me about you, my dear. Dolly spoke highly of you tonight.”

Milo stepped forward until he was almost nose to nose with Nemo. “Do you know where Dolly is now?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. But don’t worry, she’s quite safe. For the time being.”

Milo’s eyes widened. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that your mother is alive and safe and under the care of my associates. If I get what I want from Lenny, you will get your mother back. If I don’t, the only way you’ll be seeing her is like this.” With his hands, Nemo gestured up and down his hazy figure.

The sound of a cell phone ringing filled the tense air. Emma turned to Tracy. “That’s Phil. Grab my phone and tell him I’ll call him back. I don’t want him to worry.”

Tracy opened Emma’s bag, retrieved the phone, and answered it. “Hey, Phil,” she whispered. “It’s Tracy. Emma’s tied up with a ghost right now. Can she call you back?” She listened, then said, “Okay, I’ll tell her.”

The interruption seemed to amuse Nemo. “You’re a popular gal, Emma Whitecastle. Is that a husband or a boyfriend?”

“None of your beeswax,” Granny answered for Emma. “Now where’s Dolly?”

Nemo brushed Granny off and concentrated on Milo, waiting for him to say something.

“What do I need to do to get my mother back?” Milo asked.

“Find Lenny and convince him to give you what I want.” The ghost of Nemo Morehouse started to fade.

“And that is?”

“He’ll know. And, Emma,” Nemo said, addressing her with a smile, “I wouldn’t go anywhere if I were you. You might come in handy in the negotiations.” With that, the ghost of Nemo Morehouse disappeared.

Silence, as heavy as a wool blanket, covered the house after Nemo’s departure. For several minutes no one spoke or even moved until Tracy asked, “Is he gone?”

“Yes,” answered Emma.

“And good riddance,” groused Granny.

Quinn got up from the sofa and snapped on the large lamp. “Wow, even without hearing his side of the conversation, that was pretty intense.”

After turning on the kitchen light, Emma quickly relayed the conversation with Nemo to Tracy and Quinn.

Milo filled a teakettle with water and put it on the stove. “I don’t know about you folks, but I need a cup of tea after that.”

“I’d prefer a strong drink,” said Tracy.

“In that bottom cupboard,” said Milo, indicating one to his right.

Tracy pulled out a bottle of scotch and grabbed four glasses from a higher cupboard. She poured a healthy bit into each one and handed one to Emma and one to Quinn, who’d joined them in the kitchen. She took one for herself and pushed the last glass toward Milo. “Here, darling, you’ll need this before your tea.”

Milo looked at the glass of amber liquid. “You’re probably quite right.” He picked up the glass and took a sip, followed by a large gulp.

“So he has Dolly?” Tracy asked after taking a good long pull of her own drink.

“Yes,” answered Emma. “Or rather people he knows have her.”

“Don’t worry, darling,” Tracy said to Milo. “We’ll get her back.”

Quinn leaned against the counter and sipped his drink. “Do you really think an old guy like that still has clout enough to kidnap someone? He could just be blowing smoke. After all, he’s dead. Even if he gets what he wants from Lenny, what is he going to do with it?”

“That,” Emma agreed, “is an excellent question.” With her free hand she rubbed her eyes. “He can’t pass the information along to anyone alive unless he has a medium to work through and he knows Dolly is not a medium.”

“Maybe that’s why Nemo’s so interested in you?” suggested Tracy. “Didn’t he say you might be needed as a negotiator?”

“Yes, he did, and that Dolly mentioned me to him. Funny, she mentioned me but never mentioned Milo.”

“You have to remember, Emma,” Milo said after taking a deep breath, “my mother doesn’t believe in my abilities.”

“You’re wrong about that, Milo,” Emma told him. “Today when I met Suzanne Foster and Megan, they both knew you were a psychic and famous. I’m sure Dolly told them.”

Milo seemed surprised. “But why would she keep that from Nemo and mention you?”

Emma shrugged. “I have no idea, but if I hadn’t come along, what would she have done? Or what would Nemo do?”

“There are a lot more mediums out there than you realize,” Milo said, taking out a couple of mugs and some tea bags from the cupboard. “Maybe he’s working with someone else to reach Lenny but they haven’t been able to do it. My mother might have scooted down to the rest home to let him know she’d found someone who could.”

“What about that Lady Laura we met tonight?” asked Granny.

Emma considered it. “She definitely is a medium, but I’m not sure she knows it herself. Still, it might be worth checking to see if Nemo or any of his people have contacted her.” She turned to Milo. “I gave Laura your number and asked her to call you. I think she needs mentoring in her skills.”

Emma went to her bag and removed something from it and brought it to Milo. “I grabbed one of her cards on my way out. She knows who you are but didn’t know you were Dolly’s son. In fact, she seemed a little starstruck at the mention of your name. I’ll bet if you call her, she might be off her guard enough to talk about anyone who might have approached her. Or she might be able to tell you who else in the area might be a medium.”

“Good idea,” answered Milo, taking the card. When the teakettle whistled, he took it off the flame and poured water into one mug. “Who’d like some tea?” he asked. “It’s chamomile.” Only Tracy raised her hand, so he filled two mugs.

“Maybe we should call her now,” suggested Tracy.

Quinn shook his head. “If she works on Fremont Street, she’s in the middle of her busiest time and probably won’t answer her phone, let alone chat.”

Milo sighed. “Quinn’s right.” He looked at his watch. “It’s almost ten. Early for Vegas.” He expelled a soft chuckle. “Dolly always said the best business was after ten, after people had been drinking in earnest.”

“The bead store stays open that late?” asked Emma with surprise. She took another sip of her scotch, feeling its warmth spread through her body like a heating coil.

“The bead store and The Raven’s Craft stay open most nights until midnight,” Milo explained. “During the week, they might close around eleven if business is slow.”

“Speaking of slow,” said Emma, rubbing her eyes again, “I’m about to drop and the booze is making it worse.”

“Emma, I’m sorry,” said Milo. “I totally forgot that you’ve been up since dawn just to drive here today.”

“Not since dawn, but close enough,” Emma said. “Vegas might be just starting, but I’m folding and fast.” She took a final sip of the scotch and put the glass down on the counter. “I’m sorry, too, Milo. Sorry there’s not much we can do tonight if Lenny won’t show and we have no idea who has Dolly. Maybe we’d be better off starting fresh tomorrow and contacting as many people as we can to question.”

“Aren’t we missing something here?” asked Tracy. “We now know Dolly has been kidnapped, so why don’t we call the police and tell them?”

“And tell them what, my love?” Milo tossed back the rest of his scotch while he waited for his tea to steep. “Tell them that the ghost of an old Vegas gangster who died tonight visited us and threatened to kill my mother if we don’t contact another ghost on his behalf?” He sucked in a deep breath of frustration. “They’d write us off as crackpots and not give Dolly a second thought. By not telling them, they will at least keep looking for Dolly as a missing elderly person. Tomorrow we can declare her missing and they will start looking for her officially.”

“Milo’s right,” said Quinn. “I vote for Emma’s plan, that we try to get some rest and start fresh in the morning.”

Emma studied Quinn. “So you’ve decided not to fly home tomorrow?”

He gave her a boyish grin. “After this? Not on your life. I’m here until this is resolved. Besides being fascinating to me, the more people out there hunting for clues, the faster we can get Milo’s mom back safe and sound.”

Milo stuck out a hand to Quinn, who took it and shook. “Thank you, Quinn. I appreciate that.”

Milo finished fixing the tea and handed Tracy her mug. “I don’t know how much sleep I’m going to get tonight, but I’ll have to at least call the Fosters early in the morning to let them know Dolly can’t watch Nicholas.”

Emma was getting her purse, readying to leave, when an idea struck her. “You know, I just remembered that Nicholas’s father is a detective here in Las Vegas. Maybe he can step up the search for Dolly.”

“I do recall my mother saying something about him being on the police force,” answered Milo with a beam of hope. He went to the refrigerator and removed a business card stuck to the front of it. “Yes, here’s their number. Dolly pointed it out to me last time I was here, when she first starting watching Nicholas.” He turned the card over. “Their home number is on the back of John’s business card. I’ll talk to him about it when I call tomorrow.”

BOOK: Ghost of a Gamble (Granny Apples Mystery)
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