An unusual night.

The Professor called in at 3 am this morning, while I was spending money. Neither of these things is normal.

I had been ordering some cards and bookmarks advertising Jessica’s Trap. The more you buy, the lower the individual cost, so my wallet was in turmoil and my credit card in pain. I plan to trickle them out at first then drop a load of them everywhere just before the book escapes – I mean, is published. I should have put a disclaimer concerning bad dreams and brain damage in the front of it, although it’s funnier to put it at the end.

So there I was, consoling my credit card, when the doorbell pealed. I considered turning on the outside light and letting the Ferals deal with this visitor but I had been spending already, and lights cost money. It wouldn’t have worked anyway. The Ferals are scared of the Professor, as are the ghosts. I’m not quite sure why, although he does have a sort of seething fury that’s permanently just below the surface (and sometimes above it).

I opened the door. “Yes?”

“Whisky, yes.” He barged in and headed straight for the living room. Honestly, he is more difficult to deal with than either Death or Red Stan at times. No wonder the supernatural is terrified of him. I expect Death will have to work up the courage to visit him when the time comes. Rather than starting with an imperious ‘It is Time’, I envisage Death opening with ”Er… excuse me, are you busy?’.

He will be. He always is.

He was halfway through a bottle of the Ardbeg before I could get a word out of him. When I did, it made little sense.

“Damn ghost won’t speak to me!”

I thought about asking where I could get such a ghost since the ones here normally won’t shut up. The only time I get peace is when the Professor visits or Death does a house-clearance.

“So,” I said, “which ghost is this?”

“He won’t tell me. He can speak, he can appear, he has been in the place for ages but he will not stand still for a photograph and he won’t answer me. Tonight he didn’t show up at all. How am I supposed to investigate the supernatural when it keeps running away?”

For a moment, I considered pointing out the obvious. All those things normally considered scary run away when the Professor is around. He has never even been troubled by the Rarely-Glimpsed Slimy Swamp Thing, and that has taken on whole parades of villagers and won. However, the Professor doesn’t know about the ghosts here, nor about the, shall we say, unusual fauna of the swamp and it’s best it stays that way. I don’t want him filling my castle with cameras and all his other gadgets. He might even try to move in.

Instead I merely inquired as to the location of the recalcitrant spectre.

“In my laboratory. In my own laboratory. I don’t have to go out in the cold, I don’t have to transport anything anywhere. No need to worry about batteries. Everything can run on the mains. It should have been the easiest investigation ever.” He scowled so hard I swear the painting of my grandfather winced.

“It must be frustrating,” I ventured.

“Frustrating isn’t the word for it.” He took a gulp of whisky.

“Isn’t it?” I was pretty sure it was the word for it, but then he was the one who had the experience. He didn’t look to be in the mood for a debate on vocabulary so I left him to brood while I put my credit card on life-support and double-checked the padlock on my wallet. He eventually fell asleep in the chair, as he normally does when he’s overdone both the rage and the whisky. I draped a blanket over him and left him there.

He must have woken and gone home before dawn, because some of the ghosts had started moaning again just before the sun came up.

It must be tough being a ghost. Death is after them, Red Stan is always looking for recruits, and then there’s the Professor.

I hope, when my time comes, Death finds me first.

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