Some of you may recognize these characters from Groundskeeper: Raking Up the Dead. This will eventually be part of the next story in that series.
She yawned with jaw dropping force, and Mark flinched. Chloe shook her head and picked up her mug, then realized it was empty. She reached for her thermos and shook it, then poured some of the contents in the mug.
Mark eyed the dark liquid suspiciously. “What are you drinking?”
“Cold tea.” Chloe took a gulp.
“Iced tea?” He cocked his head slightly to one side.
She shrugged, “iced implies intent. This is just gone cold. But it’s wet and contains caffeine and I don’t feel like going for an energy drink.”
“You’ll have to explain that to me, as well.” He’d already asked her a hundred questions about the world outside the library.
“Can you not leave…” She waved her hands around. “Here?”
“I…” He stopped, his mouth partly open. He was sitting across the table from her, the stack of books and papers between them. “I have a confession.”
“You’re not a ghost.” Chloe sounded as irritable as she felt. She was tired, and Mr. Cruor had been firm about the urgency in this task.
“I’m a ghost. I’m feeding off your energy.” Mark stood up, and she realized that he was faded almost to invisibility below the waist, where he’d been out of her sight. “I can’t take shape without energy, and tapping into electricity is dangerous.”
“So you’re vamping me?” Chloe knew she should be upset, but all she was feeling at the moment was relief that she hadn’t become immune to caffeine.
“Er… Yeah, I guess.” Mark lifted his palms. “I’ve been enjoying our chats.”
“And you’re helping me. A lot. I’m not a researcher, I’m a caretaker and groundskeeper. Much easier for me to mow, or use a machete on brush. So. Let’s go to the coffeeshop.” Chloe stood up. “I’m going to need some sugar and chocolate.”
“There’s a problem with that.” Mark didn’t bother fully forming, which Chloe guessed was out of consideration for her current state.
“Yeah?” She stopped with one hand on the doorknob. “Can you really not leave the library?”
“I can. I think. I can’t go far, though.” He waggled a hand. “I haven’t really tried, but there’s a very strange phenomenon…”
Chloe held up a hand, cutting him off. “You can explain quantum mechanics to me when I’ve had something in my stomach. Can you go as far as the Beverly?”
The once-grand hotel turned into boutique shops and conference center stood catty-corner to the impressive city library. Which meant it was only a few hundred feet from the basement room where they were standing.
“Yes.” Mark didn’t elaborate on this certain answer, and Chloe didn’t ask.
Normally, she’d avoid the artisanal coffee shop that sprawled across one side of the hotel’s lobby. It was a bit more than her budget would allow. Today, though, Mr. Cruor had handed her an envelope with cash. Spend it, he’d ordered. Chloe wondered if she would have argued more had her stomach not growled at him. She’d gotten breakfast, and now she was getting tea, a full, proper tea. Fueling both her and Mark was draining. Not that she’d realized she was doing that.
Juggling a large cup of the spiced, smoky Russian tea she’d discovered recently, along with a white chocolate, orange, and dried cranberry scone, she ignored Mark. So did everyone else, she’d noticed. He was right next to her, head on a swivel, and when she sat, so did he.
“You’re facing the door.” He commented, continuing to look around with avid interest. “You don’t do that in the library.”
Chloe hooked her earbuds in ostentatiously, then answered him like she was responding to a conversation through them. “Door’s locked. I don’t need to.”
“Oh.” He contemplated her food. “I thought you wanted chocolate?”
“Tea and sugar. MIght get a brownie to go.” Chloe took a bite. “Mmm.”
“I do miss taste.” Mark admitted. “And smell.”
“Seems like if you’re going to use me as a battery, you should be able to sense what I do?” Chloe took a sip of her tea.
Mark shook his head as she looked expectantly at him. “No, I can’t read your mind.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“Speaking of mind reading, since I assume you don’t want to talk about the research out loud in public, why don’t you eat while I tell you a story.” He folded his hands on the table and she looked through them at the polished wood grain.
“It’s a plan.” She bit her scone again.
“The ghoul’s lair was…”
He broke off and turned around as she reacted to something behind him, with wide eyes and sitting up straight, back stiff.
A man had run into the hotel lobby. He stopped, looking around in complete bewilderment. In one hand he carried a large pair of shears, the blades partly opened. He raised them, and waved them wildly, his mouth opening and closing. No one so much as looked at him, and he didn’t seem to notice Mark and Chloe staring from across the room. He turned, and ran back out again. Right through the closed glass doors with their old fashioned brass handles.
“That was a…”
“Ghost.” Mark finished for her when her sentence ended in a gasp. “Can you run and eat at the same time? I’d like to catch up with him.”
“No.” She picked up her drink and crammed her scone into her bag. “Let’s go!”
I was prompted this week by ‘Nother Mike with “The man ran into the hotel lobby, waving a large pair of shears in one hand. He looked around, then turned and ran back out.”
I prompted Fiona Grey with “Through the walls, the voices sounded like muted trumpets”
You can read all the prompt responses, or join in and play along! Come on over to More Odds Than Ends!