“Sorry, we hit traffic out of Palmdale,” Danny explained as they entered. “Guys, this is Bryan Phillips.”
“Bryan Phillips?” Haddon stepped in front of the newcomer, blocking the way. “Wait a minute, he’s your paranormal expert? The Detroit Butcher?”
Bryan held out a hand. “I--”
“What?” Link looked back and forth between them. If Haddon had known a paranormal investigator, why hadn’t he just said so? “You know each other?”
“I know of him. Enough to know I don’t want him in my house.” Haddon folded his arms across his chest.
“He didn’t kill anyone,” Danny defended.
“The word butcher kinda implies he did.” Link folded his arms across his chest too, unconsciously mimicking his lover. He knew Danny well enough to tell when the man was hiding something. “What’s the deal?”
Bryan sighed. “It was a misunderstanding of sorts.”
“A misunderstanding?” Haddon raised an eyebrow and shook his head. He stabbed a finger in Bryan’s chest. “You drove that man insane!”
“He was already insane!” Bryan took a step toward Haddon, head high and chin and chest thrust out in defiance.
Link pushed in between them and shoved Bryan away. “Explain.”
“I was called in to investigate a suspected haunted house. I was told things were moving around in the house, even going missing, and that weird sounds were being heard. What I wasn’t told, and what I didn’t find out until after things had already gone to far, was that the man who lived in the house had Dissociative Identity Disorder.”
“Dissociative...” Link trailed off. What the heck was that?
“Multiple personalities,” Bryan explained. “He was the one doing the so-called haunting. By the time I figured things out, the media had gotten involved somehow, things had spiraled out of control and it was too late.”
“Too late, how?” Link pressed.
“Too late as in he took his own life,” Haddon supplied. “Isn’t that right, Bryan?”
Bryan nodded. “Yes. Based on something I said, something he overheard me saying, he hung himself.” He faced Link. “There’s nothing you can say to me that hasn’t been said already, or that I haven’t said to myself.”
“He can help us.” Danny laid a hand on Link’s arm. “He’s not a bad guy.” He shot a glare at Haddon.
Haddon threw up his hands. “Right. Of course. He’s a great guy.”
Link frowned. On the one hand, Bryan certainly seemed less than trustworthy. On the other, the list of paranormal investigators they knew amounted to one name, and it was Bryan Phillips. He sighed and nodded.
“Seriously?” Haddon rubbed a hand over the top of his head and walked away.
“What do you want me to do? You want to keep the ghost? Maybe he can pay rent!” Link turned to Bryan. He hated going against Haddon’s wishes, but the situation needed to be dealt with. Now. “What do you need from us?”
“Show me where everything has been happening.”
Link lead the way into their small kitchen. He stood over by the sink, avoiding the hole in the wall as much as he could. Just the sight of it made his skin crawl. “Everything started when we opened up this wall.” He gestured to the hole.
Brian pulled a small device out of his left pocket and started poking around the wall. He stuck the device inside the hole, nodded, grunted, and faced Link. “Have the spirits tried to contact you?”
Link nodded. “Both of us. There’s a man and a woman, and the man keeps asking where is it.”
“Where is what?” Bryan looked back at the hole. “Did you take anything out of here?”
Haddon cursed. “We’re idiots.”
Link closed his eyes briefly and cursed as well. Where is it. Of course! The tiki! “We’re more than idiots. We’re fucking morons. We found a tiki in the hole.”
Bryan nodded, putting his device away. “Well, that’s it then. All you have to do is put the tiki back, and things should right themselves.”
Haddon paced away, his cell phone already up to his ear.
Link gestured to him. “He’s calling his sister. We gave her the tiki because she fell in love with it.”
“If you’ve got a possessive angry spirit, I’d say someone else fell in love with it, too. It’s probably something of great importance to the couple. Something personal.” Bryan rubbed his chin. “From childhood, even, perhaps.”
That made a lot of sense, come to think of it. “Keoni is Samoan, I think. Maybe the tiki has some importance to--”
“What?” Haddon shouted into his phone. “Why? To who? Well can you get it back? Fuck’s sake, Alice! You need to get it back. Fine. Call me the minute you hear from her.” He slapped his phone shut and turned to face Brian. “How bad would it be if we couldn’t get the tiki back?”
“What?” Link shivered as dread raced up his spine.
“On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst?” Bryan asked. “I’d say about a hundred. You’ve got to get that tiki back. These spirits aren’t going to rest until you do, and they’re only going to get angrier.”
“And more active, I’m assuming?” Danny asked.
Bryan nodded. “Unfortunately.”
“What can we expect?” Haddon leaned up against the sink next to Link. “I mean, what exactly are ghosts capable of anyhow?”
Bryan let out a low whistle. “Any number of things, depending on how long they’ve been around. Some can move objects--”
“Yeah, we’ve noticed.” Haddon reached up and pulled open a cupboard. “You’ll notice the lack of dishes. Keoni got a little pissed.”
“Ah. Well, then you’re in for a nightmare until you can get that tiki back.”
“What did Alice do with it?” Danny asked.
“She gave it to an ex-girlfriend of hers. They were Skyping and she had it sitting out and the woman begged her for it, so she mailed it to her.” Haddon rolled his eyes. “Anything for a piece of ass.”
“Mailed it?” Link groaned. Trust Alice to give away a ghostly heirloom. “To where?”
Haddon winced. “London.”
“London!” Link and Danny chimed at the same time.
“She’s pretty sure she can get it back, but the woman is on vacation and isn’t home. Alice is going to call her though, and see if a neighbor or someone else can get into the house and get the damned thing in the mail.” He threw up his hands. “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.”
Link started to respond when his pocket buzzed. He pulled out his phone, recognizing the number as his mother’s. Fuck’s sake. What now?