Jay set the coffee and the bag of doughnuts on top of his car, closed the door carefully and stood with his back pressed against the handle. He looked at Hilltop House. It hadn’t aged well since he’d last been here, but that had been almost a year ago and the bugs and the weather had been eating at the boards with hungry mouths.
He didn’t want to go in. It was where Kenley Dirac had been murdered.
Fiona propped her bike against one of the trees. “It’s okay, it’s empty inside.”
He’d made fun of Fiona and her sister when they were kids – all the crap and rumors about ghosts. If the ghost of Kenley Dirac showed up and put him down he wouldn’t blame her but regret wasn’t worth much. Here he was with her daughter preparing to enter a haunted house and if he got a chance to apologize, if Dr. Dirac wanted an apology, he’d give her one.
“Don’t touch the spider webs,” Fiona told him as she pushed the door open and walked in. He hadn’t been planning on touching spider webs but he didn’t want to walk through one either.
He put the coffee down and walked over to the window overlooking the porch. There were a lot of spider webs and most of them were big but the whole place was empty and abandoned and full of dust so it wasn’t surprising that spiders had set up shop on the walls.
He started to join Fiona across the room toward the old dining table when he looked down at the floor. The rug was gone and in its place was a stain. Nobody had scrubbed the floor and the stain was very dark. Kenley Dirac, he thought, sickened. That had to be where she bled, right down there in front of him, and he had almost stepped on it.
“Jay,” Fiona said. She had lit a fire and stood by it half in the shadows, facing him. “Just don’t look at it.”
He watched her pull out a chair and sit. Deeply uneasy, unable to even look at the food, he stood on the other side of the table and fought with his emotion and finally asked, “Why am I here? What did you have to tell me?”
She took a sip of coffee and ate half a doughnut. “My mother and father were working on something together and I’m sure you understand that better than I do. Obviously something went wrong. Before my father disappeared, he said that if he didn’t return, we should go get a Lombardo. He was in a hurry and he didn’t explain. Viv and waited and argued about it and there wasn’t anything else we could do, so that’s why I went after you. You’re here because you’re the available Lombardo.”
He sat down in one of the dining chairs, confused and stunned but not angry yet. She’d lied to him, her mother hadn’t left something specific intended for him, but he could understand what she did. “Look, I do know what she was working on, but I don’t know how your dad was involved and I don’t know what happened to either of them. Maybe you didn’t understand what he told you, or maybe he was kind of…you know…out of his mind. What am I supposed to do? You know what this sounds like? It sounds like a fantasy trope, like I’m the savior of the world but don’t know it yet. No Lombardo ever tried to save the world or anything else as far as I know. We usually tear things apart.”
““Yeah, I know. Have some coffee and doughnuts.”
“I bought them for you.”
“So watch while I eat them.”
Exasperated, annoyed and trapped, Jay said in what he intended to be a kind voice, “Fiona, for your mother’s sake I’m willing to hang around for a while, like today, to see if something happens. You don’t have anything to work with except a sentence your father yelled at you while he was running out the door to try to find your mom. What are you going to do now that I’m here? Do you have something like a plan? I’m assuming you know what that is.”
She stopped and gave him a cool, assessing look. “You know that my parents were friends with someone you know very well – Gabe. He disappeared about the same time as my mother. You also know, no doubt you do, that my father and my sister and I can talk to the dead, to ghosts as you call them, and I don’t care what you think about that. I’m looking for one ghost in particular – Gabe’s father. I think he can tell me where to find Gabe, and if I find him, I may find my parents. I’m looking for him here because reasons, and I want you to come with me because you’re supposed to do something. That’s my plan.”
He didn’t even bother to respond to that. Gabe had something to do with everything. A meteor landed on your car, Gabe had something to do with it. Your house burned down, give Gabe the credit or the blame. The Gabe mystery and everything else was all to be solved by finding the ghost of old Uncle Don who would tell them where everybody was and what Jay was supposed to do about it.
Fuck this. The dragons might hang out at the dome indefinitely or fly home. The girl on the pier might not come back and so what if she did. Kenley Dirac was dead. He couldn’t fix that, magic Lombardo power or not.
“Please Jay,” said Fiona with an obvious effort. “I have to start somewhere. I can’t sit on the beach at Sandy Point and give up. My mother loved you too, please help me.”
He studied her and thought about it. Her mother’s death had hit him hard, harder than anything he’d ever suffered.
Kenley Dirac would have wanted him to help her daughter.
There was more than one way to look at this. Maybe he wasn’t the Boy with the Quest. Maybe Fiona owned it and he could somehow boost her over the wall. She seemed to want that role anyway.
“Okay Fiona, let’s go find your ghost.”