“Are you sure this is legal?” Andy’s pointed ears swiveled back, and his long whiskers twitched at his much taller companion. Between the dockside scents of rotten wood and old fish, and Reese’s tetchy attitude, he couldn’t wait to be done here.
Reese wasn’t being very gentle with the warehouse door handle; she was trying to force it open with just her gloved hands. Even with her big brawler's muscles straining, it didn’t seem to budge.
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll be in and out. We’re doing pest control, not stealing merchandise. Shame Silver couldn’t get me a key,” she said.
Grunting, she backed up and gave the wooden door a fierce kick. Cracking at the frame, the door gave and flew in, the sound echoing into the dim, cavernous warehouse behind it.
“Why didn’t they just leave it unlocked?”
“Because the gods hate me,” she said, and strode forward.
“Aren’t you worried this is some kind of setup?” He looked up at her warily, while she shook her hands out, and frowned.
“So many questions! Look, kid, this is just a part-time gig for me. If I didn’t owe Silver a favor—and have reason to trust her—I wouldn’t be here. I sure as sharks wouldn’t need you. I promise you’ll get the full payment. Just need your eyes for a few minutes.”
Andy sighed. “I can see them already. They’re peeking around the edges. There’s plenty here, alright.”
“Edges of what?” she asked, looking down at him, puzzled
“The window, up there. And the boxes. This is weird, I don’t like it.” The fur on his shoulders prickled, under the thick canvas of his coat.
“No one likes ghosts crapping up their place. Though I guess this is a little different. Not sure where she’s gonna release it once I’ve got it, but no one’s going to miss it from here.”
The edge to her voice made Andy nervous. Reese had dark bruises on her arms and a long, shiny scar on her cheek. The bruises didn’t look that old. He tiptoed out of her reach, once both of them were inside. His tail lashed behind him, betraying his agitation. She seemed like the type who’d leave an angry ghost.
The warehouse had skylights and a few unlit lanterns hanging to either side of them; the fading sun didn’t give them much light to see by. Ghosts were easier to find at twilight.
In front of them, he could see the hard-packed dirt of the floor littered with debris from their arrival, but also broken glass from one of the lanterns and slightly away from the entrance, a splintered table. Reese hadn't kicked the door that hard. The ghost haunting here, did not seem to be one of the unobtrusive, quiet types.
"Looks like it manifests strong enough to physically interact. Don't see those much around here," she said, toeing the glass aside.
“How are you going to catch one that can throw furniture?”
“Silver gave me a magic bottle. Ghost trap, whatever you magic people call it.”
Andy whistled low. “A fantomocap. Expensive.”
“Yes, one of those. Can you see any human ghosts?”
He glanced around, straining his sight. “Oh, not yet. There’s a cat’s ghost jumping on the crates, and I think some faint memories of rats running with the living ones. Maybe a... jellyfish? What are they storing here?”
“Could be anything. It supplies outgoing ships, though, so probably harpoons, pulleys, several thousand gallons of salted fish.”
“Ugh. It’s no good unless it’s fresh,” he said, making a disgusted scowl.
“We’re not here for fish, short stack.”
“Right.” Andy wrinkled his nose at her, then stepped towards the center aisle. No watchman, because to hear Reese tell it, the watchman was too scared to stay, but couldn’t afford to lose his job, and the owner wasn’t doing anything about it.
No one around at all, except for them, and the great, fat specter of a burly dockworker hovering twenty feet above. It levitated a rather large barrel overhead, poised to crash into them.
“Shit!” She dove to the right, as it almost grazed her.
The barrel exploded wetly on the wall behind them, slats flying overhead, red wine splashing both of them. All of the weaker ghosts disappeared.
“Where is it?” Reese yelled, reaching for something on her belt, while she got to her knees.
“Above, it’s above you!”
The ghost moaned, a deep hollow sound, which felt like being blanketed with frost, and made his gut twist with fear. It hissed out an unintelligible word—a name, maybe a curse. More crates started floating.
“It’s really mad!”
Looking up frantically, Reese fumbled with what looked like a very large stained glass perfume bottle. “I can’t get the release off this thing.”
The boxes were already coming towards them, though.
Andy bowled her over, pushing her towards what little cover they had. No mean feat, as she possessed both double his height and weight.
As they tumbled, he heard a sad little clink, and then, moments later, a small magical explosion which nearly blinded him. The fantomocap had shattered, sending the ghost fleeing, but definitely not caught or driven out.
Reese cursed in two different languages, rolled, and grabbed Andy by the back of his shirt collar. Running, she towed him behind her, back to the entrance, and then down the street. They hid in the shadow of a loading crane, on an empty pier.
“Silver’s going to have to catch this one on her own. Sorry to waste your time, kid,” she said, panting. Both her dark, curly hair, and her ancient-looking corduroy jacket, were soaked with wine.
“Sorry about the bottle,” he said, looking up at her, and biting his lower lip. He could have run for it, on the off-chance she might beat him, but he still needed to eat.
Reese shook her head. “Don’t sweat it. Above my pay grade and yours. And, you might be right.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah, I don’t want to believe it, but Silver left out a lot of details,” she said, her normally hard expression, somewhat pained.
Sighing, she reached into her breast pocket for her wallet, then counted out the rest of the money she owed him. "See you around."
Andy caught her sleeve as she turned away. “I hope I’m wrong, Reese. Let me know if you ever need my eyes again."
“Thanks, kid. I'll do that.”
Once she was almost out of sight, Andy whispered a magic phrase into the cool twilight air. Moments later, the apparition of a cat appeared, winding around his feet like smoke.
"Follow that lady. Make sure she gets home okay. Go," he said.
The soft little ghost rushed to follow his command. He could never have controlled that angry spirit back in the warehouse, but if he kept practicing, he'd get better.
Hopefully, quickly; Reese needed someone to watch her back.