Elza was pretty much the perfect flatmate, Peti had decided. She was tidy, had good taste in wine, only smoked on the balcony, and most importantly, she was a vegetarian and thus infrequently tempted to stray into his shelf of the refrigerator.
All right, she was mostly tidy, he amended as something crunched under his foot. Ugh. Dead leaves, it looked like. Had she come in from the rain and forgotten to take her shoes off at the door?
No, all her shoes were neatly lined up by the door, organized by color from black to dark black, except for the red kitten heels she wore when she felt particularly retro. "Elza? Did you track these leaves in?"
"What?" She stuck her head around the doorframe. "What leaves? I haven't been in there since you vacuumed."
"Maybe it's a ghost," said Peti, wiggling his fingers at her. "It is almost Halloween. The ghost of...a '56 revolutionary, or a soldier who returned home from war to find his sweetheart had killed herself in sorrow, so he hanged himself from the chandelier, or—"
Elza gave him her most world-weary frown, although she was careful not to wrinkle her forehead too much. "Halloween," she said, tilting her chin up slightly so she could look down her nose, "is a bullshit American holiday. Have you seen my cigarettes?"
Peti had not seen her cigarettes.
It wasn't just cigarettes. Peti's favorite pen disappeared ("It's probably under the sofa. Do you really want to move it and look tonight?"). Elza's second favorite lipstick and a half empty bottle of nail polish ("I probably used it and forgot to buy more.") A cake thermometer ("Didn't we loan that to Imola?").
The last straw was the box of hazelnut-flavored Belgian chocolates Peti had been saving for a special occasion.
"It's probably your landlady," said Ákos, who had come over with Imola and a pizza to complain about Feri's concept for the next production. He patted Peti's head. "Maybe she looks around when you're out and picks up little things she likes the look of."
Imola set down her pizza and smacked his arm. "Ákos! Don't be awful. It's probably just mice."
Peti raised his head from the table. "Mice that steal nail polish? And cake thermometers?"
"Um," said Imola. "I actually forgot I still had that. I don't know anything about the nail polish, though."
Elza shrugged. "It's worth trying. Peti, you go buy a mousetrap tomorrow."
"Me? Why me?"
"I don't do mice," said Elza, laconic.
"It is definitely not mice." Peti stared down at the kitchen table, which was covered in a fine dusting of flour. There were words scrawled in it, or at least symbols. They looked a bit familiar, but somehow Googling "weird symbols written in flour on kitchen table" didn't seem likely to bring up any useful results, so he left his phone in his pocket.
"Székely script." Elza positioned her phone carefully over the table and snapped a picture. "Old Hungarian. Huh. I guess our ghost is pretty old."
"I thought you said ghosts were bullshit."
"I said American Halloween—all that nonsense with plastic skeletons and eating squash pie—was bullshit. Never said anything about ghosts."
Peti managed to drag his gaze away from the table long enough to catch Elza in an insufferably smug expression. "So what now? 'Peti, be a good guy and pick up some exorcism supplies on your way home tomorrow?'"
"Not at all. There's no drama in trapping a defenseless little mammal. Ghosts, on the other hand, are sort of inherently dramatic. Drama—" Elza paused and struck a pose, hands on hips. "—is what I was born for." She rolled up the sleeves of her cashmere sweater. "Right, first I'm going to need some salt..."
FROM: "Márton P. László"
TO: "Nagy Péter"
SUBJECT: Re: Old Hungarian question
"YOU LEFT THE GAS ON"
Is this some kind of joke? I don't appreciate it.
Márton P. László
Professor, Department of Linguistics and Folklore
University of Budapest
> FROM: "Nagy Péter"
> TO: "Márton P. László"
> SUBJECT: Old Hungarian question
> Dear Professor Martón,
> I don't know if you remember me, but I
> took the folklore in theatre class you
> taught last year. Recently a friend found
> something in old Hungarian. Do you know
> what it says?
> ATTACHMENT: IMG_20161027_14639.jpg