Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body
The large brass circle of keys clattered against the door as Daiyu locked the shop on the edge of China Town. None would come for her herbs tonight. In truth, none came much anymore since her YeYe was gone. Grandfather brought her across the ocean. He taught her his trade. But he couldn’t keep from the drink, and he left her little legacy but his debt. If she couldn’t do this, she would lose both shop and home.
Turning, she settled a heavy cloak across her shoulders. The San Francisco fog and her destination tonight meant she would be more comfortable if she stayed covered. She paused for a moment to breathe deeply. The evening’s wood fires and the familiar scent of spices that reminded her of home mingled with the city’s salt air. Daiyu squared her shoulders and strode up the street.
The click of her low, wood-soled shoes on the cobblestones echoed between the dark buildings that surrounded her. Most people avoided the alleys and byways where Daiyu spent the majority of her time. But she would never fear the dark—she was named for black jade. The dark was a friend that kept her secrets.
Tonight, the dark hid her form as she passed by banks and businesses that would not welcome her in the daylight.
After a quick, twenty-minute walk, Daiyu pulled open the ornate wrought iron gate. Brambles tugged at her wide, silk trousers as she stepped lightly between the shadowed stones. She muttered apologies to the departed. She would never understand this lack of respect for the dead. Then again, what did westerners know about venerating the deceased? Would their dead even care about nettles and vines? Those buried here were not the ancestors who would be called on for guidance.
Most were not.
Finding the grave she sought, Daiyu retrieved a small box of sulfur matches from the folds of her cloak. She cleared a small patch of earth in front of the stone in which she placed a few dry leaves, then struck a match. When the flame rose, she added herbs from a small clay jar and spoke, her brittle words sounding loud in the gathering fog.
“James Henry Wilcox, I call you forth by rightful charge. You will come and give me the answers I seek.”
Her skin prickled and a shiver ran through her. She tugged at her cloak, now stirring in a sudden wind, and repeated her call.
As she spoke the words for a third time, the small fire she had ignited blinked out, leaving only a curl of white smoke against the night’s darkness. “I am here,” said a voice. “Why do you disturb me.”
“I am resuming our negotiation,” she said. A cold smile slid across Daiyu’s features. “I told you, you owe me answers,” she said. “I promised I would haunt you. Here I am.”
The ghost of James Henry Wilcox faded into view like a reflection on imperfect glass. “I thought ghosts were meant to do the haunting,” he said.
“You’d think that, but I’m the one with the unfinished business,” Daiyu replied, crossing her arms. “Where will I find it?”
A suggestion of a scowl crossed his non-corporeal countenance. “Where will you find what?”
“The deed. You promised a guarantee of my home.” She crossed her arms as another chill gust swirled around her.
Daiyu jumped as the ghost of James Henry Wilcox laughed. This was not what she expected, but it made her smile. She liked a ghost with some spirit.
The ghost circled her once and then spoke again. “As far as I’m concerned, you got me killed. I think that makes us even.”
“I took you to where you wanted to go and you got yourself killed. You still owe me what was promised.”
“Over my dead body,” said James.
Daiyu clicked her tongue. “And here we are.”
“Yes,” he said. “Here we are. There’s nothing left that I need. You have nothing to negotiate with.”
“Except,” said Daiyu, “maybe I do.” Her fingers closed on another item hidden within her cloak.
A blurring caused by the shake of a head obscured the ghost’s features momentarily. “How could you?” he said. “I’m dead. I followed you into that den, and now I’m dead.”
“But your sister… she is still alive.” Daiyu finally drew out a photograph showing a sad-looking young woman with vacant eyes. James Henry Wilcox reached right through the picture before remembering he could not take it. “Give me what you promised,” Daiyu said, “and I will take care of her.”
“Take care of?” Worry creased Wilcox’s transparent features.
“I will rescue her. Train her. Teach her what I know. She will be able to summon spirits.” Daiyu paused as realization dawned on the specter’s features, then continued. “She will be able to summon you.”
“I’d be able to see her again? I had hoped,” he said, “but I never thought…”
“You never expected I could actually help you.’
“The opium? Can your skills really overcome that?”
Daiyu stared at him for a moment then nodded. “I can break its spell. You will have what we agreed on after all.”
“Then it is decided,” James said. “I’ll help you get the deed to your building, and you’ll get my sister out of that viper’s hands.”
“Good,” said Daiyu. “It is decided.”
Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.
I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.
Please note: The links should finally be all sorted out. If you find any errors, please let me know!
- Elizabeth McCleary – Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body **YOU ARE HERE**
- Canis Lupus The Picture
- Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
- Bill Bush Trapped
- Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
- Viola Fury 911
- Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
- C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
- Erica Damon Penance’
- J. Q. Rose Sorry
- Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
- Barbara Lund Spooky Space
- Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
- Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
- Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
- Sherri Conway Ants
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