The front window at The Grumpy Magpie featured a slightly used casket, opened and propped against the headboard of a sleigh bed. The remainder of the display was filled with poorly crafted decoupage nightstands and jewelry boxes made by the store owner’s niece.
Enjoying a rare day off, Goodwood Duxford, Pepperidge Township’s lineal ghost wrangler, took the opportunity to run some long-neglected errands. To the casual browser, The Magpie appeared to be a disorganized and shabby junk store, its inventory the dregs from over-shopped garage sales. The shop’s commercial promised, “everything and the kitchen sink.”
Goody knew that The Magpie was much more.
The shop, piled high with old appliances, banged and scratched furniture, and dusty knick-knacks was merely a front for its true business. Goody was the rare customer allowed access to secret merchandise. As Goody made his way around The Magpie, he realized he was being followed. The man, too substantial to be stealthy, trailed after Goody at every turn.
Slipping between a rickety bookcase stuffed with musty and crumbling hardbacks, and an old dining table covered in surplus cosmetology equipment, Goody waited for his shadow to catch up. As the man walked by, Goody sidled quietly in behind him. The stalker became the prey.
When the man realized he had lost track of his quarry, he stopped abruptly and turned to retrace his steps, nearly running into a closely following Goody.
A surprisingly shrill squeak emitted from the big man as he jumped back then raised his fist as if to hammer Goody in the head.
“Chuck, you dumbass!” As rotund as the focus of her ire, Patsy, the store’s proprietress, stomped down the store’s central aisle. Surrounded by wobbling walls of precariously stacked merchandise, Goody feared they were in danger of being buried under an avalanche of junk.
“Goody, I have to apologize for my idiot son.” Patsy poked her offspring with the end of her quad cane. “He just showed up here, and I’ve put him to work in the shop to keep him out of trouble.”
His extended hand ignored by Chuck, Goody shifted his attention to Patsy.
“That’s fine, Patsy,” Goody said. “I just stopped in for some supplies. I’m a little low on black lava salt, and I need something to help Jon. He’s been roaming a lot lately.
Shouldering Chuck out of the way, Patsy took Goody’s elbow and pulled him toward the front of the store.
“I just got in some exceptionally potent asphodel and hyssop,” she said, “You could use that to keep him inside the crypt. I also have some lovely boxwood and blackberry wreaths. Hang one on the outside of the vault, it will help bind him.”
Overcome by an unsettling feeling, Goody kept looking over his shoulder at Patsy’s son. Loosening the woman’s grip on his arm, Goody turned back toward Chuck.
Patsy’s grabbed his arm again.
Goody stood staring at Chuck for several minutes, then patted his friend’s hand, squeezing her fingers with affection.
“A week ago,” she said.
“That’s how you know the herbs and wreaths work?’
“Fix me up with a supply,” Goody said. “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”
“Give me a few more days,” Patsy said. “There are some things we need to work out before he crosses.”
“I understand,” Goody said. “Call me when you’re ready.”
Goody left The Magpie with his purchases wrapped in plain, brown paper. Patsy and Chuck watched through the store’s large display window as the ghost wrangler walked back toward Gramberly Cemetery.
Patsy locked the front door and turned the store’s Open sign to Closed.
“Chuck, sweetie. We need to talk.”