Dandelions sprang up as if overnight, dotting the garden grounds in little fluffy, yellow polka dots. Instead of his usual equipment, Goodwood Duxford, caretaker and hereditary ghost wrangler at Gramberly Cemetery, filled the pockets of his carpenter’s apron with pruning shears, a trowel, a small spade, and a water bottle filled, not with holy water, but with his homemade, organic plant killer.
Beside him on the ground, laid out on a large square blue tarp, were the blond, decapitated heads of several dozen of the insidious, self-propagating weeds. Kneeling in the grass, Goody was clipping the offending blooms at a furious pace.
“Working out a little pent-up sexual frustration, are you?” Lilith materialized next to Goody, sitting atop Jeremiah Benson’s gravestone. She wiggled her eyebrows at him in a suggestive way, a smirk skipping across her face.
Goody rocked back on his heels, suddenly feeling the knot that had tightened between his shoulder blades.
When he didn’t answer her, Lilith hopped down from the stone and began to circle him. Her hands clasped behind her back, she hummed a tuneless song.
“Dux, you haven’t done anything about Frankie, have you?” she shook her finger at him, tsking at his lack of effort.
Goody went back to weeding the plot he was kneeling beside.
“Do I have to do all the work?” Lilith came to a stop in front of Goody, hands on her hips, tapping one foot.
“I’ve been a little busy,” Goody said, waving his hand over the pile of dandelion clippings. “Some of us actually have work to do.”
Lilith laid the back of her hand against her forehead, the other hand over her heart.
“You wound me, Goodwood Duxford.” she said, feigning a melodramatic swoon. “My work is to see that you are happy.”
‘Let it go, Lil,” he said. “I have a problem here at Gramberly that I need to fix first.”
Lilith knew Goody took his position at Gramberly seriously and would never use it to get out of one of her crazy schemes. She sat back down on Jeremiah’s gravestone.
“Is there anything I can do to help, Dux?” she said, all the teasing out of her voice.
Goody looked at her for the first time. He set aside his tools and stood up. Dusting his hands off on the back of his jeans, he offered Lilith a hand down from her perch, then pulled back remembering she wasn’t able to actually touch a living person.
“You just might,” he said.
They walked together to the south corner of the garden where the Township interred the poorest residents, the ones whose family could not afford a formal burial. Goody saw to it that the corner was well-kept, but it was also a vulnerable target for Gramberly’s malicious spirits.
“Madie Harp has begun wandering,” Goody said when they reached their destination. “She’s been quiet for decades, and only now has awoken. She’s confused. She doesn’t know where she is and doesn’t understand that she’s been dead for nearly 100 years.”
“What would make a, uh… spirit?” Lilith stumbled over the correct term. “What would make someone just ‘awake up’ and start walking around.”
“That’s the problem,” Goody said, “I don’t know. This has never happened before at Gramberly. Residents either wander from the beginning, or don’t wander at all.”
Goody bent down to wipe away dried leaves and old grass clippings that had settled at the edges of Madie’s stone after the recent rains. He traced the letters crudely etched in the marker.
“She may have come from a poor family, but she was well-loved,” he said. “Many of the plots in this part of the garden are unmarked.”
“How did she die,” Lilith said.
Goody opened his mouth to speak, then stopped, swallowing hard, his smile tremulous.
“Blood pollution,” he finally said with a little laugh.
“What…?” Lilith said. “What in the world is ‘blood pollution’?”
“From Madie’s description, my best guess is leukemia,” Goody said. “Her family couldn’t afford to see a doctor or go to a hospital, so she succumbed to the disease very quickly, and with great suffering.”
“How can I help, Dux?” Lilith said.
“I think Madie’s sudden compulsion to wander has something to do with her death, or rather how she died,” Goody said. “She’s distrusting of me, being a man who’s not her husband. I thought maybe she would talk to you. You’re both about the same age.”
“What do you want me to do?” Lilith said.
“Befriend her. Bedazzle her with your quirky charms,” Goody said. “Gently try to help her understand she’s really dead.”
Goody left Lilith in the potter’s field and went back to his dandelions. Lilith returned a few hours later, just as he was finishing.
“How’d it go,” he asked, anxious to find out if Lilith was successful.
“It’s going to take a while to get her to understand that whole dead part, but I’m pretty sure I know what got her out from under that rock.”
Goody shrugged, his silent cue to Lilith to not make him ask.
“First, you need to make friends with Frankie,” Lilith said.
“No, Lilith,” he said. “First, I need to help Madie.”
“Doing the one thing, will also accomplish the second thing,” Lilith said.
“Now, I don’t understand.”
“Frankie is Madie’s great-granddaughter I don’t know how many ‘times removed,’ and she has cancer,” Lilith said, holding up a hand to keep Goody from interrupting her. “Only she doesn’t know it. She has no symptoms yet, and needs to see a doctor, like, yesterday.”