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Max looked over his shoulder, searching for Joey Trapani in the crowd of loud-mouthed, beer swigging, hi-vis-wearing truckers, construction workers, laborers, and other hard-working, hard-living blue-collar men. He knew Joey would be easy to spot – not many other men could get away with wearing that flamboyant black and pink flamingo shirt in a no-frills trucker bar like the Tipsy Angel.
His gaze found Joey at last, leaning up against one of the mock Greek columns that some spaced-out architect for reasons known only to himself had chosen to install in the otherwise plainly furbished building. As usual, Joey had his phone pressed up against his ear and was in a world of his own. He was probably animatedly brokering some dodgy business deal or bringing together two people who would probably never meet if it weren’t for the famed Trapani knack for juggling personalities as easily as most people juggled sacks of groceries.
After failing to catch Joey’s eye, Max turned back to where Dwayne the barman waited for him to place his order. “Make that two beers, Dwayne. If Joey has to rush off somewhere I’ll have them both myself.”
Dwayne leaned his hairy elbows on the beer-sodden bar towels, apparently preparing himself for a far deeper conversation than Max had intended. “How’s life treating you anyway, Max? Joey said you’d hooked up with some exorcist chick.”
“Crystal. And that’s a no on both counts. We haven’t ‘hooked up’ and she isn’t an exorcist. She’s a Paranormal Investigator and she has the certificate to prove it.” He needed to have a word with Joey about his propensity for throwing misguided information around.
Dwayne crooked an inquisitive eyebrow. “A Paranormal Investigator? You mean a ghostbuster?”
“Yeah, sort of. She visits houses that have reported paranormal activity and she either collects proof of the infestation so the owner can call in a real exorcist, or she communicates with the entity herself and encourages it to move on.”
Dwayne didn’t seem fazed by this information. “My cousin in Georgia recently bought a bankrupted hotel. Got it on the cheap and he’s got big plans to do it up as a classy resort to attract the Insta-influencer crowd. The only problem is, people are saying that a ghostly blue lady haunts the place and they flee almost as soon as they check-in. He can’t get his lucrative, sexy, and money-attracting guests to stay there unless he gets rid of his ghost first.”
“The devil went down to Georgia looking for a soul to steal…” Max dropped his joking, sing-songy tone when he saw Dwayne’s deadpan expression. “Hey, that sounds exactly like the type of gig Crystal would be interested in.”
“And you too? I thought you two were a team?” He reached into the chiller under the counter for a couple of cans of beer.
“Nah, I’m just the one employed to carry her equipment around.” Max dropped a lazy wink as he picked up the beers from the bar top. “Put it on my tab.”
“What tab?! You know better than anyone that the Tipsy Angel doesn’t run bar tabs.”
“Then take it off the commission I already know you’ll strong-arm out of your cousin for finding him a ghost hunter. I’ll get Crystal to give you call to work out the details.” Max shouldered his way through the crowd, ignoring Dwayne’s protests from behind the bar. He’d already seen the images forming around the man’s head of the bundle of notes his grateful cousin was about to pass his way. These visions and images, this weird prescience or foresight of his, had become an accepted part of his life now and he knew they weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. Whether he liked it or not.
Joey was just hanging up from his call when Max reached him. He smiled gratefully as he took the beer that Max thrust at him. “Thanks. I need this.”
Max nodded at the battered phone in Joey’s hand, noting that his friend had applied yet another layer of duct tape in a hopeful rather than practical attempt to hold the two sides satisfactorily together. “Tough call?”
“They’re all tough calls, Max. You know how it is.”
“I know how it is.” Max tipped his head back and allowed a generous swallow of beer to run down his throat. If Crystal did agree to take on the resort assignment he would need to do some juggling of his own in order to get the time off. He’d recently moved to another transport company but it seemed that was the life of a truck driving man. He went wherever the work was – the work didn’t come to him.
“Been busy?” Joey’s eyes were darting around the bar as he spoke, his keen gaze missing nothing. Joey knew everyone and he knew everything and if he didn’t yet know someone or something, you could be sure it was on his to-do list. Max had no idea of exactly what it was that his friend did for paid employment and he’d given up asking long ago.
“Yeah.” They stood in companionable silence for several minutes as the noise and jostle of the bar ebbed and flowed around them.
“How’s Crystal?” Joey turned to him just as the strains of some bluesy love song rolled out of the vintage jukebox in the corner, over near the crumbling, spectacularly pinpricked dartboard. Two men were engaged in a robust and apparently militant game of darts, if their concentrated scowls and unrestrained curses were anything to judge the game by.
Max kept his eye on the dart game rather than meeting Joey’s gaze. “You should know. I hear the two of you regularly meet for lunch. She told me so herself.”