Kayla sat in the dining room on one of the two chairs that survived the last attack. She had a piece of cool pizza on the paper plate in front of her, the toppings picked off to leave only the crust and sauce behind.
Bailey, on the other hand, devoured her third piece as if it was her last meal. Her hunger worried Kayla, it was obvious that the young woman had spent more than a few days in her car and wasn't eating nearly enough.
Kayla didn't want to ask questions, but she admitted she was curious of the circumstances that chased Bailey into living from her car. She guessed it had something to do with Bailey's obvious lust for women and her father's disapproval.
In the back of her head, Kayla thought that Bailey's libido would be useful on how she planned on defeating the ghost. It was an unconventional approach, but it depended a lot on how the ghost responded since Kayla was unable to find an anchor to break.
Swallowing the last piece of her slice, Bailey smiled. “Oh, that tastes good.” She was obviously an omnivore judging from the deep dish, deluxe pizza she ordered.
Bailey gestured to Kayla's piece. “You didn't like it? Should I have eaten—”
“I don't eat much while working.” Kayla looked around. It was dark, but she didn't see any signs of the ghost. But, things quickly changed and she was on edge for the first signs of a haunting.
“With your looks, I'm surprised you just don't eat fish and chicken all the time. You look like you are solid muscles.”
The tone set Kayla on edge for a moment but then it quickly faded. It was obvious Bailey was trying to be nice. No, judging from how Bailey licked her lips, she was being appreciative.
Kayla retreated into not thinking about the young woman's attraction and shrugged while she toyed with the edge of the plate. “I don't do much besides work. I just exercise to keep in shape.”
The blond frowned. “With a business like yours? You probably spend all day with a hammer or a shovel in your hand, right?”
It took a minute, then Kayla let a smile flash across her face. “No, I work in a call center. Ten hour shifts, starting at six in the morning.”
“A call.. you mean where they call customer support? But your van, it's filled with tools.”
Kayla shrugged with a wry smile. “I found its easier to hide being a hunter when you have an excuse to carry weapons out in plain sight. That way, you don't have any surprises from police when they pull you over. No one thinks to stop a handyman. Not to mention, if someone stumbles onto a secret cache, there are a lot of questions.”
Bailey giggled and pushed her short hair past her ear. “I guess that is why you don't have a phone number on your van?”
Surprised, Kayla smiled. “You noticed.”
“No city either. I bet that makes it also easier to hide in plain sight.”
Delighted that the young woman was observant, Kayla nodded. “No customized plates like the @TheRealHunter either. Nothing to stand out. Even my business cards only have the company name on them.”
Bailey stared for a moment, a smirk grew before she giggled.
“You don't have to say the ‘at’ sign, you know.”
Kayla blinked. “What?”
“You said ‘at the real hunter’,” Bailey said while giggling.
Kayla's cheeks grew warm. She looked away. “It's just how I think.”
“No, no, I'm sorry.” Bailey said, obviously struggling not to laugh. “I don't mean to. I mean, people say ‘O M G’ so why not 'at?'”
Kayla looked away again, humiliation filling her thoughts. She didn't like people mentioning how she said the wrong things on occasion; it was easier to work off a script or just do whatever her body wanted.
In the corner of her eye, she spotted movement. Tilting her head slightly, she looked into the living room. The furthest light was flickering faintly and the fabric near it were stirring. She could almost see a haze gathering.
It was the ghost.
Kayla's excitement rose as she looked away. It took a lot of effort for most supernatural creatures to manifest, which meant that they probably had about twenty or so minutes before the ghost was able to do more than drop the temperature.
Bailey frowned. “I-I'm sorry, Kayla. I didn't mean to laugh. It's just been really hard for me lately, with my dad kicking me out of the house and my parents trying to sabotage every job I get.”
Kayla looked up. “What do you mean?” she said as her call center voice came back.
Bailey stopped. “Please don't do that. I'm sorry, I swear I didn't mean to upset you.”
“Don't do what?”
“That voice, that's your fake one isn't it? You used it on the home owner and on the guy at the diner.”
Kayla hesitated but then nodded. Bailey was turning out to be rather observant.
Bailey reached out and rested her hand on Kayla's. “I'm really sorry. I really didn't mean to laugh. It just surprised me.”
“It's… I'm not okay right now but I'll survive. I've never been good with humans. Interactions are easier over the phone since I have a script. Beyond that, I don't really do much besides hunting.”
Bailey's eyes shimmered for a moment. She stroked the back of Kayla's hand with one finger. “I promise I'll do better.”
There was an uncomfortable silence.
Then Bailey asked, “Different topic. What about your mother?”
“She died when I was eight.”
“He died when I was twenty-six.”
Kayla shrugged. “It is what it is. I couldn't imagine being rejected like your parents. My mother accepted me for everything I was, including my way of thinking.”
Bailey sighed. “I wish I had that. I mean, it was my fault I got kicked out. I got sloppy, got horny, and forgot I was supposed to be hiding who I am.”
“That you like girls?”
Bailey's head lifted. Her smile softened as her eyes grew unfocused for a moment. “Yeah, that's it. I always knew I liked girls, but my parents were throwing every boy they could find at me. All they care about is who I married and when I could produce babies.”
Bailey sighed and her face dropped.
Neither said anything for a long moment.
Kayla watched the flickering get more obvious. Reaching down, she rested her hand on her canvas tool bag. Her baton handle stuck out; it was made form cold iron and was a good defense against ghosts. However the baton was also an aggressive weapon. As much as Kayla enjoyed the rush of a killing attack, she wasn't going to be the one who started the violence. She had other items in the bag to start with.
A thrill rose inside her. The first signs of a haunting were the best foreplay she could imagine. It was the anticipation of not knowing if it was going to be a drawn out fight, a brutal brawl, or something entirely new.
She noticed that Bailey was lost in her thoughts again. Needing her to be aware, Kayla spoke quietly, “Do you know what to expect from the ghost?”
Bailey flinched. “Not… really. I mean, you hear about walking around and feeling spirits, but I don't know how that works.”
“Well, a good start is to pay attention. Usually they want to talk or interact. It can get ugly quickly, but what they say may help you figure out what pins them to this world. Any word, any phrase, you never know.”
“Any luck finding anything in the back yard.”
Kayla shook her head. “I'm hoping she will reveal an anchor. If not, then we'll have to do it the hard way.”
“Iron, salt, and blood?” Bailey looked excited.
Kayla chuckled. “I might have also use you as bait.”
It wasn't really a “might” though, judging from the flicker in the corner. She was going to use Bailey as bait and to focus the attention of the ghost, but that required Kayla to make sure the young woman would be properly protected. It wouldn't be good to have another death on her hands.
She stood up. “Why don't we look around the house?”
Bailey wiped her hands on her shirt before standing up. “What do I need to do?”
“Just go upstairs. If you see a ghost, just call out.”
In the corner of the living room, Kayla made out the shifting outline of the Scorned Woman. Upstairs would keep Bailey away.
Bailey looked frightened for a moment. “Just upstairs? By myself?”
“You'll be safe, I promise.”
Bailey was a little less enthusiastic as she headed out of the room. The house creaked slightly as she made her way up the stairs.
Kayla waited a second and then dug into her bag. She pulled out a caulk gun and a custom-made tube filled with silicon and rock salt. A few chains, iron cuffs, and other items were set down around the pizza box.
Finally she pulled out one of her favorite pieces of armor, a bracer. It was a series of iron chains that were tied together with thinner wire binding them into a cuff that went from the wrist to the elbow. It had a strap holding everything together. The entire thing had saved her limbs more than once since it was designed like chain mail to absorb a claw or bite.
She looked into the corner and saw the ghost had almost manifested. She had about five minutes left. Just enough time to find out how Bailey handled surprises and if she would be useful as bait.
With a grim smile on her lips, she headed up the stairs. An earlier investigation of the house gave her a map of the floorboard and steps that would creak so she could avoid them and move in silence.