They had arrived just after the fire engine had arrived. Men and women in black and yellow uniforms ran around the perimeter of the enflamed building that had once been Jack’s Joint. A few dozen people were gathered in the parking lot, their faces sweaty from the heat of the blaze which held their attention as if they were moths.
Charlie parked the pickup on the street, exited with Maggie and walked towards the transfixed crowd. A body at the front of the crowd turned as Charlie approached. The flames in front of them seemed to absorb all light in the area, everyone in the crowd seemed like a silhouette, dark and featureless. The silhouette that had been in front worked its way to the back of the crowd, and not until it was almost next to him did Charlie recognize the shape of the body.
Jack’s face was dark and full of accusation. “Well, if you ask me, it was that Ginger Man you was talking about that done this.” He pointed with his thumb behind him, in the direction of his ruined bar.
Charlie heard Maggie telling Jack they were so sorry, as he stared blankly at the blaze. Acts of vandalism and theft are common among Ginger Men.
Jack half-turned, pointed now with his index finger rather than his thumb. Charlie noticed the dirty white towel was still draped over his left shoulder. “I ‘member you saying I ‘uz gonna regret saying what I said about your friend the other night. So you wouldn’t happen to know anything ’bout what happened, would ya?”
Charlie heard Maggie’s tone change to defiance. This spirit haunts the living for the sole purpose of making others — especially those closest to the person when living — as miserable as possible.
He felt Maggie patting, almost hitting him on the back, telling him to explain he’d been at the Pizza Place with Rune that evening. Jack continued glaring silently at him like a gargoyle.
“Let’s go.” Charlie didn’t both acknowledging Jack as he turned and left, didn’t really care whether Maggie followed as he hustled back to his pickup, inchoate words of anger from Jack ringing in his ears.