The day had started cool and rainy, but by noon, it was unseasonably warm, though still overcast. A small gathering of ghosts, their ectoplasm washed out even in the gloomy light, hovered near the worn tombstone. Madame Rosamund and Mr. Twig were the only living mourners. The chorus of the passed finished their ghastly hymn and then the Necro-Deacon arose before them and spoke.
“Etitan Chardin was loved, not just for his wit and charm, but also for his embrace of spirithood. He had many admirers amongst the living for his work on the stage, and he loved them back. Never angry or bitter, he did not haunt out of malice, and whatever kept him from passing on, he did not share. Many spirits have disappeared and we can only hope that our friend concluded his business and moved on. These are dark times, but we must be strong. I say so verily.”
Everyone replied “Verily,” though with little enthusiasm. With that, the grieving exchanged platitudes then dispersed, fading away to their sepulchers or crypts, leaving Madame Rosamund and Mr. Twig to walk to the gate, silent save for their footsteps. Waiting for them, was Detective Durand and the spirit of a chic young woman the barkeep did not recognize.
“My condolences Madame Rosamund,” said the detective.
“You followin’ me?”
“I read about Monsieur Chardin’s final funeral and came to pay my respects.”
“Does that surprise you?”
“You never met him, did you?”
“I didn’t have the pleasure, I’m afraid.”
“But here you are.”
“I can see the loss has affected you deeply.”
“You takin’ a peek into my soul?”
“If I could do that, my job would be much easier.”
Madame Rosamund began to leave and Mr. Twig followed.
“I was referring to your hair.”
“Grief can affect us in profound ways, sometimes even physically. Your hair didn’t just go white, it’s difficult to describe…”
“It’s colorless,” added the chic ghost.
Detective Durand snapped her fingers.
“Exactly! Well spotted. When did this happen?”
“After…after I heard about Etitan’s final funeral. Just woke up like this.”
“It must have been a great shock.”
“I thought he was just…“
“Well, I can’t rightly say where he was, but I didn’t think he was really gone.”
“So many missing spirits.”
“Why don’t you investigate that?”
“That is exactly what I’m doing.”
Madame Rosamund took a lunge at Durand, stopping just short of knocking her over. Mr. Twig did not move but exuded what might be called a still readiness.
“I don’t see a lot of-“
“You’re grieving so I won’t take it personally. Please take comfort in that I will pursue this until answers have been found.”
All stood still, waiting for something to happen.
“Merci,” said Mr. Twig
Madame Rosamund stepped back and said, “Thank ya kindly. Iffin’ you don’t mind, it’s been a rough day.”
“Of course,” replied Durand, who produced a card and handed it to Mr. Twig, “If you think of anything that might help, please do not hesitate to contact me, day or night.”
“Of course,” said Mr. Twig, who bowed his head.
“Let’s go,” said Madame Rosamund as they both left the necropolis.
Once they were alone, Nikita turned to Durand.
“What was that all about?”
“A dangling thread.”
“Is she a murderer?”
“I’m not sure, but she hasn’t been entirely honest with me.”
“Don’t people lie to gendarmes?”
“If they didn’t, I’d be out of a job. Now, take me to where you saw the symbol.”