Part 4 of 6 in this complete, ghostly story.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN GHOSTS?

“Are you afraid of ghosts, Mr. Stewart?” Well that certainly took him by surprise. Not that it was the first time he’d been asked, just that it wasn’t the type of thing he expected in a real estate interview.

He chose, as usual for him, to play it close to his chest.

“Why do you ask?”

He could see that his question was difficult for the woman to answer. He glanced at the nameplate on her desk. Mandy Bretzel, right. She had to be at least part Belgian. He looked quietly, intently, at her. Clearly, she didn’t want to say. She didn’t want to answer his very simple question. He liked her face, though. 

“It’s only fair for me to tell you, to warn you, that I’ve been unable to find a lot of tenants willing to stay in this house for the minimum two years.”

“How many have stayed?”

She sighed and held up a finger. “One. They all have told me that it’s haunted.” Mandy braced herself for what she felt was inevitable. He would scoff or laugh, think her a minor idiot, the kind he could deal with however briefly to get a nice pad. 

“I see.” Ric could tell this woman had never experienced a haunting. But nevertheless she was unnerved by something, more than worried.

“You seem afraid. Why?”

She shook her head. “I just-.” Mandy shrugged. Where to begin? “Everything I’ve heard and everything my company has had to pay in terms of maintenance and repair. It’s kind of crazy.”

“Kind of-?”

“Well ok, it’s actually really crazy and I don’t want to believe it.” She put her hands up in the air. Then she shook her head again and placed her palms on her cheeks. Mandy saw him watching her and she let her hands go down into her lap.

“I think you need me.” Ric tried not to look cocky but failed completely.

“Excuse me?”

“You actually really need me. I’m a ghost eater.”

Mandy blanched, her head pulling back a bit. Then she smirked. “Your application lists you as,” she glanced at the page just to be doubly sure, “right. A Performance Artist. Very broad term.” Then she scanned him with her eyes, noting his countenance, his rather professorial clothes, and his clean hands. “But you’re not that, are you,” her unspoken accusation being, You take advantage of your name.

Ric tilted his head, silent but thick with meaning. Of course I do. Not even you would have given me a chance.

Mandy exhaled, “Of course.” She put her hands on the desk. “How long have you been a-. Wait. What exactly is a ghost eater? You don’t mean Ghost Buster?”

He smiled. Most everyone asked him that. “A Ghost Buster or Chaser has tools. I don’t need any tools. I have a natural ability to devour ghosts or at the very least scare them into leaving. Either way, if you have a place that’s haunted, I can clean it up. I essentially exorcise places, people.”

“I see.” Mandy’s brow furrowed. She wasn’t sure how much she wanted to tell him, and then decided to just let it spill. “I’m in a position to actually purchase the house, but the hauntings scare everyone who goes there, save for this one gal who’s been living there for over a decade. She even seems to know who the ghost is, or was. Is.”

“Who does she think it is?”

“A serial killer named Don Leightonan. She won’t even speak of him above a whisper, says he doesn’t like it when people gossip.”

“Has she actually seen him?”

“To hear her tell it, she’s had a neighborly relationship with the ghost for over a decade. He seems to like her. I guess. But according to tenants who have left, the ghost is the one who caused all sorts of damage to the property, and not them. Never believed them. Now I’m really just not sure.”

“What kind of damages has the ghost been able to do?”

“The fencing around the property. It used to be a bit worn out looking, but last month it looked like someone ran a semi across it. There was nothing salvageable, so we had to have a completely new fence installed. The kitchen cupboards in an upstairs apartment were ripped down from the walls and smashed to bits. Two bathrooms had sinks basically cut in half. A door had to be replaced. Looked like someone put an axe through it.”

“That’s a lot of violence.”

“Well, all of that has been spread out over the past five years. Most of the time, the hauntings aren’t quite so destructive.”

“Tell me.”

“Well, strange annoyances like turning the water faucet on, full blast, when no one is in the room. From another room in their apartment, the tenant hears the water running, goes to check it out and turn the faucet off. Then as soon as they leave the room, the water starts gushing, again. It can go on like that for hours.”

“Sounds like a jerk.”

“He also opens all the kitchen cupboards. Just opens them all. So when a tenant goes into their kitchen, they see all the doors and drawers open, all of them. They close them and leave the room. This one guy told me he walked into his living room after shutting all the kitchen cupboards and suddenly felt like all the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He went back to find everything wide open again. He said he thought he was going mad.” Mandy sighed. “I actually thought maybe he had gone mad, and I tried to place another tenant in there.”

“They said the same thing?”

“Well, close enough. He seems to try different pranks on different people. Whatever works. I think he only gets more violent when the usual stuff doesn’t work. One lady said her phone wouldn’t stop ringing, even when she ripped the cord out of the wall. It only stopped when she left the house. Woman had it, her phone, in her hands. She’d smashed it to pieces, and she was carrying it to the trash bin outside. But as soon as she stepped out the front door, the ringing stopped.”

“Well that’s one way to make someone feel unwanted.” Ric cleared his throat. “I can help you, if you want. But if you do decide to buy this place, I’ll still need a place to live. You planning on keeping the place for yourself?”

Mandy shook her head. “I’m a single. I would only want the apartment on the main floor, in front. I want to rent the other spaces out for monthly income.”

He nodded. “Sounds reasonable. If you’re free, we could take care of it tonight.”

“We. What do you mean by that?”

“Well I’m not going there by myself, do my thing, tell you how it’s all good, and then have you not believe me. You need to be there. I need you to witness whatever happens, so you’ll know you really got something out of this.”

“What are you suggesting here? That I might back out of paying you?”

Ric shrugged. “Sure. With everything you’ve heard about the place and everything you’ve had to repair, even now you’re reluctant to believe what’s really happening. People typically deny a truth if they don’t like it or it makes them uncomfortable. So I would absolutely expect you to decide that I’m just another conman and that there never was a ghost. I’m sure you still lean on the notion that all the former tenants are crazy.”

“Oh. Alright, that’s fair I guess.” Mandy could tell he’d been gipped before. She swallowed. “How much do you cost?”

“Not too much. I charge $16,000 per ghost.”

“You cannot be serious.”

He smiled.

“That’s an expensive meal,” Mandy frowned.  

“I sometimes charge more,” he replied. 

Mandy sighed. He was right and she knew it. The sixteen grand was nothing, really. The ghost had cost her company considerably more than that. She still couldn’t believe there was a ghost, didn’t want to believe it. Surely, there had to be a logical explanation for all of it. But this was it, she was at her wit’s end. There he was, an exorcist, right when she needed him.

“Alright, Mr. Stewart. I can pay.” She held up a finger, “For results.”

Ric nodded, once. “Of course.”

“How does this work exactly?” 

Find out what happens when Mandy faces the serial killer ghost.