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I wearily unlocked the door to my camper.
Geist let out a happy bark as she trotted up to greet me, tail wagging.
Well, at least someone was happy to see me.
After Hal and Gia left me in Room 16 at the Hotel Vendome, I had a confusing phone conversation with Craig, who was having difficulty understanding what precisely had happened. He also seemed inordinately focused on who Hal was and why he was in my room.
After I finally hung up with him, I spent the rest of the night crouched in the corner, eyes peeled for any other ghostly encounters.
I must have dozed off at some point because when I opened my eyes, the morning sun was streaming through my room.
Stiff and sore, my neck and back aching, and my eyes gritty from lack of sleep, I took a hot shower to try and loosen my muscles up. It didn’t really help.
I tried to console myself. At least I had a story for my blog, right? A real ghostly encounter with Noble, the ghost cat, who ate a living mouse (never mind that ghosts don’t normally eat)! That really happened … didn’t it?
So what if I couldn’t find any trace of the mouse, or really, any trace of anything happening last night. The mouse could have disappeared in some hole somewhere. And ghosts, well they don’t leave a trail anyway.
As I was leaving, I noticed the maid cart by the room Hal stayed in. It was pretty early for him to be out and about.
Or did he already check out?
I went down to the lobby, passing a couple guys wearing white exterminator shirts. Gia wasn’t in the lobby; instead, there was a middle-aged, grumpy-looking woman drinking a huge cup of coffee. She was on the phone, complaining about millennials’ lack of work ethic. She checked me out without ever interrupting her conversation, and when I left, she was still complaining.
I shut the door of the camper and slumped on the bed. Maybe what I really needed was a nap.
My phone rang. It was my sister Katie.
“Seen a vampire yet?” she asked, shouting over a loud buzzing in the background.
“I already told you I’m not looking for vampires,” I said tiredly. “I’m a ghost hunter.”
“You sound exhausted,” she yelled.
“I AM exhausted,” I said. “What’s with the noise?”
“Oh the kids are sawing something,” she said.
“With a chainsaw?”
“Well, something. They’re using some sort of power tool.”
“Is that safe?”
“Well, it’s not like they’re unsupervised,” Katie said. “I’m standing right here.”
I wondered about that, but decided I was too tired to ask.
“So, what happened to you?” she asked.
I told her everything that happened last night, with only a few interruptions from Katie, who wanted to make sure the cat’s tail remained out of harm’s way.
“Well, that sounds like good news,” she said when I was done. “You saw a ghost, right?”
“Maybe,” I said. I was feeling more and more discouraged the longer I talked.
“What are you talking about, ‘maybe’?” she asked. “You heard Noble! What more do you want?”
I slumped further in my seat. “Maybe I’m just tired, but I don’t know … maybe this whole thing was a bad idea.”
“What??? Why would you say that?”
“Well, I don’t have any equipment except for a stupid compass. Which probably IS broken, although it seems to be working now. I didn’t really see anything except for a mouse, which was alive. Yeah, we heard something, but who knows what it was. Maybe it was a noise from outside, or, I don’t know, the water heater. The hotel is old, after all. Old hotels make noises.”
“But, the cold …”
“Could have been a draft,” I interrupted. “Everything could have a reasonable explanation. A broke compass. A draft. Maybe Coco is right and this whole ghost thing is silly.”
“Riley, stop. Just stop,” Katie said. “This is silly. You’re being silly.”
I blinked. “What do you mean?”
“What did you think was going to happen? Riley, you’re doing something completely new! Of course you’re going to have hiccups and problems. That’s just par for the course.”
“Yes, but …”
“And, besides, you ARE having success! You saw Faith at the Hassayampa Inn, right? And I’m sure it WAS Noble you heard. So, just because it’s not looking like you thought it should look, doesn’t mean it’s not successful.”
“But, I don’t even understand how all that ghost equipment actually works. Shouldn’t a ghost hunter know that stuff?” I argued. “And, my blog isn’t up yet.” Not to mention I wasn’t famous yet either, I thought. But I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.
“Riley,” Katie said sternly. “You are not a quitter. You’ve never been a quitter in your entire life. Are you going to start now?”
I thought about what Katie was telling me. Maybe I was being too hard on myself. Maybe I did need to give it more time and space to succeed.
Besides, Katie was right. I wasn’t a quitter.
I straightened up. “You’re right,” I said. “This is what I want to do. I’ve always dreamed of being a ghost hunter and I’m going to keep going.”
“That’s my girl,” Katie said. “I have to go. I’m not sure where the cat is.”
I hung up the phone and reached down to rub Geist’s ears. “You like being a ghost hunter, too, right?” I asked.
Geist groaned and rolled over on her back so I could rub her belly.
So, now what I needed was a plan. Where should my next ghost-hunting adventure take me?
What I really needed to do was take a nap first. Then, I could look at all my options with a clear head and figure out where I wanted to go next.
A loud pounding on my camper door startled me, and I jumped. Who could that possibly be? No one knew I was here.
Slight panic as the thought came to me—it couldn’t possibly be a ghost who had followed me, could it?
No, ghosts didn’t leave the places they haunted. Right?
More pounding. Geist went to the door and whined. I got off the bed and slowly inched my way to the door, trying to angle myself so I could see outside without whoever was there seeing me.
“Riley? Is that you? Are you in there?” The voice was muffled but recognizable.
No. It couldn’t be.
I flung open the door. “Craig?”
Riley Longhill is a fictional alter ego of Michele Pariza Wacek. The Adventures of Riley Longhill, Ghost Hunter, is a fiction account loosely based on real life ghost and haunted places. Yes, the Hotel Vendome in Prescott, Arizona is a real place and Abby and Noel are and do haunt the hotel to this day.