Excerpt from Fine Spirits
"Actually, it's not that I'm ill," Mrs. Bissel went on. "It's something else." Her voice dropped to a sepulchral whisper on the something else part of this speech.
This time I was successful in suppressing my sigh. In the time it would take her to tell me her problem, I'd probably have been able to sweep the kitchen and vacuum-clean the living room rug—or resume bickering with Billy. But instead of doing something useful, I had to stand in the kitchen with the telephone's ear piece jammed against my head, the black mouthpiece sticking out of the wall, and listen to a woman who wasn't accustomed to thinking think. Can you tell I was in a really bad mood?
"I'm glad you're not ill," I said pleasantly. I was always pleasant to the clients, even those whom I'd rather strangle. To be fair, Mrs. Bissel wasn't one of my imaginary stranglees. She, although daffy, silly, and a general waster of my time, was a very nice lady.
Besides, I had designs on one of her dogs. Her female dachshund, Lucille, had, with the help of her male companion Lancelot, just given birth to four of the most adorable puppies I'd ever seen in my life. They were black with little tan spots over their eyes, tan feet and muzzles, and were as shiny as the seals I'd seen in the Griffith Park Zoo in Los Angeles. I wanted one. What's more, I suspected that Mrs. Bissel would be willing to trade one of the pups for a séance if I worked on her just right.
Mainly I wanted the dog for Billy. He often got lonely and angry when I left home to work as a spiritualist. Since he claimed it was what I did, rather than the fact that I had to work at all, that bothered him, I was supposed to understand that he wouldn't have cared if I'd left him every day to work at Nash's or as a typist for an attorney or done something else "normal."
I didn't buy it. I think he'd have hated my having to earn our living no matter how I did it. In a way I could understand his attitude. Until the war, Billy had never been one to sit idle and let others do for him. He'd done all sorts of things to earn money before he became a soldier, he was a whiz at automobile mechanics, and he'd had a job waiting for him at Hull Motor Company after the war... if he'd still been healthy and whole.
It was hard on his masculine pride to be unable to work. Heck, it was hard on me, too, although in my case pride had nothing to do with it. I hoped that a dog, especially one as sweet and funny-looking as one of those dachshund pups, would keep him company. At that point I was willing to try anything to make Billy happy. Well, except give up my work, because I couldn't afford to do that.
"It's something else," said Mrs. Bissel, still sounding as if she were buried in a tomb and attempting to communicate with a living entity, or vice versa.
"Ah," I said mysteriously. Sounding mysterious had become second nature to me years earlier.
"It's because my house is haunted."
That took me aback, which was unusual, given my line of work. "Um, I beg your pardon?"
"Oh, Daisy!" Mrs. Bissel wailed. Being fair again, I must confess that Mrs. Bissel didn't wail at me very often. Mrs. Kincaid, my aunt Vi's employer and one of my very best customers, was a first-class wailer, but Mrs. Bissel generally remained calm when speaking to me. "My house is being haunted! By a spirit. Or a ghost. I don't know what it is, but it's belowstairs, and the servants are all terrified, and so am I, and I don't know what to do about it, so I called you. I need you to get rid of the spirit—or maybe it's a ghost—that's haunting my house!"