Excerpt from High Spirits

   
     Mrs. Kincaid had been my best customer for years. She had, moreover, got me started in the spiritualist business, sort of, when she gave my aunt Vi, who was her cook, an old Ouija board. Therefore, rather than holler at her, I stated politely that Rolly was extremely particular about the venues in which he manifested himself, and he didn't care to work in unlawful drinking establishments. I refrained from making any puns about Rolly being one spirit too many in such a place, and I believe my restraint should be applauded.
     To my dismay, Mrs. Kincaid persisted. She called me every day for a week before I finally caved in. I only did so because she started crying at me. I hate it when people do that.
     "Oh, but Daisy, you'd be doing me such a favor if you could hold a séance for those creatures."
     Those creatures? If she really thought of them as those creatures, why did she let Stacy haunt their dens of iniquity? But that's a stupid question. I doubt that Mrs. Kincaid had ever forbidden Stacy to do anything at all—or that Stacy would have obeyed such a command if it were given.
     "Um, why is that, Mrs. Kincaid?" That's when she started sobbing over the telephone. I hope I suppressed my sigh.
     "Stacy has taken up with the most horrid woman, Daisy! She calls herself Flossie!"
     She'd told me this before, and I hadn't yet been able to figure out what she had against the name. Maybe because it was a couple of vowels and a consonant away from "floozy," which is what her daughter was, but Mrs. Kincaid surely didn't blame Stacy's hideous behavior on Flossie. Did she? Shoot, maybe she did. People aren't always enamored of rational thought. This was particularly true of Mrs. Kincaid. I said only, "Mmmm." Soft murmurs go a long way in my trade. They're expected, in fact.
     "And she's begun seeing a terrible man called Jenkins!"
     Most of the bootleggers I read about in the newspapers had a million vowels in their names and were Italian. This fact sat ill with Billy's best friend (and my mortal enemy) Sam Rotondo, who was Italian and a police detective.
     "Ah, yes," said I in my silkiest mystical tone. "That's the gentleman she calls Jinx, if I recall correctly."
     "Yes." Mrs. Kincaid paused to blow her nose. "Can you imagine such a thing?"
     Well, yes, I could, but only because I have an excellent imagination. I gave her another "Mmmm."
     "The man's employer—the man who runs the speakeasy—is determined to hold a séance there. He wants to get in touch with his uncle. He calls him his godfather, although I doubt that he has anything at all to do with God. I think that's some sort of thing gangsters have. Godfathers. Oh, Daisy!" Again she wailed. I repressed another sigh. "The man was murdered!"
     I gathered from this speech that the murdered man was Jinx's employer's uncle, although I didn't attempt to clarify the matter. I'd become accustomed to interpolating Mrs. Kincaid's garbled communications years earlier.
     "And I need for you to go there and make sure the place is suitable for my daughter! Harold won't do it."
     Perfectly understandable. Harold and I harbored similar opinions about his sister. Feeling more than slightly beleaguered, as well as awfully guilty (after all, Mrs. Kincaid had been the rock and the mainstay of my career for years), I attempted to demur gracefully. "I wish I could help you, Mrs. Kincaid, but Rolly simply refuses to manifest himself under certain conditions."
     "But are you sure, dear? Won't Rolly do it for me?"
     Crumb. I wish she hadn't put it that way. With an awful feeling of impending doom, I hesitated. I knew it was the beginning of the end, but I refused to give up yet. "Um... perhaps I can meditate on the problem and consult the spirits, Mrs. Kincaid."
     "Oh, Daisy!" She knew I was done for, too. I could hear it in the joyful tone of her voice. "Thank you so much! I'm sure Rolly will understand how much this means to me."
     I was sure he would, too, darn it.
 
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