Chapter 2

Another door was slammed in my face. At least these people had actually opened it in the first place. I had been walking around China Town for two hours and no one was talking – not to me anyway.
The morning had turned into afternoon, and the hot sun was burning my face and neck. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to get people to talk about the string of suicides, but I had hoped for a bit more corroboration. I should have brought my sunscreen.
A big ginkgo tree provided the only shade in the small courtyard I was standing in. Irritated and thirsty I went to stand under it. I had to re-evaluate my approach because knocking on more doors was unlikely to work. I could feel the eyes behind the curtains from the houses surrounding me.
I needed help. Pulling my phone from my bag, I called Ying.
“Wei?” A feminine voice greeted me.
“Hi, Ying. I’ve got a problem.”
“Ah, Casey.” The voice changed from a distinctive north Chinese accent to an American southern drawl. “Straight to the point. What can I help you with?”
“I’m working on a case in China Town, but no one wants to speak to me. How do I get them to talk?”
“They might not talk to you no matter what you do. But it may help if you tell them there is a place away from judging eyes where they can speak to you. They are unlikely to speak to you in front of others if the topic is considered taboo.”
“Right, and how do I go about doing that? Do I just raise my voice and speak to the empty air in the hopes that they will listen?”
“Yeah, pretty much. If you’ve knocked on doors and you’re still in the area, they should be listening. There’s nothing quite like a white person speaking to empty air. Besides, what have you got to lose? The alternative would be to try and gain their trust, but that can take months – crazy white chicks are not considered to be particularly trustworthy.”
“Aren’t you funny. Well, I guess I’ll have to try that if making a fool of myself doesn’t work.”
“Yeah. Any chance you could film it? I would love to see you speaking to the empty air like a mad woman.”
“Ha ha. Not going to happen! Well, thanks for the advice, Ying. I’ll try it and see how it goes.”
“Okay. Let me know if it doesn’t work.”
“Will do. Bye.”
I put my phone back in my bag and stepped out into the sun. This was so stupid. “Okay, people. Listen up. I’m here to help. Whatever is going on with these suicides, I will try to stop them. BUT I can’t do anything without more information. I need to know what I’m up against, so if anyone has any information they can share, please meet me at the eastern forest edge. I’ll be waiting there for the next hour.”
Having absolutely no clue if anyone was listening, I turned around and walked out of the courtyard. Now I just had to wait and see if anyone would speak to me.
The forest at the eastern part of the neighbourhood would provide some privacy, something which was hard to come by in this place. Small wooden houses were squeezed tightly together and the place was like a maze. Narrow streets and alleyways led to secret little courtyards, and getting lost was more or less inevitable in this place. However, after a couple of detours, I managed to make my way to the forest edge.
The few houses close to it were all abandoned. No one wanted to live too close to the cursed forest, as it was known. It had appeared overnight about 25 years ago and when dawn came, a quarter of the neighbourhood had been swallowed up by the green stuff. All the residents in the affected area had disappeared without a trace, leaving behind empty houses frozen in time. It was pretty unnerving, but the people in China Town had shown that life goes on.
I found a tree stump and sat down to wait. About 25 minutes later, a young girl came down the road. She couldn’t have been more than 10, but she looked completely unafraid when she walked up to me.
“Hallo.” I kept my seat on the tree stump, not wanting to tower above her.
“Nin Hao.” She looked at me with huge brown eyes. “I have information. Information about the deaths.”
“Okay. That’s great. Please tell me.”
She pointed into the forest. “You need to go to the temple in the forest. You will find the answer there.”
“There’s a temple in the forest?”
She nodded, her straight, black hair dancing around her shoulders. “Yes, an old one. People do not go there any longer.”
“Okay, so if I go to this temple, I will find what I’m looking for?”
She nodded again. “Yes, just follow the path. It will show you. Wait for darkness.”
“Why do I have to wait until it’s dark?”
“Because Guῐ don’t come out in the daytime.”
“What’s Guῐ?”
The girl thought for a moment. “English word is ghosts.”
“Ghosts?” I eyed the forest edge with apprehension.
She nodded. “Duì, mean ghosts.”
Great. Just great. Of course, it would turn out to be mean ghosts. With my luck, it couldn’t just have been Casper the Friendly Ghost. No, it had to be mean motherfuckers that would probably try to end me. Perfect. Just what I needed. “Okay, mean ghosts. They will tell me what is happening to the people here?”
She nodded again. “Duì”.
I extended my hand. “Thank you. You have been really helpful”
She took my hand and shook it gently. “Your welcome. Just stop the deaths.”
“I will try my very best to do that.”
She seemed satisfied with my answer and turned around. Whilst I watched her walk away, I pulled out my phone. If I was fighting ghosts, I needed supplies.
“Supernatural Private Investigation, how may I help?”
“Hi, Carol. It’s Casey. I need to speak to Fahim. Is he there?”
“Hi, Casey. I’m afraid Fahim has just been called out to a P12.”
“He’s hunting a ghoul?”
“Yeah, someone called about a sighting in an old lady’s chicken coop.”
“Interesting. Well, who of the people in the office would know what’s in our magic armoury?”
“Let me see. Hold on for a sec.”
“Yeah, sure. As long as you don’t put me on-“ Our extremely annoying hold music blasted from my speakers and left me momentarily deaf. One of those stupid songs meant to calm you down – all it did was give me a headache. Two minutes of sheer irritation later, Carol was back. “Aidrian’s here.”
“Okay. He will do. Thanks, Carol.”
“No problem. Let me just put you through.”
The line beeped twice before Aidrian’s cheery voice answered. “Casey! What can I help you with this afternoon?”
“Why are you so cheery? Did you find Mrs Richardson’s cat?”
“Nope, E.T. has phoned us, though. He wants 10 grand to release the fluffy hostage.”
“Ha ha. Your amazing humour is killing me. Have you been in the magic armoury recently?”
“Yes, this morning.”
“Do you know if we’ve got any Ectoplasmic Blockers?”
“Karl ate the last one on Wednesday.”
“He what? Never mind. What about Sight Crème?”
“Hmm, I think we’ve got some, but it expired about two years ago, so it’s probably lost all if its power. Are you fighting ghosts?”
“Yup, killer ghosts.”
“Sounds pleasant. Want any help?”
“Nah, I’ll be alright.” I hoped.
“Okay. Well, have fun then.”
“Always!” I hung up and headed towards my car. It looked like I was going shopping.

Read chapter 3 here!