Ashes to Ashes Page 25


“I’ll do more than promise, baby.” He kissed me softly, my mouth opening against his, our kiss wet and hot and pulling me under into waves of honey. I moved in closer, my hand sliding up his shirt and feeling the tight lines of his stomach underneath.

But to my surprise, he pulled out of the way, then smiled and brushed my hair behind my ear. “Perry,” he said. His eyes were alive with emotion, his breath heavy. “Perry…I…”

I was entranced by what he was going to say that I wasn’t paying attention to the car that was pulling up alongside us.

“Hope I’m not interrupting anything,” a familiar voice said, breaking through the spell between Dex and I.

Dex’s eyes sparked with anger. “Fuck!” he muttered angrily under his breath before fastening his death gaze on the intruder.

I looked over to see Patrick Rothburn/Gary Oldman in his Prius, the car running, his arm hanging out the window.

“No, it’s no bother,” I said to him quickly before Dex could blow up at him. I wasn’t sure why his fuse was suddenly so short, but being on Dex’s bad side when he had a temper was a dangerous thing.

I squeezed Dex’s hand and got up, walking over to Oldman. “What brings you back?”

He put his car into park and adjusted his glasses. “I’m just on my lunch. I just wanted to let you know that the girl in painting? Well, I did some research back at the museum. I’m not 100% sure but I think I was right. She was the daughter of one of the doctors. That’s why he started working there, to be near to her. Doctor Ridley was his name. His daughter was Shawna. He died about a year before she did, when she was moved upstairs to the terminal floor.”

“How?” I asked.

“He fell,” he said simply. “Probably a suicide, maybe because he couldn’t find a cure and she was going to die. I don’t know.”

“Do you think he’s the man in the coat that you saw that one time?”

He didn’t say anything but reached into his file folder on the passenger seat and pulled out a photo. “I drove up here to show you this.”

I took it from him and looked it over. It was a smiling picture of a man and his daughter. The man had slicked back hair, tanned skin and a fancy suit with a pocket watch. The girl, who was in fact the girl I’d seen, had her hair done up in long ringlets, wearing a dress that looked like it was made out of metallic threads. A stately Christmas tree in the background placed the photo around December. I flipped it over where someone had scrawled “Doctor Timothy Ridley and his daughter Shawna, admitted May 15th, 1933.”

“Eighty years ago tomorrow,” Oldman said. “Do you mind if I have that back?”

I fervently shook my head and thrust it back into his hands. Like hell I wanted to hang onto that.

He craned his neck around to look at Dex. “Sorry to interrupt. I just thought you guys should be on the lookout. I don’t know if tomorrow would mean anything in the grand scheme of things but history has a way of hiding events that were truly important.”

He raised his palm in farewell, then took his car into a U-turn and disappeared back down the hill.

I exhaled noisily, feeling that tension creeping back into my shoulders, and walked back over to Dex.

“That was weird,” I said, shoving my hands in the back pockets of my jeans.

Dex glared off into the distance. “The guy sure has fucking bad timing.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

He sighed and got up from the wall. “Nevermind, kiddo. Let’s go back.”

“Back to the school?” I asked, remembering all too well why we had just left.

He nodded, pausing by his door and shielded his eyes from the sun with his hand. “Yeah. If this is the end of the show, for real, then this is our last episode. We should get serious about it, I mean really work on getting as much as we can. I guess we have to tell Rebecca, too.”

“Do you think she’ll be mad?” I asked as I opened my door and climbed in.

“She might be disappointed, but she’ll understand. She’s been telling me to grow up and get serious for a long time.”

As we drove back up to the school, I asked him, “You’re not doing this because of me, are you?”

“Ending the show? Of course, I am,” he said seriously. “You’re my world, Perry, that’s all there is to it. There are bigger and better things out there for us. Something legit, or, as you said earlier, meaningful.”

I know I said it, I just didn’t really think Dex had been listening to me. I hated the idea of the show ending just because he was scared for me, just because I wanted something more. I didn’t want to live with that ball of guilt.

“Don’t feel guilty,” he said, his mouth twitching into a smile. “This is what I want. And now I know it’s what you want too.”

I was unnerved. “Did you just hear my thoughts?”

The handsome devil didn’t answer me, he only grinned to himself. “And by the way, I’m always listening to you.”

Once we got back to the school and nosed the Highlander into a parking space, Rebecca came trotting over from across the field, Jody running behind her.

“Perry!” she exclaimed, her smile cracking her face in two. “Oh, let me see!”

“See what?”

She frowned, looking over my shoulder at Dex, and then quickly put her hand on my arm. “Let me see your tattoo!”

“Uh,” I said, holding it out for her awkwardly.

She took my wrist and showed it to Jody. “See Jody, this is a tattoo. I told you that, erm, girls can have them.”

Jody looked at Rebecca as if she had two heads. “You’re going to hell now.”

“Okay, okay,” Dex said, coming around the car with his hands in the air. “Enough with the hell talk, young lady.” He dropped down into a crouch so he was at her level, looking her in the eye. “I don’t care what this Shawna girl said, but it’s not exactly polite to keep saying hell.”

“What word should I say?” she asked, bright eyes sparkling with curiosity. I could tell she was enthralled with Dex. I couldn’t blame her.

“Well, you can always do what I do and make up a word. Like, twatwaffle.”

“Dex,” I cautioned.

“Or douchecanoe.”

I sighed.

He straightened up and smiled down at her. “How about duckspunk? Ducks are cute.”

I slapped him on the arm, while Rebecca asked us, “You weren’t gone very long. What happened?”

“We ran into Gary Oldman,” I said.

“Gary Oldman the actor?”

“Sorry. I mean the historian, Patrick Rothburn.”

“I guess he does look like Gary Oldman.”

“Duckspunk.” We all looked down at Jody who was staring at Dex proudly. “I didn’t say a bad word.” Then she giggled and ran off to her friends who had started a game of dodgeball.

“Great, Dex.”I glared at him. “I’m sure her parents will be thrilled when duckspunk comes up at dinner.”

He shrugged. “Duckspunk comes up everywhere. You should watch where you step next time you’re by a pond.”

Rebecca wrinkled her nose. “Anyway, what did Patrick want?”

I quickly explained to which she crossed her arms and looked up at the massive façade of the school. “So he thinks something could happen tomorrow.”

“Maybe,” I said. I looked over at Dex, trying to signal that it was time for the talk.

“Hey, Becs,” Dex said, taking a step toward her. “You know we love you, right?”

Her eyes widened. “Are you guys breaking up with me?”

“Noooo,” Dex assured her in a soothing voice. Then he cocked his head. “Well. Yes.”

We went inside and explained to her as best we could our thoughts on the end of the show, my desire to do something more with our life. It wasn’t until Dex started talking about plans for the future and keeping my safety and happiness as his top priority that I started to melt all over again. And Rebecca began to understand where we were coming from.

She wasn’t mad, but Dex was right, she was disappointed. And worried.

“What am I going to do?” she asked as we sat around the breakroom table with a giant pot of tea. “Not to make you feel badly about it all, but I was kind of depending on this job for money.”

“Don’t sweat it,”Dex said earnestly. “Jimmy loves you. You know he’ll have a million opportunities for you to jump on board.”

“But he only wants me in front of the camera,” she whined.

“It could be worse,” I said. “He could only want you behind the camera.”

“Look,” Dex said, folding his hands in front of him. “You’re a hot, striking woman who made men eat Taco Bell until they were shitting fire. You can do anything.”

I tilted my head at him. “You ever think you could get into motivational speaking?”

“Next career choice, baby,” he shot me a wicked smile.

“So this is really it. You just decided and…,” Rebecca trailed off.

Dex and I gazed at each other. We were in it together. And as much as it felt spur of the moment, as much as it would seem that way to Jimmy, it was also a long time coming. To say goodbye, to move on and do something else – that felt right. It felt good. We all knew that we weren’t going to be ghosthunters forever. Seeing the supernatural, that was something Dex and I had to deal with for the rests of our lives, but it didn’t mean we had to seek them out – not in this way, not for entertainment, at any rate.

He nodded gravely and I said, my eyes still on him, “Yes. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

She sipped her tea delicately and appraised us over the cup. “All right. Then it is the right thing to do. I’m going to miss working with you guys.”

“Oh don’t get mushy, Becs,” Dex chided her with disgust. “We still have an episode to make and like dick I’m going to let it go to waste. Now that we know everything that Rothburn told us, I say we spend tonight and tomorrow making the best of it. Are you with me? Or against me?”

Rebecca and I managed to roll our eyes in unison.

“We’re with you, mate,” she said, raising her tea in the air. We cheersed her with our own mugs and though she was smiling pleasantly, her posture was rigid. She was probably more worried about losing her job than she was letting on. Of course, I knew she’d be all right in the long run but I guess she didn’t see it the same way. It was Dex and I that I needed to worry about.

I knew someone, though, that would be happy with this news.

As soon as the two of them started going over the freaky shit that Oldman had told them, I took my phone and excused myself into the hallway.

Though I’d texted Ada just yesterday to tell her about Uncle Al, I hadn’t called her in a while. It was no wonder then that she sounded shocked when she answered her phone.

“Perry?” she cried out.

“Hey,” I said, leaning against the wall with the phone cradled to my ear and smiling absently at a pair of teachers who were walking past. “How are you? This a bad time?”

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