It is a dark and moonlit night and I am haunting the alley behind the old cannery, thinking about not much, and who do I see but my old pal Skullface. The reason Skullface has this name is that his pan was burned right off in the fire at the Grand Hotel, which is where he haunts, so I am greatly surprised to see him here.
“I cannot complain,” he says when I ask him how he is doing, but he is not looking so happy, so I ask if this is on account of the new Holy Man in town.
“Since you ask, yes,” says Skullface. “For he seems to be a guy as owns the ear of the angels and has made such a performance exorcising the Grand Hotel as has driven out all the spooks, even Ripper, who as you know is a guy that never had any respect for religion.”
I know that this is true, for Ripper is a spook that never respected anyone, quick or dead, but I do not say this, in case Ripper should hear it.
“This new Holy Man has put the chill on many spooks,” I say, “but I also hear that he has the glad eye for a doll.”
“I have not heard this,” says Skullface, but I tell him that this is a one hundred percent doll by the name of Veronica Vervaine that works in the library and has the sort of peepers that make a Holy Man want to kiss crap dice all night just to buy her a rock.
“This is most interesting news,” says Skullface, “particularly to Ripper, who will want to hear all about this doll.”
Then next time I see Skullface it is three nights later and he is not looking so good. In fact, he is more than somewhat discouraged.
“When I told Ripper about Miss Veronica Vervaine,” he explains, “well, nothing will do but Ripper must see her in person, for to put the haunt on her, on account of the Holy Man having exorcised him all the way out of the Grand Hotel.
“So he takes me with him to the library, where he intends to drag this doll up the wall and across the ceiling, which, as you know, is the way Ripper likes to put the haunt on a Judy.”
It is well known to one and all that Ripper is so odious towards Judies as to give all spooks a bad name.
“But,” Skullface goes on, “this doll is no ordinary librarian, but an honest-to-goodness witch.”
“This,” I tell Skullface, “I did not know.”
“Anyway,” Skullface says, “Miss Veronica Vervaine reads a spell from her book that knocks Ripper bow-legged and do you know what she does next? I shall tell you, this doll puts Ripper inside a little jewellery box and locks the box with a key.
“I am thinking,” Skullface concludes, “that I shall take it on the lam, and you also if you listen to my advice, for between the Holy Man and Miss Veronica Vervaine there is altogether too much heat in this town for spooks such as us.”
So what happens but, the next night, I am haunting my alley and two citizens get out of a cab. One of them is a sterling young man of about twenty seven with a preacher’s dog collar and the other is a doll with knock-out eyes, although a little cold for my taste. She leaves the Holy Man waiting in the street and comes into my alley and let me tell you this pretty tomato has so much moxie she can clock me like I am still wearing skin. Then she speaks to me as follows:
“It was clever of you to send Ripper to me. I have many uses for a spook such as him.”
It is nice of her to say so, especially since it was all her idea. Now I am not a one for staring into dolls’ eyes, but, personally, I figure if Miss Veronica Vervaine keeps looking at me so, I’ll jump into her jewelry box alongside Ripper and pull the lid closed after me.
“But,” she continues, “there would be no little trouble and then some, if other spooks learn what happened to Ripper.”
I do not tell her about Skullface but instead say, “Miss, I do not recollect we have met before.”
She smiles her cold little smile then walks out of my alley to collect her Holy Man, who looks about as pleased to see her again as a John can be to see a broad. Then he and Miss Veronica Vervaine get back into their cab and take off. And I for one am most heartily glad to see them gone, for if there is one thing worse for a spook than a Holy Man with the ear of the angels, it’s a doll with knock-out peepers who can wrap such a person around her little finger, as I am sure Ripper would agree.
I usually keep the daily ghost stories to 400 words but this one deserves a bit of room to breathe. It's in the style of Damon Runyon (1880-1946) who wrote a series of short stories about American gangsters and hoodlums in a very recognisable style. Most people know the film musical Guys & Dolls (1955) which is based on some of Runyon's stories.
The Daily Ghost
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