Canto 12 – The Interview with the Ghost Owl
“So, somebody’s going to pay you for all of this?” Maria asked in the car before they reached the toy store.
“The Merriweathers want their boy Mark back. They are going to pay me the standard investigation fee for every day it takes to find him. Of course, I have to find him to earn the money,” Stan answered while turning the corner in his run-down little Ford Fiesta.
“What about Rogelio’s parents?”
“The cops told them that he’s a probable runaway. They didn’t seem interested in paying to get him back. The dad says that if Rogelio ran away to be with Yesenia, then he’s following his heart. And if he’s been murdered, they are not anxious to find that out. Of course, no body has turned up for either of the missing kids.”
“And the little black girl?”
“To be honest, I got a real bad vibe from that stepfather. They call him Poppa Dark, but his real name’s DeAndre Rork. He doesn’t like answering questions. And he’s probably the killer, if my instincts are right.”
Maria shivered as they turned into the parking lot near the toy store.
“Two dollars for the rest of the day,” said the attendant.
Stan grumbled something about wishing for an empty parking meter as he fumbled in his pocket for change. Then he handed it to the attendant.
“Park in F13.”
Stan and Maria parked and went into the toy store.
The man behind the counter looked to be old… the indeterminate age sort of old. He had white hair, a wrinkled white face, and glasses that made his eyes look huge, a magnifying effect.
“Eule Gheist?” Stan asked.
“Yes. I’m still me.”
“We need to ask you a few questions.”
“The young lady still owes me a few hours of cleaning.”
“I finished picking up the mess I made that day, trying to open that door, I mean,” Maria said defensively.
“How about dusting the shelves where the wood goods sit? That could count as another of your hours.”
Maria gave Geist a pouty-lip look, took the feather duster from him, and headed for the wood goods.
“So, Eule, how many toys did you sell today?”
“And how many have you sold this week?”
“Not a very profitable business, it seems.”
“Mr. Mephisto is a collector of rare antique toys. We are not in business to sell toys. He is a billionaire, and he uses this business as a tax-write-off.”
“Hmm. How much do you make working here, if I may ask.”
“I make nothing.”
“Then how do you live?”
“Quite well for a barn owl that was made human by magic.”
”That’s just a tale you tell kids, right?”
“If that’s what you choose to believe.”
“A barn owl?”
“What the Latinos call a Lechuza.”
“Sure they do. Did the police ask you about a boy named Mark Merriweather? Or a girl named Shandra -Johnson-Rork?”
“Yes. They were in here, apparently right before they decided to disappear.”
“Did you see where they went?”
“Not where, exactly, but I know they left with a dark gentleman.”
“Did you tell the police that?
“Yes. It seemed to be exactly what they wanted to hear.”
“Wait a minute… did you say a black man?”
“Of course not. He was dark of personality, not skin color.”
“Did the police verify that too?”
“Of course not. They heard dark and accepted that as what they wanted to hear.”
“So, what do you mean by dark?”
“Like the devil is dark.”
“Are you saying the devil took them?”
“Something like that.”
As Stan was pondering that, Maria came back to the front of the store with a decorated paper skull like the one she had told him about before..
“This is the one Rogelio was talking to,” she said, showing him the decorative thing.
“Eule? What do you know about that?”
“It’s cursed. It’s also a family heirloom.”
“Can we borrow it to study it?”
“Help yourself. But don’t damage it in any way.”
“Because it’s valuable?”
“No. Because it’s cursed. And it can take revenge.”