Today Is Not Mickey Wyatt's Day

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Contrary to popular belief, ghosts do sleep. Take dead girls - with their quasi-bodies sapping so much energy, they sleep from five to thirty minutes per twenty-four hours. Due to the quirks of some internal undead clock, mostly around five a.m. Mickey Wyatt took that into account, and broke into Juniper House shortly before five. Sleepy dead girls were easier to deal with.

Mickey Wyatt was a killer, albeit a retired one, but he wasn't here to kill. He came cautiously into the house, one hand outstretched to feel the energy. He'd always been sensitive to it; known when there were ghosts around, or another person like him. And yesterday, an old friend had asked for a favor.

There was a dead girl here, definitely. Maybe - he frowned and pressed his hand against the wall. Maybe two. And both of them hiding in the house, not reaching out to the other ghosts in the area. Momoka had a right to be concerned-vengeful ghosts were just about going the way of the vampire, ways to defeat them plastered across every message board and help page on the Internet. The next time a family moved in here, the two girls were as good as doomed.

Of course, that might be the best thing for everyone. Some dead girls just couldn't adjust to half-life, and wanted to go out fighting. But if Momoka couldn't talk to them - and the girls had been throwing up remarkably strong barriers against other ghosts - there was no way to tell how they felt. Mickey had agreed to talk to them when he passed through New Mexico, although he didn't consider himself the best guy with ghosts. At least at the time he chose, they'd be sleepy and not in the mood to attack.

He switched off his flashlight and let his gaze pass lazily over the stairs and doorway to the first room. He could feel eyes on him, feel the tingle of electricity in the wall, but it was always easier to talk to someone when they gave you something to look at.

"Hi," he said into the waiting silence. "I'm not here to hurt you."

Dead girls were usually wary of men, for good reason. But who knew-some girls were offed by their mothers, babysitters, jealous friends, just some asshole who was also female. Just in case, Mickey spread his hands wide, showing he was unarmed. Even if they could tell he had a gun in his coat (once you'd been a killer, you never really broke the mindset), a gun couldn't hurt a ghost. "Momoka sent me. You heard of her? She's a ghost like you."

He tried switching on the flashlight. It was dead; the girls must be thirsty for electricity. The whole house was humming with it. Something bothered him, but he wasn't sure what. He didn't move further away from the door, just in case, although he didn't move back when a dim shape appeared to his left.

It was a bag-a huge duffel bag, not even a body bag. If he squinted, he could guess the top was ripped and bloodstained. Unusual.

"OK," he said, "that's a start. I just came here to let you know you don't have to hide. I know you probably died pretty ugly; that's the way these things go. But there are girls, women, out there that are just like you; it's not like the movies anymore, where every dead girl's stuck to a house alone. So why are you so scared of leaving?"

A small sound behind him. The second girl?

No, that step was too deliberate. On instinct, Mickey dove to the side. He caught the glitter of a knife out of the corner of his eye and heard it clatter on the floor, not thrown hard enough to find the far wall.

He went for the space under the stairs. Glancing over his shoulder rewarded him with a glimpse of his attacker, just a dark shape against the dim light of the door. Too solid for a ghost, even a dead girl. Besides, ghost didn't throw knives like that - some hovered them, but if that had been the case the knife would have followed him instead of falling. Poltergeists preferred whole blocks of knives at once. His attacker was human, Mickey concluded, and slid backward into the space under the stairs. He could crouch, his gun up in front of him, and try to understand the situation.

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