The Doghouse

On my way back to Red Grove, I tried to call my father to begin the supplicatory process for a later closing date. He didn't answer his phone, an oddity for my super real estate agent dad. Usually, he could sign papers, show a house, and answer his phone simultaneously. Hell, I had suspicions he answered his cell on the toilet.


And that's when my anxiety really took off. What if Anna Bathory had gotten her hands on him to get to me? Julius said the nekomata and the vampires were sworn enemies. The nekomata were close to obtaining the book, which would mean Anna was desperate. My dad might be strung up in her dungeon at that very moment. Or drained by Julius! Worse, what if either one of them compelled him to do something really drastic, like jump off a bridge or be used at the Mill Wheel by any female vamp who wanted him? I started to sweat thinking he might be dead or permanently missing. Why hadn't I thought to give him some sort of protective charm while I could?

When the phone did ring, I snatched it up so fast I swerved into the opposite lane. "Dad?"

"Um, excuse me. I'm trying to reach, Grateful Knight?"

"This is," I said. I recognized the voice but couldn't place it.

"It's Silas, Detective Silas Flynn."

"Oh, Silas. What's up?"

"Unfortunately, I'm calling on official business related to the crime scene at Maison des Etoiles." I pictured the werewolf in my mind. I'd seen him at Valentines but voices always sounded different to me over the phone. I'd completely forgotten I'd given him my number, and that he'd promised to call with information on the finfolk and mountain troll attack.

"I traced the finfolk back to a community living in Red Grove Lake. The finfolk king claims he knew nothing of the perpetrators' plans. I expected as much. No supernatural in their right mind would admit a connection."

"Uh huh."

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"But here's the interesting thing, Grateful. He claims there've been Nightmares in the area. Became a little flustered just talking about it. A few of his people have gone missing and he blames them. He believes our perpetrator was possessed by one and didn't know what he was doing."

"I had a woman come into my ER possessed by one. She was infected at Red Grove Lake. Sounds like we have an epidemic on our hands."

"Do you know much about them? We've never encountered this problem before on the force. Normally, Nightmares are a mild annoyance to humans, not a threat," Silas said.

"You know about as much as I do. A magical entity has to be facilitating the possessions. Nightmares can't do that on their own. Any idea who might be helping them?"


"Did you find out about the troll? Was he a victim as well?"

"We can only assume. The trolls were...uncooperative. I couldn't get any information out of the community and narrowly avoided becoming a lot thinner under one of their clubs."

"Ah. But given the troll's natural tendency to avoid humans, it would fit the profile."

"I was thinking the same thing."

"So what can I do to help, Silas? What are your next steps?"

"Since you live in the area, would you mind investigating again at Red Grove Lake, maybe seeing if you can find where the nightmares are organizing?"

"They're incorporeal. My understanding is they have to go back to the netherworld during the day, unless they've possessed someone."

"Exactly. With this type of activity, I wouldn't be surprised to learn they're congregating in that region, a mass possession. You mentioned the human was possessed at the lake. Did you ever find out why she was there?"

"No. It's not a popular tourist attraction, especially in winter."

"Can you investigate? See if you can find out why she was there and when she became possessed. Maybe look for signs of a nightmare settlement."

"Of course."

"Good. I'd do it myself but I'm going to be indisposed for a few days. Full moon."

"Oh. I thought when you were dating Soleil-"

"That I didn't have to change unless I wanted to? That's true. Her sunlight can keep the moon away. A fortunate advantage of our mating."

"Then why-"

"She hasn't returned my calls. When I call the Maison, the girls tell me she's busy and can't be disturbed. I guess you could say I'm in the doghouse." He chuckled but I could tell it wasn't remotely funny to him.

"I'm sorry. I thought you two made a cute couple."

"Yeah, me too. Such is love." He cleared a lump from his throat, and we said our goodbyes.

I tossed my phone into the cupholder, thinking about how I'd never gotten the chance to ask Rick how he'd found the woman. But I didn't stop when I reached his stone cottage. I was too worried about my dad. As I crossed over the stone bridge, I considered calling his office line and asking his secretary where he was. I'd never had to do that before and would have to look up the number.

Thankfully, when my house came into view, I could put aside my fears. My father was in my driveway, leaning against his car in the cold winter sunshine. Thank goodness. He was safe, and by the looks of it, extremely pissed.

"You are acting like a two year old," my father said, helping himself to the bottle of scotch I kept in the little cabinet over the refrigerator for him.

"How could you say that? You sold my home right from under me. Take some accountability. I told you I wanted to buy it from you and you sold me out to the highest bidder. What kind of father does that?"

He poured the scotch over ice from the freezer and sat down on a stool at my kitchen island, pulling off his gloves and hat. He was still wearing his coat. Lifting his glass, he said, "The kind of father who needs the money."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Since when? You're one of the top real estate agents in the Carlton City area."

"You might have noticed the real estate market has been in the toilet lately, Grateful. It's not just this property that isn't selling. Very few of my listings have sold in the last two years, especially the big ticket properties in the city." He sipped his drink.

Arms crossed, I leaned against the sink and pouted in his direction. "Gary paid me back. I can give you sixty thousand in cash, today, if you'll sell the house to me."

"Gary? Your ex-boyfriend? I thought he was dead or missing or something."

"You and me both. He showed up on my doorstep and paid me back everything he owed me, plus interest. So, I have the money."

His head swam back and forth on his shoulders. One well-manicured hand lifted to scratch his five o'clock shadow. "I'm sorry, Grateful. Contracts have been signed. Deposits made. I can't just undo it."

A dull ache was beginning at the base of my neck, a tension headache threatening to take over. I rubbed the spot with both hands. "I can't tell you why, Dad, but staying here is very important to me. I love this house. I love Red Grove. I have a new boyfriend who lives just up the street."

"Ah, so that's the real story. Why is it always about the boyfriend with you?"

Grrr. "It's not about the boyfriend. It's about me. I've built a life here."

The ice in his glass clinked together as he drained the last drops. He poured himself another. Geesh, at this rate I'd have to drive him home. He dug his fingers into his hair as if I was literally driving him insane.

"Is this house not positioned over a sink hole?" he snapped.

I frowned. "Actually? No. I staged the rumble to scare your buyer away."

His mouth dropped open at my admission. "How did you do that?" He held up a hand. "Never mind. I don't want to know. What about the rat?"



"I was desperate." I placed my hands on the counter and leaned forward. "Is there any way for me to buy it, Dad?"


Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes. "Can I ask you for one tiny concession, then?"

He propped his face against his palm and gave me an exasperated sigh. "Okay. What is it? I'll do my best."

"There is no way that I can be packed and moved out of here by next Friday. Can you push back the closing?"

He pulled out his phone, looked at the screen as if he'd gotten an email, then started keying something in. I waited patiently. It was only my life in the balance. Couldn't he see how important this was to me?

"Done," he said.


"I texted the buyer and said I had a personal emergency, could not make the closing on Friday, and we'd have to push it back. So, there you go."

I walked to his side of the counter and hugged him around the neck. "I'm sorry I acted the way I did. I should have called you back earlier."

"Darling, you have your father's temper. I should have spoken to you before I sold the house. But, in my defense, the last house I sold was also in Red Grove and over market value. This town is booming."

"You sold another house out here?"

"Yep." He pointed his thumb over his shoulder. "On the other side of the lake. Little cabin in the woods style place off Rt. 3.Used to belong to Elmer..."



"I bought my desk at his estate sale."

"You bought a desk? I thought you were broke?"

"I'm recovering. I really could have bought this house."


"Who bought Elmer's place?"

"Some woman, all by herself."

A tingle traveled from my toes to my scalp. "A woman by herself?"

"Yeah. She said she was into nature. Loved the lake. A writer I think, an introvert. Wanted time alone."

I swallowed hard and tried to find my voice. It took me a few tries to get out a suitable question. "You know, I think I heard about someone from work that was looking for a house. What did she look like?"

"Big woman. Not fat but like a shot putter, you know, big boned. Brown, wavy hair. Not into makeup. Attractive in a natural way."

For a moment, I was sidetracked by the thought that my dad had found a shot putter attractive. But then when I had seen her last she'd been half-drowned and fully possessed.

I cleared my throat. "I know her from work, I think I'll stop by and bring her a house warming present. Do you remember her name? I keep forgetting it."

"Sure, Honey. That would be kind of you. It's Avery Bane."

Dad was acting a little tipsy and a lot compliant. I was fairly sure he shouldn't have given me the name of his client. Probably a breach of privacy laws or something. His secret was safe with me.

What was Avery hiding in that house? Was she possessed before or after the sale? I didn't know, but I intended to find out. I needed to talk to Rick. Avery did have a reason to be at the lake after all; she lived behind it. So, who had tried to drown her?

"I should probably get a move on," my dad slurred. His head had drooped toward the counter and his eyes were rimmed red.

"Why? Is Seraphina keeping you on a short leash?"

He took a deep breath and exhaled through his nose. "I don't think it's going to work out between Seraphina and me."

I molded my face into the most surprised expression I could muster, fighting down the pure joy that threatened to expose itself. "Why?"

"She's just too young. Works all day and stays out half the night. It was fun while it lasted but now she seems, I don't know, distracted. Not to mention, she's obsessed with knowing where I am at all times. Probably wigging out right now."

"She doesn't know you're here?"

"Hell no. I'm just waiting for the right time to let her down easy."

"So then, you can stay a little longer to..." I was going to say 'sober up' but the face he gave me clearly indicated he would not be receptive to his daughter taking away his keys. I needed to be smart about this. "I have a movie I was going to watch and I don't want to watch it alone." I put the bottle of scotch away in the cabinet and retrieved a Coke from the fridge to replace it. "Would you mind hanging out for a couple of hours? It would mean a lot to me."

He fixated on the Coke, then lifted his eyes to mine. "What movie?"

"Young Frankenstein."

"You've had that movie for years."

"Never a bad time to watch a classic. It's your favorite, right?"

He nodded slowly. I led him and his Coke into the family room and started the movie. He was asleep on my sofa before Igor retrieved the abnormal brain from the brain repository.

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