Rose does not seem happy about meeting me six days early for our weekly appointment.
“Why are you so fidgety?” I ask as we sit down at a café table. “I didn’t even know ghosts couldbe fidgety.”
“You’ve known me for how long?” She crosses her arms and looks at a spot above my head. She seems more transparent than normal today. I don’t know why.
I pour more milk into my already very milky tea and then take a sip. I’m aware of the way the Londoners are all staring at me like I’m insane—sitting here, talking to myself—but I ignore them as I look Rose up and down over my mug of tea and say, “Look, I know we aren’t exactly friends, but something’s obviously wrong with you and I feel like it’s my duty to help, seeing as I need your help to stop the aliens. You’re looking a little extra see-through today. What, do you have jaundice or something? Have you not been getting enough sun?”
“I cannot believe it,” Rose says. “I think that might be the most idiotic question you have ever asked me. And there have been quite a few idiotic ones recently.” She finally steels her nerve to meet my eye, but quickly looks away when her gaze falls on my mole. She asks, “Is it possible you’re actually getting dumber with time, Mary?”
“Whoa. Burn,” I say. I take a sip of my tea. “I’ve never heard that one before. Oh wait. I’m serious. I never have. Because I’m a freaking super genius.”
“Just because you figured out how to drive a double-decker bus without instructions does not mean you are a super genius,” Rose huffs.
“Actually, I was talking about my SAT score, but whatever.” I roll my eyes. “Look, I called you here today for a reason, Rose. Some seriously screwed up stuff went down at my apartment last night, and I thought you should know about it.”
She stiffens at the words “last night,” and I roll my eyes again. Seriously. It’s not like I told her I ran over her dog or something.
“What is with you today?” I ask.
“Nothing,” Rose says quickly.
“Um. Yes. If by ‘nothing’ you mean that you are acting completely senile, anyway.”
“Isn’t ‘senile’ a bit of a big word for you?” she asks. She leans across the table, clasping her hands against its surface, and says in a quick torrent, “Mary. I tell you everything you need to know about the impending apocalyptic attack by the aliens, right? Well, this has nothing to do with them. So leave me alone about it.”
“Fine.” I pout. “Whatever.”
By now the man sitting at the table beside ours is outright staring at me, so I turn and raise my mug at him and ask in a chipper voice, “Lovely day for discussing doomsday plans with your invisible friend, eh?” I flash him a dazzling smile. He blanches and looks away, obviously horrified at having been addressed by the crazy girl.
I turn back to Rose. “Last night when I got home from our meeting, I found the entrance to my apartment completely blocked from floor to ceiling by a wall of newspapers. Then, there was an explosion in the living room while Randy and I were eating dinner. Fortunately, the superintendent thought we’d done it as protest to the broken elevator, so that’s up and running again now. Unfortunately, all the newspapers disappeared. Except for one.” I pluck my messenger bag from the floor and rifle through it until I find the paper Randy had pulled from the stack to examine when we first arrived home. “Look at this.” I hand it across the table to Rose.
Her eyebrows immediately scrunch low as she reads the headline on the front page and then scans the article and pictures below. When she looks up again, there’s a smirk on her face.
“What?” I ask, wondering what on earth she could find amusing about a newspaper that isn’t supposed to exist for another week.
“You said the body in the Thames wasn’t important.”
“That was before somebody tried barricading me from my apartment with a stack of newspapers talking about it.”
“You said all you cared about was the aliens.”
“That was before somebody tried blowing up my living room.”
“Look, I didn’t call you here just for you to go on and on about what a jerk I am, all right?” I slam my mug down on the table. Milk with a dash of tea in it splatters everywhere. “Plus, I’m not a jerk. I’m a brilliantly snarky hipster American who’s stuck in the worst city in the world with only a chicken for a roommate and a ghost for an ally. So I would really appreciate it if you’d just spill the beans on what you know about the dead body and then leave me alone.”
“Oh,” Rose snorts, “you want to be left alone now? After you called me here?”
She is far too nonchalant after my rant. She must still be preoccupied by that other thing that was bothering her when we walked in, if she’s not taking me seriously.
“Just tell me about the body, okay?”
“It was a body,” Rose says. “That was all there was to it.”
“Do you happen to know whose body it was?”
“No, I’m not psychic, Mary.” She stiffens at her own words and I cock an eyebrow. She scowls and runs a hand through her hair. I wait for her to go on. “If you bothered to read your own newspaper though,” she says slowly, “you would know that the man was named Javier Boulevard and he was French.”
“Javier, like that dude from that one musical everyone’s always going on about?” I hide the snort in my tea.
Rose exclaims, “That’s Javert. Goodness, I’ve been dead for how long, and even I know that!”
“Sorry, I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately if you didn’t notice.” I lift the newspaper and wave it in her face to prove my point.
“You think I haven’t?”
“I wouldn’t know,” I say. “You won’t tell me.”
“Miss?” The man from the other table has turned his attention back to me. “I’m sorry, miss,” he says in a posh accent, “but you’re making it very difficult for me to enjoy my morning paper.”
“Oh, I’m sorry my little psychotic breakdown here is disturbing you,” I say kindly. “Let me just take this little argument I’m having with myself outside.” I send a meaningful look to Rose and am just about to stand when the man lifts his newspaper to continue reading and I realize I recognize the man on the cover.
It’s our very own Javier Boulevard. Only in this picture, he is still alive.