Jameson wearily lifted his fingers from the keyboard, then leaned back and stretched his aching back, rotating his shoulders that had grown tense and stiff from long hours hunched over his keyboard, his arms held in more or less the same position.
He poured himself a half shot of the whiskey, then held the bottle up to the light of the bare bulb that hung from the ceiling of his rat trap apartment.
“I really am going to have to do something about getting some better lighting in here.” he thought as he gazed at the tiny amount of the precious elixir that remained in the bottom of the bottle as it showed amber in the pale light.
He looked around his home and sighed, “In fact, I need a whole new change of location. It’s no wonder I can’t create anymore. Ever since Celia kicked me out and got custody of the kids, it is like the only muse that talks to me now is the one that is nearly as drunk as I get sometimes out of despair.”
He gave a hollow laugh, “At least I assume the my muse must have taken up drinking, for the drivel she’s been giving me lately isn’t fit for anything more than outhouse paper. And if I don’t come up with something soon, the paper is going to fire me, and then I really will be in rough shape.”
Man, he sure missed his old partner, Stella. Now that broad had known her way around an article. She had been such a good writer she could have made a New York phone book interesting.
She had also been a darn good journalist, never turning down a story if it sounded interesting or even dangerous. The woman, in fact, seemed to do her best work on stories that would have painted a target on most journalist’s backs, for her favorite pieces seem to be about the seedy elements.
She seemed to have led a charmed life, for she had been shot at, nearly poisoned, and very nearly run off of a bridge, yet in the end her stories were what brought the one behind those “accidents” to justice.
And then a year ago that luck ran out. She had been working late one night with him, trying to finish up polishing an article, and when they had finished, it had been the wee hours of the morning. He had walked her to her car, chatted for a few moments, then turned to head for where his beat up old junker was parked about six parking slots over, by the dumpster.
The explosion had knocked him off of his feet and embedded a piece of one of the tail lights in his left leg, severing one of the major muscles. The doc’s had repaired it, but he would walk lopsided for the rest of his life, for they had literally sewn the muscle back together.
He had rolled over onto his back and used his elbows to lever himself up as he had gazed at where Stella’s Maverick had sat only mere moments before, but where now sat a smoking heap of shattered metal and twisted frame. He couldn’t even see her front seat at all.
He had sat up, his hands wrapped in a death grip around his leg, trying to stop the bleeding, staring in disbelief at where only mere moments before he had been bidding the woman who was not only his partner, but who had also become his best friend a farewell.
And he was still sitting more or less in the same position when the fire truck, police and ambulance showed up not ten minutes after the blast. He had found out later that the liquor store attendant across the street had called them when the car exploded.
The ambulance attendants had patched up his leg as best they could, though they had not removed the glass for fear of doing more damage to the blood vessels, and hauled him off to the hospital. The cops had followed, asking loads of questions, some of which were pretty personal.
And it was those very personal questions that tipped him off that the one behind the car bomb might not have been someone Stella had written about…
It might, in truth, have been someone much closer and better known…
His witch wife, Celia.
And when he called her a witch, it wasn’t just a term of hate, it was, in fact, the literal truth.
She had had the hots for him in high school, and had cast a glamour on him that had caused him to fall for her.
There was only one problem, she had forgotten one major thing…magic could not force love.
And when he had found out, shortly after their second child, Katlyn’s, birth, that she was a witch, she had told him that if he ever even so much as was seen with another woman, she would leave him and curse him to poverty and misery for the rest of his life…
And that she would “deal with” the woman.
He had been afraid to even be seen taking change from female store clerks, and always made a point of having them lay the change on the counter so that no physical contact would be made that he knew his wife might have spies watching for and reporting.
So he had lived in fear for nearly five years and then he had gotten the job with the paper and a year later had been teamed up with Stella.
Celia had come to the office one night when they were working and just happened to walk in when Stella was leaning with one hand on his shoulder and one pointing out some things on the computer screen.
He had looked up when the door opened and looked right into Celia’s jet black eyes…eyes that had held a threat as she had uttered only three words…”You were warned.” Then she had turned and left without another word or backward glance.
Her tone had turned his blood to ice as he had immediately looked directly at Stella. She did not know it, but she had just signed her death warrant through the simple act of having her hand on his shoulder.
So for nearly a year he had gone everywhere with her when they were working, and always walked her to her car.
But when time passed and nothing happened, he had started thinking that Celia’s threat had been empty. Finally he had stopped being so guarding and simply walked Stella to her car across the dark lot, then walked to his own car.
And not two months after he stopped standing by Stella’s car till she buckled up and closed the door, the car had exploded.
But of course there was no way he was going to the police to tell them he suspected his witch wife had killed his partner, they would lock him away and throw away the key.
Two weeks after the car exploded, Celia had had him served with divorce papers at work, and when he got home that night it was to find everything he owned sitting in the front yard in the pouring rain.
He had salvaged what he could and gotten this dump he was in. It was rat infested, but it was shelter and had electricity, which had become about all he cared about anymore.
But the combination of his dismal surroundings and the fact he had taken up drinking soon began to take a toll on his writing.
And then just last Monday the boss had told him either come up with an article worth printing or he was out. So he had tried to kick it into high gear and barely managed to make, in his pain in the keister bosses eyes, barely presentable articles for the rest of that week.
Then yesterday the boss had once more called him on the carpet, telling him to either dry out and start performing better or he would be joining the unemployment line.
So here he sat, trying to sift through the part of his brain not steeped in an alcoholic haze to come up with something that would keep his job and keep money coming in.
His musings were interrupted by the buzz of his messenger. He glanced at it, but didn’t recognize the id, so he was just beginning to make a move to close it when the words that flashed across it froze all movement, shocking him so badly that the glass he had just refilled slip out of his hand and fell to the floor with a crash, sending shards of glass everywhere.
He stared in disbelief as the words “Hey, tapster, why so low?” flashed onto the messenger screen.
He shook his head and then reached up and rubbed his eyes, then looked again, but the words were still there. A moment later, “Hey, haven’t you got anything to say to a pal?” appeared.
Now he knew he was losing it. There was only one person who had ever called him “tapster”, and that person was dead, he had been there when they died.
That person was his former partner, Stella. She had given him the nickname as a way of teasing him because he typed with two fingers, patiently and laboriously spelling out each word a keystroke at a time.
Not believing he was about to do it, he typed out “Stella?” then just about fell out of the chair when the words “The one and only! LOL!” appeared.
“This can’t be happening, Stella is dead. This is just bad whiskey or not enough sleep or stress.” Jameson thought as he reached with trembling hands for what remained of the whiskey, then very nearly dropped the bottle as the words “Oh yes it is happening! And yes I am dead and no, you are not going crazy!”
The last statement was enough to make him drop the bottle in shock, for he had just been thinking he was losing his mind even as he had watched the lines appear on the screen.
Then the words began flowing across the messenger one after the other and all he could do was sit and watch in shock.
“Look, tapster, your boss was right about one thing, we got to get you dried out. You have a lot of good stories left in you, but you have let yourself slide. Well, that is about to change. I want you to go make a pot of coffee, grab something to eat, since I know for a fact you haven’t been eating…and before you ask how, I have been watching you ever since the “accident”…and then get some sleep. In that order. Don’t worry about the story for your boss for tomorrow, you will have it. Now get crackin’, we got some work to do to get you back in form.”
He was sitting there trying to figure out which of the many questions going through his mind to type when more words appeared, “Don’t worry about all of that, it will take care of itself, take my word for it. And don’t worry about the story, I’ll take care of it. And by the way, we are going to not only take care of the hellcat wife of yours, but you are going to be so respectable you are going to get your kids back to boot! Now scram, I got work to do! And no peeking!”
Somewhat in a daze, Jameson got up and did as commanded and was soon fast asleep. He did not see the document file open on the screen, nor as it began to fill with words, page after page.
When he got up the next morning, as soon as he took care of personal needs he was compelled to check the computer. But all that was on the screen was a message, “Remember, no peeking! And be sure to wear that rad blue suit you have hidden in the back of the closet, for you will be going to lunch with the boss and we don’t want you looking like a hick! Oh, and no booze, not that you will find any, as I sort of made it “disappear”. You are officially now on the wagon! Now go get ’em, tiger!”
Over the next four years Jameson’s popularity at his job soared and he was soon made a partner in the company. Each night he would chat with his rather eerie partner, then go to bed and sleep, only to wake to find a new article the following morning. He had changed his byline to “GHOSTWRITER” in hidden tribute to his rather unusual partner.
As he watched the twins, Kylie and Katlyn play with some friends in the pool, he thought back to the day he had regained custody…the same day they had carted Celia off to the nuthouse, literally in a straight-jacket.
It seemed she had been having dreams that had sent her right around the bend. She had been declared unfit to raise the girls, and given his change in living standards, he had been awarded custody.
He reached into his shorts pocket and pulled out his cellphone. It had all the bells and whistles…including a messenger.
“Hey, partner, you there?” he thought. Mere seconds later the words “Yep, what’s up?” appeared on the screen.
His thoughts were content, and very full of gratitude, “Not much, just wondered if you would “join” me in a mental salutation to the power of friendship…and to “spectral cyber space! You see, its our “anniversary”. It was exactly four years ago today that you just about sent me into a heart attack by becoming, quite literally, my ghostwriter.”
And as the screen filled up with “lol’s”, he mentally lifted a glass of purest spring water in a toast to a friendship that had outlasted even death itself.