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The Nights We Almost Met

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“Sadie!,” hissed Lucy, hooking her arm around her sister’s and hauling her back. “Mother’s harping on about introducing you to some English second cousin who’s also a baron. Do take care of yourself, won’t you? There’s sneaking off, and then there’s defying Mother and never getting to sneak off again.”

Sadie felt a slight twinge of guilt at being told off. Even though there were only two years between her and Lucy, somehow when she was scolded she felt like she was a silly child. And, like a child, she attempted to justify herself.

“I wasn’t attempting to avoid Mother and her matchmaking—though Lord knows I’d like to—“

“Well, what was it? Because the bar is on this side of the foyer.” Lucy gestured elegantly with a wave of her fingers. “And I know you wouldn’t like to stray too far from the booze, sister of mine.”

“Thank you for understanding,” Sadie replied, equally as graciously and with a shade more bite in her tone than she’d planned for. “I just thought I saw something. Through there.”

Her older sister looked to where she’d indicated. “That’s just the entrance to the backstage area. Down those stairs, I mean. You probably just saw a stagehand with an unwieldy prop. Now come, won’t you? Mother and the baron await. If you try sarcasm, he’ll make some crack about liking them feisty, so if you don’t want to vomit tonight just nod and smile and be very dull indeed.” In a swish of lavender, her sister was gone, leaving Sadie to contemplate the stairs again.

It hadn’t been just a stagehand. It had been a broad flash of dirty white, like a dull glow around an old churchyard. And she’d turned just in time to see something in black go haring after it. Not a demon chasing a ghost, no; this apparition appeared strangely human. Unless demons wore tattered black tie and tails.

“…and this is my youngest, Sadie.” She turned to see her mother and a barrel-chested man advancing on her. “Sadie’s quite taken with Italian operas, aren’t you, cherie?”

“Mmm,” Sadie replied enthusiastically, as she wondered if the ghost had been the reason the soprano had seemed ill at ease throughout the third act. That, or the fact it was opening night, or that her costume had to have been digging into sensitive places. Whatever it was, it had been dull enough that she went to refill her drink midway through. “Marvellous. Yes.”

“So cultured!” her mother cooed, and as the second cousin opened his mouth to say something, all the lights went down and several people shrieked to make the commotion seem dangerous.


 

If there was one thing Frank Doyle hated, it was being out of liquor, and if there were two, it would be doing anything strenuous whilst out of liquor. Halfway to sober, Frank hit the deserted stage with a bang where the poltergeist had thrown him.

He’d not been watching the show, exactly, more watching the soprano who swore a deranged fan was after her. Frank, having heard opera before, didn’t think it likely. And in the third act, his suspicions had been proved correct. One, that the soprano had little to no knowledge of where to breathe in a fast aria, and two, that it was a ghost and not a fan who was after her.

It didn’t even look like the poltergeist was after her, not really. It drifted lazily about the stalls, reflecting off necklaces and cufflinks that were polished or set with stones. Frank, from his position in the nosebleed section, scowled down at it. It was showing particular interest in a box underneath him, but he couldn’t see what was happening in it or tell them to watch out.

And then the opera had finished and the poltergeist had zipped away, and he’d given chase and lost his hat somewhere in the wings, and now he was being thrown about the stage like a wooden toy. If he wasn’t careful, one of his tails would be torn off and then there’d be nothing left to do but to convert this entire getup to a morning suit.

The poltergeist appeared above him and Frank desperately scrawled a sigil on the wooden boards of the stage. He’d hadn’t quite closed the loop, he realised, when the poltergeist got sucked down into it; there was enough oomph in his banishment that made all the lights go out.

He got up calmly, retrieved his hat, and set off from the theatre as the lights flickered back. Disaster narrowly averted.

Chapter Text

There was something nasty in the alley, and it wasn't just the stinking food. Frank wrinkled his nose at the smell and the sight of the rotten food carpeting the passageway. His shoes weren't fashionable exactly, but they were smart, and he hated to lose them in the line of duty. He consoled himself by thinking of the shoes he could buy once he'd collected payment for this job, and, when that wasn't enough, of the liquor he would buy first.

"Hello!" he called into the covered dead end. "Disgusting alley trash monster? Frank Doyle here."

He smelt the angry roar more than heard it. And what a stench! He thought hard for a good two or even three seconds to find something comparably terrible, but was eventually forced to concede it as a personal low.

The monster was apparently furious its sleep had been interrupted. Frank could sympathise a little. Waking after being dead to the world was hell before the first drink.

"The difference is," he mused aloud as he looked up into the slimy face of the trash creature, "I don't kill those who wake me up." Mostly, he ran. Sometimes, if he was lucky and they were trusting, he used some of the longer words he'd learned in AP English and the Maine-iest voice he could to cadge a shower or a stiff drink. His favourite hat had come that way, from an older couple who told him that he looked just like their James, and then the father had gotten choked up and the mother had gone to give him some of James' clothes. He spent a few nights wondering if James' ghost would show up to demand his suit back before succumbing to his other, more prosiac worries, such as where his next glass of whisky would be coming from.

Stringy cheese pattered down on the ground as the demon raised a fist to smash down onto him. He stepped back just in time for a greenish blob of tomato paste to fly past his ear.

“Why, old sport, you’ll crush yourself to bits!” In slamming its hand down, the beast had also lost it along with its forearm. It glared at him through misshapen, mouldy-butter eyes and then fell backwards as Frank neatly took its legs off.

It was almost too easy to cut off the thing’s head with the short sword he carried around for protection and for work. The only difficult part for Frank was when the creature started gurgling, or groaning—one of the two—for mercy. And when he finally separated trash-head from garbage-body, he was half-afraid a young woman’s spirit would slip out, thank him for freeing her, and then disappear.

But it was just the alley, plastered in food rubbish with a pervading smell of rot. He trudged to the back entrance of the restaurant to find the owner and collect his pay, but all he got was a tip to take the money upfront next time.




“I don’t know, Sadie. This place smells weird.”

“Donna!” Sadie stared at her friend, wounded. “Are you telling me you’ve suddenly gone off scampi? I’ve not been gone that long!”

“I was referring to that,” Donna reassured her as she pointed to the alley at the side of the restaurant. Sadie turned, took a big whiff and instantly covered her nose with her hand.
“Goodness, darling, it smells like something dead. No—undead!”

Differently alive, thank you,” Donna snapped, and then sighed and looked away as Sadie turned pink.

“Okay, okay!” she waved her hands before Sadie could start to apologise. “I mean—that alley stinks of rotting fish, and—Sadie, that’s not why I suddenly don’t want to go here.”

“You’re pregnant! Turned vegetarian! Ah, you’ve, you’ve become a werewolf! No—you’ve started seeing a merman!”

“None of the above!” Donna drew herself up to her full height of four feet, eleven inches, and announced: “I have become a vampire.”

“Oh!” Sadie looked at her friend, mouth open, and then cocked her head a little to the side. “I’d say we need a catch-up even more than we did before.”

“I knew you’d understand!” Donna caught Sadie in a tight hug—slightly too tight, due to her strength, and Sadie came away from it a little winded. She grinned up at her friend. “There’s a great little jazz club nearby. Intimate. Blood and martinis on tap.”

“Martinis don’t…oh, Donna.” Sadie smiled in spite of herself. “I am glad I know you.”

“Well then, Sadie, that makes two of us.” Donna linked their arms, and they strolled off towards the club. Neither took much heed of the restaurant’s owner locking the door in the face of a young man wearing a threadbare suit.

Chapter Text

“Sadie Parker! Are you in trousers?!” The interrobang hung in the air, a tribute to how shocked her sister was. Possibly Lucy was slightly more stunned that Sadie was hanging half-out of her window on a cold February night, and had chosen the trousers to pick on because they were the first thing she’d noticed.

Sadie sighed, adjusting her red neckerchief, and swung her leg back inside so she perched on the windowsill. “Yes, Lucy Parker, I am.”

The two sisters stared at each other for a long moment—Lucy from the door, Sadie metres away at the diamond-pane window—before Lucy smiled. She shook her head fondly as she entered, kicking the door shut with a maribou-mule clad foot, and then sat elegantly at Sadie’s writing desk.

“I’m not surprised, you know. Mother deliberately sent you to Saint Swithun’s because she thought Madame Richlieu’s finishing school was responsible for how I turned out, but it clearly must be the Parker genes.”

Sadie had been enjoying her big sister coming in and speaking to her like a partner in crime, but this was such patently false information she had to cut the cosiness short. “How you turned out? Darling, you’re the life and soul of the party, but in a demure way. Any cutting comments you make are made away from suitable gentlemen. And your dress! I wore that turban and Mother almost had a fit!”

“You’ve been at boarding school so much, but I just supposed Mother had written to you…” Lucy looked down, pleating her nightgown in her lap. “She rather does enjoy playing us against each other, have you noticed? Any time I sing in company I’m brushed away after the first verse. ‘Your sister, now she’s the one with the voice.’ Or—or—‘Sadie’s the pretty one. Lucy’s as solid as an ox!’”

Sadie had noticed this, but not from the other way round. She bit her lip slightly. “What hasn’t Mother written to me, Lucy, dear?”

“Sadie…I’m going to university in the fall. To be an engineer.” Lucy winced slightly, no doubt replaying a few uncomfortable conversations with their parents. Sadie could understand that, too, after that horrid fifteen-minute interview that had ensured she’d been sent to boarding schools for the last eight years. “I figured, well, everyone expects me to be interested in things that ladies don’t like, considering my—build.” Lucy shrugged her broad shoulders. “And then I started reading about it, mainly to shock polite company, but it was so interesting…Father’s tried to pay me off, but Aunt Ida has given me the cash. This September, I’m going to Yale.”

Sadie reckoned this was hugely unfair, to lose a sister just as she became interesting and somebody she could associate with. Awkwardly, she rose from the windowsill and patted Lucy on the shoulder.

“You realise you won’t be able to speak about me for four years?”

“Is that what they asked about me, when I went away to boarding school?” Sadie asked, and wasn’t quite prepared to hear Lucy reply ‘yes’.

“No, I’m making you sad! Oh, no.” Lucy hugged her sister gently, one arm around her shoulders, and then let go quickly. Oh yes, thought Sadie grimly. The Parker genes run strong indeed. She’d never thought that she was so physical, and then she’d lived with girls for eight years, and the casual touch was a fact of life even in the most luxurious dormitories. Coming back here made her ache with longing for it. “Sadie, I’m meant to be admonishing you—even though those are some very fetching capris.”

“Ah yes, you were asking about my attire.” Sadie braced herself and took the plunge. “You know Donna Newlove?”

“Is she the small one?”

“That’s her. Well, she’s been recently transfigured into a vampire and I agreed to help find her vampirerer.”

“Her…?”

“Oh, the vampire who made her.” Sadie beamed, and though Lucy looked a trifle disconcerted, she smiled back as she pushed a hand through her long curly hair.

“…as long as you’re happy. And back before dawn. Mother has planned to bring that awful Mrs. Goudge to dinner, who will undoubtedly boast about her daughter’s fantastic match and will wake you at seven sharp to go over finer points of deportment.” Lucy snorted elegantly. “As if you haven’t spent the last year doing that at finishing school anyway.”

“So you don’t mind? Even though I’m clambering out of a window?”

“Your room is above a few leafy bushes. The most you’ll worry about is twigs in your hair. I just hope you have a…lovely time. With your friend. Searching for a vampirerer—is that too many ‘Ers’?”

Sadie was already at the window again, both feet out into the air now. She vaulted around, grabbing onto the drainpipe with ease and watched as Lucy raised a hand in farewell and begin to leave the room.

“Lucy!” Something had occurred to Sadie. “Could you—when you get there—could you send me some college application forms too?”

Her sister smiled. “Of course.”


 

“Kid, that is the weirdest sleeping position I have ever seen.”

Frank blinked out of sleep, bleary-eyed and teary. He struggled up, the sacking he’d used as a blanket falling aside. There was a young man staring at him, a young man with the voice of a world-weary fortysomething. He wore a long trenchcoat, a fedora, and a ghostly claw gripped his shoulder.

“I, uh. I sleep deeply.” Frank stood, and the young man very decently didn’t hear the clink of empty bottles on stone. His neck hurt; he laid a cool palm on it and huffed out a breath.

“Must have been. Harvey here was screeching loud enough to wake the dead—hey, no offence, kid.”

“No offenc—no, I’m not dead!” Frank wondered if he should be angry at being mistaken for a ghost or a zombie. He decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. It had been a few weeks since he’d managed to wash his clothes or hair, and the cold probably made him paler.

“Huh. Could have fooled me.” The man offered his hand. “Call me Jones.”

“Got a first name to go along with that? Frank Doyle.”

“My friends call me Pterodactyl Jones.” He indicated the ghostly claw. “Private detective. Actually, Mr. Doyle, I have heard your name.”

Frank gave him a sidelong glance. His hand hovered, casually he hoped, over the knife in his belt.

“Good things, I hope.”

PJ coughed and shuffled his feet somewhat. “I frequent a bar…the owner of a certain restaurant was bragging about getting a ghost problem dealt with for free.” Frank’s eyes darkened, and PJ nodded grimly. “Somehow that guy ended up with a haunted kitchen. Can’t imagine why.”

Harvey screeched.

Frank smirked. “I can’t imagine why either. Nice to meet you, Pterodactyl Jones.”

“It’s a little short notice, Frank, but I’m looking for a consult on the case I’m working on.” Frank was 80% sure there was no case, but he nodded along anyway.

“I’m looking for a—uhm. A werewolf. Could be a weredog. A were, anyway. Last seen, uh, heading in—that direction.” He pointed vaguely off to another direction of the graveyard. “Come with me.”

“Well, I’ve not got anything better to do,” Frank said. And, privately, he thought of money and maybe a change of clothes. As they exited the graveyard, they didn’t spot the socialite shimmying down the side of the grand house next door to the church.

 

Chapter Text

Frank was glad PJ had an apartment, since he also had a couch he didn’t mind Frank sleeping on. It had only been a week since PJ had suggested they take a break from looking for the were-canine and go home. It had been six days, twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes since Frank had realised that PJ saw him as a charity case. And soon after that, he rationalised that he’d care about it in the morning.

And it had been a week, and it was nice to be a roommate. He couldn’t cook, or pay rent, but the first night he was there he taught PJ how to make a decent martini. PJ reported his tips went up the next night, and so Frank re-discovered the value of being useful.

“Night, Frank. Night, Harvey.” PJ slid the window up with a wince, and as his spectral companion ghosted out, warned “Watch out for dames!”

“Are there many dinosaur dames out there, Peej?”

“Never hurts to remind him,” PJ said grimly, and shut the window. “Up early tomorrow, Frank. I got a lead on a missing cellist from the Lower East Side and I need you to get enough sleep.”

“I’ll have you know I function just as well on two hours of sleep as most men do on eight!”

“Huh.” PJ snorted. “If the other men are dead, maybe.” He paused awkwardly in the door, and as Frank opened his mouth to speak, interrupted. “I know, it wasn’t my best figure of speech. I’m tired.” He slouched out of the room (despite Frank admonishing his posture on several occasions) and turned off the light.

It was easier to get to sleep now. Maybe it was the novelty of warm sheets and soft pillows, maybe it would have been harder if he’d spent longer sleeping on cold stone. It was equally as possible that it was the warm hug of liquor, but whatever the reason Frank passed out fairly easily. He expected to dream of Catherine, as he generally did, and wake covered in sweat and convincing himself it was just sobriety sneaking up on him.


 

This, he was certain, was not any place he knew. It was a bar, and he knew his way around those, but this was swish. The bar was polished. The stools were matched and glossy. He looked down at his clothing and was pleased to see a pocket square where it ought to be. Nothing was threadbare; nothing was cheap and shiny. It looked like dream-Frank had the kind of budget that real-Frank could only dream of.

“One Old-Fashioned, please, barkeep—augh!”

The bartender had popped up. His white greasepainted face reflected off the bottles mounted on the shelves behind him, turning beauty monstrous. And of course, he would be frozen in fear. He would be frozen in fear just at the time he needed to run away, wouldn’t he? Frank twitched his finger a little, and was satisfied that it was fear and not an actual medical problem. Still, he doubted he’d freeze in front of your average monster. Just ones that had killed his friends. Just the clown, and Father Lancaster.

“Frank Doyle,” purred the clown, his eyes bulging in a way that oughtn’t to have been physically possible. “So nice to be summoned by you. What’s wrong? Not that I’ll help you, of course, but how desperate must you be?”

“I didn’t.” His throat felt tight and dry, and he wished for that cocktail harder than he had in a good few weeks. “I can assure you, Nightmares, old enemy—“

“Fair.”

“—I never wished to see you again.”

“And yet here I am in a dream! Let’s see what we’ve got in here, shall we?” Nightmares scrunched his brow, his red nose glowing exactly the way Rudolph’s wouldn’t. “Oh, fear. So much fear! Delicious! I could almost keep you alive if you kept producing this much! Look, the people you trusted, and the girl you couldn’t save, and being chased out of a neighbourhood because of where you slept—“

But Nightmares was fading. Frank found he could move his whole hand, and then his arm, and then there was just a glimmer of scarlet wig glinting away and he could get off the stool entirely. Sure, his heart was beating a little fast. But he’d survived.

“One martini, please,” came a voice to his right, and Frank whipped his head around to the source of the voice. It was like clear and cool water, filtered through crystal and with a little splash of liquor just to keep things interested. The voice belonged to a body that had—perfect shoulders. A flawless back, presented in a flawless backless dress. Dark hair, twisted up smoothly and showing off a slender neck.

“If you’re having a martini, I might be forced to join you,” he said, and as the figure swivelled round in the chair a screech rang through the air and the image shattered like thin glass.


 

Frank woke on PJ’s floor, blanket tangled in his legs, Harvey roaring at the window. PJ was already pulling his trenchcoat on as he tossed Frank the emergency kit. It was only six hours later, covered in ichor and solidly drunk on vodka, did Frank have time to wonder about the other person in the dream.


 

“Sadie?” A cool hand shook her shoulder. “Sadie. You were dreaming and talking in your sleep.”

“Was I?” Sadie sat up, rubbing her forehead lightly and pushing a heavy mass of tresses out of the way. “Then I wish you hadn’t woken me, Donna darling. It was such a lovely dream. There were drinks. And…” she frowned, and it went on for longer than a second. Naturally, Donna was worried.

“And?”

“And…it’s probably nothing, dear.” Donna noticed how her friend bit her lip. “Nothing at all.”

Chapter Text

“Now, I understand wanting to play two men off one another,” Sadie said slowly as she elegantly rearranged her thin scarf. “But a police officer and a PI?”

Donna scowled at her as she reapplied her lipstick, not an especially easy task as she could no longer see her reflection in the compact. “Are you implying I’m not an expert at this?”

“No, darling,” Sadie replied with a laugh, adjusting the parasol over Donna’s head. “But why not use one first and the other second?”

“Oh, you know—is my lipstick okay?—thanks, Sadie—I just want to light a fire under them. Get ‘em all competitive and…sweaty.” Donna licked a sharp canine, absently. “Which one of you big boys can solve this first?”

“So why organise it on a sunny day in a park? You being of the fanged persuasion and all.”

Delicately, Donna took the parasol from Sadie’s grasp and slung it over her shoulder. “I can thrall a little bit, but it broke whenever I suggested they send an officer to my place in the dark. Besides, I know this PI. His evenings are taken up with being duped by dames.”

“But Donna! I’m a dame!”

“Then don’t dupe him,” Donna replied, unruffled. She brushed a speck of dirt from her red polka-dot dress. “You dressed like a dame, anyway, so he’ll be forewarned.”

“I dress how I always dress!”

“Yes, Sadie, and long black gowns on a sunny day make you look like a Lady Grim Reaper.”

Sadie cocked her head, tapping her painted nails against her cheek. “Do you know, I don’t think I mind that aesthetic too much.”

“Sorry my parasol isn’t black to match.”

“I’ll live. As long as I don’t begin to freckle—“

“Miss Newlove?” Both woman turned, Sadie grimacing as the tip of her stiletto stuck slightly in the grass, and found herself looking up at a gruff man in a police uniform. He was attempting to look serious, but his hair was naturally and irrepressibly curly and his paunch only served to make him look rather teddy bearish.

“Officer Henderson, I presume?” Sadie asked. “My name is Sadie Parker, here as a friend to Miss Donna Newlove. Donna, do tell the nice Mr. Henderson what we need him for.”

“Uh.” Donna was blinking rapidly, her brown eyes wide. Sadie knew that look—at school, Donna’s dark cheeks would have begun to redden and then she would have started twisting her hands in her skirt and whispering frantically to Sadie about the handsomeness of the music teacher, Mr. Bianco. Gracefully, Sadie smiled and stepped back with her friend.

“Terribly sorry, Mr. Henderson, my friend is overset.”

“Oh. I understand, ma’am. Miss Parker.” Officer Henderson tugged on a loose springy curl, slightly embarrassed, as Sadie swung round to face Donna.

“Sadie, help, I want a drink!”

“I’ve got a flask strapped to my inner thigh?”

“No, from him!”

“Oh!” Sadie considered this, and said, “Well, he might want that too. But let’s find your vampirerer first, alright?” Her smile was so wide and gracious that Donna couldn’t help but nod. Without any prompting, Donna stepped around her and produced the drawing she and Sadie had collaborated on. Sadie had had great fun adding lashes of blood to the picture of Octavius the Grief Spectre but now, watching Officer Henderson’s face pale slightly, she wondered if it hadn’t been too much.

Donna was still trying to tear her eyes away from his neck. Sadie had faith in her friend, though, so she allowed her eyes to wander slightly. The park was large, with a ribbon of a lake up ahead, and grey paving slabs filled with families and their children and dogs. Two figures didn’t belong, though. Sadie narrowed her eyes and waited for them to come into focus; two men, one in a long beige coat and fedora and the other in a suit that had seen better days. They lit something like a warning in her.

The man in the suit came into view, and she took in his eyes, his set expression, his proud chin. She was suddenly glad she was wearing a marvellous dress and that her hair was down, and straightened up as they approached.

“Miss Newlove?” asked the one she wasn’t paying attention to. It was gratifying to see that the the man was as affected as she was.

“No. No, I’m Sadie Parker. How do you do?” she asked, and impulsively clasped the man’s hand.

“Frank,” he replied, looking starstruck. “Doyle. Very well. I—Frank Doyle.”

It was ridiculous, but she suddenly knew she’d been waiting for him. She couldn’t stop the smile that broke out on her face, and was relieved to see the same grin on his. Even Donna’s scream was mere background music. It was, she thought, terribly rude of Donna to grab at her arm like that, but she forced herself to listen.

“Sadie! Dave’s been stung!”

“Hmm?”

“By a bee!” If Sadie noticed Frank hunching his shoulders and looking around nervously, she didn’t comment on it.

“Well, he should soak the sting in cold water, darling.”

“He’s allergic!” Donna’s eyes were wide as saucers, and Frank could tell she was attempting to thrall her friend. Unfortunately, her stress prevented her from doing so.

“So take him to a hospital,” Frank suggested, as he noticed PJ running to a payphone.

“Sadie’s the only one who can drive!” Donna wailed, and Sadie heaved a sigh.

“Well, I suppose I’d better go. Darling—“

“Darling?” Frank couldn’t help but interrupt with a rogueish grin, and was rewarded with a delightful rosy flush rising in Sadie’s cheeks.

“—we simply must meet again.”

“I quite agree.” He squeezed her hand once, and reluctantly let it go. “I live with PJ there—“

“SADIE!”

“I’ll find you!” Sadie raised her voice as she was dragged towards the car.

“You want to be careful of her,” PJ’s voice snarled behind him. “She’s clearly a dame. A dame who delights in trouble like it’s a swimming pool. A dame who cooks up schemes easy as soup.”

“I get the feeling she’d be worth it.”

Chapter Text

“Is the apartment clean?”

“As clean as my nose.”

“…rethink the metaphor, PJ.”

“I would not be ashamed to show a dame in here.”

“You’ve had dames who’ve driven you to abandoned warehouses and then tried to shoot you. I’m not sure your taste is something on which I should rely.”

“Cruel, Frank, cruel.” PJ paused, donning his hat. “Yet accurate.”

“Can you and Harvey promise to be gone until at least midnight?”

“Sure. No problem we can’t defeat together.” PJ patted his ghostly pal fondly. “But if we’re discussing taste, I find myself coveting that waistcoat.” He thrust his hand into his pocket. “So you should probably change it.”

“You think the purple paisley would be too much?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Then on it goes.” Frank stripped off the sky-blue waistcoat, pausing only to pour out two drinks and knock one of them back. “To Sadie—long may she reign.”

“Does she know you’re treating this case like it’s a date?”

“Is it vain of me to hope she’s doing the same? I can spin it,” Frank continued, gesturing with the empty glass, “As me being the pretty face of this organisation and you being the muscle. Don’t judge me, Peej.”

“Impossible.” PJ heaved a deep sigh, looking out of the window like it was raining hard and had been for hours. “Dames—they’re irresistible. But if you run into any trouble, Harv and I will be at Stray’s bar.” He clapped Frank on the shoulder and slipped quietly from the apartment.

Frank wasn’t sure if this was happiness, but the dead weight on his chest had eased slightly and he felt less like anyone he had or would ever love would leave him. He’d stopped dreaming about Catherine so much, but it wasn’t a betrayal so much as letting her rest.

Sadie had called him a day after that police officer had been stung. Donna had given her PJ’s number, she said, and she was calling about a case. A vague case. PJ had berated Frank for not getting more details, but in Frank’s mind he’d got everything important down. Each detail, perfectly remembered—the clear, quick way she spoke, suffused with gentle warmth and sharp wit. The pause as she wet her lips and drank from her martini glass. He fancied he could hear her playing with a coil of that magnificent dark hair, though that could have been wishful thinking. And so she was heading here to PJ’s four-room apartment, filled with dark wood and dust and haze. He’d cleaned as best he could, and PJ had helped, but he was acutely aware that even scrubbed til it shone the apartment could not stand up to the Parker house.

There were three raps on the door. Frank sprung into action, not even checking his reflection in his haste to answer the door. He didn’t care if his hair was mussed, if the crinkled paisley waistcoat didn’t suit—he just cared about seeing Sadie.

She stood there on the other side of the door, her hair pinned up, dressed in a dark forest-green gown. It came to mid-calf and had sleeves, so there was no reason why he should be gazing worshipfully at her as if she were nude. And yet—he was, and it made her feel ridiculously pleased.

“You—had a case? Sadie?” he managed to choke out.

Sadie hefted the handbag in her arms, which made a pleasant ringing sound. “I decanted them,” she replied, eyes twinkling, and stepped inside.

A more perfect woman he could not imagine—aside from her odd blind spot of interest in him. Frank shut the door gallantly, and showed her to the shabby table where the glasses awaited them. “Perhaps when we finish this bottle?”

“Oh, naturally. I cannot start on mine until I finish yours! What bad manners!” She set her bag tenderly on the floor, and sat at the table, smiling at him. Frank sat opposite her, the tips of his ears just turning pink.

“Sadie, did you call just so we could see each other again?” He refilled her glass and watched her lips as she pressed them together, thinking of an answer.

“…perhaps,” she eventually replied. “Was it terribly bad of me?”

“Not at all!” he answered quickly, and held up the glass to toast her. She touched hers to his, and the small clink sounded much louder in the echoing room. Sadie was sure she was overreacting to such a tiny chime until she saw Frank’s look of pure giddiness.

“I think we ought to do that again.”

“I think you might be right,” he said.

No sooner had they clinked glasses once more—Sadie smiling radiantly—than a ghost drifted through the wall. Frank groaned and opened his mouth to reassure Sadie that there was nothing to fear, just a common or garden household spectre, but she didn’t even try to conceal her own eye-roll at its sudden appearance.

“Help me!” implored the ghost. Still gazing at Sadie, Frank could see with a measure of horror that she was softening slightly.

“Don’t do it, love!” she hissed, but she had already turned to the spook and gently enquired as to what sort of help they needed. His two grains of solace were, one, that her dress was apparently backless, and, two, she had a tattoo peeking out just by her shoulderblade.

“Frank, dear—this little ghost says she only needs to remember her name, and then she can go back to her grave and not bother us again.”

“Hnh?” His mind was still stuck on that tattoo.

“I get lost when I came out of the graveyard and I’m sure I never came to Brooklyn before!” lisped the ghost. If she could have worn more frills on her dress, she would have. Frank narrowed his eyes.

“Say—ghost. You wouldn’t happen to be taking the form of a cute little girl to garner more sympathy, would you?”

“Oh, mister! How could you—“

“Ghost.” That was Sadie’s voice, firm and no-nonsense. Frank briefly had to steady himself on the chair. “If you attempt to hoodwink us, we shan’t help you. Not one little bit.”

The ghost sighed and glowed blue momentarily, before metamorphosing into the form of a tall, lanky young woman. Her face sloped downwards, and her heavy, smooth hair pressed against her face.

“She looks like an Abigail, don’t you think, Frank?” asked Sadie delightedly. “An Abigail or a Petunia!”

“She probably didn’t look like that when she was a baby, love,” Frank said thoughtfully, and handed her a refill.

“I didn’t,” the ghost put in. She was, however, staring hungrily at the glasses they held. “Say—can I get in on that?”

“Well, I don’t know, dear—can you?” Obligingly, Sadie held out her almost empty glass. The ghost flowed around the glass, and into it, but to no avail.

“She can’t,” Frank said after watching the sorry display for twenty seconds. “Oh! Maybe if we kill the drink.”

“It pains me to do this, darling. But—“ Grimacing, Sadie tipped the few drops left in her glass onto the worn carpet. The ghost brightened and held out her hand.

“Look, darling! A spectral martini glass! I love it! I want a set of six for guests!” Sadie held her arm aloft, picturing it in her head—two for her and Frank, of course, because ghostly liquor would be interesting, and certainly Donna would be game—and Frank’s PI friend, and besides, you normally got sets of six as a wedding present—

“I see it, love!” Frank called warmly. “And here’s a mortal martini for you.” They clinked again, Sadie blushing at her imagination and gloriously pleased with the vision it had conjured up for her.

The ghost sipped once, appreciatively, and then gagged. “Eugh, what is this? It’s fragrant! And clear!”

Frank wondered if he should be insulted, but gin they didn’t kill was gin they could keep for themselves. Sadie knelt on the floor, rummaging through her handbag.

“What else would you like to try, dear? Brandy. Vodka. Champagne. Red wine—eugh—absinthe, rum, beer—why on earth they gave me some of this when I asked for a choice selection—“

“Beer?” interrupted the ghost hopefully, and Sadie gasped.

“Of course! I didn’t recognise you all spectral, but you’re Charity Marguerite Volta—the owner of Volta Beer!”

“So it is!” Frank squinted at the ghost—Charity—who was looking rather pleased. “There’s a plaque to your untimely demise in one of the bars PJ works—frequents.”

The ghost twirled, slowly, and tilted her head. “It’s coming back. My name—the way I died. I do remember now that the crocodile didn’t look very happy.”

Sadie sat at the table again, lining her bottles up like soldiers. “The newspaper said it was the third or fourth poke with the sharp stick that made him turn on you.”

“And I remember now why I left my cemetery. My family—“

“Yes, yes, very sad. Now, do be on your way!” Frank waved gallantly and went to open the door, but Sadie stopped him, laying a cool hand over his chest.

“Frank! Let’s at least get rid of this beer and give Miss Volta one for the road.” He felt his resolve crumble as she smiled at him. Without a word, he cracked open the can of beer and solemnly poured it into PJ’s trashcan.

“Thank you!” Charity said, and with a white flash, disappeared. Frank and Sadie sat slowly down at the table again. She began to distractedly tap the empty bottle of whisky with her little fingernail.

“I never knew you had something of the supernatural about you,” he offered, and cursed himself when the comment made her wince.

“I’ve not had much call to try it out,” Sadie replied carefully. “You seem—remarkably au fait with it, though.”

He shrugged. “Nothing to really brag about. I’ve dispatched—ghosts. Demons, monsters. Other assorted creatures.”

“Despite all of this…it felt rather comfortable just now,” she said, and looked steadily at him as she touched his wrist. “Helping that ghost out, armed with liquor.”

“You called me darling,” Frank said happily.

“You called me love.” She paused and sipped at her drink as Frank blushed a little. “It felt—appropriate.”

“It felt right,” he said honestly, and took the drink she handed to him. “I think I’d like to work on the rest of this…case with you. Sadie-love.”

Chapter Text

“Do you guys know why she brought you here?”

“No clue.” That was Lucy, a little tanned. “Two weeks after I leave for college and she’s calling me back already! No Dave with you tonight, Donna?”

“Most nights, actually, on account of him being a werewolf and a police detective. We manage, though.” Donna smiled, showing fang. “And those nights we’re together—“

“Donna!” Lucy said disapprovingly, and very deliberately did not cover her ears. She took the opportunity to pull her coat tighter around her. It didn’t much surprise her that her younger sister had sent out a stylish invitation with only the time, date, and place to meet. It did rather surprise her that the location appeared to be in a somewhat-abandoned speakeasy. Lucy supposed there was not much call for them anymore, but this one was still in excellent condition—if one allowed for the lack of heat. Donna had even turned on the lights, as compensation for her awful human eyesight, and she could see there was not a lick of dust on the bar, and what little liquid there remained in the bottles gleamed like pale gold.

“Frank just said it was of ‘grave importance’. He scuttled off afterwards like all the hounds of hell were after him.”

“Well—were they, Mr. Jones?”

“No, Miss Lucy Parker, no they were not.” Lucy had the distinct impression he was mocking her somewhat. Harvey screeched above them as PJ pulled his hat over his brow.

“We’re here, we’re here!” came a muffled cry, and Sadie burst through the doors. Her eyes were glowing and her skin was faintly flushed. Unusually, she had no glass in her hand. Equally as unusually, she was wearing white.

Donna squealed. Lucy gasped. PJ murmured something like “dames!” under his breath as Sadie twirled giddily, showing off the veil pinned to her dark hair.

“Mother will be so angry that she didn’t get to plan your wedding, Sadie Knickerhouse Parker!” Lucy chastised, when she had regained her ability to speak and was grinning again. Sadie smiled back at her, still dealing with a tight hug from Donna.

“Well, I knew I didn’t want an uncomfortable society wedding, but I did want my sister and best friend involved. Oh, darling, don’t squeeze quite so tightly, you’ll rumple my veil.” As Donna sniffed happily and let go, Sadie produced a tiny bouquet of violets for her sister, and gave Donna a similar one of daisies.

“What’s your bouquet?” asked Donna, wiping at her eyes. Sadie turned her head slightly to show them the red rose fastened into the knot of hair that held the veil in place.

“PJ! There’s my best man. And my best man’s best dinosaur, which is also the position I would like to give him in this wedding party,” Frank said as he entered. “And of course we needed someone to perform the ceremony, so—“

Dave Henderson strode in, closing the doors to the speakeasy behind him. He looked, Lucy noticed, slightly bemused but altogether rather happy with this turn of events. Before he could be directed anywhere he made a beeline for Donna, who giggled and flapped her hand at him when he kissed her on the cheek.

“Are you ready?” asked Lucy primly, fussing with Sadie’s veil. “So the dress and veil must be new…”

“The shoes are actually old.”

“So that just leaves something blue—“

Sadie cleared her throat as Frank tried to put on his best poker face. “That’s been taken care of, Lucy, dear.”

“What about the something borrowed?”

“Oh, well…” Sadie cast around vaguely with her hands, and Lucy was already taking off her necklace. “Is that really so—“

“Here.” Lucy firmly clipped the dangling pendant around Sadie’s neck. “Now, you’re perfect.”

Fumbling with the ring box, PJ looked up and furrowed his brow. “Ain’t the bride supposed to have her face covered with the veil?”

“Darling!” Sadie’s laugh was rich and effervescent. “Why cover this gem?”

“Well said,” Frank proclaimed, happiness bursting from his voice. He gallantly took her hand and they walked to stand just in front of Dave. Maybe Frank was a little too eager to take Sadie’s other hand, maybe Sadie’s eyes had a touch more sparkle than normal. It suited them.

“We are gathered here today…”

“—in this incredibly cold bar—“

“Hush, Donna!”

“I don’t believe it’s used as a bar anymore. I had PJ get the key, and then I got someone else to clean it for today—“

“—here today to see the joining of Frank Doyle and Sadie Parker in, uh, matrimony.”

There was a pause. Then Sadie said, “Dave Henderson, you left out the ‘holy’.”

“By request, love,” Frank assured her, and squeezed her hand lightly. “Our marriage will be many things, but I doubt ‘holy’ will be one of them. Sadie Knickerhouse Parker, I promise you I’m going to love every second of it.”

“You appear to have skipped ahead to the wedding vows,” Dave said, frowning at the book in his hands.

“Have I?” Frank asked. “Not that I intended to. It’s just how I feel about Sadie…”

“I don’t mind!” Sadie said warmly. “Actually I rather approve. I don’t think I can stand one more second where I’m not wed to you.”

Dave shrugged, a grin on his broad face. “Then by the power vested in me by the—oh—“

“They’re kissing already,” Donna supplied helpfully. PJ looked down at the rings he held and sighed ruefully as Harvey shrieked a little out of embarrassment. Sadie had Frank by the lapels and didn’t appear to be letting go of him anytime soon.

“I now pronounce you man and wife!” Dave said quickly when they finally broke apart. Lucy doubted they were listening. Frank was looking adoringly into Sadie’s eyes and Sadie was gazing back, utterly enraptured. PJ caught Lucy’s glance and raised the ring box, but she shook her head.

“They’ll remember eventually,” she assured him. “In the meantime, should we fix the wedding breakfast?” She indicated the bar behind them, and pulled out two martini glasses from a shelf. Perhaps she held them too closely or yanked them too quickly, but, whatever the reason, they clinked.