Author’s note: No, I am just as unsure as you about what three ghosts would actually do with the money they seem to be hoarding in this story. I didn’t think that far. I also apologise for the fact that the ending is a bit weak, but it’s getting late, and I wanted to get this one finished.
Prompt: Main character is a generous, forty-five-year-old man. The setting is a newspaper office. Someone loses a fortune at cards. The theme is the supernatural.
Jim looked up from his typewriter, and tilted his head at Robbie, who was leaning on his desk. “Again? This is the third time this week, Robbie.”
“I know, mate, I know. I will pay it back, I guarantee you.”
“What are you using it for? I’m happy to help you out, but I hate to think my money is being wasted, Robbie…”
“Nothing untoward, I swear,” Robbie said quickly, his eyes darting around the room but not meeting Jim’s until they lit up with an idea. “Hey, why don’t you come and see for yourself? Tonight?”
“I have a deadline I have to meet,” said Jim, motioning back to his typewriter.
“It doesn’t start until nine. Will that give you enough time?”
“I guess so…”
“Great. I can meet you there.” Robbie waited until Jim had pulled out the ten dollar bill out of his wallet and handed it to him, then he put on his hat and coat and left the office, whistling an out-of-tune melody.
Jim spent another hour working on his piece, and then bought a bite to eat from a street vendor near the office. He didn’t really know whether to meet Robbie at whatever place he was going to tonight or not. He eventually decided to check it out; he’d been lending Robbie far too much this week and he was starting to about where it was going.
He got in a taxi and gave the address Robbie had given him earlier. When he got out a little while later, he was at the dingy end of a long street. He watched a men filed into the building, one after the other, staring blindly at whatever was beyond. Robbie appeared soon after, and though Jim waved, Robbie didn’t see him.
Robbie also wandered into the building, his expression becoming vacant as he caught sight of the light coming from inside.
Confused, Jim decided to follow. Inside was a large round table, around which the men were sitting. They all held cards in their hands and there was a pile of cash at one end of the table.
So Robbie was gambling away the money Jim had loaned him. He knew it!
The light Jim had seen from outside came from a candle in the middle of the table. It was giving off a heady scent which made Jim’s eyes water and numbed his senses. He wondered if that was what was blinding all the other men as well.
And then he watched longer, and saw what at first seemed to be mist pass under a doorway on the other side of the room. The mist began to rise, though, and slowly take shape. As Jim watched, three humanoid figures, but transparent, and fuzzy around the edges, took their place at the top of the table, where the pile of money was sitting.
One man at the table laid down a card, and the rest followed suit. Whatever they were playing, it didn’t seem to be any card game Jim was familiar with. They moved as though they were in a trance, each taking his turn. Sometimes cards were picked up, sometimes put down, but there didn’t seem to be any method in their movements.
After an hour or so of this, the ghosts disappeared and the spell seemed to break. The men all threw down their cards.
“Well, that’s me cleared!” said one man.
“Gah, bad night again!” said another.
They all bemoaned their bad luck as they stood up to leave. None of them seemed to notice that no one was leaving with any winnings.
Jim snuck out the door in front of them. He waited until Robbie came out and then grabbed his colleague by the arm.
“Robbie, what’s going on?”
“What? Oh, Jim… just a spot of fun between friends, that’s all…”
“Robbie, you were drugged… or something… didn’t you see them?”
“The ghosts. None of you were playing cards. It was… it was spooky, dammit.”
Robbie laughed and clapped Jim on the shoulder. “My friend, I think you’ve been worrying too much about that next deadline. Come on. Let’s get something to eat, yeah?”
Already, Jim was beginning to doubt what he saw. He nodded, and let Robbie guide him towards the main road. Tomorrow. He’d come back to tomorrow, and tomorrow he’d bring a camera.