Early Saturday morning, Ginger was walking to the kitchen when she heard someone knocking on the front door. As she approached the door she could see through the glass that it was Pastor Elijah Bideman, her dear friend. Just as she opened the door, she realized she was in her robe and was wearing no makeup.
“Good morning, Ma’am. I’m here to inquire as to whether you have any vacancies?”
“I’ve got nothing but vacancies, Sir. How many rooms would you like?”
“Sorry, Ginger. It’s no time for me to try to be funny.”
She smiled. “That’s okay, Elijah. I needed to smile. Thanks so much for coming over, but you really didn’t have to get out in this snow.”
“I hope it’s not too early,” he said, trying to brush the snow off the top of his shoes.
“Not at all. Please come in.”
Elijah stepped inside.
“Actually, I don’t even know what time it is,” said Ginger.
“It’s a little after seven. Did I wake you up?”
“I wish,” she said, laughing. “I’ve been up since two. That’s when the Heevy twins started banging on my door.”
“And it all went downhill from there, huh?”
“Boy, did it ever. And what about you? Did you ever get back to sleep after I called and woke you up?”
“Yeah, I did, finally. I laid there and worried about you for a while, and I nearly got dressed and drove over here. But you had threatened to shoot me if I did, so…”
“I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
“Oh, no, I’m glad you did, Ginger. Always know that you can call me anytime of the day or night. Really.”
She smiled. “Come on—I’ll make us a fresh pot of coffee.”
Elijah followed her into the kitchen and sat down at the table. “I don’t suppose you’ve got any Ginger cakes around here, do you?”
“I’m afraid our guests gobbled up everything in sight, Elijah.”
He faked a pout. “That’s too bad.”
“Yep, they ate every cake they could find.” She reached into a lower cabinet and pulled out a cookie tin. “Good thing they couldn’t find these two.”
“I hope you’re not teasing.”
She set the tin on the table and opened it.
“Ah, beautiful,” he said, “and the aroma…” He breathed it in, smiling.
“I saved them for us—just in case you dropped by.” She filled the percolator with water.
Elijah looked around. “Where are the other…Domino Girls?”
“You still feel funny calling us that, don’t you?”
“I’m trying to get used to it.”
“They’re in the office chatting and scheming. We’ve just got to come up with a plan to save this place. Those three will lose their life savings if we go under.”
“Who would have thought something like this could happen? Everybody just knew y’all were going to be wildly successful.”
Ginger plugged in the coffee pot and sat down across from Elijah.
He reached across the table and took her hand. “I’m sorry, Ginger.”
“The downstairs guests didn’t even know what was going on—until the people from upstairs started leaving. I tried to keep them quiet, but they were in no mood to cooperate. And once the folks downstairs got wind of what had happened, they began to pack up too—except for Blake and Jennifer Honet. Do you know them?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, they were our youngest guests—mid-twenties, and Jennifer was intrigued with the thought of seeing a ghost. They said they were toying with the idea of staying a second night and relocating to an upstairs room to get in on the action—until they heard the rest of the story—about Jack Jickles. Jennifer was visibly shaken by it. They didn’t even ask for a refund—but course, we’ll give them one anyway.”
“Well, I’m sure it will all work out for y’all,” said Elijah.
“Please pray that it does.”
When Elijah left, Ginger refilled her coffee cup and went to the office. The large room had served as the library of the previous owner, who was a doctor. It was conveniently located just across the hall from the master suite. Beautiful dark cherry book shelves lined the two long walls, floor to ceiling. Ginger pictured them packed with thick, heavy medical books. Ethel had joked that perhaps the doctor had actually filled them with Nancy Drew mysteries.
The Domino Girls had organized the room to meet their needs: four desks with computers, a round table with chairs in the center of the room—suitable for domino games, and four colorful Queen Anne arm chairs around a coffee table near the front windows, forming a comfy lounge area. Ginger joined the other three women there, who sat in silence.
“How’s Elijah?” said Jane.
“He’s fine,” said Ginger. “How did you—?”
“—we saw him drive up,” said Jane, nodding to the window.
“We thought about coming out to say hi,” said Ethel.
“But we didn’t want to intrude,” said Barb. “You two don’t get much alone time.”
“Thanks,” said Ginger, “but we’re just friends.”
“Really close friends,” said Ethel.
“Kissing friends,” said Jane.
“That only happened once,” said Ginger.
“That’s because he doesn’t know where he stands with you, Ginge,” said Barb. “You need to take the initiative and plant a big smooch right on his kisser.”
“Barb,” said Ginger.
“I’m afraid I have to agree with Barb on this one, Ginger,” said Jane. “You’ve got him on your hook. Just reel him in.”
“I am now officially changing the subject,” said Ginger. “We need a plan.”
“We’ve been trying to figure out what to do,” said Ethel.
“We’ve got nothing,” said Jane.
“Four cancellations have already come in this morning,” said Barb.
“Bad news travels fast,” said Jane.
Ginger sat up on the edge of her chair. “We need to act preemptively—suspend all reservations.”
“What do you mean by suspending reservations?” said Barb.
“Don’t allow anybody to cancel beyond next Thursday,” said Ginger.
“Oh, people are not going to like that.” said Barb. “They might even report us to the Better Business Bureau. And besides, what are we going to give for the reason we’re doing it?”
“They’re gonna know,” said Jane.
“That’s okay,” said Ginger. “We’ll say we have some issues to work out, and that we will automatically refund reservations through Thursday, but that we will be open again by next weekend.”
“You’re gonna make a lot of folks angry,” said Ethel.
“I think most of our customers will cut us some slack,” said Ginger.
“They might cut you some slack,” said Ethel. “Everybody likes you.”
“I’ll let all the calls go straight to voice mail,” said Barb, “and we’ll set up a message, asking for patience.”
“Good,” said Ginger.
“But it’s got to be your voice,” said Ethel.
“Okay,” said Ginger. “I’ll record the message.”
“We’ve got to figure out why people thought they were seeing ghosts,” said Jane. “There must be some logical explanation.”
“I’ve got one for you: the Heevy twins are just weird,” said Barb.
“I don’t know about weird,” said Ginger, “but definitely eccentric.”
“But how do you explain the fact that they both saw their dead husbands?” said Ethel.
“How do you explain two fifty-five year-old women wearing the exact same dress, shoes, and hairdo?” said Barb. “I’ll tell you how: they’re weird.”
“Is there any chance that somebody was manipulating them?” said Jane. “You know—trying to scare them?”
“Why would anybody want to do that?” said Ethel.
“Yeah,” said Ginger, “it doesn’t make any sense.”
“And what about the others who said they saw a ghost—while we were all in Maggie and Jack’s room?” said Jane.
“Yeah,” said Ethel. “They were pointing to the corner, but I didn’t see anything.”
“None of us did, Ethel,” said Barb. “Because there was nothing there.”
Ginger wanted to tell them about what she had seen at the bottom of the stairs after they left Maggie’s room, but she stopped herself. “Let’s go up there and look around.”
“Hey, we’ll be like a team of private eyes,” said Ethel. “We could call ourselves…the Domino Sleuth Club.”
“Don’t get carried away, Ethel,” said Barb.
Ginger smiled. “No, Barb, I think Ethel’s on to something. Tough jobs are always easier if you can somehow make them fun.”
“Fine,” said Barb. “As long as we keep it to ourselves. People in town are probably already laughing at us. No sense in making it worse.”
“Agreed,” said Ginger. “It’s a secret organization.”
Ethel stretched out her hand as though she were holding a sword. “The Domino Sleuth Club—all for one and one for all!”
“Ethel, you ninny,” said Barb, “we’re supposed to be sleuths—not Musketeers.”
“All for one and one for all!” said Ginger and Jane, extending their pretend swords across the coffee table to touch Ethel’s.
“Oh, what the heck,” said Barb, holding out her imaginary sword.
They said it in unison, “All for one and one for all!”