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close encounters of the ghost kind

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 "You know what abandoned hospitals are?" Breen said. It was unclear whom in the room he was addressing the sentence to. He probably wasn't even talking to anyone at all. "Creepy."

 

"That's very perceptive of you." Kristen replied, and picked away at her fish and chips. They weren't as good as usual, a little too greasy, a little too soft, but it was late on a Friday night so she couldn't afford to be picky.

 

"You know what I mean though, Kris." Breen replied, and broke his piece of fish into two pieces. "They're super creepy. I could never be the victim in a horror movie because I'd never set foot into the haunted building in the first place."

 

"I saw a ghost once." Mike said, and sat down at the table. He pulled over a mug of tea - some kind of herby, weird nonsense that Gina had put him onto. Said it'd keep his 'heart strong and his spirit wild'. Or words to that effect.

 

"You saw a ghost?" Kristen asked, almost surprised at his cavalier attitude. If she knew one thing about Mike, it was that he was (mostly) a realist. Despite his oddities, the man tended to live mostly in the world of fact. "Sharon. Ex-wife. She was a medium. I picked up a few tricks."

 

"You married a medium?" Breen snorted, "If you were anyone else, senior, I'd have a terrible joke for you all right now. As it stands I'll... uh, leave it in my head."

 

"Appreciate it." Mike glanced over at him for a moment. "She wasn't a medium when I married her. The ghost thing just... happened. She was convinced our house was haunted. The dawn of the internet age... anyone can become anything they want, really. She taught herself online."

 

Kristen snorted, despite herself. "Your ex-wife was a self-taught psychic medium."

 

"Yes." Mike blinked innocently at her. "Is there something wrong with that?"

 

"Nothing at all." Kristen backpedaled,  almost entirely sure that he was winding her up but not wanting to get on his bad side. Mike never really got angry at them, but he absolutely knew how to irritate them into apologising.

 

"Good." Mike slurped at his tea for a moment, then grimaced. "Remind me to... find something to put in this that... isn't this."

 

"You could just not drink it?" Breen offered. "I wouldn't."

 

"Yes, but Gina would be disappointed."

 

"Oh, if Gina is going to be disappointed -" Breen started, but at a pointed look from Mike he wisely decided to trail off into silence.

 

"But I saw a ghost. Sharon was very excited. She left me a week later, but that was for an unrelated reason." His statement was oddly heavy for the jovial evening. It hung flat in the air.

 

Breen winced. Kristen just went right on back to her chips.

 

Plucking up his usual foolhardy courage, Breen asked, "She... uh... left you?" It was fairly strange to get an inkling of Mike's 'bizarre but true' backstory, and any new information was exciting.

 

"Yes." Mike said, with a completely straight face. "She went off with the ghost."

 

Awful.” Breen said, and looked at a piece of his fish with a mournful expression. He pointed it at Mike. “Do you actually have an ex-wife called Sharon, or were you stringing us along the whole time?”

 

“I guess you’ll never know.” Mike smiled at the pair of them and went right back to his horrible, herby green tea.