All manner of spirits might be knocking about in a grand old pile like Maris House, or indeed any place with a bit of history to it. Some spectres rattle doorknobs and throw cats and fog looking-glasses. Others are satisfied with causing cold patches on the landing. Some sit up at the breakfast table with their elbows in your kedgeree while you read the obituaries. Others dwell, provokingly, just out of eyeshot. Our business is not with these. It is with but one manifestation: the constant Ruby Doyle, who, flickering with the lustrous light of the afterlife, keeps watch by Bridie’s bedside during the hours of the night.
A vision; lost in his own grave-defying thoughts. The inked heart on his chest shrinks to a peach kernel, then opens, petal by petal – a lotus flower! – only to close again. The mermaid on his shoulder bites her nails, her tail-fin rippling absently. The skull grinds its teeth in a slow, sad, deliberate way.
I really, really hope that Ruby does not end up being some sort of evil cretin because I really like him.