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PART SEVENTEEN

“It has to be a coincidence; right?” Jim asked upon learning that the purported ghost shared a name with the man he’d challenged during Interlachen’s afternoon recess. “The first name being the same? I mean, Caleb’s a pretty common name.”

“Loyal; like a dog,” Stacie said to herself, eyes averted downward and biting her lower lip. She shook her head, looked up, smiled at Jim and said, “Sorry, something a young intern I know up in Chattanooga said when we were introduced. He said that Caleb means loyal, like a dog. And I don’t know. I mean, if it’s a coincidence or not. Pretty sure that lurker Caleb is flesh and blood like Doctor dreamy.”

“Doctor Dreamy?” Jim asked, eyebrows high and grin dominating his face. “Surely that’s not this Caleb fellow’s real name?”

“No,” Stacie replied with a small titter. “Just what I call him. When he’s not around that is. He was stacked. He’s married to my friend Nicole. Anyway, coincidence or not I’m headed to see Suzann and fill her in on what Skylar told me. Then I guess I need to call Karla Kisor and fill her in, especially since my little meeting with Marti pants went so well.”

“I’d love to come with you,” Jim said, “but I’m committed. Have fun with our little walking billboard, Miss KKK. Promise to fill me in later?”

“KKK? What are you talking about? And absolutely. I’ll come find you before I head home.”

“Great! Oh, that’s my code name for Skylar’s mother. Her middle initial is a K. Why do people do that sort of crap? I once knew a guy named Kevin Knutson whose middle initial was a K. When I met his parents, it took all my self-restraint not to ask them what the heck was wrong with ‘em. And those tats of hers? Good gravy! If you don’t find me, call me, okay? I want to know what’s up with our ghostly encounter and I want to know that you’re okay, too.”

“Me?” Stacie said with a single bark of a laugh, “I’m fine! Marti just had me upset, that’s all. All better now.”

“Glad to hear it,” Jim replied, squeezing her right forearm, “just, let me know, okay?”

Stacie beamed. “Will do, coach! Thanks for being here.”

“Anytime, Stacie, anytime,” he said with a wink and a smile before adding, “Gotta go!”

Stacie hesitated a moment as she watched Jim dog trot down the hall, thinking, ‘Doctor Dreamy’s got nothing on you, Coach Steamy.’ Catching herself acting adolescently she emitted another bark of a laugh, grinned, shook her head and headed to the school office.