“She’s back!” Haley cried from the stairs.

“Oh?” Dad said. “What does she want this time?” He began hefting himself from the recliner by the fire. I scrambled up from the carpet, eager to follow him.

“She’s just sticking her tongue out. And moaning.”

“Difficult tyke, as usual,” Dad said. He plodded up the stairs, making plenty of noise. The ghost didn’t like being surprised. Not that Dad could have snuck up on anything even if he was trying.

I trotted after him but stayed on the stairs as he walked toward the apparition. It was clearer today. You could make out the edges of its dressing gown. Its wispy hair floated around a face that looked something like my age at the time. Ten, if I remember correctly. As Haley had said, it was sticking its tongue out.

“What can we do for you today, miss?” Dad said. He had a way about him I never understood. Everyone seemed to like him. Even, as it seemed, ghosts.

The ghost – this one we called Maddy, based on nothing at all but our childish imagination – began gesticulating wildly. It almost seemed panicked. Very unusual, even by my ten-year-old reckoning. Not that I had a lot of experience with ghosts, but Maddy had always seemed the calm sort. Even Dad seemed taken aback. He tried to get her to calm down.

Then Maddy vanished and the pounding on the door began.