Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 1

     Cleaning is the necessary fight against the evils of chaos and decay that threaten the world. Just because your hotel has an elevator that disgorges a swimming pools worth of blood, or you happen to own a summer camp that also is a frequent hotspot of machete wielding psychopaths with hockey masks, does not mean that they don’t need to be cleaned. In fact, more so than the average hotel, the ones that boast hell spawn as regular tenants ultimately need more cleaning than most. Most cleaning companies blacklisted that sort of place after the very first mishap or mangled worker. That was why, to Jack Goodbody, it was a crying shame that people were forced to deal with subpar cleaners who demanded exorbitant fees to perform the most basic cleaning services. For him, cleaning those places that most people only visited in their nightmares was more than a job, it was a higher calling. The family motto, “Veraciter Vivimus,” or “Truly Alive”, allowed him to do no less than find a job that needed doing and to make it his own.

     Jack Goodbody was what most people would consider obsessive compulsive. His sandy colored hair was always perfectly ordered. The suits he wore were of the finest cuts and created from a material that was almost impossible to stain; a necessity in his line of work. His black wing tip shoes reflected the world around him in the orderly fashion that Jack perceived in it. In short, Jack’s job of bringing order from chaos through the simple act of cleansing wasn’t just something that ordered his habits. It was a way of life that encompassed his entire worldview. There were others in his family better suited to fighting the demons and monsters of the world, but he brought order out of chaos by starting his own business as a paranormal cleaner.

     Summer was fast approaching the Tri-state area and the oppressive heat wave that signaled the opening of the cleaning season was present in force. Jack’s office was situated in a small town called Freotbury just south of the Catskill Mountains. It was already well into the afternoon on a lazy Monday in May, but Jack couldn’t be bothered to be moved and allowed himself to be hypnotized by the ceiling fan that whirred lazily through the air as it created fascinating patterns from the cigar smoke that permeated the room. The room reeked of stagnation.

     Finally lowering his slack jawed gaze, Jack fixed his eyes for moment on his stalwart, but predictable companion, Stan. Jack felt quite sure that Stanley Whitkins wasn’t entirely human. Standing at around seven feet tall, his feet dangled from the edge of the overly large sofa Jack had bought him. His placid face belied the extreme violence the man was accustomed to. Even his features were overly large, Stan’s ears, nose and all gave Stan the appearance of a thick minded thug and anyone who thought it would have been half right. A large cigar hung idly from the corner of his mouth, spewing clouds of smoke into the room with every breath he took. He wore the same dark blue coveralls he always did when on the job, a stained white shirt visible underneath it. Jack once offered to get him a better uniform for cleaning, but to Stan it would only become a necessary expense when the one he was wearing needed to have a date with an incinerator. According to Stan, he came from an Italian family that had always been below the poverty line. Rather than being ashamed of his upbringing, Stan often wore his tough childhood like a badge that provided no small amount of pride to him, both in himself and his family.

    Time dragged on to the point where the doldrums forced Jack to confront his natural enemy, the office phone. It sat on his desk, quietly mocking him without a sound. Jack initiated a staring contest with the corded phone, narrowed his eyes and imagined smashing the dial-toned traitor against the wall or feeding it to dogs. The phone remained quiet, as though it was daring either Jack or Stan to question it’s unnatural silence in the corner. Jack huffed, and finally managed to make himself sit up and take stock of the office. Stan had no desk, only his bag of “cleaning supplies” in the corner for those special hard cases. The butt of a shotgun peeked over the top of the bag along with various other implements such as a baseball bat and a crowbar. A solitary black desk sat in the corner next to a metal cabinet filled with Jack’s tools of the trade. The apartment functioned as their home as well, with a massive closet taking up the side of the office opposite side from the door, along with a basic bathroom and shower for attending to hygiene.

     As though on cue, the phone started to ring and with great effort Jack got up and crossed the room picking up the phone and placing it to his ear, he gestured to Stan to grab a pad of paper and a pen.

     “Hello, Jack and Stan Cleaning services, the skeletons in your closet are our specialty with no questions asked.”

     “Jack, thank God! I’ve been trying to call you for three hours!” Jack pulled the mouthpiece away from his mouth and gestured to Stan for the pad of paper and a pen, mouthing the words, “Manager of the Colonial Hotel.” Jack could immediately picture the roly-poly manager on the other side. At the best of times he resembled an overly misshapen potato wearing a smart business suit. Given his current choleric turn he would be a roly-poly potato in a sharp suit doing a stellar impersonation of a tomato.

     “We were wondering what kept you this year. Usually you’ve required our services a lot sooner.” Stan rose from the couch with a heavy creaking sound and located a pad of paper and pen and placed it in front of Jack.

      “It’s been a disaster! We’ve lost five guests and the stairwell has gone totally dark.”

      “I assume that you checked the bulbs.”

      “I sent the maintenance man to check the bulbs and he came back out covered in scratches and speaking French and now he refuses to go back in. We can’t start the busy season with The Colonial in such a state! Jack, I’ll you whatever you want, just make the old place go back to sleep will you?”

      Jack made him wait while he scribbled out a few notes, “Just the usual fee will do, I can’t have you running off to all my other clients and complaining about the exorbitant fees. We’ll have to come out today though.”

      The nervousness on the other side of the phone created a small miasma around the earpiece smelling slightly of burnt cheese, “And also, the kitchen’s been acting up and the power went out and we’ve the spooks on the third floor are…”

     “The kitchen as well then.” Jack scribbled a few more notes and handed it off to Stan, who promptly lumbered off to the far wall to gather supplies.

     Jack grimaced as the sputtering on the other side of the phone faded into silence, Alright, you can come today. But just you and your help, none of that crazy family of yours. The property damage last time was enough to put us out of business for the winter season.”

     “I didn’t exactly invite them along. They have a habit of just showing up on their own, but agreed.”

     The manager sounded relieved, “Then I’ll expect you as soon as you can get here.”

     Jack placed the phone back down on the receiver and stretched his arms above his head. “We’ve got a live one, Stanley. Time to pack up and head out.”

     Stan gestured to a black bag sitting in the corner with three wooden handles peeking out over the top, “Are we gonna need them special tools like last time, boss?”

     Jack regarded the tools steadily for a moment before turning to Stan and shaking his head. “We won’t need them for the Colonial. This will be like visiting an old friend. An old friend who smells like dried blood and wants to kill us, but we still won’t need them.” Stan nodded and slung his own bag over his shoulder, picking up a box of supplies and headed out the door to place them in the van. Jack followed at a leisurely pace, checking his suit for lint and adjusting his glasses on the way out. The first cleaning job of the season required both of them looking at their best and at least Jack wore clothes with no holes in them. Stan finished packing the van and shambled over to the driver’s seat, sliding into the van and causing it to shift slightly to his side. Jack yanked open the passenger door and hopped in as well. It was time to get to work.

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