Entropy and decay. Like dust and mildew, many people find these topics depressing and overwhelming. Jack took a certain amount of comfort in the knowledge that no matter how many times a place could be cleaned, it would need to be cleaned again. The magic of the fresh mountain air had faded with their descent back to the office and the grind of paying heed to the most malevolent figure that Jack had ever known, the office phone. They hadn’t arrived back at the office until late. Jack’s home lay in the same chain of mountains and getting back without visiting his family meant going far, far out of their way. Despite a night of no sleep, Jack still felt a bounce in his step as he puttered around the office, putting on a pot of coffee and making sure everything was in order. The familiar scent of Stan’s cigar and the comforting whir of the overhead fan relaxed him. It was the seemingly perfect beginning to the perfect summer.
That is until he noticed it. It first caught his eye when he passed a full-length mirror. A small red stain on his pristine suit, just above the left elbow. That cheeky hotel had the gall to stain his clothes? The idea that the hotel had essentially thrown up on him made Jack feel a bit queasy. He sagged against the wall, unable to look away from the offending red spot. It consumed his whole world, so he smashed the mirror.
Stan shambled over, his normally passive face twisted into a concerned expression when he saw the stain, “You ok, boss? Thems hotels really need a beatin’. I’ll go take care of it.” Stan took a step towards the door, a mountain going to war against a hotel.
Reaching out, Jack snagged his sleeve before he could get further. “That’s not how I do things, Stan. Next summer we’re giving the whole place a cleaning from top to bottom. That hotel thinks it had the last laugh.” Jack seethed, picturing the whole hotel sparkling from top to bottom. Oh, it would be glorious.
Stan lay down in his normal positon on the couch and fished for a fresh cigar. Time crawled on. Even though the summer had just begun it was already time to clean his suit. Normally Jack’s specially made suits took longer to stain but normally the hotels Jack cleaned didn’t have such an attitude problem. All he had wanted to do was fix the power. Fire fighter, electrician and sometimes savior. A cleaner had to wear many hats on top of occasionally beating down hotels with mean streaks.
“Did we ever find out what happened with them things we saw what wasn’t real at the hotel?”
“Hmm? Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Jack looked at Stan who shook his head, lighting his cigar and taking a deep puff. “Sometimes places and things take on a bit of personality from their owner. In the case of the Colonial Inn it’s become very nasty and very cowardly, much like the owner.”
As he examined the stain on his arm, Jack gradually became aware that he could hear music approaching. Whipping his head up to check that Stan could hear it too, he froze when he heard another familiar noise. It was the roar of a motorcycle blasting AC/DC approaching the outskirts of town. Only one person in the whole world would show up in this town, at this hour doing that. Jack had made entirely sure of that after a series of incidents involving Stan and a lead pipe going to visit everyone in the neighborhood and asking them very politely to be quiet.
By the time the motorcycle got into the heart of town, buildings were starting to shake and glass was vibrating in window frames. The chopper came to a stop right outside their office, allowing some blissful silence as the motor turned off. Jack inched his way to the window before dodging to the side a few steps as a brick came flying through it, imbedding itself into the wall across the room.
Ducking across the room, Jack grabbed the brick and yanked it out of the wall, “This keeps getting better and better. First my suit, now my wall. Anything else you want to break!?”
Stan gave his employer a wry look, “No offense boss, but I hate thems family reunions youse people have.”
The quiet didn’t last, as the door to their office burst open. Most men would belikely be pleasantly surprised if a woman a beautiful kicked down their front door. She wore a black leather biker jacket with the words, “Veraciter Vivimus” embroidered in large letters between her shoulders. Despite the office being much darker than the street, she kept her aviator sunglasses on, keeping up more appearance than sense. Her outfit, from her white t-shirt to her tight black jeans down to her boots, was entirely disheveled. Even though Jack knew she had been on the road, she still looked like a wreck. Brushing her long sandy colored hair away from her eyes, she looked right at Jack. “So this is where you’ve been! I have a job for you, little brother!”
Jack winced, waving his hand down, “Inside voice, Sam. Inside voice.” Coming over to greet her, he gave her a brief hug before tsking at the state of her clothes. Gently, he rearranged her jacket and brushed at her hair before Sam pushed him away.
“I didn’t come here for you to fuss over me, I told you I have a job for you. Right up your alley. Father wanted me to go it alone, but I figured I would ask you to come along all the same.”
Stan chuckled, a brief, harsh noise, before Jack adjusted his glasses and answered for both of them. “I’m not taking any more jobs from you Sam. Last time, it was giant cockroaches from space. The time before that it was…I don’t even remember what it was, but I clean. I’m a cleaner. I don’t kill. Not anymore.”
“What if I told you it was Creepy Bug Guy?”
The look of utter shock betrayed Jack’s interest, “Father would never let you hunt Creepy Bug Guy.” Jack turned away from Sam before suddenly turning back, “Would he?”
“He would, and that would mean his entire creepy basement would need to be cleaned out.”
“He has a creepy basement?”
“How the hell should I know? Don’t all whacko serial killers have a creepy basement? I thought it was a law or something.”
Jack looked down at his sleeve, gazing ruefully at the stain on his suit, “Well my favorite suit is already stained. I guess it wouldn’t be a problem to clean up a place where the suit is guaranteed to get dirty now.”
Sam beamed from ear to ear and hugged Jack close, more earnestly this time, before suddenly pulling back. Jack had often wondered if it were possible for awkwardness to physically manifest itself in a room. This was one of those moments. Pulling back, Sam waved a hand vaguely towards Jack’s supply closet, “I’ll go on ahead, you get your little bag of tricks. I promised them we would clean the place when we were done.”
Jack adjusted his glasses again and waved at the door, “Just go and we’ll meet you as soon as we have our supplies pooled and in the car. It was a late night and we’re still putting ourselves back together.”
Snatching his left arm, playfully she examined the small stain on his suit with arched eyebrows, I can see that, little brother.” Letting it drop, she started back to her chopper, waving a hand as she left, “I can see that, little brother.” Without another word, she was gone. Moments later, the earthquake caused by the roar of her motorcycle and the classic rock resumed and slowly began to fade as she left town.
Jack watched her from the window, “Get ready Stanley. We’re going hunting.”