An attack on the Goodbody house at this time could only be for one reason. These men had come to their house wearing armor, their features obscured by helmets. The man pulled his helmet off and tossed it to the ground. Jack was surprised to find out he was old, his hair was greying and Jack could clearly see the lines on his face. He was slight and wiry, but he moved with alarming speed now that Jack knew how old he was. No wonder he had tried to stay out of the fight, dying wouldn’t do anyone any good.
“Glory is a bitter dish,” Jack muttered to himself as he watched the cornered soldier.
“Do you think you could see your way clear to just pretending you lost track of me?” The old man’s knife was longer than the others, with a straight edge that gleamed even in the poorly lit hallway. He knew exactly what he was here for and he likely wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“What exactly are you here for?”
“This mission wasn’t our idea, but we’re here for a list that you gave to your father. Where would he have put it?”
Jack was about to answer when something entirely unexpected happened. The door opened. The door with the hourglass that hadn’t opened more than once a week from the inside in years finally opened and in the frame stood Varnes Goodbody. Jack couldn’t move, he could barely breath. His father had been mostly confined to a chair in a sickly state, but apparently he wasn’t nearly as sick as he let on. As of late, he had left the room to go back to his bedroom and the bathroom but Jack had been told that was the limit of his father’s movement. His dark grey blanket was still draped around him, giving it the appearance of a burial shroud in the dark hallway. Over his shoulder was a long saw that extended up beyond the frame of the door. The long handle was shaped like an oar handle and the saw was serrated on both ends ending in a straight vicious straight edge that Jack couldn’t see, but knew enough to fear.
“Ah, shit,” the words came undesired and unbidden, “The Midas blade.”
A blade handed down from one head of the family to the next, the Midas blade was a truly wicked weapon. Much like the king for whom it was named, it would turn anything it cut into gold. Oh, it wouldn’t turn the whole thing to gold but literally only what it cut. Usually, this meant small lumps of gold tearing their way through your veins until they reached your heart and that was the end. In years past it had been used to fund the family. Somewhere in the richer houses of the world, tables shaped like a tree trunks, ornately carved with surfaces of solid gold made nice additions to a breakfast nook. Jack hopped over the bannister and onto the stairs to get out of range. He doubted his father would cut him down on purpose, but with a weapon that needed free space to move staying in the fight at this point left Jack at a distinct disadvantage.
He could hear his father coughing and the scrape of metal running across the door. He had actually left the study. “I burned the note up as soon as I got it. There’s no more information to be had except the information that’s in my head. Would you care to pick my brain for it.?”
Jack took a step or two down the stairs and away from his father, the soldier did not, “Well, shit. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind. Having to take on the father and the son at the same time puts me at a real disadvantage, but I can’t come back empty handed so I’ll have you tell me what that list said.”
Varne’s whisper echoes through the hall despite his quiet voice, “Too bad, you’ve already hurt this family too much.” There was a whir and a sudden burst of air from the sudden movement of the blade which flattened Jack into the ground. A loud gurgling could be heard from the third floor and when Jack looked up his father stood at the top of the stairs gently wiping the tip of the blade with his blanket. The dark grey threads of the blanket turned gold where the saw touched it.
“Seems like I had to save you again, child.” Jack shuddered inwardly, that word should be forbidden.
“I didn’t want to get caught up in that attack, you aren’t as young as you used to be and I had questions about your accuracy with that giant saw that turns everything it touches to gold. I used to be your golden child before you took off your rose tinted glasses, but not even I want that to be true literally.”
Varnes shifted, seeming to move very fast, but only taking a half step back. His saw whipped around impossibly fast and gently nicked Jack’s tie a few times leaving streaks of gold, “Not so old as all that.”
Jack took his tie off and let it fall to the ground, “It no longer matches any suit I own, you can keep it father.”
Varnes tossed a book down the stairwell, which Jack caught in one hand, “Ever prideful and arrogant, resolving to trust only your own skills and talents and to only follow your own interests. You’re just like the rest of this pathetic family. Sometimes I wonder how we kept going as long as we did. Everyone had their own dreams but everyone also pulled together to make sure this family was strong.”
“That sounds more like the father I know.”
“The gathering of the families is very soon, we’re going to need to help getting the house ready and I thought I might hire you so long as you attend the party after you’re done cleaning.”
“No way. I don’t want to attend the party to see a bunch of morons I stopped caring about a long time ago and I don’t need your petty cash to clean a house I don’t live in anymore. I can make it on my own. I’ll collect Stan on the way and we’ll be gone soon.” Jack took a few steps before he stopped and looked up at his father, “I’m…I’m glad you’re not dead, father.”
“Me too. Consider my offer.” Jack continued down the stairs and took a deep breath. The smell of whiskey was tempered with blood now and it mixed with the stagnant air in his house to create a new and truly horrible stench. At the bottom of the stairs, Madeline was sleeping soundly with Sam having performed some first aid on her wounds.
“She’ll be fine, she just needs to sleep a bit.” Sam looked up the stairs at Jack, “So I take it this means you and Stan are leaving again?”
Jack stepped around her and Madeline without answering Given where Stan had attacked from earlier, he must have been eating in the servants kitchen. What he found was hardly surprising. Bodies lay sprawled out all around the floor, some contorted into impossible postures, likely the result of Stan’s efforts. Food remained on the table, half eaten. Stan’s unconscious form lay slumped against the wall. With some effort he managed to sling Stan over his shoulder so that his feet were dragging behind him. Slowly, he took him out to the front and stopped to take a breath, You know father. Can’t live with him, can’t live a thousand miles from him. God help me, I don’t know what I would do without him and that’s why I live in the next town over.”
“Figures. I’ll come and visit you soon, I know you’ll need to work off some steam.” Jack tried not to think about that too hard as he dragged Stan outside to the van and somehow managed to open the doors in the back and work Stan into the large back compartment over the softer cleaning supplies.
“What do you eat that makes you so heavy?” Getting into the unfamiliar driver’s seat, Jack started up the van and started on his drive back down to the office and the small town that Jack called home now. The road twisted and turned, but Jack barely needed to keep his eyes on the road and could allow his thoughts to roam free. Clearly the head of the Goodbody family had gotten into something a little too big for him, but thankfully the timing was pretty good.
Once every five years the Goodbody family gathered as many members of its family, who were still alive and able to show up, in one place for a celebration of the family’s complete and utter insanity. Even after almost thirty years Jack was still not so sure how he felt about the event. When he was younger, he used to assume, with his sister, that no other family had reunions. When he got a little older, he found out that other families did in fact have something they called reunions, an event where aunts and uncles come in from out of town to complain about potato salad and their unfulfilled dreams with scorn towards younger family members. That led Jack to the conclusion that the Goodbody family affair was still a fairly unique one.
Being a family that emphasizes the individual, sometimes as Jack had learned, to the exclusion of the family itself, there was a lot of branches to the family. Jack often referred to them as vines, and there were some vines that were larger than others. The proper Goodbody family was really only comprised of three families with direct descent from the founder and a smattering of cousins that shared the Goodbody name and very little else. So the house was filled with Goodbody’s and related families all vying for importance and their own dreams and that led to a reunion that was uncomfortable at best and violent and uncomfortable at worst. The house certainly needed to be cleaned before that happened, but Jack wasn’t interested in listening to family members who were big fish in little ponds make snide comments about his choice of career all the while spilling wine all over the place and making more snide comments about how he would have to clean that up as well.
Neither Jack nor Stan left the office for a week. Stan took some time off his feet to let whatever he had been drugged with work its way out of his system and Jack took the time to check his stock of cleaning suits. Several jobs into the season and one suit had a date with the drycleaner and one was torn and ripped beyond repair. The summer heatwave continued and even several days after both Jack and Stan had recovered they still had one last standoff that returned for them every summer. The phone stubbornly refused to ring. As the days dragged on, all thoughts of family trouble and frustration with other things faded as Jack and Stan, Paranormal Cleaners, eagerly awaited their next job.