Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 24

     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.

The Great Infernal Hiatus~

     The truth of the matter is that I’ve been attempting to write this post for several days now, and haven’t had the heart to. I enjoy writing serialized fiction because to me, the most important thing about story-telling is the time between installments. That’s the time when your imagination takes hold and you start to wonder about what’s going to happen next and where the story is going. That down time is when fan theories take place, though I flatter myself to think I have fans at this point. Most times it feels like I’m talking to an empty room. Whatever the case, sadly the downtime will be quite a lot longer than I would have wanted it to be. I know that means I’m likely to lose what little momentum I have, but my hands are tied here.

     Two reasons have led me to this decision. Firstly, my editor is my wife and she works at a bakery. As the holiday season grows ever closer, she will be at the bakery more and more and between that and her health issues, that means she will have no time to edit my work. As the days grow shorter and I get less and less sunlight, my own health issues are likely to perk up as well. This means that I plan on spending the next month rough drafting and fine tuning. I may try and get the last couple of chapters of the first part of Second-Hand Goods out of the way, to wrap up that last plot thread and I will try and post once or twice a week at least to let you know how things are going. Sadly, my laptop dying took more of my writing than I knew and I will not be able to land on my feet as well as I had hoped.

     Lastly, in addition to the aforementioned reasons, I am ultimately writing to make money. You could argue as to the quality of the writing or the frequency with which I post, but it’s getting down to crunch time. Come January, loan payments will need to start which means that I need some kind of cash flow by that point. I am not directly asking you for money, maybe I should do that more, but I am saying that between the aforementioned difficulties and my current financial straits, it’s hard to justify spending time on my writing when I really need to just focus on getting a job. Please forgive me for my absence, you all mean the world to me. My wife and I both thank you for your readership thus far and we will see you on the other side, once at least some of the darkness has passed. That will likely be in January, and we will resume regular posting at that time. Tomorrow, there is one more Jack and Stan post scheduled which will wrap up the first part for Paranormal Cleaners. Stay happy, stay healthy and see you all later.

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 23

     In all the years the Goodbody family had lived in this place, the only time the main Goodbody house had been attacked was once when Jack’s grandfather still led the family. A migration of werewolves across the country had led them directly into the path of the Goodbody family, old hands at killing their kind. It hadn’t gone well for them. He could hardly believe someone else was trying it now. The smaller kitchen connected directly with the main kitchen. From the main kitchen, Sam took the lead again and they moved into the dining room. The dining room led into the downstairs foyer opposite the door and beside the stairs. From the dining room, Jack could see the shadows moving up the stairs. The smell of mothballs was briefly punctuated by the smell of stale sweat and whiskey. Their uninvited guests weren’t just fools, they were patient and drunk fools as well. That and they were headed up the stairs with confidence which made Jack feel like they knew where his father could be found.

     Racing through the dining room, Jack found himself thinking about his father upstairs alone in his room with his thoughts and his relics of a bygone age. Jack wasn’t entirely sure if it was fondness that injected a desperation into his steps. Even though he hated him, and he was sure he hated him, Jack had known no life but a life that contained his father. Madeline stood at the bottom of the steps, gently swaying back and forth. She held a cake server in her left had, which glistened red in the light along the side. One crimson droplet glistened on the edge of her cake server and hung suspended for a small eternity before it hit the ground. Her hair frayed out around the edges under her maids cap.

     “Master Jack, I’m so glad to see you and your sister unharmed.”

     Jack ground to a halt and looked up the stairs. He was shocked to realize he could now see the shadows moving, whereas before they would have been out of sight, “Madeline, how exactly did they get past you?”

     Madeline turned to look up the stairs, “I was in the kitchen when we were attacked. I just got here myself when I realize you might have been their target. It seems I was worried about nothing.” A shadowy attacker raced down the stairs and made a running leap for Madeline, blade outstretched, Madeline raised her cake server and parried the blog, raising her free hand and sending her attacker head over heels into the air, landing directly on Jack’s stolen knife. He left that knife embedded in his chest and snatched up the new blade before checking him for identifying marks. Again, the bade was the only note-worthy feature.

     Looking, Jack noticed the other shadows on the stairs, around for, had begun to descend the stairs towards Madeline, a little slower this time and more methodical. Now the real fight began. A fight against opponents that weren’t taking you seriously is no real fight at all. Jack paused considering the odds before stepping slowly to the left, Sam stalking out behind him to watch his back. Neither one of them had time to move very far before things got out of hand. Madeline stepped out onto the floor and turned to face her opponents. One of the attackers paced down the stairs, confident in his backup. The wall to the fight side of her attacker burst open and an enormous hand reached out and grabbed the man around the neck and smashed him back into the wall three or four times until he went motionless. Somehow, despite the confusion, the mysterious assailant managed to stab Stan’s arm a few times before he had been put down. Stan’s arm vanished through the hole it had made, wavering slightly before it vanished.

     Madeline sagged against the wall next to the stairwell and pulled out a handkerchief to dab at the blood slowly seeping out from a wound in her shoulder which Jack hadn’t noticed before. He dashed to her side, catching her before she could hit the ground and holding her upright.

    “Master Jack, so good to see…you’re alright. They…must have drugged the food…” Madeline trailed off and closed her eyes, sagging against Jack’s supporting arms.

     Jack handed her off to Sam and looked up the stairs, “Father’s still up there. I’m going to find out what the hell is going on here.”

     Sam nodded and gently pulled Madeline’s dress aside to reveal a small, but terribly deep, knife would. The remaining three invaders watched them intently. It seemed that their purpose was not to attack, but merely to keep them from reaching the upper floors.

     Jack slowly marched up the stairs, to watch judgement he did not know. That left three opponents on the stairs. Three road blocks between him and his father. Jack held no weapons except the knife that he had taken. Fair odds to them. The first opponent dove down the stairs. Jack swayed to the left side and rammed the blade into the side of his head. He had no time to celebrate his victory, because it quickly became apparent why he had jumped forward so eagerly. He was playing the sacrifice for his mates.

     The second attacker already had a blade aimed for Jack’s neck. His movements down the stairs were calm and sure. Jack swayed back to the right and swung the first assailant into his compatriot’s path. The blade aimed at Jack hit his former friend in the back with a hollow thud. Reaching around his makeshift shield, Jack snatched his collar and held him still and grabbed the knife from his first attacker, using it to calmly finish the second attacker as well. The third opponent, seeing his friends taken out so easily, turned and ran up the stairs with Jack following, stepping around the fallen. Two flights left, the stale air grew staler and the smell of whiskey grew stronger. At the top of the third flight of stairs, Jack looked down the hall and found his last attacker standing with another man, likely the one in charge of this suicide mission. They stood before the door that had so often been a major part of Jack’s nightmares. He turned his head when he heard Jack’s footsteps on the stairs.

Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 21

    When a man asks you to spy on his own home, there’s usually a story behind it. In Liam’s experience, the story was never worth the trouble. It was something like question seven in the bathroom book, “Questions That Should Never Be Asked EVER.” Taking this job changed all that somewhat, because if Liam was going to be sticking around in the Nair mansion for a week spying on some of the most dangerous folks in the world, he might as well know why before he got killed once or twice.

     “I suppose you want to know why we’re doing this.” Simon spoke quietly as he spread out the map of his own house.

      “That had been on my mind for the last few minutes. It just feels like a strange request coming from you. Up until now we’ve been more or less strictly business.”

     Simon looked up sharply with his right eye, registering genuine hurt, “Really, Liam, just because I’m too busy to spend much time with you doesn’t mean I see you as a cheap flunky.”

      “No, by all accounts I’m a very expensive flunky.”

     Simon rolled his left eye and groaned, “Alright, you’ve had your fun, but seriously Liam, you are my friend. I kept you at arms-length because I didn’t want you to get hurt. I guess that’s out the window now. This meeting my father called was really about the last part of the agenda, the Society for the Protection of Humankind.”

     Liam hunkered over the map with Simon, “I got the impression they’re bad news. So you want me to spy on that Adrian guy? Everyone in the room seemed pretty shook up by him, but he didn’t seem like a big deal. Just a bunch of talk.”

     “Barring my father and Jacob Rever, Adrian could have beaten everyone in that room.”

     “What about Jenny or Sam?”

     “Ha, that’s right. I forgot Samantha was there for a moment. I couldn’t honestly say who would win that fight. I would love it if you could spy on Adrian Denavi, but I doubt that you would be there long before he would kill you. Someone in the five families is helping and that’s what we need to know.”

      “So what do you need me to do?”

     “Other than the official meeting, the Family leaders are staying in the house till the end of the week, maybe a little longer, to have meetings with each other and my father. I need you to vanish and spend a little time with each family. Listen to what they have to say and report it back to me at the end of the week, sooner if needed.”

      “Simon, I won’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

     Nodding grimly, Simon let Liam examine the map a little longer, “That’s the point. You just tell me what they said, no matter how much or little sense it makes. If you don’t know what you’re reporting, you can’t lie to me.”

      “And why would I lie to you?”

      “If you get caught, there would be…motivations.”

      Liam shuddered, “Oh.”

      “Yeah, so don’t get caught.”

     They spent the next few hours going over the map. Simon told him everything about the house. The secret passages, which guest rooms contained which family, which of the guards to look out for, vents Liam could fit into In short, he gave Liam everything a thief would need to rob a house blind or, in this case, spy on their house guests.

    Once he was done, Simon rolled up the map and tucked it back into his desk drawer. Walking to the door, he stopped and turned towards Liam one last time, “Really, Liam. Don’t get caught. I’ll expect you here in a week or so’s time, around nine at night. I’ll be here every night. Don’t knock just come in.”

    Without another word, he opened the door and slinked out into the hallway, making as little noise as possible. Liam padded softly to the door and waited for a small eternity, listening to the hallway. Footsteps passed the door at regular intervals, a patrol around the floor. Liam expected that, though. When the patrol passed the next time, he waited for a minutes and walked out into the hallway. Nobody expects an intruder to shadow the security guards. When you’re a thief or a spy, they’re the ones to follow because they tend to circle around important places like overprotective wasps with obsessive compulsive disorder.

     He followed the guards all around the floor, vanishing into dark corners when they stopped and doubled back. In the late night, nobody had bothered to leave the hall lights on, bathing corners in shadows and convenient hiding spots. Out of the four groups he was expected to spy on, only one of them was staying on the third floor, and that was the Rever family. Liam decided it was better to start with the floor that he knew than to explore the higher floor and find how lost he was while trying to work. Spying on a family renowned for their hearing would prove to be a difficult task. It would be hard to get inside their room, which meant Liam had to hope for thin walls or a duct.

    When the guards passed the guest room the Rever’s were staying in, Liam ducked into the guest room next door. It was spartan to the point of being utilitarian, only possessing a bed, and a desk with one chair. The bathroom faced the outside wall, but when Liam examined the vents, he hit pay dirt. The air vent leading into the bathroom connected to all the rooms to provide centralized heat. Since it was summer, the air conditioner was going strong on occasion, but when it wasn’t Liam could hear everything going on in both rooms on either side of him. What he heard, when he could hear the room, was nothing. Liam checked his watch. He had spent far longer between the meeting and talking with Simon than he had realized. It had gotten quite late, but surely not that late? Did people really go to bed before midnight?

     With a start, Liam realized that Revers may use hand signs when they’re in someone else’s house, in case someone like him was listening. Then, he heard a voice as clear as day.

     “I’m going out!” Thank you, Jenny Rever.

     “Where are you going?” Jacob’s voice was much quieter.

     “Out.”

     “You’re not done meditating yet.”

     “I’ll sleep later.” Liam choked back a small laugh and leaned against the wall. He had been on worse stake-outs. At least he wouldn’t be bored. The door opened and closed, leaving Jacob alone in his room. Maybe Liam spoke too soon, this could be a long wait. Jenny came across like a stray cat, she came and went whenever she felt like it. Settling down against the wall, Liam closed his eyes. Better to rest while he could, he would likely be following Jacob Rever and is daughter around the house for the next few days while they went to meetings. Drifting into a deep sleep, Liam fell into the dreamless sleep of someone expecting a long day of work.