Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 33

     In spite of their desire to remain low tech, the Millers had set up a line of lamps along the perimeter of the woods which lit up the beach in a dim glow. It lit the tips of the waves that slowly rolled towards the shore. Jack walked towards the water and found the edge of the waterline, moving back fifteen feet he dug a hole. Into that hole, he placed the tub. Enthusiastic goblins would knock it over in an instant. Under most circumstances, pouring out bottles of liquor all together would be a horrible idea but goblins lacked the discerning palate that Mr. Miller possessed.

     Jack took a sip from each bottle before upending it into the metal pot. He hated to admit it, but he better understood the dilemma that Mr. Miller underwent when he handed over the bottles. Since Jack could hardly erase his presence, his scent would have given him away for miles on a beach with no cover, the booze would help. That heady aroma of aged liquor would wipe his scent away. It really didn’t take too long for the goblins to sniff it out. They appeared from the grass like shy mice popping their heads out from a nest before darting back into the woods.

     Jack tugged on Stan’s coveralls, pulling him back along the beach slowly until they were a respectable distance away. The goblins crept out from the woods and as they did Jack felt the urge to rub the bridge of his nose. The number of goblins gradually increased until around fifty of them were on the beach, crowded around the hole and jostling to get at the booze. Jack had dug a hole with maybe twenty at most in mind and the hole wasn’t large enough for them. It didn’t take long for one or two to get greedy and start taking pot shots at the other goblins. Goblins with little malice and no brains were hardly a threat, even to each other, and Jack didn’t feel like getting in the middle of a bunch of goblins ineffectually attempting to punch each other and vomiting into each other’s faces.

     Jack sat down on the beach and leaned back onto the sand, “Go ahead and light up a cigar, Stanley. We’ll be here for the rest of the night.”

     Stan sat on the ground and lay back next to Jack, tugging a cigar out of his pocket and lighting it up, “Them goblins are gonna be at this all night, huh?”

     Jack took his glasses off and tucked them into his vest pocket, “Feral goblins couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag. No tools, no smarts and no upper body strength. To top that off, some of them are completely hammered right now. This is going to take time.” Unfortunately, the trail hadn’t stopped and now there was around seventy of them on the beach. The booze in liquid form had long ago been drunken but the main attraction was now the fight that had actually managed to drag in the newcomers who hadn’t even had any booze.

     It soon became clear that the goblins weren’t going anywhere and Jack could allow himself to lay back and watch the stars. They spread out into the distance in their glorious majesty. In the distance, Jack could see the glittering veil that was the Milky Way, stars beyond count that he could barely detect or even see with his bare eyes creating a veil that crossed the sky. The waves lapped up against the shore, coming closer and passing back into the ocean. Each wave brushing against the shore took countless grains of sand with it, pulling them into the ocean to follow the current as far as they could.

     By the end of the night, the final number of goblins was around ninety. Jack rose to his feet and kicked his legs back and forth to get the sleep out of his legs, “I think we should consider this our vacation for time being. I’m going to hold the bag and you go ahead and toss.” Getting up, Jack snatched the bag, holding it wide in both his arms.

     Stan rose to his feet and cracked his fingers, “Should be done soon, boss.”

     The sky had just started to grey as the brawl came to an end. Some of the more active goblins were still stumbling around looking for sand that had some booze left in it. Most of them were bruised. In many cases, they were lost to a deep sleep. Stan grabbed one by the leg and tossed it over his shoulder. Jack caught it in the Bag, and thus the game began. Stan reached out in front of him with both arms, tossing them over his shoulder with reckless abandon while Jack dodged back and forth catching them in the Bag. The each vanished with no trace, except for the few that managed to get stuck on the edge of the Bag. One of them was aware enough to cling to the top of the bag and start to drag itself back up until the next few goblins landed on its head and pushed it down.

     Getting all of them into the bag took about an hour, which included Stan chasing after the few goblins that could actually stumble around and the last couple of goblins that Jack had to cram down into the bag until they vanished. When Jack pulled his hand out it was cold.

     With the job down, and with luck much sooner than they had expected it to, they headed back to the main building. The path to the ocean was lined with stones, “This resort would actually be pretty nice if it weren’t for all the goblins.”

     Stan pulled another cigar out and bit the end off, “Them goblins did liven the place up no end, though.”

     Jack swung the bag back and forth as he strolled along with Stan, “You’re missing the point, Stanley. This is a place to get away from your troubles. You don’t normally bring your work with you on vacation unless you make more money than God or if you’re emotionally dead inside.”

     Stan considered this for a moment, “So it’s like that safehouse we got?”

     “Well, I guess it’s possible that some people here are on the run from someone like the law, but that’s not how it works for most people.”

     The main building had finally quieted down by the time Jack and Stan got back. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had passed out leaning into each other on the front steps, apparently attempting to merge into each other for real. Jack tapped Mr. Miller’s shoe, jarring him awake. He sat up, causing his wife to tumble away from him, waking her up as well.

    To Jack’s annoyance, they went from unconscious to incredibly happy too soon for any normal person, “You did it? They’re really gone this time!?”

    Jack shook the bag and nodded, “I know the bag looks empty, but they’re all in here. There were a lot more of them than we were told, so it is possible that there will be a need for us to return. We’ll stick around in town for a few days to be sure, but we got all the ones we could get our hands on.”

     Mrs. Miller snagged one of Stan’s enormous hands, “Oh, I bet you did.” Stan shifted awkwardly.

    Jack whipped a small notebook out of his pocket and wrote down a fee for the removal. It wasn’t exactly generous, but given the nature of the job and how long it had taken, he could have charged far more. Moving fast, he grabbed her hand and crammed the piece of paper into her sweaty palm. The sputtering the couple did when they saw the number would have been entertaining had it not been directly connected to a paycheck.

     “This number is outrageous, we’re not going to pay it.” Mr. Miller looked as resolute as a man who jiggled like a sponge when he walked could.

     Jack shrugged noncommittally and reached into the bag, “I can put them back into the woods if you’d like, I’ll have to charge you for that as well. I would also have to charge you again for removing them, and they will need to be removed quickly since most of them will wake up with nasty hangovers. They could set the whole property on fire and then the lawsuits will begin…”      Jack trailed off, fishing his hand around in the bag. The goblins would do none of those things. If Jack actually managed to find a drunken goblin from his bag, it would spend the rest of the day trying not let any natural light touch its eyes. Even odds it ran into a tree within five minutes and knocked itself out.

    Mr. Miller waved his hands in front of Jack frantically, “That won’t be necessary, I promise!” With a speed that Jack would have found admirable in other circumstances, he whipped out his checkbook and replicated the number which Jack had given him on a check. Jack checked it over and folded it in half, tucking it into his vest pocket.

     “Thank you for the business, please let me know if they come back. We’ll do the stragglers for free, it’s the least we can do.”

     “It’s the most that you’ll do.”

     “What was that?” Jack fished his hand back into the bag again.

     “Nothing, nothing! Thank you for your hard work.”

     With that, they left the resort in their rearview mirrors and headed into the nearest town. Even though Jack had said they would be nearby in case they needed him the nearest town was about an hour away. Once they arrived, Jack reserved a room for both him and Stan. They needed to lay low a few more days anyhow, before Jack would even bother heading back up to the office. By the end of the day, Jack was wiping down the same table in their hotel room over and over.

Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 4

     Liam grew up on the mean streets of several nasty cities before settling in New York. His natural talent as a thief allowed him to survive turbulent years that saw many people stronger than him fall on the job. Well, his skills and his unnatural ability to survive fatal injuries. When he had first met a spy, he looked down on the profession as a whole because it all seemed so seedy. Liam stole things to survive. In his opinion, spies had no such basic need to fall back on. The only reason you would ever steal information would be to ruin someone’s reputation, and even Liam had his limits on what he would steal. This last couple of days had given Liam pause, and made him rethink his positon. In fact, spies and thieves had many things in common, but the most prominent of these was boredom.

     Talented thieves spend days, minimally, watching high-risk targets before attempting a move. Even the most basic jobs required time making sure you understood your target’s movements before you picked their pockets. Spies had all of that routine, with none of the tangible pay off of booty in your hands at the end of the day. Of course, Liam still planned to rob Matthew blind before he was done spying on him. Liam was nothing, if not a consummate professional.

     The last three days had gone by without a noticeable hitch. Liam trailed Jenny as she stalked their target. It became increasingly clear that Matthew’s tails had noticed her and informed their client of her presence. That, in and of itself, would have been alarming had Matthew not been stealing subtle glances at the beautiful woman following him around during his lunch hour. Men with large bank accounts and important jobs tend to have equally large egos. That Matthew paid so much attention to Jenny meant Liam was ready to move onto stage two of his devious, multi-part and very intelligent plan.

     The problem with routine is that it’s very easy to exploit and alter without ever changing it. On the fifth day, Liam didn’t follow Jenny. He knew everything he could learn from following her while she tailed Matthew. Even though Matthew hadn’t outwardly changed his routine by one iota, his internal routine had changed significantly. When he came to work, he spent his time thinking of his brief encounter with Jenny and wishing she would come forward to say hello to him. He might even manage to introduce himself to her at some point, which would work out better for Liam. It wasn’t entirely clear whether or not Matthew knew Jenny was specifically following him, or if he thought she just happened to take the same route as him every afternoon. Liam assumed that Matthew thought it would be the former, because clearly he was so very important.

     That Matthew spent all his day thinking about Jenny meant that he would be paying less attention to things that might have caught his attention. For example, when Matthew left his office at lunch, he never even noticed an oily, ratty looking janitor slip in the doors past him, barely even acknowledging his existence. With his hat pulled low, Liam walked with the distinctive walk of someone who belonged in the building and had a place to go. The place Liam was headed was the janitorial closet. From there, he would pilfer some cleaning supplies and head up towards Matthew’s office to clean it out of both dirt, and information. It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. Apparently, someone meant Liam.

     Of course, Liam didn’t know where Matthew’s office was, and that was why he had to take his time, but not too much time. Stealing from one office in an office building was like playing minesweeper on a timer while someone points a gun at your head. It’s true that nobody pays attention to the cleaners, but that wouldn’t last for ever. Eventually, some sharp eyed security guard would notice the seedy individual dressed as a cleaner who came in and cleaned offices, but wasn’t actually employed by the company. Given that Matthew Bergson was being watched from on high by all sorts of dangerous folks, Liam figured that in reality he had about half the time he would normally have before the cameras would get a good look at his face and his whole plan would be ruined. He couldn’t simply ask around either, because what cleaner wants to find a specific person’s office and if he really worked in the building, then wouldn’t he know where that room was already?

   Thankfully, Liam had a few things going his way. The first being the name of the firm that Matthew worked in, some group called “Finance Power Planning” which sounded like a company which offered sound financial planning to weight lifters and third world dictators. Much like malls, office buildings need to know where to funnel the products and it only took a little inspection for him to find the offices. When he reached the correct floor, Liam realized to his dismay that finding Matthew Bergson’s business was going to be shockingly easy. He had assumed that the hunt would be the difficult part, but alas, his personal cubicle presented a greater problem. “Finance Power Planning” took up the entire floor right from the elevator. Without missing a beat, Liam pushed his cart full of cleaning supplies and found the nearest empty cubicle and began cleaning. He had a very short time frame to work with, and he knew that he couldn’t just make a beeline for the office he wanted, because he would have been wandering the floor for hours just to locate and clean one office, and then immediately leave.

     While Liam cleaned, he paid attention to the name plaques in the cubicles that were occupied by someone else. The entire lunch went by far too fast and forced Liam to retreat in disgrace, having gotten no closer to his goal than when he began. The next day was more of the same frustrations, wandering through FPP with his cart of supplies and stopping to clean empty offices. In Liam’s estimation, he could only get away with one more day of cleaning and if he failed to find anything, then he would be shit out luck and it would all come down to Jenny and her ability to charm the information out of Matthew.

     It was by sheer coincidence on the last day that Liam overheard someone using his target’s name and luck that he was able to zero in on it quickly. Matthew’s office, when he finally located it, was pretty much exactly what he expected it to look like. It lacked any decoration, focusing entirely on functionality. Perhaps because Matthew was such a boring person, he never expected someone to come in and rifle through his papers. It’s a true shame that he felt that way, because on his desk, directly in front of the computer monitor, sat a folder that looked as enticing as any fat wallet Liam had ever laid eyes on. Pulling his phone out, Liam flipped through the folder and took a picture of every single piece of paper in rapid order.

     Matthew Bergson wasn’t just a bad man. He was a horrible man, but apparently a very good business man. On top of doing business with the Society, he also managed extensive holdings for some crime families and some big time politicians, who probably would never want to be associated with their mutual customers. He kept their money in all sorts of places, ranging from the merely unethical to the outrageously illegal. Whenever he couldn’t avoid paying taxes, he cut corners. His slush funds could have opened their own slush funds. At this point, Liam had run out of jargon, but even he could tell that there was a lot of shady nonsense going on, all for the purpose of funding one project, called “Operation Nightingale”. With a name like that, it’s purpose was either to open the most elaborate orphanage Ponzi scheme the world had ever seen, or to initiate a holy war. Liam’s money was certainly on the latter, not that he was a betting man unless he could bet using someone else’s money.

      Simon would find the information to be very useful indeed. Far more useful to Liam was the bank account routing numbers. He had never been very good at digital theft, but thankfully he knew someone who was. He even knew that person had been tasked with finding out who the spy in the Neelan family was, and if this information wouldn’t help, nothing would. It never hurt to have a spy who owed you a favor, even if he hated the Neelan family in general. Cleaning the office from top to bottom, Liam took pictures of every document he could get a look at in his limited time. As soon as he was finished, he made his way out in a determined fashion. Luck stayed with him, because as he reached the elevator and walked inside, Matthew walked out through the other one to return to his desk.

     Liam would have been the first to point out that it never pays to rob extremely dangerous people of their hush money. But on the other hand, Liam would have all that hush money to pay people to look the other way with. The amount of money he was about to walk away with would provide a very nice retirement indeed. With the office investigated and Liam out safely, it was time to begin the last part of their operation. Jenny had wanted to call it “Operation Heartbreak” but Liam had objected on the grounds that people who have fish lips, like Matthew, don’t have hearts. He had wanted to call it something more awesome, like “Operation Smooth Criminal.” Sadly, at Jenny’s insistence, they had to compromise and it became “Operation Heart Criminal”. Liam drew a line when Jenny punctuated their written plan with an exclamation point that had a heart in it.

  At the end of their day, Jenny and Liam met at the park near her house. He arrived after she did, as he usually did, and found her sitting on a park bench, holding a miniscule rose in her hands, “Someone gave you a rose?’

    Jenny looked up at him with a slightly curious expression, “Our target gave me the rose. I guess he knew I was following him the whole time.”

    Liam tried not to laugh as he sat down next to her, “I figured they would. I never expected him to be the one to make contact with you. How did he ever work up the fishy courage?”

    “Well, I was following him like normal and then I rounded a corner and there he was, with a rose for me in his hands. He asked me out for lunch but I took rain check for tomorrow. I told him I had a very jealous and ugly husband…”

    “You told him…but I never told you to tell him I was ugly.”

    Jenny seemed genuinely confused, “But Liam, you are ugly. That’s what makes you so funny.”

    Deciding to brush past that, Liam noted a certain reluctance in her voice, “Are you sure you want to continue with this job? It sounds like you’re getting attached to him.”

    Hopping to her feet, Jenny started walking back home, “Nope! He looks like a silly fish and he’s a bad man. Tomorrow, we can begin Operation Rainbow Panda Kill House 5000.”

    “Jenny, you changed the name again. I noticed.”

    “Curses,” and with that, Jenny vanished in her haste to get home. Tomorrow would begin the end of their work together. Finding documents implicating Matthew Bergson was hardly some grand revelation. The numbers, the information, would bankrupt the Society, but that still left him with some burning questions. What was Operation Nightingale and why did it require so much money, shuffled around so much. Thus far, it had all gone according to plan. Nothing had gone wrong and everything could still go wrong, but Liam had a good feeling about how the day was going to go. He could not have been more wrong.

All your love~

     Hello, dear friends. I hope today finds you well. I just want to write a short note about the writing process. I have bi-polar disorder. I suppose sometimes I lose sight of the risks I take by bringing this up, because people have the habit of hearing that I have bi-polar and suddenly, all my reactions are judged by that metric. If I get excited, I must be manic. if I’m sad, I must be depressed. The reason I bring this up comes within the context of writing. Frustratingly, I haven’t been able to get much of any done this week. The post for tomorrow is mostly rough drafted, but it needs a lot of work. That, and the next week’s post hasn’t been edited and that’s mostly my fault as well.

     It’s so frustrating because I have the words here in my head rattling around, but I just can’t concentrate. I can’t focus and I’m such a failure for it. My wife is relying on me and I’m letting her down. I could be doing something else, but I can’t because I have to get some writing done. What exactly am I doing? Where did my day go? So I’ve been in a depressive cycle, but I don’t expect it to last long because I rapid cycle. We’re also taking our mouse Lorina in tomorrow to have her put to sleep. She has multiple rapid growing tumors, which grew far too quickly for her to be operated on. Just one more thing to deal with.

     I don’t want to ramble on too long. I just wanted to let you know that there might be a break on Second-Hand Rumors tomorrow. I will try like hell to get it out, but please don’t be mad if I don’t. You all mean so much to me. Thank you for coming and seeing me today. I’ll save a spot by the fire for you when you come back. My dear friends, thank you for being the amazing readers and friends that you are.

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 32

     Jack worked primarily as a cleaner. Between the words “Paranormal” and “Cleaner” he considered the word Cleaner to be the far more important. Paranormal wasn’t inherently a line of work, as their current job demonstrated amply. On top of being a cleaner, however, Jack had to function as an electrician, a therapist, and now a glorified wild lide expert. Being an old hand at dealing with wild creatures, Jack felt more than sure this job would be a breeze. Goblins were, by nature, impatient and feisty. If they were feral then they would also be thin and spindly creatures barely intelligent enough to fashion rags into clothes. The only potential difficulty lay in figuring out how many were on the property. Feral goblins were like cockroaches and if you saw some during the day, that meant they were breeding like jack rabbits and removing them would become quite challenging if you waited too long. It wasn’t because they were tough, but it was simply by virtue of being unable to keep up with the population boom.

     Before they left to begin their hunt, Jack loaded Stan down with every trap they had lining the walls of their van. Jack never worked overtime if he didn’t have to, and trapping the goblins before tossing them into the endless void of the Bag would save his clothes and their collective energy a great deal of grief. Snatching that mysterious Bag from his own supplies and tucking it into his belt, they got started.

     It didn’t take Jack long to find the first signs that they had been there. The second cabin along the path had been opened up and the contents spilled all over the front porch. Half eaten apples, an opened bag of chips spilled all around with other pieces of half eaten food and smashed up furniture strewn out from the door. Ripped up clothes hung from the top of the cabin. It seemed things were worse than he had thought. Stepping into the cabin, Jack scanned the living room. The minimalist furniture had been smashed to pieces and the walls bore weak claw marks from the floor to the ceiling. Curiously, besides the food, nothing else seemed to be missing at first glance. Outside, Stan placed a few traps and baited them with leftover food and some soap which smelled like peaches. Feral goblins liked fruit and were often not discriminating about consuming soap that smelled like it.

     The next two cabins bore out that same routine. Jack inspected the completely destroyed cabin while Stan set some traps and they moved on.  In the third cabin from where the trail of destruction began, they hit the jackpot. In the front yard outside the cabin four goblins sat around in a drunken stupor. It suddenly occurred to Jack exactly what the goblins had been taking; everything alcoholic beverage in every cabin. An image flashed through Jack’s mind of attempting to cram vomiting goblins into his mystical Bag. He almost got sick himself.

     For these four, however, the bender was over. It took only an instant and all four of them were in the Bag. In the distance, Jack heard loud chittering and smashing. It seem their luck had held if the goblins hadn’t caught their scent yet. If they were still so close with all the noise Stan made when walking down a path, they were really trashed and given the sounds they were making, he could already tell there was more than forty of them. When sounds of breaking glass emanated from even further down the path, Jack knew he had been licked. Time to regroup, laying traps as they went back to the main building, and consider another option. Goblins aren’t very brave, clever or strong but when they get into a mob Jack often noticed something strange happen. He liked to call it the, “Yeah, what he said” mentality. It was sort of like watching dogs get each other riled up into barking at strangers until their owner comes back and yells at them, only in this case there was no owner and all the dogs were hammered.

     Stan shambled back down the path, placing traps at about knee height for himself, hanging them from branches and nailing them to trees on either side of the path. Jack waited until he could barely see him before he started following. It seemed unlikely to him that many goblins would have been caught by the time he passed, but there was no point in wasting a trip. As Jack had suspected, however, the traps were all empty and hanging loosely where Stan had left them on his trail back to the main office. Jack had often wondered whether or not feral goblins were capable of communication. There were some members of his family, most notably Julian, who thought it could be true. Julian insisted that the only way feral goblins could be capable of such rampant destruction is if they were somehow organized enough to at least let other goblins in their murder know when they were under threat. The scene that unfolded before him reminded Jack why he had never thought that theory held much credence. If goblins were capable of communication, then even drunk goblins should have been trying to communicate with the other goblins to warn them. At first glance, you might think they were organized and moved together in unison. In reality, it was far more likely that a pack of feral goblins simply moved on instinct, with each goblin looking out for number one. When the herd thinned out enough that’s when  survival instincts took over and the rest of them would break and run off on their own. That’s why they needed one big trap that would lure all the goblins into one place, so they would do all the work while Jack and Stan collected the paycheck for cleaning them up.

     Every fifteen feet on the path back, Jack stopped to examine the bushes. Tracking had never been Jack’s strongest suit as a hunter, but with goblins one hardly had to track very hard. Paths into the woods lay on all sides.  Stan was already leaning against the van by the time Jack got back to the front office. The commotion mostly lay inside, but from Stan’s slightly tense posture Jack could tell that it would only be a moment before it spilled out into the driveway and became a pain in their job. In short order the spillage began, as Jack expected it would, with the Miller’s. They both had a weird way of walking that made it seem as though they were clumsily floating along the ground.

     Mr. Miller was the first to speak, “So, Jack…did you get rid of whatever those…things were?”

     “Feral goblins, and no. We’ve set traps all over the path, but that’s not going to work. They’re reproducing too quickly because you waited too long to get help. Because you waited, things will get a little difficult.

     “What?” the old man from earlier in the day came out of the front office, leading a trail of families and couples, “He said he can’t do it! We’ll never get our things back now.”

     “And thus, the prophet of doom appears.” It occurred to Jack that apparently the people who came to this resort were far more interested in getting their things back than they were in the existence of goblins. Well, except a few wide eyed little children who had certainly caught on and were very interested indeed in meeting a few.

     Raising his hands, Jack spoke louder in an attempt to calm everyone down, “We can catch all of them, we just need to set a trap that will lure all of them and fortunately for you, we do seem to know what the goblins want.”

     An elderly woman towards the back of the crowd, bedecked with jewelry, spoke up, “They want my jewels!”

     A man closer to the front took up the cry, “They want my suits!”

     Even the children, perhaps sensing a chance to mock their elder or perhaps in earnestness, took up the cry, “They want my Thomas the tank engine!”

     Jack decided he had played the guessing game long enough, “They want to get hammered. Every place they broke into, all they took was the booze. Everything else got trashed because they drank the booze.  Drunk goblins aren’t exactly known for their delicate nature. So if anybody is holding onto some high end hooch, now is the time to hand it over or we can do it the long way and that could take weeks.”

     It took Jack a few moments to realize that the crowd had redirected its gaze to Mr. Miller. All the crowd, that is, except his wife who had grown a sudden interest in the ceiling and was gazing heavenward, whistling in an entirely too suspicious manner.

     Mr. Miller blustered uselessly, “But…that’s my private stash! I can’t just…give my private store to those creatures.”

     The elderly woman in the back of the crowd spoke the one word on everyone’s mind, “Refund.”

     Mr. Miller caved immediately, “Oh, very well, but I get to choose the bottles you take and I get one last glass before they go.” Jack nodded his ascent and Mr. Miller vanished back into the front building to get into his so-called secret stash. A loud grinding of gears and a hollow sound of a staircase being lowered could be heard from inside the building.

     “Oh dear, he really did have a secret stash. I expected some mid-level hard liquor in his desk, but we may be giving a king’s ransom to feral goblins.”

     Stan cocked his head slightly, “Which king boss?”

     Jack sniffed the air and winced at the smell, “Several, it would appear.”

     Mr. Miller appeared at the entrance with several bottles of liquor that appeared to have been bottled during the Renaissance. He seemed to have sampled the contents himself, as he staggered towards Jack, keeping a tenuous grip on the bottles. “I’m excited to be a part of this. I always wanted to get out and see the world.”

     Jack snatched the bottles away from Mr. Miller and turned towards the beach, “Goblins aren’t really dangerous but you should still stay in the main building and keep quiet.” He gestured to Stan and headed down the path. Goblins are naturally agile little buggers so the best thing to do would be to get them all hammered and then toss them all in the Bag. We’ll need a bowl or a tub to put the booze in and then we’ll just need to wait. Stan parted ways and headed towards the cabins while Jack continued on towards the beach. Once he reached the ocean shore, Jack took the time to enjoy the ocean view spanning out ahead of him. Stan arrived shortly after with a giant metal wash bin perfect for their trap.

Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 3

     Out of the many valuable life lessons Liam had learned over his long and oft’ tarnished career, several stuck out in his mind. Never bet on horses, grey hounds or loose women, because you will always lose your money. Never mix cheap whiskey with expensive vodka. Most importantly, never attempt to rig sporting events that are nationally televised. They were such valuable life lessons that Liam indulged in all these pursuits as often and vigorously as possible to make sure he thoroughly learned the lessons and could pass them on to others. While waiting for Jenny, he learned that even if the woman happens to be an assassin, you can’t rush perfection. Fortunately, Liam had company while he waited for his partner in espionage. Unfortunately, that company happened to be gigantic teacup Yorkies, who surrounded him and shivered threateningly.

     As soon as she returned, all the dogs scurried to her side. Jenny’s transformation stunned Liam and left him speechless for a long moment. In place of her errant curls, her auburn hair now surrounded her face in elegant flowing locks. Her shocking pink mask had been swapped out for a pair of dark, reflective sunglasses and she wore a dark red shade of lipstick to accentuate the paleness of her skin. Her outfit, while subdued, was classy and would fit in perfectly while wandering crowds accustomed to good taste. She wore a white blouse with a navy blue blazer and a matching short navy blue skirt. What struck Liam most was her change in demeanor. Her normal, frantic energy had vanished and in its place he saw cool, confidence and calm.

    Standing up, Liam offered his arm to Jenny, who took it with a slight giggle that sounded more like that Jenny he had come to know so well over the week he had been casing her cousin’s house to rob him. For the first few steps, Liam felt like he was leading, until he tried to pull her away from the front gate. Resolutely, she walked right up to the gate controls and keyed in her code to open it. From there, it would be a long trip to the beating heart of the financial world; Wall Street.

     When Liam first thought about the current job, he wanted to hire Charlotte and her limo company to ferry them around. Careful consideration left Liam with an increasing desire to work out transportation on his own, at least at first. The man Liam was tracking, himself, was not dangerous. The same couldn’t be said for the people he worked for. Using a limo service as a short-hand visual for wealth and power would work for a neighborhood where nobody asked questions, ever. If he used Charlotte to ferry him to and from this job, people would start to ask questions. Dangerous people who would look up license plate numbers, locate addresses and send other burly, unpleasant people with metal bats to ask inconvenient questions. Liam knew from experience that when that happened, Charlotte would fold like a bad poker hand in a high stakes game, and it wouldn’t even be anything personal. It’s hard to drive a car if you’re missing a hand.

     Liam wanted to start, therefore, by dipping their toes in the water and getting a feel for what sort of crowd they had stumbled into. Matthew Bergson, their mark, worked with a financial group that did things with money. Liam’s view on money was remarkably narrow, as one would expect of a thief. Either you had your money or Liam did. The miracle of Wall Street, and other such financial institutions, was that your money vanished, but you still felt like it was safe. That left people like Matthew ample time to invest your invisible money in whatever way they wanted, and yet somehow you still had all your money. It was like a magic trick Liam wished he could learn.

     Having looked at the packet of papers Simon handed over to him when he took the job, Matthew Bergson liked to invest in quasi-governmental bodies solely dedicated to murdering anything not human. The real question was whether or not the rest of the group he worked with knew that’s what he was supporting, or if they would even believe Liam if he told them. His picture gave the impression of someone more at home dealing with money than people. He had stringy brown hair and thin lips. His face drooped slightly, as though the weight of the world were slowly pushing him to the ground. His dull eyes hardly had any color at all in the picture, a strange grey which revealed nothing of the man in the image. Matthew Bergson was also a creature of habit. He went to his office in the morning. In the afternoon, he went out for lunch at a different place every day, in the same cycle every week.

    Having Jenny with him gave Liam an amazing opportunity to vanish in plain sight. Nobody paid attention to a dopey looking guy like Liam when a stunner like Jenny walked by. She looked so calm and collected, though she did spoil the look a bit by bouncing around when Liam announced his plan. She would find Matthew Bergson and get to know him. Liam would stay in the background for now, watching and waiting for his opportunity to insert himself. That wouldn’t come today, nor the next day and likely not for the first four or five days, unless they were very lucky. She was going to play the part of his rich wife, looking for some cause to invest in, preferably against his wishes. Men never give information faster than when they give it to rich, naughty women.

    Following someone in a crowd takes a sharp pair of eyes, because it’s like dropping a pebble into a river and trying to watch the ripples while the stream carries them away. Thankfully, for an old hand like Liam, this had already become routine. When you’re robbing someone, it’s best to play a longer game. You could be quite successful at the smash and grab technique, but eventually that haste and impatience will always catch up to you.

     When it came time for lunch, their dance began. Jenny silently pursued Matthew. Liam followed Jenny. What he saw, he did not like. Matthew was being shadowed by at least two pairs of eyes. They belonged to men with hard faces wearing dark suits who failed to blend into the crowd entirely, at least to Liam’s trained eyes. That first day Liam and Jenny followed Matthew, he met nobody and only returned to his office before leaving work to go home at the end of the day. Liam split up from Jenny at that point, when she decided to leave as well. Waiting in the plaza where Jenny had walked, Liam watched as the crowds slowly dispersed, only to be replaced by a new one.

     He waited until he was sure they had lost any lingering mutual friends before meeting up with Jenny in the park near where she lived. He found her sitting on a park bench tapping her foot impatiently. He sat down next to her and leaned back into the bench, “This is going to take longer than a week.”

     “Yup,” Jenny confirmed with her characteristic bubbly nature returning to the surface, “I’m not sure we can get all the information we need just by following him around either.”

    Liam stared off into space, “I saw two pairs of sharp dressed men following our fella around. Before I attempt any kind of breaking and entering, I want to make sure I won’t be interrupted.”

    Jenny giggled, “And you missed a couple more that were staking out the path ahead of him. Whoever Simon sent you to follow around has a lot of friends. This might be easier if I just killed them.”

     There was something about the casual way she said that which chilled Liam to his core, “That won’t help. If you kill a few flunkies, they’ll just send more and then they’ll know we’re targeting the fella. On top of that, if he really is working for the Society, technically his bodyguards are government agents and that sounds like an excuse to start a war to me.”

     Jenny blew a raspberry at him, which he ignored. No, even though Jenny was willing to ply her trade to help, the best course of action would be to take the slow and steady approach. When they knew his schedule outside the office as best they could, it would be time to put the second and third phases of their plan into action.

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Publications

     Hello, dear friends. It’s been a few days since we last talked. I keep wanting to post on here every day and let you know what’s going on with my writing, but sometimes I feel like I have very little to tell you. For instance, I can give you the finalized list of all the things that will be in the first Jack and Stan book.

“One more night” Samantha Goodbody’s story
“Everything, just so”  Stanley Whitkin’s story
“Days Past Bye” Jack and Samantha Goodbody as kids
“Service without a smile” Madeline’s story
Goodbody Family tree
Goodbody Family History

     There’s a lot of writing that, as of now, I am refusing to redo until I can get access to it from the hard drive that was on my old laptop. When Second-Hand Goods is done, it will contain a family history for the Nair family. By the time Paranormal Cleaners is done, in an ideal world, you will have a family history for all five current families that comprise the so called nobility of the Mythic world. At that point, I’m going to start in on family histories for the supporting families. These are families that maintain their own houses and goals in support of the main family. The Goodbody family has five such families supporting them, some of which have been along for the ride since almost the very beginning.

     I also just wanted to take this opportunity again to say thank you for stopping by. I think I speak for anybody creative who creates, but you are what makes this work. The greatest fear I have is that this burning desire in me to tell stories will go unfulfilled. Am I a good storyteller? Am I good writer? Maybe everyone who works in a creative medium feels these fears just as much as I do, but all y’all seem to have it much better put together. I love it when you visit me here and I love knowing that my stories are being read. I truly hope you enjoy them, and know that I have an end goal in mind which will make the journey worth it. Please come again, and know that you are always welcome here, dear friend.

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 31

     Jack considered himself to be fairly competent at conflict resolution. His skills in this field lay in his ability to aid conflicting parties in seeing eye to eye. That and, failing the diplomatic approach, in his talent for knocking them out when he couldn’t. That approach didn’t exactly work where his father was involved. In the case of Varnes Nair, conflict management consisted of turning around and leaving until you ran out of places to run to. As they traveled down to their next job, Jack found himself contemplating the choices that he had made over the last few days. All his decisions had been represented on a wooden board with pegs in it, but Jack felt like his last choice had taken him right off the edge of the board. Perhaps, when this job was over, another reading would help Jack figure the situation out. The road stretching on endlessly ahead of them combined with the familiarity of the smell of Stan’s cigar knocked Jack out for hours. The trip ended in a blur of waking and sleeping and staring out the window. Jack had never been to this resort, and though they had been given the address they didn’t know the name of the owner. The resort lay in a coastal part of Maryland where the ocean brought in cool breezes. It was apparently a place where politicians could relax and get away from the stresses of their various offices.

     After an hour of driving around the most picturesque city Jack had ever seen, they finally found the resort they were looking for. It was called Hopeful Homes by the Sea, a somewhat ironic name under the current circumstances. After arriving at the front gate it took them a full half hour of driving along a suspiciously windy and picturesque driveway to hit the office. The drive down to the office was lined on both sides by immaculate arbor vitae. Jack sighed a bit with relief that these goblins were feral. The more intelligent type had a tendency to graffiti everything they found, sometimes with paint and sometimes with blood. The front office was a white building that stood three stories high. Most of the windows had clothes hanging out to dry, leaving Jack to assume that the majority of the residences had been cleared out with the arrival of goblins on the property.

      “Wait here, Stanley. I’ll go see if they’ll accept our help or if we’re just wasting our time.” Jack hopped out of his seat and walked over to the front door of the office. He knocked twice before opening the door and stepping inside. The front of the office had four chairs lined on either side of a table that had all the latest boring magazines that waiting rooms have. Against the wall next to the door was a water cooler and a coat and hat rack that couldn’t possibly accommodate more than one or two coats before it collapsed from the sheer weight. The waiting room had around fourteen people in it, all directing their ire at a small plump woman on the far side of the room who stood behind the employee’s desk, gripping it tightly as though it were a shield.

     “I told you before, we hired someone to take care of the goblin problem.” The woman seemed frazzled in the extreme. She wore a red one piece dress that would have seemed at home on a sitcom from the 1950’s. Her arms were tan to the point of being slightly baked and her glasses sat on her long black hair like they were used to being perched there.

     “That’s what you said two weeks ago!” Jack located the crotchety one who had yelled that, “All of our things are just sitting in that bungalow and my wife needs clean…unmentionables.” The old man who had spoken was thin, balding and angry. Well, barring that last line for which he turned a bright red and looked at the floor causing Jack to stifle a laugh. He failed and in the sudden silence, the whole room looked right at him.

     Jack decided to try and take advantage of the situation as best he could, “We were contacted about a cleaning job and…”

     It was like a switch flipped. The woman smiled as big a smile as she could manage and she sauntered over to Jack, “My husband was expecting you, I’m Mrs. Miller.” She turned to her patrons, a slightly accusing look taking the place of her smile, but the joviality hadn’t lessened in the slightest, “Didn’t I tell you someone was coming? My husband never lets us down.” The small crowd laughed and started to disperse and Jack was suitably impressed. It’s no small feat to put a crowd down, make them laugh, reassure them and most importantly of all make sure that none of them use the dreaded word, “Refund” all in one go.

     Jack found himself being forcibly dragged to the office by Mrs. Miller, who had not stopped talking since she had reached Jack. He could only assume that she was speaking English, but she was speaking it very quickly so that every sentence seemed to come out in one word. Since nothing she said seemed to require an answer from him, or even his understanding what she was saying, he just let her prattle on and followed her closely until they reached the office. Jack had to stop short and do a double take at the sight of her husband sitting in the office chair. The main office had interior blinds, which were down and closed which Jack had always taken as a universal sign of something having gone wrong, so he couldn’t have seen Mr. Miller before now. He had to check that Mrs. Miller had not somehow teleported into the chair, but she still maintained a firm grip on Jack’s arm.

    Barring the length of hair, the bright red lipstick, and the extravagant moustache the man sitting in the chair could have been Mrs. Miller wearing a dapper tweed suit to combat the summer heat. He rose and his face morphed into the same peculiar smile, “The cleaners finally arrived! Thank you for bringing them in, dearest.” He sprang up from his desk in a manner that Jack would have thought impossible for a man of his plumpness. “Does he look good to you?”

     Mrs. Miller nodded quickly, sending her curls flying around her hair in a messy halo, “He seems like he knows what he’s doing. He even has an unmarked van.”

     Jack wasn’t entirely sure what that had to do with the quality of his cleaning, but they had known to send a message to his family, or his sister rather, so somebody here knew what was what. Jack had doubts about it being either one of the couple, “Oh, wonderful! So Jack, do you know what to expect? We’ve had a bit of an…”

     “An infestation.” His wife finished his sentence for him, using the same tone of voice that she might use to conspiratorially whisper about a black sheep in the family. “We’re hoping that we can get rid of these goblins as soon as possible so that people can go back to their bungalows. We’re not really set up to take so many families into the main office building.”

      Jack reached into his front pocket and pulled out a small pad of paper, “So do you know how many there are?”

     “I’m fairly certain there were about thirty or forty, would you say dear?” Mrs. Miller pulled closer to her husband and to Jack’s mild surprise they seemed to merge together into one person wearing two outfits and with an extra head.

     “Thirty or forty sounds about right, honey.” Mr. Miller rubbed his extensive, bushy mustache over his wife’s face.

     Jack slowly backed out the office door and turned to the entrance, “We’ll get right on it, thirty or forty. Thank you for the job.” Jack reached the outside and took out a deep breath. Awkward love always took a certain amount of courage to deal with and Jack had run out of that a long time ago. Fixing his suit, he managed to get over to the van without too much trouble. Stan had pulled their two bags out and left them resting against its side.

     “What’sa play, boss?”

     “We’ll do this orthodox, no reason to get fancy for a tribe of feral goblins. Take the mallet and I’ll take my broom. Make sure to bring the bag and we’ll just try and send them to another place. No reason to kill them unless we have to.”

     Jack fished his mop out of his bag, careful not to touch the mop head. The bag jangled slightly when Jack tossed it back into the rear of the van. Stan pulled his mallet from his gear and fished the Bag from the back of the van to Jack. The path from the office led further into the property and the bungalows. They were called bungalows, but in reality judging from the buildings Jack could see they were just minimalist cabins with large front porches and screens with curtains. They were painted a brilliant white and the minimalist aesthetic was completed by a lack of any wires leading to the cabins, barring one wire for electricity. The bushes and trees provided security and privacy and in the distance Jack could hear the waves crashing against the shore.

     Jack took his jacket off and tossed it into the passenger seat of the van, “Better to get to work.” Jack started down the path to the left with his broom held in one hand. Under most circumstances, Jack expected his partner to follow behind at a distance and try and keep their presence to a minimum. Even so, Stan was a small walking earthquake in the underbrush, sounding like a small herd of bears trampling a Red Wood Tree. He tromped along behind Jack, swinging his mallet low over the ground.