Whatever the weather was back home, Maryland had been struck with an intense heatwave that left the two of them stranded in their room. The few days that Jack promised the Millers he would stick around, in case more goblins arrived, passed slowly and Jack felt like he could feel every second scraping across his skin. Eventually, the time came to leave Maryland behind and they started on their path up. By this point in time, the information had reached and blown past Jack’s father. Jack grudgingly had to admit that the things that upset his father never upset him for very long. It took a day or so to work through his system but then he moved on and adjusted his plans. Jack’s mind had never been so elastic. As he watched the trees fly by their van on the way back up north, Jack realized with a sigh of relief that he missed his office. He missed the smell of Stan’s cigars that had long ago seeped into the room. He missed his closet filled with cleaning supplies and he even missed their demon phone that seemed to know exactly when to ring, though more often it knew exactly when not to.
As Jack had suspected, when he got home there was no sign of his being required to visit his father. He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes, letting the relief of having had an interesting job that went well wash over him. Rest was exactly what they both needed after the last couple of weeks. Rest was not destined to last long. The phone, which Jack had expected to remain dormant for quite some time, rang shrilly.
Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose before reluctantly getting up and crossing the room to the phone, “Jack and Stan’s cleaning services, the skeletons in your closet are…”
“Save the canned speech for real customers, buddy.” Jack smiled in spite of himself. It was a rare thing to get a call from another Goodbody, unless they lived out of state. Julian was an even rarer case since he was constantly consumed with his art and his night life, “How are you, cousin?”
“Things have been better, but things have been a lot worse too, so I can’t really complain.” Jack leaned against the desk and held the phone to his ear with his shoulder, “How’s your art?”
“Oh God, it’s been a nightmare. Francesco thinks we need to get away from the city because it’s just draining us both so much.”
“I thought it was Raul or Gourmand or something.” Jack resisted the urge to chuckle.
“You know very well that isn’t a name! Anyways, I called because I heard you messed up on some job for uncle Varnes.”
Jack winced and suddenly started to wonder exactly how far that failure of his had spread in so short an amount of time, “Yeah, I think we got poached.”
Julian laughed, “That’s what I heard from your sister. Nobody likes a sore loser Jack.”
Jack opened the front drawer of his desk, hunting for a pad of paper, “So did you just call to taunt me or was there another reason?”
“Cheer up, Mr. Grumpypants, it sounds like we’re all pooling jobs to cheer you up. Nobody likes an angry Jack. So here’s the deal, I just got a cabin out in the Catskill Mountains. It’s about five hours from the house, it’s supposed to be gorgeous, right near a lake and Francesco thinks it’s just what my art needs.”
“I wouldn’t know, but I take it you need it cleaned? That cabin used to belong to the family back when we first moved out here. Father expressly forbade me from going out there with Sam.”
“Yes, it’s been untouched for years, it must be a right mess now. That, and I’ve been out of your line of work for years but even I know that when it’s a price this good, there has to be something awful involved. It’s rule number fifteen or something. So I pictured it as being a dump, but then I thought of you and since you still live so close to home you could fix it up for me.”
Jack scribbled frantically on the pad of paper, writing down a list of supplies they would need, “This will be very expensive, Julian. You know that right?”
Julian sighed heavily on the other end of the line, “I figured, Jack, but it could be fun and the whole thing sounds very hush hush anyways. The man who sold it to me practically bent heaven and earth to make sure I couldn’t sell it back. There’s got to be something about that place he isn’t telling me and the family records I have access too don’t mention it either. Since Francesco doesn’t know what I used to do, I don’t want there to be any surprises waiting for us when we arrive, comprende?”
“We’ll get it done before you arrive. When do you plan on coming out?”
“I did that years ago.” It suddenly dawned on Julian what Jack was actually getting at, “Oh! Next month some time, feel free to enjoy the place before we arrive. Just clean up before we get there, oh who am I even speaking to? Don’t worry about the expenses, just tell me what I owe you when we get there.”
Cordial farewells were always rare in the Goodbody family and Jack took them whenever he could get them, even if this one came from his annoying Frisco cousin. Jack handed off the supplies list to Stan who took it without question, marching the list downstairs to the van. Most of the things they would need for this job were at the lumber yard and the hardware store. Jack knew of a few family vacation cabins in the outlying mountains from where they lived. Most of the families who owned them tended to vanish very suddenly and if someone out west was selling one of them, it was likely not the owner, but a relative of the former owners.
Jack sat back down in his chair and enjoyed a moment of quiet before the storm. This one was going to be big, Jack could feel it in his bones. It took a few hours for Stan to get back with the supplies they needed to fix up the place, All the rest they needed could be found in the woods with a little hard work. Their cleaning bags were both still in the van, so Jack simply locked up and walked down the stairs to hop into the passenger seat.
“Where to, boss?”
“I’ll direct you, it’s a little off the beaten path so we’re going to have to be careful about how we get there. We’ll be gone for some time, so if you need anything before we go we should pick it up now. That includes food since we’ll be out in the mountains.”
With that, they stopped at a grocery store on the way out of town and picked up groceries enough for several weeks. They also stopped at a cigar store where Stan spent what Jack estimated to be several weeks of his pay on expensive cigars. Stan had often told him that the saddest thing in the world was a cleaner with money burning a hole in his pockets when he died. Jack had wanted to point out that most cleaners didn’t die on the job, but then most cleaners didn’t work their kind of jobs.