Rumble sat outside Betty’s door, licking his paws. He gave me a lazy look as I panted, and hoped for at least one more cafe au’ lait before I died. Again.
I didn’t have anything with me to deal with a full on necromancing Voodoo priest. I wasn’t sure if there was such a thing. Warden and Lange might have an idea, if I could get back to the city. If not, Blackrose might.
I held the door open for his majesty, and I’d be damned if he was getting another treat anytime soon. I dove into the driver’s seat and slammed the door.
“Angelique?” I damn near flew back out the car. I’d have thought her spirit would have been long gone. “What are you still doing in there?”
“What a cute puppy.” She reached back to scratch Rumble’s ear. “I’ve been chatting with Betty. I’ve got no where to go until you drop me off. She said that’s what you do. She told me all sorts of things.”
“Then let’s do that.” I threw Betty in reverse and floored it, bouncing into the driveway, and doing a graceless 180 in haze of rubber. Betty was going to demand new shoes, and finding whitewalls was a bitch. I could only imagine what kind of encouragement she was getting from the ghost of a spoiled heiress, and needed to get her out before we had our own reality show.
I made the last turn before getting to the main gates and laid on the brakes.
The gates were closed and chained. JayJay held a basketball sized ball of swirling and sparking red gas, and a couple dozen spirits around him. His voice reverberated in the car. “Now reaper, I don’t care about you. Fact is, I think we could have a beneficial arrangement. Just take the girl back to the house, and all will be as it’s supposed to be.”
Angelique pointed to JayJay, “Who’s that?”
JayJay paced forward, his voice like he was speaking in my ear. “I have a legal and binding contract. Nothing here needs your attention.”
“Angelique.” I turned her to face me, “Did you know you were here to be sacrificed?”
Her bloodshot eyes were saucers. “What? Hell no.”
“And you don’t recognize him?”
“The pimp from a 1970’s horror movie?” Her eyes shined with the last vestiges of life. “No.”
There’s a lot of different kinds of abominations out in the world. Hell, a lot of people would call me one. But necromancers are at the top of that list. Messing with death has a cost, and you don’t get to default on the loan. But I wasn’t about to let anything happen to this girl if I could help it.
Even if she didn’t herself agree to the contract, a generational contract could be hard to break. Sounded like they were here to renew for another generation, and just hadn’t fulfilled it just yet.
Then there’s my other problem. I wasn’t dead, but wasn’t exactly alive either. The necromancer had enough power over me to hold me in place, and that was without thinking about it. If he focused on me and realized… not to mention, he might be able to influence Rumble too. Hellhounds share a special relationship with death.
I squeezed Angelique’s hand. “Do you trust me?”
“I don’t know who to trust.” She nodded, “But I don’t seem to have a lot of options, and Betty seems to like you.”
I was wondering about my car as a judge of character. “Hold on, we’re going to have to improvise.”
I rolled my window down, and leaned out like I was ordering at a drive-thru. “I think we can have a Parley. Come to some arrangement.”
I cranked the window up, turned Betty around, and started the slow progression back to the mansion. A spectral honor guard formed up on both sides, and the hellish glow from JayJay’s orb filled Betty, much to her dismay.
I don’t get along too well with technology, but I needed some advice. And the Powers That Be weren’t answering my call at the moment. “You got a phone on you?”
Angelique patted herself down, and I don’t know where she pulled it from, but it seemed this generation could manifest a phone like a plague of locusts.
“Dial this number, and put it on speaker, keep it out of sight.” I have her the number to Blackrose Occultist Shop, and held my breath until J.D.’s sultry voice hopped on. “Need some quick advice, J.D.”
“And hello to you too, Galen.” She poured on an extra spoonful of wildflower honey. “Rumble puking up hairballs again? Imp infestation? Betty needs new whitewalls?”
“Two out of three, but I don’t have a lot of time.” I glanced around to see if there was any sign of unwanted ears. “I’m dealing with the spirit of a bokor, who’s also a necromancer trying to take possession of a new ride.”
“You always find ways to land in the pickle jar.” She chuckled. “Swing by, and let’s see what we can figure out.”
“Problem is— “
“I see.” J.D. sighed. “Off the top of my head, best thing is to shove him back into his body, salt it, and burn it.”
“And if I don’t have that?”
J.D. hummed the long tune when she mulled something ugly over. “Does he already have a vessel picked out?”
“She’s right here with me. The brother killed her, by accident I think.”
“You can’t let him have the body. Or the spirit.” The sound of pages being turned echoed in the car. “The ritual he’s using will require him to enter the body and consume the former resident’s soul to complete the transition.”
“How do I stop it?”
J.D. huffed, “If you can trap him in something, force him into another vessel like a fetish that you can bring here, we can get it ready for you to take on a final ride. But whatever you do, don’t let Rumble near him.”
“Could he possess Rumble?” I shuddered at the thought of giving a necromancer a hellhound’s power.
“Maybe. I’d be more worried about what that’ll do to his sensitive stomach, all that crap you feed him.” J.D. gave a sad chuckle. “But yeah, he might be able to take control of Rumble.”
“Call me when you’re on the way over.” J.D. sniffed, “Or Rumble, give me a heads up if you get a new partner.”
“What do we do?” Angelique killed the connection.
I stopped in the middle of the drive to face her. “I will do everything in my power to keep your soul safe, and deliver you to the next life. I promise you that.”
She stared straight ahead, like she was trying to take in one last trip to the family mansion. As it came into sight, she slumped down into the seat where she could barely see over the dash. Ellie loosely held the pistol aimed at the ground. A trail of blood ran down the side of Oliver’s head here he sat on the steps, glaring at his sister.
It looked like every spirit on the property and for miles around had come for the festivities. I doubted Oliver or Ellie could see them, but Angelique sure could.
“Who are all of them?” She swung her head around at the sea of specters.
“Souls trapped here on this plane, and from the looks of it, tied to your property.” A pit of fire burned in my gut on seeing all the poor bastards stranded here, in perpetual servitude to the family. No, to JayJay. “Stay here. Remember, Betty is the only safe place for you.”
Ellie raised the gun as I stepped out of the car. The hipster and the suit zombie shambled out the woods. I was mostly covered by the door, and by Betty, but I didn’t need any more grief over holes or scuffed paint.
“Where is Angelique?” Ellie cocked her head trying to look through the windshield.
“In the car.” I wrapped my hand the grip of my own weapon. Rumble nuzzled me as he slinked out of the open driver’s side door. “Where’s she’s staying. She’s got an appointment with the other side.”
“How quaint.” Ellie moved to the passenger door. Betty’s windows were tinted almost as black as her body, and shiny as sunglasses. “Come out dear sister. You’re safe with family, not this crazy man.”
JayJay appeared on the mansion steps behind Oliver. “You offered a Parley, which I took in good faith. What do you want, reaper? I just want the girl to fulfill the family contract.”
“I want Angelique’s soul. She didn’t consent to the contract, and it hasn’t been fulfilled by this generation.”
“And her body?” JayJay played with the swirling red mass in his hands, down to the size of a baseball. “I am assuming you propose to hand it over?”
Ellie squeezed the trigger. I couldn’t be sure if she meant to hit me or not, but the spirit the bullet flew through looked surprised as hell, and she did manage to hit an oak twenty feet away. “Angelique. Come on out.”
“Stop.” Angelique opened the door, and stood near it. “I’m here.”
Ellie ran over and wrapped her arms around her sister. “Thank God you’re alive.”
JayJay motioned, “Come here, child. You’re safe now.”
“That’s just it, Ellie. I’m not.” Angelique pushed her sister away, and took her hands. “I guess Ol killed me. If I take more than a few steps away from the car, I’m— “
“That’s crazy.” Ellie motioned for Oliver to come over. “Tell her.”
“Never mind that, boy.” JayJay took a careful step down. Go get the implements. Looks like we’ll be doing this outside.”
“No.” Ellie dropped her gun, grabbed Angelique by the arm, and tried to drag her to the house. The suit grabbed the other side, but was more of an anchor than a help. Between the rigor in her body, and weakening of her spirit, she only resisted a moment and made it a few steps before flopping on the ground. They slid her body back to lean against the open car door.
“I told you.” I slipped the gun out of my pocket and held it at my side, just out of sight.
“Damn you,” JayJay shouted, his cane clicking on the ground with his hurried steps. “Hurry up before we lose her.”
Oliver ran out of the house with some knick-knacks in hand. Ellie fought to lean Angelique up against the open car door.
I knelt down where I could see Angelique’s face through the open car. Her spirit materialized in the passenger seat, where only I could see. She turned to look at me.
My palms were sweating rivers. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to have an open casket.”
Her spirit mouthed, “I know.”
Ellie turned to face me, “What are you saying?”
“Goodbye.” I finished dropping to my knee, and brought my weapon up, squeezing the trigger once, the shot going straight through Angelique’s eye socket.
“Oh God.” Ellie fell back covered in clotting blood and gray matter.
The suit zombie tried to reach through the car to get me, but Angelique touched his arm, and whispered something to him. I took the chance, and the shot, bloodying up an expensive suit.
Betty was not going to be happy about the mess.
Oliver stopped a few yards away.
JayJay cast some command to the air, causing the surrounding spirits to close in. I wasn’t of a mind to get immolated in hellfire, but wasn’t looking too fondly at being torn to shreds by a ghost army. “You requested Parley. What exactly are you offering?”
“These folks rescind the contract.” I shoved my gun back into my pocket, and dug for anything useful. “And you take your rightful place in Hell.”
JayJay howled, and fired off a chant.
The spirits took on a red glow, and all seemed to be looking at me.
“Dead of Blue Oaks Plantation.” I shouted out in my most commanding voice, “I offer you release from this place, and freedom from this bokor who has held dominion over you for too long.”
A spirit bigger than your average NFL lineman grabbed my duster, and hurled me away from the car. He picked up a rock, and readied to bash my head with it when Rumble dove through his body and left nothing in his wake.
The other unearthly denizens paused, seeing one of their own gone in a single bite. I flung a handful of coins, all I had in my pocket, into the crowd. Maybe Charon would give me a bulk discount, or at least bill me later for ferrying all these souls.
It looked to be about fifty-fifty, maybe more that vanished into coins. Rumble wasn’t wasting any time on the others. I hadn’t let him feed on his preferred diet much recently, and he’d found the hellhound equivalent of a feeding frenzy, inspiring more spirits to take a chance with the ferryman.
“Enough.” JayJay held Oliver’s head between his hands, a red glow and abject terror coming from the eldest du Ballay child’s eyes. “This one will fulfill the contract nicely.”
Ellie’s hands trembled like an earthquake as she found the pistol and aimed it at JayJay. “Wait.”
JayJay grinned, “Yes, child?”
“You’ll fulfill your end?” Ellie whispered, “You’ll make us rich again.”
“For another generation.” The necromancer shrugged, “But if this is the true last of the du Ballay bloodline, we will need to have some amendments. Do you consent to a change in bloodline? I mean, you’re not a true du Ballay, except in name only.”
Ellie nodded, tears streaming down her eyes.
JayJay screamed, “Say it. Say it aloud.”
“Yes.” Ellie screamed back. “Yes, damn you. Now take his body and let’s get down to business.”
Oliver managed to mouth “bitch” before his jaw fell slack and his own spirit left the body.
JayJay faded, but I was pretty sure I was the only one that saw him crawl in through Oliver’s mouth. With a new driver at the wheel, Oliver’s eyes turned black as his soul stood aghast.
I snapped my fingers, and Rumble pounced to beat JayJay to the critical meal.
The necromancer snatched my hellhound in midair, and held him there. “You’ll make a lovely pet, once this is done.”
“Let him go.” My voice cracked as I shouted.
“You had your chance for a deal.” Oliver’s voice deepened. “And you will be my new pet’s first meal.”
Come back tomorrow for the big finish in Part V.
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