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October Frights 2019 – Night at du ballay – Part IV

Welcome back to the 2019 October Frights Blog Hop, Part III! Part I, Part II and Part III.

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.

“You’re back.” 

“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.”

“Thanks J.D.”

“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?”

“Not exactly.” 

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.

Looking for some horror and supernatural scares? Need some new books for Halloween? Check out the October Frights Spooktacular.

https://storyoriginapp.com/to/NUWnFAv

Remember to hop on over to check out the other participants offerings as well.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The Word Whisperer

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Blog

M’habla’s!

CURIOSITIES

Frighten Me

Winnie Jean Howard

Always Another Chapter

Balancing Act

James P. McDonald

greydogtales

October Frights 2019 – Night at Du Ballay Part III

Welcome back to the 2019 October Frights Blog Hop, Part III! Part I and Part II.

I kept a tight grip on my pistol in the darkness, trotting along the winding driveway just on the other side of the tree line. 

It was getting to be midnight. Early in the city, but late out here in the sticks. It was also the best time to work any dark hoodoo, if that’s what they were really up to.

A brand-new silver BMW was parked behind the white van, and the body now flopped on the ground. A classic white Bugatti sat in front of the main staircase. 

I knelt in the soft earth, looking for movement in the house. A shadow moved upstairs in the bedroom. Lights were coming on and off along the second floor. It looked like most of the lights had been extinguished in the ballroom.

Something warm and furry rubbed up underneath my hand. “Where have you been?” I scratched Rumble behind his chewed ear. He didn’t look any worse for wear if he’d been play hide and seek with JayJay. If anything, he felt like he’d been taking a nap.

Lazy mutt.

He nuzzled at my hand until I pulled a treat out of my pocket. “We’ll both pretend you deserve this.”

He swallowed the chunk in one bite, and settled low to the ground.

“Keep a watch outside, and howl if you see anything.” I tossed him one more treat, and sauntered to the open front doors like I owned the place.

I pocketed the gun, but kept a firm grip on the handle. Nothing seemed to be moving here, but the faint sounds of bickering came from a couple floors up.

I took careful steps climbing up the staircases, trying to make as little noise as possible. It didn’t seem to matter the way the two voices, a man and a woman, were shouting at each other.

“…where is she Ol?”

“How the hell would I know, Ellie. I gave her enough she should still be passed out.”

“She’s got to be here somewhere.”

Feet stomped coming towards the stairs. I ducked into a service closet, and cracked the door to watch them storm by, but two impeccably dressed people, and from the looks of it, the other two du Ballay siblings stopped on the landing.

“The contract is due, Ol.” Sweat ran down Ellie’s pale skin. “I don’t want to think about what will happen if all three of us aren’t here.”

“I talked to him this afternoon.” Oliver ran his hands through his short cropped blond hair. “Everything was set.”

“What about the bodies downstairs?” Ellie’s eyes flared. “No one was supposed to be here.”

“The rest of the crew was packing up when I left. I have no idea why Nicky, much less Jordan were here.”

“How are we supposed to pay up?” Ellie took a step down. “If he did this to Jordan, he was just her boyfriend. And Nicky was some kid on the crew. What do you think he’s doing to Angelique?”

Oliver pushed past to march down the stairs. “Come on, it’s almost time.”

Careful to keep a safe gap, they were easy to follow with the snipping back and forth, blaming each other. 

I found a hiding spot on the ground floor in an empty coat room. I hid in the back, in the darkness, but the siblings were perfectly framed in the hallway.

Three knocks came at the front door. Ellie straightened Oliver’s tie, and smoothed her dress when he moved to open the door. I couldn’t see the figure, but I knew the voice.

“May I come in?”

JayJay stepped into the hallway. He wasn’t as scrawny as before, and looked younger, but if it wasn’t him, I’d give Ramble a bath in the Betty’s back seat. He filled out the same worn overalls, and had found an old-style work blouse.

Oliver stood to the side, “Please come in.”

JayJay transformed on crossing the threshold. The overalls faded away to be replaced head to toe in a scarlet suit, shirt and shoes. I couldn’t see the detail, but white and gold embroidery traced patterns on every piece of clothing. He adjusted a white fedora with a scarlet band and feather, and tapped a wooden cane on the floor. “Much better.”

Damn. I tightened my grip on the pistol. I’d definitely not come with enough hardware to take on an elder bokor. 

“Are you ready for the ritual?” JayJay looked up to the marble landing. “Where is your dear sister?”

“We.” Oliver swallowed. “With all due respect, we thought she might be with you?”

“Why would you think such a thing?” JayJay flashed a mouth full of pearly whites. “Our agreement is clear, even if your side hasn’t lived up to the bargain for several years.”

“For which we have worked to rectify our error. As you know, we were not aware, until recently.” Ellie offered a bottle of rum and a cigar to the voodoo priest. “And we have done everything in our power to prepare.”

“We shall see.” JayJay took a hard draw from the rum. “So, what shall we do about a vessel then?”

“We do have two other bodies for you.” Ellie opened the ballroom door. “This vessel, he comes from wealth and power, more than we have ever had. He should be more than— “

“Suitable?” JayJay seemed to study the body on the couch. “He looks like he could be acceptable.”

Oliver ran in and tried to lift the corpse. “Excellent, give me one minute— “

“Except for the terms of the contract are quite clear.” JayJay shook his head, feigning sadness. “It must be someone from the du Ballay line, preferably the youngest of the generation who has reached legal age. Then, and only then, am I free to roam, and to ensure your family maintains its wealth and power. Since my last host has died, you can see how your family has suffered.”

“Ellie will do it.” Oliver blurted out. “She’s next in line.”

The young woman’s jaw fell slack, “No… I… Oliver, you bastard.”

“Another ideal candidate.” JayJay traced her jawline with his finger. “If only your daddy was your father. You might want to have a talk with your momma.”

“No.” Oliver shouted, drawing a gun that shook in his hands. “Let me find Angelique.”

“Maybe the fella’ that was here earlier today has her.” JayJay moved the barrel of the gun aside with the tip of his cane.

“Who?” Oliver plead. “Who was here?”

JayJay shrugged, “Big fella, dark like me. I chased him off, but maybe he came back.”

Oliver dropped to his knees. “Give me time.”

“Degare du Ballay drew up the contract when he asked for my services. We have until sunrise this day to complete the ritual.” JayJay pushed the tip of his cane into Oliver’s chest. “Shall we get on with it? Unless you want to wait another year. I don’t see you holding out that long, seeing how the old homestead looks. Maybe the new owners will be agreeable to—”

Ellie brought a vase down on her brother’s head, knocking him out. “Like you said, let’s get on with it.”

“Maybe there is some of that cold du Ballay blood in your veins.” JayJay pointed at the landing with his cane. “Shall we?”

“A little help?” Ellie grabbed Oliver under the armpits and tried to drag him.

“Sorry my dear.” JayJay tipped his hat. “I’m not exactly corporeal this moment. You’ll have to manage.”

I couldn’t stand by and watch, even if all they were doing was fulfilling a generational blood contract. I tapped the gun barrel on the door frame and stepped from the shadows. “Your sister was right. Nothin’ like sibling love.”

Ellie dropped Oliver, drawing a pained grunt.

“Well damn.” JayJay tapped his cane on the floor. “Thought we was rid of you.”

“This him?” Ellie picked up Oliver’s gun from the floor.

JayJay nodded. “Sure is.”

“Where’s my sister?” Ellie’s hand shook almost as bad as her brothers when she took aim. 

She was as likely to shoot herself as me.

“Dead and gone.” I lowered my weapon, holding it at my side, hoping it would calm the girl. “I guess your brother did it? Or was it you, JayJay?”

Ellie cut her eyes, “What’s he talking about? Is Angelique dead? Did you kill her?”

JayJay clasped the handle of his cane with both hands. “I would never do such a thing. I prefer my hosts still living. At least until I make myself comfortable.”

“What about the other two?” I edged closer to the door. “I know you took them. Where’s their souls?”

“I needed to get my strength up for tonight.” JayJay flashed his too-white smile. “But since you mention it, I am still feeling a little… peckish.”

“I don’t think you’ll find me to your liking.” I should have let Rumble take the spirit out when I had the chance. Now, it was going to have to be the hard way. I pocketed the useless pistol. “Why don’t we step out and leave these folks to their house.”

JayJay got a look like he’d been slapped with the ass end of a rotten carp. “Well damn me. You a reaper.”

“I didn’t damn you, JayJay.” I fumbled in my pocket for the vial of holy water. “I’m just here to give you a ride. You, and that girl.”

The click of the hammer being drawn pulled my attention. Ellie’s hand steadied. “Where’s my sister?”

“I’m sorry miss, but she’s already dead.”

“That’s unfortunate. But her body can still be used to satisfy the contract.” Ellie cut a glance at JayJay. “Isn’t that right.”

“Depends.” He rapped the cane on the floor three times. “But if he still has her spirit, and the body isn’t too far damaged or gone, it’ll do.”

“Let’s go, Mister Reaper.” Ellie motioned with the gun. “My sister, if you please.”

Not being in the business or reaping the not yet dead, and not having a better alternative, I raised my hands. “She’s in my car. Just up the drive.”

I kept my hands away from my sides and walked out the front door, and down the stairs. Ellie’s footsteps sounded like she was close behind me, but not close enough to disarm her.

“Stop.” Ellie called, and walked around to face me, keeping a safe distance. “Where would your car be?”

I pointed, “Just up the drive.”

“Keys?”

I wasn’t about to leave Betty under Angelique’s control. It was one thing to leave her sitting in the seat, but I wasn’t going to let the dead take her for another spin. I pulled the keys out of my duster pocket, and palmed something else in the process. I jingled the keys, palmed them, and tossed what turned out to be a chunk of jerky. 

Rumble lived up to his name, and let out a cry that could make the dead run a marathon, and snagged the treat in midair and slammed into Ellie in the process.

JayJay stood on the front porch, his grin turning sour. I tossed the vial of holy water into the brick over his head, covering the spirit in a shower.

Ellie shrieked like a scream queen on an audition, but JayJay simply wiped away the water. 

“Well now.” JayJay rubbed his chin with his hand. “Seems it’s only fair if I bring in a little help of my own.”

JayJay took a hit off the rum bottle, and lit the cigar with a snap of his fingers. I could only stand there frozen while he blew smoke rings and blew fire after shots of the harsh liquor, and chanted off an old incantation.

The kid in the driveway stood up behind the van, his milky white eyes now pitch black and a bit of drool running down his chin. A nearby spirit, barely visible in the light, turned and glared at me. The other body from inside staggered out with the same midnight stare.

“You’re a damn necromancer?” I sputtered. The Powers That Be really needed to start giving me better intel. 

“I am a Bokor.” JayJay traced a sigil in the air with the cigar. “Necromancy is just a hobby, but a lot more interesting since my transcendence.”

I sent out the first blessing that came to mind, and damned if it wasn’t grace for dinner, but it was enough to distract JayJay and break his hold. My pet hellhound passed me with a look somewhere between ’this is the most fun you’ve let me have in years’ and ‘I only need to be faster than you.’

I pointed the direction with my middle finger. “Just get to Betty.”

I risked a glance behind me. Spirits were gathering into an army, but not chasing me yet.

Ellie, on the other hand, was chasing me waving a pistol in the air, and wasn’t so fast in heels. I ignored her threats and curses. From there, she was about as likely to hit me with a snub nose as win the lottery with someone else’s lost ticket. I decided to cut through the woods and not follow the winding driveway. 

See you tomorrow for Part IV!

Remember to hop on over to check out the other participants offerings as well.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The Word Whisperer

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Blog

M’habla’s!

CURIOSITIES

Frighten Me

Winnie Jean Howard

Always Another Chapter

Balancing Act

James P. McDonald

greydogtales

October Frights Spooktacular Book Promo

Looking for some horror and supernatural scares? Need some new books for Halloween? Check out the October Frights Spooktacular.

https://storyoriginapp.com/to/NUWnFAv

October Frights 2019 – Night at Du Ballay Part II

Welcome back to the 2019 October Frights Blog Hop! If you missed Part I, start here!

Betty’s original caretaker, I couldn’t say anybody owned her, that just wouldn’t be right, he liked to talk to the people he carried to the other side. I can’t say for sure how she does it, I’ve got my ideas, but she does it for me too. Sometimes. If you ask just right.

Tonight, I was having about as much getting lucky as a virgin in a vacant nunnery.

“Betty, I promise you a nice sponge bath, and the best waxing.” I’d been pleading for a while. “I’m sorry about earlier, but I got my ass whipped too. I need to speak to the young lady. All business, no need to be jealous.”

I could feel her grumbling. It was part of the bond I had with her, but I felt her equivalent of an eye roll that was about as good as I was going to get tonight after driving her through the bushes.

A white vapor took on a vaguely human form in the seat beside me, made of ectoplasm pulled in from the ether. I’d have get this done quickly.

“What?” The girl’s voice echoed hollowly, “What’s happening?”

“Stay focused on me.” I leaned in closer to get her attention. “This is going to be a little hard to hear, but— “

She turned to look into the back. “Oh god, is that me? I’m—“ She shrieked, throwing an ectoplasmic shower everywhere. I’d have to clean it up before it left a stain. 

“Yes, you’re dead.” I held out my hands to try and calm the specter down. “Now just hold on a minute so we can talk.”

“What kind of freak are you?” She screeched, and slimed my face with a ghostly slap. “I demand you help me right now. Get me to a hospital.”

I shook my head. This was always the hard part. “That won’t do no good, you’re already long past that point. But I can still— “

She slapped at the seats to crawl over them to her body. She straddled herself, pounding on her own chest, but her hands just slipped straight through. Next thing I knew, she was slipping into her meat suit like a drunken toddler into his dad’s overalls.

This never ended well. “Miss… don’t… damn.”

Her eyes fluttered open. Her limbs fluttered like she’d been connected to a 110 outlet. In under a minute, she thrashed and howled in a tantrum that would make any two-year-old proud.

“When you’re done.” I turned around and settled into the driver’s seat, “We can talk.”

As it turns out, spoiled heiresses really can throw a better than average hissy fit. I wanted to step out of the car so I didn’t have to hear all the ranting, cursing, and threats, but Betty gave me a subtle hint that I’d asked for it, and if she had to listen to it, so did I.

And I did, until I’d had enough. I stepped out of the car, and opened up the back hatch. The little princess tried to spit at me, but what came up was a whole lot less pleasant. It missed me, but left a nice red clot on her dress.

I settled down on the bumper “You done?”

She slammed her hands down on the slab. “Let me go.”

I folded my arms, and leaned back against the open door. “I will, but you need to know something first.”

“Let me go, or I’ll scream.”

I grinned, showing my gold tooth, “You mean something different than what you’ve been doing the last twenty minutes?”

“Look here, goth pimp, or whoever you are, I’m wealthy beyond anything your feeble mind can imagine.” She tilted her head to use whatever feminine wiles might have worked when she was alive. “Let me go, and set this right, and you’ll be paid well. We won’t even discuss this kidnapping thing.”

“Do you know your name?”

“Of course, you imbecile.” She rolled her half-dead eyes. “I’m… I’m…”

She was starting to lose her memory. It shouldn’t have been happening that quickly, unless she’d been dead longer than I thought. Days longer.

“Angelique du Ballay.” She blurted out, “Heiress, television star, and soon to be a movie star.”

Denial runs deep in the south. 

“I’ll let you go, but we need to have a chat.” I rolled the slab out. “Don’t try to run. You don’t have long.”

“Let me go.” She locked a chilling gaze on me. “I’ll be happy to chat and make arrangements for your payment, but I’m not saying anything else as long as I am tied down.”

I took a deep breath, and sighed. I loosened the three straps, and helped her to sit up. “I’ve got a couple of questions.”

“Certainly, just give me a minute to stretch.” 

She arched her back, leaned over into some yoga pose, and came up with a right hook square into my jaw.

I shook my head and grunted. It wasn’t a surprise she’d go for it, and I rubbed my jaw and watched her get to twenty feet away where she flopped to the ground and convulsed for a few seconds, and was out. Betty’s power was all that was keeping her soul and body together and animated. And she wasn’t about to give this harpie anything more than the bare minimum.

I rolled the slab into place and closed the back hatch. I opened the passenger door, and fetched her body, dropping her into the front seat. It took her a few seconds to come around, and she made a break for it. Again. And again. 

“Okay miss, are you getting the hint yet?” I stood in front of her, blocking her from running again. It was only funny the first couple of times, and I had stuff to do. “You can’t get more than a few feet from the car. I just have a couple of questions about what you and your friends were doing.”

“What did you do? Did you do this to them too?” She stared at her bruised hands. “Where are they?”

“I ain’t done anything to you, or your friends back there.” I pointed towards the house. “And you’re a damn sight better off than they are.”

“What?” Angelique slammed and locked the door, slid into the driver’s seat, and cranked Betty. 

I shuddered as branches scratched at Betty’s paint as she was backed through the woods. I was never going to hear the end of this. 

I ran to try and keep up, and once I saw she was turning up the drive to the house instead of off the grounds, I gave a small sigh between pants. I needed to cut back on the beignets.

By the time I caught up, Betty was parked right behind the white van. Angelique held her hand over her mouth, staring at the dead hipster, sobbing with bloody tears trying to escape her eyes.

“I’m sorry, miss.” I rest my hand on her shoulder just enough to get her attention. “But we don’t have long, and I need some answers.”

“You need answers?” She shrieked, becoming more banshee like with each moment, “What about me? You drugged us. That’s why I feel so weird. This is all some promotional stunt. Marcus is so fired when I see him. Come on out you bastard. Nicky, get up. Nicky.”

“Miss.” I opened Betty’s passenger door. “It’s no stunt. You’re dead. He’s worse than dead. And someone has plans for you based on how I found your body. So, if you’d get back in the car so we can talk, I may be able to help you. Help him, and the other one inside.”

“Worse than dead? What’s worse than dead?” She ran for the house screaming for someone, but only made it a few feet before collapsing again. 

I picked her up and put her in the car, and backed Betty away to a quiet spot just off the main drive. I didn’t want her looking at the body of her friend, or JayJay to show up and decide I was responsible for what happened to a member of the family.

“Jordan?” She mumbled. “Jordan is dead too?”

“Gray suit? High and tight cut? Looks like he hasn’t cut a smile in fear of getting a wrinkle?” 

Angelique nodded.

“Yeah. He’s like your friend.” 

“What’s worse than dead?” Her voice a whisper, “Who did this?”

“I don’t know who did it, or how exactly.” I rest my hand on her shoulder. “But if you’d been dead like them, we wouldn’t be talking.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your soul was still attached to your body.” I looked for any sense of understanding, and came up snake eyes. Crap. “Theirs’s weren’t any more. And it wasn’t like the usual deal where they went on to the light. They got sucked dry.”

Her bottom lip quivered, “What happens to them now?”

“Could be nothing, could be something.” I caught a glimpse of headlights as the went up the drive. “But I need to know a few things.”

She nodded.

“Do you have any idea how you died?”

She shook her head. “I wasn’t feeling well after the afternoon shoot. My brother Oliver was here for a mostly staged fight for the cameras. Emmie, my sister, was supposed to be here too, but called Oliver back to the city. I was so aggravated, I had a migraine come on.”

“Any other siblings? Close family?”

“Not here. Mom and dad are in London. There’s only the three of us. A few distant cousins on mom’s side.” She twirled her hair in what looked to be an old habit, and cocked her head at me. “Don’t you watch our show? Everyone does. We put everything out there.”

“Problems with your family then? Siblings?”

“Nothing serious.” She tried to rub life back into her hands. “With the show and all the business stuff, we haven’t been together as much, but we’re closer than ever. We’re planning a trip abroad as soon as the season wraps. Time to rejuvenate the family business, as it were.”

I shook my head. Something wasn’t fitting, but I didn’t know what. I looked at her dress. “Are you into voodoo? A Practitioner?”

“What?” She gasped. “You mean like the tourist stuff?”

“I’ll take that as a no.” From the looks of it, she wouldn’t be able to stay in the body much longer. The stress was making it even worse. “Is there anyone that would want to kill you, and your family?”

“I get hate mail.” She shook her head. “Mostly jealous bitches.”

“What’s the deal with the empty house? The work being done?” I was digging for scraps, but sometimes big renovations opened up doorways to the spirit world that were better left closed.

Angelique shrugged, “We said we were closing it down to use as the set for this season of All About Angelique, but really, we couldn’t keep the doors open. Needed some of the pieces to keep up appearances in New York and Los Angeles. The show is keeping the family propped up. Company business has taken a few hits in the last few years. But don’t let anyone know. We hoped between the show, and turning it into a high-end resort we’d be back in the black.”

I didn’t give two damns about their family business, and no one I knew would either. “But, has anything strange been happening?”

“Not really. Couple of locals trying to sell pics of me and the show.” She tried to fold her arms, but rigor was making it difficult. “One of the few people left that work on the property while we’re shut down gave me the creeps. Really skinny. Skin a lot darker than yours.”

Sounded like it could be the specter. “Name JayJay ring a bell?”

“Family legend about an overseer during the plantation days. Led the revolt that burned the house to the ground. Something about my however many great-grandfather making a deal with him to rebuild the plantation and get everyone back to work.” 

“Could the man that creeped you out have been JayJay? You ever seen him?”

She giggled. “It’s an old folk tale for the tourists. They love ghost stories. It wasn’t a revolt that burned the house to the ground. His first wife went nuts and tried to kill everyone, burned the house to the ground cause grandpa had some side action. Supposedly, this JayJay saved the rest of the family, and was rewarded for it. But I don’t think much of it was true, except for grandma whatever being a whacked-out bitch. Ever since then, it seems like there’s a big loss every generation or so, but on the show, we proved it’s no worse than any other family. You don’t believe ghost stories, do you?”

I took a deep breath and pointed to her. “I’m talking to one right now, ain’t I?”

“Oh god.” She trembled, “What’s going to happen to me now? Am I going to be stuck wandering these grounds, just another story to sell tickets?”

“I can’t speak for how they’re going to handle marketing your death.” I wiped the sheen of sweat off my scalp. “But I can make sure you go where you’re supposed to. And maybe even help your friends.”

“So that’s it?” She pounded on the dashboard. I could feel Betty counting down ’till this one was just a corpse again. “I’m too young, too rich, and too beautiful for this to happen. I have a hit show. Who can I talk to? There’s always a deal to be made.”

I flipped my middle finger out the window. I didn’t need to look to know one of old scratches underlings would be sniffing around outside to try for a last-minute fire sale for her soul. Inside this car was one of the few places they couldn’t go. “I’m sorry, but dead’s dead. Nothing can be done about it. Nothing good.”

“But there is something.” She leaned in towards me.

“Not for you.” I bit my lip and shook my head. “And no deal that could be done is worth it. Take my word on it. It wouldn’t be what you think.”

“But.”

I drew my pistol and aimed it at her head. “I said no. Better I snuff what you have left out than let that happen.”

I didn’t have to hear Betty to know she was telling me to take it outside. One more mess and I’d be walking.

Angelique nodded, and folded her hands in her lap in something resembling prayer, for someone who hadn’t done it since they were still playing with dolls.

I hoped it’d work out for her.

A second set of headlights cut up the drive through the darkness. 

She’d have to work it out for herself.

Come on back tomorrow for Part 3, and remember to hop on over to check out the other participants offerings as well.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The Word Whisperer

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Blog

M’habla’s!

CURIOSITIES

Frighten Me

Winnie Jean Howard

Always Another Chapter

Balancing Act

James P. McDonald

greydogtales

October Frights Spooktacular Book Promo

Looking for some horror and supernatural scares? Need some new books for Halloween? Check out the October Frights Spooktacular.

https://storyoriginapp.com/to/NUWnFAv

October frights 2019!

It’s that time of year again! The October Frights Blog Hop.

This year’s offering is a little five part story called Night at Du Ballay

I hope you enjoy, and check out everyone else too!

Night at du Ballay

I don’t recommend you grab a hellhound by the scruff of his neck, ‘less you raised ‘em in the pit from a pup and you’re fluent in a corrupted dialect of Enochian. I hadn’t, and I couldn’t, and Rumble and I had quite a rough start. 

Now? He’s the only one I trusted, but a little beef jerky bought a lot of loyalty.

If it’s got 2 legs, it’s gonna betray you some time, somehow. And in my line of work, you end up dead. Or in my case, dead for good. And the folks waiting for me on the other side weren’t exactly waiting on me with biscuits and gravy and a jar of shine.

“Stay out of sight.” I opened the door of my 1951 Cadillac coroner’s ambulance, just as black and shiny as the day she rolled off the lot. Except for a few dents and dings that came with the business, Betty was old enough to collect Social Security if cursed steel and rubber was eligible for such a thing. Course, I’d be giving the actuary a migraine if I was on the rolls.

 I ruffled the hounds mangled ear and fed him a chunk of gas station beef jerky. “You know what to do.”

The springs squealed as two hundred pounds muscle and teeth covered in oily raven black fur pounced silently onto the driveway. He glanced back, a red flash in his eyes, and vanished into the dark.

From the gates, the driveway snaked between the basket oaks for more than a mile before the famous main house of Blue Oaks Plantation came into view. Once, it had been a big tourist spot, but had been closed to visitors for a few months. Supposed to reopen in the spring. 

Spotlights turned the centuries old plantation house into a glowing white beacon in the Louisiana marsh surrounded by no small number of spirits stranded on the mortal plane, passing through like moths to the flame. Tomas du Ballay had built it as the center of his indigo empire in the early 1700’s, and his grandson had rebuilt it a couple of generations later after a revolt had managed to burn all but the front six marble columns to the ground. His decedents still owned it, but the family business had turned to mergers and acquisitions instead of dying jeans. 

When the call came, it sounded like a case of light possession. Maybe one of the old spirits still hanging around the place was pissed off. Nobody cared as long as the ‘haints stuck to themselves and each other. Making a little rich girl who was famous for being famous levitate on her reality show was another matter. Maybe she’d taken a deal with a spirit to get a bump in the ratings.

I don’t have a television, and never really saw what the big deal was. People acting the fool for people sitting and watching fake lives instead of having their own real ones didn’t make sense to me.  

But the unwanted attention was enough for the powers that be to call him to do what he does, and send the unruly spirit wherever it belonged. 

From the looks of it, the call came a little late.

I parked a safe distance from a white Econoline parked to the side of the house and stepped into the sticky night air. Putting my trusty Smith & Wesson model 15 between me and the body slumped over the open doors and the equipment packed into the back of the van, I did a quick search before checking on the victim. The kid couldn’t have been more than in his mid-twenties, but his eyes were milky white and his spirit long gone. The slit in his throat sprayed blood all over his scraggly beard and a bunch of glowing boxes and screens that looked expensive. Whatever did this was hungry for souls. 

It was hell wearing a leather duster any time of year in the swamps, but gave a healthy level of protection. I wiped away the sheen of sweat beading on the stubble of my scalp. If I didn’t keep it shaved close, it’d be an unruly afro in a week. Besides, hair didn’t grow to well in the big scar along the left side of my head. My daily reminder of what happens when you get too confident and stop paying attention to the little things. It’s how I got this job.

I moved around the left side of the house, thankful for the little breeze coming in off the river. I took a peek into the main ballroom across the wraparound porch and through the open floor to ceiling windows. A dozen or more production lights bathed the great room in a stark and unnatural aura that spilled outside like an overfilled champagne fountain. The faint specter of a young child dressed to work in the fields marched without a thought into one of the rivers of artificial light, seemingly washed away. I couldn’t be sure if she was gone, or was just too weak to be seen any more.

Moving to the rear of the house, the kitchen and other wing had a few scattered lamps, but no other signs of life. I climbed the stairs onto the porch, and found the back door of the main hall locked. Cupping my hands over the glass, it looked like the pedestal for a guest book had been knocked over. Maybe nothing. But I doubted it was a good sign.

Something tickled at me, sending a shiver down my spine. I spun to look, but I didn’t see anything. I tightened my grip on the pistol, marched down the stairs, and finished my lap around the house. 

I whistled to get Rumble’s attention, calling him closer to the house. Two short howls told me he was on his way. Mostly, I wanted to remind him not to go snacking on any of the unfortunates stuck and not yet able to cross over. 

The bottom step creaked under my weight. It wasn’t loose, just an old form of alarm system. A few loose boards could let out a squeal to rival an electric siren on a quiet night.

“Sumpin’ I can help you with?” A deep voice drawled.

I spun on one foot, and damn near spilled myself when my foot caught the baluster, but still brought the gun to bear on a shadow underneath one of the younger oaks. “Come on out.”

“No need for that.” The figure moved in enough to see a rail thin man in worn overalls and nothing else. “I’m JayJay. Overseer of this place. You is?”

I lowered the gun, knowing it wouldn’t do me any good with the spirit before me. A few patches were translucent, but for the most part he could pass as living, if you didn’t look too closely. “Galen. I got a call to come check on the du Ballays.”   

“You can see me.” JayJay moved a little closer. “Good. Now get on in your muleless wagon there and go.”

I could feel the smirk crossing my face. It pissed even me off if I looked in the mirror at the wrong time. “It looks like some things need attention here. I think I’ll stay a while. Why don’t you go on to your eternal rest and let me do my job?”

Before my foot could reach the second step, JayJay had a grip on my collar, and I couldn’t move.

“Now look, you’re no guest here, and you ain’t welcome.” The ghost released my collar and moved between me and the door in an instant. “You done being a domlon at this house.”

Protective spirits, especially ones bound to the land could be powerful. And like this one, stubborn. It didn’t surprise me he could touch me. I lived on the cusp of both worlds. For me to be able to interact with them meant some of them could do the same with me. I held my hands to my sides to look as non-threatening as I could, considering I was tempted to let Rumble have a snack. But since he seemed to think I was some kind of back yard snoop, I couldn’t blame him for being overprotective. He likely couldn’t help himself if he tried. “Now JayJay, I’ve been sent out to check on the house, and on the family. You ’n me want the same thing.”

“Even I can’t go in the house if’n none of the family here.” His eyes turned pitch black. “And ain’t none of ‘em home. You need to go before I make you get on.”

“They aren’t here?” I reached into the pocket of my duster for a vial of holy water. “Or they aren’t alive?”

“You sayin’ I ain’t safin’ my home?”

“Were you protecting the plantation against them?” I pointed to the van and the body on the ground, “Is that why you killed him?”

JayJay shouted something at me in a blend of creole, French, English, and string of sounds I couldn’t put together. He clicked his tongue and a red cloud exploded around me, launching me well into the driveway. 

Grateful for the first time that day I’d worn the duster, otherwise I’d have been shredded by the blast or the pavement. As it was, I wiped away a couple of blood trails from my face.

JayJay narrowed his onyx gaze, the look on his face saying he was a little on the shocked side I was getting up.

To be honest, I was too. He’d hit me with a punch of some hoodoo that made me feel like my guts were turned to jelly. So far, I wasn’t puking blood, but I might feel better if I did. I managed to get to my feet and stagger back to Betty. I damn sure wasn’t going to die out here and become another lost soul on these grounds under JayJay’s watchful eye. Then again, it might be a better deal for me. 

I collapsed into the seat, gasping. I pulled in my leg, slammed the door and felt better instantly. Whatever he’d hit me with couldn’t come inside, and Betty gave me a little healing juice.

JayJay cut an impatient snarl at me, pulled a swirling red ball into the space between his hands, and pushed it at Betty, wrapping her in a scarlet cloud. 

I threw it in reverse and hit the gas, and backed over an azalea just before the cloud erupted in flames and vaporized the bushes. Betty squealed in protest, and she’d make me pay for it later. 

I whipped up the drive like a hellhound was on my tail, but the specter held his ground on the front step. Once I’d gotten out of the sight of the house, I killed the lights, and pulled off the road. I opened the door, and the residual energy of whatever JayJay had thrown at me set my skin to tingling. It was going to take more than a detailed wash and wax for her for her to forgive me for that one.

I’d never seen anything quite like what JayJay threw at me. To have that kind of power meant he was bound to the land. From the looks of it, old blood magic, otherwise he’d be as faded as the rest of the shades on the property. He reminded me a cursed guardian spirit I’d cleared in the northwest part of the state. He’d been a great warrior sacrificed to protect a cluster of earthworks from a long dead people.     

If JayJay had been sacrificed and cursed to guard the property, I didn’t want to condemn him for eternity if I could help it.

I whistled and pulled a chunk of dried beef out of the bag. Rumble’s eyes glowed red and he flashed a mouth full of too sharp canines to trot out of the bushes. He’d watched the show, and thought it was funny to see me get my ass handed to me.

“Time to go to work.” I tossed the meat in the air for it to disappear in one swallow. “I need to keep the protector spirit busy. But don’t hurt him unless you have to.”

 Rumble growled, until I threw him another chunk. 

“I didn’t say you couldn’t have fun with him.”

The hellhound loped into the woods.  

I waited until I heard three short howls to close in on the house. I drove through the gardens, around the edge of the property and parked around the back in the loading area for the kitchen. Climbing up the stairs to under the mansion, I still had pulverized butterflies in my stomach looking for their wings, but they disappeared when I slipped through an open window into the ballroom. The lights felt warm on my skin and a faint ozone scent hung on the air. Most of the furniture had been moved to one corner to make space for the lights, cameras, and other equipment I no idea what the hell it was for.

As I got closer to the lights, it was almost like sitting on the beach at high noon in July, only I didn’t have to dig sand out of my shorts. My exposed skin was hot and tingling, but not painful. How the hell could people spend so much time under these things to be on camera and not get roasted?

The closer I got to the double doors leading to the hall, an old friend tickled at my nose. Death has a particular mix of smells, depending on how it happens, but you can’t mistake it. Tucked between two Queen Anne couches was the body of a man in an expensive suit. Mid-thirties, close shave and severe haircut. He had a few scrapes and bruises, but nothing serious enough to kill him. Except his head was turned almost all the way around his back. I moved to where I could check on him. No question he was dead, and had been a couple hours. His spirit was long gone, and his eyes were the same milky white of the guy outside.

I pulled the pistol out and held it at my side. I couldn’t be sure it would do me any good, but if I was goin’ down, I damn for sure wouldn’t be the only one bleeding.

I stuck my head into the hall and looked towards the front door. It looked like JayJay was gone. Probably still chasing Rumble, if not the other way around.

The formal dining room across the hall was dark and in order. So was the kitchen. A lamp cast shadows in an office full of charts and a desk covered in paperwork. The other rooms on the ground floor seemed all but empty. No furniture. No art. It looked like all of the crap that went along with being this rich had been taken elsewhere, but if all they used the old house for was some bad show, maybe they wanted the good stuff in their other houses. Wasn’t like any of them actually lived here any more. Still, it was creepy to be so empty and hollow.

My footsteps echoed on the grand marble staircase as I moved to the second floor. On the landing, it looked like some props from a Bourbon Street tourist voodoo shop were scattered around for effect. The lights were set up, but off. I turned one on to break the gloom. Except for a few tools and some equipment, the whole second floor was empty too. Gutted down to the studs and a few original plaster walls. What the hell were these people doing?

I opened the double doors leading to the top floor. The sign read ‘Private Residence.’ 

On the other side, a dark wooden staircase split and wrapped around upwards. One side had one of those rail chairs for old folks instead of an elevator. I took the other side. Two lights were on in the east wing. The west was pitch black. The first room had racks of clothes and a couple of oversized suitcases full of clothes. It looked like the wardrobe for the staff when they were open for tourists.

I passed a couple of dark and empty rooms to the end of the hall, and the other light. I could fell it before I came around the corner. A body lay on the bed, arms at her sides, fully dressed in a white gown with a red sash belt. Her golden hair was splayed perfectly like a halo. 

The body was staged like damn Sleeping Beauty.

I checked for some sign of life, knowing it was useless before I did it. She was still warm, but rigor was starting to set in. Couldn’t have been dead more than a few hours.

It was Angelique du Ballay, the youngest of the three kids. 

I lifted her eyelid, and was greeted by lifeless blue eyes. I could feel her spirit was still attached. 

Whoever… whatever had done this could still be around, but it didn’t look like JayJay could get in without permission, I wasn’t betting it was him. But it was looking more and more like someone was playing with old school hoodoo. And she looked like an initiate ready to move to the second year.

What a pain in the ass.

I didn’t really want to do it, but I needed some answers. And there was one way I could get them from her. It just wasn’t going to be pleasant for either of us. 

I picked her up in my arms, and with some work, the rigor settled enough where she was like carrying a hundred-pound rag doll. I debated putting her in the chair to go down the one flight of stairs, but decided it would be more work by the time it was all said and done to throw her over my shoulder.

The late October night air had picked up a chill on the wind since I’d gotten here. It was getting late. If someone was planning a ceremony, it would be soon time to start.

I opened the rear door and rolled out the slab. It was meant for coffins, or at least a gurney, but I was in a hurry. And I wasn’t planning on going anywhere with the body for it to bounce around. I strapped her down, rolled the slab back in, and shut the door. I climbed in the driver’s seat, and had Betty crawl to a quiet corner away from the house. No need to be interrupted by some damn cult looking for their rag doll. Or errant paparazzi catching a shot of me with an heiress’ body.

Come on back tomorrow for Part 2, and remember to hop on over to check out the other participants offerings as well.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The Word Whisperer

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Blog

M’habla’s!

CURIOSITIES

Frighten Me

Winnie Jean Howard

Always Another Chapter

Balancing Act

greydogtales

October Frights Spooktacular Book Promo

Looking for some horror and supernatural scares? Need some new books for Halloween? Check out the October Frights Spooktacular.

https://storyoriginapp.com/to/NUWnFAv

#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part VI (The Finale)

Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Welcome to the sixth and final installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tale as much as I did bringing it to you!

Thad turned down the flame coming from a glass oil hurricane lamp, poking his head around the side. “And welcome back to our live Halloween special.” Thad sat down at the table on the wooden dock. The still air didn’t even bother the candles glowing on the table, or the ones carefully placed atop each wooden piling. Gentle waves licked the floating dock, not enough to rock anything, but giving a serene but eerie soundtrack to the night.
“So far tonight, we have seen and heard a few interesting things, but it’s been pretty quiet overall. “ The camera panned back to reveal those gathered around. “You met her earlier, but with me now is Miss Amber Simpson, and her partner in both the business and mediumship, Derek Greene. And in a rare event indeed, my producer Tiffany is rounding out our participants for the highly anticipated séance.”
Amber tugged her corset down to be able to breathe. She’d been in it for much longer than usual, and was ready for the evening to be over. “Happy to hear you’ve had a good evening around our little homestead.”
“Is there anything you would like to prepare us –“ Thad leaned into the camera, “and our audience at home to know about what’s about to happen. Who might we talk to tonight?”
“We have a couple of resident spirits, which if we’re lucky may stop by and say hello.” Amber glanced in the direction where she could feel the spirits waiting. “Lula Rose and Viola Todde who lived and died on the property. Beyond that, who knows? Is there anyone either of you might ask to come through?”
“It’s interesting you ask that.” Thad moved to take in some of the flickering light of the candles. “In doing research for the trip, I knew of course I had family from the area, but I found out I actually have a connection to the property. Earlier tonight, we explored a few of the odd happenings over the years, including the accident that claimed six people, and none of those bodies were recovered. One of them was a man by the name of Clarence Henry Wilkins. It turns out, he was my great, great, great, great uncle on my mother’s side of the family. And I’m to understand he disappeared with Constance Todde.”
“Constance. She has upon occasion made her presence known.” An ulcer endeavored to will itself to form in Amber’s stomach, and she tried to discretely rub away the twitch in her nose. “Thank you for sharing your family history. We’ve never had any of the young men lost that day come to visit, but we could surely offer an invitation.”
“Let’s do that when our last participant arrives. I met one of your performers earlier, the one who does Constance for you.” The cameraman zoomed in on Thad’s wry grin, and swung to Amber.
Amber’s mouth hung open wide enough to trap a bat.
“Problem, Miss Simpson?”
“No problem, Mister Taylor.” Amber locked eyes with the host. “At least not for me. I don’t have any performers, or actors, or cast. Other than Derek and myself, we have a few grounds people.”
“We can clear this up right now.” He pointed to the end of the dock. “Here she comes now.”
The cameraman swung around. “What are you talking about Thad? I don’t see anyone.”
Amber reached out for Thad’s arm, “You can see her?”
“So you’re related to dear Clarence.” Constance stalked forward. “Cousin Viola will be happy to hear that.”
“She’s right there.” Thad threw his hands out, almost brushing her. “Right in front of me.”
Tiffany stood up, “Are you high? Did you take something?”
Amber rose, edging her way around the dock, trying to get between Thad and the spirit. “Constance, what are you doing?”
“I slipped the oleander into your tea Viola, and Lula Rose’s for good measure so you wouldn’t want to go out on the boat.” Constance loosed the top button of her gown. “I slipped a few morning glory seeds into the pitcher of tea we took out on the water, you’d be surprised how attentive those boys were after that. All but Clarence.”
Entranced, Thad bit his lip.
Constance ran her icy finger down his face, wrapping her hand around his throat. “He denied me, whether it was the competition, or he really was that tied to courting you, he insisted we turn back.”
Excitement froze in Thad’s throat, his eyes going from slits to saucers in an instant as she swept him up and out of his chair with no more effort than plucking a flower. He managed to get out a small squeak as she continued her slow trek to the end of the pier.
Tiffany let out a gasp, “Tell me you’re getting this.”
Amber fingered the protective gemstone around her neck, “Release him, Constance.”
The specter’s had turned unnaturally to face her. “The tide ran out. Stranded us on the pluff mud. The sweltering heat got to us, and all the tea was gone. Clarence insisted he could lead us to dry land.”
Viola and Lula Rose swept in over the water.
“Free him, cousin.” Viola plead, “He’s done you no ill will.”
“We made it as far as the point down there.” She used her free hand to motion towards a large cluster of spartina. “That’s where the fool got stuck. The tide was coming in with a vengeance.”
“This is your last warning Constance.” Amber swallowed, hoping her plan would work. “Please put him down.”
“Got pulled into one of the deep patches. We tried to free Clarence, and instead, we all were pulled into that welcoming blanket of mud.” Constance flicker her wrist, sending Thad flying into the night and through the open arms and body of Viola, landing in an ungainly splash. “He’s free.”
“Don’t move,” Derek screamed. “Float on your back.”
Amber shook from head to toe, “Constance Todde, I hearby bind you to your bones until such time as they dissolve to dust or you’re ready to walk into the light.”
Constance’s spectral form jerked high into the air like shot from a catapult, shrieking a banshee’s curse until she disappeared into the night.
“I’m stuck.” Thad waved his arms frantically. “Help me.”
“Derek, get the skiff.” Amber grabbed the boat pole and ran to the end of the dock. Even as far as she could stretch, the feet between them may as well be miles. “Viola… Lula Rose… anything you can do?”
The specters reached down, pouring the little material power they help into trying to calm the man, his thrashing sending him deeper into the rich brown muck.
Derek paddled the flat bottom boat from the shore, stopping at the pier. Amber stepped into the aluminum boat, using the pole to pull them faster through the shallow waters.
Thad had sunk to his chest, Lula Rose and Viola failing to calm him.
Amber stuck the pole into the water in front of Thad, finding some purchase in the murky depth. “Grab hold and pull yourself up.”
He grabbed the pole with one hand, and the side of the wooden boat with the other, Amber trying to pull him in by his shirt with one hand, and keep them all balanced using the pole with the other. He worked himself loose against the vacuum of the mud below.
Halfway into the boat, he cut loose with a shrill cry, “Something’s got me. My leg.”
Amber reached under the water, finding his belt and dragging them both backwards into the boat. “Paddle Derek.”
A coffee colored skeletal hand, only visible by the bright lights the cameraman turned on and shone down upon them, held Thad’s leg in a death grip. Another hand, missing two fingers, grabbed the edge of the boat. A skull rose up, a few strands of hair still clinging on.
Amber kicked the skull, spinning the jaw back into the water.
“Dear Amber,” Constance’s form a thin sheen over the bones. “Is this what you had in mind?”
Viola swatted a hand at the skeleton, passing through bone and specter without effect. “Constance, this is not proper behavior for a lady of your stature.”
Thad whimpered, kicking his leg and trying to get free.
“And how should a second class haint behave cousin?” Constance pulled herself higher out of the water, rolling into the boat. “My father’s property is long turned underneath these monstrosities around us. I’ve had to spend my days with these rotting bones while you continue to relax in the family home.”
The boat bumped up against the dock. Amber pulled Thad onto the worn planks, nearly pushing a cameraman into the water.
Constance placed one foot on the dock to follow, “Derek, I see you thinking about paddling away. For your sake, I hope you reconsider.”
“Constance,” Amber shattered the hurricane lamp across the specter’s skull in a whoosh of flame. “It’s time for you to see the light.”

~

“It’s time.” Derek shouted from the office. “We get to see how they spun the evening.”
Amber put a plate of snacks on his desk and rolled her chair beside him, the laptop already streaming the feed from the ‘Haunted or Haint It? website.
“Good evening to all our loyal fans.” Tiffany sat in Thad’s leather chair, surrounded by memorabilia. “And welcome to the ‘Haunted or Haint It? recap from our live Halloween episode. As you can see, I’m in the driver’s seat. Have no fear, Thad will be back next week, he’s just on assignment.”
Derek chided, “Is that what the kids call it these days?”
“For all of you that tuned in on Halloween night, or have caught the replays, it was quite an experience. I want to say we’re still working through all the evidence, but spoiler alert, we’re giving Sand Crane Hall a solid seven out of ten that some degree of unknown, possibly-“
“Turn it off.” Amber closed the laptop. “What would it have taken for them to admit there was real proof of something besides this life?”
Lula Rose clasped her hands in front of her. She and Viola had taken their own advice, and now cast the visage of themselves from their early twenties. “That was kind of them to not totally… what’s the word…”
“Shaft us, Lula Rose. The words you’re looking for are screwing us over.” Amber reached for her vibrating mobile. “Hello?”
“Miss Simpson. Amber.” She knew the voice in an instant. “This is Tiffany-“
“Seven out of ten?” Amber fired back, “Really?”
The line was silent for several seconds. “Look, the network execs were pretty freaked out by what happened. It was a compromise. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. Besides, business has quadrupled during the day, and nighttime events are booked solid for the next six months out.” Amber chuckled, “How’s your boss?”
“They’ve completed all the tests, and found no drugs in his system. A miracle in and of itself. The psych ward should be cutting him loose in a day or two.” Tiffany took a deep breath, “The bones, Constance, you said you’re going to bury them in the family plot?”
“As soon as the police are done with them.”
“I’d like to come for the ceremony.” Tiffany coughed, “If that’s okay. No cameras, just to pay our respects.”
“That should be fine.” Amber looked at the spirit standing in the corner. “Constance seems fine with it. You can even bring a camera or two, if you like.”
“She’s there?”
“Yeah.” Amber nodded to the spirit. “She’s a whole lot nicer now that she’s seen the light.”

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this, and all the other 2017 #OctoberFrights entries!

 

The new Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3 is out, Spirits of the Season and Gnomebody’s Business are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. Sign up today!

A Longbow Initiative Story

 

#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part V

Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. We’re closing in on the finale tomorrow. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part IPart II, Part III and Part IV.

The unseasonably warm air buzzed with gnats and a john boat’s trolling motor navigating its way through the channel to the river. If whoever was in the boat didn’t get out on the water soon, the tide would be out and they’d spend most of the day stuck in the muck under the sun, Amber thought to herself.
A Sprinter van plastered with Thad’s face tinted with night vision green, and the ‘Haunted or Haint It?’ logo on the side rolled in, taking up three parking spots.
“Girl, keep that smile on, no matter what.” Derek squeezed Amber’s hand, and let go, pushing her out onto the porch. “I’ve got your back.”
She stumbled, and caught herself on the nearest column. “How sweet of you. Get out here.”
Thad slung a beaten leather bag over his shoulder, and waved on his way to the house. His producer Tricia, the short brunette crossfit junkie from New York, her mouth and legs running to keep pace with her meal ticket. Two more men unloaded gear out of the back of the van.
Thad whispered something to the producer, stopping the chatter. “Miss Simpson, you’ve already met Tricia Allison, my living and breathing calendar.”
“Mister Taylor.” Amber gave a curt nod. “Hi Tricia. Good to see you again. This is Derek Greene, my business partner and fellow medium.”
“That’s our camera crew Dave and Brad.” Thad halfheartedly pointed over his shoulder at the garden. Tricia whispered in his ear. “I mean, Dan and Steve.”
Amber chided, “Which is which?”
Thad looked over his shoulder, and realized he was pointing to the wrong spot.
“Green shirt is Juan, and the red shirt is Will.” Tricia nodded to the van and crew, cutting a look at Thad. “We’ll be filming B Roll most of the day, and scouting the location for tonight. We’ve brought the tables, chairs, candles and other props for the séance shoot, unless that’s a problem for you.”
“Not at all.” Amber held out with a map of the ground with numbers, and a stack of notes. “I would like a chance to look it over in the daylight though. Unless that’s a problem.”
Tricia shrugged, “Whatever. We do the walk and talk in the house at five once you’ve shut down for the day, set up the séance scene about seven and start the live feed promptly at nine. No cameras near or on your deal inside until they leave around ten-thirty. Is that acceptable?”
“That will be fine.” Amber shook hands with the producer. “Derek or I will be available should you need anything, but it is a busy day for us.”

~

Viola guffawed, “I floated my eyeballs through the air. The little fellow kept pointing them out and calling them really big ‘spirit orbs.’ He even chased me into the poison sumac. He’s going to be itching for days.”
“That Miss Tricia is quite insistent.” Lula Rose folded her hands across her stomach. The others seemed to like the different floral scents I used on them, except for her. I suppose she is not one for the botanicals. I did go knocking on things, they seemed to get all excited over a little noise.”
“I’m glad you ladies had fun with them today.” Amber shook her head at the two old ladies. Even curmudgeonly Viola looked to be enjoying teasing the television crew. “Constance? “
“Oh my.” Constance looked almost solid, except for the sunlight shining through her. “I managed to show enough of myself today that they said something about getting a walking shadow on their device. Kept complaining about their batteries running dry.”
“Remember, we want them to get hints you’re real, and get it on tape.” Amber looked out of the window of the office. “But no harm I suppose. Any idea where they’re at right now?”
“Down at the old dock I suppose.” Lula Rose mused. “They were carrying furniture out there. I can only imagine being eaten alive out there by the no-seeums.”
“It’s about that time. All of you keep them on their toes until tonight.” Amber rifled through her desk drawer, pulling out a can. It was late in the season, but the insects were still pretty bad. “I’ll carry down a bottle of bug spray as a sign of good faith.”
“I’d have thought the little bloodsuckers would leave them alone out of professional courtesy.” Derek picked up a box full of candles. “I’m going to get the ballroom set up while you go see your boyfriend.”
Amber gave him the universal hand gesture, indicating he was number one in her book, and took off for the stairs. Walking into the parking lot, bickering sounds drew her attention to the back of the Haunted or Haint It? van.
Tricia and one of the cameramen were snapping at each other. She threw her navy crusher onto the ground in a fit.
“Everything okay?” Amber announced at a safe distance.
“Everything’s fine.” Tricia gave a dismissive wave, and picked up her discarded hat. “A small technical problem.”
“Since you mention it,” Juan held up a battery pack, “Got somewhere we could charge a couple of these? We’re about tapped out. This happens sometimes.”
Amber suppressed a little grin and motioned to the house. “Derek is inside. You can charge them in the office.”
The cameraman ambled towards the house, and Tricia kept pace with Amber en route to the dock. “How did your day go on the grounds?”
“Fine.” Tricia’s voice could shave ice into a mint julep. “Couldn’t have gone any smoother. Are you ready to do a quick shoot, out at the dock while we still have some sunlight?”
The floating dock rested just above the water with the tide just starting to roll back in. Small gusts of unseasonable wind tousled the taller clusters of cordgrass, sending birds nesting down for the night into tantrums.
Thad sat in a hardback wooden chair, the setting sun turning the bands of clouds into a mosaic of scarlet and crimson with violet accents as his backdrop. “…research into the plantation, I found my own – no, that still isn’t right.”
“Thad.” Tiffany waited for the cameraman to give the high sign to step onto the creaking boards. “Let’s do the quick five so Amber can do her thing.”
Thad rose, and held out a chair for Amber. “We’re going to just do a few quick Q and A’s for tonight’s lead in, if that’s okay with you.”
Amber shifted to half-face the camera. A shadow flitted nearby.
Thad settled into his chair, “We’re here with Miss Amber Simpson, the –“
“Wait.” The cameraman raised his hand. “That weird clicking, scratching sound is back again.”
Amber focused in on the shadow. In the sunlight, it was harder to pick out the details, but Viola came into focus, rubbing her fingers along the foam of the boom mike. She waved a quick finger at the spirit, who decided to shuffle further onto the dock, causing the boards to groan.
“It’s quit again.” The cameraman gave a thumbs up.
“We’re here-“
“Damnit.” Tiffany swiped her hand at her floating hat and missed. The merest outline of Lula Roses’ thin and nimble form had the Navy crusher in her hands, sending Tiffany into a less interpretive dance than a toddler trying to find their legs and swinging at the old aunt coming in for a mustached kiss. Ultimately, the hat swiveled into the marsh. Tiffany held onto the post, and tentatively moved to step onto the ground.
“I wouldn’t do that.” Amber nodded to her merry pranksters. “You won’t get that hat back, and you’re likely to lose a shoe, or worse.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Tiffany hung from the wooden piling.
“The pluff mud giveth life, and beach winds take the odd sacrifice.” Amber lifted a pole used to pull in small boats off its hooks, and retrieved the lost clothing. Plucking the now muddy hat off the pole, she offered it back to its owner. “That’s one achievement unlocked to become a Carolina girl.”
“That’s supposed to be a good thing?” Tiffany sniffed the muddied hat, and shoved it into the camera bag.

~

“I’m going back to the van to splice to upload the video, and see what they can splice together out of this mess. The audio sucks, but it looked like your feed with Simpson was about the only clean shoot of the day.” Tiffany powered off the camera. “Can’t wait to get out of here.”
“Aw, you’re not buying into all this, are you?” Thad fired up his hand held night vision camera, doing a test sweep of the bay, still a sea of color from the warmth of the day against the chilled water.
“God no.” She scoffed. “Just some locations suck to shoot in, and this seems to be one. I’ll see you at the van in a half hour.”
“Sweet.” Thad gave the thumbs up. “I’m going to walk around a bit, and get a last lay of the land in the dark before we start the live feed.”
Thad pocketed the camera, and turned on a small red headlamp. Taking mental notes about spots to do live shoots, and figuring out the time he’d need to move between locations, something moving in the dark caught his eye.
A young woman followed him at enough of a distance, he didn’t hear her, and wouldn’t have even caught a glance if he hadn’t turned around at just the right time.
“Hi there.” She looked to be maybe twenty. Not old enough to take for a drink, but not that far out of his age range. The thin dress looked like it should be too light for the night air, but he figured she was staff. Or a lost tourist. “You here for the séance?”
“Oh no.” The girl edged closer, still half in the bushes.
“Are you staff here?” Thad palmed the camera. “You know we’re doing a TV shoot tonight.”
“I heard something about that.” She cocked her head to look around the bush. “You could say I help around here sometimes. When needed.”
“You know how I am? I’m the star of ‘Haunted or Haint It?.” Thad studied her movements. She seemed hesitant to leave, but fascinated at the same time. He wondered if she was part of how Amber pulled of her show. “Do you watch it?”
The girl twisted with a coy grin, her hands clutching the thin fabric of her dress. “Oh, I do not spend my time on such things.”
Thad paused, hoping she was start struck, or at least a fan. “Too bad. Here’s my card, and our usual show times, plus clips on the website. And here’s my cell number.” He jotted his cell down and put the card just out of the girl’s reach, then backed up a few steps.
She took the piece of paper, and tucked the memento into her dress. “How kind.”
“I’m Thad.” He reached out his hand. “Maybe I can see you later? We’ll be around all night.”
She shrugged. “I may be around. You can call me Constance.”
Gotcha, Thad grinned.

 

And we’ll see you tomorrow for the finale, Part IV!

 

The new Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3 is out, Spirits of the Season and Gnomebody’s Business are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. Sign up today!

A Longbow Initiative Story

 

#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part IV

Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway! (And the link even works now!)

Welcome to the fourth installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part IPart IIand Part III.

 

“What were you thinking?” Derek paced between the pair of workspaces in a back bedroom they used as a shared office. “Have you even informed the ladies yet?”
Amber stared out the window. For a mid-week day, they had good tourist traffic, and Harvey her groundskeeper was working double time to prepare for their big night. “I screwed up getting into bed with them to start with. But the cash flow will keep us going for months. And the publicity – the only reason I talked to them was what they’ve done for the Cistern Inn. They’re packed every day and night. Bobbi introduced me to the producer. It was a weak moment during a long boring day. “
“Thad Taylor loves nothing more than to tear a new one in any poor soul that doesn’t worship the ground he defiles.” He perched himself on the worn oak of his own desk. “You remember Cissi over at the Old Jail? They destroyed her career.”
“She was a hack.” Amber refused to look back at her business partner. “She deserved to get blacklisted after the way she behaved.”
“And more people he ruined just for sport.” He ticked off on his fingers. “The Sable Stable? The Westerly? Madame Anna Richardson? Marie Doubloon? Mohawk girl from the square?”
“Marie? Really? She pulled gauze dipped in yogurt out of her size EEE over the shoulder boulder holders as ectoplasm during her stage bit.” She shuddered. “That was just nasty.”
“You’re just jealous. And she had skills.” He slid to block her view of the outside. “The girls love her, and she’s legit. And can’t get a gig. That’s who you’re letting in here is the man who loves to tear down any spiritualist. He’s worse than Houdini, and believes even less. He is from around here, which is why he sees it as his mission to bust frauds.”
“We’re not frauds.” She threw her hands in the air, knowing that wasn’t the point. “We’re locked in now, so what do you propose?”
“I could take the day off.” Derek picked at a chip in his manicured nails. “That way I don’t go down with the ship.”
“Or?”
“We ask the ladies to put on one hell of a show for the non-believer.”

~

Amber gathered her family, both corporeal and not in the parlor.
Viola made a show, plucked each of her eyes from their sockets, and set them in a saucer on a tatted doily.
Amber tried to rub away her budding migraine, knowing they all had a long evening ahead. “Now what was that for?”
Viola looked back at her from two deep dark holes in her head. “Because I don’t see how this is going to happen.”
“That man was… disagreeable the other evening. I did not mean to eavesdrop, but you know how these walls echo.” Lula Rose pursed her lips, shuffling away from her sister on the settee. “He does favor someone, but for the life of me I cannot remember who.”
“Reminds me of Uncle Junior.” Viola huffed, “If you could buy the man for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he is…”
Amber stood up and waved at Derek. “You try.”
“Miss Viola, that is inappropriate. And a little creepy. Please put those things back in your head.” He hissed, “We’re all family here, and you might need that trick for tomorrow night.”
Viola blinked, and the milky balls were back where they belonged. “I may be caged, but I do not perform tricks for treats.”
Lula Rose turned, “It could be f-“
“Don’t you dare say it.” Viola poked her sister. “This will not be fun.”
Lula Rose looked at Derek, “I believe it could be a lively evening.”
“Viola?” Amber plead, “Please?”
“Fine. But if I do this, I want a week without disturbance. From any of you.” The ghost rocked back and forth, like she was making an effort to get out of her seat. She spun around to loom over Lula Rose. “Especially you.”
Derek swung an excited thumbs up. “Thank you ladies so much.”
Viola pivoted on a point in space, glaring at his gesture. “What about Constance? Has anyone thought about her?”
“Did someone call?” Constance’s head rose out from the potted ficus tree. Her body took form as she sauntered out of the bush. “How may I be of service to the family in its time of need?”
Amber flashed an ignored glare at Viola before turning to the spectral teen, “Tomorrow night, Halloween, we’re going to have a television crew here looking to prove you don’t exist.”
“My, what a quandary.” Constance made a scene of wedging herself between her cousins, false innocence flavoring her tone. “Are we looking to give them evidence to the contrary?”
“Maybe Constance. We want to give them enough to prove there may be something on the other side.” Amber rubbed the sudden perspiration coating her hands on her jeans. “But nothing harmful or destructive.”
“It would be my pleasure to do my small part with my cousins.” Constance reached out to grab her cousin’s hands.
Viola pulled her arms inside her girth like a vacuum was pulling her inside out. Lula Rose squirmed, but took the specter’s gesture.
Constance looked up as oblivious to Viola’s slight. “What is it you ask of us poor lost souls?”
Amber’s head throbbed, almost enough for her to lose the ability to focus on the spirits. “They want to have a séance on the dock near where you and your suitors took to the water on that unfortunate day. I think they might be interested in even doing an interview.”
“If you are willing to allow me, dear Amber, it would be my pleasure.”

 

And we’ll see you tomorrow for Part V!

The new <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Home-Summonings-Winter-Trilogy-Omnibus-ebook/dp/B072JMRCZ1/”>Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3</a> is out, <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Spirits-Season-Longbow-Initiative-Short-ebook/dp/B00OP1XKIY/”>Spirits of the Season</a> and <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Gnomebodys-Business-Longbow-Initiative-Novella-ebook/dp/B016XI574G/”>Gnomebody’s Business</a> are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. <a href=”http://eepurl.com/S9uGL” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Sign up today</a>!

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#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part III

Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Welcome to the third installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. If you missed them, here’s Part I and Part II.

 

Amber led fourteen of her guests from the parlor into the ballroom. Four tables formed a square in the center of the hardwood floors. A cluster of candles flickered on a column placed in the center, the small flames dancing on the movement of air from the people marching in to find their seats.  Every footfall echoed, hammering home the hushed whispers of the participants. They each found a place, leaving the high back chair for the medium.

Amber closed the double doors from the parlor, reignited the few candles scattered around the room that had extinguished themselves, and approached her throne for the evening. “Before we begin, I welcome all of you have joined us here before, and those of you for whom this is their first time. We will not be in perfect darkness, for this is a house where only light is welcome. Your eyes must be open to see, your ears open to sound. I can’t say who, if anyone will come through, but you are welcome to invite those who have passed over to join us. All I, and the spirits ask, is to be open minded and respectful. Any questions?” She walked around the chair, and pulled it beneath her with a groan from the wood.

Missus Fergus’ exaggerated praying, muted only by the heavy wooden doors, started up from the parlor as if on cue.

Lula Rose pinned the essence of a chrysanthemum bloom to her lapel. The flower she’d taken it from was starting to wilt, but the rest of the arrangement stayed vibrant. “Such a friendly group this time, don’t you think so?”

Viola rolled her eyes hard enough to look for a jackpot.

“H…hi. Am I in the right place?” The barely visible ghost of an old woman in a stiff blue dress looked around.

“That depends.” Viola huffed, taking the spirit by the hand, helping it become more solid.

“I remember you.” Lula Rose mimicked hugging the woman. “You’ve been here with the Society before. Welcome to this side of the table. I’m Lula Rose, and this is my sister Viola. This is our house.”

“Was.” Viola shook her head. “Was our house. But we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Am I?” The woman lost some cohesion, and fought to come back.

“Dead as a doornail.” Viola patted her arm. “And now you’re first called up at a séance. Go on over, Amber will introduce you, and pass on any messages you have. After, go on to the light. Then you get a little more choice about being at the living’s beck and call.”

“Thank you.”

Viola gave her a nudge. “Oh yeah, and you don’t have to keep looking like when they buried you. You can pretty much look however you want.”

The ghost ambled on, drawn to the candles at the center of the table, like a moth to the flame.

“That was quite nice of you, Viola.” Lula Rose pulled a pudgy older gentleman behind her. “Look who I found.  Mister McCalister. He’s a little reluctant.”

“Call me Jack.” His head wove around looking to see if his wife had come into the room this year. “I’d hoped to talk to Diane, but she’s not here.”

“She’s in her usual spot in the parlor, but I heard her tell her friend over there to ask for you.” Lula Rose guided him to the table. “I’m certain she’ll be happy to let Diane know you’re here.”

“I’ll go ahead and tell her to give old man Linden a thrill.” He marched the last few steps before tapping Amber on the shoulder. He shed nearly fifty years just making the trip. “I said ‘till death do us part, and she isn’t willing to come in and talk to me herself-“

“Good luck Mister McCalister.” Lula Rose shrank back and returned to her sister’s side. “That was… unexpected.”

“The old boy still has some fight in him.” Constance floated in through the wall. “I might have to find out if he’d like to stay around a little longer.”

“Don’t strain yourself on our account.” Viola stretched a finger towards the river. “I always love to see family. I love to see them come, but I love to see them go even more.”

“Fine, dear cousin. I can take a hint.” She wove an indirect path, easing just close enough to one of the participants to run her fingers along the lady’s neck, giving her a cold damp chill, and dousing a candle near the window she used as an exit. “I will see you soon.”

 

~

 

Amber watched the van pull out of the parking lot, and turned back into the house. The extra Cheerwine cake had gone over well, and the only person whose presence was requested and didn’t show was Elvis. As usual, Misses Silverberg was disappointed, but even more so when her mother in law paid an unrequested visit in his place.

Lula Rose and Viola were nowhere to be found, nor any of the other visiting or semi-permanent residents of the property. It had been a busy night, and no doubt as draining for them as it had been for her. Seeing Constance flit through had gotten her guts tangled like a briar patch. The only reason she had not completely lost her focus was the briefness of the visit, and the amount of concentration it took to hold onto Miss Evans, realizing it was her first time at the séance from the etheric realm.

She’d have to thank Viola for ushering her cousin out the door before she could be a real problem.

She loaded the dishwasher, and was putting away the last of the unopened snacks when a knock at the door caused her to bump her head on an open cabinet door. She figured one of the ladies had forgotten something, but hadn’t heard the bus come back into the lot. Derek had a key.

Instead of finding one of the night’s patrons looking for her glasses, or a spirit late for the party, she slammed the door on opening it, and quickly turned the lock. The figure was tall and thick, dressed head to toe in black, down to a baseball hat. “What do you want?”

“This is a little awkward, talking through the door, don’t ‘cha think?” His resonant voice was vaguely familiar.

She took a look through the peep hole. He stood at the edge of the steps, fully in the light of the porch. “Thad Taylor, from Haunted or Haint It?” He removed his hat loosing a mess of sandy hair, and flashed his too white teeth. “You met with my producer earlier today?”

She leaned her head against the door, ready to get a few hours of sleep. “Can you come back tomorrow, during business hours?”

“With all due respect, I’m the host of a paranormal show, and you do ghosts.” He chuckled, “These are business hours.”

Her hand hovered over the latch, already regretting having agreed to let them film at the plantation. Just talking to him through the door left her feeling the need for a shower.

“Miss Simpson?”

She turned the lock and opened the door to let him in. “Please call me Amber.”

His hand barely graced hers as he passed through the door, his head panning like a camera, drinking in the visual buffet of the room. “Fantastic place you have here.”

“Inheritance, my mother’s side of the family. We’ve had to sell off a lot of the old property, but managed to keep the house and flower gardens, and other intimate parts of the grounds. The suburban hell around us used to be the working farm.” She left the door cracked, hoping to speed Thad on his way. “What can I do for you tonight? It’s been a very long day. This is our busy season.”

“I’m sure it is.” He walked into the ballroom where most of the candles still burned. “Great ambiance, and it looked like a stellar performance in here tonight.”

She snapped back, “You were watching?” She reached for her glass of sweet tea to wash down the bile.

“It wasn’t front row seats by any means, but I hung out in the parking lot with the bus driver, and we caught the show from outside.” He walked over to investigate the candle Constance had extinguished, picking it up, and turning it over in his hands. “Hard to pull off a gig like this and get those kinds of reactions without having them sit in the pitch black. Driver says it’s how you always do your thing.”

She snatched the candle from his hands. “You had no right. This was a private event.”

“I have every right. Contract explicitly states we can come out and scout the location.” He darted around the room, looking at every nook and cranny. “I even thought I saw something a couple of times. Really impressive effects. I originally thought this little place would be good for an opening segment, but based on what I saw tonight, what do you say to doing a live broadcast Halloween night? A repeat performance?”

She stomped through the hall, cornering him. “I don’t do ‘performances,’ Mister Taylor. I use my gifts to help people, and keep this place running. With people like you-“

“Oh, this is great.” He grinned, throwing his hands up in mock surrender. “You actually believe your own spiel. Look, what do you say we add another ten grand to the fee, and do the live show?”

“Get out.” Amber stepped aside, her finger a spear point aimed at the door. “I knew this was a mistake. You can have your check back.”

“No way, lady. I have a signed contract, and a show busting fake haunted places. I’ve never seen anything to make me even think there’s even a spirit outside of a bottle of rum, but some places get the benefit of the doubt. .” He stretched before crossing his arms over his chest, and leaning against the wall. “The ones that cooperate. How about we make the bump fifteen grand, and you do your thing live? Or maybe you’re just relegated to our list of Haint Nothing Here and move on.”

Amber walked away, making a slow loop and extinguishing candles along the way. Thad kept pace a few steps behind. She spun around to face him, poking him in the chest. “Let’s get this straight. I’ll do it, but with conditions. One, we have an event that night and the privacy of every guest will be respected. Two, you will not film the event already planned for the evening, any live stuff will have to happen outside of the house. And three, I’ll do your live séance, but only at midnight after all of our guests have left. And four, only you and your crew for the séance. No public.”

“I’ll see your conditions.” His eyes glistened, the flame of a candle reflected in his dark eyes. “And raise you one. My producer took your tour today. Something about your haunted lake? I want to do it on the dock. Unless of course, your ghosties don’t like the outside.”

She shook her head and walked towards the parlor. “That’s a bad idea.”

“Your bit doesn’t work in the open air?”

She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She looked around the room for a sign, but for once, the house was silent. Pivoting to face the showman, “It’s not safe. But if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. I want the contract amended that I, the plantation, and no others associated with the property have any liability. This is on you. And I want twenty thousand dollars. Plus rights to sell and show the episode here and use it in any promotional materials.”

“There is a heavy handed business woman underneath that crunchy exterior. Good.” He dropped the plastic charm, fired off an email from his phone, and extended his hand. “Deal. You’ll have your contract first thing in the morning, and a check before we start that night.”

“Mister Taylor.” She gripped his hand with all of her considerable strength from doing much of the manual labor on the grounds. “I admonish you to be respectful of powers you don’t understand, but it seems that’s beyond you to even do that for the living. I look forward to the new contract, and I’d appreciate it if you got the hell off my grounds.”

“See you in two days.”

Come back tomorrow for Part IV!

The new Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3 is out, Spirits of the Season and Gnomebody’s Business are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. Sign up today!

A Longbow Initiative Story

#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part II

Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!

I heard from a lot of you that loved Part I of this little tale, but many of you asked the same question. What is Pluff Mud?

Pluff mud, sometimes called plough mud, is much like the city of Charleston, SC. It’s got a beautiful silvery sheen on top of its rich brown and gray color. The smell is like no other, organic and sweet with decay. Made from the spartina grasses, crabs, and other dead matter, it could even be called the life blood of the Low Country, collected from the marshes to revitalize depleted fields. One step could cost you a shoe. The wrong step can pull you in deep like quicksand; the more you fight the faster it sucks you into its murky depths.

Now on to Part II of the Pluff Mud Seance

Amber loosened her leather corset enough to be able to breathe. It wasn’t really her thing, but coupled with the extra silver bangles and chains on top of the flowing black skirt and white lace top, she had the look her guests would expect. Gotta look the woo to do the woo.
Customer service and all.
Viola would give her hell for the unladylike appearance, but that was the least the old gal would complain about. Her eighteenth century sensibilities weren’t likely to modernize any time soon. At least it was better than the sixties when her own mother had tried to lecture the spirits on the women’s lib movement.
The gravel crunched in the driveway under the wheels of the mini bus. It would be a tight fit, but they had twenty-six coming in for the house tour, half that for the séance. The other half of the ladies would sit in the parlor sipping punch and gossiping about the ones who’d crossed the forbidden threshhold.
Widow McCalister would put her ear against the door in case her husband decided to come through. He usually sent a polite decline. If she wasn’t coming into the room, he wasn’t either. Missus Fergus would loudly bemoan her fears about being so close to the devil’s work and lead a round of prayer. Then she’d dig into the Cheerwine pound cake with an air of earned disdain, saving all others from its rich evilness.
Amber had taken care of the problem this year, and gotten a second one to put out when the ceremony was over.
She doused herself in a last cloud of sage incense and scrambled to the hold the doorway open.
The ladies had already broken up into the two groups. Miss Fergus, a good Presbyterian woman, proudly clutched a rosary in front of her like a child would hold a handful of candy, the cross dangling and leading her way through like she was on her way to face Dracula. Amber greeted the octogenarian, and deftly wrapped the beads around her hands properly.
“Oh goody.” Lula Rose chirped in Amber’s ear. “Miss Reverend DuBose is here, and she brought Chrys… Chrysemums… Chrys…”
“Chrysanthemums.” Amber glanced at the specter only she could see, and turned back to the wraithlike wife of a preacher, taking the vase of flowers and putting it on a side table. “How kind of you, and always good to see you again.”
“My favorite.” Lula Rose’s hand passed through the blooms. “Chrys…”
“Chrysanthemums.” Viola stood in the way to force the rest of the guests to walk through her presence, giving more than a few of them a chill they attributed to the evening. “And anything with a flower is your favorite.”
“It was a thoughtful gesture.” Lula Rose grinned.
Amber closed the door behind the group packed into the parlor. She recognized all but a couple of the youngest ladies, new additions to the club. And at youngest, she figured at least mid-sixties. Two others that had been regulars were obvious in their absence. Maybe they’d make themselves known in other ways this night.
She dimmed the electric lights housed in the hurricane lamps dangling from the near garnet walls, casting a warm glow on the Daguerreotypes, tintypes, glass prints and ambrotype photographs, mixed among painted portraits and other family artifacts from nearly two hundred years of family history.
Amber started into the history of the plantation, “Welcome all, especially those of you who have never visited Sand Crane Hall before.”
“Why are you two still putting yourselves through this?” The spirit of Constance Todde materialized beside her cousins, leaving the audience unaware. She looked very much like the day she’d died on her sixteenth birthday. “Especially you Viola. This is undignified. Letting her drag your names through the mud like this.”
“Here we see the two heavily courted sisters, the demure Viola, skilled businesswoman… “ Amber held up a fuzzy black and white picture, “and the lithe athletic Lula Rose, amateur botanist.”
Constance whispered into Viola’s ear, as if it mattered on the etheric plane, “Here it comes.”
“And here we have the sisters with their beloved cousin, Constance Todde. This picture, in fact, was taken mere hours before the incident.” Amber swept her arm in front of a large print of the three girls sitting on a bench in the flower garden. “You can see here, a basket of hibiscus and jasmine with which Lula Rose was preparing tea for the party.”
“She even wraps the story framing you, so very nicely.” Constance stroked Lula Roses’ hair.
Amber picked up a pitcher of fresh floral tea, placing it on a tray, and walked from guest to guest giving them their own cup. When everyone was served, she took her own cup, and sipped at its lightly sweet contents. “They drank the tea, and snacked from a basket of treats.”
Amber worked her way around the room to where artifacts from the time were placed to allow her to circulate, and keep her audience on its toes. She picked up the model of a flat bottom skiff. “Five of the most eligible bachelors , all vying for the attention of the Todde clan, took one of the family boats intending to paddle Constance on a trip through the Cypress on the main river.”
“Or trying to get a little more personal attention.” Constance got nose to nose with Viola, and licked her upper lip. “Especially the Wilkins boy. The one you had your eyes on? That day he was just trying to get a peek by sitting next to me in the boat.”
“Most believed it was just a tragic accident. A few whispers of something darker when Oleander blooms were found among the florals.” Amber held up a freeze dried Nerium Oleander bloom from the garden. “Some just like this from the local garden.”
Viola sniffed back, “You were well known for your garden, and that your blossom had been picked many times.”
“Some time that warm fall afternoon, the boat overturned, and all were lost. The bodies were never found, as they got pulled into the pluff mud.” Amber gave a knowing nod, “There was never any evidence of wrongdoing. But the Todde sisters Lula Rose and Viola, well let’s just say the well of suitors dried up.”
The room full of ladies shared nervous laughter.
“Jealous, dear cousin? ”

“You mean, since you’re the one who poisoned all those poor boys?” Viola refused to look at Constance. “And left us to take the blame?”
“It’s not like I planned to drown myself.” Constance’s fingers danced in a wave as she faded back into the wall.

Come back for Part III tomorrow!

The new Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3 is out, Spirits of the Season and Gnomebody’s Business are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. Sign up today!

A Longbow Initiative Story

Kickoff for #OctoberFrights 2017

It’s that time of year again, getting ready for #October Frights.

In the sake of kicking off the season right, I’m going to post up something that has become a #HalloweenFavorite for my fans, my little short story that was called “Sultry, yet horrific.”

And some day, the rest of the story will be published.

*******

Fine Dining

James P. McDonald

Copyright 2015

They had been easy enough to find, since they were staying in the expensive hotel across from her shop in the market.

When they passed through, the woman’s snippy comments were aimed at both her companion as well as Boo herself, accentuated as she flashed fingers barely able to support the gemstones mounted in gold upon them. He followed up with a crude attempt to solicit her charms after his woman stormed away. She knew then her evening was booked.

She watched from her shop window as the couple consumed a meal that cost more than she would make in a week. The cold silence between them did little to chill the sweltering summer evening. Charleston was especially humid this time of year.

She leaned out of her apartment window, her hunger growing as the couple argued in their room, the barbs they exchanged splintering into the night air through the open French doors. The spat ended with the man downstairs in the small bar, and the woman resting against the rail of their shallow balcony.

She found him bending the inattentive bartender’s ear. His smile was predatory as he offered her the seat next to him. It took few minutes before he was sweating heavily as he fumbled for words and pawed at her sensual caramel skin.

She took his sticky hand in hers and purred, “Boo’ll take care of you.”

He stammered and panted as she led him to the small apartment above her shop. Her lips brushed his. He stripped quickly before she pushed him onto the worn couch, straddling him in the process. He grabbed at her shirt, sending two buttons hurtling into the dark.

In her smoky voice, she whispered in his ear, “Do you want the rest of Boo?”

The corners of his mouth curled as he nodded hungrily.

She locked lips with him, and inhaled.

His excited groping turned into panicked clawing and punching, but only for a moment as he felt the ambrosia of her kiss drawing away his life force. Blood trickled as his trembling hands clenched into fists. His gasps and moans turned to desperate shallow wheezing. His eyes froze wide as saucers and reddened as blood vessels burst painfully, but quietly.

She climbed off him, knowing her prey was going nowhere. He was drained to the edge of life, but still conscious. His eyes locked onto hers as she peeled away the last shreds of clothing he hadn’t destroyed.

She leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Boo said she was going to take good care of you. And now she is.” She stood inches in front of him. Her fingernail slowly chased a rolling bead of sweat from her throat to her navel.  A thin red trail formed as traced it around her hips and down to her ankles.

He managed a single whimper as she tugged and pulled at her skin, starting at her thighs as if they were stockings. Her head came free of the meat suit last, before she draped it around his shoulders. She gloried at the sight of her true body in the full length mirror. The red muscle glistened in the dim light streaming through the windows.

Blood streaked across his skin as she slid herself back onto him. “How do you like Boo now?” She locked her lips onto his and drew his last breath into herself. It was always so much more savory with the adrenalin flavoring, and the sweetness of dread and the dismay of certain death.

He shuddered, and she leaned back to see the last ember extinguished behind his eyes.

Ever so gently, she used her talon until she was able to free the worthless meat from the shell. She wouldn’t need the outfit for long.

It took a little work to bulk up to fill his skin. A few whispers of the old language to heal the wounds. A little bleach for the errant drops of blood that reached his shirt. She buckled the loose fitting pants around her waist and dug into the pockets. His license said he was from Chicago. She would have sworn the accent was from New York.

No matter.

She sauntered lazily back to the hotel. The new skin exquisitely gliding as it stretched across her taught muscles, trying to find purchase.

Her hunger barely sated, she slowly slid the key card into the lock. The woman’s voice was shrill and accusatory as she opened the doorway. Wordlessly she embraced the woman in a kiss. Glorious silence fell from her prey who instantly became compliant.

This one wasn’t like the man. She was full of life, tasting of desire and indulgence. She was meant to be cherished. Boo would be able to wallow in the woman’s spirit for hours before taking the last drop.

The woman’s eyes danced lazily and rolled back into her head as she was stripped and lain in the bed. She didn’t notice the meat suit sliding around as the man’s clothes fell to the floor.

She nibbled on the woman’s ear and mumbled, “Boo’ll take care of you.”

She locked her lips around the woman’s. She was getting drunk on her prey’s energy.

She enjoyed the thought of being a blonde again for a while. No need to decide yet. She had plenty of time.

*******

I hope you had fun with this little fright. I’m working on turning it into a longer story.

I’ve had a lot of people suggest and ask what kind of creature Boo really is. She’s based on the Gullah legend of the “Boo Hag.” For those of you who have never been to Charleston, SC, or know about the Boo Hag, here’s a little piece you might find interesting. https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-boo-hags-of-gullah-culture/

I found this story to be a lot of fun to write, and wrote, edited, and submitted it all in about an hour to beat a deadline. And it’s still one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written.

May everyone have a safe and spooky Halloween!

The new Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3 is out,  Spirits of the Season and Gnomebody’s Business are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. Sign up today!

A Longbow Initiative Story

And check out more of my fellow authors in this year’s #OctoberFrights tour!