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Bloodlines – Part 3 October 23, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Dinner was an awkward affair. Between Virgil’s presence as an outsider to the family and the corpse laid out in the parlor for the wake, the conversation was stilted and centered mostly on the weather. Silverware clinked on china, and the fragile old wooden chairs creaked as their occupants leaned to pass a serving platter. The formless rage that Virgil sensed around them had abated somewhat, but he still kept seeing dark silhouettes hovering out of the corner of his eye. The experts back at HQ officially classified shadow people as harmless, but that didn’t keep him from looking over his shoulder every so often to make sure there weren’t any behind him.

Cousin Alex, who had been giving Virgil jaundiced looks the entire time must have decided that the arrival of dessert was his cue to start prying. “So, you’re from California?” he asked, making the question sound like an indictment.

Virgil kept his reply cautiously bland. “Yes, I’ve lived there for most of my life.”

“Are you a liberal?” Alex said, all but spitting out the word.

“I prefer to live and let live, if that’s what you mean,” Virgil said, dividing his attention between his verbal sparring partner and the room around them. The shadows were starting to crowd in.

Alex sneered at him. “You got a girlfriend? Or a boyfriend?”

Linda slammed her hand on the table. “Alex, that is enough! He’s our guest.”

“A man has a right to know what kind of person is staying under his roof,” he said, and glowered at his sister.

Linda gave him a scathing look. “It is not your house, Alex. And we won’t know who inherits until the will is read, so quit acting like you own the place already.”

Virgil’s empathic sense was buzzing like hornets. It was no wonder the spirits were unsettled, what with all the negative energy in the house. This was the reason Lares had brought him here. There was no way he could calm the ghosts directly, but he could use his Talents to clear away the ugly emotions that were feeding them. Enter the leading man, stage left, to take the spotlight

Virgil stood and held up his hands as if surrendering to a gunman. “We might as well tell them about us, Sophie,” he said to Lares, remembering again at the last second not to use her codename.

She froze with a fork halfway to her mouth, her eyes wide as saucers.

Virgil smiled and paused a little longer, until everyone else leaned forward in anticipation.  “We work for the Defense Department,” he said, which wasn’t entirely a lie. He smiled at their chagrined laughter and sat back down. “We can’t tell you much about our work; it’s classified. We were en route to our next assignment when Sophie got the call about her aunt. This wasn’t too far out of the way, so here we are. Any more questions?” He was careful to keep his tone clipped and short, imitating some of the Marines he had worked with recently.

Alex still looked suspicious, but some of the belligerence had gone out of him. “Why didn’t you drop her off and keep going?”

“You know the government; they’ll waste four thousand dollars on a high tech toilet seat, but they won’t spring for a hundred bucks to rent a second car. Go fig,” Virgil said, with an amused shrug.

Alex grunted, which Virgil took as a sign that he was off the hook, for the moment.

Unfortunately, Desiree took that as an opening to start needling Lares again. “That explains why you stopped coming to visit. I’m sure your top secret work keeps you busy,” she said, her voice dripping sweet acid. “Honora never did understand though, and after all she did for you when your mother passed on. She always felt your leaving was a betrayal. It’s a shame now that you’ll never get to patch it up with her.”

Virgil felt the knot of anguish build in Lares, and he reached out with his Telepathic sense to still Desiree’s venomous tongue. The second he projected his will however, every piece of china on the table floated up two feet in the air, and smashed back down. Desiree screamed and jumped up from her seat, knocking the chair over as she hurried to get away from the table.

“You stop that, Sophie! You stop it right now!” she yelled, pointing an accusing finger at Lares. “Don’t try to blame it on the ghosts. I know what that feels like!”

“I didn’t do anything Desi. Not this time, nor any other that you’ve accused me of,” Lares said, her voice shaking with anger.

Alex’s boys started chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Linda pushed her chair back, her face livid. “There will be no fighting in this house!  Alex, it’s late, and time you got those boys to bed. Desi, go get your father’s room ready.”

Desi’s eyes narrowed. “Just because you cleaned up after a decrepit old woman all these years doesn’t make you the boss around here,” she said.

The last few glasses still standing on the table started to rattle.

Lares’ cool, calm voice cut through the tension. “Do you still think it’s me doing this, Desi?”

Desi went pale and started to tremble. “It’s not me. It can’t be me!”  She turned and fled from the room, and the seething rage that filled the room followed her out.

Linda was gripping the edge of the table so hard her knuckles were white. “I am very sorry you had to see that Virgil. Desi has…a lot of control problems.  I’m going to go clean up in the kitchen,” she said, and retreated without looking at either of them. Alex shooed the boys out with a few well-placed cuffs to their heads.

Virgil let out a low whistle. “Are you sure you’re related to these people?”

“I’m beginning to wonder about that,” Lares said. She opened a small cabinet built into the wall and pulled out a dustpan and brush to clean up the broken china.

Virgil took them from her.  “Here, let me get that. I can’t do much else right now. Your family ghosts seem to object to my efforts to calm things down.”

Lares’ brows knit together in a deep frown. “They’ve never reacted to psychic Talents before. Almost everyone in the family has a touch of them.”

“Yes, but your Auntie Honora was here then to keep the spirits in line,” Virgil said. “I somehow doubt anyone has had a talk with them since she passed on.”

“You may be right,” Lares mused, pulling out a small wastebasket.  Down the hall, a clock chimed and she let out a sigh. “It’s almost time for me to sit with Honora anyway. I’ll see what I can do to calm them down.”

“Go on ahead, I’ll finish up here,” Virgil said, and watched the doorway to the hall for a long time after she had gone. As far as he could tell, she was the only person actually mourning Honora’s loss. Alex and Linda were too concerned with getting their hands on the house to care about losing their own mother, and Desi was out to get whatever she thought she could get away with. He wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the more valuable items in the house somehow ended up in her suitcase.  Alex’s boys weren’t any better – they would probably burn the house down just for the fun of it.

Greed, violent tendencies, untrained Talents… as Virgil finished clearing up the table, he realized that he had never asked how Honora had died. He had a nasty feeling that it might not have been from natural causes…

—–

<-Bloodlines #2   ~~~|||~~~  Bloodlines #4 ->

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