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Bloodlines – Part 5 November 13, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Virgil walked Sophie back to their room, keeping a close eye out for any shadow people.  The house was unusually quiet. The ghost must have used up too much energy in its attempt to kill Sophie for it to manifest again.

When they got to the room Sophie stopped so abruptly that Virgil nearly ran into her. “What is that smell?” she said, making a face.

Virgil took a sniff, and sighed. “Desiree stopped by. That lady has more issues than just being rude.”

Sophie sat down on her bed and groaned in dismay. “I’m so sorry, Virgil. I thought this would be a simple matter of soothing a few ruffled feathers.”

“Considering what just happened to you, I’m glad I came along,” Virgil said. He snagged the fresh pack of cigarette from his coat pocket. “Will you be okay for a few minutes? I need some fresh air, the perfume is killing me.”

“And the cigarettes won’t kill you?” Sophie said, her one eyebrow arched.

“I like to pick my poisons, thank you very much. You keep your eyes open.”

“I’ll be fine,” she said. “I’m on my guard now. Don’t stay out too long, it’s a cold one tonight.”

“Yeah, no kidding.”

He scooped up the offending linens on the way out and tossed them onto a porch swing. Then he brushed the snow off the railing and leaned on it, breathing deeply to clear the smell of Bargain-Bin-Not-Quite-Chanel-Number 5 from his head. Then, having gotten his quota of fresh air for the day he tore open the pack of cigarettes and tapped on the bottom to slide one out. He got nothing. The brand-new pack was empty. “Son of a bitch!” he cursed, and stomped back inside.

He found all of the cigarettes lined up across the end of his bed, each one tied in a knot.

Sophie was oblivious to any foul play. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor in a meditative stance, her eyes closed. A small hand bell lay next to her knee. It was a standard tool that operatives used for working with ghosts—the sound of it ringing disrupted the energy wavelengths a ghost moved in, which gave a trained Medium a hold to control them with.

She opened her eyes as the door slammed shut behind Virgil. “I can’t get through to the switchboard ghosts at HQ, and the locals won’t talk to me,” she said. “It’s like I’m running into a wall. I’ll have to drive into town tomorrow to find some cell reception, so I can report the attack to HQ.”

“Can you pick me up some smokes while you’re there?” Virgil said, jabbing his thumb in the direction of his abused Lucky Strikes.

Sophie had to cover her mouth to stifle a laugh. “Oh dear. Hee. Ahem. I’m really am sorry, Virgil. Aunt Honora had some very definite ideas about smoking.”

“She’s here? You’ve talked with her ghost?” Virgil said.

Sophie’s smile faded. “No. I’m guessing she doesn’t want to speak with me. Desiree was right about that, we didn’t part on the best of terms.”

“That may not be the issue,” Virgil said, heading out into the hall. “Sit tight, and keep trying to get a hold of HQ.”

Virgil was finally starting to see the pattern in the paranormal incidents. The mischievous nature of the pranks with the cigarettes did not match up with the violence of the attack on Sophie. He was fairly certain that those lesser events were simply Honora trying to get his attention. Whoever attacked Sophie was probably also cutting her off from the local spirits, which meant that her Auntie couldn’t talk to her. The question was, did Honora know who was behind the disturbances? And if so, did Sophie get attacked for fear that Honora would tell her? There was only one way to find out.

Virgil went back to the parlor where Aunt Honora’s body lay, lit softly by candle light. No one was on watch, which was odd, considering this was a wake. Uncle Bryant was supposed to have taken over for Sophie, but there was no sign of him. No one-had come running to see what the commotion was earlier, either. He took a quick look around, and even stuck his head into each room along the hallway, but there was no one downstairs.

“No love lost anywhere with this family,” he muttered. He poked around the parlor, but Honora’s ghost made no attempt to contact him. He finally decided to settle for another of the Agency’s standard techniques. When an Agent needed to speak with a spirit, but didn’t’ have a Talent for working with them, the easiest way to get them to talk was to provoke them. Which basically meant pissing them off enough to manifest.

Virgil plunked down on the edge of the table that held Honora’s coffin, hard enough to make it rock. He crossed his arms and glared at the corpse. “All right, you old bat. Listen up.” He held up a knotted Lucky Strike. “Nicotine is the only thing keeping me from turning the brains of your pig-ignorant relatives into pudding. Now, I get it, you want to talk. But if you want me to cooperate, you had better leave my smokes alone. Do we have a deal?”

Virgil looked around again, but the room remained quiet. He reached down and gave the corpse a condescending pat on the cheek. “That’s a girl. I knew you could be reasonable.”

A bit of lace around her high collar caught on his watch as he pulled his hand away.  The heavy makeup the embalmer applied had rubbed off in one spot, revealing a purple bruise.

“Hello, what’s this?” Virgil said, and leaned forward to take a closer look. He pulled a tissue out of the box that had been placed by the coffin for the mourners, and wiped away more of the makeup. Honora had two hand-shaped bruises around her throat that matched the ones Sophie had just gotten. “Damn. I hate it when my hunches are right. You didn’t die of natural causes, did you?”

The candles flickered once in reply.

He leaned back and crossed his arms again. “All right, Auntie. Now that I’ve got your attention let’s play twenty questions. Blow the candle flame once for yes, twice for no.”

A filmy mist rose up from the corpse and formed into a younger version of the woman who was laid to rest. It floated out into the hallway and beckoned to him, in a classic example of a ‘White Lady’ haunting.

Virgil snorted in amusement. “Drama queen. Fine, we’ll do it your way.”

He followed her out into the hallway, and through a door that he could have sworn wasn’t there before. It led down a short, narrow passage that ran between the kitchen and the dining room. The only light came through the open door behind him. At the hallway’s end was a small trap door set into the floorboards.

“Oh, hell no. I am not going down into the root cellar alone. I saw Evil Dead, lady. This stuff never ends well.”

The ghost waited by the trap door, the very image of a damsel in distress complete with wringing hands. Virgil could feel the sense of pleading urgency from her. He blew out his cheeks. “Chivalry sucks,” he said. He pulled out his zippo and flicked the striker, holding the tab down to keep it lit. He crouched down to open the trap door. “This had better not be some trick…”

<- Bloodlines #4  ~~~|||~~~  Bloodlines #6 ->

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