Bloodlines – Part 6 November 20, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: flash fiction, paranormal, serial fiction, serials, virgil
Honora’s ghost floated next to Virgil, still wringing her hands. She looked harmless enough, but he wouldn’t be the first Agent to think that about a spirit, only to end up getting shoved down a flight of stairs. He eyed up the rickety wooden slats that descended into the root cellar. The dim glow cast by his zippo gave him just barely enough light to make out a packed dirt floor at their base, but not much else. A sour, rotting smell wafted up at him.
He stood up and backed away from the opening. “Chivalry be damned. No more games, Auntie. Either you tell me what you want down there, or I go back to bed and call it a night.”
Honora floated closer, and pointed down the stairs.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” Virgil said. He pulled his cell phone out of his jeans pocket. “Here. Drain the battery and speak through it.” He tapped the screen with his thumb to turn the volume up, and held it between them.
She reached out to touch it, and a dry, papery voice whispered out of the speaker, “Seal the well.”
A breeze made the flame of his lighter flutter, sending light and shadows dancing around the stairs. Something glittered on the bottom step. The ghost floated over to the stairs and beckoned again, pointing to the object.
It wasn’t that far, but the stairs were steep enough that falling down them would hurt. Still, if it got the old biddy to leave him (and his cigarettes) alone, it might, maybe be worth it. “Virgil, you’re an idiot,” he muttered to himself, and dashed down to pick it up. It was a necklace, and the clasp was snagged on a nail.
He held up the lighter and took a quick look into the darkened room. The darkness looked back into him. And then it started crawling towards him.
Virgil yanked the necklace free and ran like hell back up the stairs. He kicked the trap door shut and slammed the bolt home. Then he leaned against the wall, his heart pounding and a prickle of sweat all over him. “What were you messing with here, woman?” he said, holding up the necklace to get a better look at it. As far as he could tell, it was just costume jewelry—a dark purple stone surrounded by smaller white ones, all set in a gaudy gold filigree. “This is it? All this fuss for a piece of junk?” he said.
Honora floated closer and placed a hand on his arm. A chill, splintered glass sensation ran through him as the ghost drew more energy from him. “Seal the well,” she whispered.
He narrowed his eyes in annoyance at the apparition. “Could you be any more cryptic?”
“Seal the well.”
“And Sophie wonders why I hate working with ghosts,” Virgil grumbled. He stuffed the cheap necklace in his pocket and glared back at the trap door, just in time to see the bolt slide open.
He took off down the hall at a run. Virgil hadn’t survived working for the Agency this long by ignoring his instincts. Whatever was down there would play for keeps. The hallway stretched out endlessly in front of him, and nothing looked familiar. “Crapcrapcrap spatial distortions…” He sent out a quick, psychic blast to try and stun whatever rudimentary mind remained in the haunt. It growled, low and guttural, and something slammed into his back. He went sprawling to the floor and tucked into a roll, using his arms to cover his neck and head to avoid getting strangled. Fingernails raked at his forearms, and a weight pushed down on him.
It growled again, right in his ear, and started shoving his face into the floor. Virgil let out a muffled yell as he tried to wrestle free. Something cold slipped into his hand, and he yelled again until he realized it was the necklace.
As soon as it pressed against his palm, he knew exactly what Sophie had done to tear apart the ghost that had attacked her. He reached up into the haunt and tried to grasp the core of energy it used to manifest itself, but it shrieked and pulled away. The shadowy figure retreated down the hallway and collapsed in on itself, and Virgil heard it slam the trap door shut behind it.
He sat up, shaking from head to foot. Somehow, he had ended up halfway out the front door of the house with a dusting of snow covering him. He dragged himself back inside and shut the door, leaning back against it while he brushed the snow off and inspected the scratches on his arms.
That was when the next attack came, swift and silent. It was textbook one-two punch – soften up your target with a ghost, then hammer their defenses with a psychic probe while they’re down.
Virgil was hurt after the mauling the ghost had given him, but they didn’t call the Agency a Tactical Unit for nothing. There was no way in Hell he was going to get taken down by a goddamned civilian. He held onto that anger, built it up into rage, and turned it into a white hot, mirrored surface. The attack was reflected back, and he magnified it into a needle-like lance that blew past his assailant’s attempt to hide behind a veil. The house shuddered around him, and Virgil turned the heat up even higher to burn through the dark so that he could see who was behind the attacks.
They wrestled back and forth; an invisible struggle between two minds, all of it happening in the space between eye blinks…
…and it was abruptly cut off as someone opened the door behind him. He fell backwards, tripping up the person coming in, causing them to land on top of Virgil.
The new comer scrambled to his feet, and Virgil found himself looking up at an older man. He was tall, his brown hair peppered with silver, and he wore an expensive tailored suit that he brushed off and set to rights. Everything about him proclaimed “successful family patriarch.”
“Good god man, are you all right?” the man asked.
Virgil ignored him for a moment and tried to reconnect with his assailant, but the presence was gone. He wanted to howl up at him, “You let it get away!” but thought better of it. For all he knew, this guy was the killer. Better to play it smart. “Yeah, fine, I just slipped on the ice. You’re Uncle Bryant, right?” he said, trying to look nonchalant as he lay there shivering and dripping melted snow onto the carpet.
Bryant gave him a paternal smile. “And you must be Sophie’s co-worker. Desi was all aflutter about you,” he said. “What were you doing outside at this hour?”
Virgil held up one of the knotted cigarettes, “Your dear departed sister does not approve of smoking.”
Bryant laughed. “My apologies. Virgil, was it? I was in the same pickle myself. Went to light up a cigar, and every one of my matches had the head cut off. Spent the last half-hour scouring the house for another pack, until I remembered I had one in the car.”
Virgil watched him as he talked but didn’t get much off of him, except that he was actively veiling his Talents. If he was the murderer, he was one cool customer. Virgil felt as wrung out as a dishrag, and this guy didn’t have a hair out of place. He had even given himself an alibi for not being on watch over his sister’s coffin. Damn. There was only one good way to find out for sure.
Virgil held out his hand and braced himself for another assault. “Give me a hand up?”
Contact. Virgil was skilled enough not to give anything away other than annoyance, but to his surprise, Bryant was an open book. No sharp, controlled probes; just the usual babble of thoughts and emotions he got from everyone.
Virgil broke the contact as soon as he was on his feet. Bryant had talent, but it wasn’t enough to even make the bottom rung of what the Agency would find useful. It was no wonder they hadn’t recruited him along with Sophie; he didn’t have the chops for it. He certainly didn’t have the skill to power that haunt.
Which meant the culprit was still somewhere in the house.
Virgil brushed the last of the snow off his shirt. “Thanks, Bryant. I think I’m going to call it a night before your sister decides to tie me into a knot as well.”
Bryant chuckled, but looked a bit disappointed. “Maybe we can talk in the morning? I’d be interested in getting your professional opinion on a few things.”
“Yeah, sure,” Virgil mumbled, and hurried back to his room before Bryant could start digging for the “secret” to psychic powers. There wasn’t any, but he doubted anyone so obsessed with power would believe him.
Virgil paused outside the room, his hand hovering over the door knob. He was not looking forward to telling his partner that her Aunt had been murdered. This night kept getting better and better…