Wednesday, April 26, 2017

All in a Day's Work Part 4

“Why? What's in there?”

“A corridor.”

Eric sighed impatiently at him, but Sam just shook his head. Eric pushed past him and strode to the doorway. He passed through it, sweeping his light around the dank darkness. The beam shone down a long corridor bordered by a row of heavy, metal doors on either side. Each door had a small barred window in it and a slot near the bottom. Eric pushed at the door, but it wouldn't budge so he aimed his light through the window. He could just make out an empty room, surrounded by padded walls. The cushioning leaked from multiple cracks and tears in the fabric. Chains and manacles coiled in a pile in the corner of the room. Eric strained his ears. He could almost hear the wails and screams, and the foul stench of blood, human waste, and unwashed bodies hit his nose. He backed away from the door and moved on to the next one.

The cell's last occupant had left remains behind. The ulna and radius bones hung from chains bolted into the wall with the rest of the skeleton crumpled in a pool on the floor underneath. Eric placed his hand over the handkerchief still covering his nose and mouth and backed away.

“Told you you didn't want to know,” Sam said behind him, and Eric nearly jumped out of his already crawling skin.

“Don't sneak up on me in a place like this!” Eric snapped.

“Kind of jumpy for a supernatural hunter, aren't you?” Sam asked, completely unruffled. Eric considered punching him in his crooked nose, but he wasn't a violent person, and despite everything, he actually kind of liked this kid. It wasn't often he came across someone so utterly at east with things that went bump in the night.

“What sort of people did they treat here?” Eric asked as he shoved Sam out of the corridor and back into the laboratory. “I did some research. but you actually talked to the doctor. I'm more interested in performing the exorcism and going home. You seem to want to know all the particulars.”

“Adolescent girls,” Sam said. “Between thirteen and twenty-five. Mostly depression, anxiety – what they used to call hysteria. In other words, the crazy girls.  I guess they used electroshock therapy, and in extreme cases, lobotomy.”

“In the seventies?”

“Why do you think this place is haunted? It wasn't exactly working within the parameters of the law. I think it was more of a dumping ground. Not well-funded. More of a place for families to get rid of girls who were 'difficult.'”

Eric shook his head. In another time he probably would have suffered a similar fate, though he did sometimes wonder if he would benefit from professional help considering his lover was a vampire.

Eric moved back over to the laboratory table and shuffled through the papers with his gloved hands. The pages seemed to come from sort of medical journal, but out of order and they made no sense. Did you say Dr. Goodenough was in research?”

Sam nodded. He looked at the papers Eric shuffled, but wouldn't touch them.

“Looks like he might have been developing some new drug,” Eric said. “Where is he, anyway? Think he went back upstairs?”

Sam frowned again. “Dr. Goodenough, please come out.”

Eric swept his light over the table one more time before squatting down and shining it under the table.

He nearly lost his dinner.

Eric shot to his feet and quickly backed up, holding a hand over his covered nose and mouth, his gorge rising.

“What?” Sam asked. He bent over and peered beneath the table, then sighed, and Eric was once more impressed with his stomach.

“There you are,” Sam said.

The doctor lay sprawled beneath the table in a pool of congealed blood. His face had been almost completely removed, the eye sockets empty, the teeth bared in an eternal grimace. His limbs were mangled at wrong angles about his body. He still wore his lab coat and jeans, but his feet had been torn from his legs and were nowhere to be seen.

“What the hell?” Eric said in a strangled voice. “Did this just happen when he got here? He came down here before us. Are we next?”

Sam got to his feet. “No. He was already dead. As soon as he showed up on the floor above I knew he was a ghost.”

“Why didn't you say anything?”

Sam shrugged. “Most people can't see ghosts, but sometimes if a ghost gets close enough to me, they start to go corporeal. I didn't think you'd believe me."

“Was he alive when you talked to him a few days ago?” Eric demanded.

“I think so,” Sam said. “He must have come here before us and whatever is in here killed him.”

Eric felt the prickle of a thousand needles erupt along his skin. He reached into his messenger bag and dug out his box of sea salt and a feather. “Give me the sage.”

Sam handed it over. Eric poured the salt around them in a large circle, then moved the feather through the smoke coming off the sage, dragging it through the stale air of the room. Eric set down his messenger bag and the box of salt, then pulled out a book of incantations.

“Are you serious?” Sam asked.

“It's like crosses for vampires,” Eric said.

“Vampires? Are you out of your mind?”

“You believe in ghosts but not vampires?”

That shut Sam up. The chattering and whispers of the spirits escalated from the other room once again, and the shadows along the back wall began their screeching again.

“You have to stop them! You have to get rid of them!”

Eric whirled around and there stood Dr. Goodenough, his hair wild, his glasses askew, and his face intact. Eric turned to Sam as the younger man stepped out of the salt circle and approached the spirit.
“Wait, Sam...”

“Dr. Goodenough, do you know where you are?” Sam asked.

The doctor stared at him as if he'd lost his mind. “We're in the hospital. You promised you'd stop the hauntings.”

Sam flicked his eyes towards the table, and the color leached from the doctor's face. He began to fade to translucency, and his hair swirled around his head in constant motion as if pushed by a perpetual wind.

“What's there?” he asked, stricken.

“Wait, no,” Sam said, but the doctor marched over to the table and bent down to look underneath. All went still for a moment. Even the chatters and whispers ceased.

“Wait, am I...” The doctor turned to stare at Sam. “I can't be dead.”

Sam stepped towards the doctor. “What is the last thing you remember?”

“Talking on the phone,” he said, his face a mask of confusion. “With you. You said you'd fix it. You said you'd take care of everything.”

“Did you come here for some reason?”

The ghost shook his head, covering his ears with his hands. When he raised his head, his pupils had dilated, turning his eyes completely black . “NO!” he yelled. The outline of his form blurred and fuzzed, dissolving and materializing until he shattered into mist.

“Oh, shit,” Sam said. He ran for the salt circle as the overhead lights, dead and powerless for years, beamed on and began to flicker. The cages in the other room rattled, and the trash covering the floor began to levitate, whirling in a cyclone and rising off the ground.

“Do something!” Sam yelled as he dove into the circle and grabbed the sage from Eric. Eric quickly flipped open his book of incantations and began to read in a strong, deep voice.

The lights above flickered so hard they looked like a strobe light, and the debris littering the lab table flung towards them like projectiles. Crumpled paper, shattered test tubes, and broken pens bowed around the circle of salt, giving it a wide berth, and leaving the two men unharmed.

“Dr. Goodenough, please stop this!” Sam called as the wind swirled around them. “Why are you so angry?”

“What the hell happened?” Eric asked, pausing in his reading and yelling above the howling of the wind.

“He didn't know he was dead,” Sam said. “He's gone poltergeist.”

“I don't get it,” Eric said. “This is why we just exorcise the damn things and don't try to empathize or share our feelings. Exorcising ghosts should not involve hugging and crying and promising to do better.”

“I don't agree,” Sam said just as the debris slowed in its cyclonic swirl descended slowly to the ground. Dr. Goodenough appeared before them once again, his black eyes flat and devoid of emotion. As Eric watched, dismayed, the doctor solidified, his colors strengthening and melding into opaqueness.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

All in a Day's Work Part 3

Part 3 of the ongoing short story.  The animals and their antics will be back in a couple of weeks. Provided we don't kill each other.

The cloud morphed into a human face with black pitlike eyes glaring at them. It bore right up against Sam, towering over him at twice it's original size, tendrils of hair whipping around him.

“Get out!” the mist shrieked.

Sam stood his ground, and Eric raised up his burning brush of sage. The cloud recoiled from the sage and shattered apart just as quickly as it had manifested. Shrieks and screams reverberated through the hallway, and the doors opened and slammed shut one by one again.

Sam glanced at Eric, undisturbed. “I see what you mean about that sage,” he said.

Not much rattled Eric, but the encounter with the poltergeist shook him slightly. His hand holding the sage trembled.

“It might be better if you put it out, though,” Sam continued. “They can't seem to manifest properly around it.”

“We don't want them to manifest," Eric said.  "We want them to move on!"

“I agree, but trying to force them out will just piss them off more.”

Eric didn't much care if they were pissed off or depressed. The sooner they could perform the exorcism, the better, and he could go home to his cats and Alejandro.

“Downstairs!” A voice startled them from behind.

Eric and Sam both spun around to see an elderly man in a long white lab coat. He balanced on a cane, his glasses crooked on his lined face, and white hair stuck out over his ears.

“In the basement!” the man said. “Follow me!”

“Dr. Goodenough?” Sam asked. “What are you doing here?”

The man didn't answer. He darted between the two, and fled down the corridor, the tails of his coat streaming behind him.

“How did he get in here?” Eric asked.

Sam looked puzzled.

“You said you spoke to him on the phone?” Eric asked.

“Yes, he commissioned me for this job.”

“And he asked you to exorcise the ghosts?”

Sam strode down the corridor and Eric followed, clutching the sage.  "I don't exactly perform exorcisms," Sam said.  "From what I understand, this place closed down in the late eighties.”

“It was condemned,” Eric said. “The patients were mistreated, the conditions were terrible. The usual Bedlam cliche.”

“Well, it must have been really bad,” Sam said. “In the last year spirits have started haunting Dr. Goodenough, keeping him awake at night. He just retired, and instead of enjoying his retirement he's under constant stress with the hauntings.”

“He told you this?” Eric was skeptical. Most people didn't actually believe in ghosts and hauntings. Those that called ghost hunters usually did it for the fun of being on reality TV.

“I guess months of sleepless nights from all the banging, moaning, and rattling is enough to convince someone that they aren't just going crazy,” Sam said.

“Everyone's a little bit crazy," Eric said. "Especially people who do what we do."

Sam shrugged. “I'm definitely crazy."

This did not serve to reassure Eric.

“The ghosts are haunting the doctor in his home?"

"They're attached to him," Sam said.  "They follow him around.  He never gets a break from them."

That must be inconvenient, Eric thought. “And he hasn't set foot in this building since it was condemned?”

“I don't think so. He worked here for three years before the building was shut down. He was the psychiatrist on resident.  He was young, just starting out.”

This intrigued Eric. His job was to eradicate supernatural activity and keep it on the down low to protect civilians. It never occurred to him to actually discuss such things with the civilians. It had also never occurred to him that civilians might be seeking out people like Sam, whatever he did, to help them with their supernatural problems. Most people preferred to remain in the dark on such things which was why Eric and the Moonlighters existed.

The light of the burning sage was bright enough to lead their way to the stairwell. Sam pulled the door open, and Eric flinched at the screech from the rusted hinges. Eric examined the shattered pane of glass in the door, studying the jagged triangular pieces jutting from the window frame. He couldn't tell if the ghosts had caused it or the patients, years ago. He suspected it didn't much matter as he followed Sam through the doorway.  Sam let the door slip from his hand and it swung shut, the slam echoing through the empty building and rattling the peeling walls. A low-pitched moan rose up around them, causing the hairs on the back of Eric's neck to rise and his blood to chill. He pulled his jacket more tightly around him and wondered about Sam in his thin T-shirt. Sam's arms broke out in goosebumps, but that seemed to be the only indication that the cold bothered him.

The cement floor of the basement was so cold it seeped through the soles of Eric's expensive loafers. Eric swept the burning sage around, illuminating the cavernous room, and Sam switched on his flashlight. The whispers and chatters ascended above them, mixing together into a dull, wordless din and scattering through the air like the legs of thousands of cockroaches.

A high-pitched screeching broke through the cacaphony, and Sam moved the light of his flashlight close to the ceiling at the back wall. Shadowy figures stalked along the top of what looked like rows of large metal cages, like those used in the isolation room a vet's office. Red eyes burned in the darkness.

“Dr. Goodenough?” Sam called, sweeping his light around. The screaming from the back wall intensified, the shadows moving menacingly back and forth across the cages. Something small, hard, and round shot between Eric and Sam and bounced against the floor behind them before rolling away. Sam shone his light behind them, swearing under his breath. Another small object bounced between them. Sam shone the light above the cages and caught the shape of something large, hunched over, and hairy. It screamed at them, baring sharp teeth in a mangled muzzle. It's features blurred and sharpened as it moved through the shadows, never completely in focus.

“Are those ghost chimpanzees?” Eric whispered. “I was unaware animals could become ghosts”

“I've seen it before,” Sam said. “Dr. Goodenough? Are you here?”

Eric stepped through a wide arching entry that opened into a tossed laboratory. He held up the burning sage, illuminating the sight in all its grisly glory. A large table lay scattered with broken glass, torn papers, test tubes, and other odds and ends. Trash littered the floor and the stench of dried blood, feces, and putrid decay hit his nostrils. He pulled his handkerchief from his breast pocket and pressed it daintily to his nose. The screeching of the ghostly apes crescendoed behind him as Sam walked up and swept his flashlight around the room.

“Wow, what happened here?” Sam asked, undisturbed by the stench.

Eric shook his head and passed his sage off to Sam. The pleasant smell of the sage did little to overpower the stench of death. The decay sat tangible in the air, and Eric nearly gagged. He pulled his own flashlight out of his messenger bag and trained it on the floor. Dark stains covered the linoleum in erratic splatters and Eric didn't want to know who or what had perished here. He stepped over to the lab table and swept the light over it. Rat feces scattered across the paper littering the table.

“Better cover your nose,” Eric called to Sam. “You don't want to catch Hanta Virus.”

Sam made a face and stepped back. Eric stuck the flashlight under his arm and tied his handkerchief about his nose and chin before dipping into his bag yet again and pulling out a pair of latex gloves. He pulled these on and trained the flashlight on the table again.  Sam watched him with admiration before wandering off to look about the room.

“Where did the doctor go?” Eric asked as Sam shined his light over the dark splatters on the wall.
Sam didn't respond for a moment. He'd disappeared through another doorway, and a little while later he walked out quickly and joined Eric at the table. Eric turned to him, raising an eyebrow.

“You don't want to go in there,” Sam said.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

All in a Day's Work Part 2

Percy is his usual annoying self.  Puckett sleeps all day.  Tess nearly tore the car apart driving home on Sunday, and Willow peed on the floor.  The story continues from last week.

“What are you doing here?” Eric asked, stepping into the room and sweeping his light around.

“Don't do that!” the kid snapped.

“Who are you?” Eric asked, shining the light back on the kid's face.

“My name's Sam.” The kid shoved his hands in his pockets, and Eric noticed that tattoos plastered his forearms from wrist to elbow. He wore several silver rings in his ears, though no piercings on his face.

Eric swallowed his distaste and stepped into the room. “Dr. Eric Hanson.”

Sam pulled a mock impressed face. “Well, then, doctor.”

“What are you doing here?” Eric asked again. “Is this some kind of stupid dare your dumbass friends made you do?

Sam cocked his head and regarded Eric with his bright green eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“It's a bit weird, don't you think? You sitting here in a dark room in the middle of an insane asylum rumored to be haunted?”

Sam shrugged. “So what’s your excuse?”

“You don't want to know,” Eric said.

Sam glanced around. “Fine, then, I’ll go first. Dr. Goodenough asked me to talk to the spooks and help them cross to the other side.”

That took Eric by surprised. “You believe in ghosts?”

“Sure, don't you?” Sam shot back. “I mean, why the hell are you here? With your...” he looked Eric up and down and gestured vaguely. “Snappy suit and tie. Do you do commercials too?”

Eric raised his eyebrows. “You should leave this kind of thing to the professionals.”

“And that's you?” Sam asked.

“Trust me, kid. You have no idea.”

“Ever sleep with a ghost?” Sam asked, looking around the room.


Sam leveled his glare at Eric. “You ever fuck a ghost?”

Eric thought of Alejandro.  “Uh, no.”  But I have slept with a vampire.  He kept that thought to himself.

“Then I think I might be more professional than you.” Sam picked up the candle that had fallen over and relit it.

Rude, little bastard, Eric thought.

“Besides,” Sam continued. “The doctor called me specifically. I work on referral. Someone referred him to me and he thought I could help. How do you know about this place?”

“My organization tracks supernatural activity,” Eric said. “This one's on our radar.”

“And they sent you?

Eric bristled at his tone. “No one sent me. I’m the one who sends people, so I sent myself.”

“Hey, that's cool,” Sam said. “So you’re, like, in management.”

They surveyed the room in silence.

“So what do you think is going on here?” Eric asked. “Since you’ve obviously been here longer than me.”

“Shhh,” Sam said. “Do you hear that?”

Eric cocked his head and strained his ears. A swirl of incoherent whispers scattered across the room like cockroaches frightened by a sudden burst of light. The voices flowed and ebbed in volume and intensity, the words indistinguishable.

“I can’t understand what they’re saying,” Eric said.

“You can hear that?” Sam asked.

“Of course. Can’t you?”

“Most people can’t feel or hear ghosts unless the ghosts have a lot of energy. Like moving air and you feel a breeze, or a brief bit of laughter. Moving objects, banging on walls, cell phone texts.”

“Cell phone texts?” Eric had seen and heard a lot of ghosts, but he’d never gotten text messages before. Once he’d received a greeting on the steam of a hotel bathroom mirror, but that had been at the Sheridan Inn in Sheridan, Wyoming, and he was pretty sure Miss Kate was just being friendly.

“My first ghost liked to text,” Sam said.

Eric started to feel his age. “So you’re some kind of ghost whisperer?”

Sam nodded, sweeping his gaze around the room as if he could spot the source of the whispers by looking hard enough. “Something like that. What’s your job title?”

“Moonlighter,” Eric said, following Sam’s eyes with his own. “What's with the music?”

“Helps the ghosts manifest sometimes,” Sam said. “Anything tangible that affects the senses anchors them to this plane. What's a Moonlighter?”

“We work for the Organization Against Evil Paranormal Phenomena. We fight malevolent supernatural activity.”

The ease of which Sam accepted this announcement surprised Eric, but he didn't dwell on it for long. He was distracted by a shimmer of air in the corner of the room, almost imperceptible like the flashes of an ocular migraine. Leached colors blurred together, swirling faintly before fading away. When Eric blinked and shook his head, the shimmer disappeared, only to arrest his attention from another corner.

Sam looked at Eric with a slight smile. “You see them, don't you?”

Eric glanced at him, confused.

“You see the spirits,” Sam said. “They flicker between this plane and the next. Most people can't see them because they don't believe.” He turned his head to give Eric a knowing look. “Why do you believe?”

“I believe in things you can't even imagine,” Eric said just as all the candles went out. For a moment the two of them were plunged in complete darkness and the silence pressed heavily on Eric's ears.

The sound of a click broke the silence, and a beam of light appeared across the room. Sam moved his flashlight around the room until it landed on the candles he'd left on the floor. He strode over and quickly relit them, then sat on the floor and pulled on his discarded cowboy boots.  He picked up two candles and handed one to Eric.

“Let's get out of here,” he said. “This room isn't giving me anything.”

Eric scanned the room. “You want to pick up your trash?”

Sam gave him a look. “Why?” He moved towards the door as if that settled the matter.

“Where are we going?” Eric asked, moving a little more quickly than he felt comfortable. He was more than twice this kid's age, and he didn't want to be left alone in the dark. The whispers increased around them again, flowing into a crescendo and ebbing in a rhythmic pattern. Sam scurried to a stop and cocked his head, listening. Eric stopped beside him and opened his messenger bag, pulling out a book of matches. He quickly lit the bundle still clenched in his hand. The sweet, pungent smell of sage and sweetgrass surrounded them, masking the decaying smell of abandonment and death overpowering the building.

“What is that?” Sam snapped, recoiling.

“Sage,” Eric told him. “It keeps the spirits at bay.”


Eric gave him a look. “What kind of ghost hunter are you? Sage keeps the evil spirits at bay. Salt purifies. To exorcise a ghost, one smudges a room with sage. For a poltergeist, one burns sage and creates a pentagram or a ring with salt.”

Sam looked interested. “All ghosts go poltergeist eventually,” he said. “They can't help it. Their energy will either move them on to the next plane when they are ready, or be released in this one. Just depends on where the ghost is at mentally.”

“Mentally?” Eric asked. What a weird kid.

“We're trying to help them move on, right?” Sam asked as he began moving down the hall again. Eric hurried after him.

“Of course. But we're also trying to prevent them from causing any more damage. Poltergeists are dangerous and vengeful. Often they no longer know why they are so angry, they just want revenge.”

“I know,” Sam said. “But once we help them move on, they can no longer hurt anyone.”

Eric couldn't argue with that.

Sam stopped at a doorway and looked inside the room. A twin bed stood angled across the far corner of the room, the mattress askew on the frame. Rumpled, dirty bedclothes dripped over the sides. The rest of the furniture lay haphazardly around the room, tossed about by some angry spirit. Holes in the ceiling and the walls showed where objects had been violently thrown. Sam scanned the room quickly, then closed his eyes, breathing deeply. Eric watched him curiously. For a moment, everything fell still and silent. Even the whispers ceased.

The door slammed shut, rattling the walls and sending Sam staggering backwards, having nearly lost some fingers.

“Fuck!” Sam hollered at the door. He slammed his fist into it.

“Sam!” Eric snapped.

A series of slamming doors echoed the first door, each slam louder than the last, rattling the walls harder. The cacophony of whispers escalated once more, and Eric and Sam both clapped their hands over their ears trying to block out the noise. The overhead lights beamed on, burning brightly throughout the lonesome corridor, illuminating the row of tightly latched doors. Sam gripped a doorknob, testing the door and finding it wouldn't budge
A cloud of mist roiled down the corridor towards them, undulating slowly. Rough, faint features morphed and materialized as the cloud swirled towards them. The cloud seemed to increase in size with translucent hair fluttering around in constant motion.

Eric stepped back.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All in a Day's Work Part 1

The animals and I are in an all-out war.  The cats are mad at me, I'm mad at Percy, Tess is mad at Surina, Surina is mad at me, the cats hate Surina, and I woke up this morning to incessant scratching and a cat bouncing off the walls, wailing.

I'm over all of them, so please enjoy a short story:

Dr. Eric Hanson had been putting off the old, abandoned mental hospital for some time.

He glared at the dilapidated building with distaste and resignation. Exorcism and ghost hunting were his least favorite parts of the job. He didn't care for ghosts. They gave him the creeps. He much preferred a rabid werewolf or a pissed-off vampire. He would even rather deal with witches, and he particularly hated them. Nasty creatures, with their black cats, flying brooms, and hideous cackles.

Witches were tangible and corporeal. One could still fight witches.

With a sigh, Eric set down his messenger bag and pulled out his smartphone. The screen glowed brightly in the night. Clouds scudded across the sky, covering the weak light of the half-moon and the sprinkling of stars. Eric frowned at his phone. Several text messages from his favorite Moonlighter, Holly Craft, and a missed call from the Organization Against Evil Paranormal Phenomena Headquarters in Cheyenne greeted him. Normally Holly would handle the ghosts, but she had another gig involving the eradication of a nest of fledgling vampires that had been plaguing Lodge Grass for weeks. Lodge Grass was on the reservation in Montana, just over the state line, and fair game when it came to supernatural activity. Vampires liked to feed off the drunks and drug addicts. People died on the reservation every month from drunk driving accidents, overdoses, or criminal activity. Most vampires fed on the available food supply, benefiting from the binges and drug use because they didn’t have to use their glamour to get their victims to forget. Death by vampire was rare, and when an accidental death did occur, it was a small percentage compared to those caused by the humans. This recent nest of fledglings, however, had become careless and uncontrollable, leaving bodies piling up. Vampires didn’t like to call human attention to themselves, and they particularly didn’t like being on the Moonlighters’ radar, so the behavior of the fledglings was out of character. Eric had dispatched Holly to deal with the nest. If she didn’t, older, more experienced vampires would handle it, and more people could die in that crossfire. 

Meanwhile, that left Eric to deal with the mental hospital, abandoned on the outskirts of Buffalo.
The mental hospital had stood empty for decades. The last time it had housed patients had been in 1988, when the county finally shut it down. Since then people whispered that the place was haunted, though any real supernatural activity had been minor. Eric had filed it away under “Lesser Priorities.” The occasional vampire nest took up residence there while passing through Wyoming, on their way to some place more interesting like California or Colorado. Occasionally a werewolf might spend a stormy, rainy night there. Most creatures steered clear. As the least populated state in the country, Wyoming had the least amount of supernatural activity, and Eric supervised the smallest division of Moonlighters.

Ghosts were the only creatures that enjoyed the lonely solitude of Wyoming. They were prevalent, but generally harmless.

Lately, the hospital showed signs of violent manifestations and increasing activity. Eric could no longer ignore it.  Even the wreckers wouldn't go near the condemned building, and it needed to be razed.

Eric scowled at the building again before picking up his messenger bag and straightening his Italian silk tie. His polished black loafers shone so brightly the moon reflected in their sheen. Blade-sharp pleats ran the length of his black pin-striped trousers. Not a wrinkle or cat hair marred his matching suit jacket despite the fact that he owned three purebred Chinchillas. He combed his silver-threaded dark hair in a neat, distinguished style matching the trimmed perfection of his salt and pepper goatee. Eric pocketed his phone and strode towards the front entrance. Large boards crisscrossed the gaping holes of the doorway and broken out windows. Graffiti tags decorated the peeling walls of the building.

Holly always brought her German shepherds on a job – dogs specifically trained to hit on supernatural activity and protect her from attacks – but Eric preferred to work alone.  That and he preferred cats.

Eric stepped on the front porch and almost lost his shoe when his foot broke through a rotted plank. Extracting his foot, he grumbled as he pulled a silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and rubbed the toe of his loafer. He'd worry about his scuffed shoe later, and later it would really bother him. His main concern at the moment was getting into the building. He pulled at the planks crisscrossing the doorway, and they came away easily in his hands, splintering away from the rusted nails bored into the door frame. Shattered glass covered the porch outside the doorway and the floor on the inside.

Eric narrowed his eyes, suspecting kids.  They liked to dare each other to enter the haunted house and play Ghost Hunters. If the ghosts were feeling friendly, they would merely give the idiots a fright.

If they felt malevolent, well, God help those kids.

Eric didn't want to think about that. He was afraid of what he might find once he entered the building. Spirits were inevitable, but he was also afraid he'd find victims of the pissed-off poltergeists.

Eric gripped his messenger bag slung over his shoulder, and stepped carefully through the gaping, darkened hole of the entrance. A nail jutting from the doorway snagged the cuff of his trousers and he cursed as he yanked it free with a loud tear.

Inside, darkness enveloped him. Weak moonlight managed to stream through the broken windows, giving Eric enough light to find his flashlight in his bag. He switched it on and scanned the area. The room he stood in appeared to be some kind of reception area. Dust coated the broken furniture strewn around the room. Chairs lay upended against the walls like they'd been thrown. What had once been a reception desk lay in a splintered pile at one end of the room, sporting sharp lethal wooden points that would make excellent stakes for vampire hunting. Eric crouched down to rummage in his messenger bag, extracting a bundle of dried cedar, sage, and sweetgrass. He also removed a large turkey feather and a container of salt. Then he pulled out his large silver cross on a chain and fastened it around his neck, letting it rest conspicuously against his purple tie. Smudging would not dispel the spooks, but it would provide Eric with some protection in his attempt to exorcise the ghosts. Eric upended the salt and poured it round the perimeter of the room. Then he gripped his bundle, collected the feather and flashlight, and edged out of the reception area, shouldering his messenger bag.

Eric made his way down a long corridor, lit only by the beam of his flashlight. Shadows flickered across the walls as he swept his light around, along the ceiling, and down on the floor. The linoleum was shredded and scored, the walls smudged and caked with dirt. Eric peeked in the abandoned rooms, sweeping his light through each one.

The blaring of upbeat Jamaican style music shattered the silence, startling Eric. He froze, his flashlight pointed down the corridor. The music's volume increased, and Eric slid the last few feet down the corridor and peeked in the last doorway before the stairwell. The door had been torn from its hinges, leaving a gaping hole, and lay braced against the corridor wall.

Eric clicked off his flashlight and stared into the room. A circle of long tapered candles burned in the middle of the room. Crumpled chip bags scattered across the floor along with several empty Coke cans. A bag of half-eaten M&M’s lay between the cans. In the middle of the circle of candles, a young man sat cross-legged in faded blue jeans and a black T-shirt emblazoned with some old rock n' roll logo. His shaggy dark brown hair hung over his eyes, and he kept twitching his head to clear his view. As Eric watched, the young man drummed his palms against his knees in time with the music, then got to his feet and executed a simple almost clumsy salsa, sliding along the floor in his socks, and pumping his fists in the air. Eric covered his mouth to hide a smile before the ridiculousness of the situation dawned on him. Some dumbass punk kid was hanging out in a haunted asylum, rocking out like it was the most normal thing in the world.

“Hey!” Eric said, switching on the flashlight.

The kid jumped mid-slide, and whirled around locking eyes with Eric and knocking over one of the candles. The flame went out, and a rush of wind tore through the room, teasing Eric's salt and pepper hair out of its careful arrangement.

“Holy shit!” the kid swore.

Continued next week, barring any stupidity by my pets.