I made it to the retreat and got settled in. Met some fun people and a couple hours ago, i buckled down to work. I wrote the beginning of something. I’d like your opinion on it. Would you want to read more? I ask because it’s a little bit different from what I’ve written before and I’m feeling my way. It’s super rough, but thumbs up or down?
I got the fish-eye stare from the concierge when I walked past him into the lobby. I passed through the security net, feeling it ripple across my skin like seeking fingers. My lips tightened smugly. I could go out and come back again and totally change my aural signature. It might remember this version of me forever—and it probably would—but it wouldn’t do it a damned bit of good.
Effrayant was a mashup of the Bellagio and the Bates Motel, with a little dash of old school English castle for flair. The outside was brick and tile with a few thousand windows and a mansard roof that went up six or eight stories on top. The rooms up there were probably long-term residences. The central tower was a good forty stories high, with the four wings sprouting like spokes from its shoulders. The tops of the wings boasted pools, clubs, restaurants, and helipads.
I wasn’t there for the entertainment; I was on a job.
Inside was dark wood, modern furniture, soft lights, and museum quality art. Muted opera music wandered through the cavernous lobby. The staff all wore Italian wool uniforms in gray, burgundy, and navy, while customers dressed in designer glitz and blue-collar chic.
I couldn’t blame the bellman for looking at me sideways. Wearing Levi’s, a longsleeved cotton shirt from the Goodwill, and a pair of knee-high leather boots that had seen better days, I definitely didn’t look glitzy or chic.
Add in the fact that my luggage was nothing more than a ratty backpack, I was a little surprised that the security guards inside didn’t stop me. With force. Given how obscenely expensive it was to stay at the exclusive and highly discriminating Effrayant, I figured these guys should have been all over me. Sure, the ghosts make people want to turn and head the other way and let me be someone else’s problem. Security guards ought to be better trained. They shouldn’t let the heebie-jeebies get the better of them. I get that it’s not every day that you get the ghost push-off from someone made of flesh and blood, but Effrayant like to brag their security was the best of the best.
I walked in and all six of thick-necked best of the best got busy picking lint off their coats, making me the check-in clerk’s problem.
Poor thing. I could tell she wanted to be anywhere else. That’s Tabitha’s fault. She can put the fear of Jesus into just about anyone without hardly trying.
Tonight she was trying.
She didn’t want to come into Effrayant. She thought it was too dangerous. She was right, but that didn’t change the job. I wanted to tell her to suck it up and settle down, but she was only a thirteen year old girl and dead or not, her hormones were raging. She wasn’t going to listen to me, of all people. Plus she still had a lot of PTSD issues from how she got killed. Or so I assumed. I had no idea how it had actually gone down. I only knew she was pissed as hell and she had nightmares that occasionally leaked into my dreams. If any of what happened in those nightmares had actually happened to her, she had a right to her attitude. Hell, she had a right to have gone right over the edge into insanity-land. I didn’t think she had, but it’s not like she talked to me. Another issue she had going on was that she didn’t trust anybody and when she got scared, she killed first and asked questions later.
Tabitha’s a poltergeist—she’s a pretty effective killer when she wants to be—which is why I was glad the security guards hadn’t bothered me. I might not have been able to hold her back without force, and I didn’t like doing that. It reminded her and all the others that I could snuff them out without much effort.
That’s me—Mallory Jade, former Exterminator. In the bad old days, if you wanted something or someone killed, for a fee, I’d kill it—from ghost to banshee to terrorist to disgruntled employees. I don’t even know how many final deaths I’m responsible for; I don’t want to know. I quit that life; left it behind like dust in the rearview. I don’t kill anymore. I’m a fixer now. If you’ve got a problem, I’ll help you fix it, so long as I don’t take anybody’s life or half-life or dead-life. The money’s better and I get to sleep at night.
Unfortunately, these days I sleep with ghosts. They like to attach to magicians, but that’s usually guaranteed suicide. Most of us with enough power to attract ghosts also have enough power to send them off to the final death. It’s a moths to the bug zapper situation. I’m the rare exception, since I’ve sworn off killing. I don’t even like binding them off so they can’t come near me. It’s not like they take up space or weigh anything, and they do have their uses.
Like helping me to fake my aural signature and making unfriendly types look the other way. Unfortunately, it looked like they were going to make the check-in clerk pee her pants. I sighed and pushed down on Tabitha slightly. The girl-ghost recoiled and struck back at me. I held her tight against me. I didn’t need her flinging furniture and blowing up computers. It wasn’t any more painful than a bear hug, but I could tell she her fury was shifting to panic, and that would not end well.