114 West Briargrove, Flower Mound.
10:58 am . . .
This jet black little creature races by, starling me.
“Oh, don’t mind Steele,” Travis says as a smile softens his face, “that’s my cat. He’s been a bit nutty ever since this all started.”
Steele? I say.
“Yeah,” he replies, as he kneels down to pet the energetic little feline. “I named him after that detective in those novels.”
Todd Steele is like my favorite fictional detective ever, I tell him.
“You read Chemical Sundown, yet?” he asks me.
Just started it.
Travis blows on the cat’s ears as he plays with it. “It’s a roller-coaster, for sure.”
Ricky nods at me. I’m accidentally establishing rapport. Maybe I was a car salesman in my forgotten past life.
“So,” he says as he continues to pet Steele one too many times, the cat squirming and racing away in a flash, “what happens now?”
“Well,” Ricky said as he put his notepad away, “we need to go and get our equipment and dig in for the night. We’ll stay as long as it takes to observe the occurrences, or you tell us enough is enough.”
“How much is this going to cost me?”
Without skipping a beat, Ricky answers, “Twelve-hundred dollars a day.” And he says it so easily you’d think he was selling bubble gum. As if the price was a wooden nickel.
“How long do you believe this will take?” Travis said, adding numbers in his head.
And I’m starting to think the guy’s serious because normally the prospect of paying three strangers 1,200 dollars a night to hang out and eat pizza in your house would send the average paranoid consumer running. But not this guy. Whatever is going on in this house, he sure thinks it’s the real deal.
“Twelve-hundred bucks a day,” he folds his hands behind his head. “That’s expensive.” He even did that whistling through the teeth thing people do when they’re at the edge of their price range.
“Travis,” Ricky said matter-of-factly, “we’re not talking about spraying for termites here, or getting rid of a mouse problem. You may have a legitimate paranormal event taking place at your residence. It’s affecting your sleep, and your feelings of safety and comfort. So, who’s house is this? Yours . . . or the unyielding entities from the dark abyss?
“Now, you can either take that twelve-hundred dollars a day and spend it on psychiatrists and family counseling, or you can rid this beautiful house of its evil. Your choice.” And then Ricky glanced at his watch like we have somewhere better to be . . . which we don’t.
Travis considers what he’s heard. Takes a deep breath and then sighs through his nose, nodding to himself, “Alright, let’s do it.”
Ricky narrows his eyes, pondering something, “Travis, you said ‘we’ hear the noises. Who is we?”
“Oh,” he smiled, “my wife Sophia and our son, Paulino. But don’t worry, they’ll stay out of your way.”
Ricky took one more look around the hallway and then shook Travis’s hand. “We need to gather up our equipment. We’ll be back in a couple of hours, and then we’ll figure all this out.”
And we’re walking, we’re walking.
13 minutes later . . .
We’re heading up the access road to I-35 South, heading towards Dallas. I have some theories about Travis’s house, but I kind of like the idea of doing a real live steak out, so I’ll wait until tonight to voice my opinion
I look at Ms. Josephine in the front passenger seat. Somehow she seems to know I’m looking at her and she says, “What’s on your mind, Jack?”
Ricky glances at me in the rearview mirror.
I ask, Did that guy, Travis, did he seem spooked to you guys?
“Somethin’ scare dat man,” Ms. Josephine said, staring out the window at the traffic that looks like it’s parked on the highway. Ricky’s not driving his usual hyper-speed, but he’s still technically ‘hauling ass.’
“I think it’s his wife and kid that are scared,” Ricky said, “not so much him. That’s why he hesitated on the money at first. He’s obviously loaded, so a couple thousand dollars shouldn’t make the guy bat an eye. I think it’s his wife and kid who can’t sleep at night.”
I’m so hungry right now that I could chew off my own fingers. I could eat my own long pork, raw, I’m so starved.
Ricky pulls out his cell phone and dials, sliding it to his ear. Moments later he’s saying, “Billtruck, it’s Ricky. We’ve got ourselves a client . . . yeah. And it looks like it might be a Class-one disturbance . . . ”
Ms. Josephine and I glance at each other. We’re both wondering if either of us knows what he’s talking about. She just smiles. I didn’t even know we had a rating system for the paranormal. I’m going to have to learn a whole new vocabulary.
“ . . . we’re going to need all the gear, and see if you can get some information on the house, it’s one-fourteen, West Briargrove, in Flower Mound.”
Ricky is really getting into all of this.
“ . . . and we’re going to roll by McDonald’s on the way to the office, so do you just want the usual?”
About twenty minutes later I find out that ‘the usual’ is eight Double-Quarter-Pounders with cheese.
I ordered three Quarter-Pounders just so I wouldn’t look like a wimp. Plus, Ricky says I need to start massing-up if I want to go to war with the forces of evil. Apparently, a good bench-press should turn the tides in our favor.
When we drive past the multi-colored, plastic playground, I see a few spooks making their way towards a table where this woman was laughing with her kids.
By tomorrow, those innocent little kids, they’ll be motherless.
Ms. Josephine, sifting through her brown paper bag, the smell of Chicken Caesar Salad permeating the SUV, she turns her head halfway towards me, “Dyin’ is much worse when you see it comin’.”
“I wonder if we can use that as our slogan?” Ricky said, but instantly saw our reactions and realized it would be in poor taste. “Right,” he apologized, “ . . . maybe that’s a hair too morose.”
The gift I have, it’s like watching other people drowning. They’re dead way before they actually die. And when I see the spooks hobbling around, now, I look past them to the people that are knocking on the door to the Land of Sorrows.
For whatever reason, neither God nor Lucifer can find any use for that woman’s soul. So she will go to the dark place that I half-dwell in, and she will wait in the cold darkness for her judgment.
I can’t see anything about her that looks unsalvageable. But then, who the hell am I to judge? I’m just as lost as her. I’m dead way before I’m actually going to die.
These shadowy creatures are forecasters of death. Much more accurate than the weatherman. My stumpy, scary little allies are one of the few things I can actually count on.
As we drive off I notice a few of the spooks looking in my direction. I turn back around and shove fries into my mouth, realizing that I have more friends that are dead than alive.