See Jack Hunt

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Chapter 21

Moments later . . .

I decide to get a head start on gathering the wireless microphones together and packing them up, so I head across the living room and back up the stairs. Up on the ceiling, God looks like he’s pointing at me as I get to the hallway and start retrieving the mics. I don’t waste any time going from room to room.

I’m even quicker in the master bedroom, knowing that it’s a crime scene, now. Like we did ours, CSI will be along shortly to pull out all manner of fancy cameras and lights and chemicals to figure this all out.

What we were doing for ghosts, they’ll do for the dead.

But I have my theories on this, too. When you lose the only things in your life that you care about, it’s easier to believe a fantasy than to except reality. No matter how fantastic the dream is, it’s easier to lie to yourself than to accept the horrible truth that . . . what you love is gone, forever.

Travis, he lost the only things he really loved. And all the money in the world won’t make a difference. I don’t know how his faith is these days, but I expect him not to recover from this ordeal. Once they drug him up, counsel him, and convince him of what really happened . . . he’s through.

He’ll be another casualty.

Travis started drowning six months ago.

I don’t have the flashlight with me. I had handed it to Ricky just in case he felt the need to brain our confused client. Something tells me we’re not done here, yet. And then I look up at the attic entrance.

Two more microphones to go.

I climb the creaking wooden stairs and see my little mics, their LED lights still glowing bright amber. I scoop up the first one and walk the long distance across the attic to the second mic. And then I get this overwhelming feeling that I shouldn’t look up. It’s the same intuitive gut feeling that I had not to look at the bed when I was in the master bedroom.

So, of course, I raise my eyes straight up. And that’s when I see them.

Gatherers.

Tons of them.

This house is a freakin’ hive.

The gatherers—or ‘ramasseurs’ as they’re referred to in the voodoo texts—are the next step up from the spooks. Where the spooks usually travel in curious little packs, the gatherers work in twos. They have short stocky bodies with long, thin insect-like arms. Their fingers are bony and narrow, and they wield these long sharp knives. I’m not sure if the knives are actually an extension of their hands, or if they’re tools of the soul collecting trade.

But here’s what they do: Two of these gatherers, with their sharp knives, they cut open your chest, quite violently, and dig until they can get a grip on your soul. Us, over here in the Earth plane, we don’t see this virtual soulectomy, but that’s what’s happening in the hospital when somebody refuses to die.

When the doctors say, he’s fighting for his life! he really is. But not fighting against life or death. You fight with the gatherers for your soul. They’ve been commissioned to take you, forcefully, to the Land of Sorrows.

To Deadside.

Heaven and Hell and Purgatory have no use for you, so the gatherers get the nod. And that’s it. Eventually, they win.

Above me, in this dark attic, they’re seemingly lifeless, but I know better. Picture a cave of resting vampire bats. Imagine a sleeping hive of giant black hornets. Think, if you will, of a nest of the most horrible things you can imagine in your worst phobia and nightmares, and it won’t come close to what is just a few feet above my head.

Creatures cast and carved out of shadows who’s only point in this universe is to ravage the souls unwanted by the afterlife. Those without any faith, or of lukewarm belief.

And I know that these monsters are about to begin their work day. Just stopping for a quick nap. All that soul harvesting has got to make them tired.

And these scary bastards, they’re my allies. My quiet, violent friends from the darkness. They don’t need to gather my soul, they’ve already done that.

So I stuff the last microphone in the yellow nylon bag and I leave the attic.

When I get downstairs Ricky begins shutting off the cameras and loading them back into their appropriately stenciled bags. The house is dark, but I see orange and blue and red and yellow reflections racing and swirling across the furniture and walls. They get brighter and brighter, but there is no noise.

No sirens, no screeching tires. Thankfully, Billtruck had the presence of mind to warn the authorities against a loud approach.

And within minutes I hear a knock on the large oak front door. There’s a hushed conversation between Ricky and several police officers. Travis awakens to several soft-spoken detectives. And then the silent circus begins. Teams of investigators, paramedics, firemen, and contaminate disposal workers enter the house.

Ricky, Ms. Josephine, and I, we’re giving our statements. Trading business cards. And being thanked for our discretion in this delicate matter.

Turns out that Sophia—Travis’s late wife—was a state senator’s daughter. So, they’d appreciate if we didn’t publicize this ordeal, nor our involvement in it. Ricky traded some future favors for our silence, and that was that.

We loaded-up our gear and hit the road.

17 minutes later . . .

None of us has uttered more than two words since we pulled away from 114 West Briargrove. But we’re all asking ourselves the same questions. There are no good answers.

Ricky, he’s actually driving sensibly and he turns to Ms. Josephine, “Did you know?”

“I ‘ad my suspicions dis mornin’, but I didn’t want to scare da man into doin’ somethin’ ‘orrible,” she replied slowly, thoughtfully. “We done somethin’ good dere, today. Eventually dat man will get ’is peace. And ’is family, too. In deir own way.”

From the back of the Porsche I realize the battle we have ahead of us. How overwhelming it really is. And I’m not referring to the battle against poltergeists, but the war against the 23 Evils.

Look, I tell them, we can’t save the world like this. We can’t defeat evil one house at a time. It will just take way too long.

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