Chapter 1: Smiling Faces
Two Weeks Later
Roderick hid behind the corner, trying to slow his breathing.
He waited, clutching his weapon of choice.
The door started to jiggle open, and it creaked to reveal…
“Roderick?” Ian asked, opening the door.
“HEEEYAH!!” Roderick gave a war cry and threw his water balloon, hitting Ian square in the chest.
“RODERICK!” Ian growled, holding his arms out in annoyance, his shirt now completely soaked.
“Roderick for the wiiiin!!” the younger brother exclaimed, jumping up into the air. Ian rolled his eyes.
“You’re lucky I wasn’t holding the chinese food where you threw that water balloon.”
“You get noodles and bourbon chicken for me?”
“No. I got the broccoli and white rice aaaall for me. Duh I got you your bourbon chicken!”
Roderick licked his lips and grabbed the to-go box and put it on the counter of their apartment.
“Yay for China Wok!” he exclaimed, breaking apart his chopsticks. Ian rolled his eyes again, but smiled a little as he handed his brother a fortune cookie.
“Here bro-I know you like to open those things first.”
Eagerly, Roderick ripped open the packaging and cracked the cookie in half. Shoving the cookie in his mouth, he read his fortune:
Happiness is in the eye of the beholder.
Satisfied, the two brothers dug into their food.
“Did you find another job yet?” Roderick asked, slurping up a noodle. Ian shook his head.
“Unfortunately, no. Luckily, that money we got from the Pinnacle Gulch case is going to last us a good while.”
Roderick chewed a piece of chicken thoughtfully as the two of them sat in silence for a second.
“So uh… speaking of Pinnacle Gulch… How are you… doing?” Ian asked a little hesitantly.
“Fine.” Roderick said quietly. He knew that the danger with Bill Cottam and the spirit parasite was over, but he still sometimes got nightmares or found a little black goop still in his system. Every now and then he would cough a bit up in the bathroom. How long had it been? A few months since then?
Roderick poked at his food as Ian regarded him with concern.
“It’s the… eye of the tiger it’s the thrill of the fight…”
Wordlessly, Roderick answered his phone, putting it on speaker so both of them could listen in.
“Hello. Is this Roderick Vendeleer?” a gruff voice asked.
“Yep. May I ask who this is?”
“Brothers with Ian Vendeleer?”
“Uh… Yes. He’s here too.” Roderick said with interest as he and Ian exchanged glances.
“My name is Chief Wilson Lenard. I work with Officer Jordyn Hastings. You worked with her on the Pinnacle Gulch case?”
“Yeah. How can we forget?” Ian said with a roll of his eyes.
“Well… yes… She told me that you and a couple of others were really helpful with some of the… paranormal activity…”
“...Yes…” Roderick said expectantly.
The two brothers took a moment to process this.
“So… why are you calling us?” Roderick asked.
“Due to your… experience with the Pinnacle Gulch case, we’d like to ask you two to try to find her. She was going to a small community called Serenity Hill in northern California to try to find one of our other missing detectives.”
“So I’m guessing there’s probably paranormal activity in this town?” Ian asked.
“We’ll do it.” Roderick said, much to Ian’s surprise.
“Are you ok to do this??” Ian whispered. Roderick nodded.
“I need to get out. Get back into the game.” he whispered back. Ian scowled.
“Ok. Great.” Chief Lenard said cheerfully.
Ian scowled, feeling the sense that they were once again going to be thrust in a ghostly situation…
“You ok bro? You seem antsy.” Ian asked a bit warily as they drove along the California shore. Roderick fiddled with his thumbs.
“I’m fine Ian. I’ve just… I need to get out. Solve a mystery.”
“Ok. Whatever you say.” Despite his fidgeting, Roderick smiled.
“You excited to solve another mystery?!”
“Oh come on-and we’ll get to see Jordyn again!”
“...I’m bursting with joy… Really I am…” Ian replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Hey look! We’re here!” Roderick exclaimed as they passed a sign that said ‘Welcome to Serenity Hill.’
“I’m getting a horrible sense of deja vu…” Ian mumbled as he parallel parked the car on the side of the road in front of some shops.
“Good afternoon!” a chipper voice exclaimed as they got out of the car.
“Good afternoon to you too!” Roderick replied to the woman with the sun hat holding a potted plant.
“Um… Yes…” Ian mumbled a bit awkwardly. The woman gave a wide smile. She was probably in her early twenties with long curled red hair.
“What brings you boys to Serenity Hill?” she asked cheerfully, her bright blue dress swishing around her legs.
“Oh we’re looking for a friend of ours.” Roderick said, returning the smile as his brother stood there raising his brow and folding his arms. “Her name’s Jordyn Hastings?”
“Oh!! Yes! Jordyn!” the woman said with a nod. “She lives just around the corner on the other side of the park.”
“Uh… Lives?” Ian asked confused.
“Oh yes. She liked it so much here that she decided to move in!”
“Well that simplifies things.” Roderick said with a smile as Ian narrowed his eyes. “Let’s go say hi.”
“I don’t like this…” Ian said quietly, eyeing the woman walking away from them suspiciously. “For instance, why wouldn’t she tell anybody that she was suddenly moving here?”
Roderick, however, didn’t really hear him, because he was already skipping up ahead. Ian groaned inwardly and ran to catch up with him.
The two brothers started to walk down the road, while many other people walked around as well, enjoying the sunshine.
“This looks like a nice place.” Roderick said contently. “Look how happy everyone is! No wonder Jordyn wants to live here!”
“Jordyn doesn’t seem the type of person that would like a place like this…”
“Well maybe she changed in the few months she’s been away. Ya never know bro.” Roderick said with a shrug. Ian rolled his eyes as they approached a quaint little cottage with yellow siding surrounded by pink flowers. A sign outside said, “Jordyn’s Nook.”
“Ok. There is definitely something wrong here.” Ian said, stopping outside of the white picket fence as Roderick walked up the path to the door.
“Oh come on. Don’t tell me you’re getting your “weird” vibe. I told you. You need a sense of adventure.”
“I had enough adventure with a freaking serial killer and finding out ghosts and spirits are real!”
Roderick ignored him and knocked on the door. Ian groaned and joined his brother on the doorstep.
“I still think there is something off with this town…”
“Oh lighten up.”
The door then swung open to reveal Jordyn, with her honey hair in a curly ponytail, and her plaid flannel shirt. But something was wrong with her face.
There was a big smile on it.
“Ian!! Roderick!” she exclaimed happily, embracing the both of them tightly. “It’s so good to see you!!”
“Wow! Nice to see you too!” Roderick smiled.
“Get off of me.” Ian struggled as she hugged them both tighter.
“Oops! Sorry! I don’t know my own strength.” she laughed, letting them go. “Come on in you guys!”
Roderick jumped right in at the invitation, while his brother hesitated right outside the door frame. This did not sit right with him at all. After a moment however, he decided the best thing would be to go in after his brother.
Jordyn had them both sit at a glass table in the kitchen, which had a vase of daisies in it. Roderick immediately started chatting away, asking about the town in a pleasant way. Ian sat quietly, eyes narrowed, silently observing the detective they had met in Pinnacle Gulch. Addressing the fact that the brothers had recently found out that ghosts and spirits were actually real, he had a very hard time believing that Jordyn Hastings had simply “changed.”
He had an even stronger feeling about this as she talked about how the other detective had also decided to live here.
“Then why haven’t you called the precinct and tell them you’re ok?” he asked suspiciously, leaning back in his chair.
“Oh! Darn! I forgot! I should really get around to doing that.” Jordyn laughed.
“Also, I think you’re a horrible detective.”
Roderick shot him a disapproving look, surprised that his brother of all people would say such a think.
Jordyn blinked in surprise. “I’m sorry?”
“Well, maybe women just shouldn’t be in the workforce.” Ian smirked, folding his arms.
“Ian!!” Roderick gasped.
Jordyn’s eye twitched, but then after a moment, she started to laugh.
“Oh Ian! Always the joker!”
“No I’m not!” Ian insisted, aggravated for some reason that she wasn’t mad at him.
“Ian-what the freak man?” Roderick said through his teeth, still trying to smile. “What’s your problem?”
“What’s your problem?!” Ian seethed. “You’re ignoring the fact that Jordyn is a completely different person! There’s something off here!”
“Y-you don’t know that.” Roderick stuttered, avoiding eye contact.
“I think there’s something paranormal going on.”
Roderick didn’t answer him.
“Roderick-you’re the one who wanted to get back in the game. If you can’t handle this type of stuff yet, then maybe you need to go home.”
“Anyways Jordyn,” Roderick started, blatantly ignoring what his brother was saying. “Why don’t you tell us more about this town?”
At this, Jordyn started happily rambling about some of the people she had met and some of the great places to have some fun.
“Fine.” Ian growled, standing up. “If you won’t help me, I’ll figure out what’s going on by myself. I’m going out.”
“Ok. See you later.” Roderick smiled.
Ian could tell his little brother was masking how he really felt.
Giving another scowl, Ian stormed out the door.