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Eterna Familia- Book One, all story, no chatter. (C1-8)
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Joined: 04 Mar 2008
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Location: Escaping the Hair Lair

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:17 am    Post subject: Eterna Familia- Book One, all story, no chatter. (C1-8)  


Everybody has a secret. Everyone has something they would rather the world in general didn’t know. My secret is something I wish I didn’t know.

Imagine your life. You were born to a mother, probably a nice woman. You had a father, probably a decent sort of guy. You happily passed through all the regular stages of infant development, your happy family clutched in the palm of one chubby, grubby fist. You ate a few crayons. You scraped your knees. You passed your math tests, learned to read, rode a bike, hid peas beneath your napkin, and tried to avoid being killed by an older, immortal brother that you only vaguely knew existed. Or maybe that’s just me.

My name is Europa Fielder. As I write this, I am 22 years old. I live by myself in a tiny apartment above a Laundromat in a small town called Dolmen Groves. My apartment is too small, cramped, dim and ant-infested for most folks to really like it, but due to Aunty Mel’s Quick Wash downstairs, it always smells fantastic! I am not, as of yet, immortal. Before you throw a porterhouse at me, or try and create a charming garden fence in my chest cavity- I am not a vampire, nor am I likely to become an imaginary creature any time soon. I am simply a victim of a rather unfortunate curse on a rather overly fortunate man, who fathered one too many bastards.

“May you and your bastards live the life of the Damned, forever!”

Wow. Who’d have thought that Fate was listening to that one?

Chapter One:

The Triplets were playing Scrabble when I arrived. It’s a pretty rare sight to see all three of my vastly different near-octogenarian siblings sharing a tender moment together. Eloise and Helen were slumped or perched respectively on a pair of matching Edwardian mahogany dinner chairs on either side of the game board, whilst Powell hovered protectively over the tile pouch. Normally, the Triplets are so widespread in their attentions its hard to focus on them as a group, so a rare moment like this one gave me a nice chance to observe.

Eloise is the eldest, although by mere minutes. Her mauve-rinsed hair was carefully roller-set, then back combed into a perfect french twist. She was wearing a little sweater set in a soft rose colour, tiny seed pearly sewn onto the collar and cuffs in a delicate floral pattern. On her feet were little pink house slippers, the ballerina style you can pick up for a few dollars at Sears. She had her favourite crepe slacks on, the dusty rose ones with the satin waist band, and a set of old but newly polished pearls on her throat, ears and wrists. Looking every inch the maiden sister, Eloise ran her carefully filed nails over the tapestry of the chair cushion in an annoyed gesture.

Opposite her battle station sat Helen, her nemesis and middle sibling. Helen was decked out for a night on the town in a little black dress, marabou trimmed heels, and a ruby cabochon ring large enough to choke Donald Trump. Her carefully highlighted blonde bob, flawless as usual, highlighted her razor sharp cheekbones and carefully sculpted brow- carved and sutured by the best plastic surgeons that money can afford. (Helen has recently become a tad addicted to plastic surgery, but lets keep that between us for now.) Judging by the size of the rock on her finger, I gathered Helen had been watching Dynasty re-runs again on TvTropolis.

The Triplets didn’t achieve Immortal status until well into their seventies, back in 1850, so Powell has always been as much of a grandfather figure to me as a brother. It came as quite a shock to him when, at the tender age of 78, he awoke one morning to find that he and his beloved older sisters had passed away in the night due to carbon monoxide poisoning from a clogged chimney flue. Awaking with Immortality is a tough thing to handle, I assume. He has, according to his sisters, been a little touched by dementia ever since.

Always at his finest when interpreting between his more egregious sisters, today Powell was dressed like a cross between Mr. Rogers and Sherlock Holmes. His bald scalp glistened with sweat from the Tiffany lamp overhead, while his cramped and age-spotted fingers crimped the edge of the plastic tile pouch with exaggerated tension. He was wearing his favourite cardigan- an age worn brown wool fiasco made by some well meaning dame a good twenty years ago- and a pair of tweed slacks, which drooped sadly over the heals of his blue and green plaid slippers. His large white moustache positively quivered with excitement as Helen pushed her tiles onto a red “triple word score” marker.


“You can’t use that there!” Eloise grumbled out loud, crinkling her nose at her sister and crabbing the offending letters onto the floor, leaving just the poor “QUO” to stand alone.
“I started that word. You can’t use my letters to make a bigger score for yourself!”

“Yes, darling demented sister, I can. It’s the basics of the game!” Helen’s voice began to raise in ire, and she pouted her carefully enhanced lips into a little moue of distaste as she stabbed a crimson nail at the game board. “You start a word, I add more letters to make a bigger word, I get the points!”

Powell continued to tremble as his eyes darted from sister to sister behind his copper rimmed glasses.
“Now girls...”

“Don’t call us ‘GIRLS’!!” Two voices rang out in unison, finally uniting on a common enemy, and two dining room chairs crashed unceremoniously to the floor as each sister stalked from the games room in a different direction.

“Hm. Well, brother mine? Uniting the fronts as always?” I couldn’t help but interrupt. Powell shrugged his bony shoulders, and held out his arms in a welcoming, tobacco scented hug.

“Yes, well. Did I ever tell you I was a negotiator in the War? It was back in 1871, and our neighbors were fighting as usual- very disgraceful in a married couple- and I was stopping by to ask if Edward had an extra pipe stem, as Helen has just thrown mine in the fire..”

We chatted a little as I picked up after my sisters, righting the chairs and rounding up the errant tiles. I had to prise Powell’s fingers off the pouch, him having forgotten he was holding it in all the ensuing excitement. The rest of the townhouse was neat and tidy today, a testament to the untold virtue of the housecleaning service the Triplets employed. I guess a healthy paycheque and a nice holiday bonus will make up for even the crankiest old timer. We made our way into the kitchen, and as my brother set the kettle on the stove to boil, and as I rescued the electric pot and plugged it safely into an outlet instead, I cut to the verbal chase.

“Where’s Harrold?”

“Oh, my. Well, I haven’t heard from him in, erm, .. Well. I can’t quite remember. Perhaps if you’d care to ask Eloise? She usually handles the correspondence..”

Powell looked steadily at the travertine tiles, avoiding my questioning glare, his fingers picking at a few of the burn holes In his sleeves. Powell has always been a terrible liar. I think that’s why he’s so easy to trust. It’s not that he wouldn’t try to keep information from me on occasion, but he’s just so naturally bad at covering his tracks, it’s like following a catburglar into an open bank vault- easy to see why the money is missing.

Harrold is our brother as well. Physically around his mid forties, although born in 1890, he’s been trying to kill me for as long as I can remember. We have something of a hate-hate relationship. He hates that I’m not dead yet, and I hate him for consistently trying to remedy the situation. I can remember my childhood- always fleeing in the middle of the night with my mother to move to a new suburb, or commune, or mobile home. There was a period of a few years in which I couldn’t even remember my last name, Susan made me use so many different ones. Luckily, as I moved through my twenties, Harrold seemed to have backed off a bit in the killing and maiming department. It made me suspicious.

“I don’t like it when I don’t know where he is, Powell. You know that! If you tell me what he’s up to, I can just avoid him. I don’t like violence any more than you do!”

The last time Harrold and I had a friendly little meeting, I ended up needing 6 friendly little stitches in my left shoulder, and he ended up with a friendly little butter knife stuck in his left eye socket. I was fairly certain his bruising would have faded by this point. It was an awkward way to end our father’s funeral, but my family likes to keep life interesting. Harrold’s latest scheme was to turn me into some sort of vegetable. He was obsessed with inheriting our father’s fortune, and terrified that I, as the only family member of legal age who could possibly pass for Rolph’s daughter, would have a paternity test done and steal the money from his clutches. I wish! I would have loved to move somewhere with a little grass, at least. I was more concerned with surviving my twenties with my brains still intact.


I chose to question Bernice as to the whereabouts of our least favourite brother. The Triplets have always been a little ambivalent about Harrold and his nefarious activities, preferring instead to live out their Immortal years in relative comfort. They own quite a bit of real estate, amassed over the past two and half centuries, and enjoy a lucrative rental housing business, nominally run by Powell but in all actuality controlled by Bernice. She prefers to stay under the radar for the most part, as most of the tenants wouldn't appreciate knowing they have a 9 year old landlady.

Well, she appears to be nine or so, anyway. Bernice was actually born in 1901, and died of a misplaced bone in her training corset. It punctured her lung, causing her to silently suffocate midway through a piano recital. Children at that time were to be seen but not heard, particularly during public appearances, and so her death was originally thought to just be a sweet swoon brought on by too much attention and limelight. Unfortunately, not so much. After passing through a mortuary that the Triplets happened to run at the time, Bernice was discovered to be alive- or Re-Alive- and was lovingly embraced as a new family member. She lives in an attached granny flat over the garage of the Triplets' townhouse, and enjoys ragtime music, and Hello Kitty. She's also a financial whiz, so despite Harrold's constant attempts to weasel financial control of their assets from Powell, Bernice handles all the business and fortune of their little collective.

"Damn this arpeggio!" Her little fist hit the keys of her Baldwin piano with surprising force, sending her bobble-headed Hello Kitty collection into a nodding fit.

"Hey, Bernice! What're you working on today?"

"Nevermind, kiddo. Modern piano just doesn’t have the same charm as the old stuff." She slammed the key cover shut, and stormed over to me, pixie features a mix of frustration and happiness. It's easy to show contrasting emotions when you have the face of a diminutive, strawberry blonde Louise Brooks. Ever partial to barrettes, Bernice had the sides of her hair pulled back with a set of pink plastic Dora the Explorer clips.

"What's with the headgear?"

She ran a hand over her hair, careful not to send her perfectly blunt bangs into disarray, and smiled disarmingly at me, dimpling in the dappled light.

"These? A gift for Helen's "grand daughter" from the tenants on Chapel Street. I rather like them. Dora's no Betty Boop, but at least she has nice hair."

I grabbed a seat on the overstuffed suede couch, and patted the pink flower shaped cushion next to me.

"I need to ask you something important."

Looking every inch the self-important 107 year old nine-year-old that she was, Bernice complied.

"Have you seen or heard from Harrold? Powell told me to ask Eloise.. but as I'd rather saw off my own fingers, I figured you'd be more inclined to tell me the truth." Bernice is no fan of old Harrold, even though they are actually very close in age. He sees only her child’s body, and not the mind behind it.

“That great ass? I’m happy to say no. The last I heard he was sniffing around Marion’s back door, hoping to beg some scraps from Rolph’s estate. You may want to swing by Mommy Dearest’s place and ask her. If it’s a good day, she may even be able to help. You should probably talk to Eloise at some point, though. She claims to have met a psychic who can talk to father’s ghost, and Davis has a theory about Rolph’s death that might prove.. Um.. enlightening.”

Chapter Two:

The afternoon sun had started to dip behind the higher buildings on the street, and the sky was blowing a cool breeze, if not an ill wind, as I waited outside the Coffee Nook. Eloise and Harrold were both due to meet me at any moment, and my nerves were afire even if my fingers were currently frozen. Me and Harrold in the same space, with only Eloise and a perfect stranger to prevent violence? I had my favourite steak knife secreted in my jacket pocket, and a pointy ended chopstick stuck inside my boot.

When a car door slammed around the corner, I lept into the air like a cat on fire. Perhaps I could pursue my dreams of joining Cirque du Soleil after all! My momentary good cheer floated off on the breeze as my brother came stomping around the corner. He was wearing a pair of pleated navy slacks, and a grey fisherman’s sweater, with those kind of clomping black dress shoes more often than not seen on the feet of undertakers and principals. I guess Harrold’s attitude fit right in. His sandy brown hair, grey at the temples and front hairline, was swooshed back in an “investment banker” type style, all secret hair spray and artful feathering. I hated it. Too fussy, prim, and overly-styled for my taste, especially on a man.. And especially on my least favourite sibling. His squinty hazel eyes bore into me as he closed the distance between us, only the slightest of shadows marring the left socket.

“Hi, Harry! Umm. Eye looks good. Perfected your use of pancake makeup, have you?” I have always found it hard to reign in my sarcasm around Harrold.

He opened his mouth to no-doubt bite my head from my shoulders, but Eloise was rounding the corner behind him, wrapped neck to knee in a pink and silver windbreaker, and he bit his tongue instead.

“Eloise! Long time no see!” I pecked her papery cheek. “So who is this crackpot we’re visiting?”

“Oh, he’s lovely! Just a dear, dear friend with a gift. A true Gift!” As she became more excited, you could hear the Winnie the Pooh Capitalization of her words, discussing her Magically Talented Friend.

I eyed the brownstone across the street, a little disappointed. I hadn’t exactly been expecting Hogwarts, but I had hope for something a little more interesting than slightly crooked blinds and window boxes. We crossed the deserted street, and were buzzed in by a fumble-fingered older woman carrying too many grocery bags. I held the door while Harrold and Eloise pretended neither of us existed.

Inside, we ascended the stairs to the top floor. This is how the universe lets you know it’s paying attention. No one you ever need to meet lives in a first floor apartment, or in a building with a working elevator. Just as no one will ever call you at home unless you’re in the bathroom. Our final destination was a non-descript door, with flaking brown paint, a peephole, and one of those combination door knocker-apartment number thingies you see in cheap motels. Number 302. Home of Norm MacNeil, Psychic Extraordinaire.

“Come on in, folks! The kettle’s on. Would anyone like some licorice tea? It’s great for flushing out those negative vibes!” An overly cheery voice guided us into the hallway, where I stopped to stare. Who was I kidding? This place was way better than Hogwarts!

A mishmash of craziness assaulted my senses. Somewhere in the rubble that passed as furnishings, a particularly unpleasant brand of incense was burning. I suspected it was a mixture of Glade air freshener and old newspapers. The once-white walls were stained with years of nicotine and other types of smoke, and were covered nearly floor to ceiling with pictures of anonymous smiling people posing with a chubby, hairy, caftan-covered neanderthal. Some frames were missing glass, some were cracked, one was duct taped together, and some photos were just thumb tacked directly into the drywall. I’m sure the landlord was in love with this dude.

In the little kitchenette corner to the right, we found our charming host pottering protectively over a kettle, setting out little dollar store china cups with his massive hairy paws. His long brown hair was pulled back into a little ponytail at the nape of his neck, and slipped down nearly to the waist of his mustard and black printed caftan. More necklaces than Mr.T could get away with clanked noisily against his barrel chest, some decorated with crosses, some ahnks, some pendants I’d never seen before. His hairy knotted legs poked out of the bottom of the caftan, crammed into a stained pair of birkenstocks- the size of which I wasn’t aware that they made. On his left pinky toe was a tin peace-sign toe ring. He was probably only 5 or so feet tall, but the bulk of his features, and the size of his hands and feet gave me the impression that Norm had, at some point in his life, been crushed by a boulder and turned into a human accordion.

“Oh, Norm! You shouldn’t have!” Eloise, almost dancing with glee, skipped past Harrold and I to join her friend in a tender moment, almost scalding herself on the tea-kettle in the process and actually giggling- GIGGLING- at Norm like the world’s oldest school girl.

“Howdy-do, Friends?” Harry and I shared a grimace, and allowed the behemoth to tenderly clasp our hands. “Let me give ya’ a gander into the Otherworld! Ellie, I knew when we met the other day that your Vibes would want to chill with my Spiritual Energies!”

I was handed a pansy shaped teacup filled with a stinking brownish liquid, and gulped the air. This could be my last chance at breath. Norm seemed more likely at this moment to poison me than Harrold. Old Harry wasn’t coping any better than I was, poking a finger into his tea to fish out a hair.

Norm led us into his overstuffed living room. His floral futon, overflowing with crochet and faux-furred pillows, was nestled between a somewhat miniature totem-pole, and a pair of equally ugly plush armchairs. The rose patterned carpet had a second braided rag rug atop it, and in the middle of that sat a tv-table with a crystal ball on in. Several mismatched wooden chairs struggled to fit around the table. He gestured for us to sit. Squashed knee to knee, we hunched around the tv table as Norm turned off the ceiling fan. Using just the light from the collection of lava lamps on his mantlepiece behind him, Norm sat, wrapped his ape hand around the base of the crystal ball, and began to hum. A soft grinding sound filtered through the air, and I stared at the mammoth psychic, before realizing it was Harrold gnashing his teeth together. Across the top of Eloise’s silver hair, my brother and I shared our first ever friendly look. We rolled our eyes at each other, and it was all I could do not to laugh.

Just as I was about to pass out from the stench of the incense, Norm began to speak.

“You have lost someone very dear to you. Very close. A guy... “

“YES, yes. My father!” Eloise leaned forward earnestly, her pearls almost brushing the crumbs from the table in front of her.

“I see he passed recently.. A great loss for you... he left many loved ones behind... a great age, a long life...”

“What else? How did he die?”

Norm shuddered and sweated behind the crystal ball, his hairy palms trembled as he swept them back and forth around the orb.

“I see... a hospital bed.... and a WARNING!!”

The tone of the psychic’s voice deepened into a roar, his caterpillar eyebrows scampering for the negligible safety of his receding hairline.

“ALL IS NOT AS IT SEEMS! SOMEONE IN THIS ROOM IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED!” With one last gasp, Norm seemed to drift off into a sudden slumber. Harrold snorted out loud, shoving his chair back with a clatter, and turned on the lights. Eloise sat poised in though on her rickety chair as Harrold paced back and forth.

“What a load, Eloise. You can’t seriously believe this charlatan? A hospital bed? We all know what happened to Rolph... when one dissolves into dust, there’s hardly reason to call on medical professionals.”

“And when did ANY of us ever describe our relationship with Rolph as “close”? I mean, please. We were all at least somewhat repulsed by the man. Genetic donorship does not a father figure make.” I rolled my eyes at my sister and looked to Harrold for confirmation.

Forcing a cheerful smile onto her thin lips, though her suddenly steely eyes pressed us for silence, Eloise gently patted Norm’s hand as he came awake. He blinked sleepily, wiping a strand of spittle into his already breakfast-filled goatee, and smiled.

“I hope I gave you a little salve for your Heartache, dear Friends.” Encompassing us all into a patchouli scented hug as he rose, and graciously accepting some folded bills from Eloise, Norm deftly drove us towards the door and out into the hallway. “I’ll need to nap for a while after this one.. Lots to ponder. Divine connections always make me sleepy. And Maury is on at 3!” The door slammed in our collective faces.

Once separate from her guru, Eloise seemed to deflate.

“I think perhaps you two are correct. His answers were vague at best, and seemed to hint at no one in particular. Obviously anyone elderly enough to be my father would most likely have spent time in a hospital room, and seeing how we appear to be three generations of a family, instead of siblings.. It makes sense that the ‘dearly departed’ would have had many loved ones. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”

Before Harrold or I could make a move to comfort her, Eloise spun on one sensibly shod heel, and escorted herself briskly from our sight. I was sorry to see her go- sorry for her current snit of angst, and sorry that her departure left me alone with Harrold. My fingers twitched towards the steak knife as he eyed me suspiciously. Inside my jeans pocket, my cell phone lept to life, filling the already tense air with Iggy Pop’s lusting for life.

Chapter Three:

Harrold and I continued our staring contest, and I snaked my hand into my pocket. When I pulled it out, Harry tensed, but instead of stabbing him, I held my cell phone to my ear.

“Captain Bad-timing’s House of Pancakes” I hate inopportune phone calls. Sometimes I imagine throwing my cell phone in the river, contract be damned. Then I remember all those fees, and the fact that I’m already nominally damned. And I remember how nice it is to be able to text message when riding the bus. So I keep it.

The tinny voice of a telemarketer trickled into my ear, providing just enough distraction for Harrold. Hooking his shoe behind my left leg, Harry neatly tripped me, and I toppled towards the open stairwell. My cell slipped from my fingers, bouncing down the staircase ahead of me, and ending the call. I fell over the railing.

It’s amazing how many details can go through your mind as you fall down three flights of open landing space. If I were to have bounced down all those steps on my head, Harrold would surely be dancing with glee.. As it were, the hood of my sweatshirt caught on the newel post of the stairs a flight down, and I pulled up short. My arms were above my head, and I caught the bannister at the same time, saving myself from a broken neck and the start of an Immortal life as a quadriplegic. My shoulders burned like hell. Harrold was already making his way down towards me, as I hauled myself over the railing and onto the second flight of stairs. I crouched, pulling the steak knife from my pocket, and preparing to jab.

“Must you always be so difficult?” My brother raged at me, kicking towards my head in an attempt to push me backwards down the rest of the stairs. “I’ve worked too hard to watch my fortune end up in your hands.”

“I don’t want your stupid fortune, you idiot ” I ducked his loafer, and grabbed his ankle instead, pulling him off balance, and tipping him over the railing in my stead. Harrold managed half a , “Damn...” before splaying messily on the lobby floor below. I tucked my steak knife away, made my way down to the exit, and stepped heavily onto my brother’s face on the way out. “Hm. I don’t think Maybelline makes a product for this one, bro.” I stooped and picked up my cell phone. The screen was cracked, and the battery was hanging by its connector wires, but I still had three reception bars. I wondered if attempted murder was considered a good cause under my replacement warranty.

I’m not really as heartless as it sounds. I’ve learned a lot about Harrold’s regenerative abilities over the years, and I knew that he’d be dragging himself off the tiles in a few minutes. He wouldn’t necessarily be joining a dance troupe for the next few weeks, but he’d be able to shove me in front of a bus or something if I stuck around. So I didn’t. Mind whirling with Norm’s strange warning, and a good burst of near-death adrenaline, I cut across the park heading for Davis’ house. A lot of things were bothering me, at this point- and none of them made any particular brand of sense. If anyone were able to see the big picture in a crazy situation, it would be my third, and youngest, older brother. Besides, I was curious about the “theory” that Bernice mentioned.

Davis lives in a trailer park on the outskirts of town. I’ve known him my whole life, and I’m probably closer to him than anyone, save my mother. Davis was born in 1956, to Katherine Ewings- a woman’s libber with a faulty mothering instinct. She named him after Miles Davis. Katherine left for a women’s empowerment conference mid 1970, and left Davis with some grocery money, the house, and the number of what turned out to be a truck stop diner. She never came back. He ended up drowning in a creek after getting a little trippy during a concert shortly after Katherine’s disappearance, and as a result looks about fourteen, with dirty blonde dreadlocks, and crooked front teeth. You’d think that Davis would be a little disenchanted towards women after an experience like that, but he’s apparently got all the nurturing instincts his own mom was lacking. When Harrold would get really hard-core into his attempts to kill me, and when my own mom felt it necessary to flee the area, she would sometimes drop me off at Davis’ to hide out and throw Harry off our scent.

I knocked on the door to Davis’ trailer, and then let myself in. He was sitting in front of his laptop, watching YouTube videos and picking absently at a plate of nachos. My stomach growled at the thought of all that lovely melted cheese, grease and fatty goodness.

“Hey, Euro. I was wondering when you were going to get here!” He shoved the chips in my direction. “You look a little weirded out. What’s up?”

I filled him in on my recent adventures, at the same time filling my belly. By the time I finished sucking orange cheese-grease off my fingertips, Davis was wired and wiggling with excitement.

“Dude! It’s so weird that your psychic dude would say that! Take a look at this!” He reached into a pocket, removing a neatly folded envelope and handing it across to me. It was creamy, thick stationary, not the foolscap I usually wrote on. The paper inside was crispy and weighty, with little natural fibers imbedded in it, and smelled faintly of tobacco. Typewritten words spelled out the same message Norm had shouted, and at the bottom of the page, a little symbol had been imprinted onto a blob of topaz colored wax. It looked like a tree shape with a pair of eyebrows hovering above it. On the outside of the envelope, a flowing hand had written Davis’ name. I noticed something else as well.

““No postage markings, Dave. And I’ve seen that sygil before. The Eyebrow Tree thing is on the book Rolph left for Marion.”

At the mention of our nominal step-mother, if bastard immortal children qualify for step-mothering, Davis’ expression darkened considerably. The last time I had seen Marion, indeed the last time all of us had been in the same place, we were all rushing to crash the wedding- a little too late as things would have it. Rolph had just collapsed into dust and been declared deceased, and Marion was clutching a small burgundy bound notebook to her siliconed chest. The civil servant scheduled to perform the ceremony had already run gabbling into the afternoon traffic, puffs of disintegrated man still drifting from his loafers. My siblings and I were left to try and explain a rather awkward moment to a very unbalanced new wife/widow. Davis wasn’t a fan of Rolph in quasi-life OR death, and his disappearance had brought up a lot of repressed angst at his own mother’s disappearance.

“Hm. Yeah. That reminds me of my theory again. What do you know about the family curse thingy? It kinda starts with that.”

I grimaced, and shrugged. “Not a whole lot, honestly. Why don’t you give me the refresher?”

* * * *

“May you and your bastards live the life of the Damned, forever!” That’s the basis of the curse. Apparently dear old Dad had trouble keeping himself to himself, and pissed off a tavern owner with a bad voodoo habit or something. Anyway, since that point, whenever Rolph fathered a child, that kid carried the Immortality gene. The only thing is, the Immortal part wasn’t turned on until the person in question died. So, Rolph runs around knocking up all these women, and they in turn have kids, and then WE in turn die of whatever, and end up as a pack of miss-matched Immortal people, lounging around forever, right?”

I nodded, and gestured for Davis to continue.

“Right. So, here we are. Then Rolph goes and hooks up with Marion. He’s all set to tie the knot, they say their vows, and the whole marriage thing is finalized. The minute its done, though, Rolph has voided the curse! See.. Cause it says “You and your bastards”, right? But now Rolph is married, so any kids he has with Marion are now legally his- NOT illegitimate kids like the rest of us. So they won’t be cursed, and I think that somehow tricked the old voodoo into taking his curse away too, so all his years caught up with him, and now he’s a dirt pile instead of a dirt bag!” Davis crowed this last statement out loud.

“But what’s with the letter, dude?” I nudge the paper in question with my fingertip. “And the book? What’s in the book?”

Chapter Four:

Davis and I stared at the envelope in total concentration, only starting from our separate thoughts when we ran out of nachos. Left with few options, and fewer snack foods, my brother and I headed out the door and into the now-late evening.

“So? I say we track down the Tavern, Dave. It seems like the start of this whole mess. But...” I trailed off.

“But how do we find a tavern that’s probably been closed for a bazillion years?” Davis laughed and ruffled my hair, reminding me in his simple way that despite appearances, I’m still the youngster. “Ever hear of the internet, dude? But my connection here is dead, so we’ll have to see what’s open.”

I groaned. It had been a long day, and a longer night. Now the stars were out, and I pictured us hunkering down in an internet café somewhere, trying to piece together our family history alongside perverted late-night internet crawlers. “What about Bernice’s place? At least she’s got a futon.”

That settled Davis. Never one to turn down a comfy place to crash, our hippie bro is pretty easy going once bribed with comfort and a possible Mountain Dew. We reached the Triplets’ as the streetlights flickered on, and could easily see that all the lights were off. Luckily, Bernice retains her childhood fear of the dark, so her outside porch light is kept on all through the night, as well as a variety of inside lights up in her granny flat. I let us in with my key. Not wanting to fight off a bogey-man obsessed quasi-Immortal nine year old, I gently shook my littlest sister awake and brought her out to join us.

“What’s this all about? Davis? .. Something to do with your ‘theory’, I assume.” She yawned, feet flexing inside her hot pink Hello Kitty slippers, and smacked her retainer back and forth. “And Euro? How did things go with the psychic fellow? Pass me the chips.” This last statement announced with the commanding tone that only a newly wakened child can muster.

We filled Bernice in on the details of the afternoon, as well as with chips and dip snatched from her pantry, and ended with Davis’ theory and our quest to find the tavern. When Dave mentioned the letter, Bernice twitched in discomfort.

“I received the same letter. It arrived last night. I had assumed it was a joke, or one of those ridiculous chain-letter things that Eloise is always so afraid of getting.. But now that you’ve mentioned what’s been going on, I think not.” She snatched the laptop out of my lap, and quickly started typing away. Within moments, the screen was filled with a pale blue image and annoyingly small white type.

“Ahh, the historic building registry.” Bernice smiled proudly, and flicked her retainer with her tongue. “You’d be amazed what’s considered historic these days ”

Stabbing away at the keys with relish, our sister ransacked the annals of time to gather what little information on the tavern we could find. The site gradually gave up its secrets to Bernice’s inquisition tactics, and soon enough we had a list of 7 possible sites. All were within a two day journey of Dolmen Groves, but several of the buildings had acquired interesting makeovers during the intervening years. One was now a drive through burger joint, presided over by a freakishly bewigged clown. Another had become the local fire hall of its county, and while the third site remained a bar, it now served upscale martinis and braised lamb quarters- whatever that meant. The fourth location was a bulldozed lot. The fifth old tavern had been converted into a bed and breakfast, and the sixth was now a funeral parlor with attached mortuary. The seventh and final possible location of Ye Old Taverne of Cursular Goodness was currently incarnated as a private residence.

I clenched my teeth in frustration, causing Bernice to roll her eyes and smack her retainer at me once again. “You young kids have no idea how valuable proper dental care really is. In my day you’d be lucky to have teeth to grind at your ripe age!” She preened under our combined glares. Pre-teens can be irritating under the best of circumstances, all drama and talk.. But stick a century under her belt, and sometimes Bernice is a little hard to take.
“Okay, Yoda. Whatever you say, Grand Master of Dental Hygiene, Can we get back to the matter at hand, please? Which site should we check out?”

Chapter Five:

Davis, Bernice and I shook our fists at each other, and chanted.
“One, two, three.... ROCK PAPER SCISSORS ”

Bernice cackled in glee. It seemed that my brother and I were out of practice, or in synch, or both. Her paper easily conquered our rocks. I’ve honestly never understood how paper can win over rock. I always thought rock should win regardless of hand-shape, because you could always punch your way to victory, while a karate chop is the best paper could offer, and scissors could maybe poke you in the eye.

Regardless of my personal thoughts on the matter, however, Bernice won the toss. We were off to check out the Bed and Breakfast.

* * * * *

We pulled up to perhaps the most un-sinister looking B&B ever to serve toast. Built along a curving cliff side road, two days drive from Dolmen Groves, the Damsel Taverne Bed and Breakfast was a tribute to little hotels everywhere. Totally embracing its meager beginnings as a roadside tavern, and turning them into a marketing scheme, the building was made of aged castle rock, with diamond pane windows and dear little blue shutters. The parking area and front stoop were cobblestoned with cinnamon coloured pavers, and edged with assorted colourful flowers. A hand-crafted wooden sign bearing the name of the business, as well as a charming wooden maiden bearing a simpering smile on her oaken features completed the look. The door was iron-banded oak, with a sweetheart window, also diamond pane, recessed into the middle. A brass door knocker in the shape of a heart dangled at chest-height, enticingly shiny. I grabbed it and swung with all my might.

The door swung open silently, revealing the knocker to be more of a doorknob than an actual sounding device. The entranceway was carpeted with a handwoven green, pink and white rug, and to our left was a cheery little check-in desk. A young woman was standing there, and we headed her way.

“Meghan” was a petite blonde, with sparkling blue eyes and a dimpled smile. She was wearing a crisp white blouse tucked into a pastel pink pencil skirt, and her brass name tag announced itself on her chest with proud perfection. She was the very epitome of Check-In Greeter Barbie. As we approached she eyed us up with a curl of her lip, and seemed to set her Hotel-O-Tron button to "irritate". “Hello, welcome to the Damsel Taverne Bed and Breakfast! Would you like a room for yourself and your children?”

I glared. “Meghan” was most definitely younger than me, making her "Hun" all the more obnoxious, and I most definitely did not look old enough to be Bernice’s mother, then again Davis’. I may have been a little haggard from the road, but that certainly didn’t make it look like I’d had my first child before hitting puberty.

“I would like a room, thanks.. For my brother, my sister and myself.” I tried to stand up a little straighter.

“Oh, sorry, hun. M’kay.. We have a suite available. Will that do?” She pulled out a stack of forms as her gaze drifted down to Bernice. “Well hello there, little munchkin face. Would you like something to colour while your mother checks in?”

My palms smarted from digging my nails into them, but I managed to contain myself. I turned at a tug on my sleeve, and was surprised to see Davis and Bernice holding up a series of pamphlets with thinly disguised glee. The outermost pamphlet extolled the historical virtues of our present location, whilst giving a step-by-step guide to the totally “historically accurate” renovation and rejuvenation process. Pictures of muscle toting construction men deconstructing a stone dump of a building, utterly unlike the Damsel of today, ended the story with the following paragraph;,

“After demolishing and bulldozing the area to enhance the natural smoothness of the land, the Damsel was totally rebuilt to Historic standards, using antiqued castle rock stones imported from Mexico. The hand-made diamond pane windows are a product of the Olde Time Window factory of Ambigua, Korea. Licensing for the Damsel Taverne Bed and Breakfast is provided by our parent company, Day’s Inn.”

“Huh. Historic.” I glanced around at the perfectly straight walls, the crenulated crown molding and spotlessly clean hard-wood flooring. I smiled at the little heating and cooling vents hidden in the flower-patch wallpaper, their polished brass facings extruded into little posies of metal. “I don’t think we’re likely to find any secrets hidden in something demolished and rebuilt by a chain of mid-priced hotels.. Not any secrets we’re looking for anyway. We might as well finish checking in, and regroup.”

* * * * *

Davis closed his eyes, and fished a winner out of the ice-bucket. The rest of the scraps of hotel-room-issue notepaper went into the nearby recycling bin. “The Funeral Parlour!” he crowed.

Happy Endings Funeral Parlour and Mortuary was an hour further down the road. On our map of possible locations, the Bed and Breakfast was roughly in the middle, with the other locations fanning out from it at various lengths of road and time.. and lifetime, although mine was the only one worth counting at this point. We headed back to the rental car.

* * * * *

“This looks more like it!”

We leaned back in our seats, and examined Happy Endings with a lot more trepidation than the name initially inspired. Craggy, unkempt brick walls, housing foggy, cracked windows loomed towards us, the name of the parlour hardly visible in the mange of untended clematis and English ivy. A scent of desiccated meat drifted in the mid-afternoon breeze, and Bernice barely held back her retching, until I pointed out that the McRestaurant, which we had quickly crossed off our list of possible locations, was right across the street. This only made my sister turn a little greener, and it was easy to see why. The whole situation was a little too “Sweeney Todd goes Corporate” for my liking.

I tried to convince my siblings that another round of Rock, Paper, Scissors was in order, but I was voted the only one unlucky enough to show my age, and won the dubious right to check out the premise. The door sunk almost as much as my stomach when I neared it, the manky thing nearly diving off its hinges at my light touch. I began to suspect that business wasn’t well at Happy Endings. A cheerless mortician in a stained black suit stood in the entryway, and scowled at my approach.

“Good day, miss. I assume you have an appointment?”

I grimaced back at Lurch, and looked around in amazement. This joint needed appointments as much as I needed a plantar wart, and by the state of the dingy carpeting, the wart was much more likely. I sniffed the air gingerly, wincing at the overtones of burnt Someone, and hurried through my rehearsed speech.

“I’m just looking for information on the tavern that used to be here.” breath.
“I don’t have an appointment, but my time in the area is limited.” breath.
“I think you may be burning someone.” I wavered slightly on my feet and made every effort to breathe through my shirt-collar.

Lurch glared again, his eyeballs dull in the underlit hallway, and gestured across the street to the McRestaurant. “I believe you are mistaken. This location was merely the storage building for the tavern. The Tavern itself was once where that fast food restaurant now stands.”

I couldn’t help but noticed that he hadn’t corrected my comment about a burning body. He picked his nails as I backed out the door, trying to breath through my ears to save my senses of taste and smell. I dove into the car.

“Why do you smell like pot roast?”

* * * * *

We sat on the curbside finishing our icecream, while my sweater - liberally soaked in Febreeze- dangled in the afternoon breeze. I closed my eyes, and threw a piece of cone at the map.

“Looks like we’re headed to the bar and grill, guys.”

“Europa, that’s hardly a scientific way to approach this.” Bernice attempted to chastise me, but the chocolate smears on her face, and the fact that Rock, Scissors, Paper had been her method of choice took the sting from her comments.

“Good. I’m hungry! And I kinda have a hankering for roast, now.” Davis rubbed his belly, apparently as bottomless in his Immortalitly as any normal 14 year old boy, and just as unconcerned about my possible inhalation of someone’s cremating relative.

* * * * *

“INCARNA” proclaimed the sign, in shiny copper letters, thinly edged with neon lighting. The restaurant bore slim resemblance to its past incarnation. A framed menue set against a leather background proclaimed the choices available to be both under-explained and over-priced. I knew I’d have to look to Bernice to fund our little soiree here. It was a little embarassing to be funded by a 9 year old.

We entered the stone building, and found ourselves in a huge open area, the roof overhead supported by actual tree beams, albeit well varnished and properly restored. New hardwood/bamboo engineered flooring tickled our tootsies, but the feeling of solidity beneath the thin veneer of new-aged fashion lead me to believe that older hardwoods probably lurked below the surface. The walls were stone, portions of which were currently upholstered in black leather and silver chrome. A long bar, much scarred and used, ran the length of the far wall, its many nooks and brass shoe-rail giving a clue to its age. I snagged the sleeve of a passing waiter. “Is that the original bar?”

The waiter disentangled himself from me, gingerly pinching his silk sleeves back into place, and adjusting his white leather apron. He gestured to a brass plaque set next to the built-in-fireplace with one overly-manicured hand. “Yes, everything in the building is original. As you can see, INCARNA is the perfect blend of modern and antique.”

I wiped the smarm off my face, and read the plaque.

“This building is recognized as a historical building. Bought from the city in 1998, INCARNA is the crowning jewel in a long history of taverns to use this premises. Previously Earl’s XXX Hotspot ( c.1996), this location has also been home to the Imperial Tavern ( c. 1901), the Gentry Tavern ( c.1804) and a simple roadside tavern and nightside Inn before that, its exact date of extinction and name lost in time.”

I grinned at my siblings and did a tiny jig of joy. “Seems like a likely spot, guys! So how do we go about getting information on the Tavern from Rolph’s day?”

Chapter Six

Bernice nibbled a fingernail in thought, and twirled a strand of hair around her finger in a passable Shirley Temple impersonation. Not normally one to be impressed by my sister’s cuteness, I had to admit that she cut a striking figure. The plaid jumper she had chosen, atop a pair of dark green tights and black Mary-Janes seemed to transform before my eyes into a posh school uniform, whilst at the same time my loveable sister transformed into a screaming brat from hell.

“I WANT it ” Bernice stamped a foot in ire, and swung her arms wide in an all-encompassing gesture. Her voice rose to ear-shattering volume, and a spoilt twinge that I had never heard before danced across her normally pixie gaze.

“I WANT IT NOW Just go with it, Euro ” Only the last comment stopped me from slapping her across the face. Ah ha... the genius had a plan

I carefully schooled my features into a mask of snobbish indifference, noticing Davis doing the same. Raising our noses slightly, and putting on our best private school accents, we slouched with the moneyed grace of spoilt children the world over.

“This? Oh, Bernice. It’s so.. Old.” I waved languidly around the room, nearly cold clocking our waiter friend as he rushed towards us. Davis busied himself posing against the wall, his face a study in boredom. “Can we leave? There is an awesome guitar store down the way, and I need another Les Paul.”

I thought perhaps the guitar reference might be a little obscure, but the tone of easy spending was more than Waiter McFlair could handle.

“Pardon me, misses sir. Was there something I could help you with?” Waffling his hands uselessly at Bernice and her faux-tantrum, the formerly taciturn waiter was now our willing minion.

* * * * *

I sighed in pleasure, and snuggled deeper into the leather booth, my dirty sneakers planted on a suede chair with utter indifference to the spoilt upholstery. The owner, a Mr. Earl Dowd, had been rushed to our side after much fluster and bluster by our silk shirted waiter friend, and was now deep in conversation with a nameless telephone voice. As we waited for him to verify Bernice’s credit limit- a ridiculously high limit for a supposed nine-year-old, but not at all untoward for a century-old landlady- my siblings and I used our time to unwind a little and bask in the kind of service only the very wealthy can under-appreciate. I savored another sip of my lychee vanilla milkshake.

Earl turned back to us with a wide, fake smile plastered across his hairy cheeks, and fluttered his eyelashes In what I’m sure he thought was a disarming manner.

“So, kids. What’s all this about you wanting to buy my little restaurant here?”

“We just like it.” I dropped my feet to the floor, and looked Earl in the beady eye, keeping my dulcet tones those of a bored debutante.“So what’s the deal with this place, anyway? Like, how old is it?”

“Well... It’s pretty old, little lady. I believe you read our historical plaque over there. What more do you need to know?”

“Who owned it originally? Has it always been a tavern type place? What happened to the original owners? Do you have any way of getting in contact with the founding family? And any interesting stories about this place?” Davis plowed into the conversation full force, causing Earl to flutter his eyelashes again, this time in surprise. He pulled on his straggly mustaches.

“Well... ah.. alrighty then. I don’t know why you care, but you’d be needing to ask the county office about that sort of thing. I don’t keep records of all that. But, never mind, kids. You can see this is a great little place. Thriving, in fact The best of the best No lies, my friends. This is a great little business. Why, you could have all your little friends over here for parties and things.. You’d get the VIP treatment, whatever you need. All it takes is a little investment on your part.” Earl leaned back in his seat, and planted his hands over his belly in contentment.

If Earl had planned to smooth talk us into handing over our imaginary inheritance for his little roadside hot spot, he was much mistaken. Like everyone else, he had fallen into the easy trap of paying little attention to Bernice. While he had been hard at work trying to discover our monetary worth over the phone, and then to trick us out of it, Bernice had been hard at work listening in on Earl’s conversation. At the earliest lull, she pounced.

“Mr Earl, I don’t feel like we should be talking about any kind of price before we know more about the building. It’s old, and it’s renovated, but was it renovated well? And what about business receipts? What about customer records? Are you selling us the building, or the business, or both? We’ll need to talk about rental contracts and call in our lawyers. In fact, I think we need them present to even continue with this conversation. Has it occurred to you that it’s only semi-legal at best to sell a business to, or procure investment from a trio that is mainly underage?” Bouncing to her feet, Bernice leant over the table, the better to shake her finger in Earl’s face. Earl could only blink away, amazed at the sudden turn of events.

Davis and I also lept to our feet. We let Bernice take the last of the wind out of poor Earl’s sails, and then breezed out the door. Once back in the car and safely pelting down the road, I grinned at my siblings.

Bernice seemed to be practically glowing with energy and glee. “That was so much fun I hate pompous jerks like that Earl.”

“Looks like we got what we need, though.” Davis beamed back. “To the county office .. Uh.. where is the county office, Euro?”

I looked at the map, and groaned. It looked like the office was part of ....

Chapter Seven

I looked at the map, and groaned. It looked like the office was part of the city library, and from the looks of the town as we sped down it’s pockmarked pavements, the library wasn’t likely to be a whole bundle of laughs. Mold maybe, laughs no.

We pulled up to the building with well co-ordinated gasps of dismay. Ahead of us loomed a ramshackle grey stone building, it’s Doric inspired columns listing alarmingly to the left, while its windows - the few with whole panes of glass- tilted more to the right. The sight as a whole gave the impression that it was perhaps made of the nastiest cardboard box ever to be jury-rigged into serving as a municipal building. I took in the bi-partisan directions, and tried to say something uplifting and optimistic. We’d have to go into that mess no matter what, the apparent next step in our quest lay somewhere inside.

“Maybe it’s just unsure how to vote?”

The cement steps were seamed with cracks and ivy, and crumbled slightly as we approached the door. The once-polished wood was now scared with years of graffiti and love-hearts carved into it, the owners of whom were probably largely dead by this point. A hand-printed sign trembled on the door, attached by a strand of much-reused tape. “Books are Our Friends Come on In ”

Surprisingly, the door swung open with barely a shove, and we found ourselves in a semi-dark cavern, faced with an enormous old oak counter, and lit by what seemed to be a mix of camping lanterns and holiday lights. As we creaked across the ages floorboards, a shuffling sound became apparent amid the towering piles of dusty tomes. A whirlwind of discarded notepaper and non-computerized check out cards approached us, to reveal a stooped woman with a slightly mad smile firmly on her dusty cheeks.

“Well hello there! Books are our friends! Are you in need of some friends, today?” She cackled gleefully at this last statement, sending a cascading avalanche of the willies racing down my spine. I eyed our hostess carefully. Although I had originally pegged her as being a senior, my inspection revealed her to be much closer to my age, possibly in her later twenties. Her hair, under the coating of library dust and cobwebs, was a sturdy brown, and was twisted into twin buns held in place by number two pencils. She sported a rather cats-eyed style of black eyeliner, and this combined with her high waisted skirt and flouncey blouse made her look even more like a spinster librarian- perhaps with an evening job as a cigarette girl at the local cabaret. I put on my best college student smile.

“Hi! We’re actually looking for one.. um.. friend in particular. Do you have the county records handy?” I twinkled my incisors at her and blinked innocently. “I have a paper on past business ownerships in the area, and I just know you can help me! I hope you don’t mind if my sister and brother wander around a little.. I’m babysitting today.”

I kicked Davis gently with my toe, and made shooing motions behind my back. He and Bernice promptly scooted into the nearest book section, the better to find our goal and get the heck out.

The librarian beamed at me, and straightened a little, ineffectually dusting her blouse. “Well then! Let’s get to it, shall we? I’m Gladys but.. “ she tittered in an offbeat way that made me wary “.. You can call me Happy! Get it? GLADys? Happy?!” Her voice began to climb towards hysterical, so I made an effort to grin and hauled on her bony elbow.

“Oh, hilarious! Can you show me the records... Happy?”

* * * * *

After trudging through what seemed like miles of dusty library hallways, Happy eventually led me to a dim room lined with semi-collapsing shelves. She turned on a dusty green desk lamp, and waved grandly at an array of faded, leather bound binders. Somewhere in that mess, I surmised, lurked the elusive history of Incarna.. and hopefully clues to the even more elusive past of our newly deceased father. I sighed, grabbed a tome, and dug in.

* * * * *

The light was growing dimmer than ever, and I added my current reading material to the unsteady pile to my left. I had been leafing through binders for hours, my hands now sticky with old dust and what looked suspiciously like marmalade toast crumbs. I left myself a mental note to check Happy’s shirtfront for a match. It occurred to me, as I attempted to brush my hands clear on my jeans, that I hadn’t seen Davis or Bernice since they scattered at the front door.. and as I gazed out into the murky hallway beyond my little circle of light, I also realized that I had no idea how to get back to our starting point. I picked up the lamp in my hand, and spun slowly, taking in details of my current room that I had missed hours earlier.

Small and damp, this room was utterly lacking in windows. The cement floor was carpeted with loose paper pages, pencil stubs, and mouse turds. The majority of the available floor space was hogged by my large wooden table, and the faded tapestry ottoman I had been perched on. The rest of the space was crowded with more piles of books, creating a maze that blocked my view of the two distant walls. Nearest to me was the wall with the doorway out into the hall, that wall being decorated with a huge world map and a crazed mess of pushpins and red thread. Beside me was the fourth wall, bearing the crooked shelves and the means of my current torture- decades and decades worth of badly filed municipal records. My sighs of frustration created little clouds of dust in the badly-lit air. I gripped my library lamp tighter.

It seemed there was a draft coming from somewhere in the distant corner, as my dust-clouds scooted across the floor. Now that I looked closer, I realized the corners of my impromptu paper carpet were wafting slightly in that direction. Definitely a breeze. The air smelled faintly of pot roast. I crept into the book maze.

Chapter Eight:

I wound my way through the stacks of books, wishing I had a trail of breadcrumbs to follow, when I noticed the ground. Littered with papers, visible against the stained white foolscap was indeed a trail of crumbs, speckled with the same marmalade that had covered the county registrar records. I gingerly shoved a sticky piece of paper aside with my toe. What the hell was going on here? Who was that masked man? Or.. rather, who was possibly leading me places with only toast and marmalade as bait?

I quested onwards. As I rounded a corner of semi-composted atlases dating back to the previous evolutionary era, the smell of pot roast abruptly strengthened. The smell was so strong, I felt like slices of freshly carved beef must surely be hiding inside some of the nearby National Geographic magazines, perhaps lovingly tucked in among the dog-eared pages of topless Namibian women.

A sliver of light brightened the dusty air, and I pounced at the chance to escape from my papery tomb. An old door poked from behind a poster of the Dewey Decimal system. Standard grey prison paint, chipped in places, revealed a battered steel door better suited to a penitentiary than a library. A little window, complete with steel bars- minus one- graced the upper third of the portal. I heaved on the door, and was surprised when it gave way with little more than a mellow grunt of protest.

The light was much stronger now, and the scents in the air were reaching peak capacity. Cinder block walls speckled with must and cobwebs gave way to suspiciously funereal looking mauve wallpaper, and within moments I found myself standing in the back hallways of the Happy Endings Mortuary!

The tantalizing aroma that had lead me through the book stacks now revealed itself to be the less-tantalizing smell of someone being cremated. I wondered if that person had a penchant for marmalade, in life, and the thought made me retch. I desperately pulled my shirt collar over my nose, and tried to concentrate.

Whereas before I had come in through the front door, like a normal visitor to a business, this time I found myself facing a row of office doors. One of these passages undoubtably led to the, er, business end of the crematorium. Judging from my past journey, from library basement to suspicious mortuary, the other doors could lead anywhere.

A shuffling of zombiefied footsteps sent me to my knees behind an aging photocopier, and I only just managed to tuck my toes out of view as Lurch slouched into sight. I gawped at his face in surprise, and recalled my first meeting with the unsightly mortician.

Lurch, as I was wont to call him, had been singularly unhelpful when we had visited the Happy Endings Funeral Parlour and Mortuary earlier in our quest. Despite my friendly, if shirt-covered countenance, he had been less than forthcoming with information about the joint. Instead, he had directed me to the lumbering Burger McPlace across the way, insisting Happy Endings had only even been the storage facilities for the tavern.. which itself now rested under the McFoundations.

Now that I had opportunity to think over our little encounter, I found the crypt keeper to be a little lacking in the details and truth department. I vowed to return with Davis and Bernice, and question the malignant dude in detail.. as soon as I could escape from my hidey-hole. I began to feel the start of a toner-induced migraine, and tensed myself to bolt for the door at the first opportunity.

As if reading my mind, he casually assaulted the door back into place, and locked it while I watched in hidden dismay. A smirk marred the otherwise perfect lack of emotion on his pale, and badly shaven face.
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