Here’s the second part of a story I’ve been working on set in the Ghost Punchers world. Today’s piece introduces Todd and Mayhew, the rest of the team. (If you haven’t read the first part, you can catch up here.)
It was almost noon when Mayhew rolled up in the van outside Carly’s apartment. Todd leaned out the passenger-side window and gestured to the side door. He grinned.
“I got shotgun,” he said.
Carly sighed and slid the side door open. The smell of motor oil and incense drilled into her nose. She hated riding in the back with the tools, but it beat taking the bus. Besides, she thought, the old white van added to the team’s blue-collar spirtualist mystique — even if it meant she had to sit on the cooler all the way to Doug Hawkins’ place.
Todd turned in his seat to offer Carly a bottle of water. He was wearing his trademark white t-shirt — two sizes too small to emphasize his biceps — and his customary smirk.
“You get us the best gigs, man,” he said. “Blurbl!”
Carly shrugged and cracked open the water. “Yeah. Blurbl… I guess.”
“You don’t know Blurbl?” He gave her a look comprised of equal parts pity and surprise.
Carly shrugged again. “What is it? Some internet thing?”
“Nah, it’s an app. For your phone, man. It’s like Twitter, but every hour or so, an alarm goes off. When it does, you got to post an update — where you are, what you’re doing, whatever — in 30 seconds. Do it faster, you get more points.”
“And if you don’t?”
“You start losing points. That’s bad.”
“And the points are good for…?”
“Leaderboards, man! It’s all about the leaderboards.”
“So it’s… Twitter with a timer? And points?”
Todd grinned. “Yeah. Pretty cool, huh?”
“No,” said Carly. “It’s dumb.”
“Nah, it only seems dumb ’cause you’re old.”
“I’m 28. I’m not old.”
“Not compared to Mayhew,” admitted Todd.
At 46, Carl Mayhew was the oldest member of the team. He had been Carly’s psychology professor, and the one who introduced her to the world of paranormal investigation and phantasmal violence. His round glasses, greying temples, and black tie made him the most respectable-looking of the three. Also, he owned the van.
“Professor?” said Carly. “Help me out here?”
“You’re not old,” said Mayhew. “And though it’s apparently somehow quite profitable, the app does sound rather pointless.”
“Pointless?” Todd made an inarticulate, exasperated sound in the back of his throat.
“Whatever, man. You’re both old.”
Carly swallowed her water and pointed at Todd with the bottle.
“You know Blurbl. What can you tell us about Doug Hawkins?”
Todd grinned and pulled out his phone. “I’m glad you asked,” he said, and started reading.
“The dude’s rich. Not Bill Gates rich, but rich enough. He got his start making Super Farm Bubble Crush — my mom’s still playing that — then went on to make the Kansr and Plopp apps. He’s sort of retired now, but totally rich.”
“Rich businessmen often have enemies,” said Mayhew.
“Yeah. Are we looking at a Marley situation?” asked Carly.
“Nah,” said Todd. “Dude’s got enemies, but none of ‘em are dead.”
“So it’s most likely the house,” said Mayhew.
“Hang on,” said Carly, digging a scratched-up tablet out of her bag. “The client sent me a file on the house. Let’s see…
“Built in 1923 by Hugo Kincaid, an investment banker who lost everything in the crash and hanged himself in the front room in 1929. His widow shut herself up in the mansion for the next 20 years and went a little crazy.”
“Cat lady crazy?” asked Mayhew. “Or cannibal crazy?”
“Um… looks like cat lady crazy. Hoarded things — including cats, dogs, and even a horse.”
“Oh, I want to see a ghost horse,” said Todd. “Are there ghost horses, Mayhew?”
“Still reading back here!” said Carly.
“Anyway, she died in 1949 but wasn’t found for several weeks. She didn’t have any heirs, and the place was pretty trashed, so it went on the market and stayed there until 1958. Conrad Hart, a surgeon, move in with his wife and family… nothing of note… His son got the place in ’72…. sold it to a musician in ’85. Anyone know Bill Toggs? No? I guess he was big in Australia.
“Bill died upstairs — overdose of course — in 1987. The house sat empty in the 90s, had a string of tenants in the aughts, then got bought out and renovated by a development firm in 2010. They totally remodeled the place, then sold it to our boy Doug for twice what they paid for it.”
“I have a question,” said Todd.
“Who says ‘aughts’?”
Carly opened her mouth to answer, but forgot what she was about to say when Mayhew leaned on the van’s brakes, sending the contents of the van — including Carly — lurching dangerously forward. She bounced off the back of Todd’s seat. Her water bottle bounced off the dashboard, spraying an arc of liquid as it flew.
“Um,” said Mayhew.
He gestured weakly out the windshield, where his passengers could see a tastefully classic mansion, an immaculate lawn, a winding driveway, and a withered zombie in a suit standing between the van and the front door.