The Demon Detective Agency: Chapter 4

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Last Updated on July 9, 2023 by ADMIN-TOM

Genre: Paranormal Thriller | Horror | Supernatural

Publication Date: July 2023.

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Chapter 4: Friends Will Be Friends

“Well, how does it look?”

May Brubaker put the paint roller into the tray and wiped her hands on her paint splattered shirt. Using the back of her hand she wiped a trickle of white from her brow, getting a small dab of white paint on her short brown hair.

Jimmy Grey stepped back and admired the wall.

“It looks, kind of white; and you’ve got paint in your hair.”

Brubaker slapped Jimmy’s back, leaving a faint outline of a white hand on his black shirt.

“Hey, that’s a good shirt,” Jimmy complained.

“It was a good shirt, Jimmy, it isn’t anymore.”

Jimmy looked at her with an annoyed expression, but soon relented and burst out laughing.

“You did offer to help, Jimmy. So, I knew you would be wearing an old shirt.”

Jimmy held up the plastic bag he had brought into Brubaker’s house. “You mean the old shirt in here?”

“Ah,” May said and smiled that smile she knew Jimmy loved. “Sorry, Jimmy. I’m just a bit excited,” she said.

“Yeah, I know. When’s he arriving?”

“Flight lands in two hours. I better get cleaned up and ready. You okay to finish off here?”

Jimmy smiled at Brubaker. “Always ready to help you, May. You know that.”

Brubaker tousled Jimmy’s mop of unruly brown hair.

“Thanks Jimmy, you’re like the kid brother I never had.”

Jimmy watched Brubaker as she slipped off her moccasins and padded towards the utility room to get washed up.

“Anything for you, sweetheart,” he whispered, a sad smile crossing his face briefly.

 

***

 

The LAX terminal loomed ahead of Brubaker as she drove her vintage green Mustang under the sign indicating parking and drop-off lanes. Brubaker steered for the short-stay and found a space quickly. She put the car in park, got out and checked her watch.

Plenty of time, girl, no hurry, just keep calm. She had used this mantra many times in her life, but today was an especially good day to apply it. Her live-away boyfriend was arriving from Denver in thirty minutes and she was feeling like a schoolgirl on a first date.

“Live-away,” she chortled to herself, “but not once he sees the house.”

Dan Panaski and Brubaker had met while on a self-help course in Chicago and had hit it off at once. Panaski was two years older than Brubaker and was a freelance software developer. As a self-proclaimed nerd, Dan had attended the course in the hope of making himself more assertive. Brubaker did not consider him to be a nerd at all and thought he was assertive enough. She, on the other hand, had become something of a recluse since the death of Gary Mitchell. Her shrink had proclaimed her cured eighteen months after Mitchell’s death, but she felt she needed more help. The self-help group seemed ideal. After the week-long course, both Dan and Brubaker had left the course firm friends and a lot happier than when they had first met.

Six months after the course and not only where they were corresponding via email and telephone calls but had met again, several times, but always on neutral ground at Dan’s insistence.

“There’s no pressure on either of us, on neutral ground,” he had insisted.

Brubaker saw the sense in that, but after the fifth meeting and four months into the long-distance relationship she was feeling a little frustrated. She knew little more about him than when they had first met, and she was sure he would have said the same. So, she had applied pressure. Come and visit me and stay at my house, or else. Dan didn’t take much persuading.

Brubaker made her way to the arrivals lounge and looked at the board for information on the Denver flight.

“Delayed,” she muttered. “Typical.”

Brubaker had another hour to wait and decided on a coffee and Danish to relieve the stress she felt welling inside her. As she queued to pay a sudden thought hit her full force. What if he hates the house? Hates the neighbourhood. Hates me because he hates the house and what if…

Shut up! Calm yourself.

Brubaker took a deep breath and moved along the queue. She laid out the money and smiled at the ‘Have a nice day,’ the Barbie look-alike offered her. As May turned round to look for a free table, the Barbie-lookalike licked her red lips appreciatively, smiled and ran a ring encrusted hand through her short blonde hair.

Brubaker found an empty table and sat. She didn’t really want the Danish but nibbled at the edges just to give her mind something else to concentrate on. Without a doubt she felt she was doing the right thing. She wanted so much to be with Dan, all the time, all other considerations meant nothing. But that thought suddenly made her guilty. She had left Jimmy to finish her job and hadn’t giving it a second thought. She was so hyped at the thought of Dan arriving that she had simply given Jimmy his orders and marched out of the house.

Brubaker took her cell from her jacket pocket and called Jimmy.

“Hey, May, you there yet?”

“Yeah, he’s delayed so I’m having a coffee.”

“Could do with a cold beer myself, it’s as hot as hell in this room.”

Brubaker’s face flushed with guilt.

“Jimmy, I’m so sorry. I’ve taken you for granted, haven’t I?”

“No sweat, May. I’m happy to help. You just wait and see what I’ve done to this room. It looks fab.”

“Jimmy, you’re a national treasure. There’s beer and food in the fridge, help yourself, I’m going to be late so don’t wait around.”

“I know three’s a crowd.”

“Didn’t mean that, Jimmy. I love you loads. Talk soon.”

Brubaker clicked the phone off.

Twenty miles away, Jimmy Grey looked at his cell and sighed. “Love you too, May,” he said quietly.

 

***

 

May waited outside the big double-doors to arrivals and watched people as they walked past her. Some checking their watches and cell phones and then joining the aimlessly milling crowd of people waiting for friends, loved ones and business associates to arrive. It was the same scene the world over. Airports across the globe had people being unloaded from aircraft into their bowels, while other aircraft were whisking more people away from airports to other destinations. And all the while people where milling around within those same airports. Waiting for people to arrive, waving at people as they leave. In in some, very few cases, there were individuals stuck in some airports, seemingly never to be able to leave the airports ever again. May was sure she had read somewhere of a man stuck in France, due to a mix up with his papers. He had spent years in a French airport. Only to find when he eventually left the airport, he couldn’t cope with the outside world and yearned to go back to his little hideaway in the airport terminal. May didn’t know the full truth of the story, and even if any of the story was a fact. But it made for a great read on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

May had spent her fair share of time at airports, as a cop, watching and waiting. Although no longer a cop, she found it hard not to go into surveillance mode. People watching is what most called it, but it amounted to the same thing. Looking for tell-tale signs of nervous twitches and maybe even panic. It was a way of life for a cop and it made for some very telling insights into a stranger’s life.

May was watching for outward signs of stress and the Barbie-doll that had just teetered into view on her high heels and blond-from-a-bottle-hair was giving off signals as she stood and waited. Never standing in one place, shuffling her feet, constantly looking at her watch and fiddling with her appearance meant she was as nervous as hell. She was meeting her soon to be lover for the first time. Some fat-cat sugar daddy she had snared on the internet was about to be reeled in, hook, line, and sinker.

A mother with a couple of kids in tow was waiting patiently for her husband, but she was irritated at this interruption to her normal routine. The guy was obviously a salesman stopping off to visit his wife on a whirlwind sales tour designed to drum up business. He was looking forward to 48 hours R&R but was in for a shock when he eventually found out his wife was having an affair with his brother.

Or maybe the laid-back surf-dude warranted further attention, May told herself, as the guy in the loud Hawaiian shirt laughed it up with a sidekick who was obviously dealing in something other than tanning oil.

Life at this airport is rich and varied, no different than the wildlife you see on glossy wildlife documentaries from the BBC or National Geo.

At this thought, May realised she had been scanning people and assessing them, but with a degree of certainty in her assessment that she had never known before.

Am I reading minds suddenly?

May ignored the thought as the double doors to the arrivals opened. She stood on tiptoes trying to see over the crowd of expectant parents, siblings, lovers, and co-workers. After what seemed like an eternity, she spotted Dan’s head of black curly hair above the crowd of passengers.

“Dan!” She shouted.

Dan looked up and spotted her and waved happily.

Brubaker squeezed and pushed through the crowd until she was at the barrier and Dan was holding her tightly.

“Oh boy have I missed you, babe.” Dan laughed as he squeezed Brubaker ever tighter.

“I know, me too, sweetheart.”

As they pulled apart, May noticed the roll top black shirt Dan was wearing, covering his neck. “Are you changing your look?”

Dan looked embarrassed. “Yeah, something like that. Got to move with the times.”

The couple were oblivious to the same scene going on around them where small pockets of parents, lovers and friends were all hugging together. So much so that no one noticed the tall, thin man, at the rear of the crowd slip past everyone, without taking his eyes off Brubaker and Dan.

 

***

 

Jimmy Grey wiped the sweat off his forehead and took another sip of his beer. He looked at the beer label and realised it was a brand he had once said he liked and ever since, May had made certain her fridge was stocked if Jimmy was doing jobs for her. His thoughts turned to May Brubaker, and he tried to push them aside. But as always, when May was on his mind, he couldn’t push her out. She was like a fixation, or even a drug. He had to have her as close as possible or he was miserable.

He had been in love with her for almost twelve months, ever since she had hired him as an odd job man to maintain her house. They had become firm friends and even after Jimmy left her employ, to take up an IT college course, they had remained friends. Jimmy had even carried on doing anything May needed around her house, just so he could be close to her. Jimmy told himself to move on, but it never worked. He knew he was in love with May. He was happy and as miserable as a sin at the same time and was hurting inside knowing Dan was about to step back into her life. But he shrugged inwardly and hoped beyond hope that someday, one day, any day that May would notice him.

Jimmy finished his beer, put the bottle in the recycle trash and looked at his handy work.

“If she hates this there’s no justice in the world,” he said, smiling as his eyes surveyed the room.

 

***

 

The drive from LAX was uneventful and the freeway traffic flowed along in an amiable sort of way, as it usually did. There was no one speeding and no one going too slow and the usual gaggle of sports cars, pickups, compacts, semis and the odd, quirky, sort of vehicles that you expected to see in LA all seemed to be moving along in jumbled harmony. The day was the same as any other day, boring really, May told herself, as she reached across and held onto Dan’s hand. She was puzzled at the coldness of his hand to her touch, but let it pass. Poor circulation, perhaps? Her thoughts soon wandered away. She liked days like this, where nothing bad happened. There was no really bad news on the radio, the traffic flowed, she was with her boyfriend and it was all rather mundane.

“Even dull,” May said.

“What?”

May suddenly realised she had spoken out loud and look at Dan.

“You said something about being dull,” Dan said.

“Did I?”

“Yup,” Dan nodded and smiled at her.

“Just thinking out loud, I guess. I was just thinking the world was nice and dull.”

“Yeah, guess it is,” Dan agreed, looking around. “Nothing bad or good happening around about, I guess.”

“Except for us,” May said.

“Except for us,” Dan agreed, returning her smile.

Then why do I feel a sudden disquiet? May shrugged the thought off, shooed it away to the back of her mind and concentrated on her driving. But her brow was deeply furrowed.

 

***

 

May and Dan arrived at the house twenty minutes after Jimmy had left. As May pulled around the corner she smiled at Dan.

“Here she is, home sweet home.” May smiled again and nodded toward the end of the broad avenue.

“God lord, May, that’s a mansion,” Dan said, running a hand through his hair. “I have never seen a house so…”

“Big?” May said, finishing Dan’s sentence.

“Yeah, big is a good word for it.”

“I know, scared the willies out of me when I first saw it.”

Dan gave her a quizzical look. “You didn’t know what it looked like before you bought it?”

May flushed. “I didn’t buy it. I inherited it.”

“Wow! Hope you earn enough to pay for it, looks to me that it will cost a fortune in upkeep.”

May nodded. “It’s not cheap. But I’m lucky there too.”

As May drove her Mustang onto the drive and parked, switching the engine off. Dan sat looking at her, waiting for more information.

May sighed and took Dan’s hand in hers. Still cold. “I’ve not told you everything.”

Dan smiled and looked at the house. “That’s pretty evident. Don’t tell me you have your Mother and eight sisters living here too.”

“No, no, nothing at all like that. I inherited this and also a heap of money.”

“How high a heap, I can imagine a pretty big heap. Not that I’m prying, but you’ve piqued my interest.”

“Twenty-nine million bucks,” May said in a quiet voice, watching and waiting as the information sank in.

Dan’s jaw slackened and his mouth was agape. He turned to May and shook his head. “How much did you say?”

“Twenty-nine million dollars give or take a million.”

“Okay, I’m duly impressed. Now you’re going to introduce me to the Mother and eight sisters.”

May laughed, relieved Dan had taken the news so well. “No,” she said, getting out the car, “there’s only Jack and me.”

Dan got out the car and stood gaping at the mansion. “Jack being?” he asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow.

 

***

 

Dan was on his back, on the grass, with the biggest dog he had ever seen stood on his chest, licking his face, and drooling all over him.

“Meet Jack, Dan.”

“Thank god he’s not your dad; I would have been really worried at that news.”

May laughed and walked into the house from the back patio.

“Don’t leave me here to drown in drool,” Dan pleaded.

“He’ll not hurt you, but you will need to wash up before you can come in the house. There’s a hose out back.”

“Great,” Dan muttered as Jack’s slobber ran into his left ear.

“Good boy,” Dan said, trying a tentative smile.

Jack gave off a low, amiable sort of woof and opened his mouth. A dollop of drool slopped into Dan’s left eye.

“Yuck, Jack for the love of… Jack! Can’t you do that somewhere else? It’s gross, man.”

Jack woofed again and licked Dan’s face, his tongue filling his face with one very long slurp.

“Pleased to meet you too, Jack,” Dan whimpered, trying unsuccessfully not to swallow the big dog’s drool.

 

***

 

May had relented and let Dan take a shower. While she waited, she sat in her den with Jack snuggled up on the sofa next to her. She knew Dan would have a lot of questions, not least of which would be who had left her all the money and the property. May considered that going through this process was part of her healing process. Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by her cell’s insistent beeping.

Dan walked into the den as May was going through the usual question and answer routine with her Mother.

“Yes, Mom, no Mom, yes I know what I’m doing. okay.” May pointed to the seat next to her and Jack. Dan politely held his hand up and sat in a comfy chair as far away from Jack as possible.

“Mom, I have a visitor, I’ve got to go… yes, a visitor. Never mind, it’s just a friend. Bye, Mom. Bye.” May flipped her cell closed and sighed. “My Mom,” she said with a shrug, “she worries.”

“Okay, May, so how come you ended up with this place?”

“And the money, Jack, and this,” May said, holding up her left middle finger.

“The dog I can understand, oh yeah, the money too. But you never mentioned any of this in the last six months. And that on your finger, never noticed that before either, looks like a ring.”

“Yeah, he left me a mansion, a shit load of money, a dog and a wooden ring. A bit bizarre I suppose.”

“Bizarre doesn’t cover it, at all. You’ve kept a lot to yourself over the last six months.”

May felt defensive. Maybe her ex-cop instincts we’re firing up, she didn’t know, but now she was on the attack.

“Well, a bit like yourself. I know nothing about you either, where you live, who your friends and family are. Not just me being secretive, Dan.”

“Hold up, hold up. This isn’t a secret,” Dan said, waving his right arm in the air, indicating the plush surroundings. “This is something else.”

“What?”

“I don’t know I’m just in awe, that’s all. It’s a lot to take in.”

“Much the same way I felt when I was told I had inherited all this. I was shocked, even more so in that my benefactor was my partner in the LAPD, Gary Mitchell.”

Dan sat forward on his seat. He knew May had to get this out, get it off her chest. So, he smiled to encourage her and waited.

“Gary and I were on a stakeout, near some new condos on the waterfront. We had been crouching behind a wall for what seemed like hours. Finally, we got a call over the radio that the operation was finished, the target had been arrested.”

May sat back on the sofa and gave Jack’s head a rub. Jack settled himself down beside her and rolled over so May could tickle his tummy.

“It turned out the information on the arrest had been passed to the Captain by a cop on the take. There had been no arrest and the target, a drug baron from Columbia called Enrique Sambilista, was in fact loose and ready for action.” May didn’t mention about the radio-silence issue, not wanting to delve too far into a painful subject.

May got up and walked to a bar set in the corner. “You want a soda or beer?”

Dan checked his watch. “A beer’s fine, we’re passed the witching hour.”

May smiled and topped two beers, handing one to Dan as she walked past him. May sat down and Jack sat up, waiting patiently for May to settle before he himself lay down and rolled on his back, his tongue lolling from his mouth.

“Silly dog,” May said with great affection. “So, the target was actually not there. He had scarpered and left the bad cop with a henchman who had a .22 rifle. The rest is history. Gary stood up as we were told the stakeout was over and the henchman, I don’t even remember his name, fired on Gary. It took one bullet, but the rifle wasn’t powerful enough and the bullet began spinning just as it hit Gary in the forehead.”

May felt an icy finger trace a line down her spine and she shivered.

“Are you okay?” Dan asked her.

She nodded. “It was instantaneous, or so they say. I didn’t believe it then and don’t believe it now. It took the top of his head off. But in that moment, he half turned and looked at me with a smile on his face. By this time, I had splats of his blood and brain over me, but I know what I saw. Gary was telling me not to worry, that it would be fine.”

“What would be fine?”

“Don’t know. That’s just the way it felt in that brief instance before he died, as if he was somehow talking to me, telling me not to worry.” May shook her head and sipped her beer.

Dan took a long pull on his beer and sat back in his seat.

“So, your partner left all this and the money, to you? How on earth did he accumulate all that wealth?”

“Don’t even go there,” May said, with a warning glint in her eyes. “Gary was a good cop. The best I ever knew. His money came from the state lottery.”

“May, cool it. I wasn’t meaning what you think I was meaning.”

“I know. Sorry but I’m a bit on edge. This is a hard story to tell.”

Dan smiled at her and got up from his seat. Jack rolled off the sofa, as if he knew Dan’s intention, and walked outside. Dan sat next to May and held her hand.

“Gary won a fortune on the state lottery and never said a thing to anyone. It was the measure of the man that he gave half of it away to charity and then simply sat on the rest. His attorney contacted me at the funeral and asked me to call in during the week. I did as I was told at the suggested time, only to find myself at the reading of the will. I was the only one there. I had no idea what was in store.”

“He had no family?”

“Nope, just him and Jack, seemed Gary had considered that he and I would get together some day. I never knew he had feelings for me. I liked and admired him, but he was more like a big brother than a potential lover.”

May finished her beer and got up, walked to the bar, and deposited the empty bottle on the counter. She turned to Dan and smiled. “Essentially that’s the story of my friend’s death and how I got wealthy. It’s been a bitter pill for me to swallow.”

Dan got up and followed May to the bar and pulled her towards him. “I’ll help. You know I will.”

May’s cell played the theme from Star Wars.

“Oh shit, I forgot about Jimmy.”

She pulled out her cell from her jeans pocket and flipped it open.

“Hey, Jimmy. Hi, yeah, sorry, kind of lost track of time. Okay. I’ll go look now. Call you back.”

May placed her cell on the counter and looked up at Dan. “Sorry, got to take a look at Jimmy’s handiwork. I left him here painting one of the bedrooms that I’m going to make into my study.”

“Okay,” Dan said.

“I’ll take a look if you want to get me another beer. We can eat afterwards. That okay with you?”

“Sure.”

 

***

 

Figuratively speaking Jude Brubaker sat in her favourite sofa, except her whole body was stiff and though seated her legs and arms were sticking out in front of her body at odd angles, making her look like a child’s toy, tossed aside after something else caught the child’s eye. The evil that had penetrated her home defences had spent hours assimilating itself to its new surroundings, while Jude was forced to sit and watch. To watch an evil presence, go from a dark shifting mass to an obviously human form was deeply unsettling, but when the transformation had almost completed, Jude was then subjected to a malevolent tirade until the being had finally and literally spirited itself away, leaving Jude in this state of a living rigor mortis.

Jude had tried with every fibre of her body to move, but the spell was such that even she was overwhelmed and she then knew the malevolence was one of the Furies, those ancient so-called goddesses of vengeance, born of vengeful malevolence in the underworld to wreak havoc on humanity, simply because humanity existed.

“You exist, therefore… I hate you.” The voice was back and a dark foreboding overcame Jude. The voice was just behind her and whispering in her right ear. Jude shuddered involuntarily. Don’t show her your fear.

“You would do well to listen to yourself, human. But of course, you aren’t, are you? Human I mean.”

Jude said nothing, not wanting to give the demon-witch any advantage in the impending battle that would soon unfold.

“I spoke to your daughter.”

If Jude’s body could have stiffened any further it would have. “Leave her out of this. This is between me and you, bitch!”

Footsteps behind and then to her right alerted Jude to the movement of the Fury. Finally, Jude saw what it was she was up against. Short blond hair, highlighted in pink, wearing ripped jeans and a cut-off denim jacket, mostly open at the front showing her cleavage. The toned and tanned body made her look like a rich kid beach babe, but the dark stare in her eyes soon cleared up that little illusion.

“Like the look, sorceress? I always love what human females can do to their men, especially in this modern era. Of course, I’m partial to women as well,” she said. She looked at Jude’s sticking out legs. “Looks uncomfortable,” she said, then snapped a finger and Jude’s legs dropped to a more normal position.

Jude sighed with relief and then looked up at the Fury. “Leave my child out of this.”

“No, I will not. I want some fun while I’m here. We live in a perpetual dark existence on the other side, so when in Rome, I’ll take my fun where and when I can get it.” The Fury smiled. “It won’t take me long to wrest control of the power from her,” the fury moved forward and sat on Jude’s lap, legs apart, and leaning forward licked Jude’s left ear.

Jude squirmed, tried to resist, but was helpless.

“I need what your brat has and I will use whatever is at hand to wrest that power from her.”

Jude, powerless to move, felt the heat rising in her pelvis and realised the Fury was exerting her sexual power. Whatever it was the Fury was after she was willing to use the renowned sexual attraction, they exerted to bend Jude to her will.

“Not just this earthly, human, sexual quality, but also fear and pain to get what I was sent here for.”

Jude almost gasped, realising this malevolence was under orders from…

“Never you mind who sent me,” she said, standing. The Fury’s silky voice was having a somnolent effect on Jude. The creature smiled at Jude.

Jude was beginning to succumb, she knew. A deep moan forming inside her. She desperately wanted to free herself, but the creature’s powerful mental grasp made her cave in and enter a dark abyss.

 

***

 

May trotted up the stairs. It was her way, she told herself, of keeping fit. By the time she had reached the top level of the house she was puffing slightly and small beads of sweat were forming on her brow. Suddenly, she stumbled forward and landed heavily on the carpeted top step. Cursing she pulled herself up and felt a hot surge of sickness flush over her body. May shook her head, and the feeling passed. Confused and a little unfocused, May opened her study door and walked in. As she looked at the opposite wall her confusion turned to black thunder. In huge white letters on a bare red-brick wall May saw words daubed across the wall.

 

May! Help me! She’s going to destroy the world.

 

Dan, at his location in the den, heard May scream in what appeared to be rage.

“Jimmy! JIMMY!”

Dan could hear May screaming Jimmy’s name as her footsteps pounded down the stairs.

“JIMMY!”

May burst into the room and Dan looked shocked at the rage on her face.

“He’s gone too far this time, too far! It’s his way of getting his own back, all because I ruined his new shirt!”

May yanked her cell off the counter and speed dialled Jimmy’s number. She tapped her foot furiously as she waited for Jimmy to answer.

May took a deep breath and forced herself to be calm. In a voice that was sweetness and light she said into the cell, “Jimmy. Doing anything nice tonight? No? Good, because I have a job for you. Get over here as soon as you can and I’ll go through what I want doing.”

May slapped the cell shut and banged it onto the counter.

“He’ll be a few minutes,” May said to Dan. “I’m going to start cooking. Help yourself to a beer. I’m going to have a large glass of Zinfandel. Wait here, please. I’ll explain when Jimmy gets here.”

Dan watched as May walked out of the room, her body language telling him to do as he was told.

Dan sat and listened to May clattering about the kitchen.

 

***

 

May had virtually destroyed several heads of Broccoli with her large cutting knife, chopped carrots so badly they almost looked like a pile of orange mush and had generally caused havoc in the kitchen when the front doorbell rang.

May stabbed the small knife she was holding into the wooden chopping board and walked out of the kitchen.

Dan popped his head out of the den as May walked past towards the door.

Pulling the door open, May smiled her friendliest smile.

“Jimmy, how nice of you to come over at such short notice,” May said, taking Jimmy by his left arm and pulled him toward the stairs.

“I need to show you something upstairs. Your handiwork from earlier on isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

Dan followed at a discreet distance, a look of concern on his face. Jimmy looked back at Dan, his face reflecting Dan’s. Both men were silent, knowing full well that this was not the time to say anything. May was on a mission.

May stopped outside the door to her study. She turned to Jimmy and flicked a look at Dan standing just behind Jimmy that told him to say nothing.

“Remember, Jimmy, I said paint it plain white with a few deep red highlights?”

Jimmy nodded.

“What we have here is not what I wanted. I wanted highlights, Jimmy, highlights. Know what that word means, Jimmy? Highlights in deep red, not this shit,” May said as she swung the door open and pushed Jimmy inside.

Jimmy took a few faltering steps and walked into the room.

Dan looked at May and she looked back, nodding her head for him to go into the room after Jimmy.

May stood outside and waited.

“Hey, I like what you’ve done with this room, Jimmy.” Dan’s voice echoed from the empty room.

“Thanks.” Jimmy’s puzzled voice came echoing from the room.

May scowled and shouted, “You like it?” May entered the room, stopping dead in the doorway.

The two men turned to look at May, who stood in the doorway, a look of consternation on her face. “What the f…”

Jimmy looked at Dan and Dan returned the puzzled stare.

“Yeah, I think it looks great, not just nice, it’s fabulous in fact.”

Jimmy smiled his thanks at Dan.

“But this is not what was here earlier,” May said, entering the room fully.

May walked around the door and did a complete three-sixty sweep of the room.

“What was here earlier?” Jimmy asked. “It’s exactly as I left it. Not quite as dry as I expected it to be, but still the same. What did you expect, May?”

May, her mouth wide open, strode around the room, eyes wide and shocked.

“May?” Jimmy said, a little bit of concern in his voice.

“Help me! She’s going to destroy the world.”

Dan and Jimmy looked at May.

“What?” Dan asked.

“Help me! She’s going to destroy the world,” May said again. “That’s what was written on the wall in big white letters. The wall was bare, bare red brick.”

The two men looked on helplessly as May continued to walk around the room, shaking her head. She stopped at the offending wall and pointed to it. In a shaky voice May said, “Right here. That’s what was written in big letters, right here.” She stabbed at the wall to make her point, wiping at the white emulsion now sticking to the end of her finger.

“Can’t see how that’s possible,” Dan said.

Jimmy nodded in agreement. “It’s just as I left it. Is this a joke you two are pulling?”

“NO!” May screamed. “I am not going mad. That’s what was written on this wall.” May was furiously stabbing a finger at the offending wall and was equally furious that the two men doubted her word. So much so her body was quivering. “This wall here,” she stabbed at it again, to emphasise her point. “In WHITE paint,” she screamed.

 

***

 

It was four in the morning and May was cold and shivering. She sat in the Den in total darkness except for the LED minutes slowly ticking over on her small desk clock. The writing on the wall had shocked her, but even more so was the realisation that neither Dan nor Jimmy believed her. But it was true, she knew it. But that thought begged two questions, assuming she wasn’t insane. Who had written the words and who had removed them? Jimmy had stated the paint was surprisingly still wet. That proved nothing as May had no real idea how long the paint should take to dry. But she kept coming back to the fact that only Jimmy had the opportunity to write the words and only Dan had the opportunity to paint over them. Which led to the ludicrous assertion that the two men were working together, two men who had only briefly met that evening. Question after question entered her mind and there were no answers she could think of.

May yawned and reluctantly got up and went upstairs to her bedroom. She could hear Dan’s soft snoring in the guest room and wondered if his snoring ever got louder, leading her to speculate on what it would be like to sleep with Dan.

“Don’t go there,” she muttered to herself, a brief smile flickering across her lips.

May opened her bedroom door, walked in, and closed the door behind her as softly as possible.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2023

Illustration: Ariadne-a-mazed

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