Fiction Friday - Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences: Tick Tock Kills the Clock
Here's the third part of this new short story series I've been working on. I haven't gotten much feedback on it yet so if you read it, I'd love to know what you think, either good or bad. I've got at least nine more weeks worth of stories planned for these characters, so I'd love to know if people are enjoying them. Here's some links if you want to get caught up before reading today's installment:
Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences:
Tick Tock Kills the Clock
“That’s definitely a grandfather clock.”
“What was your first clue,” Wedge answered sarcastically, “the fact that it looks like a grandfather clock, or the fact that it tells time? Of course it’s a clock, Biggs,” he went on with a sigh, “what else are you getting from it?”
“It’s also definitely haunted,” I answered calmly, pretending not to enjoy how much I occasionally enjoyed exasperating him. I had been crouched in front of the ornate grandfather clock in the long main hallway of the Reinhardt Mansion for almost ten minutes before making that announcement, reaching out with the sixth sense all mediums have, trying to see what I could sense… and it was overwhelming. “But there’s something different here. There’s so much psychic energy and residual feelings coming off of this thing that I can barely sort it out.
My partner, Aldredge “Wedge” Thompson, barked out a short laugh. “Of course there’s something different here. Nothing is as easy as just a simple haunting lately. “I wonder if whatever this is will beat a silverback gorilla ghost. Maybe the hands will grow to enormous sizes and impale us, or the chimes will fly out and cut out our eyes, or maybe…”
He kept going with other insane theories, but I didn’t listen. Wedge seemed to be getting increasingly jaded, and that was something I knew we’d have to talk about sooner or later, probably over copious amounts of alcohol, but now wasn’t the time. When he mentioned the chimes that dangled down the body of the clock inside the glass, something caught my eye. I reached out, touching the handle gently to pull the glass case open, careful keep my touch light so as not to get overwhelmed by the emotions radiating off the clock so I could get a closer look at the chimes. “Holy shit,” I mumbled.
“What?” Wedge broke out of his rant to lean down to see what had caught my attention. I pointed at three of the five chimes, specifically the two outside ones and the one at the middle. “Wait, is that…?”
“They’re made of bone,” I confirmed for him. “Son of a bitch.” I stood up and looked at him. “Call Alexa. Tell her to get a hold of the Reinhardts and get them to meet us back at the Hops. Now.”
* * * * *
Wedge and I returned to the Haunted Hops, the bar we owned together, to find Alexa Fogel, the day-to-day manager of the bar and administrative assistant of our “Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences” business, waiting for us, two shots already lined up on the bar for us.
“Mr. Reinhardt is on his way,” she told us without preamble as we did the shots. As I put my shot down, she looked up at me with concern. “Is everything alright?”
The look in her eyes made me think that just a hug from her might make me feel better about this insane live I lead, made me want to just fall into her arms. But that wasn’t a good idea. For one thing, she was a foot shorter than me. If I feel into her in anyway, we’d probably both just crash. For another thing, I was her boss. For another thing, there was a limit to how involved in my ridiculous life I wanted to get her; if she ended up hurt because of me…
I realized I had gone uncomfortably long without saying anything as I just looked at her. “Sure, everything is fine,” I finally answered weakly. “Just, you know, a clock partly made of human bones. Business as usual.”
“Human bones, you say?”
We turned to face the cultured voice that had spoken behind as and saw Mr. Reinhardt standing in the doorway.
“Yes, human bones,” I answered as I walked to him and ushered him to a chair. Normally I’d have taken him down to our office in the basement, but it was only 11a.m. and the Hops was empty. “Mrs. Reinhardt couldn’t join us?”
“No,” he answered as he sat down. “She isn’t feeling very well today. You must understand, Mr. Biggs, this all has taken a lot out of her.”
“Of course,” I nodded, “this can’t be easy.” The Reinhardts had come to us the day before, asking for our help because they felt their clock was trying to kill them. They said that for the last week or so it would suddenly tip over whenever someone walked in front of it, like it was deliberately trying to crash onto someone. My first thought was that it sounded ridiculous and that the floor was just unlevel or something, that it was just bizarre coincidence. But then Mrs. Reinhardt mentioned that almost exactly twenty years ago, the clock fell on her grandfather, killing him almost instantly. Mysterious deaths and anniversaries are almost surefire signs of a haunting.
“Forgive me for being blunt, Mr. Reinhardt,” I said as I sat across from him at the table, “but are you saying you never noticed that there are human bones in the clock?”
He shook his head. “You have to understand, I’ve never had much interest in the clock until this all started happening. It’s been in my wife’s family for generations, but for me it’s just an antique decoration. I never even look at it.”
I sighed, getting the feeling that this was going to be a dead end. “Is there anything you can tell me about the clock’s history? Anything at all?”
Mr. Reinhardt nodded. “There is one story my wife told me about the clock, a long time ago when I first saw it. She told me her great-great-grandfather was a clock-maker who moonlighted as a gunfighter in New Mexico in the light eighteen hundreds. When he was courting the woman who would become his wife, there had been a rival for her affections, a man who was also a rival gunfighter. Years after they had been married and had had children, he found his wife in bed with that rival of his, and promptly shot the man dead. Not long after that, he built the grandfather clock, the last clock he ever made, and it has been in my wife’s family ever since.” He stopped, and then looked at me, enlightenment dawning in his eyes. “You don’t suppose…”
“That he used the bones of his dead rival in the clock?” I finished for him. “I certainly do.”
“It’s nice to know this century doesn’t have a monopoly on ‘fucked up,’” Wedge said as he poured himself another shot. When he finished the shot, he said, “Let’s go blow the clock up. That’ll solve everything.”
I nodded and stood up. Reinhardt stood and grabbed my arm. “No! You can’t destroy the clock!” I looked at him, and then looked meaningfully down at his hand on my arm. He quickly withdrew his hand. “My wife would be devastated. Isn’t there another way?”
I sighed. There was another way, of course. A summoning would pull the spirit out of the clock so Wedge and I could banish it, but that was riskier, not to mention much more unpleasant for me. “Fine, we’ll take care of it without destroying the clock, but it’ll cost more.”
Reinhardt nodded his head immediately. “Of course. Don’t worry; the cost is no concern to me.”
“We’ll keep that in mind,” Wedge grinned as he headed for the door.
* * * * *
We returned to the Reinhardt Mansion to get ready for the summoning. The first step was taking the grandfather clock and carefully carrying it downstairs into the large foyer. There wasn’t enough room to maneuver in the hallway in case things went pear-shaped. Wedge made sure to point out that the hassle of maneuvering a clock like that down a spiral staircase needed to be added on to the bill the Reinhardts would receive from us, and I was in full agreement. We then decided to raise their bill even more when, while I was in the middle of using the bucket of chicken blood we kept in the van to paint the double pentagram on the floor, the clock tipped over out of nowhere and nearly landed right on top of me. If Wedge hadn’t tackled me out of the way, he’d have been using my blood to finish the pentagram.
After that fun little incident, we grabbed ropes from the truck and tied the clock to the staircase banister to make sure there would be no more attempts at making a Biggs-sized pancake, and I finished the double pentagram. Once I checked to make sure it was complete and the poltergeist of Mrs. Reinhardt’s ancestor’s rival would be fully summoned and contained, I knelt in the center and closed my eyes. Once again, I felt that confused mass of feelings I felt earlier, and wasn’t entirely sure what I was sensing. But I pushed through, connecting with it as best I could, finishing the summoning.
“Oh, what the fuck is this now?” I heard Wedge groan behind me.
I opened my eyes, and immediately saw the poltergeist of the rival gunfighter whose bones were in the clock, complete with a cowboy hat, boots, bandana, and chaps. And then I saw what Wedge was talking about. On the other side of the pentagram from the gunslinger was another ghost, dressed in more time-appropriate jeans and a t-shirt, the ghost of an old man. “Two of them…” I was confused for a minute, but then it hit me.
There was a family portrait hanging in the hall. We must have passed it eight or ten times by now, and this second spirit was in the portrait. It was Mrs. Reinhardt’s grandfather, the one that was killed by the falling clock twenty years ago. He was standing inside the double pentagram now, looking at the gun-slinging poltergeist with such anger and hatred.
And the gunslinger poltergeist? He was drawing his gun and aiming it right at me.
“Wedge,” I yelled as I frantically scrambled to get out of the way, turning my head as far away from the gunslinger as I could, “The cowboy! Banish him!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Wedge spring into action, but it was too late; I heard the crack of the gunslinger’s pistol. I had no idea what that gun might be shooting, or how, but I knew for damn sure I didn’t want to get hit by it, which was exactly what was about to happen.
Except… it didn’t.
I heard an inhuman howl and turned back to the spirits to see what happened. The spirit of Reinhardt’s grandfather had a pained expression on his face and was fading away the way spirits do when run through by Wedge’s sword or dagger. They had both been anointed in the blood of the innocent, making them capable of banishing a spirit permanently. Obviously, whatever the cowboy’s gun was firing was capable of that, too.
Now the cowboy was drawing a bead on Wedge as my partner charged him, sword and dagger drawn. If his gun could do that to a spirit, I had no interest in finding out what it could do to a living being. “Wedge! Down!”
Wedge had spent three tours on the front line in Iraq, and his combat training kicked in now. As soon as he heard me shout, “Down,” he dropped to his belly on the ground, the next shot from the cowboy’s gun whizzing through the air above him harmlessly. As soon as the bullet passed by, Wedge pulled himself up to his knees and threw his dagger at the poltergeist. It spun end over end through the air, embedding itself up to the hilt in the cowboy’s eye.
Emitting a howl that echoed that of the ghost that saved me just a moment earlier, the gunslinger faded into nothingness; cowboy hat, chaps, gun, and all.
“Okay. What the fuck was that all about?? Two spirits haunting the same object? A ghost gun that could banish other ghosts and do god knows what to us?” Wedge was upset, to say the least. “What the hell is going on here, Biggsy?”
* * * * *
Alexa had the same questions when we told her the story back at the Haunted Hops, although she had phrased them more politely.
“As near as I can figure, it played out like this,” I explained as I sipped a double Jameson on the rocks. “Obviously, the gunslinger was haunting the clock because his bones were parts of it. He didn’t have a choice. All the times over the years the clock nearly fell on someone in the family was him trying to get revenge. When he killed Mrs. Reinhardt’s grandfather, his spirit must have been linked to the clock as well. Maybe because it was the instrument of his death, or maybe he wanted to keep it from happening to someone else. Who knows? As for the gun?” I took a long sip of Jameson before answering. “Shit, that one beats me.” The whole idea of spirits manifesting weapons when summoned was a game-changer, and a troubling one at that.
She looked at me sympathetically from behind the bar, and the look in her eyes made me want to melt.
“Y’know, after the Hendersons case, with the drowned little boy, Wedge asked me if I remembered when this job used to be easy. I told him no. You know how this job is different for me than it is for him, with all the things I have to feel… so it’s never been easy. Not for me. But, there was a time when it was damn sure easier. I understood it. I mean, until recently, the thing at Skywalker Ranch was the most complicated case we ever had. But now? Things are different. I feel like I don’t understand as much as I thought, like all the rules are changing.” I raised the glass to my lips and finished the rest of my drink in one swallow before putting the glass back down, my hand slipping off of it to rest on the bar.
Wordlessly, Alexa slowly reached out and placed her hand on mine. “But you’re being safe. You’ll both be okay, right?”
I looked up into her eyes, saw the concern there and I couldn’t bring myself to lie to her. I turned my hand up so it was holding hers and didn’t say anything.