Fiction Friday - Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences: The First Case Reprise - Lexy's Story
Yes, I know it's Sunday. Sorry. Call it "Short Story Sunday" if it makes you feel better. I just had the hardest time cracking this story, and after working on it for four days, I'm still not entirely sure it works, but it'as sort of an integral part of what comes next, so I had to muddle through. You know the drill. Read it, leave me some feedback. Seriously. Please? This makes a total of 49 pages about these characters through 9 stories, I'd love to know if people are digging it and what you like, what works, etc...
Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences:
The First Case Reprise –
*Author’s note: this story takes place concurrently with both parts of “This Ain’t a Ghost Story.”
Hank definitely would not be happy about me doing this.
A few weeks ago, Weekly World Now magazine had sent a reporter, Melissa Adaire, to interview my bosses, Henry Biggs and Aldredge “Wedge” Thompson, about their occult investigation business, and tonight she was coming back to interview me.
That’s right. I work for ghost hunters.
My name is Alexa Fogel, but everyone calls me Lexy. I had set up the interview because I thought it would drum up more business for the bar the guys owned, The Haunted Hops, the bar I managed for them. Wedge was indifferent to the idea, but I’m pretty sure he warmed up to it since his interview ended with him sleeping with the reporter, but I knew Hank hated it; he was a private person, and the work he did helping people by banishing spirits took a lot out of him, but I thought talking about it might help him.
After what happened at the church, I was starting to think it did. And that kiss…
“Where are the guys tonight?”
Snapped out of my thoughts, I looked across the table at Melissa Adaire. We were sitting at a booth in the back, as quiet and private as we could get in a bar. I flashed her my sweetest smile. “Down in the office taking care of some business.” Translation: drinking their faces off. “I have to admit,” I said to her as I leaned back in the booth. “I have no idea why you want to interview me. I just manage the bar.”
“My editor thought it would be nice to have a little piece to put in a sidebar in the main story. Besides,” she added as she took out her tape recorder and hit record, “when I was here the first time I got the feeling you do a lot more than just manage the bar.”
I couldn’t hide a smile; she was right, I did a lot more than manage the bar. Hank and Wedge were my boys, and I took care of them.
“I don’t suppose we could start out with you telling me the Skywalker Ranch story?”
I shrugged, doing my best to look innocent. “Sorry, they never even told me that story. They take that gag order pretty seriously; they have to, or they’ll get dragged back to court and lose. Not to mention they’d have to return their baby,” I added, pointing to the giant replica of the Millennium Falcon hanging from the ceiling where a chandelier used to be. She was asking about the infamous case where the boys had done a favor for George Lucas in return for the replica, and for letting them use “Biggs and Wedge” in their business name since it was also the name of two Star Wars characters. Of course, the boys didn’t take their oath of silence about the case that seriously: Wedge had told it to more beautiful drunk coeds than I could count, and Hank had told me about it one time. It was the only time a case they told me about gave me nightmares, just the thought of that wookie…
“Alright, then let’s start with how you started working here.”
“I answered an ad on Craigslist,” I answered simply.
“Yeah. The guys had bought the bar but knew that they weren’t very good at running a bar, just in drinking in it. So they put up an ad. I had just graduated with a degree in business, so I answered the ad. They said I was the first person who showed up, and they hired me.”
She laughed. “They didn’t put a lot of thought into the decision, did they?”
I shrugged again. “They didn’t have much time. They had no idea how to run a bar and they knew it, and on top of that, the occult business was booming at that point, so they needed to devote their time to that. I started right away, and have been running the Hops ever since.” While I had been speaking, one of the waitresses, Kiana, had come over to the table and was motioning for my attention. “Excuse me a second,” I said to the reporter. “What is it, Ki?” She leaned over and whispered into my ear, pointing at a seat at the bar as she did so. I looked to who she was pointing at, and then said thank you. “You’ll have to give me a few minutes, Melissa,” I said. “There’s a gentleman at the bar who says he needs to talk to the guys, I’m going to go see what he wants.
I made my way through the people in the bar, saying brief hellos to some of the regulars, to the guy Kiana had indicated. “Hi,” I said as I introduced myself. “My name’s Alexa. You have something you’d like to talk to Biggs and Wedge about?”
He nodded. “Yes,” he said, “my name is Mr. Reisling, and my wife and I think my son is haunted.”
People come into the bar and say things like that all the time. Part of what I do is weed out the kooks and fame whores to try to make sure the guys only meet people with actual spirit problems. I had never heard of actual people being haunted, just houses and things, but looking at this guy… major bags under the eyes, hair was a mess, clearly on edge… I was inclined to believe him.
“Okay,” I said, “wait here. I’ll go get them.” I walked down the bar, asking the bartender to get Mr. Reisling a cup of coffee, before I went down into the basement where the boys kept their office. I was only hoping they weren’t completely wasted by now.
As I walked down the stairs, I could hear them laughing, and then I could make out snippets of their conversation.
“Because getting involved with me will just get her hurt,” I heard Hank say. He sounded sad as he continued, “just like in the church; or worse, even killed. So even if I do love her…”
It felt like my heart stopped. He loved me? I knew he returned my kiss a week ago, and I had hoped maybe he was opening up, but to hear that…
I knew I should have stopped listening and walked in the office, but I couldn’t make myself yet. I had missed some of what they were saying in my surprise, but I could hear Wedge now. “If you’re both crazy about each other, just go for it. I mean, she could get hit by a bus coming to work tomorrow. Me and you know better than anybody, death is always around.”
Both crazy about each other? Damn, was I really that obvious?
Hank was talking again. “At least if she got hit by a bus, it wouldn’t be my fault.”
Okay, this was killing me. I couldn’t listen anymore. As I turned the corner into the office and leaned against the doorway, Wedge said, “Doesn’t Lexy deserve to make that choice herself?”
Hank said my name, but it was badly slurred, so he tried it again. “Lexy deserves…”
That was when he noticed me, and he froze like a deer in headlights.
“Lexy what?” Wedge prodded.
“Lexy is right behind you,” Hank said, and I could literally hear him trying to force sobriety into his voice, but he was hopelessly plastered. “Hello, beautiful.”
He called me beautiful. He had never said anything like that to me before; he was always trying to keep just enough distance between us. I couldn’t help but blush as my nose crinkled a bit at the powerful smell of whiskey in the room. “Having fun, boys?”
“You know us, always a party,” Wedge laughed as he turned his chair around so he could see me better. “What’s up, Tiny?”
God, I hated when he called me that. Just because I was only 5’2” and he was 6’4. “There’s a man upstairs who would like to see you,” I said, but then I considered how drunk they both clearly were, especially Hank. “Should I tell him to come back tomorrow?”
“Nah, we can see him now. What does he want?” Hank was trying so hard to seem so much more sober than he was. God help me, I thought it was adorable.
“He said him and his wife think their ten-year-old son is haunted.”
Wedge laughed. “They must be drunker than we are. People don’t get haunted, just places and things. Right, Biggsy?”
Everyone else called him Biggs or Biggsy, but he let me call him Hank, or even Henry sometimes. Even though he was answering Wedge, he was looking right at me the whole time. “Never heard of a haunted person before,” he said, “but then again, I had never heard of two spirits haunting the same thing, or a gorilla ghost either, so who knows?” He pulled himself up from his seat behind his desk, and I was afraid he was going to tip over for a second there.
He made his way over to the door and I put my hand on his arm to stop him for a second. “Are you sure about this, Hank? You’re really drunk.”
“So’s your face,” he responded with a goofy grin.
What? “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Think about it and it does,” Hank answered before he started going up the stairs. I turned to watch him go, praying he wouldn’t fall and break his neck.
“Don’t worry, Lexy, I’ll keep an eye on him,” Wedge said, trying to be assuring before he followed Hank up the stairs.
And then Wedge promptly tripped on the first step.
He got up fast and kept moving after Hank, but I couldn’t stifle a sigh. “Why doesn’t that fill me with confidence?”
I followed the boys upstairs, introduced them to Mr. Reisling, and then left them to talk. I went back to the booth I was sharing with Melissa. “Sorry about that,” I said as I sat back down across from her.
“Was that about a case for them?” she asked. When I nodded, she said, “So how did you go from being the bar manager to helping them with the occult business?”
“Pretty much just like that,” I answered with a little laugh. “People would come in to talk to the guys when they were downstairs, or out of the building or whatever, so I’d talk to them first, see what they wanted, and then get the guys. It went from me just doing that to helping them keep names straight to helping with dates and billing issues and whatever else.”
“It sounds like they couldn’t do it without you.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” I answered absent-mindedly as I watched Hank and Wedge walk out with Mr. Reisling, frowning at the way they swayed on their feet. I had a bad feeling about this one, but I didn’t want the reporter to see that. “They could handle the occult stuff without me, for sure. I just help make things go more smoothly.”
“Have you ever gone on a case with them?”
I immediately thought about the case Fr. Rube Elliot hired the guys for, the poltergeist at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow where they needed to use me as bait and Hank had a bit of a meltdown. And then I kissed him in the office downstairs, not trying to push anything, just wanting to let him know I was there for him, and now it seemed like the kiss might have changed everything.
“You have, haven’t you?” Melissa smiled. “I can tell by the look on your face. Tell me about it.”
I definitely wasn’t going to tell her about the church case, but now I had to tell her something. “You’re right,” I said. “Once I started really helping with that business, I told the guys I wanted to tag along with them to see exactly what they do. Hank was against it immediately; he thought it would be too dangerous and was worried I might get hurt. He still thinks that way. But I insisted, and Wedge thought it was a good idea, so Hank finally agreed that I would join them on their next case. It took a few days, but finally one came up.”
“What was it?”
“It was a pretty basic haunting, at least the way it started out. A woman in her fifties came in and said she the typical weird things were happening in her house: things flying across the room, strange sounds, doors closing, lights going on and off, all in the living room, but she never saw any ghosts or anything. She also told us she kept her husband’s cremated remains in an urn on the fireplace in the living room, which just screamed, ‘Hey, there’s a spirit here!’ So the boys told her to stay here and wait for us, expecting it to be an open-and-shut case, and the three of us piled into the van and headed to her apartment.”
“Was it not as open-and-shut as they expected?”
“It never really is,” I said, shaking my head. I was really, really praying it would be that easy for them tonight, though, because they seemed way too drunk to handle any curveballs. I continued the story, hoping it would hide my concern. “So we got to the woman’s house and went right into the living room. The guys told me to stay by the doorway so I could get out in a hurry while they did their thing. Hank felt around the room with that special sense he has, his medium’s gift, and honed right in on the urn on the fireplace. There was this painting of a clown hanging on the wall behind the urn that creeped me out so badly I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It wasn’t a scary painting or anything, clowns just freak me out. Wedge finally got my attention, wanting to make sure I watched how they painted the double pentagram with chicken blood for the summoning and banishing. Once it was done, Hank sat in the middle of it with the urn in his lap…”
I was interrupted by the sounds of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen coming from my phone. It was the ringtone I had set especially for Hank because of how crazy that song drove him. “Sorry, I have to take this,” I said hurriedly as I slipped out of the booth to answer the phone. “Hank? Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, it’s fine,” he answered, but I could tell from the strain in his voice that it wasn’t. “Listen, I can’t explain right now but I need you to get out of the bar for awhile.”
“What? What are you talking about? I can’t just leave, it’s Friday night and the place is getting packed!”
“Lexy, don’t argue with me,” Hank said. He sounded almost sober, and I didn’t even want to begin to imagine what might have happened to sober him up that fast. “You need to take the rest of the night off, leave the bartenders in charge. Go see a movie or something.”
“Alright, fine. There are a few movies I wouldn’t mind seeing; I guess I’ll go catch one.” Like there was a chance in hell I’d leave the bar with him sounding like this. I’d wait there until they got back, until I was sure Hank was safe, and nothing was going to change that. But he was clearly more worried about me than whatever they were dealing with, and I didn’t want to be a distraction.
“Good. Thanks. I’ll explain everything tomorrow, I promise.” Hank hung up without saying goodbye. I took a second to put my poker face back on so Melissa Adaire would think everything was okay and joined her in the booth again.
“Sorry about that,” I said, leaving the phone on the table in case he called back. “Where was I?”
“Biggs had just sat on the floor with the urn,” she answered.
“Right.” I picked up with the story. “Now, what you have to remember is that when it comes to the summoning, this is how Hank explained it to me. If the spirit is localized, like haunting an entire room, he just has to sit in the pentagram and feel for it until it manifests, and it’ll manifest in the boundaries of the pentagram because it’s drawn to him. That’s all he has to do to summon it. But if the spirit is haunting a particular item, the item itself has to be in the pentagram with him, or the spirit will manifest by the item and won’t be bound by the pentagram’s power.
“And the reason this is important to the story,” I continued, “is that the spirit here wasn’t haunting the urn.”
Her eyes widened a bit, but she said nothing, so I went on. “Hank assumed it was because, well, it makes sense, right? And when he was feeling out the room, he was drawn to the fireplace, so he figured it had to be the urn. But when he did the summoning with the urn, nothing happened, or so he thought. He looked around in confusion, until he heard me scream because a clown had just appeared out of nowhere in front of the fireplace.” I couldn’t suppress a shudder at the memory.
“It was the painting?” she asked, laughing a little bit at my discomfort.
“Yeah, it was the painting. We never found out why or how, the woman had bought it at a garage sale a few weeks ago because her husband had always loved clowns so she thought it would be nice to hang it behind his urn, but it was haunted. And when I screamed, it got the poltergeist’s attention and a lamp went flying at my head. Luckily, my scream also got Wedge’s attention and he had already instinctively been moving towards me, so he tackled me out of the way in the nick of time. Hank yelled for Wedge to get the poltergeist and then he was at my side, pulling me up and getting me out of the house. Wedge came out a minute later, having banished the clown poltergeist with his sword.
“That’s some story,” she said. “Do they make mistakes like that often?”
“Absolutely not,” I said defensively, although I knew about quite a few times where things like that happened. “The whole banishing thing isn’t exactly an exact scientific process. It’s all done on what Hank feels when he reaches out with his senses. And compared to other mediums I’ve met and heard about, he’s good. Really good. But there’s no way to get them all right all the time.”
“Okay,” Melissa said, smiling, “I wasn’t trying to insinuate anything, relax. I was just asking.”
“Sorry.” I exhaled slowly. “I’m just protective of them. They’re my boys, and they do their best doing a good thing that’s also a hard thing, you know?”
“I understand.” She reached out and turned her tape recorder off. “I think I got everything I need.”
“Good. Listen,” I said spontaneously, “I’m going to order some dinner from the kitchen. You want anything? My treat, a thank you for doing the story for the guys.” I didn’t particularly want to spend any more time with a reporter, having to think about my every word, but I didn’t want to sit alone and worry for the next who-knows-how-long, either.
“I’d like that,” she replied, and I waved Kiana over.
* * * * *
To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed having dinner with her, and then the hour we spent after that just talking as well. I was actually about to ask her if she wanted to keep in touch after this when I heard something that stopped my heart.
“I didn’t lose!”
It was Hank’s voice, and I could hear Wedge laughing at him. They were both back, and it sounded like they were okay. I turned in the booth and saw Hank weaving his way through the crowd to our booth.
“What’s she doing here?” he said as soon as he reached us.
“Thank God you’re okay, you scared me half to death with that phone call!” I ignored his question as I almost leapt out of the booth to hug him, our height difference meaning my head ended up leaning against his chest.
He broke the hug, pulling away a bit but leaving his hands on my arms. “Yeah? Then why are you still here? I told you to leave.”
“Like I’d leave after a call like that, with you guys obviously in danger?” I punched him on the arm, and my fear must have taken over a little because I hit him harder than I planned to. Then I called him an idiot. “So what happened?”
He looked at me before answering, and I got a little concerned. Did something bad happen? Was he really okay?
“Can I tell you over dinner?” he finally asked.
Was he asking me out?
“Not tonight, obviously,” he said, sounding a little nervous when I didn’t answer right away. He saw the empty plates on the table. “I mean, you’ve clearly already eaten…”
“Hank,” I interrupted, taking his hand gently, “yes. You can tell me over dinner, anytime you want.”
“Good,” he said, looking a little surprised. He looked at me for a second, then he leaned down and kissed me lightly, and then he walked away, leaving me speechless.
“I guess there’s more story here after all,” I heard Melissa say behind me.
And she was right.