It had begun as fun and games and quickly turned to a nightmare that even Freddy Krueger would be envious of. Archie pinched his earlobe- HARD- more than once, hoping the stimulus would jolt him back to reality. One where people mocked his obsessions and most definitely the version where his best buddy wasn't holding a knife on one of his other friends. His little pathetic EMF meter didn't have a concealed ghost trap and he certainly hadn't memorized any demonic possession fixing spells.
He grit his teeth and gulped again as Bobby turned to eye him, his pupils dilated wide as saucers and an eerie blank look on his typically animated and genial face.
Nick had held his hands out in surrender, a battle of emotions waging war internally from the way seen in the way he glared back at the ghost. The Texan could be read like a book just from his eyes, and his entire being broadcast his anger over this impossible situation.
The spirit made no effort to wait for him to keep up on the stairs, and Archie stumbled frequently as he hurried on the heels of Nick and his nemesis. His lantern blinked off and on, sputtering with illumination only if he shook it enough. Bobby had a strong grip, fingers dug into Nick's bicep, forcing him forward with one hand, the butcher knife dug between Nick's shoulder blades with the other.
Archie tried to quiet his chattering teeth. He was shaking like a leaf from the chill in the air, and, of course, there was a homicidal spook holding his friends hostage. He thought about ripping the blade out of Bobby's hands, but didn't want to risk harming Nick. And even if he did manage to manhandle the other man using physical prowess he really didn't have, there was the whole spirit possession issue to deal with afterwards.
He was running out of ideas as they neared the study; the last he'd considered and discarded involved bashing poor Bobby over the head with the lantern, but that left a certain eight-inch butcher knife that could be a real sticking point. He grimaced at the pun and then mentally kicked himself for even letting his thoughts wander off at a point like this.
Stupid stress coping mechanism. It had been what got him through the trials and tribulations of childhood. Of course, while daydreaming didn't get him in trouble, it also meant being alone a lot. It was hard to make friends with your nose buried in every book imaginable. It also meant he failed to notice that they had arrived at the study.
If he was going to act, now was the time to do it, before the vengeful ghost tried to slice Nick into pieces. As Archie tried to catch up, waiting for an opening to knock out his possessed pal, the library door slammed shut in his face.
Panic raged through his veins with an adrenaline rush of epic portions.
"Hey!" He pounded on the thick aged oak, his hands aching after pummeling the door. "Heeeeeeelp!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs, hopefully loud enough for Brass and Warrick to hear. And hopefully not too late.
Dimly aware of the sound of Archie's frantic pounding on the door, Nick whirled towards where he'd heard the voice emanate from.
Which left his flank exposed. A vicious punch landed on his kidney in the same place as twice before.
"Damn it," he hissed, knowing where the next one was going to land. "I know these dance moves."
This time he felt the bitter chill of fingers yanking on his shirt collar as a phantom fist slammed into his mid-section.
He was getting really tired of being some spook's punching bag, not even able to get a lick in. The last punch had left him feeling sick to his stomach and wobbly on his feet. He'd be seeing his dentist if he survived long enough and while he had anticipated the assault on his jaw, it still hurt like a bitch as he was walloped for the third freaking time in the face.
He was sent to all fours, in perfect position to get cracked in the skull again. He heard it coming and raised his arm to save his sore head from another blow, the bulk poker landing on his forearm with a bone clattering smash, but the tip still catching his head on the way down. He never made it back up, arms and legs giving out, his head spinning, and his heart still going a mile a minute.
The pattern complete, it was time for the deadlier aspect of the play and he wasn't about to become the final act. His service piece was useless against an invisible specter. Summoning strength he really didn't have he clambered to his feet, pulling himself up on the desk, the collective one sided sparring leaving him dizzy.
But, bruised and sore was better than butchered, and he fought the effects of his attack. He heard movement in front of him, his flashlight still flickering on the ground, the stupid thing fighting the electronic fluctuations in the room.
Then the angry spirit finally appeared to him in all of its glory and fury.
Von Valkenberg waged his never ending war in the same wool suit he wore eighty some years ago. His eyes burned with pure hate, his body shimmering in and out like a faulty hologram. The knife he wielded was very real, the metal glinting in the air as it arced down to stab him. Nick was slow, but not about to be made into mincemeat. He caught a wrist frailer than expected and, most importantly... solid.
The German looked shocked as he struggled to drive the blade into Nick's chest.
"A lot harder to kill someone when they're not out like a light, huh?" Nick growled, knowing that Lily's lover had never stood a chance before.
The aristocrat's hand trembled, the knife shaking with the battle to control it. The murderer had the advantage of being over the prone criminalist, but Nick had greater strength, even if weakened by fists and blunt objects.
"You must bleed and suffer," the spirit seethed.
Nick planted a knee into the other man's gut. He used his leg as leverage to shift the German, and more importantly, the blade away from him. The knife cut empty space as he rolled sideways, the older man unable to match the younger man's quicker reflexes. Von Valkenberg stumbled, but that didn't change the fact that one of them was still vulnerable on the floor.
The enraged husband regained his balance and sent a boot into Nick's side. As soon as the Texan changed focus to protect his ribs, the husband sprung again, using his knee to pin Nick's leg down as he aimed the knife lower.
"You dared to violate my wife," he spat, trying to inflict grievous injury.
The older man used one hand to push down and trap Nick's shoulder, the sharpened steel poised to maim the younger man's lower region.
The fright of having his manhood sliced off made the grapple for the weapon boil. "You need serious counseling, man," Nick gasped as the sharp tip nearly nipped at his jeans.
Enough was enough. Nick sent an elbow right into the side of the German's head. "You like that?"
The husband was knocked down as Nick scrambled to rise to his feet and take a better strategic position. Again he was less than steady on his feet, the room spinning from the sudden shift in equilibrium and the effects of a probable concussion.
This time the man was just a rabid animal; the thirst for revenge, anger, fury -- all channeled his energy, making him a much more unpredictable foe. Nick ducked, dodged, and did near acrobatic feats to avoid every violent slice and jab. Seething like some wild dog, hell bent on spilling blood, von Valkenberg was pure frenzy. He advanced with no predictable course, and he tackled Nick with every fiber of his being. One body crashed into another at full force. Nick felt the blade sink into his upper arm, pain blossoming from ripped flesh, blood spilling from a fresh wound.
Nick groaned as the German growled in triumph and they both tumbled back to the floor. The spirit's hatred gave him an edge and it seemed the upper hand. Something inhuman screeched from deep within the murderous man's throat.
But it was a more shocking, and female voice that halted all the action.
A woman's form flickered in the room, long auburn hair, and a silvery aura. As she became more solid Nick could see her eyes; darker than even his own, sparks of fury literally visible as pinpricks of light.
"You cannot have him, Roderick! Not this time!"
The husband straightened, his hands tugging at his waistcoat as he steeled his back and stepped towards her.
"You cannot interfere in this, Lily. You know how this must end."
"NO!" A freezing cold wind whipped through the room, rustling the pages of the still open book Nick had looked at earlier, and knocking every light out instantly.
The room was plunged into utter blackness, the only things visible the fluorescent forms of the two former owners of the house.
The woman stepped forward, meeting her husband face to face, her face a portrait of fury.
"No, Roderick," she repeated slowly, coldly. "Not this time."
Nick watched, stunned, from the floor as von Valkenberg's hands clenched into fists at his side. Then, in a blink of an eye, the husband's hands shot out and wrapped themselves around his wife's neck. Long white fingers burrowed into the flesh of her throat as his wife struggled within his grasp.
"Yesssss, THIS TIME, Lily, and all the times after this!" the husband hissed from between clenched teeth. "You and your lover will pay for this for an eternity!"
Lily clawed at the fingers around her neck, her feet lifted from the ground kicking loosely.
"You betrayed me, Lily. And you musssssst paaaaaaay."
Nick rose to his hands and knees, the effort pulling on the stab wound in his shoulder, and he sucked in a breath but kept crawling. It was like moving through quicksand, every inch forward an eternity as Lily's struggles weakened.
The husband was too bent on wringing the life- UNLIFE? - out of his wife to notice Nick's approach and with the last bit of strength he had left Nick launched himself from the floor and threw his body at von Valkenberg.
While he was half expecting to fall right through, Nick's impact with the killer had both men sprawling on the floor, the breath knocked from the wounded Texan, leaving him gasping for air.
Von Valkenberg splayed out in a very undignified manner on the expensive rug, then whipped his head around to center on Nick.
"You little--!" The husband pulled himself slowly from the floor, brushing down his suit and straightening his tie. Nick could do nothing but stare wide-eyedly at the German as he began walking over, presumably to finish the job he'd begun.
"No, Roderick." It was Lily's voice. Deadly calm. "I told you. Not. This. Time."
Nick and the husband both turned to see Lily with the dueling pistol held in steady hands. She pulled the flintlock back with her thumb and an icy, triumphant smile curled up the corners of her red, red mouth.
Von Valkenberg staggered back a step, hands clutched at his chest. Blood like liquid mercury came pouring from a small hole centered over his heart.
Lily continued to smile, gun in her hands, ghostly smoke rising from the end of the barrel.
Von Valkenberg slumped to the ground, twitched once, then stilled, lying in a growing puddle of quicksilver.
Nick stared at the once again lifeless body of his attacker, then started as he heard a metallic clatter. He turned to see that Lilly had dropped the gun and covered her face with her hands. Soft sobs floated over.
"Hey…hey…Lily?" Nick said tentatively. The sobs stopped and her hands fell from her face. Silvery tears stained her cheeks.
"All this time…and now … it's…"
"It's over, Lily," Nick affirmed. He pulled himself to his feet painfully, the only warmth in his body from where blood poured freely out of the wound in his shoulder.
He'd only managed a few shuffled steps towards her when he noticed she'd begun to flicker in and out.
"Thank you." She closed the distance between them, the blinking getting worse as she raised a hand to his face. Cool, almost weightless fingers brushed his cheek. "You are so very like him. You have kind eyes like his."
The hand dropped and she smiled sadly. "Maybe now we can be together. The way it was meant to be. Farewell, and thank you again."
Her last words still hung in the air as she faded out completely.
Nick's Maglite flared into life and the pager on his hip began vibrating and chirping, while his cell phone began playing its normal jaunty tune.
A groan rose from the floor as the door to the library flung open and Jim, Archie, and Warrick all tumbled in, each of their lights at full power and their various phones and beepers making their own individual noises.
Nick fell to his knees next to Bobby who was coming around and was the source of the groan.
"What the hell…?" the Georgian drawled slowly, hand rubbing at his face. "Did I fall asleep? I had the weirdest dream …"
Nick smiled and offered his good hand to Bobby as the other men moved in to surround them.
Three separate voices all began demanding what had happened but Nick ignored them all to walk over to the couch and slump down tiredly.
Warrick dropped down next to him and looked him in the eye. "Nick, what the hell happened? Are you--? Is that blood? Jesus, Nick, what the hell happened to your shoulder?"
Bobby was meanwhile helped over to a chair where he sat blinking and shaking his head to clear the cobwebs.
A quick glance around the room confirmed that von Valkenberg's body had disappeared along with Lily's.
Nick coughed out a laugh. "You guys will never believe me."
"Why don'tcha try us, Nicky?" Jim asked. Seeing the younger man's pale face, bloody shoulder, and lingering shivers Jim held up a finger. "Belay that. If our equipment is up and runnin', maybe the cars are too. We need to get you two to a hospital to get checked out. You can tell us all about it after you get stitched up, Nicky."
The Texan nodded tiredly, allowing his partner to help him up from the couch.
The group gathered up their equipment, Archie snatching up the pistol and knife, and made their weary way back to the foyer.
Where they met Condannato.
"What the fuck? Tony, where the hell have you been? I've been trying to reach you on the radio!"
"Sorry, Cap'n," the uni said with a shrug. "You sent me to find candles." He held out a hand that held several sticks of wax and more bulged from his pockets. "I… uh. It's a big house. And it's dark. I… I got lost."
Jim sighed tiredly. "C'mon. These cars had better frickin' work."
When they got outside the rain had stopped and the stars were bright against a deep black velvet sky.
The cars all fired up as expected and the group peeled off, spitting gravel in their haste to get away from the house.
Oh, my word, that was SUCH good fun! She laughed gleefully, head tossed back.
My dear, you were especially magnificent tonight. Your performance was brilliant!
Well, you weren't too shabby either, my love. Loved your little impromptu strangulation attempt. It was truly inspired!
Well, he went off program, love. He did put up quite the fight. More than any of the others. He bettered my performance. I had to step it up a notch, as they say.
Yes, he was a nice change wasn't he, she mused, painted fingernail rubbing softly on her lips.
You really did take a liking to him, didn't you?
Oh, Roderick. I must admit to a certain… feeling when I first saw him. But it's only because he reminded me of you when you were his age, sweetheart.
I must admit to a certain rough resemblance, he grumped, running his hands over his eternally soft belly. My physique was, of course, a bit trimmer than his. He was rather… bulky.
Mmmm… Yes, she purred. She entered her husband's open arms and he folded her in his embrace.
Her hand rose to stroke his cheek adoringly, then played with the bristly mustache.
Wonder what he would have looked like with one of these? she teased.
He slapped her hand away playfully, then bent to kiss her mouth deeply, lingering. As they finally drew apart he cocked his head.
You know, this group was cannier than the others. They may actually find the bones in the pond.
Lily's mouth curled in a smile, like ice cracking on a thawing stream. Well, won't we have fun replacing them?
The END ?