-Because it's October in the AnJLverse, and my brain has gone to the obvious place. This has no pretensions to be an original idea, but I'm easily amused. And possibly deranged. Please do not feed the plot-bunnies – I fear they are developing a taste for human flesh...-
It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...
The Torrance house is a good-sized property, of the Victorian Queen Anne style. The rain runs down the gables, streaks the blind windows, gushes from the guttering. The moon, nearly full, ghosts behind rags of cloud, and things rustle under the eaves, scurry in the undergrowth. No tacky plastic lanterns in the windows here, no signs of welcome at all. This is not a house where small children will find candy.
Sound of a motorbike engine, and the machine pulls up on the gravel drive, and the rider takes off her helmet, shakes down her long red braid.
Eyes watch her from the darkness at the end of the porch. One figure is large, powerful, a hulking shape of menace. Grumbles softly in his throat. His companion, shorter, a more compact threat, rolls his eyes.
"You need to ask her out soon, man."
Rigsby hunches a shoulder, shuffles glumly after Cho as he steps out to wave Van Pelt up the steps.
"Hi, guys. I thought you were off duty this evening, Cho?"
"Rigsby needed a ride. I was supposed to be taking my sister's kids trick or treating."
"Oh, it's a shame to miss that." Van Pelt says, warm sympathy.
"No. It isn't. Last year, they wrapped me in toilet paper, and told me that I was the Mummy."
Rigsby sniggers. He's wearing a 'Padres' ball cap pulled down low over his eyes, incongruous with his suit. Cho's vengeance is to flip the cap off, revealing the awful truth.
A row of black cartoon stitches inked across his forehead.
"...and I can't get them off." He all but wails.
"Did you have a bolt through your neck, too?" Van Pelt is giggling.
Rigsby nods miserably. She takes pity on him, tries to pull her face straight.
"What are we here for, anyway?"
"A call stating that there was an intruder on the premises." Cho shrugs. "Lisbon will...argh!"
Bites back a yelp, as a small figure drips water on the floor as it advances out of the shadows, face obscured by a curtain of dark hair...
Lisbon pushes her wet bangs back, flaps the excess rain off her coat, gathers the dark folds about herself again.
"Sorry to wreck your evening plans, people, but it's Weird Week, and everyone's at full stretch dealing with all the freaks who've come out to play. I've been in a policy meeting all afternoon, I didn't really want to be grappling with any more creatures of chaos today..." ("Damn." mutters a quiet voice behind her. She ignores it.) "...but we got landed with this one."
"This area is a stronghold of the hellish Dark Forces that control our very destinies." Jane intones, appearing suddenly up the steps. "Investment bankers. Lawyers. People who play golf with the Mayor. Don't upset the rich voters. Besides," he adds, innocently, spreading his arms, "something weird in the neighbourhood...who else were they going to call?"
Lisbon sighs. There is one outstanding reason why they get the freaky calls. It's grinning at her.
"I'm sorry if this wrecked any of your plans, Van Pelt."
"Jane, if you make a Great Pumpkin joke, I will hit you." (Jane closes his mouth.) "I was just staying in with my housemates." Flushes slightly. "'Buffy' marathon."
"Of course. Female empowerment, the modern re-interpretation of the vampiric co-dependency myth..."
"Spike and Angel." says Lisbon. She and Van Pelt smirk at each other.
Jane looks sideways at Lisbon's grin. Wonders whether he should get a trenchcoat. Not black, though. Maybe a light tan...
Lisbon carries on.
"The owner of the house is a Miss Eudora Torrance, elderly recluse. Third call this week alone, and no sign of any break-in each time. Local force sent an Officer Talbot out to check it, but so far, we've not been able to reach him."
"We're out after a phantom prowler, Boss?"
Jane rocks on his heels, makes a small noise of dissent. Lisbon looks at him sceptically.
"You think there really was an intruder?"
"This is a nice neighbourhood. Quiet. Expensive." Points up under the eaves to where the electronic box blinks at them. "Good security system."
Steps across the porch and tries the handle of the front door. The sound of violent alarm is conspicuously absent from the night, as he pushes it open.
The darkened doorway yawns before them.
Lisbon edges in first, hand on her sidearm.
A large hallway, a double staircase leading up into the gloom, a general air of faded luxury. No sound but the subdued tick of a longcase clock, heavy pendulum scything the seconds.
Faint line of light from under a door along the hall. Lisbon calls again, knocks the door open. Stops, with her mouth open.
A huge stone fireplace, flanked with candelabra. The walls hung with lurid posters, strange armaments, ornate wall sconces. A heavy wooden desk, whose legs carry grinning devil's faces, a throne of a chair carved the same way. There's a coffin standing against the back wall, behind a chaise-longue in the same rich crimson as the drapes. The only modern thing is the television, the screen flickering greyly at them from the corner, and even that is sitting within a carved monstrosity of a cabinet. There's a skull on top of it. The whole room doesn't just scream 'Gothic excess', it tops it off with a peal of manic laughter.
Jane alone seems unsurprised.
"You really don't recognise any of this stuff?" Gestures dramatically. "Behold the lair of Morella, Queen of the Crypt!" Looks at their blank faces. "Ah. Guess none of you watch that much late night cable."
"Other people sleep, Jane."
"Back in the sixties...Eudora Torrance was an actress, horror hostess..." Lisbon watches him bouncing around the room, like a demented child. "Oooh, a severed hand...and a whole box of stuffed spiders...and...oh, dear."
It definitely completes the scene. A body sprawled untidily in an ominous red pool. Lisbon narrows her eyes.
"What the hell is going on here?"
"Someone shot a little fat man." Jane looks up, face blanched, holds up his hand. "This isn't corn syrup."
As Lisbon knows from her brother Sean, paramedics tend to be a hardened breed, fairly blasé about the bizarre, due to the day-to-day stupidity of people. The two who arrive to stretcher away Officer Talbot are no exception. One of them merely gives a glance at the coffin.
"Don't think we'll be needing that, ma'am. This one's still bleeding."
"Third pick-up this evening." The other one says, equally cheerful. "One guy got a hockey mask stuck over his head. Gotta love the loonies."
The commotion has not brought anyone down from upstairs. The house is ominously still.
"I think we can assume that we have a nervous and armed householder somewhere on the premises."
"You think that someone that lives with this décor is going to be nervous?" Jane scoffs.
"It's making me nervous." Cho eyeballs a stuffed raven.
"If she panicked and did this, she's probably hiding somewhere. Identify yourselves loudly and clearly, people."
"Lisbon, the man was wearing a uniform. Hardly a faceless maniac...."
Given the choice between facing the unknown perils of the darkened house, and staying in a room with Jane and Lisbon arguing, the team choose the dark...
The rest of the house is reasonably normal, if somewhat inclined towards black in the décor, and some of the photographs on the walls are a little unusual. Rigsby rather likes the one of the great gilled fish-monster proudly holding up a man on a hook.
"You think Jane ever bothers dressing up for Hallowe'en?"
"C'mon, he always looks a little weird." Cho cautiously tests the door to the garage. "It's probably the one night of the year that he doesn't stand out."
Rigsby peers in through the window.
"Ooh, cool ride."
"Let me guess – there's a hearse in there?"
"No. Looks like a vintage Plymouth..."
Van Pelt opens a door upstairs.
A scrape of claws on wood, and part of the night flows out into the room towards her. There is an ageless evil in the green eyes, infinite malice and cunning.
"Oh, hello." Van Pelt coos, offers her hand. The black cat jumps up onto the bed (which is, of course, a four-poster) and graciously permits her to make a fuss of him.
There is no sign of a break-in, no signs of a struggle. And no sign of Miss Torrance...
He'd spent a lot of his childhood evenings watching unsuitable things – movie rental was cheaper than paying a sitter. 'A Bride for Dagon' had been a particular favourite – pirate skeletons resurrected to serve a demonic fish-god. It had been quite scary when he was eight. Oh, and another one he remembers, 'Castle of Dread Desire'. He looks thoughtfully at the spine of that one, then grins.
"Jane, leave the video tapes alone...old people forget to set their alarms all the time. I think we just have a sad but common occurrence here." Lisbon walks towards the door. "Are you coming with me?"
"Oh, don't mind me. I can always amuse myself." Jane says, continues to poke at things on the mantelpiece. Something goes clunk. "Aha."
The fireplace swings round, and the consultant finds himself in a darkened place with a definite odour of bat...
Lisbon looks over her shoulder, then frantically round the suddenly empty room.
"Invisibility is another of my powers." Muffled voice. She can hear him tapping at the wall. "Ah. No catch on this side..."
"Jane, stay put, we'll get you out. What did you pull to open it?"
"There's a passage back here." Voice is growing fainter. "Wow..."
A spooky old mansion at night, with a possible armed lunatic somewhere on the loose. Of course he's going to find a secret passage and go exploring.
The team come back into the lair, to find Lisbon standing, hands on hips, and fuming.
"Jane has managed to get himself stuck in the walls somewhere." She tells them.
"He's in the walls?"
Lisbon is going to smack him silly when she gets him out of whatever he's gotten into. Her pocket gives out a small peal of tubular bells, and she yanks out her cellphone.
"Jane, where the hell are you?"
"If I knew where I was, I would tell you. But it's dark." Hollow knocking, somewhere in the walls and echoed on the phone. "You'll have to find me."
"And then I'm going to thump you." That isn't very professional, but he's scared her. His laugh.
"All these promises, my dear Teresa." Pause. "I'm fine, sweetheart, just a bit dusty." That isn't very professional, either, but nobody else has to hear it, and it does make her feel better. "There was a back door out, but it seems to have been blocked by an earthfall. Probably quake damage. I'd like to be out of here fairly soon." Another couple of hollow knocks, and a bout of coughing. "There's spiders. And probably rats. You don't want me nibbled by rats, do you?"
"You deserve it. You shouldn't have got in there in the first place."
"It will all be worth it." He sounds aggravatingly smug.
Jane uses his phone screen, a meagre light that shows him the disturbed dust. Definitely footprints.
Someone had turned that alarm off, and if it was Miss Torrance, then she had let Officer Talbot in. And then shot him. If it wasn't, then there's someone else out there. He feels that anyone who could segue a career of screaming at fake monsters into this kind of real estate isn't going to be spooked by shadows.
"Miss Torrance? I'm here to help you." he says, quietly.
A pale skinny hand comes out of the darkness and clutches his wrist.
Dull, hollow knocks sound, an irregular heartbeat to the old house, echoing along deserted corridors...
"Where is that coming from?" Van Pelt, exasperated, comes out of another room, shaking her head.
"I can't keep track of him when he's not incorporeally possessing a house." Lisbon grumbles. "I should put an ankle cuff on him." Or a shock collar, she thinks, crossly.
They eventually trace the knocking to a room behind the garage. This seems to be where the all the maintenance equipment is stored, neatly kept tools and gardening kit.
Rigsby knows the internal structure of houses like this. Seen too many of them as scorched ruins where people haven't been careful with their wiring. Dug a few out after quakes.
"We can take out a section of the wall here without causing any further problems." Shucks off his jacket, and looks over the set of tools. Unhooks an axe. "Somebody see if they can find a crowbar or something."
Van Pelt, looking through a locker, finds something better. Her eyes light up.
Rigsby, about to take a swing with the axe, is stopped by the roar of a chainsaw coughing into violent life.
"Let me get this straight." Lisbon sighs to Cho. "Rigsby is now watching Van Pelt, clad in leather, wielding a chainsaw?"
They exchange a long, tired look.
It doesn't take long for Van Pelt to cut a rough door shape. Rigsby grips the edge of the makeshift entrance. Muscles bunch, much to the detriment of his shirt, and he pulls the wall free.
Jane climbs out. His suit is trashed, he's covered in dust and cobwebs, reddened eyes blinking out through a mask of grime. Rolls his eyes up, and lurches at Lisbon, moaning softly. She straight-arms him off.
"Zombies creep me out." Prods covertly at him to assure herself that he's not hurt. He grins through the dirt.
"There's someone you need to meet..."
Thin pale hands settle gracefully on the edges of the hole, and Miss Torrance ghosts out of the darkness.
"One of my better entrances." she says, contentedly, stepping through the ruins of her wall.
It takes less than five minutes for everyone to realize that they are not dealing with a confused geriatric. Miss Eudora is not afraid of anything much, except the passing of time, and she's sharp as a tack. The reclusiveness is...
"Vanity, darlings. Mere vanity. I wanted people to remember me as I was."
Lisbon and Van Pelt both rather hope that they still look as good when they're seventy. Morella, Queen of the Crypt, had been beautiful once. Still has the perfect symmetry of bone, though the skin has slackened a little, and the fine hair that falls over her frail shoulders is pure silver. She reclines on the chaise-longue with the air of an Empress, in her embroidered kimono, watching with interest as Cho takes her fingerprints and a GSR swab, and dictating her statement.
"...there was a noise outside. It was that lunatic again. I called the police, and had a bit of an argument with them. They thought I was just a silly old lady, imagining things. I told them that I've got my father's old service revolver, and they decided to send someone out then."
"Where do you keep the gun?"
"In the little reliquary on the desk, under the monkey's paw." (Cho gingerly opens the box, and his eyebrows rise. He nods to Lisbon.) "Gregory doesn't like me keeping it, thinks I'm too old for such a thing. I told him that if I could still kick a man in the balls, I wouldn't need it."
"Right. Er, who is Gregory?"
"Gregory Bates. My great-nephew. He's always in and out, checking up on me."
"He's fond of you?" Jane asks, suddenly.
"Oh, no. He'd like me to hurry up and die." The voice is placid. "The money is all mine, you see."
Jane smiles, the last piece of the puzzle in place.
"The officer arrived. I reset the alarm, to show him that I know how it works, told him I wasn't letting him out until he'd checked the house. He still thought I'm a crazy old lady, but he was a nice little man, decided to humour me. We walked round the house, and then when we got back into the hall, the front door was open. He started to take me seriously then. Especially when the man shot him. I'm afraid I ran and hid, then. All I saw was a tall man in a dark coat and that silly rubber mask."
Jane and Lisbon exchange a look. She looks dubious, he raises an eyebrow, she sighs, shrugs. Jane gives a small grin. Miss Eudora watches the by-play with amusement, opens her own eyes wide when Jane turns to her.
"Miss Eudora, I can put you into a light trance, help you to remember more. And these good officers of the law will ensure that I don't lead you in any way..."
She's already leaning back, drawing her skirts about her.
"Hypnosis? What fun." She lifts her chin. "You may begin."
Lisbon always finds it strange to watch Jane work, when he steps away from the casually charming persona of the office, takes on that subtle air of mystery and command, his focus just...other. The sea-coloured eyes darken, his voice deepens slightly. And yes, she finds it sexy as hell, which annoys her.
"...you're watching the evening, it's one of your movies, watching it through the screen, you can see all the angles, all the shots..."
Jane talks her gently through her evening again, until they get to...
"Describe your intruder. Take your time. You can see every detail."
"He's tall...nearly as tall as that handsome young brute with the ink on his face" (Rigbsy blushes) "but skinny, no muscle to him. The coat is far too big for him, too long. He's wearing gloves, tacky plastic ones, and brown loafers. They really don't go with the coat. I can see his eyes through the mask – blue eyes. Oh. I suppose he thought the mask would disguise him. He forgot about that horrible aftershave he wears. Makes him stink like a randy polecat."
"So who is he?"
"Why, Gregory, of course. How odd. I know the impatient way he pulls the box open, and he's got my gun. I think he's going to tell me how stupid I am to have it again, and...then...he shoots that poor man....oh..."
"You're safe, Miss Eudora. Perfectly safe. You're watching this, it's one of your movies."
"...yes, I got blood all over me then, too. Gregory knows my alarm code, and where I keep my gun, but he doesn't know about the fireplace. I hide. I can hear him banging, but he never watched my movies growing up. He can't find the lever. So I sit in the darkness. I like the darkness. It hides so many things. I can remember..." Her voice trails, then grows stronger. "Then Patrick comes stumbling along. He's got a nice voice, he's talking to Teresa, and I can hear him..."
Lisbon watches the edges of Jane's cheekbones turn pink, as he rather hastily brings Miss Eudora back. She opens her eyes with a pleased smile, that suddenly becomes a frown.
"That devious little bastard! Arrest him at once."
Lisbon bites her lip.
"I'm sorry. I think we need more than a hypnotic trance to go on."
A thin voice, an elderly voice, edged with hysteria...
"...Gregory? Gregory, you need to come up to the house...that masked man has been here again, and he shot a policeman. But more police have been here, and they don't believe me. I think they're going to come back and arrest me tomorrow. I don't want to be locked up, I'll die if they take me away from my house...Gregory, you have to come and help me, you're the only family I can turn to...They didn't find my gun, but I'm all alone here, and I'm afraid that he's going to come back..."
Less than a quarter of an hour later, the front door swings open, the electronic noise of a keypad, and then Gregory Bates opens the door of the lair.
"Aunt Eudora? I got your call..."
Sight of the small figure prostrate on the chaise-longue makes him pause. His face drops its expression of concern, becomes sharply calculating. He takes three quick steps across the room, bends over and reaches out to take her wrist.
"I think the excitement has been a little much for her."
Gregory Bates jumps, stares at the man who is leaning by the mantelpiece. He looks like he's been dug up from somewhere.
"Who the hell are you?"
"A fan of Morella. Who knew that screaming at rubber monsters would furnish all this? Lovely house, must be worth a fortune. Not to mention the collector's items. But that's a little besides the point."
Eudora's eyes snap open and she sits bolt upright with the vigour of a much younger woman, eldritch shriek and accusing arm outstretched. Bates shrieks, too.
"You're the man who shot that poor officer. I saw you do it."
"But I wore..." Bates blurts, stops abruptly.
"A mask that you've probably been stupid enough to leave in your car. Quite a melodramatic idea, really. I mean, did you really hope to frighten her to death? No...it was always this cruel, wasn't it?" (Lisbon has seen Jane change from cheerful clown to vengeful nutcase in the blink of an eye before now. She finds it unsettling, and she's used to him.) "You gunned down a total stranger, with the intention of getting your great-aunt committed, you pathetic little scumbag."
Bates, already badly rattled, takes a step back, looks wildly between them.
"You think anyone will believe that?" But his hand goes for the box on the desk. "I think she finally lost her mind. I received a hysterical phonecall, and arrived here to find her body, and a strange man in her house..."
"Do get your script straight." Eudora snaps, crossly. "Either I'm a crazy old lady who shot a cop, or I'm the victim of a deranged fan. And you can be sure that I'm not going to give in easily, you pathetic little excuse for a monster."
"The police like little things like evidence – fingerprints, gunshot residue, motive, evident knowledge of where the gun was...isn't that right?"
Bates is still looking stupidly at the empty box when Lisbon steps through the door with her own gun pointed at him.
"Gregory Anton Bates, you are under arrest for the attempted murder of Officer Laurence Talbot..."
All the fight goes out of Bates, then. He doesn't even put up a struggle when Cho steps up to cuff him.
"I'd have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling..."
"Oh, do shut up." Eudora snaps at him, as Cho and Rigsby bundle him out. Turns majestically to Jane. "We should drink to our partnership. Do you like gin? It's my only weakness."
They can throw this one back to the local force, who arrive to collect Bates, and are greeted on the steps by Lisbon herself. A tall pretty redhead in black leather goes past carrying a chainsaw.
"Just putting this back, Boss."
Lisbon merely nods.
"What the hell..?" Craven asks.
"It's Lisbon's team." Hooper mutters laconically. "They're always a bit strange."
Their captive is in the charge of a big guy with fake stitches across his forehead, and a third man, still dapper in his dark suit. Craven looks at him.
"So what are you?"
"I'm a werewolf." Cho, deadpan as ever. "But full moon isn't for another two days."
Lisbon bites the inside of her cheek. This won't do their reputation any good at all.
She's just glad that the officers hadn't seen the sight that greets her when she goes back in. Miss Eudora reclining in all her ghoulish glory, issuing commands to her manically grinning barman. There's something distinctly worrying about watching him pouring things into beakers in the half-light. Especially since the cocktail cabinet turns out to be installed in the coffin.
"...and half the measure of lime juice to the gin and vermouth. Good boy." Miss Eudora pats Lisbon on the arm. "I do like this young man of yours."
"Would you like to keep him?"
"If I were twenty years younger, darling, I'd be tempted." Wicked old thing grins at her. "No, you take him home and make him treat you nicely. Bully him a little – I think he likes it."
Lisbon is very glad that none of the team are within earshot. Especially the way that Jane is smirking.
"Come on, Jane, time to go."
Jane lurches out behind Lisbon, face and body horribly contorted.
"Oh, stop that..." Trying not to laugh.
Van Pelt waits a moment. Rigsby shifts from foot to foot, opens his mouth. Closes it again. Van Pelt sighs.
"Well, good night." Awkward little smile. "See you on Monday."
She drives off into the night. Rigsby gives an inarticulate moan, drops his arms. Cho shakes his head.
"You are so going to die alone. C'mon, let's go grab a bite." Tosses his half-read copy of Lovecraft onto the back seat. "For some reason, I've got the urge for Greek food. Something with tentacles..."
Too late for the Trick or Treaters, now. With the kiddies all home, the night is left to the party animals. Jane, decently clean at last, sips his red wine, and listens to the random noises of merriment outside. The children of the night are kicking it old school.
"Lisbon, do you want a glass of....oh."
Lisbon, in a long, low-cut black dress that clings to every inch of her. Darkly made-up eyes smoulder at him as she snake-hips across the room. Takes the glass out of his fingers.
"I don't drink...wine." Crimson lips part over the cutest little pair of fangs.
Jane's eyes go wide. Then he grins appreciatively, raises her hand to his lips.
So it seems that he's fated to be the love slave of one sexy little Mistress of the Dark. He can live with that.
(credits: Stephen King meets Scooby-Doo, with a large helping of Hammer Horror. Plus whatever else staggered out of the vaults. It's alive, alive, I tell you!...Iä-R'lyeh...Cthulu fhtagn...