The Secret of Mallory House
A/N: My usual disclaimers: all copyrights go to those who rightfully own them.
This has some major spoilers to my other story The Hornet's Girl. So you might want to read that first if you haven't in order to get what's going on. I loved the character of Else Krieger so I thought she deserved a couple of adventures of her own. This is based off a scene I had written for The Hornet's Girl but had to delete on account of pacing. To clarify, this is set after the events of The Hornet's Girl. This story begins on October 30th, 1932 and ends on Halloween of the same year.
So enjoy and destroy.
"There." Britt Reid said, putting down his switchblade. He turned his scary creation to Else Reid. "What do you think, Ells?"
The jack o' lantern was definitely spooky. The eyes were wide circles, the nose a square and the toothy grin looked ready to say "Boo!"
"It's so scary, Britt!" Else said, clapping her hands. "Hey Jack! Look what Britt made!"
"What do you think, honey?" Britt asked. Both he and Else were sitting at the kitchen table.
"Hmm?" Jack Reid looked over from the pot of hot caramel she was cooking on the stove. "Nice. Nice. Very nice." She went back to stirring.
"That's it?" Britt asked, jokingly upset. "Else and I have been working hard on this jack o' lantern all afternoon and all you can say is 'very nice'?"
"Hey, I'm trying to make caramel apples for tomorrow. If I don't pay attention to it, it could burn." Jack explained without looking up. "Now clean and dry those seeds if you want me to bake them."
"Yech!" Else gagged as Britt picked up the pink bowl full of seeds and pumpkin guts and took it to the kitchen sink. It looked so gross, like something Frankie Parker would chase her with. She did not like him; he played pranks on her and teased her. How can two people as nice as Uncle Frank and Aunt Ethel adopt such meanie like him? And to make it worse, she was going trick o' treating with him tomorrow. At least Britt was going with her. He'd keep him from pulling any mean pranks on her.
"Wait until you try them, Ells. So nice and salty." Britt said. But instead of washing the seeds as Jack asked, he walked back to the table. He held a finger to his lips to Else before picking up the jack o' lantern. Quietly, he snuck up on Jack. She was so busy dipping apples into the hot gooey stuff that she didn't notice. Else fought back the giggles as Britt put the jack o' lantern over his head like a mask and moving as if he was going to kiss her from as he often did while she was cooking.
"Britt, how many times do I have to tell you?" Jack said with a smile as she put another apple down on a tray lined with wax paper. "You're going to have to wait until after dinner for caramel apples." She didn't react. Britt moved the pumpkin closer to her face. "Britt, what are you doing?" She turned and looked right at the jack o' lantern. "Whoa God!" She yelled, nearly falling backwards. Britt caught her before she could fall over.
Britt and Else laughed. The look on Jack's face was so funny. Jack, on the other hand, didn't look so amused.
"Britt! Why in the world did you do that?! I could've gotten hot caramel on you!" Jack said, holding her hand to her heart.
"Aw come on now!" Britt said, taking the jack o' lantern off his head. "You're smiling."
It was true; Jack was fighting to keep the wide smile on her face. "That's only because you and Else are cackling like a pair of hyenas." She finally began laughing. "I can't stay mad at you two forever. Why in the world did I marry you?"
"Because I'm irresistible." Britt said, finally kissing Jack. Else made a face. She thought kissing was gross.
"Is everything ok?" Britt's valet, Kato, asked as he came into the kitchen. He wore his nice white jacket and wide black bowtie. "I heard you screaming Ms. Jack."
"Britt scared Jack with the jack o' lantern! It was so funny!" Else laughed.
"Kato, if you're looking for a new training dummy; you have my full permission to use Britt." Jack said, smirking. "High time somebody knocked sense into him."
"I'll remember that." Kato smiled, finally moving over. "Mr. Scanlon is here to see you, Mr. Britt."
"Hi Uncle Frank!" Else ran up to Uncle Frank, giving him a big hug.
"Hey sport!" Uncle Frank returned her hug. "Are you excited to go trick o' treating tomorrow?"
"Yes! I'm going as the Swan Queen! Jack helped me make my costume! It's so pretty!"
"I bet." Uncle Frank said with a smile.
"But I'm not looking forward to trick o' treating with that meanie Frankie Parker." Else frowned.
"Else, how many times do you have to tell you to be nice to Frankie Parker?" Jack gently scolded.
Else got upset. "Someone should tell him to be nice to me! Do you know what he did to me at Friday during school? He dared me to feel something inside a box. It was cold, sticky and gross! He told me it was monster brains! And he laughed when I cried!"
"Oh did he?" Uncle Frank asked sympathetically. But there was a sparkle in his eye. "And just how did he get a monster to give up its brains?" Else giggled, the thought of Frankie asking to get brains from a monster was a pretty funny image.
"Cold spaghetti." Britt explained. "How can I help you today, Frank?"
"I have something for the paper. About the fugitive jewel thief Jed Cooper." Uncle Frank looked at Britt.
"Would you like to join us for supper?" Jack asked.
"Sorry, but I don't have much time. Thank you for the offer though." Uncle Frank apologized before returning to Else. "It was great to see you, honey. I can't wait to see your costume tomorrow. And don't worry; I'll talk to Frankie about being nice to you."
"Thank you, Uncle Frank." Else said with a smile. Uncle Frank and Britt followed Kato, no doubt to Britt's study. That was one of the rules, when Uncle Frank was over, no going into the study.
"Honey, can you please help me prepare the table for supper?" Jack asked, finally finishing with the caramel apples and turning off the stove. She was calm instead of her usual cheerfulness. Uh oh, she was upset, Else realized as she helped get the chunks of carved pumpkin off the table and into the garbage. "Else, I know you don't like Frankie Parker, but he hasn't had an easy time since his dad died back in July. If Uncle Frank and Aunt Ethel hadn't adopted him, he would've gone to the orphanage where nobody would've loved him. Remember how difficult it was after your Papa died? That's what he's going through right now."
"But I have you and Britt!" Else protested. "That made it so much easier!"
"I know, but Frankie isn't as close to Uncle Frank and Aunt Ethel as Britt and I are to you. Personally, I think it's because he's jealous that we have a close relationship."
"It doesn't excuse it! He pulls so many nasty pranks on me! He pulls on my pigtails, steals the desserts from my lunchbox, and he calls me a 'crybaby'!" Else frowned as she put the silverware down on the table.
Jack took the hot potato casserole out of the oven and onto a cold burner of the stove. "I'm not asking you to be friends. I'm just asking for you to be nice and not call him names. He'll grow out of it eventually. And Uncle Frank will talk to him about being nice to you when he gets home tonight. Please sweetie? For me? Or else you're not getting caramel apples and hot chocolate tomorrow night."
"Ok. But I'm not looking forward to trick o' treating with him tomorrow." Else mumbled as she put the plates on the table.
"Thank you, sweetie." Jack said with a smile. "And don't worry. Britt and Aunt Ethel will keep Frankie in line tomorrow."
Uncle Frank ended staying for dinner after all. He laughed so hard when Else told him the story of how Britt scared Jack with the jack o' lantern. He also smiled when she showed the white ballerina costume and feather crown she and Jack had worked on together.
Things were going well until it was time for bed. As he always did, Britt came into her room to help her get ready for bed and to tell her a bedtime story. "Hey Ells, I've got some bad news. I have to work late at the paper tomorrow night. So I won't be able to take you trick o' treating."
Else frowned, unhappy as she changed into her pajamas. "So does this mean I have to stay home?"
"Nope, not at all. Jack will take you instead and we'll still meet up at home for hot chocolate and caramel apples afterwards. I'm sorry honey." Else felt a little better, but she felt bad that Britt wasn't going trick o' treating with her. Now who would stand up for her when mean old Frankie Parker pulled his pranks on her? Britt appeared thoughtful while he tucked her into bed. "Tell you what, how about a super spooky bedtime story tonight to make up for it?"
Else smiled. "Yeah!" She loved spooky bedtime stories. Appropriate too, considering that tomorrow was Halloween. Britt was such a good storyteller and it always felt good to snuggle next to Britt during the scary parts. How strange, to be scared and yet know you're completely safe…
"Ok, the bedtime story is called 'The Secret of the Mallory Home.' There once was a big spooky house at the end of a long street. It had belonged to a man named Mallory, and for many years, it was called the Mallory Home. There was a rumor that Old Man Mallory had buried a pile of jewelry underneath the floorboards and that his ghost still walks through the house, guarding his treasure. On some nights, a light burns in an upper window and one can hear the sound of his peg leg scraping across the floorboards as he limped through the house."
Else snuggled close to Britt. She could tell from the twinkle in his green eyes that he was reaching the best part. "One night, a man got greedy and decided to see if the legend was true. He broke into the house, determined to look for the jewelry. There was a light was burning in the upper window but he ignored it, thinking it to be his mind was playing a trick on him."
"But it wasn't, was it?" Else asked.
"You'll see. The house was old. It creaked and groaned and it smelled dusty and dank. Nobody had lived in it for a very long time. A wind rustled through the eaves, sounding like an eerie whistle. The thief considered himself a brave man so he ignored the sounds as he searched through the house. He searched downstairs, finding nothing. So he decided to try the upstairs. Finally, he came to the room where the light was burning. Of course it turned out to be a candle, flickering in the creepy wind. But who had lit it? For the first time, he got nervous. 'Maybe somebody left it while they were searching for the treasure,' He told himself and began hitting the floorboards with his foot. Then he heard it."
"Heard what, Britt?" Else whispered.
"Tap-tap-tap-tap. Like this," he tapped his foot against the floorboards. The resulting sound was eerie. "It was coming up the stairs. Tap-tap-tap-tap." Britt did it again. "The thief got nervous. What in the world could make that sound?" Else held her breath. "It must've been an animal, he told himself. That's right, an animal that must've gotten into the house. He continued looking. Then he heard it again. Tap-tap-tap-tap. This time it was coming down the hall. It had to be an animal, the thief tried telling himself. But he wasn't so sure. Then he found it."
"Did he find it? Did he find the treasure?" Else hopped up.
"Settle down or else I'm never going to finish the story." Britt said firmly. Else did as he said. "He found a secret compartment beneath the floorboards. Inside was a rusted box. He was so excited; he had finally found the treasure at last! Then the sound came again. Tap-tap-tap-tap. It was inside the room now, coming up behind him. The thief was so scared. He knew that was no animal making the sound. But his greedy fingers wanted that treasure so badly! He finally got the box open! Inside were strands of pearls, large sapphires and glittering diamonds! The thief was so happy! He was finally rich! Then he heard a whisper in his ear."
Else leaned closer. "'You thief.'" Britt whispered. "The voice was harsh and cold. Then it said something else…"
"GET OUT!" There was a loud growl from the doorway to Else's room. It was the ghost! Else yelped, clinging to Britt as he almost fell of her bed. She could feel his heart hammering in his chest. Jack was laughing from the doorway…she was the one who scared them! "What are you trying to do, Britt, give her nightmares tonight?"
"At this rate, I think you're more likely to give her nightmares!" Britt said, holding a hand to his chest. But he was laughing along with Jack and Else. "And for that matter, what are you trying to do, give me a heart attack before I turn forty?"
"Well that's what you get for scaring me with that jack o' lantern. But we're even?"
"Yes, we're even." Britt said; an angelic look on his face.
"So how does the story end? Does the ghost get even?" Else asked impatiently.
"Well…that's the strange thing. The thief was never seen or heard from again. The Mallory House still stands and on some nights, there's a light in the window, the sound of the peg leg tapping against the wooden floorboards and the sound of somebody ripping up the floorboards, looking for Old Man Mallory's treasure." Britt said. "Was that spooky enough?"
"It was! Thank you, Britt!" Else hugged Britt.
"Ok, now you know the rules. Bedtime, sport." Britt tucked the blankets around her. Else hugged the ballerina doll Grandpa Dan got her for her birthday.
"Sleep well, honey." Jack kissed Else on the forehead. As Britt and Jack were leaving, they turned off the light and left the door slightly open, leaving the hallway light on. Else was about to snuggle off for the night when she heard low voices coming from Jack and Britt's bedroom across the hall.
Even though she knew she was supposed to stay in bed, Else got up and tiptoed outside, determined to get a closer listen.
"Seriously Britt, what were you thinking in telling her that story? Now she's going to want to check that old place out in the West End." Jack said in a low voice. That old place? Else thought as she hid in her special hiding spot behind a potted palm outside Britt and Jack's room. Was it possible the Mallory House was real?
"It was the only thing I could think of. Speaking of that old place, I'm counting on you and Ethel not going anywhere near that place when you two take the kids trick o' treating tomorrow." Britt said. "Rumors are that Cooper made that place his hideout. Mr. Hornet's going to be paying a little visit there."
Mr. Hornet! Else thought of the kind man with the scary mask who saved her from Benny last year. She missed him. Else leaned closer to get a better listen, risking discovery.
There was a pause before Jack began speaking. "In that case, be very careful. I remember Ethel telling me that Cooper's responsible for Officer Parker's murder."
"Hey, always am, remember? Besides, I've got a wife and kid who are waiting for me to come home every night. If that doesn't give me a good reason to be careful, then I don't know what is." Britt said. There was a kissing sound. Else made a face. A hand touched her shoulder gently.
"Oh!" She jumped in surprise. Else looked behind her and saw Kato looking down at her with a gentle smile. "Oh it's you, Kato."
"Hello, Miss Else. What are you doing out of bed?" He asked.
"I heard Jack and Britt talking and wanted to know if there was more to why Britt can't take me trick o' treating tomorrow. Oh please don't tell them I've been up! Jack would get so mad and then I'll never go trick o' treating tomorrow."
Kato put a finger to his lips. "Only if you get right to bed and stay there. Or I'll send a ghost after you." The valet said with a smile. Else scrambled off to bed.
A/N: Next chapter will be up in five minutes