Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Preview "Jack Absinthe" (Short fiction)

Jack Absinthe

Killed the headlights, popped a mint between his cheeks to foil the odour and then Jack was strolling up that drive-way with a purpose. Big house, too big for one old timer, doubt he had many visitors while his ticker was still ticking. That’s money for you. The family are inside now though, probably tapping on walls, rooting through drawers and yapping like they still know each other. Greedy fuckers, the type that only want to know you while you’re gasping on a hospital bed, more tubes in you than the London underground. I’d wager that’s exactly what they were at, can see them now; “How are you, daddy? We brought you your favourite sweets, daddy. I’ve a mortgage, daddy”.

Even the fucking doorbell has a pretentious jingle to it. Brahms? No, but sounds similar enough. It’s going on for ages, harmonious piano fingerings for the odd Jehovah Witness with a pamphlet. What’s wrong with a buzzer or the traditional “ding, dong”. Where do you find these people? A shadow through the hazy glass and then an open door, finally.

“Ah, Mr.Goodrick I presume?”

“One in the same.”

Except I’m not one bit like Joe Goodrick at all. Goodrick is the young butcher on the town’s main street, but these people won’t know that. The stick of a man that’s just greeted me at the door won’t know my name until I’m on the next flight from Shannon to Heathrow.  He’s dressed to the nines anyway, probably expecting a camera crew and a release form. That’s not how I operate.

He pinches my coat with his thumb and index and throws it over a Christmas tree of a hanger. There’s chattering and nattering from the dining room down the hall and then suddenly silence as the door clicks behind me. The mannequin walks on ahead of me towards the rest of the party and I follow with my eyes bouncing off the paintings on the walls. Cherubic faces, spread wings, harps, swords dug deep into dragon’s flesh , this explains it all. A water into wine sort of fellow, wine into blood, flesh into bread, until he himself into the ground. Fair enough.

There’s four of them, brother and sister and the two spouses I’d wager. The stick man is probably the eldest, there’s his sister seated comfortably on a Chesterfield leather couch next to her hubby. I can tell she’s the sister because she’s as thin as he is, head on her like a tinker’s pony. The other woman is sitting at the table, a troubled brow, fear of God in her, not enough of it for to extinguish the greed of jewels.

“Everyone, this is Mr.Goodrick, he’ll be orchestrating tonight’s…symphony.”

“Don’t call it that you slimy fucker.”


“I’m sorry?”

“Sorry”, I twitch my head madly and purposefully for a moment, eyes rolling, “the energies in this house are causing a great turbulence in me. Great energies. Bad energies”.

His wife shakes in her little satin dress, that unsettled her a bit more. Is no one here dressed respectfully? I slap the briefcase on the table and they all start to gather around, no point in dilly dallying, I won’t spend a second longer in here than I intend to.

They all begin to take their seats around the table, then the brother kills the lights.

“What’re you doing?”, I’m already starting to lose my patience with them.  The brother looks at me like I’ve a third eye.

“I was under the impression that such practices required candle light, Mr.Goodrick”, he gawks, switching the light back on.

Of course you’d think that you thick Dublin couch-dweller. You people are always “under the impression”, never knowing, just reading, drinking and assuming. I return to my briefcase.

“Television shows aren’t an accurate representation of my field of work, just exaggerated fairy tales and voodoo.” I’ve to stop myself before I go any further, “Here now. I was told I’m to contact your father, something Bishop…”

“Clarence Bishop” he corrects me with a nod of the head.

“Right, and I’m supposed to be picking his brain about a hidden fortune?”

They all trade eyes with each other. Table of the last supper, except only Judas and the boys were invited, they know that I know. The sister fixes herself up in her chair and lets off a little cough. She’s the first of them to speak up, fair play to her.

“Our father, in his later years, became somewhat paranoid with regards to the financial stability of the family after his death. He was sure that once he passed away, that certain characters that he worked with would try to stake claim to his fortune while leaving the rest of us out of pocket.”

I’m not looking at her, but I’m nodding my head. Go on.

“We’re to believe that, during this time, he may have withdrawn a large sum of money in order to keep it from the banks and any legal matters that might see it taken from us.”

“And you want me to find out where he’s hidden the money?”

“That’s right.”

I knew this before I even turned the key in the car, but if there’s anything I value in a person, it’s honesty. It was honesty with a colourful dressing for the pallet, but honesty all the same, more than I’d expected from the spoiled bitch. May be of no use to her in the end though, if he meant to keep it hidden then he probably means to keep it hidden still. We’ll soon see.

I lay the bag of pills down on the table to an audience of wide eyes and furrowed brows.

“Now, these are for inducing.” I begin. The sister’s husband has an awful grimace on him, as if I’ve just opened a paper on page three on display for his youngest boy. He must be a doctor.

“I’m sorry, where did you get those?” He asks. Ah, so he is.

“Young lad.”

“Sorry, that’s quite illegal.” He pipes up once again, this time raising his voice.

“First of all, no need for you to be sorry” I’m addressing him but not looking at him, “Second of all, I assure you, what we’re doing here tonight is absolutely, positively illegal in every sense. There’s nothing legal about this operation.”

They’re communicating with their eyes again, ashamed of what they’re doing in the first place, even more ashamed now that their spiritual medium has just produced enough opioids to kill Big Bird several times over.
“This is for revival. To be administered as soon as my vitals start to fade.” I slide a vial of epinephrine across the table towards doctor pisshead and he takes it up, trembling.

“What do you mean, revival?” The brother is starting to lose the plot now too. I can see it in his eyes that he’s starting to reconsider this whole affair. Maybe thinking he could have gone a more traditional way about stealing his father’s money. Could have hired a private investigator instead. Could have taken a shovel to the back garden and gone treasure hunting by himself.  He’s starting to regret picking up that phone, but there’s no turning back now, his greed outwrestles his fear. It’s people like the Bishops that keep me in business.

“I’ll need to come back from the afterlife somehow. Unless you’d rather leave me there. In which case you’ll be left with no money and a dead Corkonian in your house.”

There’s that look again, from all of them. They thought we’d just sit around a table and chant for a while until I start rattling in my chair and spitting out Latin like the Pope himself after a speedball. That’s the trouble with the living, they’re lethargic and have no manners in communicating with the dead. They think ghosts and goblins are something to be summoned, never think to go visiting them themselves. They make the dead do all the footwork.

I take out a newspaper clipping and show it to the brother, who has gone translucent pale, the poor fucker.

“This your da?”

“That’s him” He stutters.

“Grand job.” I take a handful of the pills and the wash them down with a hipflask full of the strongest spirits you could get into the country.

A collective gasp, fluttering eyelids and hands clasped across mouths. The usual response from a magician’s audience, except I’m not a magician. This is science at its most dangerous and illegal. Finally, I place a leather bound book on the table, I don't say it, but this is to keep up an air of mysticism about the whole operation. For some reason, people feel more comfortable in the hands of magic than in science, pity.

"Don't forget to wake me up" I say, propping myself up and laying down on the dining room table.

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