I’ve had this idea for sometime to write a series of books about a pair of sleuths, an investigative journalist and his adopted teenage daughter. The idea came about many years ago, and has gone through many iterations without much words being written. I don’t do this often with stories, I normally get an idea and jump into the deep end of the pool and start writing. I tried that with these stories at first, and the deep end swallowed me whole. My first outing was very much churning up garbage, so I discarded that and went back to the drawing board. It needed way more development before I could start writing it seriously.
Years later, we went to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, Michigan, for vacation and I got on an extreme high being at the island and near the island. The way the island had been kept partially cut off from modern advances, no cars being the biggest one. Being there gave me all sorts of inspiration, and for the first time I had a good, working concept on how to begin with the story.
Still, though, no first book
I still haven’t written the first book in the series, because the beginning is often the hardest thing to write. And I’ve still been struggling to find the right boost. That being said, I did start writing a book out of order for NaNoWriMo last year and it’s been pleasant, and I feel like I’m getting to know the characters in a way that will help me go back and write the first book.
The Haunting of Weasley Manor
This story, The Haunting of Weasley Manor, definitely comes later in the series. Maybe 3 or 4 books in. But it’s got some fun qualities to it, and in a way is going to be a very hard look at the two characters, because I’ve framed the plot to be very limiting on the number of characters you get to meet.
What’s it about, you ask?
Description. Skeptic and journalist, Tom Bradshaw, and his adopted, teenage partner, Rachael, are employed by wealthy recluse Arthur Weasley to investigate the Weasley Manor regarding a supposed haunting.
I’m including the chapter in the blog post, but if you would rather download it to a reading device or tablet as an eBook, you can do that here.
After reading through, scroll to the bottom of the chapter and you’ll find a bonus feature of this blog post… Rachael’s theme song. Enjoy the read, and song!
Tom Bradshaw pulled up to Weasley Manor at noon on Saturday, October 13th. It was raining buckets, had been so for days. The rain cast an eerie presence over the old manor, which served as home to one of Salem’s wealthiest bachelors. Arthur Weasley was a stubborn old goat by most accounts, and had refused to marry or spring children from his loins. He had requested a vasectomy at age 20, effectively drying up his sperm count indefinitely, turning off many young women and sealing his bachelor lifestyle. It had appeared that Arthur Weasley, from a very early age, was neither interested in children nor marriage.
Many years had passed since the surgery and he had never seemed to regret his actions. In fact, his response to nosey reporters concerning the matter was typically upfront and rude. It was Weasley’s nature to be cold and uninviting to almost anyone, especially reporters. It was because of that nature Bradshaw absolutely had to accept his invitation to lunch. Though he was certain he’d leave dissatisfied, he wanted the bragging rights of being the only journalist who had ever been invited into Weasley Manor by the old man himself.
It would be a feather in his cap.
Weasley’s father, Grant Weasley, III, had been as shrewd as him according to old reports. He had worked hard, even until his death, an apparent heart attack that took him as soon as it arrived. He died upon returning home late one evening from hard negotiations that would not end until he had gotten his way. According to the police report, he was still in the driveway when they arrived on scene. His wife and son, who was only 15, at his side and “beside themselves” according to the report.
In a strange turn, Weasley inherited the business, took over as president of the company all while still attending school. His shift began after school, and he demanded all meetings he need to be present for be scheduled in the evenings so he could attend. One meeting was scheduled in the day, an act of insubordinate behavior, and Weasley promptly fired the veteran employee who scheduled it upon hearing of the meeting. No one ever scheduled meetings without him again.
Running a company at such a young age, he had to be tough as nails. He was surrounded by old men who knew more than him and were bitter they weren’t in his shoes.
Bradshaw stepped out of his car and into the rain, he ran to the gate and buzzed.
“Who is it?” A grumpy old voice asked.
“Tom Bradshaw, of the…” Before he could finish his sentence the gate slowly began to open. It squeaked and squealed with each inch of progress it made.
Bradshaw ran back to his car and slid into the seat. Inside he watched the gate slowly inch its way open until it clanked hard against the stops. The gate doors shook and the rain pounded them. He drove through and discovered a jungle of overgrown exotic trees, flowers, and all manner of plant life that at one time probably was an impressive collection. Branches were broken and lying on the drive, and grass tore through the cracks of the pavement. A once impressive monument to the Weasley fortune, it had become a reminder that despite high market shares soon the Weasley fortune would change hands. Quite simply, there was no heir apparent to carry it on. The business would flourish, but Weasley’s assets would be cut up, liquidated and who knows what to who knows who and where. The estate would likely be sold to the highest bidder, though at a much lower rate than it should have, and some other rich man with less figures would move in.
So much waste.
Weasley was a notorious hoarder, and not of things but money itself. He rarely spent any of his wealth, the estate was paid for long before it was his responsibility and he sold off all the vacation spots his father owned. He rode a cab to work every day, never even obtained a license to drive. He ate cheap, he dressed cheap, he lived cheap. He was the richest man alive, according to Time magazine, though how much money he had was primarily an estimate. It was believed his great-grandfather had saved thousands of dollars within the house before The Great Depression hit. But the part of it all that really made the public hate him was that he never gave back. Not to one charity. Every year countless hopefuls would plead for him to donate a few bucks to their cause, and every year the answer was always the same. Even when politicians came calling, asking for campaign donations, he’d cuss them out and send them on their way. He was a rare breed of rich folk.
He came to a fork in the driveway. He looked both ways, and neither direction gave a hint of which he should choose. He then noticed a sign straight ahead with weeds and vines sprung up around it. He squinted through the wiping of windshield wipers, but couldn’t read the wording on the two wooden arrows. He increased the brights of the headlights and could only see the blurred words. He reached into his front coat pocket and pulled out his glasses, which were becoming more and more a necessity as time wore on. He squinted through the lenses, wipers, bright headlights and rain to see one arrow said Front Entrance and the other said Side Entrance. He recalled the email from Weasley’s lawyer had requested he come through the side entrance. He followed the arrow pointing him left and the trees created a natural ceiling above his car as he drove. The rain was still getting through, but in small spurts.
He slowly crept along the drive, his car bumping up and down with each crack and pothole of the asphalt drive which had been neglected with time. He wondered what state of mind he might find Weasley to be in, when he has clearly been ignoring his home and letting it slowly go to ruin. Surely hiring a few Mexicans, a standard white privilege practice, could have made light-years of improvement to the grounds’ current state. He imagined Weasley being dirty, in worn out clothes, greasy hair, an untrimmed beard, and smelling of body odor. Perhaps his eccentric mind came from years of ignoring his mental health, arrogance setting in and not allowing himself to consider the possibility that even he might need help. With all the advances in healthcare, especially mental healthcare, there was still a lot of work to do. Weasley was certainly old enough to recall a disapproving, masculine approach to mental health. Certainly he’d remember the 1950s and how crazy doctors were just as taboo as calling up your local witch doctor and asking for an exorcism.
His mind suddenly switched gears to the morning routine, and he tried to remember if he had taken his medication. Lithium and Wellbutrin, one for bipolar disorder and another for depression. He tried to remember his routine that morning and it was foggy, he couldn’t tell the difference between something he might have done that morning or a week before. He then looked down at his clothes; golden and Velcro sports jacket with brown elbow pads, brown turtleneck that was untucked from worn blue jeans, and brown sneakers. He then thought back to the morning routine and tried to picture what he was wearing as he did each thing. With what he considered to be his most recent memory of taking medication in the morning, he pictured himself of the bathroom mirror wearing a blue sports jacket with flannel button-up shirt, untucked from khakis, and the same brown sneakers.
He sighed. He had forgotten to take his medication that morning.
He reprimanded himself hard and the guilt set in. He needed to stay on top of his medications. It was hard enough convincing the powers that be to let him adopt Rachael, an orphaned teenager who had helped him solve a string of murders in small town Missouri. It seemed he was harassed on an almost annual basis by Department of Child Services or CASA workers, looking to find some spot that they could count against him. Something that would make it easy for them to prove to a judge that he was unfit to be raising a child. In his mind, he didn’t consider it that way, she was 16 years old and was already raised. He was merely a life tutor at this point and just making sure she made it through high school, no matter how much she hated it. But they were bound and determined to prove he was worse for her, than when she was living on the streets and backwoods of Missouri, stealing from her neighbors to eat and keep warm. Somehow that life was OK, but he was blight on her existence. If they ever found out he was bipolar, class one, the judge would instantly steal her away and stick her in a foster home or orphanage, where she’d undoubtedly run away and go back to living on her own. She wasn’t interested in having parents, she’d gone through that mess once, and she just wanted to get on with her life.
Rachael laid on her bed in her room, staring at the pack of cigarettes sitting on her desk that she and Bradshaw had sworn off for a month. She had agreed with him, reluctantly, to try dropping cigarettes cold turkey. He had said that he wanted the two of them to prove to themselves that the cigarettes held no stronghold over them. She agreed, and made it look sincere, but she hated the idea. If she needed a cigarette to keep a cool head, like he needed a pill to keep from seeing weird things, than that was her choice. He could go jump off a cliff for all she cared.
She noticed her palms were sweating, she wanted a cigarette so bad. She bit her lip she was so mad at him, and at herself, for not telling him to go fly a kite on his own time. She grabbed her Lumia 830 from the bed and slung open Xbox Music and sent some Nine Inch Nails to the Bluetooth speakers on her desk. She cranked up the volume until she couldn’t hear anything but the pulsating beats and scratching. She closed her eyes and tried to forget about the cigarettes staring back at her. She could feel her bed vibrating in beat, and her the beat in the wall next to her. She reached out and touched her hand to it to feel it. The music was resonating through her and she was losing herself to it.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Three distinct thuds which didn’t fit at all crashed into the wall and she opened her eyes, looking at the wall. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. It was Mrs. Delaney next door, the old lady who hated everything she did, whether it was listening to music, dressing in clothes that looked different from hers or gave her a look for being so white and old. Her entire existence annoyed Mrs. Delaney, and feeling was mutual. It was gonna be a long weekend.
She picked up her phone, got out of bed and grabbed some headphones from her desk. She put the headphones on and plugged them into her phone. The music stopped from the speakers and starting playing in her headphones. She pulled back her black curtains and her eyes squinted in pain. It was raining hard outside and the clouds were showing no sign of letting up. She snatched a jacket off the back of her chair and slipped it on. She shoved the phone in her jeans pocket and zipped the coat up over her headphones cable. She looked down at the pack of cigarettes directly below her left hand. She picked it up for a moment, and then growled and dropped it on her school-issued Chromebook. She tore open the bedroom door and paced right up the hallway to the front door. Next to the door was a small end table with a basket of keys, and other pocket items. She grabbed her wallet and her keys. She walked the front door and turned around to lock at. On the corner of her eye she Mrs. Delaney step onto her porch.
Rachael turned around and saw her looking up at the rain from under the porch, and then she looked at her and mouthed something. She couldn’t hear her over the music. Rachael pulled her hood over her headphones, and then gave Mrs. Delaney the middle finger and took off into the rain. Mrs. Delaney stood in shock, her jaw hanging open and her eyebrows in disbelief. Rachael walked down waterlogged sidewalk at the beat to the music and tucked her hands into her jacket.
Maybe booze would alleviate the situation.
Bradshaw turned a corner and came out of the trees, into a clearing just before a large covered drive attached to the side of the manor. Holding up the large, thick rock covering were tick and round columns with meticulous designs engraved in them from top to bottom. At the bottoms of each column were the hideous faces of gargoyles. Some were in mid-bite with sharpened claw-like teeth and others looked sad with frowning lips. He pulled slowly underneath the covering and saw a large entrance at the end of the covering where an old man in a tuxedo was standing, leaning against an umbrella for a cane and wearing a derby hat to protect his balding head from the rain and cool rain.
As he drew closer to the old man, he slowly waved him forward with his white glove until he gave him a stop motion with his hand. He then walked around to his door and knocked on the window.
“One moment,” Bradshaw called out, as he reached over and grabbed satchel from the floor of the passenger seat. He wasn’t sure what to expect, so he came prepared. Inside the bag he had a laptop, notepad, and a large file on Arthur Weasley. Typically he relied solely on two cell phones for his interviews. He had a cheap Nokia Lumia 520, which he picked up for $50, which he would lay near his subject and start an audio recording on using OneNote. On his other phone, a Nokia Lumia 1520, he would hold it in his hands horizontally and take notes in OneNote with his thumbs as needed. Once the interview was over, and he was back home or work, the OneNote notebook would sync over WiFi and he’d have everything he needed in OneNote, ready to help him write his article on the laptop. It was a far cry better than the early days, when he to do everything by pen and paper. He kept a notepad and pen on hand, just in case.
He turned off the car and stepped out. “Hello, my name is…”
“You’re the journalist, sir, I know,” the old butler interrupted, “Please leave your keys with me, and I’ll drive it around to the garage.”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary.” Bradshaw insisted.
“It’s custom,” the butler said and took the keys from his hand. “Thank you, sir.” He turned around and made his way around his car, and began to climb the old rocky steps with the umbrella. He turned back to Bradshaw who was still standing just outside the car, a little startled at the rudeness of the butler. “This way, sir, Mr. Weasley is waiting in the study.”
“Oh, yes, coming.” Bradshaw quickly caught up to the butler on the stairs, who seemed annoyed at how quickly he got around, jealous of his youth.
The large, stain glassed doors were wide open, waiting for company to enter. Bradshaw slowed his pace as he passed them, and his eyes examined them. The paintings were religious and sacrilegious all in one, he thought. He saw imagery of the Christ talking to Mary in the garden, entertaining children who were like those in the kingdom of God, and eating the Last Supper. But then he saw the apostle Paul hanging upside down on a cross, a reference to Fox’s Book of Martyrs who documented that Paul refused to be crucified in the manner of his Lord and begged to be hung upside down; Satan whispering in the ears of Judas Iscariot who was shown with a saint’s halo; and an image of a demon raping a woman, which he had no references that came to mind immediately. There were many more images to take in, but he tried to keep pace with the butler so as to not arouse any discussion on the disturbing imagery.
The aged butler deposited the umbrella and his derby, and pointed Bradshaw forward. He stepped through two, large doors made of the finest cherry wood. Silver gargoyle handles, which you used by putting your hand directly into their open mouths, were fierce to look upon. He was satisfied knowing the doors were already open, and he didn’t have to oddly reach into a gargoyle’s mouth and squeeze its tongue to unlatch the door. He knew the Weasleys to be an odd bunch, but he never figured them for being a bit morbid at heart.
He entered the study, which showcased bookshelves along every inch of the wall and from floor to ceiling. The vaulted ceiling was masked in more paintings of a bizarre nature. At first glance, it appeared one fourth of the ceiling was a depiction of Moses talking to God through the burning bush, but it was met with demonic-looking faces in the clouded sky behind the bush. One face in particular looked down directly at Moses, smiling a sinister grin with fangs. His eyes were a fiery red.
“Good evening, Tom,” Weasley said from an armchair by the window, interrupting Bradshaw’s scan of the ceiling. “Do you mind if I call you Tom?”
“So long as I can call you Arthur, or Arty,” Bradshaw joked and reached out his hand for a handshake. He was already regretting the joke about Arty.
“No handshakes,” Weasley said, shaking his head. “Not yet. Maybe later, if we can agree upon it.”
“Fair enough, I guess,” Bradshaw said.
“Please,” Weasley gestured to another armchair across from him, “Have a seat. And as for names, Mr. Weasley, if you please. Perhaps later you’ll merit that right of informality.”
The rumors of Weasley’s arrogance certainly were true. Bradshaw sat down in the chair, which was furnished in deep red velvet. “Thank you, Mr. Weasley.” He sat his satchel on the floor next to the chair, and propped it against the leg. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and quickly entered the four-digit pin to unlock it. “So, what was it you wanted to see me about?”
Weasley frowned at him and pointed to his phone, “Please, put that away. I will have no interruptions.”
“Oh,” Bradshaw exclaimed, “I’m not distracted, I use it to take notes.”
“Sure you do, Tom,” Weasley said, not amused, “But this isn’t an interview, you won’t be needing to take any notes.”
“Then why am I here, Mr. Weasley?” Bradshaw asked as he put away his phone. He crossed his legs and arms while he waited for a response, partly out of annoyance and also because he was still warming up from coming inside.
The butler entered and stood at the entrance, between the gargoyles, “Excuse me, Mr. Weasley, but will you be needing anything?” He asked.
“Yes, Lotus, bring us a bottle of wine and two glasses,” Weasley replied.
Bradshaw raised a hand in protest, “Um, actually, I don’t—“
“You will.” Weasley abruptly told him, and gave him a very serious look. Despite his age, Weasley still had a full head of hair, though it had faded white. Bradshaw could remember some of the images from his file, ones from when he was much younger, and it was the same haircut. It was a neatly trimmed, 1950s style haircut, something you’d expect of a twenty-something business man of the period. The sideburns were neatly sliced off halfway down his ears. His eyebrows were thick and very disconnected from one another. He could move an entire eyebrow all around by itself, while the other remained stationary, or move both in unison. It made for a powerful impact, when he needed to drive a point home with his black, deep set eyes. His eyebrows set firmly on his brow, his black pupils staring through Bradshaw’s green ones. Weasley had deeply chiseled wrinkles in his cheeks, and his jaw dripped masculinity.
“Yes, sir,” Lotus, the butler, said and bowed gently in his old frame. He put his hands into the gargoyles’ mouths and backed out, pulling the doors shut with him.
Rachael caught the metro link, and started into downtown St. Louis. She sat down and waited as Meathead, her drug and drink supplier, slowly made his way down the line to her. He sold a couple of joints to a married couple, who were more than eager to light them up right away, but he caught them before they started.
“Not here,” he said, “You trying to ruin my operation?”
Rachael pulled her hood down and laid her head back. She was cold, wet and tired. But mostly, she was annoyed. She hated the school she was attending. The teachers were morons, and gave her funny looks constantly, and other students were raging idiots. She found herself regretting the agreement she had made with Bradshaw two years prior. Agreeing to allow him to adopt her, move in with him and attend school was probably the dumbest decision she’d ever made. Sure, it kept her out of juvenile, orphanages, and foster homes, but she didn’t feel like she had the freedom she had once had. She knew if she ran, she’d be on someone’s radar, which was a direct result of her involvement with Bradshaw in helping him solve a series of murders in her hometown. She never should have let herself get on the radar, and continued to live out her days in the wild of Missouri’s backwoods by herself. At least then she could be free, do whatever she wanted, and not have to put up with people she hated.
She was starting to feel relaxed, her eyes slowly started to close when she felt herself get kicked in the foot. She set up and opened her eyes wide open. It was Meathead.
“Whoa, Killer,” he said, and stepped back.
“Don’t do that,” she told him, and breathed a deep breath.
“What brings you out on this lovely evening, Rachael?”
“I need a drink,” she said.
“Don’t we all,” he said, “Name your poison.”
“I don’t know, something strong,” she thought for a moment, “Maybe some vodka. You got any vodka?”
“Sure,” he reached into his overly-sized trench coat, which was his mobilized brick-and- mortar pharmacy for the self-medicated. He pulled out an Absolut Vodka in both a sampler and normal size. “Preference?”
“I’m gonna need more than that,” she pointed at the sampler.
“OK,” he said and pocketed the sampler. He held onto the bottle while he waited for her to pull on a chain that connected to her wallet in her jeans, and fastened to her seatbelt turned belt. She pulled out a ten dollar bill and handed it to him. “Lovely doing business as always,” he said and handed her the bottle with one hand while he pocketed the bill.
“Thanks,” she said while she quickly pulled the cap off the bottle, using her jacket for grip. “I really need this.”
Meathead tucked his coat tails into his legs and sat down next to her, “So, what’s up?”
She shot him a look of irritation, and looked him once over, “I don’t come here for the conversation, Meathead. Keep it professional.” She tossed her head back and chugged a swig of the vodka, and quickly wiped her mouth after with her sleeve.
“Well,” he said, “I didn’t mean to step on your toes. You just happened to look more annoyed at the world than usual, so I thought I’d ask. You’re a regular customer, so I’m sort of invested in you not killing yourself.”
“I’m not gonna kill myself,” she said, “I’d commit homicide before suicide any day. It’s a much better solution. Remove the annoyance and move on. Suicide removes me from the equation, and why should I be removed when I’m not the false variable?”
“I always enjoy our little conversations,” Meathead said and turned his head to the side, obviously digesting something before speaking. “You realize if you said that to the wrong person, it would not end well.”
“I know,” Rachael started, “They’d scream and drag me to an office with gray walls, and tell me that I was homicidal and that I was planning to walk into school tomorrow with a gun and mow down my enemies. But that’s stupid, because those scenarios always end in suicide, so you can be rest assured I won’t be doing that any time soon. Kids who walk into schools with guns aren’t homicidal, they’re suicidal, and they just wanna get some justice or vengeance on the way out the door,” she took another swig, “I’m not that angsty.”
Meathead laughed heartily, “Man, where were you when I was in high school?”
“I was probably three years old, getting beaten by parents and horribly malnourished,” she said, “Thanks for asking.” She had just cut into a conversation with someone who was trying to build a relationship with her with a knife covered with awkwardness. It was something she did a lot, and she always felt ridiculous after doing it. Sometimes it served a purpose, if the person was pretentious and antagonizing, but Meathead was neither. She watched him awkwardly look around with his eyes, trying to find something good to say or some way to pick up the conversation where it had left off and move on.
“Well,” he said finally, “I should get going, more customers to please.”
“Yeah.” She said and took a sip.
“Laters, man,” he said and took off to the next car.
She liked that he always called her man, as if it was his way of letting her know that he didn’t see her like the other girls he served. He would call some lady, or ma’am, but he never used those terms when speaking to her. It was his own little way of acknowledging that she wasn’t like other girls, and that he considered her a friend.
She didn’t really have any friends, no one she could talk to about what was going through her head. She had always been looking out for herself, but now she was in a situation where lots of people wanted to be her friend. Meathead wanted to be a friend, Bradshaw wanted to be a friend, her counselor at school and some teachers wanted to be friends, and even some students really, really tried to be friends. But she couldn’t stand the introductory process of becoming friends, getting to know someone. She didn’t care, couldn’t they just skip that and go straight to the conversations about whatever and sharing drinks. So, she kept on pushing people away, every time they felt too close.
Maybe she was botching up the equation.
Shortly after Lotus left the room, to fetch wine, Weasley gave Bradshaw a long and uncomfortable look over. Examining him, taking him in, making his first impressions. Bradshaw felt horribly uncomfortable at how silent and look it took him to get a first impression. He couldn’t decide if he had made a good impression with Weasley or not, based on his stream of facial expressions. Then, suddenly, he smiled and said,
“You do have that Rockford Files style about you, don’t you?”
“Perhaps,” Bradshaw said, “But I’m no James Garner.”
“That’s true,” Weasley replied, “But then again, no one was James Garner but James Garner. Rest his soul.”
“Yes,” Bradshaw agreed. “Now why am I here? If you don’t mind me getting to the point, it’s kind of my nature.”
“I’m completely fine with men who don’t beat around the bush,” Weasley said with a smile, “As a matter of fact, I prefer it that way. Politics and sugarcoating things never appealed to me, as you can imagine. I assume you’ve read up on anything there is about me, and have some notions as to my character and it being regarded as arrogant, blunt and queer in nature.” He smirked, “Well, it’s all perception, isn’t it? And clearly I have behaved in such a manner through the years that this is the perception I give others. But what should I think of what others think of me, I need not their approval to exist. And with that,” he said, “To my point. I want you to stay here, in my home, for a week. Knowing you are very skilled and acclaimed in your ability as an investigative journalist, I would like to put you to a task during that time.”
“This is highly irregular,” Bradshaw said, “What did you have in mind?”
“Oh, an investigation into this house,” Weasley said, “It’s haunted. Or cursed. Or what have you.” He paused for a moment, but raised his hand to stop Bradshaw from speaking, indicating he had further to add. “Do you believe in ghosts, Tom?”
“Do you believe in… the supernatural?” Weasley asked.
“Even less,” Bradshaw said.
“Well, this is precisely why I asked you here today,” Weasley said. “I need someone who can be critical.”
“I’m not a ghost hunter,” Bradshaw said. “This really isn’t my thing. You should perform an internet search for paranormal investigators, or perhaps scan the phonebook for such.”
“I know, I know,” Weasley said, and then turned in his chair, uncomfortable and obviously irritated at something that had crossed his mind. “I tried that, and believe me, I met some rather moronic individuals who weren’t worth their lick of salt. No, I need someone with investigative skills, and who isn’t invested in finding supporting an agenda. Because this sort of investigation has no interest to you is exactly why you’d be perfect at it.”
“You won’t be pleased with the results, whatever they’d be,” Bradshaw said. He was completely uninterested in the idea of a witch hunt. He especially despised the idea of having to actually stay in the old man’s house to conduct the investigation. It had all the makings of a liable lawsuit written all over it.
“You misunderstand me, Tom,” Weasley said, “I’m not looking for a specific outcome. I just want true and honest answers to a mystery. A mystery long since forgotten. And,” he said, and paused for a moment. “I’m going to pay you well.”
“Well, that muddles it up even worse, doesn’t it?” Bradshaw said, now appalled at the proposition. “If I published a story with the absurdity of ghosts and curses, a story for which I was paid handsomely (I presume), then my integrity and credibility would be completely destroyed. Not that those things matter much in today’s journalism, but I happen to care about those things.”
“Good for you, Tom,” Weasley said, “I believe in those things as well, and rest assured that I am not interested in a story or a book deal. You don’t have to write anything. I just want you to do this for me. Well,” he paused, “And for your ward.”
“Excuse me? My ward?” Bradshaw asked, confused at the term.
“I suppose you don’t call her your ward. What do you call her? What is your relationship with her?” Weasley paused for a moment, but Bradshaw didn’t respond. He just stared at him, and he wondered where this line of questioning was going. What did Arthur Weasley really want? Weasley cleared his throat, and continued. “Surely, it’s not a father-daughter relationship. She’s much too old for that sort of nonsense, now.”
“Rachael. Her name is Rachael,” Bradshaw said with a stern look on his face, and tone that indicated he did not appreciate the line of questioning he was receiving. “That’s our relationship. I call her Rachael, and she calls me Bradshaw. And why are you bringing her into this?”
“Oh, trust me, Tom, I have no desire to be offensive,” Weasley started, “It’s merely that I am impressed. I was truly impressed at the work she, Rachael, had done in helping you solve the small town murders. Quite impressive indeed. I would like to meet her, and furthermore, I would like to give her something. I admire what she’s done and been through, and I believe she deserves something for her efforts and life struggle.”
Bradshaw laughed at the idea of him giving anything to Rachael. “She doesn’t like handouts.”
“I gathered as much from the book,” Weasley said, “Another reason why I have the utmost respect for her. And, that’s why it will be a job, not charity. I’m sure you know how often I give to charity.”
“Precisely!” Weasley shouted with excitement. “This is not charity. This is not a business venture. This is me wanting to pay two very talented individuals for using their skills to help me solve a family mystery. This is for me, more than anything, but I value your craft and I value Rachael’s tenaciousness. And you should both be rewarded for the hard work I am sure will take place within these walls. My home.”
Bradshaw breathed in heavy, and shook his head. He looked Weasley dead in the eye and spoke out of pure irritation. “I’m not your guy. And I can guarantee you that Rachael is not interested in chasing ghosts, either.”
Weasley shifted his weight in the armchair and looked sternly with his eyebrows, and down the nose at Bradshaw. “How did my father die?”
“You’re asking me?” Bradshaw shot back, completely puzzled at the random question.
“Yes. I assume you’ve read enough about me to give an answer to that question, Tom.”
“It was a heart attack, according to the coroner and it happened right outside,” Bradshaw said, “In the drive way, to be precise. Probably at the side entrance where I came in, actually.”
“Except it wasn’t a heart attack, Tom,” Weasley pulled his head back and looked very seriously into his eyes. “He was murdered.”
“No,” Tom rejected the theory, “I read the coroner report. Nothing suggested otherwise than a heart attack.”
“Go back to the coroner report, look at the timestamp,” Weasley said, “And then, compare that timestamp with when the newspaper reported my father had died. And then, ask yourself why it would take so long to conclude my father had died of a heart attack. According to the report, there was nothing to indicate foul play, and it said that my mother and I witnessed him grab his chest and collapse to the ground in pain. That he died in our arms. It’s all lies. We concealed his murder. We didn’t meet him at the entrance, Lotus did, it’s his job to meet people at the entrance. And why would he grab his chest? You should grab the left shoulder during a heart attack. That one made me mad years later, when I realized that to be the case. Why had Dr. Eckstein written it that way? I confronted him about it, and he said he was so uncomfortable with lying on a report, that he wrote the mistake intentionally. Idiot. The thing of it is that my father’s heart was in ridiculously good condition, and was even transplanted into a young woman from Boston. When I send you home tonight, I will send you with a copy of the transplant records. Why would a hospital take that heart, which had killed a man from a heart attack, and place it in another woman? Because there was nothing wrong with that heart, and my father didn’t die of a heart attack. And that young woman, died yesterday, age of 92. They tell me her heart was still in great condition, but she had contracted pneumonia and her immune system couldn’t handle it,” Weasley leaned to the edge of his chair, as close as he could to Bradshaw. “Mark my words. My father was murdered, here on these grounds.”
Bradshaw was really wishing he had just been taking notes, and had his phone recording the conversation. Weasley had just dropped a bombshell of a confession. If only he had recorded it. But then, perhaps it was the rambling delusions of an old man. He decided to bite and assume he was telling the truth, and fact check later with the records. “Why the cover up?” He asked, “If he was murdered, as you say, why lie about it?”
“We wanted to protect the stock. And, honestly,” Weasley rubbed his hands together. “The answer was complicated. I wish I could tell you who killed my father, but I can’t. It’s hard to explain, and I wouldn’t believe any of it had I not seen… things.”
“What sort of things?” Bradshaw asked.
Weasley turned and stared out the window at the rain rolling down it, and spoke strangely, “Things which cannot be unseen.” He sat there for a moment, staring out the window, as if he had forgotten that he had company. He suddenly blinked, and shifted his weight in the chair again, facing his back to the window. “I need you on this, Tom. One week. That’s it. Tell me what you know, or you think you know, at the end of the week. One week, that’s all. And I won’t even be here. It’ll just be you, Rachael, and Lotus to help you with anything you need. I have no intentions of muddling it up, as you say, so I will get out of the way entirely.”
“I can tell you right now that Rachael would be even less interested in your arrangement,” Bradshaw said.
“I know that I’m asking a lot,” Weasley started, “But think of it the way I am. I want you to make sure Rahcael invests her share of the money wisely in her future education. I know you’ve gained some popularity as an author, but being a journalist in the Midwest isn’t exactly the most lucrative business, is it?”
Bradshaw shifted in his chair uncomfortably, “Not really.”
“I wanna make sure this young girl has opportunity to rise to whatever heights she wants,” Weasley said, and then rolled his eyes and smiled. “I know this is all very old fashioned, but I am old. I’m not going to be around forever, and I believe in the young woman.”
“You know you’re starting to sound creepy, old man,” Bradshaw said with a laugh.
Weasley chuckled. It was the first time Bradshaw had heard the man laugh and it was loud and warm. He continued to speak even before finishing laughing. “Yes, I suppose I do sound a bit like a greybeard. But, thankfully,” he rubbed his clean-shaven face, “No beard.”
They both paused for a moment.
Bradshaw slowly started to see some wisdom in the job, for Rachael’s sake, and even his own. Several millions on standby would be a good retirement investment. But he never liked making decisions for Rachael, or without her consent. And she hated it even more than he did. But he could tell Weasley wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
He was about to agree to the arrangement, when Weasley raised his hand abruptly between them and said, “The thing of it is… I’ve already made arrangements for you to start tomorrow. I’ve arranged with your editor at the newspaper to excuse your absence, and he was most ready to oblige when I offered to throw in some funds to the newspaper. I also contacted Rachael’s school, and spoke with her principal, who was less amused. He doesn’t care much for her, and made that quite clear, telling me a lot of information that was private and I know hold that information over his head as blackmail material should he give her any trouble. The fact of it is that all that is remaining is for you to go home to Rachael, and talk about it. Then sleep on it, and call me in the morning with your decision. Either way, you both get a vacation on me.”
“Well,” Bradshaw leaned forward, resting his forearms on his legs. He looked up at the old man, who had a look of pride on his face about how he had seized control of the situation. “I’m not amused, either.”
“I knew you wouldn’t be, Tom,” Weasley said, “And I wouldn’t be, either, in your shoes. But this needs to happen quickly, or it won’t happen at all, I’m afraid.” He breathed deeply and Bradshaw could see a lifetime of regret in his eyes for the first time. “I’ve tried hard to forget and blackout those things which I have seen. Those things which I know. Those things which I do not understand, and refuse to consider. In the past few years, I came to realize that I needed to make things right. I needed to uncover the plot. The mist which hangs over my home, reminding me of days gone by, images ironclad into my memories. I’ve hired private investigators, ghost hunters, clairvoyants, and all manner of idiotic voodoo and it is all been for naught.” He looked directly into Bradshaw’s eyes and begged, which was clearly not a normal thing. “I need your mind, and her mind, to lift the veil others could not.”
Bradshaw and Weasley sat in silence, staring into each other’s’ eyes. Bradshaw was flooded with questions and anger. He was angry he had let his ego even bring him to the dilapidated mansion; that his editor, Rob Spence, had conspire behind his back to give him time for the job; that Rachael’s principal, Dr. Wilson, had apparently let his biases against her get the best of him and tore her name down to a complete stranger; that Weasley had been so cunning; and lastly he was angry because he hated being told what to do. Weasley told him he had a choice, but it sure didn’t feel like he did. Spence would chew him out at the newspaper, and demand a common sense answer. But sometimes the most common sense thing to do is to look someone in the face and tell him, “Get lost, jerk bag.” And that’s what he felt like saying, or worse. He could picture himself standing up, and laying into the old man, telling him how horrible of a person he thought he had become. That he wasn’t interested in get rich schemes that compromised his dignity and potentially his career. That he wasn’t interested in bedding with rich, old men who were looking to put younger men into their pockets. He wasn’t interested in being his monkey on a chain, or being his slave. Tom Bradshaw reported to Tom Bradshaw. Plain and simple. He didn’t need someone looking over his shoulders telling him what was good and what was not.
He felt himself breathing heavy, and his face flushed with heat. He imagined he was probably red in the face. He realized his thoughts had been racing for an undisclosed amount of time, while Weasley waited his reply. It was his bipolar disorder, Weasley had aggravated it and his emotions were in overdrive. He figured it was best to just end the conversation there.
“I’ll let you know in the morning what we decide,” Bradshaw said as calmly as he could. He felt a vein pulse in his neck, and he hoped it wasn’t visible.
Rachael was halfway through her vodka, when she glanced over at the young couple riding on her car. They had lit one of the joints and were trying to conceal it with their overcoats, while they took puffs from it in turn. She couldn’t believe how stupid some people were, but then again, she was sitting on the metro link swigging a vodka at the tender age of sixteen years old, so maybe she wasn’t a good judge on the situation.
The young woman started to giggle at something her boyfriend had said, and it slowly developed into a big, nonstop giggle. He’d lean in and whisper something into her ear, and she’d burst into an even louder giggle than before. And the more fun they had with this, the less inconspicuous they were about the join they were sharing.
Rachael tried to ignore the couple, but it kept getting louder and louder. She plugged her earbuds back in and started listening to music again. But on the corner of her eye she could see the wiggling, cuddling, and arm flailing. She closed her eyes and tried to ignore them. No sound, imagery. Block them out.
The car hit a rough turn, and it shook her in her seat. She caught herself and sat back up. She looked over by accident, and somehow the giggling had given way to acts of depravity. The boyfriend was lost somewhere within the woman’s overcoat, and she had thrown her hair back against the glass and was pulling at her hair. She was moaning and yelling.
Rachael yanked the earbuds from her ears, “COME ON!” She yelled and the boyfriend popped out from inside the woman’s coat. The woman, still with her fingers twisted in her hair, screamed in shock and looked at her. “Get a room, already!”
The woman gave her a seductive look, and pulled at her skirt. The skirt revealed black torn pantyhose, and skinned knees. “You don’t like what you see?” The woman asked. The boyfriend growled at her and kissed her leg.
“Let me see,” Rachael said, “I see two morons scrapping the bottom of society, transmitting diseases through sexual intercourse like it was their goal in life to populate the world with their defiled seed. So, no, I don’t like what I see. And get a room.”
The boyfriend looked annoyed now, and turned his attention to her. “What’s your problem anyway?” He asked. “Ain’t you never heard of love?”
“Ain’t I never? No, I ain’t never.” Rachael said.
“I betchya never had no one you loved, really loved in your life,” The boyfriend said, “That’s your problem. You ain’t got none, so you yelling at everybody else whose got some.” With each word the boyfriend was slowly coming towards her from across the car.
“If that’s love, I’ll pass,” Rachael said. She kept an eye on the boyfriend. She figured she had upset the internal balance of his ying or yang, and was soon going to be kicking him in his testicles.
“That’s it,” the boyfriend said and charged at her, “Time you learned a lesson!”
Rachael threw her arms back, and braced against the seat. She raised her right knee up into her chest and kicked her foot deep into his crotch when he reached her. From the momentum of his charge, he caved over on top of her, and she tossed him to the floor of the car. She jumped to her feet and kicked him over onto his back. He was cupping his manhood with his hands, and groaning in pain.
“Move your hands!” Rachael yelled at him, but he just kept rocking back and forth in pain. “MOVE YOUR HANDS!”
He removed his hands and placed them above his head. She kicked him in the shoulder and he rolled over onto his back. She grabbed a handrail, and then jumped onto them with both of her feet. She slid off after the hit, but pulled herself back onto her feet with the rail and when he rolled back, she landed a third blow. He cupped them again and she kicked him in the face.
Rachael spun around to find the young woman in the far corner of the car, crouched in a fetal position under the seat. She was crying. Rachael came over to her, and she begged for mercy. But she ignored her please and rounded off several kicks into the woman’s face, breasts and stomach. She eventually quit and stepped back. The woman was under the bench, holding her stomach and her nose was bleeding from a bad break. She looked over at the boyfriend, he was still laying in a hunched position, massaging himself and moaning in pain.
Rachael took a deep breath as the adrenaline was wearing down. They pulled into a station and came to a stop. The doors opened, Rachael grabbed her vodka bottle on her seat, and rushed out the door into the station. She quickly found the stairs and slipped running up the wet steps. The bottle fell out of her grasp and broke on the stairs. She got back up and continued up into the rainy streets of downtown St. Louis.
She stood at the top of the stairs and looked back. The cars were rolling again and she could see the woman aiding her boyfriend up from the car floor. Rachael lifted her head in defiance and pride. She shoved her hands in her coat pockets and pivoted for a short walk under the arch, along the river, before catching a ride back home. Her only regret was wasting most of the vodka.
Bradshaw woke startled to the sounds of the front door opening. He was sitting in a recliner with a lamp on above his head. He had been sitting there for several hours torturing himself over everything that had happened, and how to broach the conversation with Rachael when she returned home. One thing was for certain, he wasn’t going to start the conversation like the typical parent by asking where she had been at such a late hour. She hated that. In fact, all teenagers hated that. They just wanted to know they had some degree of freedom to come and go as they pleased without being interrogated upon return.
He could hear her removing her shoes and coat at the door, and dropping her keys back in the basket. He had worn himself out thinking and becoming anxious over all of the parties involved in conspiring against the two of them. He hated being yanked around more than Rachael.
She appeared around the corner and plopped on the couch, spreading her legs out across it. One leg lay flat, extending the length of their couch, while the other was hung over the book of the couch. She had her phone in hand, and plucked the earbuds from her ears and phone before speaking.
“How did your meeting with the old man go?” She asked, only sounding moderately interested in the question’s answer.
“It went weird,” He started, “We have a decision to make, and sadly it has to be made tonight.”
She raised an eyebrow at him, “Yeah, what?”
“Arthur Weasley wants to hire us to perform some sort of murder and ghost investigation,” He said. It pained him to try and explain the proposition. “He wants to pay us both, three million apiece, for staying one week in Weasley Manor.”
“Three million?” She said with a look of disbelief.
“Yeah,” He said, “But he wants us to start first thing tomorrow, and—”
“Sure,” She said, “I got nothing better to do. I’ll go pack.” She hopped up from the couch and started down the hallway to her room. “Get me up in the morning whenever you want.”
He heard the bedroom door close at the end of the hall, and sat their silently in the living room. He wasn’t sure what had just happened. After a few moments of trying to understand her reaction, he shook it off and headed to his room to pack before retiring for the evening. He fell asleep promptly with the help of a sleeping aid, otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten to sleep at all.
Rachael by She Wants Revenge
This is the theme song I’ve been using for Rachael. A great theme, agreed?