Title – Peril in Point Pleasant
By Jana Denardo
Author’s Note: This was written for the 2016 edition of Spook_Me on Livejournal for the prompt “Grim Reaper,” for the picture below. I set it in my Lucerna universe where Faolan, Jason & Derrek are all members of a demon-fighting organization called the Lucerna, and oh, they’re lovers. This turned out way longer than I anticipated and written down to the last second, so not as edited as I would have hoped (but hopefully not too terrible!). It’s 3,940 words long.
Peril in Point Pleasant
“Do con-goers ever bathe?” Derrek hissed to Jason as they pushed through the lobby, nearly getting run down by a guy in a full fox suit, which smelled like it had never been washed.
Jason glanced around, ascertaining Faolan was several steps ahead of them. He didn’t want to hurt his lover’s feelings. He’d been down this route with Faolan many times but this was Derrek’s first time accompanying Faolan to all things geek. “They sweat a lot in their costumes. By day three, the cosplay gets ripe and yeah, some of these teens need an education in social niceties.”
“Why does he love it so much?”
“Geeks are hard wired that way.” Jason shrugged watching Faolan thread his way through the throng heading toward the dealer’s room. “Tsubasacon is small. You should go with him to the bigger cons.”
“Do I have a choice?” Derrek rubbed his nose. Jason couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a werewolf’s sense of smell in tight places like this.
“Don’t worry. It’s actually fun, if for no reason other than to watch Faolan geek out.”
Derrek narrowed his eyes. “Geekier than he’s being here?”
Jason chuckled. “You have no idea. This is a small dealer’s room. He probably won’t drop a month’s rent here.”
“You two do realize I’m not deaf, right?” Faolan said without looking back.
“Yes but we assumed you were too far ahead to hear us,” Jason called back cheerily.
“I’ll remember this tonight,” Faolan promised.
“I’ll just busy myself with the werewolf,” Jason said, half amused no one even glanced at him. Of course people did know they existed but not many ever got to meet a Supernatural.
“Does the werewolf get a say in this, leech?” Derrek nudged him.
“Knowing the werewolf, he has plenty to say.”
Derrek curled his lip at Jason then got distracted by a cute guy dressed up as Aang. Faolan’s phone sang out the Star Trek theme song, and as Faolan took the call, Jason watched Faolan’s face go paler than normal, and tighten in a way Jason was all too familiar. Derrek must be learning because he bristled.
“A case?” Jason asked once Faolan put his phone away.
Faolan nodded, his lips pinched. “Not back home. They want us in Point Pleasant.”
“Why does that sound familiar?”
“Mothman,” Derrek supplied.
Jason winced. “Man that doesn’t sound good.”
“Does anything in our line of work?” Derrek turned to Faolan. “Do we have time to eat before we leave? Those Hillbilly hot dogs are wearing off, and there’s not a damn place to stop between Huntington and Point Pleasant if we’re going up Route two.”
“Yeah we do. I’m hungry too. I’ll fill you in on the way there.” He shot a wistful look at the dealer’s room then turned, stalking toward the arena’s outside doors.
Jason sighed. If there was one thing he hated about working for the Lucerna, about dedicating himself to a group that battled demons and other wicked supernaturals. It left so little free time. Human life, unlike his own, was so short. He hated it stole moments from Faolan but there was nothing he could do about it. This was their life, hardship and all.
“Nursing home? This can’t be good,” Derrek groused as Faolan threaded their car north along route two.
Faolan concentrated on the winding highway caught between the hills and train tracks to one side and the Ohio River to the other. What were so many people doing on this lonely highway at night? “Assisted living.”
“They pretty much smell the same to this nose.” Derrek tapped his currently human nose.
Faolan knew if the werewolf could, Derrek would shape shift his nose right off his face before going into the facility. The smells could be overwhelming to Faolan’s entirely human senses. He couldn’t imagine what it might be like for Derrek and Jason. “Noted. Grandmother got a call from the Resting Pines assisted living in Point Pleasant. The director there believes an entity killing off the residents.”
“No offense but how can the director tell? You mortals pop off all the time,” Jason said from the back seat.
“It’s been one after the other, much more than average. Yes, the residents are old but it’s my understanding they’re not entirely infirm either. Grandmother tried to reassure the woman, Jessica Caldwell, someone would get to her quickly but apparently that wasn’t good enough. Caldwell insisted on someone being there yesterday so since we were in the area….” Faolan shrugged.
“We were in West Virginia, not exactly a small state,” Jason grumbled.
“But not that far away either, at least not by Appalachian standards,” Derrek said.
For Faolan the hardest thing for him – and Jason for that matter – was adjusting to there being long drives to get to just about anything. “This road makes it seem far.”
Derrek nodded looking out the car side window into the shadowy tree line. “I always expect something to come popping out of the trees here. It’s a spooky stretch of lonely highway.
“More so than the Hocking Hills?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, the energy feels more…discontent here.”
“Energy? I expect that kind of talk from Mr. Mage.” Jason reached over the seat, and poked Faolan’s shoulder. “Not from the big bad wolf. Aren’t you supposed to be the nastiest thing in these woods?”
“Wolves are highly attuned to an area’s nature,” Derrek sniffed.
“Yeah I guess animals do know when to tuck tail and run.”
Faolan didn’t need to look in the rear view mirror to know Jason was smirking, but he did see Derrek curl his lip and heard the growl. “Both of you, stop it, especially you, Jason. Quit baiting Derrek.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“What part of my brain died and allowed me to think dating a vampire and werewolf at the same time was a good idea?” Faolan muttered.
“A large part,” Derrek replied, his voice still growly.
“Thanks. We’ll have to spend the night or a couple of them at the Lowe Hotel, which is haunted.” Faolan tried to lead them back on track.
“So’s your apartment, we’ll survive. I’m more concerned about the fact we only had two days’ worth of clothing,” Jason said.
“We’ll have to wash our clothes at the hotel or will doing chores kill a vampire?” Derrek glanced over his shoulder.
Faolan didn’t know why he even bothered to caution either of them against baiting each other. Vampires and werewolves never got along for long. He stopped them before they could get really ripping. “None of them seemed to die violently. It could very well be they simply slipped away from natural causes.”
“But there are demon types who suck the life force away so Caldwell might be right to worry,” Jason said.
“Why don’t you two start listing out demons that can kill without leaving a mark,” Faolan suggested.
“I’m not good with that stuff. I’m more muscle than book guy,” Derrek protested.
“Yeah we do keep you around because you’re pretty,” Jason agreed, and the bickering renewed itself.
“Keep it up and I’m going to jam this car into the river, and Grandmother can send another team to Mothman country,” Faolan snapped.
“Do you think the Mothman was real?” Derrek asked. “And if so why hasn’t it been seen in so long? And yeah I know we can speculate after we make our demon list.”
“I think it’s a harbinger,” Jason said surprisingly serious. “We had many harbingers back in my day.”
“You had plenty of half human, half animal spirits back in your day too,” Derrek said.
“Yeah, they were probably were-people like you.”
“There is no such thing as a were-cow!” Derrek shot back, obviously offended. “What was it with you ancient Greeks and breeding with farm animals?”
As the bickering renewed, Faolan did seriously consider jamming the car into the Ohio as he had threatened. Instead, he chanted a small silence spell to surround himself. They’d slap him once they realized he was no longer paying attention to them. It was the most pleasant way he could deal with the trip to the Lowe Hotel.
Parking wasn’t a problem, once there. It probably only ever was one during the Mothman festival. The historic, haunted hotel sat across the street from the steel Mothman statue that resembled a comic book villain more so than anything reported being seen here back in the Sixties. Maybe Jason was right and it had been a harbinger. Maybe it was nothing more than what horny teens high on whatever was popular back then had dreamed up. Faolan didn’t really know, and maybe he, being the co-head of the local Lucerna faction along with his Grandmother, should know.
Inside the red brick building, an effort had been made to step back in time. The old, dark-stained wood and the antique furniture did their best to confer a Victorian feel though he wasn’t sure the hotel was as old as that. He collected the keys for the suite his grandmother had arranged for, getting the side eye from the clerk who no doubted wondered why three men were sharing one two-room suite. If the bed were big enough, they’d be sharing it like they had at their hotel in Huntington. Faolan ignored it. Some battles were best avoided as they were unwinnable.
The room was nice enough, and he was too tired to worry which of them slept alone. Maybe it should be him. He called the rest home but there was no one there who could okay them coming in tonight. Faolan curbed the urge to toss his cell phone out the window. They had rushed for no reason but it would give them time to get into the Lucerna documents and hopefully find something that matched what they’ve been told.
“What now?” Jason asked.
“All we can do is jump on the lap tops and see what we can find,” Faolan replied. “And get some sleep. I’m short on that.”
“That’s what happens when you’re busy being a geek.” Derrek grinned.
“And that solves the who sleeps alone conundrum,” Faolan shot back, hoping this wasn’t going to be a long night.
“Luckily there weren’t any incidents last night,” Ms. Caldwell said, shutting the door behind the trio as they crunched up in her office at Whispering Pines.
“Are the unexpected deaths always as night?” Derrek sat in one of the padded chairs in front of her desk. For someone whose job including talking to family members on a daily basis she certainly had uncomfortable chairs. As if it wasn’t bad enough his senses screamed from the stink in this place. He’d been surprised at the newness of the facility. Probably to normal human senses it didn’t reek of piss, shit and disease but to his werewolf senses, it was still overwhelming. Derrek felt sure he could scent every poise pad in the place.
“So far. They’ve all passed away in their sleep.” She held up her hands. “I know. This is a facility for the aged but normally there are some indications they’re unwell. If it was just one or even two, we wouldn’t be so worried but there have been several. It’s unusual.”
“Have the doctors given you any indication that this is anything other than a natural death,” Faolan asked, settling in next to Derrek.
Derrek noticed Jason had nowhere to sit and would probably bitch about it later. Eh, let the vampire stand. Derrek still didn’t fully understand how he ended up in a three-way relationship with a bloodsucker but when he pushed his inborn prejudices aside, Derrek had to admit Jason was an okay guy. That certainly helped make how hot Jason made him more acceptable.
“Not really but there’s more,” Ms. Caldwell said, making Derrek lean forward a bit. “The nurses and aides all said the same thing in each case. They felt uneasy passing by the rooms where the people died. Some even thought they heard voices in those rooms but when they looked all they saw were the clients sleeping fitfully.” She worried her bottom lip for a moment then said, “You know better than I demons, spirits and ghosts are real. That’s why I called the Lucerna in.”
“Understandable though I was wondering why us and not a group from Charleston or Huntington, not that we mind helping,” Faolan said.
“Mrs. Medley, who heads up the board of trustees, knows Brighid Fraser, asked for her team specifically.”
“Is there no one your grandmother doesn’t know?” Jason snorted, and Faolan waved him off.
“We started researching supernaturals who kill and make it seem like a natural death but the list is long,” Faolan said. “Knowing they only attack at night probably isn’t going to whittle that list down much. Our best bet is to be here in the evenings to see what we can find.”
She nodded. “That was what I was expecting. You can look the facility over now. I’ll take you on a tour and then if you can come back after dinner, I’ll introduce you to the night staff and you can take it from there.”
“Sounds reasonable,” Faolan agreed.
Ms. Caldwell led the way out of her office. They trooped along behind her. Derrek hated he was so disturbed by the assisted living home. Efforts had been expended to make this one a beautiful place to finish out life. Werewolves did it differently because dementia often caused a loss of shifting control so the pack nursed their elderly on their own to keep down the risk to nurses. No one wanted a toothless old wolf attacking other patients. There was a difference between knowing werewolves were real and actually dealing with them. He wondered what Jason thought of all of this. Did he feel out of place? Repulsed or maybe even longing to be part of the natural cycle again. After all, he was older than Jesus.
It gave him time to learn outstanding mastery in the bedroom. <i>Inappropriate thoughts, Holtz</i> he berated himself and turned his concentration to the lay out of the building. He might have to run for his life and the lives of others so he’d better pay attention to that rather than daydream about Jason’s cock. His ability to focus shattered entirely when an old woman surreptitiously reached out and patted Faolan’s butt as they passed. The expression on his face deserved quicker action on Derrek’s part with his cell phone camera. It would have been the perfect wallpaper.
“He makes friends wherever we go,” Jason stage whispered to Derrek, earning himself a sun-hot glare.
Once they were convinced they knew the lay out of the place, they drove back to the Lowe.
Jason flopped on the bed. “Are we doing more research?”
“I’m not sure it would help. We don’t have anything more than we did last night. Tonight will probably be us going into this blind,” Faolan replied, his shoulders drooping. He pulled out his wand, examining it. Derrek had no idea if the thing could misfire but Faolan treated it like a soldier with his gun.
“Like usual,” Jason agreed, and Derrek wondered if all their missions would be like this. He was pretty new to it all but it always seemed like they were winging it.
“So the smart thing to do would be to take a nap so we’re fresh tonight,” Derrek suggested, wishing he felt more helpful as something other than ‘muscle.’ “But who’s tired?”
“I have a suggestion to fix that,” Jason said.
Derrek rolled his eyes. “Let me guess. You want to have sex til we’re exhausted and fall asleep.”
Jason reached up, yanking Derrek onto the mattress with him. “Puppy snout knows what I’m talking about.”
“Don’t,” Derrek growled.
“What? You are a puppy snout.” Jason bopped Derrek on the nose.
Derrek gave him a warning growl that somehow ended in a kiss. The bed groaned when Faolan joined them. Well, Jason usually did have good ideas but he was going to get bit for that puppy snout crack. Knowing him, he’d enjoy it.
Faolan learned he wasn’t made for sneaking quietly around a senior facility waiting for something to happen. He knew he had more patience than either of his lovers so he suspected they had to be even more antsy. He’d also learned the elderly didn’t sleep as much as he’d thought. There were more of them popping in and out of the halls than Faolan expected. Other than that, the night was insanely quiet, no bad feelings, no mumbled conversations inside of the rooms.
He nearly came out of his skin when the Star Trek theme sang out of his pocket. Faolan fished out his phone. “Yeah?”
“You and Jason have to get over here. Room 111, now,” Derrek hissed.
Assuming Derrek had conferenced them both, Faolan told him he’d be there, jogging down the hall. Derrek stood in the doorway, hands planted on either side of it. Jason wasn’t in sight. Hearing running behind him, Faolan turned to see Jason pop out of the stairwell door.
“What is it?” Jason asked.
“I…I don’t know. I swear….” Derrek turned, eyes wild. “Faolan, are grim reapers real?”
“I wouldn’t think so.” Faolan’s gut twisted. “Derrek what’s in that room?”
“A grim reaper and an angel, I…I’m not nuts.”
Derrek didn’t sound convinced of it. Faolan peered over Derrek’s outstretched arm. In the room, talking over a sleeping man was a beautiful woman with long red hair, and a creature that could be a reaper. He didn’t know what to say. His breathe remained locked in his chest.
“So?” Jason demanded.
“A Fodla and a reaper,” Faolan replied, his pagan mind seeing not an angel but an ancient Celtic protection sprit.
Jason pushed into the doorway then shook his head. “No, it’s a genius and keres.”
Derrek side-eyed him. “How can you tell how smart they are?”
“He means me.” The beautiful woman looked at them. “The genii were the spirits who protected the Greek. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that word.” Her smile was almost too beautiful to look upon. “You do realize we can hear you.”
“We do now,” Jason said. “What in Hades is going on here?”
“I have a job to do,” the reaper replied, her voice husky and dry.
“You do it too enthusiastically,” the angel or whatever she was replied.
“Everyone says that but what I do is necessary. They consume too many resources and give nothing back any more.” The reaper took the old man’s hand.
“I know their type.” The angel swept a hand back toward Faolan, Jason and Derrek. “They’re here to stop you.”
“And what can they do that you can’t?” The reaper laughed, sending chills down Faolan’s spine. Derrek flexed his fingers on the door frame as if holding on for dear life.
“Yeah, what can you do?” Jason whispered in Faolan’s ear. “Derrek and I can’t bite death so we’re not much good here.”
“I could try a binding spell….but I’ve never heard of binding death, least ways not that it went well,” Faolan said, shaking his head. “Can I ask, why take these people besides being old? Why take so many from here? Why take the ones that seem healthy enough? Surely there are many out there where death would be a blessing.”
The reaper stood, and Faolan tried to take a step back but Jason was too close to him. “I wouldn’t have thought modern men like you would believe in death as a creature who literally brings death.”
“No I do believe more in disease and trauma but we fight demons and we know the supernatural can kill. You’re just another aspect of that. You’ve already said you’re here to take this man,” Faolan replied, slipping his wand out of his pocket. He didn’t want to try and bind some death spirit. He might be the next to go. Faolan shot the Fodla, the protective spirit, a pleading look.
She stood, facing off with the reaper. “The young mage makes an excellent point. You and I meeting here every night, arguing, accomplishes nothing. If I destroy you, I know you’ll only eventually reform.”
“I’m bored.” The reaper’s shoulders drooped. “I know what would distract me, a game.”
“I don’t like the sounds of that,” Jason shuddered.
“No shit,” Derrek replied.
Faolan felt a hand on his arm. The fodla pushed his hand with the wand down. He hadn’t even seen her move to his side, but he let his wand slip back into his pocket, assuming she was warning him. “What kind of game?” He knew he’d regret asking.
The reaper pulled a deck of cards out of the ether. “Poker. I win, you four bugger off. I lose, I’ll confine myself to those whose time has come.”
“That sounds fair so why do I get the feeling it’s a bad deal.” Jason eyed the reaper. Faolan wondered what his lover truly saw the creature as. They would all have to compare notes later provided they survive.
“I can’t see myself playing for the life of another person,” Faolan said but the fodla-angel winked at him.
“It’ll be all right,” she assured him.
“And I’m not really giving you an option.” The reaper grinned colder than New Year’s morn polar bear plunge.
“When you put it that way, sure, we’d love to play,” Jason said.
Faolan didn’t want to agree but what choice was there? The reaper made them use the sleeping man’s fitful body as a table, and they played. Faolan signaled for his friends to keep as quiet as they could but neither the reaper nor the fodla-angel would let them remain silent. Faolan couldn’t process the surrealism of the night. They talked and played, and he was pretty sure both the reaper and the protective spirit were cheating. The fodla-angel did it better.
“It’s nearly dawn, and I believe you do not have the most chips,” the fodla-angel smiled sweetly, pointing to the poker chips she had manufactured out of thin air for the occasion.
The reaper scowled, tossing down her cards. “Fine. I’ll go find a nice war zone to haunt, happy now?”
The reaper disappeared. The fodla-angel turned to the men and waved. “I hope to see none of you any time soon, if you know what I mean.”
She, too, vanished.
“How the hell are you going to write up this report?” Jason asked, sagging against Faolan.
“I’m still half convinced I fell asleep, and am having the weirdest dream,” Derrek said.
“Tell me about it.” Faolan sighed. “We’ll think of something.”
“I want to go home, and pretend this didn’t happen. I hate feeling helpless,” Derrek ran a hand over his military-short hair.
His companions said nothing, silence being their agreement.
“Then let’s go home, or at least back to the hotel and get some sleep,” Faolan said.
“On the other hand, we won without one wolf-out, fang drop or wand swish, I don’t know how to feel about that.” Jason scowled.
“Me either but seriously, sleep now, worry in the morning,” Faolan said, thinking of that not-quite-comfortable hotel bed made all the better by the press of his lovers against him.
“Smartest thing to do,” Jason said, and Derrek was already out the door, heading for the front lobby.
A reaper, who could have guessed? Faolan hoped this would be the first and last time he’d ever have to deal with one. Once was more than enough.