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The house was both "there", and "not there".


The house physically existed, or, at least, it seemed to. There were pipes and cables connecting it to the rest of Bedlam City's infrastructure. But it was a blank spot on every map. There were no utility bills, no tax assessments, nothing on a scrap of paper in any office that Gremlin could break into or a single file in any database that L0vel@ce could hack open which proved that the house existed. No one Hitter asked knew anything about it, no matter how nice or how hard he asked them. And the investigation was complicated by the fact that all three of them kept having difficulty remembering that they were conducting an investigation in the first place. The house just kept slipping their minds.


When they finally made the trek across the river to Greely Point to view the house in person, they had trouble looking directly at it. They stood in one spot for several minutes as their attention kept wandering away from it. The few people they saw walking around the neighborhood in the warm summer night seemed to look everywhere but at the house, even as they crossed the street to avoid it. Some were walking their dogs, and the dogs barked and growled and whimpered at the house, but their owners barely reacted.


Hitter in particular was distracted with thoughts of how close they were to the Gorganzua syndicate's territory, a group who wouldn't look kindly on an Asian, a Latina, and a one of Scarpia's soldiers, retired or not.


The house was surrounded by other mansions just like it, except the others were smaller, and the trees and grass near those houses were still alive.


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" 'Spoopy' ," Sofi declared finally before covering her eyes with her hands to try and ease the headache forming from having her gaze forced away from the building every few seconds. "It's like trying to look at one of those hidden pictures. You know, the ones where you have to let your eyes cross just a little and then the picture changes?"


She nudged Lou with one elbow - or tried to, her hands were still over her eyes so it wasn't the most coordinated of efforts. "Lemme just let my eyes stop trying to cross and I'll see what it does to video recordings. Mess 'em up, I guess. Whatcha think, Alice? Wanna go see what happens when you touch it? You wanna touch it? I'll touch it. I bet it'll feel super weird. Maybe cause motion sickness. You know, that whole discordance between visual and tactile sensations? I almost never barf. I don't mind."


That wasn't entirely true. Sofi almost never got motion sick from video games but she couldn't hold her liquor worth a damn.

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"...it's a blind spot," Alice said, frowning at the building with an almost unblinking stare. The building had challenged her, was challenging her, and she didn't like it. She was actively daring it to try harder. "It's the five degrees that your brain just kinda fills in, that you can hide behind. Or the fake cigar box full of money right next to the big, mean-looking safe and the big glass display case, or the foot-courier doing the real thing while the armored vans take the other routes, or...."


She frowned deeper, somehow, eyebrows trying to knit their way down the center of her face as she turned to look at the others. "Don't do the cigar box thing," she noted, derisively. "It doesn't fool anyone worthwhile, and the idiots wouldn't get into the safe anyway. It's...."


She stopped, forcibly turning her head back toward the building. "It's doing it again. I don't like it. I bet it's full of expensive things that'd be so hard to fence and worth so much if we did. ....you touch it. Lou, go touch it."

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"Nobody's touching it! Chrissakes." Lou had spent the last few minutes distractedly taking his sunglasses off then putting them back on, trying to find which state would make the mansion less obnoxious to look at. It didn't help that he had to keep his head on a swivel, watching out for the sort of threats the two hyper-focused women tended to miss once something caught their interest. "You think I'm gonna copy weirdo haunted house bricks? That sounds like it ends somewhere fun to you? Turn myself into a dracula or whatever, %$#& off." He settled on shoving the sunglasses into the jacket pocket of his rumbled slate grey suit and pointed an accusatory finger at the offending building. "You don't invest in whatever the hell that is 'cause you're worried about thieves. That's what you get when you don't want visitors and you get tired of the hassle disposing the bodies."

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"Not copy, just touch it. Jeez," Sofi complained as she tried (and failed) to get the camera to take a shot of the creepy mansion. She hadn't expected otherwise but she seemed to take her tech failing as much as a personal affront as Alice did with her inability to stare down the mansion. Sofi muttered rude words under her breath at the failure for any picture to show her anything before she thrust her electronics towards Alice, who she trusted not to drop the priceless equipment. 


"I'll touch it!" Sofi declared with certainty. What harm could a building do to a person, after all? Really, it was barely modern. Other than maybe falling on her in vengeance - which seemed unlikely - it was just a building. Without waiting for permission, the hacker headed for the building. "You hear that creepy building. I'm going to touch you with my fingertips. Maybe lick you! You're not going to beat us, spooky house. We're the Spookbuster Squad!"


They were emphatically not the 'Spookbuster Squad'.

Edited by alderwitch
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Mister Strix


Meanwhile, inside the house...


Guy Giordano descended the stairs at a leisurely pace. He was thirsty, but not overwhelmingly so. He wore a simple black business suit with an even simpler white collared shirt, one of many he'd inherited from the previous owners of the Lodge. The expansion of his wardrobe beyond his costume and the suit he'd been buried in was one of the more mundane perks that came with the responsibility he'd taken on as president of a halfway-house for damned souls. The suits had been far too large for his slender frame, devoid as it was of the need for body fat or functioning internal organs. But, luckily, one of the revenants serving as Lodge staff was a tailor.


Guy slipped into the kitchen, his footfalls silent as always, his sudden presence startling even to the spectres and zombies who chopped vegetables, seasoned meat, and stirred soups around the clock, just in case mortal Lodge members or their guests happened to drop in to the dining room. Guy allowed himself a half-smile every time he was able to walk through the kitchen without everything around him turning into vinegar and mold. It seemed the house was the one place on Earth able to suppress his unholy aura, possibly because it wasn't entirely on Earth anymore. He opened one of the refrigerators and pulled out a bottle that appeared to contain red wine, but did not.


"Mister Owen?" Guy addressed the wight who served as one of the Lodge's head butlers.


"Sir?" Owen stopped walking and turned to face the new Lodge president.


Guy looked up from the bottle to meet Owen's gaze. "I only recently took possession of the Lodge. Very recently."


"Yus, Sir."


"So why was there already a refrigerator full of blood in the kitchen?"


Owen raised what was left of an eyebrow. "Beggin' yer pardon, Sir, but...do you really wanna know?"


"...No. Not really." Guy studied the bottle again. "1945," he muttered as he walked away. "Good year..."

Edited by Grumblefloof
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"Wha- no, no, Sofí, bad. Sofí!"


Alice thrust the electronics at Lou, who she mostly trusted to not drop all of the priceless equipment. Then it was just a quick skip toward her friend to snag her friend the back of her belt. "We do not lick evil buildings! Do you want a cursed tongue? Do you want some weird tongue disease? Do you want to never do anything else with your tongue ever again? Do not lick evil buildings!" Sofí was small, but Alice was smaller, and she was digging her heels to try to drag them both back to the curb. "Lou can lick the building. If anyone tries to make a body out of him he can punch them, and we get to watch. As long as you don't, you know, do your thing that only you can do ever," she added, turning her head back to look at Lou, "you'll probably be fine."

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Shit!" Lou started to bolt after Sofí only to have to abruptly change his momentum to catch the hacker's gadgets instead, nearly tripping over his own scuffed oxfords. He held the equipment awkwardly in his big hands, unclear which parts were delicate or not. "Why would any of us lick it? I've gotta very short list of things I am ever willing to lick and none of that qualifies." He did his best to gesture at the house as a whole but was largely thwarted by having his hands full. "Where d'you even keep all this? Look, fine. Just control your pixy stix high and take your whatever-this-is and I'll go knock on the door like the closest thing to a #$%@ normal person standing here. Then Alice can tell Xavier why everything went to hell later."

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A few moments after Lou knocked on the mahogany double-doors, The Fix saw the first sign of activity from within the house. The light bulbs inside the twin glass paneled ironwrought lamps mounted on either side of the doors flared to life. The viewing panel build into the right-side door slid open with a creak, revealing a pair of yellow-tinted and bloodshot eyes, peering out from under a set of dark and bushy brows.


"Good eeevening." A deep, slow voice addressed him from behind the door, lingering on almost every other syllable. "Are youuu...memmmbersss? Or...the guesssts...of memmmbersss? Or do you haaavvve...a delivery?"


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"Oh my god," Sofi muttered from where she was now clinging to Alice's waist like they were at a horror movie. Her brown eyes were wide and fascinated. "Jinkies, Scoob, the door man could give Vincent Price a run for his money. Like, do you practice that?"


Sofi reluctantly untangled herself from Alice to go up on her toes and waved maybe a little frenetically at the doorman. They were an unlikely trio but the candy-haired exile from a techno rave took point. She pinged off of Alice and thumped into Lou's side in her efforts to bounce up and down to be seen through the window of the door.


"Hi! Your house is funny and hard to look at. We don't have a delivery and we're not members but maybe we want to be- Ow! Alice!" Sofi protested as the thief jabbed an elbow in her ribs. "What? Don't you want to see what its like inside? It can't be worse than gym membership fees."

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"You don't just ask to be a member of an evil house," Alice hissed between clenched teeth, giving Sofí another jab for good measure. She'd followed her more colorful compatriot up to the door, but had been very busy being unseen behind Lou until intervention was necessary. "They invite you in and then you have a nice dinner and then you find out that they don't drink....wine, and then what are you going to do? Hack a ghost? No!"


She threw up her hands, for all that she was also trying to get up onto her tip-toes, leaning on Lou for leverage, trying to see through the viewing panel. "Besides, if you ask, you can't negotiate. Hey! If you want blood," she said, "this guy has so much blood. Lou, you can spare blood, right? You lose it all the time for basically free anyway."

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"Hey, how ya doing," Lou greeted the doorman once he could get a word in edgewise, completely ignoring Sofí bouncing off of him of one side and Alice practically climbing onto him on the other. He'd found it was best to just let there specific brand of physical familiarity happen without comment. "What they're trying to say is we're sorta contractors who specialize in dealing with unusual problems for unusual people, yeah? And like that one said, this is an unusual place you got here, which makes it our kinda place, as a rule. Figured we'd say hi. Professional courtesy and all."


Maybe that was an extremely generous interpretation of their motivations but it wasn't entirely wrong. He made direct eye contact with the bloodshot eyes looking through the gap in the door, waiting to see if the doorman blinked first.

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The viewing panel slammed shut. Behind the door, snickers and giggles steadily escalated into a full cackle.


Then the double mahogany doors creaked as the slowly slid open, revealing a poorly lit antechamber, mahogany paneled walls rising up from a marble floor covered with a large Persian rug. Several smaller mats lined the walls, and the antechamber was flanked with closets on both sides. Another set of double-doors waited at the other end of the antechamber. Those, too, opened inward by unseen hands, showing a two-story foyer, just as poorly lit, with the same marble floors and Persian rugs. An enormous crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, glittering with the dim light reflected from the electric fixtures sparingly mounted to the walls. Twin staircases at the far end which spiraled up to a second-floor walkway and wooden safety-rail lining the room, which faded into walkways in several directions. Vaguely humanoid shapes ascended the stairs and moved along the second-story walkway.


The voice continued from behind one of the front doors, still lingering on certain syllables. "Uninvited...though you mayyy beee...ennnter freeeeely...annnd of your owwwnnn willlll. I cannn...take your coats...annnd any other...possssessssions...of which you wisssh...to be relieved. Welcome...to the Twilight...Lodge."


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  • 3 weeks later...

"I don't really give away possessions," Alice said through a cheeky grin, hands shoved quite firmly into her jacket pockets. "That's not really how this goes. It's mo--" She froze for a moment, a short hitch in turning on one heel to direct some manner of sass at her companions.


Alice didn't smile. She grinned, and glowered, scowled, mocked, glared, and teased, but she never smiled. And now she smiled, an expression as pleasant as it was entirely unsuited to her own face. "....we need to leave!" she said, with all the tone and ease of someone politely excusing themselves from a party that was already winding down. "Right away. Thank you for inviting us into your spook house goodbye."

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