- Do I like it?/Would I do it?
- If No, why not?
- If Yes, why?
- If Yes, flesh the idea out some.
- Other thoughts or comments.
The door creaked open on its own. “Welcome… Step in, and make yourself at home. There’s no turning back now.”
Riley looked down in slight embarrassment, she knew she had screwed it up already. Answer the question, Riley and don’t screw it up this time… "I like it, e-especially the library…" She answered quietly, almost nervously. "But for a place with 999 ghosts living in it, it doesn’t seem… crowed…"
Riley looked confused about the next part, they were all Roman emperors, she knew that much. “Wait… Nero? Caesar? What are you guys talking about? There are Roman emperors… here? How?” She asked.
In the little pause before the answer, Eulalie gently touched the top of Riley’s hand in encouragement. As she listened, she sipped her tea and nodded. “So many of our guests like staying out in the graveyards or in the ballroom. Catching up on the living they didn’t do while… eh… alive.”
"It’s also a little easier to have elbow room when you can make those elbows disappear." Grinning and flapping his limbs like a chicken, Beau made biceps to wrists vanish.
Eulalie turned away from him, pointedly refusing to look in his direction. “From what I understand, the lovely medium who resides here, Madame Leota, is able to pull in wandering souls…”
"Does this bug you?" Beau’s dismembered hands floated around Eulalie’s face. "I’m not touching you! Not tooouching yoooouuu!"
Eulalie stared through them. “She’ll ask which ones we can house, and sometimes it sadly does come to a choice. We do get a few celebrities from time to time. Caesar and Nero were a pair we had to choose from once. I say ‘we,’ but it’s my brother and Leota who handle the bulk of that work. I just hear about it afterwards.” The hands made bunny ears behind her head as she sipped her tea.
"Other faces you might recognize include Cleopatra and Marc Antony," she continued. "We also have Rasputin and Jack the Ripper, but they’re imprisoned in their portraits."
Meanwhile, Beau’s hands were dancing on Eulalie’s saucer, kicking around their index and middle fingers like legs as he hummed “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
She didn’t even glance at him. In one quick move, she slammed a knitting needle through each hand, pinning them down to the table. Beau let out a strangled gasp and stared at his twitching fingers in horror.
Listening to her brother continue to struggle, Eulalie finished her tea. “Always trying to push my buttons, baby brother, Beau.”
Riley phased in and out of attention after Beau removed his hands. She looked at them in both astonishment and horror, wondering how that’s even possible and why he’s doing it now. She began to become slightly pale before she gave her attention to Eulalie again, what she was saying was really interesting but the hands were distracting her a lot.When the needles came down on her hands she stared at them with wide eyes. Oh my God! Is he okay?! He’s pinned to the table! Why is she so calm about this?! Oh my god, oh my God, OH MY GOD!All the colour disappeared from Riley’s face and she fainted, falling off the chair.
"I think she’s coming to…" Master Gracey continued waving smelling salts under the teen’s nose. "Good thing I still had these on hand from when I was a youngster."
"If that doesn’t work," Beau rubbed his sore hands worriedly, "do you have your other medicinals in case?"
"Just about everything else had to go. Believe it or not, cocaine’s not a cure-all anymore."
Beau stared, eyes wide. “Really?”
Cutting her eyes at her brother, Eulalie said flatly, “Neither is opium.”
Beau returned the glare. “Sissy, I am a man of select few vices. Let me have my fun!”
"Shh!" Master Gracey waved a hand, trying to quiet his mother and uncle, (but mostly his uncle). "We don’t want to upset her again."
Before Beau could even say anything, Dorian spat, “I had a heart attack.” He curled his lip in distaste and rolled over onto his side, putting his back to the others. “There isn’t any need to elaborate beyond that, I assure you.”
A smirk slowly crept across Beau’s scarred face. His eyes cut from Drossy, to his nephew, and then back to Drossy. “A heart attack… Brought on by the biggest temper tantrum of the century.”
"Now, really, that’s unfair!"
Beau’s attention was wholly on Drossy, Dorian’s injections tuned out. “He ran through the halls with a knife, slashing up every painting of himself, crying about how he wasn’t young and pretty anymore.”
Dorian sat up. “Now, you have no right! You have no idea the frame of mind I was in!” As he balled his fists and glared, a subtle change took over his features. His brown hair was thinning and graying in spots. The skin on his face tightened.
"To this day, there’s only one left that still hangs up in our foyer. And if you stare at it long enough, you see Dorian go through the fate he truly feared."
By now, what had been a young gentleman had aged to an elderly fellow with a shabby suit, ashen complexion, and eyes so pale they were almost white. Dorian pushed his frail form off the desk and shambled haltingly to his uncle. “You… have… no… right!” He lifted a shaking finger to his chest. By the time his hand was raised, it was bones. All that stood there now was a pitiful skeleton in a tattered suit. “I… was so… alone and… scared… and you… mock that?” His raspy voice was barely more than a hurt whisper. The silver irises in his black sockets winked in and out as if blinking away invisible tears.
Beau’s expression softened. There wasn’t a hint of a playful smile, or a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. It was simply somber. “It hurts, doesn’t it? Having it flung in your face like that?”
Dorian gave a tiny nod. Then he dropped down on his uncle, flopping his face against his shoulder. His back trembled with silent sobs.
"There, there, it’s all right." Beau wrapped his arms around him in an awkward embrace. "I know, I know… I’m sorry, too…" As he patted Dorian’s back, he flashed an embarrassed smile at Drossy. "This… This happens probably every other week. I’m sorry you had to bear witness—"
"My father never hugged me!" Dorian sobbed, louder this time. His vocal chords were starting to regrow.
The thief glanced between the two as it all began, wide eyes intent and a determined expression on her pallid face. Oh, she’d done this intentionally; set one against the other, just so one could repay the others’ unkindness. But her amused expression would falter, hint of a smile fade, when she finally noticed that something way Really, Quite Wrong with Dorian.
She stiffened considerably, a hand against the bookshelf she was crammed next to, white-knuckled grip given to the edge. She stared as the exchange progressed, horror on her face increasing, moment by moment, as Dorian slowly aged and decayed. Her plan had succeeded, no doubt, but this was an unfortunately grotesque side effect.
By the time attention was turned upon her again, Drossy was as white as a sheet, save for those sickly circles under her eyes. She wavered, even while sitting down, clearly somewhere on the crossroads between disturbed and distraught. A man’d just aged and decayed right before her eyes, that wasn’t something you saw everyday.
Heck, it wasn’t something you saw, ever, if you were lucky.
The girl spent a moment with her face buried in her hands, before managing to regain some form of composure. Needless to say, it was the weakest dang composure this side of the Mississippi.
"W-well," she stammered, hazel eyes focused on some point other than the wilted man’s face. "I- I- I hope everybody feels b-better after all th-that. Nice little family chat a-and.. all.. all that. Yeah. C-completely n-nessecary, to get these feelings out."
Drossy attempted, again, to get up, and this time, despite her trembling, managed to waver on the spot and not topple over once she was on her own two feet. She clung to the bookshelf for support, eyes down to the carpet now.
"Uhm." She closed her eyes, dizzedly. "So, we’ve g-got plenty of issues, here. Self-loathin’ t-teddy bear an’.. prima donna skellyton." She swallowed back, hard, and then looked back up, toward the both of them.
”..a-alright, now, jest.. show me the door.”
Beau gave her an eerie, dead-eye stare. “I’m afraid we can’t do that, miss…”
Lightning flashed outside the window. Booming thunder rattled the windows. Then the rain began pouring. Listening closely, thunks of hail could be heard as well.
He perked up. “You see, the storm clouds have been gathering for the past few hours, and the radio has been nothing but reports of the storm heading in. It simply wouldn’t be safe.” He gave her his crooked grin.
Back to his normal self, Dorian picked up the end of Beau’s rope and whapped him upside the head with it.
Dorian held the rope threateningly. “Did you really have to do the spooky eye-voice thing? Right now?”
"The timing was too perfect. I couldn’t resist. I’m sorry." He flinched and ducked another whipping. "I’ll go freshen up a room." In a puff of greenish-blue ectoplasmic vapor, he vanished.
When he was sure his uncle was gone, Dorian faced Drossy. Arms crossed, smirking, he leaned against the wall. His shoulder went into it a bit, but he pretended not to notice. “I have to give you kudos for what you pulled back there. Granted, Uncle and I aren’t the most stable men, but still… Just be careful. Not every spirit in here is so… forgiving.” He bit his bottom lip in worry.
"To Earl Ciel Phantomhive,
I apologize for the fast, vague nature of my first letter, what with trying to wrap everything up—”
Master Gracey turned away from his desk. “Uncle, do you have to do that right this instant?”
Beauregard Ghast blinked his heterochromatic eyes several times in confusion. “But…” He waggled the body-sized roll of carpet dangling half out of his arms. “Nephew… how to put this delicately… No offense meant, of course, but… you’re starting to smell. The rigormortis is setting in. I’ve got to at least chuck you in a crypt.”
Dorian glared at him for a good long while. Rubbing his temples, he sighed. “Uncle, we’ve been through this. That is not me. This,” he gestured to himself, “is me. That… thing is nothing more than a decaying, decrepit shell. If I recall, your bones have been hanging in the gallery for ages…”
"Yes, bones. Picked clean by birds behind closed doors. No one even noticed. I’m not leaving a corpse out here for the maid to find when she eventually gets back from her vacation. That’s rude. Don’t be rude, Dorian. I raised you better than that. Now get back to your letter, and I’ll go bury this out back somewhere." There was a cold, soft, yet somehow sickly, noise as he slid the rug along the floor and out towards the backdoor.
Dorian tapped his pen against his lip. “Where was I? Ah yes…”
"—wrap everything up in such a short amount of time.
"As far as the case files are concerned, there are five young ladies involved, ranging from ages 9 to 12. They themselves came to me, escaping from their homes, risking severe punishment from their parents in doing so. All were betrothed to men triple or quadruple their age for whatever social or financial gain their parents desired. Right now the girls are living with a kind aunt of mine whom I’ve been sending money to.
"I’ve spent most of my career as an attorney working on such cases, trying to grant these girls the safety and freedom they crave. I shan’t bore you with tedious details of my personal life, Earl Phantomhive, but as someone who has—" Dorian hesitated. Shutting his eyes tight, he inhaled and exhaled deeply. "—has been coerced into actions he wanted no part in, I’m not about to let that happen to any child so long as I still stand.
"I have no other lawyers, no other so-called upstanding citizens willing to stand by my side on this. I did have one friend, a loyal, valuable one at that, and a doctor no less, who was willing to take the stand and explain why—medically—these marriages were harmful on children so young. He sadly passed away some years ago.
"All I ask is that you offer your voice and help me reach my nation’s law makers. Some signatures on a few papers wouldn’t hurt, either. You could be like a foreign ambassador. We Yanks do so love a posh British accent.
"My estate is located deep in the soul of Louisiana, a town called New Orleans Square. It has the reputation of being one of the nation’s most haunted locales, but don’t let that frighten you. That’s really more of a tourist trap line. We have ample room for lodging. I do so hope you’ll consider my plea. If there’s nothing you can do, I understand. We all have our own lives to tend to, and business to govern.
Master Dorian Yale Gracey”
Reading over the letter once more, the boy put a hand to his chin and thought for a moment. The scent of the letter radiated off of his gloved hand, a scent of decay and musk. The boy scowled and eventually shrugged it off. With the girls being so young, It appeared as though this letter would be of some importance.
A few weeks passed before he sent his next letter, it had taken quite some time to gather the signatures and permission from the queen and her court. Everything now in order, the boy picked up his pen and wrote:
"Dear Master Gracey,
The Queen has approved my request to assist you, attached below is a copy of Her Majesty’s approval as well as your required signatures. You can expect my arrival in three weeks. If it’s not too much trouble, my butler will be accompanying me as well. We assure you that these cases will be solved and the girls will be safe. I look forward to meeting you.
Earl Ciel Phantomhive”
Dorian lowered the parchments, his face ashen with shock. “Oh my.” He tried to run a hand up through his hair, but it was graying and falling out, and his scalp turning into bone almost the second he touched it.
Beauregard peered over his shoulder at the letters. “You might want to frame those. Hang them up in the office next to the diplomas. Add a bit of class to the place.”
"I didn’t… I didn’t think it’d get this big…”
"You got what you asked for. You know what they say, ‘Be caref—"
Dorian grabbed the rope dangling from around his uncle’s neck and stuffed it into his mouth. “No, this—this is good. We have a living representative. No one knows yet that we’ve…” He groaned.
Beau spat out his noose, looking only slightly annoyed. “Shifted the mortal coil?”
"Yes. We can’t leave the house, but he can. He can represent me. He can present the paperwork, the signatures. The girls can be emancipated. Aunt Delilah doesn’t mind housing them. What’s left of the family inheritance can go their way. And then…" He looked at his uncle with a strained grimace.
"What, you think this is your… unfinished business?"
Master Gracey’s eyes darted from side to side. “Um, maybe?”
"Well, doesn’t that make this whole endeavor selfish?"
Dorian played with the tip of his finger. “Not… entirely?” he volunteered. “I mean, I did this for decades, Uncle. Just because it was the right thing to do. However, I thought, mayhaps…”
Beau put an arm around his shoulders. “Dori, I know you haven’t ventured far past your office in the few days since your… demise, but are you aware of all of the spirits that haunt here?”
Dorian shook his head.
Beau nodded. “I want you to go talk a little walk around the estate, then report back to me, alfright?”
"Um, okay." He bobbed his head and wandered off.
With a sigh, Beau adjusted his shabby green coat. Then he looked at his broken pocket watch. It was forever frozen on the exact time of his death. “And I suppose I’ll get to work making this place livable for our guests.” He adjusted his noose, attempting to make it look like a tie.
Through the last half of his life, Beau had been regulated to butler/servant for the Graceys. Not a respected role in that household, but he knew what duties to tend to. Eying the decades of dust that had accumulated, he clicked his tongue in disapproval. “So much to do…”
Somewhere near the ballroom, Dorian’s voice screamed out, "OH MY GOD!"