Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2211221-Phantoms-of-the-Opera
by jolanh
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2211221
A group of ghost hunters uncovers a powerful haunting
"Come on, Lance, I will owe you big time if you do this for me," the Adonis-like Hank said. Hank was the office, golden boy, and just about everyone had done him a favor. Word around the water cooler was, George from upper management, had done the brown noser a favor.

Lance gave Hank a sharp look, desperately trying to avoid the smell of cologne coming off of him, "Hank, whatever it is, do it yourself."

Everyone in a three cubicle radius stood and watched. Hank's square jaw lifted into a smile, "Lance, we both know you will give into me. Save yourself some embarrassment." He ruffled Lance's short brown hair.

Lance rose to his full height. Hank was half a head shorter than he was. Lance leveled his brown eyes on Hank's baby blues, gritted his teeth, and said, "Why don't you take your favor and blow it out your ass."

A chorus of "oooohs" erupted from the surrounding cubicles. Hank was genuinely surprised. Lance refused to give up the advantage, "You can do me a favor by taking your crap somewhere else."

Hank laughed heartily, "Alright, Lance. You win." He pulled a post-it pad out of his pressed shirt, wrote something on it, and slapped the yellow paper on the edge of his desk. "The only cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity," he said in a sly tone.

"Because that isn't a weird thing to say," Lance said. He was shoving John from the entrance of his cubicle now. "Take your stupid cologne, and proverbs with you while you're at it."

For the rest of the day, Lance got to be a hero. People were shaking his hand, and even George from upper management gave him a nod. Lance was humble about it and spent the day getting his work done.

However, the little yellow paper on the edge of his desk kept calling to him. At first, Lance could ignore it, but data entry is not an exciting job. Boredom started to creep in as his day drew to a close.

"No one could fault me for looking if I throw it out," He said to himself. He made his fingers walk across the desk over to the yellow sheet. He stood to make sure nobody was watching before grabbing the paper.

"1530 Franklin Street, 10:30, come alone," Lance found himself pocketing the sheet. He told himself it was a reminder of his victory. Secretly, he wanted to know what was happening at 10:30.

When the day ended, Hank gave Lance a knowing smile as if to say, "I know you looked." He gave Lance a friendly wave. Lance gave him the finger and hopped in the old dodge neon.

He drove down familiar streets, enjoying the smell of strawberry chocolate air freshener, like always. He went to his favorite diner and ordered his favorite meal. All the while, he could feel the paper burning a hole in his pocket, and his curiosity yearned to be recognized.

He went home to the mildew smell of his crappy apartment, and milk crate furniture. He tried to read, but all he could think about is the paper. He tried to watch television. The show he was watching had a character called Franklin. He moved to video games, only to find they held no interest.

Lance stared at the clock and looked at the little yellow post-it, "The only cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." Lance took a long look at his uninspired surroundings. His life was a computer program, and every day it would start and shut down the same.

"Do I want to look back on my life and say this was all I did? This paper may lead to Hank's dry cleaning or adventure. I guess I am going to find out," Lance said. He changed into some more casual clothing and headed towards 1530 Franklin Street.

The address turned out to be an old diner from the fifties. The neon signs and lighting were inactive. Black paint covered the panes of glass, with cold steel cages over them. Industrial strength deadbolts kept the door closed. Next to the handle was a "Ring for service," sticker, and a doorbell.

Lance pressed the smooth button and waited. An intercom was above the doorbell and a camera as well. A few minutes passed, and
Hank's familiar voice came out of the intercom.

"Northern Saints Paranormal Investigations, how may I help you?"

"It's me, Lance, I decided to help you."

"Perhaps you can blow it out your ass," Hank said.

"Or you could let me in and explain what you needed me for," Lance said.

"Are you sure, Lance? I will only open this door if you are one hundred percent committed to seeing the job through. Anything less than that is unacceptable."

Lance figured it could be fun, "I will see the job through to the end."

"You had better, we need all the help we can get," the door buzzed and clicked open.

The inside of the diner was amazing. Books on the occult lined shelves, Racks of devices, and ghost hunting gear hung on the wall. A moveable whiteboard depicting various spiritual hotspots was off to the side.

A woman behind a desk poured over an open book. She had a gothic beauty about her, with a Celtic knot necklace dangling above her cleavage. She was smoking a cigarette, and trails of smoke wafted upwards from the ashtray. Hank smiled at Lance and shook his hand.

"Welcome Lance, to Northern Saints Paranormal Investigations," Hank said. His tone indicated he was genuinely happy to see Lance. The smell of his cologne threatened to make Lance's eyes water. "Rasha, it looks like I owe you a drink. Lance showed up."

Rasha's darkened eyes looked up. She waved and went back to reading. Hank shook his head, "Sorry about her. Rasha is busy preparing for tonight's excursion."

Lance watched her captivated by her dark beauty and silence, "Excursion?"

"Yes, and you are going to play an important role." Hank turned his attention back to Rasha, "You almost ready, Inky."

Rasha gave him a stone-cold look and raised her hand, "I thought we talked about you calling me Inky. Have you proven your little theory, yet?"

Hank laughed nervously, "Sorry, Rasha. As for my theory, I need to access the room of terrors. Its your domain, and I know how you feel about people going in there."

Rasha looked like she was ready to punch Hank repeatedly. Lance decided Rasha was his hero, for now, "He doesn't know his ass from his face, and you want me to test him that way?"

"Could someone explain to me what the room of terrors is?" Lance asked. Lance had done his best not to judge people. At the moment, he felt a seventy-two-hour lockdown would serve both of them well.

Rasha stepped out from behind the table, her heavy platform shoes clacked against the checkered tile floor. Her mid-length dark hair bounced as she approached Lance. "The room of terrors is self-explanatory. When you enter, something may or may not happen. That is all I can tell you."

Lance was a little confused by her answer, "I take it you are expecting something to happen when I go in?"

Rasha took him to where the kitchen used to be and pointed to the walk-in cooler, "I hope something happens when you go in, but there are no guarantees in this business. I know what we do seems laughable, but I assure you it is no joke."

It was easy to appreciate her honesty, "Thanks for explaining it better."

Rasha's pale face blushed a little, "No problem." She walked over to the cooler door and opened it, "After you, and please don't touch anything. I will be monitoring you on the camera feed."

Lance entered the small room, closing the door behind him. Empty, the room was empty, or so he thought. Thirty seconds later, the air shimmered rippling like water. Lance rubbed his eyes to make sure he was not hallucinating. He raised a hand and extended his index finger. He tentatively touched the rippling air.

"This is not happening," he said. However, it was happening. The air began to crack like a window, and Lance watched in horror as it shattered like glass.

Lance's hands grasped the hair on his head, body hunched over, and mouth agape in horror. He tried to scream, but nothing came out. His face felt cold as the color drained from his face. Whatever had occurred revealed the true nature of the room.

Stainless steel walls with metal drawers had replaced the emptiness that was. Lance started to calm down and guessed it was a security measure of sorts. When his heart rate had returned to normal, he examined one of the drawers.

"Case #0125 Contents: Dybbuk Box, Do not open for any reason. See the file for more information."

Lance examined a few more drawers but didn't open or touch them, as per Rasha's request. The door opened, and Rasha stepped in.

"I bet you have all sorts of questions, now," She said.

Lance looked around, "Yes, I do. What just happened?"

Rasha pulled him by the hand out of the walk-in cooler, "Lets have a quick coffee, and then we will get on with tonight's excursion."

Hank was sitting at the table playing solitaire. He looked up at Rasha and then to Lance, "Well?"

Rasha rolled her eyes, "It can wait until we have a cup of coffee. Nobody was preventing you from watching the camera feed, Hank."

Hank pouted a little, "Why are you so mean to me?"

Rasha glared at him, "Why do you think? You abuse your gift, and you spend more time hitting on clients than preparing for jobs."

She left the two men to talk while she went to get coffee. "So there are people who can say no to you. Rasha seems like she has a good head on her shoulders," Lance said.

Hank frowned, sweeping all the cards back into the deck, "Do you think I am a bad person, Lance?"

"No, I don't. I think you spend too much time asking people to do you favors. It makes me question whether you have done an honest day's work in your life."

"Wow, you ripped the bandaid right off."

"You wanted an honest opinion."

"I was looking for an empty compliment."

"My idea was better," Lance said.

Rasha returned with the coffee and the fixings. Tendrils of steam rose from the cup as the trio added their cream and sugar. Rasha started the conversation.

"What do you think happened in the room of terrors?" she asked Lance.

Hank looked over at Lance, "Don't worry, you didn't wreck anything."

"Well, it looked like some sort of security system malfunction. Not an average security system either. It reminded me of something I read in a comic book."

Rasha took a sip and smiled, "He is smarter than you, Hank." She set the mug back on the table, "You are half right. It was a protection spell designed to hide the true nature of the room."

The bittersweet taste of the coffee hit Lance's tongue. "So, what exactly happened in there?"

Hank did a drumroll with his hands, "How should I put this? Do you remember when the system at the office got short-circuited?" Lance nodded. Hank flashed the annoying smile, "The same idea in the room of terrors."

Lance gave Rasha a quizzical look, and she nodded. He turned his attention back to Hank, "What happened exactly?"

"You happened," Rasha said in a flat tone. "People into the occult would call you a blank."

"What the hell is a Blank?" Lance asked.

Hank chuckled, taking a long pull from his mug, "Blanks nullify magic and spiritual energy. Your presence broke the illusion in the room of terrors."

"How does it work?" Lance asked.

"Powers like telepathy, telekineses, scrying, charm, don't work on you. Spells do not affect as well. You slowly drain the energy of enchantments breaking them. Ghosts and other spirits cannot influence or possess you," Rasha said in one breath.

"Can I use spells or make enchantments?" Lance was eager to see what he could do magic wise.

"It will never happen. Every spell will fail the moment you utter the last word. You can't possess enchanted items. With time and practice, you can bounce spells back to their casters," Hank said seriously.

"Being a blank is a good thing, right?" Lance asked.

Rasha smiled and touched his arm. Hank shot lance a stony look, "There is only one way to find out, test it," Rasha said. She walked over to the whiteboard and brought it over to the table.

"St. Edwins Musical Theater was built in the twenties by some English Noble no one remembers. Many a star graced the stage during that time."

Lance, had a hard time believing anyone would waste time building something so fancy in the booming town of Somewhere B.C., "I assume something horrific happened?"

Hank looked at Lance like he was stupid, "There is no point investigating a clean building..." He trailed off under the icy stare of Rasha.

"Vincent Salwey wrote and produced the last musical ever performed on the stage. He called it the Junk Drawer, a story about a magical drawer that grants wishes. It didn't do so well," Rasha said.

Hank groaned, "With immortal classics like Closet Clogging Love, its a wonder he didn't get lynched at the ticket booth." He handed Lance the sheet music.

"Oh I can't wait for the next shiny thing, this little magic drawer will bring. I don't need a box or trunk. I just want to clog my closet with junk," Lance said. The trio laughed at his monotone voice, as he read it.

Lance's stomach hurt, and tears rolled down his cheek because he was laughing so hard, "I can't believe people paid money to watch someone perform this, live."

Rasha was clutching her belly too, "Alex Crickette, the movie, and art critic said it was the worst thing to happen to the theatre since Vaudeville. It would be like paying to see Gigli."

Hank recovered first, "Salwey got so depressed he poisoned the entire cast. The gossip column claimed Salwey was into the occult and had cursed the theater."

Rasha recovered, "There is certainly evidence to support the theory. Shortly after it closed, two teens went missing. The entire town searched for weeks. Hobart Tillman found them. He was a hobo looking for a warm place to sleep."

"What did the teens die of?" Lance asked.

"The coroner listed cause of death as extreme exhaustion, as if the two had been up for days," Rasha said. "He listed big callouses on their feet. Their vocal cords had nodules on them."

"Rasha, is it possible they were forced to practice a play until they dropped?" Lance asked.

Rasha beamed at him, "It is entirely possible. We will know more once we get there. Shall we head out?"


The spirit chaser was a rusty old Volkswagon Beetle, which backfired a lot. Lance felt the foam beneath the torn vinyl seats. He could smell cigarettes and oysters, which he guessed was a habit of Rasha's. Hank drove the rolling abomination, tapping the steering wheel to music on the radio.

Rasha lit up a smoke, rolled the window down, and smacked it to keep it working. Hank looked sour again, "You don't do that when it's just the two of us."

Lance watched Rasha give Hank a dour stare, "All you had to do is ask. I thought you were a big kid now?" A large noxious cloud flew out the window, drifting alongside the car.

The sun was dipping behind the mountains in the distance. Hank switched the headlights on or at least the only functioning one. His hand shot out snatching the cigarette from Rasha's hand. He flicked it out the window.

"I don't want you smoking in the car anymore. Is that big kid enough?"

Rasha ignored the question and turned to Lance, "We are almost there. Are you ready for this?" Her visage looked ghostly and pale skin seemed to glow in the dash lights.

"Why are you mean to Hank?" he asked.

Hank raised his fist in victory, "Score a point for the H man."

"Don't ever say that again. Are you going to start referring to yourself in the third person?" Lance asked.

"Sometimes...I'll stop," Hank said, hanging his head.

The car came to a stop, Rasha stepped out of the bucket of rust, "We'll talk about it later. Right now, I want you to describe what you see. I have never worked with a blank."

Lance looked up at the condemned building. All the bulbs surrounding the sign were broken graffiti covered the ticket box. Brown water stains covered the once white walls.

"This building is a health hazard. Why are we exploring this place anyway?"

Hank stood beside him, "A local businessman is interested in fixing it up and making it a modern movie theater. Quite frankly, it would be cheaper to build from scratch. He offered us a generous amount to investigate."

Since his companions were interested in what he saw, Lance asked, "What do you guys see?"

Rasha's face lit up like a Christmas tree, "What it looked like in its glory days. History brought to life. I wonder who is haunting the place? It's a powerful entity if it can cause hallucinations like this."

Lance looked across the street and saw a new Van with a logo. He squinted to make sure he was reading it right, "Does it say Penis on the side of the van?"

"Its an acronym for Paul Evans New Investigations of Spirits, or P.E.N.I.S. Did you read what it said below?" Rasha asked, stifling her laughter.

"We know how to pound spirits into submission? Are these guys for real?" Lance asked.

Hank pulled three backpacks from the trunk, "Paul Evans is looking for his wife's spirit. Several people claimed to have seen her wandering the town. We think it might be something else."

Lance decided to save his other questions for later, "What's the plan?" He shouldered the pack and started walking towards the door.

Beeping forced Lance to find the source. Hank was holding a small black box with three red lights on it. The bulbs were flickering rapidly, and the noise intensified, "Looks like our ghostly friend is up to some serious mischief."

Rash pulled some papers out of her bag and laid them on the box office counter, "We find the place where the spirit died." She pulled out four white candles and an old scroll, "Once we know where it died, you are to place candles in all four corners of the room and recite this spell." She blushed for a moment, "Well Hank or I will recite the spell. I forgot you can't do it."

Hank took over and held up what appeared to be an electronic bong, "This is an automatic incense burner, press the button it lights the lavender and sage, spreading the smoke. It won't send the ghost to the next life but will drive it off for a bit."

Lance pulled on the ice-cold brass handle to the broken door. Black mold was crawling up the walls and along the carpet, "This place smells how disease looks if that makes any sense."

Hank and Rasha were slowly turning green clutching their guts and mouths. Hank let his vomit fly three feet, Rasha managed to keep her supper down.

"You two going to be okay?" He asked them. He heard footsteps and turned using his flashlight to illuminate the source.

A middle-aged man holding a moth-eaten umbrella was standing there, with a psychotic smile on his face. He tipped a boater hat, with half the brim missing, swinging the umbrella demurely.

Hank and Rasha recovered long enough to identify the newcomer, "Paul, is that you?" Rasha asked.

Paul laughed heartily, "Guilty as charged." He swung his arm theatrically. "The director is eager to have three new actors for his latest production. It is a sequel to the junk drawer, The Clogged Closet."

"Paul, how long have you been here?" Hank asked. The worried look on his face did not inspire confidence.

"I could tell you, but singing it would be more fun. Music, please," Paul twirled on the spot, threw the hat at Rasha, and winked. "I came here for the answers of life, to help my unfortunate wife find the afterlife." He shuffled his feet like he was tap dancing, holding the umbrella in both hands in front of him.

Lance watched noticing a translucent figure, slowly becoming visible behind Paul. He pointed at it, "Rasha, Hank, look." His hand was fumbling around his bag looking for the incense burner

It was too late for his companions. Hank had donned the boater hat and was doing the worst version of the Riverdance he had ever seen. Not that anyone should be river dancing, "Oh dear Paul, you are so boned, it was dumb to come here alone. The spirit controls us like Al Capone."

With a cackle, the apparition grew more visible, just enough to know it was male, but not enough to see its features. An incorporeal finger beckoned Rasha, "A great show needs a leading lady, come lend your voice to the chorus."

Lance's hand finally closed around the incense burner. It was empty. His hand plunged into the bag once more, looking for the bag of incense. "Rasha light..."

Too late again, Rasha was gracefully moving her hips from side to side, while giving Lance come hither looks, "This little hunt could be my chance to get know the one called Lance. It should come as no surprise he is the apple of my eye."

Too late again, Rasha was gracefully moving her hips from side to side, while giving Lance come hither looks, "This little hunt could be my chance to get know the one called Lance. It should come as no surprise he is the apple of my eye."

The spirit looked like he was ready to explore the jungle, dressed as an explorer from the early 1900s. A leather riding crop tapped his ghostly palm. A handlebar mustache twitched under his nose, "Don't resist, young man. Fame and fortune await."

Lanced looked at the oddly dressed apparition, "I don't think your idea of famous and mine are compatible." His hand felt the smooth plastic of the Ziploc bag. It had to be the incense. He yanked the clear plastic free of the backpack, only to see marijuana, "It's going to be a long night."

Lance had never dealt with a ghost but assumed it wasn't wise to stay for much longer. His options were limited, given he couldn't cast the spell to remove jungle man. He opted to pull everyone out.

He picked up Rasha and slung her across his shoulder, "Oh how does my heart race, as Lances feet pick up the pace. While my ghostly master gives chase."

In seconds he and Rasha were outside. He ran to the rusty Beetle and leaned her against it, "Do not go back in there. I will get the others."

Hank and Paul were engaged in a weird dance fight when he returned. The ghost was sitting on a chair, clapping excitedly, "Remember the winner gets to entertain me, and the other joins me for dinner." The ghost's visage had changed. Its eyes now glowed coal red, making the saliva dripping from its fangs look toxic.

He couldn't carry both men, and dragging them was out of the question. He knew what he had to do, and it was going to be thoroughly unpleasant.

He jumped in the middle of the weird contest, "I am the best as anyone can see. I can bring both these men to their knees." He inched over to Hank and tossed him toward the entrance. He did the world's worst rendition of ballet, over to Paul, "Oh Paul, the name of your organization I do hate. I am not sure if you want to hunt ghosts or masturbate." A flick of the wrist sent him tumbling towards the door.

The ghost was laughing, "You are by far the best, and you can sing." His spectral hands clapped together yet made no noise.

Lance kept it up. Hank and Paul joined, "Oh, I plan to give up the ghost hunting profession, once I make my confession. There is nothing in the way of me admitting I am gay." Hank sang. He did a little jig, and then jazz hands.

How does one respond to such a statement? Lance pretended Hank said nothing and herded the two bewitched men to the front door. Twenty feet stood between them and survival. The ghost noticed what Lance was doing.

"You are not bewitched at all, are you?" It said, growling in anger. The face grew more demonic. It rose from the chair and started walking towards them slowly.

With ten feet between them and the door, Lance had one card left to play. "Its time end this silly game, we all know the ghost is to blame. Lets get off this cheesy ride and take this battle to the streets outside."

The ghost was picking up speed now. Lance hoped his little gamble paid off, or Paul and Hank were screwed. He motioned for the two men to hurry up with his hands. They were exchanging alpha male glances, circling each other dramatically.

"I do not like to rhyme, please hurry up we are running out of time," He said, waving his arms at the two men. He looked back, and the spirit had a bulbous belly. The tanned explorer's outfit was now rotting, and the fresh skin looked cancerous.

The two men theatrically shook hands. In one voice, they said, "Agreed." They danced out the door

Lance grinned and held up his middle finger, "We will be back, and we will finish the job. Till next time."

Back at the diner, Paul slammed the keys to his van on the table, "Promise me you will look for my wife and its yours."

Rasha looked like she was nursing the world's worst hangover, without the fun of drinking the night before, "Take the stupid penis logo off of it, and you have a deal."

Paul regarded them with respect, "Best of luck, to all of you."

When Paul left the diner, Lance stood and looked at his companions, "What are we going to do differently next time?"

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