Its a medical fact. Doctors all agree that a surplus of laughter is a terrible thing.
Also, the habberdasher is a ferocious monster that lives in sheds and has big horns and claws for rending human flesh.
Title: All Tied up
Characters: Harry, solo (for now)
TV or Book Verse: TV
Rating: PG13 for language (will probably change in the future
Summary: Harry's new case isnt nearly so easy as he orignally planned- who knew nightclubs could be so dangerous?
“So, what can I do for you, Mr… Ackerman, right?” I asked, stumbling over the last name. It was the last Friday of September, and therefore only one week until the first Friday of October- rent day, and, as per usual, I was broke. Consequentially I had spent the past week without sleep, trying to come up with a way to pull money out of thin air without committing a felony. So I’ve been a little groggy- so sue me.
No, seriously, go ahead and sue me. I’ve got no money for you to win.
“Ackerman” He corrected cheerfully, pronouncing the ‘acker’ like ‘Acre’, “But call me Mothy, only the IRS calls me ‘Mr. Ackerman.’”
“Right then… Mothy. How can I help?”
Timothy “Mothy” Akerman looked absolutely nothing like the night club owner he said he was. With his thick glasses, messy ponytail, and thrift-shop-chic t-shirt (complete with diagram of a toilette) he looked more like the kind of guy who spent his high school years in the AV club and getting shoved in lockers. If anything I’d have pegged him as the owner of one of those little computer shops that seem to pop up everywhere I look. But then, as the only Wizard advertising in Chicago, who am I to judge other people’s career choices?
“Well…” He started, jiggling his leg nervously against the chair, before gathering up the courage to utter the nine words I expect and dread the most (besides, of course, “I’m sorry Harry, but this just isn’t working out…”): “I know this sounds stupid but… I think I’m being haunted.”
I tried not to let my disappointment show on my face. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind haunting cases- when the client’s actually being haunted. The problem is that nine times out of ten, the “ghost “ turns out to be nothing more than imagination and a possible rat infestation. In those cases, not only do I not get paid, I also have the distinct pleasure of informing my clients that, no, their Uncle Henry is not trying to contact them from beyond the grave, and that they might want to lay of the horror movies in the future. Believe it or not, most people don’t take it as well as one would hope.
I phrased my next words carefully, so as not to clue him in on my skepticism. “Do you have any reason to suspect a haunting?”
He hesitated, jiggling his leg some more. His shoes, a pair of plaid slip-ons, made quiet tapping noises in the otherwise quiet room. “There was a murder at the club a few months ago- real nasty- the coroner thought she’d been attacked by a dog, and ever since things just started happening…”
“What kind of things?“ A part of my mind filed away the fact that he’d called the attack a murder, though the killer had been a dog; but for the moment at least I let it slide.
“Well… at first it was just little things- lights flickering, strange noises, seeing the girl out of the corner of my eye… stuff that could’ve just been my imagination, you know? But… then things just kept getting worse and worse…” That peaked my interest. Usually, the supposed ‘haunting’ I dealt with just stopped with that- shadows, sounds, and occasionally some lights in need of repair. If, like he said, things had progressed beyond that point, there could be something to his claim. “About a month ago a customer came running out of the bathroom in a panic, claimed she’d gone in and saw a girl crying at the sink and when she’d gone to ask what was wrong, the girl had run out of the room- straight through the closed door. I thought it was probably just some sort of practical joke, but just last niught, about two hours after the club opened, things just went… nuts. Crazy winds blowing, a woman screaming- and then a chair just flew off the floor and smashed into a wall. If I hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have believed it…” He shuddered, and there was genuine fear in the action. “So, what do you think, Mr. Dresden? Am I totally nuts?” He asked, with a humorless laugh.
I gave him what I hoped was an encouraging and not-too-eager grin and shook my head. “Mothey, I’m sure you can imagine how many times people with over-active imaginations come into my office worried about non-existent ghosts, and most of them are far from crazy. But it sounds to me like you might actually have a haunting.” The man seemed both relieved and frightened by my words. His leg stopped its endless jiggling, but he immediately started drumming his fingers against his leg instead. “It might be a good idea for me to come down and have a look around” I said, “And, if you at all possible, a photo of the girl who was killed would be really helpful. I know you didn’t know her personally but…”
“Oh, no problem,” he said, rummaging around in his pocket before pulling out a battered envelope. At my surprised expression, he explained, “She was a regular customer- a few of her friends set up a memorial to her at the club. After what happened last night, they agreed to let me borrow this.”
As he reacked out to hand it to me, his sleeve slipped down, revealing to thick, puffy scars stratched across the underside of his arm. Noticing me looking them, he withdrew his arm with a sheepish grin. “I uh, used to make fake crop circles as a kid,” He explained with a nervous chuckle, “Spent a lot of time jumping over barbed wire fences.”
“Right,” I said, with a nervous laugh of my own, embarrassed at being caught staring. “So… you’re aware of my fee?” I said, eager to change the subject.
“Yeah, fifty dollars an hour, right? And I can have the retainer together for you by tonight.”
I waved my hand dismissively, “Nah, don’t worry about it, I don’t take any money until I can confirm the haunting.”
“Right, then,” The guy stood, flashing that nervous smile again. “The uh… Instances only seem to happen when the place is open. You mind coming a little before we open up? Say, seven thirty? Thought you might want to look around and talk to my staff a bit first. “
“Sounds good,” I said, standing and shaking his hand. “I’ll se you then, I guess.”
“Right, he said, as he scribbled the clubs name and adress on a sheet of paper and handed it to me, adding “Oh- just one more thing, though. The club caters to people with… unusual tastes. About half of them are hugely superstitious, the other half are devout skeptics. I think knowing your reason for being there would alienate both of them, so…”
“Got it-” I agreed, “Discretion is the better part of valor- don’t worry about it.”
“Great,” He said with a grateful smile, before turning to leave. Go ahead and call me greedy, selfish, insensitive or whatever you want, but the first word that popped into my head as he walked out the door was an emphatic “Kaching!” This was just the case I was hoping for- I show up at the club, banish the ghost, and make enough money to keep me off the streets for another month.
God, just for once I wish things would go as I planned….
Well, there you have it- chapter one. A non-prize goes to anyone who can figure out just what “Unusual Tastes” the clubs patrons have. I think I put enough clues in…