Purple Door Detective Agency
be my banshee
“You’re next.” The young assistant stood beside the ragged hag. “I mean, she can see you now.” She shivered, and her nose twitched as she looked into the gaunt face.
The hag, even thinner than the young woman watching her, rose slowly to her full height—well over six feet. Her bones and joints cracked and complained at being used.
Her torn robe was shades of gray and black, covered with dust and mold. Her hair was long and gray with patches missing at her scalp. Her eyes, when she fixed them on the young woman, were only dark sockets. Her mouth had been open, revealing rotted teeth for the entire time she’d been waiting, close to two hours.
“Thank ye.” She closed her mouth enough to mumble. There was a trace of Irish brogue about her sandpaper voice.
“Y-you’re welcome.” The young woman scurried back to her desk and licked her hand before she ran it across her face. She stopped when she realized others in the waiting room were watching her. At that point, she gulped hard and went to hide in the supply closet.
There were some of every kind there—werewolves, vampires, witches—and others she couldn’t identify. They sat in the pretty purple chairs while they waited for their interviews as music played softly in the background. The word had only gone out that morning that the Purple Door Detective Agency was hiring. The turnout was everything the owner of the firm could have hoped for.
“Come in. Sit down.” Sunshine Merryweather gestured to a deep purple chair opposite her desk. She was busy sorting through shoes with a frown on her beautiful face. “Tell me what you can do for me,” she said for the tenth time that morning.
Sunshine was plump with a ripeness of life that showed in her bright blue eyes and pink cheeks. She had a mass of strawberry blond hair that never stayed where she put it when she tried to clasp or pull it back. It truly had a life of its own.
She was a young witch, barely seventy-five, with most of her life in front of her. She was ambitious and impatient at times. Her clothing trended toward brightly-colored retro wear that she bought in large quantities at thrift stores and sometimes wore with long, colorful capes. When it came to jewelry, more was her mantra. She loved real gemstones but wasn’t above wearing good fakes. She loved to sparkle when she walked into a room.
The figure at the door hadn’t moved toward the chair. Sunshine finally found the matching purple pump she’d been searching for and put it on her foot as she dropped gracefully into her purple chair.
“Do you speak?” she asked. “Not that it matters if your other abilities work for me. What can you do?”
“It is what you can do for me that has brought me here this day, witch.” The hag’s voice was hoarse as though she hadn’t used it in a long time. When she coughed, dust came from her open mouth.
“I see.” Sunshine tapped her sparkling, purple pen against her desk. “Maybe you should wait outside until the interview process is over. We’re only at partial strength with the death of our associate. That’s why we’re having this cattle call this morning, Miss—?”
“Aine. My name is Aine. I am come from Ireland this very day. I am in need of your assistance, or you should find me a formidable enemy. Do not think to press me or waste my time.”
Sunshine smiled, staring at the hag with eyes that saw everything but gave away nothing. She was powerful and could be ruthless if the need arose. She rarely bent herself to that sort of passion, but intuition told her the ancient woman in front of her might be enough to drive her to the edge.
Her lover, and the man who’d helped her start the Purple Door Detective Agency, had been brutally slaughtered three days before during a full moon. The moon phase was important to the matter because John Lancaster was a werewolf who was at the height of his power on that night. Nothing should have been able to rip him to pieces, which was how they’d found him. She wanted nothing less than extreme vengeance. But first she had to find the culprit, and that had proved annoyingly difficult.
“Look. I appreciate that you’ve come a long way—is that Aine? Does that rhyme with pain?” she finally said to the hag.
“No, witch. You might say it as Ann.”
“But I’m really busy today,” Sunshine continued. “Come back tomorrow when I have a new associate, and we’ll talk about your case. Right now, you’re in the way. There’s a very nice bed and breakfast up the street from here. You could stay there. Leave your name when you make an appointment with my assistant at the desk outside. Thanks for being so understanding.”
The hag didn’t budge. She stood her ground, gazing at the witch with eyes that had not seen a sunrise in more than two hundred years. Her mouth slowly opened, and the most horrendous screech imaginable issued from it. Her garments seemed possessed of a life all their own as they stood out around her. Her shriek continued, rattling the windows in the old brick building. Gnarled, clawed hands reached toward the witch as the plaster on the walls cracked and nails dropped from the wood around them.
Sunshine didn’t move or show surprise though her hair appeared as windblown as if she’d been driving her purple convertible with the top down.
“Well. That happened.” She moved her chair close to the desk again. The hag’s shriek had actually caused furniture to shift. “You could have told me you were a banshee. That was really impressive. Maybe we have something to talk about after all.”
“’Ware me, witch.” The hag appeared weakened now that it was over. “I am Aine, a past Queen of Ulster. I am doomed to follow the O’Neill family as their beane sidhe for my remaining time on this earth. I am stronger than you can imagine. I require your assistance and shall not be denied.”
“I can see that. And I’m so sorry for saying your name incorrectly. I know how that can be. How do you say Sunshine Merryweather the wrong way? And yet people manage it.”
She giggled, and Aine grimaced. Was she reduced to asking for help from this flirtatious trollop who had less sense than she ought?
Yet here she was, in a strange land far from home, possibly the last of her kind. She’d fallen into a deep slumber, no doubt magic of some sort, and had awakened alone in a rotting, abandoned castle. None of the branch of the O’Neill family she served was to be found in the land of her birth. Her unerring sense of knowing where to find someone of the bloodline had led her thousands of miles, across the great ocean, to this city—Norfolk. It was in the land of Virginia.
While she knew the remaining O’Neill was here on these black rock roads, she wasn’t able to locate him. It was possible that her long sleep had dulled her magic. But it was essential that she find him. There were secrets to whisper in his ear as she guided him to the underworld. She had also to keen before his death. If she did not do these things, her debt would not be paid and she would turn to dust when O’Neill was dead.
Unless he had a child to pass on her legacy. Now that would be heaven, or as near to it as she would ever be.
There was the faintest of taps at the door.
“Come in,” Sunshine called.
No one entered.
She sighed and got to her feet, walking around Aine, to open the door. She looked down. A small, white mouse was chattering at her. Its tiny paws were held tightly against its white chest.
“Yes, I know, Jane. I’ll speak to him. For goodness sake, pull yourself together. We have a whole room full of potential employees—not to mention possible customers.”
The mouse nodded nervously and slowly became the young woman who’d ushered Aine into the office.
“That’s much better. Thank you very much.” Sunshine glanced at Aine. “Would you like some tea or coffee? I can tell you’re parched, excuse the humor. Jane will get you anything you want. Jane Smith, Aine of Ulster. She’s a banshee—but be careful—she’s sensitive about it.”
Jane gulped as she was left with Aine in Sunshine’s large office. “W-would you like some tea?”
Go to Joyce and Jim's Lavene's Page