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“Any progress?” said Lulu as she hastily led the doctor out of the kitchen.

“Well, your sis-in-law tried to kiss me in the boathouse, Aunt Gertrude needs therapy, and your car gave birth to a giant spider that might be building a nest somewhere in the neighborhood.”

Lulu’s nostrils flared. “Meg did what?”

“Did you hear that last bit about the spider?”

I saw the spider. I’m not worried about the spider.”

“You should be kinda worried about the spider. Your car needs to be quarantined, preferably at the bottom of a lake.”



Bishop & Holiday

Tales of Humorous Urban Fantasy


Infernal Affairs: A Divine Comedy of Errors

The Amityville Nuisance

Child Defective Services




Other Books by Mike MacDee


Shadow of the Fox

The Helios Legacy

Kingdom of Famine

Last of the Ghost Lions




The Amityville Nuisance



Mike MacDee



Table of Contents


NOBODY’S PERFECT

COMMUNITY SERVICE BLUES

SNAKING OUT OF THE PAST

A SLIGHT DETOUR

A DIVINE FAVOR

THE DEFINITION OF MADNESS

THE BOOTY CLAUSE

ULTIMATUM

ALL OUTTA POTLUCK

PREDATOR

DIVINE PATRON OF HOOKUPS

THE REPLACEMENTS

GONE FISHING

THE BRIAR MAN WITH THE PLAN

SPEE-IDER

LADYFRIEND




0

NOBODY’S PERFECT



Even if Henry Holiday hadn’t been wearing his coke bottle glasses, his eyes would have been the size of baseballs when the principal mentioned the Our Lady Catholic School Girls’ Choir in the morning announce-ments. He had butterflies in his stomach for the rest of the week, until the Friday assembly finally came. Then the butterflies evolved into pigeons.

His fellow sophomores tittered in the dark auditorium while waiting for the show to begin.

“I’m missin’ gym class for this?”

“Wake me when it’s over.”

You guys crazy? Sexually repressed babes in schoolgirl uniforms, and you’re gonna sleep? Even Henry the ‘Tard is excited!”

Nobody talked to Henry, or sat beside him, or paid much attention to him if they could help it, unless they needed target practice against his oversized head. Henry didn’t have anything to say, anyway: his heart was lodged in his throat as insecurities and what-ifs flooded his mind.

The lights dimmed, and the curtains slid aside to reveal three rows of female forms in white blouses and knee-length black skirts. Even before the muted applause died and the lights came up, Henry saw her, and his heart nearly burst out of his chest.

She was easy to spot, her skin almost as white as her blouse, her curly black hair shining unnaturally under the faintest light source. The face could have been sweet had she not been raised in the Our Lady Orphanage, run with the sort of discipline that would make even Hitler wince.

She stood in the bass section: as the first song got underway, her sultry voice crooned in lyrics of satin, and her body stood firm and erect like the rest of the motionless, doll-like forms on the stage. Even from eight rows back, Henry could see the boredom in her eyes as they wandered absolutely everywhere, trying to find something interesting to keep her attention so she wouldn’t fall asleep: the lights, the girls in front of her, random audience members, the doors, the exit signs.

When her eyes met Henry’s, they stopped and held. She choked slightly, and it took her a moment to get back in-sync with the other girls, one of which was already giving her a dirty look.

She was smiling now. She began to bob on her feet slightly as if she couldn’t wait to get out of there. Her hands went behind her back so no one would notice them fidgeting. She kept looking Henry’s way every stanza, and she smiled every time on reflex.

Henry finally realized he was smiling, too.

After the choir show ended, the girls were allowed to mingle outside in the snow while they waited for the bus’s return. Henry was small and quick, and easily slipped away from his class and out to the bus stop, which was now a sea of skirts, curls, and gossip.

She was standing against the wall away from everyone, surrounded by an invisible barrier her classmates avoided – a barrier Henry empathized with. She held her hands together, one foot against the wall, making a figure four with her legs as she waited for the choir teacher to line everyone up.

He recognized the latent anger in her purple eyes from long ago, in seventh grade, when he’d first met the girl. A similar event, where the Our Lady Middle School Choir came to visit his school in the fall. He remembered the ivory-skinned beauty arguing with a tall blonde diva, who had grabbed at her black curls as the argument escalated to a catfight, to the delight of everyone watching.

The girl’s hair had come loose in the diva’s hand, and the green viper lashed out from underneath as if she had disturbed a nest of them, sinking its fangs into her wrist. She had been taken to the emergency room. Rumor was, if they had arrived a minute later, they would have amputated.

Henry had found the ivory skinned girl hiding in a storage closet, curled into a ball, her wig a crumpled mess by the opposite wall where she had thrown it.

The nest of green vipers she called her hair had hissed at him in unison when he came in. The term “monster” had come to mind. A plethora of images flooded his memory: pictures from textbooks on Ancient Greece, and clips from Ray Harryhausen movies.

All he saw, though, was a sad little girl looking up at him with tears in her eyes, the irises gold and scarcely human. She had taken out the contact lenses, too.

He had felt the urge to turn and run, but it was the reddened eyes that held him: eyes of a scared puppy that had never known affection. He had closed the door and sat beside her, and they talked about how much their peers sucked, and their parents, and their schools. Before she left, he’d helped her straighten out her disguise and even made her laugh once or twice.

Seeing her smile again – older, taller, and beautiful – he suddenly felt terrified. That weird sort of terror that makes you blush like an idiot and speak in gibberish, usually induced by the opposite sex.

She ran when she saw him and tackled him in a hug; they hit the snowy pavement as a single unit and skidded like a clumsy sled thirty feet before eventually grinding to a stop. Before he could sputter a bashful greeting she pulled him up, dragged him inside, up the hall and into the empty band classroom, then brushed the snow from his ruffled clothes before assaulting him with another giggly hug. The skinny little girl had filled out startlingly in only a few short years, and she didn’t seem to mind sharing all of it with Henry’s skinny little stick bug body. His blood was boiling like plasma on the surface of the sun.

Finally his flattened lungs managed to choke out the phrase, “Hullo, Loo.”

Lulu broke the hug and wiped her eyes. Then she spun in place with her hands on her hips. “Can ya believe they still make us wear this ugly shit?”

“Um…You look great.”

Lulu rolled her eyes. Then, as she reached to her hair, she said, “The girls wanna say hi.”

As she pulled off the black wig, a single braid of green vipers rolled down her back, stopping between the shoulder blades: with all the snakes pulled back into a single unit, she appeared to have dyed green cornrows. The braid slithered up her shoulder and reached out at Henry, sniffing him like an excited puppy with its myriad tongues.

See?” Lulu cooed. “They love you!”

“Why’d you style it?”

“I just started doing it a week ago.”

No, why’d you style it? Nobody sees it, right?”

Lulu shrugged. “Other girls style their fuckin’ hair. Why can’t I?”

From outside came the choir teacher’s drill instructor commands. The loud hiss of bus brakes indicated that the outer doors were open, and the choir lining up to leave.

Lulu folded her arms. “Where you goin’ after this?”

Henry adjusted his glasses for the eighteenth time that afternoon. “Homeroom. Then I go to Geometry for an exam. After that I get to embarrass myself in PE ‘cos Coach keeps making us play basketball. Then–”

Lulu rolled her eyes. “Boring. Ditch.”

Henry gawked. “Wh-Whaddaya mean ‘ditch’?”

I mean ditch! As in ‘don’t go’. As in ‘hang out with me and do somethin’ fun’.”

Henry thumbed toward the doors. “Ain’t you gonna miss your bus?”

Lulu gave him a wry look. “Henry, I grew up in that shithole orphanage. I know how to find it on my own.”

“Oh.”

“I also know how to find the arcade two blocks up the street from here. The one with the dual Dance Dance Revolution machines. Y’know what I mean?”

“Sure, I guess.”

Lulu rolled up her braid and put her wig back in place, adjusting it this way and that, then blowing a stray curl out of her face. She grinned irresistibly at Henry before grabbing the stammering boy by the wrist and dragging him up the hall.

“B-But I can’t dance, Loo!” said Henry.

“I can’t use a curling iron,” said Lulu. “Nobody’s perfect.”




1

COMMUNITY SERVICE BLUES



The man who came into the coffee shop was dressed like a dude from the American West, right down to the flower-patterned vest and silver pocket watch. All he needed to complete the look was a flat-brimmed hat and a handlebar mustache. Instead he had a platinum blonde crew-cut and an odd pair of purple, circular-lens eyeglasses, with a retractable third lens the size of a penny. His clothes were black from collar to toe.

The sound of the news broadcast on the wall-mounted TV seemed to annoy him, because he was frowning like a literary scholar listening to a reading from a vapid paperback. Once the name “Amityville” was mentioned he avoided looking at the screen altogether, as if he'd heard the news a million times too many, which was probably the case. For six months the news stations of ghost-loving Arkham had never missed an update about the new haunting at a particular house in Babylon, New York, always showing the latest clips from the vlog of the house's current owner, Jeff Dahl. No one knew what his occupation was before he'd rekindled interest in the notorious house; with two book deals and a motion picture in the works, he wouldn't need one.

The dude's frown twisted further at each buzzword: “haunting”, “paranormal activity”, “ghosts”, “supernatural phenomenon”. Hearing the word “genuine” used with such emphasis seemed to cause him physical pain.

The big, twenty-year-old barista behind the counter frowned in turn, realizing the man had left a trail of muddy footprints across the hardwood floor.

“That place is spooky as hell,” said the barista's coworker, a teenage girl enamored with the television.

“So's the haunted house at the state fair,” muttered the dude. He sounded vaguely southern, possibly Kentuckian.

The two baristas rolled their eyes. The dude ordered a plain espresso, then wandered over to the tea tins arranged in the back of the store while he waited, refusing to acknowledge the news story.

On the TV was a shot of the house's foyer staircase late at night, badly lit by the feeble light of a camera phone. Rapidly descending the steps was the bluish spectre of a middle-aged man from another century, his face twisted in hellish rage as he charged at the camera. The newscasters made several inane references to Casper the Friendly Ghost. Then they went to the weather.

“Henry!” called the big barista as he placed the espresso on the counter.

The dude took his coffee, muttered a thank you, and strolled out the door, lost in his thoughts as he went. Had he been watching the broadcast, his destination might have been different.


*


Dr. Henry Holiday sat in his laboratory, fanning through his annotated collector's edition of Abdul Alhazred's Necronomicon, muttering the title of each chapter as he scoured the book for the incantation he needed. On the workbench beside him sat a metal dish resembling an ash tray, in which a pile of chalky, bluish powder sat waiting.

Edna Bishop entered the lab without knocking, as always looking like a tall, slender Egyptian supermodel. She paused as she entered to recoil from the smell: the room was thick with a strong and inexplicably fruity odor that tickled her nose. She eyed the doctor's suspiciously moist and muddied loafers.

“Didn't know you were back already,” said Edna. “How was your cousin's funeral?”

“Depressing,” he said with disinterest.

Edna moved to the tray on the workbench and poked her fingers in the blue powder, stirred it around, then smelled it on her hand. She winced as the same fruity smell assaulted her nostrils. “What are you doing?”

Dr. Holiday grabbed Edna's sweater sleeve and gently pulled her backward with a look of mild annoyance on his face. “Ah, don't…touch those salts, please.”

“Salts?”

He stared at her in bewilderment for a moment, as if she had a giant, alien bug crawling on her head. Her raven black hair, despite being expertly cut just below the jawline, still bounced with almost unnatural downy softness.

“Your hair is different,” said the doctor.

Edna cocked an eyebrow. “It's been different for two weeks.”

“I never noticed.”

“Shock and awe.” She gestured to the blue powder. “What are these, bath salts?”

“They're Cousin Friday's salts,” the doctor explained. “I need to call her up and ask a few important questions.”

Edna blinked, still wiping her hand on her slacks. “Whaddaya mean, 'Cousin Friday's salts?'“

Unfortunately,” said the Doctor, still irritably fanning through the tome to find the incantation he was looking for, “she's kinda hard to reach at the moment, being dead and all.”

Edna suddenly went very pale and her eyes became the size of golf balls. She held out her salt-soiled hand in horror, as if it had turned into a monster. “Whaddaya mean, 'Cousin Friday's salts?!'

Dr. Holiday looked at his partner as if the woman had just asked where poop came from. “I refined her former vessel into summoning salts so I can contact her spirit from across the astral plane. How else am I supposed to talk to her without swimming through endless Infernal Red Tape?”

Edna pointed at the blue dust. “That's your cousin Friday?”

“No, those are her summoning salts. Friday is sitting in relative comfort on the first circle of Inferno by now, where all benign fools go after death. What I'm doing is similar to recovering her old, discarded phone, hotwiring it, and using it to send her a text.”

You ground her corpse into a powder, and now you're gonna call up her ghost!

I only borrowed a finger! You know how hard it is to make an effective summoning salt from one measly finger? It's tedious and time-consuming enough, even without drawing the protection circle, which I don't want in this case because I actually want her to recognize me. She'll be panicky enough when I call her up.”

Edna threw up her hands and stormed out of the lab.

Dr. Holiday sighed and muttered, “Nobody appreciates necromancy anymore.”

When he found the incantation, Dr. Holiday punched it into his Triumph XP – the most expensive and sought-after digital fetish on the market, a hybrid of wand and spellbook. No sooner had the device uttered the incantation in its grainy digital voice, a trail of green smoke rose slowly from the blue salts and gradually formed the spectral shape of Cousin Friday, still wearing the chic party dress she wore in death. The dainty twenty-year-old redhead looked, to put it lightly, horrifically distressed.

“D-Doctor…?” whimpered Friday. “Is…is that you?! Oh thank god! You gotta get me outta here!”

“Friday, calm down. I need to ask you–”

Friday didn't hear him over her own shrill voice. “They got me locked up in a tiny cage in Hell, and it smells godawful, and there's millions of other caged people all around me, and they keep makin' with this pitiful wailin' and mopin'! I dunno how I got here, and I'm really scared and I just wanna come home!”

“Friday, you're dead. You can't come home. Now please–”

Friday did a dead-on impression of a sad-eyed basset hound. “Can't come home?! Ain't you, like, a wizard? Ain't that how you called me? What am I doin' in Hell, anyway?” She covered her mouth with a start. “Is it 'cos I never went to church?”

Dr. Holiday removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Friday–”

Or is it 'cos of Angie? It wasn't my fault Angie died! I mean, yeah, I coulda called 911 and maybe it woulda saved her, but I didn't, like, murder her! I wouldn't figure–!”

Friday, calm down. It is perfectly normal to end up in Hell first thing. Everyone goes to hell for at least a week or so. I'm just calling on your mother's behalf, to straighten out a few financial messes you left for her to clean up. For starters–”

Both ghost and necromancer froze, and stared blankly at one-another for a long, silent moment.

Dr. Holiday slowly pointed his finger at his spectral cousin. “Hang on a sec…you told me you found Angie dead.”

Friday squinted at him. “Hang on a sec, you mean everyone goes to Hell? What kinda bullshit system is that?”

Don't change the subject,” said the Doctor, leaning closer to the ghost. “You mean Angie was alive when you found her? Not dead?”

The ghost looked at the Doctor, then at the floor, then back at the Doctor. “……Yeah…”

And you could've called for help, and could've saved her life?”

The ghost looked at the floor. “…I guess so…”

But you didn't?

“She was a bitch!”

Dr. Holiday held his head in his hands and let out a long, tired sigh. “'Fraid that complicates things a bit, Friday.”

The shadows of the laboratory leapt off the walls and took the tall, robed shapes of three Infernal Harvesters, each breathing plumes of smoke from their blackened, skullish faces. Dr. Holiday made no motions or gestures to suggest he was the least bit surprised.

The first Harvester said in a hollow voice, “THIS SOUL IS DAMNED BY ORDER OF HIS EXCELLENCY MINOS. DO YOU KNOW THE PENALTY FOR VOLUNTARY NECROMANCY?”

The term “damned” was a serious one in Inferno: it referred to inmates who were sentenced to the city of Dis, comprised of circles Six through Nine. As in, people who were being punished for genuinely evil acts.

Dr. Holiday cleaned his glasses nonchalantly. “This is all just a big misunderstanding, fellas. If you'll just let me exp–”

The rest of his sentence came out in a wheeze as the first Harvester slugged him in the stomach. The other two stuffed his barely-conscious form into a large black sack.

“THAT'S WHAT THEY ALL SAY.”


*


“Dr. Holiday was not aware of the charges against Friday when he summoned her!” said Edna.

She stood angrily before the bull-headed Governor Minos's desk in the Hall of Judgment, on the First Circle of Inferno, smartly dressed in her best burgundy three-piece suit and skirt; half of the demons observing the trial had come just to ogle her like hungry dogs from behind the protective barrier, beyond which no one but those directly involved with the proceedings could pass without being messily disintegrated.

Her opponent was Thoth, a second-generation Egyptian god who also served as Hell's district attorney of sorts, and only bothered to appear at the most high profile cases. That’s how Edna knew they were in trouble. Thoth was one of the duplicitous gods who changed shape on the job to protect his public image: in Paradise he was an elegant ibis-headed humanoid, or a regal bearded man. In Hell he was a mean-ass baboon in a suit, all pretensions of elegance thrown out the window.

Baboon-Thoth ooked furiously, flailing Cousin Friday's rap sheet in a dirty paw. Sitting beside him, suspended in a hanging cage so small that she had to curl into a ball just to fit inside, was the miserable spirit of Cousin Friday. Dr. Holiday sat quietly in a cage of his own on Edna's side. Minos said nothing as he watched the attorneys argue, his face awash with boredom and irritation.

“That is no excuse for conducting necromancy without a signed temp release form!" howled Baboon-Thoth. "The least an offender can expect is a fine of five hundred infernal ducats!” More insufferable simian grunts as he tried to calm himself. “As it happens, Miss Friday is facing a lengthy sentence for one charge of fifth degree murder, among other public and private wrongs." He waved Friday's rap sheet in the air again, scattering its pages to the wind. "This makes the charges against Dr. Holiday rather severe, I'm afraid! Most severe indeed!"

Edna glared at Friday, her heterochromatic eyes glowing with the fury of an ordained Egyptian priestess and afterlife attorney with the power of two goddesses at her beck and call.

Friday shrank a few inches before the priestess’s wrathful gaze. “It ain’t like I killed her or nothin’! What the hell is ‘fifth degree murder’? There ain’t no such thing!”

Malicious negligence,” snarled Baboon-Thoth. “The act of willfully and maliciously ignoring a plea for help which results in the death, disfigurement, or misfortune of the victim. You were aware of Angie’s condition when you found her, and were in a position to save her life.” The baboon attorney lunged and perched on top of Friday’s cage, causing the girl to shriek in horror and disgust. “Instead you allowed your petty vendetta to seal her fate. Legally it’s a very gray area on earth, but not in the afterlife: here it’s almost as bad as if you’d killed her yourself.”

Friday wrung her hands together and tried to find something else to look at. “Well that sucks.”

“Miss Bishop,” grunted Baboon-Thoth, “there is an easy solution to this predicament. Dr. Holiday can avoid prosecution if your agency accepts the case I tried to hire it for in the first place.”

“What case?” said Edna. She suddenly grimaced. “Aw, you mean the Zeb Saunders trial?”

Baboon-Thoth offered Edna a folder containing the case file. “Should you win, we would be immensely grateful, and the charges against Dr. Holiday will be dropped immediately. Otherwise he will be in our custody for quite some time.”

Edna folded her arms, looking at the file in the ape’s outstretched hand. “The doctor can't work from a cell. You'll have to release him on bail first. We have a wide selection of harmless-but-valuable artifacts you can keep as collateral. And we will require that you sign for them, and that they be returned after the hearing in the condition you received them, or else you'll be facing a lawsuit.”

The ape turned to Minos and nodded vigorously like a bad actor in a bad ape suit. “That is a fair request.”

“As for our usual fees for this sort of commission–”

Baboon-Thoth bombarded Edna with ooking laughter. “If you wanted to be paid, you should have taken the job when I first offered it. It's community service now.”

Edna growled and snatched the folder from his mitts. “I'll write up the paperwork post-haste.”

“Are we finished here?” said Minos. “I'm missing a golf game for this.”

“We're finished,” said Edna.

Friday rattled the bars of her cage. “What about my predicament?!”

Edna kicked the cage as hard as she could, sending it swinging and spiraling like a drunken pendulum. “You get to wait your turn, you pampered brat!”




2

SNAKING OUT OF THE PAST



After reviewing the Zeb Saunders case file all morning, Bishop and Holiday bickered the entire trip back to the giant white plantation house they called their headquarters. The foyer resembled the lobby of an exquisite French hotel: chestnut paneled walls, marble-gray tile floors, a long reception counter that was occasionally manned by one of the doctor's teenage wards (but today was deserted), and various comfortable chairs for visitors to lounge in while waiting to see either Bishop or Holiday. An extravagant staircase led up to the second floor, where the living quarters and Dr. Holiday's near-endless library resided.

Of all the backwards wizards in all the dimensions in all the universe,” muttered Edna as she ascended the steps, “I had to go into business with you.”

“Please don't call me 'wizard,'“ groaned Dr. Holiday. “Such an archaic term.”

“You harness and control unnatural forces. That makes you a wizard.”

“They're perfectly natural forces.”

Edna had a snarky reply ready, but it was lost in her throat as she opened the door to her personal quarters, stepped inside, and screamed simultaneously with the woman laying in her queen-sized bed. The room quickly filled with a chorus of hisses that made Edna freeze instinctively, and flooded Dr. Holiday's veins with icewater. He pushed his way past Edna as he rushed into the room, nearly knocking her over.

The intruder clutched the silky linen sheets to her nude, marble-white body as her eyes bulged in confusion, first at Edna, then at the doctor, as if they had just barged into her hotel room.

The source of the hissing was the wild mane of green garden snakes on her head as they twitched and writhed, hissing angrily.

At the sight of her, the doctor's heart visibly leapt into his throat and choked him.

“There's a gorgon in my bed,” said Edna. “Why is there a gorgon in my bed?”

Your bed?” said the intruder, wrapping the sheets around her body as she stood up. She gave the doctor a sad look that made Edna uncomfortable and said, “Ten years ago it was our bed.”

Dr. Holiday adjusted his glasses. “Yeah, ten years ago. Then Ed moved in and took this room, and I moved across the hall.” He gestured to Edna, who was using the doctor as a shield, hiding from the gorgon. “This is Ed. Ed, this is Lulu.”


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