“Are you Adam,” a man with a French accent asked, Adam spun around mid-pace to face him. He was dressed in a suit with a vest and wore a thick scarf around his neck.
“Yes, but I thought our appointment was at three?”
“My apologies, I misplaced my scarf. I’d probably forget my head if it weren’t attached.” He leaned his head to one side and pulled the scarf down with a gray finger, revealing thick twine stitched across a long cut that went through his entire neck.
“I am Henri, I’ll be your agent today.”
“Henri this is my wife Barbara,” Adam held out his hand to a woman sitting patiently reading a decades-old People Magazine. She stood up, pale and young; the long white gown she wore stained dark red at the sleeves. She took Adam’s hand and shook Henri’s when offered.
“You two really are quite the couple. Are you both new to this side of the coil?”
“Yes, we were engaged. I got shot during a convenience store robbery.” Adam opened his jacket, revealing a black hole over his heart and a large dried blood stain down his yellow plaid shirt.
“And you, madam, were so distressed over losing your betrothed that you couldn’t bear to go on?”
Barbara frowned and held up her arm, showing the long cuts, “guilty as sin. I took a couple of Xanax when I got the news, next thing I knew I had drawn a bath and made a very permanent decision.”
“What can Henri do for the beautiful young couple today? Problems in paradise?”
“Yes, Barbara and I were renting a loft in a cheaper area off Harvard Square when we,” Adam trailed off.
“Died,” finished Barbara.
“Yes, died. Anyway, we stayed there after death and were happy haunting around it for a while. But lately, it’s been umm,”
“Gentrified. Hipsters everywhere and they keep thinking our haunting is just ironic. When a diner opened downstairs I was thrilled to try some new ideas for scaring the living, but these people are just the worst.”
“What did you try?”
“She loved messing up their orders, but these people were strange; they wouldn’t complain. They’d start raving about how great the unlikely combinations were. First was the avocado toast.”
“Turned out the guy was a Boston Globe Restaurant critic. He loved it, raved about it. The breaking point though was someone ordering a club sandwich and I swapped it out for this unholy combination of peanut butter, mayonnaise, SPAM and pickles on sourdough.”
“That’s the result we expected, but they loved it. They made it a permanent menu item, people started raving about it.”
“Barbara and I, we’re just not into this whole new scene and how these people act. I think we need something more traditional.”
“Well, you read the manual right? You know you’re dealing with a very limited market,” Henri asked Adam.
“Yes, only homes where a death occurred. The building was vacated by others in our situation, the resident spirit has either served it’s time and moved on or been exorcised.”
“Even with those limitations, I do have a few properties I can show you today. I hope you’re both ready for a little traveling,” Henri said excitedly stepping up to the large stone fireplace. A fire blazed high in the hearth, he held out an inviting hand and Barbara and Adam stepped through the inferno.
They came out of another fireplace, this one made of marble with ornate gold filigree. Henri stepped out behind them. “This,” his voice echoed across cathedral ceilings, “was the home of one of the world’s first billionaires. An oil and railroad magnate; a miserable wretch to his family, killed half of them one December, then sat naked in his gardens where he died of exposure waiting on the authorities.”
“Adam lifted a sheet from a table, the cobwebs clung and dust puffed up.
“Why is this one on the market? Shouldn’t there be a large family haunting?”
Henri consulted a folder of notes. “Ah, family squandered the wealth. They had the mansion exorcised and are awaiting auction of this and other properties.”
Barbara shook her head, “no, I think it’s too big for us, too flashy. What else is available?”
Once again the trio stepped into the inferno and came out the other side to a fireplace drawn on a grey wall. Barbara sniffed deeply, “Bleach and antiseptic? Where are we?”
“Bellevue Memorial Hospital, room 1313. The previous occupant was insane, driven further into madness by the hospital, he knocked out a nurse and chewed his throat out, killing him before being beaten to death by guards as he continued to gnaw on the nurse.”
“What happened to him,” Adam asked while trying to understand a scrawl of psychobabble on the walls. It had been written in blood decades previously and still showed through in the layers of ectoplasm residue.
Henri once again checked his folder, “let’s see. No exorcism didn’t serve his time nor move to another haunt. Oh. Yes. The spirit of the one he killed, she haunted him in turn. The file says they ‘ate’ each other.”
“Oh, I’ve heard about that happening,” Barbara sneered, “nasty business. This seems a bit cramped though, bit too institutional.”
Henri ushered them through the drawn fireplace inferno, they needed to duck to exit the blaze this time, stepping onto soft plush carpets. Barbara walked around the room looking at embroidery hanging on the wall; Adam tried out a floral wingback chair. Henri finally popped out of the fireplace.“Sorry for the delay, this old Victorian home was haunted by a librarian who hanged herself around forty years ago.”
“It’s perfect for us,” said Adam nodding to Barbara.
“Where is the librarian though?”
Henri checked his file again, “she … chose eternal damnation over haunting or reincarnation. I can never remember what code 8829 stands for. It’s one or the other.”
“How soon could we move in?”
“Let’s head back to my office and we’ll start the paperwork.” He ushered them back to the fire. “Mind your head; this shouldn’t be much longer than a decade.”