Monsters and Mayhem Book 3
Almost a year ago, Richard and Stanley escaped a nest of supernatural creatures posing as nurses at their retirement home. Together with Richard’s granddaughter Burke, they’ve crisscrossed the country on a mission to protect humanity from the things that go bump in the night, but Stanley’s had some mishaps along the way that have left him weak and weary. Burke suggests that a cruise might be just what the doctor ordered, and the two men go along with her plan.
But evil never takes a vacation.
From the moment they board, Richard suspects something is amiss, but Stanley is too tired to care, and Burke doesn’t believe him. When passengers start dying mysteriously, he’s forced to take matters into his own hands, but can he escape the eyes of an over-attentive activities director, a waiter who takes his job far too seriously, and a wealthy widow who’s determined to win him over long enough to find the monster and destroy it before it kills again?
The kitchen door swung open and one of the waiters emerged carrying a silver tray. The young man’s height and breadth gave the impression he’d recently been run through a taffy puller. Richard leaned forward. Bingo! The kid came straight toward them and eased his burden down onto the rack in the center of the table. The greasy aroma of melted cheese, pepperoni, sweet peppers, and onions tickled Richard’s enormous nose. He inhaled deeply, savoring the joy of food that was neither the lunch meat sandwiches he had lived on for decades nor the bland, flavorless “health food” served to him at Everest Senior Living Facility. When the kid scooped a slice onto the plate, strings of cheese stretched across open space. Richard forced himself to stifle a whimper.
The first bite burned his mouth. Zesty tomato sauce tingled on his tongue. The crisp golden crust tasted of garlic butter on the bottom and bordered on doughy in the middle. He knew he’d suffer pain for hours after this, but it was a fair price to pay.
“Oh my gosh,” his granddaughter, Burke, mumbled around a mouthful of food. “You weren’t kidding. This really is the best pizza in the world.”
Richard moaned in reply. He had discovered Huntington, Indiana, by accident decades earlier when passing through. So far as he could tell, that’s all people did in Indiana—pass through. He supposed that made the state motto, “The crossroads of America,” technically true, if a tad grander than the reality. The town itself could have been any other in a two-hundred-mile radius if not for the Pizza Junction Cafe.
Stanley used the edge of his fork to cut the tip off his slice. He chewed, swallowed, sipped his water. “Mmm. Very nice.”
Very nice? Nice? Richard would have screamed the words, but he’d lost control and shoved half a slice in his mouth at once, and he had to focus on not choking to death. By the time he could speak again, Stanley had excused himself and shuffled off to the men’s room, leaning heavily on his cane.
For the duration of their acquaintance, Stanley had charged through life, spry as a kid and as annoying as a mosquito in your underpants. A thousand times over, Richard mumbled that the man ought to look and act his age. Now, the sight of the hunched old man shuffling away from them sent a chill down Richard’s spine.
Burke chewed her bottom lip and watched him go. Her nails tapped a frantic cadence on the wooden tabletop.
All Richard wanted at that moment was to enjoy his sacred pizza in peace, but Mick Jagger spoke the truth. We don’t always get what we want. In fact, in Richard’s experience, getting what you wanted was just about a miracle and then, half the time, you ended up sorry you ever asked for it. He drank to clear his throat. “We going to talk about this or what?”
Burke focused on her plate. “I don’t even know what to say. It was bad.”
Bad didn’t begin to cover it. The ghost hunt should have been a milk run. Easy as pie. Simple as sliding off a greasy log backward.
It didn’t go that way, though.
It was a complete and utter soup sandwich.
Burke had been the one to stumble across the story in the newspaper. Three teenagers died inside an abandoned home in the suburbs of Chicago. Local legend claimed that a member of the house’s building crew died during the building’s construction. It had been haunted ever since. A long string of owners experienced strange and frightening sights and sounds. A child died in the night. The coroner said crib death, but the neighbors talked about flickering lights and mysterious shadows darting across the windows. Over time, it became impossible to sell the
place. For the past several years, the house sat vacant, a haven for homeless people and youngsters up to no good.
The kids who died went there on a dare. Who was brave enough to spend the night in the haunted house?
They’d been brave.
Now they were dead.
Richard, Stanley, and Burke agreed to the same simple plan they’d used on a dozen other ghost hunts. Go in. Wait for the thing to show itself. Stanley would bind the wayward spirit in iron while Richard and Burke performed a banishment spell. A flash of light and a gust of hot, sulfur-scented wind, and the ghost would move on to wherever such things went.
Sure, they all knew that something could go sideways, but Richard never thought that the something would be Stanley. He believed in Stanley. He counted on him. Stanley had saved Richard’s life over and again. He taught Richard how to be a hunter. Even The Devil Herself held a healthy respect for Stanley. And, yeah, maybe he’d been a little off his game lately, but whoever would have guessed that Stan freakin’ Kapcheck would lose his guts over a ghost?
Thank you, E.A. Comiskey and G K Sihat
About the author
E.A. Comiskey is an award-winning fiction writer and nationally syndicated blogger. Her work is broadly described as “speculative fiction” and is often a wild mix of humor, mythology, fantasy, horror, and romance.
She lives in a much-loved, rickety old house in rural Michigan with her husband, children, and a veritable zoo of creatures. If there’s a festival in the area, you can bet she’s there, most likely drawing on the pavement with chalk. After all, when you live in Michigan, you go outside whenever you get the chance.