Thursday, October 8, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 6: Brotherly Love

The prompt this week included the above photo. We lost our job to someone younger and less costly to the company, after having moved into an upscale apartment and purchasing a new car. Great timing, right?  Good news though. We got a response to our ad in Employment Wanted and were invited by the elderly owner, who is in poor health, to spend the weekend to discuss the live-in position in person. We decide we’ve got nothing to lose and go for it. So, what happens? Well, check out my story and you’ll find out.

Brotherly Love

Well, don’t that beat all!  I’ve been with this company for 18 years, worked weekends and overtime without pay so projects would be done on time, and this is the thanks I get. My excuse for a boss fires me, and hires a kid right out of high school with no experience to replace me. He said it was because with all the new technology, I was no longer qualified; but, the child is?  I should sue, but even if I won, I’d lose. Sure, I’d get my job back, but he would be sure to make all my days there a living Hell. That jerk isn’t worth the trouble, especially since the opportunity of a lifetime may be on the horizon for me.

As soon as I was liberated from my position, I went online and placed an ad in the Employment Wanted section of every paper in the state. Would I be willing to relocate, even though I just signed a two-year lease on my new apartment?  You betcha, as long as my future employer was willing to get me out of that contract. I just bought a new car too, so I’d be able to go anywhere I was needed, as long as the money was good so I could keep making the payments. It’s only been three days, but I’ve already received a response to my ad. It’s pretty vague right now, but I’m willing to get the deets on it.

The call was from a gentleman in his 80s, a Mr. Branson, who lives a little over 200 miles from where I live. He’s not in the best of health, and even though he didn’t provide specific duties over the phone, he did tell me the job would not be as his caregiver. He also said the job was a live-in position, and included room and board as well as a salary. I was invited to spend the weekend so he could provide me with a full description of the job face to face. He told me I could bring a companion if it would make me feel safer, but whoever I brought with me would need to be excluded from the interview process. I can handle a sickly old man. Besides, I’m sure he’d figure that I’d tell family and friends where I was going, so I doubt he has plans for me to disappear.

I packed my bag for the weekend and headed for Fair Haven. I had never been to that area before, but some of the homes there had been featured on a television show. It was full of the wealthy retired and all the houses were mansions. It was close enough to the city for shopping and entertainment, yet far enough away for crime-free living. I left around noon on Friday, and was very anxious for new beginnings.

Pulling up in front of the house took my breath away. This one was more impressive than the ones that had been featured on the TV program. I parked in the driveway to the side of the front entrance to the house, grabbed my bag and rang the bell. A man in a three-piece suit opened the door, took my suitcase from me and motioned for me to enter. The front entry was the size of a football field, with staircases on both sides of the area leading to the upper floors, statues, paintings, and marbled floors. This wasn’t a mansion; it was more like a castle from a fairy tale. He said Mr. Branson was waiting for me in the study and pointed the way. I took a deep breath and went in to meet my new boss.

“Please come in and make yourself comfortable, Miss Harper. Charles, please bring Miss Harper whatever she would like to drink.”

Mr. Branson was in a wheelchair, quite emaciated and very pale. I prayed whatever he had wasn’t contagious.

“Before our dinner, let me tell you about the position. If I’m rushing you, I apologize, but I am not well as I’m sure you can see, and I tire easily. My attorneys did a background check on you and informed me you are of excellent character, honest and completely trustworthy. This was necessary because should you choose not to accept the position, the affairs of my family must remain confidential.”

I knew it. All the secrecy and saying so little on the phone. I couldn’t place him, but he must have been one of the top men in some syndicate. The affairs of his family must remain confidential?  I’ll bet they must. In other words, keep your mouth shut Suzanne Harper or you’ll be fitted for cement overshoes. It was scary, but at the same time, kind of oddly exciting. I could be a gangster’s moll.

“The salary is $5,000 a month,” he continued. “Room and board are included, and I will pay out any current lease or debits you may have. You are, of course, free to come and go as you please, so long as your duties have been fulfilled. What I am seeking is someone who will…”

“Make sure the bodies stay buried!  You can count on me, Mr. Branson. This is so cool. I never dreamed I’d work for the syndicate. What do I have to do?  Do I need to make payoffs or collect them?  When your enforcers come to the house, how will I recognize them or will Charles know?  Oh, yes, I’ll take the job. I’m sorry to interrupt you, but this is more than I never dreamed of. I have spent the last 18 years sitting behind a desk with my calculator and so bored I could…”

The irritated look on his face stopped me cold. Cement bodysuit, here I come.

“I believe there has been a misunderstanding, Miss,” he said quietly. “I am not part of any syndicate and have no enforcers. I do not wish to keep the bodies buried. I want them disinterred and brought here so that my brothers may eat.”

Um. What?

“Let me explain. I have twin brothers, older than I, who are still alive and well…perhaps saying they are well is not altogether accurate, but they are definitely alive in their own way. During their college days, they experimented with the supernatural and participated in the gruesome practice of dining on human flesh to enhance their strength. Suffice to say, at the last ceremony they attended, they were transformed into what is called ghouls. I keep them locked up in the basement. They get coffee and plain water each morning, and once a month, they each get a corpse on which to feed.”

Um. What?

“Every month, I search the newspapers and look online for recent burials and send Hector to retrieve the remains. You haven’t met him yet. The bodies are obtained from other counties so as not to draw attention, and there must always be two. You see, if they both are not adequately fed each month, they will attempt to feed on each other, and I cannot allow that to happen. They are my family and I must protect them. Unfortunately, I am very ill and don’t have much time. We have no other living relatives, so I must seek assistance from outside. What I need from you, Miss Harper, is to take over my role as protector of my brothers. Every morning, they must each have a cup of black coffee and a cup of plain water. That is an unusual requirement, but necessary for their survival. Then, once per month, they must each have a reasonably fresh corpse to eat.

“Charles and his wife, Charlene, take care of the house, grounds, and prepare the meals. They go home each evening and return each morning. Hector has a room in the basement and keeps the area in good order. Hector is not capable of complex reasoning or tasks, but will follow orders perfectly. I would instruct him to follow yours, and you will not find a more loyal or obedient servant. Hector will always be available for you since he is one of the undead. He is in a class by himself and how I obtained him is not relevant, but have no fear. He will never harm you. He will serve their…uh, meals, and the beverages, but you will need to get the water and coffee ready for him.

“This would be a lifelong position, Miss, and you would also be responsible for finding your replacement when you become too old or become unwell. My family’s law firm would assist you in that regard. You haven’t said a word, Miss. What are you thinking?”

I’m thinking, do I want to live in the same house with one of the undead and two ghouls that snack on the recently dug up dead, and get paid $5,000 a month for it?

“Mr. Branson, I can start immediately.”


  1. I love it. Great casual style to the dialogue, and an easy slide into the realities of the job. And ghouls that had to start the day with a coffee! Will she introduce them to cappuccino and iced coffee treats?

    1. Thanks, Mike. Unusual as this family may be to outsiders, it's all quite normal for them, and that's exactly the way I wanted it to come across. Naturally, there's a site about ghouls (there's a site about everything, as I'm sure you know) and it did mention they can have plain water and coffee. Who knew? As far as the cappuccino and iced coffee? I do believe there's a Starbucks a couple of blocks away from the house...

  2. Great story, Joyce. The grisly details are delivered in such a matter of fact way they almost seem normal! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks much, Rose. I'm glad you enjoyed it. One man's trash is another man's treasure, I suppose. Normal to some may seem quite horrific to others, although, I'm sure most don't generally go to this extreme!

  3. Great story, Joyce. The grisly details are delivered in such a matter of fact way they almost seem normal! Thanks for sharing.