A Flash of Desperation
I love writing fiction. I love the world of Ghost Punchers. So I’ve smashed these two loves together like a pair of Siamese twins joined at the fist in order to present a bit of ghost-punching flash fiction. If you enjoy it, please share it! (You can find previous ghost-punching flash fiction here.)
The bartender cocked a skeptical eyebrow at Jackson. “You sure?”
Jackson tried to answer, but found there was too much static on the line between his mouth and his brain. Instead he nodded and tapped the bar in front of him.
The bartender turned his eyebrow to Lori. She curled her lip at him.
“You heard the man,” she snipped. “Another shot.”
A moment passed. Jackson was afraid the bartender was going to cut them off.
“Fine,” the bartender grunted. “One more. But that’s it. I’m not losing my license over this. And if your dad pukes, you’re mopping it up.”
“Whatever,” said Lori. “And he’s not my dad.”
Jackson gave her a bleary-eyed look. “Close enough,” he muttered.
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll send you a father’s day card if it’ll get you back to work.” She slid the photo in front of him again. “Anything yet?”
Jackson focused on the image and let the alcohol penetrate the rusty hinges of his steel-trap mind. He saw what he’d been seeing since the client had given them the picture yesterday: eighteen children, all fourth-graders, standing on and in front of a set of playground equipment. A school building loomed in the background. He couldn’t see the name, but knew it was Keller Elementary, where the client worked. The kids were smiling. But one of them didn’t belong.
Jackson shook his head. “Nothing. Sorry.”
A shot glass appeared in front of him.
“That’s the last one,” said the bartender.
Jackson mumbled his thanks and wrapped his fingers around the glass. He raised it in a mock toast to Lori.
“To desperate measures,” he said, and slammed the liquor down his throat.
Jackson closed his eyes while the drink did its work. He could feel exhaustion creeping around the edges of his mind, like a hungry wolf circling a campfire. He hadn’t slept in three days. The booze wasn’t doing him any favors on that front.
He opened his eyes and looked down. There were nineteen kids in the photo.
The newcomer appeared the same age as the others, but instead of a smile, he wore a deep, dark scowl. He stood behind a grinning blond girl in a princess t-shirt. His hands were on her shoulders. Heavy. Possessive.
Jackson tapped the girl.
“That’s him,” he said. “Or… her. He’s the… the threat. She’s possessed.”
Lori pulled out her phone. “I’ll let the client know. He’ll need to keep her separated from the others.”
“The boy,” said Jackson. “He’s old. Nineteen fifties? Forties? Looks mad.”
“The school was built in 1952,” said Lori. She hit the “send” button on her phone and started digging through through her bag. She pulled out a photocopy of an old yearbook page.
“One of these guys look familiar?”
Jackson nodded and pointed at a black-and-white portrait. The boy in the picture had a different hairstyle and shirt than his counterpart in the class photo, but the scowl was the same.
“Him.” The word was surprisingly hard to push past his now-numb lips.
“Figured it would be. Charlie Alcott. He died there over Christmas break, 1955. Froze to death, apparently.”
Lori shrugged. “I guess? That would explain why he stuck around, and why he hits right before they shut the place down for break… Which is tomorrow.”
Jackson had a witty reply, but his campfire was going out. He slumped forward and cradled his head in his arms on the bar. From somewhere far away, he heard Lori whisper.
“You did good, old man. You did good.”