“Yes, it’s me!” Her light-blue eyes glared at me with so much venom that if looks could kill, she would have poisoned me immediately! She flipped her blonde hair in a very nonchalant manner and rested her hand on one of her curvy hips in an attempt to convey indifference, but she clearly harbored too much bitterness over our history to pull that off! “What are you doing here, Connor?”
“What am I doing here?” I echoed back to her. My mind was still in such a shock that I couldn’t even drum up something sarcastic to throw in her face! The possibility of running into her again never crossed my thoughts- I really believed that this chapter of my life had been closed, so my brain had to reprogram itself right then! It was like seeing a ghost! Uh, that is to say the sentiments that currently overtook my senses felt like how a normal person would feel upon seeing a specter- it was not what I went through each instance that Damon popped into the vicinity! “Last I heard, you were with that Lucas guy in Canada! Why are you here? Did he kick you out?”
With a full force of fury aimed in my direction, she revealed, “No! Canada did! And it’s all your fault!”
Her claim caught me slightly off-guard from its outrageous nature, but I quickly collected myself and queried, “How is that my fault? Oh, ‘cause I refused to take you back?”
“Yes!” she roared. “When I drove back home, Lucas confronted me on why I had been gone so long, and when he figured out that I was with other guys, he-.”
“Guys? As in multiple men?” I questioned her.
She grew somewhat flustered at what she let slip out, and then she felt compelled to admit, “Well, when you rejected me, I got too upset to go home, so I went to this really classy bar to drink, and… Is it a crime to get wined and dined by a lonely billionaire?” I rolled my eyes, and she let out an angry exhale before continuing with her saga, “Anyways, Lucas tried to tell me who I could and couldn’t be friends with, so I stormed out. My new friend, and yes, we were just friends, let me stay with him for a while, but since I refused to return to Lucas, he reported me to immigration! I never filled out a visitor’s visa, so they deported me!”
I started snickering at her misfortune, so she stared at me reproachfully. My first instinct was to apologize, “Sorry! I…” I contemplated this notion for a flash, and then I reversed courses, “No, that’s not true! After all you put me through, I deserve to laugh at how karma made you suffer the consequences of your actions!”
“What I put you through?” she bellowed. “You’re responsible for all of this! If you hadn’t neglected me at your old job-!”
“The job you begged me to go back to ‘cause you wouldn’t accept me in my teaching position” I shot back.
Aleck hesitantly jumped into the conversation, “So, this would be the ex-wife, Lilith?”
Lilith confirmed that for him, “Uh-huh, that’s right! I see he’s been talking about me! Anything good?”
“Uh…” Aleck trailed off. I imagined that if we had been in any other circumstance, he would have given her an honest response, but since we needed something important from the other occupant of this household, he tried not to hurt her feelings. Too late- his reluctance to speak on the subject gave her the reality of the situation, which prompted her to pout.
“Listen, we didn’t drive all day to hear you gripe about your romantic drama!” Fletcher curtly addressed her. “We’ve come to see… Ferny something-or-other…”
I picked up where he left off, “We need to speak to Ferneus G. Adramnelech. Does he still live here?”
Lilith fibbed, “No, he doesn’t!”
“Did someone say my name?” an elderly fellow’s voice rang out from another room.
“No! Now sign those papers I gave you!” Lilith barked at him. When she caught on to the astonished expressions we all bore, she sheepishly relayed to us, “He’s my boss. I work for his realty company. He… needs a lot of assistance…”
Her behavior struck me as suspicious, so I inquired, “You’re an admin now? Isn’t that kind of a pay cut for you?”
The old gentleman piped up again, “Do we have visitors? I want to see them!”
“They don’t wanna talk to you! Stay in the living room, lambkin!” Lilith ordered. Prior to anyone interrogating her on this outrageous display, she justified herself, “Okay, he’s here, but he isn’t really. He’s a hundred and seven years old and a smidgen senile, he needs a firm hand to keep him in line… You know, for his own safety…”
“Well, lucid or not, we have an urgent matter to discuss with him,” I informed her. “Please act like a civilized human being and-.”
Lilith refused, “Absolutely not! You have no business with our firm! He’s a helpless centenarian, what could you possibly need from him? How dare you try and take advantage of an innocent soul like that!”
At that moment, the most ancient-appearing person I had ever seen shuffled over to the foyer. His purple, velvet robe didn’t have a blemish on it, and the few gray hairs that remained on his head seemed perfectly groomed. If I hadn’t known Lilith so well, I would’ve commended her for the level of caretaking she relinquished to him! However, I recollected that she didn’t have an ounce of domestic skills in her and would flinch at the slightest hint of dirt, so either he had other individuals tending to him or he handled his well-being by himself. Simultaneous to me wondering if we would legally need a nurse or something with us for this discourse, Ferneus stated, “I don’t understand those forms you gave me! Who are you giving me power of attorney over?”
We all gawked at Lilith for her sheer audacity, and she hung her head low to hide her blushing cheeks. Ferneus took notice of the three men in his doorway, and he merrily greeted us, “Oh, we do have some callers! Welcome to our home! Won’t you please come in and have a seat?” Lilith looked horrified at the prospect, but she couldn’t stop what Ferneus had set in motion, so we brushed past her as we followed him inside.
His living room looked like something staged for a museum exhibit! The couch and chairs seemed like furniture pieces that my grandparents would have said was too antique for their tastes! The only thing that didn’t convince me that they weren’t squatting in a vacant property was how dust and cobweb free the walls and fixtures were! I might have been persuaded that we had stepped backwards in time if it wasn’t for the mountain of paperwork with recent dates on them as well as Lilith’s cellphone charging in one of the outlets! Ferneus invited us, “Sit down, my hep guests!” the amenities appeared rather delicate, so we all hesitated, especially Fletcher, but in order to proceed, we knew we had to comply. Once we had carefully situated ourselves, we got surprised by the strength of our perches! Ferneus sat on the sofa across from us and posed, “How can I be of service to you chaps? Would you be the local draymen?”
“Um, I’m not really sure what that is,” I responded honestly. During the lengthy car ride to this joint, I planned out a whole line of questions for this dude, but with Lilith in the perimeter, it all went out the window! Not that it would have mattered if her opinion of me got lowered, but I certainly didn’t want to endure any of her smugness from any sort of presentation of unsoundness on my part! Plus, if she had valuable insight on our recent endeavor, she could get put in danger by Damon and his allies, and even though I had an intense dislike of her nowadays, I couldn’t put her in peril! It wouldn’t have been right, but also, it would have been tortuous to rescue that tramp and have her owe a life debt to me… in addition to the financial ones that were significantly overdue! Despite my misgivings on the concept, I couldn’t allow my discomfort to affect our odds of success in this mission- countless lives were at stake! So, I gritted my teeth and accepted that she would have to be privy to our venture, at least some of it! “Actually, we were hoping to talk to you about one of your properties…”
“Oh, splendid! Are you fixing to buy? You fellas seem like quite the darb! I’ll sell you whatever you like!” He began pilfering through the various forms on the coffee table.
His avid willingness to unload one of his properties to us startled everyone! I don’t think any of us in the Ghost League ever anticipated this as a potentiality! Owning that abandoned abode could have been advantageous to us; once we destroyed the key to that Netherworld portal, we could have the structure destroyed and ensure that no other soul tried to open it ever again! I had no clue if anyone in our trio would have the money or credit score for that sort of purchase, but how much could that burnt down hovel have been worth? I briefed him, “We’re talking about a house on Dusk Lily Lane…”
Ferneus’s mood swiftly soured, and he stopped rifling through his documents upon hearing that. “Anything but that one! It’s too… important to give away!”
“Dusk Lily Lane?” Lilith puzzled. “Wait, that’s where you live!” She indicated to me, and then she addressed Ferneus, “Uh, lambkin, do you own that lot with the wrecked estate on it?”
“It’s not completely mutilated, turtledove!” Ferneus disagreed with her. “It still has crucial elements remaining inside…”
Fletcher, Aleck, and I all knew exactly what he was referring to, but Lilith got completely taken aback by his remark! She unwillingly sided with me, “I don’t blame you for wanting that eyesore gone! It’s totally bringing down your property value! I’ll try and convince him to-.”
Ferneus insisted, “Turtledove, I can’t sell that one! Not to them! Not ever! It’s… special…”
“It’s a dump!” she argued. “Don’t tell me you have sentimental ties to that disaster zone!”
“Can you tell us about who used to live there?” Fletcher asked him before Lilith could prolong their bickering.
Ferneus jogged his memory, “Hmm… First there was the sexton, then the milliners, then the steward…”
Aleck groaned, “Ugh, I wish Ellie were here to translate this!”
“Then the Widow Karro…” Ferneus rambled on entirely unaware that the surname he had just mentioned piqued our interest…
“The Widow Karro? Was she related to anyone named Damon?” I inquired. I recalled that he had a sister, but we never found any marriage certificates in his records… unless he was lying to everyone about the status of one of his mistresses…
Ferneus mulled that over for a minute. “Possibly. I knew she had a husband who died from diarrhea…”
Lilith challenged that assertion, “Diarrhea? He died from diarrhea?”
“It does happen,” I verified. “If you have too much of it, it can kill you! Dad’s had to operate on patients whose only symptoms were frequent diarrhea.” She obviously didn’t believe me and fold her arms as Ferneus resumed his account.
“She relied on her brother for companionship,” Ferneus chronicled for us. “Then, one day, he disappeared, and no one ever knew what happened to the lad. Some say she went a little crazy after that! Apparently, she was even boasting that she had reached out to the beyond to locate him…”
We all gazed at him in awe! My jaw hung wide as it sunk in that, during that very juncture, we had learned the origin of that portal! I had no inkling that it had any sort of connection beyond it serving as a source for his revenge against Martha! This realization was so bewildering that it took several seconds for us to absorb it! Once I did, I started to consider how to gingerly broach the topic of destroying that key, but then Lilith, who had grown quite miffed at how grossly we drank in his words, hollered, “Why are you engaging him with this crap? He’s clearly lost his marbles, you’re all making it worse!”
Ferneus disputed, “What are you yammering about? I’m as on-the-level as I’ve ever been!” I pulled the spoon out of my pocket, and his eyes became as large as dinner plates! “You found the key?”
“Oh my god! He’s totally bonkers!” Lilith exclaimed.
“No, it genuinely does open a door!” I refuted her. I then faced Ferneus and probed, “To guarantee no one else can open that door, how do we permanently erase it from this earth?”
Ferneus uttered, “If it could get eradicated from this earth, don’t you think I would have done it already?”
He raised a possibility that I hadn’t envisaged until right then! “So, what you’re saying is we would have to go down to-?”
Ferneus nodded as an ornate landline rang. Lilith picked up the receiver and politely regarded the individual on the other line, “FGA Realty!” After they gave her a reply, she reported to Ferneus, “It’s your accountant.”
I got up and quickly commented to Ferneus, “We’ll see ourselves out. Thank you very much for your time, sir!” As Aleck and Fletcher tailed me to the exit, Lilith watched us leave with a rising wariness of our conduct.
During our return to the truck, Fletcher pondered, “What should we do about the…?”
“Don’t worry! While we were still inside, I already messaged a social worker about Lilith’s hideous scheme!” Aleck assured us.
“Uh, I’m pretty sure he meant the new dilemma with the key,” I corrected him.
His face fell at that acknowledgement. “Oh, right! Gosh! What do we do now?”