Flushed With Success:
One Woman’s Story of Hell and The Bathroom
DISCLAIMER 1: This is an original work of fiction. All characters are the property of the author and cannot be used without permission.
DISCLAIMER 2: There is no intention to disparage or demean any living persons referred to in this tale.
This is the eighth instalment in the ghost stories with Priory and Jacey.
THANKS: To Heather, who lets me go out and play in the sandpit while she does grownup Beta stuff.
© October 2011
* * * * *
“Hey,” Priory said sleepily. Jacey was asleep on her stomach beside her and didn’t respond. Priory leaned over and kissed her between the shoulder blades. “Jace,” she whispered.
One eyeball drowsy with sleep appeared and stared at her. “Okay.” Jacey’s eyelid closed slowly.
“Okay? Hrrmmph.” Priory jostled the bed as she sat up.
“What?” The eyeball appeared again.
“Just okay? It’s three years, Jace, since this madness began. I think we both deserve a medal.”
“So living with me deserves a medal?”
“Sometimes.” Priory brought up her hands at the expected response and she wasn’t disappointed. Jacey lunged at her and pinned her to the mattress. “I’m talking about this house. We have survived three years in this nuthouse. You, on the other hand, have been pure pleasure.”
“Yeah… right.” Jacey let go and fell to the mattress, rolling onto her back and looking at the ceiling. “Pretty words aren’t going to save you, Miss CEO.”
“How about dinner at Garrett’s tomorrow night?”
“You mean that new restaurant on Huntington? The one that has a waiting list of two months?”
“Ten weeks to be exact. Of course, if you had the foresight to book in advance, then…” Priory didn’t get to finish. Jacey pounced on her and smothered her in kisses. She giggled as Jacey licked her ear. Pushing her back, Priory continued, “Wow! If I get kissed to death for a dinner, imagine what will happen with this.” As she spoke Priory’s hand grabbed the handle on the bedside table drawer and pulled it open. Her fingers fumbled around and found the small package inside.
Jacey rolled off her lover and sat up, leaning against the headboard. She looked at the small velvet-covered box sitting in the palm of her hand. A tear rolled down one cheek. “Abbey…” That was all she could say as emotion choked her throat.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” Priory looked up at her expectantly. She sensed Jacey’s reticence and reached out to stroke her thigh. “It won’t bite, I promise you.”
Carefully Jacey opened it. There, seated in the two grooves of the padding, were two rings, identical with intricate engravings on the surface. Wide-eyed, Jacey looked down at Priory.
“You’ll probably need these too.” Priory handed over an envelope.
Jacey put down the box and accepted the envelope. With shaking hands she opened it and saw two airline tickets to New York in two weeks’ time.
Priory laughed at Jacey’s gob-smacked expression. She was delighted to see that her gift had left her lover speechless. “Will you marry me?”
Jacey opened her mouth but nothing came out. Her jaw opened and closed and still nothing came out.
“Just nod your head, Jace.”
Jacey did as she was told, starting with a slow nod. The nod sped up until she was nodding frantically. Jacey put the gifts to one side and threw herself into Priory’s arms.
“I’ll make all the arrangements… Jace?” Jacey’s body was spasming against her. “Are you all right?” Jacey’s head nodded. Priory felt wetness against her throat. “Don’t cry.”
“But… but…” Jacey’s muffled voice replied.
“I just thought it was time.” Priory held on tight until Jacey’s tears stopped. She let her fingers lightly caress Jacey’s back as her lover slowly composed herself. “So, I did good?”
Jacey pulled back and looked deep into her eyes. “You did great.”
* * * * * * *
Priory stood under the shower grinning madly. Her surprise turned out to be wonderful and wholly unexpected. They had talked for a while after that, making all sorts of plans. While she was having a shower Jacey was downstairs fixing breakfast. Now she had it all and nothing was going to spoil her day…
…except maybe that. “What do you want, Dylan?”
Whoa! What bug crawled up your ass?
She was so tempted to say it, but she didn’t want the aggravation. “I’m in the shower. What do you want?”
Jacey’s smiling so wide she’s gonna bust her chops. I’m kinda surprised you had something to do with it.
Priory flicked the washer at Dylan, not even bothering to watch it fly through the ghost and hit the wall. “So what do you want me to say?”
What put it there?
“She didn’t tell you?”
I didn’t have the heart to interrupt her.
Priory turned off the water and shoved the shower curtain back. “You didn’t ask?”
I thought you’d be easier.
Should she tell her? One voice in Priory’s head said ‘no’, but there was something else that would just drive Dylan crazy. “I proposed. Jacey and I are going to New York to get married in a couple of weeks.”
Married? You can do that now?
“Not everywhere. New York has just made it legal.”
“We’ll know we’re married, even if the Governor doesn’t agree with us.” Priory grinned. Oh Lord, she was getting married.
I gotta tell Rhee–
“Whoa! Hang on!” Priory reached for a towel and started to dry herself. “While we’re in New York we’ll need a house sitter. I’m thinking of asking Aunt Chloe…”
Oh no! Not that damned fleabag!
“It’s quite likely that she’ll bring Bella with her. You’ll have to be on your best behavior.” Priory wrapped the towel around her body.
Can’t I be on my best behavior without the pussy?
“Cat, Dylan! Say damned CAT!”
It just drives you crazy, doesn’t it? Dylan grinned at her.
“Then maybe I should ask Chloe to put the cat in the attic.” Priory watched Dylan’s smile drop and her image disappear. “Finally.”
She stepped onto the bathmat and reached for another towel for her hair. It was wet. Sighing, she stepped across the tile floor and out into the hallway. She reached for the closet door and opened it.
Ad Satanas qui laetificat..
Priory slammed the door shut.
* * * * * *
Priory found Jacey at the kitchen table, sipping her coffee while reading the newspaper.
“Hell is in our upstairs closet,” she said, standing there in nothing but a towel.
Jacey looked up from the paper and studied Priory’s body appreciatively. “I’ve been meaning to clean it up.”
“No, hell is in our closet.”
“I understand. You want me to tidy the closet.”
“No, hell has taken up residence in our closet. Fire and brimstone, Satan in a rocking chair, an infernal choir chanting when I open the door.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Priory pursed her lips. “We’re talking about this house, Jace.”
“Okay.” Jacey stood and sighed. She followed a grumpy Priory up the stairs and stood beside her in front of the closet door. “An infernal choir.”
“Yep. The whole nine yards.” Priory opened the door and extended her hand with a flourish.
The choir sang out again, and the heat hit Jacey’s skin. She blinked. Then blinked again. “Errr, hello.” Indeed, there was someone in their hall closet, sitting in a rocking chair and smoking a pipe. His appearance reminded Jacey of the vaudeville villain with the waxed moustache and ramrod straight eyebrows. The pajamas with little devils on it were a bit of a surprise.
“Close the door!” Satan sat in a rocking chair, pipe in mouth and book in hand.
Priory did as she was told. “See?”
“I wonder why he’s here?”
“We have Satan in the closet and you’re asking questions?”
“I thought it was a pretty obvious question myself.” Jace stood her ground as Priory faced her with fists on her waist.
“He’s come to get us all.” Priory said with finality.
“So, he’s taking a break with his pipe and book before breaking the news to us?” It sounded utterly ridiculous, but of late ridiculous seemed to be the state of this particular residence.
“Maybe,” Priory said uncertainly.
“Oh, come on. If he was here for us I don’t think he would beat around the bush.” Jacey reached for the handle and Priory gasped.
“Don’t! You may make him angry.”
Jacey opened the door and had to wait for the choir to finish before talking. “Excuse me. Can we help you?”
He looked up from his reading, peering over his wire-rimmed spectacles. “No.”
“Then why are you here?”
“It’s All Hallows Eve. I wish to see how the mortals celebrate this event.”
“You’re a bit early. It’s not until tonight.”
“I’m catching up on a bit of reading.” He held up his book. It was the autobiography of Paris Hilton. “She’s so funny. I shall enjoy having her down there.”
“Why did you pick us?” Jacey persisted.
“Your address was on the bulletin board.”
“See? Didn’t I say we must have been on a bulletin board somewhere? Why else does every lost soul end up here, huh?” Priory asked.
“I’m sorry, but we are not a half-way house.”
Satan took off his spectacles. “Are you telling me ‘no’?” The last word came out loud and shook the house.
Dylan materialized What the…? Uh oh. She dematerialized even quicker.
Satan smiled. “So. It seems I’m not the first one here.”
“No, but they’re allowed to stay.”
“Jace, are you trying to get us killed here?”
“Priory, honey, there are rules for this house, remember?”
“Yeah, but not for him,” she whispered.
“Why are you really here?” Jacey asked.
He fiddled with the corner of the book. He finally looked up at the women standing in the doorway. “Hilda is spring cleaning. I had to get out.”
“My wife,” he said sheepishly.
“Hilda Beelzebub? Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue,” Priory commented.
“So, let me get this straight,” Jacey started, “Your wife is spring cleaning in Hell and you needed to get out. So, you saw an ad for our place on the bulletin board and here you are?”
“Firstly, here on earth you have to make a reservation, which you didn’t. Secondly, we charge for the stay.”
“Charge? Me? You are aware of what I do.”
“Sure thing, so the charge will be simple for you.”
“What is it?”
When he sighed, Jacey knew she had the deal. “There are two ghosts upstairs and a demon in the toilet. Your interest in their souls is ended.”
“What about us?” Priory whispered.
“Good point, Sherlock. The deal also includes our souls, and any of our relatives. Clear?”
“You’re asking a lot,” he said.
“Oh, and you can take down the ad on the bulletin board as well. We are not a hotel.”
“I don’t think I can agree to this.”
“Then you can go back to Hilda. I’m sure she can find something for you to do.”
Satan shivered. Obviously he didn’t want to go back to Hell anytime soon.
“How long are you planning to stay?” Priory asked.
“Your wife can clean Hell in two days? Maybe we should get her to clean up our place.”
Jacey turned to face Priory. “I’m trying my best! You keep giving me things to do at work. I don’t have a lot of time for house cleaning.”
“I know th–”
“And all you do is sleep in late and ask ‘where’s my breakfast?’.”
“I know, hon–”
“If it’s not good enough for you then maybe–”
Priory cut Jacey’s tirade short with a kiss on the lips. The kiss continued. Jacey’s hands wound their way into Priory’s hair, holding on tightly as the kiss deepened.
Their lips slid against one another and Priory’s mouth opened, allowing Jacey’s tongue inside.
The erotic stimulation urged Priory to take this somewhere else. She started to move toward the bedroom door and fumbled around for the handle.
“Fine. Your terms are acceptable.” Satan’s words went unheeded as the door closed loudly. He shrugged his shoulders, flicked his finger at the closet door and went back to his reading.
* * * * * * *
Rhea looked up from watching her soaps. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.
Rhea floated over to a shivering Dylan. What’s the matter, sugar? Nothing scares you.
He? He who?
Who’s the person you most don’t want to see?
My father. If he knew what we’d been up to–
Well, he’s worse than him. It’s… well, you know… HIM.
Spit it out, woman!
Beelzebub. Satan. The man downstairs. Friend of the Grim Reaper. He lives where Rocco will be waiting for us.
I get the point.
How can you stay so calm?
Lainie, if he came for us we’d already be there.
I think he saw me. That’s gonna raise all sorts of questions.
I’m sure Jacey can take care of it.
But, Rhee, it’s our lives… errr deaths… souls that are at stake here. You gonna trust her?
We’re still here, aren’t we? Stop worrying about it.
Dylan watched Rhea go back to her soaps. One thing she learned when she was alive was that you couldn’t rely on anybody but yourself.
* * * * * * *
Priory ripped her lips away from Jacey’s. “So, that’s it then.”
“What?” Jacey panted. Her teeth nipped at Priory’s throat. “What are you talking about?” The towel didn’t stand a chance against a woman on the verge of a meltdown.
“You’re letting him stay.”
“Abbey, do we have to discuss this now?” Jacey tweaked Priory’s nipple, drawing a harsh intake of breath.
“I knew there was a reason I loved it when you’re all riled up.”
“Shut up and make love to me.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Priory put aside her concerns for a later time when she didn’t have a demanding vixen in her arms. She let herself fall to the bed and Jacey bounced on top of her. Jacey’s lips latched onto her breast and sucked hard. “Oh God, Jace. Are you trying to kill me here? I won’t have to wait for–” Jacey stopped what she was doing and glared at Priory. Obviously the woman felt words were not necessary. “Sorry.” But she seemed to recall that Jacey was the one in need. She flipped the woman over, changing their positions on the bed.
“Now you shut up,” Priory whispered. Her lips started at Jacey’s throat and slid down to the collar of her shirt. Priory withdrew and her fingers reached for the buttons. She looked into Jacey’s eyes as one button popped after another, watching the slowly darkening color of her lover’s eyes. She loved Jacey like this… smoldering for her touch… needing her caress… begging for completion. It was a heady mixture and one that she never tired of.
Priory swept aside the blouse and found Jacey’s bra missing. She raised an eyebrow and Jacey shrugged, before gracing her with a big smile. It seemed Jacey had ideas for after breakfast. She swooped in on a neglected nipple and suckled hungrily. Jacey’s fingers buried themselves in her hair and grabbed on tightly. Apparently she didn’t want her going anywhere else for a while.
Priory continued to suck voraciously while her hand slid down Jacey’s torso to her pants. She deftly undid the button and pulled the zipper down, all while her lips were latched to Jacey’s breast. Finally she had to let go to get at what she really wanted. Priory made short work of the clothing, ripping the pants harshly down Jacey’s legs and flinging them across the room. “Now…” She grinned evilly. If she ever doubted that Jacey was ready for her, this wasn’t it. Her curls were damp with excitement.
Priory’s hand slid up Jacey’s leg slowly, feeling the shape and texture of it. Her gaze traveled further up until she reached Jacey’s eyes. In their depths was the fire that burned for her. “I love you, Jace,” Priory whispered.
Jacey smiled sweetly. Overcome by the moment a single tear slid down her cheek. “And I love you too, Abs.” Her smile turned to a chuckle when she felt Priory’s tongue. “Oh, yeah. Keep that up, you silver tongued fool.”
Priory lapped gently at first, allowing her tongue to reacquaint itself with Jacey’s taste and texture. This was when Priory felt their connection the most, at the most intimate of moments. She felt Jacey shift and increased the pressure, her tongue flattening against the tiny bud that was steadily growing. Priory’s fingers moved restlessly along Jacey’s folds, eager to feel the wet smooth skin under the pads. Oh yes, Jacey was already there. All it would take would be that final push off the precipice for her lover to fly.
Priory removed her tongue and allowed one thumb to rotate in its place. Her gaze looked up from between Jacey’s thighs to capture her face. Her lover’s eyes were closed and she wore a smile. Her expression changed as her hips moved, experiencing frustration and pleasure in the blink of an eye.
Priory slid a finger into Jacey’s hidden warmth and she heard a sigh. She added a second finger and searched for that spot she knew would satiate the want in her partner. Slowly and carefully she rotated her fingers, adding her thumb outside to build the excitement.
Jacey’s thighs quivered and she tensed for a moment. Her hips moved to an ancient rhythm and Priory allowed her to find her completion. She continued to rub gently and her thumb pressed down. To add to the pleasure Priory nipped at Jacey’s inner thighs. All she heard was a tiny grunt and then a sigh. Jacey’s body relaxed and lay still.
“Hey,” she whispered.
“Hey. That was… wow.”
“Wow, huh? That good?” Priory knew all the words now. Ummm was ‘just what I needed’, errr was ‘mind-blowing’, and wow was ‘there are no words’. She’d take the compliment. She reached for the blanket and pulled it over their tired bodies.
“What about him?” Sleep was already claiming Jacey.
“He’s not going anywhere,” Priory answered. “Go to sleep.”
* * * * * *
An hour later Priory stumbled out of bed and headed to the bathroom. As she sat down there was a growl from the far corner. She ignored the sound and finished her business before returning to bed.
“Hey, Jace.” She nudged her sleeping partner.
“Yeah?” Jace mumbled from underneath her pillow.
“There’s a dog in the bathroom.”
Jacey pulled her head out. “We don’t have a dog,” she said wearily.
“Especially a three-headed one.” Priory kissed Jacey on the head and rolled over to sleep.
“Three-headed… right.” Jacey closed her eyes and dozed off.
* * * * * *
Later that morning Jacey woke up. She must have had a bad dream because she seemed to remember Priory saying something about a three-headed dog in their bathroom. She chuckled as she sat up and placed her feet in her slippers. “A dog. Funny.”
She opened the bathroom door and blinked. The growl grew to a deafening bark. Jacey closed the door in a hurry. She moved a few feet to the closet and opened the door. The choir started to sing. “Shut up!” The choir stopped in mid-chant. “Something of yours is in the bathroom.”
Satan looked up from his book, this time concerning the Dalai Lama. He closed it and looked at the cover. “It’s a shame he’s already spoken for.” He turned his attention to an irritated Jacey standing in front of him. “What’s your problem?”
“I… said… there is something that belongs to you in the bathroom.”
“I don’t think so. Are you sure?”
“Unless we suddenly have dogs with three heads then, yes, I’m pretty sure.”
Satan stood up and put his book and spectacles on the rocker. He finally stepped out into Priory’s house.
“Fire. Fire!” Jacey pointed frantically at the floor. “Stop it. You’ll set the house on fire.”
Satan closed his eyes and the smell of burning wood subsided. “Better?”
“What’s going on?” The bedroom door flew open and a disheveled Priory stood in the doorway. “Did someone yell fire?”
“He was setting the floorboards alight.”
“What’s he doing out here?”
“I wanted to show him something in the bathroom.” Jacey reached for the doorknob and opened the door. “We don’t allow pets.”
The growl turned to a whimper and the dog shuffled up to his master. “Did she kick you out too?” The dog licked Satan’s hand with two tongues, the third remaining firmly in the dog’s mouth. “Is something wrong?” He looked closely into their eyes. He turned to face Jacey. “Did you do something?” he asked angrily, his shadow rising menacingly behind him.
“I didn’t do a thing.”
“Relp!” The middle head called. “Relp me!”
“You sound like Scooby Doo,” Priory mumbled, right before she yawned.
“Bova? Is that you, honey?”
“Honey?” Satan calmed down and smiled slyly at Priory. “This is more to my liking.”
“It’s… complicated,” Priory mumbled.
“You can say that again.” Jacey was less than impressed with Priory’s obsession with the toilet demon. “It looks like your dog drank from the toilet.”
“And I want Bova back in the toilet,” Priory added.
“It’s not that simple.”
“Listen, buddy,” Priory stepped into Satan’s personal space.
“Priory!” Jacey barked, shaking her head.
Priory stepped back and lowered her voice. “You are not taking Bova back with you.”
“I have already given my word, but I don’t know how she will leave.”
Priory was tempted to say ‘over my dead body’ but that would be tempting fate a little too much. She approached Cerberus and knelt before it. “Bova, honey, I won’t give up.”
The two remaining heads growled and snapped dangerously at her. “Rey!” The middle head swung from side to side, connecting with one head on the right and the other on the left.
“That’s my girl.” Priory reached out and scratched under the giant dog’s middle head.
“Are you nuts??!?!?” Jacey rushed in and pulled her back. “Only one head likes you. Larry and Curly might gang up on Moe.”
“Is there anything you can do?” Priory pleaded.
“I can only thing I can think of is that she’ll have to come out the way she went in.”
“Ewww, the dog’s going to throw up?” Priory shuffled backwards.
“Not that end, Abs.”
“You mean ???! Oh.” The middle head of the dog dropped. Priory looked at Satan. “Can you get him to pee into the bowl?”
Satan pursed his lips. “He’s not house trained. That’s the whole point. It makes him unpredictable.”
“You mean I have to mop her off the floor?”
“A little exercise may quicken the process,” he offered.
“I’m not letting him out of the house. People will talk.”
“Well, it is Halloween.”
“True, but without the obvious seams the dog is going to draw some attention.”
“Seams?” Satan looked from one woman to another.
“It has to look like a costume, otherwise people will freak out.”
“I am not putting what you call seams on Cerberus. He is the guardian of the portal.”
“I know, and that’s why he’s in the bathroom.” Priory glanced at the dog. “What does he eat? We don’t have dog food.”
“If you have a leg or an arm lying around…”
“As if. And don’t get any ideas about borrowing one of ours.”
“What is this dog food?”
“It’s… it’s…” Jacey thought about what was in the tinned food and shivered. “It’s crap.”
“Cerberus does not eat crap.”
“Then we have a problem.”
“Riory!” the middle head whined.
“What, honey? I’m sorry but I can’t do anything about it right now.”
“I ruve yoouuuuuu!!” The whine turned into a plaintive howl.
“Me too.” Priory turned to Jacey. “We’ve got to help her.”
“We? She’s your girlfriend!” Jacey snapped.
“But I’m marrying you.”
“Rarry? Ru rarrying her?” The head’s eyes widened.
“Yeah, I was going to tell you…”
“Ru ruve me! Ru rarry her!”
“Oh oh.” Satan chuckled. “This is better than my latest book.”
“But… but…” Priory looked from one girl to the other. “I’m in hell.”
“Heh, you sure are. Are you sure you want to keep her?” Satan touched his moustache.
“Hell, yeah! Errr, yes I do.”
“Yeah, Abs, which one!” Jacey stood there with her fists on her hips.
“Both! I want both!” Priory glanced from the head to Jacey.
“Ruu can’t rave roth.”
“Yeah, what she said.”
“Oh, God!” Priory left the bathroom.
“Do you think she’s suffered long enough?” Jacey winked at Bova.
Jacey came up to Bova and scratched her behind her ear. “We’ll let her worry a little longer, okay?”
“Rokay. He he he he.”
“Priory’s right. You do sound like Scooby Doo.”
“You do realize that now you’ve maneuvered her into a corner she may make a decision that neither of you will like.”
Satan had a point. Jacey wondered why he gave her the opportunity to escape from certain heartache. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Jacey opened the door. “Abbey!” she yelled.
Satan sidled up next to Jacey. “I like you. You’d be a welcome addition to my staff.”
“Oh, no. Surely, you have someone else in mind to fill the position.”
“I had thought about Donald Trump, but decided against it.”
“Why not? He’d be perfect.”
“Oh.” What more could she say? Running Hell would be hard enough without worrying about getting stabbed in the back. “You’re not at all what I expected.”
“Oh, I can be…” Jacey felt the menace emanating from him, despite the whimsy of his pajamas. “It’s nice once in a while to put the job on hold and relax.”
“How do you relax?”
“When Hilda’s cleaning, I don’t.”
“Besides observing Halloween and catching up on a little light reading, what else did you have in mind?” Jacey felt like she was talking to a favorite uncle, if she had one.
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
‘Yeah? You called?” Priory came out of the bedroom fully dressed.
“Look, Bova and I were pulling your leg. Let’s not upset the status quo.”
“Really?” Priory looked relieved.
“Your chance has gone,” Satan murmured.
“Yeah, but you also had a point,” Jacey replied. “I don’t want an answer I might not like.”
“What are you talking about?” Priory looked from Jacey to Cerberus.
“Nothing,” they answered together.
Jacey addressed their guest. “We have a lot of preparations to do before tonight. Are you joining us?”
“But you wanted the Halloween experience. This is all part of that.”
“Anything that involves work, count me out.” Satan left the bathroom and returned to the closet.
“Your loss…,” Jacey muttered.
“If I could get out of it I’d be joining him,” Priory commented.
“You’d rather be in hell than help me?”
Priory’s mouth opened and closed. To her there was no good answer to that one.
* * * * * * *
“Honey, can you hand me the tape?” Priory was up a ladder trying to attach cobwebs to the banisters of the staircase.
“There you go.” Jacey stood at the bottom of the ladder and handed over the roll of tape.
“Is there much more to go?”
“A little. We’d be finished by now if we had a little help.”
“For the last time, let it go. He’s not going to help, and that’s final.”
“He wants his cake and eat it too.”
“He’s Satan, Jace. He can set any rules he wants.”
Thud. “What was that?”
“Maybe he dropped his latest book.”
A deep growl dropped to an unearthly gargle. Jacey was already on her way up the stairs when Priory reached the bottom of the ladder. Jacey threw open the bathroom door and gasped. “What the hell is going on in here?”
Cerberus looked up at the human in the doorway. He shifted his body and crouched, as if he was ready to leap forward. Jacey closed the door behind her before the hound could make his escape, slamming it with a thud.
“Oh,crap…” Jacey opened the door carefully and saw Priory standing there holding her nose. “Sorry.” She turned her attention back to the massive dog in the corner. There was an overturned bucket near the toilet and water on the floor. “Uh-oh, double crap.” Dylan was standing in the bath, her feet sticking out the bottom of the tub. “Abs, get in here!”
The door opened slowly. Priory entered rubbing her nose. “Why did you do… What did you do now?” she growled at Dylan.
“In this life… err death… a gal’s got to look after herself.”
“By what? Committing suicide? What the devil are you doing?”
“I’m rescuing your girlfriend.”
Priory looked at Dylan, the bucket, the floor and the toilet, in that order. “Oh, Christ! You killed her! Of all the stupid–”
“Priory!” Jacey barked. “Calm down!”
The door slowly opened by itself then Satah appeared in the doorway. “Please!” the word rumbled through the house, shaking the medicine cabinet open and spilling the contents into the sink. “I’m supposed to be resting. Stop this bickering!” The look on Satan’s face was not happy. Any further disagreement would certainly invalidate the arrangement.
“It seems that Bova is out, but she’s all over the floor,” Priory explained.
Satan snapped his fingers and the liquid returned to the bowl. “Happy now?”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
“And you” His finger pointed at the quaking ghost. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here…. Sir.” He clicked his tongue in annoyance. “I was trying to get your pet here to pee into the bucket so I could return it to the toilet.”
“And why would you do that?”
“I… I…” Dylan stopped.
“I figured if I did you a favor that you would do a favor for me.”
“Favor. What kind of favor?”
“Me and Rhea, we don’t want to go. We like it here. I figured that maybe you’d let us stay.”
Satan gazed at her thoughtfully, stretching out the look for a few seconds. “If you had asked your humans, you would already know that the deal had been made. It seems they think a lot of you.”
“As annoying as you are,” Priory added.
“Yeah, I like you too, Convent.”
“Now, can I go back to my reading? I was just about to find out the secret to Bill Gates’ success.” Satan turned to leave. “Oh, and say ‘hello’ to Bova for me.”
“Oh, Jesus!” Priory fell to her knees and hugged the bowl. “Bova? Honey? Are you there?”
Blurble… blub blub blub.
“Everything’s all right now. Don’t you worry.” Priory leaned over the toilet seat. “Jace, could you get some water for the dog?”
“It’s a hound!” It seemed Satan had good hearing.
“The hound,” she enunciated crisply. “I’ve got to make sure that Bova is all in one piece.”
“Yeah, let’s leave the two love birds alone. If she kisses the seat I think I’m gonna barf.” Dylan disappeared in the twinkle of an eye.
Jacey didn’t say anything. She filled the bucket with water and left, totally disgusted at the unadulterated mushy bubble talk that was going on.
* * * * * * *
“You can’t go outside looking like that!” Jacey looked at his pajamas.
“What do you suggest?” He stood there still in his pajamas.
“In the spirit of Halloween, you should dress like this.” Jacey knew it was a long shot that he would agree, but she showed him a picture of a Halloween Satan.
“You have got to be kidding!”
That was the expected answer, but she pushed on anyway. “That’s what they all wear.”
“That is ridiculous!” Satan’s finger pointed at the paper and it burst into flames. “I am not going out in that!”
“What don’t you like? Is it the fake horns, the pointy tail or the pitchfork?”
“All of the above.” Satan snapped his fingers and he changed into an elegant morning suit.
Jacey reached for the door knob. “Fine. I hope you don’t scare the kids.”
“I thought that was the whole point.”
“You scare them in the spirit of Halloween, not scare them to the point that they have nightmares for the rest of their lives.”
“And fear is a healthy deterrent. They have to learn to fear me.”
“Church teaches them that. Believe me, you scare the shit out of them.”
“Good.” He stepped out of the house into the outside world. There were sounds of screaming kids and parents calling after lost children. Half a dozen kids passed him to stand outside their door.
“Trick or treat!” they yelled in unison.
Priory appeared at the door. “Yeah, whaddya want!” she growled. The frown disappeared quickly and was replaced with a smile. “You kids been good?”
“Yeeeesssssss,” they all whined.
“Let’s see your haul.” The kid closest to her opened her goodie bag to let her look inside. “Hmmmm, seems a little small. How about we add to that, huh?”
“Yaaayyyy!!” The screaming began.
Satan put his hands over his ears. “Sounds just like home.”
“They all say ‘yay’?”
“No, they’re all screaming ‘save me’ or ‘help’ or ‘I can’t take it any more’, but the volume is the same.”
“Come on. We have places to go.” Jacey forced herself not to grab his hand.
The sidewalk was packed with kids this year, all jostling to get to the houses with the best candy.
“I’m surprised the children approach your door, considering what lives inside.”
“We’ve worked very hard at dispelling the rumors,” Jacey said.
“But they’re not rumors.”
“They don’t know that. We have to live here and we’d like the neighbors not to be actively trying to get us thrown out of the community.” Jacey glanced sideways. “If they had you wouldn’t have a closet to holiday in.”
“Yes I would, but the next owners may not have been so…”
“Accepting?” Jacey suggested. “Flame retarded?”
“Especially with the dog in the bathroom.”
“He’s not a dog, he’s a hound.”
“He’s a freak,” Jacey mumbled.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing. Ah, there now see?” Jacey pointed at his namesake coming toward him. “That’s a Satan costume.”
“It doesn’t improve being modeled.”
“Hey, mister!” A boy of about eight stood in front of Satan. “Trick or treat!” he yelled.
“I’m sorry Timmy but I don’t have any candy.” The kid kicked him in the shin and ran off. “Hey!” His finger rose and pointed at the boy.
“Remember where we are,” Jacey warned. “He didn’t mean it.”
“Oh, yes he did. Never mind, he’s one of mine.”
“He did? How could you know… wait a minute, ‘one of yours’? How do you know that?”
“I can tell. Timmy Martin. In twenty-three years, sixty-seven days and…,” Satan glanced at Jacey’s watch, “…one hundred and twenty-seven minutes his soul will be mine.”
“What about me?” Jacey suddenly felt nervous. What was her fate?
“Do you really want to know?” He looked her in the eye.
“Anyway you’re not one of mine, even without the promise.” His attention was drawn elsewhere. “What are they for?”
“They’re jack-o-lanterns, left outside the home to scare off evil spirits. The treat part of ‘trick or treat’ is an offering to the wayward spirits who roam the earth on All Hallow’s Eve.”
“But it does no good. I feel no urge to leave this place.”
“It’s more a fun thing now than it was back a hundred years ago. Kids love it because they get candy and they get to dress up.”
“And what do adults get out of this exercise?”
“They get candy and a chance to dress up.” Jacey laughed. “They get the chance to see kids happy. Some adults even use the night to have a party.”
“So Halloween seems to have no logical reason for existing other than a time to enjoy oneself.”
“These days, yeah. It was quite serious back in the old days.” Jacey watched Satan out of the corner of her eye. He seemed genuinely curious about the celebration. “They truly believed that evil spirits roamed the earth on that special night.”
“And what makes you think they don’t?”
Jacey paused. “I suppose it’s true, but if they knew,” she nodded her head toward the crowded cul-de-sac, “we’d go back to the Dark Ages.”
“The Dark Ages… ahhh, now that was a time. Terror and mayhem… delicious.”
“Don’t dismiss us mortals yet. Murder, assault, rape and robbery; they’re still out there, and in increasing numbers. I’m sure there are more than enough souls to satisfy your hunger.”
“True.” Satan’s voice became more melodious, the hint of darkness wiped from his intonation.
“Do you want to tell me why you’re really here?”
“I am observing the ritual of Halloween.”
“And?” Jacey’s eyebrow rose.
“What makes you think there is something more?”
“All of this you could have easily discovered from one of your souls down below. There was no need for you to come to earth.”
“Smart girl.” Satan smiled devilishly. “I knew I liked you.” When Jacey didn’t comment he continued, “I was curious about you two. Two humans amicably living in the same house with two ghosts and a demon? Once every couple of hundred years we hear of something out of the ordinary.”
“And it’s our turn?” Satan nodded. “All right. What do you want to know?”
He laughed out loud. “A willing participant. That, in itself, is worth the journey.” His laughter slowed and stopped. “You’re not afraid of me.”
“Of course I am. I’m not stupid.”
“Ahhh,” He held up a finger. “I know what you’re afraid of. Them.” He nodded toward the milling crowd. “You’re afraid of them finding out.”
“I suppose I am. I like it here and I don’t want to move any time soon.”
“True, but it’s also because of your charges.”
“Don’t play innocent with me, Jacey. You feel responsible for everyone in that house, including Bova. Despite your hostility toward her, you care.”
What could she say? “Yes.”
“Stranger and stranger.”
“So what does this mean? Are we going to lose our ‘charges’, as you call them?”
Satan started walking again, allowing the flow of humanity to move around him. Jacey kept pace with him, stopping when he stopped and moving on when he stepped forward. “No, that was not the point of this visit. Hilda is spring cleaning, just like I said. I took this opportunity to… what do you humans say? Kill two humans with–”
“Kill two birds with one stone.”
“Ah, yes. Birds, not humans. You and Priory seem to accept the simple truth of life and death. I have found that humanity is very rigid in its view of this. I am most pleased, even if I go home empty-handed.”
“I’m glad to hear it. As long as you’re not coming for any of us, you’re most welcome to use the closet again. However, I have a favor to ask.”
“Can you leave the dog at home?”
“Hound,” he growled. “Cerberus is a hell-hound.”
“Hound,” Jacey repeated quietly.
“Why? I thought he was well behaved.”
“That may be, but I don’t want Dylan trying to get another favor out of you. There’s no space for that do… hound to live. We can’t let him out in the backyard. What if he ran away? I’m not going to the Police to report a three-headed dog has escaped from our house.”
“He rarely has the chance to get out.”
“Couldn’t you take him somewhere where there’s lots of space to run around? How about Alaska?”
“He doesn’t like the cold. Last time I tried that he was sneezing for years.”
“How about the Kalahari desert? That’s nice and warm and there’s plenty of sand for him to play in.”
“Hmmm. It’s a little too sunny there. Sun doesn’t do a lot for my temperament.”
Jacey kept quiet. She figured it didn’t matter where she suggested, he would just find an excuse not to go there. It looked like the card on that bulletin board wasn’t coming down any time soon.
She remained a step behind him as he investigated the neighborhood, allowing him to discover Halloween on his own. She answered any question he asked, but otherwise she didn’t offer any conversation.
* * * * * *
Later that night there was a knock on their bedroom door.
“Hmmmm?” Jacey replied sleepily.
“There’s someone at the door,” Priory said, all the while trying to push Jacey out of bed.
“You answer it.”
“No, it’s on your side of the bed. You get it.”
“Priory, you just don’t want to get out of bed.”
“You got that right.” Priory snuggled deeper into the blankets. “Hmmmm,” she purred.
Sighing, Jacey threw back the blankets, making sure Priory’s body was exposed. She pushed her feet into her waiting slippers and answered the door. This was a no-brainer. There was only one person it could be.
“Did you enjoy yourself tonight?” she asked her waiting lodger, now back in his devil pajamas.
“It was very enlightening. Now I must say goodbye.”
“Goodbye?” Jacey glanced at the bedside clock. “It’s two a.m.”
“I don’t sleep.”
“I thought you were staying longer.”
“It seems that Hilda has finished her cleaning.”
“In one day? Wow! Speedy!” Jacey said animatedly. She wasn’t too heartbroken about Satan leaving.
“She found a few extra willing hands.”
Jacey looked at Satan. “Henry?”
“If you repeat it…”
Jacey held up her hand. “I know. I’ll be damned for all time.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
“Henry, where are you?” The voice was harsh and screech-worthy.
“Coming, dear!” he hollered.
“Did you find out everything you wanted to know?”
“I found out enough… for now.” He grinned evilly at her. “I may return.”
“I look forward to it.”
Satan’s eyes narrowed and stared at her, trying to decide whether she was being sincere. He snapped his fingers and his body slowly faded away.
“Don’t forget your dog!”
“Hound! Damn it to hell, Jacey! Hound!”
* * * * * *
Am I ever glad that HE’s gone home.
See? I told you she’d take care of it.
Yeah… yeah, you did. Dylan heard the door open but she didn’t’ turn around. You come to get a ‘thank you’?
“No, not really. We’ve gotten used to having you around.” Priory’s foot scuffed the floor. “It wouldn’t be the same.”
Well… thank you. Dylan said quickly. She refused to face Priory.
“And I should thank you for saving Bova.”
Yeah, well… it was for me, not for you.
There was a scratching sound. Something was moving across the floor.
“If it was for you, or for me, it doesn’t matter. The matter is that Bova’s back and you faced him.”
“That was pretty gutsy,” Jacey added.
The clacking sound moved closer to her. What was that noise? She turned around but nothing was there. Oh no, not another ghost.
“Look down,” Jacey said with some amusement.
Dylan did as she was told and there sat a puppy, a ragged little bundle of fur with a big brown spot over one wide eye looking up at her expectantly.
What are you looking at? she growled, bringing her ghostly form close to the puppy’s face. He panted and stuck out his tongue, lapping at where her face would have been.
“You’re losing your touch, Casper.”
The pup yapped at Dylan, shifted his weight to his back legs and pounced, falling through her ghostly image. He landed face first on the floor. He stood up and shook himself, turning around to face Dylan again.
What am I supposed to do with this fleabag?
“You did such a good job with Cerberus we felt that you were ready for a real dog.”
I don’t want a dog!
“But the dog wants you,” Jacey replied. The puppy trotted up to Dylan and sat down, looking up and panting. “Awww, he is just soooo cute. What are you going to call him?”
Dylan floated down to the puppy’s level and looked him in the eye. Pussy.
“Sorry, you said what?” Priory took a few steps forward from her position by the door.
I’ll call him Pussy.
“You can’t call him that! You’d not only have a gender-confused but a species-confused dog as well. There is no way in hell I’m calling out that name when I take the dog for a walk!”
Dylan rolled over laughing. You should see your face, Convent. We don’t have a pussy in this house.
“Actually,” Jacey began, “we have two–”
“Don’t encourage her!” Priory’s brow furrowed. “That name is out!”
I tell you what, if you say it I’ll change it.
Priory remained tight-lipped.
“Come on, Abs, It’s only a word.”
“It’s not only a word, and she knows it!”
Pussy it is.
“All right! Pussy! Pussy, pussy, pussy. Are you happy now?”
Very. I’ve never seen a face go that color before.
Jacey quickly jumped in. “We need a new name.”
How about Rocco? Rhea drifted up to the puppy who yapped at her. Do you like Rocco? The dog barked again. It seems he has picked his own name.
“The dog has spoken, Casper.”
“Not in front of the dog.”
His name sake didn’t mind so he better get used to it.
Jacey picked up the puppy and looked into his eyes. “Hello, Rocco. Welcome to the madhouse.”