Halloween 2018: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 2
“You’ve never mentioned a brother, Merlin. And I don’t recall one attending high school with us.”
To her credit, Victoria waited until you were in the car to bring this up. Handling the costume came first, which was a good thing because the make-up took a while. Although she didn’t slather you completely in white for the skeleton-faced look, Victoria did insist on giving you a more gaunt, terrifying look complete with sunken eyes and starvation cheek bones. At one point, you jokingly asked if this was accurate, to which she only replied “It depends”. You didn’t ask any more questions after that.
Thankfully, the makeup coupled with your costume of a hooded robe and fake, if perhaps a tad realer than needed, collapsible scythe all come together to make a distinctive ensemble. In the event you turn into your costume this year, there’s really no way of telling how it will manifest, but you look cool for now, so that’s something.
“He went to a private school, on scholarships, of course.”
“Don’t you mean scholarship?”
“Nope. Had ones for academics, football, baseball, track, and art. The art was because Thad dabbled in sculpting until ‘dabbling’ turned into ‘rising prodigy’ and I’m guessing you can see how it went from there. He’s like King Midas without the drawbacks.”
From his position across the limo, Jim pauses downing a fifth of liquor to pipe up. Evidently whatever he was up to in his room put him behind on his usual level of Halloween intoxication. Worse Victoria’s usual driver is working the Halloween party, meaning he doesn’t even have his usual smoking buddy. “Thad fucking suuuuucks. Dude just coasts. No adventure.”
“Last week he posted pictures of him cliff diving in the Caribbean with a team of swimsuit models,” you point out.
“Yeah, not even like, zombie swimsuit models. How easy is that to survive? What a snoozer.” Opinion offered, Jim pulls an envelope of powder from under his pizza/electronics themed hat, dumps it in the liquor bottle, then upends the mixture into his mouth.
Part of you really wants to ask Jim if you can have a sip of that, although probably better to at least find out what is going on first. “You get the idea. While we’re obviously not close, he is still my brother, so if he’s in some sort of magical danger I want to help. Well, ‘want’ might be a strong word, but I’ll do it.”
To your surprise, this earns you an understanding nod from Victoria. “Family is complicated, be they mundane or worthwhile. I understand, Merlin. We will work to keep your kin safe, however I can make no assurances until the threat we’re facing is fully assessed. Currently, all we know is that magic has been sensed at this location. The exact parameters and source will be discovered as we dig deeper, or rooted out by force if needed.”
The limo pulls to a stop without warning, and Victoria pops open the door instantly. She climbs out using grace that’s genuinely unfair compared to what everyone else seems to be working with, followed by a bumbling Jim that looks like his legs are ceasing function at random intervals. Any other Halloween, and it would be a perfectly normal scene. Your version of normal, that is. But knowing you’re about to step into Thad’s world has left a brick in your stomach. Worrying as it is, you’ve faced much scarier things than an awkward run in, so you follow the others out of the limo, into the cool night air.
FratCo is a fraternity supply company, specializing in branded apparel, decor, and other knick-knacks that people can’t stop buying when a name or an organization is slapped on. Part of the selling pitch is that it was run entirely by former members of fraternities and sororities, which was one of the reasons you never applied here, despite having a connection. Of course, that same connection was the other major reason you didn’t apply here, so the fraternity thing was really a minor issue.
“Gentlemen, follow me.” Victoria walks without hesitation into the large building hosting many companies’ offices in the myriad of floors; leaving you and Jim to hurriedly catch up. She slips through the front with no break in stride, sauntering up to the security desk and placing down what sure looks like a reward card for a local sandwich shop.
“Badge for myself, and my team.” Her eyes bore into the poor security guard, an older man who has to be within spitting distance of retirement. He never had a chance, not under the force of that gaze you’ve seen spur actual monsters to flee in terror. You’re pretty sure the guard doesn’t even glance at the card.
“Of course. Have a great night.” His wrinkled hand waves you all forward, toward the elevators. Giving him an apologetic nod as you pass, Victoria has already called an elevator by the time you arrive. Then again, there are like eight of them so maybe one was already down here. This building is even larger than what you expected.
Once the elevator doors close, Jim immediately pulls some manner of pills from his pocket and begins hurling them down his throat. “Have to get a base layer going so I can get by on just the booze from the party.”
“In his own way, Jim raises a good point. Preparation lays the foundations of victory,” Victoria says. “It might be prudent to enter this party with a plan, seeing as we have so little starting information. My initial idea was to covertly search the floor one room at a time until we discovered the magical source. However, Merlin having a contact there does open up other options. While I know you won’t love the idea, it may be worth the inconvenience to use your brother as a guide.”
“Hells to the no. Thad is the worst. Let’s just hang around and party until something weird happens. That’s how it usually shakes out anyway, so if we call it a plan we’ll feel better when it goes down.” Jim pauses, looking over to the ceiling of the elevator. “Dude, chill, I said we’ll handle it. This is important too. Yeah, magic shit.”
Huh. Jim kind of had a point, until the odd digression. Anyway, the elevator is getting near your floor, so time is running short. Which plan do you want to go with?