Velt was not insensitive by nature. She was, of course, sad to see the spirit of her friend, or someone who was close enough to one, bustling outside her door. As she rode the cab through town and watched the skyscrapers diminish while more suburban houses appeared, Velt reflected on the fact that Adrienne was really gone. No more frantic calls about a ghast who’s upset her, no more relentless monologues about her children, no more awkward lunches where she produced her own seasonings and powdered creamer from her over-sized purse, no more boxes of homemade cookies at Christmas or friendly calls to check in on her. Velt wasn’t particularly good with the living, which was a common trait among those who saw the dead. She was different than the other mediums too, though, and Adrienne was one of the few who had actively tried to include her in the community. So it was with determination that Velt slipped the cabbie some crumpled bills and buttoned her coat in front of the two story colonial home. Determination to do this séance , and to preserve her co-worker’s reputation.
She stared at the house in admiration, it might not have been huge but everything about it was high quality and well cared for. The lawn was clipped, the windows boxes were groomed, and the paint was fresh. These were people with regard for image. Velt watched her breath hang in the air for a moment as she tried to figure out how she was going to make these people believe she really had the goods. That she actually could she spirits wasn’t nearly as important as making them believe she could. People wanted a little showmanship with their dead relative interactions; they wanted to feel their spines shiver and their hair stand-up. It was why, despite the fact that Velt was a stronger medium, Adrienne and the others were better regarded. Still, Velt had faked it a few times before in her early years. She was confident she could at least throw something together.
She walked up the driveway, noting the decorated paving stones beneath her feet. Image mattered a lot to these people, she had a feeling the girl in the purple coat and jeans wasn’t going to sell well off the bat. There was nothing for it though, so Velt reared back and slammed a series of solid knocks to the thick oaken door before her.
It opened immediately, a tall man with dark hair and a form fitting suit appearing before her.
“You are the practitioner?”
“Uh, yeah,” Velt said uncertainly. “Well, sort of.”
The man merely raised an eyebrow in response.
“I’m here to do the séance, but I’m not Adrienne Willows,” Velt explained. “She was…in a car wreck, and asked me to come in her stead.” Velt didn’t want to explain what happened to her any more than Adrienne had liked using her real last name for this work, hence the idiotic pseudonym.
“I see,” the man said without inflection. “I’ll have to inform my employer of the change, he likes to be kept abreast of such things. You may wait in the prepared room while I find out his decision on how to proceed.” The man stepped aside and allowed Velt to enter the house.
She took in the sights as she walked through the door, noticing the polished marble under her sneakers and the various tapestries poised along the walls. The inside of this place matched the outside in both grandeur and elegance. Someone had decorated this home to purposely give its visitors the impression of money without overtly displaying it.
“So what’s the deal, Jeeves? Are you the butler?”
“I’m the executive assistant to my employer,” the man Velt had come to think of as Jeeves replied. “I help with all manner of matters.”
“Gotcha,” Velt said. “Just trying to get a sense of things.”
“Of course,” Jeeves said. “I’ll show you to the room where you will be working, should my employer approve of the alteration in plans.”
“Fine by me,” Velt agreed. Hopefully the spirit was paying enough attention to the situation to be there already, that way Velt could get some background info before things kicked off. It was hard for people to accuse you of cold reading when you came right out of the gates with things you couldn’t possibly know. It didn’t work as well for building up showmanship, but Velt was pretty much winging it any way that she could at this point.
Jeeves led her up past the stairs and down a winding hallway. This house was deceptive from the outside, Velt had been positive it didn’t go back this far. Still, the journey continued until they reached an open door showing a reasonable bedroom through its frame. The décor was older fashioned in here, and candles burned on the dresser and night table. Their flickering shadows fell across a variety of pictures, most of which featured the same woman in various stages of her life. Mediums had a knack for spotting key facial characteristics, since spirits occasionally shifted their appearance to different ages without warning. Some did it unconsciously; some did it out of vanity, but either way if you wanted to keep identities straight when dealing with multiple ghosts you learned to spot a particular chin or eyebrow ridge consistently.
“I will return shortly,” Jeeves said, shutting the door lightly behind her. There were no orders given nor was there any soft turn of a lock, however the message was conveyed all the same. Velt was to stay put until she heard otherwise. Normally she would have never stood for this shit, and in fact it took her several deep breaths to keep her cool. This wasn’t about her, this was about Adrienne. She was standing in for a friend, and how she acted would reflect back on her. Even as a dying wish Velt might not have been able to coerce herself into putting in this much effort, but there was more to it than that. Adrienne had a daughter with the gift, Abby, and she’d been getting groomed to take over the family business. With Adrienne gone, Abby was going to have to step up to plate, and some rich asshole trashing her mom’s reputation because Velt couldn’t sit still for a few minutes was the last thing she’d need.
So Velt waited, first walking around to inspect the room, then sitting on the bed, and then pacing about. The spirit of the old woman in the pictures was nowhere to be seen, which was a shame because after a half an hour even the normally anti-social puncher of ghasts was feeling hard up enough for distraction that a little small talk might have been nice. By the time her wait hit the forty-five minute mark Velt was well past annoyed and charging headlong into pissed off. She adjusted her coat in frustration, trying to keep warm.
That action finally penetrated her frustrated haze. Why the hell was she cold? This house was ridiculously fucking decadent, there was no way they couldn’t afford a good heating system. She looked at the candles that had burned down over halfway since she’d arrived. It didn’t take this long to tell anyone anything. It certainly didn’t take this long to walk to and from a room to convey a message. Something was wrong, and Velt was done waiting around to find out what.
She grabbed the glass door handle, half expecting it to be locked or resistant. It opened smoothly under her fingers though, the door gliding open almost effortlessly. It was a small relief that only served to sharply contrast against the shock of what greeted her on the door’s other side.