Challenge

Photo by Merve Aydın on Unsplash

Darren bowed his head and started to pray. He could feel something in the background. A loud banging started in the walls.

“It’s happening again!” Mrs Case wrung her hands. “It’s terrifying.”

Darren continued to pray, placing his hands over the walls. Strange vibrations were running through the modern plaster walls.

“These flats were only built four years ago.” Mrs Case looked around at the tasteful, minimalist décor. “Perhaps it was built on a graveyard.”

Darren tried to concentrate. A properly consecrated graveyard was safe enough. Besides, this wasn’t a departed spirit. Perhaps it was an echo of the issues with the revenants and the vampiric energy. He continued to pray.

“I blame them upstairs.” Mrs Case pulled her cardigan closer. She may look like a harmless little old lady, but Darren had seen the swathe of true crime murder books and dvds on her shelves and was not turning his back on her. Mrs Case shook her head. “They are always arguing, and you should see their tattoos! It’s not right.”

Darren kept praying, running his hands slowly over the wall. It felt alive. Darren stepped back. “I may need to do a full exorcism.”

“Really?” Mrs Case sounded thrilled. “I can’t wait to let my sister know.”

Darren tried not glare at her. Exorcisms were no a spectator sport. “I will need to have an empty room to work in.”

“Really?” Mrs Case asked. “I’m sure I could be useful.”

“I’m quite sure.” Darren began and then leapt back as the wall exploded. Plaster and shredded wallpaper tumbled down around Jack who was now sprawled on the floor. He jumped quickly to his feet.

“Thanks, padre, I thought I was stuck in there.” Jack brushed down his battered jeans. “You have powerful prayers.”

Mrs Case shrieked as a long, smoke-like arm reached to grab Jack’s leg. Jack swore and kicked back at it while Darren snapped out some urgent Latin. The smoke evaporated.

“I don’t think you’ll be bothered anymore, Mrs Case.” Darren said, rubbing his hands over his plastered-covered hair. “Now let’s join in a prayer of thanks.”

Darren looked at Jack, waiting expectantly at the passenger door of his car. “Do you want a lift?”

“I think the least I can do is buy you a drink.” Jack said. “I was having a look around some of the lesser corners of York and ran into that.” He shook his head sadly. “I’m losing my touch. I never thought I would be ambushed like that.” He knocked some plaster dust off his jacket as Darren opened the door. “I owe you a favour.”

“I’m fine, thanks.” Darren said. “Egerton is still too terrified to leave the house. Just take care next time.”

“Perhaps I should pay for some masses.” Jack said, sliding into the car.

“No, really, don’t bother.” Darren said. “Where can I drop you?”

“Egerton? Hmm.” Jack stretched his legs as far as the seat would allow. “Yes, I remember. He used to call himself Findlay and fancy himself a trickster. He was a sad little mouse. Why is he serving you?”

“Punishment for spiking my drink with an elfen love potion.” Darren said. “So, do you want a lift to the White Hart?”

Jack grinned. “Actually, yes, I have some events in motion that should be entertaining.”

“Put your seatbelt on.” Darren said.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what those events are?” Jack said. “And these seatbelts are irrelevant to me.”

“Nope.” Darren watched unmoving until Jack buckled up. “I’m sure I’m going to find out anyway.”

“I found that one could send chocolate to ladies without leaving a name.” Jack said. “It’s much easier now with this internet. I sent some chocolates to Fiona, to make her smile after the recent troubles.”

“I’m sure Fiona is glad to have them.” Darren started the car. “She has had a rough few years, but I think she’s okay.”

“Indeed. I sent her a small token.” Jack said. “And once she and Steve Adderson return from their holiday, I shall continue to be at her service. However I found that my friend, Kai, could also order chocolates to Lady Freydis.”

There was a screech and some loud voices. Darren glanced quickly at Jack. “Did you just change the traffic lights?”

“I dislike waiting.” Jack said, “Unless, of course, there is an entertaining altercation.”

Darren swerved around the road rage incident and headed back into York and towards the White Hart. “Don’t do that when I’m driving. What’s the thing with the chocolates?”

“I did not add my name.” Jack craned his neck to get a last glimpse of the havoc he had caused before settling back in his seat. “I just put ‘Guess who?’ I wonder how many will claim them.”

“Surely no-one would claim them if they didn’t send them.” Darren said. “They would know that the real sender would turn up.”

“But would that generous donor of chocolate be able to prove it?” Jack said. “I am sure there will be at least a little argument, and my Prince will have a tribute of chocolate.”

“Hmm.” Darren concentrated on his driving. “As long as normals aren’t involved.”

“How dull.” Jack craned his neck again. “Why, that house is still standing, and after I had such a fight in it!”

“When was that?” Darren asked.

“Last week, with Martin, just before I got stuck.” Jack turned back in his seat. “I am sure we broke a wall.”

Darren shook his head. “Why are you always fighting with Martin?”

“Because it’s fun.” Jack said. “Besides, he has the edge over me and has for centuries. I need to find a way to beat him.”

“And he adores Lady Freydis.” Darren said.

“He is probably worthy of Lady Freydis.” Jack admitted, “But he knows it, and there is no-one else that can even challenge him in combat.”

“Half of the trouble in York at the moment is because Lady Freydis took a vampire as her lover and gave him access to Fairyland.” Darren said. “It’s been a rocky year or two.”

“Martin is not like that.” Jack said. “He is dull, and sensible and generally unexciting.” Jack frowned. “And unexpectedly strong, even for a vampire.”

“Here we are,” Darren said with some relief as he pulled into the car park. He watched Kadogan dump two scuffling elfen out of the shop. “Looks like the chocolate worked.”

“I am so glad.” Jack bounded past Kadogan and into the shop. Darren shook his head and drove off.

Lady Freydis leaned on the counter and watched the discussions raging amongst the elfen. She smiled when she saw Jack. “Thank you for the chocolates.” She whispered. “They are most entertaining and wonderfully extravagant.”

“I should hope so.” Jack took in the row of hampers spilling curled ribbon, cellophane and handmade chocolates over the back counter of the café. “And my Prince is infinitely worth it.”

Lady Freydis looked up at Martin who was watching a shoving match in one corner. “You don’t buy me chocolates.”

“I don’t need to.” Martin said. “You know what I’m like and what I can do. I could have any lady I wished. You need to prove yourself to me.”

“What?!” Lady Freydis stared. “I’m the Prince of York.”

“And you know exactly what you’re getting with me.” Martin nodded to Mrs Tuesday who was grinning broadly. “A black coffee, please.”

“I’m your Prince.” Lady Freydis said.

“And I am the best lover in York.” Martin said, taking his coffee from Mrs Tuesday. “Thank you.”

“Prove it.” Lady Freydis said.

Martin raised an eyebrow. “Without marriage? That would be improper.”

Lady Freydis stamped her feet. “I can take any one I want in marriage.”

“Absolutely.” Martin said. “Excuse me, please. Kadogan is getting outnumbered.”

“And I had best help out to protect my fair Fiona’s fixtures.” Jack dumped his dusty jacket on the counter and followed Martin.

Lady Freydis looked at Mrs Tuesday. “He is indeed the best lover in York, damn him.” She frowned. “But he should still chase me.” She tapped her elegant fingernails on the counter. “Are there any coffee chocolates in there?”

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