To Granny’s House We Go, part 1 of 2

A Supernatural Noir Short Story by Robert Lee Beers

To Granny’s House We Go

part 1 of 2

A Tony Mandolin Short Story

by Robert Lee Beers

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Chapter 1

Frankie, myself, the Wizard Landau Bain, Alcina, my scientist-turned witch girlfriend, and two lady PI’s I worked with now and then, Violet Thurgood and Heather Johnson were following up a lead on Julius’ the Werebeagle’s kidnapped Grandfather. That lead had taken us into one of those odd pocket dimensions that seemed to litter the Bay Area like candy wrappers.

After crossing into the dimension we noticed some odd things about it.

Frankie remarked, “Oh, my… are we in suburbia here?”

We passed through suburbia and kept on going, into an area that had a considerably less maintained look. “Why does it always have to be the bad spots?” I thought. And then I remembered, the closest a case ever got to being fatal was in Sea Cliff, definitely not one of the bad spots.

Frankie noticed the change. “Uh oh… this is definitely not suburbia…”

Bain added to the enjoyment of the moment, “We’re being watched.”

In my head, I said, in as snarky a tone as possible, “Oh really? Thank you for the update Captain Obvious.”

Out loud, I said, “Gotcha.” Look, I’m not suicidal.

Alcina said, “I… feel…” She stopped and slowly turned in a circle, “There is real anger, an intense hatred, being directed our way…”

Bain asked her, “Can you pinpoint it?”

She shook her head, “No… it is coming from more than one direction.”

“Damn!” Bain swore, “A kill zone, a mother— a kill zone! Werebeagle, do you know what you have gone and done?”

Julius was in no shape to stand up to Bain’s fury. A stain began spreading on his new slacks. He stammered but didn’t manage to say anything. He just stood there, petrified, the stain covering his crotch spreading further.

The girls were having none of it.

“How dare you!?”

“Bully!”

“Why are you picking on him? Creep!”

I don’t think the Wizard was prepared for the onslaught of feminine outrage coming at him from all sides. I think he had no idea what he had done or what it would trigger. Especially when Frankie joined in with the ladies in his best high diva, “Beast! You know very well Julius would never do anything like that! How dare you?”

They went on, and on and Bain grew more and more angry with every condemnation.

Finally, he blew, and the shockwave of that sent us all onto our keisters.

Enough!!

In the shocked silence, as the echoes of Bain’s bellow finished bouncing around the dimension, he added, “The werebeagle may be innocent, be he did lead us all into a danger we may not escape with our lives. I am surprised, in fact, that we are still able to have this discussion, perhaps your nagging made it curious. That could be fortunate.”

The girls’ mouths worked as they stared at the Wizard.

Julius managed to get out, “I… I… I’m innocent?”

Heather muttered, “I do not nag!”

“Of course you’re innocent, idiot!” Bain snapped out, “Being duped is not the same thing as doing it intentionally. It is simply being stupid. Now settle down and try to stay alive, we need you.”

As he scrambled for some place to hide, I heard Julius saying to himself, “He needs me. The Wizard needs me…”

Violet asked Alcina and Heather, “Do either of you have an idea—?”

“Of what in the hell is going on?” Heather finished, “No, not a one.”

Alcina pointed, “This way.”

I followed the finger. Alcina was pointing at a tumble-down three-story. It almost looked like my house after an additional couple hundred years, and a few dozen earthquakes.

“There?” Frankie and I both said it.

Alcina pointed again, “There, it feels right.”

“Listen to the witch, kids,” Bain grated, “She’s got a handle on this.”

“Witch?” Alcina asked as she ran next to me, “I still can’t believe I’m a witch.”

“Face it,” I panted, “It’s better than a lot of the alternatives.”

“Oh…” She replied, “You and me, we are going to have a looong talk.”

Oh… joy… Yeah, I was really looking forward to that event.

“Why this house?” I asked, as more of a distraction from me as a subject than anything else.

She wrinkled her nose in thought, and said, “It… feels friendly.”

Okay… that I could handle. A few years ago I dealt with another house in Below, this one was considerably less than friendly. It had seduced a fashion student with magical talents into killing those her subconscious had decided were the ones holding her back from stardom. The means of death in each case was remarkably inventive. Alcina said this one was friendly, Bain said listen to her. What the hell…

I ran ahead and pushed through the front door. It opened smoothly, a whole lot more smoothly than I expected, and I stumbled as I went past the threshold.

“Tony,” Alcina cried, “Watch ou— what? Well, this is different…”

There’s an old saying, don’t judge a book by its cover. You could also say, don’t judge a house by its paint job, or lack thereof. The inside of the place was almost like stepping through a portal into another time. Outside was a dilapidated mess, inside was hearth and home in all its Victorian splendor. The chairs and couches had velvet upholstery that still glinted in the light. The rugs looked new and the paneling smelled of the best-oiled woods. I wanted to just sit and soak it all in.

The rest of the group came in right after Alcina. Bain was last, and he turned to carefully check the door.

“I thought so…” He murmured.

“Thought so?” I figured someone had to ask.

“Yes…” Bain seemed distracted, either that, or he’d decided to not take my head off at that moment. I’d take either option, frankly. “This house, it’s alive… and friendly. That’s good, for us. Not so much… for it.”

“Umm, let’s be clear now, hon,” Frankie stood poised as if arguing a case in court, “By it, you mean what we were running from, not this lovely house that’s protecting us, right?”

What Bain was not, was completely distracted, bad for the big guy. “Jackson,” Bain turned, his eyes glaring, “I will tell you once, and once only, I am not a hon, a dear, a dearie, a lover, or any of the other affectations you seem unable to avoid. Is that clear, or is there an object lesson required here?” His voice never rose above a hoarse whisper, but it didn’t need to be any louder, it carried anyway.

Frankie quailed. Hell, even I felt it. He said, “Y-yes sir, Mister Wizard sir. I got it, loud and clear.”

“Good,” Bain said, in that same tone, “Now, let me work.”

Alcina leaned over and whispered into my left ear, “That is one seriously scary man. How did you hook up with him again?”

I asked, “You really don’t remember a thing about the time you spent in that fairy tale dimension?” A subject change seemed in order here.

She shook her head, “As far as my memory goes, it never happened. Like I said, we are going to have a long talk. Many, many, words.”

Frankie looked around, taking in all of the interiors of the hallway, and the room beyond it. “It is a lovely home,” He murmured.

“Not, it,” Alcina said, looking into the distance, “She.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Oh, really?” Frankie asked, his eyes widening.

“Yes, really,” Alcina replied, nodding, “Can’t you feel her?”

I shrugged. I only felt comfortable… and safe. I guess it was kind of like being in my mother’s arms. I replied, “Maybe?”

Heather said, “I’m sorry. I know I should feel something, but honestly, I’m still frightened. Thugs, muggers, and ex-boyfriends, I can handle. But all of this?” She waved a hand in the air.

Violet looked at her friend, and then at me, saying, “Tony, do something.”

I did. I said, “Help.”

“Well now,” A voice from everywhere said, “How nice. A young man who isn’t afraid to ask for help when it is needed. We see so little of that these days.”

Bain looked around, his eyes narrowing.

Frankie had this broad eye-searing smile on his face, and the girls were looking at me. Julius seemed to be oddly calm. He found a chair and sat in it, hands in his lap. I worried for the chair. The werebeagle had not changed pants.

I said to the air, “Uh, thanks, I guess. Who are you?”

There was a pause, and then the voice said, “I am called Grannie, dear. All who are welcome here, if they so choose, become my grandchildren.”

“And if we refuse the honor?” Bain asked, looking up at the ceiling.

“Well then,” was the reply, tone unchanged, “You would be a guest. Know this, my dear, no one I do not trust is ever allowed through the door, no one.”

At the end, the voice hardened. It sounded like one of my grandmothers when she put her foot down. Not even Pops, my paternal grandfather, argued when that happened.

“Umm…” Frankie looked up at the ceiling as well. I didn’t know why they did that. The voice was coming from everywhere. “I…” he paused and then went on, “Appreciate the honor, ma’am, but I have a grandmother who I love very, very, much. Can I consider you as my step-grannie?”

“Of course you can, Franklin. I think I like you the most of all. You really are such a good sweet boy.” The voice sounded very pleased.

As Frankie beamed, Violet muttered, “Suck up.”

Bain asked, “Can we see you?”

“The correct phrasing, Landau, is may we,” Came the reply, “And you are seeing me.” There was a pause and then, “Oh, dear me. Where are my manners? May I offer you some tea and biscuits?”

A tray bearing a steaming pot, six cups and a small plate of assorted cookies appeared on a table in the room just to the right of the foyer.

Frankie sniffed the air, “Earl Grey. I swear that is Earl Grey.”

Heather glanced at the big guy and then murmured, “I think he’s right. That does smell like Earl Grey and the good stuff at that.”

Bain muttered, “Let me see. I was there when Grey made up the blend.”

He poured a measure into one of the cups, they looked like the finer British porcelain, and then sipped.

His eyes widened and he said to the house, “All right, how did you do it?”

“Do what, dear?” Came the reply. The house sounded pleased.

“You know very well what I mean,” Bain retorted, “This isn’t just Earl Grey tea, this is the original blend, the one that never made it to the Twining factory.”

Frankie reached for the pot, murmuring, “Oh, I have got to have some of that.”

He sipped. Closed his eyes and sighed, “Oh… my dear lord, I am in heaven.”

Bain glared at Frankie and grunted something, but I noticed he held onto his own cup.

The girls and Julius then attacked the tray and soon everyone was sipping tea. Yes, even me. I am a coffee person, first, last and in-between, but I had to admit, this stuff was good enough I just might widen my horizons.

Frankie grabbed one of the cookies, as he said, “One cannot have tea without some bickies.”

He bit down and then shuddered, “Ohhhh that is so gooood.”

It took no time at all for the girls to dive in and join the big guy in chomping down on the… bickies. Julius had several stuffed into his mouth at once. His eyes closed in pleasure and he chewed, crumbs dribbling down his chin. The upholstery took more abuse.

Bain just watched as he sipped his tea. I, not being someone with any kind of a sweet tooth, finished mine and then asked the house, “Uh, Grannie, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course you may, Anthony. What do you wish to know?”

I’d been thinking about this, “We’re here to try and rescue Julius’ grandfather, Pontius the Finder. Julius says he traced the scent to this neighborhood. Would you be able to locate him?”

“Hmm…”

I was not prepared to hear that sound. I asked, “Did I ask something wrong?”

“Oh, no, dear,” Came the reply, “No, you did not, but there are certain rules… rules that I cannot disobey… even if I really wish to. One of those rules is extending my influence beyond the property line I hold.”

“You see, Mandolin,” Bain said, putting down the teapot, “Within the confines of these walls, she has nearly absolute power. Not even one of the lesser gods or even an archangel would dare to oppose her under these conditions, but outside of those conditions…” He shrugged.

“I see,” I said, and I actually did see. It was like the factor of home-field advantage dialed up to eleven thousand.

“I do wish I could help, Anthony,” The house said, “But even though I know my dear Julius’ grandfather is being held in the hovel across the street and down two doors, I am forbidden to tell you. You do understand, don’t you?”

I think a rather evil grin covered my face as I replied, “Oh yeah, I understand all right, and I will learn to live with it.”

“You are such a good boy,” The house said.

I asked Alcina, “If we have a safe place to run to,” I jabbed a finger down at the floor, “Do you think we could do a snatch and grab of Julius’ grandpop and survive?”

Alcina looked past me to Bain and asked, “How much power did you say this place had when we are inside it?”

Bain’s grin likely matched mine, “Absolute,” Was his reply.

Frankie put down the cookie plate. It was wiped clean of crumbs and said, “Oh dear…”

“Now,” The house said, “You children be careful now. I don’t want to see too many cuts, scrapes, and bruises, all right?”

“How about on the other guys?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s just fine, my dear,” She answered.

Frankie grinned, “I do like this place,” He said.

“Thank you, dear,” The house murmured. “Now run along and do what it is you young people do.”

I had to wonder, Bain was included in that. How old was this place?

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