OK, this started with a photo and went downhill. Or as Dorothy Grant put it in a conversation concerning story origins, “Questionable food, poor life decisions, and good music!”
Captain Mikael Sergeivich “Mike” Radescu folded his arms and leaned back in his office chair. “Let me make sure I heard this correctly, lieutenant. A chaplain at Ft. Bragg called Colonel-Reverend Hewett because some guys from one of the chaplain’s study groups lost a fight with a couple of ghosts?”
The junior officer’s grin looked a lot like Magnolia the Opossum did when LSU lost to Ole’ Miss, except less blood-thirsty. “You got it, Captain!”
“And this is our problem why?”
“Your problem, sir, because Reverend Parker told the Colonel-Reverend that she doesn’t do ghosts with fangs.” Lt. Gerland eased into the office and handed Mike a set of orders.
“Road trip? Road trip! Whee, road trip this’ll be fun!” A white-tailed mongoose darted out of his sleeping basket in the corner and clambered up his mage’s leg to peer over his arm and read. “We’ve never been to wherever, I like new places.”
Lt. Gerland backed out of easy choking range and raised his shields. “He’ll fit in well with the other snake-eat— Oh shit.” He realized the enormity of his error two syllables too late.
“Snakes!! Yeah, snakes, I love snakes,” and Rich was off. Mike bared his own teeth at Gerland. The smaller sorcerer gulped and departed at full speed, leaving Mike to deal with the chaos. Rich swarmed up onto the top of the desk. Mike managed to contain the mess, and nothing important tore or broke before Rich calmed down.
“Dude, St. George hear my words, one day someone’s going to turn you into a hat band after you do that. Chill, Rich.” Mike placed a large, firm hand on his Familiar’s back, gently pinning him to the steel desktop. Even that could barely stand up to Rich’s claws when he got wound up.
Mad giggles filled the office before the mongoose calmed down. “Where are we going?”
Mike unfolded the pages and skimmed past the usual “destroy before reading” and other standard opening clauses until he found the meat of the orders. “North Carolina, Ft. Bragg, in the mountains. Detached duty to deal with ghosts that . . . Oh boy.” He stroked Rich’s back. “That almost killed two seasoned troopers and injured two more.”
“That doesn’t sound like a ghost-ghost, Defender.” Tik-tik had gone still. “Lost spirits don’t kill people.”
Mike glanced at the icons of St. George and St. Michael Archangel on the small table tucked into the corner of the office. “No. They drive people to die, sometimes, maybe, but ghosts don’t have corporeal form. That we know of,” he added, just in case.
He looked down at Tik-tik. The Familiar looked back. “Research,” they groaned in unison. Mike locked the orders in the proper place, logged out of the regiment’s computer network, collected his cover, and helped Rich onto his shoulders. The other people with offices on this floor did not care to have a mongoose visiting their spaces. Since one of them was the First Sergeant, Mike did his best to maintain peace. Army captains outranked sergeants, but the First Sergeant knew God, Old Scratch, and had several saints on speed dial. A wise officer erred on the side of extreme caution bordering on paranoia when Top got involved. Or even better, kept Top from getting involved in the first place!
Once they were safely out of ear-shot, Mike asked, “How did Top get an office in this building and not the Head Shed?”
Rich, draped around his neck, sniffed, whiskers twitching. “No idea, not going to ask. He has one next door to the Colonel-Reverend, too, but never uses it, much.”
Given how intense the Southern Baptist colonel could get, that made good sense to Mike. “Should I start with ghosts in general, or ghost-like things?” He turned right, away from the fastest route to the library and from the troopers doing something under the less-than-loving eye of Master Sergeant Butler.
“Ghost-like, and then, um,” Rich wiggled a bit. “Haint lore, I think, so we can get a sense of what we should see, if it is ghosts.”
“Haint lore? Oh, right.” The Appalachian version of haunt.
(C) 2021 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved