Friday, 17 May 2013

RHetoric, Occult Detective excerpt - The Red Dress Redress

RHetoric, Occult Detective is a YA comedy series I'm writing alongside my other work. The novel is currently under development, along with a collection of short stories which will ultimately be compiled into a prequel anthology. I'll be showing snippets from the shorts from time to time, so keep checking back.

This one is from an early draft of a story entitled "The Red Dress Redress." It stands apart in that it's a detective investigation tale with a paranormal edge, rather than the all-out adventure romp of the other stories. Enjoy!

Not long after opening his occult detective agency, Rex Hetoric discovered that his dream of paying customers flocking to his workplace rarely matched the reality of the enterprise. If it weren't for the occasional straggler wandering in for a phony fortune telling, he might already be out of business. Nightmares began to plague his sleep, particularly one in which he found himself drowning under a stack of unpaid bills in a tomblike, candle-lit office.

This horrifying vision gripped him again on the evening that the woman in red appeared at his door. She found the gangly figure seated behind his desk, pinching his arm blue in a desperate attempt to wake up. The realization that he was already conscious only exacerbated his dismay.

"Are you all right?" she inquired.

Rex sat bolt upright in surprise. He could have sworn that he locked the door for the night.

"Yes!" he cried. "Quite! Quite alright! Just checking!"

The attractive woman brushed her dark hair from her pale skin and offered him a puzzled smile. "Checking for what?"

"For what? It's... uh, it's complicated. It's a whole... metaphysical presence thing. A little test I do to make sure the planes of existence aren't overlapping. That sort of thing." He grabbed a handful of skin and twisted it vigorously, while grimacing from the discomfort.

"Looks painful."

"Can be," he muttered through gritted teeth. "Can be painful." He released his grip and took a deep breath in relief. "What can I do for you? Are you here for a spiritual reading? Do you need your aura realigned?"

"Actually, I'm looking for a detective," she revealed. "I need you to solve a murder."

Rex excitedly leapt from his chair. "Really?"

The woman in red stifled a smirk.

Mortified, Rex fell back into his seat. In a subdued manner, he asked, "I mean: really? Whose murder?"

"Mine, Mr. Hetoric," she replied. "I'd like to hire you to find the person who killed me."

Rex stared at her speechlessly. For an unnaturally long time, the only sound in the room was the ticking of a clock that hadn't kept the right time in months.

The woman flashed him a contrite expression. "Oh, this is a little embarrassing," she said. "I'm sorry. I thought with you being a Hetoric and all, you might have seen a ghost before. I was under the impression that your whole family was attuned to these sorts of things. Am I wrong?"

"No," Rex piped. "You're not wrong. My dad's a demon slayer. My brother's a vampire hunter, and my sister's a witch. I'm... well, me." He flashed a smile, happy to see her reciprocate. "I'm just surprised, is all. You don't look like other ghosts I've seen before."

"Does that mean you'll take my case?"

"Well, you see... at the risk of sounding mercenary, there is the whole matter of my fee," he hummed. "Not to be indelicate, but... you're dead. It's not like you can write me a cheque."

"I have that covered," she replied. "I keep a strongbox under the floorboards of my house for emergencies. There's at least ten thousand dollars in there. Would that be sufficient?"

Rex's mouth bobbed weakly, making him look like a fish out of water. Finally, his tongue kicked into gear and he croaked, "Why don't we begin?"