The Sundry Wick Hunters
For the pleasure of your eyeballs, the tense and lustful second episode of:
The SUNDAY WITCH HUNTERS
To be honest, deciding to meet the Sunday Witch Hunters hadn’t been so easy.
It seemed to Joe he had thought of nothing but LilyBuchanan and her strange proposition in the 124 hours between Tuesday afternoon and Sunday evening. He thought of Drake, too, of course, but Drake wasn’t a gorgeous, curvaceous girl in fishnet stockings and a short skirt. Drake couldn’t stop a high school boy dead at fifty paces with a smouldering smile. And Drake hadn’t written Joe an invitation for Sunday night. Although in his saner moments Joe did have to wonder how Drake, a self-proclaimed god of death, came to be in the enduring company of an exorcist. Curiosity is a devil of a thing.
By Thursday morning, Joe had convinced himself the whole thing was silly and he wasn’t going to the RSL Club on Sunday night. On Friday morning curiosity changed his mind, only for suspicion to switch it back on Saturday night. It wasn’t until late Sunday afternoon Joe had a solid talking to his wariness and his desire and compromised to go but to not enjoy himself. He fished his best jeans out of the washing hamper and found a clean T-shirt to wear. He told Grandma he was going out with friends from school. He figured so long as Drake was there, this wasn’t a total lie. Grandma gave him $20 for dinner and warned him not to get fresh with anyone wearing a white cap.
Grandma had weird ideas sometimes.
“And you wear a belt!” she shouted from behind the bedroom door as Joe got dressed that evening. “I don’t want to see your pants hangin’ down round your knees as though yo’ ass is on fire!”
Sheesh alloo, thought Joe, and searched his wardrobe for a belt. He shaved, just in case he had begun to sprout facial hair of substance since the last time he looked in the mirror, put on aftershave enough to drown a mouse, and prayed Lily Buchanan was not just the beautiful dream he feared she was. And he steeled his nerve, and left.
It was a quarter past seven when he arrived at the RSL. He was already late. He’d gotten lost twice on his way to the club. He made a lazy job of parking his car (a flesh-coloured 1986 Mitsubishi Colt with a crooked gearstick and a rusted floor) between a black MorrisMinor and a powder blue Buick and hurried into the club.
It was packed. It seemed every nuclear family in Muraluna had descended on the RSL for the $15 buffet. Dedicated smokers lined the verandahs, gorgons kept the poker machines alive and ringing. The bar bisected the latter half of the dining room, creating space for amenities and the kitchens on one side, pokies and pool tables on the other. A group of 20-something-year-olds held monopoly over the pool tables. They jostled one another and laughed over their beer, never even noticing Joe as he picked a path between them, his ears still ringing from the poker machines.
The door to the hire conference room was closed. A sign under the handle read RESERVED.
The bartender noticed Joe standing there, hands limp at his sides, and called, “Go on in if you’re part of the group. Door’s not locked.”
This is a bad idea, Joe told himself. I’ve got no idea who’s in there or what they’re doing. It’s probably the local Rotarians talking themselves up. What will I say then? Oh, I know. I’ll pretend I’m staff and ask if anyone wants a drink. Or I’ll ask if there’s a John Doe in the room. No, that’s too common. Ah, Alistair Lice. Okay, not much chance of that. And if no one is in there, I’ll turn around and walk out. Okay. Ready? Three, two, one-
A cufflinked hand reached the door handle a second before Joe’s did and pushed it open. A black three-piece suit and a top hat followed the cufflink. Joe leapt about a foot in the air.
“Hello there,” chimed he who possessed the suit, in the King’s clipped English. He was a smart-looking man in his late twenties, smart from his shiny dress shoes to his gleaming black eyes. The suit was a perfect fit, it had to be tailored. The man’s hair was black, and straight, although it kicked up in loose half-curls on his shoulders. He was smiling as he spoke. For an instant Joe thought he was Drake. Then the mirage passed, and Joe spotted the differences; Drake was taller, the smart-looking man more slight. Drake’s skin was semi-transparent and glowed with bones, the man had pale grey freckles and a wide, smiling mouth. Drake’s eyes were orange, the man’s were coal black. They were both striking to look at.
He stuck out a hand for Joe to shake, nudging the door wide open with his dress shoe as he did so. “You must be Joe. Miss Buchanan has told us all about you. How boldly you deflected Drake’s godless proposition. Yes, I think you’ll fit right in with us. I’m Knox, by the way. Balthazar Knox. Seeing as I’m the co-ordinator of this eclectic herd of cats, most of our members refer to me as the Chief. Do take a seat.”
Wondering if he had just been inducted, martyred and canonised all at once, Joe ambled into the function room. He took the nearest available seat at the huge walnut table which occupied the majority of the floor space. Hunters and hounds stared balefully from dark paintings on the walls. Mismatched cream paint over plaster marked what must once have been an enormous fireplace. It was an altogether imposing room, looming around the bulky table, its drab paintings in their unpolished brass frames like dull ancient eyes, the ceiling too high and the dusty wine-coloured carpet too plush, grabbing hungrily at the chair legs.
The situation worsened from there. Around the table, only a handful of the high-backed seats were spare: the rest were filled with an assortment of denizens. Not one of them matched the room but not one of them looked as though they didn’t belong. They were a haphazard group with only one commonality behind the collection: the hungry stares reserved for Joe.
The Chief took a seat at the head of the table. He had a stack of papers under his arm, and he dropped these on the polished walnut surface. Joe tried to read one of the papers and a flash of lace caught his eye. Lily Buchanan was in the audience. Drake was standing behind her chair, facing the wall, obviously sulking. He wore tight leather pants and an overly loose cotton shirt, as if he had decided to come to the meeting dressed as a pirate. Lily waved and winked. Her ringlets were held in piggy tails tonight, she wore lace under her leather corset. Joe fought the urge to check under the table to see what she’d matched the top with. He resigned himself to blushing and stammering a hello.
“You’re late,” snapped a woman to the Chief’s left.
Everyone at the table flinched, regardless of whether or not they had been late.
The Chief seemed to understand this broadly directly statement was meant for him. Pleasantly, he said, “Fashionably so, don’t you agree? There was work to be done.”
The woman rolled her eyes. She was dressed in the lady’s version of the Chief’s black suit; white top, black jacket, black pencil skirt visible from Joe’s position hovering beside her. Her black hair was drawn back into a tight bun. Her accent was local. “The only occasion where it is fashionable to be late is a wedding, and then only if one is the bride. It’s twenty past seven. Intolerable. We all have lives to lead after this, you know.”
“Yes, and as it happens, I also have a life to lead before this, Ms Speer,” the Chief replied amicably enough, though there was a strong undercurrent of Don’t Push Your Luck to his tone. “And if you care for my advice, jealousy is never pretty. Just because you fear you’ll never have occasion to be fashionably late doesn’t mean others can’t be.”
MsSpeer jerked as if struck through the heart, then growled, “You blue-blooded bastard. Get on with the meeting.”
“Of course.” The Chief slapped his palms against the table. Anyone who had been talking leapt back into their seats as if the table were electrified. Entirely pleasantly, the Chief said, “I hereby open this meeting of the Sunday Witch Hunters. Item one of business: our new member. That is, what may be our new member if certain shinigami can keep their vulgar deals to themselves.” He was looking at Drake as he spoke. Drake huffed and stalked off through the wall. Joe found himself wondering why he had ever thought Drake human to begin with.
The Chief waited for Drake to dissipate through the wall entirely before continuing. “Now. There are a few matters under need of discussion tonight, several new jobs on offer, and I believe Bliss is selling raffle tickets. But before that dutiful business, please make feel welcome our 13th current member, MasterJoeMalone!”
Applause scattered around the table.
A woman of at least three hundred years of age cawed over the stuttering claps, “Is he a keeper? ’Cause I don’t want to introduce myself to some punk who ain’t gonna live till next week’s meeting.”
“Quit ya yapping, will you? You’ll scare the kid off afore the hellions get a chance to!” snapped a grandfatherly man with an oiled quiff and skin the colour and texture of vinegared beetroot. He huffed a laugh. “O’ course, face like yours is apt to scare him off even without your harpyism to go with it.”
Lily said mildly, “He survived Drake. He’s a keeper.”
“Fine,” huffed the prehistoric woman. She turned her wet red on Joe, pinning him to the chair. “You. Boy. Tell us about yerself. I know yer Grandma, I know yer Grandpa, but you’re not from here. I can tell it from the red dust in yer hair. What’s yer deal?”
Joe found himself under the expectant glances of a dozen Witch Hunters. He shrunk in his seat. His face flaming, he muttered, “Er, well, that is, I … I don’t even really know what I’m doing here.”
He was met with silence. The silence was broken by a startling laugh from the Chief. He barked, “A lost soul! Shall we explain it to him, then? Going around the table, tell Joe a bit about yourselves and a bit about what we do here. You start, MsSpeer.”
The acute MsSpeer was on Joe’s left. She glared briefly at Knox, then said, “The name is Speer. Neila Speer. Librarian. We are the Sunday Witch Hunters; I hope you know that much already. We’re a subsidiary branch of the New South Wales 13th Council, itself a subsidiary of the Australasian 13th Council, itself of course but a small part of the International 13th Council. Clubs such as ours are spread across the globe, under different names, meeting in different places, but united in one common goal-”
“That’s quite enough,” the Chief called, “MsFlint.”
A flowery, middle-aged woman on MsSpeer’s left endeavoured to appear surprised to be called upon. She clucked. “And I suppose that goal would be combating the armies of the night. Pleased to meet you, Joe. I’m SylvieFlint. My talent is speaking to the dead. I come from a long line of mediums. For as long as my family have been in Muraluna, we’ve had at least one relative in the Sunday Witch Hunters.”
“Very true, MsFlint. Master Gasper?”
‘Master’ Gasper did not look to Joe to be worthy of the title. He had a few years on Joe, not many. He was plump and brightly plumaged in bright orange board shorts, matching thongs and a white singlet, and a choppily-shaved goatee which didn’t match anything and never would. He gave Joe the thumbs-up. “HarveyGasper, accountant of lore. Also of law. I mainly handle the club’s finance and OH&S. Let me tell you now; those electromagnetic cannons? They don’t come cheap. Neither does our insurance for letting you use them. Payouts, too. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times a guy slips and gets glassed by his own vial of holy water.”
“Cannons?” Joe echoed.
Harvey shook a finger at him. “Watch out for the vials. They’ll bring you unstuck before any damn EM cannon.”
The Chief waved away Joe’s question. “MsWright? I trust we can rely on you for sense.”
Iluka was a heart-faced Aboriginal girl with her chair as far from Harvey’s as she could get it without sitting on Lily’s lap. She smiled briefly at Joe. “IlukaWright’s the name. Sense, let’s see. Sylvie mentioned we combat the armies of the night. That’s true. We also settle ghosts and poltergeists and investigate paranormal phenomenon. We’re not limited to demons.”
“But to be fair, we do get a lot of demons,” said Sylvie.
“Sometimes devils,” said Iluka.
“Once a dragon.”
A murmur went around the table. The Chief cleared his throat. “We promised we wouldn’t talk about dragon. Thank you, Ms Wright, Sylvie. Miss Buchanan, do you have anything to add?”
Lily Buchanan squealed. She winked devilishly at Joe, and his heart skipped a beat. Tonight her mascara was powder blue. Her lips were like candy, glossy and pink. It was very easy to watch what she had to say. “LilyBuchanan, law student and fulltime shinigami caretaker. I believe you’ve met Mallard.”
Drake, who was just wandering back in through the wall, looked stricken. He shook himself out of his surprise to glare at Lily. “It’s Drake, you wench!”
“Officially he’s Drake,” Lily sighed, “But Mallard is much cuter. And he complains horribly when I call him Ducky.”
“Silence, mortal!” Drake roared. “I am a demon, a god-”
Lily only laughed. “Being a demon hunter is a lot of fun, Joe. I’m sure you and I will work together. We’ll do all sorts of interesting things – sometimes you’ve got to get your hands a little dirty.”
Just the thought of getting his hands dirty with Lily was enough to boil Joe’s blood. He grinned at her, and she winked in return. Phew! Was it hot in here? Where were these dragons, anyway? Joe would take them on – he’d take them all on!
“My turn,” grunted the beetroot-faced man, three places down from Lily. “You ain’t got nothing to say about the club, do ya, Bliss?”
The ancient woman beside him spat. “Hell no.”
“A’ight. Pleased to meet ya, kid. Name’s Presley Holloway, Presley as in the King, Holloway as in what my Great Granddaddy made up when he got off the boat, ex-soldier, ex-police, ex-pilot, ex-alter boy. Reckon if I can’t stop the bloody hellspawn then I can least teach ’em a thing or two.”
“My name is Erin Ireland,” said a girl about Joe’s age, the next in line after Presley. She was cute, after a fashion. Long, straight black hair fell hung over a frock of white lace. Her was small and open, her skin almost as white as her dress. She had a bag of lollies sitting on the table in front of her. Judging by the snug fit of the ample frock, the lollies were something of a pastime. Without looking at Joe, Erin continued, “My interests include horror movies and shoes.”
Duly noted. Last around the table was a man pretending not to be part of the party. His seat was angled away, towards the door, a good distance back from the table. He had a pair of Ray-Bans pushed into his hair and seemed to be snoozing. Only when the Chief coughed in a certain manner did he stop feigning sleep. He had a wolfish face which only grew wolfier when he grinned. He regarded Joe from the corner of one aqua-coloured eye. His hair was white-blonde and mussed up like some punk in a K-pop band, and his skin was tan. He was somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-five. The Wolfmother T-shirt and stonewash jeans suggested closer to the latter.
“O’Roarke,” he said, and he had quite the most amazing voice Joe had ever heard; gravelly but sweet, promising thunder. “I’ve never done anything except hunt demons and have tea parties with ghosts. I mostly work out of town.”
“The less said about you, the better,” the Chief told him. He barked a laugh, glanced at his hands. “I should have gone first. Now I haven’t a clue what to say.”
Presley had gripped his chest at the Chief’s outburst. “Christ on crutches, Knox! I wish you’d bloody warn a man before you started laughin’. I thought the goddamn jackals were on me!”
Knox frowned “I don’t recall you being in the Africa campaign.”
Presley blessed himself. “Thank the baby Jesus and Buddha too I wasn’t. It’s bad enough thinkin’ I’m there whenever you reckon something is funny. If I had been, one o’ your jokes’d send me to demon-hunting heaven.”
“Oh, mush,” the Chief scoffed. He glanced at Joe. “You know me already. I’ll be polite, anyway. Politer than some, at any rate. The name is BalthazarKnox, librarian, curator and doctor by day, demon head-hunter by night and on weekends, otherwise Chief of the Muraluna Sunday Witch Hunters. I’ll be your mentor until you’ve got the hang of things. Any questions you have, feel free to drop by the library and ask.
“As for our business motto, it is simple: to defend humanity against the armies of darkness by whatever means necessary. In a practical sense that amounts to tracking down and vanquishing a damn lot of demons back to Hell. I expect you’ll catch on fairly quickly.”
He grinned at Joe, and Joe felt himself grinning in return. “Thank you, sir. I look forward to it. And I think I managed to remember a few details.”
Yep. Armies of darkness. Cannons. Dragons. Lily. Iluka. Erin. Everything a boy needed to know.
“Excellent. So then, Joe, now you know us, let’s hear about you.”
Joe stared at the Chief and the rest of the party in frank horror. The Chief wanted him to what? To this bunch? Joe had never seen such an ill-fitted, mismatched group outside of his sock drawer – they would pick him to pieces. He glanced hopelessly at Lily, who gave him an encouraging nod. Joe took this to mean he was on his own. He stood, like he was in the first year of high school all over again. He attempted to smile confidently and wound up grimacing. His hands were flat on the table, his arms trembled. “Er. I’m JoeMalone, seventeen, in year eleven at Lochan Key High-”
A round of hissing cut off anything Joe may have said in his defence. He didn’t take this personally. Hissing and jeers were the standard response to the utterance of Lochan Key High. The Chief beamed at Joe as if everything were going accordingly.
“Here’s an idea, Joe,” Lily supplied, merciful elixir that she was, “Why don’t you tell us how you met Ducky? I’m sure everybody would like to hear about that.”
It was a sweet suggestion, even if Lily was glaring at Drake as she said it. Joe took a deep breath and attempted not to vomit blood. Okay, he could do this. He wasn’t any more different to these people than they were to each other. He could break the ice. Deep breath. Take the plunge.
Joe smiled at the assembled Witch Hunters.
“How did I meet Drake?”
See you next week for Joe’s first demon-hunting excursion!
Also tomorrow, when Indie and More episode 4 goes live.
If you liked SWH, or hated it, or felt anything other than completely neutral, let me know. ❤
Posted on January 16, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged demon, devil, fantasy, fiction, ghost, paranormal fiction, poltergeist, serial, speculative fiction, sunday witch hunters. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.