The Blackwell Ascension – Chapter 1
Disclaimer: Rosa Blackwell, Joey Mallone, and the major concepts in this story are property of Wadjet Eye Games. This story is for entertainment purposes only.
If it was one thing that Rosangela Blackwell loved about New York City, it the way that the people of every suburb and every neighborhood could come together for a common exuberant cause.
What she hated was the increasing eccentricities of its annual festivities.
“Eggs. Why in the world would people celebrate eggs?” She yanked her fingers through her fiery red hair and pulled out a handful of yolk. “And why would they celebrate them by throwing them at each other?”
Over a year ago, she might have never spoken to herself at normal volume in the center of her modest apartment. Of course, she wasn’t really speaking to herself now.
The flutter of the cool breeze beside her told her that she had been heard loud and clear. Heard, but not supported. “Eggs have always stood for a symbol of fertility, of new life, of procreation. And anyway, I believe the question you really want to ask is, why were they throwing them at you?”
Joey Mallone hovered into her eyesight, strangely straight-faced considering her condition. During their time together, she had been covered in paint, mud, sewage, and marshmallow (that one had been funny, even she had to admit), and she’d never had time to cry out before he had been rolling—well, floating—with laughter.
Flinging her hand over the kitchen sink, she scowled at Joey. As a ghost and her self-appointed spirit guide, he had come through the ordeal scot-free with not an ethereal thread on his suit or fedora out of place. She used to tease him about possibly being a gangster during his lifetime, but his indignant nature took the fun out of it quickly.
She said now, “I don’t blame them for throwing. What I blame for actually hitting me is you.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Nothing. That’s the problem.” She was tempted to just dunk her head under the kitchen faucet, but her bathroom was only a few steps away. “You saw them coming at me from behind, and what did you say?”
“I said, ‘Hey, look!’”
“No; you said, ‘Oh, look.’”
Joey’s eyebrows rose, but he didn’t look as confused as she thought he should. “What’s the difference?”
“I’ll tell you what the difference is. One is spoken with panic and alarm, and it connotes that I should take immediate action. What you said was, ‘Oh, look,’ as if you’d seen a butterfly.”
“Since when would I point out a butterfly?”
“Oh, shut up.” Rosa gave up on a chunk of eggshell dried to the back of her neck and stalked towards her bedroom door.
“Hey, where’re you going?”
“Where do you think?” she said, and finalized it by slamming the door behind her. Pausing, she took a deep breath and began to count silently. She only made it to five before she heard the all-too familiar snorting and snerking on the other side.
Well. At least he had the courtesy to wait until she was out of the room this time.
The shower felt incredible after spending the last two hours in sticky, stiff clothing, and Rosa took her time washing up, standing under the stream of water and relishing in her pseudo solitude.
Her and Joey’s job of tracking down ghosts and directing them to the Other Side had led them to a rather public area this last time, during a sunny Saturday morning filled with people decked out in chicken and egg costumes, clucking and cheering and dancing through the streets. Finally, though, using only the account of a frightened businessman and his fishnetted “friend” from the night before, they had found what—or rather, who—they were looking for.
The ghost had been Joy Carson, a nervous young woman who had run after a puppy in life and accidentally been struck by a car. She had refused to believe she was dead until Joey had managed to freak out a stray cat and guided it into the alley where Joy had been lurking, and where her alleged puppy had also scampered. Having declared that her puppy hated cats and would have streaked out of hiding had it even heard a meow, Joy came into clarity and allowed Rosa to draw her into node-space to the light.
Unfortunately, the Egg Festival had poured over into the alley by that time, and Rosa had barely risen to her feet and brushed herself off before the first raw shell hit her in the back. The second, the back of the head. Joey had stood calm through it all, hands in his pockets, looking on. Pinching his lips way too hard for her security.
Sighing at the memory, she dipped her head under the hot water again. She had bought a deluxe, luxury, two-in-one showerhead six months ago, and it was not disappointing her. Her bathroom was the one place Joey wasn’t allowed to roam freely unless Rosa was screaming bloody murder.
“Hey, kid, you seem upset.” Joey’s voice was muffled from the bedroom, even in his ethereal state. “Why don’t you come out here, and we start over.”
Rosa smiled. It felt good to ignore him, if only for the moment.
The shower was welcome both as a rinse from the dried egg and as white noise to Joey’s excessive whining. Nevertheless, duty called. She was dressed and on her living room couch in fifteen minutes, scrubbing her head dry with a towel. At least her hair felt stronger from the eggs.
“Alright, here we go.” Joey drifted closer and blew at the newspaper, which lay open on the coffee table. Rosa could have just as easily tuned the page using her fingers, but she held her tongue. “Here’s a story about a grocery store door that shut on its own, keeping a would-be robber locked inside long enough for the police to apprehend him.”
Rosa scanned the full story and hated to break it to him—sort of—but: “The door was remote controlled by the grocer, Joey. He turned off the door from under the counter.”
“Really? How’d he manage that?”
“Hydraulics.” Joey looked blank. “Wifi?” He shook his head. “Fine, magic or radio?”
“I’ll take radio. Magic’s not real.”
Rosa refused to take the bait and peered at the paper again, careful not to drip water on the fine, thin pages. “What about this one? Wife dies, and the husband swears he heard her calling to him from beyond the grave.”
“How old is he?”
Joey grunted. “Don’t bother. He’s got his hearing aide turned up too high.”
“How do you know he’s got a hearing aide?”
“Trust me. You wouldn’t believe how many geezers your aunt and I ran into thinking their dead wives were whining at them.”
Rosa didn’t want to know, even if it was a chance to hear more about Auntie Lauren. “Well, fine. I’m going to check my email. Maybe the feelers I sent out online have finally picked up something.”
Joey snorted. “What, you kidding me? That thing’s not gonna be any help; it never is.”
A spark of annoyance flickered from within Rosa. Here it was. She couldn’t make the slightest suggestion or idea without Joey dismissing it entirely. “Well, it can’t hurt to check. Just give me a minute.”
“Do what you want, but I’m telling you, you’re wasting your time. Double or nothing your computer box hasn’t picked up a wooden nickel,” scoffed Joey as Rose got to her feet. She paused, and he saw it.
They turned at the same time, meeting eyes across the room.
Slowly, carefully, Rosa folded her arms. “And if it does?”
Joey was silent a moment. “If it does, I’ll serve as your personal air conditioner for a week during the next heat wave.”
New York heat waves didn’t happen often, but when her AC decided to pass out, Joey was most definitely welcome. “Fine. And if you win, I’ll compliment you on request for a month.”
“A month?” Joey was suspicious. “Why so long?”
It was so rare to catch Joey off guard, and Rosa grinned. “Because that’s how long it will take to find enough things to compliment you on.”
Joey blinked, and for a second, Rosa feared she had gone too far. But then he was bowing his head and leering at her in that competitive nature of his. “Oh, you’re on, sister. Go check it out.”
It only took a minute for her computer to load and a second to pull up her internet browser. She was still constructing her business website, but she had posted her services on most of the major social media sites, knowing that someone somewhere would email her. Half of the messages would be stupid and fake, but all they needed was one to start.
And one was exactly what they got.
“ ‘Dear Ms. Blackwell. I am the owner of a brownstone complex in Midtown. My brownstones were built in the early eighties (though I didn’t purchase them until the late nineties) and have always been rented to civilians without much trouble. However, I have come across the most interesting situation for the last four months.
“ ‘One of my best rentals, which sits in front of a grove of cherry blossoms on Martin Street, has been leased out to three different families in this year alone. The first family left within three months; the second in two months, and the third within two weeks. They all claim that, at three forty-two in the afternoon every day, they begin to smell the scent of baking brownies. This, they don’t mind. Unfortunately, this scent quickly gives in to the overwhelming stench of something burning. It stinks up the whole lower level of the home to where the fire department has been dispatched on many occasions. The electrician has also been called. I’ve had the oven replaced three times, but still the smell comes through. The strangest part of all of this is that the smell is completely gone by sixty thirty-eight that evening, as if the event never occurred.
“ ‘I have lost more money on this account than I would like to, and have no other ideas besides completely demolishing this brownstone. I saw your services and would like to use you as a last resort. I have included my phone number, address and business hours below; please come see me at your earliest convenience.’”
“Hmph,” said Joey as Rosa triumphantly printed the directions. “So that box does have a use after all.”
Rosa was always happy to prove Joey wrong, especially since he seemed to think that his forty-plus years as a spirit guide made him wiser in the realm of—well, everything. “You better save your breath this summer, Joey. I hear it’s gonna be a scorcher.” She laughed at her little joke, then stopped when he only eyed her.
“Don’t ever say that again.” Sighing, he adjusted his tie. “Well, come on! Gussy up, and let’s get goin’.”