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Authors: Eva Darrows

Tags: #Urban Fantasy

The Awesome

BOOK: The Awesome
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First published 2015 by Ravenstone

an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd,

Riverside House, Osney Mead,

Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK

 

 

www.ravenstone.com

 

ISBN: 978-1-84997-935-1

 

Copyright 2015 Eva Darrows

Cover art by Pye Parr

 

The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owners.

 

For my mum

who is infinitely cooler than Janice.

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

I
AM NOT
the asskicker people think of when they hear ‘monster hunter,’ but more on that later.

My name is Margaret Cunningham, though I prefer to go by Maggie because Margaret makes me feel like I’m four hundred years old, and screw that, I’m only seventeen. Cunningham was my father’s name, or it was the name he used when he knocked up my mother. The hunting population identity shifts a lot, mostly to keep themselves off the radars of the very monsters they kill. In my dad’s case, he died on a werewolf gig before he could give Mom a real, actual name, so Cunningham I was and Cunningham I remain. Around grade school a few of the boys decided it’d be cute to call me Margaret Cunnilingus. Mom says she knew I was destined for hunting greatness when I beat them up at recess, all the while screaming, “Do you want some more?”

Those were the good old days, when life was full of your everyday assholes instead of ghoul, ghost, and golem assholes.

I’ve been around hunters my whole life, but my apprenticeship didn’t start until four years ago, when I was thirteen. Mom decided a poltergeist removal was a great way to break me in, so she took me to a job in scenic Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I remember the house clearly because it was the nicest place I’ve ever seen. It sat on the bluffs overlooking a picture-perfect private beach. There were three stories of French doors and floor-to-ceiling windows, and every room was packed with antique furniture. Matching his and her Jaguars sat in the driveway—hers was Barbie Corvette pink, and I seriously wanted to key the crap out of it, but Mom would have killed me if I’d touched it.

It was obvious Duffy and Muffy Moneybags were rich, and me and Mom showed up in a bunch of thrift shop dollar bin finds. Hunting is a dirty job; go into it expecting to get covered in something nasty. We headed up the steps, rang the doorbell, and Mrs. Moneybags opened up. She wore Ralph Lauren from head-to-toe, but there was so much ecto dripping from her clothes, it was hard to make out the stitched logo of the dude on the horse. I’ve seen ectoplasm clear and I’ve seen it black, and this lady had black all over her, like someone poured a vat of tar over her perfectly-dyed frosty locks.

“You’re from the agency?”

“We are. I’m Janice. This is my daughter, Margaret. She’s my apprentice and will be helping me with the job today.”

“Maggie,” I said to no one and everyone.

“Hello, welcome. We seem to have an angry gho...”

She cut off because her husband came screaming around the corner, dripping with so much ecto he looked like a ghost had spooged on him. He hugged a huge blue vase to his chest, sobbed like an infant, and I was pretty sure I saw pee stains on the front of his pants.

“We have an angry ghost,” the woman finished.

My mother nodded and stepped inside. “If you’d be kind enough to vacate, we’ll take care of that for you.”

“Of course. Ronald! We need to go outside!”

Mr. Moneybags, who was apparently also called Ronald, shrieked by in the other direction, this time followed by a phantom blob that glowed a sickly yellow. I’d never seen a ghost in person before, but I was more than ready for it. Mom told me at the tender age of nine that the oogedy boogedy things were all real and Mommy’s job was to exterminate them. It was like killing bugs, only in her case, the bugs were nine feet tall and ate human flesh.

I wasn’t so much afraid of the spirit as I was fascinated by it. This was what Mom did, it was what my grandparents did, and if I wanted to carry on their completely insane legacy, it’s what I’d do, too. Some families had dentistry practices or drywall businesses. Our people hunted monsters and put ’em back in their appropriate crapholes.

“Ronald, honestly. You’re embarrassing me.”

Ronald’s answer was to squawk and barrel-ass past all of us to get to the driveway, still holding the vase like he wanted to make sweet love to it.

“Is the vase, like, his girlfriend or something?”

My mother jabbed me in the boob with her elbow, but not before Mrs. Moneypants cast me a withering look. “It’s seventeenth century pottery and the ghost won’t leave it alone. He’s afraid she’ll ruin it.”

I would have asked more questions, but the ghost chose that moment to rush us to get to Ronald. It was the first time I’d ever been run through, and let me tell you, you never forget having that particular cherry popped. It’s like someone shoving a snow cone down your throat and a popsicle up your butt at the same time. It’s hideous, the most invasive thing you can experience this side of the grave. It didn’t help that freezing cold ghost goop smeared me from head to toe. My hair was plastered to my scalp, my clothes hung heavy thanks to lumpy black jelly.

“Holy shit! Gross!”

“Maggie!” my mother snapped.

“Holy crap! Gross!”

“Better.”

Mom cocked her head to the side like getting ghost-molested
ain’t no thang
, watching Ronald run circles around his Jaguar. The ghost stayed in hot pursuit, hands extended and swiping as she hissed. A few times she darted through the car to lunge for him, smearing the glossy exterior and fine leather seats with more goo. I would have cheered if she’d gunked the pink one instead, but that would have scored me another maternal booby-whack, and no thanks, those hurt. “When did the haunting start?”

“Last night,” Mrs. Moneypants said, sloughing the freshest layer of ecto from her shoulder. “Around eight.”

“When did you get the vase?”

“Yesterday afternoon at auction.”

“So it’s a haunted item. I need the vase, Mrs. Richmond.”

“That vase is worth thirty thousand dollars.”

My mother forced a smile so bright, I thought sunshine would blast out her ass like a Care Bear Stare. “It’s a thirty thousand dollar haunted item. I can separate the ghost from it, but I need to handle it to do so.”

“We don’t have it insured yet.”

“Oh, well. That changes everything.” The sarcasm was palpable, and my mother grabbed my shoulders to face me toward the street. A not-too-gentle shove later and we walked away from the Richmonds and their pretty house. “Good luck with the ghost,” Mom called over her shoulder. “If it gets violent, throw salt at it. It’ll keep it off of you for a few minutes.”

We were nearly to the van before Mrs. Richmond came trotting after us, screeching for us to stop. Mom paused, her expression flat. “Yes?”

“We can’t live like this.”

“Oh, you can for a while. They don’t kill you immediately. Not until they’ve settled in and decided your house is theirs, anyway.”

Mrs. Richmond flinched. “You know what I mean. Please, come back.”

“I can handle the vase?”

“Yes, yes, fine. Be careful.”

 

 

A
N HOUR LATER
my mother had laid two salt circles five feet apart from one another in the Richmonds’ living room. The left one had an incomplete top side; the right was fully sealed and half the size of the first. My mother stood between them, in arm’s reach of both, a sack of sea salt in hand. The Richmonds hid behind her, watching the poltergeist rearing at them from the hallway. A line of salt along the threshold kept the ghost at bay. She shrieked her fury, throwing a nutter-fit because she couldn’t get to her vase. When I asked Mom why she didn’t pass through the walls to get around the salt, she shrugged and said, “They’re not real bright.”

BOOK: The Awesome
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