Maggadino had made the call to New York around five, and immediately after he'd finished poured two fingers of bourbon. It had been a business call, the specifics caged in the language he'd been told to use. A noise in the pipes, in the kitchen and the basement. Timing was urgent. Sweat had run down Maggadino's face as he gasped out the address. A shadow had slithered across the gap between the kitchen door and the floor while he was talking. The voice on the other end said they would be there soon, and hung up.
Groesbecksville was a hundred and fifty miles from Brooklyn, or near enough to make no difference. Given traffic, it was two and a half to three hours' drive. Maggadino measured the time in empty bottles and cigarettes, the play of rain on the window and trips to the pisser, the constant clink of metal on metal reverberating up from the pipe in the basement, the click of the rosary beads around his left wrist. Hard eyes watched the shadow of the thing as it groped its way around the kitchen, banging against the doors and cabinets, fridge and stove, but not able to get out.
He cursed at it in English and Italian, until the knock at the door came. Maggadino opened it to the storm, and let in a thickset figure in a long black coat and flatcap, gloved hand carrying a heavy leather bag, and a thinner one in a slicker with a hood.
Maggadino said nothing as coats were doffed, revealing two women. The one with a bag was built like a rugby player, dark brown hair cut short into a buzz, a trailing pink scar running across both cheeks and the bridge of her nose, which was notched like something had taken a chunk of the middle. The other was thinner, younger, a plain-looking blonde with her hair tied back in a bun.
"Duchevsky," the thick-set one held out a gloved hand. Maggadino gripped it, and didn't let his face show anything as she squeezed and let his mitt drop. "This is Glenda, my driver." The blonde waved, and strode over to the table, where she started setting empty bottles and glasses up right.
"How long has this been going on?" Duchevsky's eyes held him.
"Three days." He swallowed. "We had a bit of an accident..."
"No you didn't." She set down the bag on the floor, opened it. He smelled incense, and was reminded for a second of his days as an altar boy, swinging the thurible. "Haints don't do accidents. Takes a long time of dying, lots of pain and hurt. Somebody has to scream for hours, till their voice gives out, till all hope is gone. Have to turn their spirits outwards, walk a long way into the dark, lay a trail back for the elementals to trace back."
"Bitch couldn't walk at all at the end..." Maggadino blurted, then cursed and shut his mouth.
"I don't doubt it." Duchevsky kneeled down and sniffed, sorting through the things in the bag. "Basement and the kitchen, that's what you said on the phone, right?"
"That's right." Duchevsky lit up another cigarette, forcing his hands not to shake. The beads jingled on his wrist.
"Did you do it in the kitchen or the basement? Or which was first, I mean?"
"Basement." He paused, exhaled. "We couldn't get rid of it right away. Put some of it in the freezer, for later."
"Okay," Duchevsky took out an old steel wrench, must have been twenty pounds. There were things etched into the flat surfaces of the metal. "You said 'we.' Who else was with you?"
"Old Bill. Cameraman. We've worked together two, three times before."
"Yeah. First time this has happened, though."
"And what happened to Old Bill?"
"He...when it happened...he was in the basement, hosing everything down, breaking down the set. Bleach and mop job, y'know? Bill was good at it. Done a lot of that. Didn't make it out."
"Yeah?" She looked up at him. "He ever keep any souvenirs?"
"Yeah, no." Maggadino took a drag. "Bill was professional about it." He squirmed. "Except maybe, this one time, we're unwinding after and he shows me this thing full of little metal beads. You can't keep the teeth, see, because of dental records, but he liked to take out the fillings, melt 'em down on his own."
Duchevsky nodded, reached back in the bag, took out a set of heavy pliers, etched with the same symbols.
"So Bill was the cameraman and clean-up - he do the prep too?" Maggadino nodded. "And you were the talent." He nodded again, slowly.
"Okay," Duchevsky stuck the pliers in her left pocket, and stood up slowly, the wrench in her right hand. "One more thing: you got the money?"
Maggadino took out a fat envelope, flashed some hundreds. Duchevsky nodded to the blonde. "Glenda will count it."
Duchevsky turned toward the kitchen.
"Wait!" He coughed, swallowed. "I mean, what are you going to do?"
She turned back to him. "You ever break somebody's legs? Start with the kneecap. Smash it good, and your mark is in a world of pain. Can't think, can't talk, can't do anything - most importantly, can't run. So they can't get away when you do it again." She turned away. "Ghost-breaking, it's the same thing. Just a little harder to hit, is all."