“I want a refund!” Murgatroyd slapped the property deeds onto the estate agent’s desk.
Stuart Briggs, the estate agent behind the desk, flinched. Refunds were not company policy. He cast a glance at the document. The bill of sale was attached by a paper clip. Damn it. The customer was still within the ‘cooling-off’ period.
“Is there a problem?” Briggs smiled. “Perhaps a cuppa and a sit down…”
Murgatroyd bristled, his eyes flashing with anger.
“Liar and fraud!” he declaimed. Briggs reddened, mindful of others in the office.
“Now, now,” he squirmed. “I’m sure it’s nothing we can’t sort out. Calmly.”
He gestured to a chair but Murgatroyd only stood up all the straighter.
“You told me the house was haunted,” Murgatroyd sneered. “I have been made to look a fool. It was the selling point my entire business was based around. I invited special guests, experts in the field, celebrities! Yvonne from the television! Only to be made to look a fool. There was not one whiff of supernatural activity the entire weekend. Don’t you realise what this has cost me? Now, they are posting online, in their blogs and forums, saying what a rip-off my bijou hotel is, what a disappointment. So,” he folded his bony arms, “I want my money back, and be grateful I don’t sue you for misrepresentation and loss of potential earnings.”
Panic showed in Briggs’s eyes. “Let’s not be hasty, Mr – ah, Murgatroyd. I don’t recall ever claiming the property to be haunted.”
Thunderclouds darkened Murgatroyd’s brow.
“What I did say,” Briggs smiled, “was the old place is cursed. There’s a difference.”
Murgatroyd shook his head. “What good is that to me? People don’t want curses; they want ghosts.”
“Potato-tomato,” Briggs was dismissive. “If you package it right, you could be sitting on a gold mine. You see, a hundred years ago, the owner of the mansion was dragged out into the street by a mob of angry locals. Charges of necromancy, witchcraft, or some such bollocks. He was probably just an old perv. They tied him to a tree in the town square and burnt him. With his dying words, he cursed them, the town, and the mansion – no one who crossed its threshold would ever know a moment’s peace. Of course, that was a long time ago. The town has been remodelled several times. The town square replaced by a shopping mall. Why, this very office is thought to be built where the tree used to stand.”
Murgatroyd laughed, like bowling balls rolling down a chute. Briggs found his shirt collar suddenly constrictive, his tie coiling and rising, twisting around his throat like a serpent.
“Fools!” Murgatroyd exalted. “Did you think I was gone for good? Did my dying words mean nothing to you? I waited; patiently, I waited. And now, a full hundred years since my demise. I am back to destroy all that you have built, all that you hold dear. Starting with you, Stuart Briggs. It was your ancestor who lit the torch that started the fire. How fitting that you should be on the very spot!”
Murgatroyd made a gesture with skeletal fingers. Briggs’s desk ignited. Briggs backed away, arms up to protect himself, but already the smoke was starting to choke him. He coughed and spluttered and pleaded for his life.
But Murgatroyd turned on his heels, his black cloak swirling behind him, fanning the flames. He stalked from the estate agency and through the shopping mall. The glass frontages of the shops shattered as he passed. The slightest gesture from his slender hands brought down ceiling tiles, cracked electricity conduits. Sparks leapt from snaking cables. Fires sprang up in all directions as people ran around screaming, the exit blocked by falling concrete.
When the town was utterly destroyed, Murgatroyd strode all the way back to the mansion, where he had waited, dormant, for a hundred years, waiting for a suitable vessel to come by, and then that idiot hotelier had come along to take possession. Murgatroyd chuckled. Take possession! What the hotelier did to the house, I have done to the hotelier.
He paused to take in the gothic monstrosity before him. The jagged turrets, The sharply arched windows. Perhaps I should burn it down at last, he mused. Or perhaps now, that the descendants of my enemies have been dealt with, I shall find a moment’s peace.