Happy Sexy Saturday, kits and kittens! Today I have something super fun and special for you – I was once challenged to write a prompt for something 1920’s with magic and this is what happened. Heavily inspired by the Spiritualism movement at the turn of the century (think Fox sisters, hence some of the names!), I came up with this short story!
The twisty ending is one of my favorites ever!!!
There IS a second part… aaaand I will be sharing that next week! <333
Hope you enjoy it!
Warnings: NSFW/kinda/pretty tame tbh
The year was 1921 and for the grand sum of a hundred clams, anyone could purchase a room at the exclusive Rees Mansion and spend a weekend with Madame Catherine Fox. She was a renowned spiritualist and medium, sought out all over the country for her talents to converse with the souls of the dead. Guests of the manor would be treated to group seances and tarot card readings.
Her older brother Elisha managed all of the reservations, keeping out the riffraff and making sure everything went smoothly. These weekend spiritual retreats were always sold out, but it was getting harder to pick around the troublemakers.
Elisha spent more and more time trying to figure out if a guest was really here to chat with their dear ol’ departed Uncle Fab or if they were a nasty little reporter trying to make a name for themselves debunking a famous medium.
It was becoming a bit of a problem; especially since Catherine was a fake.
The Fox siblings were con artists. They had been keeping up this scam for years, fooling the unsuspecting public with their spiritual trickery. Along with their partner and Elisha’s childhood best friend, Thomas Kane, they had amassed a small fortune together. All of America truly believed that Catherine Fox could communicate with spirits.
It was easy, laughably so.
Elisha always very thoroughly researched every guest before they ever stepped foot in the house, including finances and criminal records. Upon their arrival, Catherine would keep the guests entertained while Elisha and Thomas took their luggage up to their rooms. It would promptly be searched for more clues about what had brought them to the manor.
By the time Catherine was ready to begin the first seance of the evening, she would know all there was to know about every single one of their poor guests. She was very observant, quite talented at reading people and a natural actress. Armed with her wits and the wealth of information provided by Elisha and Thomas, she would have their marks eating right out of her hand and swearing they had just spoken with their long lost relatives.
They had watched others with similar acts get shut down by fraud investigations, and they knew they couldn’t keep this up forever. The Spiritualism movement was beginning to fade and the merciless grip of science coupled with the strong arm of the law was choking them out.
This had to be the last time, one final performance for them all to retire on.
Elisha had spent nearly a month preparing for this weekend, every room booked and waiting. He’d already reviewed the guest list with Catherine and this lot was particularly ripe for the picking. The event started as it always did with the guests arriving together at precisely twelve o’clock.
No one would be allowed to enter the house until everyone was present, Catherine sweeping them away into the parlor to chat them up and offer them illegal sips of alcohol while Elisha and Thomas handled the bags.
One man was there seeking information about how his wife was faring on the other side since her very unexpected passing. Boring, but typical.
There was a woman who wanted to know what had happened to her father’s fortune. From his research, Elisha knew the old fool had lost it all at the track.
There was a young couple there who Elisha hadn’t been able to find much on, but digging through their luggage revealed they were mourning their beloved pet Yorkie named Poopsie.
The list went on and on, a buffet of suckers for them all to feast on. For an additional fee, guests could purchase a private reading with Madame Fox and everyone invited for this weekend had expressed an interest in doing so. It was why Elisha had chosen them. Whether filthy rich or miserably poor, they were all willing to pay.
Elisha came back downstairs to signal to Catherine that he and Thomas were done with their search, frowning when he heard a frantic knock at the front door.
The Rees Mansion was quite secluded, and it was very uncommon for anyone to come calling. All of the guests who had reserved rooms for the weekend and their kitchen staff were already here, leaving Elisha wondering who it could be.
It was a gorgeous young man, slender and willowy, peering at Elisha with big hazel eyes from behind thick round glasses. His suit was patched and worn, and he was carrying a battered suitcase and clutching an envelope to his chest.
“May I help you?” Elisha drawled, his eyes scanning over the man and tracking every detail.
“Please,” the young man pleaded, his eyes wide and desperate. “I must meet with Madame Fox! I simply must!”
“I’m sorry,” Elisha replied with a wry smile, “but the retreat is already booked. We simply have no more rooms. Perhaps next time-“
“No! Please!” the young man begged, nearly in tears. “She is the only one who can help me! I will give anything you’d like, but I have to meet with her!”
“Anything?” Elisha tilted his head curiously, glancing at the envelope. “That’s your payment, I expect?”
“Yes!” he said, shoving it into Elisha’s hands. “It’s everything I have! I tried to reserve a room before, but I didn’t have the money to make the deposit so you could review my application in time! I just sold everything I own today to be able to get that!”
Elisha casually flipped through the envelope, quick fingers counting over five hundred dollars. Not bad at all, he mused, looking back over at the young man with a more critical eye.
Definitely lower class, although he hadn’t always been without judging by the nice cut of the suit; not that Elisha cared about robbing the poor. Money spent the same regardless of who he took it from and he never felt guilty either way. The young man did seem genuinely desperate, perhaps a bit thin from not eating well, and this was supposed to be their final weekend after all.
One more drop in the pot couldn’t hurt.
Besides, the young man was so very pretty and it wouldn’t hurt to have a little fun.
Elisha stepped out onto the porch and shut the door behind him to avoid the guests hearing anything he was about to say. He leaned close, whispering to him quickly, “Listen. I may be able to get you in, but you’re going to have to trust me.”
“I just gave you my entire life savings!” the young man laughed sadly. “I’m already trusting you with everything I have. What more do you want?”
Oh, this was going to be too easy.
Elisha almost felt guilty.
“If the other guests know that I allowed you entry without a proper application, things could get very nasty,” Elisha said carefully. It wasn’t completely untrue considering the exclusive nature of the screening process. “But I do have an idea.”
“Anything,” the young man insisted. “Whatever it takes to meet with Madame Fox.”
“You’d have to pretend to be my lover for the weekend,” Elisha replied with a frustrated sigh as if it was the very last thing he wanted to do. “There’s no other way to explain for your presence without arousing suspicion from the other guests, especially since you’d have to stay with me in my room-“
“Fine,” the young man said, his jaw tight with determination. “I’ll do it.”
Elisha grinned, hungry and sweet, tucking the money away and extending his hand as he purred, “Elisha Fox, it’s a pleasure to meet you…”
“Douglas Bradley,” the young man said, shaking Elisha’s hand eagerly. His eyes were sparkling with awe, gushing, “You’re Catherine’s brother? Oh, my goodness! It must have been so amazing growing up with someone of her abilities!”
“Oh, it was just the bee’s knees,” Elisha dryly agreed, graciously taking Douglas’ suitcase for him and escorting him inside the house. “Come along, doll,” he said smoothly as they stepped into the foyer. “I’ll take you up to our room.”
“O-oh! Right!” Douglas blinked, looking all around excitedly as Elisha led him up the stairs.
Elisha helped him get settled in, leaving his suitcase up on the dresser with a mind to go through it later. There wasn’t even a lock on it, he noted without surprise. What a dumb kid.
Douglas seemed nervous, shyly pointing out, “There’s only one bed.”
“Is that a problem?” Elisha asked innocently, stepping slowly into Douglas’ space. He took the time to simply admire the young man instead of picking him apart. He really was quite beautiful.
Douglas seemed to take notice of his admiration, his cheeks flushing lightly, replying, “Uhm, I s-suppose not.”
“I swear that I will be a complete gentleman,” Elisha assured him.
“I appreciate that,” Douglas nodded, fumbling with his glasses. “I, uh, I really appreciate all of this. You know, for letting me in. It means a lot to me.”
“Tell me, Douglas,” Elisha asked softly. “What is it that is so urgent that you’d sell off everything you own to meet my sister?”
“It’s personal,” Douglas said anxiously, wringing his hands together. “I’d rather, uhm, I’d rather just talk to her about it.”
Damn. Elisha was going to need a little more than that to keep this kid on the hook. He had plenty of charm at his disposal, gently reaching for Douglas’ fluttering fingers as he soothed, “Tell me, Douglas… who did you lose?”
“My, my mother,” Douglas blinked, the heartbreak in his eyes real and raw, tears threatening to overtake him once more as he squeezed Elisha’s hands. “She was murdered… I… I need to find out who did it, okay? It’s… it’s very important to me.”
“Of course,” Elisha purred, nodding in understanding. “My sister will help you. I promise. We will make sure your mother gets the justice that she deserves.”
“Thank you!” Douglas suddenly exclaimed, wrapping his arms around Elisha’s neck and hugging him tight. “Thank you, thank you so much!”
Elisha grunted, the forceful embrace knocking him back a step. He held the young man close, gently rubbing his back and enjoying his warmth. It had been quite a long time since he’d had anything so fine in his arms. He wasn’t usually a big fan of physical contact, but for sweet Douglas he was happy to make an exception.
“You have really blue eyes,” Douglas noted dreamily, still hugging Elisha close and gazing at him as if he’d forgotten what he was supposed to be doing.
“Mmm, thanks, doll,” Elisha chuckled, smirking playfully. “Please don’t think I’m not enjoying myself, but the first seance will be starting soon… if you’d be interested in seeing my sister at work, that is.”
“Oh! Please! I would love to!”
“You have to let go of me.”
“Right! S-Sorry!” Douglas pulled away with a bashful smile, readjusting his glasses.
Elisha linked their arms together, confidently leading Douglas back downstairs to introduce him to Catherine. He found her by the piano in the parlor, holding court with their new guests.
She looked surprised to see Douglas, but didn’t immediately comment on his presence. She waved to them, cheerfully greeting, “Hello, dear brother! I do believe the spirits are going to be quite plentiful this evening!”
“Glad to hear it, dear sister,” he purred in reply, nodding his head towards Douglas as he said, “You remember my beloved Douglas, don’t you?”
“Of course!” Catherine gushed, playing right along as she pulled Douglas in for a big hug and kissed his cheeks. “How are you, darling? It’s simply been far too long!”
“O-oh! I’m good!” Douglas was immediately flustered, doing his best to act natural and failing miserably. “Uh, how are you?”
“Catherine, why don’t you and Douglas get a drink?” Elisha suggested, catching Thomas’ eye from across the room. “Catch up a bit?”
“A drink?” Douglas gasped, looking all around and frantically whispering, “Elisha, you do know that alcohol is illegal.”
“I won’t tell if you don’t,” Catherine teased, taking Douglas’ arm and pulling him over to the liquor cabinet with a sweet smile. She chatted him up as if they’d been friends for years, keeping him close while Elisha stepped out into the hall to talk to Thomas.
“Who’s the twig?” Thomas grunted curiously once they were alone.
“New mark and my lover for the weekend,” Elisha informed him briskly.
“Damn, ain’t seen you move this fast in a while.”
“Not playing for keeps. He wants an audience with Catherine and had the bank to catch my interest. Being my side piece is his cover so we don’t upset our other guests.”
“I need you to check his suitcase. Up in my room. Dead mom, murdered, wants justice.”
Thomas didn’t even blink, nodding obediently as he said, “You got it.”
Elisha clapped him on the shoulder in thanks, stepping back into the parlor to mingle. His attention was instantly drawn back to Douglas and Catherine, now seated together at the piano.
Catherine was pawing at him, goading him to play something as she teased, “Oh! Come on! You know it’s my favorite! You played it for me on my birthday!”
“I did?” Douglas stared.
Elisha resisted the urge to groan. It was a good thing everyone was already getting nice and liquored up because Douglas was terrible at this.
“Yes!” Catherine cooed sweetly, never missing a beat. “You and Lish were so sloshed, and you played the song and dedicated it to him. Sweet little love birds that you are.”
Elisha couldn’t help but snort. His dear sister was laying it on a bit thick.
They finally managed to settle on a song, Douglas’ nimble fingers stroking the keys along as he sang with Catherine. He had a lovely voice, as beautiful as the rest of him, easily overtaking Catherine’s as they went on.
Elisha noticed that even though the lyrics were happy, there was a sadness in Douglas’ voice. It made him ache in a way he couldn’t explain, eagerly joining the applause that erupted when the song ended.
“Thank you, Douglas,” Catherine purred graciously, kissing his cheek as she rose up to address her guests, “Now, I do believe it is time for us to address the spirits. If you will all follow me into the dining room, we will begin.”
She led the eager crowd away, ready to knock their socks off. A few candles here, some incense there, and a little bit of eye rolling was all it took for Catherine to completely bewitch them.
Mr. Brown would find out that his wife missed him terribly, but she was very happy and still enjoying gardening on the other side.
She would have to regrettably tell Miss Kahn that her father had lost his money and how sorry he was to have left her with nothing.
Mr. and Mrs. Blake would be over the moon to learn that Poopsie was doing just dandy and still loved to chew up newspapers.
Despite Douglas’ earlier excitement, he was lingering by the piano. He was swaying a little, a sad little smile on his face as he lightly tapped at the keys.
Elisha fixed himself a drink before joining Douglas, asking warmly, “What’s the matter, doll face? I thought you liked to watch Catherine work. You always tell me how much you love the seances.”
Couldn’t be too careful if one of the guests happened to be hanging around close by.
“I do,” Douglas replied softly. “I mean, I want to. You know what I mean… I just…” He looked up at Elisha, sighing, “I haven’t played since I lost my mother… it’s been a very long time. I was gonna give it up actually.”
“That would be a waste of considerable talent,” Elisha told him sincerely, gently touching Douglas’ cheek. “Wherever your mother is at in the world of spirits, I’m sure she’d want you to keep playing.”
Douglas beamed up at him so sweetly that it punched the air right out of his lungs. He took Elisha’s hand, cradling it against his face as he whispered adoringly, “Thank you.”
Elisha didn’t know what to do with the warmth bubbling up inside of him, quickly dulling it down with his drink. He pressed a quick kiss to Douglas’ forehead, encouraging him, “Come on. I don’t want you to miss any more than you already have.”
Douglas was still smiling when they joined the others, his handsome face lighting up as Catherine continued to wow them all with her fantastic visions. Each one was more incredible than the last, carrying on for hours until she had exhausted herself and had to retire for the evening.
After a brief rest, she would accept guests for private readings in her study but not until after dinner.
Elisha stayed close to Douglas all night, enjoying his honest sense of wonder and awe. No one would ever suspect that any of this was fake looking at Douglas’ face. He was truly left amazed, enchanted by the magic Catherine had woven so beautifully out of their treachery.
Dinner came and went, and Elisha had lost count of how many drinks Douglas had guzzled back. Elisha was no stranger to hooch, but he wouldn’t have been surprised if Douglas had never touched a drop in his life.
Douglas was flushed and laughing often, leaning into Elisha as if they were really lovers. He enjoyed holding his hand and resting his head on Elisha’s shoulder when it became too heavy from the drink to keep up.
Elisha was completely enchanted, accepting all the sweet touches without pushing for anything more than what Douglas was willing to give. Once dinner was concluded, Catherine announced she would begin receiving guests for their private sessions.
After they’d paid up and been thoroughly searched by Thomas, of course.
“Before I go,” Catherine suddenly said, smiling over the table of guests, “there is one last announcement I have to make.” Her smile had a tiny hint of wickedness, declaring, “I want to wish my brother and his beloved a very happy anniversary!”
Douglas blushed and hid his face in Elisha’s chest as everyone applauded and cheered, laughing shyly, “Oh, Gosh!”
Elisha grinned appropriately, but inside he was ripping his sister’s hair out.
“Go on! Give him a kiss!” someone called out.
“Oh, yes! A kiss! And a toast to the happy couple!” said another.
Elisha peered down at Douglas, wishing he knew a way to tell him that they didn’t have to do this. It was obvious that they’d both been drinking quite a bit and Douglas could easily deny the request with his obviously shy nature.
But when Douglas looked up at him, there was nothing shy about it. He was gazing at Elisha as if he wanted to consume him, licking his lips and pausing only to take a quick breath before surging forward to claim a passionate kiss.
However unexpected, Elisha didn’t let his surprise register. He wove his arms around Douglas and sweetly returned his affections, purring adoringly, “Happy anniversary, my love.”
“Happy anniversary!” Douglas hiccuped happily, eagerly going in for another kiss.
Oh, there was tongue.
Elisha excused them from the table, easily scooping the slender boy up into his arms and carrying him upstairs. Douglas protested for about three seconds before his head flopped back, blissfully snoring away.
He gently tucked Douglas into bed, taking off his shoes and his coat. He also carefully removed his glasses, setting them over on the bedside table. He left the rest as it was and found himself smiling, even brushing his fingers through Douglas’ soft hair.
This wasn’t good. This was not good at all.
He couldn’t catch feelings for a mark.
Elisha left to find Thomas, intent on taking the cash he’d collected and even more interested in learning what he’d found inside Douglas’s suitcase. He was almost hoping Thomas would have discovered Douglas was actually a reporter or something else equally devious.
Then perhaps he wouldn’t feel so guilty about what he was doing to him.
No such luck as Thomas revealed Douglas was squeaky clean. There were a few newspaper articles about his mother’s murder, a blue ribbon, and a blank postcard from Baltimore. Thomas had been able to sneak away to make a quick phone call to confirm the kid’s story and it wasn’t a happy one.
“Twig’s mom got pumped full of daylight when he was a kid,” Thomas explained. “Coppers put the finger on his old man and gave him the chair. There was some uncle, helped take care of him, but he ain’t been in the picture for a while.”
“Good,” Elisha said curtly, resisting a pang of sympathy. “Make sure Catherine knows what’s up. Douglas is definitely gonna want his reading before the weekend is over.”
“You got it.”
They bid each other good night, Elisha returning to his bedroom to put the money away. There was a lockbox that he kept under the bed, carefully pulling it out as quietly as he could so as not to disturb Douglas. He locked up the cash and stashed the key back in his coat pocket.
He got ready for sleep, deciding to stay in his pants and shirt for modesty’s sake and the comfort of his new companion. Douglas curled up against Elisha the moment he laid down, throwing his arm up over his chest.
Elisha smiled, making no effort to move him, simply enjoying the warmth as he drifted off to sleep.
When he woke up the next morning, Elisha did everything he could to make the moment last. Douglas was still snuggled up beside him and it felt damn good to hold him.
It couldn’t last forever, Douglas stirring at last and groaning miserably, “Ohhh… what hit me?”
“About ten rounds of hooch,” Elisha replied with a softly chuckle.
Douglas blinked himself awake, squinting up at Elisha as he struggled to get a handle on where he was. His eyes suddenly grew wide, gasping, “Oh! I kissed you! I, I, I am so sorry! I re-really shouldn’t have-“
“It’s fine,” Elisha purred gently. “All part of selling who you are to the other guests. You did well… and I definitely wouldn’t mind a repeat performance.”
Douglas’ fair face turned a lovely shade of red, mumbling, “I think, I think we should, uhm, go get breakfast.”
“Of course,” Elisha nodded, letting him go without protest. He was a thief, but he wasn’t a goon.
He even turned his back while they got dressed, waiting for Douglas to tap his shoulder to let him know that he was decent.
Downstairs they went to join the other guests, the rest of the day passing by much more quickly than Elisha would have liked. Catherine hosted several more seances and tarot card readings in between, Douglas remaining enthralled by her performances at every moment. As the evening fell upon them, Elisha realized he wasn’t ready for the weekend to be over.
He wasn’t ready for Douglas to leave yet.
It was finally time for Douglas’ private reading and he requested for Elisha to join them. He usually didn’t mind witnessing his sister’s spiritual antics, but knowing they were about to be focused on Douglas made him uncomfortable. He used liquor to ease it, all smiles as he sat down with them in the study.
Douglas was fidgeting excitedly in his seat across from Catherine, babbling away, “It’s truly an honor, Madame Fox. Everything I’ve seen you do, it’s just, wow, it’s beyond incredible. You’re truly so talented! I just, wow, okay, I keep saying that, uhm-“
“It’s quite all right,” Catherine cut in politely, reaching for Douglas’ hands as she gently instructed. “I need you to clear your mind for me… think of the person you wish for me to contact.”
“Okay,” Douglas breathed, closing his eyes.
“Now, did you bring something of theirs?”
“Yes,” Douglas replied, reaching quickly into his pocket to retrieve the long blue ribbon Thomas had found yesterday in his suitcase.
Catherine took it from him, smelled it, held it, even licked it. “Yes,” she nodded slowly. “It’s coming together now… it’s your mother’s?”
“Yes!” Douglas gasped. “How, how did you know?”
“She told me,” Catherine replied sweetly. “She’s here with us now…” She frowned, her tone sad as she murmured, “Oh, Douglas. I’m so sorry… I didn’t know she had been taken from you so violently!”
“It’s okay,” Douglas sniffed, his eyes beginning to tear up. “It was, it was many years ago. But you see, that’s why I need your help! I need-“
“To find the man who really killed her,” Catherine interrupted, tilting her head as if she was listening to someone else. “Your father was falsely accused… oh! He’s there with her? They’re together? Oh, Douglas… he’s also passed on?”
“Yes. He was executed for a crime he didn’t commit,” Douglas sorrowfully explained. “This is why I came to you. I need you to please help me. I cannot rest until I get justice for my family!”
Every last tear Douglas cried slapped Elisha right in the face. Maybe it was a good thing this was their last scam. He would miss the rush, but clearly he was going soft.
Catherine moaned and rolled her eyes about, shaking and pulling out all the stops while Douglas watched her intently. She began to gasp loudly, panting, “Yes, it was a man… a tall man, but not too tall… a beard, maybe not… and he was wearing…” Catherine suddenly shivered. “…Green.”
“Yes?” Douglas pleaded. “And? And what else?”
Catherine took Douglas’ hands, shaking her head as she lamented, “The vision is leaving me, but your parents want me to pass along a message. They want you to give up your search. They’re at peace now, they have each other… and they want you to be happy.”
Douglas looked confused and lost, sniffing miserably as Catherine pressed the blue ribbon into his palm. He stared down at it for a long time, his head bobbing slowly as he said, “Thank you, Madame Fox. For everything.”
“It’s my pleasure, Douglas,” Catherine cooed. “Your parents love you so very much.”
“I know they do,” Douglas said with a tearful smile, glancing back at Elisha. “Uhm. Could we… could we go to bed, my, eh, beloved?”
“Of course,” Elisha purred, saying goodnight to his sister and walking Douglas back to his room. When the door shut behind them, he was surprised to find himself tackled into another fierce hug.
“Douglas, are you all right?” Elisha asked, genuinely concerned.
“I’m better than all right,” Douglas sighed, grinning sweetly up at him. “My parents are at peace! This is incredible! I can finally start my life! I don’t have to keep looking any more for some terrible fiend!”
“I’m happy for you,” Elisha said with a warm smile, his hands settling on Douglas’ hips.
“I can live for me now,” Douglas went on, his eyes still damp with tears but these were joyful. “I can do whatever I want!” His eyes flickered over Elisha’s lips, shy but full of desire. “Anything I want…”
“What do you want right now?” Elisha asked huskily, already knowing the answer and selfish enough to take it.
“You,” Douglas replied bashfully. “To kiss you… and uhm, whatever… whatever else may happen after that… if, uh, you know, you’d be interested.”
Elisha only smiled, sweeping Douglas into a tender kiss, his tongue deftly stealing away his needy moans. Their clothes fell to the floor as Elisha took Douglas to bed, worshipping his body for long hours before finally sliding inside of him.
Douglas was totally insatiable, a frantic live-wire writhing away beneath Elisha and desperately begging for more. Elisha gave him all that he had and then some, driven by some unfamiliar force to wreck Douglas beyond his wildest dreams.
Maybe it was guilt, his silent way of apologizing for taking advantage of such a sweet soul.
Elisha did not allow himself rest until Douglas had called out his name a third time and the sun was beginning to lighten the sky outside his window. They held each other like the lovers they had pretended to be all weekend, Douglas’ soft voice whispering in Elisha’s ear, “Thank you… for everything.”
“You’re welcome,” Elisha replied as he swallowed back the last stab of guilt he could stand, his mind already made up before he fell asleep.
Tomorrow, he was going to give Douglas back his money.
When Elisha woke up alone, he was actually surprised. He had reached out to find Douglas and was met with cool sheets instead. He blinked himself awake, sitting up with a soft grunt.
Douglas’ glasses were still sitting on the bedside table, but his suitcase was gone.
Something was wrong.
Elisha got dressed, heading quickly downstairs to find Catherine bidding all of their guests farewell. Everyone was leaving happy and satisfied, money well spent and their faith in the beyond successfully confirmed.
He waited for the last one to leave before asking quickly, “Have you seen Douglas?”
“Not since last night,” Catherine replied, quirking her brows. While not a true medium, she knew her brother better than he knew himself and demanded flatly, “What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“He’s gone,” Elisha said with a deep frown. “Something’s up.”
“I never heard him leave,” Thomas chimed in as he joined them at the bottom of the stairs. “What are you thinkin’? Got all skittish on ya’ and ran?”
“I don’t know,” Elisha answered honestly. He reached into his coat pocket for the lockbox key, sighing, “Let’s just get the cash and scram. I don’t like this…”
The moment his fingers touched the key, his heart stopped. There was something soft there that didn’t belong, slowly pulling the key out to reveal a long blue ribbon had been tied around it.
It was the ribbon that belonged to Douglas’ mother.
“What’s that?” Thomas grunted.
Elisha turned and immediately bolted back up the steps, skipping the last few at the top as he hurled himself towards his bedroom door. He dove under the bed, dragging out the lockbox with his pulse drumming like thunder in his ears.
It couldn’t be.
He stared stupidly down into an empty chest, several seconds ticking by as he tried to wrap his mind around it. All of the money was gone.
Catherine and Thomas had finally caught up with him, Catherine angrily snapping, “Lish! What the hell?”
“Where’s the fuckin’ money?” Thomas snarled, his eyes immediately finding the empty lockbox.
Elisha sat back on his heels, rubbing his hands slowly over his face. All the pieces were falling into place, laughing bitterly, “That little son of a bitch took it… I’ve been conned.”
“What?” Catherine blinked.
“It was Douglas,” Elisha sighed, feeling more a fool than he ever had in his entire life. He was almost too impressed to be angry. He picked up the glasses that Douglas had left behind, tilting them up into the light for a closer look.
Plain glass, nothing more.
All part of Douglas’ shy and vulnerable little costume that he had chosen to seduce Elisha with.
It had been good. Very good.
Elisha had never even suspected him for a moment.
He knew that the script of Douglas’ act had been very real, but where the actual line of truth and falsehood was drawn Elisha had no idea. He had never before met a con artist so talented and he was equally infuriated and intrigued.
“Lish!” Catherine shrieked impatiently, dragging him out of his thoughts. “Are you telling me that little skinny shit whammied you and took off with all of our fucking money?”
“Yes, sister,” Elisha drawled with an amused click of his tongue. “That he did.” He stood up, grabbing a bag out of his closet and starting to pack.
“What are you doing?” Thomas grumbled, still quite sore over the lost cash and pouting at the empty box.
“Going after our fuckin’ money,” Elisha replied. “He couldn’t have gotten too far.” He thought about Douglas’ postcard, adding, “I have a pretty good idea of where he’s going. You two stay here, pack up shop. We’re gonna need to be ready to ghost this town when I get back.”
“Yeah?” Catherine scoffed. “What are you gonna do to the little bastard when you find him?”
“Haven’t decided yet,” Elisha replied with a playful smirk.
“You gonna kill him?”
“Possibly,” Elisha mused, still unable to hide how impressed he was with Douglas’ flawless manipulation. “I’ll decide when I catch up to him. I’m either gonna kill him… or I’m gonna ask him to marry me.”