Title: Mrs. Roberts' Neighborhood
Fandom: The Rockford Files (specifically, The Queen of Peru episode)
Characters: Ginger Townsend, Lou Trevino; an OC
Prompt: Table 3, Prompt #48 - No Good Deed
Word Count: 4,718
Warnings/Spoilers: Supernatural elements
Summary: Ginger and Lou get called out on what seems to be a routine haunted house case. But it's anything but. Inspired by The Real Ghostbusters' episode Mrs. Rogers' Neighborhood.
Things had been peaceful for some time when the phone rang one stormy evening and Ginger answered only to hear a hysterical woman wailing away.
“Please come quickly!” she sobbed. “My house is filled with ghosts and I don’t know what to do!”
Even as Ginger’s stomach turned, he retorted, “Who are you and why do you think we could do anything about it?”
Lou, who had been quietly reading a magazine, looked up with a start and a feeling of dread. His eyes were filled with questions as he stared at Ginger, who just shook his head and waited for the woman’s reply.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she moaned. “My name is Janet Roberts. Violet is a friend of mine. She told me how you chased a poltergeist all over her house and made her realize she had to stand up to it. I’ve tried to stand up to the ghosts here, but it just isn’t working!”
Ginger scowled. He definitely remembered Violet, Stefanie’s mother. And the details Janet was giving were correct. There was no reason to think she wasn’t on the level. “Give me your address,” he said. “I’ll have to speak with my chum before anything is decided for certain.” What he didn’t add was that he already knew Lou would agree to help, no matter how much they would both rather stay home.
“Alright.” Janet delivered her home address in a shaky, tearful tone of voice and added, “Thank you so much, young man. Goodbye.”
Lou had set the magazine aside by now. “Ginger, what the heck is going on?!” he exclaimed.
Ginger hung up the receiver in displeasure. “News of our ghost-busting exploits continues to spread. That was a chum of Stefanie’s mother’s. She wants us to help her with multiple ghosts in her house.”
Lou slumped back into the couch. “Oh no!”
“We could recommend she send for a medium,” Ginger grunted.
“Nah.” Lou wearily pushed himself up. “She specifically wants us, and we both know there aren’t a lot of mediums we trust. Let’s just get our stuff together and go.”
“I knew you’d feel that way.” Ginger shoved the paper with the address into his pocket. “It’s a good thing we’ve made sure to keep well-stocked on white candles and holy water.”
“And incense.” Lou sighed, running a hand over his face. “I knew it wasn’t likely that the peace would last much longer. Things have been pretty good on the ghost front for a long time.”
Ginger nodded. “Naturally that wouldn’t continue indefinitely. Sooner or later there are always more. And apparently people deliberately petitioning us for help is something that’s going to happen with increased frequency.”
“Maybe we really should set it up as a side business,” Lou said with little humor.
It was not a pleasant night to be out. The wind howled, bending the trees and sending old flyers and empty fast-food bags down the streets. The sky was completely overcast, threatening rain any moment. With the drought, neither Ginger nor Lou could really complain—although they wished the downpour would wait until they were safely back at home.
Lou wasn’t sure what to make of the address, either. “Are you sure you took that down right?” he asked. “I thought that place was a vacant lot.”
“Obviously it isn’t,” Ginger grunted. “The vacant lot must simply have a similar address.”
“I guess so,” Lou frowned.
The street was winding and was home to many old mansions. When they pulled up at the address in question, they found themselves looking at another one. It was beautiful and well kempt instead of the run-down cliché Lou was half-expecting, but somehow just looking at it gave him an eerie feeling.
If Ginger felt the same, he said nothing. He merely climbed out, pulling his overcoat with him as he studied the two lion statues on either side of the walkway. “We couldn’t have been down this street before,” he decided. “We would have noticed these.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Lou got out as well and opened the backdoor to retrieve the box of exorcism materials. Ginger waited until that was accomplished before going on ahead to the porch. As Lou followed, he wished he didn’t have the uneasy sensation that one of the statues was growling at him. He hurried onto the porch after Ginger.
The door was opened soon after Ginger rang the bell. A sweet old lady stood there, smiling at them. “Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come!” she declared. “I didn’t know how I was going to stand spending another night here with all the ghosts!”
“We’ll do what we can, but we can only get rid of malevolent ghosts,” Ginger told her.
“Well, I can’t imagine these could be anything but!” Janet cried. “They’ve been torturing me for weeks now.”
Ginger stepped inside, followed quickly by Lou. “So how long have you lived here?” Lou wondered.
“Fifty years.” Janet hurriedly shut the door upon seeing that Lou’s arms were full.
“And you’ve never experienced spirit activity until now?” Ginger raised an eyebrow.
“Never!” she asserted.
Ginger folded his arms. “Something must have happened to cause them to become active. When did it start?”
“Oh, let me see.” Janet began counting on her fingers. “Why, it started three weeks ago Tuesday. But I can’t think of anything unusual that happened that day!”
“Maybe it’s an anniversary of something in the ghosts’ past,” Lou suggested, setting the box on a nearby chair.
“I suppose that’s possible.” She blinked at the box. “You’re going to defeat them with these? I thought you’d have proton packs and ectoplasmic containment units.”
“Real ghost-busting has nothing to do with nonsense like that,” Ginger said flatly.
“Well, I guess that will teach me not to watch so many movies!” Janet chuckled. “Should I leave the house while you deal with the ghosts?”
“Do you want to?” Ginger stared at her. “You’d be leaving two strange men to roam freely in your home.”
Janet fidgeted. “Violet and Stefanie both speak of you so highly that I feel I know you,” she said. “I’m sure you’re both completely trustworthy.”
“We are,” Lou assured her.
“Then I’m not worried at all,” Janet insisted. “But I guess I would kind of like to stay and see how you really bust ghosts.”
“Sure,” Lou said, “but it’s probably not really as exciting as you’re hoping. We just light a few candles, say some prayers, maybe sprinkle holy water around. . . .”
“What do you do if they blow out the candles?” Janet innocently asked.
“We do without,” Ginger grunted. “Now, which are the most offending rooms?”
“All of them!” Janet exclaimed. “But I guess the kitchen is one of the worst ones. There’s so many things for them to play with in there.”
“We’ll start there,” Ginger said. “Where is it?”
“Right over here.” As Janet walked across the entryway towards the left, the furniture on either side of her began to vibrate strangely.
Lou went stiff. “Seriously?! All the crazy things we’ve seen and that’s something new!”
Ginger narrowed his eyes, definitely disturbed. “Well, from everything she said, it certainly indicated poltergeists. Don’t tell me you’re surprised.”
“I am, kind of,” Lou retorted. “I mean, poltergeists throw things, right? Do they usually vibrate things too?!”
“I haven’t heard of it before, but I don’t see why not.” Ginger eyed the objects with trepidation as he and Lou drew closer, but oddly enough, now they were still. “Anyway, isn’t throwing them far worse?”
“I guess,” Lou said slowly. “The vibrating’s kind of like a quiet menace or something. I don’t know. But I don’t like it!”
“I also don’t like this.” Ginger arrived in the kitchen and stopped short, frowning at the large room. “Mrs. Roberts isn’t here.”
Lou gaped. “Mrs. Roberts?!” he called. “Hey, where are you?”
“She was only several steps ahead of us,” Ginger said. “She wouldn’t have had time to slip into another room.”
“And why would she?” Lou countered. “She wanted to watch! Maybe one of the ghosts hurt her!”
“Possibly, but why didn’t we hear something?” Ginger retorted. “And why isn’t there any evidence?”
The pots and pans lined up on an old-fashioned rack began to rattle, almost as if in response. The cupboards flew open as the dishes also began to shiver and shake. And the table began to slowly inch across the room.
Lou stared, his eyes wide. “What the heck?!” He nearly dropped the box in his haste to grab a candle.
Ginger snagged one and lit it, desperate to begin a prayer of protection. As he had half-expected, it blew out. Still, that didn’t stop him from taking a bottle of holy water and starting to recite the prayer anyway. When the table suddenly flew across the floor directly at him, that forced him to stop while leaping out of the way.
“Ginger!” Lou yelped.
The table slammed into the oven, which opened ominously and turned on. At the same time, the dishes began flying out of the cupboard like dangerous projectiles. Lou ducked, beginning the St. Michael prayer in horror as he tried to keep out of the way.
Ginger sprang up from where he had fallen, anger flashing in his eyes. He dodged a spinning plate and a soaring frying pan and flung the contents of a bottle of holy water at them. They crashed to the table, immobile, and Ginger somersaulted and cartwheeled across the room to Lou while joining in his best friend’s desperate prayer.
Now that Ginger was at his side, Lou snatched his wrist and held onto the box while running for the backdoor leading into a hallway. Ginger poured the rest of the holy water along the threshold, hopefully preventing any of their new enemies from following them. Just to be sure, he pulled the door shut too. Several plates crashed into it, but then all was still.
Lou slumped against the wall. “Oh man.” He shook his head and stared up at the ceiling. “What was that all about?!”
Ginger’s eyes were dark. “We were set up.”
“Huh?” Lou looked to him with a start. “You’re saying that sweet old Mrs. Roberts wanted us to plunge into her nuthouse?”
“Obviously she slipped out through this door,” Ginger said. “There is no other explanation.”
“But that doesn’t mean she wanted us to get hurt!” Lou protested.
“She claimed she wanted to watch, yet she quietly left the kitchen by another exit and allowed us to encounter mad furniture and appliances.” Ginger took several steps ahead and stopped, not sure where he wanted to go.
“So she lost her nerve. That hardly makes her Public Enemy Number One.” Lou frowned. “What reason would she even have to try to knock us off like this?”
“That type of question is not easy to answer,” Ginger said. “But I suggest we leave this house and ring Violet. Let’s find out if she really is chums with Janet Roberts.”
Lou sighed. He still thought Ginger was being too suspicious, and yet on the other hand, he had to admit that this was all very, very weird. And of course, in the end he trusted Ginger more than someone they had just met, even if said someone was a little old lady.
“Okay,” he agreed. “Let’s do that.”
But as they both turned to walk back into the entryway, a treacherous laugh came from the direction of the front door. It only took them a moment to realize that it was actually coming from the door. Ginger swore under his breath.
“Fools!” the door sneered. “You will never be free.”
“We’re not gonna be outsmarted by a door!” Lou yelled in response. Thrusting the box at Ginger, he ran forward and desperately grabbed the knob. It refused to budge. Desperate to get them out, Lou flung himself at the stubborn wood. It felt like he had thrown himself at a metal safe. Groaning, he slumped to the floor.
“Lou!” Ginger ran over to him and knelt down. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” Lou groaned, rubbing his arm. “What’s going on around here?! This is some kind of crazy nightmare!”
“Obviously the door isn’t really alive,” Ginger said flatly. “Something is possessing it.”
“Oh great. So that’s one more crummy thing we’ve gotta deal with in addition to all the haunted furniture!” Lou cried. He pushed himself up and turned to glower at their new nemesis. “And what about Mrs. Roberts? Is she mixed up in this, like Ginger thinks?”
“She could be,” was the sneering reply. “But then again, there’s another possibility you haven’t considered.”
Lou’s eyes widened. “She could be an innocent victim too,” he gasped, “even if she led us into a trap. Maybe she’s possessed!”
Ginger shot a look at the door. “Is she?” he demanded.
“I’m not going to tell you what her status is,” the door cackled. “You can just wonder and worry while you try your best to stay alive.”
“At least let us know why you’re doing this,” Lou snapped. “What did we ever do to you?”
“To me? Nothing. But you’ve defeated a great many of the evil forces that prey on your world. Let’s just say that we are not pleased about that in the least.”
Lou’s stomach immediately tied up in knots. “So we’re under attack by the Devil or something?” he said in horror. He took several steps backwards and backed right into Ginger.
“Or something,” was the cackled reply. “You will never escape this house with your lives intact!”
A horrible, eerie laugh echoed throughout the room. Ginger tensed and looked about for the source of the next assault, but instead it came from an unexpected source. The rug they were standing on pulled out from underneath them, sending them both to the floor with pained grunts and cries. Once they were down, a lamp fell off an end table behind them with the apparent intention of hitting them both over the head. Catching sight of its shadow, Ginger pulled Lou away from the toppling home accessory. The lamp started an evil laugh.
“Somebody please tell me this is all a nightmare that isn’t really happening!” Lou cried. “I can’t take much more of this!”
“Don’t let them know your feelings,” Ginger shot back. “That will make them feel all the more triumphant.”
As they knelt there in the middle of the room, the furniture continued to cackle at them. An expensive wooden case opened its glass doors and began projecting DVDs in their general direction.
“And you can feel completely okay about this?!” Lou yelled. He covered the back of his neck and hit the floor, not even daring to try hiding behind a piece of furniture.
“You should know better than that,” Ginger retorted. He ducked under the storm of DVD cases and tackled the cabinet from below. It tipped over with Ginger riding on top of it, struggling to force the doors shut.
Lou looked up in horror. “Ginger!” he exclaimed. Forgetting about his own safety now, he charged at the cabinet from the other side and fought to push the other door closed.
“You know why they’re doing all this, don’t you?” Ginger growled.
“Yeah, to torture us like nobody’s business,” Lou burst out.
“To distract us enough that we can’t pray or command it to stop,” Ginger said flatly.
Lou’s eyes widened. That made a horrible kind of sense. “Okay, so what do we do? Nothing here will hold still long enough for us to try to get the upper hand!”
“We try anyway, in the process of dodging their assaults,” Ginger replied.
“We’ve never been in a situation like this before,” Lou gulped. “One or two evil spirits, sure. But if we’re assuming that there’s a different one in every stick of furniture in this house . . . what kind of hotbed is this?!”
“We’ll worry about that later,” Ginger snapped. “Start praying.”
He began the St. Michael prayer and Lou quickly followed suit. As DVDs, tables, and chairs were launched at them from every corner of the room, all they could do was run while never ceasing their prayers.
“We need a professional exorcist!” Lou cried as the prayer concluded.
“We can’t reach one,” Ginger pointed out. “There’s only us.”
The only open door was into the hall. As they tore through, every door reachable by the hall flew open. The two men froze, backing up against each other in the center of the corridor.
“I’ve got a really bad feeling about this,” Lou moaned.
Furniture flew out at them from every room—mainly lamps, small tables, and electronic accessories, but also towel racks, shelves, sports equipment, and what looked like a bed.
“We’re in for it now!” Lou said in horror. “Ginger, it’ll take a miracle to get us out of this!”
“Then we had better pray we’re worthy of one,” Ginger growled right back.
In desperation they began another prayer, all while beginning to pull themselves low to the floor for whatever scant protection that position could grant. Right before the objects would have impacted, they fell to the floor instead.
Lou flinched, daring to look up. “We’re okay,” he said in relief. “They stopped.”
Ginger looked up as well. “If it wasn’t for still not knowing the truth about that woman, I’d say we should simply leave,” he said, placing his hands on the floor to push himself up.
“Okay,” Lou sighed. “So where do we go to look?”
“Let’s try upstairs.” Ginger walked back down the hall and over to the staircase. He ascended with complete caution, while Lou nervously followed.
The furniture seemed to be completely quiet and normal when they arrived. As Ginger moved to open the nearest door, however, a nightstand rushed over to bar him entrance. In annoyance he left the room alone.
“This is really creepy,” Lou moaned. “What next? An unfriendly bed? A terrorizing lamp?”
A hair dryer flew at them from the next room and Ginger slammed the door shut.
“Mrs. Roberts!” he finally called in frustration. “If you are here and in need of help, you need to let us know. Conversely, if you are the mastermind behind this scheme, tell us exactly why you want to torment us. Is it truly for the reason we were told downstairs?”
“Ginger! Look out for that flying carpet!” Lou yelped.
Ginger dove to one side while Lou took the other. The floating rug went past, definitely with an air of menace.
“Obviously we have no choice but to try to exorcise what’s causing trouble on this level as well,” Ginger said in irritation.
“Then let’s hurry and do it!” Lou retorted.
They both began to pray in earnest. It took longer, but at last the furniture dropped into normal positions and no longer tried to attack them.
“I wonder if it gets worse the higher we go,” Lou gulped. “Maybe the top level is the mother lode!”
“That doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Ginger grunted. “It should be worse towards the bottom.”
“Does anything about this case make sense?” Lou retorted. “Mrs. Roberts is probably a bad apple too.”
“Unless she’s possessed,” Ginger pointed out. “Or unless she’s otherwise being held hostage.”
“Which we can’t find out,” Lou said. “Maybe we should get out of here and come back with professional help. There’s a Catholic church not too far from here.”
“That would be all well and fine, if you believe we can actually make our exit this time instead of being stopped by a talking door or a murderous Hoover.”
“I say it’s worth a try,” Lou insisted. “We’re not coming up with Mrs. Roberts and this whole house is just plain evil!”
Ginger’s eyes flickered. “Alright,” he consented. “Let’s try.”
They hurried back downstairs and to the front door. To their relief, it opened without a fuss and they were able to cautiously move outside into the yard. As they did, Ginger took out his phone and dialed a number.
“Who’re you calling?” Lou blinked.
Instead of answering, Ginger waited until the phone was picked up. “Hello, Miss Lawrence,” he greeted. His hair blew into his face from the force of the violent wind, but he ignored it. “This is Ginger Townsend. Do you and your mother know a woman by the name of Janet Roberts?” He listened for a moment, his eyes narrowing. “Right. Thank you.”
Lou was staring at him when he hung up. “What the heck was that all about?!”
“We should have phoned Stefanie to begin with, even though the information checked out.” Ginger growled, “They do not know anyone named Janet Roberts.”
“So we were totally set up?!” Lou cried. “Who was she?!”
“My guess would be an evil spirit,” Ginger replied. “Let’s step off the property and see what happens.”
“Uh, Ginger?” Lou gulped. “I don’t think they’re gonna let us leave.”
Ginger followed Lou’s gaze. The two stone lions on the pillars at the gate had jumped down and now were approaching them with teeth bared.
“Somehow I think being bit by those things would really hurt, even if they can’t eat us,” Lou moaned.
Ginger took a step back. “Pray!” he ordered.
“Is that your solution to every problem, Dearie?”
Both men whirled. The missing Janet Roberts was standing on the porch, smirking at them in an eerie and mocking manner.
“It’s certainly served us well in all our exploits against the occult,” Ginger said flatly.
“So you really are behind this crummy attack on us?!” Lou burst out. “We came to help you!”
“Of course you did,” she sneered. “I knew you would. That’s exactly the kind of goody-two-shoes move you and all the other ‘good guys’ make.” She folded her arms. “My boss is getting sick of everything you’ve been doing against the forces of evil, so I was sent to put a stop to it—or rather, to you!”
“Well, that’s just great!” Lou snapped. “So the Devil’s actually taking notice of us?! We’re pretty insignificant in the big picture. He should be more worried about big shots like church leaders and missionaries, people who devote their whole lives to fighting him!”
“Oh, he’s concerned with those types too,” Janet grinned, “but he has a special brand of torment for those who once furthered his goals and then changed their lives around.” She snapped her fingers and the stone lions drew closer, snarling all the while.
Ginger and Lou backed into each other, staring down the creatures. “That makes sense,” Ginger grunted.
“I’m surprised that you even agree to do things like this,” Janet said to Lou. “In your religion, it’s supposed to be left up to a qualified exorcist.”
“Yeah, well, unfortunately we usually don’t have one of those around when this stuff happens,” Lou retorted. “It’s not like we can just sit around and do nothing because there isn’t one.”
One of the lions swiped at Lou and he flinched and jumped away. He gripped the medallion he always wore as he desperately whispered prayers under his breath.
“Prayers don’t solve everything,” Janet taunted. “They won’t make every evil thing go away. Now, brute strength is another matter.” She looked to Ginger. “You agree, don’t you?”
Ginger’s eyes narrowed. “Unfortunately, brute strength does nothing against spectral beings.”
“But I’m not spectral and neither are these babies!” Janet boasted. “Prayers don’t scare us!”
“Perhaps not,” Ginger agreed. “But perhaps rebuking the Devil in another manner will.”
Lou started and looked to Ginger in surprise. Usually they tried the methods Lou was familiar with, since he had stuck to more of his religious knowledge than Ginger had. But that was usually for exorcisms, as Janet had pointed out—not for dealing with other enemies. Now Ginger seemed to know what he wanted to do. And Lou was willing to go with it.
“Nothing you try will work,” Janet insisted, although her eyes flickered with apprehension. “Attack!”
Both lions sprang with claws and teeth bared.
“Stop, in the name of Jesus Christ!” Ginger ordered. “Leave us alone.”
The lions fell back to the ground and stood, growling but not moving.
Janet regarded her enemies hatefully. “This isn’t the last time we’ll meet,” she vowed. “And there will be others like me, I can promise you.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Lou said as he cautiously inched towards the gate.
“Just tell us this,” Ginger said, following after Lou while not taking his gaze away from the woman. “What are you? Who are you?”
She just sneered at him and went back into the house, slamming the door shut. At the same moment, a tremor shook the entire property.
“Let’s get out of here!” Lou yelped.
Ginger needed no prodding. He walked briskly through the gate and over to their car. Following him, Lou practically threw himself into the car and started the engine. When Ginger was safely inside as well, Lou pealed out of the driveway.
They had only barely made it into the street when the house shook violently and began to sink into the ground. When the commotion stopped, not even the hedge or the stone lions were left. Instead, it was a vacant lot.
Lou slumped back. “Oh man. . . . Do I even want to know what happened?!”
“The house was literally a Hell House and it has now sunk back down to Hell,” Ginger said matter-of-factly, but his eyes flickered with consternation. He was more disturbed than he would let on.
“And what about the Janet lady?” Lou wondered. He sped to the end of the block. Nothing in the world could make him want to come down this street again.
“My guess now is that she was a mortal servant of the Devil who is about to be punished for her failure,” Ginger said.
“A little old lady?!” Lou shuddered. “Maybe that wasn’t really what she looked like.”
“There likely are some senior citizens who have chosen that path in life,” Ginger pointed out. “I highly doubt it is only always the young.”
“I guess you’re probably right,” Lou said, visibly shaken. “It’s just that I’d think older people would have it more together than that.” He looked to Ginger. “And hey, that was some quick thinking, Buddy. About rebuking the Devil, I mean.”
“I don’t even know why I suddenly remembered that,” Ginger grunted. “I haven’t thought about it in years, but then I thought of Mum telling it to me when I was a child.”
“Maybe it was all the praying,” Lou said with a smile. “Maybe God or even your mom helped you remember.”
“Perhaps,” Ginger acknowledged. “But now I just want to get home and not think about this incident ever again.”
Lou shuddered. “Part of me wonders if we should still go to that Catholic church and try to find an exorcist to come inspect the lot and see if everything’s really okay. But then I don’t know how we’d get out of things without explaining everything that happened, and that probably really would get me in trouble.” He ran a hand over his face. “I don’t wanna cause more heartache for Mom and Dad.”
Ginger sighed. “You wouldn’t have to go,” he said. “I could go alone and then shoulder all the blame. I’m not Catholic, so they couldn’t do anything about it if I said I was the sole party getting rid of ghosts.”
“I wouldn’t do that, Ginger,” Lou objected, as Ginger had known he would. “You probably never would have started doing it if it wasn’t for me. I’m the one who started it, way back when Mike and those other people got attacked by that creepy statue.”
“I remember,” Ginger said. “But it was my choice to follow you into that nightmare. You didn’t want me to because you were afraid I’d get hurt. Now we’re in this together.” He looked firmly at Lou. “And that is the only way I want it.”
Lou smiled. “Yeah. Same here.”
“So if we do go looking for an exorcist, we will do it together,” Ginger continued. “But personally, I doubt there will be any more trouble with that lot.”
“I sure hope not,” Lou sighed.