Broommates: Passing Muster

Part 8 of the serial Broommates. Start from the beginning orย read the previous episode or click the โ€œBroommatesโ€ link at the top of the page to see the full list.

* * * * *

“Who’s the Chinese babe?” Parker asked.

“Japanese,” Booker grunted as he and Miranda entered the house carrying the unconscious girl between them.

Anthony raced down the stairs, his volunteer fire department t-shirt proclaiming his destination. “Have to run, fire over in–” He skidded to a halt. “What the blazes?ย Here, let me have her.” He grabbed the woman under the arms and tossed her over his shoulder with a strength that surprised Miranda. She massaged her aching arms while they walked.

“She was possessed by a kitsune,” she explained. “She should be fine soon enough, but we have to get her back to Japan.”

He gently lowered the girl onto a chaise longue in the sitting room, which was dusty and gloomy with the thick embroidered curtains closed. Miranda hadn’t been in there since she’d warded the windows–two weeks earlier? Time flew.

“Booker, get Beatrice in here,” Miranda snapped. “Parker, find Kitty. We all need to talk. Now.”

The two men looked up at Anthony, who nodded. They left and Miranda knelt beside the woman, placing a hand on her forehead.

“Let me do that,” Anthony said. “Firefighter, you know. They train me for this stuff.”

“I’m trained as well,” Miranda protested, but he nudged her aside. With a sigh, she stood up.

“Can I get some light in here?” Anthony asked.

“Yes, master.” Miranda stalked over to the curtains, which had an old-fashioned rope pull. She gently tugged at it and the curtains slid open smoothly, showering her with dust.

She was shaking her hair and slapping at her clothes when she noticed movement outside the tall window. “Who’s that, then?” she asked, pointing.

“Who’s wh–” Anthony looked up and blanched. “Oh, hell, it’s the landlord.”

* * * * *

Faustino Castaldi eyed the lion’s-head door knocker with distaste. He wished his tenants would install a doorbell like normal people. Using only the tips of his forefinger and thumb, he gingerly lifted the iron ring in the lion’s mouth and let it fall.

Behind the door, he heard angry whispers, and it made him smile. Always good for the tenants to be a bit anxious about a visit from him. The whispers stopped, and the door was opened by the pale rumpled-looking fellow with the black hair. What was his name…?

“Good afternoon, Mr. Fry,” Faustino said.

“It’s Parker.”

“Yes, of course.” Faustino’s smile broadened as he noticed the women standing behind Parker in the foyer. “May I come in?”

As he entered, Anthony appeared from one of the back rooms with yet another woman, who looked as if she’d eaten a lemon. “Mr. Castaldi, hello,” Anthony said. “I did send the rent check last week–”

Faustino waved a hand. “I received it, do not be concerned. This is more of a… social call.” He flashed white teeth at the ladies and nervously stroked his mustache. “While you are within your rights to sublet space, I feel it is my duty to be familiar with all who occupy the premises. For legal reasons, you understand.”

The sour brunette smiled and offered her hand. “Miranda Sullivan, a pleasure to meet you.” She introduced the other two women, one built like a sailor and the other with her long, curly hair dyed every color of the rainbow.

“Shall we sit and become better acquainted?” Faustino asked, gesturing at the sofa in the living room. A general shrug went around like a yawn and they seated themselves–the brunette primly on a chair, the burly one standing in a corner with arms crossed and the strange one on the floor with legs tucked under her. The men arrayed themselves similarly, quickly making the room feel cramped.

Faustino turned to Miranda. “So, Miss Sullivan–”

Ms. Sullivan.”

“Yes, just so. What is it that you do for a living?”

“I’m a consultant for–” She froze and glanced at Parker for some reason. They both looked flustered.

“For?” Faustino looked at her expectantly.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve just remembered,” Miranda said. “I, uh…”

“Was helping me brew beer in the basement!” Parker interjected. “Completely slipped our minds. It’s a very delicate process, you know, have to time things just right or–” He blew a raspberry and gave Faustino a thumbs-down.

“Right, yes, we have to check that. Sorry!” She and Parker rushed out.

Faustino watched in shock. How rude! Could the beer not wait a few minutes? He was about to make a nasty remark when a strange rumbling jiggled the foundations of the house.

“What the devil was that!” he exclaimed.

“You must excuse them,” Anthony said. “They’re very, em, intense about their brewing.”

“Three weeks!” Kitty said cheerfully.

“Really? How long have they known each other?” Faustino asked.

“Oh, gods below, I’m sorry,” Kitty said, standing up.

“Kitty, your, uh…” Anthony inclined his head meaningfully. “Why don’t you go see if Miranda and Parker need any help?” Without another word, the colorful-haired girl left.

Faustino was completely lost. Had she answered his question before he asked it?

“Anthony,” Parker said, peeking his head around the corner. He seemed more disheveled, if such was possible. “Can you come down to the basement? We, uh, need another pair of hands for this, uh, beer. Thing.”

“Sorry, Mr. Castaldi.” Anthony followed Parker out, leaving Faustino with the burly woman and the red-haired man.

He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, your name again, miss…?”

“Beatrice Hardy,” she answered. She certainly was, Faustino thought. Muscles like a pit bull.

He stroked his mustache. “And you, eh, for a living you–”

“I teach martial arts,” she said. Another rumbling shook the house but she ignored it. “Sometimes I’m a bouncer.”

“Beatrice!” A voice called. “We need you!”

She shrugged and stalked out.

Faustino stared at the remaining man, who smiled uncomfortably. They sat in silence, shifting and looking around. Faustino opened his mouth to speak a few times, then closed it. He checked his watch. Booker abruptly stood and ran off.

This was ridiculous. He could hear raised voices coming from under the house. How many people did it take to brew beer? And what was that bizarre rumbling? He knew these boys were eccentric but they’d never done anything to make him question their honesty and integrity before.

Perhaps he should have a look around. Just to be sure that the house was not falling further into disrepair, of course. Not that he suspected anything nefarious, no. Perish the thought. Faustino rose and stepped back into the foyer. He peeked into the dining room, whose table was piled high with old leather-bound books. He poked around in the kitchen, wondering at the pots and pans full of strange-smelling residues. At last he made his way to the sitting room.

An attractive Asian woman reclined on a settee. As he approached, her eyelids fluttered open.

“Hello?” Faustino said. “And you are?”

The woman took a deep breath and screamed.

* * * * *

“I told you I was sorry,” Miranda said, glaring at Anthony and pointedly ignoring the newcomer who stood behind her, trapped inside the basement’s magic circle. He was taller than all of them, with skin so pale it nearly glowed and long hair the color of white gold. He leaned against a giant sword reaching nearly to his waist, a bemused expression on his inhumanly beautiful face.

“Honestly,” she continued. “How was I supposed to know you had two landlords?”

* * * *

Part 9: Lord of the Land

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13 Responses to “Broommates: Passing Muster”

  1. @lil_monmon says:

    Still laughing. Even though it’s a bluff, you’ve obviously known the very real perils of a beer still gone wrong. I’ve actually seen home brewers display that kind of anxiety.
    Too funny. I really like Faustino, he’s a great character.

  2. Sam says:

    Another great episode, I enjoyed it very much. I had a feeling Faustino would turn out to be something err…otherwordly, till you blindsided me with the second landlord! Bravo!

  3. Gracie says:

    This is great as usual. The pandemonium is excellent. I can’t wait to hear more about the landlord with the sword. And that snoopy Faustino.

    Loved it.

  4. Hoo boy. I love it when conflict just gets thrown out again and again. I almost feel sorry for his grump of a landlord. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I am enjoying this series *so* much. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  6. Marisa Birns says:

    Another enjoyable episode of your story. Has it all. Humor, intrigue, great description and…two landlords! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Laura Eno says:

    Scrambling to catch up here. Somehow I missed a couple of weeks but won’t make that mistake again! This is a fun series, full of unpredictable twists!

  8. John Wiswell says:

    –โ€œBooker, get Beatrice in here,โ€

    Now, I know that this wasn’t Dante’s Beatrice, but suddenly I imagined the heavenly beauty as a demon hunter and laughed really hard. The phonetic pun of “Bea Hardy” is great, too.

  9. I keep encouraging Hubby to get into home brewing, and he’s interested, but maybe I don’t want him to, after all. J/K — I know they’re not really brewing beer. Love it that you’ve brought the landlord in, if only so we can see everyone through new eyes. It really helped to reorient me to the characters.

    Enjoyed, as always!


  10. Another good installment! And what a snoop that landlord is!

  11. Valerie says:

    Thank you so much for reading, everyone, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I have friends who brew beer and they can get a little, ahem, intense about it sometimes. I do hear that there is a fairly unpleasant smell associated with the activity, though, so unless you have good ventilation I would not necessarily advise trying it. ๐Ÿ˜›

  12. ganymeder says:

    What a great ephisode! Loved the ending.

  13. Xanto says:

    Two landlords? How is this going to work I wonder!

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