Garbol pulled Mr. Gogh away from a customer. “Give me a uniform that room service would use.”
“The employee provides black pants and white shirt. We only provide the vest.”
“But it’s got your logo, right?”
“Yes, sir. Why?” Mr. Gogh led him behind the reservation counter and into the back room.
“A binding spell holds the ghouls, and it forces them to respect their reservations and the hotel services. The vest should be enough to include me in the binding, possibly even keep them from noticing me.”
“Here.” The manager grabbed a vest off a chair. “Take Marcus’s vest. He ditched it when he took a quadruple order of chicken gizzards up to them.”
“You’re guy took food up out of uniform?”
Mr. Gogh turned red. “He’s got a bit of a rapport with them.”
Garbol grabbed the vest. “When?”
“Minutes ago. You might catch him if you go the front way.”
Garbol whirled and ran for the stairs, yelling as he went. “I told you not to send anyone without me. Tell the others it’s ‘go’ time.” He sprinted up three steps at a time. Half winded by the seventh floor, no employee in sight, he passed through the ward, still intact, but weakening.
Through the stairway doors into the hall he spied Marcus way at the far end, just as the room door opened and the big ghoul emerged. The ghoul roared and went to grab the employee with his claws, about to rip him to shreds. The tray of food fell to the floor.
Garbol reached behind and gripped the ward in the staircase with his power, unseating it from walls and, with a point of his cue stick, flinging it forward down the hall to engulf Marcus with it. The ghoul’s claws grabbed the employee, but couldn’t sink in and tear his flesh. His hiss sounded like it was right in front of Garbol. The ghoul backed into his room, pulling Marcus with him.
“No!” yelled Garbol, breaking into a run. The door shut. Garbol ran to it and pounded. “Let him go,” he yelled.
“You can’t hurt him,” Garbol said. “I’ve protected him, as you’ve certainly already figured out. Now let him out. Now.”
“A bird in the hand isss worth two in the busssh.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Stop stalling. Let him go.”
“Posssesssion isss nine tenthsss of the law.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” said Garbol. “You don’t and can’t own him.”
The ghoul hissed loud and long.
Garbol considered the spilled tray, then scooped the spilled gizzards onto it. He took off the vest. “Look. I didn’t mean to insult you.” He folded the vest in a square and set the tray on top of it. “Why don’t you take these gizzards you sent for. You still want them, don’t you?”
The door creaked open, and claws reached for them.
Garbol pulled them back. “Aaah! Let me see him, first.”
The door opened wider and Marcus sat in an armchair, white as a sheet.
Garbol handed the tray to the ghoul, then blasted him with power funneled through his cue stick, sending him sprawling on the bed. He pinned the ghoul with his cue, as he flipped Marcus the vest. “Put it on.”
The ghoul squirmed and swiped his claws toward Marcus, but as soon as the vest went on, he went quiet.
“How you doing, Marcus?”
“I’m going to kick this thing’s ass,” he said.
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” said Garbol. “Scoop up those gizzards, will you? Then drop one by the door.”
Garbol wound up power with his cue stick, and to the ghoul he said, “Gizzards are great as appetizers, for they lead to tremendous meals.” He released the power to make the words tangible in the ghoul’s dead brain.
They backed out of the room and left the door open. “Okay, drop one every door or so.” He led Marcus to the east wing, and the employee obediently dropped a gizzard every couple of doors. They slipped into the stairwell, passed the open bowl of faux human flesh, and found Poof at the sixth floor landing.
They waited, and after some time the ghoul’s hiss could be heard getting closer. The ghoul suddenly squealed and purred, and they could hear him eating the hamburger. Poof pressed his hands forward, and the ghoul’s whining and purring went loud and suddenly stopped, as if someone punched him in the gut and knocked the wind out of thim.
“All right. Let’s get him,” said Poof. They walked up and found the ghoul curled into a ball, his neck twisted back, and it’s eyes rolled up inside his head. “I put some Egyptian magic dust in the meat, and cast a paralysis spell upon it.” Poof lifted the ghoul with surprising ease, and flipped him onto his shoulder. “He’ll wake up thinking he’s a mummy, but not the scary, all-powerful kind—the desiccated and weak kind.”
“One down; two to go,” said Garbol.
“I’ll be back when I’ve secured him in the freezer truck,” said Poof.
“The dumb one’s next,” said Garbol. He patted Marcus on the shoulder. “You want to help?”
“What are you trying to say?”
Garbol gave him an irritated look. “That your stupidity makes you well suited to catch this next ghoul.”
Marcus’s jaw dropped.
Garbol tapped his chin shut. “I’m saying, I could use a hand. You in or not?”
“In,” said Marcus.
“Rock and roll,” said Garbol.