To face the last ghoul, Garbol wanted everyone. He sent Marcus to grab Jetz while Murphy and he raced down the front stairway.
Faint screams grew louder as they went down. They burst into the lobby where the hotel manager, Mr. Gogh, helped a howling mob as they crowded the exit. When the manager saw the wizards he frantically pointed toward the side corridor.
The wizards dashed around the corner to find the ghoul grasping Poof by the neck with one claw and blocking the doorway to the pool with the other. Through the glass walls they could see a couple dozen people huddled on the other side of the pool. Poof’s face was a deep plum, and he squirmed, trying to get air.
“Put him down!” roared Murphy. Murphy threw his axe handle that he used for his wizard’s staff, and it bounced off the ghoul’s head, but didn’t faze him. Garbol charged, ramming his cue stick into the ghoul’s side, but the monster scoffed, grabbed it by the end and pulled Garbol to the floor.
Jetz appeared at the end of the hall with Marcus and sauntered toward them. Garbol got to his feet, pointed his cue stick, and held his other palm out. “Clarentritch!” he boomed. “The grip will slip for Clarentritch, his knuckles going flaccid….”
“Ignoramusss,” said Clarentritch. “Why do you think I waited? Your spells won’t control me under the full moon.”
Murphy picked up his axe handle, and Garbol stepped toward Clarentritch. “…the wizard’s dirty little neck, leaks hydrochloric acid.”
The claw holding Poof sizzled and let off fumes. Clarentritch growled and threw the wizard against the wall across the hall. Poof bounced and sank to the floor gasping.
“Hisss protecsssion for the captivesss hasss faded,” said the ghoul.
Behind Clarentritch in the pool room, two men, one with the hotel vest on, suddenly ran to a pool service station on wheels, pushed it toward the door, and let it go. It trundled through, sideswiped the ghoul, slamming him against the doorjamb. Garbol and Murphy dodged it, and it rammed the wall right next to Poof.
Three women spilled out of the compartment, each in pool robes. One blonde and two brunettes, one with glasses.
“Nobody’s coming for us,” said the blonde. “I kept texting my editor, and he’s not getting the message. Look.” She held up her phone, and a text message read: ‘Great story. Get it ready for the five o’clock, but make up some eyewitness quotes to make it more plausible.’
“Mine, too,” said the one in glasses. The text on hers said: ‘We’re not into ghouls at the moment. Change it to werewolves and we’ll run it next edition.’
“What about 911?” asked Marcus.
The brunette without the glasses said, “When I told the operator I was a journalist, she scolded me for using the service to cause a sensation.”
“I don’t need thessse. I have enough,” said Clarentritch. “After thisss feeding, I will be invinsssible.” He closed the pool door, but Garbol jammed his pool stick into it, keeping it ajar.
The three standing wizards jumped for it, shouldering the door open. There was a splash, and by the time they got through, Clarentritch stood in the center of the pool, lunging back and forth to scare the guests and employees so they wouldn’t slip around one side or the other. The ghoul was surrounded by a blood-red cloud of water.
“What did you do?” yelled Garbol.
“It’sss too late,” said the ghoul. “You can’t control me.” He cackled, bloody drool coming from his mouth.
“You’re right,” said Garbol. He slashed his cue stick into the pool, sloshing the water and driving power through it. Before his cue finished its arc through the surface, the entire pool turned to ice. “But I don’t have to control you. I can control the water.”
Clarentritch screamed, thrashed and jolted, trying to get free, but he was iced up past his waste. The captives bolted for the door, all except one of the employees.
Garbol walked onto the surface of the ice and beat the ghoul over the head with the heavy end of the cue stick.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” said Murphy.
The employee grabbed a pool hook and battered him from the other side.
Clarentritch roared. “You can’t hold this ssspell for long. I can withssstand your punishment and ssslaughter all of you.”
Garbol jabbed the thick end down Clarentritch’s throat, and the monster gagged. “Shut up.” He gave the stick an extra shove, then pulled it back and resumed the beating. “You’re not leaving here alive.”
Clarentritch coughed and hacked. “Ssso you sssay.”
Murphy strolled in. “So it is.” He pushed an axe head onto his handle. Clarentritch swiped his claws at him as Murphy stepped onto the ice behind him, and while the other two kept beating the ghoul, Murphy took careful aim and chopped into the left arm, almost completely severing it. Clarentritch screamed. The limb hung, limp and useless. He chopped the right arm and it sheared completely off.
“Practice makes perfect,” he said.
He lined up on the ghoul’s neck and timed a swing with the thrashing, cutting about a third of the way through. Clarentritch screamed again, cursing and snarling. The power crackled from the blade as Murphy dislodged it and went back for another swing. The blade landed on the previous cut and severed the ghoul’s head down to the final flap of skin, which he sliced with a short chop.
The head thumped onto the ice and and rocked. The ghoul’s body thrashed for half a minute, then slowed.
The hotel manager, Mr. Gogh came in and watched the last shudder.
Jetz put his hand on Garbol’s shoulder. “This was a rough one.”
Garbol drooped his head “I said no one would die today.”
“She tackled him and knocked him into the pool.” The employee tossed the hook to the poolside.
“She saved a lot of lives,” said Garbol. “Who was she?”
“Rene. The reservationist.”
Garbol went down on a knee and moaned.
“She was a brassy one,” the employee said.
“I know,” said Garbol. “I knew her.”
Mr. Gogh cleared his throat. “On behalf of the hotel, its employees, and its guests, I extend my deepest gratitude to you all.” He wiped his brow with a hanky. “What do I owe you?”
Garbol stood up. “You’ve already paid too much.”