Weatherly was a quiet, sleepy sort of town. It was the kind of place that once served as the hustling workforce of the twentieth century-a booming town of mills and factories, the sweet smell of candy and cigars coating the area in a sort of nostalgic sweetness that stuck to your clothes no matter how hard you washed them. Course, that was back then. The skeletons of these factories were the only remainder, and with a population of twenty-five hundred, it wasn’t anywhere near the thriving workhorse it may have started as. But that was probably for the best for the folks of Weatherly.
It helped keep the town feeling more like a loved antique then a thriving city dying in slow motion. The old downtown looked the same as it did back in the early years and the brickwork, though chipped, stuck out to folks as charming in that sort of old fashioned way. It was a town that while small, stood proud and could happily call itself a happy, quiet little place to call home.
At least, before Marge Peterson had gone completely insane.
Nobody was quite sure what had triggered it. She had seemed like such a sweet, kindly woman. Always bringing over yarn she didn’t use for other women or tupperwares of casseroles she hadn’t finished (her kids had moved out of town for college years ago and nobody was about to tell her she should cook less since Mr. Peterson passed on.) To all who saw her in book club meetings or city council get-togethers, she had seemed like such a well put together person. Course, most were all too willing to write it off as just one incident. Just one little issue that came from an old widower living alone at home.
Most people were not Nancy Tethers.
Nancy was one of those people who probably could have gone places if that’s what she’d wanted. She was the type who’s smile lit up a room and could get every man in there to laugh with a whip-crack of a smirk and a sprinkling of sardonic wit over whatever conversation they had. She had graduated from college as a valedictorian and tended to know more then any other person in the room when it came to… well, just about anything really! Bit of a bookworm she was, hence why she’d at least known Marge enough to know this kind of… wild and manic breakdown she had happened was completely out of character for her.
She stops the car for a moment outside of Marge’s old home, a soft sigh leaving her as her eyes wander the caution tape strung about the house. Every window broken out from the inside, the forgotten shards glittering against the streetlamp light like early morning dew. Course she knew she had to get back home. Groceries were not going to put themselves away or start planning out the meal menu for this week, but...this whole situation bothered her to no end. Why had Marge snapped so badly? Why would she take it out on her home? And how, if the witnesses reports had to be believed, had she broken out every single window at the exact same time?
...Perhaps, at the end of the day, it was a wiser decision to leave the investigating up to the police.
...As stated earlier, Nancy was the type of person who probably could have done better for herself. She steps out of the car, counting on the early fall chill to keep the groceries cool, digging in the glove compartment until she finds a lone flashlight. She pulls her coat tighter around herself, glancing up at the house. “This...is...a very bad idea.” Nancy let out a soft laugh and turned on her heel, “The police searched the place from top to bottom! There really isn’t a chance of me finding anything new!” She paused, venturing a glance back, “...course, they also wrote Marge off as an ‘old loon’. Heaven forbid a woman have
going on in her life worth worrying about, right?”
“...” Nancy drummed her foot against the ground, fingers twitching against the flashlight switch, drumming on it, “But...if whatever got to her is still inside...n-not that anything did of course! That would just be…” She turned to face the house, “...Ridiculous…” She took in another breath and huffed it out her nose, looking between her car and the house. Her car and the house. Her still warm, inviting car with the promises of dinner and maybe some light reading at home… or the house-cold and empty-with it’s broken windows and constant risk of stepping on broken glass. If she stepped on anything she’d probably need a tetanus shot and those could be just so expensive sometimes!
There could also be answers. Answers that kept her hand off the car handle and starting up the creaking, worn steps of the old house. “Okay. Okay! Here’s what we do Nancy-” She put her hand on the doorknob, breathing in, “I-if it’s still locked, we just… go home and try to put this behind us.” She lightly turned the knob. It swung open with a gentle ‘ creaaakk’ , revealing a darkened home that stretched out before her, held back only by a flimsy few strands of caution tape. “...Okay.” Not giving it any more thought, she steps through the threshold.
It was so strange. To think they’d once held get-togethers here, over a newfound book or puzzle the other might have found. The absence, fresh enough to be felt in all the items sitting on shelves or collecting dust in corners. Nancy was sure if she opened the fridge, she’d still find the same jam jars or leftover casserole hiding within the freezer. She didn’t dare try-she was sure the electricity had been shut off for the time being and doubted anything that had remained was any good. There were photos of her children and late husband hanging on the wall, old copies of books on bookshelves in the living room, the remains of a puzzle sitting on the kitchen table. Idly, Nancy picks up a piece off the small pile Marge had gathered to set it neatly into place, for a moment, gaining a soft, sad smile.
Wonder if she would have shared this one when she finished, or if this had been one of the ones she’d completed first. She started to shine her light on it and gave pause when something glimmered on the side of the table, off of a cup on a saucer, reaching over to scrape a finger across it. The tiny, glittering sparkles shone a deep purple as the light caught on them, Nancy squinting in the dark, “What do we have here…?” It felt oddly tingly to the touch. Not on her skin, but almost like a quick static flicker to her brain. That wasn’t what stuck out to her in the moment however.
“Two cups set up?” Her brows knit, “Marge, were you actually alone, when…”
The static was enough to get her to brush her hand on her jacket, but the loud
that echoed down from upstairs got her to drop her flashlight with a squeak, covering her mouth as she leaned back on the table.
There was someone in the house!
Her mind screamed, still feeling the odd little pings from the dust, waving the last of it off her hand as she picked up the flashlight in one hand, holding it up as she dug in her pocket with the other, ascending those first few stairs. “M-maybe it’s just a raccoon…?” She mumbled to herself, hand gripping around a tube in her jacket.
There’s a little relief in that as she steps up to the second floor, the stairway splitting off into a three-way fork-the right to the bathroom, the left to the children’s old room and office, and forward for the master bedroom. For an instant she’s ready to brush off the sound earlier as a trick of the mind, flashlight sweeping across the top floor, before hearing footsteps coming from the bedroom and the rattle of it’s handle readying to swing open. Quickly, she ducks back, flat against the wall as the door opens up.
Of course it would have been smarter to just run back to the car the moment this happened. That would have been the best option in this sort of situation. But if this...whatever it was, racoon or not, had something to do with her friend… she had a moral obligation to get to the bottom of it, right? And… put a stop to it should she need to. Hoping this stuff packed as much of a punch as the nice man at the counter had said anyway. Course one didn’t need to worry about attacks in this sleepy sort of town, but you could never be too careful.
The footsteps come softly over the creaking floorboards, and in the darkness of the home, she can just make out the shape of a figure. Tall, long hair...bit on the skinny side. And far, far too quiet for her liking. She’d heard two footsteps earlier-if this person had a partner, why weren’t they saying anything? A quick heads up warning like “what was that squeak?” would have been scary to her, but a benefit to them, she assumed. That was when she caught sight of it.
It was hard to make out in the darkness, but she could swear she saw it clear as day. And it was so silly when she looked back on it-it felt like something she’d be more afraid of as a little girl. That tall, thin man with the hook for a hand, glinting brightly in the limited light as it gripped into the old wood right by her, his angular face leaning into view. “...Oh! Uh, didn’t expect anybody else in here! I’m Guybrush Threepwood, mighty PsyRAAAAAAAAAAAHGTH!!!”
She might have been a little too early on the pepper spray in hindsight. The poor thing letting out a pained wail as he stumbled back blindly in the dark, hook hand waving through the air for balance until it caught on a corner of the wall, “Yow!!! Did you have to use the whole can there?!”
The all too human voice got her to snap out of it, hand quickly going to her mouth as she dropped the spray, “Oh! I-I’m so sorry! Uh, young man??” She turned on the flashlight to get a better look at him, hissing at the redness around his face, “Ooh, yes, that might have been a bit too much, wasn’t it?”
“I think a tablespoon would’ve been too much!!” The man-Guybrush, what a funny name that was-hissed and writhed, tears streaming from pepper-sprayed eyes as he cursed in a way that would make the hardest sailor blush, “C-can you get like, some water or something??”
“I-I don’t think that’ll help??” She crouched down now that the threat was no longer that, flashlight in hand to look him over, “I’ve heard the only thing that can help is milk...milk and soapy water… now, the milk down there is spoiled, I’m sure, but it might-”
“Lady, I’ve already been pepper sprayed. I don’t think I need cheese culture in my eyes tonight, unless you wanna slap a tortilla on my face and call me a quesadilla-”
Nancy gave a fluttering, nervous laugh at the joke, hands still outstretched but not sure where to touch him to help, “Which I am. So, so sorry about, I swear-” She gave pause as her flashlight glinted off a strange badge on his chest, squinting in the darkness at it, “But I really, really need to know what you’re doing in this house-”
That was when the door opened the second time, hurried footsteps coming to a skid at the stairway, another figure nearly sliding off to fall down the stairs before just catching his balance, two fingers to his temples as the other hand half-extended out, “Freeze! Whoever you...are…?” Nancy blinked. The man blinked back, his posture deflating as he brought his hands down, eyes wide in the dark. He stepped into her flashlight view, “... Mom?! ”
” She stood up in an instant, eyes near identical to his widening as she nearly dropped the flashlight, “What are you doing in Marge’s house??”
“Strangely, I was about to ask you the same thing!” Nelson seemed to be looking for anywhere to look at that wasn’t her, “T-this is a crime scene, right??”
Nancy gasped, actually dropping her flashlight now, “You don’t mean…” Her hands clenched, narrowing her eyes in frustration, “I knew it! This is bigger then the police here, isn’t it?? It has to be with the FBI involved!”
“What?? No! This is…” He blinked a few times, suddenly looking more then a little nervous, “I-I mean, uh…”
“Excuse me!” Guybrush weakly patted a hand against the floor, “Loving the emotional reunion, really I am, but if anybody wouldn’t mind helping a pal out before his eyes melt out his skull, that’d be reaaaaal great about now…”
Nancy gave another gasp, “That man said nothing about pepper spray doing that !”
Nelson grimaced, “Mostly because it doesn’t??...far as I remember anyway.” He got down, helping the man up with an arm around his shoulder, “I think the main problem is a decrease in sensitivity.”
“Oh believe me, I’d love to be a little less sensitive about now.” Guybrush groaned. In the light of the dropped light, Nancy could just make out something on her son’s chest. A badge, identical to the one on the strange hook man. And she could make out some of the details on it too. A brain, with three curving points jutting out from it. A badge wholly unfamiliar to her at this state and time. And she didn’t have much time to consider it further, having to hurry up and help her son cart the other man down the stairs before he risked tripping down it again. Leaving the flashlight behind was just a loss she’d have to take for the time being, sure she could come back for it later as she got the two outside, questions bouncing through her mind.
Like, for starters, “When did you get into town??”
“Er, early this morning?” Nelson popped the cap off the milk before pouring it over Guybrush’s eyes, his whimpers becoming sighs of relief on the grass by Nancy’s car, “It was kind of a long flight. Sorta why we investigated later in the day.”
And follow ups like, “So this man is your…?”
“Partner, I guess?” Nelson offered, twiddling his thumbs nervously together when he got sat in the front seat, Guybrush half-sprawled in the back by the few groceries Nancy couldn’t fit in the trunk. “It’s...complicated, honestly.”
And who could forget such classics like, “So where are you boys staying?”
To which her son bit his lip and brought a hand up to fidget around his chin, “The inn near downtown. If you’re worried about the price, they got it-”
“Well tell them to refund one of the nights.” Nancy replied, checking her rear-view mirror before making a turn down a cobblestone road, “I still have your old room set up-makes no sense for the FBI to spend the extra funding if it can save a few dollars.”
He seemed to fidget at that, his shoulders tensing as he looked out the window, “You really, really don’t have to, mom-”
“I know.” She glanced back as she adjusted her mirror, “But I really do owe your partner an apology. Dinner and breakfast seem like fine ways to make up for it. As long as he puts down the cookies he’s holding, that is.”
Guybrush blinked, slowly putting the container back with a whistle, “Almost fell out of the bag!!” He gave a laugh, his eyes still red and irritated even with the milk they’d used, “Your mom is one heck of a crazy driver, eh Nelson?”
“She’s been going two miles under the speed limit.” Nelson stated with a look back at his partner, “Consistently.”
“Has she??? So hard to tell when you can’t see much, huh…” Guybrush scratched his chin idly with his hook, “Wonder why that is, eh?”
“Guybrush…” Nelson groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose. And it struck Nancy just how funny it was to see her son like this. He’d been such a quiet child growing up-always off thinking about a puzzle or a maze he envisioned, then chattering on and on about them to whoever would listen. Usually it had only been her. A part of her wondered if he did that with this ‘partner’ of his, but...if he did, she couldn’t imagine him looking so irritated about it. And yet...his shoulders didn’t seem as tight, even when he was giving his partner mildly angry glares in the rear-view mirror. “...we’ll stay one night, but we really do have business in town here.”
Nancy brightened, “Well of course! I wouldn’t dream of letting down old Uncle Sam anytime soon, now would I?” She glanced back at Guybrush, ignoring the slight wince Nelson gave at the ‘uncle sam’ part, “And besides, your friend here looks like just the man for my pineapple upside-down pancakes in the morning!”
Guybrush once again put the cookies back in the bag to sit completely straight in his seat, eyes wide, the somewhat sour tone of his voice becoming syrupy sweet, “Nelson!! Why didn’t you tell me your mom was such an enchanting young woman?? And I do mean young because she has just the most youthful, charitable glow a woman could have, may I just say??”
Nelson looked ready to call him out again, but it seemed to be at odds with the thought of those pancakes, alternating between rubbing his neck and rubbing his hands against each other, fingers flexing, “...Dad won’t be mad about me dropping in unannounced, will he?”
Nancy gave a hum, “Well...we didn’t really have anything planned tonight. I’m sure seeing what you’re up to is gonna put a smile on his face, right?” She blinked, and gripped the wheel a little, “Oh dammit. I should have called him. He’s probably worried sick about me by now…”
Nelson was trying very hard to ignore the shocked look Guybrush had on his face from any Tether so openly cursing, clearing his throat before flicking a hand, the seatbelt on Guybrush seeming to tighten enough to hold him back, “Well it can’t have been too long, right?”
“I suppose…” She let out a sigh, “Just… this town has been so jumpy, what with what happened to Marge.” She glances his way, and works up a smile, “But, your father is tough. I’m sure he can’t have worried that much-oh dear.”
Nelson sat up, “What? What’s ‘oh dear’?”
Nancy tsked as she pulled the car into a cobblestone driveway, “No, no your father is definitely worried. See there?” She pointed towards his window at the neatly trimmed lawn and single pear tree that made up their front yard. Settled around the base of the tree was his dad’s collection. “He rearranged his gnomes.” She sighed, “I swear, I told him I wouldn’t be that long at the store. His nerves get the better of him sometimes… Nelson?” She gave pause when she looked towards her son, recognizing what the hand against his mouth meant with the wide eyes he sported. “Nelson, dear? Is everything okay?”
Nelson breathed in, shook his head, and cleared his throat, “C-course! It’s...it’s fine. I just...I forgot dad collected those uh...gnomes.”
“Oh yes. Has to be in the thirties by now. Least with the outdoor variety.” Nancy rested her hand on his arm, “He keeps most of them in his office now if it helps you feel any better.” He had a look on his face that said it didn’t, thumb tapping against his upper lip, “...I’ll tell him to put a tarp over them, okay?” She found it a little hard to believe. He used to arrange the gnomes to set up fencing puzzles back in the day. When had he gotten so terrified of them?
Or if he wasn’t scared of them, what was actually scaring him?