The Candleholders of Destiny: a seasonal horror-detective-cocktail story
Inspector Goose shook the snow from her coat as she entered the cocktail bar. She placed her hat down and looked across the barroom. As she walked across the room, her one wooden leg tapped a flamenco rhythm on the wooden floor.
Bartenders had been disappearing across town. Seasonal drinking parties had been replaced with sombre cheese and wine meets in the basement of the town hall. The city was dangerously low on cocktails, and the police Inspector was tasked with solving the mystery. She studied the bar with the eye not concealed by an eye-patch, and scratched her pink bald head. The bar staff had gone missing, and there were no witnesses. All the disappearances happened at night.
She interviewed Big Pete, the bar manager – a man with the look of someone who knows their way around a picnic blanket. His soft blue eyes sat in his head as he spoke, and his ears stayed attached to the side of the very same head – his Roman nose reclined along his face like a doomed artist’s muse on a chaise longue. He spoke in a voice that sounded like banana cake being thrown through a cat-flap: “He just went to ready the tables, then he was gone. I ain’t seen him since.”
Goose paced the room noting every detail. The scuffed black and white chequered floor, the dark wooden bar, the tables, the candles placed in empty Hendrick’s Gin bottles, the seagull on her arm. The seagull looked up at her and handed her a note.
“Not now - I’m busy”
“But this is important!” insisted the seabird in a thick Cornish-Texan lisp.
The note read: ‘Those that seek illumination have been contained.’
Goose screwed up the note, placed it in her mouth, and swallowed it. The seagull flew off through a closed window with a crash.
“Big Pete, I’m going to go for walk in the snow to help me think. I’ll be two minutes. Would you be kind enough to get the bar ready for opening while I’m away.”
Evening had crawled out of every corner, icing the street with dread. As promised, Goose returned to the bar two minutes later. Big Pete was gone. Goose smelt the air and smiled.
“Just as I thought!”
The police chief bought Goose a third cocktail and patted her on the back. The bartender smiled.
“Well, you’ve done it again Goose, but to be honest, I still don’t quite understand what happened.”
“It’s really quite simple. When I returned to the bar I smelt smoke, yet there was no fire. The gin bottles on the tables had been used as candleholders, so I felt the wicks until I found one that was warm. I removed the candle and saw a green glow inside. Humiliated by being used to carry candles, the bottles had opened a portal to ‘another place’.”
“It’s better you don’t know. Now, each time a bartender lit one of these candles – which always happened after dark –they were sucked into the bottle.”
“So how did you retrieve the bartenders?”
“Oh, I couldn’t. There’s no coming back from the ‘other place’. I just cloned them using traces of DNA I found on the bar.”
“Well, all’s well that end that ends well” laughed the chief as he raised his glass to Goose.
Beneath the music of the accordion player, and the laughter, and the cheers, those listening carefully could hear tiny moans. Moans echoing as if trapped in a glass chamber.
Outside snow fell in swirls.