Park Street Station: North County Paranormal Unit #6 Sample Chapter
James had thought he knew the nightmare of company email when he was second in command. But nothing about that had prepared him for the onslaught of emails he received every single day from the Foundation for Paranormal Studies as captain of their North Worcester County branch. The Foundation was one of the top paranormal research and management organizations in the world, and had held that esteemed title for at least a century. But James feared his email inbox more than he did the ghosts and ghouls he spent his career fighting away from the small Massachusetts mill city he called home.
It was six o’clock on a chilly April morning and James was sitting in his office. He’d arrived two hours early for what he was sure was going to be a thrilling, understaffed shift. But before he could even look at anything else, he had to wade through a mostly useless set of emails from what appeared to be every single person who had ever worked for the Foundation.
And most of it really was useless. They had email chains going back weeks where everyone was giving their opinions on things that were already long over. It was incoherent and frustrating, but if he missed an important message somewhere in the muck, it would be on him. And then he’d have to listen to McGovern, the branch liaison, at their next meeting as he lectured on the importance of open communication.
Ads. Why was he getting emailed ads? James hadn’t signed up for anything using this email address, he should not be getting advertisements on here. Even his old Foundation email, which they’d unceremoniously shut down before giving him access to his new captain’s email, hadn’t been connected to any other devices or online accounts.
Did someone at the Foundation fall for a phishing scheme? Goddamnit, they probably had.
James looked around the office, giving his eyes a quick break from the tiny rows of text. It was a small room, with his desk facing the open door. In a past life, it might have been an office as well, maybe a home office or study for the businessman or lawyer who first bought the house back in the 1950s. The bookshelves built into the walls beside him probably held very different reading materials back then, but the dark wood paneling likely hadn’t changed. His hideous flowered couch took up the wall beside the door, and the mismatched wooden chairs he’d inherited from various aunts were all stacked with books, papers, and some unopened mail he’d been meaning to get to since Tuesday. There weren’t many personal touches in the room, but it was comfortable and functional. He had plans to put up some pictures, but hadn’t actually gotten around to finding any yet.
James looked back at the email, eyes aching as he squinted to make out someone’s signature. He had a few meetings this week that he’d need to prepare for, and information about each of them was in there among the arguing and single line agreements to things he couldn’t remember.
He spotted an email for Patrick, the captain up at Hillsborough County, and a hotter, fresher burst of anger came through the general irritation. The Foundation had been so useless for that entire situation. The other captain had felt threatened by North Worcester County’s involvement in a case at Gabriella’s mother’s house. And when he’d been pulled off the case, he’d gotten violent. But maybe he had a nice vacation after attacking Gabriella like he did.
Though apparently Bradley had threatened the man with a knife. If James didn’t think Bradley would turn the knife on him, he’d buy him dinner for that.
He was just about to give up and take a break to avoid deleting it all entirely when he noticed one email specifically addressed to him.
Subject: Captains Training April 14 – Please Confirm
Shit, he hadn’t seen anything about a captain’s training. And April 14 was coming up fast. Bracing himself, James clicked on the email.
Dear Captain McManus,
Please confirm that you will be joining us in Boston for the two-day captain’s training session that will be taking place on April 14. We have not received your RSVP yet. Attendance is mandatory unless otherwise discussed.
Then what was the point of the RSVP? James rolled his eyes and took a sip of his ice coffee before pulling out the monthly calendar he’d started keeping in the drawer of his desk. There it was, written in blue ink on the fourteenth and fifteenth. He’d completely forgotten.
There was a knock at the doorway and he looked up to see Amelia, his second in command, standing there. She’d dyed her hair again for the first time in a while, this time from light blonde to a glossy black. “Looks great,” he said.
She grinned. “Just something new.”
She was carrying a thermos of the new tea she was currently obsessed with, some apple ginger blend that James had tried one cup of out of politeness a few weeks earlier. Amelia was younger than him by about a decade and, like James, was most comfortable out in the field. She was on the path to be a captain someday and James could envision the neatly organized method she’d have to keep her email inbox under control beneath the onslaught.
She came into the office and moved the stack of mail off of one of the old kitchen chairs, then sat down. “I figured I’d come in early,” she said, flipping through the envelopes. “I’m up for a few things on the chore roster today and if I don’t get them done, I can’t get mad at anyone else for not doing their own.”
She probably meant him, but there was no heat in her words so he nodded and made a mental note to check what his responsibility was this week. He’d have to get it done before Tuesday if he was going to this training. “I apparently have a captain’s training this week,” he said.
“Rosa mentioned that. I was surprised you hadn’t said anything.”
He didn’t say a word in response, but he could see the laughter in Amelia’s eyes as she realized exactly what had happened. “So I need to rearrange the schedule a little,” he said. “I can take the night before if you don’t mind swapping with me for the day shift.”
“It’s two nights, right?” she said.
And one of those days had been his day off, so he could wave goodbye to that. “We’ll figure it out,” Amelia said. “Anything on the agenda for today yet?”
James closed his email and opened the scheduling software, which began to haltingly come to life. “No idea,” he said. “I’m not even sure who’s on yet today. I came straight in and got sucked into my email.”
She handed him a small stack of envelopes from the pile she’d sorted. “Nothing exciting,” she said as he looked down at the top one.
“Good, because that pile is from a few days ago.”
“Bradley’s going to be pissed about this one though,” she said, waving a thin white envelope at him. “He’s been looking for it.”
Shit. If their grumpy logistics coordinator found out that this mail had been sitting in here, James was going to hear about it. And he didn’t have the time or energy to deal with the inevitable fight right now. “I need to clean in here,” James admitted. “Once I’m done my email, I’ll do that. And just kind of weather that pissy storm when it arrives.”
The scheduling software finally opened as James was considering how he could clarify what he’d just said. As he looked at the empty spreadsheet in front of him, all of his concerns about an understaffed and overbooked day were immediately resolved. “Weirdly, we have nothing,” he said. “I’m sure something will come in closer to eight when the others arrive, but right now we’re looking at a thrilling day of cleaning and side projects.”
“I should have slept in.”
“You still have time. Gabriella and Graham had the overnight shift last night and they’re apparently both scheduled for doubles today.”
“Nah,” Amelia said. “I’ll go bleach the kitchen.”
She got up and walked out without any kind of goodbye and James turned back to his email. There was nothing else of note, at least not that he could find after twenty minutes of careful inspection. So he finally deleted everything except the training reminder, then reluctantly sent in his RSVP.
“I know there’s not much point to having a team meeting when there’s literally nothing on the schedule today,” James said. “But the meeting begins now.”
Everybody was on right now, with the exception of Madelyn, who was in a little later to take the overnight shift with Amelia, who was working a double. They looked up at him from various places around the living room of their suburban home turned paranormal headquarters. After years of working here, James was comfortable in the house and honestly, the idea of operating out of an office building to do this kind of work actually kind of weirded him out. Plus, with the number of overnights, doubles, and twenty-four (sometimes more) hour shifts the team worked, having a comfortable place to do so really made them less terrible for everybody.
“So believe it or not, we’ve got no cases today,” James said. “Like, none on the docket, and no signs of anything coming in later. Maybe that’ll change, but for now, we’re completely free. If you’ve got tasks to do, I’d say now’s a great time to do them. If you’ve got chores on the chore rotation, again, excellent time to do them.”
Which was his plan, because if a few more days went by and his tasks weren’t done, his captaincy wouldn’t matter when someone decided to poison him.
Gabriella, James’s younger cousin and the now-official team researcher, raised a hand. He saw Bradley start to roll his eyes, then stop as James looked at him. “Gabs?”
“Where did the chore chart go?”
An excellent question. It might be buried in the stack of takeout menus and grocery store circulars sitting on the ever-cluttered kitchen countertop. He tried to think back to when he last saw it, but couldn’t bring the exact location to mind.
“Alright, new starting point,” James said. “Find the chore rotation chart, then clean. Any other questions?”
“I’ve got some new training modules from the Foundation,” Graham, James’s roommate and the newest member of the team, said. “What do you want me to do?”
“You choose. But you and Gabs are taking a break first, anyway.”
“Done. Anything else?”
Nobody answered him. “Oh, one last thing before we go,” James said. “This week, I’m going to be gone for two days for a captain training out in Boston. I’m very excited about it and it definitely won’t be a tremendous waste of time. But while I’m gone, Amelia will be in charge. I’ll be reachable in an emergency, it’s not one of those types of trainings. Thank God.”
There had been a case a few years earlier where they’d needed to contact Robin, but he was intentionally out of cell phone coverage somewhere in the woods. And the Foundation had been unhelpful to the point of making the situation worse as they tried desperately to get Amelia back from whatever dimension a cursed house had sent her to.
But when he was in an old building in Beacon Hill, James was pretty likely to have service. So it’d be fine. Amelia was perfectly capable of running shifts, even for multiple days at a time. There was nothing to worry about. He’d sit through his workshops, maybe even learn something new, then come back home.