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Candlelight and Shadow

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"It is a lot of money," Furiosa eventually concedes, knowing as she says it that she's as good as signed a contract.

"It's a hell of a lot of money!" Valkyrie says, voice tinny over the phone's speaker. "They're good kids, really," she adds. "And it would just be for a few weeks while I sort this shit out. Pleeaase?"

Furiosa closes her eyes and sighs. Kids aren't her favorite people to be around, but the money is more than good, and would keep her afloat at least a few months after the gig is up if she can stick it out. "Alright," she says. "But just for as long as it takes for you to get back up on your feet."

"Yes!" Valkyrie crows in a wave of static. "And don't worry about the ghost, he's harmless, really."

"Wait," Furiosa says, eyes snapping back open to glare suspiciously at her potted plant across the way like her ire can transfer over to Valkyrie. "What ghost?"

"Sorry, gotta go!" Valkyrie says. "Talk later!"

"Val!" Furiosa protests, but the line's gone dead. A ghost? Probably just something Valkyrie's made up to explain the noises of the house settling or to scare the children, she decides. There's no such thing as ghosts, obviously.

 

The house is massive, an ostentatious show of wealth that tips outright into gaudy when she catches sight of the twin fountains flanking the walkway up to the front door. It looks old, but with recent work done to it.

"So you're gonna use the back entrance," Valkyrie says, having narrated the entire drive up with details about her new assignment. "Keep driving; the road turns to dirt, just go with it."

When she obligingly turns away from the main driveway the road does indeed turn to a rutted dirt road that might have once had a layer of gravel over it, though it's hard to be sure. Furiosa's car groans as it navigates the uneven terrain, but she isn't worried about it not being able to hold its own.

"I mean, Mr Moore definitely has the creepy overlord act down pat," Valkyrie continues, pattering away to fill the silence that comes with a broken radio. "But the kids are good kids. Not as spoiled as you'd think from living in a place like this."

Furiosa finally parks the car in a rickety looking shed, a good few meters away from the actual house. The footpath is paved with wide flat stones, uneven and a little slick beneath her feet.

Val produces a key from somewhere and lets them inside. "The kids will be out at their lessons right now," she says, "So you can get settled first."

The tour is long, because there's a lot of house to cover- even if a large amount of it adds up to ‘stay out of this room'. Finally Valkyrie brings them to the room Furiosa will be staying in for the duration, a small bedroom without much to recommend it other than the fact that there's a bathroom attached.

"And that's it!" Valkyrie says, making a flourishing gesture with her hand, key held out for Furiosa to take.

"What am I expected to do?" Furiosa asks, the reality of the situation starting to really hit her. "These kids…"

"Just keep them entertained," Valkyrie says. She shrugs, and finally looks actually serious for the first time since proposing this idea. "Look, I gotta run, you sure you're going to be okay?"

Furiosa takes a look around her borrowed room, the expansive lawn stretching away from the window, the muffled far-away sounds of a busy household staff. How hard can it be to keep some rich kids entertained for a few weeks, really? She can just foist them off on other people most of the time, or take them outside to play, right? And it's not like there's really any other choice at this point- Val needs the time off, and she's the only one to have stepped up to fill the gap.

"Yeah," she says, "I'll be fine."

"Great!" Valkyrie says. They say their goodbyes, and Furiosa carefully maps out the route between her room and the door, not wanting to get lost and end up in one of the family's personal spaces, of which there are many.

 

After dinner- hers eaten in a small room off the kitchen, along with some the other household staff- she meets the children. There are five in total, all girls, the oldest just pushing into that prickly teenage stage and the youngest barely five, bright-eyed and eager to meet a new stranger.

None of them look as if they share a single relative in common, and Furiosa does her best to remember if Valkyrie had said where, exactly, these children came from.

"What happened to your arm," Toast asks, her own arms crossed defensively over her middle.

"I had an accident," Furiosa says in reply.

"What happened to her hair," Dag says quietly, snippily, and this comment Furiosa decides to ignore.

"Come on," Angharad, the oldest, says. "Let's go watch a movie." She turns her back on Furiosa in a clear signal of dismissal, not that Furiosa can actually let them dismiss her.

She follows them to a large, well-furnished room that has an equally large TV mounted on the wall. The girls all squabble over what movie to watch, finally settling on some animated thing that Furiosa has never heard of before.

It's as easy as Valkyrie had said, really. The girls ignore her for the most part, talking amongst themselves and watching the movie, treating her like she's invisible.

They attempt to convince Furiosa that they have no bedtime, but Mrs Moore shows up and whisks them away, with barely any words actually said.

Then Furiosa is alone, in her small borrowed room in a far-too-large house. She lays in bed, awake and ruminating over all the missteps she already made with the girls.

She can hear someone walking up and down the stairs near her room, the narrow set that have been used by staff members since before this house paid them for their services. It's an annoying noise, especially since it sounds like aimless pacing rather than just someone passing through on their way for a drink of water.

Furiosa listens to the footsteps for another minute or so before getting out of bed, feet jammed down into her ratty slippers. A house like this makes her feel underdressed for not having a robe of some sort to pull over herself, but she only brought her usual sleepwear.

The door to the stairs is ajar, the only light the dim glimmer of the moon through narrow windows.

"Hey," she calls out, softly as she opens the door.

The footsteps abruptly stop.

She steps further into the stairwell and gazes into the dark, but she can't make out anything through the shadows. "The stairs are kind of loud," she says after a moment of waiting for the other person to speak. "Mind pacing somewhere else?"

There's a long few seconds of silence, during which Furiosa decides her entering the stairway must have made them leave through the upper level. But then she hears footsteps again, this time descending down the stairs slowly, one at a time. Close like this instead of through walls she can tell that the steps are uneven, like maybe whoever it is is having trouble walking.

She waits for them to turn the corner, but though the sound of footsteps grows only more clear, no figure materializes out of the gloom.

"Hello?" Furiosa says, a reflex of surprise. Maybe there's another flight up above, and she's misjudged where on the steps the person is.

A gust of cold wind rushes past her, and the footsteps stop entirely.

The cold raises goosebumps on her arms and she hugs herself, hand cradling her left elbow protectively. Someone left a window open, she decides, and there's surely another flight of stairs above this one. Old houses are always echoing and drafty.

She locks the door of her room behind her firmly, and returns gratefully to her bed. The footsteps don't start up again.

 

Furiosa falls into a rhythm quickly enough. The girls really aren't too bad to handle, just like Valkyrie had promised. They try to push their boundaries but she holds firm, and within a few days they more or less accept the restrictions she lays down on them, the same as Val before her.

 

And at night she listens to footsteps roam around the hallways. The stairwell, the hallway, once she thinks she hears grass crunching underneath her window. She never actually sees anyone making these noises, and after her attempts at confrontation end with nothing she stops trying.

This time, the footsteps are right outside her door, and accompanied by a shadow that slides across the floor in the crack under her door.

Furiosa watches this for a few minutes, the slow advance and retreat, before rolling out of bed. She moves as quietly as she can and yanks the door open with no warning-

In the hallway is the shadowy figure of a man she's never seen before, dressed in dark clothes that seem somehow out of place, not that she's much interested in fashion. He jerks his head to look right at her and then, between one blink of her eyes and the next, disappears.

She jerks back and frowns, her heart-rate suddenly spiking with alarm. Had he ducked through a doorway? But there are no doors where he was just standing, nor shadows or niches or statues to hide behind. Furiosa takes a few cautious steps over to where the man had been standing and sees no place he might have disappeared to.

She must have just imagined the sight of him entirely, she decides as she closes her door behind her, locking it securely even though there wasn't anyone really there.

 

She pays attention to the house staff, but there's no one among them who looks remotely like the man she saw the night before.

 

"So," Furiosa says one night, when Toast and Cheedo, the youngest, have already been shuffled off to bed. "Valkyrie said something about a ghost?"

Angharad scoffs, but Capable nods eagerly and Dag says, "Did he move stuff in your room? He likes checking out new people."

"No," Furiosa replies, which isn't a lie. She hasn't noticed anything amiss in her room at all. "Nothing like that."

"Because there is no ghost," Angharad says firmly. "It's just an old house."

"There is too a ghost," Capable says, "I've seen him!"

"He looks sad," Dag says, more contemplative than a kid her age should be able to pull off.

"It's just an old house that creaks!" Angharad says, and then abruptly gets out of her chair. "I'm tired. Good night."

Furiosa has been given no instructions to stop her charges should they want to go to bed early, and lets her go.

"She used to see him, too," Capable says quietly when Angharad has left the room, footsteps disappearing down the hallway.

"She's too grownup for it now," Dag says with a theatrical sniff. Then she seems to remember Furiosa's presence because she turns in her direction with curious eyes. "You said you saw him, though…"

"No, I didn't," Furiosa says before the girl can get any ideas. "Valkyrie mentioned it." She tries to make her mouth form the words ‘I don't believe in ghosts' but she can't quite manage to commit.

"You'd tell us if you saw him, wouldn't you?" Capable says. "He gets lonely with just us to be around."

"If I saw a ghost, I would tell you," Furiosa says, this lie easy on her tongue.

Dag nods solemnly and Capable beams again. "We call him Max," Capable says.

"Why?" Furiosa asks before she can stop herself.

"It's the name on the headstone," Dag says with a shrug.

"There's a little graveyard out back," Capable explains. "There's Max, and Jessie, and a baby."

Furiosa hadn't realized that the house was old enough to have a family graveyard- assuming that's what this is, and not some unsanctioned burials the girls have stumbled upon, or simply markers for deceased pets. She steers the conversation away from ghosts and death with less finesse than Valkyrie probably would have managed, making a mental note to check out the back woods the next day.

 

The footsteps ring loud in the hallway above hers, forceful and almost agitated. She's gotten used to them by now, the uneven cadence of someone walking with a limp, but the noise is louder than usual tonight. Furiosa shivers as she gets out of bed, the night air cold against her skin, and makes her way up the narrow servant's staircase by the light of the moon.

As she ascends the stairs the footsteps falter. There's no one in the hallway when she gets there, every door she can see closed up for the night.

"It's late," she says softly, not expecting any answer and not getting any, unless the cold breeze brushing past can be counted.

She turns the information that the girls had given her over in her mind, the idea of a man buried out back who decided to linger on afterwards. It's not a particularly comforting thought and she grips the banister tight as she makes her way back down to her room.

 

There is a small graveyard out back, she discovers. It's nestled far back from the main house in a stand of trees, a little plot marked out with a decaying wood fence. There are five stones- two toppled over on their faces, and clearly too heavy for curious little girls to lift up on their own; one with just a few scant months inscribed on it; one with a worn carving of what might have been a bird at one point, just above the name 'Jessie'; and one that does indeed read 'Max'.

Furiosa is careful to step lightly as she leans in close to read the dates on the stones, feeling the authenticity for herself.

The trees around her shiver and rattle with the wind, the hairs on the back of her neck prickling with the feeling of being watched. When she turns around swiftly there's no one and no thing to be seen, just empty forest all around her.

She hugs her arms to herself, wishing she'd brought a sweater to wear to ward off the sudden chill, and with one last look at the gravestones starts making her way back to the house.

 

"You saw the graveyard," Dag accuses over a game of checkers, looking more solemn than an eight year old has any right to.

Furiosa pauses in deciding where to set down her next game piece and instead thinks about how to handle the conversation. "I went for a walk," she says, which isn't even a lie.

"You saw the graves?" Capable pipes up, head rising from the book she's been buried in the last few hours. "Then you have seen the ghost, haven't you?"

"There is no ghost," Angharad says firmly, her own book snapping shut. Cheedo and Toast look up from their game with wide eyes, and Furiosa sighs internally over the conversation she's going to have to have.

"Yes there is," Dag shoots back. "And now Miss Furiosa's seen him, too!"

"I never said that," Furiosa says, and is ignored.

"Just because you can't see him anymore-" Capable starts to say.

She's cut off by Angharad's harsh, "I can't see him because he doesn't exist."

It's clearly a sore point between the girls, who are normally fairly close with one another. "Let's drop it," Furiosa says.

The girls do not drop the subject. Furiosa is forced to separate them for an early bedtime to get them to stop, which she suspects will only put the conversation on pause rather than end it altogether.

"Don't be scared," Cheedo says as Furiosa brings the girl to her room, "Max is a good ghost. Like Casper."

Furiosa wonders if she should disabuse the girl of the notion that there are really ghosts at all- the older girls might be playing a game, but Cheedo is young enough that it's impossible to tell whether she really believes or not. "You should get to sleep," she settles on instead.

 

The next time she hears footsteps out in the hallway, Furiosa intends to ignore them. The rhythm of them is familiar to her by now, a cadence different from anyone else's in the household. Which is why she jerks her eyes open when she realizes that these footsteps don't match with the established pattern.

Actually, she realizes with a growing sense of suspicion, these footsteps sound like they're coming from more than one person…

She puts on her slippers and leaves her room, making her way quietly up the narrow stairway to the floor above.

Dag freezes in place when Furiosa rounds the corner, her white blonde hair glowing in the light of a flickering candle set on the floor.

Capable is the one to recover first. "Are you joining the seance?"

Furiosa eyes the girls with dismay, the open flame, the fact that they are definitely not supposed to be trawling through the hallways past dark. "You're not holding a seance," she says firmly but quietly, the dark of night making her want to lower her voice even if no one sleeps in this section of the house. "You're going back to bed."

"You can't stop us," Toast says, chin tilting defiantly. At least they've left Cheedo to her sleep, Furiosa thinks.

"This isn't up for discussion," Furiosa replies. She steps forward and snuffs out the candle before it can get tipped over and set the whole place ablaze. "Where did you get those matches?"

The girls look at each other uneasily. Furiosa finds the light switch on the wall and flicks it, bathing them all in harsh electric light. "Well?"

"I borrowed them from the kitchen," Dag finally says, gaze directed at her own toes.

Furiosa nods. "If you want to get in trouble for being out of bed, that's your own prerogative. But fire is dangerous. You could have sent this whole place burning down."

"We were careful!" Capable protests.

Furiosa looks pointedly at the long taper candle, sitting a little lopsidedly on a plate no doubt also stolen from the kitchen. The plate isn't nearly large enough to contain the candle if it had fallen over.

"Get back to bed immediately and maybe I won't tell your father."

"He's not our dad," Toast says with venom in her voice.

Furiosa suppresses a wince; she'd forgotten she isn't to call Mr Moore that; the words had just slipped out. "Back to bed," she repeats rather than attempt to salvage her misstep.

The girls allow her to shepherd them all back to their respective rooms, cowed by the reality of being caught red-handed. Furiosa stays out in the hallway a little longer, waiting to see if any of them try to sneak back out, but within a few minutes the sounds of the children settling back in quiets down and all is silent.

She returns to her room and sets the half-burned candle on her dresser, making a mental note to come up with some cover story to explain the wax-covered plate when she returns it to the kitchen. Just as she's starting to drift off she swears she hears footsteps echoing through the hallways again, this time a familiar limping cadence.

 

The question of the gravestones and the noises she's heard don't quietly fade away, as she'd hoped. Instead Furiosa finds herself wondering about them more- she doesn't really believe in ghosts, but she can admit to being curious about graves hidden just beyond the trees.

"Got a minute?" she asks Ace after dinner. He's the Groundskeeper, a title she assumed he used because he didn't like the name ‘gardener' until she'd seen him bringing back a parcel of pheasants, taken from the fields he spends most of his day working. She hasn't really connected with anyone on the staff, but she's exchanged pleasantries with him enough to think they can hold a conversation.

"Yeah?" he replies.

"I was taking a walk," Furiosa says, and he nods. "And I came across a few gravestones."

He nods again. "Our own little cemetery. What about it?"

"I was wondering, could you tell me any more about them? The people buried there."

Ace rubs at his chin, eyes squinting at her. "That's a bit before my time, missy," he says after a moment.

"There's no gossip among the staff?" she asks, eyebrow raised. Of course she could read the dates on the stones and realize that anyone who'd been there is long dead now.

He huffs an amused breath and nods his head. "Alright. I'll tell you what I know- but none of this gets back to Joe or those girls, you hear?"

Furiosa nods her agreement easily; she has no intentions of further the girls' fantasies of there being a ghost.

"The Rockatanskys were the original owners of this house," he says after a moment, looking around the hallway like he wants to make sure no one else is around to eavesdrop, despite the fact that it's all probably common knowledge among the household staff anyway. "Great-Granddaddy Moore wanted to get his hands on it, but they wouldn't sell. No one knows for sure what happened, but Moore senior, he had a nickname from his time during the war- ‘Toecutter' they called him, on account of he liked taking souvenirs."

Ace pauses, and Furiosa digests this information.

"So the husband, he comes home one day and finds his best friend's had an accident out in the barn. These sort of things happen, of course, but the timing… Then his kid goes missing- wild dogs, they said." Ace pauses to scoff. "His wife couldn't take it all, she offs herself- ties a rope around the beams in the hall and hangs herself. Then it's just Rockatansky, and Granddaddy Moore, and next thing you know there's one last grave out back and the house is Moore's property."

"You believe this?" she asks, thinking that it certainly sounds like the kind of story that's gotten embellished over the years. If she hadn't seen the dates on the gravestones and seen how close together they are, she'd dismiss it all as entire nonsense.

"It's what I've heard," Ace says with a shrug.

"The library wouldn't have any newspaper clippings, would it?" Furiosa asks, more because the idea's occurred to her than because she has any real intention of digging further into this.

"It might," Ace says, shrugging again. "Don't let Joe catch you sniffing around about it, though. He doesn't like all these… colorful stories brought up."

She nods, wondering if it's because Mr Moore feels guilty for things his great-grandfather might have done, or if he simply doesn't want rumors of his family house being haunted to spread.

 

When she returns to her room that night, she finds her room has been turned upside down.

Not literally- the bed isn't on the ceiling, for starters- but it looks as if someone has ransacked the place, clothes strewn on the floor, the few possessions she'd brought knocked over or out of place, the dresser turned backwards to face the wall.

Furiosa calmly sets the room back to rights, trying to convince herself that- what, it was a prank? The girls were all accounted for, and wouldn't have had the time to do something like this. She can't imagine the staff doing such a thing, not when it's obvious she has nothing of value to try taking. And anyone coming from the outside would have been caught by the security system.

Nothing looks like it was taken, nor broken, though the clock is stopped and can't be restarted. She never used it anyway; if it wasn't for the presence of its quiet ticking, she would have just assumed it hadn't been working for a while.

"That wasn't nice," Furiosa says to the empty air of her room when everything is more or less cleaned up. There's no reply, not that she's expecting one.

 

It isn't hard to arrange an outing to the local library, all told. Furiosa simply expresses her interest in the idea to Mrs Moore, who tells Mr Moore, and then she's being allowed to borrow one of their cars and given strict instructions for what sort of freedoms the girls are allowed.

She gets the girls set up with stacks of books- and a seat at a puppet show for Cheedo, who watches the bright story with an enthralled expression- and then slips away, to the records room.

The microfiche machine is stubborn here, but she's able to find the year of local papers she's looking for without much difficulty, and gets to work skimming through for any mention of Rockatansky or Moore.

What she finds is a small line about a barn fire on the property, listing one ‘Jim Goose' as perishing in the blaze. The friend Ace had mentioned, she would guess. Still, fires back then were hardly uncommon.

The rest of the paper yields nothing. Not a single mention of the family or property, not even a death announcement for any of them. Either she's missing them- possible, with her rushed search method- or there's some reason they weren't written about in a small paper that gives space to record-setting vegetables and personalized wedding announcements.

She can't linger for too long over the old records, though, not when she has five children to look after. Before she has any real sort of answer- not that she knows what the question is- Furiosa returns to the main library room, relieved to find nothing much amiss.

 

When she opens her door at the end of the day, her bed is upside-down on the floor. It's a solid, heavy old four-poster and even if she hadn't been with them all day she knows there's no way the girls could have done this, and she can't imagine why anyone else in the household would bother messing with her, especially after having arrived nearly two months ago now.

Furiosa slowly and carefully levers the bed onto its side, and from there gets it back upright. When she's gotten the blankets back up on top of the mattress she steps back and regards the door, closed and locked.

If it wasn't anyone on the house staff, and it wasn't the girls… She doesn't believe in ghosts, not really. But she can't deny that she's heard footsteps ranging all over the house in the dead of night, that she saw something one night. As much as she hates to admit it, she can't come up with a more plausible explanation for things.

Fucking ghosts.

And fucking Valkyrie for knowing about it and leaving her to figure it out on her own.

 

She's called Valkyrie once a week since taking over her nanny job. Every day, the first week, when it was all new and unfamiliar and Furiosa had started to realize how little she knows about kids.

After chatting about the girls and how Val's doing with her break and all the usual things, Furiosa takes a breath and says, "About the ghost."

"What about it?" Valkyrie replies, only to huff an amused, "Wait. The girls didn't sucker you into believing, did they?"

"You never heard, or… experienced anything?" Furiosa says.

"I mean, just the usual old house noises," Valkyrie says, sounding amused still. "I'd forget where I really put something and find it in a weird place, that sort of thing."

Furiosa closes her eyes and admits that she's about to sound a bit nuts. "I don't think it's just old house stuff," she says.

There's silence for the span of a few breaths, and the Valkyrie is saying, "You're not serious."

"Shut up," Furiosa retorts without thinking.

"Ghosts, Furi?" Valkyrie says. "I know the house is something out of a Harlequin but that's no reason to start making up ghosts."

"You mentioned it for a reason," Furiosa says. "And the girls seem pretty convinced, too."

"Cheedo is convinced the Tooth Fairy really visited her," Val says with a verbal shrug. "The kids are kids. They'll believe just about anything you tell them."

Maybe Cheedo is young enough for that sort of blind acceptance, but Capable and Dag aren't, and Furiosa knows what she herself has experienced. The footsteps, the night she watched a stranger disappear into thin air, her room being turned over like that…

"There's a graveyard out back," she says into the phone. There's an itch growing where her left wrist used to be and she can feel the distraction of it, the urge to scratch at something that doesn't exist.

"They used to bury people all over the place back in the day," Valkyrie says dismissively. Then she sighs, a resigned note in the sound. "You think you really saw something, don't you?"

Furiosa ponders how to answer for a moment. Admitting it feels risky, but she's brought the subject up on purpose. "There's been footsteps," she says, "And my room's been messed up when no one but me's gone in. And… Yeah, I saw something- someone- one night."

Valkyrie is quiet for a few long seconds. "Okay," she says at last. "Well, you're the most grounded person I know. I believe that you believe this happened."

It's hardly a ringing endorsement, but Furiosa feels a tension leave her shoulders anyway. "I'm not making this up," she says.

"Mhm," Val replies, noncommittal. "What are you gonna do about it? Hold an exorcism?"

"No," Furiosa says immediately. The idea is ridiculous, and besides- if it really is the ghost of Rockatansky, it's rightfully his house. He shouldn't be the one forced to leave. "I don't know," she admits. "I just…" She finds that she's at a loss for words. She brought it up just to get validation, to have someone else know what she's been thinking and feeling. She'd thought Valkyrie would have a more open mind after having spent time in the house herself, and she's disappointed to find that it's not the case. "I just wanted to talk about it," she settles on. "Ace told me the backstory of the house, but none of the staff are allowed to bring it up."

"Ah yes, Granddaddy Toecutter," Valkyrie says, a new note of understanding in her voice. "You think it's him?"

Furiosa shakes her head even though Val can't see it. "No, I think it's the original owner. Rockatansky."

"They do say he died a pretty nasty death," Valkyrie says.

"I couldn't find anything in the paper about it," Furiosa says, admitting to her research. "Just the barn fire."

"Yeah, it was fucked up," Valkyrie says, her voice brightening as she gets to discuss gory details she's no doubt gleaned from conversations with the household staff. "I heard they broke his legs and left him for the bears and wolves, but he was stubborn enough to crawl home anyway. So they got a bunch of knives and made it look like a bear got to him. Left him bleeding out just out of sight of the house."

Furiosa blinks as she pictures this. "That seems unlikely," she says. Aren't ghosts supposed to look like they were when they died, anyway? The glimpse she'd gotten had revealed a perfectly ordinary looking man, not one who was mauled to death.

"Probably," Valkyrie cheerfully agrees. "Makes for a good story, though!"

"And you never heard or saw anything strange?" Furiosa asks.

Valkyrie is quiet for a moment before saying, "Nothing I can think of, sorry."

Furiosa sighs, and wonders what she was hoping for. Valkyrie wouldn't make fun of her like that if she'd been seeing ghosts too.

"Have you tried asking the ghost who it is?" Valkyrie says. "You know, whip out the Ouija board and get its life story. Maybe it is Moore the elder, and he's pissed at all the riffraff in his house."

"I don't think it's Moore," Furiosa says, but has to admit that trying to get in contact directly with the ghost hadn't occurred to her. She can satisfy her curiosity and maybe get him to stop overthrowing her room.

 

Remembering the night she interrupted the girls in their attempt at a seance, Furiosa procures a candle and a jar to put it in. It might be nothing more than setting the mood, but she figures it can't hurt. Besides, Rockatansky lived before electricity- he might feel more comfortable around candles than a flashlight.

She scribbles an alphabet down on a sheet of paper because the Ouija board idea wasn't actually that bad, if the ghost doesn't have a voice. Who knows if he'll be able to push around the coin she's using as a marker or not, but since his footsteps sure sound like something physical hitting the floor, she's willing to give it a shot.

She plans to wait until she hears footsteps, but they don't come every night, and as it grows later she decides she'd rather just get it over with. She takes her supplies out to the back staircase, where she first heard the footsteps, and makes sure the doors and windows are all firmly shut.

It's dark even with the flickering light of the candle, and Furiosa takes a moment to hope that no one else in the house is around to overhear her talking to herself.

"Hello," she says, realizing as she begins that she has no idea how to do this. "I'd like to talk to you."

There's no reply, no change at all in the still night.

"Are you Rockatansky?" she says. "It's alright. I just want to talk."

Nothing.

"I'm sorry I went looking behind your back," she tries next, feeling deeply foolish. "I should have asked your permission."

Furiosa lets her head thunk against the wall behind her, eyes sliding shut. What is she doing? Valkyrie was right, she's just making things up- the footsteps are an old house creaking, the person she saw was just a trick of the light.

Except, she realizes as she snaps her eyes back open, the footsteps are back. The same limping cadence, this time sounding like they're approaching from the hallway above her.

Her heart speeds up.

"I just want to talk," she repeats. "If you're not Rockatansky, can you tell me who you are?"

The footsteps reach the top of the stairs, and Furiosa waits for the sound of the door opening. It doesn't come. Instead the footsteps continue unabated, as if the door isn't there at all.

They slow as they reach the stairway, the pattern changing to something less steady as whoever it is navigates the narrow stairs. Her mouth is strangely dry as she waits for them to round the corner.

After what feels like forever, a dark shape in the flickering shadows cast by the candle appears at the bend in the staircase. It's not the crisp image she would expect from a real person but rather a vague, wavering shape with barely more substance than a shadow.

It's a man, the same man she saw for a blink of an eye a few weeks ago, dressed in old-fashioned clothes but otherwise totally normal looking, translucence notwithstanding. He comes to a rest halfway up the stairs, looking down at her apprehensively.

"Hello," she says, stunned that this has worked. That she's either having a very vivid dream or she's really seeing a ghost. Cold rolls through the air from where he's standing, like a window left open in the night.

The man- the ghost- says nothing, but his head might tilt the slightest bit in something of a nod.

"Are you Rockatansky? Max Rockatansky?" Furiosa asks, wanting to at least clear up this question before the hallucination ends. "There's a paper, if you can't speak."

He regards her for another moment before nodding his head in a more visible gesture. "You can see me," he says, his voice barely more than a whisper, just like he's barely more than a shadow.

"I can," she says, refraining from voicing her surprise over the fact that he can speak after all.

His form seems to resolve around the edges a little, like he's coming into better focus, or stepping closer to the candle despite not moving from his stair.

"Was that your work in my room?" Furiosa says. She feels as if she moves she'll break the spell holding him in place, and so she keeps herself calm and still even though her heart is still beating faster than normal.

He nods again, and raises a shoulder in a noncommittal sort of shrug.

"I'm sorry I upset you," she says.

He shrugs again.

"Can you tell me why you're still here?" she asks.

To her annoyance, Rockatansky doesn't react much at all to that question, just keeps staring down at her. "Why're you here," he says. His voice is rough and deep for all that it's faint, like it's been rusted shut in his throat all these years.

Furiosa narrows her eyes at him because it sounded more like a cheeky question than a truly ignorant one. "I'm taking care of Moore's children," she says, wondering if the name will prompt a reaction.

He hums, and shifts nonexistent weight from one foot to another. The stair creaks underneath him at the action.

"Can you tell me how you died?" she asks. Might as well go for the big questions while she's got an actual ghost in front of her.

He lets out what might have been a sigh, if he had any actual breath left in his lungs to sigh with, and doesn't otherwise answer.

"Is there a reason you're still here?" she tries, thinking back on every cheesy ghost-related story she's heard. The dead are supposed to move on to someplace else unless they're held back by some reason, right?

The only response she gets is another lift and fall of his shoulder. His edges are blurry again, the shadows creeping further over him. Last time he had simply been gone in a blink and she wonders if he's controlling this, or if maybe he's simply run through whatever time limit there is for being visible.

Furiosa wracks her brain for what to say next, whether to try another question that will likely get her another noncommittal answer, but before she can decide, the ghost finishes fading away into nothingness.

"Wait!" she calls out, still quiet so as not to wake anyone else in the house, but there's no response, not even footsteps to indicate he's moving. He's simply gone, as if he was never there in the first place.

She waits another minute more, wanting to make sure their meeting is truly over, but when Rockatansky doesn't reappear she gathers up her unneeded alphabet sheet and blows out the candle.

It's very dark in the stairwell without that little light, but she doesn't feel uncomfortable about it at all. She's already seen what the house has to offer.

 

In the light of morning, she can almost convince herself that the night before was just a dream. How could ghosts be real? It's ridiculous.

But she can't entirely dismiss it, either. Furiosa knows what she saw, knows what she heard. There was someone in that stairwell with her last night, someone who was as insubstantial as a shadow yet able to answer- and ask- questions.

"Miss Furiosa," Cheedo says in her small voice, fingers tugging at the hem of Furiosa's shirt to get her attention.

"Yes?" Furiosa replies, lifting her eyes from her book to first check that nothing is amiss with the other girls, a reflexive habit by this point.

"Dag says I can't go with them to speak to the ghost," Cheedo says with a pout. "But Toast is going!"

Furiosa badly restrains the urge to sigh. "No one is going to talk to the ghost," she says, loud and firm, for the whole room to hear. Capable and Angharad are at horseback lessons so it's only the three younger girls with her now, passing the dull gray day with indoor pursuits. Like attempting another seance, apparently.

"Rat!" Toast yells, "You told!"

Cheedo shrinks into herself for a moment before straightening her spine and bellowing back, "You're not supposed to be mean to me!"

Furiosa feels a headache building already. "No one is going to talk to the ghost," she repeats. "And if I catch wind of you trying otherwise, I'll have to let Mr Moore know."

This causes the girls to go silent, and she feels the weight of several angry glares directed at her. She hadn't told on them for the first seance she interrupted, but two- and most likely conducted after dark or in an area they're not supposed to play in, if not both- would be more than she can keep quiet.

"Besides," she says, trying to sound reasonable, "You wouldn't want to bother Ro- Max, now would you?"

This has Dag's eyes gleaming with a new light, though Toast still looks mutinous and Cheedo sadly disappointed. She'd wanted to be included, not have the whole thing called off.

"So if Max came to us, you'd let us talk to him?" Dag asks.

"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts," Toast says before she can respond.

"If," Furiosa says, "If there are ghosts, then yes, it would be rude to call on them without invitation." It's not really an answer, even if she knows Dag will take it as one.

 

Furiosa waits until she hears footsteps that night, uneven and familiar, before forcing herself out of bed.

The footsteps slow as she shuts the door behind her in the back stairway, feeling superstitious for choosing it a second night but not wanting to push her luck and scare Rockatansky away.

"Max?" she calls out softly, feeling only slightly less foolish than the night she first attempted this. "If you want to talk…"

The footsteps make their way to the stairwell, a cold breeze blowing through at the same time. She can't see anything, save maybe a slight thickening of the shadows. Maybe she should have grabbed another candle, she thinks ruefully.

"Are you there?" she asks, voice quiet despite the fact that there are no other people in this part of the house.

There's a rustle like shifting fabric or creaking leather, and then a man's voice letting out an unmistakable hum.

Furiosa lets out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "The girls want to speak to you," she says, because there really isn't anything better to say. "I told them not to bother you."

The shadows resolve themselves a bit, become a wavering shape that could, with some imagination, be a person. Max is quiet for long enough that she thinks he won't answer.

"Okay," he says. "Thanks."

She nods.

Silence stretches between them and she wonders if he'll just disappear again, now that she has nothing to say to him. Wonders why he even came to her, except she spends a moment thinking of how lonely it must be to be dead and invisible and trapped in a house your killer's family owns and shivers in sympathy.

"Is there anything you want?" Furiosa asks. Some cultures leave offerings for the dead, don't they? Maybe there's something to it.

Max shakes his shadowy head slowly. Then he seems to gather himself a bit more, the shape of his face becoming apparent in the silvery moonlight. "The gravestones," he says. "They've fallen."

"I can fix them," she says, because that's an easy enough task.

His form dissipates again, becoming barely more visible than any other shadow.

Out of things to say, Furiosa nods to him. "Goodnight," she says, thinking as she says it that it's not the right thing to say, that ghosts certainly don't sleep and from what she's heard of his pacing, he hasn't had a restful night in a very long time.

He echoes her nod, and to her surprise echoes her farewell as well. "Goodnight," he says, voice barely more than a rusty whisper, and then the shadow is gone entirely, the air in the hallway suddenly warmer and more stifling.

 

In the hours when her time is her own, Furiosa goes back out to the little graveyard nestled inside the grove of trees. It looks just as sad and neglected as when she first visited, moss growing on the stones and old leaves decaying where they fell.

She hadn't come equipped for gardening, so she simply sets to work getting the toppled gravestones back upright. They're heavy, solid slabs of granite, the stone cool against her flesh fingertips.

The first topples over immediately again when she gets it upright, the surface slicker than she expected. There's a sliver of stone left buried in the dirt, she sees as she takes a moment to survey her task more closely, like the base of the gravestone broke away.

Furiosa leaves the graveyard to find the tool shed, where she liberates a shovel and a rake.

"What are you doing?" Ace asks, startling her into stopping in her tracks.

She regards him for a moment, wondering what he makes of her, what he'll tell Moore. She can't tell him anything about Max, that's for sure. "There's a dead animal out back," she says, "I'm burying it before the girls find it."

"That sort of thing's usually my job," Ace says, seeming to not fully believe her.

"I don't mind," she says with a shrug.

He regards her for a moment and then shakes his head. "Whatever makes you happy."

Furiosa nods to him and starts back up again, making sure to take a circuitous route back to the graveyard, to at least maintain the facade that she isn't messing around with an area of the property she has no rights to mess with. Ace doesn't follow her.

She sets the rake against the decrepit fence for the moment and starts instead to dig out the broken base of the gravestone, carefully moving the sliver of stone aside. Then she sets the gravestone upright again, this time putting it into the hole she just created. It leans but doesn't fall, and she braces it with the sliver of base, thinking she should find some other stones to pack around the base to keep it upright for at least some amount of time.

It stands shorter now, but the name can be seen, carving fresher for having been face-down on the dirt. The name on it is ‘May Swaisey', not one she's familiar with.

The second stone has its base intact, and it's easier to get it resituated into its proper place, though she's still worried for its stability. This one reads 'Jim Goose'.

When she's gotten the gravestones upright Furiosa searches around for some stones to shore them up with, building sturdy reinforcements around the base of all five markers. It might not do much in the long run, but she feels better for having done her best.

Then she picks up the rake, and begins to reduce the amount of leaves piled up over the graves. There's some grass growing underneath, thin and weedy, and she thinks that it's good that she can give it a fighting chance, that she can make the area look a little nicer.

Maybe some flower seeds wouldn't go amiss, she muses as she finishes up the edges of the area. Maybe the fence should be repaired.

She knows already that she won't do it. That she won't be here long enough to appreciate any change, that it won't matter if she fixes up the fence or plants flowers or rakes every day she's here, because in a few weeks' time she'll be gone, and never step foot here again. That she can rebuild the fence but it'll only decay again, that the gravestones will likely fall once more during the next storm.

 

She wakes up the next day with a small pebble lying just on the inside of her door. Furiosa ignores it at first, getting ready for the day like usual, but when she's more awake she stoops down to pick it up. It's heavy for such a small thing, and cold in the palm of her hand.

She turns it over but can't see anything special about it, other than the fact she knows for certain it wasn't there when she went to sleep.

"Thanks," she says to the empty air, deciding to take it as a sign that Max visited the graveyard and approved of her renovations. She sets the pebble on her dresser next to the broken clock and continues on with her day.

 

"You visited the graveyard," Angharad says to her, her voice quiet but hard.

"I did," Furiosa replies evenly. It's none of the girl's concern where she spends her time, and she cannot imagine there being any edict against cleaning the place up a little.

"I knew it," Angharad says. "Capable's been going on and on about it."

Furiosa says nothing; she has nothing to say, doesn't wish to offer up some explanation that will sound like a defense to this angry slip of a girl.

"You should leave it all alone," Angharad says. "There's no such thing as ghosts; all you're doing is making things harder for the others to accept."

"Why does it matter to you?" Furiosa asks, trying to keep her voice even, a teacher asking a question rather than someone hurling an accusation.

"You don't get it," Angharad says. Her face is set but her eyes are soft, almost pained. "This ghost stuff… It's all just nonsense. There's no such things as ghosts or the Tooth Fairy or happily-ever-afters. The others need to learn that."

Furiosa considers this for a moment, the vehemence in Angharad's voice, the jadedness of her words. "Maybe there isn't," she says, ignoring her own encounters with the ghost of Rockatansky that she can't explain away. "But what harm is there in letting them believe? They'll learn the truth soon enough, like you did."

This doesn't do anything to mollify the girl, however. "I knew you didn't understand," Angharad spits out. "Not like I do."

She turns away forcefully, and Furiosa lets her storm out of the room without any attempt to stop her. Clearly a nerve was struck, but despite having babysat them for nearing three months, she can't begin to guess at the real cause.

 

"The thing is," Valkyrie says during their weekly phone call.

Furiosa knows what she's going to say before she even finishes the sentence. "You need me to stay longer," she says.

"I need you to stay longer," Valkyrie confirms. "Sorry, but things just aren't coming together here on schedule."

"How much longer?" Furiosa says, thinking of her apartment going empty all this time. She'd stopped by once a month on her days off, just to collect her mail and see that things weren't broken into, but she hadn't planned on being away for much longer than this.

"Another month or two?" Valkyrie says, a question in her voice. "Definitely no more than three."

"Three months?" Furiosa repeats sharply.

"Probably not that long!" Valkyrie says. "And hey, you're getting a sweet salary for it."

"I don't know if I can stand these kids for another three months," Furiosa says, even though the girls really have grown on her. She's not used to dealing with kids, especially not so intensely and for so long a period of time, and it's more draining than she would have guessed when she first agreed to the job.

"Just keep doing what you're doing now," Valkyrie advises, her tone one of mock superiority.

 

Furiosa waits outside the office door for Moore to call her in, feeling like a kid sent to the principal's office and not an employee speaking to her employer.

"Enter," he finally says, and she pushes open the heavy oak door.

His office is even more opulent than the rest of the house, his taste in decorating allowed to run unchecked. The walls are paneled in gleaming wood, the desk heavy and large, the carpet a lush dark red, the lights dim. The room seems to swallow sounds even before she lets the door swing shut behind her.

"Mr Moore," Furiosa says, after waiting a moment to see if he'll address her first.

"Miss Jobassa," he replies in kind.

"You may have heard that Valkyrie's situation has been reevaluated," she says. "I'm willing to stay on until she's able to return."

Moore regards her with icy blue eyes. There's no compassion to be seen in his face, no softness, and she wonders once again why a man like him has taken on the care of five young children. Maybe his wife persuaded him into it.

He looks back at the papers on his desk, as if he's decided she's not worth his time. "You think you're capable of caring for my girls so long?" he asks.

Furiosa grits her teeth and keeps her voice level as she says, "I've done a more than satisfactory job so far."

"Have you," Moore says, glancing up at her with one white eyebrow raised.

She takes a steady breath. "Will you be keeping me on, or shall I pack my things?" she asks.

He stares at her intensely for a moment, before turning back to his papers once more. "You'll be dismissed when I say you're dismissed," he says with an air of finality.

Furiosa waits to see if he has anything else to say, but after a few seconds of silence she turns and makes for the door.

"And Miss Jobassa," Moore calls out just as her hand has reached the doorknob, forcing her to arrest her momentum and turn back to him. "I don't tolerate gossips in this household. Consider this your first and final warning."

Gossip? The story Ace told her about the Rockatanskys, she realizes as she steps back into the suddenly welcoming hallway. He probably guessed that she looked for more information at the library outing, and of course any might have stumbled across the cleaned-up graveyard.

 

Some nights, Furiosa can't sleep. If she was in her own apartment she might have gone out into the night and found a warm body to tumble between the sheets with, or blasted music to drown out the ache in her heart. Here she usually stays in her room, maybe reads, maybe does slow exercises that keep her calm and centered in her body.

The footsteps are ringing out loud and clear above her, Max's nocturnal pacing just as restless as her thoughts.

After an hour of fruitlessly trying to sleep she gets out of bed, and in the hallway calls out a quiet, "Max?"

It takes less time for him to decide to appear before her than he'd taken the last time. He's bathed in shadows but looks mostly whole, looks hardly translucent at all.

He watches her silently, and she realizes that despite reaching out, she has nothing to say.

"You stuck in the house?" she asks.

When he shakes his head slowly, she jerks her chin towards the hallway that branches to the outside. "Walk with me," she says.

To her surprise, Max does follow her. His footsteps are familiar to her now, though she's never heard them like this, right behind her. He's shorter than she would have guessed, having only really seen him standing up on the stairs before, a little shorter than she is.

"Your leg hurt?" she asks, now that she's sure he's limping.

He grunts in what she supposes is a negatory way, and she nods. It would be awful to carry around pain for your entire afterlife, though it makes her wonder what will happen to her, once she's dead. If her arm will be whole again or if she'll be stuck like this forever.

The air outside is cool and moist, the night dark so far removed from street lamps. A motion-activated light blares to life and Furiosa blinks in sudden agony, only for the light to be snuffed out a fraction of a second later.

When she opens her eyes Max has his hand still raised in the direction of the light, and she feels surprise waft through her.

He catches her looking and shrugs a shoulder, the light not returning even when he lowers his hand back down.

She decides not to question him about it, just grateful for the blinding light to be gone. They walk in silence through the well-manicured gardens, the sound of his feet against the ground occasionally drifting away into nothingness, like a radio going in and out of tune.

"They're good kids," Furiosa finds herself saying as she takes a seat on one of the cold cement benches that litter the place.

Max remains standing, the moonlight silver on his raggedy edges. He lets out an agreeable sort of grunt.

"I'm sorry if they bother you," she continues. "They're young."

As if she isn't also bothering him, as if being young is the only reason someone might seek out a ghost, like poking a bruise to see if it still hurts.

He scratches at his chin, a day or so's worth of beard grown on his face. Details she hadn't been able to make out in the candlelit stairwell. ""S okay," he says.

Furiosa lapses back into silence. The night air is refreshing, and she's surprised to discover that she's enjoying Max's quiet company, that her impulse to invite him along isn't one she regrets.

"Is it hard, being a ghost?" she asks, her voice barely more than a whisper, eyes cast away from where he stands before her. She can imagine it must be, especially when she's seen no suggestions that his family or friends have stayed alongside him.

He hums as if in thought, and when she glances back up at him he shrugs a shoulder. "It was harder, at first," Max says.

Neither one says anything else, until with a small groan Furiosa gets back up to her feet, a sufficient amount of time having passed that she feels able to try sleep again.

"Goodnight," she tells him as they reach the back door, the light once again extinguished with a wave of his hand. He could seriously mess up the electricity in the house, she thinks to herself, but she's seen no signs of him having done so.

"Night," he replies, faint enough that she almost thinks she's imagined it, and then he's gone.

 

The girls aren't exactly pleased to hear that she'll be staying as their nanny a while longer- Valkyrie is the one more suited to the job, the fun one- but no one openly protests, which she takes as a win.

"When's Val coming back," Toast complains.

"Is she okay?" Capable asks.

"Soon," Furiosa replies, "And yes. She's fine."

"Then why can't she come back now?" Dag says with a pout.

"Because she has things to finish up," Furiosa says, as much of an answer as she'll give when it involves someone else's personal life.

"Like one prisonguard is any better than another," Angharad mutters under her breath, loud enough that they all hear her anyway.

Furiosa elects to ignore this statement.

 

She takes a second walk with Max around the property at night, neither of them speaking more than necessary. It's restful to have what seems to be a kindred spirit with her, even if he is just a spirit in actuality.

"Do you want to move on?" Furiosa asks, awkward. It isn't as if she has any way of making it happen if he says yes, but she feels like she has to at least offer her help.

Max looks at her like he's offended to have been asked, and doesn't answer. His reaction doesn't actually tell her whether he would have said yes, or no.

 

She also arranges a second trip to the library, intending to honestly just chaperone the girls as they pick out new books to read. But the children all settle down quickly, and Furiosa finds herself at loose ends, too restless to find a book of her own to read.

She returns to the records room, and combs through the microfiche more carefully. She finds the same blurb about the barn fire as before, confirming that it's the same Jim Goose whose gravestone rests out back, and focuses her search on the newspaper issues from just before and after the dates on the other gravestones.

This time she finds a small obituary entry for a Jessie Rockatansky, just a short acknowledgement of her death with no details given whatsoever. There's nothing about the baby, nothing about Max- just this short memorial to Jessie, who didn't linger after death as a ghost.

On a whim Furiosa checks an issue of the paper more than a year past the dates on the gravestones, and isn't too surprised to find an advertisement in the back for help at "Moore Manor (former Rockatansky house)". Whether the story she was told about the circumstances has any authenticity or not, Moore's ancestor really did take possession of the house soon after the Rockatanskys were gone.

 

In general, things continue to be quiet, normal- if ‘normal' includes interacting almost nightly with the ghost of a man long-dead. The girls are rambunctious but never to the point of needing to be disciplined by Moore, and Furiosa grows more comfortable with her role as their caretaker with each passing day. Even the days when she wants nothing more than to shake them into submission and run far away from the huge, claustrophobic house.

 

It happens with no warning, though in hindsight she'll notice the signs. Furiosa is getting ready for bed after a long day when the lights in her tiny bathroom start flickering wildly.

She assumes electrical problems- hardly a stretch considering the age of the house- until the bedroom door slams open, despite her knowing she'd locked it.

A gust of cold air rolls past her and she calls out a confused, "Max?"

The door swings shut and then forcefully opens again, hitting against the doorstop with a resonant thunk.

"Max," she repeats, sure that this is another prank of his, wondering idly what she'd done to piss him off.

The lights are still on but if she concentrates she can make out the now-familiar shape of Rockatansky, formed of slightly thicker shadows than natural. An electric shock grips her hand and tugs, and she gasps to be caught so off guard.

"What?" she says, yanking her hand back from Max's icy, unnatural grip.

"Hurry," he says, voice rough. Then his uneven footsteps are moving down the hall at a rapid clip, the wall lights flickering as he goes.

Furiosa stands there for a moment, surprised into inaction, before she takes off to follow him. Something has him worked up in a way she's never seen before and she doesn't think he'll leave her alone if she tries to ignore him.

The lights flicker and dim as Max leads her through the house, bringing her away from the back-of-house areas she usually frequents straight into the heart of the family's dwelling.

She has a split second to recognize the hallway as the one the girls sleep in before a door swings open with force, a loud crack ringing through the air as the door slams against the wall.

Furiosa rounds the corner to stand in the doorway, unsure of what she's going to see.

When the sight registers, a cold fury fills her, and she lurches forward without another thought. "Get away from her," she snarls, striding across the room to grab Moore's collar and yank him away from a teary-eyed Angharad.

"Miss Jobassa," Moore says casually, as if she hasn't just caught him molesting his ward. "I'm sure you're misinterpreting things."

Furiosa bares her teeth- she knows exactly what she's stumbled across. Moore opens his mouth to say something else and she swings her left arm at him, her prosthesis delivering a much harder blow than her flesh-and-blood hand would have.

Moore grunts in pain, sagging against her grip. Blood starts to well out of a split in his lip.

"Get out of here," Furiosa says lowly, and gives another tug on his shirt until he stumbles up off Angharad's bed.

"Now," Moore says, his voice mushy, more blood welling up out of his mouth. She hopes she's broken his jaw, maybe knocked out a few teeth. "Let's discuss this."

"Get out before I break your neck," Furiosa says, willing him to leave so she can work on settling things with Angharad, huddled into herself and staring at the floor fit to burn a hole through it.

Moore wisely chooses the leave, the door slamming shut behind him.

"Hey," Furiosa says, turning her attention to Angharad, trying to make her voice soft without being condescending. "Are you hurt?"

Angharad switches from glaring at the floor to glaring at Furiosa, hands fisted in the mussed up sheets on her bed. She's still dressed in her nightgown, no sign of blood anywhere.

Furiosa nods as she accepts this non-answer. "I need to call the police," she says, and rephrases the question. "Do you need an ambulance?"

Jaw tense, Angharad shakes her head. "The police won't help," she says. "He'll just talk his way out of it."

"He won't," Furiosa promises. She kneels down next to the bed, putting herself slightly lower than eye-level with Angharad. "He won't."

The girl doesn't look convinced at all, and a horrid thought occurs to Furiosa.

"The others- has he-?"

Angharad shakes her head. "Not yet."

One mercy, at least. Furiosa nods, and forces herself to take a breath so she doesn't run into the hall after Moore and beat him to a bloody pulp.

"Okay," she says. "I'm going to find a phone. Do you want to be with your sisters?"

Fear edges into Angharad's eyes and she shakes her head. "Don't tell them," she says. "They shouldn't know about this."

"I can't promise they won't find out," Furiosa says, "But I won't tell them."

Mollified, Angharad uncoils slightly from her uncomfortable position. She drags her blanket up to cover herself.

"I'll be back," Furiosa says, and waits for Angharad to acknowledge her before she gets back up to her feet. Moore will either have fled entirely- unlikely, when she's just a nobody he probably assumes can pay off- or else he won't have gone far, to better get a jump on damage control.

True to her prediction Moore is lurking just at the end of the hallway, a white handkerchief pressed to his mouth and slowly turning red with blood.

"You don't know what you saw," he says immediately.

The light in the hall flickers, as if Max is expressing his displeasure at Moore's lie. None of the other doors have opened at the commotion, and while she's sure the girls are awake and soaking in the tension, she's glad they haven't poked their heads out to actually see things.

"I know exactly what I saw," she retorts. "A sick old man taking advantage of a girl under his care."

There's no point to this conversation, Furiosa realizes. All she's doing is letting Moore build up justifications for himself.

She doesn't think he'll try anything else tonight, not when he's been caught out, and so she marches down the hall to find the nearest phone.

"Now, Furiosa-" he says, and she whirls around to hiss, "Keep talking and I'll cut off your balls and shove them down your throat."

He closes his blood-flecked mouth, but shadows her down the hallway. "You don't want to do this," he says when she turns a corner to the hallway his office is located.

Furiosa says nothing but her jaw clenches, her hand flexes tightly.

"I could make you very rich," Moore says. "All you have to do is consider how you might have, ah, misinterpreted what you think you saw."

She opens the door to the office and heads right for the phone. Moore growls under his breath and then he's knocking into her, his body heavy against hers. She jerks away, an elbow swinging out reflexively to jab into his middle, but all it does is foul up his attempt at getting his hands around her neck.

Furiosa bares her teeth and struggles against his clammy grip, lashing out where she can. He isn't an active fighter anymore but he was in the military in his youth, and it shows- the knick knacks on his desk clatter to the floor as they roll across it, grappling each other for a better hold, trying to get a hand or knee free to land a blow.

Moore focuses his attention on getting his hands around her neck, trying to incapacitate her with his superior weight, while Furiosa lashes out with everything she can.

Her hand lands against the heavy brass lamp that used to decorate his desk and she grabs at it, and swings it as hard as she can towards his head. He grunts in pain but doesn't let go of her neck, and she swings the lamp out again, and again, until there's a sickening wet crack and Moore thrashes like a fish caught on a line.

Furiosa pushes his dead weight off from her and springs away, keeping the lamp in her grip. It's slippery and wet, heavy in her hand.

Moore twitches on the carpet, a puddle of red starting to form behind him, his breath coming in high, surprised gasps.

She eyes him warily but he doesn't get up, and she lets the lamp fall from her fingers so she can find the phone amid the debris from the desk. It's intact, luckily, and she dials the number for the police with shaking, red-stained fingers.

 

"Fuck," Valkyrie says over the phone, "Fuck. I should have been there, I should have guessed he wouldn't wait much longer-"

"You knew?" Furiosa asks, incredulous but tired. Moore didn't manage to die that night, and with the sort of lawyer he can buy, it's unlikely he'll ever see the inside of a jail cell.

"I had my suspicions," Valkyrie says. "That's what I was taking the time off for, to see if anyone would be willing to take on the case. Well, that and the broken leg."

"You should have told me," Furiosa says.

"I… Yeah, I probably should have," Valkyrie agrees.

"The girls want to see you," Furiosa says, too tired to pursue the issue. Would things have been different if she'd been aware? If she'd been on the lookout for noises in the night that have nothing to do with ghosts?

"I'm sorry," Valkyrie says, "I didn't think he'd act so soon, I promise."

 

When she returns to the house to collect her things, Furiosa knows it's the last time she'll ever set foot in the place. She packs quickly, having not brought a lot of things and not accumulated much more in the time she was working there.

Then she sits down on the stripped-bare mattress and looks up towards the ceiling.

"Hey, Max," she says quietly, glad she's alone.

She's never interacted with him during the daytime before, doesn't know if he's even awake or what passes for it when dealing with a ghost. But while she isn't going to linger here any longer than she needs to, she can't leave without expressing her gratitude to him, nor without saying goodbye.

"Thanks for alerting me," she says. Furiosa shifts on the mattress, straining for a moment to hear the ring of uneven footsteps. None come, and after a moment she nods to herself. Max was the closest thing to a friend she developed during her stay here, despite his having been dead for several decades. She'll miss him, just as she thinks she'll miss the uncomplicated better days with the girls, the ones where they were just kids with no shadow hanging over any of them. "Goodbye."

She's not sure, but she thinks she hears someone whispering "Goodbye" back when she's slipping out the back door with the last of her luggage.