Dr. Ribero's Agency of the Supernatural and the Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost- FIRST LOOK
Kester Lanner had never liked doors. As a small boy, wide-eyed and duvet-wrapped, he refused sleep until his mother opened his bedroom door with a sigh. The thunder of the school toilet cubicle doors forced his skittish heart into arrhythmia, and the mere sight of his mother’s closed bedroom door threw him into an immediate state of loneliness. Fortunately, as he swelled into rotund young adulthood, fear deflated to scanty wariness, as he realised that doors were disappointingly mundane.
However, he’d never come across a door like this before. It was truly remarkable, and for all the wrong reasons.
More relic than modern business entrance, its surface was coal-smudged and splintered, with a tinge of odious decay. Its grubby demeanour, combined with a whiff of mildew, rendered it vaguely organic—as though sprouted from seedling instead of hinged by human hands. The surrounding alleyway was stagnant, simmering in the still afternoon air, and the silence steeped it in secrecy.
Kester surveyed it nervously, trying not to look too closely at the details. If he squinted, it looked just about acceptable. Quaint even, if he took off his spectacles and let astigmatism do its work. But, on close inspection, the spidery cracks, pock-marks, and gritty, crumbly bits were a bit too much to take in. He especially protested at the sight of the moss blossoming from the unspeakably greasy crannies. Bright against the gloomy wood, they were like tiny, mouldy limes, luridly acidic and indecently bold. All in all, it was not a door that he liked at all.
This can’t be right, he thought, tugging the letter out of his satchel. The gold-embossed letterhead glinted in the dusty light. Dr Ribero’s Agency, 99 Mirabel Street. And this was certainly that street. The mottled Victorian road sign on the red-brick wall confirmed it.
The letter had implied something grander, something with a bit more style. He’d imagined a stained glass affair, complete with polished brass letterbox and neoclassical pillars. Instead, a tumble-down building confronted him, without even a mounted plaque to announce the name of the business. It was unceremoniously wedged between a barber shop and a boutique selling voluminous hippy skirts, and had a shifty look about it, as though trying to squeeze surreptitiously between the two.
“Well, this is strange,” he muttered, looking around him. “Very strange indeed.”
He’d never even heard of Dr Ribero until two weeks ago. The name had been one of the last words his mother had said, as the disease pulled the final moments of life from her body. He remembered the night well. It was unlikely he’d ever forget it. It had been ten to midnight, and the moon unnaturally bright, sending a trail of milk-whiteness across the bedspread to his mother’s upturned head.
“You must find Dr Ribero,” she had said, eyes urgent-bright, clutching his hand in hers. “I ask nothing else of you, my boy. Only that you find him. Find him and tell him who you are.”
Who this mysterious man was, or why his mother had insisted that he be found, remained an enigma. She had died only a few moments later, her wheezes subsiding to hollow silence. All was quiet, and the room the more dreadful for it. Kester had not wept; only remained at her side, still holding on to her hand, which gradually turned icy as the next day rose behind him.