“So, there was always this rumour about the place that there was this big haunted mansion just outside the city, right? So I’m thinking, ‘imagine how many birds I could pick up if I’m the guy who stayed the night at this big scary house.’”
“Good lord,” the Colonel mumbles under his breath, as if the thought of Alex, a troubled youth, using his ‘accomplishments’ to seek the approval of women was borderline explicit. The rest of the men sat on the couch, wearing varying degrees of impatience on their faces, Collins squinting, eyes vacant as if he isn’t tuned in at all. Next to him, Peter plucks at the sleeve of his sweater, brow furrowed, uninterested.
“So, I jump the gate and I’m trying to find a way in to begin my night of undoubtable terror” he trails off, expression brightening, growing hopeful as if the next words to leave his mouth will be the greatest the other men have ever heard, “when part of the roofing comes loose and I’m crushed under the rubble, hence…” he trails off again, gesturing to his clothes- the same he’d died in, still covered in dirt and grit, hair matted with dust, face streaked and powdery with the very rubble he’d died under. “Now, I know you’ve all been waiting for me to tell you about what my plans were if I had survived, and I figure now, eighteen years after my untimely demise, it’s been long enough that I can finally divulge what I’d very nearly had.”
“Alright, alright, thanks Alex” Peter interjects, getting to his feet, coming to stand where Alex had been standing just seconds prior, the other man frowning at the rude interruption, but moving aside anyway, shuffling his way to the couch. “Now- tomorrow is food club, when George will be telling us about the first time he ate sorbet, right George?”
George turned his head where he sat on the windowsill, nodding excitedly “I didn’t quite like it at first” he started, before Peter once again interjected.
“Alright George! We’ll save it for tomorrow, please! Just… leave us something to look forward to” he begged, sighing, before straightening up against, “then, on Wednesday, the Colonel has volunteered to tell us a speech!”
Winnant straightened up proudly, adjusting his uniform, “yes, one that rallied the troops many a time, even threw in a couple jokes to keep it light!” he beamed, although, Collins didn’t share the same enthusiasm, sighing heavily and muttering a ‘god spare me’ under his breath.
“Yes, I’m sure it did, maybe you could even tell us about the mur”
Peter couldn’t finish his proposal before Winnant doubled over where he was sat on the couch, pressing a hand low on his stomach, just over where a dark, ruddy stain remained on his uniform even in death. His eyes were squeezed together tight, a pained wince stretching across his features, Peter apologised quietly, keen to change the subject once Winnant had regathered his composure.
Peter had opened his mouth to continue with the plan for the week when George piped up again, wiggling excitedly, “there’s a stagecoach outside! We have visitors!” he declared, standing up and leaning towards the window until the top of his head phased through the window and stuck out the pane.
“A car? Why’s there a bloody car?” Alex stammered, racing to the window much like the other men were to catch a look at the incoming vehicle.
“They must be lost” Collins grumbled, the first to move away from the window and through the halls towards the stairs leading to the foyer.
As the car pulls up, the remaining ghosts continue to peer eagerly through the glass, straining their eyes as the doors open and two young, dark-haired men step out the car. “Great- two young hooligans strutting about the place- that’s the last thing we need” Winnant huffed, shaking his head as he watched the two men meet in front of the car, staring up at the house in awe. The men turned to look at each other, a grin appearing on both their faces, before the darker-haired of the two slung an arm low across the other man’s waist. “Good lord” Winnant breathed, prompting a narrow stare from both Peter and Alex.
They all flocked to the foyer as the men approached the house, the ghosts huddled around the door as it opened and the newcomers stepped in, identical expressions of awe still on their faces. “This is incredible, all of this from a step-great-in-law-grandsomething I’d never even met” the slighter man breathed, letting himself lean into the side of the man next to him.
“Knew your ridiculous amount of relatives might come in handy someday” the other man responded, a strong French tinge to his voice as he stared around, his straight, white teeth gleaming in the weak glow of the almost ancient lights.
They made their way into one of the sitting rooms, ghosts following behind them, looks of disbelief painting their faces, looking around with wonder in their eyes like two children in a candy shop. “I cannot believe this, Phil” the British man breathed, spinning slowly as he took in the extensive scale of the room around him.
The other man, ‘Phil’ nodded, “this has to be the most incredible moment of my life…” he trailed off, before a flash of realisation filled his eyes “apart from our wedding, of course” he added, grimacing at the afterthought, but it fell on deaf ears to his friend- his husband.
“It’s all ours” the skinny man declared, before turning and tugging at the front of Phil’s sweater, pulling him closer to press their mouths together, much to the childlike disgust of the ghosts, most of them not having seen such blatant affection in nearing a hundred years.
“Did they just say this house was theirs?” Collins stammered, watching the pair swap spit like it was a car crash he couldn’t bring himself to look away from.
“They sure did, multiple times” Alex grumbled, crossing his arms, a cloud of dust puffing out of his clothes at the movement, disinterest painting his features.
The couple started moving again, towards the library this time, the ghosts following once again despite the grumblings of annoyance spreading through the small group.
“It’ll be nice to have some new faces around!” George suggested, happily trotting after the pair as they discussed their need to develop a reading habit with such abundant books in the grand space.
“There’s already enough faces, thank you” Peter murmured, though not loud enough for the excited older ghost to hear. Peter looked to Alex, hoping for some agreement on the disinterest for two living men to bounce around their space, throwing their life in their faces, “he’s been here two hundred and seventy years, how is he still excited for guests?”
Alex shrugged; he’d been sick of these fops after two months.
“We’d have to fix up all this plasterwork, replace some of these carpets” the British one pointed out, and the ghosts nodded, happy to accept such a minor change- to brighten the place up, once you reached the hundred year mark, the decorations grew uninspiring.
“Might want to fix the structural damage that, y’know… killed me” Alex grumbled as the couple set off once again.
They headed upstairs, the floor littered with the bulk of the house’s bedrooms, it’s here that Phil declares; “we could do every room a different theme, Tommy!”
“Over my dead body you will, don’t be so absurd!” Winnant snaps, as if he’d built this place from the ground up.
“Excuse me- this was my dad’s house, I don’t think he’d like you two doing that” George called out, but his wishes fell upon only the deaf ears of the living, he rushed through the two men, the space filling with the wet, swampy smell that clung to the ghost’s clothes, rendering them damp at the best of times, he tried to stop them, but each polite request was met by ignorance.
‘Tommy’ threw a door open, looking around without entering the room “ye oldie worldie” he declared, which was met by disinterested scoffing from the recession of ghosts squished into the hallway, most of them were stuck in the ‘oldie worldie’ enough as it was.
“Nineteen fifties!” Tommy stated as he pressed open another door. This suggestion was met by fierce disruption from Winnant and Collins, who both declared it ‘utterly tasteless’ and ‘horrendously insensitive.’
“Club Tropicana” Phil proposed with a grin upon reaching the third room, which was met by silence, before hesitant agreement from the pack of phantoms behind them. That would be quite fun.
They all ended up in the back garden- the couple staring out at the expanse of land they now called their own. The ghosts, on the other hand, were staring at their apparent new housemates.
“They seem really nice, we should give them a chance” George advised, turning his head to look at the other men before turning to offer a polite smile to the other men, despite their inability to see and appreciate said polite smile.
“Philippe, is that a lake?” Tommy cried, an arm raising in a point out at the small body of water. George doubled over with a gag as the Brit’s hand phased through his head, the unpleasant swampy smell filling the open air around them.
“I hate it when that happens” Collins muttered, adding as an afterthought “might want to put a fence around that lake o’ yours, it has a kill count,” he was met with an agreeing nod from George, still a little pale in the face from the rude pseudo-contact.
“This is really going to make one incredible hotel” Philippe admitted, throwing an arm around Tommy with a pleased smile. His declaration was met with shocked gasps from the ghosts, their mouths dropping open in disbelief, George was growing paler by the second.
“Oh yes Alex, you should kill them- we all know you’re good at pushing people out of windows. Don’t be an idiot, we can’t kill them!”
“Shut up Peter- Collins you should kill the French one- they’re the enemy and all that!”
“The French were our allies you fuckin’ eejit,” Collins scoffed, Winnant nodding in agreement at the blond’s correction. “We should kill them, though.”
Alex, Peter and Collins shared a glare, the youngest blonde proving to stand little chance in a stare of against the likes of the Scot and Alex.
“This is out of the question- that is completely immoral!” Winnant rebuffed, back straightened and chin tilted upwards as if his medals were going to give him any authority over the men.
“If we kill them, we could be stuck with them forever, idiots!” Peter squawked indignantly, eyes wide in shock, if he wasn’t outnumbered he might’ve shook Alex and Collins for even suggesting such a thing.
“Can’t we just all live in the gatehouse?” George suggested, voice optimistic, looking between the other ghosts and where Philippe and Tommy were sleeping, pressed together like two magnets, blissfully unaware of the spirits standing around them arguing over whether they should kill them.
“I’d rather kill them”
Winnant spoke up again, hushing the threat of an all out spat between the two youngest ghosts, he tugged at his uniform to straighten out any nonexistent creases before he proposed his new plan, “we could always try haunting? We are all ghosts, after all.”
It was quickly settled, they would haunt.
“Alright, men, what can we use? What weaponry do we have at our disposal?” they had rendezvoused in their favourite sitting room the next morning, lined up and ready for war.
“I can mess with the lights- might creep them out a bit?” Peter offered, “though, to be fair, they might just think it’s the dodgy electrics, which isn’t completely untrue.”
George was next to pipe up, rather excited for the offensive like he was for most things “I can make the room really cold!” he chirped, before his face fell a moment, growing doubtful, “they might just think it’s the broken heating.”
“I can make the place smell like it’s burning… that’s part of the, y’know, dying in a blazing inferno because I didn’t open my canopy on time schtick.”
Alex rolled his eyes with a groan “sob stories are for Tuesdays, Collins, save it,” he snapped, before straightening up, replacing the grimace with a smug smirk, “now, I’m sure you’re all aware of my extraordinary abilities, if I may?”
The mention was enough to rouse some excitement, at least amongst George, Winnant, and, hesitantly, Peter. Alex turned and approached the coffee table by the window, lining up a small, dirty teacup. He breathed in, and then out slowly, lowering his finger to be level with the cup, and with a great grunt of effort, he pushed his finger towards the cup…and then straight through it. He sighed, much like everyone else watching, and returned his finger to the previous position in front of the cup, and once again, with carefully focused effort, he pushed his finger once again towards the cup, and this time, he made real contact, and the ghosts watched as Alex slid it shakily across the table until it toppled off the surface and landed on a rug with a dull ‘thunk’ sound. The men clapped at the feat, even Collins, who was hesitant to congratulate him on anything, lest it go straight to his head, as it likely would.
The attack is unsuccessful- when Peter makes the lights flicker, Tommy flicks the switch on and off and completely fries the blond’s phantasmic brain. When George makes the temperature drop, Philippe shrugs it off and throws a hoodie on. When Collins walks through Tommy to make the room reek of burning metal and human, Tommy opens a window. Then, most heartbreakingly- when Philippe walks through a room where Alex is impatiently waiting to fling a vase off a table, he chokes, the vase managing no more than a wobble before the dark-haired man has left the room as quickly as he entered it. It’s a complete bust.
It’s later that day, after their failed attempt on haunting, that Alex passes the main room in the east wing and notices Tommy, head out the window, squinting up at what was most likely one of the resident pigeons that called this crumbling trap a home. Alex takes pause in the doorway, briefly looking up and down the hall before shuffling hesitantly into the room, watching as Tommy braces against the windowsill, tipping the upper half of his body out the window. Soon he’s wiggled out the damn thing so much his toes are nothing more than brushing the floor. Alex creeps closer, a desire to be left alone tugging him forward- he’d be the hero, he’d have all the glory, they’d all thank him for doing what they were too scared to do.
It’s when Tommy leans further forward in a desperate attempt to find the pigeon nest, feet leaving the ground, that Alex takes his chance, looming over the other man and gathering every atom of energy in his body to press one finger down into the middle of the other man’s back. All it took was one small push, and then Tommy is sent flying out of the window with a deafening shriek, falling head over heels until he hits the ground hard, screams silenced by the impact.
In the sitting room, the other ghosts jump at the scream, George crying out that Tommy’s fallen and garnering the full attention of the ghosts in the room, as they rush to the window to peer out at where Tommy lays motionless in the grass. It’s only a matter of seconds before the back door flings open, Philippe calling out for his partner, repeating his name over and over, desperate for a response. He falls to the ground next to the downed man, touching over his face and trying to prompt any type of response before he’s fishing his phone out of his pocket and dialling the ambulance.
Tommy’s hauled out on a stretcher, and Alex is cornered where he remains at the very window he pushed Tommy from.
“Let me make this clear”
“You pushed him! You did it again you goddamn murderer! Was I not enough for you?” Peter is disgusted, the only thing stopping him from smashing Alex’s crusty head in is George’s grip on Peter’s sweater.
“Did you push him?” Collins demands, voice serious and stern like a true military man.
“Well, you see- it depends on the context.”
“Answer the question, damn you!” Peter shouts, his face almost as red as his sweater, George’s hold only tightening.
“Now, look here! A sacrifice was made for the greater good! Now, we wanted them out of the house, now didn’t we? Now it’s either killed him or scared him off!” once the voice of reason, Winnant now stepped in front of Alex, claiming authority, which Alex was for once happy to respect.
“You don’t just do that to someone! What kind of coward would push someone out of a window? You could claim I was trespassing, but this was his bloody house! You’re a bastard, Alex- a cowardly bastard!” Peter shouted, pausing for a moment before his eyes changed, another angry thought joining an extending line of angry thoughts, “not only am I stuck here with you lot for all eternity, but every goddamn day I throw myself out this window by no want of my own to remind me why I’m stuck here! Why my life was bloody ruined- I was ripped from my life just to spend forever here with the same person who murdered me in the first place! And if that poor man winds up anything like me, I will spend the rest of my time on this planet making your afterlife unbearable!”
“Go to hell!”
“I wish I could!”
It’s George who stops them dead in their tracks this time “stop! Just stop, please! Why is it always you two? I’m sorry you had to and still have to go through this, Peter, but it’s been and gone, there’s no fixing what’s been done- we’ve all lost everything, but Tommy hasn’t, and if he comes back- damn it we need to leave him alone!”
“Well put, lad!” Collins bellows, and just like that, it’s settled.
And for two long weeks, it really does seem settled, until the first day of the third, when a car pulls in and outsteps Philippe, and more importantly, Tommy- neckbraced- but nonetheless alive.
At the window, George watches intently, watches as the two men get out, and watches as Tommy stares up at where the main window of the third floor sat- the same window the Commander stands at, unmoving, every day. George frowns, but doesn’t mention it as he tells the others of Tommy and Philippe’s return.
Moments after they arrive, the surveyors roll in, reigniting the ghost’s passion to get rid of them before they’re overrun by the happenings of a hustling, bustling hotel. George’s declaration to leave them be is quickly forgotten. Winnant rushes down into the foyer, where Tommy stands in both a hardhat and his new neckbrace, watching as a stream of surveyors and contractors filter in and out of the house. He looks over Tommy, who seems perky enough considering the whole ‘falling from a second story’ thing.
That’s when Tommy turns, looking to Winnant like he could see the apparition, “you should be wearing a hardhat,” he says, and Winnant’s face drops, sending him running back down the hall once Tommy turns back around.
“Hespoketomehespoketomehesawmehespoketome!” he blabbers, approaching the group of ghosts with clipped, nervous steps, his face pale like he’d seen a ghost, funnily enough.
“What are you saying?” Collins urges, put off by the usually put together Colonel’s obvious panic.
“I said he goddamn spoke to me!” Winnant shouts, and the groups is silent a moment before reality hits like a sack full of bricks.
“That’s impossible! Where is he?” Collins continues setting off through the nearest wall, a man on a mission, a mission that is quickly followed by the other men, panic festering amongst the group more and more each moment.
They find Tommy in the living room with Philippe. The living room, once glorious and full, now sits still, empty and stuffy with the age-old fireplace. They only catch the tail end of the conversation when Tommy notices them, mouth hanging open and eyes slowly widening, only managing to squeak out Philippe’s name as he backs away from the ghosts and towards the wall behind him. As the spectres inch closer, Tommy once again tries to get Philippe’s attention, but the man, busy trying to convince Tommy that this house is a good idea, is too caught up to notice. Up until tommy turns to notice Collins- charred and soot-blackened, and can only gasp before he screams.
“It’s all in your head- the doctors said you might need a couple more days rest to get back on track, it’s just the near brain damage talking” Philippe had been playing the comfort game all morning, in between his irritating bouts of drilling and hammering and ‘fixing’ things around the house. The ghosts, curious over their updated situation, had followed Tommy around the house like a shadow all morning, squinting and talking at him, testing the man, trying to make him break. “Now, I’ve got all the work for today handled, you’re welcome- so why don’t you just got have yourself a nice, hot… tepid bath?”
“I’d like that”
“I’d like that” from behind him, the ghosts watched Tommy flinch as Alex parroted his words- which were quickly told off by everyone save Collins, who was too busy eyeing up the laptop sitting on a table beside him, it may as well have been alien technology. Tommy didn’t look back at them, just whined uncomfortably and rubbed a hand over his face “one of them just said what I said” he winced, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head slightly.
“See? All in your head, now off you go, rest and relaxation is the best medicine” Philippe pressed, moving to kiss Tommy softly on the forehead before walking past him, making his way down the hall, the ghosts gasping and squishing themselves against the walls to avoid being walked through, whilst Tommy moved off to go run himself a hot, tepid, mildly pleasant bath.
“Clearly, this changes things, by some quirk of fate, it appears the new lord Mills”
“I don’t think he’s a lord, and I know he’s not a Mills” George pointed out, before his face fell, reconsidering “but he is a… landowner.”
Winnant looked at George with a strange expression for a moment, before he continued, “well, whoever he is, he can now both see and hear us, which opens up some intriguing possibilities. Chiefly, the possibility of full-frontal assault! We order them to leave- face to face!”
“He’s done nothing but ignored us- this isn’t going to work” Collins groaned, crossing his arms, Winnant wasn’t impressed with his pessimism.
“He’s ignoring us because Mr Sledgehammer up there has all but convinced him we’re just a figment of his imagination- which is why we need a change of tactics- we work in shifts, a campaign of attrition- guerrilla war! Is that agreeable with everyone?”
“Why is it always about war with you?” Peter babbled, voice pitchy enough to make Alex grimace, sometimes he wished Peter was just a figment of his imagination. Winnant scoffed at the question, making vague noises in the back of his throat, hands waving at his uniform, it was just a bit too obvious.
“Yeah! What’s wrong with a nice hello? Maybe show them around? Maybe we could all sit down and have a nice chat about all this hotel business” George implored, moving to stand beside Peter, trying to provide a united front of those against the idea of harassing that poor wounded man- it was a united front severely lacking in numbers, but it sure was a spirited one. “It’s always nice to be friendly” George added on at the end, smiling to himself, smitten with the idea of some new friends beside the dusty ghosts he’d been stuck with for all these years.
“Friends with you lot? Couldn’t imagine anything more annoying” Collins retorted with a roll of his eyes, and from next to him, a look of dawning realisation formed on Winnant’s face.
“Yes! Do that, yes, good plan, that’ll send them running, brilliant. We shall take it in shifts- I will go first, you will go in order of unbearability- just when he thinks it’s bad, it will only get worse- after me will be George, then Peter, then Collins, and finally, Alex- agreed?”
“I don’t like it but if you’re all happy, then okay.”
Winnant found the couple in one of the studies, where Philippe was fiddling with some sort of box- a television, Peter called it as he waited with the other man, curiosity pulling at him, but he hung back as Philippe left the room, dropping lengths of cord with him as he went off to find something to attach it to. Then, after a moment of psyching up and a pat on the back from Peter, Winnant went in, and formally started their new offensive.
“Now look here!” Winnant commanded, stopping behind Tommy, who visibly jumped but otherwise remained still, trying to appear blissfully unaware, “as a colonel of his majesties armed forces, it is my duty to inform you that you are considered an enemy insurgent” he informed confidently, though by the end of his statement, Tommy had begun to whistle, a jolly tune that was quiet enough that the man would still be able to hear Winnant, but loud enough for it to both annoy and temporarily throw off the ghost. “You need to surrender your territories to our forces with immediate effect and face the prospect of- okay!” he’d been cut off now by a droning ‘lalalalalala’ from Tommy, who’d also covered his ears and closed his eyes to further try and block out the audial assault from the colonel. “I see what you’re doing- two can play at that game! I am the very model of a modern Major-General, I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral, I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical, from Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical” he sung, perhaps for the first time in over seventy odd years. Still, Tommy refused to give in, continuing his repetitive ‘lalala’ing until in front of them the television switched on, Tommy grabbing the remote and cranking the volume up on some show about tanks, seemingly, before running from the room, leaving Winnant alone and smug with his, although indignant, first win in a long time. “You can run! But you can’t…” he trailed off, noticing the television, and, more interestingly, the world war 2 documentary currently running on it.
Tommy walked out of one assault, and immediately into another, “hello!” George chirped, as Tommy rounded a corner and almost walked right into the boy, “welcome! On behalf of me my fellow dead people! May I just say- oh! And straight onto the tour, okay. On your left is the master’s chamber, or the chambre- that’s French, I suppose your husband would know that- is he nice? I think he looks nice- not like handsome- well, he is but I’m not… he looks like a nice person!” in George’s moment of stammering and stuttering over accidentally complimenting the husband, Tommy had sped up in an attempt to get away, and George called out a ‘wait!’ before upping his walk to a jog to try and catch up to the retreating man.
George finally caught up to him down on the first floor, jumping down the last couple stairs before finally catching back up “did you know there’s been a settlement on this site for well over a while now, but this part of the building-“
“You’re not real” Tommy blurted, still walking at a brisk pace to try and tire the ghost? Shake him off? Anything that would get him left alone.
“Well… we’re not alive, but we are real”
“I can’t hear you”
“Well, clearly you can, because-“
“No I can’t”
“But you keep answering me”
Now, instead of responding, he took off again, leaving George just as he met Peter, who willingly took the mantle of being the new weapon. He supposed this all seemed rather fun, really, why not give it a shot?
“He wouldn’t talk to me- good luck, Peter,” George sighed, slightly crestfallen at being so blatantly brushed off by what he had hoped might be a new friend.
Peter pressed a hand to George’s shoulder, “chin up, Georgie boy- I have something up my sleeve,” and with that, he was off.
Peter’s tactic was simple- just keep saying ‘get out’ until Tommy leaves. Which served to be incredibly annoying, though not as effective as he might’ve hoped- Tommy going about his mundane housework with a sour expression on his face until Collins claimed his turn.
His plan had been to just talk Tommy out, but as they’d entered the foyer- his plan somewhat… derailed.
He froze in his tracks, staring as what could very well be the most attractive man he’d ever laid eyes on walked into the house, hardhat in hand and phone to ear.
“Who’s that?” Collins asked, jumping in front of Tommy to make him take pause for a moment, looking up at Collins, considering his words, considering the harm of humouring his question. Then, just as the man hung up the phone, Tommy turned.
“Hi, I’m Tommy, the houseowner- I assume you’re one of the surveyors?” the brunet asked, stopping the man in the middle of the foyer, offering his hand and allowing Collins a nice long look at the man’s tattooed arms as he reached out to accept the handshake.
When he spoke, it was with a shockingly soft, pleasant accent, “Tommy! That’s right, yes, I’m one of the surveyors, Terry called me down, figured he needed some extra expertise- Jack Farrier.”
“Hi Jack” Collins mumbled airily, a stupid smile accompanying the longing expression on his face.
“We could use plenty of expertise around here, as you could probably tell” Tommy chuckled, Jack copying the amused sound and making Collins weak in his ghostly knees. “I’ll let you get to it, then, nice meeting you, Jack” Tommy concluded, offering a polite smile that Jack returned pleasantly. When Tommy and the surveyor parted ways, Collins was all too keen to abandon his post early, moving into the hallway, backing up as Jack walked towards him, until he stumbled over his own feet and before he could gather himself he was being walked through by the very object of his affections, filling the air with the reek of smoke and leaving Collins woozy and lovedumb.
That’s when Alex appeared, “should’ve known you’d abandon your post for one reason or another- though I’m glad to see you’ve good reason- having a man inside you for the first time is always special, isn’t it Collins?”
“Shut up, Alex.”
Alex, the secret weapon- the magnum opus of their whole operation… barely got a word in before he was met with the full force of Tommy’s wrath- insults he’d never even heard before, threats that made even a dead mad shudder, accusations toward his mother that made him pink in the face. Alex stood no chance, not against true, unbridled firepower such as their houses new owner. Alex left the room with his tail between his legs, Winnant could hardly believe it, none of them could.
“So- my plan to be nice, acquainting houseguests?” George suggested.
None of them had the bravery to say no to such a logical idea even in death.