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Rumplestiltskin gave a deep sigh at the overflowing in-tray. He’d always appreciated the twisting, ensnaring language of a good contract, but the bureaucracy of the Afterlife was beyond belief. He snorted at himself for the weak joke and pulled another case file from the heap. His brow creased into a deep frown as he read the pages. He flicked back to the coversheet and let out a low growl. A smirk twisted his lips as he rose to his feet, looks like he was going to get to shout at someone sooner than he expected today, that put a spring in his step as he made his way through the oddly slanting corridors to the office of his fellow caseworker ducking out of the way of the flattened courier rolling along on his overhead track.

“Hello Fred.”

“Hey there Danny.”

In life Rumplestiltskin had been Daniel Gold, a ruthless businessman who had just as many dealings on the shady side of the law as he did legitimate enterprises. He’d been pawnbroker, loan shark and facilitator for any soul desperate enough to seek him out, and there were always desperate souls who would willingly agree to his price without considering the actual cost. It hadn’t really come as a shock that one such soul, broken and despairing by the hand life had dealt them, cracked under the added pressure of dealing with Gold. All Rumplestiltskin clearly remembered about his death was the annoyance that the chump who plunged a knife into his heart had ruined a suit worth far more than the chump earned in a year. It was a ridiculous thing to think in one’s final moments in the land of the living, but such were the vagaries of the human mind.

His irritation felt more justifiable when he awoke on the Other Side and discovered he’d be wearing that suit for the rest of eternity, complete with the two inch stab wound where the knife had pierced jacket, waistcoat, shirt, skin and finally the muscle of his heart. He’d thrown quite the temper tantrum at that point. Unaware of the ghostly powers he now possessed he’d stomped his foot, cracking the floor open and trapping his ankle for a moment. Juno had snorted at his petulant display and called him Rumplestiltskin after the angry imp she recalled from a fairy-tale she’d read as a child. The name stuck and there were times now he all but forgot he’d ever been called anything else.

He scowled at the football team that were loitering outside Juno’s office. The bulky players cleared a path for him within seconds, and then hurried away. He swallowed his smirk, nice to know his scowl was in full force today.

“Juno what the hells is this?”

She took a slow drag on her ever present cigarette and raised an eyebrow at the file he flicked onto her desk. Smoke billowed from the gash on her throat as she read the name on the file.

“Oh them. They’re right up your street and to be honest I’ve got my hands full with the Maitland haunting.”

Rumplestiltskin gave a sniff. The Maitland case had caused a stir on the Other Side, a pair of idiot recently deceased letting the self-styled ‘bio-exorcist’ out. Juno was still dealing with the paperwork that mess had created. He leaned over and helped himself to a cigarette from the box on Juno’s desk, smoke curled from the knife wound in his chest as he shook his head.

“There’s nothing in that file to suggest these Nolans need my expertise.”

Juno frowned and thumbed through the file. She rolled her eyes and muttered something about inept administration while she rooted around on her desk for a piece of paper. She ran her eye over it and gave a curt nod as she thrust it toward him.

“Here.”

This was the notes from Juno’s first meeting with the Nolans, key phrases jumped out at him; murdered by step-mother, living child, burning desire for revenge. A shark-like grin twisted his lips as he read, Juno was right this fairy-tale looking couple were in need of his help.

“I see you’ll take the case.”

He acknowledged her comment with a slight bow.

“You know me so well Juno.”

He twisted on the ball of his foot and made to stroll out of the office. Juno called out to him before he reached the doorway.

“Rumplestiltskin. Let’s not have a repeat of Amityville.”

He left with a twittering giggle. Juno sighed and took a moment to wonder if she’d just made more work for herself. Rumplestiltskin was a professional, he knew all the rules of the Hereafter better than she did, and he knew how to exploit them to create a legendary haunting that offered no solid proof of life after death to the living, but he walked a very fine line, there was always a chance he’d flip and take the same route as Beetl … her old apprentice. She shrugged the feeling away and turned back to her paperwork.