Where There's Smoke

by Joel Byers

This novel was written from 1 November to 30 November, 2006.

NaNoWriMo 2006 Winner

Word Counts

First Draft (NaNoWriMo)

Second Draft

Chapter 1complete6,7956,795
Chapter 2complete5,28412,079
Chapter 3complete5,50217,581
Chapter 4complete5,10822,689
Chapter 5complete6,72929,418
Chapter 6complete4,90334,321
Chapter 7complete5,70940,030
Chapter 8complete6,91146,941
Chapter 9complete5,46452,405
Chapter 10complete6,50058,905


‘Where There’s Smoke’ is a comedic occult fantasy set in present day Georgia. The main characters are Randel Rodney Behl and Sean Casey. They work as investigative examiners for the Georgia Department of Historical Significance. This state agency’s published mission statement is the research and preservation of historical sites and objects. Its real goals are the investigation of paranormal activity and the protection of the state’s tourist trade. This state agency currently has four employees, Department Head Porter Rapoport, an insecure petty tyrant, Dru Reynosa, Rapoport’s office manager, Randel Behl, investigative examiner, and newly hired Sean Casey.

The story details how Randel and Sean develop a working relationship as Randel trains Sean in how to survive as an Examiner of the Department of Historical Significance. Sean’s first day consists of him meeting Randel as he’s being chewed out by Rapoport for failing to handle a slight problem. Sean finds out that the slight problem is a demon infested mill cabin owned by a wealthy Georgia political family. Sean and Randel are sent to the back to the cabin, where they are instructed to ‘fix the problem’.

When Sean and Randel arrive at the cabin, Sean further learns that the problem consists of demonic cats that are waiting for a Mr. Smoke to show up so that he can deal with Randel. Sean and Randel escape the cats before Mr. Smoke arrives and later burn down the cabin, thinking that they have solved the problem.

They go back to Atlanta, where a livid Rapoport is waiting, furious that they have destroyed the cabin. Unhappy, but unable to fire them yet, he sends them to their next job, which is an investigative of a strange star showing in the northern sky and weird events happening at the Georgia Guidestones. Sean meets Randel’s older sister, Martha, who is participating at a winter festival that is also being held at the Georgia Guidestones.

Randel and Sean learn that the weird star was seen once before in 1996 at Burning Man and strange happenings occurred, including the summoning of an Elder God that killed 23 people. Sean and Randel are there to try and prevent that from re-occurring. While at the Georgia Guidestones, a large panther cat demon attacks Randel, but Martha drives it off. Unfortunately, an old adversary, Ralph Stablein is waiting in the wings and captures everyone there. He is at the Georgia Guidestones with the intention of summoning an Elder God when the stars are right. Ralph contacts Mr. Smoke and lets him know where Randel is. Randel and Ralph escape from Ralph’s henchman and arrive at the Guidestones in time to see the Elder God summoned. Mr. Smoke also shows up and tries to capture Randel. Randel escapes through dumb luck as Mr. Smoke and the Elder God fight, cancelling each other out.

Randel and Sean go back to Atlanta, where Rapoport is waiting on them. He’s angry, but unable to vent against Randel and Sean, as they did handle the problem, just not the way Rapoport wanted it handled. He gives them their next assignment, which is a haunted bridge in Dahlonega, Georgia. It seems a ghostly girl is causing people to wreck as they cross the bridge. It’s Randel’s and Sean’s job to find out why and to make her stop.

Randel and Sean learn that the ghost is haunting the bridge where she died in a car wreck. They also learned the wreck is repeated on most nights and that people can actually watch. Three drunk frat boys decided one night to let the ghost car pass through them. It did and it angered the ghost girl. She caused the boys to wreck their cars the next time they drove over the bridge. Sean and Randel meet the ghost girl and convince her to leave the boys alone. They take her back to her house, where she is reunited with her dead ghost dog and Randel and Sean go back to their hotel, satisfied with doing a good deed. At the hotel, Mr. Smoke attacks Randel again, but the ghost girl and dog show up and drive him away, saving Randel.

The next business day Randel and Sean meet in Rapoport’s office, where he gives them their next assignment. They learn that they have to go to Savannah, Georgia and convince a ghost to haunt. While there, Randel is coerced by the owner of the hotel which the ghost is supposed to haunt to convince the ghost to resume her haunting duties. As part of the negotiations, Randel and Sean have to retrieve a portrait of the ghost girl’s boyfriend. The portrait was sold to the Madam of the local supernatural cat-house, which also happens to be located in the tunnels under Savannah. While travelling the tunnels to the underground bordello (named the Grotto), Randel and Sean run across a Georgia Bigfoot. They solve his problem before continuing to the Grotto.

At the Grotto, Mora Faber, the owner of the establishment meets them and takes them to the painting in question. Mr. Smoke is waiting for them. Through the help of the Bigfoot and the Dahlonega ghost girl, Randel and Sean escape Mr. Smoke’s clutches and are able to return to Atlanta, where Rapoport immediately fires them for failing to retrieve the painting.

Dru meets Sean and Randel at the Varsity, where Sean learns he isn’t really fired, as no one else can do their job and to be back at work on Monday.


Chapter One

Sean Casey straightened his new, red, power tie before pushing open the door to Suite 201. It was his first day at work at his first real job and he was eager to make a good impression by being ten minutes early. He checked his shoes for scuffs, his pants for stains, and his briefcase to make sure it was adequately polished. His girlfriend, Rebecca, had given him some advice last night and the words continued to run through his head, “You can only make a good first impression once, so don’t screw it up, genius.”

He pushed the door open and strode tall into the brightly lit room. There was a centralized desk with a huge computer screen that had a fit, grayed haired black woman seated behind it typing on a keyboard. She glanced up and dazzled Sean with a bright smile and motioned him closer to the desk. He stood at attention at the desk and looked hopeful at her.

“You must be the new guy,” she said as she smiled at the tall, lanky young man. “I’m Dru, Dru Reynosa and you should be Sean Casey, right?”

“Yes ma’am,” Sean answered. “ I was told to meet a Mr. Porter Rapoport today. I was told that I’d be working for him.”

Dru took a pencil and tapped it against her chin as she studied him. “You sure are a long drink of water,” Dru opined. “Straight out of college?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am,” Sean answered. “Just graduated from Piedmont with a degree in American History.”

“That should prove useful,” Dru said. “After you meet with Porter I’ll provide you with the forms and documents needed to get you set up with insurance, personnel policy, taxes, and automatic deposit. Okay?”

Sean nodded nervously and Dru smiled again. “You’ll be fine, Sean, just take a deep breath and relax. Mr. Rapoport’s office is the door directly behind me and he’s expecting you now.”

Sean pushed the door open and the first words he heard were,

“They say they found you running up Service Road 41 toward Pine Knot Creek,” Porter Rapoport accused Railroad Behl.

“And they wouldn’t have caught me if my sneaker had stayed on,” Railroad muttered.

“Why didn’t you take the car?” Porter asked incredously.

“I was already up to speed,” Randel said, “and getting into the car would have just slowed me down.

Sean pushed the door the rest of the way open and the conversation ceased.

“Ms. Reynosa told me to come on in,” Sean stammered. “I can come back”

“Sit down,” Porter ordered and pointed to the unoccupied sofa.

Sean glanced at the two men as he sat on the too soft sofa and sank in to an uncomfortable degree. Porter Rapoport was seated behind a huge mahogany desk, gripping the papers of an obvious report. He was a large, meaty man with a red, blustery face and thinning brown hair. He was also obviously sweating and visibly angry.

The object of his anger was a very thin, average height man sitting in the only other chair in the room. He appeared to be in his early thirties and his brown hair needed trimming and fell over his forehead into his eyes.

Porter Rapoport shuffled through the report with trembling hands trying to control his rage. Sweat dribbled through his thinning brown hair and ran down the side of his clean shaven face.

“A state senator personally asked me to handle that little problem and you ran from it, Randel,” Porter said as his meaty hands gripped and crinkled the papers of the report.

Randel leaned forward and spat, “You read the report, right?”

“You’re paid to fix those kind of problems,” Porter spat back.

“But I’m not paid to die while doing it,” Randel yelled back.

“You weren’t in any danger,” Porter yelled.

“How would you know?” Randel yelled. “You weren’t there!”

“I should fire you for abandoning that job,” Porter threatened.

“I didn’t abandon it,” Randel fired back. “I escaped from it with my life.”

Porter stared at Randel and trembled in rage. Sean tried to shrink his 6’3” body even further down into the soft cushions of the couch.

Porter pointed his finger to the door and hissed at Randel, “Go. I’ll talk to you later.”

Randel stood up, sullen and angry, glanced at Sean and stomped out of Rapoport’s office.

It took several moments for Porter Rapoport to regain his composure after Randel stomped out. Porter sat behind his desk and took several deep breaths ignoring Sean for the time being. After visibly calming down, he peeked over at Sean and sighed.

“You the new kid Pat sent me?” he asked.

“Yes sir,” Sean answered quickly.

Porter opened one of the drawers to his desk and pulled out a file. He read through it, grimaced, and then looked at the kid.

“Says here you have a degree in American History and that you have a special interest in the Appalachian folk history. Is that why you wanted to go to work for the Department of Historical Significance?”

“Yes sir,” Sean agreed quickly. “I’d like to be able to use my degree to preserve Georgia’s southern heritage.”

Porter grimaced and said, “Did Pat tell you anything else about the Department?”

“Yes sir,” Sean answered, “he said that it was the smallest Department in the State and that I’d better like travel as I’ll be expected to help cover the entire state. He also said that I’d really get good use out of my degree here.”

“Nothing else?” Porter asked and without waiting for Sean’s confirmation he picked his phone up and dialed a quick number.

“Get back in here,” Porter said tersely and hung up the phone.

Within a minute Randel was back in the office glaring at Porter. He was standing at attention, if you called slouching against the doorjamb standing at attention.

“Patrick Grissinger sent the Department a new employee,” Porter told Randel. “Break him in slowly, but take him back to the cabin at Milledgeville and get that situation fixed.”

“Sean Casey,” Porter said, “this is Senior Examiner Randal Behl, also known to his acquaintances and enemies as Railroad. He’s going to train you.”


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