Lisa’s Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: “My Christmas Ghost Story” Part-VI

“It’s started,” Billings whispered and reached for my hand. “I must get you out of here…” But he was too slow. I was already bolting up the staircase, skirt held up high, taking two steps at a time.


“Miss Lisa, no!” I heard my companion cry as I reached the top of the stairs and bolted down the hallway. At one point I thought I heard my name called again, but it didn’t sound like Billing’s voice. But I wasn’t really paying attention, because my focus was completely on what I was hearing and sensing from the room at the end of the hallway. Madeleine was still screaming at her brother and I could feel her anger… hell, who am I kidding. She was in a total rage and to make matters worse, she was getting even angrier.

Putting on a final burst of speed I raced into the governess’ old room. The door to the schoolroom was partly open and I could see she had already grabbed Reginald by the arms and was shaking him. She was screaming in his face. I could see tears streaming down the boy’s face as he struggled to find something to say that would make her stop, only he was too terrified to think straight.

Without thinking, I rushed into the room shouting, “That’s enough, you’re going to hurt him!” To my horror, neither brother nor sister seemed to hear me. In fact, they didn’t even realize I was there. They were stuck in their cycle. The scene was going to play out to its tragic end right in front of me, if I didn’t do something to interrupt it. 

I don’t know what possessed me, but I rushed forward and grabbed Madeleine by the arm. 

Immediately, she stiffened and slowly turned to face me. “What is the meaning of this? Who are you? And how dare you lay hands on me.”

“My name is Lisa, and I’m… I’m…” I was about to tell her I was a friend of her brother, but I could see he was staring at me as if he’d never seen me before. I briefly thought about saying I was the new governess, but thought better of it. Instead, I decided on the truth. “I’m someone who has a younger brother, just like you.”

Madeleine’s eyes never left mine. “And you think that gives you the right to touch me?” she demanded.

“Only if it keeps you from accidentally hurting your little brother,” I replied evenly and released her arm. “I know how much little brother’s can drive you crazy. How they can be so irritating and annoying, that you want to just ring their little necks. But then I remind myself, I’m the elder child and I have a lot more experience with life than he does.”

“Not that it counts for much in the end,” she pointed out, almost sympathetically. “You’re not the one people, especially men, will listen to. Nor will they ask your opinions on things. But your brother? Oh they’ll ask him all kinds of things and cater to his whims, no matter how silly.”

“That’s still no reason to treat him like this,” I replied, trying to keep my voice calm. The fact that she was even speaking to me was a good sign, I thought. Perhaps, I’d be able to reason with her and break the cycle. 

“He knows where our mother’s jewels are,” she told me, obviously trying to sound reasonable. “I need them, I’m entitled to them…”

“So you can be with the man you love, I know,” I finished gently.

If my interruption had annoyed her, she didn’t show it. Instead she began to smile. “Yes. That’s right. You understand. He loves me, he’ll take good care of me. We just need to settle his debts and then we can marry. Look, he has already given me his mother’s ring for our engagement.”

She held out on hand and I could see the ring in question on her finger. It was an impressive piece of jewelry. ‘Had he given a ring to any of his other victims?’ I wondered. ‘If he didn’t, perhaps he really had meant to go through with the marriage. But if so, why?’

Meanwhile, she continued, “We are to leave this night and then later return here, as husband and wife. Together, we’ll make this place a home for all three of us.”

“The three of you?” I repeated.

“Of course,” she looked at me as if I’d were a simpleton. “I still have to watch over my little brother. He’s still too young to manage the estate on his own. And as you said just a moment ago, we are the elder child. It’s our job to make sure we watch over our siblings. I’d never abandon, Reginald.”

I had to admit, I hadn’t expected to hear her talk like this. Could her betrothed have actually been serious about her? 

“My Jonathan will be here soon,” Madeleine continued, interrupting my thoughts. ” In fact I think I can hear his carriage in the distance.”

Without thinking, I found myself listening for the sound. She was right, there was a carriage coming. It sounded far off, but at the same time it was definitely drawing nearer. In fact, I could make out the sound of the horses hooves in the snow. Their steps had a certain rhythm that was very soothing. 

“Come with me over to the window,” Madeleine whispered, letting go of Reginald in order to slip one arm around one of mine. “We’ll be able to see the carriage in a little while.”

I let her guide me towards the window in question. We were halfway towards the glass aperture, when suddenly, the image of Nathan landing on the fountain in a shower of glass loomed large in my mind. Immediately, I pulled away from her, or tried to. Only she was expecting it and had a death grip on my wrist. Still, I managed to pull us away from the window and back into the center of the room. I was between her and Reginald now and I could hear the boy breathing heavily behind me. 

As desperately as I wanted to look back at him, I dared not turn away from Madeleine. Her grip on my arm had opened my eyes, in both the literal and psychic sense. There I said it. Nathan was right, I am psychic and boy was I seeing into a mind that had been twisted by an expert. 

My original impression about Madeleine’s anger at men had been right on the money. But it hadn’t always been that way. She had been devoted to her father, brother and her uncle. It was only when she’d been denied her wish to marry that the resentment had taken hold, only to be fueled by her intended. From the glimpses I was getting from her mind, I could see he had all the classic traits of an abusive/manipulator. He had been putting her up on such a high pedestal that she had no clue as to what he had planned for her. I could even hear his words inside my head, praising her youthful wisdom and insights, and how angry it made him that others, including her own family, refused to listen to her. From there he helped foment her resentments,  encouraging her to defy their antiquated concepts of duty and propriety. Yet in spite of all this, she had grieved deeply when her parents had perished in the carriage accident. Her pain had been as deep for her father as well as her mother. 

Perhaps, that was why her ‘intended’s’ manipulations worked so well on her. After her loss, she had felt lost and confused, making her more vulnerable to his renewed insistence on their marrying soon, so he could quote “Ease her pain and sorrows…” Only her uncle became the new obstacle to that plan. So he began redirecting her resentment towards her guardian. And when he would not listen, she began working on Reginald only to become resentful to him as well after he took their uncle’s side. Which had eventually led to the tragic events that in turn brought the three of us to this moment.

Finally, I found my words and said, “You still believe he will come for you this night.”  

“Of course,” she beamed, which nearly made me shudder.  There was nothing warm or tender about that smile. “You see, I was telling you the truth about hearing his carriage approach. I hear it every year…”

That sent a chill down my spine. She was aware of her situation! And she willingly played it out in some vain hope that eventually she’d get the jewels and leave before being discovered by the servant. Which in turn would mean she could avoid taking the wrong turn and falling over the balcony and into the Great Hall.

“Do you know what it’s like to be in love with someone, only to be told you have to wait over and over again?” she continued, still with that twisted, dreamy expression on her face.

I hesitated as my treacherous brain began thinking about Nathan. I had been in love with him practically my whole life. I’d even done as he’d asked and tried going out with other people, seeing if there was someone other than him that I might fall in love with. But, no matter how good things were between me and the person, I never felt for them the way I did for him.

“Ah, I see you have,” Madeleine continued, the smile fading from her lips. Now, she began speaking to me sympathetically. “Then you know the pain I’ve been going through and how the wait can make you desperate. Desperate enough to risk everything for that chance of true happiness.” 

I nodded. “Yes, I do. And it hurts so bad sometimes you want to lash out at the world.”

“Or at the ones who block your way, or…” here she paused and stared past me at her brother, “… refuse to be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how many times they tell you they love you.”

I could feel her anger rising again and a part of me wanted to agree with her and step aside. But another part, that big sister who’d fight hell itself to protect my little brother, wasn’t about to let that happen. I wasn’t sure what I should say next, but then I spotted a movement behind Madeine. 

It was a greenish mist, carrying small bundle, making it’s way to a large bookcase just over her left shoulder.

– TO BE CONCLUDED 

Lisa’s Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: “My Christmas Ghost Story” Part-V

For a moment I said nothing as I gathered my thoughts. Finally, I breathed, “If this were an old movie, this is the point where I’d ask what you meant was going to happen. But I already know. You mean that sweet little boy I met upstairs is about to experience his death at his sister’s hands all over again, don’t you?” 


Mr. Billings gave me a sad smile. “I’m afraid so. Ever since that terrible night, the family and anyone within these walls will hear the entire scene play out and ending with bloodcurdling screams.” 

I winced, I couldn’t help myself. The thought of that sweet boy I’d met being murdered at the hands of his own flesh and blood. All for the love of a man… wait, ‘follow the money’.


Turning away from the fire I turned to my host and asked, “Mr. Billings, what became of Miss Madeleine and her young man? Did they get away?”


My new friend shook his head sadly. “No, they did not. Nor did they ever marry, not that the scoundrel ever intended to follow through on that promise to Miss Madeleine.”


That was all I needed to hear. Nodding I said aloud, “He only wanted her dowry, or her mother’s jewels in this case.”

Mr. Billings gave me a smile and nodded, “You have a very keen mind, Miss Lisa. You are correct of course.”


As he spoke another thought occurred to me. “Madeleine and her brother where here when their parents had their carriage accident. Does anyone know where her suitor was that day?”


“Well done, Miss!” my host exclaimed, beaming at me. “Alas, at the time no one had asked. However, his whereabouts were uncovered a year later at his murder trial.”


I did a double-take. “His trial? I thought Madeleine had acted alone when she killed her brother? Or did her boyfriend turn around and kill her after he got the jewels?”


Billings sighed and looked at the clock again. “I see it’s only 9:13, so we still have time. I’m afraid I didn’t tell you everything about the haunting because I didn’t want to upset you further. You see, it doesn’t end with Master Reginald’s final screams echoing throughout the manor. I’m afraid, there’s still more. But first, I must tell you the rest of what happened that terrible night. A servant had come back unexpectedly and heard the commotion upstairs and went to investigate. He’d just reached the top of the stairwell when the shouting was replaced by a terrifying scream. Recognizing the voice as that of his mistress’, he rushed to the playroom to find Miss Madeleine stooped over her brother’s body before the fireplace. She was in a terrible shaking the boy and screaming his name. Naturally, he thought she had simply come home and found her brother in this condition, so he drew nearer to comfort her. Unfortunately, she had no inkling that he had entered the room and was startled when he placed a hand on her shoulder. Whirling to face him several of her mother’s jewels, which she’d been clutching in one hand fell to the floor. Now, this man was a close confidante of Sir Peter and knew about his suspicions regarding Miss Madeleine’s suitor. And he had been present when Sir Peter had told his nephew not to give in to his sister’s requests for money or access to her mother’s jewelry. So when he saw them in her hand he realized what had happened. ‘Oh Miss Madeleine, tell me you didn’t…’ he began, but she cut him off shouting, ‘They were rightfully, mine. If he’d only told me they were here when I asked the first time I wouldn’t have lost my temper. I only meant to push him away… I didn’t mean for him to hit his head and…” but instead of finishing her words, she rushed past him and out of the room. In her panic, she turned the wrong way and instead of heading for the stairs, she wound up running towards the balcony that overlooks this room. She was so terrified of having been caught, she kept looking over her shoulder and never realized her mistake until she hit the bannister and…”

Here he turned to stare at a spot on the floor just a few feet from where we were seated. 


Now I fully understood. “After the screams she appears at the railing and falls to her death in front of anyone who’s in this room,” I breathed.


My friend nodded solemnly. “Which is why Sir Peter, and all his descendants have made sure no one is in the mansion during the hour between 9 and 10 on Christmas Eve.”


I blew out a breath and sat back in my chair. Now I understood the reason for the mass at the chapel. But I still had a few more questions. “Mr. Billings, you said her young man was hanged for murder a year later, correct?”


“That I did,” he nodded watching me carefully. 

“So they found out he was the one who had shot the parents’ driver leading to the crash that killed them?” I pressed.


“Yes, but that wasn’t what he was on trial for at the time,” my host explained. “You see, as I told you earlier, the young man had been engaged before only to have his fiancee’ die shortly before their wedding.”


I sat upright at that. “Unexpectedly?” I inquired.

My host nodded.

I continued, “Did he have any other fiancees who also passed away ‘unexpectedly’?”


Once more my host beamed at me. “Indeed he did. You see, some months before the carriage accident Sir Peter had been at a party with a an old friend who spotted the young man there with them. The friend had mentioned the young man’s misfortune but had referred to him by a different name. At first Sir Peter simply assumed his friend had been mistaken. But then he remembered his friend was a sharpshooter back in their regiment days. And the man had spotted the young fellow at a distance. That was what first raised his suspicions about his niece’s suitor. He began to start looking into the matter, but with letters taking time, it his investigation was not coming along as quickly as he’d like. Still, he had found out enough to tell his brother to not agree to the match until he could learn more.”


“But after Madeleine and her brother’s deaths, he finally got the proof he’d been looking for,” I concluded.


“Just in the nick of time too,” Billings told me. “He was already engaged to another young lady of considerable wealth with no family, who had recently become inexplicably ill.”

I nodded. “Like I said before, follow the money. So he was only after wealth, not love. Which means Madeleine would’ve suffered a similar fate if her brother had given in to her requests.”


“Yes, she would have,” Billings nodded, “But it wasn’t just for money, if you get my meaning, miss.”

My eyes widened at that. “He liked killing young women?”


“Young women mostly, but because they were in his way he’d made an exception with her parents.”

“Oh that is sick,” I breathed and shook my head as the enormity of the tragedy upstairs hit me. “In his own way her brother was inadvertently saving her life, even if he didn’t realize it. Only to lose it at her hands, for a man who would’ve taken hers eventually. If only she’d known and now they’re both stuck… wait a minute. I was able to interact with Reginald earlier. And he told me Nathan had actually tried speaking with his sister… which means, they aren’t completely stuck playing out the tragedy.”


Mr. Billings rose to his feet and said gravely, “Oh, miss I know what you’re thinking, but it won’t work. Others have tried and failed. Master Nathan is only the latest. And while I admire his determination to try and free those two poor children from their torment, I don’t think it will work. Miss Madeleine is very obstinate when it comes to anyone telling her…”


“You’ve tried to intervene as well!” I exclaimed getting to my feet.

“Yes, I have,” he nodded sadly. “And I’ve not been able to get through to her, try as I might I just cannot get her to understand. She won’t listen…”


“Not to any man, she won’t,” I cut in, my mind was racing at this point. “Think about it, first her father, then her uncle, then her own brother? All men, telling her she couldn’t be with the man she thought loved her.”


“Miss Lisa, I see where you’re going with this but it’s dangerous,” my companion cried and glanced at his watch once more. “Master Nathan found that out the last time he tried.” 

This time he didn’t look over at the clock but at one of the large windows. I followed his gaze and saw this particular window looked out upon a three tiered fountain, with a finial top. It was rimmed with snow and ice, and brightly lit by strings of Christmas lights wrapped around its tiers. While it was quite pretty, I couldn’t understand why my new friend was staring at it. Suddenly, a figure falling from a great height, landed on top of the fountain amidst a shower of glass. I fell back with a scream, luckily Billings kept me from falling. After regaining my composure, I raced to the window and looked out at the fountain. 


There was no figure impaled on the the finial. Nor was there any sign of broken glass or footprints leading away from the area. Immediately, I thought back to my chat with Reginald when we were discussing Nathan “He had and accident. My sister…” “Miss Lisa?” Billings was at my side his eyes full of worry.

“She threw Nathan out the window of the playroom,” I breathed and then looked at him. “That’s what you mean by she’s dangerous. His attempt at intervening only got her pissed and she threw him out the window. Didn’t she?”


Billings nodded. “It’s 9:20, I really must get you out of here. Let Master Nathan deal with things, I believe he has a plan.”


“What plan?” I asked he led me out of the Great Hall and into foyer.

 
“I’m not sure, but there’s something his Lordship has been seeking for some time. If Master Nathan is here, no doubt he’s helping in the search. With it, they may be able to finally reach Miss Madeleine and help break the cycle…” the rest of his words seemed to grow more annoying as a wave of anger swept over me.


Without meaning to I suddenly snapped, “And you think only a man can bring me to my senses! How dare you, talk down to me. You’re just like every other man. Only my Cedric understands and listens to me. We actually have conversations and he encourages me to share my thoughts and feeling and discusses them with me…” I finally caught myself and shook my head. Such anger. Madeleine hadn’t just been frustrated, she was in a full blown rage! 


“You’re a sensitive,” my guide whispered, looking at me with a mixture of fear and wonder. “I had no idea. If I had realized it sooner, I would’ve never kept you here so long. We must get you out of here, Miss Lisa.”

But I was already sensing Reginald’s growing discomfort from upstairs. We were right next to the staircase and I couldn’t help looking up the steps. “She’s already with him, trying to be nice but she was growing impatient and he can sense something’s not right.” 

“Master Nathan…”


“Even if he has something, I don’t think she’s going to listen to him,” I interrupted.


Just then shouts erupted from upstairs and I could sense Reginald’s discomfort had now become full blown terror.


TO BE CONTINUED…

Halloween Fright – by Helen Krummenacker

*Today’s offering is from our anthology “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At a Time”.  This is the first time this story has ever appeared on this blog. We have plans for other Halloween tales involving not only Nathan and friends, but other characters from “The Bridge” and “The Ship” in the near future. But for now, please sit back and enjoy a spooky little tale from Lisa and Marisa’s childhood days, which hints at a future story set in modern times down the road. Helen is the sole author of this piece and I think she did a great job capturing the fun and innocence of childhood and trick or treat.*

OCTOBER 31st, 2007

     Two giggling girls, nine years old, were getting to trick or treat on their own for the first time after solemnly swearing to their parents that they would stay together, not go into any houses, and stick to familiar streets. And Marisa and Lisa really meant it, too, when they gave their word.
     But once they’d gotten their sacks more than a quarter full, they were starting to feel like the main part of town was a little bit boring, even with decorations. Marisa’s mummy bandages were meeting with confused remarks by neighbors who were more familiar with hospital dramas than ancient Egypt, nor did Lisa’s top hat and cape read as Mr. Hyde as much as “Abe Lincoln, maybe?”, killing some of the fun of dressing up. Toddlers and their parents, surrounding them on the streets, not only slowed them down with small talk, but stifled any real delightful shiver of uncertainty.
    “I know a place,” said Lisa, “where there’s probably no one home, but it would be fun to explore.”
     “What do you mean?” asked her best friend.
    “Well, I know the owner, but he doesn’t live there. The place has been empty for years,” she told Marisa, savoring the word ‘years’, drawing it out for emphasis. “I don’t mean go in, but there’s woods and a little cemetery–”
     “I am NOT going to a cemetery on Halloween night! The place sounds creepy.”
     “That’s what makes it fun!”
     Marisa grinned quickly, thinking of all the spooky old films she loved. “Yeah.” She thought about it. “How about we get our bikes and go there, but we stay in sight of the road when we’re there and don’t stay too long.”
     Lisa nodded. “Sounds smart. But it’s really not going to be too scary. I mean, sometimes things that seem scary at first turn out not to be.” She couldn’t really explain her Uncle Nathan, but it didn’t seem like anything associated with him could turn out bad. After all, he was a vampire… and the sweetest grown-up she knew.
    Marisa was enjoying the chill of the air on her face. “It’s beautiful out here.” The moon was overhead, the trees rustled mysteriously, and the scent of pine, cedar, and birch tinged the breeze. “I thought there were a bunch of old mines on this side of town, though. It’s pretty hilly out here.”
     “Yeah, I think there were some old ones.” Lisa tried to remember what Nathan had told her. “They used to have a small one on the estate we’re going to, that just took out coal to sell in town in the old days. People used it in their stoves. It closed for a while, but then it was opened during World War II by government order, for industry.”
     “How do you know this stuff?”
    “I told you, I know the owner. He’s a family friend, basically. And he’s the last of his family, so sometimes he gets, what’s the word… nostalgic.”
     They saved their breath to pedal their way up a long uphill stretch. At the top, Lisa stopped to let Marisa catch up. She pointed, “See, you can see the house past the field. I guess they kept this area cleared.”
     “Someone’s got sheep grazing there,” noted Marisa. “Sheep aren’t very scary.”

      “Does that mean you want to see the cemetery?”

    “No! … Maybe.” They nudged each other, shoulder to shoulder, before taking off down the hill towards the big old house that stood under the moonlight, darker patches where the pale paint had flaked off, vines growing onto the expansive porch, trees beyond with branches scant of leaves, many already lost to the aging fall. It began to feel quite spooky again as they drew closer to see more detail. Faded velvet curtains could be seen through dirty windows. The wind in the trees made suggestive rustling sounds. The creak of their own pedaling could be footsteps on an old, loose floorboard from the rooms above. The girls got off their bikes as they reached a grass-overgrown gravel path leading around the house and began to walk the path, pushing their bicycles by the handlebars, trying not to let the gravel crunch too much under their feet.
     It’s not that I’m scared, Lisa told herself. It’s just that it doesn’t seem right to be noisy here. Like being in a library or a museum. It was a matter of respect.
    Something cold and clammy touched the back of her neck and she squealed before she could think.
     “What is it?!” Marisa whispered, worried.
     “A drop of cold water. It fell off the eaves.”
     Indeed, the cool night air was producing condensation and the trees and overhangs slowly, almost silently, loosed accumulated moisture without sparing any thought for the nerves of passers by. “We’re being ridiculous,” Marisa said a little louder. “Thinking drops are a clammy finger or that the gravel is tiny bones crunching under our feet. It’s just an old farm no one lives in anymore. We drive past places like this all the time.”
    “Not just like this,” Lisa said defensively. “There was a terrible tragedy here.” She wondered briefly about Marisa’s mention of the gravel sounding like crunching bones. Someone was getting carried away by their imagination, and that someone was not her. “During the Civil War, you know West Virginia and Virginia were on different sides. And the Virginians were very angry about it. There was this point during the war when a mob crossed the border and they killed a lot of people here.”
     “I did not want to know that.”
     Lisa realized the fun was starting to go out of this for Marisa. “It’s okay. It happened so long ago. And… it’s not like ghosts are real.” There, she’d said it. It might not be a very Halloween thing to say, but she didn’t want her friend to be seriously frightened.
   They stood there beside the empty old house in silence for a moment, looking at each other, wondering what they really believed about any of these things. They were not that far from home, really. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with being here for a picnic on a bright, sunny day. Maybe they were only really afraid because they were breaking the rules. Maybe they only got goosebumps because the night was a little damp and the breeze was making them cold.
    Or maybe they weren’t quite sure that things didn’t go bump in the night. The breeze, which had joined them in stillness, rose up again, and a small, thin voice was carried with it. “Where is everyone?” It was a girl’s voice, sounding a little younger than they were, or perhaps she just sounded even younger because it was high with a plaintive note.
    “Where is everyone?” The voice said again, with a slightly different inflection. Lisa and Marisa opened their mouths and screamed in unison. They climbed back onto their bicycles and got back onto the road. They had pedaled at least a tenth of a mile before they realized they had headed the wrong direction, still traveling away from the town. Now, beyond the house, the trees were the scraggly remains of old orchards, interspersed with volunteer trees grown wild from seeds left by birds or squirrels. Lisa signaled for Marisa to stop.
    “Are you okay?” they asked each other at the same time, then laughed a little, still nervous but feeling reassured by friendship.
    “I’m okay,” Marisa said, “but she sure made a monkey out of you!” They laughed again.
    “We’re both fine,” Lisa said bravely. “I mean, so I was wrong about no ghosts, but she was a kid, like us. Just a kid…” she sounded sad now, because she thought she might know who the girl had been. A girl who had died from illness, months before the massacre. But then, why would she be looking for her family?
    “Hey,” Marisa said as she saw tufts of grass sticking through breaks in the thin asphalt, “I think the main road turned and we missed it. This doesn’t look right.”
    Lisa thought the same thing, noting that the hill rising to their right was just off the shoulder of the single lane, instead of beyond beech trees. “I guess we ended up on the road they used during the war when they were moving out coal.”
    “You like history a lot, don’t you?”
    “I like knowing why things happened. Roads don’t build themselves, and they don’t start falling apart if people want to use them still.” She had her mouth open to continue, but a weird deep rumble came from the ground to the right, ahead of them. “I don’t know what that is,” she said.

    Some muffled booming sounds followed. “It’s real,” Marisa said. “If there’s a mine here, it sounds like it could be ready to collapse.” They craned their heads to look down a shallow curve of road, to where the mine main shaft entrance was. An old metal elevator stood there, dim in the dark, before suddenly being lit from below with an orange glare. A plume of black smoke rose. There was another rumble.

    “Fire!” They agreed. Marisa was the first back on her bike this time. “We need to go back and tell someone!”
    They rode as fast as they could, legs getting sore. It wasn’t like the panic when the ghostly voice had spooked them. Rather, they had a purpose, because the mine should be abandoned, but what if some homeless people were using it for shelter, or some teens had set up a makeshift haunted house. There had to be a reason that the mine had suddenly caught fire, and it could be that someone careless had lit a candle or something down there, forgetting that gasses or coal dust could catch fire easily.
    When they got into town, Lisa’s parents were nearest, which was good because they knew the way. The girls were all for calling out the fire department right away, but the town was very small, so Mr. and Mrs. Weston insisted on going to check on the fire for themselves. “It might have just been something like a will-o-the-wisp near the surface,” Lisa’s dad said as he bundled them into the car. “Or a prank from some teens. There’s likely to be enough trouble-making tonight, so we don’t want to draw in emergency services if it isn’t necessary.”
    Much to the confusion of the girls, when they arrived at the mine, the light had gone out. Mr. Weston killed the car engine and they sat in silence for more than a minute to be sure there were no strange rumbles or percussive noises. “What,” said Mrs. Weston at last, “made you think this would be funny? You did say you’d stick to familiar streets.”
    “Technically,” Lisa ventured, “the main road out of town isn’t unfamiliar. I mean, we’ve been out this way before. And we only came this way by accident, because the ghost scared us so bad I just fled without paying attention to where. It wasn’t Marisa’s fault, either; she was following me because I knew the way and had glowsticks on.”
    “Now it’s ghosts?” said her dad.
   They knew then that further attempts to explain would just dig them deeper into trouble. The Westons took Marisa home in their car, and Mr. Weston had a word with her father while she was told to go get ready for bed.
    The next day was a school day (another reason it had been a bad idea to go off looking for adventure instead of sticking to the plan to trick or treat), and Lisa and Marisa were even more eager to get together and talk than ever. First, they wanted to compare memories of the night before. Had they heard the same thing from the ghostly voice? Did they both see the smoke, a pillar of it, filling the mine entrance and briefly obscuring the fire? Had they both still seen a ruddy glow, even through the smoke?
    They wished they could go back out there by day and check to see if there was fresh soot or something to verify their story. But that was impossible. Marisa’s bike was still on Lisa’s lawn, propped against a tree, and they were both grounded at least until the weekend. Furthermore, there would be no trick or treating for them next year.
    “Dad says,” Marisa told Lisa, “that he’s going to personally supervise me next year, and I’m not going anywhere. He says it’s going to be a black and white horror movie marathon for us.”
    “My folks,” Lisa said grimly, “won’t let me go anywhere unless there’s going to be an adult present at all times. And it has to be one they know.” She wondered if Uncle Nathan would come if she asked him to. But he moved around a lot so she didn’t know how to reach him.
     “Good thing,” said Marisa, with a sly smile, “that they know my dad.”
     “Oh?”
     “Because he was only a little mad, and he says we can have a sleepover.”
     This time, their unison scream was a happy one, even if it made the whole cafeteria stare.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!