Previously, at the urging of Haggismarshe’s butler, Benjamin Patrick Nutt, the ghostest with the moistest, leaves the Manor House. He rides his horse to the Realm of the Dead to find out if Lady P. P. is indeed deceased. In other words, will she be around for more adventures?
Before B.P., thousands of spirits lined up for their assignment in the Great Hall of Mother Death, a parade of souls hoping for the best. Some returned to the world of humans and houses to haunt. Some would be flung out into outer darkness for the gnashing of teeth that was their reward. Some would get a rerun as another earthly being, maybe a human being, maybe an animal. Some went on to the Light and the Beyond. Above each spirit was a sign acknowledging where they died. The spirits moved forward.
B.P. began his inquiries with a howdy here, a howdy there. He stopped and conversed with each group of ghosts. “We’re from Transylvania. Vampired. Bite didn’t take, damn it,” one group said. “I was bit by a werewolf. I bit him back,” one spirit said. “A lion had me for lunch.” “Fox hunting, the fox spooked my horse.” “Boat sank.” “Bird shat on me.”
“Died in my bed,” one whispered, hoping only B.P. would hear.
“Lucky bastard,” a number of the others did a synchronized shout.
One spirit from the dark jungles of Africa relayed the following story: “I was with this woman in a cave. The sexiest damned woman I ever encountered. Name of Mata Hari. I gave her the bag of diamonds she came for, took her in my arms, kissed her hard on the lips, saw this flash at the entrance, pulled my gun and shot her partner. Not once, but twice. Her partner, a fellow called Kaptain Kroger Kruger, dropped dead.
“Then I felt this pain in my gut. She pulled the knife out of me, then she drove it like a stake into my heart. Always knew how much she loved to stick it to people but I didn’t think it would happen to me. After all, when you have the charm of a Johnny Eager, women just can’t resist. Damn, can you pull this thing out of me?”
B.P. grabbed the hilt. He had been through this before. It took super-human strength to get the ten arrows out of him. He pulled. He pulled. He pulled and felt the knife move ever so slightly. He jerked hard. The knife came out, and whish. It disappeared.
“Thanks, man,” the man with the tale said. “By the way, my name is Johnny Eager. In your travels, you haven’t seen my Norwegian sidekick, Karl Lutefisk, have you?”
“Can’t say that I have? When did he die?”
“Weeks before I bit the dust,” Johnny Eager said.
“Then he won’t be here. These are the ones that died the day you did. He has passed on to his assignment.”
“Darn, I was hoping to see him one last time. Would have meant a lot to me. By the way, why aren’t you in line in this parade of parades? Since it’s a parade, I was wondering when we would get uniforms. Always did like uniforms.”
“No uniforms,” B.P. said. “I have already received my assignment. Been there one hundred and fifty years already.”
“Then why would you come to this place again? It’s kind of spooky, don’t you think? Oh no, what is this stuff?” Johnny looked down at his gut. Green gook was pouring out. “Man, how do I stop these runs?”
“Grab the ether on either side of the wound and pull it together. You have to hold it that way for quite some time for it to heal. Unless you go on to the light and then beyond. Then it’s poof and you’re healed. I came back here on an urgent errand. My mistress has disappeared. I am here to find out whether she survived a shipwreck or died. Oh, there it is. Up front. The shipwreckees are next to reach the Assignment Desk. Got to go.”
Johnny Eager pinched his gut together and stopped the green gook. B. P. hurried to the sign written in flashing neon, “S. S. Twit.”
“Next,” the spook at the Assignment Desk called out to the Twit group.
The first to move forward on the conveyer belt was the captain of the steamship, Captain Pedro San Cristobel. A hook grabbed him and flung him into the outer darkness. Suddenly he was falling.
“You abandoned ship,” Assignment Guy said and stamped his papers.
One by one, each of the passengers and crew were pulled forward. One by one, each was sent on his or her assignment. The belt drew Wongway Wongway to the Assignment Desk. A. G. looked up from his Book of Assignments and at the ship’s pilot with a quizzical look on his spooky face.
“What are we to do with you, Wongway Wongway?” A. G.asked. “What are we to do with you? It has been an eternity since I have seen someone like you. Your whole life you couldn’t do anything right. Your karma kept messing up your karma with one thing after another.
“Then it wasn’t my fault,” W. W. said.
“Your spirit has always been like this. You escape prosecution because it really isn’t your fault. You keep going back. Then you’re back here at this desk. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred times your spirit has been through this. If I send you back, it won’t matter. You’ll screw things up again. If I send you on to the light and then beyond, you will force the light to go out. We haven’t had one of you in a long stack of forevers. We can’t afford it. If we send you back for a haunting, nope. I can’t take that chance. You’ll disturb all those there already. What are we going to do? Step aside. We’re going to have to give this one some thought. Once the once-over is over, we’ll know what to do.”
Smythie Smathers, Crepe Suzette, Sgt Mack Truck, Studdley Duddley, Pipsqueak Pimplesquat, all pulled forward for their due. Each sent on their way to do the cosmos’ business. The sign “S. S. Twit” disappeared into the abyss and finally B. P. reached the Assignment Desk.
“Was there a Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott on the manifest?” he asked A. G.
“You know I can’t reveal that, Young Man,” A. G. answered, staring at his next group’s manifest. “It’s strictly against regulations. We cannot break the Second Amendment of the Fourth Addendum.”
B.P. gave him a questioning look.
“You know, the Privacy Addendum. Now out of the way. Next.”
B.P. looked sad, very sad. His head hung in resignation. What was he going to tell his fellows? They would be howling, running amuck for centuries, driving all human occupation away from Haggismarshe Manor House. Eventually the house would be cursed by the Higher Ghostess With the Mostest. Into outer limbo, they would go. To howl, scream and run amuck forever. Oh, the pain. If a ghost could have shed tears, B.P. would have shed tears.
“Can I help you?” a short man with Chinese features called. Yet they weren’t Chinese. They were Oriental, yet not Oriental.
“I am afraid not,” B.P. said. He turned toward the conveyer.
“I think I can help you,” the short man with the ambiguous features said.
“How?” B.P. looked at the short man afraid to hope.
“You are looking for someone that was on the S. S. Twit?”
“I was on the S. S. Twit,” Wongway Wongway said. “It was my fault the ship sank. I was the ship’s pilot. Who are you looking for?”
“No. You can’t be the ship’s pilot.”
“I certainly was. Who are you looking for? I met everyone in the group.”
B.P. stood beside the conveyer belt, its passenger sliding behind him. There was hope, lots of hope in his ghostly slots that used to be eyes. He couldn’t believe what would have been his ears if he had ears. He didn’t, of course. Ghosts don’t have ears. “She is Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe. She may also be known as Viscountess dat Renalla-Macedoni, Marye Caterina Olgastoya. Everybody calls her ladyship Lady P.P. She also has the nick of Double M and her maiden name is Mary-Mary Smith. Have you seen her? Did she go down with the ship?”
“Hmmmm,” the spirit Wongway Wongway thought, then said, “The name is familiar. But no, she did not go down with the rest of us. She was not with the group that went down with the S. S. Twit. Somehow she escaped. She was only one of two out of one hundred and fifty souls. The other, the internationally famous Tootles “The Tootler” Tootle Lou. Somehow she sang her way out of that disaster.”
A. G. looked over at Wongway Wongway. He curled his finger and beckoned the pilot over to him.
“We are sending you into the Light and Beyond.” A. G. smiled, his faith in the System restored. The System had never failed him before, and it had not this time. “Your help for our ghost friend there, that reveals that you have a compassionate heart. It seems that the cosmos has done you an injustice by saddling you with your ill fortune. Whatever your past, you are ready for the Light and the Beyond.”
Wongway stepped through the door, into the light, and was gone, none of his soul lingering behind. The Cosmos had decided to test him and he had passed that test. Wongway Wongway was on the other side of the Beyond and Beyond.
Assignment Guy pointed his finger at the ghost from Haggismarshe Manor. “Now go.”
B.P. fell through the floor of the Assignment Room and into the saddle on Paul Revere’s back. The horse’s feet touched down onto the plank. He walked between the raindrops. B.P. showed his pass before the invisible wall. It divided. On the other side, the ghosts and the servants waited for him. They saw the big smile on his apparition, and they knew. It was the happiest news. Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe was alive, perhaps alone and injured somewhere, but alive. Yes, she was alive.
Next Week, Barcelona or Bust.