Previously Johnny Eager led Mata Hari to the diamonds.
The three ghosts, Benjamin Patrick, Earl Grey, Sir Long John Longjohn, stalked the halls of Haggismarshe Manor House for days. They screeched out their howls, filling every corner of the house. They missed her ladyship, and they missed her bad.
“I miss her bosoms,” B. P. would cry when he came upon one of the servants.
“I miss her gentle voice,” Early Grey cried when he ran into anyone.
“I miss her kindness and optimism,” Sir Longjohns cried out when someone opened the closet door where he was hiding.
The noise was driving the servants out of their minds. Any employment was better than this ruckus.
“You’ve got to bring an end to this,” the housekeeper and the cook said to the butler in unison. “We are running out of aspirin.”
“Yes, I know,” the butler said. He sat in a chair in the kitchen with his head between his legs. “I have a migraine, and you’re not helping.”
“But—,” the housekeeper said and was interrupted.
“I plan to do something,” Butler said, lifting his head up momentarily. “I have a meeting scheduled with our three ghost friends tonight at midnight.”
“There had better be changes,” Cook said, “or I am leaving. I have been offered employment elsewhere and I will take it if this does not stop.”
At midnight, not a minute before, not a minute after, precisely midnight, Butler opened the Manor House Drawing Room door. He walked over to the bookshelf and pulled it open to reveal a passageway and stairs leading downward. Down, down, down he went until he came into a dark chamber deep in the bowels of the earth. Floating toward him across the large room at the bottom of the stairs was B. P. Floating under the ghost’s whisper of a body was Early Grey and Sir Long John Longjohn. The room was chilly, chilled to ghost comfort level. All three were sleeping the sleep of the dead, snoring, B. P. bu-bu-bupped every so often.
“All right, Ghosts,” Butler said. “Up!”
“Wha-wha-what?” the three ghosts said, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, their ghostly bodies floating to attention.
“I thought,” Butler said, “we were to have a meeting. I am here. The three of you are sleeping.”
B. P. rubbed the sleep from his eyes, floated over to Butler and said, “Butler, we’re exhausted. All this howling and screeching is affecting our health. Pretty soon we’re going to have boo-boo flu if we keep this up, and Early is about to come down with banchee-itis. You know how afflicting that can be.”
Butler grimaced his frustration. “Why don’t you quit all the rigamarole and settle down then?”
“We can’t,” B. P. said. “It’s in our contract. The master and the mistress disappear. We have to raise a ruckus.”
“But you didn’t do that when the master, Lord Dunnie, died.”
“That was different, y’all,” B.P. said. “We didn’t like him. He was an old fuddly duddly always fuddly duddlying around, disturbing us wherever we hid. And we know some good places to hide. Her ladyship was kind, respecting our dignity and our hiding places. Besides she had such wonderful bosoms.”
“But he was the master,” Butler protested, exasperated at the audacity of the ghosts to ignore the former master of the manor.
“We took a vote and we opted out. Even Sir Long John Longjohn voted that we not disturb the manor house when her ladyship was here. It would be downright rude. A regular Emily Post infraction.”
“Well, all this noise has got to stop,” Butler said. “We can’t go on like this. It is helping neither you ghosts nor we servants. What can we do about it?”
B.P. turned and huddled over in a corner with his fellow ghosts. Butler heard low mumbles and whispers. The three went into the let-mes and soon progressed to the I-wannas.
“I want to go,” Early said, stiff-upper-lipping a whine at the end of the sentence.
“No, let me,” Long John pleaded.
“It’s going to be me,” B.P. interjected.
“But you get to have all the fun,” his two companions said.
“I’m the one with the horse,” B.P. closed the argument, “Paul Revere is not going to let either of you on his back.” Paul Revere was the name of B P’s horse. “Besides I am American. Americans get to have all the fun. It’s written into our DNA. So it’s me.”
“Alas,” Earl said to Long John, “’tis true. The journey does require a horse. Otherwise it would take over a century to make the trip.”
“By the time you got back,” B. P. pointed out, “her ladyship definitely would be passed. Then what would be the point of going in the first place.”
“Oh,” Long John let out a long sigh. “But I get to be the one the next time.”
“If there is a next time,” Earl said.
“There is always a next time,” Long John said, then smiled.
Finally the huddle ended. B.P. floated over to Butler. “We think we have a solution. We’ve decided one of us must go to the World Beyond and visit. Find out if she really has passed over.”
“She has died,” Butler protested. “She drowned. All the papers said so.”
“When a master or mistress passes over into our world, we receive a message from the Grand Ghost Council. None has come informing us of her demise. “
“I thought you received,” Butler said, “a note from Giles, The Times ghost.”
“He only communicated what he read in the papers. This has been what upset us so much. A lack of finality.
“Whatever it takes, get to it,” Butler said. He left the room and climbed the long winding stairs to the above world.
So it was decided. B.P. was the one to walk the plank over into that shadowy shadow world between mortality and the beyond. First he needed a pass and that was never easy to get. He met with the Ghost Riders of the Sky. They hovered above Haggismarshe Manor House and considered the circumstances. After a long deliberation of minutes, they agreed. B.P. was given permission to leave Haggismarshe Manor House.
It was midnight as it always is when a ghost leaves the house he or she is assigned to haunt. B.P. gave his buddies a “‘see ya, fellows.” He stepped into the stirrups, then crawled up onto the saddle of his ghost horse, Paul Revere. Then he yelled, “Two if by land, one if by sea.”
“Why the heck did I say that?” he wondered. “Why didn’t I say hi-yo Silver and away instead.”
The horse took off, making for the invisible wall, that wall that is a prison holding the ghosts inside and the world outside. At the wall, Paul Revere slowed his gait to a stop. Showing his pass to the wall, it divided, allowing the two to ease out into the rain. It always rains when ghosts leave their assigned posts. This night was no different.
Over land and over sea the horse galloped, his master firmly settled into the saddle on his back. B.P. was thoroughly enjoying the ride, the wind rushing through his ghostly sheet of a body, tickling him. It had been so long since he had a ride like this, not since the British had chased him halfway across the state of Georgia.
He passed through the Valley of the Shadow. He crossed the Mountain of Doom, then waded through the River of Finality. When he came to the River Styx, he stopped. He guided Paul Revere carefully onto the plank that crossed the River. The white stallion made his way along the very narrow crossing, tippy-toeing ever so delicately as if his life depended upon it, though he was indeed dead like the rider upon his back.
One false step either way and horse and rider would be condemned to the dark world of darkness and denial below. If they fell, they would fall and fall and keep falling forever, never landing, always falling deeper and deeper into the bowels of darkness until the darkness faded into a nothingness. Paul Revere stepped between the raindrops and off the wooden board into that shadowy shadow of a world between mortality and the beyond.
The two stopped and B.P. got off his horse. He handed Paul Revere’s reins to a short fellow standing nearby. “Here, O’Toole,” he said to the guard at the Gates of the Passed-On.
“State your business,” O’Toole said grumpily, squinting with his one good eye. “And this had better be good.”
“The Ghost Riders of the Sky gave me a Pass.” He showed the guard a shining piece of parchment.
“Then pass on through,” the guard said. “I will care for your stallion.” O’Toole and Paul Revere faded away into the Nether to wait.
Next Week: Benjamin Patrick Nutt continues his adventures in the land of the dead.