“Oh, man, that guy looks like something from a county fair sideshow. Can’t believe that reporter guy was spooked by it.” Deadman watched the scene in the entry hall unfold. “That guy dumped some syrup, water, and flour from the catering truck over a sheet, and suddenly they think he’s a ghost?” The spirit of circus aerialist Boston Brand slipped through a wall as the spook retreated through a doorway.
“OK, Gary, that’s a good start,” said Mick Mousseau as his partner in crime returned from his first attempt at frightening off the television crew. “Don’s down in the basement, working on the electrical system. I think he figured out how to wire the house’s system into the lines that the TV people brought in.”
“Gosh, we could have some fun with that,” replied Gary Gough. “You think he can rig it so we can control their equipment, too?”
Sounds like my cue, thought Deadman. He stopped in mid-glide, did a three-quarter backflip, and dived down through the floor. As he passed through the room below, he heard a startled gasp.
“Who — what are you?” asked a feminine voice.
The ghostly hero stopped in mid-dive. He looked around, recognizing the room as a solarium. Seated by a window that once looked out over expansive gardens was a young woman. Not wanting to scare her any more than necessary, Deadman settled to the floor and walked toward her. “I’m a friend, miss. There are some bad apples running around this place, and I’m going to take care of them.” He sat down in a nearby chair. “Before I do that, though, what’s your story?”
“My story? I’m not quite sure what you mean, sir. I’m just waiting for Adrian to come home.” She looked more closely at the garishly clad ghost. “Have you just come from a Mardi Gras celebration? That’s a very odd costume you’re wearing.”
“I — I am a circus performer. I’m performing later tonight. Umm, look, how long have you been waiting for this Adrian guy?”
“Oh, it seems like I’ve been waiting forever. He told me he would come back for me, though. I’m sure he has just been delayed, and he will come for me soon.”
“Yeah, well, I better get going. If I see Adrian, I’ll let him know you’re here.” Deadman walked out the door before diving down through the floor into the basement.
“What the hell is that?” screamed Mick, diving through a doorway as a yellow, green, and red cyclone swept through the room.
“I don’t know, but we should’a had that to scare the TV crew!” responded Gary as he struggled to free himself of his disguise. The sheet was heavy with syrup and flour, and he was still disentangling himself when a fist slammed into his head.
“Silly man! Aren’t you a little old for trick or treat?” uttered the bizarre creature as he seeming bounced away from the punch toward Mick. “Now, where’s your friend?”
“Right here, you damned freak!” screamed Mick, swinging a tire iron at the Creeper. The costumed hero flipped back away from the swing, his feet coming up to catch the criminal under the chin. Mick went sailing across the room, slamming into the opposite wall. Checking both men, the Creeper found them both unconscious. He quickly bound them with strips of cloth from the ghost costume.
“Sounded like they had another partner somewhere. I’ll have to track him down before he causes any trouble.”
At that moment, the halogen lights that had been placed throughout the mansion by the television crew all went dark.
“Dad-blasted, frazzin’, furgin’ switch box!” A metallic crash echoed through the darkened basement, followed by a stream of muttered curses.
Hmm… I wonder where the crooked little wannabe electrician might be hiding, mused Deadman as he drifted down into the basement. The darkness was no impediment to the ghost, as he homed in on the sole living being in the massive space below the mansion. He was just about to dive into the man’s body when a door opened above, and the light of a high-powered flashlight flooded the basement.
“Hey, there’s somebody down here!” cried a voice. “Looks like he was messing with the power linkages!” A half-dozen people started down the steps. “Get him out of there, and get that power going before we come back from commercial, or we’re screwed!”
Don Mallard dived away from the switch box, unknowingly evading the unseen Deadman in the process. As the assortment of technicians swarmed through the basement, Don crawled along the floor, seeking an exit. He crawled under a rusting set of laundry tubs, making his way toward a dumbwaiter that he had spotted earlier.
“Blast it, can’t spot his aura in this crowd now, and I still ain’t seen his face.” Deadman hovered over the scene, trying to spot his quarry.
Looking back toward the crowd, Don rose up on his knees and started lifting the roll-up door on the dumbwaiter.
“Thank you kindly!” screeched the Creeper as he burst out from the shaft of the dumbwaiter. “Oddly enough, they don’t have handles on the inside of those things!”
“Gaaah! What are you?” screamed Don. The others turned toward them, watching as a seemingly normal-looking man was attacked by a bizarre figure bursting into the room.
“That freak must be the one messing with the show!” yelled Andy Pickard. “Get him!”
“Aw, man, not again,” muttered the Creeper as the crowd started chasing him around the basement.
In the darkened basement of the LeFarge mansion’s basement, beams of light swept around, seeking the Creeper. Six men spread out, seeking the garish being they believed responsible for blacking out the building and the live television broadcast taking place.
The Creeper, while trying to evade capture, was seeking the true culprit. Unbeknownst to him, another was seeking that same criminal.
Now that the freak show has spooked Donny-boy, I can hop in his body and let Creepster bag him, thought Deadman. But as he dived toward the prone criminal, he spotted something more urgent that made him change direction.
“Don’t worry, guys, I’ll bring him down!” cried one of the men, pulling a pistol from his waistband. He held the gun in both hands, sighting down the barrel at the bright yellow patch of skin that was visible in the shadows. Changing direction with a speed possible only for a ghost, Deadman veered over and passed unseen into the body of the gunman. His hand was already squeezing the trigger, but Deadman managed to jerk his arm upward so that the shot missed, and the bullet struck one of the heavy wooden beams supporting the floor above.
The sound of the gunshot made everybody freeze. “Christ, Harv, what the hell did you bring that thing for? You might kill somebody!” Another man reached out to grab the pistol, meeting no resistance as the Deadman-possessed shooter let go of the pistol.
The Creeper saw this out of the corner of his eye and took advantage of the distraction to catch up with Don Mallard, who was moving in a low, crouching walk toward the stairs leading up to an outside exit. As Mallard reached for the door, the Creeper launched himself up the stairs, slamming into the back of the crook. Together, they crashed through to door and into the long-abandoned garden. Two swift punches, and Mallard was no longer in the world of the waking.
Funny, mused the Creeper, I was sure that guy had a clear shot at me. It was almost as if someone got hold of his gun hand or something, but there wasn’t anybody there. Was there?
After a short delay that was filled with stock footage assembled just in case of a problem with the live broadcast, Jack Ryder was on the air again, escorting his viewers on a televised tour of the mansion. In the kitchen, the hanging pots and pans rattled on cue, just as the special effects people had arranged. The camera on the main staircase remained focused on nothing. Passing through the spot where the fake ghost had appeared earlier, Jack shivered.
“Amelia LeFarge may not be here tonight, but it sure feels like something has been here recently,” intoned Jack, with a hint of menace in his voice. The cameraman had to stifle a laugh as he followed.
The show was entering its last few minutes as the tour ended in the solarium. The plan was for Jack to express his regrets that they hadn’t been able to capture the ghosts on the camera that night, and to promise a follow-up special. The camera was then to look out the door over the long-wild gardens, and the credits would roll over that shot.
Jack entered the room, waiting for the temporary lighting to come on as they had rehearsed earlier. When it did not, the cameraman turned on a small spotlight mounted on the camera dolly, and they continued.
“Well, friends, it appears that we have run out of time tonight. Regrettably, Miss LeFarge chose not to favor us with her presence tonight, but–”
“I beg your pardon?”
Jack started at the sound of the light, feminine voice off to his left. The camera turned, and on the edge of the spotlight they both saw a young woman sitting on a divan that had not been there earlier in the day.
“Am I to understand that you are looking for–?” she began, then gasped.
“Is, um, something wrong?” asked Jack, hesitation evident in his usual brash voice.
“Adrian! You’ve returned at last!” The ghost of Amelia LeFarge started toward Jack, but stopped. “Oh, you’re not him. But you look very much like him.” She turned and looked at a dusty painting on the wall. Both Jack and the cameraman gawked as they saw the image of this same young lady paired with a man bearing a striking resemblance to the reporter.
“Actually, I have returned, my love.” Three heads, two living and one not, turned toward the terrace. There stood the translucent image of a man in a battered World War I infantry uniform. “Thanks to the help of your friend, here.” He gestured to his left, but only Amelia LeFarge could see the white-faced man in the red and black costume standing there with a smile on his face.