the ghost club

 

Some people think cemeteries are haunted. They’re not. Graveyards are merely repositories for corpses.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying I don’t believe in wraiths and shades and specters and spooks—I do, but they don’t inhabit desolate places. Spirits, blithe or otherwise, prefer to be among people or places where they’ve lived their entire lives.

Anyway, everything I know about the spirit realm I learned from Gwendolyn McIntyre—she’s my silent partner and mentor for all things paranormal.

Every Wednesday night we hold midnight sessions of our Ghost Club and she deepens my knowledge of things that go bump in the night.

She’s a lovely wraith who swears me to secrecy about our clandestine trysts and is captivating and enchanting for a woman who died at the turn of the century.

And as you’ve probably figured out by now, Gwen’s not just my counselor—she’s a ghost and my secret love.

 

“Don’t get frisky, Zach—my ectoplasm is fragile, and I have no desire to go back to being transparent for a century.”

“So, what are you saying—you don’t have needs?”

“Let’s put it this way, Dearest. My desires are now more spiritual.”

My desires aren’t.

I’m admiring Gwen standing by the fire in her ankle length diagonally layered white gown with pearl beading. It’s form fitting and flatters her figure—or her aura, or whatever substance comprises her spiritual body—if she has a body.

“You’re staring,” she whispers. Her cheeks burn and her eyes lower. I’m mad with desire for her, but can’t penetrate her mystery. She has all the attributes of flesh, but none of its weaknesses. Poor me.

“How can I resist, Love? You’re breathtaking.”

“You need to sublimate those urges, Zach, or you’ll just end up being tormented.”

“Too late for that now, I’m afraid.” And I mean it. I’m obsessed with the girl.

I recall the wintry night I followed her down Hyde Street, totally enraptured by her beauty.

I caught a glimpse of her at the corner as I left The Slye Fox. I had intended to go home and work on an article for The Toronto Telegram, but did an abrupt turn and followed her down the street.

We walked several blocks through the snowy twilight before I noticed she left no tracks in the snow. I could have turned around right then and headed in the opposite direction, but didn’t.

I was enthralled and determined to pursue her.

When she turned in at the wrought iron gate to The Grange, I was fascinated. The house is on the edge of the old Distillery District and looks straight out of Dickens—which, of course, it is—having been built in the 1830’s.

I’m a firm believer in grand gestures though, and now having committed to a certain course I was bound to follow it through.

She entered the house, leaving the front door ajar, and I, oblivious of consequences, fell straight for her trap.

As I entered, she was standing by the fire pulling off her gloves and didn’t even bother looking up.

“This is an unwarranted intrusion,” she said matter of factly, as she proceeded to remove her bonnet, glancing in the wavy mirror and fluffing her hair.

She was incredibly beautiful. Her blond hair shone like spun gold in the glow of the gaslight sconces.

“If you insist on coming in, could you please close the door—it gets very drafty.”

I grinned at her, but complied. “I doubt you feel the cold, since you’re dead.”

She looked at me askance and began adjusting the lamp flames.

“You’re unaware of the spirit realm, Mr. Newson. It makes me wonder why your newspaper lets you write those articles.”

I was taken aback. Not only did she know my name but she read my articles.

I began defending myself.

“It wasn’t my idea to write about haunted houses—it was Bill Hay’s decision. He’s the editor-in-chief. Hell, even Ben Church, my assignment editor, disagrees. He knows I’ve got no insight.”

“I didn’t say you had no insight. You’re a sensitive, and you don’t even know it. What I’m saying is that you have zeal without knowledge.”

My knees suddenly went weak. I just managed to collapse down onto a rather rigid curved loveseat.

What the hell am I doing? I’m talking to a ghost.

“Oh, dear!” A look of concern furrowed her lovely brow. “I didn’t intend to cause you any dismay. Let me help you—drink some of this.”

She reached for a crystal decanter on a side table, poured some port wine into a glass and handed it to me.

I swallowed some and immediately felt better, and began to relax as the warmth glided down my throat and spread into my chest.

She poured some herself and took a small sip, her huge brown eyes staring at me.

“You’re quite handsome close up. Your picture doesn’t do you justice.”

“That’s a consolation,” I said bitterly. “I’m trespassing on a heritage site and talking to a ghost—the fact that you’re beautiful doesn’t help at all. It just makes me feel more desolate.”

“You find me attractive?” she smiled.

“I do. You’re stunningly beautiful and I can’t take my eyes off you. I suppose this is how people go mad when they experience an apparition. They either see a horrible goblin or an alluring temptress, but either way, they lose their mind.”

“Who said you would lose your mind?” she asked angrily.

“That’s what people say. Shakespeare said it in Hamlet. Besides, I’ve had a few paranormal experiences and they’ve knocked me out of kilter.”

“I see,” she smiled grimly. “I suppose a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I mean, that’s why your articles in the newspaper are so dark. You believe you must fear the spirit realm.”

“Well, duh! C’mon, it’s not natural to be sitting here talking to a ghost—whether she’s a beautiful one or not.”

She came over and sat beside me, so close, I could inhale the powdery scent of her perfume.

“Do I intimidate you, Mr. Newson?”

I nodded. “You do,”

She leaned over and kissed me long on the lips. My heart was thudding and I couldn’t breathe—but I didn’t want her to stop. And when she did, I let out a gasp.

“Are you all right?” she asked, putting a hand on my forehead to check my temperature. “You’re a bit flushed, but not feverish.”

“How—how did you do that?” I stammered.

She gave a slight shrug. “I just kissed you,” she said simply.

“But I thought you were nonphysical,” I insisted.

“If I were, how would you see or hear me?”

I looked at her dumbly. “I don’t know. I suppose I’d see and hear you in a vision.”

“Oh, I see. I’d be real, but in a spiritual way.”

“That’s right!” I shouted. “You’d communicate in a spooky, transparent form. And if I touched you, my hand would go though you and I’d be chilled to the bone.”

“Were you chilled to the bone when I kissed you?” she asked sweetly.

“Uh, no…not exactly.”

“Well then, how did you feel?”

“About the same way as when I kiss any woman—only better.”

Her eyes were shining. “You learn quickly, Mr. Newson.”

“Would you mind calling me Zach?”

“No, of course not. And you may call me Gwen. My full name is Gwendolyn McIntyre, and I own this house—or, at least I used to own it, once upon a time.”

 

And that’s how we began.

Gwen decided she’d mentor me, teaching me about spiritual things, and I in turn, allowed myself to fall in love with her.

It’s not the usual fleshly relationship shared by people in love—it’s more rarefied and soulish—but it’s not Platonic either. We do kiss and embrace, but can’t go beyond that.

After all, there are laws that govern things, and keep things in their places. I have to respect certain boundaries.

I can’t take latitudes with Gwen.

I’m now learning respect for things—for people and places. Learning to leave the past like unspoilt snow, undisturbed.

And I allow Gwen to dwell in a candle lit glow, and not subject her to an electric glare.

 

 

© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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yacht

The new, young, chic and acquisitive rich, the restless young Europeans and the beautiful people still flit from Palm Beach’s polo fields to Newport’s yachts with refueling stops at Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Tiffany.
–Charlotte Curtis

 

“I want a yacht, Tom,” she sighed.

It was a bright and shiny new idea and it leapt from her lips with the freshness of prophecy. At the very least, it was an intriguing possibility that pushed away the boredom.

Tom ignored her, but to her, that was not important.

For the moment, she was on this new track and life again had purpose. She stretched out and lifted her tanned arms up to the sun as if in thankfulness.

As for me, I was intoxicated with sunlight, waves and the scent of her suntan lotion. I envisioned mysterious beaches, lazy afternoons and Charlotte—all alone in moonlight with me.

But we weren’t alone—Tom was there and in a maddening way, I resented his presence, even though he was her husband.

I was a fool and knew it—it wasn’t real love so much as self-delusion, but I was smitten and being stupid—and she was luxuriating in her new found dominance.

I was offered my uncle’s Gulf side villa—he tendered it as an incentive for me to finish the novel I began a few years before. He thought it pleasing to have a writer in the family and promised to hand off the manuscript to his publisher friend—if and when I ever completed it.

I did try. I started well and even wrote about thirty thousand words—but that was before I discovered my neighbor, or rather she took an interest in me.

Read more…

© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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the ghost

 

Bethany’s first encounter with the ghost

She wasn’t sure what awakened her, but she could sense a presence in the room. She felt the hair on her neck stand on end as she lay on the couch holding her breath and listening. There was no sound, except for her heart ponding in her ears. As she strained to see in the darkness, she could discern an indistinct form gliding down the stairway. It appeared to be a man holding a candle in his hand. She let out a gasp and sat up on the couch. He was an older gentleman, with reddish hair and beard, dressed in turn-of-the century style clothing. The specter appeared to be equally alarmed at seeing them too. All three were frozen in time for a moment as if in a tableau vivant, then, the man slowly began to fade and disappear.

She shot up from the couch, turned on the lamp and stood. Jude went over to the staircase, sniffed the carpeted step and then walked back and curled up at her feet. Could I have been dreaming? She was cold and shivering. She rubbed the goose bumps on her arms nervously as she contemplated the possibilities. Jude yawned up at her, apparently satisfied there was no threat. It was just a dream she assured herself and forced herself to lie back down. She waited until she felt calm enough to turn off the lamp.

It wasn’t easy for her to control her racing thoughts, let alone relax enough to get back to sleep. At one point, she turned on the lamp to check the time on the grandfather clock—it was half-past three. She got up, rummaged around and found a baseball bat in the corner near the fireplace. No sense in taking any chances. She returned to the couch, turned off the lamp and with the baseball bat clutched to her chest, soon fell back to sleep.

The next time it happened she was prepared. This time she heard a distinct scraping noise coming from the direction of the hallway. She carefully slid off the couch bat in hand and silently made her way toward the front door. She could hear Jude panting behind her, nose on her right calf, clinging to her as if attached by a leash. Then a hand came out of the darkness and clawed at her face. She screamed and lashed out with the bat, flailing blindly in the darkness.

A great roar filled her ears as the dark form toppled back into the foyer. Panic gripped her and she groped madly along the wall until her hand found another light switch and snapped it on. On the floor of the foyer lay Griff, propped up on one arm and staring at her with glassy eyes. He was rubbing his right shoulder.

“Beth?” He tried to make sense of the spectacle of the blonde-haired girl, back-lit by the hall light, standing over him, baseball bat in hand.

“Griff?” She dropped the bat and ran to him. “I’m so sorry.”

“S’fine,” he replied, floundering around on the floor.

“I feel so bad—I could have killed you.”

“Naw, you couldn’t—you swing that bat like a klutz.”

She held out a hand to help him up and he glumly managed to get to his feet. She helped him over to the nearby sofa chair.

“Lucky for you, I grew up in the country and never played baseball.”

“Yeah, lucky me,” he hissed, as he tried pulling his coat off his sore shoulder. He was having no luck, so he stood up and tried pulling harder.

“Let me help you with that. I’m so sorry—I thought you were an intruder. ” She gently lifted the coat off him.

“An intruder—what made you think that?”

“I saw an old man on the stairs earlier—at least I think I did. Maybe I was dreaming. Anyway, when I heard a noise again in the hallway, I thought it was him.”

He stood dumbly staring at her glassy eyed and then burst out into hysterical laughter. “You tried to kill George?”

“Who the heck’s George?”

“S’okay, don’ worry ‘bout it. My fault. Lost my door key—always do that.” He wavered unsteadily on his feet.

She realized not only was he slurring his words, he was stinking drunk.

“Need to sleep,” he muttered and started to curl up on the sofa chair.

“Wait, you can’t sleep down here—it’s freezing. Let me help you up to your bed.”

“Sorry babe, don’ feel like foolin’ round—just want to sleep.” He turned over with his back towards her.

“How dare you! What do you think I am—one of your cheap dates?”

“Gotta sleep now,” he murmured, putting a cushion over his head.

She was so incensed she had to struggle against the urge to plant a kick directly into his backside—which offered a very tempting target at that moment. Instead, she threw both hands in the air and uttered, “argh!” grabbed her jacket and stormed out of the house.

All the way back to her apartment, she was suppressing the urge to swear. Such a frustrating night! First, the dream, and then Griff. It was four thirty by the time she got home, stomped up the stairs and slammed the door in a fury. Samantha looked up dreamily and leapt off her window perch, rubbing up against her. She bent down and swept her into her arms. “Sorry, Sam, I should’ve spent the evening with you—it would have been much more pleasant, I’m sure.” She headed off to bed.

Bethany agrees to live in the carriage house and finds out more about the Ghost

She awakened with a start. She lay there, heart pounding, unsure of where she was. Then Jude turned over and licked her chin and she remembered. The doorbell sounded. She wondered if it were the bell in her dream. She leaped to her feet, almost falling back down, but put out a hand to grab the sofa back and steady herself while her body recovered. She could make out the profile of a woman. She motioned for Jude to wait and then, opened the door so suddenly it startled the visitor. “Can I help you?”

The woman was in her early fifties and beautiful. Her long gray hair was luxuriant, swept into a loose chignon that perfectly complemented her violet eyes. Her chalk-striped navy business suit was elegantly tailored and she was carrying a thin, black leather attaché case. Upon first opening the door, Bethany felt intimidated, but when the woman turned and saw her, she exuded the warmest smile Bethany ever saw. She felt instantly accepted as if she had just been wrapped in an embrace.

“Hello. You must be Bethany.” The voice was so kind it almost took her breath away. “I’m Roz, Griff’s assistant. We spoke on the phone.”

“Oh, right! Pleased to meet you,” she stammered. “Won’t you come in?”

The woman followed her into the living room where Jude had been obediently waiting and as soon as he spotted her, he made a beeline for her yipping and bounding like a pup. Bethany tried to intercept him, but to no avail. He dodged beneath her out-stretched arms and placed both paws on the front of the woman’s suit, trying to lick her face.

“Jude, no!” Bethany cried in vain, but instead of pushing him off, the woman crouched down and hugged him, stroking his head and eventually letting him rest his chin on her lap.

“Guess you’re friends, eh?”

Roz smiled up at her. “Jude is my little boy, but I’m afraid I spoil him—don’t I pup?” She gave him a playful tug at his ears and he licked her cheek. She got up and sat on the couch where Bethany joined her. Jude was now content to stretch out at Roz’s feet with his chin on her foot. She placed her attaché case on the coffee table and snapped the locks open.

“Griff tried phoning all morning, but I guess you were out with your other clients. He had to fly to New York, but we’ve drawn up the agreement and cut you a check for three month’s salary in advance. He asked me to meet you here at five and get you to sign the documents, but the traffic was horrendous and I’m not used to the rush hour commute.”

Well, at least he made an effort this time to act responsibly, she thought. She looked at Jude and made another of her mental notes to train him not to jump up on visitors.

“His bark’s worse than his bite, you know,” remarked Roz.

“Oh, I know he’s just rambunctious,“ she said, patting his head, “but he still needs to be trained.”

The woman laughed. “I was talking about Griff—but I guess the comment still applies.”

Bethany flushed a little and Roz took note and smiled inwardly. “Here are two sets of keys to the carriage house—all the locks have been changed and the maid service has been through and tidied it all up.”

“There was no need…” she started to protest, but Roz raised a hand. “Nonsense. I’m sure Griff hasn’t been in there in months, not that he’d lift a finger to clean it.”

“Griff allows you to make those decisions?”

Roz looked at her sympathetically. “He’s a very busy man, Bethany, and doesn’t always have the time to consider all the things he should. Anyway, that’s where I come in.”

“Then you’ve worked for Griff for a long time?”

“Ten years this February. Griff took over the family business when his Dad passed away.”

“I see. I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to pry.”

“You weren’t prying. It’s only common sense to know about the person you’re working for. Lytton Gifts and Cards is one of the largest companies in Canada. It’s a huge responsibility for Griff to handle.”

“I can imagine how it must be a burden to employ so many people and have them depend on you.”

“Lytton Gifts and Cards is like a monster that can devour you and make so many demands on your time. I know it all too well, and Griff has also paid a steep price. He’s also had some difficult patches the past few years—his mom passed away soon after his dad—and now this business with Mandy.”

Roz looked out the window at the snow and blinked away a stray tear. Bethany saw the older woman was obviously quite attached to Griff, probably stepping into the void left by his mother. After a few moments, Roz composed herself and turned back to face Bethany. “You know the one commodity we prize at Lytton Gifts and Cards? —Loyalty. I know it sounds trite, but you’d be surprised how often people disappoint and ruin not only a business relationship, but a personal one as well. We’re like a big family here and when people let us down it affects everyone.”

Bethany wasn’t sure if Roz intended this remark for her or not. Suddenly, Roz’s face brightened, “But when I spoke to you on the phone, I knew you were the answer to prayer.” She patted Bethany’s hand and smiled kindly at her. “I just know we’re going to be friends.”

“I feel the same way,” she smiled back.

“You seem to be fitting right in—Griff told me you even met George.”

“Oh, I suppose he’s the family ghost,” she laughed. “Actually, it’s more like he bumped into Jude and me. I still find it hard to believe I wasn’t dreaming.”

“Have you seen his portrait yet?”

“His portrait?”

“George was the man who built this house and lived in it until he died.”

“Oh, I see.” Bethany didn’t really see the point at all, but she didn’t really know what to think or say.

“Well, come on. Let’s have a visit with the old guy.” Roz grabbed Bethany’s hand and led her up the staircase. They stood together on the carpeted landing in silence staring up at a framed picture of the very man Bethany had seen on the stairs. Beneath the ornate frame was an engraved brass plaque that read: George Bowden. 1854-1934.

It seemed so surreal, looking at the face of a man who once inhabited the house and evidently still did. The dying rays of the sun through the leaded window cast a rainbow of red and green hues on the wall.

“It’s lovely isn’t it?” Roz commented. “According to Elizabeth, Griff’s mother, George Bowden poured his heart and soul into this house. After it was completed in 1891, he moved in here with his wife and spent the rest of his life living in seclusion in the house he loved.”

“That’s sad,” Bethany observed, “but it probably explains why he’s still here.”

“Elizabeth saw him all the time. She loved the house probably as much as George did—as a matter of fact, she thought he was watching over the house and only appeared to those who had the same love for the place as he did.” After saying this, Roz looked directly at her, gauging her response.

“I was wondering, why me, but now I see. From the first time I drove up here, I fell in love with this house and its beauty.”

“Mandy hated the house—referred to it as ‘the museum’ and made Griff buy the condo in Manhattan and the house in Turks and Caicos. She was hardly ever home and when she was, she didn’t like spending time here. She always felt the house was judging her.”

She gave a short, embarrassed laugh, as if trying to soften her remarks. “I never was a fan of Mandy’s. The only thing she ever did, of which I approved, was to get Jude. Strangely enough, she was really good with him—when she was here.”

A fleeting look of disgust crossed her features and then was gone. It was as if she stumbled across something foul, quickly removed it, and now continued on again. She smiled at Bethany as if to reassure her, and then grasped her arm, guiding her back down the stairs to the living room.

When they sat back down, Roz remarked, “There are only a few papers requiring your signature—I’ll only take a few more minutes of your time.”

“I don’t mind—I’m enjoying our visit and talking about the history of the house.”

Roz looked at her quizzically. “You really do like it here, don’t you? It’s as if George designed the house with you in mind.”

“I really do love this place. If I owned it, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Did you hear that, George? Roz sung out to the house.

They both broke out laughing.

“Yes, I think you will fit in,” Roz said in a detached way that seemed to hint at a deeper meaning.

Then, a change came over Roz, as if a coin had fallen into place, setting in motion a whole new poetry of gesture. Suddenly, she was all business, briskly shuffling and arranging papers on the coffee table in the order in which she wanted Bethany to sign them. After each signature of Bethany’s, Roz added her own flourish. When the process was complete, Roz handed her several documents neatly folded in three as copies of the transaction.

“Griff told me to arrange movers for you. Here’s their card—feel free to phone and make arrangements whenever you’re ready.” She got up and held out her hand to Bethany.

“I don’t think movers will be necessary,” Bethany laughed. “I live in a furnished apartment and all my possessions can easily be brought over in my van. I’ll get my friend, Carly to help.”

Roz gave her a warm hug—not a polite hug, but a real hug, such as her mother would give. “I’m so glad we’ve found each other and if you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to phone.”

Bethany nodded and lowered her head so Roz couldn’t see the tears in her eyes. She didn’t know why she reacted the way she did, but Roz was so kind she made her want to cry. Somehow Roz understood and as she was leaving, touched the side of Bethany’s face with her hand. “Don’t worry. Everything will work out fine.” Then she was gone.

Bethany went back into the living room accompanied by Jude, his nose pressed against the side of her knee all the way. “Are you just being a typical Aussie, boy—or are you afraid I’ll leave you too?”

His eyes said it all, so she crouched down and hugged him until he licked her ear.  “I guess your master will be late home tonight, eh?” She decided to stay and spend the evening with Jude and go home about ten.

The Ghost is an excerpt from Epiphany by John J Geddes Reply w/ #AmazonCart for a free sample http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H6VBUS2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_oJ8Hub16S9FWE via @amazon

 

© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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