Charlie Boone

by Geron Kees

There's A Devil in the Dark, Charlie Boone! - Chapter 7

"Cocky looking fellow," Kippy said, smiling at the statue of Fenster Wolfbridge. "Bet he was a handful in his day."

"He does look rather forceful, doesn't he?" Horace agreed, smiling at the figure on its marble base. It was superbly done, and looked almost like it could leap down off its plinth and simply walk away.

Ricky, also examining the statue, made a surprised sound. "He looks pretty old, though. Look at that beard!"

"It was common for even young men to wear beards at that time," Horace supplied. "The date on the statue is 1884. Mr. Wolfbridge would only have been about forty-eight at that time."

Ricky gaped at the statue a moment. "He looks older!"

Horace nodded at that. "The average life expectancy in 1880 was just shy of forty years, Rick. So he was doing well at forty-eight."

That elicited amazed responses from all the boys.

"Forty!" Kippy echoed, sounding a little horrified by the idea.

"We're halfway there!" Adrian followed with, sounding just as unhappy. "That really sucks!"

"A lot of people lived to be older than that, though," Horace comforted, patting Adrian on the shoulder. "I believe Mr. Wolfbridge lived into his late-sixties."

"That's still not very old," Ricky decided. "My granddad is only sixty-six!"

"And the average lifespan today is close to eighty years," Horace pointed out. "And yet, look how many people are reaching a century these days."

Charlie smiled, and turned to face the older man. "I see you've done your research on the locals."

"Of course." The ghost hunter's eyes twinkled with humor. "Knowing where all the bodies are buried is the first step to finding where the ghosts hang out."

Charlie pointed at the statue. "The other guy with a statue? Brewster Kinniston? How old did he live to be?"

Horace's eyebrows raised at the question. "Interesting you asked that." He leaned closer. "No one seems to know exactly. But by the numbers, he was close to one hundred years old!"

Kippy frowned at that answer. "Why would they not know exactly?"

"Oh, such records were not nearly so well kept back then, Kip." The ghost hunter smiled. "Wolfbridge died in 1904. Brewster Kinniston died in 1906, but his birth date seems not to have been recorded very well. He had a brother, and it is not certain from the records which of them was born in which year."

"That makes it harder," Ricky agreed.

Horace grunted. "There are some other records that make the story even more interesting. Brewster Kinniston's father is documented as having served in the Continental army in 1776, at the age of twenty-four years. That means he was born in 1752. And he died in 1855, which would have made him 103 years old!"

"That had to be Brewster's grandfather," Charlie decided. "Someone made a mistake."

"There is no mistake," Horace countered. "Elias Kinniston was Brewster's father. Elias was born in 1752. He married a younger woman while in his fifties, and had two sons by her, Emory and Brewster. One was born in 1807, and the other in 1809. Take your pick as to which was which."

"He'd have been nearing one-hundred years no matter which one we picked," Charlie agreed. "That was unusual for those times, certainly."

"But not unheard of," Horace added. "There are accounts of humans living to the century mark going way back. Longevity runs in some lines, and in others it's just a fluke. But it does happen, and apparently always has."

Frit lifted a hand and pointed at Charlie. "It is known that human family lines in which the presence of skwish is unusually strong tend toward longevity."

Charlie felt surprise at that. "Are you suggesting that the Kinniston line had skwish?"

"It's just a possibility, Charlie." The elf nodded. "A lot of humans have skwish, and the potential to use it. But the rule seems to be that, unless awakened in some way by an external force, it seldom comes to life on its own."

Kippy smiled at the elf. "Our external force was all of you!"

"Mostly grandpa Max, at least at first. But you really got rolling when you got to know us all!" Frit seemed delighted by the idea, in fact.

Kippy laughed. "We're fun for you, aren't we?"

"I'll say!" Pip called, hooting. "You guys have the strangest adventures!"

"And we get to tag along!" Frit added, sounding completely satisfied with the whole thing.

"You fellows really do have a knack for stumbling over, um, somewhat unusual events," Keerby confirmed, smiling.

"It's Charlie," Kippy said, his tone serious. "He attracts the strangest people!"

"I got you, didn't I?" Charlie quipped, keeping a straight face.

Kippy gently slapped his boyfriend's shoulder. "Only because I wanted you to, Charlie. Only because I wanted you to!"

Charlie leaned forward and deposited a kiss on his boyfriend's cheek, and they smiled at each other, causing Frit and Pip to titter.

"That would make sense out of something else," Horace said then, almost to himself, while steepling his hands and rubbing his nose with his fingertips. "Yes, it certainly would!"

Adrian was still smiling as he turned back to Horace. "Are there any living Kinnistons or Wolfbridges in town these days?"

The ghost hunter took a moment to answer, but now seemed excited over something. "I was just about to go there, myself. As a matter of fact, Carl Wolfbridge, Fenster's great grandson, is one of the people that gave me an alternate version of some of the town's history."

"That sounds interesting," Charlie decided immediately. "We'll have to go over what he told you."

"Better yet, I have an open invitation to return to his home at any time to talk to him again. It might be more rewarding for you all to accompany me and meet the man in person."

"What about the Kinnistons?" Ricky asked. "Any of them left?"

Horace turned to him and smiled, and then let his eyes shift to Charlie to include him in the gesture. "Well, I was getting to that. There are no Kinnistons left by name."

But Horace's tone seemed to make it clear a revelation was about to come. Kippy clapped his hands together in glee. "Oh, I love a mystery!"

The ghost hunter laughed. "But there is a Kinniston left in town, yes. Several, in fact."

Charlie sighed, but couldn't help smiling at the ghost hunter. "Any time, Horace."

"Portentous news deserves a slight pause for effect, Charlie," Horace returned, his smile expanding to a grin. "You're going to love this!"

"Who is it?" everyone said at once, followed by a group laugh.

Horace looked pleased with himself. "You've already met one of them, in fact. Rhea Willman is a Willman by marriage only. But she is also Brewster Kinniston's great granddaughter!"

The silence that followed that bombshell was deafening. Looks of comprehension appeared on all the boy's faces, and the three elves hooted and laughed.

"That explains her skwish!" Kippy managed to say, before anyone else.

Horace nodded. "It also suggests that it is a family trait, and does seem to go along with what Frit just said about family longevity. The Kinniston line may be long-lived due to the presence of this force."

"Especially if it was active somehow in all of them," Frit said. He turned to stare at Pip. "You think Rhea Willman knows more about its use then we assumed?'

"Possibility," Pip flung back, also looking excited. "Probability, even!"

"What's that mean?" Ricky asked.

Keerby turned to look at him. "That just because Rhea didn't seem to know how to react to your skwish doesn't mean she actually doesn't know how. Stumbling across it suddenly like she did may have simply so startled her that she froze up behind her defenses. Assuming it's not a common trait in these parts, we may have been the first people she ever encountered with active, directed powers."

"That probably would be a little disconcerting," Horace agreed. "I can recall how amazed I was at learning about you boys and your gifts!"

Charlie considered that, and nodded. "It may be why she skipped out so suddenly, too. She wanted time to regroup."

"So we should go to the library and see her right now!" Kippy said forcefully, clapping his hands together to accentuate his words.

Charlie frowned at his boyfriend, then at Horace. "I think we should give her more time, actually. I don't want her to feel like we're chasing her." He turned back to Frit. "You say we're stronger than she is?"

"Yes, Charlie. And certainly, even if she has received some instruction, it would have been from another human. That just can't equal what grandpa Max and the rest of us have taught you."

Ricky chuckled at that. "Never say 'can't!"

"The likelihood is small, then," Frit corrected himself.

"I kind of agree with that," Kippy decided. "We just don't know skwish like the elves do."

Charlie nodded. "Then no amount of time will make her better than we are. Or stronger, anyway. I think the more time she has to calm down and fortify herself, the better she will accept speaking with us when the time comes."

"You may have a point," Horace agreed. "I have already learned that Rhea is a strong-willed person. I don't think we should corner her, but rather, approach her on an equal basis."

"Seems only fair," Adrian agreed. "So what do we do next?"

Horace bit at his bottom lip a moment, and then smiled. "We could go see Carl Wolfbridge. I can call him and see if he's available to talk."

"Wouldn't he be at work now?" Adrian asked.

"No. Carl is retired. He's in his early seventies, as I recall."

Charlie raised a hand and patted the ghost hunter's shoulder. "You said that Rhea Willman was only one of several Kinnistons left in this town."

"Oh. Yes, she has two children, a son and a daughter. The boy is about your age, and the daughter a little older."

Kippy flung an intrigued smile Charlie's way. "A son, huh? Interesting!"

Charlie rolled his eyes, but smiled. "Uh huh. And a daughter. You know...a girl?"

Kippy shrugged, but his eyes twinkled gleefully. "These things happen."

Horace patted his pockets, and dug out his cell phone. "Let me just call him." He turned away from them for a moment of privacy.

Kippy moved closer to Charlie and leaned up against him. "You think Rhea Willman knows more about the phantom than she's letting on?"

"Maybe. She certainly has to have more knowledge of it than she's admitting to, if she has skwish abilities."

Ricky and Adrian came closer. "Well, she couldn't exactly tell people any more about the phantom than the average person might know, without giving herself away," Adrian theorized.

"That makes sense," Ricky agreed. "She plays at knowing less - or believing less - because she does know more."

Charlie thought a moment, and nodded. "It had to be a shock to her to walk into the room and find all of us there, just oozing skwish. That threw her, and she couldn't quite recover. Without knowing how much we could do, why we were there, or what we could sense from her, she was afraid of saying too much, or too little, and so she bowed out."

"Then will she want to talk to us again?" Kippy asked. "We might get to the library and find she's left town or something."

"Somehow I don't think so, Kip. She didn't strike me as the sort that runs away. I think her leaving the meeting was simply something she felt she needed to do to give herself some time to consider what she's dealing with." He turned to where the elves were standing, listening. "Did any of you sense other talents that might be dangerous to us?"

Keerby shook his head. "I didn't get any feel for aggressive talents from her. Or, any talents that could be used aggressively, I should say."

"Me, either," Pip agreed. "She has some basic stuff, but she's not dangerous to us."

"You sure?" Charlie asked.

The elves looked around at each other, and Frit gave a brief shrug of his shoulders. "I don't think she's dangerous on her own, Charlie."

"What if she has a magic wand, or something?" Kippy asked, only halfway kidding.

Keerby laughed. "You can't focus harmless magic into a laser beam, Kip. The talents she has are sharp, but they are also basic ones and not dangerous to others. Let's be reasonable."

Kippy grinned. "Okay. Just checking."

Horace returned then. "All set. Carl Wolfbridge said he'd be glad to talk to us. Ready to go?"

Charlie nodded. "Which way?"

"He lives on the outskirts of town. Let's go back to your car, and I'll direct you."

Charlie tossed a last look at the statue of Fenster Wolfbridge, memorizing the face. He figured the features would be different, but he wanted to see if that certain cockiness that so marked even the statue of his ancestor had maintained in Carl Wolfbridge as well.

Family traits, you know.

The house was a large one, set on a dozen acres among the trees on the other side of the town. That money might still be a factor in the lives of the descendants of the town fathers did not seem strange at all. But that it still might be so pronounced was interesting. Charlie figured the house and the property were easily worth several million. Carl Wolfbridge wasn't suffering at all.

"Is this guy married?" Kippy asked, as they parked in the curved drive before the home's big double doors. The house was old, but immaculately maintained, the red bricks of its facade scrubbed and sparkling. The shutters to either side of the windows were recently painted black, and the trim a glowing white that sparkled in the late day sun. Charlie wondered if the phantom maintained the exteriors of homes this far from the center of town. Either way, the place looked grand.

"Divorced," Horace informed, looking at the house. "He lives alone now."

Charlie shut off the engine and they all climbed out. They heard the sound of a large dog barking then, and Horace immediately laughed. "Well, almost alone. That's Murphy, Carl's Irish Wolfhound."

Charlie gave out a startled laugh at that. "Those are some big dogs!"

Horace nodded. "Um, well, yes, but Murphy is as gentle as a lamb. Just refuse his pleas to wrestle, and you should be fine."

"Wonderful," Kippy grumbled, as they climbed out. " I just love dogs that can eat me for lunch."

But he needn't have worried. The dog suddenly came bounding around a corner of the house and scampered up to them, barking and tail-wagging and grinning and squirming, all at once.

"Why...he's just a puppy!" Kippy squealed, and bent to meet the dog.

Murphy needed no further inducement. He bounded forward and nearly knocked Kippy over. But the boy laughed as the dog stood up to give him a lick. Whereas a full-grown Irish Wolfhound could have easily placed its fore paws on Kip's shoulders and looked him right in the eye, Murphy had to strain a bit to reach Kip's face with his tongue. Kip seemed not to mind at all, and endured several swipes of the tongue before the dog fell back to a crouch on the ground and looked up at him imploringly, asking to play.

"I wouldn't give in," Horace said, laughing. "Even as young as he is, he weighs a solid eighty pounds. If you sit and let him climb aboard, you won't be getting up in a hurry."

"Are you speaking from experience?" Charlie asked, grinning.

"On my first visit here, I learned my lesson. Pet all you want, but don't sit down on the ground."

A moment later the right-hand front door opened, and a man came out. Charlie appraised him quickly, and smiled as he detected the very same sort of cocky presence in the carriage of the man coming down the steps towards them as the statue in town so magically had captured in his ancestor. Family lines, indeed!

"Murphy! If you break another visitor, I shan't be pleased!" There was a smile in the words, but the dog immediately sat back on his haunches and contented himself with pounding the ground with his tail.

Carl Wolfbridge was tall and broad-shouldered, a fitting companion for so large a dog. He was not stooped in the least, and wore his seventy-plus years casually, a few extra lines in his face, a half-and-half mix of gray and brown hair still full upon his head. He was dressed in dark slacks and a khaki shirt, and looked as if he were about to do a bit of gardening, instead of attired to receive guests. Informality dripped off the man as he walked, but so, too, did he exude that air of straightforward certainty that he could deal with whatever might come along. Charlie liked him immediately, and the soft sigh that Kippy released signaled his own intention of dropping any tension that meeting someone new might entail.

"Horace! Wonderful to see you again!" The man stopped beside Murphy, who looked up at him with adoration, and bent to absently pat the dog on his head. "And who have we here?"

Introductions were made, and Carl Wolfbridge insisted on shaking every hand and looking into every eye. "So nice to meet you, sir," he said to each of them as their turns came up.

Charlie didn't need Kip to tell him that Carl Wolfbridge also possessed some skwish. But it was of an odd sort that Charlie had never encountered before, and had a very strange feel to it. Yet when Charlie looked inquiringly at Frit, the elf just beamed at him and winked. Charlie took that to mean he should relax, and so he did.

"Wonderful to meet you all," the man said, smiling. "I hope we can be on a first name basis. I'm rather informal, as a rule. Please call me Carl."

"It was good of you to see us on such short notice," Horace returned. "I wanted my companions to hear some of your views on the town's history, if you don't mind."

"Oh, I don't mind at all. Won't you come inside?"

Carl led the way back up the steps, and into a large front foyer with a two-story ceiling. A balcony ran around the back side of it at the second floor, and two grand staircases curved upwards to meet it on either end.

"Quite a house you have here," Ricky said, eyeing the place with obvious admiration. "I really love big houses like this."

"It was my father's house," Carl said, smiling. "And his father's before that. Sort of a tradition, to hand it down to the oldest son. I was a boy here, and I am just as happy to enjoy my retirement here." He turned, and indicated a doorway to one side. "Come into the den and we'll talk."

They were led into the room, which was bright with afternoon sunlight streaming in from large windows, and found seats around a large circular coffee table. One wall of the room was lined with bookcases, all full; and a series of obviously antique maps hung under glass on the other walls. A grand piano stood over near the fireplace, and next to it a glass-fronted case holding a variety of sheet music. It was a room that looked lived in, even loved; and yet was as clean as the rest of the house appeared to be. One thing Carl was not was a slob.

"Wow," Kippy said softly, his eyes circling the room. "Is this where you hang out most of the time?"

"It's one of my favorite rooms, yes." Carl smiled at him, and then let his eyes return to Horace. "Now, what can I help you with?"

The ghost hunter laughed. "I was going to ask you to relate some of your alternate views on town history, but I just realized that my friends here don't really know the official history just yet. So I thought I would present a few items that interest us, and then have you add what you know about them."

"That works fine for me."

Horace nodded, and steepled his hands in front of himself and touched the tips of his fingers to his nose, and Charlie smiled at the habit, knowing that it always seemed to produce good results from the ghost hunter. Horace was silent a moment, and then nodded to himself. "I guess starting at the beginning would be the best. The land grants on which the town was eventually built. Both your family and the Kinniston family contributed to that. The official version is that both Fenster Wolfbridge and Brewster Kinniston were friends, and jointly settled on the idea of allowing a town to come together on their lands."

"That much is true," Carl agreed, nodding. "Both men agreed to grant lands to the town. And they were friends, according to family accounts."

"But --" Horace began, and then smiled.

Carl also smiled. "The two men were quite different in age. Brewster was old enough to be Fenster's father. But they got along splendidly, and my great grandfather considered Brewster to be something of a mentor. Yet, despite their friendship, they were also rivals."

"Rivals?" Charlie asked. "How so?"

"They both belonged to the Order of Sebastian, a group that held considerable sway over local events in that period. As I have heard it told, both men were competing for control of that group."

Charlie shrugged. "If the town wasn't even here then, how much could have been going on, locally?"

"Oh, the town was here at that point. It was called Sacandaga then, because of the nearby lake. But it only comprised what is now the extreme eastern portion of the town. The original town was kind of squeezed between the lake and the land owned by my family and the Kinnistons. There was little room for it to grow, and it probably would have simply vanished over time were it not for the expansion and the financing allowed by the land grants."

Charlie nodded. "Still, at that point in time, the population couldn't have been large."

Carl laughed. "It's not exactly huge even now. Kinniston is a small town, by anyone's standard. But it is what it is today because of the land grants, there is no question of that."

Adrian leaned forward. "So what was this Order of Sebastian about?"

Horace smiled at that. "The town history paints it as a sort of club for the landed gentleman of the time hereabouts, a place where they could relax and play. It holds an honorary place in the town's history, because so many of the town's earliest families first met there, and so much planning for the future of the town took place there. As well as much of the financing."

Adrian's eyes shifted to their host, as did all gazes then. "And is that true?" Adrian asked.

Carl gave a short nod. "Oh, certainly. The members were mostly the well-to-do in this area, at least for those times. The money and land they donated set the town on the path to prosperity."

Ricky gave a little sigh. "But? What has been left unsaid about this Order of Sebastian?"

Carl's eyes studied their faces, and then he smiled. "The group was originally formed by people of, well, like mind. They had a specific range of interests, many of which were kept quiet in those days because of the possibility of a negative reaction among the, um, more common folk, to use one of their own terms."

Kippy frowned at Charlie, and then at Carl. "What sort of interests?"

Their host gave a short laugh, and then spread his hands, as if begging understanding. "Well...I guess you might call them supernatural interests."

Kippy turned to grin at Charlie. "Aha!"

Carl laughed lightly. "No surprise to you?"

Kip shook his head. "No. It actually makes sense of some other things."

Charlie scratched his jaw in thought. "Both your great grandfather and Brewster Kinniston were members of this group? And both were seeking control of it?"

"Yes. Maybe control is the wrong word, as it sounds so hostile. Perhaps direction might be better. Each of them sought to guide the group, but the directions in which they wished to move were different ones. It was not a hostile competition, mind you. As I did say already, Brewster and Fenster were friends. They simply had different ideas on where the group should go. The wrestling over direction was accompanied by much good-hearted banter and cheerful jockeying of position, much like a friendly game of chess. Neither man apparently ever lost sight of their friendship."

"So who won?" Ricky asked.

Carl held up both hands, and smiled. "No one knows. The back and forth apparently went on right up to the day that my great grandfather died. Brewster survived him by a couple of years, so perhaps we can say that he won."

"What happened to this Order of Sebastian after both men had died?" Adrian asked.

"Why...nothing. It still exists today."

That was surprising. Charlie squinted at the man, the unexpected revelation scattering some of the notions he'd had forming. "So who runs it today?"

"It's run by a council these days," Carl returned. "Five members." He smiled. "Including myself."

Charlie nodded. "I don't suppose that Rhea Willman is a member?"

For the first time, their host looked surprised. " did you know?"

"Just a guess." Charlie smiled. "As Brewster Kinniston's great granddaughter, it was a reasonable assumption."

"Ah." Carl turned to Horace. "How did you find that out?"

"A little bird told me," the ghost hunter returned, smiling.

Carl stroked his jawline, and then laughed. "How very interesting!"

"I don't really understand why these facts matter," Kip said. "What difference does it make to the town history if your great granddad and Brewster Kinniston were members of some group that studied the supernatural? I find it rather interesting, but it doesn't seem to be something that needs to be hidden away."

"Very simple," Carl said, smiling at them. "Such interests were much less tolerated in those times. People were much more afraid of witches then."

Charlie blinked at that statement along with the other humans. Frit chuckled, and Pip grinned. Even Keerby looked amused.

"Witches?" Ricky repeated, shaking his head at Carl. "Are you serious?"

"Oh, yes. Witchcraft was once taken much more seriously than it is today. People could be killed after being accused of being a witch, though that was a rare happening by my great grandfather's time. It wasn't nearly as dangerous to be a witch in his day as it was several centuries before that, but it was still an issue one would prefer not become public. Even if life and limb were not threatened, such an accusation could wreak havoc upon one's business and social lives."

Kippy leaned forward, his eyes large. "So Fenster Wolfbridge was a witch?"

"And Brewster Kinniston?" Adrian added.

Carl surveyed his guests faces, and then gave a slow nod. "Yes. And not just them. Most of the founding families of the town were witches."

Horace gasped, and shook his head. "You didn't tell me that before!"

"No." Carl gave a little shake of his head. "There was no reason to then."

"I thought women were witches, and men were um, warlocks, or something," Ricky put in.

"It's a matter of personal preference, I guess. The term warlock comes from the proto-Germanic wærloga, which refers to the devil, or a compact with same. There is a confusion with and joining with of the old English word wordloga, which meant a liar or deceiver. The mutation into warlock happened in the late 1600s, among the Scots, and refers to a witch of the male gender. None of the roots of the word warlock are pleasant, and I really can't see why anyone would choose to be termed as one."

"Witch is better?" Ricky asked, looking surprised by the idea.

"Certainly. The term derives from the old English wicce, the feminine form of the word wicca, which meant a male sorcerer or wizard. The verb wiccian means to practice witchcraft. Hence, witch is a much preferable term to one that suggests a liar, a cheat, and a deceiver." Carl smiled. "In this day and age of gender-blending, who cares about the gender of any given witch?"

Charlie looked at Horace a moment, and then back to Carl. "So...a lot of people in Kinniston today are descended from witches?"

Carl sat back in his seat and sighed. "Approximately ten percent of the people in town today still call themselves witches. Another third of the town are aware of the craft, and actively work to protect the town's reputation from it becoming known. Altogether, maybe half the people in Kinniston today have at least some inkling that the phantom is here because it belongs here."

Kippy squinted at their host. "You're telling us this for a reason?"

Wolfbridge smiled. "Of course." He turned the smile on Horace. "We knew you were one of us when you first arrived. That you were a witch. But you were not of us - not one of the town's people. And the craft you possess seemed not to be of the sort that would spy us out."

"What about Jeff Ridge?" Charlie asked. "Is your mayor a witch?" They hadn't detected any skwish in the man, but Charlie really wanted to know how much the mayor knew.

"No. Jeff is a decent man and a good mayor. His interest in the phantom is real, as is his desire to protect it and the town. But he speaks for the half of the people in this town that don't know of its origins when he says he wants to know more about the phantom and why it is here. This project was allowed to progress because we were certain that nothing would come of it. That certainty has now come into question. Hence, this talk."

"What does that mean?" Horace asked.

Carl let his eyes circle the group. "Masks off, gentlemen? You are all witches, and of a power that none of us have ever encountered before. I'm afraid your arrival has stirred up a bit of a problem for us. I was tasked with speaking with you and seeing what could be done about the situation."

Horace blinked. "But I called you!"

That produced a laugh from their host. "A spectacular coincidence, is all. I had just picked up my phone after talking to Rhea, with the intent to call you, when you called me. It was quite a moment, let me tell you!"

Things started to come together in Charlie's mind now. "Rhea came here after meeting us at the town hall?"

"Yes. She said that Horace had returned with a cadre of witches of great power, and that you seemed quite capable of scouting out the town's secrets and exposing the phantom to the public eye."

"That's not our purpose," Charlie said.

Carl leaned forward. "Just what is your purpose in coming here?"

Charlie thought quickly, and realized what must be said. "When Horace left your town the other day to come home, your phantom followed him there."

Carl looked briefly unbelieving, and then astounded. "Followed him! That's impossible!"

"Apparently not," Kippy countered. "When Horace woke up the next morning, the garbage cans were all lined up on his street, and the neighbors cars parked in his driveway."

"We figured that if Horace came back here, the phantom would follow him back," Ricky informed. "And that's what happened."

"We were actually intent on protecting your phantom," Charlie finished the explanation. "If it gained notoriety in Horace's neighborhood, no telling what might have happened."

Carl stared from one face to the next as the story was told. After Charlie finished, he seemed quite flustered. "I don't know what to say."

"Well, the important thing is that the phantom has been returned to Kinniston," Horace said. "Now we just need to insure that it stays here."

Carl's gaze moved to Horace again, along with a faint smile. "I rather liked our visiting ghost hunter from the start. It did seem to me that he presented no danger to the town. That faith seems to have carried over to you people, as I believe what you've told me." He squeezed his eyes shut a moment, and then reopened them. "Still, this revelation that Pyewacket has been off exploring is troubling. The others will need to be informed."

Kippy smiled. "Pyewacket?"

Carl nodded, and the smile returned. "Yes."

Charlie felt a sensation of recognition. "That name's familiar, somehow." He closed his eyes, and it came back to him. "Ohh!" He smiled. "Matthew Hopkins!"

Carl looked surprised, and then pleased. "You know your history."

"Who is Matthew Hopkins?" Kippy asked.

Charlie turned to him. "He was a witch hunter in England in the 1640s. He was responsible for the deaths of over 100 people he accused of being witches."

Kippy's face clouded. "Sounds like a real bastard!"

"Oh, he definitely was that, since most of those people were probably innocent. But one woman he had arrested, after four days of being deprived of sleep, confessed to being a witch and named her familiars - her familiar spirits, those otherworldly entities that supposedly worked with her and assisted with her witchcraft." Charlie closed his eyes again. "Those familiars were Vinegar Tom, Sacke and Sugar, Holt, Jarmara, Newes, Peck in the Crown, Elemanzer, Grizzel Greedigut, and Pyewacket."

Kippy turned to Carl. "You call your phantom Pyewacket?"

"Oh, not me. Not us. Pyewacket was named by Brewster Kinniston." Carl smiled. "Pyewacket was Brewster's familiar!"

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead