Charlie Boone

by Geron Kees

We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes, Charlie Boone! - Chapter 5

Canandaigua was a nice town, one of many smaller towns in the Finger Lakes district of New York's rolling western plains. Once a base for steamboats plying their trade along the shores of Canandaigua Lake, the town had a broad main street lined with shops, with a center strip covered in grass and flowerbeds, and tenanted by small trees. It was just the sort of pleasant little town that Charlie considered to be the beating heart of the northern part of the state. The name of the town derived from the Seneca name for a village that had been there long before European settlers arrived, and the feeling of time about the place was as noticeable as was the atmosphere of welcome.

If they had been driving they would have visited the town proper; but since they were teleporting, they went directly to Dick Sternman's house out on the rural outskirts of town. The fields surrounding the homes there still spoke of a vigorous past of farming the land and raising livestock, and the house on Dick's property was the newest building on the large lot. Several of the old outbuildings had been refurbished and retained, one as a garage for the historic cars that Dick collected, and another for the well-equipped wood shop in which he created his many projects, including the fine furniture the boys had obtained for their office.

Dick had said he'd be out in the shop when Charlie had called earlier, and Kippy took them right to the area around back, out of sight of the two-lane blacktop road that passed by the front of the house some distance away. No use providing a Halloween mystery for some poor soul that might happen to be driving by at the moment they appeared. They circled around to the front of the shop, and Charlie rapped a few times on the door, and was suddenly reminded of the leafy man doing just that very same thing at Mildred's house in the woods.

A dog barked within the building, and a man appeared at the door. He was tall and graying, with some white fuzz around the edges, and his smiling eyes gazed at them through a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. "Charlie! Kip! I didn't hear you guys drive up!" He quickly checked faces, and his smile only widened. "Hi, Rick. Adrian. And I greatly suspect that you must be Horace!"

Charlie formerly introduced Horace to Dick, and there was some hand-shaking, and a few pats on the back, and Dick stood back and let the boys enter the shop. A large dog standing within, a black and tan mix of Rottweiler and German Shepherd, came immediately to greet them, her tail going a mile-a-minute.

Kippy dropped to a squat, his arms outspread. "Hi Shadow! Hi, sweetie!"

The dog allowed herself to be hugged and petted, and made the rounds, greeting everyone; and then she sat back on her haunches to look at the visitors, as if to say, what's all this about?

Charlie glanced around the amazingly well-equipped shop. "See you're still at it. What's going on over there?"

Dick showed them one of his current projects, a beautiful set of loft beds he was making for his grandkids, and everyone oohed and ahhed a bit before Dick waved a hand around the shop. "Sorry there's nowhere to sit. We can go in the house, if you want to talk."

Charlie smiled. "Is your wife home?"

Dick's eyebrows raised faintly, and he smiled, too. "Yes. Too sensitive for other ears?"

"I'd say so. We can just stand right here for now."

They took turns filling in the man on the events transpiring at Mildred Tull's house in the woods. "We wondered if any local legends might fit this one," Charlie finished up. "Something distinctly New York in flavor?"

"Wow. I don't know--" Dick squinted at Horace. "You said the proportions are funny? Legs shorter than you'd expect, torso longer than it should be?"

The ghost hunter nodded. "It registers on my gear like a ghost, save for the fact that its power levels are too high for any ghost I have ever encountered. That, and the oddness of its size and proportions, have caused me to suspect we are dealing with a cryptid of some sort."

"Bigfoot," Rick said, rolling his eyes.

Dick smiled at him. "Never make light of things that may one day come to visit you, son."

Rick looked surprised. "Are you saying that Bigfoot is real?"

"No. I have seen no evidence at all that the Hollywood version of this manbeast is actually real. But there are similar legends that probably gave rise to to the film versions, that are not so farfetched, I would say."

"Yetis, Sasquatch, stuff like that?" Adrian asked.

The older man frowned at that. "Well, something like that." He turned to Charlie. "Bigger than a man, you said, with a large head, somewhat elongated torso, and too-short legs? It sounds very much like Nyah-Gwaheh."

Charlie and Kip exchanged surprised glances. "Who, or what, is that?" Kippy asked.

Dick tilted his head back, thinking. "That's one of several names this legend goes by. Nyah-Gwaheh, Gah-nyah-gweah-heh-gohwah. A few others. Depends on the tribe. Seneca, Iroquois, Cayuga - they all know this legend." He gave a quick laugh. "It's a sort of a bear. A naked bear."

Kippy suddenly grinned. "The best kind!"

Dick smiled. "I'm quite serious. Nyah-Gwaheh is supposed to have been a giant, hairless bear. A man-eater, too. Not the sort you wanted to play games with."

"The Native American legends of this creature were not favorable, I take it?" Horace asked.

"Well...the Nyah-Gwaheh were probably less feared than the Chenoo, the ice giants of the Algonquin, who were supposed to be somewhat similar to the Wendigo of the Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Plains tribes. The Chenoo were supposed to have once been human, but were corrupted by dark forces, or evil magic. The hungrier they got, the larger they got. Wendigos were actual evil spirits, which could take the shape of humans to perform their nefarious deeds. Both the Chenoo and the Wendigo were often depicted as giants of a sort, but mostly with a human shape. But the Nyah-Gwaheh was a bear, never a human. About the only trait it actually shared with the others was that it was almost invincible."

No one said anything for a moment.

"Oh, is that all," Rick finally said, sighing.

Dick turned back to Horace. "You said it moved in a sort of stiff-legged fashion?"

"Yes. It was fairly sedate in its travels until it had a reason to move, but when it wanted to move, it did so astonishingly quickly."

"Question," Charlie said. "Do you literally mean this Nyah-Gwaheh is a bear, or that it is in the form of a bear, but there is something more to it?"

Dick nodded. "You mean, could it be intelligent, and not just an animal spirit?"


The older man rubbed his jaw, thinking. "Some of the accounts of this creature are pretty terrifying. But, in considering everything I know of these legends, I would say that the Native-American storytellers tend to agree on this one, that Nyah-Gwaheh was at least as formidable as themselves in intelligence."

"So, not an animal," Horace concluded.

"Not just an animal, I think," Dick amended.

"What's the invincible part?" Rick asked. "You mean it can't be killed?" He turned to Horace. "How can we be dealing with a ghost of one of these things, if they couldn't be killed to start with?"

"I said almost invincible," Dick corrected, smiling. "As the story goes, the only way to kill one of these creatures was to shoot it in the bottoms of its feet with arrows."

Rick blinked, and then grinned. "Oh. Is that all."

Dick turned to smile at Charlie. "Many Native-American myths are a blend of fact and fiction, just like our own oral traditions. Efforts to explain the inexplicable in an everyday form. But if you're actually dealing with one of these creatures, um, even a possibly dead one, I would consider it a foe of equal ability and treat it like you were dealing with a person."

"Anything else it could possibly be?" Charlie asked.

Dick didn't hesitate. "Not that fits the description so cleanly. Um--"

Horace leaned closer. "There's more?"

"Yes. Nyah-Gwaheh was supposed to have been a magical creature. They were extremely unpredictable, and very elusive. One story says that he only way it could be approached is if a hunter found its trail. And then, once its trail was found, it had to run from you."

"Run from you?" Kippy shook his head at Charlie. "That thing at Mildred's wasn't trying to run away from us!"

Dick nodded. "There would seem to be some doubt about that particular detail. Native-American legends can suffer from the same contradictions and exaggerations as anyone's tales." He looked around at those watching him. "But that these creatures were magical in nature seems clear."

"You mean a power-user?"Rick asked, sounding as if he didn't much like the idea.

"I never felt the slightest sense of skwish from it," Adrian said.

"Me, either," Kip agreed. "If it runs on magic, it's not the kind we know." He smiled. "Maybe it's the itch sort that Mildred knows."

"We'll have to ask her," Charlie decided. "Though I think she might have volunteered that, if it were true. Um, maybe." But after considering the idea, he found it more than possible that Mildred might not have mentioned feeling a similar magical talent to her own from something that looked as fearsome as the leafy man.

Or, was it Nyah-Gwaheh, after all?

"Just one small problem," Dick said then. "I have never heard a single account of Nyah-Gwaheh appearing as the sort of leaf-filled fiery demon you described to me."

"Maybe the Native-Americans only encountered live ones?" Adrian suggested. "If this one is a ghost, it might explain the difference."

"We still have the problem of why the ghost of a cryptid would manifest itself on our world, instead of the world it came from," Horace reminded. "That runs counter to most of what we have learned thus far about ghostly apparitions."

Kippy looked uncertain at that. "I'd have to say that what we know about what ghosts can do is pretty much limited to the way they act on our own world."

"This is our own world, remember?" Rick pointed out, smiling.

"What I meant was, we only really have experience with the way that ghosts of our own people manifest on our own world." Kip curled his lip at Rick, as if to stifle further argument.

"And this is possibly a ghost or creature from an alternate earth," Adrian added, winking at Kippy. "I get you, even if Rick doesn't."

"I get him," Rick said, smiling. "It's just more fun to pretend I don't!"

Dick laughed, and turned to Charlie. "I see you still have your hands full!"

Charlie sighed. "Always." He shook his head at his friends. "You guys play nice now, okay?"

Rick and Kippy both laughed, while Adrian just smiled. Horace managed to keep a fairly straight face, but Charlie could see the laughter in the older man's eyes.

Charlie grunted. "How's Bo?," he asked Dick, trying to change the subject. Bo was the other dog that lived with Dick and his wife. Shadow was a large dog at 160 pounds, and fairly young, while Bo was older and smaller and less than half her weight, his lineage less well-documented, but looking very much like a miniature Rottweiler. Shadow had claimed Dick as her daddy, while Bo considered Dick's wife to be his mommy.

"He's fine. He's in the house, which is his usual territory." Dick smiled. "Is that what you really wanted to know just now?"

Charlie stared at the man a moment, then allowed himself a small smile. "No. What are you doing today?"

The man pointed around the shop, at different projects in various stages of completion. "I can take my pick, actually."

Charlie grinned now. "How about a run down to Preston, to see this house we're talking about?"

Dick's eyebrows rose at that. "I thought your new friend only showed up after dark?"

"He does. You would have to hang around a little bit. Maybe even all night."

The older man looked around at the others, and then let his eyes circle his shop, as if weighing the work still needed on each of his projects. But then he smiled. "The nice thing about wood is that it's patient. There's nothing here that can't wait a day." He nodded. "I'd love to go."

Charlie bent down and patted Shadow's head. "Our friend here will have to stay, I'm afraid to say."

"I'll put her in the house," Dick said, nodding. "She has a low tolerance for ghosts, anyway. Come on, honey."

They waited while Dick put the dog in the house and told his wife he was going out and would at least be late, but would call her if it was very late.

"I'll bet Browbeat is bouncing off the walls at Mildred's house," Kippy said, shaking his head. "Poor little guy. It's hard on him to not be able to easily go everywhere we do."

Charlie nodded. "This was just a quick trip up here to get Dick. Browbeat will be fine. He understands that he just can't be seen everywhere right now."

When Dick returned, he eyed them curiously. "I don't see a car out front. Did you guys appear out of thin air, or something?"

"Or something," Charlie agreed. He smiled at his boyfriend, and put a hand on his shoulder. "Kip's teleporting ability woke up."

Dick looked surprised, and then delighted. "I'm happy for you, Kip. That must be quite an experience!"

"You'll soon see," Kippy replied, smiling. "Everybody gather 'round!"

Everyone laid a hand on Kip, and with a pop of inrushing air, they were gone.

"Tomorrow is Halloween," Kip reminded, as they walked around the outside of Mildred's house. "It would be nice to have this case solved by then."

"Or, at least by tomorrow night," Adrian amended, looking at his friend.

But Kippy quickly nodded. "That will do. I'd love to hand out some candy at Annie's house tomorrow night."

They had shown Dick the carriage garage and the foundation of the old house. He had agreed that the workmanship suggested a period that possibly earlier than Mildred's own house, though there was no way to be certain.

"But this new house of your friend's is magnificent," Dick offered, with a fond sigh. "Beautiful work."

"It was created by a supernatural king," Kippy said, as if talking about the prices of potatoes at the store.

Dick was not easily flustered. "One that reads This Old House, I would say."

They laughed at that, and then Charlie explained the story of the house, as it had been told to them by Mildred. Dick allowed himself a smile afterward, as he once again looked over the exterior of Lugh's creation. "Very nice work. The house that was here originally certainly couldn't compete with that. Someone built that one by hand, a stone and a board at a time."

It was hard for them to imagine that. Charlie wondered at the resourcefulness of a person that could wander into a patch of virgin forest and make a home out of it. He said as much, really feeling now what the original settler of a place like this had been up against.

"There wouldn't have been a lot around here at that time," Dick agreed. "Norwich was certainly there, and a few of these other towns. in the area The state encouraged settlement all through this area by offering land grants. But this spot would have been largely an untouched bit of wilderness." He nodded, pointing to where the old foundation lay hidden in the underbrush. "This house was once all alone out here in the big woods, it seems. I think it's possibly Civil War-era, or maybe a little before that."

"Tell him about your last search on this land's history, Charlie," Rick suggested. "Maybe Dick can give us another clue of some kind."

Charlie had performed a more recent look-up of the history of the land Mildred's house now occupied on the elvin search engine Frit had showed him, which seemed now to be willing to show him more than it had originally. The elves believed in learning things in the proper time, and their search engines seemed only inclined to parcel out information on some subjects when it felt the time was right. That Charlie and the others had progressed in their thinking on the current situation seemed clear by this new availability of information in the latest search.

He had followed the acreage back in ownership. It had belonged to the same family from 1851 until 1999, the Jemesons, the custodianship moving each generation or so between different family members as those years passed, after which it had changed hands three times up until the present, Mildred being the most recent owner. The first buyer after the Jemeson ownership had filed for a permit to build on the land, but nothing had ever come of it, and the land had remained unchanged for the next twenty years The next owner had filed for several permits to 'improve' the land in 2020, including the drilling of a new well. But, again, nothing had been followed through on. The sale to Mildred Tull was the most recent, but there was nothing in the documentation suggesting there was now a house on the property.

"Really?" Dick said, upon hearing a summation of Charlie's searches. "Two people after the original settlers owned this property, and they were even two who filed to build on it in some way. Yet nothing was ever actually done. What does that suggest to you?"

Kippy laughed. "That those two owners found out they had a haunted house - or, the remains of one - on the property!"

"Makes sense," Adrian said.

"It does to me, too!" Browbeat offered. His good humor was on display now, his delight at having his friends back clear. Dick had taken to the flyer immediately, having heard about Browbeat, but never having met him.

"Some amazing friends you have, Charlie!" the man had said, as Browbeat had winged his way around the back of Mildred's house, clucking happily, before returning to land on Charlie's shoulder.

"There seem to be more showing up all the time," he had replied, smiling at the man.

"Who was the owner before Mildred?" Browbeat continued. "Maybe he lives around here and we can talk to him?"

Kippy laughed delightedly, and Rick grunted. "Duh. Now, there's an idea," Rick suggested, reaching out to stroke Browbeat's furry back. "Good one, buddy!"

The flyer looked pleased. "Well, maybe we can find out if this person knew about the leafy man. If he did, it tells us the ghost has been here a long time."

Charlie had his phone out again, and returned to the search he had bookmarked in the browser. Apparently, Lugh also had the ability to pirate a cell connection, because Charlie's phone worked perfectly even here in the middle of nowhere. He scrolled down the page on the property listing, until he came to what he wanted.

"After the Jemesons, a Michael French owned the land, from 1999 until 2020. There's an address for him, but it's in Idaho. The last owner before Mildred was a Carter Dandrich, who only kept it for four years. And, um...well, well! He lives here in Norwich!"

"Road trip!" Browbeat hooted, taking to the air again and circling their group one time. He came back then, and hovered before Dick. "Mind if I land on your shoulder?"

Dick grinned and canted his head to one side. "Be my guest."

Browbeat chortled happily, and daintily landed on Dick's shoulder, fluttering his wings once for balance while arranging himself comfortably. "This gives me a new perspective, is all. I see things from your point of view for a while, and it helps me think better."

The man laughed. "I understand completely. Let me know if I see anything interesting!"

"Oh, I will! One thing I'm not, is shy!"

Charlie smiled along with the others, before looking up into the trees around them. "Not even noon yet. Let's tell Mildred we're going to town."

They returned to the front of the house and knocked at the door. Dick had already been introduced to Mildred upon their return, and the old woman gave them a cursory look through the peephole before unbolting the door and opening it wide. "Coming inside?"

"No, we're off to town to do some research. I just wanted to let you know we're leaving."

Mildred frowned at that. "But you'll be back before dark?"

"Well before," Charlie agreed. "We want to talk to the man you bought this land from. He has an address in town."

The old woman looked surprised. "I never met him in person. I found the land online, and then it was just my attorney, Mr. Hitchcock, who finalized the deal for me."

Everyone blinked at that. "You have an attorney named Hitchcock?" Kippy asked, his eyes wide. "Don't tell me his first name is Alfred!"

Mildred smiled. "No, it's Gus. But it is fun to tell people that and see their reactions!"

"Um--" Charlie looked over at Kippy, and then just shrugged. "I wanted to ask you, Mildred, if you had any sense of the magic the leafy man uses. We know it's not skwish. So...we were wondering if it was your itch sort?"

The woman looked around the front yard, as if making sure they were alone. "It is related, I think."

"You could have told us," Kippy said, reprovingly.

"You didn't ask before," Mildred returned. "And, I wanted you to get to know me a little before it came up. So that you understand that not all itch magic is black magic, or evil magic, or any of that malarkey."

Charlie nodded. "We understand that all magic is defined by the person that uses it. We know that even the skwish sort is often used by less than nice people. No need to worry about that!"

Mildred looked to relax, and then smiled. "Well, then, have a good trip, and hurry back. We can talk more then."

They left the porch, and Mildred closed the door. Charlie heard the bolts being thrown, and briefly considered the idea of living in a house that felt as if it was under siege.

There were more pleasant ways to spend one's days, certainly! he concluded.

The woman that answered the door of the townhouse on Midland Drive in Norwich was pleasant-looking, perhaps seventy years-old, and holding a cake pan in one hand. Her gray hair was done in polite curls, which seemed to go perfectly with the light gray pants-suit she wore, which had darker curlicues in the fabric pattern. She wore an apron around her waist, and her bright gray eyes surveyed them through a pair of gold-framed wire-rim glasses with gray accents. Gray, apparently, was her color of choice.

"Ms. Dandrich? I'm Charlie Boone. We spoke on the phone."

She waved the cake pan at them. "Right, right. You said something about a business deal with my husband? I'm afraid he's still not back yet."

Charlie nodded. He had known the possibility of talking to Carter Dandrich was slim at this time, as his wife had said on the phone that he was out for the day. Oddly, the information available on the elvin search engine had only yielded one phone number, which had proven to be a rare landline connection at the Dandrich home, itself. The woman that had answered the phone had sounded pleasant on Charlie's speakerphone, and Kip had suggested that they go to the house, anyway, some skwish sense suggesting it might be the thing to do. So, there they were.

"I was wondering if you could help us?" Charlie continued, smiling.

The older woman's eyebrows raised in a clear question. "Me? Well---" She held up the cake pan. "I'm kind of in the middle of baking a cake for my grandson's birthday."

"It probably won't take but a minute or two," Kippy spoke up then, offering a sweet smile. "It's about the property your husband sold at 29 Ripley Road, over in Preston."

The change that came over the woman before them was remarkable. Her eyes widened and she gasped, and then she took a step back from them. "What about that property?"

Kippy offered a reassuring look. "A friend of ours, Mildred Tull, bought the property from your husband. She just has a few questions about it."

Ms. Dandrich blinked, and then...and then she looked mad. "He sold it?"

"Yes," Kippy agreed.

The woman leaned forward again. "Did my husband tell your friend anything about the place before she bought it?"

Horace cleared his throat. "No. That's why we have a few questions."

Ms. Dandrich narrowed her eyes, and then stepped back from the door. "Come in. I'm Carolyn Dandrich, by the way."

They filed inside, and Carolyn closed the front door. Charlie introduced everyone, and Carolyn forced a smile to each, but it was clear she was upset now.

She showed them into a small but neat living room, and then waved the cake pan at a doorway arch in back of it. "Let me go turn off the oven, and I'll be right back."

"She looks pissed," Ricky whispered, once the woman was out of the room.

"But not at us," Kippy said then, waving a hand for silence.

Carolyn returned, minus the cake pan and the apron. "Oh, please sit." They did, and she did, leaning forward to look at them. "That property has problems. If my husband sold it to your friend and didn't tell her, I'll kill him."

Dick smiled at that. "I don't think it's all that bad."

Carolyn took in his smile, and relaxed a little. "Tell me why you're here."

"We were just interested in why your husband filed to build on the property, and then never did."

Carolyn frowned, as if this was not what she expected to hear. She waved a hand around the living room. "Well...we've lived in this townhouse for thirty-five years. We decided we wanted something less busy."

"Norwich is a wonderful town," Adrian pointed out. "Hardly what you'd call crowded."

Carolyn smiled at that. "Yes, it is. And we have many friends here, too, a whole life's worth. We didn't want to go far away from the town. We just got to thinking we wanted a place out in the country a little, a real house, without a neighbor's house attached to it, if you know what I mean."

"We do," Charlie agreed. "you wanted some space."

"That's it. Something that was all ours, and just a little bit away from things. That property is only a five-minute drive from town. It seemed to be perfect, just what we wanted."

"It turned out not to be?" Horace asked.

Carolyn stared at them. "You must know, or you wouldn't be here. That property is...well, it's haunted."

Charlie nodded. "Yes, we do know that. Mildred Tull actually has no problem with that, providing she can get this apparition to stop knocking at her front door."

Carolyn's mouth dropped open, and her eyes moved from one of her watchers to another. "She's okay with it?" she asked, softly.

"It seems not to be a malevolent spirit," Horace supplied. "Just noisy."

Carolyn gave her head a little shake. "You're not mad about being sold a haunted property, and not being told beforehand?"

"That's not why we're here," Charlie agreed. "We're just trying to learn more about the leafy man that is appearing there."

Their host did a double-take at that. "Leafy man?"

Charlie and Kip exchanged quick glances.

"The leafy man is the spirit we're talking about," Kippy said. "Like a very large man, with leaves whirling inside him."

Carolyn watched them a moment, and then shook her head. "We never saw that."

A note of surprise crept onto Horace's face. He leaned forward. "What did you see, then?"

Carolyn licked her lips, looking thoroughly unsettled now. "We saw...well, it seemed to be a man."

"A man," Kip repeated, frowning. "Was he tall?"

"No. He was the same height as my husband, I'd say, about five-ten."

"He was not filled with leaves blowing about?" Horace asked.

"No. He looked...he looked...somehow old-fashioned. Like one of the Amish you see around now and then. Bearded, wearing coveralls, with a brimmed hat. Like a farmer, or something." She shuddered briefly. "Except he was like a mist, and we could see right through him."

Charlie sat back in his seat. What?

"Where did you see this apparition?" Horace asked.

"Usually around the carriage barn or the old foundation of the house that used to be there." Carolyn shook her head. "The first time we saw it, it was at dusk, and we were coming up the drive. It just appeared, right in our headlights, and my husband was so shocked he drove right through it before he could stop. We thought we had run a man down! We got out, expecting to see someone dead--"

"And you did," Dick said, quietly. "A ghost?"

Carolyn nodded. "Walking away from the back of the car, just as if it hadn't happened."

Horace rubbed at his chin. "Did you ever have other opportunities to interact with this ghost?"

Carolyn gave a little shake to her head, as if she couldn't even believe she was having this conversation. "I only saw him three times, all around dusk, or after dark. After that, I refused to go back, and told Carter I wasn't moving there under any circumstances."

"What did he do?" Rick asked.

"He had already put in the paperwork at the county office to do some work there. He was going to have the old buildings removed and a new well dug. He went back a couple of more times, and then canceled all that. We haven't visited the property in several years now." She frowned. "Or, at least, I haven't."

"How interesting," Horace said, sitting back in his seat to think.

Carolyn turned back to Charlie. "This friend of yours - she's not scared to be there? She plans to build a house there?"

He nodded. "You could say that."

"Well, I don't know anything about this leaf man you talked about. And my husband never mentioned it, either. All we saw was the man dressed like a farmer or something. And he was like a white mist, with the details all in gray. He glowed, and I can tell you now, he wasn't something we imagined!"

Horace leaned forward again. "This is important. Did this ghost ever act like it could see you? That it was aware of you?"

Carolyn's eyes narrowed, as she thought that over. "No. No. It never once acted as if it saw us. We would just see it walking about, just like anyone would. But, now that you mention it, it never seemed to be aware of us at all. I know that sounds incredible, but that's the way it was!"

"We believe you," Kippy said. He turned to Charlie and nodded at him. "I think we're done here."

Charlie understood that his boyfriend was saying that this was all to be learned here. The mystery of the leafy man was still a mystery.

But what of this new ghost?

"I wouldn't be too hard on your husband," Charlie said, standing up. The others took his cue, and rose to their feet as well. "Our friend is not at all upset about the property. She loves it, in fact. She just wants to understand what is happening there."

Carolyn shook her head. "If you say so." But her look said that her husband had some explaining to do!

They thanked Carolyn for her time, and she let them out. They headed back to Rick's Yukon.

"I'm not sure I'd want to be Mr. Carolyn," Adrian said, smiling, as they got into the truck. "I think he's in for a tongue-lashing, if I read my grandmotherly-types correctly."

That brought a round of smiles, but Charlie suspected that there might be some sympathy for Carter Dandrich submerged in there somewhere. Very probably. Mr. French had failed to mention ghosts when selling the property to Mr. Dandrich, too!

"Now, come on," Dick said, laughing. "I think she had a right to be annoyed. If I sold our haunted property to someone without telling my wife about it, I think she'd be mad, too!"

Kippy turned to stare at the older man. "You have a haunted property?"

The older man smiled. "Well, it's haunted by two dogs, two cats, and by my dreams of getting all my projects done on time. There are so many distractions these days, what with ghosts everywhere, and teleporters showing up on my doorstep, and all."

That brought a round of smiles. "Shall we take you home?" Adrian asked, with an innocent look.

Dick favored him with an exaggerated look of shock. "With the mystery still unsolved? Bite your tongue, boy! I wouldn't be able to sleep until I know how it all turned out!"

Rick started the truck, and they headed back towards the center of town. "So, why were you asking Carolyn about whether the ghost chased them or not?" Rick asked Horace, glancing at him in the rear view mirror.

The ghost hunter grunted. "The reasons that ghosts manifest at certain locations is that they feel they have a reason to be there. Those reasons vary, but often are related to those living that they have left behind. In this case, I think there are no living left behind. This apparition sounds as if it is tied to that property for some reason. We have no notion of what that reason may be, but its failure to acknowledge anyone present at that location suggests that its interest revolves around something other than people, entirely."

"We haven't seen this farmer dude," Rick said. "And Mildred sure didn't mention him."

"And she would have, I think, if she had seen hm," Kippy said. "Because there is no reason not to."

"Anyone hungry while we're in town?" Rick said hopefully, as they stopped at a traffic light. "Lots of places to eat here. Speak up now."

Adrian turned to smile at Charlie. "Rick's hungry."

"I'm just saying," Rick replied. "Chasing ghosts requires some energy, you know?"

Kippy sighed. "Mexican, anyone? Let's go to that place we visited once before. Johnny's, or something like that."

"I know right where that is," Ricky said, smiling. "Next left."

They turned onto American Avenue, and pulled into the lot of Johnny Bs. The restaurant had some indoor seating, but it was mostly set up as a take-out, which was what they wanted, anyway. Rick took orders, and he and Adrian went inside, while the others waited in the truck.

"I hate this hiding in the back," Browbeat said, from behind the second row seats. "It makes me feel sneaky, or something."

"It's for your own good," Charlie said, turning to look over the seat. "People start to see you, you become popular, and then famous, and then they'll take you to Hollywood, and you'd never see us again."

The little flyer's face look alarmed. "I don't want that! Um...what's Hollywood?"

Everyone laughed.

"I'm just kidding you," Charlie said gently. "We just want you to stay out of sight when were in places like this, where you might draw too much attention. It's just best we don't get people asking too many questions about you for the time being. You're fine in places with less people around. Just be patient, okay?"

"Sure. I'm patient." Browbeat issued forth a tiny sigh. "Mostly!"

Rick and Adrian returned with several bags of soft tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. These were distributed, and then Rick started the truck and headed them back to Mildred's, taking it easy as he munched on his late lunch.

"I can't wait to ask Mildred about this farmer ghost," Kippy said, between mouthfuls.

Adrian turned to look back at him. "You think she knows, and hasn't said anything?"

"No. I think she doesn't know, and will be surprised!"

Adrian smiled. "Oh. Good. I would have been upset to learn that my good sense of Mildred had missed something."

"Nah, you're good." Kip waved a hand dismissively. "She's just your average, run-of-the-mill, old-lady witch, with a house haunted by a 2000 year-old Gaelic god, who just happened to put it on land next to what's left of a house already haunted by a farmer ghost and a Bigfoot. Typical case for Third Planet Inquiries!"

Even Charlie laughed at that. "That actually does sort of sum things up, Kip. All we're missing now is where this farmer ghost comes into the picture."

"He hasn't yet, it seems," Dick pointed out. "At least, not to you!"

"Point," Charlie admitted. He shook his head. "This is sort of puzzling, that this other ghost hasn't been seen. The two ghosts couldn't possibly be the same somehow, could they?"

Horace frowned at the notion. "I don't see why, let alone how. I mean, there have been documented cases of ghosts appearing as all sorts of things, and we already know that many earth spirits can cause us to see just what they want us to see. But there's usually a point to such things. We, and Mildred, it seems, have only seen the leafy man. Mr. and Ms. Dandrich, it seems, have only seen what she called the farmer ghost. Though I suspect he wasn't a farmer at all."

"Agreed," Dick said. "Period clothing, is my guess."

"Exactly. The description Carolyn gave us would easily fit a woodsman - or someone living in a very rural location like Mildred's property - of the Civil War period to even the turn of the century. Maybe even later. We can see for ourselves that Mildred's land is in no way set up for farming. That's old growth forest there, and the land was certainly thickly forested even in pre-Colonial times."

"What would someone like that do for a living?" Rick wondered.

"He probably worked in town," Dick said. "Back then it was easy to acquire land outside of towns, while more expensive to actually own a home in a town. Even by wagon, Norwich would have only been a ten- or fifteen-minute journey. There were surely many folks that lived outside the town proper, that had jobs there. Many small towns in the northeast during that period had some sort of manufacturing enterprise that employed a number of people. Perhaps several such enterprises. Our Mr. Jemeson was probably that period's equivalent of a commuter."

"I'm off to the horseshoe plant, honey!" Rick said, in a mock deep voice. "Don't wait up!"

Adrian reached over and patted his his boyfriend's shoulder. "More driving, less talking, sweetheart."

Rick just grinned at Charlie in the rear-view mirror. Charlie had to smile, himself. There were certainly harder ways to make a living than this!

They finished their lunch as they drove along. The Yukon left Norwich, and the transition to forest was a quick one. The trees they passed were dressed in all the colors of autumn, and a glorious sight to behold.

"Pretty here," Kip noted, sighing. "I can almost imagine what this place was like, all those years ago. This would have been a dirt road, at best."

"At best," Dick agreed. "No pavement here until the forties or fifties, I would say." He laughed. "Maybe even the sixties!"

"Before my time," Rick observed. He smiled. "Bet offroading was a real adventure in those days!"

"Here comes the turn to Ripley Road," Adrian pointed out. "I hope the house is still there!"

Charlie smiled at that, but figured Mildred wasn't about to leave without solving the mystery of the leafy man first!

They made the turn, and soon found Mildred's drive. The house looked just as they had left it. Rick parked the Yukon, and they all got out.

"Can we go right in?" Horace asked. "I do want to ask Mildred about this new ghost."

Charlie nodded, but paused long enough to look around at the trees. Now that he knew what to look for, he caught many small movements out of the sides of his eyes, by things that somehow evaded his direct gaze. And, he could easily hear the soft drone of the watchers, as if many voices were speaking at once, but in no language he could understand.

"Afternoon tea," Kippy noted, coming to stand beside him. "Gossipy bunch, aren't they?"

"They're creepy," Browbeat said, passing them and winging towards the porch. "And I'm supposed to be scary because I'm a ghost!"

Again, the peephole in the front door opened and closed as they mounted the front steps, and Mildred had the door open as they arrived before it. She looked happy to see them. "That didn't take long!"

They went back to the parlor, found seats, and then filled in Mildred on what they had learned.

When they were done, she shook her head. "I don't know a thing about this other ghost. I've only seen the leafy man since I moved here."

Horace nodded. "And you haven't been outside the house after dark save that one time with us?"

The old woman's eyebrows raised, and then she laughed. "That's right. The leafy man showed up the first night I was here. I haven't felt it a good idea to be outside after dark since then."

Kippy frowned. "Do you feel unsafe here?"

Mildred didn't seem to need to think about that. "No. I wasn't born yesterday. I can make a ruckus myself, if I have to. But it just seems more prudent to remain inside and let Lugh handle security, since I have no real desire to be walking around in the weeds, anyway." She nodded. "Lugh is a lot tougher than I am, if it comes to trouble."

Charlie closed his eyes, thinking. This whole thing refused to add up. Before the house had come here, several people had seen the ghost of a man prowling the lot. After the house had come here, the leafy entity had appeared, and the ghost of the man had not been seen again. The arrival of the house seemed key, in some way, but Charlie had no idea what that key was just yet.

He felt a warmth at his chest, and a picture appeared in his mind. He and the others were standing out on the front porch, watching the darkness descend on Mildred's house. The time seemed sped up, somehow, and it was only moments before night fell completely. And then the image faded away.

Kippy had turned to face him when he opened his eyes.

"I felt that," his boyfriend said softly.

Charlie nodded. "I think Castor wants us to be out on the front porch when it's get dark."

Dick gave a little sigh. "If we're staying here late, I'd better call my wife."

"Will she be upset?" Adrian asked.

"No." The older man smiled. "Someday, you may understand a marriage that has lasted as long as mine has. The two of you often lead slightly separate lives, have your own friends, and do a lot of things your mate does not do with you. This is in addition to all the things you do together. My wife is used to me chasing around after, well, not ghosts, but at least stories and lore and legends of the past. She'll be fine."

Ricky leaned closer to look at Charlie. "Any idea what Castor has in mind?"

Charlie blew out a slightly frustrated breath. "No. I wish we could do better than pictures to communicate. Ian said he and Pollux have spent many years getting to know each other's minds, and still they occasionally struggle to understand what the other is saying. Pictures are something they both can understand, I guess. What castor is saying seems clear enough here, though."

"So, we're going to be on the porch at sunset?"

Charlie nodded.

Mildred sat back in her seat, and smiled around at her guests. "Anything I can do to help?"

Kippy sighed, and leaned over against Charlie as he smiled back at the women. "You don't happen to have a leaf blower handy, do you?"

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