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Petra, Kaylee, and the Ghost of Hakeldama

Petra Flax kicked open the door to the Bucket of Blood, and ran inside, panting and pale. She blinked around at those gathered, and quickly focused in on Kaylee who was busy concentrating on the small bits of machine in her arm she was currently polishing.

“Ghost!” she cried out, seemingly forgetting completely her usual attempts to act mature. “Miss Kaylee! Ghost!” She tried to think of some elaboration to her declaration, but nothing presented itself. As if to punctuate the story she had thus far succeeded in telling, she blurted out:
“Ghost!”

“Ghost.” Kaylee said, without looking up.

Rufus the drunk’s head slumped to one side, and he observed Petra. “Hhgey lil boy…” he slurred. “Dinnt yher mummer er telyer duhs nusush fings gose, mmmm?”

Petra stared at the drunk for a few moments, then turned back to Kaylee. “Yeah! He was ten feet tall iffin he was a foot! Glowin white with a horrible gnarly skull grinnin at me, I think he wanted ta eat me!”

Kaylee looked up from her work. “I don’t think ghosts have stomachs, and you probably wouldn’t taste very good.”

Petra was about to retort when Medusa Jones, wiping a glass with an old faded rag, said, “Yeah, so you saw a ghost. World’s filled with them. Leave it alone, and it’ll leave you alone kid.”

“It tried ta grab me!” the child said, stamping one boot on the weathered floorboards.

“Tiggler?” Rufus slurred.

Kaylee dropped her screwdriver onto the bartop with a loud clack, and rubbed her hands on her pant legs. “Alright, I’m game. This thing was annoying me anyway.”

The young girl seemed surprised, blinking. “You… you wanna see it?”

Kaylee shrugged. “Yeah, why not?”

“It might try ta grab you though!” the girl said.

“Pff!” Kaylee spat, laughing. “I ain’t worried. Besides… we’ll have Rufus along with us as security.”

Petra looked to the drunk as his head raised wobbily from the bar. “Muh?” he asked, at the same moment she hoarsely whispered “Him?!”

Kaylee nodded, smiling mischievously. She slapped a metallic hand down onto his shoulder, and they made their way up the hill toward the cemetery. “Thank you!” mouthed Jones silently, as she watched Rufus stumble out the door.

 

“You go first.” Petra said as they approached the gate. Her face was all eyes as she stood behind Kaylee, clutching a fragment of her shirt tightly, scanning the darkness of the cemetery.

Rufus belched wetly. “Whess nis?” he asked, looking around as his head lolled from shoulder to shoulder.

“Shh.” Kaylee said, squinting into the dark. “Where’d you see it?”

“Buh-buh-behind that, er… big, um, stone thingy there.”

“Crypt.” Kaylee said absently, trying to see.

“Huh?” Petra asked.

“S’called a crypt, kiddo.” she said, stepping into the dry crackling grass of the yard. They all stopped at the sound of the grass crunching beneath Kaylee’s feet. “Just grass.” Kaylee whispered. Petra nodded. Rufus burped.

Near the stone hammer, Kaylee paused, having thought she heard something. No sooner had she opened her mouth to whisper back to the other two that a deep low moaning emanated from behind the central crypt.

Kaylee froze. Petra grabbed Kaylee’s arm tightly from behind. Rufus looked around into the darkness. “Shumwuns geddin romadic?” he asked, gurglingly, until Kaylee elbowed him briskly.

“We… we… we should… we should go.” babbled Petra. “We should, um, Miss Kaylee, we should…”

A pale glowing figure, finely dressed
in a pale suit and top hat, leaned around the crypt. Its skull face
grinned tauntingly at the trio.

“GHOST!” Petra screeched
“Ghostghostghostghostghostghostghost!”

Rufus, wiped his mouth, having just
lost much of his evening’s work all over a nearby headstone. As
his eyes slowly focused on the luminous skeletal figure nearby, they
popped open. “Great googly moogly! It’s a spectre from Hades!”
he cried out, and stumbled over a tombstone, running deeper into the
cemetery.

The moaning of the spirit devolved into choking gasps, then a few low chuckles before it spat out: “OOOoooooOOOooOOooooooo…..” More chuckles wrapped around moans. “Ooooga…. ooga booga booga…”

Petra’s mouth opened and closed silently, her eyes blinked in spasms.

Kaylee smiled grimly in the dark.

The ghost stepped closer to the two, waving its arms toward them. Kaylee peered closely at the arm showing between the white sleeve and the white glove of the hand closest to her.

“So, if we grab ya, do we get gold… or is that only leprechauns?” she asked.

Petra looked up at Kaylee as if a marching band had just erupted from her forehead, playing When The Saints Go Marching In on brass bumbershoots. The ghost, for its part, paused at this question, it’s head cocking slightly.

“Muh-miss Kaylee… I don’t think you should be… um… making the ghost mad…” Petra squeaked out.

“Pff.” she spat. “This ain’t no ghost.” she laughed.

“It is!” Petra cried.

“I am!” cried the ghost.

“Oh yeah?” asked Kaylee. “Do most skull faced ghosts have strings holding their faces on?”

“String!?” asked Petra indignantly, craning her head around Kaylee’s shoulder.

“String?” asked the ghost feebly, pausing.

“String.” said Kaylee, reaching out toward the skull mask, before it jerked its head back. “Ah ah AH!” it giggled, then moved forward quickly, attempting to bear hug the two girls. ‘Attempt’ being the key word, as Kaylee’s foot raised up in a blur and booted out toward the ghost, catching it in the solar plexus.

“Hurf,” was all it whimpered before flying back out of view, amongst the headstones.

“Huzzah!” cried out Petra in the blackness of the night. “You killed it!”

“He’ll wish I had, tomorrow.” said Kaylee as she marched into the dark, looking for the ghost. The luminous paint which had been applied to the costume made him easy to find, he laid beside an open grave. Inside the open grave, laid Rufus, snoozing peacefully.

The ghost was groaning as Kaylee picked it up with one hand, and its mask had slipped from one ear, showing an unremarkable unpainted face sporting a bent mustache. “Urggh, ya broke muh ribs.” the ghost groaned.

“Phew, he smells worse than Rufus.” Kaylee said, turning her face away from him.

Petra thumped him with a small bony fist in the lower abdomen, squeezing another whimpering moan from him. “Dingleberry!” she shouted.

“A dip in the canal’ll sober this chump up.” Kaylee said, and Petra cried out her agreement. “Yeah! Dump the chump!”

The ghost flailed and argued as Kaylee dragged him down onto Abney Parkway. He tried to appeal to their sympathetic natures as she pulled him through Rag & Bone’s Junkyard. The ghost finally pleaded pathetically as they neared the canal, which reeked almost as badly as the whaling yard on the opposite bank. Petra pelted him punches and kicks the entire way.

“I only…” he sputtered. “I only meant to…”

“Only meant to scare a little girl half to death?”

“Only meant to give ol Rufus a hard attack!?” Petra said, then continued: “And, anyway, I wasn’t scared! I jes wanted ta show Miss Kaylee how stupid ya looked!”

“He does look pretty stupid.”
Kaylee agreed. “But, he’s about to look a whole lot stupider.” she said, then heaved the man out into the middle of the canal.

*****

Mr Underby sighed, as he looked over the man, still half glowing, yet completely drenched from head to foot and leaking copiously all over the persian rug. “And what, exactly, is the nature of your complaint, sir?”

Petra stomped her foot. “This guy here is-”

Underby pointed at the young girl. “You.” he said. “Shut up.”

The ghost smirked smugly, then tugged down on his soaked waistcoat and tried to look dignified. “My name, sir, is Dr Severin Thornley, I am a highly respected-”

“I did not ask for your curriculum vitae, I asked the nature of your complaint.” Underby droned, in a bored sounding voice. “Speak quickly, or I’ll have Dorchester toss the three of you out on your ears.”

The ghost looked affronted. “I was merely having a laugh, sir. Your honor.” He rubbed his chest with one hand. “Is that… is that a crime?”

“No.” Underby said. Petra snapped her head toward the assistant to the mayor. Kaylee didn’t flinch, she knew what Underby was like.

The ghost smiled smugly.

“However.” Underby continued. “You should consider yourself lucky you only received a sound beating a dip in the Telford Canal. Had it been me, I would have shot you dead.”

This wiped the smile from the ghost’s face.

“Now, be gone.” Underby growled. “Before I have the three of you arrested for squandering my precious time.”

******

As sun began to bleed through the morning smog Worrel, the Hakeldama Cemetery groundskeeper, peered down at the sleeping drunk laying in the open grave. Pinned to the man’s jacket was a note, which read:

DEAR GROUNDSKEEPER: MY NAME IS RUFUS. I AM NOT DEAD. JUST DRUNK. SORRY FOR LEAVING ME HERE. – Kaylee and Petra

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