“This all has me so discombobulated.”
Goodwood Duxford sat next to Grace Leighton on a small, concrete, grieving bench near her grave site. He was seeking the dearly-departed, Widow Leighton’s help in quashing a wraith uprising. An uprising much like the one that killed Goody’s great-grandfather, Egbert.
“How can I help you to understand?” Goody said.
Goodwood, the lineal caretaker and ghost wrangler at Gramberly Cemetery, was going to battle against Harlan Beaumont, the late ringmaster of the Gallatin Bros. Circus. Beaumont died, along with a dozen other circus performers and Pepperidge Township residents attending the show the night of June 19, 1954.
Egbert Duxford, Goody’s great-grandfather, led a horde of those revenant spirits to purge the Township, revenge for Grace’s rejection of his sexual advances.
“I thought all you needed from me was to help discover the missing name on those tragic gravestones,” Grace, a soft-spoken southern lady, woke from her final rest to help Goody. She left earth carrying the guilt of having been the impetus for a killing done in her name.
“Restoring Muriel’s name and memory will keep the hoard in the neutral zone, the one fenced off from the Township,” Goody said, “but, If we can’t figure out why Beaumont is threatening the Township again, he’ll keep coming. No one will be safe, alive or dead.”
“How will that help?” Grace kept her head down.
“If we know why, maybe there’s something he wants, something we can give him that will satisfy him,” Goody said. “I’ve learned that even ghosts can be bribed.”
Grace shook her head.
“He wants me,” she said.
“Now, you have me puzzled,” Goody said.
She fretted with a linen handkerchief in her lap, twisting it into a tight knot.
“Egbert was angry with me because I spurned his advances,” she said. “He knew that I was keeping company with another man. I told Egbert I couldn’t step out with him because I was still grieving my late husband. He wanted to use Muriel to seduce that man, thinking that I would break off our… relationship. That is what he and Muriel were arguing about the night of the fire.”
“Beaumont?” was all Goody said.
“What happened?” Goody watched Grace’s hands as she wrung the square of cloth.
“Egbert set the fire at the circus main tent, he tied down the exits and blocked any way out,” she said. “Beaumont sliced open the canvas, letting so many of us escape. Muriel was caught up in the stampede, I lost her in the panic.”
“He watched from the hill above the circus grounds,” she said. “He heard the screams, smelled that acid, foul smoke. Egbert knew Muriel and I were inside. All he wanted was revenge. He wanted to punish me, punish Harlan, punish Muriel. When he discovered that I survived, he used Harlan and the others who died to come after me.”
Goody rubbed his hands over his face, trying to comprehend the evil that was his great-grandfather. Overwhelmed by Grace’s story, he stood up and began pacing.
Grace unfurled the handkerchief across her lap, a dark red embroidered HB visible in one corner.
“I don’t understand, why would Beaumont raise the ghosts, why is he trying to get into Gramberly, into Pepperidge?” Goody stood at the end of the bench looking down on Grace, noticing the monogram on her kerchief.
“He thinks I betrayed him,” Grace said. “He thinks I was involved in planning, and in setting the fire. That’s why it was so easy for Egbert to use Harlan. They had a common goal. If Harlan is trying to get back into Gramberly, it is to find me.”
“That’s why you chose to never wander,” Goody said, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
“If I did, Harlan would have known,” she said. “I think that was why he defiled the cairn of the other victims. That probably happened about the time I passed. He’s here now because I did wander, once a few weeks ago. He knows I’m here, and he won’t stop until he has what he wants.”
“You awoke before?” Goody said. “How did I not know that?”
“It was a short walk,” she said. “I heard… someone was calling me.”
“Beaumont.” Goody sat down hard on the bench. “He seems to be the common thread is all the misery in Pepperidge Township and Gramberly.”
“I didn’t know for sure it was him,“ said Grace, “but considering everything that has been happening, and all that you’ve told me, it had to be Harlan.”
Goody reached over and took Grace’s hand. His birthright as a wrangler gave him the ability to physical touch a ghost. He drew her into an embrace.
“I can’t let him hurt the people of Pepperidge or destroy the peace we have here in Gramberly,” Grace said. “I’ll go to him. He’ll leave everyone else alone then.”
Goody held her out at arms length and maneuvered around until she looked up at him.
“I won’t let you do that,” he said. “I’ll figure out how to stop him without sacrificing you. That will not happen.”
“I second that.”
Lilith, Gramberly’s newest resident, and Goody’s best friend, walked up to the pair.
“We have a plan,” she said, putting her hand on Grace’s shoulder and giving her a reassuring squeeze.
“I’d welcome any ideas,” Goody stood to talk with Lilith.
“Who,” Lilith said. “We have Frankie.”