The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 30

“Is this really necessary?” I queried Fletcher as his truck pulled up in front of my house.

            “Listen, we need answers, and this old geezer doesn’t have an email!” Fletcher insisted. “He’s not returning our calls either, so if we wanna find out what this Forny Gramil Lock-.”

            I corrected him, “It’s Forneus G. Adrannelech. I memorized the first time I saw it- it was the most old-sounding name I’d ever heard!”

            Fletcher had no interest in attempting to spit out that unusual label again. “Yeah, whatever! If we wanna learn what this ancient codger is hiding, we’ve gotta go talk to him ourselves! Now, come on! It’s an eight hour drive to this rinky-dink town in New York, so we need to hit the road asap!”

            As I got into the passenger side, Aleck peered over from the backseat and inquired, “How did he get all of that to fit on an axe handle?”

            I buckled up and replied, “Large axe, small letters. The question is who in their right mind would put an inscription on a-?” I hadn’t realized that someone outside of the Ghost League was in the vehicle! A preteen boy who greatly resembled Aleck sat behind Fletcher playing a game on his cellphone, which completely flabbergasted me! Not the obsessional use of a device, I had seen a number of kids at Rosemary King High with that issue- so much so that I wondered if a fear monger could have released its mayhem simply by snatching away all of their electronics! No, what surprised me was the fact that Aleck brought a family member to go along on this potentially dangerous journey! If Damon had discovered that we unearthed a valuable lead, he may have created some perilous obstacles for us to overcome before we ever arrived in Summerland!

            “The missus made me take him.” Aleck must’ve surmised my thoughts based on my reaction to this presence! “I lied and said we were all going to get groceries together, and apparently, he only agreed to eat healthier snacks if he got to pick them out himself. So, we’re gonna have to stop at the store on the way back!” A brief stint of silence followed his statement, so he added, “She wouldn’t have let me come if I told her the truth!”

            “My wife told me to have a chat with our girls about some of their… shall we say… risqué behavior, and I told her I’d do it as soon as I got my phone out of the truck…” Fletcher shared with us.

            I canvassed him, “You left your phone in here? Then how have you been replying to our texts?”

            Fletcher mumbled, “I didn’t, I just wanted to avoid that… uncomfortableness!” I noticed several missed messages on his cellphone, so he asserted, “When we get Aleck’s groceries, I’ll pick her up some flowers!”

            After a couple of hours on the freeway, we ran out of subjects to discuss that didn’t involve that petulant phantom or his sinister plot. I mean, we probably could have gotten away with it since his boy hadn’t lifted his head up from his intense gaze on that screen once, but we didn’t take any chances in case he overheard some of the more pertinent details. I found it kind of a shame that we didn’t have the opportunity to go over the recent developments of our supernatural dilemma because we had a plethora of stuff to sort out, and with this latest setback, we wouldn’t get a window to do so until the middle of the night when we returned home! While I was lamenting the concept of not being able to sleep so quickly after getting our room to ourselves again, my cellphone pinged, and when I read what was on display, I groaned. Aleck immediately probed, “What’s wrong? Did Phoebe anything at the… you know where?”

            “Did Ellie report some bad news?” Fletcher guessed.

            “No, none of that. Our cat got sick on our bed,” I revealed to them in a very anti-climatic manner. “Hopefully there’s no trouble while she’s washing the sheets! Well, if there was, Ellie is still monitoring the situation! And Ginger… Hang on, why didn’t she wanna go with us?”

            Aleck let me know, “She didn’t wanna be cramped in a small space with a bunch of smelly men for such a long road trip.” I nearly took offense to that, but then I contemplated the length of our stint on the streets, and I couldn’t argue with her objection!

            At the mention of the phrase “road trip,” Aleck’s son finally craned his neck upward! He glanced around at our surroundings in confusion, and he posed to his father, “We’re not at the supermarket yet?”

            “Well, we’re going to a special one near Lake Erie…” Aleck somewhat nervously fibbed.

            “Oh! Okay!” He evidently bought that explanation and returned to his previous activity.

            Silence ensued once more, and if we didn’t so something more intellectually stimulating, I fretted that I’d end up hitting the hay! I stared at the picture of Phoebe that I used as the background for my home screen, and I smiled at the memory it brought back of us jamming out to our favorite musical genre. She didn’t particularly like the photo since she didn’t view it as very flattering, but I adored it due to the feeling I had when I took it. We were having a ball, and I remembered thinking that I could spend the rest of my life like this! This made me long to be at home dreaming up a new tactic of proposing to her! Suddenly, I got a stroke of inspiration for the bind currently on our hands… “Say, how did you guys propose to your wives?”

            “I went into the gas station she worked at and bought a bunch of things, then when she rang it all up, she found the ring I hid in the mix! I got on one knee and popped the question,” Fletcher happily reminisced. “I thought it was romantic ‘cause that’s where we first met. She loved it, but the people behind me were kinda ticked off… I didn’t mean to put them behind on their tight schedule!”

            “Mine was pretty cliché I suppose. I did it in a restaurant,” Aleck relayed to me.

            I asked him, “Did you have the chef put it in the food?”

            Aleck answered me, “What? No! She could’ve choked on it! What sort of idiot would do that?” I grew pretty embarrassed about his response to my original plan, which he didn’t know about since I never disclosed it to anyone after it flopped so furiously! I felt fairly foolish on my judgment now, but I was glad that I never revealed that story to them so I could play it cool with the guys right then… “Oh, was that something you were gonna do?” Aleck clearly caught on to my abashed mood and became overwrought with guilt from his previous criticism. “Dude, I’m sorry! I-!”

            “It was one of many ways I unsuccessfully tried to make her my wife!” I admitted. “I had no clue it’d be this difficult to get it done!”

            “It can be tough,” Aleck related. “I couldn’t fathom what to say in that moment, but then I found out that the place had lounge singers, so I convinced them to do a romantic song, and all I had to do was belt out one sentence when they were done!”

            Fletcher petitioned me, “Weren’t you married once?”

            I narrated, “Well, yeah, but I never actually proposed to her! After college, we were out spending our graduation money, and when we passed by this jewelry store, she led me inside. She picked out this huge diamond, and before I knew it, she was planning out a wedding! I went along with it ‘cause it seemed like that was the path we were heading down anyways. Thank god she didn’t require an elaborate show of it- that gold-digger wouldn’t’ have settled for anything cheap!”

            “How are you gonna do it now?” Fletcher pondered.

            “I dunno, my brain’s completely blank! Do you two have any suggestions?” I surveyed Fletcher and Aleck. “I know Phoebe wouldn’t expect anything too extravagant, but she’s important to me, so I want it to be special!”

            Aleck and Fletcher mulled it over for a minute, and then Aleck opined, “I would tell you to have her students help you do it, but who know when another one of Damon’s attacks will-.” He worriedly glanced over to his son, but he appeared to not be paying attention, so he breathed a sigh of relief.

            After a fruitless beat, Fletcher assured me, “If we can conjure up something, we’ll let you know!”

            “Thanks!” I gratefully regarded them. With that topic temporarily settled, the vehicle got silent again. I let a few seconds elapse, and then I propositioned, “How about some music?” Fletcher flicked on the radio, and some country crooner blasted throughout the vicinity! “Could we listen to something more… lively? Like classic rock?”

            “Oh no! After such a stressful week, we need to listen to something soothing like instrumental scores!”

            Without looking up from his device, Aleck’s son piped in, “Wow, Dad! I knew you were old, but I didn’t realize you’ve been around since Beethoven’s era! Play some pop!”

            I recommended, “What if we compromise and hear some eighties’ hits?”

            Aleck contented, “You’re compromising with my child but not with me?”

            Fletcher switched his stereo off and decreed, “No one’s listening to anything!” Quiet resumed once more.

            We ended up staying awake by initiating some vintage road trip games. We began with “I Spy,” but Aleck’s son kept cheating by searching for random items on the internet. We opted on “Sign Alphabet” and “License Plate Bingo,” both of which forced the kid to stare at something other than his phone! When we started seeing posts about Summerland, I lost even more interest than I already had in these inane time-killers! I never wanted to repeat this process at any point in the future, so I grew more and more anxious to gather information from that Forneus dude! I beseeched the universe that he held valuable material to render all of this effort as worth it!

            “This should be it!” I announced as the GPS indicated our arrival at the destination we programmed into it.

            “Are we sure we got the correct location” Fletcher checked with us as he parked.

            As he gazed at the building in front of us, Aleck verified for him, “Oh yeah! How could it not be?”

            When Fletcher beheld it for himself, he removed all of his skepticism! We stood before a structure that could only be described as what most people would imagine if they were to close their eyes and picture a haunted house! It was a large, three-story Victorian with dark paint and sharp towers on the roof! The entire joint was surrounded by a rusty, rod-iron fence, and the yard had decaying refuse strewed all over it! The sole reason we didn’t declare it as vacant and run back to Terra Belle was the decrepit wooden sign that read: FGA Realty!

            “Can I wait in the car?” Aleck’s son requisitioned as he frightfully eyeballed this strange abode.

            “Yeah,” Aleck obliged with a slight twinge of jealousy. “Keep the doors locked, and honk if anyone tries to murder you!”

            The kid responded to that, “Murderers like whatever’s possessing that mansion? Dad, are ghosts real?”

            The three of us gazed at each other quizzically- no one knew how to reply to that! Do we lie to him and keep his trepidation at bay, or do we startle him with the truth in case Damon did decide to crash our party? I had no inkling on how to act in this case, and neither did Aleck, but Fletcher eventually gave him an adamant affirmation, “There ain’t any spooks in my truck! That’s for damn sure!”

            After we saw that Aleck’s kid was placated, we turned and faced our newest predicament- Do we dare to enter onto such a creepy premises? Yes, I braved much worse conditions at that abandoned home across the street from me, but young lives were at stake from a villainous vampire! That specter was certainly annoying, but was it worth the risk of jeopardy just to collect a bit of data? I ultimately concluded, “Come on, boys! He has an actual, fully licensed business- they don’t give that to you unless you’re alive!” They didn’t seem so convinced, but they still followed me up the stone pathway anyhow.

            We expected a monstrous adversary to ambush us at every instance we took another step! It didn’t alleviate our nerves that the wind emitted a spooky howl! However, despite our apprehension, we made it to the porch without incident! We rang the antiquated doorbell, which echoed throughout the halls inside, and after a brief period of no discernable movement, we all felt tempted to flee. I stayed put through my determination to learn the truth and put a halt to our persistent nightmare, so I rang the doorbell again. At long last, the knob slowly turned! Anticipation flooded my veins, and as I ardently went over the issues we had to discuss, a person from the interior appeared in the doorway…

            I nearly had a heart attack when I realized that I recognized this individual! I bellowed, “You!”

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