Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chapter 12 – “A Ghost on the Streets"

REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 12 – “A Ghost on the Streets”

The mask was uncomfortable; it was tight and chafed at the ears. It also distracted Donald’s peripheral vision.

The Masked Ghost ran through the dark alleyway, the large trench coat billowed out behind him. His destination was only blocks away, and so far no one had seen him.

Donald Raymond found it surprisingly easy to slip from one shadow covered doorways to the next. Watching to see if the street was clear, he darted across into another alley and along to the next block. Though there were more people on the streets this evening, the rainstorm of the night before was long past, they paid him little notice. With his face down, they didn’t even see the mask. They ignored the stranger moving about as long as he wasn’t approaching them. Their own little worlds of depression and torment were enough for them.

Donald couldn’t help but think of his wife back at the penthouse and what torment she must be going through right now. He could picture her standing at the balcony window staring out at the city and wondering where he was at ever moment. Margaret knew his intention of playing the role of the Masked Ghost.

“Someone out there killed Adrian because he was the Masked Ghost,” she said with great concern.

“Right, and hopefully they believe they killed the Masked Ghost.”

“But they could kill you too.”

“I’m trusting they’ll be too startled by seeing a… er… ‘ghost’.”

“What about the police, they’re intent on capturing the Masked Ghost.”

“Well, I’ll just have to be extra careful not to let them catch me.”

He wasn’t as positive as he sounded, but Margaret knew he had to do this and ushered him to the back stairwell of the building.

The Masked Ghost now crouched behind a dumpster looking across the street at the front of the building which was his target address, the offices of Shoelle Investments.

The windows were dark. He hovered in his shadows for nearly twenty minutes before finally deciding it was as safe as it was going to ever get to make his move. Darting across the street, he dove behind a car parked just a few feet down from the door of the office he had been watching.

Holding his breath, Donald noticed the stenciled sign on the door of the car. It was a logo that belonged to the Spade Import/Export Company. The very company the Masked Ghost had been investigating in relationship to Sheila’s murder.

“How exactly do you plan to get inside,” The sound of his wife’s questions were still in his ear and so clear that it felt like she was with him through the entire journey.

“Your brother apparently has done this before. He’s prepared for nearly every situation.” Donald answered her in his mind as the Masked Ghost knelt in the alcove of the office door and pulled out a small lock pick kit.

Donald had no clue how to use these little rods of metal and wire; he was more accustomed to the hammer and welding torch. He looked at the lock and then at the case to make a decision of which exactly to use. Choosing a medium size pick the Masked Ghost put it to the lock and the door swung open.

“That's not good,” Donald said under his breath.

Slipping the kit back into a pocket, the Masked Ghost moved soundlessly into the building. Someone could have left it unlocked by accident. Not bloody likely, he thought to himself. Donald felt for the weight in his left pocket, and prayed he would not have to pull it out.

Donald had no idea what he was looking for, yet the Masked Ghost moved through the building as if it was second nature. It was a financial and investment firm and so there were several desks, each immaculate and orderly, and behind them were multiple filing cabinets.

Where to start, where to start? He thought to himself.

The plan was to look for any file that identified itself as connected to the Spade company, as that seemed to be at the heart of the investigation. Finding nothing in the first set of filing cabinets he headed towards the other corner of the room. As he did so, something caught his eye.

A loose sheet of paper lay on the floor just in the threshold of an inner doorway. Picking it up, the information printed on it was immaterial but it drew him forward. Inside the room, files were scattered everywhere, accounting books ripped open.

Someone else was looking for something. That part was obvious and they weren’t being as cautious as the Masked Ghost about not to leave evidence behind. He moved further in and saw that his competition was also far more fatal.

Atop a pile of paperwork, a thin little man in suspenders lay dead. But only by a few minutes, his face was pummeled into ground beef and three of his fingers were bent in the wrong directions. Someone wanted information and was willing to do anything to get it.

Donald felt sick with the realization that as he waited, just outside, while this man was being tortured and killed. Standing up from the body, he paused at hearing a sound. He turned quickly and saw a shadow emerge from a closet. He couldn’t move fast enough as the figure shoved him against a desk. Dressed all in black, his face completely obscured, the unidentifiable man pulled out a knife and thrust it forward.

The Masked Ghost blocked it with an accounting book and knocked the knife aside. The man paused only briefly, almost stunned.

“They said you were dead,” he said in a horse whisper.

The Masked Ghost leaped up, but the stranger was gone. He had darted through the doorway and into the main office. Donald didn’t think as he found himself running after.

The murderer was out the front before the Masked Ghost was half way across the room.

Running outside, he was nearly blinded as the lights of the car came on with the sound of its engine.

The car moved, but so did the Masked Ghost. He grabbed the handle of the passenger’s side door as his adversary hit the gas and took off with a squeal down the road.

Donald didn’t know what he was doing, so held on for dear life. He felt as if he was being carried on a ride, not just the car but also in his own body. The Masked Ghost was in control and pulled the door open as the car picked up speed.

The murderer wasn’t going to let this vigilante get inside, and so spun the wheel tightly and the Masked Ghost tumbled out as the car made a sharp turn at high speeds. Surely the noise the vehicle would awaken the entire neighborhood.

The Masked Ghost rolled and came to a stop in a standing crouch. The car made a fast u-turn and was coming back around to make certain the vigilante was dead this time.

There was only one chance for the Masked Ghost, and he had to time it right to be able to grab the driver as he sped past and not be killed in the process. That’s when things went out of control.

Tim Barris was coming home late from a bar, having spent his last dime to get drunk and forget that he had been let go of his job of ten years earlier today. He wasn’t paying any attention to commotion on the road ahead.

The Masked Ghost, however, saw Barris. He was ready to leap upon the car once more, but watched as the driver took the curve too wide and came up on the sidewalk. His eyes locked on the mystery man and cared little for anything or anyone that got in the way.

Donald felt his legs start into a run, and the Masked Ghost leapt directly in front of the car grabbing hold of Barris and causing them both to tumble down into a set of basement stairs.

“Oh, that’s going to hurt in the morning,” Donald said already feeling the bruise on his leg where he hit concrete. Checking the man under him, he found Barris out cold. More from the alcohol he could smell heavily on his breath than from being struck. The man would sleep it off and be ashamed for whatever he didn't remember happened to him during the night.

Hearing the squeal of the car moving off into the distance, Donald climbed the stairs in hopes of catching what direction the murderer was heading.

“Hault!”

The Masked Ghost found himself surrounded by the police, their guns all pointed at his head.

To be continued.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chapter 11 - “A Man For A Ghost”

REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 11 - “A Man For A Ghost”

Margaret Raymond cleared the dinner plates from the table. With each plate she would glance at the journals and papers spread across the tabletop. They revealed so much about her brother and yet made him all the more a mystery.

“I still hate the fact we had to lie to Daddy,” she said.

“We have no choice. At least for now,” her husband Donald answered from the other room. “If it got out that Adrian was the Masked Ghost, your brother would be branded a criminal. The papers would read that he had died in the midst of committing a crime.”

“But that’s not true,” she protested.

“Since when did that stop the presses from printing a scandalous headline? Not only would it destroy his memory, it would ruin your… our entire family. Would your father be able to handle that? What about your mother?”

“Oh, dear,” Margaret whispered, she hadn’t thought of that. Her mother had always been so very proud of her son the journalist, but also had a weak heart. A shock like this might very well kill her.

After leaving the street scene out front Adrian’s apartment, they had driven Margaret’s friend Vivian home. The girl was quite shaken up by discovering the dead body, but now was to the point of being giddy about the whole thing as if it was an adventure and quite exciting. Margaret worried about what the girl’s dreams would be like tonight.

Once home, Margaret prepared dinner while Donald spread out the journals and paperwork they had been able to get out of Adrian’s basement hideaway the night before. He laid things out by dates and locations.

As they ate he would read from different journals, while his wife kept her brother’s diary close at hand. It was all she had of him now, and also held the heart of what may have started this whole terrible mess.

“According to this,” Donald put a finger down on a page of one of the journals and took a sip of his coffee, “Adrian, or rather The Masked Ghost, had intended to investigate the business offices of Showller Investments near Broadway and 54th.”

“That’s only blocks from here,” Margaret shouted, realizing what that meant.

“May have been the last stop he intended to make before visiting us for dinner, and was shot either at that location or nearby. He was just close enough to make it here before he died.”

Margaret had her hands up to her face and was shaking as she remember holding her brother as the last breathe of life left him.

Donald wrote the address down, and made notes of people who Adrain had connected to the location. If his brother-in-law was right, the Masked Ghost was close to tying this financial firm to the import/export company that owned the truck involved in Sheila’s death. He got up from the table and wondered what he was going to do with the information.

When he gave his wife a kiss and headed into the bedroom Margaret knew a decision had been made and things were about to happen. To keep her mind focused she began to clear the table, most of her own meal left uneaten.

“What about that Police Detective Monroe?” She asked after her husband had been silent for several minutes and had remained in the bedroom. “He acted like he knew the truth.”

“He knew something,” Donald responded, “Maybe the Masked Ghost had helped him at some point.”

“That would be good,” she said with hope.

“Or he’s got a clue or an idea that Adrian is the Masked Ghost and was trying to get us to confirm it. Which I fear our expressions may have. It was obvious to him that the body had been moved.”

“But why would he…?

“I don’t know. Perhaps he had been searching for the Masked Ghost and his investigation lead to Adrian. It was obvious from talking with Detective Dobbs the other night that the police don’t like vigilantes. Maybe the cops had set a trap to snare the Masked Ghost. I don’t know. This is all speculation on my part, but maybe Monroe had discovered the truth and shot Adrian.”

“Oh, God!” Margaret sobbed.

Hearing his wife’s tears Donald tried to reassure her, “I’m not saying that’s what happened. I don’t know what happened, and I don’t know what this police officer thinks he knows. Maybe Cabbie will have some answers, but he only shows up when he wants to, strange little fellow. But for now we can’t trust the police, any of them.”

“But… But Detective Monroe acted as if Adrian was still alive.”

“No, not Adrian. He acted as if the Masked Ghost is still alive.”

Margaret turned at the approaching sound of her husband’s voice.

“So for now,” he said, “we must keep the Masked Ghost alive.”

Margaret gasped, as emerging from their bedroom was a very much alive MASKED GHOST.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chapter 10 - “A Body for a Ghost”

REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 10 - “A Body for a Ghost”

The Packard Touring Car took the corner sharply and went faster than it was intended to, especially on the streets of Manhattan. Harris J. Brown refused to believe what his son-in-law had told him only minutes before.

Donald Raymond held tightly to his seat as Brown sped down the road barely missing two pedestrians and a fruit stand. He hated having to tell his father-in-law that his son Adrian was dead, and really hated the fact that he was also lying about how it happened.

Margaret and he had quickly worked up a story that morning. She had gone over to visit her brother with a friend only to find the door open and Adrian dead on the floor. They hoped Brown and the police would believe that a thief had shot his son. They couldn’t tell him that Adrian had been a masked vigilante.

Ten minutes later they pulled on to the street of Adrian’s apartment. The road was crowded with onlookers wanting to know why police were coming in an out of the building. Two men in white smocks were carrying a gurney between them with an ominous shape beneath a sheet.

Even before Donald could get his door open, Brown was out of the car and rushing toward the truck the men were loading the body in to.

“Damn you, out of the way. That’s my son, let me see!”

He pushed one of the men aside and yanked back the sheet.

“Oh, Lord. What happened here,” he shouted, “who did this to my son?”

“That’s what we intend to find out, Mr. Brown.” He angrily turned and saw a police detective approaching him flashing a badge, “Police Detective Monroe.”

“You know who I am?”

“Yes, I just got done speaking with your daughter and her friend. They had the terrible experience of finding the body.”

Donald had joined his wife who looked more concerned than frightened. Her friend Vivian, on the other hand, was shaking with terror. Margaret hugged her husband.

“How are you,” He asked her as they made eye contact. She was more upset for having to lie to her father and friend than the death of her brother. After all she had over twelve hours to deal with that all ready.

“I’m surviving.”

“Who would do such a thing to Adrian,” Vivian said through tear-chocked breaths, “he was always so nice.”

“I’m sure the police will figure it out,” Donald tried to reassure her.

“Oh, yes, the police,” Margaret said as if it was a forgotten thought, “that’s Detective Monroe talking with daddy. We should ask if there is anything else we can do.”

They approached her father and the detective and found them in deep discussion.

“They need to take the body to the coroner to complete their report,” Monroe was trying to lead Brown away without much success.

“I will not allow my son to be further molested after everything that has happened.”

“Sorry sir, but I must insist.”

“Do you know who I am,” Brown rose himself up to face the policeman.

“You’re a father grieving over the loss of his son. That’s all you are to me.”

Brown growled at the detective, but the fire was going out of his belly.

“Daddy, please!” Margaret came up to her father. “Don’t make this any worse. It’s going to be hard enough telling Mommy what happened without you getting arrested.”

Brown looked at his daughter and he seemed to shrink several inches, she was right of course. He was going about this the wrong way.

“Raymond,” he shouted at his son-in-law, trying to stoke that fire once more and handed over the keys to the Packard, “get my daughter away from this horrible place. I’m going with Adrian.”

“Daddy?”

“No argument out of you young lady, and don’t say anything to your mother. I’ll tell her,” his voice fell to a whisper and then climbed into the truck, next to the body of his son.

Seeing that made Margaret cry again, but she held it in as the Police Detective turned to them.

“Mr. Raymond,” Monroe addressed Donald, “may I speak with you and your wife for a moment.” His tone was clear.

“Vivian, would you mind waiting for us in the car,” Donald said to the distraught girl who only nodded and headed for the Packard.

There were several people on the street that lived in the apartment building, and they were all staring at them. The Detective saw that and lead the couple to a more secluded location.

“You’re brother died sometime last night,” Monroe informed them, looking up from his notebook and putting it away.

“Yes?” Donald asked.

“His neighbors are rather closed lipped. They’re good at keeping secrets, but did say he was visited by a couple late last night.”

Donald and Margaret exchanged glances.

“A young couple much like yourselves.”

“We were at home…” Margaret realized she had snapped a little too quickly, and the Detective recognized it.

“Yes you were. I had one of my men call back to the precinct and found that you were being visited by some of my fellow offices about the same time. A break in, I understand?”

“That’s correct,” Donald covered for his wife, “a man had gotten into our apartment but was gone by the time the police arrived.”

“Gone from your penthouse apartment?”

“Yes,” they knew he didn’t believe them.

“Well, it does provide you with an alibi.”

“Why would we need an alibi?” Margaret said, she was getting scared again.

“You wouldn’t Mrs. Raymond, but I believe the body was moved.”

“Moved? How would the body have been moved?” Donald asked now sounding worried.

“For one thing,” the Detective looked at him, “there wasn’t enough blood for someone who had died that way. He bled out someplace else.”

“Oh, God,” Margaret whispered.

“I should put this into my report,” Monroe looked at them both, and saw their fear growing.

“Of course you should, Detective,” Donald was trying to act strong, “there was a crime committed.”

“I should put it in my report,” the Detective repeated, “but he wouldn’t approve.”

“He?” Margaret looked up at him.

“Who wouldn’t approve?” Donald asked.

A razor thin smile grew across the Detective’s serious face.

“The Masked Ghost.”

They were both stunned by the worlds.

“Go home Mr. and Mrs. Raymond. The day is only beginning.” With that he turned and walked back to his men leaving the couple frozen in shock.

To Be Continued…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CHAPTER 9 "A Ghost, The Day After"

“REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST”

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 9 - “A Ghost, the Day After”

“I just cannot believe it.”

“What’s that dear,” Margaret Randolph asked her friend Vivian Caldwell who sat across the table just inside the front of the small cafĂ© overlooking the park.

“How New York is basically this big island.”

“Well, Manhattan is.” Margaret corrected, but Vivian went on.

“But it’s still an island and all those immigrants keep coming. You’d think the place would be full by now.”

Margaret shook her head, was her friend really that dumb?

“Hey, you don’t think New York might sink if it gets too heavy?”

Yep, she’s that dumb.

As silly as this conversation was getting, Mrs. Randolph was glad for it. It was a breather from the strange, horrific world she had suddenly been thrust into. Only the evening before had she discovered that her brother Adrian was the costumed vigilante the Masked Ghost and then held him in her arms as he died.

It was nearly one in the morning when she and her husband made it home from Adrian’s apartment and the secrets that were hidden there. Once they were inside the penthouse and she saw the blood stained floor once more, Margaret began to shake.

“What are we going to do, Don? What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to carry on, dear. We’re going to carry on. We must, for Adrian, and most of all for ourselves. We have to live.” He held her in his arms.

“Then we’re going to find out who did this,” he said as her body went limp. She had passed out from exhaustion.

Margaret woke the next morning to the sun shining through the window. It took a moment to realize where she was; the sun didn’t usually come into the bedroom like that. Turning her head she realized that this was the guest bedroom. Donald must have put her in here when she fell asleep. The sleep, the dreamless sleep, had done her a world of good. She remembered everything from the night before, but now felt like she could face it all.

She got up and washed her face in the guest bathroom and began searching for her husband. Margaret found him on his hands in knees scrubbing away the last of the bloodstains from the marble floor. His eyes were red and swollen.

“Oh, Donald, you didn’t have to do that,” she knelt beside him.

“I had to Maggy,” he replied, pouring bleach into the cracks between the marble slabs, “for you.”

She took his scrub brush and put it aside, then held him tight as he had held her the night before.

Margaret found that he had already cleaned up the bedroom.

“You’re going to have to go shopping for some new clothes,” he tried to sound light hearted, “I gathered everything that had blood on it and took it down to the incinerator.”

“Oh, honey, you’ve been up all night,” she felt for him, “you need to get some sleep.”

“Can’t. I have to get to work. There’s a major meeting, and your father’s going to be there.”

“Oh,” she knew how Donald always feared he’d do something wrong and look bad in her father’s eyes.

“And we’ve both got another appointment to make later in the day,” he said grimly.

Donald got a shower and headed off to work, and Margaret called up one of her society friends to have lunch. Which brought her mind back to the present.

“I don’t think you have to worry about the island of Manhattan sinking, Vivian.”

“I guess you’re right,” her friend said with a smile, “what would happen to Macy’s bargain basement?”

Both women started laughing at that. It was good to laugh.

The laughter died in Margaret’s throat as she looked through the window and saw the taxicab parked at the curb. Looking in at her was the Cabbie she had met the night before. The Cabbie who had helped them move her brother’s body. He stood there next to his vehicle and nodded firmly. She knew what that meant; it was time to go.

“You know,” Margaret said as she put her napkin on the table, “speaking of Macy’s reminds me that I need a new set of clothes for the coming season. Actually, I need a whole closet full. Let’s go shopping.”

Vivian, one never to miss a shopping trip was on her feet in seconds, “let’s.” She didn't question once that there was a taxi already waiting for them, or that Margaret didn’t tell the driver their destination.

It wasn’t until they had driven several blocks did she realize something was wrong.

“This isn’t the right direction for the stores,” Vivian said looking out the window.

Margaret exaggerated the turning of her head to look around at the neighborhood they were entering.

“Hey, you’re right. Wait a minute, we’re not too far away from my brother’s apartment.”

“You’re brother Adrian?” Vivian said excitedly.

“I only have one brother,” Margaret said soberly, realizing she didn’t even have that now. “Why don’t we stop and say hello. Driver, pull over here and stop please.” She hoped her friend hadn’t noticed the car was already slowing down out front the apartment building.

“Should we be disturbing him?” Vivian asked as they stepped from the cab and headed for the front door of the building, “I’ve heard writers like to work late and sleep in.”

“Oh, I’m sure Adrian’s already hard at work on his latest expose,” Margaret was forcing herself to sound positive and joyful, “he’ll be happy to see us.”

“You really think so?”

They walked up the stairs and then along the hall to her brother’s apartment. Margaret hated doing this to her friend. She knew Vivian had a crush on Adrian when they were younger. This was going to be so very cruel, but they needed an “innocent” to witness what had to happen next.

Vivian played the role perfectly.

The door to the apartment was slightly ajar, (just as they had left it the night before.)

“Adrian, are you decent?” Margaret said sounding a whole lot more jovial than she felt as she pushed the door open.

There before them lay the body of Adrian Brown. His shirt stained dark with blood.

Vivian screamed.

###

Across town, Donald stood looking out the window of his twenty-fourth floor office. More then once he wondered about the men who had built the building. Did he know any of them, had he ever worked with any of them? They worked so hard to build such buildings so business men could work inside them. Donald felt odd that he had once been in the one world and was now in the other.

He also thought of his brother-in-law who lay dead only miles away. Last night Margaret had told him that Adrian had been interested in learning about what it was like to walk along the beams of a skyscraper construction dozens of floors above street level. They presumed that it was for a magazine article about the men who were helping to build Manhattan, but now Donald wondered if it was something else entirely. It wasn’t Adrian Brown who was asking, it was the Masked Ghost who wanted to learn about walking the difficult edges of a building without falling to his death. He wanted to learn, to train, for what he would have to do.

Donald put his hand to the glass window and looked down at the few inches of cement facade just outside, hardly enough to place a foot on and stand. Had Adrian ever stood out there in his pursuit of his own form of justice?

“It’s a marvelous site, isn’t it,” came a voice from behind him.

Donald turned to find Harris J. Brown standing in the office doorway. It was his boss, and Margaret and Adrian’s father.

“Yes, it is.” Donald answered as his father-in-law joined him at the window, “The city is extremely beautiful.”

“Oh, the city, of course,” Brown didn’t really agree, “I see a city full of people down there.”

Donald didn’t quite know what to think of that. It wasn’t long ago that he was one of those ‘people down there.’

“They all work very hard to survive and make a living.”

“True. But there are those who seek to destroy and force themselves on the lives of others.”

“I never forced myself upon Margaret, and I never asked for this job. If I haven’t been doing well for you then tell me outright and don’t insult people you don’t know.” Donald snapped unintentionally.

It had been like walking on eggshells around Margaret’s father ever since they were married. Sure, he gave him this job, and a good job it was, but it was more of a way to keep an eye on him so he couldn’t do anything wrong or cause harm to the man’s daughter. But with everything that had happened in the last day, Donald could no long keep quiet.

Brown stared down at the younger man. You dare talk back to me? But that wasn’t it at all.

“My daughter… my children mean the world to me. I only want what’s best for them.”

“I understand sir. Margaret means everything to me. And I will do everything in my power to protect her.”

After a moment, Brown finally spoke, “yes, I believe you would.”

Where the conversation would have gone from there they would never know for the desk phone buzzed.

“Mr. Randolf, your wife is on the phone,” Donald’s secretary said through the speaker, “and if I may say sir. She sounds upset.”

Donald waited as Margaret’s voice came on the line. What was said had been planned out this morning for the ears of whoever was listening on both sides. Even having her father in the room had been part of the plan.

“Honey, I’m busy right now. Can this wait… Oh.”

He glanced at his father-in-law who was staring back waiting for Donald to say one wrong word to his daughter.

Donald reached for the arm of his chair and fell back into, a little over exaggerated motion perhaps.

“God, that’s terrible,” he said just loud enough, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” And then in an unscripted after thought, “Maggy, I love you.”

He hung up the phone, and silently stared at it.

“Tell me, man. What’s wrong? What’s happened to my daughter?”

After another moment of silence Donald spoke.

“Not your daughter, sir. It’s your son,” he looked up at his father-in-law. “Adrian is dead.”

To be continued…

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chapter 8 - “Birth of a Ghost”

“REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST”

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 8 - “Birth of a Ghost”

There was only one chair in the dark underground lair of the vigilante known as The Masked Ghost. So Donald leaned against the table as his wife Margaret sat and read from the journal.

“This is Adrian’s handwriting,” Margaret said, “It looks like these pages were ripped out of his personal diary. Some of them have been cut apart and pasted together to keep the subject consistent.”

- - -

While interviewing James Bruster and his wife this evening I was introduced to their lovely daughter Sheila.

I hope to meet here again.

- - -

It took some convincing but Sheila Bruster finally said she would go out with me.

- - -

I think she had a good time tonight. Was surprised that Sheila seemed to know so many people at the restaurant. Sheila does a lot of work for her father, and introduced me to several of his work associates. They’d all make interesting magazine articles.

Had a wonderful evening with Sheila. She’s the most fascinating and yet mysterious woman I’ve ever met.

- - -

This train ride home is taking too long. Got my interviews with the movie studio producers and have already written the first draft of the story, but all I can think about is getting back to Sheila.

Am really thinking of asking Sheila to marry me.

- - -

Going to have to write and sell two new books to pay for it, but I just bought the perfect ring for Sheila. Now praying she likes it.

- - -

She said YES! Oh, God, she said yes. Sheila wants to marry me.

- - -

Sheila seems nervous, but that’s understandable. We’re going over to her parent’s house to work on the wedding plans tonight.

- - -

OH MY GOD OH MY GOD! She’s dead. Sheila’s dead.

- - -

Margaret paused in her reading and looked up at her husband.

“I remember him calling us. He was such a mess after the accident.”

“You were at his hospital bedside for days,” Donald replied with an understanding and caring heart.

“He was pretty banged up, but I think his heart was wounded the worst. Adrian kept saying he wished he had died instead of Sheila,” Margaret said remembering those nights she sat up with her brother.

“I can understand that,” Donald said, “My life wouldn’t be worth living if anything ever happened to you.”

She knew her husband meant it, and saw him holding back the tears that such a thought brought to him.

After a moment Margaret turned the page and started reading again.

- - -

The police say it was an accident, or that Sheila and I weren’t paying attention. They’re blaming us for it. They’re blaming me for her death. They refuse to listen to me when I tell them about the truck that ran us off the road into the ditch and killed Sheila.

- - -

The police are no longer taking my phone calls. Sheila’s parents won’t talk with me either. They were polite at the funeral but it was clear they didn’t like having me there. They blame me for their daughter’s death.

- - -

My editor tried to get me to focus on my magazine assignments, but I just can’t concentrate. All I can think about is that terrible night, and that truck chased us down the road and caused Sheila’s death.

- - -

I have to do something, or I am going to go mad.

- - -

Have walked the entire distance of road. From the turn off towards the Bruster’s home to where I first spotted the truck, to where our car was forced off the road, and then on to the bridge over the river. There’s a side street there that loops back on to the main road. There aren’t many other intersections and connecting roads. There is a series of warehouses and a storage yard…

- - -

The yard and the warehouses belong to The Spade Import and Export Company. I told the yard boss that I wanted to do an expose on small local companies but he wouldn’t hear it. Apparently someone doesn’t like a magazine writer snooping around the property. I politely thanked them for their time, but was still forcibly escorted to the road by ‘security guards’ who weren’t afraid to wave their guns in my direction. I don’t know what’s going on there, but there is one thing that I do know: THE TRUCK was on the grounds of the storage yard.

They can now identify me, so am going to have to pursue a different line of investigation.

- - -

The police still are not interested in hearing what I have to say. Even when I told them I had found the truck. The lead detective, Sergeant William Dodd, took me aside and told me to drop it. DROP IT!

- - -

I took a walk around the block and came back home having made a decision.

- - -

Adrian Brown will drop it! He will get on with his life and work. He will let it go so that another can pick up the investigation and go where he cannot go. It must be someone who can move unseen and unnoticed, who will go places that Brown cannot. Someone who will go where the police cannot, or will not go.

This is something that can only be done by a GHOST.

- - -

“The diary entries end there,” Margaret said to her husband, “there are small little notes with numbers and letters next to different parts of it. I don’t know what they mean. The rest of the journal is typed and doesn’t read at all like Adrian. It’s more like a clinical examination of the events.”

Donald contemplated that and the codes he had seen on other pages, photographs, and maps, and had a pretty good idea of what it meant. He looked at his watch.

“It’s getting pretty late. We better get on home so no one can tie us to discovering Adrian upstairs.”

Margaret closed the journal and stood from her chair and looked across the room, “what are we going to do now?”

“I’m not certain,” he turned and saw her looking toward the rack of clothing the Masked Ghost wore, “but I have a few ideas.”

To be continued…

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter 7 - "Clues to a Ghost"

“REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST”

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 7 – “Clues to a Ghost”

What windows there were in this basement room had been painted over so that none could see into the hidden lair of The Masked Ghost.

Margaret and her husband Donald Randolf found themselves enraptured with curiosity as they explored the hideout of the vigilante she had only hours before discovered to be her brother and who now laid dead several feet above their heads.

But down here Adrian Brown didn’t exist; there was only The Masked Ghost.

Here were the secrets he had kept from them, from the world. Everything seemed so chaotic in this cold dungeon chamber, and yet the more they explored they found order in everything.

Finally the couple looked to one another.

“What are we suppose to do with all this?” Margaret asked.

“He wanted us to find his killer.”

“But how?”

“He directed us to come here. Cabbie knew we had to come here. So there must be clues in all this,” he gestured to everything around them, “Seemed quite certain we’d be able to find the answer.”

“But what if we can’t?”

“We will, honey,” he hugged her, “we must.”

Margaret looked about her. “Where do we start?”

Donald moved to the table and the wall hangings, “these are rather impressive blueprints. Maybe he thought I could make something out of them. Why don’t you look through those journals? Maybe you’ll see something only a sister could.”

He watched as his wife went over to the shelves of books and pulled one down. Margaret was trying to be strong but Donald knew she was hurting on the inside.

Looking down at the paperwork before, Donald sorted through sheets of notes. Adrian was obviously a stickler for order and research; he had his very own form of the Dewey Decimal System. Each sheet of paper had markings at the top corner, whether they were news clippings, photographs, city documents, or his own hand written notes. Through the pages were references using those letters and number that cited other pages in his collection. Here was a location, here a photo of that location. Here a news article about a gang land killing, here the bios of each victim and the suspects, and even the police involved in the investigations.

Donald turned to blueprints. They were of a building that would dwarf the Empire State Building, and having worked on it this struck Donald’s pride. He hadn’t heard of any such building, but then he had been away from construction for some time now and lost contact with most of the men he had worked with. Again he realized how different a world he lived in now. He loved Margaret deeply and was starting to feel like part of her family, but it was so different from world he had come from.

He shuffled through more pages, and came across a list of names.

“I know some of these men,” he said quite surprised.

He dug through a pile of photographs and found the codes that matching names on the list.

The first that he recognized was Herbert J. Wolf of the architectural firm of Salmon, Wolf, and Dallas. The firm’s name was stamped on the blue prints. Donald’s construction company had once put a bid in with them, but they weren’t willing to pay what he asked.

Next was Philip Eken’s of the city’s development agency. Donald hadn’t worked with him but knew he had replaced their government go to man back from when he was working.

The third was Jacob Saul who was currently leading a unionization battle of several construction sites. Donald had nothing against the labor movement, but didn’t like Saul’s tactics when he approached their company.

Beneath Saul’s name and description was listed Petras Nikolas who had worked for Donald before he got married. The man’s family had emigrated from Greece. Not only was he a good worked, he understood running the company. So Donald expected the man to do quite well for himself.

There was a hand written note next to Nikolas’ name. ‘Must find a way to ask Donald about him.’

But his brother-in-law never did get the chance to ask him about his former colleague. Now Donald wondered exactly what Adrian had been thinking.

He kept reading through the names and descriptions. There were a lot of other names he knew vaguely from the construction industry, but a lot more he had no idea who they were. But there was one that he knew, not personally or from business, but a name that had gotten more press then the ‘The Masked Ghost.’ Joe ‘Crackers’ Castella a local mob boss the police hadn’t been able to pin anything on but the press loved to talk about. Beneath ‘Crackers’ name was a hand written note: Needs to be taken care of, but not connected to primary investigation.

For the next hour he read through all the notes related to the planned Wolf building and the associated names. It was too much. Donald worried that all this was part of another novel Adrian was writing, but he knew too much about the underpinnings of the New York construction trade just to be making it up.

“Dear,” Margaret spoke, but had to say it a second and then a third time before Donald finally looked at her. He had been so deep into his thoughts.

“Think I found something,” she held up a red binder different from the rest, “It’s Adrian’s journal… or I guess, the Masked Ghost’s journal about Sheila’s death.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chapter 6 - "Home for a Ghost"

“REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST”

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 6 – “Home for a Ghost”

“Do not move,” said the man holding the gun on Donald and Margaret Randolf. Slowly he got out from behind the wheel of the taxicab and came around to them.

Donald wondered if he could move fast enough to take this man before a shot could be fired. Fearing for his wife’s safety, he thought it best to stay still and find out what was going on.

Margaret stood there frozen; she had no idea what this strange man wanted, her only thoughts were of her brother Adrian.

Keeping the gun pointed on them, the taxicab driver looked about in all directions but there was no one around. The storm had chased everyone into the surrounding buildings. After being certain they were along he gestured at the rolled up rug leaning against the wall.

“Is that him?” He asked. Margaret looked where they had put her brother’s body. She felt sick, and looked back to her husband.

“We’ve done what you asked,” Donald said maintaining a tone of control. “Who are you? What do you want?”

The driver looked at him, thought for moment, and then lowered the gun.

“I am sorry for the theatrics Mr. and Mrs. Randolf, but I had to be careful.”

“You know who we are?” Margaret asked, scared.

“Yes, but we have to move now. The Masked Ghost must go home,” and he moved towards the rug.

“Stay away from my brother,” she responded.

“Ma’am, I mean no disrespect to you or your family, but we must get him away from here.”

Donald gave his wife a reassuring glance, that he hoped would get her to relax, then moved past her before he could tell if it worked. He lifted the rug wrapped body and carried it towards the taxi. The driver had already opened the trunk and Donald laid the rug inside.

“Sorry about this buddy,” he said closing the lid.

“Now, please, we must go.”

Donald didn’t have to encourage his wife to get into the taxicab; she was going wherever her brother was going.

Once in, the taxi pulled out on to the main road and turned left heading north. About six blocks later it turned left again. Three blocks later a right, and then a left again.

“This isn’t the way to Adrian’s apartment,” Margaret said.

“It is if you do not want to be followed.” Answered the man behind the wheel.

Donald glanced out the back window. Who would be following them? The police? The killer? Someone else?

He leaned forward towards the driver, “You said you knew us, Mr.—“

The driver snapped up his visor so his I.D. wasn’t visible, “Call me Cabbie. That’s what the boss man calls me. Of course I know the both of you. I’ve driven you to work numerous times sir, and drove the Mrs. to Macy’s twice this week.”

“You’ve driven us before? I don’t recognize you,” Margaret asked.

“Comes with the job, no one remembers their taxi driver,” he said with a smirk in his rearview mirror. “It was something that made the boss man happy.”

“The boss man? You mean the Masked Ghost,” Donald was figuring it out.

“You work for my brother?”

“I work for the Allied Taxi Service, but when the Masked Ghost calls I’m there for him.”

“Why?”

“Lets just say I owe him a debt I’ll never be able to repay.”

“And you became his personal driver.”

“That’s right, and running errands when needed, and a few other things.”

“Like what?”

“Keeping an eye on you two.”

“Why would Adrian want you to watch us?” Margaret asked.

“The Masked Ghost has many enemies.”

A moment later, the taxi pulled into the alley behind Adrian Brown’s apartment.

Cabbie helped Donald carry the rug role into the back of the building and on into Adrian’s ground floor apartment while Margaret stood watch at the corner of the alleyway. The storm had cleared the streets in this part of town. It was drizzling now, but she paid it little notice. Margaret hadn’t visited her brother’s apartment very often, but standing here now she realized just how different the neighborhood was from her Park Avenue penhouse world.

A few minutes later her husband whistled for her to join them, and she found herself in the doorway of her brother’s small apartment. Adrian once told her he didn’t need much of a place since he was always traveling, chasing his stories across the globe. Now it looked very empty except for dozens of books, scattered magazines, and an old typewriter on the kitchen table with piles of manuscripts.

She watched as her husband and the Cabbie unrolled the rug letting Adrian’s body lay on the floor.

“Now remove everything of the Masked Ghost from him,” the Cabbie ordered. Donald obeyed simply because he didn’t know what else to do. This strange taxi driver knew far more than they did.

Margaret knelt down to help her husband remove the mask and outer over coat from her brother. They also remove his double-breasted suit coat containing the guns.

Once he was dressed only in his pants and blood stained shirt, they stood and looked at the Cabbie for what to do now.

“Tomorrow you will come by to visit your brother and find him here. That’s when you call the police.”

“But we can’t just leave him—“ Margaret spoke, but her husband squeezed her hand to reassure her.

“You seem to have this planned out,” Donald asked.

“Not I, sir,” and he nodded down at the body, “The Masked Ghost still has much unfinished business.”

Donald looked the Cabbie in the eye and an unspoken understanding passed between them.

“I’ll dispose of the rug,” The Cabbie said as he picked it up and turned for the door.

“What do we do with these clothes? The mask and guns?” Margaret asked, feeling useless.

“Through there,” the Cabbie indicated an inner door opposite the bedroom, and almost hidden from the front door, which he closed behind him and was gone.

The couple looked at one another uncertain what to do next, then down at Adrian.

Donald knelt briefly and adjusted the position of the body, “This should make it look like he was shot by someone at the door. There was a knock, he answered the door and then was shot.”

“But that’s not what happened.”

“Do you want the killing tied back to us? Do you want the police to discover that he’s the Masked Ghost?”

“No, but--”

“Right. Me neither, but we have to protect him somehow.” Donald reached in his pocket and pulled out the ring of keys. He had no trouble identifying the one for the apartment door, so now he had to figure out the rest. The inner door appeared to be a closet, except that there were two locks. After several tries he matched both with keys on the ring. The door opened.

“Bring the clothes,” he told his wife and stepped through the opening. It was dark, and he could just make out a sidewall was missing and the edge of the floor dropping away into darkness a couple feet from the door. Looking about he found a pull chain, which turned on a single light bulb overhead. The new illumination revealed a wooden staircase, which appeared to be hand made, and descended down through what would have been the closet’s floor.

“Follow me, but watch your step,” Donald said as he took the first steps. Having formerly worked in construction, he was surprised at the quality of the work, and that the stepped didn’t creak beneath his weight.

A second bulb at the bottom lit up along with the first; reaching it he took Margaret’s hand to help her down the final steps while carrying the bundle of clothes.

“Where are we?” She asked.

“It looks like he built the stairs himself to go down into the basement. There’s another door here. Let me try another key.”

As he opened this door, they heard the one above them swing closed.

“We’re trapped,” Margaret nearly shrieked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Donald reached to the top hinge at the door in front of him. A cable was attached to it and ran diagonally up the wall of the stairwell, “Adrian must have wanted to be certain the door above was closed once he came down here, and the same when he went back up.

“Why?”

“Let’s find out,” Donald said reaching his hand into the darkness beyond the door. Along the edge of the wall he found a switch box. Multiple lights came on around the room.

“Oh my God,” Margaret said, it didn’t take long for her to realize what this room was.

There was a table in the center of the room, with paperwork laid out. A chalkboard stood on one side, and corkboard on the other. There were maps of the city and blueprints of different buildings attached to open wall space. The chalkboard was written up full of notes; at the top were two time lines. One line made out in days, and another in hours of one of those days. On the pegboard were news clippings, police blotters, and mug shots of criminal suspects as well as street level candid photos of some of the same and others. Against one wall was a bookshelf filled, not just with books and phone directories, but also a dozen or more journals and notebooks. Next to that was a police band radio.

“I don’t think we need to worry about his clothes anymore,” Margaret said stepping further into the room. A wheeled clothing rack stood to one side. At least half a dozen suits and overcoats hung from the rack, and just as many hats sat on a table next to it. Beyond the clothes was the weapon’s cabinet.

“The Masked Ghost was ready for anything.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chapter 5 – “Phone Call a Ghost”

“REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST”

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 5 – “Phone Call a Ghost”

Why had they lied to the police?

Why had Adrian hidden from the police?

Why had he been running around town masquerading as a vigilante ghost?

Who had shot him? And why?

Donald Randolf picked off each question as he fingered one key after another around the ring Adrian had given him before dying, like rosary beads. None of the keys provided answers to his questions. Most of all the answer to the most pressing question: What were they going to do now?

For more then half an hour his wife Margaret cradled the head of her dead brother. Tears finally subsided and she laid him back on the bed and stood.

She looked at her husband and he looked at her. Neither spoke as both had the same questions and no answers to provide the other.

They both jumped at the sound of the phone from the other room.

“What do we do?” Panic filled their eyes. The phone rang again.

“I suppose we answer the phone.” He took her hand and headed for the phone in the front all. It was a good excuse to take her away from the body.

“Hello? Randolph residence,” he said politely. It had taken Donald some time to sound like the ‘upper crust’ that he had married into. He wasn’t comfortable in it, but he loved Margaret so tried very hard. It was better than his normal answer of ‘What?’

A man’s voice with a rough accent spoke.

“Is Mr. Adrian Brown there? May I speak to him?”

Donald’s blood froze and he looked at his wife in horror. He finally found his voice and answered, “No, I’m sorry. He’s no longer here.” Then cursed himself for admitted that Adrian had been here.

Margaret shook in fear. Who would have called for her brother here? Now?

There was a long pause; Donald could hear traffic sounds in the distance. Whoever this caller is, was on the street, possibly at a pay phone. He glanced towards the window fearing that the stranger was just outside the building.

“Hello, are you still there?” Donald asked and wished he had just hung up.

Finally the voice spoke again, this time deeper, colder.

“The Masked Ghost must walk.”

Good God, Donald thought, he knows.

“Who is this?”

Another silence and then.

“All your questions will be answered, Mr. Randolf. But first the Masked Ghost must travel. The Masked Ghost must walk.”

“How exactly can a ghost walk?” Donald was getting upset and regretted his words at the site of his wife’s horror filled face.

“There is a back entrance to your building,” the voice came again, “The Masked Ghost must descend. I will be waiting for him.”

“What? We can’t do that. We can’t move a—People will see--.”

The line went dead. The stranger had hung up. The empty sound echoed through the phone. Donald held on a moment longer before putting the handset into the cradle.

“Who was that?”

“I don’t know, but he knows Adrian is the Masked Ghost,” he looked at her. Margaret was shaking. He held her in his arms.

“Is it… Is it the killer?” She asked.

Donald didn’t answer right away, he just held her. Looking over his wife’s shoulder he saw the ring of keys he had laid on the table when answering the phone. There were numerous keys. One or two keys were for Adrian’s apartment. Another was for a similar door. One appeared to belong to a locker at a bus depot, and another might be for a safe. Wasn’t certain about that one. It was obvious that his brother-in-law had many secrets locked away.

“No,” he finally spoke, answering her question, “Who ever it is, he isn’t the killer. At least I hope not. But he may be someone who can help us?”

“How?” Margaret thought of something he had said before hanging up, “What did you mean ‘people might see’? What people? See what?”

Stepping back from her, Donald put his hands on her shoulders and looked in his wife’s eyes?

“I’m thinking about it, honey. I’m thinking about it.”

And so he thought about it. He knew what was going to have to happen next, but didn’t know how he was going to make it happen.

“Stay here,” he ordered her. Margaret wanted to follow but he shook his head. He went back into the bedroom, looked briefly at the body that lay there. Donald went into the closet and began to pull out clothes that weren’t blood stained and something they could wear out in this weather. There was going to be a lot of work to do.

“Put these on,” he told his wife and handed her a pile of clothes. Some of it was her clothing, some his. He had a feeling she’d need to wear slacks for what they were going to do.

“Why? What are you planning?”

He started to change clothes, and she followed suit even though her question wasn’t yet answered.

“There is someone downstairs waiting for us. Or more correctly, waiting on the Masked Ghost to come down and join them.”

She listened as she pulled on a woolen top she had worn at the sky chalet in the mountains last winter.

“And we need to get the Masked Ghost down there.”

“What, but the Masked Ghost is Adrian—“ she realized, “NO! We can’t just move my brother around like he was some sack of potatoes.”

“We don’t have a choice, Maggie. The police are likely to return when they don’t find the Masked Ghost or his blood trail leaving our building. If they come back they should find the apartment as they left it. Even with the extra blood in the bedroom, it should still appear to be the mess they left it as. Otherwise, they will find him here and we’ll be arrested for harboring a fugitive, or at the very least lying to the police.”

She thought about what her husband was saying. Margaret didn’t like the thought of what they were going to have to do. It seemed so disrespectful to the dead, to her brother. But then she thought of what had already happened to him. Someone out there in the dark had shot him, killed him, for God knows why? Because Adrian had chosen to put on a mask? Why had he done that, to hunt down criminals? Did this have anything to do with what happened to Sheila?

Tightening the belt on Donald’s pants around her thin waist she looked at him and spoke.

“I hate doing this, but we’ll do it for Adrian.” Then she pulled on the heavy work gloves he handed her. “We will find out what happened to him.”

Donald didn’t reply, but scooped up the keys and headed back to the bedroom.

They rolled Adrian’s body (mask, guns, and all) in a large Persian rug. It was very cumbersome, but Margaret surprised herself by her own strength when she had to lift it on her own. Donald did most of the carrying, except when they had to go around corners and she had to take an end. She would then move ahead to keep watch in case someone was coming.

They found the halls, and even the elevator to be surprisingly empty. It must have been the storm that had driven everyone into their apartments instead of mingling in the common rooms and hallways. Even Willy, the boy who ran the elevator, wasn’t at his post. Mrs. Thompson must have convinced him to come inside for some hot chocolate, again. The elevator shaft can be very cold.

It was almost too easy, Donald thought, as they made it to the ground floor. They’re luck didn’t hold.

When the elevator doors opened the couple from 7C was standing there. They looked at Donald and Margaret and then at the large rolled up and stained carpet they held between them.

“Uh…,” Donald didn’t know what to say.

It was his wife that surprisingly came to rescue.

“Hi, Betty, Jim. This horrible storm blew in our French doors and totally soaked the rug. We wanted to get it out of the apartment before it made any more of a mess.”

Jim looked at the big stained roll and watched as it slumped forward. “Here let me help you with that.”

“No, no—“ Donald started, but again Margaret was there for him.

“Don’t touch. The rug is full of broken window glass. Don’t want you to get hurt, that’s why we’ve got gloves on.”

“Oh, of course,” said Betty, it made some type of sense, “come one honey let’s leave them to their mess.”

The Randolphs carried their bundle down the lobby corridor toward the back door, as Betty and Jim stepped into their vacated elevator.

“That was really quick thinking back there,” Donald said as they laid the rolled up carpet on the ground just outside the door. It was still raining, but not as fiercely. There was no sign of the police.

“I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m running on pure fear and—Hey, look.”

Down the road about half a block a taxicab was parked. It flashed its headlamps twice.

“Do you think that’s him? Should we wave,” Margaret raised her hand but dropped it as she thought better of the idea.

The cab’s lights came on again and slowly rolled forward until it was even with them.

“Can I give you a ride?” The driver said once the window was rolled down.

“No, I don’t think so. We’re waiting for—“ Donald remembered the same accented voice from the earlier phone call.

“Get in the cab,” said the driver pointing a gun at them, “the Masked Ghost must take a ride.”

To Be Continued…

Chapter 4 – “The Police for a Ghost”

“REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST”

by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)

Chapter 4 – “The Police for a Ghost”

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know,” Donald Randolf answered his wife as he put the mask back on the face of his dead brother-in-law, and put the guns back where he found them. “But we better go answer the door before the police break it down.”

“Open up in there!”

Margaret was terrified, but her husband pushed her forward, and she opened the door.

A large round man, wearing a suit two sizes too small, held up his Detective’s badge. Six uniformed police officers stood in the hall behind them, each with their guns drawn.

“Detective Dobbs. You called?” He had a gruff voice.

“I… I did.” Margaret answered now more scared of them then of the intruder.

“Well,” the detective measured up the couple, wondering if they were worth interrupting his evening, “Where is this ‘Masked Ghost’? You better not be messing with me, because we’ve had enough calls from people claiming they had captured him ever since the papers announced that there was a reward.”

“Reward?” Margaret glanced at her husband. Donald knew what she was thinking. Had someone shot Adrian in an attempt to capture the mysterious ‘Masked Ghost’ in hopes of claiming the reward?

“He came in from the balcony,” Donald said trying to stay calm, “Don’t know how he got up here. He then collapsed on the living room floor.” Margaret grabbed his arm in fear as the police moved passed them and into the other room.

“And this would be the room,” the detective asked.

“Yes.”

“Then where is he?”

“What?” The couple said in unison and pushed through the line of police officers and couldn’t believe their eyes.

The room was empty. The French doors still swung open as the wind blew in the rain.

“You said he was dead.” Dobbs grumbled.

“I couldn’t find a pulse,” Donald replied.

A look of joy and hope passed across Margaret’s face, but she had to suppress it in front of the police.

“We’ve got blood here,” one of the uniformed officers examined the floor where Adrian had fallen only moments earlier, “lots of it. Trail leads in from the balcony and pools here.”

“Looks like you weren’t lying after all,” Dobbs said to the Randolphs through gritting teeth.

“Why would we lie?” Margaret said and realized too late there was a tone of guilt in her words.

“Good question,” the detective answered.

An officer came in from balcony, holding a long rope connected to a strange metal grappling hook. The rope was wet from the rain and blood. “Looks like this is how he got up here.”

“Yes, but did he also leave that way?” Dobbs considered aloud. “Spread out, he’s probably still here.” The order given and the officers moved through the penthouse apartment.

“He’s alive!” Margaret whispered to her husband, she tried not to hope. Donald looked grim, and didn’t reply.

“More blood over here,” came another officer, “trail of it leading in here.”

They all headed in that direction. Margaret and Donald could not stop themselves from following, but the detective put a hand up to stop them before they entered their own bedroom.

Margaret watched as he raised his gun and followed the other officers. She was trying not to cry. Her brother was alive, and there were seven guns in there ready to kill him again.

“The window,” she heard an officer say.

Donald and Margaret leaned to the side trying to look into the room as the detective approached the window on the opposite wall. They couldn’t see much except that the window was open and something large and dark was hung from it.

The police were in the bedroom for several minutes more before Detective Dobbs emerged holding a large overcoat soaked in blood.

Margaret gasped.

“Looks like the creep escaped out your bedroom window. This bulky coat must have been slowing him down, so he left it behind.” Dobbs turned to his squad, “Okay, everyone, let’s get out of here. A man bleeding that much can’t have gotten far.”

He turned back to the terrified couple. “Thank you for calling. We’ll have this twit in custody by morning, or he’ll be dead. Either way he won’t be bothering you again. Have a good night.”

With that the detective left with the rest of the police, taking the coat and other evidence with him.

Margaret and Donald found themselves very alone.

“Wh… what happened?”

“I don’t know,” Donald answered his distraught wife.

“Where’s Adrian,” she broke from his arms and ran for their bedroom. The room was a complete wreck as the police had pulled apart practically everything in their search for clues. The window was left open and there was a dark red stain from where the coat had lain.

She turned back to her husband, “Do you think they’ll find him—“

“Sorry about the mess, sis.” Came a whisper and they turned to find the masked man dragging himself out of their walk-in-closet. The police had been in there, but only given it a cursory glance.

“Adrian!” Margaret shouted, and ran to him. He took a step forward and fell into her arms.

Donald helped get him to the bed. Margaret held Adrian’s head in her lap and pulled the mask from her brother’s face.

“What happened Adrian? How did this…”

He looked up at her, his eyes focused and unfocused. “Sheila.”

“We’ve got to get you to the hospital,” Donald said, trying to maintain some clear thought in the midst of all this chaos.

“No time,” came the raspy whisper, “lost too much blood. I’ll be dead before we get there…”

“Don’t say that!” Margaret cried.

“Sorry Maggie. Now listen, there’s too much at stake here,” Adrian reached a shaky hand into a pocket and pulled out a ring of keys. “Go to my apartment. You’ll find all you need there.”

“All we need for what?”

“To catch my murderer,” it was the last thing he said as his head collapsed in his sister’s arms. She held him to herself crying.

Donald stood over his wife, as she rocked her brother in her arms. There was no doubt about it; Adrian Brown was now dead.

He looked at the keys in his hand and wondered exactly what they were supposed to do next.

To Be Continued.