“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 café 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.
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…