“REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST”
by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden
(Copyright 2011 Kevin Paul Shaw Broden)
Chapter 17 - “Away from a Ghost”
Margaret Randolf went to visit her parents. Or rather, her husband Donald sent her off to visit her parents. He made certain she got to the station and put her on the right train. She knew he was up to something, but wouldn’t tell her what.
She arrived at the other end of the line to be greeted by her father’s driver waiting for her and she was at the old house in no time.
Margaret found her mother asleep in the room that had been her brother’s.
“Mom”, she knelt next to the woman. Katherine Brown looked nearly identical to her daughter if thirty years older and with longer hair.
“Oh, Maggie, thank God,” the older woman leapt up and through her arms around Margaret, “I dreamt both you and Adrian had been killed.”
“I’m here, Mama, I’m here.” Margaret said holding her crying mother. She looked up to see her father grimly standing in the doorway watching them.
With her daughter in the house, Katherine forced herself to be active. Even though Margaret protested, her mother went to the kitchen to have a meal prepared.
“That’s the most activity she’s made in two days,” her father told Margaret, “When I came home and told her what had happened to Adrian she screamed and screamed for two hours straight until. She smashed vases in the dining room, and then collapsed into tears in his room.”
“Sorry I didn’t get here sooner, but Don and I had a lot to take care of.”
“Where is that husband of yours?” Her father demanded.
“I’m sorry, but he had business to take care of and had to attend a meeting that came up at the last minute and he couldn’t get out of.” She couldn’t very well tell him that he was following a clue in her brother’s death.
After leaving Margaret at the train station, Donald hopped into a tax cab. He first made certain that the driver wasn’t Cabbie; he didn’t want another discussion about why the Masked Ghost had to live. He wanted nothing more to do with the vigilante. Just a few hours in the mask was enough for Donald, never again.
The taxi took him to a construction site at the far end of Manhattan.
Donald paid the fare and walked up to the security booth at the front gate.
He had put on more rugged looking work clothes, feeling it wouldn’t be right to show up in a three piece suit that cost more than many of these men made in a year. Yet the workers still looked at him suspiciously, even though he had worked with many of them in the past Donald Raymond was no longer part of their world.
The guard also eyed him wearily. No one was to enter the construction site without permission. It was for safety, of course.
“Tell Mr. Nikolas that his old friend ‘Donny’ is here to see him.”
The guard eyed him up again, then waved over a worker, and said something to him. The worker looked at ‘Donny’ and then ran off and into the manager’s shack.
A moment later the shack shook, as the door was flown open, and a large burly man with a shaving brush mustache ran out.
“Donny, Oh my God, Donny,” said Petra Nikolas as he slapped his large arms around Donald and lifted him from the ground, “I thought you were dead.”
It almost felt like a family, like home. Almost.
Mom was chatting away to Margaret about this and that, but her hands were shaking as she ate the few bites Katherine brought to her lips. She was trying to be strong, and doing things for her daughter kept her mind occupied, at least for a while.
Margaret listened to her mother ramble with stories of when Adrian and she were little playing in the back gardens of the house. Briefly she glanced across the table at her father whose lip was quivering only slightly. It stopped and his face became like stone when he realized she was watching.
Harris J. Brown had taught himself to be that way a long time ago. To be strong and unemotional got him through the terrible stock market crash a few years earlier. Emotions lead to rash decisions and mistakes.
He thought his daughter marrying the Raymond fellow was all emotion and rash and that it would be a mistake that would only hurt her and the family. Yet it was Adrian who had convinced him to give Donald another consideration, another look. In the right environment that rugged young fellow was intelligent and did understand business, if from a different angle than Brown’s own. So far he’s proven himself, both as a good husband and a businessman. It was the right thing to bring him into the company.
Yet it was his own son, Adrian Harris Brown, who had all the emotional and imagination of his mother. Running off to this country or that following ‘leads’ for his newspaper articles. Writing strange stories for dime magazines. Meeting all sorts of people. Moving away from the family and living in the squalor of an apartment among the riffraff of the city.
If he had only stayed with the family, thought better of it, he would not have made the decisions that had gotten him killed.
Harris looked up to see Margaret still looking at him; she was patting her mother’s hand.
“Adrian seemed so happy after he met Sheila,” Katherine was saying, her eyes not focusing on anything now except the memories of her son.
“Yes, I know.” Margaret agreed with her mother trying to keep her calm, “I always thought she was grounding him.”
“And she did,” Harris said, “but that family of hers didn’t help any.”
Both women looked up at him in surprise.
“It’s been too long, Donny,” Petra Nikolas said. He had invited Donald into the manager’s shack and they had been talking for the last hour, “Has the wife been good to you.”
“The wife has been very good to me,” Donald replied without a hint of innuendo that Nikolas was hoping for.
“You’ve changed, you have,” his friend smiled.
“Maybe I have. Maybe I have. What about you? You seem to be doing well for yourself. This is quite a construction site you’re overseeing,” Donald glanced at the familiar blueprints pinned to the wall he had seen only nights before in the lair of the Masked Ghost.
“Oh it is. Gonna be the biggest building in all New York.”
“Bigger than the Empire State Building? Petra, you wound me.”
“Progress, Donny, Progress,” Nikolas replied to Donald’s joke then looked down at his shoes?
“Petra, is something wrong?”
“No, no. All well. Progress is being made in this fine city. Just wish that there’d be signs of some progress in the finances.”
“Having money troubles?”
“You didn’t hear it from me, but this monstrosity,” he gestured at the blueprint, “is starting to be called ‘Wolf’s Folly’. Money disappears when it should be going into the girders above.”
Donald thought about that for a moment. He was about to ask about Herbert J. Wolf and where things stood for the architect when a heavy pounding came to the door.
Margaret saw that her mother was comfortable and sitting in the lounge reading. She had been about a third way through Adrian’s novel when she learned of his death. Katherine wanted to be close to him now through his words. At least she was peaceful, Margaret thought.
“What did you mean by that, daddy?” She pulled Harris into another room so as not to disturb her mother, “What’s so wrong with the Brusters?”
“Besides blaming my son for Sheila’s death? Everything.”
“What does that suppose to mean?”
“Do you know why Adrian interviewed them originally?”
“Something to do with finances, I think. Doesn’t Mr. Bruster work with the city?”
“That’s right. Adrian’s publisher wanted to do a full cover exposé on Argust Bruster and how he’s been helping fund raise a lot of the massive construction in the city.”
“Oh,” Knowing her husband’s former career in construction this struck a note of interest to Margaret, “go on.”
“After it was obvious Adrian was serious about Sheila I looked into the family and their business.”
“Of course you did, father,” she said dryly. He had spent three months looking into Donald’s background, family, and friends. According to Harris, he was far beneath Margaret to pay him any attention, but when she wouldn’t give up and Adrian supported the relationship he had called out the big guns to make certain that his new son-in-law wasn’t going to ruin the family. “What did you find?”
“Too many hands in his pockets.”
Before Petra could get out his seat, the door to the shack was thrown open.
“Nikolas! Why aren’t you paying my men?!”
Donald recognized the blustery voice of Jacob Saul the local construction labor union leader, having come screaming into his own construction offices in the past. He also recognized Saul from the Masked Ghost’s notes about this very same construction site.
“I am paying them as best that I can,” Petra said getting up to confront the invader, but the way he sounded Donald knew there was no strength behind it, the burly man suddenly looked small and weak. If Saul wanted to take the pay out of his skull there wouldn’t be much of a defense, and from the clenching of fists it was bound to happen.
“There’s no need to be angry,” Donald got up and stood next to his friend.
Jacob Saul looked at him for a moment and then remembered, “Raymond, I thought you ran off from doing a real man’s job.”
“And I thought you had grown past childish tantrums. Hardly a way to get people to see things your way.”
“Do you want to see my way of thinking,” Saul raised a fist.
“Please, please. No fighting,” Nikolas said as if in fear of being caught.
“You couldn’t do it before, I doubt you could do it now,” Donald said, “but Petra’s right. There’s no need to fight. Perhaps there are other ways you can negotiate.”
“No more negotiations. He’s got to pay--”
He was interrupted by another knock at the door and a low voice, “Mr. Nikolas, they’re here.”
“Oh, dear, oh dear.” Nikolas began to mumble about himself.
“Who’s here, Petre?” Donald asked, ignoring the union thug for the moment, “what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. You’ll just have to go now. Both of you.” Nikolas said, which startled Saul.
Donald knew something was up and thought it best to get out of the way. For now.
“I think its time for us to go,” he grabbed Saul’s arm and pulled him out the door, “Talk to you soon Petra.” He shouted back in and lead Saul towards the main gate.
“Let go of me,” the union man shook free, “so you taking our fight outside to teach me a lesson?”
“Sometimes I think you’re past being able to learn anything,” Donald said in return, “but no. I don’t want to fight you. Tell me, is Nikolas really having trouble paying your men?”
Saul sighed, “It’s hard out here for everyone. We’re not all lucky to marry into money.”
“It was a blessing for me, but I feel guilty all the time when I see you all out here working. I really do.”
“I cry for you,” Saul said, but there was no fire behind it, “Yes, for the past few weeks he’s been paying later and later. Even though I try to scare it out of him, it’s not your friend’s fault. From what I understand the money’s drying up much higher than his office.”
“Damn. I really thought he’d make something of himself.”
“You always tried to be fair to the men,” Saul had to acknowledge, “we rarely saw eye to eye when the union didn’t get what we wanted from you, but you were fair.”
“Thank you, that means a lot,” Donald said looking across the construction site before leaving. He saw a tall thin man in a suit entering Nikolas’s office. Then across the yard he saw something else.
“Do you know who that is?” He asked Saul.
“No, but I know that,” the union man said indicating the truck Donald was already looking at with a concerned eye, “it’s been showing up at several sites in the city recently.”
On the side of the truck was the painted emblem for the Spade Import and Export Company.
To Be Continued…