Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?
* Author's note: time frame is prior to the episode "Haunted Submarine", and is not in the same fiction "universe" as the Nelson Chronicles & Nelson Family Reunion
"Edith," Admiral Nelson pleaded from the relative safety of his office, " I know how you must feel, but I just can't help it." The great man raked his hand through his hair, a nervous habit he must have picked up from Crane. Nelson wouldn’t be so damn nervous if he wasn’t trying to quit smoking.
"But you promised!" the voice on the receiver whined.
He hated it when his far younger sister was upset. She couldn’t help it of course. And it didn’t help Harriman Nelson’s protective urges when she was upset or excited. He'd have rather been battling a giant squid than face her wrath.
"I guess I don’t have a choice," her pouting came through loud and clear.
"I’ll make it up to you, I promise…. I'll only be delayed a few days, I’m sorry, Edie, really I am."
"Humph. I just bet you are. "
"Uh, still speaking to me then?"
"Yes, though I have no idea why," she tried to sound mad, but even she knew he knew she could never really be too angry with him, even now. "Bye bye battle britches."
"See you later alligator," he replied, relieved that it had gone better than expected.
Within a few hours, Nelson was enroute to Hawaii at the request of the Navy. On call, he sighed wearily; the Institute was always on call. The shore leave he'd promised to himself seemed a long way away. At least his crew had escaped for some badly needed rest.
He stretched out wearily in his First Class seat. Legroom, he sighed inwardly, somewhat appeased; he'd been hard pressed to find an airline with the service on his route. He could have taken the flying sub, but he preferred a less dramatic arrival. He was not a man to show off.
"May I get you another drink, sir?" the stewardess asked.
"Actually, I…"he paused, "yes, certainly," he changed his mind, Might as well appreciate the view, he thought, as the stewardess smiled, poised to take his order.
"Lee, honey, time to get up."
"Mnnnsnuff…" Lee snorted into his pillow, bare feet dangling over the bed.
"I don't suppose I can interest you with this?" A feminine hand dangled a freshly picked broccoli floret in front of his nose as another hand opened an eyelid. "Fresh from the garden, healthful, organic, positively alive with grit and caterpillars…Oh, come on Lee, it's nearly noon, and you weren't out that late! I know because I stayed up…"
"Come on Catty," Thomas Andrews snickered from the doorway," I told you, he learned a long time ago how to sleep with his eyes open…too much spy training I think…"
Lee groaned, still half encased in sleep.
"Naval Intelligence work that's all," she winked at her editor. "Though he doesn't seem all that intelligent to me, staying out all night, boozing probably, doing goodness knows what…."She ruffled Lee's hair, "That is what it was wasn't it, honey, a special assignment?" she tried to wake her son.
Andrews snorted in amusement. It was rumored that the officers and crew of Seaview were likened to wolves on the prowl when in port or on shore leave. Jokes abounded about their special assignments to aquire pretty dates.
"I know what you're thinking Thomas," Catherine Crane rebuked," Lee is a highly trained and dedicated officer in the Naval Reserve and its not his fault he gets called up by ONI now and then, that is what it was, Lee, wasn't it?" she returned her attention to her still dozing son. "Lee," she insisted, and swatted Lee's rump, "up! Now! Or have you forgotten you promised to take me to the mall today?"
"Mph? Huh? Mom?"
"Conscious?" Andrews asked.
"Ooohh, I don't know yet, "Lee ran a hand through his hair, trying with difficulty to sit up, his head pounding, "where's the coffee?"
"Downstairs. Piping cold," Andrews answered.
"I don't usually get soused…did I do anything? No, don't tell me…I don't think I want to know…"
Long time associate, friend, and confidant of Crane's mother, Andrews had developed rather paternal feelings for Lee. He even held the privilege of being one of only two officially sanctioned outsiders who knew of Lee's occasional stints with ONI. But he doubted if last night had been one of them.
"Well, there's no police report. Come on, you know how your Mom is when she's anxious to go out with her friends and show you off. And don't forget she's been looking forward to the game show they're filming at the mall."
"Do I have to go?" he pleaded to Andrews.
"Don't you want to maintain your status as her little pride and joy?"
"I think I lost that a long time ago," Lee stretched," she still doesn't like some of my career options."
"No, I don't,"his mother responded from the doorway,"and I have every intention of telling Admiral Nelson himself if I ever meet him; you're a submarine captain, not a spy." She looked at her disheveled son with exasperated devotion," by the way, we're meeting Matilda at the Pizza Palace first and you know how she hates to be kept waiting."
"Matilda??" Lee asked, aggrieved.
"Yes, dear. And you don't have to sound so glum…"
"I'm not glum, just petrified."
"She said she's been waiting to see you ever since you've been home…have you been trying to avoid her?"
"Lee! She's one of my oldest and dearest friends!" his mother pretended outrage. About a decade older than she, Matilda Bates had been there when Lee's father had died. A tower of strength and support and Catherine had never forgotten it.
"She's a piranha!"
"Lee Crane! You just behave yourself!"
"Aye aye, Maám," he flashed a smile and gave her a mock salute, "but the way she operates… "
"She's only teasing you most of the time, and you know it. "
"Oh very well, I'll talk to the old barracuda," he grunted dramatically as he pulled on a thick robe. He added a pair of ridiculous bedroom slippers, disguised as gorillas. They'd been a present to Chip by Angie, a hint of sorts, after she'd heard him reprimand a crewman. When Morton had discovered Lee's plans to visit his mother in the cold northeast, he'd pestered and finally talked Crane into taking them along. Lee was about to trudge downstairs, but was waylaid by a gentle hand.
"You will behave yourself, and you will not wear those cruddy jeans you've been living in for I don't know how long. Now go downstairs and drink that swill you call coffee, wake up, and then put on something a bit more presentable for today…maybe your uniform. Yes, that would be nice. The blue one, with all the medals and things. "
"So I'm an interfering busybody, I'm your mother, it's allowed…" she kissed him on the cheek.
"For your sake, but under protest. "
"Poor baby, a fate worse than death," she chuckled.
Chief Sharkey punched in the information onto the keyboard for what seemed the umpteenth time. He'd never have had a problem like this aboard Seaview. Again, the computer screen 14 inches in front of his nose played a dreadful electronic noise and Seaview's Chief of the Boat was informed that the system had made an illegal error and would be shut down. He was hard pressed to keep from bashing the computer screen into smithereens. Muttering epitaphs he usually reserved for the more deserving of his crew, he wearily and sheepishly caught the attention of one of the city library volunteers.
"Again?" she asked.
"Yeah. Look, you sure you ain't got any others? Ones that work?"
"I'm sorry, but all the computers with Internet access are taken, and reserved right through the weekend…was it another one of those system failures?"
"Hell, I don’t know what it is."
"What is it that you're trying to do?"
"Uh, oh, nothing…nothing at all, "he tried to worm his way out of revealing too much.
"It can't be nothing," she prodded gently, "if you've tried to do it for over an hour…I won't bite, you know…"
"Uh, oh, uh, okay,"he handed her a small pamphlet, embarrassed.
"Look, I have a laptop. It's not that new, but it has a different Internet access…maybe that would help…would you like me to enter the information for you? You can watch over my shoulder or I'll shut my eyes if you're worried about security. I'm an adequate touch typist."
"I…I don't want to be any more trouble…"
"You've been that," she said with a smile," but I hate these things too. Hasn't anyone told you microchips have minds of their own?"
"Must have, but I gotta get this set up before I run out of time." Sharkey looked at the woman, and shook his head; "I really appreciate you help, Maám."
"Only telemarketers call me Maám…"she raised her left hand, sans ring," still a Miss, I'm afraid," she sighed.
"Not for long, I'm sure," he replied.
"You sir, "she laughed, "have just won yourself an hour's worth of Internet time, come along with me, and let's get this entered."
"Well, uh," Sharkey's instinctive hesitation warred with common sense. This person could be anybody…maybe even a criminal, or a spy or something….but… what could possibly happen in a public library?
"Lee, dahhling!" Matilda called out from her chair at the Pizza Palace.
"Hello Mrs. Bates, "he extended his hand politely, as he helped his mother to a chair with the other.
"It's been ages, Lee, still with that scientist out west? You still only have three stripes?" she leaned toward him;"you should go back to the regular Navy. You know, Catty," Matilda continued," you really have to convince him that he'll never get ahead as a weekend wonder."
"I'd hardly call Seaview a garbage scow," Lee replied.
"You know very well about Seaview, Mattie," Catherine helped," why, it’s the finest submarine afloat…uh…under…you know what I mean."
"Chasing seals and charting seaweed, what kind of ship is that? I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Lee here needs a real job, not a stint as a mere bus driver and…."
"Boat," Lee interrupted. "Subs are called Boats, and I'll have you know, sub driver or not, we do a very important job."
"Don't get all huffy, I simply don't want to see you waste your life as some scientist's go-fer and…."
"May I take your order?" asked the waitress, much to Crane's relief. He needed fuel for the current ordeal. As he looked up, he couldn’t help but to wonder why she hadn't been at the niteclub last night. What did it matter to his senses that she was wrinkled and almost old enough to be….
"Lee," his mother broke his reverie, "she's waiting."
"Oh, uh, "he smiled sheepishly," a fruit fizz. That's all."
"Add two slices of your pineapple pizza for him, don't they feed you on that tin can?" Matilda continued, " we'll have the house special, and two martinis. That's all Miss, you can run along now…It's not fair, Catty," Matilda said after the waitress departed, "just because she's well endowed…"she paused, then added pointedly, "he was practically ogling her and…"
It was going to be a long day.
"Uh, gee, that's fine," Sharkey stammered. This girl had in about two and a half minutes completed the task of filling out the vast cyberform. "Thanks, thanks a lot…hey, uh, can I take you to lunch maybe?"
"Oh, thank you, but I'm afraid I can't. Noblese oblige, have to put in my time…community service and all that."
"Well, uh, thanks..I couldn't have done it without you." Poor kid, I wonder what on earth she did to have to serve time…what the heck is no bles whatever.
"Well, Jiggs," Nelson snapped closed the briefcase, "that should be it. All the code correlation's completed a day ahead of time! I'm glad you'll be taking me up on my dinner invitation," he paused, "though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Edith serves us bread and water," he grinned.
"Harriman," he paused," you did clear it with her first, didn't you?"
"You're one of my oldest friends, Jiggs, and I can invite anyone I like to dinner at my own home, Thanksgiving holidays or not. The old monstrosity has even been aired."
"Wouldn't you have preferred one of your other properties? Say, one built after the invention of the automobile ?"
"I'll admit it's an eyesore,"Nelson chuckled," but it does need to be used for something other than errant dust bunnies now and then. Edith detests the place, I'm hardly ever there… I don't know, I just feel like it somehow. I have to admit it looks like something out of a Victorian novel, complete with mad scientist," Nelson laughed.
"Oh," Starke got the pun. Sometimes Harriman's sense of humor evaded him.
"You can still back out if you want to," Nelson said gently, "but I really would like you to come."
"No, no, Harriman, I'm game, but tell me, isn't it supposed to be haunted?"
"Boston thinks so, I wouldn’t know," he paused, " we can always ask an uninvited guest to join us for a drink," he laughed.
"Tell you the truth," Jiggs chuckled, "I could use one! Harriman, are you sure it will be all right with your sister? Springing me on her so suddenly? "
"Don't be silly, it's not as though she was going to cook Thanksgiving dinner personally…I couldn’t get first class on the way back, so I'm afraid we'll be a bit cramped."
Within a few hours the men were reclining in the tail section of the airline. It was cramped, the economy section really. Starke dozed and Nelson closed his eyes as he thought of home. It had been awhile, and he was looking forward to it~~
"Now I need a volunteer from the audience, "the entertainer said from the open stage in the center of the mall.
Matilda kept pointing to Crane. It was difficult for the man on stage to ignore her.
"You, sir, the man in uniform, how about it?"
Crane didn't want to, but a nudge from his mother and applause from the audience prodded him to acquiesce.
"Now, then, stand here," the mind reader said. "I'm going to have you draw something on these cards, anything, that's it, don't show me, don't show the audience…."
"That's it, there," the cab driver said, as he stopped the car in front of the heavy and somewhat rusted gate. Only part of the old house was visible in the distance. One could almost hear it groan with age, a silent reminder of days long past.
"You'd think they'd keep it up better," the passenger mused.
"Yeah, the Nelsons have always been a bit eccentric. Nice people, but," the driver swirled a finger in the 'crazy' pattern by his head.
"Admiral Nelson's one of them isn't he?"
"Yeah. He's okay crazy wise though. It was his grandmother that was a bit off. Tried to convince anyone who'd listen that the place was haunted. Spent some time in a sanitarium, kept talking to herself a lot. And then there was…"
"Later, "the man said, "let's get back to civilization."
"You can't be serious, Mom!" Lee stressed.
"Lee, it will be fun, after all, Mr. Dobbs picked right up on your occupation and…"
"The uniform was a pretty good clue, Mom."
"And that you were here on vacation…."
"What's he supposed to think, there's no base here, of course I'm on vacation."
"Yes, but what about your gray baby? Maybe Dobbs couldn’t figure it out, but we know, don't we, Lee; her name's Seaview. And he guessed what your drawing was too. So I'm having him over for Thanksgiving dinner, Lee, Matilda too, she's all alone, and that's final. Besides, I could use some insight on mind reading and body language and picking up paranormal vibrations from objects, don't laugh. There's a name for it, I just can't remember it. I could use the research for something I'm thinking of writing. Mr. Dobbs said he'd be glad to discuss things with me, stop groaning…it won't be that bad. In fact it could be quite a stimulating evening. I'm so glad Matilda thought of it."
"Well, if you don't want to help your mother," Matilda helped herself to a tepid cup of coffee the next morning from the Crane table. The dishes had been cleared and it was only luck that she'd found anything left in the coffeepot when she'd arrived that morning.
"It's not that, Mrs. Bates, but this whole idea…"
"Lee~" his mother warned, I think you'd be a little bit more cooperative."
The sunlight suddenly streamed through the window and made a sort of halo around her hair.
It was a no win situation. He took the point. When his mother had a germ of an idea for one of her fictional stories or guidebooks or even a textbook, she insisted on fieldwork first.
"So just how many of these old houses do we have to trudge through for old artifacts?"Lee asked.
"That depends on how many leads we find."
The minute timer in the huge kitchen dinged and almost seemed to echo through the vast house.
"Blast!" Edith Nelson exclaimed. "Blast, blast, blast!" She was not in a good mood.
"Edith? I'm home!" Harriman's voice from afar interrupted her reverie.
Harry? Already? She quickly tidied up her hair, streaked with flour, brushed off some of the dough stuck on her hands and emerged from the kitchen to greet her brother.
Nelson took one look at her state of disheveled domesticity and began to laugh. "I don't believe it…Edie honey, I didn't mean for you to go to any trouble," he hugged her.
"This, Harry," she wiped her hands on her splattered apron, " is not for you, you idiot, it's for the Boston Busybee's Holiday Bake Off, don't laugh. I'm an entered contestant and the damn recipe takes too long for the…"she stopped, a bit sheepish, "welcome home Harry," she hugged him back, then turned her attention to the man with him. "How do you do, uh…"
"Jiggs," Starke extended his hand, "Jiggs Starke.
"Jiggs will be staying for the holiday leave," Nelson said," It took all of my skill to persuade him you wouldn’t be put out."
"Not at all," she lied politely. " Will the green room do?"
"That would be fine, I'm sure, come along Jiggs, I'll show you where to bunk," he nodded toward the ornate staircase.
"Oh, Harry," Edith asked," can I see you for a minute?"
"It's the second room on the right, Jiggs, "Nelson smiled as Jiggs ascended the steps.
"Didn't it occur to you that I may have already made other plans?"Edith whispered.
"Oh," Nelson said, tucking his hand under her chin, "have you?"
"No, but…I 'm sorry, Harry, its just so sudden."
"Love me anyway?"
"Oh go get changed," she gave him a peck on the cheek," you smell of sweat, cigar, and gin."
"You know, I could get used to this, "Jiggs sank into a worn leather chair in the small den. It had been the butler's study in days long past but was now a masculine refuge with a few elegant refinements.
"Any problems with the house, Edie?" Nelson asked, freshly scrubbed and relaxed in a chair himself, wearing clean socks. He rarely wore shoes when on vacation.
"Is that what you call it? House? I don't even remember some of the rooms, everytime I count them, it's different. You really should have a map made. I almost got lost upstairs," she smiled," but the plumbing works again now, sort of; the electrician will be set for life; there’s even a light in the cellar now; the housekeeping agency is billing us for tetanus shots; and the groundskeeper I hired said he needed a pith helmet and machete. It's been a rough week, but I think it's livable. Of course, I could be mistaken," she grinned.
"Okay," Andrews checked off another weather-beaten house in his small notebook, as the owners waved their good-byes, and the two men walked toward the car, "that's it for Brookeville. What's next?"
"A head examination," Crane answered, dusting off his slacks, and packing the camera into the back seat of Andrew's car.
"This whole thing really pisses you off doesn't it?"
"Tommy, dusty old quilts and paintings are one thing, but I just don't think the public is ready for the imagined details of some of our more illustrious predecessors who owned them. Frankly, I think our more restless forefathers have better things to do than rattle their chains and groan through keyholes."
"I would have thought you'd be interested. After all, son, you've actually had a …paranormal encounter," he slid into the driver's seat. " Imagine, a U-boat captain and…"
"Something I do not want to repeat, believe me," Lee tried to change the subject.
"I've seen this Dobbs fellow before, Lee. He's actually sensed things that happened in the past just from looking at objects. And he does have some physic ability as well, pretty well documented, most of it. Even the police seek him out at times for hard cases. And even you have to admit that some of our New England gentry had secrets, why, some of those diaries they found in that old house the city demolished proved that."
"He isn't even listed in the phone book, what's he trying to hide?"
"A lot of people aren't listed in the phone book, that doesn't mean they have anything to hide, Lee. Son, most Colonial, 18th and 19th Century histories are not money grabbers, they're boring to most people. If Catty thinks she can write a book about such things or tie them into a novel, well, more power to her."
"A romance novel is one thing, but history of haunted New England and it’s scandals? Even the bedroom secrets Matilda hopes for? I know all about pilgrims and puritans, and believe me; it's a wonder they managed to procreate at all, Matilda's going to be very disappointed with this little project as as well as Mom and…Tommy, to change the subject, can I ask you something?"
"Anything, "he turned the key in the ignition as Lee strapped himself in.
"When are you going to pop the question?"
"Come on, I know you're interested in more than Mom's literary works. I've known that for ages. So, why are you still stuck in the starting gate?"
"Your mother would say you're treading on dangerous ground, Lee."
"You haven't been…uh…never mind."
"No," he grinned," we've not taken liberties. We're simply friends…. She means the world to me, Lee, but not as a prospective wife. I just like to help out."
"It's the truth, son."
"Well, dad, you buying lunch or am I?"
Sharkey had never run away from anything in his life, but he sure felt like it now. It was almost claustrophobic being surrounded by all the white lab-coats. It was positively aerie. Just as he found his will to face the ordeal fading, he was led to a small cubicle over the highly polished floor while his number was checked.
Everything was in readiness, and he listened again to the long-winded explanations he'd already memorized.
"These are great notes and pictures, Lee, thank you," Catherine gave him a peck on the cheek," I know you think it's silly. But scandal sells and Dobbs is sure he can pick up any unusual vibrations just from the photos. Any luck at the library?"
"No, sorry Mom. Just the same old stuff you have."
"Well, here's an updated list the historical society just sent over. Some other old houses rumored to be haunted. One is fairly close by…Boston actually. I'd go, dear, really, but I just can't get away. I have another book signing to do."
"Boston! That's in another state!"
"Lee, dear, it's only just next door, so to speak. "
"Very well, I'll drive over tomorrow morning and…this is the Admiral's house," he almost whispered as he pointed to the small slip of paper with the address printed in glorious dot matrix. Were they still using that? You'd think for the subscription prices they charged their members they could afford more current equipment.
"Well," she grinned, "it's all over the place that he came home for the holidays. And he's bound to let you you inside. You can ask him all about his family and…"
"Mom," Lee groaned, "I work with him! That's butting into things that are none of my business, or anyone else's for that matter. He's a very private man."
"Why?" Andrew's asked, "unless he has some dark family secret. Besides, all the guide books say the place is haunted; surely he's used to questions about it."
"Well," Nelson asked, as he helped Edith off with her coat, as she dripped onto the alcove entrance, as the early evening thunderstorm boomed outside. "How did it go?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry pumpkin, come on into the study, there's a nice cozy fire and join us for a sherry. I know this meant a lot to you…"
"Here," she handed him a small card.
It took a moment, but Nelson couldn’t hide his pleasure, "you're a semi-finalist!'
"Yeah, ain't it the pits," she grinned.
"Then what's all this 'terrible' business all about," he escorted her to the small study off the entryway.
"Well, it will be, won't it? After all, I'm going to be rather busy…I won't have much time to get things ready for Thanksgiving and…"
"You were really going to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for us?" he asked gently.
"Of course, stupid. You don't think I'd have let you starve."
"I didn't know you knew how to cook anything but cheese puffs…."
"I don't, but I'm great with supermarket take out and paper plates."
"Are you sure you want me to do this Mom?" Lee groaned.
She said nothing but held her hands on her hips with a raised eyebrow.
"And with Thanksgiving coming up and…oh, very well." He punched in a few numbers and waited, keeping his fingers crossed that she had gotten it all wrong and that Nelson wasn't in Boston at all. He had a rotten memory for phone numbers, but knew this one for the simple fact it was hardly ever used, and a standing joke between he, Morton and Nelson.
"Hello?" a voice answered, a familiar voice.
"Yes, who's this?"
"Uh, It's me, Crane, I need to talk with the Admiral."
"Don't tell me, you're homesick for Seaview and want to go home to her and pat her bulkhead and whisper sweet nothings to her."
"Well, now that you mention it…"
"Hang on, he's here…"
"Lee?" Nelson asked, concerned. Crane did not usually interupt anyone's shore leave, let alone his, unless he had a damn good reason to, "what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, just…uh…I don't quite know how to ask you this but…you see, my mother is doing some research about old houses, and…"he stumbled for the words, "and she wants to know if you have any family stories you'd be willing to share, odds and ends we can photograph or borrow for a psychic reader to look at…I told her it would be inconvenient and an intrusion…"
"I'd be delighted."
"And she knows that it would put you out and…you'd what?"
"I said, I'd be delighted. I'd like to meet your mother, as well."
"Uh, well, actually she's not going to be able to come, a previous commitment but…uh, her editor…and I was drafted too and…"
"Come by any time you'd like."
"I hate to interupt your time with family and …"
"Lee, I said I'd be delighted. I meant that…now you come on over …Edith's going to be out most every day till Thanksgiving and you can take as many pictures as you'd like and explore to your heart's content without bumping into her."
"Oh, I wouldn't mind bumping into her. Just , uh…"
"It's a big house, Lee."
The drive would have have been pleasant enough, if not for the passenger. Thomas had tried to lace the picturesque route with friendly tidbits and conversation, he really had. But Lee had become increasingly irritable and just wanted to get the visit over with. Andrews realized Crane felt deeply about intruding on Nelson's private time, and felt he was overstepping the line of friendship. But it wasn't that big a deal, was it?
"Well, there it is," Andrews pulled the car into the graveled driveway as the hideous looking mansion loomed forth in all it's antiquated glory. "Doesn't look all that gloomy and spooky to me, just old and weather-beaten…. You sure Catherine got it right?"
"Just get out and ring the doorbell, the number matches the address doesn't it?"
"Aye aye, Captain."
"Okay okay, sorry," Lee pulled the camera from the back seat.
"Lee!" Nelson greeted warmly from the doorway before the bell even rang, a huge smile on his face. "Welcome to the old monstrosity!"
"Admiral, good to see you, though you may not be quite so amenable after I ask you everything on mom's checklist! Oh, this is Thomas Andrews, Mom's editor and family friend."
"How do you do, Admiral," Thomas shook the man's hand," Lee's told us a great deal about you."
"Good, I hope," Nelson laughed, as he ushered the men into an alcove," then added in undertone to Crane, "behave, Jiggs is in a bad mood this morning, can't imagine why."
Andrews whistled in appreciation as he entered the sunlit entrance as Nelson ushered him into the butler's study off to one side of the entrance. Polished wood paneling vied with the stained glass window as a warm fire blazed in an ornate fireplace. A crystal decanter glittered from a sideboard, and Nelson was soon busy pouring out some refreshment.
"Let's get you two warmed up, a bit early but…"Nelson handed the men their drinks, "I’m afraid only some of the main rooms have been opened, It's odd, no matter how infrequently I even see the old place, this room always seems to throw about an aura of friendly warmth."
"All that old money invested in it will do that Harry," Jiggs answered, "Morning Crane, uh…"
"Thomas Andrews," Lee's friend extended his hand," glad to meet you. I'm a family friend," he sipped his drink, "mmm, nice."
"Should be," Jiggs smirked, "Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 1784," he showed off a very grimy handkerchief, "we had to pry off the layers of dirt off it. You know, Harriman here could have sold this at auction for a small fortune. I remember hearing about a bottle of 1870 that fetched over $20,000 on the open market. This one wouldn't of course, it's only a bit under $800. He found this bottle by accident while he was looking for some of the family lable. Couldn't find any."
"Admiral!" Lee exclaimed along with Andrews.
"Well," Nelson grinned," if I can't raid the wine cellar now and then, why bother to keep the place at all? Drink up men, call it a celebration of clearing out some of the cobwebs."
"This can clear out my cobwebs any day," Lee said appreciatively. "I'm surprised it's lasted."
"I'm no expert," Jiggs said, "but the bigger the bottle, I'm told, the better it keeps. And you have to store it properly, make sure the level is correct and the capsule is intact and…"he paused as he could see Crane didn't have the slightest idea about wine keeping, "and of course the vintage is very important."
"But why not save something this valuable for a special occasion or for family, Admiral?" he asked Nelson.
"Lee, "Nelson shook his head, amused, "you and Jiggs are family. "
"Feeling's mutual, Harriman," Jiggs answered.
Crane couldn't really find adequate words to reply in kind, but Nelson hardly needed them. He'd seen Lee's expression of unspoken appreciation.
The fire crackled and the men relaxed in the morning light.
A spider crawled over the stacked oil paintings leaning against a crate, as the dust vied with dry rot in one of the unused attic rooms. Unseen for decades, forgotten by generations of Nelsons, they lay along with crates and boxes of not quite discarded family properties.
A glimmer of light from the small cracked window highlighted the painting in front. It was a very fine old painting and only slightly cracked, probably done from life. The man looked invincible, haughty even, enveloped in money and power, as the colonial image looked out from the canvas at the unseen insect.
Nelson whistled as he studied the list Crane had handed him. "She really wants to do her homework, doesn't she? I’m not sure if there is anything like an old quilt or spinning wheel."
"I 'm sorry, sir, you don't have to this at all if you don't want to and…"
"Nonsense, Lee, though I find all this paranormal imaging stuff hard to believe. Getting back to business, we may have to open up the older wings to search for some of these things. I doubt we can find anything of value, though. My mother threw away a great deal of what she deemed clutter before Edie was born. She hated the place."
"But why, for Heaven's sake," Andrew's asked. "It looks like a wonderful old house to me, and not at all as dilapidated inside as I thought it would be, I mean…uh..,"
"I was surprised too, but you didn't have to listen to it," Jiggs offered," Creaking and groaning; this is a noisy house! I was up most of all night. You can hear everything though the walls, and the blasted wind bangs the shutters with a vengeance. Couldn’t get the damn things to lock shut."
"There wasn't any wind last night Jiggs," Nelson replied, "perhaps you dreamt it."
"A ghost, then?" Andrews asked," The place is reputed to be haunted anyway, that’s one of the reasons Catherine is so interested. Why there's even a blip about the Nelson Mansion in one of the city's visitor's guides."
"Unsubstantiated rumors, as you'll find in the small print."
"Well," Jiggs asked, "just what kind of skeletons are reputed to be in the closet?"
"I have no idea. Long dead and disappeared ones I hope," Nelson replied, and changed the subject, "now, if there are any diaries to be had, I think the library will be a good place to start…."
Meanwhile in another library, a public one, Sharkey was beginning to make a nuisance of himself.
"I'm sorry, sir, we simply cannot give out that kind of information," the head librarian reiterated.
"But, she was about this high, was really sweet, in her 30's I think, and a whiz with a laptop and…"
"Sir, our volunteers are not engaged by the penal system. You must be mistaken about which library you were in…perhaps another township nearby? There are several, you know."
"No, it was here…"
"I'm sorry, but even if we had the person you indicate on our staff, as we said, we could not divulge personal information. Now, if you're not going to apply for a library card, or quiet down, I’m afraid we're going to have to ask you to leave. You're creating a disturbance."
Giving it up as a lost cause, he checked his watch and hurried off to his appointment.
"Lee! What are you doing here?"Edith greeted Crane warmly later that afternoon. He was littered with dust and surrounded by books, boxes, and yellowed newspapers scattered all over the Nelson library.
"Edie! Good to see you!" Lee embraced her, delighted. "I hear you're becoming quite the domestic!"
"Me? I'm just doing my duty. We have a lot of hungry Pilgrims this time of year you know! What's going on here, anyway?"
"My Mom's drafted the Admiral for one of her projects. We're trying to find all of this," he handed her the list. "She thinks a psychic can pick up hidden information from them…racy stuff, too, if he's lucky."
"You've got to be kidding!"
"Nope," Crane winked, "care to lend a hand?"
"Yes, Mom, I love you too," Crane hung up the phone. It was nearly 9 O'Clock.
"Well, Lee?" Nelson asked, amused, "Will your mother let you stay over? "
It was a matter of family pride that the antique phone still worked, if a nuisance to use. The Nelsons had been one of the first families in Boston to own one. The modern Nelson's had been offered a great deal of money for it from a noted museum, but the decision was deferred to Edith. As much as she hated the mansion, an antique phone belonged to an antique house. Her cell phone would do for most calls.
"We can't accomplish everything on the checklist by ourselves quickly," Nelson continued, "the upper rooms haven't even been seen in living memory. Besides, I'd really enjoy your company."
"As long as it takes to complete the mission, she said I could stay for infinity."
"I wish I could stay," Andrews said sadly, "but I have some appointments I just can't get out of."
"That’s too bad,"Nelson walked him to the door,"come by anytime. Oh, make sure Mrs. Crane knows I'll take good care of Lee. Even if we have to live on peanut butter sandwiches."
"I'll do that,"Andrews grinned and shook Nelson's hand, then Crane's,"goodbye son, see you soon. Make sure you're good and hungry for the big day. She's been looking forward to it."
"Me too, Tommy, I'll be back well before then I'm sure."
"Hello troops," Edith interrupted from another doorway and joined the small group, "Oh, you have to go? I'm sorry about that…"
After the goodbyes were made and Andrews had driven away, Edith took her brother aside,"guess what? You don't have to worry about Thanksgiving dinner either. I just got a fax from the supervisory committee. I've gotten permission to bring home some leftovers from the competition when it's over. Maybe I can even persuade the winner to join us…"
"These attic rooms were used for servants in the glory days,"Nelson said, glad of the small elevator Edith had insisted on intalling."Now the rooms are just empty, or storage space. Edith didn't bother to have the housecleaning service up here, no need. Be careful not to rearrange the dust, though, Lee. It might leap out and swallow you."
"How many rooms up here on the fourth and fifth floors anyway?" Lee asked.
"No idea…I don’t really think anyone does."
"Well, this one seems like a good place to start…" his stomach growled. "Sorry, must be on empty."
"With Edith here, I have a feeling it won't have much opportunity to remain so. What she lacks in domestic skills, she makes up for with take out. She has an account with just about every restaurant in town and then some."
The men entered the room. The flooring was buckled and the dust swirled as they trod on it. Crates and boxes were scattered wildly about the room. Some were not sealed and the odd assortment of toys, clothing, and 'junk' had spilled onto the floor at some time and long ago forgotten.
"Perhaps I should hire a truck to haul all this away to the dump," he lifted up a small rag doll that disintegrated into sawdust in his hand.
"Whoa there, sir, just remember one man's junk is another's treasure. I saw the ugliest jug I'd ever seen on some antique show on TV and you could have bought a house, maybe even two, for what it was worth. Maybe you ought to hire an expert to value all this stuff before you decide to toss it…. Some of the furniture looks pretty old."
"And broken," he surveyed the room.
Lee laughed as he brushed off dust from some paintings. "Any idea who these people are?"
"This room was sealed up long before I was even born. No, I have no idea, anything written on the back?"
"No, nothing. This one sure seems full of himself, "Lee snapped a photo of the portrait in front.
"Harry?" Edith interrupted, "Jiggs may have found something, an old newspaper clipping ."
Unseen by the trio as they departed the room, the antique image seemed to glare after them as the moonlight cast an aerie glow to the unused room.
"Let's see now," Nelson cleared a small area from the messy library table…..
Cont. from page 1
others interviewed claim the ghost story is nothing but a bunch of 'bunk and twaddle' and never heard a thing at the wake.
The Nelson's refused comment at all.…
"Maybe he felt left out,"Jiggs said.
"Jiggs~," Nelson replied.
"Well, at least its something for the Crane project,"Edith replied,"I wonder who died, anyway."
"I hope Lee's not too upset about staying there Tom,"Catherine said the next morning, as she rebooted her PC for the fourth time,"I swear these things have minds of their own!"
"Oh, I think he can put up with it, would you believe Nelson opened a $750 bottle of champagne for us? Starke thought it was worth $800, but I did some checking as soon as got back here and that’s a bit steep."
"$750? Is he out of his mind?"
"He's rich. It's allowed,"
Nelson had had a difficult time sleeping and had given up trying at 4 am. He'd come downstairs to the library to read a good book in an overstuffed chair in an effort to help send him to dreamland, but it was nearly 8 and had had no luck. Edith had insisted on bringing the paintings downstairs. Dusted but still in need of professional cleaning, they now resided in the library with the clipping. The portraits had a family similarity but nothing spectacular; so why did he find himself uneasy? Maybe it was indigestion. That was it, indigestion. The old vintage, of course.
"Well, ducks, wish me luck!"Edith kissed her big brother, after the two had eaten a early breakfast alone together. Wishing he'd purchased stock in such companies of microwaveable instant foodstuffs, Nelson saw her to the door.
"Good luck pumpkin,"Nelson said gently. It was a foregone conclusion that she didn't have a chance in the next segment of the semi-finals. She'd only come this far due her station in life. It was a curse of sorts, her wealth. Money talked, even at the bake off.
"I hope you can find more goodies for Lee, oh, what do you want for dinner? Chinese or Italian, both deliver."
"Hamburgers and fries actually."
"Done. See you later alligator…don’t forget to check those old sea chests in Granny's room, I think they're still there, they may have something Mrs. Crane would be interested in."
"Edie,"Nelson reflected," do you remember Mom or Dad ever telling you anything about the family? History, legends, things like that?"
"Gee whiz, no. I brought it up once but she told me to mind my own business and Daddy couldn't care less, and Granny, well, she rambled a bit and I couldn't really make head or tale of what she said, why?"
"You're going to think this is crazy, but that colonial painting makes me think the man was something more than he appears to be...something bad."
"You're just imagining things Harry, he's quite dashing."
"Looks can be deceiving, hon…I'm keeping you from the bake off, run along, have a good time."
"Harry are you all right?"
"Ignore me, just maudlin thinking about Mom and Dad."
"They couldn’t help being snobs Harry, You know they showed their fondness for us the only way they could."
"Parents aren't supposed to be fond of their children. They're supposed to love them."
"Nothing but old clothes and mothballs,"Jiggs said with distaste midmorning as he closed the huge trunk and checked off the item on a legal pad. They may be on a wild goose chase but at least he was organized.
"Anything salvageable?" Nelson asked as he closed an old dresser. "There could be money in our hunt."
"Not unless people still dress like this," he indicated a pair of high button shoes he'd set aside for the psychic."At least Dobbs might get a little vibration from the wearer."
The sound of the phone ringing interrupted their amusement. They couldn't' hear what Crane was saying but they could tell he was disappointed.
"I wonder what's going on,"Nelson decided to go downstairs.
"Mom's been called to New York,"Lee said, "I'd hoped to spend the actual holiday with her…and now, well, what is she going to do about Dobbs?And Matilda and Tommy…they'd all made plans for the day and the research too and…."
"Why not invite them here, Lee? They can even stay for awhile afterwards. I'm sorry I didn’t think of it sooner. I would have like to meet your mother."
"I don't want to be an imposition, Admiral, and…"
"Lee, "Nelson put his hand on Lee's forearm,"you may be exasperating at times, but you are never an imposition. Besides, I'm growing interested in Dobbs and his skills….must be the scientist in me."
"You're sure ?"
"I'm sure, now go call your mother's friend, Tommy and Mr. Dobbs,and I'll arrange for some more rooms to air."
"Thank you sir,"Lee said with genuine affection and gratitude.
"I wonder how these would do at the bake off?"Jiggs held up two squares of something very hard. "I found them tucked in an old cracked jar in one of the sea chests, along with this,"he showed Nelson a yellowed parchment….
As you requested, here is the receipt for Hard Tack. Though you can make it yourself you would do better to delegate the actual housekeeping chores, and have the cook make it. I'm sure your soon to be in-laws would approve, especially in their station of life.
First, make sure you have the cook pick out all the bits of stone the gristmill left behind from the flour. Next, be sure to have the flour sifted well to get out all the weevils, other insects and their droppings.
If you want the biscuits to last a great time, only use flour and salt, about a half teaspoon of salt to two cups of flour, depending on the weather. This is the kind your sailor husband will be used to.
Tell the cook to mix together with enough water to make a stiff dough. Make sure the water has been skimmed adequately of mosquitoes, flies, tadpoles and the like. Or use water that has been allowed to settle and dip only into the top portion, then strain. River water is best for health as well water has no current and gets stagnant especially in summertime.
The cook should then roll out the dough thin, cut it into squares or rounds shapes of any size you want, depending on container you want to use to store the biscuits in. Holes should then be poked in each dough piece a few times.
Bake in a hot oven about 45 minutes or thereabouts till lightly browned. Cool completely before storing or mold will form. Cover the container completely or use a large platter, weighted with something heavy. The top biscuits may break but you can use them in soup. Called crackers by many in your colonies.
To use for stew or soup or broth, best to soak overnight for a good thickness.
For company hard tack, add 1 egg, one half cup of sugar or molasses to taste- about an eighth of a cup, one half cup each of dates and nuts, or one or the either or none at all, or any nutmeats you prefer, a tad of saleratus and salt to the dough. Doesn't keep as long, but better tasting. Bake in hot oven about 12 minutes thereabouts depending on how thin you had the cook roll them.
The first receipt is best for traveling. Good for horses, dogs, sailors, and tax collectors.
Variations for both receipts include using Cider or Ale for the water, and adding cinnamon and nutmeg as I'm sure you will be able to afford it.
Now, Regarding your questions as to marital duties, as you put it, I cannot possibly give you more information as it isn't fitting that a bride be informed of such things.
However, I can tell you that come hell or high water, after the vow is taken or even months later when he comes home from sea, he will have only one thing on his mind. Your best action will be to dismiss the servants, shut your eyes, and think of England. You may grow to like it, some do, the hussies, but I think not. Tis the curse of womanhood, the passions of men, animals they are. I can't for the life of me understand your desire to wed at all.
I was used as a poker chip for the marriage bed, and had not the courage or the means to defy my father bargaining me away, who's debts were many, and I did not fancy life in a nunnery which would have been my only other choice.
Your devoted Mother
"Think of England?"Jiggs exclaimed," Good grief she makes it sound like …never mind, Harriman, did you see the date anywhere? She didn't even sign it with her name. Could be an ancestor or yours? "
If this is true, Dobbs thought from his office, it could be worth a great deal indeed. Most of these old diaries were utter rubbish content wise, of value only to historians, antiquarians, and genealogists. But the torn, worm eaten velum letter that had fallen out of one of them…well, it could very well be his ticket to fortune.
"Could it now?"a voice replied.
"Yes, what is it?" Dobbs asked, irritated. He'd asked his secretary not to be disturbed. But there was no one there. And the secretary had left more than two hours previously. Perhaps he had only sensed something, but he felt nothing further. It could be irritating being a psychic at times.
The diagnosis should have been made by now, but had been delayed due to an equipment glitch and everything was running behind schedule. Sharkey could only hope the news would be good news. He had a lot at stake here.
"Well, hello there,"the familiar girl said cheerfully." I hope everything is going okay?"
"Uh, hello, good to see you! I tried to find out your phone number but the library wouldn't give it to me, like you didn't even exist…oh, uh, I'm okay, well, as good as can be expected. "
"Same here. Got to say, I really shouldn't be here at all. But,"she shrugged her shoulders.
"Look, uh, I'm on vacation and all alone in town, and it must be kinda hard for you, all that community service and stuff, I'd still like to take you out , yeah, how about Thanksgiving dinner…there's a special at that always open place. It' ain't home cooking but it's good. And…and I sure could use the company at a time like this."
"Why, thank you, but I’m afraid I can't. I have plans for my family."
"Oh, yeah, stupid me, I shoulda realized…"
"Look, uh…I'm sorry I don't remember your name."
"Francis. Francis Ethlebert."
"I'm doing some work at the library tomorrow, I'll be done about 2. There's a little café in the mall nearby that serves a mean hot chocolate and cinnamon roll, maybe you'd like to meet me there for a quick bite, how about that?"
"You just got yourself a date, uh, I mean…"
"That's okay Francis, I know what you mean."
"Well, Crane, so far,"Jiggs kicked off his shoes,"we have a recipee for Hard Tack with lack of advice from a colonial mother and some old cracked paintings. I don't think your Mother will be able to write much about any deep dark secrets about the Nelsons. Except maybe that the letter proves a Nelson sailor was a horny bastard!"
"But it didn't say that he was, did it? A Nelson that is."
"Hhm, you're right. Maybe Harriman can find out more about it at the historical society…"
"I'm sorry, sir, but that microfilm is also in use,"the elder reference librarian said, adjusting his glasses, "perhaps some arcitechural records of the time?"
"I don’t want architectural records,"Nelson was getting irritated. He'd been at the historical society over an hour getting nowhere. He'd had little luck with the general reference books until he found a snippet of information that pointed to a microfilmed document.
"Well, when can I reserve the ones I want?"
"Not until next month I'm afraid, is there something else we can help you with?
"No, that won't be necessary," Nelson replied and was about to leave when he paused,"excuse me, but do I know you?"
"I don’t'believe so, sir."
"I can't help feeling that I should know you from someplace…"
"I'm sorry, sir, I'm sure we've never met."
"Wait, wait,"Nelson furrowed his eyebrows,"let me think….Yale? No? Ahh, Harvard? No, hmm. I know I've met you before…I know! Oxford?"
"Are you one of the old boys?"
"No, but I spent some time at a seminar there as a child and…"realization dawned,"Crappy? Crappy Connors?"
"Why yes…I still don't …"he finally took in the entire persona that was Nelson and something clicked. He readjusted his glasses and took a closer look, "I …I can't believe it…Snotface?"
"You're late getting back, Harriman, poor Edith was getting worried. I'ts nearly 7 O' clock."
"Sorry, Jiggs,"Nelson rubbed his cold hands as he gratefully neared the fire,"I ran into an old friend…time must have run away from me."
"Same here. I decided to take a little inventory of the wine cellar, and before I knew it, your sister was teasing me about me doing my own special kind of research, but don't worry, I didn't raid anything .By the way, your sister is a finalist."
"I can't believe it, are you sure?"
"Oh, I'm sure,"he patted his stomach,"what's left of her entry is safely stored right here."
"Uh, Mr. Connors,"Lee offered a handshake and helped the man off with his raincoat in the entrance.
"Crappy will do, Commander. Snotface here has told me all about you. It will be a pleasure to have Thanksgiving with his friends."
Nelson grinned from behind a surprised Lee, "Snotface was my nickname at Oxford, Lee. Welcome to the monstrosity Crappy, come on to the library. I want you to see something.
"Yes, Commander,"Connors leaned back in his chair,"Snotface here was just a child and always seemed to have a runny nose, probably from the moldy wallpaper. As for my own nomenclature, lets just say we were served a great many coniferous foods and I learned how to pass wind on command. "
"Crappy found something interesting in the historical society's archives…." Nelson had to say something to keep from laughing at the memories.
The Irysh treasure hid in the pirate tunnel under the Nelson' Boston house, H.C. knows.
"Pirate treasure? Is this legit?" Lee was about to touch the parchment.
"An original document, I'm sure of it."
"How come no one the Admiral's family ever remembered anything about a treasure and…"
"You must remember Commander…"
"Very well, Lee, most colonists were illiterate and assumed everyone knew everything about everyone else. I'm afraid it's just another case of old stories being lost to faded memories and new generations who were never told about it. This was in a diary. Not even a letter, just a scrap. Such a shame ,lost history, " Connors said sadly." It's a bit ridiculous, but you'd be surprised at what you can find out snooping about ancestors. Why, I'm a descendant of Ferdinand and Isabella who sent Columbus to the New World, but also from the line of Count Dracula himself!"
"Oh come on, Count Dracula? That's fiction."
"No, no it's not Lee, "Nelson said," Vlad Dracula was real. Horrific man."
"Believe me," Crappy insisted calmly."He is the one ancestor I’m deeply ashamed to be even remotely connected too."
"But you cant blame yourself for anything your ancestors did or didn't do."
"True, true…but it still makes one want to make up for it somehow."
A howl of wind interrupted the men, and Crane found it a good excuse to go help Starke who had gone down to the cellar to check on the 'stores'. There was nothing in Crane's family tree to contribute to the conversation. He doubted if his mother even knew her own grandparent's names.
Lee sat on a dusty cellar step and watched Starke gingerly wipe a bottle.
"I wonder if Dobbs can get any vibrations from this?" he handed Crane the antique bottle.
"Chateau Ausone, 1849…" Lee read the faded handwritten lable.
"Worth almost $10,000. And there's more where that came from…look over here…"
Jiggs led Crane to a hidden corner of the cellar, covered with cobwebs long ago vacated by any living spiders.
"That dust must be a foot thick in those holes!"
"Good! Great insulation…no, don't touch anything. Those bottles may have been placed there when the mortar was still a bit wet. Whoever built this house was a connoisseur. A built in wine wall, look at that over here. They made a mistake or didn't finish, the mortar is actually glued to some of the bottles. I didn't touch the rest of them when I saw that. This was just a lucky one. These could be worth a fortune,"he returned his attention to Crane,"anything interesting going on upstairs? I thought I heard the doorbell awhile ago."
"Well, "Lee leaned against one of the huge wood barrels,"I just found out there might be buried pirate treasure on Nelson property, aside from that, not much except Mr. Connors calls the Admiral something I hope no one aboard Seaview ever hears about."
"Oh, he's here now is he? Yes, he told me all about Crappy and…"
The sharp snaps of breaking wood interrupted as Crane crashed through the barrel to the floor.
"Are you okay son?"Jiggs asked concerned as he picked out wood fragments from Crane's hair and clothes.
"I'm okay, but,"Lee picked up a small yellowish object from some of the debris,"don't tell me, hard tack?"
Jiggs dusted one of the multitude of squares on the huge mound, and was just about to place the edge in his mouth when he gasped, "Oh my God..."
"What is it sir?"
Starke gingerly helped Crane up, and pointed down to the debris of wood, crackers, as
the sletletal fragment of bone fingers peeped out from under the pile, clutching one of the crumbled crackers.
"Yes, officer,"Nelson escorted the police to the door,"we'll be sure not to touch anything. Thank you for coming so quickly."
"No problem, you know, I'm no expert, but that skeleton could be more than a couple of hundred years old, judging from the rags. Any ideas? "
"I wouldn't know."
"Well, the coroner will be by shortly to pick up the bones. Just a formality, but stick around, you and everyone else in the place. It could be somebody's idea of a practical joke, and there was a rash of Halloween pranks in the area a few years ago. I'm no coroner, but I'm not sure it was actually buried in the barrel. The hard tack might not have kept that well, but then, who knows? And of course, it may not even be a real skeleton. Perhaps a lab model, they're pretty realistic. Well, then, goodbye Admiral Nelson, oh, by the way, it's nice to see you back home for a visit. It's been a long time since our most famous resident was in town. Oh, and good luck to Miss Edith, I hear she's doing very well at the Bake Off. "
"Harry? Harry?Whats going on?"Edith ran to the front door from her cab. "Has something happened? Police cars? Reporters?"
"Sorry Admiral,"the officer said apologetically," I guess the Boston grapevine is working overtime. Big story you know, a skeleton in the Nelson mansion. I'll get to the bottom of who leaked it."
"Please, no recriminations. Mistakes happen."
"As you wish. Goodbye sir, maám," he nodded and departed, leaving a bewildered Edith Nelson.
"I think you'd better sit down, pumpkin," Nelson led his sister to the library.
Crappy fingered the edge of the skeleton's jacket,"homespun, hard to tell about when. Hand-me-downs were pretty common."
"About 5 and a half feet tall, I'd say,"Starke knelt over the remains,"hmm, hammer toes and …"
"What is it Jiggs?"
"Its neck was snapped."
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen,"the tv reporter stood in the pouring rain and heavy wind," the police have confirmed that a skeleton was found in the cellar of the Nelson mansion. The remains were found by accident when a houseguest leaned against a barrel in the basement and it broke under his weight. The barrel was filled to capacity with dried hard tack, believed to have been sealed well over a hundred years ago, perhaps even two hundred, though the police aren't ruling out a recent murder. The neck was broken. This old house has only been standing little more than a hundred years, but was reputedly built over several previous Nelson dwellings. The Boston estate has long been reputed to be haunted. Perhaps this explains things. Nothing will be known for sure until a complete forensic study is done. In other news…"
"Well, "the coroner finished scraping the inside of Nelson's mouth,"this should establish if you and your sister are related to the skeleton," he said as he watched the remains being carried away atop a gurney past the gathered photo popping press outside.
"How accurate are DNA tests?"Crappy asked.
"They hold up in a court of law, that's how accurate. In fact the only known failings of the test involve identical twins, triplets, you get the idea. They have identical DNA."
"I'm glad Starke is at the Bake Off giving Edith some well deserved support,"Crane said the next day in the comfort of the butler's study. " The finals are today, though I think he simply wanted to stuff his stomach with samples at the party afterwards. She begged the Admiral and I to stay away. Seems we'd make her nervous,"he laughed."Good thing she'd already earmarked some of the leftovers for Thanksgiving Supper, though I'm not sure if anyone will honor their pledges, what with the skeleton scandal."
"Does the coroner have any ideas?"
"Only one so far,"Crane mused,"he said it was real."
"Where's Snotface..I mean Harriman?"
"Dobbs called him. Wouldn’t say anything about what. The Admiral's gone to meet him."
"Tell me more about this Dobbs fellow. I don't think I recall anything about him."
"It can't be, it just can't be,"Nelson whispered in the small kitchenette.
"I’m sorry Admiral, the Nelson genealogy is beyond dispute and as far as the document is concerned, it's passed all the technical evaluations. I know how you must feel, but you can't change history. It's factual.The tests are proof positive."
"Nothing is foolproof."
"This is," he took back the photocopy…..
Edmund Nelson, Esq.
I am not interested in your opinyon.There is no way the rebels will succeed in thys. In a hundred years,ten even, no one will even remember Bunker Hill. Must you keep bringing it up woman? It's long over.
I 'm sure B. Arnold can be persuaded in the matter I told ye about. General Sir Henry Clinton agrees with me and his aide, that dandy poet of his, Major Andre, is just hankering for a lytl action.
PS. I still disapprove of your choyce of name for Shaemus. You had no right to have the boy christened with it whythout my permission. I know it was a few years ago,but saint's, woman, you still haven't the sense of a common cat . I insyst you use the lad's middle name in speaking of or to him if he survives to manhood .
He needs the company of men, not old biddies like you .Methinks your mother is too much an influence on the lad as you are. The boy has no need for the titty anymore and as for your mother,while she came in handy when I brought her over to nurse you when you had the pox, tis high time she was sent back to Ireland. I would cart her there myself if it weren't for her ill health. Burial at sea is so distasteful, the sharks meke a mess of things.
I'm sorry the child came arse first, but you complayne to much. Don't pester me with your incessant women's complaints.I'm weary of them. Leave that for your clucking hens.
I have made arrangements for the boy to sign on as cabin boy to one of my partner's vessels when he's of age for it, about 4 years I think. Get used to the idea. I'll not have my son suffer the fate of other molly codled youngsters. Shaemus will be a real man make no mistake.
"Sounds like a real jerk, doesn't he,"Dobbs said,"please don't let it concern you . Ill treatment of women and traitors is a part of our history."
"That term, Mr. Dobbs, depends entirely on your point of view,"Nelson mused with some bitterness and sadness, "poor Andre… he was a soldier and should have been treated as such, but they hung him just the same, as a spy. Washington should never have allowed it."
"I think you know more about this matter than you're telling, Admiral. It's as if you knew the Major personally…. I think you could use a drink. Finding out this Edmund Nelson is a, well, a conspirator toward the selling of West Point's defenses, is not exactly a bell ringer for the Daughters of the American Revolution…your sister is an honorary member isn't she, will they kick her out I wonder? Of course,"he paused," you don't have to tell her. I can make sure this remains our little… secret. No one else knows about it. It was simply luck that it was so conveniently tucked away in one of the smelly old diaries I was documenting for the historical society and…. "
"Dobbs, why don't you shut up."
"I'm only trying to protect your family name."
"I've never lied out of pride, Dobbs, and neither has anyone else in my family. You're welcome to tell anyone who will listen, but I'd appreciate it if you'd let me inform my sister tonight first."
"As you wish,"he replied, his disappointment evident. "Am I correct in assuming I'm no longer an invited guest at the winding you're hosting?"
"The invite stands; it's for Mrs. Crane's research and I won't disappoint her. Just sit downwind of me."
"And if I decide not to come?"
"I don't think you'll be able to resist. You don't seem to be the kind of man to miss an opportunity to make a name for yourself should you discover anything she can use."
"Edie, "Crane hugged her, later that afternoon,"I'm so sorry."
"No big deal Lee, I kind of expected to loose."
"My dear,"Jiggs added, his arms loaded with plastic containers, closely followed by Crappy carting more,"I can't imagine what got into those judges. I think I've never tasted anything so wonderful as your cheese puffs,"Starke said with genuine concern.
"Oh,"she kissed his cheek,"you're just trying to make me feel better. It's okay. I only entered out of duty. If you don't mind gentlemen, I’m going upstairs and lie down a while. I'm a bit tired. Oh, put all those leftovers in the fridge? They'll keep fine for tomorrow, but no snitching. Protect them from that bottomless pit you call a stomach,"she grinned and retired.
"Are you sure you can't make it in time for..?"Lee asked into the reciever,"I see. Yes, I understand Mom, …just kind of lonely and …Yes, I'll make sure to let you know anything Dobbs senses tomorrow but …no they don't know anything about the skeleton yet, except it's neck was broken…but that could have happened when I fell on top of it….no…yes, I'll be polite, I'll save room for some of Edith's cheese puffs. I don't know, I haven't tried any. Okay, Love you Mom, Goodbye."
Crane hung up and looked at his watch. It was getting late. Where was Nelson?
The lone man pursed his lips as he stared at the huge marker in the well-kept cemetery as the cab driver waited outside the gate, the meter running. Some ancestor, Nelson thought sourly. The press was going to have a field day with this.
"Huh?" Nelson turned to find the owner of the voice. Only a few autumn leaves swirled past him, followed by amused laughter. It seemed to be amused, anyway.
Nelson was not unfamiliar with his brain playing tricks on him, from stress to aliens, monsters, war games, and sheer exhaustion aboard Seaview at times. He shut his eyes and tried to will the phantom laughter away.
"Won't work, you know,"the voice continued,"of course, you've 'ad a bit of a shock. But there are worse fates . "
"Go away or show yourself!" he waved his hands about, irritated.
Only the wind responded, cold, and damp.
Nelson sighed, relieved, and figured he'd better get out of the weather.
"Aye, it's turning into a foul night."
"What do you want??"
"Why, the pleasure of your company,sir, now lead on to the warmth of your kith and kin."
"I'm not taking you anywhere until you show yourself," or check myself into a psychiatric ward, he thought to himself.
"A what? Oh, I think I understand…now, Admiral,"the spectre evolved into view,"surely you don't think you're seeing things?"
"Who are you???"
"Allow me to introduce myself,"he doffed his gaudy feathered cap,"They calls me Hezekiah; your servant sir."
Nelson groaned and began to count to ten, in the hopes the delusion would fade.
"I'm no figment, man, I'm hungry and cold, and why, you must be setting a goodly table for the feast tomorrow. Most rich folk do."
"I'm seeing things,"Nelson said firmly, "I'm tired. I've had a shock and I'm stressed. This isn't happening."
"I'll split the Irish Treasure wit you, when yer dig it up, so I will,"the spectre tempted with a wicked grin.
"Now why on earth would I do that?"
"Because we be kith; well, not technically, but sort of, in a manner of speakin', now, why don't we go home and you can tell me all about this 'ere traitor of yours."
Nelson sighed. If he was going to keep on hallucinating, he might as well go home and call Doc. The delusion was taller than he, but not by much, graced with thick salt and pepper hair that was a mass of unwashed tangles. It was also endowed with a full bushy mustache and beard, which was relieved by a blackened and nearly toothless smile. It had brown eyes, or maybe not. It was hard to tell. Sometimes they almost looked greenish. It was wearing such stained, threadbare and moth eaten clothes, they were undistingquishable as to style. But Nelson was sure the spectre wasn't a recent occupant of the cemetery. If it was real that was. It had holes in what remained of it’s shoes and scratched one leg with the other.
In the early twilight, one of braver of the Boston cab drivers shook his head as he drove his passenger home, the well known man talking to himself and waving his arms about. The Nelson curse was on again.
"You know," Lee said from the comfort of the library, as the fire blazed. "It's almost as though the eyes follow you."
"A simple trick many of the old masters,"Connors said. "This painting is good, but those two are probably worth more than the entire estate."
"You're kidding!"Jiggs stared at the pair of Early American pictures Edith had insisted on bringing downstairs as well, along with all the others they'd found in the attic. "Looks like a kid did them!"
"That's why they call them Early American Folk Art,"Connors chuckled. "Painted by people who thought they were artists, or were untrained in the old ways. I wonder who they are…"
"Well, maybe Dobbs can pick up something on them,"Lee said,"I don't think I want to know. Looks like the meanest pair of schoolteachers I ever saw."
"Oh, there you are my dear,"Jiggs rose as Edith entered.
There was an indistinguishable muttering from the entry.
"That sounds like Harry now,"Edith was about to go but was waylaid by Crane.
"Don't bother, I'll see him in. It's getting nasty out there…better get something hot for him to drink,"he suggested to Starke.
Lee was about to greet the man, but hesitated. Nelson was muttering, as the cab drove off. Perhaps he'd charged too much. But something felt wrong. Nelson kept turning his head and talking to the huge fern on it's pedestal by the door. Maybe an errant lizard or something. Hopefully.
"Admiral?"Lee asked,"Glad you made it back before it gets worse out there. We were getting worried. How did the meeting with Dobbs go?"
"I'd like to keelhaul him!"
"What on earth happened?" Lee asked gently.
"I know, I know!"he snapped toward the plant.
"Know what sir?"Crane asked, a bit wary.
"Never mind,"Nelson covered his little outburst toward the unseen presence. Unseen by all but he. "Lee, uh, I’m going to dry off and change. "
"Of course, sir…oh, you may find this amusing, but two of your paintings are…."
"Later, Lee, later. Excuse me."
Crane could only wonder what had happened to cause Nelson to brush him off so.
"Is that all?"the apparition laid down on the ornate antique bed, and sighed with pleasure at the feel of it, "you have a traitor in the family? I can count more than a few ner-d-wells in my family tree, in fact, I'm one of them, but,"he snorted." I don't know about you, but could do with a swig of ale,"he stretched , sat up and examined a bedside lamp with interest as to where the missing flame was , then returned his attention to Nelson." You could do with a bit of refreshment yourself."
"I’m not in the habit of drowning my sorrows, "Nelson insisted as he angrily changed into clean and drier clothes.
"Well, you could call it…medicinal and… "
"Look…"Nelson turned, irritated. But he was speaking to thin air. The apparition had vanished."That does it, I'm calling Jamison in the morning."
"All set for tomorrow then Edith?"Jiggs asked as he added a dollop of whipped cream atop the mug of hot chocolate. The antiquated kitchen had been altered for modern accessories but still looked like something out of a movie set.
"Well, we have enough leftovers promised from the Bake Off, oh, I didn't meet the winner, but the sponsor assured me they'd pass the invite along, and…."
"What is it, you look pale."
"That's odd, I ..I had the strangest feeling someone's was watching me…I guess I'm more tired than I realized."
The apparition leaned closer and leered appreciatively.
"Are you all right,dear?" Jiggs asked.
"Yes, yes…I'm fine…,"she tried to convince herself.
Dinner was strained. Nelson was preoccupied, even Edith had had a difficult time engaging him in conversation.
Perhaps tomorrow's not a good idea, Lee thought."Admiral,"Lee broached the subject,"please don't take this the wrong way, but…perhaps we should cancel tomorrow's big dinner and…."
"Huh? What did you say Lee?"Nelson asked,"I'm sorry, my mind's a million miles away."
"I think you should reconsider your dinner party tomorrow…no wait…it's really quite an imposition and…"
"No, no, Lee, please,"Edith took charge."Don't be silly. We both want to do this, isn't that right Harry? Harry?"
Nelson was jerked back to reality, "that's right Lee, it's no trouble, really."
"Well…if you're sure…"he replied, concerned.
"We are…Lee, Jiggs, Crappy, "Nelson changed the subject,"I was going to discuss this with Edith privately but I think it's best you're all filled in about it, "he took a deep breath as the apparition nodded approval. "Edie honey, I found out today that Edmund Nelson was a traitor."
"Edmund Nelson, one of our ancestors…. apparently he conspired with,"Nelson took a breath," Benedict Arnold for the selling of West Point's defences..perhaps even responsible for talking him into it…"
"Good grief, snotface,"Crappy exclaimed,"who would have known, a Nelson loyalist!"
Nelson took out a folded piece of paper. "There's really no doubt about it I'm told,"he sighed."This is a photocopy."
"We all have skeletons in the closet Harry,"Jiggs said sympathetically, then flustered by the appropriateness of the statement.
Nelson chuckled at the words, forgetting for a moment the shame of Edmund Nelson, then was serious."Edith, when the press gets wind of this new scandal…"
"We'll weather it together Harry," she said firmly,"and we're not the only New England family with a past."
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen, "the reporter stood outside of the Nelson gate as the snow began to fall."It was revealed today, that the Nelsons may have had a secret that could rewrite history. It is very possible that it was Boston's own Edmund Nelson who influenced Benedict Arnold's treason during the revolutionary war. It had been thought that Arnold only conspired with Major Andre and Sir Henry Clinton.
Guests have been arriving for the Nelson's Thanksgiving celebration today, including the famous paranormal psychic Daniel Dobbs, though he declined to comment."
Well, it was all over. Sharkey pulled his parka tighter, and checked the address for the umpteenth time, hoping the printout was a mistake. It was going to be a long walk if he couldn’t find a cab.
The crystal on the polished dining room table seemed to dance in the firelight, and fine china competed with plastic and paper as the various foods vied with each other on the sideboard and table. Edith sighed in frustration as she laid the last of the foods out. She'd so wanted the Bake Off's winner to join them, if not for the company, for the food. She could only hope her guests would be too sated from the quantity not to notice the quality of what was here.
Dinner would be first, followed by the psychic reading of the various collected objects. Taking a deep breath, she opened the carved doors and emerged into the great hall, where the arriving guests were already beginning to mingle.
"Thank you,"Nelson spoke into his cell phone in the bulter's study, "yes, of course…I see. Well, how about… I see. Yes. Goodbye."
"Edith wanted me to check on you,"Lee entered the room," Is everything all right? "
"I'm sorry Lee, I just wanted to find out more from the coroner. It seems our skeleton is not a Nelson, and,"he raised an eyebrow,"it's about 200 years old, give or take a couple of decades. They'll resume forensics after the holidays. They want me to decide what to do with it. Bury it, or donate it to medical school. I'm not quite sure yet."
"Well,"Lee offered, "I'd say he deserves a proper burial at least…, but why was he in your cellar?"Lee pondered."And why was he stuffed into a barrel ?"
"A great many things could have happened, Lee. I shouldn't really speculate at all until we have more information,"Nelson said and emerged from the alcove with Lee just as Edith had come in search of the two herself.
Nelson beat her to the punch,"Is supper ready yet?"
"Yes Harry, but not a bite till all of the guests are here.I was hoping that…"
The doorbell interrupted and Crane answered it.
"Dahling!"Matilda swept in and embraced Lee, Andrews left at the door. "What a wonderful old house and…"she appraised the older man nearby,"why, you must be Admiral Nelson, Lee here's told us so much about you!"
"Admiral, may I present Mrs.Bates…."
"Matilda, please,"she oozed toward Nelson,"I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this evening. Catty had so wanted to come,"she led Nelson away and leaned toward him conspiratorially, "if only to get Lee out of the house…he's a good boy really, but I've had better company at the Bingo parlor and…."
Nelson's ingrained disclipine came in good stead as he was treated to her almost nonstop prattle. He couldn't help feeling he'd met her before, glad he couldn’t remember the details. It was going to be a long night.
"That,"Jiggs leaned back in his ornate chair,"is just about the best vintage I've ever had."
"Glad you like it, and no, Lee , it's not from the cellar. I bought it from a …"Nelson stopped, suddenly ashen and groaned.
"Guess who's comin' to dinner?"the apparition smirked , inspected the table's wares and scratched his privates absently.
"Go away!"Nelson whispered, a napkin covering his mouth, glad the ladies had not been visually treated to such an inappropriate rudeness, even from a delusion.
"Harry?"Edith asked, concerned.
"Nothing, just a frog in my throat."
"Liar,"the spectre winked and sat on the edge of the polished table, and looked down Edith's cleavage appreciatively.
"Stop that!" Nelson coughed surreptitiously.
"Maybe a salt water gargle would help that frog, Harriman,"Jiggs offered.
"Yes, yes, "Nelson rose, " I'll be right back,"he said, and imperceptibly motioned the spectre to follow.
"What are you doing ??"Nelson demanded from the safely of the closed off kitchen.
"Why I told you didn't I, enjoying the pleasure of your company, fine company too it is,"he smirked. "It's been a long while since I've seen such fair boobies an…"he stopped as Nelson glared,"be that as it may, you set a fine table too. Saints I'm hungery, thirsty too."
Nelson groaned and ran his hand through his hair not knowing what to do. If he was delusional, or even if this..this… might be a ghost of some sort, Edith would want to place her brother in a padded cell. It was one thing to have had a previous paranormal encounter but there had been witnesses. This time, however…
"Don’t forget yer salt water,"Hezekiah urged,"appearances are important, and hurry, you've got another guest nearly at the door."
"When I need your advice I'll ask for it,and furthermore you…"
The doorbell rang and the phantom looked about the air, irritated, "It’s about time you angels called me to me rest, leaving me down ére alone all this time and…"
"Delusion or ghost, then, it's called a doorbell. It's like a knock,"Nelson said as he left the kitchen and approached the entry door. "I'd appreciate it if you'd stay out of the way. I don't want to upset Edith."
"Upset her Why, I'd never want to upset such a sweet creature as yon Missy."
"Then go away."
"Can't ,"he grinned.
Nelson opened the door.
"Sharkey!?" Nelson exclaimed,"What are you doing here?"
"Uh,"the chief shuffled his feet as he held a huge paper bag,"I guess I got the wrong address. I'm sorry sir,"he turned.
"Wait, it's bitter out there, come in and warm up…where is it you're going?"
"Thank you sir,"Sharkey was glad to come in out of the cold. "this here is the address they gave me,"he handed Nelson the small slip of paper,"or they made a mistake…"
"Oh,"Edith sang out, a little out of breath from her dash from the dining room,"I'm so glad you made it!"Come on along Mr. Ethlebert, I can hardly wait to introduce you to the other guests.Oh, Harry dear, meet Mr. Francis Ethlebert, winner of the Bake Off!"
Sharkey removed the covered dish from the paper sack and sat it on the sideboard, whistling in appreciation at the various foods. "I don't think you need me at all."
"I invited you for your company Mr. Ethlebert,"she smiled," not your penache with peanut butter and rum pie, though I do appreciate it. It isn't often one gets a Bake Off winner to dinner."
The dinner guests helped themselves to the feast and were soon laughing over the miscommunication between Edith and Sharkey. Even Nelson was laughing now, glad to have a reason to ignore Hezekiah's curious inspection of the guests. He’d moved beside Crane now, even going as far as to finger the man's hair curiously. What was he doing anyway, looking for bugs or something?
"Problem, Lee?"Nelson asked tempting fate as Crane tried to swat at the invisible buggers.
"Just a couple of knats,"Lee scratched his head," I can feel them flying around my hair, but I can't catch them."
"Oh, you must be careful dahling,"Matilda chimed,"…he was just…on assignment you know, Admiral. Must have picked up something, lice maybe. His mother won't admit it, but I know…"
"Mrs. Bates,"Tommy came to the rescue,"Lee was not on…"
"My dear Mr. Andrews, you don't have to cover for him, as a spy he's perfectly capable of doing that himself and…"
"Now look, "Lee interupted,"I was not on assignment for ONI."
"I had no idea,"Crappy said, "why Harriman, your staff works undercover? I though Seaview was simply a research vessel."
"She is,"Nelson lied,"I think there's been some misinformation on Mrs. Bate's part…."
"You see,"she winked at Connors,"they can't say anything."
"Anyone for desert yet?"Sharkey wisely changed the topic, and moved toward the sideboard.
With a bit of prodding on his part, the guests began to speak more and more of the football game that had canceled due to inclement weather and Crane joined Sharkey at the sideboard.
"Thanks," Crane whispered to the chief, who nodded in turn.
Dobbs simply remained, as he had been for the most part, silent.
No one except Nelson appeared to notice that the bottle of wine on the sideboard was considerably lower than it should have been.
Hezekiah smacked his lips and belched comfortably as he sat in one of the ornate chairs next to the wall, stretched out his legs and gave Nelson a nearly toothless grin.
Nelson did the only thing he could and ignored him.
The fire crackled in the library as the wind and sleet smashed against the windows.
"Anything?"Edith asked, as Dobbs ran his hand over the canvas's.
"I sense nothing from these paintings but…there's something here, in this room…"
Hezekiah belched again, then turned to Nelson and raised his eyes heavenward.
"Wait,"Dobbs said, urgently," is that a direct ancestor?"he indicated one of the paintings.
"We don’t know who it is,"Edith said.
"I sense…something lost, something of value, honor perhaps, though…"he raised his hands in defeat. "Well, let's look at these other things."
"Irish Treasure?" Matilda asked as she read the slip. "Good grief, and I thought all the blarney about pirate treasure in New England was just tourist hype."
"There are a few legitimate instances,"Crappy replied,"well, Snotface, any ideas?"
"Mr. Dobbs?"Nelson questioned.
"Nothing. Nothing at all. I'm sorry. I can't sense anything from it. I do however sense something from this,"he fingered the recipe.
"A mother's love,"Matilda oozed.
"No, not love , Mrs. Bates,"he replied,"there's no love there, anger maybe, perhaps jealousy."
"Believe me on this point, this letter is clearly embedded with it."
"But why?"Edith asked,"why be jealous of your own child getting married, she even seems to detest the whole idea, unless…"
"Maybe she wanted the man for herself!"Matilda interrupted. "Oh, it makes sense now."
"I think you two are jumping to conclusions, "Nelson replied.
"Yes, you are,"Dobbs said,"I sense jealousy but I can’t sense the reason."
"Think, Mr. Dobbs, think!"Matilda urged," Oh Catty should be here!"
"I can only sense the raw emotions from this letter, nothing else," he paused, "it could be anything, maybe even the 'station'in life she mentioned about the new son-in-law."He shook his head sadly, "where did you find the skeleton again?"
"In the cellar,"Lee said,"I broke a barrel of hard tack, part of him too maybe, but there it was clutching one of the crackers."
"May I see it? The skeleton?"
"I'm afraid it's at the coroners,"Nelson said.
"Well, then, perhaps the location where it had been."
"Follow me,"Nelson said.
"Oh,Lee, dahling,"Matilda took Crane's arm, " isn't this exciting?"
What Lee thought was not spoken, wishing this whole mumbo jumbo for his mother was over.
"Hmm,"Dobbs saw the spot where the barrel had been, and picked up some of the shards of wood still on the floor, along with the heap of hard tack awaiting disposal."Early 1800's, maybe late 1700's, I should think,"Dobbs held a piece of curved wood.
"We know that,"Nelson said."What we don't know is why. Anything?"
"I sense…anger…no, evil."
"Well that makes sense,"Jiggs said "I mean wouldn't you be angry if someone killed you?"
"If the anger is the victim's or the assailant's ,"Dobbs replied,"…there's something else here…"
"Really?"the spectre looked about sarcastically and helped himself to one of the antique crackers, or at least tried too. Even with what remained of his teeth, the biscuit was hard as a rock.
"I sense…darkness….lonliness…. been awhile since anyone's really used anything down here, isn't it?"he indicated the cobwebby stone wine wall..
"Oh, "Jiggs answered, "Harriman's having an expert come over after the holidays to examine the the whole thing."
Dobbs pointed,"I don't sense anything from from the wine wall."
"I do,"Jiggs smirked,"money, lots and lots of money,"he laughed.
"I'm certain there's something down here someplace", Dobbs responded,"something important."
"Perhaps the tunnel?"Crappy added.
"Well, I 'm not going to excavate anything without more to go on,"Nelson stressed,"most of those old stories are twaddle, you know that."
"I could use another slug o refresment,"Hezekiah asked.
"I keep wondering about a tunnel too, Harriman,"Jiggs said. "Something's been on the property for generations, maybe this old cellar was part of previous foundations.…are you ill ?"
"Perhaps some of this 'ere bubbly?"the spectre smacked his lips as he inspected the old wine wall.
Nelson groaned audibly.
"Are you okay snotface?"Crappy asked." You look a bit green around the gills."
"Indigestion,"Nelson lied, in a hurry to rid himself of the image of Hezekiah poking about the other barrels now. "If you'll excuse me, I need some bicarbonate."
"I'm sorry sir,"Lee entered the library a few moments later. Nelson was sitting at the cluttered table and looked tired. "I wish I'd never gotten you involved in all this."
"What?"Nelson looked up, not even having noticed Crane's arrival. Hezekiah inspected a pile of old and rather smelly books on the floor. "Oh, I didn't see you come in, everyone else still downstairs with the all the cobwebs?"
"Yes, but…if you want to call this whole thing off I know I can make my mother understand and…"
"Lee,"Nelson smiled," I'm not upset with this thing and certainly not with you. I'm not quite sure I believe in Dobb's senses, but there are apparently some mysteries involving my family home and …"
"You don't mind, then, all of this and your home being turned into a hotel for the extended weekend?"
"I knew what I was getting into. Of course I didn't know Sharkey would be included in the bargain.Can you imagine it,"he laughed," I wonder got into him. I'd always thought he was embarrassed by his Home Economics A in high school, but now…."
"Well,"Lee warmed his hands by the fire,"the prize money ought to allay any snide remarks from the crew. I wonder why he did it?"
"You just answered your own question, Lee. I think I need to give our chief a raise."
"I haven't seen those before."
"Just some more old books. They spilled out from behind one of those old atlas's. I thought I'd take a look out of curiosity."
Lee knelt down, almost on top of the phantom, who gave Nelson a disgusted look from the intrusion on his person, then Hezekiah continued to look at the antique engravings of naked native girls of the South Seas.
Nelson yawned as he sat at the kitchen table later that evening. "I wish Dobbs had sensed something more than a disgruntled mother. "
Lee cut another slice of Sharkey's pie."She'll still appreciate the experiment Admiral,"Lee paused,"I know it must have come as a shock, but the Edmund stuff, you really shouldn't let it get you down."
"It hasn't gotten me down, Lee, I'm simply a bit distracted by it."
"You know,"Lee said,"if you look at it from another angle, he was only following his conscience…"
"Then why wasn't he hanged! I’m sorry Lee,"Nelson rose,"but knowing my own ancestor may have been the reason for Arnold's betrayal and Andre's death…"
"You can't change history Admiral. But wouldn't both men have done the same thing even without Edmund Nelson? You can't lay the entire blame on him."
"Hmm. Perhaps not. Well, It's late. See you in the morning Lee."
"Good night Admiral."
"It's not true you know,"Hezekiah stretched out on the bed, his arms behind his head.
"I thought you'd dissapeared,"Nelson "All right, I'll take the bait, what's not true?" Nelson pulled on a sweater over his pajamas for warmth.
"Why all that treason talk about Edmund Nelson, of course. "
"And what would you know of it?"
The spectre only grinned, gave up trying to pull off his shoes, wiggled his feet down underneath the thick down comforter.
"Oh, go away then and haunt somebody else,"Nelson said wearily as he sat on the bed. " This is my bed, not yours."
"Now that yer mention it, I am a bit thirsty."
"If you so much as touch another drop of the family spirits I'll …I'll…"Nelson fought for something to threaten his delusion with. "Now listen, it's time we had a little talk. I want to know just who you are and what you want and don't give me that 'company'crap because I don't buy it. And if you know something about Edmund Nelson and your precious treasure, why the hell don't you give me some details?!"
"I told ye who I are!" the spectre belched,"and tis true, about wantin your company and all. I have a vested interest in what goes on with you, so I does!" he disappeared, leaving Nelson to a restless sleep.
"You can't be serious!"Edith complained as she sat a bowl of instant oatmeal in front of Nelson at the kitchen table.
"Quiet, no one else is up yet, "he ate a spoonful absently,"I'm quite serious. I can't explain it, but Edmund Nelson was no traitor."
"That's the spirit Admiral,"Sharkey intruded,"I know it can't be true. Is that all you're gonna have for breakfast sir? Oh, you gotta let me fix you a real breakfast, Miss Edie that okay with you?"
"Sharkey,"she smiled,"the kitchen is at your disposal."
"Now, why don't you two get outta here and I'll let you know when it's all ready. I'll make enough for everybody. I think I heard that Dobbs fella walking around. No sound out of the Skipper's room. Admiral Starke's got a radio turned on, and the English guy is doing calehtestics. "
Lee awoke, dazed. He'd fallen off the bed? And he'd slept right through it? Well, stranger things had happened. Stretching the kinks out, he shivered. He was very cold. Odd, the thick blanket had fallen or been placed on top of him, while the bedspread had not. He hopped about trying to get warm while pulling on his robe and slippers as Hezekiah slept undisturbed and unseen under the covers.
"But Admrial,"Dobbs insisted in the morning's sunlit kitchen ,"I assure you that this letter indicating treason is correct for the time. The fibers and the ink are consistent. Just because you don't want to believe it doesn't mean it's a fake and that I've deceived you. Are you trying to insult my integrity?"
"Sit down Lee,"Nelson commanded before Lee did anything drastic like splashing a cup of coffee in Dobb's face. "Mr. Dobbs, I don't doubt the letter's authenticity, just the content."
"But…" Dobbs was clearly confused.
"Hear me out, please, Lee sit down. Now, we have here a letter to a wife by an angry husband. Could it have been written in a moment of passion? Or did his meeting with Arnold even take place?"
"So,"Edith chimed in, "maybe he's not such a bad man after all!"
"My dear,"Crappy said, with some hesitation,"no one said he was a bad man, just of a different opinion….I want him to be on your side for your sake, but I'm afraid I have to lean with the historical evidence…Snotface,"he said gently to Nelson, " why do you doubt the contents of the letter? It's right there in quilled ink."
"I know, but,"Nelson watched as the spectre sipped a cup of coffee from the kitchen counter and spat it out, missing Sharkey by inches."I have another source of information.."
"Well, out with it man,"Matilda said.
"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to say,"Nelson hedged,"just yet."
"How convienient,"Dobbs said, clearly irritated.
"Oh be quiet, "Crappy replied,"so, Harriman, what do you intend to do? The press has already assumed the validity of it all."
"I'm not quite sure."
"Uh, excuse me, breakfast's on,"Sharkey said, proudly covered with a plastic kitchen apron as he held two huge platters laden with scrambled eggs and sausages.
"Chief,"Crane said with a huge grin at the picture of his chief of the boat looking for all the world like an add for a breakfast food company,"I wish I had a camera. Nobody'd believe it."
"Well, uh…"he laid the food on the cramped kitchen table, "Actually, there's gonna be a picture…the bake off took one…but it's gonna be in those ladies magazines, they promised me nowhere else…so our guys won't be embarrassed."
"You keep cooking like this Sharkey,"Nelson said, "and no one, let alone Cookie, is going to be embarrassed."
"So Your House is Haunted, an Owner's manual?"Jiggs read the book's jacket. It had just been delivered express mail."Harriman…you are just doing this for Crane's mother aren't you?"
"Jiggs,"Nelson whispered as he grabbed the book,"follow me to the library then lock the door."
"Do as I say!" Nelson hurried off with the book.
"Okay okay,"Starke turned the library's lock," nobody here but us."
"That's not quite true,"Nelson said, resigned to his fate in an insitution,"Jiggs, we have a houseguest. He says his name's Hezekiah. He's by the fire. Now, whether he's a hallucination, or a delusion, or even a ghost, I'm not sure. And no, this is no joke. You can see why I 'm only telling you."
"Good grief, man, well, what's he want?"
"So far his only desire seems to be drinking me out of house and home with the occasional leering glances at Edith and even Mrs. Bates. He's also gone as far to check Lee for lice and claim Edmund Nelson was not a traitor. But I can't get anymore than that out of him."
"You think the book will help?"
"I've no idea. So, just how does an exorcism work?"
"I only wanted to come out of the cold,"Hezekiah whined, "and ye treats me like this?I told ye I'd split the Irish treasure with ye, and about Edmund and…"
"Stop bellyaching, I haven't done anything yet. And you haven't really told me anything but blabber."
"Harriman,"Jiggs whispered,"can he make himself visible to me?"
"Why should I?"
"Because Starke here might just lock me away and then the house will be locked up, everything sold and there will be no booze, that reason enough?"
"Well, it feels pretty solid to me,"Lee was kneeling on the cold hard floor of the cellar, pressing his hands against each flagstone.
"Lee, dahling, Nelson could be sitting on top of a gold mine. The least we can do is a little preliminary checking. Now be quiet , keep feeling around to see if any of the stones sound hollow underneath."
"Mrs. Bates, this is not really the way to conduct a test for tunnels on the property," Crappy said."Surely there must be instruments and the like for such a venture."
"I agree,"Tommy added his two cents worth, "and shouldn't we wait for Admiral Nelson? Where is he anyway?"
"So, you 'can't tell me',"Nelson said, it was not a question. "You've simply abused my hospitality and…oh stop blubbering!"
"I ain't whinin, and yer can't know what it's like, all alone, and I told ye all ye need ta know…it's the truth, so it is! "
"What about your so called vested interest?"Jiggs added. "Nothing more than trying to get us to dig around to find this so-called treasure for you!"
"You ' ave my word about about it being there!"
"In a tunnel,four paces north from from the knotted oak. There is no oak! Possibly never was," Jiggs said,"and I have reservations about taking your word at face value. If you were honorable, why not show yourself to everybody."
"And you're not are you ,Hezekiah? An honorable man,"Nelson asked, deep in thought."Is that why you're condemned to roam the earth? Now, again, why are you here, and what do you want," he asked, not ungently.
"Aye, tis a smart man that you are, Admrial,"Hezekiah sighed. "I forged the letter to his wife, I don't know who had me to do it, I knew better than to ask. He paid me a lot o money to do it, so he did. Tis her curse that must needs keeps me here, for she knew Edmund weren't no traitor and kept it hid . The rest of it, the words, were true enough though. I ' eard Mr. Nelson say such things oft enough."
"Well, at least you've cleared your conscience, but what good is that to Harriman here?"
"Aye, worthless is the word of a forger,"he shook his head sadly,"and…the cellar, quick! The lad's in trouble!"
"Skipper! Skipper!" Sharkey yelled.
"Are you all right son?"Crappy called down into the dark depths below where just moments before the stone wine wall had been.
Broken bottles and streams of fluid stained the remaining stone floor as the much of it dribbled onto the hapless captain below.
"Give me a chance,"Lee said, breathing heavily,"let me get my breath…what the…there is a tunnel down here!"he called up. "Somebody get the Admiral."
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen,"the reporter adjusted the mike,"we are speaking to you live from the Nelson mansion, in the cellar, where, apparently a wall collapsed into the floor and uncovered a long disused tunnel of some sort. Mrs. Bates, you are a houseguest, can you tell us what happened?"
"Well, Lee, that's Catherine Crane's son, was checking the floor for any looseness and the stone wall just suddenly fell apart along with that part of the floor and down he went. "
"What was the problem, what was he checking?"
"We were looking for…the Irish treasure. It's supposed to be buried under the house someplace."
"The Irish Treasure?"
"Yes, and it's in a tunnel dug by pirates and….look, you can snicker if you want, but something's down there!"
"Yes, now, you are…"
"Connors, your servant Maám. Yes, it's not joke. There is an old shred of paper ythra seems to document the story."
"Tell us more about this Lee Crane, seems to be rather accident prone.."
"Just think, Lee,"Edith whispered as she crawled behind Lee as they inspected the tunnel,"these wood beams were laid years, perhaps even centuries ago."
"Quiet, do you want it cave in on us?"Jiggs hissed, just behind her, his flashlight joining others in the dim illumination.
"I doubt if our sound waves could do any damage,"Nelson interjected, behind him."Tighter than I thought it would be."
"I think I see something up ahead,"Lee said. "Wait here.."
"Any hint of danger and come right back, no heroics Lee,"Andrews cautioned.
"You know Tommy, you're even more of a mother hen than Mom is."
"I thought only Doc had that honor,"Nelson chuckled as the group was wedged tightly in the cramped darkness."Be careful just the same, Lee."
"Aye sir,"Lee answered and crawled away.
The tunnel narrowed as Lee wormed his way further. It smelled of wet earth and something sour that he couldn't quite put his finger on.
"Looks like a dead end down here!"he shouted back. "I thought I'd seen something, but there's nothing here but rubble. Maybe an old cave in. I’m going to try to dig through."
"No, Lee,"Nelson shouted back,"wait! We'll hire some experts and…"
The sound of a loud crack, Lee's cry of pain interrupted followed by a rumbling sound.
"Cave in!"Nelson roared, back, quick, everyone!"
"We're here outside the Nelson estate where rescue teams are attempting to remove the rubble from a caved in tunnel which collapsed on one of Admiral Nelson's guests. The Admiral was slightly hurt as he and the other diggers barely managed to make it back to the cellar of the Nelson mansion. Nelson has a cut forhead from a rock, but is otherwise okay.
It was the same houseguest who collapsed into the barrell of hard tack the skeleton was discovered in.
Nelson is conferring with the local rescue team as to what to do next, though we did see some digging machinery break ground on the estate where the Admiral thinks the tunnel may lie…."
Total blackness greeted Lee's senses as he came too . What was weird was the stale odor of mold and whiskey that assaulted his nostrils.
"You gave me a right scare so ye did," the man dusted off an old bottle of whiskey from a delapidated crate, and grinned. It was odd, there being no light down here, but he could see the disheveled man encased in a sort of greenish glow.
"Hurry up and help me out of here, are the others okay? What's wrong with light? Is the battery going dead? I can't see a thing but you and…."
"Not a scratch on 'em," the man replied and swallowed the fluid greedily,"only you was buried under. Had a time of it pullin you out to air, so I did, but it sure did make light work fer me of findin the treasure, so obstinate was Harriman about it!"
"Thanks, but area you sure about the others? How long was I blacked out? "
"'Ave no idea, laddie,"he belched comfortably."I ani't partial to newfangled timepieces,"he took another slug," Ahh, that' s better.Nothing like the real thing from the emerald isle, not like that colonial brew...now laddie, how do you feel?"
"I'm fine, quit talking and help me out of this mess. I have to check on the others!"
"Not with a pistol shot to yer arm yer not goin' anywheres. I may've tied it up with an old sleeve from my jacket, but I'll not be ávin you undo my medicinal attentions, no I won't." "Now, look…"
There was a loud rumbling and Lee instinctively covered his head awaiting the avalanche.Instead, he was treated to sudden and blinding light. "Crane? Crane? "Nelson called out. The rescue team had arrived.
Helped to his feet and aided upwards outward from the pit, Crane was clearly disoriented,"Are you okay Admiral, Edith…"
"They're just fine,"the paramedic took charge and gave Crane a preliminary examination.
"Where's the man who tied my arm?"
"What man?"Nelson asked. "There was another man down there?"he asked the rescue leader.
"No, no-one,"the team leader interupted, shaking his head and gave Crane's direction a swirly finger to the head.
"Stop it!"Lee spat to the medic, "I’m not hallucinating. He was there. He..tied my arm up and…"
"There was nothing on your arm,"the medic said calmly.
"But I saw him! He smelled like a brewery or mold or something…." Lee babbled.
"You got a bump on the head and a gunshot wound, trauma can do weird things. Now quiet down or we may have to sedate you. We have to get these wounds treated."
"And so, ladies and gentlemen, Crane suffered what can only be described as a booby trap, set sometime in the 1700's. A pistol fired as he'd disturbed the wire attached to a false wall made of rubble , which caused one of the beams to break free and hence the cave-in, the rest of which is somewhat, and being excavated. As for the Irish Treasure, so far, all that's been found are a few boxes of cigars and a couple of crates of Irish whiskey. Crane insisted that a man had pulled him from the debris and wrapped his arm to stop the bleeding. The incident is being labeled as nothing more than a bump on the head and nothing had been wrapped around the gunshot wound. Of course, if one credits the haunting rumors, perhaps this can be added to them."
"These,"Jiggs twirled a cigar in his hand," ought to sell for …pewww. Absolutely nothing. They will though, quite a bit, just can't smoke them. Sorry Harriman."
"What about these?"Edith asked as she wiped the crusted grit off some of the bottles from the crates.
"Hmm, let's see. If the seals are intact…"
"Now, you sit over here, near the fire,"Matilda escorted Lee to the chair by the library's fireplace.
"Are you all right Lee?"Tommy asked.
"I 'm fine, a bit confused, I'll admit that. The man was so…real."
"I'm not sure he wasn't,"Dobbs spoke up.
"You mean Lee had a visitation?"Edith asked.
"I'm almost sure of it…"
"Oh, what a wonderful idea for one of Catty's stories!"Matilda spouted. "Now, Lee, tell us everything you can about your ghost friend…"
It was late and satisfied that Lee was being well looked after by Mrs. Bates, Nelson prepared for bed.
"Been a busy day, care for a swig?"
"It was you wasn’t it,"Nelson said. It was not a question.
"Well, I couldn't just let him lay there under all that earth, all alone, in the dark and all."
"I think I'll join you,"Nelson took a sip then a swallow from the old whiskey bottle he'd brought from downstairs, leaving the rest downstairs for Jiggs to play with. "It's pretty good. "
"Ought to be,"he grinned and smacked his lips,"and to think I'd never thought' ta see me Irish Treasure again, hid away so long in that darn pit of a tunnel!'
Nelson took the bottle from Hezekiah,"Irish Treasure indeed, it nearly killed my best friend."
"How was I ta know Edmund had it booby trapped?Mighty partial to his whiskey, so he were, lucky sod…Whiskey's awful good for those cold nights all alone, forlorne, all forgot and…"
"You, sir, are a complete scoundrel, you know that? Take the whole blasted bottle, the entire supply. I'm going to bed. By the way, thank you for saving his life. He said you said you'd pulled him from under the debris before he suffocated, though he doesn't remember it… Somehow, I think I believe you did."
"Somehow, I just feel I should know him, I wasn't imagining it Admiral, I just know it."
"I believe you Lee,"he glanced at the morning's apparition behind Crane, its elbows resting on top of Lee's chair and looking down at him with a grin. "Stranger things have happened."
"Edith said you were here,"Jiggs sat down next to the fire in the library the next morning."Breakfast will be a little late, Sharkey's showing her the nuances of baking croissants. I'm hungry just thinking about it."
"Harry! Harry!"Edith came rushing into the room,"Dobbs found something else, it was probably ripped out of an old diary and tucked into an old shoe we were about to throw away. Hurry up, it's in the kitchen!"
Shaemus told me something terrible today, and swore me to secrecy. Old Hezekiah is stuffed in a cracker barrel in the cellar of Shaemus's house. Seems old Hezikiah was killed by Shaemus' father. Something about a fake letter he'd learned about from a dying man who'd paid for it to be written in the first place. Mr. Nelson told Shaemus if he ever told about the strangling he'd be disowned and loose every penny he had, but Edward Nelson is dead now, so that's not a problem.
Shaemus says old Hezekiah was covered in hard tack, then sealed up for all eternity. Shaemus showed me the cellar, but there's so many barrels and boxes and bottles, even he doesn't know which one it is, and that he's not about to waste good crackers and wine for the bones of some old hammer-toed geezer long dead and best forgotten.
I'm not sure if Shaemus is making the whole thing up. He's invited me to the Halloween party and I'm not sure I want to go, but he is rich, and everyone thinks he's setting his cap for me. I don't know. I just don't know what to do.
"Well,"Dobbs said,"that puts an end to the treason but…."
"Add murder one to the Nelson scandals,"Edith sighed.
"Well, at least now we can give the skeleton a decent burial."
"I'm sorry,"the cemetery director insisted," but we can't fit him in the colonial section, as for the other areas, unless you have proof, your skeleton is still legally 'John Doe', not this Hezekiah fellow."
"But everything matches!"Starked roared. "It's even been on the news!
"I don't care, and you can't take the diary of some 19th century girl as gospel, now if you'll excuse me."
"Sorry Harry,"Jiggs apologized, loudly. "I guess poor old Hezekiah will have to keep haunting you," he nodded to Nelson with an unspoken message.
"Well, "Nelson added, point taken,"Poor old lush, you know, Jiggs, it must be lonely for him, all his dead friends already gone to their reward and he's stuck down here, restless, trapped…"
"Oh, stop it, both of you!"the director pursed her lips.
"I'm not sure why he's stuck here,"Nelson said," it could be a curse on him, like he said, but I'm hoping that laying him to rest will release him from it, God knows, he bared his conscious, doesn't even hold it against his murderer. "
"Look, it's against the rules, but…"the curator relented, "have it here tomorrow morning. Now, we need to go through a few details…"
"Yes, "Lee spoke into the old phone, as Nelson patiently waited in the entrance, "I'll be sure to bundle up, yes, I'm fine, no, we're not sure who it is really, but it probably is him…I have to go…umhm, yes, she took good care of me and…yes, yes …okay, bye for now. Over and out," he grinned as the call ended.
"Is everything all right aboard Seaview?"
"Just about all hands have returned from shore leave. We're the only three left. You know, my own mother isn't as mother-henny as Doc is!"
"Well, he's a doctor, it's allowed."
Both men laughed as several goodbyes were exchanged just outside, everyone braving the foul weather to see Lee off to his mother's, and an extra week of leave, Doc's orders.
Tommy had left with Crane, Sharkey was helping Edith to put final touches on some sandwiches to feed the Admiral before the long flight back to NIMR, Crappy was cataloging various dusty articles from the attic, while Dobbs was conferring with Mrs. Crane on a cell phone about his lack of any vibrations from the funeral. It had been a quiet funeral, but attended by several of the local townspeople, curious at the story behind the corpse.
Meanwhile, in the library, Jiggs and Nelson sat, deep in thought.
"I wish we knew more about him,"Jiggs said, disappointed.
"Ahh, but are ye sure you want to know?I has a reputation to keep, so I do."
"What are you doing here?"Nelson asked of Hezekiah,"You've confessed your crime, we know who killed you, and you've been laid to rest!"
"Aye, was a wonderful send off ye gave me, so it were, now,"he rubbed his hands,"now where's the gin? Yer getting a bit low on yer whiskey, and I'm in the mood fer a change anyhow. I heard yon missy saying something about…"
Nelson groaned and the doorbell rang,"I'll get it. Don't let him drink all of the remaining twelve bottles."
"Oh, excuse me Admrial,"Dobbs nearly bumped into him at the door and said,"I need to locate…"he stood in awed silence as Hezekiah took a slug of gin and winked.
"Oh, uh, Jiggs will make the introductions,"Nelson was about to escape when he heard the bell again,"I'm coming I'm coming!"
"What the?"Nelson found no one near the door, or even on the driveway and went back to the library. "What is it? What's wrong?" he asked as Jiggs tried to bring Dobbs around.
"He fainted. Can't say I blame him, had to be a shock….Hezekiah's gone…said the angels were calling him to judgment and he disappeared."
"It was just the doorbell!"Nelson exclaimed, then furrowed his eyebrows,"Blast! I wish I'd been here…if only to say goodbye."
"Ohhh,"Dobbs roused,"did I see it, or did I just imagine it?"
For a moment Nelson and Jiggs hesitated about letting Dobbs in on their own personal encounter.
"Please, I'm not crazy, at least I hope not,"Dobbs stood up.
"No, you're not crazy, sit down and we'll tell you all about it."
The flight was long and Nelson dozed on the flight. Blasted economy class, cramped flight, he thought as he dozed in harmony to the engines off while Sharkey caught up on a technical manual.
"Saint's I'm thirsty, mind if I 'ave a go at these little wee bottles of yers?"
"Hezekiah!"Nelson almost shouted, partly with shock, partly with surprise, partly with amusement."What are you doing here?"
"Harriman, Harriman, wake up,"Jiggs prodded his friend."You were shouting and disturbing the rest of the passengers."
"Jiggs! What are you doing on this flight? Where's Sharkey?"
"Harry,"Starke answered gently," Sharkey's not here… you invited me to Thanksgiving dinner, remember? You must have been having some dream!"
"Oh,"Nelson fought for sanity. Yes, it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet, his watch verified that. They'd only been in the air a few hours from Honolulu."Oh, it was so…so real, Jiggs. You were in it, and Sharkey, and Lee and a psychic and…I think I need a drink."
"Here's mud in yer eye!"Hezekiah reappeared and winked at Nelson, raising a familiar looking and dingy old whiskey bottle, and disappeared.
"Are you all right Harriman?"
"I…I’m fine, Jiggs, just fine,"he lied, deciding to call Doc as soon as he landed.
"Oh, by the way, Harriman, your sister's invited a guest to dinner, a Matilda Bates, formerly Eckerman, remember the name, do you? Your nanny! She had no idea her little Harriman Nelson was The Harriman Nelson. Can hardly wait to see you again, seems Edith found her on an Internet chat and…are you ill?"
"Well,"the electrician finished screwing in the new outlet," it's good to see the old Nelson place opened up once in a while. You know, this old house is supposed to be haunted."
"What's in the old barrels anyway?" his assistant leaned against one of them."You know, it's kinda peaceful and restful down here."
"Yeah, just like an undiscovered tomb,"the other man laughed, then stopped,"you know, I guess that's not very funny, is it."
"No worse than a skeleton in a closet, c'mon, Miss Nelson promised us some of her cheese puffs…."
Lee looked at his bare feet with disdain as soaked in the bathtub, a luxury he’d sometimes actually dreamed of aboard seaview. Nothing he could do about it, though; hammer toes had been in the family for as long as they’d known…..