Seaview was waiting to head home. It
was the day after Halloween and Harry and I were counting down the minutes to midnight. After all, we had just about had enough
of ghosts and ghoulies lately, and something like this just didn’t happen
very often, thank you very much.
It had all begun when the President’s
wife had decided to host a party. A costume party. And since Seaview had spirited (no pun intended) Nelson to Washington for
a Congressional subcommittee about filter clams a few days prior, it was only
a matter of time before the invitation came.
At first I found it amusing. But when
he drafted me to accompany him I found it anything but. Well, if I had to go, then the snickering Morton would too, although
I used the fact that Chip hadn’t been able to enjoy the brief shore leave most of the crew had, and could use some ‘down
time’. And after all, there’d be food wouldn’t there? Lots
and lots of good nourishing, make your tummy sick kind of food. (The First Lady was a devote’ of several food and craft
shows, so I expected such things as candied apples, gooey cupcakes and of course cookies and candy.) I almost felt myself
reaching for the pink stuff in advance.
Costumes were going to be a problem,
however, since the party was for that night and I assumed we’d be going in uniform, augmented by a few decorative feathered
hats we’d stored for such things as crossing the equator, etc.
You can imagine my surprise when Chip
entered my cabin, carrying a box stuffed to the gills with old costumes.
House kind of figured we could use some help,” he said, “The Admiral’s got his already, I got dibs on this
one,” he pulled out a round rotund ‘cookie’ he could pull over his clothes. Everything
else was for kids. Except a gaudy Naval officer’s jacket complete with gold epaulettes.
must have groaned when I saw it.
“Aw c’mon Lee. All you’ll need is a little black sharpie to give you mutton chops to go with the time frame.
And I just happen to have one with me. (Yeah, sure, Morton ) “Now, hold still,” he continued as he inked my cropped
sideburns into what looked like fluffy whiskers. “Yeah, you’re going to look just like him.”
“Who ?” I asked as I pulled
on my costume.
“I don’t know, didn’t
read the fine print. It was on a picture postcard in the bottom of the box.”
“Lads? You ready?” Nelson
appeared at the door. “Uh, you can put your tongue back in your mouth Lee. There is nothing cowardly about this lion. Besides, your costume didn’t fit. And no way was I going as a cookie.”
Just then Sharkey appeared at the door,
ashen, “Please, sir,” he addressed Nelson, “Please, don’t let the Skipper go!”
What’s wrong Chief?” Nelson beat me to the punch.
the White House is haunted! Really haunted. I got it right here in this here brochure,” he let Nelson grab it out of
his hand. “If the Skipper goes, it’ll be like giving him a neon sign on his head flashing ‘vacancy, inquire
I began, trying not to remember our own ‘encounters’, “the White House’s over 200 years old. There’s
bound to be some kind of…well…energy left over, I guess you’d call it...”
“Son,” Nelson said, handing
the brochure to Morton, “perhaps it’s not a wise idea to accompany
us after all…”
“Yeah,” Chip joined in,
“things that go bump in the night are kind of attracted to you. I mean…er, well,” he tried to lighten the
mood, ‘it’ll leave more food for me.”
“I can’t believe you three,
even if it is haunted,” I stressed, “do you honestly think somebody like Abe Lincoln’s going to want my
body? C’mon, this is the White House we’re talking about. Besides, do you think George Washington would let anything
happen to me?” (I almost expected a drum roll)
“Uh, Skipper,” Sharkey
piped up, “there wasn’t any White House then…first President’s House wasn’t even finished until
about 1800, though John Adams moved in when it was still under construction…”
“Is John Adam’s ghost in
residence?” I asked, irritated.
“No, but Abigail’s been
seen hanging laundry and….”
“Enough!” I said, and straightened
my epaulettes. “We’re going to the White House. Admiral, (I always call Harry ‘Admiral’ in front of
the Chief) your tail’s loose. Go to Sickbay and ask Doc to give it a few more stitches to make sure it doesn’t
fall off. Chip, have Sparks call for a cab. As for you, Chief,” I took the brochure out of Morton’s hand and gave
it back to Sharkey, “please keep your Halloween tales to yourself.”
As Chip and Sharkey departed, Nelson
touched my shoulder, “Lee I wish you’d reconsider…”
good grief,” I grabbed his arm, “let’s get your tail sewed back on.”
I don’t suppose it was the first
time a taxi driver pulled up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But it probably was the only time he’d been paid by a lion
and tipped by a cookie. The costumers were to be commended for their almost invisible pockets.
While there were a few ‘alter
egos’ of Washington politician’s in residence, most of the costumes were pretty ordinary. I found one of the many
‘Betsy Ross’ types quite charming and the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ a real beauty, except for her
wart, of course. Chip was busy sampling all the decorated goodies, including the non-edible ones, (even as a cookie, the ladies
found him charming), and Nelson was ‘roaring’ at the President’s kids and their friends, enjoying the novelty
of having a grown up pretending with them. Yes, a good time was being had by all. And the only ghosts to be had were the decorative
marshmallow kind on the buffet table.
Normally guests aren’t allowed
on the second floor of the White House, but the First Lady ‘Martha Washington’, decided to give Harry a special
tour. It wasn’t every day she could boast that she was greeting the great Harriman Nelson. Her social secretary, ‘Glenda-the
Good Witch’, was in attendance and had been driving me nuts with her fluttering
eyelashes-or else it was a tick-, but in any case she asked if Chip and I might come along. It was difficult for the First
Lady to say no.
It was an old house, ‘Martha’
stressed, and a great deal of it needed not only repairs but an interior decorator to make sure things were historically accurate.
Former First Ladies had been somewhat successful in acquiring actual items that had belonged to previous administrations,
but still, there was always room for improvement.
As she waxed on almost poetically about
the Rose Room, one of the first places she showed us, I wondered who on earth was stomping about on the floor above. A distant relation of the First Family perhaps?
Cursing, the man even had a few ribald jokes that I told myself I really must remember. If anyone was offended, nobody gave
any notice of it. Just as I was about to turn off the lights when we left, an
usher came in and did it for me.
As we passed by another suite I heard
something. Almost sounded like crying, and I was surprised our hostess didn’t offer any kind of explanation. Oh well,
what was behind closed doors was none of my business. It was then that my tummy started to rumble… ominously.
With a nod of permission from the First
Lady, I dashed into the nearest suite to use its bathroom. I barely noticed the other costumed guest sitting on the bed pulling
on his boots.
There was no time for introductions
as I pulled the bathroom door behind me. I really should have been more aware of the current guests in residence. As soon
as I was finished I’d have to make my apologies whoever it was dressed up as ‘Abe’.
But by then, he’d vanished and
was probably complaining to the President about me barging in to his suite.
I hurried down the corridor to rejoin
the group which I assumed had turned the corner and mused, like many before me, I supposed, ‘if only these walls could
talk’, and imagined all the famous folks that had strolled along these very halls, this President, that President, their
strong points, their weak… when a kitten suddenly got my attention, wrapping itself around my ankles, meowing.
“Well, hello there. Where did
you come from, Sweetie pie?” (Get a grip Crane! I knew Lola talked baby talk to her cats, but not naval commanders.
Still, it was difficult not to.)
answer it meandered to a closed door, looked up and meowed again.
“Ah, you want in there, do you?”
I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked again. Was it my imagination or did this cute little black kitten look a bit bigger
now that it was yowling and I wondered why, with decibels like that, why nobody from the group didn’t turn tail and
come back down into the corridor to see what the racket was all about.
I decided against trying to open the
door. After all, I didn’t want an international incident. I was probably already in enough trouble. Besides, I didn’t
know whose cat it was. Might even be the President’s, for all knew. Surely the Secret Service would know to whom it
belonged to and give it back.
But as soon as bent down to pick it
up, ‘Sweetie pie’ became a hissing, snarling, fully clawed, and fully grown (my imagination was on overdrive)
feline, and I dropped it in shock, more likely self-defense. It made a beeline toward the bend, turned once to look at me,
gave a self-satisfied snort (can cats snort?) and sauntered off at the turn, tail high in the air, looking for all the world
like that sweet little kitten again.
I had almost gotten to the end of the
corridor, when I almost bumped into a lady with a basket of flowers. Her costume wasn’t colonial in the traditional
sense of the word. Something you see in old paintings where the ladies had full boobs and an umpire style bodice to show them
off. And not just any flowers in her basket. Real ones. Roses, in fact. I was
about to ask where she’d gotten such lovely blooms in this weather, when a boy came running out of the room I’d
first taken refuge in, in a fit of giggles, followed by ‘Abe’, on all fours in pursuit. But it couldn’t
be the same man, for this one was in old fashioned dancing slippers with little bow ties on them.
The man looked up, about to say something,
when I felt fur against my ankles again.
“What are you doing back here?”
I told the kitten, but when I returned my attention to the man, he was gone. And
then, I noticed, the cat too, had vanished. Of course rumor had it that there were fancy hidden doors all over
the place. No doubt the special VIP’s invited to stay had been informed about them. Saved so much time and trouble apparently.
“Ah, there you are Lee! ”Harry
hailed me from the bend.
“I hope you’re feeling
better now, Captain,” the First Lady said.
thank you…only…I’m afraid I may have upset one of your guests in the Lincoln Bedroom, barging in like that.”
For a moment she looked at me askance,
then, “We don’t have anyone staying with us at the moment.”
“I’ll see to it, ma’am,”
her secretary said, “Someone must have gotten lost again,” and disappeared through a door in the wall. Yes indeedy,
the place did have secret passages.
“There was more than one, a kid
too…and you do have a cat, don’t you?”
“No, just dogs. Why?”
“Guess it was a stray that got
into the house somehow.”“
“Wouldn’t surprise me,
what with all the construction going on. I’ll tell the foreman in the morning to be on the lookout for it. We’ll
use these stairs….”
What nobody tells you is how you’re
going to feel in the Oval Office. Its’ a bit humbling even if it was an odd assortment of Halloween ‘characters’
crowded around the famous desk behind which sat ‘George’ (appropriate for a Commander in Chief), and to his side
To my surprise Chip and I were included
in one of the pictures of Harry and the President. Apparently he was doing it for all the guests, in small groups, a wonderful
bit of PR that all would remember fondly.
As we were excused to rejoin the party,
I had to turn to take a last look. (I’d never be invited to the Oval Office again, no doubt.)
There was yet another ‘Abe’,
but no one noticed him as a new group of characters were gathering to have their pictures taken; only this Lincoln had one
hand on the window and other hand behind his back as if he were pondering something. I’d never seen a more sorrowful
sight. Really ‘in character’ for this costume party.
Nelson’s voice interrupted, impatient.
and turned to take another look, but all I saw was the new posing of men, women, and children with ‘George’ and
‘Martha’; but no Abe.
Chip was soon sated as the party wound
down, but begged for a ‘doggie bag’ of goodies to take back for the crew. Naturally our host and hostess willingly
agreed. (It would save the household staff some clean up time as well, though no doubt any leftovers went to area shelters)
Harry’s tail had managed to stay
on all night, and he was in a good humor, even having found a ‘Dorothy’ (of about the same age) to dance with.
As for me, well, it had been a long
night, and frankly I was more than ready to return to Seaview. In fact, I asked Harry if I could go ahead on back before they
were ready to leave. I was tired of the noise. Tired of trying to remember who
was who under their costumes, and tired of trying to be polite to politicians, some of whom shouldn’t be in Congress
I was about to say good night to our
host and hostess,(I’d already called a cab) when I caught a glimpse of yet another lady carrying a basket. This one
was of full of clothes and the kitten peeked out from under them, so it must have found its owner. And then a naval officer
with epaulettes, just like mine, turned and winked at me with a salute.
Returning to Seaview a little worse
for wear, I plopped down in the Observation Nose and absently picked up Sharkey’s brochure.
“Ghosts,” I mocked and
began to read the brochure’s various sightings…
Andrew Jackson’s footfalls and
ribald laughter was mentioned; also some very bad jokes were heard on the second floor. Several appearances of Abraham Lincoln,
who surprised Winston Churchill after he’d just gotten out of the bathtub, not to mention knocking on Queen Wilhelmina’s
door. She’d fainted dead away when she saw him standing there.
Dolly Madison appeared to gardeners
who were going to dig up her Rose Garden. They never finished, and it remains intact to this day…
I poured myself a shot of Harry’s
whiskey we’d picked up in Scotland.
Abigail Adams was seen hanging laundry,
(I took another swig) Ushers that didn’t know they were dead were seen turning lights on and off, (uh oh) a British
Soldier with a torch wanted to burn the place down, (understandable), President William Harrison was seen rummaging in the
attic, (no, I sure didn’t see or hear anything like that) and Anne Surratt was often seen pounding on a door, crying,
pleading for her mother’s life to be spared (crying? Double uh oh).
I took another shot and continued,
learning about David Burns who was forced to give up his land for the new Presidential Palace (no problem) and D.C. (D.C.?)
Short for Demon Cat, whose appearance begins as that of an adorable young black kitten, but turns into a ferocious beast.
Considered a portent of doom as it appeared before the economic crash of 1929 and the assassination of JFK. (Great big double
Now wait a minute Crane! Get a grip!
I commanded myself. There have been lots and lots of disasters in the US since
then without any hissing from ‘Sweetie Pie’. But… what about ‘Abe’? Now, maybe I only saw men
in costume, but…still that expression, surely that had been real…
When Harry and Chip finally returned
to Seaview they found me still in costume and a little bit…well, plastered. Sharkey was nearby, glad I wasn’t
possessed, but still wringing his hands with worry.
Harry prodded me, “Lee?”
“We can’t go home yet,
Harry, “ I managed.
“Wasn’t planning to. We’ve all been invited to breakfast at the White House. Pancakes and waffles…”
“But sir,” Sharkey began.
“What about the ghosts? They don’t just come out on Halloween, not at the White House”
“Oh for Pete’s sake, there
wasn’t so much as a paranormal peep. Was there, Lee.” It wasn’t a question.
All I managed was a weak hiccup.
“There was this lady. All dressed
up like the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. Well, she came by about an hour ago.
She found a cute little black kitten in the White House laundry room and wondered if the Skip would take it. Seems it got lost in the White House and he’d mentioned it to her on a tour. Anyway, the Skip took
one look at it and nearly fainted…sir…I don’t think he’s well…”
“Or..” Sharkey hesitated
“Or?” Chip demanded.
“It was one of those White House
ghosts…the cat. D.C., they call it.”
“Sweetie-pie,” I corrected.
“Uh, yeah, sure Skipper, sure…anyway,
D.C.’s short for ‘Demon Cat’…it’s right here in
the brochure…I think maybe the Skip saw it…it’s bad luck sir. Really bad luck.”
“For goodness sake, grown men!
Lee, will you tell these idiots that this…this demon cat is a figment of their imagination?”
“Pretty good figment,”
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” I hiccupped.
“Lee, bro,” Chip turned
my chair to face him, “ did this cat act weird or anything?”
little kitty…but it…it turned on me…big mean vicious beast!”
“Any cat will howl and hiss if
you hold it the wrong way or it doesn’t want to be held,” Harry said, “Doesn’t mean it’s a ghost.
This ‘witch’ person, she wasn’t a ghost was she, Kowalski?”
“Er, no. She felt pretty solid
to me, sir. I helped her aboard Seaview.”
“The matter’s settled then.
It’s just a cat. Ski, go have Cookie make some very strong coffee for us. I’m going to change.”
“It was D.C.,” Harry,”
I grabbed his arm, “the one in the White House…Abe was there too,” I muttered.
“Who?” Harry asked.
saw him…three times…real sad…”
“Just some men in costume, Lee,”
Chip said hopefully.
“No. I checked with the Secret
Service before I left. There wasn’t anyone at the party dressed like Abe.”
For a moment no one said anything,
then I figured I might as well get it over with.
“If you must know, I also heard
Andy Jackson; he has a wicked sense of humor. You didn’t hear him, did you. Well, I did. Remind me to tell you his jokes.
I saw Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, and some White House usher who didn’t know he was supposed to be dead…Harry,
the place is haunted. Do we really have to go have breakfast? I know we’re not in any danger, not from any of them,
but…we should warn the President about Sweetie-Pie…something’s going to happen to the President or to the
country…tomorrow. We need to be on standby…not stuffing ourselves with pancakes and waffles when,” I took
a deep breath, “whatever it is happens.”
Harry stared at me and grabbed my arms
leaning over me.
son…you swear on all that’s holy that this not some kind of practical joke whipped up between you and Chip?”
“Trust me Harry.”
And so we placed Seaview on Yellow
alert and Harry personally advised the President and the SecNav via videophone about D.C.’s appearance to the Captain
of Seaview and how we were standing by to render any assistance for whenever whatever it was that was going to happen. Then,
of course, I could be wrong and the cat I’d seen in the White House could be just that and not a ghost at all.
never heard such colorful language from a political figure before. From the SecNav, yes, but the President, no.
For a moment I thought our Commander
in Chief was going to dishonorably discharge me for idiocy, as he’d put it. But then he stared at Harry and put it to
him succinctly. Did he believe in any of this Demon Cat nonsense?
“I believe in Captain Crane,
sir,” was his answer.
And so across the world US military
units were put on alert. For what exactly, nobody knew.
The clocks ticked down. Psychics were
called in. Some had inklings of a computer meltdown, but that was hardly news. We’d been expecting that for some time
now, there had been so many hackers.
Some had inklings of a medical emergency,
but that wasn’t unexpected the way the President downed all that fat and sugar.
“I know how we can find out sir,”
“We can hold a sťance. If the
kitty showed itself to the Skipper, maybe the Skipper can get it to talk.”
“Are you out of your mind? “Harry
asked. “Besides, cats can’t talk.”
“No sir, but maybe Abe Lincoln
can. I mean…if he’s down here instead of enjoying his eternal reward, well, he must have a reason…maybe
the Skip was supposed to see him, maybe talk to him, but the party got in the way and…uh…I’ll shut up now,
I never felt so foolish in my life.
We were in the Oval Office, deemed the best place to hold this ‘paranormal channeling’. To top it off, the First
Lady insisted it be filmed. (For posterity, she stressed)
One of the foremost psychic’s
was called in…even Harry had to agree she’d had a lot of success helping the cops solve crimes.
“Oh, spirits of the dead, human
and animal, come to us and reveal our futures….”blah blah blah, she went on and on. Nothing.
I was beginning to give up when I felt
the cat at my ankles again…
“No, Captain. Don’t break
the circle where our fingertips touch…are you sure it’s the same cat?
“I can’t see in this dark.”
“No, don’t turn on the
lights, “she ordered the usher, (a live one). “Demon Cat…you
appear before times of national distress, speak to us Demon Cat. Speak to us through your ghostly companion Abraham Lincoln
if need be…”
“Look, this isn’t working,”
I began but stopped short.
“What is it Captain?”
“Can’t you see him? Any
of you? It’s Abe.”
I could tell even Harry was afraid,
but he kicked me under the table, “Well, don’t just sit there Lee, ask him what the trouble is?”
President…Sweetie Pie, er, I mean Demon Cat, showed up so we think there’s
going to be a disaster…do you know what it is so we can prepare for it, or prevent it?”
Abe picked up the cat, which didn’t
grow into to hissing monster, but snuggled his hand.
“What’s he saying Lee?”
“Nothing. The cat likes him…isn’t
upset at all… Mr. Lincoln,” I tried again, “Please sir…this is the President, is something going to
happen to him? His family?”
Abe shook his head ‘no’
with a grin.
I must have sighed in relief.
“Okay the President and family
aren’t in danger. Fine. What about the country?”
“Well?” the SecNav asked,
“I don’t know. He’s
gone over to the window. He looks sad.”
“Damn it Mr. Lincoln!”
the SecNav shouted and rose, “I have warships on alert, now, are we expecting trouble or not?”
The psychic groaned. “You broke
“Wait,” I said, “he’s
still here…” I got up and headed approached the great man, “sir…I know you might not be allowed to
tell us anything….but…whatever it is that’s going to happen, will things turn out in the end?”
With that Abe looked at me, placed
his hand on my shoulder and ruffled my hair, as Sweetie Pie lay at my feet purring. And with that, both vanished.
“I…he didn’t say
what was going to happen but…”I said absently as I returned to the table, but found everyone staring at me with their mouths agape. ‘What?” I asked, “Did you see him? Did
you finally see him?”
“Yes, Captain,” the President
said,” we saw him and we’ll have to be satisfied that what will be, will be.”
And so Morton, in his duties as XO
reported that it was midnight, waiting for my order to get underway, the apparent danger ‘foretold’ by a ghost
cat or at least by that ghost cat’s tradition, past. “Well, can we go home now, Skipper?”
“I guess so…”I hesitated.
“You still think something might
happen?” Harry asked, “based on your kitty?
“I don’t know. I don’t
know anything anymore.”
“Well, perhaps that’s the
way it’s supposed to be. Lee…son, what did if feel like, having Abraham
Lincoln ruffle your hair?”
“Humbling, Harry. Very very humbling…okay
Chip, let’s go home. One thing though.”
“Sir?” Chip asked formally.
“Please never show up at a costume
party as a cookie again,” I said, “ it gave me indigestion just looking at you.”