|Lady Justice and the Ghostly Treasure
Lady Justice and the Ghostly Treasure
After our encounter with Duane ‘Mad Dog’ Johnson, I was hoping to spend the day just kicking back and relaxing with a good book.
But it wasn’t to be.
The phone rang and I thought about ignoring it, but reluctantly answered it on the fourth ring.
“Walt, this is Mary. We’ve got a problem.”
Of course you do, I thought, visualizing my day of rest and rejuvenation slipping away.
“So what now? Did Mr. Feeney stop up the toilet again?”
“I wish it was that simple. Mr. Walt, the Three Trails is haunted. We got us a ghost!”
I certainly wasn’t expecting that. I had owned the old hotel for years and thought I’d weathered every possible rental property nightmare, but this was a new one.
“Come on Mary. You can’t be serious. It’s an old building. It moans and creaks when the weather changes.”
“It ain’t that. We’re all used to the weird sounds. This is different. They seen him.”
“Who saw him?”
“The tenants, and they’re all in a dither. You’d better come over.”
“Okay,” I sighed. “I’ll be there in a half hour.”
When I pulled up in front of the hotel on Linwood, Mary and a half-dozen tenants were milling around the front lawn.
“Thank goodness!” Mary said, grabbing me by the arm. “Maybe you can calm them down.”
“Okay,” I said, surveying the obviously agitated tenants. “Somebody tell me what’s going on.”
Mary pointed to Mr. Feeney. “Tell him.”
“It --- it happened last night. ‘Bout three in the morning. I got up to take a whiz and when I went out into the hall, there he was.”
“There who was?”
“The thing --- the guy. It really wasn’t a guy. It was kind of a white blob that looked like a guy. We stared at each other for a minute and then he went right through the door of the #4 crapper. Didn’t even open it. Scared the bejesus out of me. I yelled and wet myself right there in the hall.”
“Come on, it was late, you were sleepy. Are you sure you weren’t just dreaming?”
Mr. Barnes from #14 spoke up. “Well if he was, then I had the same dream. It happened to me the night before. I was headin’ to the john when I saw it. I didn’t think nothin’ of it. Figured it was the burrito I ate just before bedtime. Then last night I heard Feeney scream and he told me what he saw. We both saw it. I swear.”
I looked around the little group. “Anyone else see this thing?”
Mr. Greeley from #7 spoke up. “Ain’t seen it yet and don’t want to. You gotta do something.”
Nods all around.
“Okay, I’ll go take a look.”
I climbed the stairs to the second floor where the twenty sleeping rooms and four hall baths were located. I peered into all four bathrooms and into several of the rooms where tenants had left the doors open.
As I expected, I saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Everyone looked at me expectantly when I returned.
“Sorry, guys. Everything looks normal to me.”
“Well of course it is now,” Greeley said. “These things don’t run around in the broad daylight. They come out at night. You need to do something before it gets dark.”
Again, nods all around.
“What exactly do you want me to do?”
“It’s your job to figure it out,” Greeley replied, defensively. “You’re the landlord.”
“Okay,” I sighed. “I’ll see what I can find out.”
“You better,” Feeney replied, “cause I ain’t goin’ back in there till you do.”
I handed Mary forty bucks. “Order some pizza and have a picnic out here. I’ll be back later.”
As I drove home, I racked my brain trying to decide what to do next. I still belonged to the Landlord’s Association, but I seriously doubted whether they had any tips on ghost eradication.
I arrived back at my apartment just as Maggie was leaving.
She could tell right away that something was bothering me.
“Okay, spill it.”
I told her about my unusual morning at the hotel.
“The tenants expect me to do something, and I don’t have a clue.”
“I might be able to help,” she said, pulling a card from her Rolodex.
“Last year, Anita from our office listed a house where the husband choked his wife to death. She couldn’t give the thing away. Every time she showed the house to a buyer, they would say it felt cold and had bad vibes.”
“So what did she do? Call Ghostbusters?”
“Go ahead and laugh,” she replied. “Anita called this guy who came out and cleansed the house. She had a contract the next week.”
She handed me the card. It read, ‘Christopher Wheeler, Psychic Solutions.’
“Really? A psychic?”
“I suppose you have a better idea.”
“Well, good luck,” she said, kissing me on the cheek. “I have an appointment with a real person.”
After she left, I just stared at the card. I knew I’d feel silly calling the guy.
It’s not that I don’t believe in ghosts. It’s just that I’d never had to actually to come to grips with the notion that they really existed.
I consider myself open-minded about such things. I had encountered so many weird things in my life that I wasn’t about to dismiss anything out of hand.
Reluctantly, I picked up the phone and dialed.
“Christopher Wheeler, please,”
“Uhhh, I’m not exactly sure what I’m asking for.”
“I get that a lot,” he replied. “Why don’t you just tell me why you’re calling?”
“Okay, here goes.”
I ended my tale with the statement, “So it looks like we’ve got a ghost at the Three Trails.”
“Actually,” he replied, “I prefer to refer to them as spirits, and they’re a lot more common than you might think. It sounds like yours might be disturbed by something.”
“So what do we do? Can you get rid of it?”
“That’s certainly a possibility, but we might want to see why he’s chosen to manifest himself at this time.”
“You can do that?”
“I would certainly like to try.”
“Well, I hope you can do it today. I have a lawn full of tenants who won’t go back in the building while this apparition is running loose.”
“Give me the address and I’ll meet you there.”
The psychic and I arrived just as the tenants were finishing off the last of the pizza.
They gathered around and I introduced our guest.
“This is Christopher Wheeler. He’s --- uhhh --- an expert in dealing with what you’ve encountered during the past two nights.”
“Pleased to meet you all. How about you tell me what you’ve seen?”
After Feeney and Barnes recounted their experience with the spirit, Wheeler said, “This shouldn’t be a problem. Let me see what I can do.”
He climbed the porch steps and disappeared inside.
An hour later, he returned.
“I’m pleased to report that I met your resident spirit, Brother Cyrus, and we had a very enlightening conversation.”
“You --- you actually talked to him?” Mr. Feeney asked, obviously bewildered.
“We didn’t actually talk,” he replied. “We communicated.”
“So who is this guy?” Greely asked, “and why is he scaring the crap out of us?”
“Extremely interesting story,” Wheeler said. “Brother Cyrus is a Franciscan Monk. In the 1908 presidential election, William Jennings Bryan was running against William Howard Taft.” He pointed to the front steps of the hotel. “Bryan was to give a speech right here on these very steps. Brother Cyrus came to the hotel to hear his speech, and as fate would have it, he suffered a heart attack and died the same day, October 10th, 1908. His spirit has remained in the hotel since that day.”
Naturally, we were all stunned by this revelation.
Mr. Barnes recovered first. “So this dude has been hanging around this old hotel for over a hundred years?”
“Well, it seems that even back then, many of the hotel’s residents were, shall we say, among the poorest and most needy. No offense intended. Brother Cyrus could have moved on, but felt he should stay and continue his ministry. He quoted a scripture that sums up his life’s work. ‘In as much as you’ve done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’”
Mr. Feeney asked what we were all wondering. “So this Brother Cyrus is actually a good ghost? He’s been here all along helpin’ the people who live here?”
“Again, I would prefer the term, ‘sprit,’ but yes, he has remained to minister to the needs of those who call the Three Trails their home.”
“I can see that now,” said Billy Banks from #4. “Sometimes I come home to that tiny room and get depressed. Then I go to the toilet right after Feeney has stunk up the place. I start to get mad, then something comes over me and I remember what it was like living under the Paseo Bridge or in one of the homeless camps, and then things don’t seem so bad. You think that could be Brother Cyrus?”
“It’s certainly a possibility.”
“Me too,” chimed in Roy Gleason from #2. “More than once I’ve come home from a crappy job I got at the day labor pool. I just want to get a bottle and drown my sorrows. Then something reminds me how lucky I am to be working at all. At least I’ve got the forty bucks to keep a roof over my head.”
“Hang on a cotton-picking minute,” said Rick Branch from #6. “Listen to yourselves. There’s obviously something very weird roaming the halls at night and I don’t like it.” He turned to Wheeler. “Can you get rid of it?”
Wheeler thought for a moment. “Yes, I could do that. Is that what you all want?”
After a moment of silence. “Not me.” “Me either.” “Hell, no!”
Wheeler looked at me. “Well, Walt, it’s your hotel. What do you think?”
Everyone looked at me expectantly. I was not about to banish anything that might give these poor souls a measure of comfort.
“Brother Cyrus stays!”
A chorus of cheers went up --- except for Rick Branch.
“You guys are bat shit crazy,” he said, stalking off. “I’m out of here.”
“I have one question, Mr. Wheeler,” I asked. “Why, after a hundred and eight years are we just now seeing Brother Cyrus? He’s never shown himself before.”
“Good question, Walt. I asked that myself. Let me put his reply in modern day terms you might relate to. In the Star Wars movie, Obe-Wan Knobe says he feels a disturbance in the Force. Brother Cyrus has felt the same thing here. Something is about to happen at the hotel that will change everything.”
“Change? How? Change for the good or otherwise?”
“That’s yet to be determined, but I did learn one thing. This whole distortion of the Force is centered around one person.”
He pointed. “Mary Murphy!”
I saw the look of astonishment register on Mary’s face.
“Me! Why me! I ain’t done nothin’!”
“I’m not sure,” Wheeler replied, “but we might learn something from a life reading.”
“It is a comprehensive reading that ties together your soul's past, present and future. A psychic life reading may help you gain greater understanding of how your present circumstances came to be and what to work on or expect for your future.”
“Will it hurt?”
“Well, I guess maybe we could do it. If I’m gonna be stirrin’ things up around here, I want to know why.”
“Good. Let’s go to your apartment and we’ll get started. Walt, you can come too if you want.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Mary noticed the tenants watching her intently. “What the hell you lookin’ at? Go about your business. Oh, and Feeney, go get the ‘For Rent’ sign and stick it in the yard. Now get!”
The tenants scattered and we headed inside.
Wheeler pulled two chairs together facing one another and asked Mary to sit. I found a chair across the room.
Wheeler took his seat across from her and took both of her hands in his. “Just relax. Let your mind wander. Think about your early life and the experiences that have made you who you are.”
For the next fifteen minutes, the room was eerily quiet. Wheeler never spoke another word. His eyes were closed and every so often I would see his head twitch.
Then suddenly his eyes opened and he shook his head.
“My goodness, Mary. You’ve certainly led an interesting life. I sensed there has been a void in your life dating back to your early childhood. A part of you that was taken away and never replaced. Does that mean anything to you?”
She thought for a moment and nodded. “Yes, it does. I have a twin sister. We were separated when we were five and I haven’t seen her since. I have always felt that a part of me was missing.”
I nearly fell off my chair. I had known Mary for years and I had no idea she was a twin.
At that moment there was a knock on the door.
“I better get that,” Mary said, pulling her hands away from Wheeler.
When she opened the door, a middle-aged man was standing there.
“May I help you?”
“Yes,” he replied. “I saw your sign out front and I’d like to inquire ----.”
Then I saw the look of astonishment on his face.