After Dean and E had left the Resurrection, CJ went up to the sound-booth and lowered the stage lights to a soft glow; he had to take a breather. He had no reservations about the show the following night—with or without Clarise, but now he wanted to find her…as though he’d already begun to miss her.
He still wasn’t convinced Clarise would even come back, though, and if she didn’t, he’d have to start all over. After all of the stressful encounters so far, one thing was certain; the show in New Orleans had to be killer. He decided not to worry just yet. Either Clarise would return and make the show amazing, or he would find another semblance and that ghost would help him take the show over the top. But one way or another, he’d have a phantom for the concert.
CJ placed his notes on the soundboard and grabbed the Hayson; then he walked downstairs to the showroom so he could take another look around the place. He went to the bricked up passageway where Clarise had taken him to Artha. He began calling out for her. For the first time ever, someone seemed to know something about the Hayson, and he wanted to discuss it. But Clarise couldn’t hear him calling. Maybe she just refused to answer.
He took her silence as an indication to move forward and find a different ghost.
He remembered sensing all of the ageless energy when he had first walked into the showroom, so he knew other spirits had to be around. He began searching the huge club, walking through different sections of the showroom and shooting the Hayson in random places.
Then he noticed a dark area in the back-left corner of the club. It appeared to be a shadow from the catwalk at first, but as he came closer he saw a squared-out hole in the brick wall, about the size of a treasure chest. The mysterious opening was conveniently hidden under the catwalk and it looked like it had been there for quite a while.
CJ grabbed the ladder and extended it as far as it would go, but it was still too short. The ladder came to rest just a few feet shy of the hole.
CJ started climbing. When he got to the halfway mark, the over-extended ladder weakened in the middle and bent inward. He kept climbing, though, as carefully as he could until he then ran out of ladder-frame to hold on to. Not wanting to stop, he went even higher, pressing his hands against the brick wall for support. Just before he peeked inside the opening, the hairs on the back of his neck began to tingle. He had found something.
He held the Hayson above his head, pointed it into the dark hole, and pressed the switch.
The lights bounced around inside the small cavity until the blue force erupted with a bright, sudden flash. After the semblance had been captured, CJ climbed a few steps higher and peeked into the space, where just a few feet away, an old man lie contained in the cobalt-colored web. The man was wearing a wide-striped vest and fringed-tongue shoes. His hair was greased to his scalp with a streamlined part running straight across the top of his head. With one shoulder scrunched against his chin, the old man opened his wrinkled eyes and looked at CJ. Then he slowly vanished as he and the blue web were drawn into the Hayson.
CJ hesitated for a few minutes; thinking about what Clarise had done to him. He needed to be diligent. Watch out for tricks. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for a new encounter; then he pressed the side-switch on the Hayson and sent the apparition back into the small hole.
As the blue lights faded, the semblance reappeared; all curled up in a ball at first, but within a few beats the ghostly man opened his eyes and stretched out his limbs.
“Can you hear me?” CJ asked him.
The old man had a weary look on his face.
“Can you see me?”
The old man seemed stunned and incoherent.
“Come closer,” CJ told him. “What’s your name?”
The old man straightened out his legs and looked his body up and down, as though he were inspecting himself. He put his hands to his face and rubbed his eyes. He glanced at CJ a few times and scratched his scalp.
The man scooted himself to the opening and flung his legs over the edge, forcing CJ to back down a few steps. He didn’t seem to notice, or care, that CJ was standing on a treacherous ladder. Fixated on his white body, he looked back and forth at his arms and legs, trying to beat the white dust off his limbs. As he patted his body, little gusts of frosty air blew against CJ’s face. CJ waited patiently, hoping the man would soon realize...it wasn’t dust.
“Who are you?”
“I’m, Frederick.” He brushed his legs some more. “Who are you?”
“I’m, CJ. I wanna’ help you.”
“Help me?” Frederick began to see a hint of color in his skin. “How can you help me?”
“Do you like it here? Wouldn’t you like to live somewhere else?”
“I don’t live here. I must have fallen asleep.” Frederick put his hand to his forehead. “I know better than to drink in the afternoon, but New Orleans is too much fun. Singing and dancing everywhere. All day and all night!”
A terrified expression suddenly consumed Frederick’s face. He raised his head high. “What time is it? I can’t be late!” Frederick began peering over CJ’s shoulder, looking for a way to get down.
“I don’t think you need to worry about that. How long have you been here?” CJ noticed something sticking out of Frederick’s vest, like a rolled up brochure or pamphlet with a string tied around it.
“What is that? Can I see it?” CJ reached out for the paper.
Frederick loosened the decades old knot and unrolled the old piece of paper, which he then handed to CJ. The leaflet was dated July 28, 1928, and it had a long list of names written on it with numbers scribbled beside each name.
CJ started reading the piece of paper. “Tell me, Frederick; what happened to you?”
“I’m the Stage Manager. I was drinking at the speak-easy, next door—but please don’t tell anyone ...I can’t go to jail. I’ll lose my job!” Frederick rubbed his face, trying to remember. “We had our drinks and then… I don’t know. I was bringing in the payroll for the cast, when… something hit me, I…I can’t remember anything else.” As soon as Frederick realized what he had just said, he started trembling and shaking, patting the bricks by his legs and desperately looking in all directions. He stopped searching all of a sudden and yelled out loud. “The payroll…it’s gone! I’ll be fired…I’ll go to jail! Somebody stole the payroll!”
“It’s ok, Frederick. No one’s gonna’ hurt you or take you to jail. It sounds like you were robbed.”
Frederick look baffled—until the reality of his predicament set in. He lowered his elbows to his knees and placed his frowning face in his hands. “This just can’t be. So many people will be angry with me.”
“They’re not angry at you. Try and relax for a minute; tell me about the show, Frederick.”
He mumbled through his fingers. “The show is Barbarossa of Barbary. Sixty-two singers and dancers on stage at the same time; that’s sixty-two people that won’t get paid…” He raised his head. “That’s sixty-two people who will be angry with me! This is all my fault…all my fault. We’ve been touring for a few months now. This is the first problem we’ve had…and I’m the cause of it.” Frederick searched his pockets a little more and patted his body somewhat, as though he had one last ray of hope. “Oh my. Why did this have to happen in New Orleans? We’ve been to worse places than this. Why here? I love New Orleans!”
“It’s ok, Frederick. The show is gone. In fact, everyone’s gone. But they’re not mad at you. Tell me more about the show.”
“Gone? Did they leave…without me? I suppose I’ve really done it this time. They must be so angry.”
“They left because… Well, try to relax…ok?” CJ knew there was one thing theater people couldn’t refuse talking about; and that was themselves. That seemed like a good way to calm Frederick down. “Where are you from? Tell me about the tour.”
Frederick’s eyes came alive as he began telling CJ about the stage design and the canvas props. He laughed when he explained how difficult it had been to get everyone into places, but how amazing the show looked once all of the actors and dancers finally paid attention.
While Frederick was telling his story, CJ began to wonder how he would fit in with a rock and roll show.
“Are you in the show?” Frederick became suspicious. “I don’t recognize you. And your costume…I don’t recognize it, either. It’s rather odd.”
Then Frederick began to mutter, as another memory flashed through his mind. “Maria. Maria needs her thread. I have to find her… Maria!”
“Maria’s not here, Frederick. She’s gone away, too. What year is it, Frederick? Do you know how long you were sleeping?”
“I…I don’t know. A few hours I guess. I had such a strange dream. A beautiful woman was talking to me.” Frederick rubbed the back of his neck. “I thought I was careful with the spirits, but I must ‘of drank too much again. I guess I’m in trouble… again. Curses and damn!”
“Frederick...” CJ gently cupped one of the old mans hands in his. “Get ready for this, ok?” CJ looked him in the eyes. “You were killed.”
“Killed? Look at me. I’m not dead!” Frederick cocked his head. “Are you touched?”
CJ began to feel sorry for Frederick. He was just a sweet old man who‘d been killed for some payroll money over seventy-five years ago.
Frederick studied CJ’s clothes and took a considerably long gaze at the cylinder in CJ’s hand; then he squinted his eyes and lowered his head so he could look deep into CJ’s eyes.
“No! I’m alive! I want you to leave me alone!”
He leapt out of the hole in a panic, forcing CJ to roll around to the backside of the ladder. CJ started scaling down the underside of the ladder as fast as he could while Frederick bolted down the front of the ladder—way too fast. The ladder started wobbling from all the action and it leaned to the right, tossing Frederick off the steps. Then the ladder finished its fall, bringing CJ down to the floor.
“God that hurt.”
Frederick stood up, shook his head, and ran toward the lobby door.
Steve had been working in his office and he decided to leave for the night. After going downstairs to the lobby, he opened the showroom door to make sure the stage lights had been turned off, but he saw a strange looking, fuzzy old man running up the aisle, instead. The hazy, old man was about twenty feet away, coming straight towards Steve. He slammed the door and ran across the lobby, to the row of front doors. The old man started tugging on the showroom door while Steve dug for his keys. Steve became frightened, thinking the old man was an evil spirit lurking in the club, and even worse, Steve thought the ghost was coming after him. Steve was so rattled that he couldn’t stick his key in the lock and after just a few tries, he wigged-out and dropped his keys on the floor. Steve then ran back up the stairs…to the safety of his office.
CJ stood and shook off the fall. As he got his bearings, he saw Frederick tugging on the lobby door, trying to leave the showroom. CJ bolted up the long aisle and approached him from behind.
“Frederick! Listen to me, ok? Just listen to me.”
Frederick made a mad dash for the stage just then, leaping onto it when he arrived. When Frederick got to the middle of the stage, he froze in his tracks...stunned by the powerful lights. He spun in slow circles, gazing at the monstrous speakers and unusual gear placed high above his head—curiosity pouring from his eyes.
By the time CJ got to the stage, Frederick was peering out into the empty showroom with a frozen, lifeless expression on his face.
“Frederick,” CJ called out from the floor. “Listen to me, just…hear me out.” CJ tossed his wallet across the stage and it landed in front of Frederick. “Look at it!”
Frederick looked down at the wallet and then back at CJ, unable to grasp what CJ was trying to tell him.
CJ softened his tone. “Open it…read some dates.”
Frederick was hesitant, but he picked up the wallet and opened it. He pulled out a few papers and took a quick glance before flinging them in the air. He pulled out some business cards next and tossed them on the stage without even looking at them. Then he pulled out some money but this time, he let go of the wallet.
“Yes…read the dates on the money!”
Frederick held the money close to his face; then he turned towards CJ with his jaw hanging down. Since Frederick hadn’t spoken for a few minutes, his body had begun to turn white again. He noticed the ghostly haze and started brushing his chest and patting his thighs. As if in slow motion, the green money gently slipped through Frederick’s hands and spiraled down to the stage floor.
Frederick studied his cloudy, white hands for a few seconds, just before tears swelled in his eyes and he dropped to his knees. “No…I can’t be dead. I have a show to do. I have—” He stopped crying all of a sudden and pointed at CJ. “You! You robbed me! You stole the…” Frederick saw that his arm, the one aimed at CJ, had begun to show color again. “What’s happening to me? What in God’s name is going on?”
CJ jumped up on stage and put his arm around Frederick’s shoulder without even thinking. Then CJ walked him to the edge of the stage and sat with him while he wept. CJ spent a little time explaining the present day to Frederick, even elaborating on some of the modern stage equipment and soon enough, the two men started behaving like two children with a bunch of toys.
To convince Frederick he was dead, CJ walked him to a large mirror by the lobby door and asked him not to speak for a few minutes. Frederick stood quiet just as CJ requested. After a quick minute, Frederick saw that he was rapidly losing all of his color. His clothes, his hair; every part of Frederick had become ghostly white again. The truth seemed to finally sink in when Frederick got a sobering look at himself in the mirror.
Frederick stared at himself in the mirror. “But…you’re not finished. You want to dance and laugh…and drink!” Frederick turned and faced CJ. “I don’t want it to be over.”
“You can still entertain and bring smiles to a lot of people.” CJ held the Hayson in the air. “I’ll show you how cool that is.”
Separate names with a comma.