Just for fun, no copyrights allowed
Thanks to some of the girls in Muse7 I think
I borrowed some of your ideas, which is a compliment.
Current time frame 2009
Six men sat around the table at Ezra's townhouse happily munching down pizza and beer. They didn't often relax at Ezra's but he had offered and the others gladly accepted knowing that relaxing after work for a bit in the city would be easier than going out to Chris' house and then coming back into town for evening activities. No one was talking as they were more interested in eating since they missed lunch.
The front door slammed shut as JD bounded into the room, his inexhaustible supply of energy still visible. "Ez, you know you shouldn't leave you door open like that, any kind of thug could have come in."
"Some kind of thug did come in." Ezra politely pointed out. The rest of the men laughed. JD pulled up a chair to the table and grabbed a couple of slices of pizza mumbling that the men hadn't saved him any.
The kitchen and dining area were one large room only divided by an eating bar. Josiah was sitting closest to the kitchen and he quietly got up from the table and walked over to the wall oven and pulled out another large pizza. He brought it over to the table and all the men cheered.
"So why are you running late, JD?" Nathan wiped his mouth with the paper napkin before reaching for another piece of pizza.
"Our church youth group is doing a Halloween spook house and I had...." JD stopped in mid sentence and bit into the pizza, chewed and swallowed before he finished his answer. "To go to the dollar store and get some fake cobwebs. They have this great idea. We're going to do an old west ghost town. All the spooks are going to be dressed up in old western wear." Again JD stopped in mid air and swallowed another piece of the pizza. "Do any of you guys have some old clothes we can use?"
They nodded, all thinking that they had some old jeans or shirts that could be used. JD continued his animated eating and talking. "We're going to have an old time shoot out, know where we can get some old guns? And we are going to have a fake hanging." Nathan had chills at that thought. "And saloon girls and a player piano, oh and a con man to take the cowboys' money. Whatcha think?"
"Sounds ambitious JD, how are you going to pull this all off?" Chris had settled back with a beer in his hand and studied JD.
"Oh I don't know. I suspect I'll get some help from friends."
There was a large groan coming from all the other men. "Well, I can help you little buddy, but isn't the youth group going to do this?" Buck volunteered.
"Oh sure, Buck, they're going to build the sets and plot out the way people are to go through the haunted town and they are going to act out the parts, but we are going to need lots of people. Our youth group isn't very big. See if I could have Ezra teach a couple of the guys in the group how to play cards, how to do tricks with the cards that would be great. And Buck you must know how a saloon girl should act, you could teach a couple of the young girls. Chris, could you keep everything organized for us, so that we don't all end up working in the saloon and no one in the sheriff's office?"
By this time all of the men had sat back in their chairs, Vin was shaking his head. "What happens to these kids that we teach how to con people or how to turn a trick in the saloon, these are god fearing kids, and I hate to see what this might do to them later in life? Am I right in that the kids are like 12 to 14?"
Chris moved forward in his chair, leaned over the table and looked directly at JD. "And what are you doing for the group JD?"
JD had the wisdom to squirm a bit in his seat. "I'm gathering all the props up and I had the idea so I'm drawing up the plans and I'm making up the acts telling everyone what to say and do and I'm going to play the Sheriff."
Buck and Josiah laughed out loud. "You're going to be a Sheriff?" Buck laughed even harder and JD sent a dirty look to his friend. The other men joined the laughter and JD flushed.
"Ok, JD, there is what, two weeks till Halloween?" JD nodded and was practically jumping from his seat but he heard the steel in Chris's voice so he stopped and sat as still as possible. "I have some logistics here to clear up before I commit this group to doing this. First off, are you charging people to come in and walk through this spook town, and if so where does the money go?" JD started to answer but Chris stopped him with his hand. "Second, are you going to do this only for one night? And third, who is paying for all of this?"
"I got Travis to foot a whole bunch of the money to build the town. He thought it was a great idea and he even gave me an old diary that his great uncle wrote back in the 1870's about a small town. Secondly, yes we are charging people, the cost hasn't been decided, but I think it is going to be like $5 and the money is going to the Susan G Komen Foundation as October is breast awareness month. We are thinking of running it the whole week before Halloween, since Halloween is on Saturday this year. Like on Monday night we open at like 4 or so and go till 8, and then on Thursday and Friday nights stay open later. We would like to be open all day on Saturday. We thought that maybe the early acts wouldn't be as scary or bloody so that smaller kids could come."
Chris sighed and sat back in his chair. He looked around the room, each man was thinking. This was a huge undertaking, JD needed more people to get it built and get people acting it out all in just over a week. Chris shook his head. It was a good cause and maybe he could get some women interested like even that group, Muse Seven, they were pretty good sports.
Buck sat his beer bottle down on the table and looked at JD. "I'm in. Tell me what to do kid."
JD smiled knowing that Buck would help no matter what.
"Ok, I'm in too, JD. And count Rain in there to help too." Nathan sat his empty beer bottle on the table beside Buck's.
The other four men looked at one another and as one moved their beer bottles beside the other two bottles. "We're in." They said in one voice.
JD jumped from the chair and shouted "You won't regret it!" and spun around the table hugging each man quickly before settling back down to another slice of pizza.
Ezra went into the kitchen and fixed a pot of coffee and brought out a large cookie jar filled with chocolate chip cookies. The Bunn coffee maker made quick coffee and by the time Ezra had the cups on a tray the coffee was ready to bring to the table. JD had run out the door and came back in with a notebook and a book. He handed a small leather bound book to Chris and took the notebook back to his place at the table. While everyone munched cookies and drank coffee, JD told them his plans and what had gotten done and what still needed to be done.
The next day was Friday and Chris was glad they had nothing scheduled so that the guys could work on JD's project without messing up any ATF business. Travis stopped in and was glad to find the boys were working on the project. Chris had taken the diary home and read part of it last night and was looking forward to reading the rest of it tonight. He had some great ideas for the team and how they could blend it in with what JD was designing.
After work the gang once more ended up on Ezra's doorstep and Josiah came in with sacks and sacks of Chinese food for the men to eat. While they pulled out boxes of rice, sweet and sour chicken, barbecue pork, egg drop noodle soup, hot and sour soup, shrimp, and two different kinds of chow mien, the men proceeded to tell what they had found to help with the project. One of Buck's lady friends had a trunk of old dresses, JD had found out that Sherry of the Muse Seven group had some old western wear costumes that would probably fit most of the men. Ezra had found an old poker table and had access to break apart props from a friend in the movie industry; Nathan had found someone to lend him some old medical instruments; Josiah had found someone who would help with the building of the sets; Vin had found some old weapons that would be just for show as they were too unstable to actually use, but Ezra had the prop guns to use. Chris asked to read JD's script to see if he could help in the writing of it and JD said he was happy to turn part of that over. The rest of the evening went quickly as the men sat around the table and talked over ideas and plans and what realistically they could get done. As the six men were leaving, Ezra stopped Chris for a moment.
"Does this sound scary to you Chris?"
"No, it sounds more like just fun."
"Is JD going to be disappointed if he just ends up with a western town instead of a scary Halloween town?"
Chris sighed and looked at the door. "I guess I need to talk to him."
Ezra patted his shoulder as Chris left the house.
Later Chris called JD and they talked. JD had some great ideas in making the parking lot into a town. It was a simple design where most of the town was just windows and only a few rooms were to be built. JD had also realized that the ghost town was not going to be very scary, but he thought it would be great fun.
Saturday dawned brisk but sunny and everyone met at the parking lot of the church. The parking lot was fairly large but suddenly the project seemed almost overwhelming. They only had this weekend and a few nights to build a town on this parking lot. The youth group of 14 kids ranging in age from 11 to 14 stood on the edge of the parking lot in their hoodies, baggie jeans and sneakers, looking more like the kind of kids the ATF men met in drug raids or talked to at schools where the kids already had the glazed look of a druggie. Chris shook his head this is going to be impossible. JD was excitedly talking to the kids who were laughing so Chris went over to introduce himself. He found the kids intelligent and thrilled about an old west town. As for skills in building they had none, but were eager to learn. Chris divided up all the kids each with an ATF agent for their leader and each group started on their project.
At first the kids couldn't seem to get the grasp of the project but when a few walls were built and standing, the whole group could see what JD had planned. Laughter, the sound of a hammer on steel and wood, voices raised in agreement and in argument covered the morning. Everyone was pleased when the Muse Seven group drove up at noon with boxes of lunches and a cooler full of drinks. The afternoon was harder as everyone was getting tired and the kids especially took longer and longer breaks. By five the kids, and most everyone that had been working on the project, had gone home leaving only the seven agents working on the town. The cool night sky was turning pink as the sun sat in the west, but the outline of several buildings were up and they decided they needed to quit for the night.
The seven stood there staring at the parking lot town, each of them seeing a real old west town that was just coming to life on a Saturday night. The saloon had no doors but Ezra could have sworn he saw doors swinging and someone walking in, Buck was sure he was hearing the tin sound of a badly tuned piano, and there was definitely the sound of a cell door clanging shut and a key locking. A far away voice was calling men to prayers and another voice was asking for a doctor and there was a dark figure walking down the street with a gun slung over his shoulder. And someone standing outside of what would be the livery. They stood there for just a fraction of a second and then turned as one and walked very quickly to their cars. Without saying a word they all headed to their favorite bar for a bite to eat.
They had eaten their meal in quiet. Ezra was the first to speak. He put his empty coffee cup down and started to take out his wallet to pay for his meal. "I am very proud of this group and those kids today. When we were finished I could swear I saw saloon doors swinging and people entering a saloon. Now I'm going to go home and soak in the hot tub."
"Yeah, Ezra, I could have sworn I heard an old piano playing and women laughing. A good night's rest will be welcomed."
"Did anyone hear a cell door clanging shut?" a very quiet JD asked.
The men froze in their spots.
"A man calling people to a prayer meeting?" Josiah asked.
"Someone calling for a doctor?" Nathan asked. All of the men's voices were barely above a whisper and no one looked at one another.
"Or see a black figure walkin' down the street and a man hidin' near the livery?" Vin's Texan drawl was so pronounced that the men could hardly understand him, but they did.
"Oh come on guys, you are tired, we have done a ton of research on this town and we were building a ghost town, it was just your imaginations getting away from y'all." Chris stood and put on his coat. "I'll see all of you there tomorrow after church, good night."
The six remaining men looked at one another, before following Chris' example and left.
Ezra got home and poured himself a glass of wine and stood looking around his townhouse. He hadn't had to work as hard as he had today in eons. Reminded him of a summer he had spent on a youth ranch. Gosh I'm tired. He stared out the sliding glass door to the view of the city and thought he saw someone moving outside. He felt for his gun in the shoulder holster and moved quickly to the glass door. He quietly opened the door pulling his gun out and looked around, he could see no one. He shut the door and locked it. He turned out his lights and headed for the shower. After his shower he made his way out to the hot tub, pulled the cover off, and started the jets to stir the water. He lit the small lantern at the edge of the deck and finally sat himself down in the churning water. He leaned back and looked skyward to the bright stars that shown through the city glow. When he looked back down he was surprised to see a young man standing beside the tub.
He was blurry looking and he wore old style clothes. Ezra's first impression was that it was one of the youth group with his costume coming to show Ezra what he looked like. Instead this youth dressed in dark green velvet coat, dark trousers and had a gold watch and fob on his dark silver gray vest seemed not able to see Ezra. The youth held out his hand and a beautiful young lady stepped out of the air and laughed up at the young man. The man held out his arm and the young lady took it. She was dressed in a shiny fabric that glistened in the lantern light; Ezra thought it was dark blue with threads of silver catching the light. Her skirt was long and full, the sleeves were ballooned up by her shoulders and she wore a fine chain around her neck. A shawl of fine wool hung in her arms as also a small purse. He couldn't understand what they said as they walked off the end of the deck and disappeared.
Ezra jumped up out of the tub and looked around. He could see nothing but chills ran up and down his spine and made his hair stand on end. Was I asleep? Am I dreaming? Ezra grabbed his towel, blew out the lantern and turned off the hot tub and headed to bed. Laying in bed his mind turned back to his visitors and he thought that the man had looked a lot like himself. It is just my imagination like Chris said. I just have gotten too involved in this project. I just need to get to sleep. But sleep was hard coming as Ezra tried to make sense of what he was sure he had seen.
Sunday morning found Vin at Chris' place fixing breakfast when Chris came in from feeding the animals. Chris raised his eyebrows at all the food Vin was making but went in for a shower and clean clothes before returning to the dining room and the small feast.
"Were you expecting company?"
"Naw, but I thought maybe some of the other guys would come out and so I'm ready."
"What brought you out, Vin?"
Vin filled his plate before he answered. "Hell, Chris, you know why. You saw those ghosts as well as the rest of us did. Why are they there?"
"Did you have visitors last night?"
"No." Vin quit eating and stared at Chris. "Well maybe I did. I talked to Danny for a bit after I got home, you know that neighborhood kid, and he wanted to show me a new trick with his skate board. I thought I saw a homeless guy, a young guy in real old leather coat, leather pants, and long hair but when I looked over there he wasn't there. I didn't think anymore about it thinking he had just gone on down the street. And you?"
"Yeah, I saw something too. A tall man dressed in black walking pass the barn door, he didn't seem threatening, and like you he was there and then he wasn't."
Both men stared at each other and jumped at the sound of a car door slamming. In a minute Nathan, Rain and Josiah entered the kitchen. Rain carried a platter of cinnamon rolls.
"Oh it smells heavenly in here. Who cooked?" Rain asked as she put her platter down in the middle of the table while Josiah grabbed a mug of coffee.
Josiah laughed as he sipped his coffee, "I'd say it was Vin because this is mud for coffee."
"My coffee isn't that bad, Josiah. There is plenty of food, grab a plate. I told Chris you guys would come out."
Nathan already had the plates handing them to Rain and Josiah. He started filling his plate. "Looks like Ezra is here too. Now the only ones missing are JD and Buck."
Everyone had eaten and Rain started picking up the dishes as did Nathan when Chris stopped them. "I know that JD and Buck are in church this morning, that's why they didn't come out but Vin and I both had visitors last night, did any of you?"
"Do you mean the kind that go bump in the night?" Josiah said.
The men all nodded.
"Vin and I just saw something very briefly. Anyone else have a bigger sighting?"
Ezra sighed, "Yeah, I had a young man and girl on my deck and then they walked off. It was like they couldn't see me. By the way they were dressed they had to be from the 1870's. They looked just like the descriptions of those men in that diary. In fact, I am embarrassed to say the young man looked like me."
"Don't be embarrassed Ezra, in my living room I thought I was in an old adobe church and I was walking up the aisle with a Bible in my hand greeting my parishioners. Like you no one seemed to notice me."
"Rain will back me up on what we saw. We were in the street of a small western town and there was a man on the ground with a gunshot wound. A ghost of Rain and I were tending this man. I don't think they could see us unless we looked like ghosts to them."
Chris sat back and stared at the ceiling. It was hard to believe that they were seeing ghosts but in his line of work he had to rely on what he was seeing, but why now and why these ghosts that looked like them. Maybe they were putting their own faces on blank ghosts. He shook his head. "Did we all see the same thing last night?"
"Yeah, I saw an operating old western town. I saw the swinging saloon doors and I heard the piano playing. Yes, I heard and saw everything just like each person said they saw." Nathan said.
"I don't understand why but maybe we'll find out. We still have lots of work to do at that church. Is everyone ready?" Chris was getting up from the table grabbing his dirty dishes and walking over to the dishwasher. Each person got up from the table, dumped his dishes in the dishwasher, Vin and Rain quickly washed and dried the frying pan and the few items that wouldn't go in the dishwasher. Josiah wiped down the table and Ezra set the coffee pot up for coffee later. In a few moments everyone was out to their cars and headed back to town to work on the western town.
Everyday for the rest of the week, the men worked for an hour or so on the buildings, a couple of hours on learning lines, figuring out what they were going to wear and what they were going to do. Most nights there were parents or other volunteers helping on the town. Every night the agents had the ghostly visitors, first at the make believe western town when they closed up for the night and then later at their own homes. In each instance no one was hurt or even scared as the ghosts played out the scenes as if no one could see them. It was unsettling but also tantalizing to try to find out the reason.
Sunday night they put on a full dress rehearsal and for all the nerves everything seemed to work out A-Ok. They were ready.
Monday afternoon at 4 they opened the door to their first visitors. The pastor of the church came first followed by his wife and his two daughters. The visitors would walk about five feet through a very dark tunnel that had fake cobwebs hanging, then they walked through a doorway of strips of fabric and as they stepped through the doorway the visitor faced a gunslinger. "Halt or be shot!" The voice was Chris's over a loud speaker and it made fear race through the worst criminals mind let alone a god fearing pastor.
"You now belong to the city of Four Corners, put your hands up and move slowly to your right to the Sheriff's office." The voice over the loud speaker said.
If a person did not follow directions, they would get shot by a Nerf gun. The pastor moved to the Sheriff's office and stood for a moment in a cell, before the Sheriff pardoned him as long as he led a good life. He was then directed to go to the saloon, where he played a shell game with Ezra and lost his coin and drank a glass of apple juice. The saloon girls tried to entice the men upstairs and when women came to the saloon, the saloon girls tried to make the women visitors join the house or to help in the kitchen.
A loud noise outside the saloon had the pastor running for the saloon doors where he saw a make believe robbery of the bank and the outlaws running for cover. A man lay on the ground and Nathan as a doctor came running to help him. Once outside of the saloon the people moved down twisting turning halls to see inside of store front windows looking at things that might have been for sale in the 1870's. There were little scary things planned too, like if a person stepped too close to a window a large spider dropped down in front of them. The girls all screamed and the men usually jumped. A grate outside one of the stores had one of the youths grabbing ankles which led everyone into laughter after the screams. At the livery a horse would rear and paw the air just as the person stepped to the door. Peso and Pony loved their parts, rearing on cue from Vin. At the hotel a visitor could buy a slice of pie and get a cup of coffee or apple juice. Just before a person exited the town there was a small chapel where the minister, Josiah, himself, praised the Lord for watching over this town. It might not have been a very scary ghost town but it was fun. It got lots of praise from the local TV station and newspapers.
As planned most of the town was just exhibits; the large windows showing the youth group acting out small scenes from life in the 1870's. The hallways between the four rooms, the jail, the saloon, the hotel and the church, had the windows and the halls were dark with cobwebs and dry ice fog. In some places there were ghost faces painted on the walls with glow in the dark paint. When the agents walked through the display they weren't sure if the ghosts they saw were painted or real.
Travis had kept his team on light duty this week so that they could all play their parts in the town. On Saturday the church had a ton of other activities going on too; a bake sale, a rummage sale, pumpkin carving contests, a quilting bee, stuff the scarecrow contest, a three legged relay race and even a choir challenge. Since the ghost town had been advertised and praised so well there were crowds of people that came. Before all the activities started at 10 that morning the pastor of the church thanked all the people that had helped make the events happen. There had been a lot of parents that had helped once the town had gotten well started. Many of parishioners of the church had helped paint and provided costumes and items to showcase. It had been a huge undertaking but it had been very successful.
In the late afternoon of Halloween, the seven men met with Travis in one of the church classrooms. The crowds were mostly gone though everyone figured there would be another big rush after dark. The youth group kids were acting out the parts for the few people that were wandering around. Each kid had brought a new and exciting flavor to the little town and for the most part the seven agents had enjoyed being with these nice and talented kids.
"I brought you guys down here for a reason. When I first started helping JD with this project I gave him an old diary that my great uncle had written back in the 1870's so that JD could plan this town with some authenticity. So last night I was going through the trunk and I found this box with a few things in it that I thought you guys would enjoy." Travis opened the box and inside was some old handwritten pages and an old dime novel called the Magnificent Seven.
Chris took the book, opened to a page and read to the men about these seven men who applied justice to the old west. He only read a few paragraphs when he looked up to notice that the room was fuller than it had been a few minutes before. Standing at the back of the room were the seven men that he had seen all week long. There was the dark tall man dressed in black that looked much like himself, the tan slender young man with long brownish-blonde hair, buckskin pants and jacket, and a large hat that looked so much like Vin. Over by the window was a young man wearing a bowler hat that reminded Chris so much of JD. There was an older man sitting beside JD and Chris found himself asking if that was Travis. There was a dark man standing behind a man draped in a serape that reminded Chris of Nathan and Josiah. Leaning against the wall and looking out the door of the class room was a man that looked like Buck. And sitting with his back in the corner and his legs up on a chair was a fancy dressed man looking so much like Ezra that Chris had to look twice and the ghost Ezra smiled with a flash of a gold tooth. Chris read a few more paragraphs and the 14 men all leaned forward hooked on Chris's reading of a story about a near lynching.
A jingle of a cell phone had all of them jumping. It was Rain telling Nathan that the church ladies had a dinner set up for them. Chris looked around the room and felt sad that the ghosts had left. The remaining men all tromped up the stairs to a wonderful dinner. Afterwards the men got themselves ready for the rest of the night.
The men got into place and the crowds came as dark ascended on the small ghost town. There were more screams and laughter this night as the ghost town was filled with extra actors. Not only did the seven see the ghosts but also the people visiting the town saw them. Everyone just thought that the youth group had done a really good job on making up the ghosts of the town. At midnight the town was closed with a blessing from the pastor for a great New Year and to welcome the saints for the New Year.
The seven agents got out of their costumes and redressed and were waiting for one another on the steps of the church. The pastor locked the church door and wished them well as he headed for his car. The seven watched as the pastor drove away. No one else was around, the sky was dark, and as one they walked over to the Ghost Town. It too was dark and they stood and looked at the town. There was no noise, no tinkling piano music, no laughter or glasses clinking, just the quiet of something that was all make believe. The men stood there for a few minutes each to their own thoughts and then as one they turned and walked back to their cars. Before each got in their rigs, they stood and looked back at the town.
"There!" Chris said softly. "See them?"
In the quiet of the night everyone heard Chris and they took another good look.
"Yes," was the hiss in the night.
The whole town of ghosts was standing there and they slowly left smiling and waving at the agents as they left, leaving the seven ghosts standing along the side of the building watching them. Then as they were one group, the seven ghosts tipped their hats, raised their hands and disappeared.
"Bye." whispered Josiah, "Safe travel."
"Did you guys see them all along?" JD asked as he walked back toward Chris's Ram. The rest of the team wandered back too.
Chris answered for all of them. "Yes, since the first day we started work on this place, you and Buck didn't say anything so I wasn't sure you saw them."
"Oh we saw them all right. The saloon girls kept bugging Buck."
"What? They didn't ever interact with us until tonight."
Buck laughed, "I guess it was my charming personality that brought the saloon girls to me."
"I wonder what they wanted." Nathan asked.
"I wonder if they will come back next year."
"JD you don't mean we are going to do it again?"
"Oh sure and I have lots of revisions and that book Magnificent Seven, Travis said I could read it. I'm sure it will give me great ideas. We raised a ton of money for the Susan G Komen Foundation so it went to a good cause. And you guys had lots of fun, I know you did."
There was a groan and mutual laughter as the six men slapped JD on the back and headed for their cars. Before they drove off they looked again at their ghost town but nothing was there.