Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Eighty-nine: Ghosts

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-NINE

Tuesday morning — 10:10 A.M.
Denver, Colorado

“What do you mean?” Katy asked Paddie in a low voice.

Rather than respond, Paddie simply nodded his head.

“But there’s only one ghost, a lady ghost,” Katy said.

Paddie raised his eyebrow and nodded in the same serious way.

“Wow,” Katy said.

She looked out across the playground. For the first time in what she felt like was forever, Katy and Paddie had the same recess. In fact, now that they were at the new school, all of the kids shared a recess. Well, all of the kindergarten through sixth grade kids. Katy saw Noelle playing hopscotch with a group of her friends on the other end of the playground.

“What do you want to do?” Katy asked.

Noelle finished her game of hopscotch and stood beside the game to watch.

“I think we should find the ghosts,” Paddie said. His bottom lip quivered for a moment before he nodded. “We need to know if they are on our side or the dark side.”

Katy gave Paddie a grave nod. When she looked up, Noelle was running toward them. Noticing Katy’s look, Paddie turned to see Noelle. Katy and Paddie looked at each other for a moment. Paddie shrugged and Katy nodded.

“What are you guys doing?” Noelle yelled as she ran toward them. “I know that look. You’re up to something. I don’t want you to get in trouble or disappear or have to see the white eyed guy or…”

Noelle skid to a stop.

“That fairy queen might steal you!” Noelle said. Noelle leaned back and crossed her arms. “I won’t let her take you.”

Noelle looked at Paddie and Katy.

“You need me,” Noelle said. “She can’t take humans. She won’t be able to take me.”

“We’re going to skip class,” Katy said.

“Okay,” Noelle said. “Where do we start?”

Katy looked at Paddie, and he nodded.

“This way,” Paddie said.

Katy glanced at Noelle before following Paddie into the school. The teacher monitoring recess stopped him by grabbing his arm.

“Where are you going?” the recess monitor asked.

“We have to go inside,” Katy said with a mild look on her face. “We won’t cause any trouble. Don’t think another thing about it.”

The teacher looked at Katy and smiled. She gave the children a quick nod. Katy and Paddie continued on into the school. Noelle gawked at the teacher for a moment before jogging to catch up.

“How’d you do that?” Noelle said in a whisper as they rushed toward the school.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “It just happens sometimes.”

“Do you use it on your parents?” Noelle asked. “It would be great to use on my dad.”

“It doesn’t work on her parents,” Paddie said. “We’ve tried.”

Katy nodded. Paddie glanced at Noelle before they went into the school.

“It’s this way,” Paddie said.

He took off running toward his classroom. He stopped at the door.

“Do you hear that?” Paddie asked.

The sound of children talking came through the door. Katy nodded, and Noelle scowled.

“What’s that?” Noelle asked.

“Ghosts,” Katy said.

Paddie nodded to Katy and they went into the classroom. The moment the door opened, the classroom became silent.

“Where did they go?” Noelle asked in a whisper. But even her soft voice sounded too loud in the empty room.

“Ghosts are like that,” Paddie said.

Katy looked around the room for a moment before looking at Paddie.

“Was it there?” Katy asked.

She pointed to a square of marble paneling along the wall below the chalkboard. Paddie nodded. Katy walked to the panel.

“Wait!” Paddie said.

Katy turned to look at him. Paddie’s face was white and he shivered. His clothing looked too big for him. Katy ran over to him and gave him a hug.

“I will never, ever let anything happen to you,” Katy said. “Ever. Never. Ever.”

Bigger, Noelle put her arms around both of the children. They stood together for a moment.

“We should hurry,” Katy said.

She smiled at Noelle, who let go. Katy stepped away from Paddie and patted him on the shoulders.

“I learned a new trick,” Katy said. “From my classes with Fin.”

“What did you learn?” Paddie asked. He sniffed back a tear that he knew he shouldn’t shed.

“To make a safe bubble around you,” Katy said. “And me.”

She turned to Noelle, and smiled.

“And you!” Katy said. “Before we go…”

Katy waved her hands over Paddie and then over Noelle. Finally, as if she was holding a wand, she held her right hand over her head. She nodded. As they watched a thin iridescent layer went over her body. A moment later, it was clear.

“Did that happen to me?” Paddie asked with a grin.

“Try it,” Katy said as her head bounced up and down in “yes.” “Ask for your sword.”

“Sword of Truth!” Paddie said and held his hand up. The sword appeared in his hand. ”Look! Katy!”

He held up the sword and giggled.

“I wish I was wearing better shoes,” Noelle said.

She gestured to the sandals on her feet.

“Go ahead!” Katy said. “Just point at your feet and wish.”

Noelle pointed to her feet and her high top tennis shoes appeared. She smiled.

“Let’s go figure this out,” Noelle said.

Noelle smiled at Katy and then at Paddie. She frowned.

“Where are we going?” Noelle asked.

“Into the wall,” Katy said.

“No,” Paddie said. “I told you. It’s a passageway.”

“How come my daddy didn’t find it then?” Katy asked.

Paddie’s rolled eyes indicated that she’d asked this question at least once before.

“But there can’t be ghosts just seen by kids,” Katy said.

“Why not?” Paddie asked.

Paddie stuck his chin out in stubborn defiance.

“Why don’t we…?” Noelle started saying.

Katy gave Paddie a quick hug for reassurance and ran to the wall. The piece of marble paneling opened to her touch.

“Look, it’s hinged,” Katy said. “There is a passageway there.”

Paddie grinned.

“I’m sorry for doubting, Paddie,” Katy said.

“It’s okay,” Paddie said. “Are we ready?”

Katy nodded. Thrilled to be on a Katy and Paddie adventure, Noelle didn’t respond so they couldn’t tell her not to come.

“Wait,” Katy said and turned to look at Noelle. Sure Katy would say she couldn’t go, Noelle’s face fell with sadness. “Did you bring a pencil? We may need you to draw us a way out of there.”

“I don’t have a pencil,” Noelle said. “But I have the piece of pastel I always have.”

Noelle took a worn blue piece of oil pastel out of her pocket.

“Nice,” Katy said with a smile. “Here we go.”

Noelle beamed with delight. Paddie dropped to his knees and crawled into the passageway.

“You should go next,” Katy said. “I’ll keep the rear.”

“Are we going to war?” Noelle asked as a joke.

“Maybe,” Katy said with a nod. “Is that okay?”

“I’m here,” Noelle said. “I must be here for a reason.”

Katy nodded. Noelle got on her knees and crawled into the passageway.

“It’s hard to see,” Noelle said.

Katy leaned down and touched the top of the passageway. Small white lights appeared on the top of the passageway. Katy looked around the classroom before following Noelle and Paddie into the passageway. When she was into the passageway and pulled the marble paneling closed behind her.

The children crawled along the narrow passageway for a hundred feet before they arrived at a small open area. The space was too small to be considered a closet and too big to be a cupboard. The area was open all the way to the roof, two stories above them. There were ladders attached to the wall of the space so that people could climb down to the floor. Paddie stood up and held out the Sword of Truth. Noelle got up to explore the space. When Noelle turned around, she saw Paddie and Katy staring at the sword.

“What are you doing?” Noelle asked.

“The Sword of Truth cuts through all illusion and magic,” Katy said.

“Since we don’t know where we are…” Paddie said.

“Or when,” Katy said with a nod.

“We look around with the sword,” Paddie said. “There. Did you see that?”

Katy nodded.

“What did you see?” Noelle asked.

“A boy,” Katy said at the same time Paddie said, “A ghost.”

Noelle leaned over to look into the sword. For a moment, she saw only the reflection of the lights. Then, a young dark skinned face came into view. His dark eyes blinked at Noelle. Another boy with a sharp nose came into view, and then the faces of two young girls with fair skin appeared. Soon, the shiny sword reflect the faces of eleven children between Paddie’s age, four and a half years old, and Noelle’s age, twelve years old. The ghost of the children crowded around them.

“There’s lots of them,” Noelle said under her breath.

“Can you see them?” Paddie whispered to Katy.

Katy looked around the room and shook her head.

“We should all be able to see them with just our eyes,” Katy whispered. She looked up. “Are you hiding?”

The heads bobbed up and down in a nod.

“Why are you hiding?” Katy asked.

Rather than answer, the children began to disappear from the sword.

“What’s going on?” Noelle asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said.

Paddie looked up at the ceiling before looking at Noelle.

“Did you find a way out?” Paddie asked.

Noelle shook her head.

“We can try climbing out,” Noelle suggested.

Not one to wait, Paddie ran to the first ladder and climbed up.

“There’s no way out here,” Paddie said.

He climbed up to the next level.

“Or here,” Paddie said.

“That’s too high,” Katy said. “Come down.”

Not needing much encouragement, Paddie carefully climbed down.

“Also…” Noelle pointed to where they’d come from.

The passageway had disappeared. Paddie and Katy went from wall to wall looking for a way out. They checked every wall twice before giving up.

“Shouldn’t we pound on the wall or something?” Noelle asked in a voice laced with a thread of panic.

“Not yet,” Katy said.

Noelle looked at Paddie and he nodded.

“Are w-we t-trapped by magic?” Noelle asked.

“I think it’s a trick,” Paddie said. “Something built into the building.”

“It’s not magic,” Katy said with a more-confident-than-she-felt shake of her head.

“W-what should w-we do?” Noelle asked.

“We wait,” Paddie said.

Noelle’s eyes welled with tears, and she wrapped her arms around herself in a hug.

“Don’t worry, Noelle,” Katy said.

“I already did,” Noelle said.

“Do you still have the pastel?” Katy asked.

Noelle nodded.

“Then you can draw our way out at any time,” Katy said.

“You want to do that now or wait until we get to the bottom of this?” Paddie said with such infectious intensity that Noelle smiled.

“Let’s get to the bottom of this,” Noelle said.

“Then we wait,” Katy said.

“For what?” Noelle asked.

“For the kids to come back,” Paddie said.

He sat down with his back against the wall. Katy sat down next to him. Noelle stood for a moment before sitting down next to Katy.

“Katy, did you bring…?”

Katy pulled a candy bar from a pocket in her school uniform. She gave Paddie and Noelle a third before having a third for herself.

“This isn’t so bad,” Noelle said out loud mostly for herself.

They settled into wait.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday afternoon — 12:10 P.M.
New York City, New York

“So who are you?” Charlie asked Giovanni when Giovanni came carrying a warm panini sandwich and a cup of lemonade.

Giovanni set the sandwich and lemonade down on the table next to Charlie. Charlie and Dale were sitting in armchairs playing video games. Nadia had business meetings all day, and Ivan went with Otis to the Russian spa. Very weak, Sissy was watching the street below from a daybed set in a sunny spot next to the window. Honey and Maggie were playing on the floor. Everyone turned to look at Giovanni when Charlie asked the question.

“I am Giovanni,” the young man said with flourish.

“Funny,” Charlie said.

Giovanni raised his arm overhead before folding it into his waist and bending for a bow. They clapped for him. He stood up and grinned.

“No,” Charlie said. Never one to let anything go, Charlie became more insistent. “What are you doing here? How did you get here? Stuff like that.”

“Oh, yes,” Giovanni said with a grin. “I knew what you were asking. I was trying to be funny.”

Feeling sheepish at his insistence, Charlie grinned. Giovanni shrugged.

“I’m sure it seems strange,” Giovanni said. “You have met Marcus?”

“I don’t think so,” Charlie said. Dale shook his head.

“I haven’t,” Honey said.

Maggie held out a white wooden block with the letter “A” in green on it. Honey took the block from her daughter.

“A,” Honey said. She pointed to the letter and then gave the block back to Maggie.

“I’ve met Marcus,” Sissy’s weak voice came from the daybed. She waved her hand. “He is Nadia’s mother’s boyfriend.”

“His father and mother are from my hometown in Italy,” Giovanni said. “It’s a small village and very poor. Marcus went there when he was a young man and saw the poverty. Most of the village, we are related to Marcus. Since that time, Marcus has brought one girl or boy about seventeen years old from the village to live with him in New York City. It’s a great opportunity. I am that child.”

Giovanni nodded.

“I have been here two years,” Giovanni said. “Marcus helped me with my English and got me this job.”

“What is your job?” Dale asked.

“I take care of things,” Giovanni said. “I cook and clean and take care of the flat for Ivan. Until you arrived, I have mostly cook for Nadia; keep her in clean clothing which is harder than you’d think; run her private, personal errands; and maintained the flat. I handled the addition of bedrooms just last week.”

Giovanni smiled.

“I have one more year before another child will come,” Giovanni nodded. “Most people from my village return and get married. Two have gone to bigger cities in Italy — Rome, Milan — for school or work. But I am staying in New York City.”

“Why?” Honey asked.

“I was accepted to Chef’s school,” Giovanni said. “I have wanted to own my own café since I was a young child. Ivan said I can stay and work for him when I go to school. It will be a lot, but I need to get used to being busy if I want a café.”

With a grin and a nod, Giovanni turned in place and returned to the kitchen. He returned with Dale’s panini sandwich and lemonade. Before they could ask another question, Giovanni disappeared. A few minutes later, he returned with Honey’s lunch.

“Do you like the job?” Dale asked.

“This is a good job,” Giovanni smiled. “I have a little apartment on the floor below, and they pay me full wages. Plus, they are very nice to me. It’s more than most immigrants get. A lot more.”

Giovanni disappeared again only to return a few minutes later with a cup of broth for Sissy.

“Why do you ask?” Giovanni asked.

“I was wondering if you’d like to play with us,” Charlie said.

“Plus, we’re nosey,” Dale said with a smile.

“You’d like me to play with you?” Giovanni asked. “Really?”

Charlie nodded.

“I haven’t ever played,” Giovanni said. “I mean I purchased all of this and set it up but I…”

“Grab a controller,” Dale said.

“But I…” Giovanni gestured to the kitchen.

“Did you have lunch?” Charlie asked with his mouth full.

Giovanni shook his head.

“Get your lunch and join us,” Charlie said.

“If you want to play,” Dale said.

Giovanni looked at Charlie and then Dale before grinning.

“One moment,” Giovanni said.

He went to the kitchen and returned with another panini sandwich. Giovanni took a video game controller from Dale and sat down on the couch. For a moment, he watched Honey share her sandwich with Maggie. Sissy was sipping the broth from the cup. Dale had already eaten his sandwich and Charlie was half way through. Giovanni couldn’t help but smile.

“Now, how do I play?” Giovanni asked.

Charlie and Dale talked over each other to teach him.

“Just keep it down!” Sissy said from her spot in the sun. “I’m really sick.”

The three young men looked at her and then at Charlie, who shrugged. Giovanni held up an index finger. He went to the bureau below the television and took out three headsets.

“Perfect,” Dale said.

They settled in for a quiet afternoon of fun.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday mid-day — 12:10 P.M.
Denver, Colorado

Katy sighed. They had been stuck in the space for almost an hour. They had already gone through all of their pockets to look for snacks. Katy was about to say they should leave when a face peered out above them.

“Look!” Pointing, Paddie jumped to his feet.

“Native American,” Noelle said under her breath.

Katy turned to look at Noelle.

“Did you notice how tattered the kids clothing was?” Noelle asked in a whisper. Even though she’s only seen the ghosts for a moment, Noelle could describe them perfectly. “No shoes. Torn clothes. Dirty faces. Thin.”

“Uh huh,” Paddie said.

“I bet they were slaves, like real honest to goodness slaves,” Noelle said.

With her words, the children began to appear around them. They were so surprised that the children gawked at the child ghosts.

“So you were slaves?” Noelle asked.

“You’re not,” the oldest boy said. “Fancy clothes, clean skin — you’re an owner.”

“I am not,” Noelle said.

Just then a cell phone rang. Katy took a small cell phone out of the pocket of her school uniform and looked at it.

“I told you,” Paddie said to Katy.

“I promised,” Katy said.

“I said, we’re going to be on a great adventure, and your mom’s going to call,” Paddie said. “And here you are.”

Paddie nodded.

“She gets really scared about me,” Katy said. “I don’t like it.”

Paddie scowled.

“Maybe she shouldn’t worry so much,” Paddie said. “We’re fine.”

“You don’t like it when your mom is worried,” Katy said.

Paddie’s big blue eyes clouded with worry.

“I’ll tell her,” Katy said with a nod. “Hello?”

The ghosts disappeared.

“Now see what you did!” Paddie said in an attempt not to worry about his mom being sad.

Katy pointed to the reflection in the sword. Noelle bent down to look. The ghosts were still there.

“Katy?” Jill’s voice came over the cell phone.

“Hi, Mom,” Katy said.

“Hi, Mom?” Jill asked. “When did I become Mom?”

The ghost of a Native American girl appeared an inch in front of Katy’s face. Katy gasped.

“Where are you?” Jill asked. Her voice rose with panic. “The phone company says you’re at school, but the assistant principal called and…”

Jill panted with panic.

“Are you all right? Did the Queen steal you?”

“It’s ghosts,” Katy said in a whisper.

“Ghosts?” Jill asked. “No, honey, your daddy cleared out the ghosts.”

“Not these,” Katy said. “Mommy, they are stuck here inside the school.”

“Inside the school?” Jill asked. “That’s impossible. Your dad and I went over every inch of that school. Katherine Anjelika Roper Marlowe, what are you up to?”

“Trying to save some kids,” Katy said in a whisper.

“Katy?” Jill asked.

Katy could hear her mother taking deep breaths to calm down. Katy held the phone to her head but didn’t say anything.

“Katy-baby?” Jill asked again in a calmer voice. “Do you need my help?”

“Only kids can see them,” Katy said.

“Would you like me to get your dad to help?” Jill asked.

“No,” Katy said. “I think we have to do this ourselves. But…”

Jill wanted to beg Katy to be safe. She wanted to force Katy to get out of there right now! After all, it wasn’t always Katy’s job to save the world. But Jill knew that her terror of losing Katy would only make her child feel smaller and more fearful. Instead, Jill grit her teeth and forced herself to support the strength in her daughter.

“Yes, Katy-baby,” Jill said.

“Will you come to school and wait for us?” Katy asked.

For a moment, Katy felt every bit the little girl. Jill heard the fear in her daughter’s voice. She wrinkled her nose and stuck to her guns. She would not be the reason Katy wasn’t everything she could possibly be. She believed in her daughter.

“I’m on my way,” Jill said.

“Daddy, too,” Katy said. “And Auntie Sandy and Uncle Aden and Paddie’s parents.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Jill said. “No fairies?”

“No,” Katy said. “Not unless we can’t get out.”

“Where are you?” Jill asked.

“In the wall of Paddie’s classroom,” Katy’s voice dropped to a quieter whisper. “Mommy?”

“Katy-baby,” Jill said.

“I love you,” Katy said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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