Welcome back, serial fiction fans!  This is the last time we’ll be uploading two installments of “The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans” at once– from here on out, we’ll be synched up quite nicely with the folks over at the Grandview branch of the  Mid-Continent Public Library, where Library Page Sally S. is churning out the next thrilling episode in this library-inspired romp through time.

Don’t forget to leave comments for Sally–who takes readers’ advice seriously– and enjoy!

The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 9: A Haunting At the Hellinger

Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, January 25, 2012.

Rehearsal continued, but it was as though the theater itself knew something was off. The orchestra stumbled through several songs. The whole of the chorus seemed reluctant to spread across the stage, thinking safety in numbers.

"Face" by Flickr user andrewcparnell via Flickr's Creative Commons

“There’s definitely something going on.” A lady in white with a wide brimmed hat murmured to a gentleman in a top hat.

“You’re imagining it, Margery.”

“People, people, come on. We don’t have all day.” The director snapped his fingers and the cast snapped to, yet the sense of unease pervaded the auditorium. “Opening night is soon.”

Leigh made a face at Rachel, who ignored it. She didn’t spot the bearded phantom again for the rest of rehearsal though, and there were too many people around to investigate properly.

As soon as they were released from their costumes, Amanda, Joe and a few other cast members dragged Rachel and Leigh along with them for a post-rehearsal drink.

“Come on, let’s blow this joint.” Amanda grabbed the door, ushering them out. “It’s creepy.”

They went out to a tiny, noisy Italian restaurant, and even though Rachel tried to explain they didn’t have any money at the moment (should Joe have forgotten the circumstances under which they met), Joe waved it off.

“It’s alright. You can pay me off later in counterfeit bills.”

“Haha.” Rachel grimaced.

Joe ordered a massive pot of spaghetti and cheap beer that was mostly foam and they all crowded into a booth. Rachel drew a face in foam on the top of her glass and pondered the ghost.

“What do you think about the spirit?” A little red-headed actress, who was playing at least three roles (Rachel had counted) asked.

“It’s not real.”

“It is.” Another extra chimed in.  “It floated through the second act last week.”

“That’s your imagination.” Joe leaned back in his seat.

“It’s not.” She insisted.

“All theaters are haunted to some degree,” Amanda spoke up. She had short dark hair and eyebrows that were painted on. She leaned in, “So you two are going to stay the night with me?”

“Only if you’re absolutely sure.” Leigh began.

“A-okay. My roommate’s out of town and I’m used to noise.”

As soon as the glasses were down to foam, Amanda was ready to go. Joe volunteered to escort them home, and they left the warmth of the restaurant for the chilly night air. Fortunately, Amanda only lived a few blocks away.

“Goodnight, Joe.” Amanda kissed him quickly and left him on the doorstep.

“You’re heartless!” He called after her, laughingly.

“I’m an actress!” Amanda called back. “That kid.” She shook her head as she led the way up the stairs to her apartment. “We’ve been in three productions together and he’s convinced we should have a romance.”

“That’s nice,” Leigh said noncommittally.

“Not really. I’m only doing this show until I can put my own act together.” She took a cigarette from the open pack on the table. “I’m a singer.”

Amanda’s apartment that she shared with two other girls (“Josie and Fern, both of them have sailors for boyfriends and they got leave at the same time, wouldn’t you know it?”) was little, but cozy. There was a cook stove, and a clothesline with lingerie hung up to dry.

“Coffee?” Amanda waved the pot at them.

“Please.” Leigh murmured gratefully.

Amanda put the coffeepot on and soon the comforting smell of coffee spread through the room. She got out two short nightgowns and handed one to each of them.

“Help yourself, kids. I’m going to take a shower.” She nodded to the double bed. “That’s you.”

“Thanks again.” Rachel told her.

“Any time.”

As soon as the bathroom door was shut and the shower was turned on, Rachel turned to Leigh.

“Come on, we need to talk.” She went over to the window and opened it. “Fire escape, now.”

“It’s cold out there.” Leigh protested.

“I don’t want Amanda to hear us. Come on.” Rachel climbed out, and after a second, Leigh joined her.

“So spill.” Rachel drew her knees up under her chin. Leigh was right. It was cold.

“I thought you wanted to talk.” Leigh muttered, turning her collar up.

“I do. And I know you were getting info from the other cast members, so share.”

“Well, I did do some research,” Leigh admitted. “Two different members of the chorus have seen a shadowy figure hovering around the stage several times. A stagehand fell into the orchestra pit two days ago after seeing a bright light “dancing around in the air.” Mrs. Morrissey has heard voices in the balcony when there’s no one there.” She studied Rachel’s face. “None of this is making you reconsider, is it?”

“Nope. I’m pretty sure it’s George Bernard Shaw. Judging from what I’ve heard, he seems to be the type who might be annoyed that they turned it into a musical.”

“Of all the things…” Leigh closed her eyes.

“Writers are funny people. You don’t want to mess with their work.”

“So what are we going to do?”

“I appreciate that you said ‘we’ even though we both know that you are going to let me do this.”

“Pretty much.” Leigh settled herself more comfortably on the step.

“We need to find out more.” Rachel blew on her hands, trying to warm them.

“Really?” Leigh said sadly.

“I don’t think he’s truly a vengeful spirit. I think he’s just a frustrated playwright ghost.” Rachel tucked her fingers inside her pockets.

Leigh sighed heavily. “I really need an espresso.”

Rachel looked out across the city. “You and me both.”

To be continued…

 

The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 10: Paranormal Planning and a Perspicacious Pigeon

Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, February 1, 2012.

In all seriousness, Rachel,”

“Pigeon” by Flickr user eMiSeVeN via Flickr’s Creative Commons

“Oh, how I love it when you start sentences like that.” Rachel murmured, hugging her knees. The night was growing even colder. Soon they’d have to go back inside. Despite the cold, Rachel was reluctant to leave the fire escape. She liked observing New York at night: the people passing below, the music coming from the next building over. Someone in a nearby apartment was frying bacon, the smell wafting out the windows. The city was nowhere near ready to go to sleep, and Rachel loved it.

They heard the shower being switched off in the other room, and Leigh motioned Rachel back inside. Changing quickly into the nightgowns Amanda had loaned them, they were huddled under the blankets by the time she emerged from the bathroom, clad in a flowery bathrobe with a towel wrapped around her head.

“There’s an extra blanket under the bed if you need it.” She started drying her hair by the stove.

“Thanks.” Rachel said gratefully, moving to look under the bed and grab the blanket. She spread it over both of them and curled the edges carefully around her feet.

Amanda finished drying her hair before turning out the light. The neon sign outside the window blinked hazily through the curtain. Leigh muttered something sleepily and rolled over. Rachel stared at the ceiling and thought about ghosts.

Chances were, the esteemed playwright was not here just to enjoy the offshoots of the fruits of his labor. Rachel herself couldn’t see any harm in turning a play into a musical, if it worked, but she also knew that not everyone felt the same. The fact of the matter was this, if George Bernard Shaw was indeed haunting the production of My Fair Lady, there were three options.

  1. Try to help the ghost move on peacefully and without further harm to anyone in the cast.
  2. Force the ghost to move on using, well, force, if necessary.
  3. Evacuate the theater and burn it down.

There was a very small part of Rachel that hoped option three would be their go-to plan. However, she had to admit that in most ghost stories, that didn’t usually solve the problem at hand.

Rachel yawned and closed her eyes. What she’d said to Leigh was true. They needed to learn more. And to do that in a day and age without Internet, there was only one place they could go to do the necessary research.

Tomorrow they would go to the library.

In the morning, Amanda muttered something about helping themselves to coffee and anything that was in the icebox, rolled over, and went back to sleep. Leigh showered while Rachel made coffee and went through her pockets. Between them she had the following: one pen, a tiny tablet of paper, two mints, a toothpick, a dime, a ticket stub from the last Harry Pottermovie, and of course the coffee cup, and PD.

Rachel set the PD to one side, and rinsed the coffee cup carefully. Miraculously, it had survived the previous day’s adventures without a crack.

“First time travel, then Broadway…It’s all going to be okay.” Rachel said softly. “We just have to deal with a small spectral matter, and then we’ll be heading home and you can rejoin your…clutch?” Clutch of coffee cups, that sounded about right.

She patted the coffee cup and turned around to see Amanda eyeing her as she got dressed. “Oh. I…”

Amanda waved her off casually. “I’ve seen stranger.” She went over to her dressing table and started doing her makeup.

Rachel poured herself some coffee and made a list:

Library Plan Of Attack – Research:

  1. George Bernard Shaw
  2. My Fair Lady
  3. How to peacefully deal with a ghost that didn’t involve digging up a grave
  4. How to dig up a grave if they had to

If 4. was their option, this whole plan would fall apart. She tapped her pen and stared at the wall thoughtfully.

“Stop right there,” Leigh muttered, as she came in from the bathroom. “We are not doing whatever you’re thinking.”

“No,” Rachel sighed. “We don’t have a shovel.”

“Good.” Leigh said firmly. “Just keep that train of thought on the tracks.”

“We could probably find one if…”

“No.” Leigh made a shhhushing noise as Amanda finally surfaced from doing her makeup, drifting toward the coffee.

“Do you two have plans for the day?” The actress sank into the chair opposite Rachel. “Before rehearsal?”

“One or two things,” Rachel said vaguely, taking a leaf out of Leigh’s book.

“Well,” Amanda finished doing cup of coffee and reached for her coat. “I have some errands to do. Feel free to stay as long as you want. Just leave the key under the mat when you leave.”

“Thank you again,” Leigh told her. “For everything.”

“My pleasure. See you at rehearsal!” The door closed behind her.

Rachel poured herself another cup of coffee, listening to Amanda’s footsteps until they faded away down the stairs.

“Now what?” Leigh reached for her shoes.

“Now we head off to the place that you probably don’t want to go.” Rachel watched her carefully over her coffee.

“And that would be…”

“The library.” Rachel started to get dressed. Fortunately, yesterday’s clothes didn’t smell too bad.

“Rachel.” Leigh started.

“Leigh, it was only a matter of time till we had to go there.” Rachel tucked the PD in one pocket, coffee cup in the other.

“Are you sure?” Leigh said glumly.

“We have to research, and for research we need the library.”

“I miss the Internet.” Leigh said wistfully.

“Come on.”

“I always wanted to walk to the New York Public Library.” Leigh grumbled sarcastically as they headed out the door.

“That makes two of us.” Rachel slipped the key under the mat. “What is it with you and libraries anyway?”

“Only people of dubious character hang out there.”

“Then we should fit right in.”

“Hah.”

Rachel took a deep breath, breathing in the scent of the city. It was a brisk, beautiful morning in New York City, 1956. Spring was on the way. The sun was shining and they had a ghost to research.

“You can’t say it’s been a dull trip.” Rachel remarked.

“You can’t say we’ve survived yet either.” Leigh reminded her.

“We’re not dead yet.” Rachel returned. “We’re time-traveling, we’re adventuring, and we’re dealing with a ghost. This is the start of everything!”

“That pigeon doesn’t agree.” Leigh pointed to the bird, perched on the rim of a trashcan.

“That pigeon can go poo on a statue.” Rachel said airily. “Onward to adventure!”

“Coo?” inquired the pigeon.

“Exactly,” sighed Leigh.

To be continued…

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