BEING DEAD (Chapter 10) Mask and Spectre

The walls creaked and shuttered as Alan rustled through his closet late that night.  Clothes and jackets flew across the room like a tornado.  His goal was clear and his role would have to be superb.  To convince Meagan that he was a whole separate person—someone she had never met before.  He’d have to wipe away years of knowing each other.  Years of feelings.  He dug deeper for a pleasing disguise that made him believe he could pull it all off.  It had to be there.

In his frenzy, however, Alan had failed to notice the racket he was making and the bobbing light outside his window.  More importantly the feeble old man carrying the light as he marched his way toward what was about to potentially reverse everything Alan had worked to create thus far.

Slowly across the lawn, the old man made his way to the house.  His hands were shaking as he held the light in his hand.  Clanking and clamor resounded against the walls of the Venar estate.  All he could think of was a thief.  Someone trying to take advantage of an emptied house where a man had once lived.  He’d read about squatters and how they often took over the houses of the recently deceased before anyone could notice.  Unfortunately he was unaware of John’s current ownership and assumed that the estate would be stripped and sold like all the others he’d seen in his lifetime.  To check his suspicions he had come alone and hoped for the best.

Alan was becoming frustrated.  Nothing was standing out as a sure thing and it would only be a few hours before he would see Meagan again.  Annoyed, he stumbled backward out of the closet and over a mountain of useless disguise materials.  The beard on his desk was good enough that no one had noticed him at his own funeral.  Granted, he hadn’t done much talking.

He picked it up and walked toward the window with the moonlight beaming in.

The old man next door met him there—staring through the glass and horrified at the ghost of the late Alan Venar.

Together they locked eyes as if in a trance; their eyes slowly growing wider in anticipation of some kind of movement.  Several long seconds drew on until finally the old man let out a scream that sent Alan into a clumsy escape.  Wildly he tripped over the stacks of clothes and tumbled head-first into the closet.  Upside down he watched, through a pair of fake glasses resting in front of him, the light bobbling away into the dark distance across the lawn to what was most assuredly a phone call to the police.

In only a matter of minutes the place was swarming with lights and police officers to investigate what was being called a poltergeist by some and a burglary by others.  Outside the estate, a few onlookers gathered to take in the spectacle and spread rumors of what had actually happened.

John’s car skid into the driveway and he made his way through the tape and officers in order to find out what the ruckus was about.  He knew Alan had caused it and his blood boiled beneath his collar as the scenarios through his head.  What could have possibly happened?

As he entered the room he saw the old man from next door shuttering in the corner and recognized him immediately.

“He was there!  I saw him standing there in the window!  His eyes were wide and full of sorrow!”  He shouted.

John made his way to him.  “What’s the matter, Grenich?  What did you see?”

“Young Master Venar!  I saw him!   Plain as day, I saw him!”  Grenich was startled so badly he was shaking.

His eyebrow twitched slightly, but John kept his expression.  “You saw Alan?  Here?  Grenich, Alan is dead.  Are you feeling alright?”

The old man shook his head furiously and pointed at the window once more.  “I know what I saw and I know he’s dead, but he was there!”

John stood up and looked over at a nearby officer who shrugged at him in confusion.

“There doesn’t seem to be anyone on the premises, but that doesn’t mean someone wasn’t here,” said the officer.  “Though, honestly I think the old man is losin’ it.”

John sighed as he glanced down at the frightened old man.  He knew he had spotted Alan, but without a way to show proof there was nothing he could do.  The worst of the matter was how and where Alan had escaped.

“If the old-timer is ‘losin’ it’, as you put it so insensitively, officer, then I will be the one to assess such a diagnosis,” said a rusty voice entering the room.  An old bearded gentleman wearing thick glasses made his way through the crowd and over to Grenich where he knelt and looked deeply into his wrinkled face.

“Excuse me, sir?  You can’t be here—who are you?”  Asked the officer.

“One moment.  Mr. Grenich, were the lights on inside the house?”  Said the old man.

“Yes and he was standing there in the window!  I’m not crazy!”

“Yes, yes.  I believe you.  No one is calling you crazy.  And you had a light with you yes?”  The old man pushed his glasses up on his nose.

“I…yes, I had a light with me, but I was shaking so horribly!”

The old man got up and moved across the room from the window to a picture on the wall.  Presented there was a portrait of Alan, one taken by his last love, that John noticed was not in the room the last time he was there.  Alan had removed it after the breakup, but somehow it made its way back.

“Was this the face of the man you saw?”  Asked the old man.

Grenich was stunned for a moment as if vexed by the question, but then he nodded.  “Yes, that is Master Venar!”

The old man put down the picture and placed both of his hands together.  He took slow steps toward the window and pointed at the glass.

“What you saw, Mr. Grenich, was a reflection in the glass produced by the lights within the room and your own with the assistance of this portrait and nothing more.”  He said.

The officer next to John raised a finger to his lip and then nodded.  “That makes sense.  Nothing was broken or stolen and we haven’t found any evidence to support anyone being here at all.”

John was astounded by the old man’s performance and thought him to be very knowledgeable.  He had walked right in and seemingly solved the dilemma with ease.

“Thank you, sir.  I really thought I was losing my mind!”  Said Grenich as he rose to his feet.  His shakes were gone and a light sense of clarity fell over his now relaxed shoulders.

“It was no great deed, sir.  You simply stumbled upon a mirage of sorts that would have convinced anyone.  I hope now this concludes your search, officer?”  Said the old man stroking his beard.

The officer waved to his compatriots.  “With that, we’re out of here.  If anything else happens give us a call.  And thank you, Mister–?”

“Doctor, actually.  Doctor Latisde.  Pleased to be of service to you, sir.”

John’s arms fell beside him like boulders as he struggled to lift his jaw to form any sort of viable sentence.

As all of the officers made their way from the house with Grenich in tow, Alan lowered his glasses and gave his friend a wink.

“Told you.”

 

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