The Story

With each group of artifacts we receive, Daniel and I are able to describe a little more of our spirit guides' lives. The following is a collection of our work. Daisy Fortunis

Jump to most recent entry (posted 10/28)

 

I. Necklace of the Subaltern Betrayer

Chapter 1

McDoggerel is the subaltern, and what follows explains why. The name he swears he was born with is Wesley Raymond Wynne, the eldest son of a prosperous family of bankers from Schenectady, New York, but that is an outright lie. Although he does have the dress and manners of a gentleman, it is wise to remember that this is also a man who will go on to earn his living affecting the manners of a Scottish king, and a Danish prince. His talent is mimicry, learned early, not as part of a prosperous family named Wynne, but in the kitchen of the Wynne mansion, where his mother, a German immigrant, works as a scullery maid.

 

Chapter 2


McDoggerel is a dreamer, possessing a vivid imagination hampered only by circumstance, which is how his talent for mimicry is born. He hopes to rise by aping his betters. He practices in the shadows, following the Wynnes while remaining securely at the edges of their lives, hiding behind trees, watching as they drink tea on a broad verandah, spying as they come and go, as a butler helps them on and off with their coats, how they nod politely at servants, and coo intimately at one another; their self-approbation, their swirling politesse, bearing fraught with belonging, as if their dazzling lives will continue to dazzle indefinitely.

 

Chapter 3


Mr. Henry Wynne, the patriarch, rules his family stiffly and recognizes the boy's eager intelligence, often encouraging him to - "Dream big, my boy. Ours is a big country in need of big dreams." And when McDoggerel is old enough, to earn extra money to stay in high school, the young man is paid a pittance to serve them their meals, careful to flatter them because they love being flattered. In return, they offer McDoggerel their cast-off clothes and shoes and books. As Mr. Wynne is fond of telling him, "A gentleman is known primarily by three attributes, his accent, his shoes and the condition of his nails, which must never be chewed or ragged." McDoggerel never chews his again.

 

Chapter 4


In his younger days, when McDoggerel was still naïve enough to assume the Wynnes would continue to help him advance - he is, after all, self-taught and ambitious - but he will be proved wrong. He learns that people like the Wynnes maintain their place in society by denying him his, because if he can rise as high and quickly as they then how good does that make them? And when, after high school, McDoggerel asks for tuition to attend college, he says that after graduation he will pay it back by becoming a clerk in Wynne's bank, his request is rudely dismissed. Old Mr. Wynne offers what he considers more suitable employment as an under-butler.

 

Chapter 5


Stung by Wynne's insensitivity, his inability to see McDoggerel's true nature, McDoggerel, the liar becomes McDoggerel the thief. Late one night, after everyone has gone to bed, McDoggerel steals a Georgian silver tea service, as well as Mr. Wynne's clothes (two suits, one for winter, one for summer, some shirts, cravats, cufflinks, socks and shoes) and flees to New York City, where he pawns the silver for enough money to set himself up as a gentleman - which is when his talent for mimicry turns into outright lying. He becomes Wesley Raymond Wynne, a graduate of Princeton, the eldest son of the banking Wynne's of Schenectady.

 

Chapter 6

 

As Wesley R. Wynne, McDoggerel secures employment as a bond salesman on Wall Street, and he advances through hard work and ample charm that helps him maneuver through the eddies and swells of high finance. He leaves behind his simple rooming house and rents a large apartment. He is able to buy his own clothes and shoes - but one day when he is introduced to a visiting partner from the Philadelphia branch of his investment firm - a genuine Princetonian, and a friend of the real Wesley Raymond Wynne - McDoggerel is exposed as a fraud and is fired.

 

Chapter 7


Broke once again, McDoggerel secures a job as a haberdashery salesman in one of the new department stores that dot what is called the "Ladies Mile" on lower Madison Avenue, where he sells things he wants for himself to ladies and gentlemen with less intelligence and refinement - a disastrous situation that leads him to bouts of melancholia, his prospects, once so promising having dimmed so miserably. He lives in a rooming house, its halls reek of rancid cooking oil, and he must share his bathtub and sink with slobs and back slapping salesmen. And his melancholia leads to drink, an easy tumble when one is forced to slavishly help the spoiled decide between the merits of a blue rather than a maroon cravat by day and drown the loss of prospects at night.

 

II. Predictor of Imminent Doom


Chapter 8


Blanche (birth name Anne) was born into a middle class family, in Philadelphia around 1825 (Blanche remains vainly uncertain about her birth date or any date that confirms her true age). Not genteel but aspiring to be, her father is an ambitious ship's captain, who is able to keep his family in comfortable circumstances; he sends Anne to the first female academy in Philadelphia, and makes sure that she is dressed fashionably so that she can attract a suitable mate. But a reversal of fortune in the 1840's compels the Captain to marry off the (approximately) fifteen-year old Anne to an older, debauched shipping merchant.

 

Chapter 9

The merchant Anne is forced to marry, Harmskite, has been married twice before, both wives having died in childbirth; the Harmskite daughters from these previous unions are older than Anne. The merchant's income and social status should have kept her in the comfort that her prospects required but Harmskite turns out to be an alcoholic who does not consistently pay his bills. When drunk, he becomes abusive, and afterwards mewls his apology, head cupped in his hands, pleading forgiveness.


Chapter 10


The household is fraught with bickering over money and possessions - Harmskite's daughters, Regina and Maude, pluck the best for themselves, with Harmskite's sniveling blessing. Finally, at Anne's insistence, when the opportunity arises for him to make a killing in the spice trade in the East Indies, Anne urges him to sail off on one of his ships, and when she does not hear from him for the next three years, she assumes he is dead. Aiding and abetting this assumption is the fact that she has fallen in love, for the first time in her life, with a handsome but penniless young drifter, named Richard Beesgrove.

 

Chapter 11


Anne has Harmskite declared legally dead and marries her beloved Beesgrove. Her father, whose prospects improved through his daughter's marriage to the merchant, is incensed. How can Anne sacrifice her status for a drifter? But she is besotted; Beesgrove may be a loafer, but he is an assured and active one, and he is all hers. And just when she thinks everything is perfectly settled, a year after being declared legally dead, four years after his disappearance, Harmskite returns to Philadelphia, threatening not only divorce but charges of bigamy - in other words, total ruin.


Chapter 12


In a fit of rage that Anne mistakenly thinks she can ride herd over, Richard Beesgrove rushes from her arms to track down, shoot and kill Harmskite. And he succeeds. Did he think Anne’s money could save him? Beesgrove had no friends in Philadelphia. An idiot lawyer, a real estate trusts person, is ordered to defend Beesgrove, who is promptly convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging, with Anne convicted as an accessory. In jail, with no one to speak up for her - her father disowns her, Maude and Rachel Harmskite, the daughters, have had her disinherited - everything seems lost, her love, her life - she prays for if not deliverance then guidance, but nothing is revealed. What to do? When life has been spread before you like a trajectory leading ever-upwards, there is no easy explanation for not only failure but misery!  She'd never anticipated outright misery. What to do? There must be someone or something to turn to for guidance.

 

Chapter 13


Wilted in a freezing jail cell, Anne considers ending her life, which teaches her a lesson; always wait out wanting to end your life for a night and a day. Because, in Anne’s case, a lawyer suddenly appears to defend her. An unhappily married lawyer, as it turns out, who pointedly does not request payment in the form of cash or check. The good news is that he is also a sagacious lawyer who discovers within a day of taking the case that there is no evidence whatsoever to prove that Anne colluded with Beesgrove to murder Harmskite. She is acquitted. A lot of good it does her: the only man she has ever loved is hanged, and she is ruined because of her notoriety.

 

Chapter 14


Lacking financial resources to begin a new life, Anne urges her father to either help her or she will have no choice but to spread rumors about herself being kept in a hotel apartment by an unhappily married lawyer named Bernstein. Her father tells her it is all her fault that her life has fallen to such depths. He gives her money on the condition that she leaves Philadelphia, never to return.



Chapter 15


Changing her name to Blanche - just Blanche, she is thrilled by the affectation of a single name, especially a French one - she moves to New York and falls in with a slick petty thief and his gang, which is a welcome change - middle class mores and respectability have offered her very little in the way of comfort - now it is freedom she wants.

 

Chapter 16


In six months time, she has perfected a confidence trick that earns a decent living, called "Falling down sick," which she practices in front of a rich person's house - falling on their stairs in a dead faint. She is invariably taken in - her innocent-looking beauty is never challenged, also, her clothes are good and she knows her part; she tells her potential benefactors a tale of marriage gone horribly wrong, an alcoholic husband, a brute who beats her and usually she is rewarded with protection as well as room and board - until finally she absconds with a particularly rare painting or pearl brooch, which she fences for hard cash.


Chapter 17


She pulls off this con successfully for a year, alternating among New York, Brooklyn and Yonkers, but, frankly, like all roles, it becomes tiresome, having to work so hard to ingratiate herself with total strangers, and the New York Police have warrants circulating with her description. She is forced into early retirement, which is precisely when she finds McDoggerel - stumbling home from a bar to his rooming house on West Fourteenth Street. She follows him.

 

Chapter 18


McDoggerel stops to light a cigar, his one last luxury, under a street lamp, on Twelfth Street. He is too drunk to notice her, but she is close enough to see a resemblance to the great love of her life, Beesgrove, whom she misses more than she can say - which is perhaps why the resemblance seems more acute than it would in broad daylight, or on any other evening but this particular melancholy, fog drenched one. McDoggerel is Beesgrove come back to life, and as he reaches his rooming house, Blanche decides that before finally retiring it once and for all, she will play "Falling down sick" just one more time - and before she can maneuver into position, he stumbles in the street, face down into a wide inky puddle.

 

III. The Replica


Chapter 19


The attraction between them being instantaneously reciprocal, Blanche and McDoggerel bond but neither is honest with the other. McD (she is fond of pet names, and shortens his) adapts his life, telling her he is a disinherited heir to a great banking fortune. Blanche tells McD about her brutal marriage, failing to mention the murder that followed it - although she is remarkably honest about her success as a confidence woman, entreating him to follow her into this canny profession. And, in short order, he perfects a con called "The Pocket Watch," which plays on his looks, charm and easy air of good breeding. He asks a gentleman for his pocket watch on the flimsiest of pretexts, telling "the mark" he'll bring it right back. Then, of course, he absconds with it - people literally hand over their prized possessions because he looks so thoroughly trustworthy. And so talented at it is he that he manages in one day to scam twenty-five of them, which are easily fenced, pocket watches being all the rage, and their lives seem set. Except for a single brush with the law ...

 

Chapter 20


McD mistakenly steals the pocket watch of the Chief of Police, who circulates detailed descriptions of them and they beat a hasty exit to New Jersey and points south. Along the way, Blanche shares her passion for the stage with McD, who is transformed, and soon, wherever they go, the first thing they do is attend the local theaters. Blanche confesses that she has always wanted to go on the stage. McD suggests that they already are. Haven’t their confidence schemes been short plays, not scripted but certainly well-acted. And so, having already succeeded on the streets, they decide to form their own touring company - The Immortal Bard Traveling Players.

 

Chapter 21


They call themselves The First Couple Of The American Stage, and, traveling in grand style, they are a modest success. No one in the provinces imagines they are novices because they know no better, and also the acting style of the time did not enlist the subtlest of emotions. Blanche readily admits that during her "Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here" soliloquy from Macbeth she nearly lacerates herself nightly. But, by and large, things go well, Blanche and McD think that finally they have found their true callings. Unfortunately, with the rigors of the road, two years of endless touring, they turn their weary scenery-chewing fire on one another.

 

Chapter 22


After every performance, night after night, McD gives Blanche notes: "Tone it down, Blanche." Or, “Stick to the way we rehearsed!” And she counters with "I will if you stop sticking your tongue out as if you've been poisoned when you've just poisoned someone else!" And, at a particularly fractious juncture, just outside Cleveland, on a barge, with both of them venting and seething - as Blanche often does on barges, so deathly afraid of water is she - they decide it is best to part ways.



Chapter 23


Of course, on dry land, it suddenly occurs to Blanche that what they need is a foil, a third actor, someone whose acting could better frame their own: A Fallstaff for McD's Prince Hal, a Brutus for his Caesar - and suddenly, as they round a bend in the road, there sits the most handsome man, a preacher of some sort, dressed in black, clerical collar in disarray, he's weeping copiously by the side of a road. Little do they know but this man will become not only their foil, but their savior; the author of their prodigious success.

 

Chapter 24


His name is Elliot Asbury, the only son and grandson of country preachers, raised on bible and prayer, and when young, always in the company of his father and grandfather - his mother and grandma having died when he was a baby. On Sundays, he would make the rounds, what his father called the preaching circle, sometimes in churches, most times in the fields where the faithful would put down their hoes, unhitch their teams, to join in prayer, a stolen moment of calm. The look on their faces told stories of lives stunned by the harshness of work and sun, dreams beaten and battered, and his grandfather lifting his arms to the heavens, praying for their souls, transformed them with hope. Sometimes his father knelt with them in the fields, teaching them psalms, or leading them in song - Rock Of Ages - his voice was strong and sweet and their souls were carried on it. Sadly, Elliot Asbury understood early on that he could never be as good as his father or grandfather; that he can never follow in their footsteps, which is all they expect of him.

 


Chapter 25


The truth is that Elliot Asbury is too easily distracted by the intricacies of a life well lived - the path of a buzzing fly distracts him, the taste of a perfectly baked torte, a woman's becharmed, outstretched hand - he is of this world and no other, with no conception of heaven except what he can sniff and see, feel, taste - his salvation can hardly be called salvation when it resides in savories and assignations - and because of an incident involving a farmer's daughter (and not the first of such incidents unfortunately), Elliot has been dismissed from the Seminary his father and grandfather founded, where he was employed as a teacher. He has not only dishonored himself but his family. And so he has walked outside of town to weight his pockets with large rocks, to jump into the river and drown, when McD and Blanche appear.


Chapter 26


Elliot Asbury becomes The Reverend - another of Blanche's pet names. In short order McD shows The Reverend that actors and preachers aren't that much different, each reading from a time-honored text, repeated year in, year out. Blanche adds that actors are, through their work, soothing the souls of all who pay to see them. And, for many months it is paradisiacal, with The Reverend transforming the nature of their work, and McD and Blanche playing to the best houses of their careers. Because aside from his preternaturally fresh-faced looks, the Reverend has natural comic skills, with stage fright kept in abeyance with wine that McD, whom The Reverend comes to regard as a second father, supplies before each performance. But like the paradise of the good book, a snake enters the garden. The Reverend, who when drunk is prone to self-contemptuous revelation, believes that he is betraying McD, his benefactor, on two counts.

 

IV. The Diorama

 

Chapter 27


When the Reverend appears on stage with McD - his entrance met with thunderous applause every evening - he turns McD's serious acting into travesty, which the audiences cannot get enough of; there, stage right, is McD intoning his alternately stoic and weepy way through any line that Shakespeare threw at Hamlet, and stage left, every night, on the cue, "or not to be," the Reverend enters - applause - and throws the pie, a cream pie, actually, a Boston cream pie, freshly baked for every performance. The Reverend thinks he is doing McD a great favor by extracting the chocolate filling from beneath the whipped cream - wouldn't it be heavier if he didn't? But McD no longer sees it that way. McD is showing signs of loathing his protégé, glaring at the Reverend with every post-soliloquy exit. Blanche is more pragmatic, she has learned how to play with the audience, and if the Reverend is getting laughs, and that is what fills seats, so be it.

 

Chapter 28


McD begins receiving thunderous applause on his entrances and exits. Good word about the Immortal Bard Traveling Players has spread among the outlying towns of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The audiences now sit gleefully atwitter in anticipation of the first soliloquy. They begin laughing as soon as he appears, uttering his first "To be." McD is so solidly sure of his performance he finds it hard to understand what the laughter is about. It wounds his pride. He wants to be brilliant. And if he complains about being laughed at, all Blanche has to do is point to the strong box that houses their money. The money they're taking in has never been better. At the final curtain, when McD is alone on stage with Blanche, taking bows, kissing her hand, the audience throws flowers! That is not nothing, he reminds himself. Although he knows something else is rotten in Denmark: It's the Reverend and Blanche. One night, McD stands in the wings as they play something they've cudgeled together from Twelfth Night and Macbeth, and McD notices the affinity in their glances, the inseparability of their smiles. As the Reverend exits, passing McD in the wings, McD seethes, "I know what you're up to."

 

Chapter 29

McD's taste of fame is only several months old, so he cannot be faulted for enjoying it blindly, and like many before him and since, McD is distracted enough by fame to want it to be total and all-encompassing, and while it is phenomenal to be fawned over, McD is consistently drawn to the black woman at the edges of the crowd, whom he assumes is diffident, as far as it concerns his talents, because she refuses to approach him. So why is she there every night, staring at him? The larger his crowd of admirers grows the more determined he becomes to win her over too.

 

V. Memory Vessel

 

Chapter 30
 

Her name is Haliday Clay - nicknamed WhatFor by Blanche because Blanche suspects that beneath Haliday's brooding, quiet veneer lurks a feisty, determined temper. WhatFor pursues McD by appearing not to pursue him. Blanche knows McD's weakness for adoration, and WhatFor appears to be a master of denying what she secretly appears to want. A runaway slave, is what Blanche thinks. Of course McD is completely won over, offering WhatFor a position with the troupe as a seamstress. Blanche agrees, thinking it is better to hold WhatFor close than to have her scheming out in the world. But Blanche baits her. What is in the suitcase? At the mention of it, WhatFor clutches it more tightly. When Blanche infers that WhatFor might be a runaway slave, WhatFor's anger registers in her eyes, and if those eyes could they would have ripped out Blanche's heart.

 

Chapter 31


In Allentown and Scranton, the Immortal Bard Players attract their largest audiences yet, and they are asked to book a theater in Philadelphia, which Blanche rejects (she cannot return to Philadelphia). McD says the offer is too good to refuse. That night, after the performance, Blanche disappears. The Reverend, guilty that his love has driven her away, tracks her down 10 miles outside Scranton - where she is paralyzed with fear, unable to get herself to cross the bridge above a roiling river. The Reverend takes her in his arms, saying he takes full blame for any unhappiness he may have caused. Blanche finds the Reverend's self-loathing too self-centered; she requires at least some undiluted adoration. Finally, they're discovered by McD, who threatens to disband the troupe. But, oddly, asked to choose between them, Blanche will always choose McD.



Chapter 32


Alone, that night, McD tells Blanche that he has nearly convinced himself to get rid of The Reverend. McD wants to go back to serious acting, he says. But Blanche reminds him of the box office, and finally McD convinces himself that he is making a business decision. As the players move south to Baltimore, then Richmond and Washington, this is not a happy foursome. Performances become more dependent on wine and champagne. Mistrust, duplicity, self-love, self-loathing - all of this is understandable in almost any theatrical circumstance, but WhatFor has added an extra dimension of otherness, and secrecy, threat and fear. One night, The Reverend reports to Blanche that he has seen WhatFor talking with Pinkerton guards.

 

Chapter 33


The next night, after delivering Lady Macbeth's line - Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here - Blanche looks out and sees her father sitting in the audience. Racing offstage, passing McD who is about to get another pie in his face, Blanche sees WhatFor in the wings, watching Blanche's father too. Instead of going to her own dressing room, Blanche rushes into McD's, heading for the little space that WhatFor has carved out for herself, where she now feels comfortable enough to leave her suitcase. Finding it, Blanche breaks the lock and discovers a contract of the ownership of a slave, named Haliday Clay. The owner is Blanche's father.

 

Chapter 34


What happens next occurs in rapid succession as do most spirals toward doom, with everyone involved swearing that they never saw “it” coming.  Backstage, Blanche walks into the wings from McD’s dressing rooom, still reading her father’s contract of ownership of WhatFor. Then her father shows up in the company of two men who are obviously private detectives – self-important, enormous – Blanche understands what has occurred. Her father has offered WhatFor freedom in exchange for Blanche’s whereabouts. WhatFor has lead them to her. But what she can’t figure out is why her father wants her back? When pressed he reveals the nature of a contract he has that involves her, another marriage to an older merchant from Gloucester, who has seen a painting of Blanche and will not hold her having been accused of murdering her last husband against her. WhatFor suddenly appears, seeing the contract in Blanche’s hand.  “That’s mine,” WhatFor shouts impulsively. WhatFor’s freedom at the expense of Blanche’s. Blanche escapes into her dressing room with the contract.

 

Chapter 35



Bolting the dressing room door, Blanche listens to see if the private detectives are massing to break it down - then she hastily throws random things like ribbons and stockings into WhatFor's suitcase, which she still carries. The door is broken open - but not by Pinkertons. It is the Reverend who stands there with a gun in his hand, which he places to his temple. "I will blow my brains out, I swear it. I cannot live near you and not be with you." "Close the door," Blanche says, continuing to pack. But after shutting the door, the Reverend kneels beside it, holding the gun to his right temple. "Please take me with you if you're leaving." Before she can respond, the door is thrown open again - McD this time - and the door accidentally hits the Reverend's right elbow, which jiggers his finger on the trigger, which discharges the gun. The Reverend is thrown back senseless by the shot, gushing blood, aghast to have finally been taken at his word - he dies.

 

VI. Escape Quilt

 

Chapter 36


McD can hardly comprehend the fractured nature of what has ensued. The blood, the Reverend's broken face and uncomprehending stare. As WhatFor rushes in, grabbing for her suitcase, Blanche wrestles her to the floor. And thinking it an act of self-preservation, McD turns to run, finally noticing the Pinkertons, who are advancing on Blanche's dressing room. Side stepping them, McD races into his own dressing room, where he throws off his costume, puts on a suit and winter coat, and grabbing the company strong box, heads out his dressing room window which leads to the alley where his fans nightly mass. And there they are in even greater numbers than previous nights. Rows of them lined up smiling, giddy, hands with books and pens outstretched - and in the street, carriages wait with excited female fans proffering more autograph books through open doors. A horse rears. Dazed, smiling nervously, McD signs several books then makes the fatal mistake of stepping off the raised wooden side walk into the street.

 


Chapter 37



McD falls backwards, his left hand, which grips the strong box, swings back, hitting a horse squarely in the fetlock joint. The horse spooks and rears. A carriage wheel rolls over McD's foot. He screams out, hurt and trapped between another horse and a shiny yellow carriage, from which a matronly woman calls down to him to sign her book. But a leather button on his overcoat has become lodged between the spokes of her carriage wheel, and as the carriage breaks free McD is dragged to the ground. He doesn't have the presence of mind to rip off the button or the coat. Another horse rears, and another whinnies pitifully. Carriages crash into one another, their drivers pulling reins this way and that as one carriage after another rolls over McD, the pain slicing him in two. Blanche, he whispers. His head rising, he looks back over his shoulder. What had he been thinking, leaving Blanche alone? Hers is the only love he ever knew or trusted. Casting the strong box aside, he tries raising himself to go back for her but he is as good as dead. Another carriage wheel rolls over his neck, and it is over; he is gone.

 

Chapter 38


McD's dying intent to help Blanche actually comes to fruition. With pandemonium exploding outside the theater with everyone realizing that McD has been crushed to death, screams and confusion overflow among the audience and over the footlights onto the stage. The Pinkertons race into the thick of it, momentarily stranding Blanche's father. Seeing a chance to escape, Blanche, still clutching the suitcase, leaves WhatFor behind, lunging ahead into McD's dressing room and the window that leads to the alley. Clearing the window, racing into the street, Blanche sees the commotion without seeing the source of it. There is a railroad station on the other side of Long Bridge, across the Potomac, not far from the theater, on First Street. If she can only catch the omnibus, but it is already halfway across the bridge. And running for it, she is startled when WhatFor catches up to her, again grabbing for the suitcase. A fragment of WhatFor's quilt sticks out of it. WhatFor tugs on it with such force that Blanche is thrown off-balance, and as she hits bridge's railing, she teeters backwards, horrified, clawing at the air, releasing her hold of the suitcase as she tumbles into the river below. As WhatFor runs across the bridge toward the train station she can hear Blanche's screams, which trail off into the dreaded, icy water as Blanche is carried away.

 

Chapter 39


"I shoulda helped that woman," WhatFor says to herself as she walks the tracks outside Alexandria. She didn't like Blanche but it wasn't right not to even reach out to try and grab her. It was the suitcase - everything she has in the world. The quilt. The contract. He has got to honor it. She led him to Blanche. She did what she said she would do. It is an inky-black night. No stars. Thick woods. She thinks she's heading north. A passenger train rolled by hours ago, the A & W, Alexandria and Washington Line. She was too tired to grab hold of the freight car as it passed. WhatFor needs rest. She curls up in a tight ball around the suitcase, shivering, her face pressed against brittle leaves, the quilt wrapped tightly around her. She sleeps without dreaming; she’s not sure for how long. Then the long woeful moan of a distant train whistle rises from a nearby valley. She crouches beside the tracks, hearing it rumble closer, feeling the vibration of its great cacophonous bulk. Freedom train. It whirs into view, a blast of hot air accompanying it: the engine, the coal car, the passenger cars, the dining cars, the freight cars. She leaps as it chugs up a slight rise - enough time to grab hold of the bar between two cars. She flings her suitcase up, then the quilt, which flaps in the roaring wind. WhatFor stumbles – she should have helped Blanche. WhatFor’s foot slips, she is sucked under, as if that train will eat her alive. She disappears into its bowels then is spit out, lying bruised and broken on her back staring at the quilt waving its way to freedom. It is too painful to breathe, and so, after a moment, she stops.

 

Chapter 40


Four deaths on a single night, each related to the other, each gone before his or her time. It isn't fair. Is it ever? Yes, the spirits say. Yes it is sometimes fair. You live a life. You earn a peaceful death. But not these four - the Reverend, McD, Blanche and WhatFor - restless spirits returning ceaselessly, searching for a way out of life. In each subsequent decade, in each generation they have sought reincarnation, hoping to work out their lives and untimely deaths. They have come back as good people and bad - a nurse, a banker. The Reverend has been a prizefighter and a construction worker. McD was a bodybuilder - Mr. Italian-America 1957. But none has achieved a quiet soul. And after each death they reawaken to wander. No one has done for them what Daniel and Daisy have done. This time they have been honored in the telling of their tale. Wonderful artifacts have been made for them. But still they remain. Waiting. Will it happen this time? Finally. Will they rest?

 

Epilogue

They rest. They really do. All of them. McD has vanished, his fame secured by the artifacts that players of Ghosts Of A Chance made in his honor. Blanche escaped the traps of life; she is free to discover whatever there is to discover, and this time in peace and comfort. WhatFor is free for all time. The Reverend is beyond temptation; he languishes in a goodly repose. They would thank you if they could for all you’ve given, for the final quests that almost two hundred fifty of you played last Saturday, October 25th 2008. Their restful silence is their thanks. They have slipped this earth. Goodbye.