Summary: I borrowed the modern-day Cartwrights from Robin‘s and my story “Windmills and Remembrances for this story. The character of Faye Franklin was also borrowed from the story. If you are curious about the relationship between Ben and Faye, you can find “Windmills and Remembrances” on my homepage.
Word Count: 1200
“Don’t tell me a sensible, sophisticated, woman-of-the-world like you believes in that nonsense?” Ben Cartwright chuckled, then ducked as his lady-friend threw a sofa pillow past his head.
“I only said it will be fun to do the Halloween cemetery tour and the Virginia City Halloween ghost tour that Traci’s writing about for the travel magazine, not that I believed it.” Faye Franklin’s dark hair swung around her face as she bent to retrieve the pillow from the floor. “You’ve really never been on it?”
“Marie took the boys a few times, but I never went along. And the boys have taken dates there.” Ben chuckled. “I understand the girls tend to hold on tightly to the boys during the spooky parts.”
“What if I promise to hold on to you tightly during the spooky parts?” Sitting up, she laid her head on Ben’s shoulder. “I need a break from photographing dictators, bombed-out buildings, and bloody bodies. It gets to you after a while.” She sighed and cuddled closer. “Maybe I should take that offer of a teaching position at the university.”
“You know how pleased I would be if you did, but you know as well as I do, that you’d be bored to death after awhile.”
“Oh, I think you could keep me sufficiently occupied in my spare time.” Faye kissed Ben teasingly and ran her slim fingers through his silver hair. The moment was rudely interrupted when she yawned in his face. They were comfortable enough together to laugh.
Ben glanced at the clock on the mantel. “It’s late, and you have to get up early to pick your friend up at the airport.” They finished the interrupted kiss. “I’ll see myself out.”
On her way up to her bedroom, Faye said to herself, “Yes, maybe I will think seriously about that teaching position”.
Two evenings later, Faye and Traci Daniels, Faye’s friend and former assistant, met up with Joe Cartwright and a sheepish-looking Ben Cartwright at the gate of the Virginia City Cemetery.
“Aha! So, you decided to join us.” Fay laughed and took Ben’s arm. “Did you talk him into it, Joe?”
“Hurumph!” Ben glared at his youngest son who just smiled innocently.
“What’s this?” Traci noticed the sign on the gate.
“Oh, no! No cemetery tour tonight! It says the guide is unavailable There goes half my article!”
“Don’t panic,” Faye advised her friend. “They might have a substitute by tomorrow. I’m sure your editor will be able to extend your deadline a few days.”
Traci brightened. “You’re right. You’re trying to do your job. Why don’t we go have a drink while we’re waiting for the ghost tour to start?”
The startled group jumped in unison as the cemetery gate creaked open and a woman dressed in Victorian widows weeds greeted them. “Good evening. I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long.”
“Oh! That’s quite all right. Ah, we were just leaving. We were under the impression that the cemetery tour was cancelled for this evening”, Faye said, pointing at the sign.
“You could say I’m a last moment substitute,” the woman explained. It doesn’t look as though anyone else is coming. Shall we start the tour?”
Traci shivered even though she had on a down jacket. “Does it always get this cold here in October? And so suddenly? All of a sudden I feel like I’ve been shoved into a freezer.”
“Yeah, it did get awfully cold all of a sudden,” Joe agreed. “Let me help you warm up.” He moved closer to Traci, but a glare from his father stopped him in his tracks.
Faye and Traci looked at each other, then away, to keep from laughing.
“Ben seemed to enjoy himself last evening even though he thinks ghost tours are a lot of nonsense”, Traci Daniels commented to Faye Franklin the next morning. The two women were discussing the previous evening’s activities over coffee and croissants in Faye’s breakfast nook.
Faye smiled at her friend. “Yes he did. I knew he would, once we got him there. But, he’s still going to claim the whole thing is a lot of baloney for the tourists. He knows a fellow from the Cattlemen’s Association who plays one of the ghosts and the other members tease him about being ‘dead’. Ben was actually looking forward to seeing the guy in his role and was disappointed that someone he didn’t know was playing the part last night. In fact, Ben said he didn’t know anyone playing the roles, and he thought he knew everyone in Virginia City.
“He’s got a point there about the purpose being to attract tourists. Ghost tours are very popular and Virginia City’s is one of the best.” Traci toyed with her croissant. “Don’t laugh, but I actually caught some vibes in a couple of places. Of all the ghost tours I’ve went on for the magazine, the only other time that happened was in New Orleans. I’d say Virginia City comes in second after New Orleans.”
Faye nodded. “I’m not going to laugh. I didn’t get any vibes, as you call them, during the ghost tour, but I got a really creepy feeling during the cemetery tour. Especially around the guide. She wasn’t very talkative for a guide, though. But, she does play the part of a ghost very well. I almost felt like latching onto Ben like a scared high school girl.”
“It’s strange how much warmer it was in town than at the cemetery. It was like the middle of winter there. But, like you said last night, the cemetery is on open ground.”
Traci looked at the kitchen clock. “The film should be developed. Let’s go look. I’m glad you have a dark room so I don’t have to wait till I get back to the magazine to see the pictures.”
The two women took the prints from the developing tank and hung them in a row to dry.
“That’s strange”, Traci murmured to herself. “Faye, look at these.”
“Where are all the people?”
The pair looked at each other, their faces mirror images of shock.
Just then the phone rang.
Traci watched while her friend answered and spoke to someone. She became anxious as Faye uttered a startled “What? Are you sure?” Then a more subdued “Yes. Of course. Thank you. Sorry to have disturbed you. “
Faye’s face was white and she answered in a shaky voice. “That was Miss Jones from the Historical Society. She apologized for the tour being cancelled last evening. The lady who plays the guide, the widow in black, was suddenly taken ill and rushed to the hospital. She died in the ambulance. None of the actors for the tour were there. They didn’t think it would be right.”
“Then who did we see last night?” Traci asked, uncertainly.
“I don’t think I want to know,” Faye replied. “But, you have one heck of a story for your magazine.”