The Phantomime
Chapter Twelve
Andy and his friends called themselves Goths, but I reckoned if there had been any actual Goths in Riverton, they’d have beaten my brother up for ruining their image.
I’d have been embarrassed for him, if I liked him more.
As part of his obligations as a Goth, Andy watched a lot of freaky TV shows. One followed a group of ghost hunters as they filmed in haunted buildings, complete with screaming, flailing, and melodrama. But that show had a nasty twist in the end, one that was bad news for the ghosts.
I waved my arms and hollered to try and get their attention. Only Megan noticed. She stopped and looked at me with her hands clasped to her chest and an excited smile on her face.
Yeah. I could not have felt like more of a jerk.
I shoved two fingers in my mouth and blew the loudest, screechiest whistle I could manage. “Listen up!”
The excitement came to a slow stop and everyone turned to face me—except for Barry, who kept clapping his hands and bouncing with his eyes closed for a good thirty seconds past the point of embarrassment.
“Yes, Miss Malone?” Cresswell asked. His whole face smiled, even his mustache stretched wide and turned up at the ends.
“I think you better sit down,” I said.
Cresswell’s mustache twitched, but the smile stayed where it was. “Or perhaps you will share your thoughts now.”
I took a deep breath. “What happens if a ghost is exorcised?”
“This.” Will lifted his arms like he was about to treat us to an exclusive performance of the gun show, with very small, un-loaded, guns.
Shaking my head, I said, “No. Ex-OR-cised.”
Cresswell cleared his throat, his smile gone. “When exorcised, a ghost is banished to the darkest of places, with no hope of moving on. It is an—undesirable outcome.”
I screwed up my face so I didn’t have to see their expressions when I shared the next bit. “It may be a different TV show, but . . . I think they’re the ghost bounty hunters.”
Barry shook his head. “They said they’d be back next week for Halloween for a live broadcast. We’re going to be the Halloween special.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. “You’ll be the special all right—with an extra-side of You-Are-So-History. At the end of every episode, they exorcise all the ghosts in the building.”
Will’s voice shook when he spoke this time. “It’s TV. Nothing’s real on TV.”
I shook my head. “It is these days. It’s a proper latin-speaking, holy-water-scattering, exorcism.”
Megan covered her mouth with her fingertips, eyes wide. Janette wrapped her hands around Russell’s.
“Typical.” Barry pulled his hoodie over his head and crossed his arms.
Cresswell stood straight and dignified, like he had a solution. “Miss Poppy will find a way for us to put on our play. Then, we will move on.”
So now I was Miss Poppy instead of Miss Malone. Was that progress?
All the ghosts turned to me. My mouth went dry as Mom’s pot roast after dad reheated it two days in a row.
I was their only hope.
They were so doomed.
When I got home, Andy sat hunched over the computer keyboard, shooting imaginary guns at imaginary terrorists.
“I didn’t think Goths played computer games.”
“Uh—duck you idiot—shoot.” He threw his arms up and slumped back while he waited for the game to continue. “I’m not a Goth. Like I’ve told you a hundred times, I am who I am.”
“Who-you-am is a Goth, then.”
Narrowing his eyes, he spun in the office chair to face me. “What do you want?”
“That ghost hunter show you watch, are there other shows like it?”
He shrugged. “Some on cable, but they’re from England. Castles, stately homes, that sort of thing.” His eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“None from America that might film, say, around here?”
Andy had a huge mouth and it split into a wide, evil smile. “You heard then?”
“Heard what?” My eyelashes did this nervous flutter thing they always do when I lie.
He crossed his arms over his chest and swiveled in the chair. “That The Paranormal Bounty Hunter is filming their Halloween special here.”
Double poop.
More swiveling. More smugness. “You want me to get you on the show so you can get your big break, right?”
I didn’t have to pretend this time—I had no idea what he was talking about. “Huh?”
“Give it up. I know what you’re up to. You want me to introduce you to Barbara Basch so you can be on the show as, ‘local girl who experienced a ghostly presence in the Majestic’. Not gonna happen.” He leaned toward me. “Unless you saw something when you were in there, of course?”
So it was true. My friends were going to be ghost-busted.
“Why would you have anything to do with getting me on the show?”
“You really don’t know?” His smug face got even smugger, if that was possible. “I wrote to her about the Majestic, and they came here to investigate. I’m a ‘special consultant’ for the show. Jealous?”
“But—they can’t film there.”
“Yeah, they can. They have permission. Why do you care?”
He already had too much ammunition against me. My smile wouldn’t have convinced anyone, but I had to try. “I don’t.”
Andy left with his friends after dinner, so I had the computer to myself.
The mouse was all sweaty from his hand. I rubbed a bit of hand sanitizer on it. That boy was a living, breathing, grease slick.
My computer skills were even worse than my ability to lie, but I still found several sites dedicated to The Paranormal Bounty Hunter and a video clip before the IM even loaded. While the clip played, a message from Marissa flashed on the task bar.
When the video started, my heart sank. Barbara Basch was definitely the woman who drove the black van. She screamed her way through dark houses with night-vision cameras and ghost murderers following behind. Except she couldn’t see the ghosts. Neither could I, on film, but I could hear enough to know the end result was always the same—goodbye ghosts, have an unhappy ever afterlife.
Remembering Marissa’s message, I opened the IM. She hadn’t said much, just typed my name over and over and over.
“Sorry. What’s up?” I typed.
“You okay?”
“Sure. Why?”
“I thought you might be upset.”
How could she guess my day had been rotten from the six words I’d said? “I’m fine.”
Marissa went quiet, just long enough for me to realize I’d missed something important in what she hadn’t said. “We never do anything anymore.” The little pencil wriggled its frantic way across the screen while I stared at it, fingers itching with guilt. “You spend lunch hour at the library and go to the Majestic after school,” she typed.
I knew what I had to do.
When it came to saving the ghosts’ behinds the only plan I had wasn’t even a real plan yet, but I could fit Marissa into it. I’d told her all about the Majestic—except that teeny-weeny bit where all the actors were ghosts.
I had no idea if it was the right thing to say or do, but I said and did it anyway. “Would you like to come to the Majestic? On Sunday, maybe?”
“Can I meet that boy you get all blushy over?”
“I do not blush.”
“Yuh-huh, you do.”
I thought about the leaf pressed between the pages of my notebook and screwed up my nose in horror. She was right. I did. “Forget about him. Will you come?”
Marissa’s reply was one word, typed over and over: Yes.
That gave me two days to bring my plan—which I didn’t actually have yet—together.
First, like it or not, I had to visit the Ghost in the Gods.

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