Secret Service recruit
Posted - 11/16/2020 : 03:08:11
[b]The Night of the Things that Go Bump in the Night
James West and Artemus Gordon the two best agents in the United States Secret Service rode down the deserted road and looked at each other. “Artie are you sure about this?”
“For the 100th time yes I am sure. What is the matter with you?” Gordon groused at the younger man
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Artie.” West’s black stallion danced sideways as the moved down a rutted and badly maintained trail. The trees overhung the road, weeds choked the underbrush and the presence of a thunderstorm moving in their direction made even the usually stoic James West uncomfortable.
Thunder exploded behind them and both horses shied violently dancing sideways and nearly throwing their riders. Finally bringing them under control the two agents got the horses moving in the right direction. They came out of the tree tunnel into a wide open area. The old house was huge the columns that supported the roof were 20 feet tall from ground. The main doors to the house were askew, one hung from a single hinge the other was lying on the porch. Most of the windows in the front were either missing or broken and most of the shutters lay in splinters and broken pieces on the ground in front of the old mansion.
The two agents looked at each other as another loud thunder crash exploded behind them. The horses whinnied Gordon’s horse reared dumping him to the ground. James’ stallion stood still long enough for his rider to get off, then he too pulled free and bolted into the tangle of the stand of trees. West forgot his horse and quickly dropped to the ground beside his partner. “Artie are you alright?”
Sitting up slowly and rubbing the back of his head, Gordon griped, “Stupid horse, you’d think he’d know better than to be scared of a thunder storm.” He held his hand out and his best friend took it helping him to his feet.
Before either agent could move rain started coming down in sheets and lightening nearly blinded both men when it struck a near-by tree splitting it in half. The two men dashed into through the front door and into the large spider web and dust covered atrium. The looked at each other and James shook his head. “If this is a Halloween haunted house, I am seriously not in the mood.” He drew his weapon and looked around the darkened room. Another flash of lightening briefly lit the large open space and the federal agent could spot two sets of stairs leading to a second story. In the center of the room was a large table with a vase full of dead flowers in the middle of it. He turned to Artemus and looked at his partner. “Any suggestions?”
“I’d say let’s get out of here, but I would rather stay here than risk getting hit by lightning.” Gordon pulled his gun and searched his pockets for a light of some kind. He carried no candles and there were no lanterns that he could see. Another brilliant flash of light allowed him to see the open doors of a parlor directly in front of him. “Parlors straight ahead,” he indicated with the barrel of his gun pointing toward the opening.
They entered and looked at the broken window panes and lose shutters. Curtains hung in strips of rotting cloth and even parts of curtains lay on the floor where they had fallen. There was moth eaten furniture two large sofas and a table in between them. There was no wood for the fireplace and the two agents doubted if it was even safe to light a fire.
“Just how old is this place do you think?” James tried to look around in the dark room. He felt as if he was being watched, but there was only two people in this old house, himself and his partner.
“I would say pre Civil War for the age. But not by much, from the looks of the structure and what furniture I can see in the lightning flashes.
Suddenly from outside they heard an explosion of thunder and screaming wind came roaring right after. Another blinding flash of thunder and both men knew that the storm was right on top of them. The looked at each other and a second flash of blinding light shook the house as lightning struck one of the many chimneys on the roof of the old house. Both men dropped to the dirt covered floor and covered their heads as debris rained down on them from above.
Artie looked at his partner, “This is a place I am loath to spend the night.”
“I’d rather be here than out in that.” James indicated as the lightning struck another chimney. Again the wind screamed through the broken panes of the windows and rain began to lash the building. On top of this a low moan rose from somewhere and reached a high piercing shriek, then descended in a low painful moan.
The two agents looked at each other their eyes somewhat still blinded by the lightning, then they looked out at the huge amount of water pouring down from the heavens. They looked at each other again and something exploded once again over head. “I don’t know which is worse the house either being blown up and catching fire or being struck by lightning.” Artie slowly got to his hands and knees and waited before climbing to his feet.
James did the same and paused beside his partner. Another low moan rose to a high shriek. He once again looked at his partner wondering exactly what Artemus was thinking. “I HATE haunted houses, and I don’t believe in ghosts, so what’s going on?”
“You’re asking me? I have no more idea what’s going on than you do. I don’t like haunted houses either.” Gordon stated as he rose to his feet.
Another explosion of light showed a pair of matching lamps setting on side tables. One beside each sofa. The older federal agent finally found a match in one of his numerous pockets removed the chimney, turned up the wick and stuck the fire from the match to the wick and it started to glow. He replaced the chimney and went over to the opposite table and repeated his procedure to light the lamp. He handed one to his partner. “I’ll take this half of the downstairs indicating the right half of the huge mansion. We still have to find that printing press and the missing plates. So shall we get started?”
James nodded and headed out of the parlor and turned right. He walked down the hallway and opened the first door he came to. Stepping in, he looked around at a very old harp standing along one wall and a piano, or maybe a harpsichord near the fireplace. There were several other musical instruments hanging from the walls along with paintings. Strips of wall paper hung in tatters from the wall, falling silently to the floor. He backed out of the room and headed down the hall way again finding the formal dining room. The only other door was at the end of the hallway and he opened the door. He stepped into the room and looked around at all the implements of a well-stocked huge kitchen. He entered and looked at the prep table standing covered with dust and spider webs in the center of the room. There was a fireplace that took up one whole wall and stacked alongside halfway to the ceiling were skewers and rotisseries and different hooks for kettles and cauldrons. On another wall were the walk in cold storage pantry and root cellar. The huge stoves and ovens covered another wall and the final wall was the wash and rinse area. There were no dishes, cups plates or anything left out anywhere in the kitchen. He turned and headed back towards the parlor completely unaware of the huge chef’s knife that slowly rose from the cutting board and floated silently behind him.
Artemus moved in the opposite direction from James and found a library with bookshelves running from floor to ceiling. There was a fireplace with two sofas one on each side with a low table in between. There were tables with lamps and chairs located in small conversational groups and other chairs singly with tables and lamps scattered around. He closed the door and opened another. There were several sofas, chairs and tables located around the room. A women’s sitting room or parlor. The final door led outside to several out buildings, most of which had collapsed except a huge barn that had to hold over fifty stalls for horses and other animals. He returned to the main reception room and stood outside as James came towards him. “Jim! Lookout!” Gordon yelled as the chef’s knife came flying toward his partner.
James dropped to the floor as the knife went flying past him and embedded itself into the wall just missing Artemus’ head by mere inches. “Artie are you alright?” West asked as he climbed to his feet and ran towards the older man.
Swallowing hard, Gordon slowly nodded as he watched James pull the knife out of the wall. They both heaved a sigh of relief as West slowly examined the blade. There wasn’t a single mark on either the blade or the handle. He turned and walked over to the round table and laid it down. “Shall we check out the upstairs?” He questioned his partner
“I don’t know what for, there’s certainly nothing down here worth anything.”
“Well something’s here,” James nodded toward the knife, “and from the size of this blade it’s not friendly.”
They looked at each other and shrugged, “I’ll take the right side again, okay?” Gordon looked at his best friend.
“Fine,” James turned and headed up the far staircase and after reaching the top he turned and headed into the darkness. He opened the first door he came to and entered what could only have been a guest room. There was a bed large enough for two people, night stands on either side a dresser with mirror, a high-boy and an armoire, and a small writing desk and chair completed the furnishings. He left that room, closing the door behind him and examined a second room, which was set up exactly like the first. After examining it he left and began to examine another. The door slammed shut behind him, James instantly drew his weapon and whirled to face the threat. There was nothing behind him and he replaced his gun in its holster and walked over to the door and tried to open it. The wooden barrier didn’t budge an inch as James stepped back and thought. Suddenly the mirror in the dresser exploded outwards as shards of silver coated glass came flying straight towards the federal agent. James dived to the floor and landed face first in to the dust and mold laden carpet. He started sneezing as dust and carpet fibers flew up his nose and coated his face. The shards finally stopped flying around the room, embedding in the wall, what was left of the curtains, the bed and the armoire. Slowly rising his head, James looked around and heard a soft click as the door was unlocked. He climbed back to his feet dusting himself off. Opening the door he stuck his head out and looked around, there was nothing to see. He entered the hallway and pressed his back against the wall, cautiously made his way down the hall. He opened the next door he came to and peered in. Nothing seemed to be moving, but then nothing had been moving in the previous rooms. He wondered how his partner was doing.
Artemus Gordon opened the first door he came to and shown the lamp over the interior. There was a sofa, table and chairs scattered in groups around the room. He stepped inside and found a second door and opened that one. He looked at a large four poster bed, wash stand, towel rack, and dresser with mirror armoire a bench at the foot of the bed. There were large French windows across the room, lace covered the curtains torn in tatters and covered with dust. Everything was covered with dust and the remains of ancient spider webs. He cautiously entered the room and looked around. He heard a crash and window glass tore through the remains of the curtains and flew straight at him. He dropped to the dust and fiber laden remains of the carpet face first and sneezed violently. The remains of the windows crashed into the walls, and the bed. Using his forearms and knees he slowly made his way across the carpet to the hallway and out of the room. Rising he reached up and grabbed the door handle and pulled it toward him. Gasping for breath Artemus waited until his heart rate slowed down and he caught his breath. “There are no such thing as ghosts.” He straightened moved across the hall and found another bedroom. He closed the door and moved down the hallway continuing until he came to the door at the end. He cautiously opened the door and stepped into the large sitting room. “This has got to be the master’s room.” Gordon looked at a fireplace that took up an entire wall. Above it was a portrait of a man in his middle to late forties with silver gray hair and dark brown eyes and dressed in clothing of the Deep South pre Civil War era. Turning to face another wall which was full of French windows and a balcony beyond. The curtains here were tattered lace and velvet, the third wall was covered with books with a small sitting nook and reading tables and lamps. He opened the door on the final wall and looked into the bedroom. Stepping inside he looked at a massive four poster canopied bed. The side curtains were hanging limply from the ties and not from the rod underneath the canopy. He looked at a mirrored dressing table seeing himself reflected in the mirror. He looked in the dresser drawers, armoire and other storage space and found nothing. Suddenly there was a low moan rising to a high pitched scream. Artemus plugged his ears with his fingers trying to shut out the noise. There was a cracking noise and Artemus whirled around to face the direction where the sound came from. He rapidly turned and hastily made his way out of the room. Exiting the sitting room he heard James’ voice. “Artie get down!!” Without even a moment’s hesitation the senior agent dropped to the floor as glass from every window and the mirror exploded through the doorway. Some of the shards slammed into and shattered into pieces as they impacted the door frame and walls even some missed hitting him.
James raced down the hallway towards his partner when there was a huge explosion that threw him to the ground and that was the last thing he knew for quite a while. Regaining consciousness, West moaned and tried to move, something, anything and was unable to do so. Dimly he heard his partner groaning from a short distance away. Finally freeing a hand he managed to move some of the wallboard and plaster off himself and began removing other pieces of the damage off. “Artie?” He tried to move his lower body and loss consciousness from the pain. Sometime later, although how much later he was unable to tell. After regaining consciousness he tried once again to move but was unable to. The federal agent reached out and grabbed a handful of dusty, moldy, and now damp carpet and tried to pull himself out from under the damage and managed to move the upper half of his body. “Artie!”
Artemus groaned as he too regained consciousness and tried to push himself up and failed. Blinking he finally managed to clear his vision and wondered why he was getting wet. Turning his head he looked upwards and saw the huge hole in the ceiling and could make out the rain pouring in through the hole in the roof. “Wonderful, just wonderful. All I need is an ice cold shower and to get struck by lightning.” Gordon began pushing debris off himself and managed to clear most of the debris. He dimly heard his partner’s voice calling his name. “Jim?” He finally pushed the last of the debris off himself and crawled to his best friend. “James?”
West moaned and tried to move once again but failed utterly. He felt a gentle hand touch his shoulder and Artemus spoke softly to him. “Just lay still, you’re under a lot of heavy timber and I am going to have to figure out a way to get this off you without hurting you. Just take it easy, Jim.” The younger man nodded as water cascaded from the large open hole in the roof soaking him and his partner. He could feel the weight slowly being removed from his legs.
A brilliant flash of light blinded the two men and the resulting thunder deafened them temporarily. The rain came down even harder if that was possible soaking them even further. Finally Artemus managed to move the final heavy beam from pinning his best friend to the floor. He stopped in shock as he saw the long piece of wood piercing James’ left side.
“James, don’t move, don’t even try to move. I have to figure out how to move you without hurting you.”
James breathed fast and shallow as he focused his attention on his partner. “Are you alright?”
“Just a few scratches and mostly bruises, you’re the one in trouble so just remain motionless.”
“Okay, let me know what to do.” The secret service agent rested his head on one out stretched arm and trusted his life to his partner’s care. He knew that Artemus would do whatever it took to save him or help him in any way possible.
Artie sighed and looked at the large splinter piercing his partner’s left side. He didn’t want to remove it for fear of either leaving a piece embedded or causing him to begin bleeding without any way to stop it. A distant moan from somewhere downstairs began to rise coming closer and closer to them. Suddenly it went from a moan to a hair rising shriek that was painful in its intensity.
James groaned in pain as the noise competed with the thunder and the wind and the pounding of the rain. He turned his head to look at his best friend and saw Artie kneeling beside him with his fingers in his ears trying to shut out the noise. It finally abated and both men heaved a sigh of relief as the spooky sound disappeared and thunder took its place. West looked up at Gordon and waited patiently for him to either say something or do something. “Well?”
There was a long pause from the older man and James prompted again. “Artie what’s wrong?”
Gathering himself Gordon looked into his partner’s green eyes. “James what do you feel?”
“Not much really, it kind of hurts a little, but nothing I haven’t felt before. Why?”
“I need to ask you some questions, so please be patient, and they’re necessary so that I can decide what to do and how to help you.”
“Okay, shoot and I don’t mean that literally.” James gave him a cocky grin and waited.
“Can you move your left leg?”
West concentrated on moving his legs first one than the other, it hurt but not as much as trying to twist himself so he could keep his eyes on his partner’s face. He saw the worry in the dark brown eyes and creasing his face. “Artie?”
“I just don’t know what to do James, I am sorry. I’m afraid that if I remove the splinter I could leave some part of it behind or you could start bleeding and I can’t stop it. Moving you is not going to be easy without causing you pain, and the possibility of either paralyzing you or even killing you.” Gordon knelt next to the younger man.
“So you leave me here and go get the doctor and bring him here.” West looked at his partner.
“There’s one problem with that, and that is I have no idea where the nearest town or doctor is.” Gordon informed him.
“What about the map you used to get us here?”
“It didn’t have anything but the written directions, there was no map, James.”
“Who sent you these directions?” West asked trying to take his mind off the immediate situation.
“The message was delivered by courier and it was just left at the courier’s office with our names on it, so it was delivered to the train.” Gordon sat down leaning back against the wall behind him. “I just wish I knew what to do, James without risking getting you killed or actually killing you myself by doing something stupid.” He choked on the words and cleared his throat to buy time to control his emotions.
From somewhere downstairs they once again heard the moan starting in the bass range and ending up in the high soprano that really hurt the ears. “Uhhh, Artie.”
“Tell me that I am not seeing what I’m seeing at this moment, please.” James was looking down the hallway towards the master suite. For the first time since he had known James West, Artemus Gordon heard real fear in his partner’s voice.
The federal agent looked up at a glowing apparition came silently towards them and the moan began again rising to a high piercing shriek. At first it was just a rather large ball of blue-white light that stopped several feet away from the two men. Slowly, ever so slowly the apparition began to change shape. First it grew a torso, then arms and legs and finally a head appeared at the top. An old man, dressed in a Confederate officer’s uniform stood before them and waited for one of the men to speak.
“Who…who are you?” Artemus looked at what could only be described as a ghost.
“I am Brigadier General George Beauregard Dumont and I want to know why you Yankees are disturbing my rest?”
“We didn’t know that we were disturbing you sir, please forgive us.” Artemus looked at the aging man. He was tall for a man of the Civil War, nearly six feet with stark white hair and a matching full beard.
“Why have you come here?” The general looked at the two trespassers one sitting up against the wall and the other lying on the floor with a large broken spar of wood piercing his body just to the left of where his stomach was located.
“We were sent a message from a contact to come here to find an illegal printing press located somewhere on the property, we started the search here in the house, then we would have moved to the out buildings, but the thunderstorm and lightning kept us here. My…my partner was coming toward me when the roof fell in, apparently struck by lightning.” Gordon informed the ghost.
“Who do you work for?”
“We work for the government we are special agents for the secret service. We investigate counterfeiting, and other threats to the government.” Artie did not specify which government he was speaking about.
Suddenly there was a second apparition floating alongside the general and took the shape of another Confederate soldier instead of the blue-white light of the first ghost this one was a malevolent, angry red. “What are these damned Yankees doing in our home father!”
“They are government agents looking for counterfeiters and an illegal printing press, Godfrey.”
“Their Yankees I tell you and I am sworn to kill Yankees!” the younger ghost screamed and drew his saber, then charged towards James and Artemus. With the splinter still embedded in his body James put himself between his partner and the vengeful ghost. There was a scream of frustration as the ghost’s sword passed through James’ body. Gordon watched as his best friend paled as the sword passed through him and the splinter embedded itself even deeper in the younger man’s body rupturing his spleen.
“James!?” The federal agent reached out and grabbed his partner and gently lifted the badly injured man into his arms. “James? Just take it easy, I’ve got you. Just take it easy.”
“You’re all right, Artie?” The whispered question was barely audible and the secret service agent bent his head to listen to his partner.
“Yes, I’m fine. You protected me again.”
Breathing became difficult, then shallow and finally stopped altogether. With his head still bent the older man began to cry silently as he held the younger man against his chest. Feeling a gentle pressure on his shoulder Artemus looked into the compassionate eyes of the Brigadier. “I am sorry for your loss, my son should never have done that. The war has been over for twelve years, his actions are most regrettable.”
“He…he’s the only family I have…had. James is…was like a younger brother to me. We met during the war, we were assigned to work together by Lieutenant General Grant. We became partners, then best friends, I love him as if here were my brother. I..” Gordon paused, then continued. “Why did your son have to kill him, he was all I had in this world? I loved…him more than my own life, what did James ever do to your son? We’ve never even heard of you or your son until we came here. I’m not the only one who loves James. The President considers James his youngest son and treats him like one, how am I going to tell him, that I didn’t do my job by protecting James?” Artemus looked into the ghost’s eyes, he still had tears sliding down his face.
“He was like a brother to you?” The General looked at the tears running down his the man’s face.
“Yes, he…” Gordon paused again to gather his emotions be for going on. “Jim is…was a man I loved like my brother, I loved him dearly. I..I can understand killing a man in war, it’s either kill or be killed, and I can understand killing to defend yourself or your family, but to just kill an already wounded man who couldn’t even defend himself, that I…I don’t understand why would your son do that?”
“I did not raise my son to be a killer, the war made him one. Godfrey was always short tempered, he would beat the slaves, I tried to stop him, and I even beat him myself so he would know the kind of pain he was inflicting on others. It didn’t make any difference, he just made sure that I never caught him at it again. He even beat the horses and the dogs, and anyone else he wanted to on the estate. I tried my best to break him of that habit, but I now see that I was unsuccessful. I wish I knew what happened to him to turn him into a mindless killer. I served under General Lee and I never noticed that war had this effect on the men in my staff or General Lee’s. I haven’t even seen this kind of behavior even in the ranks of men under my command. That kind of brutality is and was never acceptable, not to me or a civilized society.”
Artemus continued to hold his partner tightly against his chest. The pain in his heart and soul would never end, although with time a very long time into the future maybe he would adjust to losing James, but right now he didn’t think and anything could hurt so badly, not even the loss of his parents. As much as he loved them, and he had loved them deeply, James had become his heart and soul, his confidant, and best friend. He looked deeply into the old generals grey eyes and saw the compassion there.
The general’s head bent as he gently laid his hand on top of James’ head and he began to speak within the vaults of his mind. Slowly almost imperceptibly the ghost began to glow brighter and brighter. That blue-white light flowed from the ghost over James and himself. Artemus remained motionless and silent as this unprecedented phenomenon occurred right before his very eyes. He could feel a vast gentle power flowing from the old man through himself and into James. The glow became brighter and brighter until Gordon had to close his eyes or be blinded by the white light. He waited silently, patiently while the white light did its work healing both himself and his partner, best friend and brother.
Finally the light faded to just plain day light as the sun rose above the horizon and the ghost was gone. James stirred in his arms and opened his eyes. “Artie what’s going on? And why am I so sore?”
“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you. How do you feel besides sore?”
James assessed himself and slowly pulled away from his partner. “A little stiff and I think I have bruises on top of bruises, but mostly I just feel stiff.” He sat up and looked at the exhaustion on his best friends face. “Are you okay, Artie?” He gently touched the older agent on the shoulder almost to reassure himself that Artemus as okay.
“Yes, it’s just been a very long night and I’m tired, didn’t get much sleep with the thunderstorm, the roof falling in and getting both of us out from under the debris. The rest of it I’ll tell you later on the train. Let’s finish searching for this printing press. The secret service agents finally found the press in the furthest out building and they even found the stolen printing plates. Artemus shoved them into his jacket pockets and the two men found their horses standing in the shelter of the enormous barn chewing on the grass that was growing around the building.
James picked up the reins of his stallion and Artie retrieved his gelding they both mounted and headed back to the train to telegraph Colonel Richmond where the illegal printing press, stolen ink and papers and printed piles of money could be found. He would send in a cleanup crew to take care of the leftovers and arrest the counterfeiters.
James led his stallion up the ramp and into the stable car followed by Artemus and his gelding. “Gods, it’s good to be home. I need a bath, shave clean clothes, and something to eat.” West untacked his horse and brushed the animal down. Once he had finished that he made sure that the animal had fresh water, grain and hay. He watched as his partner finished caring for his horse and looked at the younger man. “So, what are you waiting for?”
“An explanation of what happened last night. I remember thunder, lightning, rain and glowing lights, what else happened?” James began removing his dirty suit coat as he walked towards the varnish car and the bathroom.
“Take your bath, shave and get dressed while I make breakfast and once we’re both clean and in clean clothes and sitting down and eating I will try to explain, but I guarantee that you are not going to believe me. Just remember what yesterday was and go with that.”
“What does yesterday have to do with it?” James glared at his partner.
“It was all hallows eve or as we call it Halloween remember?” Gordon smiled as he disappeared into the kitchen.
“Great just great another haunted house story, just what I always want to hear.” James West groused as he disappeared into the bathroom of the varnish car. He could hear his partner laughing at his complain, “Oh, well at least Artie is getting a kick out of this.” As he too began to laugh.