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The Spirited Stagehand

A. C. Spahn wanted to be an interstellar starship captain when she grew up. Since nobody was hiring, she became a writer instead. She enjoys training in martial arts, organizing messy rooms, and researching a hobby-of-the-month. When not commanding imaginary starships, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and feline overlord. She is the author of the Endurance series of comedic sci-fi novellas and short stories appearing in Outposts of Beyond, Disturbed Digest, and other publications.

"Why are you haunting this theater?" Cara Watt, paranormal investigator, asked the ghost hovering in front of the stage left curtains.
"Ooooooooh," moaned the ghost. "My heaaaaaaaad...."
"Knock it off and give me a straight answer."
The ghost sighed. "Why bother haunting a place if you don't indulge in spookiness?"
Beside Cara, Detective Derek Faraday snickered. "Don't ask Cara that. She's something paranormal, but she won't tell me what, or use any of her powers."
"What do you call my deductive skills?" Cara grinned at Detective Faraday before turning back to the ghost. "Are you going to tell us what you want, or do we leave?"
"Very well." The ghost floated down until he appeared to stand on the stage floor. A pair of stagehands rolled a set piece past them, paying the ghost no mind. Citizens of Watson Ridge were used to the paranormal.
"My name is Charles Alencon. I come for vengeance," said the ghost. "I worked in this theater over one hundred years ago. Observe the poles overhead." Cara and Faraday both tilted their heads to peer into the bright stage lights. Curtains, set pieces, and lighting equipment hung on bars suspended from the ceiling by pulleys. "I was repainting the stage floor," the ghost continued, "when someone unlocked the pulley for the main curtain. Boom! The whole thing collapsed, crushing me instantly. I have waited in the spirit realm ever since, fighting to manifest myself and claim my revenge."
"Assuming your story is true," said Detective Faraday, "whoever unlocked the pulley is long dead."
"Not necessarily," said Cara. "Watson Ridge has its share of long-lived creatures." They both paused to watch a stagehand with fangs roll a staircase behind the curtain.
Static crackled through the theater's sound system. "Hey, Nancy Drew and company," boomed a no-nonsense woman's voice. "They're bringing in the cauldron set in a few minutes. I need y'all to move upstage."
"I am a deceased person attempting to reveal the identity of the miscreant who murdered me!" Charles shouted, waving ethereal arms toward the sound booth.
More static. "Reveal whatever you want. Just do it upstage."
With a sigh, the ghost drifted toward the orchestra pit.
"Upstage, dead guy."
Cara grabbed Detective Faraday's hand and tugged him toward the back of the stage. Charles followed, grumbling about respect for the dead.
"Whatever the case," said the ghost, "I am here to identify the devious, murderous, spiteful, lethal--"
"Repetitious?" Faraday offered.
Charles glared at him. "--malefactor so you can see justice done." He flourished a wispy finger toward the fanged stagehand adjusting the staircase. "There is your villain!"
The stagehand froze. "What? I haven't done anything."
"Lies, cur!"
Cara Watt folded her arms. "Very dramatic, Charlie. Can I call you Charlie?"
"I'm doing it anyway. Now that you've finished your drama, why don't you tell us what's really going on?"
"Yes," said Detective Faraday, eying the ghost. "You're clearly lying."
"How could you know that?"
"If you really were a professional stagehand," said Cara, "you'd know that upstage means away from the audience. Not toward it."
"Ah, drat!" Charlie slapped his translucent palm against his thigh. "I should have prepared for that. It's hard to use a computer for research when you're dead."
"What are you really doing in this theater?" Detective Faraday asked.
The ghost looked glum. "Hiding. From the kidnappers."
Cara arched an eyebrow. "Kidnappers?"
"Yes. It's all a stir amongst the other paranormals. Someone is abducting us. No one knows who or why."
Faraday glanced at Cara. "We haven't heard anything about this, but we'll look into it."
"In the meantime," said Cara, "the cast and crew of Macbeth would appreciate you leaving them alone."
"Hey!" Static crackled as the disembodied voice shouted from the sound booth. "Don't say the name of The Scottish Play in a theater, lady!"
Cara blushed. "Sorry!"
As Charlie drifted forlornly through a nearby wall, Detective Faraday eyed Cara. "I guess you don't know everything, then. I was starting to wonder."
"Yet another clue to help you figure out what I am?"
"I'll solve this mystery one day. Even if it takes a lifetime."
"It very well might." Cara took his hand as they headed out of the theater.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
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