Authors: Janet McNulty
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Ghosts - Vermont
“Who’s Jedidiah?” asked Jackie.
It turned out that Jedidiah was the ghost that instructed me on how to properly groom a horse. The same ghost that I thought was good looking for a man in his forties. Oh yeah, I know how to pick them.
Next thing I knew, Rachel pulled me and Jackie into a bar. A bunch of people in cowboy hats sat around laughing and drinking while playing pool. I never felt more out of place.
Jedidiah tipped his hat toward me. Only Jackie and I could see him. “Nice seeing you again.”
“We should find a table and order some drinks before people start to think we’re weird,” said Jackie.
I glanced around the room and realized she was right so I walked over to the bar itself. “Two beers,” I said hoping it
was an innocuous enough drink.
This place didn’t strike me as the sort of establishment that sold those fancy fruity drinks. The man behind the counter plopped two bottles of Budweiser in front of us.
I thought I felt eyes upon me. I glanced around and found Poppy sitting in a far corner staring at Jackie and I. “What’s he doing here?”
“What?” said Jackie.
“Poppy. The handyman from the ranch. He’s over there.”
“He’s probably just here to get a drink like everyone else,” replied Jackie. “This is the only bar in town.”
“Go on,” urged Rachel, “Ask that fella what Michael Evans wanted when he came here.”
“Why don’t you ask him,” I said. “Rachel, this isn’t a good idea. I think we ought to leave.”
“You know, people are starting to stare at you,” said Jedidiah, “They must think you’re a bit crazy talking to ghosts and all.”
“Probably because they can’t see the ghosts,” I mumbled as I placed my head in my hands. “Let’s go, Jackie.”
Jackie looked relieved as she placed her half drunk beer back on the counter.
“Bar is closed,” said a big man in a Stetson.
Great, the one thing I wanted to avoid. “We we’re just leaving.”
“You know, I’m tired of you tourists coming in here and dropping your money as though you’re better than all of us.”
The guy was starting to get on my nerves. “Look,” I said, “We’re leaving. Just get out of our way.”
“Oh, where are my manners? Excuse me.” The guy stepped aside with a mock curtsey; much to the laughter of his friends.
Jackie and I started for the door.
“You’re not going to take this from him are you?” said Rachel.
“Let it go, Rachel,” I hissed out the side of my mouth.
“After all,” said the man, “We don’t need some nutcase who talks to herself in our town. Go back to the nuthouse you escaped from.”
“That’s it,” said Rachel, rolling up her sleeves, “No one talks to my friend that way.”
She charged the guy and jumped onto his back bringing him to the floor head first. Every one watched as the guy reeled backward from a series of invisible punches.
“Take that you no good—” Rachel continued to lay into the man. A chair seemed to hover in midair as she smashed it on top of the man’s head.
“She attacked him,”
He and his buddies started for Jackie and I. Rachel shoved a table in front of them tripping them. The next thing I knew, the entire place erupted into one huge brawl. Bottles, chairs, and glasses flew everywhere as people attacked one another. Jackie and I darted behind the counter just as a couple of beer bottles came our way.
“Wee doggie,” yelled Jedidiah, “I hadn’t been in a fight like this for a hundred and thirty years!” He charged into the fray tackling some guy.
The man that had hassled me landed on the floor beside me. “You!”
I snatched a bottle and bashed him over the head with it.
“Yay! Way to go, Mel,” shouted Rachel. She kicked someone in the gut.
“YEE-HAW!” Jedidiah swung on one of the lights sailing over the fighting mass of people until he rammed into a man standing on the bar counter. The guy tumbled over and into the mirror directly behind him.
“Ow!” Jackie held her hand over her eye after receiving a punch.
“That’s my friend you jerk!” Rachel crashed into the man that had punched Jackie at the same time I did. Together we held him down while Jackie landed in a few kicks.
“I never knew you had violent tendencies,” I joked to Jackie.
“The way I figure it, he deserved it and we’re probably going to get arrested for this; so might as well make it worth it.” Jackie picked up a stool and hit someone in the back with it.
“Behind you, Mel!”
I turned around just in time to dodge someone’s fist. I punched the man in the chin and gave another hit to his stomach.
“Wooo-hoo,” yelled Jedidiah, “Nothing like a friendly brawl to make you feel alive.” He threw a bulky man across the room.
The two gun shots startled everyone to a complete halt. Bruised and bloodied people looked up to see what had interrupted their fun.
In the bar entrance stood Sheriff Judson and his deputies. One of them held a smoking shot gun that he had just fired twice to get our attention. All motion stopped.
“All right,” yelled Sheriff Judson, “What goes on here?”
“They started it!” Everyone pointed fingers at Jackie and I. How original.
“Okay, girls,” said the Sheriff. “I got to take you in.” He had one of his deputies escort Jackie and I to the jail. “The rest of you remain put. You’ll be staying here until I can get to the bottom of this.”
“Now wait a minute, Sheriff,” said the man that had accosted Jackie and I.
“Earl,” said Sheriff Judson, “I’ll take you in too. Now sit your butt down.”
The man did as ordered.
“All right, Charlie, take them in,” said the sheriff, “I’ll be there in a bit.”
Jackie and I allowed ourselves to be led away; not like we had much choice. Within fifteen minutes we were processed and sitting in a jail cell. The only jail cell in
the Sheriff’s office.
Rachel and Jedidiah sat in the cell with us wearing more somber expressions than Jackie and I. I’m not sure why they decided to lock themselves up. It’s not as though the deputy saw them, nor could a ghost be tried in a court of law. Though I would love to have seen such a thing. Could you imagine any judge putting Rachel on trial?
I’m not sure how much time passed, but Jackie and I waited until the sun had set before the sheriff walked in with Aunt Ethel. The expression on her face said it all. Aunt Ethel was livid.
“Mellow darling, I’m surprised at you,” scolded Aunt Ethel, “The pair of you getting into a bar fight. What would your mothers think?”
Nothing, if you don’t say anything.
“I know you girls were raised better than this.” Aunt Ethel turned to the Sheriff who watched the exchange with mild interest. “Sherriff Judson, how much is the bail for both of them?” She dug into her purse for her wallet.
“Nothing,” answered the sheriff.
“I beg your pardon,” said Aunt Ethel.
“The owner of the bar refuses to press charges,” said Sheriff Judson, “He admits that they didn’t start the fight. In fact, I have a surveillance tape that shows Earl getting attacked by thin air. Your girls were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“So, I’m letting them go. But stay out of the bar in the future.”
Jackie and I gladly left the cell once the door opened.
“I do appreciate this,” said Aunt Ethel.
I noticed the drawers in the sheriff’s desk open on their own as Rachel rifled through them.
“No problem,” said the Sheriff. “Earl is kind of the laughing stock of the town right the moment.”
A cabinet opened and closed.
“But, uh,” continued Sheriff Judson, “I mean it about staying away from the bar.”
“Of course they will.” Aunt Ethel shuffled us out of the sheriff’s office.
The exit opened by itself as Jedidiah held it for us. “Ma’am,” he said tipping his hat.
Aunt Ethel did a slight double take before glancing at me. I shrugged my shoulders in a “let it go” way.
“Really, Mellow, getting into a drunken brawl,” said Aunt Ethel as she continued to lecture me.
“Rachel started it,” I said.
“Yes, I did,” bragged Rachel.
“Get in the car,” ordered my aunt as she opened the door to the driver’s seat.
Suddenly, the car door slammed shut causing Aunt Ethel to jump back. “You and driving don’t go well together,” said Rachel to my aunt, “In the back seat.”
“Well. I never,” huffed my aunt as she crawled into the back seat.
Rachel opened the door for me. “Your chariot awaits.”
“You know, you really shouldn’t get her riled up like that.”
Rachel chuckled devilishly as she climbed into the rear with Jedidiah and my aunt.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in one of these,” said Jedidiah, “Moves all by itself.”
Dreading the drive back to the ranch, I started the car and pulled onto the road with four passengers: two of whom were living, the other two were ghosts.
“And furthermore, Mellow dear,” my Aunt Ethel continued her lecture as we walked into her room.
“Enough, Aunt Ethel,” I blurted out, my anger getting the best of me. “For the last forty minutes you have done nothing but lecture me about the evil of my ways. I’ve had it! Either shut up, or Jackie and I will leave right now.”
A series of claps sounded around us as Rachel jumped up and down. “Oh,” she said when she noticed the displeased looks on both my face and Aunt Ethel’s.
“Well, I never,” said Aunt Ethel.
“Well, the young lady here has a point,” added Jedidiah.
“Uh, what’s this?” asked Jackie as she pulled an ornate box out of a bag.
“That,” said Aunt Ethel grabbing the box, “Is a cigar box. It’s an antique dating back to the pioneer days.”
Jackie took the box from my aunt and examined it. “It says ‘made in Japan’ on the bottom.”
“What!” Aunt Ethel snatched the cigar box and read the small inscription on the bottom. She let her hand fall not wanting to believe that she had been conned.
I took the object from her. Sure enough, it had been made in Japan.
“Ha-ha! You just got Shanghaied,” laughed Jedidiah. “Happens all the time. Ain’t anyone I know who ever carried something that fancy out here.”
“How much did you pay for that?” asked Jackie.
“About three hundred dollars,” answered Aunt Ethel.
My fingers felt something loosen. Curious, I pulled at it until the bottom popped off. Out fell a piece of paper all torn and smudged. I put the box down and carefully unfolded the paper so as to not tear it any more than it already was. It looked very old. “It’s a map.”
Jackie reached for it. I handed it to her so she could study it. “It certainly does look like a map. That box had a false bottom in it.”
“Probably fake,” said Jedidiah.
“I don’t think so,” I said taking the map back, “It looks genuine. The box may have been fake, but this looks real enough. Is there anyone in town who might know more about these things?”
All anger gone from earlier, Aunt Ethel jumped at the chance of learning about the map. “I heard about a woman who’s somewhat of a local historian. Shouldn’t be too hard to find her.”
“I’ll go ask around,” I said, folding up the map. I put it in my pocket determined to keep it near me. “I think we ought to go to bed. In the morning we can get this sorted out.”
“Very well,” said Aunt Ethel, “And don’t lose that.”
Jackie and I went back to our room. Rachel and Jedidiah had disappeared, which didn’t surprise me.
We set out early the next morning in search of the local historian. Sal had given me directions. We spent a good hour in the car driving along a seemingly abandoned dirt road before coming upon a house in the middle of nowhere.
“I hope she likes visitors,” whispered Jackie.
I thought the same thing. One could literally disappear out here. We exited the car and headed for the front door; Aunt Ethel in the lead.
“Yes,” said a middle aged woman as she answered the door.
“Some people in town said that you are a local historian of sorts,” I said, “We found this old map and wanted to know if it’s authentic.”
The woman opened the door allowing us inside.
“My name is Mel and this is Jackie and my Aunt Ethel,” I said introducing us.
“Louise. Won’t you sit down?”
We helped ourselves to a few chairs in her living room. She had a nice looking place with modest decorations, family and farming pictures on the wall, and a fireplace. An old wood stove sat in the corner of the room.
“This is what we found in a cigar box that my aunt bought thinking it was a real antique.” I handed Louise the map and the box.
She took them both and examined them. “I recognize this sort of box,” she said, “People back in the twenties and thirties used to buy everyday objects, age them, and then sell them as pioneer things. This sort of thing still goes on today. Many a tourist has been tricked into buying something they thought dated back to the 1850s or something.”
My aunt pursed her lips clearly steamed about being tricked.
“Now this map is something else.” Louise held it up to the light. She fumbled through a drawer for a magnifying glass. I looked around some more as we waited for her to finish her examination. It didn’t take her long.
“It looks authentic enough,” she said, “This paper definitely seems to be of the type used back in the 1800s. The ink is a bit faded like it should be, but in fairly good condition. What interests me is what it is.”
“What is it?” asked Aunt Ethel.
“If I’m right, this could be map for the treasure of Josiah Bard. He was a known outlaw in these parts back in 1888. Supposedly, he robbed banks and stagecoaches that passed through here. But when the law found him, he had nothing. He said he put his treasure where none but the foolish would find it.
“Many people have been through here looking for his lost treasure, but they’ve all come up empty. Some have even died looking for it. Of course, none of them had a map.”
“Is it real?” I asked.
“Well, the pen strokes match what was used back then,” said Louise, “And the paper seems to be from the same era. Carbon dating could tell you for sure. Also, right here where it’s a bit faded you can see Josiah’s name.” She pointed to a corner of the map. With the magnifying glass I was able to make out Josiah Bard’s name.
“Interesting thing is,” continued Louise,” you aren’t the first ones to bring me this map.”
“We aren’t?” I asked.
“About a week ago some fella from Chicago came here with a map just like this. Except it was an obvious copy from the 1930s. The paper and ink gave it away. Then yesterday, two other fellas came by here with the same exact map. And I mean the same exact one. All of them interested if it really was a map to Josiah Bard’s riches.
“And now here you are with the same map, except this one looks more like the original.”
“Do you remember the other two men’s names?” Jackie asked.
“No, but they weren’t the brightest in the bunch. Kept knocking things over or just getting all mixed up.”
That sounded like Gil and Stark. Could they have heard about the treasure and killed Michael Evans for the map? It was possible.
“Now, I’m going to tell you the same thing I told the others,” said Louise, “Stay out of this. Real or not, Josiah’s lost treasure has brought nothing but trouble to any who went looking for it. A lot of folk have gone missing in the Badlands because they went hunting for it and got lost.
“Josiah’s money went missing long ago. If he did bury it in these hills, he meant for it to stay there.”
Figuring it was time to leave, I stood up. “Thank you for your time.”
“Don’t thank me. Always like helping folks,” said Louise, “But I mean it. Don’t go looking for it. Real or not, you’ll most likely become food for the wild critters around here if you go searching.”
We each thanked Louise before piling into my car.
“A real live treasure hunt,” beamed Aunt Ethel as I pulled back onto the road. “Just think. The excitement!”
“Weren’t we just warned to not go looking for it?” asked Jackie.
“But we have a real treasure map. Josiah Bard’s map,” said Aunt Ethel.
“You didn’t even know who he was until now,” retorted Jackie.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Aunt Ethel. “We have an opportunity to have an adventure and I’m not going to miss it for the world.”
“Shoot!” I blurted out.
“What is it, dear?” asked Aunt Ethel.
“I need to email project updates to my professor,” I replied, “You two don’t mind if we make a quick stop in town do you?”
“No,” said Jackie, “Besides we can get some lunch there.”