New Fiction: A Lancer Halloween Story October Challenge
I guess I would be attending the Halloween Fest and Dance in Green River by myself this year.
Murdoch was away on business and wouldn't be back until tomorrow some time.
Johnny never did like his fun 'organized' and poor Teresa was ill with a sore throat.
I say 'poor Teresa' because she was really looking forward to the occasion. She made me promise to remember everything that went on and report back to her.
I tried to protest that the male of the species isn't very good at those kind of feminine details, but she persisted.
Since it was just me going, I could have ridden Remmie into town. However, I decided to take the buggy because one never knows when a damsel in distress may need a ride home.
So, I found myself enjoying the dance with several different female partners. Oh, there were some ladies I considered my favorite escorts: Zee and Annabelle Simpson, being two I could mention.
Still and all, I must confess I like my freedom, so there is no special lady in my life right now. Murdoch will be waiting a while for those grandchildren he wants; at least in my case.
Even though I missed my brother, Johnny, I had a good time at the dance. Still, Johnny always had a way to make everything more interesting and more fun. However, I soldiered on without him the best I could.
Between dances, I hung around with friends of mine and drank hard cider. It packed quite a punch, and after downing a few glasses, I was feeling pretty relaxed.
The dance wound down around midnight and I began my drive to Lancer. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no damsels in distress in need of rescuing tonight. I was on my own, sadly.
The moon was full and there was certainly a nip in the air. I had traveled a few miles out of Green River when I saw her standing in the middle of the road.
I was startled when I saw her and sawed on the reins, hard, to avoid running into her.
I waited for my heart to settle in my chest and then flashed a dark look her way.
What is the matter with you? Why were you standing out in the middle of the road? Do you realize how close I came to running you over? I demanded, sharply.
She looked up at me with big blue eyes, but made no reply. She had long blonde hair, and wore a lacy white dress and dainty dancing shoes.
I supposed she was walking home from the dance, but I hadn't remembered seeing her there.
I felt a little ashamed of my outburst because she looked frightened as she gazed into my face.
My apologies, Miss. I almost didn't see you standing there and you startled me. I came close to running you over and it scared me. I'm sorry that I yelled at you.
Tipping my hat to her, I introduced myself.
Scott Lancer, at your service, I said, gallantly.
Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lancer, she replied. My name is Mary Bregovy. I apologize for frightening you. I was attending the Halloween dance in Green River and had an argument with my beau. He was most ungracious and refused to take me home.
The man is a cad, I said, scornfully. I will be happy to escort you to your home, Miss Bregovy.
I would be most grateful, Mr. Lancer. I must admit; I was a little frightened to be out alone at this time of night.
I leaped out of the buggy, and going around to the passenger side, I picked her up by her slim waist and helped her up.
As I got back in and picked up the reins, I asked. Where do you live, Miss Bregovy?
Oh, please call me Mary, she replied. Since you just saved my life.
Then call me Scott, I laughed. But I think you've made me out to be more of a hero than I actually am. It would have been rather remiss of me to leave an unescorted young lady alone on a dark road. I can assure both my grandfather and my father would be appalled by my gross lack of manners.
She laughed. Well, then I suppose I must thank them both for the wonderful job they did in raising you.
I didn't remark on the irony; she couldn't know I wasn't raised by my father.
Lancer, did you say? Is your father Murdoch Lancer? she asked.
Guilty as charged, I replied.
I didn't know Mr. Lancer had a son, she said, studying my face closely.
Two sons, actually. I have a younger brother, Johnny.
Mr. Lancer has two sons? Why did I never know that? She seemed puzzled by the fact.
Well, we've only been with our father now for a few months. Though, granted, I had assumed we Lancers were the talk of the town by now.
Not that I've been aware, she murmured.
I noticed that she was shivering. She had no wrap, only a light shawl to shield her from the cold.
You're cold! Here put this around you, I said, removing my heavy jacket and placing it over her shoulders. She smiled and burrowed into the warmth.
Oh, no. I couldn't, she said. You will be cold.
Oh, I'm tougher than I look, I laughed. Ranch life and my father have seen to that.
Not to mention that you are a gentleman, thanks to your grandfather and father. she smiled.
Yes, something like that, I agreed.
We were almost halfway to Lancer when Mary put a hand on my arm. Pointing to a road that curved west, she said, Turn here, please, she said. I live down this road with my widowed mother.
I made the turn and we traveled almost a mile when I noticed a cozy home, nestled in the woods. A lamp's glow cut through the darkness like a beacon and smoke billowed from the chimney.
Jumping out of the buggy, I went around to her side, and helped her down. Taking her arm, I escorted her to the porch.
Saying our good-byes, she thanked me again for taking her home.
It was my pleasure, I said, tipping my hat. May I see you again?
She gazed at me for a long moment, then said quite mysteriously, Perhaps.
I waited for her to walk inside, but she stood and watched me instead. I had a niggling sense that something was not quite right as I returned to the buggy and jumped in.
Taking the reins, I flicked them lightly across the backs of Zanzibar and Zeus, and started to drive away. I looked over my shoulder at Mary and she waved back at me. The light of the moon caught her blonde hair, pale complexion, and white dress and turned her into something spectral.
After traveling several miles, I thought back on our encounter and I shivered. There was something about Mary that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Something that left me feeling unsettled.
Shivering again, I realized that I had not taken my coat back from Mary. It had turned colder and I could see the plume of my breath in the night air.
Idiot, I berated myself. Murdoch noticed that the coats I had brought with me from Boston would not serve me well at Lancer. My sheepskin coat had been an early birthday present from my father and I had left it behind.
I smiled to myself, though, as retrieving my coat from Mary would give me an excuse to see her again.
Driving through the Lancer arch, I soon pulled up to the hacienda. One of the hands stepped up to take the team from me as I thanked him.
Stepping into the foyer, I noticed that an oil lamp had been left burning, as well as a toasty fire in the fireplace. It never failed to give me a warm feeling; someone cared enough about me to leave a lamp on for me to find my way.
Pouring myself a glass of brandy, I sank into the chair nearest the fire, and felt very grateful for the warmth that returned to my half-frozen body. It was then that I noticed Johnny had been lying on the sofa when I came into the room.
Hey there, Brother, he greeted me as he swung his legs off the couch and onto the floor. How was the dance? Did ya dance with any lady in particular or did you spread your charming self around?
Distracted, I hadn't heard him at first. ...Sorry, you were saying?
Johnny laughed and threw up a hand. No need to tell me, Scott. I can tell by the way you're acting, ya met a special lady at the dance.
Taking a gulp of the brandy, I said, Well, Johnny. You're half right. I met a special lady, but she wasn't at the dance.
Johnny stared at me, a puzzled look on his face. Well, then how'd ya meet her?
It was the strangest thing. I was driving the buggy back home when, suddenly, she was right there in front of the team. It was like she appeared out of nowhere. I really had to pull on the reins so that I wouldn't run over her!
Tell me about her, Brother, said Johnny.
She's beautiful. She comes up to my shoulder, has long blonde hair, big blue eyes, wearing a white gown and dancing shoes. She was...what's the word? Ethereal: intangible, subtle...unearthly
Johnny peered at me, curiously. She sounds special, Brother...Hey, Scott, it's freezing outside. I noticed you were wearing a coat when you left and when you came in just now, you weren't wearing it.
Well, that's just it, she only had a light shawl and she was shivering. Being the gallant gentleman I am, I offered her my coat. And, I forgot to get it back from her, I sighed.
Pretty smart, Boston, winked Johnny. Gives you an excuse to go back and see her again. Say, does this vision have a name?
It's Mary, Mary Bregovy. She lives between Morro Coyo and Lancer with her widowed mother.
Mary Bregovy? Never heard of her or her family, but then we ain't either of us been here long, said Johnny, his brow furrowed.
Well, maybe Teresa or Murdoch know of them, I said, a yawn nearly splitting my face in two.
It's late, Johnny, and morning comes early around here. I'll ask Teresa at breakfast if she knows the Bregovy's. Good night, Johnny.
Nite, Scott, answered Johnny, as he banked the fire, and blew out the oil lamp.
The next morning, I was extremely tired. It had been a short night and my dreams had been haunted by Mary. I was yawning as I stumbled to the breakfast table.
Sipping on a strong cup of coffee, I eyed Teresa, as I asked, Teresa, do you know the Bregovys? Mary Bregovy, in particular. She's probably around your age with long blonde hair and blue eyes. She lives with her widowed mother in the woods between Morro Coyo and Lancer.
Teresa gazed at me with a slight smile on her lips, She sounds lovely, Scott. But, I'm afraid I've not heard of her or her family. Perhaps, Murdoch knows them. He'd supposed to be back from Stockton later today.
Well, we better get going, Johnny, I ordered, clapping on my hat and gun belt, and walking out the front door. Have a good day, Teresa. I'll tell you more about the dance later.
It was a regular working day on Lancer: restocking line shacks, repairing fences, and clearing creeks. We kept busy, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. I was just killing time so I could go see Mary afterward and retrieve the jacket I had left behind.
It was late afternoon when I saddled Remmie and rode for town. I had asked both Johnny and Teresa if they'd care to accompany me, but both of them came up with rather weak excuses to stay home. I think they didn't want to intrude on my meeting with Mary.
Arriving at the Bregovy home, I tied Remmie up to the hitching rail, and walked up to the porch.
I knocked at the door, and an older woman came to the door. Removing my hat, and giving her a slight nod, I said, You must be Mrs. Bregovy; I'm Scott Lancer. I'm very pleased to meet you.
She peered at me, then spoke, Lancer? Are you Murdoch Lancer's son?
Well, one of them, Ma'am, I replied. Excuse me, Mrs. Bregovy, but is Mary at home?
It may have been my imagination, but she seemed to go a shade paler and it took a long moment for her to speak.
Mary? she asked, somewhat hesitantly.
Yes, Ma'am, I said. She was out alone last evening and I brought her home. It was cold and she only had a light shawl with her. I loaned her my coat and forgot to take it back. I'd like to get it and see her again if I could.
Mrs. Bregovy looked at me strangely, You brought her home last night? May I ask you something? Would you please describe her to me.
I was puzzled; surely Mary's own mother knew what her daughter looked like, but I decided to humor her.
Well, she comes up about to my shoulder, she's slender, with long blonde wavy hair and big blue eyes, I replied.
Mrs. Bregovy continued to stare at me. Would you please describe what she was wearing?
This was getting odder by the moment, but still I played along. She was wearing a lacy white dress, dancing shoes, and a lightweight blue shawl.
Mrs. Bregovy's eyes grew wide. Wait here, she ordered, as she entered the house, returning with a framed photograph. Handing it to me, she asked, Was this the young woman you brought home last night?
I studied the photograph; it was her. It was Mary. Looking up, I said, Yes, Ma'am. This is a photograph of your daughter, Mary.
She went even paler and put a trembling hand up to her lips. What she said next was so unexpected, I was shocked to my core.
My daughter, Mary, was run over by a team of horses and killed, on the road between Morro Coyo and here. She was buried in a long, white lace gown, the one you see in the photograph....Where was Mary when you offered her a ride?
I stared at her, surely this was some sort of a bizarre joke. It took me a minute to find my voice, About a mile back.
Close to the Resurrection Cemetery where Mary is buried, she whispered. She was buried five years ago on the 30th of October.
So yesterday, she had been buried exactly five years ago to the day? I whispered.
She merely nodded, then replied, You aren't the first young man to bring her home and you may not be the last.
I see...sorry to have bothered you, Mrs. Bregovy, I stuttered as I stumbled backwards off the porch, hopped up on Remmie, and took for the main road at a run.
On a hunch, I decided to go to the Resurrection Cemetery and look for Mary's grave, before returning home. I walked around for nearly ten minutes or so when I spotted her gravestone near the back fence.
Mary Jeanne Bregovy
Our Darling Daughter
Born: 5 January 1845
Died: 30 October 1865
And there, neatly folded and lying atop of her grave, was my sheepskin jacket. My hands shook as I reached down to retrieve it.
I felt the need to get back to Lancer as quickly as possible, so I spurred Remmie on.
I arrived at Lancer after the dinner hour. I walked in the door, hung up my coat, gun belt, and jacket and joined my family in the Great Room.
Teresa, Johnny, and my father looked up at me. I noticed that Murdoch had made it home from his business trip.
I slowly made my way across the room on shaky legs as Murdoch asked, Where have you been, Scott? We held dinner as long as we could.
I stared dumbly down at him and he jumped up out of his chair.
Taking me by the shoulders, he pushed me down into the seat he had just vacated.
Son, better sit down before you fall down...Johnny, bring your brother a drink.
Johnny jumped up from the sofa, poured me a big belt of scotch and pressed it into my trembling hands. I accepted it gratefully and took a big swallow to calm my nerves.
Teresa, Johnny, and Murdoch all stood over me, worried looks on their faces. I don't know what I looked like at that moment, but they all looked terribly concerned by my appearance.
Finally, my father spoke. Scott, what happened to you, Son?
You look like you've seen a ghost!
- The End -
Theme: Ghostly Traveler
(NOTE TO THE READER:)
This story is based on an urban legend. The story goes that Mary had spent the evening dancing with Phantom Traveler, a boyfriend, at the 'Oh Henry Ballroom. At some point, they got into an argument and Mary stormed out. Even though it was a cold winter's night, she thought she would rather face a cold walk home than spend another minute with her boyfriend
She left the ballroom and started walking up Archer Avenue. She had not gotten very far when she was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver, who fled the scene leaving Mary to die. Her parents found her and were grief-stricken at the sight of her dead body. They buried her in Resurrection Cemetery, wearing a beautiful white dancing dress and matching dancing shoes. The hit-and-run driver was never found.
Some researchers have attempted to link Resurrection Mary to one of the many thousands of burials in Resurrection Cemetery. A particular focus of these efforts has been Mary Bregovy, who died in a 1934 auto accident in the Chicago Loop.