Cartouche

The night seemed to be strangely quiet. Even the sound of the crickets had died down, and the frogs had grown silent in the nearby pond. The scurrying of small night creatures was absent. Only the light sound of the breeze through the trees filled the air. 

“Will it happen?” Blaine said in what was more like a stage whisper than a true whisper.

Britany shushed him loudly. “We have to be quiet,” she admonished as quietly as she could.

Blaine rolled his eyes. He turned to look behind him for their friends who were late as usual. They were probably lost. Leave it to them to take a chance like this and toss it aside.

He turned back to Britany to make a comment about Tarah and Lane, but the intense look on her face silenced him. He didn’t have the heart to interrupt her concentration on the spot. 

Three hundred years earlier the spot before them had been the scene of an ugly encounter. A gallant thief had tried to waylay a carriage of a nobleman. Upon fatally getting shot, his ghost had taken up residence in the area and was rumored to appear every full moon to reenact his death. 

The full moon shone down through the trees where the two college students waited. Why they were hiding from a ghost that just reenacted his death each month was beyond Blaine’s understanding. He would rather go back to the hotel and have a few beers.

“I still don’t get it,” he mumbled. The chill in the night air didn’t help the situation.

Britany gave him a hard glare. Her dark green eyes had a steely look to them. “Be quiet for once.” She swatted at him. “Always talking.”

“You could stop me,” he taunted her with a suggestive look. 

This time she rolled her eyes. Instead of responding to his words, she turned around and stared at the site they hoped the ghost would appear. Her ponytail nearly hit him in the face. 

A small cloud drifted over the moon. Britany looked up and smiled. It was nearly time. Legends had the ghost appearing only on nights that were cloudy. Clear nights were quiet and very uneventful. Action reportedly only occurred when the sky had quite a bit of cloud covering it. Or maybe that is only when they could see the apparition. 

Blaine was the reason they were there. He was obsessed over ghosts and anything paranormal. Ghost movies. Ghost books. He watched the shows on ghost hunters. He visited haunted sites…virtually. He was a sit on the couch kind of ghost hunter. Sitting in the cold was not his idea of fun. Plus, he loved ghosts. He just didn’t really believe they existed. Just cool to think they might. 

Then Britany decided it would be fun to see a real ghost. They attended a college a few hours away so it was not too surprising to take a late night road trip. It’s just their friends didn’t leave when they did. They had a date and wouldn’t postpone it for the adventure. They had told Britany and Blaine that they would catch up with them. .  

A rustling sound made them both pause. Then Blaine’s phone whistled.  

Britany narrowed her eyes at him. “Really? You couldn’t turn it off?”

“You wanted Lane to let us know when they were coming.”

“Then change it to vibrate. Whistling?”

Blaine took in a deep breath and looked at his phone. “They can’t find us.”

“Oh, geez!” Britany stood up and looked down the path. Then she let out a shrill whistle. 

“So you can whistle?” 

“Will you just be quiet?” Britany settled back down beside him. It was nearly midnight. 

The approach of their friends was as loud as a troop of soldiers marching in a parade. Britany sighed in exasperation. The night was not going as she had planned. 

“There you are!”

Two teens with jackets and hats on appeared from around a tree. They huffed as they crouched down beside the others. 

Britany looked them up and down. “Didn’t you bring your blankets?”

“Blankets?” Lane asked with a confused frown. “We were supposed to bring blankets?”

“Didn’t you read your texts?” Britany shook her head and swung back to look at the road. “I told you to pick up the blankets I had left you at the front desk.” She pointed her hand at the blanket that she and Blaine sat on. Another one covered their laps. 

Lane pulled out his phone and gave a nervous laugh. “Guess I missed it.”

Tara slapped Lane on his arm. “Like you miss all my texts.”

“Both of you!” Britany whispered angrily. “Ten minutes.”

Shifting, the four managed to get on the blanket though Britany refused to share the one across her lap with them. After more shifting, silence descended again. The moon shone bright once again. 

The road was nothing but a dirt track that had not been paved as civilization had advanced across the countryside. The locals had fought against any improvements since it was such a large part of the area’s history. They wanted to keep it as authentic as they could. Though more associated with an old ghost now, the locals prided themselves in not changing the countryside. 

The actual site of the attempted robbery was marked by an old plaque. Britany had picked a spot across the road from the sign that had a small clear area behind a line of short shrubs against the woods. 

Another cloud passed over the luner light. Britany bounced slightly in anticipation. Blaine became a little more alert. 

What if it was real? What if there really was a ghost? It would be the coolest thing in the world. Plus, it would give him much needed points with Britany. 

A distant sound caught Blaine’s attention before anyone else noticed. He thought it was a car, but no lights could be seen down the road. Then he glanced up. Was there a thunderstorm coming? No. Not enough clouds for that. 

Then Britany’s nails dug into his thigh. He nearly yelled out in pain when her other hand went over his mouth. The couple behind them froze in their attempt to make out quietly. 

Britany leaned over until her lips nearly touched his ear. “Listen. I hear something.”

He felt better in knowing he was not alone in hearing a sound, but he would have preferred a less painful way of discovering that. Very slowly, he put his hand over hers that tortured his thigh and eased it into his. He only hoped she thought he was being romantic and supportive. 

It worked. She squeezed his hand back. Then she kept squeezing. Blaine bit his lip. This was going to be a very painful night for him. 

The sound grew louder. Blaine frowned. It didn’t sound like a car. He didn’t know what it was, but it was not his imagination. 

“Man, that sounds like a horse,” Lane whispered. 

The closer the sound grew, the more Blaine agreed with that assessment. Who would be out on a horse at that time of night? But the sound appeared to be more than one horse. 

Blaine moved his gaze from the distant road to Britany but stopped halfway. He narrowed his eyes as he peered across the road. The moon was full, but the clouds and the trees above them kept the area dark. Did something move across the road?

Fear slammed into his chest. Weren’t there bears in this part of the country? Mountain lions? He had no idea, but something was over there. Between the increased volume of the mysterious sound and the movement he saw again, he was beginning to think they should get out as quick as possible. 

Just as he was about to tell the others his thoughts, the sound was upon them. Blaine jerked his head around to see what it was. And gasped!

It was a horse. No, it was two horses. And they were nearly transparent. What appeared to be a coach was pulled by the spectres. 

The horses pulled up several feet away from the four hiding in the bushes now with baited breath. Their eyes moved together to see another apparition standing in front of the horses – a translucent gun pointed at the snorting creatures. 

It was him! Cartouche!

The spirit was detailed. He stood with his legs apart. A long coat covered his britches and a hat was set low on his face. Blaine could see the buttons on his open coat and the tail of a scarf whipping in a ghostly breeze behind him. The colors were muted, but Blaine could see a difference in the shades of the coat and the hats. 

And the face was hidden by the shadow of the hat and the scarf that covered the mouth and nose. It was just like in the old movies Blaine had seen about highwaymen. 

“Get out of the way!”

The voice came from the carriage. A figure sat atop it, reins in hand. The driver waved a hand at the highwayman as though the man with the gun was a mere goat blocking the road. Despite being a servant, the arrogance in the voice was unmistakable. 

A laugh echoed from behind the scarf. “I think not.”

“What’s going on, Hinson?” Another voice sounded from within the carriage and only heard because a mouth could be seen in the window by the moonlight. 

“A highwayman, my lord.” The voice sounded exasperated, not what one would expect with a gun pointed at them. 

“Another one?” More exasperation. 

“Yes, sir.”

“Run him over,” came the reply. 

As the driver lifted the reins to push the horses forward, the highwayman raised his hand. The shot caused them all to jump. 

In hiding, the four reached for each other but couldn’t take their eyes off the scene. They didn’t even make a noise. It was though they were enchanted as they watched the road in front of them. 

The driver abruptly sat back down. His hand quickly swept up to cover his ear. “You shot me!”

“What happened?” the nobleman inside the carriage called out.

“He shot my ear!”

“What?”

The highwayman laughed. “What did you expect? I have a gun. Did you think I’d ask you to dance?”

“Out of the way! Hinson, remove the bromide.” The nobleman’s hand waved out the window with no regard to the danger that faced them. 

The highwayman raised his hand once again. “The next ball will go into your heart. I personally would not want to kill either of you, but if you desire it so much…” The man shrugged. “Who am I to turn down your request?”

“My lord, I think he is serious.”

Grumbling, the nobleman opened the door and stepped down onto the dirt road. He was dressed finely though the ghostly appearance had him in muted blues and greys. His powdered wig was covered by a flat that became askew as it hit the edge of the door. 

“What are you saying?” The man reached up to right his hat. 

“I think he will actually shoot us, sir.”

The nobleman opened his mouth to protest, but his eyes landed on the pistol. “What do you want, man?” Despite his condescending words, there was a trace of nervousness in them.

“Your valuables, of course. Why else would I be out on such a cold night?” The highwayman waved his gun. “Now please slowly hand over your purse and any other valuables on your person.”

The nobleman stared at the robber for several moments before reaching under his coat and pulling out a small pouch. He tossed it at the man holding the pistol. The leather purse landed a few feet from the highwayman with a dull thump. 

“And the rings,” the highwayman prompted. 

Hesitating again for a few seconds, the man pulled the rings off and tossed them next to the purse. Then with a sigh, he pulled out his watch and tossed it as well. 

“Thank you, my lord. I hope you have a safe journey home and avoid any issues with other men like me.”

 The highwayman moved to step to the side without touching the plunder that had been relinquished to him. It was as though the valuables were nothing but were pebbles. He waved his hand with the pistol in it. 

“Goodnight.”

The nobleman looked down at his purse and jewelry before climbing back into his carriage and telling the driver to continue. A flick of the reins, the carriage moved forward. 

When the carriage had passed him, the highwayman watched it carefully before stepping out again. He leaned down and picked up the discarded valuables. 

Britany leaned forward and looked down the road to where the carriage had disappeared. The noise of the receding vehicle had stopped. She gasped, unable to silence herself. 

The highwayman jerked his head up, his eyes landed on the hidden foursome. Then he quickly looked down the road at the departing carriage that had stopped several yards away. With a sudden intake of breath, the man fell to the ground as a shot boomed in the night air again. 

The sound of horses and carriage wheels reached the hidden figures again. The figure on the ground raised his head and looked down the road. Then it moved to stare at the hidden figures. Slowly, he pushed himself up and patted his hands over his chest. He looked up with a confused look on his face. 

“What have you done?” he asked breathlessly.

“What have you done?’ he repeated the question. “I was supposed to be shot. I’m not. What happened?”

The four hidden figures held their breath. 

The highwayman looked at them again. “I see you there. Come out. What did you do?”

“Can he see us?” Blaine whispered to his friends. 

“Yes, I can see you. Will come out and explain what happened? I was supposed to die.”

Britany looked at Blaine and shrugged. The four slowly stood up. 

The highwayman patted his chest again. “You warned me.”

“Uh, that was an accident,” Britany said as she gripped Blaine’s hand. “I didn’t mean to.”

“I guessed as much.” He sighed and put his hands on his hips. “Now what?”

“What do you mean?” Blaine asked and took a tentative step onto the road. 

The man jerked his scarf down around his neck. A frown surrounded his mouth. “I mean, what do I do now? I’ve died every full moon for…I don’t know how long. Seems like hundreds of years.”

“Legend says you died 350 years ago,” Britany replied. 

The highwayman took his hat off and ran a hand over his face. “Really? Doesn’t seem that long.” He shrugged. “Usually by now, I’ve gone back to hell. I’ve never survived that night.”

“You’re talking to us,” Blaine said. 

“Uh, yes. I’m talking to you. You are standing on the side of the road, correct?”

They all nodded. 

“And you were watching me as I held up the carriage?”

They nodded again. 

“So, yes, I’m talking to you.”

“You’re a ghost?” Lane pointed out.

“You are a bright one, aren’t you?” The highwayman looked them up and down. “Are you representative of most people of this age?”

They shook their heads. 

“Thank goodness for that. Is there anyone in your world to help me?”

“You’re a ghost, and you are talking to us,” Blaine repeated. 

“Again, you are very intelligent.”

“You’ve never spoken to anyone else before?” Britany was the first to find her voice and stop repeating the same statement. 

“No. The same scene has played out since I died on this road. I guess it is better than being hung each time. I would imagine that would be more painful.”

“I can’t believe you are real,” Britany breathed. 

“Intelligence doesn’t manifest itself in you, does it? I’m not real. I’m a ghost. A spirit. An apparition.” He waved a hand up and down to indicate his transparent body which had a chatoyant appearance as the clouds moved past the moon. 

“But you are a real ghost. You are not something we have imagined.” Britany took another step forward. “We came here to see you but never thought you really existed.”

“As you can see, I do. I hope you enjoyed the experience in watching me die. Well, in watching what was supposed to be my death.”

An uncomfortable silence settled on them. Each of them shifted on their feet and looked around. 

Blaine broke the quiet. “If you had lived that night, where would you have gone that night?”

The highwayman put a finger to his chin. “Well, I would have taken my baubles and gone to the Dancing Arrow.” His back straightened and whirled around. Eyes scanning the road, he exclaimed, “Yes! I lived. They didn’t come back to get them.”

“What?”

He picked up the loot and turned it over in his hands. “I was shot. They came back and took this out of my hands. The last thing I saw was that bastard’s haughty smile.” He looked up at the group. “Now I win. I honestly have no idea what to do next.”

“Did they not realize something was different?” Blaine pointed down the road. “You realize something was different. Didn’t they?”

“I do not know.” He shook his head. “What are your names? I guess I should know the names of those who saved me from another death.”

“I’m Blaine.”

Britany stepped in front of Blaine. “I’m Britany. I can’t believe you are talking directly to us.”

The highwayman nodded and frowned at the same time. “And you?” He tilted his head to the others. 

“I’m Lane. This is Tara.”

“I am Edgar.” The man gave a dramatic bow. 

“Edgar?” Britany shook her head. “I thought your name was Cartouche.”

The man laughed. “Oh, that. Edgar is not a very intimidating name. Plus, someone might recognize me if I used it. Cartouche is a more exotic name. Speaks of the Old World. Gives me an air of mystery along with a vile French name.”

“Edgar?” Britany whispered again. “Edgar?”

Blaine rolled his eyes. “Hi, Edgar.”

Edgar nodded his head as he fingered his treasure. “What year is it?”

“2020,” Blaine answered. 

“350 years,” Edgar mumbled. He looked over at the others. “Obviously, fashion has changed. Is this typical for women to dress like men?”

“Pretty much,” Blaine responded. 

Britany jumped up and down. “Can I touch you?”

Edgar drew back. “Are women so forward now?”

Britany glared at him. “Not like that! Blaine is my boyfriend. I just want to know what it feels like to touch a ghost.”

Giving her a doubtful look, Edgar replied, “I doubt you can feel me, but give it a try.” He held out an arm to her. 

Britany didn’t hesitate as she shoved her hand forward. Instead of landing on flesh and bone, her hand passed right through Edgar’s arm. She let out a squeal and did it again. The third time, Edgar pulled back and held his hand against his chest. 

“I think that is enough touching on your part.”

“That is so cool”

Edgar shook his head. “I would think touching a ghost would having a chilling effect.”

“She means that it was exciting to her. It’s a phrase we use.” Blaine waved a hand at Britany. “She thinks it was exciting to do that.”

“It was like putting my hand in front of an air conditioner.” She held her hand up to the moonlight as though looking for ice crystals on it. 

“Let me try,” Lane announced as he pushed her aside. 

Edgar stepped back in horror. “I think not. Is a person’s body not sacred anymore?”

“Be quiet!”

Everyone turned to look at Tara. She held a hand up to them and cocked her head to one side. They all froze. 

The sound of a carriage and horses was returning. They all held their breath and peered into the darkness where the ghostly carriage had disappeared. A shimmer. Then more. 

“It’s coming back,” Britany cried out.

Edgar shook his head in confusion. “This is getting stranger by the moment.”

Without a word spoken, they all moved to the side of the road where Edgar had been hiding to ambush the carriage. The carriage stopped in front of them. The window lowered, and the nobleman leaned out. His forehead was creased. 

“What just happened?” the nobleman asked. 

Edgar shrugged. “I don’t know. I was warned by these observers.” He waved a hand at the foursome. 

The nobleman looked them over as did the driver who leaned down from his perch. “What do we do now?”

“That’s the question I have been asking. Nothing has changed the events of that night.”

The nobleman shook his head. “Well, this is a quandry. We travelled for at least a mile before I realized that circumstances had changed.” He looked the highwayman up and down. “You are not wounded?”

Edgar shook his head.

“Well, I never miss. First time in ages.”

“350 years to be exact,” Edgar replied. 

“What?” The nobleman pulled back slightly. “That long? How time flies!”

“So what do we do now?” the driver asked. 

“Seems to be the question of the night.” Edgar scratched his chin. 

Lane leaned close to Blaine. “What time is it?”:

“What? Oh, one-thirty.”

The nobleman leaned out again. “I wonder if I can go back to my estate. We are near my demesne.”

“Demesne?” Tara inquired. 

“Yes, the land attached to my estate. A few tenants live on it. The land is very close.”The man waved a laced wrist in the direction the carriage had originally been travelling. He then looked up toward his driver. “Let us go see how our estate looks today.”

The carriage rambled off, leaving the others standing on the side of the road. Edgar tossed the pouch in his hand up in the air. 

“I wonder what ghost money is worth in your world,” he mused. 

“Probably not much,” Blaine responded. “Is there somewhere you’d go if you could?”

Edgar considered the words. “No one I know is still alive. I doubt any of the buildings I am familiar with are still standing.”

“Tell us why you were a highwayman,” Britany begged him. 

Tara and Lane and moved to sit on a fallen log. Blaine and Britany followed suit on another log. Edgar just plopped down on the ground. The dirt and leaves didn’t even stir from his presence. 

“It was completely by accident,” Edgar began. “I worked as a pickpocket back in town. It was not a lucrative business as the town was small, but there were times when wealthy travelers came through. Otherwise, I worked at the tavern cleaning and serving when needed. It added a few coin to feed me.”

“Were you an orphan?” Britany leaned forward with anticipation clearly stamped on her face. 

Edgar shrugged. “I have no idea. I assume so. I always lived in the gutters. Never knew anyone but the boys I ran with. We stole food and then money. When I got older, I couldn’t hide as easily as when I was a small child. Not a good thing for a thief. I worked in the tavern for a few years and watched the men who came in. For fun, I tried to imitate them. One day, a rich merchant traveling through the area stopped at the tavern and treated a serving girl rather badly.”

Edgar looked up at the moon. His mouth was set in a grim line. He drifted off, lost in thought. The others kept silent, fearing to break the spell that had settled over them as he had begun his tale. 

“I wanted to jump him in an alley, but he was on his way before I could make my plans. Instead, I decided to waylay him along the road. There were a few highwaymen about, One had a fearsome reputation. I decided to pretend to be him. I had actually met him a few times, or at least the man I thought was him. He visited the tavern numerous times when reports of him in the area circled about. What I didn’t know was that he had a traveling companion with him. I felt guilty for frightening the woman. So I attempted to eliminate her fear. In the process of relieving the gentleman of his coin and the jewels of the woman, I garnered a reputation. Women longed to be held up by me. Men cursed my name. It became rather lucrative though a large price was put on my head.”

“Was the night you died the only time you were shot at?” Blaine asked. He found himself wanting to know so much more about this ghost and the story behind his death. How often could people talk to a ghost and find out the truth of the legend?

“Oh, no!” Edgar laughed. “I have been shot at many times. A few times I was hit, but nothing fatal until…” He looked around them. “Until this night.”

“What was so different about tonight?” Lane inquired.

“I was careless.” Edgar’s words sounded wistful. “I made a mistake. Never reach out for the reward until the danger is past. I did not wait. I wanted to get to my lover. That was why I died tonight alone on a road at midnight.”

“You didn’t die tonight,” Tara interjected.

Edgar looked over at her. “No, I did not die. I am not sure what happens to a ghost who does not die when they are supposed to.”

They grew silent again.Then the sound of the carriage returning brought their heads up. It stopped next to them with the nobleman leaning against the window. 

“It’s gone.” His voice was strangled. “Everything is gone. There are only fields.”

Edgar slapped his hands on his thighs. “Well, it has been a few hundred years, my lord. Things change. Time does not wait for anyone, even the rich and powerful.”

“Well, what do we do now?” The driver leaned down. “Do we just sit here and wait?”

Britany sat up straight with eagerness brightening her eyes. “What if you do it again?”

The three men looked at her with confused expressions. In fact, so did the others. 

She rolled her eyes. “Reenact the night. Do it all again.”

The men looked at each other for several moments as they thought on her words. The driver took his hat off and scratched his head. Edgar rubbed the back of his neck. The nobleman tapped a long finger on his chin. 

“It could work,” Edgar said softly. “We just do it all again.”

Everyone agreed, and those sitting stood up. 

Edgar turned and pointed at the four. “And you keep yourselves quiet. Now that I know you are there…”

The sound was deafening. The smoke billowed up between the nobleman and Edgar. 

“You shot me!” Edgar exclaimed. 

“Well, that was what did not happen. Now it has. But you are not dead.”

“Of course, I am dead. I am just not dead…again.” Edgar looked down and patted his hand over his chest. “Did you miss?”

“I never miss!” the nobleman exclaimed. 

“Well, you did this time,” Edgar argued. “There is no blood. No hole. You missed.”

“I did not miss!” the man in the carriage shouted. “It didn’t work!”

“We didn’t do it all the same again,” Edgar pushed back.

The man rolled his eyes. “The only thing missing was shooting you. I feel silly having you rob me again. Plus, you still have my valuables. You have robbed me already.”

Edgar grabbed the nobleman’s hand and slammed the plunder in his hand. “There! You have it back.” Edgar staggered back. This time it was the driver who fired a pistol.

“It didn’t work,” the driver noted. 

“Really?” Edgar glared at him. “Stop shooting me.”

“It isn’t like it hurts you, does it/” the driver asked.

“No, but that is not the point!” Edgar glowered. “Would doing it all exactly the same work since being fired upon again and again does nothing?” 

Everyone shrugged. 

“Want to play a game of whist?” the nobleman inquired. 

Edgar glared again. “Are noblemen as dimwitted as they were in my time?” 

Blaine shook his head. Then he paused. “Well, maybe. We don’t have noblemen as you think of them. There are plenty of rich people, and quite a few don’t use their brains. But they don’t impact people’s lives like they did in your time.”

Edgar reached under his coat. Another explosion. Smoke filled the air. 

“You shot me!” the nobleman shouted. 

“Did not work,” Edgar noted. He looked at the man with a wry grin. “I had to give it a try.”

“Well, this is a fine predicament.” The nobleman tapped his fingers against the edge of the window. 

Blaine stepped forward. “Wait. Did you two die that night as well?” He pointed at the nobleman in the carriage and the driver. 

“Uh, no,” the nobleman answered. “I died several years later from a fall off a horse.”

The driver said, “I was stabbed in an alley after insulting a man in a bar.”

Their answers were matter of fact about their own deaths. It was though they answered what time it was as they passed casually on the road. 

“Why do you ask?” Edgar turned to Blaine. 

“You died when you robbed them. That makes sense on why you relive this moment. But why do you two relive this every night? You did not die then.”

Everyone grew silent. The ghosts had stone faces as they contemplated the words spoken to them. They looked at each other and shrugged. 

“I do not know,” the nobleman finally answered. “Now that you mention it, that does not make any sense.”

Blaine continued, “Do you haunt the places you died? Maybe you haunt multiple places.” He had never heard of anything like that, but then again he did not know anyone could converse with a ghost or change the outcome of an ageless haunt. 

“Not that I am aware of.”

The driver nodded in agreement with his employer. He leaned further down the side of the carriage. 

“Then there is something special about this night,” Blaine noted. 

“Maybe it is the moon,” Lane added. 

Britany exclaimed, “That’s it! The full moon. That is the only time you appear.”

“So when the sun rises, we go back to the way things were?” the nobleman asked. 

“Possibly.” Britany didn’t look as confident, but hope shone in her eyes. 

Edgar looked up at the moon. “How much time do we have before dawn?”

The moon was still high in the sky. The clouds had become more numerous and drifted at a rapid speed across the sky. The breeze around them moved about periodically but never at the intensity the wind that drove the clouds did. 

Blaine looked at his digital watch. “It is two. I don’t know what time dawn is.”

“What type of contraption is that?” Edgar pointed at Blaine’s watch. 

“A watch.” Blaine held out his arm. 

“Strange looking watch.”

“What makes it light up?” the nobleman asked.
Blaine shrugged. “A battery, but I don’t know exactly how it all works. Everyone has something like it.” He thought of adding that phones typically replaced watches, especially for the younger generations. But thought better of it. A simple digital watch fascinated the ghosts. Adding more to that would have caused more confusion. Afterall, they were over three hundred years behind the times. 

“Might as well settle back down until the sun rises.” Edgar motioned at their seats they had vacated when the carriage had returned. 

As they resumed their seats, a whispered conversation occurred between the man in the carriage and the driver. Eventually, the driver climbed down to stand on the road and open the door for the nobleman to step out onto a step the driver had pulled from under his own seat and sat down on the dusty road. . 

Rushing forward, the driver moved the stool down for the nobleman to sit on. Once the man was seated, the driver moved to pat the horses who had been neglected the entire time but didn’t seem to be upset with seeing the world through ghost eyes. 

“Who is king now?” the nobleman asked. 

“Oh, there is no king. Queen Elizabeth II is on the throne now.” Britany sat on the edge of the tree seat. 

“A woman rules us?”

“Actually, no.” Blaine coughed. “She rules Great Britain. Not America.”

“We are not ruled by England?” Edgar sat back with astonishment on his face.
Blaine continued, “Well, there was a war, a revolution. The colonies joined together to form the United States of America. Since your time, it has spread across the whole continent and is about five times what you knew of the English colonies.”

“Revolution!” The nobleman put a hand to his chest. “How awful! Who rules you now?”

Lane took up the explanation. “The President. We elect him every four years, and he works with our version of Parliament.” Lane’s studies in government paid off for once. 

“I am not sure I want to know the rest,” the rich man mumbled. “My entire way of life is gone.”

“Yes, things have changed quite a bit,” Blaine admitted. “So who were you when you were alive?”

“I am Lord Hatchford. I lived down the road at Montclair.” His face became crestfallen. “As I said earlier, it is no longer there. I do not think I thought about the years and the fact that my wife and children would be gone as well. I wonder if they moved on.”

“You?” Blaine asked the driver. 

“Me?” The man stood up straighter. “Oh, I was a driver and worked in the stables at the manor. Was married for a bit, but she died in childbirth. That was many years before I finally died.”

“What about the four of you?” Edgar asked. 

“We go to a university about three hours away.” Blaine answered for them all. 

The nobleman looked them over. “All four of you? Women?”

Britany glowered at him. “Yes, women! There is no prejudice against them in today’s modern world.”

Tara added, “We can be doctors, lawyers, and even rule countries.”

The ghosts looked at each other in astonishment at the women’s indignant outburst. Edgar smiled. 

“Good for you. Progress!”

The lord raised one eyebrow. “You would have those sentiments.”

Edgar sat up straight and pulled his shoulders back. “And what does that mean?”

“You are an uneducated cretan. Our society was great and that was mainly due to the structure that held it up.”

“You mean one run by arrogant men who cannot see the value of a woman?” Britany crossed her arms across her chest. 

The nobleman tilted his head up as he looked at her. “The value of a woman can be found in how she manages her household and her family. Her virtue and reputation…”

Tara and Britany stood up at the same time as though on cue. Their eyes blazed with anger. 

Tara was the first to speak. “Tell me you didn’t go there. Tell me that.”

“That is one reason your society collapsed,” Britany continued. “Staying in the past does not allow success. Britain is nothing compared to what it once was because the world moved on and challenged archaic notions. In today’s world, women can do anything a man can and does quite often. We are not limited. Our value is based on how we view ourselves and not how men who only want us for one thing feel. God didn’t make us to just lie on our backs for you. He gave us a mind and a soul that we put to good use.”

Blaine had pulled back when the two young women had stood up. He knew what was coming. He had seen it before, and he knew to step out of the way. These ghosts had no idea what can of worms they had opened up. 

“Here! Here!” Edgar cheered. 

Lane coughed. “Well, now we can say we’re not the only ones to get that talking to.” He grew quiet as Tara and Britany turned their heads to glare at him. 

“Are most women of such mind?” the driver asked. 

“Pretty much,” Blaine admitted. 

The driver smiled. “My Maggie would have enjoyed this new world.” A look of sadness passed over the ghostly face. 

It was as though all the fight fled from the women at the man’s words. They sat down but kept a glaring eye on the nobleman who shifted uncomfortably on his seat. 

Lane looked at his watch. “It’s nearly dawn.”

Everyone looked up toward the horizon. Edgar was the first to speak. 

“What do we do if the dawn doesn’t send us back?”

No one answered. They sat and waited. Only the mist from the college kids’ breathing moved. 

“In case I do not get the chance to tell you.” Edgar turned to the four. “Thank you for giving this spirit a little excitement.”

Blaine laughed. “I guess you are welcome. To us, robbing someone, getting shot, and interacting with ghosts is more excitement than we could have dreamed of. So we thank you as well.”

Edgar chuckled. “We all had an unusual night.”

The first rays of dawn peeked over the horizon. Each one held his breath. 

“Here we go,” Lane breathed softly. 

Britany leaned toward Edgar and said quickly, “If it does work, we’ll be here next month to see if you again.”

Edgar smiled at her. “Maybe we can have more adventures together. Explore the area. Teach us the world you live in.”

“That would be fun.”

The night was pushed aside. As the sun reached them, the ghosts began to shimmer. Edgar held his hand up. His already translucent body began to fade. He flashed them a grin. 

“Until next full moon.”

“Until next full moon,” they responded. 

The other ghosts raised their hand to bid them farewell before the sun washed over them all. The ghosts faded. 

The four sat quietly for several moments before Blaine stood up. “I guess we should head back.”

“Wait.”

They paused as Britany knelt down next to where Edgar had sat. When she stood up, she turned over a gold coin in her fingers. She looked up at her friends and smiled. 

“It’s real.”

“A souvenir of a very weird night,” Blaine said. 

She smiled. “It really happened.”

Blaine laced his fingers through hers. “Let’s go get some sleep.”

They walked back down the road to where they had parked. It was an adventure no one would believe.