Part VI – Chapter 37 – Seemingly Strangers in the Night

Brisco, Ellie, and Pete broke in through a boarded-up part of the mansion. The trio found themselves in a beautiful ballroom with a chandelier of 13 candles above them. However, the terror of the flying skeletal bugler kept any admiration of the room at bay.

“What was that thing signaling?” asked a shaken Ellie.

“I think it was some kind of bugle boy or scout for an army of darkness,” mused Pete as he placed the box of dynamite onto the floor.

“Not helping, Pete,” muttered Brisco. Pete needed to shut up so they could find their friends and escape this house of horrors as quickly as possible.

“Army of darkness?” whispered Ellie.

“Well, yeah,” surmised Pete. “A human skeleton riding a flying fossil while blowing a bugle. It is certainly more plausible that it is a scout for an ethereal malevolent force rather than a parade of puppies.”

“What malevolent force?” asked a familiar voice from the corner. The group turned to find Socrates exiting from a small side room. Behind the curtain Brisco could just make out a small enclosure attached to the ballroom with a circular table in the center. Brisco turned his attention back to Socrates who was escorting a woman in all black, her face obscured by a long lace veil.

“Socrates, am I glad to see you!” exclaimed Brisco as he moved to Socrates and gave him a big hug.

“Give me back my piece, her mate, and my bracelet!” demanded Pete as he pushed between Socrates and Brisco.

“The guns I have, but the bracelet is upstairs,” Socrates calmly stated as he held the pistols out for Pete to grab.

“You left it!” exclaimed Pete. Forgetting all of the other troubles occurring, Pete gripped Socrates by the collar and lifted him off the ground, while growling, “How could you?”

“Pete, let him go!” Ellie called and quickly moved between the two of them. “This is not the time!” she stated as she gently pushed Pete’s hands down. “God, I have met bar flies in less need of a drink than you needin’ that bracelet!”

“Ellie, this is a time to utilize one powerful force against another,” scoffed Pete. “We have guns, ammunition, and a box of dynamite. Please tell me, which of these weapons will be best to use against an army of deceased individuals?”

“Let’s start with imagination,” quipped the veiled woman. “But before we determine which of us is lacking that skill, maybe we can begin with introductions? I am Mrs. Winchester and you apparently know my potential attorney, Mr. Poole.” She lifted her hand gracefully as though to allow another to speak.

“My name is Mr. County, you might have heard of me.”

“I tend to focus on what occurs on my property than what’s outside of it,” she replied.

“Brisco County Jr.? Son of the Marshall Brisco County?” Brisco continued.

Mrs. Winchester slowly nodded her head as though the name was coming back to her. “I did meet your father, years ago. My husband was commissioned to build him a limited-edition Winchester Rifle. Did he pass it to you?”

“No, ma’am. He destroyed it years ago but never told me why.”

There was a silence as Brisco looked at her. If Brisco didn’t know any better, he would swear that she had a hint of a smile beneath her veil. “He kept his word,” she whispered.

“This is Pete Hutter,” Ellie continued, “and I’m Ellie.” In the awkward silence, Ellie attempted small talk by stating, “You have a beautiful home.”

“And I see that you have brought guns into my house?” she asked with a tone of indignation.

“Filled with salt rounds,” Socrates quickly explained. “We are not here to add to the ghosts of your house but to simply quell the ones who are here.”

“The ghosts here were quelled. Something else is happening tonight,” retorted Mrs. Winchester.

“What caused the uprising?” asked Ellie.

“We were in the middle of asking the spirits just that when you lot came crashing in,” commented the widow. She motioned towards the small room that she and Socrates had left. “If you don’t mind, I think that additional voices will help us commune with our guides. Will you join us?” Her words were more of a directive rather than a question

“What do you need from us?” asked Brisco. Mrs. Winchester ushered the small group into the small séance enclave connected to the ballroom. She had the group crowd around the table as she lit the appropriate candles.

“I am not particular to spiritual movements, so I’ll stand outside your little huddle to provide protection,” said Pete. Brisco nodded at Pete before Pete turned his back on the group to guard the séance enclave of the ballroom. Brisco then closed the small curtain, giving the group privacy for the séance.

“Everyone join hands and close your eyes,” instructed Mrs. Winchester. “Let’s begin.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Rachel stood shivering in the dark with tears streaming down her face. Her heart was buried deep in her stomach. She couldn’t tell how long she had been standing but she kept shifting her weight back and forth between her feet to ensure that she didn’t lock her knees and fall over. She could hear her mother’s voice as a child, “Rachel, never lock your knees! As a performer, that’s about the worst thing that you can do as it will cause you to pass out. Well, one of the worst things.”

Rachel tried to distract herself by focusing on her mother. It seemed that the shots and the screams had temporarily stopped but she could hear the sound of a large wings flapping outside with the sound of a bugle calling an unseen army to battle. But then, maybe it was just thunder. Her nerves were clearly on edge and it would be completely understandable if she was imagining all kinds of evil things. She shut her eyes for a moment and tried to think back to her days of traveling with her mother. Maybe she could imagine away this evil night and replace the sounds of gunshots to be her mother and Wild Bill practicing trick shots. She could imagine that the bugler outside was coming from the small troupe as the group reenacted some battle or another for a gullible audience. Or maybe she wasn’t at home, maybe it was a Hollywood set. A trumpeter to get a local lot in the mood for filming a silent battle scene. Maybe this was just a nightmare and someone would shake her awake and she would find that it’s time to film her scenes for the latest Thomas Ince western film.

She opened her eyes but she was still in the nightmarish house surrounded by a small circle of salt. She nervously lifted her shaking hands to her face to brush off some of the tears but it was useless. Her hands were shaking so violently that she could not trust her hands to touch her face. “What if this room was actually a trap set by an unfriendly ghost? What if she was believing that she was safe encircled by salt but was actually a sitting duck awaiting execution? How could she be so naïve to trust the first ghost that she met?” She closed her eyes and took deep breaths to clear her mind. “Brisco was the one who originally found that salt warded off evil or provided protection, so she could trust the salt circle, even if she could not trust a ghost.”

There was a window just to the right of Rachel which enabled her to see a small portion of the outside world. At one point, a dark cloud seemed to pass by the window. She shook the thought away. “How could there be a shadow in an already night lit sky? Was it her imagination but did it seem that this dark cloud more evil than the night sky?” If there was a shadow, it did not seem to take any notice of Rachel. She was clearly not a threat, either because of her fear or because of the salt circle.

A light flashed into the room and was directed at her eyes. Rachel squinted but could not make out the shadow behind the flashlight. Someone had joined her hideaway.

“What are you doing in here?” a familiar male voice asked in the dark. Rachel was so caught off guard that she screamed aloud.

“Shhhhh!!! Do you want to get us killed too?” the voice whispered.


“Just found Tilly’s body as I was moving Mrs. Winchester’s niece and grand-nephew into a safe corner of the house to be protected by a ghost ally.”

“Tilly’s body?” Rachel asked in a shaky voice. Rachel felt her knees buckle and she found herself sitting on the floor. She began sobbing aloud. “Of all the people in this house?” was all that Rachel could think.

Since she couldn’t place the voice, she could only assume that it was one of the workmen. She watched his flashlight move up and down her body as though trying to place her. “How long have you worked here?” he whispered.

“Only a few days. You?”

“Six months roughly,” he whispered back before moving the flashlight around the room to study it. He whistled softly as he studied the disrepair.

“Haven’t really seen this room before as this side of the house was shut down after the earthquake. Why would anyone be stupid enough to hide in such an unsecure and dilapidated part of the mansion?”

Rachel did not respond but kept staring at the shadow holding the light. The way that he kept moving the light, she could never get a glimpse of his face. Only bits of his clothes on occasion but otherwise the man was a shadow with a voice distorted by whispering. Despite being unable to identify the stranger, she felt strangely calm with his presence.

“And what are you doing in this circle?” his whisper inquired as the flashlight lit her feet below.

“A ghost came to me and told me that I would be safe if I stayed inside the circle of salt and in this room. If you don’t agree, maybe you should take it up with her.”

“Ghost? Female? Long dark hair? Runs around in a white nightgown?”

Rachel nodded and in a state of awe asked, “How did you know?”

“I’ve been looking for her since the screams began as she’s our main guide to the spirit world.”

“So, we can trust her?”

“Ish,” responded the man. In the darkness, he held out a shadowy hand to her as if to guide her, “C’mon. Let’s see if we can find other survivors and if we can, maybe arm them with salt as well.”

“If I’m safe in salt, then why should I move?” asked Rachel.

“Because I don’t know how structurally safe this room is or if you will fall through the floor in a few minutes,” the man calmly replied.

The logic made sense to Rachel and she tentatively took his hand. However, when he tugged her towards the door and to cross the salt threshold, she held his hand steady. “May I see who I am talking to before I begin following you into the darkness?”

“Fair enough,” acquiesced the stranger. He moved the flashlight from shining across the room to bringing it close to his face. When the light finally danced across his face, Rachel gasped in recognition.

“James! Is that you?” asked Rachel in a joyful whisper. She jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck in an excited embrace. “I can’t believe that I found you!” she whispered in his ear. James unwrapped Rachel before taking a step back.

“Do I know you?” asked James.

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