Title: Uninvited Guest - Part 5 of 7
Author: Rhonda Dossett
Character: CJ, but everyone gets to play
Rating: PG13
Summary: Is the White House haunted?
Spoilers: Minor possible spoilers up to and including
"The Day Before."
Disclaimers: The normal disclaimers apply.
Feedback: dossett@azalea.net

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thursday 3:00 am
White House East Room

They assembled in the East Room as requested. Their reactions
upon learning the true purpose for the gathering were mixed.

On the surface Josh appeared to be treating the whole thing as a
lark. He was bounding around the room, examining the candles
and looking behind the dark cloths obscuring the mirrors on the
walls.

Donna seemed to be the most frightened. She had picked a spot
just inside the door and hadn't moved from it after the word
"seance" was uttered.

After an initial burst of skepticism, Sam had almost immediately
assumed the detached role of a scientist observing someone else's
experiment. He had a dozen questions for Dr. Blaine concerning
her qualifications and the evidence that had led her to conclude
ghosts in general existed, and that the White House had ghosts.

Toby, the only one besides Dr. Blaine who had prior knowledge
of CJ's plans, had seated himself near the door. Chewing on an
unlit cigar, he appeared to be mentally measuring CJ and
Dr. Blaine for matching straight jackets.

Surprisingly, Ainsley had taken one look at the room and grasped
the situation. She confided to them that she was an experienced
seance participant. Ainsley subjected the group to an epic length
tale about dead Great Aunt Colletta, who had haunted the family
home in North Carolina until being successfully relocated via
seance. Apparently Great Aunt Colletta had been a barely
tolerated, practical joker when alive, but when dead her jokes
were found to be unendurable.

Fearing that Ainsley was going to launch into additional tales
of the shenanigans of other ghostly relatives, CJ had pointed
out the array of snacks on the buffet table. Momentarily
diverted, Ainsley had walked over to pick out something to
nibble on.

The mantle clock chimed three bells.

More than ready to get this over with CJ briefly introduced
Dr. Blaine.

"Doctor, would you please explain the process to everyone?"
CJ asked in a resigned voice.

"Of course." Gesturing toward the wooden table ringed by chairs,
Dr. Blaine stated "First, everyone will need to sit down.
You'll find a place card with your name at your seat."

Josh interrupted at this point "Assigned seating and everything,
cool." Looking over toward Ainsley standing at the buffet table,
Josh questioned, "Hey, Ainsley, are there any of those little
cocktail weenies over there?"

"No, but there is some nice sliced salami."

"Does it have the little peppercorns in it? I hate those,"
Josh whined.

Sam, in the process of making a sandwich, added his opinion.
"I like it with stone ground mustard and cheddar cheese."

"What's stone ground mustard? Is that like horse raddish?
Because that stuff is nasty." Josh started to head toward the
food.

"No, stone ground mustard is..."

Interrupting this ode to Julia Child, CJ stuck two fingers in her
mouth and let out a shrill whistle.

"Okay, everybody sit down and shut up, " CJ impatiently
demanded while dimming the overhead lights.

"There goes your hostess of the year award," Sam joked while
walking toward the candle lighted seance table.

Glaring at Sam, CJ pulled out a chair for him with a flourish.

Sensing that CJ was fast losing her grip, the group hurriedly
gathered up their food and found seats. Toby ambled over to
find himself seated between Josh and Donna.

"What's the mirror for?" Donna asked, picking up the ornate
hand mirror laying in the center of the table.

"A window for the spirits to look out, " responded the doctor.

Carefully peering into the wavy glass, Donna saw her reflection.

It was the appearance in the mirror of a second image beside her
own that caused her scream.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thursday 3:20 am
White House East Room

"What's wrong? Josh shouted, practically climbing over Toby to
get to Donna. His easy smile of a few minutes before was gone.

"Josh, get off me! Now! God." Toby pushed back from the
table dislodging Josh who had been draped over him, practically
in his lap.

Sam stood and moved over to untangle Toby and Josh.

"What did you see Donna ?" asked Dr. Blaine in a calm, matter
of fact voice. She was still sitting quietly at her place at
the table.

All eyes turned toward Donna, as they waited for her answer.

Donna, shaking, with her arms folded across her chest, took a
deep breath. "I saw someone's face. It was beside mine in the
mirror. Someone was behind me."

Hesitantly, CJ inquired "Was it a little boy, about 10 or 11
years old?"

"No, it was a man." Donna paused then added, "He had a beard
and a blue cap."

"Lincoln?" Sam whispered in awe.

"No. He was young, maybe 20 years old," replied Donna,
trying to describe the fleeting image she had seen in the
glass.

Ainsley, setting a cup of coffee in front of Donna, said,
"It was probably a Union soldier. They used this room during
the Civil War for planning meetings."

Sam, looking at the mirror laying face down on the table now,
asked Ainsley, "How do you know that?"

With a pointed look at Sam, Ainsley replied "I, unlike some
people who work here, have taken the time to learn the actual
history of the building I spend 19 hours a day in. I did this,
in part, so that should I ever be prevailed upon to impart the
historical significance of any particular room in this building to
a group of school children, or others relying on my information,
I could do so without embarrassing myself."

Sam's mouth opened in surprise. He started to reply but was cut
off by CJ.

"Hey guys, you remember I'm here, right?" CJ interrupted.
"I need you to focus now so we can get this done."

"Please sit down and shut up," she implored.

"And don't touch the mirror," she snapped as Sam's hand
edged toward the object.

"Dr. Blaine, let's try again," CJ nodded at the doctor to speak.

"All right. Everyone please place your hands palm down on the
table. It's important that you place your left hand over the right
hand of the person next to you. Next, I want..."

Sam interrupted at this point, asking "Why, what possible
difference could it make if..."

This time Toby spoke up, " Oh for God's sake" he shouted.
"Sam, just accept it without comment or debate, please. Let's
get this ridiculous exercise over with so we can get a couple of
hours of sleep before tomorrow."

Working himself into a rant, Toby continued, "I can't believe
that we are sitting here at 3:00 in the morning, arguing about
the existence of ghosts and what is, or is not, the most efficient
way to contact them. Read my lips people, ghosts - don't -
exist. CJ this whole thing has just been one colossal waste
of... ."

This time the interruption was caused by a small pink rubber
ball hitting Toby in the middle of the forehead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thursday 3:30 am
White House East Room

"Well it looks like our guest of honor has arrived," pronounced CJ
with a smirk directed toward Toby.

"Donna, Sam, Ainsley, Josh, and Toby, meet William Wallace Lincoln,
a.k.a. Willie."

Ainsley, who seemed to have appointed herself coffee matron, put a cup
in front of a startled Toby.

"Hell, I want something stronger than that," Toby grumbled, but
he stopped rubbing his head long enough to take a sip anyway.

Josh, in possession of the pink ball, was turning it over and
over, while staring at Toby in disbelief.

"Please everyone, hold hands and clear your thoughts," Dr. Blaine
uttered trying to get the seance started.

"Wait, who's missing?"

CJ glanced around the room. "Sam."

Speaking to the room at large, CJ asked "Where is he?"

As if in answer, a cold breeze blew through the room,
extinguishing many of the candles.

At that moment a tapping sound began. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Hushed murmurs swept around the table.

Donna got a death grip on both Josh and Toby's hands.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

The table started to rock, just as the last candle flicked out.
Now the room was only illuminated by the faint light seeping
through the heavily draped windows.

In the darkness, fear became a palpable thing. The air thickened
and the stillness became oppressive. The living occupants of the
room strained to see, strained to hear.

Faint shadows developed and swirled about the room.

There was a sense of movement around the edges of the room,
twisting and swirling. Something was growing, building.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Dr. Blaine quickly got up from the table and determinedly
walked toward the wall near the door. All at once there
was light.

The tapping was still going on, but under the bright glare
of electric lights, the noise was no longer frightening.

The air seemed to thin; it became easier to breathe.

There was a strange feeling that the room had just been emptied
of a great many guests. Foreign smells of pipe smoke, gun oil,
camphor, and lavender wafted though the air.

Tap. Tap.

Everyone strained to hear.

Tap.

Both Josh and Toby pried Donna's hands off theirs. Rubbing his
injured hand to get the blood circulating again, Josh leaned sideways
and picked up the edge of the floor length tablecloth for a look
underneath.

Toby pushed his chair back and knelt down. Soon he disappeared
under the tablecloth.

The tapping stopped.

Another blast of cold air blew through the room, this time it was
apparent the breeze was originating from under the table.

The silence was deafening.

Visibly gathering his courage, Josh glanced at the women still sitting
frozen around the table. With the expression on his face of a man
marching off to sure death, Josh bent down and crawled under the table.

A single thought kept running through all the women's minds.
CJ finally gave voice to it, "Where the hell are they going?
The freaking table's not that big."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thursday 3:45 am
Under the White House East Room

The air was dank and smelled of mold and age. The only light source
came from the opening of the East Room trap door.

A crumbling wooden ladder stretched 30 feet down a brick walled,
well- like structure towards a dirt floor. The last 7 feet of
the ladder was missing.

Sam had been trying to figure out what the trick was. In the process
of trying to discover who had thrown the ball at Toby and how, Sam
had crawled under the table looking for hidden wires, etc. Pushing on
the wooden floor, it was pure chance that he had located the hidden
mechanism opening the trap door.

His curiosity overcoming his common sense, Sam went down the ladder.
His intent was only to climb down a little way. Just take a quick look
before going back up. Then it was too late. Then he was falling.

It seemed like he had been laying on the dirt floor with his leg broken
for hours. Long before Toby joined him, he was exhausted by yelling
at the top of his lungs and banging on the brick wall with a rock.

Toby was luckier. Or, maybe because he was older and more cautious,
he felt the absence of the first missing rung in time. He didn't fall
so much as swing from the ladder and jump. He missed landing on Sam
by a few inches.

He and Sam were arguing about whether 'tap, tap, tap," bore any
resemblance to Morse Code, when Josh made his appearance. Toby
heard him coming and managed to get his attention.

"Josh, it that you?" Toby called up the ladder.

About midway down the ladder, Josh heard him and responded.

"Yeah, what's down there?" Josh asked taking another rung.

"Stop. Just stop where you are. The bottom of the ladder is
missing," Toby urgently warned him.

"Okay, I'm stopped. Are you hurt? Is Sam down there?"
Josh questioned.

Before Toby could answer him, there was a loud creak.
Then a splintering sound.

"Oh, boy, this is - so - not - good." Josh managed to spit out
between clenched teeth.

There was a final loud crack, and then he was falling.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thursday 3:55 am
Under the White House East Room

Like sheep over a cliff, one after another, the male Senior Staff
traveled down that ladder looking for the ones that had gone before.
They were all reunited at the bottom

"Well, I've said it before under different circumstances, but it
fits here as well. This is bad on so many levels," lamented Sam.

Josh was sitting next to him relatively unscathed, his reputation for
bouncing apparently well deserved. Unfortunately, his cell phone
hadn't faired as well. The case was cracked and the antenna detached.
But, Josh was convinced that he might be able to hold it all together
long enough to call for help. "Damn, if I just had some Duck tape.
Did you know that you fix just about anything with Duck tape? "

Sam, who was in considerable pain, grimaced and stated, "I don't
think it would do anything for my leg."

In response Josh continued his frantic assembly of the broken
cell phone.

Toby was pacing although the circular space did not lend itself
to that activity. The light from the trap door opening limited
the visual examination of their new quarters.

At the bottom of the ladder was a space about 8 feet in circumstance.
A narrowed tunnel extended off one side. The tunnel's height and
width of less than 3 feet, discouraged exploration.

The walls were made of Civil War era brick with crumbling sand
mortar. Condensation and a high water table kept the walls damp,
encouraging the growth of various species of mold. Numerous
wooden crates and other unrecognizable objects were covered
with this mold. Toby opined that if he stood in place down here
more than a couple of minutes, he would probably be covered
with the mold also.

Walking back over to Josh and Sam, Toby took the phone away
from Josh muttering, "Let me look at it before you make it worse."

Standing up and stretching his rapidly stiffening muscles,
Josh responded, "Toby, look at it this way, we have finally
hit rock bottom. Things can't get any worse."

A small pink rubber ball dropped down the hole and hit the ground
in front of them. In unison all three looked up just as the trap
door slammed shut.

The darkness was absolute.

"Josh, what have I told you about tempting fate?" Toby shouted.

 

TBC