Short story: ‘Phantom’ gets more than he bargained for

Phantom picture by Martin Ford
Phantom picture by Martin Ford
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Screaming, bitter winter winds howled down the valleys, around Etherick Farm, hurling snow with ferocity at anything that dared to stand in its path.

Etherick Farm, was not a place to venture at night - it was said to be haunted by a frightening Phantom, a Civil War Cavalier named ‘Duke’.

Etherick Farm was Mrs Laundon’s home. She lived alone there.

She’d always refused to sell up and move, or discuss if she’d ever seen the ghost but rumours always continued about Duke the phantom there.

One evening, a builder arrived in the local Red Lion public house looking scared.

He’d driven on his journey down from London, he said, along the valley, where he’d been horrified to witness standing in the garden of Etherick Farm the unmistakable image of the phantom Cavalier named Duke, staring through the farm’s windows, watching Mrs Laundon.

The builder was terrified he didn’t know what to do. He’d slammed on his van’s brakes, and rushed straight in here to tell the landlord, or anyone, what he’d seen.

He described the ghostly phantom’s clothing in detail that Duke wore, and it matched exactly the descriptions in the local history books.

“Duke’s wide brimmed musketeer hat, Royalist clothing, with high black boots, royal blue sash and a sword thrust forward, ready to do battle.”

This description struck great fear into the atmosphere of the normally relaxed Red Lion pub crowd.

The locals collectively looked frightened and the Landlord agreed that its best to warn Mrs Laundon what the builder had witnessed, it sounded like she could be in mortal danger from the phantom Duke.

Mrs Laundon came into town early the next morning to do her shopping.

The builder stopped her in the street, introduced himself and told her what he’d seen.

She dismissed it and continued on her way.

The builder in desperation went to see the Red Lion’s landlord again, and told him about Mrs Laundon’s reaction.

The landlord, therefore went in search of her, and being a good friend of many years she listened fully to what he said of the menacing Cavalier Duke’s strange appearance, as described by the builder. It did sound unsettling, that the phantom was watching her.

The builder came for his lunch at the Red Lion, and asked how Mrs Laundon had taken the news?

The landlord replied, that she’d been concerned naturally, and ventured that afterwards he’d never seen her look so worried.

The builder took the afternoon off and drove up to Mrs Laundon’s address at the farm .

She had visitors - a British Racing Green Triumph TR4A sportscar was parked outside her house there.

So he put the enveloped letter he’d typed through her letterbox and drove away.

He’d come back later.

The darkness of the winter night descended around five, and the builder had his lights on as he drove cautiously back to Etherick Farm. He parked in a side road unseen from the farm, and with practiced efficiency, dusted his face with stage make-up, then got changed in the back of his van into the outfit of a Civil War Cavalier. The moustache, the long hair wig, the sword and high length riding boots, and royal blue sash he wore completed perfectly his transformation like a stage actor into playing the role of the Phantom Duke.

Emerging from his van like a butterfly from a cocoon, he put on his wide brimmed Cavalier hat and strode forward confidently as the apparition of the haunting Duke and made his way towards Mrs Laundon’s property.

The wind blew flurries of sleet across the landscape as he trudged on.

He pointed his sword ahead of him and in his other hand he tightly held his specially prepared scroll.

Silently he waited until he saw Mrs Laundon busy in her kitchen, again making a pot of tea.

He stood motionless, watching her through the kitchen window, waiting until she glanced up and saw him standing there in the lights from her farm.

She jumped back in shock, as he stared at her menacingly and unfurled the scroll with the old style large lettering on it that warned her,

SELL AND LEAVE THIS PLACE, OR I, DUKE, WILL KILL YOU.

She looked so terrified, he wondered if she’d been able to read all the words he’d scribed?

But far worse was the shock the builder now received as Detective Inspector George Linden’s face leaned forward into view, standing beside Mrs Laundon in her kitchen, staring back at him.

The builder was stunned for a few seconds, as he could see the Inspector holding the opened envelope of the extremely low price offer for her farm he’d typed and put through her letterbox earlier.

The builder backed away and ran, but as he reached his van he saw a British Racing Green Triumph TR4A had blocked him in, and Police Constable Woods stood waiting for him, a pair of handcuffs at the ready.