by Elaine Faber
One October weekend Mom took Sissy and me to the Leger Hotel in Mokelume Hills, in the Sierra Mountains. She left us in the room while she went sightseeing. We stepped through the windows that opened onto the balcony where the prostitutes used to sit, according to the maid, advertising their wares. Coming back inside, we could just make out the wispy outline of an old guy sitting on the sofa. His face was covered with gray whiskers and he was missing a front tooth. He waved a gnarled hand. “Excuse me. Could I trouble ya’ to help me move on to the here-after?”
My hair stood on end and my tail puffed up. “You’re a ghost! How can we help? We’re cats!”
“Maybe, you bein’ cats and all, you’se just the ones can help.”
Sissy glanced my way, her eyes the size of half-dollars. “Oooooh!”
“Stop being such a scaredy-cat !” I’m the thrill-seeking one. “Let’s hear him out.”
“Name’s Joe Harrigan. Me and my partner had a gold mine nearby back in 1876. They said I kilt him and they hanged me right outside that there windda.’ I shoulda’ gone on to the here-after, but trouble is, I was innocent, see, so they couldn’t send me to Hell. But bein’ convicted of murder all official-like in a court a’ law, Heaven wouldn’t take me neither. I’ve been stuck here in this room in the in-between ever since.”
“How come you don’t ask a person to help?” I twitched an ear back, still somewhat skeptical.
“When folks see me, they runs off yellin,’ ‘I seen a ghost!’ and ask for another room. Sometimes they got a dog, but dogs is too stupid to pay attention. They growl and hide under the bed. I’m thinking maybe cats is more understandin’?”
Sissy and I exchanged glances. She nodded. “That’s true.”
The old guy’s aura faded; his hands trembled. “Look, girls, I’m about at the end of my rope…no pun intended. If I don’t move on to my final reward pretty quick, I might be stuck here forever!”
“But what can we do?” Sissy is always so realistic.
“Before he died, my partner writ out his Will, tellin’ how he accidently shot hisself. I come to town to aggrieve his death. I hid George’s Will in the armoire, there in the corner before I went down to the bar. I told um’ George was dead and they got to thinkin’ I kilt’ him to steal the gold mine. One thing led to another which culsumated in a rope. Bein’ skunk-drunk, I plumb forgot to tell um’ about that air’ Will in the armoire. So they adjudged me guilty and hanged me dead. Oncet’ dead, my head sorta’ cleared and I remembered the Will, but it was too late. I’ve been ‘ahoverin’ ever since, hopin’ someone would find the Will and clear my good name. It’s doubtful I deserve to go to Heaven but I’d like a crack at it.”
Sissy and I nodded. What kind of cats would we be if we didn’t help a fellow into the here-after given the opportunity? We scratched at the armoire door until it opened and Sissy clawed at the back paneling.
“That’s it! Give it all you got, girls.” Joe’s aura hovered overhead. “It sorta slides in when you push on it. There! See that air’ paper stickin’ out? Go for it.” Sissy bit the corner of the paper and eased it out.
“Hurry! You did it!” Old Joe crowed. “I’m saved. Now, can you take it to the authorities?”
Mom came back about then and saw us pawing the paper. “What are you girls up to? What’s that?” Mom picked up the faded Will with teeth marks in the corners.
“Meow!” I explained that if the teeth marks were a problem, Sissy did it, not me…but I don’t think she understood.
Mom read the paper. “Where did this come from?” Mom spotted the open armoire and the pushed in paneling. With a faint grin on his whiskered face and a wave of his hand, Joe’s ghost faded and drifted out through the open window.
Mom carried us downstairs to the Manager’s office and showed him the Will.
“My cats found this up in room two. It looks like a holographic Last Will and Testament. Your Historic Society might be interested.”
“Indeed! Room two? Folks often complain of a ghost in room two.” The manager read the paper.
Joe didn’t shoot me. I done it kleenin my gun. I got no fambly and Joe Harrigan gets my shar a the mine. Syned July3, 1876 George Harris
The manager pointed toward the plastic skeleton hanging on the balcony “They hanged Joe Harrigan from that very spot. He’s buried up on boot hill. You folks should go see his grave.”
We drove to the cemetery. Old Joe’s tombstone read, Joe Harrigan Born 1818? Hanged July 1876.
I hear that Joe’s ghost was never seen again at the Leger Hotel.
Someday, maybe the courts will clear Joe’s name. Do you suppose St. Peter gave Old Joe a fair trial when he got to Heaven? I hope so. He sure never got one back in 1876 when the townspeople of Mokelume Hills hanged him by mistake!
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