Halloween Short Story: The Case of the Elmo Lake Ghost
Detective M (a miniature horse) and his team are on the case again — this time they need to protect a headstrong filly and debunk the notion of the Elmo Lake ghost.
By N.A. Souer
“There’s a ghost in the shower stall,” Sasha screeched into the phone, “Get me out of here!”
M rubbed the ear piece loose until it hung from the side ring of his halter. It did no good. He could still hear Sasha’s panicky voice.
It was the morning of October 31st, and he did not need one of his associates having a meltdown while working undercover.
“Now calm down,” M said, as reassuringly as he could muster. “There are no ghosts in that barn. All the ghost sightings have been outside.”
“Oh yeah, well I know what I saw,” Sasha retorted.
M shook his mini sized head. He could almost feel the big QH mare’s eyes stare him down over the phone.
“Take some deep breaths in your mask, you will be fine.”
2020 had been a hard year, and the global Corona 19 Pasture Virus had taken a big bite of M’s usual case load at the MT Pony Detective Agency. The firm was struggling to keep the lights on and make payroll, so M could not be too picky about what business he accepted.
The current case started when M was approached by Diamond Jim Sultan, the well-known ASB who held several world championships in the Saddle Seat world and had more money than Rockefeller Pony himself. Diamond Jim and his wife had a daughter, who they hoped would follow in her father’s footsteps. However the young filly had other ideas, and was determined to pursue a career in Dressage against her parents’ wishes. During the recent Pasture Virus isolation, this family’s domestic riff grew more intense. Eventually the daughter announced she was going to attend the Washville County Schooling show, regardless if her parents approved or not. Her mother was horrified.
The show was held every year near Elmo Lake where local residents swore they had seen ghostly spirits. In order to calm his wife down, Diamond Jim hired M’s agency to protect his daughter while she was there to compete and debunk this whole ghost thing once and for all. M himself did not believe in ghosts. What self-respecting mini horse would? But he figured if Diamond Jim was going to pay him and his staff to guard the little princess from poltergeists, why not. The income was needed, and business was slow.
“Look Sasha, we planted you undercover a month ago at Sultan’s barn. I can’t let you just walk off the case. We’d lose all the ground we have gained.”
“Walk nothing, I’m running”
M tried another approach.
“I was just about to send out a group text for everyone to meet in the snack area,” M said. “I will buy everyone an Apple Slushie.”
M knew the big mare’s weakness for sweets would help her forget any ghost she thought she had seen.
Thirty minutes later the staff was gathered for a meeting,
“What do we know so far?” M asked, turning to Mousy, his small but efficient feline investigator and IT specialist.
“My sources say Vinney T and his TB Mafia thugs use the show grounds as a cover for an illegal supplement and equine narcotic operation,” Mousy reported. “Have you noticed something? During the last 6 months of this lockdown because of the virus there have been no ghost sightings.”
“Good observation,” M said. “Maybe the ghosts do not want to catch the virus either?” He smirked. “Still, we have no proof to link the ghost sightings together with the supposed drug operation.”
“Maybe we do,” Tweak spoke up, licking the last of his apple treat. “I talked to a little filly who lives nearby. She said there are trailers pulling into the show grounds at all hours of the day and night.”
“It could be competitors shipping in for a show,” Sasha said, and the others nodded.
Tweak went on.
“But it goes on all year, not just during the show season. Trailers pull up, a big dark TB type trots out with something, then the vehicle drives away. The trailers are never unloaded.”
“I’d be willing to bet,” M said, trying to itch his head, “whatever the TB thug trots out with is not on the shelves of our local feed store. But what does it have to do with the ghost sightings?”
“You have to admit,” Mousy said, “if you could convince the locals that the show grounds were haunted it would cover up a lot of activity.”
“That’s a theory,” M replied, “but we need some kind of proof to put the two together. “
“But, I’d like to know why anyone would come to this show in the first place,” Mousy said. “There are nicer places.”
“Maybe it is for thrill-seeking ponies who want to desensitize their humans to paranormal activity,” M said jokingly.
“Maybe they want to desensitize their humans to puddle monsters,” Tweak added
The group looked at their mini friend politely, but did not comment.
Tweak believed whole-heartedly in puddle monsters, like a child believed in Santa Claus.
“Have there been any more ghost sightings during the show,” M asked to redirect the conversation.
“Not that we’ve heard about,” Mousy said, hesitating a second. “I’m not sure how credible this is,” he went on, “but there has been talk out on the dark web about Vinney T’s operation.”
“What sort of talk?” M asked.
“It seems there’s a rival group of miniature horse punks, who are plotting against Vinney T’s gang with a demonstration during the show. Their online code name is Plastic Bag Revenge. They were bragging about the operation in several on-line chat rooms.”
“Has anyone else heard about this,” M asked. No one had. “What else has been said about this online?”
“Only that it has something to do with Vinney T’s granddaughter, who is scheduled to show later today.”
M turned to Sasha, “See if you can reschedule your ride time,” he said. “Let’s all plan to be there when the granddaughter shows and see what happens.”
“And when does the Sultan Princess show,” Sasha asked with a mocking tone.
“At three,” M answered, then added. “Look, I know you don’t like Sultan’s kid, and you think she is a spoiled little rich brat. I get it. But all you have to do is keep any eye on her. You do not have to be BFFs or anything. The firm needs the money, and this is easy duty for us.”
“What about Vinney T?” Tweak asked.
“That is not easy duty,” M said. I think I will reach out to a few NPSS contacts.”
They all knew the acronym. It was the Northern Pony Secret Service, where M had retired from before starting his own detective agency. When M called his NPSS friends the staff knew they were dealing with some serious bad guys.
“Mean time,” M went on, “let’s focus on our two objectives, guarding the Sultan filly and debunking the ghost nonsense.”
An hour later, Mousy called M over to one of the other buildings behind the barn,
“I was snooping around here after the meeting today,” he said, “and I wanna show you something.”
Mousy wiggled the big door open and the pair went in.
“It’s over here,” he said, leading M over to a corner of shelves with strange, small black things that looked like miniaturized rabbit ear antennas from the old style TV sets.
“What am I looking at?” M asked.
“Drones, M,” Mousy said. “I think we have found our ghost! All someone would have to do is fly two of these units on the same frequency with a large sheet of that plastic,” Mousy pointed over to a giant role of white plastic sheeting, “and it would appear to be the Elmo Lake Ghost.”
“And let me guess,” M said, “this ghost appears just before one of Vinney T’s drug deals happen to no one sees anything.”
“You got it,” Mousy said.
M thought a moment, and then asked Mousy, “Think you can run this thing?”
“Like a piece of catnip on a string.”
“Good,” M said. “Let’s shake up the of Revenge of the Plastic Bag thing.”
By mid-afternoon, the show grounds had an eerie quietness around the arena. Due to the global Corona 19 Pasture Virus no spectators were allowed in the bleachers, and only teams of one exhibitor and one assistant were allowed in the warm-up area as their show time approached. M and Mousy watched from a distance, up near the barn.
“When does Vinney T’s granddaughter show?” M asked, nervously watching the Sultan filly complete her final movement.
“Right after Sasha and my mom do their test,” Mousy replied, with more than a hint of pride in his mom making her show ring debut on the big mare.
“And, you have the drone thing ready to go?” M asked, not taking his eyes off the ring as Tweak trotted down to the gate and escorted their client safe and sound back to the barn.
“Oh yes,” Mousy said, his eyes glued to the big, grey mare and elderly, feline rider mounted proudly in the corner of the warm up area.
Normally M did not like watching dressage. He thought it was boring, and about as exciting as watching wet paint dry. But he knew his office secretary and his private investigator’s mother had worked hard to learn this new discipline for this case, and he was proud of them.
“Do you remember the test?” Mama kitty asked, as she gripped the saddle pad nervously on top Sasha’s back.
“I think so,” Sasha said, “but I don’t know why they have to make these things so hard. One circle is as good as another circle.”
“Well I suppose they have to keep things balanced,” Mama Kitty said, as the ring bell sounded.
The pair trotted in for their first trip down the center line. Throughout the test Mama Kitty carefully guided them around each turn and transition, and when it was over the pair halted at C and saluted with pride. They had completed their first test!
“Is that Vinney T’s granddaughter,” M asked Mousy, pointing over to the warm-up ring with his nose.
“”Yeah,” Mousy answered, glancing over, then back and his mom and Sasha trotting out the gate. “She will be called in next to show.”
“Then I guess we better get to work,” M said, trotting off to be in position for whatever was about to happen.
Mousey scurried over to the far building.
Down at the ring, the bell sounded and Vinney T’s granddaughter trotted in, stopped, saluted, then began her test. She had just completed the first 20 meter circle, when her ears pricked straight up. There was a commotion at the far end of the ring. Shrieks of fear. Yells of panic. Two mobs of mangy, unkept mini ponies galloped out, a long trail of evil plastic bags snapping and hissing behind them. They encircled the ring.
Vinney T’s granddaughter reared up, fell backwards, scrambled to her feet, then bolted through the judges stand.
The two mobs combined and chased the terrified horse.
“Now, Mousy, now” M yelled into his halter mike, hot in pursuit of the group.
M had been trained in agility and defense. A mob of mini thugs with plastic bags did not scare him!
The chase ended on the shore of Elmo Lake, across the highway. There Vinney T’s granddaughter lay on the ground, quivering in fright, the mob of junior thug ponies around her, ready for blood.
Suddenly, a large, glowing apparition appeared above, floating in the form of an accusing finger pointing down at the angry scene.
The ponies whinnied in horror and ran off in all directions.
M watched in amazement, as the glowing form seem to fade into thin air over the gleaming water of Elmo Lake.
“Great job, Mousy,” he said into the mike on his halter.
“M, is that you?” Mousy’s voice came over ear piece. “M can you hear me?”
“I can hear you, Mousy,” M said. “You did it! They all ran off like a bunch of scared rabbits”
“What!” Mousy exclaimed. “I have been trying to get you on the radio for the last fifteen minutes. I can’t get these drones to work. The frequency is blocked somehow.”
A cold chill suddenly covered M.
“You mean you did not fly the ghost?”
“What ghost? Whatever ever happened out there, I had nothing to do with it.”
“M are you ok?” Mousy’s voice came through the ear piece. “Say something.”
“Yeah, I ‘m fine,” M said. “Meet you at the barn.”
M walked slowly back. Could he have just seen the real Elmo Lake Ghost? It couldn’t be. There had to be an explanation. He had been working too hard. The Pasture Virus had him stressed out. He had not had a good meal of hay and grain for days. There were no such things as ghosts. Right? But what had he seen?
Once back at the barn, the rest of the staff was concerned.
“What happened out there? “ Tweak asked
“We called barn security as soon as the ruckus started,” Sasha said. “M are you ok?”
“I am fine,” M said, trying to sound reassuring, at least to himself if not everyone else. “Thank you for your concern.
“Where’s Vinney T’s granddaughter?” Mama kitty asked.
“She is fine,” M said. “After paramedics arrived, they loaded her onto an ambulance trailer.”
He wanted to say the poor girl was probably going to need counseling and a lifetime prescription of Prozac after what happened out there. He was not sure himself.
“Thanks to Mousy’s techy skills,” M went on, “the whole revenge of the plastic bag operation was stopped.” Mousy started to say something, but M lifted his hoof and threatened to step on Mousy’s paw. “Well, I ‘d say that wraps up the case,” M said.
“But, what about Vinney T,” Tweak asked. “Isn’t he a loose end?”
“We were hired to keep the Sultan filly safe and debunk the Elmo Lake Ghost. We have done that, so I would say our job is done. We can let NPSS deal with Vinney T.”
And so the case of the Elmo Lake Ghost ended. Sometimes. M wonders what he really did see. But it could not possibly have been a real ghost, because if it was then he might as well say he’d seen a puddle monster. And everyone knows puddle monsters do not really exist. Right?