“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”
The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.
“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”
As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Author A. F. Stewart describes her creation thus:
Rob Parker is the town of Ashford’s paranormal expert, aka the town crackpot, and resident expert on the local ‘White Lady/Weeping Woman’ ghost sightings. Tall, brown hair, brown eyes, fiftyish with that ruggedly handsome, good old boy vibe, and an infectious grin. Can also be stubborn, and doggedly pig-headed when pursuing his paranormal investigations. Saw his first ghost at the age of twelve, on a stretch of road between Ashford and the neighbouring town of Maynard Mill, on what the locals dubbed the Haunted Highway. This sparked his lifelong interest in ghostly phenomena. He has one of the largest ghost sighting data bases in the country, and often consults with various paranormal investigative groups. For a day job, he co-owns the local pub eatery, called the Branch and Crown.
“Welcome, Rob!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – this ‘Weeping Woman’ ghost of yours… is she hot?”
Rob smiles. “I’m not really into that whole undead romance thing, but yes, our ‘Weeping Woman’ is quite the looker. Dark hair, pale skin, the wet look.” His grin gets a bit wider. “She had all the guys chasing her when she was alive. Now, though… her caterwauling might be a bit off-putting, and well, she’s a bit homicidal, so that’s not the most attractive quality.” He shrugs. “But I don’t judge, if you like that sort of thing.”
Will flaps a dismissive hand. “Pfft, if I let myself get discouraged by everyone who kind of wants to kill me, I’d never get anywhere. A bit of danger’s half the fun, I say! But I know the possibility of a gruesome death doesn’t do it for everyone, so let me ask: What is it about ghosts that so deeply fascinates you?”
Deepening his voice, Rob intones, “You mean besides the fact the dead still walk among us?” He lifts an eyebrow and wiggles it. “Really though, it’s the reasons they stay that intrigue me. What kind of powerful emotions keep a soul tethered past their time? Souls not passing on, or over, or whatever, are messing with the very forces of nature. Heady stuff, that. I can’t help but be fascinated.” A pensive look passes across his face. “Especially after that first ghost. She was so sad. She kept wandering that road trying to get home to her family, to make amends. Of course, her family was dead for fifty years, and she wasn’t ever going home.” He grins, just a bit. “First time I ever crossed over a spirit though, even if she didn’t much like the idea at first. That got the blood pumping, to be sure.”
“I’ll bet it did! Man, I can’t believe more people aren’t clamoring to get in on the excitement with you! Then again, lack of belief is pretty much the trouble, isn’t it? Based on the whole ‘town crackpot’ thing, I’m guessing not a lot of your neighbors take your hobby seriously. Why do you think it is that people are so skeptical of the paranormal?”
Rob snorts. “Most folks don’t want to know the truth. Too afraid. They’d rather ride around in their nice little cars to soccer practice or the gym, pretending there ain’t a world of crazy out there.” He shifts his gaze to just beyond Will’s shoulder for a second, then back to his host with a shake of his head. “Can’t say I blame them. Ghosts ain’t the only thing out there, and some of it is mean. Folks might be better off turning a blind eye. They’ll sleep more sound at night.”
Will shrugs dubiously. “I suppose there’s an argument to be made for blissful ignorance. Kinda just sounds like a shortcut to unpleasant surprises, though. Not knowing an arrow’s coming for you won’t save you from a punctured lung. Possible case in point: I heard something about an ongoing missing persons investigation going on in Ashford, right now. In your semi-professional opinion, is there a ghost somewhere at the bottom of this, or nah?”
Rob’s eyes flash, anger swirling, and his jaw tightens. “Ain’t no question about that. That ghost’s involved up to her soggy eyeballs. Not that I can make certain folks see reason on that front. But sooner or later, it’ll hit the fan.” Rob sighs. “Hope it doesn’t end like that case last month in the next county, though. Never saw that poor soul again. Least in this world.”
Will suppresses a shudder. “Well, here’s hoping the right people see the light before it starts beckoning the wrong souls into the hereafter. One last question before you spirit away, Rob. Tell me, what is your author A. F. Stewart’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He flashes a lively grin. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
Rob grins back. “Well now, considering that particular author’s fondness for killing off her characters, there’s no way I’m spilling her secrets, or making her ticked off at me.” He reaches into his pocket, takes out a breath spray and gives himself a spritz. “So pucker up, Will!”
“Boo-yah!” Will jumps up from his seat, takes Rob in his arms, and plants a passionate smackeroo on his lips. “Hey, Allyn,” he draws apart long enough to call behind him, “how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”
“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by…
THE WEEPING LADY by A. F. Stewart (“Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss”): Eva Douglas must face her mother issues, past and present, when the disappearance of her sister forces a confrontation with a terrifying ghost.
“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you as well, Rob. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”