TITLE: Don't Call Me Francois 2/6
DISCLAIMER: Carter & Co. gave them life
LGHQ, WEDNESDAY - 3 P.M.
By the time Frohike emerged from the mysteries of puberty, he had come
to the conclusion that life was a strange multiple choice test, where it
didn't matter which of the four answers you picked; a, b, c or d ...
each one had some element of truth. It was only when you combined and
analyzed all the answers that you realized there might be some greater,
final truth to be suspected, but never directly revealed. He'd once
spent an entire weekend reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
trilogy; he'd emerged with a headache, an aversion to British humor that
lasted well into the late 90s, and a grain of comfort. The idea that
something important was happening, but no one would know anything about
it until it bit them in the butt, was not unique to him.
It was easier to believe in aliens than it was to believe in ghosts.
Long before Mulder had introduced them to his world, Frohike had seen
lights in the sky. He'd been a kid; he remembered the headlines about
marsh gas contradicting the evidence of his own eyes. You didn't have to
be a rocket scientist to know that marsh gas doesn't form above the
surface of Lake Michigan. Weather balloons, low flying planes, marsh gas
or hoaxes; combine and analyze, wait a few years, then throw Fox Mulder
into the mix. Hola, some greater truth emerges.
Nothing like that had ever happened to him in the supernatural arena.
Frohike was willing to keep an open mind on the subject. After all,
Mulder and Scully had lived through experiences spanning the spectrum
from extraterrestrial to paranormal. He'd read convincing reports on
everything from possession to the appearance of solid apparitions. But
Frohike had no personal, hands-on experience with the supernatural, and
was pretty sure he hadn't been missing anything.
Theologically and philosophically, Frohike was of the opinion that death
was just a step. Look at Esther Nairn; she was proof that consciousness,
personality, and spirit could depart this mortal coil and continue -- a
thought that should have been comforting, but actually disturbed Frohike
more than he'd ever expressed to Langly and Byers. The concept that the
step could be botched, somehow, and result in the kinds of
manifestations urban legends thrived on, was even more unsettling.
The mind and spirit were strange and distant country, where every
computer ran a different operating system. Frohike knew this was the
biggest argument against getting involved in a supernatural
investigation. They were technicians, builders, users of tools. Add meta
to physical, and they were left with few practical resources. The
literature was consistent in indicating that many poltergeist episodes,
recorded cold spots in buildings, and audio and visual phenomena might
be attributed to something the living brought with them to the scene.
Something unquantifiable, intangible, and potentially dangerous.
Frohike reread a portion of the printed transcript of the conversation
between the hospitalized grad students and tried to make sense of the
events surrounding their aborted visit to Shadet House. The blood tests
said no alcohol, no drugs; Frohike would have bet some kind of drug had
been involved. The girl who'd been stripping -- she'd just walked into
the bar, got up on stage and started taking it off. She was a looker, so
no one in the audience had objected. One of the regular dancers had
actually called the cops; she'd been concerned the girl was high and
might need help.
"What do you think?" Byers sat at his desk, staring into space. Although
they'd all gone over Yves' report together, Frohike was concentrating on
the university group's experience, Byers had been assigned historical
research on the family and house, and Langly was trying to ascertain
just what equipment they might need on this kind of field trip.
"I think that life is a mystery," Frohike said. He whistled to get
Langly's attention. "Editorial meeting. Let's talk."
Langly threw his hands up in the air. "Okay with me. I'm at a
standstill." He pulled his chair toward Frohike and Byers. "Where are we
"I'm sitting here wondering why, when Langly jumped to the conclusion
Shadet House was haunted, Yves didn't contradict him," Byers said.
"There is a huge archive of information about Simon and Simeone Shadet,
and a good deal about Shadet House. There is no mention of anything
supernatural connected with the house. There is a benign area legend
that the ground around Indigo Creek's waterfall was considered sacred by
area natives ..."
"I knew it. Built on an Indian burial ground," Langly said, hunching his
shoulders. "Amityville stuff."
"Not at all," Byers said. "It was like ... a fairground. Used for trade,
celebrations, and maybe rite-of-passage quest ritual stuff."
"Why all the hooey about no one sleeping in the place for 50 years,
then?" Langly asked.
Byers shrugged. "The only odd occurrence I find is during the first week
after the Shadets' burial. The original gardener and housekeeper, a
French couple, quit their jobs without notice and left the country.
Franklin Shadet hired new local caretakers, one Fleming Orthway and his
"Loser," Langly said. "What kind of name is Fleming?"
"Gee, I don't know, Ringo." Frohike shook his head. "Go on, Byers."
"Mr. Orthway had an accident during his first week on the job; Franklin
then hired a couple named Brown, who lived several miles away in
Johnstowne. They never stayed at the house. By the time Franklin died,
the caretaker's job had passed to the Browns' son and daughter."
"And Mr. Orthway's accident?" Frohike prompted. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure," Byers said. "There was a reference to fishing him out of
the creek. I don't think the accident was fatal, but I'd have to do more
"Okay. This looks like an amazing house. Why didn't the brother sell it,
or use it?" Frohike asked. "Did you find anything on Franklin Shadet?"
"Not as much as on his brother." Byers leaned back. "There are a couple
of different stories about where the Shadet family came from. One says
France, one says Italy. The parents lived in New York when Simon was
born in 1910, and Franklin in 1912. Both parents worked in the garment
trade. Simon must have learned the business from his father; when he was
only 28 he opened his own design house, with the help of his new French
bride, Simeone. Franklin worked for a while in the import business, then
opened an interior design firm in New York. Both of them made piles of money."
"When you say design house, you mean like Chanel and Balenciaga?"
Frohike realized Byers and Langly were staring at him. "I've been around
longer then you guys, and unlike Langly, I read actual books. Shadet
couldn't have been a household word ..."
"I read books," Langly protested. "You're turning into a quiffy little
Byers' eyes sparkled with amusement. "I get a kick out of this part of
the story. The Shadets deliberately avoided name recognition. They
didn't design for the public, or your average upper crustite; their
clients were specially selected, and rich. Very rich. With special needs."
"Special needs?" Frohike waited for the other shoe to drop.
"The fashions of the late 40s and early 50s were not suited to women
with ample figures," Byers said, grinning. "The Shadets were geniuses at
designing clothing that would not seem out of place at the ritziest
gathering, for women who weren't built like figure eights. They designed
for men, too; and some well-known circus performers with abnormal
physical features. Their talents were, apparently, very much
appreciated. The Shadets had amassed a healthy fortune by the time they
undertook the building of Shadet House."
"How'd they die?" Langly asked, leaning forward.
"Car crash," Byers said. "They were coming home from a late party, both
had been drinking. Simon was driving; the speculation is that he passed
out behind the wheel, drove the car off the road, down a gully into a
heap of rocks. The car exploded and neither of them made it out."
"I shoulda waited for the movie," Langly sneered. "This is a bust, Byers."
"Maybe as a ghost story; but as a mystery, it works," Byers said. "You
should read the 1955 review of Shadet House in 'Modern Architecture'.
They're the people who did the first photo shoot after the Shadets'
deaths. Even the critics didn't know what to make of the place. Shadet
may have admired Wright, but the house's design was the barest nod to
Wright's own work."
"If this isn't important, don't try and tell me," Langly said. "It's a
yawn, Byers. What did you come up with, Frohike?"
"A lot less." Frohike shook his head. "The grad student they found
stripping says she can't remember why she decided to leave Shadet House.
She remembers driving back to D.C. with her friend, then finding herself
outside the bar, but doesn't remember getting up on the runway. In the
interview transcript she keeps asking how the crowd liked her, and did
she make a fool of herself."
"I keep thinking of Susanne's gas," Byers said. "We can't rule out a
"And that worries me," Langly said, "because it isn't something we can
record, measure or guard against."
"If we do this," Frohike said slowly, "and I do mean *if*, I think it
would be smart to keep a man in the van a couple of miles away, with the
coms on 24/7."
"You're even thinking about doing it?" Langly spun around in his chair
twice. "The money sounds good now. How will you feel when you wake up in
the hoosegow in a G-string ... or to find the family jewels are no
How to argue against that point? Frohike saw Byers' face crease into its
deep thought mode. None of them were up for this adventure, it seemed.
"We could pass," Frohike said slowly, "but Yves is going in. Do we
really want to let her go alone? Langly?"
"I say no." Langly stood and jammed his hands into his pockets. "I can't
see how us being there could be useful, and it's not like I'm concerned
about her welfare."
Frohike thought of the kids in the workshop, and frowned. "Maybe. Byers?"
Byers sighed, and looked between them. "My first impulse is to agree
with Langly, but there are some things we could do, you both know it.
Video surveillance at the very least." He shrugged apologetically at
Langly. "I'd go along."
"Whatever." Langly blew out his cheeks and made a face. "Change the
masthead from *Lone Gunman* to *Poltergeists R Us.*"
"You can man the van," Frohike said. He didn't want to take anyone in
with them who had substantial misgivings, and Langly was such a big
scairdy cat he'd probably spook the rest of them regardless of what they
found at the house.
"No way. I'm not staying by myself and watching while something chows on
your livers." Langly took his chair back to his computer and resumed working.
"That means you, Byers," Frohike said. He would rather leave Langly in
the van, but ...
"Let me second that, no way." Byers smiled. "Who will protect Langly
while you guard Yves? We can put Jimmy in the van."
"Oh, right. Just stick the kitchen knife in my neck now," Langly muttered.
Langly had a point, Frohike thought. He shivered. Geese walking over a
grave somewhere, no doubt. "Jimmy could do it. We have to emphasize how
vital his job is, that's all. Words of one syllable. Easy to follow
directions for calling 911. Tell him Yves' well-being will depend on him ..."
"That should do it." Byers was grinning, happy as your average school
nerd about to go on a field trip to the best museum in the area. "If
we're leaving tomorrow morning, we should start packing now."
"Yeah ... I can pack in about three minutes, but you should get started.
I'll help Langly get the video stuff together."
The buzzer sounded as Byers left the work area.
"I'll get it." Frohike made his way to the door. The brown-uniformed man
staring at the camera with an unhappy expression was a stranger. Frohike
punched the intercom.
"Yes? Can we help you?"
"Got a delivery out here for Melvin Frohike. You wanna come sign for it,
and take possession?"
"Sure." Frohike turned around and shouted. "Langly. Come here. I think
that equipment Yves was talking about has arrived."
They followed the delivery man up into the alley. Frohike signed the
slate with one eye on the bright green metal trunk standing near the
side of the building.
"You think we should open it out here?" Langly grabbed the corners of
the trunk and shifted it slightly. "It's heavy."
"No." Frohike waited until the delivery truck had pulled away. "We'll
put it in the back of the van, and have Byers come up. Give me a hand."
It was heavy, but between the two of them not a difficult move.
"It's got some kind of ID marks." Langly pointed to the blurry red
stencil on the latched side of the crate. "Looks like the universal sign
for 'no!' That's real encouraging."
Frohike bent, squinting, to read the small print. "Property of P.
Venkman," he said. "Go get Byers. I want to open it up."
<Part I - Part III>