The Case of the Captain's Ghost
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! Recently I watched The Case of the Misguided Missile, and, being an adoring Simon Oakland fan, I was heartbroken by his character's gruesome and needless death. I came up with this to cope. I hope Perry sounds alright; I've watched the show off and on for at least thirteen years, but I never tried writing for it before. Thanks to Crystal Rose, who inadvertently gave me the idea when she suggested a different concept instead.
The ringing of the telephone startled Major Jerry Reynolds out of the manual he had been perusing. Blinking in surprise, he lifted the receiver. A chill breeze brushed past his hand, despite the closed windows. He ignored it. "Hello?"
"Hello Jerry," came Perry Mason's friendly voice. "I just thought I'd call to see how you're coming along."
Jerry leaned back, relieved that it was not some new business at the base for him to run off and tend to. "Oh hello, Perry," he smiled. "Things have been going well. How was your flight back to Los Angeles?"
"Fine," Perry said. "Paul and I got back right on schedule."
"Good to hear. Say, did you hear that another company got the job of building the new missile for our program?"
"Yes, I did," said Perry. "After all the bad luck Vandenberg had with the Morgan and Huxley corporations, I was wondering how this new company is working out."
"They're excellent," Jerry said. "The company president, Gozaburo Kaiba, came by the base today with his missile designers. Colonel Sloan and the rest of us were all impressed."
"Good," Perry said, pleased.
"The Kaiba Corporation has a spotless track record when it comes to their designs . . ." Jerry trailed off. Now it felt like a breeze had blown past him. That was impossible to ignore.
"Jerry? Are you alright?"
Jerry stood, still holding the telephone as he moved to the nearest window. "I must have left a window open somewhere, Perry," he said with a weak laugh. "I'm getting cool air blown at me."
Jerry dropped the receiver. He spun around, his eyes wide and disbelieving. No one was there, but he recognized the voice all too well.
"Jerry!" Now Perry was outright concerned. "What's going on?"
Jerry let the receiver lie where it was for the moment. "Who's here?" he demanded. "What kind of trick are you playing?"
A low, grim chuckle answered him. "It's not a trick, Major Reynolds."
Jerry backed up into the chair. A translucent figure was materializing in front of him, in full Air Force uniform. "Caldwell," Jerry breathed.
Maybe he had been working too hard lately. There had certainly been a great deal of stress from being falsely accused of Captain Caldwell's murder. And in the wake of that, there had been all manner of pieces to pick up from the scandals involving the Morgan and Huxley corporations. He had definitely been busy. That had to be the explanation for this.
"What's the matter? Don't you believe in ghosts?" Caldwell regarded him with an amused, almost taunting, smirk on his lips. "Don't feel bad—I didn't either. But I don't have a lot of choice now, do I?"
Somewhere in the background Jerry was faintly aware of Perry yelling through the phone, demanding to know what was wrong. But picking up the receiver was the last thing on his mind right now. He moved forward slowly, reaching out a hand when he was close enough. It passed through the other man's image, sending a chill straight to Jerry's bones.
He fell back. "You really are here?" he exclaimed, still unable to process it. "Why?" He frowned as he tried to gather what little sense he had left. "Isn't my house the last place you'd want to visit? Or are you planning to stay here now and haunt me just for the fun of it?"
Caldwell still looked amused. He walked across the room and then around Jerry and the chair, sobering as he did. "I didn't have much choice about that, either," he said.
Jerry blinked in bewildered surprise. "What do you mean?"
Caldwell stopped in front of him. "Well, it's a funny situation," he said. "I couldn't move on until I took care of some loose ends. Your friend Mason exposed the conspiracy that led to me being killed. But there was still something else—that little matter from the war."
Jerry cringed. "We're not going to go through that again," he objected. "I've told you and told you . . ."
Caldwell held up a hand to stop him. "I know," he said. "You told me you gave that order I didn't fulfill. I said I didn't receive the order." His eyes darkened. "It's true, Major—I never did. But I found out a few days ago that you really did give it. It was the officer who was supposed to relay the message to me who didn't follow through."
Jerry stepped back, stunned. "Then . . . do you hold a grudge against him now?" he wondered. "He lied and said he delivered my order."
Caldwell sighed and shrugged. "Oh, I was surprised at first," he said. "Then I was angry. Yes, I wanted to hold a grudge over him. But hanging it over your head all these years never helped anything. And I guess . . ." He cleared his throat, uncomfortable. "Well, I guess I've changed some over the last few days. I decided to let it go. After all, staying angry wouldn't help me now. And . . . I realize how it poisoned me. I never even considered other possibilities. In my mind, you were lying just to discredit me and protect yourself and I hated you for it."
Jerry exhaled. "I knew I'd given the order," he said. "I never knew what really was the truth about you not following through. But I could have looked into it more myself. I'm sorry."
Caldwell nodded. "That's what I came to say too," he said. "I'm sorry, Major Reynolds."
Jerry was amazed. That was one thing he had never thought he would hear the proud Mike Caldwell say to him. Long ago, before the misunderstanding, they had been friends. But when that had been torn asunder and Caldwell had rejected all attempts to mend the friendship, Jerry had come to believe that it could not be repaired.
"I don't expect you to forgive me," Caldwell continued. "But it needed to be said." He stepped back.
Jerry took a step forward. "No!" he exclaimed. Caldwell looked to him in surprise. "No, I forgive you. What happened with the message wasn't either of our faults. But what happened after, we're both to blame for."
A trace of a genuine smile flickered on Mike's lips. "Major." He brought his arm up in a sharp salute.
Slowly, Jerry returned it. An overwhelming mix of emotions rushed over him. He had regained his old friend, but was losing him at the same time. And if Mike had not been killed and learned the truth, the bad blood between them might have persisted for years yet.
"If you ever need help, call on me and I'll see what I can do." Caldwell was openly smiling now. "Within reason, of course." He turned to leave. "Goodbye, Jerry. Oh, and thank Mason for catching my killer." Then he was gone, having faded back into the nothingness of the air.
But the memory of his presence hung with Jerry. He sank into the chair, his head spinning. Almost mechanically, he reached for the phone on the table. "Perry?" he asked, his voice bespeaking how far away his mind was from the living room in the house on Vandenberg Air Force Base. "Are you still there?"
"Am I still here?" Perry repeated in disbelief. "Jerry, where have you been? Who were you talking to?"
Jerry shook his head. "I know you won't believe this," he said. "I'm still trying to grasp it myself. But . . . I've just seen a ghost. And he said to thank you for catching the man who killed him."
There was a long silence on the other end of the line. "I think you'd better start at the beginning," Perry told him.
And Jerry, still reeling, did just that. Perry listened, not giving any indication of what he thought. At the conclusion Jerry said, "Well, what do you think, Perry? Am I ready for a padded room?"
"I couldn't say, Jerry," Perry answered. "I'm not a doctor."
But it sounded like there was a trace of a smile in his words.
Paul, who had entered the room a moment before, had not been able to help but overhear part of the conversation. When Perry hung up the phone at last, he spoke. "What was that all about?"
Perry glanced up, not surprised to see him there. "Jerry says he had a visit from Captain Caldwell's ghost," he said.
Paul's eyebrows rose. "Do you think he did?"
"I don't know, Paul," Perry said as he got up from his desk. "I'm just a lawyer, not a medium. But . . ." He paused. "Jerry seemed perfectly fine, both when we left and when I spoke to him on the phone. And I definitely heard him talking to someone." He headed for the door. "It sounds like the visit did Jerry some good; they patched up their old problems." He glanced over his shoulder. "So does it matter whether Caldwell was actually there or not?"
"I guess not," Paul said as he followed.