One month later.

Mrs. Johnson opened the service entrance door at Collinwood to find Willie, the young handyman who was always mooching a free meal and a shower, with Maggie, the diner waitress, on her step. Despite earlier claims, Miss Evans was not toting her pop's rifle today; it would have been in extremely poor taste.

The housekeeper invited them in and put on the kettle to make tea. The young pair expressed their condolences over the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Harry's demise. It was devastating to the old woman when she had learned that her son turned out to be the Collinsport Ghoul and was responsible for the murders of so many people. Not to mention the scandal it had brought to the Collins' family, whose primary concern was, of course, the impact of the situation on them.

The lady's red-rimmed eyes revealed a heavy heart, and she looked bone weary in her plain, black dress and cardigan. For once, Mrs. Johnson had nothing to say. She even declined to berate the young worker who had disappeared for several months without warning, saddling her, once again, with a pile of undone chores.

In an effort to lift her spirits, Willie dumped, from the satchel he carried, a cascade of wrapped packets of $100 bills onto the kitchen table. He told the housekeeper a tall tale in which Barnabas had taken out a life insurance policy for Harry during his employment at the Old House. Although he had named himself the beneficiary, Mr. Collins felt, in a gesture of magnanimity, that the money should go to the man's bereaved mother.

Now, Willie explained to the housekeeper, she could afford to quit and was no longer obligated to work for the thankless Collins family who had always ridiculed her cooking skills.

Mrs. Johnson's eyes bulged at the mountain of money. What she didn't know (but Willie found very amusing) was that Jason had almost certainly extorted that cash from Liz Stoddard, so the rich old buzzard was funding her housekeeper's retirement fund without realizing it. Oh well. The young man may have turned over a new leaf since arriving at Collinsport, but it still had a few spots on it.

Willie asked for a favor in return. Again reaching into the satchel, he removed a Polaroid camera and asked Mrs. Johnson to photograph the couple. Actually, take two. Or three, so he could send one to the newspaper. Maggie shot a dubious look in his direction but said nothing.

Later Willie walked his girl back to the truck and opened the passenger side door before jumping behind the driver's wheel.

"Newspaper?" Maggie asked when they were out of earshot. "Hold it right there, Loomis. I said I would go out with you. Once."

"True, I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothin' but vain fantasy."

The young woman sighed at his tireless attempts to get her attention. "Quoting Shakespeare at me all the time is not going to get you anywhere."

"Nah, I think you're a sucker for it. I'm gonna learn somethin' new every day just to say to you."

"Okay," she conceded, laughing, "make it something pretty. So, what about our dream date, was that it? Tea in the kitchen at Collinwood?"

"'Course not, that was just somethin' I hadda do." Willie searched his brain to think of what folks would do on a date, the part before you end up in the back seat. "Well, I guess we can go to a movie—boy, it's been a long time since I been to a movie—and dinner and…I-I dunno, whatever ya want. We'll even drive to Bangor so ya won't haveta be seen with me in town."

Maggie was embarrassed for the young misfit. "Don't say that, Willie. I don't mind being seen with you." But the look on her face said otherwise. "But maybe that's not a bad idea. We'd probably get some funny looks…Poor Pop, he wishes I was still with Joe."

"Maybe I could buy your pop a big bottle a' scotch, and do some work 'round your house. How's your plumbin'?"

"Do you mean you would bribe my father in order to go out with me?"

"Sure, why not?" He shrugged. "I don't think the Shakespeare would work on him."

That evening Willie sat at the writing desk in his new bedroom. He used to be lonely when he first came to Collinsport, and especially to the Old House. Now solitude would have been a blessing compared to having Dr. Hoffman there every day. With her experiments at an end, she had nothing to occupy her time and took to micromanaging Willie's chores and personal life, and he was not good with the supervision thing in either category. Julia really needed to go back to work and do doctor stuff again—somewhere else.

When he and Maggie got hitched, Willie planned to get a place in town and commute to work. Understandably, the relationship between his girl and his boss would always be a bit strained. Besides, no normal person could live in the rotting shithole, as he affectionately called home.

That's why Julia remained at Collinwood, for the creature comforts. The handyman wondered just how long she would be welcome to freeload there now that her Maggie mission had been abandoned. The case was closed and the kidnapping had been attributed to the Collinsport Ghoul, an assumption contradicted by no one at the Old House.

Willie contemplated the impracticality of the Barnabas/Julia pairing, with her at Great House and he in the basement—talk about separate bedrooms. Maybe Julia should become a vampire too; that would solve a lot of problems. These mixed marriages seldom worked out.

Willie studied the Polaroid photo in his hand for a long while. He and Maggie were standing side by side, smiling, with his arm around her shoulder. The young man had no experience with how to behave properly in a romantic relationship and warned himself not to be too impulsive. He didn't want to scare her off by coming across as some crazy stalker—like some people he could mention.

He turned the photo over and wrote on the back.

This is me and my girl friend. Her name is Maggie and we're getting married. Please set two extra places at thanksgiving cause we are coming to visit. I love you.

Then he dropped the snapshot in an envelope and addressed it to Mrs. Lydia Loomis Harrison of Schenectady, New York.

The End

The Willie Loomis World Series continues with installment #7 titled "Haplessly Ever After." I hope you will continue to read and review. Thanks, MM