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The Ghost and the Actress

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Penny wondered what to do with herself now with the funeral a week behind her. Kurt hadn’t been the best husband. Not the worst, but the cheating broke her heart. Even with that he didn’t deserve to get run over by a drunk driver. She was left at a loss for what to do. The acting was finally getting a few small theater roles but she didn’t have the energy to talk to her agent these days. She looked around their L.A apartment and she knew it was a great place but it was too expensive for her alone but worse it reminded her of Kurt and everything that went with him.

Penny picked up her phone and called her friend, Bernadette. ‘Hey, Bernie, how are you doing?’

‘Great, but I should be asking you that. The funeral was just last week. How are you holding up?’ Bernie didn’t know how she’d feel in Penny’s shoes even as a single girl.

‘Better than I let on, we weren’t in the best of places, but he didn’t deserve worse than a divorce. I miss him but I’m not dying here.’ Penny did want the memories to fade some and a change of scenery would do that. ‘How do you feel about visiting a couple of realtors with me? I can’t really afford this place and I want to look around at some new places this weekend.’

‘That sounds like a great step, honey, I get off before lunch, meet at 11, at the Cheese Cake Factory, OK?’

Penny drove over to meet Bernadette at her part time job in Pasadena. She had met Bernie there when a cast party had decided the restaurant was close enough to their theater and big enough to handle the first night celebration. Bernie had been wonderful with a bunch of overexcited actors and stage crew and they’d been friends ever since. Penny hoped Bernie would have a few ideas on cheap places to rent.

They were having pretty poor luck and were almost ready to call it quits. The last place wasn’t looking promising when the guy in a Beatle’s haircut and leisure suit leaped from behind his desk and greeted them. ‘Enchante, mademoiselles, Howard Wolowitz at your service.’

Bernadette jumped in front of her friend to take this one for the team. ‘Hi there, tiger, sit!’

Penny grinned at Howard’s abrupt step backwards. Bernadette could be a shock to much larger guys when she went into her defensive angry badger mode. ‘We came to look for someplace quiet.’

Bernadette filled in some more qualifications. ‘And, we’d like it for access to Caltech and getting to LA.’

The three went through several books of properties when Penny found a place in the area of JPL, Los Robles Cottage. Howard looked like he was getting sick. ‘You don’t want that place.’

‘Why not? It looks great, look Bernie.’ Penny and Bernadette read in disbelief, two bedrooms, three bathrooms, kitchen, livingroom, master study, library. The price was what they couldn’t believe, two thousand a month.’

Bernadette’s skepticism dripped poisonously. ‘How much spent plutonium is under that joint?’

‘There’s nothing wrong with the property, it’s all in perfect condition. It’s just its history. Folks don’t like to stay there?’

Penny was feeling some of Bernadette’s wariness. ‘Why not, is there an outlaw biker gang running a meth factory next door?’

‘No, the last owner died. They say he committed suicide. The place has been troubled ever since. His family in Texas keeps the place for his sake so they aren’t looking for money from it.’ Howard seemed to be holding something back but Penny wanted to see the place.

Bernadette rolled her eyes. ‘Ghosts, that’s why it’s so cheap? Come on, there really is an outlaw biker gang cooking meth next door, like Penny said?’

Penny felt excited. She loved psychics and spirits so a haunted house would be great. ‘Come on Bernie, if it is haunted we could talk to the spirit world. That would be so cool!’

Bernie rolled her eyes but she knew Penny wouldn’t give up if her heart was set on the place. ‘Let’s go take a look at it but when the toxic waste under it turns you into a zombie mutant, don’t blame me.’

Howard just sighed and prayed the place would be quiet long enough to get these girls in and out before something crazy happened. ‘I got the keys here, let’s drive up there.’

+++

The road up to the Los Robles Cottage was quiet and the cottage was alone on a bluff overlooking the canyon. It was odd such a nice piece of real estate hadn’t been developed. The cottage was two stories and was clear of trees in case of fires but the trend of the canyon kept the cottage in the shade for most of the day except for the sunset which now cast the home in a beautiful rose color. Penny felt like she was coming home just looking at it.

‘We’re gonna get murdered up here, aren’t we? There’s some crazy cult living in the hills. That’s why this place is so cheap, isn’t it, Howard?’ Bernadette was sure there had to be something beyond silly ghost stories to make a place like this so cheap.

‘No, but we really shouldn’t be here, now, it’s laundry night.’ Howard knew how bad this place could get on that night.

Penny practically ran to the door. ‘Come on, it’s beautiful here and the view is gorgeous.’

‘Yeah, I wish I could sell the place but the family won’t budge and no one wants to live here so let’s say we looked and it was awful and leave?’ Howard started back for the cars but Bernadette grabbed his arm.

‘Not so fast, mop-top, let us in and show us around.’ Howard winced at the grip on the small woman and wondered which was worse, disappointing her or bothering him inside.

The girls walked in quickly peaking around the first floor in excitement. The living room was on the left as they went in and a dining room was opposite on the right. It was decorated with a dozen different models and comic book characters. The dining room connected to the kitchen which went across the back of the house. Between the dining room and kitchen was a small equipment room for the kitchen equipment and crockery and dishware for the dining room. It led to a pantry that opened into the kitchen. The far side of the kitchen had the downstairs bathroom on the corridor that went into the living room. The library was set off the living room and was well stocked with physics and math texts as well as science fiction novels but the whole room was strangely without sign of dust. Bernadette was suspicious of that. ‘Are there squatters here, Howard?’

‘No, no one at all, it’s just a low dust area, I guess.’ Howard was getting more nervous as the time got later to six o’clock. He always did his laundry at six. ‘We ought to get going. There’s nothing really to see. Hey, where’s Penny?’

Penny had gone up to the second floor. One bedroom was in the back extending over the kitchen at the top of the stairs and led to a good sized bathroom with doors to the bedroom and the hallway. The bedroom was attached to a small sitting room which had a spiral staircase that went down to the library on the first floor. She went around the main staircase to the front room and found the master study. ‘Holy smokes!’ The room was half library with white boards that were filled with math like she’d only seen in movies. The other side had models, video games, and comic books and a large TV. The study had a bathroom door to the left that was bigger than the one over the kitchen with a full length tub that looked like a swimming pool to Penny. The bedroom was opposite and was furnished with a full queen sized bed. The study had a balcony that was glass enclosed with French windows and a telescope stand. Penny could stay here for the rest of her life. A large leather wing chair sat in the near center facing the TV at an angle so one could just as easily look out the balcony windows. Penny sat down and the chair was luxuriously comfortable, all she needed was her Hello Kitty comforter and she would be set for the night as far as she was concerned. She closed her eyes feeling like she was already at home.

‘Oh, dear lord!’

Penny looked around for the man’s voice she heard. ‘Howard, is that you out there?’ Penny looked around the second floor but she didn’t find anyone. She looked again in the back bedroom and came back out to find Bernadette coming up the stairs.

'Bernie, did Howard come up here?

'No, I left him downstairs in the living room to find you. Why?'

'It's nothing. You've got to see this place up here.' Penny guessed she might have imagined the voice or maybe just heard Howard downstairs while she was daydreaming.

They looked around the second floor together and flipped a coin for the front room. Bernadette gritted her teeth when Penny won. ‘Look at it this way, you’re going for a PhD. That library downstairs will make a better working office for you than up here and you can use the living room for more space of your own. Besides, we can share tub time anytime. Heck, that thing is big enough for the both of us, together.’

Bernadette laughed at that. ‘Don’t say that around Howard, I think it would give him a heart attack he’s so jumpy. Where is that little ball of stress, anyway?’ Penny and Bernadette started and grabbed each other when they heard Howard scream downstairs.

‘It wasn’t my fault! I’m sorry! I told them not to come! Ahhh!’ The girls heard running from the direction of the library and then the front door slammed. They went to the balcony and saw Howard jump into his car and drive madly away.

Penny and Bernadette took down two funny looking sword things from the study walls and walked cautiously downstairs. They thought someone must have scared off Howard and now they were alone with a mad person in the house. They looked all around and found no one. When they searched the basement all they found was a washing machine running. It was all very bizarre because there was an inch of dust around the machine but there were no footprints.

‘Are you sure you want to move in here, Penny?’ Bernadette was a little nervous about Howard running off and finding the washing machine running like that.

Penny huffed in in frustration. ‘Howard kept telling us this place was troubled but I didn’t see anything upstairs, did you see anything before this?’ Penny pointed to the washing.

‘No, no I didn’t.’

‘See, I’ll bet it was just Howard. He kept trying to make us nervous about the place. Once he was alone, he probably started the machine somehow, then did the screaming act and ran off so we’d be too scared to take the place.’ Penny shook her head. ‘I don’t scare that easy.’

+++

Penny and Bernadette signed the papers on Los Robles cottage and moved in the following weekend. Bernadette started to like the plan Penny had to divide the house. She loved Penny but she had seen how much chaos she could create. Having the study area upstairs would confine her nesting and she wouldn’t be wandering everywhere when she was running her lines. They mopped, and brushed, and vacuumed for hours and by the end they felt very much at home. Bernadette found a small delicate patio table and chairs in the basement that would make a lovely place to have tea on the patio outside the downstairs library. It confirmed the place for Bernie the moment she sat down with her tea. Penny was just as happy when she had her Care Bears lined up where those comics had been. She went out on her balcony and saw Bernie lounging on her patio set. ‘Don’t you look like a happy cat?’

‘I am very happy. You were right about the setup, this is heaven.’

‘When you finish your tea, could you come up here?’ Penny looked through the old comics and wondered if she should throw them out but when Bernadette came up stairs after her tea she suggested they try to bring them to a comic shop near Caltech and sell them. They looked old but very carefully kept.

‘The geeks will spend crazy money on stuff like this.’ Bernie looked through the books carefully but with little recognition. She knew the main characters by look, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, but that was it.

Penny knew a couple others from going to the Marvel movies but she didn’t know anything about the characters beyond the films. ‘Let’s call the shop later and see if they might be interested in looking at some of these?’

Bernie liked the idea and looked up the name of the place she had in mind, ‘The Comic Center of Pasadena’ but it was closed looking at the clock. The housemates put off the comic issue for the night and decided to have a moved in dinner.

Penny got some wine to celebrate their successful move into the cottage and they went upstairs to open it in the study after their dinner and relax on the balcony. They stopped in the doorway of the study when they found the comics on the shelves and the Care Bears in the boxes they’d put the comics in.

‘How did that happen?’ Bernie was feeling nervous. Neither one of them had been away from each other long enough to move all the stuff.

‘I don’t know but I am too happy to care. Maybe, Howard was here playing a ghostly practical joke like the washing machine?’ Penny was bothered by that possibility but she wasn’t going to be scared by some jumpy real estate guy with a phobia for quaint cottages.

'That would be creepy besides I suppose we shouldn't be selling the stuff.'

'I guess so I didn't think that idea through very well. We should ask Howard about some of this stuff and if it's valuable so it can get put away safely.'

They watched an old comedy on the TV in the study while they enjoyed their wine, ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and they laughed themselves silly trying to imitate Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T Justice. They washed up and found the tub really was big enough for the both of them to sit in comfortably. Penny and Bernadette high fived the excellent choice to ignore jumpy Howard’s attempts to scare them off.

'Bernie's right about the comics but they're still going off the shelves.' Penny decided she wanted her Care Bears back in place after Bernie went to bed. She switched them once again for the comics and went to sleep. Around 2am, Penny was woken by the grumbling voice of a man in the study. ‘What sort of vandals are those two harpies to treat a superlative comic collection in such way?’

Penny picked up her baseball bat that she always slept near and crept into the study. She saw a tall man in the moonlit room tossing her Care Bears into an empty box. She swung for the knees to put him down but she hit one of the spaceship models on the lower shelf, instead. It shattered impressively.

‘My classic series Galactica! What kind of insane she-devil are you?’

Penny wasn’t taking any more chances. ‘I’ll give you a she-devil, you asshole!’ She swung for the guy’s head to put him down but the bat swung through his head and Penny spun wildly connecting with nothing until another model exploded on contact.

‘The Enterprise, Kirk’s USS Enterprise, NCC 1701, have you no sense of cultural heritage, you, philistine Amazon?’

Penny looked astonished. She saw the bat actually go through the guy. She poked the bat into his chest but it passed through his body. ‘Holy smokes, you're a real ghost.’

‘If I wasn’t, I would have been with the way you tried killing me with that bat.’ Sheldon clenched his hands in outrage at the damage this lunatic woman had done to his precious models.

‘What did you think would happen sneaking into a woman’s room! And don’t get me started on trying to throw away my Care Bears, creep!’ Penny was angry at the dust and dirt she could make out on her Funshine Bear.

‘Madam, this is my room in my home. You are the intruder here.’ Sheldon glowered and his ghostly aura glowed blue and fiery.

Penny marched right through Sheldon and grabbed another model off the shelf by the TV. ‘Wanna see how many pieces this thing can turn into in MY home?’ Penny wound up and got ready to toss the model in the air for her swing.

‘No, not the Serenity! Stop this madness!’ Sheldon backed off from the angry woman. She clearly wasn’t going to be scared off by ghostly tactics. Penny lowered the model but she kept the bat ready.

‘I don’t know who you are miss, but those models, this room, They’re all I have. I am a ghost and they are all I have left in this world and I don’t want to lose any more.’ Sheldon looked sadly at the broken toys. ‘Another part of me gone from the world.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Penny put the model back on the shelf. ‘But, you scared me to death. Bernie and I are alone here and I don’t have much more than what’s in this room.' Penny plopped down on the wing chair from the post adrenaline shakes. 'My cheating husband is dead and most of our money disappeared into the funeral and paying off credit cards. I can only afford to live here because Bernie went in halfsies with me.’

Penny shivered in the wing chair, the adrenalin rush turning her cold now that she was calming down. ‘Jesus, you scared me to death. Who are you, anyway?’

‘I am Sheldon Lee Cooper, and who are you?’ Sheldon looked at the broken models. ‘And what are you going to do about vandalizing my property?’

‘I’m Penny Queen and my friend is Bernadette Rostenkowski. And that’s what you get for scaring women alone, don’t push me, sweetie, or I’ll find a way to make this bat hurt. I’ll bet my psychic can give me a few ideas.’

‘Psychics? They are nothing but superstitious fiddlesticks for gullible minds.’ Sheldon felt his word was authoritative on the matter.

Penny snorted. ‘Says the ghost? Which fiddle should I stick that opinion in, Sheldon? I’m going to bed. Put my Care Bears back, clean and in order the way you found them, or I will draw a little smiley face in one of your comics somewhere. Penny marched back to bed irritated with Sheldon and his antics. ‘Since when does a ghost need space ship models?’ Penny sat down on her bed and thought about the sad face he had and what he said about another part of himself gone and felt a little guilty. She thought a trip to that comic shop might be worth it.