Haunted Titanic: A ship of screams

by
The unsinkable Lauren Bitar
and
Captain Robert J. Gillis

Lauren Bitar and are I close friends and are very involved in certain community service group, and their number one fund-raiser is a spectacular haunted house, at which Lauren and I run a haunted room each year.

So Lauren and I got to thinking (never a good thing) and decided that as obsessive fans of the movie “Titanic,” we would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking by co-chairing the 2012 haunted house as “Haunted Titanic.”

So from early 2001 to 2003, Lauren and I collaborated on this preposterous “history” of our trials and tribulations to create our dream of “Haunted Titanic” in 2012.

We both love the Dudley Moore movie “Arthur,” and “Titanic,” and the “X-Files,” so you’ll find lots of in-jokes and “had to be theres” in this story. LOTS and LOTS of them. And LOTS.

The more times you’ve seen “Titanic” and “Arthur,” the more you’ll “get” this. Being a fan of the “Sopranos” and “X-Files” will help, as will not being exactly, um … Normal.

The references to a man in a grizzly bear costume are from the 2000 haunted house, where one of our members, Keith, wore a bear costume that simply wasn’t scary. He put in a great effort, but it didn’t scare anyone so we used to joke we’d never bring a grizzly bear back into another Haunted House.

If you want to know what Lauren and I are really like together … This is what Lauren and I are like together.

The community service group name has been changed to the “Kaycees,” (a brilliant change of one letter) and all the other names are in-jokes or obvious fakes so we don’t get yelled at.

None of this actually happened.

Yet.

Enjoy.


Chapter 1 / By Bob Gillis

Foxboro Herald-Tribune, page 1:

KAYCEES ANNOUNCE MOST AMBITIOUS HAUNTED HOUSE EVER FOR 2012

Foxboro–Lauren Bitar, president of the Foxboro Kaycees, and her vice-president Robert Gillis announced today they would chair the 2012 Kaycee Haunted House at Camp Andrews Foxboro.

The Foxboro Kaycees are Foxboro’s #1 Community Service Group, noted for their spectacular haunted house fund-raiser.

“2012 will be the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, so we’re going to do Haunted Titanic,” Bitar exclaims. “We plan to build a full scale replica of the Titanic and flood Camp Andrews, and each cabin will represent a scene from the movie, with a haunted house theme.”

At a press conference, famed TV reporter Steven Falken asked Bitar who came up with the Titanic idea, and she explained while Mister Gillis knocked the idea together, it was she who came up with Titanic, because, ” … it means obsession, and obsession means attention to detail and tradition and many sleepless nights.”

When asked if she knew of Calvin Klein and his fragrance “Obsession,” Bitar replied, “Klein, who is he, a passenger?”


Chapter 2 / By Lauren Bitar

Gillis and Bitar gave a tour of the camp, which will house this monumental Kaycee project. The tour included a trip out to a site behind the camp where construction of the grand ship had already begun. Gillis proudly showed off the shell of the majestic vessel.

“She’s made of iron,” they explained.

When asked about the origin of the ship, how many were working on its actual construction, and if it were English, he replied, “Fifteen thousand Irishman are building this ship; with strong Irish hands!” Construction on this phase of the shipbuilding was expected to take about four more hours.


Chapter 3 / By Bob Gillis

… As a news photographer snaps pictures of the third class dance party / hanging skit, Bitar is interrupted by a call from Rhode Island Novelty of Southampton.

“Yes, thank you for calling me back. I’ve done the sum in my head, and with the number of packages of glow makeup you’ve sent, times the capacity of the guides using it, there doesn’t seem to be enough for each guide…” Her brow wrinkles in thought. “Of course, I’m just the haunted house chairman; I leave it to your good offices to decide. Cherrio!”

She hangs up the phone. “Remember, the woman in the picture is me. The last thing I need is another portrait of me looking like a porcelain doll. Now … Where were we?”

We resume our conversation about her plans for the haunted house. “Everything seems so new this year. The chainsaws have never been used. The caskets have never been slept in.”

The phone rings again. Bitar listens for a moment then snaps, “My God man, drilling holes in his head’s not the answer! The artery must be repaired!”

Cursing, “Bugger me,” she slams the phone down, counts to ten, and then she smiles. “Our electrician, have you seen him?” No one has, and Bitar spins. “It’s a haunted house! There’s only so many places he can be. Find him.”

The phone rings yet again. “Oh, for the love of … ” She listens intently. “Of course you hate it. People work here.” The phone is once again slammed down.

Bitar snatches the phone before the latest ring has even ceased. “WHAT?!” she demands. “That’s impossible! There must be another list!” She palms the phone. “Bob, please go get my Paxil. You’ll find it on the top shelf next to the untouched Zoloft.”


Chapter 4 / By Lauren Bitar

Another room on the HH tour will be the Grand Dining Hall. Bitar and Gillis would not give out any details of the skit, but hinted that there would be some intricate pyrotechnics involved.

Gillis and Bitar were also quite excited and most proud of E deck, which will feature a “find the body part room” where the patrons can really get into the act! Machetes and life belts will be provided.

“This is a life belt, please put it on,” she explained.


Chapter 5 / By Bob Gillis

More trouble at the Foxboro Kaycees “Titanic” haunted house. Foxboro Selectmen have denied the Kaycee’s request to flood Camp Andrews with 400,000 tons of seawater, citing dangers to the community.

Lauren Bitar was clearly outraged by the development. “I’m not one of their foremen in the mills they can command! I’m chairperson of the haunted house! I see they had those undertakers of selectmen undermine my plans once again, how typical!”

Gillis gave more details about the “Old Rose” scene and revealed part of the script: “Brock Lovett says, “Here’s some weapons we found in your state room.” Old Rose picks up a long knife and exclaims, “This was mine! How extraordinary. And it looks the same as the last time I saw it!” and then attacks Lovett, stabbing him repeatedly. As ‘Lovett’ dies he mutters, “The blood stains have changed a bit.””


Chapter 6 / By Lauren Bitar

An emergency Selectman’s meeting was called and Bitar and Co-Master Ship Builder Bob Gillis rushed in with their blueprints.

Bitar and Gillis explained that the giant tank could well hold the 400,000 plus gallons of seawater that would fill it, further explaining that they would install new type davits on the ship that could hold a second row of lifeboats inside the first.

Gillis could be heard whispering to Bitar, “A waste of deck space as it is on an unsinkable ship.”

Selectman Bergdorf Goodman wasn’t swayed. He insisted that the tank couldn’t possibly hold all that water to which Bitar replied, “This tank is made of iron, sir. I assure it can; and it will!”

The selectman adjourned for 15 minutes coming back with the ruling that the tanks would not be allowed.

“You unimaginable bastards!” Bitar exclaimed. “I’ve been robbed! I want the entire room photographed!”

Just when it looked as though they had lost this battle, Gillis offered three complimentary cabin passes (as their VIP passes/tickets will be called) and a job as guest actors playing the stewards in the Mail Hold Room on E deck. This would allow them to see up close the iceberg scene. They agreed.

Selectmen Preston Langley later commented, “Winning that ticket was the best thing that ever happened to me…it brought me to you. And I’m thankful for that, I’m thankful.”


Chapter 7 / By Bob Gillis

Bitar faced even harsher criticism from reporters outside the meeting.

“She’s some nutcase looking for money, or publicity, like that Russian babe, Anesthesia! Look, I’ve already done the background on Lauren Bitar back to the 80s, when she was working as aactress. An actress–there’s your first clue, Sherlock! Her name was Lauren Dawson back then. For years, she watched Titanic over and over and over! Now her VCR is dead, and from what I hear, her DVD player is dead!”

“I assure you it’s quite proper,” Bitar shot back. “For three years I’ve thought of nothing but Titanic haunted House.” She paused for a moment. “Oh, is either of you a paleontologist, I desperately need a paleontologist,” Bitar said.

“No, we’re reporters,” came the reply.

“Oh, pity.”

With that, Bitar gave the order to, “Find the paleontologist and get him to sound the swimming pool.”

Meanwhile, Kaycee Linda Marola gave an impassioned four-hour speech about the need to explain that Titanic sank because the lookouts were drunk and that if only they had “Family Talk,” a program to discourage underage drinking, back in 1912, the White Star Liner would have reached New York safely.

“What the hell is “Family Talk,” anyway?” Gillis demanded.

Bitar consulted Wikipedia, which had not been invented at the time this chapter was written, on her iPad, which had also not been invented when this chapter was written, and read, “Family Talk about Drinking is an underage drinking prevention program created by a famous beer company and a parent coach. Basically they want to prevent underage drinking.”

“Well, I agree that is an excellent concept and underage drinking must be discouraged,” Gillis said, being completely sincere for perhaps the only time in this story. “But what’s the problem?” He gestured toward the workers. “Everyone at this haunted house is over 21. Some of us drink, some of us don’t, and then there’s you,” he finished, waving LB’s whiskey flask in a cartoonish fashion.

Bitar sighed heavily. “Linda Marola has expanded “Family Talk” into a crusade against ALL drinking, regardless of age. She wants US to stop drinking. She’s also speaking out against smoking,” LB added, stamping out her 12th cigarette of the hour.

Gillis nodded thoughtfully. “Well, it seems like her obsession and crusade to apply a youth-oriented program toward adults could be quite hilarious, juxtaposed against a haunted house set in an historical setting of 1912 where EVERYONE drank and smoke.”

Bitar smiled. “Comic relief it is, then.” They both turned toward the camera, once again breaking the fourth wall, and Bitar said, “Remember, underage drinking is no laughing matter! Enforce the age requirement on liquor purchases!”

Gillis asked, “Here, here! But if we’re over 21, we can we still make fun of her for trying to convert US, right?”

LB nodded. “It’s a magical night.”


Chapter 8 / By Lauren Bitar

All work was suspended as the chairmen gave their crew the afternoon off to attend Family Talk, a program to discourage underage drinking. Bitar was reportedly seen hanging off the back of the ship threatening to jump if she had to listen to one more filibuster by Marola on the subject.

“You jump, I jump, LB” Gillis said as he (masterfully) talked Bitar back on deck, reminding her, “With all due respect, Miss, I’m not the one hanging off the back of a ship.”

Publicity chairman and PR person Bernard Hill insisted Bitar was just looking at the ah, the ah, propellers, leaning far over, when she slipped and nearly went over. Work resumed later that evening.

Gillis could be heard throughout the camp via his intricate PA system directing his crew to meet him on deck suggesting that they wear topcoats and hats. “It’s quite cold out tonight,” he informed them. He then broke into a heartfelt rendition of “Come Josephine in my flying machine.”

Bitar was busy with Kaycees Lizzy Calvert and Bobby Buell, the head guides, going over costuming. Calvert will tentatively play the Countess and Buell will be Colonel Archibald Gracie. She and Gillis had a meeting later to decide who would play Molly Brown.

The seemingly easy task of casting for this Haunted House proved to be more daunting for this dynamic duo than had originally been thought. They could be heard explaining to Chester and Julie, two of their finest guides that yes, they had to wear a costume every night and no, just a mask and a life belt would not do.

In the midst of all this, Bitar realized: We need George Takei.


Chapter 9 / By Bob Gillis

After the exciting rescue, Gillis placed a ladder against a tree, climbed it, and shouted, “I’m the king of the–” before he realized people were staring and pointing at him. He quietly resumed his work, fine-tuning a speaker playing Celine Dion’s “My heart will go on.”

“Turn that up dear,” Bitar called to him. She bumped into some shrubbery. “Pardon me! Oh, you’re a hedge.”

Kindly Bernard Hill realized that Gillis’ actions saving Lauren from the jumping off the ship (not to mention yet another Family Talk ant-drinking sermon) required some sort of reward.

Hill whispered to Burt Johnson, “A little something for the web boy, perhaps?”

Johnson nodded toward the concession stand. “Ah, yes, Mr. Lovejoy, I think a Nestle Crunch bar should do it.”

“Is that the going rate for saving the co-chair of the haunted house?” Bitar asked dryly.

“Lauren is displeased, what to do?” Johnson thought for a moment. He turned to Gillis, who was now swearing under his breath at the electrical tape and jumbled wire connections on the speakers.

Johnson began, “Perhaps you’d like to join us, at our Kaycee progressive dinner, to regale our chapter with your heroic tale?”

“Sure, count me in,” Gillis replied warily. From his high vantage point on the ladder, he could see Foxboro Common already (very small, of course).

“Good, it’s settled then.” Johnson went on from a colorful reddish-brown piece of paper, “Your will be attending / cooking / hosting … ” He circled “attending” and continued, “appetizers at the Astor house, you will be attending / cooking / hosting” he circled “attending” again, “dinner at the Guggenheim house, and your desert house, as always, is the Lady Duff-Gordon house.”

“Thanks,” Gillis replied as Bitar joined in for the last chorus of, “near, far, wherever you are … ”

White Star Line chairman Mrs. Nesbitt arrived on the scene. “I see you have not connected the last four speakers,” she said disapprovingly to Bitar.

“No, I don’t see the need,” Bitar said mildly.

But Nesbitt was insistent. “I just spoke with the newspapers and the Foxboro Herald-Tribune. We must give them something new to print! I understand your skits will include a man in a grizzly bear costume.”

“Never,” Gillis snarled.

Bitar spun. “That skit has NEVER worked. Every year the Marolas try to bring back the “guy in a bear suit” scare. Every year it fails to be scary. Not in my haunted house, dammit!

“LB,” Gillis said gently.

“No, Bob. I forbid it. Do you hear me? I FORBID IT!”

“LB,” Gillis said gently.

“And then they’ll start the FAMILY TALK speech–you know, no drinking, no smoking, no cursing … Shit, where’s my cigarette?”


Chapter 10 / By Lauren Bitar

The next phase of this mammoth project was writing the script.

“RUBBISH!” exclaimed Bitar, tossing the pages aside. She glared at the intern scriptwriter. “Young lady, this is a script you cannot steal, this is a script I’m afraid you’re going to have to work for.”

“I–” the scriptwriter began.

“Try not to speak,” Bitar said dismissively. “Now go get me two aspirin, you’ll find them at the bottom of the unused swimming pool.” She reviewed the second draft, a brilliant piece of work by Master Script Writer, Bob Gillis.


Chapter 11 / By Bob Gillis

“Your script is a wonder, Bob, truly,” LB said.

But Gillis would have none of that. “LB, you share equal credit for a script so grand, so luxurious in its appointments, that its supremacy will never be challenged. You have a gift, you do.”

Bitar smiled. “I like all the murders.” She turned to Gillis. “You like violent bloodshed, don’t you sweet-pea?”

Gillis began writing in his little notebook. “We still have the damn “scary bear” skit.”

“I still don’t know about the bear. I mean, where’s the scare?” Bitar asked. “It’s like I always say, guys in phony bear costumes and haunted houses do not mix.”

Linda Marola arrived with a fresh batch of Family Talk pamphlets. “Hello everyone! I was hoping to talk about Family Talk at tea.”

“We’re awfully sorry, you missed it,” Bitar said, preferring to die with the pain of a thousand knives stabbing her all over her body rather than hearing another Family Talk ant-drinking, anti-smoking, ant-fun speech. “Mr. Gillis and I were just about to take the air on the boat deck.”

“What a lovely idea, I need to catch up on my gossip.” She strode away.

“LB, we weren’t going to the boat deck.” Gillis said.

Bitar shrugged innocently. “Good gracious!”


Chapter 12 / By Lauren Bitar

The sounds of screaming, sawing and banging filled the air. Those not familiar with the Haunted House were concerned. “Oh, not to worry,” said Gillis, “quite normal for this time of year.”

Gillis returned to work and spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling through camp. Later, they were measuring curtains for the grand dining room, pouring over their vast supply of props and discussing costuming.

Suddenly a commotion could be heard outside the dining hall. Word of the bear skit was out! Someone could be heard saying, “Just go back to the make-up room and it will all be sorted out there!”

“For God sake,” someone else yelled, “there will be intelligent people coming through our house! Give up the bear skit and give them a chance…”

Angrily, Bitar smashed aside a sheet of plywood.

Someone yelled, “You’ll have to pay for that! That’s Foxboro Kaycees property!”

“SHUT UP!” Bitar and Gillis shouted back.


Chapter 13 / By Bob Gillis

Back at the makeup room, tempers were flaring. Everyone was yelling.

“I don’t understand a one of ya! There’s plenty of room for a bear in the skit!”

Kaycee Frances Fisher shot back, “And there’ll be room for one more if you don’t shut that hole in your face!”

Keith Marola was clearly upset, explaining to his wife, “They won’t let us do the “scary bear” skit.”

Linda Marola’s eyes narrowed. “I hear Spooky World is letting bears in.”

Marola nodded. “That’s our play then. But first we’ll need some insurance.” He raced back to the guide house.

Bitar said happily, “That should settle the bear problem!”

The Kaycee telegraph operator rushed up to Bitar, “Excuse me, ma’am, another Spooky World warning, this one’s from the Nordic. Spooky World isn’t coming back to Foxboro this year.”

“Thank you, Bride,” she said, nodding. She scanned the note. “Why wasn’t I told about this?”

“Perhaps they made the decision while you were putting your clothes back on, my dear,” Gillis offered.

Bitar sank. “So the bear will be back, then.” A gleam formed in Bitar’s eye. “Why can’t I be like other haunted house chairman? Just dump ideas that don’t work … Say we’ll throw out the bear skit, Bob, even if we only talk about it.”

Gillis replied, “No, we’ll do it. We’ll go the mariner and drink cheap beer, and then we’ll steal the bear costume and burn it in the barrel then laugh about it until we throw up.”

“Any word from George Takei?” Bitar asked.

“Not yet.”

But both of them had to admit, besides the bear fiasco, things were going well. Lizzy Calvert and Bobby Buell had completed the second draft of the script. At 900 pages, it was the largest haunted house script ever constructed by the hand of man in all history. The “ghost of the engine room” skit was going great, too.

The walkie-talkie squawked. “Food’s ready!”

Bitar snapped, “Why do they have to announce dinner like a damn cavalry call?”


Chapter 14 / By Lauren Bitar

During dinner, Bitar turned to Gillis and said, “We don’t have the slightest comprehension of what were doing, do we?”

“Not really,” Gillis replied.

“That’s what I thought,” Bitar sighed. “Come on,” she said getting up from their dinners of Hors d’Oeuvre Variés, Sauté of Chicken Lyonnaise, Roast Duckling, a pitcher of martinis, Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly, and lamb with very little mint sauce. They ended up at the make-up room.

Bitar disappeared and when she returned, she was carrying a large box. “These are the invitations to the press reception. Five hundred of them addressed and ready to go. So they can all marvel at how much we’ve accomplished during Phase 1 of construction. All of Foxboro Society will be there and I am afraid we will not have enough rooms to go around. We have so much more to do! The ghost in the Purser’s office on “C” Deck … . “You know the money is gone. All of it, gone; spent on that stupid bear costume! I don’t understand, it’s a good match, Titanic and the Haunted House. It’s just not fair!”

“Of course it’s not fair,” Gillis said calmly, “we’re chairman. Our choices are never easy.”


Chapter 15 / By Bob Gillis

Gillis took out a small pocket watch. “We’d better get going, it’s time for the committee meeting.”

They hopped into the Renault and drove the short distance to the dining hall building.

As they exited the car, a small man in a derby raced over. “LB! You’ll have to park your car over in the side lot, it’s back that way.”

Bitar handed him a wad of bills. “I put my faith in you good sir. Kindly see my man by the stage-a-ma-coach.”

Gillis and Bitar entered the crowded room, where people were all speaking at once.

“Hey sonny,” Lizzy Calvert said, “What gives? You have us all attend the committee meeting and now we’re just cooling our heels!”

Lizzy was right; “It’s starting to fall apart,” Gillis thought to himself. “Order! Keep order I say!” he finally bellowed.

Bitar stepped over to the desk. “Good afternoon. Oh, have you met my co-chair, Bob Gillis? He takes care of me.”

Gillis smiled. “I met them when I joined the Kaycees eight years ago, remember, LB?”

“Oh, that’s right.”

Gillis read from a small notebook. “I need someone to go the selectman’s meeting next week. It’ll be all business and politics, so it doesn’t interest me.”

But the crowd wasn’t listening because Linda Marola began speaking about Family Talk again.

Marola stood. “There are several scenes in the script where there is drinking: The dinner scene, much Brandy drinking, and the toast to making it count. I suggest we change the script line from ‘Not as long as the cigars and brandy hold out,” to, “Not as long as the candy bars and soda-pop hold out.”

Bitar smiled. “Excellent point, we’ll take it under advisement.” She placed an “x” in the tic-tac-toe board Gillis had drawn and said, “Now, I want to put this “bear” matter to rest once and for all. I’ve recounted the ballots FOR and AGAINST the bear skit, as well as the so-called disputed “Chad” votes.”

“LB, you miss nothing,” Gillis said admiringly.

“I can smell a bad skit y’know, when it’s near! Of the 120 members in the Kaycees, 600 cast votes against the bear, as opposed to 2 votes “for.” So, there will be no bear skit.”

“Recount! Recount!” someone in a bear costume shouted.

The room erupted again. Dishes started falling, and from the kitchen, the cook was yelling, “Shut the dampers! Shut them!” Clearly, dinner would be running late.

Bitar stood. “Listen to me. We cannot have this infighting anymore! We have a haunted house to open, and your bickering pushes the schedule back and back and back, there’s no stopping it!”

She glared at them. “You are not to see that bear costume again. Do you hear me? I forbid it.” She stood. “I think it best that we adjourn for now, and reconvene tomorrow. Thank you for a memorable afternoon.”

Gillis added, “We need to go to Rhode Island Novelty for the glow-makeup, anyway.”

Bitar nodded. “Well, I’m off. Maintain schedule and speed until morning. Ladies and gentleman, thank you for the pleasure of your company. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet people of your stature.”


Chapter 16 / By Lauren Bitar

The next evening Gillis and Bitar stood on the porch of the make-up building surveying the grounds.

“The air is perfectly still,” Gillis commented.

“Like a mill pond,” Bitar acknowledged. “It will make the screams easier to hear; without all that building going on,” Bitar said. The stars above were diamonds on velvet. “Y’know,” Bitar began, “Near the end of the Titanic movie, it’s very subtle, but in the scene where Rose lay on the piece of wood looking at the stars, you can see that some of the stars form the shape of the Heart of the Ocean.”

“That was a nice touch,” Gillis agreed. “Did you know that when the radio operator sends out the CQD message, the pattern of dots and dashes he makes with the key is not intelligible Morse code?”

“Oh, obviously,” Bitar concurred. That was blatant … ” She paused. “Come on, let do a walk thru; keep us warm.”

As they walked to the back of the grounds, they could see the outline of the majestic vessel; coming out of the darkness like a ghost ship…

“Congratulations Bob, she’s splendid!” cried Bitar.

“Why thank you!” Gillis replied.


Chapter 17 / By Bob Gillis

Bitar seemed quiet.

“I know you’ve been melancholy,” he began. “I don’t pretend to know why.”

LB sighed. “It’s Titanic itself, Bob. People don’t share our enthusiasm for it, our attention to detail.” She sighed heavily. “The Kaycee chapter can be blasé about some things but NOT about Titanic!”

They entered Victor’s spectacular “smokestack set,” and noted that Victor and Thor were rehearsing Murdock’s suicide.

“Oh, is either of you a paleontologist, I desperately need a paleontologist,” Bitar said.

“No, we’re Kaycees,” came the reply.

“Oh, pity.”

Gillis turned to Victor. “I thought you were going to be Fabritzio, crushed by the smokestack?”

“Yes,” Victor explained, “but first I yell, “No Will!” to Thor as he blows his brains out and plops into the water.”

“I like the idea,” Bitar began, “But Fabritizio wouldn’t call Murdock, “Will.” A steerage passenger wouldn’t even meet one of the officers during the voyage.”

Victor nodded thoughtfully. “You’re right, it would be a breach of protocol. We’ll come up with a fresh approach before family night.”

Gillis sighed. “Please don’t say family.”

Instantly, Linda Marola appeared, handing out Family Talk anti-alcohol pamphlets. “There’s a scene in the script where Colonel Klink–”

“Gracie,” Bitar corrected tiredly. “Colonel GRACIE.”

“Yeah, OK,” Marola said, “Colonel Klink says, “back to our brandies.” This should be changed to, “Back to our soda pop.””

Carefully and gently, Gillis pried the fire ax from LB’s hands–LB insisted that she was just practicing for the scene where Rose frees Jack’s handcuffs.

“LB,” he began softly.

“I’m through being polite goddamit! Now listen! This haunted house takes place in 1912! People drank back then! It’s in the movie! And the movie will NOT be changed!”

“Hear, hear!” Victor said, knocking back another can of Budweiser.

“Sweet mother of God, I need a Tequila!” Bitar shouted. Then she locked eyes with Linda. “Is this in any way unclear?”


Chapter 18 / By Bob Gillis

The latest meeting of the haunted house committee was going well, Gillis thought, but he was concerned about Bitar, who looked ready to fall asleep.

“I’m taking her to rest,” Gillis said to the Kaycees.

“No!” Bitar replied firmly. “Now where were we?”

“We were discussing the script revisions to the dining room skit, and we had some objections about all the smoking from the chairman of “Kaycees Against Youth Smoking,” as well as some objections about the words “bugger me” from the chairman of “Kaycees Against Antiquated Curses,” as well as some objections about the peeled oranges from the from the chairman of “Kaycees against Mistreatment of Citrus Fruits”…”

“Ah yes, that explains my napping. We are not having this conversation. Next item?”

“There’s been some concern,” said Kaycee James Moody, ” … this late in the planning, about the rewrites to include characters from the Sopranos HBO TV series, specifically, the scene where Doctor Melfi is talking to Tony Soprano about his guilt in murdering Titanic’s chief engineer with a stapler and then deliberately ramming Titanic into the iceberg to collect the insurance money.”

“Lovely scene, that,” Bitar purred.

Kaycee Herbert Pitman continued, “You yourself have repeatedly rejected ideas that violated established Titanic history. The Sopranos certainly were not on the Titanic.”

“True enough,” Bitar allowed, “but their inclusion allows for a MUCH more gruesome haunted house, with far more violence.” She turned to Gillis. “These people are far too difficult to impress, Bob.”

Gillis continued, “We have created a good haunted house, strong and true. It’s all the fundraiser you need. I’m particularly fond of the scene where Tommy Ryan bludgeons the “just go back to the main stairway” guy with a meat tenderizer.”

“I’ve written more,” Bitar exclaimed. “There’s now a scene where Lightoller yells, “I’ll shoot you all like dogs,” and Junior Soprano actually guns down the people in the life boat so that he and Ritchie can use it for garbage routes to sell cocaine, despite Tony’s warnings that this could bring the DEA and FBI and White Star Line down on everybody’s heads.”

“All in favor?” Bitar asked.

Silence.

“All opposed?”

A cacophony filled the room. Bitar tapped her walking stick on the table and said, “So approved.”

She mumbled to Gillis. “Votes. Waste of time in an unsinkable haunted house as it is.”


Chapter 19 / By Lauren Bitar

The next morning was sunny and bright with fall crispness to the air. Gillis and Bitar were busy ironing out the details for the bludgeoning scene. Unbeknownst to them, Fox Muldur (still wondering if LB would ever stop reading that naughty erotic fiction about him on the web) and Dana Scully were sneaking in to the chairman’s office and had removed a table lamp…

Bitar and Gillis returned just as Muldur was locking the door behind him.

“You’re here early,” Bitar said cheerfully, blushing as she remembered all the naughty erotic fiction she had read on Muldur the previous night. She would have liked to linger on the “interrogation” fantasy a bit more, but she was still puzzled why two FBI agents — specifically, two X-Files agents — were so eager to pitch in at her Haunted House, but ultimately decided it was quite normal for this time of year, what with so much Rayleigh’s Scattering and all …

“Yes, getting an early start on our room,” Muldur replied.

“Ah, yes,” said Gillis, “but what were you doing in our office?” he queried.

“Ah, looking for you,” Scully stammered.

“Well, here we are, what did you want?” asked Gillis.

“Just a check for Home Depot for construction supplies. Yes, that’s what we wanted,” echoed Muldur.

“Sure hang on, I’ll write one out,” Gillis replied.

When they left, Gillis and Bitar surveyed the place, shrugged and sat down to go over the scene again. At that moment, the electrician radioed asking them to meet them at the Chapel.

Gillis grabbed her arm, “Lauren?”

“Yeah?”

“Run!”


Chapter 20 / By Bob Gillis

Run?

Why?

But suddenly the answer was clear–Linda Marola was approaching. “I’m forming an anti-Sopranos committee called Kaycees Against Bada-Bing And Strippers,” she was shouting.

Irish fiddle music began playing as Bitar and Gillis raced to the guide room, passing through the spectacular engine room set.

“What are you two doing here?” the engineers asked in not-so-stereotypical Irish accents as smoke billowed around our intrepid heroes.

“Don’t mind us, you’re doing a great job!” Bitar called back, as she knocked over a fruit stand that had for some reason been placed along the path.

Finally, the two co-chairs arrived safely in their fortress of solitude and sat. After trading the prerequisite Titanic and Arthur movie one-liners for about 20 minutes, they finally got down to business.

They were interrupted by a loud knock on the door, and a louder cry of, “Lamp Repair!”

Bitar opened the door to see a large black panel van with the lettering Florescence By Irving. The man–his nametag read “Dogget” — placed the lamp on the desk, mumbled, “check, check, frequency clear,” and proffered a clipboard.

“Lamp repair?” Bitar demanded. “Who in the blazes ordered a lamp repair?”

Strangely, the deliveryman spoke into his hand, muttered, “Spooky and Starchild are getting suspicious,” then smiled warmly.

Gillis signed off the lamp repair order, and offered the man a tip. The lamp repairman shook his head. “You’re money can’t save me any more than it can save you.” With that, he bolted out the door.

Later, an exhausted Muldur approached Scully, who was listening on a pair of earphones. She nodded. “The microphone hidden in the lamp is working perfectly, just like we saw on the episode of the “Sopranos.” ”

“Do you think we’re explaining too much to the reader?” Muldur asked.

“It’s exposition,” Scully responded. “It has to go somewhere. Besides, that Sopranos / lamp refrerence is REALLY obscure. Anyway, I’ve been listening to Gillis and Bitar, but all they talk about is Titanic. Oh, sure, there’s a minute or so of everyday life, goings on in Foxboro and the haunted house, but then they start talking about Titanic again. Here, listen…”

Over the headphones, Muldur heard Bitar saying, “Well, Bodine said Rose was 17 at the time of the sinking, which would put her birth date at 1895.”

“Which would put the contemporary portion of the movie, with old Rose, in 1996,” Gillis concurred.

“Exactly. Now according to all historical documents, only one boat came back–number 14,” Bitar was saying.

“And that was the boat Rose was rescued by,” Gillis went on.

Muldur looked at Scully. “They’ve been talking like this for four hours.”

“FOUR HOURS?”


Chapter 21 / By Lauren Bitar

The snoring was so loud that Scully had to slam the door shut to wake him.

“Oh, Scully,” said Muldur, “…just taking a little nap. Are they still at it?”

“They don’t stop! They just don’t stop!” Scully said exasperated. “It has been days and no matter what we do, they won’t quit. Listen … ” she put the bug on speaker.

“…You know that company is still in business; the one that made the davits for the Titanic. And, for the movie, too.”

“Yup, I do,” Bob replied, “and did you know…”

“I don’t know,” Muldur thought out loud, “I think they are doing a great job. Maybe it’s best to just leave them be.”

“Absolutely not!” said a voice shutting the door behind him. It was J. Bruce Ismay, CHO (Chief Haunting Officer) of Spooky World. “They are out of control! A $3,000 budget for each room. It’s preposterous!”

“Look,” said Muldur wearily, “RMS Titanic Inc. has just given the Kaycees a practically unlimited budget.”

Ismay was firm. “Agent Muldur, Agent Scully, keep an eye on all this. I want a full report.”

Scully sighed and turned the speaker up.

” … The worship services held at 10:30 on Sunday April 14th, 1912, in the First Class Dining Room, were open to all passengers of the ship.”

“I know! And the Master-at-Arms office, where Jack is handcuffed, was in actuality an inside cabin and had no portholes at all.”

“Right. The White Star Line was found to be responsible and was sued by the families weren’t they? Yes, let me tell you the story…”

“They don’t stop! They just don’t stop!”


Chapter 22 / By Bob Gillis

J. Bruce Ismay, CHO (Chief Haunting Officer) of Spooky World stormed into the secret base where Scully and Muldur were transcribing days of electronic eavesdropping on Gillis and Bitar.

“Report!” he demanded.

Scully shook her head. “Sir, I’m still not clear why you want this information. We don’t feel right, spying on these Kaycees, especially two so loved and admired as Gillis and Bitar.”

Muldur asked, “Yes. I thought Spooky World wasn’t coming back to Foxboro this year?”

Ismay twirled his mustache. “Ah, you’ve read the Foxboro Herald-Tribune. Tell me, do you know of the construction on route one?”

“Yes, the new Gillette/CMGI stadium,” Scully said. “The new home of the New England Patriots.”

Ismay shook his head. “Not so. CMGI stands for Colossal Mammoth Gargantuan Ismay. And on completion, CMGI will become the new permanent year-round Spooky World.”

“But what of the Patriots?” Scully asked.

“Patriots… They won’t amount to a thing, trust me…” Ismay said. “No, the Patriots will remain in their little Foxboro Stadium.”

Scully sighed. “Mr. Ismay, what makes you such a hard-skulled character? You have no family–no children. You can’t begin to spend all the money you’ve got.”

Ismay bristled. “So I suppose I should give it to miserable failures like you and that idiot brother of yours to spend for me at the Bailey Building and Loan?” He ignored the odd change in movie references and rifled through the transcripts. “I’ve always been rich and I’ve always been happy … ” He frowned. “You’re telling me you recorded 419 hours of their conversation and it was all about Titanic?”

“Well…” Scully began.

“Uh, yeah,” Muldur completed.

Ismay pressed PLAY and Bitar’s voice was saying, “BMK-Stoddard of England, the company that supplied carpeting for the real Titanic, re-created the weave for an eighteen-thousand-square-foot reproduction.”

He fast-forwarded.

Gillis: “To create the effect of frost on the people they used a special powder attached with a medical adhesive that crystallizes when exposed to water…”

Bitar: “Almighty Father Strong To Save” is sung during the worship service; the two verses used in the film were By Robert Nelson Spencer in 1937.”

Ismay was incredulous. “When do they talk about their haunted house?” Ismay demanded. He hit fast forward again.

Gillis: “When Jack said the line “sit over there on the bed, I mean, couch!” it wasn’t in the script, Leo accidentally said that. Every one loved it so much they kept it in.”

Bitar: “I know! And did you know that the name of the character Caledon Hockley derives from to small towns (Caledon and Hockley) near Orangeville, Ontario, Canada, where Cameron’s aunt and uncle live.”

“Do they have lives at all?” Ismay demanded.

Gillis: “I did know that! And did you know that the lifeboat requirement at the time was 16 boats. Titanic had 20, which more than met the requirements, although there was room enough for only half the people on board–the capacity was totaled at about 1,100 people, Titanic then held about 2,200, and its total capacity was about 3,300.”

Bitar: “Of course! Also, there was a J. Dawson on the actual Titanic. Only his first name was James.”

“I need to know their schemes! Their plans and details!” Ismay rumbled.

Gillis: “Rose’s paintings include Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avigon,” one of the ballerina’s series by Degas, and “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet, none of which were ever on Titanic.”

Bitar: “Speaking of Rose, Kate was doing her makeup getting ready for the nude scene, so she wasn’t wearing anything and Leo walked in and said “Whoa!” and went on to say that they might as well get used to it, they were going to be there all day!”

Enraged, Ismay hurled the tape machine and transcripts across the room. “You are my spies in practice if not by law! You will get me the details from these two or…”

Scully and Muldur had enough drew their service pistols. “…or you’ll what?”

Ismay paused. “Ahem… Or I will leave quietly.”


Chapter 23 / By Bob Gillis

Fade in-a row of TV monitors, each showing a different view of Camp Andrews.

VOICE OVER: “So we’re up to September before the haunted house. Six weeks to go.”

ANOTHER VOICE: “Five years watching the Titanic movie working against them. Everything they know is wrong…”

There is evidence of a great disaster. The grounds are littered with debris and water-damaged metal. We come to the burnt-out remains of what might have been a building… On the ground are a doll, a boot, and a Kaycee sweatshirt.

As the camera zooms inside the dark, twisted corridor, a light begins to form, brighter and brighter. The debris fades; the walls are cleaner and brighter. As we enter the Guide building, it is restored, it is the grand staircase. The room breaks into applause. At the top of the stairs, by a clock that reads 2:20, a hand reaches out to her.

“LB? LB, wake up! Here’s your soda!”

Lauren Bitar started. “Oh, sorry. Thanks.” She took the Coca-Cola proffered by Mr. Gillis, her co-chair and co-conspirator.

“Now, where were we?” These committee meetings were worse than the endless parade of cotillions, polo matches and yachts. Always the same mindless chatter. She just wanted to make a good Titanic Haunted House. The problem was all this distraction. “You’re distracting me, go away,” a voice said in her mind.

“The chairman of “Kaycees Against Sopranos In Titanic” was breaking into the third page of her speech,” Gillis reminded her.

“Back to the cotillion,” Bitar mumbled. “Oh, are any of you a paleontologist, I desperately need a paleontologist.”

Everyone just stared at her.

“Oh, pity.”

Marola continued, “The inclusion of Junior Soprano’s murder makes no sense. Many of our guests have never seen the Sopranos TV show, and once again I must point out that none of the characters from Sopranos were aboard Titanic.”

Bitar smiled. “You’re absolutely right, we’ll look into a fresh approach immediately.”

“You’re a good liar,” Bitar whispered to him.

“Almost as good as you,” Gillis said, returning the compliment. “There’s no-uh, plan to get rid of the Sopranos, is there?”

“Oh there is,” Bitar mused. “In November!” They high-fived each other. “Next order of business.”

Muldur said, “Bruce Ismay hasn’t been heard from since we uncovered Spooky World’s plot to undermine our haunted house.”

“We never found anything on Ismay. There’s no record of him at all.” Gillis said.

Bitar frowned. “No, there wouldn’t be, would there? A woman’s haunted house is a deep ocean of secrets.”

Gillis leaned over. “You really need to get more sleep.”

Bitar yawned and shuffled through some papers. “I see that Kenny’s room has changed again, and now features Cal Hockley’s suicide. Junior will do a narration of “The crash of 29 hit his interests hard, and he put a … ” She squinted. “Kenny, that should be, “He put a pistol in his mouth,” not a pen–” She sighed heavily. “Let’s keep it PG-13, shall we? Also, this other idea: We will NOT refer to Captain E. J. Smith as “The Ancient Mariner.””

Kenny bristled. “He was an old guy, right? He was a sea captain, right? He was an ancient mariner!”

“No,” Bitar said firmly. She turned to Gillis. “Did you know that the Renault on Titanic was owned by William Carter?”

“I did know that,” Gillis replied with a smile. Did you know that Margaret Brown was never referred to as “Molly” until after her death?”

“I did!” Bitar exclaimed. “And when Rose is arriving in New York, when she looks at the Statue of Liberty, the torch the statue holds is the modern one, replaced in 1986, and not the original. And did — ” she suddenly realized the entire room was staring at them.

Again.

“How is the flooding going?” Bitar chirped.

Victor replied, “We have one hundred thousand gallons so far. Are you sure the selectmen really approved this?”

“Oh, for the love of Latex Elmo … ” Bitar snatched a blank sheet of reddish-brown paper and began making marks with a cote crayon, deftly creating a work of wonder.

“LB,” Bob said.

“Bob, I’m drawing. Can you see this paper?”

She opened a desk drawer, got out the notary stamp, then signed the paper, “JD 4/14/12.”

“Here’s the permit,” she said.

Victor examined the permit. “Oh, excellent, thank you.”

She smiled at Gillis. “Nothing to it, is there Bob. Remember they love permits so just act like you own town hall and you’re in the club.”


Chapter 24 / By Bob Gillis

The latest haunted House meeting had run well into the wee hours of the morning. Bitar has long since passed the point of exhaustion, then dementia. She was so sleepy that even her hallucinations–who had spent the last twenty minutes demanding, “Where is the rest of this moose?” were now calling it quits for the night.

The chairman for the committee called “Kaycees against Arthur Bach” was yammering on and on and on, maintaining that this latest addition to the haunted house just would not fly.

Bitar would have none of it. She thought she’d refute the debate that “Arthur” had no place in Titanic by talking about the tragic story of Arthur L. Ryerson (whose coat Jack Dawson had borrowed) but she was just too damn tired.

“Yes, you obviously have a wonderful economy with words, Linda. I look forward to your next syllable with great eagerness. But … ” she pointed toward the doorway, “As we can all see it’s a lovely day. Which would seem to indicate that the night — and this meeting — are over. I’m saying goodbye.”

With that, she hopped into her limo. “To the café, Bitterman.”

Shortly, they arrived at Puffins Gourmet Café, where she would find Mr. Gillis, her co-chair.

As she opened the door, a large goon-like man in a RAMS Sweatshirt blocked her way.

“Good morning,” she said. If you and your super bowl-team-losing sweatshirt will take two paces backwards, I could enter this dwelling.”

She entered the café and nodded to the employee behind the counter. “Chai, Trudy,” then she approached the lovely Susan Gillis, the owner of Puffins. “Good morning, Susan.”

“LB! How delightful to see you!” Susan said happily.

“Oh, if only someone I knew felt that way! Is your husband here?”

“He’s in the back, in a cloud of smoke writing about being master of the universe.” She tilted her head back to indicate her hubby’s location.

“Tell him Inspector Flanagan from Homicide is here, that should get him here in a hurry,” Bitar said, taking a table. “And fetch the master at arms!”

Gillis entered the room. “LB! I thought that was you!” He joined Bitar at one of the cozy tables in the exclusive first class dining area. “Does Bill know you’re here?” Gillis asked.

“No, Bill is too fine a person to be involved in something as devious as this,” LB replied.

“Did you get any sleep at all last night?” He gestured toward Trudy to bring him another Coke.

“No, chairing a haunted house is a lonely business. One of the Kaycees doesn’t want “Arthur” references in the haunted house and complained at the meeting all night long. I can’t tell you her name because that would be indiscreet. Linda Marola.”

“So I see that the committee is resisting the latest script additions,” Gillis said, nursing his ninth Coca-Cola of the morning.

“Indeed. With only days to go before the formal press event, I wanted everything to be perfect. But these spineless, godless troglodytes will be the end of me … . Sorry, I sound like a dime novel.” She spun around. “Where the hell is my chai?” Bitar suddenly said.

Just then, Susan walked over and placed LB’s chai on the table. “I didn’t add any lavender because I know you detest lavender.”

LB smiled. “Aren’t café’s wonderful? You ask them for things and they bring them to you.”

Susan just stared. “Don’t tell me you two are wasting another morning talking about Titanic … ”

LB’S VOICE OVER: “The others were curious about the man who had saved my haunted house, but his wife saw him as in insect–a dangerous insect that must be squashed quickly.”

Bitar placed her head in her hands. “I am so tired. I can’t even think of a humorous line from Titanic to describe my fatigue.”

Gillis smiled warmly. “We’re gonna make it, LB, trust me.”

“I trust you.” She sipped the chai. “Well, I had the paleontologist — ”

“–carpenter,” Gillis corrected gently.

“I had the carpenter sound the haunted house and all looks well. We’ve passed all our inspections.” She said the last part a little too loudly.

Gillis leaned closer. “No really, what happened?”

“We are so screwed, Bob,” LB muttered. “The inspector did the sum in his head and discovered there weren’t enough life vests for ever actor aboard – about half actually. Add to that the heaters we use to heat the 400,000 gallons of water keep blowing the circuit breaker at the concession stand, and the fact that George Takei isn’t returning our phone calls, and that whole nasty business with Ismay … ”

Gillis took her hand (which left her with one). “LB, you must do me this honor… promise me you will survive… that you will never give up… no matter what happens… no matter how hopeless, promise me now and never let go of that promise.”

Bitar brightened. “I’ll never let go, Jack. Nothing will stop us, Bob! We will have the greatest haunted house in Kaycee history!” She raised her hands. “Make the announcement, Bob! The formal press event is next Tuesday!”

“I’ll alert the media,” Susan commented dryly from behind the counter.

Gillis ignored that. “What should I wear?”

“There’s only one answer to that.” Bitar raised her glass in a toast. “Steal something casual.”


Chapter 25 / By Lauren Bitar and Bob Gillis

“So you wanna go to a real party?”

The Press Gala was in full swing. What a great party. No expense had been spared. The TV crews had begun to set up outside for the 11 o’clock news. The newspaper reporters continued to mill around interviewing Kaycees, some who took the press back to their rooms to get more pictures and interviews. Others had retired to the smoking room to congratulate themselves on being … Well, you know.

Back at the first class Dining Saloon, everyone was having a great time. The food–Salmon, Filet Mignon, pretzels, Lili, Lamb, Mint Sauce, Roast Duckling, Spam, Sirloin of Beef, tuna fish sandwiches and Chateau Potatoes–was fabulous, as was the music, a lovely symphonic arrangement of “Kyle’s mom is a stupid bitch!” in D-Minor.

Everything was just the same as it was on the night Titanic left Cherbourg. Except for the temperature.

“Cold, isn’t it?” Bitar said.

“Yes, I’ve requested that the paleontologist keep an eye on our fresh water supply so it doesn’t freeze,” Gillis replied.

“Bob, you miss nothing!” Bitar said.

“Yes, it is rather chilly, Gillis replied. “Trudy, go turn the heaters on in our rooms. We’d like a cup of tea when we return.”

“You slay me!” LB laughed. “But, Bob, we really should find out why it’s so cold in here.”

“You’re right. I’ll be on my rounds. Cheerio!”

Bitar wandered around the room working the crowd, and soon cornered Foxboro Herald-Tribune reporter Juliet Bijou. “I wanted to discuss a minor error in your last column about us.”

“Indeed?” said Bijou.

“Yes. I’m not a writer, but I would suggest that rather than refer to us as a whore and a gutter rat, you could simply refer to Bob and myself as haunted house chairman.”

“Oh, that was simply a typo,” Bijou explained.

“And the line, worst haunted house I have ever seen?” Bitar asked.

“Typo,” Bijou echoed.

“What about, I wish they would just die, this is the stupidest, worst idea I have ever seen in my life, I hate them all and this haunted house should be classified a weapon of mass destruction?

“Typo,” Bijou said again.

“Okay!” Bitar chirped. “Glad we cleared that up.”

Bijou proffered her notebook. “I’d like a quote for tomorrow’s edition, Lauren. What would you like to tell people about this haunted house?”

“It’s a dream come true,” Bitar began, “to honor the memory of Titanic and pay homage to such a brilliant film masterpiece. I only hope our devoted patrons will enjoy our show and respect the effort that has been put into making this a very good haunted house. ”

Bijou nodded and began scribbling, “Bitar then grew hysterical, grabbed this reporter by the throat and screeched, “I am the source of all evil! You all die! You all die and go to hell! Spooky World is far better than this crappy rip-off of a sucky movie! You tell your readers if they come near Camp Andrews I will hack them into little pieces and dance on their corpses!” in her book.

“Did you get all that?”

“Verbatim,” Bijou replied.

At that moment, Gillis returned, and Bitar gave Bijou a polite nod, not realizing that the reporter gave her the finger as she turned toward Gillis.


Chapter 26 / By Lauren Bitar

“Come on,” Gillis said. “Let’s dance. Keep us warm.”

A guest came up behind them. “Why is it so cold? I felt a shudder.”

“We’ve likely collided with an asteroid which has knocked the planet out of its orbit and sent it hurdling uncontrollably into space. That’s likely the shudder you felt,” Bitar explained. “May I bring you anything?”

Dana Scully joined them to complain about the temperature. “It’s cold in here and the press is not happy,” she said.

Bitar rolled her eyes.

“It’s all under control, Dana,” Gillis said wearily. “I’ve got my best paleontologist working on it. Besides, imagine how cold it is in the Oort Cloud right now. Why, compared to the Oort Cloud, it’s downright balmy here!”

Scully could not fault such logic. Just then, two workmen appeared. “You’re all set. Sign here,” Gillis scribbled his signature. Dawson. Jack Dawson.

“Bob, those guys look awfully familiar. One bore an uncanny resemblance to the lamp repair guy…”

Cocktail hour had ended and everyone was seated for dinner. Gillis looked in disbelief at the array of silverware on either side of his plate. “Is this all for me?” he asked.

“Just start on the outside and work your way in,” Bitar whispered.

“Who thought of Haunted Titanic as the theme of the Haunted House? Was it you, Bob?” Danny Nucci, a reporter from the Foxboro Post-News-Chronicle asked.

“Why, yes actually. I wanted to convey shear terror, horror and most of all I wanted to piss off Spooky World. Just a few months ago we were sleeping under a bridge and now we’re co-chairs of the greatest Haunted House in history drinking champagne with you fine folks!”

He continued, “I figure a good scare is a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. To make each skit count.”

“Hear, hear!” Bitar said raising her glass.

“How did you become chairmen?” another reporter asked.

“I work my way from place to place, tramp steamers and such. But I won my chairmanship of haunted Titanic in a lucky hand at poker,” Bitar explained.

“She jumps, I jump,” Gillis added. “After that, I’m just on God’s good humor.”

After dinner, Gillis got up from the table. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the pleasure of your company. Now it’s time to see Haunted Titanic! Later on we’ll get ice cream!”

The press was in awe. As they strode through camp Gillis and Bitar explained each room, and the inspiration for it. A reporter commented on the artwork in the each room.

“I especially love the paintings you have in the First Class Dining Saloon,” he said.

“They’re fascinating,” said Bitar. “There’s truth but no logic.”

“I think they suck,” Muldur whined.

“On the other hand, go screw yourself,” Bitar chirped happily, never stopping her smile. “The difference between Muldur’s tastes in art and mine, is that I have some.” He will have to be punished for that, LB thought lecherously. Erotic punishment.

With that, they were gone.

“We’ll catch up with them shortly,” Gillis continued, “let’s keep heading aft.”

At the end of the tour, Burt Johnson addressed the group. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Johnson said, “may I have your attention? Yes, come towards me. Thank you. For the time being we will require you all to follow me back to the First Class dining saloon for refreshments. That’s right. Follow the sound of my voice…”

Gillis and Bitar followed the group back to the saloon.

“How about another drink?” Bitar asked.

“You’re with me and you can ask that question?” Gillis replied.

Back at the dining hall/saloon, Gillis surveyed the room.

“What’s wrong?” Bitar asked.

“Something is not right.”

“Like what? The food is perfect, as is the music. The band, per you instruction, is paying everything that was played on Titanic’s voyage.”

“We need a moose.”

“A moose?”

“Yes, a moose. Right over the band. To serve as a reminder of how much we love this house.”

“Bob, I don’t think there were any moose on the Titanic,” Bitar reminded him. “But say no more! A moose there shall be!” she proclaimed, and reached for a handy bottle of whiskey.


Chapter 27 / By Bob Gillis

Bob must have been nervous, but he never faltered. Lauren of course could always be counted upon.

{CRASH} Lauren: “Oh, you’re a prop. Don’t you hate Perry’s wife?”

Bob: “Lauren, how nice to see you. I see you’ve been drinking again.”

Lauren: “Nonsense. I’m serfectly pober! That police office — that strapping Marinetti — OUI, DUI, blah, blah, blah … Where’s the rest of this skit?”

Melissa: “Lauren, we–”

Lauren takes a long draw from a whiskey bottle — “…need to give them something new to pee about! YES, I know! You remind me every day!” She throws the bottle at the wall. It explodes into a reddish-brown cloud of scalding liquid. “Blasted Bishop Len, doing everything by the book!”

Melissa: “Isn’t our Lauren hammered, Bob?”

Bob: “YES!”

Melissa:. “Thank you, Bob.”

Lauren: “Rubbish! I’ve always been rich and I’ve always been scattered to the wind. Heir to a railroad fortune, Britney Spears, is that you people making all that noise? Not only have they not found the killer, they haven’t even found any of the bodies! This skit is a GONER!”

Bob sighs heavily: “Lauren, I need you to be sober for tonight’s performance.”

Lauren: “Have to be a pretty BIG performance. Find the paleontologist! Get him to sound the blue dolphin!”

Kristin: “Why does Lauren drink so much?”

Bob: “Because she’s not a poet. And she knows that haunted house co-chairs is a lonely business.”

Lauren: “Except for Fish. He and Joe scare people together. Eh, what are your thoughts, Hobson?” {CRASH} “Oh, you’re a strobe light. HURRY UP WITH THE OLD MAN’S ROLL!”

Bob: “Show time is five minutes. We are SCREWED.”

Lauren: {trips down stairs} “Who the blazes ordered a lamp repair?????” Turns to Bob. “Bob, I’ll have no more of your drinking. I forbid it.” Turns to Melissa. “AND who the hell are you?”

Bob: “This is Melissa.”

Melissa: “Hello Lauren!”

Bob: “Lauren, Lauren, do you remember Melissa?”

Lauren: “Er, no.”

Bob: “She was here last year! And at the Camp! Do you remember it? Ah, you do! And then you were struck by lightning. You must remember all that? And then you won a hundred dollars on a scratch ticket at Cumby’s? During the earthquake that destroyed Booth playground? Ah, you must remember it, Lauren!”

{Lauren shakes her head}

Melissa: “And weren’t you accidentally arrested for knocking over a fruit stand and stealing a tie? I remember we had to go down to the League of underage Satanic Waffle Iron Fetish Repairers to get you! And the League of underage Satanic Waffle Iron Fetish Repairers went on fire? And you had to be rescued by a blimp?”

Bob: “Do you remember? You can’t remember any of that? The blimp! When you fell out of the blimp! Over the Eiffel Tower! And the tower collapsed because the Big Dig Contractors used the wrong glue? Do you remember the croissants? The thousands of croissants raining down on Versailles? The rioting? The looting?”

{Lauren shakes her head some more}

Bob: “You don’t remember? You were wearing your blue jumper.”

Lauren: “Ah, Melissa!” Turns to Bob. “The problem as I see it threefold: One: Bob, you keep showing up drunk. One: Our skit makes no mention of the Oort cloud. And first of all, I want the entire Oort cloud photographed.” She takes another long drag off another bottle of whiskey. “Thank God I’m here.”

Melissa: “Show time is in one minute. She’ll need coffee. Buckets of it.”

Lauren: “It’s BOUQUET!”


Chapter 28 / By Bob Gillis

Days later, and after much coffee and sobering up, Bitar noticed that Gillis was very quiet, and lost in thought.

“You’re trembling,” she said softly.

“I’ll be all right,” he replied.

“I know you’ve been melancholy,” Bitar began. “I thought you’d be rested after your vacation at the Mount Weather Complex at Blucaemont, Virginia.”

Gillis shook his head. “I know the truth now, LB. I can’t talk about it. It would be devastating for our haunted house.”

Bitar locked eyes with him. “Bob, I’m not an idiot. I know how the world works. I know about the Black Oil, and the Mars rocks, the Grey Aliens, Roswell, Majestic, those lesbian cheerleader fetish websites you surf late at night, that strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government and that supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. I’ve got ten bucks in my purse and I have noting to offer and I know that, but I’m too involved now. Talk to me.”

“Not about this,” Gillis said sadly. “It’s about the truth.”

“That in the scene where Jack and Fabritzio are standing on the bow looking at the dolphins swimming ahead of the ship, the dolphins are clearly Pacific white-sides, not any Atlantic species?”

“No, the other truth,” Gillis clarified. “THE truth.”

“Then I shall find out myself.” Bitar raced toward the Renault, shoving the Boy Scout directing parking with a flashlight to the ground.

“Really, miss!” he shouted, muttering about the lack of common social graces these days.

“To the ancient Anasazi pueblo, Bitterman!” Bitar commanded.

Gillis jumped into the car with her. “LB, please, don’t do this. You’re not ready to know this truth!”

“The Truth is out there,” Bitar intoned. ” … And so are we.”

Shortly, Bitterman drove the pair to the ancient Anasazi pueblo, near the Booth Fields in Foxboro.

The ancient Anasazi pueblo / cliff dwelling ruins was a popular draw in Foxboro, what with the nearby skate park, baseball field, as well as the fact that it contained large stores of magnetite, which made it safe against the aliens.

Bitar and Gillis brushed passed Keith Marola, who for some odd reason was still dressed in his bear costume and climbed a wooden ladder into the upper level of the pueblo.

A Navajo woman, Helga Dahl, was cooking a Dinty Moore stew over a small fire. She danced a bit, babbled about what a rip-off of the “X-Files” series finale this entire chapter was becoming, and directed them to the presence of the wise man.

Bitar and Gillis froze in horror — the wise man was the CMGi (Cigarette sMokinG Individual), with long gray hair.

“Ismay!” Bitar and Gillis moaned with horror.

“Agents Bitar and Gillis,” he said between puffs of his cigarette. “How delightful to see you.”

J. Bruce Ismay, CHO (Chief Haunting Officer) of Spooky World, wasted no further preamble and turned to Gillis. “You know the truth, which you found in a computer at the Mount Weather Complex, but you refuse to speak it, even though it could save your haunted house.” His eyes fell on Bitar. “I want to tell you a story, a story that has terrified every President since Michael Dukakis.”

Gillis and Bitar obligingly sat on the ground and gave him their attention.

Ismay took a long drag and began, “Forty years ago, a group of people in Foxboro unearthed the tomb of King Inky-Minky on Foxboro Common and learned that the aliens encountered at Roswell are planning to colonize Earth in a process that will kill all humans. These Foxboroians negotiated with the aliens colonists to delay the colonization while the members of the Project–”

Bitar waved her hand tiredly. ” … so they could develop both a means of distributing the alien Black Oil virus, as well as develop a race of human-alien hybrids that is immune to the Black Oil. The Conspiracy was born, and they were the the enigmatic shadow government of Foxboro. Old news.”

“Oh, you know about all that.” Ismay was silent for a long moment. “Thanks for spoiling my fun. But,” he began again, “You don’t know what Gillis knows … ”

“Please,” Gillis whispered, almost pleading. “She doesn’t need to hear this.”

Ismay ignored him. “The ancient ones — the original Spooky World people–hid in this pueblo as their own culture and Spooky World was destroyed by the aliens. Gillis saw the date at Mount Weather where your own secret government will be hiding when the invasion happens. I protected you both all those years, waiting for this final moment. Broken and afraid, now your haunted house will fail.”

As a black helicopter flew through desert canyons over Foxboro, Ismay expelled a long breath.

“The date of the final alien invasion, December 22, 2012.”

He let that hang in the air.

There was a very long silence.

Then Bitar exploded.

“2012? The same time as the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic? 2012? The same time as my best haunted house ever?” She uttered a string of expletives and began smashing everything in sight. Helga Dahl screamed, and dove out a nearly rock-cropping.

There was an obligatory SPLAT sound, followed by a faint, “I’m not dead, just very badly hurt,” as Bitar continued her tirade.

“2012?!!! Those stupid aliens couldn’t wait until AFTER my haunted house to enslave the human race and kill the rest of us?!”

Gillis turned to Ismay. “Told you she’d be pissed.”

Ismay smiled his creepy smile. “But Spooky World will survive, my dear. We will rebuild, here, because the pueblo contains magnetite, which makes it safe against the aliens.”

“I got all that in the exposition,” Bitar said tersely. “You unimaginable bastard! You think the magnetite will protect you? It just so happens that I am a member of an ultra-secret conspiracy that has been stealthily funneling magnetite from this area for years!”

“Oh, yeah,” Gillis mumbled. “This is getting more plausible all the time.”

Before Ismay could respond, he looked up sharply. Gillis heard it too.

“We have to go now,” Gillis said, grabbing Bitar.

“Why?” Bitar demanded as a whirring sound began in the distance. “I’m not done yelling at him.”

Gillis explained, “I asked Steve Abernathy to pick up some sparklers for the haunted house to make some pretty sparks … ”

“So?” Bitar demanded.

“Well, it looks like he picked up an attack helicopter with rocket launching capabilities instead.”

Loud explosions could be heard. Bitar and Gillis raced out of the chamber, as Ismay began a cackling mad-scientist, “Doctor Evil” kind of laugh.

“Ha ha ho ha hee hee haa! Ah-ah-ha ha ha ha ha! Eeee ha ha!”

Bitar and Gillis burst from the pueblo just as Abernathy lost control of the helicopter controls, and accidentally fired five rockets, completely destroying the pueblo in a spectacular explosion.


Chapter 29 / By Bob Gillis

The phone chirped. Gillis listened, nodded and smiled. “Excellent. Direct them toward the guide building, please.”

He broke the connection and tossed the Nextel into a nearby bucket of potter’s clay, which quickly exploded, showering the nightmare museum-trained experts with scalding reddish-brown debris.

“Lauren, I have a special surprise for you.”

“A surprise? How delightful! But why?”

“You took the news of the date of the alien invasion pretty hard. I wanted to cheer you up.”

Bitar shrugged, “Oh, not to worry! After all, the alien invasion isn’t scheduled until two months after our Haunted House ends, and we have plenty more Magnetite to thwart the little gray alien rectal probers. Besides, if the world does end, we don’t have to worry about bothering to reconcile the haunted house budget!”

Gillis smiled. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Seriously,” Bitar continued in a conspiratorial tone, “I already have a secret plan to stave off the alien invasion.”

“Indeed?” Gillis said.

“Simple. All we have to do is surround the solar system with a force field to prevent the aliens from entering it. They can’t invade Earth if they can’t get in our solar system!”

Gillis brightened with comprehension. “You want to energize the Oort Cloud with anti-protons to turn it into an impenetrable barrier! Of course! It’s so obvious! LB, that’s absolutely brilliant!”

“Why thank you.” Bitar said. “I’ll have the paleontologist sound the Oort Cloud immediately!”

“Sounds like a plan,” Gillis said with a smile.

“Now that this nasty alien business is dealt with, where’s my surprise?”

Gillis pointed toward the guide building. Bitar gazed at the expensive limousine that parked there and the beautiful woman who stepped out. She was elegantly dressed in a white and black trouser suit with an elegant hat.

The woman looked around, and then said to her driver, “Je ne vois pas que tout l’affairement est de. Il ne regarde pas plus grand que Spooky World.”

Her driver replied in English, “It’s over 100 feet longer than Spooky World, and far more horrifying.” As he walked away, he mumbled, “Usally celui doit aller à une piste de bowling pour rencontrer une femme de votre stature.”

“Qu’avez-vous parlé?” she demanded.

“Nothing,” he muttered.

The woman ignored him and headed toward our intrepid heroes.

“Celine Dion?” Bitar asked excitedly. “What is she doing here?”

“Bonjour, Robert,” Dion said, gently taking Gillis’ hand. “Vous ne détestez pas la femme de Perry?”

“Bienvenu à notre maison hantée Kaycees!” Gillis kissed her on the cheek, then gestured toward his co-chair and co-conspirator. “Me permettre de présenter mon ami Lauren Bitar.”

“Enchanté,” Dion said warmly. “Êtes-vous des Bitars de Boston?”

“No,” Bitar replied, “the Chippewa Falls Bitars, actually.”

“Oui,” Dion said. “Bien, Robert, j’ai été honoré par votre demande pour que je chante la chanson de thème pour votre suite de film à Titanic … ”

“Umm–” Bitar began. “Le Mademoiselle Celine, votre présence ici nous honore. Malheureusement, je ne parle pas un mot de la belle langue du Français, ainsi ma compréhension de votre conversation est minimale au mieux. Avec tout le respect à vous et la grande nation du Canada, je voudrais te demander de parler anglais. Pour moi, il est plus facile d’exprimer les nuances de mes idées en anglais plutôt que le Français. Merci.”

Dion nodded and continued in English. “And a paycheck of ten billion dollars was tres generoux,” she cooed.

Gillis handed her a check, hoping she didn’t notice that the laser-printer ink was still soggy and the bank name on the check was “First Bank of Krypton.”

“But why meet here on the set of the movie?” Dion inquired.

Gillis smiled warmly. “Inspiration, my dear.”

“Oui,” Dion said, understanding. “Your movie set is a wonder, truly.”

They entered the guide building.

“Où le reste de ce moose est?” Dion asked, gesturing toward a moose head on the wall.

“Oublieriez-vous du moose pour un moment?” Gillis responded curtly.

Dion was non-plussed and returned to English. “Forgive me, my English is still limited, and intermittently I have tribulations conveying the nuances of transliteration linking the English and French dialects in an apposite manner to facilitate advantageous communication.”

“Indeed,” Bitar chirped, giving the moose an affectionate pat. “PEANUTS!” she chimed, taking a handful from a bowl proffered by the maid. To Dion’s stare she explained, “ARACHIDES!” Then she looked at the maid. “Isn’t my haunted house handsome, Harriet?”

“Yes,” Harriet replied kindly.

“Thank you Harriet,” Bitar said dismissively.

Gillis gestured toward the table. “We have the recording studio set up right here.”

“Merci, I am fine,” Dion said. She breathed deeply. “I am ready.”

Dion walked to the microphone. Gillis pushed “RECORD” and “PLAY” on his MP3 unit and nodded. A spotlight hit the singer. Bitar absently wondered when Gillis had time to install it. The music cued, and Celine Dion closed her eyes and got it perfectly on the first take:

Every scare in my haunt I stalk you, I fear you,

That is how I know you go on,

Far across the walk-byes, and cabins between us

You have come to show you go on

Near, far, there’s drinks at the bar,

I believe that the haunt does go on.

Once more, the skit needs more gore

And you’re here in my haunt,

And my haunt will go on and on

Titanic can touch us one time and last for a lifetime,

And never let go till we’re gone.

“Dawson” was when I loved you,

my true name I hold to

In my haunt we’ll always go on.

Near, far, more peanuts at the bar

I believe that the haunt does go on.

Once more, we guide through this tour

And you’re here in my script,

And my haunt will go on and on.

The moose is here, there’s hedges to fear,

But I know that my haunt will go on.

We’ll stay forever this way,

You are safe in my haunt,

And my haunt will go on and on

Bitar withdrew a handkerchief from her pocket and brushed away a tear. “It’s a magical evening.”


Epilogue (or is it? We decided to end this with an ‘Is she or isn’t she?’ just like the Titanic movie.)

by Bob Gillis

February 14, 2094

Keldesh Retirement Home, Foxboro Island

“Are you ready to go back to Titanic?” The reporter from the Foxboro Island Bugle asked.

The old woman paused from her pottery-wheel. She was working on a lovely scale model of the Titanic — some obsessions never die.

“It’s been 84 years … ” Lauren Bitar-Petrocelli-DiCaprio began softly, wiping the reddish-brown clay from her wrinkled fingers.

“That’s OK, just try to remember anything you can.”

“Do want to hear this story or not?” She looked fondly at the picture of Leonardo DiCaprio — her second husband — and smiled. “It’s been 84 years … And Haunted Titanic remains the grandest Kaycee Haunted House in all history. We raised over nine hundred and eleventy two thousand dollars that year. More than enough to cover the budget, keep our community service projects going … ”

“And covered the expense of charging the Oort cloud with anti-protons to stop the alien invasion and destruction of the Earth!” her granddaughter, Rose, added happily.

“We saved the Earth,” Bitar said as MaxiPuppy IV jumped into her lap. “In every way a planet can be saved … If only we could have done more for poor Pluto … ” Her mind wandered off to that far world once again. “Drawf planet,” she muttered.

“You’ve lived a remarkable life,” the reporter from UENN (United Earth News Network) added.

“Yes … But there’s still so much to do,” Bitar explained. She closed her eyes for a moment.

“More to do?” Rose asked. “But Nana … You’re … ”

“I don’t understand,” the Bugle reporter said. “You’re … Well, you’re the oldest woman in the world!”

“Indeed?” Bitar asked. “When did that happen?”

Rose explained, “After Paris Hilton and Britney Spears died in that horrific blimp accident last year, you became the oldest woman in the world, remember Nana?”

“Oh, that’s right. Imagine them–120 years old and still gallivanting around like that. Little trollups that they were.” She absently fingered an old plaque whose worn print read, “Foxboro Kaycees 2012 Haunted House, “Haunted Titanic” — Best Haunted House ever.”

Bitar smiled again. “But yes, to get back to my point, I have so much that needs to be done. 2112 is only 16 years away, and I plan to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Titanic sinking

with a new Haunted House at Andrews Lake.

“WHAT???!” everyone more or less said at the same time.

“But you’re 133 years old!”

“134 next week,” Bitar corrected softly. “Titanic was called … a ship of screams … and it was … It really was … ”

She closed her eyes again.

Rose said softly, “We should let her rest.”

The reporters left quietly. Outside, the sun began to set beautifully. In the distance, music began to play softly.

“So you want to go to a real party?”

Bitar paused. She knew that voice. “Leo? Is that you dear?” She opened her eyes — it was Jack Dawson — well, it was Leonardo DiCaprio at the age when he played Jack Dawson.

DiCaprio smiled warmly. “It’s me, darling. It’s time to come home. Time to go back to Titanic. Take my hand.”

“But that would leave you with one!” Bitar protested.

DiCaprio smiled lovingly. “Lauren my love. Come. It’s time.”

And Lauren ascended the grand staircase of the Titanic as Leonardo took her into his arms and kissed her. The casts of Titanic and Arthur applauded wildly, as …

“Lauren! LB! Wake up!” Bob said.

“What?!” LB asked.

“Dress Rehearsal? Remember? The Press is here! All of Foxboro Society is here!”

“Oh my, Bob! I’d better get ready!”

But to the side, she saw DiCaprio smiling again, his hand outstretched.

…The end? Or is it?

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