I walked across the parking area in front of the Goode Mansion to Bill’s truck as he was getting out. He gave me a once over.
“You look like crap, Gill,” he said. “I know how my no-good daughter is acting is getting us all down, but…”
“Morning Bill. Yeah, she’s getting me down, but I think it’s more to do with the fact that I didn’t sleep well. I was kept out until after midnight and then couldn’t sleep. I spent half the night writing and the other half rolling over and over, not able to close my eyes more than a few moments at a time.”
“And in that delusional state you call me at the crack of dawn, huh? I’m sure you know what you’re doing, but I just hope that you weren’t pushed over the edge by Lynds or decided to take Jess too seriously…”
“Proud father, yeah.” I winked. “I don’t think I’m insane, but… Oh, can you do me a favor while we’re waiting for the others to show up?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“If I remember correctly, there’s a crow bar, about three-foot-long, in the equipment shed. Can you grab it for me?”
“Of course. Any clues for me?”
“Nope. Well, OK, I will tell you that I’m acting on something some ghosts told me. Other than, well, you’ll have to wait to see if I lost my marbles. If so, maybe you can help me find them.”
“Ghost stories, right. Those marbles might be gone forever. I’ll be right back.”
Bill waved to Sean, who was just pulling in, then went to the shed for the crow bar.
“Hi Gill. How are you doing?” Sean asked.
“Pretty good. A bit tired, but not bad. How was the drive?”
“Smooth, though it looks like rain’s on the way. I thought this was supposed to be a nice weekend.”
“I know. Sorry to drag you up here, but I think you’ll find it worth your while.”
A police car pulled up. Officer Humphries stepped out.
“Hi Sean. Hi Gill. How are you guys doing?”
“Pretty good. And you?” I asked.
“Fine, fine. And you Sean, I haven’t seen you in an age. You sitting at home keeping that trophy all shiny?”
“Hey Chuck. No, I’ve been out practicing so you don’t take it away from me this year.”
“I’m good, but I don’t stand a chance.”
“Trophy?” I asked. “Not sure if I know what you’re talking about.”
“You didn’t know that your friend Sean here is some hot shot?” Officer Humphries asked. “And I mean that most literally.”
“Actually,” Sean said, “we’re in the same shooting club. Last year I won a regional prize for handguns. Typically, it’s one of the police officers, like Chuck here, who take that one, since it is part of their job. I guess I lucked out.”
“Don’t let him fool you, he’s an expert shot. I bet he can shoot a cigarette out of your mouth from fifty paces in the pitch dark.”
“No thanks, I don’t want to be a target there.” I said. “Smoking is bad for you, so I don’t want to risk that cigarette.”
The hulking police officer laughed.
“Anyway, Sean, why did you call for police support this morning? I’m sure this wasn’t a social call.”
“Actually, it was Gill here. He called and said I might want the police on this. He said something about an old, cold case.”
“Yeah,” I said. “A very old case. Do you all have flashlights? Great. Follow me.”
Bill had rejoined us as we were talking, so I led them all into the carriage house. I half closed my eyes and tried to place where I had seen Thomas when he opened the secret stairwell. I placed it and walked over. I was hoping that over the years nobody had notice some looseness and nailed it into place.
I grabbed the crossbeam, as I’d seen Thomas do, and tried pulling. Nothing. I tried lifting it, but it still didn’t budge. I was beginning to feel more than a little foolish. I pushed the wall with my body weight and lifted. I felt something shift and the section wall lifted a half an inch. I pulled and it popped out.
I turned to my companions. Although their lights were point towards me so that they were almost silhouetted, I could tell they were shocked.
“Hey Bill, can you hand me the crow bar? And all of you, can you shine the light on the floor, at the part that would have been hidden by the wall?”
I took the crowbar and half looked, half felt. I finally found the little metal eye. They wood was depressed there and the bar slid right in. I lifted, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Uhm, I think one or all of us are standing on the trap,” I said. “Can you back up a little?”
Everyone stepped back. I tried again and the floor lifted up. I pulled the section up and then pushed it to the side, exposing the hole in the floor. The other three came closer. With their lights the stairs were obvious.
“How in the world did you know this was here?” Bill asked. “I’ve been in this place a thousand times and would never have guessed.”
“As I said, a ghost told me. Ready to go explore?”
They nodded and I went down the steps. We were in a large room, part of the foundation. There were odd angles and corners sticking into the room. The house was built in sections and the old foundation was just added to as each new section added, creating a hodge-podge, almost lyberith under the building. I couldn’t see any doors out, so I figured the steps were the only entrance to this section of the foundation.
I started off in the direction that I had seen Thomas go. I relied on a different sense to guide me. It was as if there were a door open to the winter and I could feel the breeze. We came to a granite wall. I followed it for a couple of feet until I noticed a section with an odd texture.
I swung the crow bar at the odd texture. Where it hit, the surface of the wall crumbled. It was just plaster covering a brick wall. I hit it a few more times and then scraped the remaining plaster away. There was an obvious door through the blocks of granite that had been walled in with brick. The masonry job was not very good. I put the crow bar through a hole at the edge and pulled. A chunk with half a dozen bricks came out. I used the hole to pull another large chunk out of the wall and then one more. The wall was down to about waist level.
We all gathered around the entry to the sealed off room and flooded it with light.
A skull stared back at us.
As my eyes adjust I could make out more and more bones.
“When you go in there,” I said, “you’ll find two adult women, a man, two toddlers and two infants. They were killed by blows to the head with a blunt instrument. Think a heavy iron bar. You might find other broken bones, like legs, arms, ribs and such. Very brutal.”
“What was this, about 200 years ago?” Officer Humphries asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “The toddlers were killed, I forget, I think about 1816 and the others in 1821.”
“I’ll have to make a few calls,” the police officer said. “For now, just stay out. We’ll get a forensic team. Man, it’s been a while since I learned about cases like this. I think I need a historian or archeologist. I’ll have to ask. But someone needs to come out and go through this methodically. We can’t disturb anything.”
“Don’t worry, Chuck,” Sean said, “nobody will come down here.”
“I’m going to tape it off any way. You don’t mind, do you?” Sean shook his head. “Good. And is it OK just to bring the people down if you’re not around?”
“Yes, you have free reign of the place. Just let me know if you plan on tearing down any more walls. Or if you find any more secret passageways. I’m with Bill on this one, I have no clue how Gill found this.”
“It’s as he said,” the officer said, “he asked the ghosts.” He winked. “I’ve heard stories that sometimes the ghosts here do tell stories, and, who am I to say, maybe they do and Gill here is just the first to understand what they were trying to say.”
“I am not going to admit anything that would make me sound totally insane,” I said, “but if I were to say something nutso, that is pretty close to what it would be. Others have heard or seen, but I listened. Of course, that’s off the record.”
The longer the lights played over the bones, the more could be seen, and the more damage could be noticed.
“This is all a bit grim for me,” Bill said. “Let’s go get some fresh air.
We filed out of the basement and then out of the carriage house. The sky hung heavy with moisture, but it felt refreshing after witnessing the mass grave. Officer Humphries continued down to his car to make some calls.
“Well, that was quite the discovery, Gill,” Sean said. “Next you’ll be saying you know where the lost book of the Goode’s is hidden.” He winked at Bill.
“Well, now that you mention it, let’s go into the house for a while,” I said.