Monday, May 25, 2009

Seven #1.6

The gang followed the railroad to the south of a huge natural mound where the town of Oak Hill used to be. Cassius paused. "We're at Oak Hill, aren't we?"

The other three looked around confused. "We don't know. We're at the base of some huge hill," Nicholas said.

"That's gotta be Oak Hill. That means we're getting close."

"Getting close? To what? The King's Elm?" Seven seemed enthusiastic.

"No," Cassius chuckled. "Well, yes, but we're near the town of Ransomville. We can rest up there for a couple of days. They have a great hotel there run by an old friend of mine. We should get there in about six or seven miles," Cassius explained and the four continued walking.

Even though they've been following a railroad track, Ransomville was the first place they had come to that had any resemblance to a city. Ransomville was established in 1868 by Major Cyrus P. Ransom who organized the town and promptly established himself as mayor and sheriff. The Major, who used the official title to impress people, practically terrorized the town and always carried a shotgun with him.

About two years later, Cyrus courted a young schoolteacher. Being the wealthiest man in Ransomville, the young teacher was ecstatic and Cyrus wasted no time in wedding and bedding the teacher who was nearly thirty years his senior. Barely a month into their marriage the teacher got pregnant. A baby girl was born but her mother died during the birth leaving Cyrus alone to care for the girl.

Cyrus hired people to care for the girl, who he named April. April knew her father was not well-liked but she adored him and as she got older he became a good father to her. In 1886, Cyrus' huge brick mansion was completed, April was 17. To celebrate the completion, Cyrus got drunk and proceeded to rape April. Two months later, Cyrus would find his daughter hanging from the rafters in his new mansion.

April left a note revealing that she was pregnant. Cyrus, devestated and heartbroken, lied and said that April got sick and died naturally. Cyrus locked up the mansion and never set foot near it again. He returned to his small stone house and became a radically changed man.

Ransomville prospered and was now a small town of nearly 450 people.

The St. Columbkillane Catholic Church and four-story Rowena Hotel stood over the other buildings that made up downtown Ransomville. The downtown area consisted of a dozen or so businesses all interconnected the way most towns were, plus four churches besides the Catholic church, a modern city hall and the hotel.

The four were amazed at the town's handsome downtown and were glad to be somewhere that just didn't consist of one or two buildings and a hodge-podge of houses.

They entered the hotel, a beautiful beacon for the town inside and out. The kids hung back while Cassius went up to the desk. A woman was working but had her back turned. "Ms. Granville?" Cassius asked.

"It's Mrs. Madison now," she said as she turned around. Her face lit up when she saw Cassius. "Cassius? Cassius Butell? How long has it been? How'd you get here?"

"Calm down, Sarah. I go by Cassius Traveler now and it's been almost fifteen years. And I walked here."

"Walked? From the Delta? But aren't you...?" Sarah hesitated.

"Yep. I'll explain it all later but right now these kids and me need a place to stay and..."

Sarah cut Cassius off. "Don't say another word," she grabbed a key to a room and gave it to Cassius. "Room 403. Top floor, see the entire area around room 403 from your window. Who are your friends?" she asked.

Cassius motioned to the kids to come over. "These are my friends from Cassoday: Tara Goebbel, Nicholas Christ and Seven Kazachov."

"Seven? That's an odd name," Sarah smiled.

"I was my parent's seventh child," Seven said.

"Ah. And where's Kazachov from?"

"It's Russian. Well, Jewish and Russian," Seven revealed.

"Oh," Sarah's expression changed. "Why don't you four go check out the room? It's a beaut!"

The room was extremely nice and even though all four of them were ready to lay down, Cassius wanted to talk to Sarah and Seven wanted to explore the town. Cassius went downstairs to talk to Sarah.

"How's married life treating you?" Cassius asked her.

"It's going fine. I love being married and our lives are going well. Josh has his own practice here in town--down the street and we own this hotel which I run so we're doing pretty good. I sometimes wish that Josh would take a job in Westport or Junction City so we can move and see other parts of the state but he's content here so I don't push very hard," Sarah explained.

"This seems like a nice town. Why do you want to leave?" Cassius asked.

"Let's just say this town has it's secrets."

Out in the streets of Ransomville, Seven was very excited to explore the town and meet some of the people. The railroad passed to the south of the town by about a mile but another railroad dissected the town in half at about Church Street. That was where Seven headed first to see the many churches that this small had. Aside from the four churches in the downtown district, four more lined Church Street between 2nd and 5th Streets. They were smaller churches and a couple of them were non-donominational.

They reached the end of the street at 1st and Church and began heading back to Main Street to return downtown. Past the north-south railroad track, Seven noticed something off in the distance.

"There's something over there," Seven pointed and Nicholas and Tara looked over in that direction but didn't see anything. "Come on, let's go see."

Nicholas and Tara relunctantly followed Seven off of the road and across the railroad tracks to a small piece of land with several small marble stones placed in three rows of ten.

"It's a small cemetery," Tara said.

Seven knealed down to one of the stones and felt the top of it. "Something's etched in it," he said.

Tara knealt down at another and looked closely at the top. "It's the Star of David," Tara said.

Seven went over to what looked like a newer stone and saw for himself the small Star of David symbol etched in the top. "Why are they all here? I didn't see a Jewish church anywhere in town."

"Maybe you can ask Sarah later. There's probably one somewhere around here. Let's go back to the hotel. I want to get a nap before dinner and that only leaves a couple hours for one," Nicholas said.

"Okay," Seven said. Tara and Nicholas left the cemetery and began to make their way back across the tracks and toward the town. Seven followed slowly, looked back over his shoulder at the marble stones.

Sarah invited Cassius, Seven, Nicholas and Tara to dinner with her and her husband, Josh. It was nice dinner and the best meal the travellers have had since leaving Cassoday. Most of the conversation was geared toward what Cassius was doing and where they were going but once the conversation moved to the town, Seven spoke up.

"While we were exploring the town," Seven motioned to Nicholas and Tara, "we found a small cemetery by the railroad tracks. All the stones were small and had the Star of David carved in them."

"Oh, yeah," Josh began, "that's the Jewish cemetery."

Sarah and Cassius looked at each other nervously.

"That's what we thought but we didn't see any Jewish churches or really anything Jewish in town," Seven pointed out.

"Because we don't have anything like that in this town," Josh said matter-of-factly.

"Why not if you have a cemetery?" Seven asked.

"We don't have any Jewish people in Ransomville," Josh said. "We make sure of it."

"What do you mean?" Seven was suspicious.

"We take measures to make sure Ransomville has no Jewish people in it. And that cemetery is proof of that."

"So you...kill any Jewish person that comes into town?" Seven asked.

"If they don't leave town within a day, yes."

"That's murder," Seven said. "Why haven't all of you been arrested?" Seven asked.

"Seven, just let it go right now," Cassius hushed.

"So if I don't leave Ransomville by tomorrow afternoon are you going to kill me?" Seven asked.

Josh didn't know what to say but said the first thing that came to mind, "If you were Jewish, yes."

"Through and through," Seven said, almost daring Josh to do something. "My mother was a Jew from Egypt and my father from Russia. If you need anything, you know where my room is," and Seven left the table. "Excuse me."

The dark figure broke into the brick mansion on the west side of town. He hoisted up the bloody body and carried it inside. The figure tossed the body onto the floor of the mansion, blood splattered. When the figure walked away from the mansion, the brick building was engulfed in flames and even though the citizens of Ransomville tried with all their might to extinguish the flames, the building was a total loss.

A loud knocking came from the door of Room 403. All four woke up but Cassius went to the door. A sheriff stood in the doorway holding a gun. "Cassius Traveler?"

"Yes," Cassius said haltingly.

"Please come with me. You're under arrest for the murder of Cyrus P. Ransom."

"What? He's been here all night, asleep," Seven said.

"Anyone to witness that?" the sheriff asked.

Everyone looked at each other. "We were all asleep," Tara said.

"Come with me, Mr. Traveler," the sheriff said.

"What proof do you have that Cassius did it?" Seven asked.

"A witness to the fire said she saw a black man enter the mansion and then leave shortly after the fire started and last time anyone knew, you were the only black man in Ransomville," the sheriff explained.

Cassius went with the sheriff while the three kids stayed in the hotel room.

The Ransomville adventure ends, Tara fears for Seven's life; Seven tries to exonorate Cassius and The King's Elm.