Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Stull #4

Seven Years Ago
Randy Stull, Matt and his sister and brother-in-law had the van loaded up and ready to go to Tontzville to Emily's new apartment. Emily and her husband of two months were moving from her parent's basement to their own apartment so of course Matt and his father Randy got stuck helping them on this beautiful August day.

Emily and Dennis drove their car while Randy and Matt took the van. "Glad to have them out of the house?" Matt asked.

"It's a big step having your oldest child move out," Randy said.

"So that's a yes?"

"Any chance you'll be moving out soon?" Randy chuckled.

"Two, three more years," Matt shrugged. "Minimum."

It was late morning and they were about halfway through unloading the van when Randy stumbled and fell, dropping a box of dishes. The sound of shattering dishes echoed through the street. Matt ran to his father.

"Dad! What's wrong?"

Randy struggled to breathe and clenched his fist in pain. "Call 9-1-1," he managed to say as he fell back onto the pavement.

At the time, Frank was with his then-girlfriend Lana at Mound Cemetery in Marietta, Ohio. Frank was snapping away with a camera while Lana stayed behind, meandering through the stones of officers from the Revolutionary War.

"Okay, take my picture by the mound," Frank handed the camera to Lana. The mound was constructed between 800 B.C. and 700 A.D. by prehistoric Mound Builders and is part of the Marietta Earthworks. This mound, known by Conus, is the burial place of the Mound Builder chieftans. The cemetery is the burial place of many Revolutionary War veterans.

"And then we leave?" she asked.

"You didn't have to come along. I just suggested it. You know I was traveling to numerous cemeteries this weekend," Frank explained.

"We've been here since Wednesday," Lana said as she took the picture.

Frank's cell phone rang and he pulled it out of his pockets. "Hello?"

"He's dead!" Matt's voice was blubbery and he was uncontrollably crying. "He died, Frank!"

"Matt? Who died?"

"My dad. My dad died..."

The funeral was the following Thursday. After a brief service at the funeral home, a line of cars followed the hearse to Stull Cemetery where a tent was set up over where Randy was to be buried.

Frank stood outside of the tent where the family, Matt, his sister, his mother, uncle and grandparents, all were. After the graveside service, Matt came up to Frank. "You bought a suit," Matt pointed out.

"Seemed like a good time to get one."

"I'm going to retire this suit," Matt said, looking down at his clothes. "It's been to three proms, six gradations, five weddings and now ten funerals."

Frank nodded. "Seems like a good idea," he said. Suddenly, Matt grabbed Frank and they hugged. "I'm sorry, Matt."

"Uncle John"
"I'm sorry," Katie began with skepticism in her voice. "I don't see evidence of a curse here."

"So you don't find it strange that no male in my family with the last name of Stull has lived past the age of 50?" Matt asked with disbelief.

"Coincidence, yes. Curse? No," Katie said.

"But this goes all the way to Stull's founding," Frank explained. "All the Stull men who founded the town died. There's something to this and we need to properly investigate it."

"Why are we concerned with Matt's family history?" she asked.

"My Uncle John is turning fifty next week. He's my favorite uncle, although he is the only living one right now. He's also the oldest living male in my family. I don't know if it's possible but I want to protect him," Matt replied.

"How come we never looked into it before?" Katie asked.

"I have but there is only so much I can research until the well runs dry," Frank said. "It's noted that the original founders are buried in Stull Cemetery but their graves are either not marked or lost. They were buried before the cemetery was formally established so records are spotty."

"Okay. Let's say that there is a curse. How are we supposed to protect Matt's uncle from supernatural forces and fate?" Katie asked.

"We have to try. I'd do the same for you," Matt said. "Besides, we get a free dinner tonight."

Matt's Uncle John was a very jovial man. He had recently grown a beard and flecks of gray could be seen in it and the hair on his head. He honestly didn't look 50.

Frank, Katie and Matt sat at the dinner table with John, his wife Wanda, and their youngest daughter who was 13. The two older daughters had moved out on their own. Wanda had fixed something easy--spaghetti--but the sauce was from a recipe and so were the meatballs.

"I don't believe in that mumbo-jumbo," John said after Matt and Frank explained what they wanted to do. "I believe that we decide when to go, not some ghost in the sky."

"What about terminal illnesses and murder? Those aren't technically decided for us," Katie said.

"Still. It's our decision. There is only so much our bodies can take before, in some way, we're begging for life to end. Let me tell you a story. Great-grandma, she died when Matt was two, was in the hospital for two weeks and getting better. At least that is what the doctors said. All she talked about was going home. She just wanted to go home. After two weeks, the doctors said she was fine and sent her home. She died two hours after she got home. She didn't want to die in that hospital. She wanted to die at home. She willed her body to get better just so she could pass away in her home in her own bed," John told.

Frank nodded. "I like that. It gives me hope that no matter what happens, I am in control. I don't have to walk into that white light if I don't want to."

"I know there are flaws in my logic but like in any belief, if it gives me hope then what is it hurting?" John shrugged.

Frank explored Stull Cemetery a lot over the next week. He examined as many plats of the cemetery as he could get his hands on and began making his own updated version. He looked at all aspects of Stull's written history and found nothing out of the ordinary.

Frank sat at his desk at the Historical Society when he was approached by Katie. "Find anything new?" she asked.

"No. Maybe it is all a coincidence. Genetics, that sort of thing. I can't find anything other than what I already know," Frank explained. "It's like everything has been purposely hidden."

"Maybe it has. Stull is a very secretive place. Something happened back then that they are trying to keep quiet," Katie said.

"Well, someone knows something and I'm going to find out who and what. Matt deserves better then what he's been given."

"John's birthday is tomorrow," Katie said. "We've come this far."

"It's not enough. Something could happen later today or tomorrow or a month from now and we cannot stop it. If it is really a curse then how do we stop it? It doesn't seem fair."

"I know," Katie nodded. "And 35 years from now, I do not want to bury Matt for the same reason."

John's birthday came and went. Frank, Matt and Katie became involved with other things. About three weeks after his birthday, John was driving home from Tontzville, talking with Matt on his cell phone.

"Frank has returned to researching Rock Creek, especially the time around World War I. He has Katie and me working on stuff about cemeteries. Frank's a dork about cemeteries," Matt said.

"Make sure he looks into the old Stull Family Cemetery. I can't remember exactly where it was but it was on the original Stull land claim. I don't even know if any of the stones still exist," John revealed.

"Our family has its own cemetery?" Matt asked.

"Yeah. You and Frank should come by this weekend and we can talk about it. Apparently our family were a bunch of murderers back in the day. At least according to this book."

"What book?" Matt asked.

"Someone in the early 20th Century wrote a book about the founding of the county. He wrote it out long hand five times and tied the pages together. No one really took him seriously because everyone thought he was crazy. I don't know if any copies of the book still exist," John explained.

"Frank is going to love that information. I'll let you go Uncle John. I'll see you on Saturday," said Matt.

"Okay, Matt. See you."

John and Matt hung up and John turned back on the radio. John began rounding a curve when another person did the same thing, in John's lane and in the opposite direction. John gripped the steering wheel with both hands and slammed on the brakes as the headlights got closer.

Frank and Katie investigate a supposedly haunted bridge which ends up putting Katie's life in danger.