Saturday, July 09, 2011

Stull #19

Jen found herself in the abandoned house. It smelled just slightly musty, dust covered every inch of the floor but it was well lit, despite it being nighttime, and had a couch in the front room facing the big window.

“Hello?” she cried.

No one answered and her voice echoed forever.

“Hello?!” she yelled louder but still no one answered her. She went into the front room and saw the back of Frank’s head sitting on the couch. She walked up to Frank. “Frank? Glad you are here. What are we doing here?” she asked but got no reply.

She walked around the couch but could never catch a glimpse of Frank’s face. She looked out of the window and saw that it was storming. Trees were blowing in the wind, branches, sticks and leaves floated across the ground and lightning lit up the sky every few seconds although no thunder could be heard.

“Frank! What is going on? What are we doing here?”

The front door flung open and a white horse galloped in ridden by a young girl in a tattered grey dress. The horse circled Jen twice and then stopped. The girl stared at Jen. The horse rose up and whinnied before galloping off again.

“Frank!” she turned and saw the couch was empty. “Frank! Where are you!”

Lightning flashed and the front window shattered.

Jen jerked awake and moaned, “Frank,” she rolled over and looked at her boyfriend, Chris.

“Are you okay? You were moaning pretty good,” he said in a soft, drowsy voice.

“I’m fine. Just a nightmare,” Jen settled back into bed but it took awhile for her to fall back to sleep.

Frank was asleep in his chair at his desk. He had just finished rewriting the Stull book and decided to sleep in his chair. He was awakened by the sound of gunshots going off. Bullets came through the newly replaced door window and through the window to Frank’s office striking Frank’s desk and chair.

“What the hell?” Frank bolted up and sped to the window to see a car speed away down Ohio Street.

He went back to his desk and called 911. “Hello, there were just shots fired at the Rock Creek Township Historical Society.”

“All’s Well”

“Do you know of anyone who might have wanted to do this?” Detective Bilko asked.

“Well, Jarvis Houk came by the other day and told me not to publish the history of the End Road Massacre,” Frank said. “I decided not to but he doesn’t know that yet.”

“Looks like we got our first suspect then,” Detective Bilko said.

It was mid-morning and it was starting to get hot. John, Matt and Jen came in, saying hello to Detective Bilko. “What’s going on?” John asked.

“The building got shot at,” Frank said. “A bullet shattered the window we just got replaced.”

“That sucks,” Jen said, trying not to make eye contact with Frank.

“Do you want to come with me to question Mr. Houk?” Detective Bilko asked.

“Can I? I didn’t know victims could ride along to see suspects.”

“I feel all this can be straightened out with talking,” Detective Bilko said.

“Okay, just a minute. Matt, John, Jen, you’re going to check out the old town well, correct?”

“That was the plan,” Matt said.

“The old town well?” Detective Bilko questioned.

“I’ll explain in the car. Okay. I will see you guys later this afternoon. And be careful. We all know the story of the well,” Frank said and he and Detective Bilko left the Society.

The old town well was located a couple hundred feet west of the intersection with 10th and Hickory Streets. It was well documented that when the town of Stull wanted to build a town well, they tried to find a spot with a lot of water. They found that the land north of Ohio Street, west of 8th and east and south of Captain’s Creek was flooded with water and they wanted to build a well right in the center of it.

The land was owned by Hiram F. Volland who refused to sell the land to the city. Volland was a mean and abusive man who was one of the few slaveholders in the area. He would watch his slaves work from a tower that he had built and shoot at his slaves just to keep them on their toes.

The town tried several times to acquire at least a portion of his land but Volland kept refusing. Then one night, while he was asleep, someone snuck in and bludgeoned Volland with a hatchet. Volland’s slaves, upon hearing this, ran away. The town quickly took over his land, buried his body in Stull Cemetery, tore down his giant house and watchtower and began constructing the well.

The first person to disappear was just a month after the well opened. And it seemed as if a person went missing at the well every year. The disappearances slowed down in the 1850s into the early 20th Century but continued. A rash of disappearances occurred between 1910 and 1955 and have been nearly non-existent since.

Most citizens claimed it was Hiram Volland’s ghost sneaking up on people and dragging them down to Hell with him. A few rational people just claimed that these people fell into the well but a massive search in the early 1900s found no evidence that that is what happened. The well is fenced and nearly forgotten but it is still open and still gives water even in the driest of seasons.

John parked along the side of 10th Street and he, Matt and Jen got out of the car. They could see the fence around the well from the road and began walking through the field toward the well. When they arrived, they saw that there was a gate to the fence and that it was locked with a chain and padlock.

“How are we supposed to get in?” Jen asked.

“I got the key from the town hall,” Matt said. He unlocked the padlock and took the chain off of the gate. “Alright, ready?”

John and Jen nodded. They approached the wall of the well and peered down. It was a massive hole walled with limestone. Except for the locked fence, the well was completely open to the elements.

Matt sat on the edge of the well. “Okay,” he breathed. “You guys turn around and be completely silent. Let’s see if I’m dragged down to Hell.”

Jen and John turned around and waited for a couple minutes before turning back around.

“So you were not in Stull early this morning?” Detective Bilko asked Jarvis Houk.

“No, I was in town at the diner. You can ask the waitress,” Jarvis said. “I’m sorry I threatened you the other day, Mr. York.”

“Please, call me Frank. It’s fine. I thought about what you said and while I still finished rewriting the book, I am not going to publish it. I’ll keep it in my archives so people can request it if they want to read it,” Frank said. “And I really didn’t think you shot at the Society but you are the only suspect who makes sense. So I’m sorry, myself.”

“It is strange,” Jarvis began. “How many other people know that you have the book?”

“Besides my staff, Detective Bilko and you? The person who gave me the book and that’s it.”

“Perhaps it’s the person who gave you the book,” Jarvis suggested.

Frank and Detective Bilko looked at each other.

Half an hour later, Frank and Detective Bilko were in Irving, sitting at the diner Jarvis had mentioned. “So we can run the fingerprints that would be on the book, right?” Frank asked.

“We can,” Detective Bilko said. “But now the prints of you and your staff are on the book so finding the person who sent you the book might be difficult. And there is no one else who would want to hurt you or the Society?”

Frank thought for a moment. “Not that I can think of. When we get back to the Society, I’ll give you the book so you can the prints on it and hopefully that will lead us to the person who sent the book.”

“It’s worth a shot,” Detective Bilko said.

“You’re still here,” Jen said when she and John turned around.

“Yes, I know,” Matt said. “I think people just fell down the well and their bodies were never found. They were probably washed out to the Ohio River or Lake Erie or something. Frank wants us to see if the foundation to Hiram Volland’s house or watchtower are still around.”

“I’m going to stay here,” Jen said.

“Okay. We’ll be back in a bit.”

Matt and John left the fenced-in area and went behind the fence and toward the land between the well and Captain’s Creek. They saw a rise in the different with a couple good sized trees. They walked over and saw the stone foundation. Matt took a few pictures of the foundation and the trees surrounding the creek in the distance.

“You leave soon, don’t you?” John asked.

“Yeah,” Matt answered. “First stop is a hotel in Wisconsin then a house in Minnesota.”

“How’s Katie taking it?”

“She’s doing fine. She’ll miss me. I’ll miss her, too but I need to get away from here. Even if it’s for a short period,” Matt explained.

“Is Frank going to hire someone else in your place?” John asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. If he does it may just be an intern or something,” Matt said. “Come on, let’s head back.”

They walked back to the fence and the well. Jen wasn’t waiting like she said she would. “Damn it,” John said. “Did she walk back to the car?”

Matt got out his cell phone and called Jen. The phone rang several times and never went to voicemail. “She’s not answering. I’m not even able to leave a message.”

John walked over to the well. “Jen?” he shouted. “Jen! Where are you?”

“Jen!” Matt also began shouting. Soon they were shouting in unison as they began to split up to look for Jen.

To be continued...