Monday, January 28, 2013

No. 39: Tank N Tummy (repeat)

"Tank N Tummy" was originally published in Liberty #14 (Aug. 2010).

Harry was sound asleep with a smile on his face when a long, slender tongue began coming down on his ear. The tongue began licking in and around the ear. The smile on Harry’s face disappeared and a look of disgust washed over it. His eyes shot open and Harry pushed himself out of bed and onto the floor.

“What are you doing?” Harry shouted at the woman who had penetrated his ear with her tongue.

“Using a unique way to wake you up,” the woman smiled. “Do you want to go again?” she grinned.

Harry stared at the woman in the bed, trying to remember her name. He then looked over at the clock. “Emily! Yes, that’s it. That’s your name. I would love to…do all that but I’m late for work,” Harry said, telling the truth but it obviously sounded like a lie. Harry stood up and began searching through the mess that was Emily’s floor. She eyed his genitals seductively and licked her lips. Harry noticed and covered himself. “Stop looking at it!”

“You didn’t seem to mind last night when my whole head was in that vicinity,” Emily smiled.

Harry found his clothes and began putting them on. “I had a nice time. I’ll see you around, Emily.”

“Are you sure you can’t stay?” Emily pleaded. “You’re already late for work. What’s another thirty minutes.”

“No, I have to go. See you,” and Harry left Emily’s bedroom.

Emily rolled over on her back and moved her fingers to her crotch. “What if I lick your asshole?” she shouted after him.

It took Harry about ten minutes to get from the dorms where Emily lived at Engel and Irving Hill Road to the Tank N Tummy convenience store at Sixth and Kasold. The Tank N Tummy was your average convenience store selling your common overpriced wares all because the gasoline doesn’t make a profit. Harry parked his Ford Explorer on the west side of the building next to a beat up Toyota Tercel hatchback. The Toyota belonged to Harry’s best friend, Zeke.

Zachary Hollister, or Zeke, which is what he wanted to be called, had been friends with Harry since Kindergarten. Zeke began elementary school as a shy, slightly overweight, red-haired wimp and after high school was an outgoing, slightly overweight, balding wimp. Harry took care of the shy part.

Harry walked into the Tank N Tummy. Zeke was behind the counter restocking the cigarettes. “Zeke, I’m sorry I’m late. I wasn’t sleeping in my own bed, her actually wanting anal sex threw me off and this morning, there was a tongue in my ear,” Harry attempted to explain.

“It’s okay, Harry. You know people just come in to buy coffee, newspapers and cigarettes in the morning. Why are you late?” Zeke asked.

“I met a girl. Her name is Emily. She let me do awful things to her,” Harry said and smiled.

“Oh, you thinking about seeing her again?” Zeke asked.

“Of course not.”

“Why did I think otherwise?”

“Are we still on for tonight?” Harry asked as he grabbed an issue of U.S. News & World Report off the shelf and went behind the counter with Zeke.

“I don’t know about Jason or Dustin but I’m ready,” Zeke said. “I printed off a bunch of stuff about the house and cemetery last night and spent most of last night reading about it. The stories people tell about them are amazing and it would be great if the stories were true.”

Harry began reading his magazine. “Why are we doing this again?”

“Why do we need a reason? We’re doing it to find out if the legends are true. Common sense says they are not but there are some strange things in this world. Plus, it’s a part of our history being in this county,” Zeke exclaimed.

“Eloquently said, Zeke. I’m gonna go get me some Cheez-Its,” Harry left the counter and walked over to the aisle with chips and crackers. Cheez-It was Harry’s only vice and he would go long way for the name brand baked cheese goodness.

“We don’t have any,” Zeke said as they reached the shelves the Cheez-It’s used to be.

“Why not?” Harry asked with anger rising in his voice.

“They weren’t selling so the boss had me not order any this time around. We’ll get more next week.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Harry complained.

“Oh, calm down. There’s still a box of Cheesie Bits down there,” Zeke pointed.

“You know damn well they are not the same thing!”

“Oh, here we go,” Zeke rolled his eyes.

“Cheez-It, produced by the Sunshine Biscuit Company—now a property of the Kellogg Company—have been the premier baked cheese snack cracker since 1921 and while Nabisco’s Kraft Cheese Nips come close and have, admittedly, more cheese flavor, Cheez-It are the go-to cracker for both cheese and salt,” Harry illuminated.

“I know. You’ve told me,” Zeke complained.

“Remember when we ran out of gummi worms and I told you to just eat gummi bears?”

“Well, gummi bears are just plain disgusting,” Zeke made a face.

“Well, so are generic baked cheese crackers,” Harry sighed and went back to his magazine behind the counter.

Someone came into the store and headed over to the coffee station. Zeke sat down on a stool with the local paper and began reading. “Oh my God.”

“What?” Harry asked.

“Miyoki died,” Zeke said and showed Harry the obituary in the paper. The picture accompanying the obit was Miyoki’s senior high school picture, Zeke recognized.

Harry read the obit. “Wow…” he said. “I wonder what she died from.”

“It doesn’t say but she was in San Francisco. I should call her parents,” Zeke said.

“Are they parents that still like you?”

“All my former girlfriend’s parents still like me,” Zeke said.

“You just keep telling yourself that,” Harry shook his head.

“Miyoki was my first,” Zeke said solemnly. “I can still remember how it felt.”

“I don’t need any details.”

“Who was your first time?” Zeke asked Harry.

“Your mom. Why don’t you call Miyoki’s parents now?” Harry said and scooted the magazine over when the customer finished at the coffee station and came up to the counter.

“How come you don’t have any of that flavored coffee that those big chain store have?” the customer said.

“What? You mean like Starbucks?” Harry asked.

“Yeah. I love their coffee,” the customer said.

“I do too. $2.35,” Harry said.

“I drink your coffee because it’s cheap,” the customer chuckled.

“Yeah…” Harry hated talking to the customers.

“You should put out some chocolate syrup and whipped cream for people to put in with their coffee,” the customer suggested.

“Then we’d have to charge a lot more than $2.35 for it,” Harry faked a laugh and smiled big.

The customer laughed too. “Yeah, I guess so.” The customer headed out the door. “Have a good day!” he shouted.

“You, too!” Harry shouted back then angrily went back to his magazine. Zeke returned and sat back down on his stool. “You get a hold of Miyoki’s parents?”

“Yeah,” Zeke answered.

“How’d she die?”

“She was in San Francisco—she moved there for school—and she was riding the Golden Gate Transit, a public transportation bus, and she saw someone she knew and wanted to get their attention so she opened the window and stuck her body halfway out. The bus makes a sharp turn and she hits a light post, cracking her skull and snapping her back,” Zeke said.

“Ew. That’s graphic,” Harry said. Harry thought for a second and began chuckling. “’Stuck her body halfway out’? I can actually see her hanging out of the bus window, flailing her arms and screaming. It’s kind of funny.”

“A girl died Harry. A girl we both knew and went to school with,” Zeke said. “It’s not funny, it’s tragic.”

“Oh, quit being overly sensitive. You acted the same way when that football player died in our senior year.”

“It’s sad when people that young die!” Zeke exclaimed.

“It’s sad when they have a disease. It’s sad when they are in a car accident. The football guy was drunk. His blood alcohol level was 0.22 which is almost three times over the legal limit. He’s lucky he didn’t hurt or kill another person,” Harry pointed out. “I’m sick of him being made out to be a martyr.”

“Jeez, calm down. You’d feel differently if it were you.”

“I already told my mom not to make me out to be a hero if my death is my fault,” Harry went back to his magazine.

“That’s a nice mother-son conversation,” Zeke said.

Chapter Two
It was the spring of 1858 when George Miller began work on his house north of Big Springs on a hill just south of the cemetery. George was a stonemason and currently lived in Lecompton where he had helped with the construction of the territorial capital building, a church and a couple of houses. After living in cities and towns for the last thirteen years, George had finally decided to build his own house and start a farm.

George had been married to Margaret Lowery since 1843 and until their daughter, Adela, had been born in 1846, George and Margaret had practically been nomadic. With the birth of Adela, George and his family settled in Aurora, Illinois until early 1855 when they moved to Lecompton, Kansas shortly after the territory had been opened for settlement.

Lecompton was a tinderbox always on the verge of going off. Lecompton was presently the territorial capital however free state opposition from nearby Topeka and Lawrence aimed to quench that as soon as possible. George had chosen Lecompton instead of Lawrence because Lecompton had more jobs and seemed safer. George picked right because George and Margaret could just hide their opinions and lie if the topic ever came to slavery but if they had chosen Lawrence, their house would’ve been burned to the ground barely a year after arriving by the sheriff and his posse.

Lecompton was good to George. He got a lot of money for starting work on what was to become the territorial capital building plus money for building a church, doing add-ons to existing homes, constructing new ones and doing stonework on Mount Aeolia, where the territorial governor’s mansion was located. All this work gave him free range of the two quarries in the area, the big one being on the south side of the Kansas River just outside of Lecompton. The other was located just southwest of Big Springs.

Big Springs, while much smaller than Lecompton, was the complete opposite in politics. Big Springs was the oldest settlement in the county and hosted a free state convention where men vowed to lay down their lives for the free state cause. Before then, Big Springs had just been a stop along the Oregon Trail. George couldn’t wait to bring his family home to their new house.

Harry cowered under the desk in the small office while Zeke stood by the desk, bent over so he could see Harry. “You’re gonna have to come out some time,” he said with a note of disappointment in his voice.

“I will, when she’s not out there,” Harry said.

“Come on man. She came here between classes to see you,” Zeke said. “She brought you lasagna.”

“Food? That’s how they get you. They make you a nice meal and they’ve got you in their trap!” Harry hissed.

“What trap? The girl you slept with last night is here offering you food. Now go out there, say hello then share some of your lasagna with me,” Zeke dragged Harry out from under the desk and they walked together to the front of the store.

Emily was standing by the counter holding an aluminum pan covered by foil. When she saw Harry she smiled big and her eyes sparkled in the store’s fluorescent lights. “Long time, no see stranger,” she giggled. “I brought you some lunch.”

“That was nice of you,” Harry said but didn’t reach for the pan.

“Hey, I was wondering about last night,” Emily started. “I had a really good time and was just wondering what our relationship is.”

Harry looked back at Zeke who threw his hands up with wide eyes and backed away. “Well, I…Look, there’s something you have to know about me. I don’t date. What happened between us last night was just sex and nothing more,” Harry began.

“What? You used me?” Emily frowned.

“I don’t call it that. I’m sorry if you thought it was something more but I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just figured you knew my history and didn’t care. I have had sex with a lot of girls so I just figured my reputation preceded me,” Harry smiled nervously as Emily got madder.

“You jerk!” she screamed and shoved the lasagna into Harry’s face. He screamed and fell to his knees. “I can’t believe I let you into my backdoor!” Emily shouted and stormed out of the store.

Zeke came over with a wet floor sign, chuckling. “That was so tactful. Especially when you told her that you ‘have had sex with a lot of girls’. Priceless.” Zeke helped Harry up and ate what drops of lasagna fell on his hands. “That’s really good lasagna.”

“It’s still a bit warm,” Harry said, his voice straining through the searing heat “but it is good. I’m gonna go clean up. I’ll be back soon.”

Harry walked off toward the restroom and Zeke went back behind the counter. Zeke began spraying down the counter and cleaning it up when an Asian man came into the store.

“Hello there,” the man said.

“Hello,” Zeke smiled.

“I’m looking for Hungry-Man dinner because I’m hungry man!” the man laughed at his joke. Zeke looked at him uneasily.

“I’m sorry, sir but we don’t have Hungry-Man dinners here,” Zeke said.

“I want the turkey dinner!”

“Sir? We don’t sell Hungry-Man meals here,” Zeke repeated. “We have a wide variety of microwavable burritos though.”

“I want Hungry-Man dinner cuz I’m hungry man,” Zeke wasn’t sure if the man just wasn’t listening or was stupid. He also figured it was the language barrier.

“We don’t sell Hungry-Man dinners here. There is a grocery store three blocks that way,” Zeke pointed. “Go there.”

“I don’t go there, I come here. I here!” the man shouted. “I am hungry man.”

Zeke sighed exasperatingly. “We. Do. Not. Have. Hungry-Man dinners!”

“You get some for me. I wait here,” the man said.

“What? We can order some but it may take two weeks for delivery…”

The man interrupted Zeke. “Two weeks? I’m on lunch now!”

Zeke angrily slapped his hand over his eyes. He muttered something under his breath and noticed Harry was back up front. “What seems to be the problem?” Harry asked.

“I want Hungry-Man dinner because I’m hungry man!” the man said. Zeke visualized snapping the man’s neck.

“And I’ve told him—repeatedly—that we don’t have Hungry-Man dinners,” Zeke’s eye twitched.

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have that item here but the grocery store down the street should have your Hungry-Man dinners,” Harry said and smiled.

“Thank you very much,” the man said. The man then looked Zeke in the eye. “Why didn’t you just say so?”

The man left the store. Zeke angrily looked at Harry. “I hate you.”

“You know I’m your hero.”

Chapter Three
In February of 1860, the Miller family was able to move into their new house. The house was a beautiful, yet angular limestone house. The house faced north toward the cemetery and church and was two stories with a small dirt cellar and a small attic. The house was a lot larger than what they needed but George was hoping that they would be blessed with more children.

Adela loved playing around her family’s large farm. She loved running through the cemetery and reading all the names and inscriptions on the stones. She also loved watching all the people go to and from the church that overlooked the cemetery.

The church was simple in design and located a top a hill that overlooked the cemetery and the main road at the bottom of the hill. The Millers had never been to church. When George and Margaret were kids, they were dragged by their parents to worship but that ended when George moved to Canada and when Margaret married George. They had their reasons for not going to church, mainly that they can raise their daughter just fine without church intervention. Adela sometimes wondered what went on behind the doors of the church and wondered if different people worshiped different things.

“Hey, Pa?” Adela went up to her dad while he was tending to the horses. “What goes on at church?”

George stopped and turned to his daughter. Her pretty brown hair reflected the Sunday’s sun and a few strands of her hair framed her face lovingly. “Church is where people go to worship God. They sing to Him, pray to Him and talk about Him,” George explained.

“Does everyone worship God?” Adela asked.

George smiled. “Actually no. Some people worship a different God. A couple religions even worship more than one.”

“Why don’t we go to church?” she asked.

“We worship in our own way. We believe that you can honor and respect God without going into a church,” George said. He continued to look at Adela who slowly absorbed what he said. “You understand?”

Adela was an incredibly smart fourteen-year-old although she could be a bit naive at times. Adela looked at her father and nodded. “I think so. But I want to see what they do there.”

“They do just what I said,” George said. “And I, or your mother, don’t believe that you need to sing and pray in order to get into Heaven.”

Adela, again, thought about that then bounded off back to the house. She went upstairs to a windowed room above the porch where Margaret was sitting in a rocking chair, cross-stitching. “Mama? Why won’t Pa let me go to church?”

Margaret seemed startled at the question and set her cross-stitching down in a basket by the chair. “Well, Adela, it’s just something your father and I have decided not to expose to you.”

“Why not? Pa told me what they do there and I kind of want to go. At least once,” Adela said.

“You don’t need church to worship God, Adela.”

“But it couldn’t hurt, could it Mama?”

After Adela went to bed, George and Margaret talked about Adela going to church. “I thought we determined that going to church was not something our family needs to do,” George said.

“Yes but now that Adela’s older maybe it’s something we should consider for Adela. She can go once and make her own decision. There’s a nice church right across the cemetery. We can go with her and…” Margaret said but George interrupted her.

“I don’t want my daughter exposed to all that…false worship that goes on in a church. We can honor and worship God just fine in our own house. You don’t need a church for that,” George explained.

“It would be a one time thing, George. You don’t have to go but I will. And afterward, the three of us can sit together and talk about it,” Margaret tried to reason but George didn’t like the idea.

“Adela is a smart girl,” George sighed. “You’ve seen the way some of these church-goers react. Just what we saw in Lecompton was enough for me. I don’t want Adela getting mixed up with those people or getting crazy ideas in her head.

“We’re not in Lecompton anymore and we know most of the people in Big Springs. They don’t look down on us like Lecompton did. They like us for who we are, not how we act!” Margaret’s voice raised a little and she took a step closer to George.

“Margaret, I love you and I respect you but I am still the man in this house. I don’t want Adela going to church and that is it,” said George.

Adela was laying on her side with her eyes open, listening to her parents argue. She had heard them argue many times before and she knew that with her father’s “man of the house” line, the argument was over.

Zeke and Ashley stood out at the gas pumps and kissed. Several times. Repeatedly. Harry was inside checking out customers. Harry looked at a man who was buying a couple of biking magazines and a Starbucks Double Shot and motioned out the window with his thumb. “Isn’t that disgusting?” Harry asked.

The man followed Harry’s thumb out the window to the gas pumps. He looked a moment at Zeke and Ashley. “No. At least their mouths are closed. I hate when people French kiss in public and their tongues are all sloppy and worm-like.”

“Amen,” Harry said, laughing.

“I think it’s kind of sweet,” said a girl who was next in line. She placed her drink and candy bar on the counter. “My boyfriend would never do something like that in public,” she pointed. “But then again, my boyfriend doesn’t do a lot of stuff.”

Harry smiled. “Really? Well, you should look me up if you ever get…bored with him. I’m here everyday,” Harry and the girl exchanged monies as she smiled and blushed at him.

“I may do that,” she said.

The next person in line put his stuff on the counter. “How come whenever I’m in here you are hitting on girls or talking about hitting on girls?” the man asked.

“I don’t know. Why? Jealous?” Harry asked. “$5.29.”

The man handed Harry a bank card. “I’m just wonderin’,” the man said.

“I guess the simplest answer would be that I love fucking girls and I know how their minds work. It’s all really very fascinating,” said Harry.

“You jerk,” said a plump woman, next in line. “How can you degrade women like that? Your mother was a woman.”

“Mmm,” Harry nodded. “First of all, how do you know my mother wasn’t a crack-addicted whore who tried to shove a clothes hanger into the womb?” Harry eyed the plump woman.

The woman was stunned and said nothing.

“Second, I do not degrade women. I treat all of them with respect and none of them—none of them hate me.” Harry thought a second and recalled the scene earlier in the day involving a pan of lasagna. “None of them,” he reiterated.

The plump woman was still upset and stormed out of the store with her purchases. Zeke came in with Ashley and Harry helped the last person in line.

“Thank you and come again,” Harry said to the customer then turned to Zeke and Ashley. “Hey, Ash.”

“Hi, Harry. How’s work?” she asked. Ashley Tornedan had been Zeke’s girlfriend since toward the end of their senior year in high school. Ashley had no intention of leaving Zeke and would never even think of it but it was something he worried about all the time. Ashley was in school to be a doctor and was about to enter her final year. Ashley fit in well with Zeke and Harry’s group and was so far the only girl in the group Harry hadn’t slept with.

“It’s going great,” Harry said. “Just the $30.36 in gas?” Harry asked.

“Yeah,” she replied. “Will you be by tonight?” she asked Zeke.

Zeke looked at Harry who shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably not. We may be out pretty late so I’ll just see you tomorrow.”

“Ok, that’s cool,” she handed Harry two twenties. “We’ll have dinner tomorrow when you get off work.”

“Sounds good.”

“Can I come?” Harry asked, handing Ashley her change.

“Only if you’ll let Zeke take you up the ass while you titty-fuck me,” Ashley said.

“You have no idea how okay I am with that,” he smiled.

Ashley laughed, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she and Zeke kissed. “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Zeke said. After she had left Zeke turned to Harry. “She loves me.”

“I heard,” Harry rolled his eyes. “Hey, did you bring any of that information you got off of the Internet about the caretaker’s house?”

“Yeah. It’s in that folder in my bag. It’s in the office,” Zeke pointed.

“Could you go get it? I want to read about this thing before we get out there,” Harry said.

“Yeah, I’ll go get it.”

Harry went back to reading his magazine while Zeke went to the office. Soon after Zeke’s departure, Dustin Norris and Geoff Dorvac came into the store.

“Sup, slut?” Geoff asked.

“Hi, Harry,” Dustin waved.

“Hey,” Harry said, not looking up from his magazine.

“Where’s Zeke?” Geoff asked, trying to find Zeke by making himself taller.

“In the office,” Harry said. “He’ll be right back. He’s getting his folder with the information of where we are going.”

“I can’t wait to get there,” Geoff said. “I’m gonna show those ghosts that you don’t mess with me,” Geoff suddenly started making faux karate moves and sounds which soon became motions and sounds similar to a lightsaber.

“What’s he doing?” Zeke asked, dropping the folder in front of Harry.

“I don’t know. Some Kung-Fu Jedi thing,” Harry said and slid the folder on top of his magazine. He opened it up and began reading it while Zeke, Dustin and Geoff talked.

Chapter Four
Winter had ended not too long ago and it was now April of 1861. What was once the Kansas Territory became the State of Kansas on January 29th. It entered the Union as a free state with Topeka as it’s capitol. That was a mighty blow to Lecompton and the town lost more than half of it’s population. Even the satellite towns of Douglas, Marshall and Rising Sun were hit and all of them ceased to exist. Even Big Springs was affected as people began moving to Lawrence or Topeka. The Millers watched several neighbors move but they stayed.

It was still early in the month and no one knew that a civil war was about to break out. The seeds of war had been planted years ago but it had taken nearly a decade for them to sprout.

George stayed out of all the political talk going around but he was scared for his family. They had honestly lived through so much and it almost seemed as if things were just going to get worse. Margaret and Adela continued living their lives normally and George didn’t interfere with that.

Adela stayed up past her bedtime. She laid in bed and listened as her parents finished up around the house, go to bed and make love. Her dad fell asleep and began snoring but her mom got back out of bed and walked past Adela’s bedroom and went downstairs. Adela estimated that it was twenty minutes until Margaret came back and went to bed. By the time Margaret fell asleep and Adela waited to make sure her parents were asleep, she figured it was around midnight.

Adela quietly got out of bed and put some clothes on. She tiptoed out of her room and softly closed the door. She moved to the back stairs that led to the kitchen and silently descended them. She exited the back door and ran through the yard to the horse stables. She pulled out a beautiful white horse and mounted it. She rode the horse down to the main road then to the California Road that went through Big Springs. She then continued west to Topeka.

About a month ago, a group of travelers passed through Big Springs. While stopping, Adela met and began to talk to one of them about their travels. “Where are you originally from?” she asked him. “I’m originally from Lecompton but my parents are from Illinois.”

The young man smiled. “I’m from Indiana. Me and my team are headed for California. We have a job opportunity in Topeka to make some money then we’re going straight to California.”

“So you’ll be in Topeka for awhile?” Adela asked.

“A while.”

“I’m Adela Miller. What’s your name?” she asked, giggling nervously.

“Efrem Schnebly,” the young man replied. Efrem was annoyed and kind of nervous. He knew Adela was at least ten years younger than him and he knew that she was flirting with him but he was uneasy about it.

“Where are you going to live in Topeka?” Adela asked.

“There’s a boarding tenement at 8th and Adams where I’ll be staying. I’ll be living with another 250 guys but at least I’ll save money,” Efrem shrugged.

“Maybe I can come visit you,” Adela suggested. “I’ve been to Topeka plenty of times with my dad so I know my way around…”

“Look, Adele,” Efrem began.

“Adela,” she corrected.

“Adela,” Efrem continued, “I think you are a little young for me. You’re a sweet girl but why don’t you wait a couple years, huh?”

Inside, Efrem’s comment hurt Adela. She stood up, trying to hold back her tears. “Okay,” she sniffled. “I’ll see you around…Efrem,” and Adela turned and ran back to her house. She sobbed into her pillow only a little while until she came up with a plan.

She had promised herself that she would go to Topeka and surprise Efrem. She would go to his boarding house, knock on his door and offer herself to him. She planned it all out and, in her head, it was perfect.

The boarding house was a massive five-story brick building. The whole building had thirty rooms on each floor and the whole building held 450 people. Adela nervously tied her horse to a post near the building and walked into the building. It was loud inside the building as both drunk and sober men wandered through the rooms and hallways. Most of them hooted and whistled as she walked down the hall and a few of them grabbed their crotches. She found one man who was standing in a doorway and looked relatively safe.

“Excuse me,” she began in a soft voice. “Where is Efrem Schnebly’s room?” she asked.

He exhaled smoke from his cigarette and looked curiously at her. “Schnebly? Second floor, room six,” the man said. “Who are you?” he asked gruffly.

Adela looked up at the man. “Sister,” choosing a title that may protect her. “I’m his sister.”

She went up to the second floor and didn’t see Efrem in the hallway so she began to go down the hall, looking at the doors for the room numbers. She found room six and knocked. Knocked as loud as she could. It took a while but Efrem answered the door and sleepily looked at Adela.

“What the hell…?” he asked, angrily.

“I came to see you,” Adela smiled. “How can you sleep with all this noise?”

“It was pretty easy until now. What are you doing here?” Efrem asked.

“I came to see you. I thought that we could stay up and talk and…”

Efrem quickly interrupted her. “And? And what? I have work early in the morning. I can’t spend my nights talking to children. Now go back home before ma and pa discover you are gone!” Efrem shouted and slammed the door.

Adela stood in the hallway and stared at the closed door. She tried hard not to cry but a few tears left her eyes. She lowered her head and walked back the way she came. When she got to the end of the hallway at the stairs, three men approached her from one of the rooms.

“You can stay up and talk to us,” one said.

The others chuckled.

Adela was scared. “I should be getting home. It’s past my bedtime,” she said.

“You can sleep here,” another said.

Suddenly, two of the men reached out and grabbed Adela’s arms and began dragging her into the room. Adela screamed and struggled. “No! Help! Efrem! Efrem, come help me! Efrem!” she screamed but was soon in the room, on a bed on her back. The men stood over her and held her down.

The three men threw Adela back onto the street about an hour and a half later. Her blouse and skirt were askew and she tried to pick herself up but fell immediately to her knees and vomited. She heaved for several more minutes then vomited again.

Finally, she got up and staggered over to her horse and carefully climbed on. She rode back to her house slower than when she left and when she got back home, she could see the sun rising in the east. Her parents would be up soon.

She slipped back in the way she left and into her room where she slid under the covers and fell asleep.

And she slept until noon.

Ben Michelson walked into the store where Zeke and Harry were behind the counter and Geoff and Dustin were thumbing through the magazines. Ben went behind the counter and pointed over to Geoff and Dustin. “You know they aren’t supposed to do that, right?” he asked.

Zeke gave a customer their change. “We know but it’s just easier this way.”

“What do you mean?” Ben asked as he put on his nametag.

“Well, if we don’t allow Geoff to read the magazines he harasses the customers and us,” Harry explained.

“Mainly us,” Zeke said. “How are you doing, Ben?”

“Doing great,” Ben said as he took Harry’s place at the register and began to log into the system. “Anything planned for tonight?”

“We’re going to the caretaker’s house in Big Springs Cemetery,” Zeke said. “Have you ever been?”

“I’ve driven by it and have been up to the cemetery but I’ve never walked around or went inside the house,” Ben began. “I do have an interesting story about the house.”

“Ooh! Please, do tell,” Harry chimed.

“We’re trying to get as much information as we can before we get up there.”

Ben activated a couple of gas pumps then turned back to Zeke and Harry. “A couple of my friend of mine went up there one night just to walk around and they stumbled upon this pond. There was a full moon and they could see the pond and everything around the pond so they stopped just to look around and one of them felt something—or someone—tap them on the shoulder. The friend who was tapped, knowing it couldn’t of been the other person and knowing that they were alone, scrambled off and made a mad dash back to the car.”

“As would I,” Zeke chuckled.

“A pond?” Harry asked. “A pond is featured in all of the stories I’ve heard about the house. After the daughter gives birth, the mother goes crazy and drowns the baby in a pond.”

“So that means that part of the story could be true,” Zeke pointed out to Harry.

“Or that whoever came up with that part of the story also stumbled across the pond,” said Harry. “Come on, let’s go. I’m hungry. See you, Ben.”

Harry, Zeke, Dustin and Geoff left the store and got into Harry’s SUV. “What are we going to do to kill time? I mean, we sure as hell can’t go to the cemetery in the early evening hours,” Dustin asked.

“I don’t know but we’ll figure out something. Where does everyone want to eat?” Harry asked.

The four of them ended up at the local Perkins restaurant where everyone but Dustin ordered something off the breakfast menu. Everyone was about halfway done when Dustin asked a question. “How did you get into ghost hunting?” He directed the question toward Harry but Zeke answered.

“I’m the one that got started in it first.”

“He just dragged me along,” Harry chuckled.

“My first expedition, as I call it, was to the Black Jack Battlefield east of Baldwin. I heard that ghosts of the Civil War fighters who died there could be seen roaming around.”

“There were a couple problems with that though,” Harry interrupted. “First, the battle took place in 1856, four years before the Civil War began and no one died in the battle.”

“My next expedition did a little better,” Zeke pointed out. “I went to the old Baldwin Cemetery because it used to have a lynching tree and the victims wandered around the cemetery. That’s why they stopped using it.”

“Again, a couple of problems: I could only find one local historian who could remember a story of a lynching but she was pretty certain it happened in Franklin County to the south. Also, the city stopped using the Pioneer Cemetery because of drainage issues,” Harry corrected again.

“What was your first ghost hunting expedition, Harry?” asked Dustin.

“Black Jack. Where I immediately began poking holes in Zeke’s theories.”

“Yeah. You’re good at that,” Zeke said as he chewed.

Suddenly, an older woman, obviously homeless, approached the four of them. She had graying hair and a slight skin disorder on her face. “Will one of you boys buy me a Tremendous Twelve?” she asked.

Geoff finished his food and looked at the woman. “You willing to barter?” he asked. She nodded and Geoff smiled. “Sneak into the men’s restroom and go into the first stall. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

The woman headed toward the restrooms, made sure no one was looking and went to the men’s. “What are you going to do?” Dustin asked.

Geoff tossed some cash onto the table. “This will take care of my dinner. I’ll see you all outside when I’m finished.”

The three watched Geoff get up and go into the restroom. “He’s not going to kill that vagrant is he?” Dustin asked.

“Well, killing her would probably be less painful,” Harry said.

In the restroom, Geoff and the woman were in the stall. “What do I have to do?” she asked, sounding eager.

“Something simple,” Geoff stood on the lid of the toilet and undid his pants, lowering them. He pulled up his shirt and pointed his penis at her. “Suck my cock.” The woman obliged and began sliding her mouth up and down Geoff’s shaft. He began moaning quietly as the woman picked up the pace. “Fondle my nuts,” he said and she complied, tickling and rubbing his testicles in her hand.

Back at the table, everyone had just finished paying and was getting up to leave. “While I believe Geoff demanding sex in return of a favor, I can’t believe he’d do it was a homeless person,” Dustin said.

“I do consider Geoff unbelievable at times,” Harry sighed.

They left the restaurant and waited by Harry’s SUV. In the restroom, Geoff was forcing himself to hold back his moaning as the woman sucked his cock’s head, pumped his penis with her right hand and fondled his balls with her left. Finally, Geoff’s orgasm mounted and he came inside her mouth. She waited for him to stop thrusting before she opened her mouth.

Geoff pulled his pants back up and stepped off of the toilet. “Oh, that was amazing. Okay, now wait a couple minutes after I leave before you come out and you can join us at our table.”

“Okay,” she agreed.

Geoff left the restroom and dashed out to Harry’s car. “Let’s go,” Geoff said, getting in.

“You sick son of a bitch,” Zeke shook his head in disappointment.

“Don’t hate me because I just had sex,” he said.

“I don’t,” began Harry. “But I do hate you for other reasons.”

Chapter Five
Margaret and Adela sat in Dr. Graham’s office. Dr. I.F. Graham was Big Springs’ only doctor and everyone in town loved him because he made their little town seem important and he was the best doctor anyone had ever known. Dr. Graham was a burly man with a bushy brown and grey beard. For this visit, there wasn’t much for him to do as Margaret had already figured it out. Dr. Graham was just called to confirm it.

“Well, Mrs. Miller, I believe you are right,” Adela sat topless on a table as Dr. Graham spoke and lightly felt around her stomach. “Adela here is with child.”

“I thought so,” Margaret huffed. “Do you know how far along she is?”

“I could take a shot in the dark but I think Miss Adela would be better for telling us that,” Dr. Graham smiled at the nervous girl.

“Well, Adela?” Margaret asked in a demanding voice.

“It was about six weeks ago. I snuck out one night and went to Topeka to meet someone,” Adela began crying. “I wanted to…but he didn’t. As I left, these three men attacked me. I…” Adela broke out into sobs. Dr. Graham handed back her shirt and softly wiped a tear off her cheek with his thumb.

“This is your punishment for sneaking out,” Margaret said quietly.

“Mrs. Miller, I think that is a bit harsh. Your daughter needs parental support now. She has enough to worry about without wondering if she’s being punished for something,” Dr. Graham said.

Margaret’s eyes widened and she stared off into space. “Punished?” she let the words sink in and went pale which Dr. Graham noticed.

“Mrs. Miller? Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yes, Doctor. We had better get going. George is probably waiting for us and we need to discuss what we’re going to do,” Margaret took Adela’s hand and dragged her out of the office and into the street. George was leaning against a hitching post and smoking his pipe when Margaret and Adela appeared.

“So what did Dr. Graham say?” he asked them.

“Adela is with child,” Margaret whispered.

George smiled big and hugged his daughter. “I’m going to be a grandfather? I can’t believe it,” George was obviously more excited than Margaret.

“George, let’s go home. I don’t want to talk about this in the middle of town,” Margaret said.

When the Millers arrived home, Margaret slammed the door and stared at Adela. “Get up to your room. Your father and I need to talk about this!” she yelled.

“If you’re going to talk about me then I should stay,” Adela stood her ground.

“I agree,” George said.

“Adela, for once in your life listen to your parents and go to your room,” Margaret said with a sigh.

“I resent that,” Adela said.

Margaret, Adela always listens to us,” George defended.

“Then how did she get pregnant? She disobeyed us,” Margaret pointed out.

“I never heard any rule saying I couldn’t sneak out after dark and it wasn’t like I got pregnant on purpose. Three guys attacked me. They attacked me, mother, and forced me to…” she cut herself off.

“We really shouldn’t get angry at Adela. We never did say she couldn’t sneak out and go to Topeka, although that should be implied,” George stared hard at Adela as he said that. She blushed and looked away from her father. “But what is done, is done and we should be celebrating this miraculous event.”

“Don’t you understand, George?” Margaret said furiously. “We are being punished!”

George chuckled but saw the serious, angry and scared look in his wife’s eyes. “Punished for what?”

“For not going to church,” Margaret said. “We live right across from a church and we haven’t been to church in years and it wasn’t that long ago that we forbade Adela from going.”

“That’s crazy, Margaret,” said George. “Our country is being torn apart by war so I think a small farm family in Kansas is far from God’s mind right now.”

“But He is supposed to be all-knowing and all-powerful,” Margaret noted.

“I’m still not believing it,” George shook his head. “I have some work to finish. Adela? Why don’t you lie down?”

“Okay, Pa,” Adela obliged as her father walked out of the house. Margaret readjusted her dress and shawl and opened the front door. “Where are you going, Ma?”

Margaret looked back at her daughter and honestly didn’t recognize her anymore. “I’m going over to the church. To pray for us.”

Harry pulled up next to a gas pump at the Kwik Shop at Sixth and Wakarusa. Harry got out and began pumping gas. He stood casually next to his SUV. Another SUV pulled up behind him and softly nudged him before coming to a stop.

Harry was stunned and walked over to the African-American man that got out. “Excuse me. You hit me with your car,” he said.

“Then get out of the way,” the man said back, not looking at Harry and focusing his attention on the gas pump and his Blackberry.

“You should at least apologize. Considering you hit me with a car!”

The man shoved Harry hard in the shoulder. “Make me! Now why don’t you just continue pumping your gas?” the man turned and headed for the store.

When the man was almost to the door, Harry stopped his gas pump and finished everything up. Then Harry took the man’s gas pump and placed it in the car through the window and locked down the handle so the gas spilled all over the seat and floor. “Do not leave your pump unattended, asshole,” Harry said and quickly got in his car and sped away.

“What the hell is going on?” Zeke exclaimed as Harry exited the parking lot onto Sixth Street heading east.

“That Eddingham prick hit me with his car,” Harry said angrily.

“Eddingham prick?” Dustin looked behind him.

“So I took his gas pump and placed it in his car while running,” Harry admitted.

Geoff busted out laughing and even Dustin chuckled but Zeke was not amused. “That’s really dangerous! The whole place could’ve blown up,” Zeke said.

“He hit me with a Cadillac Escalade and didn’t apologize. He’s an Eddingham prick and deserves to be treated as one,” Harry said.

“What’s an Eddingham prick?” Dustin asked.

“I haven’t told you about Eddingham pricks?” Harry asked, looking at Dustin in the rearview mirror.

“No. I’ve heard about Missouri jackasses, JoCo mofos and Topeka gangsters but never Eddingham pricks,” Dustin said.

“You’re a real people person aren’t you, Harry?” Zeke said sarcastically.

“Eddingham Place is an apartment complex across from where I live and they are ruthlessly unsavory people there. Eddingham has one of the cheapest rents in town but they have a huge turnover rate because while their tenants can’t afford rent, they can, like that asshole back there, afford to go out every weekend and make payments on a brand new Cadillac Escalade,” Harry said.

“I think that’s the most racist thing I’ve ever heard you say,” Zeke said.

“Is it racist even though it’s true?” Harry asked.

“Yes!” Zeke nodded.

Harry scoffed and turned down Monterey Way. “Whatever.”

The four left the McDonald’s and got back into Harry’s SUV. When they left the city limits and were heading west on Highway 40, Zeke began to dig through his backpack. “Here,” he handed a CD to Harry. “It’s a mix CD I made specifically for ghost hunting.”

“Loser,” Geoff coughed.

Harry took the CD and put it into his stereo. Everything was silent for a few seconds until a cartoony instrumental theme began and a woman started singing:

Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat
Whenever he gets in a fix
He reaches into his bag of tricks.

Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat
You’ll laugh so much, your sides will ache
Your heart will go pitter-pat
Watching Felix the wonderful cat.

The music continued and everyone looked at Zeke who was swaying in his seat to the music and had a goofy look on his face. Harry ejected the CD and hit Zeke with it. “What is wrong with you?” Harry asked.

“What are you doing? There were other songs on there we could listen to,” Zeke said.

“Like ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’?” Harry asked sarcastically.

“No but I should’ve put that one there. It would have been hilarious!” Zeke laughed.

“Loser,” Geoff coughed.

“So what’s the story behind this house we’re going to?” Dustin asked, leaning forward in his seat.

“The house is next to the Big Springs Cemetery and was owned by the caretaker. The caretaker and his family were Satan worshippers although they were able to keep that part of their lives secret,” Harry began as they continued down Highway 40. “Their daughter snuck out one night and rode to Topeka on a white horse. While in Topeka, she was beaten and raped. She went back home where she found out she was pregnant. Her mother felt like this was a punishment from God for worshipping Satan so she began repenting and when the baby was born, she took it and ran off, drowning the baby in a pond.”

“That’s terrible,” Dustin whispered.

“It gets worse,” Zeke said.

“The daughter was so devastated that she killed herself. And her dad followed suit a couple years later,” Harry finished.

“You’re right. It did get worse,” Dustin said.

“Wait a minute,” Geoff shouted. “Do we have any proof of these alleged deaths?”

“Yes. There is a gravestone near the house of a baby. The father and daughter are probably buried in the cemetery and the mother was supposedly sent to Osawatomie where she is probably buried there,” Harry explained.

“What’s in Osawatomie?” Geoff asked.

“The insane asylum,” Zeke informed.

“You don’t call it an insane asylum anymore. It’s a state hospital,” Harry corrected.

“You live across from Eddingham Place. What if that guy recognizes your car?” Dustin suddenly pointed out.

“I doubt that will happen. The guy barely looked up from his Blackberry, let alone at me or my car,” Harry said. “A guy who I think doesn’t have a job has a brand new Escalade, a Blackberry and an expensive cell phone plan. If that doesn’t prove there’s something wrong with this country, nothing will.”

Chapter Six
The dynamic of the Miller changed drastically over the course of Adela’s pregnancy. George not only handled his farming duties and masonry work but also a good percentage of household chores. Adela tended to simple tasks such as sweeping but Margaret only cooked meals. The rest of her days were filled with Bible readings and going to church.

Shortly after Adela’s condition became known, Margaret did her work but hardly said a word and offered no input or anything that went on in the house. Every Sunday she would go to both the morning and evening services at the church and would stay after to talk with the preacher. Margaret got herself a Bible and read it—front to back—several times. In Adela’s seventh month, Adela awoke with a sharp pain just below her stomach. The pain was enough to bring her to tears and scream for her parents.

George rushed in to help his daughter while Margaret stayed in bed, listening to her daughter scream and cry while her husband tried to soothe her. Finally, George boiled some water and poured it into the bathtub. When the tub was halfway filled, he stripped off Adela’s bedclothes and carried her into the bathroom and gently placed her in the warm water. After awhile, the pain subsided. George went back to his bedroom, crossed his arms and glared at his wife.

“What the hell is your problem?” he demanded.

“Don’t take that tone with me,” Margaret said as she closed her Bible.

“Your daughter needed you. She was screaming in pain and I didn’t know what to do. She needed the help of a woman—of her mother!” George complained.

“You seemed to do just fine,” Margaret said with no emotion in her voice.

“You heard how long it took. Something could very well be wrong with Adela. Or the baby,” George said. Margaret just stared at George. George got noticeably angry and stormed over to his wife. “That’s it! I will be damned if I lose my daughter or grandchild to this…book!” George tore the Bible from Margaret’s hand and threw it into the corner.

“Daddy!” Adela cried from the bathroom.

George took one last lingering, angry look at Margaret. “Coming, sweetie,” and he left the room.

Margaret scrambled out of bed to retrieve her Bible. She cradled it in her hands and looked up. “We already are damned,” Margaret whispered. “We’re already damned.”

After that, Margaret became more of a recluse to her family. Her sewing and mending stopped getting done and the cleaning got delegated to Adela, who barely got out of bed during her late eighth month. George then took over the more arduous tasks. Margaret’s days were filled with Bible readings, prayer and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Margaret had one of the bedrooms converted into a makeshift church which she would lock herself in for hours at a time. She quit sleeping with George and began sleeping on a cot in her prayer room and she kept candles lit all the time, day or night.

Meanwhile, George and Adela bonded and got closer while waiting for the baby to come. When in the early stages of her ninth month, Adela went down into the basement where George was putting the finishing touches on a homemade crib.

“Hey, Pa,” Adela strained as she descended the stairs. “How’s the crib coming?”

“Adela, you shouldn’t be down here. You need to be in bed,” George said. He had aged considerably in the last three months. The hair on his head was almost completely gray while his beard had small speck of grey. His eyes, however, still had a youthful sparkle.

“I’ll be fine. I needed to get out and move.”

“Well, the crib is almost done. I have a couple areas I need to fix and then it’s done. Should finish it tomorrow. How are you doing?”

Adela laughed. “Same as when you asked a couple hours ago.”

“Sorry. I’m just making sure. I want you and the baby to be comfortable.”

“I am. We both are,” Adela smiled, rubbing her stomach. “Do you think Ma will snap out of it when the baby comes?” she asked, feeling kind of guilty.

George sighed. “I don’t know. This…thing she’s going through came all of a sudden so maybe when the baby does come she’ll see it’s not a demon child who will swallow her family into the pits of Hell,” he grimaced.

Adela laughed again. “Daddy,” she giggled. “You don’t think I’m an evil girl or a…whore, do you?”

“Of course not, Adela. Don’t listen to your Mother when she says stuff like that. Deep inside she doesn’t mean it. She’s just worried about you and me and her. She means well but, well, let’s just say that she’s new to this religion thing. And no matter what, she still loves you,” George said and gently rubbed his daughter’s cheek. “And I love you more each day.”

“I love you too, Daddy,” Adela and George hugged tightly.

George briskly backed away. “I felt him kick,” he smiled brightly and teared up. Suddenly, he cleared his throat. “You should get back upstairs and into bed. I’ll be up in a minute and we can talk some more,” George said. Adela smiled at her father and began heading back up the stairs.

It was raining when Adela’s water broke. The Millers were also having dinner causing a good beef dinner to be interrupted. Adela cried out in pain and grabbed the edge of the table. “I think the baby’s coming,” she strained.

George bolted from his chair and attempted to pick up Adela. “Let’s get you into bed. Margaret, boil some water and do whatever else needs to be done to bring this child into the world!” George ordered. Margaret, who had gotten out of her chair, just stood still in the kitchen. “Damn it! Put whatever you feel about us aside and help deliver this baby,” and George carried Adela up the back stairs to her room.

Several minutes later, Margaret brought a bucket of water and several towels and blankets into Adela’s room. Adela was sweating profusely and had her legs pulled up. George looked in awe at his wife who looked like he remembered her.

“All right. We could be here awhile so why don’t you boil some more water and bring up a smaller bucket of cold water and a washrag. And keep your ears peeled in case we call you back up here. Since you’re going to go to the well, I’m going to open a window so you can hear us down there,” Margaret asserted.

George nodded. “Yes, dear,” and he scurried down the stairs.

Margaret used a towel to wipe her daughter’s forehead. “Don’t worry. We’ll get that little ‘un out and still have time to finish dinner.”

Hours passed with no progress from Adela or the baby until finally, Adela yowled loudly, startling both George and Margaret. Margaret went to the end of the bed and looked under the blanket. “We got a baby coming,” Margaret said. “George, bring me all the linens and a nice soft blanket to put the baby in.”

It took another couple hours but the baby, a boy, finally came at 12:06 A.M. on January 29, 1862. Margaret wrapped the baby carefully in a soft blanket and George cut the umbilical cord. Margaret placed her grandson in his mother’s arms and took a moment to savor the occasion with her family.

“Have you thought of a name?” she asked.

“There’ve been a couple names I’ve thought about. I think George Philip would suit him nicely,” Adela looked at her father through her tired eyes.

“That’s a lovely name, Adela,” Margaret smiled. “Now, I’m going to clean up in here so our new mother and baby can get some sleep,” Margaret began picking up the laundry strewn around the room and Adela looked lovingly at her newborn son.

Harry turned his SUV down North 100 Road, getting off of Highway 40. The road went downhill into a valley and passed underneath the two bridges of Interstate 70 before becoming surrounded by the huge trees of the woods.

The road got rougher and it began going uphill. Just as the road resumed going back downhill, Harry turned into a gravel driveway and followed it until it opened into a cemetery. The cemetery was completely dark except for a light that was on near the remains of the church.

The four of them got out of the SUV and stared at the cemetery and the church. “Where’s the roof?” Dustin asked.

“Rumor has it, the caretaker’s wife burned the church before she was sent away and that’s why the church had to close,” Zeke said.

“Or it blew away. The roof was thatch so more than likely it blew off after over a hundred years of neglect,” Harry corrected.

“Killjoy,” Zeke muttered. They entered the cemetery and began heading to the church. “We’ll explore the church first then we’ll head to the house.”

“Where is the house?” Dustin asked in a low voice.

“It’s over there,” Harry pointed to a path near some trees on the other side of the cemetery. “Follow that path and the house is nearby in a clearing.”

The four of them approached the church, which was a lot bigger than it looked from the cemetery entrance. It was a simple four-sided church with three empty windows on each side, an opening in the front and a huge crack in the northwest corner. There was no evidence of a roof except for a couple of broken beams that jutted out from the tops of the walls. The rest of the beams lay broken and strewn around inside.

Harry and Zeke peered into the church from the front opening. Harry attempted to climb into church but couldn’t. “How’d people get inside? There must’ve been something with stairs or something at one point,” he suggested.

The four went around to the north side of the church and looked inside. Rocks, bricks, beams and timbers littered the floor of the church along with used cigarette butts, beer bottles and aluminum cans. Harry climbed in through the window and stood inside the church, looking up through the non-existent roof at the sky.

Zeke and the others stayed outside and continued walking. They passed by the second window on the north side and peered inside, seeing only what they saw through the first window. They came to the third window but Zeke paused and went back to the second window. On the wall was a small white thing. Zeke picked it up and looked at it. It seemed to have some floral decorations on it and looked professionally handmade from what Zeke knew.

“What’d you find?” Geoff asked.

“I don’t know. But we just looked in this window and I don’t recall this being here,” Zeke said.

Harry came over and took the thing from Zeke. He examined it. “I think it’s porcelain. I don’t know what it is—maybe a fancy vase or something from the cemetery but I’m pretty sure it’s porcelain,” Harry handed it back to Zeke who placed it into his backpack.

“How’s the inside of the church?” Zeke asked.

“Kind of boring. I like all of the graffiti though,” Harry pointed at several vandalized areas. The graffiti was mainly Satanic but some were not, like the ‘Matt & Julie’ heart of the reference to Psalms 117. “What do you think used to be up there?” Harry pointed to a plank of wood bolted to the back wall.

“Maybe it was a crucifix or something,” Dustin said.

“Maybe,” Harry trailed off. “I like this church. I wish there was some way to restore it.”

“Repair the wall, fix the ceiling and clean up the inside and it would look fine,” Zeke said, sounding enthusiastic.

“$100,000 minimum to fix this up and that’s hoping the walls and foundation are still structurally sound,” Geoff said. Everyone looked at him in shock. “My dad works in construction,” Geoff shrugged.

Harry continued walking around inside the church while Zeke, Dustin and Geoff stayed outside. Harry walked over to the back wall and stood under the bolted piece of wood. He turned and looked toward the front of the church and stared.

The other three circled the church and looked out over the cemetery. “It’s nice out here,” Dustin said.

“It’s a cemetery,” Geoff sneered. “What’s so nice about it?”

“It’s quiet. It smells like nature. I’ve never seen so many stars in the sky,” Dustin pointed up and everyone looked up. “And this old church makes it seem so...protected.”

“This church has seen a lot,” Harry said as he approached the others. “But the house has seen more. Who’s with me?”

The four headed through the cemetery toward the path that led to the house.

Chapter Seven
It was warm April day, Adela sat on the front porch in a rocking chair holding George in her arms and rocking softly. George was out in the fields with the cows and Margaret was at the church so Adela was by herself and was looking out over the cemetery and the main road several yards away.

Adela saw her mother heading toward the house, holding tight to her Bible like she always did. “Hi, Mama. How was church?” Adela cordially asked.

“It was good,” Margaret began. “Afterward, a small group of us sat down with the pastor and discussed some things. There are some parts of the Bible I’ve read but just can’t right figure them out. Where’s Pa?”

“Out in the fields. He should be back soon, it’s about lunchtime,” Adela noted.

“Then I better start making something,” Margaret took off inside.

Adela hollered after her, “Do you need any help?”

“No, thank you, Adela. You just sit comfortably . If I should need you, I’ll call for you,” Margaret hollered back.

Since George had been born, Margaret had reverted almost back to where she was before learning Adela was pregnant. She became the wife and mother that George and Adela loved. She still went to church and she still prayed in her room but she had returned to her previous family-oriented self. She had become even more headstrong toward George and helped out in the fields on occasion. Adela had often helped her father in the fields and out in the pasture until she had a child. George had to hire a farm hand who lived in a small house on the far west end of the Miller’s property.

Marion Wyman was a good ten years younger than George. He had come from Ohio and was injured in the war. He was discharged due to his injuries and moved to Kansas where he answered an ad in the Lawrence Herald of Freedom asking for an able-bodied man to help on a large farm in Big Springs. Room and board included plus generous pay. Marion was the first person to apply for the job and George, not seeing anything wrong with Marion, hired him right away.

Marion was a handsome man with a youthful face but weathered eyes. His raven black hair hung down over his forehead and eyes but Marion was always clean-shaven.

Over the weekend, Marion was invited to join the Millers for dinner and everyone enjoyed his company and he enjoyed theirs. They all talked about their lives and the state of the country and the war and other things. They also talked about religion, which was something Margaret had become an expert on.

After everyone had went to bed on a windy April night, Margaret left her and George’s bedroom and went to her prayer room and lit all of the candles. She got on her knees and began praying. She prayed for her family’s souls but still left uneasy and uncertain.

“I understand,” she began out loud, “that You still love our baby George no matter what but I still feel that he will be cursed. He’s so young and he can’t protect himself the way George, Adela and I can.” She bowed her head in prayer again and it was silent for a couple of minutes. “This poor baby doesn’t deserve the sinful life he will receive. He is so innocent and good,” Margaret began talking louder. “I shall save George. I shall make him a disciple of God!”

Margaret left her room and went down to Adela’s room where George was asleep in the crib his grandfather made for him. She quickly but quietly scooped him up in her arms and left the bedroom, using the back to get to the bottom floor and swiftly exited the house into the windy night.

George awoke a few minutes later and noticed his wife was gone. “Margaret?” he asked, dazed. He sat up and looked around the room. George got out of bed, pulling on a robe. He tapped lightly on the door to Margaret’s prayer room but got no answer. He opened the door and saw only the candles. He went down the hall to Adela’s room. The door was wide-open which was strange and he walked in. Adela was sound asleep, George peered into the crib and saw it was empty.

George wandered around the house looking for any sign of Margaret or the baby before heading back upstairs and waking Adela up. “Daddy? What’s wrong?” she asked in a sleepy and quiet voice.

“Do you know where your mother took the baby?” he whispered.

“I don’t know. I’ve been asleep. George is gone?” Adela seemed to completely wake up with that question. “Maybe she’s down in the kitchen?” Adela suggested.

“I looked all around the house and neither she or George are inside,” George shook his head.

“Should we go out and look for them?” Adela asked.

“Where would we start? Even if they are somewhere on the farm, that’s a good square mile they could be in. If they are not on the farm, then they could literally be anywhere.”

“I’m sure everything is fine but I think we should go down to the kitchen and wait for them to return,” Adela said.

It was about an hour later when Margaret came through the back door in the kitchen. She had been crying and had a dazed look in her eyes. She was shaking and half of her body was soaking wet. Adela stood up and looked up at her mother. George stopped pacing and crossed his arms. Margaret walked by them both and up the back stairs and into her prayer room. George and Adela hurried after her and George pounded on the door.

“Margaret! Margaret, get out here,” George yelled. When she didn’t answer, George opened the door and her and Adela saw Margaret on her knees, praying. “Margaret? Do you know where George is?” he asked calmly.

She looked at him innocently. “George?”

“Yes, George! Adela’s son and your grandchild!” George got angry.

“I saved him.”

Adela knelt down next to her mother. “You saved him? How Mama? Why’d you save him?”

“He was born of sin and would be cursed for the rest of his life. He was just an innocent baby. He didn’t deserve the life that was handed to him,” Margaret began to cry. “I saved him from Satan. He’s with God now.”

Adela looked up at George with tears in her eyes. She turned back to Margaret and sniffled. “Mama? Where is George? What did you do to him?”

“He’s with God. I took him to the pond and gave him to God,” Margaret said. Adela began sobbing and George dashed out of the house.

George retrieved the baby’s body out of the pond that was in a wooded area of the Miller farm. He dug a grave for the baby near the house and made a gravestone reading, George P. Miller, son of A. Miller, Jan. 29, 1862, Apr. 12, 1862 and placed it flush was the ground.

Neither George or Adela knew what to do. They left Margaret alone, usually in her prayer room and tried to go about their normal lives. George and Marion continued to work the farm while Adela walked around the house in a daze, constantly crying. Only a couple weeks after George had died, Adela shut herself in her room while her father and Marion were out in the fields and Margaret had locked herself in her prayer room.

Adela began writing a letter. She filled the piece of paper front and back. She read it over several times before leaving it alone and walking away from her desk. Adela sat on her bed and took one of her father’s razors in her hand. She clenched her teeth and closed her eyes as she drug the razor across her left wrist. The blood poured out onto the wooden floor and Adela laid down with her arm hanging off the side, letting the blood continue to drip.

George came home to a completely silent house. He poured himself a cup of coffee and slowly meandered upstairs to the bedrooms. He knocked on Adela’s door but got no answer. He knocked louder and when he got no answer again, he opened the door and saw his daughter lying in bed, her wrist cut open.

He tried to wake her up but it was too late. George saw the note on Adela’s desk and read it over several times before falling to his knees, weeping.

Adela was buried in Big Springs Cemetery in a plot George bought for his family near the house. It was a small funeral, just her family, Marion and a couple of townspeople who were close to the Millers. After the funeral, George went home while Margaret went to the church.

The limestone house rose up among the trees and seemed to glow in the moonlight. Zeke, Harry, Dustin and Geoff slowly approached the house. The trail that led from the cemetery road disappeared into the grass. There was another trail just past the house that led into the trees.

All the windows and doors of the house were boarded up and a ‘No Trespassing’ sign was posted on one of the boards. There was some graffiti painted along the first floor but it was mainly your generic scribbles. The four of them approached a boarded-up door and pointed their flashlights at the house.

“How do we get inside? All the openings are boarded shut,” Geoff asked.

“There’s got to be a way in,” Harry said in a whisper. “Let’s look around the house.”

They headed around the north side of the house and Harry shined his flashlight at the small window to the basement but continued walking. They stood in the open of the yard and looked at the rear of the house. They saw a door leading to the basement that had been kicked off its hinges and laying across the stairs.

“I think we found our entrance,” Harry said. They walked over to the door and shined their flashlights around. “Ready to go in?”

“What’s down that trail?” Dustin asked he pointed his flashlight over to the trail that led into the trees.

“That probably leads to other buildings, like a barn or something,” Harry looked.

“Let’s go look,” Dustin headed off toward the trail. Zeke followed and Harry and Geoff trailed behind. As they entered the tree line, Harry got to the front of the group with Zeke and Dustin close behind. The first thing they came to was a huge stone foundation. “Whoa! What is this?” Dustin went over to the foundation and leaned over, shining his flashlight into the pit.

“Looks like a foundation to a barn maybe,” Harry also looked in and focused his flashlight on all of the small trees now growing in the pit. “Whatever was here hasn’t been here for quite awhile.”

“What do you think happened?” Zeke asked.

“If the barn was as old as the house, it probably got torn down or fell down on it’s own,” Harry said. “It also may have been moved so it could be preserved.”

“Do you want to continue down the path?” Zeke asked. As he shined his flashlight down the trail, the light reflected off of a couple watersheds and a huge spider web.

“Maybe in the daylight,” Harry said and the four of them went back to the house where something caught Zeke’s eye.

“What’s that?” Zeke dashed over to a stack of rocks that had a gravestone placed in the center of it. “It’s the grave,” he said.
“’George P., son of A. Miller’,” Harry read. “He was only two and a half months old.”

“Do you think this is the baby who the mother murdered in the story?” Dustin asked.

“Probably,” Harry answered. “If that part of the story is true.”

They went back to the door of the basement and Harry tried to carefully move the door out of the way but just ended up making a lot of noise. They stepped over the door and Harry shined his flashlight along the floor catching sight of several mice.

The floor to the basement was dirt and was separated into two rooms. The walls were almost completely demolished but the ceiling and floors above were still in good shape. The four silently walked around the first room before going to the second. There was no staircase upstairs and what may have been an exit was solidly boarded up.

“How do we get upstairs?” Zeke asked.

“I think there is our only option,” Harry shined his flashlight up at a hole in the ceiling. “Someone help me up.”

Harry turned off his flashlight and stuck it in his pocket then grabbed ahold of the edge of the hole. Geoff and Zeke each got under a foot and shoved Harry up through the hole. Next, Geoff was lifted up then Dustin. Zeke was last, presumably because he was the heaviest. Zeke had some trouble pulling himself up even with the help of the other three.

They finally got Zeke on the first floor, they looked around what was obviously a living room. The walls were still pretty torn up, there was graffiti in random places and the place smelled musty.

There was no evidence of anyone living in the house for possibly decades. Even the kitchen just had a couple cabinets still attached to the wall. The counters had been removed and the kitchen was stripped bare.

“There’s nothing here. This is boring,” Geoff said.

“All the occult stuff is supposedly in the attic or the third floor but it’s inaccessible,” Harry said. “There are no stairs leading to the attic and supposedly the attic hasn’t been entered in twenty years.”

“How can there be no way to get up there?” Dustin asked.

“Its a hundred and fifty year old house that has been abandoned since the early Twentieth Century, the stairs have rotted and collapsed. Come on, let’s see if we can get upstairs,” Harry said and left the kitchen and went down the small hallway to the foot of the stairs. Almost every third stair was missing and there was a large gap of stairs missing about halfway up. Harry placed his foot on the second step and pressed his weight down. The step creaked and groaned. “Hold this and point it up the stairs,” he handed his flashlight to Dustin.

Harry stepped onto the molding that connected the stairs to the wall and slowly began heading up carefully only stepping on the stairs if he needed to. He made it to the second floor and Dustin tossed the flashlight back to him then attempted to climb the stairs himself. When he made it to the top, Geoff began heading up.

Zeke paused when it was his turn. “I can’t do it,” he said.

“You haven’t even tried. Now get up here,” Harry ordered.

“I’m not as skinny as all of you. My feet are too big!”

“Your fat ass doesn’t matter,” Geoff said.

“I wear a size 14 wide shoe,” Harry said. “My feet are almost twice as big as yours.”

“I wear a size nine,” Zeke argued as he began up the molding.

“I wear a size 12,” Geoff said.

“Size 10,” Dustin revealed.

“All right, I get it. Everyone has bigger feet than me!” Zeke shouted from the middle of the staircase as he grabbed ahold of the edge of the floor.

“You know what they say about people with big feet, right?” Harry asked, smiling. “They wear big shoes.”

Zeke joined the other three on the second floor and they grouped together in the hallway. They all looked up at the ceiling, which was higher than the ceiling for the first floor.

“The ceiling downstairs was only six and a half feet high. I wonder how come this one is so much taller,” Harry wondered.

“To keep people out of the caretaker’s Satanic ritual room,” Geoff said.

“Well, the caretaker had to have a way up there,” Harry noted. “Let’s split up and search the bedrooms. Dustin, Geoff, you’re on that side. Zeke and I will do this side.”

Dustin and Geoff went into one of the rooms and just pointed their flashlights around. Dustin noticed that one of the windows wasn’t boarded up and went over to shine his light out onto the field below the house. “Isn’t this the southwest window?” he asked.

Geoff thought about it, then answered. “I think so.”

“What was the story Harry told us about the southwest window? Something about a horse,” Dustin said.

“The white horse. If you stand quiet at the southwest window, you’ll hear the neigh of a horse,” Geoff recalled as he walked over to the window.

They actually stood quiet for several minutes listening but only heard the faint talking of Zeke and Harry on the other side of the house and the leaves on trees rustling in the light breeze. Suddenly, the faint sound of a horse neighing in the distance was heard. “Oh my God! I heard it! I heard a horse neigh!” Dustin was ecstatic.

“Yeah, there’s a horse farm nearby,” Geoff said.

“Really? How far away?”

“Mile, mile and a half. That way, toward the highway,” Geoff pointed out the window.

“Then how come they say it’s the neigh is of a ghost horse?” Dustin asked.

“The girl rode off on a horse and the story is for idiots who don’t know there’s a horse farm nearby,” Geoff said. “Let’s finish looking around in here and the next bedroom.”

Dustin looked in the closet which was very small. Aside from the shelf, nothing was there. The other window in the room was boarded up. Dustin noticed that even though the house was abandoned there was a noticeable absence of spider webs but he did note the splatters of bird feces and the mice feces strewn about the floors.

They left the one bedroom and went past the stairs to the other one on their side. Dustin felt a chill go up his spine and Geoff slowed his pace as they entered the room. It was slightly smaller than the last room but had more windows. Two on the east side and one on the south, all boarded up. The floor also squeaked more than in the other room.

“There’s something odd about this room,” Geoff said in a low whisper. “I don’t like it.”

“It’s kind of weirding me out, too,” Dustin said. “Does it seem darker in here? Like the flashlights are dim or something? Maybe it’s just the lack of moonlight.”

“I don’t know. It does seem darker now that you mention it,” Geoff agreed. “There’s nothing in these rooms. Let’s go meet back up with Zeke and Harry.”

They left the room and went down the hall to the room Zeke and Harry were in now and found Harry on the floor.

Chapter Eight
George knocked on the door to Marion’s house. Marion opened the door and was kind of surprised to find his landlord on his stoop. “Mr. Miller, what a nice surprise. I can’t remember the last time you were here.”

“Marion, we’ve known each other for over a year. You can call me George,” George said with a laugh. “Can I come in?”

“Of course. Welcome,” Marion invited and George came in. Marion’s house, which was constructed by George to house any laborer he hired, was a small and modest limestone affair with three rooms on the first floor and two on the second. “What brings you here? Something wrong with the farm?”

“No, everything’s fine,” George began and sat down at Marion’s kitchen table. “I wanted to talk to you about what you are going to do when your work here at the farm is done.”

“Done? I really haven’t thought about it. I figured I’d be here until I saved up enough to buy my own farm. Or until you kicked me off the property,” Marion laughed.

“Do you want to start your own farm?” George asked.

“I wouldn’t mind but there’s always been something I wanted to do. I want to open a furniture store. All the furniture in this house I made,” Marion revealed. “I think I could sell it.”

George examined the table and nodded. “I’m not an expert at woodwork but it sure looks sturdy,” George got serious again and reluctantly continued. “You should start looking into that. I’m not sure how much longer I…we are going to be here and I wouldn’t want to leave you in a lurch.”

“Are you and the missus going to visit somewhere or are you moving?” Marion asked.

George was silent, then, “I don’t know. I think we’ll be moving. We just…kind of need to get away from Big Springs.”

“I understand. Losing both your daughter and grandson within the span of a month is
not something I’d wish on my worst enemy. How’s the missus taking it?”

Again, George was silent. “Margaret is, or was, taking it like she normally does: by burying her nose in the Bible and going to church,” George became angered by this and Marion immediately noticed.

“Well, it’s good she has something to keep her strong,” he tried.

“Oh, Marion. If only you knew,” George chuckled. “So I don’t know when or where we will be going but I wanted to go ahead and pay you now for the next three months,” George pulled out a lot of cash from his pocket and began counting it.

“Oh, George, that’s fine but you don’t have to. You can just continue to pay me by the month and…”

George interrupted. “I told you that I don’t know when we’ll leave. It could be tomorrow, it could be six months from now. Now, here’s three months pay and an extra half month for all of your hard work.”

Marion eyed the money then looked at George. Marion cautiously took the money and cleared his throat. “George? Is something wrong?”

“Everything’s fine. I need to get back to the house,” George stood up and shook Marion’s hand. “I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”

It was two months later. George and Marion finished their work on the farm and Marion was preparing to head home. “Hold up a moment,” George hollered. Marion paused. “I wanted to let you know that your services will not be required anymore.” George put his hand in his pocket and pulled out another wad of money.

“You and the missus finally leaving, huh?”

“Yeah,” George hesitated. “Here’s another month of pay. For all the hard work you’ve been doing.”

“Mr. Miller—George, you’ve already paid me. You’ve been more than generous.”

“Just take it. I have it and don’t need it so it should go to someone who does need it. You’ve been a hard worker, a good person and almost like a son to me. This is my way of saying ‘thanks.’”

Marion took the money and looked at George. “Thank you for this wonderful experience, George,” Marion began, pocketing the money. “I hope our paths will cross again.”

“I’m sure they will,” George smiled. The two men turned and went their separate ways. George slowly walked up to his house, passing by his grandson’s grave. He knelt down and touched the engraving on the stone and teared up. He stood back up and composed himself and headed into the house. “Margaret?” he shouted, his voice echoing hollowly through the house.

There was no answer.

George went upstairs and knocked on Margaret’s prayer room door but, again, got no answer. George seemed satisfied and went down to the basement and grabbed a strong length of rope.

He went back upstairs and squeezed his way through a small door and up a very narrow staircase to the attic. He tossed the rope over a beam and slid a chair underneath it.

It was several hours after Margaret got home from church that she found her husband hanging in the attic. And it was another three days before anyone knew what had happened.

After finding her husband, Margaret broke down. She locked herself in her prayer room and prayed for three days as George hung in the attic. Marion, riding past the house as he was leaving for Lawrence noticed the candles in the window and decided to stop and say good-bye.

Marion hopped off his horse and walked onto the porch. He knocked loudly but heard no signs of movement. He pushed the door open and stepped in. “Mr. Miller? George?” he shouted but got no reply. “I wonder if they accidentally left the candles burning,” Marion said to himself.

He went upstairs and attempted to open the prayer room door but it was locked. “Mrs. Miller? Are you in there?”

He pressed his ear to the door and heard Margaret’s muffled voice. He tried to the door again then just decided to kick it in. The door banged against the wall but Margaret barely moved. She continued to kneel and mumble Bible verses.

“Mrs. Miller, are you okay?” he shook her. “Where’s George?”

Margaret looked at Marion. She mumbled an answer with a Bible verse intermingled with it. Marion could pick out the word ‘attic’ so he ran to the small door that led to the attic and squeezed his way up the stairs.

George was buried next to Adela in the Miller plot George had purchased after Adela died in Big Springs Cemetery. Margaret was left in the house for awhile but was soon sent to the State Hospital in Osawatomie and stayed there until her death in 1883. She was buried in the hospital cemetery.

Marion stayed behind to take care of the house. He did some minor upkeep and removed all evidence of the attic staircase by building a wall where the door was. He finally sold it to Loren and Julia Anderson, a young newlywed couple who raised their three children there and lived happily ever after.

In 1972, the Anderson’s left leaving the house abandoned. Ten years later, the county obtained it for back taxes and the land was sold to the Big Springs Cemetery Association to prepare for expansion. The house has sat virtually untouched since.

While Dustin and Geoff were off doing their thing, Zeke and Harry were trying to find an access to the attic. They knocked on walls, pounded around in closets and pushed on the ceiling with their flashlights. “There has got to be a way up there,” Harry said, aggravated. “A staircase, ladder, something!”

“Maybe there is no attic. Maybe we are just overestimating the size of the house,” said Zeke.

“We can’t be. The outside of the house has a vent or window on it so there has to be something up there even if it’s only a foot of space,” Harry pointed out.

“The previous owners or whoever obviously didn’t want anyone going up into the attic. They probably removed the stairs and sealed up the entryway,” Zeke said. “Face it, Harry. Aside from being a really cool abandoned house, there’s nothing else here.”

Harry was quiet for a moment. “There’s one other room. I’m going to look around in there and then we can go.”

The two left the one bedroom and went into the other but found a whole lot of nothing like the first one. Harry looked closely in the closet at the ceiling. “What are you doing in there?” Zeke asked.

“When I was growing up,” Harry began stabbing the ceiling of the closet with his flashlight. It was difficult because it was so much taller than him but he seemed to manage. “the attic access was in my bedroom closet. I always wanted to go up there but was too chicken to do it. I don’t know why. Nothing was up there, it was our attic!” Harry finally got a large chunk of the ceiling to fall away leaving a hole about the size of a DVD case.

“Nice. Trespassing, breaking and entering and now vandalism,” Zeke said.

“Shut up or I’ll add murder to that list,” Harry breathed heavily. “Now help me up.”

Zeke looked at the hole. “You can’t fit through there!”

“Duh! I need to make the hole bigger but I can’t get any force into my arms because I’m not tall enough. Now help me onto your shoulders,” Harry said.

“Well, this isn’t going to end well,” Zeke sighed. Zeke put the flashlight down on the floor and clasped his hands.

Harry stepped in it and Zeke raised him up. Harry grabbed onto Zeke’s hair and to the hole and tried to steady himself. Zeke began getting wobbly. “Hold still!” Harry yelled.

“I’m trying! I thought you said you only weighed 180!” Zeke strained.

“I do!”

“Sure. Whatever! Hurry up, I’m losing my balance!”

“I haven’t even started yet!”

“Oh, I’m going down,” Zeke collapsed and he and Harry fell to the floor.

Dustin and Geoff entered the room and saw both of them on the floor. “What’s going on?” Dustin asked.

“Harry lied about his weight,” Zeke groaned.

“Did you find anything?” Harry asked.

“No,” Dustin said.

“Us either. We were attempting to get into the attic but our plan failed,” Harry said. “Geoff, you’re taller and stronger than Zeke. Can you lift me up?”

“I think we should just leave it alone,” Dustin began. “Obviously, whoever isn’t going to let us see the attic very easily. We should just cut our losses and accept that this house is and will remain a mystery.”

Harry inhaled deeply. “We have an hour before Taco Bell closes.”

“Sounds good to me,” Zeke said.

The four left the house the same way they came in and walked back through the cemetery to Harry’s SUV. The moonlight still illuminated the house and all the tombstones in the cemetery. Harry looked back at the church, cemetery and where the house was, hidden by the trees before he got in and started his SUV.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

What About Brian?

There is a post over at The Point of Beginning talking about the future of Tauy Creek so you should go check it out.