Saturday, November 26, 2016

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Chapter Twenty One

The trip back to Mountain Ridge was quiet. Lisa had been sedated. Dorothy felt as sad as her mother. She was too plain; her uncle, new aunt and new cousins were too elegant. Though she knew those two girls had done their best to be nice, they were still ashamed of these hick relatives. Dorothy had noticed the awkward glances around the restaurant to see who might be looking. At least she didn’t think anyone had ever told those girls that she was born with a tail.

They dropped Vonnie off at Almasy House. “My goodness the place is still standing,” Vonnie said trying to sound cheerful. “I was afraid it would fall down without me here.” Her car stood in the driveway. She would get home to her farm later that day or if Almasy House needed her she would stay. This trip to Jack’s wedding had been her first vacation since she took the job of managing the restored house.

Lisa broke her silence as soon as Dylan and Dorothy were inside their house.

“My brother, the jigolo. Who would have guessed?”

Dylan ignored her.

“No wonder he’s so wealthy. She supports him. All that nonsense about being a consultant. He just lives off the Nigger.”

“Stop it. I won’t have you talking like that.” Dylan finally had it.

“It’s the truth. And he’ll bring danger to us all. Wait until the Klan burns our house down.”

“They treated us decently,” Dylan reminded her.

“They were ashamed of us. I didn’t go to the wedding, did I?”

“You caused a scene.”

“Huh. They took one look at us, at our cheap clothes and run down shoes, and they didn’t want us there. Dorothy’s a freak. If you can’t see that you’re the only one.”

Dylan went to her and shook her. He wanted to slap her face.” Never call that little girl a freak again. You understand.”

“She’s a freak like her daddy.” Lisa yelled.

Dylan wanted to slam her against the wall, but he forced himself to calm down. Instead he walked toward the door.

“Where are you going?”

“Out.”

Bobby Kowalski had been on the road driving an 18 wheeler since five a.m. He had stopped in a bar in Pembine, Wisconsin where he drank more than he intended. The bartender, a pretty brunette, took him home, but tossed him out a few hours later. She said her husband would be home in an hour or two. He bought himself a cup of coffee, ham and eggs at a bus stop down the road and then decided to keep driving.

The law said he couldn’t drive this rig more than ten hours in a 24 hour stretch. He was over that, but his bosses didn’t care. They liked it when he brought a load in early. He looked at his watch. He would be in Mountain Ridge by 5 p.m.

The roads were still slippery from the blizzard, but he had driven on winter roads before. The ice didn’t scare him; he accelerated.

Emil was playing solitaire with a deck of cards while Mary fussed about his kitchen.

“Pa, you need to hire a full-time housekeeper,” she said.

“Costs too much,” He laid one card on top of another and then turned over another.

Dylan came in without knocking, a habit he retained from when he lived there. Emil didn’t care. All of his children were welcome.

“How was the wedding?” Mary asked. “Do you have any pictures?”

Dylan’s reply was to burst into tears. Mary hurried over with a linen napkin and wiped his face.

He finally blurted out the story. “Lisa got all upset. We had to leave right after it was over.”

“I remember Lucinda Rinaldi Davies,” Mary said. “She was beautiful and nice.”

“I worked for her dad for years,” Emil said. “The best boss anyone could have.”

“You remember a couple of years ago when it came out they’re Negros?”

“A bunch of lies if you ask me,” Emil huffed. After a minute, he said. “I don’t care if she’s a Martian. I always liked her dad and heard and saw good things about that girl. If you ask me, Jack Brianka marryied way above his station.”

Mary turned to Dylan. “Too bad you didn’t get a half decent wife like Lucinda Davies,” she said. “What ever possessed you to marry that crazy woman?”

“For a long time I felt kind of crazy myself. What with what happened with Elaine and and” he sobbed “and some of the things I saw in the war.”

“Dylan, you have the worst luck with women.” Mary poured her dad and brother each a cup of coffee. “Just when I thought nothing could be worse than that Elaine demon, you came home and wanted to marry a crazy.” Mary was winding up to give her brother a large piece of her mind. “We warned you, brother, dear.”

Emil hushed her. “You leave Dylan be. He’s made some bad choices. But now we have to figure out how to get this new one, this Lisa, out of the family. I’ll call a friend of mine. He’s a divorce lawyer.”

Dylan blinked tears from his eyes. “Pa, I can’t. She’s sick.”

“Good, we’ll have her put back in Newberry. If you ask me, she never should have gotten out. How did she get out?”

“Jack and Vonnie signed her out.”

“Ain’t they responsible?”

“She’s my wife.”

“We gotta get you out of this marriage,“ Emil insisted.

Mary was nodding yes.

“What about Dorothy?” Dylan asked.

“We’ll take care of her. I raised three daughters. I can help you raise yours,” Emil decided. Mary had three children, two of them daughters. Dorothy would always have a home.

Dylan kept shaking his head. “The Briankas will fight this and Lucinda’s a Brinaka now. That pits a lot of money and influence against us.”

“They ain’t got nothing to say about you getting out of a rotten marriage,” Emil insisted. He was stirring himself up into a real anger. Dylan was his gentlest, kindest son and this woman was tearing him down. That would stop.

“It’s Dorothy, they’ll fight for.” Dylan said. “I don’t want to lose my little girl.” “I thought you said, Lisa didn’t want the kid. Any mother who says her little girl was born with a tail should be strung up and shot.”

“Lisa’ll use Dorothy. She already told me that. I can’t leave her because then I’ll have to leave Dorothy. She calls Dorothy a freak, but if she has to, she’ll hang onto her.”

A half hour later Dylan got in his car. He wiped his eyes and started the ignition. He hated his marriage, but he loved his daughter. He was already divorced once. He just couldn’t divorce another woman. As bad as Lisa could be, he would stay with her.

The snowbank to his right was so tall he could barely see over it.

He backed out of the driveway. He heard the 18 wheeler put on its breaks. Metal screamed.

The truck driver, Bobby Kowalski saw the car slowly pull in front of him. There was no way he could stop in time.

In 1960, candidate John F. Kennedy visited Mountain Ridge. He and his wife, Jacqueline, stayed at Almasy House. Vonnie was nervous. Everything had to be perfect. Lucinda came back to town to greet her old friend, Jacqueline Kennedy. She and Vonnie showed the elegant couple to their rooms.

No one had forgotten that Lucinda was Black, but even the Klan behaved when the Kennedys were in town. After that brief campaign visit, Lucinda joined the Kennedys on their airplane, the Caroline, and flew out of town with them.

“You should have gotten their autographs,” Walt grinned when she saw how excited Vonnie was.

“I didn’t want to impose. They were guests here. Did you see that gorgeous suit Mrs. Kennedy was wearing? I’m a lifelong Democrat,” she declared. “I voted for FDR.”

“What’s that ‘I Like Ike’ ticket doing at your farm?”

“I liked him too. Oh, all right. I did vote for Eisenhower, but I’m back to being a Democrat.”

Dorothy swung gently on her tree swing that her daddy had made for her and enjoyed a John Byrnes novel her Uncle Jack had given her. Penny skipped up to her.

“Guess what.” Penny had the “Detroit Free Press” with her.

“What?” Dorothy said.

“Where do you think your Uncle Jack gets his money?”

“I don’t know?”

“Guess.”

“I said I don’t know,“ Dorothy looked away and then said, “He’s got a rich wife.”

“You don’t think he’s a mob guy? Lots of people say your uncle is connected.”

“No.” Dorothy didn’t really know what to think?

Penny opened the news paper and stuck it on top of her friends’s book. It was an article about the author John Byrnes. and there was a picture.

“That’s my Uncle Jack,” Dorothy said.

“He’s John Byrnes, the writer. You mean your mother never told you.”

Penny 1970

It didn’t take much digging to figure out who Dorothy’s Uncle Jack really was. The book copies he gave his family lacked pictures of the author, but if they had looked carefully at the autographs, they would have seen that John Byrnes, the best selling mystery writer was really Jack Brianka. Jack used connections he made in prison to get his stories. Some of his friends may have been mob guys, and it seems they fed him the stories he wrote.

Who am I to judge? I am a shop lifter, breaker and enterer, liar, snoop.

Usually I keep my secrets to myself, but it gave me some satisfaction to tell Dorothy. Her eyes popped out. She grinned. She likes John Byrnes novels; she loves her uncle.

What can I say? I don’t do many good deeds. This was a first.

Dorothy was pretty upset then about her dad’s accident. She needed some good news.

1960’s

Elaine finally got around to cleaning out Jeff’s papers. They sat in boxes in her closet for years. Then one day, she decided they had to go.

She opened a box and started sorting the papers. She found a copy of Rose’s will and some of Jeff’s back tax filings. She found a letter from Louis Almasy, and she skimmed it. Something about his wife arranging a Ku Klux Klan attack? Why would Rose do that? Of course, Rose was a bigot. Everyone was. Jeff had a whole file on Rose that included a copy of a Rose’s daughter’s birth certificate.

Elaine saw nothing of interest to her, and took the box to the curb the night before garbage pick up. She then went into the house, changed into a robe and slippers and fixed herself a cup of hot chocolate.

She picked p a “TV Guide” and looked over the evening’s programs. “The Price is Right,” and “The Andy Griffith Show” and “I’ve Got A Secret.”

She was ready to turn on the set when she looked outside. A little girl on roller skates sat at the curb reading Jeff’s papers. Elaine got up and went outside. “You, Little Girl. Stop that. Put those papers down.”

Penny Payton looked up, saw the woman in hair curlers and fuzzy robe.

“Put those down this instant,” the woman yelled.

Penny tucked the box under her arm, stood up and rolled away as fast as her skates could take her.

Elaine really should have paid more attention to those papers. She should have burned them. But Penny rescued them. They became one of her prize possessions.

Elaine never knew what she had thrown away.

Emil had a series of heart attacks and died in 1961. Mary bought dozens of newspapers, clipped for the obituary and made sure everyone had a copy.

“Mountain Ridge, Michigan, December 21, 1961, Emil Mynter, age 79, died at Memorial Hospital yesterday. He is survived by seven sons, three daughters,and by several grandchildren.”

The will was read a week later. The savings accounts were placed in a family trust with Mary as President and Elsie as Vice President. The problem was that most of those accounts were kept secret to all except his two oldest daughters.

“Pa always wanted us to bring Alice in.” Mary said. Alice was the younger sister.

Elsie disagreed. “The more people who know about Pa’s wealth, the more questions will be asked. We don’t want anyone to know he found that money.”

They were seated at Mary’s kitchen table. Here the sisters, Mary and Elsie, had often counted money, invested and planned gardens and meals.

Mary made coffee and as always she made it too strong. “Family members know he was wealthy. They’ll have questions anyway, and they will want to be included in the secrets.”

Elsie shook her head. “I don’t trust some of the daughters-in-law. Can we trust Alice’s husband?”

“We’ll just tell them that Pa left money for family emergencies.”

“They’ll all want to know how much.”

“True.”

“Then we have Lisa Brianka to deal with.”

Mary threw up her hands in frustration. “Too much. Too much.”

“We have to keep our secrets,” Elsie concluded. “We have to protect Dylan.”

Mary nodded “And Dorothy. Don’t forget Dorothy.”

“She’s as weird as her mama.”

“Lisa doesn’t want that child.”

“We should have found a way to get her after Dylan’s accident.”

The sisters went back and forth with worries about Lisa and Dorothy, but in the end they knew what they had to do.

1970

The big news at Almasy House was that Lisa was getting out of jail.

Charges dropped.

When I visited Dylan Mynter at the hospital, the nurses were talking about Lisa Mynter.

“What on earth made Miles Olson think he could get a conviction?”

“She could have murdered that kid.”

“Probably wouldn’t even remember if she did.”

I wondered if they had been talking about Lisa in front of Dylan. I would have to explain things anyway. Surely he had a radio and a television.

He was sitting in his wheel chair paralyzed from the neck down. Dr. Tracie says he can talk if he wants to, but Dylan never says anything. He hasn’t talked in years.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been visiting you more,” I said. I brought him a bouquet of dandelions that I picked on the way to the hospital. Dorothy told me a long time ago he liked dandelions. Dandelions are like fathers, easily trampled, under appreciated.

His eyes shifted toward me. I know he hears me because he looks at me and sometimes he looks away and he always looks sad. I know he blames Lisa Brianka for his condition. He isn’t the only one in town who blames her.

That truck driver was on the road too many hours without a break. Dylan Mynter was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He shouldn’t have pulled out so quickly with those huge snowbanks.

“You know she didn’t do it,” I told him. “If you believed she killed Vonnie’s son all those years ago, why did you marry her?”

He didn’t answer. He never does.

“You’ll be glad to know that serial killer who menaced the area all those years ago is getting strapped to the electric chair next week. Miles went down to visit him.” I was making small talk now.

He tried to make a sound like “Dah”

“I haven’t heard from Dorothy,” I said.

He looked away.

“You want to hear what’s happening to Lisa?”

I saw tears in his eyes, and I didn’t know how to interpret them.

When Lisa was released, Vonnie and I went to the jailhouse. Jack wanted to come and wait in the car, but he agreed to wait for us at Almasy House.

He couldn't let Miles Olson see him. Sure he had a fake identity including driver’s license, fake mustache and beard, but he wouldn’t be fooling Miles.

Lisa’s brother could be tossed back in prison. How much time would he get for violating a parole condition? We were all surprised Jack had not already been arrested. Surely Miles knew he was here.

Vonnie drove Lisa and me home. Danni made baked ham, gnocchi, garlic bread, and camomile tea. Lisa had noticeably lost weight while in jail, and she looked really wretched.

“What happened?” Vonnie asked her when we got to the apartment. “Miles didn’t hurt you, did he?”

Lisa didn’t answer. She just looked at Vonnie like she was remembering something too horrible to put into words.

Lisa sat down and ate and ate. She had not been eating in jail. The food there is probably awful. And she must have been too afraid to eat anything. Yet when Danni had brought food to her cell, Danni says Lisa ate then. It just hadn’t been enough.

The rest of us ate after we were sure Lisa’s plate was full, and she could easily reach for more. Then Danni took Lisa into her bedroom and gave her some sort of a sedative.

Vonnie turned to me. “Make yourself a bed on the sofa. I brought over extra blankets.”

“Thanks,” I said. Somehow I hoped I could escape back to Cheney farm house. But I knew someone would have to stay with Lisa, and we could not impose more on Danni.

Then Vonnie went back to Almasy House. Danni had written out instructions, but she still went over the medication rules with me.

“What about me? I need a sedative,” I joked. Danni didn’t seem to get it. She was in doctor mode and had lost her sense of humor. Anyway, I took the pills and thanked her.

“How is Dylan taking all of this?” Danni asked. “I heard you visited him.”

“Not well,” I admitted.

Jack had already left. Everyone told me to call if Lisa needed anything. They even wrote down their phone numbers.

“I know the numbers.” I said.

Almasy House

Jack Brianka and Ben Fuller poured themselves drinks in the kitchen at Almasy House.

Something had been making Ben uneasy since he first heard about the case. “What about that girl, Penny?”

“What about her?” Jack poured himself more brandy.

“Seems like she’s got more reason to dislike Lisa Brianka than anyone. Do you trust her?”

Jack shook her head. “Nobody trusts Penny. Sometimes I think she’s as crazy as Lisa is.”

“What’s she doing here?”

“Working. She’s one the maids.”

Penny

Lisa was in bed; the others had gone home. Channel Six had “Bonanza” reruns I turned on the television with the volume low. When the doorbell rang, I hurried to answer it. I didn’t want anything to wake Lisa up. She could be difficult to handle. Bev came in with a bottle of sloe gin. “Got any orange juice?” she asked.

I nodded and led the way to the kitchen. We poured ourselves generous portions of liquor. “How did you know I was still here?”

“I work at the Yorkie Cafe. I get all the news.”

“How much of that news is true?


 “That’s what I’m here to find out.” She glanced at the television. “Little Joe is so cute.” She smiled at the Cartwrights on the television set. "Where is your cat?” She sat down on the couch.

I nodded toward the window sill where Thaddeus and Miss Kitty were napping. “Keep it down; Lisa’s sleeping.”

“So did she do it?


 I sighed and considered for a minute. “She couldn’t have killed Little Louis; she was locked in the outdoor john.”

“Yeah, right. Does it make you nervous staying here?”

“I’ve known Lisa a long time,“ I said.

“Have you ever seen her do anything violent?”

I shook the ice cubes in my glass. “You know better than to ask.”

Lisa

In the bedroom Lisa Brianka stood behind the door listening. Why was Penny still here? She’d cause trouble. Penny always caused trouble. She had to get rid of Penny.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Miles

Miles knew he had to kill Lisa. It would be easier now that she had gotten out of his jail.

At least getting away with it would be easier. How could he be expected to murder a prisoner in his own jail? There would be too many questions. And he couldn’t keep her in jail. The evidence was too thin. She hadn’t committed that murder. Sonny had killed Little Louis. And Sonny threatened to talk; it wouldn’t delay his execution, but it would put Miles in prison.

Who knew what Sonny would say before they strapped him in? Sonny wanted Lisa dead, and Miles had to kill her.

The execution was days away.

He had that hippie girl Penny to deal with too. If Penny Payton was going to be a problem, she could be easily dispensed with too.

He knew what he had to do, and he had to do it quickly.

Penny

Bev went home after we had shared a few drinks, and watched the rest of “Bonanaza.”

Lisa was in very rough state. I know being arrested for murder is scary, but something else seems to be troubling her. She walked into the kitchen where I was cleaning up.

“They didn’t hurt you, did they?” I asked.

“What do you care?” she asked.

“I work for Vonnie,” I told her. “I get paid to care.” That answer seemed to satisfy her.

Then she said, “There was a hanged man.”

I didn’t say anything Id heard her talk about hanged men before. I knew it was all in her imagination.

“In the jail cell with me.”

“Lisa, I’m pretty sure that you imagined the hanged man there.”

“No. No. No.” She kept repeating it louder and louder each time until it became a scream. When she calmed down, I said, “Let’s see what’s on television,” I picked up the “TV Guide” and began thumbing through its pages.

Lisa said, “I could kill somebody, you know. And get away with it. I’m crazy.” She paused. “You remember that the next time you talk about me.”

Almasy House

The next morning Ben Fuller finished breakfast and then went over to talk to Jack. “I need a favor.”

“Shoot,” Jack said.

“We’re still looking in the tunnels. We found a few bodies in the south side.”

“Maybe that priest was right. He said he saw bodies of murdered women.”

“Thing is some of the tunnels are hard to get to. I was thinking we could go through Almasy House. There’s a door or something downstairs, right.”

Jack nodded. “We keep it locked.”

“We’re working with a few mining engineers from Michigan Tech, and Mary Mynter Smith let us use her dad’s maps. Would you let us use your access?”

“I just hope I don’t have to go in there with you.”

Penny

The next morning, Lisa and I came into the foyer as Jack and that police captain were leaving. “Is there a problem?” Jack asked.

“We have a shift starting in 20 minutes.”

“Lisa, why don’t you take a few days off?” Jack asked.

“No,” she answered.

I decided to stand up for her. “She’s not an infant, Jack. She can care for herself.”

“Okay, but if she gets tired, you both high tail it back to the apartment. Watch soaps the rest of the day.”

Jack

“What happened to the body?” Ben asked.

“Hmm,” Jack was only half listening. They sat at a table in the corner of the Almasy House kitchen.

“If your dad was lynched, what did they do with the body?”

“Rose had henchmen. Some of them were in the Detroit Mafia. At least that is what I was told.”

“She would have been dealing mostly with the Purples, the Jewish mob. Would they have helped cover an act of such antiSemitism?”

Jack shook his dead. “I don’t know. There were other mobsters who came through here. Capone. Dillinger.”

“They were mob bosses. They weren’t going to get their hands dirty by removing a body.”

“Look, I don’t know. I was a kid remember, and I spent most of my time that night in the cellar. Hiding. I was scared. Do you think I crawled out and watched them?” Jack tossed his cigarette in an ashtray.

“Take it easy,” Ben assured him. I’m just saying. Something is missing from the story. And it isn’t the missing body. That would be easy to dispose of. Something just isn’t jelling.”

“Like?”


 “Rose Almasy’s motive.”

Jack just shook his head. There were a lot of answers he didn’t have. “Why was your mother’s funeral at Almasy House?”

“Maybe Mrs. Almasy felt guilty. We didn’t see much of her. And anyway that was when her husband killed himself right there in the house.”

“Were you there then when he killed himself?”

“We heard the shot. Then there was a big commotion. We didn’t see much. Someone told us to stay in our rooms. We were locked in and scared. Lisa had tried to crawl in my mother’s coffin.”

“So Rose Almasy takes in three little children.”

“We were just here until after our mother was buried. And for awhile after that. Something about making arrangements to take us to the orphanage. The Catholic orphanage didn’t want us. We were Jews.”

“From what I’ve heard old Rose was no philanthropist, except for the Catholic Church. And if she hated Jews so much, why did she take in three little Jewish kids even if it was for just a few days or a week?”

Jack shrugged. “I stopped trying to figure out people in this town a long time ago.”

Louisiana State Prison

Sonny’s time was limited. He knew his extensions were running out. Even if he gave them a few more locations of missing bodies, it wouldn’t get him more time. And he didn’t have that many more to give them.

“Get the warden in,” he called to the guard outside his cell.

“Don’t worry. He’s gonna come and see you again before you fry. ” The guard, a kid barely out of his teens with a pimply face and a scare crow skinny body smiled through yellow teeth.

“I got a confession to make.”

“Okay. Okay.” the kid moved away too slowly.

“Tell ‘em to get that Michigan sheriff up here too. He’s gonna need to hear this.”

Sonny grinned to himself. Should he give Miles a warning. The asshole was probably buying a ticket to Argentina right now.

Of course, Ole Miles there in Michigan had an easier action he could take. How difficult could it be to kill Lisa Brianka and that nosey girl, Penny?

Penny

Sonny’s execution was two days away. Like most of the rest of the town, I was keeping up with the story in the newspaper. We were part of Sonny’s story. He had performed his most dastardly deeds in and around Mountain Ridge.

I had lunch at the Yorkie Cafe.

“I had an aunt who disappeared in 1937,” an old timer was saying. “She might be buried in one of them there tunnels.”

“They about through taking bodies out?”

“Ain’t gonna be another stay of execution, is there?”

At least they weren’t talking about the Briankas. Or asking me questions. I finished my sandwich and coffee and walked back to Lisa’s apartment where Yvonne Cheney was doing a crossword puzzle on the kitchen table.

“How’s Lisa,” I asked.

“Sleeping. You could eat here, you know. I don’t like leaving Lisa alone.”

“So fire me. I’m supposed to be the maid here. When did I apply for the job of baby sitter?”

“I need you, Penny. Lisa doesn’t do well with most people.”

“She doesn’t do well with me.”

“I know,” Vonnie said and left.

Mary Mynter Smith was in the museum when I went back to work at Almasy Houee. “Penny,” she called to me, “I need to see you.” As usual she was dressed immaculately in a gray business suit. Mrs. Smith is tall and has a dancer’s posture.

She took a seat behind the main desk at the museum. “I wish you would look for those missing records. We’ve got an author writing the history of Almasy House. He wants to see the marriage and death certificates for Rose Almasy. He thinks her daughter might still be alive.”

“Missing records?” I tried to look puzzled.

“All the early records concerning the Briankas, seem to be missing too. Birth records, their parents’ marriage records.”

“I’m sure they’re here,“ I said.

“It’s odd. They disappeared from the courthouse too. And I don’t know if we ever got around to copying them here. But we must have. You were in charge. You copied most of them.”

“I copied what was there,” I said truthfully.

“Penny, you don’t have any idea where this records are, do you?”

“They don’t have anything to do with the Mynters,” I reminded her. It was a clear stall. I hoped she didn’t see that.

“They belong to the town, not to you.” she told me.

“Look, I’m too busy now. I don’t have time to go around looking for missing birth certificates.” Would that be the end of it?

“Penny, how far will you go to protect the Briankas?”

It wasn’t the Briankas I was trying to protect. Did I have to remind her that her dad’s fortune may not even belong to the Mynters or that some secrets were best hidden in my boxes of stolen treasures.

Miles

When Miles came back to the office from patrol, his dad was waiting for him. “What’re you doing here. dad?”

“I’m interested in what’s happening. Those serial killers were operating on my watch.”

“What do you mean, killers? It was just Sonny Cain.”

“There were two of them. The Medical examiners are saying the strangulations are different. Some of the women were stabbed.”

“That don’t mean it wasn’t the work of just one man. Cain confessed.”

“And he’s still saying he’s got more to tell before he fries. He wants you down there.”

Mills sat down at his desk. “Wouldn’t be surprised if old Cain did try to take someone with him. Can’t take the word of a killer.”


 “How about the word of a medical examiner and some detectives from the crime lab?”

“They going to delay the execution again?”

“He’s had about all the delays he’s going to get.” Leo said.

The two men were silent for awhile. Then Leo grabbed his hat. “Sure would like to know who Cain is covering for.”

“He ain’t covering for nobody. If there was another killer operating here, he’s long gone.”

Leo smiled slightly. “Wouldn’t that be something if he were right here in town. Right under our noses.”

Leo knew he should want to find the other killer who had terrorized his town. Trouble was he thought he knew who the killer was, and he hoped he was wrong. The old man closed the door.

Penny

I put in almost a full eight hours cleaning rooms. My salary is still tripled because I’m caring for Lisa. But I wasn’t working extra hours to pad my paycheck. After my shift I spent an hour in the museum.

“Well, Miss Nosey,” Lisa said when I got back to her apartment.

“So I seem to have to a new name.”

“You have lots of new names,” she told me. “You know things, don’t you. About my family. About me.”


 “I’ve heard the same gossip everyone else hears. I’m just smart enough not to believe it”

Lisa snorted.

“Lisa, did you know the man in Louisiana? The one they’re about to electrocute.”

“Why do you ask?”

“Just wondering. This killer gives me the creeps. It scares me that’s all. You and Vonnie were here all that time he was targeting young women.”

“I miss Dorothy. She never comes to visit,” Lisa said. “Maybe you can get her visit.”

“I think I have a better chance of getting her cut off her big toes.“ I said. “Anyway I don’t see Dorothy anymore either. Lisa, she hates this town.”

“You made her hate it. You made her hate me. You were always telling her, how awful I am.”

Miles

Miles knew that if he was going to kill Lisa it had to be tonight. Norm wanted proof that Lisa was dead. Otherwise Norm would make a last confession, and Miles knew what that meant. He had been with Norm on more than one kill. Now Norm said he had proof. Just the accusation would probably be enough. What proof could there be?

Weren’t those fancy cops at the crime lab saying there was more than one killer? He’d be looked at too closely if Norm made accusations.

Norm still had time to give details. Convincing details.

Penny

Lisa was watching “The Price Is Right;’ the cats were curled up together sleeping. I decided I could take a short nap. I went to Lisa’s room, closed the door and laid down on her bed.

The doorbell rang and kept ringing. Why wasn’t Lisa answering it? Reluctantly I got up and started toward the door. But the door flung open. Vonnie stood there. “Where’s Lisa?”

The television was still on. McCloud wore his big cowboy hat, and he was solving some crime. “I don’t know,” I confessed. “She was here.”

“We’d better find her,” Vonnie said and hurried out the door. When I caught up with her, Vonnie was already in the parking lot. The front desk clerk had seen Lisa walk past heading toward the kitchens. Vonnie and I went to the kitchen. It was empty. But the cellar door was open.

“Why would she go down there?” I asked.

“Lisa’s always been afraid of the dark. She wouldn’t go down there. I asked her to do some work down there once. She refused.”

Vonnie and I walked down the stairs. I tried not to remember that this was where Jeff Hollander died. The furnace looked like the body of a beached whale. Tool cabinets sat on the other side. Walt worked here most days. She wasn’t here now. The door to the tunnels was wide open.

“She wouldn’t go in there,” Vonnie said.

“Call the police,” I said, “I’ll go in after her.”

“You’ll get lost,” Vonnie said.

I grabbed a flashlight and box of soda crackers off Walt’s desk. “I’ll leave a trail.” I said “I’m not going very far in there. Don’t worry.”

Vonnie nodded and hurried off.

Inside the tunnel was black. It reminded me of a carnival spook house I had been in once. Dorothy and I had hurried through it. She kept screaming. I kept my cool.

“Lisa,” I crept further into the tunnel. “Lisa.”

“Over here,” she called back in a childlike voice.

I crumbled a cracker, and dropped the crumbs. I hoped Walt kept fresh batteries in her flashlight.

“Lisa keep talking. You can guide me with your voice.”

No answer.

I stopped and crumpled up another cracker. Then I moved forward again. I crumbled another cracker.

“Lisa.”

No answer.

I shouted louder, crumbled another cracker and moved forward. Then I heard her sobbing and moved toward that sound.

She was sitting against the wall of the tunnel with tears streaming down her face.

“Lisa, it’s okay. I’m here.”

She kept sobbing. She made no attempt to get up. I reached for her hand to pull her up, but she pulled me down beside her. “Vonnie is getting help. She’s calling the police.”

“They won’t come. Miles is the police.”

“She’ll call the state police, not the sheriff’s office. Ben Fuller is staying at Almasy House.” I reassured her.

“Miles will take the call. He’ll come and kill us.”

I tried to hush her. “No one is going to hurt us.”

She looked at me like she didn’t know who I was. “Dorothy,” she said.

“I’m Penny.”

She just stared at me. “Where’s Dorothy? What happened to her?”

“I don’t know, Lisa. What made you cone down here?” I asked.

“I heard a cat crying.”

“Lisa, there can’t be a cat down here.”

“I heard it.”

“If he got in,” I said, “he can get out. The cat will be okay. Now let’s leave. “I started to stand up, and I pulled her up with me.

Then I heard a click. I have never heard a gun cocked except on television. I grew up watching westerns, so I knew the sound.

Leo held a flashlight in one hand, a gun in the other. “Did Vonnie call you?” I asked.

“I met her on the stairs. I told her I’d find you.”

“Thank you,” I said. Then I turned to Lisa. “Other officers should be here shortly. We can go now.”

Leo had not out the gun down. “Vonnie, the queer one,” he said. “She was going to get others. Unfortunately she had a little accident. Fell down the stairs, just like Jeff Hollander did. Hit her head pretty hard.”

“What?”

“She tripped on the stair. Could happen to anyone.” He still held the gun pointed toward us.

“You killed her?”

“She tripped, Dorothy.”

“My name is Penny,” I said.

“Penny is your doll and your imaginary playmate. You wanted everyone to call you’ve Penny since your dad’s accident.”

“No,” I wasn’t ready to be Dorothy again. I never wanted to be Dorothy.

“Help us find the cat,” Lisa said. “There’s a cat lost down here.”

“He’s going to kill us” I said. “He can’t have any witnesses.”

“Such a smart little girl,” Leo said “Nosey little Dorothy.”

He pointed the gun right at Lisa. She made a small gasping sound.

“Tell me why.” I demanded. “Why are you killing us? Your little escapade with the Klan killing her father, my grandfather, that’s forgotten. Anyway I think you tried to stop it.”

“I did. I pulled men away. I tried to get to the man before he swung. I didn’t know my son and his friend were in the bushes. They watched. Those boys were only ten years old, and they watched.”

“It turned them both into serial killers.” I said. I had suspected it for awhile.

“I shouldn’t have let it go on.”

“Why did you?”

“At first, I didn’t know. Didn’t believe it. Then I wanted to turn him in. He’s my son I couldn’t do it.” He pointed the gun at me this time. “Sonny wants Lisa dead. It’s the price he asks for his silence. He won’t turn Miles in if Lisa dies.” He nodded to where the tunnel wound left. “Start walking. Both of you.”

Miles

When Miles arrived at Almasy House, he saw the lights on in Lisa’s apartment. That hippy girl, Penny was probably there. He’d have to kill her too. He removed the gun from his holster, and checked the gun. Then he put it back.

A gun was too noisy. There was bound to be a scarf or towel laying about. He could get the job done.

He started up the drive to Lisa’s apartment.

Penny

“So what are you going to do? Beat us to death and then say there was some kind of a cave in? Is that what you’re going to do? It won’t work. The autopsy will show…”

“Shut up and start walking.” he barked.

Lisa and I just stood there. If he was going to kill us, why not just do it there where we stood?

“I’ve got handcuff’s and there’s a chamber back there. I’ll wall you in.”

So we would die like a character in an Edgar Allen Poe novel, imprisoned with no chance of escape. “Then how will you prove to Sonny that you killed us? I asked.

He waved the gun toward the tunnel where he wanted us to go. I gripped the sides of the tunnel. I’d find a way to get a handful of sand. I’d toss it in his face.

Instead something shot out of the darkness and hit Leo’s wrist. He dropped the gun and then clutched his wrist like a gunfighter who has just been outdrawn in a television western. He reached for a second gun in his vest pocket. A second missile came and this time Leo fell over like a sack of potatoes tossed aside.

Jack Brianka rushed toward us. He held Lisa in his arms as she cried. Behind him stood Ben Fuller, the police captain holding a gun.

“Where did you guys come from?” I asked letting my breath out.

Jack explained that he and Captain Fuller were finishing dinner at the Almasy House dining room when they saw Miles creeping around outside. “We decided we had better find out what this is all about.”

“What is it about?” I asked.

“You know about that convict down in Louisiana? The serial killer who was working Michigan highways.”

I nodded. “He used to be one of you guys,” I said to Captain Fuller. “He was a state trooper.”

“We’re not real proud of that. It took us awhile to figure out who the killer was. Then he got caught down south. We kept in touch with Louisiana authorities. We always knew Sonny had help. We knew there were two killers.”

“Miles was the other one. Leo just told us. “I didn’t add that I had already put it together.

“They were always good pals.” Lisa said. “We used to call him Sonny, but his real first name was Norm. He was there hiding in the bushes when my pa was…you know….”

“I know,” Captain Fuller said.

“If you knew Miles was a serial killer, why didn’t you arrest him?”

“We needed some proof. We’ve been reading and deciphering Norm’s communication. We got a professional cryptographer, a guy who worked in the war, and we’ve been reading Sonny’s mail. He wanted Miles to kill Lisa and you, Penny.” The retired trooper smiled. “Or is it Dorothy.”

“I can be Dorothy,” I said. Lately it didn’t matter so much anymore if people knew I was a crazy lady’s daughter, and if some people said I was born with a tail.

“Anyway, we got Miles. He was arrested a few minutes ago. Norm says it was Miles who killed the little boy Louis all those years ago. Miles is saying it was Norm.”

Lisa started crying, “I knew it was them. All those years ago, I knew it was them. I heard their voices and their laughter. I knew it was them. But I was so afraid of them.”

“It’s okay, Lisa.” I said.

Leo had indeed tripped Vonnie on the stairs. He had knocked her out and probably planned to come back and kill her. She went to the hospital, and stayed overnight for observation, but she was all right.

It was Walt who noticed the cellar door open, and who found Vonnie on the steps. Walt ran for help and found Jack and Captain Fuller, who had just arrested Miles.

Leo’s body was removed from the tunnels. What possessed him to try and kill us? Did he really think he could protect Miles.

I took Lisa back to the apartment, and then went back to my box of treasures. Say what you want about me. I am a thief, and a liar, but I don’t destroy the truth. I keep it, protect it.

I pulled out a collection of index cards and copies of birth certificates. The originals are at the state capital in Lansing. I had stolen these copies from the museum and from the courthouse when I was copying birth and death records. These records revealed something everyone in this town had forgotten. Jeff Hollander knew, but he was long dead.

There were copies in that box of papers I took from the curb outside Elaine’s house. Also in those papers was Louis Almasy’s confession, mailed to Jeff Hollander the night Louis shot himself.

Had Hollander lived, he would have wanted these records destroyed. I am not sure why he kept them as long as he did. Perhaps at one time, he thought he could blackmail Rose if he needed to.

Almasy House and Rose’s bank accounts should never have passed into Hollander’s possession.

It was time for me to tell the truth.

“What’s this,” Lisa asked picking up a sheet of paper.

“It’s a birth certificate for Martha, your mother. I made the museum card, but didn’t put it with the other cards. I stole the birth certificate from the courthouse.” I confessed. Lisa looked confused. I explained. “Your mother’s maiden name was Martha Almasy. She was Rose Almasy’s daughter. Martha was a beautiful head strong girl who married a penniless Jewish miner.

“Rose wanted her daughter back, and she hired the Klan to scare her husband out of town. They scared her daughter to death instead; the Klansmen were so drunk, they didn’t know what they were doing. They lynched your father, just like you always knew they did. You saw it happen.”

I paused and let Lisa take in some of this information. It was just Lisa and me. Uncle Jack had gone to the hospital to be with Vonnie.

“Why would she do that?”

“Prejudice,” I answered. “Hate. Anyway it set in motion a lot of really bad things. Two very young boys saw the lynching, and it made them crazy. They for some reason seemed to enjoy the killing. They became hunters, killing animals and when that wasn’t enough for them they started targeting young women. They became serial killers.”

By law, Uncle Jack shouldn’t have had to buy Almasy House. It should have gone to you, Vonnie and Jack as an inheritance after Rose died. But then he bought it for back taxes which he would have had to pay anyway.”

Lisa smiled. “Penny,” she said, “Someday all that snooping of yours is going to get you in trouble.”

The End

Saturday, November 19, 2016

CHAPTER TWENTY

Chapter Twenty

Vonnie stopped to see how Lisa was doing getting her new house ready. She knew Lisa didn’t like to be alone. She didn’t like being with Dylan either. He had taken an extra job loading trucks to make extra money to pay his dad back for the house.

Lisa sat in front of the radio humming to herself.

“Hey, I thought you were so busy.”

“I got tired.” Lisa admitted.

“This house should not be too difficult to keep up. It’s small.”

“Too small,” Lisa said. “Make me some coffee?”

“You could make it yourself,” Vonnie told her. “After all, this is your house.”

“I’m tired.”

“Okay,” Vonnie got up and poured some A&P coffee into the pot. She added cold water.

“I’m gaining weight,” Lisa said. She played with the front of her dress “Nothing fits anymore.”

“You need to get more exercise. And leave the Fig Newtons alone,” Vonnie glanced at a package of cookies on the counter.

“Those are Dylan’s cookies. They make me nauseous. I can’t believe I’m gaining weight. I’ve been sick every morning.”

Vonnie had been half listening as she made a tray of crackers, cheese and cucumber slices. Then she looked at her sister. “Honey, when is the last time you had a period?”

“Not for awhile. Do you think I‘m sick? Maybe I have cancer.”

“I don’t think so, honey. But you need to see a doctor.”

“Vonnie, I don’t want to have a baby.”

Vonnie took the job at Almasy House. She wasn’t sure how much money Dylan and Lisa had. They had just purchased a house with Emil’s help. Now there was a baby on the way. Could Lisa care for a baby by herself?

She had been good with little Louis until… Vonnie thought about her son often, but always with great sorrow. She never discussed what happened with anyone, not even Walt.

Lisa had not been with any small children since that awful day. Vonnie could never predict Lisa’s reaction to anything. She had no doubt Dylan would make a great father. She just hoped he could manage Lisa and a baby. She would need to hire maids for Almasy House. Lisa could do some of that work. It would be extra money for her and for Dylan. Maybe if Lisa kept busy, she wouldn’t be so difficult to get along with.

The restored Almasy house would need a nursery. Some of the people who stayed there would have children, so a playroom would be ideal She could add a few cribs. She must ask Jack about the wisdom of adding facilities for children. Would the new owners allow that?

Even though Vonnie had been guaranteed full autonomy, she still liked to check her decisions; so she did that by calling Jack.

The bed and breakfast wouldn’t be just for vacationing couples? Weren’t lots of people having children now? She had read an article about something called the Baby Boom in one of the women’s magazines.

Vonnie walked the hallways of Almasy House. She checked on all the work and was disappointed that no secret passages were found and no treasure. She found an ancient desk in one of the rooms. An old timer who was assisting the carpenters said, it had been Rose Almasy’s desk. Vonnie cleaned it herself and had it brought to her new office. She would have a kitchen and a bedroom there at the house. She chose the suite that had once belonged to Rose Almasy. The old woman had died in those rooms, but Vonnie had no fear of ghosts.

She would welcome the ghosts of her late parents and her child if only she could be with them again.

“We can fix you a larger apartment,” Walt told her.

“Remember I have my own home,” she said.

“But you’ll be working long hours. Staying here will be like staying at a hotel,” Walt winked at her. Wherever Vonnie stayed, Walt would be staying too. Vonnie had already hired Walt as chief of maintenance. But Walt had become more than that. Maybe she could make Walt an assistant with a bigger salary. She had already increased Walt’s salary, and knew Walt was worth every penny.

“I don’t want to be anything more than handyman,” Walt assured her.

Some people in town now knew Walt was a woman and a special friend of Vonnie’s. They could only speculate how deep that friendship went.

Vonnie was glad she didn’t always have to be so careful with pronouns anymore.

Penny 1970

Bev poured my coffee at the Yorkie Cafe and said it was on the house if I had news of Lisa.

“She’s getting out of jail tomorrow,” I said.

“Not good enough. You’ll have to pay.”

“Okay,” I said. “What I need is a word with the cook.”

So long as you don’t give anyone else the scoop.” She turned to the kitchen. “Elaine, someone here to talk to you.”

Elaine is fifty-something now and she showed every year. Her hair is gray, her face lined; her body carried too much weight. She frowned when she saw me. I wasn’t someone she’d want to talk with. “What do you want?” she asked. She sat on the stool beside me, grateful for a chance to take some of that weight off her legs.

“Thought you’d want to know. One of the reporters is asking about Jeff Hollander.”


 “Let him ask. You didn’t tell him to come see me, did you?”

“No, but someone else might. I thought I’d give you advance warning.”

Bev brought her a cup of coffee “Guess I’ll take a break,” Elaine said. “What did he want to know about Jeff?”

“Why there aren’t pictures of him in Almasy House. Wasn’t he part of the history?”

“Not a good part,” Elaine said.

“In case he talks to you, I thought I’d give you a chance to decide what you’re gonna say.”

“I was underage, and the good priest took advantage. Well, that’s not fair. I knew what I was doing.”

“You wanted a better life People say he was handsome, and there was a Depression. You can’t be blamed for…”

“And he was ready to dump me,” Elaine said, “I knew that. I didn’t push him down those stairs though. I wasn’t there when - when it happened.”

“I believe you.” I said.

“Someone pushed him though. I saw his body; it had been bashed in. It was like he’d been hit several times with a heavy board or something. Who would do that? I keep asking myself that. Why?”

“It was right after he said he found bodies of murdered women in one of the tunnels.”

“You think it had something to do with that?”

I got up to leave. She put her hand on my arm. “Do you ever see Lucinda? Tell her I’m sorry.”

“I don’t see Lucinda,” That part was true. I saw Jack, but if I ever mentioned Elaine he might throw me down the cellar stairs at Almasy House. “We don’t want the past drudged up,” I said.

1947

Lisa and Dylan’s baby was born in the middle of a snow storm. They had settled on Dr. Tracie and the hospital at the last minute, and that was partly because there was no way to get to Danni and the farm. Danni was married to Dennis now, and often out of reach in Michigan blizzards. Dylan wanted the baby born in a hospital.

Huge mirrors hung above the delivery room table. A dozen stainless steel instruments offered mirror-like images. Lisa kept her eyes closed, but she did look up just as the baby slid out from under the hospital gown she wore.

The baby had a tail that Dr. Tracie immediately cut off. Lisa and the nurse both saw the procedure and heard the baby scream when the knife cut off its tail.

Lisa started screamed too. It wasn’t the pain even though that was bad enough. She had just given birth to a little devil. She wouldn’t hold the baby, a little girl she and Dylan had named Dorothy.

Lisa turned unresponsive after the birth. “Kill it,’ she told Dr. Tracie. “ You have to kill it.”

“You have a healthy baby girl,” he assured her.

“Take it away, I don’t want it,” she whined. “It’s devil. My dad had hooves and horns.” The nuns had told her this at the orphanage. She hadn't believed them, but now her baby had a tail. “Does it have feet or hooves?” she asked one of the nurses. Sometimes Lisa would be quiet for long periods. Once she screamed, “This is Emil’s fault. He raped me.”

Dylan was rattled by the accusation.

Dr. Tracie suggested sending Lisa back to Newberry.

Dylan shook his head.

Vonnie talked to Dylan in the waiting room. “What Lisa needs is to keep busy. And I’m hiring maids.”

“But I need her at home. Who will take care of Dorothy?”

“I was hoping one of your sisters or sisters-in-law.”

“I want my wife to take care of our baby.”

“Lisa was so good with my baby.” Vonnie remembered. “Little Louis loved her.”

“I don’t know why she can’t care for a baby of her own.” Dylan wanted to care for his wife, but she was difficult. His family had talked to him about another divorce, but he couldn’t go through that again. “Lisa needs me,” he said.

“She should never have had this baby.” Vonnie sat down heavily in the hospital waiting room and began crying.

Dylan hated seeing a woman cry, and Vonnie was such a good person and so good with Lisa when she had her moods.

“I’ll ask Lillain,” he said knowing his brother’s wife had only one child of her own and liked to care for youngsters. Marry and Elsie were always off on shopping trips to Detroit or more recently New York and Boston. Lillian took care of their children. “Pa could do it too. But Lisa doesn’t like my pa.”

“Lisa’s confused. She doesn’t know what she wants or what she likes.”

Soon the town gossips were talking abut the child born with a tail.

“Dr. Tracie swore it wasn’t true.”

“The mother’s crazy. No one could deny that.

Lisa took a job helping Vonnie at Almasy House.

“Keep the baby away from me,” she moaned if anyone suggested she hold her child.

“Why?” Vonnie asked her. She held Dorothy in her arms, and gently rocked her.

“Remember how in the orphanage they said our dad had hoofed feet?”

“You didn’t believe that.”

“She had a tail; Dr. Tracie cut it off.”

“No,” Vonnie said. “You imagined that. You were drugged. I remember how it was when I had Little Louis. The pain is so bad, you get confused.”

“It’s true. There’s a scar on Dorothy’s butt. I can see where he cut off the tail.”

“Please stop talking about this.” Vonnie was angry now “You know this town never forgets anything bad about us.”

“It’s because of Emil. He raped me that night. He’s the devil, and he raped me and his child was born with a tail.”

Vonnie gave up arguing with her sister.

Local civic groups were quick to want the restored Almasy House as a meeting place. Both the local Democrats and the local Republicans reserved rooms for monthly meetings. Vonnie agreed to accept an “I Like Ike” sticker, but said she would place it on her farm house door. She couldn’t take sides at Almasy House. But if anyone asked, she admitted that she did like Ike Eisenhower and would vote for him in November.

The house was a remarkable success. Newlyweds honeymooned at Almasy House. Older couples and families vacationed. One large Detroit family reserved all the rooms one October for a huge family reunion. Wedding receptions and birthday parties dotted the calendar.

With clean windows and bright-colored paint, the house no longer looked spooky.

Most nights and weekends local clubs of one type or another had meetings there. The Latter Day Saints even had church services there on Sunday. They were saving to build a church, but in the meanwhile, they used Almasy House.

Vonnie had not guessed she would be so busy, but Walt was a big help. They seldom went to the farm anymore. Instead Dennis took care of the animals, and even rented Vonnie’s fields.

Dylan would drop Dorothy off at his sister-in-law Lillian’s house and then drop his wife off at work.

“That daughter of yours is so pretty. When are you going to start taking an interest in her?” Vonnie asked Lisa.

“She’s a brat. She screams all night.”

“She’s a baby.”

“She’s a brat.”

“Little Louis used to keep me up nights sometimes too. How I wish I still had him.“

Ike Eisenhower was in his first term of office when Dorothy started school.

Almasy House was closer to the school than Dylan’s or Lillian’s house, so Dylan brought his wife to work in the mornings and brought Dorothy along. Vonnie would walk Dorothy to school because Lisa said she was busy. She wouldn’t even touch her daughter.

“Auntie, the kids say, I’m a monkey.”

“You know that’s not true.”

“Mama believes it.”

“Your mama gets confused sometimes.”

“I got a scar on my butt. Are you sure I wasn’t born with a tail?”

“Of course, you weren’t born with a tail.”

“The other kids say I was. They’re mean.”

Vonnie stopped walking, squatted there on the sidewalk and took her niece into her arms and hugged her.

Dorothy started crying, “They’re real mean.”

“I know they are, Honey.”

Penny 1970

Sometimes people ask me what happened to Dorothy. We used be close friends. If she went away, wouldn’t she tell me where she was going?

“I wish you’d tell me what happened with Dorothy,” Mary Mynter Smith said one day on the museum.

“She’s your niece. You mean you don’t know?”

“We worry about her.”

“Lots of people disappear,” I said. “Did you know Rose Almasy had a daughter.”

“That’s what they say. I can’t find any record of her in the town birth records.”

Things get lost. Just like people.

1954

For Christmas that year Dylan bought his daughter a doll that was as big as she was. Dorothy named the doll Penny after the department store. He also bought his family a television set.

“It’s like a radio,” the salesman said. “With a picture.”

In the store, Lisa, Dorothy and Dylan watched as Hopalong Cassidy drew his pistols. Dorothy loved the horses that stood tied to a railing in the street. Lisa loved William Boyd, the actor who played Hopalong Cassidy. How she wished she had a beautiful husband like William Boyd instead of stupid Dylan.

Dorothy clung to her daddy and watched with glee. “I like cowboys,” she said.

Dylan loved seeing the awe on the faces of his wife and daughter. “What do you say? Should we buy one?” he asked his wife.

It was his daughter who answered, “Yes, Daddy, yes.”

“She’ll be spoiled.” Lisa said.

“Some of the kids at her school already have television sets,” Dylan told Lisa.

“Pretty soon every household in America is going to have a TV,” the salesman said confidently.

He showed them a magazine called “TV Guide” with Loretta Young’s picture on the cover.

Lisa loved movie magazines; this book was small, but it had a picture of this pretty actress on the cover. “She’s so pretty,” Lisa said.

“I’ll throw in the magazine absolutely free,” the salesman promised. Then to Lisa he said, “Loretta Young has her own show. Yes, siree. Every Sunday night. There’s all kinds of great movie stars on television now. Robert Montgomery has his own show and so do Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney. And my favorite is on every Monday. My wife and I never miss ‘I Love Lucy.’ Lucille Ball is hilarious. Wait until you get a chance to watch.” He glanced down at Dorothy. “And you’ll like Roy Rogers, little lady.”

“Who?” Dorothy asked.

“He’s a cowboy, just like that one.” He pointed to the screen where Hopalong was still holding a gun in each hand.

Lisa thumbed through the “TV Guide” at least a dozen times before the television was delivered. She had viewing plans for every night.

She knew two channels, 5 and 11 came out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and channel 6 came out of Marquette, Michigan. She would be able to get all three major networks, so they could watch almost anything listed in “TV Guide.” Most areas of the country weren’t that lucky. They might get one or two channels and one network.

The first time she turned the television on, she got a test pattern. She knew that would go away at two p.m. when the stations started broadcasting. First there was local news and weather and a midget named Uncle Tom hosted a children’s program out of Marquette.

Dylan thought one day he would drive Dorothy to Marquette, and she would be a guest on Uncle Tom’s program. Tom always had an audience of children in the studio with him, and the station advertised for kids to come down and be part of the show. Uncle Tom would interview the children.

“She’ll embarrass us,” Lisa said.

Television allowed Lisa to indulge in her crush on actor Jon Hall. Every weekday Channel 6 showed reruns of his television program, “Ramar of the Jungle.” It had been cancelled, but she could watch these reruns.

She imagined life as Jon Hall’s wife. She would wear evening gowns every night, and she would have pretty children. Dorothy frightened her. She was such a plain looking child. What had Dr. Tracie done with that tail?

Real life scared Lisa. A father hung; a nephew drowned; a child born with a tail. Was Dorothy her punishment for not taking good enough care of Little Louis? She still heard the child scream in her nightmares.

But television was always great. Scary things always went away quickly. The scene changed; commercials promised shiny hair like that of a Break girl and spotless appliances in the kitchen.

Dorothy loved “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Lisa was sure she couldn’t stand to hear another one of those awful songs, and Dorothy marched around the house doing the show’s dances and singing the show’s songs. Lisa decided she had to find a way to turn off the set when that program was on.

Maybe she could unplug the set and say that it was broken.

1957

Jack invited Lisa’s family and Vonnie to Detroit. He was getting married, and he wanted them to meet his wife.

“Who is she? What’s her name? Blond, brunette or redhead? What’s she like?” Vonnie wanted to know.

“Wait until you meet her?” Jack had said. They would have a small wedding at his home in Detroit.

“I hope she’s not a gold digger,” Lisa said when she heard. “Jack has lots and lots of money.”

Dorothy hated school. The school lunches tasted crappy. She had no one to play with. The kids called her monkey because her mother had said she was born with a tail, and that story had circulated all over town. During winter months, students had to stay outside at recess time. Dorothy shivered and huddled in a corner of the building. The other kids played around her. No one invited her to join them.

Then a new girl, Penelope Jane Payton moved to town. Penelope had scabs on both of knees that she sat and picked them in class. She had unruly brown hair, freckles and glasses that seemed almost too big for her face.

Dorothy disliked meeting new people because it was only a matter of time before they found out she had a crazy mom, and that she had been born with a tail. She was sitting by herself at recess when Penelope came up to her. “So how was Oz?”

“What?”

“You’re Dorothy. What was it like on the Yellow Brick Road? What’s the scarecrow really like?”

Dorothy shrugged. Was this girl making fun of her?

“I’m Penny. I won’t offer you a penny for your thoughts. Most people don’t have interesting thoughts. Thoughts aren’t worth a penny. How much do you think your thoughts are worth?”

“I don’t know,” Dorothy said.

“What do you know?”

Dorothy didn’t answer. Penny looked like someone who would offer her friendship and then take it away.

“What do you like to do?” Penny asked. “We could go on the swings. No one else is on them now.” Penny was a talker.

Dorothy nodded and then followed Penny to the swings.

After school Dorothy and Penny walked home together.

“Tell me a secret,“ Penny said.

“I don’t have any.”

“Everyone has secrets. I’ll tell you mine. I have a crush on Kookie.”

“You mean Edd Byrnes.” Dorothy laughed and said, Byrnes was the star of a hit television program, “77 Sunset Strip,” and his trademark was the comb. He talked Kookie talk, calling all older men “dad” and he kept combing his hair. Lots of the little girls in their class loved Kookie.

“I bet you love him a lot too,” Penny said.

Dorothy shook her head. “I like Robert Horton on ‘Wagon Train’.”

“He is cool,” Penny said. The girls both nodded.

When they came to Mary Mynter Smith’s house they paused. “Let’s go inside,” Penny said.

“Nobody’s home.” Dorothy said.

“That is the best time to go inside.”

“She keeps the door locked,” Dorothy told her friend. “Mama says she’s afraid of being robbed.”

“Who wants to rob her? Anyway I just want to look inside.”

They walked up to the front door. Locked.

“I told you so,” Dorothy said.

They walked around back. The door was locked there too. Penny started trying to raise some windows.

It was Dorothy who found the basement window unlocked. She didn’t really think Penny would go inside, but Penny slid down into the basement.

“You better come out,“ Dorothy called. “You’ll get caught.”

“She’s at work for at least another hour. I’ve watched her car come and go.”

“Please come out,” Dorothy begged. Then she squeezed her body through the window and she was downstairs with Penny. “What are we doing here anyway?”

“Looking for stuff.”

“You aren’t going to steal anything. Tell me you aren’t going to steal anything.”

“Oh, shut up. I just want to look.”

They moved up the basement steps and into the kitchen. “ Nice appliances,” Penny said. “And expensive.”

“They’re new. Mama says Daddy’s relatives always have lots of money. Everyone in the family has money except her and daddy.”

“Family?”

“She’s my aunt,” Dorothy admitted.

“I forgot your last name is Mynter. You just don’t seem as stuck up as the rest of them.”

“Mama doesn’t like Daddy’s family.”

“Why not?”


 “Like you said, they’re snooty.”

“I said stuck up. It’s different.”

Dorothy didn’t see how it was different, but she followed Penny through the house. They opened drawers and looked at bills and records and check books.

One closet door was locked. “We have to come back and get in here,” Penny said.

“No way, I’m not breaking in again.”

“She’s your aunt. You’re not breaking and entering.”

The girls heard a car in the driveway and dived for the basement steps.

“Who is your new friend?” Dylan asked Dorothy that night after supper.

“Her name is Penny.”

Lisa said, “You know she got caught shoplifting at Pancheri’s store.”

“No. She wouldn’t do that.”

“You keep chumming with that one, and you’re going to get into trouble, girl.” Lisa scolded.

“If she’s a shop lifter, you should stay away from her,” Dylan advised his daughter.

A week later, Mary drove to her dad’s house to make sure he didn’t need anything. Something puzzled her.

“Pa, remember that notebook.”

“What notebook?”

“The one I keep my figures in.” It’s missing. I think someone took it”

“That old notebook ain’t worth anything. You probably just misplaced it.”

“It’s gone. Someone’s been going through my closet, Pa.”

Emil shrugged. “Why would someone steal that old notebook? You misplaced it.”

The next day Mary and Elsie bought safety deposit boxes and brought the remainder of Emil’s stash to the bank in grocery bags.

Lisa went though the Sears catalog twice looking for a gift for Jack and his new bride. It was hard not knowing his fiancĂ©. What were her tastes like? Was she a poor waitress or doctor’s daughter? Was she younger than Jack? Probably, but how much younger? Lisa knew nothing about Jacks fiancĂ©, not even the girl’s name.


 “He said not to bring gifts,“ Dylan reminded her. “We’re working class people with a daughter to support. That brother of yours is as rich as Rockefeller.”

“I want to give him a wedding gift.” Lisa insisted. “He’s my brother. And he gave us a thousand dollars when we got married.”

“And I thanked him. We just can’t match his generosity.”

Detroit was 500 miles south, but not so far south that there would not be lots of ice and snow and cold. Lisa finished packing. Dylan gassed the car up and checked the tires. He then sipped coffee at the kitchen table.

Vonnie brought over fresh baked items, fruit and coffee from Almasy House. “Walt’ll take care of things until we get back.” she said.

“What a terrible time for a wedding,” Lisa said.

“It is not a great time in the hotel business either,” Vonnie said. She now had just two regular boarders.

“Too bad Walt can’t come with us,” Dylan said. He liked Walt and would have welcomed her company.

“She doesn’t want to go. She thinks Jack will be too fancy for her.”

“And we don’t know if Jack’s bride is ready to meet a queer.” Lisa said.

“Lisa, we are just two people who love each other.” Vonnie smiled at her sister. “Surely you don’t think of me as a queer.”

“Whatever. People say such awful things about us.”

“Some people just don’t feel good about themselves. That’s why they say mean things to others. And Jack has invited Walt and me down to his home anytime. His wife won’t object. Jack told me that.”

Dylan looked out that the snow piling up outside. “It’s a mean time to be driving anywhere,” he said. “But Dorothy won’t miss any school because of the December holidays. That’s a good thing.”

“Not if we perish in a snow storm.” Lisa said. She did want to see her brother again, but why couldn’t he come north. A trip downstate was lots of work when she had a brat and a husband to care for.

“There aren’t any new storms predicted,” Vonnie said. “This one should blow over in another hour.

“That doesn’t matter. If we have car trouble and have to walk, we’ll freeze to death.” Lisa insisted.

Dylan wasn’t worried. “I got matches, firewood, candles, and we’ll pack some extra food. We can wait it out if we need to.”

Vonnie shook her head. “It won’t be as bad as all that. I look forward to getting away for awhile. We can do some shopping in Detroit.”


 “You can do some shopping. Dylan doesn’t have any money.”

Dylan felt his face redden.

Vonnie said, “I’ll treat you and Dorothy to new dresses shoes and new hats.”

“That’ll just be more stuff to cart home,“ Lisa said. “Do you know how much room a kid takes in a car? We had to pack her clothes and toys. She’ll be whining the entire way unless we bring along that awful doll.”

“I don’t want to bring the doll; Penny’ll stay home.” Dorothy said.

‘Did you name the doll after your friend?” Vonnie asked. “Isn’t her name Penny?”

“No, I named the doll after JC Penny, the store.”

“Don’t you have a friend named Penny?”

“ Yeah, but she’s in trouble. She stole some things.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“She’s the only one who’ll play with me though. The other kids don’t like her either. She gets into trouble all the time.”

“Well, don’t you get into trouble,” Vonnie said. “We can bring the doll if you want,” And anything else. Lisa, it won’t take that much room. Dorothy and I can play word games. We’ll make new words out of the letters in street signs. Michigan has such interesting place names. Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti. See what words we can make up out of those names.”

“I’ll take care of my own kid,” Lisa said.

Vonnie sighed. Both she and Dylan had the same thought. Lisa did not care for the child.

Dylan, Lisa, Vonnie and Dorothy piled into Dylan’s old Chevrolet.

“Let’s sing some songs,” Vonnie said to her niece. “What songs do you know?”

“All of them.”

“No one can know all the songs,“” Vonnie looked perplexed. “There’s too many of them.”

Lisa explained, “She watches ‘Your Hit Parade,’ and she does know a lot of popular songs.”

“Davy Crockett,” Dorothy explained excited.

“All right then,“ Vonnie began. “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee.”

Dorothy joined in.

Lisa put her hands to her ears. “I am going to have a headache long before we get to Jack’s house.”

When they got to the Detroit area, Vonnie read off directions, but Dylan managed to get lost anyway. They stopped at a tavern, and Vonnie called Jack. When she gave him the name of the tavern, he said he knew where it was. He would come and get them.

Fifteen minutes latter, Vonnie looked up from her Coke. A beautiful woman stood in front of her. At first she didn’t recognize the woman or the two pretty young girls who stood beside her. Then Jack was standing there beaming. “I think you know my wife-to-be. This is Lucinda.”

Vonnie and Lucinda threw their arms around each other and hugged.

Lisa sat with her mouth open.

Dorothy asked, “Who is that lady?”

Jack took them all to Detroit for a meal at the Badger Club. Vonnie and Lucinda chatted like the old friends they were.

“Why didn’t you tell me, you and Jack owned Almasy House? Why all the secrecy?”

“I was afraid if anyone found out a Black lady owned it, no one would stay there.”


 “Ridiculous,” Vonnie said.

“Remember, I’m half owner too,” Jack joked. “And I am definitely not a Black lady.”

“That town is so prejudiced,” Lisa said. “They hate Blacks and Jews and queers.”

Vonnie frowned at her sister “We aren’t Jewish, honey. We aren’t anything. And I wouldn’t call anyone a queer.” Then she turned to her brother and his finance. “I wondered so many times what happened to you.”

Dylan was uneasy in the fancy restaurant. He would have preferred a hamburger and beer in that bar where they had all met up. He knew his shoes were scuffed, his hair was self-cut. He just didn’t look like he belonged here.

Dorothy squirmed in her seat. She couldn’t find anything on the menu that interested her and asked if she could have a cheeseburger and fries. The waiter said that the chef could prepare that for her.

Dylan stared at his menu. He didn’t want to open his mouth and show his crooked teeth. He was not fancy and perfect like the people around him.

Jack sensing Dylan’s hesitation ordered the largest steak the place had for Dylan. “You must be starved after that long drive,” he said.

Dylan nodded.

The two teenage girls, Starr and Carol, could not look more different. Starr had her mother’s olive complexion, dark eyes and hair. She looked like Natalie Wood. Carol was blond and blue eyed more like Sandra Dee. But both girls were poised and dressed like teenage queens in satin slacks and cashmere sweaters with mink collars.

“Do you like school?” Starr asked Dorothy.

“Yeah,” Dorothy said because she felt it was expected. Actually she hated school.

“So what do you when you aren’t in school?” Starr was trying to make conversation.

“Nothing.”

“You must do something. Ice skate? There must be lots of ice up there in the U.P. Do you ski?”

Dorothy shook her head. She felt uncomfortable with these two girls who were both prettier than anyone at her school. She wished she could take these girls to school with her and show them off. See what pretty friends I have. They were sure a lot prettier than Penny Payton. Penny wasn’t pretty at all.

But Dorothy felt better, more at ease with Penny, who her mother said was a juvenile delinquent.

“I watch tv,” Dorothy finally said. “She had to say something, and she couldn’t think of anything else that she liked to do.”

Jack gave Lisa and Dylan a nice bedroom on the east side of his home. The mint green bedspread smelt like clean cotton. A bowl of apple cinnamon fragrance sat on the dresser. “I hope you don’t mind bedding down with Dorothy.” Jack said. “If not she could stay with one of the girls.”

“We’ll be fine.“ Lisa said.

“You know where the kitchen is. Help yourselves to anything. Vonnie will be next door; Lucinda and I are down the hall.”

Lisa could hear Vonnie and Lucinda talking excitedly in the next room. The two women could not get caught up. They had so many things to tell each other.

“Is there a television?” Dorothy asked. “I don’t want to miss ‘Maverick.’”

Jack was glad to make his niece happy in anyway he could. He told her where the television set was and that she could watch anything she liked. He closed the door.

Dylan and Lisa listened to his footsteps retreat down the hallway. “I can’t believe he’s marrying her,” Lisa said.

“She seems like a nice person,” Dylan said, “They’ll be happy.” Who could help liking Lucinda who had tried so hard to make them feel comfortable in that fancy restaurant.

“She’s a Nigger. White men don’t marry Niggers.”

“Keep your voice down,” Dylan hissed. “They can hear you.”

“I don’t care who hears me. We’re leaving right now.”

“What?”

“I said we’re leaving. I won’t stay here in this Nigger’s house.”

“Lisa, we don’t have anyplace to go. I’m dead tired from driving all day, part of it in a blizzard. We can’t afford a hotel. Dorothy wants to watch ‘Maverick.’”


 “What do you care about your daughter? The kids already make fun of her at school. Think what they’ll say when they find out her aunt is a black Negro.”

“I don’t care what anyone says.”

“My brother’s lost his mind. And I won’t have anything to do with her or him.” She grabbed Dorothy by the wrist and pulled her so hard the child cried out.

“Stop it. Stop it,” Dylan said blocking the door. “You’re hurting her.”

Lisa pushed her daughter so roughly that Dorothy fell to the floor. Lisa started hitting her husband. “Let me out of here. Let me out of here.”

Someone knocked on the door. “Lisa,” Vonnie said.

Then Jack called, “What’s going on?”

Dylan tried to put his arm around Lisa and calm her down, but she slugged him. Dorothy screamed when she saw blood on her daddy’s face.

Jack tired to open the door, but he had to push. Dorothy had rolled away from the door after she fell, but Lisa tried to hold it shut. Jack pushed until he was in the room and then took his sister in his arms. He held her. “What’s the matter, Little One?” he asked. She collapsed against him for a moment and then pushed him away. “I don’t want you to marry her.”

“Hush now, baby.” Vonnie tried to comfort Lisa, who she knew she had neglected in her excitement over seeing Lucinda again.

“The Klan’s coming,” Lisa said.

“No, we’re safe. This is Detroit. The Klan doesn’t come here.”

“The Klan is everywhere.”

Dorothy crouched in a corner. She rubbed the sore places on her wrist where her mother had grabbed her. When she looked up, she saw all those elegant people. Her aunt and her uncle and those pretty teenage girls who were supposed to be twins, but who looked so opposite, and yet both were as pretty as television stars. Beside them stood their mother, who was the most beautiful woman in the world.

Then she looked at her sad faced, plain-clothed, simple parents. Why did her mother have to behave so horribly? A doctor came and gave Lisa a sedative, Vonnie explained that the long drive and the excitement were just too much for Lisa. They should have come right to the house and rested instead of going to that restaurant, wonderful as it was.

In the morning, Lisa moaned and screamed. Vonnie and Dylan held her until that same doctor, a neighbor, gave her another shot.

“The doctor shook his head as he left. “She should be institutionalized,” he said.

“She isn’t always like this,” Vonnie said. Then she caught Dylan’s eye. They both knew the truth was very different.

Lisa rested alone in the upstairs bedroom while guests came to celebrate the wedding of Lucinda Rinaldi and Jack Brianka. The couple had asked that no one bring gifts, but a few friends brought gifts ranging from new cook wear to silver tea pots. Lucinda thanked them.

“I feel empty handed,’ Vonnie whispered to her friend.

“Don’t. You know Jack and I both have far more possessions than we need.”

“Where’s the honeymoon to be?”

“Right here in Detroit. We’ve been living together for years. And everyday is a honeymoon with Jack.”

“So why didn’t you guys get married before?”

“Silly things. Jack promised my father he would never marry me. Father wanted me to be in high society. But it was never what I wanted. I wanted Jack. We deserve happiness, don’t you think?”

Vonnie was the maid of honor. Jack asked Dylan to serve as best man.”

“I don’t even have a suit,” Dylan protested.

“Good.” Jack joked. “I’ll get married in blue jeans and a shirt. More comfortable that way.”

Lucinda’s dress was ivory velvet. After the ceremony everyone applauded the beautiful couple. Dorothy stayed in the bedroom with her mother.

“They’re ashamed of us,” Lisa whispered. “They don’t want us down there.”

Saturday, November 12, 2016

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Chapter Nineteen

The juke box played, “Come Rain or Come Shine” by Margaret Whiting. Yvonne Cheney finished putting her coins in the juke box and moved toward the bar where her coat lay draped over one of the stools.

A fresh drink awaited her. The bar tender pointed to a man at the other end of the bar. He had redneck written on his sunburned face and calloused hands. He wore dark blue work pants, work shirt and black cowboy boots. Yvonne walked up to him and handed him the drink. “Thanks, but I’m through for the night.”

“What? You aren’t even going to listen to the songs you just paid for?” The voice was high pitched for a man; a Peter Laurie voice.

“Doesn’t mean I’m going to drink while I listen.”

“Why don’t we both listen?”


 “So long as you know I’m going home alone.”

“Do you have a husband at home?”

“Maybe.” It was her turn to ask a question. “You just passing through?”

“Something like that. I have a renovation job. I’m a carpenter.”

“Tell me about it.”

“This big old spooky house. It used to be a boarding house, house of ill repute, something like that.”

“Almasy House? You have to be kidding.” She took the drink he had purchased for her. “Tell me about it.”

Before they said good night and went their separate ways, they exchanged names. “Walters. Lorretta Walters. Call me Walt.”

Vonnie realized her mistake.

“But you’re dressed like a man, and your hair is so short.”

“I’m a carpenter. They don’t hire many lady carpenters. If they think I’m Walt, I have a better chance of getting a job and keeping it.”

“Where are you staying?” Vonnie asked.

“My car. A hotel is pretty expensive.”

“Come out to my farm. I’ve got room.” “I thought you said you were going home alone.”

“I thought you might be hitting on me.”

“Who says I’m not hitting on you?”

Lisa walked through the Brandt house. It was small; she knew she wouldn’t get a mansion like the one the Rinaldis had lived in, but this house was dumpy. She wouldn’t even be able to keep a dog. It wasn’t fit for a dog house.

Dylan walked her through the house, showing her the bathroom, the utility room, the kitchen, the two bedrooms. He seemed proud of it. You would think he had built the house himself.

She thought it would be a nice house for Emil. After all it was Emil’s fault they couldn’t stay in the other house. Emil disgusted her.

“Fine,” she finally said. Then she could’t help herself. She had to add. “Anything to be away from that dirty old man.”

Dylan had his back to her. He was gazing into a closet. When she called his dad a dirty old man, he whipped around like he had been punched.

Mary rattled off the figures. She and Elsie sat at Emil’s kitchen table doing their once a month audit. The lawyer in Detroit who had set up a family trust had been told only that Emil had inherited some money and made more money by working in the mines and by investing. It was believable. After all, Emil had been one of the top mining engineers in the country.

“Are you listening, Pa?” Mary asked.

Emil was still stunned by Lisa’s accusations and his mind had wandered.

“Sure,” he pulled himself back to the present.

“What gives?” Mary asked. Elsie got up to pour a cup of coffee.

Emil sat silent. He didn’t want to talk about Lisa’s accusation.

“Dad, you have to tell us. Did something happen? Why are Dylan and Lisa moving out?”

Emil tried to change the subject. “What’s the name of that coin shop on Woodward in Detroit? You girls always do well there.”

The girls knew when he was being evasive.

“It has to do with Lisa, doesn’t it,” Mary said.

Elsie shook her head. “Dylan is such a great guy. How does he get mixed up with these losers? Elaine was bad enough.”

“Lisa is ill,” Emil cut his second oldest daughter off.

Elsie agreed. “She’s a mental case. Why did we ever let Dylan marry her?
 “Out with it, Pa.” Mary prodded. “What happened? What’s the trouble with Lisa?”

Emil wasn’t one to cry. He hadn’t cried when his wife died, but he thought about the night Lisa walked down the stairs in her slip and the accusations she made. He found his eyes wet with tears. He slowly told his daughters the story.

“You have to go back to your husband,” Vonnie told her sister. “You belong with Dylan.”

“I don’t love him. I don’t even like him.”

“You need him.”

They were sitting in Vonnie’s kitchen drinking green tea and eating snicker doodle cookies with lots of sugar and cinnamon. Vonnie had picked Lisa up early that day and driven her to the farm.

“We’ll get a divorce,” Lisa decided.

“It’s not that easy,” Vonnie insisted.

“He’s been divorced before.”

“Stop this nonsense. I’m going to drive you home. I don’t want to hear anymore about a divorce or leaving Dylan.”

“Why can’t I stay here? I stayed here before.”


 “Because, just because.” Vonnie said. She wasn’t ready to tell Lisa yet about Walt, the lady carpenter who now stayed at the farm with her.

When the phone rang, Vonnie found it a welcome interruption from Lisa’s childish whining. She reached for the phone. “Jack, great to hear from you.” Vonnie sighed. “One of us needs to talk some sense into Lisa.”

As Vonnie explained Lisa’s unhappiness, Lisa stuck out her tongue at her.

Vonnie smiled because it was such a childish gesture. Her little sister had missed some growing up.

“I’ll talk to her,” Jack promised. “First, I need to talk to you. Almasy House is being restored.”

“I know,” Vonnie said. “I met a carpenter working on the job.”

“The new owners are sparing no expense. The house should be ready in a couple of months.”

“Ready for what?”

“They’re turning it into a bed and breakfast.”

“Who would stay in that spooky old thing?” Vonnie sat down remembering the night when she and her siblings had been taken to Almasy House. She remembered the stern old lady and the room where she and Jack and Lisa had been locked. Memories of Almasy House brought her back to a sad time.

“They’re looking for someone to manage the house. I suggested you.” Jack said.

“What? Who? Who bought the house?”

“It’s s secret,” Jack said.

“I don’t like secrets. Why would they want to hire me?”

“Lucinda and I both put in a good word for you.”

“And I don’t even get to know who I’m working for?”

“The new owners prefer to remain anonymous.”


 “Well I want to know who they are. Jack, it’s not the mob? is it?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“No one wants to open those old tunnels, do they?”

“No. Vonnie, the house will be practically new. Talk to your carpenter friend. Restoring that old place is costing a lot of money.”

“But the mob isn’t who bought the house?”

“I give you my word.” he said.

Vonnie sat down heavily. “How much are they paying?”

Emil stared at his glass of wine; he swirled and purple liquid about. “I haven’t been inside those tunnels in twenty years,” he said after a moment.

“No one has.” said Jack Brianka.

Jack trusted the older man not to say anything about the visit. As an ex con, he was still bound by the terms of his parole. Of course, he visited his sisters, but no one knew about that. He settled into one of Emil’s oversized easy chairs. He felt comfortable in Emil’s house, and had gotten a warm welcome though Jack knew Lisa had been less than cooperative while living here. Lisa and Dylan had moved out of the house. But that had nothing to do with Jack’s business in Mountain Ridge or his visit to Emil.

He told Emil his client had bought Almasy House and was paying Jack to research any dangers within or underneath the house.

Emil said, “I personally made sure the tunnels that connected with the mines were closed.”

Jack looked confused. “Why connect bootlegging tunnels to the mining tunnels?

“Confusion. With those tunnels, the bootleggers could go to ground at any time. I’m sure they had escape routes.”

“Someone must have known their way around down there.”

Emil shrugged. “The tunnels are a maze. I don’t know if Rose kept maps or not, but I suspect she didn’t. It was easy to add new routes. She could hire different crews for each digging. Some tunnels led nowhere. They were just there to confuse anyone who came looking. Only a fool would explore those tunnels.”

“But you explored?”

“It was my job,” Emil admitted. “Mr. Rinaldi knew she must have been using some of his tunnels. He didn’t like it. Catching her was something else. If we found one of her tunnels, she’s say it was an old mining tunnel. Dozens of tunnels crisscrossed each other under the town. She didn’t have to admit any of them belonged to her.”

“What exactly, did you do?”


 “I knew Mr. Rinaldi’s tunnels and those of the other mine owners. We had maps.”

“Where are those maps now?”

“I don’t rightly know. They’re property of the mines and now that the mines are closed, I just don’t know what happened to the maps.” Emil had his own copies, but he decided not to admit this. “You might ask Lucinda Rinaldi what happened to her dad’s copies”

“So you explored in just the mine tunnels?”

“I didn’t say that. I explored some of Roses’s tunnels. I had notes back then. It’s been a lot of years.”

“Jeff Hollander, you remember him. He used to be a priest in this area. He died about ten or twelve years back when he fell down some stairs at Almasy House.”

Emil snorted. He knew the priest. “What about him?”

“He said he came across the bodies of murdered women down there.” “There might be bones. Treasure hunters go in there or used to go in there.”

“So you don’t think there are bodies of murdered women down there. Maybe the work of a serial killer.”

“Anything’s possible. I just never came across any bodies. I understand the sheriff sent a deputy down to look, and he didn’t find anything.” He paused. “I do remember what looked like manmade tunnel collapsed in one of Rose’s tunnels right after the priest came out with his crazy story. I didn’t think it was worth exploring what might be back there. Too dangerous. And it would be the law’s job, not mine.”

“What about treasure?” Jack asked.

“That’s the thing we want to discourage. There ain’t any treasure down there and anyone going down looking is liable to get lost and die down there.” Emil was sure he himself had taken the whole stash. There were no other stashes. He had looked. He wasn’t sure who the jewelry and old coins he had taken out would belong to, but as far as he was concerned, they were his now. He wondered if he should go back down for one last look. No, he had explored the area close to the house. That’s where Rose kept her treasure.

“Thank you for your time,“ Jack said as he gathered his brief case and prepared to leave. “Please don’t tell anyone I was here.”

“Don’t worry,” Emil said. But now he had a question. “About your sister?”

“Thank you so much for buying Lisa and Dylan that house down the way. I saw it, and it’s a great house.”

“I would have liked for them to stay here, but Lisa… Well, we didn’t get along. I’m sorry for any misunderstanding.”

Jack didn’t know the details, but he knew Lisa well enough to know that if there had been a misunderstanding, it was probably her doing. He wasn’t sure what to say and settled for, “She’s had a rough time.”

Vonnie stood on the sidewalk outside Almasy House. Painters applied fresh coats of paint; ladders rested against the side of the house. Carpenters rushed here and there. Two men carried a white washed board across the lawn. The windows were clean and unbroken. A gardener trimmed the bushes. The house was clearly getting a new look.

Perhaps the old ghosts could be chased away, and the house contain a new energy. She smiled at the thought but wasn’t sure if she believed it.

Did the new owners have an office in town? Who were these new owners?

She was unprepared for who opened the door. “Jack! What are you doing in town? Why didn’t you tell me? You could be staying at the farm.”


 “I heard you had a roommate,“ he winked at her. “I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“There’s plenty of space. And what do you know about my roommate?”

“To mind my own business and to be happy you’ve found someone.”

How much did she want to tell Jack or anyone else about Walt. There were many who would not understand the relationship, and Vonnie sure didn’t want Walt to lose her job. She must remember that if she spoke about Walt she would use the masculine pronoun.

Walt needed people to think she was a he.

“I’m here for a job interview,” Vonnie said. “Do I meet my employer?”

“You already have the job. No need for an interview. I’m just here to make sure you accept the offer.”

“What is the offer?”

“You manage Almasy House, a bed and breakfast, restaurant and bar. It’ll be the most elegant hotel in Upper Michigan, and the rival of anything in Michigan or Wisconsin. You make all hiring and firing decisions and have complete autonomy.”

“I know nothing about managing any of those things. Hotel. Restaurant. Bar.

“You’ll learn. The owners will send you to training at Northern Michigan University. Tuition, books, room and board all paid for. It’s a one-year program. When you graduate the house will be waiting for you.”

“That’s generous. Why me?”


 “I recommended you. So did Lucinda.”

“How is Lucinda? And the girls. I miss them all so much.”

“They just got back from an around the world cruise. Luxury liners are the thing now.”

“I wish you two hadn’t broken up. I could see her now and then.”

He shrugged. “We’re still friends. The break up was her idea. So what do you say?”

“What’s the salary?”

He handed her a sheet of paper with numbers written in.

“That’s more than I ever made in five years before.”

“You were a maid then; now you get to supervise maids.”

“It says here plus perks. What are those perks?”

“Free health care, and a room here in the mansion. There’s a company vehicle, that you get to drive, so you won’t need your own car.”

“I don’t need a room of my own here.”

“You get an office and a suite of rooms attached to it. You’ll be keeping some late hours, so why not have a bedroom and kitchenette here? Of course, you can always order room service, and as the boss, you get it free.”

“I want to know who I’m working for?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Jack.”

“You’d be a fool to turn this down, Vonnie. Take the offer. You can quit anytime.”

“Who owned the house before these new owners took over?” she asked.

“The city had to take it over for back taxes. You know what happened to Jeff Hollander?”

“He supposedly fell down the stairs.” She didn’t want to get into town gossip that maybe Hollander had been pushed to his death by his girlfriend, Elaine Dabb. People said he had been willing to leave the priesthood, but not to marry Elaine.

“Do you think the house’s history will affect its success. Louis Almasy committed suicide here. Jeff Hollander died violently here.” She paused. “A lot of people think Hollander was murdered. That kind of thing can spook some people away. They may not even want to eat or drink here.”

“We’ll see.”

Walt in her man’s work clothes, shirt and tool belt walked Vonnie to the door. “So that’s your brother. He’s nice.”

“Don’t go getting a crush on him,“ Vonnie teased. “He’s not your type.”

When they got outside the house, Vonnie asked, “Who are these mysterious owners?”

“I don’t know. I get my checks every week, and that’s all I care about.”

“We don’t get to know who we’re working for? That’s kind of spooky isn’t it?”

“What are they offering you?”

She handed Walt the envelope with her salary written down.

Walt whistled. “Several times what I make,” Walt said.

“There’s a whole bunch of perks. I don’t think I can refuse.”

“I’ve already got orders to fix up any set of rooms you want, and do it to your specifications.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

Walt didn’t answer.

“We’ve been so good for each other out at the farm,” Vonnie said.

“Does that mean we can’t live together anymore?”

Vonnie laughed. “Giving you up would be the deal breaker. You’re staying with me.”

“Then you aren’t taking the job?”

“It says here that I make all hiring and firing decisions. I’ll need a handyman. In this case a handy woman. I hope you want the job.”

Walt grinned. She liked the idea of staying at Almasy House with the new manager.

They heard hammers and the shuffling of workmen. They looked back at the brighter colors, and imagined the house full of new furniture. They could see inside some of the first floor rooms because the windows were bigger than they had been. It sure didn’t look as dark and forbidding as Vonnie remembered it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Chapter Eighteen

Lisa screamed. Vonnie reached for the phone; the line was dead. “Someone must have cut the lines,” she lowered the dead phone.

Lisa whirled toward the window as another hooded figure carrying a flashlight rushed by. Lucinda put her arm around Lisa and tried to quiet her, but Lisa screamed and punched Lucinda.

“No,” Vonnie rushed to help Lucinda quiet the frightened girl.

Another rock sailed through a window.

A gruff voice came from outside. “You, Niggers, get out of there.”

“No,” Lisa cried. “They’’ll hang us if we go outside.”

“Honey, no. Just be quiet. They’ll go away.” Lucinda smoothed Lisa’s hair.

Lisa tried to push her away.

“Hush,” Vonnie told her.

Lisa whimpered and settled to the floor with the other two women holding her between them.

Moments passed. Quiet. “Maybe they went away,” Lucinda whispered.

They all heard a loud crash as a bottle with a lit rag sailed through the window nearest them. It landed at their feet.

Lucinda and Vonnie each grabbed a rug and began slapping at the flames. Lisa cowered, too scared to move. More bottles crashed through the windows.

The three women ran almost blindly to the door. It was the only place to go. They ran into the street. Their clothing was light and hardly thick enough to protect them from the cold night air. Their feet bare. They ran past hooded Klansmen who ignored them but tossed more bottles half filled with amber liquid and stuffed with rags that they had set afire.

Explosions shook the night air. The women huddled at the far side of the street.

“Lucinda, your beautiful house.” Vonnie didn’t know if she said it out loud or not. She thought of all the beautiful treasures still inside that house. Lucinda had pre packed only few things and sent them south.

The women hovered in the shadows behind the line of white sheeted men. They didn’t know what else to do. Where could they go? Lucinda’s and Vonnie’s cars were in the driveway close to the house. One of them was already burning.

Lisa stopped trembling. Then she turned to Lucinda and began pummeling her with her fists. “You brought this on us. You brought this on us.” she screamed.

Vonnie tried to pull her away. “No,” Lisa screamed. “She’s a Negro. We have to protect ourselves. She turned. She wanted to run away, but Leo Olson was there. He caught her by her wrists and held her despite her screams and kicks. “What have we got here?” he asked. “A wild animal.” He pushed her toward a deputy and ordered him to cuff her.

Lisa spent the night in jail. The charge was disturbing the peace. Leo insisted that her screams and disorderly conduct kept him from catching the hooded figures. Most townspeople knew he had probably been one of the hooded figures himself.

Lucinda called an attorney; the Mynters bailed Lisa out.

“What a disgrace,” Mary said when she got into the car with her husband Urban. “She’ll be Dylan’s wife later today.”

Urban had been amused by the story. “Give her a little credit,” he said. “She was attacked. If a bunch of hoodlums start throwing homemade bombs at me, I’m liable to start screaming myself.”

Mary smiled at her husband who had fought in Italy during the war. She knew he had seen some terrible fighting. But this was different. “Those men weren’t going to hurt her.” Mary insisted.

“We don’t know that. Lisa didn’t know that. And they burned the Rinaldi house to the ground. I don’t blame her for screaming.” Urban backed out of the highway.

“Leo should have been more interested in catching the Klansmen.”

Urban nodded agreement. “He says the house burned down when a candle overturned, and the three women were drunk.”

“Well I don’t know what happened there last night,” Mary said to herself as much as to her husband. “I don’t hold with prejudice. You know that. The Rinaldis have done more to help this town than anyone. Any time the historical society needs money, Lucinda writes a check. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Lisa Brianka gave the sheriff reason to arrest her.

Urban smiled. “Let’s go welcome the little jailbird to the family.”

Lucinda spent the night at Vonnie’s farmhouse. The two women sat together sipping coffee.

“I wish you’d change your mind and come to the wedding.”

“I’m leaving town today. Even if…if what happened last night hadn’t happened, I’m leaving.”

“I’m so sorry for the things Lisa said,” Vonnie was near tears.

“She was scared.”

“That doesn’t mean she can scream out anything she wants.”

“That poor child has been through so much. We can’t blame her for…well, anything.”

“She does the strangest things. I sometimes just don’t know. And how will Dylan cope with her. Jack and I can barely do it.” Vonnie took a few deep breaths and stared out the window. “And after last night, and your pretty house…”

“The house is nothing. I don’t know if I could have sold it. Leo might be doing me a favor by writing this off as an accident. Now I get insurance money.”

“Accident? Leo will never get my vote for sheriff. Lisa says she saw him leading the Klan the night our mother died.”

“You know she could have imagined that. She was only five years old.”

“She saw something awful, and I don’t think she makes it up.”

The two women watched the sunrise, and spoke only sparingly.

“At least I won’t have any luggage to cart with me.”

“I have so many of those beautiful dresses you gave me, Lucinda. And no place to wear them. Please take some of them back.”

“I want to go shopping tomorrow. I’ll get everything new. A new life and new clothes. And a new house.”

“You mean Jack’s house?”

“I have my own house in Detroit. I don’t know if I want Jack to take on the two babies. He would, but I won’t ask him.” She sipped coffee from an old cracked cup that Ezekiel had in the house before he married Vonnie. “I broke up with Jack.”

“They don’t look happy,” Mary whispered to Elsie.

“They’re nervous,” Elsie whispered back.

“And that awful green dress,” Alice said. “Where did she get that dress?”

“Shh,” Mary hushed her.

Lillian, Abe’s wife leaned over and whispered. “I offered to make her a nice white dress.”

“She likes the green one.”

“I understand she got it from Lucinda Rinaldi. I mean Mrs. Davies.”

“Mrs. Davies could carry off a dress like that. It just doesn’t work on Lisa. It looks like someone put a fancy dress on a corn cob doll.”

Lisa overheard the Mynter’s conversation, but decided to ignore it. She hated Dylan’s family. Let’s get this wedding over, she thought.

She didn’t want to marry Dylan, but she had no other options. She had no money and now no job; Vonnie was furious with her. She no job now that Lucinda was moving away. She had no money. She couldn’t go to Los Angeles to meet and marry Jon Hall. People thought Dylan was too good for her. She heard lots of whispers. Despite their kindness, the Mynters didn’t like her. They didn’t want Dylan marrying her.

Dylan’s first wife had been that awful Elaine who had worked at the Rinaldi House for awhile. Lisa knew what happened between Dylan and his first wife. Elaine had brought a man home from some tavern. Dylan had caught them in bed together. Elaine was evil.

She had spied and stolen documents from the Rinaldi house, and she had sold the Rinaldi family’s secret.

Elaine was despicable. But Elaine had style. Surely the Mynters didn’t want Elaine back in the family. They didn’t want Lisa in the family either.

Lisa clutched a fist full of wild flowers that one of the Mynters had collected from some vacant lot. She sat in the back of the hall and waited for Dylan.

Dylan smoked a last cigarette before his wedding. From time to time, his dad or one or more of his brothers would come out and chat briefly. Of course, they wondered what was taking him so long.

“Just enjoying the day,” he said.

“You nervous?”

“No.”

Emil put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “You can still call this thing off.”

Dylan shook his head no. “That would embarrass Lisa.”

“It might be better than spending the rest of your life with her.”

“I gotta move on with my life,” Dylan said. “Lisa’s a good person.”

“She’s mentality ill,” Emil said. “Are you sure you want to take that on?”

Dylan nodded, tossed the rest of his cigarette aside and turned to walk inside. He had promised to marry this odd, fragile girl, and that is what he would do.

Penny 1970

Mary Mynter Smith sat across from me in the Almasy House restaurant. “We knew Dylan’s marriage was going to be a disaster. We just didn’t know how to stop it. It was like watching an accident happen in slow motion.”

“Was it really all Lisa’s fault?” I asked.

“You know how crazy she is.”

“She needed someone,” I said. “She always needed someone.”

“She’s your problem now,” Mrs. Smith said. True.

1946

It didn’t take Lisa long to move into Emil’s house with Dylan. She had few possessions.

“When are we going to have a house of our own?” she asked.

“This is it,“ Dylan smiled. He was happy he could provide his bride with one of the nicest houses in town “ It’s not a mansion like the Rinaldi’s house was,” he explained. “But it is large. My dad raised ten kids in this house.”

“I was hoping we could move into something smaller. I’m tired of cleaning big houses.”

“Pa and I are pretty neat,” Dylan said. “And Mary comes in from time to time to tidy things up. She doesn’t mind helping us out.”

“I don’t want your sister doing my housework,“ Lisa said.

“Pa and I will keep up our half. Like I said, we’re neat.”

“Does your dad have to live here?”

“Lisa, it’s his house.”

“We should have a house of our own.”

“I can’t afford a house right now. And this house is wonderful. I grew up here.”

“I thought you said you bought this house.”

“I paid my dad a dollar, and he put my name on the lease. It was with the understanding he would live here with us.”

“Maybe your pa could get an apartment.”

“Lisa, this is his house. He owns it.”

“You paid him for it.”

“That dollar was a formality. I can’t ask him to leave.”

“Why not?”

“He’s my dad.”

“I don’t like him.”

Dylan worked nights to earn more money. He knew his dad would help him out, but he thought it was generous of Emil to sign the house over to him; Emil didn’t have to to do that.

Emil had bought the other kids their homes, but it had caused gossip. Where was Emil getting all this money? Anyway Lisa was so fragile; Dylan and his family all felt it would be better if she had Emil now retired to keep an eye on her while Dylan worked.

When Emil made ham and cheese sandwiches with extra mustard and potato salad, Lisa refused to help clean up the kitchen.

“I’m not cleaning up after the old man,“ she told Dylan.

So Dylan helped his pa with the clean up. Mary came over in the evenings and she did some of the cleaning too.

“Where’s that wife of yours?” she asked.

“She’s resting.”

Mary snapped a dish towel. “She doesn’t mind eating Pa’s cooking. Mine either. She just doesn’t like cleaning up.”

“She’s actually a good housekeeper,” Emil stood up for his daughter-in-law. “She has some of these downstairs rooms spic and span.”

“Doing a dish every once in awhile wouldn’t kill her,” Mary said. “The kitchen is where the real clean up work begins.”


 Emil wore an apron. “I want to do more cooking now that I’m retired. You know I make a mean meat loaf. And my mashed potatoes are next to none.”

“That doesn’t mean she can’t help in the kitchen especially doing the clean up.”

“Leave it be,“ Emil warned his daughter.

When college let out for the summer Bill and Ken, Dylan’s younger brothers had jobs at the Ford plant waiting for them. Dylan had arranged the jobs. The problem was they needed a place to stay.

“They’ll stay here, of course.” Dylan said. “It’s their home.”

“And I’m not sending them away,” Emil agreed. “What does your wife say about them staying here?”

“She doesn’t like it.” Dylan confessed. “She thought once they went to college, they would be on their own, and that when we moved in here it would be our house.”

Emil had considered confiding in Dylan about his fortune. But he had hesitated. Mary and Elsie and their spouses knew, but his other children thought he saved and invested. They had no idea how much money Emil had.

“I’ll buy you and Lisa a home,“ he said.

“Pa, I want to stay here. You need someone to take care of you.”

“I can do pretty well on my own.”

“Who’s going to do your housework?”

“Me. Look Dylan, I paid for each of your brothers to go to college, Tuition, room and board. I paid for all the weddings. You and Lisa were the only ones who didn’t have big wedding.”

“Pa, you’ve been too generous. You need to save some money for old age. I haven’t finished paying you back for the house…” He couldn’t finish the sentence. It was the house he had given Elaine in the divorce settlement. It was the price of being rid of her, but he hadn’t really wanted to be rid of her.

“I have enough for my old age. Now the Brandt house is for sale. I’ll buy it. It’s just down the street.”

Dylan told Lisa his dad was buying the Brandt house for them.

“It’s small; it’s dinky. I want to stay here.”

“This is pa’s house.”

“You paid him that dollar. He put your name on the deed. It’s our house now.”

“He wants to live out his remaining years here.”

“He can’t have that long. Dylan he’s what seventy-something.”

“He’s my dad,“ Dylan often felt anger boil up in him when Lisa made cruel remarks. He tried to be patient with her, but now she was talking about waiting for his father to die. “You didn’t mean that. Not the way it sounded.”

Lisa turned away. She pouted.

“What about Ken and Bill?” Dylan asked.

“Do I have a choice? They’re coming.”

“Would you help Pa get a couple extra bedrooms ready?”

“I guess I’m still a maid,”

Ken and Bill didn’t stay with Dylan and Emil. They rented an apartment with some college friends.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Dylan told them.

“We’re okay. We can drink all the beer we want and party until dawn. Pa would never let us do that.”

Dylan left at 10:30 for the midnight shift. Lisa left a night light on in the hall and Emil let her do this. He knew she feared the dark.

He enjoyed staying up late with a book. The latest John Byrne book had arrived from his book club, and he was half way through it. Byrnes’ Detroit private detective was as hard-boiled as any tough guy character.

Emil liked the twists and turns of Byrnes novels. As he read, the main detective character stalked a killer and the killer stalked the detective. In his imagination, he followed the detective into a dark house where the stairs creaked and shadows lingered.

Creak. The noise jolted Emil from his novel. He was often nervous at night because of the fortune in old coins and jewelry he still had locked in a room downstairs. Town gossips whispered that Emil was wealthy, so he suspected he would make a great target for a robber.

Creak. The noise came again.

Emil quietly got up and reached into his desk for his revolver.

The house was dark except for his study and the hall light upstairs. Lisa kept a second light on in the bedroom. Those lights should alert any intruder that someone was awake in the house.

Creak. The noise came from the up stairs. Someone was descending. Emil slipped out of his study and aimed the gun at the top of the stairs.

Creak.

Emil tensed with the gun in his fist. Who was up there? What did they want?

A shadow fell on the stairwell, and slowly made its way down one stair at a time.

Lisa slowly descended. She wore only a short thin slip. Her bare legs revealed most of the thigh and the nudity underneath.

She walked down the steps like a Las Vegas show girl. Her head held high like it balanced a crown. Emil let the hand that held the gun fall to his side. He breathed a sigh of relief.

That small sigh awakened Lisa. She saw him standing below her where she imagined he could look up her slip.

A look of pure hatred came over Lisa’s features.

“You filthy old man,” she spit the words out and hurried back up the stairs to her bedroom. Emil heard the lock on her bedroom door slide into place.

He poured himself a scotch and sat at his desk. What should he tell Dylan? Emil had not slept nor had he read anymore that night. He made himself a pot of coffee, and then he ignored the coffee and poured himself some more scotch.

Dylan was not surprised to see his dad waiting for him. Emil often made breakfast for his son and his wife.

“The coffee’s cold,” Emil said, “But I’ll make some more.”

“Pa, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Sit down, son. There is something I have to tell you.”

“Is Lisa all right?”

“I don’t think so.”

When Dylan walked upstairs, he found the bedroom door locked. “Lisa open up,” he called.

He waited and called her name again. Finally he heard her footsteps, and he heard the key turning in the lock. He waited a heartbeat and then opened the door. His wife wore a plain green checkered house dress from the Sears catalog.

“What happened? Pa says you had some kind of a nightmare.”

“It wasn’t a nightmare,” she said with anger.

“What happened?” he repeated.

“I don’t know. I think he drugged me.

“What? Who drugged you?”

“Your dad. He must have put something in my food last night.”

“Lisa, do you know how ridiculous that sounds?”

“I came awake on the stairs. I was wearing my slip. That’s all. Just my slip and he was staring up at me.”

“You’ve walked in your sleep before.”

“Not anymore. It’s been a long time.”

“Lisa, my dad would never do anything to hurt you.”

“That filthy old man was staring up my slip.”

“He heard you on the stairs. He thought you might be a burglar ”

“I’ll kill him if he does that again.”

Dylan wanted to slap her. Instead, he said. “We’ll move.”


 “Make him move. He’s the problem,”

“I am not kicking him out of his house. I’ll see if I can swing buying the Brandt house myself.”

“I don’t want to live there.” She folded her arms and sat down on the bed.

“We don’t have a lot of choices,” Dylan told her.