Saturday, November 12, 2016


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.”


“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

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?”


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.


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.


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.