I Found A Knife

A Story site from EldonHughes

Chapter Eleven --
1956, For the Last Time

I didn’t go home intending to tear up my basement.  I didn’t go to bed that night with even the slightest thoughts of ripping down all those crappy fiber ceiling tiles… and the paneling on the walls that ran the width of the basement, dividing the laundry room from the furnace room, and the ones between the furnace room and the storeroom… or that small bit of triangular wall that was nailed up to hide the ugly area under the stairs.  Let me just say that, at the time (4 .a.m), it seemed like a reasonable idea.

You ever wake up in the middle of the night from one of those brilliant, “higher consciousness” dreams and hurry to write it all down?  You're certain that you’ve been blessed with the next great literary classic; or an invention, maybe the secret to cold fusion; or at least the key to making the colonel’s fried chicken.   Of course, by morning’s light all your notes look like a platoon of army ants went on a three day bender with your ink pen.  At 4 a.m. I awoke, convinced I knew the answer, or at least where to look for it.  That’s what Max had said; “You’ll figure out where to look.”  Well, the basement is where I found the knife… where it all started.  It made sense. (4 a.m., remember?) That was where the next answer would be.  There must be something else hidden in the ceiling,.. or the wall,.. or the other wall.  Or, not.

The sun came up and shone brightly through the living room window, casting a warm glow over my dusty, dirty frame, sound asleep on the couch.  I woke up just before ten, dragged myself into the shower, and did what I should have done in the first place.  I went back to the library.

All the research I'd done so far had been focused on the house: looking for mentions of the address and any mentions of people, like the McColleys, who lived in it; any photos or stories or whatever.  This time I paid attention to everything else.  I waded into the newspaper stacks, beginning in 1950 and worked my way up to 1960.  Then, I went back and did it again.  Thank goodness old Lawrence had turned The Progress into a weekly.  I would have been at it for weeks.  As it was, I missed lunch and stayed until the library closed at seven.  I was back again, when the doors opened, at nine the next morning.

I stayed away from the Morning Glory.  I didn't want to run into Max. There were too many stories, coming from too many angles.  So, I stayed in the stacks, poring through all the old black and white newsprint with all the varying names and dates and faces.  I found plenty of pictures of Singer, and of McColley.  Most of the time, they were pictured together.  They were shown side by side at Chamber of Commerce luncheons, new business ribbon cuttings, and civic awards dinners.  I was up to the spring of 1957.  There they were again, the four of them holding shovels, feet poised on the blades, about to break ground on the new Pee Wee baseball field.  The four of them….

I went back and started again, just looking at the group pictures.  There were four of them.  Not every time, but almost.  Singer was always in the center.  It looked like the other three took turns standing beside him.  Captains of Industry.  Community Leaders.  Pillars, one and all.  “Don’t see any pictures of their late night club activities,” I muttered under my breath.   The captions all faithfully reported their civic fellowship.  It was Singer and McColley, Dan Austin (not Danny, “Dan”.  Good to see that his legs healed up all right.), and Terry Conroy.

Now that I had names, I watched for them as I flipped back and forth.  Conroy was a realtor.  It looked like Austin owned the gas stations in town.  Yeah, there he was, standing next to Singer, holding a ridiculously oversized pair of scissors, cutting the ribbon on his new, state of the art convenience store.  Austin was quoted in the article, touting the new store’s “one stop shopping convenience”.  Now the good citizen’s of Joshua’s Hollow could get gas, groceries, and diapers, all from the same store.  Wonder if they sold grass skirts and pineapple juice.

Working my way forward I hit 1958 and the night that McColley died.  The staff at the newspaper treated their boss’s passing with a quiet dignity.  You had to read between the lines to realize he had taken his own life. 

Danny Austin didn't get the same kid gloves. Five issues after McColley died Austin’s convenience store was back on the front page, this time with a color photo and a two column headline: “Local Businessman Slain.”   The picture was of the open front door of the store, and a pool of blood on the sidewalk.  According to the paper, a robber had walked in on Austin during a late night inventory.

Over the next few months there were other stories:  “Real Estate Office Closes”, and “Singer National Bank Sold”.  It looked like 1958 had produced a whole crop of bad news for the Hollow.   

I filed the newspapers back in the stacks and checked my watch. I headed for the front door.  Kelsey was on the desk and I threw her a quick wave. “Hey,” she said. “I’m supposed to tell you that there’s a party at the Morning Glory this evening.”

A party?  What’s up?”

Glory’s birthday.  Starts about seven. Ike said to tell everybody in town.  There’s been a note up at the register the last couple days, but I figured you hadn’t seen it… since you’ve been here.”

Yeah, I’ve been doing some more research,” I said.  “But, thanks.  I’ll be there. Glory’s about what, 50?”

Now, you know you aren’t supposed ask questions like that,” she grinned, “But Ike announced to everybody at breakfast that he was making four birthday cakes, just to hold all the candles!”

I said goodbye to Kelsey and trekked up the hill toward the sheriff’s office.   

If you want to know who’s been weeding the garden, you go see the gardener.

Up Next:  The Gardener's Tale





Book One of the Poison and Wine series by C.H. Valentino and Eldon Hughes.

    There's a battle underway in New Orleans. It's a game being played between the voodoo Barons Samedi and LaCroix.

    Danni Toussaint has a nail in her chest, the mark of her debt to The Baron Samedi. To repay him, she steals souls.

   Michael Belew works for the Sisters of New Orleans. Nuns in the 9th Ward are missing, and he suspects voodoo is the cause.  He's desperate.

    He drafts Danni to help find them. Now they are pawns in the Baron's game.

There is no winning the game. There's only survival. But even that could cost Michael his soul.

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