I Found A Knife

A Story site from EldonHughes

Chapter Four --
1956 -- The First Time

After Tatum left the Morning Glory, with his cryptic little farewell bouncing around in my head, I finished my coffee, paid the check, and headed for the library. I'm a freelance writer by trade. True, what I normally write is technical manuals and automotive history stuff; but I do know how to do research.

In 1956, Elvis recorded his first #1 hit, Heartbreak Hotel, Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway system Act into law, spawning two decades of construction and new development across America, and the McColley family was living in my house.

I learned that much, along with a hundred other pieces of trivia by climbing through the records and old newspapers at the local library. What I hadn't learned yet, was that those things were, oddly enough, connected to what happened on a dark night in 1956, and with the rusty tin box I'd found in my basement.

I beat Tatum to the Morning Glory the next morning. Glory had just taken my empty plate away when he arrived. I leaned back in my chair and tried to at least appear patient as Tatum worked his way through breakfast. Now, Ike doesn't fool around when it comes to breakfast; scrambled eggs, sausage, grits, and maple pecan waffles, with home made maple syrup and “enough butter to choke a goat,” as Glory said.

Point is? I was on my fourth cup of coffee, my nerves bouncing with over-caffeinated energy, by the time Tatum leaned back from his plate and started his story.

'Bout fifty years ago there was a newspaperman who lived in your house, fellah by the name of McColley, Lawrence McColley. McColley bought the house ten, eleven years earlier from a German butcher named Stroebel. Got a good deal on it, too. See, that was 1944, and Herr Stroebel was a little too public in his support of Mr. Hitler. Once the city fathers ran him out of town, McColley was able to buy the house pretty cheap.”

“Wait,” I said. “They just threw him out of town?”

“Well, they weren't heartless about it, if that's what you mean.” Tatum answered. “They hired a couple of guys and a truck, loaded all his furniture and shop equipment and such, and took it all to St. Louis. And, they bought Stroebel and his family tickets on the train. They were pretty neighborly, considering the times, and all. It's not like they just left them standing at the city limits, or had 'em shipped off to one of those internment camps.”

Tatum took a sip of his coffee and continued. “Anyways, that's not the story you paid for. McColley, his wife and daughter had been in the house for ten – twelve years by that April night in 1956. That winter was a hard one. And long? It snowed from Halloween 'til after Easter that year. Matter of fact, it was snowing the night Miss Madelyn died. She was Lawrence McColley's second wife. She wasn't Riley's mom.. that's the daughter..? She wasn't Riley's real mom, but she sure loved her like the girl was her own.

“Like I said, McColley was the publisher of the newspaper. It was called The Progress back then, too. It had been a daily paper, but it wasn't making any money. McColley turned it into a weekly, started delivering to people's houses in the afternoon, and turned it around. He put in a lot of long hours at the office, for a lot of years. 'Way the story goes, that's where he was the night Miss Madelyn died. Some folks said there was a prowler, some hobo or some such passing through town or waiting to hop a freight, and he broke into the place looking for something to eat. It was late and the lights were out. Maybe he figured they weren't home, or asleep. Miss Madelyn caught him in the kitchen and I guess it frightened both of them. There was a struggle and she fell down the steps to the basement. The basement steps were concrete slab, laid into the house's foundation.”

“They still are,” I said.

Tatum nodded and finished his coffee, placing the empty cup in the center of the table in front of him. “The doc said that the fall broke a couple different things, including her back. If it hadn't broken her neck, she'd probably never have walked again, if she lived at all. But the broken neck is what killed her.”

“So maybe the knife I found belonged to the prowler,” I suggested.

“Might have,” he said.

“And maybe the blood on the knife was hers... or his.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  Maybe it was the prowler's.   I don't know about the prowler. No one ever found him.”

“Well, that sucks,” I said. “So, what happened to McColley, and his daughter.”

“That's the really sad part. No one has seen her since then, either. Might be that the prowler kidnapped her when he ran.”

“How awful.”

“Yup. Old Lawrence never really recovered. A couple years later they found him dead in his study. They said he never got rid of that damn knife... Say he used it when he committed suicide.”

“Man....,” I said. “That is sad. And they never found the girl?”

“Not so far,” Tatum said. “But I doubt anyone's looking anymore. Not that they'd be able to recognize her after all this time, anyway.”

“I guess it was too much to hope for, for there to be some kind of happy ending to the story,” I said.

“Doesn't look too likely,” Tatum said.

The way he said struck me as strange. I told him so.

“Looks like the story's not over yet, doesn't it?” he answered. “Or did you forget? You found the knife. McColley didn't put it there, did he?”

Maybe the butter had crawled into my bloodstream and choked off my brain. “No,” I said, finally catching up. “He didn't. So who did? And why?”

“Well now.... that's another story, isn't it?” Tatum said, getting up. “See you tomorrow?”

Up Next: I Lost a Knife


 

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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--"Willie & Frank"

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I Found a Knife

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