“He’s a man way out there in the blue”
“Riding on a smile and a shoeshine”
A Salesperson’s job is a lonely and mostly thankless one. It is long nights and days that in the end go by in a blur. The product changes and so do the towns but at dawn you still find yourself staring out a hotel window trying to remember where you are and so it was with Ken Hardin.
Ken was driving along Highway 60. A two lane monotonous ribbon of asphalt that snaked between towns. It was a dark , cold, full mooned autumn night and he had made this particular trip more times then he chose to remember. Funny, he thought I pass different numbered road and destinations signs, but what did it matter the results were always the same.
The road was a living thing. How many people had it taken over the years from truck drivers to rock stars. It watched you as intently as you watched it. Waiting for a moment of inattention or for time to grind you down to become as the dust on your tires from countless dirt roads.
Ken nodded his head for a second or was it a second because time as quickly as it passes the outside window can seem to become non existent in the cocoon of your car.
A million miles of safe driving changed in a instant to the grinding of metal going through a guardrail and down into a ravine. He eventually regained consciousness. It could have been minutes or hours but the important thing was he was in one piece and at a quick glance, not hurt which is more than could be said for the car. He managed to get out and stand for a moment looking back at this twisted pile of wreckage. An ironic thought crossed his mind. He remembered when he had loved cars and the thrill of driving but that was in High School when the world was younger and so was he. To hell with cars he thought, a necessary evil now and one that pays the bills. At least I will live to fight another day.
He made his way slowly up the ravine to the highway. He thought about hitching a ride to the next populated area when he spotted a sign that read ‘Diner one half mile ahead”. He began to walk in its direction but in the time it took he saw no other vehicles in either direction or the usual sounds of the night. Probably normal he thought after all when was the last time he had walked anywhere especially in the middle of nowhere. He rounded a bend and there it was. The Diner, set back from the highway fronted by a gravel parking lot. Its garish lights shining out like a beacon in the night. It was one of those 50,s style retro places with neon signs, two-toned colored booths and swiveling stools at the counter. The letters N and R in the large Diner sign were flickering on and off and making that buzzing sound you hear from old neon. He entered and was met with a myriad of sights and sounds. Second hand smoke, stale beer, fried food and Elvis Presley blaring out Hound Dog from a Wurlitzer with bubbles running up each side. The crowded bar patrons turned to look at him for a moment and then went on with their business of drinking to forget their troubles. Ken walked up to the counter, took a seat and came face to face with a waitress dressed in a two-toned outfit to match the decor. She was painfully thin, had too much makeup on and a beehive hairdo which served as a pencil holder. She had a cigarette dangling from one side of her mouth and after giving Ken the once over pulled an order pad from her pocket . “What’ll ya have Hon” she asked in a bored voice. Coffee said Ken and a phone, I’ve had an accident down the road and I have to notify the police. You should have a beer she offered you don’t look so good. No, said Ken, I had better be sober when the police come.
We have a phone in back next to the washrooms she said pointing with her pencil but it doesn’t work. When will it be fixed asked Ken now seeing problems forming. Don’t know said Mabel. Mabel thought Ken reading the name embroidered on the uniform I probably could have guessed that. Can’t seem to remember when it stopped working she mumbled to no one in particular. Well, she said while I’m getting your coffee you should use the men’s room and clean up a little. Good idea said Ken and wound his way down the dimly lit side hallway.
It was like washrooms you could find in every small town in America except someone had broken the mirror. Come to think about it he had not seen a mirror since he had arrived. The urinal was on the wall in front of a small dirty window. He glanced out and was surprised to see a junkyard of wrecked cars and trucks from every decade. Strange he thought, no vehicles in the front and this mountain of metal in the back. What was this place doing filled with customers but no pick up trucks or rigs?.
He walked back to the counter and picked up his coffee. Three grizzled old truckers beckoned him to take a seat. Mabel tells us you had an accident up the road a spell said the man closest to him. No one hurt I hope. No said Ken no one hurt but I have to get to the next town and file a report. I’ll drive you myself said the old man. I’m going that way, my rigs out front he said jerking a thumb in that direction. Ken glanced past the man’s head to an empty parking lot but said nothing.
He excused himself and walked back up to the counter for a refill on his coffee. Mabel was hunched over a crossword puzzle deep in thought.”A ten letter word for the President” she muttered to herself and after a moment wrote in Eisenhower. Just as Ken was about to ask for his refill a voice from one of the booths asked for four beers. She dropped what she was doing filled the order and began to walk toward her thirsty customers. Ken watched her intently as she made her way across the room until she passed the glass front of the Juke Box. He gasped and almost fell off his stool. The vision in the glass was of a rotted corpse the cigarette still dangling from what was once her mouth but was now two rows of exposed teeth. Her hands were bones and small patches of parchment skin clung to her face, arms and legs. Once past the glass she became the waitress again and Ken told himself he was seeing things. Probably because of a head injury he thought. He quickly scanned the Diner for a mirror but there were none and then he remembered the washroom. He rushed down the hall and into the Men’s Room where he reached under the sink and retrieved the biggest shard of mirror he could find. A noise from the stall behind him notified him that he was not alone. a young man opened the door and came out. He looked normal but when Ken looked in the mirror at the man he saw a rubber band tied around his upper arm, a hypodermic needle dangling from his vein and dead eyes staring at him. Ken ran back out front. He took his seat once again on the stool and holding the mirror in one hand, angled it towards the table with the three truck drivers he had been sitting with and found them covered in blood. He rotated the surface 180 degrees around the room and saw that everyone there was in a different state of decay from skeletons to people who looked almost normal in this macabre saloon of horrors. He finally looked directly into the mirror and saw his face covered in blood. The din of noise in the room fell silent and in the mirror he saw they were all looking his way and getting up to walk toward him. When he glanced from the mirror to the tables they were all still seated as before so he looked in the mirror again. This time they were all closing in on him.
He dropped the mirror to the floor with a tinkling sound of glass breaking and ran from the Diner. He made his way back down the highway to the broken guardrail and stared down into the ravine. There was his car, the same wreck he had left, but not exactly, there was now something slumped over the steering wheel. The body of a man. He jumped back in fright trying to make sense of it all. He did not have a hitchhiker in the car and he certainly was not going to climb down to find out who it was. He would leave that to the police to figure out. He tried to walk back the way he was driving before the accident but after a hundred yards the pavement dropped off into a black abyss. He turned once more determined to walk past the Diner and if need be right to the next town. Eventually, he thought, someone would drive by and give him a lift. He rounded the bend for the second time that night and stopped to look at the Diner. It was in total darkness and as he got closer he could see that it was a dilapidated boarded up ruin. It must be a different place he thought. It’s the head injury, yes that’s it, the head injury. All of this is a bad dream. I’m lying in a hospital bed somewhere. If I just keep walking I will find someone or someplace where I can get help. Ken heard the murmur of many voices but after listening for a moment decided it was a trick of the wind and kept on walking. He was soon swallowed up by the mist. Behind the boarded up windows, lay a thick carpet of dust. Cobwebs hung from every corner of the interior and in front of the overturned tables and chairs stood the legion of the damned. They stared intently at him with dead eyes as he walked by.
He’ll be back said Mabel, they all come back she cackled. They all come back.
If you are ever driving alone at night and come across a lit Diner in the middle of a lonely highway stop in and have a coffee with Ken or maybe help Mabel with her crossword puzzle.
Ken has come to the end of his journey. To a Diner that never closes and patrons who welcome you with open arms.
By: JOHN STODDART
The summer of 1961 seemed to go on forever, and as August turned to September, I greeted the coming of the new month with mixed feelings. On one hand, the two month school holidays would be drawing to a close, on this the final long week-end, while on the other hand the event I had awaited all summer was about to unfold. The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, with its mile long midway was the stuff of dreams for a thirteen year old boy, with a pocket full of loose change. The money had been earned mowing enough lawns to fill a football field. What made this visit particularly special was that for the first time in my short life, I would not be required to accompany my family on their long wanderings through the exhibitor’s buildings. For one entire afternoon I was free to explore the wonders of the Midway, with its garish lights and multitudinous sights and smells. Free to experience the rides and stare wide-eyed at the dancing girls, gyrating rhythmically to the sound of blaring, tinny music, better suited to a snake charmer. As I strolled along on that hot Saturday afternoon my senses were assailed by my surroundings. The Big Bopper boomed from a speaker extolling the beauty of Chantilly Lace the sound mixing with the rising smell of fried foods and sawdust. Teenaged girls strolled by in skin tight pants clutching cotton candy that resembled brightly colored versions of their hairdos. Countless Barkers begged and cajoled passers-by to partake in the mysteries to be found on the opposite side of their tent flaps. At one particular stage, a large crowd had assembled. A small man was standing on a raised wooden platform. He had a microphone in one hand and a bamboo cane in the other. In a loud voice he was announcing the fact that a monster had been captured alive in the jungle of somewhere called Borneo. The tip of his cane danced across a picture of a hairy beast, poorly painted on a faded canvas backdrop. He went on to say how the wild man had feasted on human flesh, and had terrorized entire villages. He concluded his canned speech by saying that this creature could be viewed for twenty-five cents, the fourth part of a dollar. Before I knew what was happening I had been swept inside by the crowd and found myself part of a huddled mass of humanity, staring expectantly at a moth-eaten curtain that enclosed a tiny stage. The air was heavy with excitement and anticipation and the girls in the crowd clung fiercely to their boyfriend’s arms. In a few moments the miniscule master of ceremonies re-appeared complete with safari outfit, gun, whip and pith helmet. For theatrical effect he gripped the frayed edge of the curtain and quickly flung it aside to reveal a huge cage, which housed the chained beast. The face, looming up from the depths of the cage was hideous and the sight of it made the ladies scream and the men gasp in horror. An older lady standing next to be fainted and fell to the saw-dust floor with a thud, but hardly anyone noticed as all eyes were riveted to center stage. In a few moments we all seemed to come out of our self-induce shock and began to perceive the contents of the cage with something other than our imaginations. Wrapped in chains, in a sitting position was a young man in his early twenties, dressed in a ridiculously loose fitting fur costume. His face was horribly mutilated, and it looked as though some reconstructive surgery had begun. I will never forget those eyes, like a frightened animal caught in the glare of approaching headlights. I followed his gaze down to the lady lying prone on the ground and saw tears come into those haunted orbs. The barker’s sing-song voice broke our spell and in hushed reverent tones he told the story of a brave soldier, who while fighting for his country in Korea had had the misfortune to be caught in a bomb blast. He droned on about the numerous and costly surgeries the man would need and ended his speech with an obligatory, but not too sincere plea for donations. We were then hustled out of a side flap into a small alley intended to bring us back onto the midway. The small group was swallowed up by the passing throngs and was gone in an instant. I paused for a moment to regain my composure and walked to the back of the tent, to a place I supposed the cage to be. I called out to the person inside and was rewarded with an eager response. He was anxious to talk and we exchanged first names. I asked if it would cause him trouble to be talking with me like this, and he assured me the barker would be busy for twenty minutes selling the next show. He asked me about school and sports and told me about his love of baseball and his past dream about one day making it into the major leagues. He was particularly fascinated in how I had earned my spending money, because as he put it the thing he missed the most was to be out in the sun. It seemed he only went out at night with his face covered. We went on talking of girls, cars and music until we heard the tent begin to fill up with people, all the while separated by a few feet of ground and a thin wall of canvas. We said our goodbyes and as I was about to go I bent down long enough to shove the money remaining in my pocket under the flap. For a moment I didn’t hear a sound and then he asked me in a quivering voice why I had given up my day. I said “so in my small way I might help you to buy a little sunshine. I saw an impression of his hand form on the tent wall and I placed my hand against it and pressed. We touched like that for a moment and then I walked away to rejoin my family. My mother asked me how I had enjoyed all of the rides and I told her I had. I did not mention the incident or for that matter ever learn the fate of the man behind the curtain on that day so long ago. The day I paid to see the wild man in a cage. I had learned something more important, bars of steel cannot contain the human spirit.
THE SINS OF THE FATHER ARE TO BE LAID UPON THE CHILDREN
My name is Jack Evans and I am a thirty year old Investigative Reporter for the Chicago Tribune Newspaper. I am single with no current relationships and have been attending Psychotherapy Sessions twice a week now for years. It was just another Monday morning in the newsroom when an article on the wire jumped out at me. Townsend Mansion in Toronto to be named Heritage Site it read. Normally this would be a no brainer story given to a junior reporter but I grabbed it up and went to see my Editor. I would like to cover this I told him. No way, the story is below you he said without looking up from his desk. Fine I said then I’ll use my holidays and go myself. I could have told him that until the age of thirteen I lived up the street from this edifice and it was not only the cause of my moving but also my lengthy and mostly unsuccessful rehabilitation on a therapist’s couch.
The next morning I showered ,dressed, shaved and took a cab to O’Hare Airport for the one hour and forty minute flight to Pearson International in Toronto. I settled down in my seat next to an older lady who luckily for me slept all the way. At least, I thought I would not be subjected to photos of Grandchildren and besides I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. The Townsend Mansion was by 1961 the haunted house that every town or city seemed to have and the place every kid was afraid to walk by at night. I did not know it’s history on that fateful night long ago. the night that changed my life. It was at that time a run down boarded up reminder of a more elegant era.
How powerful peer pressure is I thought and the desire to belong to the in-crowd when you are thirteen. A gang of grade eight boys called the Rebels were the cool guys at school. On looking back it struck me as humorous what anyone at that tender age had to be rebellious of but I still wanted to be part of it. The group had initiation rites and in my case it meant entering the mansion at night armed only with a flashlight, climbing the stairs to the attic children’s nursery and shining the light out of the round stained glass window to prove to the group (who stood safely across the street) that I was there. It all sounded like a piece of cake in the glare of noonday and the safety of a crowd but that night my bravado went down with the setting sun.
I pried a board off the back basement window and began my slow climb to the top floor. I finally arrived at the upper landing with it’s long hallway that ran down to the double doors of the nursery. I pushed the doors open and entered a large room facing the front of the building. It was a giant playroom complete with rocking horse. books, toys and a small round table with four chairs. At the table, which was placed to one side of the room, were four child sized dolls in frilly dresses. The table was set for a tea party. I walked past and soon realized that the small stained glass window was about six feet above the floor. I shone my light around and found that there were boxes probably packed with books or old clothes. I pushed these to the front wall and stacked them one on top of the other until the tower reached just below the window. I scaled the makeshift ladder until I was able to shine my light out of the circle. With this accomplished I began down when I heard what sounded like the scraping of a chair on the wooden floorboards. I spun around and my light played all over the room finally coming to rest on the tea party. One of the chairs was pushed back a foot into the room and as I stared paralyzed with fear,the doll wearing a long blond wig of curls turned her head and looked up at me. Her face was deformed and hideous. A tiny dwarf with short arms and legs.Her eyes glowed red with hatred and from the folds of her party dress she withdrew a large butcher knife. I fell the last few feet to the floor twisting my ankle in the process and hobbled quickly past her to the door. I made it and was about five feet down the long hallway to the main staircase when I stopped to turn around and look. She rounded the doorframe and came crawling down the hall on all fours with the blade in her teeth like some hideous crab like creature. When she caught up to me she raised the blade above her head. She gave a demented scream and lunged for me. The blade came down and sliced open my right calf muscle. I managed to stand and move away from her as she tried to pry the blade out of the floorboards. My goal was to make the staircase. I looked up and at that minute the apparition of a large man came floating down the hallway. He yelled “Honour thy father daughter and turned to what was probably a bedroom door and went right through it. With the strength of adrenaline I stumbled down the stairs to a side window on the first floor and began to pry at a board. I looked back and she was halfway down the staircase scurring down. I fell through the small window opening and escaped.
The rest of that school year went badly. My grades fell. I began to have night terrors and was now wetting the bed. My parents made the decision to send me to live with my aunt in Chicago. The plane hit a pocket of air turbulence and shook me out of my reverie. I looked up from my aisle seat to see a cute little six year old skipping toward me on her return from the washroom at the front of the plane. She was singing a nursery rhyme as she skipped. “Three blind mice, three blind mice. see how they run, see how they run. They all ran after the farmer’s wife, she cut off their tails with a carving knife. You’ve never seen such a sight in your life, like three blind mice. She was now standing right next to me and she turned and grabbed my wrist. The smile drained from her face and she stared as if looking past me.In a demonic voice she said “If you go in there, she will cut off your tail with a carving knife”. In a second her youthful expression returned and she continued her skipping down the centre aisle. I was visibly shaken and stopped the stewardess with the serving cart for a couple of small bottles of scotch to settle my nerves. the plane landed without further incident and I took a cab to a hotel on the Airport Strip.
It looked just like the hundreds of other rooms I had stayed in while on assignment. In the morning I rented a car and drove downtown to the Heritage Society Office. I took a seat in the waiting room and a young receptionist said Miss Thomas will be right out. Miss Thomas I said out loud. Let me guess a spinster with horn rimmed glasses hanging from a chain, her hair in a bun, a Tweed suit and she smells of old books. “You just described my grandmother” came a voice from behind me “sorry to disappoint you”. She was a beautiful brunette with curves in all the right places. My face flushed red. My apologies Miss Thomas I said, you know us newspaper men, too jaded I guess. Don’t worry about it she laughed. I get it all the time and please call me Susan Mr. Evans. Only if you call me Jack I said. “Deal” she said. We went into her office and I took a seat. She looked me over carefully before speaking. You know Jack, just because I’m a glorified Librarian doesn’t mean I’m an idiot. You didn’t fly all the way up here to take a picture of me cutting a ribbon . No I answered honestly, It’s more complicated than that and I would rather exchange information over dinner in a quiet restaurant then over these musty books and charts. Would my apartment do instead she said? Your Editor said I could trust you she added. You shouldn’t always believe Editors I laughed. Shall we go? she said with a smile. We took my rented car across town and during the ride I told her of my experience in 1961. Quite a story she said when I was through but I can’t say I’m surprised. What do you mean I asked. I mean I for one am all for bulldozing the place and sowing the earth with salt and she added looking out the side window, When you hear my findings you might agree with me.
We got comfortable and she poured us each a drink.So, I said what duties does the head of the Heritage Society perform. Well, I am an expert on all Heritage Buildings and catalogue them with pictures and information. I also take writers and historians to the site.So you have keys to the Townsend Mansion? Yes and I have been there many times conducting tours. You see Jack I have been studying the Townsend Mansion for years now and what I have learned disturbs me. In what sense I asked. she stood up and walked to the window to look out on the city skyline. Do you believe in evil Jack. I mean pure evil, the kind that can soak into the nooks and crannies of stone, glass, marble and wood until the whole structure is a monument to everything that is monstrous. I believe that the Townsend Mansion still carries the evil stain of its former master.
I want you to think of Joshua Townsend as a two-sided coin. The face he showed to the world and the dark flip side he took to the grave. You were not the only person to be traumatized by that house. In the years since you’ve been gone four people have been found dead in there and many more went missing in the area. The Police investigations said that from the time it was boarded up transients and drifters lived there. They were all found dead and mostly devoured.
She picked up a thick folder from the coffee table, turned to the first page and began to read. Joshua Townsend, successful Business Man, Family Man, Deacon of the Church, Philanthropist and respected pillar of society.Married to Elizabeth Stratton and father of two daughters Faith and Hope. That is part of the speech I am supposed to recite. Now for what is not in the official records she went on. Owner of a small fleet of speedboats carrying rum and bathtub gin across the lake during prohibition. I found out from a friend at Police Headquarters that sometimes the authorities got lucky and intercepted his midnight runs and then the cases of whiskey and sometimes the crew went over the side. So I said, turning my glass around in my hand our respected pillar of society was a bootlegger and a murderer as well. That’s just the tip of the iceberg answered Susan. He held his bride captive in that house like a bird in a gilded cage. Why didn’t she leave him I asked? Divorce was socially taboo at the time and she would have become the scarlett woman. The daughters never married, although suiters were lined up around the block and after the death of their parents the girls were only glimpsed fleetingly by passers by dressed in black from head to toe. That seems strange that two beautiful eligible and rich socialites with their choice of suitors would not marry. I was able to locate a diary and it makes for powerful reading. Lets just say for now they hated men. What was the cause of death of the parents. Joshua’s file reads Heart Attack and Elizabeth’s reads Natural Causes but personally I don’t believe a word of it. Why would the authorities go to the bother of a cover up I asked? Townsend was a powerful man with powerful friends and no one, it seems, wanted a scandal. She picked up a layout of the house and grounds and unrolled it in front of me. This is the room I encountered the dwarf I pointed . Yes said Susan the Children’s Nursery. What are these two room here on the other end of the hallway? The daughter’s bedrooms she said. Just as I guessed, on that night I said when I saw the specter enter into one. What’s this building, behind the house I asked. That is the Family Mausoleum where they are all intered. I think we should go there tomorrow and see for ourselves. Are you up to it she said considering what happened to you? I’m not thirteen anymore and I think it’s time to climb back on the horse that threw me. Take the couch and stay here tonight she said, we leave first thing in the morning. One more thing I said before we get there I want to stop and buy two flashlights and a pry bar. I think they might come in handy.
We arrived at first light. Susan, I want to go into the Mausoleum to look at the bodies. It will tell us whether the Police Reports were doctored or not. Well she said looking a little nervous I’ll open the door and you can look all you want. We opened the iron gates at the front of the circular driveway. The Lions perched on each cement post with jaws opened looked as if to spring at any moment and devour us. We next walked around the large estate house to the Mausoleum and Susan inserted the key. The lock and iron door screamed in protest on its rusted hinges when I pulled it open. The room was dark and dank. Lined on both side walls were the vault doors containing the caskets. They were labeled in brass lettering with birth and death dates below. Joshuas was first. Beneath him was Elizabeth. Across on the opposite wall was Faith ,Hope and Charity. I turned to look at Susan who was half in and half out the front door. Who the hell is Charity? I could never find that out she said. Are the police reports accurate asked Susan? Well, there’s only one way to find out and I pried open Joshua’s Vault. I pulled the casket out of it’s hole in the wall and opened the lid. I turned to Susan who looked a little ill. Well, I said you can rule out Heart Attack for a start there are knife cuts on the ribs above the heart unless you consider a knife to the heart cause for a heart attack. I examined the wife and daughters coffins next with the same results.These people were all murdered I said.Lastly I opened Charity’s coffin. It was empty. If I had to guess Charity was the dwarf who attacked me. Didn’t society have a habit of hiding away deformed or mentally ill children in the past? Yes she said unfortunately for them. Susan suddenly threw her back against one wall. The blood had drained from her face. Jack she said are you sure Faith and Hope are in there? They’re here all right why do you ask I said? I went to her and she was shaking. What’s wrong I asked. Oh, nothing much she said jerking a thumb over her shoulder toward the back of the house. It’s just if they are there who are those two dressed in black looking down on us from the top floor bedroom window?
I pushed past her into the sunlight where I shaded my eyes and looked up. There they were glaring at us like the unwanted intruders we were. Their eyes were filled with hate. The wind blew through a crack in the window, The curtains rustled and in an instant they were gone from sight. Let’s get out of here said Susan this place gives me the creeps. I shut the Mausoleum Door and relocked it. I said to Susan “I wonder if our favourite Children’s Doll is still catering tea parties? Let’s go back to your apartment but first make a stop at Police Headquarters. I went in and spoke to a Desk Sergeant who directed me to the Detective who had worked on all four cases. I flashed my Press Card and said I wanted to see the files on the four cases. No way said the cop and besides that Chicago Press Card doesn’t cut any ice here. Fine I said I’ll just have to bring it up at the end of the week just before the ribbon cutting ceremony and I wonder what the public will say to your cover up. Hold on, hold on, he said and opened a filing cabinet looked inside for a moment and then threw an envelope of documents and photos on the desk. Here he said knock yourself out. You can’t prove a thing and now get the hell out of my office. I checked the file out at the front desk and got back into the car.
We drove back to Susan’s and spread everything out onto the Dining Room Table. Let’s read the police files . We read in silence for an an hour. Ok, who goes first I asked? Be my guest she answered. Well, for starters the four murders in the house were not done by transients. The M.O,s match in each case meaning they were all killed by the same hand. Is that it. she asked? No it gets worse. The bodies were mostly devoured as you said, Drained of blood and eaten. What the Hell were the police thinking when they held those bullshit Press Conferences. I don’t care how important Townsend was or how far the mayor’s head was up his ass. You don’t sit on information like this and put the area in mortal danger. Well if you’re done brace yourself because in Faith and Hope’s diary you mentioned when we first met that when you were a kid you saw the apparition of Joshua Townsend go into what we now know as one of the girl’s bedrooms. Yes, I remember. I said. Well he wasn’t going in there to tuck them into bed. His daughters were young ladies of marrying age and he was raping both of them. You mean along with his other sins we can add incest. I’m afraid so, but there’s more Faith became pregnant and then Townsend swore his family to secrecy to, as he put it “ save the family honor” Honor, the man doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Susan covered her face with both hands. I can see it all now. the Deacon of the Church going in their room at night giving them a fire and brimstone speech about Honoring thy father before attacking them.
The diary goes on to say that a doctor was brought in from another city to deliver the baby and was paid a large sum of money. On the night Faith went into labour Hope wrote that things quickly went wrong . In what way I asked? The baby was born deformed with short arms and legs. Due, no doubt to the fact that father and daughter were so close genetically. The doctor was paid enough to hold his tongue and was taken away. The girls hid the baby in the nursery and dressed in black.
I guess that;s why she was called Charity. Elizabeth took it hard and ranted about it being a punishment from God. The family shame was kept locked in the nursery growing up knowing no other world. What little sanity she may have had was lost one night when she probably heard her Grandfather sexually attacking Faith and Hope and she went on a murderous rampage killing the whole family. So, I was attacked by the bi-product of Townsend’s evil. Well I said we will return tomorrow night and put an end to what is going on in there. Our time is running out before the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Susan looked up at me with fear written on her face. In the moonlight she was beautiful and vulnerable. You know Susan I said I have only known you for a few days but from the first I was very attracted to you. I leaned forward to kiss her but she pulled away forcefully. Sorry Jack she said. I have trouble with relationships, it’s nothing personal. Don’t apologize I said let’s just chalk it up to too soon and too much wine. She went to her room and I took my place on her couch. The next day was spent in preparation for our quest for the truth. As the daylight turned to dusk we grabbed the keys and our flashlights and drove to the mansion. It was in total darkness and the air in the entrance hall was stale with a blanket of gloom hanging in the air. We heard the scurrying of feet from the floor above. Someone is upstairs I said turning my light to her face. Or rodents she said. Once the building is proclaimed a Heritage Site restorations will be made. We slowly made our way up the grand stairway finally reaching the top floor.Let’s check the daughter’s bedrooms I said especially the window we saw them standing in. Susan reluctantly guided me to Faith and Hope’s Room. That’s the window she said when we entered the room. I looked toward where she was pointing and saw two mannequins dressed in floor length black dresses standing there. Well I think that solves one mystery I said and as I turned to leave the room I heard a rolling noise on the floor and turned to see the mannequins raise their arms and start moving toward us. We stumbled out of the room and quickly locked the door.
Next we walked to the nursery still shaken from our last encounter. The room was much as I remembered it complete with tea setting and four dolls. I walked over to the table while Susan stood in the doorway. One by one I turned the dolls around to face me. Each was dressed in a frilly party dress and had faces of porcelain. I was just about to turn and tell Susan that we had come to a dead end when I heard a pattering from above. I swung my flashlight up to the corner where I had heard the noise and noticed a small round hole where wall met ceiling. Coming down in strands was a spider’s web constructed of rope. I walked over and gripped one of the strands and gave it a pull. I heard more movement above and shone my light on the hole. Two red eyes glared at me from the darkness. It started to crawl down. It was the deformed dwarf dressed in black on all fours with the knife in it’s mouth. It crawled down the web like a giant spider ready to pounce on a fly. My first instinct was to run but I thought not this time. You’re not dealing with a helpless thirteen year old now. In an instant she knocked me backwards and was on top of me. I heard Susan scream behind me. We wrestled on the floor. I could smell the foul odour of her breath on my face. I managed to wrench the knife away from her cutting my hand in the motion. I raised my arm and brought it down in an arc. It plunged into her back and I pushed her off of me. She lay still and a crimson circle of blood appeared on her back. I couldn’t take my eyes off her she looked like a giant Black Widow Spider. Susan came forward and helped me to me feet. She then bent down and pulled the knife from the monster on the floor. It was dripping with blood. She walked over to me and I put my arms around her and we hugged.
It’s over I said Susan. We have ended the curse of the Townsend Mansion. Not quite she whispered in my ear and with that she plunged the knife in my back and pulled it out. I staggered across the room and fell onto the children’s table. I stared up at her as she was coming for me. Why I asked? You see Jack my name is not Susan Thomas but Charity Townsend. Remember Jack,Joshua was raping Hope also. I am her daughter and it was my family duty to feed my sister. You killed her. You should have died that night when you were thirteen. She then raised her arm and stabbed me in the heart. As I lay dying she said with a maniacal look in her eyes
You see Jack, not all genetic defects are physical and blood is thicker than water.
John P. Stoddart