It was the evening following his last day at work when Morgan decided the time had finally come to crawl back into that dreadful hole and attempt to remove the remains. He had put a box of large garbage bags into the trunk of his car, and as he drove to the house in Richmond Hill he started to think about what he was going to do with them. What the hell had the old man expected him to do? Take them off somewhere and just throw them into a lake? Dig holes for them and give them some sad, pathetic semblance of a decent burial? No one who had known them would ever know where they had been laid to rest.
When he lifted up the rug and peered down into the darkness he could see nothing. He turned on the flashlight and made his way awkwardly down into that awful pit of death, and began lifting them out, one by one. Some of them were still somewhat heavy, despite being little more than skeletons, because a lot of them still had the old, rotting rags which had once been clothing, clinging along with the cobwebs to their ruined frames like some old, sorry reminders of their lost humanity. Dust and dirt puffed out all around him in clouds of blackness. He breathed in the putrid thickness and coughed, but was not deterred. He continued on with the horrid task which had been assigned to him. Out they came, some of them in pieces, broken, stretched out like old archeological finds from an ancient tomb. The empty eyeholes stared at him, the mouths gaping, seemingly wanting to cry out their forlorn lamentations from beyond the grave.
He had removed six of them when he first crawled up out of the hole. There they lay, splayed out on the floor in their ruined forms. Walking over to the dresser, he took all of the ID’s out of the drawer and started shuffling through them. He wondered which ones these six that he had lifted out were. The images of their faces were chilling as he looked through the photo-cards and then back down at the remains, thinking of who they had been and what they had become.
He took out the garbage bags and started to pack them inside. Then he went out to the car to put them in the trunk. Taking each bag individually, he had to make six trips. Just as he had packed the last of the six into the back, he saw a car coming toward the driveway and quickly closed the trunk. It was a black Oldsmobile, the headlights casting their dim, pale glow against the darkened road as it pulled up directly in front of the house. Morgan stepped away from the back of his car and watched the driver, a short, bald man who walked with a slight limp, come toward him.
“Good evening. You wouldn’t happen to know where I might find a gentleman by the name of Morgan Gallows, would you?”
“Hello, Mr. Gallows. It’s good to meet you. My name is Fred Emery. I was told that I might be able to find you here.”
Morgan looked at the man, unsure of what to expect, still nervous and slightly disoriented after being halted from working on the awful task which he had begun. He had not expected any visitors and the abrupt appearance of this man was unsettling.
“Who said that you could find me here?”
“Your sister, Madelyn. She told me that you were planning on doing some work on the house.”
Morgan nodded, wishing that this unwanted visitor would quickly get on with it and tell him what he wanted. Knowing that he had the remains of six of dead people packed away in garbage bags in the trunk of his car, only a few feet away from where this man was standing, made him jittery.
“What is it that I can help you with, Mr. Emery?”
“Well, first let me start by saying that I am very sorry about the loss of your father. My sincere condolences to you. I know how difficult that is. My Dad passed away fifteen years ago and I still miss him very much. He died on his birthday. What are the odds of that, eh? To leave the world on the exact same date which you came into it? Strange, very strange indeed.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Emery waved his hand dismissively. “Ah, well. He was in pain anyway, so it was a blessing. He lived to be ninety-seven, had a long and full life and definitely didn’t get cheated of anything.”
“So, Mr. Emery, I hate to be abrupt, but I am kind of busy with some renovations that I’ve been doing inside the house, so if you don’t mind my asking, what is it that brought you here?”
“Ah, yes. The house,” said Emery, looking up at it, “This is a nice place. A very good location. Quiet, peaceful, a nice neighborhood. I’ve always liked Richmond Hill. I assume that your father left it to you?”
“Yes,” said Morgan.
“My daughter and her husband live just five minutes away from here. It’s a really nice place to raise kids. They have two, a boy and a girl, born just a year apart…”
Morgan looked down at the ground, thinking about the garbage bags filled with human remains in the trunk of his car and wishing that this man would just disperse with the small talk and get to the point. Who was he and what did he want?
“Yes indeed. The early years: those are the most precious ones. And then the kids grow up, they become a part of the world, they leave home, go off to make something of themselves and then, over time, they sink into the routine of doing something. A routine, a ‘nine-to-five,’ if you will. But those early years, those childhood years, those are the most special for parents and for grandparents. Do you have any children of your own, Mr. Gallows?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Ah. Well, you’re still young yourself. You still have lots of life ahead of you.”
“You know, I’m really quite busy, Mr. Emery. So please, tell me, what is the reason for you coming here?”
“Of course, I’m sorry. I do have a tendency to ramble sometimes. I suppose I often don’t even realize that I’m doing it. I’m getting older, more forgetful, less…sharp than I used to be…” he said this last bit with an almost sarcastic tone and an intelligent glint flashed in his small, dark eyes.
“I’m retired now. I used to work as a private investigator. A long time ago, back in the seventies I was hired by a woman whose daughter had gone missing. She had gone to the police and they had investigated but didn’t have any leads. The girl had been known to hang out at seedy bars and often with rough crowds, so the police concluded that she had likely been abducted and killed after a night on the town. But her mother had also found out, to her dismay, that her daughter had been working as a prostitute as well. So anyway, one night this girl, Mary, just vanishes, never to be seen again. The cops said that they interviewed all of her friends and acquaintances, but couldn’t get anything. So I went to the bar which she was known to hang out at, the place where she frequently went to…offer her services. Anyway, a lot of the people knew her there. She was a regular. Most of the people who I talked to confirmed that she had been there on the night of her disappearance. One of the bartenders told me that he had seen her leave with a man who looked to be in his mid-thirties. For some reason, the bartender, who knew Mary quite well, had a bad feeling about the guy who she was leaving with, so he followed them outside and took down the license plate of the car that they both got into. I asked him if he had told the police about this, and he said that he had, but that they had checked the license plate and confirmed that the individual who the car was registered to had been working late that evening. They said that the bartender must have made a mistake. When I talked to the officer who had investigated, he said that he had talked to the man in question and was convinced, based upon the conversation with the man, that this particular individual had indeed been working late on that evening and had not been anywhere near that bar where the girl was last seen.”
Morgan felt a lump in his throat. He did not say anything, but simply looked at Emery, waiting patiently for him to continue.
“Do you have any idea who the car was registered to, Mr. Gallows?”
“Well, the license plate number that the bartender wrote down was from a car that, at that particular time, in 1970, was registered to your father. But this must have been a mistake, because, as I said, when the police spoke to your father he assured them that he had been working late that night, and being the highly respected man that he was, they naturally took his word for it. There had been a mistake, clearly.”
“Obviously,” Morgan said.
“Except…except, there is one other thing. Yes, one more pertinent detail. When I spoke to this bartender, the one who had taken down the plate information, he described the man who Mary had left with as having very similar physical features to those of your father. In fact, when I saw a photo of Walter, he fit the description perfectly. So why had the police not looked into this more thoroughly?, I wondered. I went back to them with the information, told them everything that the bartender had told me, but still, they assured me that they had cleared Walter Gallows as a suspect.”
“Mr. Emery, I don’t know why on earth you are coming to me now with something like this. It seems like you’re trying to make some sort of subtle allegation against my Dad. Now, I’ve been going through enough strife lately as a result of his passing. This has been a really difficult time for me and my siblings. To have you come here and attempt to make some sort of wild suggestion, or even hint at the possibility that my father, was involved in the disappearance of this girl is not only unappreciated, it is, quite frankly, outrageous and absurd.”
“I apologize. I didn’t come here to make any accusations. Nor did I intend to upset you in any way. I’m very sorry if I did. I just thought that you might be interested in hearing some of the things that I had been told about this situation. As for me, like I told you, I’m retired now. I was hired by Mrs. Shelton a long time ago, and to this day I feel like I let her down to a large extent. I mean, I did what I thought was as thorough an investigation as possible, I even personally looked into the possibility of your father’s involvement, but there was never anything substantial enough to tie him to Mary’s disappearance. I knew that he had purchased this house a short time before she went missing, and that he often came here on his own. I also knew that an awful lot of young girls, most of whom were involved in prostitution, had gone missing within the five year time frame of 1970-1975. Most of them had been from the downtown Toronto area. The police were convinced that they had a serial killer on their hands. They figured that at some point he would get sloppy, make a mistake. But he never did. He was extremely careful and cautious. So much so, that no identifiable remains were ever found. Which is also odd, since most serial killers want, at least in some way, some form of recognition for their ‘work’. They thrive on that because most of them are either narcissists, or individuals of extremely low self-esteem who want attention, who want recognition because it makes them feel important, it makes them seem powerful. This individual did not care about any recognition, he wanted pure anonymity.”
“And you know for sure that all of these missing women were murdered? How do you know that?”
“I don’t. It’s merely speculation. No one knows for sure what happened to them. People come and go as they please. It could have all been just purely coincidental. Girls who work as prostitutes often have addiction problems, mental illness. There could have been suicides, overdoses, or some of them might have wanted to just change their lives around, leaving the area to start over new someplace else. As I said, the police, at the time, suspected that a serial killer was likely at work, but they kept quiet about it, so very little was leaked to the press. But they never made any arrests. And here we are, all these years later. Most of those women have long since been forgotten. But Mary was one who stayed with me in my mind. Mrs. Shelton passed away a few years ago. The girl’s mother loved her very much and she went to her grave not knowing what happened to her daughter. Very sad, very unfortunate.”
“Yes. I’m very sorry about that, and it is very sad. But I really don’t see why you would come here to talk to me about this. I know nothing about this and my father had absolutely nothing to do with any of this. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get back to my work if you don’t mind.”
“Of course. I’m sorry to have bothered you, and my condolences for your loss.”
That being said, Morgan went back into the house. He waited a moment, then went into the living room and looked out the window to see Emery still standing there looking up at the house. Could he possibly think that Dad had hidden the remains somewhere in the house? Surely not. Although, despite his insistence that he had not come to make any accusations, he had made it clear that at one point in time he had suspected that Dad might have had something to do with that girl, Mary’s disappearance. And the others. He had mentioned all of the other women who had disappeared within the five year span that Dad had been committing his atrocious acts, as well. Did he suspect, still to this day, that Dad had been responsible? Why else would he have come here, realistically?
He continued to look out the window. After a short time Emery turned around, got into his black Oldsmobile and drove away. Morgan turned around and went back upstairs, feeling even more unsettled than when he had initially set out on this terrible mission to clean up the horrible mess which had been bestowed up him.
He went into the forbidden room and looked down into that awful black hole again.
He would have to bring the rest of them out of there. But there were already six in the trunk. They would need to be taken somewhere first. He still had not made any concrete plan as to what to do with them. He supposed that finding some isolated spot in the woods where he could dig a hole and bury them would be the simplest course of action. Or, perhaps burning them? No, there was too much of a risk in doing that. It could attract attention with the smoke and flames, even if it was done somewhere deep in the woods. He could not take that chance. It would be too risky.
Goddamnit! I should have just left them in there! It was his mess, and I shouldn’t have to be responsible for cleaning it up!!
Yet, for some reason he felt a sense of responsibility, despite his revulsion at the horrible acts committed by Walter Gallows. The man had still been his father and had always been good to him. He felt a sense of responsibility, even though he knew that he didn’t need to do this. He could have told Peter and Madelyn what Dad had told him. He could have gone to the police and told them about the bodies and about Dad’s admission. That would have been the easier way. But he had chosen the more difficult path. And there was no going back now. He would get them out of there, lay them to rest forever somewhere, and then try to move on and forget that this awful nightmare had ever happened.
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