The house of secrets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

As a single female with no family Sam decides to make a change in her life. She twirls around and puts a pin in random town in Nebraska. Ashworth a small quiet rural town was the winner. When she arrived there she was quickly drawn to an old stone house with stained glass windows. She felt it had secrets and it wanted her to know them. By strange coincidence she meets the owner of the home after being in a wreck in the middle of the night. She falls in love with him and learns the house in fact had its secrets.

Submitted: February 06, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 06, 2015



~~All packed! Everything important to me from the life I am leaving is now in the back of my car.I Spun around 3 times with my eyes closed and stuck a pin on the map. Why not? That is what they do on tv right?
Ashworth here I come .I shrugged my shoulder took one more look at what once was home and got into my gray Pontiac grand am. It really changes your perception on the importance of material things in life, when you can only have so much room to pack stuff. So the things I took were birth and death certificates, other important papers, clothing and essentials.
May sound cliché but I did watch my old life fade away in my rear view mirror. I was an only child and my parents were deceased. There was no true love that had me bound to this politically corrupt town. By political I mean it’s not what you know it is who you know that gets you to the top. Ashworth promised to be different, it was a town with one  traffic light and a small population.
Not  sure of how long it would take me to actually find a place to live and a job I had put back enough to last me a month living in a motel. After a month I had no idea what was gonna happen. It wasn’t hard to find a motel, there was only one in town. So I paid up a weeks worth of rent for my room. The staff were very nice and most of the time I just told them to skip my room.
I had started at 16 years old as a nurse aide working  at a nursing home. That experience came in handy. I nailed a job on my second day in town at the nursing home that was about 8 blocks from the motel. What a relief that was. About the time the money I had saved would run out I would get my first check. “yay me!”
It was a small facility only about 50 patients when it was at full capacity. I had 3 days of training and then I was on the floor. Now would began my hunt for a place to call home. I began asking around, with the town being so small rental houses went fast apparently.
I found a small one bedroom house about the same distance as the motel was .  It was early fall so unless it rained , snowed or was extremely cold I walked to work.  I usually walked the same path everyday. The foliage was just starting to turn on the trees the golds, maroons ,oranges and browns. There was a house I passed everyday. I didn’t notice it so much walking to work as I did from work. As you turn to go down the last street to my house there was a huge brown house made mostly of stone. At the end of the house was an entrance way. The door was very large ,  dark brown and weathered. Surrounding the very small window on the door was flourishing green ivy. The hinges were huge dark cast iron in the shape of spades, like on a deck of cards, same with the door handle. As I turn to walk down the street to my house  I could see the front of the house it had beautiful stained glass windows with light colors. It was as though the house was hiding the inside from the outside world. The stained glass showed flowers and birds in colors such as white, pale blue , greens and reds.
It wasn’t long until Ashworth started feeling like home. I loved my work. . I went through some kind of transformation when I put on my work uniform. It was like my superwoman outfit, it gave me power. Power to laugh, love and heal others. One of my favorite parts of my job was our patients. Our youngest resident was in her 50’s and our eldest was around 87. The eldest name was Leonie. She was feisty and flirty. She lived in Ashworth most of her life. No children and she had out lived her husband. I notice over the years the majority of the residents in nursing home were women. Women spend most of their life caring for others, their husbands, their children  and  then they end up here. Spouses die and children well these days have their own lives. Leonie had said that she had wanted children but that was not safe to have children in Ashworth.  I thought that to be an odd statement but I did not pry any further.
I rarely drove to work, I enjoyed seeing the houses in the community and imagining how each family or person lived. Culture does not just vary from town to town, it also varies house to house and person to person. That particular house with the stained glass windows gave me weird vibes like it had a secret that it desperately want to share.
Oddly I never seen anyone outside the house. There was an older model maroon jeep  Cherokee with the fake wood panels on the side. It seemed to be in really good condition. However, further back behind the jeep there was a tattered white sailboat . It had a cabin on it that you could go into, one of the pricier sail boats I am sure.  Among the white paint  was black dirt that had gathered over the years. I asked Leonie if she knew who the house belonged to but the question never seemed to get an answer.
I had been in town almost nine months I had made a few acquaintances at work but no real friends. It was lonely sometimes, occasionally I missed my hometown. Then I would get to thinking there really wasn’t anything there to miss. My parents were  deceased . Dad passed when I was 22 years old and mom died 2 years later. There definitely was no romance  to be left behind either.
Leonie and I would sometimes have a burger together on my paydays. She was hilarious. I often heard the saying growing up “out of the mouths of babes” weeelllll yeah our elderly are the same way. She would say what she thought when she thought it and it  didn’t matter who was around.
The weather was beginning to get colder and wetter. I began driving to work. It was almost time for new tires as the left front one was starting to show its wires. I am quiet the procrastinator and it gets me in trouble sometimes.
An early November  a large snow storm was forecasted and I was scheduled to work the whole time it was here. That was fine by me. I just used one of the empty rooms at work and camped out for 3 days. I was available 24/7, me and one other nurse were available so we did 12 hours shifts for that three days. By the time day 3 got here I was ready for my own bed. So when 1115 pm rolled around I was going home, if I had to drive 5 miles an hour .Walking to my car, looking at the snow was almost magical. The moon was shining down on the pristeen white snow. Places where it had not been touched  looked as though a fairy had been there throwing out gold glitter everywhere. I was mesmerized as I took in a few deep breaths of the fresh air.  I only lived a few blocks away. I turned my music on to help me relax while I was driving . It must have really relaxed me. I was driving and singing and then I remember seeing  a dog and hit my brakes.
The next thing I remember was waking up in a strange house, lying on a plush maroon sofa covered up with a afghan . I tried to set up but my whole body ached. I looked around and in a matching plush high back chair was a person sitting reading the newspaper.
“Hello” I said, waiting for a response and hopefully to see who was behind the newspaper. The person was a he. He lowered the paper just enough for me to see his face. He had dark hair and beautiful mysterious dark eyes. I swallowed hard, he smelled good too. 
“How did I get here?”
“You ran your car into a light pole and was unconscious” his  voice was soft and deep and well yeah sexy . “I am a doctor, so instead of risking both of our lives I brought you home where I could keep an eye on you. You  have quite the knot on your head. I reached up and felt the right side of my forehead and grimaced. So do you want breakfast or sleep? ”I should have by nature been nervous to be in a strangers house but it was the exact opposite I was quite comfortable.  I guess while I laid there thinking about it I dozed back off to sleep. When I awakened  I went into a panic, my mind was reeling. “Oh my gosh I am supposed to be at work, no wait what is today. “ I looked outside and it was nearly dark. I heard a  voice from behind me, “you are awake I see.”
“Uh yea what time is it,?”
“Nearly 5 in the evening, no worries I called the nursing home and they know about your situation”
“My situation? And how did you know where I worked?” now I was getting a little freaked out.
“Where is my car?”
“In my back yard.”
“Don’t be alarmed I see you a lot of the time walking to work and you are wearing scrubs, there is only one place in town to work that requires you wearing scrubs”
“I guess that would be a dead giveaway” we both chuckled. So I stayed and talked for awhile. The inside of the house was antiquish. All of the furniture ,carpets and curtains made you feel like you were thrown back in time to the late 1920 or early 1940’s.  Maroon was definitely the theme color for the living room. Most of the furniture was trimmed in a dark wood with small carvings in it. It was gorgeous.
I asked ,” how long have you lived here?”
“Since birth , I was born in 1955. My parents and family moved here in the 1920’s from New England. “Are you ready to go home? I will be glad to take you.  I work nights in an emergency room in a hospital about 20 minutes away. Things that you normally do during the day I do at night.” I am guessing he wasn’t up for being asked to many questions. He escorted me to his car ,here is my phone number if you need anything just call.  As we backed out of the drive way I realized I had been in the house of secrets.  I felt it wasn’t a good time to ask questions as he had already kind of cut me short with the other questions by changing the subject.
The auto insurance quickly looked at my car and wrote it off as totaled. While I waited for my check in the mail ,I got rides to work from my hero… Broderick. During our conversations we mainly stayed in the present. We were not yet at that level of friendship for me to be nosey. I enjoyed spending time with him so I wasn’t going to do anything to push him away. 
I realized that the person that owned the home I was obsessed with did have a life it was just at night. So anything we did it was late in the evening and into the night.
It was getting close to Christmas, not my favorite time of the year, all the commercialism was highly annoying. He said he could change that with no problem.  He too was an only child both parents were deceased from a car wreck in 1984. The only living relative he had was an aunt.  He invited me to spend Christmas with him and his aunt. I agreed, since I had absolutely  nothing else to do. Christmas morning came and I must have tried on a dozen dresses. Finally I found the right one. A nice simple A line dress , it was black with sequins on the top and chiffon on the bottom. I was so nervous about meeting his aunt. 
Then I had to decide hair up or hair down, ugh I could not decide. Broderick slipped into the room and walked up to me and unclamped my hair. “Down wear your hair down.” He pulled me to him and lightly kissed me on the cheek and then the neck. I backed away. I wanted to be close but I was so nervous. Okay down it is” I said. We got into the car and went to pick up his aunt. Imagine how confused I was when he pulled up the nursing home where I worked. He was such a gentleman he would open doors and pull back chairs.  He asked me to wait in the car and he would be right back he just had to sign her out. “Okay.” I was anxious to see which of my patients  he would be bringing to dinner.  As the door opened to the nursing home who did he bring out but my favorite patient, Leonie. I graciously got in the back seat so that Leonie could ride in the front.
The next town over was built on a lake, a huge lake. The resturaunt sat right on the lake. You could see various boats docked at the side and the bridge was beautifully lit. We visited forever and sipped on wine. I laughed, they laughed it was a beautiful evening. I almost hated to see the night come to an end. We had to get Leonie back by 9 pm. We loaded up and headed back to Ashworth to take her home. I assisted her and helped her get changed for bed and tucked her in. As I began to leave the room Leonie said “you look cute together you know” with that crooked smile she would give as though she was up to something. Though in her 80’s she still had the spirit and laughter of a young person. Leonie stood all of four foot 8 inches with all of her little facial wrinkles and long curly red hair , she was ever bit as feisty .
We didn’t get to ring in the New Year together, we were both caring for others. Though I felt we were still in the friendship phase of our relationship, I liked him I liked him A LOT!  I daydreamed about what we could have been doing.  I had volunteered to work that double though.
The next morning at work Leonie sent for me . “Sam you are spending a lot of time with Broderick.”
“Yes he is wonderful, after all he is your nephew.” I chuckled a little.
“Indeed he is my nephew but he has a dark side.”
 “Sam do you plan on being married or having children?”
“Maybe I am not sure.”
“Well if in fact you do this may not be the relationship for you to be in. Are you understanding me?”
“I am hearing you, but I thought you were excited for us to be together?”
“I was when I thought it was just a passing thing.” She wouldn’t give me any details other than having babies in this town harms other people.  I wondered how could such a blessed thing hurt anyone. I assured her I would keep her advise in mind.
I was kind of anxious to see what Valentine’s day may have in store for my. I felt we were getting closer Broderick and I. Such a sweet man , how could he have a dark side? We had been hanging out for about 7 months and had not went passed holding hands or kissing. He in his late 30’s and me in my late 20’s. Most people our ages would have made it to home base by now. But for me I am more than okay with taking our time. Especially after Leonie’s advice.
Spending more  time at his home and listening to Leonie convinced me even more that this gorgeous house was holding a secret. The home had high cathedral ceilings, the kitchen was pristeen white with gold fixtures. Just like out of a magazine. I had yet to visit the upstairs area. He said all that was up there was a storage room and his bedroom.
Finally the 14th of February came and we were both off work. Broderick asked if I was  busy. I calmly said “no” while on the inside I was squealing like a little girl. “Would you mind honoring me  with your presence?”
“Why sure kind sir,” smiling as I answered. “What lady wouldn’t want to be out with such a fine man as yourself and a doctor to boot.” He came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. I leaned my head back on his chest and let out a deep sigh. “Why the sigh?”
“I just feel safe and peaceful” he pulled me in closer.
“I will pick you up and 6 pm, be ready, a nice evening dress will work.”
Valentine’s day rolled around quickly. Since I was off I treated myself to a manicure and getting my hairstyled for the evening. It was soo relaxing. I was really  excited about tonite. The dress was a simple red dress with lace around the neck and shoulder and  then satin down to the hem . The stylist had pulled my hair back in little pieces at a time, it looked like a beautiful dark mane.
I had just finished my makeup when the doorbell rang. I slipped on my shoes and ran to the door. I stopped briefly to gather my composure. When I opened the door there stood a limo driver fully suited hat and all. “Madam your ride awaits you.”
Upon entering the back of the limo Broderick was waiting. He had a single red carnation upon his lapel. He took my hand and said”Mmm you are beautiful,” as he applied  my matching  corsage  to my wrist. In the center sat a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries.  They looked delightful, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate.
“Don’t worry it will not ruin your appetite. We are about an hour away from our destination.” He had an advantage on me, first of all it was dark and second I had not been this directions since I moved to Ashworth. Looking for street signs to see where we were going would have been pointless. The ride was quiet and  peaceful. We already discussed our work, home and parents. But well we had not discussed our futures together or apart.
My most important questions were about “the house with the secret.” How old was it , who did it originally belong to? “The house belonged to my grandparents and parents as did the funeral home located behind it.” I inherited both when my parents died in a car wreck in 1984. Aunt Leonie stayed and took care of the house while I was away at medical school. She oversaw the running of the funeral home as well.  My dad inherited it from my grandfather who built it around 1920. My father was also a doctor but my grandfather was not. I guess you could say my father and I have literally taken care of people from birth to death.  Now that’s enough history about my silly old house. Let’s work on the strawberries and wine.” He said with a wink and a cute side smile. He scooted closer and draped his arm over my shoulder.
“Pick your poison” he whispered  into my ear, and a chill went up my back. I felt like my heart was going to explode. I sighed deeply. “What if you are my poison?” Our lips locked into a long deep French kiss that gives you warm fuzzies all over.  Then we both sat back and cleared our throats. “Okay ummm white chocolate covered strawberry.” I flicked my tongue at the tip of the strawberry and slowly licked around it. I began to giggle like a teenage girl. I gave him a bite then we started on the wine. So far my valentines was incredible.
We finally got to our destination. It was an upscale steakhouse . Some of the food there would be 4 hours of my pay to pay for. The table was nicely set with a red table cloth, tiger roses and candles. I was speechless. All I could do was hug him and thank him.  “I am glad you like it.” He said. He pulled my chair out for me like a true gentleman. I truly felt like a princess.
On the way home I leaned up against him with my head lying on his shoulder. With all the wine in my system I started telling him my childhood dreams. “I wished that one day, one day I would meet a man that was tall, dark haired and handsome.” I giggled softly.
“Did you find him?” Broderick asked. I sat up and crawled into his lap. “Yes, shhh” I said as a placed my finger on his lips. He laughed, “don’t worry I will not hold you to anything you say or do tonight.” I went to sleep or well passed out  in his arms halfway home I guess cause when I awoke I was again lying on his maroon sofa. The sun was starting to come up as it shined through the stained glass windows. A note was lying on the coffee table.” I had to go to work for a couple of hours, make yourself at home, breakfast is on the kitchen counter.  I sat quietly on  the sofa staring at the flames in the fire place as though I was in a trance. What a wonderful night it had been. Who knew I would end up being this happy. I could walk home but I thought no from the sounds of the note he was expecting me to be there when he got back. So I went to the kitchen and sat at the small  white square table for two and ate my breakfast.
I had seen all of the rooms on the first floor of the house but not the upstairs. This would be a perfect time to snoop around the upstairs to see if there was anything strange. His bedroom was very clean. The color was blue , I kinda laughed to myself…. How manly. There was another door at the end of the hall. It was opened just a tad so I peeked in. There were all kinds of clothes from babies to grown men and women. There were hats, ties and stockings.  What in the world did he need all of those clothes for? Had he saved them over the years from his family, that would be odd. For fear I might get busted snooping, I stepped back into the hallway and left the door open just as I had found it. About the time I reached the bottom of the stairs Broderick came through the door. “Did you sleep well?”  “Like a baby .” I said. “But I have got to get going and get ready for work.”
“How about an early lunch first?”
“Okay but then I got to get straight home. I hate being late for work . I still have to wash my uniforms.”
By the time I got home I only had a couple of hours before my shift started. I hurriedly  washed my uniforms. Relaxed a little bit then off to work I went. It was kinda neat I  actually had a valentine story to share. The happiness was oozing from my every pore. I finally got a break and went and sat with Leonie. “My my ,she said someone is head over heels in love. Do I know him ?” she asked.
“Weeeelllll maybe.”
“Are you gonna tell me or am I gonna have to guess?”
“It’s Broderick “ I squealed sure she would be happy for us both.
“OH NO!” she exclaimed. I was completely confused. She sounded horrified. I was completely shocked. We just sat there in silence for the remainder of my visit. I apologized if I upset her and told her the relationship was not serious, hoping it would ease her mind. I went back to work and avoided her room the rest of my shift. When my shift was over I went back to her room to check on her. She apologized for her reaction. She said” it is none of my business , I am glad you are happy.I thought maybe you had already moved on from him,Just be careful.”
I decided at my and Brodericks next dinner date I would fish around a little about his aunt and my most favorite patient, Leonie. So I invited him to my place for a spaghetti dinner. He arrived about 30 minutes early with wine in hand of course. What good is a spaghetti dinner with no wine. He was dressed in a polo  shirt with the sexiest blue jeans I have ever seen. Mmmmm I thought look at that. He was looking fine.
I explained to him I was a little curious about Leonie. “What was her life like?” “Did she ever work outside the home?” “Was she ever married?”
“Wow, “ he said, you want to fill in all the gaps don’t ya?”
“She is my favorite patient you know and your aunt of course,” I shrugged my shoulders.
“Okay, Aunt Leonie is actually from up North in the New England states. She moved here with her husband Bill, my mom, dad and grandparents . Our family is actually from Germany. We migrated here to Nebraska  to build our own life on the frontier. Leonie helped take care of me and tended to things my mother preferred not to mess with. They were sisters but different as night and day. In 1939 Uncle Bill passed away from an illness. They said she took his death really hard. She had a bit of a nervous breakdown and when she got out of the hospital she moved in with mom and dad at the main house. I was born in 1955 and she pretty much became my caretaker. When I became old enough I began asking for a little brother or sister. My parents informed me that I would be an only child because they did not want to over populate Ashworth. Then as I had told you my parents died in a car wreck and Leonie became my only living relative. After mom and dad died I was ready to give up and walk away from everything but Aunt Leonie loved me and helped me through the hard times.  I was never gonna put her in a home but she insisted. As long as she got to choose where she went to live she was fine with it.  She felt a young man such as myself should have his privacy and that she was hindering my social life. “That was pretty enlightening but I still felt that was not all there was to tell.  None of that would explain her horrifying reaction when I told her it was Broderick that I was falling in love with.
For the next couple of weeks I was kind of  distant from Leonie. We spoke but I didn’t go into details or hang out with her on my breaks like I had been. One day she wheeled up to me in the hallway in her wheelchair and asked why I had been avoiding her?  She once again apologized for her reaction. She said you know “you can live with someone your whole life and never really know them.” A tear trickled down her cheek.  I wiped the tear away and told her I would take my time. As I began to walk away, she asked me. “ So breaktime tomorrow, can we visit?” I went back and hugged her and said “absolutely.” We both smiled. It was actually kind of a relief cause I had been missing my friend.
The next evening Broderick and I were hanging out on his back patio just making small talk. It was warm with a light breeze and we had both kicked our shoes off. You know I like history a lot. I ventured down to the genealogy society the other day. To see if there were any tales about Ashworth worth knowing. I didn’t find much but noticed the census had been about the same for the last 60 years or so. How does that happen when every other town around you is flourishing.  What keeps people away from this pleasant town.
“Really? I never noticed that , “ he said.  It appeared to me that he became a little anxious, readjusting his sitting position, getting up and pacing around the porch. “What is wrong ?” I asked. “I am starting to feel a bit ill maybe you should leave.” He said. I did as he asked and left. Why such a reaction if there is nothing to hide. It was a couple of days before he called me. He apologized for that night and asked if I would like to go to a movie with him. I was game  so we went out for a light dinner and a movie.  “I apologize if I asked too many questions the other night.” I just  thought it was interesting that’s all.
After the movie we returned back to his house and sat in the living room talking. “You know that is pretty interesting that you own the funeral home and you are a doctor.” I laughed do you do your own autopsies too. He just gave me a looklike are we gonna do this again with all the questions. So  I backed off but told him when he was up to it  I would love to see how things really work at a funeral home.
A week or so later he called and asked if I was up for the tour of the dead.  “Sure ,” so I headed out to his house. We walked into the funeral home and it was professional but cozy. With the death of my parents this part of the home was all too familiar. Small cozy rooms were where the body could be viewed by family and friends. Walking up the stairs to the right was an office where arrangements could be made. There was an eeriness of walking through a room full of empty caskets. He walked me through the cold storage of the body. The bodies in storage were cold, with a pale purplish tint. He showed me the equipment used for embalming. One machine pumped embalming fluid in while the other drained the blood out. The quietness of the room would make your neck hairs stand up. There is one more room to see. We also do cremations here. I was kind of surprised to see how that was handled. The body was placed into a cardboard box and then slid into a furnace. When it was done the ashes would be sifted through and then placed in a plastic bag.  It was indeed fascinating but not anything I would want to do on a daily basis.  He asked “ so you ready to come to work here?” I said “nope, no way jose!”  What happens after the embalming was almost a craft. The hair, the makeup concealing cuts and injuries. Still neat but “No thank you. I think I have had enough for now. I thanked him and headed out for work. After that I definitely did not have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. It made me think more of what happen when we lost  one of our patients. That was a lot to process. 
I sat at home  watching chick flicks . Nothing like getting a good cry  here and there. My mind started working. Does the house really have a secret or is my imagination in over drive. I thought about Leonie’s reaction when Broderick and I first got together. Broderick’s reaction when I started asking questions about family history. Who would be in a better position to control a town’s population. Owning a funeral home and being a doctor can almost put you in a position to play God. In order for a town’s population to be controlled for every person gained that must be a person lost.  The fear of Ashworth becoming a large heartless city could have possibly caused Broderick’s family to believe that this is something they should do.
I made a trip down to  the geneaolgy society  just to dig a little deeper into Ashworth’s past as well as Broderick’s family. Leonie and her family were on every census since the 1920’s. In 1940  the census showed a baby girl born to Leonie, she was 8 months old. However the 1940 census did not show her as married but showed her as widowed.  I began looking at the Ashworth Ledger, the local newspaper. They were very few and far between, though there was a regular paper in town not many were saved.  In December of 1939 the ledger showed that Bill had passed away. 
I asked Broderick about Leonie,” had she ever had any children?” He said she did not as far as he knew she was unable to have children.  She had the nervous breakdown after Uncle Bill died and was never with anyone else.
We were hanging out and I asked “will I ever get to see the upstairs of your house.” I was being flirty so he wouldn’t think of my questions as prying. “You know there are rooms I have yet to see….” I pulled him in closer and gave him a big wet kiss. He backed away, cleared his throat and said “well I guess we should change that.”
“Maybe we should.” I winked and smiled.  He grab my hand took me upstairs, straight to his bedroom.  He swung me around and laid me on his bed. Maybe this would be just an extra perk to the real reason I wanted to come up here.  I acted as though I had never seen his manly blue room. We then sat up on the bed. “Is this it? Just one room on this big upstairs area? I thought I seen another door just down the hall.” That is the room I was really interested in. 
“Oh that room? It’s just storage.”
“What does it store? Gold, top secrets ,are you a secret agent?” We both laughed.
“Well if you insist, come on I will show you?” we went into the hall and turned to the right. Maybe just maybe I am creating this secret of the house thing in my head, If he is this  willing to show me the room.
“This is the one part of the funeral home that is not in the funeral home, it is a clothes storage room. We use the clothes sometimes if there is no family or if the family is indigent.”
“Well that’s the big secret?” I asked.
“There is no secret.” He said.
He then grabbed me up in his arms and carries me to his bedroom. He sat me down on the bed, kissed me on the forehead and told me not to go anywhere. ”okay.” I thought oh  no he thinks I am ready to take it to the next level because of my being flirtatious. We had yet to hit that homerun. He came back and asked me to close my eyes.
“No peeking.” He said.
“Ugh okay.” I said sounding like a spoiled child.
“Now you can open them up.” There he was on one knee holding a beautiful diamond engagement ring. “We don’t have to do it right away, we can stay engaged as long as you need to. But I want to be your husband. Will you marry me?” Tears streaming down both of our faces. I said “YES DEFINITELY  YES!” we cuddled for the longest time. The rest of the world and all of our problems just seemed to melt away.
“You know I want to wait awhile longer before we get to home base, I just want to be sure.”
“Sure about what?”
“Well you know birth control is not a hundred percent.” I guess in the back of my mind I still wasn’t convinced there was not secret.
“That is something we need to talk about, but for tonight lets enjoy just being together. Then we will discuss this later, no rush.”
“Agreed,” so I reveled in my fairy tale for the rest of the night. We went out on the town.  We were like two teenagers ,even though we had been there we had not truly been there as a couple.
The next day I was back to work, showing off my beautiful gold ring with it start shaped diamond. The one person I wanted to show it to I was afraid to tell. It was hard I wanted to share my news with her. I also wanted to know her story.  I decided to ask Broderick if he could check her out  for a day, so I could spend some quality time with her. He had no problem with that. “She may not want to come.” He said.
“Well ever since she went into the home she seems to get anxious about coming back here.”
She did take him up on the offer though when she found out she and I were spending the day together.  I was excited to spend some time with her and get to know her better. Seeing her outside of work took down some of the boundaries that we had. We were sitting on the sofa facing the stained glass windows. “my husband helped make those you know?”
“They are absolutely gorgeous!” I told her. “You know I was drawn to this house long before I met Broderick. I purposely walked by it everyday on my way to work.” Its antique look and the stain glass windows all around make it looked as though it is hiding from the outside world?.”
“You see all of that?” Leonie asked.
“Yeeah  I said my mind gets carried away a little.” We both chuckled. She rested her hand on mine.  “Child this house does hold a secret. I see you are wearing an engagement ring it is time to share my secret.” Broderick was at work for the evening. Maybe she and I being outside of  work made her more comfortable  to share her secret. She asked me to take her upstairs. I looked at her in shock. She was wheelchair bound and she wanted me to take her upstairs? I guess she could tell I was kind of surprised. She kind of smirked and said “you do know there is an elevator right?”
“Uuuh ummm no I did not know that.” I kind of laughed
“You thought I was gonna have you drag me up the stairs in the wheelchair?” She started laughing. “You would have done that for me?”
“I would have tried.”
“Okay take me to the room just off from the kitchen.”
“The laundry room?” I asked
“Hon  that is no laundry room. “ So off we went to the kitchen.  We got on the elevator which I was sure would bring us to the storage room. When the door opened. It opened directly into another room. I thought I had pretty much seen the whole house but I apparently had not. We were in the attic.  Upon entering the attic you could see the trusses and ridge beams. There were old trunks and boxes. In the corner there was a huge roll top desk. Next to the desk was a bookshelf. There were no windows. The books appeared to look almost like the books at the geneolagy society. They were labeled “deaths”,”births” and then a different book named “newbies and leavers.” I got a huge knot in the pit of my stomach.  Leonie took a deep breath, put her head in her hands and began lightly sobbing.  I placed my hand on her shoulder. “You did have a daughter didn’t  you? I went to the geneaology society and went through the census. It showed in 1940 you had a daughter.”
“Yes, yes I did. So precious the most beautiful child you had ever seen. A blonde haired blue eyed German angel. You know you really don’t know how much you can love someone until you have a child.” She wheeled over to a dark corner cluttered with boxes and pulled out a small wooden cedar chest.  She held it in her lap . “You know, she says, the funeral home business has been passed down three generations. When we moved here from up north this town was peaceful. It had raw beauty, natural waterfalls and springs, trees for miles. We built this house on this very hill so we could wake up everyday and admire its beauty. Then we built a guest house so we could all live on the same property. Bill and I lived in the guest house, it was small but cozy.  Then people started moving here, cutting trees, taking away the peace and quiet. When we had our first census done the population of Ashworth was right at 2000 people give or take a few.  Broderick’s grandfather and father started throwing this phrase around, “ one birth, one death.” I never made the connection of their phrase and the fact that our population had quit growing.In fact it had started declining. Ashworth was like a utopia and they did not want that to change. If someone new came into town they observed them for awhile.  They would write them down in this book here. They were called newbies. If they were trouble it wasn’t long and they would be gone.  They would usually leave town due to harassment. If they were good people then our elders who had been in- capacitated would  be the ones that were dying off. Act of nature I thought.  I was so clueless. In 1939 Bill and I had our baby girl, Inga. Briefly after her birth Bill became sick. Since we had a doctor in the family, Broderick’s father, we took care of him at home.  I had to go out and get some food and stuff for the house. So Broderick’s father and grandfather agree to sit with him until I returned.  I guess they thought it would take me longer than it did. They were sitting at Bill’s bedside when I came in the door. I guess they were so involved in what they were doing they did not notice that I was back. I thought they were praying over him, seeing as we were God fearing people. I didn’t want to disrupt them so I stood quietly at the edge of the doorway. Broderick’s father grabbed Bills arm, he said to him “ You know you aren’t going to get any better? “ As he pulled Bill’s arm down toward him. “With our population being out of control, if you want your daughter to live then you must sacrifice yourself. It will make it even one birth, one death. “It was stone silent for a moment and Bill took his last breath. Broderick’s father turned toward me, in his hand was a large syringe filled with I don’t know what.  I stepped from behind the door facing and screamed “No” and fell to the floor. I was in shock, for weeks I walked around like I was in a trance. The only thing I did do was take care of Inga. I had nothing to say to anyone.  It was explained to me by Broderick’s father and my sister, my own sister, that it was a necessary sacrifice. Bill was very sick anyway and he was the obvious choice. I thought I knew my sister better than that. I never thought that she could be a part of taking someone else’s life.  I couldn’t do anything about what they had done. They had the the papers that said his death was from his illness. I could not argue , they were pillars of the community. People would say I was crazy with grief and not believe me.  They said it was a way to keep our town in control with population control. I screamed at them,” IN CONTROL, WHAT WAS BILL DOING TO CAUSE YOUR PRECIOUS TOWN TO BE OUT OF CONTROL?” I told them to leave and get out of my house, even my sister. She still came to check on me and Inga a couple of times a day. I said very little to her.  She continued to try to rationalize the actions of her husband to me.”
Leonie then opened up the little box she had been holding. In it was one picture and a little pink soft knitted dress and pair of booties. She picked up the little dress and pressed it up to her face and smelled it as though it was the most fragrant of all flowers.  “These were Inga’s, this is all I have left of her.”  Inga had just started toddling around. She was outside with me washing clothes. I only took my eyes off of her for a moment. I turned around and she was a gone.” Tears began flowing from Leonie’s eyes.  I began searching and screaming as loud as I could for help.  My sister, Sallye , heard me and ran to the guest house to check on me.“ I CAN’T FIND HER, I CAN’T FIND HER” I said over and over.  Sallye heard a faint cry  and followed it. Inga had fallen down into the water well. You could hear her gurgling and crying all at the same time. I ran to the well calling her name, praying this was not happening. The crying and gurgling stopped.  We shined a light down into the well, she was so far away she looked like a doll floating. I spent the next 2 years in a state psychiatric facility. Sallye said they had to put me in the hospital cause I was willing myself to die. Why wouldn’t I want to die? Everything I had was gone.” I had quit eating, bathing, I would wear the same clothes for days she said. She said  she would come to see me and  when I would hear the door open, I would call out for Bill.  So they had to put me in the hospital. When I returned home from the hospital I moved into the main house. In 1955 Broderick was born and I became almost like a surrogate mother to him. I helped him with school, chores, we always had a good time. Once I returned home I thought it would be best if I never mentioned Bill or Inga again for fear I would be ousted by my own family. So I have kept it to myself all of these years. When he lost his parents in 1984, he and I were pretty much all that was left in the family. That kinda happens when you restrict the number of children a family can have. I took care of the house and the funeral home until he graduated. When he returned home, I felt he wasn’t  living life to its fullest . It seemed having me around was limiting his social life. I thought if I went and stayed in a home he would be better off . Maybe the distance between me and this house would help push the secret away even further. Being in a home isn’t so bad. There are plenty of cuties there.” She chuckled. “But there is no one like my Bill. Six foot tall, not to slender not to chunky. He had beautiful blue eyes and dark hair.” She sighed and then kind of smiled as though she had just had a beautiful dream.
As far as Broderick, I am not sure if he has been keeping up the family tradition of controlling the population. That is the dark side I was speaking of. The populationsince the passing of his father has remained about 2000, just as they wanted it. “I don’t understand how they choose who lives or dies.” I said.
“They keep copies of the census in this book, it was a brown spiral leather book. Then of course the birth and death books. They were bound more like huge novels. It is reviewed and kept up with daily. Reading the local paper it has obituaries and birth announcements. In the Sunday paper there is a section that welcomes new people to the community. This book here is titled the newbies and leavers. With every new addition to the community it would be recorded in the appropriate book. Then they would wait about 7 days to see if the gain and loss would balance out by the course of nature. If it did not then some poor soul would  began getting harassed so they would leave. Worse yet they will look at those who are sick, who had no family that cared or that were close by. When someone who met that criteria was in the hospital and Broderick’s father was their physician. Orders would be written for medications that he knew could interact and create the perfect death without evidence. It could be to much narcotics, too much potassium it varied depending on the illness.  As far as the harassment part of the plan, if that person or their family did anything slight against the law they were ticketed. If they went for loans to start a new business then they were shot down. The goal being they will finally get discouraged and leave Ashworth.
A chill ran up my back. So if I have been here a little over a year whose place did I take? How were they sacrificed? What if I want to have a child, who will be sacrificed then? My mind was reeling. I think Leonie could tell I was overwhelmed with the information. She asked that we go back down stairs.  We sat in the living room quietly for awhile drinking tea. The only way I would know is to check the books. For now I would let it be. Enjoy the rest of the evening with my friend. She had always been pleasant with me. Now she was happy, happy, happy.
We laughed and talked like two teenage girls having a sleepover. It was like a load had been lifted off her shoulders. Her only request was not to share what I had learned with Broderick.
It was getting near dark, so we got her stuff together and I took her back to the home. When I got back to my place I sat andthought how crazy and bizarre this all sounded. But the proof was there Leonie wasn’t making things up nor was she crazy.
We had been engaged a few months I was starting to the urge to tie the knot and start a family. So it was time for some detective work. Did I cost someone their life or did someone just happen to leave when I moved up here. I was most certainly hoping for the latter. I pretty much had free reign in his house these days. So while he was at work I went up to the attic to look in the books. I needed to find the date that I had moved up here. I would look 7 days ahead and 7 days behind.  The week of August 29 1995. I grabbed up the dusty book of newbies and leavers first. If there was indeed a cost I hope it was someone leaving alive.  I searched and searched the area in the book that would contain those dates. I couldn’t find anything. There was no information that I could find for that week, I got a knot in my stomach I could feel the nausea increasing with every minute that passed. If there were no leavers then someone died for me to be here.  I was shaking. I had to stop and pull myself together. I was so nervous  I knocked the book in the floor. I looked at my watch. Broderick would be home any minute. I would not have my answer tonight. I put everything back where I had found it and hurried to the elevator .I turned on the tv and stretched out on the sofa as though I had been there for hours. Broderick came strolling in  the door “what a nice surprise,” he said,” to come home to the woman I love.”  We had dinner at a local café and then I went home. I was not good company. I did not sleep well at all thinking I caused someone to lose a loved one. A brother, sister, mother or father, a senseless death. The criteria used to decide who lived or died was not black or white it was gray all gray. What if they had family, just not here. What if they wer estranged and their death took away any chance of a reconciliation or closure. I could only pray that Broderick had not been keeping  up the family tradition. I love him so much but I couldn’t live with a murderer.
Broderick would be going to a conference next week. I would let things go until then and I would have more time to search through the books.  I stayed at his home more and more, even had my own key. This so felt like he was the one. First I had to have answers. In the morning Broderick would leave for his medical conference. I would resume my investigating then.
I ran by his house the next morning on the way  to work to get by good bye hugs and kisses. He always smelled so good, I loved placing my head on his chest or shoulders and just smell him. “You of course are welcome to anything in the house while I am gone. Just no wild parties. “ He chuckled.
Darn that means I have to call all my friends and cancel” we laughed  at our own silliness . I walked with him to my car, his strong warm hand slipped into mine.
“Let me drop you off at work.” He asked
“Okay.”  I was coming back to his house after work anyway and the weather was fairly nice at around 54 degrees. Sometimes it is as though we cannot get enough of each other. It was a pretty routine day at work for a Tuesday. Baths given, meals served, and Bingo played. One of my co-workers once said Bingo was like Crack for our elderly patients. If you have to cancel an activity Bingo had better not be it. If you say you have to move it to another time you had better keep your word. They looooove their bingo.  I couldn’t wait to get off and go to his house.  The conference is 3 days. That should be plenty of time for me to get my answers.  I got to the house and changed into a t-shirt and sweats. Yes I have clothes at his house. Got me a glass of wine and off to the attic I went.
It took me a bit to relocate the books, which told me someone besides me had been up here. I found the newby/ leavers book. I was going to go through it one more time. I so badly wanted my answer to be in here and not in the death book. When I did find it , it fell open to the week I had moved up here. My anxiety and fear of getting caught must have kept me from finding it. Approximately 3 days after my arrival to Ashworth  it showed that an older man had moved out of state to go live with his son.  What a relief. Out of curiosity I still wanted to look at the death book. There were no deaths for that time period. 
The next talk I would have with Broderick would be , are we going to have children. Even if we weren’t  we still have a secret to deal with, marriage is based on love and honesty. Finally Friday came.Broderick would be home this evening. I have missed him a lot, a lot. I will love on him, wait on him hand and foot. I fixed meatloaf, mashed  taters and gravy ,and dinner rolls. For dessert we had a red velvet cake. I had a bad sweet tooth, if I had my choice I would always start with dessert. Finally I heard the key turn in the door. I ran to him then and wrapped my arms around him, so tight he kind of grunted. I took his hand a lead him to our candle lit dinner. He just smiled and hugged me. I missed you too he said. He is always so appreciative of things.  Can’t imagine him keeping up the family tradition. However someone else had been in the attic moving stuff around.  The next week would be intense but it had to be done. Day after day I would play different scenario’s  in my head of what his reaction would be. Would he be understanding of my curiosity? Will he be angry at Leonie for telling me about the attic. That is the only way I would know about the elevator because he had never showed me.
I feel I know him farely well we have been together for months. Like Leonie said you can know someone forever and still not really know them.  After supper we watched a movie, one of my favorite, “Patch Adams.” We cuddled on the sofa. I told him I was so glad my sweetie was home. I think it is time for our conversation. I truly wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He smiled and agreed it was time to clear the air of anything we had been holding  back. He said he would tell me whatever I wanted to know. He seemed so willing, as though he had nothing to hide.  I guess this will make us or break us.  We let things go for the rest of the night.
Early the next morning, I was still in my flannel pj’s  lying in bed. I heard the door open and Broderick called out my name.
“Where are ya sam?”
“I am still in bed.”
He sat up my food up on my over bed table, it was delish Yummy bacon, eggs and toast. We cuddled for a bit and then he asked me “Okay what questions do you have for me?” Though we are doing this to clear the air I was fixing to start out  with a lie. “ I was going to do laundry at your house while you were gone, I went to what I thought was your laundry room and found an elevator looking thing instead. What does it go to?” He paused as though he had to figure out how he was going to answer this question.  “It just goes to the upstairs of the house that is all. “
“Will you show me where it goes?”
“I can.”
Next question is do you want children?
“Maybe one  but having children is not a priority for me. It would have to be a mutual agreement.”
“What if our birth control fails?”
“We will deal with it then.” I got a knot in my stomach maybe I needed to go a different direction with asking questions. Have you ever been down to the genealogy society?”
“Can’t say as I have.”
“I noticed something pretty amazing. Ashworth has had around the same number of population every census for the last 60 years. “
“That is pretty weird .” was all he had to say.
I got up and got dressed and said “Let’s go.”
“Go where?”
“I want to see how this elevator works.”
“Right now?”
“I do have to work later you know”
Reluctantly we headed over to his house. This should be interesting. We got over to the house. He said I want to be honest about something in my families past, I am not proud of it .I began  tapping my foot in the air while sitting with  my legs crossed on the sofa. “I will tell you when we get upstairs. I am worried of how you will take this but we do need start out our lives on honesty.”
“It cannot be that bad.” I said.
“This elevator actually leads up to the attic. “ All of the sudden I felt I did not know him at all. Fear set in, I was sweating, clenching my fist. Praying that this was not going to be a scene out of a horror movie where I get killed up in the attic and no one ever knows. “
“The only reason I can really share this with you is because all of the people who were involved in this are now deceased.” Okay that was somewhat comforting, if all involved are now deceased theeen he is not involved. Right?
We got on the elevator and rode to the attic. The door slid open slowly and we stepped into the dark eerie room.  He walked over to the desk and pulled the chain on the light above the roll top desk. There laid the books, births, deaths, newby and leavers. That wasn’t the first thing that he showed me though. He sat down at the desk in a high back straight wood chair. He took a long deep breath. My grandfather and father loved this little town. They were always involved in the community. At one point our population started growing pretty fast. If you attended city meetings you would hear them talk about everything that destroys a small town. Opening business would mean cutting trees and destroying the scenery to  replace it with cold gray concrete. Crime rate would go up. Our town was a nice simple place to live. My father and grandfather could not stand the idea of it being destroyed. They became obsessed with not letting these things happen.  The only the way they could see to prevent it was to control the population.  Considering we owned the funeral home and Dad was a doctor, they began to take it upon themselves to keep track of the dying, births and who moved into town and who moved out.  Their goal was to some how keep the population around 2000. So their initial goal was how to get it down from the 2030 that it was at back to the 2000 give or take a few.
They had some input with the local law, if there was someone in the community that favored the increase in building and industrial ideas. They would be targeted. They or anyone in their household would be harassed for the smallest infraction until they were so miserable they would leave. They were ticketed for jay walking, walking on grass, not driving in the right lane, it didn’t matter if they could be ticketed they were. Within 6 months that year  4 families had left Ashworth. With that alone population dropped by 14. He finally reached over to the books that had been taunting me since we had walked in the room. He showed me the newbies and leavers book. He turned to the front of the book, no one had moved in for the first month they had kept records but the 4 families had left.  After 6 months the population was at 2004. They decided to take it a step further and if there were very ill people in our population who had little or no family here they would  write orders at the hospital or nursing home  to give them certain medications that when they interacted would be fatal for that patient. Cause of death was generally a heart attack or and embolism. Heart attack can be caused by excess potassium and the embolism could be caused by a large injection of air straight into the vein .No need to worry about hiding anything because my grandfather ran the funeral home.Not only did this control population it also controlled a drain on the community financially. This information was kept in the Death book. If there was a birth it was recorded in this book.  As long as they were alive they controlled the population. I really had no idea until I started medical school. I was in complete shock that this had been going on my entire life and I had no clue. My father said he felt I needed to know so when the time came I could carry on the duty.  Then when they passed away in 1984 I thought about it a lot. In fact I am not so sure that my wanting to quit medical school was partly cause I wanted to help people live, not die. I kept up the books but could not bring myself to end anothers life. With me just losing my parents I could  not imagine taking someone else’s loved one from them.  Even knowing what they had done I still loved them and missed them so much.
I was so relieved to hear him say that. If the population remained low it wasn’t because of anything other than nature taking its course. Now is that all the secrets?” I asked.  No secrets about Leonie? He sat for a bit in silence as though he was mulling over things in his mind. If in fact he did not know Leonie’s secret it wasn’t up to me to share her pain.
Broderick said “,I am not sure that she knew of the things that happened in relation to the population. “ He  thought her nervous breakdown was from the loss of her husband Bill. He truly had no idea of her real story. “Do you have any secrets?” he asked.
“None that belong to me.” I told him. He arched his right eyebrow .
The next day at work on my regular break with the Leonie, I told her about Broderick’s confession. I also told her that he had no idea she had a child. He had thought her nervous breakdown had came strictly from the loss of Bill. You know the murdering of innocent people is one reason I do not care to stay in that house. I left as soon as I was able once Broderick graduated med school. The other reason of course is Bill and Inga.  “Do you think he should know about Inga?” I asked.
“I don’t know what purpose it would serve. Those who were involved are no longer here. If he is truly not carrying on the tradition.  There is no purpose.” Since it was her business I agreed with her and let it be.
We finally set a date, March 3rd. Springtime when things are being renewed and new growth. It would be a good time. If it isn’t raining then it would be good. That gave us two months to plan. It would be a few people we worked with and Leonie. I wanted Leonie to have a special role in our wedding. I asked her to be my matron of honor.
“Yea,” she said “this old wheelchair will look really good amongst all of the fanciness.” She laughed.
“All you have to do is agree, I will take care of the rest.” Generalized weakness had put Leonie in the wheelchair just to keep her from falling.”  She agreed and now it was time to fancy up her ride. We started by getting her an electric wheelchair. Thank goodness the wedding party was gonna be small cause there was plenty to do. Had to get a chapel, dresses and  flowers.  I had two of my most creative coworkers decorate Leonie’s new wheelchair. She will be sooo excited we can both be queens for a day.
I guess trusting anyone a hundred percent could be a mistake. I would wonder up to the attic and check the books. Yes he was still keeping the hedious things up. Why? Our wedding date was less than a week away. All the details were taken care of. Now I just and to sit and wait like a kid waiting for a huge birthday party. While my mouth was watering and waiting for that special kiss my mind continued to stray upstairs.
The week flew by the wonderous day was here.  A mutual friend of ours would walk me down the aisle behind Leonie and her carriage. All the laughter, all the tears what a beautiful day it was.
We honeymooned for a week in Germany. It was magical stone houses, green grass hills rolling one on top of the other. There were short fences made of nothing but rocks that seemed to fit perfectly into place around the homes. When our last day came and it was time to go home.  I stood outside of our inn and just soaked in the scenery so it would be forever in my mind. When we arrived home it was time for the big move. Me into the house of secrets with Broderick.The house itself was beautiful the ugliness was in those  books that  I would like to disappear.  The more I have learned about that part of the family history the bigger the knot gets in my stomach. It is as though evil is lurking awaiting a weak moment to get Broderick  into  its clutches. I don’t know why I feel so drawn to the attic. I check the books daily to see if they were being kept.
We had been married six months .It had been blissful. People often say things change after you get married, you quit trying to please one another. Eventually the newness wears off. That had not happened for us.  I asked him how did he feel about the pitter patter of little feet around the house.
“I just might be ready,” he said. ”You know you don’t have to work, you can stay home.” I loved the idea of being there for all of our baby’s milestones. So many times these days women have to choose between work and missing  time with their child. 
“Do you not like me working?’
“It doesn’t bother me I know you have a passion

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