The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter Four

Jones didn’t miss a beat when he looked at Walt and said “that’s easy.  I’ll take my crowbar up there, pry them open and see if any of those skeletons are wearing jewelry.”

Walt looked at him and said “you’re my kind of guy.”  Jones knew that Walt was pulling his leg but he couldn’t help but wonder what he would do if there were caskets in the attic.  After all, it could have been a possibility, given the history of the house.

He decided to do some research about the grand lady.  He wanted to know more than “she was built by signers of the cessation from the Union and used to be a funeral parlor.”  He had it in mind that there was more to her than he knew, or had been told.

He was seeing that strange light in the middle window more often and let his imagination run a bit wild.  Perhaps it was a spurned lover, looking for revenge in the place between now and the hereafter, or maybe it was a poor soul who was taken before their time and can’t quite let go.

What he needed was to find some “old-timers,” who had lived in the small town, all or most of their lives.  There weren’t many.  Younger folks were buying up the old mansions on the block.  They had new money and were beginning their own new history.

He decided to ask Mel, who described everybody as a “good ole boy.”  Surely he would know some kind of good ole boy who was old enough to remember the past.  Much to Jones’ delight, he did.

“You’ll want to go down yonder a bit, to the last house on the right,” Mel said.  “I think that ole boy is still alive…at least he was the last time I heard him mentioned.  He can probably tell you a little bit, and he may have some good stories.  His name is Hiram Meaders.”

Jones took the short trip down the street and rang the doorbell.  When no one answered, he rapped on the door.  Just as he was about to walk away, he heard a voice call “just a darned minute.  I ain’t no spring chicken, ya know.”

Jones was met by a toothless, jovial face, which he could only assume belonged to Hiram Meaders.

“Hello.  Might you be Mr. Meaders?” Jones asked.

“I surely am but you can call me Hiram,” he said.

Jones said “everybody calls me Jones” and chuckled when Hiram, in a loud voice said, “what’s that you say?  You’re alone?  Well, that’s alright.  Step on inside.”

Hiram extended a wrinkled, weathered, almost crippled hand and said, “I’m a little hard of hearing, so you have to speak up.  Set down a spell and tell me what’s on your mind while I put in these darn hearing aids.  They ain’t worth a flying flip but I wear them anyway.”  He laughed when he said “I reckon at age 96, I should be glad that I’m still breathing.”

Jones explained that he had just bought the grand lady up the street.  “I call it ‘the Manor’,” he said.

“Ah,” said Hiram.  “The one that used to be a funeral parlor.”

“Yes,” said Jones.  “I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the history of the house, besides the fact that it used to be a funeral parlor.”

“Well,” said Hiram.  “As I recollect, that house has been standing for might near a century and some odd years and it’s changed hands a few times.”

“Ah, she was a grand lady, for sure.  Come Christmas time, she was lit up and folks from all around town came to have a look-see.”  His voice trailed off and he was pensive when he began to speak again.

“The last owner was a doctor.  He was about as useless as these darned hearing aids.  He didn’t care nothing about that house and darn near let her go to ruin.”

“I know,” said Jones.  “It’s my intention to bring her back to her glory years.”

Hiram mused “kind of like a beautiful woman, ain’t she?  A beautiful woman who has been ravaged by time…and much sorrow.”  Jones agreed but quickly added “but I will give her a face-lift and she will once again shine like she is on Broadway.”

“Broadway,” Hiram echoed.  “Ain’t never been there.”

Jones said “what was your profession, Hiram?”

Hiram began nervously twiddling with his hearing aid and said “oh, I used to have a little business but that was years ago.”

“What kind of business?” asked Jones.

When Hiram didn’t answer, Jones wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t hear him or he didn’t want to answer, so he changed the subject.

“I was wondering,” he said, “if you knew about the people who lived there before the doctor and the folks who turned it into a funeral parlor.  And you mentioned something about ‘time and sorrow’.  Is there sorrow attached to the house?”

Hiram looked down and softly said “yep.  Yep.  There surely is but ain’t nobody speaks about it.”  Then he leaned forward, looked at Jones and said “you seen that light yet?”

 

To be continued_____________________

 

 

 

The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter Two

The light in the window didn’t hold his attention for long.  His mind was otherwise occupied.

When he went back into the house, he was struck by just how dark it was. There were lights but the bulbs had burned out and he didn’t have a ladder that would reach the high ceilings.

There was no urgency to get them fixed.  He had been known in the past as the man who never turned on a light and it would most likely be the same in this house.  Once you get to know your home, finding your way around in the dark made sense…at least to him and he had always been frugal.  “Turn on a light just long enough to see where you are going or get what you need and then turn it off,” he said.

Darkness had never been an enemy but this house…this house had no outside ambient light source.  No invasive streetlights shining through the windows nor were any neighbors’ lights visible, yet only once had he mistakenly entered into a bedroom, thinking it was the bathroom.

Most of his days were filled with the tedious task of unpacking bins and boxes and realizing that the movers had misplaced most of them.  Boxes clearly marked “bedroom” had been left in the kitchen and tools that were marked “garage” had somehow found their way upstairs.  There were moments of grieving the loss of a treasured piece that had been broken in the move but he sojourned on.

People started coming by to introduce themselves and all of them wanted the “grand tour.”  Most said they had driven by the house every day, and every day, they wished somebody would buy it and bring it back to its original glory.

With apologies for the disarray, he graciously allowed them to come inside and look around.  Several of them offered help with the unpacking and one woman eagerly offered her gardening skills.

He was familiar with the term “Southern hospitality,” but he had never experienced anything like this.  He took their numbers, thanked them and gave the obligatory “maybe I’ll give you a call.”

Night after night, he went outside after a long days work and sat on the stoop.  It was his quiet time, interrupted only by the train whistle or an occasional ambulance siren in the distance.  Every night, he momentarily turned his gaze toward the garage to look for the light in the window but it wasn’t always there.

He thought it could possibly be the reflection of a neighbors’ porch light although the juxtaposition of the garage prohibited that possibility.  A street light maybe?  That couldn’t be because the only street light was several houses down.  It didn’t matter.  His eyes had played tricks on him before and he was no spring chicken.

That rickety old fence needed to come down, so he called Daniel, the handyman who had stopped by when he first moved in.  They worked and talked and sipped ice tea and worked and talked and sipped ice tea until they got the old fence down.

There was a sadness when he looked at where it had once proudly stood. It had been part of this grand lady but it couldn’t be saved and when they pulled it up, it left a gaping wound in the ground.

He had always believed that when you abandoned or destroyed a part of your past, it left a permanent scar.  Would she weep over the loss?  Would it be, to her, like losing a piece of herself?

He helped Daniel load the broken pieces of the fence onto his trailer and then watched as he slowly drove down the street to the local dump.  It wasn’t a proper burial but it was the way things were done now.

Having put in a days’ work, it was time for his nightly ritual of sitting on the stoop.  As he glanced toward the garage, once again, he saw the light in the middle window.  As he stared, he almost chuckled when he thought “that looks like a small child.”  Shaking his head and still smiling, he went back inside, trying to reassure himself that he wasn’t insane.

The next morning, he was breaking down boxes for the trash when he noticed a truck coming up the driveway.  A jovial man jumped out, handed him his card and introduced himself as Mel.  “I used to maintain the air conditioning in this house,” he said.

That was a good thing to know and he seemed to be as nice as the other people he had met.  After being offered the house wine of the South, ice tea, he sat down and said “I see you tore down that old fence.  That’s good.  It needed to be tore down.  Who did it for you?”

“Daniel,” he said.  Mel said “oh yeah.  I know Daniel.  He’s a good ole boy.” When asked who was painting the house, the response was the same.  “Oh, yeah.  I know him.  He’s a good ole boy.”  Mel had a way about him. Everybody was a “good ole boy” and he knew everybody in town.  He said he had once thought about buying the grand lady but was going through a nasty divorce and decided it wouldn’t be a very good idea.

They sat and talked and after Mel finished his glass of ice tea, he was almost indifferent when he said “did you know that this house used to be a Funeral Parlor?”

 

 

To be continued________________________

 

 

 

 

The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter One

For as long as he could remember, his greatest wish was to own a mansion.  The kind of mansion you only dream or read about in famous novels…and his wish was finally coming true.

The first time he saw what would later be called his “Manor,” he knew it was the house for him.  It needed to be painted outside and there was a rickety fence that seemed to have no purpose other than being an eyesore but he wasn’t deterred.

Finding a place to house his car, although difficult with most grand older homes was a must, so he was thrilled when the house boasted a three car garage.  He knew the garage wasn’t built when the house was but it had clearly been there for several years.  Above the garage, was what could be easily turned into a studio apartment but he had no plans for such a venture.

A little building sat between the house and the garage.  The curious little building seemed determined to keep a secret, as he couldn’t get the door to yield to his many attempts to get it open.  A crowbar came to the rescue and when he opened the door he stood in silence as he stared at a ten foot tall, genuine TROY walk-in icebox.  There were shelves and hooks and he wondered, “is this were the cook prepared the food?”

Thinking it would be a nice conversation piece if moved inside, he was dismayed when he realized that the little house had been built around the icebox and therefore, it couldn’t be moved.

The first time he went into the grand manor, to say that he was overwhelmed would have been an understatement.

Built in 1898, and sitting on a little more than an acre of land, no expense was spared in that grand house.  The hand carved balustrades were just one example of the builders’ attention to detail, as were the beaded ceilings with fixtures hanging from medallions and crown molding that trimmed the walls that reached a full twelve feet.

Stained glass windows graced the side of the grand staircase that made twists and turns and he smiled as he imagined children of the past, sliding down the banisters to the dismay of their nannies.

Most of the original light fixtures in the bedrooms had been replaced with ceiling fans but he was already thinking “crystal chandeliers.”  The windows, which flanked the fireplaces, were every bit of four feet taller than he stood.

Makeshift closets had been built at the end of hallways.  In those days, closets were considered extra rooms and were therefore, taxed.  Hence, the invention and use of armoires.  He had two antique armoires that fit perfectly in this grand lady and they looked as if they had always been there.

The original tongue and groove hardwood floors showed no signs of creaking as he walked across them and the ten foot pocket doors separating the front room from the dining room, seemed to wail with pain as he coaxed them open for what he imagined was the first time in many years.

The “front room” as he had heard his granny call what in modern times would be the living room, had dark baseboards and window and door casings.

He had never liked dark wood.  He found it depressing.  Dark furniture that had aged with time like fine vintage wine, smelled like old furniture and old people didn’t bother him, but the trim did.  The front room and the dining room were the only rooms that hadn’t been taken into the present with a fresh coat of white paint but he would soon remedy that.

Every room had a fireplace with delicately placed tiles that ranged in color from mint green to pale pink.  The mantles that encased them were exquisite and each one was different.  He wondered how many stockings in the past, had hung from any or all of those mantles.

He had been told by a handyman who stopped by to offer any help he might need, that the original owners had been one of the first signers of the papers to secede from the Union.  Aside from that bit of information, he knew nothing about the history of the house.

After settling in somewhat, he started exploring the back yard.  He discovered an old well and a twenty-foot chimney with a brick wall that had been almost completely obscured by weeds and vines and seemed to have at one time been the foundation for another small building.  What could that building have been?

There were several mature Pecan and Mimosa trees and off to the side, stood a lone Dogwood, that seemed to still be mourning the curse of God.

A fire pit sat at the end of a covered walkway, where he imagined Southern ladies had fanned themselves while sipping Mint Juleps and waiting for a freshly slaughtered hog to be prepared.

He had become accustomed to the long, lonesome lamentations of a train that ran all day and all night.  Had that train, in sometime past, provided travel for those same Southern ladies?

Late at night, he would go outside and sit on the stoop to just listen to the train and other sounds of the night.  On the third night, he happened to glance toward the garage and noticed a light in the middle window.

 

To be continued___________________________

 

 

All Is Not As It Seems – Chapter Twelve

It was as if time was standing still as the King continued to study Sela’s face.

The chameleon had uncovered Sela’s entire life and now that information was in the possession of the King.  His initial instincts had been right.  She was there for a reason.  Happenstance was not part of his world and the bizarre events surrounding her mysterious arrival were just as he suspected.

He knew who she used to be.  He knew it was her intention to infiltrate his operation.  He knew that her intention was to bring him down.  He knew that the “pretend accident and loss of memory” was being executed with an Oscar-winning performance.  He knew that she had been trained well and although not being a man who was easily impressed, he admired her performance.

He knew that he was being played but he also knew that he was the ultimate player…and he always won.

The King, not yet willing to put all of his cards on the table, decided to play with Sela, much like a cat plays with a mouse before the kill.  He wanted to see her reaction.  He wanted to see defiance in her eyes.  He wanted to see desperation in her eyes.  He wanted to see fear in her eyes…but he saw none of those.  His thoughts were interrupted when Sela, with hopeful expectation took his hand and said “you know who I am?”

He smiled as he lied and said “your name is Kelly Jordan.”  Sela frantically began a barrage of questions.  “Is anyone looking for me?  Do I belong to anyone?  Where am I from?  How did I get here?”

The King interrupted her and said “you need to take it slow.  It’s a lot for you to take in right now.  One step at a time.”  Sela pleaded, “but I need to know.”

The King walked over to the window and as he looked out, said “I will tell you this.  No one is looking for you.  It’s almost as if you are a ghost.”  Sela began to cry but the King was not touched and smugly controlled his anger when he thought, “this is all part of her game.”

The King did not suffer fools nor was he going to be easily swayed by the pretentious tears of a beautiful woman.

Still crying, Sela surprised him when she walked over and put her arms around him.  “Thank you,” she said.  “Thank you for rescuing me.”

The King had forgotten the tenderness of touch, even if it was coming from a traitor who was feigning loyalty and gratefulness.  His companionship consisted entirely of women for whose services he paid handsomely.  Should one of them betray him, they paid dearly, or so it was said.

Still, the warmth of her body made him question the information for the briefest of moments.  He knew that she had overheard conversations and had witnessed certain conveyances.  Only once had she questioned him and given the slightest impression that she was interested, when she asked him if he was perhaps a wealthy heir.  That, he now reasoned, had been part of her cover and the question had been answered with a smile.

They were both playing a game and it was going to be a matter of who played it the best.  The King silently commended Sela for her great aplomb.  A lesser, more trusting man might have taken her at face value, but he was not one of those men.  He was an astute, suspicious man who had an empire to protect and he would protect it at all costs.

Now he was going to play the game with the expertise of a master craftsman and the “new” Kelly would have to guard against his fatal checkmate move.

He knew what he was going to have to do.  The question was what, how and…when.

After dinner, they went out onto the veranda as they had done for the last several months.  Kelly wanted questions answered and the King encouraged her to have patience.

She looked at him and said “you know my name.  Will you tell me yours?”

The King looked at her and said “my name is Ellis Carrington Winchester.”  Again, he studied her eyes.  Was there going to be a reaction?  Would she show a micro-expression of already knowing or would she be able to detect that he was lying?  He hadn’t told her what her real name was.  Was he telling her what his real name was?

 

To be continued_______________

All Is Not As It Seems – Chapter Eleven

Weeks went by and Sela found that she enjoyed the company of this illusive, charismatic man who she defiantly called “Ben.”  Although it seemed to be reciprocal, Sela suspected that he was most likely an Übermensch: someone who feels so superior that they are bound by neither law nor morality.

After they dined, they stood on the veranda and Sela watched as Ben overlooked his vast empire.  They spoke only of the meals and occasionally, the stars.  There was no touching, no lengthy glances and the quest for each other’s identity seem to have faded into the background, at least for now.

They were once interrupted by Earl, who had apologies with an urgent message.  When Ben excused himself, Sela could hear words like “product and delivery.”  After thinking she heard Ben raise his voice and say the word “Sycophant,” she never saw Earl again.

Earl had not been one to “get to know,” and it was as if Ben had just changed a floral arrangement in the foyer.  It was of no concern to Sela, as it had been with Roy.  She had free reign of the mansion and didn’t need to be “watched” anymore.

Still, she wondered what happened to Roy and she was worried and she knew something.

Roy had, in strict confidence, told her that the King had once been on trial for murder.  He hadn’t offered details and Sela hadn’t asked but quietly wondered if that was the reason for his isolation from the world.  She also wondered if it was true.  Roy was enamored with her and possibly by telling her that secret, it might make him look more like a knight in shining armor.

Ben was charming, a good conversationalist and Sela was surprised with how she looked forward to spending time with him…but was it true?  Was he a murderer?  Or was he just accused of murder and was found to be innocent?    He didn’t look like a murderer but what did a murderer look like?

Sela had obvious bouts with depression.  She still craved the idea of escaping the confines of the mansion.  Sometimes she would cry uncontrollably.  As she sobbed, Ben would stand beside her but offered no hug or even a hand on her shoulder.  He knew why she was crying.  She wanted to know who she really was and more importantly, why no one had ever come for her or even looked for her.

Ben was uncharacteristically compassionate when he told her that maybe she found her way to him because it was meant to be.  He smiled and in an almost protective way, said “you could have suffered a far worse fate.”

Although Sela smiled, she hadn’t forgotten how she had been found and how long it took to recover.  “A far worse fate?”  How much worse could it have been?” she thought.

She didn’t know that she was still under suspicion.  The things Sela mourned for were the things that had become an obsession for the King.  He was good at placating her vulnerability but his ulterior motives were always on the surface.  He didn’t believe in coincidence as he had almost playfully suggested to Sela.

Months went by and the games and mutual manipulation continued, with each thinking they were holding the winning hand.

They grew closer and they were both excellent thespians but for Sela, it was becoming more and more difficult to resist this man of absolute, near perfection.  When he took her hand one night, they locked eyes and almost embraced.

Sela pulled away and said “we can’t do this.  I have to know if I belong to someone.  I feel like I belong to someone.  Don’t you see?  If we begin a relationship, I would feel a sense of betrayal until I know for certain, that I don’t belong to someone.  Please understand.

He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “I understand.”  Sela smiled and said “thank you.”

Unbeknownst to her, he had played every card, called in every chip, made every threat, made every offer that couldn’t be refused, and money had flowed like a rapid stream until one day, his efforts paid off.  It had taken more than two years but through a source called the “chameleon,” the King discovered exactly who Sela was.

The next night as they dined, the King looked at Sela and said “I have something to tell you.”  Sela timidly asked “what?”

Looking for the slightest expression of surprise or fear in Sela’s eyes, he took her hand and said “I know who you are.”

 

To be continued_____________

 

All Is Not As It Seems – Chapter Ten

Sela was sure that she had stirred something in Roy.  She knew he was watching her as she strolled back into the house and a backward glance, accompanied with a beguiling smile made Roy blush.

The next morning, Sela dressed and went for her usual garden visit.  As she swung back and forth, she searched for Roy in the distance but didn’t see him.  As she got up and started walking, another man appeared and said “good morning, ma’am.  My name is Earl.”

Sela was confused and asked “where’s Roy?”  Earl said “I’m sorry ma’am.  I wouldn’t know.”

“Why are you here?” Sela asked.  Earl said “I’m here at the King’s request.”  Sela asked “his request to do what?” Earl said “to be your guardian.”

Sela was angry and repeated, “where is Roy?”  Earl repeated, “I’m sorry ma’am.  I wouldn’t know.”  Sela said “I want to know where Roy is.  Find out.”  Earl was silent as Sela made her demands and she sensed that he was not going to be swayed by her feminine wiles.

From the window, the King was watching and summoned Earl.  Standing before the King, Earl was asked what Sela was talking about.  Earl said “she wanted to know where Roy is, Sir.”

“And what did you tell her?” asked the King.  “I told her that I wouldn’t know Sir,” said Earl.  The King said “I think Roy was becoming a liability, in that he was getting too close to her.  Can I be assured that you will not be making the same mistake?”  With an appropriate bow of respect, Earl said “you can be assured, Sir.”

The King surprised Earl when he said “bring her up here.  I think it’s time that we met.”

Earl escorted Sela to the King’s “tower.”  As they walked in, the King said “that will be all.”  Earl, with the same bow of respect, left the room and closed the door.

The King had his back to Sela.  Stinging from the absence of Roy, Sela asked “who are you?”  The King answered,”I might ask you the same thing.”

She said “I am called Sela, but I don’t know who I am and I don’t know who you are.  Who are you?”

The King, turned and said “you might call me your benefactor.”  Sela quipped, “so I should call you what…Ben?”  Her insouciance angered the King but he found her quick wit intriguing.  He walked toward her and invited her to sit.

Sela obliged and watched as the Kings’ eyes traversed her long legs from hip to ankle as she crossed them.

He said “I think we should get to know each other a little better.”  Sela looked at him and said “how can that possibly happen?  My name may not be my real name but at least I have a name.  You either don’t have a name or you refuse to tell me and if you think I’m going to call you “the King” like your subordinates, then you are truly mistaken.”  She smiled as if she had one-upped him and said “yes, Roy told me that everyone refers to you as ‘the King’.”

He didn’t appear to be amused but it was obvious that she had piqued his interest.

In truth, Sela could understand why he might be called “the King.”  He was beautiful.  His dark, close-cropped hair, tan skin and piercing pale green eyes, lent an air of mystery and potential danger in an exciting way.  The way he carried himself, his almost whisper of a voice and the dominion that he oversaw, left only two things missing.  A crown and a throne.

Sela again asked “what’s your name?”  The King smiled but didn’t answer.  Sela said “understand one thing.  I am not going to call you ‘the King’.”  He whipped around and said “and you understand one thing.  You are here at my pleasure and you don’t tell me what you are and aren’t going to do.”

Sela stood and defiantly said “fine, BEN.  Help me find out who I am and I will be happy to leave…at your pleasure, of course.”

They were playing mental Chess with each other and it seemed to titillate them.

 

To be continued________

All Is Not As It Seems – Chapter Nine

Sela believed that she had found her silent champion but Roy’s feelings and actions had not escaped the King’s notice.

As Sela continued to play with Roy’s emotions, she was tasting freedom.  She was not allowed to leave the grounds but he was and she saw him as her ticket out of there.

She would have to win his complete loyalty and make him want to enjoy that same sweet taste of freedom…and they could not do it under the auspices of the King.

Sela had already begun to feel like she, Dr. Burt, Roy, Greta and all the other silent people in the “kingdom” were part of a “glass menagerie,” kept for the Kings’ pleasure.  She had heard the whispers and she had seen how everyone stood on ceremony.  It was like none of them had an identity of their own.  They were just a small part of a whole and that whole was the King.

She began with a casual question to Roy.  “Could you just leave anytime you wanted?”  His first response was “actually, I’ve never given it any thought.”

Sela looked at him and said “but there’s a whole world out there.  Aren’t you curious?”  Roy surprised her when he said “there’s a whole world here as well, and it’s a very good world.  We, who live here, want for nothing and we’re treated very well.”

“But,” Sela continued.  “Don’t you feel almost like you’re in servitude?”  Roy answered exactly as Sela had hoped.  “We are free to come and go as we please.  We’re not prisoners and certainly not servants in the sense that you mean.”

Sela walked over to Roy and looked at him with beckoning eyes as she said “you can leave and you could take me with you.  We can make a plan.  We can have a life together.”

If Roy, even for a second, believed that would be a possibility, he didn’t reveal his thoughts to Sela.  “Do you realize what you are asking of me?  You are asking me to betray the King.  You are asking me to put my life at risk…to leave the life I’ve known for most of my life.”

Sela gently put her arm on his chest and said “do you really think you’re living?  No matter how you much you posture, you are his servant.  You are at his beck and call.  And remember, you said that you would risk your life for me.”

Roy said “I did say that but you have forgotten the circumstances surrounding that statement.”

Sela sat down on the swing and said “Roy?  Where exactly does the King get his money?  Did he inherit it?  I mean, I  never see him go to work in the traditional sense.”

The look Roy gave her left no doubt that she had crossed the mark and she would get no answer.  As if she had never pried, Sela cavalierly tried a different ploy.  Able to call misty eyes on command, Sela walked over to Roy and said “I need to know if anyone is looking for me.  Don’t you know that I need to know if I am missed?  I had to belong to someone.  Wouldn’t you want to know?”

As she moved closer, she said “don’t misunderstand.  I have been treated like royalty here.  You have been so kind and helpful but I need to know and I need you to help me.”

Sela’s charm and beauty had certainly captured Roy and he was finding it more and more difficult to resist, especially when she was playing the “I’m so vulnerable…please take care of me” card.

 

 

To be continued_______________