Passing by the eerie green weather-boarded house, locally known in the neighborhood as Colonel Neil Coxgrove's Mansion, in the fine city of Henderson, Kentucky, was an every day affair, much to the chagrin of Shelley Braddock, age fourteen and in the eighth grade. She had to travel past the house every day, on the way to and from Seventh Street School. And every time, she passed by, she would wonder why the house had 'fangs'...sometimes, she would pass by on the opposite side of the street, because from there, it was more evident the house had its own character face. She had to wonder just what was behind the thinking of the original owner who had paid some architect top dollar to build the place; and even when it had been brand new; surely there had been towns-people who remarked on the unusual design. Just how had they taken to it...when there were several fine homes in the area; some were Queen Anne Style, some were Italian Style, and there was even a building up town that was made totally of brick and no wood was in its construction, at all.
Shelley's teacher was Mrs. Soaper, and her husband's family was one of the oldest and most influential families, even among the founding fathers of the town, which had its start in 1765 by Col. Groghan, when he passed by there to the Wabash. Next came Captain Gordan who had military-surveyed the Ohio in 1776, intentionally planned to giving land warrants to the Virginia soldiers who had served in the French Wars and were to be portioned land in the 'western waters.' The surveying parties had begun their work as far back as 1774, by groups of men who later came to settle the region. Trailblazers Col. Floyd, Hancock Taylor, and James Douglas and two parties of hunters settled Harrodstown, later Harrodsburg, mid center of the region; and it had been on June 16, 1774, Daniel Boone being present and had helped build log cabins, laying a clear hold on the land that would become Kentucky.
But the area that would later become Henderson, was nearly barren of trees and more bog than anything, and no Indians claimed it, although there was a fairly large Shawnee-town on the opposite side of the river.
The county of Henderson was established in December of 1798. Tracts of land were being sold for the magnificent price of 75 cents an acre, and the whole town soon was laid out; all tracts together were sold for less than 2000 dollars.
John J. Audubon was a man who came to the region, moving there around 1810, but becoming disenchanted after a few years; more interested in drawing birds,than being a business man, he later headed south to New Orleans. Mrs. Soaper had recently told them this in class near the end of school, as part of the local History and Geography classes, in preparing them for the Sesquicentennial later that year. She said the best way to learn to love these subjects was to start close to home, and they had plenty to be proud about.
|PICNICKING Down by the Riverside|
|OHIO River and Henderson, Ky.|
|John J. Audubon's mill|
Anything that was important in the community would be on display
in window shops or on the streets, for viewing, and for buying,
and just in general to share with the visitors; a big turn-out was expected.
people would make the Walking tour, taking in the sites, the yard sales, the antique cars,
the mules on display and for sale, also horses, and pedigree dogs and puppies,
cats and kittens for sale, authors would have their books for sale sat up near the courthouse
where it was the shadiest, and venders would be everywhere. There would be homemade root beer for sale,
and red creme soda and pink lemonade, along with Coca-cola and Royal Crown cola, and Double Cola, and the Nehi flavors, as well as many other drinks, including coffee and tea.
|BBQ MUTTON Ribs|
|Fresh hamburger patties|
|BBQ PORK Sandwich with fresh pickle slices|
When school had finally let out for the summer, it was with more enthusiasm than ever, because of the special celebration that would come before school started again in September. Weeks went by and Shelley hadn't passed by the Coxgrove house at all, and gave it no thought. Instead, when she was out she always took another route, if she walked to the store or went over to visit with friends.
But finally there came the day in late August, and the big celebration was gathered on the streets downtown. Shelley and her Mother decided they'd walk down there, as it was an experience not to be missed, for such a thing as a 175 year celebration would only come once, and to live here when it was happening and not see it firsthand was out of the question. Besides, Shelley had been as curious as the other kids in Mrs. Soaper's classroom but she had not had to beg her mother to be allowed to go. Mrs. Braddock wanted to go.
So, on that Saturday, Shelley walked downtown with her Mother and there on Main Street, three blocks from the square, Shelley spotted the moldering green mansion looming ahead of them. She decided this was the time to ask her mother about it. When they drew nearby the Coxgrove house, she asked, "What can you tell me about that old house?"
Her mother looked at it in distaste. "I'd advise you not go near it. Can't you smell the decay, the wood rot and mildew from here? I really do wonder why they allow that eye-sore to continue standing, when there are some fine homes here that we can all appreciate." Her nose wrinkled and her horn-rimmed tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl glasses bobbed, disapprovingly. "You haven't been messing around it, have you?"
"No, Mother; I just walked by it, going to and from school, like we're doing, now. I think it is creepy."
"It is, and the only reason they haven't demolished it is because the Historical Society has been petitioning it to be preserved and repaired and put to use because of its historical value."
"Why is it so historical? No one will tell me much of anything."
"Colonel Neil Coxgrove build the house in 1886. My grandmother said the Colonel bought it with money that was taken in raids during the American Civil War. He was on the Union side and was one of General Sherman's Aides. He was with him on the burning march across Georgia. She actually knew the Coxgrove family very well, and she had a lot of stories she told; many of them very strange tales; even stories she heard from the Colonel of his life during the Civil War. She said the Colonel was a man with a gruff manner, and you never dared doubt his word; he was commanding and he didn't put up with wishy-washy attitudes. If he said it, then you best take it as gospel, no bones about it."
"Did she say if he explained why that face was added to the front?"
"Face...yeah, I know what you mean. Oh, yes, she did say. He explained that he had the bones of a vampire buried in the basement. While he was gone to Louisville by riverboat, he returned to find the architect had finished the porch and he'd added the extra large gingerbread and the fang-like finial touches, and he refused to remove them, unless he was paid an extra week's work, but the Colonel was so upset he refused, because it was not what he'd ordered. So the excessive Gothic touch remained."
"What's the story about why he'd buried a vampire in the basement?"
"Well, the story that explained that tale goes back to when he was newly out of the War. And he was coming home from Appomattox; he was there, too. He met a man on the stage coach and said he was very pale and thin as a rail. He had cheeks so deeply grooved, he was cadaverous and eyes deep set and feverish. His name was Count Kelski and when they rode through the day, he kept bundled up with only his eyes in view. When the sun set, he chucked off his robes and revealed his features more clearly in the coach gaslight. He had very long fingers with horny fingernails, thick and ribbed yellow. His neck was long with a huge Adam's apple that bobbed up and down. His teeth jutted in every direction and his canines were enormous, bulging almost like tusks, but not curving, they draped down over his very red lips that shone, with a wetness from excessive saliva."
"Granny told you all that?" Shelley asked in awe.
"Yes, I never told you because it hasn't been anything I felt you needed to know, but today is a good day to tell you. So, dear, what will you like to eat? We can go down by the river and set up our picnic on a granite block and eat there. I think I've already worked up a hunger; and then we can walk around some more, later, and just enjoy all the things on show."
"Daddy said to order Barbecue, and be sure to bring some home for him."
"I know; it's a shame he must work in Evansville, today. But he may be back, before it is over. I will buy extra, before we go home."
"That will be fine; will you finish telling me about the Colonel and the Count?"
"Yes, dear. But let's wait until then; I've said enough for now, and it's uphill here, and others are walking around; I can't concentrate and get my breath, and walk and talk."
"OK, Mother. I understand." Shelley linked arms with her mother and helped her at each street crossing and kept close beside her as they walked among the crowds, as they wandered from booth to booth, admiring all manner of antiques, food, crafts and other items on display.
Finally they bought sandwiches, wrapped in white butcher paper, bags of Lay's Potato chips, and drinks, and walked down toward the depot and the riverfront park, which had plenty of shade because of the trees. They found a large block in an area where nobody had gathered and sat down to eat.
It was peaceful there; they could hear the bustle of the crowds behind them, the laughter and music, the hum of many voices talking. They faced the Ohio River, and could see the railroad bridge arching over the river, as well as see the boats, and tug-boats, going by on the water. To their left was a landing, and several people had gathered there, where they could cast their rods, and fish. Others walked around, with their Kodak, and Brownie cameras, taking pictures.
Shelley waited for her mother to take up the story once more, but several minutes passed. Finally, her mother reached for a cigarette, lit it with her lighter, and leaned back against the tree trunk behind her, with a contented sigh, and as she puffed and exhaled, Shelley asked, "Now, please, Mother, will you finish the story for me?"
"Yes, I said that I would. I know you will keep after me now, until I tell it all to you."
Shelley nodded, resting her chin on her hand as she sat cross-legged in her blue pedal-pushers, showing bare calves above white anklets tucked in her sneakers; and wearing a yellow, puff-sleeved top with the green and pink hummingbird embroidered on her left shoulder front. Her medium brown hair was in two curled ponytails, and she rubbed her freckled nose, nervously anticipating the story to come. Occasionally, she would knock an ant from her calf, to keep it from climbing behind her knee and biting her in the crease; but her main focus was watching her mother as she told her story...with leaf shadow and sunlight dappling her skin; Shelley knew it was on her skin, too; and a slight blowing breeze helped cool them from the warm day.
"Let's see, I stopped when I described the Count, didn't I?"
Shelley nodded, but she didn't speak, just waited, and seeing that her daughter was so rapt to hear the story, encouraged her to continue. One thing Mrs. Braddock loved was to tell stories, especially when she knew she had a good audience, even if there was only one there to hear her.
"Yes, I remembered how the Count looked because it impressed me at a young age; I heard the story much younger than you are, because my grandmother died when I was nine, and I had a lot of cousins and we would have family get-together's and sometime while we were outside on a warm summer night, maybe with a bonfire going, we would start telling things we remembered, much of it of a supernatural or just in an odd way that related to the others something unusual. The story of Colonel Coxgrove's life was one of my grandmother's favorite topics. If I could remember them all, as well as she told them, there would be enough to fill a small book, maybe up to 200 pages."
"Wow, I wish you could, Mother. You love to write. Why don't you?"
"Um, not sure it is worth repeating to share with others...maybe it would be best to just let it die."
Shelley got worried; she thought she meant to not finish the story, and her frown grew stressed.
"What's the matter? I am good; I keep my promise. I said I would tell you."
"Oh, good; you had me thinking you had changed your mind."
"No, not me...and this time, I won't stop. You should hear this." Mother said, and then with a pause to gather her thoughts, she began.
"This was around 1935; I was eight when I heard these stories. According to Grandmother this took place back when she and grandfather had married in 1881, because by the time the Coxgrove house was built and he buried the bones in the basement, she and her husband already had three kids. But my mother wasn't born until 1889, and there was two more after her. She had six siblings.
"The beginning of the Count's story dated back to 1866...remember, he was on the stagecoach on his way home. For whatever reason, the Colonel brought the Count home to Henderson, and let him live with his family in the house he owned at the time. He lived to regret that generous act, as people in the area also grew to fear the strange guest because deaths occurred when he had been seen shortly before. And finally some of the prominent townsfolk convinced the Colonel he was harboring a fiend. It was only when he found his daughter swooning, and pale that he feared for her life.
"He and several men strong-armed the Count and he was chained, bound tightly, his head cut off and placed in a secret place, and life returned to normal. The Colonel's daughter survived and later married and produced grandchildren. There are descendants living here who can trace their family genealogy back to the daughter and it is some of them who have had the largest voice about preserving the house."
"You mean he kept the Count's head?"
"Yes, but the body was burned. That made it impossible for the vampire to ever walk again."
"Why did he keep the vampire's head?"
"You're not the first to ask; I asked the same question. I was told the Colonel kept the head in case he ever needed a means to control others, because the head didn't rot, as long as he kept it away from direct sunlight. He also said that he talked with the Count, and when he realized the vampire could live without a body, he was compelled to keep it safe. It couldn't eat, having no stomach or bowels; and so it was rendered virtually harmless. But the Count was very old and knew a lot of history, and its brain still retained all that info and the Colonel used it to help him recover lost treasure. He would go around the countryside to homes that had been raided during the Civil War, and the Count would tell him where to dig. He amassed a huge fortune over a period of twenty years, and finally in 1886, the last mansion known as the Coxgrove home was built. He swore that in it, he had a small room built, and sat the undead skull inside and had the wall boarded over, leaving no gap that would let air or light inside. This, he felt, would stop the head from ever talking to him anymore."
"But why, after that long, would he take such measures?"
"Because..." Mother looked all around, making sure nobody had drawn close, listening as she had become rapt in the telling of the story. Satisfied, but still in a low voice, and leaning close to Shelley she said, "The Colonel swore that the vampire had been manipulating him by mind-power to go out and find victims and would watch him as he performed the acts the Count couldn't and vicariously thrived through the Colonel. It was only when he had walked into his cellar and found evidence of what he had done that he realized how wrong he had been to keep the Count's head in secret. It was the Count who had manipulated the architect, while he was gone, to build the face on the front of the house, as a sign for the Colonel to see upon his return just how powerful he was, even when the Colonel was far away."
"I bet he was afraid the people in town would figure out that he was responsible for any new unexplained deaths, wasn't he, Mother?"
"Quite so; yes, so he had to stop the Count, however he could."
"Has anyone ever found that room?"
"No, and most people, and there are but a few who know this tale...they just shrug it off. There is no Vampire Head, waiting for the wall to come down so it can be freed to claim another host as its guardian. And personally, I hope that is the truth, too. I know this story scared me into being a nice behaved young'un and that was probably its true intention; most fairy tales and scary stories are cautionary, to teach bad acting kids a lesson and hopefully stop them from doing something stupid."
She stood up and took the trash over to a trashcan, and started walking back toward the celebration in the street. "Come along, darling; we have lots to see, before it is time to go home." Shelley ran to catch up.
They had been walking among a tapestry and rug seller's wares when they met people her mother knew, and Shelley was introduced to Audrea and Amy-Sue Shore, who said, "Hello, Phoebe and Shelley, how nice to meet you. We hope you will join our cause."
"And what cause is that," Phoebe asked, looking at her daughter with one eyebrow peaked in curiosity.
"We have almost enough names on our petition to save Coxgrove house from the demolition team who are supposed to tear the house away on September 11th, a Tuesday. We can't let that happen. It is a monument, and it should be preserved."
"Well, I hope you won't take it against me, dear ladies, but personally, I think it is long past due to be torn away and become a thing of the past. Can you seriously think that people of this town would enjoy seeing that fanged blaspheme back in a fresh-painted over-powering state...if it's frightening now, don't you know how it will look all gleaming in the moonlight? I shiver just at the thought."
Audrea and Amy-Sue gasped and frowned at Phoebe; and then to Shelley, Audrea said, "As a child, and don't be biased, please...what do you think of the Coxgrove house being resurrected?"
"I think I'd like to move to another town, if it is." Shelley replied.
"Harrumph," the two women sniffed. "You're being silly."
"Well, if it is, Ma'am and Ma'am, I will make sure my husband moves us to Evansville; he works over there and it will stop us spending so much time apart. Good day to you."
Shelley hurried after her mother, who had sprinted away as soon as she had flung out her good-bye.
At a safe distance from the women, Phoebe continued to be irritated, and about an hour later, she bought enough BBQ to satisfy her husband and they began their walk home.
When they reached the house, the sun had fallen enough that the house looked a bruised purple, and Phoebe said, "I have a really bad feeling about this place; it has an old evil clinging to it. We can't let it continue to hold on to this mausoleum and if those idiots have their way...this place might flourish back into life and carry on for decades to come. Time enough has been its history."
"But what can be done?"
"Shh, this is not the place to speak or think." She sped up, and they hurried home, neither of them speaking again, until they were safe in their house.
Phoebe complained of being tired, and lay down, and Shelley went to her room, and got out her library book to read, until she heard her father come in, and heard her mother go to meet him. They then went to the kitchen. Shelley stayed in her room a little longer, but the suspense grew too strong.
She went downstairs, careful to walk quietly, and at the door to the kitchen she paused to listen to her parents. She nodded...Mother was telling him about the Coxgrove petition.
"They're fools; that place is the eyesore of the whole town. It needs to go, and soon people would forget all about it." Daddy said.
"Yes, I agree, but what if something happened to it, before the day of the demolition?"
"What are you thinking, Phoebe?"
A pause, and Shelley stepped back just a bit, afraid they might sense her presence. As she heard the next words, she was amazed that her mother would admit to even having such a thought, let-alone that she would ask Daddy to help her.
Shelley went back to her room, and undressed, and put on her nightgown. She got into bed and lay there shivering for the longest time, but finally she went to sleep.
As the next days passed, Shelley could see nothing different in how her parents acted, nor did any of them mention anything about the Coxgrove house.
School started back on the third of September, and Shelley found her path to school, once again going by the creepy Coxgrove house, and knowing about the Vampire head that was boarded up somewhere in the dank cellar, made it difficult to walk by it. Sometimes, she would run, just to get by it faster, but the sidewalk was uneven and she had to be careful or trip and fall.
She dreaded the thought that the house might be saved, but so far there had been nothing about a reprieve, and it appeared it might be the demolition team at work, come September 11th.
But then came the Saturday, the 8th of September, and Daddy was home. And they told her, "Guess what, honey?"
"What?" She was surprised by the tone of voice, which sounded like he was eager to tell her this news. She looked at her mother, also nodding.
"Your Aunt Arlene and Uncle P.J. want you to come spend the night with them and to stay until tomorrow afternoon. They would really like for you to visit."
"Where will you and Mother be?" Shelley looked from him to her.
"Honey, we are going to be looking for a new place to live. We're moving to Evansville, before this month is up; it's for the best, dear. Your father works in another state and he isn't happy about leaving the two of us here, for days at a time."
"Can't I just stay with you and help pick out the place where we will move?"
"No, dear, it will be boring and tiring, and you will be more comfortable with kinfolk. We will be taking you by there this afternoon."
So she had packed an overnight bag, including a Sunday dress, with gloves also in the suitcase, because her Aunt and Uncle were regular church-goers and would expect her to attend with them. They had then crossed the bridge into Evansville and they drove until they reached the home of Uncle P.J. and Aunt Arlene.
They stayed to eat a late lunch, before leaving her, giving her five dollars for spending money, and making her promise to tithe a dollar of it at church the next morning. They promised to come after her the next evening, and in the meantime to behave and have a good time.
Once they were gone, she was asked, "And how would you like to go to the Mesker Zoo?"
"I'd like that, but I don't want to be a bother to you."
Uncle P. J. said, "Dear, thank goodness you're a teenager; and brought up as a well minding lady, we rarely have you all to ourselves. We've been looking for an excuse to go to the zoo; isn't that right, Arlene?"
"Have you ever been?" Aunt Arlene asked, bobbing her head.
"No, but I've heard other kids tell about it."
"Now, you will be able to tell others." She said, and to her husband, "Be sure to bring the camera, and extra film and batteries."
The next three hours was a wonderful time, and she found her aunt and uncle to be fun to be around, her uncle liking to make funny remarks which had her aunt and Shelley laughing a good bit; and Shelley saw animals that she had never dreamed existed. It was a thrill.
So it was only that evening, back at home, having taken her bath and sitting in her aunt and uncle's living room, in front of this huge console TV and watching the Saturday night shows, that she began wondering how her parents were doing.
They had a phone, but whenever it rang, it never was her parents, so when she went to bed that night, she went with reserve, worried because her mother had promised she would call before bedtime. But her aunt and uncle explained they always went to bed by 10:30 p.m. so they could get up early and make it to church in time for Sunday School.
Shelley said, "Will you please let me stay with you at church; I don't want to go to a Sunday School class, since it's not a church I go to often."
"You're our guest; yes, it's best you stay with us," Aunt Arlene agreed. Then she added, "Dear, while you took a bath, your mother called; I was going to get you, but she said she was in a hurry."
"Oh, they called?" Shelley felt tears spring to her eyes.
"Yes, oh, dear...did it bother you that much?" Aunt Arlene was surprised at Shelley's tears. "What is the matter, honey? You can tell me."
But Shelley was unable to say just what bothered her, and though she felt her aunt would have acted sympathetic, she wasn't sure if saying what bothered her would improve matters or make it worse. So, she ended up saying, "Well, we are moving and that means I will have to start in a new school."
"Oh, yes, that is something to be worried about. But I think they have found a place about four blocks from here, and if that is so, we will get to visit each other much more frequently."
"Is that what she told you?" Shelley perked up.
"Yes, and if they get that house, it will be available on the 15th. You can get moved in very soon. You won't miss much of the school here, and the High School is only six blocks from here; two blocks from the house your mother said they want to buy."
"They are buying, not renting?"
"Yes, that was supposed to be a surprise. I hope they won't be mad at me for spilling the beans to you." Aunt Arlene smiled, chuckling. She gave Shelley a hug, and then quietly left her for the night.
Shelley buried her face in the sweet scented feather pillow and soon was asleep.
A dream dominated her attention for the next hours, and it was more as an observer than as a participator that she viewed what happened. However, it was a nightmare, and it involved her parents going to the Coxgrove house late at night, and going inside and finding the stairs that went into the basement. There were thick walls of spiderwebs they broke through, and rats running over the floor; as Daddy waved his flashlight ahead of them, and Mother hang onto his belt so that they stayed close together.
Finally, they came to a wall, and Daddy said, 'This is it.'
And Mother said, 'Yes, I think it is.'
He then took out a sledge hammer and began to beat at the wall, and it was so old it began crumbling with just a few swings, for Daddy was a very strong man. When there was a big enough hole in the wall, he shone his light inside, saying, 'I feel like Howard Carter upon the discovery of King Tut's Tomb, and looking into the chamber for the first time.'
And Mother said, 'What's in there?'
At that point, Shelley was inside the chamber, and saw what was in there. It sat under a glass dome, and it was grey, pasty...black smudge beneath its eyes, but they opened and looked around widely. Red as fireballs, not regular eyes.
First Daddy stepped over the rubble, and then in came Mother, and they saw the head, and Daddy said, 'It looks like the Colonel told the truth; and it's waiting.'
'Yes, remember what I told you, Linus...be careful.'
Daddy stepped over to the sentient head and spoke to it, 'We're here to get you out of here; the house is coming down; you don't want to be buried forever, do you?'
The eyes watched them, and then closed shut; when they opened they had turned to a normal though milky blue. A good sign; it accepted their words and wanted to go from here.
Shelley wanted to yell at them to not do it. That they should run and get out of there; that they couldn't trust that thing, and that right now it was weak...why were they wanting to help it?
But it was like she wasn't there, and nothing she could do or say would affect the outcome of this...and she wasn't sure it was a dream; it seemed so real.
But they took the head in a jar and left the room, but not without first picking up an oblong box. So Mother carried the box, and Daddy carried the Jar, and they retraced their steps back up through the shell of the house and outside into the backyard.
And when they had walked about fifty yards into that big back-yard, they stopped at a tree stump and sat the glass jar on it, with the head turned toward the house. The eyes stared at the house and grew gleeful, lighting up a greenish tinge.
And then, Daddy said, 'I need you to stand by him and keep an eye on him so that he can see what is next happening.'
And Mother said, 'We've discussed it already. Just do what must be done. We don't have much longer before dawn.'
'True, well...I know what I'm doing. Leave this to me. I will be back in thirty minutes, at the latest.'
And then Daddy walked over to the fence and picked up a five gallon can of gasoline, and he went back to the same entrance they had used to get in and out and he disappeared inside.
Shelley saw the eyes in the head of the Vampire Count, rolling, and bulging, as it seemed to pick up that something wasn't quite so favorable for it, after all. They grew dark, smoldering red pin-pricks, and it seemed to try to get Mother's attention, but she refused to look at it. She moved a few feet away, and stepped back where she was more behind its field of vision, thus giving it a disadvantage of not being able to see her fully. But it was still positioned toward the house, and soon it was evident, that smoke was billowing out between its boards. The house was burning on the inside.
'Come on out, Linus,' her mother said, and it grew to a litany, but she didn't move from her place, but kept watching the house, saying, 'Come on out, Linus.'
Where was Daddy...was he all right? Shelley was drawn to find her father, even though she wasn't sure she could help him if he needed help.
But she went from the yard to inside the house, just by the thought and there he was, lying on the floor, with part of the staircase pinning him, and he was unconscious. Seeing him, she grew frantic and she reached out and took hold of the section holding him down, and she lifted it and threw it into the flames. It had been no effort to do, and then she grabbed her father and lifted him up before her; it was strange, she felt she could carry him with her two fore fingers and he easily balanced there, still unconscious, and she hurried him outside and only laid him down when she was sure he was away from the flames.
Her mother ran forward, and Shelley knew to her she thought her husband came out jumping free and falling to the ground. She cradled his head, and kissed him, and he woke coughing. 'We must get out of here. It's a tinderbox; just as I had expected.' he said, struggling to stand.
'They will have the fire trucks here in a few minutes, but it will be too late to save it.' Her mother said.
'Yes, but look...the dawn is breaking. And look at the Count.' Daddy said, as they walked back to where the glass jar sat waiting, and the gruesome object within was steaming up the glass, obscuring what was happening within, but as the sunlight beamed through the glass, heating up the interior, it was having an effect that was unmistakable. The head was disintegrating right there in front of them.
They took the glass case and the oblong box with them, and left the yard, by going through a break in the fence at the back of the lot. Heading home, they kept to the shady areas, and no one saw them, but the sound of the sirens grew louder and louder.
Shelley woke to the alarm clock that her Aunt had sat on her night stand, "Get up, Sleepy-head. Breakfast is done and if you don't hurry, we will be late to church." It was Aunt Arlene grinning at her from the doorway.
Shelley sat up, ran a hand through her hair and stretched her back, and yawned. "Sorry for over-sleeping, my dream...wouldn't let me go until it finished."
"Was it a good one?"
Shelley shrugged, "Well, I don't know...it's already fading; I think it wasn't too good, though."
"Oh, it's just your being unused to that bed. I remember times, when I visited overnight and had uneasy dreams; don't worry about it."
"I'll be glad when my parents come," she said, really wistfully.
"Oh, they'll be here, soon. Come now; eat, and then dress. We have twenty minutes to be on the road."
After church, they stopped at a restaurant and ate lunch, and then went home, and watched more TV, and at three p.m., Shelley was excited to see her parents stepping from the car, and walking hand in hand to the porch. She was the first one to the door.
She hugged them, and said, "Oh my, I'm so happy to see you."
Daddy laughed, "You just saw us yesterday, Shelley; but it's nice to be greeted with such affection."
Mother said, "Well, how did she do? I hope she was good company."
Both Uncle P. J. and Aunt Arlene had only glowing things to say. As they went inside, Shelley asked, "Is it true you have a house nearby, one we'll be buying?"
"Yes, we will know on Monday, if the bank approves our bid." Daddy said.
As they went into the living room, Uncle P.J. said, "What's with the bandage on your hand, Linus?"
"Oh, just a slight burn; nothing serious. The skillet was too hot this morning when I was moving it off the stove." He gave a look at Mother which Shelley saw and read as one she'd seen him have before: don't say anything different than me.
Something of her dream twisted in her mind...fire, a lot of fire, and her father down...how she must get him out safe...but then it faded. Just a dream.
That evening, on the way home, they passed the house on Main street...or where it had been. As Shelley turned and looked back, amazed by the charred, still smoldering mound, she said, "What happened?"
"It burned, last night...they haven't said a lot about it yet, but I am relieved," Mother replied.
Shelley watched as her parents gave each other their special cheek touches...she knew that meant they were satisfied with something they'd not have to worry about anymore.
At the house, she saw something else that made her pause and stare. It was a glass domed Jar, and inside was a branch with a wax pear and a stuffed partridge. It couldn't be...could it?
Her mother explained, "I saw that bell-jar in a junk store...I'm giving it to your aunt and uncle for Christmas; they love Victorian things. It was so nice for them to watch after you yesterday, for us."
"Do you have an ornate box, too?"
"Yes, how did you know? It's a jewelry box."
"May I see it, please?"
She followed her mother into the front parlor and her father came with them, which she was glad. She felt she must ask them something, and said, "About that dream I had last night; I think you'll want to hear it."
So they faced each other; the two of them on the sofa, with her opposite, sitting on a chair. Her mother indicated the box, sitting on the coffee-table.
Shelley nodded, "I saw you get that box and the bell-jar in the hall, but it wasn't at a junk store."
They looked at each other. "We want to hear your dream; don't leave out anything." Daddy said, and she nodded, telling as much of her dream as she could remember.
They didn't stop her...and she even admitted, "I heard you talking that night of the Sesquicentennial...and how you thought someone should burn it down, and Daddy said, 'that would be me' and Mother, you said, 'And that will be, must be us.' "
They looked at each other, silently, and when they didn't deny it, Shelley stood up and hugged them.
"I'm glad you were so brave...but why I dreamed I saw you there...I still don't understand."
"Some thing's in life defy explanation." Mother said, "but I think we succeeded, because it took all three of us to vanquish that evil entity; but it shall harm no one ever again."
"What's in the box, if it's OK to tell me." Shelley asked.
Mother reached out and unlatched the lid, and laid it back; inside, it was full of gemstones, all of an older cut, some still in their gold settings, but many loose, all precious cuts, and most several carats in size. They were every color, and Shelley said, "Oh my, are those real?"
"Jewels pried from jewelry from last century or before; we think this is part of the trove the Colonel gleaned from the old homesteads, burned out or abandoned by wealthy farmers who met misfortune during the Civil War. We think this was treasure the Count helped him locate."
"Now, I understand how you can afford to buy a house." Shelley said.
"Do you want to stay living here, or move?" Daddy said, "We decided we should respect your age, now that you are in ninth grade, and no longer a small child."
"We should move, I think. We need a new start...I don't think our continuing to live here would be wise."
"We have a bright daughter, Phoebe. "
"Yes, we do...I'm looking forward to living somewhere else. Maybe we can find a place down south to live too; or at least do some traveling." She said.
"We will want to travel so that we can find buyers for these gems; we can't sell them to the same person, you know." Daddy advised them. "But there is enough stones here to keep us in comfort for many years to come."
They went to bed that night, with Shelley feeling that this town called Henderson had no clue how lucky it had been, and she wondered if there were other places with such creatures lying in wait...she had a feeling there were. And if there was something she wished she could talk her parents into doing, it would be to go hunting for other towns that needed to be set free from some ancient unseen evil that dwelt just below the surface-level of ordinariness, hoping to find its way out to poison and sap the good energies from a place and its people.
It was something she would keep alert about, and maybe...opportunity would come knocking; if it did, she'd be ready. Yes, she would be ready.