Catching their breath, they found themselves in a brick tunnel approximately five hundred feet long, fifteen feet wide and seven feet high. A stairway and platform sat at its farthermost end. The tunnel fanned out from the platform to disappear into the darkness.
Henry couldn’t count the times Martha had talked about the little train, explaining at length, the picking up and dropping off of passengers at the station directly under Mary’s castle.
“Hello Sheriff, thanks for dropping in!” Ben said. “You just saved me the trouble of calling. “Now that you’re here, I have something to show you.”
“Lead the way,” said Henry grimly, as the crew followed on shaky legs.
Ben started up the stairs. He stopped at an L shape platform. Turning to a huge wild life painting on the wall, he touched a baby fawn’s nose, and walked straight through the painting. Utterly astonished, Henry followed Ben through the painting.
The mystery of how six little girls had vanished suddenly became clear, as Henry stepped onto a small hidden alcove. As Ben pushed an odd shaped brick, a section of the wall silently slid open to reveal a room roughly fifteen feet long, seven feet wide, and eight feet high.
A wide shelf extended across one wall and held several hand drawn maps, an assortment of moldy paper and several grimy, ink stained notebooks. A bookcase was crammed with crumbling books, papers, and empty food wrappers with the words, The Deli, written on them. A table and several dilapidated, mismatched, chairs sat against the wall opposite the bookcase.
The table and chairs looked exactly like the ones Myrtle had insisted he haul to the dump, after they’d remodeled their store, enlarged the restaurant, and renamed the place The Deli.
The Deli was the only place in town where the children’s friends, young and old alike could meet after school to do their schoolwork, or just hang out. It had also been the ideal place to keep an eye on Martha, Carter, the twins, and Michael, whom at the tender age of thirteen, was already in college studying to be a doctor.
The filthy table was covered with food encrusted dishes and several miscellaneous utensils. Six empty milk crates were stacked haphazardly against one of the remaining walls, along with six pairs of little pink ballerina slippers, and ragged lace trimmed pink socks thrown like so much garbage onto the floor in front of the milk crates. Sickened at the sight that met their eyes, they left the room and wearily followed Ben up the stairs of Mary’s castle.
Ben didn’t stop until he was halfway to the second floor. Once again, he walked through a wall painting of angelic maidens playing harps as angels danced to the music. Henry was right behind Ben as he stepped into the hidden alcove, then pressing a brick he opened a door revealing yet another secret room.
The walls of this room held an odd assortment of discarded or empty rolls of electrical tape, an odd assortment of radio tubes and components, miscellaneous electrical wires and other assorted junk.
The room also held a surprisingly complex and sophisticated alarm system, with labeled controls that ran among other things, the train, train station and the garden’s security system. The room also contained other panels and contraptions that were marked with an odd assortment of miscellaneous and faded labels at which Henry could only guess.
“Why would Cole install then hide backup controls here, of all places?” asked Ben.
“He wouldn’t,” said Henry. “He ran everything, including Mary’s garden, from his office.”
“Then who put this ratty old system in here and why?” asked Karr.
The dungeon rooms containing Cole’s monitors had originally been built to hide the Gilfords’ gold, after they’d struck it rich in the California gold fields.
Cole had had good reason to pay a small fortune to remodel twenty or so of the dingy, ugly dungeon rooms and put his office in that part of the house. It had been the perfect place for him to run his business and monitor everything on the huge estate, which included the town, falls and the huge forests on all sides of the property.
“Does this place hold any-more surprises or was that the last one?” asked a nameless voice, snapping Henry’s attention back to the present and the group of restless, wary men watching him.
Henry knew that the men were not only bone tired, but had seen enough horrors to last a lifetime. All work had started as the sun was coming up that day, because time was running out and everyone wanted to get as much work done as possible, before Caroline arrived.
The crews at Mary’s castle were bone weary, exhausted and troubled, not because they’d worked any harder than anyone else, but because of what they’d witnessed. They wanted nothing more than to go home, eat a good hot meal and forget the day ever happened!
“No! I think that’s it,” replied Ben.
“Thank you, lord,” said Henry, as he glanced at his watch and cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention.
“Twelve years ago,” he said, trying to gather his thoughts, “a heinous crime was committed in Gilfords Falls. A crime committed against the very children most of us knew and loved.”
“Hershel lost his only child, his daughter Clara. Ben’s twin sisters, Casey and Casety, and my daughter, Martha were also lost to us on that day, as were Mary Lou my sister’s grandchild and our beloved Cole and Caroline’s granddaughter Mary Sue Gilfords Patterson. To top that off, shortly after the children disappeared, Maggie, her husband Kevin, along with Karen and her husband Kyle, were murdered in a tragic explosion a few months later.”
“I know all of you have seen sights today, you wish you hadn’t. Some of you will be haunted for the rest of your life by what you have seen. Some will want to discuss today with loved ones. Please do not do it. Today Mary’s castle, Rosebud lane and the cabin by the same name truly became a crime scene.”
“If others learn of our findings every thrill seeker, newspaper reporter, amateur detective and the good lord only knows who else, will be out here. Maybe the curious will unknowingly inform the person or persons responsible for this hideous crime, making it easier for them to escape detection.”
“This must remain our little secret; we must keep a lid on this. It is of the utmost importance that you do not tell anyone about our findings today,” he said, bidding them all good night.
Twenty minutes later, an exhausted Henry climbed the back- porch steps and slowly crossed to the woodshed. Silently he opened the door and loaded his arms with wood, deep in thought he crossed the shed and pushed opened the door startling the women.
“Henry! I’m so glad you are home,” said Myrtle, relieved to see him.
“We were beginning to worry,” said Angelia taking the wood from him and heading for the living room to put it in the wood box.
All Myrtle needed was one look at his shaking hands, the wan expression on his face and the way his shoulders slumped, to fear the worse. He looked as if a burden so heavy and atrocious he could hardly bear it had been laid upon his shoulders. Instinct told her something was horribly inexplicably wrong.
“Thank you for the wood, love,” said Myrtle, looking anxiously at Henry and desperately wanting to question him about his hasty departure. But, seeing how tired, preoccupied and upset he was, she decided to wait until after he’d eaten to ask him about his day.
“While we get supper on the table, why don’t you wash up, then sit right there and I’ll pour you some coffee,” said Myrtle, quickly dishing up three steaming bowls of beef stew while Angelia cut and buttered thick slices of hot homemade bread.
The stew was better than good and Henry finished a third helping before pushing his bowl away and asking for another cup of coffee, as Angelia sat a huge piece of his favorite lemon meringue pie, down in front of him.
Looking around the table at his wife and sister, Henry took a deep breath and said, “I know you’re both anxious to hear all about my day. I’d very much like to fill you in, but in good conscious, I cannot do what I have ordered others not to do.”
“I can tell you we found where they hid the children. We even found the tunnel they used to take them from the garden. It’s my guess that nobody ever found them, because everyone was looking for six little girls.
The evidence we found today, leads me to believe that they chopped all of the hair off our children’s heads then dressed them as boys, therefore making their escape easier. The tunnel we found runs from the train station under Mary’s castle to the other side of a wall and out into a wooded area.
It is absolutely mind boggling when you think about it. Cole builds a ten feet high wall all around the garden, to protect Mary and her friend’s, so the kidnappers dig a tunnel under the wall and use it to steal the girls!”
“The thing is, they built a wall with a hidden doorway right across the tracks. So everyone would think the train circled to the left or right depending on which way it was going at the time. I’ll bet you a nickel the scumbags had a good laugh over that one!”
“You actually found the crime scene!” exclaimed Angelia.
“Where?” asked Myrtle.
“I’m not at liberty to release that information,” said Henry, “until I examine all the evidence.”
“You inferred that there were multiple scenes, meaning more than one?” Angelia asked thoughtfully. “How many did you find?”
“I remember the state police, FBI and every amateur detective with in two hundred miles of here trampling through Mary’s garden, along with every new reporter within five hundred miles looking to scoop a story!”
“Government officials from as far away as Westmount and Noblesville were sent to assist the FBI. Their search lasted the better part of a year, but, they never even found a clue!”
“You on the other hand, receive a phone call from Ben or Karr, than high-tail it out of here like your boo-ha was on fire. Then, in as little as ten hours, you profess to have solved a twelve-year-old crime? Unbelievable!” Said Angelia, throwing her hands into the air. “Absolutely unbelievable!”
“I never said I solved the case,” said Henry. I said, we found several things that were suspicious, and pointed to a crime being committed. In order for me to have solved the case, I would need information on, who planned and executed the crime, who built a wall over the railroad tracks, and who had access to Cole’s monitoring system,” said Henry. “Then there’s a million questions, I haven’t even thought of yet that are still without answers.” Henry said with a sigh.
“Want to know what’s so funny about this case? Cole offered over a million and a half dollars to anyone with any information concerning the children. Nothing. Twelve years later, Mary and her children show up with the only unreturned photo. Why?”
The constant ringing of the telephone finally broke their concentration and Myrtle quickly grabbed it relieved to hear her son’s voice.
“Hi Mom,” he said, “I’m just calling to let everyone know that Mary’s resting comfortably and that I’ll be sleeping right here on a cot in her room tonight. I don’t want to take any chances with the babies or her. I’ll call at the first sign of trouble or tomorrow with an update,” said Michael yawning loudly. “Oh! Sorry about that,” he said as he tried to stifle yet another yawn.
“You sound tired Son, I know you’ve had a long day and so have we. I suggest that we all get a good night’s sleep. We’ll be right here if you need us as we’re staying in Mary’s room tonight. Tell Mary that Billy and Kimmey are doing just fine. They went to school today and loved it. Give Mary our love and we’ll talk in the morning,” she said, as she hung up the phone.