Chapter Twenty Five
It had snowed again and a north wind had piled snow eight feet high or higher in places, while sweeping other areas clean.
“I sure hope all this snow slows Jedidiah and his bunch down,” mumbled Henry, under his breath.
It’s funny how bad weather can work for or against you all at the same time, he thought sagely to himself. On one hand, it could keep that bunch of degenerates from finding Mary and the children, before we find enough evidence to lock them up for good.
I sure hope it deters Caroline from moving into the manor house anytime soon, at least with her at Angelia’s, she won’t be isolated and the ladies can keep an eye on her, while they keep each other company.
The minus side is its dangerous being out in such weather for long stretches of time. A person could easily become disoriented and lost, especially if the wind was blowing and shifting the snow from one place to another.
You could also freeze to death if you weren’t dressed properly and sometimes even if you were, Henry guessed it would all depend on the person’s ability to think clearly and find food and shelter.
With a sigh, Henry finished drinking the coffee in his cup, then poured the remaining coffee from the huge coffeepot, into the large gallon sized thermos setting on the table. He then wrapped the six corned beef and Swiss on rye, in saran wrap.
The thermos, three collapsible tin drinking cups and the sandwiches, he put into the pack he was taking with him, along with matches, flashlights, compact shovel, rope and any other emergency equipment that he might need.
He’d called Ben and Karr at quarter to four and told them to meet him at the gate to Mary’s garden at six thirty. That, he told himself, should give them plenty of time to wake up, dress warmly, and grab a bite to eat before meeting him. It’s a good thing they’re staying with Ben’s parents and don’t have far to go to meet me. Henry thought to himself, as he took the handcuffs, ammunition, three standard issue weapons, six full ammunition clips, three badges, one that said sheriff and two that said deputy sheriff and other items from the lockbox that he always carried with him. These he stashed in several of the large pockets of his one-piece coveralls.
Henry had inherited the box when he’d run for sheriff and was elected, hands down, some twenty odd years ago. He’d once overheard the Mayor and his wife joking that he’d kept the job for so long because no one else wanted it.
That was okay with Henry, he liked the clout the title gave him, especially whenever a rowdy customer would come into the Deli. All it took was someone saying, Henry’s watching and he’s the sheriff, for whoever was misbehaving to stop whatever tom-fool thing they were up to and behave.
Noticing the time, he picked up the snowshoes Angelia had stored in the attic at Maggie’s, shortly after the death of her husband Cage.
They had barely gotten through the death of Caroline’s husband, the murder of their daughters, and the kidnapping of their grandchildren, but the death of Angelia’s husband, Cage, had been the last straw for Caroline.
Upon hearing rumors of a curse on the estate, it hadn’t taken Caroline long to install Angelia in Maggie’s house, sell most of the livestock, board the rest, close the estate, and hightail it to one of her Alaskan mansions.
It sure is funny how things come around full circle. Thought Henry, strapping the snowshoes through a loop on the backpack, then hefting it onto his shoulders.
The first, was the sadness that drove Caroline away. Then came the arrival of Mary and her children. Next was finding the deceptive plans for Mary’s garden and castle. Now the clues that would land the perpetrators responsible for the whole mess in the hoosegow for a long time, if he had anything to say about it.
Henry was so deep in thought he almost forgot to prop the envelope addressed to the ladies, against the salt and peppershakers where they would find it when they awoke.
“I see you made it,” said Henry, by way of greeting to the two men that stood silently by the gate to Mary’s garden. “I sure hated to get the both of you out of your nice cozy beds so early in the morning, but we’ve got work to do,” he told them.
Determinedly he inserted a key into the new padlock on the fortified steel cover. He then flipped the switches that would turn the lights, heat and monitoring system for the castle on.
He quickly punched in the new code, pulled the gate opened, and motioned for the two men to precede him into the garden. Scanning the area as best he could, Henry closed, and locked the cover, then closed the gate firmly behind him, automatically locking the gate.
The wind was blowing snow into little tornadoes all around them as the two men followed Henry to Mary’s castle, where they’d be out of the cold and blowing snow.
“Okay Henry, what gives?” Ben asked.
“It must be pretty important to bring you out in this weather and drag us out with you,” said Karr.
“First things first,” said Henry. “Please raise your right hands, and repeat after me. I, Benjamin Adam Crowley and I, Cameron Karr Jackson, do solemnly promise to do my best to uphold the law and help Sheriff Henry Patterson catch the no- good scoundrels that stole the children of Gilfords Falls. I also promise not to blab our findings to anyone. Well, what are you waiting for? Roared Henry. You darn well better say, I promise!”
Both men grinned. “Yes boss, we promise to do our best to help catch the dirty vermin that committed such atrocities against the children of Gilfords Falls. We also promise to help you keep your big mouth shut.” At the look on Henry’s face, they broke into gales of laughter.
“Now tell us why we’re out here, before the suns even up?” said Ben curiously.
“Yea, either quit stalling or break out that thermos of coffee, so we’ll have something to pry the information out of you with. That is, if the oath we just took is actually legal,” said Karr, trying not to laugh at the scathing look Henry gave him.
“That oath is the best I could come up with on the spur-of-the moment, okay?” said Henry, as he poured them each a steaming cup of coffee. Now, I need to give you these,” he said, handing each of the men a deputy’s badge, three pair of handcuffs and a standard issue loaded weapon with two clips of ammunition. “Be careful with these,” cautioned Henry, “the safety might be on but they’re still mighty touchy.”
“Handcuff’s, ammunition, a gun and badges,” said Ben, frowning at Henry.
“No Ben, not guns, ammunition, handcuffs and a badge, but loaded guns, live ammunition, three pair of handcuffs and deputy badges, this is serious stuff,” said Karr shaking his head in disbelief. “What’s happened since we were here last? Did somebody shoot someone or something?” he said half-jokingly.
“No,” said Henry, “but the facts are just as scary. On the night Caroline arrived in Gilfords Falls, Mary’s husband demanded that Michael hand Mary and the young’uns over to him, giving him two hours to comply.”
“Now, I’m not sure you know who Mary is, Karr,” said Henry, “but Ben here does. She’s Caroline’s granddaughter and one of the six little girls that went missing the night of the kidnapping.”
“Caroline’s Granddaughter!” said Karr his jaw dropping. “How did you find her and where are the others?” he asked.
“It’s a long story and one I don’t have all day to tell,” said Henry. “Anyway, when Caroline arrived at Angelia’s, she was in such a foul mood as I’ve ever seen a body in. To top that off she was disorientated, argumentative, irate, incensed, irritated, furious, fuming, and annoyed, and that’s just to begin with!”
“When she asked Michael to look at the pills Jedidiah was forcing her to take, he discovered she’d been taking three different kinds of slow acting poisons, designed to drive a person crazy, before killing them!”
“We think Jedidiah and his gang of dirt bags followed Caroline here. She could have fallen over them in her drugged state and never even known they were on the same flight. She was in such a state of confusion she was lucky to have found her way to Angelia’s without becoming lost.”
“If they followed her, they could be anywhere, there’s about a million places on the estate where they could be hiding. I have a feeling they’re out there, waiting to grab Mary and the children, before forcing Caroline into an unwanted marriage then killing her. As her husband, Jedidiah would legally gain possession of Gilfords Falls and Caroline’s Estate!”
“Don’t you thing we should check out the Castle before we do anything else? Could be they’re in one of their old hiding places,” said Ben.
“Not unless they can walk through walls,” said Henry, with a big hearty laugh.
“What about the tunnel where we almost met our maker?” asked Karr?
“I can assure you they won’t be coming through that door anytime soon,” said Henry.
“Why’s that?” asked Ben.
“Because, I drove a sixteen-inch-long spike into the center of the latch, which should keep it from moving, when they push the button on the other side. They can pound on that door until doomsday, but they’ll never get it open!” said a grinning Henry.
The men were sorting through the mess of junk, papers, and wrappers, in the room off the balcony, when Karr found the first tidbit of information.
“Hey guy’s, take a look at this,” said Karr holding up several coffee stained, notebook pages, with what looked like prescriptions stapled to them.
“What’s so important about those?” asked Henry.
“This,” said Karr, handing them to Henry.
“What in blue blazes, roared Henry, looking in utter disbelief at the pages Karr had handed him and read:
Mary Sue Jackson Gilfords Zolpidem, three capsules One capsule per day
Mary Lou Jackson Zolpidem, three capsules One capsule per day
Casey Hannah Crowley Zolpidem, three capsules One capsule per day
Casety Anna Crowley Zolpidem, three capsules One capsule per day
Martha Shay Patterson Zolpidem, three capsules One capsule per day
Clara Rachelle Anderson Zolpidem, three capsules One capsule per day
Jeremiah Zachaniah Snippet MD attending physician was written in the bottom right hand corner of every prescription.
“What time is it?” Asked Ben, as he retrieved the last bit of papers and garbage from under a shelf. Easing to his feet he arched his back and stretched.
“It’s eleven thirty, said Henry, carefully placing the papers into an envelope marked EVIDENCE in bold red letters.
“How about a break? I sure could use some coffee and a sandwich, how about the two of you. Are you hungry or do I eat these myself,” he ask, pulling three of the biggest sandwiches Karr had seen since his last visit to the Deli, from his pack and handing one to each of them along with a separate wet tea towel to wipe their grimy hands on.
“You’re not going to charge us your outrageous Deli prices for these are you?” asked Ben grinning mischievously.
“Outrageous prices, why I’ll have you know the Deli’s prices are the lowest in town!” said Henry, playfully shaking a finger at them in mock horror.
“We’ll have you know that’s because the Deli is the only place in town that serves food,” said Karr laughing.”
“Yea, when we get paid we’re going to take all that money we’re going to make and open a place right next to yours then we’re gonna put you out of business, aren’t we?” said Ben.”
“Do you boys want to take your free sandwich and free coffee out onto the balcony to eat?” Henry asked, heading for the balcony and trying not to laugh at their good-natured kidding.
It was after eight before Henry snapped the last photos. The last sandwich had been eaten and the thermos emptied.
“I never would’ve thought sorting junk would be so tiring,” said Karr, trying to stretch the ache out of muscles he never knew he had.
“How do you do it Henry?” Ben asked. “You don’t even look tired, what’d you do discover the fountain of youth and you’re keeping it all to yourself?”
“I’ll never tell,” said Henry, forgetting that only moments before he’d been longing for a hot shower and a back rub to ease his own aching muscles.
“Okay,” said Henry, “it’s after eight, by the time I make it home it’ll be almost nine. Let’s call it a night and we’ll meet back here at about six thirty in the morning.”
“Tomorrow, we’ll start upstairs and maybe we’ll have time to investigate the tunnel room. Of course, if anything new happens before then, I‘ll be sure to let you know.”
“You do that boss,” said Ben and Karr.
“Hey Ben, don’t you think we ought-a take a trip to the only place in town to see if they sell ear plugs? Ya know, just in case the phone rings in the middle of the night,” joked Karr.
“Might be a good idea considering the circumstances and all,” drawled Ben with a grin.
“Better save yourselves a trip boys,” smirked Henry.
“Why’s that?” asked Ben, trying hard to sound serious.
“Cause, I happen to know the owner and they don’t carry ear plugs!”
“Hum! I guess I’ll have to take your word for it, you knowing the owner and all,” said Karr, as everyone burst out laughing!
The men had seen the writings of lunatics this day and had shuddered at their lunacy, to them laughter was their sanity, and they were glad for it.
The minute they stepped outside, blizzard like conditions assailed them from all sides. Henry knew that the chances of him making it home were as good as him growing wings and flying.
Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out the five hundred eighty-foot, one half inch rope he always carried with him. Deftly tying one end of the rope securely to a porch column he dropped the rope onto the courtyard at his feet. Unrolling the rope, he tied three large loops near the rope’s end.
The men quickly put the loops over their heads and pulling them securely around their waists, with Henry in the lead, Ben in the middle and Karr bringing up the rear they cautiously headed for the gate.
By the time they found their way to the Manor house they were exhausted with more than a hundred fifty feet to go before reaching the caretaker’s cottage. Feeling as if every bone in their bodies were on fire, the men, cold and exhausted, slowly fought their way through the huge four and five-foot high snow drifts. The wind driven snow chased circles around them in the form of blowing stinging ice crystals.
Henry, preoccupied with getting them safely to the cottage before they froze to death, was so startled by the sudden yank on the rope he stopped almost immediately, which caused Ben to stumble into Henry and Karr to slam into Ben, almost knocking them over like bowling pins in a bowling alley!
“What?” Henry mouthed, knowing that the wind would carry his voice away before it could be heard.
“There in the window, a man’s shadow, and a light. That door’s been opened, but not closed,” said Ben, putting his mouth close to Henry’s ear, as he pointed to a window high up on the third floor of an old unused part of the attic, then to the door.
By shading his eyes, Henry could see the shadowy glow of a light and several shadows coming from the far reaches of the attic. “Maybe the workmen forgot to turn the light off after checking the attic for leaks and mice,” Henry said, just as two of the shadows moved and the light went out. “We need to locate the cottage, warm up, then come back to see if anyone’s in the house.”
Twenty minutes later, they were still searching for the cottage. The situation was becoming desperate and even though they were dressed in heavy winter clothing, they were shivering from the cold and exposure.
“There,” mouthed Karr, shaking Ben’s shoulder who in turn shook Henry‘s. Pointing straight ahead and off to the right they saw a bright light shining in the window. Relieved they made a beeline for the cottage and safety.