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Chapter 57

“May we sit someplace,” Dr. Lasker asked the woman who gave a quick glance at her daughter in the kitchen.

“I’m sorry. I’m forgetting my manners.” She indicated the couch.

Shelly noticed a large faded square on the wall above the couch where a painting or mirror might have hung.

The woman sat down on a rocking chair, an old raw wood type from the period when the house was built in the late 1700’s. She began to rock with a slow but steady rhythm.

Dr. Lasker sat down on the couch across from her. A puff of dust rose as he almost fell into the cushion. He signaled Chan to fetch a camera.

Shelly saw the dust cloud and remained standing. She wondered why the frame of the couch looked fairly sturdy, wood, again unpainted, but the cushions were falling apart and didn’t seem to fit right in the frame. Not being an expert she didn’t notice most of the rest of the furniture in the room was made of unvarnished wood held together by wood dowels and hand cut joints. It was an odd mix as if collected from garage sales at many different houses.

Shelly suddenly noticed the professor was glaring at her, signaling her to stop gawking and sit down with him on the couch. “Go ahead,” she said, “I’ll stand here. I’m stiff from the

long drive.”

Dr. Lasker smiled at the woman. “Tell me, Mrs. Ross, you said things are worse? Do you mean worse than last year?”

The woman shivered, her thin arms looked bruised. “He won’t sell the damn place. I keep begging him and begging him, but he won’t sell. It’s been a year of horror.” She looked

anxiously around again. “There are all kinds of noises and cold spells, but that’s not the worst.” Chan was back with a camera. He was rushing to mount it on a tripod.

“It is not a very good seller’s market right now,” Lasker said. “Perhaps that is why he won’t sell?”

The woman looked down at her feet. “Don’t you see what’s going on? Are you blind?” She was becoming agitated and said suddenly, “Calm down. I’ve got to calm down. You’re here to help us. To help us you’re here.”

“Yes,” Dr. Lasker said, signaling Chan to start filming.

The woman arched her neck toward the kitchen and then leaned forward into a whisper. “Do you remember what this house looked like when you were here last? Look around you.

What do you see?”

Shelly looked around again. She didn’t see anything unusual other than the fact for a big house the furniture seemed more like for poor people, old and shabby. Strangely, a large wall unit on the far wall looked modern and expensive.

The woman moved toward Lasker, her eyes almost touching his. “Damn it! Look at the furniture. It’s all old! Hand-made! Don’t you remember? We had just bought all new furniture after moving in here after Caroline was born. I got pictures somewhere…if he didn’t throw them out? He throws them all out, but I hid a few. There was a glass wall unit over there…on that wall just like that one there. We had a sixty inch flat screen television hanging between the twin columns of the wall unit. You remember now?”

“I do vaguely remember. What happened to them,” the professor asked, looking into the lens of the camcorder.

Mrs. Ross leaned closer again, her eyes peering into the kitchen. “He chopped them up.

He just came in one night and with cold eyes like a shark he just swung an axe until bits of furniture were all over the floor.”

“She’s lucky that’s all he chopped up,” Allen said. “Did you see that monster?” “Stop joking around,” Shelly hissed.

“I’m not joking,” the woman said, giving Shelly a disapproving look. “The truth is I do feel lucky that is all he chopped far.”

Dr. Lasker shot Shelly a dirty look. “My associate didn’t mean you were joking,” he said, giving Shelly another warning glance.

The woman looked confused, but continued, “I ran and locked Caroline and me in my bedroom. That’s when I found out he cut the phone wires. I left my cell phone on the kitchen table so we were stuck in the bedroom. I was praying for someone to save us. Caroline seemed to be in shock of some kind, her eyes weren’t seeing me.”

“That’s awful,” Dr. Lasker said to the camera. “How did you escape?”

Mrs. Ross brushed her hand on her dress. “He just stopped. I have no idea why? He never explained nor mentioned it after that. And as you can see, John replaced some of the furniture he destroyed. But it’s all old-looking. He built it himself. He says he likes it all old looking.”

“He built all this junk,” Allen said. “He must be crazy.”

Shelly bit her tongue so she wouldn’t answer him. “It’s amazing that he was able to do all this,” she said to Mrs. Ross, hoping to make up for her previous comment. She’d have to talk to Allen about keeping quiet when clients were talking. That would definitely help.

The woman’s eyes were cold as they aimed at Shelly. “What’s really amazing,” she said softly as if revealing a secret, “My John could never hammer a nail straight. He was an accountant by trade and had never sawed a board in his life. Suddenly he’s making one piece of furniture after another.”

“Well that’s really quite an accomplishment,” Shelly said. Dr. Lasker sighed. “Miss Adams, you are missing the point.”

Chan caught himself laughing. If Shelly kept this up he had nothing to worry about.

She’d be out on her pretty little butt in no time.

“You really are missing the point,” Allen chided.

“Not you too,” Shelly said and then clapped a hand over her mouth. “Good idea,” Dr. Lasker said, shaking his head in disgust.

Shelly walked into the next room, feeling her temper simmering. “Are you here?” She


“I figured you wanted to talk to me,” Allen replied.

“Exactly what point am I supposedly missing?” She felt explosive toward both of these macho idiots.

“Look at her outfit,” Allen said.

Shelly shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t understand why suddenly you’re the fashion police?” And suddenly she realized what Allen was saying. The woman was dressed in an ankle length tan dress, a white apron tied at her middle and heavy-looking black leather high boots on her feet. “She looks like from another century,” Shelly said, amazed she had missed this.

“Didn’t you notice the little girl?” Allen was beginning to realize that Shelly had a ‘minor’ weakness which in this new ‘business’ could prove to be a major problem. “You’re not very observant, are you,” he asked.

“I see things pretty good,” Shelly argued, but suddenly she did remember the little girl had been wearing a similar tan pattern-less dress and odd-looking black leather high boots. “She had her hair hidden by a bonnet too,” Shelly said. “I thought she was playing dress up.”

“A likely excuse for a lack of observation,” Allen replied. “Now do you understand what is going on here?”

Shelly shrugged. “I’m guessing the old man, the father, is, for some unknown reason, forcing them to dress like people did more than a hundred years ago. Is that right?”

“Bingo,” Allen replied.

“And the furniture too,” Shelly added, realizing she had not been very observant. She wouldn’t admit it to either of them, but she now knew she really had missed the point.

“Bingo again,” Allen said.

“But why? Why would he do this?”

“What really scares me is why did he show so much rage when he chopped up the furniture?”

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