CEDAR GROVE

BY

E. L. DAWSON

 

     The frontal edge of the worst storm to hit the small town since that fateful night back in 1992 had arrived. The thunder clasped and the stoplights swung to and fro as the townspeople ran to secure their belongings.

     Jackson Mills was not a big town; it only consisted of a Mom and Pop’s store, a gas station, a small family restaurant, and a volunteer fire department. Most of the residents lived on the outskirts of town, and even further then that you came to the mansion.

     Lightning flashed across the old iron fence that surrounded the property. Above the gate, a stamped sign proudly proclaimed that the land and the subsequent house beyond the trees as CEDAR GROVE. The sign stood as a monument as to what many people thought was the evil that resided within the house.

     The mansion had been deserted fifty years ago, and no one had, as of yet, seen fit to tear it down. The townspeople feared it. They whispered stories of things that happened there. Someone saw a light in a window, or someone caught a glimpse of a silhouette against a curtain. The whispers kept the legend alive.

     The headlights of a van came up to the gates, and a woman climbed out, produced a key, and with a rusty click, unlocked the padlock that kept the outsiders out. She motioned the driver of the van through, then closed them back, and relocked them. Taking the time to look up at the house on top of the hill, she felt a little shiver come over her.

     ‘Why did I let him talk me into this?’  She asked herself. ‘There’s something terribly wrong with this place.’

     She stood in the rain for a moment, her blue eyes watching the lightning as it split the sky surrounding the mansion. It lit the pale complexion of her face and the rain soaked her auburn hair. She could feel herself tensing, and she looked away.

     She climbed back in the van and they drove up the long driveway to the house. The closer they came to the house, the more dread she felt. She knew that it was probably just the stories she had heard. Most of them were only myths and local ghost stories, but she knew for a fact that fifteen years ago five high school kids had come up here to camp out in the old house. They had vanished and were never heard from again.

     She clearly remembered for she grown up not far from here. A big search party had been formed, but nothing of the kids had turned up. Nor were their whereabouts ever known. She had only been nine years old at the time, but she remembered how all the mothers had been afraid to let their children out of their sights. Anywhere the children went, so did one of the parents. If there was not a parent around, then the child just did not go.

     As the years passed and there were no other disappearances, the town’s fear died down, and life settled back into a normal routine. However, the niggling fear of this house had stuck with her.

     When she was seventeen, she and her boyfriend had gone out, and decided to see who was the more chicken. She had known what he wanted, but that was ok, because she wanted the same thing. They drove to this house, but thank God, they could not get past the gate. She had been kissing his neck when she looked up, and in the second story window, she thought she had seen something move behind the window. She had screamed, and that was the end of that. Over the years, she had convinced herself that what she had seen had been only her imagination, but the doubt had always been there.

     The van came to a stop, and the woman and two men stepped out. The wind howled out of the west, and the rain slashed across them. One of the men had a video camera, and when he turned it on, the light made the woman’s shadow fall across the house like a looming giant.

     The man with the camera lifted his hand and said with each finger going down: “Three…Two…One!”

     The woman looked at the camera and smiled. “Fifteen years ago, five high school students went into this house that you see behind me, never to emerge. Their bodies were never found, nor were there any evidence of foul play discovered. There were only two pieces of evidence that suggested that these children had entered the house. One, a blue 1984 Camaro known to belong to one of the students, was found at the gate. And two, a teddy bear that one of the girls was always seen with, was found in the foyer. Tonight, we have been given special permission to tour this strange house, and to give you, the viewers, a closer look inside.”

     The rain beat steadily against her yellow slicker, and the lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating the dark and desolate house. “Hi, I’m Lisa Walker, and tonight is the first of a series of documentaries entitled “HAUNTED INDIANA”. Lisa motioned for the camera to cut.

     Kenny, the cameraman, stopped the filming at once, and lowered the camera. “Lisa, that was great! I mean the way the lightning struck, it was just perfect, and I have it all on tape!”

     Kenny pulled at his glasses, as he did every time he was excited. Even though he acted like a kid sometimes, he was in his mid-thirties. His brown hair was long in the back, and tied into a ponytail. On the top, he was already balding. His plump face held out that he was always going to be who he was, and Lisa found that it did not bother her at all. He was still the nicest and most caring man she had ever met.

     “That’s nice, Kenny,” Lisa said disinterestedly. “I really just want to get this night over with.”

     When Jim Howenstein, the producer of the Channel 11 News, had first brought up the idea of a series of documentaries on haunted places of Indiana, Kenny had jumped at the chance. Kenny was so damned gung-ho, and thought that this would help him on his way to being a great cameraman.

     Lisa looked at the third person of their little group, and rolled her eyes with contempt. She figured he was a fraud. Jim thought that he was a fake, too, but he felt it would make good press if they had a supernaturalist with them. His name was Craig Garrison, and he was probably the most celebrated psychic in Indiana. He had had his own TV show back in the 90’s and was still sought after, so Jim decided that he would be perfect for the documentaries. Jim’s idea was to boost ratings and Lisa and her crew was going to do it for him.

     “So Craig, do you feel anything?” Lisa asked sweetly. Inside she was seething, for she felt that it would be better to simply tell the stories, and not give the viewers a demonstration of a charlatan.

     With bug eyes, the little man peered over the top of his wired rimmed glasses at Lisa. “Not yet, but I think there are things here that are interesting to say the least,” He said nasally. He was of small stature, and as petite as a man could be, and still not be called effeminate. The only thing missing from his nerdy look was a pocket protector. Lisa found herself hoping that this man could make it through the night.

     “Figures.” Lisa mumbled, and turned toward the house.

     “Just because you don’t believe in me, don’t think supernatural events do not happen because they do!” Craig said. “And if I don’t feel anything then I will not tell you I do!”

     “Right!” Lisa said, with a hint of exasperation in her voice. “Let’s just get in there, get what we’re after, and get out!”

     The door was unlocked and the trio walked into the foyer, stripping their wet jackets. The owner must have sent someone ahead of them to clean since he knew they were coming. Kenny turned on the light switch by the door and the overhead lights came on.

     As they set their equipment down, her eyes adjusted to the newly lit area and she could see the gigantic living room. All the furniture was covered with sheets, but she could tell that at one time it was a place for grand parties. The White shag carpet would be one of this house’s biggest selling points, if the owner ever decided to sell it.

     There was a feeling of dampness, and a chill in the air. Lisa felt goose bumps rising on the back of her neck, then something grabbed her from behind, and she jumped.

     “Whoa, Lisa. Kind of jumpy aren’t you?” Kenny asked from behind her.

     Regaining her composer, Lisa glanced back at him. “I’m still chilled from the rain outside.” She said matter-of-factly.

     “Ok, ok.” Kenny backed away. “It’s just that ever since we took this assignment, you have been a bit jittery.”

     “Jittery? Jittery?” She repeated, then suddenly let loose. “Kenny, I grew up not fifteen miles from here! I remember the incident, and I remember it well. I was nine years old. The parents were scared, which made us more afraid. They never found the bodies of those kids, and for years, the authorities had been searching this house for any, ANY evidence that there was any foul play involved. To make us behave, our parents would threaten us by telling us they were going to bring us here, to drop us off and let the ghost, or whatever was here, have us! And now I find myself here! And do you wanna know something else? I’m scared,” She was screaming. “I’m scared SHITLESS!”

     “I didn’t realize,” Kenny murmured. “Lisa, I’m here and I won’t let anything happen to you.”

     “You men, and your macho male crap!” She smiled to soften the words. She had known Kenny for five years and found him to be a great friend. He was witty, friendly, and had a fun loving sense of humor. He was the kind of guy that would make some girl lucky someday, and she secretly wished it would be her. Lisa had never confessed her feelings to Kenny for she was afraid of how he would take it. She had had three boyfriends in her life that she would have done anything for, and all three had ended up hurting her. One had committed suicide, one had left her for her best friend in high school, and the other had moved away.

     “You love it.” Kenny retorted, and blew her a kiss. “Now where do you wanna start?” He reached down and grabbed the camera.

     Lisa turned to Craig, who had walked over to the fireplace and was looking fixedly down at the carpet. She smiled pleasantly at him. “So Craig, where would you say the most active spot in the house is?”

     Craig looked over at Lisa, startled. “Wh-wh-what Miss. Walker?”

     “Where would you say the focal point would be?” She gave him a confused look.

     “I’m not sure yet, but I feel that the children’s bodies are still in this house. To be quite frank, Miss. Walker, They were not killed by ghosts, evil spirits, or even demons! Something man-made happened that night to those kids.” He knelt down and ran his hand over a faded dark charcoal colored stain on the carpeting.

     “Kenny are you getting this?” She asked. When he gave her the thumbs up, she turned back to Craig. “What is that?”

     Standing back up, and looking directly at the camera Craig said: “That, my dear, is a stain.”

     Lisa burst out laughing. “Naw,” She spat out sarcastically. “It doesn’t take a psychic to see that!”

     “This stain is telling me that the bodies of those children are still here. I can feel their spirits, all five of them.” He looked at Lisa with such intensity, that she felt she had no choice but to believe him.

     When she finally spoke, her voice was much weaker. “We’re here to film a documentary, not to solve a mystery.”

     “Lisa, if we found those poor children, they would finally be able to rest, and we would be responsible for that!” Craig prompted, as if explaining to a small child. “Just think what that would do for your ratings!”

     Looking up at the ceiling, Lisa saw dollar signs. Realizing that if that happened then she could go anywhere, and ask for any price. “Alright,” She said, determinedly. “Let’s do it!”

     Lisa bent down to examine the fading, grayish stain that was on the floor, and realized what it was. “This is soot from the fireplace!” She exclaimed. She turned and saw that she was just a step away, from the brick hearth.

     Kenny laid the camera on the floor and walked over to the enormous fireplace. The white sandstone bricks around the firebox sparkled from the light shining on it, and the opening of the firebox was large enough for a man to fit into. The fireplace was built for show, and not efficiency. He grabbed the metal grating in the firebox, and dragged it out. Lisa winced from the metallic screeching as Kenny scooted it across the bricks of the hearth.

     When the grating was out far enough out of the way, Kenny walked into the firebox.

     “What are you doing?” Lisa asked.

     Kenny looked up, took a minute, then finally answered. “I am thinking that the bodies are in the flue! I can’t see though It’s too dark up there. Bring me the flashlight, will ya?”

     She ran over to their equipment and found the light and ran it back to Kenny. He switched it on, and shined the beam into the dark narrow passage above him. He swore, and shook his head.

     “Nothing?” Lisa asked anxiously.

     “Nothing! And I really thought…” Kenny stated, just as the floor underneath him gave way. He fell through the rotted floor, and landed with an agonizing thud.

     Lisa ran to the wrecked floor, and peered down into the darkness below. “KENNY!” She screamed. She could see the beam of the flashlight, but nothing else. She started tearing big chunks of dried, rotting wood out of the floor. Her hand came across something hard, and she saw that it was a ring latch.

     This was a trapdoor! She thought to herself as she pulled the rest of the door out of the way. “Kenny! Are you ok!

     With every second that he did not answer, she felt her heart rip a little more. She felt the tears well up in her eyes, and she wanted to scream. She hated Jim more than anyone in the world, for getting them into this mess, and the next time she saw him she was going to tear him apart.

     “I’m ok!” Kenny yelled, and her heart swelled. “You’re not going to believe what I found!”

     Lisa brushed the hair out of her face, and stuck her head down through the trapdoor. Her gaze following the flashlight beam, came to rest on an old outdated video camera.

     “Get me the camera, use the ladder and come on down.” Kenny said, excitedly “I think that after all these years we are about to find out what happened to those kids!”

     She ran over and grabbed the camera, shouldering the strap, She started descending the ladder into the darkness below. The opening was only wide enough for one person at a time to go through, which was fine, because the wooden ladder would only hold one person. Kenny helped her manage the last few rungs, and then she stepped down onto a dirt floor. She could smell the decay that lingered in the damp, musty air. It was enough to make her want to pass out. She took in a large gulp of the rank smelling air in, and held it. When she felt that the nausea had passed, then she allowed herself the luxury of breathing once again.

     Lisa walked over to the camera as Craig was coming down the ladder, and picked it up. It was big and bulky, just like the one that she remembered her dad having when she was a little girl. She bumped into a table that was next to her, and set the devise down. Looking around the table, she noticed four rickety chairs, and countless numbers of alcohol bottles. There were cards spewed all over the top, and she knew right away that this was a party room.

     When Craig was finally off the ladder, Kenny grabbed his camera and shined it on Lisa. He gave the cue, and she started speaking. “We have discovered a room below the fireplace. This damp, and musty room, looks as if it was once the place to come if you wanted to drink and have a good time, but now it seems that time has deserted it. Here we have found a video camera that we feel might have belonged to one of the missing children.”

     Kenny turned the camera to show the viewers the whole room, and then the light fell on human bones bunched up in the corner. Upon a closer look at the skeletal remains there were quite a few busted up bones. Lisa’s eyes widened, and then she screamed. Kenny held the beam steadily on the pile of emancipated frames of what had been five children, while Lisa continued, shaken. “It seems…it seems…” She took a breath, and recomposed herself. “It seems we have just found the remains of the kids that disappeared fifteen years ago.”

     Craig walked to the pile of bones and laid his hand on them. Tears spilled from his face, as he looked back up to Lisa and Kenny. “It was all so senseless!” He cried out. “They didn’t need to die! You BASTARDS!”

     Lisa wasn’t sure to whom he was speaking to, but she put her arms around him, as her own tears were falling. “Craig, you ok?” She managed.

     “They killed them, and they hid their bodies down here! He took off his glasses. “I don’t think they meant to, but it was just a prank that went wrong!”

     “Who killed them Craig?” Lisa asked.

     Craig looked down upon the dead children once more. “They’re on the video.” He spoke quietly.

     “I can save you the trouble of watching the video,” came a voice from above them. “I did it.” The shadowy figure had a gun trained on them. He jumped down from the opening onto the dirt floor. The gun had not even wavered from the three of them. “Let me explain.”

     He motioned them with the gun to the table, and Kenny, Lisa, and Craig took a chair. Lisa knew that this man had killed before and would probably have no qualms about doing it again. “Who are you?” She asked after she sat down.

     The man looked as if he had not had a good night’s sleep in years. He was bald, ragged, and he clearly needed a shave, “I’m Brad Kitchener. I was captain of the football team at Woodsville High when those kids died.”

     “We never meant to kill them.” Kitchener continued. “As the leader of the football team I was looked up to. I always had a gang around me. Always! I was eighteen, ready for a big career at college level football! I had everything going for me! Those kids…” He jerked his thumb behind him. “They were always trying to get trouble started with me. I admit I wasn’t nice to them, but they were geeks. I was the captain of the football team.”

     “Finally, one of those girls, she was fifteen, acted like she wanted sex, and who was I to turn it down! Now I wish I did. We waited till the school was deserted, and did it in the science classroom, they were hiding, and they videotaped it all, and threatened to go to the police. I needed to get that tape back. When I found out that, they were coming up here to film for a class, I got a group of twelve football players together, and waited for them.”

     “Some of us used to come up here and drink every weekend, that’s why we knew about the little room. I swear, all we wanted was the tape, then we would have left them alone. Things got out of hand, and they were beat to death. We hid the bodies down here, and sealed it up,” Brad finished.

     Lisa looked down and saw that the camera was still rolling. “So why didn’t you just call the police, and explain it?”

      He gave Lisa a haunted look. “Yeah, ok how would that look? Eleven football player and their captain, against three guys, and two girls. Makes a pretty picture, huh?” He pointed the gun at Lisa first. “I wasn’t going to jail then, and I ain’t gonna now! I’m afraid that you’re going to join those kids,” He said apologetically.

     Craig smiled a little and looked intently at Brad. “Son, do you know who I am?”

     “Yeah, you’re that psychic guy from that TV show,” Brad answered. “So what?”

     “I’m more then psychic,” Craig began, “I am a medium. I channel spirits, I can command them.” His eyes grew huge behind his glasses. “Look behind you.”

     Brad gave Craig a disbelieving grin, and said, “Yeah, sure I’ll look.”

     He glanced behind him as instructed, and all the color drained from his face. His eyes widened in fear, as he brought the gun he was holding up. He fired wildly.

     Lisa couldn’t see anything, but she knew that Craig, and Brad could. Kenny looked to her blankly, and she knew that he wasn’t seeing anything either.

     “NOOOOOOOOOO!” Brad screamed into the nothingness that was there.

     “You are all dead! We killed you!” Crying, Brad sank to his knees, and covered his head. “Please! I’m sorry!” He blubbered.

     Covering his head with his left arm, he brought the pistol around with his right, and placed the barrel in his mouth. “God forgive me! He muffled out, and then pulled the trigger.

     Lisa watched as Brad’s blood and brains went flying behind him, and as if in slow motion, his carcass fell over, onto the cold, dirty floor below him. She got up, and kneeled over Brad, as Kenny grabbed the camera.

     Brad’s eyes, nose, and upper jaw had been disintegrated, and Lisa let out a gasp. “He’s dead,” Was all she could say, and the weeping started.

     Kenny turned to Craig, and grabbed him by the shirt. “What did you do?” He demanded.

     “I pushed him in the right direction,” Craig said bluntly. “Mr. Kitchener was the one who wanted it to end. All I did was make a suggestion, and he saw what he saw.”

     Still weeping, she looked to him and asked, “And what did he see?”

     “I guess we’ll never know!” Craig said, as he started back to the van.

                                                                               THE END

 

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