Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Mystery of the Mysterious Boat, Chapter Two, Part Four

Begin with the beginning.

"Isn't it possible that your parents told you some kind of a scary story when you were little — who knows what they'd seen themselves — and you just had a nightmare when you thought you saw the apparition?" suggested Parker. "You must have been very young then, bedtime and all. If you guys saw anything at all, it probably was nothing but those statues on the garden wall and all over the place. In a fog wafting, scudding, and swirling about, they've got to look like they were monsters moving around."

"No, Nick. My dad was not a lunatic, a fool, or a coward. Nevertheless, he kept seeing the boat for the rest of his life. He was a very reasonable man in most matters. Whenever he visited me, he was completely sane. He was not hallucinating. He had courage, too. When we had moved out, the creatures would get nosier and nosier, trying to get into the house. Dad just locked himself in his bedroom whenever the fog rolled in at night. They managed to get in eventually, and he let them have the run of the house. But in the morning, nothing was missing or damaged."

"Sorry to say that, but the complete absence of tangible evidence makes the whole affair look like your dad's personal mania. I mean, he told you they regularly broke into his house — yet they never left any evidence of their presence?"

"Yes, that's what I wanted to make myself believe when I inherited the house. Of course, I didn't dare to move in here. Yet, one evening, when I'd been to the beach and saw the fog coming in, I drove over here. I was determined to prove myself that it was nothing but dad's idée fixe. Of course, I was terribly uneasy — but the fog swallowed the house, night fell, and nothing happened. After a couple hours of sitting in the dark studio, I'd convinced myself that I'd been very silly. I felt relieved and free.

"I was just going to order me a pizza on my cell phone — the telephone is disconnected — when I thought I heard some thumping sound. No, it wasn't my heart. At first, I believed I was just imagining it, what with dad's stories and the dark house. Then it became unmistakable: the sound of rhythmic drumbeats from the ocean. I looked out the window and — there was just fog. I wanted to run, but forced myself to stand still. The drumbeats were coming closer. Finally, a breeze parted the fog for a moment — and there it was, my worst nightmare come true: the dark outline of a huge canoe beyond the surf. I ran out to my car, sped off, and didn't look back. I guess I can be glad that I didn't kill anybody speeding through the fog.

"So can you imagine why any human beings would want to stage such a show for more than three decades? There's no possible motive. Just don't tell me that some unknown enemy hates my dad and my family enough to make all that fuss. I've looked at this mystery from every possible angle. Lemme tell you, there's only one explanation: The house is haunted, and that's it. We can't help it — we've got to leave the house to the forces that have taken possession of it. We've got no means to fight them."

"Smugglers?" mused Parker.

"Why here? Why would they want us to see them? Wouldn't they beach their boat somewhere in the middle of nowhere? Their risk of being caught by the Coast Guard would be the same. But after all they don't have to have witnesses."

"Could you get me your spare keys for the house?" Traynor requested. "We'd like to spend one of those famed foggy nights in this dead mariners' watering hole."

"But it's too dangerous. I can't ask you to do that."

"No problem." Traynor opened his white summer jacket and patted his .45 Colt M1911 pistol, ready in its holster. This Colt and its many brothers in his collection back in New York had saved his life several times already. "This is my Ghost Buster."

"Well, gun or no gun, I wouldn't dare to stay here overnight."

"Just leave that to us. Another question: Did anyone besides us offer to buy the lot?"

"Well… There was one Winnie Creegeen-O'Neill. She's with some community organization — they want the land for some cultural stuff, a community center or something. But she wasn't able to offer nearly the market price. She probably thought she could get this spook house on the cheap. When I told her I wasn't able to sell, she must have thought I was trying to boost the price. She got very nasty, said it was my duty to contribute my land for the good of the community. I wouldn't know why we need a new community center, anyway. Then there was The Blade — Daniel Bladington, the TV actor. That's all the prospective buyers I can remember. All who made me any offers."

"OK — and was there anybody who wanted to buy it from your father?"

"I'd have to look that up. Fortunately, I've brought my house files with me. I've got dad's correspondence regarding the house in my car." Wheelwright went to get the files. When he came back, he was carrying a cardboard box. He deposited it on a table among the chairs, removed the lid, and produced a thick folder. "Lemme see." For several minutes, he kept leafing through the letters. "There's only one offer to buy the house." He handed some letters to Traynor.

The latter examined the documents, then handed them to the others. "One Rod Cardozo. Ever heard the name before, Ted?"


"Was that before or after the haunting started?"

"Not sure. The letters are all dated before mom and I left dad. But I was very little then. I can't tell exactly when the boat appeared for the first time or whether it was before or after Cardozo made his offer."

"May we talk to your mom?" inquired Parker.

"I'm sorry — she died of cancer fourteen years ago." Wheelwright rummaged in the box until he retrieved a set of keys, which he offered to Traynor. "Be my guests."

"Could we borrow your files, too?" Traynor asked.

Wheelwright dropped the spare keys back into the box, handing it to Traynor. "Don't get yourselves killed by ghosts or wendigos." He showed them to the door, locked it, and drove off in the Cadillac.

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