Ghost Stories from Hell, page 55
The man glanced up over the top of his newspaper and smiled pleasantly. He put the paper down and extended his hand. “Elmer?”
“Yes,” Elmer said, shaking the offered hand and sitting down across from the man.
“Roger,” the man said before taking another sip of his coffee.
Before Elmer could say anything, the waitress came over and topped off Roger’s mug without asking Elmer for anything.
Elmer, who was going to say no to any question about food, was still surprised.
Roger smiled. “I assumed you weren’t the type of person to eat in a little diner like this. I told the waitress I was expecting company, but you wouldn’t want to be bothered about food.”
Elmer straightened up in his chair and found himself smiling. “That’s exactly right, Roger.”
“So,” Roger said, sipping his coffee, “what exactly do you want to be bothered about, Elmer?”
For a moment, Elmer wondered how much he should tell Roger, and then he decided to tell him about everything except the ghost.
“I collect items which were used to commit murders,” Elmer said. “Recently I acquired a bayonet that was used in a locked-door murder. I have reason to believe the bayonet came from a collection similar to my own, and, quite frankly, Roger, I want that collection. I attempted to find out how the bayonet was obtained by the man who sold it to me, but he died yesterday before I could do so.”
“You would like me to find the individual who sold the bayonet to your own contact?” Roger asked.
“You do understand you purchased an item that was more than likely stolen?”
Roger nodded and took a longer drink from his mug. “Well, since we both know you have participated in a crime by receiving stolen goods, I am going to have to ask for more than my usual fee for the job. This will be to help defray any costs I might incur should I be arrested as well.”
Elmer hadn’t considered the being arrested angle, but he nodded in agreement.
“Good,” Roger said. “I’m requesting seventy-five dollars an hour, plus expenses. I will present receipts for anything I purchase while on the clock for you. This can range from a sandwich at a pizza place to filling the tank on my car. It will not be for new pants or shoes or anything like that unless, of course, something happens to those items while I’m actively working on the job. I will give you a phone number of a disposable phone so you can contact me at any time of the day or night if you learn something new. I will contact you as soon as I have solid information. Do not harass me with calls inquiring as to the status of the investigation. I will stop working for you.”
“Excellent.” Roger smiled. He reached into his back pocket, took out a small business card, and flipped it over. On the back, a cell number was written. “This is the number.”
“Thank you,” Elmer said, putting the number away in his wallet.
“Who did you buy the bayonet from?” Roger asked.
Roger took a small notebook from under his newspaper, and jotted the name down. “Did he own a business?”
“Pawn shop in Milford.”
“Okay. Where did he die?”
“Southern New Hampshire Hospital in Nashua.”
Roger nodded, looked up, and smiled pleasantly. “Okay, Elmer. I’ll call you soon.”
Elmer returned the smile, stood up, and left the restaurant. He was excited. In fact, he wanted to get home as soon as possible, so he could share the news with Captain Epp. Perhaps, when Fiona and the boys went out to practice, he could bring someone home for Captain Epp.
Yes, that seemed like a fantastic idea.
Humming to himself, Elmer tossed the BMW’s key from hand to hand, looking forward to the evening.
Chapter 33: Mr. Sherman’s House, 1989
Charles walked up the dead end of Sheridan Street, heading towards the path that would lead to Adams Street when he heard a yell followed by a crash.
Both sounds came from Mr. Sherman’s house.
Mr. Sherman lived alone.
Charles ran straight across Mr. Sherman’s well-kept lawn to the porch stairs. He hurried up the stairs and knocked on the door.
A groan answered his knock, and Charles cautiously tried the doorknob.
It turned, and the latch clicked loudly.
Charles pushed the door open, calling out, “Mr. Sherman? It’s Charles Gottesman!”
As the door opened all of the way, Charles saw Mr. Sherman lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. At the top of the stairs, he caught sight of the library door open, the light on.
Charles hurried to Mr. Sherman’s side and knelt down beside the man. There was a trickle of blood coming from a small cut on top of a welt that was rising on Mr. Sherman’s forehead. Mr. Sherman’s bottom lip was swelling too, and the man groaned once more before opening his eyes. For a moment, the eyes seemed to roll in different directions before they focused on Charles.
“Charles,” Mr. Sherman said in a low voice. “I left the front door unlocked.”
“Well,” Mr. Sherman smiled, managing to sit up. “It seems that becoming forgetful in my old age has its benefits.”
Charles stood up and held out his hands to Mr. Sherman. The man nodded, took hold of Charles’ hands, and together they managed to get Mr. Sherman to his feet. The man swayed, reaching a hand out to touch the wall and steady himself.
A soft click drifted down the stairs, and Charles looked up.
The door to the library was closed.
Charles blinked, looked again, and saw the door was closed.
“Mr. Sherman,” Charles said, still looking at the library door.
“The library door. It was open when I came in.”
Mr. Sherman looked up at the library and sighed. “Yes, Charles. Yes. It closes itself occasionally, although I wish it wouldn’t. Now, Charles, let us get a cup of tea, shall we? I don’t believe that I have a concussion, but if you would be kind enough to sit with me long enough for a cup of tea, I would appreciate it.”
Charles looked at the door, shook his head, and then followed Mr. Sherman into the kitchen.
Chapter 34: Charles in the Library
Ellen was asleep in her room when Charles opened up the library and walked in.
The room felt uncomfortably silent as he sat down in the chair and put his hands on the desk. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then asked out loud, “Does anyone wish to speak?”
The silence grew heavier.
Minutes passed, and then he heard a sigh.
A shape appeared in the doorway, faint at first, but slowly it gained definition until a young boy of perhaps ten or twelve stood there. He wore homespun clothes and looked as though he could have been from the late eighteen hundreds.
“Hello,” Charles said.
The boy looked at him, his face pale, his hair blonde. After a moment the boy said, “Hello.”
“Will you talk to me?”
The boy crossed his arms over his chest and asked, “Will you listen?”
Charles felt his eyebrows rise, but he managed to keep his tone neutral. “Yes. What will you tell me?”
The boy grinned, a bit of malice in his eyes. “I will tell you what it’s like when you scalp a man.”
Charles merely breathed and nodded.
“I’ll tell you how to make one of the red men scream, even though he won’t want to.”
Charles nodded again.
“I will tell you,” the boy said, looking at Charles and lowering his voice, “what the flesh of man tastes like, both raw and roasted.”
“I’m listening,” Charles said softly.
“I’m Thomas,” the boy said happily, sitting down on the floor, “and I died in 1876.”
Chapter 35: Elmer hears from
Two days after Elmer had met Roger at the restaurant, Elmer’s business line rang.
The caller ID showed a cell number Elmer didn’t recognize until he realized it was the number on the back of the card Roger had given him.
Elmer hurriedly answered the phone.
“Hello, Elmer,” Roger said. “I have some news for you.”
“Wow,” Elmer said, leaning back in his chair, “that was fast.”
“Thank you. The information is pretty straightforward, Elmer. There’s an evidence clerk at the Nashua Police Department who has a gambling problem. He scratches that itch with things he sells from evidence. He sold the bayonet to David Ganz. He doesn’t know anything about the bayonet after that.”
“Damn,” Elmer said, shaking his head.
“That’s not the end of it,” Roger said easily. “Looks like the bayonet was used to kill a man named Jared Capote. Like you said, Jared Capote’s murder is a locked room case. That’s why the clerk thought it was okay to sell the weapon. When I looked a little more at Jared, I saw his friend Mike Singer died the day before. No exact details were available. However, Mike was living with his girlfriend at the time, a woman named Ellen Kay. Are you following all of this?”
“Good. Now, Ellen Kay works as a visiting nurse, and the day Mike Singer died, she found one of her patients dead. That man was Philip Sherman. A few days later, when Mr. Sherman’s house was being shown for a quick sale, the real estate agent called the police to say there had been a break-in. Mr. Sherman’s library had been left intact, and part of the sale of the house included the stipulation that nothing in the library could be removed. While the police didn’t have a list of items which had been stolen from the library, they could see things were indeed missing. Those things, Elmer, were military items. Collectibles and such.
“Now I did a little digging on both Jared Capote and Mike Singer, and it turns out they had a couple of breaking and entering charges back from their high school days. Put two and two together, and you’ve got a couple of guys looking to make a quick buck. The best I can figure is Mike learned of Mr. Sherman’s death from his girlfriend, Ellen. Mike probably heard the library was the only thing still there, and since Mr. Sherman was ninety-five when he passed away, Mike probably thought there was some money or something worthwhile in the library.
“Mike then must have gotten in touch with Jared; they got into the house, and then got away with a couple of bags of material. Evidently Jared decided to keep the bayonet for himself, but nothing else. That means he moved the material or whoever killed him took the material. Either way, some of that material is missing.”
“There must also be some at Mr. Sherman’s house,” Elmer said excitedly. “Is the house still for sale?”
“No, it’s been purchased. The new owner is a man named Charles Gottesman. He’s a writer. General non-fiction, essentially.”
“Do you have the address?” Elmer asked.
“I do,” Roger said. “It’s number one Sheridan Street in Nashua.”
“Excellent!” Elmer said, writing the information down. “This is superb work, Roger. Could you please send me an invoice by email? Payment via cash?”
“Yes, please, Elmer,” Roger chuckled. “The invoice is already in your inbox.”
“Good. Thanks, Roger.”
Elmer ended the call and put his phone down on the desk. He turned the chair and looked at the video feeds from the museum. He frowned. He still had to clean up after Captain Epp. The ghost had made a mess with the stranger Elmer had managed to get into the house.
Oh, well. Elmer smiled. It was worth it, and there are plenty of ways to dismember a body and get rid of it.
Plenty of ways.
Chapter 36: Charles and Ellen at the Flea Market
Charles and Ellen sat in her Volkswagen in the parking lot of the old mill that served as the Milford Flea Market. Charles occasionally went to the flea market, looking for older books to use for research. Today he and Ellen had a list of the missing items, as well as a sincere hope the items hadn’t been sold.
Charles had taken out quite a bit of cash from his rainy day fund, and he was carrying the white gloves that had been hidden beneath Mr. Sherman’s desk.
“Are you ready?” Charles asked.
“To go hunting for haunted items in a flea market?” Ellen asked with a shaky laugh. “Sure, I’m ready.”
“Right,” Charles said, shaking his head. “Yeah, I’m not ready either.”
“No use in sitting here,” Ellen said.
“No. Definitely not.” Charles reached into his jacket’s inner pocket and pulled out the gloves and the cash. He split the pile of cash in two, and handed one-half to Ellen.
“Gee, thanks, Dad,” she said, grinning.
“You’re welcome,” Charles smiled back. He then handed her the right glove. “I probably should have been using this the whole time, but I was pretty stupid.”
“What, the gloves?”
Charles nodded. “They’re supposed to act as a buffer of some sort between the item and your skin. The gloves are supposed to protect you from the worst of the item’s influence.”
“We’re going to look like Michael Jackson, you know,” she said.
“I’m surprised you even know who he is,” Charles laughed.
“He made Thriller,” Ellen smiled. “Thriller. That’s all I have to say about that.”
“Well, now we’re suitably prepared,” Charles said, “shall we go in?”
“Sure,” Ellen said, swallowing nervously. “Let’s get this done.”
They got out of the car, closed the doors, and made their way into the flea market with a few other people.
“Shoot me a text if you find anything,” Charles said as they entered the building, pausing in the stairwell. “I’ll do the same.”
Ellen nodded, put her purse straps over her shoulder, and walked forward to prowl through the booths on the first floor. Charles walked up the stairs to the second floor and started his own search.
Chapter 37: Wayne Broderick and Dave’s Stuff
Wayne didn’t bother looking around when he “Irished up” his coffee. None of the other sellers at the flea market would care, and if a buyer had a problem with him drinking, then Wayne wouldn’t sell to them. But that was pretty rare. Most of the folks who bought from him were either old school New Englanders who didn’t much care about anything, or trendy kids who thought he was, what was it, ah, yes, “Edgy.”
Wayne looked at the flask that held his whiskey. It was a beautiful silver piece that had been engraved with two words, My Lai. The words pulled at his memory, but he couldn’t figure out what they meant. He had no idea who Lai had been, or why they were important, but hey, to each his own.
Wayne would be damned if his whiskey didn’t taste better from the flask. Which was funny because he found the damned thing with all of the other military crap Dave had asked him to watch over.
Dave, Wayne thought. Poor Dave.
Wayne uncapped the flask, took a long pull from it to honor Dave, and then he capped the flask and put it away. He leaned back in the battered old recliner that served as his throne, surrounded by the various bits and pieces of old junk he sold. Some of it was good, some of it was bad. Wayne didn’t know. He didn’t follow the Antiques Roadshow or read any of the magazines about antiques.
Wayne read people.
Most people told you exactly what they were willing to pay as soon as they saw an item. Some could be hooked for a little more, others would haggle down. Some were unreadable, but those were few and far between, and they usually laughed at the price he threw at them. When that happened, Wayne would grin and ask what they’d be willing to pay for it.
Wayne had a good time, bought most of his stuff at the end of estate sales and cleaned out barns and cellars and attics. He had his pension from the Navy,
No, Wayne didn’t have any pressure from anybody for anything.
He took a drink of his coffee and grinned.
Damned if that coffee didn’t taste just right with the whiskey.
A Chinese couple walked by, and a surge of hate flared within him, taking him aback.
What the hell? Wayne thought. He’d worked with a lot of Chinese over the years, hated haggling with them, but he didn’t hate them.
He turned his head to watch the couple as they stopped to look at some lamps in Joan’s stall across the aisle. They were young, fashionable. Wayne felt the surge of hate once more. It rose from deep within his stomach, and he literally had to fight the urge to grab hold of a knife from Dave’s collection.
Wayne wanted to stab them.
He wanted to stab them to death.
Wayne forced himself to look away, and he felt the desire subside. With a shaking hand he lifted up his coffee and took a drink, the whiskey settling his nerves.
Jesus Christ, he thought. What the hell is going on?
He looked over at the table he’d put all of Dave’s stuff on, the military crap the man had wanted to move. Something about it was wrong. Something about the damned things twisted his stomach.
Wayne shook his head and took another drink of his coffee.
If he didn’t sell most of Dave’s stuff today, he’d sell the lot wholesale to Tim over at the Army Surplus store.
Well, everything but the flask, Wayne thought with a grin.
He took the flask out of his pocket, added another splash of whiskey, and hoped the first customer wouldn’t be any sort of Asian.
Chapter 38: Charles and Wayne
Charles saw the militaria after wandering about the second floor for nearly fifteen minutes. He paused long enough to send Ellen a quick text and then made his way directly to the tables.