Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24, 2015 - No Trespassing


The sign on the old oak said “No Trespassing,” and each boy read it silently as he walked by.  Each boy had heard the stories about old Duncan who lived in the cemetery.  “Keep Out” said the next sign, and the one after that said “Private Property.”  Every day the three boys passed by old Duncan’s place, as the locals called the cemetery, when they were on their way to school and back, and every day each boy wondered why anyone would live in a graveyard.

One day Tom said, “Do you suppose anyone really lives in there?”  Jacob said he had always heard that old Duncan lived there and everyone knew that and how stupid could anyone be to ask.  Eddie said that sometimes he saw a wisp of smoke coming up from the old mausoleum now and then, like maybe somebody was cooking, so it was likely that someone lived there.

No Trespassing on Duncan's property.

“Yeah, but no one has ever seen anyone there.  I know I haven’t, have you?” Tom asked the boys.
“No,” said Jacob, “but that don’t mean no one’s there.”
“Doesn’t it??” Tom pressed.  “I asked my dad and mom and they said they never saw old Duncan there.”
“Old Duncan lived around these parts before our parents were born, so maybe they never had a chance to see him,” said Eddie.
“And maybe he died a long time ago,” Tom said, “if he ever lived at all.  Even our parents haven’t seen him!  My dad says all these signs have always been up around the cemetery, but every once in a while, some new ones get nailed up.”
“Your parents wouldn’t know since you only just moved here a few years ago,” Eddie said.
“But what about the signs?  They're so old!” Tom pressed.
“Yeah, they been up a long time, but that don’t mean nothing, and like you said, there’s new ones, too, every now and then,” said Eddie.

Every day the conversation was pretty much the same.  Each day Tom questioned the other two boys about old Duncan, about the cemetery, and about the signs.  Each day both boys looked warily at Tom because everyone knew old Duncan lived in the cemetery.  He always had, people said, and he always would.  No one buried anyone in that cemetery anymore anyhow.  They all used the newer one on the other side of town.  Duncan’s cemetery was strictly off limits and forbidden to anyone.  But the more Jacob and Eddie told Tom the stories about old Duncan, the more interested Tom became in the cemetery.

Even when they told Tom about old Duncan murdering Isabeau Potts for refusing him and then making off with her jewelry and money--and her body--Tom scoffed.  Duncan was a vagrant and never had a home, and Isabeau was rich and pretty and pretty mean, too.  She had secretly encouraged Duncan as a private joke with her boyfriend, and when Duncan professed his love for her in public--which she insisted he had to do in order to gain her favor--she laughed at him, called him names, and humiliated him in front of everyone.  Most of the townspeople laughed at Duncan that day, and he was never seen again.  Shortly after that, Isabeau Potts was never seen again, either, and the rumors spread about how she had died but no one knew for sure.

“I think Isabeau’s jewelry and money are in that mausoleum,” Tom said one day as they were passing by after school.  “I think he killed her, buried her in the cemetery, and then hid out in one of the old tombs until they finally stopped looking for him.  And I think he stashed the stuff in the mausoleum because why else would people see a wisp of smoke coming out of there now and then if he’s not in there?”

Jacob and Eddie looked at Tom like he was crazy, but they were clearly interested.  After all, Isabeau’s murder had never been solved, if she was murdered at all, since no one had ever found her body.  Her parents swore she was killed, and there was no doubt that her money and jewelry were gone but the jewels never turned up either.

“But wouldn’t he be dead now himself, like you said?” Jacob offered.
“Yeah,” Eddie said, “he’s gotta be dead by now.”
“Maybe,” Tom said, “but maybe not.  It could just be that he’s still around but very, very old.  And if that the case, he’s gonna die soon, and when he dies, he’s gonna take the hiding place of Isabeau’s jewels with him.  Unless we can convince him to tell us where they are--before he dies.”

The way Tom said that made Jacob very uncomfortable.  He had never trusted Tom very much anyhow, but Tom was big and kept him safe from some of the other bullies, so he kept his mouth shut.  Eddie knew exactly what Tom meant and it turned his stomach a bit, but he was very greedy for those jewels, having been poor all of his life.

“So what are you saying?” Eddie asked.
“I’m saying we go in there, find the old man, and get those jewels out of him.”
“I just don’t think it’s right,” Jacob said.
“Oh, please!” Tom said.  “He’s probably dead anyway, if he ever existed at all, and if he’s not, he soon will be anyhow because he’s so old.  Why should he get away with the secret?  We’ll split everything three ways!  You’re not scared, are you Jacob?  You don’t actually believe these old fairy tales, do you??”

Jacob just looked down and said nothing.  Eddie asked when, and Tom said tomorrow after school.  That was the end of an awkward conversation, and the three of them parted and went to their own homes.

The next day came and Jacob tried to get out of it, but Tom wouldn’t let him and the three of them left school and headed toward old Duncan’s place.  They were very careful to make sure that no one saw them climbing the old stone wall to get into the cemetery.  It was early in the year, and dusk was already swiftly approaching.

“I still don’t think it’s right,” Jacob said.
“Oh, shut up,” came Tom’s swift reply, and they continued on to the mausoleum, looking over their shoulders constantly.  Tom had brought a hammer because he thought they might have to smash a rusted lock off the door, but when they got there, they turned the handle easily.

“I can’t go in,” Jacob said.  “I just don’t think this is right.  You two can go in and I won’t tell on you, but I can’t do this.”  No amount of threatening or jeering from Tom would dissuade Jacob, so he and Eddie entered and shut the door behind them.  Jacob sat down by a tree near the door and just bit his nails.

It was dark inside, but Tom had brought a good-sized end of a candle and some matches.  He said his parents would never miss them.  He lit the candle and the two of them adjusted their eyes to the musty old room.  There were a few tombs inside, but neither of them was interested in reading them.  Eddie was shaking like a leaf and Tom was scared too, although he put a good front up.  There were three doors before them, and the one on the far right had a “No Trespassing” sign on it.

“That’s the one,” Tom said, pointing at it.  “I just know it.”  The other two doors looked dusty and rusted, but Eddie had to admit that the door that had the sign looked like it had been used, and recently too.  They walked toward it, pushed it open easily, and went inside.

But they were not prepared for what they saw.  The room was lit with several candles and sitting at a rickety old table was old Duncan himself.  Except he wasn’t very old; he seemed rather young to them.

“Didn’t you see the signs?” Duncan asked.
“Wh--what signs?” Eddie murmured.
“Why, the signs outside my front gate that say ‘No Trespassing’!” Duncan laughed hollowly.
“We saw ‘em,” Tom said belligerently, trying to sound braver than he felt.
“Oh, good,” Duncan said.  “They are getting a bit worn out, and I thought maybe you hadn’t seen them.  But it seems as though you have, and yet you came anyway!  Welcome, welcome!”

Tom and Eddie looked at each other nervously but said nothing.

“Yes, yes!  I really am Duncan,” Duncan continued.  “And this old mausoleum really is my house!” he laughed.  “But then, you knew that!” he smiled--a very odd smile, indeed.  “Would you like to see the jewels, Tom?”  That perked Tom up a bit, and he said he would like to see them.

“And how about Isabeau?  Would you like to see her, Eddie?  She’s still wearing that beautiful gold locket, the one with the picture of the boy she loved.”  Eddie just stared at Duncan with his mouth open, but Tom had advanced a bit closer and so he followed.  He noticed that Tom had tightened his grip on the hammer until his knuckles were white and his hand shook.

“It’s just in here, then,” said Duncan and pointed to a door to his left.  “Come!  Come!  It has been so long since I’ve had guests!”  He opened the door, went in, and then closed it most of the way, leaving just a crack open.  Eddie and Tom stared at each other again, not saying a word.  Eddie shook his head a tiny bit and nodded toward the exit, but Tom motioned to the door Duncan had gone in.  “We’ll just look for a bit,” he whispered in Eddie’s ear, and so the two of them went in and shut the door behind them.

Duncan was nowhere to be found, but there was a filthy old table in front of them that appeared to have rusted old pieces of some sort of metal on it.  There was only one candle lit in the room so it was hard to see, and the two of them walked toward the table.

“Oh shit!  That’s dried blood on that table!!!” Eddie yelled.  At the same moment, they heard a sound behind them and he and Tom whirled around quickly.  Duncan had two rusty implements, one in each hand, which he thrust forward with tremendously ferocious strength, his eyes gleaming madly in the candlelight!  Tom and Eddie both just let out a surprised cough and fell.  “Much work to do with guests,” Duncan whispered to himself.

Outside, Jacob still sat nervously by the tree.  It was starting to get dark and he wanted to leave so badly, but he was afraid to abandon his friends inside.  The door to the mausoleum creaked open and someone stepped out.  It was hard to make out whether it was Eddie or Tom in the dwindling light, and Jacob squinted to get a better view but he didn’t have to squint long.  The person came straight toward him, but it wasn’t Eddie or Tom.

“I wonder if you’d do me a favor, Jacob?” the young man asked.  His clothes looked wet and slick in the dying light.  Jacob just stared at him.
“There are several ‘No Trespassing’ signs behind the old shed in back of the mausoleum.  You’ll find a hammer and nails in there.  I wonder if you’d get the signs and nail them up for me around the walls surrounding my house?” Duncan said.
Jacob jumped up but still just stared at him with his mouth open.
“I’m very busy entertaining right now.  Otherwise, I’d do it myself.”
Jacob nodded and started to back away, unable to breathe.
“Oh, and take this, too,” Duncan said, and he handed Jacob the gold locket.  “There’s a picture of a handsome young man in there who was also named Jacob, just like you.  It’s one of my favorite names.  Keep it close to you so you’ll always remember me.”

Jacob barely nodded.  He shoved the locket in his pants pocket and ran to the shed.  He knew that he had better keep his mouth shut and his wits about him.  He fumbled around in the last of the dying light and found the boarded signs, hammer, and nails.  Then he ran out with them without looking back and headed toward the cemetery wall.  He knew his friends were dead.  Tears were streaming from his eyes, and as if moving in a dream, he went wildly from one tree to another, nailing up the signs haphazardly, crazily.

He ran home with the hammer still in his hand, slipped quietly in the back door, and went up to his room.  He hid the hammer in the bottom of the back of his closet and then sat down on his bed with one candle lit, shaking from head to foot.  He knew he should tell someone.  He knew he should scream, do something.  He put his hand in his pocket and drew out the locket.  On the right side was a faded old picture of a handsome young man.  On the left side was a folded piece of paper.  He pulled the paper out and opened it up.  The only thing written on it was his own address.

“No trespassing,” he whispered to himself.  “There will be no trespassing.”

6 comments:

  1. love reading your stories ........... you need to make this a book ..keep it going ......

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  2. "No Trespassing" Outstanding story telling. Thanks for sharing this!

    ReplyDelete