Lady Justice and the Ghostly Treasure (5 page)

BOOK: Lady Justice and the Ghostly Treasure
10.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

    “Well, I guess maybe we could do it. If I’m gonna be stirrin’ things up around here, I want to know why.”

    “Good. Let’s go to your apartment and we’ll get started. Walt, you can come too if you want.”

    “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

    Mary noticed the tenants watching her intently. “What the hell you lookin’ at? Go about your business. Oh, and Feeney, go get the ‘For Rent’ sign and stick it in the yard. Now get!”

    The tenants scattered and we headed inside.

    Wheeler pulled two chairs together facing one another and asked Mary to sit. I found a chair across the room.

    Wheeler took his seat across from her and took both of her hands in his. “Just relax. Let your mind wander. Think about your early life and the experiences that have made you who you are.”

   For the next fifteen minutes, the room was eerily quiet. Wheeler never spoke another word. His eyes were closed and every so often I would see his head twitch.

    Then suddenly his eyes opened and he shook his head.

    “My goodness, Mary. You’ve certainly led an interesting life. I sensed there has been a void in your life dating back to your early childhood. A part of you that was taken away and never replaced. Does that mean anything to you?”

    She thought for a moment and nodded. “Yes, it does. I have a twin sister. We were separated when we were five and I haven’t seen her since. I have always felt that a part of me was missing.”

    I nearly fell off my chair. I had known Mary for years and I had no idea she was a twin.

    At that moment there was a knock on the door.

    “I better get that,” Mary said, pulling her hands away from Wheeler.

    When she opened the door, a middle-aged man was standing there.

    “May I help you?”

    “Yes,” he replied. “I saw your sign out front and I’d like to inquire ----.”

    Then I saw the look of astonishment on his face.




    Mary just stood in the doorway staring at the stranger, a look of bewilderment on her face.

    When neither of them moved, I went to her side.

    “Mary, I’m confused. You never told me you had a child.”

     That brought her out of her funk. “That’s ‘cause I never did. Don’t you think I’d know if I’d popped out a kid?”

    That was the Mary I knew.

    “Then how about we invite this gentleman inside and get to the bottom of this mystery?”

    I pushed the door open. “I’m Walt Williams. I’m the landlord here and this is Mary Murphy. She runs the place. Please come in.”

    “Thank you. I’m James Walker and I’m so sorry if I upset everyone, but ---.”

    After we were all seated, I said, “I guess the obvious question is why you called Mary ‘Mom.’”

    James opened his wallet, pulled out a photo and passed it around.

    It was the perfect likeness of Mary Murphy.

    “This is my mother, Martha Walker,” he said. “I think you can see why I was confused.”

    Mary stared at the photo and a tear trickled down her cheek. “Martha. That was my sister’s name.” She turned to James. “Martha? She’s alive?”

    James hung his head. “For now, but not for long I’m afraid.”

    “Where is she? What’s wrong with her? Tell me everything!”

    “Mom’s had a hard life. My father left us when I was ten. She had to raise me by herself. She worked two jobs as long as I can remember just to keep a roof over our heads and keep me in school. It finally caught up to her and her heart gave out. She’s in a nursing home on Truman Road in Independence.”

    “I don’t mean to pry,” I said, “but you seem like you’ve got it together. I’m just wondering why you’re looking for a room here?”

    “We had an apartment, but when Mom went into the nursing home, I couldn’t afford to keep it. It takes every penny to keep her in the home. I was driving by and saw your sign. Forty bucks for a sleeping room is about all I can afford right now.”

    Up to this point, Chris Wheeler had been silent.

    “I guess this explains a lot,” he said with a smile. “Think about it. If Brother Cyrus hadn’t shown himself, your tenants wouldn’t have been upset and called you. If you hadn’t made the decision to let him stay, your tenant in #6 wouldn’t have walked away creating a vacancy. Then, your ‘For Rent’ sign goes up just at the moment when Mary’s nephew drives by looking for a place to live. Kind of blows your mind, doesn’t it?”

    I had to admit that it did.

    Mary was still in a daze. “Nephew? You really are my nephew! My twin sister’s kid,” she cried, grabbing poor James and giving him a bear hug.

    I was still trying to get a handle on this incredible turn of events.

    “Mary, you and I have been friends for years, and I realize now I had no idea about your past. Why don’t you start at the beginning and fill us in?”

    She took a deep breath. “My mom and dad were Carl and Marie Carpenter. We lived on a farm north of Liberty, Missouri. Everything was going fine, then the war came. Daddy was drafted into the army and was in the First Infantry Division that landed on Omaha Beach on June, 6
, 1944. He died that day.

    “With Daddy gone, Mom couldn’t keep the farm going and we lost it. Daddy was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge in Liberty. They had a home just south of Liberty for widows and orphans of lodge members, so that’s where we moved when we lost the farm.

    “Everybody who lived there was expected to do their part. Mom worked in the hospital right next door and even though we were just kids, Martha and I worked in the vegetable garden.

    “Mom caught something working in the hospital. I never really heard what it was, but it killed her, so Martha and I were orphans.

    “One day, we were working in the garden and they came and took Martha away. They told me later that she had been adopted. I never saw her again. A month or so later, I was adopted by the Murphy’s.

    “I never knew if my twin sister was alive or dead --- until today.”

    The room was silent for a moment, then James said, “That certainly fits with what Mom told me about her early life. She told me she had a twin sister, and she hoped she could see her again before she died.”

    “Well, she’s gonna!” Mary declared, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Walt, will you take me?”

    “Absolutely!” I replied. “But let’s get James settled into #6 before we go.”



    An hour later, the three of us were on our way to Independence.

    My first impression of the nursing home on Truman Road was not positive. It certainly wouldn’t be the place I’d want to spend my last days, but it was probably all they could afford.

    When we entered Martha’s room, she was in a wheelchair, staring out the window.

    “Mom,” James said, gently, “You have company.”

    Martha slowly turned to face us.

    At first glance, I saw the vacant stare and the sullen expression I had seen so many times on the faces of the elderly who were just biding their time, awaiting the sweet release of death.

    Then she saw Mary and her eyes lit up. The drooping mouth became a wide smile and transformed a face of desperate resolution into one of joy.

    Neither of them spoke. Mary fell to her knees and they embraced for the longest time.

    “I never thought I’d see you again,” Martha said, wiping tears from her eyes.

    “Well, I’m here now,” Mary replied, “and nothing’s gonna keep us apart from now on.”

    For the next hour, they shared the highlights of each other’s lives, trying to condense seventy years of memories into sixty minutes.

    We all could see that the excitement of the reunion had taken its toll on poor Martha. She wanted to continue, but she was fading fast.

    “You should rest,” Mary said. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. I promise.”

    Martha nodded. “Yes, that’s best, but before you go, I have something for you.”

    She wheeled over to a small chest of drawers and pulled out a ragged leather-bound book.

    “It’s Momma’s diary,” she said, handing it to Mary. “When they took me away, I just grabbed everything I could find. I’ve kept it all these years and now you should have it.”

    Mary clutched the worn book to her chest. “I’ll treasure it. It will be like Mom’s speaking to me after all these years.”

    Mary had no idea how prophetic that statement would be.



    Mary was like a kid in a candy store. I hadn’t seen the old gal so pumped up in years. Chris Wheeler had sensed that something in her life had been taken and never replaced. Today, that void had been filled.

    She was excited to share the news with everyone in our little clique, so I called Maggie on the way home and asked her to gather everyone in our apartment.

    We dropped James off at the hotel, and by the time we arrived, everyone was there, Dad and his squeeze, Bernice, Willie, Jerry the Joker and the Professor.

    After all the howdy-dos, Dad said, “I hope this is important. We just got a package from Pricilla’s Adult Novelty Store, and Bernice and I were about to ---.”

    Dad and Bernice were proof positive that the human libido lives on well into the nineties. “No details, please!” I replied. “We’ve had quite a day and Mary has some exciting news to share.”

    “So let’s hear it,” Dad said, obviously anxious to get back to his package. “What’s so exciting?”

    “Well, for starters, we have a ghost at the Three Trails and Mary just found her long-lost twin sister she hasn’t seen in seventy years. How’s that for exciting?”

    That got their attention.

    There was an initial moment of silence, then everyone started speaking at once.

    “Ghost? You’re pulling our legs.”

    “Sister? I never knew Mary had a sister!”

    “Hold on! Hold on! Let me start from the beginning.”

    They sat in rapt attention as I recounted the day’s events from our first meeting with the tenants in front of the hotel, through Mary’s tearful reunion.

    Then Mary shared the tragic story of her early childhood, her father dying in the invasion of Omaha Beach, their relocation into the Odd Fellows Home, her mother’s death and the resulting separation from her sister.

    The Professor had been relatively quiet up to this point. After Mary finished her story, he remarked, “Uncanny! Your stay at the home would have been in the mid 1940’s. I was actually a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge, and I attended several functions at the Liberty location. Undoubtedly you were a resident there at the time. Amazing how life can come full circle.”

    I had heard of other fraternal organizations like the Kiwanis, Mason’s and Knights of Columbus, but I’d never heard much about the Odd Fellows.

    “I’m curious, Professor. Could you give us a little background on the organization?”

    “Certainly. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is one of the largest fraternal and benevolent orders in the United States. The chief purpose of the Order of Odd Fellows is to give aid, assistance, and comfort to its members and their families. The Odd Fellows Home was established for the care and maintenance of members of the Order who were unable to earn a livelihood by reasons of age or affliction, those who were indigent, and for the wives and orphans of members. The original home, where Mary and her family stayed, was built in 1904 and used into the 1950’s. The adjacent hospital where Mary’s mother worked was built in 1923. From the turn of the century through the 1950’s hundreds of people like Mary and her family were served by the institution.”

    “You keep mentioning the 1950’s,” Maggie said. “Isn’t it still there?”

    “Yes and no,” the Professor replied. “As more modern facilities were opened across the state, it was used less and less. The last residents left in the early 1990’s. The property sat vacant for several years until it was purchased by a Dr. Bean in 1993. All of the original buildings on the site, the orphanage, the nursing home, the old folk’s home and the hospital are in ruins, except for the orphanage. They began restoring it, and in 2010, the Belvoir Winery was opened on the first floor. The upper three stories are still under renovation.”

    “I hear it’s a real creepy place,” Dad said. “Wasn’t there an insane asylum there too?”

    “Actually, no,” the Professor replied. “Remember, we’re talking about the early twentieth century. Not much was understood about mental health. I’m sure some of the residents suffered from conditions that are understood today, but not back then. Today, a person with bipolar disorder, for example, can lead a normal life with medication. Back then, they were simply labeled ‘insane’ and locked away.”

    The conversation was dredging up old memories for Mary. “That makes sense. I remember hearing screams in the hall at night. Momma said people were just having nightmares so we wouldn’t worry. I know they put padlocks on the outside of some people’s door, and I was always afraid we’d get locked in too, but we didn’t.”

    “There’s ghosts there too,” Jerry declared. “Not friendly ghosts like Cyrus at the hotel, but creepy ones. There have been several ghost hunter programs that have filmed there for T.V. You can see the videos on YouTube. They’re scary as hell. Oh, and by the way, do you know why you should never goose a ghost? You might get sheet on your finger.”

    “You is one sick puppy!” Willie declared in disgust.

    I could see the meeting was getting out of hand.

    “It’s been a full day and I’m sure Mary is exhausted. I know I am. Let’s wrap it up.”

    On the way back to the hotel, Mary said, “Thank you. I can’t tell you how much this day has meant to me. So many old memories. Mr. Walt, is there any chance you could take me back to the home? I’d love to see it again. The Professor said it was a winery now. Maybe we could get a glass of wine and look around.”

    “Sure,” I replied. “Sounds like a fun day trip.”

   Little did I realize what an adventure it would be.



    I had hoped that our trek to Liberty would be a family outing, but Maggie had out of town buyers. My next invitee, Willie, said he had a previous commitment with Emma, his paramour, and wasn’t about to cancel it to go see some haunted place. The Professor was under the weather and Jerry was nowhere to be found, so it was just Mary and me.

    I read on the Belvoir website that the place opened at eleven, so we left at ten-thirty for the thirty minute drive.

    On the way, Mary said she had started reading her mother’s diary and was up to the point where her father left for the war.

    Driving north on Highway 291, it wasn’t difficult to spot the Odd Fellows complex. The stately old buildings sat atop a rise just east of the highway.

    Even heading up the long driveway, you could almost feel the ghosts of past residents reaching out to greet us.


I had read on the website that the architecture of the buildings was Jacobethan Revival. I had no idea what that was, but it was certainly impressive.

    I pulled into the parking lot and we walked to the main building that currently housed the winery



I couldn’t help but notice the unique statuary on the grounds and on the building itself. Gargoyles, goats and other mysterious creatures were everywhere. I wondered if they were part of the secret rituals that were once practiced here.


Once inside, we could see the tasting room of the winery straight ahead. Several people were sitting at the bar sipping samples of the various vintages.

    From the entry way, a long hall ran to the right and left, to the north and south wings of the building. We saw a few people meandering from room to room, and since no one had greeted us when we arrived, we decided to tour on our own.

    Mary pointed to a stairway just off the foyer leading to the second floor. “That’s where we lived. Up there.”

We started up the steps, but got no farther than the first landing. Tape was strung across the steps and a sign said, ‘No Admittance.’ It was obvious that the second floor and the two floors above had not yet been renovated.

    We retraced our steps and headed down the north hall. There were several meeting rooms along the way, but nothing out of the ordinary.

    At the end of the hall, we found the library. The moment I stepped into the room, I felt a tingle and the hairs on my arms bristled.

    The room was filled with antique furniture and old volumes lined the shelves along the wall. As I moved about the room examining each object, it felt like I was being watched. Then I saw the portrait on the east wall.



I have no idea who the old gent was, but as I moved around the room, his eyes seemed to follow my every step.

    Mary had noticed too. “Let’s get outta here,” she said, grabbing my arm. “That guy gives me the creeps!”

BOOK: Lady Justice and the Ghostly Treasure
10.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Rock Hard by LJ Vickery
Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist
The Wombles to the Rescue by Elisabeth Beresford
Her Sexy Marine Valentine by Candace Havens
Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani
Dark Creations: Hell on Earth (Part 5) by Martucci, Jennifer, Martucci, Christopher
The Lady And The Lake by Collier, Diane