Authors: Rett MacPherson
“So you own the Gaheimer House. Which is what? The main focus of the town, right? I mean, that is the house Ms. Pershing inherited from one of the wealthier townspeople, correct?”
“Yes,” I said and wondered where he'd gotten his information. Clearly he'd either done some bang-up research or spoken to somebody in town who knew a lot and talked a lot.
“So why did she leave it to you?” he asked.
“I'm not sure,” I said, “other than because I was a friend of hers. I'd worked alongside her for years. We had the same vision.”
“That's quite a bit to leave to a friend. I mean, did she leave you everything?”
“That's really not the point of this interview,” I said, “but Sylvia had nobody else to leave it to. She had no children. She'd outlived everybody, even her own nieces and nephews. She had a few great-nieces and -nephews, but none of them had much to do with her or cared about her.”
“How convenient for you,” he said.
I suddenly arrived at the conclusion that I didn't like him very much.
“So Wilma Pershing left everything to Sylvia and Sylvia left everything to Wilma in their original wills, with the agreement that whoever died last would leave everything to you.”
Chills danced down my spine. “How do you know that?” I asked.
“I'm a journalist.”
“All right, Mr. Rossini, let me rephrase that. Why is it so important for you to know what the terms of their wills were?” I said.
“Has anybody contested the will?”
“You're the executor and beneficiary?”
“This interview is over. This has nothing to do with New Kassel.”
I stood to show him to the door.
“I think it has a lot to do with New Kassel. The people of New Kassel might like to know how this all came about. I mean, since now you own half of their town.”
I whirled on him. “The people of New Kassel do know how it all came about,” I said. “There's no secret here.”
“Were you upset that it took the Pershing sisters as long to die as it did?” he asked.
“Why, youâ¦” I grappled for the words. “I had no idea I was being left anything. And I think you'd better be leaving before I call my stepfather home from work. He's the sheriff, you know.”
Mr. Rossini held his hands up in surrender. “Just trying to find out how a college dropout manages to put herself in a very lucrative situation.”
“I didn't put myself anywhere, Mr. Rossini, but I'm going to put my foot somewhere if you don't get out of this house, now.”
He smiled, and the faintest touch of pink shaded his ears. With no further ado, he left my mother's house, and I hobbled to the kitchen to find my pain pills. I'd better take two.
At that point my mother wheeled in, and I put the extra pill back in the bottle. Funny how the very presence of your mother can make you do the right thing.
“Who was that?”
“Works at the same paper as Collette, so I may have some words with her,” I said.
“Interview didn't go well?” she asked.
“Not really,” I said. “Look, I'm going home now. I need a shower, and I need to brush my damn teeth.”
THE NEW KASSEL GAZETTE
The News You Might Miss
by Eleanore Murdoch
Tragedy has hit the Strawberry Festival!
What is our town coming to when one of its best known citizens is struck down, right there on the street, with a vile and evil instrument of terror! Everybody lock your doors. Bring your dogs in at night. I haven't seen this level of terror in the folks of New Kassel since the body was discovered on the banks of the Mississippi! Where are our brave law enforcement officers?
Tobias said to tell whoever dumped the horse manure in his backyard, thank you.
The winner of the Pierre's Bakery raffle was none other than Jalena Brooke. I don't think that's quite fair since she no longer lives in New Kassel. She moved to Wisteria to be with her new husband. But, regardless, she has won a month's supply of bagels!
Until next time,
I wasted the entire day lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling. I stared at the ceiling for a solid six hours. Sometimes it was fuzzier than other times, and sometimes I drifted off to sleep, but always I woke up and resumed my state of stupor watching a ceiling that was never going to change. At least not quickly enough for me to see.
Rudy had left a note saying his mother had Matthew for the day, and I was actually grateful for that in my present state. By the time the girls came in from school around three, it was a good thing, because I think I was actually beginning to warp the ceiling with my gaze.
“Mom?” Rachel asked as she came up the stairs.
“Are you all right?”
“I'm fine.” Mothers lie. Don't ever think they don't.
“Does it hurt?” She sat on the edge of my bed. There was real concern in those deep dark brown eyes.
“Man, that was freaky. Like, one minute you were there taking pictures and the next minute you were on the ground being trampled.”
“You see anything?” I asked.
“No, Dad barfed and I was busy watching him.”
“I got an A on my science test today.”
“Way cool,” I said. “Hey, you guys wanna go get some pizza?”
“Shouldn't we wait for Dad and Grandma O?”
“Yes,” I said. “I meant when they got home. I don't feel much like cooking.”
“Grandma would probably cook for you.”
“She's going to be here awhile,” I said. “May as well not burn her out in the first week.”
“Okay,” she said.
“Downstairs,” Rachel said. “She's got a black eye.”
A black eye. Just so casual. You had to love teenagers. They could be absolutely manic over the most minor things and so nonchalant over serious matters. “And she got this how?”
“She walked under the monkey bars and somebody kicked her in the face.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well, at least it wasn't anything deliberate. I figured she'd be up here showing it off.”
“Somebody told her to put meat on it, and so she's downstairs opening the bologna,” Rachel said.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Velasco's Pizza is probably one of my favorite places in the world, with its 1950s decor and red vinyl seats and the best pizza in three different styles: Chicago, New York, and St. Louis. And the owner, Chuck VelascoâRudy's best friendâis one of my favorite people. My mother-in-law had lifted her nose to an angle I didn't think was humanly possible when I had announced we were going out for pizza, and she didn't lower that nose once we got to Velasco's. In fact, Mrs. O'Shea wiped the seat with her hanky before she sat down, managing to keep that nose in the air the whole time.
“Hey, loser,” Chuck said and slapped Rudy on the back.
“Hey, I would have won if I hadn't eaten all those pancakes for breakfast,” Rudy said.
“Cry me a river,” Chuck said. “What's it gonna be tonight?”
We ordered our pizza, Mrs. O'Shea ordered a salad and a beer, and we fell into a nice familial conversation about the dangers of walking under the monkey bars on a playground and how it was similar to walking behind somebody on a swing. Mary was actually quite proud of her badge of courage, as if she had gone through some rite of passage. Our conversation didn't last long, though, since I was approached by three different people who wanted to talk to me. One person paid me his rent, so that was fairly easy, except it seemed to me that everybody in the parlor stopped and stared as the check changed hands. One person asked if we could get the roof fixed in the house she was living inâsince we now owned itâand another wanted to know if I could give her a job.
When our food arrived, Mrs. O'Shea bowed her head, made the sign of the cross and, stared at us. The five of us looked at each other, and Rudy made the sign of the cross and, as the girls giggled, proceeded to say grace. There would be talk in the gossip column tomorrow that the O'Shea family had said grace in public.
“So, Torie, I realize you're not Catholic,” Mrs. O'Shea said, “but you shouldn't keep your husband and children from going to church.”
There are times when I should be given an award for not acting on every impulse that comes into my head. If I did, her lips would now be sewn shut with baling wire, and the fact that they were still free to flap about and insult me was a shining example of what a great person I was.
“Mom,” Rudy began.
“Don't âMom' me,” Mrs. O'Shea said. “You haven't been to church since you got married.”
“This has nothing to do with me,” I said. “Rudy can get up and go to church any time he wants.”
Mrs. O'Shea rolled her eyes and waved a hand at me.
“Rudy,” I said, turning to him, “do I keep you from going to church?”
“No,” he said. “In fact, you've encouraged me, and I just don't ever seem to go.”
“There,” I said and looked back to Mrs. O'Shea.
She just ate her salad in silence with tiny bites, ever so ladylike. I stared at her the whole time she ate, waiting for her to acknowledge what Rudy had said. She never did. Instead, she downed her beer in three large swigs, the complete opposite of the way she had eaten the salad. “Did you hear him?” I asked.
“Torie,” Rudy said and laid a hand on my arm.
“The fact is, Torie,” she said, “my son was a perfectly good Catholic boy until he met you. So there's the evidence.”
I should have probably just shut up and thought about cute fat puppies, but I couldn't. “I would like to know one thing,” I said.
Rudy covered his eyes and shook his head. Mary smiled and came to attention.
“Why is it that I get blamed for anything Rudy does that you don't approve of? It never once occurred to you that maybe this is the real Rudy O'Shea, and now that he's a free man, out of the chokehold of his mother, he can be who he really is. I don't hold a knife to his throat over anything, Mrs. O'Shea. Never have.”
At that moment I felt like I was trapped in some horrible
Monday Night Movie,
as Mrs. O'Shea leveled a gaze on me that would have ripped me apart if I hadn't been prepared for it. The venom was palpable, and the air seemed to grow ten degrees hotter in ten seconds flat. Even Matthew had grown still.
“Torie,” Rudy said again.
“What?” I said. “Why is it so hard for you to just tell her the way you feel about things? I do. It's really easy. Here, let me show youâ”
“You may leave this table at any time,” Mrs. O'Shea said in a cold and steely voice.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“I'll not tolerateâ”
“You don't have the right to tolerate or not tolerate. Who do you think you are?” I said.
“Mom,” Rachel said.
“People are staring.”
Sure enough, I had been yelling and didn't even realize it. The entire restaurant was staring at our table. I had managed to make myself look like an ass, even when I was right. You know, when I think about it, that's what Mrs. O'Shea did best. She always made me look bad when she was in the wrong. That was a true artist.
I went about cutting up my pizza with such fury that I knew there were knife marks left on the plate. I ate in silenceâchewing my food as if I had an outboard motor attached to my jawsâand looked at no one.
“I have a volleyball game tomorrow,” Rachel said.
“I know,” I said. “I'll be there.”
Just then my sister burst through the front door of the pizza parlor. She glanced around the room, and when she found me she ran over to the table. “Oh, thank heavens you're here,” she said.
How do people always know where I am?
“What?” I said. “Are you all right? Is the baby okay?”
“No,” she said. “And yes.”
“You need to come over to the Gaheimer House right away.”
“The Gaheimer House is haunted,” Stephanie said, breathless, as we jogged along the sidewalk of River Pointe Road.
“Steph, stop running, you're going to hurt the baby,” I said. Not to mention my whole body still ached from yesterday. In fact, I think it hurt worse than yesterday, and I could barely keep up with her.
“Please, Torie,” she said. “I'm fine. I walk four miles every day.”
“You do?” I asked. “On purpose?”
“Yes,” she said. “You walk more than that.”
“True,” I said. Unless I had the kids with me or I was bringing home groceries, I usually walked everywhere I went. The benefits of living in a small, self-contained town. “Wait, did you say the house was haunted?”
“Yes,” she said as we arrived in front of the Gaheimer House.
“You dragged me out of dinner with myÂ â¦ my mother-in-law to tell me the Gaheimer House was haunted?”
“Oh, I love you!” I said and flung my arms around her. “You are so ingenious. I would have never thought of it.”
“Torie,” she said, “I'm dead serious. In fact, I am so dead serious that I am not going back in the house alone ever again.”
I stared at her long and hard. She wasn't flighty, nor was she the type to be rash or jump to conclusions, and I saw no traces of humor on her face. I looked at the house, and chills danced down my spine. I didn't think for one minute that the house was haunted. What I did think was that Stephanie had heard something while she was alone in the house. Just like I had. Just like Sylvia had.
“Did you call the sheriff?”
“Not for a ghost, and the last time I checked Spooky Fox Mulder had hung up his supernatural phenomena badge, so that leaves you,” she said.