The Mastin Twins - Chapter 11 - Frank Wheaton
Chapter 11 - Frank Wheaton
Kathleen shrieked. Jimmy and Robert stood frozen, turned to stone by terror. Whatever was on the stairs was coming down.
A voice said, "Is that you Kathleen?"
The kids nearly collapsed from relief. It was their dads accompanied by Angus McGee. None of the three looked very happy.
"What on earth are you kids doing down here?" Jimmy's dad demanded. "Didn't we tell you to stay away from this house!"
Jimmy stepped forward and gave his dad the arm bone. "I think we found what's left of Martha Mastin and the twins."
The three adults looked first at the bone then back at the kids. "Where was it?" Angus wanted to know.
Kathleen pointed to the hole in the bottom of the potato bin. The adults walked over and peered at the bottom of the pit.
"How on earth did you know where to look?", asked Mr. Fahey.
Jimmy pointed behind them. "They showed us", he said.
The adults turned and looked. The Mastin twins had rematerialized and were standing near the basement wall. They were holding hands and appeared to be smiling. The adults took one look at the slightly glowing forms and began to back away.
"Don't be afraid dad", said Jimmy. "They're our cousins!"
His dad tried to speak but no words came. He did not look reassured. Angus and Mr. Fahey looked like they were in a state of shock.
Jimmy continued, "I believe the dreams I've been having were just Floyd and William asking for help. We've got to dig up their bodies and have them properly buried so they can rest."
Floyd and William bowed then faded out.
"It was the telephone call to Elizabeth Horne that told me they were buried in the basement. Remember when she said `...it always seemed to us that the root cellar was unnaturally cold, even during the winter. I remember being afraid to go down there. I don't know what I expected to find, dead bodies maybe?'. That got me thinking so we came down here and Floyd and William showed us where to dig."
"Who is Elizabeth Horne?" the two dads wanted to know.
"Oh, sorry dad. Uh, her family bought this house a couple of years after the Mastins disappeared when she was a kid. They only stayed here for a week then moved out saying the place was haunted. Angus found Elizabeths's phone number and we called her. Would you believe she'd had the same nightmare I had night before last?"
"I'm still not pleased that you kids disobeyed us and came back to this house, especially without telling anyone", said Jimmy's dad. But it was apparent he was no longer angry.
Angus took another look into the hole and shook his head sadly. "I guess we'd better get the Sheriff and coroner out here to finish the job.
He headed up the stairs to the kitchen with the others following. Nobody wanted to admit it but they all felt much better when they were outside in the sunlight again. The adults weren't particularly happy about their rather sudden introduction to ghosts and haunted houses.
Jimmy asked, "How did you know we were here?"
"Oh", said his dad. "Angus showed up at our front door saying he was afraid that you'd come back over here. We drove over with him. Took longer than we like thought, had to get a chain saw and cut up that tree that was blocking the road."
Angus nodded. "After you kids pedaled off in such a hurry I was suspicious of where you were heading. I got a pair of binoculars and watched you from the boat ramp. When I saw you come out of the Fahey house carrying those flashlights then ride off over Rock Point I got my car and came around to talk to your folks. Sorry if we scared you down in the cellar", he chuckled a little, "but you really worried us. This house really isn't safe."
There wasn't room in the car for everyone plus the three bicycles so the kids rode while Angus drove slowly behind stopping at the Vaskelis house. Barbara Vaskelis and Gloria Fahey were talking in the living room and looked relieved when the was the kids were safe. Everyone listened while Jimmy related the happenings of the morning once more. The two moms looked pretty sceptical about the part Floyd and William Mastin had played but here were their husbands as well as Angus looking quite serious and claiming to have seen the twins too. At last Angus called the Sheriff's office and six minutes later the Elk Bow patrol car pulled up outside.
The Sheriff and his deputy were treated to an abbreviated version of the morning. The parts involving ghosts were left out.
"Ok, we'll go out there and check it out. Funny thing though, I never realized the house had a basement. Don't know what I was thinking about, should have been obvious." He turned to his deputy, "Better call the coroner and get him out here pronto."
It took nearly two hours for the coroner to arrive. Meanwhile the Sheriff and his deputy had driven out to the Mastin house. Angus and the Vaskelis and Fahey family members took the trail over the ridge. If they'd been hoping to see anything spectacular they were disappointed. After the Sheriff returned from the cellar he promptly plastered the area with `police tape' and wouldn't allow anyone near the house. When the coroner finally arrived he disappeared inside the house for nearly 30 minutes. When he emerged he was shaking his head sadly. Angus knew him pretty well and called him over.
"What did you find Bill?"
"There appear to be four bodies down there", he said. "A dog, one adult female and two male children age nine or ten. They've been there for a good long while. I can't make any kind of positive identification yet but seems pretty likely that you kids found what's left of the Mastin family. Cause of death isn't clear for the kids but their mom seems to have been hit on the head by something heavy."
They left the Mastin house and walked slowly along the path through the orchard and over the ridge back to the Vaskelis house. Angus said good-bye jumped into his car and left. It was getting late and everyone was hungry but there wasn't much to eat in the house so Mr. Fahey and Kathleen made a trip to the BurgerVille to fetch supper. The Fahey's said their good-byes after eating and returned home. Jimmy who was exhausted from lack of sleep the previous nights and all the excitement of the day went to bed early. His sleep was untroubled by dreams. His parents had a harder time getting to sleep. Being confronted by two ghosts had left Jimmy's dad feeling rather apprehensive and confused and his mom, although she hadn't seen Floyd and William, was also unsettled.
Saturday was a beautiful, cloudless, blue-sky, day. At breakfast, Barbara Vaskelis announced her intention of having a picnic that day. After the frantic goings on of the previous day both Jimmy and his dad were pretty agreeable to that idea. Jimmy phoned the Faheys and they decided that a picnic sounded pretty good too. Arrangements were made to meet at 11:30 that morning but since their pantry was nearly empty all three Vaskelises drove into town to buy the stuff they'd need. Jimmy and his mom did the grocery shopping while his dad disappeared saying he had an errand to run. Later when they met back at the car he was carrying a large flat parcel under his arm. Despite all their questions he refused to tell what was in it, just smiling at them instead. They returned home and quickly set to work making sandwiches and loading their old picnic basket. At 11:24 the Fahey's knocked on the front door loaded down with food. It was a tight squeeze but everybody managed to fit in the Vaskelises old station wagon which luckily had a third seat all the way in the back where the kids were deposited.
Jimmy's dad drove around the lake into Elk Bow before turning left on state highway 43. They rumbled over the bridge across the Chelt river then turned right and followed Windsor Road up the west side of the lake. Eight minutes later he pulled off the road onto a wide dirt shoulder. They all clambered out and stood looking at the meadow before them. The day was getting warm but a gentle breeze helped keep it from being hot. A narrow but well worn path wound its way through the grass and wildflowers in the meadow then disappeared behind some bushes. They unloaded the car and started off along the path enjoying the scenery until they reached a sandy beach. There were some rocks and a couple of picnic tables at its southern end of it and they carried the picnic stuff down to one of the tables, quickly covered it with an old blanket, and spread out their feast. The Faheys had brought chips, cookies, and deviled eggs, the Vaskelises had brought sandwiches, drinks, and veggie sticks. There was definitely an awful lot of food there and it looked pretty good. Everyone took a plate and helped themselves.
Between bites Jimmy remarked, "Geez dad, how did you know about this place? You can't see this beach from the road."
"Well", replied his father. "While I was in the general store this morning I asked the clerk where we might find a good place for a picnic. He gave me directions to this place."
"What were you doing in the general store?"
His dad looked sneaky, "Oh you'll find out in a few minutes..."
Everyone looked at David curious to know what he was up to. After the adults had finished their sandwiches and the kids were almost done with their second helpings Jimmy's father got up and headed for the car. He returned carrying the large bag Jimmy and his mom had seen him with that morning.
"Here this is for you kids."
They crowded around to see what was in the bag.
Robert exclaimed "Kites!"
There were three of them. They were quickly assembled and the kids raced away, kites in tow, anxious to be the first to get their kite up high in the sky. The wind couldn't have been more perfect. It was blowing steadily and just hard enough easy flying. Soon the three kites were distant specks, riding far above and the ends of their strings. It had been a long time since Jimmy had flown a kite and he was pleased that his, a big green thing with a long blue tail seemed to be higher that the other two. The adults talked and talked until cookie famine finally forced the kite fliers to bring their charges back to the ground. Their hands filled with goodies the three youngsters sat on the rocks by the shoreline trying to pick out landmarks across the lake and watching some pelicans flying by in the distance.
The sun was starting to dip near the hills when they left, carrying the little remaining food and all their trash back to the car. By 4:30 they were back at Jimmy's house. While the car was being unloaded the phone rang and Jimmy picked it up.
"Jimmy? This is Angus."
"Hi. What's going on?"
"Jimmy, where have you been? I got a package from my friend in the Army today. I was wondering if you kids wanted to be around when I opened it?"
Jimmy felt his heart start to pound. "Just a minute Angus, I've got to check with my folks."
He raced outside and found Kathy and Robert. "Hey guys, Angus got a package from the Army today. You want to go check it out?"
The kids told their parents they wanted to ride into town and received permission.
"Angus, we'll be there in fifteen minutes or so but we've got to be home by 6:30, ok?"
"I'll be waiting for you", said Angus then he hung up.
Jimmy put down the phone and raced out to the shed to fetch his bicycle. He tore down the driveway so fast he skidded and nearly fell when on Lakefront Drive's gravel. Kathy and Robert were coming down their driveway when he rode past and they raced each other into town. Kathy won but not by much. They left their bikes in a pile outside of the Historical Society and trooped inside, panting hard.
Angus was sitting behind his desk. There was a package on it in front of him. "I see you kids didn't waste anytime getting here! Where were you? I tried to call you all afternoon but there wasn't any answer."
They explained about the picnic.
"Oh, sounds like you were at Millers beach. Haven't been there for ages but that is a really prime spot for a picnic, especially on a day like today."
While he talked he worked at the outer wrapper of the parcel and it fell away revealing a box about 9" by 12" by 2". He slit the tape holding it closed and removed the lid. Inside was some packing material and underneath two bundles of paper, photo copies of old army records. The first bundle was for Private Frank Wheaton, born August 4, 1899 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Enlisted under duress on April 14, 1917. Home address at time of enlistment was 143 Georgia St., Lincoln, Nebraska.
"What does `enlisted under duress' mean?" Robert wanted to know.
"It probably means he was in trouble with the law and a Judge gave him the choice of jail or the army", replied Angus.
There were a lot of other details most of them not very interesting and a set of fingerprints. It appeared he'd managed to stay out of trouble in the army for a while and had been sent to France in November of 1917 and assigned to the Quartermaster Corps. He'd been caught red-handed selling contraband he'd stolen from an army warehouse to some black marketeers January 3, 1918 but had escaped from the brig the night of January 5, 1918 and disappeared. There was a photo of Frank Wheaton taken January 3rd while he was in the brig. They all looked intently at the picture.
"This picture looks a little familiar to me", muttered Angus. "But I can't seem to place it."
The kids had no idea at all who the picture was.
The other bundle was for Phillip Stroud. Angus whistled softly after looking over the top page.
"Check this out!", he commanded.
Phillip Stroud, born August 10, 1899 in Lincoln Nebraska. Enlisted under duress on April 14, 1917. Home address at time of enlistment was 296 Georgia St., Lincoln, Nebraska.
Jimmy looked. "Frank Wheaton and Phillip Stroud were almost neighbors!", he cried.
Angus nodded agreement. "It also says they were both sent to France and assigned to the Quartermaster Corps at about the same times. I wouldn't be surprised if Phillip Stroud wasn't the fellow that helped Wheaton escape from the brig."
Robert asked, "What's the Quartermaster Corps?"
"Oh, sorry", said Angus. "It's the supply group for the army. They try to make sure that all the equipment needed by the army gets to where it's needed. Things like guns and ammunition but also blankets, clothing, food, even toilet paper."
They looked but there was no picture of Phillip Stroud.
"What do we do now?", Kathleen and Robert wanted to know.
Jimmy looked uncertain.
Angus stood up and collected the photograph and the two bundles. "I think we should take these over to the Sheriff."
He walked around his desk to the door, pulled it open and waited for the kids to follow him outside. The Town Hall was just a couple of buildings north of the Historical Society on Iverson Road. They marched along briskly, opened the front door, and walked down the hall to the Sheriff's office. They saw through the glass doors that the office was empty and the doors were locked. A sign hung on one door announced `Back in thirty minutes'. While they were wondering what to do the Elk Bow mayor opened the door at the rear of the hall and came inside. He stopped next to them.
"Angus McGee", he said. "What are you doing here? Trying to stir up more trouble? And who are these fine looking children? You and Mitzi didn't get a head start on a family did you?"
Angus introduced the kids. "Jimmy, Kathy, and Robert, this is Elk Bow's Mayor, Jason Stuart Junior. These are the kids that have been working on the Mastin mystery with me."
"Glad to meet you!", beamed the Mayor.
"I got some information from the army about Frank Wheaton, the guy we think murdered the Mastins and I was going to hand it over to the Sheriff but he's gone and his door is locked."
The Mayor read the note on the door. "Why don't you come down to my office while you wait?"
Jimmy looked at his watch. It showed 5:12, there was still time before he had to be home for supper. The Mayor lead the way to his office. It was paneled in mahogany with a thick carpeted floor. The Mayor dropped into a red-leather armchair behind a simply enormous oak desk. The top of the desk was empty except for a ceramic cup, apparently made by a child, and filled with pens and pencils and a set of pictures. There were several chairs in front of the desk and the Mayor waved his hand for them to take seats.
"Can I see those papers you've got there?"
"Sure Jason." Angus leaned over the desk to hand them across. As he did so the photograph of Frank Wheaton slipped out coming to rest on the desk next to the Mayor's framed photographs. Jimmy looked idly at the photos then went rigid.
He elbowed Kathleen who was next to him. "Hey, look at the photo in that frame" he whispered.
Kathleen looked then tugged on Angus's sleeve pointing to the photo.
Except for a large mustache, the man in the photograph on the Mayor's desk looked very nearly like the photograph of Frank Wheaton the army had sent them!
The Mayor stopped looking at the papers he'd been passed and followed their eyes. "Is something wrong?"
Angus asked, "Who is that in the picture?" He pointed to the man with the mustache.
"Oh, that's my father, Jason Sr. I think it was taken sometime in the mid 1920's. Why?", the Mayor looked puzzled.
Angus picked up the picture from the army and held it up next to Jason Sr. "Look at the resemblance. It may be just coincidence Jason but I'm afraid your dad looked an awful lot like this old picture of Frank Wheaton."
The silence in the Mayor's office seemed to go on forever.
Chapter 10 The Mastin Twins Chapter 12
The Mastin Twins - Copyright © 1996 by Charlie Comstock
Permission is granted for personal reading. All other rights reserved.