The Mastin Twins - Chapter 12 - Fire!
Chapter 12 - Fire!
In a very stiff and formal voice the Mayor said, "You can't seriously be suggesting that my father is a multiple murderer, thief, and army deserter! Angus, this time you've gone too far."
Angus was about to reply when the door to the office opened and the Sheriff marched in.
"Sorry Mayor, I didn't know you had company. I've got those papers you wanted, should I come back later."
"No Sheriff, Angus and the kids were just leaving", the Mayor said pointedly, practically throwing the army papers and photograph back to Angus.
Angus stood his ground and refused to budge. "Actually Sheriff", he said. "We were here looking for you. I obtained some old army records of Frank Wheaton's. Thought they might help us figure out who Wheaton was. Got a photo of him too."
Angus handed the documents and picture to the Sheriff while the Mayor glared at him.
The Sheriff quickly thumbed through the papers stopping at the photo. "Hey", he said to the Mayor. "This picture looks kind of like that old picture of your dad. Let's see..."
The Mayor fumed while the Sheriff held the two pictures up next to each other.
"You can't be serious. I can't believe you're accusing my father..."
The Sheriff lowered his eyes. "I'm really sorry Mayor but I think I'm going to have to go out to your dad's place and ask him a few questions. These pictures are just too much alike to let this slide by..."
"Angus, I'll need to keep these papers and the picture, ok?"
"Sure", replied Angus.
The Mayor scowled while they all filed slowly out the door closing it softly behind them.
Kathleen said, "I feel sorry for the Mayor, it's not every day you find out your father is a criminal."
Angus held up his hand. "We haven't proven a thing yet Kathleen. Chances are pretty good the Mayor's right and his dad really is innocent. I don't want you kids talking about this to anyone in fact I think you should probably go home now. The Sheriff will let us know what he finds out."
The Sheriff who had been leading the way stopped and turned around. "I agree with Angus. I'll have a talk with Jason Senior tonight or tomorrow. If anything turns up I'll let you know."
The kids were incredulous. "Hey we want to go talk to him too!"
The Sheriff said sternly, "You've got no business going out and talking to Jason Senior. He probably is innocent and would be pretty angry if the whole town starts talking like he's a child murderer. Besides if he is guilty he'll be desperate and might try something. You'd better leave this to me and my deputy."
The kids gave up and walked forlornly with Angus back to their bikes outside the Historical Society. "You'll call and let us know the minute you find out anything won't you?" they demanded of Angus.
He promised and stood on the sidewalk while they rode slowly away.
Jimmy made it home barely before his deadline and supper was on the table. Despite the time since the picnic and the exercise of riding his bike to Elk Bow and back he wasn't very hungry and just picked at his hamburger.
His parents asked whether he'd done anything interesting in Elk Bow but he just replied "Yeah, I suppose so." and they could get nothing further out of him. He did the dishes after supper then picked up the book on Naval battles. He had skipped around a lot and was now reading about the battle of Salamis where the Greeks had defeated the Persians 480 years before Christ was born. The Greeks and been greatly outnumbered but had tricked the Persian fleet into fighting in the confined space of Salamis Bay where their greater numbers did them no good. He read for a while then went and stood at the living room window looking across Lake Windsor to Elk Bow. While he was there the phone rang.
His mother called out "It's Angus, he wants to talk to you Jimmy."
He hurried to the phone, practically snatching it from his mothers hands. "This is Jimmy"
"I just heard from the Sheriff. He went out to ask Jason Senior a few questions. Jason let him in but when he started asking about Frank Wheaton Jason got really wild eyed and started shouting `This is absurd, you can't prove a thing'. He screamed at the Sheriff for a minute then he collapsed unconscious. The doctors think he had a stroke and took him to his son's house, they're not sure whether he'll ever wake up from his coma. Oh, the Sheriff got his finger prints from inside the ambulance and they match the finger prints in the army records!"
Jimmy's eyes got big. "What's going to happen to him now?"
"If he recovers I guess he'll have to stand trial. Jason Junior was furious. Swore he was going to fire the Sheriff. I don't think he'll do it though.
"Just thought you'd like to know. Are you ok?"
"Yeah Angus, I'm fine..."
"Ok, I'm going to call Kathleen and Robert now."
Jimmy hung up the phone and sat down on the living room couch.
His mom looked at him inquisitively.
"Mom, this afternoon when we rode into town we saw Angus. He has a friend in the army that sent him copies of Frank Wheaton and Phillip Stroud's service records. There was also a picture of Wheaton. We went to turn the stuff over to the Sheriff but he wasn't there so the Mayor invited us into his office. There was a picture of the Mayor's dad on the desk that looked a lot like the picture Angus got from the army. The Sheriff came in and saw it so he went out to talk to Jason Senior, I mean the Mayor's dad. Jason Senior got so mad about being accused of being Frank Wheaton he had a stroke but his fingerprints match the army records. It looks like the Mayor's dad is Frank Wheaton. Oh, and we think Phillip Stroud and Frank Wheaton grew up together in Lincoln Nebraska, they even joined the army on the same day! That would explain why the Sheriff didn't find anything after the Mastins disappeared, he was one of the murderers...
His mom looked at him carefully before speaking. "Jimmy, I don't know quite what to think of all this. I'm worried about you being mixed up with such a brutal murder but I'm also proud that you kids managed to solve the case. I think we should tell your father."
They marched into the workroom where Mr. Vaskelis was banging energetically away on his typewriter. He stopped when they entered.
Jimmy retold the story while his dad listened intently.
"Well it sure sounds like you've got this mystery solved. Now what happens?"
Jimmy shrugged. "I really don't know. I wonder what's going to happen to the twins? Do you think they'll be able to find some rest now?"
His mom and dad looked at each other. It was obvious they had no idea at all. The clock on the worktable was read 8:28 and Jimmy decided he was so dirty a bath was necessary before he went to bed. Afterward he pulled on his pajamas and climbed in between the sheets. Even though his mind was full of the events of the day he was almost instantly asleep.
He woke a little after two o'clock. His first reaction was fear that this was the start of another nightmare but then he heard the phone ringing in the kitchen. Climbing unsteadily out of bed he bumped his way down the dark hall to the kitchen and the phone. He leaned against the wall and lifted the receiver to his ear.
"Hello, who is this?" he yawned.
"Jimmy? This is the Sheriff. Angus told me he called you about what happened at Jason Senior's house tonight. Well, Jason must have woken up because he's gone! The deputy I left posted outside the door of his bedroom says he didn't see a thing but I had a report from the bartender of The Brass Door that he saw Jason Sr. walking towards Lakefront Drive wearing only pajamas and slippers. I don't know where he's going but I want you to lock all your doors in case he's out looking for revenge. I'll be out in the patrol car with the Deputy as soon as I get off the phone. Can you handle it `til I get there?"
"Sure", Jimmy mumbled then hung up.
Suddenly he felt wide awake! Frank Wheaton had escaped and was headed in this direction? He'd forgotten to ask the Sheriff if he'd called the Fahey's. He'd have to warn them himself. He seized the phone and dialed their number. It rang and rang but there was no answer. What to do? I've got to go over there and warn them he thought. Jimmy raced back to his room, jumped into his shoes then let himself out the kitchen door.
The moon was still very nearly full and it lit up the backyard. Jimmy took his bearings and started up the path to the Fahey's house. He'd only gone fifty yards when with a chill he saw a figure ahead of him, a figure dressed in pajamas and slippers. Frank Wheaton he thought to himself! Wheaton didn't appear to be paying any attention to him, he was plodding slowly along, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot heading up the path towards the ridge and the Mastin house on the other side. With a chill Jimmy recognized a ghostly giggling sound. The twins! They were leading Wheaton to their old house, but why? Jimmy heard a siren coming from Lakefront Drive behind him. He turned and ran back to his house. The sheriff had just pulled up in the driveway. When he saw Jimmy he jumped out of the car.
"What are you doing out here? I told you to stay in the house!"
"Sheriff! Frank Wheaton is on the trail going to the Mastin house. He looks like some kind of zombie. We've got to get there before he does and stop him from going inside. I think something terrible is going to happen!"
The Sheriff looked at Jimmy for a moment. "All right, quick hop inside." He held open the back door.
Jimmy jumped inside and before he could get his seat belt fastened the patrol car was rocketing backward down the driveway in a spray of gravel. The Sheriff was a skillful driver and he was pushing the car as fast as possible but Lakefront Drive between Jimmy's house and the Mastin farm was deeply rutted in places and extremely twisty where it went over the ridge at Rock Point. Jimmy and the Deputy held on for dear life while the Sheriff flung the car down the road. At last they reached the driveway between the rock walls. The car slid around the turn and zoomed toward the gate.
Jimmy pointed out into the orchard on their right. "I see him! Look!"
The Sheriff stomped on the brakes and the big car nose dived to a stop just before hitting the closed gate at the end of the driveway.
"He's going into the house! You've got to stop him", cried Jimmy.
The Sheriff and the Deputy struggled with their doors then stopped.
"My door's stuck. It won't open!"
"Mine too, what's going on here?"
Jimmy was seized by a terrible feeling that he knew why the doors wouldn't open. Rolling down a window didn't work either. Kicking out the windshield also failed.
Frank Wheaton, alias Jason Stuart Senior was now walking steadily across the front yard. He stepped up onto the porch and went inside. Almost immediately the old house burst into flames. For a moment they saw Frank Wheaton through the parlor window then their view was obscured by a solid wall of flame. The Mastin house was old and dry as tinder but even that couldn't explain how quickly it was enveloped in fire. Within a half minute it was an inferno. They stared in horror as the roof collapsed then abruptly the doors of the car opened by themselves. Jimmy quickly climbed out followed by the lawmen. They climbed over the gate but the heat was so intense there was no way to approach the house.
"Better call the fire department", the Sheriff suggested to his Deputy.
The deputy got back in the car and fiddled with the radio for a while.
They stood and watched the house burn. The last wall had just collapsed when the Elk Bow fire engine arrived. The fire men rushed about running hoses to what was left of the house. By the time the fire was out nothing was left but ashes and the partially melted frame of the old piano sitting at the bottom of the old basement.
"I still can't figure out why I couldn't get my door open" the Sheriff said.
"Strangest thing I ever saw", agreed the Deputy.
"Why on earth would he have gone in there then set the place on fire?" they puzzled.
Jimmy looked at them. "I know why..."
They looked at him.
"It was the twins."
"You aren't going to want to believe me but it was the Mastin twins or rather their spirits that did all this. They led Wheaton here. They forced him to go inside and they set fire to the house. They held the doors and windows of the patrol car closed so we couldn't get out to help. The fire spread so quickly because they started it. They told me, Kathy and Robert where to dig in the cellar to find their bodies. Remember the hood ornament from the Packard? Kathy's fishing line didn't accidently snag on it, it was tied on by them. They showed us where to look in the dresser to find their dad's journal and they scared Phillip Stroud out of his mind. Remember what he was saying `...no you can't be real...' They needed revenge and now they've gotten it I hope there can be some peace for them.
The Sheriff and his Deputy looked uneasily at Jimmy. They clearly didn't want to believe all this but what other possible explanation was there?
Jimmy was very tired. "Can I go home now? I'd like to get back to bed?"
The Deputy drove him slowly back to his house. The lights were on and both his parents were up looking frantic.
"Thank goodness you're ok! We were worried sick! We woke up when the police car came up the driveway with it's siren on. We saw you get in then it drove away before we could get the front door open. Where have you been?"
Jimmy apologized for scaring them then told what had happened over the ridge at the Mastin house. His parents listened intently. When he'd finished they asked "Do you think the Sheriff believed you about the Mastin twins doing all that stuff?"
"I don't know", he answered. "Does it really matter?"
Chapter 8 The Mastin Twins Chapter 10
The Mastin Twins - Copyright © 1996 by Charlie Comstock
Permission is granted for personal reading. All other rights reserved.