The Mastin Twins - Chapter 2 - New Friends
Chapter 2 - New Friends
Jimmy turned right at the bottom of the driveway and headed West towards a point of land jutting out into the lake. It was a warm and almost windless morning and the effort of pedaling up the slight grade soon had him sweating. Birds were flying around the trees that lined the edge of road, their calls to each other loud and raucous. A lizard sunning itself on a rock vanished as Jimmy approached. The point was part of the same ridge that passed behind his house and the road here wound its way through a jumble of rocks and boulders a hundred or so feet above the lake below. The ridge rose slowly to the right but to the left of the road it fell away precipitously to meet the water. Jimmy reached a small area where the road widened out near the top and paused to catch his breath. An old picnic table and a battered trash can squatted next to a small stunted tree. A sign nailed to the tree proclaimed this to be Rock Point. Jimmy propped the bike against one of the boulders lining the road, walked over to the edge and looked down. The steep slope was littered with rocks, some embedded in the ground, others apparently had rolled down from above. Between them tufts of grass and a few wildflowers bravely clung to the hillside. A couple of fishermen in a skiff bobbed up and down on the lake below.
Jimmy retrieved his bicycle and started off again. He could see the road went down from here and he continued to follow it, winding along the contours of the northern side of the ridge. He rode in silence for a while and was nearly back down to lake level when an old orchard appeared on the right side of the road. Many of the trees were dead and those that still lived were grotesque from lack of care. A tumble-down wall of stones separated the trees from the road. The wall extended for some distance before Jimmy came to a break in it where a narrow lane lead off to the right. A very long time ago someone had planted rows of oak trees beside it. Now they towered above the lane and the walls bordering it shading them from the late morning sun. From the size and number of weeds growing in the lane it appeared to have been unused for quite some time.
Jimmy hesitated then turned up the lane. It was difficult going but finally he reached a rusty gate. It was set between two stone pillars and blocked the way. Beyond the gate he could see a rather decrepit old house. Leaning his bike against the gate he climbed over the wall on the right and made his way through the undergrowth in the yard towards the house.
Up close the house definitely looked abandoned. When new it must have been very impressive but now it was in terrible condition. The front door gaped wide open, most of the windows were broken, part of the roof was falling in, and one of the two chimneys had collapsed. Here and there shutters still clung drunkenly to windows and a covered porch ran across the whole front and down one side. Much of the porch railing was missing and the remnants of a porch swing lay in a heap.
Jimmy peered in a window and saw that the inside of the house was in equally poor shape. He continued around to the left and found another building. It had large doors and must have been a stable or barn thought Jimmy. One of the doors had fallen off its hinges and he looked in through this opening. The corrugated iron roof drooped badly in several places letting in light and water when it rained. Uselessly ancient and rusted equipment was piled in a heap, everywhere else weeds had taken possession of the dirt floor. Above was a loft, or what was left of one, probably once used for hay. The left wall still held up hooks and rotting pieces of leather that might once have been harness for horses. What probably had been stalls for horses were in back. A missing door to the right opened to a room filled with more junk. The whole structure seemed to be in imminent danger of collapse. Jimmy decided against entering and instead walked around to the back of it where he found the remains of a model A Ford. The wheels were missing, the left rear fender was mashed out of shape, the rumble seat had been taken out, all the glass was smashed, the bracket for one headlight dangled by its wires and the driver's door was missing. There were several places where rust had eaten completely through the body. Inside the car looked even worse (if that was possible). Sitting on the uncovered springs of the driver's seat was a grey squirrel, apparently the chauffeur. It motionlessly regarded Jimmy with an apprehensive expression, tail standing straight up.
Jimmy and the squirrel stared at each for awhile until a crash from inside the house startled him. Jimmy jumped and the squirrel disappeared. For some reason the yard directly behind the house was relatively weed free and Jimmy raced across it. He grappled unsuccessfully with the back door, trying to open it but it seemed to be stuck. He pulled harder and the whole door came out of its rotten frame almost knocking him down with its weight.
"Is anyone here?", he called. There was no answer.
Jimmy entered. The kitchen was a mess. Most of the cupboard drawers had been pulled out and scattered on the floor. There was no trace of plates or silverware but pieces of what might have been a table and chairs lay smashed in a corner. Here and there patches of floral paper still clung stubbornly to the walls. This house had been built before running water, instead of faucets there was a pump on the counter next to a hole. The sink that should have occupied the hole was missing. Jimmy gave the pump-handle a couple of cranks but no water came out, just a horrid, rusty screeching sound.
Two doors were available. Jimmy took the closest one and entered what might have once been a dining room. Here too, what was left of the furniture was smashed and disintegrated. Beyond this room was the parlor. Skeletal remains of an upright piano lay on its back, holding down the floor in one corner. Next to it was a fireplace only partially visible under a pile of bricks from its collapsed chimney. Nothing else remained of any other furniture.
What Jimmy thought were footsteps sounded in the hall outside the parlor. He went and looked but no one was there.
"Who's there?", Jimmy called again.
Only silence greeted him. Must have been the wind or just this old dump settling on its foundation he thought. The next room held the broken and corroded frames of two small beds. Jimmy looked at them briefly then started to leave. A crashing, banging noise came from the piano making him jump in surprise. Jimmy raced back to the parlor.
"Hey, this isn't funny", he shouted. "Who's there?".
No one was there. He examined the remains of the piano more carefully and hit a few keys. Nothing happened. He looked up at the hole in the ceiling where the remnants of the chimney stood. Another brick must have fallen and hit the strings he thought. He took one last look and noticed something shiny underneath. He used a piece of wood laying on the floor to fish it out. It was a little locket. After fumbling with the clasp for a moment it popped open. A picture of two small boys was inside. Strangely Jimmy felt as though he knew the boys from somewhere. But that would be impossible, they were dressed in rather old fashioned clothes and the picture was obviously old.
He put the locket in his pocket and started to take a look at the rest of the house when he realized that he was probably late for lunch and his mom was going to be mad. He quickly made his way to the hallway and out the open front door, rescued his bicycle and pedaled for home as fast as he could.
He was definitely late when he arrived and both his parents had already finished their lunch. His mom gave him a stern look and asked what he'd been doing. Jimmy related what he'd found and showed them the picture in the locket.
"Hmm", said his dad. "I'm not sure poking around old houses like that is such a good idea. They can be pretty dangerous. I'd rather you didn't go back out there."
After lunch Jimmy's mom told him that since she couldn't trust him to be on time there was only one thing to be done. She held out a small package.
"I'd meant to give you this when we got here", she confessed. "but I'm afraid I forgot."
Jimmy opened it and found a watch.
"Now you'll not have any excuse for being late for supper. Run along now but be back by 6:30."
Jimmy was amazed. His parents weren't mad at all! This was great. As he slipped out the back door the sound of typing came from the open workroom window. His dad was still writing.
At the foot of the driveway Jimmy turned left toward Elk Bow. Down the road a little way was another house. A boy and a girl playing in the front yard waved to him and he stopped.
"Hey", they shouted. "Are you the new kid? What's your name?"
"Jimmy Vaskelis, what's your's?"
"I'm Kathleen Fahey", said the girl "and this is Robert. He's my brother. You can call me Kathy if you like."
"Hi Kathy, hi Robert", said Jimmy.
"I'm ten", said Robert. "How old are you?"
"I'm twelve", said Jimmy.
"I'm twelve and a half", said Kathleen. "We're new here too. We've only been in this house since last month. Where were you going?"
"Oh I don't know. Maybe down to Elk Bow."
"Want some company?"
"Do you have bikes?", said Jimmy.
The Faheys nodded.
"Sure, let's go!."
As they rode along they discussed plans for the summer. Jimmy showed them the locket and said he thought it would be neat to find out who the kids in it were.
"Maybe we could find them and return the locket", suggested Kathleen. "Where did you find it?"
Jimmy explained about the abandoned house and finding it under the piano. He also mentioned the footsteps and the other noises he'd heard and asked if they'd been out there that morning.
"No, we checked out that old dump when we first got here but haven't been there since. You know, now that you mention it we heard some strange noises there too."
"I think you're putting me on", said Jimmy. "Are you sure you weren't out there today?"
"No way! That place gives me the creeps."
Then they were in town. There was a rack in the park and they left the bicycles there and walked around a little.
"What do you want to see?", asked Kathleen.
"Uh, I hadn't really thought much about that.
"Well we can see everything. Elk Bow is so small it's easy."
The kids chattered to each other as they walked down the sidewalk, pressing their noses to the glass of each store window as they passed. There were several customers in the grocery store but the library across the street was empty. Jimmy realized that he hadn't brought any books to read with him from Indianapolis so he went in to get a library card. The librarian (her name tag said she was Miss Finch) helped him to fill out some forms and gave him a temporary card.
"The real card will be mailed to you from the central branch."
Jimmy looked through the shelves and selected a couple of books that looked interesting. Kathy nudged him.
"Show her the locket. Maybe she'll know who the kids in the picture are."
Jimmy popped open the locket and held it out to Miss Finch.
"Would you have any idea who these kids were? I found this in an abandoned house way out on Lakefront Drive."
Miss Finch peered at the miniature photo and shook her head.
"I'm afraid I don't recognize them but maybe Angus McGee over at the Historical Society would know about them. He's lived here for over 70 years."
Jimmy remembered seeing the Historical Society Museum over on Iverson Road across from the store where his bike had been fixed. The Fahey kids followed him around the block. When they arrived the doors were closed but a sign hanging in the window said to inquire at the antique shop down the street. They easily found the antique shop. A hand painted sign hanging from a post outside the shop proudly proclaimed in gold letters, Fine Antiques, Angus McGee Proprietor. As they entered a bell rang somewhere. A moment later a rather elderly and white-haired man appeared through a curtain from the back room. When he saw them he smiled.
"Now what can I do for you kids?" he asked straightening his bow tie.
Jimmy introduced himself and the others and explained where he'd found the locket. He opened it and passed it to Angus.
"Do you know who these kids were? Would you have any idea where we could find them now?"
Angus furrowed his brow in thought and scratched his head.
"Let's see now. You say this came from the old house way out on Lakefront? That would have to be the old Mastin farm. Place's been abandoned for a while now. There was something strange about it... Now what was it?"
Angus ran his fingers through his hair several times then snapped them.
"Now I remember. Those kids in the picture were the Mastin twins, Floyd and William I think their names were. About thirtyfive years ago they and their parents just disappeared. Nobody ever knew what happened. Some thought they'd just left town. Others thought there was foul play involved. Old Edward Mastin, that was their pop, was a feisty old feller. Had a bunch of money. His wife Martha was a real beautiful woman. She supposedly wasn't from around here, came from some big city in Indiana I think. Wonder what became of `em?"
"So you don't know where they are now?" asked Jimmy.
"No, and I reckon that no one else around here knows either. Leastwise if they do they're not telling. What's your interest in them?"
Kathleen volunteered, "We thought maybe we could find them and return their locket. Looks like we won't be able to do that now."
The three kids were trying to decide what to do next when the door chimed. In came a woman with brassy red hair and a twinkle in her eyes.
"Angus McGee, where have you been? You were supposed to have closed up this shop and met me over at Steadman's an hour ago."
"Oh dear", sighed Angus looking rather sheepish. "I'm certainly sorry Mitzi. I was working on unboxing some new things that just arrived and must have lost track of the time. Then these kids came in with an interesting question. Look dear, I'm really sorry."
"Seems that lately you're always sorry!", Mitzi snapped but the kids could tell she wasn't really mad, her eyes were still twinkling.
"Say Mitzi, maybe you could help these kids out. Show her your locket Jimmy."
Jimmy pulled it out and flipped it open. Mitzi took one look and jumped as if she'd gotten an electric shock.
"Where on earth did you find that?", she asked.
Jimmy explained about visiting the old house.
Mitzi looked unhappy. "I don't think you kids should be poking around that old house. A lot of strange things have happened out there. Besides it's so rotten it might collapse with you in it. Better not to go out there anymore."
She looked at Angus for support but he just shrugged.
"What kind of strange things? Things like hearing footsteps and other noises when no one is there?", asked Kathleen.
Mitzi looked as though she wished she hadn't mentioned strange things happening. "Never mind, just stay away from that place!"
Mitzi looked Angus in the eye. "Are you planning to meet me at Steadman's this afternoon or should I just go home and sulk?"
"Of course not. I'll be over in 15 minutes as soon as I can get the shop closed up", said Angus in a conciliatory voice.
Mitzi nodded a good-bye to Angus and the kids then left.
Jimmy turned to Angus. "Geez I'm sorry Mr. McGee. I didn't mean to get you in trouble."
"Oh don't worry about it too much. We've been meeting together Friday afternoons over at Steadman's for the last 20 years. If I'm a little late she gets all hot. A real stickler for punctuality. I think maybe you touched a nerve with the picture of yours. You see back when the Mastins disappeared Mitzi was the Elk Bow school teacher and both of the Mastin twins were her students. Well, if you'll excuse me I think I'd best be closing up now."
Robert who hadn't been saying much so far led the way out onto the sidewalk. "Say", he asked. "Who wants ice cream?"
Both Jimmy and Kathleen were agreeable to that suggestion so they headed over to the soda fountain in the drugstore for cones. The park seemed like a good place to eat their ice cream and they settled on the grass. Between licks they began a discussion of the locket and the disappearance of the Mastin family.
"You don't suppose Mitzi thinks that place is haunted do you?"
"No such thing as ghosts", said Kathleen.
"Then what about those footsteps?" asked Jimmy "Or are you guys going to confess you did it?"
They finished the ice cream, got their bicycles and rode along the lake towards home. When they arrived back Mr. Fahey came out of the garage to greet them.
"Hi dad. This is Jimmy. He just moved in next door yesterday", said Kathleen.
"Pleased to meet you Sir", said Jimmy.
Mr. Fahey extended his hand. "Likewise", he said.
"How's the car coming dad?", asked Robert.
"Want to see?".
The three of them followed him into the spotless and well lit garage. Up on jacks in the middle of the floor was a customized `39 Chevrolet. It was painted immaculate black with chrome trim and glowed luminously all over under the lights. Jimmy whistled. "Wow! What a cool car!"
"Dad restores and customizes old cars", said Robert proudly. "He's been working on this one since before we moved out here".
The kids stayed in the garage briefly, admiring the Chevy and watching while Mr. Fahey tinkered with something underneath it. Eventually they went into the house where they spent the rest of the afternoon playing Monopoly.
Jimmy's heart wasn't really into the game and he played poorly. He kept thinking about the Mastin twins and their old house. He said good-bye early and arrived home in plenty of time for supper. When his dad asked where he'd been that afternoon he related meeting Robert and Kathleen, their ride into town and back, and what they'd learned about the Mastin Twins. He didn't mention the strange noises he'd heard in the house or Mitzi's warning.
Chapter 1 The Mastin Twins Chapter 3
The Mastin Twins - Copyright © 1996 by Charlie Comstock
Permission is granted for personal reading. All other rights reserved.