I've always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt - Part 56
Here’s the thing...
Our local area had six churches. We really only needed two, the catholic church, a big, imposing stone structure that was almost a mini cathedral, showing the wealth and influence of the church, commanding the best location.
The other, a protestant church, a very old, simple wooden structure that had been on its less salubrious site, once belonging to the missionaries who inhabited the land with the first settlers, before the Pope saw an opportunity, and moved in.
Nadia and her family were catholic. So were the Benderby’s.
My family was protestant, well, not really churchgoers at all, which was a contradictory standpoint because nearly everyone else in the area were devout worshippers. I remembered my father’s comments, when he was alive, watching all the sheep going to be fleeced every Sunday at the big church on the hill.
To me, the devoutness of the Benderby’s and Cossatino’s seemed at odds with their profession, as most of their activities were sins against God, and proving my father’s point. I never saw the point of it, but nevertheless, my mother dragged me to church, in my younger days, every other Sunday just in case my soul needed saving.
Now, standing in the graveyard beside the imposing but badly in need of repairs catholic citadel, I felt a shiver go through me. Mid-morning, there was a cool breeze at odds with the warmth of the sun beating down from a cloudless sky.
“You feel that?” I asked Nadia.
She was in a very summery dress and sun hat, looking at a group of gravestones belonging to the Archer family, going back over a hundred years.
“Ghosts, perhaps? I hadn’t realized Mrs. Archer had died.”
“You’ve been away. A lot has happened in the last year or so.”
“I liked her. She used to look after Vince and me when we were kids. He used to terrorize her.”
Somehow that didn’t surprise me. It was rumored Vince was given a gun when he was five years old and his father taught him how to use it. Once, he was caught bringing it to school. Now, given the number of school shootings, it hardly registered back then other than a rebuke from the headmaster.
A half-hour later, after surveying a graveyard that had a lot of the areas most prominent people buried there, I came across an almost disintegrated stone that marked the final resting place of Friedrich Ormiston, the son of Heinrich who died in 1976, the same year as Friedrich which was an odd coincidence.
A little further investigation showed there was another Heinrich who died in 1899, and another Friedrich, who died in 1924. It showed there had been Ormiston’s around these parts for over 150 years. A little further away there were two more gravestones, more recent, belonging to Wendy and Alan, both of whom died within a year of each other 5 years ago.
I took notes on each of the Ormiston’s, their birth dates and death dates, so I could possibly look them up in the parish records, and the local newspaper office, The Jefferson Leader, a publication that was still produced to this day, and it’s current editor, once an old friend from school who had expansive aspirations in the world of journalism and ended up back home tending to the paper his great, great grandfather started.
It seemed a lot of us from that generation couldn’t escape the clutches of our town or families.
“You’d think there’d be a mausoleum or something.” Nadia had come up from behind and startled me.
“Perhaps the treasure quests took all the money. Besides, after you’re dead, you don’t really care where you finish up.”
“You’ve seen the monument our family has. I’m not looking forward to finishing up there.”
I’d seen it, on the other side of the graveyard, along with a dozen others, all in a row, like a row of houses in the more affluent part of the town. The Cossatino’s were larger than life in death too.
“I hope the bed is comfortable, you’re going to be there a long time.”
She gave me one of her ‘if looks could kill’, the smiled, perhaps deciding it was my feeble attempt at humor.
“I take it we’re finished. I think I’m beginning to believe there really are ghosts here.”
I saw her shiver, and then I felt it, a cold rush of air, and what might have been a hand on my shoulder.
“I think it’s time to leave.” I shut the notebook, put it in my pocket.
She did not need to be asked twice. Curiously, as we made our way towards the gate, I thought I saw the priest looking at us from the front doorway of the church, but when I looked back there was no one there.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022
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