Greetings, bold reader. I have accelerated the pace of this ultimate vanity press release. You get extra points if you noticed I published not two, but three chapters of this thing last week. Here are three more. Still with me? Good for you. Here:
17—a little crime
Will pulled off his worn Frye boots and spent a minute rubbing his tired feet. Boomer paw-pawed over and looked up at him with the quizzical expression he often assumed. What’s up, Dad, his eyes asked.
Cats do not like the world to be askew. Oh, they will adapt quicker than humans to turns about in the game plan, or even to sudden rule changes in the game itself; but in their furry little heart of hearts, they would just as soon see their favorite napping pillow stay just where it always has been, their food dished up and served just when and where it has always been dished up and served, and their master or mistress maintaining the same moods as always.
New moods especially disturb them. When Will’s marriage had abruptly nosedived into marital oblivion, he had been the master (if one can be the master of a cat) of a four-year-old tomcat named Dangerfield. The first day Will had walked away from the tiny white frame Knoxville cottage, in order to “think things over,” he had not really known—or admitted to himself—that he would ever return.
But Danger had. That night Danger had run away, simply packed his little kitty knapsack and split.
Will pulled himself out of his memories, changed into some sweat socks, and pulled his elastic knee brace up over his ankle. He peeled off his jeans and slipped into his cotton briefs and over these pulled his dark brown terry drawstring pants. He added a dark tee shirt and a navy-blue sweatshirt.
Into his old waist pack, which was just a zippered bag on a webbed belt, he tossed a pencil, his apartment key, his key to the library, a penlight flashlight, and his little blue spiral notebook.
He slipped into his running shoes, hiked up his left pants, and pulled the brace into position. It had not yet dried completely from his morning run, and it encased his knee in elastic coolness.
He stretched for two minutes.
He put out the bewildered cat.
He locked the sliding glass door. He ran. He ran the even mile to the library in 7:32:`06, his fastest mile ever. Inside of twelve minutes he found himself once again leaning into the old microfilm viewer.
He was looking for any reference to cemeteries.
The reels creaked, splitting the dark silence of the empty library. He wound the metal crank slowly, avoiding the distraction of advertisements. He would stop to scan the obituaries, and total quiet would consume the building until his breathing sounded too loud to him. Above the glowing screen of the reader and past it, the darkened windows of the typing room.
At last he found what he didn’t know he had been looking for. Its discovery took him so thoroughly by surprise that for a long while he stared blankly at the advertisement in front of him.
As his eyes went in and out of focus on the block letter ad fitting snuggly upon the page, it fell just as snugly into place within the jigsaw of the broad mystery he had been living. His mind raced over possibilities while his body settled into a sort of suspended animation. All notion of time left him. He sat still as the night, as quiet as quiet as can be, until a glowing shape which gradually appeared outside the typing room window moved.
That movement at the periphery of Will’s vision caused him to turn his head a little to the left. As he did so he experienced the odd sensation that, although he was undoubtedly turning to look left, he had somehow left his head behind.
Sort of a gentle tug.
The luminescent shape outside the dark window moved again, extended something like an arm from something like its chest and pointed something like a finger straight at Will. That should have frightened him, but he felt nothing. As if he were asleep, and this was not happening. He felt not cold, but frozen.
But if he were asleep, how was he standing up without a sound? How was he passing through the glass windowed door and following the shimmering, phosphorescent presence through the library stacks to their south wall? He risked a look behind him without turning his head. He saw his body, his own body, sitting there, leaning into the old film viewer, just where he left it. That felt perfectly natural.
He followed the glowing thing, knowing that was what was expected of him, and found himself (himself?) standing before a smaller wall of photographs he had not yet explored. The Essence, or the Presence, or the Whatever, which seemed to possess no identifiable features now, once again raised what should have been its arm to point directly at a picture near the center of the photos.
He couldn’t be asleep then. He must be awake. He must be standing unfeeling before a display of framed pictures, calmly experiencing what he could only call a ghost point at a picture.
He must be…
On the verge of tears. His heart must be thundering in the cage of his chest. HE must want to scream, “GO AWAY!” and so with all the urgent necessity that his mind could muster, with all his force of will, with all his courage, he summed up the energy and shouted, “GO AWAY!,” and although the shout came out as a hoarse whisper, the apparition lowered its “hand” and, holding out both arms toward Will as if to embrace him, it shimmered once, twice, and disappeared.
He came to his senses all at once. He was there, occupying his own body, and the effect was staggering.
His hands trembled, his ears rang, his eyes throbbed as if with the afterimage of the brightest light, he smelled Sulphur, and he tasted fear.
Legs shaking as if they would buckle out from under him, he approached the photograph which had been singled out from all the rest. He unzipped his fanny pack and without looking at it fumbled within and brought out his penlight. He clicked it on. He focused its beam upon the photograph.
Two men lounged stiffly on wicker chairs. Four more stood formally on the wooden slat porch of the shop building. The carved wooden sign over the two painted shop signs read “G.D. WILLEY BL.” One long sign horizontal sign, its black block letters stark against its white background, proclaimed “CENTRAL DRUG STORE.” The other one was straight out of Will’s recurring dream, and it bore the same information as did the ad in which Will had only moments before lost his senses. It was the sign for the Place & Fretwell furniture store, the store where the fire had ignited on July 26, 1891, the scene of his dreams, and it read, in addition to the names of the proprietors,
“FURNITURE & UNDERTAKING”
At once every farmed photograph on that long wall dropped to the floor and the sound of glass shattering was the only sound in the world.
Will was halfway home, flying like the December wind itself, when he began to feel he was being followed. He could discern no one behind him, and yet the feeling persisted until he had locked his door behind him.
That night, alone in his basement apartment, he sat up in the living room. Every light in the room shone brightly. A paperback novel sat open and unread in his lap. He slept not at all.
18—miss riley’s suspicions
Miss Riley sat back at her desk in the library’s office. It was Wednesday morning, and she was alone in the library. She had come into work early to clear up some paperwork left undone the previous day. So unlike her.
She spoke into the telephone. Frequently, as she talked, she scratched abstract little lines into a scrap of paper on her desk. Her pencil moved slowly and deliberately. At intervals, she would tap her pencil on her desk until her grip on its skinny orange length was as far down as it could arrive, at which point she would simply turn it about and tap the eraser end on her desk. It was a never-ending game she played, tapping and twirling, tapping and twirling, then pausing to sketch her little lines.
“I am absolutely, beyond any shade of any doubt, certain, completely certain that that microfilm viewer was not left on when I quit this floor to leave last night. Why, not a single person even used the thing yesterday evening, and the very last thing I did was to exit through the typing room from the staff lounge after making sure the lounge was clean and those lights were out, and it was dark as dark can be, I remember plainly, so I called you, Robert. Yes. I know it’s your day off but…”
“My point, sir, is that someone has been lurking about in our…”
Silence. Longer this time.
“No, Robert, and that is precisely why I am so concerned, Robert, I think it must have been an employee.”
“Well, I think that is pretty obvious. Nothing was broken—so a key was used. Nothing was vandalized—those young high school students we call “students” would have at least knocked some books about a bit.”
A very long silence. The quiet of a sleeping building. Miss Riley, with a great deal of concentration, added heavy straight-line perpendiculars to her parallel squiggles.
She tapped her pencil to its end, twirled it about.
“That is why I called you. I need your authorization to call them. We have little complaint, you know. All we really have is a microfilm viewer left turned on overnight. I was a little concerned that you might laugh at…”
“All right, I will. But can we do that? I mean, isn’t it a violation of civil rights or something? Not to mention the morale prob…”
“All right. I will. Yes. Goodbye.”
The rattle and click of a receiver being placed in its cradle was followed by the briefer clicking as the receiver was once again taken up. Seven muffled clitters as seven numbered buttons ere depressed in rapid succession.
“Hello. This if Miss Riley at the Los Gatos Memorial Library. I have a question about lie detector testing. Perhaps you can help me. Polygraph? Oh, yes, polygraph. Well. Same thing, isn’t it?”
19—40 years ago today
Saturday dawned blue sky crystal clear and Will, too tired from another restless night to motivate himself onto the road for his morning run, satisfied himself with running the mile to work.
He toiled the morning in the Children’s Library, repeatedly shaking off a groggy feeling and forcing himself to direct his wandering attention to work at hand. More than once in the course of the morning he screwed up some simple clerical task and chided himself for his lack of concentration.
Not that he was actually counting, but it had been two weeks since he had slept more than an hour or two without awakening in a cold sweat to the sound of three beats of a kind. Knock. Knock. Knock. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
Sarah had not been around for several days now, and Will could not really blame her. He could think nor talk of nothing else but his dreams or his speculation about their source. And as for sleeping together, well. Will wasn’t doing much sleeping lately. And neither was anyone else trying to sleep in the same bed. Even Boomer had given up his preference for the foot of the bed and was curling up each night on the kitchen table.
The ogre living above Will’s apartment was becoming increasingly active lately, adding to the sleep disruptive environment. Will’s complaints to the manager had gone in one ear and out the other, eliciting promises of action that were as empty of substance as Will’s nights were of sleep. He was on the verge of direct action, of confronting the villain (or villainess) directly, something he had avoided out of suspicion it would only worsen matters. However, it was getting to the point where matters could not, as far as Will could see, get much worse.
Something, or somebody, had to give.
Will spent his lunch out at the microfilm viewer.
A reread of the Bruntz book had led him to seek out the January 16, 1958 issue of the Los Gatos-Saratoga Times-Observer. Its headline read, “Dulles wants summit meeting on ‘on condition,” and the Cold War was in a cool rage.
On page three, Gene’s Country Liquors (“Opposite Post Office”) ran an ad detailing the recipe for a “Happy Apple Knocker,” two ounces of apple juice, and ounce of vodka, and the juice of ½ lime (or one tablespoon lime juice) over crushed ice and shook it all together.
Will looked up. Miss Riley as staring at him with an odd expression on her lined face, through the glass door. He checked his watch, verified that he still had plenty of lunch time left, smiled quickly and renewed his scrutiny of the microfilm. After a moment, she disappeared. Will just looked back up and she was gone. His skin goosebumped over, and he took a deep breath. That must have been a dream. It was all running together in the cloudy reaches of his memory. The photographs still hung where they had always hung.
He cranked the reel and searched on.
The First National Bank offered a whopping 3% interest on savings and actually paid postage both ways for save-by-mail customers. Frank Sinatra starred with Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak in “Pal Joey” at the Los Gatos movie theatre. Second billing was James Cagney in “Man of a Thousand Faces.”
40 YEARS AGO
George Place recalls cannery workers sitting on head stones at old cemetery
By Jim Sims
Motorists who speed through the Intersection of Saratoga and Santa Cruz avenues, beware. The ghost of “Little Willie” Turner may rise to haunt you.
No one knows for sure just who “Little Willie” was, but George Place, proprietor of the Place Funeral Home, knows that he was buried in the old Los Gatos cemetery near the present intersection. When the cemetery was moved to its present Almaden Road location, some of the graves were left sine no one would pay for their removal. “Little Willie” was one of those who stayed in the old burial grounds.
A Lost Gatos family originally gave the cemetery site to the Los Gatos school district on the condition that it would revert back to the family when and if the land was no longer used for burial purposes. Hunt Brothers, however, bought the property and used the land for a cannery and its housing project. Most of the graves were removed, but a few were left. The headstones on these were tipped over and buried. Much of the area now occupied by Little Village was made into a living area with cabins for the cannery workers. The Live Oak inn was part of the original cannery Cafeteria. Place relates that cannery workers often sat on the headstones and monument while eating their lunches before the removals were completed.
Place’s father, E.E. Place, founder of a furniture store and mortuary, began removing graves from the old site in August, 1908. The last burial to take place in the old cemetery that year was at midnight. The midnight burial came about after removal of graves was started. The city did not want to remove a new interment and so obtained injunctions preventing burials taking place in the old grounds. Place says that an old man insisted that his wife be buried in the family plot and not in a new cemetery. To prevent the city from serving him with an injunction he and his friends made a midnight burial on Saturday. The city offices were closed and the processes of law could not stop the man from burying his wife as he promised.
Another man whose remains are probably under Little Village or Santa Cruz avenue was George Teasdale. He is best known for the unusual gift he left to Los Gatos children many years ago. He bequeathed about two hundred dollars to the school district to be used to buy candy for children at Christmas time. He had started the practice himself some years before his death and wanted to see it continued.
The money was placed in a bank and is still drawing interest. The sum presents a problem for the school district today. No one knows what to do with the money. Teasdale died in 1873 and when the cemetery was sold 30 years later no one offered to pay to remove his grave to the new site. His headstone was tipped over, buried and perhaps lies beneath the passing cars or scurrying feet of busy people.
Place believes that when the streets are widened the construction crews may come across several such graves of forgotten people. Although Place has the only complete file of grave resignation and a map of the old cemetery, it is difficult to determine if the graves were removed. The remains of Teasdale and “Little Willie” may yet come to light. Until then it is hoped that Willie doesn’t mind too much the humming of automobile tires and the tramping of feet over his head.