Again, and again it goes that I have moved into a new house with all my boxes which need to be unpacked. The only difference is, this time, I choose to live in this house and I own the house. I love this house. The moment I walked into this house I knew I could write and be an artist in this environment. The light within this house is amazing. I call this house my retirement Lake-house.

The first thing I want to do, before even beginning to unpack and organizing the house, is to stroll outside to look at my property that banked downward toward the lake front with a large sweeping expanse of lawn. I lugged with me the bag of soil I bought and my shovel so I could make my first task, in establishing a home here, of planting a garden with tomatoes, peppers, and flowers that attract butterflies. Just the thought of that garden brought even more joy to my heart.

I saw the neighbor down the shoreline launch his sail boat and thought of all the times in my life when I, too, launched my own sail boat and skimmed over the clear lake waters, or navigated the choppy waters of a river with confidence, knowing my boat would never fail me even if it capsized. As long as I could see the shore line, I knew I would survive. I don’t want anyone to steal the pleasure and peace I have in this moment of reflection on my achievements in my life that brought me to this blissful moment and this house.

I looked around the yard to determine where I wanted my new garden. Apparently the previous owners didn’t try their hands at gardening, it was only grass and some trees bordering the yard. My thought was “. . .choose a spot, any spot, and dig out the grass layer.” I admitted to myself that buying a “bag of soil’ as my garden had always worked in my favor every time I moved. It meant no weeds, no digging, and all I had to do was pick up the bag and spread out the soil. This time, I was going to work at establishing a real garden area that would be enriched each year by a new bag of soil.

I positioned my shovel and used my foot to break through the grass layer……well the shovel didn’t go down very far before I hit my first rock. Out of this whole gigantic yard how did I manage to find the one spot with a hard rock two inches down??? I thought the soil here was sandy soil, not rocky soil. I moved the shovel over a foot and shoved the shovel downward, and heard the “thunk” of wood, not the “twang” of a metal shovel on a rock. Wood?

in the interest of how long and wide this piece of wood was I began to remove the grass layer in earnest. And there it was….a three foot by three foot square piece of wood, with a handle and hinges attached to it. Perhaps this was a cabinet door from the house when they remodeled it, though it looked bigger than a kitchen cabinet door to me8. It truly looked odd, especially here.

Since this was the place the garden was to be, I grabbed the handle to pull the plank away from where it lay, except it didn’t budge. I tried to lift up on the handle and realized this plank was a hatch with a BIG CAVERN underneath it. I just stood gaping into a big, black, hole in my new back yard. Maybe I had found the old septic tank….ewwwww. It didn’t smell like a sewer, and God knows I’ve had past experiences with “out house’….crap, I’m old (no pun intended, i’m sure!).

While I stand here looking down into large cavernous area, I noticed the beginnings of a series of wooden steps leading downward….at least the builder, whoever it was, made it simple go into the hole. Also, even from where I stood looking down, I could see that the walls were concrete, or another similar material. OK, may it was a root cellar, or bomb shelter, or even one of those survivalist hidey-hole places where they store their food that lasts for 100 years without refrigeration. All good possibilities.

I decided in this moment I should never had read as many books as I had throughout my life. I remember on where someone was held captive down there and died….that wouldn’t be good to find. Wouldn’t be the first time I found a buried body, i WOULD KNOW what to do: Call 911, at least I wouldn’t be going down there, alone. I’ve read my share of Nancy Drew where the door, hatch, trapdoors slam shut, and can’t be opened from the inside side. i’m confident that if I could survive finding one body, while digging out a place for my swimming pool, i’m brave enough to deal with ‘DEAD BODY CHAINED TO WALL” I can prove I just bought the place, though explaining how I “happened to pick this particular spot” to dig might be a questionable happenstance.

I always reminded little Scarlette Sky, my Caviler King Charles dog, in our family we are happy, we are healthy, and we have a GREAT ATTITUDE!” So, the plan is to root out a flashlight or battery lantern if we can find one—in one of the hundred or so boxes, and go down to see what’s down there. There could be a treasure down there, or some historical find…which as my sister found out, may not be to our advantage. If there were an historical object, the property could be deemed a historical site, and therefore the owner has to restore it to the original site it was before the renovations took place. There you have it, go in or not to go in, that is the question….Shakespearean off-take—really I NEED to stop reading books.

Amazing how easy it was to find the flashlight, which means I have don’t have a reason not to explore what is on my property. I have always embraced my identity as a coward, why change now? I could find another site for my garden, and cover this back up, EXCEPT, I would always know it was there. Let’s deal with this “one step at a time,’ literally, just go down the steps slowly, and go back out if you have claustrophobia, or a panic attack.

One step, two steps, three….I don’t smell anything, or feel any cobwebs, or water, or icky things….snakes, what if there are snakes down here. Why, oh why, do I watch so many archeology shows? People always find snakes and scorpions in places like this. I would go back for my ice-chopper if i had one, our grandmother always used her ice chopper to kill snakes on our property. The good news we don’t have scorpions in our state, that’s a good thing, right?

Shining the light around the somewhat square room, it seemed better than some of the basements I experienced in my lifetime. It seemed dry, and believably free of critters. WOW, not scary at all. Over to the right is a table with a sheet of paper laying there. A trunk, like the one I have from my great-grandfather, over in the far corner, that looks innocent and intriguing.

This is so cliche, a trunk in a hidden room, how normal can one get? Might as well scan the desk and piece of paper, first. It’s a letter.

November 5, 1987

Dear Toby,

Dad and I are leaving in the morning to try and find Lydia. We had a postcard, which was posted 5 years ago, but just arrived yesterday. I know that we always said if we came home and didn’t find anyone in the house we would leave everything down here for the other to find.

Be safe and know that we will call you if we find anything out about Lydia.

Tom

Well we know this place is, at least 40-some years old. Nothing horrid could be in the trunk if it was left for the other to find. Bravery is welling up within me. I can open the trunk, in fact it might be empty—Toby here, then gone with the contents. The trunk does seem dusty, dust always finds a way in.

One has to wonder if they ever found Lydia, whoever she was. I could always research this property and find out who owned this land, and what it was used for. As I lift the lid of the trunk, I smell lavender, and there it was a bundle of lavender. Not very exciting start. Some old letters wrapped into bundles. Well to be more exact, bundles of envelopes, no addresses on the cover.

On opening one envelope, there are pieces of torn pictures, and what looked like paragraphs from magazines. The second envelope had a similar collection. L likewise, the third contained the same type of pieces. Either someone had a peculiar habit, or, if I use logic, these envelopes contain puzzle pieces that could contain clues for me, for Tom, for someone. Taking the first bundle of envelopes with me, will give me something to work on at night, piecing the right puzzle pieces together.

Under the bundles of envelopes, was a wool army blanket. It was actually in good condition. What lay beneath the blanket caught my attention. SHIT, oh Mom would frown on that word, on her death bed Mom yelled at my sister for using that word; σκύβαλα (skubala) σκύβαλα (skubala), just practicing my Biblical Greek, MOM.

Five big bank bags lined the bottom of the trunk. I never had to rob a bank to know what a bank bag looks like. Everyone knows what they look like, and banks don’t hand them out to normal people. So, there are various explanations: one of the people Tom, Lydia, Toby, the father was, or were, bankers. Second explanation: someone, namely one of or all of them, robbed a bank or Brinks truck—did those exist in 1987? Third explanation: They legally were given the bags and filled them up little by little—how long would that take?

Here’s the explanation I like: The bags are from a closed bank, and filled with innocent things, like……….? What would someone put into bank bags, in a hidden hole in the ground? There’s always 911, and let them sort it out.

Upon opening one of the bags, I found old silver dollars dating back to the 1800’s, a whole bag of them. The second bag was filled with sliver daggers, all the same size and style—where would they come from? The third bag held manuscripts written on vellum, in a language I couldn’t determine, except they seemed old, old, and OLD. The fourth bag was the proverbial cache of rings, pearls, necklaces, pins with gems (hopefully none being the cursed “hope diamond.”)

When I opened the fifth bag my heart broke. Inside was were all manner of infant things: a doll, blankets, clothes, comb and brush, silver cup, a picture of a woman holding an infant, a baby bottle, baby shoes. This child was loved, and remembered. Who he or she was there wasn’t any indication like a birth certificate.

My reaction was to close the lid of the trunk, and leave all this mystery for another day, another month, another year. I’ll plant my garden next to the trapdoor in honor of the child, and camouflage opening somehow until I decide the nest step in this adventure.

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