The Allan House
When morning came, the air smelled fresh and clean and the sky was as it
had been the day before...clear and blue. Breakfast with the Grady's was
much the same as supper, except it was different food and a bit faster as
‘Thanks' was left up to John.
Afterwards, I excused myself to go for a 'short walk'. My intent, naturally,
was to get as close to the Allan House as possible, but, boys being boys,
Frank and Rudi invited themselves along. So, while I threaded my way
through the puddles, the boys jumped over them. Well, some of them,
Frank seemed content to land just on the edges of the red-brown pools of
muck, while Rudi didn't seem satisfied unless he tested the depth of each
by standing in the middle and placing his finger on his ankle at the water
line. Several times Rudi fell on his side (sometimes with a little help from
Frank) trying to run to the next puddle, his finger still in place on his ankle.
But, each time, he would get up, undaunted, and go on to the next. I
decided that if I was going to make any real progress, these two 'puppies'
were going to have to be sent home. But, how? Bribery, of course!
"OK, you two..." I reached in my pocket to find some change. "First one
back to the house gets this penny!"
The boys bumped into one another and stopped giggling for a moment.
"Uh-uh..." Frank responded.
"A nickel!" Rudi exclaimed.
"Ok, you little bandits...a nickel."
"Uh-uh..." Frank repeated.
Rudi grinned, "Two nickels!"
Great...fleeced by a couple of kids! Oh, well, if I was to get anything done,
it was worth it.
"Ok, two nickels."
"Uh-uh..." Frank was going to try again.
"Hold it!" I told myself I had to stop them...out of principle, right?
"That's it...that's my final offer, take it or leave it..."
Without a word, as if the bargaining had never taken place, Frank and Rudi
skipped on to the next puddle.
"I can't believe this!" I grumbled in astonishment. "A bribe always works!"
I put the nickels back in my pocket and fished out two felt tipped pens.
"Wait...what about these?"
The boys stopped and looked at the pens, then at each other. The silent
vote was unanimous.
"OK!" they yelled in unison and each grabbed a pen and headed for home.
"Now, down to business!" I gloated at my successful bargaining while
waiting for the boys to round the corner onto the brick main street. Then
I turned back towards my destination.
There were enough trees and hedges between the Allan House and the
rest of town that it would be easy to get there without being seen. But
that also meant someone could be watching me and I would never know
As I start up the cedar lined lane at the front of the house, my heart
began to race. Then, suddenly, there it was in all its grandeur...the Allen
House. What a magnificent sight! I was surprised at how well John
Grady had kept the place up. The paint was not old and peeling, as I'd
expected, but new and fresh...not more than a year old. And though the
windows had been boarded, it had been neatly done, more like temporary
shutters. Trumpet vines and rose bushes had been carefully trained on
trellises and trimmed back away from the sides of the house to prevent
damage to the siding and lattice work. Wide iris beds surrounded the
house which sat in the middle of a lush, green carpet of Kentucky Blue
grass, made greener by the previous night's rain.
I was convinced. There had to be something strange going on here.
Everything was too neat...too well kept for a house where no one had
ever lived. And how odd, I thought, that the broad wooden planks didn't
creak or pop as I ascended the stairs to the long front porch.
"Nice up here, ain't it?"
I nearly jumped out of my skin!
"I knew you was comin' up here." Kelly grinned. "But I didn't mean t'
"Well, you did!" I hissed in a hushed voice. "If you knew I was coming
here, why'd you sneak up on me like that?"
"I didn't sneak..." Kelly explained in a defensive tone. "I just
walked...same as you." Then the grin returned to her face.
"'Sides, I thought ya might wanna know how t' get in!"
"I..." Her words caught my attention like a lasso. That's why I was
here... to see what was inside, but I hadn't come up with 'how'.
"Inside? Uh, sure, of course...inside! Yes, lead the way."
"Ok, come on." Kelly hopped down the front steps and started around the
side of the house. As I followed, I looked around to see if anyone else
had 'just walked' up to the old house. But Kelly didn't seemed overly
concerned about being seen. I figured she was too caught up in the
adventure of the moment.
I watched carefully for the 'secret' entrance...the one I had seen in my
imagination, a false panel, a loose board, a trap door covered with
Kelly stopped at an old iron well pump and grabbed the handle.
"Aha!" I thought to myself "...this is it! She's going to do something to the
pump and a secret door will click open."
Kelly gave the handle a few quick pumps and suddenly...water came out.
She cupped her hand and took a drink.
"Want some?" Kelly wiped her mouth on her sleeve. "It's real good!"
"Uh...no thanks." I answered still anxiously listening for some sound,
searching for some small tell-tale movement.
Kelly turned a valve at the base of the pump and worked the handle a few
more times. Instead of the water gushing out as it had before, it slowed to a
trickle and then stopped completely. Kelly stood there for a moment,
grinning. But nothing else happened...nothing.
"What did you do...with that thing on the pump, I mean?"
"Oh. I just turned it off. The pump leaks all over the place if ya leave it
"That's it? It's just a pump?"
Kelly looked at me like I just fell off a turnip wagon.
"Sure...what did ya think it was?"
"Never mind. Can we go in...NOW? "There was no way I was going to tell
her what I'd been thinking and I couldn't stand it any longer.
"Sure." Kelly produced a key from her pocket, walked right up to the cellar
doors and unlocked them.
"After you, sir." Kelly bowed liked an eighteenth century French coachman.
After a moment's hesitation, I slipped past my accomplice and down the six
or seven stone steps.
The cellar beneath the Allan House was cool and dry and dark as pitch. Why
Kelly let the door click shut behind us before we had a light source, was
beyond me. But as I stood there in the blackness, the hair on the back of my
neck came to attention, the way it does when I'm certain there's some big,
wicked thing waiting in the darkness, ready to do evil things to anyone it
"Kelly," I whispered.
There was no answer.
"Kelly!" I hissed again through clenched teeth, this time with a slight note of
panic in my voice.
"Geez...I'm right here!" Kelly sounded somewhat annoyed. "What are ya
whisperin' for, anyway?" For the second time in less than an hour, Kelly
nearly scared me out of my skin. I could hear her fumbling around in the
darkness, hopefully for the light switch.
After an agonizingly long two or three seconds, there came a series of
'clicks' in rapid succession, illuminating dozens of bare light bulbs.
"My God," was all I could utter. The cellar wasn't a cellar at all, but an
enormous room, an underground warehouse covering fifteen to twenty
times the area of the house above it. Crates and boxes of all sizes were
stacked floor to ceiling in neat rows with narrow aisles leading off from
a main corridor.
Kelly rambled on somewhere in the background...but I wasn't listening.
This was too incredible for words.
"There must be hundreds of crates down here," I thought aloud,
interrupting Kelly's dissertation.
"Huh?...Oh, yeah, thousands."
Before she had a chance to continue, I went on. "Are any of them open?"
"Open?" For some reason Kelley seemed to have trouble finding an
answer. "Well,..yeah...there's the one that me an' Will dropped," Kelly
pointed vaguely with her thumb somewhere over her shoulder.
"But Pa gave us strict orders not t' be messin' with any of 'em," Kelley
continued. "So they're just like they were when we brought 'em in here."
I looked around in total amazement. There were crates of all
sizes...some small as a hat box, others big enough to hold a full size
grand piano. Not wanting to press my luck just yet, I ask Kelly to show
me the broken crate.
"See...just like I told ya." Kelly stood watching with her arms folded
while I examined the contents of the large wooden box. It was exactly
as she'd described...three rather large clay jars with a single of row stick
figures as their only decoration. And, just as Kelly had said, they were
digging. In fact, they were all digging, all six of them...except for one.
At one end of the row, a single figure stood erect, facing the other
figures. In one hand, he held a crooked stick and in the other, a stone.
The mouth of the jar was plugged with coarsely woven cloth. And
beneath that, it was filed with yellow-brown soil that had obviously been
poured in as mud, but had long since dried out and cracked.
"Is there a bucket or something around here somewhere I can empty
this into?" No sooner had I asked than Kelly produced an old coal
bucket. Carefully, we began to scoop the soil out of the jar and place it
in the bucket.
. . .
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