Old Mill Backstory Part Three

Old Mill Backstory Part Three

Anthony felt Donna was genuinely concerned for his well-being by her reaction, and after a long pause she recommended he relocate his gold to a place more secure, “a place closer to home.” It was a conversation they wouldn’t get to finish that evening due to him passing out drunk on her minutes after. The very next day he would deny ever being part of the previous night’s conversations with her and solemnly swear to remember nothing about any “hidden treasure trove” or vocalizations about any uneasy feelings of note.

To his surprise, her inquiries about the gold would not be so easily dismissed by him as time went on. Nor would her recommendation for him to move it. Eventually, her charm and sensual talents wore down his stubborn resolve, just before Christmas. He decided one night, after a rather vigorous series of intimate couplings in which he and she did things never yet done before in their relationship, that he would share with her the information about the sub-level beneath their feet.

Albeit only after he had previously relocated the vast majority of his treasure earlier in the week while her and Mathew been down in Los Angeles on a shopping trip. He’d made the arrangement previously with a wealthy and business savvy local gentleman by the name of Lionel Harper.

Lionel had deep roots in the Redbark community and also happened to be one of his closest neighbors. The palatial Harper Estate was just on the other side of the nearest major road from the sawmill and built upon the banks of the Five Penny River and just upriver from Nickel Falls. The two men had met on several prior occasions during local events and gatherings around the Cove, but Anthony for no lack of trying had never quite been able to reach the level of success men like Lionel had achieved.

Anthony had, however, put enough money into the hands of the local population over the last few years that people like Lionel were courteous and polite to him publicly. He’d even received a couple of charity dinner invites held at the Harper mansion in the past, but believed those type of events nothing more than “beg-fests” he’d always avoided attending any of them. That was until one particular night when the focus of the gathering at the Harper estate veered from the philanthropic arts to something he found far more intriguing. A horror show.

He had previously heard in gossip that the Harper Mansion was full of oddities from around the world, but before his attendance that evening he’d no idea the purpose nor intent of Lionel’s collection. On October 31, 1966 that would all change. His initial uncomfortable reaction to the bizarre and macabre items Lionel had taken great care to display in his home that night went largely unnoticed to the vast sea of exquisitely dressed men and women present.

That some of the items on display had gruesome stories behind their fame and did nothing to dampen the mood of any in attendance. As far as Anthony could tell, the tragic pasts only seemed to cause enthusiasm to the attendees, but his affectations were discomforting. Anthony flirted with the idea of leaving and just as his fingers closed around the car keys in his pocket, Lionel revealed that he had a particularly bone-chilling exhibit still to be seen. He beckoned those who wished to experience levels of horror previously unknown to them, to follow him below and down into the lower depths of his formidable estate house for what he called, “The Terror Tour.”

Lionel informed the procession, following him down into the wine cellars, that only upon the discovery of the subterranean labyrinth did his father decide to purchase the land on which they were all walking. He also explained to Anthony and the others that his father never got around to finding any real profit to the caverns aside from the little spring, whereas he, Lionel, was making full use of the natural phenomenon. He even had one of the caverns devoted to honey bees and the harvesting of honey and wax.

Some of the caverns they all passed through under the mansion were gigantic, and Anthony at first was in awe that so much could be hidden from sight by just a few feet of rock. His mind wandered to the crumbling fort beneath his mill and what may lie beneath the sealed passages and if they too might lead to caverns like the ones he was currently walking through.

From ahead he heard Lionel’s voice call back that the exhibition “officially began” just around the next bend in the stone tunnel. Hooded and plague-mask wearing attendants stood practically motionless in many parts of the new cavern area. They held oil lanterns which they moved only to illuminate the path better. The first thing in the exhibition that jolted Anthony’s senses was the smell. Before he even turned the bend the scent of death and decay would fill his and the others mouths and noses.

Lionel instructed everyone present not stray from the rest of the group, “for any reason.” He led them into a large cavern currently filled with the yellowish smoke of some sort which caused the procession to pause momentarily and only continue forward after Lionel had passed back a tether of braided silk as a line for everyone to hold.

Their guide then led them into the haze until the loud popping of gunfire mixed with frequent sounds of distant explosions, mostly from overhead which would cause bits of dust and dirt to come down from overhead. All perfectly choreographed to wreak havoc upon the sensory receptors of the brain, Anthony realized.

He knew the sound effects were playing from hidden speakers, but the explanation to his mind did little to dampen the affectations of anxiety and fear he’d already fallen victim to. A callback from ahead of him would inform them that they would be headed down a gentle decline a few steps ahead, and soon they were departing the cavern and heading down into another.

 

To be continued…

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