Candace stood next to her car waiting for Gloria to find the keys to it, hidden somewhere deep in the large bag she jokingly called her pocketbook.
“They are in here somewhere; I know I picked them up after they took you the other night… Ah, here they are,” she said as she pulled them up from the depths of her purse and handed them to her.
“Thank you for keeping them for me Gloria,” Candace said as she unlocked her car doors and she and Gloria climbed in.
“I still think you should stay here where it is safe, after all, we have no idea what will happen when we get there,” Candace beseeched her exasperating, but delightful new friend.
“If you think I am going to stay here sitting in a rocking chair knitting, while you, my son, and his friends play detectives, you are insane,” Gloria said then started laughing.
“Just thought it was worth a try,” Candace said, joining in the laughter.
“You know Candace, I’ve been wondering… Didn’t you tell me you have a cat?” When Candace nodded, Gloria continued, “Do you think your cat is alright? I mean what with no one there to feed it for the last three days.”
“Fancy Cat is an outside cat, for the most part. She is a mouser, or at least she is when it suits her. She has a cat door and lets herself in and out at her leisure. I bought a set of those gallon containers that releases water and food as she uses it,” Candace said thoughtfully. “But come to think of it, I didn’t see her while I was there Saturday night. Of course, Francois Dubois and all of his yelling may have scared her off.”
“You named your cat Fancy Cat? I would ask why you named her that, but I think I can guess. Most cats act as if they are doing you a favor by just letting you feed them,” Gloria said.
“True enough, but that is not the reason I named her Fancy cat. The reason for her name is that she looks as if she is wearing a dress suit. Her head is snow-white and her eyes look as if she carefully applied eyeliner. Then she has what appears to be a dark brown suit collar with a tri-color blouse and a dark brown skirt. Her legs and tail are pure white,” Candace said as she merged into traffic on interstate twenty, heading for East Texas, and her home.
“Really, then I can’t wait to see her. Candace, I was wondering if you have thought of anymore stories that your grandmother told you about your ancestors or your land.”
“I have been trying to think, but there were so many stories… Grandma once told me that in nineteen-thirty-two, Bonnie and Clyde stopped at our house and asked for some water. It seemed that their car’s radiator was running hot, and they wanted to cool it off. My great-great grandfather and his wife pulled two buckets of water, from their well, for them to use. My grandma said that her mother was a twelve years old at the time, and thought Bonnie was beautiful and nice. I cannot see how that would have anything to do with the Frenchman though.”
“Yeah, I think you may be right, but I wonder. I remember my grandparents telling me that Bonnie came from Fort Worth, and that she was not ever seen holding a gun, nor did she shoot anyone. Her crime was simply being there with Clyde when he did all those robberies and murders. He had killed twelve people in the three years of his crime spree, and they died on Easter Sunday, April nineteen-hundred and thirty-four. You don’t think that they may have hidden something on your property that may have belonged to someone kin to him do you?” Gloria asked her.
“I guess it could have happened, but I cannot remember ever hearing of Clyde having any French friends or cohorts.”
“I think we need to tell Stacks, this story, and let him ask Collins to check with Cory Henderson to see what information can be found on Bonny and Clyde,” Gloria said thoughtfully.
As they turned into Candace’s long driveway, Gloria started seeing the beautiful tree covered property which was covered in plants of all kinds.
“Oh Candace, this is simply glorious, and look at all the wisteria hanging in the trees. I can see why your family never wanted to sell this place. It reminds me of the renditions of the Garden of Eden; it looks so tropical with the entire place being covered in flora.”
Smiling and feeling quite pleased, Candace still felt uncomfortable being there without Stacks, and was relieved when she drove around the house and saw Stacks unloading the SUV.
“About time you got here, I was beginning to worry about you two,” Stacks told them as he headed for the kitchen door, his arms laden down with bags of groceries.
“I called the sheriff’s department, and they said they have kept a watch on the house, as well as searching the woods and the county, still no signs of Dubois,” Blaster said as he passed Stacks on his way out to help bring in the groceries.
“About time you Ladies got here” Blaster said, then reached in the SUV and grabbed two armloads of bags.
Candace looked at Gloria and asked, “Do they always repeat each other verbatim like that?”
“Pretty much, but I think it’s a military thing.”
When she stepped into the kitchen, she was surprised to see all the cabinets were completely covered with groceries.
“You didn’t have to buy groceries Stacks, I have plenty of food to feed everyone here already,” Candace told him.
“Candace, you have no idea how much these guys eat. They can eat you out of house and home before you know it,” Gloria said as she came up behind Candace.
“In that case… Stacks are you sure you bought enough food to last for a while,” Candace asked as him as he was going back for another.
“No way, this is for tonight’s dinner. No problem though, one of us will just go back to the store for more tomorrow,” Mead said then went back to trying to stuff more food into the refrigerator.
Candace had a shocked look on her face, when Gloria laughed and told her that Mead was only teasing her.
“Thank goodness,” Candace replied, still looking around at all the food and more still being carried in. Shaking her head, Candace started helping put up the food.
“Hey Candace, where do you want me to set my computer and other equipment up at? I will need to have a place that will be out of your way, if you know what I mean,” Tommy Collins said as he walked into the kitchen.
He was loaded down with, what looked like to Candace, a huge amount of electronics that had nothing to do with being a computer.
“There is that built-in desk in the library, it may be large enough for you, but somehow I kind of doubt it. That is the largest room and work place that I have though,” Candace said looking all the things he had in his arms.
Smiling Tommy winked and then said, “It will work, or at least I will make it work, if you will show me where the library is. This is one big house Candace, how do you keep from getting lost?”
“I grew up here,” Candace said as she led the way to the library.
“However, I remember the first time my parents left me here. I was angry at them because they said they could not take me with them, so instead of hugging them goodbye, I took off running through the house and became lost. After what seemed like hours, my grandmother found me crying in the sun-room. She hugged me and then she brought me to the library, where she sat down and drew me a map of the house. It seems that every generation of our family thought it would be fun to add new rooms, but not in a logical order. I guess it sort of became a game for them.”
“Well if it was meant to confuse people, they sure accomplished that. How can you afford to heat and cool this monster, if you don’t mind my asking?” Tommy asked shaking his head.
“I do not even try Tommy. I just open the vents for the rooms that I am in the most, and then when I want to go into a previously unused room, I open the vent while I am in that room.” Candace said with a smile.
“Which reminds me, Tommy, will you open the vent in here for me? I always have to climb up on a chair to reach it. It looks as though all you tall men will come in helpful more ways than I first believed,” Candace said chuckling at the frown on Tommy’s face.
“I knew it. I told Stacks you would find something else for us to do. Here we thought we would have fun just fishing, hunting, snake wrestling, and sitting around doing nothing,” Tommy said while trying, unsuccessfully, to look hurt.
“Poor baby,” Candace said putting absolutely no inflections of sincerity into her words. “Seriously though, do you think you can find your way back to the kitchen if I leave you now?”
“Yeah, but if I do manage to get lost, I will just use my cell phone to call for help,” Tommy said as he started work setting up his equipment, as she turned and headed back into the kitchen.
Candace walked into the room to see Gloria and Sheila already starting to prepare dinner.
“Hi Candace, wow, what a super kitchen you have. I would have never dreamed that there were any kitchens this large left in America,” Gloria said as she walked around the large island to gingerly hug her.
“This is the one room that my entire ancestors agreed on and did not add to or change. Every one of them simply loved a large kitchen. I also join them in the love of this room, as it is large, but also feels cozy to me,” Candace said as she ran her hand over the heavy ornate cabinet.
“Yeah, it feels like that to me also,” Sheila replied wistfully.
Gloria looked from the large pot she was stirring and asked, “Candace does that wood burning fireplace oven still work? It looks like an old style pizza/ bread oven to me. Truth is I remember my grandmother telling me about them, but I have never seen one before.”
“It sure does work. I use it for a lot of things other than bread and pizza though. If you would like to use it, I can get a fire started for you,” Candace said as she walked to what looked like a set of cabinet doors which opened up to reveal a wood box, filled with fire wood.
“I would love to cook in it, but how do you regulate the heat or know how long to set a timer for?”
“It all depends on how large of a fire you build. As for using a timer, that’s out of the question. Back when this was built, it was just something the cook had learned through trial and error. You are in luck though, being as how my grandmother taught me to cook using this very oven,” Candace said as she built the fire up to a cheerful roar.
Gloria set to making her homemade bread while Candace and Sheila set to work with the salad and the spaghetti sauce.
Tasting the spaghetti sauce and finding it lacking in taste, Candace opened a door that opened up to what appeared to be a small garden and walked out, with Gloria and Sheila oohing and aahing over the hothouse room.
“Oh Lord Candace, this is wonderful. And look at those tomatoes, they are as red and luscious as what we use to be able to buy in the stores, before they went to the no flavor variety,” Gloria said as she leaned down and inhaled the sweet acidic flavor of real fresh tomatoes.
“The guys are going to be so angry with us,” Sheila remarked as she reached out and held one of the dark green bell peppers in her hand.
“Why would they be angry with you?” Candace asked her.
From behind her, standing in the doorway, Stacks said, “Because Mom and Sheila ordered us to buy a lot of the things you are growing in here.”
“Yeah and I bet those vegetables we bought wont taste near as well as those,” Blaster said as he pushed past Stacks and walked into the greenhouse to look around.
“True, but if you want I can put the vegetables you bought into paper bags and set them out here where they can ripen. They will at least taste some better in a few days. Now if you will excuse me I need to get some of the herbs for the sauce,” Candace said as she walked to the back wall and picking up a pair if garden shears, started cutting sprigs of herbs that she wanted.
“I know that that is a rosemary bush, but what are those other herbs you just gathered?” Stacks asked as he followed Candace back into the kitchen.
Candace walked over to the sink and began rinsing and patting the herbs dry as she spoke, “This is basil, and this one is oregano and this is what I call my salt plant, savory.”
“”You are teasing me now aren’t you,” Stacks said with a grin on his face.
“No, it’s the truth. Savory releases a flavor that tastes like salt, but it is not as strong as salt, and better for you. However, before I put this in the sauce, I had best ask Gloria how much salt she put in to start with,” Candace remarked as she added the other herbs to the slow cooking rich sauce.
Stacks just shook his head and headed out of the kitchen, then just as quickly returned to ask, “Would you have a minute to show me what room you let Collins set up in? I would go in search of him myself, but I think I may get lost. I would have never thought you lived in such a large house. How many rooms does this house have anyway?”
Laughing Candace said, “If you count the six antechambers that connect this monstrosity together, and the hothouse, then there are twenty-one rooms. If you want to know how many of the rooms I use, especially in the winter, and by myself, then it is five. My parents come to visit me in the spring and we open all the rooms up and air them out, Mom usually helps me with the spring cleaning.”
“I suppose the pup tents we brought with us will not be necessary now,” Stacks mumbled.
“There are plenty of bedrooms for everyone, just pick an antechamber that suits and once you walk through it the next door leads into a set of rooms. Most of the rooms have one or two bedrooms. My room is through the upstairs chamber that is above the living room. It was once my great-great grandmother’s set of rooms which included a bedroom and her quilting room. It was the rooms my grandmother gave me the first time I stayed here with my grandparents.” Candace said as she led Stacks through the living room then she turned left and walked down the curving hall where they ended up in a well-lit library.
Looking up from what he was doing, Tommy grinned and asked Stacks if he had been worried about him.
“You know Collins, I always thought I could find my way around any place in the world, but now I am not so sure,” Stacks said looking around as he spoke.
Candace started to leave, but stopped when Stacks said, “Candace, what is in those boxes on the top of the shelves? Some of them look like small trunks and olden trunks at that.”
Looking up to the top of the large eight-foot bookshelves, Candace said, “Those are just papers that were important to each of my ancestors.”
Turning, she started to leave, when she stopped, turned back around and slowly said, “You aren’t thinking what I’m thinking are you?”
“You bet I am. I think we have just found the starting place to try to solve this mystery,” Stacks replied with excitement.
“Whoa, there Einstein,” Collins said looking up and around at the daunting number of trunks and wooden boxes covering the tops of the shelves.
“There must be at least fifty containers here, and they are not all that small. How will we ever go through those in time to help Candace?”
“We knew it might take some time to figure this problem out, Collins, but there are eight of us here, at least for a few days. I want you to spend most of your time searching the net and checking out what Henderson finds out on his end. That means there are seven of us free to go through these containers, as well as walk the land looking for the answers we need,” Stacks said as he slid the library around on its rail, to the oldest of the trunks.
“We can start on those after dinner, if everyone agrees, but for now, I need to get back to the kitchen,” Candace told them as she left the room.
After Candace walked off, Collins was looking at the door, when he said, “Now all we have to do is wait for the ghost to show up and prove we are not as tough as we thought we were.”
Breaking out into laughter, Stacks turned to look at the open door Candace had walked out of, and patted his friend on the back, “Don’t worry about it Collins. How bad can the ghosts be if Candace lives here by herself?”
“But what if she is a ghost and we just don’t know it?” Collins said in an eerie voice, using his best imitation of Boris Karloff.
“And What if I am,” Candace said in a slow wicked voice of her own, coming from behind them.
To be continued…