Stacks had turned to see if Candace was behind him, when he saw her disappear into the smaller opening in the rock. Swearing silently to himself, he turned back to follow her, but stopped to wipe away the chalk mark he had made on the wall. He did not want to leave a trail that could potentially cause them to become lost later on. That was when he heard Candace scream.
Fear clutched at him as he ran towards the path that Candace had taken. As he turned the corner into the entrance, that he had seen Candace going into, he found himself slamming into her, their bodies connecting with a resounding thud. The breath slammed out of him with a whoosh knocking Candace backwards. Grabbing her before she could fall, Stacks steadied her and pulled held her close to him, and his loudly thumping heart.
“What’s wrong Candace, what did you see?” He asked. Holding her close to him while he shone the light down the path trying to see what had upset her.
Candace felt her breath leave her when she slammed into Stacks. She felt as though she had run into a brick wall. For a moment she thought she was going to pass out, but when she was able to take a breath, the tingling in her body cleared and she managed to shakily say, “Bones, lots and lots of human bones.”
“Stay here,” Stacks told her, as he went to look for himself.
Candace shook her head and managed an, “I’m alright now Stacks. It’s just that I tripped and when I looked up… Well it was just a surprise, that’s all.” There was no way she was going to let Stacks out of her sight. At this moment she did not want to be left alone.
Walking into the small room, Candace clinging to his shirt, Stacks saw that Candace was not exaggerating when she said there were lots of bones. There were what appeared to be hundreds of skeletons, all neatly stacked, one on top of another, resembling stacks of firewood. They were stacked from the floor up to the ledges, there were many more skeletons stacked on top of the ledges, as far up as someone could place them.
“I didn’t know Indians buried their dead in caves,” Candace said bewildered.
“I have never heard of it myself, but then I was never any good in history. My mind was jammed packed with all those dates to memorize, that by the time I had memorized them for the test, I had forgotten everything else but the dates,” Stacks said with a small laugh.
“I remember a little more than that, but I don’t remember reading about Indian bones ever being found in caves,” Candace said. Thinking aloud, Candace continued, “I remember reading about the ‘Hypogeum’s of Malta, they used the underground catacomb chambers to entombed their dead, because the land was too rocky to dig graves. Perhaps the Indians did the same thing, in rocky areas.”
“What is a hypogeum? Stacks asked, as his brow rose in question.
“The Hypogeum is a series of underground chambers carved from rock creating a great burial complex. The Hypogeum has three main levels – Upper, Middle, and Lower levels and in all, the underground cemetery, in Malta, covers an area of about point three square miles. If I remember correctly, the lower and middle levels are entirely carved out of rock using antler or wooden picks and stone hammers since metal tools are not known to have existed at that time. The article said that the ceramic remains found there suggest that the site may have been used as early as four thousand BC.
“Four thousand years before Christ? That’s truly unbelievable,” Stacks said looking around the room.
“I wonder if there are any more burial chambers down here. I think that if there is one burial chamber, then there are probably more.”
“Sounds reasonable to me, but I think we need to get out of here and leave them to rest in peace. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe it is a sin to disturb the remains of our ancestors,” Stacks said as he ushered Candace out of the room.
“I agree with you on that,” Candace said as she left the small burial Chambers.
“You know Stacks, Some of those bones could be, and possible are, my first ancestors. There may be something written about this in some of those old trunks, in the house.”
Looking at his watch, Stacks said, “It’s possible, but for now, let’s head back to the house. We only have ten minutes until we were supposed to head back anyway. “
When Stacks and Candace arrived at the stairs that led up to Candace’s bedroom, they saw Rothman sitting on the top of the stairs.
“I am sure glad to see you. I was dreading the thought of having to go looking for you two. Everyone else is in the dining room having coffee,” He said smiling at them.
“Oh come on now, Rothman, do you really believe Stacks and I would get lost in a little old cave,” Candace teased, as she used her hand to brush off the dust from her lavender color sweat pants.
“I don’t know about you, but Stacks gets lost going to the store,” Rothman teased back, as they walked into her room and closed the panel behind them.
Candace turned back to look at the door they had just came through and said, “You know, that door is so well hidden that I almost don’t believe it can truly be there. I wonder if there are any more entries, from my home, into the cavern.”
“To tell the truth Candace, I was wondering how many more secrets are hidden within and under your home,” Stacks said with a laugh.
“Quite a few,” Rothman said as he walked through the door heading for the dining room.
Stacks and Candace looked at each other, both of their faces registering a look of surprise and question.
Candace spoke first. “They must have found something during their search of the cavern. I wonder what they could have found.”
“I have no idea, but they may have found more burial chambers,” Stacks said as he took Candace’s hand and started down the stairs to join the others.
The November nights were starting to become quite cool, but in the caverns it was twice as cold. Candace was shivering, when she walked into the dining room and felt the warmth coming from the large stone fireplace. Both Candace and Stacks rushed over to it and held their hands out to welcome its warmth.
“Whoever decided to build a fire, thank you,” Candace said as she turned her backside to the welcomed warmth.
“You can thank the guys for the fire,” Sheila told her.
“Thank you,” Candace said as she walked to the table and sat down.
Gloria picked up the large carafe, pored Candace and Stacks a cup of the wonderful smelling brew, then handed it to them.
Reaching out to take her cup from Gloria, Candace said, “This coffee smells so good. Is it the Milano coffee you told me about at The Bar?”
“Of course it is,” Gloria said amused. Stacks would disown me if I tried to give him any other coffee.”
“Ok, I’m a believer and have been since Friday night. When this mess is over, I’m going to start shopping in Granbury for my coffee. Didn’t you tell me the name of the little shop he bought it from was ‘The Coffee Grinder? ”
“That’s the place.”
Stacks was impressed that Candace had remembered the name of the coffee shop. Taking a sip of the hot delicious coffee, Stacks sat his cup down and said, “Before Candace and I tell you what we found in the caverns, I would like to hear about everyone else’s endeavors.”
Blaster was the first to speak. “As you know, Collins and I headed to what look like a small opening in the back of the large entry chamber. It was a long path that reminded me of a crack in the earth after an earthquake. We walked for about forty-five minutes when the walls seem to start closing in on us. I took the lead, and had just begun to think we would have to turn back, when I noticed a larger opening at about knee height, straight ahead. Collins and I decided that we might be able to travel the rest of the distance on our hands and knees. I told Collins to wait there and I would try it first.”
Collins interposed, “I was afraid we were going to get stuck if we tried to go farther. We were walking sideways and the going was getting pretty da-darn tight.” Smiling at Gloria, Collins was proud that he had caught himself before saying a bad word.
Collins continued, “Blaster had to work at it to lower himself down, but once he was on the ground he was able to crawl the rest of the distance to the opening. When he disappeared into the dark entrance, I waited until he yelled that I should follow him. Blaster was whooping and yelling with excitement, but with all the echoes in the cave, I couldn’t make out what he was saying.”
Blaster started where Collins left off, “When I first crawled through the opening, I used my light to explore the area in front of me. I wanted to make sure that there was not a drop off or something else that would pose a danger to us. Once I knew it was not only large, but safe, that’s when I stood up and started looking around. I could not believe my eyes. What I saw in every direction I aimed my flashlight, were what looked like giant beehives, built-in a large circle. At first I was worried that I would be attacked by bees, but that’s when I saw a longhouse made of what looked like mud and straw sitting in the middle, surrounded by the beehives.”
Collins and Blaster enjoyed the excitement they saw in each one of the faces sitting there staring with open disbelief of what they had just heard.
“You found an Indian village under my land?” Candace asked incredulously.
“Yes ma’am, we sure did,” Blaster answered beaming with pride at being the one who made the find.
“After I managed to work my way through the opening, I finally saw what Blaster was so excited about. I could not believe my eyes. I expected to see Indians with arrows and spears at any moment. We only had an hour to look around, however, the village looks as though it is waiting for the people to return,” Collins said with awe in his voice.
“I agree with Collins on that. We found water-hides, weapons, and furs, inside the huts. There were small bows and arrows that looked like they were made for their children, I suppose that was their idea of toys, or it could be for training the children,” Blaster surmised thoughtfully.
“I wouldn’t know anything about that, but did it look as if they ever built any fires down there?” Stacks asked them.
“Yep and there was a large fire pit all set up, just like they expected to be returning there,” Collins answered.
“If fires were built-in that cave, then there must be an opening for the smoke to go through or it would have choked them to death,” Sheila said, then asked, “Did you happen to see an opening anywhere?”
“No, and Collins and I looked all around trying to find one, but what we did find was an underground stream moving gently behind the village. The water in that stream was ice-cold and crystal clear. I want to go back there tomorrow, before we have to get back to the bar, and collect a jar of water to have it tested.”
“Good idea Blaster, but don’t tell anyone where the water came from.” Stacks warned.
“That’s not a problem at all Blaster. There are a lot of underground streams in Texas. I think they call them mineral water springs. At least that is what my grandfather called the one that we have on the property. It used to release water into the river through a small opening in the rocks, until my grandfather decided it needed a faucet attached. He then decided to hammer a steel pipe, which was threaded on one end, into the opening. He then attached a shut off valve and the faucet. People stop to refill their water bottles all the time.”
“You know Candace; I think there is a lot to discover about the ingenious nature of your family background. Who would have ever thought to build their home over the opening to a cavern?” Gloria said shaking her head.
“That makes me wonder if the village that Blaster and Collins found was built by the local Indians, or if one of your ancestors decided to build it,” Mead said thoughtfully.
“I wish I knew, however we may discover its origins when we go through some of those papers,” Candace said as she looked towards the old chests sitting lined up against the wall.
“That’s a possibility, but I think instead of going through the chests tomorrow, I want to have a look at the village. The truth is, at this moment, I have half a mind to go there now,” Stacks said.
“I would love to see it myself. How many of you are leaving tomorrow,” Candace said looking worried.
“Mom, Sheila, and I are going to stay, if you don’t mind. I don’t think it is safe for you to stay here by yourself. Sheila can’t work until her arm and ribs heal, which leaves the rest to run The Bar. We are only open for four days of the week anyway, so they will be back on Monday, of course that is only if you are alright with all of us being here, Stacks asked Candace.
“Are you kidding me? I feel as if I finally have a family. I have been so lonely since I lost my grandmother, a few years ago. I really don’t know my parents anymore, nor do I see them that often. Then there is also the unanswered question of why Francois kidnapped me, and will he return. ”
“Then it’s settled, I’ll stay until my boyfriend comes back from his road trip. I can’t wait to see that village tomorrow,” Sheila said.
“I hate to say this, but I don’t know if you will be able to get through the last bit of the way, not with that hurt arm. As a matter of fact, I am not so sure Stacks or Mead can get through the passage, given their muscled up bodies,” Collins said.
“That may be a problem. You said that once Blaster was able to get down on his knees that he was able to get the rest of the way to the opening. Do you think that we could get in there if we start crawling before it gets too tight?” Mead asked them.
“Possibly, I suppose you guys will just have to try it to see if you can,” Collins answered.
“Then that’s what we’ll do. What about the rest of you, did you find anything interesting,” Stacks asked them.
Mead looked to Gloria, and she said, “Depends on what you call interesting. Naturally we cannot all hope to find something as fascinating as an Indian village,” she stopped talking and pointedly looked at the others seated around the table, “But we did discover that Candace is quite wealthy.”
Shocked at Gloria’s words, Candace said, “My grandparents left me a generous inheritance, however I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination Gloria.”
“Actually Candace, you could be as wealthy as you wish to be, from that Indian village alone. However, what we discovered is worth probably as much if not more,” Gloria told her.
“Quit making her wait Mom and tell us what you found,”
To be continued…