The Hiding Place
By: Dawn DeBraal

Adeline Baidwell wandered upstairs to the little-used area of her grandparent's house. At the end of a long hallway, she found the green door that led to an attic. A small cramped stairway circled in front of her.

"Hello?" she called up wondering why she would do this. There was no light switch. Just as she had suspected, the string had been tied to the railing. Addie pulled the string and the single light bulb hanging from a frayed wire hung down in the middle of the room. It was dark and dusty. Everything the family no longer wanted on the main floors had been dragged up here for storage. By the degree of dustiness, no one had been here for a long time.

There were a few small windows where the light came in on three sides of the attic. She sneezed as she lifted off a sheet.

The old steamer trunk stood before her. Opening the lid, she was excited to find the trunk full of wonderful things. Addie pulled out the dress box that contained a yellowed wedding dress with exquisite beading, a bridal veil, letters tied in a red ribbon, and some old photographs. One of them, the woman appeared to be wearing the dress in the trunk; this must be her great grandmother's things. She took the stack of letters and sat down under the light. Untying the ribbon, she opened the first letter dated July-thirty-first, eighteen-hundred and ninety-six.

The flowered envelope smelled of the sachet packet left in the trunk — a sweet, powdery smell. The envelope was brittle as she slipped out the letter, deeply creased with age.

My Dear,

No doubt, as we suspected, the news has spread like wildfire. My sister is dead, so too, her children and the hired hand. Only her youngest child left alive, three-week-old, William.

My brother-in-law James has killed them, for no apparent reason. The authorities have looked for him but have not found any trace of him. I am afraid for us. Will he also come here and finish the rest of our family off? I pray he has left for parts unknown. It is the uncertainty that weighs heavily on me.

When will you return home to me? We are so lonely without you. I am relieved that you have agreed to take on the babe left behind. His grandparents will be coming to Appletown to deliver William in a week or so. They are distraught over what their son has done, and do not understand why he has done this, or where he might be. They want the child raised where no one knows him. Where he can break free of the stigma, his father has cast upon the family. So, my darling, we are blessed with a son. He is the last of my sister. I shall love him as I loved her.

I look forward to your return, my darling.

Yours Truly,

Evaline

Addie found the letter extremely hard to read. Cursive writing with extra flourish made each word exhausting to cipher. This find was amazing, but she didn't have the patience to continue with the stack. She looked at the pile of letters and sighed. It was too much. Perhaps she could try one a day.

Addie took the dress out of the trunk. Her great, grandmother had been painfully thin. She held the dress up. Even at her young age, she would never fit into it. She set the dress aside and continued to dig through the trunk. Pictures of what she assumed were her grandmother with a small boy in her lap. It could have been the child she adopted back then. It was hard to believe that Addie's great aunt had been murdered by her husband. What would have made him do this? Such a violent event in a time when these things rarely happened.

The velvet sack with the drawstring drew her attention. It contained a gold pocket watch. Addie pushed down on the stem, and the watch popped open. It was so intricately engraved. Addie wound the stem. The second hand started to sweep across the face. Something at the back of the attic fell. She jumped, and then realized she had probably disturbed something with the sheet she had thrown off the trunk.

The watch was probably over a hundred years old and appeared to be working perfectly. She put everything back into the trunk, decided to see if there was anything about her uncle on the internet

Addie pulled out her laptop when she got to her bedroom and typed in James Baidwell into the search window and was shocked to see how many references there were to the serial murder. This story was the stuff of legends. Her uncle was a famous serial killer who was never caught. She wondered what happened to him.

Addie was spending the summer with her grandparents. The farm they lived on was nothing more than a hobby farm. The land sold off years ago when farming was no longer a lucrative way to make a living. Her grandparents still had ten acres and a few animals to fill the barn. It was fun to collect eggs in the morning, trying to hypnotize chickens into letting her reach her hand under and grab the nice warm egg for breakfast. Grandfather had a couple of pigs he called Pork Chop and Bacon. Addie didn't find humor in that but enjoyed taking the kitchen scraps out to them. They were always happy to see her come. It was the height of summer.

Sitting at the dinner table, Addie asked her grandparents about the stuff in the attic.

"That old stuff? I can't even remember what's up there," her grandfather said.

"I found some interesting things, old letters, and a pocket watch and a wedding dress." She told them. They didn't seem to remember anything being up there.

"That sounds like a treasure trove up there, her grandfather chuckled. It's probably time we clean out the attic and get rid of that stuff." Grandmother rolled her eyes.

"Clarence, I am not going to haul that stuff out of the attic, you can hire someone to do it, we are too old to be going up and down those stairs." Her grandfather agreed, but also said it wouldn't hurt to go up and see what was in there.

"Who knows there could be some antiques!" Her grandfather agreed to go back upstairs with her after dinner."

"Watch your head, Grandpa," Addie said as she rounded the steps, she reached the pull string light.

"Wow, I'd forgotten all this stuff was up here! Her grandfather pulled a few more sheets from the mountain in the middle. "There's my mother's old rocking chair. Why would we have put it up here, I wonder?" Addie opened the trunk and showed them the wedding dress and the first letter. Her grandfather pulled the rocking chair out of the pile and sat down trying to read

"It's too stuffy in here. Please bring down your mother's rocker," her Grandmother said as she took the stairs. Addie's grandfather was still reading the first letter. His face registered shock.

"I forgot this story. How could I have forgotten this! My grandmother had his pocket watch; they found it halfway between the house and the barn where he killed the hired hand. James must have dropped it. Did you find the watch? Addie dug around the trunk finding the small bag it was in and handed it to her grandfather.

"You wound it?" he asked nervously.

"Yes, I did, I wanted to see if it worked, Grandpa." Addie worried as she saw him shake his head no.

"I wished you hadn't done that. It's nonsense, I'm sure, but no one wanted the watch to move beyond the time it stopped, the day he killed his family." Addie quickly apologized.

"I'm sorry Grandpa, I had no idea."

"Addie, that was back in the day. It was a time when superstition ruled our lives. Now we are far more knowledgeable." He watched the second hand complete its cycle around the face of the watch. The grandfather clock chimed 7:30 downstairs. "Hand me those letters." Addie gave him the ribbon tied package as he read a few more. It seemed her grandfather didn't have as much trouble reading the old-fashioned script. The light in the attic slowly moved in a pendulum fashion. Addie's grandfather looked at her questioningly.

"Don't look at me. I didn't do anything." Addie answered her grandfather's look.

"The murders took place at 8:00 in the evening, exactly one hundred years ago, today," her grandfather whispered. She could see he was getting nervous. The watch had not been wound for over a hundred years. She could see him trying to pull the stem up to stop the watch from working. Arthritis in his fingers did not allow him to grab the stem. "Addie, stop the watch, pull up the stem, here," her grandfather handed her the pocket watch. She tried to pull the stem up, but something prevented it from coming up in her hand.

"I can't, Grandfather!" Addie started to panic when she saw the look on her grandfather's face. The wind whistled around the attic, raising dust. Something was there with them. Addie desperately pulled on the stem. She didn't care if it was an antique or not; she had to stop the watch. Somehow, it was tied into James Baidwell and what was happening in the attic. One hundred years to the day, the hour and minute was fast approaching, when James killed his family, the servants and the hired hand.

Outside, a storm was brewing. Addie desperately tried to pull up the winder on the timepiece. Her grandfather was digging through the trunk, furiously looking for something. The dust started to swirl. They both choked in the dust storm that was taking place in the attic.

"Grandpa! We have to get out of here!" Addie ran down the steps; the door was jammed. She stepped aside, her grandfather rammed it a few times, but it held as if someone had a hand on the door. The vortex above them started to pull them up the steps. They were powerless to resist. Her grandfather told her to get behind him. Addie did as she was told. Out of the dust, he came. A vision of James Baidswell formed from the dust in the attic. His writhing body stood at the center of the dust storm. He put his hands out.

"Grandpa, what does he want?" Addie shouted. Her grandfather shook his head.

"He's trying to tell us something." The sheets flew off the rest of the furniture and began dancing in the air with the dust. They looked like ghosts. Grandfather suddenly realized what his uncle was trying to tell him.

"He wants us to look in the trunks!" her grandpa shouted. One by one, they opened the trunks along the edge of the attic.

"Grandpa, this one is locked!" said Addie. He took an old rat tail file from the tool kit in the corner and broke the lock.

There, in the trunk was the body of James Baidwell. The skeleton folded over, looked as it he had scratched the inside of the trunk up with his fingernails.

The wind stopped. Addie pulled the watch stem up. Everything was quiet. She couldn't believe her eyes.

"We need to call the sheriff." Her grandfather grabbed her, and they went downstairs, this time the door gave them no resistance.

The sheriff's department came quickly when they found that a skeleton had been uncovered in the attic.

###

The Sheriff deduced what had happened. "James killed them all. They'd hang him for sure if he even made it to trial. He didn't kill the baby though. Probably because the child was innocent. It wasn't his fault his wife cheated with the farmhand. They all knew, his kids, the help. They all did their part and covered it up. The posse was out looking for James in faraway places, while he climbed into an old trunk.

His body was shipped with the rest of the family's belongings, to his sister-in-law's home, and put in the attic for storage."

For one hundred years James Baidwell waited to get out of the trunk, until Addie wound the watch and found the trunk. What the spirit thought would be his release was actually a one way trip to Hell, where he deserved to be.

THE END

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