“Dorcus is married to the son of the man that killed Elsie?”
“Yes, they married last year but you mustn’t say that Doctor Henderson killed Elsie. After all, he was cleared by the courts.”
“I’m convinced that was a cover up. He knew something that people didn’t want to get out so they arranged for the charges against him to be dropped. What ever happened to Doctor Henderson anyway?”
“He died two years ago. They say it was heart failure. They found him lying on the floor in his operating room. The entire room was destroyed. They say it was because he staggered around before he fell but I’m not entirely convinced.”
“Well, I think its time to pay my dear old friend a visit. Can you tell me where they live?”
“That’s easy enough. She’s your neighbor. She lives two doors down from you on your side of the street. It’s a white house with green trim.”
“Thanks Miss Patty, I’ll let you know how it goes.” Ella quickly left the library and headed towards her friends home. She wasn’t sure how Dorcus will act towards her, after all, it has been ten years, not to mention she will be questioning her about her husband’s father. She would be lucky not to get herself kicked out but she had to ask these hard questions to find the answers she sought.
When she stood on the doorstep she suddenly had misgivings. Was she doing the right thing? How do you go about bringing up the subject. You can’t just go in saying ‘Hey Dorcus how have you been these last ten years? By the way, tell me how your father-in-law managed to get his name cleared from murder?’ She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that when the door swung open and a pretty young woman walked out Ella jumped and backed away.
“Ella Mattox, is that you?”
“Dorcus, it’s been years. How have you been?” Ella asked, giving her old friend a hug.
“Wonderful. Come on in, we have years of catching up to do. How did you find out where I lived?”
“Miss Patty mentioned it. I only moved back a few days ago and I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to look up old friends yet. When she learned that I hadn’t had a chance to visit anyone, she told me you were just two doors down from me. I couldn’t pass up the chance to come and say hi.”
“Well, I’m glad you did. How have you been? You know I didn’t even know you were moving until you were already gone.”
“I didn’t know we were moving until after the funeral. Then all we did was gather what we could carry and leave.”
“That seems strange. Why did your parents just up and leave like that?”
“I’m not sure but it’s something I’m looking into. Anyway, my father passed away last week and I found out he left me the house so I decided to move back here. After all, Mineral Creek is my hometown and I really hated Tulsa.”
“Oh, you lived in Tulsa? I would love to visit there. It has to be so different from here. There’s nothing to do here other than sit on the front porch with your family and neighbors. In Tulsa, there must be a lot of different things to do every night.”
“Tulsa did have a lot to do but the friendliness of a small town is much better. Miss Patty tells me you got married.”
“Yes, my Nathan is wonderful. I wish you could meet him right now but he’s at his office.”
“Oh my, he has an office? He must be someone important then.”
“He’s the town doctor now that his father is gone. He took over the family practice.”
“Oh that’s right, I remember Dr. Henderson. I’m sorry to hear of his passing.”
Dorcus nodded her thanks. “He never really liked me and honestly I would always get a strange feeling from him whenever he was around.”
“What kind of ‘strange’ feeling?”
“It’s hard to explain. I would catch him looking at me when he didn’t know I could see him. He would look me up and down and he would make a face like he was judging me and found me lacking.”
“Dorcus, can I ask you a question without offending you?”
“I will try my best not to be offended.”
“Ten years ago, when Anna died and we left suddenly I didn’t realize what we did was strange but the older I got the more it didn’t make any sense. Why would we leave the cemetery, come straight home and grab only the things we could carry and leave town? I now have so many questions and Mama and Papa are gone so I have no one to answer them. That’s one reason I came home, to get those questions answered and some of those answers leads me to your father-in-law.”
Dorcus studied her friend for a minute. “You are talking about what happened to Elsie Potter. You think there is a connection between what happened to Elsie and Anna’s death.”
“I went to visit Anna’s grave when I got home. Do you know what is inscribed on her headstone?”
“No, I don’t think I’ve ever paid any attention.”
“It says, ‘Killed by Human Wolves’.”
“That seems scary. What could they have meant and who could have had that inscribed?”
“It had to be my father that had that inscribed. As for the saying to me it means she was murdered. Now I have further reason to believe that Elsie and Anna’s deaths are related.”
“I found Anna’s diary. Elsie was like another sister to Anna and I know she tried her best to protect her. Anna learned things before Elsie’s death that has brought some answers but a lot more questions. One of the most pressing question is how did Dr. Henderson get cleared of all wrong doing when he was clearly guilty?”
“I remember my parents talking about it when it was big news in town. They always thought he was guilty of killing her. After all, he did the surgery that she died from so he should have paid for that. As a matter of fact, my parents were not happy about the man I chose for a husband because of his father. They only finally approved the match when the old doctor was no longer in the picture.”
“So if your parents believed he was guilty then there must have been others in the town that felt the same way.”
“Almost everyone in town did yet the court decided he was innocent so there was nothing anyone could do.”
“What does your husband think about what happened?”
“He wasn’t here when all that happened. He was away at school but he returned not long after his father was cleared of the charges. He said he was never that close to his father and really didn’t know much about him or his character. He just remembers him being very strict and mean to his mother. His father made the name Henderson infamous in Mineral Creek. Since his death, Nathan has tried very hard to prove to the town that he is not his father.”
“Do you know what happened to the teacher? They took him in for questioning but there were no newspaper articles after that.”
“Papa said he was told to leave town but I don’t know who told him or why.”
“It seems like people know bits and pieces of the story but not the whole thing. Johnny Moore is coming over tonight to discuss it. Would you and Nathan like to come too? It sounds like your husband might want to lay these questions to rest as well.”
“I will ask him but I’m sure he would like that. So tell me, how is it you’ve been too busy to look up old friends but you managed to get acquainted with the most eligible man in Mineral Creek?”
Ella spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on ten years worth of Mineral Creek gossip. When she left she was feeling good. It was nice to get back with old friends. She hoped once they learned what actually happened to Elsie and Anna she would still have those friends. She didn’t think Dorcus could be involved but she didn’t know about her husband. After all, he was the son of the man that killed Elsie and possibly Anna.
She had time before she needed to go home and prepare for tonight’s little dinner party so she decided to go visit her sister. Maybe sitting there with her will help her clear her mind so that she can be focused for the night’s discussion. The cemetery always gave Ella a chill. There was something about the stillness of the acreage and knowing that people were lying beneath her feet unnerved her. Normally, she wouldn’t come alone but she felt she needed to have this visit.
She sat down on the ground next to her sister’s grave. “Anna, I wish you were here. There’s still so many questions and I’m afraid we’re nowhere close to finding out what happened to you. I know you were worried about Elsie and you followed her to that place. Is that how you knew how she really died and why did everyone go unpunished? What is this secret and how many in this town was a part of it? It sounds as though that was a really dark time in Mineral Creek and you somehow got mixed up in and paid for it with your life.
Did Mama and Papa pack up and leave because they knew what had happened? That you were murdered and feared for their safety as well as my own? Papa did one thing to get back at them before we moved though, didn’t he? He put that inscription on your headstone so that every time someone read it they either knew they were guilty or was it just to remind the town’s people of what they let happen?”
A breeze blew over Ella giving her a chill and slightly lifting her hair in the wind. She shivered and looked around. No one was there but the feeling that she was being watched crept over her. She looked over her shoulder in the direction that she felt the gaze. There was no one there but when she focused on the headstone, the name inscribed on it made her gasp, “Doctor Edward Henderson”.
“Oh Anna, even in death you must be tormented to be buried so near your murderer for I have no doubt that he played a role in your death as well as Elsie’s.”
Her peaceful mood while talking to her sister suddenly fled and she quickly said goodbye and left the cemetery. Her walk home had her looking over her shoulder every step of the way. Something was making her feel uneasy, as though someone was following her. She was never so glad to walk through her door as she was just then. Trying to shake the mood she suddenly found herself in, she started to prepare the evening meal and hoped that Johnny would show up soon because she didn’t want to be alone right now.