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Authors: Mute80

Tags: #romance, #thriller, #suspense, #history, #paranormal, #young adult, #teen, #ghost, #series, #modern

Shadow of a Life (25 page)

BOOK: Shadow of a Life
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As we progressed through the stack we
started finding letters addressed to Betsy’s parents. Again, most
of these letters were from family that lived elsewhere. I’d decided
to make a genealogical chart of sorts in the back of the notebook I
was using so that we could keep track of the barrage of names
coming at us. So much of the handwriting was flowery and faded that
it took both of us to interpret some of the words. I felt like a
genuine detective.

About midway through the box we came
across the first mention of Jeremiah and Elsa. It was addressed to
Betsy’s father Henry (my great-grandfather) and was written by his
older sister, Genevieve Goodwin Slate. The date at the top was July
17, 1926.

 

Dearest
Brother,

It was so lovely to
receive the last letter you wrote to me. It brings me great
pleasure to know that you are well. Please give your sweet wife and
baby hugs from Aunt Gen. My little family is faring well, too, and
we hope to be in our new home by fall. James works hard on it every
day. You will need to come stay with us for a while once the work
is complete.

You might be interested to
know that I was recently given an old sea trunk that belonged to
father’s cousins, Jeremiah and Elsa Goodwin. Do you remember them?
I recall meeting them once as a very young girl, perhaps five or
six. You might not have been old enough to remember that day.
Anyway, it seems that they both passed many years ago, so the trunk
was brought here and left by an elderly man whose name I did not
catch. He said I was the nearest kin to them that he could find and
thought I should have their trunk. It is locked and perhaps one day
James will find enough time to open it for me. I found it to be a
strange incident and thought you might get a laugh from it. I hope
all is well and that your family is having a wonderful
summer.

Love always, Genevieve
Goodwin Slate

 


I would love to know what
was in that trunk,” Peter said as he folded the letter and put it
back in its aging envelope.


Me, too. I wonder if any
other letters will say.”

He shuffled through the letters and
shook his head. “The rest of the ones we haven’t read yet are dated
before the letter that mentioned the trunk. I don’t think we’re
going to find anything else about it.”


Darn.”


Let’s keep reading though.
We might find something else important.”

Apparently Genevieve had a passion for
writing letters, because we had to make our way through a great
number of ramblings about her children and husband before we got to
letters from the previous generation. The stack of letters was
beginning to dwindle before we finally found another one that
mentioned Jeremiah and Elsa.

It was written by Henry and
Genevieve’s father Phillip and it was addressed to someone by the
name of Sally Hart. For some reason it had never actually been sent
to the recipient. I wondered who she was, but I never did get an
answer. The best guess I had from the wording in the letter was
that she too was a distant cousin of Jeremiah and Elsa.

 

Dear Sally,

Congratulations on the
arrival of your new child. We wish you and your little one the best
of health in the days to come. I am happy to share the news that
Laura has accepted the offer of my hand in marriage and her father
has agreed as well. We shall be married sometime in the fall if all
goes as planned. She is a lovely girl and I couldn’t be luckier.
Father has been keeping me busy on the farm and I fear I might
never get a break to enjoy the fine spring weather we have been
having here.

We were recently visited
by our cousins, Jeremiah and Elsa Goodwin. They are surely a
strange couple. I recall father taking me to visit them when I was
about fourteen and they had a beautiful daughter. I believe Sophia
was her name. She was friendly enough and I think her parents would
have liked to see us married, but I definitely did not want to be
paired with them, nor would my father have ever allowed it. I
overheard him talking with Mother about “trusting Jeremiah about as
far as I could throw him.” I suppose Father does not hold much
regard for him.

They came here without
their daughter this time and did not mention her so I suppose she
has been married off to some other poor fool. I do not know what
business they had with my father, but he was very upset when they
left. I shall try to avoid contact with this family in the future
and I suggest you do so as well if you ever chance to meet up with
them since you now live so close to them. I pray for your continued
health and happiness.

Best regards, Phillip
Goodwin

 

I felt like I’d been taken back in
time. In just one letter there was the happiness of a new baby
being born and the joy of an engagement. The man who wrote this
letter would have been my great-great grandfather and the Laura he
mentioned would be my great-great grandmother. Being an only child
and coming from parents who did not have much family, I found
myself fascinated with the history of it all and I felt a closeness
to the people I’d never met. I hoped that Peter wasn’t getting
bored.


When was that letter
written?” I asked.

Peter unfolded it again and looked at
the date. “It looks like it was May of 1895.”


Hmm . . . so this was
written after Sophia had been dead for a while. I think she told me
she quit haunting them after five or six years or something like
that. I don’t think Nick started haunting them until sometime in
the early 1900’s. Apparently this visit fell sometime between the
two of them keeping tabs on Jeremiah and Elsa.”

We finished the last of the letters
without finding any more references to the “strange cousins” and
decided to look through the photo album where I’d found the picture
of Sophia with Jeremiah and Elsa. I found it fascinating to see
what my dead relatives looked like. Some of the women were
absolutely beautiful in their elegant dresses with high collars and
long sleeves. I hoped that some of their genes had been passed on
to me. Some of the pictures were a little eerie since no one ever
smiled in pictures back in those days. I could only imagine what my
ancestors would think if they saw the goofy poses and silly faces
we made in modern photographs.


Have you ever heard of
post-mortem photography?” Peter asked as he flipped through the
album.


Umm . . . I’m not
sure.”


Have you ever seen
The Others?
It’s a Nicole
Kidman movie. Looking at all these old pictures makes me think of
it.”


I don’t think
so.”


Oh. The movie talks about
it a little bit. It’s kind of a freaky movie. We should watch it
together some time.”


Okay, but if it’s a scary
movie can we wait until this whole thing with Nick and Sophia is
done?”

He smiled. “Of course.”


So what
is
post-whatever-you-called-it
photography?”


Post-mortem. Years ago,
when photographs first started to become available, people would
sometimes take pictures of their deceased loved ones.”


Eww.”


It wasn’t creepy to them.
Their culture was different back then. Regular people didn’t own
cameras or have cell phones with video capabilities like they do
now. It cost a lot of money to have your picture taken so people
would sometimes wait until a family member died before they
splurged on it. They wanted to preserve the memory of their loved
ones.”


So . . . were they decaying
when their pictures were taken?”


No. They took the pictures
within the first couple days of the person dying so that they still
looked somewhat normal. They posed them, too, you know.”


Posed them? What do you
mean?”


Well, since photographs
were such a rare occurrence, they usually wanted the whole family
in the picture so they’d prop up the dead body, make sure their
eyes were held open, and pose as if it were a normal family
portrait. A lot of times they’d take pictures of dead kids with
their favorite toys and sometimes if a mother died in childbirth,
they’d prop her up, sit her baby on her lap, and then cover her
face with a shroud of some sort. Those are the pictures that
disturb me most.”


That is so creepy. How do
you know all this anyway?”


You’re forgetting who my
parents are. I’m sure I have a different feeling toward dead people
than most kids my age. I grew up looking at skeletons.”

Suddenly I had a whole different
perspective while looking through the photo album. I found myself
analyzing every person in every picture to see if there were any
signs of death. I questioned a couple of them, but Peter didn’t
agree with me. Apparently he’d seen a lot of those pictures. I was
fine looking at ghosts, but I didn’t want to stare at their real
bodies.

Toward the back of the album we
started finding newspaper clippings and other small mementos. I
found a few birth records and death notices of some of the ones
whose letters we’d read earlier. Peter restlessly tapped his feet
and squirmed atop his perch before finally standing up. He stared
aimlessly out one of the windows into the backyard and I decided it
was time to call it a day.

But then I turned one more
page.

There was a clipping with the
headline, “Couple Feared Lost At Sea.” I leaned in for a closer
look. It was from the Newport News Daily Press and was dated
September 28, 1912. I skimmed the first couple of lines.


Peter, listen to
this.”

He returned from his post at the
window and sat next to me at the table. I began to read:


Former Newport News
resident, Captain Jeremiah Goodwin, is believed to be lost at sea.
The elderly Captain Goodwin’s ship, The Mist Seeker, was found
smashed into the rocks near Sunset Cove after the large storm on
the 16
th
day of September 1912. At first it was feared that no
survivors would be found, but a young man by the name of Hans
Bowman was discovered floating on a bit of debris the next day.
Bowman claims he was the only person on the ship to survive. It is
believed that the elderly Mrs. Goodwin was also aboard the ship at
the time of its sinking.

Captain Goodwin had recently sold his
property on the south end of Newport News where he had been a
part-time resident for the last thirty years. Captain Goodwin was
known to be a shrewd businessman in the area. He and Mrs. Goodwin
do not have any surviving descendants and no memorial services are
currently being planned.”


Wow. They totally got what
was coming to them,” Peter said when I’d finished reading the
article.


I don’t think any kind of
death would make up for the pain they put countless people through
when they were alive.”


I guess we know how they
found each other in death—they died at the same time and place.
When you read that it was 1912, I thought you were about to tell me
they died on the Titanic.”


Why?”


It sunk in 1912,
too.”


You’re just a walking
history book, aren’t you?” I joked.

I really didn’t mind. I enjoyed
history myself and found Peter’s little trivia facts to be kind of
interesting.

I was silent for a minute, thinking.
“Why do you think they became ghosts? Sophia said it’s rare for
people who did something bad on earth to become ghosts when they
die. Usually it’s for them to right a wrong, but I don’t picture
Jeremiah and Elsa doing that. They were completely heartless and I
don’t think there’s any way they could ever right all of the wrongs
they did.”


I don’t know. I just hope
we don’t ever have to find out. As long as we can keep Sophia and
Nick away from the Goodwins until they extricate we shouldn’t ever
have to cross paths with them.”

I looked at the clock. It was already
after five and I was completely exhausted from everything we’d been
doing that day.


Let’s just leave everything
spread out here for tonight,” I said as I waved my hand over the
mess of papers on the dining room table. “We can show it to Camille
tomorrow . . . and Sophia if she comes back. I don’t know about
you, but I’m starving again.”


I have an idea. You’ve been
feeding me for the last few days and I think it’s my turn to return
the favor. Cooking is a hobby of mine. Are you willing to
taste
my
food?”
Peter suggested.


Sure. I have nothing better
to do so I might as well give it a try,” I joked.


I make a pretty mean
Alfredo sauce if you like that kind of thing.”


It sounds delicious. What
ingredients do I need to have?”


Actually, I think I have
everything that I need at my house. Want to go over
there?”

I hesitated for a second. For some
reason it didn’t feel weird to be alone at my house with Peter, but
the idea of being alone on his territory made me
nervous.

BOOK: Shadow of a Life
12.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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