Century end Part Five
A Tracy Gayle mystery
By Trish Hubschman
Beverly Hanson was twelve years old in 1968. She clearly remembered the fire that reeked Century End, as well as her parents’ friends, the Highlands, who she called Aunt Grace and Uncle Ed. She didn’t remember Danny Tide visiting the small coal miner’s town as a child or young man. This upset her terribly. We were all having a good laugh about that at the diner that evening for dinner. Jackie had brought along her Uncle Max’s daughter, Beverly.
”” My father was the spokesman for Century
End,” Everly explained, then laughed. “I know, it sounds weird, doesn’t it? We didn’t live in the town, but Dad loved it. Mom liked it too, but wouldn’t live there. She felt it was haunted.”
My head popped up. That was the second time I heard someone say that. “How does Mike McAllister fit in here?”
She frowned. “Dad was trying to get support for the rebuilding of Century End. He went on TV and radio. He even went to Harrisburg with a group of townspeople to ask the Governor for assistance.” She paused and looked at her cousin.
Jackie piped up. “Next thing Century End knew, a silver Cadillac was driving down Main Street.”
Beverly and Jackie laughed. “Dad thought, probably everyone did, that their prayers had been answered.”
“But it didn’t work out that way?” I prodded.
She shook her head. “McAllister wanted to build up the town, to, I guess, bring Century
End into the next Century. “They both laughed again. “He had huge ideas for the small town, to build a mall, shopping galore, with fancy stores. There would e luxury condos for rich people. And restaurants. Make it a tourist trap too!” Her tone was dry.
“Why was he trying to get people to leave the town?” I asked.
“For one thing,” Beverly said, “he needed the properties they lived on to build his own town.”
“Plus,” Jackie added, “The folks in Century End were middle class and simple. McAllister’s theme dream would be too much for them All the way around.”
They both giggled again,
“Did your father start the rumor about carbon monoxide?” I asked Beverly.
She narrowed her eyes. “I didn’t know it was a rumor.” She sat up straighter. “Well, if it was a rumor, I don’t think Dad would have started it. There was nothing to gain from it.” She was right. “But I remember that it seemed a lot of people were dying and it was scary. What was that all about?” she asked.
“ The death certificates say natural causes and accidents,’ I replied.
She nodded decisively. “I guess I czan understand that now. It’s been almost ten years since 9/11 and people are still dying from the after effects of it,” she said, then shrugged. “As for accidents, the place was a mess from the fire, debris, ditches, buildings could collapse at any time, so I guess anything’s possible.”
“Why was your father so upset when Grace and Edwad Highland sold their property to McAllister?” I asked.
“Because they were jumping ship. Aunt Grace and Uncle Ed were close friends of my folks. Dad thought, or hoped, they would be one of the strongest backbones of the town.”
I nodded. “What happened to Darren Highland?”
A veil seemed to come down Over her face. Her eyes lowered. “That was so sad. Darren just disappeared. No one knows what happened to him or where he is.”
“Could he be in the coal mines?” I asked.
She shrugged. ‘No one ever really looked there. The boulder fell down off the mountain. That happened a lot when it rained. It sealed the entrance.” She looked up. “It was better to leave it that way, no one could sneak into the mine, no more fire.:
I was thinking. “Just out of curiosity, Beverly, do you think Mike McAllister stared the fire in 68 or engineered the accidents that cost townspeople their lives?”
She looked surprised. “I don’t think McAllister even knew about Century End before the fire and, I don’t know how to answer he second question. Again, anything’s possible I guess.”
Dinner was done. It was very nice to meet Max Hanson’s’ daughter and talk. Jackie and I drove back to her house.
‘If the carbon monoxide scare was only a rumor,” Jackie said. “Why did people stay away from the town all these years?”
‘Because once a town has a stigma, it always has one,” I replied. “Besides, no experts have been sent in to study and evaluate the land. Once ghat happens and a clear bill of health is given to Century End, we just have to post it on Facebook and the word will spread like wildfire.”
She and I giggled.
Trish Hubschman is the author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series, Tidalwave, Stiff Competition, Ratings Game and uneasy Tides. Tracy is hired by rock musician, Danny Tide, to find out who set fire to his band’s summer tour bus. In doing this, more diabolical things arise, mystery, murder, romance.
Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She is deafblind and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Kevin, and their dog, henry.
Her website is www.dldbooks.com/Hubschman/[Tracy Gayle Mystery Series]
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