Vann remained silent after stretching and I refused to look his way, knowing that I would betray my impatience. Finally he looked at me with approval and continued.
“Tom’s out there, digging up that skeleton, which is what he found out it was after just a few minutes of shoveling, and he starts seeing other things come up with his shovelfuls of dirt. He cataloged some of it, like these candlesticks, a rotten leather bag with fifteen silver coins, two pair of boots, a sextant, some other bones that did not look human. He kept some detailed lists the first few times he was out there, but after that it is just phrases like ‘more items found’, ‘another of the long metal rods recovered’, ‘an item that was marked with strange letters or markings’ and the like. I found a few notations that make me think he was still keeping a list but that it was somewhere else, somewhere that I never found. Still, he kept at it for all those years and by the time he fled that area it wasn’t a hole, it was more like an excavation, and one that he kept hidden with a series of evergreen screens he constructed. They were cleverly done and you would not have been able to see the site until you were right on it. Once he was gone, the railroad sent a crew out to level the cabin and start setting the land up for their use. The crew leader, named Ben Boga, reported back to them a few days later about what he called ‘a hidden area, which we did not see when first walking the land, which was found to contain a large pit with artifacts in it on the north side of the property.’ That report actually got the president of the railroad out to look at the place however the pressures of the moment, making money and all, must have won out, because once he left they just filled the whole thing back in without ceremony. Pretty much without notice or record either except for a few things I found in Boga’s work journal. Those are cryptic though as they lack a frame of reference, mostly just short lists of things and poorly described at that. The only good list is the one he made the day they arrived, probably right along with when he was filing that report back to the railroad.”
“Weird that they just plowed it under like that, unless maybe it wasn’t so remarkable after all. Sounds like a couple old graves and what, maybe the scattered leftovers of an old explorer camp?”
Vann nodded back and replied, “I kind of thought so also at first reading. It was weird enough but like you said, maybe not remarkable. Then I went back over my notes from the whole thing and found a few things that struck me as really weird. Tom’s lists of what he found may have been lacking in many ways but the details of how far he had dug were fairly specific. Like I said, it turned into an excavation, but it was a fairly shallow one. Wide and not that deep, so what was found should all have been from around the same time frame. The area was also relatively small, at least on a historical scale, and you would not have expected to find a large mix of items. The list of recovered objects that I was able to assemble though, some of those things really should not have been found together. From the few details that I found of Tom’s, and Ben Boga’s one good list, it looks like it was all a mixture of Indian, French and English goods and remains, all in the same area and but some of it not likely to be from the same time in history. Also, Tom’s notes make it clear that Mashkikiikwe was with him at times while he was digging and it doesn’t quite fit that she would be involved in digging up Indian graves, of which at least three for sure were clearly found. And then, some of the the items that are described by Boga just, well are really strange sounding, foreign.”
“If you say alien artifacts, I’m leaving.”
He waved me off. “No, not that, just odd descriptions that’s all. Read ‘em yourself if you ever go there, it’s in the archive.”
“Hmm, maybe.” Vann had gone quiet and I contemplated some of what he had just told me. Some parts of it sounded like a bad conspiracy book, the kind I refuse to read, and other parts tugged at my mind and left me incredibly curious. Other things needed an explanation.
“How do you know that these candlesticks of yours are the ones that Tom had? I mean, are they really that old? They hardly look it.”
“They are in pretty good shape, I agree with you there, and especially considering their history. But they truly are that old, standard three-piece mold candlesticks, which was how they were making them in the 1800’s. Tom noted his find of these really well as it was one of the first things he dug up near the grave. He noted them as being found six feet from the north side of the grave, tucked inside one of those pair of boots I told you about before. He figured all of it belonged to the same person at the time, and if he ever changed that opinion he never made mention of it. He kept them with him once he found them, and he took them with him when he fled.”
“How do you know that?”
“He made a list of everything he took.”
I could not keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “He stopped to make a list before he fled from the scene of a horrible murder. Please.”
“Not before my friend. He ended up having to stop for several hours fairly soon after he left and when he did he wrote an entry in his journal, his last one actually. It included a list of what he had taken with him from the shack. Those candlesticks were on it.”
I picked both of them up. “These were on his list? You know, these are not exactly notable in any way. I will just accept your statement that they are old, but they’re just plain glass. There are, or were, probably a lot of candlesticks just like these back then. For all you know he had other sets of his own and these are just ordinary candlesticks with no story behind them at all.”
Having said that I looked down at Vann, whose face showed a mixture of shock and anger. His voice sounded like he was scolding a child.
“Has it sounded to you like I don’t know how to research things? Like I would somehow miss a detail like that? Tom did have only one set of glass candlesticks, a fact noted in his last journal entry in fact. It says quite specifically ‘my rescued candlesticks, my only set now, so I guess I will have to use them much as it dismays me’. Additionally, when he first found them he noted a flaw in the glass of both, ‘three air bubbles in one, and the other with one oval air bubble trapped inside another. So, if you care to…” I was already holding them up to the starlit sky and saw the telltale bubbles almost immediately. I lowered them and handed them back to Vann.
“Point made. Sorry.”
“Quite alright I suppose. It’s good to question if what you are being told is true, especially if it is a wild story like this one. I spent plenty of my time when I was looking into this questioning all of it myself. One more point of fact. When the shipwreck was searched they made specific note of items recovered and these were on it. And from there, even though they changed hands a few times, the provenance is pretty clear, right up to the point they were turned over to the historical society. These are the same candlesticks.” He finished with a grin which I thought was going to be followed with ‘Ze-bam’, however I was disappointed in that as he just kept smiling.
There was still an unanswered question.
“So, how did you end up with them?”
Vann did not miss a beat. “I stole them of course.”
…to be continued