Are You Haunted: part eight
Are You Haunted
“But,” Powell said again, “he must have told you what he’s up to. The place is empty…I mean, they didn’t leave anything…”
He would offend her by going further. In his private mind, though, he believed Tovey wanted to take something from the Drybrook house.
“Powell, what were they talking about, Summers and Connolly?”
“I thought…well…Mr. Rohdl is missing. It sounded like Summers thinks he went in the river. And then Connolly drove out to take a look…” He trailed off. Her face told him he hadn’t understood her.
“Did you not hear Mr. Connolly say they’ve laid their plans now? They’d like putting in a real chemical plant, or the power plant they’ve talked about…” She turned, and Powell, already facing the ruin, saw from this low ground only the barbed upper tier of the fence, as far as the damaged part, where it dipped away and vanished. He saw the water tower, a tin-hatted silo, patchy with rust.
“They’ll be pleased to see it all gone and buried. Connolly talks about jobs for the community. You see, you can’t fight it, that persuasion. But, Powell, do you know…?” She faced him again. She lowered her head and lifted her eyes, catching Powell’s on the way. “Emmaline Tovey worked there.”
“That was…” He tried sorting this thing, that had stirred her so. “Dennis’s mother? A Tovey herself?” But it was incongruous, he thought. Hadn’t they been telling him Dennis’s mother had married a Drybrook?
Isobel, angrily, began walking. She took Powell’s hand on her way past. “Wait,” she said then, “we can’t go up this hill without bringing a load. I’ll get the ice chest.”
“You can’t carry it.”
She shook her head at him, not bothering to answer. Throwing open the driver’s side door, Isobel slid the chest out, slung its handles over her arm, this done too decisively for Powell to push in. He opened the trunk and considered Mrs. Lessing’s radio. It was in the way, and he would need to put it on the ground or carry it. Her remark had implied she saw him capable of tinkering, which he wasn’t. But he tucked this under his arm, and ratcheted out the army cot. The box of dishes clinked. He thought he’d heard one break.
“Don’t carry too much, you’ll lose your footing,” Isobel said. The two of them, unable to balance with their laden arms, began a gingerly ascent. “Do you understand?” she asked him. “Mrs. Drybook wanted to arrange for her to go to a place in New York, and she wouldn’t, of course. Emmaline wouldn’t have their trifling payoff. She told them she would shout it from the roof tops.”
“You’re telling me”—he was guessing, but it made sense—“it was Mr. Drybrook, the mill owner, the one your grandfather knew.”
Any town of this size must have its controversies. But this state that had arisen between the Toveys and the Drybrooks went to the heart. Powell wished he’d learned more, or had the sense to suspect more, before he’d signed Connolly’s paper.
“They made a bargain, the Drybrooks,” Isobel answered. “And the war gave them a pretext for sliding out of it. They put the property aside, where it couldn’t be inherited, and now they mean to sell it finally and absolutely.”
They reached the rock shelf that forced the dogleg. Powell glanced over his shoulder…and started. But as suddenly as he’d seen the sheet of newspaper flutter up from the streambed, he’d recognized what it was.
“Young Davis Drybrook married the first girl only to help her become a citizen. It’s funnier than that, if you like, because when Davis was at Princeton, he went Red, and his Student Workers’ Party…or what have you…staged a sort of mass wedding ceremony to benefit their Bolshie friends. You see, Powell, how it was up his alley to take on Emmaline. He brought her back from Chicago in 1930, and by then, the Drybrooks had put it about that Dennis was hers, but not necessarily his.”
“But people would have assumed Dennis was his, wouldn’t they?”
(copyright 2015, 2018 Stephanie Foster)