“So, the skull wasn’t good enough, huh? Oh, I’ve got something better than that, much better,” Rusty Plowshare muttered bitterly.
The old man nodded to himself. His chin, white with unshaven whisker stubble, caught and held a piece of loose straw in the stubble when he came away from the stacked bales of hay he was digging between. The straw bales were sagging with rot and greyed with age, their fibres breaking down over the years they had sat idle.
He turned away, rummaging through one pile and then moving on to another. Rusty moved with arthritic slowness, the skin on his thin arms sagging from age and loss of the underlying muscle mass of youth. His face, leathery from decades of working in the sun and wrinkled with age, gave him a crazy old man in the mountains look instead of wizened with age.
He was in the old barn, its interior packed with an amazing amount of clutter of every description. It is unbelievable the old man can even move around in there, much less search the place. The old packrat collected anything.
There are cats everywhere too, cats of every age and description, some looking very unhealthy, all feral strays that had made this barn their home.
“Now, where’d I put it?” he muttered to himself.
It wasn’t in the narrow space of a double wall between two stalls. He moved on to search somewhere else.
“Maybe behind the loose board in the wall?” He pried the board off and looked.
“Ah, I know, under the floorboard!” He moved and stooped over a floorboard, pulling it up to look beneath. Most of the barn floor is an open dirt floor. However, one end of the barn, for reasons known only to the old man and his predecessors, has a rough floor of old two by fours that are now soggy with rot. One part of this section, in the dark shadowed recesses of the corner, hides a small makeshift cellar dug into the ground beneath the floor, the rest of it covering part of the dirt floor that makes up most of the barn floor. This particular floorboard covered a gouged out section of dirt just deep enough to hold its small treasures wrapped in rotting cheesecloth.
But what he is looking for is not there.
“I know it’s here somewhere,” Rusty grumbled.
Noticing the carelessly dumped loose soil marking the spot where the skull had been dug up from, the old man reminded himself, “Got to stamp that down some, won’t do to have anyone finding it.”
The old skull had been buried in the barn for a very long time. Of course, the rest of the body was there too, along with the tool used to kill the man.
It’s very possible the man buried so many years ago in the dirt of the barn was old Rusty Plowshare’s great great grandfather.
He did not really know for sure. There was more than one body buried beneath the old barn through the generations of his family that lived here.
His great great grandmother’s husband, the man whose family name he carried, did not really know for sure either when he bludgeoned the young man to death in a jealous rage in that year after the then young couple was married.
If the rumours spread that day so long ago by a group of busybody old women making trouble where they had no business putting their noses were true, rumours of the wife’s alleged infidelity and possibly questionable pregnancy, then those were the remains of his murdered great great grandfather.
Or, the young man may have been an innocent victim of a husband’s jealousy and a bunch of busybodies making trouble where there wasn’t any.
Only his great great grandmother knew the truth.
She was buried beneath the woodshed some years later, after failing to provide her husband with an offspring that was undeniably his in his mind. She had given birth to more children after that first boy, but her husband could not let go of his suspicions.
There are many dark secrets in his family’s history, and Rusty Plowshare knows where each one of them was buried.
It also could have been someone else. Rusty had heard stories passed down about his great great grandfather’s violent temper.
“Ahh, there you are!” he cooed. “Beautiful.” He pulled out a round wrapped bundle and held it up as if presenting it to the watching eyes of the dozens of felines witnessing his moment of triumph.
“I know just what to do with you. If you don’t stop them from digging out those woods, nothing will,” he said.
“I know just what to do with you,” he repeated happily.
GARDEN GROVE IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE AND IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON
Available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon:
The McAllister Series
Where the Bodies Are
The McAllister Farm
Hunting Michael Underwood