Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Morning Writing-The House on Dover Street


The first time Michael and I saw the house on Dover Street, we fell in love with it.  "Judith", he said, "This is the one."

The house was originally built in the 1940's by the movie actress Chezelle Mason, after she completed her last movie.  She only starred in twelve movies, though from what we understood, they were all she needed to be sought after by directors and producers of that era.  Her last movie appeared in 1951, "The Vanishing Woman".  And that's what she did, vanish.  Though later the news media discovered that she had taken her real name back and married Jeremiah Post. There were rumors that Jeremiah had connections with the mob located along the California west coast.  They lived at the house for five years, throwing elaborate parties for celebrities of the cinema, political world and there were even people of the mob seen there.  One month after their fifth wedding anniversary, the gardener found Jeremiah's body washed up on the beach behind the house, he'd been shot two times at the base of his head.  Supposedly this was labeled an execution shooting.  The case was never solved.  This romantic history intrigued us. Rather than discouraging us from buying, it only became another reason to buy.

Michael and I took a week's vacation to move in and get settled.  We rose each morning, taking our coffee to the patio overlooking the ocean.  We watched the sun rise and listened to the waves rolling onto the beach.
It was heaven, until the Saturday after we moved in and returned from a trip into the Dover Village.

The village is a quaint place with art studios, book stores, farmers markets and seaside restaurants.  We had spent the morning there, buying food to fill the cupboards and refrigerator.  Michael even bought a few paintings from one of the local painters exhibiting her wares on the sidewalk near the restaurant were we ate lunch.

Before unloading the car, we stood there, with our arms around each other, admiring the house, while we breathed in the seaside air.  As we stood there, the curtains at the balcony window fluttered, then a man appeared.  His eyes were focused to the right of the house, so he didn't see us at first.  When he turned to look to the left, he saw us standing there.  I think he was as startled as we were.  He moved first, letting the curtains fall.  Michael ran to the car trunk, pressing the remote release as he ran.  He reached in and grabbed the tire iron, slammed down the lid and raced toward the beach.  I yelled, "Why are you running to the beach"?

"He's had time to run out of the house through the back way".

When I caught up with him,  he had a puzzled look on his face as he turned his head looking down the beach and then back up the other way.  "What"?, I asked.

"He never came down to the beach. Nor is there a boat waiting for him.  Where did he go?"

Michael entered the house first, the trusty tire iron raised just in case.  Together we searched every room, the car garage, the basement and the attic. No one, absolutely no one!

We unloaded the car and then went out onto the patio.  Still nothing, except in the distance where the cliff ended a boat raced out to an anchored yacht.  From where we stood we couldn't see the name.  But there were yachts anchored along the coast all the time.  It wasn't anything new.

This happened two more times in the next month.  Oh we didn't see anyone, but there were signs that someone had been in the house.  A dusty footprint on the hall carpet.  A door left closed or open.  Finally we called in the Dover police department, if you could call it a police department. It consisted of a two man team at night, who rotated patrolling the area from six o'clock in the evening till six o'clock in the morning, Monday through Sunday. The police chief worked from six o'clock in the morning till six o'clock in the evening, Monday through Sunday, except for the hour he attended First Baptist of Dover on Sunday morning.  His name is Five-Eighths Factor, yes that's his real name, his dad had a friend nicknamed "Five-eighths".  He kept telling his wife he wanted to use that name on his son, unfortunately, the first two were girls.  When she became pregnant a third time and they found out it was a boy, he insisted that he be allowed to use the name Five-Eighths, since this would be their last child.  She agreed as long as he let it be the middle name and use Wesley as the first.  I'm sure she expected the boy to use Wesley, but he thought it set him apart. plus when people heard his name, they never forgot him.  Of course, it  helped that the last name is Factor. I mean, how can one forget, "Five-Eighths Factor.

Chief Five-Eighth's came out on Sunday a month later after we found a box sitting in the hallway outside the attic Saturday afternoon when we again returned from shopping in the village.  We just couldn't understand how they were getting into the house.  We are going to install an alarm system, it's just the alarm company, Mens , which stands for "Mel's Everyday Needs; go figure. Mel doesn't view the installation as an emergency since there hasn't been a burglary or even a murder since the one of  Jeremiah Post.

The Chief sat down at the kitchen table with us to have a cup of coffee.  He unfolded a set of plans, "I wanted to see the layout of this house, so I went to the surveyor's  office and sure enough, they dug around in some old storage boxes and found these drawings."

We all stood up and looked down, Michael pointed at some room drawings, "Where are these, we've never seen them.  They're on the other side of the study.  I don't remember seeing a door, but come to think about it, that wall is thick, I just thought it might be an old elevator shaft or fireplace."

Chief Factor led the way to the study.  We all went to the far side of the room and started pounding on the wall;  we were making such a racket that when a voice spoke behind us, all three of us jumped.  "Now, I want all three of you to turn around slowly, hands in the air.  I have a gun."

We did as we were told, and he did have a gun,  "Now I don't know why I didn't think of looking for a set of plans for this place.  Sure would of saved me a lot of time."

"Howdy, Chief, been a while".

Let me just add a note here, it's true there hasn't been a burglary in Dover due to the fact that the three attempts were stopped by the Chief apprehending the suspect each time.  It seems Rouser Stewart never understood about silent alarms.  It never occurred to him that there might be a second hidden alarm, and just because he disabled the prominent one didn't mean the silent alarm wouldn't go off.  The third attempt landed him in prison for ten years.

"Rouser, I thought you had three more years."

"Due to my good behavior, they let me out early. They tried to teach me how to do electrical repair work.  But it's cheaper to go out and replace the appliance rather than have it fixed. So what's a man to do but fall back on the only job he knows."

The Chief stood there looking at him," You weren't good at that job either, if I remember correctly."

The smirk came off his face and for a minute, I thought he was going to shoot.  Then he relaxed and smiled, "But I have information that you don't know about.  You remember young Jenny who worked here last summer for the writer that rented this place.  Her brother was my cellmate.  He told me about how the author intended to write a book on houses with secret rooms.  He rented this house because he found out that when Jeremiah lived here, he had a secret room built where he stored all of his paper and money.  Not, only is there a  secret room, there's a secret passage off the basement leading out to the ocean.  It's a long walk, but worth it. I leave my boat there and walk in."

He went on to tell that while the brother served time for burglary, he had to stand trial for killing the victim of one of his jobs.  He received a death sentence for the crime.  James, Jenny's brother, decided that since he couldn't use the information about the house, he'd give it to Rouser. Unfortunately, he died before he could share the rooms location.

Just then the Chief's radio went off, as it was six o'clock and the office wanted to know his location and did he need them to relieve him.  Before the caller could continue, the front door opened, Rouser turned to see who came in and the Chief leaped across the space, tackling him to the floor, the gun Rouser held went flying across the room to the front door, where the deputy on duty stood, staring in amazement at the scene.

As the Chief handcuffed Rouser's hands he said, "I guess your luck hasn't changed."

He signaled for the deputy to take Rouser in and lock him up.  He then went back to pounding on the wall.  As he hit a section midway, there was a pop. Straightening up he turned to Michael, "You have an axe or something to use to pull off this paneling?"

The paneling came off easily, of course we'll have to replace the whole section.  We looked at the uncovered door. Chief Factor, turned the knob, it wasn't locked.  Slowly he pulled it open and reached in to feel along the wall for a light switch.  He turned smiling, then walked in, Michael and I looked at each other then followed.  The secret room turned out to be filled with Gazelle's portraits, boxes of film cans and a movie projector.  The projector still had a wheel of film loaded.  I reached over and turned it on, the films title appeared, it was her third movie, "The Lose Gun".


 Tuesday Morning Writings is a project sponsored by Gaelikaa and Judy Harper.  The words are copyright of Judy Harper.  Gaelikaa's story can be found here.   We have a new addition today, Melroxx, welcome aboard, her story will be found here.


Grannymar said...

Nice twist, I was expecting to find a body in the hidden room.

Anonymous said...

I loved the way you described the house! I could feel as if I was right THERE! You gave a us a great insight through the character. Your characters are so deep! Well done Judy! x

Judy Harper said...

Grannymar-I intended that, but as the story progressed, I went in a different direction. Thanks for your comments!

Melroxx-Thanks! Your story is really good. I left you a comment. I'm impressed!

Agnes said...

Oh, good one Judy. I always wanted a secret room -- not sure why :-)

gaelikaa said...

Judy, I'm breathless! There's a lot of action in your stories. Thrilling stuff, I love stories with an old Hollywood connection.

Mine got late again this week! Sorry again!

sheeza said...

A wonderful story, Wow - that had me on the edge of my chair all the way through.