So this is post number 99 with word press. To celebrate I have some special events on my 100th blog. First, there will be a significant announcement you won’t want to miss. Secondly we’ll be doing three separate giveaways! I’ll explain them all in that 100th post tomorrow, so I can’t say anything else for now…
oh, ok, I will tell you that the first of them will be a random drawing of all commentors in a 24 hour period on the 100th post; the second will be less random (with rules revealed tomorrow) and the third will be awarded to the first to solve a puzzle. But that’s it, that’s all I can tell you.
Well, ok, I can tell you this too…All three giveaways will include a copy of the Hidden Life, but also something else. I will only say two more things for now. 1) be thinking about your favorite quotes and 2) I’m tickled pink to be giving away stuff! Now that’s it, go on and read Kati and stop needling me. I am a stone wall. No more information will spill forth from the iron lock that is my lips.
(ok, don’t tell anyone, but one of the “something else”s for one of the drawings will be a brand new iPod Shuffle.)
You wore me down. Now with no further ado, here is
Kati’s story, part 7.
The sky was strangely dark for mid afternoon, deepening toward black as if threatening a premature night, an early death of the day.
That was how Walter viewed it anyway. To Kati, it appeared the sky was casting it’s own peculiar hue over the world, clothing everything in a beautiful melancholy Indigo.
“Looks like we’re going to get some much needed rain,” said Jonathan.
The three were in Walter’s carriage, all three riding in the passenger section this time, Walter having found one of the hired workers on his land to drive them. They were on their way to Angel Camp. Walter had indeed found an abandoned and hidden mine, buried beneath rock and sediment of an apparent cave-in. Although Henry Angel, for whom the camp was named, had already found gold, this particular mine had gone unnoticed. Walter surmised that the cave in was one purposely set by Landry, as his letter indicated, shutting himself in as punishment for the death of his own wife. He explained to an impressed Kati and an even more impressed (and bewildered) Jonathan, that the letter had referenced 100 years and Angels. He explained how these clues had lead him to Angel’s camp, and how exactly 100 meters in from the edge of town on this side he had discovered the hidden mouth of the mine.
“It’s not a surprise no one has ever found it,” said Walter, enjoying the story despite himself, “It was very well hidden just as the letter indicated. That was the real find, Jonathan. Where did you find it anyway?”
Jonathan completely puzzled by how his completely made up letter could have lead to a very real mine, laughed and with a glance at Kati, who shook her head almost imperceptibly, said only, “It’s just something I dredged up form somewhere.”
Kati, struck by a sudden possibility cast a concerned look at Walter, “You’re sure it is a mine? Did you find a mouth, or just the pile of rock, the cave-in itself?”
Watlter shook his head, smiling at Kati, he opened a small bag next to him on the carriage seat, and pulling out a piece of rock with a flourish, he presented it to her.
“See this vein here, according to one of the speculators there, it’s definitely gold. I pulled this out of the small hole I cleared from the rubble. I couldn’t get enough to crawl through, but enough to reach inside. It’s definitely a cavern at least and judging from this rock I’d say it’s definitely an abandoned mine.” Walter became serious again, “You know I wouldn’t be surprised if we find poor Landry right behind the rocks.”
Jonathan shook his head in wonder, “Well now that would be a shock to me.”
Walter looked at Jonathan, “Why not? That seems to be the point of the letter anyway. That letter, it’s so odd. Where did he leave it? How did you end up with it.”
Jonathan looked at Kati, and then at Walter, then back to Kati, “We have to tell him,Kati.”
Walter frowned, “Tell me what?”
“The letter, the Landry story. I made it up.”
“You what? You can’t have. Everyone in Angel’s camp knew of Landry. They described the story much as you told it.”
Jonathan blinked, “But they can’t have. I mean, I suppose the Landry name…I might have heard that somewhere…maybe connected with gold or mines or something…but the story…the cave in, the letter…I just made it all up.”
Walter shook his head, “But you’re wrong. They told me, the residents of the camp. It’s an old legend with them, decades old. How a man named Landry became obsessed with the gold in the mine, how he lost his wife in a cave in in the mine and blamed himself for it. There’s a lot of confusion on this point; just how his wife ended up in the mine. Some say Landry lured her there on purpose to kill her, others that she came to see her often absent husband quite innocently; others that she worked the mine with him. Whatever the case is, the legend goes, he was so distraught and guilt ridden over the death of his beloved (who according to legend was Lenore, not Caroline, but I figured this was just something they got wrong over time) that he returned to the mine of her death, and by means of an explosion shut himself in to die as she had done. They knew nothing whatsoever of your letter, and no one seemed to quite believe it was true, but they all knew the story in one way or another.”
Jonathan looked back at Walter in wonder, “You’re pulling my leg. You must be. I’ve never even been to Angel Camp. I sat down and drafted that letter two nights before Kati came.”
Walter frowned, “But you can’t have. I mean the letter lead me to the camp; it lead me to the mine…and why on earth would you do this?”
“I don’t really know now. I thought you two (indicating Kati as well)… well, you both like puzzles in your own way and I just thought if I could get you to work together…well I thought it might be fun.”
Kati laughed (a precious and particularly pleasing sound, thought Walter), “No Walter, it’s Jonathan who is pulling our own leg. He must be. Don’t frown so. You see, you found the mine and nothing terrible happened.”
The Carriage pulled in under the ragged, worn “Welcome to Angel Camp” banner. The dirt of the street stirred up around in a puff as they pulled to a halt, engulfing them in a fine mist of dust, then settling lightly on the top of the carriage.
Walter and Jonathan both shook their heads, but it was Walter who said, “No, he’s not. I see it now. Fate or God or chance or whatever you wish is taking a firmer hand now, involving the two of you, my friends, in its conspiracy of woe. I would never have come to this place, to this mine without the letter, without your pushing, Katherine. And yet this is where we are. It can’t be good.”
Jonathan stepped out first, then helped Kati out and finally Walter stepped out last as Jonathan spoke, “Well if that’s how you feel, let’s just go home. There’s no reason to stay here at all.”
“No,” Kati said firmly, “we stay. We see this through. No more running from this curse. So Jonathan heard something once and surmised the rest. His guess is as good as their legend. So what? He spins a good story; he deduces some of it and some of it is coincidence.”
Jonathan looked around, somewhat dazed in wonder, standing in a place he’d never known existed before now, and yet somehow lead Walter to, Could he have heard something,long ago perhaps, as a child? He sure couldn’t remember.
“No, Jonathan, she’s right”
Both of them looked at Walter surprised.
“Well, she might be anyway. I’ve always felt sort of doomed, but this is too much. Either the curse is a reality in a way I never knew, or our being here is something else altogether. Either way, leaving doesn’t seem like it helps us any. If it’s determined to get me, I might as well see what “it” is.”
Kati couldn’t decide how to respond to that, so she just took Walter’s hand and said, “Take us to the mine.”
Walter looked at her gloved hand in his and wondered all at once 1) why she had taken to doing this ever since he returned, 2) why he didn’t mind and 3) what it would feel like without the glove on. This last thought struck him as almost indecent and he pulled his hand abruptly away.
As he did so Kati’s eyes narrowed but she said nothing about it, only “Well come on then, let’s go.”
He nodded and the three of them walked awkwardly in silence for a bit until finally Walter said, “I want to tell you…to explain.”
Kati said nothing and he wanted to press on, but couldn’t figure out exactly how. When he did speak it felt rushed, artificial, flat, “I wasn’t always this way. I was happy once, married to a girl named Janie. We were young and invincible. She was beautiful and feminine but also strong and spirited…like you.” He paused and Kati’s hand moved a little, like she was going to grab his again and thought better of it.
“Anyway, life was all light and possibility then. We were going to have it all, children and adventure. After all we had land and wealth and ability. My father was teaching me, showing me how real estate worked, how to build on the wealth he’d created. ” Kati was looking at Walter as they walked. He found it suddenly unnerving. He wished she’d look away. He wished he hadn’t started. He wished she would take his hand again. None of his wishes came true. He suddenly didn’t know how to press on.
After a moment Kati spoke quietly, “What happened?”
Walter swallowed, “It was pneumonia. It was so fast. I was gone, working out of town. She died alone, nobody was…” Walter’s voice cracked and he stopped. His face grew hard and he shook his head, refusing to speak anymore.
This time Kati did reach for his hand and perversely he pulled it away again. He didn’t look up, but he knew her face. It would be vulnerably hurt for a split second, followed by a firmness and an anger. He felt her tension beside him and he wanted to explain. But how could he, he barely understood himself. How he hadn’t been there for her; how he didn’t want people there for him now. Landry would understand. Landry got it. Sometimes, there is no redemption, only punishment.
“So what do we do when we get to this mine anyway, “asked Kati, in a way only Kati could do, seemingly unaffected by the last several minutes. Walter was glad to move on, but also felt suddenly very much alone again.
“Well, ” he answered slowly, “I’ve already hired local men to clear the mine. I’ve already filed a claim on the find.” And indeed as they rounded a curve in the street, there it was. A large gaping maw, just big enough for a man to crawl through.
“Where are the men?” Jonathan answered.
Walter frowned, “I don’t know. Getting a drink most likely. They didn’t strike me as the most reliable lot, just the handiest. We’ll need to make sure it’s safe before we enter…Kati!”
Kati was already scrambling over rocks, making her way towards entrance.
“Kati! Not yet. It isn’t safe.” The sky darkened (to Walter’s mind) perceptibly as storm clouds moved tighter in around them. Inexorable, inevitable storm clouds (again to Walter’s mind) closed in tighter, suffocating Walter.
Kati scrambled up on to a rock at the base of the hole and stood triumphantly, “Walter, I’m going to show you it’s not cursed you crazy hopeless man. It’s just a pile of rocks and a hole.” She turned to peer in.
Walter felt paralyzed in dreadful anticipation. It was like he could see it even before it happened. Every terrible horrible scenario played out in his head and one of them was playing out in front of him. ” Stop! Jainie, stop!”
Kati looked at him sadly, “It wasn’t your fault, Walter. Some things you can control and some things you can’t.”
AS if to prove her point, that he couldn’t control her, she turned and climbed awkwardly into the hole. Jonathan ran to stop her, but it was too late. Already she was disappearing into the hole and already, as Walter watched in horror, the rocks around the mouth of the hole began to settle, slowly at first, than more quickly, then in an avalanche. The entire mouth of the cave was closed again, and Kati was inside.