Pieces of Nine: Part I – A Serialized Story

Pieces of Nine

Part I

There was a darkness about the house. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. A darkness that dominated even on the brightest summer’s day. I was eleven years old that cool autumn of 1957. I grew up in a little seaside town called Avery’s Point, just a few miles north of Mystic, Connecticut. My street was one of those stereotypical quiet elm lined ones that you read about in New England fiction. It was an old neighborhood. Avery’s Point was a favorite retirement spot for old salts back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The house was a very old two story Victorian-styled manse, complete with a widow’s walk. No one had lived there in nearly a half a century. The town council sent a crew out to the house twice a year to clean up and trim the yard and the trees. No one ever mentioned who owned the place or why it was abandoned as it was. My friend Jerry and I walked by that house every day on the way to and from school. Most times we never even gave it a thought.

I asked my dad about the house one time. I remember the strange look on his face. He was quiet for a moment, then finally he said, “I don’t know anything about that place, son.” That was the end of that conversation. I tried the same question with my mother a little while later with a very similar response. My older brother George was more forthcoming, but I didn’t believe much of what he had to say about the place. I think he was just trying to scare Jerry and me.

I was a smart little runt back then. One Saturday morning Jerry and I went to the town library. We asked Mrs. May, the librarian, if she knew anything about the old house on the corner of Canterbury Road and Newport Street. Mrs. May gave a little shudder, but as would be expected of a librarian, she got straight down to the facts. Turns out that the house was built in 1861 by a ship’s captain named Arthur Barrington. Captain Barrington had been a merchant seaman all his life. When his tenure upon the waves was coming toward its end, the Captain chose the little town of Avery’s Point for his retirement.

Mrs. May showed us plans and surveyor’s documents for the house and the lot. The architect was a man named Josiah Burnham, a rather famous man in this area of Connecticut. He also designed and built the Mason’s Road causeway and bridge from the mainland to Mystic Harbor Island back in 1862. Mr. Burnham’s plans showed a typical layout for a home of this era. It had five bedrooms, all upstairs. It also had a large den/library on the ground floor with large bay windows facing the street side of the house. The kitchen and upstairs master bedroom shared a granite chimney and flue. There was also a good sized basement below the main structure.

Mrs. May had no further information for us that she would deem worthy of being called “factual”, therefore our quest for further knowledge regarding the house had to continue elsewhere. Elsewhere, as it turned out, ended up being on the porch of my grandfather’s house. Jerry and I went there the following Saturday. My grandmother had become ill with tuberculosis before I was born. She’d been committed to a sanatorium where she died in 1945. My granddad had lived alone ever since. He was a retired merchant marine. He was out to sea in January of ’45 when my grandmother died. He’s never forgiven himself for that, according to my mom.

Granddad was sitting on his porch puffing on his pipe that morning that Jerry and I rode our bikes over to Meadow Street. He smiled his melancholy smile as we got off our bikes and walked up the steps.

“What are you boys doing way over here on Meadow Street on a fine Saturday morning like this, hmm?” he asked.

“We were just riding around, Gramps. How are you today, sir?” I asked.

“Fair to middlin’, son, with a chance for later-day aches and pains. HA!” he laughed.

He eased himself out of his chair and headed toward the front screen door.

“You boys wait here for a bit and I’ll get you some hot cocoa.” he said, as the screen door slammed shut behind him.

A few minutes later he came back out with a tray with two steaming mugs of cocoa, some cookies, and cup of coffee for himself. He set the tray on the small table in between his rocker and the wooden bench we were sitting on and gently eased himself back into the rocker with a grunt and a sigh.

“Go ahead, boys. Dig in.” he said.

We did. After a few minutes of slurping and munching, Jerry poked me in the ribs with his elbow and nodded over toward my granddad, who was nodding off in the rocker.

“Hey Gramps!”

“Huh?” he snorted, as he sat up in the chair looking over at us.

“Gramps, what can you tell Jerry and me about the old Captain’s house over on Canterbury?” I asked him.

“I could tell you boys a lot about that place, but it’ll scare you white. You want that?” he asked?

“Yes, sir. We’d like to know about it. We’re doing a school project together.” I lied.

“Well, here it is then…” he said, sitting up straighter in his chair and relighting his pipe.

My Grandfather’s story:

That damned house was already old back when I was your age, boys. We used to throw rocks at it as we walked by in the afternoons after school, just like you boys probably do nowadays. There weren’t no one living there then either. That was back in about 1910 or 12 or so, I’d say. Just like now, the town would send someone out there twice a year to clean up the place and trim back the trees. Us kids didn’t know why then either. We were curious about the place just like you boys are.

I guess you already know that the house was built by the old Captain back in 1861, right? Well, him and his family supposedly only lived in the place for about fifteen years, then they all disappeared. Ayuh… the Captain, his wife, both his spinster daughters, and the maid. All gone. There weren’t no trace of them anywhere. All the town constable ever found in the way of a clue was a series of drag marks down in the basement that led up to a bare wall and ended.

In 1880 or so, a new family bought and moved into the old Captain’s place. They were a Boston family. He was a muckity-muck business lawyer of some sort. There was his wife and a son with him, also. According to my mother, who told me about these things, the family lived peacefully enough in the old place for about 25 years. Until one day in 1907.

On a cold autumn evening in that year, the constable showed up out front with a few of his deputies. They entered the house and spent quite a few hours in there. Lights were seen going from room to room for most of that time, like they were searching for something. There were no electric lights in that house at that time. Everything was still gas or oil lamps back then. There wasn’t any electricity in this area till about 1911. There never were any fixtures or wiring installed in that place.

Word got leaked to the Mystic Ledger the following week that the constable and his men were searching for the Boston lawyer and his family. They had disappeared just like the old Captain and his family before them. There were supposedly no traces and no clues. The family was never seen again. That house has never been lived in by anyone since that time. There’s been stories of people, kids mostly, going into the house and disappearing. I don’t believe none of those stories, though.

I’m sure you’ve heard the spook stories and the kids’ tales about that place. Hell, most of those started with me and my friends back in 1910-11 when we were walking by that place every day on the way to and from school. Most of what you hear is gonna’ be pure bunkum, but there is one thing that everyone who knows anything about that place will swear is true. Everyone says that the drag marks across the basement floor leading to the bare wall and ending there are for real. The constable saw similar marks after the disappearance of the Boston lawyer’s family, too. What did they mean? No one could venture a guess, then or now.

“That’s about all I know, boys. It’s about time for my nap. You boys get on your way now, ya’ hear… and stay away from that house. Ain’t no good in that place. Never was.” Granddad grumbled, as he heaved himself out of the rocker and headed into the house.

©2008 V. T. Eric Layton (excluding images)


Coming next week… Part II

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  • Securitybreach  On April 20, 2010 at 23:37

    Another great post Eric!!! I have been waiting on you to post your novel and here is the first part. Great Job Eric!!!

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 21, 2010 at 14:49

      Sorry to disappoint… this is just a short story that I wrote for a Halloween writing challenge at my Out of the Woods board a couple years ago. This ain’t the “really cool detective novel.” Heh!


  • Securitybreach  On April 21, 2010 at 20:44

    Well it was still a nice read!!!

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 21, 2010 at 21:28

      Thanks! It’s not done yet, though. There’s more coming. I’ll post a part every week for about 6 weeks. Stay tuned!

  • BambisMusings  On April 23, 2010 at 17:42

    Thanks Eric! Can’t wait for the next one!

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 23, 2010 at 19:50

      Probably Tuesday again, Fran. That’s gonna’ be story day here, I think.

      Thanks for reading!


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