We Keep Our Secrets – Part 5 of The Old Ones
My hand is shaking as I make Dr Pleasance’s coffee. She puts a hand gently on my arm.
“Sit, please.” She nods her head towards my lounge. “I can do this.”
I take a seat on the sofa, and try not to look at the fireplace. The morning sun is warm on the back of my head, but I can’t stop shivering. Dr Pleasance sits next to me.
“Thank you for coming,” I say, my mouth dry. “I feel so stupid.”
The late night phone-call, and the tears. The wine and the message to say Sam was staying at work all night. My thoughts whirled and my body shook.
“Who gave you Ninny?” Dr Pleasance asks, her manner brisk.
“Oh. I’m not sure,” I say. “Sam and I never did agree on that. We found him at the house when Matthew was born, and somehow he just ended up being Matthew’s comforter.”
“I need to show you something.” Dr Pleasance passes me a piece of paper from a folder.
“What’s this?” I look at her sharply as I realise I am holding a photocopy of an old newspaper article.
“Read it,” she says.
It’s from 1859. It details the death of a husband and wife at a farm in Endwood—the town where we used to live. Workers described their horror at walking in to what they described as a bloodbath, and then finding the couple’s only son—a cripple by the name of Ninny Jenkins—chopping at their dead bodies with an axe. One of the workers took a hunting rifle and shot Ninny, killing him instantly.
Everything is spinning. I stare mutely at Dr Pleasance.
“It’s an uncommon name,” she says, “particularly for a boy, so it was easy to find. I wondered if perhaps Matthew had heard this story before. It’s publicly accessible, and it happened in his hometown, so he may have heard something. A community doesn’t forget events such as this.”
“No,” I shake my head. “I didn’t know this. And we moved when he was a baby.”
“It seems Endwood and the surrounding areas have had a little more than their fair share of tragedies.” Dr Pleasance hands me the folder, and I open it to see more photocopied articles.
“Here—a family dying in a fire at another farmhouse. Poor neighbour died trying to save them. This one—a family drowning at the lake…” She raises an eyebrow. “I’m surprised that you wouldn’t have heard these stories.”
“Why would I?” My mouth is dry as I flick through. “Small towns keep their secrets.”
“Sometimes secrets need to be told,” she says, with a direct look. My phone buzzes and we both jump. Sam is texting me to say that he may have to fly out for a few days with work. He gives reasons, platitudes, excuses. He doesn’t want to be home.
Dr Pleasance asks to see Matthew and I go to his room, glad to escape her stare.
I take a deep breath and turn the handle, and then I shout in alarm. Matthew’s window is open. Matthew and Ninny are not there.