Hey, everyone! I’m so excited to join Soooz Burk’s Fiction in a Flash Challenge again. Each week, she provides a photo prompt and invites readers to participate by writing a fiction or non-fiction piece of no more than 750 words. To learn more, click here.
This week’s prompt was perfect for a story I’ve had in mind for some time. And although I end on a cliffhanger, it’s another one I hope to continue one day.
The old house stood on the outskirts of town at the end of Baker Street. Long time residents called it Winslow House after the first family to live there. When Gerry Rafferty released the hit song “Baker Street” three years earlier, someone referred to the house by its location and the name stuck.
Built in the early twentieth century when the area was farming country, the place had become the source of legends. Some said it was haunted. The original owner, Harlan Winslow, died in a freak accident. Many believed his ghost haunted the place. Others said he and his wife had marital problems and claimed she killed him. Made it look like an accident. Whatever the case, Angela Winslow and her children moved away from Madison shortly after Harlan’s death, never to be heard from again.
Over the years several families occupied the house. In the early 1960s, a family by the name of Keller moved in. By all accounts, they were well-liked. Cal Keller was a respectable banker. His wife was friendly and outgoing. The children, a boy and two girls, ages thirteen, eleven and eight, were popular at school. But when the family disappeared on a late October evening, leaving all their possessions behind, the house once again became the source of much speculation.
Some said the Kellers left because of Harlan Winslow’s ghost. But people usually don’t abandon everything and leave in the middle of the night. They took the dog and left in the family automobile. A week after their disappearance, police found the car abandoned three-hundred miles away.
There was no evidence of foul play, and a later investigation yielded no clues about where they might have gone. Many suspected Ross Keller embezzled money but auditors found no evidence.
Cara Henderson heard rumors when she first moved to Madison. As an investigative reporter for the local news station, her natural curiosity had her wanting to know more.
“I want to do a story on the Keller disappearance,” she asked her station manager, Grant Evans.
“It’s been done before.”
“A year or two after it happened. Don’t know for sure but I’d guess no more than three.” Grant shrugged.
“You’re talking 1968 at the latest. This is 1981. We’re coming up on the fifteenth anniversary. Some people have never heard the story. Who knows, someone might see it and come forth with information.”
Grant rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Okay, go for it.”
Cara began interviewing people and asking questions. Cal and Edna Keller paid cash for the property. The taxes were up to date, paid from a trust fund Cal had set up years before their disappearance. When he interviewed for the position at the local bank, he had references from towns in Montana and Oregon. Those checked out. But since leaving Madison, there wasn’t a record of him having held another job. No one knew of any extended family members.
But after gathering all her information, Cara wanted something that would make the story more exciting. And there was only one thing she could think of. A visit to the scene.
It took a little persuading before Grant gave her the go-ahead, but fifteen years to the date, she and her cameraman, Jeff Armstrong, entered the house.
Over the years, it had fallen into a state of disrepair. The front door stood open. Windows were cracked and broken. Peeling wallpaper and damaged flooring were commonplace. Layers of dust covered the furniture. Plates and glasses remained on the dining room table. Clothes still hung in the upstairs closets. Toys and other personal possessions were in the bedrooms.
“This is weird,” Cara said. “What would make anyone leave in the middle of eating dinner with nothing but the clothes on their backs? Guess we’ll never know.”
“I can tell you,” Jeff said.
Cara turned in surprise. “You know what happened? How? You would have been something like twelve at the time. Besides, I didn’t know you’d lived in Madison before.”
“I was thirteen. And yes, I was here that night. My name isn’t Jeff Armstrong.”
“It’s Rick Keller.”