turning the key and unlocking the vault, John Talbot looked over
his shoulder one last time before he grabbed the heavy handle
and slowly opened the steel door to the old family burial vault.
The rusty hinges squealed in protest but he managed to open it
enough that he could slip inside and complete his job before the
next round of the security guard.
pulled a Luma-Stik from his pouch and cracked it against the edge
of the door and within a few moments, the interior of the vault
was bathed in a soft, green glow. He pulled the door until it
was almost closed and then turned to the nearest casket and looked
for the nameplate.
Talbot. Winifred Talbot. Where is good old Great, Great, Granny
Talbot? he muttered to himself, as he examined the three
nearest coffins before moving to the next row.
Talbot had been married to the family patriarch, Richard, back
when the Talbots had been known as the first family of Midland,
Virginia and had been among the richest families in the state.
legend had it that before Winifred died, she had insisted that
she be interred with all her gold and jewelry, and after her death,
Richard saw to it that her wishes were followed to the letter
and that a solid steel door was installed on the vault and only
one key made to fit it.
family had fallen on hard times soon after her death because Richard
began to drink excessively and spent much of every day at a gentlemens
club, playing cards very badly and eventually losing most of the
money he had accumulated to traveling card sharks that could certainly
smell blood when they laid eyes upon him.
time passed and more of the Talbot family died and were placed
inside the vault, the tale of Winifreds treasure became
just that, a tale that was told to the youngsters as they sat
by the fireplace on a winters night and dreamed of a wealth
that they would never have.
last member of the family to take up residence in the vault was
placed there over forty years ago and the door had been locked
and the key tossed into a cubbyhole in the back of the old roll
top desk in the family room and was soon forgotten.
Talbot heard the story of Winifreds treasure over and over
while sitting at his fathers knee and secretly wondered
what it would be like to have that treasure and be rich beyond
his wildest dreams.
he grew into manhood and because he wasnt well educated,
he had to work at menial jobs and was often laid-off for one reason
or another. He would pass the time either in his room sleeping
or wandering around the old cemetery and was inevitably drawn
to the family vault where he would spend hours staring at the
locked, steel door and daydreaming about the family legend.
was in one of these periods of being temporarily unemployed, as
he liked to call it, that he happened to sit at the old roll top
desk and was looking for a pen to use when he happened to catch
sight of a single brass key attached to a short lanyard.
There was nothing identifying what the key was intended for but
as soon as he picked it up and looked at it closely, he knew exactly
what it fit and where the lock was located.
could feel the excitement building in his body as he made plans
to visit the old cemetery as soon as he could. He used the last
of his money to purchase the few supplies he thought necessary
to accomplish his mission and placed them in a small, belted pouch
which he tossed under his bed until he needed them.
visited the cemetery the next day and studied the vault much more
closely that he usually did. He discovered that a security firm
had been recently hired to patrol the grounds after dark to help
dissuade juvenile vandalism and the occasional drunk that wandered
in to take a drunken nap on top of one of the tombs.
squatted beside the steel door and removed a small can of machine
oil from his inner pocket and squirted several dollops on each
hinge, hoping that it would be enough to help loosen the rust
and allow the door to open readily when he carried out his plan.
the next to last coffin that he checked, he found what he had
been searching for, Winifred Mildred Talbot.
heart was pounding in his chest as he withdrew the screwdriver
from his back pocket and began to remove the screws that held
the top of the wooden coffin firmly in place.
by one, the screws came out and dropped at his feet. Sweat was
rolling down his face although it was not particularly warm inside
the vault; in fact it was downright cold.
last screw dropped to his feet with a metallic click and then
rolled to the side. He stood back from the coffin and wiped the
sweat from his forehead. He was so excited that his hands were
shaking and his breath was coming in short gasps.
moment of truth had arrived and the legend that he had listened
to as a child would be settled once and for all in a very few
minutes. Taking a deep breath, he placed his hands on the lid
of the coffin and pushed.
could hear wood splintering and the top moved slightly under his
hands but wouldnt budge. He took the screwdriver and with
the palm of his hand, drove it into the narrow crack between the
lid and bottom of the coffin.
the blade of the screwdriver pierced the wood, the loud hiss of
escaping gas could be heard and the air in front of his face became
dank and foul. He stepped back, taking a quick breath of stale
air and then returned to completely remove the lid.
right, Granny Talbot, he whispered with a hoarse voice,
as the lid moved aside and crashed to the floor, breaking into
several smaller pieces. Let's see what youve got for
Mildred Talbot had grown up in a family of nine brothers and seven
sisters and being the youngest never had anything new or special
in her life. Hand-me-downs were the order of the day and it was
not unusual for her to be seen in a dress that had been altered
many times before she ever put it on.
at her house was eaten in shifts with the boys getting the larger
share, for they worked long and hard in the familys fields,
and the other children dividing what was left. Winifred never
left the table hungry, but by the time she was thirteen she knew
that she deserved better than scraps and leftovers from others.
few possessions that she did manage to accumulate were hoarded.
Hiding them where her siblings wouldnt ever find them. They
were hers and hers alone and she would often sneak off to see
them, to touch and hold them, at every opportunity.
she turned sixteen and had been introduced to the most handsome
man she had ever seen, she had been swept off her feet. When asked
to marry him, she had jumped at the chance to leave her meager
existence and join the handsome, young man as his wife.
the years passed, her husband, Richard Talbot, by sheer determination
and guts and a will to succeed where others had failed, had built
a sizeable estate and business that allowed him to shower Winifred
with lavish gifts of gold and jewelry. She reverted to the little
girl she had been and hoarded these possessions above all others.
older she became and the more gold and jewelry that she accumulated
fueled her obsession, and she begged her husband that if she passed
away before him, to promise her on his life that all of her prized
pieces be buried with her.
gave her his word and assured her that her wishes would be honored.
Furthermore, he assured her, he would see to it that her possessions
would be with her for all eternity.
as he started to peer over the edge of the coffin, his Luma-Stik
sputtered and died. Taking his last one from the pouch, he cracked
it against the coffin behind him and waited a few moments for
the green glow to come to full intensity.
didnt know what he expected to see when he was finally able
to peer into his ancestors coffin but in his wildest dreams,
it wasnt the sight that his eyes encountered at that moment.
amid dozens of gold rings, necklaces, belts and assorted gem stones
of various sizes and colors, on what was once white satin, was
the shrunken, shriveled remains of his long dead ancestor, Winifred
funeral clothes, long since rotted from her body, remained as
small, indistinct threads of some indeterminate color scattered
around the perimeter of her body under the green glow of his light.
What little remained of her skin looked like cheap parchment with
the exposed, uneven edges rolled towards the center.
skull was still adorned with a few small wisps of dried, white
hair in patches on either side and the lower jaw had become unhinged
and over time, had dropped around her collarbone and appeared
much like a horseshoe around a steel peg in a game he had once
didnt care about the way her corpse looked. He didnt
care that she was family and that the blood that had flowed through
her veins in the past was the same blood that flowed through his
own body at this moment. He didnt care that what he was
doing was the one thing that was despicable to all the civilized
people on earth; he was not only desecrating a grave, he was robbing
it. He didnt give a rats ass about any of that and
could not have cared less. All he wanted at this moment was the
riches that surrounded the long dead corpse in the coffin, and
his self perceived familys legacy left only to him.
brushed her ribs aside and the dry, brittle bones crackled briefly
and then turned to dust beneath his hands. His eyes were as large
as saucers as he pulled handful after handful of gleaming metal
and glittering stones from her final resting place and slipped
them into his waiting pouch.
was seeing chances he had never had, of women he would have never
been able to meet, opportunities that would go unfulfilled, and
all this because he had no wealth, no status, no standing in the
that was soon to change, though, because after this, things would
be different. He was destined to be a rich man, a very rich man,
and nothing could, or would, stand in his way. He would finally,
in his own mind, have what he so richly deserved
his senses not been clouded by greed and the delusions of grandeur
that were flowing through his head, he might have heard the noise
of the screws being unscrewed by unseen hands and dropping to
the floor behind him.
might also have heard the lid of the coffin open and the sound
of old bones rattling as they stepped over the side of its final
resting place and took a position behind him. He was so intent,
so focused on robbing his ancestors possessions and of how
his life was sure to change, that he didnt sense or hear
came as a great shock when the skeletal hand slammed into the
side of his head and knocked him to the floor. He had dropped
the pouch containing the gold and jewels and the light stick from
the impact and quickly tried to gather both. The pouch was out
of reach but he managed to reach the green light and held it out
in front of him.
guts turned to ice and an ever widening dark spot appeared on
the front of his pants as the green glow illuminated the skeletal
apparition standing in front of him.
scooted back as far as he could and stopped only when his back
hit the wall. He turned his head to check if there was any other
avenue of escape and it was then that he noticed three piles of
bones lying on the floor, dressed in tattered, rotting clothes
from different times past.
looked back at the apparition in front of him and screamed in
absolute terror as the skeletal remains started to walk slowly
towards him. Like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky, he realized
that his dreams of wealth at the expense of his long dead ancestors
was dashed and that his future lay like the three men that had
tried before him and failed.
bowels released as the skeletal remains in front of him bent over
and retrieved the pouch from the floor and slowly turned towards
the womans coffin, where it gently emptied the contents
around the remains in the coffin.
heart was pounding like a kettledrum and a brilliant stab of pain
shot through his body as he felt his heart explode in his chest.
life faded from his being, the last thing he saw on earth was
the apparition gently touch the womans skull in a soft caress
and then return to its own coffin, his eternal promise to his
wife fulfilled once again.
bright light from the security vehicles headlights alerted
the guard that the door to the old Talbot vault was slightly open
and he parked the car and walked to the door of the vault.
no evidence of forced entry or any reason to report it, he used
his foot and pushed against the heavy, steel door until he heard
the old lock click solidly back into place, glanced around briefly
and then returned to his car.