After dinner and chores, Meghan and her family settle in for the evening. John watches his one hour of television in the living room while Meghan and Rick discreetly monitor his shows from the kitchen. Rick reads the Washington Post, and Meghan opens the browser on her tablet to research the flask’s hallmarks.
She’s met with “Bailey’s Border Collies,” a nearby breeder’s website.
“Oh, subtle, guys, real subtle. Who’s idea was this?”
Rick’s lips twitch. “Come on, Megs, they’re great dogs. And they’re small.”
“Have you seen them in action? They never stop moving.”
“John would have a blast with one, throwing Frisbees and running all over the yard.”
Meghan sets down her tablet. “Yard? What yard? Ours is barely big enough for your grill. We live in a townhouse, remember?”
Rick pulls his chair next to Meghan’s and types an address into the browser. “What if we bought a single-family house?”
“Are you serious? In this area? Have you seen the prices?”
“They won’t get any lower. We talk about this and never do it. John’ll be married with his own kids before we know it. We grew up with our own houses with dogs and yards. Shouldn’t he have the same? Besides, we can afford it.”
He shows Meghan the screen, which now features a home for sale with a local realtor. “This one’s just a few blocks away. He wouldn’t have to change schools, and his friends would still be close. And it’s got a fenced yard. Why don’t we take a look?”
Meghan stares at the web page for a few moments and then watches the slide show. It’s a four-bedroom home, fifteen years old, and nicely decorated. Then she looks at the asking price.
“Five hundred thousand?” she whispers. “Are you serious?”
“We can afford it. We’re not in grad school anymore, and this isn’t Wisconsin. Houses cost this much out here. We’ve been good about saving and paying off this one. Between the sale of this place and dipping into savings, we could put down forty percent on a house like that. And as of today, it won’t take long to rebuild our savings.”
“As of today? What do you mean—Oh, my God. You got the promotion.”
Rick’s smile lights the room. “You’re looking at the new Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Mid-Atlantic region. We can do this, Megs.”
Meghan leans over and kisses him. “You deserve it. You’ve done so much for the company.”
“So we can start looking for a new house?”
“I knew you’d say yes. I already called the listing agent. We’ve got an appointment to look at this one tomorrow after dinner.”
After Rick’s news, it’s hard for Meghan to concentrate on her research. But her curiosity about the mysterious “J Kent” won’t wait. She pulls out the flask and looks at the hallmarks on its base. The piece is sterling with the crowned leopard showing its London origins. This type of stamped “S” was used in 1773. The initials, however, could belong to several silversmiths, and Meghan can’t be sure who made the piece. But that’s not important. Now she knows “J Kent” was buried no earlier than 1773.
She turns to a genealogy site for a search on “J Kent.” Too many results. Irene said he was an adult male with no obvious signs of hard labor. Say he was at least twenty and no older than fifty, she thinks. If he was any older, Irene would have seen it on the bones and said something in the field.
The dates narrow the possibilities, but “J” could represent too many names—John, Joseph, James—all common in Virginia. She searches for online histories of the county and finds one. Browsing through the pages, Meghan finds many references to Evelyn’s Walker ancestors, but none to any Kents. That trail is a dead end.
Expand the search, she thinks and looks for histories of adjoining counties. This time, an entry in a book published in 1894 catches her eye.
Our discussion of local lore and legends would not be complete without mention of a mysterious event during the tumultuous years of the American Revolution. Josiah Kent, a true patriot, had but recently moved to the county when “the shot heard round the world” was fired on the North Bridge at Concord.
A merchant by trade who traveled frequently to London on his schooner, Hunter’s Delight, Kent obtained a letter of marque from the Continental Congress and turned to privateering, successfully raiding a number of British merchant ships in the Caribbean until 1779. In May of that year, he returned to Virginia with a cargo of liberated fine goods and plans to restock his vessel for another run.
While returning from an overland business trip to Fredericksburg, Mr. Kent disappeared. Local authorities determined that he was last seen near Oak Grove. It is believed he fell the unfortunate victim of highwaymen while returning to his home. It is rumored that his spirit haunts the woods between Oak Grove and his abode at Fair Weather plantation.
A few minutes later, Meghan has pinpointed the location of Kent’s former plantation. Lying midway between it and Oak Grove is Wyndham Thicket Farm.
Meghan pushes aside her tablet and rubs her face. An image of Frank Sloma taunting Evelyn at the manor fills her mind’s eye and triggers a memory of Evelyn’s words. “Yesterday at high tea I heard him telling that horrible story of Abraham Walker being a secret Tory.”
Crap, she thinks. What the hell do I tell Evelyn?
I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part 9 next Tuesday.