Buried Deeds — Part 18 — Conclusion ( A Meghan Bode Mystery)

On the drive to Wyndham Thicket Farm, Meghan expects her phone to ring, with Evelyn or Douglas canceling her trip. But no calls interrupt her ride. She’s about to turn onto the farm lane when an oncoming truck drives in first. Jackson Carter waves back to her as they head up to the visitor’s lot and park.

“Afternoon, Dr. Bode. I didn’t know you’d be here today.”

“I’ve got good news on the Josiah Kent front for Evelyn.”

“Is she expecting you? I tried calling the house all morning, but no one answered.”

“No, but Douglas said to come out after lunch. Maybe they were out riding.”

Meghan and Jackson walk to the house, but no one answers their calls.

“That’s odd,” Meghan says. “Douglas knows I’d be here.”

“I’ll check the stables. See if any of the horses are out. Why don’t you see if they’re at the site?”

Jackson heads north from the house while Meghan goes south.

Beyond the site, Meghan thinks. Wyndham Manor is on the south line of the original Wyndham Thicket, somewhere past the site. Evelyn’s Abraham was living down there when Josiah Kent was murdered, not here.

Yelps interrupt her thoughts. “Oh, crap. Not you two.”

Maisy and Chess run toward her. But no tennis balls drop from their mouths. Instead, the two whine at her feet, then run back toward the site before coming back to her, whimpering.

A cold breeze rises as clouds cover the sun. Meghan shivers, but not from the drop in temperature. She picks up her pace as best she can in a plowed field with two Irish Setters underfoot.

The dogs’ ears prick, and they yelp again, running ahead of Meghan. What’s the matter with them? she wonders.

Another breeze carries sound with it, a faint “how could you” that trails off.

When she passes a treeline, she finally sees the site ahead of her. And the source of the dogs’ distress.

Two figures stand facing one another across the open cellar of the old manor house. Douglas holds his left arm close to his side. Maisy approaches Evelyn, cowering in submissive posture, but Evelyn swings a shovel in her direction. The swing is wide of the mark, but Maisy yelps and runs back to Meghan, with Chess close behind.

Oh, dear God, Meghan thinks. I shouldn’t get into the middle of this.

She tries to back up and leave, but it’s too late.

“Evelyn,” Douglas shouts. “Meghan’s here with good news. Listen to her.”

“How can there be good news?” Evelyn cries. “It’s bad enough you hired that awful Frank Sloma to spread those terrible stories. And then they turn out to be true. My ancestor was a Tory. He killed Josiah Kent.”

Evelyn glances at Meghan, but raises her shovel and looks back to Douglas. “I’m sorry, Meghan, I can’t do this anymore. I know Douglas told you to keep working, but I don’t want to hear any more about Abraham. It’s too shameful. I’m covering it all back up where it belongs.”

“But, Evelyn,” Meghan says, cautiously moving closer, “Douglas is right. This isn’t your Abraham. Your grandmother got it wrong.”

“How dare you insult her.”

“I’m not insulting her. She wasn’t a professional, was she?”

“What? What do you mean?”

“What I said. Was she a professional historian or genealogist?”

“No. But she knew what she was doing.”

Meghan eases forward a few steps and stops, reaching down to stroke Maisy’s shoulders. The dog whimpers and presses close.

“So do I, Evelyn. I spent Saturday going through deeds and wills. It wasn’t easy. The ink was faded in a lot of them, and the Walkers kept using the same names in every generation. All sorts of cousins and second cousins sharing the same names. A genealogist’s nightmare, even for a professional. But the evidence was there. Your Abraham didn’t kill Josiah Kent.”

Evelyn lowers the shovel and faces Meghan. “What did you say?”

“Your Abraham didn’t kill Josiah Kent. Your Abraham wasn’t a Tory.”

“Not my Abraham….”

“See, Evelyn? I told you Meghan had good news. Now Kent doesn’t matter.” Douglas takes a few steps toward his wife.

Evelyn raises the shovel. “Stay back. I haven’t forgiven you.”

Douglas stops in his tracks. Maisy stays by Meghan, but Chess bolts toward the house.

“Tell me what you found,” Evelyn says.

Meghan explains how two Isaac Walkers were cousins, each with a son named Abraham. One lived on Wyndham Thicket and the other on Wyndham Manor.

“I’ve never heard of Wyndham Manor,” Evelyn says.

“That’s because your third great-grandfather Isaac combined it and a couple of other properties into Wyndham Thicket when he inherited this plantation. Wyndham Manor is now the south part of Wyndham Thicket. But he didn’t inherit this land from his father, Abraham. It came from his second cousin once-removed, Abraham.”

“His what?” Douglas asks.

This is hardly the place for a genealogy lesson, but Meghan takes on her class lecture voice. “The two Abrahams were second cousins. Their fathers were first cousins. Once-removed means you’ve added a generation. Your first cousins’ children are your first cousins once-removed. Your children and your cousins’ children are second cousins. Add another generation, you add the once-removed again. Abraham of Wyndham Thicket had no surviving children. So he left the plantation to his second cousin’s son Isaac, who lived on the next plantation. Evelyn’s third great-grandfather.”

Evelyn’s grip on the shovel loosens. “My Abraham didn’t live in this house?”

“No. He had his own house on Wyndham Manor. He didn’t kill Josiah Kent and bury him in this cellar.”

“A different Abraham did it.”

“Most likely. Yes.”

Evelyn drops the shovel as Chess reappears. Meghan draws a deep breath, and her heart rate slows. Behind Chess are Jackson Carter and Tom Sandberg.

“That’s … that’s …” Evelyn says.

“Wonderful?” Douglas suggests.

Evelyn turns to him, her eyes bright. Meghan considers rushing in to grab the shovel, but there’s no need.

“Yes, wonderful!” Evelyn says and runs to Douglas, who holds her with his right arm. “My family reputation isn’t ruined.”

“So why not keep going with the dig? Maybe turn it into a mystery walk? Those are popular.”

“Or a ghost tour,” Evelyn adds. “Meghan, didn’t you say Kent haunted the woods where he disappeared?”

“Um, that’s what the old county history said.”

“Perfect. We could say he’s come here to haunt the site now that his body’s been disturbed.”

“I like it,” Douglas says.

Meghan stands agape. In the span of a few seconds, the enraged and wronged wife has disappeared. She watches as Maisy moves toward Evelyn, hesitantly at first, and then with bounding joy as her owner bends down to welcome her.

A dog I can understand. But how do people turn their emotions on and off like that? she wonders.

“Is everything all right?” Sandberg asks as he and Jackson reach the site. “You were both upset when I left this morning. I just came back to check when I ran into Mr. Carter here.”

“Everything’s fine, Detective,” Douglas says. “It’s all worked out fine.”

“I see,” Sandberg says with a look to Meghan, who raises her hands and drops them.

“It’s more than fine,” Evelyn says. “It’s perfect. How soon can you start work on finding Wyndham Manor, Meghan?”

“What?”

Evelyn pulls away from Douglas, pushing at Maisy who now rubs against her leg and licks her hand. “My Isaac didn’t grow up here. We need to find where he did. And where my Abraham did. And as far back as we can get them. We’ll finish here, of course. It’s still the best spot for a museum. But we have to find Wyndham Manor.”

Meghan is speechless.

“Don’t worry about the cost,” Douglas says. “Making Evelyn happy is the important thing.”

“Bring back your crew as soon as you can,” Evelyn adds, taking Douglas by the arm. “Maybe you’ll find the murder weapon. That would be so exciting.”

“Is there anything else, Detective?” Douglas asks. “If not, would you all excuse us while we go back to the house and start planning a ghost tour?”

Sandberg shakes his head.

“Douglas?” Meghan asks. “What about your arm? Shouldn’t you have it looked at?”

“What, this? No, it’s just a bruise. I’ll be fine.”

Meghan, Jackson, and Sandberg watch as Evelyn and Douglas walk back to the house, arm in arm. Maisy and Chess scamper away with them.

When the Brownes are out of earshot, Meghan turns to Sandberg.

“What the hell was that?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.”

Once again Meghan explains her library findings and then describes the scene she encountered several minutes earlier.

“So that’s it?” she asks as she finishes. “No criminal charges? Not even for the fire?”

“Douglas Browne knows all the right people. Setting the fire, hiring so-called Frank Sloma to stir up interest—no way the DA bothers with it. It’s their property and no attempted insurance fraud. At most, the Brownes make a generous contribution to the Firemen’s Fund.”

“Who’s Frank Sloma when he’s at home?” Jackson asks.

“If Douglas told the truth this morning, one of his colleagues. Makes sense, given that Dr. Bode saw him coming out of the law office last week. I bet he’s back here next weekend, telling the first round of Josiah Kent ghost stories to the guests.”

“And who set the fire?”

“I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Douglas told Dr. Bode that Evelyn did. If she was going to bury the site again today, maybe she did try to burn it before. But he might’ve been diverting attention from himself, or even Sloma.

“If one of them ever slips up and tells you, Dr. Bode, would you let me know? Just out of idle curiosity. But now, I’ve got some real cases to deal with.”

Jackson walks with Sandberg toward the parking lot while Meghan stays back a few moments, sketching out her crew’s return to the site.

The sky is fully clouded as she takes a last look at the cellar. When the fire damage is cleared away, she’ll focus on wrapping up this feature before moving on to others. As she’s about to leave, an unexpectedly warm breeze turns into a stronger gust. A tattered plastic bag swirls around her feet before dipping toward the cellar floor where Kent’s skeleton was buried. The bag catches an updraft and rises out of the cellar, skittering across the field.

We could say he’s come here to haunt the site now that his body’s been disturbed.

Meghan pulls her jacket close and hurries to catch up with Sandberg and Jackson.

And so concludes Meghan’s second mystery. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this initial draft of the story. I’m hoping Meghan will tell me about another adventure soon that I can share with you, perhaps as part of an independent e-published volume….

New to the Meghan Bode Mysteries? You can catch up with her first complete story and all the installments of Buried Deeds with this link.

59 thoughts on “Buried Deeds — Part 18 — Conclusion ( A Meghan Bode Mystery)

  1. What a great conclusion. It all fits together so well; and realistically – – – like most deeds and geneologies – – – most confusing until studied to death (no pun intended). Thanks for a great story.

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  2. My husband would be signing up for that ghost tour lickety-split, JM! He doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he sure loves ghost stories! I’m going to make the time to sit and read through the book all at once. xoxoM

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    • I love ghost tours. 🙂 They’re usually a lot of fun and full of local history, no matter whether you believe in the spirits or not. I’ll bet “Frank Sloma” is already working on the Josiah Kent tales. 😉 Hope you’ll enjoy the story from start to end!

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  3. I really enjoyed that! And it sounds as though Meghan has more work ahead of her in the same area, maybe more mysteries – I can look forward to that.

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    • Thanks, Clowie! I really hope Meghan will pass along another story for me to share with readers. Hopefully she won’t be too busy with the excavations for Evelyn!

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  4. Great conclusion, JM! I love that Evelyn in all her histrionics now wants to promote the site as a paranormal experience. Guess she’s crafty if not completely stable. 😉

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  5. Great ending! I thought, perhaps, suicide or burning it all down, at first. The result was even better.
    I did find one small error that I felt you would want pointed out.
    The sentence: I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Douglas told Dr. Bode that Evelyn did… the person is talking to Dr. Bode, so shouldn’t the term be “you” instead? Just a thought.
    Loved it!
    Scott

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    • That’s a bit I need to rework. Sandberg is actually answering Jackson Carter, who asked both the “Who’s Frank Sloma” and “Who set the fire” questions. I added the bit about “Dr. Bode” to help clarify that, but it’s still awkward. This story needs some time to simmer on the back burner, and then I’ll start the second draft. Those rough edges should get polished then….

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    • Thanks, Neil. 🙂 Hopefully Meghan sends me another story soon. She waited a few days after the previous one before telling me about this one, so maybe this weekend…. Hint, hint, Megs!

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  6. I love those ghost tours! Nice job tying everything up while including fun details like the dogs, the chill in the air, and the plastic bag swirling around at the end. I’ll look forward to more mysteries!

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    • I had to bring Maisy and Chess back. 😉 They played a role at the beginning of the story, and I didn’t want them to just disappear—as if I’d forgotten about them. So I thought having them spooked by Evelyn and Douglas fighting was a good way to bring Meghan to the scene,

      The last ghost tour my husband and I did was a snowy night at Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago. That was such fun. As was bringing the idea into this story and having Meghan scurry after Sandberg and Jackson. 🙂

      Now I hope Meghan is reading these lovely comments and will step up with another story for us!

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    • I’m not someone who can write about modern-day murders and other serious crimes. So my mysteries will have to be more of the cozy variety. I couldn’t make Evelyn or Douglas into a true “baddie,” so the ending had to be keeping “in character” for them. I was hoping I got a good mix of suspense and then plausible “lighter” ending. I’m not happy with some of the dialogue in this one, but hey, it was a first draft. 🙂

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  7. Oh, I’d go for the ghost tour. I love stuff like that. 🙂 I like how Evelyn is so hot and cold; she made a really great character that kept me interested and on my toes! For a first draft, it’s in really great shape, JM. I don’t think you’ll have a lot to do with it when you get around to revisions.

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    • Thanks, Kate. 🙂 I just mentioned to Kourtney above that I’m not happy with some of the dialogue in this installment. But that can be tweaked in the next go around. Overall, I think it turned out well for a first draft. One of the points I want to raise in next Tuesday’s post is that pantsing doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll end up with major plot holes or inconsistencies. I hoped the ending was in keeping with Evelyn’s character. 🙂

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  8. This was such a fun story. The scene today was well crafted, with the right balance of tension and relief. I’m glad the dogs were back in the scene too. I’d missed them.

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    • Thanks, Jagoda. 🙂 I couldn’t leave the story without Maisy and Chess having another scene. They might’ve been “Chekov’s rifle” if I hadn’t brought them back. I’m still waiting to hear from Meghan as to whether she has another story to share….

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    • Thanks, TWLG! If Evelyn did swing at Maisy earlier, she missed. She wasn’t aiming for her. I think she just didn’t want to be knocked over given her mood. But all’s well that end’s well, right? 😉

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  9. I think Meghan’s already got another story planned for you – a ghost story sequel for Wyndham Thicket! 😀

    I really love this bit – it made me laugh out loud:
    “What the hell was that?”
    “I was hoping you could tell me.”

    Meghan’s voice is really clear in this scene/chapter. Plenty of nice little foreshadowing moments, too, like with the dogs and that chill.

    The super-fun thing about this mystery story was that there was a sense of danger and threat through many parts of it, but the ending is so simple, it really brings a smile. I like the little button at the very end, too, with the sheet. Nicely done!

    I’ve enjoyed reading this every week, but I can imagine how much stress it causes to have a new chapter ready to go every seven days. I did that for one story, too, once, and I burned out 3/4 of the way through! It’s an impressive feat – especially for a mystery story, where plot threads need to come together – but maybe for the next one, you want to get at least a little bit ahead, for your own peace of mind. 🙂

    That said, I had a blast uncovering this mystery along with Meghan, and I look forward to the next one, whenever it may be!

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    • Thanks, Mayumi. 🙂 That was a fun bit for me to write. I really didn’t know exactly how this story would end while I was writing it. I only had a vague sense that 1) Meghan would learn something in the historic records that allowed Evelyn to continue with the project, and 2) there would be a “showdown” of some sort at the end. As I wrote, the feeling grew stronger that I didn’t want Evelyn or Douglas to be a true “baddie,” and I wanted a positive ending.

      As Evelyn’s personality developed through the story, I saw how she could swing easily from one emotion to another. When it came time to write this episode last week, this is the ending that flowed out onto the keyboard.

      I was so afraid each week that Meghan would leave me stranded, painted into a corner with nowhere to turn. It has been stressful. And I need a break. 😉 I hope she does have another story in mind. And if she does, I’ll write it out from start to finish before sending it into the world. Of course, now I need to come up with something for my Tuesday posts. Although, as we head to summer, I might decide to scale back to one post a week…. We’ll see. 😉

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  10. I hated seeing the word “Conclusion” in the title, but when I got to the end I had a smile on my face and I enjoyed every bit of it! I liked how you brought in the elements of weather (chill, breeze, warm gust) and especially loved how you used the image of the bag swirling around at the end while Megan thinks about Kent haunting the place. You (and Megan) tied up all the loose ends so well, JM. This was a great story!!! You deserve a nice break but I too hope Megan has more in store for you/us 🙂

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    • Thanks, Arlene! I do need a bit of a breather after writing two stories “live” like this. But I hope Meghan won’t take too long before filling me in on another one. 🙂 I really think she has the potential to be a strong character with good stories to tell. And I just couldn’t resist bringing the ghostly element to the ending. After all, the old county history suggested Kent was already haunting the woods. Why not switch to Wyndham Thicket when his body was discovered? 😉

      I’m really glad you and others enjoyed the ending. I thought it was in keeping with the characters and the story, but it was a bit atypical!

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  11. Swinging that shovel was so in character ( and good to circle the dogs back around and have them react to the emotional displays)
    Nicely plotted and excavated!
    It’s nice they way you clarify things (like the family research/ common mistakes and why/ and the “cousins removed” ) so it’s part of the story without seeming to lecture – that information evolves naturally in the story.
    And some people: marketing to fit your purpose – also so in character I had to laugh.
    Good finish – and these does seem like a series of adventures on the horizon!

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    • I couldn’t leave the story without having Maisy and Chess play a last role. They were important characters early on, and I didn’t want readers thinking I’d forgotten about them. Early in the writing, one of the few hard “facts” I had for the ending was them being there and leading Meghan to the showdown at the site. Dogs pick up on emotions so easily, and it just seemed natural that they would be distressed by Evelyn and Douglas fighting.

      They might really have been spooked if they stuck around with Meghan at the end and picked up “the ghost” of Josiah Kent. 😉 I wonder what he might think of Evelyn’s museum and playing up his murder….

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  12. Bravo and congratulations for making archaeology-based mysteries fun to read! I know that the Bode mysteries are sort of your “B-Project,” but clearly, I’m not alone in enjoying them.

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    • Thanks, Smak! Right now, there’s a feeling of what do I do next? I’m open to writing another story with Meghan, but she hasn’t come forward yet with another adventure. Even though I wasn’t expecting her appearance, she’s really grown on me. But until she’s ready to write some more, it’s time to get serious about finalizing the sci-fi novel. which I hope will also find an audience.

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  13. FANTASTIC ending!
    you tied up every single loose end in ways that were interesting, creative, and humourous in turn. I especially loved the re-appearance of both dogs: a conclusion without them would have been an oversight unworthy of your overall meticulous timing and plotting.
    There is SUCH commercial potential for a Megan Bode book series. You’ve crafted characters we know in real life and there’s real appeal for getting to know them better!
    You’re a true star, JM. Don’t keep us waiting too long for more! 🙂

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    • Thanks, so much SHBG! 🙂 I couldn’t let the story end without Maisy and Chess being on stage again. 😉 And I’m keeping an ear open for whispers from Meghan about another story, or two, or…. I’m curious if she’ll stick to the novella format or if she has ideas for any full-length novels. I’d work with her in either form. I think there might be an audience interested in a book with three shorter mysteries. Some authors have done that as a supplement to their mystery series. But I think a series set up as groups of short stories might also work. It all depends on Meghan and what she wants to do. Hopefully these two aren’t the only stories.

      For now, though, it’s back to Death Out of Time and trying to get that publication ready.

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  14. I shall not read the conclusion until I have time to go back to the beginning. However, I did want to stop by and see how you were doing. Looks like you have lots of fans rooting you on. Susie

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    • You’ll have the advantage of not having to wait a week between installments. 😉 Now, it’s a waiting game to see if Meghan has another story to share with us. I really and truly hope so.

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  15. I really enjoyed this! I think there needs to be a sequel though where this Evelyn chick gets committed to the state hospital for being a total nutbar. What a weirdo! hahaha 🙂

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    • I’ve been acquainted with some people like Evelyn. They look at the world in such a completely foreign way to me. 😉 And yet, money and “success” follow them everywhere!

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      • Yep, me too. Those people you look at askance in complete shock at their behavior and yet people love and follow them and they achieve more success than far more likeable and rational humans. Boggles the mind

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  16. Huzzah! I’m kind of sorry that everything worked out for Evelyn because I don’t like her. But I’m glad it’s more work for Meghan, assuming she wants it… I had to go back and read Part 16 again to refresh my memory about the Abrahams, but I like how this ended–and it’s realistic, given that it so often happens that there are several people with the same name across generations of a family. So hard to keep them all straight. I kind of wish that even if Evelyn’s Abraham hadn’t been the murderer, that Meghan found out some other skeleton in his closet, so to speak.

    I really enjoyed this series, JM. I’m looking forward to the next Meghan Bode mystery very much!!

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    • But isn’t that the way it always seems to be for people like Evelyn and Douglas? Things always seem to work out for them, and they come out of a questionable situation smelling like a rose and with more money or influence.

      I did consider the possibility that Meghan found something questionable about Evelyn’s Abraham and she had to consider not spilling the beans. Maybe that will work itself into the “normal” version of this story when I revise it. 😉 We’re kicking over the ideas for a third story, but I’ve told Meghan we can’t write it live. It’s too stressful for me, and I think doing two stories like that was a pretty good feat. 🙂

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