By J Thomas Fussell
Chapter 1: Silent Glade
The Silent Glade community graced the hilly southwestern side of Franklin, TN and was the first and only subdivision to be built in this little valley between three tall hills which were covered in thick forests and shrubs. Before Silent Glade, it and all of the surrounding land for miles, had belonged to the Canton Family as far back as the county clerk had records. The community was isolated from the surrounding urban growth of the fast-growing Franklin by several miles in every direction save one, and that was very odd for the bustling town of Franklin TN. This isolation in an area where housing cost and land prices were the stuff of dreams for real-estate agents and property owners could be placed at the feet of one family, the Canton Family.
The three Canton children consisted of the older twins Clara and Carl, and their younger brother, Greg Canton. Elenore, their mother, died in car accident in 1974, leaving them the sole heirs of their father’s estate. The children received the land as their birthright in 1978 when James passed of Prostate Cancer. The land was divided into three equal parcels with Clara to the north bordering the Franklin City limits, Carl to the south, and Greg sandwiched in the middle surrounded on three sides by his siblings. The valley in which Silent Glade now sat was squarely in the middle of Greg’s parcel.
In 1996, without his sibling’s blessing, Greg sold part of his property to a land developer. When the deal was discovered, a fierce legal battle raged for years and stopped all development in its tracks. Finally, the other two siblings conceded to allow the construction under the strict pretense that it would be a small community and that no other land would be sold as long as the two of them lived. Greg agreed to this reluctantly, but being the youngest of the three, thought he would easily outlive his older brother and sister. This allowed for the very exclusive, yet modest neighborhood of twelve families to be built in 2003. All lots sold within two weeks, and those lucky enough to get one now lived about as far off the beaten path as one could in such a popular area as Franklin, TN. The only road to Silent Glade lead through miles of farmland and rugged hills before depositing a traveler in the subdivision. Because of its remoteness, Silent Glade lived up to its name and no sound pollution from Franklin or the surrounding interstates could be heard. Only the distant glow of lights at night hinted that civilization was just around the corner.
Greg Canton made a fortune with that sell – and only had to sell a modest fifteen acres of land out of his vast inheritance to do it. He took his money and moved his wife and two sons to the beach. He bought a large ocean front home outside of Destin, FL. And for one year, Greg was content to leave things alone in Tennessee. Unfortunately, just over a year later, Greg chose to invest a lot of money with a real-estate broker from New York he had met on a chartered fishing boat out on the gulf. Greg lost every penny he had invested when the man turned out to be a charlatan. For the first time in a long time, Greg felt the pinch of money woes and decided to see what he could do to sell the rest of his property in Tennessee.
Clara and Carl Canton would not hear of it and defended the original agreement with the immense legal team at their disposal. The battle lasted for twelve years before Clara got the bright idea to just buy Greg out. Greg fought the idea at first because he would only get fifty cents on the dollar based on his projection, assuming the land were developed instead. Time and money were on the twin’s side though, and late in 2014, Greg took the offer, tired of the fight. The twins, who had no need of money from the land, put the land in a trust which was to refuse sale until 2050. The land would be passed down to their heirs and would not be sold until long after both of them were dead. For Greg’s part, he upgraded his Destin home and plan to retire in peace, only to die four years later when he refused to leave his home for Hurricane Michael. The storm flattened the Canton home in Destin and Greg Canton was never seen again.
This guarantee of isolation made Silent Glade perfect for Mary Sue, and in 2018, she moved into the neighborhood, house and all.
Gerald and Beverly
Gerald Lapin leaned against the side of his house at 012 Silent Glade Drive. He stretched the calves of one leg and then the other, touched his toes a couple of times, leaned as far back as he could go to stretch his low back, and then walked over to the front door and leaned in.
“Hey, I’m about to take off. Anybody want to go?” Gerald called into the house.
Blessed silence answered him. He sighed with relief. One of his eight kids often joined him for these morning jogs – sometimes three or four – but today it was just him. Sometimes Jen ran with him too, but this morning she didn’t stir when he shook her gently, and he decided not to wake her.
“Thank you, God,” he said under his breath, glad to be alone.
It’s not that he didn’t want the kids or his wife with him. He loved them all dearly, but sometimes a little silence went a long way to calming the spirit before a busy day.
The April morning was brisk. A thin mist blanketed Silent Glade, muffling all sound except for his own breathing. He jogged to the end of his driveway and looked back up towards his house. The large two-story brick home shrouded in the mist of the early morning light with the back drop of trees and hills looked like something out of a Kincade painting. God, he loved this place. He loved his house and this neighborhood, even the people – almost to a person – were amazing.
He sighed a contented sigh, and again said, “Thank you, Lord.”
He turned left out of his driveway and began jogging towards the entrance to Silent Glade. His house was the last house on the right before the round-about. There were trails that lead for miles into the forest, but the mist gave him pause and he decided a jog down the road would be better and safer than the forest path. He smiled; just up the street, Beverly Hernandez jogged towards him. A good day was brewing, he could feel it.
Beverly Hernandez stretched in the house. Her husband Javier loved to watch her bend and stretch, especially when she wore her yellow yoga pants like today. Somedays, she never even made it out of the house. Today though, Javier had watched with a lecherous grin on his face, gave her a hearty smack on the ass when she was done, a kiss on her cheek, and sent her on her way. He had business to attend; a doctor’s work was never done, even on the weekend.
Alejandro, her sixteen-year-old step-son, stood at the end of the stairs as she passed. He had just woken up and only wore a pair of gym shorts. “Damn, Bev, I see why Dad likes you,” he said as she passed.
“Rude,” she said, then stepped passed him with a roll of her eyes and a disapproving shake of her head.
Outside, she grimaced and shook her head in disgust. Alejandro had disrespected her from the moment she came into their lives. Why should he really? She was wife number three for Javier, and he probably saw her as just another gold-digger, or a passing fancy of his father. Still, someone needed to teach that kid some manners. He was too much like his Daddy – good looking and stuck on himself. Unlike his daddy though, he didn’t have the wherewithal or life experience to back up the bravado. She took off down the front stairs, crossed the yard, and turned up the street towards the round-about. Through the mist of the morning, she saw someone jogging towards her from that direction and new immediately that it was Gerald. She passed him, and sometimes a bunch of his kids, every morning except Sundays.
“Hi, Gerald,” she said in passing.
“Hey, Bev. Hope everyone is well. Be careful in the woods, if you’re headed that way,” Gerald responded.
Beverly didn’t have a chance to answer, and didn’t really feel a need. She passed Gerald’s house on the right. His was the last house on the street and approached the split of the round-about.
The Silent Glade round-about was actually a planned expansion of the neighborhood that never happened. The round-about looped for a little under a half-mile into the hills. No plots had been cleared though and no foundations poured. Now for the folks of Silent Glade, it was simply a beautiful run or walk on a paved road through the woods, and there were trails that lead deeper into the woods in several places.
She decided to turn left at the round-about and moved across the street to do just that when she noticed a small cottage, deep beneath the trees, directly across the street from the Lapin house. A white picket fence looped the perimeter of a small cleared yard. There was no driveway that she could see, but there was a mailbox at the end of a cobblestone walk that lead through the trees to the front door. The number on the box read 013. She didn’t stop her run to stare and jogged on to the path that cut into the trees from the round-about. She couldn’t help but think about the little cottage, though. That house had not been there the day before; she was sure of it. How could a house appear overnight? Maybe she had just never noticed it before today. Could that be possible? No way, she had lived here for over a year. She decided she would slow down when she returned and check it out. If she wasn’t too sweaty, she would go up to the door and see who lived there.
Gerald is a Hero
Beverly Hernandez was a beautiful woman; there was no question there. Gerald wondered if he would get to see her on his return trip. Not that he had any desire beyond appreciation. He loved Jennifer very much and would never do anything to risk his vows to her or God. He rationalized his lusty thoughts: there was nothing wrong with looking at your neighbor’s display of flowers as long as you didn’t take it upon yourself to go and pluck a few. He snickered at his own wittiness.
He ran all the way to the Old Red Barn two and a half miles down Silent Glade Drive. The mist grew thicker at first as the sun rose, and then drifted away in only a few minutes when the sun grew hot enough to burn it off. The trees and grasses were at that perfect shade of spring green. All looked so vibrant in the morning light he would have sworn it glowed. On his return trip, he saw a Copperhead snake sunning itself in the middle of the road. It lifted its head sluggishly and tasted the air but didn’t attempt to move. Gerald eyed it warily, but moved on by. There was no telling what made that snake come out of its lair this early in April. It would be lucky if it didn’t freeze. Oh well, “all creatures great and small” as the good book says, even those cursed by the Good Lord Himself.
A pleasant weariness had grown in Gerald’s muscles by the time he passed the neighborhood sign for Silent Glade. He felt certain he could run another three miles if necessary, but it wasn’t, and he was thankful. He looked forward to the nice, big glass of cold-water Jennifer would have waiting for him.
Several of his neighbors were out and about as he ran up the street. He saw Barry and Ethel Thompson in wide-brimmed hats and spring sweaters, tottering about their front lawn. They were one of only two retired couples on the street. He waved when Ethel looked up, and she waved back. He saw Susan Wellington and her two boys getting in their van, but they did not see him. The boys wore soccer uniforms and were likely late for a game or practice. Susan Wellington could not get anywhere on time. And finally, he saw Tom Eastman driving slowly down the road. He looked grim behind the wheel and didn’t acknowledge Gerald at all.
When he reached his house without seeing Beverly, a sudden unexpected concern for the young lady struck him. Gerald knew she could have easily made it home already, or still be out taking one of the longer trails. He had no reason to feel this concern for her, but he did just the same. Gerald skipped his driveway and decided to run the loop to see if he could find her. He turned up to the right and looped around to the trail head. There were several trails, and he would have raced on past the first had a splash of yellow not caught his eye. He slowed and turned onto the trail, moving toward the bright yellow. It was indeed Beverly, and she was down; he raced to the fallen woman.
Beverly lay on her face in the leaves, unmoving. Gerald reached down and turned her over. His heart beat faster than it had during his entire run. She couldn’t be dead? As he turned her, she moaned and he let out a breath he had not even realized he was holding.
“Beverly!” he said loudly, but she didn’t stir.
He cradled her and lifted her off the ground. She was heavier than she looked, all muscle he guessed. He carried her out of the woods and down the street to the end of his driveway. He lay her gently on the lawn. He pulled out his cell phone to dial 911 when he heard a shout and looked up to see Jennifer running across the lawn towards him. He could see several of the kids staring out at him from the windows of his house. Before she could ask a thousand questions, he said, “Go get Dr Hernandez. Tell him Beverly fell. Go, go now!” Jennifer didn’t ask questions; she did as she was instructed. She could talk with Gerald later.
Gerald looked back at Beverly. Her eyes were open, but there was nothing there but empty sockets. He gasped. His stomach turned over, and he tried to pull away in the horror of the moment. Her gripped tightened painfully on his arm. She pulled at him, and he leaned towards her despite her gruesome deformity.
“Mommy,” she whispered in a child-like voice, “It took my eyes, Mommy. It needed them to see.” There was panic in her voice now, shock. “I can’t see! I can’t see now, Mommy! I can’t see, but I can still see It, Mommy! I can still see It!” Beverly began to shiver and convulse, blood poured from her mouth as she bit through her tongue.
Suddenly, someone grabbed Gerald and tossed him aside.
“Call 911,” Doctor Hernandez ordered and then began to try and help his wife.
Gerald looked around and found his phone. It had fallen out of his hand when Javier threw him out of the way. He stood up and dialed 911. He looked across the street and blinked. Where had that house come from? And then, the 911 operator was asking him questions, and for the moment, he forgot all about the house across the street.
To be continued…