Finding the wine cellar door was the greatest stroke of serendipity. Frank’s uncle Jack had disappeared for eighteen months during the prohibition years, and when he returned to Toronto he was wealthy enough to ignore the family he so reviled. He built the rambling house on his piece of family property on the Lost Channel, but only lived there for eight months before he disappeared permanently.
Or so they said. That was eighty years ago, about ten years before Frank was born. Eighty years of legal stagnation before Frank found out he’d inherited the place.
“Well Dad, what are you going to do with it?” asked his son Bruce, feet propped up on the heavy wooden table, a glass of fine wine in hand.
“To tell you the truth, I haven’t the foggiest idea. It might have been fun to raise the four of you here, but you all have families of your own now. Calli’s off to Cape Breton and loves it there. Ted’s in Ottowa with Jackie and the twins. Cora and her husband are almost empty-nesters themselves. And you, after building that monstrosity of a log mansion, I don’t think you’ll be uprooting and moving here.”
Bruce shook this head and chuckled. “I don’t suppose you want to ramble around here alone? Maintain the place long enough to get all four of us to get our schedules organized enough to all come for Christmas?
“I used to spend Christmas up here on the channel. But that meant hiking or sledging in, and staying warm by the wood stove and heavy blankets. I suppose selling it is the only thing that makes sense. Maybe we’ll have one family get-together, one week where we turn everything on and you guys and your cousins can all explore the place. Maybe find some clue as to where Jack disappeared to.”
Frank watched Bruce poke around the shelves, heavily laden with dusty bottles.
“I can’t believe that door went undiscovered all these years,” said Bruce, selecting a bottle, reading the label, then putting it back on the shelf.
“Well, it’s not like many people tried. Jack hated everybody. He didn’t build this place to have a family, he built it so he wouldn’t need anyone ever again.”
Bruce paused in his search, looking closely between two of the shelves. “What is it Bruce?”
“Speaking of hidden doors…” Bruce pulled at the wall. A section moved, obviously a door of some kind, but it was stuck. “Huh… it’s like the latch broke…or fell off on the inside.”
Frank watched as Bruce worked the mechanism with his Leatherman. After a few minutes he managed to pull it open.
A putrid stench filled the room.
Bruce coughed and pulled his shirt over his mouth. He shone his flashlight around the tiny chamber.
“Well…” said Bruce through his shirt. “We solved one mystery at least.” He coughed and backed away. “We found Uncle Jack.”
Yeah…I don’t usually get that gory! This was written for a prompt from Write on Edge. The words “cellar door” and there was a photo of a propeller I loved the photo, and yet it didn’t quite make it into the story.
I do have a great uncle named Jack who disappeared for a while during prohibition, but he had a big family who loved him. I just found his grand daughter on facebook a few weeks ago… I should ask her if she knows anything about his prohibition-era activities…