The Secret of Bonner House

A Jenny & Pete Mystery


Hays Williams


A story of adventure and friendship
for kids who love dogs, ghosts,
 angels and best friends


Copyright © 2012 Hays Williams

ISBN 978-1-61434-254-0

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Printed in the United States of America. 

Although the town of Hamilton is loosely based on a real town, this book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Beaver Bayou Publishing

First Edition

Chapter 1

   Jenny stared at the steps, and the darkness below. “Pete, don’t you dare tell...”
   Pete didn’t wait for her to finish. “I won’t, Jenny. Let’s cover this up. We’ll have to wait until...” 
   “At least until Monday.” Jenny took a deep breath, her face white beneath the streaks of black soot. “Both our moms will have a fit if they knew what we found.” 
   Pete’s face was flushed beneath his own layer of soot. Fighting the fire at Dr. Ferguson’s left them both a mess. For the last few weeks, ever since the day they met, they’d worked hard to figure out the dogman mystery, and who hid the loot in the woods, and they knew it was somehow connected. It turned out well, and Jenny finally thought she had relief. But now she looked at the black hole in the closet floor, and wished it would disappear. 
   They replaced the mat over the door and Pete maneuvered some heavy boxes onto the mat. “Come on, Jenny. We don’t want the grownups asking questions.” 
   “No, we don’t. And I can’t wait to get in the shower.”
   “Me too.” Pete sensed her apprehension. “Don’t worry, Jenny. That door probably leads to a root cellar.”
   Jenny gave him a grateful look and hoped she could follow his advice. Since moving to Hamilton she’d had enough worry to last a lifetime.
   Jenny thought about the robbers. They now sat behind bars, and she knew she’d never again fear the woods. And the ‘dogman’s’ identity delighted all of them, especially Jenny’s mom.
   “Jenny, I think it’s terrific that your mom and Dr. Ferguson are old friends.”
   “Me too. Uncle Rudy just told me about him a few days ago.”
   “Mr. Mitchell and Dr. Ferguson should be back with the pizza soon. Guess I’d better go hit the shower.”
   “Same here. Pete, wouldn’t you love to see Katie’s face right now? When I told her Rusty is alive, she started crying.”
   “Yeah, I bet she did.”
   Pete’s answer reminded Jenny that he didn’t know what to do when a girl cries.
   Katie was devastated when Rusty went missing. That hit-and-run driver had fully intended to kill him, as he had other animals in the Hamilton area. Now he was behind bars where he belonged. The list of charges, robbery, burglary, killing animals, and attempting to kill
Jenny, would put him away for a long time.
   “Don’t you love happy endings, Pete?”
   Pete blushed. “Sure. I think everybody does. Well, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
   Jenny rushed upstairs and tore off her clothes. After her bath she put on her best jeans and the blue blouse her dad bought her. Then she combed her long brown hair and ran down the stairs.
   “It’s about time. Your mom had to put the pizza in the oven to keep it warm” Uncle Rudy teased. “And that reporter lady’s here. Said she’s supposed to take some pictures of you kids.”
   Bobby and Lucy arrived and the reporter took several shots of all four of them, with Sam sitting in front. Jenny made a mental note to do something special for Lucy, maybe invite her to dinner or an evening of TV and popcorn. Lucy’s keen observations played an important role in saving Dr. Ferguson’s cabin, and Rusty’s life. The afternoon’s events hadn’t given Jenny time to think about it, but she owed Lucy a debt of gratitude. And Lucy needed to feel important. Jenny knew that from the look on her face while The Daily Herald reporter took the pictures.
   It was almost dark when Uncle Rudy got up to leave. Jenny gave him a goodnight hug. “Thanks Uncle Rudy, for helping me and Mom.”
   “Anytime sweetheart. Remember, you’re my best girl.”
   “I’ve got to go too,” Dr. Ferguson said. “Got to feed the animals and check on Rusty. It will be a while before he can go home. That car really banged him up. He’s lucky to be alive, just like you kids and Sam are.”

   On Monday afternoon Jenny glanced at the clock on the classroom wall. The three o’clock bell rang, and she cringed.
   “Hurry up, Jenny.” Pete stuffed his books and papers into his backpack. “We’ve got to pick up flashlight batteries and get home. I can’t wait to see what’s at the bottom of those steps.”
   “Well I sure can.” Jenny remembered how dark the steps were and she wished she could stop thinking about them. What’s beneath my house and why was that door sealed so carefully and then hidden? She couldn’t remember a thing from today’s classes for worrying about the possibilities.
   On the way home Pete reminded her of their Friday conversation. “I think we’re going to find the Bonner family’s secret room, where they hid from the Yankees during the war. What else could it be? It has to be that, or a root cellar. And I’m not trying to scare you, Jenny, but I’ve been thinking real hard about this. Why would anyone hide a root cellar?”
   “I don’t know, Pete. All I know is this whole thing is frightening.” Jenny’s heart pounded.
   “Aw, come on Jenny. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”
   She glanced at Pete and smiled. He was an unlikely candidate for knighthood, but if he grew to look like his father he’d make a very handsome knight.
   Suddenly Jenny stared toward the woods and the thought of a chivalrous Pete flew out of her head. A big man stood near the dogman tree. She looked at his shaggy dark hair and beard and thought of Dr. Ferguson, but this man wore patched overalls and a blue plaid shirt.
   “What is it, Jenny?” Pete turned toward the woods and the man raised his hand and waved at them. They waved back, wondering who he might be. He picked up a bag and walked into the woods and they watched until he was out of sight.
   “Have you ever seen him before?” Jenny asked.
   “Nope. Can’t say I have. Boy, Hamilton is getting to be a very interesting place.”
   “That’s for sure.”
   At home they let Sam out of his pen. After dumping their books on the kitchen table, Pete hurried to the apartment and Jenny ran upstairs. They had to change into old clothes.
   At 3:45 they walked into the basement closet. “I put our bikes out of sight in case anyone comes looking for us,” Pete said. “If our moms or Mr. Mitchell asks, tell them I heard about some bike thieves, and that really is the truth. We have to be careful.”
   “Okay.” Jenny held up the cordless phone from the kitchen. “Not sure how far away this will pick up a signal. Let’s watch the screen and see. I hate to be without it if Mom calls.”
   “Excellent idea, Jenny. Even if we have to leave it close to the steps, maybe we can hear it, if it rings.”
   He didn’t say ‘from wherever we are’, but Jenny knew he wanted to.
   Pete moved the heavy box he’d placed on the mat and pushed it into a corner. Jenny held her breath as he removed the mat and pulled open the door. She looked at the dark hole and wondered what might be down there. All of her courage was gone, but Sam wagged his tail.
   Pete turned on their flashlights and handed one to her. Jenny hung a plastic shopping bag on his arm. She filled it with candles and matches earlier, but she hoped they wouldn’t need them.
   “I’ll go first, Jenny. Wait until I give you the okay before you start down. Go slow and be careful when you do.”
   Jenny pointed her flashlight downward, as Pete lowered himself onto the first step. For the first time she saw a glimpse of the bottom step and what appeared to be a floor. Only it didn’t look like a regular floor. It was made of old brick.
   “It’s okay, Jenny. You can come on down, but watch your step.” Pete moved the large flashlight around in exploration. “It’s a room, Jenny! Can you believe it? There’s a secret room right under your house.” Turning back to the steps, he aimed the light to guide Jenny’s
   By the time she reached the bottom step, Jenny felt the cool atmosphere—cooler than her air-conditioned house. She shivered, but not from the cold air.
   Sam scratched the closet floor, waiting for Jenny’s command.
   “Okay boy. You can come on down.”
   The steps were steeper than the staircases in the house. Sam moved to the bottom with little effort, in spite of the cast on his leg.
   “This isn’t really under my house, except for the corner where the steps are located.”
   “You’re right. It wouldn’t make sense to build it under the house.”
   “Guess we might as well check it out, Pete. It’s certainly not going to obey my wish and go away.”
   “Okay, but first we need to mark our way. Looks like a tunnel leads from this room toward the river. Since we don’t know the size of this place, we can’t take any chances even if Sam is with us. It’s a good thing you thought of these candles.”
   Jenny held up the phone. “We’re losing the signal. Guess I’d better leave this back at the steps. Pete, do you think this place is safe? Could it fall in on us?”
   Pete examined the walls and the ceiling before answering her. “Jenny, this place is solid as a rock. The floor and the walls are brick, and look at that ceiling. Those cypress logs look like they’re petrified. Whoever built this wanted it to last. I think I was right. This must be
the Bonner family’s hiding place.”
   Pete lit a candle and dripped hot wax onto the floor. Then he anchored the candle in the small pool of wax. They moved through the tunnel and he repeated this at every curve and turn. After a while the floor began a downward slope. Jenny knew it led toward the river.
   “Look, Pete. Is that another tunnel?”
   She pointed to an offshoot to their left. It appeared to lead back toward the house at an angle, but it was smaller and not as wide as the main tunnel.
   “Yeah, but I think this is the way to go. Bet we’re getting close to the river.” Suddenly Pete slowed down and his voice dropped to a whisper. “What’s that?”
   Ahead of them and around a turn, an eerie bluish light radiated against the tunnel walls.        Jenny’s heart did a flip-flop and she dropped her flashlight. It hit the brick floor with a clatter. The strange light vanished, replaced by a dim and more natural light. She and Pete made the turn and reached the tunnel entrance—just in time to see a man running toward the river. Sam ran ahead of them and barked at the man as he got into a small camouflage rowboat. They watched the man paddle his way through a maze of willows and out of sight.
   A low humming sound filled the air. Jenny’s ears popped and Pete covered his. They looked around as it gradually faded into silence.
   Sam barked and wagged his tail. Pete placed a finger to his lips. “Shhh.”
   Jenny stepped back into the shadows and was startled when something cold and wet hit her arm.
   “Jenny, look at that,” Pete pointed toward the willows. “It’s like a little island with a levee. Looks like the river has dumped enough dirt there to hide this place, maybe even in the wintertime. And those willows are so thick—I doubt anyone passing in a boat would ever
notice it. It’s high enough to be pretty safe from the water.”
   “That’s good.” Jenny knew it would be terrible for anyone else to discover the tunnel. One person was bad enough. She hoped the man didn’t know about the entrance into her home, but she felt certain he did.
   “That narrow inlet seems to be the only water coming in from the river,” Pete said. “Looks like it’s barely deep enough for that little boat.”
   “Pete, do you think the man was fishing, or maybe exploring the tunnel?”
   “Could be either one, Jenny, but I’m wondering why he ran away when he heard us. And what was that weird humming noise?”
   “I wish I knew,” Jenny said. “It really hurt my ears. I don’t know what made the noise. It seemed to be everywhere, so I couldn’t tell where it came from.”
   “Yeah, I know. It made me feel a bit off balance.”
   “Me too. I didn’t see anything but the man and his boat. Well, at least he didn’t try to hurt us, so maybe he’s okay. Where is that water coming from? I’m really getting wet.” Jenny turned around and aimed her flashlight at the tunnel wall. High on the wall a tiny stream of water poured out of a small crevice and landed on a rock, where it had formed a bowl-shaped pool. From the pool a narrow waterfall fell to the floor and ran out toward the river. The water hitting the pool splashed and hit Jenny in the face.
   “Hey, that’s really cool, Jenny. It’s a natural spring, probably the best water you could find. Somebody put that rock there, probably when this place was built. A natural supply of fresh water for whoever used this place.”
  Pete stopped talking and looked back into the tunnel. “Jenny, remember when I thought Homer might be a homeless man?”
   Jenny laughed. “And you couldn’t have been more wrong.”
   “Yeah, well how was I supposed to know?” Pete stopped short of saying what she was thinking.
   “It’s okay to say it, Pete. Homer is an angel—my own guardian angel. And yours too, I think.”
   “I’m having a little trouble believing that, Jenny, but I know you do and that’s good enough. Anyway, what I was about to say is that all the folks in town talk about a homeless man. Say he’s been around here forever and he looks kinda like a hobo. He never bothers anyone so they just ignore him.”
   “So he might be using this tunnel for a home?”
   “Something like that. Why don’t we find out? Come on.” Pete headed back into the tunnel. Sam ran ahead of him as if he knew the way.
   Jenny looked at her watch. “Okay, but we have to get back to the house soon. If Mom calls she’ll be worried.”
   “We have to do this, Jenny. Today is the perfect time to look around, since we know for sure he’s not here. This won’t take long.”
   With Sam in the lead, they aimed the flashlights and headed back.
   As they moved through the tunnel, Pete blew out the candles and left them in place. “We might need these again.”
   Sam turned into the tunnel’s offshoot and his unexpected barking echoed against the walls and ceiling. They heard a hissing sound and Jenny looked up. A black cat with brilliant green eyes sat on a cypress ledge just above him.
   “Guess you must be guarding the place,” Jenny said, moving closer. The cat watched her but didn’t move.
   “That confirms it, Jenny. That cat wouldn’t be here by itself.”
   “I know, and I feel like we’re trespassing, entering someone else’s home. Wish we had some other way to do this, but if he’s living down here I want to know more about him.”
   “Only one way to do that. We have to figure out a way to meet...what are you grinning about?”
   “Come on, Pete, I have an idea.” Jenny turned toward the steps. “Let’s go back to the house. I’ll explain on the way.”
   When they reached the basement, Pete shook his head in agreement. “That’s great thinking. If he is homeless, this should break the ice and we might get to meet him.”
   A few minutes later they went back into the tunnel and out to the river. Jenny looked around and found a good spot, one the man couldn’t miss when he returned—a smooth rock at the entrance.
   She placed a zippered bag of chocolate chip cookies on the rock, along with a note. She looked around and found some small rocks to anchor it from the breeze coming off the river. The bright red bow stuck to the cookie bag should catch the man’s attention. She wondered
what he would think, and she hoped the note wasn’t a big mistake.
  “It’s okay for you to be here. Don’t worry. We won’t tell anyone.”

Chapter 2

   “This is just a precaution, Jenny. I feel sure that man is harmless.” Pete pushed the heavy box onto the straw mat. “There’s no way anyone can push the door open with this on it.” He looked at Jenny over his wire-rimmed glasses. “Our secret, right?”
   Jenny nodded. “My mom would go berserk if she knew. We have to keep quiet.” She wished she could tell her mom everything, and she felt guilty for not doing so.
   She looked around the dark basement, remembering Friday afternoon when she and Pete discovered the secret door. Working to solve the dogman mystery threw them into an adventure she’d never forget, and it left her drained. Neither of them realized the danger they
were in until it was too late. She thanked God it ended well, and now she and Pete shared two special secrets—things they couldn’t tell anyone. Who would believe they met a ghost dog and he helped them solve the crime? And who would believe a guardian angel could look
like a homeless person? Remembering Homer’s last words, she smiled. “We’ll be seeing you.”
   Still, she was glad it was over. She hoped life could be normal, but discovering the hidden door changed everything. Could they be asking for trouble, again?
   She remembered her term paper research and the historians’ comments about antebellum homes having secret passages. She tried not to think about the possibility, but Pete loved it and he’d been itching to go down those dark steps ever since they discovered them. Jenny was unnerved by the discovery that part of her house sat on top of a secret room and a tunnel. Suspecting a homeless man was using it for shelter didn’t help a lot.

   Monday night Jenny baked a double batch of brownies, telling her mom she wanted to take some to school. She planned to do that, but she wanted part of the brownies to take to the tunnel. If that man was homeless and living down there, the brownies would be a rare treat for him—and it might show him that she and Pete wanted to be friends. They agreed the man wouldn’t have run away if he were dangerous.
   Later in her room, she wrestled with her conscience. She hated hiding anything from her mother, but telling her could lead to another upheaval and Jenny hated the thought of that. She didn’t know what to do, and it wasn’t like she was deliberately lying. Besides, sharing
secrets with Pete was fun.
   With Sam beside her, she went to the window to look for her star. When she found it, she knelt down and said her nightly prayers, “Dear God, please watch over my Dad.” She was silent for a moment before continuing. “And please forgive me for not telling Mom everything. I don’t want her to worry, and I know she would if she knew about the tunnel. And please watch over me and Pete and Sam. We have to find out more about that man, even though I have a feeling he’s harmless.” She looked up at her star and whispered, “Good night, Dad. I love you and I miss you so much.”
   Suddenly a streak of light flew across the night sky. Jenny stared, unbelieving. She’d seen shooting stars many times and this one was not ordinary. It appeared near the woods where they ended close to the ridge and moved in a horizontal direction across the eastern sky. Her star watched faithfully, giving reassurance.
   “I’m so glad I’ve got you, boy.” Jenny wrapped her arms around Sam’s neck and hugged him. She stroked his fur and thought of her friend, Katie, and her dog, Rusty.

   Tuesday afternoon Jenny looked toward the woods and smiled. They really are beautiful, she thought. The tall trees and thick foliage of the underbrush combined to create a perfect home for wildlife, a cool haven from the summer heat. A rabbit ran across the road and into the woods. Jenny stopped to watch, laughing.
   Pete gave her a curious look. “Never seen a rabbit before, Jenny?”
   “Only in cages. I’ve never seen one living in the wild. Are there many of them?”
   “Oh yeah, the woods and fields are full of them.”
   At home Jenny made some peanut butter sandwiches. She wrapped them carefully and then packed some brownies in a disposable container. She put the food into a bag and they went to the basement. They decided not to disturb the man until they proved he could trust
them, and that would take a little time.
   Pete took the food and some matches. At the bottom of the steps he lit the candle they left there earlier. It would burn for several hours, hopefully long enough for the man to find the food.
   Wednesday afternoon they made another trip to the tunnel, this time leaving a bag of chips and a bottle of soda. The sandwiches and brownies were gone. Jenny held the flashlight to light the steps, while Pete lit a fresh candle.
   Thursday afternoon they stopped at the supermarket. Daily trips to the tunnel had almost depleted the kitchen’s snack section. Her mom hadn’t noticed. If she did, Jenny hoped she would assume she and Pete came home hungry every day. Just in case, she spent part of her allowance and bought peanut butter, jelly, bread, and chips.
   “Pete, I think the man lives in that offshoot section, where we saw the cat. There’s nothing in the main room, so he’s not staying there.”
   She and Pete had already decided to take Sam and visit the tunnel again and, hopefully, meet its occupant.
   “I’m sure that’s it. We’ll try to find out more today.” Pete stopped his bike at Sam’s gate and examined the latch. “Jenny, he’s gone again.”
   “It’s my fault. I’m sorry, Pete. I completely forgot we were going to take him with us today. He was so miserable locked in the pen that I left it open. Sam’s so smart. I don’t think he’ll ever try to cross the road again if a car is coming, and I just don’t have the heart to keep him
from visiting Dr. Ferguson and the other dogs. Remember how he herded all of them away from that fire?”
   “Yeah, that was something to see alright. I knew Sam was special the minute I met him.”
   “Well, Dr. Ferguson sure chose the right profession. Being a vet suits him, the way he loves dogs, and the way they love him.”
   “Jenny, do you think he’ll stop being a recluse, now that’s he’s planning to open a new clinic?”
   “I sure hope so. Pete, did you see the way he and my mom looked at each other?”
   “Sure I did.”
   “They were sweethearts in high school. At least they were until Mom met my dad, and according to Uncle Rudy, it was love at first sight. He also said it broke Dr. Ferguson’s heart, ‘cause he really loved my mom.”
   “In that case, I’d bet anything that Dr. Ferguson’s finished with being a recluse. Your mom’s a pretty lady” Pete hesitated. “Does all of this bother you, Jenny?”
   “Only a little. I know my mom is lonely, and Uncle Rudy thinks so highly of Dr. Ferguson. I just want my mom to be happy again.”
   “Yeah, I know that feeling.”
   Jenny knew he did. She’d wondered how his mom coped with being without her husband. She stayed busy and tired from working two jobs. Still, five years was a long time. 
   Pete interrupted her thoughts. “You ready to feed our homeless man—if that’s what he is?”
   In the secret room, Jenny placed a bag of cookies near the candle. She followed Pete into the tunnel. When they turned into the offshoot, Jenny stopped.
   “Pete, wait. We can’t do this whoever lives here. Everyone has a right to privacy, and we’re invading his. It’s just not right. Let’s go home.”
   Pete looked at his feet. “Yeah, you’re right. I wouldn’t want someone snooping in my house either.”
   They headed back to the basement. Suddenly a deep voice called out “Hello”, and a man stepped out of the darkness, into the path of Pete’s flashlight. Pete stepped back, lost his balance, and fell to the floor. The man towered over him and Jenny thought of the big statue in front of the supermarket. It always made her think of Paul Bunyan.
   Jenny’s heart raced and she watched as the man reached down and pulled Pete up.
   “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
   Sam’s bark interrupted them. He ran in from the tunnel and straight to the man. The man knelt down and hugged him. “Hi Sam.”
   Jenny swallowed hard. Water dripped off of Sam’s fur, but the man didn’t seem to mind.
   He looked up at her and Pete. “Thank you for the food.” His speech was slow, almost careful. “My name is Amos.”
   “Mr. Amos, we don’t want to cause trouble for you, but we did want to meet you.” Pete held out his hand. “I’m Pete Montgomery, and this is my friend, Jenny Evans. Jenny lives in Bonner House, and my mom and I live in the garage apartment behind her.”
   Amos shook Pete’s hand, then ducked his head down a bit. “I’ve seen you from the woods and I wanted to meet you too. I already met Sam.” He scratched Sam behind the ears.
   “How did you meet Sam?” Jenny asked.
   “I was walking in the woods one day and he was there. I guess he followed me back to the river, ‘cause he found his way here two days later.”
   Jenny didn’t want to be nosy, but she had to learn more. “Have you been living down here very long? What I mean is we don’t mind that you’re here. We’re just wondering.”
   Amos looked thoughtful. “I reckon I’ve been living here since I was about thirteen, and I think I’m now close to fifty-three. It’s hard to keep track of time when...”
   He stopped, but Jenny knew he was about to say “...when you live like this.”
   “But why?”
   Pete took over. “Mr. Amos, it’s okay if you want to talk. I promise we won’t tell anyone.”
   “I believe you, but it’s a long story. And it’s not a very good one.” Amos’s voice was quiet, and sad. “You sure you want to hear it?”
   “We’re sure, Amos. Is it okay to call you that?”
   “Sure, Pete. Calling me mister sounds strange. I’ll tell you about myself, but it might take a while and we might have to finish it another day. Follow me, so we can have a place to sit down.”
   Amos led them into the tunnel and then into the offshoot where they saw the black cat. The cat was on the shelf and hissed once as they approached. Amos reached up and stroked her. “Hush Emerald and behave yourself. We have visitors.”
   An appropriate name, Jenny thought, remembering the cat’s green eyes.
   To their surprise, the offshoot tunnel led to a furnished living area. There were several rooms, each with its own furniture. All of it was made from unfinished cypress, turned silver gray with age. There was room enough for several families. Jenny looked at the tables, chairs and bunks, and realized Pete had guessed correctly. This was the Bonner family’s hiding place. Nothing else made sense. 
   Amos stopped in one of the rooms and lit a kerosene lamp. “Sit down. I’ll get us a glass of water. Will that be okay?”
   Jenny and Pete both nodded and looked around at Amos’s living quarters. Bunks lined the walls, stacked two and three high, but only one bunk held a thin mattress and bedding. One was filled with folded clothes and towels, and other personal items. Two of the bunks were
stacked with books. So that’s why he speaks so well, Jenny thought. 
   She saw the familiar titles and remembered a conversation with her dad. She’d complained about having to read a novel as an English assignment.
   Her dad looked surprised. “Reading is a gift, Jenny, and books are treasures. TV is okay in small doses, but nothing can replace reading. Remember that, sweetheart. Some of our greatest leaders educated themselves by reading.”
   Amos poured water from a large jug into three plastic glasses. 
   Jenny looked at the cleaning supplies sitting on a shelf to his right. He has everything he needs, she thought, but how? She couldn’t wait to hear his story. 
   Amos handed them a glass of water and smiled shyly. “It’s spring water, the best kind.”
   Jenny drank half of hers and realized she’d never tasted water so good before.
   Pete laughed. “Yeah, we saw the spring. And Jenny almost took a shower in it.”
   “It’s good for that too.” Amos said, “But you have to get used to taking a cold shower.”
Jenny shivered at the thought, and Amos laughed. 
   “It’s not too bad in the summertime. In the winter I usually heat some water and take sponge baths in here.”
   “But how?” Pete asked.
   “How do I heat water? Come and I’ll show you.” He led them out of his room and to the end of the offshoot tunnel.
   Amos pointed to a large cast iron stove with a metal chimney and a stack of firewood. “This is where I heat my bath water and do a little cooking, but I have to be careful and do it at night. And I have to put the fire out before sunrise. In the daytime smoke would draw
   They went back to his room and he refilled their glasses.
   Jenny checked her watch. “Amos, we need to get back to the house in a few minutes. My mom will worry if I don’t answer the phone and she usually calls before she leaves work. Would you rather wait until tomorrow, or start your story now?
   “I can start now and tell you more tomorrow. As I said, it’s a long story. Or would you and Pete prefer to wait?”
   Jenny shook her head, and he continued.
   “I used to live in your house, Jenny, many years ago. Me and my mother, and my sister, Mary,” Amos hesitated and took a deep breath. “And my father.”
   When he spoke the word ‘father’, he got a strange look in his eyes, like he was afraid to say it.
   “My father was a mean person. Do you know why he named me Amos? He wanted me to know and to never forget it. He said the name Amos means ‘burden’. He said children are a burden their fathers must bear in this life, so he thought it was a good name for me.”
   “And your father’s name?” 
   Amos continued in a low voice. “My father’s name is Jeremiah Polk.”
   Jenny gasped, remembering something she discovered in Bonner House—something she planned to keep to herself.

Bonner House in the dark.
Dark steps.
Night sky with moon.
UFO landing behind woods.
Path to Miss Luna's house.
The river.
Click on Scenes from
The Secret of Bonner House to open gallery.
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