Skeletons in the Closet
By Kathy VanWey
“What the?” The attractive blonde was stunned to return home to find her residence lit up like a disco from the police cruiser lights pulsating to an eerie beat.
“This is my wife, Jonni,” her husband introduced her to the policeman.
“What happened?” She looked bewildered surveying the multitude of cops milling around, their radios crackling an ear-piercing static. “Somebody open up a new donut shop?” She joked weakly.
“You know that garden pond you wanted in the backyard,” her husband remarked, “I was digging up the stupid bird fountain . . .”
“You dug up St. Francis of Assisi? Damn it all, Buck, how could you? That was my grandmother’s! And my flower bed - the hours I spent. We agreed to put the pond back in the corner. What were you thinking?”
“Excuse me, folks,” the officer struggled to get a word in edgewise. “Ma’am,
your husband found a dead body…actually, a skeleton Do you know anything about it?”
“Oh, my God,” she staggered. The lawman instinctively put his arm around the back of her waist to steady her.
Like I said,” Buck continued. “She insisted on moving into this dump . . .”
Jonni interrupted, “The house has been in my family for four generations. It’s an old Victorian that needs a lot of TLC to bring it back to its former glory.”
“It should be bulldozed,” he snarled. “I swear place is haunted. Sometimes I hear footsteps, like people are running away. Other times I hear voices crying out in the night.”
“Officer,” she cracked, “you’re my witness. He’s hearing voices . . .”
“The skeleton,” Sergeant Cortez took control of the conversation.
“I’m sorry,” she offered. “I didn’t grow up here, but I came to visit often.” She paused to wave away an annoying bumblebee. “Oh geesh … I must have only been eight or nine, but I remember my great-grandfather talking about his dad being in the Civil War. I vaguely recall him talking about hiding people. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what the Underground Railroad was.”
“That does it!” Buck ordered. “We’re selling this dump. You and your Pollack- Hunkie relatives. I don’t care how many generations have lived here.”
“My family is Czechoslovakian,” she fumed.
“And Hungarian!” He shot back.
“Whatever . . .”
“Why don’t you call your Uncle Johnny to see what he knows?”
“When are you going to get it straight?” She stomped her foot. “The house came through my father’s side of the family. Uncle Johnny is my mother’s brother.”
He commented, “Sergeant, it doesn’t matter. She was named after the old geezer. He’s ninety, she’s thirty and she still asks his permission to take a leak.”
“We’re okay,” a member of the forensic unit walked over to them. “Civil War items were found with the body.”
Buck asked, “Are they real?”
“I’ve been into Civil War re-enactment for years. They’re authentic all right.”
Sergeant Cortez wiped the sweat off his brow with his forearm. “Good. With this month long heat wave we’ve been having, the Coroner is swamped. They’ve had to bring in refrigerated trucks. He told me that the Cook County records show they haven’t been this far behind since the shootouts of the old Al Capone/Elliot Ness days.” Smiling he continued, “I guess we saved him a boat load of work and the county a truckload of money on this one.”
Jonni inquired, “What will be done with the remains?”
“They’ll be cremated.”
“And with your permission,” the re-enactor offered, “I know a museum that would be tickled to have those relics.”
“Oh, sure,” she answered.
“There ya go.” Cortez snapped shut his notebook. “I realize that this has been one heck of a shock. We’ll get out of here so you folks can get back to normal.”
Jonni rolled her eyes. “This is as normal as it gets.”
“You dumb …” Her husband caught himself before saying something in front of the cop.
The police officer stared hard at them. “Ma’am, here’s my card. Don’t hesitate to call the station for anything.” He glared at Buck. “Anything!” He emphasized again for her benefit.
As the officers left, Jonni reached into her pocket producing out a twenty. “Go to Angelo’s,” she told her husband, “and get us a pizza.”
“Pepperoni and mushrooms or hamburger and sausage?”
“Whatever. I’m too tired to think.”
As he pulled the car out of the driveway, she picked up the phone. “Uncle Gianni? It’s me. You were so right. I should have listened to you. Buck is the boil on the A-hole of all mankind.”
“We all make stupid mistakes,” he comforted her with his thick, Sicilian accent. “Does numb-nuts still think I’m a Hunkie?”
“Yeah,” she giggled. “I have no idea where he came up with that. You’re the poster-boy for a Mafia Don, especially with that magnificent mane of white hair.”
“Does he know your name is really Gianna?”
“Not a clue. By the way, I told the idiotso to dig up the northwest corner for a garden pond. He waited till I was gone and dug up the St. Francis fountain.”
“Shit. Did he find it?”
“I’ll say. The Civil War articles were a nice touch. It threw the cops and forensics team totally off base. Who was it?”
“Frankie ‘The Rat’’ Margione. He was a bagman who finked to the D.A.
Did you think the statue was a nice touch? I thought maybe St. Francis could pray for The Rat’s sorry ass.”
“You’re a great humanitarian.”
“Is there anyplace else I shouldn’t dig?”
“Yea. Don’t go near the garage floor. The Asinoli brothers are there. They got outta line, skimming off the top.”
“Exactly. And there’s a false wall in your basement. The Giancomo gang was trying to horn in on our action.”
“We can’t have that.”
“I knew you’d understand,” he stopped to clear his raspy throat. “You know how your fireplace in the dining room doesn’t work?”
“Don’t ever get it fixed.”
“Too many skeletons in the closet?” she bantered casually.
“Yea. There and upstairs in the far bedroom, plus the attic.”
“Uncle Gianni, you’ve got to come out here and point these places out to me one-by-one.”
“I hope I remember them all.”
“Me too.” She looked out the window. “Damn!”
“Yes. I hate the sight of him.”
“Tell you what, my little bambina. You’ve been through enough and I’m not getting any younger. Make me a wish list of everything you want done in the house - painting, siding, roofing, new furnace, appliances, whatever your heart desires. Considerate it your birthday and Christmas gifts for years to come.
Jonni grinned widely as she played with the telephone cord. “Could we start with a new garden pond?”
“Princess, I’ll build you the most spectacular garden pond you’ve ever seen. Besides,” he snickered as he took a puff off his cigar, “we wouldn’t want to waste a perfectly good grave, would we?”
“Uncle Gianni! Thank you! That’s the best gift of all!”