My family had lived on this land for a hundred years before my grandparents disappeared without a trace. My parents had come home to find them gone. The pot was still on the stove. Dishes on the table. Grandpas’ newspaper and a shot glass of bourbon on the side table. Grandma’s knitting in the bag beside her chair. clothes piled in the hamper, ready for the washer. They left in mid-living and never seen or heard from again.
Decades later, I was back at the old homestead looking for answers. Police and family members searched and cleared out the house long ago. All that remained was a rotted decaying shell of a house. The old car still sat in the yard near what had once been a driveway. I tugged on a door handle, and the car door creaked as it open, but as I expected, I found nothing inside.
The rickety front door opened easily, and I stepped inside. Memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with tables all over the house and the smell of chicken and turkey and warm bread oozing through the house flooded my thoughts. Images of children playing. I shuddered and was back in the shabby room. Glass from broken windowpanes lay scattered about the floor, boards loose, the house dangerous to walk through.
Only dust greeted me as I walked into the kitchen. I poked around and opening an upper cabinet, and shiny, beady, little eyes greeted me. A mouse, startled by the sudden light and scurried through a small hole in the corner of the cabinet.
I almost ignored the hole, but it was too neat for a mouse to gnaw through. There was no electrical box near the cabinet. So why the hole?
I found an old newspaper and wiped away the dust and mouse droppings in the cabinet. Standing On the one remaining chair that looked solid, I reached into the cabinet and felt the hole with my finger. A drill bit had made it. I hooked my finger over the wood and gently pulled. It moved. The panel pulled away, and I found a metal box between the studs.
I took the box and headed outside into the sunshine. Resting the box on the hood of the old car, I pried the box open. There were papers inside, their papers, and I began to understand their lives.
The papers inside revealed a story no one told my family. In the early years of their marriage, my grandparents witnessed a murder. The police kept their involvement out of the papers and provided them with protection until the day word came that the people responsible for the murder had learned their identity. The police placed my grandparents into protective custody without a word to their family, hoping to keep everyone safe.
I placed the papers back in the box—time to go home and tell the family that their grandparents left to save them all.