CHAPTER ONE: EARLIEST MEMORIES
Daddy. Poor, sweet, daddy. I remember you. How often I stood at your grave, making promises…vowing to bring your killers to justice. They wanted it all, it seemed; your money, your business, your finesse, your mind, your wife and child, your classy wit…even your house and car. How they wanted to be you. But nobody could be you, except you. They didn’t realize that. There was only one you.
We were happy. You, mama, and I were more than happy; we were in paradise. We had a family, then. We were family. You were there, then. So was mama. Lord, how I miss you both.
We never did without when you were alive. You saw to that. Of course, you were always working hard to see that we always had enough to spare for a passing stranger. At the time, I was too young to understand. But I soon learned the hard way.
My earliest recollection of your voice was the day you took us to the county fair. I had to be about two or three at the time. We were at the ball toss stand and you decided to win me a teddy bear. I really had no clue why, but your thoughtfulness and love filled me with delight.
“Maggs,” your sweet tenor voice seemed to coo, “I’m going to win you a big teddy bear today. Wait and you see.”
And you did. Your fist throw was the lucky one. But, then, you always were lucky at everything you did. Your newspaper, the mill, the farm, the investments you made. Everything you touched turned to gold. Best of all, the family—our family—was a happy one. My early childhood was a happy one.
Mama once told me how things had started. Back in Boston, you’d been a very successful partner in your family’s business. Your success had even surpassed that of your seven older brothers. This, of course, made them extremely jealous. So jealous, in fact, that they began to plot your murder.
She said that it was shortly before this point that she met you. Mere months afterward, you proposed. It was instantaneous love. You two were meant for one another. You both knew it, too.
Once you learned of your brothers’ plot against you, you began to set into motion a plot of your own. First, you transferred all you money to an out-of-state bank. Then, you wisely sold off your portion of the family business. Finally, you moved—as a family, just you and her—to a farm in Oklahoma, where I was born.
Mama said that I was the apple of your eye from the very beginning. You doted on me constantly. You were always bringing something new home for me. Of course, you always made sure that mama had everything she needed as well. But, I was the center of your—and her—attention. I was your baby girl.
Once we’d gotten settled in Oklahoma, you and mama began to go to church. As the months went by, you even began your own business…taking on a local man as a business partner. Perhaps this was your gravest mistake, trusting someone you’d just met.
But you always were a trusting person. You always gave everyone a chance.
You were soon made a deacon in your church, and mama became a trusted servant within the women’s group. I was baptized and became a member as well, though I knew of none of what was going on. You always saw to it that I was always included in everything that you did. And I am thankful that you did.
Your business took off immediately. Success was quick, and you soon became a force to be reckoned with within the community. As your influence grew, so did the resentment of others in the town. They were jealous of your prosperity.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before it happened, but when it finally did, you were destroyed. Again, you were forced to give up your business…the newspaper. But you were allowed to keep your dignity for a while longer, and you bought a mill. This time, you went solo. No more business partner would help you run your business.
The paper mill took off immediately as well. And, again, we were happy for a time. But success, it seemed, was fleeting at best. Happiness too seemed to be fleeting. For rumors began to surface, rumors that mama knew to be untrue…but was helpless to stop. Soon, the turmoil began, and you were forced to give up the mill to some shady locals who coveted everything you had…your business, your wife, your child, your home, and your money. Everything that they’d not worked for.
That left us with just the farm. This, you decided, was to be your retreat from everything. Here, you’d planted a garden—not for profit, but rather, for our own use. Thus, broken businesswise, you came home to stay. You returned to us with a herd of cows, some sheep, and a few hogs. These were to make us selfsufficient. And they did.
But our troubles were far from over. The rumors persisted, and scandals abounded. Not one of these were ever proven to be true, but there were many among the town folk that swore that everything that was spoken by any town gossip and hussy was the ‘God’s honest truth.’ Yet mama knew different. You never once made any unholy bargains. You never sold your soul. You were just a natural at business. You had the Midas touch.
I suppose that it was these rumors of dealings with the devil, infidelities to mama, and your growing distrust of the townspeople that finally destroyed you. It was amid these things that you began going out of town and gambling. Mama always made sure that she gave you just enough money that you could feel that you had a great amount, but you never had all the money. She only gave you a small amount. Doing so, she made sure we had plenty of money to get through.
It just seemed as though you just gave up on life, or at least religion. It seemed that no matter how pure you were, the townspeople were always less so and were out to destroy all who were truly faithful. And they destroyed you…or so they thought. For no matter how much money you gambled with, you always seemed to come home with ten times what you left with. Your luck, it seemed, was your fatal flaw.
No matter how normal you wished your luck to be, it always seemed to remain at excellent. You natural abilities ensured that no matter what you did, you would succeed. People just couldn’t understand that. They only understood that you seemed to have a supernatural knack at making money. It was their envy that drove them to start rumors and cause scandal. Their fear would turn to hate and drive them, as a community, to commit murder. Their hypocrisy would lead to the self-destruction of the community. They, themselves, would eventually become the final victims of their own witch-hunt.
I, eventually, would see that many of them would suffer a fate worse than the one they doomed you to. I hated them all. I would make them all pay for the wrongs they’d committed against you. I would see that they would pay dearly for your murder.
I would see that your name was cleared of all scandal. I would uncover, for all to see, the plot that the community had hatched against you. I would see to their being brought to justice. They would pay for taking my daddy away from me. Their gains would become my recompense, compensation for my loss. I would soil the town’s reputation in the history books. I, Magdalena Usher, would see that the whole world would know the crime the town had perpetrated against you. The whole world would exalt the name of Calvin Charles Usher.