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by Rojodi
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Fantasy · #2283634
A quick story about a brownstone
The Del Pino Townhouse was one of four brownstones built in 1899, each owned by one of the four families that owned the Binnekill Country Club and sat on the board of directors for the La Chasse Cricket Club. Originally owned by the Ten Eyck family, it was purchased by New York City businessman Bartolomeo Del Pino in 1911 as a new place to operate his import business. Exotic foods from Europe, Canada, and South America were first brought into Newark, NJ, and quickly moved up the Hudson or on the New York Central to his refrigerated warehouses north of his home.

Welcomed by other business leaders, Del Pino and his associates made money for others, hired union workers, and helped the school district with purchases of books and sporting equipment. Crime had taken a downturn, something the mothers in his new neighborhood loved. They could have their children playing in the playground he had built, mostly for his own grandchildren. Peace and charm had come to the La Chasse neighborhood.

It did not last, however. Before the start of World War II, the IRS visited Charlottetown and to the surprise of everyone, had seized his townhouse and those he had turned into apartment houses. He had not paid taxes since the end of the First World War, not on his property, not on his businesses both in upstate New York and in New York City. He made a deal with the government: he would plead guilty for tax evasion and serve ten years in Leavenworth for his information on other families with whom he did business. He would be allowed to celebrate Christmas one last time and be transported to Kansas on January 1, 1941. He never boarded the train.

His body was found in the basement, hanging from chains, nude and completely drained of blood. No one claimed his body. He was buried in a local Catholic cemetery, paid for by two fellow parish members.

By the 1970s, the La Chasse neighborhood had changed. Both sporting clubs had been sold and turned into a four-year college, La Chasse College or officially known as State University College of New York at La Chasse. Division III athletically, it was known as a school for both the arts and for mathematics. It was the first school in the state to offer Computer and Information Sciences degrees (1978) and the first to have stadia for each sport. And the brownstones, once a source of pride for the city, had become worn down and there had been talked of knocking them down. It didn’t come to that: new money was pumped into the area. Genevieve Szczpanek had earned her money by wise investments and getting in on the dawn of computers. She had family in Charlottetown and loved the area. She secured the buildings for less than $100,000 total and began an intensive reconstruction and remodeling of each. Two would house high end apartments, one would be apartments for art and graduate students at the college, and the fourth would be for her.

She had five children, each with a family of their own. Most of them were close to Charlottetown and thought that her grandchildren would live with her when they attended the college.

Funny thing, though. While the buildings were being remodeled, the construction workers noticed odd occurrences. Tools would go missing, woodwork would return to its original place. Cold spots began to be complained about, especially in the Del Pino basement. She and others dismissed them as the folly of overworked men. Ghosts were seen, all white figures of men and women. Disembodied voices could be heard when the workers arrived – the crying of women and long, loud discussions just a room away. Genevieve herself witnessed two girls in Victorian dresses run down the incomplete staircase in the building in which she wanted to live. A day later, she walked into the empty northside building and smelled the aroma of bread baking.

None of her children or grandchildren wanted to join her. She had no problem renting out the luxury places, even after telling her stories to prospective buyers. The art students could not wait to move into the “haunted house”; they would have subject materials for their paintings, drawings, and literature.

She had to move; her health was not good. She wanted to leave the single-family place to any one of her extensive family, but not a single person wanted to live where death had happened, where ghosts could watch them. Genevieve moved to Arizona in August of 1982.

The freshman dorms at La Chasse suffered an arson fire in late September of the same year. Her favorite great-nephew, Mikołaj Lockwood, was a student and his dorm room had some smoke damage: his clothing smelled of hardwood fire. She called the school and had them move him into her building, along with five others who wanted to join the soccer player. No one immediately joined him: everyone else feared the ghosts.

Mikołaj laughed: He knew that the ghosts were harmless. He would enjoy being alone in the place and be able to write openly. The library – an expanded and open study/den - was going to be his favorite place. He could study and write, be able to eat and drink while doing so.

He walked into the room, all moved in, and noticed that his great-aunt was correct in having lighter hardwood on the floor, brightening the room and the atmosphere. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.

His eyes opened abruptly: he could smell bread baking and thought he heard screams.

“Oh, this is going to be great,” he thought to himself.
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