It was the summer of 1992 and my father, an investigator with the Grimsby Police Department, got called in to what would later be known as the most gruesome crime in the town’s history. Dad had me while mom vacationed in Jamaica with her new boyfriend. The rest of the year I lived with Mom, an oncologist in Brooklyn. She and Dad had separated three years prior, so Dad moved back to his hometown, where I was now legally required to spend my summers with him. Although he tried is best to shield me from the work he does, emergency is the name of the game and his emergency babysitter wasn’t available that night. Dad had no choice but to bring me with him.
Dad pulled up his old Camry in front of a grand colonial style home situated three miles up Baron’s Row, named so because the isolated mansions found there all once belonged to the sugar barons of the south. Grimsby was a small town, but it became ground zero for a bloody slave uprising just before the Civil War broke out. Many lives were lost, slave and slave owner alike. The barons who survived the rebellion fled their homes, afraid that the violence wasn’t over yet, and they were right to. Not long after, the Confederacy tried to reclaim Grimsby, but the newly freed slaves fought back with support from the Union Army. Grimsby became the site of three more devastating battles before the end of the Civil War. It’s a piece of Americana that only locals know and many have attested that Grimsby is one of the most haunted places in the American south as a result. I know this to be true.
Most of the mansions on Baron’s Row were later bought up and restored by the barons of the 20th century, a few were being used as summer homes, a handful were turned into museums and historical libraries, the rest lay desolate and abandoned still today. The one Dad was called to that summer was one of the renovated ones. I was in the passenger seat and as the mansion pulled into view I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The midsummer sun was low in the sky but the day was still warm and humid; the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulances made the shadows cast by the surrounding willow trees dance ominously on the mansion’s bone-white facade.
“Alright, biscuit,” Dad said, undoing his seatbelt, “I’m sorry I had to drag you out here. Think you can stay in the car by yourself for a few minutes?”
I hadn’t turned away from the window. “Did someone get hurt here, Daddy?”
“Well, that’s what I came here to find out,” came his Dadliest reply.
I couldn’t explain it then, but I didn’t want to be left alone in the car. I wanted to join Dad inside the mansion. I wanted to know what was going on inside. “Why can’t I come with you?”
“Because, biscuit, this is grown-up stuff. You’ll be safe in the car, okay? And I won’t be long. Do you have your book?” I nodded, showing him my copy of The Clue in the Diary. Dad kissed the top of my head and left the car. I watched him as he crossed the dirt road and approached a uniformed officer that was standing guard by the front door. They spoke briefly, then Dad disappeared inside. I glanced at the side view mirror and saw that another officer was closing off the road with yellow police tape. Ahead, a few paramedics were hanging out in the back of one of the ambulances.