Grandpa met them at the door.
“It’s my fault, Uncle Sam,” Ricky blurted. “It was my idea to go see Lost Souls. Eli didn’t want to go. I talked him into it, and we ran out of gas.”
“You boys are lucky you aren’t still sitting out there. How’d you get back?”
“I made Eli leave the truck and walk to that old farmhouse off the road to see if we could borrow some.”
Sam Jenkins frowned. “But, there’s no one there, not since--”
“We saw someone, Grandpa,” Eli interrupted. “He was sitting on the porch, smoking.”
“Impossible. People say the place is haunted, but only because of what happened.”
“What did happen, Uncle Sam?”
“A family by the name of Cain lived there years ago. They didn’t have much to do with anyone, just kept to themselves. Mr. Cain came to town for supplies one day, and when someone asked about his family, he said they were all bad sick.”
“So, some of the ladies from town took a notion to help. They took food out to the farm, but Mr. Cain wouldn’t let them in. Unwilling to take no for an answer, they returned with the sheriff to persuade Mr. Cain to accept their Christian charity.” Grandpa shook his head. “He finally gave in.”
“When they went inside, the ladies smelled something dreadful. They covered their noses with lace handkerchiefs and told the sheriff something must be terribly wrong and insisted he search the house. He found Mr. Cain’s wife and children in their beds. They’d been dead a long time.
Mr. Cain was a preacher at Lost Souls church, and he believed in faith healing. He let his family suffer, thinking he could pray over them and make them well. Didn’t really matter what he believed. In the end, he killed them just the same. Not long after, a passerby found him on the porch in his rocking chair, dead. No telling how long he’d been there.”
Later Eli lay in bed, thinking about what happened. No matter what Grandpa said, they’d seen someone, and Eli knew they’d seen the preacher. It could be he lingered, hoping his family would join him. Or, maybe he wanted their forgiveness for what he’d done. But, Eli was sure of one thing. After all those years, Mr. Cain was still waiting.