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Four Years at the Mount

Inside 100 Yeaars Ago


Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

(3/2017) Snowstorm paralyzing traffic on county roads, wrecking buildings and flooding streams, Frederick County was hit Sunday by one of the worst snowstorms in recent years. About 12 inches of snow fell in Emmitsburg in just under five hours. In Liberty Township the barns of George Sites, Edward Seabrook and George Shryock suffered severe damage by the heavy snowstorm.

The door chime rattles and the man reenters, the German Shepherd slinking close to his side. He stomps his boots as his companion shimmies himself free of every loose flake. All eyes are set on him in breathless anticipation.

"There’s no getting out," he says. The room exhales in unanimous discontent. "Not tonight, probably not for the next couple days either." He unravels his scarf and swipes the snow off his portly figure. I look down into my now foamless, half-empty beer. Ridiculous, I think, absolutely ridiculous.

I am convinced the storm is retribution on my Aunt Eleanor’s behalf. I ventured to Emmitsburg for her funeral, a visit she would have deemed long overdue. I left Minnesota for Princeton three years ago, and I entertained her fantasies of a shared East Coast, of weekly letters and bimonthly visits. Her plans evaporated from my mind almost immediately upon my campus orientation. Yes, she’s concocted the storm, and she smirks at my misery from wherever she sits.

"A refill, sir?" I look up and nod at the waitress. "And would you like me to renew your reservation for tonight as well, sir?" I nod again. The lodge is at maximum capacity.

Matters could be worse, I think to myself. I overheard one gentleman at the bar talk of his original intention for a one night pit stop in Emmitsburg before making it to his goddaughter’s wedding in Kansas. I looked out my bedroom window before dinner and saw that a barn’s roof caved in by the weight of the snow. I can only begin to imagine the illness that this storm spawns. Nevertheless, I too am burdened by a missed weekend at school, so I mope my way to the dregs of this glass and prepare for another.

The crowd dwindles until I am the only one left in the lounge. I look outside and consider the flurries. If I was not trapped by them, I would say that there is something hypnotic about their nature, their chaos. How do they know exactly where they want to land? I think to myself as I watch the flakes drunkenly dart every which direction. As I ponder the beautiful chaos, lines from Aunt Eleanor’s eulogy wander in and out of my thoughts. "She was a good woman....A loving sister and a dear friend….She is in a better place now." Indeed, she was always very well intentioned, I think to myself as I stroke my finger against the empty mug.

The soft, warm buzzing in my head blends nicely with the crackling embers and the entrancing cataclysm of snow. Life is not all that bad, and yet I believe it cannot get any worse. With the thought of this pacifying juxtaposition, I drift into a deep sleep.

I jolt awake by a woman’s shriek. I squint my eyes in attempts to orient myself. I have a panging headache. It is still dark and cold. The wind still whips the snow in every which way beyond the lounge window, and the embers in the chimney scintillate the pitch black ashes. The woman screams again. This time, adrenaline rushes through my body. Upstairs, I think to myself. The voice is coming from upstairs. I feel my way towards the staircase. Footsteps above me patter towards the noise. The grandfather clock strikes three and the woman screams and screams and screams. I run up the winding staircase, taking the steps two by two, and I finally meet a huddle of visitors surrounding the voice. I crane my neck over the crowd and push my way past them. I am instantly paralyzed as my eyes transfix themselves on the crying woman draped over a corpse.

More individuals scamper to the scene until every resident in the lodge surrounds the woman in utter disbelief. Finally, an elderly woman emerges from the crowd, gently peels the woman away from the corpse, and cradles the woman’s face against her chest.

"Oh sweet, Jesus!" A voice sounds. Everyone instantly recognizes the man as the dispatcher who confirmed the road’s poor condition just a few short hours ago. His head is lolled to the side and his glasses are strewn beside it. He could not have been more than 65 years old. Did he suffer a heart attack? A stroke? A bad fall?

Two men come forward and propose that we move the body away from the crowded hallway and into the lounge. No one raises an objection.

Within minutes, the man’s cold body lies on the couch. The old woman holds a cup of tea to the shocked lady’s lips. She strokes her blonde, disheveled hair and whispers "There, there, sweetie. There, there. Can you tell us what happened? What did you see?"

"I couldn’t sleep, so I was going to get a glass of water. I went outside my room," she clutches her fist against her lips and fighting back tears says, "And then I saw him." The crowd’s attention shifts from the woman back to the body.

"I called the medic and the police," says the bartender. "But they can’t make it over here until the roads are cleared. It’s still a mess out there."

"Who is he?" The crying woman asks.

"George Brithes," the bartender says, rubbing his neck in disbelief. "He owned this place for 30 years."

I draw closer to George’s body. He is still in his day clothes. His boots still drip from the snow, and his fingers are charred with cigar ash. I notice the intricacies of his mustache and the pores of his skin. I then notice something that I and everyone else in the room had previously overlooked. George has a significant bump on his temple and bruising around his neck. It then hits me: George Brithes was murdered. I stagger backwards. The pain in my head now quivers in my knees and stomach. I think I might vomit. George Brithes was murdered, I think to myself. Murder! He was killed inside this hotel, and the murderer could not possibly flee Emmitsburg until the snow storm subsides…

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