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The convict paced back and forth in the small cell at the death row of the prison, mumbling to himself damning words to his guilt of his crime. He was rather young but his crudely cut hair atop a grim face with sunken eyes and hollow cheeks caused him to look like a haunted man; his facial features were as grey as his prison garb. The manner in which he spoke to himself was dour and sullen shadowed by a habitual reserve of haunting that echoed the misery of the recent past.

"Don't wanna die, don't wanna die!' he repeated in his mumbling jargon!'. As he paced the cell floor he raised his arms in supplication and called out, 'Lordy, Lordy save me I don't wanna die. D'ye hear me Lordy'. He lowered his arms and went to the narrow barred window and looked out - his mumbling voice turned into a soft voice of confession.

"Everyone knew that my Uncle Thaddeus was a rich man. I heard that he distrusted banks and kept his fortune somewhere in his run down mansion. I didn't mean to ham him, but I needed money to pay off a betting debt. I visited him once or twice to ask for a bit of cash or even a loan, something; but the repeated word 'no' my miserly uncle had said over and over again left me in a funk.

''Nobody knew what my Uncle Thaddeus did with his money, so nobody knew where his hid money and where he stashed it in his decrepit mansion. That monstrous place was a three story pile of brick and stone filled with all sorts of heavy furniture, small statues and all sorts of artistic junk. Twenty-two rooms it had mostly closed off to light of day, except for two that was reserved for his living quarters.

"He was a real loner; except for an old biddy that came daily with groceries in her arms to do a bit of cleaning in those two rooms and rustle up a meal for the old man. She didn't stay long in the house, three or four hours at the most. The rest of the day and night my Uncle Thaddeus was left to his lonesome self.

"Night after night for a few hours I spied on that dwelling and watched as a dim light moved along the stairs to the second floor. It was sixth night of my vigilance when I had enough courage, fortified through drink, that I took my chance. That fateful evening when the moon was high I saw again the light of a lantern moving inside along the stairs to one of the closed off rooms. 'He is going to his money', I exclaimed with greed in mind. The rustling of the branches of ancient oak and beech dampened my hesitant footsteps upon the leaves strewn on the vast grounds. Slowly I crept to the ancient dwelling and forced my way inside through a rusty shutter hiding a broken leaded window on the ground floor. 'Didn't need to smash my way in!'

"The light of the moon was strong enough to make way through the ground floor to the winding staircase. The dark of night released the shadows like ghosts, which scared the devil out of me, but the waning strength of the spirits gave me a bit of courage to carry on. Slowly I made my up the stairs, each creak of the ancient wood sent a fear of discovery to my thumping heart. Yet I stalked till I reached the second floor landing. Then I looked around with my eyes till I spotted a faint light under one of the doors of a closed room.

''Before I was able to reach the guiding light to that door I felt a skeletal hand gripping my shoulder. Turning quickly I saw form of a man in the darkened corridor, aged in years and all in black – Uncle Thaddeus! I don't recollect what happened next, but when I awoke the next morning I found myself at the second floor landing with an aching head. As I looked at the bottom of the staircase I saw a bleeding corpse with terror written on his aged facial features. His boney index finger seemed to be pointing at me accusingly.

'There was no treasure locked away in that room in that ancient mansion, but only the mummified remains of my great aunt set gracefully on an armchair in a furnished apartment in a setting of ages gone by. My Uncle Thaddeus was not counting his coinage but it was his nightly ritual to visit the remains of his beloved and to enjoy her company."

'The miserable convict called out and shook his fist. 'All for nothing – Just nothing at all…"

----

The inmate turned away from the barred window when he heard the marching of feet coming towards his cell….


------
Norman A. Rubin


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by Norman A. Rubin





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