She started up the path towards the big white house. The bus dropped her off in town and wouldn’t drive up the path. After all these years she
couldn’t believe that people were still afraid of this place. After all, what really happened? Three unexplained deaths and the hired help
disappear without a trace? That’s the thing about small towns, too many people with nothing to do but start rumors.  

She arrived at the gate and pushed it through. The “No Trespassing” sign was covered in spider webs and moss. The trees that surrounded the
path were so dense; it looked like it was midnight. The Cordova residence always looked like midnight. Did she really have any happy memories
here? She looked towards the left where the tire swing used to hang. It was the very same spot where her brother Zachary hit his head and died.
At least that what her parents said happened to him.  

Her name was Priscilla Cordova. She and her twin brother Phoenix were the youngest of four. Zachary, the one that died at the age of nine was
the eldest. The middle child was Frederick. He was always the stubborn one. He was the one that didn’t want to sell the house once their parents
mysteriously died. Then one day she received a letter in the mail stating she and Phoenix had full ownership of the house,  

“Lucky me!” she said as she walked through the house.  

It smelled like rotting wood. All the furniture was covered in sheets, who covered it, she asked herself?  

After unpacking the little belongings she brought with her, she called Phoenix to let him know she was there.

“How does the old place look?” He asked.  

“Not that great. Everything is dusty and it smells like mold. When are you getting in so you can start selling this place? I have to be back in L.A.
next week.”

There was a sigh on the other end, “I don’t think I’m going to make it Pris. I have a ton of work to do. Just sell the place on your own. I’m sure
some contractor in town is dying to get their hands on that place. It will be a quick sell.”
She knew he wouldn’t come through.

“You’re meaning to tell me that I have to stay in this place by myself? I hate this place and you know it.”

“Look, I have to go. I’ll sign anything you want. But I’m not going to the Cordova Ranch ever again. I hate that place just as much as you do,”
There was a pause, “By the way, did you go up to that room in the attic yet?”

Priscilla shook her head, “I don’t intend to. Nice talking to you Phoenix.”

She hung up.

She woke up early the next morning to have breakfast. She got ready, grabbed her purse and headed towards town again. The walk wasn’t as
creepy as it was yesterday; it was actually pleasant. Hal’s diner was always her favorite place to eat. She went in and sat at a table next to the
window.

The waitress approached her with the menu and half smiled, “Can I get you some coffee or water?”

Priscilla nodded, “Coffee please; with milk, not of that non-dairy creamer stuff.”  

“Sure thing, sweetheart.”

She felt very uncomfortable sitting there by herself. It’s like everyone knew who she was, yet they didn’t approach her to say hello.

She rolled her eyes, “Silly small town folks”.  

The waitress returned with her coffee and a small container with milk.

“Two percent okay, hun?”

Priscilla looked up from her notes, “Yes thank you. I’ll have the eggs with bacon and pancakes please.”

The waitress nodded. “I’ll have that right out for you in a few minutes Miss Cordova”.

“You know who I am?” asked Priscilla.

“Of course, everyone in town heard you were coming to sell your parents place.  Just a couple of weeks ago that brother of yours Frederick
came to town and tried to sell it. Then one day he just came in here and said he was going to leave that task up to you.”  

“Well, I didn’t even know he had come all the way to Lakeville being that he’s a busy lawyer in San Diego.”

“Good luck with selling the place,” said the waitress.

“Do you know anyone who’s interested in the place? It’s a nice big house. It needs some work, but all together it’s a beautiful home.”  

Priscilla couldn’t believe her real estate skills; she was actually trying to make the house seem like a Beverly Hills mansion.

The waitress raised her eyebrow, “I haven’t heard anyone in town looking to relocate, but I’ll keep my ears open. By the way, I’m Kathy, Kathy
Odell.”

“Pleasure to meet you Kathy and thank you for breakfast,” said Priscilla.  

After breakfast she took a stroll to the local market to buy some groceries. She needed to eat while living in this place. She bought some
essentials and headed back towards the ranch.

On the way she posted a flyer she previously made at home. She posted it on the town’s bulletin board: Cordova Ranch for Sale please call 323-
555-7850 for more information. Will negotiate any offer.

“I sound desperate”. She said to herself.  

Just then a man walked by and smiled, “You’re the Cordova girl.”

She nodded, “Yes, I’m Priscilla. Are you interested in the place?”  

His smiled turned into a frown, “No, I’m not in the market for a house, but there are some people from San Diego that are looking for a vacation
home. I can give then your information if you like.”  

“Wow, yes, excellent! Wow, that was easy. That would be great!”

“I’ll go up to the ranch around three this afternoon before it gets dark of course.”

“Are you afraid of the dark?” said Priscilla in a teasing voice.

He sighed, “No, I’m just afraid of what went on in that house.” He paused, “My name is Bradley by the way,” he extended his hand to Priscilla.  

She shook it and walked away.    

The house was so cold when she returned from town. She opened the old curtains in the living room. As a kid, she remembered spending little
time in this room. But the light was always bright in here. Today, it was grim and not that cheerful.  

Suddenly she felt a gust of wind. She ran upstairs to close any open windows. All the windows were closed.  

Then, she saw the door to the attic. Phoenix asked her if she was going to up there.  If she was ever going to sell this place she was going to have
to clean it out.

There were boxes everywhere and in the corner was a trunk of old toys. She opened it and sat on the floor. She found stuffed animals and toy
trucks. Most of those toys belonged to Zachary. Life is so precious and it could be over in a blink of an eye.  

She looked up from the trunk and noticed the door covered by boxes. Her parents didn’t allow anyone in the attic, much less anywhere near
that door. She stood up from the floor and walked towards the door. She placed her hand on the door knob and suddenly felt a cold chill up her
spine. She pushed it open; it was dark with only a speck of light coming from a boarded up window. She searched for a light switch, but there
wasn’t one. She took down the boards. There was a small twin bed pushed up towards the wall. She couldn’t understand why there as a bed in
here. Nobody stayed here and this certainly wasn’t the guest room. There was a small night stand next to the window.

She looked towards the wall and saw a very small portrait. Priscilla walked towards it and noticed it was family portrait. Everyone was in it,
including Zachary.  
Why was this up here? She looked at the wall; it seemed to be like hieroglyphics.  There were drawings of stick figures and simple words. Kill,
die, dead.   

Priscilla ran out of there immediately. She quickly dialed Frederick’s number, as usual, he didn’t answer.

She left him a voicemail, “Fred. It’s Pris. I’m going through the things in the attic and I found a room with a bed in there. Do you know who slept
there? Call me back please”.  

She was startled by the door bell. She ran downstairs and opened it.  

“Did I scare you?” asked Bradley smiling from ear to ear.

“No. I was upstairs looking through some boxes. Come in.”  

Bradley came in to the foyer and paused.  

“Want to come sit in the living room? Sorry this isn’t a cozy house” said Priscilla.  

“Well I only came to give you that information you wanted. I have to be getting back to town.”  

“Don’t be silly. Please have a seat.”

He sat in a chair next the coffee table.  

“How long has it been that you haven’t returned to the ranch?” he asked.  

Priscilla thought for a while, then answered, “It’s been about, oh, fifteen years. I left when I was nineteen. I left to go to school in San Francisco
and never looked back. I graduated and moved to Los Angeles where I’m currently teaching at a college. I didn’t even come to my parent’s
funeral.”  

“Do you even know how they died?” asked Bradley and he leaned forward in his seat.  

“The housekeepers that remained here said my mother committed suicide and my father had a heart attack”.  

“Do you honestly believe that?” said Bradley.  

“Well, yes, what else could’ve happened? My mother wasn’t exactly the happiest person on earth. After Zachary died, she changed. She never
looked out for us. We were dead to her. She was basically clinically depressed for the rest of her life. My father was always working in the city
to keep the family fortune alive. I never saw him.”

Priscilla bit her lip and looked away.

Bradley sighed, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to upset you.”  

“No, it’s okay. By any chance, do you know who lived up in the attic?”

“I don’t know, maybe one of the housekeepers. Why do you ask?”

“It wasn’t the housekeepers that lived up there; they had their private quarters near the kitchen. As children we weren’t allowed to step foot in
the attic and now I know why, someone was living up there.”  

Bradley stood up, “I wouldn’t know and you can’t ask the housekeepers because they left town.” he handed her a piece of paper. “Here is the
information you asked for. I have to return to town.”  

He started towards the door, “Wait, Bradley, can’t you stay awhile. It’s nice talking to someone.”

He opened the door, “Let’s have lunch tomorrow at Hal’s. I may have some more information on your little mystery.”

He turned and walked away leaving Priscilla with an empty feeling in her stomach.

Before she went to bed Priscilla decided to call Phoenix, this time he answered promptly.  

“Hello little sister, how’s Lakeville? Did you turn into a country girl yet?” asked Phoenix with a fake southern accent.

“No, I’m not a town folk yet. However, I’m spending time with country folk.”  

“This isn’t time for a love connection Pris. Get in there, sell the house and get out,” ordered Phoenix.

“I’m trying, but this isn’t exactly Disneyland where flocks of people are lining up to see the house. People are afraid of this place, I’m not sure
why,” She took a deep breath and continued, “I went into the attic today.”

“Oh, what did you see?”

“I found a private room with a bed. The windows were all boarded up and the walls had drawings and words written on them. Ugly words. Who
lived up there?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe it was one of the housekeepers that lived there or one of their kids,” said Phoenix.

“Then why weren’t we allowed to go up there. Remember that one time when Frederick dared me to go up there so I opened the door and mom
came out of her bedroom and smacked me? If it was just a housekeeper’s kid up there, then why go through that trouble?” Priscilla sat on the
bed, “I have to know what’s going on.  How did mom and dad die?”

“Pris. You know how they died. Look, I think this whole situation is turning you into a Lifetime movie character. Just sell the house and get
back to L.A.”

She hung up. As much as she missed her home, she had a task here and needed to complete it; even if it meant staying in this creepy house.  

Priscilla sat in a booth promptly at noon. She had to admit that she was excited about her lunch plans with Bradley. She didn’t know if it was
because she wanted to learn the secrets of the house, or if it was because Bradley was a handsome, country man. She giggled to herself, how
depressing was her life that she found a country man handsome. She didn’t even know if he was married.

Outside the storm clouds started to gather. Rain was on its way. Then again, it was always gloomy in Lakeville.  

Bradley came in and wiped his feet on the doormat. He smiled at her showing his wide, white smile.  

“Sorry I’m late, someone stopped by my store to buy some animal feed.”

“You and your wife own it?” asked Priscilla.

Bradley let out a loud laugh, “No. I own it. I’m not married.”

He held up his left hand to show his missing wedding band.

Priscilla smiled. She was relieved. Again, she felt silly for even asking about a wife. It shouldn’t matter. Like Phoenix said, this wasn’t the best
time for a love connection.

They had small talk during lunch. Kathy, the waitress, couldn’t keep her eye off of them. Perfect, thought Priscilla, now she would be branded
the town slut! Her thoughts were disturbed when Bradley spoke.

“So, do you really want to know who lived up there?”

She nodded, “Yes. I have to know the truth. It seems everyone around me knows something, except me.”  

He sighed, “Someone definitely lived up there. In 1959 your mother gave birth to a child. It was a boy. His name was Isaac. He wasn’t born in
this town. He was born in San Diego. That’s where your parents lived before they moved here. They didn’t actually move here until Isaac was
two and your mother was pregnant with Zachary…”

Priscilla interrupted, “There must be some mistake, my parents didn’t have another child there were only four of us.”  

“Try to be patient with me please” Bradley continued, “Isaac was born with a rare birth defect where his face was severely deformed along with
fingers and toes.  The doctors didn’t know why this happened, that’s why your parents came to the ranch. Your parents were too ashamed of
having such a mutant child that they locked him in the attic. They even hired an extra nanny to care for him. Her name as Esmeralda, she was
my mother,” he paused, “I’m not making this up. Want me to stop?”  

Priscilla took a sip of her coffee, “No. Continue please.”  

“My mother cared for him as if he was her own. Your mom would come visit him once a week. Usually on Sunday, but she would only see him
through a peep hole in the door. As he grew, she saw less and less of him. He became very violent. Usually it was towards himself. He tried to
jump out the window one day, that’s why they boarded them up. One day my mother went upstairs with a tray of food and Zachary saw her. He
hid behind some boxes and when she left he walked towards the door. He looked through a peep hole and saw his brother sitting on floor eating
his dinner. Zachary opened the door and went into the bedroom.  Suddenly Isaac charged at him with a knife and stabbed him in the neck. Your
brother was stabbed fifteen times before my mother came up to retrieve his plate.”

Tears streamed down her checks, “What happened to Isaac after that?”

“Your parents wanted him dead, but they didn’t have the heart to do it. My mother said that they offered her five hundred thousand dollars to
shoot him or poison him. But my mother wasn’t a murderer. After Zachary died, your mother never went up to see Isaac again. Your father
never visited him either. It was as if he didn’t exist. My mother said that Frederick snuck up to the attic one day because he heard screams.
Your brother saw Isaac too, but he was lucky that Isaac was strapped to his bed. I know this is difficult to hear, but you asked me to tell you the
truth and now I’m telling you.”

“What happened to your mother? Did she die?”  

“No, she’s alive. She moved away after your parents were killed.”

“Killed? You mean died?”

“No, killed”, he took a deep breath. “Two years ago, my mother accidentally left the door unlocked. She went into the kitchen to get him some
water so he could take his anxiety pills. Isaac hadn’t had a violent episode in years, so he wasn’t being strapped in. He walked all the way to your
mother’s bedroom. Your mother was sitting in her vanity, he took a letter opener that was on the desk and stabbed her in the back. I’m sure
your mother yelled, but nobody heard her. Your father was in the shower, that’s where he died. Isaac went in there and also stabbed him. When
my mother came back upstairs, she found Isaac next to his mother crying.  My mother said that she hugged Isaac, put him in the car and drove
him to a little town called Heber where she set him up in a house. The lady that runs it takes care of other people that were abandoned by their
families.”

“Did he kill anyone else?” asked Priscilla with tears in her eyes.

“No, and he hasn’t since.”

Outside, the rain started to come down. Priscilla felt like the rain was coming down on her.  

“Is your mother still alive? I have to go see him. Maybe I can take him out of there and he could come live with me in LA.”  

“My mother moved away to Mexico earlier this year. She hasn’t come to see him in months, but from what she tells me, he’s doing fine there.
Besides, what can you offer him? You don’t’ know him. He’s fifty years old. He barely even talks to anyone.”

Priscilla stood up in a huff, “I could offer him a home and family. Things he’s never experienced. And if I can’t manage I could set him up in a
nice private home in LA with the rest of his family.”  

She ran out of the diner. She ran all the way home in the rain. By the time she reached the ranch she was drenched.  

After her bath she called Phoenix to tell him the truth. But he didn’t answer. She called Frederick; she was lucky this time.

“What’s happening?”

“Hey, I have some story to tell you.”

“Did you sell it yet?”

“No, not yet just listen. Did you know that we had another brother?”

There was complete silence on the other end.

Then he spoke, “Was your job to sell the house or become Priscilla the detective?”

“That’s rude! Did you know or not?”

“Yes, I knew! I saw him with my own eyes!”
“Then, why didn’t you ever tell us about him? He’s our brother and now he’s locked up in some house in Heber, who knows where the hell it is.
We have to get him out!”

“And do what with him Priscilla? Sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya? The man is an animal! He killed Zachary and our parents. Why
would I want him near me?”  

“I can’t believe you! He’s not animal…“

Frederick interrupted her, “Listen you tree-hugging hippie, that thing that I saw in the attic isn’t human. He’s a monster. I saw pure evil in his
eyes. He’s the devil incarnated and you want to bring him into your home and live happily ever after? Well no. I’m sorry Pris but you’re on
your own. Don’t call me until you sell that house!”

He hung up and left her sitting in the dark.  

She couldn’t sleep that night. She looked at her watch, 4:00 a.m. She got up and went downstairs to make some tea. The house was extremely
cold so she wrapped her robe around her tighter. She sat at the table and waited for the water to boil. How many times as children did they
scream and laugh outside. And how many times had Isaac heard them. His window looked right out to the tire swing. She remembered looking
up one day and seeing a tiny face in the window, but she thought it was her imagination. Now, she knows it wasn’t. She sipped her tea and went
upstairs to her bedroom.

On the way to her room she stopped in what was her parents’ bedroom. Priscilla opened the door and turned on the light. The hardwood floors
had a dark stain next to the vanity; it was probably where her mother was killed. She stepped over it and opened the drawer in the desk. Maybe
there was a birth certificate or pictures. What if this was all a hoax and Isaac didn’t really exist. In an envelope she found photographs of her
mother holding a tiny baby. The baby’s face was covered with a blanket.  

Priscilla turned the photograph around and in her mother’s writing it said, “1959, Isaac and I, a gift from the devil.”  

Her mother really did think he was the devil.

“He never had a chance,” said Priscilla as she talked to Phoenix on the phone the next morning.  

“So what are you going to do? You can’t exactly go and look for him at that house. You don’t know him. What if he’s dangerous?”  

“He’s probably lonely, that’s all. Isaac doesn’t have to live with me. I can find him a good home in LA. We’ll get him the best treatment that
money can buy.”  

“Priscilla, just forget about everything. Forget about selling the house, just get on the bus and come home. Better yet, I’ll go get you myself”

“I know this is what I have to do. Isaac can’t live as the family reject forever.  I’m going to put a stop to this with or without the help of my
family.”  

With that said, she hung up.

Priscilla went to the feed store to ask a favor from Bradley.  

“You want to borrow my car?” asked Bradley

“Yes. I know how to drive and I have my license and I promise that it’s not expired! Please I’ll give you $200.00 and I’ll put gas in it.”  

“And where exactly were you thinking of taking it to?”

“That’s the second part of my favor. I need to know where Isaac is. I know that he’s in the town of Heber. Where is he?”

Bradley shook his head, “I can’t let you do that. Priscilla, he doesn’t know you. You can’t do that.”

“I’m tired of everyone saying I can’t do it! What good is all the Cordova fortune if I can’t help even my own brother?”  

Bradley was silent for what seemed like eternity.  

“Fine, I’ll let you borrow my truck but only because I trust you.” He wrote down an address on a piece of paper. “This is where Isaac is. Ask for
woman named Emma. She’s my mother’s friend. Be careful and call me when you get there. Remember, you don’t have to do this.”

Bradley gave Priscilla a hug and for the first time, she felt like somebody actually cared for her. She gave him a kiss on the cheek and thanked
him.

Priscilla became very nervous when she saw the sign that said, “Welcome to Heber.” She quickly dialed Bradley’s number.

“I made it. I’m here. I’m so nervous.”

“Good. Emma is expecting you. I called her and told her you were on your way,” he paused, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

She took a deep breath, “Yes, more than anything in the world. Thank you for your help. I’ll call you when we’re on our way back.”  

Priscilla approached the house and rang the doorbell. A small woman with dark hair opened it.  

She smiled, “Hello, may I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for Emma. I’m Miss…”

“Cordova, yes, we’ve been expecting you. I’m Emma. Come in, Isaac is in the back.”

Emma led her down the hallway past the living room.

The house appeared to be nice and clean. She expected to see people strapped to their chairs eating off the floor. Most of the residents seemed
to have down syndrome.

“Were all of these people abandoned by their families?”  

“No. most of them are just here for the day while their families are at work. We offer a day care service here too. Isaac is the only resident who
is permanent.”  

Priscilla imagined that Isaac would be sitting in a chair playing chess with another resident. Suddenly they approached the last door down the
long hallway.
Emma knocked gently, “Isaac, honey, your sister is here. He was so excited you were coming, he took a bath and I helped him shave.”   

Isaac sat in the chair next to the window that looked out to the backyard. There was a large tree in the middle with a swing on it just the one the
ranch.  

“Isaac, this is Priscilla,” said Emma with a nervous look on her face.

Isaac turned to face them. He had large, blue eyes that were largely wide set. His nose was enlarged and his mouth wide and didn’t seem to
close.  

Priscilla walked towards him and looked back at Emma.

She smiled and said, “I’ll leave you two to talk. Isaac, I’m going to get your bags ready. Your sister is taking you home.”

Emma left closing the door behind her.

Isaac looked at her and pointed at the swing, “I want to swing.”

She walked towards the window. “Maybe later we can go out there and swing.”

Her eyes filled with tears. She couldn’t believe that she finally met the Cordova secret and the culprit responsible her brother and parents
death. He looked so sweet and innocent.  

Isaac extended his arms for a hug as Priscilla approached him.  

She hugged him, “Oh Isaac, we finally meet and we could finally be a family, just like you always wanted.”  

Isaac pulled a large knife from underneath his chair and stabbed her in the back.  All Priscilla could do is look into his devilish eyes as he
stabbed her over and over again.

“Kill, die, dead.” was all he said.   
Cordova Ranch
by Mayra Beltran