I. Kit Malone, 1924
Kathryn Jane Malone, although the only time she better hear her full name is if she was in trouble, otherwise, you better call her Kit, wiped the sweat off her brow. Of course her boss Mickey sent her on a fool’s errand for this story. That’s what she felt like, a fool. It wasn’t easy for a woman to break into the newspaper business but Kit was a determined sort. All she needed was a break. Even a bad one. That’s why she jumped at the chance to chase down an old miner for the sake of a possible byline. Imagine, her name in the paper. Or the gender neutral K.J. Malone to fool the readers into thinking they were reading a story by a male reporter. But she would know the truth. If Mickey honored his word, this byline would be hers. First though, she needed to get the story. Mickey sent her to get a ghost story of all things. What a ridiculous thing to report. No wonder Mickey relegated it to a woman. None of his precious male reporters wanted touch it. She knew full well she was his scape-goat but she was determined to turn this lemon into lemonade.
That is how she came to be standing on a deck of a huge home 30 minutes north of Salt Lake. Huge home was an understatement. If the building had been in the south it would have been called a plantation. She noticed the land surrounding the house as she drove up the drive and assumed there had to be about 25 acres or so. Not bad for a retired coal miner. Not bad at all. Definitely not typical. Her personal goal was to investigate the mysterious fortune of a retired coal miner. Mickey sent her out to get a ghost story for the kiddos. She was going to return with an expose of some kind of treasure hunter because obviously there are no such things as ghosts. The explanation for this man’s plantation had to have a solid, logical reason. Surely, the ghost angle was fabricated to hide some kind of illicit activity. Activity she was going to uncover.
She raised her hand to knock on the door and an elderly Chinese man walked up behind her causing her to jump. “Oh hello,” she said regaining her composure. “I’m looking for Mr. Thomas?”
The Chinese man nodded and smiled. He didn’t say anything but pointed to the door. How rude, Mr. Thomas obviously didn’t pay his help much because the man’s clothes were tattered and outdated. Surely if Mr. Thomas could afford all this land and house he could make sure his domestic help’s basic needs were met. Slowly the Chinese man backed away from her his tiny frame stooped over. She looked at the front door he was pointing at and then turned back to look at him but he was gone.
“Huh,” she said. “Quicker than he looks.”
She knocked on the door and didn’t wait long until she heard footsteps approaching from behind it. The door opened and she looked up to see a tall, lanky elderly man who appeared to be in this late 60’s or early 70’s. His trousers and shirt didn’t fit with the great hall he stood in and she realized why the Chinese man’s clothes were tattered. Apparently it was the vogue thing for this place. He smiled warmly when he saw her and his gray mustache matched his eyes. “Hello darlin,” he said softly. “What brings you here today?”
“I’m looking for Ed Thomas?” she said boldly and stuck out her hand.
“I’m Ed,” he said eyeing her keenly.
“Mr. Thomas,” Kit said surprised he opened his own door. “I am Kit Malone from the Salt Lake Tribune. We have an appointment today.”
“A woman reporter?” he said still amused. “The big city never ceases to surprise me.”
The big city? Salt Lake was more a budding city. Oh, Mr. Thomas, your hick is showing. She smiled in response.
“Come on in,” he said and opened the door wider.
She entered and could see the great hall was simple and plain. No pictures adorned the walls. He answered his own door. No décor in the house. His clothes were as worn as his servants. Mr. Thomas obviously was new money. He didn’t belong in this big house.
“I thought we would drink some, um,” he paused and sized her up, “lemonade on the back deck while we do the interview.”
“I will drink whatever you are having,” Kit smiled sweetly.
He laughed. “Well, alright. Let me show you to the deck and then I’ll get our drinks.”
Moments later they sat on the deck with a couple of beers in front of them. Kit hated the taste of liquor but she was determined to play the game. No one would treat her any different than any of the male reporters. She would hold her own.
“Mr. Thomas,” she started with her pen at the ready. “If you don’t mind me saying, you don’t exactly fit in with your surroundings here.” She was determined to get the scoop.
He smiled. “I guess the house is a bit too grand. But I had to get it in order to get all this land. A,” he cleared his throat, “friend suggested fruit trees. When I was ten I had to start working in the coal mines to help support my family. For forty years I worked in the dark mines. I realized one day how much I hate the dark. Next week I will be 74 years old and I still sleep with the light on. So you are correct Miss Malone, I don’t belong here” he pointed to the house with his thumb. “But I do belong here,” he extended his arm in the direction of the yard.
“Fair enough,” Kit said. “How did you come about acquiring all this?” She waved her hand around and realized she exaggerated the movement a bit. Dumb liquor. “You have to admit, you’ve done pretty well for a retired miner.” She bit her bottom lip as she realized she may have pushed too far.
He smiled and she exhaled in relief.
“I suppose you have heard about my ghost story,” he drawled slowly looking out over his trees.
She nodded. “Personally, I don’t believe in ghost stories.”
“Neither do I, Miss.” He looked down, “Or I didn’t used to, anyway.”
She sighed. “You’re going to maintain your story that a ghost is responsible for your house and trees and servants?”
He looked at her. “Servants?”
“Your domestic help.”
“I don’t have any help. It’s just me here. I do all the work myself. Always have. I’m not afraid of a little hard work.”
“But I saw the man at the front door. I assumed he was some kind of worker.”
“The Chinese man at the front door before I knocked.”
The color drained from his face and he stood up and walked to the end of the deck then back. He looked over his land as if calculating something in his head. After a few moments, he said slowly, “I guess he has come to take it all back.”
Kit’s pulse quickened. This sounded like a story waiting to break.
Ed sat down in his chair again and thought for a moment. “I guess you better hear the whole story,” he said.
She leaned forward with pencil in hand ready to take notes. “Ready when you are.”
III. Quong Fat, 1885
IV. Ed Thomas, 1899