Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Flaming sword in hand, the Avenging Angel, bestride a monumental tomb, looked over the rolling land toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. His mouth set hard, his eyes piercing, he was not the promise of peace, repose, and eternal joy with the Almighty.
Lying underneath this imposing marble tomb rested the bones of Francisco Selisse, born January 12, 1731. Died September 10, 1784. Historians still puzzle over exactly how he was murdered. Three other people stood in the room when it happened. The stories varied, but no one denied that Francisco had been stabbed to death.
Big Rawly, the plantation on which this sordid event occurred, looked much as it did in 1784. Brick or clapboard, most early Virginia homes resembled one another. In general, the wealthy wanted Georgian homes, but Big Rawly, modeled after a French château, down to the stables and outbuildings, never failed to impress.
Harry had played there as a child with children from the neighboring estate Beau Pre, Big Rawly itself, plus those children whose mothers drove them to the estate. The estate's owners, the Holloways, had children, loved children, and were welcoming to any and all. Susan Tucker, Harry's best friend, was their granddaughter.
Francisco and Maureen Selisse had been childless, and this gaggle of children might have pleased them. Hard to say, for their reputation for ruthlessness endures to this day.
The cemetery in which this imposing tomb commanded center stage was said to be haunted. As a child, Harry had steered clear of the graveyard, and even as an adult that hard-eye stone angel gave her a shiver. Over the centuries, many declared they had seen ghosts here, but with a consideration praiseworthy in the disembodied, the departed never disturbed children.
Now, as an adult, as Harry passed the place, rumbling on the narrow road leading out of Garth Road, she wondered if this consideration would always hold true.
Turning left, heading for Crozet, she noted dark clouds backing up behind the Blue Ridge. Never a good sign. Accompanying her in her old 1978 F-150 sat Mrs. Murphy, the tiger cat, and Pewter, the gray cat. Tucker, a corgi, was also present and always ready to help. The same could not be said of the cats.
They reached another left turn, which wound a few miles down to old Three-Chopt Road, Route 250. Given the threat of a storm, Harry chose this faster route instead of the pleasant drive to Whitehall, where she would also turn left to head home.
Coming at her in the opposite direction, a red Camry flew around a curve up ahead. On such a twisty road, Harry thought it best to be alert. She had stopped, put her left flasher on, when a tremendous clap of thunder startled her and her passengers.
Immediately after, the red Camry swerved straight at them. The car appeared totally out of control. Harry hit the gas, and the vehicle missed her truck bed by inches. She quickly surged ahead before turning around in the small Mt. Olivet church parking lot up ahead. Returning to the turnoff, she found the red Camry nosed into the low runoff ditch. Its wheels spun, the motor kept running.
Turning onto Owensville Road, Harry pulled as far as she could off to the side. Closing the door as the first raindrop fell, she ran to the Camry. A middle-aged woman was slumped over the wheel and did not respond to Harry's rapping on the window. Recognizing the driver, Barbara Leader, who had been in the class behind her at high school, Harry rapped louder.