Monday, January 9, 2017

THE REAL WEIRD WEST: The Bloody Benders Part 3


   The Bender Family has struck! From their little inn beside the Osage Trail, they have claimed at least nine travelers, perhaps even a dozen. A search party has uncovered several shallow graves on the property, a well full of body parts and a mysterious trapdoor by the dining table inside. In the room beneath lay a pool of dried blood. This pointed somehow to the killers’ design, but how?
   Well, no one really knows. But their assumptions aren’t so far-fetched, given the evidence. It was a dining table, after all, so obviously, the devils did their work at mealtime.
Say, a person wanders in, dusty from the road and desires a night’s sleep. Perhaps a meal. Supper, or maybe breakfast. Given the blows cracked on the skulls of the recovered bodies (and those found in the previous years, dumped in the nearby woods) a hammer played a role.
   The traveler sits at the table, perhaps about to eat, perhaps just done. He sits back to review his plate before he begins, or, finished, does so to lay his hands on a satisfied belly. The trapdoor is right there beneath them, what better time? What better position for say, Ma or Pa Bender, even one of the kids to come up behind and…
   WHAM!
   Right on the head.
   It makes some blood, true, but it doesn’t splash. No, it doesn’t flow like it’d have to if that stone-floored chamber below was to be as drowned as it was in the stuff. For that, you need a slit throat.
Who knows who done that, doesn’t matter. The guest reeling from the hammer, they’re easy pickins. Open the trap, dump the body and follow ‘em down. It’s not like movies where you just draw the knife across the windpipe now, no. The windpipe is tough as leather. Like slashing a garden hose or something. You gotta jam that blade in beside the hose and saw like wood. Sometimes even hack at it. Veins and arteries all over the neck. What a show it made, no question.
   The gasps and gurgles done, the room hot and dripping, the killer would wipe their face (oh, they had it all over them, to be sure) the knife was slicked across a skirt or a pantleg and well, who knows? Maybe it was a private deal and they just stood down there, listening to the blood seep between the paving stones. Maybe the whole family was standing around, licking their lips where they got splashed or sucking their fingers. Maybe they just crouched above, peering down the hole, pissed that it wasn’t their turn this time.
   Whatever the case, when it was done, it was done. Then the body was stripped of its goods – even its clothes, in some cases – and hauled back up to bury outside. If they had no goods, well, maybe the Benders didn’t know that and just assumed. Maybe they knew just fine and did it anyway.
   And now, this ain’t total conjecture, no. Talk from folks who’d stayed at the Inn and run afoul of the family – escaping before they could come to harm – do support the previous. A Catholic padre saw one of the Benders hide a hammer when he looked too quick in one direction. He left right after. Gent called Bill Pickering said when he had a problem with seating arrangements at the table, Kate Jr. pulled a knife. Off he went to live another day.
   There were two men arrived on word o’ Kate’s ‘psychic powers’ and decided to stay for a meal. They didn’t sit proper at the table either, and took to a nearby counter. That wouldn’t do. Enter: Pa John Bender and John Jr. looking surly. The guests looked at each other, looked at their meal, looked at the Bender boys. Goodbyes were said and off they went.
   Besides the graves, the body limbs and the bloody room under the trapdoor, the search party also found a dozen or so holes in the ceiling and walls of the inn. Bullet holes, which only supports that folks at one time or another got into a corner there at the Bender Inn and either fought as they died, or fought their way back to life. No one can say.
   So, there it be. The Bender Inn, site of travesty and tragedy, gossip and gore, empty of all but a few lone bodies to tell the tale of a murderous band of homicidal homesteaders. Would that be all? Body parts and shallow graves? Were the Benders to simply flee, free of their crimes?
   Oh, no.
   With the search party led by Colonel York, the near hanging of Brockman and the community uprising over the bodies found, this would not be – excuse the pun – laid to ‘rest’ so easily.
   Word do spread in the west and when it’s Weird, well, it goes that much faster. Heaven and Hell have a way with the mind and those tuned to its frequency are ever so certain of its meaning. And the tune they sang, long before radio scratched out its songs on the curve of empty skulls wondering where the world went was:
   Where were the Benders?
   A fine question and one many sought to answer. The findings of the search party made the news quickly and papers were snapped open in the following days and heads were shook over morning coffee.
   Onlookers soon came to gawk at the Bender Inn and even more reporters swarmed. New York, Chicago, they all wanted to walk the site and breathe those bloody fumes. It didn’t take more than days, weeks, and the Bender Inn was overcome completely. Fools asking questions, making notes, clawing for a piece of history and before long, the whole place was gone to the baseboards.
   Every item in it, every piece of furniture, every knick and knack. Even bricks and stones and bits of wood down in that bloody cellar beneath the horrible trapdoor. They even took pieces of the well. 
   And still, holding those totems close and trying to infer some meaning from them, that question remained:
   Where the hell were the Bloody Benders?

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