The Butcher, Cook, and the Candlemaker

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When the Tranker triplets processed a kill nothing went to waste.

The brother’s, and the couple that adopted them,  ran a small inn offering food and a place to sleep for weary travelers hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rude log structure they lived in was two stories high and nearly a hundred years old. Once upon a time, the whole Tranker family lived there with other extended members of the family. But after the terrible slaughter of 1936, the only members left alive were the triplets, Bob, Barry, and Bradley.

The boys were taken in by a distant cousin and her husband after their parents, aunts and uncles were butchered like pigs one warm summer night. They decided to turn the house into a bed-and-breakfast. The boys were eleven years-old during this transition in their lives. The new man in the house, and their stand-in for a father, was Uriah Jones, a hard-drinking hunter who was also a crack shot. His wife Ellie was an excellent cook and house-keeper. She maintained a garden of vegetables, did housework, cooked meals, and assigned chores to the boys every day. There was always wood to be chopped and water hauled. The pigs and chickens had to be fed and cared for. The cow milked every morning. The two-acre wooden fence that formed a perimeter around the house and barn, was constantly in need of repair. There was no shortage of work for the triplets, who were sturdy mountain boys accustomed to hard labor.

With Uriah as a teacher, the triplicates became crack shots and excellent hunters. With Ellie’s help they learned how to cook a great meal, and to grow fertile gardens of vegetables and melons. The years passed peacefully and they were able to make a good living. Travelers came and went without incident.

The boys each had their own hobbies. Barry learned how to make long-lasting candles from animal fat that he fashioned into unusual shapes. Bob, who was the best hunter among them, was best at butchering kills. He made an art out of it. Bradley was the best cook, making simple mouth-watering meals that never failed to please people. Uriah and Ellie were as proud of the triplets as if they were their own.

Uriah and Ellie had a lot to be thankful for. When they had to flee Signal Mountain, Tennessee ahead of the authorities they weren’t sure where to go. If it wasn’t for one of Ellie’s cousins they would have never known about the “family tragedy” and the need for someone to raise the surviving triplets after that terrible night of slaughter. When Uriah arrived in the Blue Mountains the first thing he did was to challenge all the best shots in the valley. None of them ever realized they were competing against a WW I Army sniper with a record amount of kills in his company.

It didn’t take long for Uriah and Ellie to fit in comfortably with the small community. The boys however never strayed from the inn, and refused to go to local square dances and shindigs for the holidays. None of them were comfortable around people, but they all managed to treat guests well enough because there were seldom complaints. They all felt more at ease hunting in the rolling hills, forests, and meadows near the inn.

Truth be told, most of the locals weren’t very comfortable with the triplets. They felt sorry for them, but were also slightly uneasy around them. Dark rumors traveled along the local gossip line for years…rumors suggesting the boys might have committed the gruesome murders themselves. There was never any evidence of that, according to the Sheriff. But the rumors were persistent, as they tend to be when they’re sensational. It didn’t help that the triplicates were anti-social. One of them, Barry, had a lazy left eye that seemed to spook everyone. Superstitious folk claimed it was an evil eye.

Fall was making its mark and the leaves on the trees were a carnival of brilliant colors when a stranger from Tennessee showed up at the inn one day. He was a tall thin man whose baggy suit hung on him like a scarecrow. Barry watched up walking up the road, suitcase in hand and clutching his fedora against the blustery wind. Folks didn’t usually come to stay at this time of year and Barry frowned at him as he approached the porch. Just then Bradley, the most social of the triplets, came out the front door and greeted the stranger jovially.

“How kin I hep ya mister?”

“Lookin fer a place to stay for a couple of days,” the stranger replied while sitting his suitcase down on the wooden porch.

“I reckon we’ve got a spare bed, and a meal. You got cash?

“Sure do.” He pulled out his wallet and peeled off some bills. “Will that do?” he asked.

Bradley took the proffered money, and nodded. “Room upstairs to the right. Got a buck’s head mounted above it.”

“Obliged.”

He picked his suitcase up and stepped inside as Bradley held the door open for him.

“What’s yer name stranger?” Bradley asked him as he started up the stairs.

“Darren.”

There was a pause, then Bradley said, “Mine’s, Bradley. My brother Barry is on the porch, and my other brother Bob is out hunting for tonight’s dinner. Our folks are in town, but they’ll be back tonight.”

“Are you…?”

I reckon so, we un’s all look-alike cause we’re triplicates.

When Uriah and Ellie got home late that night, Barry was still sitting on the porch despite the chilly night.

“You okay son?” Uriah asked.

“We got a border upstairs,” he grumbled.

“So? We uns always have boarders. Ya know that Barry. Git along. Git some sleep now.”

“Don’t like ’em…” Barry’s voice followed Uriah and Ellie to bed.

The next morning.

As usual, Ellie was the first one up in the house making coffee and breakfast while it was still dark outside. Shortly thereafter, Uriah came into the kitchen and sat down at the head of the table. He was sipping his coffee when he heard someone coming down the stairs.

“Must be our new boarder,” he told Ellie.

When Darren stepped into the kitchen, Ellie dropped a plate in fright and Uriah rose up from his chair in alarm. The tall thin man reached under his baggy jacket and pulled out an old navy Colt revolver.

“I knew I’d finally catch up to you two murdering thieves! When you robbed that hardware store in Signal Mountain you killed my pa, but only wounded me! I’ve been hunting for you for a long time!”

Uriah lunged at Darren who leveled his gun and fired at him point-blank! Ellie tried to pick up a knife to defend herself with, but Darren shot her in the head first! It was over in moments. The acrid smell of gun smoke mingled with the freshly cooked rolls on the kitchen counter and the bacon burning in the frying pan.

The gunfire woke up the triplets who slept in the second bedroom downstairs. By the time they ran out of their room Darren had fled. The triplicate’s tortured howls of grief sounded like wounded wolves! The only two people in the world they trusted were brutally executed. Murdered while they slept nearby.

The triplicates knew the area like the back of their hand, and split up after agreeing to a preordained meeting spot at noon. Each had a hunting rifle. They all were expert trackers. It was just a matter of time before they found their quarry.

Barry bagged Darren less than a mile from the cabin in an open meadow. He was limping along and never saw the bullet coming. Barry tied a rope around his ankles and drug his body to the meeting place. When Bradley and Bob showed up they complimented him.

“Good shootin’, brother,” they chorused.

The three brothers took Darren’s corpse back to the barn and hung it from the heels with meat hooks. Bob got his butcher knife and began carving the body up into meaty slabs and hunks. Barry and Bradley built a fire and put a 55 gallon drum with water in it over the flames. Bob tossed gobbets of flesh into the barrel until all that was left was bones and globs of body fat carefully trimmed off the meat. Bradley took the fat and stored it with his candle making supplies. After 24 hours there was nothing left of Darren but boiled meat, which they froze. His bones were ground up into a powder by Bradley.

Nearly two days passed before the brothers agreed to contact the sheriff. When he came out with his deputy he immediately noticed that rigor mortis had set in on the victims, and they smelled real bad! Pinching his nose with one hand, the sheriff indicated they should step outside with the other. As usual the brothers spoke in dull monotones and a minimum of words while being interviewed. They told their story and said the killer got away. The following investigation increased the suspicions of some locals who whispered the boys did it again, and murdered in cold blood like so many years before.

With no evidence, they were exonerated by the law, but not by the locals who feared them. The triplicates got their revenge against Darren, and re-discovered their taste for human flesh. A taste they all developed, and hadn’t satisfied since they murdered their entire family all those years ago!