Samuel opened the lid to the small trunk, sending dust bunnies flying. After his nose quit twitching and he could see through the haze, he gingerly reached inside the treasure-filled container and pulled out a feather boa.
“Just what were you into, you old freak,” he whispered, smiling at the image of his grandfather prancing around the house with the pink froth around his neck. “I wonder if grandma knew how kinky you were.”
He rummaged around some more, moving aside an ornate locket that was so tarnished it looked to be decades old. Shaking his head, Samuel kept digging. Next, he came to a photo album, opened it and flipped through the pages of unfamiliar faces. He threw it aside, sure they were people from his grandparents’ past in Manhattan, before his time.
He found a few house keys stuffed in an envelope. Tammy, Amber, Rachel, and Tiffany were written on the outside. Samuel assumed they were old girlfriends of his grandfather, although he did not understand why the old guy would have kept them. His grandparents always seemed happy, so his grandfather keeping keys from past girlfriends didn’t fit. Shrugging, Samuel laid the keys aside, deciding it was just another eccentricity of his grandfather’s.
Samuel lifted a shoebox from the trunk and opened it, forced to move to a window in order to see the newspaper clippings inside. The top clipping, dated July 10, 1945, sent a chill through Samuel as he read of a Bronx cocktail waitress’s gruesome murder. Her body had been discovered in a back alley early one morning, clothes ripped to shreds, eyes gouged out, and body bloodied. There was also evidence of sexual assault.
The next article was about a murdered stripper. She had been found in a dumpster outside the strip club. Her eyes were also missing, along with a pendant necklace friends said she was never without.
There were over twenty more clippings, all about women who had been viciously killed. The papers had dubbed the person responsible the ‘Collector’ because of his penchant for taking eyeballs, along with personal items, from his victims.
“No, it can’t be,” Samuel murmured in disgust. He threw the shoebox across the room and watched as the contents slowly fluttered to the floor.
Timidly, he walked back to the trunk. He did not want to look, but some force subdued his dread and made him reach in and pull out the final secret. His hands trembled when he held the large jar to the window, but the light could not penetrate the black-painted glass.
Samuel turned the lid on the jar, silently praying the contents were not what he feared. He took a deep breath and removed the lid, revealing a multitude of eyes staring back at him. The sight was so repulsive; Samuel’s knees buckled and he dropped the jar. He crawled to the corner and vomited. Knees pulled to his chest, Samuel rocked back and forth, misery and disbelief overcoming him.
The creaking of the door opening at the bottom of the stairs roused Samuel. His mother called to him from below, asking if everything was all right.
“I’m fine, Mom,” Samuel responded, pulling himself together.
He quickly gathered all the incriminating items and put them back in the trunk. He would take the trunk home with him after the funeral and burn the contents, allowing the past to die with his grandfather.
His mother was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs, a concerned expression on her face. “We heard a noise and thought maybe you fell.”
“No, I just knocked something over,” he told her.
“Don’t worry about it,” his mother assured him. “Whatever you broke should probably have been thrown away years ago. Dad was always collecting junk.”