It was the final weekend of the summer and Billy and Paul pointed their BMX bicycles westward down the old dirt road and the best place to do some high jumps and hard landings in the area. They pedaled to the abandoned Toano rock quarry in an effort to forget school was to start the coming Monday.The two 12-year olds slipped through the cyclone fencing which had been pried loose by a group of teenaged boys the summer before in search of a place to drink stolen bottles of beer. The chain links had been turned upward and hooked to the upper edge of the fence. It was a hole just large enough to allow a BMX bike through as long as the rider wasn’t on it.Down inside the quarry, the boys raced over huge piles of gravel. They leaped their bikes as high as possible and landed with enough control to continue racing around the site.
“Up there,” Billy pointed. “That where I wanna go,” he said to Paul.
They rode up to the crest of the quarry and looked down into the gapping pit, searching for what they called “a good line,” to ride down.
Each boy moved back and forth looking over the high edge for a possible trail to the bottom. Neither one wanted to make the lengthy trip around the lip of the quarry and admit defeat at not finding a more direct path down to the bottom.
“Well, do you wanna try it?” Paul asked.
Billy looked down the proposed “line,” and shrugged, “As long as we go slowly the first time.”
He was worried about the possibility of falling down the side of the quarry and landing in the jagged rocks below. They pushed their bikes out onto the embankment and faced them down hill.
Billy was in the lead. He had only gone a few feet when his front wheel knocked an object loose from the earth. Paul saw it roll down the face of the cliff and he stopped to look at it was, because it didn’t appear to be a normal looking stone.
As he inched his way closer to the ledge and looked over, he was horrified to see a human skull with vacant eye sockets peering straight back at him. He quickly scrambled away for the edge of the rock face and yelled for Billy.
“Stop!” Paul nearly screamed.
Billy skidded his bike to a stop and turned around in the seat to look back at his friend. He saw Paul sitting on the ground with his back against the stony face and he had a look of fear on his face.
“What is it?” Billy asked in an impatient tone of voice.
Paul looked at him and answered, “I think it’s a skull of a dead person.”
The sun was starting to fade and the teams of Elko County deputies and Nevada state troopers were still searching for remains along the wall of the rock quarry. It was estimated that they had discovered 22 unmarked graves in a quarter acre patch of ground.
Detective Leach was on a cell-phone talking, “Each body is in a wooden casket.”
A voice on the other end of the cell-phone asked, “Are they buried at various depths?”
Leach responded, “Yeah, some a couple feet down others deeper.”
“It sounds like an old cemetery, maybe a forgotten family plot,” the voice said. It belonged to Nevada state archeologist Walt Franco. He was the states leading authority on all matters regarding historical artifacts.
Then Franco added, “I’m on my way.”
By sun up, Franco had led the two teams to the remainder of three more caskets. They each had been photographed and a detailed map had been drawn showing each body’s exact location.
“Look at this Walt,” one of the state troopers said.
When Franco viewed what the trooper had found it left the scholar puzzled. There was no getting around the fact that the body in the old wooden box had been moved after death.
The box lid had the letters “SH,” and the number “54” written on it. They were formed by using brass tacks; however it wasn’t the only casket to be marked in such a way. What made it so unusual was the fact that both thigh bones had been laid out to create an “X” over the chest of the body and the skull was replaced in an upside down position.
Each body was removed and taken to the state lab in Reno for further study. Meanwhile Franco went to Carson City to search the state achieves. He needed to do some research and it didn’t take him long to find what he had been looking for.
He picked up the telephone in his office and dialed. A few seconds later a woman answered.
“Hello,” she said.
“Good morning, Sandra,” he replied.
Sandra Goodall glanced at the clock on top of her bed stand. It wasn’t even 8 o’clock yet.
She asked, “Do you know this is Sunday?”
Franco said that he did. Then he told her what had been unearthed at the abandoned rock quarry. Goodall was suddenly awake and the fact that it was the latter part of the weekend no longer mattered.
She hurriedly dressed after hanging up with Franco. She could hardly wait to get to the state lab and start her examinations. She realized that this case could be the thesis she had been wishing for in her lengthy process for a PhD.
Franco flipped through the yellow leafs of paper. It was a land registration book that had been buried in an estate sale and he had purchased for the sum of one-dollar. The leather-bound book had been a solid source for Franco on a number of occasions.
He ran his finger down page 92 and found what he had been looking for: Hardy. It was the name of the family who had first settled the area prior to the year 1850. The last name fit with the “H” on the coffin.
Franco turned on his computer. After waiting for it to come to life, he typed in the name, Hardy.” Much to his surprise he found a list of names including a “Samuel,” who was listed as having been “put to death by hanging” in 1871.
While, Franco believed he has resolved who the family plot belong too and the possible identity of “SH,” he still had no answers as to why “SH” had been defiled they way that he had been.
It was early Monday morning when Franco drove into Toano. He was there to see if he could find any records on the Hardy family. Within and hour he had an answer to his puzzle.
Franco found a cracked, red leather bound book in the counties library that contained hand written notes from the Toano’s town meetings. As he read it, he tried to imagine the scene.
It was 1883 and Samuel Hardy’s eldest son, Eli was asked to appear before the towns elders. It seemed that they had a strange request to ask of him.
“We’d like permission to open you’re fathers grave and stake his body to the ground,” one of the men said.
Another piped in, “We want this to above board.”
“Why do you want to do this?” Eli asked.
The group of elders looked about at one another, and then someone answered, “We have reason to believe your father, Samuel Hardy is a vampire.”
Eli was silent as he reflected on the fact that his father had been hanged for murder. It was not a pleasant thought. He was nearly 17 years old when his father was found visiting the decaying body of a young woman he had killed nearly three-weeks before.
It took less than a day for a jury to find him guilty and sentence him to death by hanging. Eli still heard the endless whispers about his family and had on more than one occasion thought of leaving Nevada for land out west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
He also thought about the rumors about hundreds of sheep, cows and horses found dead. He also knew that several young women had been attacked in the 12 years his father had been executed; some had even been killed.
Eli himself had told his wife Sarah on more than one occasion that he had felt his father’s presence. Fearing that he might be accused of being in league with a murderer or worse, a vampire, Eli Hardy quickly consented.
“You have my permission,” he said.
That same day a small group of men went out to the Hardy family cemetery and located Samuel’s grave. Four men set about the task of digging up the casket. Also present was one of Toano’s priests, its medical doctor and a mysterious figure from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Once the earth was pulled away, one of the four men digging used the edge of his spade to pry off the top of the box. Inside they found only the bones of the deceased Samuel Hardy. There was nothing left to stake the body to the ground.
However the mysterious stranger recommended a course of action to prevent even the bones of Samuel Hardy from rising again. Quickly, they did as was recommended then returned the body back to the earth.
That was nearly 135 years ago. Now the body of Samuel Hardy was lying on a chrome steel table in the state medical lab. Sandra Goodall was completing the final examination of the man’s skull.
She had been working on what had been dubbed by the local press as the “Hardy Project” for the last eight months. Goodall had compiled hundreds of pages of notes and felt certain that she was nearly done with the 25 bodies. Soon they would all be returned to Toano for reburial in one the local cemetery.
“SH,” or Sam as he was affectionately known, was the last body that she documented. Goodall had found that he had lived the hard life of a farmer, possibly raising sheep or cattle for a living.
Sam had died at the age of 54. At the time of his death, he had an open wound on his lower right leg that probably caused him to limp. Goodall had also discovered a trace of white growth attached to the outer tips of the Sam’s rib cage.
She concluded that Sam had the consumption. Today it was known as tuberculosis. Goodall theorized that it had been a fairly slow process and agonizingly painful for Sam. She also noted that two vertebrae in his neck had been crushed.
Goodall had painstakingly glue the shattered bones back together. She wanted a clear idea of what had killed Sam. She deducted that he had probably choked to death before his vertebrae gave way under the weight of his body.
Her conclusions were backed up by historical facts that Franco had found in the same months he spent investigating the small family plot. He discovered that Toano had been plagued by a severe case of consumption in the late 1800’s. He also had the record of Samuel Hardy’s execution and the later defilement of the single grave from the red-leather book.
Franco also found a rare instance where a 19-year-old woman named Mercy Brown of Exeter, Rhode Island was exhumed after it was suspected she was a vampire and feeding on her brother Edwin.
Rhode Island archivists Anne Paulo told Franco, “Mercy’s heart was removed, burnt and the ashes were fed to Edwin as a remedy.”
The rearranging of the bone was a harder puzzle to solve for Franco. He had to look over seas for his answers. And it was in Ireland and Egypt that he found it. Both countries had historical references to “decapitating bodies,” and used the skull and cross bone symbol to denote the possibility of the “walking dead.”
Sandra Goodall placed the skull of Samuel Hardy at the top of the body. It was the first time in about 125 years that his body had actually been assembled in its proper form. She sighed as she looked at the old man’s bones. Goodall decided she would deal with his remains on Monday.
“It’s the weekend and you can wait a couple more days, Sam” she said aloud as she turned to switch off the lab’s lights and lock the door.
It wasn’t until Monday morning that the bones were discovered to have been stolen. The state police investigated and concluded that someone had been hiding inside the building when Goodall was locking up.
“She never had a chance,” the detective said. Then he added, “He attacked her from behind, but I think she got a piece of him.”
“What makes you say that?” asked another investigator.
“Look at the blood trail,” he answered, “whoever did this was dragging his right leg slightly.”