Sunday, December 26, 2010

The 69th Street YMCA, Scottsdale, Arizona

    Bob had witnessed the Newcomer’s magic during Cathy’s agile yoga class; the Newcomer had flashed that odd amber light across the prone bodies of Helen and Darlene, bathing Anna, the crippled Asian woman, in a healing glow. As quickly as the light came, it vanished, but Anna’s crippled body had instantly healed…a miracle!
    He was in awe. And Bob had a plan. He would ambush the Newcomer, at the next YMCA‘s Agile Yoga Class on Thursday.
    Later that week when Bob saw the Newcomer outside of the exercise room waiting  for Cathy's class to begin, he sidled up to the Newcomer and glanced at him sideways.
    “I saw what you did; you projected that amber light and cured Anna. We can work together. I’ m a professional agent, thirty years in Hollywood with Ruth, Ruff and Ryan. Here’s my deal.”
    And Bob went on to explain they would set up a spa in the McDowell Foothills, just east of Scottsdale. They would be low profile, no sensationalism, just word of mouth, call it a healing and revitalization clinic.
  “I’ve done the numbers.” Bob enthused. “Assuming you can work your mojo, I see two mil the first year. We split fifty-fifty of course, as it's my idea.” Bob concluded with a grin.
    The Newcomer turned his head and looked at Bob, who was startled to see the Newcomer’s head change shape, lengthening as his eyes narrowed, turning a depth-less black. The Newcomer’s lips curled, revealing razor sharp teeth; his tongue snaked out with a chilling hiss, enveloping Bob in malodorous mist. Then the Newcomer turned and went into the exercise room, taking his spot in the upper right hand corner of the yoga class.
    Bob was stunned, reeling from the Newcomer’s dreadful breath and evil look. But just a setback…maybe Bob had dropped the idea too quickly. No time to run; take the class, then approach the Newcomer again. This time Bob would use a more subtle approach, more small talk. Bob gathered himself and went into the exercise room.
    During the relaxation phase at the end of the class, Cathy instructed her students to lie supine and relax. She told them to let their troubles float away on a cloud. As Cathy droned her incantation, Anna of the miraculous cure sat up on her elbows and wiggled her feet. She still could not understand her good fortune. Anna glanced to her right and was startled to see the Newcomer glowing. As she watched, a bolt of amber light flew past her and enveloped Bob on her left, who did his meditation in the Child’s Pose, his legs folded beneath him, his hands stretched out in front.
    Anna saw Bob’s eyes go wide as the amber glow faded from his body. Bob’s lips moved and Anna turned on her side and moved closer to hear.
    “Help me,” Bob pleaded. “I'm paralyzed.”


    It’s been three months since the curious incidents at the Scottsdale YMCA. Fortunately, Bob has regained most of his mobility, though he still walks with Anna’s cane. Due to popular demand Cathy’s Agile Yoga Class is now four time a week and has a lengthy waiting list. Word has gotten around.
    But the Newcomer has moved on.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Hotel 93 Liftoff, Jackpot, Nevada

    I was caught in the November blizzard and otherworldly scheming was not on my mind as I head south, hoping to get to Las Vegas in the early evening. I was doing okay and passed through the ramshackle gambling town of Jackpot Nevada at the Idaho and Nevada border. About twenty miles south of Jackpot in front of the lone Hotel 93, traffic suddenly backed up. There was a long line of traffic on the two-lane blacktop and no one was moving, not even slowly.
    I sat there with about 30 other cars, trucks, and campers; after twenty minutes I became concerned as there was no traffic coming from the South, a bad sign. Traffic was not moving in either direction. The snow was coming down hard and something was seriously wrong. I felt uneasy, a sense of dread. But at least there was the Hotel 93.
    After another ten minutes a plow truck with flashing lights came out of the south. I got out as the driver stopped and talked to some of the people in front of me. When I joined the group the driver summarized: there was a horrific accident 10 miles ahead, to make matters worse the road was snow-drifted. They were closing the road for the night in order to clear the wreck and snow. They hoped it would be open tomorrow morning. The driver asked us to turn back, or take a room at the hotel. I digested this new information, and then looked around. There were no police cruisers, just the men in the snow plows. Where was the Nevada Highway Patrol?
    An older gent peered at me: “You getting a room?” He queried.
    “Lucky us.” I replied, nodding towards the sprawling Hotel beside the road. “Not many cars in the parking lot; the Hotel 93 should have plenty of rooms.”
    He grunted and went back to counsel with his wife who was anxiously studying the discussion. I watched as some of the cars in the line U-turned, heading north on US-93. Most of those in the line made a dash into the Hotel 93 parking lot. I joined the group deciding to put up for the night, hoping that the road would be clear in the morning.
    I easily got a room on the third floor with a nice view of the snow-covered rolling hills and the desolate North Nevada plain. Just south of Jackpot was truly isolated and a curious location for the lone Hotel 93, which was set by itself. Odd, but lucky for us or so it seemed.
    My room was spacious with two queens and although a non-smoking room, there was a lingering acrid smoky odor familiar to all Hotel-Casinos. I made a few calls, and then went to the restaurant where I saw some of my fellow travelers. I took a side booth and the waitress came with the menu, introducing herself as Stormy. She said the special was broasted chicken and urged me to try it. Later she returned with the crispy chicken and lingered, sliding into the bench across from me.
    She looked at me intensely, as if studying me, sizing me up. “Nice you are joining us.” Stormy said with a sly smile. Then she leaned across the table, doing a feminine, almost feline, stretch and she gushed. “I never dreamed I‘d meet a guy like you. This is such an adventure for me. My first trip.” Stormy paused, then added. “How can I be so lucky on my first trip?”
    “I’m just here one night.” I said, not understand the context of her comments. “Tomorrow when the road is open I’ll be on my way to Las Vegas.”
    “Maybe you will; maybe you won’t.” Stormy said playfully. “Maybe you are mine for the duration. And it is a very long trip.”
    I looked at Stormy who was dressed in tight jeans and a white t-shirt. She was medium height, slender, cute with a round face and a wide mouth. Her eyes sparked electrically and she grinned at me, a young tease. Then she abruptly left as the waiter brought my carafe of wine.
    He also lingered but remained standing, introducing himself as Tinos He shrugged indifferently when I asked him about the road. Tinos seemed to be sulking and eyed me with hostility.
    Later when I finished my dinner and was leaving, Tinos came up to me and took my hand. “You forgot this on the table.” He said, motioning as if he were putting something in my palm. Then he added: “Leave tomorrow morning before three-thirty.” He whispered urgently. “Stormy is mine and I will keep her, so I am giving you a chance. I don’t want you on the trip.” He added fiercely.
    I stopped and looked at Tinos but he shook his head. “Just leave this place before three thirty.” He repeated, then he gestured as if directing me through the casino back to the hotel. “Don’t look back,” he added. “Remember, don’t look back!” And then Tinos scurried away.
    I set my alarm, crazy as it sounded. It dinged at three and I got up, gathered my tote bag and headed out. I crept down the steps toward a side entrance, not sure why I wanted to avoid the front desk. But Tinos’s warning had chilled me. As I reached the exit, I suddenly heard a rumbling and felt a shuddering, then the loud grinding of metal on metal. I bolted out the exit door into the fresh snow just as the frame slid away from the hotel and retracted under the hotel.
    I ran around to the parking lot and got into my SUV, starting the engine. I watched in amazement as I saw the hotel-casino facade sliding away and retracting under the base of the hotel, which was now a stainless-steel V-shaped craft, reminding me of the Air Force’s experimental flying wing bomber developed during the Cold War.
    In the front section of the gigantic V, yellow lights went on and blinked, then the craft started to hum, sending up a cloud of steam in the snow around the gleaming silver body, a ghostly apparition in the frigid night air. The hum increased to a roar and the craft effortlessly rose from the ground, slowly pivoting ninety degrees and facing south. The gigantic wing hovered over me. Then the hum became a high-pitched whine and the craft began to move up and away. It was maybe a thousand feet above me where it hovered for a few seconds and then there was a sharp bang, followed by rolling thunder. The majestic silver craft was gone, taking with it my hundred or so stranded fellow passengers. I jumped out of the SUV and looked up to the Nevada sky, which was resplendent with clear stars. To the south a saw a streak, then nothing but the distant stars.
    I wrapped myself in a blanket and huddled in the SUV, waiting for the crack of dawn. Then I cautiously drove down U.S. 93 until I saw an open Chevron Station, a lonely outpost. I filled up and went in and poured myself a large coffee.
    I asked the attendant what time the road had opened. He looked bemused and said it had always been open. I asked about the snow drifts and the horrific accident. He said he didn’t know about any accident and he had not heard about any snow drifting, though it did happened now and then, but usually not this early in the winter.
    I left it alone. What had happened? They closed the road, so many of the stranded would naturally go to Hotel 93. And then….what did they do with them? Where did they take them? But not for Stormy, I would be on the trip. The irony was Tinos had saved me, but only because of his desire for Stormy.
    I went back to the SUV and headed south to Las Vegas. I titled the rear view mirror away, staring intently through the windshield and the road ahead.
    “Don’t look back.” Tinos had warned me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Area 51 Death Ray Experiment, Ely, Nevada

    Something bad happened. I awoke to a woman’s shrill scream, then silence, as if someone had put a pillow over her face. I went to my motel room door and peeked up and down the hallway, but no one was there. I closed the door then checked out the window into the parking lot. All was still, so I returned to bed and listened. But here were no more screams.
    At six I awoke to a tapping on the wall and I could hear a muffled voice. My first reaction was to put the pillow over my head, but then I remembered the scream. I sat up and cautiously put my ear to the wall. The tapping was from the room next to mine and as I listened I heard a woman’s faint voice: ‘Help me. Please…help me.”
    Dressing quickly I went out in the hall and tapped on the next room door, asking if she needed assistance. There was silence. I was ready to go to the front desk when I heard a light tapping and a voice. I put my ear to the door and heard a woman’s panicky voice: “My husband’s gone. Something’s wrong with me. I feel so weak.”
    I banged on the door and asked her to open it, but she said she could not get up. She had no strength. I turned away and ran to the front desk, looking for the receptionist who had checked me in late last night. But the desk was empty; no one was around.
    Looking into the spacious, western-motif breakfast area I saw no one was there. I thought about my cell phone and turned to go back to my room when I saw a group of maid’s carts assembled for the morning room cleaning. A key card was hanging from one. I grabbed the key card and ran back to my neighbor’s room. I quickly opened the door and called out, but there was no response. I propped the door open and cautiously went in. The bed was in disarray; on the fold-out lugged holders were two suitcases. I checked the bathroom where there were male and female toiletries. But the room was empty; the distressed woman had disappeared.
    Returning to  the front desk, I found no one. I went into the office and found it empty. I returned to the breakfast room where the flat screen was blaring. Fox was reporting on a police chase of illegals doing 100 on the Los Angeles Freeway. I got some juice and coffee and thought about calling 911. But what to say?
    I finished my coffee, got a paper cup refill and went outside, greeted by a clear, chilly Nevada fall day. The Best Western Motel was on the corner of main and a side road. The parking lot was full, which reinforced my fear that something was dreadfully wrong. My heart skipped a beat as I noted it was now past seven thirty and there was no traffic in sight. The small town of Ely was dead.
    Where was everyone?
    I began to have the queasy feeling I was the only one around. Was there some kind of emergency and I had missed the evacuation call? Had everyone left town in the middle of the night and I been left behind? But what about the woman in the room next to mine? She said her husband was gone. Gone where? When I finally got into her room, she had disappeared.
   As I focused, I recalled my drive into Ely. I had driven in from the east and passed the usual fast-food joints, hair cut salons, cleaners, even a car dealer. But now they were not there. The motel was on the corner and east of the motel this morning was nothing except the desert. Had I been that tired when I arrived that I was wrong in my recall? But I was positive the motel had not been on the edge of the desert. It was time for me to return to my room and get my cell phone and call 911, find out what was happening in Ely.
    The wind whistled and I shivered in the morning chill. I was about to turn back to the motel when suddenly, I heard a voice and down the block I could see a young woman, cradling a small child. She was waving and calling. She was distant, and I could not make out what she was yelling. But she was gesturing frantically at me.
     I waved back at her and started jogging toward her. She waved again, yelled something, then turned to her left and vanished around the corner. I ran as fast as I could to where she was standing and looked for her. But she was gone.
    Walking slowly down the sidewalk, I peered into the line of stores, looking for the girl with the child. There was a breakfast coffee shop with an open sign. I went in and found a cozy setting, but it was empty. Country music was playing, a mournful song of too many cups of coffee and a love gone wrong. A few tables were set with unfinished coffee; one had a plate of half eaten scrambled eggs and bacon. But no one was about. I called and looked into the kitchen, but the place was deserted.
    I retraced my steps, stopping and looking up and down the empty streets. I made my way back to the Best Western. Suddenly I saw a black SUV heading toward the motel from the west. It slowed and pulled into the parking lot. There were three men in the SUV, two in the front and one in the back. They were dressed in suits, ties and white shirts. All three were wearing plaid Route 66 porkpie hats. The tall man in the front passenger seat stepped out and stared at me
    Waving to them, I  called: “Hey, what’s happening here? Everybody has disappeared. Where are you guys from?”
    “We are from Area 51.” But the man did not speak; I heard his words in my head.
    Area 51? I thought.
    Again, his words sounded in my head. “Yes, Area 51.”
    I gaped and a chill went down my spine. We were communicating through telepathy. They could read my thoughts, and I could read their thoughts, too.
    The tall man spoke to me silently. “We came on peaceful reconnaissance, but crashed. They took us to that place over fifty years ago. We planted our seeds and slowly assumed command. Now Area 51 is our home. For the past twenty-five years we have been developing the Ray. This morning we tested the Ray, an experiment so to speak. A few glitches, we missed some people here and there, had to give it another shot. But the Ray is ready. Now we will begin start our settlement plan.”
    “Ray? You have some kind of weapon? But what happened to everyone?’ I asked.
    “Poof.” The man replied.
    “And half the town is gone.” I said pointing to the east of the Best Western.
    “Poof.” He repeated.
    A light bulb went on and I turned, looking frantically up and down the deserted street. This was a joke, some kind of reality cable setup. But no one popped forward.
    The man in the blue suit stood impassively, watching me. “But I don’t understand.” I spoke aloud.” How can I read your thoughts?”
    There was a glimmer of a smile. “You are a sleeper.” He replied. “You are one of us.”
    I took a step back as he opened the door of the black SUV and motioned for me to join them.
    “Welcome to Area 51.” He said.” Welcome home.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Reverse Lake Payette Hit, McCall, Idaho

   Ginger Sands wanted me to murder her cousin. Had I drifted that far; was the abyss that near?
   “So, you’ll do it?” Ginger said, leaning forward with a smile. “The fee is $200,000; here is a down payment, $50,000.” And Ginger laid a bulky envelope on my desk. She had come in to the office without an appointment.
   My name is Cannon Raspberry and I am a private investigator. I work alone so I greeted Ginger when she rang my bell. She was mid-twenties, tall, blond, very striking, wearing a Burberry Trench Coat, which spoke of class and money.
   It was a cold November afternoon and a light rain was falling. Outside the downtown Boise streets were empty, as if everyone was seeking inside warmth and comfort. I looked back at Ginger and smiled. I wasn’t sure how she had found me, or why she thought I would do the deed.
   “I heard you are special.” Ginger said, as if reading my mind. “I checked around, made some phone calls, but I was vague about what I wanted; your name came up a couple of times, so here I am.”
    Ginger told me that her cousin had abused her as a child, and he continued to abuse her. She wanted to be free, needed.someone to take care of her cousin, Mathew. It was delicate because they both came from the patrician Davis Clan. It would be best if Mathew had an accident. As a last resort, Ginger could abide Mathew’s random murder, a mugging gone wrong. As far as Ginger was concerned, it was up to me to make Mathew go away, then the $150,000 balance was mine.
    I opened my desk drawer and gave Ginger a prepaid phone, which was good for a month. I held up mine and told her we only use the cell phones to talk if necessary and no more meetings. Once Mathew had gone to a better place, then I would contact her and arrange for the payment of the balance due.
    Ginger leaned on my deck and looked at me. Her large brown eyes glittered. “When?” She asked.
    "You’re in a hurry.” I replied. “Why’s that?”
    She sat back with a sigh, wrung her hands, looking around my small office, the front of the apartment where I live at W. Franklin and Eighth Street in Boise, Idaho. Ginger dropped her head and muttered. “Mathew has made my life hell. It is time for Mathew to get his.”
    I told Ginger I would first get to know Mathew’s routine and then decide what was best to get him out of her life…for good. She seemed pleased with herself and patted the bulky envelope with the $50,000.
    “I am sure I will be satisfied.” Ginger replied, sitting back with a sigh.
    We said our goodbyes and Ginger ran down the sidewalk to her BMW parked at the curb on W. Franklin. She did not look back and I watched as she roared away, a young woman in a hurry.
    Why did I accept her money? One reason was the substantial fee, of course. Another was that I had been blessed with an uncanny intuition, along with ability to slow action by rotating my right hand. I could return the action to a normal speed by rotating my left hand. This oddity gave me the ability to intrude on people and they never knew I was there. A few months ago I had saved Nicky Durance’s life when we were having coffee in at Ketchum in Sun Valley. Her deranged boy friend Billy came into the shop waving a gun. I had frozen everyone in the shop, then took the gun  away from Billy and returned to my seat with Nicky.
    I then unfroze the scene and Billy was pointing his finger at Nicky. He looked around for his gun in confusion, and then Billy panicked and ran out into the street where he was struck by a Navigator SUV full of partying students. Nicky knew something odd happened, but she did not see me move. And the vanishing gun remained a mystery. Also, Billy was out of Nicky’s life forever.
    I could use my power and intuition to look into Mathew’s life, see what was going on between him and Ginger. I needed to be sure that he truly was the scumbag that Ginger claimed. I did research and learned that Mathew was late 20s, had a BA from U. of Idaho and an MA in sports management from the U. of Colorado at Boulder. He was now working at the Boise YMCA on State Street.
    I went to the Y and got a one month temporary membership for $60. I asked the perky information lady about a book on stretching and she took me in hand and led me to Mathew Davis, a tall, thin young man who greeted me with a warm smile. He gave me a couple of brochures, and then led me to the stretching area, showing me a large, stretch wall chart. Mathew was impressively friendly and thorough.
   As we talked, Mathew suddenly looked away and smiled. I turned to see an elderly woman hobbling in on a cane and waving at Mathew, who excused himself and went to greet his client. Mathew also served as a personal trainer. He took her to the stretch area; I got on a bicycle positioned so I could watch them. Mathew was patient and encouraging; the lady clearly enjoyed his attention. On the surface, Mathew appeared to be a nice guy.
    I studied Mathew’s work schedule for a couple of days, then decided to talk to him when he left the Y, which was normally between 9 and 9:30 at night. He exited the Y and crossed the street and headed to his Land Rover SUV. He unlocked the door; as he was climbing in, I froze Mathew. I went quickly and reached in, unlocking the rear door. I got in the back, and then unfroze Mathew, who plopped into the driver’s seat. He was still for a few seconds as if trying to understand the pause.
    I put my snub- nose revolver against his neck and he jumped, trying to turn, but I told him to stay still. He pleaded that I could take the car and his money, just let him out. I told Mathew to relax, that all I wanted to do was talk for a few minutes.
    “Talk?” Mathew asked. Talk about what?”
    “Your cousin, Ginger Sands, has hired me to kill you. She said you have intruded on her since she was a little girl, done some bad things to her. Ginger wants me to make you go away.”
    Surprisingly, Mathew laughed and relaxed some. “Me? I’ve never touched Ginger. We are just barely civil with each other. Frankly, we can’t stand each other.”
    “Then why is Ginger paying me $200,000 to get you out of her life? I asked.
    Mathew whistled, then said: “Ginger wants the Trust money. She is also involved with a Cartel lieutenant, Ramon. This could well be Ramon’s doing.”
    Mathew explained he and Ginger benefited from a complicated Davis Trust that provided monthly income to him and Ginger. If Mathew married, the Trust would be distributed immediately. If Mathew did not marry, then when Mathew reached age 35, the trust would be distributed. In either case the distribution went two-thirds to Mathew and one-third to Ginger. But if Mathew died, the entire Trust went to Ginger.
    “We talking real money? I asked.
    “Upwards of eighty-million, last time I checked.” Mathew replied.
    I nodded. Now I understood my fee and advance. I explained to Mathew that I was impressed with his work at the YMCA; my instinct told me he was a good person. Problem was if I did not kill him, then Ginger would probably turn to the Cartel. I told Mathew that Ginger had agreed to give me a month to work out his departure. So we had about time to come up with a plan.
    Mathew understood and told me one solution would be for him to get married, then Ginger would get her one-third of the Trust, more than twenty-five million, which might placate her and Ramon. On the other hand, Mathew could vanish. He could have his monthly income sent to a Swiss Bank, and he could relocate east, or to Europe. He needed time to explore other alternatives.
    I agreed to let Mathew ponder the problem and that night I called Ginger, telling her I thought there was a way I could manage Mathew’s departure without any fuss. Ginger was pleased.
    A week went by and I made an occasional call to Ginger to assure her I was on the case. About ten days after I talked to Mathew, I was sitting in my living room with the morning Idaho Statesman and a strong cup of coffee. The headline hit me like a bolt of lightning.
   According to the paper, Ginger Davis and an unidentified male had been burned to death in a log cabin fire at McCall, a resort town one hundred miles north of Boise. It was an old hunting cabin in the Lake Payette area. The cause of the blaze appeared to be a malfunctioning fireplace; the fire had totally destroyed the cabin, burning the two victims beyond recognition. Ginger Davis was known to be in McCall with a male companion. Final identification would depend on checking dental records.
    I put the paper down and my blood ran cold. It was time for a workout at the YMCA. I showed up late in the afternoon before the after-work crowd. I saw Mathew assisting an elderly man; again Mathew was conscientious and attentive. I rode the stationary bicycle until Mathew was finished.
    As I approached Mathew saw me and gave me a warm smile. “Looks like it all worked out.” Mathew said.” No one in Boise will miss Ramon. But poor Ginger; on the other hand she really was a bad seed. As far as I’m concerned you earned your fee. Truthfully, you probably saved my life. If Ginger had hired someone else, I might be toast today.”
    “Odd how things worked out.” I replied. “The newspaper said it appeared to be an accident. Looks like you are off the hook.”
    Mathew looked at me and his kindly brown eyes suddenly turned dark, almost black. He leaned forward, reminding me of a hawk peering down its sharp beak at some prey.
    “Yes,” Mathew said quietly, and then added, cackling. “And now the Trust Fund is mine….the money is all mine!”

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lilith's Revenge at the Sawtooth Farm, Sanley, Idaho

   I killed her here in this deserted and isolated farm house. And, standing at the foot of the steps leading to the attic where I’d hidden her body, I could feel her presence. She had lured me here; I was sure of it. I should not have come, but…here I was anyway.
   Just as she’d had given me no choice the day I’d killed her; now that I had come, she had no choice. I was here and I would, once and for all, extinguish the memory of her…exorcise the unforgiving thoughts of her. I wanted to be rid of her, thus I had to kill her once more.
    The lonely house on the Sawtooth Plain had been deserted for years and a wicked wind whistled through a broken window, the jagged pane giving it a nasty crooked smile. I pulled my coat tighter at my throat and peered once again up the attic steps. It was dark in the house and the stairway was cloaked in shadow, but I didn’t need to see to know that she was up there. Still, I hesitated.
    Not long before, I’d been determined to have this thing done. Now that I stood in the house where I ended the life of a young girl that I had first thought was sweet and innocent my determination wavered. I didn’t like the way it felt to be afraid. I was used to wielding the power, being the cause of the fear-laced sweat that beaded a victim’s brow and dampened armpits.
    I wish I could say that I was here only to satisfy a morbid curiosity, but I was in this house for one simple reason--- she called me here. She had been a lovely girl, no denying that, but then she had gone after Karl, my fiance. Karl lived alone and she visited him at night, draining him until he was so weakened that Karl, a young and vigorous man, was struck with pneumonia. Karl died and I knew it was Lilith. I lost my reasoning and made Lilith pay for her sin.
    In recent months, I had begun to see and hear her; Lilith was in my dreams, haunting me. At night, I trembled and whimpered, fearing for my life. In the last dream she told me that she awaited me in the same house where she’d lost her life. I tried but couldn’t convince myself to stay away. There was her pull, a force unseen, a power pulling me back.
    I had driven straight from the Oregon border to the plain leading to the Sawtooth Nation Park, south of remote Stanley, Idaho. No sleep, just napping now and then. I had to get here and confront my demon. I planned to destroy all traces of Lilith.
   Shaking my head, I again drew my coat tighter and took a step upward. The first step into the unknown is always the hardest or at least it seemed so now. My legs felt rubbery and leaden; ascending the steps was difficult and it seemed to me as if my legs moved in slow motion. Dead leaves littered the narrow attic steps and crunched beneath my feet, sounding too loud inside my muddled mind.
   I was only a handful of steps away from the closed door and I stopped, trying to slow my breathing. I raked my arm across my forehead to clear the sweat before huddling deeper into my coat in an attempt to ward off  bone chilling dampness of the old house. I could not remember a time when I’d been so cold, yet sweating as my body shook from the bitter chill. One more step and I saw the door; it’s peeling red paint more pink now that time had aged it. I remembered how brightly colored it had once been and how it’s deep crimson so appropriately matched the blood that had soaked my clothing.
    I was on the landing without realizing I’d reached it until I saw my hand moving toward the doorknob. I wanted to stop, but couldn’t seem to control it and my mind screamed for a time out…a chance to regroup.  The door made no sound as it swung open. I had not even touched the handle and I pulled my hand back quickly as if I’d been burned. It was gloomy beyond the threshold of the doorway. The arctic-like cold stung my cheeks and burned my throat as I sucked in a quivering breath. The room looked exactly as it had the day I’d brought my sweet girl here on the ruse of a hike in the Sawtooth Mountains. Then we had found the old farm house and agreed to explore together.
   I was transported back in time, clearly seeing myself five years younger and stronger, carrying her body across the planked flooring. It had been warm that day and the attic room was overly hot and stuffy. I remember removing my shirt and using it as a sweat rag only to end up with streaks of red running across my forehead.
   The musty attic still reeked of her blood, hitting me forcefully. I dropped to one knee, inhaling sharply and painfully. How could I still smell her after all these years? It was impossible, of course. This entire ugly business was impossible. The time for disbelief had passed and I had to finish Lilith, get her out of my life forever. I finally found my voice, thinking it appropriate to ask what was expected of me.
   “What do you want from me, Lilith? Why have you brought me here?”
   Taking hold of a table’s edge, I hauled myself up. “You’re dead, Lilith. I killed you. You can’t change that and so I want you to leave me alone…stop coming to me in my dreams, stop making yourself a part of my thoughts. It’s time for you to leave this place. This time, Lilith, I will burn your corpse and cast your ashes to the wind. It is time for you to stay dead.”
   The words tumbled from my mouth without forethought, but they sounded right to me: commanding and authoritative. Behind me the door closed, quietly and softly, the click echoed loudly inside my head. I feared that door wouldn’t be easily opened now that I was alone in the place where I’d hidden Lilith’s body.
   “You brought me here; tell me what you want…is it my life? My life for yours…is that it, Lilith?”  My words echoed in the icy, empty room, the words overlapping like waves, as if I were ranting. Too late I realized I was panicked, my breath coming in cold mists that puffed from my burning lungs. I heard a creaking and saw a shadow and I felt powerless. I looked and there it was…the trunk where I’d placed her body, broken and battered. That large handsome trunk was her tomb these past years. And now the trunk lid was open.
  The house had been empty since I had sealed Lilith in that old trunk. Those who rented the place quickly moved out. Rumors were so rampant that there hadn’t been a tenant or buyer in years. It’s mostly a shell now, but Lilith is here, bound by her anger and hatred for me, her killer. I’ve known it for some time but resisted coming here until I could no longer stay away.
   Now I had brought a can of gasoline and I planned to drag the trunk with her body down the steps and out behind the house. I would set her tomb afire, ridding me of my nemesis forever. I would cast her ashes to the wind; let Lilith's remains dance across the Sawtooth Plain. But I hesitated, as doubt seeped into me that I could carry out such a deed. Was I strong enough? Yet, Lilith had taken my beloved Karl. Lilith had to pay.
   Reluctantly, I went forward and saw Lilith’s strangely mummified body in the open trunk, her blank eyes staring, and her mouth wide open. I wanted to shut the lid and seal it; as I hesitated Lilith slowly rose from the trunk where I had so carefully placed her. As she moved, her appearance began to change, looking as she had the day I’d killed her…young and strong, just beginning to bloom. I backed away even before I knew I was moving. My heart sank; I could not win, but I didn’t want her victory to be so easy.
    Lilith hovered above the floor, and she floated toward me. She was wearing the same clothes and I was stunned by the sudden image of that day, the day I had beaten and strangled her and I could smell her fear again. For a moment I was intoxicated by the memory of my triumph that day. Lilith was truly evil and justice had been served.
   She came silently until she was just inches from me, her mouth opened hideously wide in a scream of pain and anger and utter anguish. I backed away again, my hands pressed to my ears. Outside a storm arose, the sky darkened and a gusting wind whipped through the broken windows. Sharp pieces of glass were picked up from the floor and propelled throughout the room. They were merciless in their pattern of flight. I panicked and ran for the door, scared and stung by the flying glass. I pulled frantically at the door trying my best to avoid flying shards. With a ferocious tug on the door, I was surprised to feel it come loose. I swung it wide with all my might and prepared for flight.
    Lilith stood on the other side at the landing, her head hanging, crooked and pathetic on her broken neck. Her mouth still gaped from that horrific grind of her strangling and her scream was endless. My head felt as if it might burst. There was no where for me to go; I backed away, yelling at her to leave me alone. My own screams went unheard for the violent wind drowned my words. I turned, but Lilith was there, so I spun again only to find her at every turn, again and again.
    My mind snapped a second before a jagged piece of glass pierced my throat. I choked and gagged, then felt the sudden gushing of my blood. I wanted to explain to Lilith, but the dimness closed to blackness and I realized that final sweet lifting. I relented and welcomed the relief of my endless sleep.


   The Medical Examiner and the Sheriff stood silently in the old farm attic. The ME looked at the Sheriff and shrugged. “Odd, it must have been that storm last week. Quick pressure change, a strong wind and it could send all this glass on the floor flying. That large, jagged chunk in her throat severed her artery, causing her to bleed out. I think she was dead before she hit the floor.”
   The Sheriff nodded and looked over to a corner in the attic where the Deputy was gently tapping a trunk with his foot. “Check that trunk, Tim. See what’s in it.” The Sheriff ordered.
   Tim carefully opened the trunk lid and peered in. He leaned over holding the lid with his left hand and reached into the trunk with his right hand.
   “Well?” The Sheriff asked.
   “Nothing here.” Tim replied. “The trunk is empty.”

Contributor, Cindy Baker

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Boise Cartel Kidnapping, Idaho City, Idaho


    Lily Louise Morrison had vanished and her prominent Boise, Idaho family feared the worst--- the Cartel had kidnapped her. Rudy Morrison, Lily Lou’s worn and haggard father had hired me to find and rescue Lily Lou. The assignment was dangerous, but the money and the bonus tempting. I took the job.
   My name is Cannon Raspberry and I am a Idaho Private Investigator with an office in the “Pink House” at Eighth and W. Franklin Streets in Boise, which was now an open city. When the headless bodies of the Governor and the Commander of the State Police were found floating in the Boise River, the city officials conceded Boise to the Cartel.
   All of the Southwest was now under the Cartel. California, Arizona, and New Mexico went quickly. Oregon was a pushover. Everything south of Washington State and west of the Rockies, including Southern Idaho was now “Cartel Land”.
   The situation was bleak and there were rumors that Canada was building a 1,200 mile wall on their western border from Vancouver across Washington and Montana to the North Dakota border. The Canadians were chilled by how quickly the vaunted U. S. Military had rolled over. The Cartel claimed they would stop at the Rockies, just retaking what was rightfully theirs with, of course, some interest for time lost. Many citizens from the new Cartel Land had fled east, others had migrated to Canada. Some like me were trying to live and let live.
   I figured there would be a need for a talented private investigator to sort out issues between Citizens and the Cartel. And the Morrison six-figure job to find Lily Lou would allow me to head east or north, if my situation truly went south.
   My thoughts were interrupted by my bell ringing. I got up and went to the door and greeted Ellen May Morrison, Lily Lou’s older sister. Ellen was tallish, slender, with dark hair and very dark eyes. She would make a pretty witch at Halloween.
    I sat her in a chair in front of my desk while I retreated back to my swivel chair. I gave her one of my cards, which she glanced at and tossed into her large shoulder bag. Ellen asked about my investigation and if I had any inkling where the Cartel had Lily Lou. I told her I had just started and would give her father updates, but at this time I had nothing to report.
   Ellen seemed distracted and dug around in her shoulder bag, as if looking for a cigarette. She pushed her hair away from her forehead. “I hear the Canadians are building a wall.” She said absently. We talked about the vaunted Canadian Wall, and then Ellen commented. “Amazing how Texas held on, isn’t it?”
   I nodded. “Tixans came together, put aside their differences and biases; they mobilized at their border standing as one state. The Cartel moved on.” I explained.
   “They want money don’t they? I mean, if we pay, which we gladly will, then they will release Lily Lou, won’t they?” Ellen asked, switching back to the missing Lily Lou. “They are demanding $5 million. That should be enough to free Lily Lou, right?”
   “Honestly? The Cartel’s record is spotty. Many times the family pays, but the victim is vanished for good. In our case, maybe floating face down in the Boise River.”
   Ellen put her hand to her mouth and tears filled her eyes. But my antenna went up, something made me uneasy about Ellen and her tears. She once again dug around in her purse and this time produced a sterling silver hair brush. “You said you needed this.” And she laid it on my desk. I picked up the expensive hair brush, rubbing it gently, and then looked into Ellen’s dark, wide eyes.
   I saw it all.
   Ellen queried me on my approach and my methods, too much for comfort. But I waved her questions away, telling her I would report to the family soon and my results, if any. I watched her leave and get into her expensive SUV and drive off. I smiled as I watched her go.
   I have an odd power: a strong intuition combined with the ability to slow or stop motion.. I could walk into a room full of people, motion with my right hand and they would be dumbstruck. I could move among them, take their belonging if I chose, then with my left hand I could unfreeze them and no one would know I was there.
   My father had passed this gift to me. It was unclear how exactly he had become so endowed. There was a vague story of a twilight stop at an isolated schoolhouse in the Oregon Jordan Valley. And an encounter with a striking woman and her herd of stunted children; one of the children had bloodied my father’s hand. The little girl licked his bleeding fingers, thus transmitting their strange power to my father. The woman had haunted my father the rest of his life.
   It was early November and the weather was clear and crisp. I got my tracking device, my revolver, and went out back to my SUV. I intended to follow Ellen, as there was a nano chip in my name card, allowing me to track her. Ellen headed northeast out of Boise on the road to Idaho City. She took a gravel road just south of Idaho City, then a dirt road and in the distance I could an isolated house on the vast plain.
   The kidnap house was clever as it stood alone, with just a magnificent evergreen towering over the odd looking house. Perhaps at one time it had been a schoolhouse. I left my SUV out of sight and had to crawl through the tall grass until I reached the evergreen. I then made my way to the window where I could see the two sisters with a tall, good-looking black haired man in his late 20s. The three of them were laughing and the sisters were hugging and kissing the good looking guy, sharing a bottle of Snake River Cabernet. I heard Ellen through the window: “…Oh, Marco!”
   My worst fear.
   I sat below the window and planned my move. I could see Marco was armed with a nasty looking automatic, so I had to be careful. I went in through the back door, which was not locked, into the kitchen. The floor creaked and I heard Marco coming down the hall. He saw me and went for his gun, but I froze him with a motion of my right hand. Marco was standing like a statue with his mouth open and his eyes wide.
I took his gun, stepped back and shot him in the head. Then I put the gun in his right hand and fired another shot though the door windows to the outside. The sisters screamed and I quickly confronted them.
   “So it was a scam? How could you do this to your own father?” I asked the two startled sisters once they calmed down.
   Lily Lou, the younger one looked at me with disdain. “He isn’t our father.”
   “Our step-father.” Ellen explained.
   “Still, how could you conjure such a mean plot?”
   The girls looked at each other. Ellen looked away through the window, as if gazing at the evergreen. “He did things.” Lily said simply. “First to Ellen, then to me.”
   It was my turn to look away.


   Three weeks had passed since I had recovered Lily Lou and Rudy Morrison had joyfully paid my fee. First, I had gotten Ellen into her car and she had fled the scene. Then Lily Lou and I went through the story for the police.
   The story went: I had found the kidnap house, approached from the rear. Marco had seen me and taken a shot at me through the back door window. I drew my gun and inexplicably Marco had had put the gun to his temple and shot himself. The police bought the explanation. The press loved the story; one win over the Cartel.
   As I mused over my next more, the doorbell rang and I found Ellen on my steps. She was wringing her hands, distraught, and red eyed. I let her in and asked her what was terribly wrong.
   Ellen shook her head. “The Cartel... and I mean the real Cartel... has kidnapped my little sister. They're demanding $10 million for the return of Lily Lou."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rental House, Old Idaho Penententiary Road, Boise, Idaho

   I was standing in my kitchen, unpacking boxes when I heard someone call my name, “Charlotte.” It was faint but I heard it plainly and I whirled around trying to determine the direction of the voice. It was a child’s voice, a young girl, I was sure of it but…whose child could it be and how did she know my name?
   I’d only moved into the house a month ago and lucky to find it. It was perfect for me though bigger than I’d been looking for. Three stories, with the third a large attic that was sealed off by a locked door. The realtor didn’t have a key and was vague about the attic, surprising but I guess not unheard of. I hadn’t found an attic key in my search through the house, though I wasn’t too surprised by that either. It was an old house and had been unoccupied for a number of years, since its elderly owner had entered a nursing home. Vague talk of a psychotic breakdown.
   The house was in lovely shape in spite of its neglected years and I took to its large open rooms and many windows that looked out on an expansive, once-cared for gardens, now all gone to weeds and decay. Someday they would look different, but for now I was focused on getting settled and unpacked. My dogs were outside, it was quiet in the kitchen and I was unpacking a large box of mismatched Tupperware, intent on throwing most of it away, when I heard someone call again.
   “Come find me, Charlotte”
   There was no mistaking it. The voice was definitely a young girl’s voice and she was most certainly calling me, which was strange and weird because I’d yet to meet my neighbors. Actually, there were no nearby neighbors and I knew absolutely no one in Boise, so the chances of anyone knowing my name were slim.
   I reluctantly abandoned the box filled with colorful plastic bowls and hesitantly walked to the kitchen’s doorway. Though I didn’t know exactly where the voice had come from, I did know it was coming from inside the house. Until that moment, the voice’s presence inside the house hadn’t registered with me. That realization sent a shiver down my spine, and I slowed my steps even further. Who was there?
   That night I was awakened by a presence in my bedroom. I sat up with the covers drawn to my chin. In the light of the moon, I could see a young girl at the side of my bed, wearing a simple white dress, her hair parted in the middle and touching her slight shoulders.
   She put her finger to her lips. I was not afraid of the slender girl in her early teens, but my heart was pounding. “Who are you”? I asked. “What are you doing here?”
   “My name is Alice and I want you to help me. I cannot go home. Please, help me.”
   I sat up and Alice told me she used to live in this house. Five years ago a man had come to fix the leak in the cellar. Alice’s mother, a nurse, had been called back to the hospital. Alice took the plumber to the cellar. “He hurt me.” Alice said. “I don’t want to talk about it, but he killed me. I am buried in the garden, but I need to find peace and go home.”
   My first reaction was this was a weird prank. But no one came forward and Alice leaned toward me. “What can I do?” I asked. ‘You want me to go to the police?”
   Alice shook her head, telling me it was too late for the police. Redemption was the answer, and then she could move on. Alice asked me to bring her assailant back to the house and she would forgive him. Revenge would not help her.
   For the next week, Alice often visited me after midnight. Sometimes she just sat there until I fell asleep. Other times we talked, but she would never detail what her assailant had done to her. And I did not want to know.
   Finally, I relented. I agreed to Alice’s request that I go to Buster’s Sports Bar on a Thursday night and meet Andy Borden, her tormentor. The first night I went after the Thursday evening football game started and I saw him, an older man with thinning hair, fit looking, perhaps a former athlete. I made a point of going to the bar on Thursday nights and eventually we began to chat. He told me he was a hydraulic engineer and semi-retired. I explained to Andy about my problem faucet in the basement and he offered to take a look.
   Andy followed me to the house and we went in, hesitating in the hall, as Andy looked about. He rubbed his hand over his face. “I have a sense of deju vu.” Andy said. “I have been here before, but I cannot place it.”
   My blood went cold and I clutched my bag, which had small revolver in it. Andy explained he’d had a stroke three years ago. His movement was okay, but the memory of his time before the stroke was scant.
   We stood at the head of the cellar stairs and Andy looked at me. “Yes, I was here. There was a young girl. She took my hand and led me into the basement. I…”
   Before Andy could finish his story, there was the shriek of a banshee, a flash of a wraith and Andy was pushed violently in his back, throwing him headfirst down the steps. He landed at the bottom, his head turned grotesquely. Andy was dead.
   What happened to redemption?


   Three weeks have passed since Alice’s last visit. Three weeks since Andy Borden had “tripped” and fallen to his death down the basement steps. There was no link between me and Andy. I had no obvious motive to do Andy any harm, so Andy’s death was recorded as an unfortunate household accident. During the investigation I had gotten to know the young detective on the case. As a courtesy to me, he had looked back to find the missing girl case at my house. Oddly, there was no report of a missing girl, no Amber Report, nothing untoward at my address on Old Idaho Penitentiary Road. The detective did tell me the neighbors avoided the house. A wag talked of a demon, which the detective assured me was nonsense.
   But I wondered. Had I been manipulated?
   Tonight I awakened to find Alice once again at my bedside. Her eyes were hard and glittered red in the dim light.
   “There is someone else.” Alice said.

Contributor, Cindy Baker

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Jinxed Gas Station and Camel Shop, Quartzsite, Arizona

    Harvey was part of the advanced 1st Marine Unit landing on Wake Island. He was wounded and airlifted to Oahu Army Hospital in serious but stable condition. Harvey was assigned a young nurse from Minnesota, known as Dixie.
   Dixie took an immediate liking to Harvey and sat with him as much as she was allowed. He recovered and was sent back to the Pacific theatre. They agreed to meet on Dec 24th, 1947 in Chinatown, San Francisco when the war was over.
   They met and knew it was a romance that had survived the War. Harvey's dream was to own his own gas station, so he applied for a GI loan to start his business. Harvey and Dixie headed out of California to find the perfect location, discovering a vacant site just east of the Colorado River at Quartzsite Arizona. He built the station and adjacent store with hope. As cross-country travel was booming, he and Dixie prospered.
   They soon had a liter of three who were helping out at the station and the small store next door. On one of those thunderous stormy desert nights a heavy front hit them with full force. Near midnight, a hard knock was heard at their front door and Harvey went to see who could be out in the storm. There was a tall stranger at the door, thoroughly soaked. He had run out of gas about five miles back and asked for help with a can of gas and a ride back to his auto.
   Harvey loaned him a coat and together they went out to the station, filled a can, loaded it into the 54 Hudson and Dixie heard the loud V-8 pull away. Harvey did not return that night and in the morning, the State Police found her husband lying in a culvert about 15 miles from home, Harvey's skull was crushed; he was shoeless and missing his watch and wallet. The local sheriff  and deputies worked on the case for over two years, but there was no trace of the Hudson or the stranger.
   Dixie and the kids could not run the businesses alone and finally they gave up and moved back to Minnesota to live with her mother. The gas station never reopened; no one stepped forward to revive the gas station and store. During an Army maneuver in 1964, a squad of army techs from Fort Huachuca used the store to test communication equipment. Oddly, the equipment malfunctioned and the soldiers left the store as they found it.
   Today the little gas station and store sit empty, a reminder of another time.

Contributor, Gary Pederson

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Irascible Woman Elimination, Warm Springs, Boise, Idaho

   Max Bennett, Agent 3320 of the newly formed Control Group 7, took a corner table in the Turret Coffee Shop. He opened his hard-copy file and looked at his client, a 62-year old, slender, gray-haired lady, who had been designated for immediate elimination.
   He sat back, noticing that a few customers in the shop were nervously eying him. His black boots, gray pants and brown tunic with the chocolate Sam Brown belt made him stand out, a mistake. Yet he loved the getup.
   Max stared back and they nervously looked away. A couple paid and left. He returned to Ellen Bruno's file, studying her misdeeds. She had recently gotten into a fight with an older gentleman in a supermarket because she left her shopping cart in the checkout aisle. He had complained and she had shoved the cart violently into the man's stomach, knocking the old gent to the ground. The Bruno file went on and on; the woman had a colic personality, was quick tempered and, as she was tall and sturdy, a danger. The Control Group Committee was correct; sooner or later Ms Bruno would kill or impair a law-abiding citizen. The Control Group's brief was to eliminate discretely such miscreants.
   Max smiled grimly and patted his vaporizer, secure in the holster at his waist. He studied the file, memorizing the details. This was Max's first solo elimination; it had to go by the book, no missteps.
   His thoughts were interrupted as the young waitress sat down with a small cup of coffee. “I’m off duty. I hope you don't mind if I join you."
   Max closed the file. She was attractive, with a devastating smile and large brown eyes. She introduced herself as Annie Bly. "Actually, I do mind. I have business tonight." He answered.
   The girl leaned forward. "You're a Control Group Agent, aren't you? I can tell from your outfit."
   Max winced.
   "I applied to be a CG Agent, but they turned me down. I flunked the first phase, the psychological test. They said I have an underlying mean streak. I might get out of hand."
   As much as Max wanted to be alone, he felt an attraction to the bright-eyed girl and let her linger.
   "I think you are on a mission. Let me tag along, please."
   Max was stunned and shook his head. "Impossible, out of the question."
   She leaned across the table and gave Max a beguiling smile. "I'd do anything to go along."
   The girl implored Max, who felt he was in a spider's web, that she had a hook in him. He was helpless to get away from her. Against his better judgment, he agreed, telling Annie to meet him at Ms. Bruno's address.
   Later that evening, they met and together went to the small bungalow on 3725 Warm Springs Avenue and rang the bell. Immediately there was the furious high-pitched barking of a small dog. A woman's voice called:
“Shush, Mr. Pickles, we have guests."
   The door opened and Max bowed politely, "Ms Bruno?"
   The woman hesitated, then nodded, but was distracted by the furious little, yapping terrier jumping up and down. She turned and wagged a finger at the dog, and ordered him to sit down, which we did his paws in front, his little head wagging back and forth.
   As she soothed Mr. Pickles, a light bulb suddenly went on in her head and she spun around to face Max and the pretty young girl at his side.
   "I know who you are. Is this a sick joke? Don't you know me? I am on the Committee for God's sake." And she wagged her finger at Max.
   It was the finger wagging that unnerved Max. He stepped back, went to his holster and vaporized the angry woman. As she vanished, the dog leaped up and started his nerve-wracking yap. Max vaporized Mr. Pickles.
   Annie was dumbstruck. She had heard a hum, then a flash of light, a bluish mist, and then the old woman and the little dog were gone, disappeared.
   Max ushered Annie into the house. They went into the living room and Max pushed her into a chair while he sat on a couch and put his file and electronic tablet on the coffee table. He quickly opened the tablet and started ticking off his interview questions.
   "Shouldn't you have done that before...?" Annie asked, accusingly.
   Max ignored Annie as he furiously went through the myriad forms he was supposed to complete before the elimination. He paused, as his earphone buzzed.
   "Agent 3320, where are you?"
   “At 3725 Warm Springs."
    "And our client?" The voice asked.
   "Eliminated, Sir. By the Book"
   There was a long silence.
   "Sir?” Max inquired.
   "3320, there has been an error. Dispatch transposed the house number. It is not 3725. Actually, it is 3752. The intended client for elimination was Ms. Bruno. Instead you have eliminated Ms. Bruneau, a member of our CG Advisory Committee."
   Max's blood ran cold. Control told him to execute a "cleanup" per the manual annex. They would take care of the details. Then the earphone went dead.
   Annie leaned forward. “What? You look like you have seen a ghost."
   "Wrong address. We’re in the wrong house."
   Annie sat back as her agile brain processed the enormity of what she had just seen and heard. Realizing she could be implicated, Annie leaped from her chair. "You idiot! What a screw up! You even eliminated that poor little dog!"
   Max stared at his critic. Without thinking, he vaporized Annie.


   The official report is that Ms Bruneau, a member of the CG Advisory Committee, has taken a sabbatical and is on a year-long trip touring Europe and Asia. Her little bungalow on Warm Springs sits unattended. The Turret Coffee Shop waitress, Anne Bly, is reported as missing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Sapphire Coffee Shop, Ketchum, Idaho

   Cannon and Nicky walked to the nearby Sapphire Coffee Shop and found a corner table, ordering large coffees. A pert Latina was attending the shop and went back to her cell phone after serving them.There was  a middle-aged couple huddled at a small table whispering.
   Nicky and Cannon sipped their coffees and Nicky explained she had come to Ketchum for a season of skiing at Sun Valley. She was from Florida, had just finished college at Gainsville and was contemplating law school, but wanted a year off There was also a broken romance, but Nicky's voice trailed off and she left it at that.
   "What about you? Some kind of jock?"
   Cannon laughed and explained that he had played football at Vanderbilt, done quite well to start. Then in his sophomore year during the second game against Ol Miss he was popped hard by an Ol Miss safety. His knee went out. Season over; career finished.
   Nicky nodded. "And now you do what?"
   "Telecoms business, I'm the Western Region Representative and I scout for tower sites. I had hoped for a career in the pros, but here I am with my cell phone and GPS."
   Nicky smiled.
   "At least I was knocked out by a star; the guy who ruined my knee was Deshone Jefferson, now a pro bowl guy. He plays with the Cleveland Browns."
   Nicky slapped her forehead. "The Browns! We are die-hard Browns fans. My family came from Cleveland. Can any team be more hapless this year? They are 0 and 4 and well on their way to a 0-16 season.
  Cannon laughed. "I'm happy Deshone is playing for such a loser."
  Nicky shook her head. "The Browns need some magic. I mean voodoo magic!"
  And that was when the idea struck Cannon. He sat back in his chair as a plan popped into his head.
   "What?" Nicky asked, noticing his sudden change of expression.
   "You gave me an idea, but I need to sleep on it."
   "The Browns?" Nicky asked.
    At that moment, the entrance door flew open; a cold wind blew through the store and a shrill voice trilled: "This is the greatest day of your lives. I regret it's also the last day of your lives." And the man cackled.
   Nicky grabbed Cannon's arm. "Oh God, it is Billy Winn!"
   Cannon looked at the threatening figure who had burst through the doorway. Billy Winn was medium height and pudgy, with a round face and a scruffy beard, thinning hair, wild blue eyes. His "Gators" ball cap was skewed to the side and in his right hand, he waved a small automatic, which he pointed at Nicky.
   "And darling, the first bullet has your name on it." Billy Winn said to Nicky, cocking the gun.
   Nicky shrank back and Cannon sat very still, his mind racing. His instinct told him Billy Winn was Florida money, not hick, but dangerous money.
   Billy Winn looked at the Latina who was staring at the cellphone on the counter, and he shook the gun at her. Then Billy glanced at the middle-aged couple, who were clutching hands and trying to shrink into the wall. No problem there.
   Billy waved the gun around, then pointed it back at Nicky. "Look at my fiance. She is in town a week and already bedding the local stud." Billy lamented.
   Billy steadied the gun and raised his hand, inching closer to Nicky. He shook his head, tears welled in his eyes. "I'm not sharing my love, so..."
   Cannon put out his hands and motioned with his right hand. Billy Winn froze, his mouth open, the gun pointed at Nicky. The Latina was caught leaning toward her cell phone; the loving couple were pressed into the plaster, as if hoping to come out on the other side.
   Cannon quickly got up and went to Billy Winn, taking the gun and putting it in his pocket, then patting Billy to be sure he did not have a second gun. He then returned to the table with Nicky. Cannon motioned with his left hand and the scene came alive.
   Billy was sputtering," now."
   But Billy seemed to have lost his train of thought; he pointed his empty hand at Nicky's head and flexed his trigger finger. Nothing happened. No gun. Billy's eyes went wide as he saw the gun had disappeared. He stood there sputtering, his mouth working. He looked down on the floor, behind him for his gun, then under the nearby table. He searched his pockets to no avail.
    The Latina was clutching her cellphone, the moonstruck couple stared
    Billy backed toward the door, his pasty face was terrified. "You're all demons!" He raged, then turned and raced out of the door and without looking ran across Fourth Street as a Lincoln Navigator full of partying Boise State fans came around the  corner and broadsided Billy, sending him flying 30 feet down to the corner of Fourth and Main.
    The Latina talked excitedly on her phone; the spooning couple got up and slipped away into the night. Cannon and Nicky walked through the crowd to the corner crash scene. Billy Winn was sprawled lifeless on Main Street. The police were preoccupied with the drunks in the Navigator. Cannon and Nicky agreed tacitly to walk on by.
    "I'll  see you home." Cannon offered. " You and Billy Winn?"
    Nicky shook her head. "I don't want to talk about it. A foolish love gone wrong."
    She directed Cannon to the other side of Main, not far from the base of Bald Mountain where she rented an apartment in "The Pink House", a lovely old Victorian painted a mellow pink with rust trim.
   They stood at Nicky's private entrance. Nicky gave Cannon her card..."in case you want to rent something. I am the one to see."
   Cannon put her card in his pocket. "Before Billy barged in on us, you gave me an idea. If it works out, you will definitely read about it."
   Nicky cocked her head.
   "Not yet, the idea needs work." Cannon said.
   Nicky reached up and kissed Cannon on the cheek. "Thanks," Nicky said, "I'm vague on what happened back there, but you or something saved me a lot of grief."
   Cannon nodded as Nicky disappeared inside her apartment. He walked back to Main to find his SUV which was parked on a side street. He paused to cross the street, glancing at the Sun Valley Courtesy Bus in front of him, which was a handsome 1930s style bus painted forest green with wood paneling. A woman was looking out at him from one of the bus windows. Cannon gasped. She had raven hair, high cheekbones, a wide mouth, and glittering green eyes. It was Mary Jane Taylor.
   Mary Jane was the keeper of the little girl Radika. And it was Radika who had bloodied Cannon at the little schoolhouse on the prairie, tasting his blood and infecting him, passing to him his strange new power. Mary Jane gave Cannon a sly smile from the bus window, then raised her right hand as if in greeting.
   Cannon suddenly felt his limbs grow heavy, rooted to the sidewalk. Then the bus pulled away and Mary Jane looked back at him, raising her left hand in a dainty wave. Cannon felt his body relax and his feeling returned. He felt a chill run down his spine as the bus roared down Main and turned on Warm Springs Road.
   Was Mary Jane following him? If so, what did Mary Jane want?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Wells Fargo ATM Scam, Sun Valley, Idaho

   Cannon Raspberry was infected with a virulent virus, passed to him by the alien girl, Radika. Bad news. But with the virus came a strange, as yet mystifying power, which he was curious to know more about.
   Cannon planned a small personal experiment of his new power at an ATM on lonely 4th Street in Ketchum, Idaho. It was Saturday night and the Boise State Broncos were playing. Of course, 99% of the locals were glued to their TVs to watch the game. The tourists were few as it was between the summer and the winter seasons.
   Cannon sat on a bench a few feet from a Wells Fargo ATM. A gaggle of four boisterous young men went to the ATM and withdrew some cash. This was not the group to hit. Finally, an older, refined gentleman came to the ATM. He looked to be in his mid-sixties, slender and nicely dressed in cowboy boots, jeans, and a tan, suede jacket with outside pockets and fancy leather elbow patches.
   Cannon watched as the modern day cowboy inserted his bank card and tapped the keys, leaning forward to gaze at the small display. After a few taps, he nodded his head and the ATM began to whir, spitting the twenty's into the dispenser. Once the customer started to lean forward to take his stash of twenty dollar bills, Cannon rose and splayed both his hands toward the stranger at the ATM. With his right hand Cannon made a half circle motion and the ATM scene froze. The man at the ATM was caught leaning forward, his hand almost to the dispenser to take his money.
   Cannon looked quickly around, but 4th Street was empty. He rose and went swiftly to the ATM and grabbed the stack of twenty dollar bills; there were fifteen, three hundred dollars. Cannon felt a sudden twinge to pocket the money and saunter off. But he shrugged it away and slipped the money in the customer's right outside pocket, then Cannon hurried back to this bench, where he again displayed his palms, this time making a half circle motion with his left hand.
   Instantly, the scene at the ATM was back to normal and the old gentleman was standing in front of the ATM, but his money was gone! The customer started mumbling and shaking his head; he bent forward and banged on the ATM, then noticed the receipt and his card in their respective slots. He looked at the receipt and said: "What the hell?" Then he took his credit card and put it in his outside jacket pocket.
   At that moment the man found his cash. Cannon was watching out of the corner of his eye. The old guy was totally nonplussed and looked over at Cannon. " Hey," he called in an agitated voice, "did you see something here?"
   Cannon walked over and smiled reassuringly, shaking his head. " Just you here at the ATM. Why, is there a problem?"
   The older man narrowed his eyes and looked up and down the street, but 4th Street was empty. His look softened and he asked Cannon in a sheepish voice: "How long have I been standing here?"
   "Not long, a few minutes." Cannon responded.
   The gentleman patted his jacket pocket. "That's a relief." Then he turned and walked quickly toward Main Street.
   Cannon watched him turn the corner and disappear from view. He smiled, that went well. And no serious damage done, he hoped.
   "That was odd, wasn't it?"
   Cannon started and turned to see a perky looking blond, cocking her head and smiling at him.
   "I was across the street, just got off  work from the rental agency. That old guy...something happened while he was the the ATM. I saw it."
   Cannon's heart fluttered. "I was right here on the bench. I didn't see anything. What did you see?"
   She  wiped her hair from forehead, then swept her hair back, tucking a strand behind her ear. "I'm not sure. I came out and saw you sitting on the bench and the guy at the ATM, then I seemed to pause for a few seconds. Next thing I know that guy is muttering and banging on the the ATM. Then you went over and he seemed okay and took off.  By the way, I am Nicky Durrance."
    Cannon smiled at the girl, but his mind was whirling. "I'm Cannon Raspberry, just here for a few days. And I think the old gent is just fine."
    Nicky returned Cannon's smile. Something strange had happened when she came out of the office, she seemed suspended for a few seconds. But the reason she had crossed the street was Cannon. He was at least 6'4", lean, athletic and dressed in jeans with a grape colored shirt. His features were fine and he had wavy blond hair. It was his eyes that intrigued Nicky. She had imagined blue, but Cannon's eyes were dark, an odd dark brown.
   Cannon felt Nicky's attraction to him and suggested they have a coffee. Nicky eagerly accepted and they headed off to a nearby coffee shop. He needed to know what, if anything, Nicky has seen of his little experiment.
   What did Nicky know?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Robbery at Karl's Yellow Discount, Picabo, Idaho

    Cannon Raspberry had no sooner entered Karl's Discount then he found himself in the middle of a robbery. There were three of them, wearing gory Halloween masks, shouting and waving their shotguns. People were dropping to the floor, putting their hands behind their heads.
   The gunman directly in front of Cannon was pumping his gun and starting to spin. Instead of dropping to the floor like all the others, Cannon inexplicably turned his hands out in a biblical fashion and made a half circle with his right hand.
   With that half-circle hand gesture, Cannon's world changed forever. Karl's Discount darkened, as if someone had turned down the lights. Everyone in the store was frozen, or moving in very slow motion. The gunman in front of Cannon was struggling to turn and point his shotgun at Cannon's chest.
   What had been the shrill commands of the gunmen, ordering the customers on the floor and the cashiers to empty the registers, was now a muddle of belabored voices, totally unintelligible, as if speaking in foreign tongues.
   Cannon grabbed a display bottle of Ste. Chapelle Claret and smashed it over the nearest's gunman's head. The shotgun flew out of the robber's hands and Cannon immediately seized the shotgun and pointed it at the other two thieves. They had seen what happened and were muttering, their eyes flashing, but they also had the same difficulty in turning on Cannon. It was if the two were in a thick quagmire, unable to move swiftly, or speak coherently.
   Without hesitation, Cannon aimed at the closest gunman and shot him in the legs, then he shot the third gunman, again in the legs. He watched in fascination, as the two gunmen fell in slow motion, as if something were slowly lowering them to the floor.
   The scene was beyond belief, the customers on the floor were writhing, some crying, it all sounded like the Tower of Babel, incoherent mutterings. Cannon's mind was spinning, he wanted no part of this. Everyone seemed paralyzed except him.
   Cannon took his handkerchief and wiped the shotgun he had used, then he dropped it next to the unconscious gunman. He raced out of the store. The minute he cleared the store, all sounds returned to normal: calls for help, screams, utter chaos. He looked back and saw customers jumping to their feet. Security men pounced on the downed gunmen.
   He did not hesitate, but ran counter clockwise around the big box, running away from his car. He circled to the back of Karl's and took off his blue cotton shirt, his ball cap, sunglasses and dumped them in a dumpster.
   Cannon walked quickly and pulled his charcoal t-shirt out of his pants. As he completed the circle, he heard the sirens and watched as two police cars screeched to a stop in front of Karl's. Fortunately, there was now a crowd of people in front of the store gawking, others were racing away away from the store.
   He quickly mixed with the crowd and slowly made his way to his parked SUV. Cannon got in, started the engine and headed away from the crime scene. He drove evenly at the speed limit to Ketchum and his room at the Sun Valley Inn. He parked in the garage, then went to his room and out on his small balcony with a bottle of wine and a glass. Time to think.
   He immediately thought back to last week's eerie events. He had started the week with a side trip to Silver City, a once booming Idaho mining town. After his visit to Silver City, he had taken the back roads over to Jordan Valley, Oregon. He had gotten lost and ended up at a curious, and isolated one-room school house. Much to his surprise, a young, attractive woman had popped out of the old building, introducing herself as Mary Jane Taylor. She had pleasantly given him instructions that would take him back to the I-84 and Boise where he was staying the night.
   Unfortunately, Cannon caught sight of the children. He gaped incredulously at the myriad, tiny children, actually no more than 12 to 30 inches tall,. Mary Jane had then paralyzed Cannon by making a half circle with her right hand. She said he could not leave and one girl, Radika, led Cannon into the school room.
   Mary Jane explained they were an expedition with a plan. They came from another place far away. As Mary Jane talked, Cannon became aware that Radika was chewing on his hand and licking the dripping blood from his fingers. Thanks to a sudden thunderstorm, he had managed to escape as Mary Jane had herded her tiny charges to the storm cellar.
   Cannon still couldn't believe what had happened, but for the fresh scars on his left hand. He sipped his wine and stared at the Sawtooth Mountains. When Radika chewed his fingers and licked his dripping blood what if she, either on purpose or unintenionally, had passed Cannon an alien virus, perhaps her DNA through her saliva?
   He thought about the robbery at Karl's, pondered and what had happened inside the discount store when he splayed out his palms and motioned with his right hand; the place became a swamp for everyone inside. His hand motion was was akin to Mary Jane's when she had paralyzed him. Had Radika given him the power?
   If so, what next?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Little Prairie School House, Jordan Valley, Oregon

   Cannon was lost, totally lost in the East Oregon prairie and it was twilight. To make matters worse, a storm appeared to be brewing in the west. An innocent run to Silver City, Idaho was turning into a disaster. He cut his engine and got out of the rental car, staring at the huge oak tree hovering over the strange building, a small farmhouse, more likely a remote school.
   Suddenly a young woman came around the corner of the building, which Cannon had thought was abandoned. She walked quickly and approached him: slender, long brown hair,with vivid green eyes, wearing a modest long dress. Cannon was taken aback by her beauty, reminding him of someone from his past.
   "Are you lost?" She inquired in a pleasant voice.
   Cannon explained he had been visiting Silver City, decided to run over to Jordan Valley, then taken the byways and back roads towards Boise where he was staying for business. He admitted he was now lost.
   The young lady, perhaps in her mid-twenties introduced herself as Mary Jane Taylor. She told him to go back to the gravel road, take a right, at the junction and he would see a sign to Boise. A left on the gravel road would take him back to Jordan Valley.
   Cannon paused, enjoying the young woman's company, her strange allure. Then something happened to him; it was as if someone was tugging at his head, forcing him to turn his head and look toward the school, which he did. Cannon gazed at the school building's windows. There in the small glass panes were a sea of tiny faces staring out at him, each face perhaps an inch in diameter. Incredibly small children, tiny dolls, gawking and pointing at him.
   Cannon's mouth was agape as he turned back to Mary Jane, who muttered: "naughty children." Then she rotated her right hand in a half circle and Cannon's body went dead. Mary Jane looked at him and shook her head. "If only you had not stopped, or not looked back at the school. A storm is coming and you should have had more sense than to get lost like this. Oh well, now you are ours."
   He was rooted to the spot. Mary Jane took Cannon's hand and gently led him around to the front door. Cannon lumbered, each step an effort. He was like the walking dead, incapable of any fast or forceful motion.They entered the building which was a school, set with desks, perhaps at one time grades six through nine. Cannon could turn his head as Mary Jane led him into the school house and he saw the little children at the back, now away from the windows. They were all staring at him, pointing and whispering. There were hundreds of them.They seem to range from 6 to 12 inches tall. The tallest, about eighteen inches tall, was a lovely black haired girl. She came forward and helped guide Cannon to the front where he clumsily sat in a desk chair.The little girl sat on the floor beside Cannon, holding his fingers.
   Cannon had a feeling of panic. His first reaction was just a nightmare and soon he would wake up in his bed at the Boise Hampton Inn.
   " It is not a dream, Cannon." Mary Jane said.
   Cannon raised his eyebrows, and Mary Jane explained she could read his thoughts. Since Cannon could not talk, thoughts would have to do.
   "We have what you call an Action Plan. Unlike you, we creatures exist in place, not time. We are timeless. This is the first phase of our Action Plan; we are conducting our education, then comes our training, and then finally the engagement. Regrettably, you will find engagement unpleasant.
   Cannon could not move his limbs quickly; there was no way he could jump up and confront Mary Jane, but he did have feeling. There was the strangest sensation with his left hand fingers. He slowly turned his head and looked down and to his horror saw that the pretty girl was gnawing at his fingers. His blood was dripping to the school floor. She looked up and her mouth and cheeks were covered in his blood.
   "Radika!" Mary Jane called. And Radika dropped Cannon's gnawed fingers.
   "That is engagement." Mary Jane said.
   Cannon looked back at Mary Jane and his thoughts raced. What were his options? Mary Jane shook her head."I see what you are thinking. You have no options.We are just the advance, coming here to your place. We will stay here until all of you are gone. Then we will have to move again. Find a new place."
   Maybe someone will pass by, Cannon thought desperately. See his rental car. Mary Jane shook her head.   "No one comes here, only the lost."
   She stood with her hands on her hips and explained she would lock Cannon in the school's storm cellar. Let the children feed. Later his bones would be scattered across the prairie. Cannon's suddenly felt hopeless, soon to be fodder for the ravenous tiny kids, with Radika in the lead. He looked forlornly out the side windows, realizing  that the sky was quickly blackening, the sudden, late-summer storm was beginning to sweep across the prairie. There was a flash of lightning, then a roll of thunder.
   Mary Jane turned and walked to the windows and looked at the approaching storm. As she moved away from Cannon he felt his mobility begin to return. Yet he kept still. Radika went back to gnawing on his fingers.
   The storm was now coming swiftly down through the prairie valley and suddenly Cannon saw a funnel cloud dip down, swirling dust and scattering sage.
   "Oh my." Mary Jane said. "Children, we have to get to the storm cellar. Radika, gather your group while I open the storm cellar."
   Radika dropped Cannon's hand and raced back to her tiny charges, shepherding them toward the door.
As Mary Jane went out the door, Cannon felt his mobility return. Mary Jane looked back at him and he stayed rigid, then when she went through the door, he jumped up, ran and crashed though a front window. He tumbled in the sage brush, then raced to his car, having left the keys in the ignition. He started the car, whipped it around, and roared back to the dirt road.
   He heard Mary Jane calling and felt himself once again going numb, but he floored the accelerator and the car shot forward. He hit the gravel road and thought about turning to the Sheriff's station in Jordan Valley, but his instinct said no and he took a right, raced down the gravel road, found the Boise sign and soon was barreling down I-84 into Boise.
  Cannon only relaxed as he parked the car and entered the hotel lobby. He headed for the elevator. Suddenly, the desk clerk called his name. Cannon paused and went to the front desk.
   " Mr Raspberry, Cannon Raspberry?"
   Cannon nodded.
   "Our system is down. You had a message and I was writing you a note. A young woman just called and said to tell you,
 - Until we meet again.  Fondly, Mary Jane Taylor.