Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Outpost, Moscow, Idaho

   Matt Brown knocked on the door of the isolated prairie farmhouse. Matt was surprised when a young girl in a long white dress with a mane of black hair and electric green eyes opened the door. She was stunning. Matt explained he was from the County School Board and he wanted to talk to her parents about her schooling. The alluring girl invited him in and showed him to the living room of the isolated farmhouse.
   She introduced herself as Cecilla, then left to get ice tea for Matt. Matt watched her go and she seemed to glide across no floor, no locomotion. He scanned the living room; there was just the sofa, a wing-back chair and the coffee table. No personality.
   Cecilla returned and sat across from him. Matt listened for other voices or sounds in the house.  He wanted to launch into the reason for his visit: why wasn't Cecilla in school? Where were her parents? But first he took a swig of tea and immediately his head began to swim. He wobbled. Cecilla moved from the chair and sat beside him, then she leaned over and kissed him on the lips. And all went black.
   When Matt awoke, he was groggy and in bed, listless, unable to move. Cecilia was sitting with him. Matt asked what was wrong, why he felt so strange. His whole body tingled. Cecilia explained he was fine, just making the change. Soon he would be a Sentinel.
   What change? Sentinel?
   Matt dozed and later awoke feeling more alert. Cecilla was there by his bedside, watching him. Matt asked her who she was and where was her family? And where did they come from? Cecilia said she came from far away.
   "From the stars?" Matt joked.
   " From beyond the stars." Cecilia said seriously." And soon you will be part of the Outpost, a Sentinel."


   After a few weeks, a State Trooper knocked on the door, holding a picture of the missing Matt Brown. Cecilia answer the door with a young man hovering behind her in the shadows. She invited the trooper in and served him ice tea. The  trooper vanished.
   Whisperings and rumors started in Moscow Town that the old Swenson Farm hosted a strange cult. People who visited the farm disappeared. It was a black hole. The rumors grew and tempers flared; there was talk of a march on the old farm. A pickup of hotheads, armed and drunk stormed the farm. It was empty.
   The occupants had left in the dead of night. Today the Swenson farm sits empty; no one dares to venture there.
   But the Outposts continue to grow and the Sentinels wait and watch.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Isolated House, Coeur d' Alene, Idaho

   Alex Bentley answered the door, there were soft words, then a gunshot and Alex fell dead on the cabin floor. Linda sprang into the cabin followed by Ken and Phil, each waving a handgun.
   Sarah stood mute with horror and fear as she looked from her dead husband to the intruders, who quickly scanned the cabin. Ken raced up the stairs to check the master bedroom and bath. He returned and gave a thumb's up.
   Phil smirked, looking Sarah up and down. "I got dibs."
   Sarah recalled a jail break down south, two men with help from a girlfriend: armed and dangerous. This trio fit the description.
   "I have to go to the toilet." Sarah said, nodding upstairs.
   The three laughed, then Ken ordered Linda to take Sarah to the bathroom, while they scouted for money and valuables.
   Sarah led the way to the small bathroom. She sat while Linda studied herself in the bathroom mirror. Sarah's eyes were drawn to the small window over the bath tub. There was a blue light hovering outside, which suddenly focused and shot through the window, bathing Sarah in a gauzy blue hew.
    Linda was putting on lipstick when she glanced over and saw Sarah illuminated in the blue light. She dropped her lipstick and turned to Sarah, but the light was gone and Sarah was now looking intently at Linda.
   "Keep quiet and I will let you live." Sarah said softly, rising to adjust her jeans, then opened the door and went downstairs. Linda followed behind.
    As the girls came down the narrow stairs, Ken looked up and noticed Linda was pale and her eyes were darting toward Sarah who was unnaturally composed. Linda joined Ken and Phil, and told them she had seem a blue light envelop Sarah.
    "Too much crack." Phil snorted.
    But the three intruders sensed a change.The balance of power had inexplicably shifted.
    "You can take firsts." Phil murmured to Ken.
    Sarah was standing by the fireplace next to the fire irons. Ken snarled, "there are three of us. Let's do this bitch".
    Sarah grabbed the poker and hurled it at Ken, sent it sailing through his mouth, smashing his yellow teeth and impaling Ken on the wall. Neither Phil nor Linda saw Sarah's move. So fast.
   Phil 's hand went to the back of his jeans for his gun, while Linda lifted her snub-nose revolver. Sarah grabbed the fireplace shovel and swatted the gun out of Linda's hand, then pushed the shovel, which flew at Phil, catching him in the throat. Phil's head flopped on his shoulder, his mouth wide.
    Sarah whirled on Linda and put her hands on the sides of Linda's head. Sarah backed her against the wall, her face so close that Linda thought Sarah was going to kiss her. Sarah smiled, "I told you to keep quiet." Then Sarah twisted Linda's head until there was a snap, like a chicken bone cracking. Linda fell in a heap.
    Sarah spent the night holding Alex's hand, talking softly. In the morning, she was gone. The police eventually came, but no one could explain how it went down. Alex was shot, Ken impaled with the fire poker, Phil almost decapitated,  and Linda a broken neck.
    Sarah Bentley is listed as missing, a person of interest.
   Today the bank owns the remote house outside Coeur d' Alene and it sits empty.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Whitefish Cabin, Glacier National Park, Montana

   He didn't mean to kill her. He didn't even remember her name. It was a Whitefish-bar scene where he met her.   
   Now he sat on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park and stared at the oversize garbage container with her dead body inside. He would push it tumbling down the side of the mountain, more than a mile  below to the isolated valley.
   No time for remorse, so he kicked the gray container and watched it begin to bump down the mountain side, but it came to a stop about 100 feet from the top.
    Cannon sighed, this would not do. He worked his way down the incline until he reached the container, which was snagged on a rock. He put his feet against it and gave a great push, dislodging the container and sending it bounding down the incline. But Cannon lost his balance and he began to slide down the slippery slope, gaining speed, then tumbling head over heels.
   Cannon awoke on his back, his head throbbing, part concussion and part hangover. It was pitch black; was he dead? Suddenly Cannon heard a tapping and a muffled voice. Where was he? What happened?
Cannon raised himself and looked around. He was a few feet from the garbage container, which was moving, sounds emanating from it. He crawled to the container and ripped off the duct tape, opening the lid.
    A girl peeked out. She was alive!
    Her name came back; it was Adriana, the girl he had taken home from the Whitefish Bar, they had roughhoused and she had cracked her skull on the coffee table. In a panic, Cannon had decided to dispose of her as they had just met and there was no data trail linking them. Cannon could not afford the scandal, so he slid her in the compost garbage container, duct tapped it shut, planning to send it to the remote valley beneath the Going to the Sun Road. Winter was coming, the rangers might not find her until springtime.
   Adriana slithered out of the container and grabbed him in a bear hug. "What happened? Where are we?" She demanded woozily.
   "We were kidnapped, the Mexican cartel." Cannon responded, the lie flowing from nowhere. " I think they were going to demand ransom, but something happened and they dumped us here."
   " And you saved me." Adriana enthused. "My hero!"
   Cannon hugged her. "We have to to get out of here. We're in a valley in Glacier National Park and its getting cold. I smell snow," Cannon replied.
   They followed the stream running through the valley, reasoning it would lead them to a town. Suddenly it got windy and the snow began to fall fast, a wicked storm that strengthened into a blizzard. Cannon and Adriana stumbled through the dark to an old hunting cabin, hoping to find warmth and provisions. But the cabin was barren. Together they huddled on the floor of the cabin, away from the swirling snow. "We are soul mates, Cannon." Adriana whispered, then kissed him. "Meant to be together."
    Two days later after the unseasonal blizzard had passed, rangers on patrol found Adriana and Cannon huddled together in the old cabin. They were frozen, eyes closed and icicles drooped from their cheeks.
   The families were wealthy and endowed Glacier Park to maintain the old cabin. Adriana and Cannon were buried together beside the rustic hut, a simple marker:
    "Here lie our son and daughter. Briefly together in life, now entwined forever in heaven. May they rest in peace."

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Badlands Chateau, Medora, North Dakota


    Macy Jo Wibaux sat on the porch with her glass of Burgundy, swirling and sniffing the wine in the twilight, knowing they would come for her at dark. She leaned forward in her rocker and stared at the landscape. Yes, the badlands were moving, advancing on her.
   Badlands, what the French called: les mauvaises terras a traverses, bad land to travel through. The Sioux Indians called the area, mako shika, land bad. The Wibaux Chateau sat on the edge of the fertile undulating North Dakota plains, facing west to the the badlands, or "breaks", a sudden descent into sparsely wooded ridges, bluffs, buttes, odd mounds and sharp escarpments, difficult terrain.
   Macy Jo was convinced that the rugged badlands were moving, creeping toward her beloved chateau. She focused on particular mound, now closer and on a direct line towards her. The badlands meant to kill her.
   That night she awoke to the creaking of the house as the temperature dropped. Macy Jo sprang from her bed and ran to the windows, the rugged hills were close, red eyes glared at her from the sedimentary rock. Macy Jo heard the prairie wind, a sorrowful moan. The badlands were closing.
   She ran to her husband's closet and grabbed his shot gun, she loaded both barrels and went downstairs and out on the porch. The mound was there with its red spider eyes. And now tentacles were springing out  and slithering toward her, wrapping around her ankles and sliding up her bare legs.
  Macy Jo leveled the shot gun, holding it at her hip, then suddenly she put the gun butt on the porch, leaned down and put her mouth over both barrels. She pulled the triggers.


   "Activtune", the Medical Examiner said, holding up the vial for the Sheriff.
   " Macy Jo was taking that?" The Sheriff asked, peering at the vial of purple pills.
   The Medical Examiner nodded as they watched Macy Jo's remains loaded into the van. "It's an anti-depressant, soothes, relaxes, stabilizes. But for some it can be an hallucinogenic, causing LSD-like dreams and visions, seeing spiders on the wall, things like that. Maybe Macy Jo...." And his voice trailed off.
   The Sheriff watched the ME depart. He stood on the front porch, looking at the stunning badlands. He recalled many years ago coming to the chateau for the Wibaux open house. The Sheriff danced with Macy Jo. In the evening, Marc Wibaux said he had an oil rig running wild up north in Williston and had to leave. Macy Jo asked the Sheriff if he could stay and help her with the guests. The Sheriff agreed.
     The Sheriff stayed late.
   Suddenly, he looked hard at the badlands. They appeared much closer than they had back then. But the house was on a solid foundation and going nowhere. And, of course, the badlands could not move.
   Or could they?


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Sioux Boarding School, Starkweather, North Dakota

   The Sioux Soul Seeker struck a white man for the first time in the late 1880s at Starkweather, North Dakota.
    Gordon Laphope was the Captain of the pilot tribal boarding school, the idea being to Americanize the Sioux Indians, immerse them at the boarding school in American education and ways.
   The school, a neat white brick building on the Dakota prairie, was used for the pilot program with 20 Sioux girls aged 12 to18. Isolated and away from supervision, the girls became Gordon's personal evening pleasure. Each morning at inspection, Gordon would tap a girl on her shoulder. Her turn.
   That particular morning, Gordon tapped Miss Hattie, a new girl with lustrous black hair and piercing dark eyes. Tonight was Miss Hattie's turn.
   That evening after dining with the girls Gordon retired to his suite to enjoy his evening cigar and brandy. After a decent interval, there was a knock at his door, then the door opened and Miss Hattie entered. She looked ravishing in her long Victorian dress.
   Gordon gulped, licked his fat lips and motioned for her to drop to her knees and approach him on her knees, the routine. But Miss Hattie stepped forward boldly and straddled him, sitting in his lap. Something new?
   Hattie cocked her head and bent down, opening her mouth as if to kiss Gordon. He wiggled in excitement and opened his mouth, his tongue flitting out like a viper. Hattie pressed her open mouth over his and breathed in.
   Gordon's eyes went wide with surprise. He felt his very essence being sucked out of him and his toes tingled. He felt the vacuum in his legs, groin, stomach, chest, and his head went dizzy. He was left a rag doll, vapid, soulless.
   Hattie hovered over him; her head now a beady-eyed hawk. Gordon wanted to shout, but the sharp beak darted down and pecked out his right eye.Then the black hawk pecked out his left eye.
   The next morning the cooks found Gordon, blind and babbling, making no sense. All the girls were questioned, but they shrugged. Slowly the timid Sioux Indian girls revealed the sordid story of Gordan's evening dalliances. One girl, Miss Hattie, was missing.
   The Sioux Pilot Program was closed and the girls transferred to nearby Fort Totten, which became a Native American Boarding School under the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1890.
   Today the neat brick building in Starkweather is empty and all stay clear of it. Occasionally a lone hawk circles overhead.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Yellow-Knoll House, Devils Lake, North Dakota

   Claire Barton found him washed up and bloodied on the little beach behind her cozy yellow-knoll house. He was lying face up: aquiline nose, high cheekbones, wide mouth and large eyes; his slender frame sent a forgotten shudder through her.
   She ran to the house and returned with a pail of water and a rag to dab the blood on the side of his face. Claire never thought about the phone. As she bathed his forehead and cleaned the wicked cut along the side of his face, he stirred and opened his eyes. He tried to wave her away, but was too feeble. He struggled to get up and she finally helped him to his feet. He let her take him to the house.
  When his head cleared, he could not tell her of his past, his wallet was missing and his memory gone from the wicked blow to his head. Claire had sutured the cut, thinking it could have been a bullet that grazed the side of his face. Oddly, neither one of them suggested a doctor, or the police.
    Claire let the no-name man with the slender body and dark, wide-set olive eyes stay in the guest room by the kitchen. He offered to fix the back porch and paint it while he oriented himself. He told her he had dreams of two women, a gun shot and then falling into the dark water. Often they sat at night on the front porch staring at the endless acres of North Dakota wheat. She felt the heat of him to her bone.
  One night there was a terrible storm and they retired early, she went upstairs to her bedroom suite. And he disappeared into his small room. After midnight, there was a brilliant strike of lightning, followed by an ear-splitting clap of thunder, which shook the house. He awoke with a start and sat up. It all came back, he knew.
   Claire awoke to a strange sound and found him sitting on the bed. His eyes were glittering as the lightning flashed. "I am from Mississippi." He said, peering down at her. She wanted to rise and tried to speak, but only managed a gurgle.
   "I am Shadow Man, and I am an assassin." He said, then bent down and kissed her cheek. "That sound
that awoke you? That was me cutting your throat."
  A neighbor found Claire a few days later. The event terrorized Devils Lake for many months.
  Today the yellow-knoll house sits abandoned.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The School House, Kellys Slough, North Darkota

    Ethel Myrin Saunders met the devil when she became the new teacher of the one-room school house on the North Dakota prairie at Kellys Slough.
   On her first day, she had the students introduce themselves and Miss Ethel was struck by Cassie Natas; there was something disturbing about Cassie.
   After a week of teaching, Betsy Saunders came to Miss Ethel. Betsy told her she had a bond with Cassie, who had sworn her to secrecy. And the secret was that Cassie was the devil. If she betrayed Cassie then Betsy would die.
   The day after Betsy told Miss Ethel that Cassie was the devil, the two girls were standing beside the highway. They watched an eighteen-wheeler roaring down the road. Clyde was at the wheel and he could see the two girls standing by the road. Cassie had challenged Betsy to stand firm as the big Peterbilt truck roared by. Clyde saw the girls were too close to the road and hooted his air horn, but the girls did not budge. He roared by and tipped his hat. At that instant, Cassie flung Betsy into the the truck's path, and the great Peterbilt impaled Betsy in its ferocious grill. Fifty miles down the highway, the State Patrol pulled Clyde over, telling him there was a dead girl in his truck's grill.
   Of course, Miss Ethel knew what happened, and she sought retribution by poisoning Cassie's afternoon chocolate milk, a gift of the school lunch program. At 2PM when the students took their milk break, Cassie calmly sipped her poisoned chocolate milk. After a minute, Cassie stood up and snorted. The other students gasped as Cassie went through a transformation, her lower body metamorphosed into cloven hooves and a woolly form, the upper body was a magnificent chest with a huge head, adorned with pointed horns.
   The students screamed and ran pell-mell out of the school house. Miss Ethel stood her ground and the monster breathed fire on Miss Ethel, not disfiguring or killing her, but blanking her mind forever. Then the monster bounded away into the corn fields.
    The townsfolk cared for Miss Ethel, but she never spoke again. Cruelly, Miss Ethel lived to over 100. The old school house was left as is. Some of the newcomers urged the town declare the quaint structure an "Historic Building". But the older residents demurred.
    Today the little school house stands as an oddity along Route 81.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Healing, Ruttgers Birchmont Inn, Lake Bemidji, Minnesota

   Nicky Parks so lovely and perky was standing by the cabin path weeping. She dabbed her eyes as the Quicksilver girls approached. Averil Quicksilver took Nicky's arm and spoke quietly to her. They knew Nicky was the owner's daughter, who was waiting tables for the summer.
   She told the Quicksilver girls that her boyfriend, Chris Cobalt, had just been diagnosed with a rare form of blood leukemia. Chris would die before the football season started in 4 weeks, the disease was deadly. Nicky wrung her hands.
   Chris was a sophomore sensation at Bemidji State College; his freshman year he had been a star, and the University of Minnesota had tried to lure Chris away. But Chris stayed true to Bemidji State. Now before the season started, Chris would be dead. 
   The Quicksilver girls liked Nicky and wanted to help, as they were both gifted and knew healing ways. "We are in cabin 19." Elina, the older Quicksilver said. "Bring Chris to us this evening when you finish serving dinner."
   Elina held up her hand. "No promises, just bring Chris to us, cabin 19."
   Nicky was beside herself. What to do? She called Chris who was surrounded by distraught family and friends. Chris trusted Nicky and he agreed to come to the Inn at nine o'clock.
   That evening had been stormy, but when the twilight deepened, the skies cleared and the lake calmed as Nicky and Chris walked to cabin 19. The Quicksilver girls were on the screened porch. They sat Nicky down on the porch with a glass of iced tea, and then took Chris in the cabin. The curtains were drawn and Nicky could not see inside. Nicky sipped her tea and relaxed, feeling drowsy. She was aware of humming and a glow emanating from the cabin, then Nicky fell asleep.
   In the black of the night with just the walkway lights on, Nicky awoke as she felt Chris's hand on her shoulder. It was past midnight. Behind him were the Quicksilver girls looking down at her. Nicky started to speak, but Chris took her hand and they left. Nothing was said.
   Nicky wanted to know everything, but Chris told her he would call her after his morning hospital appointment. Chris refused to discuss what the Quicksilvers had done for him, or to him. No high hopes.
   The next morning Nicky sat with her cell phone. Chris went to the hospital at eight. It was now after ten. She felt the odd hope draining away, her heart heavy, the tears forming. Then her phone rang.
   It was Chris, something odd had happened. And the doctor was sending him down state to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The rare leukemia disorder was gone, not a trace.
   Nicky raced to the Ruttgers Inn and to cabin 19. But the Quicksilver girls had checked out, even though they had planned to stay for two weeks.
   Chris came back with a clean bill of health; his miraculous cure was unexplained. When sick he had taken to swimming every day at Lake Bemidji, in ancient times an Ojibwe Healing Lake. The gossips talked, perhaps it was the miraculous lake waters.
   That football season Chris had a breakout year at quarterback and Bemidji State won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championship. Chris and Nicky said nothing, perhaps it was the lake waters. They told no one about the Quicksilvers.
    What if the Quicksilvers were charlatans, just frauds? Then the Ojibwe Legend might be true. Perhaps  the Lake Bemidji waters were magical.
    Today Lake Bemidji and the Ruttger's Birchmont Inn flourish.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Lake Julia Experimental Station, Puposky, Minnesota

  The Inspector decided at the last minute to visit the Lake Julia Experimental Station, a mistake. On first glance the station, an euphemism for a facility testing alternative treatments for the criminally insane, was impressive. Dr. Frankel, the Station Director, was charming and informed; the staff were conscientious and efficient.
   The Inspector was allowed to interview Giuseppe Maretti, nicknamed Dago Joe, a notorious serial killer. Maretti killed more than 30 women in the Midwest, cutting out and eating their hearts, while keeping a finger as a curio.
  The Inspector sat in the small, padded room across from Maretti, who was composed and compliant, confirming he had reformed his evil ways. At one point, Maretti put his finger to his lips and motioned for the Inspector to check the door, which was ajar. The Inspector looked, saying they were alone.
   Maretti leaned forward, "I am the real Dr. Frankel." He whispered. "The inmates have taken over the Asylum."
   The Inspector was taken back. Quite original; he had never heard that one before. Dr. Frankel hurriedly told the Inspector how he and the staff had been lulled as Maretti and the others appeared to respond to the focused meditation that Dr. Frankel was testing. When his guard was down, the inmates had struck. Rather than escape, they had taken over the station, keeping most of the former staff heavily drugged. Dr. Frankel was kept lucid for medical emergencies, but locked in the padded room.
   The Inspector listened intently, then shook his head slowly. Such a story, he thought. No progress with Maretti, just the workings of a devious mind. He rose from the table to leave, when the door was slammed shut and the bolt thudded home. The Inspector stood in conufsion, then looked back at the man at the table.  "I told you so." Dr. Frankel said.
   A week later, the Inspector's car was found crashed into a tree on the winding Route 15. His skull was battered almost beyond recognition; death was instantaneous.
   Six months later a state audit team made an unannounced visit to the station and the charade was uncovered. State authorities quietly closed the station and retired Dr. Frankel. They relocated Maretti and the other culprits to the high-security facility down state.
   Today the Experimental Station is locked and boarded. The grounds are wildly overgrown; "No Trespassing" signs are prominent. The station is off limits to all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The 7th Crow Lake Anderson Homestead, Nevis, Minnesota

   Louisa Ann knew they planned to kill her. Their plan was to let her waste away, locked in the bedroom of the family lake house. No one would come looking for Louisa Ann on remote 7th Crow Lake. Her husband and son were dead, killed in an unexplained boat explosion while out on the lake. Perhaps Amy, her daughter-in-law with help from her "cousin" George, had killed them. 
  George and Amy were after her money. If Louisa Ann died, Amy would inherit all of the Anderson family money. Such a travesty! Was there no higher spirit?
   Louisa Ann had recently had haunting dreams of Ojibwe Indian lore, a legend about a strange creature who roamed the forests and lakes of Northwest Minnesota. At nights, even though Amy and George drugged her, Louisa Ann heard unfamiliar sounds; she saw shadows in her room.
   Downstairs Amy and George sat and discussed killing Louisa Ann outright. George would happily smother her. But Amy insisted it must look natural. The locals knew Louisa Ann was not well. Amy was convinced it was a matter of days.
   The two started when a slow banging of a drum began: boom, boom, boom. George sprang up. It was coming from the basement. They went to the basement door and George took out his snub-nose revolver, cocking it. He opened the door; the drumbeat was louder.
   Amy switched on the basement light and they went single file down the steep stairs. They took a few steps when something grabbed their left ankles, lifted them, and threw them head first down the stairs.
   Louisa Ann was dozing when she awoke to the strange drum banging, then she heard the single gunshot. She sat up and listened. All was quiet for a few minutes, and then her bedroom door creaked open. Was George going to shoot her, a suicide?
   But Amy and George were not there, no one entered, just a strange scent floated into the room, a white aromatic cloud, with a touch of lemon and cinnamon. Louisa Ann tried to fan the cloud away, but when she breathed it in, her head cleared immediately and she felt a tingle run through her body. Her bedridden aches and pains vanished. Louisa Ann got up and cautiously went downstairs; she ran to the phone and dialed 911.
   Later after the hubbub had died down, Louisa Ann sat on the couch with her first glass of wine in weeks. She looked ten years younger. The State Investigator posited that something caused Amy and George to go to the cellar, perhaps a noise. George had taken his revolver with him. It appeared the cellar light went out and the two tangled, tripped and fell head first, while triggering the gun. Death was instant.
   Louisa Ann smiled at the Inspector. There was someone after all. And Bless the Ojibwe Indians, who had let the creature be.
   Today the Anderson Homestead on 7th Crow Lake is empty. But every night the caretaker puts a plate out, and leaves a light on.