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.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The White House Haunting, Warm Springs, Boise, Idaho

   Laura Anne knew Ashley wanted to kill her. He was the illegitimate son of her younger sister, now her only living relative. Ashley was an odd bird, living under the radar, off the grid. But her death had to be subtle and look natural, or Ashley would not inherit her $10 million estate. Anything untoward and the money would immediately go to the Boise City parks. An accident would do perfectly, but had to be a work of art.
   She sat up in bed and smiled thinly; there was that strange clicking sound. Other times there was the whistling, as the wind across the prairie just east of Laura Anne's beloved White House, the most elegant structure on Warm Springs Avenue, which hosted the Boise elite.
   Laura Anne cocked her head as she heard the strange moaning from somewhere in the house. Ashley was supposedly out for the evening and the old house's spirits were restless, tempting her downstairs. She sat back in bed and closed her eyes; she was so tired of the waiting. Tonight the two years were up and Laura Anne could finally find peace. It was almost midnight, time for Laura Anne to seek her tormentors, to put an end to the haunting.
   Downstairs, Ashley controlled his sound effects with a master switch, allowing him through Blue Tooth to activate the odd "click", the whistle of the prairie wind, or the strange moan from below Aunt Laura Anne's bedroom. He had to draw Auntie out of bed and downstairs. Ashley stiffened as he heard his Aunt call out for Miguel, her faithful servant. But Ashley had given Miguel the night off.
   Once again Ashley activated the faraway moan. He held his breath. Would she never get out of bed and come downstairs? He knew his Aunt Laura Anne was tough, with a will of iron, always hobbling along on her oak cane. Ashley tensed as he heard the upstairs creak, then a shuffling across the bedroom floor. Laura Anne was out of bed and on the move into the hall. Ashley clenched his fists. He heard her in the hallway, the tap of the cane recording her progress. Laura Anne paused at the top of the stairs; Ashley's heart fluttered with arrhythmia.
   And then there was a shrill scream and a terrible crash as Laura Anne tripped at the top of the stairs and came tumbling down the steep steps. She landed with a hideous crunch that twisted her head grotesquely. Her trusty cane bounced down the steps, clattering on the hard hall floor. Then all was silent.
    "Aunt Laura!" Ashley called, in case she was not dead. He ran to her side, taking out his dentist's mirror and holding it to her nose and mouth. No fog. Aunt Laura Anne was dead. Ashley raised his two arms in triumph. But no time for celebration, he raced upstairs and undid the taught twine that he had tied across the top steps that had sent his Aunt headlong down the stairs. He pocketed the twine, then called 911. There had been an accident: his Aunt had fallen down the steps and needed medical attention; please send help. Then Ashley went out on the porch to await the EMS.
    In the distance he heard the wail of the sirens, one, perhaps two. Ashley girded himself as the EMS approached. Then it all happened in a blur. Along with the EMS van there was a police car with a detective, who soothed Ashley as the EMS personnel ran into the house.
   Ashley explained to the detective that he had gone to the movie. He came home and found his Aunt at the bottom of the stairs, then he called for help.The detective told Ashley to wait while he went inside and conferred with the EMS. Ashley smiled to himself. He did go to the movie, but crept out after it started and came home for the haunting.
    Suddenly another car pulled into the drive, this time a late model Mercedes. A tall, patrician man climbed out and stared at Ashley, who instantly smelled lawyer. The man came forward and introduced himself as William Farnham, Laura Anne's attorney. Ashley was dumbstruck. Why the lawyer? There was time for that later.
   The detective came out and explained to the lawyer what had taken place. William looked at Ashley: "Your Aunt left you, as her only living relative, the bulk of her estate, probably worth around $10 million, maybe more now that the stock market is moving up."
   Ashley felt pins and needles; he desperately repressed a smile. He held on to the porch railing for fear of breaking into a jig. He breathed out and told Farnham there was would be time later for discussing the estate. Ashley's concern was for his dear Aunt.
    " Is she......? " Ashley asked.
    The detective looked at Farnham and caught the lawyer's eye. The lawyer and the detective stared at each other. Ashley stifled a sob, taking out his handkerchief and wiping his face. Where were the EMS people and when would they bring out the body? Ashley wanted them all to leave so he could visit Aunt Laura Anne's renown wine cellar.
   "The salient feature of the Will is that you," Farnham said, nodding toward Ashely, "have two years to claim the inheritance. If you do not make a claim within two years, then all the money goes to the Julia Davis and the Ann Morrison Parks."
    Ashley nodded, looking. "Two years? So we have plenty of time to work that out. Right now my concern is for my beloved Aunt."
   The lawyer and the detective looked at each other again, each at a loss for words.
   "Let's go inside." The detective finally said and ushered Ashley into the hallway where the EMS personnel were standing at the foot of the stairs. Ashley gaped, as he stood between the lawyer and the detective.
    "Where is my Aunt? What did you do with Aunt Laura Anne?"
    The EMS shrugged, looking bewildered. The detective spoke softly. "Your Aunt died here two years ago as you described, a fall down these very stairs."
   Ashley's demeanor changed, his eyes narrowed and darted around the room. "Where's the body?"
   The lawyer put his hand on Ashley's shoulder. "It's true, after Laura Anne's accident we did not know how to contact you. And no one knew you were living her now, or we could processed your inheritance claim."
   " But Miguel?" Ashley protested. "Ask Miguel, he was here today. I gave him the night off. Miguel knows Aunt Laura was alive this afternoon."
    The detective coughed and shook his head. "Miguel was devoted to your Aunt. Even though she left him a bequest, he shot himself six months after she died."
   Ashley's head spun and his thoughts raced. "Well, I am here now." He croaked.
   The lawyer looked at his watch and shook his head. " It is past midnight. The two years were up yesterday. As of today, all of Laura Anne's money goes to the Boise City Parks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Antique Shop, Downtown Nampa, Idaho

   Samantha turned the key in the lock and Willy appeared out of the morning shadows, pushing her into the antique mall and coffee house. Sam was terrified as she stumbled into the dark shop, but when she turned to to face the intruder, her fear evaporated. The young man was tall and thin, wearing a baseball cap, nervous, obviously diffident.
   "I stumbled." Willy explained in a high voice.
   Sam relaxed and looked longingly at the coffee corner. "We don't open until ten." Sam said, hoping to shoo the stranger out the open door of her antique and coffee shop.
   Willy nodded and explained that he wanted to buy the mannequin, pointing to the posed, young woman planted by the window. She was blond, blue eyed, and wearing a period-prairie dress.
   Sam was taken aback. She explained they sold antiques and coffee, and she doubted the owner would want to sell the mannequin, which was part of the decor of her antique display booth. But Willy pleaded, looking dreamily at the still mannequin. "Lydia is my soul mate."
   "Lydia?" Sam asked, raising her eyebrows.
   " Please, there is no harm to try."
   Later that day Sam approached the owner and to Sam's surprise the owner agreed to sell the mannequin for $150. But not a penny less, $150 firm. Willy returned later in the late afternoon and he agreed, but with payment conditions, asking that Sam and her colleague, George, deliver the mannequin to his rooming house three blocks away.
   The next day Sam and George drew stares as they carried the naked mannequin down the street to the Greystone Hotel, a once grand palace, now a rundown, long-term boarding house. They entered the dark, seedy building and slowly climbed the three floors, the stairs lit only by a single long, blue neon light. They knocked and Willy immediately opened the door. One moment Willy was happy to see them, but the next he was aghast that Sam and George had carried his precious mannequin naked through the streets.
   They entered the room and on one of the twin beds in the room was an outfit consisting of a demure charcoal suit and a white blouse, including lacy red under clothes. Willy proudly showed them the mannequin's new outfit. Lydia was starting a new life.
   Willy paid them in cash and Sam and George, feeling uneasy, quickly exited. George started down the hallway, but Sam lingered a moment as she heard excited voices. Putting her ear to the door, she heard Willy's high voice. Then the soft voice of a girl. George motioned for Sam to come and was startled when Sam joined him. "You look like you've seen a ghost." George said.
   Sam shook her head and they both ran down the dark stairway to the street level. They pushed open the big, heavy door and emerged with relief out into the sunlight, pausing to look up at Willy's windows. A young woman in a charcoal suit and white blouse stared down at them. She raised her hand to her lips and blew them each a kiss.
   The next day Samantha and George did not show up for work. Wags said they were an item and had eloped. They are now officially reported as missing.
   Later that week, the police retraced their steps to the old hotel. The day after Sam and George's visit, the manager recalled the young lovers coming down from the third floor for breakfast. The couple ate, returned upstairs for an interlude, then checked out at noon, thanking the manager for the service and fine food. Then Willy and Lydia vanished.
(Contributor, Sherry Gorrell)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Lake Hideaway, Cascade, Idaho

   "She was a shooter." Madelyn said, as they turned into the driveway of the lake-view cabin. "She was a contract killer for the Mafia back east; now she's retired and lives on the Lake by herself. Apparently, there was a problem in New York, something went south. And Auntie Maudie came to Idaho."
   "We are bringing Auntie Maude pie for what?" Carlson asked.
   "You never know," Madelyn replied.
   They pulled into the drive of the cabin, which was set back from the road. In the yard, a big, black dog was chained to a tree and howled when their car stopped. They parked in front of the small stone and frame structure. Carlson toted the fresh pie.
   The cabin door swung open and a tall, fit-looking, gray haired woman welcomed them. She praised the cherry pie and took them to the back, settling them in patio seats overlooking the lake. Then she returned with pieces of pie and lemonade.
   Madelyn introduced Carlson, telling Auntie Maude he was interested in the Lake Cascade Hyde Manor, the mystery of the Brown Family. That heinous murder where the family was shot dead at the dinner table, and the foster girl missing. It was the lurid lake legend for the summer.
   Was Averil Brown kidnapped? Or did she murder her foster parents, the daughter and son, and then vanish to a new life? The Brown Family murders were never solved. And Carlson, Madelyn's new boyfriend, was fascinated by the story.
   " Happened early this summer." Auntie Maude said. "Just after I retired and settled here at the Lake. I was in the New York shipping business, an expediter. I moved things along." She explained, eying Carlson.
  "I had some troubles, so took my savings and came out here. But we won't talk about that."
  Carlson returned to the Brown Family. "And you think Averil, the foster girl, did it?"
  Auntie Maude shrugged. "Averil and her mother were originally from Arizona. Their name was Quicksilver, her Mother was Indian. But in early summer the mother was murdered, throat slit, by someone Averil saw in the shadows, called him Shadow Man. Averil was a strange one. Had a way about her, bright as a bulb, maybe too bright. She seemed to know things, knew all about me. But we bonded anyway."
  Auntie Maude continued: "After her Mom was killed, Averil was committed to the Institute for Gifted Girls. The Browns took her from the Institute, and the State paid the Browns to keep her. Then the murders."
   "Averil just vanished?" Carlson asked.
   Auntie Maude nodded. "Averil was different. Even I was wary around her." She smiled and looked at the young couple. "Maddy knows not much spooks me."
   Madelyn laughed and asked. " But Averil gave you the jitters?"
   Auntie Maude nodded. She got up and walked to edge of the hill that sloped away to the pristine lake. Auntie Maude turned and looked at them. "Actually, I think Averil was....."
   There was a sharp crack that echoed down the lake. Auntie Maude flapped her arms, spun around and collapsed on her back. Auntie Maude's forehead was splattered with blood, a neat hole between her eyes.
   The police concluded it was a stray shot from a small-game hunter. But Maddy knew it was New York retribution
   The County now owns the lake cabin and offers it for rent. But so far no takers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Lake Payette Jail, McCall, Idaho

 The Assassin was waiting behind the Charmin tissue as Elina Quicksilver paused to study the paper towel discounts. The Shadow Man stepped out and flashed a wicked straight razor, slitting Elina's throat from ear to ear.
   Averil Quicksilver, following her mother with the shopping cart, reacted quickly and shoved the cart at the tall man dressed in black. The cart struck Shadow Man in the stomach and propelled him into the meat display. Then she turned and ran toward the front of the store; the Assassin spun and went through the back doors of Paulie's Supermarket.
   Averil careened into Bud Pearls, the overweight security guard, who lost his balance and flopped down on the slender Averil, pinning her to the floor. Bud looked down into Averil's bright, green eyes and gasped as he felt Averil tense her arms, lift his bulbous body, and send him flying into the Van Camps baked beans. A feat of great strength.
   She jumped up, but was immediately corralled by management and customers who surrounded her. Averil concluded it was better to go quietly then draw more attention to herself and her dead mother.
   As it was an early summer 3-day weekend and the Sheriff and Idaho State Police were busy with highway safety, the town decided to keep Averil in the small-town jail until Monday. Several bystanders had witnessed her throwing Bud, all 250 pounds of him, into the Van Camps.  And they wondered. 
   Later that night Homer Brown, the McCall Constable, looked in on Averil with a plate of cookies and a warm glass of milk. A nice gesture, but Homer had mischief on his mind. Averil was curled up with a blanket  in a corner of the small jail cell, her clothes were neatly folded on the bunk. Homer gulped and fingered the keys on his belt as he approached her cell.
   "I brought you some snacks." The pudgy Homer said, licking his lips, romance dancing in his head.
   Averil nodded, wrapped the blanket around her and approached the cell door. Homer set the milk and cookies on the pass-through ledge and looked at Averil. She was ravishing: fine white skin, raven black hair, and electric green eyes. Homer's blood raced and his heart pounded as he reached for his door keys. Averil struck her slender hand through the cell bars. She cocked her head and looked at Homer, "Hold my hand, please."
   Homer gladly took her hand. "Cup my hand and shut your eyes. See my story, for me?"
   He cupped Averil's hand in both of his big paws and shut his eyes.
   "That's my mother you see; she was Native American, a Sinaguan Princess from Dead Horse, Arizona. And now you are in that place, Roswell, New Mexico. That is where my Mom had an encounter with my father, who was otherworldly, do you see?"
   Homer recoiled at the bizarre vision in his mind and tried to pull his hands away. He wanted to bolt; he was in too deep. But he was stuck there, melded to Averil's slender hand.
   "By our standards, Dad was not a looker. But he endowed me with wondrous powers."
    She blew on Homer's hands and it was if a switch had been thrown.There was a loud buzzing, the jail lit up in a violent flashing of ugly yellow light. Homer's body jerked, jiggled, snapped, and crackled. His hair stood on end and sizzled; his eyes boiled, and smoke poured out of his ears. Averil pulled her hand away and Homer fell over backward, flat on his back.
   In the morning, the Sheriff's deputies found Homer burnt to a crisp on the floor of the jail. Averil was curled up asleep in the corner wrapped in her blanket.
   Due to the strange circumstances, Averil was transferred to the Boise Institute for Gifted Girls. Averil was available as a foster child as she was only 17. Or so her documents said.
   The Payette jail is no longer used. Today the building sits near the McCall town center in an alley off 3rd Street, a curiosity for the tourists.