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."