Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Extraterrestrial Highway Motel, Rachel, Nevada

CARLOS was watching the late night comedians when the girl appeared at the motel desk. Her arrival gave him a jolt as he did not hear a car or the door bell tinkle when she came in.
            He looked over and she was there, young, tallish. She was comely in her late twenties with light brown hair streaked with honey, a broad forehead and high cheek bones, a long jaw, wide mouth, but most striking were her glittering green eyes. She banged the bell on the counter and Carlos jumped.
            The girl cocked her head and asked for a room, a single for the evening. Carlos said he had #13 available, which was next to the office. She preferred a room in the separate building to the left of the main Stagecoach Motel office.
            Carlos explained (lied), that the unit was closed as winter was near, that the girl was lucky #13 was available. She narrowed her eyes and pulled a moue, her lips together and pushed out in a pout.
            It was late and the girl paid in cash, including a deposit, not that she could damage anything in #13. She turned and marched out into the cold, pitch-black on the desolate, central Nevada desert. Carlos wondered what a girl like that was doing traveling alone on Highway 375 in the middle of the night.
            He shrugged, rubbed his hands together and went to the wall on the left side of the counter, where a large calendar featuring photos of Area 51 hung. It was October and the month featured a gaggle of scruffy protestors at the entrance gate to Area 51, a standoff with stern air police.
            Should he, or shouldn’t he?
            Carlos debated as he knew the owner before him had drilled a quarter inch spy hole into the room next door, #13. The unsavory cad had always reserved #13 for someone special. What was the harm? A little peek. How could he pass up the opportunity to sneak a look? She was worth a gander. Carlos got down on his knees and moved the calendar. He took a breath, his heart pumping and put his right eye up to the peephole.
To his astonishment, there was a vividly green eyeball staring back at him. Carlos squealed and fell back on his seat. He scrambled to his feet, ran to his desk, taking his revolver from a drawer, then dashed around to the front of the counter and hunkered down.
            Carlos was panting, his heart thumped wildly. Why was she looking at him? The hole was not noticeable, so how had she found it, and why spy on him? He sat there and thought this was a heaven-sent signal it was time for him to leave, get back to Vegas. He had taken the job to ingratiate himself with the Cartel, which had heard rumors there were rare earth minerals in the desolate Nevada hills, maybe molybdenum. The Cartel had bought the motel and surrounding land just in case the rumor was true, an investment. Carlos had been at the Stagecoach Motel for three years and the isolation was enough for Carols. Time to go.
            Cautiously, he rose up and looked to the peephole and then screamed. The green eye was slithering through the hole and weaving back and forth, searching for him. Carlos in a panic pointed his gun at the eye, but there was a sharp bang, like an iron fist pounding on the wall in the next room. Carols ducked down and crossed himself.
            “Carlos?” A lilting voice called out.
            He went cold, the hairs on his neck standing up, a sick feeling in his stomach.
            “Carlos?!” She called out again.
            Unwittingly, Carlos got up, put the gun on the counter and headed out the door. He walked obediently to the next room, #13, and entered. 
A few weeks later the Rachel Town Council visited the Stagecoach Motel to discuss a UFO symposium they were planning in the spring. As Stagecoach was the only motel within a hundred miles and would get most of the business, they hoped for a contribution. Rumor was that the Cartel owned the motel, so certainly they could put in a few hundred dollars.
            They parked and went to the office, the mayor Tubby Barnes taking the lead. To their surprise Tubby found a lovely young woman at the counter, who greeted them with a disarming smile and curious, vivid green eyes.
            Tubby and his team explained their UFO meeting idea and showed her a prospective flyer. The girl was enthusiastic and readily agreed to a donation. Instead of a check, she gave them a pouch of gold nuggets, easily a couple of ounces.
            Tubby was shocked and the town treasurer, Maude Perkins, quickly stepped forward and took charge of the gold.
            “There is something else.” The girl said, and she disappeared in the back returning with two large, frozen packets.
            “This is special. Keep it in the freezer and serve it at one of your food stands. It is a special sample of Mexican cuts. The crowd will just love it.” The girl enthused.
            Tubby and the team happily retreated to their van. The gold was worth over $3,000 and the meat would be a special treat.
            “I wonder whatever happened to Carols, “Tubby mused, as he pulled away from the motel. 
            “Too bad he can’t make a contribution.” Maude added. “Carlos loved the UFO gigs.”


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Frosty Stand, Great Basin Highway, Ely, Nevada

The girl came out of nowhere and set up the small frosty ice cream stand at the corner of Murray and Main Streets in Ely (EE-lee) Nevada, population 4,500 souls. It was in 2008, just as the US toppled into recession but before the collapse of the world economy. Amazingly, the frosty stand and town flourished. Frosty ice cream was an instant hit and people came to Ely from as far away as Wells, Nevada to the north and Las Vegas in the south to taste the famous flavors.
            The first whiff of something wrong was when the elderly began to die. The coroner shrugged, “Joe had a heart condition.”
 Or, “Aunt Maude was 98 years old.”
Such is life.
But then the infirm began to die, the old and not so old, the ones with afflictions and disabilities died. And as if black cloud hovered over Ely, the town began to wither. Stores closed and many folks up and left, saying they were afraid, but fearful of what no one could articulate.
Brody Brown, a White Pine County Sheriff’s deputy who was responsible for Ely, took an interest in the town’s sudden misfortunes. Brody was a former linebacker for the University of Nevada football team and he had a try at pro ball, but failing in the NFL, he had resigned himself to a career with the White Pine Sheriff’s Department. Brody also felt a responsibility to keep an eye on the new girl who ran the frosty stand. He readily admitted to himself that he found her attractive, alluring, and figured she was someone he could settle down with. Where she came from was a mystery, which Brody felt he had to resolve.
The skyrocketing Ely death rate caught the attention of the Nevada Criminal Division, which came to town with health officials and launched an investigation, even interviewing the girl who ran the ice cream stand. But nothing came of it, especially after they talked to the girl and tasted her frosty.
Yet people still continued to die. The very old were gone, the disabled had perished, and now anyone with a whiff of past or current l troubles with the law began to die. Someone was purifying Ely, as if a cleaning agent had come to town.
On his own, Brody had researched the deaths and determined without a doubt that all those who had died had at one thing in common, they had visited Frosty Stand. So one evening, Brody stationed himself outside  and waited for the girl. When she closed the stand and came out, she looked at Brody, giving him the trace of a smile.
And that is the last thing Brody recalled.
Now Body sat across from the head psychiatrist at the Nevada Health Institute, which is located outside of Reno.
“And that is all you remember.” The doctor asked.
Brody nodded. “But the girl did something to me. I know it.”
The doctor smiled. “You’ve been here almost two years and you have been semi-comatose, never speaking or responding, as if you were deaf and dumb. We had given up on you.”
Brody looked at the doctor, but he did not speak.
“And then suddenly you came out of it yesterday. You were talking and very agitated, insisting you had to see me.” The doctor said.
Brody nodded.
“So what happened? What broke your spell so suddenly?”
“I saw the girl.” Brody answered.
“You saw the girl? You mean the girl from the frosty stand?”
Brody nodded.
“Where did you see the girl?” The doctor asked.
“Here.” Brody responded. “The girl's working in your cafeteria.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Cottage on 20th Street, Historic North Boise, Idaho

They parked in front of Helen’s small, stucco cottage, the front door flanked by the overgrown evergreens. The house had a forlorn look to it, gloomy.  Remer led the way knocking on the door, holding his yard plan and looking around at the sun -burnt lawn.   Remer banged the door knocker again, a little harder this time.
            “Give her a minute.” Cannon said. “Maybe Helen’s in the kitchen.”
             After a short delay,  they headed around back.
 Cannon went to the back porch and looked through the small glass panes. “She’s not in the kitchen.” He said glancing at Remer who walked back by the fence and stared.
Someone was in the alley.
            “I don’t like this.” Cannon called. “Let’s get in.”
            Remer nodded, saying something that Cannon did not catch.  Cannon tapped the small glass pane by the door knob with a folding knife.  The glass tinkled to the porch and he reached his hand inside, turning the deadbolt lock.
            Cannon waved to Remer who was still at the fence. Cannon gently pushed open the back door, not wanting to scare the elderly lady if she were coming into the kitchen. Remer jogged over to Cannon and Remer led the way into the kitchen, where they hesitated as he called out for Helen.
            All was quiet.
The two men looked at each other. They moved from the small kitchen into the dining room, then into the living room, but the house was deserted. Dust motes floated in the late morning sun. No sign of Helen.
            Cannon returned to the living room and noticed a small pad on the side table, a scrawled note in uneven letters:  -Remer, my diary, Warm Springs.
            “Take a look at this.” Cannon called to Remer who was studying the bedroom.
            Cannon took a seat on the couch where they had sat when they chatted with Helen a few days before. Remer joined him.
 “I have a bad feeling. Where could Helen have gone?” Cannon asked.
            “What about this?” Remer said holding up the pad.
            “I think Helen wrote that to remind herself to tell you to look for her diary at Warm Springs. She must have a diary hidden in her room. Perhaps she wanted to show us what she wrote years ago, something to do with Karla and Karen.”
            Remer nodded. ”When I get back to Warm Springs, I’ll take a look. Her room has been empty since she walked out almost 15 years ago.”
“Let’s look downstairs.” Cannon said, standing up.
            Remer led the way down the steep, narrow steps that led into a low-ceiling basement. They paused in the dimness. Remer headed into the back bedroom, which was dimly lit by a single, narrow basement window.
            Cannon paused and looked around, sensing that all was not right.
            “Oh, God!” Remer exclaimed, turning to Cannon. “Quick, it’s Helen.”
            Cannon dashed into the bedroom and stopped in dismay as he saw Helen in the corner of the room, hanging from the sewer pipe. Her face was distorted, her eyes bulged, and her head hung at a grotesque angle.
            Remer looked away.
“Helen…” he said softly, and then left the bedroom.
 Cannon noted the rope, wondering why an old lady would have thick rope around the house. He also saw a stool on its side, just below her dangling feet. Ostensibly, it looked as if she had made a noose, put it around her neck, secured the hefty rope around the pipe, and then stepped off of the stool.
            Back upstairs, the two men waited in the living room after having dialed 911.
            “She was fine when we were here, in good spirits.” Remer said, after hanging up the phone. “Why this?” 
            “Who were you talking to outside?” Cannon asked.  “Who was in the back alley?”
            Remer raised his eyebrows.”There was a young girl in the alley, across from Helen’s fence. She was a teen, maybe 15, in a white blouse and knee-length blue skirt, a uniform.”
            Cannon sat upright, attentive. “What did she look like? What was she doing?"
            “She was cute, medium height, slender, red hair in a pony tail, but she just stood staring at Helen’s house. I asked her if she needed help, and she smiled at me. It was odd, when she smiled I felt rooted. Then you called and I turned away.”
            Cannon got up and hurried out of the kitchen door and crossed the back yard to the fence, but the alley was empty. Remer pointed to the spot where the girl had stood.
            “Just staring…she never said anything.” Remer commented. “You’d expect a girl that age to turn away, or say something.  And what a look she gave me!”
            Cannon ran his hand through his hair and looked up and down the alley, but she was gone. He knew who it was. But why was Rachel here and what did she want?
Cannon sighed and led the way back toward the house.
 In the distance, they could hear the police siren and the two men walked around to the front of the house and waited in the yard. 
            “But why this, why would Helen hang herself?” Remer asked with a confused look. “Helen was tired when we left her last week, but she was looking forward to seeing our lawn plan.   Why would Helen kill herself?
            “I don’t think she did.” Cannon responded.     



Monday, June 27, 2011

The Outlaw Inn, Laramie, Wyoming

Cannon read the brief restaurant history on the back of the menu, which explained the  eating spot had originally been called, Bucket of Blood Saloon. In the late 1800s, the prior owner and his two brothers were lynched in front of the saloon for various misdeeds. Laramie justice. 
            A bulky, young man and a teen-aged girl came into the Outlaw, taking the next booth. The man sat facing Cannon glowering, then swept the dining room with his angry glare.
Suddenly, the man started to rise from his bench, as to leave, run away. He did not want to be there, not at the Outlaw Inn. Cannon watched as the young girl moved from her seat and joined the nervous man. She sat beside him, speaking softly to calm him, patting his arm.
Cannon was shocked to see that the girl was Red, the young girl who had come to his apartment in Boise, Idaho, seeking donations for piano lessons. She glanced over catching his eye and signaling Cannon not to interfere. Red leaned toward the unhappy man and spoke, almost whispering in his ear, then patting him again to reassure him, “you can do this”.
The angry man looked at the other diners, a few were now watching. HIs face was red, his dark eyes wide, as if he were terrorized. The young girl returned to her side of the booth, her back to Cannon.
            The man twitched and squirmed, as bound in a too-tight jacket. Then he jumped up, sweeping the dining room with a malevolent look that instantly dimed the hum of conversation.
            “I’m Johnny Lang.” He boomed, as if introducing himself to give a speech. “I killed Amber Delay.”
            A stunned hush fell over the restaurant; the waitresses all stopped where they were. Those setting down plates hesitated, not taking their eyes off the swaying Johnny Lang. A dark cloud descended over the room.
 Amber Delay had vanished 18 months ago and her parents had been frantic, assembling search parties, distributing posters, and offering a $100,000 reward for Amber’s safe return.
 “I saw Amber in an alley, taking a short-cut to high school. I stopped and told her to get in the car, showing her my knife and telling her I had a gun and that I would shoot her if she tried to run. She got in the car.”
            The restaurant was dead quiet. Not a soul stirred, no one drew a breath.
            “Amber got in and asked for music. She wanted some music as we drove. Then she pleaded with me, saying I did not have to do this, that I should let her go, just stop and let her out. She was a good girl and would never tell anyone.
I drove her out to the old fort and that treed area behind the stockade, and…I don’t know why…I stabbed Amber, slit her throat. I buried her there at the fort."
            Red looked over her shoulder at Cannon. Her eyes were wide and she shook her head, telling him to stay still.
            Johnny Lang was wearing jeans and a maroon sweat shirt; he reached behind his back under his shirt and pulled out a wicked-looking hunting knife. He waved it at the diners, who recoiled. But no one moved, no one dared get up. Cannon noticed an older woman out of Johnny Lang’s sight who was talking on her cell phone.
            “This is for Amber Delay.” Johnny yelled. Then he put his left hand on the table and with a whack cut off his first finger. He turned and waved his bloody left hand in the air.
 “Amber Delay” he shouted.
            There were gasps.
            The patrons stared wide-eyed. The woman on the phone had her hand to her mouth; an older woman in a wheel chair wobbled and her chin fell forward on her chest.
            Johnny Lang surveyed his mesmerized audience, holding up his four-digit left hand, while waving his vicious knife in the air. He dared anyone to move, the show was not over.
            “I also killed Cherry Lee. That was six months ago. You all remember Cherry Lee, don’t you?” It was a taunt, as Cherry Lee was loved by all.
“I caught her on the jogging path along the Laramie River at twilight, your track star, a hero to the community. Everyone loved Cherry Lee.
 I could not help it, could not stop. She wept. No music for Cherry Lee, who fought…fought like a tiger.  I thought to let her go. But I had to strangle her. Then I buried her out there in the brush, beneath the bridge, the one that connects Main Street to the I-80.”
            Folks could still not completely comprehend what Johnny Lang was telling them.  Amber Delay and Cherry Lee were two teenage girls that had gone missing. The town and state had mobilized each time to search. It was Laramie’s nagging, unsolved mystery. Amber was 17 and perhaps she had run away because of her step dad. But Cherry was only 14, a budding track star.
            “This one is for Cherry Lee.” Johnny boomed, then turned and put his left hand on the table and sliced off his second finger. He raised his left hand with the two stubs and waved it around.
            “I’m out on parole. And I won’t stop. I will kill again. I won’t be stopped. This little darling with me, my red ponytail,” Johnny said, pointing his knife at the teen in the booth, "she will be next. I swear it. Unless…”
            And with that, Johnny took the knife and cut his throat, the blood spurting, galvanizing the nearby patrons, who leapt up screaming to avoid the splash.
            The young girl in the booth turned to look at Cannon, staring at him with her serious hazel eyes. Johnny’s blood had splashed her front. “Sit still and do not say anything.” She said to Cannon in a low voice. “I am making things right.”
            Pandemonium descended on the dining room. A few diners on the other side bolted into the kitchen. Others backed away from the prostrate, bleeding Johnny Lang.
Cannon sat riveted, watching as Red stood up to avoid the pooling blood that was flowing toward the booth. She stepped away from Johnny’s body and looked at Cannon. At that moment, the dining room hostess, an older white-haired lady in shiny black slacks with a lime green shirt, came out of nowhere and put her arm around Red, turning her and heading for the rest room. “We’ve got to get you washed up, young lady.” She said and the older woman steered the girl down the hall.
The hostess returned and stood by Cannon, who looked at her. “She’s okay?” Cannon asked, referring to Red.
“Remarkably calm, especially after that brute announced she was next. Oh Lord, makes me shutter just to think. What a horrible person. There on my floor lies true evil.” The hostess said, looking down at the still Johnny Lang, and then she turned back toward the rest room.
Suddenly the police and the EMS were there, telling everyone to stay in their seats. The emergency personnel knelt down and attended to the sprawled man, checking his vital signs. But Johnny Lang was dead.
Cannon looked up and saw the hostess returning with a concerned look, but Red was not with her.
“Did you see the girl?” The hostess asked in a panic, as if Red were her daughter. “Did she come this way? She’s not in the rest room. Where is she? Where could she have gone?”
 Cannon shook his head. He had no idea where Red had gone. But he knew he would see her again.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Love Nest Tragedy, North Platte, Nebraska

Norman, tall and balding, came in and gave Emily Lour a quick pat on the shoulder. Lou noticed there was no kiss. Norman poured himself a glass of ice tea and sat across from Lou at the kitchen table, asking her about her upcoming Colorado trip and schedule. He mentioned that she would love the Stanley, a famous old Hotel outside of Boulder, and he urged her to take the ninety-minute Stanley History and Ghost Tour that he had noticed on the hotel website.
            They chatted comfortably with each other. Once teenage sweethearts, they had been married for twenty-five years, a good life with financial security due especially to Lou’s hard work and the money she brought in with her regional sales job. She continued making notes for her trip as Norman began to drone on about his job and his day.
            “But I am happy.” Norman was saying.  “I’m so happy. Something wonderful has happened. I’ve fallen in love with my summer intern, Betty Jo. So while you are away, I will be moving out. I won’t be here when you return from your Colorado meeting.”
             Lou paused with pen on paper. It took a few seconds to record what Norman had said. She looked up and blinked. “What did you say?”
             “I’ve fallen in love with Betty Jo and I am moving out.” Norman replied with a giddy, idiotic grin on his face, driving an ice pick in her chest. Yet, she still could not believe. Out of the blue came to mind.
             “…sell the house. I know the market is still off. But this is such a great house. Maybe some of the new people at the Resort would be interested…” Norman continued to babble on about his happiness and how they must split up their possessions.
             Lou put Norman on mute. She watched his lips moving, but tuned him out. Was this happening? Was it a cruel joke? She looked around the kitchen in bewilderment. Was there someone in the dining room? Would the neighbors pop in and yell, “Surprise”. What did the kids call it? Punked, that was it. The kids nowadays like to punk each other. Was Norman punking her?
              “…of course it is against company rules. You cannot imagine how hard it is when Betty Jo and I see each other, pass in the hall, or sit in meetings together. We can hardly keep our hands off each other. Betty Jo wants to leap into my arms, drag me into a closet, hee, hee.”
              Lou recoiled at Norman’s salacious chuckle. Maybe he was deranged; the pressure for the job was too much. Or perhaps, this was a flight of fancy. In the morning, he would not recall any of it, just an aberration.  Norman would be himself in the morning.
             “…I think it was love at first sight…” Norman waxed on. “We shook hands the first time we met and electricity coursed through my body. “My Lord, the real thing…”
              Lou cocked her head and studied Norman. He seemed oblivious of her, as if he was telling his pals, explaining his euphoria. He and Betty Jo had found true love; they were soul mates. Emily Lou blinked. Where was the sanity? Would he never stand up and yell, “Not!' Tell Lou the joke was on her and their life would, of course, go on as before?
             “Well, I’ve had a hectic day.” Norman said. “All the politicking by the others to take the top job away from me! Have they no decency? I am the only qualified person for replacing Stu. I will be the resort manager. I have been loyal and honest, for twenty years a most productive company employee, an outstanding executive member of the team. I,,, No we, have worked so hard for this. It is mine! I mean the job is ours, Lou.”
             Emily Lou was incredulous. We? Ours?
  She could vaguely recall meeting this year’s summer intern at the Springtime Dogwood Function. Betty Jo was athletic, short haired, dark eyed. Not unattractive, Lou grudgingly acknowledged. But this young woman was going off with Norman, who could be her father. She was stealing Lou’s husband of twenty-five years. Betty Jo was destroying their marriage and also destroying Norman’s career, once the word was out. What was happening here?
   “I know this is out of the blue, dear. I’ll leave you with your coffee. Maybe a second cup will help.” And Norman gratuitously got up and gave her a refill of the afternoon coffee. “Let me get a shower, then we can talk some more. But I need to get comfy first. Maybe you make a list of the things you want. Needless to say, tonight I will move into the guest room, use that bathroom at the end of the hall. I’m sure you’ll want your space.”
  And Norman got up and went up the stairs. He was humming a song from long ago. But Lou could not place it. If he did not shut up, he would drive her mad.
  Lou looked down at her pad and the notes she had made to share with her friend, Cannon, over drinks at the Stanley Hotel. She stared at what she had jotted about her last sales overnight in Mitchell, South Dakota. An odd young man had sat with her at breakfast in the Comfort Inn, whispering to her about a Washington, D. C. conspiracy: there were no political parties, no wars, the U.S. Government was a hoax, a ponzi scheme. And only he knew, and they were after him. To read her notes made Lou smile, the story was amusing, but that morning  the young man had scared Emily Lou. Cannon would love this one.
  Lou slowly got up and blew her nose. How long had they been there at the table? How long had Norman rattled on about his new happiness? It seemed to be getting dark, definitely twilight time. There was only one thing to do.
  She went into the cellar and poked around in Norman’s things. Finally, she found what she was looking for in a trunk. Then she needed something else and found that in the tall cabinet beside his work bench.
 Preparing herself, she went back to the kitchen and listened. Lou could hear the shower in the guest bathroom. Norman was singing. Lou went up the stairs and took the chair from the side table. She set it at the far end so she was looking down the hall at the guest bathroom, some thirty feet or so from where she sat.
  “Only you, only you can…” and again Norman’s voice trailed away, followed by the insane humming. Then the water shut off and Lou could hear him moving around in the bathroom. Finally, the door opened and there was Norman in the doorway, resplendent in his gold-trimmed, navy blue robe. He blinked at her, his mouth open in protest.
  Lou steadied herself and pulled both triggers. The shotgun barked, shook, and spat, shredding Norman’s robe. The shots blew him back into the bathroom where he smacked against the hot water radiator, and then Norman slid to a sitting position, his mouth agape, and his eyes wide in surprise.
 She got up and put the shotgun on the hall table, dragging the chair back to where it belonged. She went into their bedroom, now her room, and searched in the bathroom cabinet, taking two aspirin, which she shook out of the bottle and flushed down with a drink of water.
 Lou then looked at her roller suit case, which was sitting on the bed. She prided herself on packing compactly, taking just the essentials. She had always told the kids, “you pack it, you carry it."  She glanced at the phone on the end table, but hesitated. No need to dial 911, not yet. Let Norman sit tight in the bathroom. He would not ruin her Colorado trip. Besides, she so wanted to hear Cannon’s story that he hinted at in his email, the one about the Nevada motel that he claimed turned into a flying saucer. And all her colleagues were waiting. The show must go on.
 Such is life.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bonefish Grill, Broad Street, Boise, Idaho

Cannon sat at the empty bar of the Bonefish Grill and nursed
an Idaho local brew, a Big Horn ale seasoned with honey and spices. 
             The disappearance of Karla Ravenholt five years ago from the Ravenholt  house on Lake Payette was on Cannon’s mind. The local police with assistance from the Idaho State Patrol had searched the shoreline, dragged the upper portion of Lake Payette, and had gone cottage to cottage interviewing the occupants. They had checked Karla’s credit card and bank accounts to see if there was any activity. But nothing turned up.
            Initially, the suspicion was Karla had been kidnapped, but as the days dragged on and there was no ransom demand, that theory was less credible. Rumors abounded that it could have been the work of the Snake River Killer, who had operated with impunity in the Northwest for twenty years, terrorizing Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.     
.             Ravenholt had turned to an investigator based in Portland, Oregon, who was well known by the Northwest law enforcement agencies. His effort was stone unturned. The private detective had even used lake experts from the University of Idaho to study Lake Payette currents, assessing the possible body flow if Karla had suffered a spasm and suddenly sunk into the inky depths of the cold water.                 
             Now Ravenholt wanted Cannon to look into Karla’s vanishing. He took out his small note book and studied items he had jotted down when he had talked to Ravenholt. Cannon was aware of rustling to his left and heard a female voice order a glass of Idaho Riesling.
            There was a young woman sitting at the bar dressed in a jade green sweater, with long brown hair, shapely face and expressive green eyes, jade eyes, which matched her  sweater. She was staring at him, a slight smile on her red lips.
            “Well, well,” she said. “We meet again.”
            Cannon felt a chill run down his spine, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He recognized her instantly. It was Mary Jane Taylor, the young woman from the Jordan Valley schoolhouse, where he had been briefly taken prisoner, where the little girl had gnawed on his fingers, infecting him with an odd virus, which seemed to empower him, certainly energizing him.
            The bartender returned and lingered in front of Mary Jane, asking her if she wanted some snacks. Mary Jane cocked her head and narrowed her eyes, which began to glitter, giving the bartender “the look”. He got the message and drifted past Cannon back toward the more talkative couple at the other end of the bar.
            “You were smart not to go the Jordan Valley Sheriff’s station.” Mary Jane said in a low voice. “We were gone by the time you got to the gravel road, not taking any chances.”
            Cannon thought back to that evening with the dark storm coming. He never considered going to the sheriff, just wanted to get away. Mary Jane had said she would have to put him in the cellar with the little children…and their leader. What was her name?”
            “Radika,” Mary Jane said, reading Cannon’s mind.
            Shuddering, Cannon recalled that when Mary Jane focused on him she could read his thoughts. He knew Mary Jane was correct. If he had returned to the schoolhouse with the police and found it empty, what would they think? How would his story sound, a lovely, green-eyed school teacher, tiny children led by their black-eyed charge, Radika?  Would the sheriff believe the odd tribe had ever been there, threatened to put him in the storm cellar? He would have to tell the sheriff that Mary Jane had  paralyzed him, rendered him immobile. It was only the threat of a tornado when her power had ebbed; when Mary Jane had become distracted that Cannon had been able to escape.  
            “Of course, I do have something.” Cannon said, looking at the bartender who was washing glasses nearby. Cannon moved his right hand in a semicircle and the bartender froze. Quickly, Cannon reversed the motion and the bartender jerked back to life, dropping one of his glasses, which bounced in the stainless steel sink.
            “Damn,” the bartender said as he looked around in confusion. “What was that?” He asked Cannon, glancing at Mary Jane.     
            “I could have shown them that.” Cannon said, ignoring the bartender’s query. “That would make them believers in me.”
            Mary Jane moved next to Cannon. “And what do you think a demonstration of “that” would get you? They’d take you to Nevada’s Area 51 and study you. They would want to understand and then reproduce your abilities, maybe clone you. Another arrow in their quiver.”
            Cannon nodded and  to his surprise Mary Jane changed the subject, asking him about the Karla Ravenholt case. She waved away his questions and leaned toward him, saying in a low voice that Karla’s disappearance was not what it seemed; the Ravenholt family was like a labyrinth, full of twists and turns, a giant spider web that would entrap him if he was not careful and prudent.
            Mary Jane then sat back and moved her right hand slightly and Cannon froze his glass halfway to his mouth. The next thing he knew the bartender was standing in front of him.
            “What happened to the lady?” The bartender asked, looking for Mary Jane.
            Cannon turned and was surprised to see Mary Jane was gone.
            “Hope you got her number.” The bartender said. “She’s a looker, a real knockout. I’ve never seen such green eyes if my life.”
            “Neither have I,” said Cannon, wondering when he would encounter Mary Jane again. “Neither have I.”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Night Visitor, Morrison Park Mansion, Boise Idaho

He built the house for his wife; seven years it took--- seven years of sweat and sawdust, seven years of floor plans and precision.  Endless days and long evenings, he sanded and waxed the imported mahogany floors, so that she could host tea parties on Thursdays. He carved the pattern on his sons’ door frame: a cat chasing a mouse through a field of flowers. He spent the early years of their lives teaching them about animals and plants, and how to mutually benefit in life from and with them. He was a member of the National Guard and one day civic duty removed him from his house and family in early summer.
        She counted the days he was gone, pined for him atop the widow’s watch. She kept his letters in a tidy stack, rereading them in the evening on the porch. Sometimes she would wait a month between letters---and when a letter arrived, she read it in a quiet whisper and often would shed a silent tear. Afterwards she would rock on the porch, and then fold his letter, placing it inside the envelope. She would untie the red ribbon that held together his stack of tales from afar, his promises of an imminent homecoming and his promise of his undying love.
        Her beloved returned on a Thursday, but hadn’t sent a letter in months; she was dusting the bookshelves, sashaying around the house in her purple dress, anticipating her night visitor. Then there was the sound of heavy leather boots as the returning hero tracked mud across the polished floors. He smiled weakly, when she dropped her feather duster with a shriek of joy. When his youngest child clung to his leg, he was startled at how the boy had grown, that his eldest had lost a tooth.
         He had only been home for a few days, when a sudden storm swept in from the west, thunder shook the house and he remembered the gunshots and the fallen. On that dark afternoon he broke the boundaries between the life he had loved, and the things he had seen and done, the nightmare he had hoped he had left behind whispered to him once again.
          “A family massacre” the press called it; they reported on the bodies of two adults, two children, strewn across a field behind an elegant farmhouse; the commotion of barking dogs caused neighbors to alert law enforcement. People of the town were aghast and the rumors flew about the motivation behind the tragedy. Was it those Thursday night visits? Of course, the progressive youth argued about war and morals.  But there were no answers.
        Today the hand-crafted house stands empty.
Story by Lisa Fliege