Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Pied Piper at the Green Gables Inn, Newport, Oregon

David was forever haunted by his night at the Green Gables Inn. He had chanced upon the Victorian B&B during his evening walk and decided on an early dinner. He was attracted by the irresistible smell of bread baking and walked down the driveway into a garage converted into a small bar and eating space. In the back was a kitchen.
          As he entered the cozy cafe nestled close to the windy beach in Newport, he saw to his right a guitar-playing duo, a man is his early fifties and a blond woman in her mid-twenties, both strumming Gibson guitars. The young woman was stunning, reminding David of that mythical goddess on a white horse, her long, blond hair flowing down her front.
          A harried waitress came forward and led David to a side room which had been remodeled into a small dining area and seated him at a table for two. He sat with his back to the wall and could see the musicians in the bar mirror. Occasionally, the girl caught David’s eye and he noted her intense blue eyes. There was something about her.
          David studied the menu and when the waitress returned he pointed to a glass of the Chianti, a salad, and the cannelloni. A young man brought his wine and David sipped it, wondering about the two traveling troubadours. He supposed they played for tips, probably also hawking a CD.
Looking around he saw there were two couples at one table; at another table were three older women out of an evening of Italian food. As David settled in, relaxing and enjoying the ambiance of the Green Gables, he noted that the blond woman suddenly put her guitar aside and picked up a flute, a rare Mendini golden flute. She began to play and David noticed that the other diners appeared to go rigid, as if the music transfixed them.
In the bar mirror, David saw the man put down his guitar and motion to the diners in the main room to stand. Then the man stepped into David’s room and raised his arms for them to stand. David watched puzzled as the people at the two tables stiffly stood.
          Trying to make sense of the situation, David glanced in the mirror and saw the blond watching him with intense blue eyes. Intuition told David he should also stand, not draw attention to himself. He slowly stood and the young woman looked away.
          As he stood motionless, David watched as the man moved and opened the door. The woman rose from her stool playing her flute and slowly led the people in the front out the door and up the driveway. As the diners in David’s room began to shuffle forward, he got in line as if to follow, but at the room’s door David peeled off to the left, hiding behind a coat rack. As he huddled out of sight, he saw the man look in the room, presumably checking to see that everyone had left.
          David waited until he felt a slight tremor, perhaps the restaurant’s door shutting. He carefully peeked out and saw two black vans pull away from the front. David went to the phone on the counter and dialed 911. He then grabbed a yellow, legal pad and pen from the counter and began to write.

Officer Joe Finley was the first to arrive at the restaurant. He had quickly called in his findings and asked for backup. Joe was surprised when an unmarked cruiser pulled up and the Captain got out.
          Noting Joe’s surprise, the Captain explained there had been a similar incident up the coast in Long Beach, Washington State. It appeared five customers and three staff had vanished from the Lightship, a small beach cafe. In that case there were no witnesses.
          “At least we have an observer.” The officer explained.
          “He’s deaf and dumb?” The Captain asked.
          “Hearing impaired and unable to speak,” Joe corrected. “But he has written the episode out in detail.” And Joe handed the Captain the yellow pad.
          “There’s this.” The Captain nodded. “But a shame he isn't normal.”
          “If he was normal, we wouldn't have anyone.”
          The Captain raised his eyebrows.
          “Our witness would have followed the pied piper into the night.”

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Dark Side and the Missing Sally Ride, Florence, Oregon

Alice Ride vanished in 2003. Alice, a graduate student at the University of Oregon, had rented a coastal cottage north of Florence, Oregon to finalize her thesis. Judd Reynolds had dated Alice off and on at the University. He had been a “person of interest” when Alice went missing and he often thought of Alice, wondering.
          Judd awoke one early morning and heard Alice whispering to him. He got out of bed and went to the window. It was raining hard, but near a street light, Judd saw a figure out of the corner of his eye. When he took a second look, the person was gone. Judd believed the whispers and sighting as an omen. Perhaps he should retrace Alice’s steps the day she disappeared ten years ago.
          The months after Alice dropped out of sight were rough on Judd. Whenever he went to the sports bar and stepped into that raucous atmosphere, someone in the back would shout, “Where’s Alice”? Judd had been in Eugene when Alice went to the coast and his alibi was flimsy as he had been preparing his dissertation proposal, spending time alone. Here and there people recalled seeing him, but according to the police there was a window when he could have made it to the coast and back.
          Ten years ago authorities had scrutinized Judd, even checking his time and mileage. It was 120 miles round trip to Florence from Eugene and, as Oregon is a state where an attendant has to pump the gas, it was easy to verify his gas station visits. Judd had filled up the day before Alice vanished, then again a week later, but topping off with only 3 gallons. If Judd had gone to Florence and back, he would need at least 6 gallons to fill up.
          As the investigators sifted clues for the missing Alice, an I-5 copycat killed his third Oregon victim and the authorities shifted their attention. The perpetrator, who might have taken Alice, seemed to be mimicking Randy Woodfield who had committed a string of killings and abductions along 1-5 during the late 70s. Woodfield was finally apprehended in 1981.
          Time passed and close friends of Alice moved on, Judd was able to focus on his studies, finishing up with a PhD in economics, landing an assistant professor position at the University of Oregon and putting Alice behind him. That is, until the recent whispers and sighting gave him nightmares. Judd decided he should drive to Florence, spend the night, and visit the isolated cottage where Alice had gone missing.
          Judd left Eugene one Tuesday at noon and drove the scenic road to the beach. Along the way he saw a poster tacked to a tree and stopped. It was a notice, Alice Ride Missing. There was a picture showing an attractive brunette with dark, intense eyes. Below the picture, the call letters for the missing student: Where’s Alice? For a second the hairs on Judd’s neck stood as he noted the poster was new, not weathered.
          After checking in at the Driftwood Shores Resort, Judd walked the beach north. In the distance, he saw the cottage Alice had rented. It was set in evergreen overgrowth, looking forlorn and unattended. Judd sat on the rickety stairs of the ocean-facing porch and reflected. Alice had been captivating and attractive. She was intelligent, a fun person as a companion. It was unfortunate and inexplicable that she had gone to the dark side.
          Listening to the breakers Judd saw on his right the winding trail that paralleled the beach. He got up, but moved to his left through dense brush and closely spaced cypress trees, coming to a sprawling cypress and walked to the back of the tree, spying a group of cobbles. They were the smooth, black beach stones and neatly arrayed in a reverse Celtic cross, a circle with a cross inside. Stretching out from the headstone was an indentation perhaps three feet wide and six feet long.
          He sat with his back to the tree and stared at the sunken plot. An ancient Greek proverb came to mind…”The Gods’ mills grind slowly, but exceedingly small.”
           Judd smiled. If the Gods’ retribution was night whispers and apparitions, then he would be fine. Rubbing his hand over the cobbles he drew a breath and paused, noting a slight flutter.
          Sitting up, Judd looked around, and then pressed his hand into the dirt. There it was, barely perceptible, but unmistakable.
          A faint heartbeat.