I wanted to share a short story out of my book Shirley’s Short’s and Flashes. It is a fantasy/mystery story. It’s not long and I hope you enjoy it. Shirley
“I swear it’s true, every single word.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Giorgio, I’m unable to accept your statement. What made you think a story so far-fetched, would be believed?”
“Why would I lie about something that could cost me my life, Detective Johnson? That man died just as I said he did. I’m an honest man, and I do not lie.”
Detective Johnson got up from the table and walked from one corner of the room to the other. He couldn’t get his brain around the story that Mr. Giorgio was telling. “Do you care if I smoke, Mr. Giorgio?”
“No, I don’t care, Detective.”
“Thank you. Now let’s stop the formality. I’ve known you all of my life. You call me Peter, and I’ll call you, um, um. I don’t know your first name. I’ve never called you anything but Mr. Giorgio.”
Mr. Giorgio smiled as he listened to Peter. “Peter, my first name is Tony. Actually, it’s Antonio, but everyone calls me Tony. I guess it’s easier to remember.”
“May I call you, Tony? I’m sure I will fall back into old habits and call you Mr. Giorgio, but I’ll do my best to call you by your name. Ok, let’s start from the beginning, once again. Don’t leave anything out.”
“I haven’t left out anything, yet. Peter, there is more to this world than what’s here in Summerton. Things people have no idea is happening in this world. Have you ever heard of Darius Figgaro?”
“No, I can’t say I have. Is that the guy’s name we found in your shop?”
“No, I don’t know who that man was. Darius was from the third century BC and a shoemaker as I am. He lived in a small village, in Armenia. He was known everywhere for his excellent shoes. In fact, he was so talented he was chosen to make shoes for the God’s as an offering, when the festival happened, in a few months. Aramazd, and his attendant, Grogh were made boots. For Aramzd’s son, Mehr, he made the softest, kid, leather shoes, and finally for the Goddess Anahit, he made slippers from a new shiny material from China created by worms. Nothing was finer in the entire world.”
“If anything was going to bring the town prosperity, it would be Darius Figgaro’s shoes. The God’s would certainly think of Artashavian as their favorite place. The village leaders were so confident in their plan, they already had a sign made for outside of town. In large red letters, it read: Artasavian, home of the God’s shoes.”
“You’re kidding, towns back in the third century BC didn’t put up signs.”
“How do you know, Peter? Were you there? People are remarkably resourceful, no matter when or where they lived. Think about the pyramids in Egypt, or the great lighthouse in Alexandria. All through the ages, people have accomplished exciting and beautiful things. Now back to my story. Are you going to interrupt me anymore?”
“I’m not planning to,” remarked Peter.
“The time for the great festival of the gods arrived in Artashavian. You could palpate the excitement in the air. Everyone was happier and looking forward to the three days of fun and homage to their gods. Darius’s excitement ended abruptly when he went to gather his offering and found the shoe cupboard empty. I know I put those shoes in this cupboard. What am I going to do now? Darius sat on his cobbler’s bench and prayed to the gods to help him find his offering. A loud booming voice sounded in Darius’s head.
“Darius sweep the floor using your new broomstick.”
Darius stood as he thought a moment where his new broom was located. Once he thought of the location, he walked to his back porch and grabbed the broom. “Ok, god, I have the broom, and I am obeying you even though I don’t know what good sweeping the floor will do.”
Sweeping the dirt floor was not an easy thing to do. You had to sweep but not stir up the dust and yet sweep aggressively enough to remove the debris on the floor. Sometimes Darius would place a course woven material down on the floor is he could buy the yardage at a cheap enough price. It’s been awhile since he purchased any, so his floor was bare.
He swept the center out of the floor but then decided he’d best do the corners. There’s a box here. I don’t remember this. When Darius looked inside the box, he yelled aloud, “Thank You, thank you.” There were all of the god’s boots and shoes. Tomorrow I will present them as my offering to the gods.
Before sunrise, the next morning, Darius gathered his box of shoes and headed to the temple. He felt fantastic and had extra energy. It was a glorious day. There were other people gathered at the temple also. Sunrise was the appointed time for giving of gifts. If your gift was accepted by the gods, you received a special blessing. Darius was hoping they would give him continued good health so he could continue to make his shoes.
Just as the sun was coming over the horizon, Darius placed his offering on the altar. The ground shook and lightning streaked the sky. Woman were screaming and running away, but Darius stood his ground. He looked at the altar, and his offering was gone. Everyone else’s was still there. What does this mean? Have I displeased them with my offering?”
“You have not displeased us, Darius. You have used your talents to make a personal offering to us. Because you have pleased us so much, we are going to bless you for each pair of shoes you made. Kneel Darius facing the sun.”
Darius was on his knees with the sun shining brightly on his face. He heard a female voice call his name. “Darius, my slippers are magnificent and feel glorious on my feet. For this, you shall have eternal life. You will continue to share your shoes with all you meet. Everyone will want a pair of your shoes. My child’s feet are protected with the soft leather of his shoes. Because you have given him protection, I shall keep you safe.”
“Thank you, Goddess, for your blessing. I could not ask anything more. I will continue to work and make my shoes”, Darius said.
“You shall prosper through your work,” Grogh commanded. “You shall never go without food or beautiful housing.”
Aramazd asked Darius if there was anything else he desired. Darius declined. “Then go, Darius, knowing you will be protected, have a long life and will be sharing your shoes with the world for all time.”
Darius bowed his head as the bright light was removed from his face. He stood, not quite believing what occurred. “I’ve been blessed. What more could I want in this world.”
When Tony finished his story, he looked at Peter and asked, “Do you understand now?”
“Understand what? You told me a fairy tale that has nothing to do with the man’s body in your shop.”
“You are no different than the thousands of other people I have told my story to. You go through this life thinking you know everything, and you actually don’t know anything at all. I can’t explain it any further than what I already have. You have to open your mind, and actually listen to what I said.”
“I don’t have enough evidence to hold you for the man’s murder. I’m going to let you return home but do not try to leave town.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Peter. I will be at my shop working on some shoes. I have a particular order from the Pope. He likes his kid, soft leather shoes.” Tony left the room, heading back to his shop.
Peter kept running Tony’s story around in his mind. Maybe when I hear from the Coroner’s office everything will fall into place. Returning to his office, Peter pulled out the evidence folder on the dead man. It was empty, not one thing to go on so far.
“Peter, the Coroner’s Office is on line 1.”
“Thanks, Sam. Hello, Doc, what do you have for me? You are kidding me, not one thing. What was the cause of death? Heart failure, so it’s natural causes. Sure, I’ll let the prosecutor know about the findings. Thanks, Doc, for the info.” Shaking his head, Peter couldn’t believe it all meant nothing. He knew he wanted to talk to Tony again about the Legend of the shoemaker and to tell him about the findings.
When Peter opened the door to go into the shop, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The room was empty. Not one shoe or even a sign anyone had been in the building. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling corners, with thick dust on the windowsill. A desk sat up against the wall. It was polished to a brilliant shine and had a paper lying on top. When Peter walked over to the desk and looked down at the paper, it made him take in a deep breath, before reaching down to pick it up. His name was printed on the folded paper. He opened the document, and he knew his world would never be the same. It read I am Darius.
I watched a television program last night that totally fascinated me. It was about Meriwether Lewis. Those of you who are not familiar with him, I will tell you a little about his background. He was born on August 18, 1774 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He became a soldier, served under William Clark who he later picked to be co-charge for the great exploration of the west, authorized by Thomas Jefferson. Meriwether started out as the personal secretary to President Jefferson, but Jefferson gave him another job to explore the Louisana Purchase and westward.
President Jefferson also gave them a mandate to see if there were signs of Welch occupancy in the west. Since Lewis had served under William Clark, they knew each other well. The two gathered their supplies and other men and left for the unknown in May 1804.
Meriwether Lewis kept journals of everything he saw during his mission. He retured in May 1806. Documentation along with drawings showed President Jefferson what was seen on the journey.
Three years after returning home, Meriwether was going back to Washington DC with his Journals He was staying at an Inn on the Natchez Trace. The Trace was a well used 440 mile trail from Mississippi to Tennessee. At the Inn on October 12, 1809, a couple of gun shots were heard and Meriwether Lewis was found dead. He had one shot in the abdomen and one through the head, with blew part of the skull off exposing the brain. It was ruled as a suicide.
Since that time there has been a theory that the United States Government had him killed because he had found something during the expedition that would threaten the United States right to the lands west of the Mississippi. Such as the Welch having been there before which would give England the right to the land.
Pages had been torn from his journal and were never seen again. Lewis was a Mason and had his apron in his pocket. When they removed it, it was blood spattered. The apron is on display in Montana. Blood samples were taken and it has been shown that it came from two different men and not Meriwether Lewis.
I think it’s fascinating to know that even back when the country was new that a National Hero could have been killed because of knowledge he had that could harm the government. It’s something we will never know for sure but does make for a good story.
The laughter at the wedding reception makes my heart glad. I want a drink right now, none of that mild crap. How do I tell Gloria on her wedding day, her brother is dead? James was found nude, in a muddy ditch, murdered? How does one begin a sentence you know will destroy someone’s world? I’m hoping her marriage allows her to let loose of her obsessions concerning her brother.
“Detective Donavan, you finally made it,” Gloria yells, and begins laughing,as she runs to meet him.
Donavan walks to meet her. “I certainly did. What happened to your beautiful dress?”
“Oh clumsy me, I fell flat of my face in the mud.”
Now it’s your turn. Let’s see what you can do with this. Use the same words I did and come up with a FF story keeping it under 120 words. The winner will receive an ebook from Amazon of thier choice under $5.00. Deadline will be Friday, August 10th with a winner announced on the 11th. Send stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have Fun
I hope you enjoy my short story today. I am entering this in a contest, so please let me know what you think of it and if you find any errors. Shirley
The fog in the park is thick. I can’t see five feet in front. It’s a wonder I didn’t break my neck running on this brick path. All it would have taken is one raised brick or a branch from one of the trees.
Mandy walked towards what she hoped was the side of the brick path. The overhead lights did nothing to help her see what was in front of her. They gave off an eerie light, but didn’t illuminate her surroundings. She wanted to follow the road edge hoping she would find a street sign to find out where she was.
“Ouch,” Mandy yelled when she ran into something hard. She slapped her hand over her mouth the second she yelled. She’d ran over a bench. She turned and sat so she could rub the spot that hurt on her knee. That’s all I need is to be crippled. Mandy jumped when a hoot owl screeched close behind her. Her nerves were raw, so she reacted to every noise.
She sat on the bench listening to the sounds around her. She could hear condensation dripping from the trees, hitting the leaves on the ground, and small creatures moving about in the bushes. Off in the distance she heard a distinctive tap, tap, tap. It sounded like heel taps on the bricks. She couldn’t let anyone find her yet. She had to have an idea of where she was first.
The tapping was getting closer and Mandy knew she had to move. She decided to get into the trees and lay low until daylight came. Maybe then, she could get to the police. She got up from the bench and began feeling her way back into the trees. She ran into a shrubbery bush. Maybe I can lay underneath this bush until the sun comes up. With the fog, no one can see me. She sat down on the ground and began feeling her way underneath the bush. It felt large enough to hide her, at least for a while.
She curled as close as she could to the trunk of the bush and didn’t move a muscle. Her senses were highly tuned to her surroundings. The tapping continued to get louder as whatever or whoever it was drew nearer. I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep. How did I get in this situation? I’m on vacation with my girlfriend. Oh god, I was on vacation with my girlfriend.
“Young woman, I know you are here. You are wasting your time hiding from me. I will find you. Don’t be afraid, I promise it won’t hurt and it will be quick. Won’t you come out and play with me?” The soft seductive voice was all around her.
Mandy’s mind screamed, go away. Her mouth felt dry and her tongue didn’t work as it should. She tried to work spit into her mouth, but it was useless. Every muscle in her body felt paralyzed with fear. She closed her eyes and prayed for help. Someone please help me.
“Have you thought about it young woman? It will be so much nicer for you if you’d come out of hiding. You know I can smell your perfume. I have a very sensitive nose. Are you wearing Amirage? It’s one of my favorite scents. You’re quite a beautiful woman. It’s a shame you came into the room when you did. Your friend was worthless. She gave women a bad name. You would have thought she would have had more sense than to bring a strange man to her room.”
Digging quietly in the soil with her hands, Mandy began smearing dirt around her neck, face and arms. She was hoping the dirt would stop the perfume smell and help her blend into the ground, if the man got closer to her.
“Excuse my bad manners. My name is Jack. What’s your name, young lady? I can leave a note telling them your name. I’m very considerate, as you can tell. Please come out. Don’t make this harder on both of us. Are you in London for business or pleasure? I hope it’s for pleasure and you’ve had a good time. There is so much to see here.”
Pulling up as tight as she could around the trunk of the bush, Mandy continued to pray for someone to help her. Her hip was hurting from lying on the cold wet ground. What is some pain when my life is at stake? Still trying to work her tongue around in her mouth to produce saliva, Mandy listened to the man tell her all about life in London.
“I’ve lived in London many, many years. Let me think, what year is this? Oh yes, I remember now, its April 30, 2012. Would you believe me if I told you I’ve lived here since 1877. I’m amazed I’m as well-known as I am, or at least my name is. I must say things have improved here over the years, but not the people. Women with loose morals still plague society. I have surmised that’s the reason I’ve been unable to leave. My services continue to be needed.”
Shivering cold, Mandy couldn’t get her mind around what she was hearing. “This can’t be real. There is no way Jack the Ripper is here. He has to be a copycat. Jack went on talking as if she were sitting beside him on the bench.
“Back when this all started, I thought things were much easier as far as ridding the world of the unsavory sort. They think I only killed five, but I have to tell you my dear I’ve killed hundreds who didn’t deserve to live in our society. You are special because you actually have seen my face. No one remains alive that sees my face. I can’t afford to let you live. You would complicate my work.”
The sky was beginning to lighten. Mandy hoped the fog didn’t burn off before help came. What is that noise? Someone is coming. Thank you, God.
It’s a shame I have to go now, I hear the day people coming out. I will be in touch with you. I’ve enjoyed our conversation immensely. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you before I get the opportunity to visit with you again.
Mandy heard the clicking as Jack walked down the brick path. When the sound faded completely she crawled out from under the bush. It took her a couple of minutes to get the blood to circulating in her body, as it should. She made her way back to the path and began walking toward the area that had the sound of people coming from it.
She walked about a pair of food carts setting up for the day’s business. “Excuse me, I need a policeman, I mean Bobby. Can you help me?”
“Bly me girl, what’s happened to you? You say you need a bobby. Follow this path down three or four lights and there’ll be a phone on the pole. It connects you to the police.”
“Thank you.” Mandy continued walking and finally came to the pole with the phone. “Hello, is this the police department?”
“Yes, ma’am, it tis. I’m Sergeant Grayson, how may I help you?”
Tears started flowing like a river out of Mandy’s eyes as she began to talk. She was difficult for the Sergeant to understand.
“Hold on Miss, I’m sending a police car for you. Stay where you are. Someone will be there soon.” The phone clicked off and Mandy stood there holding the phone and crying. She was still crying when a uniformed police officer approached her.
“Miss, my name is Officer Cannon. Please hang up the phone and come with me.”
Mandy stood staring at him, unable to move. The officer took the phone from her hand and hung it back on the pole.
“Come with me, Miss. What is your name?
“It’s Mandy Jackson.” She said between snivels.
“I can hear you are American. What state are you from?” The officer asked trying to help Mandy calm down.
“I’m from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ve been here on vacation with my girlfriend, Alice.” When she mentioned Alice’s name she began crying again.”
“Come on dearie; let’s get to the car so we can get you helped.”
Mandy let Officer Cannon lead her to the car and they headed for the station. Once there Officer Cannon approached the desk of Sergeant Grayson. “Sergeant, Miss Jackson needs to speak to a homicide detective.”
Officer Cannon immediately got up from his desk and walked to Mandy. “Ms. Jackson, please come with me. I’m going to take you to a room where you will have some privacy. Would you like something to drink?”
Mandy declined anything to drink at first but then changed her mind. Thank you Sergeant, I would appreciate some hot coffee.”
The sergeant led Mandy into a small room with a table and no windows. She sat in one of the folding chairs waiting for her coffee. In a couple of minutes, a woman came through the door with her coffee in hand. Hello, Ms. Jackson, my name is April Chambers. I’m in the homicide division. You may call me April. Is it alright if I call you Mandy?”
“Yes, that’s fine,” Mandy, replied.
“I understand you have a story to tell me.”
“It’s an unbelievable story, but I have to tell you. I have been here on vacation with my girlfriend. Her name is Alice Brady. We have been friends all of our life. She is dead. I saw her murdered.”
“What do you mean you saw her murdered?”
“Last evening Alice met a man who asked her to go night clubbing with him. Alice was very taken by the guy. She wanted this to be just a night for him and her. Since we were supposed to be leaving tomorrow, I told her I would go to the movies. That’s just what I did. I returned to the hotel room about 11:30. When I unlocked the door and stepped in, I saw a man bent over Alice with a knife in his hand. Blood was dripping off the couch. I took off running and didn’t stop until I got to the park.”
“What did the man look like?”
“I really didn’t get a good look at him, but he thinks I did.”
“What do you mean, he thinks you did? Have you spoken with him?”
“No, I haven’t spoken to him, but he has to me. He found me in the park and talked to me while I hid for a good twenty minutes before sunup.” Mandy told April everything she could remember about the conversation. She even told her about the man saying he was Jack and he had lived in London for the past 125 years. Mandy was surprised when she didn’t get the surprised response from April.
“What else do you remember, Mandy?”
“Nothing else, I’ve told you everything I know. He did tell me he would be seeing me again. I have to go home.”
“Alice was found this morning by the hotel maid. We identified her from the guest resister since the room was in her name. The maid told us about you staying there also. I’m really sorry. It will take us about a week to get everything straightened out. You should be able to go home after that. Alice will have to stay here until the coroner releases her body. “
“April, why aren’t you surprised about what I told you about that man called Jack? You didn’t blink an eye when I said you he’d lived in London for 125 years.”
“Let’s just say I’ve heard a very similar story about the guy. He’s a serial killer whether he has been here two days or 125 years. No one has been able to describe what this character looks like but women continue to be found with their throats cut. Most of them are prostitutes from the south side. Your girlfriend happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and paid for it with her life. I am very sorry.”
In a week and a half, Mandy was back in Oklahoma, trying to pull her life together. The Brady’s had gone to London to bring home their daughter when the London police released her body. She returned to her job at Hillcrest Hospital. She wanted to stay busy to keep her mind off her disastrous vacation. Word spread quickly at the hospital so she didn’t have to explain anything that happened. Occasionally someone would give his or her condolences over Alice.
One the one-year anniversary of Alice’s death, Mandy went to the cemetery where she was buried. She talked to her friend for a little while and then headed back home. As she was walking up her sidewalk, she heard a sound that made her blood turn cold, click, click, click. She quickly turned to see an elderly man walking down the sidewalk with his can clicking on the concrete with every step.
She hurried into her house and locked the door behind her. It was a cane that guy in the park was using. I can’t stand to hear that clicking noise. It brings everything back to me as if it just happened.
Mandy decided to take a relaxing bath and fix her a drink before she fixed dinner. She’d sipped her drink and started down the hall to the bathroom. The doorbell rang. I wonder who that is? She peeped out the window and saw a mail truck parked in front of her house. She opened the door. “Can I help you?”
“Are you Mandy Jackson?”
“Yes, I’m she.”
“I have a special delivery letter for you. Please sign here.”
Mandy signed the form and the postal worker left. She closed the door and went back inside. There wasn’t a name on the envelope but it was postmarked London. I wonder who this is from? She opened the envelope and unfolded the letter. As her eyes focused in on the words, she heard herself begin to scream. Darkness enveloped her has she fainted to the floor. The letter in her hand said, “ Don’t forget I like Amirage. Will be seeing you soon, pretty lady Jack”
The door slammed making the adrenaline surge up my backbone, gripping me with instant fear. I knew he was in the house. I have to stay quiet or he will find me. I can hear him tromping around in his heavy boots. The cabinets and drawers open and close, as he searches for the key. I have it well hidden. He may find me, but he won’t find the key.
I’m in the clothes hamper in the back part of Mom’s closet. If I can be quiet he won’t find me. I may be seventeen years old, but I’m tiny. My family and friends call me Tinkerbell, or Tink for short. This is one of those times I appreciate being tiny. He wasn’t supposed to be back at the house until evening, so I thought I would be safe to get some of my clothes. Boy, was I wrong. I guess he is desperate to find the key to the safe deposit box.
I hear him in the room going through everything. My mama would be all right now if it hadn’t been for him. If I disappear, the key will go to John Houston at the Daily Journal. If only she hadn’t told him about her journal. This would’ve been much easier. I could’ve turned it over to the authorities and he would be none the wiser. I guess Mom thought she was getting back at him somehow by letting him know he wasn’t getting away with anything.
Last Saturday started out like every other Saturday, with Mom cooking us a great breakfast with all the trimmings. After he left the house, she began to talk to me. My brain couldn’t believe what she told me about Jack, her husband of ten years. I remember very little of my father, so Jack, for all intent and purpose, was my dad, which made all of it harder to accept.
Jack’s having an affair, according to Mom. It’s been going on for almost a year. Mom chooses to overlook it for some reason that I will never know. It may have been because of Jack carrying Mom and me on his insurance. I’ve heard enough to know how tough it is when you don’t have medical insurance. If she confronted him, I never knew about it. I don’t know if I could accept that behavior.
Mom developed Diabetes about three years ago and used insulin daily. She did a finger stick four times a day. Her sugars were very erratic. The insulin she used changed with every test. She used sixty-four units of NPH insulin every morning and Regular before meals and at bedtime. She adjusted it as needed . She said her sugars were like a bouncing ball, and she never knew what direction it was going to go.
This morning I didn’t go to school. Jack left for work, as usual. Mom was late getting up. She didn’t look like she felt good. She told me she was very nervous on the inside and needed some orange juice before she checked her sugar.
I went back to my room to find clothes to put on. I heard the front door open and Jack yelled at mom letting her know he was home. He went into the kitchen, because I heard them arguing over mom’s journal. “I want that damn key, Janice,” Jack yelled.
Mom yelled back. “You aren’t getting it. I must have protection, and that journal is it. You thought you were so damn smart, but now you know if something happens to me you are dead meat.” I walked down the hall being careful not to make any noise, so I could see and listen to what was going on.
“You bitch; do you really think that little book will protect you?”
“Sure I do. It tells about your affair. Where you have hidden all of the money you embezzled from the company. It contains all of your dirty little secrets. You take care of me and you stay safe. If not, then you’ll be in prison for the rest of your life. It’s your choice. Leave me alone so I can get me some orange juice to drink. I can feel my blood sugar dropping. You know what is going to happen if I don’t get me some juice.”
A big smile spread across Jack’s face as he said, “Yes, I sure do. In fact, let’s walk to the living room. That might help it drop faster.”
“This is the day you get your payback. You think you can screw with me. You and no one else will get away with blackmailing me. It’s a shame that little crap daughter of yours is in school or I could take care of her at the same time. I will play the loving father until I find that key. Once the key is found, Tink will have an accident.”
I knew I had to find some place to hide. He moved her into the living room so I couldn’t go out the front door. That’s how I ended up in this hamper, barely breathing, unable to move. Mom has a narrow deep closet. Maybe he won’t discover me.
I heard him enter the bedroom and he continued going through the drawers. He came into the closet and searched through the boxes on the shelf. God please put your protection around mama and me. The phone began ringing causing Jack to stop searching. I guess he was trying to decide whether to answer the phone. He didn’t, and within a couple of minutes he was out the door.
I climbed out of the hamper and headed to the living room to check on Mama. She wasn’t breathing well, and didn’t respond. I called 911 knowing I was saving her and me both. Jack is about to answer for his actions.
I wish to thank you for the kind words and support given to me because of my father’s death. I can’t express my gratitude enough.
I missed my deadline yesterday, but I have a good excuse. I was painting all day. I’m painting a house I’m moving out of in a couple of months. We just bought a new home in Sapulpa and it is gorgeous. Out in the country with a cellar on the back porch. Anyway, I thought I would post a short story today that’s not really that short. I hope you like it. Enjoy the read and let me know what you think.
She walked to the edge of a small lake. She didn’t notice the color of the water, or that it didn’t reflect the blue sky above her. Her mind focused on how she and Bill spoke to each other the last time she saw him. She didn’t feel upset, or unhappy, just very content. I should talk to him and let him know why I left. His life wasn’t for me.
Bill was so handsome. He stood six-foot tall in his stocking feet, almost platinum hair with striking blue eyes. Her inner core melted every time he gave her one of his sultry looks. His eyebrows were soft brown with long brown eyelashes. Between his eyebrows, platinum hair and his Jesus eyes, she knew he was always going to have girls chasing after him, and she would have to deal with it.
He’d been born and raised on a farm about five miles outside of Harvestonville, Nebraska and Joanie was a city girl from Chicago. She met him in Chicago fresh off the farm. He was attending the Cattlemen’s National Convention as a delegate from Nebraska. Joanie worked as a cleaning maid in the hotel where he stayed. A smile touched her lips for a second, as she remembered their first meeting.
“Excuse me sir, I didn’t know you had returned. I’ll be out of here in just a minute. I’m almost done.”
“You don’t have to hurry on my account. What ‘s your name?”
“My name is Joan, but my friends call me Joanie.”
“All right, Joanie, you can count me as one of your friends. Would you like to get a cup of coffee or a drink when you get off work?”
“You want me to have coffee, with you?”
“Yep, I sure do. Will you join me? What time do you get off?”
“I get off at 3:00 PM, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass on the invitation. My mom is picking me up today, so I can’t stay late. How about a rain check?”
“I’m leaving day after tomorrow”, Bill said. “Let’s plan on having coffee tomorrow.”
Joanie thought for a minute about how nice it would be to have coffee with such a handsome man. “Okay, I’ll meet you in the coffee shop on 5th floor at 3:15.” She gathered up her cleaning supplies and headed out the door.
“Good-by Joanie, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Bill yelled as she shut the door behind her.
That was the beginning. One cup of coffee and Joanie’s world was never the same again.
Bill left Joanie, the day after their coffee date, which went on for fourteen hours. He had to catch his flight to return home. Joan didn’t think she would ever see him again. As soon as Bill’s plane landed, he called to tell Joanie how much their coffee date meant to him.
“I miss you, and I’ll find a way for us to be together. That is, if that is what you want to Joanie. I felt as if I had met the person holding my heart.”
“Bill, I’m in Chicago and you live in Nebraska. A relationship won’t work long distance, and you know that as well as I do. We talked about it and we both agreed it wouldn’t work.”
“I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to find a way to make it work, Joanie. Give me a few days and I’ll come up with a plan.”
Joanie went through her days as usual, but Bill was always on her mind. She’d wonder what he was doing or what kind of a plan he’d come up with. She’d already made up her mind she would do whatever he planned. What kind of life do I have? I’m thirty-four years old, living with my mother, with no bright prospects for my future.
Thirty days passed without a word from Bill. Joanie thought he’d changed his mind. I knew it was too good to be true. I’m never going to leave this hotel and mama. I thought the Lord had finally sent something good into my life.
After enough time passed, she kept Bill out of her thinking most of the time. The hardest part was at night after she went to bed. Her mind was full of questions and she couldn’t shut it down. She’d finally reach for her Bible and start reading. Once she started reading it was as if God reached into her mind and calmed it, letting her sleep.
The following Saturday morning, Joanie was doing the dishes. Looking out the kitchen window, she watched the cardinals, and bright yellow finches at the bird feeders. It gave her peace to watch the bright colors flit around and hear them sing their songs as they wait for space at the feed ports.
The doorbell rang a couple of times. I wonder who that is, she thought. Her mom had gone to see her Aunt Jerry so she knew she’d have to get the door. She dried her hands on the dish towel and went to the door. When she opened the door, she couldn’t move or speak for a few seconds.
“Bill, what are you doing here?”
“I told you the last time we talked I’d figure out a way for us to be together.”
“Yes you did, but I haven’t heard a word from you since that conversation. I’d given up on you ever contacting me, much less showing up at my door”.
“Are you going to ask me inside?”
“I’m sorry, please come in.” She opened the door wide enough for him to come in. He bent down and kissed her on the cheek as he stepped by her.
“Come into the living room and have a seat. Would you like something to drink?”
“Do you have any coffee made?”
“No, but it won’t take me a minute to get you a cup. We’ve got one of those Krups coffee makers that does one cup at a time.”
Joanie went to the kitchen and made his coffee. She put it on a tray and carried it back into the room. “Here’s your coffee, Bill, just the way you like it, with cream and sugar.”
A smile spread across Joanie’s face as she thought about how they had the love of coffee in common.
“Remember I told you I had my own cattle ranch in the country.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“I want you to come back to Nebraska with me and share my home with me.”
“Bill, are you asking me to marry you?”
“Yah, I guess I am. We’ll get you back there and settled, and then we’ll talk about a wedding. What do you think?”
“I think you’ve made me the happiest woman in Chicago. The only down side is telling my mother. Maybe we could tell her together this evening.”
“I think you should tell her yourself tonight, without having someone she doesn’t know around. I have me a room at a hotel not too far from here to stay. Can we leave tomorrow?”
“You want me to leave tomorrow. What about my job?”
“Honey, don’t worry about your job. You’re not going to be needing the job. You won’t ever need a job again. Just call someone and tell them you won’t be back.”
“All right Bill, I’ll leave with you tomorrow. I’m so excited to see my new home, and for us to start our life together.”
Joanie and Bill sat and talked about an hour making their plans. Bill got up and said he needed to go to the hotel so he could check in. They would be leaving about six in the morning, so Joanie had a lot to do before then. They walked to the door hand in hand, and Bill bent down and softly kissed Joanie’s lips. She thought she would explode with happiness, but she kept everything in check. Bill left and she headed for the attic to get her trunk and a couple of suitcases.
She was so busy packing her belongings she didn’t hear Mom come through the front door. Her mother stood at her bedroom door watching her pack her things in the trunk.
“What are you doing, Joanie?”
“Oh Mom, I didn’t hear you come in.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m packing my things.”
“I can see that, but why?”
“I’m going to Nebraska with Bill in the morning. He came back for me Mama and I’m going. This is a chance for me to make a wonderful life for him and me.”
“Don’t do this, Joanie. You haven’t known this man long enough to know what kind of a man he is.”
Her mom began to cry. Joanie went to her, put her arms around her, and kissed her cheek. “Please don’t worry mom, I’m going to be fine. Bill and I have talked for many hours and we both want the same things out of life. He’s a Christian and he told me he’d be right beside me in church every Sunday. He’s a decent man mama. I feel so lucky to have finally found someone to love, and who loves me back. I just know God sent him to me.
“Please, honey, I’m begging you not to leave with this man.”
“Mama, I’m going and that’s final. Please don’t make this harder on both of us than it has to be. You know I love you and nothing will ever change that.”
“Don’t you think it’s funny he hasn’t made an attempt to meet your mother or other family members?”
“He’s just shy mama, but you will get to meet him in the morning before we leave. I know you’re going to like him.”
Joanie’s mother opened her mouth to say something, but turned around and left the bedroom. Her heart was heavy with sadness, but she was angry with Joanie for being so naive. She went into the kitchen to fix herself a cup of coffee. Her agitation kept her walking the kitchen in circles. She felt like a wild animal pacing around a cage. I have to think of something to stop her from leaving with that man. I know something isn’t right, but what can I do.
Joanie’s mother’s bedroom door closed with a bang. Joanie thought, I know she’s upset with me, but at least she has gone to bed. Maybe in the morning she’ll feel better about me leaving with Bill. I think a mother should be happy her daughter has found happiness. Joanie kept herself busy for another hour getting her things together. She placed everything in the dining room for easy access to the front door. She didn’t want anything to delay the departure in the morning.
Walking back to her room, Joanie thought she would look in at her mother. Usually her snoring was shaking the rafters of the house, but she didn’t hear a sound. She opened her mother’s door a crack where she could see her mother’s form turned on her side away from the door. I hope she rests well. Maybe I can get her to come to Nebraska after we get settled. That way she won’t be alone for very long. Joanie pulled the door closed and walked back to her room and climbed in bed.
She had a tough time going to sleep because she was excited about the morning. She was ready to get on with her new life. When her eyes finally closed, she slept soundly and peaceful. The night went by very fast. It seems as if she just closed her eyes and the alarm was sounding. She jumped from her bed and hurriedly took a shower and got dressed.
She needed some coffee. She knew her mother would want to see her off so she went to her mother’s door and knocked. She listened and didn’t hear a response, so she knocked louder. She finally opened the door and looked in. Her mother was still on her right side, facing away from the door. Joanie walked over and touched her mother’s shoulder, or what she thought was her shoulder. What is going on? Where are you mom? The bed was empty except for some rolled pillows to make it look as if someone was asleep in the bed.
Joanie’s mother, Irene, decided she would handle this situation. She fixed her bed so it looked as if she was there sound asleep. She exited her room through the double doors to the deck in her back yard. It’s a good thing Joanie told me he was staying close by because there is only one hotel that is close. I’m going to have a talk with that fellow.
Irene walked to the hotel, a couple of blocks from her house. She walked with determination in each step and thought about what she was going to say. She’d brought her checkbook, just in case money was needed.
“Can I help you?” The desk clerk asked.
“Yes, sir, you certainly can. I need the room number of a Mr. Bill Douglas.”
“I’m sorry; we are not allowed to give out room numbers without permission from the guest. I can call his room and see if he would like to see you.”
“Ok, go ahead and give him a call. Just tell him Joanie’s mother is here to see him.”
The desk clerk called Bill’s number. Bill picked up the phone on the first ring. “Hello” who did you say was here? Sure, let her come up. Thanks.”
“Ma’am, he’s in room 702. The elevator is to your left and behind the screen wall.”
“Thank you.” Irene turned and made her way to the elevator, while she continued bolstering her courage with each step she took. Arriving at Bill’s room, she found him standing in the door waiting on her arrival.
“So you’re Joanie’s mother.”
“Yes, I’m Irene Jackson. Can we talk for a few minutes?”
“Sure, come on in and take a seat in that desk chair. I’m going to lie back on the bed and take it easy while were having our little talk. You start since you made the trip here to see me.”
“Fair enough. First off, Joanie doesn’t know I’m here. I needed to talk to you and I don’t want Joanie involved.”
“Excuse me, but I think she’s already involved. We are supposed to leave here in a few hours headed back to Nebraska.”
“That’s why I’m here. I don’t want Joanie going with you. She belongs here in Chicago with her family. She has never been out of this city and to take off to live in another state, on a ranch, in the middle of nowhere won’t make her happy.”
“What makes you think you know what will make Joanie happy?”
“Look, I’m her mother and I know her better than any other human on this earth, especially you. You’ve only spent a few hours with her. I’ve been with her, her entire life. What will it take for you to leave her in the morning and not come by my house?”
“Are you trying to bribe me lady?” Bill laughed while looking straight into Irene’s eyes. There’s something about his eyes that bothered her. She couldn’t stand to look him straight in the eye. How much are you willing to give me to leave your daughter alone.”
“I’ll give you everything I’ve got in the bank. Will you leave her alone for $100,000.00? Irene took her checkbook out and wrote the check for entire amount. She got up and walked towards the bed.”
“Wait a minute; I never said I wanted your money. I want Joanie to go with me tomorrow. I have big plans for her and me.”
“I’m going to do everything I can to stop you from leaving with my daughter. So don’t be surprised if you are detained a bit.”
“You can’t stop me.”
“Just watch me. I’ll have you so tangled up with the police, I guarantee you will be held in jail for a while. I have friends and I can pull in a few favors.” Irene looked at Bill’s face and saw a menacing smile on his lips. She had a chill run up her spine.
“You’ll have to excuse me a couple of minutes. I have to pause for the cause.” Bill got off the bed and walked into the bathroom. Irene sat with her back to the bathroom door, looking out the big picture window at the bright lights of Chicago. She heard Bill come out of the bathroom. The next thing she knew there was a small rope around her neck cutting off her air. Her last thought was of her love for her daughter.
At 6 AM, standing by the front door, waiting on Bill to arrive. Joanie kept wondering why her mother left during the night. She rationalized she left because she didn’t want to say goodbye to me. That note I left for her might help ease her pain a little. I’ll be sure and call just as soon as I get to the ranch.
Bill pulled up and Joanie threw the door open and ran out to meet Bill on the front walk. “I’m so glad to see you here. I have my things ready, but there is one small thing.”
“What’s that”, Bill asked
“My mom left last night and hasn’t returned home. I wanted to say goodbye to her.”
“Honey, she probably left because she couldn’t stand the thought of saying goodbye. I wouldn’t worry about her. I’m sure she is in a cozy spot, dealing with your leaving, the best way she can. Let’s get your stuff loaded and get on the road.”
“Ok, I know you’re right, but it’s just hard-driving off without seeing her. I’ll be fine and I’ll call her as soon as we get to the farm.”
Bill was quiet during the trip back to Nebraska. Joanie would try to engage him in conversation but he would just smile and not say anything. “Bill, why won’t you talk to me? Tell me about the ranch?”
“I don’t talk much and as far as the ranch goes, you’ll see it when we get there.”
Joanie gave Bill a long look, but he didn’t react to her stare. She finally gave up, and laid her head back on the seat to take a nap.
“Wake up, Joan, we’re here. You had a long nap. Take a look at your new home.”
Joan woke easily but remained groggy. “I didn’t think we were that close when I went to sleep.” Joan looked around for her new house. “Where’s the house?”
“You see that mound over there next to the big oak tree.”
“Yes, I see it.”
“That’s our house. It’s a dug out. We won’t have to stay in it but a couple of years. By then I should have us a house built.”
“Bill, you didn’t tell me I would be living in a hole in the ground.”
“I told you from the very beginning when we talked, I was a naturalist. We’ll grow what we are going to eat and live like my ancestors did when they first came here from Germany.”
“I don’t know that I can do this.”
“Sure, you can. I’ll teach you how to be a real pioneering woman. There is a community of us here. Down the road about three miles is the store and gas station. We’re in the process of building the combination school/church house now. On Sundays, we go to a different place each week for services. This next Sunday you can meet all the neighbors. I didn’t tell any of them about you, so you will be a big surprise.”
Joanie got out of the truck and walked to her new home. What have I gotten myself into? He didn’t tell me anything about all this. I guess I made an assumption I shouldn’t have.” The land was beautiful, with big pecan trees all around. There was a barn built about a city block away. The water well was in front of the dugout. There was a large area, off to the right, where the ground was broken up. It was away from the trees, and was partially fenced.
Bill hurried past Joanie and opened the wood slat door that let the light into the dugout. Joanie couldn’t believe her eyes. There were five stone steps leading down to a plank floor. There was a small wood stove sitting in the middle of the room with a stove-pipe running from the stove through the roof. As far as furnishing went, there was a full size bed and one chair and no table. There were stacked plastic crates containing a few dishes, Bill’s clothes and supplies.
“Welcome to your new home, Joanie. Isn’t this great. It won’t take you long to love it as much as I do.”
“Where is the nearest large town?”
“Well, let me think. Norfolk is about fifty miles north of us. I guess it is the biggest.”
“Is there a hotel there?”
“I can’t live like this. I’m not like you. Please take me to the hotel and I’ll go back home.”
“You said you loved me and wanted to be with me. Where we live shouldn’t matter.”
“It does matter, Bill. I haven’t been out of Chicago and this is 1992, not 1842. This isn’t the life I want. This is my fault not yours. I made some assumptions about our life together, and I shouldn’t have. Please forgive me, and take me to Norfolk.”
“I’m not taking you anywhere. You’re staying here with me.” Bill glaringly looked at Joanie and set the suitcases out-of-the-way. “Are you coming inside with me?”
“No, I’m not. Please take me to Norfolk, or I’ll walk.”
“You don’t even know where you are, how can you walk?”
“I’ll put two feet on that dirt road and take off.”
“You are going to leave me before you spend one night here.”
“Yes, I am. As I said before, I can’t live this kind of life. You may like it but I don’t.”
Bill walked around behind Joanie; she didn’t turn to see what he was doing. He put a small rope around her throat and started cutting off her air. “No one will miss you Joan. I told you no one here knew you were coming, and your mother will be waiting on you when you get to where you’re going.”
Joanie heard footsteps behind her. She turned knowing it wouldn’t be Bill, but she wasn’t afraid. A man in a long robe and sandals, with a pleasant smile on his face and the clearest blue eyes, stood before her. “Are you ready to go?”
“Where am I going?”
“You’re going to see your mama, and the rest of your family. There will be many there to greet you upon your arrival. You do remember what happened don’t you.”
“Yes, I remember but it doesn’t matter now. I feel too good for anything to matter.”
“You made some poor choices in your life on earth, but you lived a good life loving our Father and trusting him. Now you are going to live with him, as he promised you.”
“What about Bill?”
“Bill will answer to our Father in his own time. I’m surprised he even crossed your mind. Take hold of my hand. Your new home waits.
Grave Injustice by Jada Penn is one of those books I didn’t want to put down. The protagonist is Lisa, she is caught between two men and seems to be continually making the wrong choice. She is a very strong willed woman, who wants to run her own life. She does have the support of her parents and Grandmother. She lives on an estate which has been in the family for generations. Jada’s writing is very descriptive of everything around Lisa. It was easy for me to visialize the characters as well as the surroundings.
Outside influences begin to cause problems . Strange things happen to Lisa, and she confides in her long time housekeeper. The man Lisa tries to distance herself from is having problems himself and is doing everything in his power to get Lisa for himself.
If you enjoy reading a good paranormal, mystery you will enjoy Grave injustice. That’s my two-cents for today.