Short Story Sunday: Lucky Me

“I took the bus from Los Angeles to Sacramento. At the station I saw an old chum of my brother’s from High School. He said he’d give me a ride, but then he got fresh. I wasn’t going to, you know, I have cash to pay for gas. I’m not… so he dumped me here. I figured if I walked…”

“Get in. You’ll be safe. I promise,” he said. It had just started to rain. “I have a house by the lake. You can stay the night. Where are you going?”

“Reno,” she told him. “I have a teaching job waiting for me. It starts in two weeks.”

He found out she’d left a short abusive marriage. Out of the fire into the frying pan. She was too trusting of people, all bright eyed and perky, even after being left on the side of the road by a creepy pervert.

“I’m Val,” he said holding out his hand.

“Eve,” she said. “Your hand is colder than mine. You’re freezing.”

He smiled. She felt safe for the first time in a long time.

“Val. I like that. Is it short for Valentino?”

“Valentine.”

“I like that better,” said Eve.

They drove for another half hour to a large cabin by the edge of a lake. Cabin was an understatement, this was a 3,000 square foot luxury home.

“Go change,” Val told her. “I have something to show you.”

She went into one of the bedrooms, feeling as if she’d been there before.

When Eve returned, in drawstring pajama pants and a comfy sweatshirt, she found Val sitting on the couch in the main living area with his laptop on the coffee table in front of him. A glass of red wine was in his hand.

“I feel better. Thanks for picking me up again,” said Eve, as she sat down next to Val.

“It’s what I do Eve. Did anyone else pick you up this week?”

“A couple from San Francisco picked me up on Thursday. I had them drop me off in Truckee. Oh and last Saturday a trucker picked me up. He was hauling a load of furniture to Salt Lake City. I went all the way to Reno with him. Nice guy. He told me about his wedding plans. What did you want to tell me?”

Val turned to the laptop. “Your body was found last week by some Cal Trans workers getting the road ready for winter. They found your suitcase. There were also two other young women, both killed and dumped within a couple weeks of you. Both disappeared from the Sacramento Gray Hound station in October of 1987.”

“What about Tom?”

“Tom Turner was arrested last night. He wallet was found under the body of one of the other women. He’d also kept souvenirs. Your purse and heart shaped locket were found in his house.”

“Wow. I didn’t know about the others. Oh Val. Thank God it is over. What happened to the other two women?”

“They didn’t stay,” Val said turning back to the computer. “After the bodies were found reports came in of a hitchhiker in a red leather jacket, with long blonde hair. She’d been seen on the highway for the past thirty years.”

“You know, I don’t remember when I go out at night. Not until they drop me off.”

“I know Eve. It’s ok.”

“I’m glad they arrested the sick bastard.”

“So am I. If you’d told me his name earlier I would have taken care of him myself.”

“I didn’t remember it until now. Val, do you think I’ll go out again?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think I’ll move on? I guess see the light?”

“I can’t answer that, but you know you can stay here as long as you want.”

“I saw some other ghosts out tonight. They’re so lost.”

“Donner Party folks?”

“How’d you know.”

“They’re always out there.”

“What if you go away? Will I have to wonder around with them?”

“I won’t go away. I’ll always be here for you Eve.”

“Lucky me being picked up by a Vampire.”

Val smiled. “Lucky you.”

An Angel or A Devil? A True Crime Mystery.

An Angel or A Devil? A True Crime Mystery.

On a cold December morning in 1859 the bodies of a man and a woman were found on the banks of the American River, near the town of Folsom, California.

Walter and Mathilda Carlson, a couple in their late 20’s had been gruesomely killed during the night and left for the coyotes and turkey vultures.  Mathilda’s eyes had been either poked out and taken by her murderer or eaten by scavenging animals. Her neck was broken with obvious great strength. Walter was a good twenty feet down the beach. He was naked except for his red socks. He’d been beaten badly with signs of broken bones in his arms and legs. A gaping hole in his chest showed an empty place where his heart, now missing, had once been. On his face was an expression of horror even the most skilled undertaker couldn’t remove. 

The men who removed the bodies and the Sheriff all said they saw a figure in the woods, perhaps dressed in white, or maybe gray, watching them as they worked. One of the men went to question the witness, but they vanished like a ghost in the morning fog.

The Carlsons had come to town only six months before their murder. He was an attorney. She was a caring mother of two young children, aged one and three years. The Carlsons also cared for Walter’s younger sister Lena, who was said to be insane.

Walter Carlson also had a brother, Charley, who lived in San Francisco. At one time Charley and his English friend Cornelius Jones had been business partners with Walter. As they told the Sheriff after the murders, on the night Walter and Mathilda left San Francisco, Cornelius had planned on asking Lena for her hand in marriage. Neither Charley or Cornelius knew where Walter had taken Lena. Cornelius was sick with grief.

When the Carson family arrived in Folsom they settled in quickly. Walter was a welcome addition to the community. The beautiful and charitable Mathilda was adored by all who met her. 

Lena worked with her brother and sister-in-law. She was an odd young woman who walked with a limp and wore and eye patch. Her face might have been pretty if not for the constant look of overwhelming sadness, and the cropped dirty hedgehog like hair that spouted from her scalp. 

Walter Carlson was quick to tell everyone she insane. They didn’t have the heart to put her into an asylum. Besides, she was a hard worker and if they kept her under control she could be a great help with the babies. All who knew Mathilda said she was a saint for giving a home to her crazy sister-in-law.

One night one of the Irish workers in town said he thought he saw two figures outside of the small one room building Lena stayed in. One looked like an angel spreading its wings and the other like a dog with a long tail, until it stood up upon two feet and looked like a demon. It was foggy that night, so it might have been men passing by and stopping to take a break, or to see if they could get a look at the crazy woman locked in the shed. 

A few days later, in the rubbish pile behind the Carlson’s shop people found books of the writer Edgar Poe, Charles Maturin, and Oscar Wilde, with Lena’s name written inside each book in her neat fine handwriting. Carlson said the books put wicked and carnal thoughts into his sister’s head. 

One day in late November a number of people overheard a heated discussion between Mathilda, Walter, and Lena.

“An angel of God will smite you down and then send for the Devil to come take your soul. Just you see,” wailed Lena.

“You’ll burn in Hell girl just for saying that. You are nothing but a filthy harlot,” Mathilda shot back.

“And you will be judged for harming a kind and gentle man who has done nothing but bring good to others,” said Lena. Some who heard this thought there were tears in her voice and down her face from her one good eye.

“You let him defile you,” said Walter with a voice full of hate and judgment.

“I gladly allowed Cornelius love me. I wanted him to love me. I love him and he loves me in turn. He wanted to marry me,” said Lena who was not weeping.

“No respectable man would have you Lena. You worship sin and are nothing but a child of Satan,” said Mathilda.

“Our parents should have drown you at birth,” said Walter, who then slammed the window of his office down, and drew the curtains closed.

Later Walter told several friends in confidence that he thought his sister was involved in Devil Worship.

Lena was rarely out of the sight of either her brother or sister-in-law. When she was alone it was because she was locked up in a small building behind the Carson’s house. One day she managed to get out on her own and get a letter to the post office. She said it was to her brother in San Francisco and that it must be sent. The Post Master thought nothing of the letter, until Walter came bursting into the post office the next day demanding the letter back. By then it was too late. The letter had already been sent.

The next morning Walter and Mathilda were found dead on the banks of the American River.

The babies were found crying in the Carlson home. Lena was locked in the filthy shed behind the house.

Suspicion fell upon Lena, but there was no way such a small woman could have committed such a violent crime upon two people who were obviously healthier and stronger than she was. 

On the third day after the murders Charley Carlson and Cornelius Jones came to claim the bodies and take custody of Lena and the Carlson’s small children.

It was then that the truth about Walter and Mathilda came out.

While they were all living in San Francisco Mathilda had sent spies to watch Lena and Cornelius. Lena had gone with Cornelius to his home one afternoon. They made love without the knowledge that someone had been watching through the window. This event was reported back to Mathilda who then reported the event to Walter. 

Walter confronted Cornelius and told him that his sister would never be allowed to marry a half Jewish Englishman of questionable parentage. 

Walter then sent two men to beat Cornelius to within an inch of his life. The next day Walter and his family were gone, taking Lena with them. 

Before they arrived in Folsom, Walter and Mathilda held Lena down and cut off her hair. Next they gouged out her eye with a sharp knife. They then beat her until she was broken and bleeding. Until the day she died she walked with a limp due to their cruelty. They told her that no man would be tempted by her again. They told the people of the town that she was crazy and sick. Anyone could see that just by looking at her. 

The murderers were never found. Charley and his wife adopted the two babies. Lena and Cornelius were married and lived a long and happy life together. 

To this day some people say that it was both an angel and a demon who worked together to save Lena. The angel took them down and the demon took their souls to Hell. Some say through the morning fog they can still see the shadows of a winged figure and a man with a long thin tail walking along the riverbank. 

Or it could have been a madman traveling through. We will never know.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Note: Over the years, always in December, there have also been sightings of a beautiful woman with no eyes walking along the edge of Lake Natoma, where the American River flows deep underneath between the dams, her skirts dragging along the edge of the water. It is said she cries for the babies she’ll never see again. You never know what ghosts you’ll see on cold December nights. You never know. 

Short Fiction: Play Date

The last day stuck in his memory.

Josh had left the meeting and work for the day. He needed to think. 

Coffee and avocado toast. He’d found a seat by the window. Four hours of negotiations on the acquisition. 

His phone dinged quietly with a text from his sister Kitty. She’d started the seedlings for her summer garden. It was only March but it was time for her. Every year he’d go to her house and help her can salsa and a myriad of other wonderful magical things she’d fit into Mason jars. Then they’d go on her deck where they’d drink beer and eat chips and salsa, and talk about everything, and nothing at all. She’d always pin her hair up and wear dangling earrings.  Her laugh was infectious. He had needed that laugh after all of his meetings that morning. Jake would call her later.

Right now it was an exhausting and shitty day.  Nobody was happy. Nobody would listen. He’d had an intelligent well thought out plan. It was a cluster fuck of already made ignorant opinions. Nothing was backed up with facts or experience. 

On the way home a ladder had fallen from a utility truck, hit a car a few places ahead of him on the freeway.  The next thing Jake knew a woman was holding his arm and they were both covered with blood. 

His arm was broken, his face was bruised and cut, his entire body felt like he’d been beaten with a baseball bat then thrown off of a cliff.  His car was totaled.  Stitches went from his left ear down his jawline to his chin.  Three pins or screws or something was now holding his arms together. The headaches lasted weeks. 

The woman went to the hospital with him. She held his hand. Her name was Scarlet. The last thing he said to her was, “make sure someone feeds my cat.”

It was the last day before everything shut down. 

At home he didn’t need a car. He couldn’t have driven anyway for the next few weeks. Using a keyboard was almost impossible with two hands. If he had to go out he could take an Uber or Lyft. Food could be delivered. Cat food and litter could be delivered. No problem. 

Zoomie the gray tabby kitten was delighted to keep him company.  Unfortunately his girlfriend had moved back in with her ex the day he got out of the hospital.

By April a new car had been delivered and now had almost eighty miles on it. He wasn’t going anywhere. All work was at home. At least work was going well and keeping him busy. He’d hired three people he’d yet to meet in person.  A woman named Emerald had been cleaning his house since he’d come home with the broken arm.

By June the depression rolled in so he would put Zoomie in a backpack or in his harness and go for long walks.  By July his sister was canning without him. His brother and parents had driven down to see him a few times. It was always great to see them. They begged him to come up and stay with them but he was too busy with work. He’d bake cookies for Emerald to bring home to her husband and kids. 

At the end of July he could pull his hair back in a ponytail. He’d started working out again. Zoomie was getting huge.  

One morning on Facebook he saw where a friend of a friend posted something about a dog. My brother passed away. His dog Daisy needs a home. Daisy is a sweet five-year-old German Shepard/Lab mix. She is well trained. We don’t want to take her to a shelter.

Without thinking more than five minutes about it Josh called the number. A man answered. He said his neighbor would drop off the dog.

A few hours later he got at text. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy.

Daisy stood wagging her tail and wiggling with happiness. A pretty brown haired woman wearing a sundress held Daisy’s leash. At least he thought she was pretty. Her eyes were pretty above the mask.

She introduced Daisy to Josh, then said, “How are you Josh? Do you remember me?”

He couldn’t quite place her.

“I was in that accident when you broke your arm. I was in one of the other cars. I’m Scarlet. Do you remember me?”

“Oh, wow. Scarlet. It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you too. You look good. Thank you for the nice letter and the flowers,” then she laughed, “and the toilet paper.”

In September Josh cleaned out the texts in his phone and found Scarlet’s message. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy. Right now Daisy was at his feet snoring with Zoomie curled up at her side.

Outside the smoke from the fires made it unhealthy to walk. Josh put on music and danced while playing with Zoomie and Daisy. Then he pulled his hair back and attended Zoom meetings, trying to look like he was normal.  He noticed how the scar on his face showed up, not so much ugly or disturbing but interesting. 

There were Zoom calls with work and friends. His family stopped by once a month. A few friends came by. Josh talked to his neighbors. The world was opening up. It wasn’t the world where he’d stop for coffee and avocado toast when he wanted to think. This was a world of protests, and weirdness, hate, and mean politics. But in his own bubble it was a world of people who’d reached out. It was a world where he treasured each phone call and guarded visitor. It was a world where Zoomie and Daisy were his own tiny family with their own habits and secrets.

One Saturday right before Halloween he received a text. Hi. Do you mind if I bring my dog Crystal over? She and Daisy used to be great friends. In fact, they’re sisters from the same litter.  I thought it would be fun to have a play date.

Josh thoughtI could use a play date too. 

Then he texted back,That would be awesome. Bring Crystal over anytime.

Opening and closing his hand Josh still felt a little bit of numbness and a little ache.  He’d be fine. It would be more than fine.

~ end

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Note: I’m just fooling around with some ideas for much larger and more detailed stories. As we all stay at home, worry about the election tomorrow, and think about the well being of those we care about we’re still side tracked by other challenges. Fortunately good things still happen. This might get worked into my 2020 NaNoWriMo project. You never know.

Have fun. Stay creative. Stay safe. Wear your mask. Vote. Check in on those who might need extra help both mentally and physically. Hug your kids. Kiss a Vampire. And keep checking back for more silly stuff.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Photo by Carlos Mossmann on Pexels.com

Short Story Sunday: Floatsam and Jetsum

Here near the beach is one of the few places not on fire right now. The hills are flaming. The valleys are full of smoke. We are safe here on the beach for now despite the ashes on the deck of our beach house.

Last night after dinner, when the fog and smoke had blown off, and the wind had calmed down we walked along the beach.

My husband and daughter walked along the edge of the surf deep in conversation, solving the problems of the world. I walked along next to them enjoying the sound of the waves and the sand under my feet. We wore our masks, and passed a few other with their dogs and kids.

As we approached the old abandoned pier and ship wreck I could see dark heaps scattered the sand. It could have been driftwood, or clumps of seaweed. Some looked as if giant fish, or the king of the mer-people and his enterage had washed ashore after a great undersea battle.

Early in the morning just after the sun came up, before anyone else was out on the beach I walked towards the old pier and the ruined half sunken ship.

I saw the shadow shapes from the night before had been driftwood, logs, and matted seaweed. I also saw fewer shapes than the night before. I wondered how high the surf had been to wash away such large objects.

Walking over to where I imagined the mer-king had beached I saw in indentation and it looks as if someone had dragged a large object towards the surf. In the track I found a string, like a broken necklace, made of polished shells and what looked like pearls and gold coins. I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

Near the spot where the object had been I saw a hand print where someone, or something had dragged along the sand. A clump of what looked like long turquoise was tanged in the sand. I put it in my pocket.

When I get home next, away from the beach, I’ll research my finds. In the meantime I’ll dream of the mer-king and wonder if he still swims tonight or if he perished on the beach.

I’ll never know, but then again, you never know about these things. You never know.

Online Party and Live Short Story Reading

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My friends Jon and Brian are having a Book Launch Party and you’re invited.

I’ve been to their events before and it is well worth the time.

This is a benefit (donate what you want to, if you want to) for Project Open Hand.

Project Open Hand’s mission is to improve health outcomes and quality of life by providing nutritious meals to the sick and vulnerable, caring for and educating our community.

Our vision is for a healthy California for the sick and vulnerable through nutrition.

Founded in 1985, Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to critically ill neighbors and seniors. Our food is like medicine, helping clients recover from illness, get stronger, and lead healthier lives.

Every day, we prepare 2,500 nutritious meals and provide 200 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain our clients as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of aging. We serve San Francisco and Oakland, engaging more than 125 volunteers daily to nourish our community.

Jon’s readings are always a joy. Brian is always fun. Special guest Maureen Kadish Sherbondy will also join in the festivities. Set aside some time for yourself during the pandemic and get a positive mental charge right from the comfort of your own home. You won’t even need to wear your mask.

Yes, something is happening in August 2020 that isn’t a disaster.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Delivered To Your Door

Delivered to your door…

I looked at the muscular, almost beautiful, naked body on the bed and the folded up sheriffs’ uniform on the chair. The badge seemed to sparkle saying “look at me, look at me.” A white and pink orchid flower was behind his ear.

Holy crap, this wasn’t how I’d planned on starting out my week.

I was three years old and he someone throwing me up in the air and I laughed so hard I could hardly breathe.

His hands are warm and I cling to him to put my ear next to his chest and hear his heart. I hold him tight feeling the heat radiate from his body. I keep laughing. He is so different from everyone else I know.

Thirteen years later, he takes my hands, I laugh. Then my best girlfriend says “He’ll marry me and I’ll be his wife forever.” No way would she get the most handsome man in the world to marry her. I laughed in her face and everyone yelled Happy New Year. Someone lit up lights to spell out 1865. We were in California and in love with men we have silly school girl crushes on. Who cared about the war? We were safe.

I woke in a cold sweat, on the back deck, my book on the ground, the cat staring at me. I heard my son’s voice.

“Mom, Uncle Val is on the phone.” My son Garrett stood at the sliding glass door holding my phone out at arms length.

My brother Valentine, thirteen months my senior said I have to come right now. It was an emergency. Nobody else could come. None of our three older brothers could make it. Everyone else had suddenly vanished off the face of the earth.

I arrived at the farm house, my two teens in tow, slamming the door as hard as I could when I got out of the car.

I’m usually pretty calm but I lit into my brother when I saw him walking towards us. “Nobody ever consults with me. I’m the one with the kids and the husband and my own business. I’m on fucking call 24/7 for everyone in this family and nobody ever asks me what I want or need. Nobody.”

“Are you done?” Val asked this in an uncharacteristically sarcastic tone.

“No. What is going on?”

My brother scowled at me and shook his head. “Why are you yelling?”

I went into the house leaving him in the yard. I could hear my son saying “Bad day to mess with my mom.”

Dealing with the sick and elderly is something we do. We do it for love or obligation or family bonds or whatever the reason it is usually on autopilot fueled by guilt and frustration. I’m so saint but sometimes I want to play that saint card so much it hurts.

Eleora stood at the door in a yellow bikini top and a tie-dye skirt, her brown curls done up in red bows. She fluttered around then kissed me on each cheek. Tellias gave me a big hug. He was wearing a green shirt with yellow parrots embroidered on the back. A patch on the front said Dave in large script letters. His white blonde hair was pulled back with a green ribbon.

They look like they’re 19 or 20 years old but they’re ancient – two of the most ancient Vampires known. They were pioneers and founders of the Modern Vampire movement. It is hard to see them like this. It literally breaks my heart.

Steel guitars were hissing away on a scratched up old record playing on a wind up phonograph in the corner.

“We can’t find the car keys,” said Tellias.

“We’re being tropical tonight,” said Eleora as she danced around and put an orchid flower behind my ear.

I was ready to scream. “Again? Where did you last have them?” I asked slowly and calmly.

“If we knew that we’d be driving,” said Tellias, as he took the ribbon out of his hair and shook it out on his shoulders.

“We’d take a road trip to Montana and Maine and Michigan and Maui!” Eleora sang as she danced around again.

“How long have the keys been gone?” I asked.

“Two or three weeks. Val won’t let us use his car,” Tellias said.

“He says we drive too creatively,” Eleora giggled.

“Yes, he said we drive too creatively,” added Tellias.

“Creatively,” said Eleora, this time more seriously.

“Creatively. That was a nice way to put it,” I said more to myself than to the Elders. “What about food? Is Val bringing you food?”

Tellias patted my hand. “Val has been a darling but we like delivery. We call and they come to the house. Amazing. We should have done that a long time ago.”

Delivery? What in the world were they doing? I looked at the hanging chandelier in the entryway. “Nice fixture. Is it new?”

“A couple of nice men came and installed it,” Tellias told me. “It should last for years. The old one was fitted for gas and ugly. Remember?”

“We had them for lunch,” Eleora proudly told me.

“You shouldn’t do that. They’re help,” I told them.

Eleora just smiled. “We liked them Juliette. We wanted them to stay.”

“Are they still here?” I asked not knowing if I wanted to know the answer.

Tellias answered this time. “No, they left. Then we called the County Sheriffs and asked them to come out. We said someone tried to break in. Eleora sounded scared. They sent two good-looking strong young men right to our door.”

“Right to our door. Good looking healthy young men,” Eleora echoed.

I glanced out the window and saw the black and white car on the side of the house. Oh no.

“Where are they?” I asked trying not to panic.

They both looked to the ceiling. I ran up the stairs.

In a bedroom done in high Victorian style, I found a golden haired well-built man face down and naked on the bed. His uniform was neatly folded in a chair. He was alive but in a deep sleep. The name badge was Murphy, as in Officer Murphy.

Another handsome muscular young man was in the next bedroom over, shirtless on his back, asleep. I noticed a wedding ring on his finger. The name badge on his shirt had the name Garcia. His sleeping eyes moved a little under long dark eyelashes.

I called down the stairs. “How long have you had these guys here?”

“Since yesterday. We jammed the GPS on their car.”

I sat down on the top step, almost in tears. They couldn’t find their car keys but they could jam a GPS signal. I thought about the guy with the wedding ring. His wife must be sick wondering where he is.

In most popular novels ancient Vampires are powerful creatures of the night. In my life they are silly creatures that forget all rules about consequences or right and wrong. They act like senile teenagers, with occasional flashes to the wise, powerful leaders they once were.

Tellias sat down next to me. “We thought about keeping them for a while. Then you and Val wouldn’t have to worry about us.”

Eleora slid down on the other side and stroked my face with a cool hand. “Why are you so upset? Everything will be fine. It always is.”

We dressed the nice handsome patrol officers and positioned them in less provocative poses. An hour later another patrol car and an ambulance arrived. Two officers had become ill with an unexplained illness. Not knowing what to do a young couple took them in to their home. All was well. The officers recovered with no memory of what happened. Both mentioned an overwhelming calm and sense of well-being. Imagine that.

Tellias took my hand, like he did when I was a child. “Juliette, my dear child, we weren’t going to turn those young men into Vampires. You know we wouldn’t do that.”

“I just worry about you two,” I told him.

“You care too much for those Regular Humans,” said Eleora. “You have to distance yourself.”

“I’m married to a man who used to be a Regular Human,” I said quietly, but ready to scream.

Tellias squeezed my hand again. “And if it wasn’t for Eleora and me he would be dead.”

I went back to the bedroom where the married officer had been. Years ago my husband lay in that bed, a phantom between two worlds, that of the humans of the light and those of us who favor the dark. An unwanted conversion that had turned those warm hands cold forever, but given me…

“Mom?”

I looked over to kids standing next to me. A 14 year old daughter and a 17 year old son. They shouldn’t have to see all this, but I don’t believe in sheltering them. I never have.

I guess I should do my famous parenting blogger bullet points but there is no point in this story. It is just one of those things, on one of those nights.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

First posted in 2013. If figured since we’re all getting so much take-out and delivery these days that I’d post it again.