Francis March’s Visions

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“You must be Mister Sherwood Garth,” the young man of about twenty-three told me. It didn’t sound like a question, it sounded as if he informed me of who I was. I sat on a wooden chair with my feet perched on the railing in front of my front porch. I sit here frequently in order to take in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean that faced my front yard.
I casually looked over my shoulder at the sign nailed to the front wall of my home, which I use as an office. It read ‘Woodie Garth’s Beach House.’ “Well, now that we have half of the introduction in hand; who might you be?”
“David March, sir.” The lanky, sandy-haired lad said. “I would like to speak to you about a job. You still take cases, don’t you?” He asked as he eyed my relaxed attire and my desire to remain in my chair. “I’m indeed sorry to bother you if you’re retired from Pinkerton. I’ve heard excellent reports about you.”
“You have,” I said smiling. “Someone has been talking behind my back. It must be that Harold Lloyd fellow. You can’t shut him up.”
“Seriously, Mister Garth. If you can’t help me, just say the word and I’ll be on my way.” I could see that the boy became irritated with my lack of enthusiasm. I couldn’t blame him. Since 1918, when the Mallorys and I started MGM Detective Agency, We’ve been exceedingly busy and I rewarded myself some free time. One way of escaping is Lounging on my front porch. Visiting my new friends in the world of Hollywood and escorting many of them to local speakeasies took up my evenings. I spent my days on the beaches of Santa Monica.
“I must apologize, young man. I’m being quite rude,” I said, standing and brushing some sand from my white shirt and dungarees. “Let’s go into my office and discuss your problem.” I opened the door as he climbed the three steps to the porch. “Allow me to call Major Mallory and his wife. They, more than likely will want to hear your story first hand.”
“No, Mister Garth,” he said, stopping on the third step. A frown fell over his face. “I do not wish, what I have to say, to go any further than you and I, and possibly my sister. You’ll understand once you hear me out.”
I held the door ajar and looked back at him. I remained silent for just a moment, my brow knitted and then conceded. “All right, I’ll abide by your rules for the time being. Come in, the room to your left is my consulting room. Find a comfortable seat and I’ll be with you once I’m dressed appropriately.”
“Never mind your dress, Mister Garth. I want to come straight to the point.”
“That’s fine with me,” I responded, shrugging and closing the door. I call it my consulting room, however, the builders originally designed it as the living room. It had a large fireplace on the east wall that faced the ocean through a large window covered with sheer sky blue curtains. A semi-circle of a variety of colored chairs faced the fireplace. During the winter months, I build a large fire but Mister March’s visit came in July, thus, no need for a fire.
We walked into the consulting room and I gestured to the chairs. He took a green one as I took one opposite him. I offered him a drink, which he turned down. “Now what can I do for you?”
“It’s about my father,” he said with a sigh. “There are those in my family who wish to prove him insane and take over the studio and his personal assets as well. He is a rich and an important man in the industry.”
“Is your father Francis March, th head of West-Coast Studios?”
“Good, you’ve heard of him,” David March answered. “Yes, my stepmother and my elder brother are trying to prove that he is insane. I and my sister believe it’s a farce.”
“That’s interesting,” I said, leaning back in my chair and running my fingers through my black hair. “I met your father at a dinner in May. He seemed perfectly rational to me. What evidence do they have to prove otherwise?”
“That’s just it. His behavior in May acted rationally, perfectly normal,” David said, crossing and uncrossing his legs as he spoke. “The first week of June, for no reason that we could see, he began having hallucinations. From that day forward, he would have daily visions. Most of them surrounded our mother, who died six years ago.”
“Be more specific, Mister March,” I coaxed.
“He would see my mother floating through whatever room he’s sitting in. In his hallucination, she would stop and turn towards him and admonish Father for marrying Paula Clinton.”
“That’s right, I recall reading about the wedding,” I said. “So, that little golddigger has her claws in your father.”
“Excellent description, Mister Garth. We tried to warn him before the wedding, but he wouldn’t listen. Now it’s come to this.” David put his head in his hands and shook.
“What other hallucinations has he had?”
“A number of bizarre visions. Like horses galloping through the living room. Worse yet, he saw an opening form in the wall of his bedroom and odd people walked through from another world. He actually sees these things and it scares him.”
“Does anyone else see them?”
“No, only Father. That’s what scares him the most. We’d all be sitting in the front parlor and he sees something. He insists that the rest of us experiences the visions as well. Of course, no one does.”
I remained silent a moment and thought the problem through, “Has he changed his diet recently?”
“Not at all. In fact, he has a very bland diet. He has oatmeal for breakfast every morning, eats out for lunch at a variety of restaurants and a normal meat and potatoes dinner prepared by our cook. Eleanor is a very loyal employee and would never harm father,” David said, shaking his finger at me. “She, by the way, cannot stand Paula. There would be no collusion between them.”
“Has he been examined by a doctor?” I asked, trying to get a grasp on the situation.
“Of course, Father is as healthy as a horse. The family doctor, who has been with us since my childhood, found nothing physically wrong with him,” David said. “Paula brought in a psychiatrist, who is staying with us, She hired Doctor Norman Ross. I don’t have an ounce of trust in him.”
“I can understand your feelings,” I said with a nod. “However, he would lose his license to practice if he became part of a crooked deal like you’re suggesting. What would you like me to do?”
“I thought you could move into a guest room at the house and investigate. I could tell everyone that you’re a college chum of mine and—”
“That wouldn’t work. I’m about ten years older than you. It’s not plausible that we would have been classmates.”
“What would you suggest?”
I could be your instructor at whatever college you went to.”
“That would be Yale, Mister Garth.”
“Okay, I taught your history class. I’m passing through and decided to visit my favorite pupil,” I said, smiling at the thought of being a college professor. I would have been a terrible student let alone an instructor at the college.
“Here’s the address of my home,” he said, reaching forward and handing me his card. “I’ll expect you around noon tomorrow. That should give you time to arrange for the visit.” He stood and walked to the door. His step seemed to be lighter and his smile brighter. “Is that all right with you, Mister Garth?”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mister March. Or I should call you David. Is that what your professors called you?”
“Yes, and you’re Professor Garth. Good afternoon, sir.”
*
“Good Afternoon,” I said in greeting Arthur March, David older brother. I had dressed in a black cotton suit with thin lapels and a small crookedly tied bow tie. My disguise as a college professor. I also wore a pair of heavy glasses with clear lenses to add authenticity. “Out of the goodness of his heart, David invited me into your home while I search for a domicile of my own.”
Arthur March looked over to David and gave him a deep frown, “I don’t remember David speaking of you. What subject do you teach?” I imagine Arthur’s large imposing frame would unnerve all who met him except me. I’ve faced down bigger brutes then him before.
“I taught David Mid-evil European history, dear boy. He was a wiz on the subject,” I said, my shoulders hunched forward.
“If it’s going to be a short visit, I have no problem with it,” Arthur said. “He’ll show you to a room.” He looked over at David and added, “Be quick about it. I want to talk to you in private about your father.”
“Oh, yes, David said his father is ill,” I said, fanning concern. “What’s wrong with the poor man?”
“If it’s any of your business, he’s crazy. He sees ghosts around the house. And, he’s not poor, he’s got enough money to buy the city of Santa Monica. The cheap bastard,” the last phrase he mumbled to himself.
“David and I can catch up on old times later,” I said, stepping closer to Arthur “Why don’t you show me to my room. You, the master of the house, can give me a better picture of the household.”
“Not a bad idea, Artie,” David said. I could see him suppressing a smile.
“Grab your bag and come this way,” Arthur said, leading me to the staircase. “Once we walked out of earshot of David, Arthur looked at me and asked, “Why do you care about the old man’s illness?”
“To be honest, while David drove me from the train depot, he told me about the man’s derangement.” I looked up at Arthur’s craggy face. “Do you think a man in that condition should be running a movie studio?”
“Well, I see someone has some sense around here.” His frown contorted into a twisted smile. “We’re working on a plan to remove him. But, he has lawyers—, he looked down at me and said. “Don’t jump into the fray until you know who’s waiting for you.”
We walked silently climbed the staircase until reaching the upstairs hallway. A woman of remarkable beauty stepped from a room at the end of the hallway. As she approached us, I recognized her as Paula Clinton, from the movies I’ve seen. She had shoulder length blonde, wavy hair that swayed casually as she walked. She wore a silk dress of yellow embedded with rhinestones. It came down to her knees swinging to the rhythm of her walk.
“And, who have we here,” she asked Arthur but looking at me with her wide bright eyes. “A visitor to the house?”
“Yea, David invited Professor Garth to stay with us a while.”
“Oh, a professor,” she beamed. “I love intellectual men. You carry on such enlightening conversations.” She reached out her hand, I took it and gave a small bow.
“I love intellectual women,” I countered with a smirk. “More so if they are as beautiful as you, my dear.”
“We should get along famously, professor,” she said, winking. Then she left Arthur and me, leaving the image of her swaying hips in my mind.
Arthur looked down at me and said steadily, “Don’t get any funny ideas, she’s taken.”
Of course, I thought, he didn’t say who had taken her. He didn’t mention the husband. Interesting, I thought. I moved into a small, but well furnished, room at the opposite end of the corridor from Paula’s. I believe Arthur went out of his way to find this room for me.
*
The next morning I woke and dressed early. I didn’t want to run into Arthur and deal with the jealousy and suspicion he held for me. I put on the same get-up I had on the day before. I walked down the hall and before beginning the descent on the stairs, I met a man coming up. The elderly man had a head of white hair and dressed immaculately. That surprised me, considering the early hour.
“How do you do,” I said, once he reached the second floor. “Do I have the honor of meeting Mister Francis March?”
“Heavens no,” he answered, his eyes popped open as if I insulted him. Without taking my hand reached out to him, he said, “ I’m Doctor Norman Ross. I’m Mister March’s psychiatrist. He’s a very ill man. I hope you don’t have the misfortune of meeting him.”
“Why is that, sir? David said he merely has hallucinations. He mentioned no violent behavior.”
“Leave the diagnosis to the trained professionals, young man. There’s no telling where these visions will lead to.” He pushed past me without a word and scurried down the hall. I watched as he went directly to Paula Clinton’s room and, without so much as a knock, entered. My mind went back to Arthur’s warning. She’s taken. I can see who she’s taken by.
I went down the stairs and entered the kitchen. Expecting to find the cook, I found an empty room. It gave me a chance to look through the cupboards and try to find the substance that caused the hallucinations. My reward for persistence came when I found the bowl of oatmeal that sat on the counter where the cook had just prepared it.
I found little interest in the bowl. However, lying on the counter, next to the bowl, I spied a small pile of grains. At first, I assumed them to be spilled oatmeal. But, on closer examination, the grains appeared to be wheat with a stain of something black on the shaft. I pulled one of the envelopes I always carried and slid the grains into it. Folding the envelope, I put it in my pocket and turned to the bowl of oatmeal. There they sat, mixed in with the oatmeal, a handful of the semi-black grains. It would have been futile to try to pick them out, as the door opened I swept the bowl from the counter, breaking it and spraying the contents across the floor.
“Here now,” a robust elderly woman called out. “Who are you and what are you doing in my kitchen?” Her face flushed red with anger as she stood in front of me with her fists on her hips.
“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, looking as guilty as I could. “I’m searching for something to eat and I stumbled in here. I’m Professor Garth, a friend of young David’s.
“If you’re hungry, the breakfast for the rest of the family is in the dining room. This mess you caused belongs to the master of the house.”
“I am sorry. Is there anything I can do?’
“You can get out of my kitchen. Don’t touch anything. I’ll clean it up and make a fresh batch of oatmeal.” She fumed.
“Is there a special ingredient that you put in the oatmeal for Mister March?”
“Of course not, he strictly orders plain oatmeal every morning. Doesn’t even want sugar or raisins,” she answered. “But that’s what he wants, that’s what he gets.”

On the way to the dining room, I passed a telephone on the wall of the hallway. I quickly grabbed the ear-phone and gave the operator Major James Mallory’s telephone number. I realized that David March didn’t want anyone else involved, but I do need my Watson. I hadn’t planned to tell Mallory the specifics of the case, just going to use him as a delivery boy. I developed a close friendship with Doctor Pablo Vasquez, the forensic specialist with the local police. He is a chemist and would be able to identify the grain and the black growth on it.
I spoke to Mallory’s lovely wife, Anneka, “How are you this lovely day?”
“A bit put out by the phone ringing at this time of the morning,” she said, her voice groggy from being woken. “My humblest apology. But. I have an urgent task for the major. Is he available?”
My charm with women seemed to placate her. Her voice perked up. I could hear a smile on her face. “James is still asleep and I don’t want to wake him. What is it you need, Woodie?”
“One of you needs to come down to the March estate and pick up a small package for me and take it to Doctor Vasquez at the Santa Monica police lab. It’s extremely important.” I spoke with a sense of urgency.
“Sounds like you’re onto something there. I can be there at ten. I need to dress and make myself presentable.”
“Oh, you’re always presentable, dear lady,” I said. “However, don’t come to the house, I am under an assumed persona. I’ll meet you at Fineberg’s Deli down the street.”
“Whatever you say, boss,” Anneka jested. “Ten on the nose, see you then.”

I went to the dining room and found a cute teenage girl in a school uniform eating her breakfast. Possibly the first to rise, besides the cook. Her blonde pigtails fell over her white blouse. Beneath the blouse, she wore an ankle length, checkered blue, and white skirt. I went to the sideboard and filled my plate with pancakes, as I poured the syrup on my meal, I eyed the girl with caution. Turning back to the table I sat across from her.
“You must be Virginia March,” I said, smiling openly. “Your brother David told me about you. You’re still in high school, I see. ”
“I’m a senior and I’ll be graduating once I finish my summer classes. And, I know who you are,” she whispered leaning forward. “You’re that detective David hired.”
I put my finger to my lips, “Mums the word. No one knows who I am except you and your brother.”
“Don’t worry,” she whispered, picking up a slice of bacon. “I think my quiff of a step-mother is out to get my daddy’s jack. I don’t want her to get it.”
“Jack?”
“Oh, you know,” she said. “Money. You need to bone-up on our new languages, Mister Garth. I mean Professor Garth.”
“I imagine I do,” I replied grinning. “What makes you think she’s doing something to cause the hallucinations?”
“She and the doctor have it all worked out,” Virginia said in a small voice. She looked around the room, anxiously. No one remained behind. “I’m no kid, ya know. The first time I took a gander at those two, I knew they were playing a game. She’s had the doc in her room overnight every other night.” She put the bacon in her mouth and ripped in half with a vengeance.
“Isn’t he a bit old for her?”
She shrugged. “He got the stuff that she needs to put my father away in a sanitarium. She’ll do anything to get him there. The quiff.”
A quiff, as Virginia put it, means she has loose morals and the way Paula conducted herself on the stairwell hinted at that. I also witnessed the good doctor going into her room. “What time did Doctor Ross go into the kitchen this morning?”
“He never went in there,” she said. “He went into the library across the hall. Stayed in there a few minutes and went back upstairs. I have a view of the hallway from here and could see every movement he made.”
That information surprised me. I felt certain that the doctor tainted the oatmeal. I turned back to Virginia. “Who else entered the kitchen this morning?”
“Irene, the cook, of course. My brother Arthur leaves early, at five, to go to work, so he probably went to the kitchen for something to eat.” She thoughtfully added, “Arthur likes to spend time with Paula as well. I hate to think my brother would—.”
“I understand. How about you? When are you up?” I added.
“I like to help Irene make breakfast while I wait for my eggs and bacon,” she said.
“What time does David leave for work?” I asked to get a clear picture of who is doing what.
“He doesn’t leave till ten o’clock. He sleeps in until around eight,” she said with food in her mouth. “You don’t suspect him of doing anything, do you?”
“No, just checking. What about Paula? Does she ever get up early?”
“Are you kidding? With her wild nights, she’s lucky to get up by noon.”
“So, you didn’t see her this morning?” I asked.
“Unless I peeked through the keyhole,” she answered with a smile that showed her scrambled eggs.
“Thank you for all your help, Virginia,” I said nodding to the well-proportioned girl. “I don’t want to keep you from school.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, Woodie. You can take up all the time you want. I’m fascinated by the mystery of it all,” she said, smiling.
Virginia, at seventeen, seemed to be alert to the adult misconducts around the house. “If you see something that looks questionable, let me know, okay?”
“Okay, swanky, but that covers a lot around here,” she said with an unexpected wink. She stood and walked away from the table. She then abruptly turned and grabbed a valis that sat on the chair next to the one she vacated. “I can’t forget this.” She then left.
I had a meeting to go to at ten. I finished breakfast and returned to my room. I’m sure that the results of the tests on the grain will answer how he or she poisoned Mister March, but by who?
*
I had time on my hands now that I passed the envelope to Anneka. Doctor Vasquez, if not too busy, should have the results within a few hours. Anneka promised to get those results back to me promptly. I needed to use the next few hours to hunt out the ‘who’ of the equation.
The three siblings were away from the house, it’s a perfect time to snoop around. My first target was Arthur’s room. The room that sat between his father’s and step-mothers room. I found that odd. Rich folks usually have separate bedrooms, but they usually are adjoined. In this case, Arthur is separating the two.
I left my room and looked down the hall. No one stood about, not even the maid. I bet the maid has some stories to tell about this family, I thought as I walked down the hall. I tried the door and relieved to find it unlocked. I closed the door quietly and looked around. The dwelling of the oldest brother appeared to be twice the size as my own room. Richly decorated in dark greens. The room looked, to me, dreary with wallpaper, bedspread, carpeting, and art-work frames all in forest green. I went to the dresser first, moving silently since Paula’s room stood just on the other side of an adjoining door.
A number of items attracted my attention. A note from his step-mother thanking him for a wonderful night. He also, foolishly, had a few photographs of Paula hidden away under his garments. They weren’t sleazy photos, but having them at all seemed odd. So, it seemed as though the doctor shared the favors of Paula Clinton with Arthur. However, the grains that I had found in the kitchen were nowhere in Arthur’s room.
That pointed the finger of guilt more towards Doctor Ross. He spent last night with Paula. I saw him coming back upstairs, but did he come back to the room next to this one, or his own? I went to the adjoining door and cautiously knelt. No key blocked my view, so I peered in. There sat Paula at her vanity, brushing her hair. Still wearing a fine silk negligee that flowed loosely over her captivating figure. I could hear no voices at first, then the unmistakable deep voice of the doctor.
“I don’t understand what’s causing all the hallucinations, Paula. But, I’m glad he is having them,” It’ll make his committal all the easier. Then, we can remove the unwanted guests from here and be together.”
“What’s taking you so long?” she hissed. “I’ve been patient with you, doctor. And, kind to you. I want him gone.”
“I want to be sure that he’ll stay gone, my love,” he pleaded. “Now, come back to bed and show me how kind you can be.”
I could see her expression in the vanities mirror when he suggested more kindness. She gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. Then looked back into the mirror and smiled to herself. “I’ll be right there.” She stood and I could hear the bed squeak and knew I had a few minutes to go to the doctor’s room.
His room sat across the hall from mine. I simply slipt out of Arthur’s room and sauntered down the hall. Again, the door swung open without any effort. I didn’t want to take to much time. There’s no telling how much time I had. After a quick investigation of all the drawers of the dresser, side tables, and wardrobe, I found nothing incriminating. Either the doctor could be an honest man and not know about the grain, or he hid it quite well. I found his black bag and searched for anything that would condemn him, to no avail.
I wanted out of there before they finished being kind to one another. I stepped out of the room and closed it behind me. The next room on my list is David’s. His room sat next to mine. Unfortunately, his door was locked. I would have jimmied the lock, but, I’d be wasting precious time. After all, he’s the one who brought me into the case.
Next to his room sat Virginia’s. I didn’t expect much from her’s, but, my history with the female of the species made it a priority. Her door surprisingly opened without a problem. Most young girls like their privacy. I slid into the room and closed the door. It looked like a typical teenage girls room. Painted in pink with frilly sheer curtains hanging from her four-poster bed.
The walls were covered with pictures of all the latest stars of Hollywood. Garbo, Louise Brooks, Marion Davies, Clara Bow, Esther Ralston, and other starlets. I dug into her dresser drawers, finding more photos of Hollywoods starlets, then I hit jackpot. A bag containing the blackened grain that I found in the kitchen.

*

That afternoon I spoke to David March and arranged for a meeting with the household. He had arrived home early from his work and I approached him in the den, where he had poured himself a scotch.
“Did you want one, Mister Garth?” he said, holding up the bottle.
“No, thank you. I try to keep my head clear while on a case,?” I answered.
“There are times when this clears my head,” he said, drinking the scotch. “You have the case worked out already?”
“I’ll tell you about that this evening,”. I said, looking towards the front window. “That’s if you can arrange for a meeting here in the den.”
“Paula will be a bitch about it,” David warned. “But, I’ll promise her a gift if she comes.”
“Excellent. Not your father, though,” I added. “It may be painful for him.”
“Whatever you say. It’s your game, Woodie.”
“One more thing. Who told Virginia that I go by the name Woodie?”
David shrugged, “I might have mentioned it when I told her you were coming. She’ll be home from her Horticulture class in a few minutes. I’ll ask her then.”
“Never mind, I’ll talk to her later.” I waved off his offer. “Just be sure everyone is here at half-past seven.”
*
I felt pleasantly surprised that everyone had shown up in the den as requested. Not all were happy to be there. I didn’t need to cover as a college professor any longer. I dressed in my gray cotton suit and a broad white tie. Did away with the fake spectacles, looking and feeling like myself again.
“I thought David summoned us to the den,” Arthur blustered. “Who are you to take charge?”
I stood up and looked about the small group. “I can understand your feelings, sir. But, let me start by identifying myself. I am Sherwood Garth, not a professor but a private investigator. David felt his father’s state of mind may be more than simple aging. He hired me to see what is happening to the poor man.”
“Where is Francis?” Paula asked looking around the room. She looked as alluring as she did when I peeked through the keyhole. She sat next to Doctor Ross on the sofa across from where I stood.
“I didn’t wish for him to be here,” I answered. “I feared that it would be too painful for his already fragile mind.”
“I have a few questions for Irene,” I nodded towards the elderly cook standing dutifully at the door.
“Get on with it then,” Arthur said, glaring at me. “This is your doing, David. Father is in good hands with Doctor Ross. We didn’t need some Pinkerton man nosing around the house.”
“Interesting. Who told you I’m a Pinkerton agent?”
“You did, just moments ago.”
“Did I? I must be slipping. Irene, What time do you prepare Mister March’s oatmeal?”
“He wants it ready by five am, sir. He doesn’t always rise that early, but in case he does, he wants it ready.”
“And, who else is in the kitchen at that time?”
Irene looked around the room at each of the family members. I sensed a bewildering presence infold her. The cook couldn’t be sure if she should answer or not.
“Go on, Irene,” David said. “You’ll not be punished for speaking the truth.”
“Well, Arthur leaves for work early,” she stuttered. “But, he never goes in the kitchen. I serve him on the dining room table.”
“The kitchen is for the help, I’m not a servant here,” Arthur said, belligerently.
“Mrs. March never comes down for breakfast. She usually joins the doctor for lunch around noon. That’s when he gets up.”
“What about David and Virginia?”
“David sleeps in until ten,” she said looking at David. “That leaves Virginia.”
“Yes, that leaves Virginia,” I said, my gaze shifting to the teenage girl. I walked over to her chair and looked down at her pouting face. “What college did you want to attend, Virginia?”
She squirmed in her seat. Her pleading eyes looked over to her stepmother for help. “I wanted to go to Princeton in New Jersey.”
“Your father refused to pay for that college,” I said. “He didn’t want you to go out of state. According to this letter, that you failed to mail to Princeton on his behalf I found in your room, tucked away under your pillow, He thought it best that you go to a local college.”
“Who allowed you to nose through my room? You had no right.”
“Maybe not, but I’m not a policeman,” I answered, looking at David. “Since David hired me I’ll go on. I also found a few notes from your step-mother. She didn’t want you to leave either.”
“Those are personal notes—”
“Yes, extremely personal,” I said, glancing at Paula who blushed a deep shade of red.
“That’s enough, Mister Garth,” the movie star said. “What are you trying to get at?”
“To the point, A substance called Ergot Fungi is what induced Mister March’s hallucinations,” I said, pulling a small bag from my pocket. It’s a fungal disease of rye and other cereals. It’s hard to see unless you’re looking for it. It’s black and grows on the ears of the cereals.”
“So, you think I had something to do with this,” Paula said. “I know nothing about fungal diseases.”
“No, but your young lover does,” I responded. “You took the horticulture class, Miss March and learned about the fungus there. For the rest of you, the Ergot Alkaloid causes hallucinations, irrational behavior, and convulsions. It’s is very hard to find it in the victim’s system unless you look for it.”
“What is all this,” Arthur March said, jumping from his chair. “You’ve got some nerve accusing my sister of trying to murder her father. It’s preposterous.”
“No, Mister March, she didn’t want to kill her father, and you knew it as well.”
“Wait a second,” David interrupted. “You’re saying all three of them are in on this?”
“I’m afraid so, David. I have the proof,” I said, walking behind his chair and placing my hand on his shoulder. I then handed him the bag. “This is the substance that I found in Virginia’s room. I found some of it next to your fathers oatmeal bowl yesterday morning. I’m sorry I had to break the bowl that morning, Irene, but I didn’t want Mister March to ingest any more of it.”
“How do you know Virginia mixed it in the oatmeal?” David asked, having a difficult time believing his sister would be involved.
“She is the only one who is in the kitchen to tamper with the cereal,” I said. “ Irene and Virginia confirmed that. When I called my partner and had him take the substance to be analyzed, she took it to Doctor Pablo Vasquez with the Los Angelas Police Department. Does that name sound familiar, Arthur?”
Arthur March stepped back, away from the chairs and toward the door. His face looked pinched and drawn, his lips trembled, he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“No? Well, he knows you, sir. When Major Mallory spoke to him, the doctor said that you had asked the same questions about the grain you brought him. Pablo said that he gave you the symptoms of the fungus.”
“Oh, and let’s not leave you out, Paula. I checked with your agent. He had arranged for a staring role on Broadway for you. It would have been a turning point in your lackluster career.”
“What does all this mean?” David shouted, now on his feet, his brow knitted in anger.
“You fool, David,” Arthur said, grinning. “That old idiot up in bed is holding us all back. You’re too stupid to see it. We didn’t want to kill Father, his will would have given the company to the stockholders. We needed to prove him insane and have him committed. That’s why the good doctor is here.”
“So, he’s in on it too.”
“No, we used him,” Virginia said, crossing her legs and smiling smugly at Doctor Ross. “I let Paula entertain him at night so that he would follow directions at the right time.”
“Indeed,” was all that Doctor Ross could say as he shifted in his seat.
“I’ll tell you the rest, David, so your Pinkerton man doesn’t think he has all the answers,” Virginia said as she took charge of the room. She seemed to have a charismatic hold on everyone in the house. Even at the tender age of seventeen, she took charge. “The three of us are in it together. I learned about the fungus from my instructor at my school. He had no idea what I had planned to do with the grain. When he turned away, I took it.”
“You added it to the oatmeal while Irene prepared your breakfast,” I explained.
“Excellent, Mister Garth. You catch on quickly,” she said mockingly, still grinning. “Anyway, when we had father committed, Arthur would assume command at the studio and run it his way. Paula would take control of the family fortune and send me to Princeton and take that role on Bradway she so dearly wanted in New York. Since I would be in New Jersey, I could visit her as often as we wanted. There you have it, David.”
“Well, it’s not going to work,” David said.
“Sure it is,” Arthur said, I can give you a well-paying job and we can pay the Pink money to keep quiet. Now give me the grain,” he demanded.
“Never,” David shouted.
Garth smiled and pointed behind David, “I think Mister March has something to say about it.”
All of the occupants in the room turned to the door that led to the kitchen. There stood an older man bent and pale from the sickness put on him. However, alert enough to understand what he had heard. Mister Francis March’s stared, his eyes ablaze with anger.
“Mister Garth, I want you to collect all the evidence against these people. Get affidavits from Doctor Vasquez and Virginia’s teacher and have it all categorized. I’ll not go to the police at this time. Paula, you’re finished here. Take this little tramp, who used to be my daughter and leave,” he then turned to Arthur, “You’re fired. Pack your things here and at the office and vacate both of the premises. Doctor Ross, you can leave as well.”
“I’m sorry about all of this, Father,” David said as the room cleared of the guilty parties.
“Don’t be,” the elder March said. “You and Mister Garth saved me for a horrible fate. I don’t want to retaliate, I just want them out of our lives. If you want it, Arthur’s job is yours. I’ll put you under my wing and someday the studio can be yours.”
Thank you, Father. And, Mister Garth?”
“You’ll be amply rewarded for your service, young man. Just name your price,” Francis March said to me.
He would have paid a hefty sum for what I saved him. However, I charged him the going rate with a promise from him to refer our detective agency to others in the entertainment industry. I assumed, from what I learned in the past couple days, there’s enough corruption and immorality in Hollywood to make MGM Detective Agency a fortune.

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The New Neighbors

 

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The New Neighbors
By
Rick Adelmann

The Johnson family lived a quite respectable life in their suburban Springfield home. They occasionally interacted with their neighbors by greeting them in the morning as they drove off to work. They assumed that’s all it took to be a good neighbor. A wave here, a nod there, they didn’t want to be intrusive in the other’s lives.
The Johnson family didn’t need anything in a material way. Russell and Marge had been married for twenty years and accumulated enough wealth to make them happy. It also made their two children happy as well. There seventeen-year-old son, Bill had a full social calendar. A handsome young man who had many friends and a variety of girls to keep him company.
Tiffany, the fifteen-year-old daughter, who stood a mere five feet two, wanted to fit in as her brother did. Her soft, thin blonde hair and small frame, made her appear to be younger than her age. She didn’t fit into the in-crowd. Tiffany became more of a homebody than her outgoing brother.
The Johnson house was lavishly adorned, inside and out. It seemed to be too big and opulent to the new neighbors next door.
The Johnson family tended to vote for anyone on the Democrat side of the slate. They followed the belief system of the liberal left. Believing everything that the news media fed to them. They eagerly swallowed what the Hollywood celebrities, the local schools, and supposed experts told them. Billy and little Tiffany brought it home from school so that they can discuss the issues with their parents.
What a lovely family they made, to all who knew them and matched their lifestyle. Some would think they were missing something in their lives. They hadn’t set a foot inside a church in decades. Why would they want to upset their value system? The backward thinking of the Christians would just anger them. Church people are such bigots and haters. The Johnsons didn’t want to pollute their superior thinking by looking into the Bible. Nope, Sundays are made for football, barbecues, and lounging around the swimming pool.
The house next door had been vacant for some time until the government bought it from the previous owners. The federal government had bought the house, along with other houses in the area, for a special program. The housing immigrants from war-ravaged countries.
Four young male refugees from Syria rented the house next door to the Johnsons. Billy looked out of the living room window and was startled to see that the occupants were all dark-haired, young males.
“Hey Dad,” Billy called to the library where he knew his father sat reading one of Hillary’s latest books.
“Yes, son, what can I help you with?”
Billy went to the library and sat across from his dad. “Do you know anything about those people moving in next door?”
“Oh, are they here already?” Russell Johnson said, dropping his book on the table. “I received a letter from the city explaining the new program for the Syrian refugees. Those damned Republicans tried to stop the bill, but they’ll fail as usual. They never seem to agree with each other; how do they expect to deal with our agenda?” he snickered dryly.
“There are four men, Dad. Isn’t that program for families?”
“I suppose they are all brothers,” Mr. Johnson said, rubbing his chin in thought. “Don’t you worry, young man, the government knows best. They wouldn’t let some bad people come over here. The government is watching out for you.”
“If you say so, Dad,” Billy said with a smile. He thought about what the teachers said in school. The government is there to take care of us. “I think I’ll go over and visit with our new neighbors, Dad,” Billy said, leaving the library.
“Good idea, son. Take your sister with you. It’s an opportunity to learn about other cultures. We must remain open-minded.”
“Okay, Dad. Bye.”

Weeks went by and Billy spent a lot of time with the new neighbors. However, fifteen-year-old Tiffany was unsure about them. She stayed away and turned down invitations, passed on by her brother, to visit.
“What’s the matter Tiff?” Her mother Marge asked her. “Don’t you like the neighbors?”
Tiffany sat at the kitchen table doing her homework as her mom did the dishes. “No, they are really friendly with Billy but they treated me like a servant when I went over to the house the first time. They gave me the creeps.
“Is that right?” Marge said, leaning against the sink. “Well, that’s the way they are in their country. We can’t expect them to change if they don’t want to.”
“But, Billy is starting to act the same way. They’ve been talking to him about Allah, taking over the country and, something called Jihad. I don’t understand what’s come over him.” Tiffany sounded not only confused but scared as well.
“Your father and I will have a talk with him,” Marge said then warned her daughter, “You must remain open-minded to new ideas. They don’t understand American ways yet. After all, you don’t want to offend them.”
Weeks passed by and changes developed in Billy’s character. He no longer wanted to be called Billy. He demanded to be called by his new name Ahmad. He became hard and angry at anyone who questioned his changes. Anyone who did not follow his new belief in Islam became an infidel and beneath him and his friends.
“Have you spoken to Billy, like you said you would?” Tiffany asked her parents after Ahmad left the house.
“No, dear,” Marge answered, biting her lip sheepishly. “I suppose we should have…”
“Nonsense,” Russell said. “It’s just a phase he’s going through. He’ll snap out of it.”
“But, if he doesn’t?” Tiffany asked, wringing her hands nervously.
“Then we’ll take him to one of those people who deal with cults,” he said. “They’ll straighten him out.”
“This is impossible,” Tiffany stammered, her blue eyes tearing up. “You’re his parents You need to do something. I’m getting out of here. I’m going for a walk.” She slipped through the back door and walked toward the sidewalk in front of the new neighbor’s house.
Billy stood, leaning on the gate in front of the house that housed his brothers in Islam. He smiled brightly at Tiffany. She thought it strange since he hadn’t smiled in weeks, let alone at her.
“Tiffany, I want to show you something.”
“There’s nothing you can show me that I want to see,” she answered.
“Aw, come on, little sis. It will take only a minute. They want to give you something, a present that will make up for them being rude to you.”
“Okay, but for just a minute. I don’t want to be around them that long.”
Tiffany trusted her brother, despite his changes in conduct. He was still her brother, she thought. Ahmed held her hand as they walked up the walkway and to the front door. He glanced down at her and said, “This will make me very important in the movement.”
“What will?” she asked as the door creaked open.
“We find virgin infidels to deflower. It is what Allah demands.”
Out of the opened door, arms of four strong men reached out and grabbed little Tiffany. She looked up and saw lust pouring from the eyes of the four men. She struggled and tried to pull away. They were too strong for her to resist. She felt the hands of her brother on her back, pushing her into the house as those who were inside pulled her in.
Ahmed closed the door behind them to muffle the screams from his sister. He then went across to his house and snuck out with his fathers AR 15. The weapon his father had safely locked away.
By the morning of the next day, Billy Johnson was dead. Shot by police as he emptied the AR 15 into sixteen of his classmates as they played video games at the local mall. Tiffany Johnson spent months in the hospital badly beaten and raped. Her whole life traumatized.
The leftist politicians were immediately on the air calling for new gun laws while the four Islamist terrorists slipped out of the city into hiding. They were now waiting for an open-minded family who didn’t want to offend them.

The Oldest Vampire

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The Oldest Vampire
By
Rick Adelmann

Hiram Parmenter sat idly on the park bench. He enjoyed rising early, usually around three a.m., to sit in the park and avoid the throngs of people the daylight would bring. Oddly enough, Hiram felt a little light-headed, a bit dizzy. He attributed it to the muggy air and his age of eighty-five. Yet, he didn’t like the feeling.
He gazed about the dark park, taking a deep breath to clear his head. He looked up and, to his amazement sat an attractive young woman on the bench directly across from him. “I didn’t see you sitting down, young lady. Where did you come from?” he asked testily. He enjoyed his solitude and didn’t like to be bothered. It was one of the reasons he rose so early.
“You didn’t see me because I didn’t want you to see me, touch me, smell me, or know of my presence in any way,” she said with a sweet, demure voice.
“Huh. You’re an odd one,” Hiram said, shrugging. “What’s that on your lips, girl?” he asked, squinting in her direction.
She reached up and touched her full lips with her fingers. Looking at her fingertips closely, she licked them. “Just a little blood. I got sloppy tonight,” she said, grinning sheepishly. After licking her fingers, her tongue circled her lips, lapping up every drop. “By the way, my name is Dixie. What is your name, deary?”
“I, I’m Hiram,” he answered. He was perplexed by the woman. He studied her features and found her to be beautiful. Her pale skin shined in the lamplight; her wide dark eyes were penetrating. However, he found something fluky about her. She appeared across from him as if brought to him by a gust of wind. The gentle morning breeze continued to drift through her long black hair. “Did you cut yourself?” he murmured, his voice warm with concern.
“Oh no. It’s not my blood.”
“It’s not? Then who’s.”
“It’s your blood, deary. Can you not feel the cuts on your neck?”
Hiram Parmenter’s eyes opened wide as his hand jolted to his neck. “What the hell?” he said when he felt the two small gashes. Hiram looked at his finger, seeing blood, he glared at the woman. His wonderment of the woman turned to vigilance. “What’s all this about?” he asked. “I don’t remember you stabbing me.”
“I didn’t stab you, you silly man, I bit you,” she explained with a smile that revealed teeth that were longer and more pointed than normal teeth.
“Without me knowin’ it? I would have known it if you got close enough to bite me.”
“Oh, Hiram you have a lot to learn, deary,” she said crossing her long slender legs. “We have hypnotic powers. They make it easier for us to approach our prey,” she said. Dixie rose from the bench and sauntered over to Hiram. Her tall, thin frame added to her seductive charm as she swayed towards old Hiram.
“I, I don’t get it,” Hiram stammered.
“You will. You’re one of us now. You see, I’m a vampire, and I just initiated you into the family,” she whispered, leaning over him. “Normally, I find younger men, but you looked so lonely sitting there in the dark, I felt sorry for you and chose you.”
“I’m not lonely,” he exclaimed. “I like my solitude. So, you needn’t bother feeling sorry for me,” Hiram grumbled. “If you’re a vampire, and you bit me, why aren’t I dead? Huh? Tell me that,” he demanded.
“That’s simple enough. I didn’t suck all your blood out. Don’t be offended, deary, but I didn’t like the taste of your blood,” Dixie admitted. “Something was missing.”
“Probably my testosterone. I’ve been missing that for years.”
“Well, maybe that’s it. Like I said, I usually go after younger men. They have plenty of testosterone. I don’t have to hypnotize them to get close,” she shrugged. “In any case, now you have become one of the undead.”
“The what?”
“Oh, I hate that term,” she said. “Being undead makes me sound like I’m a walking corpse. We’ll stick with the term, vampire.”
“Hell, you can stick to what you want. I’m no damned vampire,” Hiram growled. He became tired of this silly game of hers. “There ain’t no such thing as a vampire.”
“Yes there is, Hiram and you’ve become one of us.”
“Is this some kinda candid camera stunt,” he said, looking around for the camera.
“Oh, please, Hiram, just accept it. You’re going to live forever and never age.”
“Ya mean I get stuck in this eighty-five-year-old body for eternity? That doesn’t sound like a prize to me. It ain’t fair.”
“Calm down. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t drink that old, stale blood of yours,” she apologized. “I would have preferred killing you, but now we have to deal with this.”
“How about if I put some chocolate sauce on my neck. You can finish the job,” Hiram said, his voice trembling.
“No. That just won’t do, deary. Once I made you a vampire, there’s no turning back. You’ll have to drink blood, like the rest of us.”
Hiram pulled his dentures out of his mouth and said, “OO can I bit someone wit deez?”
“Put your dentures back in and try again,” she sighed with impatience.
He put them back in and repeated, “How can I bite someone with these? I can’t gum the blood out of them. Besides, I don’t even eat rare steaks. There’s too much blood!”
I see your problem. You’ll just have to adjust, deary,” Dixie said.
“I don’t want to be a vampire,” Hiram moaned as he realized his situation. “How long have you been a vampire, Dixie?”
“Well over two hundred years. A British soldier found me bleeding on Bunker Hill and started lapping up my blood. The poor soldier couldn’t get enough of me. But, left some to keep me alive. So, here I am, all these years later looking just as good as I did then.”
“Can you imagine spending two centuries stuck in this broken down body,” Hiram said in a near rage. “You’ve got to do something!”
“Well, there is one way. You’ll have to kill yourself, Hiram,” she answered.
“I don’t believe in suicide.”
“Then hire someone to do it. Pay someone to stick a stake in your heart,” Dixie sat down next to him on the bench. A look of concern and guilt flooded her features.
“That would be the same as suicide. Can’t do that either,” he responded.
“Well then, I don’t know what to tell you,” she threw up her hands. “You’ll just have to learn to live our lifestyle. It will be daylight soon. I’ve got to get back to my crypt. Good night, deary.” Dixie rose from the bench and ran off into the darkness.
Hiram got up from the bench and grabbed his walking stick. He grumbled to himself as he weakly walked towards his home. “I don’t want to be a damned vampire,” he uttered through clenched dentures. He walked alone through the cold morning air, his mind whirling. “That ain’t no life for an old man like me,” he said, his voice rising.
Walking by a bench, he took his wooden cane and fiercely slammed it against the seat. The cane splintered, with one end of it jammed between the wooden slats. At the same moment, Hiram lost his balance and fell forward.
The next morning, the local newspaper’s headlines read; Hiram Parmenter, eighty-five, was found impaled by his own walking stick. Somehow, the cane broke in two, with one-half stuck through the slats of the park bench. The elderly, Mr. Parmenter, fell on the cane, stabbing himself through the heart.

Miss Jasmine’s Ghost

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Miss Jasmine’s Ghost
By
Rick Adelmann

The security guard at the private school had one final duty before leaving for the day. The school of dentistry had day and night classes. Nathan was assigned the night shift. He didn’t mind working late. It was a lot easier to walk the outside perimeter of the building in the moonlight than circling the building in the hot Sun. The day-shift guy had to deal with that.
Nathan’s final duty to perform is closing and locking the school. This meant he must be sure all the students, teachers, and administrators were off the property. It wouldn’t look good for him if the alarm went off because with someone in the building. His job is to turn off the lights, securely lock all the classroom doors, turn on the alarm, and lock up the outside doors. It’s not a hard job and he doesn’t burn up too many brain cells doing it. But, it’s an ideal job for a college student.
Classes at the Dental school end at ten o’clock PM. Of course, the students are gone within minutes of the end time, however, the teachers seem to drag their way out by half past the hour. Administrators soon follow. Nathan usually finishes his duties a little past eleven, unless one of the staff has extra duties to perform.
The single-story academy was constructed oddly. When they had built it, the building was intended to be used as a warehouse. It remained that way for the first twenty-five years of its existence. When the school leased the building they added inside walls to divide the back portion into classrooms and the front of the warehouse into offices and break rooms. They had done a good job of the reconstruction. One would not know it was a warehouse at one time.
Then there are the back classrooms. Four stand-alone rooms that are separated from the main wing of the school. In order to reach the classroom, the students need to walk down a long corridor, turn left through a double door, proceed down another doorless hallway, finally, turn right into a foyer with four doors. One on each wall. No one knows why it was constructed that way but, the students and teachers are uncomfortable using those classrooms. Nathan, especially, feared the set of classrooms that are isolated from the rest of the building.
Most nights, Nathan closes up the building alone. He struts up and down the hallways, in his gray well-fitted uniform. He listens to his footfalls as he enjoys the solitude. The dark and the quiet of the building seems peaceful to him. When he locks up the front offices, off of the main lobby, and the classrooms he feels comfortable.
That’s how it all appears on the first Friday night he experienced her. He strolled along, not conscience of any troubles. No one left in the building, no trespassers, and no alarms accidentally tripped. He headed down the long corridor to the rear of the building. The area that was away from the rest of the classrooms. It ordinarily hadn’t bothered him, in the past, to walk to the rear. After all, there were neon lights along the ceiling and no sign of trouble. However, tonight the lights seemed to be dimmer and pulsated oddly. The flickering made his vision uneasy and threw odd shadows across the long, blank walls. The waves of light gave the allusion that the hallway was becoming narrower as he walked.
He walked gingerly along and moved closer to the double doors. He drew a deep breath, his eyes darting about, and continued. He failed to understand what was causing the anxiety. Normally, the tales of the back rooms didn’t bother him. With each step closer, he felt the hair on his arms rise. He felt a need to look behind him, he knew that he was alone, but felt eyes on his back.
Nathan reached the end of the hallway. During class time, the double doors were always left open. However, at night, after the students left, the last teacher leaving always closed the doors. The teachers, in the rear classrooms, never stayed late. They never stayed by themselves. They wouldn’t admit it to anyone except Nathan that something unnatural was back there at night.
The teachers knew Nathan would have to secure their classrooms at night. They, thoughtfully, left the doors unlocked and the lights on when they left. When he arrived, he went from room to room and did his duty. The same procedure each night. It took only moments to secure each classroom. He went through the four rooms and walked out to the small foyer that connected to four rooms.
The hall light switch sits by the exit door. Once he flips that switch off, he would be in total darkness. The thought of the darkness engulfing him sent shivers up his spine. Nathan reached for the switch, looking back, over his shoulder, to the classrooms. He turned off the lights. Before he could open the door to the long corridor, he heard something unexpected. The low voice of a woman crying.
He flips the lights back on. The voice grows louder. The first cry was more of a whimper; low and sorrow filled. As the cry becomes louder, Nathan feels as if the sound is coming from around the corner, near the dental lab. “Hello. Who’s back there?” he calls out.
No answer, except the increasing sound of the piteous sobbing of a woman.
“I’m sorry if I locked you in one of the classrooms,” Nathan calls out again. “I’ll be right there to let you out.”
He dashes back to the classrooms and unlocks each door. He makes a thorough search of each room. All the time, listening to the sobs, but unable to tell where they are coming from. He goes through, not only the outer rooms but the closets within them. He peers under the desks and in every corner. The crying unexpectedly stops at the moment he locks the last classroom door.
There was only one other door. An exit door to the outside break area. He knows that it had been locked hours ago. There is no one that could be out there; it is isolated by high walls and locked gates. No, the sound of crying is definitely coming from inside.
As he stands in the hallway, totally perplexed by what he heard, the feeling of being watched comes over him again. The shiver returns as he quickly ran to the doors to the long corridor and switches the lights off. The sobbing starts again. This time loud and heart-wrenching. The feeling of dread falls over Nathan as he burst through the doors. Fumbling with his ring of keys, he locks the doors with trembling hands.
The trot down the corridor to the front offices seems to take forever. He is at the end of his shift and only has to wait for Amelia, the school purser, to be ready to leave her office. Her office is in the front of the building, far from the back classrooms.
“Amelia,” he blurts, “you’re not going to believe…”
“Yes I am,” she said, stopping him. The young lady looks up from whatever she is working on and smiles knowingly. The cute girl with straight brunette hair continues. “You’re not the first one to hear Miss Jasmine crying.”
“How…How do you know who it is?” Nathan stutters, still trying to catch his breath from the run down the corridor.
“We assume it’s her,” the woman of thirty-five said. “Miss Jasmine was a teacher for over forty years. About ten of them here at this school. The administrators decided that she was too old and forced her into retirement. Miss Jasmine loved teaching and it broke her heart to be let go.”
”what happened to her?”
“On her last day, after the students had left, she went into the dental lab and prepared a lethal drug. They found her, the next morning sitting at her desk.”
Now that he knows the story, Nathan felt relaxed. Looking around Amelia’s office, he asked, “Others have heard her too?”
“Many, but only when they are alone. Oddly, she’s only been heard on Fridays, like today.”
“Fascinating,” Nathan said. “maybe next Friday I’ll try to talk to her.”
“Well, aren’t you the gutsy one,” Amelia said, winking with approval. “The other security guards quit after meeting her. Maybe I’ll join you.” She added.
Nathan smiled as he answered, “Okay, I’ll come and get you before going back. But, if she cries only when there is one person to hear her, she may not show up with both of us there.”
“I’ll stay behind the double doors,” Amelia responded. “She may not know I’m there.”
“I’ll be looking forward to our date,” Nathan said, walking from the office.
“Date?” Amelia said, her eyes wide.
“Yea, you, me, and Miss Jasmine.

The next Friday became just another work day for Nathan and Amelia. He went back to the rear classes a number of times, during the day. He didn’t feel dread and dismay he had felt last week. It’s just another day.
At the end of the night, all students and personnel had left the building. In fact, they left quite early. All except Nathan and Amelia. Once he checked the main campus he went to Amelia’s office. “Are you ready to go?” He then noticed a third person in the office.
“Hi, Nathan. I think you know Doctor Donaldson, one of the instructors on staff,” Amelia said.
“Of course,” Nathan answered. “I just locked your classroom. Did you need to get back in?”
“No. I’m here about something else.” The dentist in his late forties said. “Amelia told me about your plans for tonight.”
Nathan sat on one of the chairs in front of Amelia’s desk as Donaldson took another. Nathan sharply gazed at Amelia with his arms crossed. He spoke to the doctor without looking over at him, “Did you want to join us tonight, doctor?”
“No, in fact, I came here to persuade you against such action. You don’t know who you will be communicating with back there.”
“He thinks we will be in some kind of danger if we open a link to Miss Jasmine,” Amelia said, a grin on her pretty face. “It’s just for fun. If there is a ghost, how is it going to hurt us?”
“Yea,” Nathan agreed. “what about all those people on the ghost shows on TV? They never get hurt.”
“Okay, listen,” the doctor said, his rubbing his temples. “I’m a Christian and firmly believe that those sightings, you see on TV are fabricated or much worse.”
“What do you mean?” Nathan asked.
“Demons, Nathan. Demons, like their leader, Satan are liars,” the doctor said, trying to convince the two from going back to the rear classrooms. “They take on the guise of departed family members or friends. They know about legends and folk tales and use them to fool people. They can impersonate whoever they choose. You think they are harmless entities, but, in reality, they are trying to lead you astray. They are trying to separate you from Jesus.”
“See that? You Christians are always trying to convert us,” Nathan scoffed. “As Ophra says, ‘there are many ways to heaven’. I’m going down there and see what your demon has to say,” Nathan laughed, turning to Amelia he said, “you coming?”
“There might be something to what he says, Nathan.”
“Fine. I’m going alone.” Nathan rose from his chair, his face red with anger and trudged to the door. He wasn’t sure why he was so angry. He thought of himself as a level head man, in control of his emotions. He shrugged it off and headed for the hallway.
“Maybe we should follow him,” Amelia suggested.
“Maybe we can keep him out of trouble,” Donaldson responded.
The two of them followed down the corridor, about ten paces behind Nathan. They didn’t want him to feel their presence if they could. Nonetheless, Nathan knew they were there. He turned around, “So you decided to join me after all.”
“Not join you, watch your back,” Donaldson said. “We’’ stay on this side of the double doors. If you need us, give us a shout.”
“I don’t know what I would need you for, but suit yourselves,” he chuckled as he passed through the doors without hesitation. As promised Amelia and Dr. Donaldson stayed back, making sure they could hear Nathan if he called.
“What are you thinking?” Amelia asked, looking up at the doctor’s hard expression.
“I’m thinking that he’s in for a big fright. One that he is not prepared for,” he answered.
“I’m a believer in Christ,” Amelia said. “I haven’t lived for Him. In fact, I feel guilty about Nathan being back there. Last week I kinda pushed him into confronting Miss Jasmine. I would be scared to go back there.”
“I’d be scared too,” the doctor conceded. “But, you and I have the Holy Spirit to protect us. Nathan has no one.”
“Unless the experience changes that,” Amelia whispered, leaning against the door.
The doctor nodded and said, “good point.”

*
Nathan went through his usual procedures. He checked the patio door for security. It was locked. He took special care of going through the classrooms, assuring himself that no one could be hiding anywhere in and around the classrooms. He then turned off the lights and locked the doors.
He walked across the foyer towards the hallway. He felt a little shaky as he proceeded. The light in the hallway shrouded him, but he still felt uncomfortable. He watched his shadow walk along with him, painted on the wall like a black chaperon. It looked as if the shadow was moving independently like it made slightly different movements. But, Nathan saw that only in his mind.
He went to the door that led out of the three classroom area into the long hallway. He saw Dr. Donaldson and Amelia peering, questioning, through the glass window in the top half of the door. ‘nothing happening tonight, Nathan called out. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
He placed his hand on the light switch and said, “I’m getting ready to leave. If someone wants to talk, nows the time to do it.” He looked over his shoulder and peered into the darkness of the classrooms.
A long pause ensued as all three of the investigating team stood like statues. They then heard it.
The sobbing of a woman. Soulful, sad sobs that brought pity into the hearts of the trio. Nathan looked at the window of the door and saw that the others had heard it too. Their saucer-like eyes darted to each other and back to Nathan in the foyer. He put his finger to his lips and quieted them.
He turned and walked back to the classrooms again. He heard the volume of the wailing rising as he drew closer to one of the classroom doors. “You don’t need to cry,” he said, looking at the rooms. “God can lead you to another world, just ask Him.”
The sobs grew louder and seemed more frantic.
Nathan pulled a small tape-recorder out of his pocket and turned it on. “Would you like to speak to me?”
“Are you Miss Jasmine? What would you like me to do?”
” Come to my class,” a shaking voice whispered to him. He looked back to the door window and it was apparent that his two companions didn’t hear the request. They stood silently listening, waiting for something to happen.
Nathan looked towards the classroom that Miss Jasmine once occupied. There she sat. Behind the desk, the murky figure of an old, plump woman sat waiting for her pupil. The gray mist rose and waved to Nathan to come to her. As he slowly shuffled closer, her figure became more clear. The large bun on top of her head was coming undone. She had bulging eyes on either side of her bulbous nose and a crooked smile that sent shivers up his spine.
He slowly moved towards the room. The closer he got the wider and more grotesque the smile became. “No, I don’t want to be in your classroom,” Nathan stuttered.
At that, the smile left Miss Jasmine and a deep raspy voice echoed throughout the hallway. “You will come to me!”
At the sound of that voice, the doctor and Amelia dropped to their knees. Not from fear, but in order to aid Nathan. “He needs prayer,” the doctor said. He led Amelia in prayer for the protection of Nathan. Fervently, he asked for intervention.
Nathan couldn’t move. His feet were frozen in place. He couldn’t step forward or backward. Fear gripped his whole being. He trembled, his eyes wide and his mouth open.
The creature, who looked like an old woman, stood and floated through the desk towards Nathan. As it moved, it changed its appearance. It morphed into a huge male figure that had a wolf-like snout and blazing red eyes. Drool dripped from its jaws as it slowly crept closer to the petrified Nathan.
Nathan continued to hear the words, “you will come to me”. The raspy voice repeated over and over the command. Then, it stopped and Nathan could see the gaze of a demon glaring down him. The creature was poised to attack, but, oddly, didn’t move any closer.
Nathan felt a warmth move over him. Not a warmth of a fire or the warmth of the blazing sun. No, it was the warmth of love as if the arms of someone who loved him were wrapped around him with protection. Nathan heard the commanding words spoken, “Be off with you, demon!”
The creature, within inches of Nathan, lost its form. It became a glob of black smoke. Thicker than any smoke he’d ever seen. So thick that he couldn’t see through it. It hovered in front of him a moment, then shot off, through an outside wall and out of sight.
Nathan instantly felt the fear, hatred, and gloom leave as well. He looked around him and knew he was free of the entity. Doctor Donaldson and Amelia must have felt the same transformation; the evil force had left.
Nathan saw that the double doors were wide open and the two Christians were walking towards him. Both were smiling broadly. “Was that you?” Nathan asked.
The doctor answered, “Indirectly, I suppose. We knew you were in trouble so we prayed for intervention from God.”
“So, that was God around me? I felt his love and protection,” Nathan said.
“It was probably an angel sent by God to protect you. That’s the way the Holy Spirit works,” Amelia said. “Now maybe you won’t mess with things you have no understanding of.”
The three walked out of the area of the back classrooms and ambled down the long corridor. After a few minutes of silence, Nathan said, “Now, tell me about this Jesus of yours.”

To Prevent a Suicide

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To Prevent a Suicide
By
Rick Adelmann

“Look, Helen,” he said, drumming his fingers on the dining room table. “I understand where you’re coming from. You’re dedicated to your career. Fine. But you also have a family. That family never sees you anymore.”
The impatient woman, who he pleads with, was dashing around the house in a mad scramble to get ready for her evening work. “We’ve been through this before, dear,” she answered curtly. “I am not a puppet who answers to every one of your needs, or to the children’s, for that matter.” Helen stopped at the door that leads to the dining room, her hands on her hips as she tapped her toe. “I am a trained therapist and I am not going to waste my talents and education sitting at home every evening to watch television.”
The tall handsome woman stopped to check the time and then to straightened her dress. Helen, in her late thirties, looked a bit older because of her stressfully lifestyle. Long hours and deep commitment to her work have prematurely aged her. Her chestnut brown hair is streaked heavily with gray and her face is pale, showing signs of fatigue. She glares down at her husband, Jim, who is still hunched over the table. “I have a right to use my spare time as I wish,” she stated defiantly.
“Even when it hurts your family?” Jim snapped back at her, as aggressively as she is with him.
“Oh please,” she says with a laugh. ”Don’t be an old fool. It doesn’t hurt our family by working a double shift at the clinic. You and the children will have to adjust. In fact, that’s what I tell my patients at the office. We’re all living in a time of constant change and we must all learn to adjust to the changes.”
“Save your jargon for the crazies that call you tonight. I don’t want to hear it. What I’m telling you is that the kids miss and need you. You’re at the office all day with your patients then spend every evening at the suicide prevention center. It’s just too much!” Jim Kenner’s voice filled with emotion. But, he knew his words were bouncing off a stone, hard wall. “Go ahead and do what you want. I’m tired of fighting with you about it.”
Helen Kenner paused at the door and sighed as she looks back at her dejected husband. His head held in his hands as he stared at the table top. “If only you could see the good that I’m doing you wouldn’t be so hard on me,” she said. After a moment of silence, she leaves the room.

* * * *

Helen sat in the small cubical, waiting for her first call of the evening. Maxine, the day therapist, left the office a short time ago. She received only a hand-full of calls. That’s good news for a suicide prevention center, however, it makes for a boring evening.
Helen is the only therapist on duty for the next hour and she felt very much alone. She longed for someone to speak to. The small office can be so quiet when one is alone and waiting. Unfortunately, all she can do is stare around her bleak cubical and ponder about her argument with Jim. Had it really been all her fault that she is in a troubled marriage and have unresponsive children? Helen fiddled with the mouthpiece on her headset as her mind rushed to answers.
“No, it isn’t my fault!” she said out loud. “How can they misunderstand the importance of what I am doing?” Helen began tapping the eraser of the pencil in her hand on the desk. “I have a career, an extremely important career and I’m not giving it up to appease their trivial desires.” She then scolded herself, I had better start thinking more pleasant thoughts if I am to be of any use to my callers.
She hates the boredom and inactivity on slow nights. Even though a slow night means there’s no one contemplating suicide. She again starts fiddling with her pencil and flipped through the notepad in front of her. Helen’s eyes darted around the room. They stopped on the clock above her cubicle that reads half past six. Then her eyes travel to the door a few feet away, in hope of seeing the seven o’clock girl enter. She will have to bring a magazine or book to read in the future. Helen thought about the blank walls of the office when the phone rang.
“Hello, this is Helen, may I help you?” She said, with a smile in her voice.
“I need to speak to someone,” a trembling elderly ladies voice said.
“Well, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s start with your name, shall we? Helen continued to smile.
“Let’s just say it’s Betty. I don’t want to give out my real name, just yet,” the woman stuttered.
“That’s all right, Betty, we don’t need that right now. What is it you want to talk about?”
“I….I tried to kill myself a little while ago. I stopped myself, but, I still have the desire to try again.”
So she doesn’t really want to do it, or she wouldn’t have stopped herself. Helen thought about the statement Betty made. She said she would ‘try’ to do it again. She didn’t say she would do it. “You don’t really want to die, do you, Betty?”
“I don’t know what I want,” Betty cried. “I’m so confused and lonely. I don’t know what I want.” She began to start sobbing uncontrollably. All Helen could do is listen and wait. This reaction is typical of her callers. By the time the person is ready to call the center. They have been through hell. As a last resort, they call Helen. The sound of a kind, caring voice is sometimes all they need. But, Betty said she had already tried, so it may be a serious problem.
Finally, Betty stops crying, “I’m sorry I did that, dear. I generally have better self-control on my emotions.” Betty apologized through sniffles.
“No. No need for an apology. It is a healthy outpouring of the pain. If you feel like crying, go for it. Don’t be ashamed to show emotion.” Helen encouraged her and continued. “Tell me, Betty, what made you call me?”
“I just wanted to hear another voice, Someone to talk to.”
“Do you have a family member who you can confide in?” Helen probed, looking for the key to this ladies problem.
“No. I’m an old woman totally forgotten by my family,” Betty replied. “I’m living in this nice, brand new condo with no one to be with. Oh, Helen, the loneliness is unbearable!” she said with a heavy aching in her voice. “The worst part is that I brought this all on myself.”
“Now let’s not be too hard on ourselves, Betty. The dutiful mother, being neglected by her selfish children is not a new phenomenon.”
“Please, believe me, I am the one to blame for where I am,” Betty whispered into the phone. I could have had a loving husband and devoted children as well as grandchildren. I threw it all away years ago.” Betty began to sob again. Choking back the tears, she added, “I can’t talk about it anymore. Please, I’m sorry, goodbye.”
Helen became alarmed. “Hello, hello, Betty are you there?” she asked to no avail. “Nuts,” said, throwing down her pencil. Well if she wants to talk again, I’ll be here.” But, she didn’t call again that evening and, after a few calls from other people in need, Helen soon forgot about the old woman.

* * *
The next evening, under protests from her family, Helen was back at work at the center. It was a slow evening and she was just beginning to think about the open-house at her son’s school she was missing when her phone rang.
Helen heard the familiar voice from the night before and the memory of that call immediately sprang back into her mind. “Hello, is this Helen, the person I spoke to last night?” Betty asked.
“Oh, yes,” exclaimed Helen. “Please don’t hang up this time. I’d like to talk to you.”
“I’m sorry. I was so upset yesterday that I could barely speak about it anymore.”
Betty appeared to be in better control, Helen thought. Her stutter was gone and there was a certain sweetness to her voice. “How are you feeling today, Betty?” asked Helen cheerfully.
“Not much better, to be honest with you. I’m still depressed. I’m still at a point where I don’t care if I live or die. I hate just existing,” she said, her voice now dripping with pain.
“How long have you felt this way?”
“Off and on for about ten years. It’s been much more intense in the last few months,” Betty continued. “My daughter’s wedding was in July and I wasn’t invited. I didn’t even know she was engaged. I feel forgotten by everyone I ever knew.”
“Last night you said it was all your fault,” Helen reminded her. “Can you elaborate on that?”
There was a long pause from Betty’s end of the line. Helen heard a shuffling of clothes and felt an uneasy tension as Betty sighed deeply. “Where do I start?” she asked in a soft voice. “I suppose I have to give you a short history of my life. No,” she quickly corrected. “I’d bore you with that.”
“Tell me what caused the rift between you and your family,” Helen insisted, leaning back in her swivel chair.
“My family doesn’t care about me because I never cared about them when they needed me the most,” she said. “When my children were young and needed a mother, I was busy holding down two jobs. I didn’t have time for them. To make matters worse, we didn’t need the money. I wanted to promote my career.”
“How did your husband react to this?” Helen asked.
“I’m afraid he acted badly; not that I blame him, now. At the time we were constantly bickering. He wanted me to stay at home in the evenings and I thought he was being dictatorial. But, I was wrong. All he wanted was a normal family life.”
“He left you?”
“No, not at first,” Betty said, thoughtfully. “He stayed with me for some time. He then got to a point where he couldn’t deal with not having a wife home with him and the kids. That’s when I moved into this wretched condo.”
“Where is he now?”
“He died soon after our breakup. Before I came to my senses and realized what I had given up. I feel guilty over his death. I made such a mess out of my life,” she said, no longer sounding sweet. Her sadness over her loneliness turned to anger and self-hatred over what she thought she caused. I could feel a deep depression rolling over her and her self-loathing.
She developed the same trembling in her voice that she had the night before. She reluctantly continued. “My children blamed me for his death. They said he died from a broken heart brought on by my years of neglect as a wife and mother. I sometimes think they’re right.”
“You’re letting them get to you on that point. You feel guilty about the break up of your marriage and your children want you to feel worse. They have a power over you that’s causing the guilt. That’s too much of a burden for you to bear.” Helen wanted to console Betty as much as possible but Betty wouldn’t have it.
“Whatever the case, my husband died a broken man. My children disowned me, and I’m alone. I can’t stand living like this.” Betty’s voice was shrill and Helen could tell that the situation was getting out of hand. She’d heard the voice of despair before and Betty was at the abyss of no return.
You must calm down, dear,” Helen said in her most soothing tone. “You must let me help you.”
“You could come out and visit me,” Betty pleaded. “All I need is someone who cares to talk to me. I need to see a friendly face. I need to know that at least one person in this crazy world cares about me.”
“I wish I could, but it’s forbidden. We cannot leave the phones and visit a caller. I’m sorry, Betty,” Helen answered.
Betty began to sob, breaking Helen’s heart. “I’m so alone,” She wailed. “If you don’t come out here I might get desperate. And, don’t send out paramedics, I won’t let them in.”
Helen didn’t like being emotionally blackmailed like this, but what could she do? The old woman wouldn’t be a physical threat to her. She leaned back in her cubicle and glanced around the room listening to Betty sob. “All right, what’s your address? I’ll come for a short visit on my way home.”
“Oh, thank you, my dear,” she quickly regained her composure. My address is, 1221 W. Pico Street apartment 3D.” Betty hung-up before Helen had a chance to respond.
“What have I gotten into now?” She thought there would be no harm in breaking the rules, just this once.
At 11: pm Helen ripped off the sheet of paper with the address on it and dashed out. Helen knew the part of town Betty lived in, however, she couldn’t remember any condominiums on that street. She traveled west on Pico Street directly to the address where the condo was supposed to be. She couldn’t find it. She assumed she made a mistake so she did a U-turn and looked again. It was dark and hard to see the addresses. She slowed down and searched the address numbers on the curb. There it was, 1221 painted on the curb, but no condo. A chain link fence surrounded a large empty lot. Helen sat in her car and reread the address on the slip of paper and thought that she may have written the address wrong.
Across the street from the empty lot was a service station. It appeared to have no customers but it was open. She drove into the station to ask direction. She ventured into the office and found an old man sitting in a swivel chair behind a beat-up wooden desk. He looked up from his crumpled newspaper and stood as he saw Helen coming in. He was a short man in his sixties with gray hair and a short crop of whiskers.
“Can I help you, Ma’am?”
“I certainly hope so,” Helen said. “I seem to be lost. I’ve been looking for this address and can’t find it.” She handed the slip of paper to the old man. He took it from her and, after he put his glasses on, read the address.
“Why sure that’s easy to find,” he said, chuckling. “See that lot across the street,” he said while pointing. “That there used to be a grocery store with this address on it. About a year ago they tore it down and made plans to build condos on the land.” He smiled at Helen with a puzzled look.
Helen was indeed amazed at this information. “That can’t be,” she stuttered. “I’ve been speaking on the phone to a woman who lives there.”
The old man gave her a queer look and chuckled again, “It’s plain to see that there ain’t no building at all on the lot. In fact, there’s a sign on the property giving the address. You can check it yourself,” he advised her. “You probably got a wrong address.” He handed the slip of paper back to Helen and sat down picking up his newspaper again.
Helen quickly strutted out of the station, walked across the street, and found the sign. She found it facing towards a cross street and it did give the address, 1221 W. Pico Street. Under it, the sign read, ‘Future site of luxury condominiums.’
Helen stood, staring at the sign, totally confused. Why would she give me a wrong address if she was so desperate to see me, she thought. The question circled through her mind while she drove home.

* * *
The following evening was the same as the past two, slowing and boring. That was until the phone rang at 6;35 pm. Helen heard the indignant voice of Betty.
“Where were you last night? I waited up for you for hours. This is so important to us, why didn’t you come?” she asked, sadness dripping from her words.
“I did come,” Helen whispered, fearing the others in the office would overhear her, “There was no condo at the address you gave me.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, deary. It’s the condos on Pico Street. I’m there now, looking out the window at the gas station across the street. I’ve been here for years,” she lectured. “You must come, we need to get together.”
“I found the Chevron station with no problem,” Helen answered drily. “But there is no condo, just an empty lot.”
“Oh, please come,” she again pleaded with a shaky, pitiful voice. “We need to talk. It’s so important.” Betty hung up without warning again. Just as she had on the first night.
Helen began to think there was something fishy about these calls. She didn’t leave the office this time. She was angry at the way the old woman was trying to manipulate her. She decided to finish her tour at the center and try to forget about the incident. At 11:00 pm her curiosity got the best of her. Instead of driving straight home, she drove down Pico Street. However, there was no change. The empty lot stood at 1221 across from the Chevron station. Helen shrugged her shoulders and headed for home.

* * *
The next evening, and every evening for the next week, Bettys called continued. Always at 6:35 and always a desperate call for help. She continued to ask for a face to face meeting that would benefit both of them.
Helen began to mull over the unorthodox direction these calls were going. The same time, the same plea, the wrong address, why all the mystery? Helen had a close friend, Sergeant John Merlo, with the police department. Maybe he could help her find this woman. The next day she gave him a call and indicated that Betty was suicidal. She explained that it was of the utmost importance that she reach her.
On Monday evening, Helen and John showed up at the Suicide Prevention Center together. He brought along the equipment he needed to trace a call once Betty called in again. By 6:15 he was ready to go.
“This is really important to you, isn’t it Helen?” the sergeant asked, settling into the seat next to her.
“Yes it is, and I’m not sure why,” Helen said. “I’ve had callers refusing to reveal their identity before, and it was no problem. This woman has some kind of hold on me. There’s something about her that draws me to her. I can’t explain it, especially about the address. She insists she lives on an empty lot on Pico.”
Helen and John watched the clock tick by. The phone rang on schedule. It was 6:35. The policeman jumped up and ran to the machine he had waiting. And gestured to Helen to answer the phone.
“Hello, Helen deary is that you? Oh, of course, it is,” she said, coldly. “I think there’s someone else with you tonight. But, never mind that.”
“Betty, how are you tonight? I do want to see you. Can we talk about that?”
“No, Helen. It may be too late. This is my last call to you. I think I’ve given you enough time to think about who I am.”
“I don’t understand. I’ve been trying to help you through your prob…”
Betty didn’t give her a chance to finish before interrupting, My name is not Betty, you already know that. You must listen to me so that I may not exist. I do not want to be here, miserable and alone and the only way I can alter my life is if you listen. Jim is right, by working two jobs and staying away from the family will ruin your family life.
Bryan needed you at all the school open house that you shrugged off. All the baseball games you missed, the poor boy eyed the stands hoping to see you. You never showed up. Cindy needed you at the girl scout meetings and you weren’t there. Most important, you neglected you husband who loved you and so desperately needed you. Please go home and save us!”
“Don’t let her hang up,” John Merlo called to Helen. “There’s something strange happening with my equipment.
It may be too late. Was her final warning, she hung up. Helen stared blankly at the receiver for a minute before hanging up. John came back to her cubicle with a serious scowl on his face. “That was strange,” he said, loosening his tie. “The number she was calling from is nowhere near Pico.”
“Let me see that,” she insisted, pulling the slip of paper from his hand. “That, that’s impossible,” she stammered.
“That’s what I thought. The number she’s calling from is your second line right here in the cubicle,” he said. “Is there anyone else here?”
“No, I’m always alone when she calls. Or if someone is here, they don’t use that line,” she explained.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, Helen?”
“No, John, thank you for your help. I know who she is now,” Helen said, nodding at the piece of paper and smiling. She leaned back in her chair and quietly thought about what had happened. No matter how impossible it seemed, there was no other rational explanation.
“Now that I know who Betty is, we’ll both rest easy.”

Through God’s Eyes

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Through God’s Eyes
By
Rick Adelmann

Lucy began having problems with her eye for the last two months. She’d always had good eyesight but, for some reason, she began having blurred vision. The blurring didn’t prevent her from seeing entirely. It merely appeared to her as if she were walking through a fog.
Lucy Prentiss was always to prideful for her own good. She couldn’t admit there was anything wrong with her. However, this time, her husband insisted that she see an ophthalmologist. Her neighbor referred her to her doctor. Mrs. Symington was an active member of a local church where Lucy attended on Easter Sunday or whenever they had a luncheon after services. Mrs. Symington called it Ressurection Sunday and explained why to Lucy, but it didn’t seem to register with Lucy.
In any case, Lucy was told that Doctor Cherub was a nice man and an excellent eye doctor. Mrs. Symington held Lucy’s hands like a motherly figure and said, “If you tell him that I referred you, he will go out of his way to help.”
Lucy called his office, and sure enough, she got an appointment for the very next day.
Tuesday afternoon, Lucy Prentiss walked into Dr. Cherub’s office and was surprised to see the waiting room empty. The only person present was the receptionist. The attractive young woman had blonde, almost white, curly locks falling down across her shoulders. Her pink cheeks framed an infectious smile.
Lucy walked up to the front desk and looked at the name badge the receptionist was wearing and found her name to be Angela. “Hello, Angela. I see I’m your only patient right now,” Lucy said cheerily.
“Indeed you are, Mrs. Prentiss,” Angela replied. “This is our lunch hour. Since Mrs. Symington was gracious enough to refer you to us, we will go the extra mile for you.
“How delightful,” Lucy exclaimed. “Good service is hard to come by in this day and age.”
Angela leaned forward and winked merrily. “That is so true. Now if you could take a seat and fill out these forms we can get right to work. The doctor will be with you in a moment.”
She completed the forms, and immediatelyAngela called her in. The receptionist led her into the examination room where Dr. Cherub was waiting. “What have we here?” he asked, his voice soft and reassuring. He took the forms from Lucy and directed her to a seat.
Lucy liked the way the elderly man looked. He was short and broad shouldered. His white hair was thick and full of waves. His face was clear of frown lines or any blemishes. Doctor Cherub read the form over and gave a few thoughtful um-hums while reading.
“Well young lady, let’s see if we can help you with your problem,” he said. “We want you to see everything clearly, don’t you know.”
As he began the examination, Lucy said, “I’ve never had a problem with my eyesight before, doctor. I don’t understand what happened.”
“One never knows,” Dr. Cherub answered in a whisper. “Things like this could come along for any number of reasons. Then they go away for a better reason, don’t you know.”
Lucy held still as he looked into her eyes. She thought about the statement he had just made. Rather odd, she thought.
“There I have it all worked out,” he said with a huge smile.
“What? So soon?”
“You bet ya.” then he called out for his receptionist. “Angela, please bring our new friend a bottle of Mark211.”
Angela promptly walked into the examining room with a small bottle with an eyedropper in it. Her smile was just as dazzling as when Lucy walked in. It was as infectious as the doctors was. Lucy couldn’t help but grin along with them.
“Here you are, Doctor. Is there anything else?”
“No, that will be all, dear girl.” Dr. Cherub handed the bottle over to Lucy. “Now, this should help you see clearly, don’t you know,” he said, looking into her eyes. “Make sure you are seated when you apply the drops in your eyes. Tilt your head back and put two drops into each eye. Then sit back and look around you.”
“Is that important? Looking around?” Lucy asked. It seemed like a trivial point to make.
“Oh my, yes,” he said. “It is almost the most important part of the cure.”
She again was perplexed by the little man and his methods. “Well, okay, if you say so, Doctor. How long will I need to take the drops?”
“Until all is clear to you.”
“How will I know—“
“When it is clear to you, don’t you know,” the doctor answered as he ushered me out of the office.
The doctor and Angela stood at the office door and cheerfully waved to Lucy while she left. While walking to her car, she thought to herself about the incident. It was the oddest doctor’s office she’d been to. It also occurred to her that they didn’t speak of the charges or billing. There wasn’t anyplace on the paperwork, she filled out, asking for insurance information.
She gave it little thought as she got into her car. Lucy decided to try the eye drops since she was now sitting down. There was no time like the present, she thought. She pulled the bottle from her purse, shook it up, and leaned her head back. She counted one two of drops that entered each eye. She kept her head back as she blinked wildly, then looked around her. Everything was clear, no blurring! She was ecstatic. Her eyesight was normal. Before this she was fearful of driving her car, now, all was clear.
Lucy started the engine and drove out of the parking lot onto the main boulevard. Almost immediately, she noticed something was wrong. Her eyes were fine, she could see everything. Clearly, it was something else. However, the cars around her seemed to be driving erratically, and the people in them gave off a perception of evil.
The cars were speeding past her and cutting her off. Then they seemed to take turns tailgating her. She never experienced such hateful drivers.
They blared their horns and shouted profanities at her using the vilest language she’d ever heard. A pick-up truck pulled up alongside her. It was the first time she had a chance to look into the face of one of these drivers. She looked over and was shocked to see a repulsive, ugly man. His face was scared and covered in cream colored puss and was oozing from open boils. He stared at Lucy with hatred she’d never felt before. He then sped up and cut her off. It caused her to momentarily lose control.
Lucy Prentiss was frightened beyond her comprehension. She had to get off the road and do it quickly. She looked to the right and was relieved to see the entrance to a park. She roared through two lanes of traffic and skidded to a halt in the parking lot.
The terrified girl sat clutching the wheel with her eyes pinched closed. She came to her senses and breathed evenly for a moment. Then, grabbing a tissue from her glove box, she wiped her eyes clear of the medication.
What the hell just happened, she thought. Lucy managed to climb out of her care and mad it past strolling families and children playing with her eyesight returning to a blur. She found a park bench and sat in order to calm her nerves.
“That was dangerous, Mrs. Prentiss.”
Lucy heard the voice of Dr. Cherub and looked to her right. There he sat, smiling as he did in the office. She turned to her left and discovered Angela sitting and watching her. “Where did you come from?”
“We followed you, honey,” Angela whispered, leaning into Lucy.
“I could have been killed,” Lucy said, still shaken by the experience.
“Well, I told you to be seated when you put the drops in. I suppose I will have to be more specific on my instructions,” the doctor said. “You shouldn’t have been driving, don’t you know.”
“Yes you do, doctor,” Angela agreed. She then looked at Lucy and touched her hand. It immediately drove all the tension and fear from her. “Now that you’re seated, you need to put the drops in again.”
“Oh please, they cause hallucinations. I really don’t want to go through that again.”
“No no no, my dear,” the doctor said. “They’re not hallucinations. You can see clearly with the drops in. Go ahead, try it once more. We’re here for your protection.”
Lucy sat quietly for a moment, looking back and forth to Angela and the doctor. She slowly opened her purse and pulled out the bottle with the eye dropper. She then went through the same sequence as before. After completed, she clenched her eyes tightly shut, afraid of what she would see.
“You need to open your eyes to see clearly, honey,” Angela said softly.
“It is important to see clearly, don’t you know,” added Dr. Cherub.
“They’re back,” Lucy gasped, looking at all the ugly, hateful people in the park. “Moments ago there were normal people walking by, now they are hideous creatures.” Her voice trembled as she asked, “Am I seeing demons?”
“No, my dear,” the doctor said, holding her hand. “They are people like you, but you see them as God sees them.”
“That’s what we meant when we said, you needed to see clearly,” Angela said. “You, as a natural human being, can not see the sins of people on their outsides or in their hearts. But, God can. He sees the ugly sins that mankind has committed over the years. Lucy looked at the men as they leered at the women with lust in their hearts. The women wanted the jewels and fine clothes the other women wore. Lucy could feel the racial hatred, the envy, all the lies painted on their souls.
“Because of these sins, He must reject them from His kingdom,” Angela explained with pain in her voice. “You have been given a gift to be able to see those sins.”
Lucy continued to watch people walking by her. They were totally unawares of what she saw on them. They didn’t know she could see what they’ve been trying to hide all their lives. Lucy now understood why she needed to see clearly. “What about me?” she asked.
“Do you have a hand mirror in your bag?” Angela asked.
Lucy fetched it out and looked at herself. She nearly screamed with horror at the sight of herself. The skin on her face was peeling off in large chunks and blood, and white puss slid down her cheeks. “That’s the sin that God sees?” she asked as she began to weep.
“Yes,” answered the doctor. “Only you and God know what sins you’ve committed that caused what you see. He’s allowing you to see through His eyes.”
Lucy dropped the mirror back into her purse and looked at all the roving people again. This time, among the throngs of sin-scarred people she saw a few others. These few were sparkling clean. They had no impurities. They glowed with a white light that was clean. They were bathed in light and showed contentment in their smiling features.
“Who are they? Angels?”
“No we are the angels,” Angela responded, with a smile. They are those who accepted the free gift of cleansing from God. They are Christians. Jesus died for all mankind, they are the ones who accepted his salvation and asked to be cleansed of the sin they committed.”
“How do I get clean?” Lucy asked. “I don’t understand.”
“Only Christians can tell you about it. Angels are forbidden,” Angela said. “Go talk to those who are in the light. They will explain it to you.”
Doctor Cherub leaned towards her and whispered, “Or you can talk to Mrs. Symington if you feel awkward talking to strangers.”
However, Lucy was anxious to know. She walked to one of the women she saw in the light. Lucy turned to say good-bye to the doctor and Angela, but they had vanished in the few short moments it took Lucy to walk a few steps. Lucy smiled and ran up to the lady she saw in the light and asked, “Can you help me?”

Through the Hedge

BTMYDYUCcAExbRI

 

Through the Hedge
By
Rick Adelmann

He didn’t remember a thing. David Peters sat back in the car seat and looked through the windshield. All he could see, passed the broken glass, was the trunk of a huge tree. It appeared to be sitting within inches of him. He knew the engine of his Buick would stop it from coming that close. The airbag had stopped him from flying into the tree and, other than being a little shaken up, he felt fine.
He gazed around him and pieced it all together. A memory of what had happened flashed back to him. He traveled at a high rate of speed and lost control of the car. He drove off the road and there he sat.
After a few pushes on the driver’s side door, it popped open with a loud crunching sound. David slid from the seat onto the asphalt of the deserted road. He looked down at himself and felt his limbs, satisfied that he hadn’t broken anything he chuckled to himself and thought, the insurance company is going to love this.
Of all the places to have this happen, David thought, here I am out in the middle of nowhere. He looked up the road and saw nothing but open fields on either side. He turned around and saw an identical view, no vehicles, no houses, nothing.
“Now what?” he said out loud.
“You could go through this hedge. It’s a short cut to a more pleasant place.”
David Peters spun around and came face to face with a white-haired young man. He wore a Roman style toga, sandals, and a most reassuring smile.
“Where the hell did you come from?” David stuttered.
“Certainly not from there. I came through this hedge that runs along the side of the road.,” the stranger answered.
David looked to his left and saw a six-foot high hedge, right where the man said it stood. It looked dry and had little color left in it. I didn’t see this shrubbery before, he thought.
“There’s an opening here,” the man said, walking through it and out of David’s sight.
“Hey, wait a minute,” David called as he plunged into the opening in the hedge. The wall of dried leaves and branches seemed to part for him as he moved along a narrow path. From the road, it appeared like any simple hedge, once he entered it, it became an elaborate and much wider maze. The narrow pathway seemed to beckon him forward. It twisted left, then to the right, and back to the left again. David’s sense of direction became misaligned. He became confused.
The man who plunged in ahead of him was nowhere to be seen. He had to be moving quickly. David couldn’t see or hear him. David glanced around as he traveled. Oddly, the shrubbery began to come alive. The leaves and branches gradually became green and pliable. Flowers started to blossom as he progressed. As he moved along the path, the flowers became large, their colors more vibrant, and the fragrance more intoxicating.
David Peters lost track of time and couldn’t even guess at how long he traveled the pathway. “Ah, there’s the exit,” he said, looking at a beam of light in front of him. David stepped through the opening in the hedge and found himself in a world of vegetation he’d never seen before. The first thing he looked for was the white haired man who preceded him.
However, he stood alone. Alone on the crest of a hill overlooking an enormous valley with green hills surrounding it. At his feet lied the beginning of a cobblestone walkway. It led down the hill and circled through the valley. He looked into the distance and saw it curve about, from the valley to another hill and down again. In a number of places other pathways broke off from the main one and headed in other directions.
“This is impossible,” David said out loud. “On the other side of this hedge, it’s dry and ugly. Nothing is there that anyone would desire. Now this!”
He stood at the foot of the path and gazed in every direction. The beauty of the place electrified his imagination. He thought in terms of an immense park, but that was because his feeble mind could think of no other description for it.
“Go on,” the voice said. When he spun around to see who spoke, no one was there. Nonetheless, he obeyed the voice. He started down the cobblestone path. A feeling of belonging overcame him. He not only saw and heard the rustling of leaves and branches and the sounds of birds and frogs, but he felt them. He felt like he was a part of it all.
The feelings of fear and pain were now alien to him, he had no concerns of what lied ahead, or what he left behind.
David followed a curve in the path and found a man sitting on a folding chair and looking out over the valley. He sat in front of an easel and busily painted a seascape. The painting held crashing waves, rocks on the beach, and miles of white sand. The young man would look out over the easel and back to the canvas. There was no ocean where he looked.
“Well, don’t just stand there. Come on over and take a look,” the artist said. He looked over his shoulder at David.
“Okay,” David said, walking up behind the man. “You must be an excellent artist to do that from memory.” David moved up behind him and looked at the painting then gazed over the canvas. An ocean beach appeared to him. Where there were green hills and valleys a moment ago, became a section of the Pacific Ocean.
David had an incredulous look on his face. The painter smiled and said, “You must be new here.”
“Yes,” David replied. “I just came through the hedge a short time ago. What place is this?”
“You’ll see,” the man said, lighting a pipe.
“That smells wonderful,” David said about the pipe tobacco.
“Yep, they let me have my favorite blends. Been smoking it for over sixty years.”
“But you’re no older than thirty-two, maybe—,”
“You’ll see,” the painter said, puffing on his pipe. He turned back to his painting.
David stepped back to the path and the ocean vanished. The green hills returned to his vision. He felt more perplexed than ever. David stepped out again and walked on.
In the distance, he could see a group of people. They all were lying in bathing suits on lounge chairs. They formed a large square around the green grass. He stepped up to them and an Olympic-sized swimming pool materialized in the center of their square. He now could see tables with every sort of snack on them.
A woman looked up from her chair and said, “Have a snack. “There’s always more than enough.”
“Thank you,” David said. “I haven’t eaten in a while. Oddly, I’m not really hungry. But, I’ll try something.” He went to the first table and found a huge spread of salads of every sort. He opted for the potato salad. When he took a bit, the sensation of taste that came over his senses that he nearly cried out. The texture, the sweetness, and the creaminess was far superior to anything he’d ever eaten.
“I can’t get over how good this is,” he said.
“The woman smiled and said, “You’re new here.”
“I know, I’ll see,” David said, repeating the artist’s comment.
All those around the pool laughed as he continued to eat. He thanked them and walked off. Everything vanished from sight except the people relaxing around the green patch of grass.
On and On he went. Over one hill to another valley and around another curve in the path. David met many people along the way. They were all doing what they enjoyed doing most. Golfers, Bowlers, baseball players, dancers, singers, and so on. Then there were those who enjoyed gardening, hiking, bad mitten, and many other activities. All of them young, healthy and vigorous.
Up to this point, all were off the side of the path. However, he could see in the distance, a woman on the trail. She was coming in his direction. David sped up his pace to meet her. As she came forward, he saw that she too was young appeared healthy and attractive.
She smiled at him as she approached. “Hi, you must be new here as well.”
“How did you guess?”
“The confused look on your face.”
“There’s a lot to take in around here,” David said, looking around. “How did you get here?”
“I don’t know, for sure,” she said, a puzzled look on her face. “But, a short time ago, I walked through a bathroom door. And, here I am.” She laughed at the idea. “I was lying on a hotel bed and needed to use the bathroom. I opened the door and found myself at the beginning of a cobblestone walkway.”
“Fascinating,” David said. “I was sitting in my wrecked car and walked through a hedge on the side of the road, and that led me to the cobblestone path as well.” “By the way, I’m David Peters,” he stuck out his hand.
“Ilene Jeffers,” she said shaking his hand. “Everyone I meet seems to understand this place but me. Now I have someone to be confused with.”
David smiled broadly at her.
She laughed sweetly. “I know what you mean. But, I’m getting an idea about it all.”
“Tell me. What do you think is going on?” he asked.
“Well, I’ve met a lot of people here,” she said. “The last woman was in a kitchen baking cookies and cakes of all sorts. I asked her why. She said it was what she enjoyed doing. It was her dream throughout life to bake for others. Now she can bake any time she wants.”
“I know,” David said. “I’ve met people doing the same. Not baking, but doing things they always wanted to do. Or do things they’ve done throughout their lives and were good at.”
“Right,” Ilene said. “David, I think we’re dead.”
“Ya know, I was afraid to admit it, but you’re probably right,” David agreed. “How old were you when you were in that hotel room?”
“I’m fifty-four,” Ilene responded.
“Look again,” he said, pointing to a full-length mirror that just appeared.
She looked and saw herself as she did at thirty. Young and healthy, as she was then. Ilene stood in front of the mirror and ran her hands through her dark hair and touched her face. “I’“e lost weight too,” she said with a giggle.
“We must be in heaven,” David said.
“No, try Paradise,” a man said standing on the path. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties as well. He wore a long white robe and sported a beard, and His hair grew past his ears. They both jumped in surprise. “Neither of you remembers the circumstances that brought you here, do you?” he asked.
“No,” David responded. “I just remember getting out of my car.”
“Yes, the car that you wrapped around the tree.”
“Ilene stepped back and listened to their conversation. Some images ran through her mind. They disturbed her.
“Do you remember what you did before hitting the tree?” the robed man asked.
David remained silent for a moment as the memories flooded back. “Oh, my God,” he cried. “I was drunk again!” The tears started flowing as he shivered and moaned. “I tried so hard to stop. I am so weak.”
“I know you tried. I was there with every drink. Every time you broke down in anguish, I was there to comfort you.”
“Why didn’t you make me stop?” David cried out.
“You had to make that decision yourself. I couldn’t make you do anything. Do you remember what ran through your mind before hitting the tree?”
“You. I thought of you, Jesus. I thought about how disappointed you were in me,” David said.
“I love you, David. When you called out to me, I answered you by bringing you here. Remember what I told the thief on the cross next to me? ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise.’”
The Lord then turned to Ilene. He saw her shaking in fear and guilt. He knew that she had remembered. “I’m not going to torture you by asking what you were doing in the hotel room,” He said, as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder. Do you remember Miss Peggy?”
The question surprised Ilene. Of course, she remembered. “Why she was my kindergarten Sunday school teacher. She’s the one who told me about You. We prayed together when I accepted You as my Savior.”
“Yes,” Jesus said. “She taught many children about Me and salvation. She will have a special place in heaven with Me.”
“But, what about what I was doing—,”
“You changed your mind, Ilene. You thought back to what Miss Peggy taught you and what you promised Me.” Jesus explained. “That’s why the man murdered you. That’s why you’re here with Me.”
Ilene began to sob and put her arms around her Savior. He held her and smiled warmly at David who watched with tears in his eyes.
“Now what happens?” David asked, wiping his eyes.
“Now you wait,” Jesus said. “My Father has not decided when I will return to the Earth, as I said before, no one knows but the Father, when I will return. There is so much work for my people to do still. So you, and the rest of my family, who are here, can enjoy paradise until the next step. What would you like to do?”
“That ocean view looked delightful,” David pondered. “Ya want to go to the beach, Ilene?”
She smiled at them both, “Okay, how do we get there?”
“Just imagine it and it will appear,” Jesus said. “I have a few more new arrivals. I will be back anytime you want me.” Jesus walked down the cobblestone path and faded from sight.
David thought about the beach at Dana Point, California. Instantly, he heard the waves pounding the shoreline, the seagulls crying out and he felt the sea breeze against his skin. He looked at Ilene, now wearing a swimsuit and said, “Let’s go, and I bet the waters warm too.”
“I get to pick the next destination,” Ilene said, running through the sand, smelling the ocean air.
“Whatever you want,” David called back. “We’ve got all eternity to decide.”