Blank Screen and Blank Thoughts…


epl-table-2015-live-score-results-channel-today-game-epl-tableI turned on my computer and brought up my blog site with a fresh clean page all ready for me to peck away with many words of wisdom.
I stared and stared and nothing came to mind, just a blank screen looking back at me.
I thought of all of the subjects that I have written about in the past and that still didn’t help.
Maybe a poem, I thought but I could not think of what to rhyme about so I gave up on that idea.
I have spent this past week working on the Austin Pond Society web site. Now, it is finished and I can’t think of anything else to do to it for a while.
Night has fallen and it is dark outside so I can’t work on the ponds or go for a hike.
It would appear that my mind is a blank and needs firing up a little.
To hell with writing, I am going to watch the English Premier League and my favorite soccer teams…Manu

The Dark Tower by Stephen King


gunslingerI went for another drive today
I often do that to pass some time
as it was too darn hot to take a hike
too late in the day to walk outside
I had no particular place in mind
just to jump in the car and let it define
the route that we would follow today
as we passed the time along the way
with an audiobook telling the words
read by an actor trained in this verse.

Listening to a Stephen King tale
what better way my thoughts to prevail
as he winds his magic his story to tell
and I try to guess what’s coming next
and will the good guys come out on top
or is it in his dastardly plot
that evil wins this particular tale
and the hero falls as he did fail
to foresee what should have been plain to most
the good over evil is not always the case
especially when Stephen King is the host.

The Dark Tower is the name of the piece
and actually, there are seven books in all
as I am nearing the end of book six
which means one more book to fall
I have yet to hear how it will end
and as this is next to the final book
I can only hope that good comes out on top
and the Gunslinger will find out what
is at the end of his terrible quest
the one that had driven him all of his life
in such a way so full of strife.

I have a very bad feeling that
I am not going to like the story I hear
of the characters that I know so well
that Susannah and Eddie, Jake and Oy
and Roland too are all going to die
and they in turn will never see
the Dark Tower in all of its mystery
but the only way that I will know
is to listen and hear the way it will go
and yet a part of me is so sad
the ending that’s coming will be very bad.

My favorite character in these books
is not one of the human kind
the animal lover in me prevails
and I am really cheering for Oy
and hope that he will see the day
and will be there with the boy
as the Billy Bumbler who is Jake’s friend.

Of one thing I can be pretty sure
King entertains me in such a way
that I drive my car and put on the miles
just to hear the words he will play
as he strings them together his story to say
and I feel I am going through hell today
the same as all of his characters tell
as he spins the web of his stories so well
as with the Tower, I’m sure I will find
it’s not the ending that I had in mind.

I have read a lot of Stephen King’s work
and seen those that are turned into film
and marvel at the mind of the man
as he bends the words to suit his will
as the stories unfold yet another twist
where does he get such wonderful thoughts
scary and horror and good versus bad
how does he make his mind work this way
and just when I think what next he will say
he is off somewhere else and I’ve lost the day.

And just as the Gunslinger said,”We deal in bullets, we deal in lead”.

 

 

 

 

Helping Hand


Helping handI was sitting in my car after having made a purchase in one of my favorite stores, The Home Depot, when I noticed a young mother pushing a cart that had three large bags of mulch. She was also carrying a very young baby as she made her way back to her car. I could not see any Home Depot employees around so being the nice guy that I am and seeing a young and good-looking mother that might need a hand, I switched off my car and walked over to her inquiring if she needed help to load out the mulch.

She looked at me and must have decided that I was harmless and looked strong enough to help her as she said, “Wait a minute and I will put the baby in the car.” which she proceeded to do. She came back and unlocked the trunk which was already pretty full of stuff as I grabbed a hold of the first bag. I must mention that she had the biggest bags she could find and they each weighed forty pounds and they were in a regular shopping cart and not one of the flat dolly’s which did not help the situation.

I struggled to get the first bag out as my hands kept slipping on the plastic so I dug my fingers in and gave a heave and caught my arm on the baby seat of the cart putting a small gash in it which immediately started bleeding. I turned around to place the bag in the trunk and not being used to cars with trunks, wasn’t watching very carefully and the next thing I know, I had banged my head against the upraised trunk lid. I managed to hang on to the bag and carefully put it in the trunk and at the same time, I felt my fingers go through the plastic and the bag split. She hadn’t noticed and I wasn’t about to ‘fess up considering how foolish I must have looked so far.

I turned back to the cart and in the meantime, she gracefully lifted the second bag out of the cart with absolutely no effort and carefully placed it into the trunk. Not to be outdone by some slip of a woman who probably only weighed ninety pounds soaking wet, I turned my attention to the last bag in the cart. This one was even worse as I struggled to get a purchase on the plastic and when I finally did get it out of the cart, I dropped the bloody thing on the ground. Luckily, it didn’t break so I said in a brave and loud voice, “That’s better, now I can get a hold of it”, which I proceeded to do so, struggling but trying not to show it and eventually placed it in the trunk.

I could see her breathe a sigh of relief that the worst was over and that I hadn’t keeled over with a heart attack as that was probably next considering of how much of an ass I had made of the job so far. She thanked me and wanted to know if my head was OK and I made some lame joke like, “Thank goodness it was my head and not my hand or arm or I might have felt it”. She didn’t get the joke so I quickly jumped in my car before I could embarrass myself even more. I watched her pull away and she was giving me the most oddest of look as though to say, “I wonder if he is OK” or maybe “What a loser”.

One thing is for sure that when she gets home to her husband, she will have a tale to tell and I bet she thinks twice about taking help from the next old geezer that offers.
So much for being a good Samaritan…and oh yeah, I don’t plan on helping anyone else in the future, doesn’t matter how good-looking they are or how many babies they may be carrying.

Friends


12 Point Buck in all of his glory

The snow lay thick on the ground and the air had a bite in it as the wind softly blew through the trees. Frank huddled closer into his jacket to try to stay warm as he stood behind a tree. His eyes were fixed on a small gully that opened out twenty feet in front of him as he surveyed the landscape.

And then, there it stood. This magnificent twelve point buck  in all of its glory. Young and strong, it just exuded life and the spirit of the outdoors. Frank slowly raised his rifle and sighted through the scope with eyes on the buck who was standing there a little uneasy as if he sensed danger. He was smelling the air trying to find where the danger may be coming from. Frank was downwind of the buck so it probably would not get his scent.

The buck pawed the ground trying to send a warning to whatever was bothering him. He stood there quite still and Frank eyed him through the scope with his rifle aimed at the buck’s heart. He slowly squeezed the trigger and the buck jumped into life and took off running only he was coming straight at his adversary. Frank quickly moved behind the tree and he could have touched the animal as it went storming on by.

Good luck my friend” Frank murmured “Stay away from the hunters as they are not all like me”. He wandered over to where the buck had been standing and surveyed the spot where his bullet had hit the ground between the bucks feet.

He straightened up as his friends came into the clearing. First in was Ronnie, a confirmed bachelor who liked to hunt deer and chase women.  Sometimes, he  actually caught one or the other but Ronnie had not had much luck with women over the years having been married three times each one costing him more in alimony that the last. Between the three, Ronnie had to work two jobs to keep up with the payments and it was understandable why he preferred the company of men and the great outdoors. By his reasoning, you could shoot a deer who had done nothing to harm him but it wasn’t yet legal to shoot a women who had caused him all kinds of trouble and if Ronnie had his way, he would like to change that.

The next two guys came in together. One was pretty muscular and moved like a trained athlete. The other was tending to put on weight and was the exact opposite to his friend. The athletic guy was Denny and the other was Eric. Denny had his own roofing business and liked to work out. He had a reputation as a bit of a hard nose and never backed away from a good scrap and in the little town that these four friends lived, it was not hard to rub someone up the wrong way. The last of the four, Eric, was the brains of the outfit and had a good job with the local telephone company. He sat at a desk which probably accounted for his weight gain and looked upon these hunting expeditions as a way to work out. Considering that even if they hunted every weekend during the season, it would not amount to very much working out. So much for that theory.

“What happened” Denny asked,”Did you have something lined up”?
“Yes”, Frank said excitedly, “A big twelve point buck came and stood right over there. God, he was beautiful. Took my breath away. I had him in my sights ready to pull and this big shower of snow came down. Don’t know where my shot ended up but it certainly was not in that buck. Darndest thing, that buck charged right at me instead of just running away. He must have really been pissed off”.

“You sure you didn’t pull one of your save nature things and missed on purpose”, Eric asked. “It would be just the sort of thing you would do. You are the only one of us who has not yet bagged a deer in all of the years we have been hunting together”.

Frank looked at Eric and smiled.  “We’ll never know the answer to that” he said. “Time to get back to the cabin. Whose turn is it to cook”?
“Why I do believe it’s yours” said Ken, “You trying to forget. I hope we are having something better than your last effort”.
Ken was referring to Frank’s attempt to use the oven attached to the wood stove which resulted in a smoke-filled cabin and Baked Beans out of a can as the evening meal. They all laughed and Frank said that he  was going to have something simple and straightforward this evening.

Ronnie led the way back. He was the real woodsman among them and knew the mountains well although this time, the group had only travelled a few miles from camp and all of them were familiar with the immediate surroundings. “Going to snow again” said Denny, “I can feel it”.

Chapter 2

These four guys had been friends for many years having gone to the same school albeit in different classes and had grown up together. They were all in their late twenties with the exception of Frank who was a couple of years older than the rest.

Ronnie, as we mentioned previously, is a confirmed bachelor at least until the he meets the next beautiful woman. He has this unfortunate problem of falling in love with every woman who shows the slightest interest in him. We all take it in turns to talk him out of each budding romance as they come up. Poor guy, he really can’t help it. I guess he is lonely for female comfort but still wants to keep his bachelor’s ways.

Denny is a happily married man for all of his love of picking a fight. He has a couple of young kids and a wife he adores. That doesn’t stop him from drinking with his buddies but compared to them, he doesn’t spend too much time in the bars. Usually a beer after working out in the hot sun all day before he heads home. These hunting trips are different in as much they are men only. and only happen for a couple of months of the year.

Ken and Denny grew up together as they lived next door to each other as kids. They are both about the same age. Turns out that Ken has the brains and went on to University where he became an Engineer. He has a good job with the local Telephone Company. He is also married and has a couple of kids.

Finally, there is Frank. He is a little older by 4 years than the rest of them and earns his living as the owner of a small construction company. Ronnie actually works for Frank and has done for several years. He too wasn’t married and had been close a couple of times but backed out at the last-minute claiming that he had cold feet and wasn’t ready for the responsibility. Needless to say, he too has problems holding onto girlfriends. As soon as any of them started to get serious, Frank would find an excuse to break it off.

Chapter 3

This weekend was the same as most weekends during the hunting season. The four friends each had equal shares in the small hunting cabin set in the Adirondack Mountains. Ronnie had been the original owner having been left it by his Father after he died but during Ronnie’s second divorce which turned out to be real messy, he needed the money and offered his three friends equal shares if they could come up with the funds to help him pay off his ex-wife. Needless to say, all three jumped at the chance and came up with the cash and now between them own the place and Ronnie has one less wife’s alimony to worry about

The cabin was typical of most of the real hunting cabins that are scattered about the Adirondacks. We are not talking about the real fancy hunting lodge’s that some people have built with all of the modern conveniences of the city out in the woods but a simple well-built practical cabin made out of wood.  It was both sturdy and warm as the original builders were well aware of the fact that the temperature often gets down to the minus category in this part of the country. They had dug a well inside the basement so that the water was always available even though the top of it would ice over, it was never so thick that it was unbreakable. The lodge was heavily insulated and heated by a big wooden stove, it was always comfortable when they were staying there and in truth, it was sometimes an effort to leave the cosy confines to venture out in search of a deer.

For electricity, there was a small generator enough to power the lights and a small refrigerator that was only used when they were in residence. It was no trouble keeping the beer cold as it was stowed in the nearest snow bank or hung in the well during the warmer months.

The cabin was located on the edge of the lake and like all good vacation homes was used year round as it was not just a deer hunting cabin. During the Spring and Summer, there was good fishing to be had on the lake although one had to be really prepared as the black flies could torment a man to death they were so thick and their bite, so ferocious. Usually, lots of “Off” and other repellant took care of them but there was always that one spot that the repellant had missed and the deer flies always found and that would itch for days afterwards. I would not have been a bit surprised to see a swarm of these flies carry off one of the kids, they were so thick.

It was Franks turn to cook the meal for this particular evening. Every man was allowed to choose what they would cook. Most of them kept it simple but on the odd occasion that the meal went wrong there would be hell to pay for the guy that screwed up. Everyone got their own back on anything that turned out to be inedible when it was their turn to cook and some of the pay backs had been quite amusing.. In truth, most of the fare that was served was pretty straight forward but tasty and filling. and usually consisted of meat of any variety unless they actually killed a deer or a bear in which case they would dine on it. As deer were not that plentiful in the mountains, killing one was a big occasion.

Tonight, Frank was frying pork chops on the big stove while a pot of potatoes and another of broccoli bubbled away. As it was hard to regulate the heat, it was always a test of real skill to see how the end result would turn out. It required constant attention to make sure the pork chops did not burn or the vegetables boil dry and that everything was ready about the same time.

Everyone sat around talking about the days events, drinking beer and enjoying each others company. There is something special when a group of guys get close to nature and generally relax. The others had set the table and Frank set the food out.Turns out that he had managed to get it right as everything was done to perfection or maybe it was because they were all so hungry after their exertions of the day, it didn’t really matter what was placed in front of them as they would have eaten it anyway and said it was good.

The four guys had taken a pledge that cell phones could only be used at a certain time of the day except in the event of an emergency. Even when they were on the trail in most of the places in the mountains, the signal was spotty at best and most of the time totally unavailable. Reception was better at the camp and they had all agreed to limit calls between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm every evening. As most of their immediate family knew the rules it was not a problem for the friends to abide by them. Only in the case of a true emergency was this rule to be broken. Little did they know what was in store for them the next day.

Talk turned to the next day’s hunt and what area they should cover and between them, they devised a plan of the section they would hunt. The way they hunted was to divide into pairs and circle around and hunt towards each other from opposite directions. This way, they were always keeping the deer moving towards the other hunters as was proved by Frank’s deer of the morning. The one that got away. Frank knew that he was going to be paired with Ronnie the next day and that it was going to be doubly difficult to fake a shot like he had in the morning and even if he didn’t pull the trigger himself, Ronnie would only be 50 feet away and would also be able to see the deer and probably shoot it. Interesting, Frank thought. The other guys are thinking about how to make a kill and I am thinking about how to prevent one.

One unwritten rule of the cabin was that if you awoke for any reason in the night, you had to top up the stove with logs to keep it burning so that it would be comfortable when they all woke up. So, the last thing before turning in was to make sure the log pile inside the cabin was fully stocked. Frank stood up from the table and announced that he was on a log run. “Good idea” said Eric, “I’ll come and give you a hand”. Between them, they made a couple of trips and stocked up for overnight.

The cabin did have a couple of rooms set up as bedrooms. Each had a couple of bunk beds and could easily sleep up to 12 people at a squeeze. As there were only the four friends this time around, they each had their choice of which bunks to take, upper or lower. Three of them chose the lower bunks but Eric took one of the uppers as he had a fear of confined spaces and the upper bunk over his head made him feel uncomfortable.

They turned in and it was not long before they were all asleep. Ronnie talked in his sleep and Frank snored but they had slept together for so long, they were used to it and it didn’t bother them.

Early next morning, they were all up bright and early. Each reacted differently to the mornings. Ronnie and Denny were both early morning people but Frank and Eric were not and almost had to be dragged from their bunks. They all finally were ready to face the world especially after a cup of the early morning coffee brewed by Ronnie. He liked and made it extra strong and it was enough to knock your socks off. If you could keep it down, it was a certainty that you would wake up as there was enough caffeine in it wake an army. Frank piled milk into his with a generous helping of sugar. It was enough to take the edge off but it was still pretty strong. As Ronnie put it, welcome to camp coffee.

It was still dark outside as they ate a quick breakfast of bread rolls filled with whatever they fancied. Jam, Marmalade, Cut meats, cheese together it was a real assortment but it would sustain them until they stopped for a noonday rest when they would eat the food they took with them.  They planned to be out for several hours. It was going to be a long day and would only be made shorter if they bagged a buck.

Chapter 4

It had snowed overnight just as Denny had predicted. A new layer covered everything with a blanket of about four inches obscuring all of their tracks from the previous day. It was all so quiet and peaceful. Here and there could be seen fresh tracks from rabbits and the occasional fox and at one point, they came across fresh bear prints. They knew that there were bears in these mountains but in all of the years of hunting, they had never had the chance to face one close enough for a kill.

Frank was thinking about bear as he walked along following Eric, in single file. Ronnie was in the lead and Denny was bringing up the rear. They didn’t speak very much as they didn’t want to spook any of the animals at least before they could get into shooting range. They knew they had a couple of miles to hike in to the foot of one particular mountain that had brought them luck before on a previous hunt but this was wild country and the chances of seeing a deer was always present.

Far off in the distance, they could  hear the sound of a couple of snowmobiles.
“I wonder who that may be” said Eric, “Don’t they know they are not supposed to be driving those things in this part of the mountains”.
“Well, they appear to be heading away from where we are going so with any luck, they will not have spooked any animals in that direction’, said Denny.
“If I find them, I will make them wish they had not driven those things so close to where we are heading”. Coming from Dennie, it was no mean threat so we had to hope that our paths would not cross.

We continued on our way knowing that we had at least another hour of hiking to get to the area we had selected to hunt. Walking in new snow may appear romantic and the stuff that songs are made of but in reality, it is very hard work. We came to clearing where the trail opened up into an old logging road. This was better to walk on and we made better time. We came to an old abandoned cabin and decided to stop for a break for a few minutes. We hadn’t heard the snowmobiles for at least fifteen minutes and hoped they had gone in the opposite direction. Ronnie again took the lead and we followed along behind as before as we resumed our walk towards our chosen area. By now, we figured we were about fifteen minutes away and making good time. A few minutes later, Ronnie brought us to a halt to say that this is where we need to split up with two of us going in a different direction than the other two.  We would make a big sweep and converge at a place that we knew as the Big Rock. It was a fairly tall cliff area probably a couple of hundred feet up that was visible through the trees and at least a couple of miles away. That was where we would be driving the deer if there were any around the idea being to spread out so we were a couple of hundred yards apart and walk towards the rocks. We had used this tactic once before but we had more hunters on that drive and covered a bigger half circle.

The rule in the mountains was to never walk about alone. With cell phone’s useless there always needed to be a buddy system in case one or the other ran into trouble. The age-old signal of firing a shot in the air every fifteen minutes was really a last resort but it was always there just in case. As we were also out of site of each other, a loud “Yip” was the norm about every five  minutes to let each other know that we were still within earshot. If someone did get into trouble or failed to respond to his partners “Yip”, then a series of them would be sounded which would bring them all in to figure out the problem. It was crude but a very effective way of not losing touch with each other. The mountains were not to be trusted especially in the winter and could not be treated lightly.

They made their way towards the Big Rock using it as their beacon. Frank could hear the “Yip’s” as they went across the line as he responded in kind. Once he caught sight of a deer but it was a big doe. They were not hunting doe’s so he watched it go out of sight. Wonder what I would have done if that had been a big old buck, he mused as he already knew the answer to that.

All of a sudden he heard a gunshot off to his left and recognized the sound of Ken’s “357 Magnum pistol that he hunted with. It was followed by another and then another in quick succession. He immediately started moving left and came across Ronnie’s tracks and followed them until he came into a clearing where the other three stood.

“What happened? Did you get it” he asked of Ken. Ken shook his head and said, “No, but I wounded it”.

“Damn you and that bloody pistol. I said all along that you need something with more kick to it”, said Ronnie. Denny just stood there and then said, “Well we know what we have to do. It looks like it is bleeding so we need to fan out and track it down”.

They fanned out with Kenny following the bloody trail. It was his right to finish off the buck as he had wounded it in the first place but if by chance, one of the others has a clear shot, they were supposed to take it to save the deer from prolonging the suffering.

With eyes on Ken they walked forwards taking their lead from him. Then Ken stopped and beckoned to them and they closed in around him.

“Look’s like he has gone to ground behind this big patch of brush. We should circle around and then I will go in and drive it out”, Ken said. We all knew that it was both risky and dangerous to go in after a wounded buck and we had all heard horror stories of some of the outcomes.

“You sure about this”, asked Ronnie. “It could be dangerous”.

Ken just nodded and signalled to us to fan out and headed into the brush which was thick and tall and covered in snow making it very difficult to go anywhere except to follow the trail that the deer had left. Ken pushed further in until he was out of site of the others. They could hear him as he moved forward when all of a sudden, Ken let out a yell followed by two quick shots and then a long scream of someone in pain.

Then all was still and quiet. “Close in” said Ronnie. “We got to get in there but remember the buck is still there”. We pushed on into the brush full of trepidation and fear wondering what we would meet. Then Denny said, “I see him” and before he could get a shot off, the buck was on him knocking him over as it tore of through the brush and away. Neither Ronnie or Frank were able to shoot it as it went out the other side of where they were.

They both pushed on and came across Dennie who was doubled over clutching his belly. “The bastard got me”, he said. “Gored me with one of his horns. Christ it hurts”. Ronnie stayed with him while Frank went looking for Ken who had not made a sound after the scream he let out. He came across him all bundled up like a rag doll, his body all twisted and contorted in strange positions. He felt his pulse and it was there although very weak. He was bleeding badly from a stomach wound and looked to be in a bad way.

“Over here guys”, said Frank, “I found him and he doesn’t look too good. We are going to have to get him out of here somehow”. Frank turned back to Ken and tried to straighten him out to make him more comfortable. It was obvious that he had a broken leg and probably an injured shoulder  and the stomach wound was bleeding pretty heavily. Frank took off his jacket and then his shirt and tore the shirt into a makeshift bandage and used the rest for packing as he put pressure onto the wound. Ronnie scouted around and found a couple of branches they could fashion into a splint for the broken leg. They worked on Ken with their rudimentary but effective knowledge of first aid. Ken had insisted they all take the First Aid course put on by the local fire department. How was he to know just how useful that was going to be.

Denny was in obvious pain but had also torn his shirt into a bandage and with Ronnie’s help, had bandaged up his stomach wound. It appeared to be superficial and he was able to function somewhat albeit in between cussing out the deer. Frank found Ken’s ‘357 Magnum with the sight all smashed as though the deer had stomped on it, and put it in his pocket.

“OK” said Frank, “This is what we are going to need to do. It looks like there is a small cave in the base of that rock. I am going over to explore it to see if it will hold two of us. Wait here and I’ll be right back. In the meantime, see if you can find something we can make a sled out of as we are going to have to move Ken one way or the other”.

Frank moved away quickly and the other two located a couple of long branches and a lot of shorter ones along with some vines and began to assemble a long sled the type the Indians used to haul things around.

Frank was busy exploring until he found a cave that would hold them for the night if needs be. He trotted back to the others and said,”OK, there is a small cave that will do us for tonight. We need to move Ken to it and light a big fire to keep him from going into shock or die from hypothermia”. They loaded Ken onto the sled and he was screaming in pain as they moved him. Frank was afraid that he may have internal injuries besides the gash in his stomach but they had to go on. They dragged him to the cave and got him inside and then proceeded to light a big fire to help keep him warm.

Frank beckoned to the other two and said,”I don ‘t like the way he looks. His injuries are pretty severe and I don’t think we have too much time. The way I see it, one of us needs to travel back to where there is some sort of phone reception to call in for help. We need to get a chopper or at least a snowmobile out here ASAP. I suggest that Ronnie, you go back as you can travel the fastest. Denny, you should probably stay here unless  you are up to traveling with him. You need to think about it as we can’t have you slowing him down”.

Dennie thought about for a bit and said, “I’m going with him. If I can’t keep up, he can go on ahead and I can still follow his tracks to get out”.

“OK, you got about 6 hours of daylight left and it will take you at least a couple to get back. Keep trying your cell phones just in case you can get out. I will turn mine and Ken’s on from time to time so that they can maybe get a fix from our GPS systems. Go, go”, said Frank.

They all shook hand and then they were gone into the forest and all of a sudden, Frank felt very alone.

Chapter 5

Ronnie and Denny took off at a fairly rapid pace and were quickly out of sight. They were able to follow their own tracks to show them the way out.  They had at least a three-mile hike in front of them and it looked like it was going to snow again. New snow would cover their tracks making it harder to track back in on their return trip.

They had gone about a mile and Denny was having a hard time keeping up the pace. Ronnie slowed it down a bit but it was obvious that they were going to have to split up if Ronnie was going to make any time. Ronnie checked on Denny’s wound and it had started to bleed again.
“You going to make it” he asked “I hate to leave you behind but you are slowing me down”.
Denny looked at the bleeding wound and said “You had better go on ahead and I will follow at a slower pace. Don’t worry about me, I will be OK”.
“You sure about this” said Ronnie
“Yes, I will be OK. Just can’t go as fast as you” said Denny

With that, Ronnie turned on his heel and took off down the trail they had followed on their way in. He figured that they had gone a little over a mile and he still had a couple more to go. From time to time, he stopped and checked his cell phone but there was still no signal.

He was making good time and pushing himself hard but felt pretty good. As he was striding along, he was thinking of the past few hours events. He was worried about leaving his mates but knew that someone had to go and get help and he was it. He was particularly worried about Denny being injured and on his own.

He was so deep into his thoughts that he got careless instead of watching where he was going. Next thing he knew, he was sliding down a bank heading for the stream at the bottom. He flailed around trying to grab at anything to slow himself down and the next thing he felt a hard knock on his head and everything went black.

He didn’t know how long he was out and when he did come to, he was disoriented from the blow. He laid in the snow until he could collect his thoughts and then remembered the mission that he was on. He looked at his watch and by his reckoning figured he was out for probably ten to twenty minutes or so. He was having trouble in thinking and concentrating on his direction. Blood was pouring down his face from a bad cut on his forehead that was going to need stitches when he got back to civilization. “Damn” he thought, “Another scar, just what I need”.

He struggled to his feet and looked up at the bank he had fallen off and wondered how he was going to climb back up. He decided that it would be better if he followed the stream for a bit and then try to cut back up the hill to locate their original trail which he knew was on the top of the ridge. After a couple of hundred yards, the slope eased considerably enabling Frank to walk back to find the original trail. He picked it up on top of the ridge and started trudging along.

After a half mile or so, he had this horrible feeling that he was going the wrong way and was backtracking towards Frank and Ken rather than back to the cabin. He stopped and surveyed the tracks in the snow and realized that there were four sets pointing in one direction and the fifth set was pointing in the opposite direction. His head was still fuzzy but he forced himself to concentrate and realized he was going in the same direction as the four sets meaning he was heading in the wrong direction. “Damn” he thought, “I have just wasted more time and my strength is giving out. The knock on the head must have done more damage than I first thought”.

He turned himself around and started back in the right direction, gritting his teeth at the pain his head was giving him. He walked on in the silence of the snow, the only sound his footsteps as he crunched along. He stopped and listened and there it was, the sound of the snowmobiles only this time they sounded much closer. He wasn’t sure in what direction they were travelling but they seemed to be heading towards him. As he looked down the trail towards the sound, he could see them in the distance probably more than half a mile away. He waved frantically in the hopes of attracting their attention but they did not see him. He fired off a couple of shots in quick succession but they did not hear them over the sound of their machines. The sound of their motors died away as they disappeared in the distance.

He struggled on walking more like an automaton than a person and  from time to time, tried his cell phone without any luck. Fifteen minutes later, he stumbled into the clearing where the cabin sat and this time, he had a signal. he quickly dialed 911 and explained the situation to the person on the other end. She asked a few questions and then told him to wait and someone would be out to rescue him and the others.

Chapter 6

Black Bear

Black Bear

Frank busied himself collecting firewood as he had no idea just how long he and Ken were going to be holed up in this cave. he thought about their situation and knew it was not good for his injured friend. The buck had torn him up pretty good and the stomach wound looked bad. It had stopped bleeding at least on the outside.

He went back to the clearing in front of the cave and marked out the word “HELP” in big letters in the snow. He hoped that it would be visible from a helicopter when they sent one out and that the falling snow would not cover it up. From time to time, he turned on both his and Ken’s cell phone. There was no reception on either of them. He thought about climbing to higher ground but then discarded that idea as too risky.

Ken moaned softly and Frank went over to him. He was coming to which was not a good thing as at least he didn’t feel the pain in his unconscious state. “What happened” he asked. Frank outlined briefly the events leading up to the present moment. “How do you feel” Frank asked.
“Like I been run over by a bad-tempered buck” said Ken. Frank laughed that even in his badly hurt condition, he was still able to make a joke about it.

Frank outlined the events up to date and the plan they had to get help. “All we got to do is sit tight and wait for the help to come”, he said. Frank gave his friend some water and tried to make him comfortable and after a little bit, Ken relapsed back unconscious. Frank checked his pulse and although weak, it was still there.

He went back outside and checked the firewood stack and wandered off to find more. He came back to the cave and then froze. In front of him there was this big black bear sniffing around outside the cave. Whether it could smell Ken’s blood which made it interested in the source or was looking for a cave to den up for the winter, Frank didn’t know. Luckily, the fire which was in the cave opening, was large enough to keep the predator out at least for now. Frank was surprised that this bear hadn’t already holed up for the winter and which is why he was looking at the cave where Ken was laying. In any case, it didn’t matter the reasons as there it was as big as life.

The bear turned when he heard Frank come into the clearing but did not run away. Frank thought about it but as he did not have his rifle with him wondered how he was going to get around the bear. Currently, it was between the cave and Frank and did not look like it was ready to run away.

Then he remembered Ken’s pistol that he had put back in his pocket after they had found Ken. He knew it had a broken scope but didn’t know if the rest was working. He took it out of his pocket and checked the chamber. It had a round in it and the safety was off. Frank had no idea if it would fire or blow up but reckoned he didn’t have too much of a choice but to squeeze the trigger if he needed to.

He slowly made his way forward towards the bear who by now was fully turned and was facing his new foe. The bear reared up on his back legs and let out a roar. Frank new that it would charge next and sure enough, it dropped down on all fours and came at him like a bat out of hell.

His first inclination was to run but he knew he could not outdistance the bear and there were no climbable trees within easy range so he stood his ground, raised the pistol and squeezed the trigger and nothing happened. Somehow the firing mechanism was damaged. He ejected the shell and tried again and still nothing happened.

The bear was now no more than 20 feet away when all of a sudden it veered off to the right and kept on running past Frank who had braced himself for an impact that didn’t happen. Frank turned and watched as the bear slowed to a walk, turned and looked at Frank, shook his head and wandered off into the trees.

Frank wasted no time in gathering up his armful of wood and made his way back to the cave where Ken was sitting up with a rifle in his hands. “What happened” he said “I heard the bear roar and thought it was coming in to get me. Frank recounted his story and they both sat there in silence each thinking of the close touch they had just had with death. Frank was wondering why the bear never attacked when it had the chance and knew that he would never know that answer. One thing was certain, he would not venture out without taking his rifle with him.

Chapter 7

Wolves

Wolves

Denny watched his friend leave walking quickly away down the trail and knew that he needed to keep moving if he was going to survive. His stomach wound was very painful and each step he took only aggravated the situation. He was determined that he was going to survive this and it would be a story to tell his Grandkids when they came along.

In his weakened state, he was having difficulty in concentrating and began to imagine things. He shook his head and tried to focus on the job in hand which was to follow the trail and keep putting one foot in front of the other. He plodded along knowing that every step was taking him closer to help.

He felt that he was being followed and from time to time, would turn around but did not see anything. Try as he might, the feeling would not go away. Then he saw the wolf. It was standing an a slight hill watching him, big and grey and sinister not in its looks but for its reputation. Now he understood why he thought he was being watched and wondered how many more of them were in this pack. At least this snapped him out of his mind wanderings as now he really had something to concentrate on. He grasped his rifle closer and checked the breech to make sure it was ready for action. Injured or not, he was not going down without a fight. He had never backed away from one and was not going to on this one even if this was to be his last ever. He knew that the smell of his blood was what was making the wolves so bold. They sensed a wounded animal and an easy kill.

He stumbled along very wary of his surroundings trying to keep in the open. He spotted another wolf that was following and one more off to his right. So far, they were prepared to stalk him as they sensed that he was injured but he knew that sooner or later, they would rush him and all he could do was try to pick them off before they got to him.

He stumbled on and wolves began to tighten the noose as they moved in a little closer. They had abandoned all remnants of cover and were boldly walking out in the open. There were five of them all told led by the big grey that he had first spotted. Denny knew he was getting weaker  and was not moving very fast. He also knew that if he stopped, they would be on him. He might get one or two of them but the rest would get him.

He fired his rifle in the air and the wolves moved back and widened the circle but did not go away. He fired again, this time in the general vicinity of the big gray who immediately slunk back under cover. He turned and looked and they had all disappeared back into the trees but he knew they were still out there. They were not going to give up on him.

Chapter 8

Ronnie was still on hold with the 911 operator who was trying to get more facts out of him. In the end, she transferred him through to the Parks and Wildlife Rescue Group and he was able to talk to the   Supervisor direct. He gave them a rough location-based on his map of where he thought Frank and Ken were holed up and told them that he was going to backtrack to try to locate Denny.

He answered all of their questions and then got off the line knowing that it was the only contact he was going to have for a while. He went into the cabin and although he was in a hurry, forced himself to eat some food and to take some with him and when he was satisfied that his strength would hold out, headed back down the trail.

It had been snowing hard for a while but he was still able to see their tracks. On his own, he made good time and after an hour or so of walking, thought that he was somewhere close to where he had left Denny. In the distance, he could hear the snowmobiles and they seemed like they were coming closer and for once, he was hoping they would find him.

He plodded on and heard a single rifle shot some way off in the distance. He quickened his pace and heard the second shot and then all was quiet. He was traveling as fast as his tired body and the deep snow would let him for he was very concerned for his friend.

He heard a series of shots and they were very close, not more than a half mile or so away, he guessed. He tried to walk faster but his speed didn’t increase by very much and when he rounded a bend in the trail, he saw and heard the reason for the shots. In the open clearing with absolutely no cover stood Denny surrounded by a pack of snarling wolves. Denny had winged one of them it was limping away but the other four had him surrounded.

Ronnie unslung his rifle and for once he knew he had no choice but to shoot to kill in order to save his friend. The wolves had not heard his approach as they were busy concentrating on Denny so he dropped on one knee, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. One of the wolves leapt in the air and dropped to the ground dead. The others turned and he squeezed off another shot and the next wolf dropped. That was enough for the remaining two as the fled after their wounded mate. Denny collapsed in a heap as Frank made his way towards him.

He reached Denny who was clutching his side. He had his bowie-knife in his hand and it was covered in blood.
“What the hell do you think you are going to do with that” said Ronnie pointing at the bowie-knife.
“Thank goodness you arrived when you did. What took you so long. I thought I was going to have to kill all five of them by myself”, Denny joked.
“You OK” asked Ronnie worried about his friend.
“Yes” he replied. “The big grey came at me and I managed to stick my knife in him enough for him to run away and then you arrived, just in the nick of time”.
“Where’s your rifle” Ronnie asked. “Why didn’t you shoot them instead of that knife of yours”.
“I dropped it when the big grey jumped me and wasn’t able to pick it back up” said Denny.
Ronnie walked over to where one of the wolves was still moving and put a bullet in his head to put him out of his misery. The other was already dead.
“Pretty good shooting if I do say do myself”, said Ronny
Denny looked at his friend and just nodded and the strong bond between them became even stronger.

Then they heard  and saw the snowmobiles as they pulled into the clearing. They were manned by Park Rangers who were out on patrol.
“Looks like you took care of these wolves” one of them said, “What happened”

Real briefly, Ronnie outlined the chain of events as they had happened to this point including the fact that there should be a rescue party on the way for Frank and Ken. Then it occurred to Denny that it had been over an hour since he had called it in and they had not seen or heard a helicopter which he thought was a bit strange.

One of the Rangers had been on his satellite phone reporting back in to base the events that had happened and requesting assistance. It turned out the at the helicopter was on another rescue mission and would be coming for the two missing hunters shortly which would account for why they had not heard or seen it.

Ronnie turned to the Rangers and said, “Why don’t one of you get Denny back to camp for treatment and the other can take me back to where we left the other two”. The Rangers were named Jack and Ted, and Jack appeared to be in charge as he did all of the talking. Ted just tried to be helpful. Jack turned to Ted and told him to get Denny back to their base where he could be taken to the hospital for treatment while he went back for Frank and Ken.

They loaded Denny on to the snowmobile and Ted took off at a nice leisurely pace so as not to lose his weakened passenger. Before Jack and Ronny jumped on the other machine, Ronnie went over to both of the wolves and knelt down beside each one to say a silent prayer for taking their life. Denny had seen this before from his friend and knew it was out of genuine respect for all living animals. They mounted the snowmobile and went back along the trail towards the Big Cliff.

Ronnie thought how much easier it was riding on than walking in the snow as they ate up the distance. In no time, they were pulling into the clearing where Frank and Ken were supposed to be. There was no sign of the two men and the fire was out. They looked at each other and Jack said, “Lets take a look around. I don’t think that they could get far with Ken’s injuries”.

Chapter 9

Frank piled more wood on the fire. He had managed to collect a pretty big supply as he had no idea how long they would be waiting. He thought about the days events leading up to the present. From time to time, he checked on Ken who was slipping in and out of consciousness as he grew weaker. Frank surmised that he probably had some internal bleeding as the wound in his stomach had stopped bleeding on the outside. he had taken off his own jacket and had covered Ken with it and huddled close to the fire to keep himself warm. The trouble with camp fires is that it is easy to be warm the way you are facing the fire but the other side is usually freezing cold as what was happening in Frank’s case. The snow was coming down heavier making it difficult to see very far.

He wondered what had happened to the bear and whether it was still hanging around. He made sure that  his rifle was within touching distance just in case.

The cave they were in was not very big with just enough room for the both of them. The fire was outside in the cave opening. Frank decided to look around a bit  to see if there were any other suitable caves that were a bit larger. First though, he made sure that Ken was conscious and had his rifle with him just in case.
“I think I will scout around a bit to see if there is a little bigger cave we could get to. This one is hardly big enough to keep us out of the wind”, said Frank. “Will you be OK for a few minutes on your own”?
Ken said,”Yes, I don’t hurt as bad. I think Nature is doing its thing and numbing my body. If I get into trouble, I will start shooting and then you had better come running”.
Frank stoked up the fire and took his jacket back so that he could go out in the cold. He was guessing but he thought it was below zero and there was a wind chill factor as well to worry about.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can” he said, “Hang tight”

With that, he pushed off into the wind and followed the base of the cliff for about half a mile. He didn’t find anything suitable so turned back, checking on Ken as he went past the cave entrance. Ken was still OK so Frank pushed on in the opposite direction. He went the same distance and again, didn’t find anything. Just as he was going to turn back, he had a hunch that he should go just a little further and there was the cave entrance right in front of him. He was well aware that a bear or other animal may well have already claimed it so he very carefully went inside. This one was about ten feet deep with a small opening and luckily, was as yet, uninhabited.

He made up his mind that this would be much safer and warmer and started back on the return journey to the first cave. Just as he was turning the last corner, he heard gunshots and broke into a run.  There in front of him was the black bear and it was trying to get into the cave after Ken. The fire had died down a bit which allowed the bear to get much closer. Frank fired a couple of shots in the bears general direction as he approached which took the bears attention away from Ken or maybe he was just wanting the cave to den up in and was not interested in Ken at all.

With Ken shooting wildly from one side and Frank from the other, the bear decided that the odds were against him and turned and lumbered off into the trees.
“OK Ken, you can stop shooting as the bear has gone and it’s just you and me again”, said Frank. “That is one determined bear so we had better move out of here and let him have it. I found a much better cave about half a mile that way”, he said pointing in the direction from where he had just come. “I have been thinking how we can move you and whatever we do, it’s going to hurt like hell. Think you are up for it”? asked Frank
“Well, what’s the plan and the only way for us to find out is by trying” said Ken

They still had the brush sled that they had made to move Ken the first time and Frank brought it over and positioned it in front of the fire. He had almost burnt it but decided against it at the last-minute luckily for all of them. He went into the cave and between them, got Ken into an upright position. His broken leg was just dangling in the splints and his stomach started to bleed with the movement but he struggled on as Frank half carried, half dragged Ken to the sledge where Ken collapsed in a heap. Frank straightened him out and got him as comfortable as he could. Frank had taken off his jacket again and had laid it out first for Ken to lay on. As an afterthought, Frank piled firewood on both sides of Ken to get a fire started in the new cave. he kicked snow into the old fire and made sure it was thoroughly extinguished before going to the front of the sledge.

He picked up the handles and pulled with all of his strength. Luckily, they were starting at the top of a small hill and this was enough to get him the momentum he needed. Once he was in full stride, the sledge moved fairly easily over the snow and even though Ken was always complaining about his excess weight, Frank couldn’t notice the difference.

They made good progress over the first quarter of a mile or so until the ground began to climb upwards. Frank found himself digging in his heels and walking backwards to pull Ken up the hill and they made it to within fifty feet of the opening which was also strewn with rocks and boulders with no clear way through.
“This is as far as I can drag you, old buddy. I am going to have to carry you the rest of the way”, Frank said. He helped Ken stand on his one good leg and then bent forward and had him on his back in a fireman’s lift. Ken was no lightweight and Frank staggered a bit under his weight but kept pushing forward, one step at a time until he reached the cave entrance which was too low for him to carry his burden inside.

Placing Ken on his one good leg, he helped him inside and made him comfortable as far back inside as he could. Lowering Ken to the floor, the pain was too much for him and he passed out again. Frank busied himself on lighting a new fire this one inside the cave but close to the entrance. As soon as it was burning. he made a couple of quick wood runs collecting as much firewood as he could mindful of the fact that he carried his rifle with him at all times. He took the sledge and used it to block up the entrance. it would not keep out a determined bear but it would give them notice of the bears arrival.

When Frank finally sat down, he realized just how tired he was. His body ached from all of the exertion and he was feeling the cold. He was not yet to the frostbitten stage but was getting awful close. He had retrieved his jacket and as he sat by the fire, began to feel a little better.

Ken was in no better shape and all of the exertions had made his wounds bleed again. He had suffered much pain in the journey and had passed out a few times along the way. He lay there in a dazed state not truly conscious but enough to be aware of their situation.

“I wonder how the other two are doing?” said Ken. “Do you think they made it back to camp”.
“I don’t know” said Frank. “I sure hope so. I’m getting hungry”.
“Me too” said Ken and relapsed back into unconsciousness.

Chapter 10

It was snowing hard and had blotted out any tracks that Frank and Ken had left.
“My guess is that they were looking for a safer place to stay. They can’t be too far off as Ken was pretty broken up”, said Ronnie. The terrain was too rough with too many rocks and boulders to use the snowmobile so they started searching on foot. They decided to stay together after their brush with the wolves and moved off following the base of the mountain. What they didn’t know was they were going in the wrong direction. Like Frank before them, they were looking for a larger cave. After traveling more than half a mile, they discovered a cave much bigger and better than the original one. It was uninhabited by human and animal alike leading them to the conclusion  they were heading in the wrong direction.

They turned back and made good time on the return journey and began to carefully follow the base of the Big Rock until they found the cave opening. They almost missed it as the brush piled up against it looked very natural as though it had grown there. They cautiously approached the entrance and Ronnie hollered, “Ken, Frank, you in there? It’s Ronnie and I don’t want you to shoot me”.
They heard a muffled shout from within the cave and pulled the brush back to reveal two smiling faces of Ken and Frank. “Boy are we glad to see you guys” said Frank. “We thought we were going to spend the night. Where is the rescue party”?
“Right now, you are looking at them”. said Jack. “I’m Jack with the Park Rangers, and it’s only luck that we found the other two guys”.

Jack got on his satellite radio and broadcast his position to the base and asked where the helicopter was. They said it was on the way and should be there shortly. The chopper was not going to be able to land too close so it meant that they were going to have to move Ken yet again. This time, they had extra help plus the snowmobile to pull the sledge.

Within minutes of making contact, they heard the chopper as it came in hovering over the spot where they were standing. The pilot told Jack there was a small clearing about a hundred yard to the North that he could set down.

They loaded Ken back onto the sledge and this time Ronnie sat on the snowmobile and pulled Ken along to where the chopper was now sitting on the ground. They had a medic on board who checked Ken over and added more bandages to his stomach. He looked at the make shift splint on Ken’s broken leg and inquired, “Which of you boy scouts put this on”. Ronnie sheepishly said, “I did. Couldn’t think of what else to do”.
“You did well” said the medic and Ronnie grinned to himself.

They loaded Ken onto the chopper and Frank climbed aboard with him. Ronnie said to Jack, “If it’s OK with you, I’ll hitch a ride as you know as well as I do that it’s not safe for one person to be in these woods alone, even an experienced Ranger like yourself”.
Jack looked at him, “Thanks, I appreciate that”.

The helicopter lifted into the air and they watched it as it flew out of sight. They walked back to the snowmobile and on the way, Ronnie made sure the fire was out in the cave. When they arrived at the clearing where they had left the snowmobile, Jack who was in the lead put up his hand and stopped. Ronnie followed suit and there in front of them was the black bear busily pounding on the remains of the snowmobile. The bear still hadn’t spotted them so they back tracked and then made a big circle around it.

They had no choice other than to walk on out of there. Jack got back on the satellite radio and told the dispatcher the situation who informed them that the helicopter had developed engine trouble just after dropping off Ken at the hospital and was out of service and that the snow-cats were on another rescue mission “and could you guys walk out of there”?

Jack looked at Ronnie and they both started laughing. They had turned down a ride in the helicopter thinking that they could cruise out on the snowmobile which the black bear had taken care of. The chopper was out of commission and they were left with one thing to do, walk.
“Well” said Ronnie,”That is why God gave us legs” as they hit the trail. Two hours later, they arrived at the Rangers base camp at the same time that both of the Rangers two snow-cats pulled in unloading several stranded school kids who had managed to get themselves lost.

Ronnie thanked the Rangers for their help and knew there would be more questions to answer and one of them gave him a lift to the small hospital where Ken, Denny and Frank had been taken.

Chapter 11

Ronnie and Frank made a quick recovery from their ordeal as neither had suffered anything more than a slight touch of frostbite and exhaustion from their efforts.

Denny who had been gored by the rogue buck spent some time in hospital before they were able to finally heal his wounds. Just as soon as he was cleared by his doctors, he was back in the gym frantically working out to regain the six-pack that he was so proud of only this time it has a long scar, a war wound of which he is very proud.

Ken came off the worst. he too had a badly gored stomach and it was touch and go that he would make it. They patched him up finally. His broken leg was in a cast for six months and he is still going to therapy. One of the bright spots as far as Ken is concerned is that he finally lost a lot of weight and he too is proud of his new body, scar and all.

The four of them were sitting at Denny’s house drinking beer and talking about the event. It was now eight months after it had happened and they were planning their first fishing trip together. Ronny and Frank had been to the camp a lot all through the summer, making repairs to the cabin, stocking up firewood for the winter and generally just hanging out.

The fish, along with the black flies, had been biting well and the guys were planning another weekend away from it all only this time, it would be a family outing with Denny and Ken bringing their wives and kids and their Moms and Dads.  Ronny was bringing his latest girl friend that he was head over heels in love with…again. She was one hell of a looker and a lot of fun and she really did care for him. Maybe this time, it would be the real thing for him and God knows, he deserves it. They all owed him a lot for that fateful day back in October.

Frank, on the other hand, had found this girl who like him, did not want to get serious so between them, it was a perfect match. They both were taking it real slow and even though they cared for each other, maybe, just maybe they might decide they could make it work.

To Ken, Ronny, Denny and Frank, the girls and the wives and kids were just trappings of this modern world. In reality, the only thing that really mattered to these four guys was the camaraderie and the bond they had and the knowledge that no matter the odds, they could always rely on each other as they had already proved. The beauty of it was that it didn’t take a near death experience for them to find this out. They already knew it.

Oh yes, Ken’s 357 Magnum that Frank had tried to fire at the bear was sent to be tested. The report that came back showed that the firing mechanism had jammed but worse yet if that had not been the case, the barrel was full of dirt and most certainly would have blown back if the shell had fired. Frank, had one more good reason to be grateful as he could have been seriously injured.

English: Lower AuSable Lake in the Adirondack ...

English: Lower AuSable Lake in the Adirondack High Peaks.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The House


The House

Chapter 1 – The House

Bob Smith’s life had taken a turn for the good. Not that it was ever really bad. It’s just that with all of the adventures that had befallen him in the past few months, he was not always clear of the direction and it all seemed so complicated. Now he was beginning to see a path ahead of him, one that he could follow without too many other complications and hopefully, pitfalls. After all, what else could go wrong. He had been attacked by a bear, had seen a young kid die, his Mother had been murdered, and the woman he thought he was falling in love with was in jail awaiting trial for that murder and the manslaughter of her accomplice. All in all, a very interesting period of his life.

It was a month after the incident in my house and I was trying to get back to some semblance of normalcy. I was back at work and even though the commute took a lot of time out of my life, I was prepared to do that so that I could spend time with Evelyn. On the weekends, I had hired a couple of high school kids to come over and help move the furniture in the house out to the Stable/Garage stacking it up so that there would be enough room to get the house cleared. I didn’t want it to be in the way of the upcoming big projects. I had decided that I would finish the work before I moved in even though living “on the job” would be simpler in some ways. I didn’t want to feel guilty if I chose not to work at any given time and I knew that if I could see the work that still needed to be done, I would want to do it. Besides, it would be simpler for the contractors to not have anyone living in the house and in the way. In the meantime, I was still living in my apartment.

Thinking about the past events, I decided that I would visit both my brother and sister so that we could talk of all that had happened. As two of us lived at the same end of New York State, my brother offered to come over and spend a weekend with us. We arranged to meet at my Sisters house in Schnectady and she had enough room to put us up. I met my brother at the airport in Albany and it was good to see him again. It had been a while. We had never been a really close family and tended to do our own thing rather than a family thing. Even so, I was pleased to see him. We drove to my sister’s house which was a large one in the better area of town. She led a very opulent life being married to a wealthy lawyer. She had done alright for herself as compared to my brother and I. We were all different, she liked the lavish life style while my brother was very happy with his wife in Oneida where he was a Professor of something. I was never quite sure what it was that he specialized in but whatever it was, it made him very happy and he was good at it. Or maybe it was his wife and kids that made him happy. Then there was me, as different as both of those two living a carefree batchelors life working for a company that took me all over the country.

I had contacted them so that we could talk about the new developments in our Mothers death. That afternoon, the three of us went to a small quiet bar so that we could talk undisturbed. I filled them in on the discovery of the diamonds and how Mother had amassed her fortune and then the events leading up to the arrest of Angela. I didn’t bother with any of the personal details but I warned them that we may be compelled to give back some of the money we had been left. I suggested that we keep quiet about it all and not even tell those close to us so as not to complicate the situation. We discussed all of the aspects of it and decided that we would wait and see how things were working out and if we felt we had to have a different plan, would meet again and make a new one at that time. I also told them that I wanted to buy out their share of the house as I was planning on renovating it and then moving in and “could we settle on a price” so I could get the Lawyers working on the deed transfer. They both had no problems with my owning all of the house and we agreed on a fair sum that I would pay each of them.

Being so closely involved with the murders, seemed to bring us a little closer together and we agreed to try to get together three times a year in the future spending time at each of our houses. It was very pleasant visiting with them. That night the three of us and my sisters husband all went out to dinner at his Country Club. It was a very exclusive place and as our sister had given us warning, at least we were somewhat prepared and had dressed accordingly with decent suits. My brother and I even wore ties and I am not sure who felt the most uncomfortable, him or me. It was a very pleasant evening and even with my sisters husbands show of wealth, he was a very interesting man and good company.

The next day, I drove my brother to the airport after saying goodbye to our sister and her family. I waited until he boarded his plane and it was nice to sit and talk with him. It made me wish that we were closer and I think he felt the same way. I drove home with a head full of thoughts some of which included Evelyn.

The next day, I spent a lot of time at the house planning on all of the things that sooner or later, I wanted to get done.

The house was over one hundred years old and although it had been kept in pretty good condition by its previous owners including my Mother, it needed to be brought up to date in some areas. The heating unit was old and the house was not air-conditioned, relying on the tall ceilings and windows for cross ventilation and although Upper New York State was not noted for extremely hot summers, there were many days when the humidity would push the temperature to the uncomfortable mark.

There were a lot of things I wanted get done, many of which I would do myself. I was not planning on doing the re-wiring or the A/C and was contracting them out along with the kitchen remodelling as well as the two and a half baths as they all needed to be brought up to date. My plan was to modernize all that I could without changing any of the basic structure of the house leaving it as close as possible to its original design. It was not going to be easy re-wiring or installing the A/C especially as it required new ductwork. Working in old houses was always a challenge as there was sometimes not too much uniformity in stud placement and it was not at all unusual to find cross members blocking what normally would be a clear run from one area to another. This particular house had interior boards covered with either wall paper or in some cases, wooden laths and old horsehair plaster. I expected to pay a hefty price for the work just because of the difficulty involved.

It was Friday evening and I stopped at the Coffee Shop to meet Evelyn who was taking a quick break between customers. She had changed her hours at the Salon to stay open late to make it convenient for her customers at least a couple of nights a week along with setting up two more chairs and hiring two more stylists. Even though she had only had the business for a month, it was booming. She was working on a deal through Angela’s lawyers, for a settlement in which she would buy out Angela’s share of the Salon. To give Angela credit, she was willingly working with Evelyn to get the deal done. Whether it was because of a guilty conscience or remorse, we shall never know or because it was money which Angela needed for her defence.

Evelyn walked in looking very nice even though she had been working all day.”Hi” I said “How are things”?
She leaned over and kissed me. “Things are going well. People are being so nice and understanding and the two new stylists are working out just fine. I have a couple more clients this evening. What are your plans for tomorrow”?
“Well, I have to meet a couple of contractors to show them what I need done and then I will probably finish moving the furniture” I said. “What time are you off this evening. Would you like to grab something to eat”?
“I am through at 8:00 and by the time I clean up, it will be about 8:30. Is that too late”? she asked.
“No, that is perfect. I will meet you at your house” I replied
She left to return to her work and I finished my latte. It was about 6:30 so I decided to head to the house to do more work while I was waiting.

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Chapter 2 – The Bookshelves

I had never really paid much attention to the house when my Mother was alive. I know and she mentioned several times, that I could have stayed there on my visits every six months or so but I preferred to have my own place, not just because of the difficulties of living with my aggressive Mother but also for somewhere to get away by myself. I liked the stability and privacy that having the apartment gave to me.

Apart from being very old, it was in good condition at least from the constructional point of view. It had no rotting wood and the brickwork was tight and in good condition. As I said, it was just a matter of the mechanical things which wear out anyway over time. And this was their time. When you walked in the front door, the foyer was bigger than a large-sized room and had doors leading into different parts of the ground floor. There was a wide staircase opposite the front door that split into two going in each direction half way up. One door led to the basement where the oil-fired heating unit sat. I was thinking that we would take that out completely and maybe finish the basement off as a storage and laundry area. The new A/C units would sit outside and would be electric and I would replace the oil fired heater with a natural gas unit. I was also thinking that I might invest in a solar unit but the New York climate, was not the best for green power. I knew that I was going to add solar for the hot water unit as I figured that with only me in the house, at least for now, I would not be using too much water. The big thing would be hiding the units or at least making not quite so visible.

I was thinking of all of these things when I let myself into the front door that evening. I wondered what I should start on as I only had a little over an hour and decided to go down to the basement and check on the boxes of “stuff” down there. I planned on calling in an Antique dealer to get a price on some of the, for want of a better word, junk that there seemed to be an excess of. What is the saying? “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”. I sure had lots of “treasure”.

I went down the cellar steps and checked over the basement lights. All were working and the place was dry. There didn’t appear to be any water seepage of any kind anywhere which was very good news. There was already hook ups for a washer and dryer and the units sitting there were not in bad shape so I figured that if they were working, I might be able to leave them in place.

The basement interior walls were finished with modern sheetrock. The outside walls were of the original stone basement.. Being as dry and watertight as it was, it certainly made sense to clean it up and use the entire basement.

I was curious if the basement covered all of the house under which it sat and began to check on the layout comparing it to the floor above. It appeared that it was almost the same area as the house with the exception of one area off to one side that did not to match the floor above. I knew from the house’s history, that one wing had been added at a later date so maybe they did not include a basement with that section.

The question was, how to find out if in fact, the basement did extend under that area of the house. I could knock holes in the stonework and look that way but if it showed there still to be a wall behind it, then I would be no further ahead.

I went back upstairs and took a look at the three rooms in question. All had wood floors and all had large carpets in the room centers. I rolled up each carpet and checked the flooring beneath but all appeared tight. I then checked the dimensions of the rooms and discovered that one room was smaller inside than outside. I checked again and where the fireplace extended into the room, the wall on either side had been built across to square off the area so the fireplace no longer was into the room but rather sat flush to the wall with just the stone facing sticking out. Then it occured to me that instead of being on the outside wall as most fireplaces and chimneys are, this one was on the inside wall. Both walls had floor to ceiling bookshelves with many books that my Mother, an avid reader had collected over the years. I had no way of knowing how far into the room the original fireplace had extended but the shelves were twelve inches deep and the stonework stood out another twelve inches. This meant that the wall on either side containing the bookshelves might be hollow behind .

I thought about some of the old movies I had seen where either the hero or the villain pressed a book or something and the wall swiveled around leading into whatever space was behind. Feeling a bit like a bloodhound on the scent of who knows what, I began to carefully check to see it there were any outwardly visible signs. I should explain that my Mother had lived in the house for more than twenty years and I had grown up in it. Back then, I had no thoughts of hidden staircases and the bookshelves were a part of the house. I can remember that money was tight growing up so I could safely assume that my Mother did not yet discover the diamonds until after we had all left.

I was engrossed in my search and then I remembered that I was supposed to pick Evelyn up and take her to dinner. I weighed things up and decided that I would leave my discovery and get back to it early in the morning. I wanted to keep it to myself until I had taken a look. Maybe it was nothing and just old stuff stored there. But, just in case, I chose to stay quiet about it until I knew more

I drove to Evelyn’s house and took her to one of our favorite dinner places. The place had atmosphere and usually had a good crowd and besides, the food was good. We spent a very convivial evening together but a part of me was impatient to continue the search. I think that Evelyn suspected that my mind was not altogether focusing on her and did not invite me in when I took her home. I told her I would call her in the morning and we kissed goodnight, several times…

Saturday morning, I was up early and ate breakfast at the local Diner and perused the local newspaper looking for anything of interest. This got me thinking if they had records and how far back they might go so I added that to my list of things to do. I paid my bill and drove over to my house. I had set up an early appointment for one of the contractors to talk things over and right on cue, he arrived. This one was a guy by the name of Joe Banbury who I knew from previous work he had done for some of my friends . He had a good reputation for the quality of his work as well as an individual. He had been in business in this town even when I was growing up. I wanted him have the job as long as his price was not too high and I did have some idea of what it should cost.

Joe was a General Contractor and as such would bid on the job to perform all of the work. I could probably save money by contracting with the individual A/C, Electric and Plumbing Contractors but really didn’t have the time to manage them while still working in Albany. So for me, Joe’s company, Banbury Construction, would manage the project for me.

We went over the whole house with Joe taking copious notes. I showed him the extent of the work and we discussed how was he going to run the ductwork considering the age of the house. The wiring also would be problematic but I told Joe that he did not have to remove the old three-way wiring where it wasn’t visible or a hazard as long as he disconnected all of it. None of it showed so it wouldn’t be an eyesore. I left Joe to his work and went back to the bookshelves to continue my inspection. Joe popped in from time to time asking questions for which I had most of the answers.

I removed one book at a time and before replacing it, felt in the space behind and did this through both sets of shelves. On the end of one of the shelves, the book would not come out by normal methods until I lifted it up and then took it out. The book was old and when I opened it up, the pages were well-worn. The title of the book was “The History of the Time”. I glanced at it and saw many references to my little town. I put the book to one side so that I could read it later. I felt in the space where the book had sat, there was a very small knob. I gave it a turn in one direction and nothing happened. I turned it in the opposite direction and still nothing happened. I gave it a yank outwards and a section of the bookshelves swiveled inwards revealing the space behind. I pushed the knob back in again and the bookshelves slipped back into place. I operated it several times just to make sure that I had not broken it in my clumsiness.

Joe was still walking the house and I did not want anyone to know of my discovery so I replaced all of the books until Joe was gone. Then I could really check out what, if anything, lay behind the opening. Joe came back an hour or so later to say that he had enough information to work up a price and would get back to me mid-week. I thanked him for his time and said I would be looking forward to receiving the estimate. I saw him out the door, shook hands and he was on his way.

I could barely contain my excitement as I went back to the bookshelves

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Chapter 3 – The Opening

I pulled the knob and the bookshelves slid open effortlessly as though the mechanism had just been greased. I knew that wasn’t possible and wondered at the ease of which it moved.

Remembering the films that I had seen, whoever rushed through the opening invariably ended up trapped inside as the door closed behind them. I wanted to be smarter than that and placed a chair between the door and wall so that in the case of the door closing, I would not be shut inside. I took a step through the door into the space behind. There was enough room for an opening with wooden steps leading down to the space below. Just to be on the safe side, I had an battery-powered lantern that threw off a lot of light and a couple of back up flashlights in case of emergency.

I took a deep breath and walked down the stairs which were not in the best of shape. I made sure to walk close to the sides and not put too much weight on the center of the treads for fear they would break. Halfway down, I crouched down and shone the lantern around the area. I don’t know what I expected to see but I was not prepared for the sight that greeted my eyes.

The basement had been set up as living quarters and contained four beds besides a kitchen area with a kerosene stove. There were oil lanterns hung around the room which also contained wooden boxes, stacked one on the other and a lot of other miscellaneous items of various descriptions. Stepping carefully into the room, there was overturned furniture and books and papers all over the place as though there must have been a disturbance or a fight. Picking my way very carefully into the room, I could make out three bodies in contorted positions on the floor. One was under an overturned table and the other two were up against the wall. One of them still held a pistol and there were other guns on the floor. The fourth body was sprawled on one of the beds which had stains on it presumably from his blood. By his side was a Thompson Machine Gun. The mens clothing was from the early 20th century. Surveying the scene, it was easy to imagine that these might have been the guys who robbed the jewels in the first place. It looks like they were holed up in this room and then had a falling out which ended up in a shoot out in which all four were killed. The question that needed to be answered was this a shoot out between themselves or was there another person involved?

Turning my attention to the boxes, I started to methodically go through them one by one. Most had old paper bills, some had books and still others had household goods and the proverbial junk. All of it was very old and none of this had been disturbed in years. I went through the paper invoices and other stuff very carefully as I was still was very curious how my Mother found the diamonds in the first place. One box contained a couple of old Colt handguns both loaded and some .45 shells. Neither had been fired in years but I took them out and laid them to one side. I took special note of the remaining contents but did not find anything that would help me in my search.

I turned my attention to the mess on the floor and amongst the newspapers was one dated around January, 1908. It carried the headlines, “Jewelry Store Robbed In New York City” and sub-titled “Thieves Get Away with Over $4,000,000 dollars Worth of Gems”. I thought that at least was a start but it didn’t bring me any closer to knowing how my Mother located the jewels. I read the article and searched all of the other papers and found a couple more with references to the robbery.

Two of the boxes contained Winchester rifles, six in all and another box was full of ammunition. If it had come to a fight that these men might have expected with law officers, these men would have given a good showing of themselves.

I was left with two mysteries. The first and most obvious was why were the bodies still here. Three of the skulls had holes probably caused by bullet and I could only surmise how the fourth had died. The way I figured it out was that these guys knew the owner of the house at that time and for a share of the loot, he let them hole up in this secret room. Then they either got into a fight amongst themselves or the owner killed them and sealed up the room and it had not been opened since. It certainly gave the appearance of a room that had been closed up for nearly one hundred years Of course, all of this was conjecture on my part but it made a lot of sense.

I turned my thinking to the diamonds. The original owner who might have been involved in the shootings that killed the criminals must have hidden the diamonds somewhere in the house. The question is where and then how did my Mother find them. So, now I was looking for a different hiding place and who knows where that might be.

What was I going to do about my discovery. Obviously, I had not committed any crimes with my detective work but there still was the problem that we might lose the money left us by our Mother although, as far as I could tell, there were no inquiries in that direction. On the other hand, if in fact we did have to give back our share of Mother’s ill-gotten gains, there would probably still be a pretty handsome reward, which considering the jewels worth back then to now, would probably be pretty substantive.

I decided that my next move would be to visit both the local paper and the Library to see what, if anything, I could glean from those sources. I was interested in the person that owned the house at the time of the robbery and who had let the gang members hole up in his basement. I closed the opening and made sure that everything looked the way I had found it and locked up the house and made my way to the local Library.

I was on first name terms with the older Librarian, Mary Maxwell, and she was more than happy to show me how to research the history that they had stored in a microfiche machine. I was surprised that this particular library had this sort of modern equipment but at the same time, very glad. I spent the next couple of hours researching everything I could find all the way back to the beginning of the 1900’s. Some of the data was about the older houses in my town including my own. It was very interesting reading and I asked the Librarian to print me off copies (for a fee). There was no mention of jewels or jewel thieves that I could find. It did give the names of the property owners at the time that I was interested so I switched the search to discover what happened to him.

As far as I could tell, as the details were a little sketchy, the owner was a guy by the name of Thomas Cook who did not appear to have a wife or family. He owned the property from 1904 through 1908 and was reported to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at which point, the house was sold to the new tenants, Jack Brown and his family who lived in the house for the next twenty or so years. There was no mention of any of them locating any diamonds or suddenly becoming wealthy. In fact, according to the records, both Cook and Brown were penniless when they died.

I took a quick glance at the history of the owners that followed and I could not see anything that led me to believe they had any knowledge of the hidden cellar or of any jewels. By then, I had used up most of the afternoon I was so engrossed in my discoveries until my friend Mary, the Librarian had to remind me they were “closing in ten minutes and that I could come back tomorrow”.

I reluctantly closed off the microfiche machine and went back to the house where starting from the top, I searched the rooms, one by one until I reached the basement for any clue of a secret hiding place. I knew there had to be one as my Mother had found it and had retrieved the diamonds from it. I figured that as smart as my Mother was, I had to be equally as smart and that what I was looking for had to be something comparatively simple. I turned to the book that contained the History of the Times and began to read it.

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Chapter 4 – The Discovery

I became engrossed in the reading as it was very interesting and well written. It was very descriptive and I learnt a lot about that early time period both from a historical point of view and also from descriptions of the different people who were famous at the time in this little village and close by. The title actually referred to a period of time from 1900 through 1914 and ended with the start of the 1914-1918 Great War in Europe so it covered the period that I was interested in.

The book had obviously been well used by whoever owned it and there were lot’s of pencilled in notes and comments. Some referred to the history within the pages, others to particular items of interest and yet more that referred to places and some of the older homes by name. Apparently, my house was known as the Gunnerson House, named after the original owners of the property when it was built back in 1894. Over the years, the name had dropped off the records and was now known by its street address. There was a brief account of the time period when Thomas Cook owned it and of the mystery of his death. According to the book, he died of a gunshot wound that was said to have happened as he was cleaning a gun and it went off. The poor chap lingered for a month before passing on and died in his own bed. He was buried at the local cemetery and apparently, the words on his tombstone are, “Do not fail to push my rail”. I made a mental note to make a visit to his grave and see for myself the next day. That sure was an odd thing to have on your tombstone.

I continued to read the rest of the book and came across another pencilled in note that read,”Push my rail-staircase”? I read it again to make sure that I had read it correctly and then headed for the main staircase in the foyer. Starting at the bottom, I carefully checked and then tried to push every rail and knob on that staircase. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I moved over to the stars leading down to the cellar and went through the same routine but again came up empty-handed. I headed for the attic and started to work on those stair rails and again came up empty-handed. By then, my frustration was getting the better of me so just as I was about to call it quits, I remembered that the bookshelves had small pieces of decorative railings. I headed back to the room containing the bookshelves and started to work my way across all of the decorative stuff testing each piece as I went.

Then I hit pay dirt. The rail at the bottom closest to the fireplace of the opposite bookshelf that opened into the secret room, moved as I touched it. I carefully gave it a push and a portion of the fireplace slid open revealing a hidden opening behind. I shone my flashlight into the opening and saw several small packages inside along with a box. I carefully took out all of the items one by one and laid them on the floor in front of me. Four packages wrapped in newspaper and one wooden decorative box inlaid with Mother of Pearl.

Barely able to contain my excitement, I very carefully opened the first of the packages. Inside was a small bag of the sort that jewelers use to carry gem stones. Opening the bag, I poured out a handful of diamonds. I made a little pile on the floor and opened the rest of the packages one by one. Each contained 40-50 diamonds just like the first one. In all, I counted 283 diamonds of all shapes and size and obviously worth a lot of money on today’s market. I put them all back into their respective bags and back into the secret hiding place and turned my attention to the box.

The box wouldn’t open when I tried to lift the lid so I examined it very carefully until I found a small depression that when I pushed on it, opened the lid. The box was about twelve inches square and six or so inches deep and inside it were a stack of official looking papers. Taking out the first one, I noticed that it said US Treasury Bond and an amount, in this case $1,000. Altogether, I took out 1000 of these bonds and all for the same amount for a total of $1,000,000. I noticed that the date on these bonds was much more recent so I guessed that my Mother had procured these probably from the sale of more of the diamonds.

I sat back and looked at what was in front of me. I had never seen so much wealth in one place before and didn’t quite know how I was going to handle it. I thought about the first lot of jewels that I found taped under the carpet and surmised that probably, my Mother was fencing them off very gradually so as not to arouse suspicion and was buying the paper in order to cover her tracks and that is the reason they were not with the others in the secret compartment.

The detective on Angela’s murder case had indicated that there was a good possibility that either all of the jewels or at least a percentage of their worth would probably come back to me for finding them. I had no idea what jewels were worth but from the newspaper that I found, the original heist was estimated to be worth $5,000,000 which was probably exaggerated to make news but even so, at 1905 prices, the jewels must be worth a hell of a lot more in todays worth.

The next day being Sunday, the newspaper offices weren’t open so I figured that I could afford to take the Monday off and visit their offices then. I still wanted to find out as much as I could as for one thing, it was interesting reading, for another it was going to make me rich and lastly, I was really getting into this Sherlock Holmes thing especially when they were leading to these discoveries.

Evelyn had called me and asked if I wanted to go to the next town over to visit one of the garden nurseries to buy plants for her garden. I was pretty wound up with all that was going on so I figured that I needed to go just to get back to some semblance of normality. Anyway, I enjoyed Evelyn’s company and wanted like hell to tell her of all of my discoveries but something in the back of my head kept saying “Keep it to yourself. Don’t tell anyone until you are ready to disclose the whole story”.

I picked her up and she seemed real happy to see me. She was full of chatter and suggested that we could stop for dinner after we had visited the nursery. I too enjoyed gardening but living in an apartment as I had for the last few years, had not had a lot of opportunity to do so. We spent a very happy couple of hours enjoying the wonders of nature at her prettiest and made several purchases which we loaded into the back of my SUV. On the way back, we stopped at this really nice restaurant and sat out on the deck enjoying the Spring sun. The company was sublime, the food was very good along with the bottle of wine and was finished off with a cappuccino. What more could a man ask for? We took a slow and leisurely drive back to her home where we unloaded the plants and placed them on her patio.

“You want to stay for a bit”? Evelyn asked. “We could sit on the patio and finish off the wine”.
“Yes, I would like that very much” I replied.
She sat next to me on the patio couch and made no attempt to hide her need to be close to me. It felt good for me and I made every effort not to spoil it. I put my arm around her and she cuddled into my shoulder. We sat there quiet, not talking and enjoying the moment. She lifted her face to mine and kissed me long and very, very gently and we were absorbed into the moment.

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Chapter 5 – The Disclosure

The next day, I called my Office in Albany and made some lame excuse about having to take today off. With that out-of-the-way, I was able to concentrate on visiting the local paper and see what I could find out, if anything. The newspaper in my small town had a bit of a history as it had been around for over a hundred years and had be in the same family all of that time. This, by itself made it unique. The current owner had inherited it from his Father who was a well-known man about town and also sat on the City Council. I knew the Father and had spoken to him many times in the past. His name was Victor Haagerson and his family had been some of the first settlers around these parts. The son’s name was Henry Haagerson who greeted me warmly when I opened the door to his office. We chatted for a bit and he took me into the back room where all of the microfiche files were stored, pointed me in the right direction and left me to my research.

I had told him that I was researching what I could find out about my house and its previous tenants and owners as I was going to renovate it and was trying to keep it as original as possible all of which was true. I didn’t tell him the real purpose of my visit which of course, was to find out anything about the gang and possibly, the diamonds.

I found reference to the diamond robbery but it was only reporting what was in the daily papers. I was not able to find anything about the gang of thieves and I really didn’t expect to. I found an article about Thomas Cook being found in the foyer of his home wounded and with a rifle in still in his hands. The local police had described the extent of his wounds as having been compared to someone who had accidentally discharged his gun and shot himself. As he never regained consciousness, nobody ever got the real story. I found a follow-up piece briefly stating that he had died about a month later. Apparently, according to the article, he had no relatives and the house was auctioned off to Thomas Brown.

I decided to take my research to when my Mother had purchased the property around 1980. The details were a bit sketchy and the only thing I could find was a small paragraph stating that the house had been sold to my Mother “who had moved in with her 5-year-old son and his brother and sister”. I couldn’t find very much about my Mother especially in the early years but did find an interesting piece on the local Women’s Guild who had raised and donated something like $25,000 for some local notable cause. Among the list of donors was my Mother, who had contributed $5,000. It gave the date as eight years ago which would have put me at just starting work with my company. That from a woman who could barely pay the mortgage when I was growing up and certainly did not have $5,000 to give to someone else. So, her change of fortune was probably about 10-12 years ago which also made sense with the dates on the Bonds.

I closed off the microfiche machine after putting all of the slides away and thanked Henry for letting me use his material for my research and made my way to the Coffee Shop. I made a quick call and managed to catch Evelyn between customers so she came over and we spent fifteen minutes together. Nowadays, she always seems so pleased and happy to see me so our time together is really good. I had told her the night before that I was taking today off as I had some business to attend to.

I made the way back to my house and unlocked the door.Everything was how I had left it, as it should be because as far as I knew, I was the only person who knew my secret. I sat down in one of the chairs in the room that contained the bookshelves and their secrets and looked around. You could never tell that beneath my feet had been a gunfight resulting in the deaths of four people, five if you count the number one suspect, Thomas Cook and that not six feet away from where I was sitting was a fortune in Bonds and jewels. I decided that I would take pictures of the stones and the bonds to try to get an accounting of the find. I didn’t want any of it disappearing especially if it might come back to me. I had my video camera with me and shot pictures of me counting all four bags and the paper Bonds until I was safisfied that no one could steal any of it withou it being accounted for.

It would seem to me that I had a couple of choices. The first and most obvious was to call my detective friend and fill him in with the whole story. This would involve him knowing about the hidden room and also the secret storage area. The outcome of that was to give up the jewels and Bonds and throw it to the Powers that Be to decide just how much I would be rewarded for the discovery. The Bonds I felt fairly secure in knowing that they would be returned to me as they were the property of the person that had them.

I had no way of knowing just how many jewels were actually stolen. If the four bags plus the ones already in police custody were the sum extent, were there any records of the actual number stolen at the time of the robbery? Even if I just declared the Bonds and kept the jewels, there is still the problem of turning them into real money. Who did I know on the dark side who could fence the jewels for me.? My Mother managed to find somebody so I suppose it’s possible. But then, I would not be able to show any of my wealth as my Mother had been unable to do and it would have to reside as Bonds or something similiar.

My other problem is that basically, I am an honest guy and had never knowingly done anything wrong as long as you don’t count speeding tickest and crashing cars as a youth. Hell, I had never even smoked pot for fear of ruining my health. The other problem with making the disclosure was how to keep the news hounds away. I did not want a horde of reporters tromping all over my house and yard. In my heart, I knew what course I had to take.

Reluctantly, I picked up my phone and dialed my detective friend whose name was Tom Jackson and asked him to come over as I had some very interesting stuff to show him. He promsed he would be there within the hour. He drove in the driveway and pulled up outside the front door where I met him and we walked inside.

“Sit down, why don’t you” I suggested “This may take while”.
He sat in one of the easy chars and looked at me. “Go on” he said
“Finding the jewels got me thinking as to why they were even here in the first place so I started to do some detective work of my own” I said “It was sheer luck coming across them as I did but it just didn’t add up. I got to thinking that there had to be another hiding place of some sort and the first thing I did was to compare the cellar size to the floor size above which lead me to discovery number one. The area over there” I said, pointing to the fireplace “that has a space behind the bookshelves on both sides”.

I stood up and walked over to the small knob after taking out the book in front of it. I pulled the knob and the bookshelves slid silently open showing the space behind.
“Damn, would you look at that” Tom said “Just like in the movies”. He stood up as though to enter the opening.
“Wait” I said “We need some light before we go down there and I warn you, it’s not a pleasnat sight”.
I fetched the big portable light and a couple of flashlights and put the chair in the hole just in case and said “Ready”?
Tom nodded and followed me down the stairs. I stood back to let him take in the full effect of what was in the cellar. He moved from body to body and wanted to know if I had moved anything. Telling him that I had sorted through the boxes in the hope of getting some clues but had not touched the bodies, he continued to take in the scene. He picked up the Thompson Machine gun and looked at it. “Quite the weapon,” he remarked
“Yeah, but it didn’t help these poor guys” I said
“I found this” and showed him the 1908 newspaper with the jewel heist on the front page.

“The best is yet to come” I said “Come on, we need to go back upstairs”
He followed me out and with one last glance around the room closed it behind him.
I told Tom about my research at both the Library and the Newspaper and what I had come up with. I had even visited the grave marker and seen the words inscribed for myself and I explained to him what was on that stone.

“I tried every rail I could find in the entire house both inside and out before I came across the right one” I said and led him over to the fireplace. I bent down and adjusted the small rail and the secret compartment slid open.
“Damn” he said “Your full of surprises”.
“Wait until you see whats in there” I said

He reached in and took out the four packages and opened one of them. The light flashed on the jewels in his hand and he whistled under his breath. He opened the other three packaages and saw the same thing.
“There are 283 diamonds” I said “I know, I counted them”.
He replaced everything back in the bags and wrapped them in paper and tyrned his attention to the box. Lifting it out, he tried to open the lid and struggled until I showed him the right button to push. When he saw the Bonds inside he remarked “This is like having dollar bills. This is real money. How much is here, did you count”.
“Yes” I said “There are exactly 1000 of them making that pile worth more than a million dollars with the interest”.

He sat down and looked at the money and the diamonds. “Thats a hell of a lot of money” he said.
“I took the liberty of filming all of this stuff with me counting both the diamonds and the Bonds” I said. “That way, we will always know how much is here so it doesn’t fall into wrong hands”.
“Are you suggesting that someone on the Police force would steal this” He said
“Not really” I said “But the temptation is there and it’s a lot of money”.
“Yeah, your right” he said “Good idea on your part”.

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Chapter 6 – The Reckoning

“I need to make the call” Tom said “We need to get the right people here to take care of this”.
I heard him talking into his phone trying to get the person the other end to understand just how serious a situation he had here and he wanted the highest ranking police officer to be there. He must have said the right things and twenty minutes later, the place was swarming with other detectives and the guys ready to pick up the bodies. While most of them spent their time in the secret room. the Police Captain who had come out was handling the transportation of the jewels and bonds. They too filmed and counted every stone and bond in front of me and then gave me a receipt for the property before it was whisked away as evidence. They too had no idea of the true value but it was in excess of ten million dollars by their best guess.

I had already outlined my theory to Tom and he passed it on his Superiors. They never said one way or the other but “would get back to him”. Four hours later, the place was quiet and tidy again as they had completed their work. With it being a 100 year old case, it was long closed and would only be opened back up to declare a verdict on the unfortunate gang members who would then be buried for good this time.

For me, I was beat. This was as much excitement that I wanted in one day and as it was already late, I decided to head straight home and go to bed. I had given Tom a set of keys in case they needed to get back into my house so bright and early,the next morning I headed into Albany to work on my day job which was almost therapeutic in its simplicity. At least that is how it seemed things had been so hectic.

The week passed and the next and it was nice to get back into a routine. I got a call back from Detective Tom on Friday who wanted me to stop by on my way home to answer some more questions. Promptly at five o’clock, I left Albany and an hour and a half later was waiting in Tom’s office.

“Hello,” he said “How was your day. Mine was full of surprises”
“Mine was good” I said “I was dealing with something I know a lot about. The normality of it all is quite refreshing”.
“I understand” he said “It has been quite a couple of weeks. I asked you to stop by to help us out with a couple of things and to let you know that the Bonds are legally yours. You found them on your property and they are just like money in the bank. We will be returning them to you after the judge signs the papers probably next week”.
My heart jumped as I understood what he was saying. Even with paying off my brother and sister for their share of the house, there would be plenty to pay for the renovations that I was planning with a lot left over.

He had a few questions that I was able to answer as we shook hands and I went on my way. I wanted to know how quickly I could start the renovations and he didn’t see any reason they couldn’t begin immediately as long as there was none planned for the secret room. As we had made our plans not knowing that room existed, it was not a part of any of the work.

I had some serious thinking to do about my future. I only had a couple of months to go before I was supposed to start the project in Los Angeles. With this decided turn for the best, did I really want to live the life on the road again. If things panned out, I would not need to work for money to earn a living and surely I could find something that would let me live in my house and be close to Evelyn and give me someting to do to occupy my time.

I contacted Joe Banbury and we made arrangements for him to get started. We both figured that he had at least a months worth of work and I was already thinking of a couple of other things that I would have him do. The cops had done a marvelous job of keeping the information about the jewels and the dead bodies out of the news and I had only been bothered by a couple of reporters who could not find a story of interest and let it drop. Little did they know the story it could have been.

Then it dawned on me just what I could do in my free time if I gave up working for a living. I could write. I had always been good at it and I had the perfect story just waiting to be written.

I spent a couple more weeks on my regular job but the trip was becoming longer and longer with the knowledge that I was probably going to quit anyway always in the back of my mind. I got a summons from some Judge to appear in his Chambers the Tuesday of next week for the formal sign off of the Bonds. From there, I was going directly to my bank and deposit them as I did not want that sort of loose change laying around.

I still had not told Evelyn anything of the events and even though she knew that something was bothering me, she was very patient about the whole affair. For some reason and I was not sure why, I had a niggly feeling about the whole episode. Maybe it was because of the way Angela had turned out that was holding me back.

Promptly at 10:00 am on Tuesday, the time set by the Judge, I was at the door to his Chambers. His Legal Secretary showed me in and already seated was Detective Tom and the Police Chief who had overseen the pick up of the Bonds from my house. The Judge talked to us all and then we all signed an aggreement transfering the Bonds to me as the legal owner. The Judge pushed the package towards me and asked me to check it over. I opened the package to reveal the box with the inlaid Mother of Pearl. I found and pressed the catch and the lid popped open. Inside were the bonds that I was asked to count. I counted them out in batches of a hundred with a hundred batches in all. Who would have thought that those piles of paper were worth more than a milllion dollars. I collected them all up and very carefully placed them back n the box and closed the lid that shut with a very satisfying click.

We shook hands all around and just as I was leaving the Judge called me back. “I want to commend you Mr Smith on how you have handled this entire business. Not many men in your position would have taken the honest steps that you have. It would have been easy to hide the entire affair. Thank you”.
I tuned back to the Judge and said, “The thought did cross my mind but the bottom line was I had to live with myself and I didn’t want that sort of shadow hanging over me. Thank you Judge”.

With that, I turned on my heel and walked out clutching my parcel of money and headed straight for my bank. I wanted it deposited as quickly as possible in a safe place as money on a bank card or a check rather than money as a Bond. I could see why the Judge had me sign a release form as the Bank teller ushered me into her Supervisors office when I tried to deposit the money. Her name tag had her as Mrs Violet Fitzsimmons and she introduced herself as such. I showed her the release which she photo copied and had me fill out a couple of forms. As the bonds were from all different years, she could not tell me the exact amount that would get deposited due to having to work out the interest accrued on each one. We agreed to deposit the face value of a million dollars and that I would trust her and the Bank to figure out the interest and she would personally call me to tell how much that would add up to. I thanked her and walked back to my car, a much much richer man.

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Chapter 7 – The Future

Needless to say, the following day, I gave in my notice. I was honest with my Boss and told him that I had inhereted a large house and an even larger sum of money. I offered to work out the entire month but he said that it wasn’t really necessary as I was marking time before the next job. He thanked me and me him and we parted with a cordial handshake. I said goodbye to all of my work mates and the Office staff and drove home hopefully never having to make that trip to work, ever again. On the way home, I was mulling over just what I was going to tell Evelyn who now had to know that I had given up my job. I could no longer make a pretense of this entire episode. I resolved that I would tell her about the Bonds but not the diamonds at least until the ownership was cleared up.

The contractor, Joe Banbury was making very good progress with the renovation. Things were moving right along and all of the wiring and A/C ducts were installed with the minimum of challenges. Joe and his men did not know of the secret room which had been sealed pending the outcome of the upcoming hearing. I met Joe at the house and walked through this long list of other items that I wanted him to do. He said he would do his best to work up a price but had to make allowances for the difficulty of some of the work. I told him that I understood perfectly and for him to get back to me. I figured that by the time I was finished, I would have renovated the entire house from top to bottom including repainting and repairing the exterior.

I called Evelyn and asked if she would go to dinner with me this evening. I would pick her up around 7:00 pm if that was OK with her. Promptly at 7:00 pm, I drove up in front of her house and knocked on the door. She opened it and looked especially beautiful dressed in a low cut dress that showed off her figure and legs to perfection. She kissed me and said “Hello”
“You look absolutely stunning: I said “You grow more beautiful every day and I am the luckiest guy”.
She laughed and kissed me again, this time with a lot more passion than the previous welcome kiss. Blondie came bounding to the door all tail wags and sloppy dog kisses acting as though she was pleased to see me. I made a big fuss of her and she looked really down in the mouth when Evelyn told her to get in her basket as she was not included.

We headed for our favorite restaurant where we were greeted as old friends and ushered to a table. I ordered a bottle of wine and we made our selection from the menu and then sat back to talk enjoying both the moment and the company.
“Evelyn” I said “I have something to tell you that you may find a little hard to believe. Just hear me out and then I will do my best to answer your questions. Let me start at the beginning. You know that Angela had been involved in trying to get her hands on those diamonds but didn’t succeed. What nobody knows except the police and a Judge is that I also found a whole bunch of Treasury Bonds worth over a million dollars. Yesterday, those bonds were transferred back to me as the rightful owner and have since been deposited in my Bank. Today, I quit my job and I plan on living here in this town and moving back into my house as soon as the renovations are complete. I want to take up writing and this is an ideal time for me to start”.

Evelyn looked at me with her mouth wide open. She started and then recovered her composure and said “That’s wonderful. I am so pleased for you. Does that mean you will no longer be travelling to Albany”?
She must have not heard me when I said that I quit my job or maybe the information was a lot to absorb but I said “No, I am all through working for other people. From here on out, I do things for me and those that I care about”.
“What about the diamonds that you found. Has anything happened on that”? she said
“Not yet” I said “but there’s no rush now that I have this other money. When they figure it out, they will tell me”. I was a bit surprised that she asked the question but put it down to her familiarity with me and the fact that we were discussing this subject. Even so, I thought it an odd question for her to ask.
“Does that mean that I am now going out with a wealthy millionaire boyfriend” she said laughingly.
“I guess so. Sounds strange doesn’t it” I said.
“Here’s to you and congratulations” she said raising her glass.
I took a sip of wine and acknowledged her toast. “This is not general news and I want you to treat it with confidenec”. I said
She looked at me with a hurt look on her face. “Who do you think I am that I should go blabbing this around town” she exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, I should have not said that, I do trust you implicitly” I said. But the doubt still lingered in my mind.

We spent the rest of the evening discussing the work that I was having done at the house and I enthusiasticly told her of the additional work I was having Joe do “so that I would not have to worry about after I move in”. The evening was a bit subdued after my slip up and I could tell that Evelyn was hurt by it.
I drove her back to her house and she kissed me goodnight. She didn’t offer to have me come in and I didn’t ask. I figured that I needed to let things die down a bit after my slip of not trusting her. Stupid of me, I thought. I should have known better. But, did I trust her is what was bothering me. I knew that sooner, rather than later, I would need to get that question answered if our relationship was going to develop.

The next day, being a creature of habit, I woke up early and went for a 2 mile jog before coming back to my apartment. I made a leisurerly breakfast and read the paper as I ate it. On the front page, there was an article about Angela’s upcoming trial. There was a big write up about the jewels and the mystery surrounding them. There was even a picture of my house.

The phone rang and I picked it up. “Hello, this is Bob, how can I help you”?
“Hi Bob, this is your sister just calling to see how you are holding up after all of this action you seem to be in”. We chatted and I filled her in on some of the details. She was very comfortably off having married a wealthy Lawyer and money was the furthermost thing from her thoughts but even so, I thought it prudent not to mention the Bonds. I did tell her that I had decided to completly renovate the house and had quit my job with the intentions of turning to my writing to make a living. My sister laughed and wished me luck and hung up.

I no sooner put the phone down when it rang again. This time it was Joe Banbury asking if I could come to the house to discuss some problems that needed to be resolved. I told him that I would be fifteen minutes and jumped in my car and headed for my house. Joe met me at the door and led me inside. There were obvious signs that someone had broke in through one of the kitchen windows and had made a thorough search of the place. What little furniture left in the house had been moved and the boxes of “junk” were strewn around all over the floor. I went up to the attic and the same thing was true with the boxes emptied and littered everywhere. The basement boxes were in the same condition. All of the drawers in the furniture had been pulled out and the contents strewn all over the floor. I called the police and my detective friend Tom came over with a crew of forensic people to check out the place. Joe, in the meantime, had moved his painting crew outside so as not to be in the way of the Police as they looked over the house. It didn’t look like anything was stolen but who could tell. I had already checked the secret opening in the fireplace and no one had discovered that. I knew where the seals were on the hidden basement opening and they were still intact. Joe already had his men repairing the broken window and I resolved to contact an Alarm Company and have them come and talk to me about alarming the entire house. The police were very thorough and a couple of hours later, Joe’s crew were all back to work inside the house.

My job, one that I had been putting off, was now hurried up by the need to pay attention to the many boxes of stored items and sort them out for the Antique buyer to come and look them over. I started in the basement and sorted the stuff into three or four different piles. Out and out junk and trash was put into a couple of dustbins and then emptied into the dumpster in the yard, newspapers were sorted separately and any of old age put into one pile. The rest were put in a stack to be recycled. Items of interest at least to the Antique collectors were placed in another pile and finally, any books were put off to one side for me to read at a later date. I thumbed through a couple of them in the hope of reading something interesting but it didn’t happen. In theory, anything left was probably worthless trash and would end up in the dumpster but I wanted to save it in case the Antique people found it interesting.

I was happily involved in my task before I realized that I was the only person left in the house. The Contractors had all left for the day. I didn’t think that the people that broke in would be back as it looked like they had been very thorough in their search the first time around but to be on the safe side, I drove back to my apartment and collected a few things so that I could spend the night. I packed my sleeping bag and my Glock 17 pistol along with a thermos of coffee and a couple of sandwiches and headed back to the house. I put my car in the garage that had been converted from a stable of bygone years and locked the door and went inside the house. I thought about calling Evelyn to let her know where I was but decided against it as my suspicious mind thill thought of her as a suspect.

I spent a very uneventful night and apart from the scurrying of a few rodents slept very soundly. Just like camping in the woods, I thought. I got up early and wandered down to the Coffee Shop to grab breakfast and the lifesaving latte.

When I got back, the house was a hive of activity with Joe’s men working on every aspect of what needed to be done. The electrical and A/C work was finished and most of the major remodelling to the bathrooms and kitchen was in the completion stages. Work was progressing on patching the holes left by the A/C installation and many of the rooms were almost finished with the painting and decorating.

I met the Alarm Company Rep and we discussed what we could do to safeguard the property. I opted for a high end system where all of the upper and lower floor windows and doors would be alarmed plus there was a set of cameras that operated through a central room with in house screens to survey all of the exterior and all of the interior at any given time. I also had Joe have his electricians instal a floodlight system all operated from one room especially designated as the Control Room. It actually was much bigger than a closet being a 12 ft by 12 ft room.

We agreed on a price and the Rep said that he could get started within the next couple of days. Joe said that he could get the power to the Control Room in about that time along with wiring the floodlights to the yard.

Detective Tom called me to discuss the latest break in. They had managed to tie some prints back to a “person of interest” and were actively looking for him. Tom thought that all of these things, my Mothers murder, the diamonds, Angela and her accomplice and the latest break in were all connected and was trying to find the link. I wondered if I should tell him about my suspicions with Evelyn but decided not to at this time. Tom hung up and I turned my thoughts back to Evelyn. I wondered how I could find out about her background without arousing her suspicion. The only thing I knew of her is what I had learned from Angela. I did know she had been married before to Tom Jackson and still carried his last name. This was the guy who showed up as Angela’s accomplice and who she is up on a charge of manslaughter but other than that, nothing. Evelyn had lived here in this small town for about 8 years and had been friends with Angela pretty much all of this time.

I called Detective Tom back and asked him what had a background check on Angela produced. He said that she had lived in this small village for about 10 years and before that, had lived in New York City. She had no previous criminal history. I asked him to run a similiar check on Evelyn and specifically to see of any prior association she may have had with Angela or Tom Jackson. He said he would get back to me if he found anything.

I spent the rest of the day with my chore of sorting the boxes. I figured I would have at least three days or maybe more of doing this, there was so much of it. Some of the stuff was new from my mothers time in the house and may help shed more light on the mystery. I had to pay special attention to the details so that nothing slipped by.

The workers all left for the day and the house became quiet again. It was a very peaceful place if you don’t count all the murders and killings, that is. I drove back to my apartment and took a long shower before equiping myself for the night ahead which I again was going to spend in my house.

**********************************

Chapter 8 – The Work is Complete

The night proved to be quiet and devoid of any disturbaces except for the rodents. I made a mental note to buy some traps or get a cat or something but decided that for now, the traps were a quick and easy way to catch the rodents. If only it were that easy to catch the burglars and other crooks that were interested in my house. I drove down to the Diner and grabbed breakfast and chatted to a few of the locals who all wanted to know how the work was progressing. I was glad of their conversation and spent longer than I intended. Then I thought, what the hell, its my time to do as a want to do with. Its hard to adjust to not being as governed by a clock as before.

By the time I got back to the house with rat traps in hand, the place was a hive of activity. The Alarm Company had two trucks and four technicians working and Joe’s electricians were wiring up the floodlights. I was also having them install a back up power system that would give battery control the alarms for about 12 hours in the event of the main power going out. I thought to myself how easy it was to make decisions on what and what not to include now that paying for it was no longer a problem.

I met Joe in the hallway and he and I discussed the progress to date. The remodelling of the kitchen and the two and a half baths was complete except for the finishing the walls and floors. The floors were all hardwood flooring and I was having them resanded and then refinished and would be the very last project of all on both floors. I had decided to finish out the attic and to get more insulation in the free roof area behind the walls which meant that I needed to finish up clearing the boxes in those areas. I had finished the boxes in the cellar and the remodelling was complete already. All of the stuff that I had sorted was now in the garage or old stable whichever I decided to call it and I hadn’t yet made up my mind.

I wandered into the hidden cellar room and checked the seals. All were still intact as they should be so I went back to the attic to continue my work with the boxes and the junk. I was happily engrossed and was learning a lot about the times gone by from the many newpapers I was reading. Not too much sorting but a lot of reading, I have to say. I opened yet another box, this one made of wood. In it were books and papers just like the rest. The lid seemed extra thick and sounded noisy when I tapped on it. I gave it a thorough inspection and deemed it to be hollow or at least a part of it was.. I inspected the outside but could not concieve how to get it open. I turned my attention to the inside of the lid and found a small hole just large enough for a hairpin or the modern equivalent, a paper clip. I found one and straightened it out and then pushed it into the small hole. I heard a click and the inside of the lid dropped open. Inside this space were a bunch of hand written letters tied together. I glanced at a couple of them feeling a bit like an intruder poking my nose into someones private lives but the subject matter caught my attention. There were several letters and they were very old with a date of 1908.They were written in bold handwriting and addressed to Thomas Cook Esquire. I remembered that Thomas Cook was the owner of the house at the time of the jewel heist. I opened the first and turned it to the last page to see who had signed it. It was someone by the name of Josef Jackson which didn’t ring any bells with me. I turned back to the begining and read that Josef and his gang were planning on robbing the New York Jewel Company and wanted to know if Thomas Cook would hide them until the dust had settled for a share of the loot. There followed some details of the robbery and how they were planning on making it happen. The second and third letters just contained more details and a date when Thomas could expect them to show and and to have everything ready. One of the letters listed off the other members of the gang by name but they didn’t mean anything to me and it also made reference to the fact that they had all served time together including Tom Cook.

I sat there thinking about what I had found. It was no chance that the gang members ended up in this house following the robbery. According to this, it was all pre-planned. It would also explain why the diamonds had been bagged up separately and the ones that I found in this attic were Thomas’s share of the loot and the other four bags in the hidden safe area each belonged to one of the robbers. I thought about the current events and noted that the Jackson in the letter had the same last name as Evelyn’s ex husband. If they were related in some way, maybe Josef had left something in writing to his family about the heist and the plans after which it had been handed down through generations until today when the current day Tom Jackson has set the wheels in motion 90 years later.

But, Tom was dead and Angela had become his accomplice after Tom and Evelyn moved to this small town which now seemed no longer a coincidence. Where was Evelyn in all of this? Was she just an innocent bystander and not caught up in this in any way, shape or form? She had divorced Tom for assaulting her which would hardly be the action of someone looking to have a share of a fortune of jewels. Tom and Angela were having an affair a couple of years before the divorce which is probably when Angela would have found out about the diamonds. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that Evelyn was not in on the plot. I concluded that she didn’t know that her husband and best friend were having an affair.

I looked at the remaining letters. A couple were of the legal variety from a lawyer noting the sale of the house with an address in New York City. The one that I found very interesting was from a Jewelry Store in Albany noting that “they were looking forward to doing business with Thomas Cook and when did he think he would have the goods ready for inspection”. The second letter was short and to the point and simply stated that “we are looking forward to doing business with you” and it gave a date in 1908.

I sat back to think about this and had to conclude that Thomas Cook was making arrangements to fence off the jewels but the question still remained if it was just his share or all of the haul. From my earlier research it was clear that by the date on the letter when he was supposed to make the deal, he was dead as were the other members of the gang.

I turned back to the sorting and discarding in an effort to get the work done. I had put the letters back in the box for safe keeping and put that box off to one side. I slowly made my way through the remaining boxes but didn’t find anything with a glimmer of interest. There were some nice trinkets and china which I put in the Antique pile. There were also many newspapers and I took a long time to go through each one to see if there was anything in any of them. The older ones I put to one side and the rest were going into the recycling pile. There were also several more books a couple of which contained more on the history of this village. I found it odd that I kept finding reference and historical books about this village. Why, I wondered out loud. Maybe that was how my Mother had located the diamonds, by tracing the history. But, what put her up to it in the first place. Questions, nothing but questions.

It was getting late and I was feeling hungry. I called Evelyn and asked her if she wanted to meet me for a late supper. She gladly accepted and seemed very pleased to see me when we met at the Diner. We chatted about our respective days and she filled me in on the local gossip. It turns out that a small town hairdressers shop is a virtual hive of gossip. Most of it was women’s stuff but she did mention that there was a lot of interest in the work going on in my house and that some of her clients were already getting Evelyn married off to me. We both shared a laugh over this and I’m not sure, whose was the more nervous, hers or mine.

I told her about some of the stuff I had found and offered her a pick of any of it if she was into Antiques, which I knew she was. She said she would stop by the next evening as she closed early (for her). She knew that I was sleeping in the house as a safeguard until the alarm systems were complete. We chatted for a while and I walked her to her car. She turned and kissed me goodnight and maybe it was just my imagination but she put a lot of herself into that kiss. I stepped back and said “Wow”. She smiled and got into her car and with a wave of her hand, drove off. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity but in fact was probably only seconds before getting into my car and driving home to my apartment. I needed to take a shower and get rid of the days efforts before collecting more things and making my way back to the house.

The night passed without incident and I heard a couple of the traps go off and thought sleepily that I would check them in the morning. Sure enough, a couple of rats had committed suicide in their greed to eat the cheese that I had baited them with. I collected up the traps so as not to endanger the workers and put them away until the evening when I would bait them up all over again. By the end of the week, the alarm system would be complete as would all of the rest of the work except the sanding and re-finishing the floors which would take all of the following week. The exterior painting was moving right along and it too should be finished by the end of next week.

I could actually think in terms of moving in and giving up my apartment. As it was now mid month, it was going to work out perfectly and even if things were not quite finished by the end of the month, I could rough it for a few days if I had to. I made a note to contact my landlord and give in my notice. Even though I had lived there for more than four years, I did not have much in the way of wordly posessions except for the furniture most of which had seen better days when I got it. Some of it was nice stuff but as for the rest, it would probably work very well in someones huntng camp.

My Mother had invested wisely as soon as she had come into some money. Long gone was the furniture that I and my siblings grew up with. In it’s place, she had furnished the house with very good quality antiques all fitting in very tastefully with the decor of the old house. Although, I had brightened the place up with a new coat of paint, I had not changed any of the structure and finish of the house so it still gave the appearance of a 100 year old house. I was going to invest in new kichen implements and kitchenware. My Mother had already found a good quality silverware cutlery set and antique china serving set. I would take my stuff from the apartment for the every day use as I didn’t trust myself using the “Good Stuff”. I had already had them install a new dishwasher, stove and refrigerator along with a built in microwave for my frozen dinners which makes up a big part of my home diet. Not because I am lazy or don’t like to cook but to ensure that I could control my weight and still eat the right stuff. The problem that I found when I cooked that there was always more than I could eat and consequently, would eat more of it so as not to waste it. Even if I ate it over several day’s or froze it and ate it later, I was still eating too much at one time. You can’t win.

I had finished sorting out the boxes of stuff and had separated it out into different piles. The books I kept to one side as I would be keeping them. I had lots of shelf space throughout the house and after dusting them off would disperse them around. After Evelyn stopped by this evening, I would call an Antique friend of mine and he could give me what he thought it was worth to take what was left. Everything that I had deemed to be junk was already in the dumpster. The old newspapers, I has read from front to back and had not found anything additional of interest.

Starting in the newly remodelled attic, I slowly checked everything over as I worked my way down the house going from room to room. I made notes of all of the areas that I thought still needed a little work but they were few and far between. I reached the basement and carefully checked it over and then went outside and did the same with the work that had been going on out there. My list was very small and consisted mostly of a little touch up work.

The Alarm engineer stopped by and wanted me to check over the work that he and his company had done. It took the better part of an hour with me taking copius notes on how the system operated. We tested the back up system and the exterior floodlights and all seemed to be working. It was pretty fascinating to sit in the Control Room and check out the screens and watch the activity going on in different parts of the house.

We set the following Monday for the crew to come in and sand and finish the floors. It was the sort of work that no one else really wanted to be around when it was going on. When the sanders were running, they were noisy and even though they were attached to a collection system, some of the fine dust still escaped and would make your nose sting unless you were wearing a face mask. Then the lacquer that was used to finish the floor was evil smelling and not good to be around until it was dry. I has collected up all of the carpets and was storing them in the Stable/Garage along with most of the furniture and had called the local carpet cleaner to stop by and clean them and the drapes before I put them back in the house. He stopped by that afternoon and started work on the cleaning.

The day flew by and one by one, the workers left for their respective homes. Evelyn said she would come up straight from her work and sure enough, about fifteen minutes after five, she came driving in. She greeted me with a kiss and took my arm and said “OK, show me your new house”.
Feeling very proud of what we had accomplished so far, I took her on a tour starting with the outside. I pointed out the different things we had done, showed her the new cameras and paint job which was almost finished. I led her inside and we started down in the basement with the remodelling and then walked from floor to floor as I pointed out the special things. We finished up in the attic which was barely recognizeable with the work we had done.

“It’s beautiful” she said “You should feel so proud”.
“I do. Joe and the rest of the crews have done a first class job” I said.
We were standing in the kitchen and she came around the new island and put her arms around me. She looked up at me and I kissed her. She melted into my arms and we stood for a long while just glad of each other’s closeness.
She pulled out and said “Where are these antiques you said I could have”.
With thoughts swayed by her nearness and the yearning that I had for her, it was with a loud thud that I was jerked back to reality.
“What, Oh yes” I mumbled trying hard not to show how flustered I was.

I led her to the Stable/Garage and showed her the considerable pile that I had collected. She carefully went through it all piece by piece and picked out several things that she really liked and put them to one side. Several pieces we discussed because neither of us could recognize what they were. I had kept a few pieces for myself which included several nice vases a couple of which could stand on the floor they were that big. I helped her load her selections into her car aand followed her down the road to the Diner where we ate a slow and leisurely late meal. I really liked her company and always felt good around her. Whether that meant I had fallen in love with her, I didn’t know and didn’t care. I was living for the moment and was not prepared to look into the future.

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Chapter 9 – Moving Time

The following week came and slipped by. The floor finishing crew came in and took over the inside of the house and everyone was glad to not be around the noise and smell. They worked quickly and efficiently with the guys applying the floor sealer right behind them. By Thursday, they were all through and on the Friday, Joe brought in his paint crew to finish touching up any damage the floor crew may have created.

Saturday morning, Joe stopped over and he and I walked the entire job. There were a couple of small things that needed a little work but other than that, the project was complete. I took Joe outside and asked him to give me a price to paint the entire wrought iron railing that totally surrounded the property. We shook hands and he promised me both an estimate and a final bill for all of the work he had done. I complimented him on his crew and how efficient, hard working and good tradesmen they were. We shook hands again and Joe left knowing that he had performed yet another good job and had another truly satisfied customer.

Now it was my turn to work. I had made arrangements for the local moving company to move all of the furniture and carpets back into the house which they did quickly and efficiently. I had made a plan of how my Mother had the furniture arranged before we had moved it all out and I instructed the men where each piece went. I also contacted the local drapery store and they sent someone out to re-install all of the drapes and curtains. It took all day but by five o’clock, they left leaving me to tidy the rooms and make the beds so that at least, I would sleep in a bed this evening instead of my sleeping bag.

That night was the first that I spent in my new/old home. New because it was mine and had been renovated the way I wanted it and old because I spent several of my child hood years growing up in this house. I didn’t even hear the rodents and even though I put out a few traps, I did not catch any. Whether they were gone or just laying low, I would find out in time. When I awoke the next morning, I was refeshed and ready to go. I decided to go for an early morning run around the neighbourhood but seeing as how it was Sunday, I only met one person walking their dog, I gave them a hearty “Good Morning” as I ran by.

After a shower, I sat and ate a leisurely breakfast cooked in my new kitchen along with my own brand of latte and read the Sunday newspaper. I felt very happy and content with how things had turned out so far and my thoughts turned to the future. Somewhere down the line Angela would go on trial for the murder of my Mother and her boyfriend. That would be a bit trying as I would have to give evidence which invariably would result in media attention, something I was not very interested in. Then, there was still the matter of the diamonds and what would be the outcome. Lastly, I still had not solved the mystery of what led my Mother to the diamonds that she had found.

And then there was Evelyn. Beautiful Evelyn who was warming to me more and more and was inveigling her way into my affections even though she may not have been trying to do so. I did like her.. a lot but whether that constituted falling in love, I was not so sure. There was no hurry as there were no other suitors that I knew about so I had a lot of time. How far and how close our relationship would go remains to be seen.

I still had things to do as it was a big house and there was still a lot of small stuff in the Stable/Garage that needed to be set out in different parts of the house to add a more personal look to the place but again, I had a lot of time to do it in. I called Evelyn and asked her if she wanted to take a drive just to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. We had not driven up into the mountains for several months and she suggested that might be a nice place to go. An hour later, I picked her up from her cottage. Blondie came bounding out with her and jumped in the car as though expecting to go for a ride. I looked at Evelyn who was laughing about it and said, “Oh, what the hell. You have her leash?
“Yes” said Evelyn “Right here in my pocket”
“Damn” I said “You and Blondie planned this all along”.
Blondie never said anything, just looked at me with her big brown eyes with her tail wagging so madly, it looked like her whole back end was shaking. I burst out laughing and thought that maybe it was time for me to get a dog or a cat or maybe both.

We went in a different direction to that where we had encountered the bear. It seemed like a good idea as those memories were still very fresh. Not that the scenary changes much as it is so beautiful up in the mountains and looks pretty much the same. We could have been where we had our first adventure and the only thing different was the name of the little village that we found ourselves walking around. We found a small cafe with outside tables and sat there enjoying the view and drinking our inevitable lattes with Blondie asleep under Evelyn’s feet.

It was very peaceful even with the hustle and bustle of the tourists walking by as this village like many of the others in this part of the country, relied on tourism to make a summertime living. If the village happened to have a ski slope, then they also got wintertime customers otherwise, the wintertime is usually pretty quiet.

We drove on to the next little village and did the same thing walking around and looking in the little shops that sold all kinds of trinkets and mementoes of life in the mountains. The village was busy as people like us, were enjoying the nice weather. The urge to get out and about was pretty strong in most people.

We took a long, slow drive back stopping at yet another mountain top restaurant. This one was called The Look Out and it was very easy to see why. The main windows overlooked the valley and gave a breathtaking view. The waiter had a few suggestions for both food and wine and we were not disappointed. The food was excellent.

Our drive back for the rest of the way was in a comfortable silence, Evelyn sat with her hand on my shoulder and looked at me from time to time smiling in the sheer pleasure of having each other for company. Her hand dropped off as she drifted off to sleep with the comfort of the moment. I pulled up outside of her house and kissed her on the cheek to wake her up. She came to and put her arms around my neck and kissed me on the lips in a slow and sensuous way. I became a part of that moment and my world was complete.

Blondie stuck her cold, wet nose between us as though to say, enough already and very reluctantly, Evelyn got out of the car. I walked her to the door and kissed her again. She turned the key and was gone. I got back in the car and drove back to my new/old home.

A Triple Love Affair


Ursus americanus
Baby Black Bear

Chapter 1 – The Funeral

It was a few days after the incident with the bear and the young boys death and the three friends were sitting in the Coffee Shop together. For people who had just met, they got to learn each others characteristics very quickly. It’s amazing what a brush with death can do.

Evelyn was healing from the cut on her forehead and the Doctor had told her that it would not scar up too badly. She had already said if she needed to, she would get cosmetic surgery to hide the scar and was more interested in her looks than the events that had happened. Angela, who had not been hurt in the attack, was made of sterner stuff and did not mind talking about it.

“Tim’s funeral is tomorrow. Are either of you planning on attending”? I asked. Both nodded in agreement and we discussed travel arrangements as we had to return to the mountains which is where Tim was from.

News from the TV station reported that the whole town was buzzing with the excitement of reading about the bear and the death of the young boy. There was some talk of sending out a hunting party to shoot and kill the bear but the Park Rangers were adamant that this was not going to happen. In their mind, the bear was protecting its young when it was hit and hurt by Tim’s four-wheeler. They had no explanation why it came back later to finish Tim off. It was unusual and showed a marked degree of intelligence especially as it did not kill Bob when it had the chance.

I had turned a copy of the video over the Coroners Office for them to make an official determination on Tim’s death and had already been approached by the Press and others offering to purchase the video but I had not yet made up his mind on what to do with it. I felt it was a personal thing between me, Tim and the bear.

The next day, bright and early, the three of us set off for the little mountain village to be at Tim’s funeral. We were riding in Bob’s SUV this time to give Angela a break from driving. We chattered about different things and then the conversation turned to the “event”.
“How are you both holding up”? I asked “I should have asked, how are you both sleeping”?
Evelyn said, “I keep seeing that bear in my dreams but always from a distance”. Evelyn had been the least involved in the entire episode as she had been attending to Tim when Bob had cut the bear loose.
“I am having nightmares that the bear is attacking us after you cut it loose” said Angela “But they are getting less vivid. I think they are going away”.

“I keep waking up and seeing that bear’s head right in front of me and it looking into my eyes” I said. “The funny thing is, it is not a scary dream. Almost like the bear was trying to tell me something. The worst thing for me is to hear that young boy screaming as the bear mauled him and there was nothing I could do about it. You should know that I plan on giving the video to Tim’s Folks. They can do whatever they want with it. Maybe they can get enough money out of it to pay for the funeral”.

The two girls both agreed that was the best thing we could do for the family. We relapsed back into silence each deep in our own thoughts until we reached the village.

We found the inevitable coffee shop as we stopped to ask directions to the funeral home and relaxed for a bit. Listening to other people’s conversations revealed that most of it was about the funeral that was in a couple of hours time. Others were talking about the bear and some had opinions about leaving it alive and whether it represented a problem and a danger to others hiking the trails. Some of the customers were news journalists here to get a story and were chatting to the locals to get their viewpoint.

The funeral was set for 2:00 pm at the local cemetery and at the appointed time, Bob, Evelyn and Angela joined many others around the grave. Most of the High School Senior Class that Tim had been attending, turned out to the solemn affair. Tim was eulogized as a bright, upcoming student who was planning on a career as a Park Ranger which I found very ironic considering how he died.

After the service, the girls and I made our way over to the parents and introduced ourselves and passed on our condolences at their loss. I turned to Tim’s mother and said “I want you to have this video. There is only one other copy and you can do what you want with this one. You can sell it or keep it or even destroy it if that’s what you want to do. You have our full permission to do with it what you feel is best for you. It is yours in memory of your son”.

The girls and I took our leave and brushed aside questions from the reporters telling them it was not the time or place to be discussing Tim’s death or the entire episode.

We drove to the Park where the incident had happened and talked to the same Ranger who had greeted us the first time. He told us that the trails were closed and would be for a while to give the animals a chance “to calm down” as he put it and to keep sightseers away.

We thanked him and climbed back into the SUV and sat there for a while talking. For me, the episode was over and returning here had at least cleared my mind and I was ready to move on. I discussed how I felt with the girls and Angela said that she felt the same way. Evelyn was a bit more reserved about it and it was obvious she was having trouble in letting it go.

We took a slow drive home and stopped at the Mountain Inn, the one we had planned on visiting before the incident. True to all we had heard, the food was fabulous and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

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Chapter 2 – The Drive-in

I was getting towards the end of my stay in this small town and was making preparations to move on in a couple of days. I received an e-mail from my Head Office telling me that the new project had been delayed for six months “and what did I want to do”. I opted to take at least a couple more weeks off  as life with Angela was beginning to get interesting and I wanted to stay long enough to see if there was a future for us. Not that I could make such an earth shattering decision in two weeks but I would at least know it there was something there.

I e-mailed them back and said that I would take vacation through the end of the month. Back came the response that was agreeable but to report to the Albany Branch Office the first of next month and be prepared to stay their until my project was ready to go. I knew what spending time in the office meant as I had done it before. They would give me a project that required Engineering Design and I would be expected to produce something. It was well within my realm of expertise and by itself was a blessing as it meant that I would be around for the next six months. As Albany was only a fifty mile drive, I would probably commute on a daily basis.

I wandered over to the Coffee Shop and ordered my usual Latte. It there was one thing that I was really addicted to was drinking Latte’s. I didn’t even really like the taste of coffee but had developed a liking for Latte’s. Could be worse I suppose as it could be scotch or dope or something really deadly. I even had a Starbuck’s Gold Card I drank do much of the stuff.

By now, I had made  friends with several of the townsfolk and never lacked for someone to talk to when I stopped in for the Latte. Today was no exception as I chatted to a couple of the locals who wanted me to join the local softball team. I told them that I was moving on in a couple of weeks and thanks, but no thanks.

Apparently, it was Evelyn’s turn to buy the coffee for the hair salon as she came bouncing through the door. “Hello Bob” she said  “How are you today”.
It was a simple enough question for most people but considering what we had been through, it required a little more complicated answer.
“I’m really fine and thanks for asking. The dreams have gone and I am sleeping well, You”?
“Yes” she replied “For me too. What are you doing this evening? Would you like to come to the movies with me”?
“Certainly” I responded “Do you want me to pick you up and what time”?
The next town over had an old-fashioned drive-in movie theater so I assumed that is where we would be going. I thought to myself “This is a turn up for the books. Most unexpected”.

I kept myself busy for the rest of the day and at the agreed time pulled up outside of Evelyn’s small cottage. She had been married before and had divorced her husband leaving her sufficiently well enough off to keep the cottage. I had been in the cottage once before when she and Angela asked me in for coffee. Safety in numbers that day but I never felt pressured by either of them.

She came out dressed in a short dress that showed off her legs and her very nice figure carrying a sweater in case it cooled down at the Drive-In. She looked positively radiant and I was wondering what had created the change in her. Maybe she was getting a good nights sleep as she said. If so, it was certainly agreeing with her.

The trip to the next town over where the drive-in was located took about 30 minutes. Evelyn was full of chatter about her previous husband and her life with him. I don’t know if she felt she needed to tell me or was just making small talk. It was not uninteresting at all and was a good way to spend the drive. By comparison, my life was very simple and easy to relate, college, graduation, first major job, promotion to current position and news to date all wrapped up in about a dozen sentences. I had a lot more stories that I could have told of things that happened on the job sites or things that happened to me in my travels but decided to keep them to myself for the time being.

It had been years since I was at a drive-in so in a way, it held its own interest. We paid our money, and found an open slot and parked. Looking around, there were young folk and old folk all looking to be entertained. Luckily for us, we were parked between a couple of middle-aged couples whose kids were in their teens so at least we wouldn’t have to put up with bored kids who entertain themselves by throwing food at each and screaming at the top of their voices.

We were watching a horror movie with lots of blood and gore and moments of suspense. There was not much of a plot but the  gory effects more than made up for it. I sneaked a look at Evelyn who was watching the screen through her fingers, not really wanting to watch but afraid to miss anything. At one particularly violent scene, she turned and buried her head in my shoulder, afraid to watch anymore. I put my arm around her to both give her strength and to help her relax. It felt good to hold a woman and I was trying to remember how long ago the last person was that I held with any sexual intonations and just couldn’t remember. “Damn, I have got to get out more” I thought to myself, drawing my arm tighter around her.

Evelyn must have felt the added pressure as she looked away from the screen and at me. I caught her glance and we both smiled but never said anything. She turned back to the blood and gore but remained cuddled in the hook of my arm.

At the intermission, I had to use the bathroom and brought us back hot dogs and soda which tasted like caviar we were so in the movie mood. I nearly bought popcorn but I can’t stand the smell of the stuff so drew the line at that.

We watched the second half of the movie but Evelyn controlled her reactions and I never got to hold her anymore. Damn disappointing to me as after having a taste of her nearness, I found myself wanting more.

The movie ended and we joined the long slow procession of cars leaving the drive-in and then finally, the road home. We talked about the movie and how scary some parts of it had been but neither of us mentioned the magic feeling we had felt for such a short time.

We reached her cottage door and she turned and said “Do you want to come in for coffee”
“That would be very nice. Thanks, I will” I replied.

I followed her in wondering what it was I might expect from her. Would it be the pre-intermission or the post-intermission woman. I had no expectations and kept reminding myself “Don’t get involved, Don’t get involved”.  A big ole’ Setter bounded up and proceeded to make a huge fuss over me. “That is Blondie and she really likes you” she said

“Sit down and I will be right back with the coffee” she said “It’s not a Latte so how do you like it”? I responded with my choices and settled down on the sofa with Blondie for company. Five minutes later, Evelyn came back in carrying the coffee along with the fixin’s, milk and sugar. “Hope this is OK” she said and sat down in the easy chair opposite me.
“I’m sure it will be fine” I responded as I put a little milk in mine and stirred it vigorously much more than it needed but full of nervous tension on my part.
“Careful, you will stir the bottom out of that cup if you don’t stop” she said.

I looked across at her. The short dress had ridden up exposing a lot of her thighs not helping my situation one little bit and I felt like I was going to burst I was so uptight. We made small talk about the movie, the episode with the bear, Angela, her job and all of the things I could do without. I needed a sign, an opening, something for her to say it was OK but alas, I was not getting it. She made no attempt and gave me no encouragement so I finally stood up and said “Time for me to go. It’s getting late and you need your beauty sleep”.
“I had a wonderful time this evening. Thank you for the movies and also for being such an understanding and patient man” she said. As a woman, she understood full well what she was putting me through but was not ready to do anything about it, at least not yet. I couldn’t really blame her as we hardly knew each other and she was not the sort of girl to sleep around. Still, she had managed to put me in the throes of agony bursting with expectation and had gently brought me back to earth. That by itself, was some achievement.She kissed me on the cheek as she said goodnight and told Blondie to come inside. I walked back to my car and drove home.

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Chapter 3 – Women Can’t Be Trusted

The next day over breakfast, I thought about the previous evening and tried to analyse my feelings. Was I just being a horny old man and imaging things that were not there or did Evelyn have a different agenda. It had been a long time since I had the company of woman and even longer since I took a woman to bed.

I have a history of falling in love at the drop of a hat or any other piece of clothing and after getting burned pretty badly a couple of time (through my own fault I might add), I have pretty much stayed clear of anything that could lead to any sort of relationship. If I felt that I was being threatened by the advances of one of the female kind, I would immediately break off the relationship. That was my form of self-defence as I was too weak and too selfish  to handle it any other way. As I thought about it, I put last nights episode down to physical need and not necessarily an emotional one.

Of the two, I was much more attracted to Angela and I believe that she had some attraction to me but again, maybe she just liked close companionship and was of the touchy feely kind. Evelyn was definitely not one of those.

In the end, after giving myself a headache thinking about it, I was no closer to solving the mystery. My initial reaction was to head back to work and forget both of them but something, some spark was holding me back.

I sighed and decided to take a walk… again. I got to stop taking these walks as they are what is getting me into trouble. Oh well, some of us just can’t seem to stay out of it.

I ended up in the Coffee Shop with my usual Latte sitting at the counter talking to the waitress who, as it happened knew my Mother. In between serving her customers, she was sort of filling me in about my Mothers life in this small town. Apparently, my Mother was a very active woman and involved in a lot of things and appeared to be in good health when she died. No one could account for it and even the Coroner could not be certain of how she died. It was eventually written as a heart attack brought on by reasons unknown. One part of the story that the waitress didn’t know  was the amount of money that my Mother had accumulated without any obvious means of income except through her pensions. Apparently, no one else had asked that question. I wasn’t complaining as I was a one-third benefactor having shared it with my brother and sister.

No one had any theories as no one knew of any illicit side to my Mother. No one questioned her bank account. To all intents and purposes, she was a very straight arrow.

I thanked the waitress, whose name was Jill, for her time and information and turned back to my Latte. It must have been Jackie’s or was that Josie, I couldn’t remember, turn to make the coffee run for the Salon. Whichever one it was said hello to me and asked how things were going and we chatted for a minute as she had her order filled and then she was gone.

The place was pretty empty for some reason as usually it is always busy. I put it down to the fact that I needed someone to talk to which of course, drove all the customers away. I paid my bill and turned to leave when Angela came in the door. I brightened up immediately as I said hello.

“Are you leaving” she asked
I told her that I was just going to as the place was slow.
“Stay and chat for a bit unless you need to be somewhere” she said
So we found a table and sat there while the waitress brought us both small Latte’s.
“How are you” she said “Evelyn tells me that you took her to the drive-in last night”
I thought about it and decided there was no honor amongst women just as I had always  suspected.
“Yes, she asked if I wanted to go and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, I am not so sure” I said.
“Why do you say that? Did you not have a good time? she said
“Yes, I enjoyed myself immensely as I haven’t been to a drive-in forever. Can’t remember the last time. The film was pretty gory and didn’t have much of a plot but it was fun and Evelyn is good company”.
“So, what was wrong then” she asked
I thought about it trying to think of a delicate way to put it without sounding krass. “Well, for starters, why did she tell you? Is it just a need for one girl to tell another or is there more to it than that” I asked.
“No nothing like that and she only mentioned it in passing” she said. “She didn’t mean anything by it”
“OK” I said “What happens if I asked you out and you agreed, would you have to tell her all about it”?
“Well ” said Angela “She is my best friend and I probably would want to say something but there are limits to the extent of the information. I would never tell her if we slept together or anything like that. Not that I am suggesting that might happen but to make a point”.

I sat there thinking about it for a bit and I could tell that Angela was worried by this conversation. “Look, I understand the buddy thing and the need to chat about things but I certainly am not interested in playing one of you against the other and I don’t want to hurt either of your feelings. I like both of you and you are fun to be with”.

“I tell you what” said Angela “Why don’t you come around to dinner this evening and I will ask Evelyn as well. That way, there can be no hidden agenda’s for any of us”
“That’s a great idea” I said. “I’ll see you this evening”.
“OK, it’s a deal. I’ll see you about 7:00 pm. You know where I live”.

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Chapter 4 – Dinner For Three

Promptly at 7:00 pm, I was at Angela’s door carrying the mandatory bottle of wine. I should mention that Angela lived in an apartment that was above her salon so even though her front door was at street level, it meant climbing a narrow flight of stairs to get to the apartment itself.

I pressed the buzzer and answered the intercom and Angela opened the door from above. Ah, the miracles of modern science that you no longer have to answer your own front door in order to let in your guests. There was a short hallway with a door off to the right which I assumed led into the salon. I took a step forward, the light came on and the door locked behind me.

Angela was waiting at the top of the stairs smiling as I huffed and puffed my way up.
“I need to exercise more” I said “I can understand why you are in such good shape climbing these stairs several times a day”.
She laughed and agreed. She was wearing a short skirt and a low-cut blouse that showed some considerable amount of cleavage. I looked at her as she approached me and said “Wow” out loud. She kissed me on the cheek and said “Wow. Is that all you can say”?
“I”m sorry” I said “It just slipped out, pretty bad on my part. Makes me out to be a sexist pig”.

Angela laughed and said “When a girl dresses in a daring and seductive way, she can hardly expect anything else except complimentary remarks and it has nothing to do with you being a sexist pig”.
“OK” I said, buoyed by her encouragement “You look wonderful, I mean just bloody wonderful. It does a man good to behold such beauty. Thank you”.

She smiled and curtsied. “OK. That’s better. More like I wanted to hear, kind sir”.

I followed her into the apartment which was tastefully decorated and furnished for a woman. No leather chairs and stout furniture but lots of prints in the decor with ornaments and knick-knacks everywhere. I thought about my own place and how barren it was compared to this apartment and wondered what a woman’s touch could do to it. On the other hand, although the women’s touch would change the apartment, it would also change my life and am not sure if I am ready for that.

Evelyn had not yet arrived following the women’s code of being fashionably late so I opened the bottle and we sat down on the couch to sit and talk.

We talked about her life and her childhood. She had grown up on a small farm and had a brother, younger than she who was married and lived in New York City. Her parents were both dead having been killed in a car crash several years ago which is how she ended up on this small town. She and her brother has sold the farm and she had invested her share into this business.

“If you don’t mind my asking, how is business”? I said
“It’s actually pretty good and I am thinking of opening up two more chairs. I have had several enquiries from hair stylists looking for a place” she replied.
“Is that how you met Evelyn” I asked.
“Yes. She was the first stylist I interviewed and really helped me to get this business off the ground. She used to have her own business but when her husband divorced her, she sold it. The people she sold it to were not very good business people and they closed it shortly after” said Angela.
“Lucky you that she was around when you needed the help” I said.

About that time, the door buzzer sounded and Angela let Evelyn in. Evelyn had been here many times before and quickly made herself at home. She disappeared into the kitchen and I could hear pot’s and pans banging as between them, they completed the dinner preparation.

Evelyn came back into the living room. I looked at her and she smiled at me. She wore a buttoned up blouse with pants and even compared to Angela’s more revealing outfit, she came through real favourably in looks and body contours. I thought to myself how lucky I was to be entertained by two beautiful women and wondered just what the evening may bring.

I realized how my thoughts were turning and quickly brought myself back to earth. Why did the evening have to bring anything other than the companionship of two beautiful women. What right did I have to think or expect that their would be a reward at the end of the evening. Wasn’t their company reward enough?

She sat in the chair opposite me and we made small talk and even laughed about the movie we had seen. Now it was funny, but back then, it had been real scary. Amazing the difference what the light of day makes.

Evelyn disappeared into the kitchen to help serve the meal. We were having meatless lasagna and a tossed salad, one of my favorite meals.

“Come and get it” said Angela “You can sit here at the head of the table and we’ll sit on either side”.
We passed the food around and I made the mandatory and required remark on how good it smelled and how hungry I was. Actually, the meal was very good. Angela and Evelyn between them had cooked the meal from scratch and had even made their own pasta. I was lucky that my contribution to the event was to provide the wine and I’m glad that they never asked me to make it from scratch.

It was easy to tell from the way that they interacted they were good friends and very comfortable in each others company. I am not sure where I fitted in to all of this and maybe I didn’t. Maybe, just maybe, they viewed me as a mutual friend brought together by the incident with the bear and that neither of them had an emotional inclination towards me. Maybe, I was just hoping and speculating because it was me that required something more than just friendship. Sure were a lot of maybe’s.

“We have tiramisu for desert. We didn’t make that but bought ready-made” said Angela
“Shame on you” I said laughingly “But I’ll take some anyway”.

I helped them to clear away and wash the dishes and then we sat down to cappuccino.
“That was a fabulous meal. Which of you do I thank or should I thank both” I exclaimed.
“It was a joint effort so I guess both of us” said Evelyn
“Thank you  both not for just the meal but for being my friend. It has made my stay here very pleasant indeed and hopefully will give me more reason to return in the future” I said.

“When do you plan on going back to work”? asked Angela.
“Well, I am going to take the rest of the month off as my new project has been delayed. Something to do with a site permit and I can’t do much without it. I have been told to report to the Albany Office for the next few months until they get the site problems worked out for the California project” I said. The hidden meaning was not lost on the girls. They glanced at each other in a knowing way but did not say anything.

The rest of the evening was spent finishing up the wine and sitting and chatting about nothing in particular and everything in general. I told them a few of the stories of life on the Pipe Line circuit and some of the places I had been. It all made for good conversation and an interesting evening.

I glanced at the clock on the wall and it said 9:30 pm. I stood up and stretched and said it was time to go. Evelyn said “I walked over here. Can you give me a ride home”?
“Certainly, glad of the company” I said

We headed towards the door. Evelyn walked out first after telling Angela that she would see her in the morning. I turned to Angela. “Thank you for a wonderful evening. I’ll call you and maybe we can get together”.
“Yes, please do. I would like that” she said.
She kissed me but this time, on the lips. Just a light kiss but it set the heart thumping and the lust burning.

I followed Evelyn down the stairs and opened the car door for her. She climbed in gracefully and then I made the short drive to her cottage. This time, she didn’t ask me in but kissed me on the cheek and said goodnight. I sat in front of her cottage long enough to make sure that she got in OK then drove back to my apartment.

I sat there for a long while with a bottle of beer for company and thought about the evening just passed. It was becoming more obvious that of the two, Angela was more attracted to me and that Evelyn was sitting on the fence or even leaning towards not wanting to pursue this. The more I thought about it, I realized that I was flattered by having two beautiful women fawn over me but in reality, I cared for Angela and was just lured on by Evelyn’s interest which for all I know, was a figment of my imagination.

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Chapter 5 – Rescuing Cats

Having come to the stupendous decision of the night before, I sat at the breakfast table trying to figure out what was I going to do about it. I now had a reprieve due to the change of work plans so I had to come up with a plan of action if for no other reason than to put my mind at rest.

There was a knock on the door which really surprised me as I don’t normally get any visitors. I opened it to find this young lady standing there. She was probably about twenty-five or so and dressed in her bathrobe.

“Hello” she said. “My name is Julie King and I live in the apartment above yours. I wonder if you could help me rescue my cat”.
“That depends on where the cat is” I said
“Can you come and take a look, please” she said.
I followed her up the stairs to her apartment and she opened the door. She led me into her bedroom and to the window. The cat had climbed out of the window and was sitting on the ledge fully twenty-five feet above the street but didn’t seem to be very perturbed.
“What makes you think the cat needs rescuing” I said “I’ll bet if you leave him, he will come back in on his own”.
“You think so” she said “I don’t want anything to happen to him as he is my only companion”.
“Have you tried enticing him in with food”  I said.
“No, but I can try now if you like” she said
“Put the bowl by your window and call to the cat and then get back out-of-the-way” I said talking as though I knew what I was doing. In truth, I didn’t have a clue and was grasping at straws.
Julie put some food in the cat bowl and made a lot of fuss as she placed it outside of her window and then came to sit down. I sat down next to her and she asked if I wanted coffee while we waited. I agreed that coffee was a good idea and we sat there talking. Turns out that she had lived here for a couple of years but as I was here only rarely, I didn’t know any of the other tenants.

I explained that I worked away a lot and that I kept the apartment as a base for the times when I could get back home. She said that she was a secretary for one of the Lawyers Offices and was single. I don’t know why she threw that in but she did. She also mentioned that she didn’t have a current boyfriend which was way more information than I needed.

As we sat there exchanging information, the cat,”Dusty” climbed back in the window and walked over to her and jumped on her lap. It expected and duly received a welcome fit for a long-lost cat, not one that had taken a walk on a ledge for fifteen minutes. She duly obliged the cat and then got up to retrieve the bowl and close the window.

The robe, that had been so tightly pulled together when she was in the hallway was now beginning to loosen up seemingly un-noticed by her but definitely noticed by me. I finished my coffee and stood up ready to leave.
“How can I thank you enough for rescuing my cat” said Julie “Maybe dinner one evening”?
I said that dinner would be very nice but that she really didn’t have to bother as the cat came in by himself and didn’t need rescuing.
“I insist” she said. “I’ll leave you a note when it will be”.

I took my leave and walked back to my apartment thinking about the latest adventure. I had no strings and there was no reason for me to not go to dinner. I certainly didn’t need Angela’s permission.

True to her word,  I found a note under my door the next day.  The note said,”8:00 pm this evening, bring wine” and was signed Julie. I thought that she was a pushy little thing but I was interested enough to make plans to attend.

I had coffee with Angela during the day and talk switched to us.  I asked Angela if she would like to go to dinner on Friday evening to celebrate that I would be around for another six months.
“You make that sound so final as though you don’t plan on ever coming back” she said.
“No, nothing like that. It’s just that I don’t get back very frequently and usually it is every six months at least when my Mom was alive” I said

I arranged to pick her up at 6:00 pm on Friday and I had plans to take her to a very special place in the mountains. Not the one we went to before but a different one. As she said goodbye she  caught my hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Maybe I will see you for coffee before Friday” I said as we walked out together.

That evening, a little before 8:oo pm, I walked upstairs to Julie’s apartment carrying the mandatory bottle of wine as ordered and knocked on the door. Julie answered and welcomed me in to her apartment. Just like Evelyn’s house and Angela’s apartment, Julie’s looked almost the same as the other two in the sense that the place was tidy and things were put away. Definitely a very feminine apartment from her own ornaments and pictures she had scattered around.

Dusty, the cat wandered over to say hello and rubbed against my leg purring up a storm. I bent over and made a fuss of him and had an immediate friend.

“He likes you” said Julie “He doesn’t always take to men very well. I think his previous owner may have mistreated him so he is a bit skittish sometimes”.
“Dogs and cats get on well with me “I said “or should I say I get on well with them when they let their guard down”.
“Do you believe in reincarnation”? she asked “If I had a choice on how I would like to come back and was not allowed to be a human, I would choose either a dog or a cat. In a good family, of course”.
I mumbled an agreement as she led me towards the sofa. “Sit down and make yourself comfortable and I will open this bottle”.

I watched her depart into the kitchen. She was a nice looking lady, not too tall with a nice body. She had long blonde hair which hung around her shoulders and moved as she moved. She was dressed in a tight pair of jeans and a sweater which showed off her curves very nicely.

I sat there thinking about the current events and wondered how I could go from having no women to finding three in the space of a couple of weeks. Life can be very tricky sometimes. Not that I was counting Julie as a possibility but for me to have dinner with three different beautiful women in the such a short time period was positively unheard of.

She sat on the couch next to me. “Tell me about yourself” she said “How long have you had your apartment”
“I have had it for about four years but I don’t spend much time in it as I work away most of the time. I come back about every six months for a couple of weeks, or I used to when my Mother was still alive. She died six months ago so I don’t know what my routine will be like from here on in”.
“Sorry to hear about your Mom” she said “But I hope you keep up at least the six month routine as this town is not exactly overrun by eligible bachelor’s”.

Immediately, warning bells started flashing in my head and she must have noticed me jump.
“Don’t worry” she said with a laugh “I am not trying to chase you to the altar as I am not ready to settle down yet”.
“Was I that obvious” I said “I apologize if I reacted. Didn’t mean to”.
She laughed, a deep throaty laugh that I found very attractive. “Now it’s my turn to apologize. I was not laughing at you but you got to admit it’s funny. We hardly know each other and here we are almost married off”.
I chuckled to as it was rather odd that our conversation was already at this stage.

We sat there for another thirty minutes or so as she had a roast in the oven that she was waiting to finish cooking. “Come on” she said “You can carve up the meat while I get everything else ready”.
I carved the meat and we sat down to a scrumptuous meal of roast pork, roast potatoes, broccoli and gravy with hot rolls.
“Wow” I said “This looks delicious”.
We sat there for an hour eating and making small talk. She told me a bit about herself how she had been married and her husband was a bit of a wife beater. She had divorced him after a couple of years and the whole thing had soured her on men in general. She still went out if she could find a decent guy but had a real mistrust of men in general. She made up with it by having several women friends which got people thinking she was gay but she assured me she was not.

I thought that her marriage must have been really bad to affect her so deeply and that it was going to take a real kind and understanding man to get close to her. We finished up with apple pie and ice cream. She had made the pie from scratch and it was delicious. I thought she would make some guy happy one of these days, if the right kind of guy came along.

I helped her clean up and wash the dishes. She said I didn’t have to but I didn’t mind as it was the least I could do for the great meal.
“Come and sit on the sofa and we can finish the bottle” she said
I moved over and sat down and accepted the glass she offered me. We talked about my job and how it takes me all over the country and how my little apartment is the only stable thing in my life. The conversation swung back around to relationships and I admitted to her that occasionally, very occasionally, I missed the company of a nice woman and on those times, I wished I was married and settled down. She admitted to the same feelings at times so I suggested that whenever I am in town and either of us was feeling low, we would make contact and then we could sit and talk as we were then.

I stood up to leave and she followed me to the door. “Goodnight” she said as she kissed me on the cheek. It’s been a wonderful evening”.
I agreed that it had and we exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses and I walked back down the stairs to my lonely apartment.

I sat there for a while rehashing the evening. There had been no magic moments as there had been with Angela even when Julie had brushed up against me or got close to serve me a drink. I admired her looks and her long hair and her body could easily turn me on but there was no spark to ignite any thoughts of romance.

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Chapter 6 – A Hopeful Date

The next day was Thursday and I made my usual rounds of the Coffee Shop and chatted to as many people as I could find. Evelyn apparently had drawn the short straw and it was her turn to buy the coffee for the rest of her co-workers.
“Hello Bob” she said and sounded quite pleased to see him.
“Hello yourself” I replied.
“Angela told me that you will be around for another six months or so” she said “That’s great news or at least I know that I am pleased about it. Now we can see how interesting this can get between us”.
“I’m glad that you feel that way” I said “I would  like to see if this is going somewhere also”.
“How about you stop over for a drink later around 7:00 pm this evening. Would you like to do that”? she said.
I said “It would be my pleasure”

She picked up her coffee’s and with a backward glance at me, walked out the door leaving me to try to fathom out the female psyche.

I busied myself the rest of the day preparing for the change of plans and promptly at 7:00 pm I was knocking on the door to Evelyn’s cottage. She must have been waiting for me as the door opened immediately and she ushered me in. Blondie, the setter came bounding out just as excited to see a new me.
“Hello again” she said “I thought we could sit out on the patio as it’s such a nice evening. Is that OK with you”?
“Certainly. Sounds like a grand idea” I replied
“What do you want to drink. How about a scotch and rocks” she asked
“That will do just fine. You must have been reading my mind as I really didn’t feel like drinking beer this evening” I said.
She handed me a drink and I followed her out to the patio which had the usual type patio furniture. I sat at the table and she sat across from me and smiled. “I’m glad that we are able to have this evening together. A lot has happened in the past four weeks what with the bear and all”.
“How are you sleeping” I asked her
“I seem to be over it and am no longer having bad dreams about it and my head has healed with no real visible scar” she said.
“Me neither and your right. I certainly cannot see any marks ” I responded

We chatted about a lot of things some of which had happened in the past four weeks. She seemed a little distant as though something was bothering her and when I asked her she said “I think I am going to miss you when you do eventually move away. I have got used to seeing you around and knowing that I only have to pick up the phone and you will be there. Now I am going to have to do without”
“Not yet you don’t as I will be here for probably another six months and I plan on driving to Albany every day” I said

At that point I gave up trying to understand women. They have always been a mystery to me and now I was totally baffled. I tried not to show it and responded “I am still only a phone call or e-mail away and can still help if only from a distance”.
“Yes I know but it’s not quite the same as having you here full-time as eventually you will be back on the road” she said

Even though she was saying one thing, she was not giving any physical indication of her thoughts and feelings as she sat in the chair opposite me. She looked as beautiful as ever as she sat there in the evening light but she was very composed in her actions, or in my case, lack of action. I looked at my watch and got to my feet.

“Thank you for a very nice evening and the drinks” I said
“Do you have to go. Have one more drink” she replied.
“No, I really need to get going. I still have things to do” I said. In truth, I didn’t see that me staying was going to change very much and I was not content to just sit there and make small talk. I was too old to be playing games.
“OK, I guess this is goodnight then” she said “Call me if you want to go out again”

I promised that I would and repeated my statement about her wanting to talk. We already had exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
“Good night then” she said as she kissed me on the cheek.

I walked out of there totally baffled at the behaviour of women and drove back to my apartment.

Feeling totally confused, I sat there thinking of what has been happening for the past three weeks. Notwithstanding the episode with the bear which by itself was still pretty traumatic, I though about the three women that were currently in my life. Me, someone who has difficulty getting a date, had three women all looking to be a part of my life. Feeling mightily pleased but still no closer to solving the mystery, I went to bed. I had a very vivid dream of  Evelyn’s cottage and the four of us all living together in complete harmony. Except the girls never had any faces and I could not tell one from the other.

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Chapter 7 – Angela’s Date

The next day was Friday and I ran into Angela in the street as she was running some errands.
“We still on for this evening” I asked
“Definitely” she responded “And looking forward to it”
“See you at 6:00 pm then” were my parting words. She acknowledged with a wave of her hand.

I spent the day cleaning the apartment. I even went out and bought a couple of fake oil paintings and some ornaments that I scattered around the room. I stepped back to take a look and made a few adjustments to their positions but no matter how hard I tried, everything looked out-of-place and instead of adding to the room, they in fact junked it up.

In the end, I gave up and left the work sort of unfinished to me but fine to anybody else. “Needs a women’s touch” I said to myself. At least, the place was clean and smelled of furniture polish.

The time of day passed slowly as the hands crawled to 5:45 and promptly at 6:00 I was outside of Angela’s apartment and ringing the bell.
“Be down in a minute” she said over the intercom and true to her word, she opened the door to the street. She looked absolutely beautiful with a low-cut dress that showed both cleavage and thighs.
“God, you are such a beautiful woman” I said “You look more beautiful every time I see you”.
She smiled at me and took my hand as I opened the car door and slipped gracefully into her seat.

On the drive to the restaurant I asked her “How come you have never married? You must have had men breaking down your door to get you”.
“I don’t know” she said “I have had several boy friends over the years but in the final reckoning, they all fall a little short some way or another. It’s not that I am looking for perfection as there is no such thing in a man, but they can’t have obvious flaws. How about you”?

“My biggest problem is my work which takes me away for months at a time but even if with all that, I have not found that person that can make me feel good about myself. Do you know what I mean”?

“Yes, I know exactly what you mean”. We both lapsed into silence for a couple of miles each busy with our own thoughts.

We pulled into the restaurant which was called Buckhorn Lodge. It was also a large hotel and open year round. The food was supposed to be spectacular and came highly recommended.

We were shown into this large dining room with the typical deer heads around the room and a real woodsy flavor to the entire decor. Down one end was this huge fireplace with a fire crackling in the hearth which gave the room a romantic look. Seated at the table, the waiter brought the wine list and made some recommendations and I chose one of them.

The same waiter also asked what we fancied in the way of food and made suggestions to accommodate our tastes.

The food was out of this world. It was a fabulous dining experience and we made it last an hour and a half. We finished off with coffee and desert to end the meal. What an experience for both of us. I was not usually very choosy over food but had to admit this was a wonderful dining experience as did Angela.

We found our way to the bar where a quartet were playing and settled into easy chairs to listen to the music. Angela was tapping her foot and nodding her head as she had at the VFW dance.

“Would you like to dance” I asked her and took her hand.
We both glided about the floor as though we had wings and at the end as I led her back to the table and said “You can dance after all. You were holding out on me at the VFW dance”.
She just smiled at him as no response was necessary.

The band played a slow dance and she stood up and took my hand and took me back out to the dance floor. This time she relapsed into her preferred slow, cuddle up in my arms barely move routine and I had to admit, that of the two, I prefered this one. To hell with ballroom dancing.

On the drive back  home, Angela sat close to me with her head on my shoulder. She was not sleeping but had her eyes closed. I glanced at her and asked what she was thinking about.

She said, “Why can’t relationships always be like this? I have had a wonderful time this evening and you have been the best company but tomorrow, in the light of day, this will all have gone”.

I thought about it not quite knowing how to answer or even if there was an answer then said, “Every moment belongs to itself. No two moments can take the place of each other. Think of every moment as an individual experience and value it for what it is. We can do no more than that”.

Angela cried softly on my shoulder and said, “Yes, you are right”.

The rest of the drive was in a comfortable silence as we each savoured our own thoughts and memories of the evening and when we finally pulled up outside of Angela’s apartment.
“Thank you for a truly memorable evening” she said. She leaned over and kissed me, not the friendly peck on the cheek but a full-blown kiss deep from the heart.

She got out of the car and walked to her door, turned and waved and was gone.

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Chapter 8 – Mary, a Chance for More?

I drove home and sat in the car for a while thinking about the evening and how wonderful it had been. That goodnight kiss held promises of more to come and the chance of a more serious relationship. Interesting that it had not resulted in more than just a kiss.

The next day I knocked on Julie’s door. I wanted to tell her that I would be around for a while just in case her cat needed rescuing again…
She came to the door a little tousled looking as though she had just got out of bed with the robe agape showing her nightdress. She hastily pulled it together as she opened the door and said “Bob, this is a nice surprise”
I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, it looks like I have disturbed your beauty sleep. I can come back later”
“Not a bit” she said “Come in and I’ll make some coffee”. She busied herself in the kitchen as he sat at the kitchen table.
“Give me a moment to look a little more presentable. Help yourself to coffee when it is brewed” she said.
She disappeared into the bedroom and he could hear the shower running as she freshened up. Ten minutes later, she appeared in jeans and a tee-shirt and headed for the coffee pot.

“What brings you around so early on a Saturday” she said
“It’s not so early, you know. It is almost 9:30” I said “I just wanted you to know that I have a reprieve and that I will be staying here for about six months before heading out again”.
“Thats great news” she said “Now maybe we can do some things together, that is, if you want to”.
“I would love to. Anytime, just give me a call or I will call you. Either way works” I said.

We chatted some more and I finished my coffee and took my leave of her. What a pleasant way to start a day, I thought, chatting to a beautiful young thing.

I went back to my apartment and busied myself with things I had been putting off, like laundry folding and such and thought about the situation I was getting myself  into trying to keep three women on a string at the same time. In my defence, I argued, is that I have not committed to any of them and none of them to me at least not that I knew of. I guess the closest was Angela with her goodnight kiss and then Evelyn with her be patient approach and finally Julie who was new on the scene and as yet, an unknown. I tried to analyse what I wanted out of any of these relationships. Was I looking for something permanent or was I just looking to have a good time and to hell with the consequences. I was smart enough to figure out that this couldn’t go on for ever and if they got wind of each other, I would end up with nothing. Is that what I wanted? I was no nearer solving this riddle as when I started and it was giving me a headache and a severe case of depression just thinking about it.

I suppose that I was also looking for some clues from all three of the girls. I had not been able to figure out Evelyn and I knew that Julie would always be on her guard because of her previous situation. The only one that I was coming close to knowing was Angela but even she surprised me by not asking me up after our wonderful evening together. Maybe, I was expecting too much too soon as after all, the cost of an evening out at a few dollars was nothing compared to making a committment and taking someone into your bed. I knew that none of these three ladies were easy pickings and had much more value on their actions than that and I respected them for their high standards. Those high standards also included not playing second fiddle to either of the other two.

That evening, I decided to eat alone and then go to the local bar and have a couple of beers. I needed a break from worrying about all of these women and the problem I was heading into. The local Diner had good wholesome and soul satisfying food and I was quite happy to eat there and satisfy my inner self. I ordered the pork chops with all of the trimmings followed by a slice of apple pie. I did forgo the ice cream that was offered to me with a mind to watch my weight. It was at least a token gesture in the right direction.

From the Diner, I wandered over to the local bar aptly named, Joe’s Dive. It wasn’t really that bad and the place was clean and cheerful. Just what I needed. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer and chatted to the barman who was the same guy as was at the VFW dance. He remembered me and we talked about school days and life in general. he wanted to know about the bear attack and I briefly filled him in. All of this in between him serving the other customers as the place was filling up.

I was on my second beer and this young lady asked if the stool was taken next to me. I told her no and she sat down and turned to me. “Hi, my name is Mary” she said.
“I’m Bob” I responded
“What does anyone do for entertainment around here. I’m new in town on a temporary assignment and was looking for something to do” she said.
“Well, this is a small town and you are sitting in the liveliest place. We do have the occasional dance at the VFW and Clam Bakes in the summer but other than that, not too much goes on” I said. “There is a movie house in the next town south and a drive in theatre at the town north and of course, many of the bars have bands on the weekends just like this one”

As we were speaking, the band was setting up in the corner. Tonight there was a country and western group which will make for a lively evening a little later on as that music went down well here.

“Well, I guess that I will stay here then. What are you going to do”? she asked
“I only stopped in for a couple of beers and I have no plans. I can stay awhile” I said

We sat there and talked and she told me a bit about herself. She was thirty or so years old and worked for a large accounting firm out of  New York City and was here to do some work for the largest employer in town, a manufacturing group that made chewing gum and lifesavers. She expected to be here for a week.

“Life is much different here than in the city” I said “People go to bed early and pretty much keep themselves to themselves except for the younger group who are crazy anyway so it doesn’t matter where they live”.
She laughed and asked what I did for a living. I gave her a brief rundown of my life including the fact that on Monday, I was due to report back to the Main Office in Albany and would be working out of there for six months.

The band started playing and we sat and listened to the music for a while then she asked me to dance. Turns out, she was a pretty good dancer and could even swing pretty good. It was a lot of fun just blowing off steam on the dance floor with someone who was more or less a stranger.

It was almost 11:00 and she looked at her watch. “I need to be going” she said “Believe it or not, I have to work tomorrow as we want to get finished by this coming weekend. Besides, it is much easier for our work with none of the regular staff around”.
“Do you need a ride home” I asked
“No, I am staying at the Holiday Motel which is only a couple of blocks. You can walk me home if you like” she said

So, I settled the bill and bade everyone goodnight and walked out of the door with Mary. We walked up the road making small talk and came to the Motel. She took her keys out  and put them in the lock and turned back to me. “Thank you for a very nice evening. I was lucky that I sat down next to you”.  She extended her hand and shook mine warmly.
“My pleasure” I said “You have my number if you want to have a drink and relax. Goodnight”.
With that, she turned the key and walked into her Motel room.

I walked back to my apartment and opened a beer. I sat there for a while thinking of the evening and as they usually did, my thoughts turned back to the other three problems that I had to solve

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Chapter 9 – And Now There Are Two

The next day, Sunday, I busied myself in preparation for my new assignment in the morning. I dusted off my brief case and packed a bag that would remain in the car just in case I had to stay overnight. I planned on driving every day but you can never tell with this temporary assignment that I was on and there was no sense in not being prepared. I would need to leave home at 6:00 am every morning to be at work on time as the trip would take at least an hour and a half each way. That’s a lot of time to be sitting in a car but the alternative of staying down there and having additional time to myself was not that appealing. Usually, when I am on a project, I would work those additional hours as there were always a hundred problems that needed my time and attention but because I was just filling in, I didn’t think there would be too much to keep me beyond the 8-5 routine.

Our apartment complex had a laundry room for the tenants and it was sometimes an interesting meeting place. I got to know a couple of the other tenants who lived in the building from sitting and watching the drier spin in endless cycles. It was sort of hypnotic in its way. I took a load down and put it in the washing machine. As I did, in walked Julie in high spirits. She was positively bouncing along.

“Whoa” I exclaimed “Slow down or you will do yourself an injury. What are you so pumped up about”?
“Hello” she said “Well, I just got a call from my Dad in Poughkeepsie. My Mom is ill and has been for some time and I am worried about her. My Uncle John died a couple of months ago. His will was tied up for a bit but has now been released and he left me some money and his house. I was his favorite niece and he was always taking me places as he didn’t have a family of his own, not even a wife.  I have decided that I am going to move back home closer to my Mom and Dad and live in my new house”.

Part of me was very pleased for Julie whose fortunes had changed, another part of me was sad that we were not able to pursue our relationship and yet a third part of me was glad that now Julie was no longer a part of my problem.

“Well, that is good news. When do you plan on leaving us”? I asked
“I need to do the right thing with my boss and give him time to find someone else but other than that, I plan on leaving within a couple of weeks” she said.

I was pleased for Julie and told her so. I offered my help for anything she might need and made her promise me that we would go out to dinner for a final time before she left.

With the laundry finished and folded, I trooped back upstairs and put it away on hangers, in closets and drawers and turned my attention to the latest developments in my life. Actually, the developments were in Julie’s life and my involvement was an absolute minimum. Mine was fueled by desire and physical attraction and by my ego that a pretty girl would have been interested in me. I was busy thinking along these lines when the phone rang. I picked it up.
“Hi, this is Evelyn. How are you”
“This is a pleasant surprise. What’s up” I answered
“Not much. Just wondered if you would like to get together this evening”?
“Do you have something special in mind” I asked.
“Well, they are playing a new movie at the drive-in and as it was so much fun last time, I thought we could go again” she said.
“OK, sounds good, you want me to pick you up”? I said
“No, I will pick you up, how about 6:00 pm this evening” she said
“Sounds good to me. I’ll see you then” and hung up.

Evelyn had an older car that had a bench seat and not the bucket seats favored by the modern cars, I thought to myself. Very useful for a drive-in. Stop that, the other part of me thought. You are behaving like a teenager.

At 6:00 pm, Evelyn rang my doorbell and walked in. She kissed me on the cheek and said hello.
“You ready” she asked
“Almost” I said as I picked up my wallet and keys.

The drive was very relaxing and Evelyn was more full of chatter than usual. She seemed in fine spirits so much so that I commented about it. “You seem pretty cheerful”
“Why not” she said “I’m in a car on a date with a good-looking guy and going to the movies. Whats not to be happy”?
“Well, if you put it like that…” I said

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Chapter 10 – The Disappearance

We arrived and found a parking spot to ourselves probably because it was a Sunday. I wandered back to the concession stand and bought a couple of drinks and again missed out on the pop corn. I just can’t stand the smell of that stuff and to me, it’s like eating cardboard. Evelyn had not requested it so that was a blessing.

I wandered back to the car and it wasn’t there. I walked around and couldn’t find it anywhere. I dialled Evelyn’s cell phone and could not get a response.

I walked back to the concession stand and asked the lady behind the counter if there were any messages for me or if anyone had seen a pretty young lady driving an older Chevrolet but to no avail. By now, I was beginning to worry. What could have happened to her in the time that I took to get to the concession stand. I approached the person on the Exit gate and asked if she had seen anything.
“It’s funny you should mention that as I had to holler at a couple that were speeding out of here and in an older Chevy. The guy was driving and the girls was looking scared” she said
“Did you get a licence plate number”? I asked
“Yes, as a matter of fact I did as the guy nearly crashed he was in such a hurry” she said
“Can you call the police” I said “I think that my girlfriend has been abducted”

The State Troopers were the first on the scene and took statements from the Exit Attendant and myself. I told them my story and they agreed it did seem very odd and put out an all points bulletin to be on the look out for the Chevy. One of them offered to take me home as he was heading back to my town. I tried Evelyn’s cell on the way home but still no response.

I thanked the Trooper for his kindness and let myself into my apartment. I mulled things over in my mind and then decided to drive over to Angela’s apartment. Just to be on the safe side, I called ahead to make sure she was there. She answered the phone and I told her I would be straight over.

The buzzer opened the door and I walked up the stairs. Angela was waiting at the top with a worried look on her face.
“Whats wrong” she asked “You sounded so mysterious on the phone”
I led her back inside and we sat down and I told her the whole story. I watched as her eyes opened wide almost in shock and disbelief that something may have happened to her friend. She made no mention or comment that we had been on a movie date or maybe that part hadn’t had time to sink in.

She began to cry and turned to me and buried her head on my shoulder. I held her tight and gradually the sobs subsided but she did not pull out of the embrace. I think she was gaining strength from me and it had no sexual connotations at all. These were two friends grieving and worrying over their mutual friend. We sat like that for a while and then she began to talk about what may have happened. We both had ideas but I had the feeling that Angela knew more than she was letting on and I mentioned it to her.
“You know, if you have something, anything that might help the cops, you should tell them, doesn’t matter how small or trivial it may seem” I said.
She smiled at me and said she would.
“You going to be OK by yourself” I asked.
“Could you stay with me a little longer” she said “That is, if you don’t mind. I could fix us something to eat if you like”.
“Yes, of course I can stay and food sounds good. I’ll give you a hand” I said.

So we busied ourselves in the kitchen and she cooked up spaghetti with a salad, one of my favorite meals. That washed down with a beer and I was almost in hog heaven except for the disappearance of Evelyn. We lingered over the meal and I helped her clean up. I think the acts of cooking and cleaning and eating a meal were a semblance of normality to what was becoming a very worrying time.

I glanced at my watch and she noticed the action. “I know that you have to be up real early tomorrow morning and it’s an important day for you. I think I will be OK now that I have gotten used to the shock of it” she said.
“Are you sure. I can stay longer if you would like” I said
“No, I will call you tomorrow and we can talk then” she said as she led me to the door. She gave me a hug and offered me her lips and I very gratefully accepted the opportunity. It was a long slow kiss mixed in with emotions of love and fear and discovery.

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Chapter 11 – First Day at the Office

The next day, I was up early and on the road by 6:00 am heading down the Thruway arriving at my Head Office a little before 7:30 am. I knew my way around and reported to the guys I would be working with for the next few months. Altogether we were a team of four and our job was to do some pre-planning and engineering on a couple of upcoming projects including the one that I would be running in California. I knew two of the guys but the third was a stranger and as we made our introductions he mentioned that he had read the article on the bear attack in the Adirondacks.

The others were all ears and we spent the next fifteen minutes telling that story and answering their questions.

The day went pretty smoothly and we began to get the feel of each others work. They were all easy to get along with and it looked like the next few months could be OK. Best not to count chickens I thought to myself. Things have a nasty habit of going wrong real quickly.

I called the number the State Troopers had given me and they told me that they were treating it as a missing person until they had more information. So far, they had a few leads and were following up “and will keep you informed”. Angela had called and we chatted for a while. Between her and the other stylists, they had managed to cover Evelyn’s customers. By now, the whole town was agog at the news and she said she was being bombarded by questions and “could you please hurry home to keep me company”.

I told her that I would be home as quickly as I could and we could go out to get dinner if she didn’t want to stay in and cook again. She said she would think about it and would have an answer when I got there.

I arrived home around 6:00 pm and stopped at my apartment to collect my mail and grab some clothes just in case I stayed over. When I rang Angela’s door bell, she opened the door herself.
“What’s the matter with the buzzer” I asked
“I just needed to see you as soon as possible” she said and gave me a hug and a kiss.
We walked up the stairs and I was greeted at the door by Evelyn’s dog, Blondie who recognized me and made a big fuss.
“I went over and picked her up this morning and she was pleased to see someone. I had to bring her here until we get some news” said Angela.
“Great idea. Now you will have some company in the evening. of course you will need to change your routine a little and get out and walk the dog” I said.
“Yes, that’s a great idea, let’s do that now” she said.

So I put on a pair of walking shoes and we wandered the streets of our little town talking about the day’s events. Turns out that a detective had stopped by and talked with Angela primarily because they worked together and wanted to see if Angela could put a different light on the subject. Angela told the detective that she had remembered the thing that had bothered her last evening. She had overheard a conversation that Evelyn was having on the phone at the Beauty Salon and it sounded like Evelyn was getting really upset at whoever was on the other end. When Angela asked her about it, she just shrugged it off. Angela believed from the conversation, it was her divorced husband,  Tom Jackson which is what she told the detective.

Several people stopped us on our walk, many to offer their sympathies to Angela. She thanked them but told them not to give up hope as she hadn’t and things were going to be OK. We walked back to the apartment and Angela had already pre-prepared dinner for the evening. Blondie was beat from her exertions and flopped down on her bed which gave us the opportunity to finish our meal in peace and then sit together on the couch. Angela cuddled up to me as we chatted about the day and I carefully put my arm around her. I managed to steal a couple of kisses from her but had the feeling that she was holding back on purpose which I respected as I didn’t push my luck.

I got up to leave which woke up Blondie. Again, I said goodnight in the doorway as she kissed me very tenderly. Blondie slurped my face when I bent down to pet her and I told the dog to look after Angela.

The next day, bright and early, I was on my way to the office thinking about the recent events. I wondered what it was with my life when all of a sudden, all of these things were happening. My life, which up until now was almost like a book with the same things happening over and over with little to differentiate between them and me in control of most of it, was now turned upside down.
First was the incident with the Bear but prior to that was meeting Angela and Evelyn and briefly Julie. Then my work project was delayed resulting in my getting extra time off which resulted in to this problem of making choices, one incidentally that still is not fixed. Then Evelyn disappears from a drive-in movie. I was beginning to think that I was jinxed in some way and that someone had put a voodoo curse on me.

Of course, that was a pretty selfish way to look at it as apart from being a little, OK a lot mixed up, nothing physically had happened to me. It had happened to those around me, the bear killing the kid, which had affected both Evelyn and Angela, Evelyn’s disappearance and how it was affecting Angela. I was really just the outsider looking in but was getting swept along by this chain of events.

The day was just a routine day at the office but it was challenging enough for me to get something out of it. It was a nice change solving Engineering problems associated with the work that I did and I quickly slipped into the routines involved. I knew that sooner rather than later, I was going to feel confined and stifled by being indoors all of the time which is why I liked the construction sites much better.

I chatted to Angela  a couple of times through the day but other than needing lots of re-assurance herself, there was nothing new on Evelyn.

On the drive home, my cell phone rang and it was from the detective on the case. He had just called to let me know they had a couple of leads and were following up on them and for me to re-assure Angela, they were doing everything they could. I thanked him and hung up.

Angela had told me that unless I really wanted to, she would be alright taking Blondie out for a walk herself and that she would call and talk to me later on so I was heading for my own apartment. I ran into Julie in the hallway and we stopped to talk for a bit. She asked me up for coffee and we sat and talked some more. She had already started packing and much of her knick-knacks were already put away so her place which had looked so feminine and cared for before now began to resemble mine. I mentioned that to her and she found it very amusing. She was leaving at the end of the month to give herself time to get everything in order so we still had a bit of time together. I thanked her for the coffee and took my leave and went to my own apartment.

When I walked in the door, the place was trashed. Someone had searched the room and had not been too careful about it. I backed out of there and called the local police for them to come and take a look. I also called the detective on Evelyn’s case to tell him what had happened in case he saw a connection. The police came and took pictures and dusted for prints and took statements. This had to have happened through the day when most of the people were out of the building. As far as I could tell, nothing was missing. My computer and stereo were intact as were my camera’s so whoever it was must have been looking for something very specific.

I called Angela and told her what had happened and for her to make sure that her locks were in good shape. Of course, she  worked downstairs so that did help. As an afterthought, I asked her if Evelyn had ever given her something to look after, something that may not seem out-of-place. Angela could not think of anything but would keep thinking.

The police had finished so I straightened things up as best I could and told myself that I would finish it tomorrow evening and went to bed. That night, I dreamed of a man with a bears head trashing my apartment…

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Chapter 12 – The Maintenance Man

The day’s passed one by one. I drove in to work as per usual and each day passed pretty uneventfully. I chatted to Angela who seemed in better spirits and got a call from the detective on the case. He was very interested in the trashing of my apartment and wondered if Evelyn had a hidden side that we didn’t know about. In truth, I had been wondering the same thing and the fact that someone had trashed my apartment looking for something specific only increased that line of thinking.

Of course, the two may be totally unrelated but the coincidence sure seemed to be pointing to a connection.

The drive home that Friday evening sure seemed to take forever with much heavier traffic than normal. On the way, I was thinking of straightening out my apartment and at the same time, I would use the opportunity to throw away a bunch of paper and stuff that was no longer useful. I was thinking that if the apartment looked pretty sparse before, it would probably look even worse when I was through.

I parked the car and climbed the stairs and my door was open. I could hear someone moving around inside so I walked slowly and carefully into the room not knowing what or who to expect. Julie was standing in the middle of the room with a brush and dustpan in her hands. “Oh, hello” she said “I thought that I would clean up a bit for you. I hope that you don’t mind”.
“Not a bit but how did you get in” I asked “I thought I locked the door when I went to work this morning”.
“It was locked so I called the Maintenance man and he let me in” she replied.
“Just like that” I asked
“Well, it took a little persuading and I am not afraid to use my feminine charms when I need to and in the end, he gave in” she said

That got me thinking and so I called the Maintenance man and asked him if someone else had used the same ploy the night before. He was very reluctant to answer until I told him that I wasn’t planning on reporting him but could he please fill me in.

The Maintenance man’s name was Gerry Walker and I had dealt with him in the past when things needed fixing. He seemed a nice enough fellow at  least the few times I had spoken to him. We arranged that he would come over and talk to me later that evening and while I waited, I helped Julie work on straightening up the mess. True to my word, I sorted as we tidied and had a pretty big stack of stuff that I planned on re-cycling which I put off to one side. With Julie’s help, we had the mess pretty much taken care of by the time Gerry arrived. He said hello to Julie as she walked by him and it was easy to see how she had convinced him to let her in. Hell, I would have let her in too and it is my place, with the look that she gave him. She took her leave and I thanked her very profusely for her help and thoughtfulness.

I turned to Gerry and asked him to tell me what he knew.
” I received a phone call from a woman who said her name was Evelyn Hall and that she was good friends with you and that she needed to get something that belonged to her from the apartment. She arranged to meet me here with proof of who she was”.
“You let her in based on her saying she was friends with me” I asked
“Well, I knew her from the reports of the bear attack. I recognized her picture” he said
“Is this her”? I asked as I showed him a picture that I had of the three of us.
“Yes, that’s her. The one in the middle” he said
I looked at the picture in disbelief. “Are you sure about this” I said
“Yes” he replied “The one in the middle is the one that I let in”
I looked at the picture again. The one in the middle was Angela…

I thanked him for being so cooperative and asked him if she was alone. he replied that as far as he knew, she was but some one else could have waited for him to leave before joining her.

I sat down to think about these new developments. Why had Angela wanted to get into my apartment  when I wasn’t there? Was she alone or was someone else involved? Did Angela trash the apartment and if so, what was she looking for? Sure was a lot of questions and as far as I could see, very little in the way of answers. My thoughts turned back to my Mother and the small fortune she had amassed. How did she get that sort of money? What was she into? Were she and Angela friends? I felt that there had to be some sort of connection there somewhere but I didn’t know what or why.

Then there was Evelyn’s disappearance. Was she somehow involved in all of this? Was she on the suspect side or herself a victim and who was the mysterious man who had driven her away in her own car?

I sat there for a while and remembered that I had been given a couple of boxes of papers and other things after my Mother died. I had never bothered to go through the stuff as I was a little upset at my Mother’s loss and then as time wore on, I forgot about them. As I sat there, I tried hard to remember just what I had done with those boxes. Maybe, I might find a clue as to what this was all about.

My Mother had owned the house she was living in at the time of her death. My brother and I had closed it up until we could decide what to do with it and had left everything as it was when she died. The three of us had discussed what we might do with it but had not made any decisions. Of the three, I was the only one at all interested in living in the place. My  brother had a house in Oneida as did my sister in Schenectady so neither of them were ever going to live there. Our immediate thinking was to sell it and divide the money which is why we had boarded it up temporarily to keep people out. I had keys to the place and decided to take a look around tomorrow.

I also did some serious thinking about Angela and just how involved in all of this she may have been. Was she two timing me just to string me along? Was she using me for a different agenda? How was I going to handle this in the meantime. I had her trust and didn’t want to lose it until I knew more about the entire affair. So, I decided to play cool and go on with our friendship as though nothing had happened until I could find out more about the mystery of it all.

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Chapter 13 – Mother’s House

The next day, Saturday, I drove to my Mothers house. I should probably stop calling it that as it was now my house or at least one-third of it was.

I parked the car and walked around the outside. It was an old two-story well over 100 years old and she had kept it in good repair. It stood on two acres of land on a hill with a good view of the valley below. It had the typical upper and lower porches with tall windows and a slate roof. The outside did not show any sign of a forced entry and remained tightly boarded up.

I walked to the front door and let myself in. I had decided to leave the power connected and kept the inside at a reasonable temperature to prevent the pipes freezing during the winter. Now, it was Spring and time to air the house out a bit but I was very reluctant to take down the boards.

I walked through the entire house. it was still fully furnished and very little had been disturbed since my Mothers death. There was a good accumulation of dust which was also a good indicator if someone else had been in here. As far as I could tell, no one had been here since the time we had closed it up. I wanted to be methodical in my search so I laid out a plan in my mind of where to start and how to continue. I had no idea what I might be looking for but thought I would know it if I was to see it.

Being an old house, it had an attic of the kind that it was possible to store things under the roof. Back when the house was built, it was very common to put down a floor but not finish out the rest of the space and usually, there was a staircase leading to it. Such was the case here. Heck, if the need ever arose to require an extra bedroom, it would take very little to finish out the space. With  the floor already laid all it would take would be to frame and sheetrock the walls and there was another four or five hundred square feet of livable space. The past owners had not done that but there was still a large amount of storage area and it was crammed full of boxes and other stuff.

I started to go through all of the boxes that had been stored there. Some of it was very old and might be of interest to an Antique Dealer, other stuff by today’s standards was just junk and needed to be tossed out. However, I reminded myself, I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for and needed to look at every single thing.

I decided that I should look in the newer boxes first in the hope of them containing more recent stuff, whatever “stuff” may be. I began to systematically look at every item in every box and then replace it and move the box to a “finished” area. it was slow painstaking work but I was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Most of the boxes contained books and papers many of which were just household bills. Some boxes contained old household goods, pots, pans others had other miscellaneous “stuff” that people finish using but don’t throw away for fear they may need it in the future. I broadened my search and began looking deeper under the roof and found other even older boxes containing lot’s of old paper and books. Going through the boxes didn’t reveal anything that would cast light on any activity that my Mother may have been mixed up in.

There were several rugs on the floor spread around with boxes and old stuff stacked on them. I didn’t give it much thought when I was going through the boxes and had stacked stuff back where I found it but it but then it occurred to me, why were the carpet scattered around the floor. Why weren’t they rolled up as one would normally store carpets. Was it just by chance or did it have a purpose.

I started over and stacked boxes and the miscellaneous stuff to one side after checking that the flooring was tight in that area and then dragged the carpet off. I don’t know what I expected to see but there was nothing there. No trapdoor, no loose boards, nothing. I had a thought and turned the carpets over one by one and there attached to the underside of one of them, was and a big manilla  envelope. I sat and looked at it and then carefully pulled it away from the carpet. I could feel that there was something inside and opened it and tipping it into my hand, out fell a bunch of stones that looked like diamonds. I had no idea how many but there were a lot.

I sat back and thought about what I had in my hands and how they may have got there in the first place. I remembered when I was a kid there were stories going around about a gang of jewel thieves that had been traced back to this little village way back in the 1920’s and wondered if there was a connection. It sure seemed too big a coincidence for there not to be. I finished checking the rest of the carpets but there was nothing else so I tidied up and went back downstairs.

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Chapter 14 – Discovery

Angela was standing there looking as beautiful as ever, pointing a gun at me. I was surprised at someone being there but not so surprised that it was Angela. Standing with her was some guy that I had never met before.
“Who are you” I asked him “No, let me guess. You are Evelyn’s ex-husband, Tom Jackson. What have you done with her”?
“She is safe” Angela said “But I don’t know for how long”.
I thought about what she had just said.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious that neither her nor I will get out of this alive” I said “So why did you kidnap her”.
“Yes, you are right about that.  It’s a shame. I was just beginning to like you a little bit” she said “I was hoping that Evelyn could lead us to the diamonds but it was obvious that she doesn’t know anything”.
“OK, tell me something. What made you think I knew anything about this. Ransacking my apartment wasn’t too smart”. I stopped and as a thought came to me. “Oh, I get it. You knew that I would try to figure it out and put two and two together especially after you told the Maintenance Man you were Evelyn and then come looking” I said.
“Well it worked didn’t it? You found the diamonds didn’t you”? she said.
“Yes, eventually but I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for when I started the search. I guess you killed my Mother because she wouldn’t tell you where the diamonds were. Tell me as you are going to kill me anyway, how did you find out that my Mother had found the stones. Was it because she was selling them off one by one”? I asked not really expecting to get an answer.

Angela couldn’t resist boasting about how clever she had been in all of this and said, “The stupid bitch wouldn’t co-operate so we had no choice. As for the stones, Tom here knew the guy that your mother was selling them to. Simple as that. The stones please” she said holding out her hand.
I didn’t make any move to hand them over. “I could shoot you right here and take them” she said.
“I don’t think you plan on doing that as you don’t want to explain it to the cops. My guess is that you plan to kill me as you did my Mother with a drug that stops the heart” I said.

Tom took a step towards me which is what I was banking on as he was now between me and the gun. I threw the envelope containing the diamonds at his face and he reacted by trying to catch them which was the opening I needed. I charged at him hitting him in the midriff and driving him back into Angela who was totally unprepared. I heard the gun go off and Tom slid to the floor which gave me the opportunity to kick Angela on the knee bringing her down into contact with my fist. I heard the satisfying sound of her nose breaking as she toppled to the ground. I kicked the gun away and jumped back to survey the scene.

Tom was laying in a pool of ever-widening blood and was obviously dead. Angela was screaming with pain as her nose bled profusely.
“Where is Evelyn” I asked
“Go to hell” she replied
I reached out and hit her on the nose again and she screamed some more. “Tell me” I said. It occurred to me that she was going to kill me using the same drug she used to kill my Mother, probably by some drug injected to make it look like a heart attack as that would be the only way she could explain my death without arousing suspicion. I felt in her pockets and pulled out a syringe in a case and took it out. It was already filled so I grabbed her arm and stuck the needle in her but did not depress the plunger.
“She is in Tom’s cabin in the mountains” she cried “Please don’t kill me”.
“Why not, you killed my Mother this way” I said “You never showed her any mercy”
“Where is Tom’s cabin” I said as I moved to push in the plunger
Angela rattled off a list of directions and I pulled out my cell phone. I called the detective and briefly gave him a quick run down of the events and for him to check the cabin and get back to me. I wouldn’t tell him where I was until I heard back from him.

I pulled the needle from her arm and listened to her sobbing from the pain of the broken nose. I had no feeling for her except contempt for the woman who had killed my Mother and who had kidnapped Evelyn.

Time dragged by for what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only twenty minutes and then my cell phone rang. It was the detective. “We have her. She is safe and unhurt except for a few bruises. We’ll be taking her to the local hospital to be checked over. Now, where are you”?

I gave him the address and within minutes, I heard the sound of police sirens and the local cops burst on the scene with guns drawn. I handed them Angela’s gun and briefly gave them the lowdown. They handcuffed Angela and the detective walked in.

I handed him the diamonds and gave him the rundown of the whole story including the part where I had broken Angela’s nose. I handed him the syringe and told him to be careful. I did not mention that my Mother had been selling off the diamonds and would wait for him to tell me about that part. I planned on playing dumb.

By then, half of the police in the county were in the house or at least that is how it seemed. People were taking pictures and others were checking over the scene. Still others were checking the roof space just in case there was anything else of value hidden in there.

They took Angela away but before they did they gave me the opportunity to talk to her. Any feelings that I had were long gone and she knew it.
“How could you do this” I asked
“It was business” she said “There is a lot of money at stake here. Those diamonds were valued at twenty million dollars when they were stolen and are probably worth twice that now”.
“But to involve your best friend and then me. I guess I don’t understand” I said
“I don’t expect you too. My business is hard work and I didn’t want to be a hairdresser the rest of my life. I wanted more, much more and when I found the story of the diamonds going missing in this small town, I decided to move here to see if I could find them. I had a stroke of luck that Tom knew the fence your Mother was using and he tipped me off. The rest you know” she said.
“What is it with you and Tom” I asked
“I met him after he and Evelyn were divorced and became friends and eventually lovers” she said
I looked at her in disgust. “You were playing me all of the time. Give me your keys” I said “I need to rescue Blondie”

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Chapter 15 – Lost and Found

They took out Tom’s body and took Angela away for both treatment and to lock her up for the manslaughter of Tom and the murder of my Mother. I finished telling my side of the story and locked the house. I gave the detective a key in case he needed to get back in but told him I wanted to board the house up as soon as possible.

He told me where they had taken Evelyn but first I stopped into Angela’s apartment to be greeted by a big ole’ slobbery Blondie who was real pleased to see me. I grabbed her leash and then had a quick look around and closed the door probably for the last time.

I thought about the dreams and feelings that I had nurtured over the past few weeks and the promises of things to come from the person who owned the apartment and how everything was now all gone. It was not just me that was losing out as Evelyn had also lost her best friend although, if she ever knew about Tom, I’m sure her friendship would have ended long ago. All for money.

I drove to the hospital where they had taken Evelyn and walked in. She was sleeping and her face was bruised where they had roughed her up. I talked to her Doctor and he said that she didn’t have any permanent damage, just some bruising and should be fine to go home the next day. I wrote her a note and left it on the table for her to read when she woke up and drove back to my apartment.

Blondie was all over me when I got back in the car and was just so happy to see a friend. I guess I was happy too but for a different reason. At least the mystery of my Mother’s death had been solved and even though she was selling stolen property, she had not spent any of the money putting it into a trust fund for her family. Whether we would be able to keep it will be a different story.

On the way home, my cell phone rang and it was Evelyn. She had read my note and was so pleased and relieved that her ordeal was over and when could she see me and when would I be taking her out of there. We chatted some more and reluctantly, she hung up after extracting a promise that I would be back tomorrow to take her home.

I drove home with my thoughts and with Blondie’s head on my lap. She seemed very content and I wished that I was her and could live for the moment.

The next day, I took Blondie for an early morning walk and was greeted by the other early risers who were either walking their dogs or getting their exercise. it was Sunday so very few were on their way to work. We got back to my apartment and as I looked around, I decided that I would pay off their share of my Mothers home to my Brother and Sister and move in. It was a beautiful old house and did not deserve to be unlived in. Houses are for people and they need life and activity for them to stay alive. We ate breakfast together and then Blondie and I drove back to the Hospital to pick up Evelyn.

I found her Doctor and had a few words with him about her health. He reiterated that apart from a few bruises and possibly her mental condition needing to be watched, she was fine and could go home. I thanked him and walked to Evelyn’s room.

Evelyn looked up and then this huge grin came over her face when she saw who it was. She threw her arms out and clung to me as I hugged her and we stayed like that for the longest time. She pulled away just enough to find my lips as she kissed me again and again.
“Now that’s what I call a welcome” I said as we finally came up for air.
She laughed and hugged me again. “I am so pleased to see you. Can we go home”?
Her Doctor walked in and said “Well, you look very happy. I take it you are ready to go”.
I stepped out of the room as he gave her a quick once over and she put on her clothes. These were not the same ones that she had been abducted in but then I remembered that Angela had stopped by the house to”rescue” Blondie so had picked up more clothes for Evelyn at the same time.

We walked to the car with her holding my arm. Blondie was all over her when she got in. The dog was so excited and showed it. I got in and drove slowly home. We stopped at a Diner for coffee and lunch and we chatted about everything except what had happened which I knew would have to be a conversation all by itself.

I stopped at her cottage. She had a hidden key as hers were lost with her car. Now that the Police had a whereabouts of where she was kept, they might find her car hidden in that area. I walked her to her door and unlocked it and she walked into her own house. Blondie followed her in just as happy to be home and to have her mistress with her as I was.

I kinda hung around making small talk and trying to not appear as a nosy unwanted guest. Evelyn sat  down for a bit and I sat with her. We chatted and then she announced that she was going to take a shower and clean up and would I please wait so that I could take her to the grocery store and would I lend her some money until the banks opened tomorrow so she could straighten out her bankcard. I looked at her and she looked like a lost little girl. I opened my arms and she fell into them as though she needed comfort and reassurance. There was nothing sexual in the embrace but there was an awful lot of pent-up feeling like she was getting ready to blow off steam.

She got up and went into the bedroom and I sat on the couch making a fuss of Blondie who just lapped up all of the attention. I heard the water running and fifteen minutes later, she reappeared looking fresh and a whole new different person in jeans and a sweater.

We drove to the supermarket and she stocked up on her groceries and food for Blondie. She told me that I was staying for dinner that evening. She didn’t ask me but told me and I was secretly hoping that she would. I wanted to stay with her long enough for her to get over her ordeal and at some time, to fill her in on what had happened.

We opened a bottle of wine and sat on her patio enjoying the cool breeze of the beautiful spring day. After a couple of drinks, she turned to me and said “Tell me all about it. I need to know so that I can begin the healing process”
“Are you sure you are ready”? I said
“As ready as I will ever be” she replied

So, I started at the beginning with my Mother and told her about the fortune she had amassed and we didn’t know how she got it. One thing followed the next until I brought us to the present moment in time.

She told me about her abduction of how Tom had waited until I went to the concession stand and then forced his way into the car and drove off before she realized what was happening. He took her to the cabin and locked her up. Angela had shown up and between them, had roughed Evelyn up a bit hoping that she knew where the diamonds were hidden. When it became apparent that although she had known my Mother, she didn’t have a clue  about diamonds. At that point, Angela and Tom argued about what to do with Evelyn. Angela wanted to finish off her former friend but Tom who may still have had some memories of when they were married, was adamant that they would have to find a different way.

She knew that it would only be a matter of time and was actively looking for a way out of the cabin when the police arrived to rescue her.

We sat there for a while in silence each deep with our own thoughts and I said “What are you going to do now? Are you going to run Angela’s business for her or do you have something different in mind”.
“You know, I haven’t really thought that far ahead but I guess we do have some responsibilities to the other stylists and all of Angela’s customers and ours” she said. “I do have keys to get into the building and maybe, that would be the thing to do”.

She sat there deep in thought and then said “You know, I have known Angela for several years and I always thought we were friends. It’s a terrible thing that money can corrupt a person like that even to the point of killing another person. What really hurt was that she was friends with Tom. Actually, they were more than friends as she slept with him the nights she was at the cabin”.

I thought, how can it get any worse. There was I falling in love with Angela and she was encouraging me just for the sake of money. She wanted a way to the diamonds and thought that I was that way.

We went back in and Evelyn busied herself in the kitchen. I helped as much as could without getting in the way but primarily, I just wanted to be with her to act as her crutch if she needed one. We sat and ate our meal and finished up the wine.
“Do you want me to take tomorrow off” I said “I can run you around until we get your car back or buy you another one”.
“Would you do that for me” she asked
“That and much more” I replied “You only have to ask”.

She kissed me goodnight and this time there was no mistaking the yearning and feeling that she put into it. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Call me if you need anything”. Even if she had wanted for me to stay, I could not have taken her to bed in such an emotionally charged situation. We needed time to cool and re-adjust.

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Chapter 16 – And Now there is One

The next morning, I called into the Office to let them know that I needed a couple of days off. By now, the news had hit the airwaves and my boss already had an idea of what had happened. I told him that I would fill him in when I returned which I figured would be on Wednesday, all being well.

One of the things that had been bothering me was how did my Mother locate the diamonds in the first place. Had she accidentally run across them or had she found something in the house that led her to them? I guess I would never know. But, it was something to think about.

I drove to Evelyn’s to pick her up. The police had located her car and except for a flat tire, it appeared to be intact. They had also located her purse which still contained all of her stuff. In that respect, she was a lucky lady but I guess neither Tom or Angela was interested in the contents of her purse. We drove to the police station and she signed for her purse and then to the yard where they towed in her car and she was able to pick it up for a small fee.

We took a slow drive back to her house with me leading the way, stopping to eat at a nice little Country Inn. She had her phone back and we were able to communicate as we drove and she called me a couple of times with questions through the trip.

Mondays, the Salon was closed giving Evelyn time to decide what she was going to do.  I suggested that we stop at the local Lawyers office to get some advice on where Evelyn stood as regards running the business in Angela’s absence. He had some good ideas on how to proceed which gave Evelyn a good starting point.

The detective called and had a couple of questions for me which I readily answered. he said that they had a pretty strong case against Angela as she had confessed to killing my Mother. He also mentioned that the statute of ownership had run out on the diamonds and technically they could revert back to me “but not to get too excited yet as the local judge would be the one to make that decision”. I thanked him and hung up and decided to keep that information to myself.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the bloodstain from the floor. Luckily, it was a wood floor and if worst came to the worst, I could sand it and refinish or even cover it with a carpet at least temporarily.  The detective had told me they were all through in the house and that it was OK for me to straighten it up. I had definitely decided that I was going to move into the place and away from my apartment and I had a couple of weeks to clean it up and get it ready. It needed some work especially in the kitchen as it could use some modern equipment.

That evening. Evelyn asked me to come over and she would whip something up, her words, which I was more than willing to do. As long as she was referring to food and not me, then that sounded like a deal.

I thought about my current situation. I had gone from three prospective girl friends to one and I wasn’t sure about her. She was being nice and cosy but I put some of that down to the recent scare and her gratitude for getting out of it alive. Whether she was really beginning to care for me was hard to figure.  I knew that I would have to be extremely patient and not rush the situation. However, I was grateful for the opportunity and as long as she kept giving me encouragement, then I would press forward.

I arrived at her house to be met by an excited Blondie. Evelyn was only a couple of steps behind and threw herself into my arms and gave me kiss.
“Come in and let’s get comfortable” she said. I had no idea what she meant but followed her into the house where I was greeted by the smell of home cooking.
“I am making a Pot Roast. Is that OK with you”? she asked
“Sounds wonderful” I replied and opened the bottle that I had brought with me.

We sat on the patio while the roast was cooking and I asked her how the rest of the day had gone. She told me about her visit to the Salon and the preparation she had made for the morning. She had managed to move customers around so they all were covered and shared between the three of the stylists.

“You know, Angela was talking of taking on another couple of stylists and had interviewed a couple. I bet she has some notes at the store somewhere if you are interested. If you need money to get yourself set up, I don’t mind putting some into your business. You can pay me back when you get on your feet or leave it in as an investment and pay me quarterly. Something we can work out if your interested. Strictly a business deal” I said.

We went back into the house and I helped her serve the food. We sat down and the meal was delicious. Whether that was because she had cooked it or that I was hungry or a combination, who knows. It was a very enjoyable evening. We hardly talked about the events of the past week but she did mention that she had to go and give a statement tomorrow and would I like to come with her. I don’t think it was a question but more a plea for companionship during these difficult times. I had already arranged to have Tuesday off so I said I would go with her.

I broke the news that I was moving back into the family house and was getting out of my apartment and that I planned on doing some work before moving in. “Would she like to help pick out new kitchen appliances”? I asked her. As I expected, she was very happy with the idea that I would have a stable home and readily agreed to help with some of the work.

Throughout the evening, I was very conscious of her nearness and felt that I was picking up all kinds of good vibes. Things like love and caring, passionate feelings and togetherness. It was such a wonderful feeling. I felt like a young kid on a first date only with mature thoughts and feelings and had not felt so excited with life in a long time. I knew that I was falling in love with Evelyn and was hoping that she was having the same feelings for me and the whole of the rest of our lives was in front of us.

But then again, Angela had created the same feelings in me and look how that ended…

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