The Reluctant Ghost Whisperer

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Sven wasn’t always a ghost whisperer.

He was like any other kid on the block growing up. Nothing special. No superpowers. Nothing that separated him from his peers. But that changed when he got out of the Army at 22-years-old.

As a combat veteran in Afghanistan, Sven saw more than his share of people die. Friends and enemies. Death didn’t scare him. He always understood he could die at any time.

There was a moment, when a sniper’s bullet passed through his cheek and shattered his teeth, when Death eagerly hovered nearby, waiting to see if his time had come.

The first thing Sven did when he mustered out of the military was to buy a used Harley motorcycle from a high school friend. Then he pointed the Harley north, towards Northern California.

He was trying to stick to the old Pacific Highway Route 1, but discovered it no longer went straight through to Oregon. There were areas where the road disappeared off the steep cliffs into the ocean. He followed the bypasses when it came to those points.

One afternoon he was cruising along enjoying the scenery when a pickup truck came barreling up behind him at a high-speed! He veered hard to his right to avoid getting run over, masterfully bringing the Harley to a stop in the dirt running alongside the highway.

It took him a few minutes to compose himself before he got back on the road. He didn’t go far when he saw something suspicious. He pulled his Harley off the road and hopped off.

What he noticed were dark black skid marks on the road leading to the drop-off on the left. He walked across the road and looked down the 100-foot embankment. A pickup truck was turned upside down, partly in the Eel River, and on the rough shoreline.

He didn’t hesitate.

When he got to the bottom he spotted a body that was thrown from the truck. He checked it out. There was nothing he could do, so he went to the pickup truck to see if the someone was still inside, and alive.

He wasn’t. Sven shook his head sadly. “Was it worth it?” he wondered.

“Oh, Hell no! I didn’t mean to lose control,” a voice next to him replied.

Sven jumped up and spun around in alarm. Then he saw something strange. The dead guy was standing up and talking to him! But…the dead guy was still trapped in the pickup when he looked over at it.

“Listen…you gotta tell my mom I love her, okay?” the dead man pleaded.

“Yeah sure…what’s her name?” he automatically replied.

“Joan. Tell her I love her, and I wished I wasn’t speeding.”

Then he was gone.

Sven stood there for minutes in shock. He didn’t believe in ghosts. How could this happen to him? Was it a flashback of some kind? As he climbed back up the steep embankment he regretted not having a cell phone yet. He’d have to flag someone down when he got back up top.

For once in his short interesting life, he was glad to see a cop when a California Highway Patrol car came down the road. He stayed for nearly an hour answering questions. He told the investigator everything…except, of course, about the ghost part.

He didn’t want to end up in a VA psych ward trying to convince someone he didn’t have PTSD.

Two days later. Southern Humboldt County.

Sven sat on his Harley and watched the latter-day hippies and wannabes mingle in the supermarket parking lot. He was parked next to a small park area – a rude sign proclaimed it “The People’s Park” – with two wooden tables packed with homeless people and travelers.

It was nearly dark when he decided to go to the motel room he rented during the day. As he locked up the Harley in front of his room, a stranger laughed, and said, “These kids don’t know nothing about mother nature.”

“Say what?”

 “You know. Those punks over by the supermarket and park. They don’t even know what they’re pretending to be.

“Excuse me dude. Do I know you?

“Oh, I doubt it man.

Then he disappeared, as Sven blinked in stunned disbelief.

What was going on? He told himself one more time that he didn’t believe in ghosts. Why was he having these hallucinations? He wasn’t using any drugs. It was several days since he had any liquor.

Sven had a hard time going to sleep. Just as he started to slip off into dreamland someone said, “I was murdered in this bed.

He sprung up and threw the blanket aside! Standing at the end of the bed was a young woman. Her sad eyes drew him to her. He tensely waited to see if she’d speak again.

“The guy that runs these crummy hotel is a murderer!” she hotly claimed.

“What can I do about it?” he asked, while wondering if he lost his mind.

“Tell the cops where my body is.”

“Where’s that?”

“Underneath your bed, below the floorboards.”

He jumped out of the bed at the same time she disappeared. He pinched himself to see if it was just a nightmare. It wasn’t. He’d just conversed with a ghost. He went outside hoping the cool night air would clear the cobwebs in his head.

“There he is!” a woman standing by the motel office shouted, pointing at Sven.

Suddenly he was surrounded by ghosts! He could see through their bodies, but they maintained enough of an image for him to tell they were once human. Questions flew at him from all angles.

“I’m buried underneath the parking lot, will you tell someone?”

“The manager is a murderer. Will you stop him?”

“Will you tell my family I’m buried beneath the floorboards in the main office?”

“Will you help me?” a chorus of undead voices pleaded.

While trying to hold on to his sanity Sven spoke out, “I don’t know why you picked me to haunt. I never believed in ghosts.”

“Joel told us you were a ghost whisperer, ” one of the young women said.

“Whose Joel?”

“He was killed when his pickup truck went off a cliff recently. He passed the word on that you could see and hear him,” the woman explained.

Sven was stumped. He didn’t know what to do. This supernatural drama playing out had him as a central character.

Then he heard someone scream in terror! The ghosts were gone when he headed for the room where he thought the scream came from. Without even thinking, he kicked the door in.

Bent over a young woman in bed, with his hands around her neck, was the motel manager!

Sven ran over and punched the manager in his jaw just as he was letting go of the woman who was gasping for air. The punch shattered his jaw, and when Sven put a chokehold on him, he passed out.

“Do you have a cell phone?” he asked the young woman who was still gagging. She pointed at the end table. He dialed 911 and sat on the end of the bed, watching to see if the manager woke up.

Afterward, the police hailed him as a hero. Everyone in Garberville was stunned to hear about the murderer in their midst. That he was a serial killer made it a national news story.

After talking with police investigators he refused to grant any interviews. He didn’t want to be a public figure. When he got back on the road, going north towards Eureka, he started thinking that what happened was probably a once in a lifetime thing.

He certainly hoped so.

As the days went by he lost himself riding his Harley along the beautiful northern coast. He stayed in motels and continued to head north with no real destination in mind.

One night, while he stayed at a little offbeat motel just below Seattle, Washington, someone woke him up. He opened his eyes warily expecting the worst. He wasn’t disappointed.

A man dressed in animal furs and holding an ancient rifle stood in the corner of his room staring at him. It took all he had not to get up and run out of the room screaming!

“Hold on sonny…” the man said, “I don’t want anything from you. I just heard that you can talk with ghosts and I wanted to see if it were true. I know you can see me now, but can you really hear me?”  

Inspiration struck Sven like a lightning bolt. He didn’t answer the ghost. Instead he just stared dumbly in his direction.

After a long pause the man shook his head, “I didn’t think so. You can’t believe everything you hear,” he said.

“It’s too bad…I could have told him where to find that hoard of gold I stashed just before the Indians got hold of my hide.

“Wait a minute! Did you say gold hoard?” Sven suddenly piped up.

“It’s too bad,” the ghost said mischievously, before disappearing.

As It Stands, maybe Sven won’t be so quick to deny his talent next time.

The Space Orphans Of Pallidia

What happens when a planet is overpopulated and torn by continuing wars?

In the case of Pallidia, one out of every ten babies get sent to other planets. The rest are killed. Only the super wealthy, one-percenters, could afford to send their new offspring to other planets with similar atmospheres.

Even so, there was no guarantee that those children would be accepted by whoever found them. It was a last-ditch gamble by a desperate civilization. A forlorn hope that their species might survive somewhere else.

With only six other planets in their solar system, the choices were down to four planets that could sustain them. Nothing was known of their populations and civilizations. Space travel had only progressed to sending small lifeboat capsules to nearby planets.

The capsules didn’t always make it to their destination.

The one’s that did, suffered different fates on the four targeted planets. The nearest planet Hatho II, was the worst one. When its inhabitants discovered a capsule, they took it as food from the gods! The fate of those babies was a barbaric death.

The second nearest planet Strava, was populated by bipeds similar in stature and make-up to the children from Pallidia. They were an emerging civilization using crude technology to survive. Whenever they found a capsule with a live baby in it they rescued it and adopted it into their tribe.

The third planet, Arsus, was a cold bleak world that seldom saw much light from the twin suns in the solar system. It was populated by bipeds and quadrupeds. There was no cities, because no species existed with that kind of expertise. Half the planet was underwater and unexplored. There was zero chance for a space orphan.

The furthest planet, Zenxa, was populated with advanced Homo sapiens who built great cities and civilizations. They were a peace-loving species that welcomed the space orphans when they arrived…which was very seldom.

Only three of the nine capsules that actually made it to Zenxa bore live cargos. The other six had problems with entry and burned up by the time they hit the ground. Of the three, one died a year later for unknown reasons.

The remaining two children, both boys, were adopted by two sets of parents. The adoptive parents lived half a world away from each other so the boys weren’t raised together in the same city.

The capsules quit coming as the years passed by and the two boys grew up.

Cain and Abel grow up miles apart and had no knowledge of one another. They both had one trait in common, a violent streak. Each worked their way up in the local governments until they were a step away from becoming supreme leaders of their civilizations.

Cain formed a militia. The concept was unknown in Aton until then. He had succeeded in his desire, because the Supreme Leader died of natural causes.

When word got to Lux, where Abel lived, that the kingdom of Aton was doing some strange things like training groups of men to fight together, Abel knew he had to convince his people to arm themselves.

The current Supreme Leader, Sray, resisted Abel’s efforts to form a militia however. He was a scholar who studied lost civilizations, solar systems, and other mysteries of the universe. He was also an expert at Mindsight, and knew exactly what was going on in Abel’s head.

Sray knew Abel’s history and that he came with another alien who had somehow ascended to the Supreme Leadership of Aton. It was time, he decided, to tell Abel about Cain and their orphan heritage.

Abel’s reaction went from surprise to curiosity. Then suspicion.

“Why tell me now?” he bluntly asked, “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

“Because no one could foresee the future. Your adoptive parents, may the Lord of Life always keep them in his heart, didn’t see the need. They raised you as one of their own.”

“What now?” he sullenly asked.

“You two should meet,” Sray answered. “I’ve taken the liberty of inviting him here.

Two days later.

“Thank you for inviting me,” Cain said to Sray.

“Thank you for coming. I have something of special interest to you, but first you must agree to hear me out before reacting to what I tell you.”

“An intriguing offer. Please tell me what’s so interesting.” 

“Excellent!”

Sray went into another room and came back out accompanied by a man roughly the same age as Cain.

“Cain, meet Abel. He’s from another planet just like you.

Cain’s coutesy melted away in an instant, as he glared at Abel.

“What is this about another planet?” he demanded.

It took an hour for Sray to calm Cain and Abel down. Using his Mindsight he was able to say the right things to address each man’s concerns. Then he contacted Cain’s back-up, and they mind-melded. A plan was formed.

The next day Sray heard that Cain had murdered Abel in the night!

The plan was thrown out. Citizens and scientists of Aton and Lux did not believe in killing, but they didn’t want Cain on their planet any longer. It was decided to put him on a space ship that would take him out of their solar system.

All provisions were made for his safety. He would be at the mercy of the ship’s computer – GOD – wandering other universes for a lifetime.

As It Stands, this tale is a nod to supreme beings that I’m sure exist somewhere.

Meeting challenges

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To my readership;

Thank’s for cruising by to check things out daily, but I’m going to have to slow my story production down for awhile.

I’ll be straight up with you, I have PTSD, and this is a bad time of the year for me. Some psychologists call it an “anniversary date.”

That simply means something terrible happened around this time of year when I was a combat engineer in Cambodia. Also Vietnam.

In a nutshell, I have a lot of trouble focusing in April and May. They’re the worst two months of the year for me. Hence, it’s difficult to write. I’m trying to meet this challenge by not giving up totally.

If your new here, please check out my archives on the right side of this page. I’m sure to have something for you there.

From Science Fiction to Speculative Fiction, I’ve hopped from one genre to another in order to offer the most discerning reader a variety.

I don’t expect to write more than two stories a week right now – if that. But, I’m going to try.

Thanks for your understanding.

The Blood Roses of Halfeti

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Prudence was a third generation Hoffenberg whose family owned the biggest hothouse nursery in the state of New Hampshire.

The Nursery – Heavenly Sent Gardens – specialized in exotic flowers and rare roses. The entire Hoffenberg family was involved in the business, from top to bottom. They stuck together ever since immigrating from Germany in 1919.

What started out as a flower stand, bloomed into a multi-acre showroom of flowers from around the world. Rarity and Quality was their business motto. Shoppers from the whole east coast, and from around the world, regularly visited the famous nursery.

Prudence’s day was taken up with ordering specialty flowers from Asia to Zambia. The best seller list was a who’s who of the flower world.

The top five were: the Kadupul flower, mainly found in the jungles of Sri Lanka. This incredibly rare flower only blooms at midnight and dies before dawn.

Campion flowers was their second bestseller. Once they could only be found in the British territory of Gibraltar. This flower also has a short lifespan and prior to the Hoffenberg’s obtaining some, they could only be found in the botanical gardens on Gibraltar and London.

Their number three best-seller was the Ghost Orchid, that only grows in Cuba and Florida. It was the demands for high temperatures and high humidity that made the ghost orchid so rare.

Number four on the hit list, was Chocolate cosmos native to Mexico. Sadly, this flower has been extinct in the wild for years.

Wrapping up their top five was, Blood Roses from Halfeti. Turkey accounts for 25 percent of all species of roses and none more famous than the Blood Rose of Halfeti. The secret was what to feed it.

Heavenly Sent Gardens worked with experts in Turkey for years before finally obtaining the secret to keeping it healthy. It came at great cost.

As Prudence walked past the section of Blood Roses in her daily hothouses inspection, she stopped to admire one that was blooming. Once again she wondered if it was worth the price.

Haydin Hoffenberg, Prudence’s 21-year-old grandson, was very much involved in the family business. His job however was unique, and dangerous. He had to go out and find the main ingredient for the Blood Roses very special feeding times.

Blood. Not just any blood. It couldn’t be older than one hour and must be given at right at midnight.

The second generation of Hoffenberg’s were the first family members to approach Turkish agriculturists who led them to the, then underground, market of Blood Roses. A corrupt Turkish regime later made their importation legal.

Only very special people ordered blood roses. Not only because they were very expensive, but because they had to sign a contract stating it was their responsibility to provide fresh blood (defined as less than an hour old) for the rose. How they did that, was up to them. No refunds.

Rather than bleed family members dry, the second generation of Hoffenberg’s chose to kidnap a feeder victim, and keep them alive for as long as possible. A special underground bunker was built during the cold war with Russia just for that purpose.

Located on their own land, near the hothouses, the bunker became the last resting place for numerous victims over the years. Haydin Hoffenberg’s job was to “maintain the feeder victim,” and make sure they stayed as healthy as possible, despite living in restraints.

It was harder than it sounds. Not catching the victim, but keeping them alive. Sometimes they just gave up and died after a year or so. Others lived for years. They even had one feeder who lived there for a decade.

Finding new feeder victims was a delicate process.

After decades of refinement, the family had a formula for selecting feeders. They should be in their early 20s, healthy, and have very few (if any) family members. Orphans were all right, if they were at least in their teens.

Homeless people weren’t as reliable, as they didn’t tend to be too healthy. They were sometimes just taken as temporary substitutes, while the family kept searching for the ideal candidate.

This system thrived for nearly 80 years before crashing down in a night of horror.

Among his duties, Haydin had to feed the blood roses. He became an expert at hooking up IV’s to drain the feeder’s veins. It was his habit to go down in the bunker about thirty minutes before midnight. It gave him plenty of time to set things up and go back to the nursery.

Being raised in a family of psychopaths, Haydin saw nothing wrong with what he was doing. It was a family thing. Looking at the victims as feeders, made it easier for him to do his job. He was a little excited about finding the new feeder.

He was living in the streets of the city, but looked healthy, and best of all, he was a loner shunned by other denizens of the streets. He knew that because he asked around.

He caught the new feeder sleeping in an alley. Gave him a shot that would have knocked a gorilla out, and managed to get his big body into the back of his SUV. When he got home, he got his younger brother, Nicholas, to help him take the feeder down into the bunker.

As he walked outside he looked up at the full moon overhead. It was beautiful. He pulled his keys out and unlocked the metal cover protecting the door over the bunker. He idly wondered if the feeder was conscious yet?

He flipped the light switch, but it didn’t come on. Annoyed, he wondered when the last time was since he changed it? He warily went down the stairs until he reached bottom.

He started to take a step, heard a growl, and stopped! The growl got deeper! Something was thrashing around in the room. He heard something tearing, and then a roar of rage! The werewolf slammed into Haydin and knocked his breath out!

Another low growl…and Haydin screamed as the werewolf slashed him apart with it’s deadly claws and teeth!

The public was stunned when the family announced it was closing down the business two days later. Everything was sold at 75 percent off. The only thing that Heavenly Sent Gardens didn’t sell were the remaining Blood Roses…and that’s because they were all dead.

As It Stands, how do you make your garden grow?

The Gentle Embrace of Death

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

GangstersLouie Marozzi wasn’t part of anyone’s gang.

It’s true that Al Capone, Dion O’Banion, and Bugs Malone all asked him, at one time or the other, to drive trucks for them. But he turned them all down. He wanted to stay independent…no matter the cost.

Not only was Louie an exceptional driver, he was a giant of a man. At six-feet, seven-inches, and 340 pounds, he was a specimen to behold. People thought Big Louie, as many called him, wasn’t too bright.

He seldom spoke and when he did he stumbled over words, going from Italian to American in the same sentence. His appearance, with a dark unibrow and jutting forehead, probably furthered the narrative about his low intelligence.

He was slow to anger. He didn’t drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. The few friends he had were homeless, and lived on the streets of Chicago. His daily challenge was to stay out of the way of warring gangs.

Louie saw plenty of guys get gunned down in a hail of bullets from a passing car. The gangsters spent as much time killing each other as they did innocent victims. Dead men turned up all the time.

It was that environment that gave Louie his chance to kill people without getting caught. He wasn’t a violent killer, and never used a gun. He preferred to put his victims to sleep in his firm, yet strangely gentle, chokehold.

Unlike some psychopaths, Louie knew it was wrong to kill people. He justified his hobby by killing what he judged were bad men. He tried to keep the murders down to just a couple a week.

With the rate of weekly murders in the streets of Chicago in 1931, two more a week were easily lost in the shifting statistics.

In Louie’s mind he was doing his criminal victims a favor. They probably would have been violently killed by someone else. He was nice enough to make their passing painless and not traumatic.

Even in that violent time and city, there were whispered rumors of a serial strangler stalking the streets. The police, aware of the rumors – and the circumstances involving a string of choking victims – kept their eyes open for a suspect.

One day his friend Leo emerged from the streets, and hunted him down.

“I need your help Louie,” the shriveled old man pleaded.

“Sure Leo.

“A couple of thugs in Bugs Moran’s gang took Angelo this morning! They beat him up and dragged him into one of those big black cars and took off!”

“Why they do that?” Louie asked.

I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s about a briefcase he found in an alley, and they were looking for it.

“You sure Bug’s boy’s did it?”

“Yeah…I happen to know a couple of them. Ran a few errands for ’em.

“I’ll see what I can do come amico.”

As Louie walked back to where his truck was parked, he noticed a couple of thugs loitering around it. The first thing that went through his mind was Angelo convinced them he had the briefcase, in order to stay alive.

The normally calm and composed Louie was slowly melting away, as he watched them from the window of a shop he went inside of. He didn’t like being threatened. He looked at both men closely, memorizing their faces.

There was a rear exit in the shop and Louie took it out to the alley. He knew where the Moran mobsters hung out. There was one location in particular, a house, that he suspected they’d taken Angelo too.

It was a couple of miles away, but that didn’t bother him. He liked a good brisk walk. It helped calm him down. He didn’t want to shed blood. He just wanted to gently put them to sleep in his powerful arms.

He was right about the house. It was on a big lot and fenced in, but Louie had no trouble getting over the fence. As he got closer he heard a muffled scream. Louie sat down and waited for hours until the moon climbed to the top of the sky, before overpowering the sleeping guard on the front porch.

He went through the front door, surprisingly quiet for a man of his size. He took care of the two thugs sleeping in the living room. He went to the cellar door and opened it. He softly descended the stairs.

Another guard was asleep on a chair. Louie wished him sweet dreams and sent him to eternity. Angelo was a bloody pulp. His hands were tied behind him with twine, and he was unconscious.

Louie approached his body on the floor. He was laying sideways. He checked for a pulse and was surprised to find a weak one. He probably wasn’t going to make it from the looks of his smashed skull.

Louie sent him gently into the night.

No one knew what happened at the Bugs Moran gang’s house, because it was engulfed in flames set by Louie that night.

Locals said Moran’s gang never bothered Louie again. Some say it was because Al Capone and his thugs took a lot of Bug’s time just trying to survive.

Other’s say that Louie Marozzi was the most feared and famous killer in Chicago… that the public never heard about.

As It Stands, this tale is a chapter out of the urban lore from Chicago’s “gangster days.”

The Mail Order Bride

Mail order brides were a common occurrence in the Old West, so when Hank told his friend Logan he’d sent for one, they celebrated in the Bucket Of Blood saloon until they were kicked out by the bartender who was closing up.

Logan had married a lady from Boston last year, when she replied to his ad for a bride. Seeing his friend so happy, Hank decided it was time to seek martial bliss himself. It was pretty lonely at the miner’s camp in Big Gulch, Nevada.

He’d saved up money that he earned hunting for meat and furs for the miners, and felt confident that he could support his new wife.

Unlike Logan, who worked hard everyday at the gold mine owned by the Loman Brothers, Hank was a free spirit who didn’t want to be tethered to anyone, or business.

Gold was first discovered in the vicinity of Carlin in Eureka County, Nevada, in the 1870s, and by the time Logan and Hank arrived from Ohio, it was a thriving business in Jackass Junction.

Hank was a good hunter, and the fur that he cured was easily sold to miners. He also made arrangements with other small mining towns like Jackass Junction, to bring them meat in exchange for coffee, tobacco and liquor.

Once he decided to get married he built a log cabin away from the boom town, and filled it with crude wooden furniture he made himself. There was a bed, kitchen table, four chairs, and several wooden shelves on the wall near a wood-fired stove he bought in a 1887 Sears catalogue.

There were still very few women in the area, and when one arrived in town it was a big occasion for the men, who gathered on the street to greet them. As soon as word got out a newcomer was there to meet her husband, most of the men lost interest and went about their business.

Hank purchased a buggy and two roan horses to pull it. When the day came around for his new bride’s arrival, he joined Logan and the other men in town, lingering around at the saloon.

“What’s her name again pard?” Logan asked.

“Annabel Lee,” Hank cheerfully replied.

There conversation was abruptly terminated when someone shouted, “Coach is here! The stagecoach is here!” The men poured out of the saloon like lemmings to get a look at the new arrivals.

It was a bumper crop of brides, with five women inside. Turned out that only two were brides, and the other three were “soiled doves,” to the absolute delight of the women-starved miners.

Annabel Lee stood out from the other sun-tanned women, because she was so pale. She wore a black dress, with a matching hat and veil, and carried an umbrella. Hank couldn’t help notice some men staring at her oddly.

The stagecoach driver was pulling down Annabel Lee’s luggage when Hank approached her timidly.

“Might you be Annabel Lee?

“You are Hank then. You’re much more handsome than in the photo you sent me.” she said matter-of-factly.

Hank blushed under his recently trimmed beard.

“Thankee mamI’ll take care of your luggage.

Hank helped her up to the buggy seat and went after her luggage. Left alone for a moment, she raised her veil slightly…and hissed, as she surveyed the townspeople.

Hank returned after loading her luggage, and hopped nimbly up onto the buggy seat beside her. He took the reins and gently tugged them. The roan’s took off in a steady pace as they headed to the cabin.

After a few cursory questions the conversation died down. Hank had never felt more awkward in all of his life. His only experience was with a prostitute in the nearby boom town of  Hell’s Half-Acre. Once.

When they got to the cabin he helped her down and unhitched the horses. He led them over to a water trough as she stood silently in front of the cabin. After securing both horses near his stallion, he came back and opened the front door.

“C’mon in,” he said with as big a smile as he could muster.

She didn’t comment on any of the furnishings while Hank started a fire in the woodstove.

“Built this place m’sef,” he offered, by way of conversation.

She took off her hat and veil, and appeared paler than before.

“Very talented,” she softly replied. “What else can you do?” she asked coyly.

“Well…I’m a pretty fair hunter, and a decent shot with a Colt .45. Been riding horses since I was five…

She studied his face as he spoke. He seemed like a nice guy. She knew he would provide good cover for her being here.

He was her complete opposite. She was a traveler who had seen many cities in her long lifetime. He was a country boy out of his league right now. She spoke 22 languages. It was apparent to her that he hadn’t even mastered one, with his accent.

She was tired of the east coast, and when she heard about mail order brides it encouraged her to go on another adventure. So, she answered Hanks letters for a proper period of time, and then made arrangements to come out west and get married.

It had been over 30 years since Edgar Allen Poe immortalized her. She, in turn, encouraged him to pursue his tales of mystery and the macabre. He was the last man she lived with for a while.

The intervening years were spent single, roaming the streets of eastern cities in search of new blood supplies. Unlike novice vampires, Annabel Lee had evolved over the centuries to the thing she was now. The sun was no longer fatal to her. Just something to be avoided.

“I just can’t get over what a handsome man you are Hank! Please forgive me. I know I’m being forward and we aren’t married yet.”

Awwww shucks mam. I set it up with the preacher so we could get hitched tomorrow.

“How thoughtful,” she said. “Come here Hank…”

The next morning while they were riding to town, Hank felt an itch on the side of his neck. When he scratched it, he got a little blood on his fingernails. Not overly concerned, his thoughts quickly returned to getting married.

Most of the miners in town were working when they got there. The preacher was waiting in the saloon for them.

“Sorry mam!” the preacher said, “We don’t have us a church yet. This will have to do.”

Annabel Lee smiled sweetly and declared, “Oh, that’s all right reverend. I’m ready to marry this fine man anywhere.”

After the five-minute ceremony the bartender bought the bride and groom a drink. He set two beers down on the bar for them. Hank tossed his beer down without hesitation.

Annabel Lee looked at hers, and then at her new husband, “I’m so sorry. But I don’t drink any kind of alcohol. Not that I mind if you do though. It doesn’t set well with me,” she explained.

Months later, a dozen miners grew so weak they could no longer walk. The local doctor, between bouts with John Barleycorn, had no idea what was wrong with the men. He told anyone who asked that they were sicker than anything he’d ever seen. He knew it wasn’t consumption.

Hank and Logan were having a beer at the saloon one afternoon when Logan asked, “What do you think about what’s happened to those men? I ain’t never seen anything like it. The doc says the same.”

“Not sure pard.

As Hank rode his horse back to the cabin he was troubled. He knew Annabel Lee was sneaking out at night when she thought he was asleep in the wee hours. He decided that he had to find out what was going on that night.

The moon was at its fullest when Annabel Lee stealthily got out of bed. He marveled at how quiet she could be, then rolled off the bed, and pulled his trousers on and his boots. He slipped on a shirt, and leather jacket.

After a slight pause he strapped his gun belt on. One ould never be sure in this wild country.

Hank followed her trail on foot. It wasn’t easy. She barely disturbed the ground she walked on. As a hunter, he learned long ago on how to track prey. As he followed her a growing uneasiness told him this wasn’t normal.

Women didn’t just get up in the middle of the night and go for long walks without telling their husbands. There was something about her that made him uneasy at times. He just couldn’t figure out what it was.

He was lucky to catch a flash of her skirt as it disappeared inside the tent set aside for the twelve sick men. Hank got down on all fours and crawled over to the tent. A candle flickered weakly on a table next to the woman who was asleep in a rocking chair.

A pitcher of water and partial loaf of bread were on the small table. Annabel Lee confidently moved from man-to-man, sucking on their sleeping necks! Hank who was peeking from underneath the tent flap, recoiled back in sheer horror when he saw what she was doing!

The thought of lying next to that monster who was sucking the poor men’s lifeblood away was too much. He was a simple man who knew very little about supernatural things. He heard a few scary yarns growing up in the Ohio Valley.

But nothing like this.

Hank crawled away from the tent until he was near the livery stable. He got up and made a mad dash for it. Inside, he found the preacher snoring loudly and still clasping a bottle of rot gut rye in one hand.

Hank plucked the bottle from his chubby fist and shook him hard, “Wake up! I need you!” he whispered. It took a pail of water and some slapping, but Hank got him to finally wake up.

Sputtering indignantly, the preacher demanded to know why he was so rudely awakened?

“Hush! Keep it down and listen to me. What kind of creature sucks folks blood?

The preacher’s eyes grew wide as saucers. “Why do you ask?

“That gal I hitched up with, is sucking men’s blood. That’s why those miners are so sick!”

This time the preacher crossed himself, “Are you sure?”

“Saw it with my own eyes a little bit ago,” Hank assured him.

“She must be a vampire!” he said, and crossed himself again for good measure.

“What in Billy hell is that?

“A demon of the night. They can only be killed by a wooden stake through their black heart, or cutting their head off!” the Preacher explained.

“You mean bullets don’t kill them?”

“I’m afraid not Hank. They also have supernatural strength, so don’t get in no wrestling match with her.”

Hank left the now very sober preacher and went back outside. He got back down to the ground and crawled over to the tent. She was still there, stroking the hair of the sleeping woman.

Careful not to make a noise, he headed back to the cabin as fast as he could. It seemed like he no sooner got there when the front door creaked and she slipped in inside beside him on the bed.

It took all the will power he had to lie still, and wait. It wasn’t long before he could tell from her regular breathing that she was asleep. The predawn quiet seemed sinister as Hank slipped out of the bed.

Without dressing, still in his long johns, Hank went outside to the woodpile and went through a stack of sticks that were trimmed off from his last load of firewood. He picked one that was sturdy and narrow on one end.

With a nearby hatchet he sharpened it. Then he got a hammer from the tools in his small shed. The hunter in Hank kicked in as he went back inside.

Before he chickened out he put the stake over her heart and thrust down! He hit the stake again with the hammer! It was over in a moment. Her body turned to ashes. There wasn’t even a skeleton left.

Horrified and amazed, Hank got dressed and rode into town. He went straight for the saloon and waited until it opened. The bartender shook his head when he opened up the saloon.

“Kinda early Hank.”

Nearly a bottle later, Hank was still standing but reeling awkwardly.

When Logan came in the saloon later that afternoon, after working at the mine, he found Hank three-sheets-to-the-wind. Logan patted his old friend on the shoulder and asked him about married life.

Hank started to say something…but started coughing so hard, he fell down to the ground gasping for air. He finally got air enough to moan, “Never again!”

As It Stands, whose to say a few bloodsuckers didn’t go west back in the day?

In The Dead Of Night

“Your got here just in time.

“Find yourself a comfortable place near the bonfire, because I’m ready to tell a story.”

“My name is Duke Masterson, and I’m the oldest resident in Weston… still able to talk that is. There’s old Charlie Dent, but since he lost his dentures no one can understand him. Truth be told, his memory isn’t as good as mine. 

“Any of you folks from Missouri?

Only one arm went up. The rest of the group was tourists from all over the country. One young couple was busy passing a bottle of Jack Daniels back and forth while keeping their eyes on Duke.

“Just a little history first. One of the things this town has always been proud of was our rich heritage built by beer and whiskey. There was a time, long ago, Weston was a main port for riverboats, but things changed.

I’m proud to tell you we have been drinking quality beer since 1842, when John Georgian built one of the first lager beer breweries in this country. Old John was a German immigrant who brought us a fine old world beer they we still enjoy today.

“Any questions?”

“Yeah! What time does that brewery open tomorrow?” a young man with a baseball cap that said “Booze Hound” asked. A couple of other tourists laughed. Duke waited until the laughter died down.

“I’m back to bragging again about liquor. We’re also home to McCormick Distilling Company, founded in 1856. For you history buffs, it’s the oldest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi River that’s still in operation.

How about this; the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped not far from here at today’s town hall. Remember reading about William Buffalo Bill Cody? He was a resident here for years.”

“Hey Duke! One of the men sitting on a lawn chair said, “Enough history. We’re here to listen to your story!”

Applause broke out as the group looked at the old man eagerly. Duke managed to muster up a smile. They were right. They wanted to be scared tonight. They wanted ghost tales that would tickle their fears.

He was happy to accommodate them.

“Back in 1840, before we had beer and whiskey industries, most folks were farmers. Hemp was a crop that grew well and exporting rope helped keep the town going. I think I mentioned that riverboats used to come here.

“One day a strange-looking fella got off one of those riverboats and caused quit a stir. He had tattoos all over his body. His bald head was painted blue. He had three negro servants and was wearing silk robes. You can imagine what a sight they made.

“The tattooed man hired someone to haul their baggage over to the old Frontier Hotel where he rented two rooms. Well, it didn’t take long for rumors to circulate about him being a witch doctor and his negroes being zombies.

When a series of strange things started happening around town, people started questioning the tattooed man. All of the cows stopped producing milk and the chickens stopped laying eggs. The owner of the hardware store went nuts and ran down the street frothing at the mouth!

The city fathers got together and held an emergency meeting. They decided that the tattooed man and his negroes were bad medicine. Tempers flared and things sorta got out of hand because they marched over to the hotel and pulled the tattooed man and the negroes out of their rooms.

The next thing you know, they hung them from all from a tree just outside town. Before they slipped the noose over the tattooed man’s neck he cursed them all…and their descendants!

Just before they liberated him from this world, he warned them that their town would become his at night from that moment forward.”

Duke looked at the group to gauge their reactions. They were quiet and subdued.

A wolf howled nearby. The bonfire sputtered and a sudden rush of wind put it out. As the group watched in horror Duke transformed before their bulging eyes. Gone was the old man. A tall tattooed man with a bald head painted blue drew a knife from the sash at his waist.

He roared in rage, and then plunged into the terrified group!

As It Stands, storytelling time in Weston is a hell of an experience!