Brittle Bones

She smiles at me,

her face a mosaic like shiny glass.

I turn away and the glass shatters into thousands of little pieces,

lying on the floor.

“We’re so happy you’re here,” she says.

My eyes slide sideways to her face.

How often has she said this?

“You are the bomb,” she tells me smiling.

The smile doesn’t penetrate those bulging blue eyes and green metallic eyeliner.

“We’re here to help,” she says admiring the polish on her nails.

“It’s all about helping them be the best they can be.”

The eyes glitter over the cat-like smile as she adjusts her designer jacket.

“You know you can always ask me for help,” he adjusts his green and brown bow tie,

over the matching green dress shirt.

He musters a smile, faintly.

The brittle bones are so fragile and easily broken,

Not easily mended.

The milk of human kindness doesn’t flow here much.  

Ah, me. To think on how things used to be, and

might never be, again.  

3/23

cew

The Writing

                                                  

The words won’t come.

Sulky as an obstinate child,

standing in the corner with a frown.

I cajole with candy and sweets.

The muse shakes her head, an angry no.

I want to shake her.

No good.

I am back at my typewriter,

Staring at the piece.

“You know, it has potential,” the editor told me and

smiled. “But needs work.”

I smiled back and worked on it a week.

I’ll swear it’s worse than before.

Damn it. I pull out the paper so

I can rip it to shreds.

The little girl in the corner laughs and

shakes a finger at me. “No, no, no.”

“You might be able to use it somewhere else.”

Somewhere else is exactly where I’d rather be,

then staring at this stupid machine while the ghosts

of words whisper at me in voices that refuse to cooperate.

Cew 2/23

Tlāloc

When Junie Klein, a high school senior from Tucson, disappears without a trace, Detective Yaya Vinciflora is determined to bring her home alive. Video footage linking the missing girl and a mysterious man leads Yaya deep into a world she never knew existed. As she races to find the truth, Yaya realizes the answer may be as unworldly as the creatures of the ocean’s depths.

Amazon.com : Tlaloc – Courtney Webb

Mille Gets Kidnapped – Chap 5

Millie reached in her bag and pulled out an old battered copy of The Hidden Staircase. “See, I write books. This is my book.” She pointed at the title.

            The shorter man, without the gun, reached over and took the book from her.

            “No, is not you,” he pointed at the cover. “Is Carolyn Keene, writer. Is not you. You is Wirt. Not the same.”

Millie was surprised the man spoke any English. But, she thought, that’s a good thing.

She slowed down her speech. “No, it is me. That is my book. That name,” she pointed at the book, “that is like,” she paused, “a stage name. Like an actress’s stage name.”

Juan translated. Millie could hear actriza spoken over and over.

            “So, dis is your book, you are worth much money!” The short man said and he and his friend laughed.

            “Oh, no,” Millie replied. “Not much money. That book, only $125 to write.” Juan translated the dollars into dineros. The two kidnappers shook their heads. “Plus, I’m only a woman, and kind of old. People probably wouldn’t pay much for me.” Is fifty-five that old? Millie thought to herself.

The two kidnappers shook their heads and again and went to the corner and whispered to each other. They came back. The short one did the talking.

            “How we know you really write the book?” The short man asked.

            “Oh,” Millie answered pleasantly, “I could read it to you. I have it practically memorized anyway. But you really must untie me. Where would I run to? I have no idea where I am.”

The two men whispered to each other and seemed to come to an agreement. They untied Millie and handed her back the book. Then they pulled her around to a small kitchen table. The taller man got more cups of water. They gestured for Juan to come over. He hobbled over on his chair.

The four of them sat at the table; Juan still loosely tied, while Millie read them The Hidden Staircase.

The reading took a long time because they had to stop to have Juan translate different words and phrases. Hours later, Millie put the book down as the two men got busy making some simple tacos for them to eat.

            “Okay, lady,” the man she now knew as Carlos said. “We make it $500 American and you give us the book.”

            “Oh, I can’t,” Millie gasped. “That’s an original copy. I just carry it around to show people what I have done.”

            “No, no,” Carlos waved his hands in the air “La nina,” he looked at Juan and said some words.

 Juan said “Daughter.”

“She loves los libros and is working hard to speak the English. She would love this book.” He nodded and his companion nodded with him.

Millie looked at him. “How about $100 and the book?”

The two men looked at each other. The tall one shook his head.

“You see, senora,” the one called Carlos said, “we would be, ah…” He looked at Juan, more Spanish. “Ah, yes. Embarrassed to let you go for that amount.”

“Who would know?” asked Millie.

“People would know. Not good for our reputation.”

Millie sighed. “Okay, five hundred dollars and the book. Not a dollar more. I can give you a check but I won’t sign it unless you take us both back.”

Juan did some more translating. The two men looked at each other again and then nodded.

“Is getting late and no good to be on the river late. We stay here and go manana.”

“Esta bien,” Millie said to the two of them. The men looked at her with surprise then laughed. They all ate their tacos.

“Now,” the short man said, “you finish the book for us.”

Millie nodded, they moved over to a small fireplace and settled on the floor. The men built a small fire in the grate and even took Juan’s ropes off him. They settled down, now with cups of strong coffee and Millie continued to read.

The next day, the men led them back to the canoes and they returned the way they had come. They kept Juan as hostage as Millie went back to her hotel, got her checkbook out of her suitcase and wrote a check.

She returned to the small boat dock and handed the check over and Carlos let Juan out of the boat. She was about to turn to go when Carlos spoke again.

“Un momento, Senora. Una mas, por favor.” She paused. Carlos held out the book she had given him. “Could you sign, for my daughter? Mucho gracias, Senora.”

Millie laughed and shook her head. She pulled a pen from her bag and opening the front flap of the book and wrote ‘Millie Wirt Benson, aka, Carolyn Keene.’

She handed the book back to Carlos who read the inscription. “Gracias, Senora. You are very kind.”

Millie nodded and she and Juan made their way back to the village.

“But your trip, Senora Benson, the ruins!” Juan exclaimed as they approached the hotel.

“It’s okay, Juan. Enough adventures for one day. I need a bath. I’ll see you later!”

Juan nodded to the senora and went to unload the canoe.

Taken from – Kindle Vella
Carolyn Keene, Telephone for Miss Keene

Courtney E. Webb

DETAILS

ASIN:

B0BHR23XWL

Chap Five – Millie gets Kidnapped

from: Telephone Call for Carolyn Keene

Good times were not to last and George Benson also suffered a stroke and died the night before the couple was to leave on a trip to Central America. Heart broken, Millie did not marry again.

Times changed and the demands for the girl sleuth changed. Stratemeyer had died and his

daughter Harriet had taken over the Syndicate. Other ghostwriters were hired to work on the series.  

 Eventually, Millie herself got tired of Nancy and wanted to move onto something else. She eventually worked on a number of series for kids, some under different pen names and some using her own. Her favorite, Penny Parker, was about a girl reporter full of pluck and independence. She still worked as a reporter for the Toledo Blade and was busy taking trips to Central America to explore her favorite ruins. It was there it happened. Mildred Wirt Benson was kidnapped in Guatemala!

                                                #

After the death of her husband, George Benson, Millie continued to take trips to her beloved Central America to look at the Mayan ruins. It was on one of these trips that it happened. Mildred Wirt Benson was kidnapped in Guatemala!

Millie was with her local guide and was eager to start their exploration of the Rio de la Pasion River.  Their canoe was ready, provisions were packed, she had her leather messenger bag complete with camera and notebook. Millie loved to record her journeys and show pictures when she got back to her friends in Ohio. The guide spoke passable English, the weather was good; they were set!

It was mid-morning, the sky was bright blue and the sun was gaining on the sky but it still wasn’t completely hot. Early November and the real heat had not yet set in. The jungle around them was a deep green. Birds could be heard calling to each other overhead. When Millie looked up from her paddling, she could glimpse their bright colors fliting from tree to tree. Her guide promised to take her to some Mayan ruins off the beaten track that not too many people had seen. Millie was giddy with excitement. She loved this!

They paddled down the seemingly tranquil river and had been gone from their dock about a half hour. Millie could see a canoe approaching them from the opposite direction. She assumed it was a farmer come to sell his goods at the little market in the village they had come from.

            “Buenos Diaz!” Her guide shouted and waved at the oncoming canoe.

            “Buenos Diaz, amigo!” was the reply as the two men seemed about to row past them. Suddenly, as the canoe glided past them one man pulled his paddle out of the water and stuck it into the back of their boat and pulled. Her canoe started to swing around, the other man pulled out a gun and pointed it at the guide who dropped his paddle in the canoe and held up his hands. Rapid fire Spanish flew between the two men. The other canoe came along side of theirs. The man with the gun gestured at the guide who then stepped over to the second canoe. The man with the gun got into hers.

            “Vamonos!” Millie heard the man from the second canoe shout and the two canoes made a detour toward the shore. There, the two strange men quickly jumped out and secured the canoes on a short shelf of sand.

            “Out, out,” one of the men shouted at her. Getting up while the canoe was still rocking, Millie slung her messenger bag over one shoulder and steadied herself to get out. Her guide rushed to her side to help her and she put a dainty foot over the side of the boat. The two men were still shouting and the one with the gun gestured for them to walk.

They entered the jungle and Millie realized they were on a small dirt path through the trees. They walked in silence for another half hour. Later, Millie remembered hearing the howler monkeys calling to each other from above. Sometimes from a branch of safety, she thought she could see bright eyes in dark faces peering at them through a canopy of glossy green leaves.

Finally, they reached a small house or more like a hut in the middle of a small clearing. One man went forward, opened the door and gestured for them to go in. The hut was small and dark and smelled like goats. The two men had Millie and the guide sit down on two rough chairs. One went and fetched rope from a corner and then tied both travelers to the chairs.

The men started talking to the guide and he translated.

            “Ms. Millie, these men know you are American and they want money for your release.”

            “How much money?” Millie asked. More conversation.

            “One thousand dollars, American.”

            “But I don’t have that kind of money on me. I only have a few dollars.”

            More back and forth in Spanish.

            “They say you will have to get it or they will have to hurt you.”

            “Well, tell them not to do that. We can work something out. If they would only release this rope and give us some water, maybe we can talk about it.”

            More Spanish.

            “They say okay, but if you try to run, the man, he will have to shoot you.”

            “Tell the man I won’t run. However,” Millie replied, “I am very thirsty and would like some water. All our supplies are in our canoe.”

The man without the gun, a short, squat man with dark brown skin and black hair came over and loosened her rope. Then he went and ladled some water from a bucket into a rough cup and handed it to her. Millie drank it down and said “Now him,” she gestured at her guide with the cup.

The man stared at her a moment then grabbed the cup and went to refill it with more water. He walked over to Juan, loosened the ropes and handed him the cup. The guide finished it with a gulp.

            “Tell the nice man, Juan, that I am a writer and don’t make very much money. $1,000 is really a lot to pay.” Millie said.  Juan translated.

            “But you are American, they say, you all have a lot of money.”

            “Not really. Ah, ask if I could have my bag. I could show him something.” Juan translated and the man with the gun, stuck the gun in his belt, grabbed her bag. He looked through it first and then handed it over. He loosened her ropes so she could use her hands.

            Millie reached in her bag and pulled out an old battered copy of The Hidden Staircase. “See, I write books. This is my book.” She pointed at the title.

            The shorter man, without the gun, reached over and took the book from her.

            “No, is not you,” he pointed at the cover. “Is Carolyn Keene, writer. Is not you. You is Wirt. Not the same.”

Millie was surprised the man spoke any English. But, she thought, that’s a good thing.

She slowed down her speech. “No, it is me. That is my book. That name,” she pointed at the book, “that is like,” she paused, “a stage name. Like an actress’s stage name.”

Juan translated. Millie could hear actriza spoken over and over.

            “So, dis is your book, you are worth much money!” The short man said and he and his friend laughed.

            “Oh, no,” Millie replied. “Not much money. That book, only $125 to write.” Juan translated the dollars into dineros. The two kidnappers shook their heads. “Plus, I’m only a woman, and kind of old. People probably wouldn’t pay much for me.” Is fifty-five that old? Millie thought to herself.

The two kidnappers shook their heads and again and went to the corner and whispered to each other. They came back. The short one did the talking.

            “How we know you really write the book?” The short man asked.

            “Oh,” Millie answered pleasantly, “I could read it to you. I have it practically memorized anyway. But you really must untie me. Where would I run to? I have no idea where I am.”

The two men whispered to each other and seemed to come to an agreement. They untied Millie and handed her back the book. Then they pulled her around to a small kitchen table. The taller man got more cups of water. They gestured for Juan to come over. He hobbled over on his chair.

The four of them sat at the table; Juan still loosely tied, while Millie read them The Hidden Staircase.

Continued Part II

Taken from – Kindle Vella
Carolyn Keene, Telephone for Miss Keene

Courtney E. Webb

ASIN:

B0BHR23XWL

Canoe

                                                            

I sit down in my seat,

waiting.

You dash in as always, hair flying and

give me a cheery hello. You

take your seat across the room from me.

Throughout the meeting you stare at me, but nothing else.

You close your eyes.

I see the pain on your face.

So, I close my eyes.

Waking up, I am in a canoe on a river.

The cold, dirty water is rushing by.

You are on the other side, frozen in a block

of ice. Eyes closed, arms tight to your side.

I paddle my canoe over and stare at the ice.

Reaching out a fingertip, I touch the ice.

Cold.

You don’t waken.

The ice bobs on the water and then,

the current pulls it away, down the river.

The paddle is across my lap. Tears fall down,

land on the backs of my hands.

But the current is swift. I must avoid the rocks and tree stumps.

I paddle my canoe.

Cew 3/23

Homeless Deaths from the Cold

TUCSON (KVOA) – So far this year, 46 people experiencing homelessness have died in Pima County.  Internet 3/23

The number of homeless deaths has been steadily increasing over the past few years.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Lisa Chastain of Tucson’s Gospel Rescue Mission said.

Chastain said she has seen the number of people experiencing homelessness continue to increase in Pima County.

The lingering pandemic has only made the situation worse.

Many have one thing in common.

“The majority of the people we see are either drug issues or mental health,” Chastain said.

For some, those drug issues can prove deadly.

According to the latest numbers from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, there were 125 deaths of individuals experiencing homelessness in 2020, the first year statistics were available. In 2021, that number rose to 158.

OME said more than half of those deaths were due to accidental overdose. In addition, about three-quarters of those who died were men.

“One of the challenges that we’re having right now is we’re seeing a lot of weapons,” Tucson City Councilmember Steve Kozachik said. “And we are seeing a lot of drug use.”

However, getting people into drug treatment is an ongoing challenge, even though it may be exactly what they need to keep them alive.

“It has to be somebody’s choice; we do have some people here who have been court-mandated and their lives have been changed,” Chastain said.

There is not one solution. It takes us all to combat this problem.

m.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Investigative Producer for KVOA News 4 Tucson. He is a three time Edward R. Murrow award winner, native Tucsonan, and a proud Arizona Wildcat.

Sponsored by Revcontent

CALIFORNIA

L.A. has great weather, yet more homeless die of the cold here than in New York

Esteban Velasquez, 54, tries to stay warm as pedestrians walk along South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles on a rainy day in January.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

BY GALE HOLLANDSTAFF WRITER 

FEB. 17, 2019 8:30 AM PT

John D. Brider was found passed out near a homeless shelter and taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he later died.

Brider, 63, had gone into cardiac arrest and oxygen had been cut off to his brain. But another, seemingly improbable, factor contributed to his death last winter: hypothermia, or loss of body heat, from being out in the cold, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office ruled.

One of the abiding myths about Los Angeles is that homeless people come here from the East Coast or Midwest because at least they won’t freeze to death.

But despite L.A.’s typical sunshine and mild temperatures, five homeless people, including Brider, died of causes that included or were complicated by hypothermia in the county last year, surpassing San Francisco and New York City, which each reported two deaths. Over the last three years, 13 people have died at least partly because of the cold, the coroner’s office said. And advocates worry that this cold, rainy winter will mean more fatalities.

Hypothermia has led to more deaths in L.A. than in colder regions because 39,000 homeless people here live outdoors — by far the most of any metropolitan area in the country. L.A.’s generally moderate Mediterranean climate is no shield, because hypothermia can set in at temperatures as high as 50 degrees, experts say.

Going without a hat can drain up to half of a person’s body heat, and wet clothing can intensify heat loss twentyfold, according to a 2007 report from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. Underlying medical conditions, alcohol and drug use — including the use of psychiatric medications — mental illness and the privations of living outdoors intensify the risk. Brider, for example, tested positive for cocaine and had cancer of the throat and tongue, the coroner said.

“Many people experiencing homelessness suffer from malnutrition and sleep deprivation, leading to some of them remaining out in the cold. Ultimately, sometimes they die,” said Bobby Watts, the homeless council’s chief executive.

L.A.’s hypothermia cases, first reported in the Capital & Main online publication, are a tiny fraction of the overall homeless death toll, which climbed from 720 in 2016 to 900 last year. But hypothermia is a particularly appalling , and preventable, way to die.

“The idea that people froze to death is really horrible; it is a shared societal tragedy,” said Jim O’Connell, founding director of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, who researches hypothermia among homeless people.

Cristal, 31, left, sits on a skid row sidewalk in downtown L.A. on a recent cold, rainy day.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city and county had added 1,607 new shelter beds in a year and expanded outreach. The county’s winter shelter program provides 1,200 extra beds from December to the end of March.

“The number of emergency beds for our homeless neighbors has increased each year for the last three years,” said spokesman Alex Comisar, “and we’re doing more outreach than ever before to bring people inside during inclement weather.”

But although most cold-exposure deaths occur in the winter, Mark Stuart, 56, died of probable hypothermia on a Long Beach embankment in April 2016 — after the winter shelters shut down. O’Connell says hypothermia is a particular risk when the temperature drops more than 10 degrees over the course of the day, a common phenomenon in L.A.

Jonathan E. Sherin, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, says homeless people with severe and persistent mental illness are in jeopardy of hypothermia.

Over the last six to eight months, the county’s specialized Homeless Outreach Mobile Engagement teams, with 30 staff members supported by a psychiatrist, have fanned out to remote encampments to find homeless people who need help, he said.

“I wish it were happening more quickly,” said Sherin, who hopes to double staffing in the next year or so. “It’s our highest priority.”

Some homeless people perished from the cold in public view. A 44-year-old man sat outside a business for two nights in January 2018 before someone inside the building called 911, the coroner reported.

Old Town Pasadena – Conclusion

#

(Part IV – Previously: Sam and Kristie’s vacation gets interrupted by a wild party at the back of their B & B. Mialee’s sister Jen is caught with a smoking gun and one of the guests ends up dead.)

Later, the three of them were back from the station. Mialee went off to buy supplies for the kitchen and Bill was outside raking leaves. He got a rake for Sam. They dumped leaves into a green plastic bin.

“Honest to God, Sam, I didn’t realize these girls were so young. You know how it is with some of these gals. They can be fifteen, they put on a bunch of make-up, heels and Presto! They look twenty-five.”

Sam shrugged in agreement.

“Plus, I wasn’t really around any of them for any period of time. They were always in the back house. coming and going very late. We’ve been so busy with customers. . .” The big guy stopped and leaned on his rake. “Honestly, I just wasn’t paying that much attention. Didn’t think it was a problem. That and Mialee. . . well, I love her. But, you know, this is family, and you don’t rat out family.”

“There’s that,” Sam replied.

“I am not really sure how much she even knew.”

“The cops said they found crystal meth, coke, marijuana, pills and alcohol there. Did you know about that?” Sam asked.

“Jen has always been a bit on the wild side. It seems like things have been getting more out of control recently. I knew she drank a fair amount, and even some MJ now and then, but the other stuff. Whew! That surprised even me.”

“Well, Jen is going to have her hands full when they catch her. Manslaughter for sure, depending on what she says. Corruption of minors and prostitution. She could be looking at some real time. The good news is, I had a heart to heart with the detectives and they will try to keep the name of the B & B out of the papers as much as possible.”

“Whew! Well, thank God for that little bit.” Bill stared down at the leaves. “Bad press could kill the business.”

“Well, if you get any calls from the press, act like it was on a neighbor’s property and you know nothing. Got it?” Sam shot his friend a stern look.

Bill looked sheepish. “Got it.”

                                                            #

Sam was getting tired after the events of the day and decided to follow Kristie’s example. He went upstairs to take a nap and was completely out of it for several hours.

Then, “Sam, Sam, wake up.” A groggy Sam came to with the large face of Bill peering down at him.

“What. . .?”

“She’s on the bridge.”

“What bridge?” Sam asked.

“The jumper bridge. Colorado Street Bridge. And she’s got Crystal with her.”

“What? Crystal?”

“She sent a text to Crystal that she needed help and Crystal went to help her.”

“We’ve got to go!” Sam cried jumping out of bed. He grabbed a sweater and pulled on his pants. He had his boots in his hand as they stomped downstairs.

“My car!” Bill shouted.

They jumped into Bill’s car and raced off. In a few minutes they were at the Pasadena bridge. Cop cars were everywhere. They could see Jen posed at the edge of the bridge, leaning against a railing.

Sam stopped and stared. In one hand, Jen still held the gun she had had last night. The other arm was wrapped around Crystal’s neck. They teetered perilously close to the edge. Bill froze in place.

Out of the crowd, Mialee came running up and grabbed Bill. She was weeping.

“She’s going to kill her. I know it. She is going to kill her! Oh, my God, Bill.” The big man wrapped his arms around her.

Sam stared at the scene, his mouth moving soundlessly. He turned to Bill.

“Baseball.”

“Baseball?”

“In your car. Get it.”

“Oh,” light was dawning on Bill. “Softball?”

“Hardball.”

Bill let go of Mialee and ran to his car. He was back in a few moments bouncing an old hardball in his hand.

“You got one shot at this pal,” Sam said tersely.

“I know,” Bill answered.

The big man rotated his arm several times. Sam whispered to the sargent close by and the cops parted from in front of Bill. He scrunched and scrunched the ball several times in both hands.

Then, taking a mighty breath, Bill pulled back and threw the ball as hard as he could. There was a ‘thunk’ sound and Jen fell backwards. Several things happened all at once. The gun clattered to the asphalt, Crystal ran away from her aunt and the cops galvanized into motion. A bunch of men ran for Jen and had her in handcuffs within seconds. She was still knocked out cold so, they let her lie where she was.

Crystal ran to her mother who grabbed her, and they both started sobbing. Pretty soon Crystal, Mialee, Bill and Sam were all in a big group hug. Even Sam cried a little.

                                                          #

The next day, Sam and Bill were busy packing Bill’s red Mustang convertible for the trip back to Tranquility. He had insisted on driving Sam home. Sam tried to protest, he could take the train or rent a car, but Bill wasn’t having it.

Mialee packed them a big basket lunch and they were on their way early.

“Thanks for letting me drive you, Sam. Truth be told, I really needed a little time away. . . “

“From the girls?” Sam finished.

“Yeah, they need a little alone time together and I need a little. . . “

“Guy time?”

“Yeah, that’s it. It’s all been pretty stressful and this last bit was the topper.” Bill nodded philosophically as he drove.

Sam peeked into the basket. “So, now have we here?” He pulled out some good-looking grapes and cheese to go with his mug of coffee.

“Well,” the big guy breathed out, “she can’t come back.”

“No doubt,” Sam popped some grapes in his mouth.

“Apparently, what they got out of her at the station last night was she was defending one of the girls when she shot the guy.”

“Ah,” Sam broke off some cheese and handed it to Bill.

“He was roughing the girl up and Jen came to her aid. Things got ugly.”

“Very ugly.”

“So, maybe she’ll get manslaughter under a self-defense kind of thing.”

“But” Sam added, “although her motives were good, there is still the question of what was the girl doing there in the first place.”

“Exactly.” Bill added, “Sixteen and out on a school night. What’s up with that?”

“Do they even know who the girl was?”

Bill shook his head. “Apparently, everything was on a first name basis. No last names. And you saw those girls running for it. It will take a while to get any of them to come forward as witnesses.”

“I bet so,” Sam munched. “So, the money, on the mortgage? Jen’s half?”

“Well, like I said, she is half owner of the place, and we will have to buy her out.”

“Could be a lot. But, then again, Jen is going to need money for attorneys, etc.”

Bill laughed. “She’s already asked Mialee for money for her attorney.”

“How much?”

“Ten thousand, cash, up front. No credit.”

Sam whistled. “And that is only the beginning.”

“I know,” Bill grabbed some grapes, “we may be negotiating this ownership deal of the house for some time to come.”

“Well, if you need some help. . .” Sam grinned at his friend. “I do know some good attorneys.”

“You’ve already helped, Sam. You helped get our Crystal back. And thank you, brother.”

The two guys did a fist bump.  

“Plus,” Bill brightened, “I have a little saved up and if that B & B really starts to get successful, we won’t need Jen’s money. The place will pay for itself.”

“Well, you got a regular customer with us, buddy.”

Bill beamed at his friend and hit the button. The canvas top rolled back and settled on the back seat. Sun was shining, and the breeze ruffled their hair.

It was a beautiful day in California… not a cloud in the sky.

                                                            The End

Old Town Pasadena – Part III

(Part III – Sam and Kristie have gotten to the B & B in Pasadena and are enjoying their visit with old friend Bill Blass and his girlfriend, Mialee. However, a sister seems to be a little less than friendly.)

The next day dawned bright and beautiful again. Kristie wondered at herself as she poured her first cup of hot, steamy coffee from the large silver urn downstairs. There was no sign of the sister and she felt silly about her feelings. Probably just the late hour in a strange house.

After breakfast, she made Sam promise to take her to the Stats Christmas shop in Pasadena. Then they were going the Getty Museum for a walk around and ending with a drive down PCH to Gladstone’s for Fish in Malibu and an early dinner.

“I am going to gain ten pounds with all this eating we’re doing,” she complained to Sam.

“But it’s all really good, huh?” Sam winked at her.

“It’s great!”

Sam and Kristie poked around the Christmas shop and got jostled by frantic bargain hunters. Then, down to Malibu and The Getty Villa. Kristie had seen it years ago, but it was beautiful all over again.

“These are really good replicas,” Sam commented gazing closely at a painting.

Kristie laughed and hit him on the shoulder.

“They aren’t replicas, you goof, these are the real thing.”

“Oh,” was his reply. He pursed his lips, crossed his arms and wandered over to another painting.

Foot weary, Sam drove them to Gladstone’s, where they ordered clam chowder with their great, crusty sour-dough bread. They watched the sun drop in the sky and listened to waves breaking against the rocks. Kristie insisted they walk on the beach a little. They both took off their shoes and dug toes in the sand. Sea gulls screamed plaintively overhead.

“You know, it wasn’t all bad,” Kristie told him.

“What wasn’t?”

“Oh, you know. Being married and living in LA. It wasn’t all bad, we had our good times.”

Sam wrapped an arm around Kristie’s shoulders. “I bet you did.”

It was a tired two-some that tramped back to the car. Sam drove up Sunset Blvd. to save time and then back to the 405 north. Kristie snoozed in the car.

They arrived back at the B & B by 8 pm.  Kristie staggered up the stairs mumbling something about a bath. Sam dumped the keys in her purse and was about to follow when Bill stopped him.

“Sam, beer?”

Sam turned and was about to decline but paused when he saw his friend’s face.

“Sure, Heineken’s?”

“Yup, coming right up. Let’s have it on the porch,” Bill replied.

Sam got himself comfy in one of the over-stuffed chairs on the big wooden porch.

Bill was out in a moment and handed him his brew. They talked about Sam’s day trip and this and that for a while.

Finally, “Something on your mind, buddy?” Sam asked his friend taking a sip of his beer.

Bill stared down at his Heinekens and started picking the label off. Something he always did when he was troubled.

“Ah, yeah.” The big man looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was in the living room. It was empty.

“It’s Mialee’s sister, Jen. You met her?”

Sam shook his head no. “Heard her motorcycle come and go is all.”

“Ah, well.” Bill seemed to consider his words carefully. “Don’t exactly know how to say this.”

“Yes?”

“It’s the girls. It’s the girls coming and going.”

“Girls?”

“Yes.” Now the flood gates were finally open, the words came pouring out. Girls in the back building, coming and going. Living there, in and out. Out all night, parties. Crystal and Daniel cleaning up bottles and other ‘debris’ after parties. Crystal talking to her mom, telling her she knew some of these girls, they were her age. And, Jen.

“Jen, she’s in the middle of everything. She works as a bartender at a local watering hole and people end up coming back here at all hours. They are having parties until 6am when everyone passes out and it’s over until the next time.”

“Every day?” Sam asked.

“No, thank God. We would never be able to keep any customers in the big house. It’s two maybe three times a week.”

“Mialee has spoken to her?”

“Over and over. It gets nowhere.”

“Kick her out?”

“Can’t. She is part owner of the B & B just like Mialee. She put down earnest money to get the place and pays her share every month. Won’t work. Plus, you know,” Bill seemed to focus on pulling every bit of the label off the bottle, “it’s her kid sister, tough times together back home, no parents, all that.” He nodded, seemingly to himself.

“Hmm, that’s a real problem.”

“And now. . . Crystal told her mom. She is sure at least two of the girls who were at a recent party are from her high school.”

“Call the cops?”

“As soon as she went to clean the bathroom and came out, the girls were gone.”

“I haven’t seen anyone going down the drive,” Sam commented.

“There is a back path, through the trees, pretty well worn. They come up from the street through there and never go by the house.”

“So, have you seen any of this?”

Bill looked sheepish. “I’m a very heavy sleeper, Sam. You know that.”

Sam shrugged. It was true, the guy could sleep through a bomb blast.

“So, what now?”

“That’s it, Sam. I don’t know what to do. Jen is a piece of work, and I don’t like her, but, it’s Mialee’s sister. He shrugged his big shoulders, a look of resignation on his face.

Sam did know.

“It’s a problem, buddy. Underage girls, drinking, maybe drugs. And, if the cops get called. . .”

“It could be trouble for us,” Bill finished.

“Yeah, I would say so. Like Mialee could lose her business license kind of trouble.”

Bill blanched.

“Jesus. I hadn’t thought of that.”

“At the very least, could lose her license to sell alcohol and that would hurt your business, right?’

“Would it ever. People like their glass of white wine with dinner.”

“And Heinekens,” Sam raised his bottle and finished it off. He stood up.

“I don’t know, Bill. It’s bad. Might have to end up with you two buying her out to get her off the property. You might want to think about that.”

Bill stood up and looked like a big, confused kid. “That could be a lot of money, Sam.”

“Could be. Hey, it’s getting late, and I’m bushed. Talk to you tomorrow. Kristie is going to have to get back to work anyway, so, we’ll be up early.” He slapped his friend on the shoulder.

“Okay,” Bill was glum.

Bill sounded like Eor from that kid’s book, Sam thought with a chuckle.

“Tomorrow.”

Sam stumped back upstairs. Kristie had already taken her bath and was in bed with a magazine. He went to get a quick shower.

He dried off and put on a clean t-shirt, boxers and got into bed.

“Trouble?” Kristie asked.

“Yeah,” Sam yawned. “The sister, I guess she’s being a real pill.”

“Huh,” Kristie told him about her late-night encounter with the woman.

“Weird,” he said almost into the pillow.

“Yah, weird and creepy,” Kristie replied and shut off the light.

                                                            #

A groggy Sam struggled up from a deep sleep. He looked around. What? Moonlight streamed through a high window, and he read the little digital clock on the side table. 3:00 am. Why am I awake? He listened and then heard muffled voices. They were coming from outside and he couldn’t tell if they were laughing or crying, or. . . The voices got louder. Suddenly, there was a bang! Sam instantly recognized it as the report of a pistol. He sat up, threw his feet over the bed and ran over to his bag. He dug through, found his Smith and Wesson and ran to the bedroom door. Unlocking it, he ran down the stairs. He heard more commotion and realized it was coming from the back house.

Going from the dining room to the back mudroom, he had to contend with a complicated series of locks and latches on the door. He cursed trying to get them undone. He finally was able to get the last lock undone and ripped the door open and ran out into the cold night air.

His amazed eyes could hardly take in what he was seeing. A dozen girls, in various forms of dress and undress were streaming out of the building and running toward the trees. He tried to stop one, but she wrestled out of his grasp and kept running. Slowing down his breathing, he went forward and climbed the steps to the building. His bare feet tingled against the cold, aging wood steps. There were bright lights in one of the rooms and the door was wide open.

He walked in. There on the floor lay a short man in evening clothes. Black hair, he looked Asian. There was a large red stain on the front of his shirt that was getting bigger. Bent over him, almost double, Sam recognized what had to be Jen, the anime-double sister. The woman jerked up when she realized he was there. In her hand, was a twenty-two pistol. She swung the gun his way.

“Hold on there,” Sam put his hands up and tried for his calmest voice. “Why don’t you put that down.”

She glared at him, her hair was a disheveled mess, her eyes almost blood red, black makeup circling the eyes. Her clothes looked torn. Slowly, she approached him, and he backed up. She made a wide arc around Sam, the body and approached the door. Suddenly, she darted toward the door and Sam raced after her. But she had a head start and he didn’t know where she was going.

He got downstairs and looked wildly around seeing nothing but the cold night. Suddenly, an engine revved loudly, and he could hear the Ducati zooming away. Sam went back upstairs and looked for a phone.

                                                             #

Two hours later, Sam, Kristie, Mialee and Bill were all sitting in the dining room having coffee. The South Pasadena police had showed up. But, since it was a murder and possibly involving minors, LAPD showed up too and were swarming all over the place. The police coroners were there to get the body.

“Might have been self-defense, Ma’am.” The officer was speaking to Mialee. “The man had some defensive wounds on his fingers. He was either fighting with someone or fighting to defend himself.” The officer looked thoughtfully at her. “Did you know the decease, Ma’am? Know why he was here?” The man looked around the dining room. “Because I believe this is a bed and breakfast, right? You don’t usually specialize in wild parties. Am I right?”

Mialee nodded numbly. “I didn’t know him at all. Not a guest. Probably a friend of my sister’s or one of her friends knew him.”

“Yes,” Officer Padgett tapped his pencil on a pad. “And she’s gone, correct?”

Mialee looked at Sam who nodded.

“I see. Well, we’ll have to have you come down to the station to make a report. Here’s my card. You can do that, when you get some clothes on, Ma’am?”

Mialee nodded.

“Oh, and you too, Mr.. . . “He looked at the business card. “Mr. Sam Reynolds, PI. Hmm, very timely.” He smiled at Sam.

Kristie looked at the officer. “Do I need to come too? I didn’t see anything; I was in bed and don’t know what happened. Also, I am on vacation and need to get back to work.”

“Give a statement to the sergeant with all your information and then you should be okay to go.”

Kristie looked at Sam. He made a little finger gesture upstairs. In thirty minutes, Kristie’s statement was made, and she was back upstairs packing.

Sam came in with his head down.

“Don’t say it. I know. You have to stay. He’s a friend.” Kristie was trying to keep the peeve out of her voice. She jerked the folded pants into the suitcase.

“Well. . .” Sam said slowly, “I am a witness.”

“And never one to leave a good fight. It’s okay, Sam. I understand. He needs you to help out. I get it. But I’m ready to leave and will just be underfoot, so. . .” She took a big breath and let it out. Arms akimbo, she stared at him.

“Will you be okay driving back by yourself?” he looked at her sadly, fingering her suitcase.

“Oh, pish. I have done this drive tons of times. I’ll be fine. Look after Bill and… Mialee. They’ve got their hands full.” She gave him a kiss and he gave her a full hug.

Forty minutes later the Sebring was packed and ready to go. Mialee and Bill came out to wave goodbye to Kristie. Mialee kept apologizing.

“I am so sorry this has happened. I am so sorry.”

Kristie waved at her. “Don’t worry about it. We loved our time here. I am so sorry this had to happen at your beautiful bed and breakfast. Mialee looked ready to cry.

“Really, got to go.” Kristie blew Sam a kiss, backed up and went down the drive.

“Guess we need to get to South Pas police to make those statements,” Sam said.

Continued Part IV

Old Town Pasadena – Part II

                                                            #

( Previously, Kristie was getting some unwanted attention at church. She called on Sam Reynolds, her boyfriend to help. He then decided they could both use a short vacation. They are on their way to a B & B in Pasadena.)

They stopped at a McDonalds on the way down to get some lunch and regroup. Sam pulled out his street map of LA.

“Okay, I think it’s right here.” He pointed.

“Alright,” Kristie replied putting some French fries in her mouth.

“I think we can, yes, get over the Grapevine down on the 405 and then branch over at the 210 to Pasadena. That should save us a bunch of LA traffic.”

“Sounds good,” Kristie said, “want me to drive?”

 Sam stole some of her fries.

“Uh, sure. You want?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll put the address into my phone for the GPS thing.”

Back on the road, they had traded places and it was Sam’s turn to snooze.

Kristie looked over at him. I love watching him sleep, she thought to herself. Actually, I love watching him anytime. A buff dude, Sam spent a fair amount of time in the gym keeping in shape. He would wear a turquoise cut off gym shirt that played up his bright blue eyes and she would just sigh. I am a lucky gal. Not everyone my age, divorced with two grown kids can say the same.

Driving along, her mind wandered back in time to her divorce. She had filed when she discovered her husband was cheating on her on his out-of-town trips. When she had confronted him with the evidence, he had just crumpled like an over-blown balloon. He had wanted reconciliation, but she had suspected this for a very long time. Who knew how many women it had been. She was done playing games.

Oddly enough, her two daughters continued to take his side for a long time and insisted she was being unreasonable. She learned to stop arguing with them about it. Phil was still in the LA area and her two girls still gravitated more to him. Although he had been the absent parent, always gone with work and trips and she had been the caretaker, they still seemed to care for him the most. She couldn’t understand it.

She sighed at the memories. However, since Sam had showed up on the scene, they seemed to be coming around more. They both enjoyed his easygoing manner and gentlemanly ways. He would kid them about this and that and they would both laugh hysterically. Like kids again, she thought. Just like kids again.

She consulted her cell phone again, the little arrows were starting to point toward the 210. Traffic began to slow and Sam woke up.

“We there yet, Mom?”

“Getting close. Look at this map again would you, I think the offramp might be the tricky part.”

Forty minutes later they were traveling south through Pasadena towards South Pasadena. The weather for late fall was sunny, crisp and clear.

“Hey, look at that bridge,” Sam called out.

Kristie pulled the car to the curb.

“Yeah, that’s the Colorado Street Bridge, been here a long time. Called the Jumper’s Bridge.”

“The what?”

“Jumper’s Bridge. Apparently, more people have jumped off that bridge than anything else around here.”

“Whew, good to know, I guess.”

They traveled through dense foliage next to the road as it curved around the soft hills of Pasadena. They could smell the faint scent of something burning. A few houses had chimneys and wispy trails of smoke escaped from the tops.

Sam looked at the map. “Think we’re almost there. It’ll be on the right.”

Abruptly a sign came into view and Kristie barely had time to signal and make a sharp right into a drive. The drive led up the hill and was edged with large trees and bushes. They pulled right into the parking lot and the three-story house came into full view.

“Wow!” Kristie let out as she pulled in.

It was a beautiful, turn of the century home that had been carefully restored. It had a peaked gable roof over a large front porch cluttered with easy chairs and occasional tables.

Sam reached over and popped the trunk while Kristie walked toward the house.  There were large plate glass windows on the front and the tops of each had clear decorative glass panels with lead scrolling. She went up the steps to admire the scalloped shingles on the outside.

She was touching one with a finger when the front door flew open, and a very large Bill Bass appeared.

“Kristie! Sam! You’re here!”

Bill squeezed Kristie in a bear hug and she momentarily stopped breathing.  

“Thanks, Bill,” she gave a little gasp.

“Go in, go in! Mialee!” he boomed, “they’re here.”

A little woman of about 5’3” came hustling around a corner and lead Kristie into the living room.

“You must be Kristie. I am Mialee.” She smiled and gave a tiny bow.

Kristie put out her hand for a shake. “Yes, I am. So nice to meet you.”

“Let me show you your room and then we do lunch.”

Kristie let herself be lead upstairs. Sam and Bill were still booming at each other down in the parking lot. Might as well take the opportunity to wash up, she told herself.

Mialee led the way to an enormous bedroom with a huge double bed covered in a white, fluffy comforter. “The bathroom is here,” Mialee pointed. “Lunch in about twenty minutes.”

“Good, thanks.” Kristie put down her purse and as soon as the owner was out of the room, she sat on the bed and began to bounce up and down. Then, she sank backwards into the comforter and let the softness enfold her.

Sam came into the room backwards holding suitcases in both hands.

“What are you doing darlin’? It’s not time for bed yet.”

“Sam, I might never move again,” she told him.

He laughed. “Okay, but more grub fer me.”

She sighed, pulled herself up reluctantly and went to wash her face and hands. The tantalizing smells from the kitchen started to waft their way upstairs as she descended the stairs.

She entered a very large dining room off of the living room. It had two big walnut tables set for lunch and turrets of steaming food were being put down. Mialee was helped by a guy that looked to be the cook and the table was rapidly full with various dishes. Suddenly, Kristie realized how hungry she was and that McDonalds was a distant memory.  

She began to serve herself.

“Wild mushroom soup,” Mialee pointed. “Long grain rice. Chops, stuffed chicken breasts,” she pointed at another bowls. “Rolls, butter. Would you like wine?”

Kristie waved it away. “Too early for me. Tonic water?”

“Coming up,” Mialee scurried away.

“. . . bought it when it was just a shack and have been rebuilding it for about ten years. Old guy finally ran out of money and Mialee was on the scene and just happened to have the ready to bail the guy out. I mean, he didn’t want to sell of course, but what could he do? Couldn’t afford the utility bill anymore.”

Sam nodded as Bill blathered on about the history of the house. Not so much to stop him filling his plate and shoveling in the goods.

Kristie cut into a very delicious pork chop and had a bite. That combined with the fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy and thin, green asparagus and she was almost in heaven. She chatted with some of the other guests around the table and admired the heavy crown molding that edged the top of the white plaster walls. Views of the Pasadena foothills could be seen through the enormous plate glass windows. She noticed a second building out back, a smaller, two-story affair.

“So, what’s that,” she pointed a fork at the building.

“Oh, that’s our overflow building. It gets too crowded here, we stuff them in over there.”

Kristie nodded.

“Yeah, and, um, Mialee’s sister lives there too,” Bill added through a mouth of mashed potatoes.

“What’s her name?”

He looked momentarily embarrassed. “Jen, yeah, uh, Jen.” He took a swig of his beer and his eyes slid over to Mialee.

Kristie grabbed a hot roll for buttering and glanced at him. Wonder what that’s about, she thought.

After the filling lunch, Kristie wanted to walk. She and Sam motored over to Colorado Blvd. to walk around the shops. The boulevard was festive and the city had already started to put up fairy lights on the overhead light standards. Pumpkins and signs of Thanksgiving could be seen in abundance. They ended up at Vroman’s book shop and wandered the shelves.

The store had a coffee shop so Kristie ordered her favorite…pumpkin latte. Sam couldn’t be persuaded to try anything stranger than a latte so Kristie gave up trying. They took their drinks to a table and sat.

She had found a cute book on cooking for the holidays and Sam was leafing through a new issue of Field and Stream. 

“So, the place is beautiful,” she commented to Sam. “Where did Mialee get the money to buy a place like that?”

“Ever the nosey one, aren’t you?” he gave her nose a little tap. “Well, apparently, Mialee had a restaurant in Thailand that was fairly successful, which she sold. Plus, she is divorced from an American GI and I believe, don’t quote me, she did pretty well in the divorce.”

Kristie nodded and sipped her latte.

“The place is probably mortgaged to the yin-yang so, let’s hope they stay successful.”

She raised her cup to that. “And the food is divine.”

“It is that, it is indeed.”

After window shopping, they drove back.  Kristie wanted to take a nap and Sam had plans to go out with Bill to a cigar shop. When they got back, Mialee’s daughter, Crystal was busy running back and forth with fresh towels. Her son, Daniel could be seen emptying trash cans.

“Looks like everybody gets to help,” Kristie whispered to Sam.

They wound their way around the two. Even Bill was busy, running a vacuum of all things. Kristie escaped to their room and closed the door. Throwing off her shoes and dumping her bag she fell face first into the giant coverlet and was soon fast asleep.

A couple of hours later, a groggy Kristie awoke from the sleep of the dead. She was disoriented a moment and didn’t know where she was. Looking around the room, she finally got her bearings.

What woke me up? She wondered and then heard it again. Voices drifting up from the kitchen.

“I told you no. How many times do I got to say it? No is no and why don’t you quit asking?”

There was a low murmured reply Kristie couldn’t hear.

“Jesus! I got to get dinner ready. If you’re not going to help, why don’t you go do something with yourself. I’m busy.”

There was the sound of a slamming door and then sounds in the kitchen. Mostly pots and pan getting banged around loudly. Kristie got up and went to wash her face in the lavatory. She combed her hair and changed her shirt.

Walking down the stairs, it looked like Sam was still not back. She remembered some hot tea fixings in the dining room. Quietly, she went in to make herself a cup. She could hear Mialee in the kitchen. Cup in hand, she gingerly pushed open the swinging kitchen door.

Mialee was standing at the sink, both arms stretched out straight, leaning against the porcelain. It looked like she had been crying.

“Oh, I’m sorry. . . “

Mialee jerked her head around and wiped her face with a shirt sleeve. “No, it’s okay. Just me being emotional. Did you have a good nap?”

“Oh yes, like a bear in hibernation. Your beds are great.”

Mialee walked out of the kitchen into the dining room. Kristie followed and watched while the woman made herself a cup of ginseng tea. Mialee gestured for Kristie to sit at the big table. The other guests were either still out sightseeing or napping upstairs.

“This is such a beautiful house…” Kristie started.

Mialee nodded. “Yes, and a great deal of work. You probably heard me with my sister, Jen.”

Kristie shrugged and sipped her tea.

“She, I, uh, both of us have put so much into this place.” She waved her hand around expansively.

“I am sure,” Kristie replied, “but your business seems to be doing so well.”

Mialee nodded. “It is doing well, but it has to do really well for us to make the mortgage and pay the bills. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty or anything, but it is hard to make it in the restaurant trade.”

Kristie nodded. “I’m not expert, but I work at a credit union, and we see a lot of struggling owners. I guess it’s easy to lose your shirt in this kind of operation.”

Mialee sighed and wrapped both hands around her mug. “Jen used to help all the time with meals and maintenance. But then Bill showed up, they kind of . . .clashed and she got a job tending bar. Now, I hardly see her anymore. Then with her weird hours and these friends she brings home…I just don’t know.” Head down, the woman stared into her cup.

“Ah,” Kristie replied. A picture was staring to form. “And you don’t like her friends.”

Mialee shook her head. “No, not at all.” She sipped her tea some more. “Listen to me. I don’t know why I am telling you all this. You’re a guest! Time to get the dinner on. But, thanks for listening, Kristie. Bill talks about you and Sam all the time.”

“No problem,” Kristie replied. “Anytime. But now I think I’ll take a little walk before it’s time to start eating again!”

Mialee disappeared into the kitchen. Kristie grabbed her key, a cold bottle of water from the guest fridge and a sweater. She walked outside and saw the Ducati motorcycle parked next to the annexed building. There was no sign of Jen. Kristie walked down the driveway then a few blocks toward town. The leaves were turning bright red and yellow, and she was enjoying the sights and smells of fall. As she was returning, she noticed a little footpath close to the B and B that seemed to run from the street, up through the trees. Wonder where that goes, she thought.  

A little later Sam and Bill got back, and Sam smelled of cigar smoke. Kristie didn’t mind because she loved the smell. Even though she knew he shouldn’t be smoking, she decided to not nag. Sam had got them a video to watch for the evening, so she was content.

As dinner was served, they heard the loud roar of the Ducati as it sped off from the back of the house and left the property. Bill and Mialee exchanged glances. Kristie noticed but said nothing. Not really my business, she chided herself.

Later, dinner was done and Mialee and Bill were busy with clean up. Kristie and Sam got half-way through the movie in the big living room.  Both were tired and decided to go upstairs.

 Later, Kristie woke up and pawed at the side table for her water glass…empty.  Getting up, she decided to get a fresh bottle of Fiji water from the little frig downstairs. Quietly, she made her way down to the dining room and got a bottle. Something made her turn. Someone was standing next to the window smoking a cigarette.

She realized after a moment that it must be Mialee’s sister Jen. At first all Kristie could see was the glowing end of the cigarette.

“Oh,” she said, “you startled me.”

There was a little laugh, the young woman came forward.

“Yeah, I have that effect on some people.”

Mialee and her sister were about the same 5’3” in height and had the same coffee colored skin. That is where the similarity ended. Where Mialee had long hair tied in a pony, her sister had black hair cut in a jagged bob sticking out in angles all over her head. It was half purple and stood up in spots. She must use some killer gel, Kristie thought to herself.

She was dressed in tight, distressed jeans, over that a black leather jacket with chains and buttons everywhere. On her neck and everywhere skin showed, there were tattoos of all variety of pictures and colors. She wore heavy black eyeshadow and spikey silver jewelry in her ears, nose and neck. Reminds me of an anime character. Kristie thought absently.

“So,” Kristie commented, making conversation, “you must get off work very late.”

“Yeah,” the young woman replied, “the bar closes at 2 am and then there’s clean up.” She puffed on her cigarette. “You a guest here?”

“Ah, yeah.” Kristie started to inch toward the stairs. The girl had dark, intense eyes that were staring at her hard. She felt uncomfortable, almost like a question was hanging in the air. Somehow, she didn’t feel like waiting around until that question found a voice. “Well, back to bed.”

The eyes kept following her, the cigarette continued to glow in the dark. Kristie hustled back upstairs. She made sure the bedroom door was locked.

“What in the hell is that all about?” she mumbled to herself as she got back in bed.

“Wha. . .” Sam mumbled at her and then threw an arm over her. She smiled and snuggling up close to him, closed her eyes and was soon asleep again.

(Part III – Sam and Kristie have gotten to the B & B in Pasadena and are enjoying their visit with old friend Bill Blass and his girlfriend, Mialee. However, a sister seems to be a little less than friendly.)