Saturday, June 25, 2016

NAME OF THE GAME - a short story

Rita used to wait for me at the door of the building where she worked. I would park close to the curb and linger until she came outside. Until that day, our routine was always the same. When I drove up, I noticed a powder-blue Mercedes had taken my usual parking spot. The car's nervous driver, a prepped-out, lawyer type with gelled hair, turned halfway around in his bucket seat to watch Rita leave the office complex.
“Who was that?” I asked.
Rita leaned across the seat and planted a sultry kiss full on my lips. “I didn't see anyone.”
The man in the Mercedes watched us with interest and continued staring at us as we pulled away from the curb.
“Today I want it hot and fast,” she said, turning the rear-view mirror and using it to touch up her lipstick.
“Whatever. How you been?”
Rita crossed her legs, revealing more than a momentary glance of her shapely thighs.
“Beyond irritation,” she said. “Russell came home late after leaving me alone with Jessica. Ever try communicating with a good looking, teenage cheerleader with tits bigger than her mom's?”
My smile was all the answer she needed. “What happened when Russell got home?”
“Absolutely nothing. I even paraded around in my stretch-lace teddy to show him what he was missing.”
Talk of Rita's husband always made me uncomfortable. Sensing my discomfort, she leaned across the console and squeezed my leg. It was late autumn, a beautiful clear-blue day, and Rita’s grin was wicked when I braked hard to avoid a squirrel scurrying across the road.
We barely spoke during the short distance to my apartment. The parking lot was empty, everyone at work, and we soon found a spot near the stairs. Fast and discrete. Just the way Rita liked it. She had her arms around me almost before I could lock the apartment door behind us.
“Miss me?” she asked.
“You know I did.”
“And these?”
She unbuttoned her flocked blouse to the waist and cupped her breasts. I traced a narrow path up her flat stomach with my fingers, but Rita was having none of it. Grabbing my wrist, she pulled me down the narrow hallway to the bedroom in back
Recently divorced, my apartment was small; one bedroom. The apartment was dark, only hazy sunlight shining through an open window. Rita liked the dark, and I didn’t bother turning on the lights
“Let's not waste it.” Releasing my hand beside the bed, she dropped her dress, slip, and bra in one practiced motion, and then fell onto the covers. “Now, I want it hard and fast.”
I’d left the air conditioner on high before leaving for work that morning and the room was cold as it was dark. Rita was neither, her eyes flashing. Already hot after having all the foreplay she’d needed during our lustful stroll from the front door. For the next five minutes, she clawed painful Xs in my back, yanked handfuls of hair from my head, moaned loudly, and squirmed like a woman possessed. When we finished she rolled off the bed, went into the bathroom, and closed the door behind her. She returned shortly, still totally naked, and carried a can of hair spray.
“Hurry,” she said. I have a prospective employee to interview at one. Can’t be late.”
“But we just got here.”
“And did what we came for. Now be a sweetie. You know my job is vital to me.”
As I got out of bed and pulled on my pants, Rita returned to the bathroom to brush her hair. This time she emerged looking ready for an urgent business meeting. Seeing I wasn’t quite ready, she tapped her shoe, waiting as I knotted my tie. Grasping my hand when I finished, she squeezed it and hurried me to the car.
Because of lunch hour traffic, we found the return trip to her job much slower. Rita remained silent most of the way, although I could see she was miffed. She didn’t talk until we were almost there.
“I have a question, and I need an answer.”
“What’s wrong?”
“Does there have to be?”
“It's your voice. You sound. . .”
Rita ignored my psychoanalysis, folded her arms, and turned her knees toward the door.
“Tell me. What's the name of the game?”
“Game? I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”
“The one we're playing.”
I didn’t understand the issue and paused before answering.
“Infidelity, maybe?”
Rita closed her eyes. “This isn't a joke. I need a serious answer.”
A blaring horn distracted me from the unexpected course our conversation had taken. “Have I done something wrong?”
“You've done everything just right, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Cool drinks in smoky bars, peanut butter picnics in vacant lots and steamy sex in all the ways I love. That’s what our relationship has meant to me. I just want to know what it means to you. Anything?”
“Something exciting and truly memorable. I can't remember having so much fun since I went skinny dipping with the homecoming queen in the principal's pool on graduation night.”
Rita's strained smile flickered briefly. “Now what? It's almost winter. The pool is empty.”
“You're shooting over my head. Is this about Russell? Are you thinking of divorce?”
“Russell's not the problem.”
“But isn't Russell part of the equation? And Jessica?”
“That's not what we're discussing here,” Rita said, her voice rising.
“Then please tell me what we are discussing.”
By now, her demeanor had diminished from silent composure to barely suppressed rage, and I still was not sure why.
“Just let me off in front of the building,” she said.
I coasted into the slow lane and allowed some angry motorists to surge past on the left. “First explain why you're angry with me.”
She had neither a frown nor smile on her face, only the empty expression of quiet frustration as she pointed at the curb in front of her building.
“Pull in and let me out. I never play the game with someone who doesn't follow the rules. You don't even know we're playing.”
She hurried across the busy street without a backwards glance. When I phoned to apologize, she didn’t take my call.
Three days passed, and then a week, without a word from Rita. Finally, no longer able to control my curiosity and hurt feelings, I drove to our old meeting place by her office and parked at the curb. From there, I watched, aware of a sudden rush of déjà vu as she walked out the door at exactly our usual time. I quickly realized why.
Even though she recognized my car as she hurried across the sidewalk, she didn’t look my way or acknowledge my presence. Instead, she focused her smiling attention on a young man in a black BMW as he opened the passenger door to let her in. Once inside, she wrapped herself around him and gave him a sultry kiss. She knew I was looking, and I wondered if her lustful actions had been for my benefit. I never found out.
As they disappeared down the street, I watched the young man cast a curious glance in his rear-view mirror.

Born a mile or so from Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma with wife Marilyn, and continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. If you liked Name of the Game, please check out his AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

PRAIRIE JUSTICE - a Buck McDivit short story

Buck McDivit braced himself against a dump truck, staring at the deep hole in front of him. The broad scar was all that remained of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Glancing at his watch for the third time in as many minutes, he wondered why his new client had wanted to meet him here at dawn. Privacy, he guessed. The area was vacant, except for the ghosts of 168 recent victims.
A scratchy voice behind him said, “Don't turn around. No need to see who I am.”
The sudden intrusion caught Buck by surprise. He lowered his arms that had shot toward the sky. “I don't recognize your voice, so I guess you're here on business.”
“Good guess,” the man said.
When the stranger's voice dissolved into a moist cough, Buck could smell his sour breath. He didn't turn around. The client wanted privacy and anonymity and expected him to comply with his wishes. The voice sounded familiar, despite what he'd said. He was trying to remember where he'd heard it when the man placed a sheet of legal paper into his hand. It was a mineral lease though dim light and morning haze precluded him from reading the document.
“You know what it is, hotshot. You were a lease broker during the boom; a City cop before that. You didn't become a P.I. until after the oil bust.”
“You know about me. What about you?” Buck said.
“Everything you need from me is on that lease, and in this.” He placed an envelope in Buck's empty hand. “Your retainer and a name. When you finish your investigation, I want you to give him a hand-delivered written report. Now give me five minutes to vacate the premises before you turn around.”
“That's it?” asked Buck.
“You're smart. You'll figure everything out.”
“Maybe, but a hint would be nice.”
When the man started to speak, morning air sent him into another coughing jag. When his damp hack finally subsided, he said, “Vengeance is best served on a cold platter.”
Five minutes later, Buck McDivit was alone again.
Noisy diners crowded the tables in Cattleman's Cafe. Buck didn't notice. He was too busy studying the lease while working on a plate of steak and eggs and side of lamb fries. Pushing thirty, he'd yet to consider the possible ill effects of too much cholesterol. A semi loaded with cattle screeched to a halt outside on the street.
The envelope contained ten Ben Franklin's and the name of a reporter for the local newspaper. The document provided a bounty of information. Term, date of execution, lessor and lessee, and the legal description of the mineral lease. At this point, it all seemed meaningless. Somewhere amid typed details lay a mystery the unnamed client had already paid Buck a thousand dollars to solve. He finished his coffee and used one of the hundreds to pay the tab.
The mineral lease named Clayton Jones as its owner, his address the Lazy J Ranch. The ranch lay just outside Okarche. Buck cranked his Dodge Ram's big engine and headed up the Northwest Passage to pay Clayton Jones a visit.
A week had passed since wheat harvest. Now, rural roads were finally clear of combines and grain trucks. Buck liked it that way, nearing eighty as he reached the turn-off to El Reno. From there, he didn't have far to go. He found the Lazy J Ranch a few miles south of the Northwest Passage, just off Highway 81.
Fresh white paint graced the barns, sheds and fence surrounding the property. This was a working ranch, a life-size replica of an Oklahoma Paint Horse advertising its main product. He followed the drive to a sprawling ranch-style house, parking beside a red Corvette with a vanity tag that said Tushie.
“Anyone home?” he called when nobody answered his knock.
He followed a manicured path to investigate a commotion in the backyard. There he found a young woman galloping a horse around several barrels. She didn't immediately notice him. When she did, Buck tipped his Stetson, waiting until she'd dismounted and tethered her horse to the fence.
“I'm looking for Clayton Jones. This his ranch?”
“You're at the right ranch, but Daddy's at the horse auction, over in Oklahoma City. Maybe I can help you.”
“Wish you could,” he said, returning her smile. “I think I need to speak with your dad.”
“Too bad,” she said. “Sure boring around this big ol’ place, all by myself and all.”
A cattle truck passing on the highway blasted its mournful horn as it disappeared over a hill. Too busy considering if her reply had a hidden meaning, Buck didn't notice.
“Oh, I'm not in any particular hurry,” he finally managed.
“Mama has peach pie fresh out of the oven. I'll fix a pitcher of iced tea to go with it.”
“You got yourself a deal,” he said, following her up the walkway to the house. “What's your name?”
“Sheila. You?”
“Buck McDivit. I like your jeans, Sheila. I'll bet your friends call you Tushie.”
The young woman didn't turn around, but he knew she was smiling and could almost feel her face turning red. Her jeans were tight, faded and shiny from wear, thin fabric almost nonexistent across the seat of her pants. When he dropped back for a better look, she yanked off her hat and used it to block his view. Her reaction sent them both into a convulsion of laughter. Stopping at the house, she shook her thick mane of wheat-colored hair, sat down on the back porch and thrust a boot toward him. It was then he first noticed her big green eyes and pouty lips.
“How about a hand, cowboy?”
Buck needed no goading, eager to revel in the young woman's attention. Once free of the boots Sheila led him into the kitchen, removed the pie from the oven and began making tea.
“I love this ranch,” Buck said.
“You like horses?”
“You bet. I live on a horse farm myself, over in eastern Oklahoma County. Thoroughbreds.”
“You own a thoroughbred horse farm?” Sheila asked.
Buck smiled and shook his head. “I wish. I help run the place and do a few chores. In exchange, the rich lady that does own it furnishes me office space and a place to live in the horse barn. I have my own pony, though.”
“What else do you do for the rich lady?”
Sheila giggled when he said, “Oh, this and that.”
Young Miss Jones seemed taken by Buck's wavy hair and brown-eyed good looks. After waiting until he finished his second slice of Mama's pie, she walked him to his truck.
“Where'd you say your daddy is?” he asked.
“Bidding on fall stock at the horse barn. Won't be back till late tonight.”
Ignoring Sheila's innuendo with some difficulty, he said, “I sure need to see him today and ask him about this.”
When he showed Sheila the lease, she said, “This is Grandpa's signature, not Daddy's. He's at Eischen's in Okarche.”
“A little early for lunch.”
Sheila grinned. “Gramps likes drinking beer and yakking with the customers. I guess you can do most anything you like when you're ninety.”
“That's a fact,” he said, climbing behind the wheel.
After starting the engine, he cranked down the windows to release the cloud of super-heated air trapped inside the cab. Before driving away, he gave Clayton Jones granddaughter an assessing look.
“Say, Sheila. How'd you like to go two-stepping Saturday night, or maybe take a moonlight ride down by the river?”
Sheila waved and said, “Sorry. I have a boyfriend.”
Buck wanted to spend more time with her. Find out if she did have a boyfriend. Next time, he thought. Today, he was in a hurry. Spinning his tires in the dirt, he headed north, burning rubber when he reached the highway.
He arrived in Okarche in five minutes. Eischen's bar, famous for its cold beer and Okarche Fried Chicken, lay a block off the main highway. The oldest bar in Oklahoma had closed only once since opening in 1896—the result of a recent fire. Now it had reopened. Its bright new awnings proclaimed it had returned better than ever. Buck found Clayton Jones sitting at the bar.
“You Mister Jones?”
“Who wants to know?” asked the old man in faded overalls.
The barroom was dark, air-conditioning icy cold. Clayton Jones hadn't bothered removing his cap, and Buck suspected he rarely did.
“Buck McDivit. Got a minute?”
When the old man smiled, Buck recognized a glimmer of his granddaughter's features. Jones raised his hand to get the bartender's attention.
“About all I got,” he said. “And not much left of that. Hey Johnny, bring the boy here a Coors, and another for me.”
Buck took a moment to savor the icy draw before showing Clayton Jones the lease. The old man slipped his reading glasses out of his overalls and perched them on his nose, squinting to read the document.
“Leased the minerals under the ranch to Darrell Lamm for fifty dollars an acre. He turned the lease to Winchester Oil for ten times that amount.”
“Sounds like you should have held out for more.”
“Might have, if I’d known about the gusher Winchester would find. Thousand barrels a day.”
“I don't mean soda pop.”
Buck reflected on the old man's answer, and sudden change in demeanor. “Lamm wouldn't have any way to know that before he leased you, would he?”
Clayton Jones chuckled. “Son, you're pretty smart. Darrell Lamm's more than just an oil man; he also owns a bank. Guess who banks there?” Buck shrugged. “Seems I had a mortgage, and Winchester a seismic survey pegging the Lazy J as the hottest oil property in northwest Oklahoma. Lamm got a look at it while visiting their office.”
“How do you know that?”
“I don't, for a fact, but I have strong suspicions.”
“Sounds like Lamm got the best of both of you.”
“That's about the speed limit around these parts,” Jones said. “Far as I'm concerned, the only thing more crooked than an oil man is a banker. Lamm has both bases covered.”
Talk of Clayton Jones' crooked banker further exasperated the sudden ill effect on the old man's demeanor. When he closed his eyes and slumped against burled walnut, Buck signaled for two more beers.
“Didn't mean to bring back bad memories. At least Winchester drilled you a good well.”
The oil well immediately raised Jones' spirits, his smile restored by the time he'd finished his fresh draw. “I reckon you're right about that. I'd almost forgot about the damn lease, anyway. Winchester drilled the well while I was spending the summer with my daughter in Texas. With the royalty money from the well, I paid off the mortgage on my ranch, and all the rest of my debt.”
“Then there's your silver lining,” Buck said.
“No thanks to Darrell Lamm. I'd still love to give him a little shot of reality.”
“Maybe you can. My client seems to think something's wrong with this lease. Mind taking another look?”
Clayton Jones didn't mind, and reexamined the lease. Closer this time. Finally, he shook his head. “Afraid I can't help you. That's the lease I signed all right”
The news wasn't what Buck had wanted to hear. Finishing his beer, he patted the old man's shoulder. “Guess I better run over to El Reno and check the records myself.”
Clayton Jones stopped him before he reached the door. “Say Buck, I don't see a wedding ring on your finger. You single?”
“Still holding out for the right woman,” he said, grinning.
“Why don't you give my granddaughter a call? I sure need someone to hurry things up if I'm going to see grandchilluns before I die.”
“Thanks, Mr. Jones. I'll keep that in mind.”
Buck saluted as he walked out the door. Kids were the last things that worried him as he headed south toward the Canadian County Courthouse. Pumping units and tank batteries lined the road. Black gold. Life's blood of Oklahoma. He passed a large building that gave him other thoughts.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes had constructed a huge bingo hall unlike any he'd ever seen. It looked like a Las Vegas casino, complete with flashing neon lights. He gunned around the last sweeping bend, finding the Canadian County legal complex near the center of El Reno.
Two new buildings, both labeled County Courthouse, sat a block apart. Buck took a chance and chose the closest building. Refrigerated air swept over him as he entered the new facility. The hall led him to a large open room that looked like a bank, complete with tellers. A prominent sign stated the kinds of business handled. Divorce, civil domestic abuse, domestic relations and issuing of process server's licenses. His favorite was beer, bingo and pool halls licensing. A friendly clerk informed him he was in the wrong building.
In the Hall of Records, he realized why his client had researched his employment history before hiring him. What other private investigator knew how to check records? Likely a bunch in Oklahoma City. Within ten minutes, he'd located the file copy of the lease Darrell Lamm had taken from Clayton Jones. He spent a moment browsing through the documents in the book before having a clerk make copies for him. Sitting alone at a booth in the corner, he studied the copied documents. Finally he had it.
Once he realized the mistake in the lease, it stood out like flashing neon. Except it wasn't a mistake. Someone had altered Clayton Jones' lease with correction fluid, the culprit likely Darrell Lamm. He'd typed in a new date, adding six months to the term. All this he did before assigning the lease to Winchester Oil. The insinuation was clear—fraud and deceit, Lamm's motive to add value to an aging lease and make it more marketable. And maybe there was something else.
Buck broke all existing speed limits, blowing past cars and trucks as he raced down Interstate 40 toward Oklahoma City. He needed to reach the geologic library before it closed at five. He made it with ten minutes to spare, winking at Cyndi Gates the cute librarian as he hurried past the front desk. He found what he needed in a musty file cabinet.
Several geologists spoke to him in passing. He responded with only a salute, intent on looking at the completion report for the Winchester Oil #1 Clayton Jones. Like the old man had said, the well had blown in for more than a thousand barrels of oil a day. It had already produced a quarter-million barrels of oil. It was a hell of a well making Winchester Oil, Darrell Lamm and Clayton Jones happy. But something was wrong. Now, Buck knew what it was.
According to the date on the report, Winchester hadn't begun drilling in time to save the lease. Clayton Jones hadn't noticed because he'd been in Texas that summer, visiting his daughter. Winchester Oil had drilled a well, a fabulous well, on an expired lease. Now, Winchester was producing and selling oil it didn't own. The company was guilty of stupidity and lack of due diligence, and Darrell Lamm of civil fraud. The severity of their crimes mattered little. When Jones found out, both would have the devil to pay.
After dropping off his story with his client's appreciative reporter, Buck exited the high-rise. At the front door lay a stack of the newspaper's latest edition. He stopped to glance at the picture on the front page. State Judge Indicted for Malfeasance, the headline read. Buck recognized the man in the picture.
Judge Henry Lang. He remembered the ousted judge's scratchy voice ruined by too many cigarettes. A Grand Jury had indicted him for taking bribes and rendering prejudicial court decisions. Buck didn't find it unusual that Darrell Lamm had instigated the investigation. For reasons unknown, their business relationship had gone awry, and Lamm had taken the judge down.
The reason didn't matter. Lamm had made a big mistake in calling for Lang's ouster. The Judge likely knew the location of many of the oil man’s skeletons. Instead of getting mad, he'd gotten even. If he were to go down, Lamm would go down with him.
Except for the companies and individuals that had paid big bucks for his decisions, no one would miss Judge Lang. As for Lamm, if he died tomorrow a telephone booth would suffice for all the people that would show up for his funeral. Tossing the paper back on the stack, Buck headed for his truck.
Right now, he had problems of his own—thirty hungry horses waiting for supper. Scattering gravel in the parking lot, he headed east. Maybe he'd call Sheila when he finished his chores; give her another chance to go two-stepping Saturday night. Maybe, but not before drinking an icy Coors and taking an evening gallop on his faithful pony.


Eric Wilder is the author of the Paranormal Cowboy and French Quarter Mystery Series. If you liked Prairie Justice, please check out Eric's books on his AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Interview with a Sensitive

It’s widely known that I consider Louisiana the nation’s most ghostly state and New Orleans perhaps the most haunted city on earth. Today my special guest is Louisiana psychic/paranormal investigator Paula Bergeron. Paula is more than an investigator; much more. Check out these twenty questions and you will see, as I have, that she is a very special individual. Enjoy!

Q: Tell us where you were raised and a little about yourself.

A: I was raised in the little country town of Branch, Louisiana where everyone knew everyone else.

Q: Were you fascinated by ghosts, spirits and paranormal tales as a youngster? What piqued your interest at an early age?

A: I was always interested in the paranormal, even before I knew what it meant. I have been able to sense and see spirits since I was around 7 years old.

Q: What was your first paranormal experience?

A: My first paranormal experience was in an old house that we lived in when I was a child. I heard a noise coming from my closet and there was a man standing there, but he wasn't scary to me. He told me not to be afraid and that I was going to be safe. He would visit me often and I would read books to him and color pages with him watching over me.

Q: For our readers, a highly sensitive person, HSP, is someone that has an increased awareness of feelings, noise, emotions, mental, and paranormal intrusion. Are you a sensitive?

A: I am a sensitive, some people call me a medium, I prefer sensitive because I don't always see the spirits as much as I can feel them. I can also hear and smell some of them. By smelling them I mean that sometimes I associate a certain smell to them. Like sometimes when my Grandmother is around me, I can smell Ivory soap because that was all she could use because of her allergies. Sometimes it's the scent of a cologne or cigar or cigarette smoke, if they were a smoker.

Q: Do you work alone, or with a group?

A: I usually work alone, but people have learned of my cleansing abilities and call me when someone has a real "ghost" problem.

Q: How do you prepare for a paranormal investigation?

A: I usually meditate before an investigation and ground myself. If the area is known for paranormal activity then I also say a prayer of protection.

Q: Do you truly believe ghosts and spirits are real, or is part of your purpose as a paranormal investigator to try and prove that they are not real?

A: I know that spirits are real because I have seen them many times. My job as a sensitive/medium is to pass on their message and send them to heaven where they were meant to go in the first place.

Q: Does religion play a part in your investigations?

A: I am religious. I believe God gave me these abilities for a purpose and he allows me to do these things. I don't really believe that you have to be religious to have an experience with the paranormal. I think that a skeptic can usually see more because spirits sometimes like to show off to people who don't believe in them.

Q: Most of us think of ghosts and spirits when speaking of paranormal activity. Louisiana is rich in tales of other paranormal beings and beliefs: rougarous, sasquatches, black panthers, crop circles, American Indian mysticism, voodoo, aliens, etc. Do you believe in any of these other supernatural beings and events, and have you had any personal experiences you’d like to relate?

A: The cleansing that I do was taught to me by a Native American Shaman, so I would say yes I do believe in some other parts of the supernatural circle.

Q: Tell us about the most haunted place in Louisiana you have ever visited.

A: It was a cemetery here in Branch that has been reported by the natives to be haunted. I went there with my then boyfriend and another friend. When we reached the cemetery there was a man sitting in a chair at the entrance. Only my boyfriend and I could see him. My friend couldn't see him.

Q: Which cemetery in Louisiana do you consider the rifest in paranormal activity?

A: I have only been to a few cemeteries, but the one that always comes to my mind is "Hookman's" near Robert's Cove. It has been known to be haunted and some devil worship has taken place there.

Q: Many fortune tellers, tarot card readers, mediums, etc. claim the ability to see into the past, and the future. Are these people charlatans, or do some truly have psychic abilities?

A: Being able to see the past or the future would depend on the person. Sometimes the spirits that I connect with will show me a mental picture of how things used to be and sometimes they will give me a picture of how things will be. I would say that some people are truly blessed with the gift and some are not.

Q: What frightens you most about paranormal investigating?

A: I have seen a lot so not much scares me. I think my biggest "fear" is to have a spirit follow me home, but then again I know how to remove them.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most haunted town or city in Louisiana and why?

A: I think the most haunted city would be New Orleans, only because of the devastation and deaths that NOLA has seen and been affected by. There are many other cities with their fair share of paranormal activity though not as much documentation has been done on them.

Q: What is the question people ask you most when they learn you are a paranormal investigator?

A: When people find out that I am a sensitive they usually say "cool" or "really". Most of them don't understand what that means so I usually have to explain that I can sense "ghosts" or as I like to refer to them "spirits”. Most people nowadays know all about the paranormal from TV or movies, so when I talk to someone like that, they usually think it's cool.

Q: Is there a paranormal investigation you wouldn’t consider doing?

A: I would try anything at least once. I don't scare easily so there is no place I would not investigate.

Q: What would you consider the most definitive proof that ghosts and spirits are real?

A: I think the fact that you have seen a ghost or spirit gives you enough proof, but you can't make people believe in what they don't want to believe.

Q: Speaking only of Louisiana, what would be your dream investigation?

A: That's easy, the LaLaurie Mansion or the old State Capitol building. I have been to New Orleans, but it was a very long time ago. I would love to go back.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts about ghosts, spirits, and paranormal investigation you’d like to share?

A: I would just like to say that if you are interested in paranormal investigation, try to remember that if it is a home you are investigating, put yourself in that person's place and see how it would feel if these things were happening at your house and you tried to tell someone about it and that you needed help. Treat each person and "spirit" with respect and help those in need.

Thanks, Paula. Our conversation has enlightened me, and I’ll know who to call when I have questions, or problems concerning the paranormal and supernatural.

Eric Wilder is the author of the Paranormal Cowboy and French Quarter Mystery Series. If you liked the interview with Louisiana Sensitive Paula Bergeron, please check out Eric's books on his AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages

Monday, November 23, 2015

In Dreams

I had a dream the other night. I seldom remember dreams unless awakened in the middle of one. This one startled me into awareness. What I remember went something like this:
I was at my kitchen sink with a woman. We were drying dishes, both of us smiling. I had a comfortable feeling she was someone I'd known a long time. Our arms touched the warm sensation pleasurable and soothing.
"Eric, I’m going to help you clean up your life," she said.
Unexpected recognition when I stared into her eyes woke me and caused me to remember her words. I'll call her Cicely. I had known her since first grade. We'd graduated from high school together.
While I had long known Cicely, we'd never been close and certainly not lovers. We'd never had any personal relationship, at least in this lifetime. Still, in my dream she felt like a trusted confidante. I felt empty knowing she'd died of cancer that summer.
This brings me back to pondering the dream’s meaning. Perhaps we live parallel lives with many lovers and confidantes as the wheels of a giant machine spins one slow story after the next.
Shakespeare said, "All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." Maybe he was right.

How many parts have I played and who were my fellow actors? Did all my stories end in song and dance on a festive summer night, or in the sudden shock of unexpected pain?

Eric Wilder is the author of the Paranormal Cowboy and French Quarter Mystery Series. Please check out more of his work on his AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dead of Night - a short story for Halloween

The sun illuminates all things, the moon nothing but the shadows of our minds.

Cold mist had settled on the distant cemetery. The moon was almost full, and Elise watched as incandescent light danced across the graves. Big arms of her grandmother’s rocking chair comforted her. One of the few possessions she’d managed to save from the fire that had recently consumed her home. Now, it creaked on the front porch of the house where she and her daughter had moved.
Winter begins early in the mountains, and a late fall chill encompassed the valley. Elise wrapped Grandma’s Afghan around her shoulders as wolves howled in the foothills. She flinched when someone tapped her shoulder.
“Sorry, Mama. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You got school tomorrow, Jesse. Why are you still awake?”
“There’s a voice in my room.”
“What?” Elise said.
“A man’s voice.”
“You hear things.”
“No, there’s something in there.”
The coal oil lamp gave off so much soot and smoke, Elise only burned it for short periods. Now it didn’t matter. Jesse followed her through the tiny house to the bedroom.
“No one here. You were just dreaming.”
“But I saw him.”
“Your imagination is playing tricks on you.”
Jesse shook her head. “He was all aglow, his eyes blazing red.”
“A nightmare, then. There’s no one here but you and me.”
Elise was only an inch or so taller than five feet, daughter Jesse’s chin already reaching her shoulders. They were different in other ways: Elise’s hair and eyes were dark. Jesse had green cat eyes, her hair reddish-blond and cut in a tomboy’s bob.
“You’re almost tall as me, Miss Jess. Must have got it from your dad’s side of the family.”
When mention of her dead father caused Jesse’s eyes to dampen, Elise wiped them with the sleeve of her dress.
“Sorry I’m such a baby.”
“It’s okay. I miss your daddy much as you do. He’s in a better place and watching over us from heaven.”
“Can I sleep with you tonight?”
“You’re too big to be sleeping with your mama.”
“But I don’t like this house.”
“It’s the only place we have. Tomorrow, before school, we’ll meet our new neighbor.”
“You mean the crazy old woman that lives on the other side of the cemetery?”
“I didn’t know there was a house there.”
“More like a shack. The woman sits on her porch all day. She scared me when I was looking at the big grave.”
“What were you doing in the cemetery?”
 “Chasing a rabbit. I found a grave with a big iron fence around it. I almost bumped into the old woman when I turned. She gave me this crazy grin, cackled like a witch and hurried away before I could say anything.”
“She’s not the neighbor I want to meet. I’m talking about the house on the way to town. Meanwhile, please stay away from the cemetery.”
Elise and Jesse waded through ground fog as they left the house the next morning. Sun peeked over the mountains, warming the long hike to their neighbor closest to town. Smoke wisped from the big stone chimney as Elise knocked on the door. A smiling woman with snow-white hair opened it.
“I’m Elise, and this is my daughter Jesse. We’re your new neighbors from the house by the cemetery.”
The woman grabbed Elise’s wrist and pulled her inside. “Your arm’s ice cold. Warm yourself by the fire. I’ll get us something to drink.”
The roaring flame felt so warm and comfortable, neither Elise nor Jesse heard the woman when she returned.
“Didn’t mean to startle you,” she said.
“And we didn’t mean to barge in,” Elise said.
“Glad you did. I don’t get many visitors. I’m Hattie.”
Elise held the warm cup with both hands, letting wisps of steam warm her nose before taking a sip. Jesse was busy looking at family pictures on the mantle when a large white dog came running, its tail wagging. When Jesse bent down to hug her, Hattie’s smile beamed.
“That’s Moby. A killer pit bull, but you wouldn’t know it from this one. She’s a real baby.”
Moby was licking Jesse’s face. “Hi, pretty girl. I think I like you.”
“Seems the feeling’s mutual,” Hattie said. “She belonged to my granddaughter. Couldn’t take Moby with her when she went away to college. Moby misses her something terrible.”
“Can I take her outside to play?” Jesse asked.
“You bet. She’d love it, and your mama and me can talk.”
Once the front door closed, Hattie led Elise to the kitchen table and poured her more coffee.
“You’re white as a ghost,” she said. “Sure that scanty shawl you’re wearing’s gonna keep you warm?”
“We were in a fire. Most of our clothes burned. Jesse’s in school and I have a job at the fabric shop in town.”
“You’re living at the old house, aren’t you?”
“Something wrong?”
Hattie glanced out the window, but not before Elise noticed her look of concern.
“Nothing. How did you find it?”
“A distant aunt left it to me when she died. When our house burned, we had no other place to go.”
“Is your husband . . .?” A single tear ran down Elise’s cheek. “We’ll talk about it some other time. I have things you may need.”
Hattie returned with an armload. “Lots of clothes around this house I’ll never wear,” she said.
“We can’t,” Elise said.
“They’re cluttering my closet. They were my daughter’s and granddaughter. Both gone now. I bet they’ll fit you and Jesse. Try on this coat.”
Hattie helped her slip a wool jacket around her shoulders. “It’s warm,” Elise said.
“And it’ll keep you that way no matter how deep snow gets in the valley. Try on these boots. They look your size.”
“Won’t your daughter miss them?”
“My baby won’t be coming back.”
Elise hugged her. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m just a lonely old woman, and I’m so happy to see you and Jesse. Moby too.”
Elise didn’t remove the jacket. “And we’re happy to meet a friendly neighbor. Jesse told me the old woman that lives by the cemetery scares her, and our house is so cold and dismal.
“You got firewood?”
“I wasn’t expecting it to get this cold so fast.”
“I have a man that’ll bring you a wagonload,” Hattie said.
Elise shook her head. “Can’t afford it till payday. I been kinda making do till then.”
“Gonna freeze tonight. I have plenty of food and firewood. You two stay with me until you get paid.”
“Can’t,” Elise said.
“You sure? I have lots of room. You and Jesse are welcome to stay long as you like.”
“Something about our house frightens me. Doesn’t matter cause I’m determined to make our new life in this valley work. And that means living in our own house.”
“Something scare you?” Hattie asked.
“Jesse heard something last night in her room. A man’s voice. She got scared and I let her sleep with me. Is there something about the house I should know?”
“Nothing,” Hattie said. “You and Jesse stop by on your way home. At least let me cook dinner for you. I’ve been eating alone and I’d love the company.”
Early evening shadows crept over the mountains as Elise and Jesse returned to Hattie’s house. Jesse had waited at the fabric shop until her mother finished work. Mrs. Lambert, the store owner hadn't said a word to her all day.
“You like your new job?” Jesse asked.
“I love working with fabrics, their smell, touch and feel. I don’t think Mrs. Lambert likes me, though.”
“She never smiles.”
“You’re just nervous cause it’s your first week,” Jesse said.
“Hope you’re right. We really need this job.”
Elise was out of breath when Hattie opened the door. Moby, tail wagging, ran to meet Jesse. They were soon wrestling on the floor as Hattie helped Elise with her coat.
“You’re exhausted.”
“A little out of shape, I guess.”
“What did you eat today?” Hattie asked.
“I wasn’t hungry.”
“I hope your appetite’s returned cause I got a pot of ham and beans simmering on the stove, and cornbread cooking in the oven.”
“Smells wonderful,” Elise said.
After dinner, they sat by the crackling fire as Moby and Jesse wrestled on the floor.
“Spend the night,” Hattie said. “Snow’s beginning to fall, and it’s a long walk from here to your house.”
“We’ve imposed enough,” Elise said.
“What are you doing for heat?”
“Lots of fallen branches in front of the house. Enough to keep us warm.”
“If you must, I insist you take Moby with you. She’ll scare away any critters you meet on the way home.”
“You mean it?” Jesse said.
“You bet I do,” Hattie said with a smile.
Elise was again out of breath when they reached their dark house. Snow whistled down the valley in cold gusts, a coyote howling by the cemetery.
“Look,” Jesse said. “Someone brought us a load of wood and stacked it on the porch.”
“But we don’t have money to pay for it.”
Jesse wasn’t listening, already carting an armload into the house. Flames were soon crackling in the fireplace, and Elise warmed her hands. Moby was busy nosing around the room, sniffing cracks in the floor and pawing at the door to Jesse’s room. When Jesse opened it, she ran inside and jumped on the bed.
“Good girl,” Jesse said. “I won’t get cold tonight with you sleeping next to me.”
Elise remained awake long after dark. She put another log on the fire before collapsing on her bed. A dog’s persistent barking awakened her. It was Moby.
“What is it?” she said, rushing into her daughter’s room.
Jesse could only point at darkness in the corner. As Elise tried to see what she was looking at, she became aware of the room’s iciness. Her breath, Jesse’s and Moby’s wafted from their mouths. A terrifying chill of death that raised the hackles on the back of her neck.
Jesse’s voice trembled when she said, “Who are you, and what is it you want?”
When Elise saw who Jesse was talking to, an involuntary sigh escaped her lips. Incandescent light illuminated the room. Two red eyes remained as it died away. Moby’s barking had become threatening growls. The light flickered like a dying candle, revealing the pulsing image of a frowning devil with demon eyes. Elise grabbed Jesse’s arm, pulled her from the room, slamming the door behind them.
“Get your coat,” she said.
Jesse grabbed her coat and raced for the door.
The moon was bright and almost full, its light filtering through snow falling in gentle waves. Hattie met them at the door, pulling them inside and hustling them in front of the crackling fire.
“I couldn’t sleep. I knew something was wrong,” she said. “Can you tell me?”
Elise shook her head as Jesse sat by the fire, hugging Moby.
“A demon with glowing eyes,” she said.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” Hattie said. “People say your house is haunted.”
 “And you didn’t tell us?”
“I’m so sorry. Till I heard you knocking on the door, I didn’t know it was really true.”
“I knew something was wrong,” Jesse said. “The house had an under smell. Moby noticed right away.”
Elise gave Jesse a look. “You never said anything.”
“Didn’t want to scare you, Mama,” Jesse said.
Returning her attention to Hattie, Elise said, “I know you ordered wood for us. We’ll pay you when I collect my first week’s wages.”
“You’ll do no such thing. That’s my house warming present for you and Jesse.”
“Then thank you,” Elise said.
“You’re safe now. I’m not letting you leave. My granddaughter’s room is down the hall. Moby knows the way. She’s slept there since Mattie left for college. Elise, there’s a bed in the loft. No one’s used it since my daughter died.”
“I can’t take her bed.”
Hattie tapped her wrist. “I’m not taking no for an answer.”
“Thanks, Hattie,” Jesse said, rushing down the hallway, Moby close behind.
“Will you tell me the rest of the story now?” Elise asked.
“Let’s have coffee first,” Hattie said.
Wind had begun whistling outside the house, snow piling up on the porch when Hattie returned from the kitchen.
“An immigrant family moved to town almost twenty years ago. A man, woman, and their daughter. They say he began having an affair with the woman living in the house on the other side of the cemetery. They were doing things. Crazy things.”
“Like what?” Elise asked.
“Devil worship. They say she put a spell on him.”
“It was the night of a full moon. I’ll never forget because it eclipsed and turned blood red. Dogs were howling, along with wolves up in the foothills. The man went home from his lover’s house and murdered his wife and daughter with an ax.”
“Oh my God!”
“Neighbors found them the next day and buried the mother and daughter together.”
“What happened to the killer?”
“He went crazy, eyes all red and bloodshot and drool dripping from his mouth when they captured him. Townsfolk strung him up, and he died wailing like a banshee. Before he died, he vowed to return with the next Blood Moon and take his daughter with him. They built an iron fence around his grave, locking it with chains of iron to keep his spirit from escaping.”
“You’re serious?”
Hattie nodded. “I was there the night they buried him. Weather had turned cold, and Mama’s old coat couldn’t keep the chill off my neck. Blood red lights began dancing over the grave. I ran away, along with everyone else.”
 “Do you remember the daughter’s name?” Elise asked.
“Filippa. Why?”
“That’s what the demon called Jesse. When the moon turns red, I’m coming for you, he said.”
Elise awoke the next morning to the thud of someone adding wood to the fire. When she peered over the railing, Hattie glanced up and smiled.
“Bacon, eggs, and a fresh pot of coffee brewing,” she said. “Bring the blanket with you. It’s still cold down here.”
Snow drifted through the door when Hattie opened it for more wood. Elise climbed from the loft with the old blanket clutched around her shoulders. Jesse was already up, playing outside in the snow with Moby.
“You must never return to that evil house,” Hattie said as she poured Jesse’s coffee from a steaming pot.
“What did the demon mean by the moon turning red?” Hattie looked away without answering. “Hattie?”
“There’s a Blood Moon tonight.”
“What’s a Blood Moon?”
“The full moon will eclipse and turn red. Something that doesn’t happen often.”
“How often?”
Hattie sat the pot on the stove. “Been a while.”
“Did the murder . . . ?” Hattie didn’t answer. She didn’t have to. “Oh my God! What’ll I do?”
“Been thinking about it. You and Jesse have to leave the valley.”
“But we have no place to go.”
“My sister lives in Salt Lake City. We could take the train and visit her.”
“The demon would just follow us. I have to stop him somehow.”
“Child, there’s no pastor in town, our only church dark for over a year now.”
“I have to do something.”
Hattie stared out the window, watching a hawk float in a winter updraft. “Maybe Efe Hentooth can help us,” she said.
“Who is she?”
“A black woman from down south somewhere. People go to her for potions and poultices, and to cast spells.”
“She’s a witch?”
“People say she communes with spirits.”
“I have to see her. Can Jesse stay with you?”
“Course she can.”
“Then, where can I find this Efe Hentooth?”
“Her shanty, by the town dump.” Before Elise departed, Hattie handed her a bag. “You’ll need to give her this,” she said.
Elise’s new boots kept her feet from freezing as she slogged through ruts left by wagons from the mines. By nightfall, all the miners would be in the saloon, getting drunk and spending their week’s wages. Darkness had come early, and Elise had other things on her mind.
Cold nipped her nose, but not enough to mask the smell of the village dump. A tarpaper shack stood alone, smoke wafting from its stovepipe. The frozen porch creaked beneath her feet as she rapped on the door. A large black woman opened it a crack and peeked out.
“Mighty cold out there,” she said. “Better come in this house.”
Cardboard and tarpaper insulated the shack, heat radiating from an old potbelly stove. The woman seated Elise in front of it. When she pulled up a chair beside her, Elise gave her the bag. She grinned when she saw the bottle of whiskey.
“Thanks for the hooch. What’s your name?”
“Elise. Are you Efe Hentooth?”
“One and the same. What brings you out to see old Efe on a frozen night like this?”
“A demon.”
Efe’s smile disappeared. “You didn’t just move into the old Lenzo place, did you?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“You know what tonight is?” Efe asked.
“Blood Moon.”
Efe nodded. “Haven’t had one since that crazy man murdered his wife and daughter. Wish there was something I could do, but I can’t help you.”
“You were my only hope,” Elise said.
Efe, hands clasped behind her back, began pacing circles around the room. When she finally stopped, closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead, Elise started to weep.
“Don’t cry, baby. I got an idea.”
“You do?”
Efe nodded. “Your only hope is to keep him from escaping the grave.”
“And how can I do that?”
Wind whistled outside the shack, blowing the door ajar and dusting the floor with snow. Efe shut it, parking a big rock in front to keep it closed.
“The town church had a little graveyard for the homeless. Later, they used it as a garden to help feed the poor and needy. It’s hallowed ground.” Efe handed her an empty pail that was sitting in the corner. “You must fill this bucket with dirt from that old garden.”
“Then what?”
“Take it to the demon’s grave. Pour an unbroken trail of dirt around it.”
“Will it keep him from escaping?”
“Don’t know, but it’s the only thing I can think of to do.”
“Oh my God!”
“One more thing. You gotta finish before the moon eclipses.”
“And if I don’t?”
Elise’s hand went to her mouth when Efe said, “Then the demon will drag you and your baby to hell.”
Efe opened the whiskey and drank straight from the lip. After wiping her face with her arm, she handed the bottle to Elise.
“Take a big swig,” she said. “You gonna need it.”
The moon was full and beginning to eclipse as Elise stepped off Efe’s porch, heading for the deserted church. Snow fell in wet clumps, the ground beginning to freeze as she dug with a stick in the garden. Her hands were bleeding and dirty, head spinning from Efe’s whiskey when she started away with the pail of dirt. 
The bright orb in the sky was near eclipse and turning red as she passed Hattie’s house. There was no time to stop though she thought she’d heard Jesse’s voice calling to her. Another mile and she passed the dark house where the murder had occurred. After peeking up at the moon, she hurried faster, knowing she was running out of time.
Moonbeams glimmered off the snow, an aura of milky red dancing over the grave. Elise began circling the iron fence with dirt from the pail when an eerie cackle stopped her. She looked up into the crazy eyes of an old woman.
“Too late, dearie. He’s already free!”
She hobbled away, talking to herself as Elise looked at the moon. By now, her heart was banging inside her ribcage as she stared at the sliver remaining. The gate to the grave was clanging in cold air gusting down from the mountains. The broken lock lay buried in the snow. Behind her, a fire was burning. Even in the cold, she felt the heat on her neck. Putrid smell of death almost gagged her as she turned to see what it was.
Flames danced across the snow, the skeletal image of a living corpse inside them. Pits of the creature’s eyes glowed red, its translucent body pulsating beneath the muted light of a moon about to eclipse. The demon’s voice spoke to her.
“How long I have waited. The moon is red,  you and Filippa about to join me.”
Something behind Elise frightened her almost as much as the wraith moving toward her. It was Jesse and Moby.
“We followed you from the house.”
“No, baby, run!”
Jesse didn’t listen. She and Moby stepped in front of her. Moby crouched with fangs barred, her low growl menacing enough to halt any human in his tracks. The demon moving toward them wasn’t human. Jesse and Moby began backing up.
“You stop right there,” Jesse yelled.
“Or what?” the demon’s voice boomed.
Elise looked up at the moon. It was blood red.
“Run, Jesse!” she called. “Please run.”
Jesse yelped in pain when she tripped and fell backward in the snow. Moby was giving no ground, growling and biting at dancing flames growing ever larger and stinking to high heavens. The moon had eclipsed, Elise thinking, maybe it’s too late. Gasping an icy breath to keep from fainting, she rushed around Jesse and Moby.
“Take me, not my little girl.”
“I’ll have both of you,” the demon bellowed.
The fiery monster, heat from its glowing body, began raising blisters on Elise’s face and neck. Jesse was in the snow, Moby guarding her. The demon was almost on top of them when she launched the dirt from the pail.
“Go to hell!” she yelled.
Elise didn’t expect what happened next. The demon issued a guttural groan as if mortally wounded. The glow of its body flickered, turned brown, and then began erupting like a mud volcano. When it reached its crescendo, it exploded into a million pieces, knocking Elise into the snow.
It wasn’t the only explosion.
The valley rocked as the grave behind them blew into a thousand pieces. Their house, and the hag’s also exploded into balls of fire. As silence of a blood red moon engulfed the valley, Jesse and Moby joined Elise in the snow.
A thaw had begun, icicles dripping when the sun arose the next morning. Jesse, Elise, Hattie, and Moby, along with half the town, trekked to the spot where the haunted house had stood. Like the demon’s grave, nothing but charred earth remained. At least almost nothing.
A chair, rocking in a gentle breeze, stood alone in the middle of blackened soil. Elise’s grandmother’s chair. Crumpled but uncharred, her faded Afghan was draped across its back.


Eric Wilder is the author of the Paranormal Cowboy and French Quarter Mystery Series. If you liked Dead of Night, please check out more of Eric's writing on his AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages