Monthly Archives: April 2015

I is for Indigent

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She pushed her cart every day up and down the streets of the small town.  If you asked the town leaders, they’d probably deny a homeless population.  However, Ingrid would beg to differ.  After years of struggling to fit in, she walked out of her life around five years ago.

Mark had once again come home to find the house in disarray and Ingrid practically comatose from the meds the doctor had her on.  Sighing, he began to straighten the room.  He didn’t know how to reach her when she got to this state.  She was so out of reach, lost in her own world.  Rocking back and forth, she rambled on about nonsense.  Thankfully, they didn’t have children, he thought then instantly regretted it.  He fought resentment.  He loved her but she was hard to love sometimes.

One day, through the haze of her illness, Ingrid saw his struggles.  Oh, Mark, she thought.  She hoped her letter would convey her love, would release him to find happiness.  Taking what little money she had stashed, she stumbled towards the bus.  The ticket to anywhere landed her in this tiny town where she disappeared among the indigent.

At one time, she considered herself intelligent.  She had a Ph.D. in Information Systems.  However, shortly after she completed her studies, she started becoming more and more confused.  The illness progressed and the treatments weren’t helping.  She felt lost, somewhere in between reality and delusion.

The cart stopped suddenly, dragging her from her fragmented memories.  Focusing on the interruption, she realized a handbag lay on the ground.  It was rather nice, beaded with a chain for a handle.  Rescuing it from the wheel of the cart, she opened it and saw that it belonged to a Beatrice Bevins.  Ms. Bea would bring sandwiches to the alleys.  She never forgot them.  How long had it been since she had visited?  The fog of time didn’t reveal any answers but Ingrid knew something was quite wrong.

Gathering her courage, she walked in a very determined line to the police station.  Looking quietly towards her cart, she sighed as she walked away from it.  Hopefully it would be there when she returned.  She entered the police station.

“Hello.  I’m Ingrid Liva.  I found this in the alley next to the library and I think it may be important.”

When they realized what she held, they began to buzz around her, some taking her statement, some seeking to discover what they could from the handbag, and others leaving to check out the alley by the library.  Ingrid was no longer invisible.

homeless

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H is for Hale

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A bit wobbly on her feet, Gretta haled a cab.  As the taxi pulled up to the curb, she felt someone sweep her into the seat…then darkness.  Her last thought…how appropriate.  A Micky. 

With no sense of time, she groggily came to although still in darkness.  Why would someone want her, she wondered.  Her only claim to fame was president of the Benning chapter of Red Hat Society.  As she thought this, she unconsciously tried to straighten her hat, only to realize her hands were bound.

“Who is responsible for this?”

Her demands were met with laughter.  “If I told you, then where would the fun be in that.”

His voice was familiar but she couldn’t quite place it.  Her mind quickly went through the catalog of acquaintances.  “Howard?”

His voice darkened.  “Perhaps you don’t want to be so quick to make an identification.”  She dismissed the notion of Howard.  He was a trickster but not malevolent.

“No matter who you are, how dare you tie up an old lady!”

He answered her response with the close of a door.  She was alone.

G is for Gamble

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Gretta gambled her last quarter for the night in the slots before grabbing her old fashioned beaded handbag and heading toward the door.  She looked like she blew in from a bygone era, the roaring 20s to be exact.  Her flapper dress and her hat with its feather, she would have fit in any speakeasy with ease.

In fact, it was speakeasy night at the casino and Gretta loved a good dress up event.  Jumping into the spirit of the night, she was rewarded for her enthusiasm with an extra $20 credit to gamble away the night.  Now it was time to pack it up.  As she approached the door, a gentleman in a zoot suit caught her eye.

“I see we have a similar eye for fashion, Betty.”

She looked him up and down and with a shrug, she answered, “It does seem to be a fact, Jack.”  He grinned and she was amused by his gold teeth.  He went all out.  “I don’t believe we have met.”  Curiosity outweighed her sense of caution.

“Most call me Gentry, though you are welcome to call me Jack.  Mind if I buy you a drink?”

Shrugging, she responded, “If you can get something other than bathtub gin.  Stuff will kill ya.”

He grinned as he waved over a waiter.  He quickly ordered a Brandy Alexander and a Gibson.  She raised her eyebrow, and responded, “I’ll take the brandy.  You can keep the gin.”

“Of course.  Now, why don’t you come over and be my lucky charm.”  They moved towards the table and he began his next hand.  As the drinks were served, she quickly finished hers off.  He was gambling big money and something seemed off.  Gretta quickly feigned a need to go to the little girl’s room.  Slipping away, she was out the door.

slot machine

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F is for Frequency

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“This is Frankie signing off of FM103.”  The radio crackled in the background as Avery diligently laid down the line work for her latest painting.  Late nights were starting to make her days and nights run together.  The radio helped to keep her in touch with reality.

Allie knew to avoid Avery when she was in a painting frenzy.  She liked her space and solitude.  She would bump into Allie in the kitchen from time to time and Allie would smile but wouldn’t speak unless Avery initiated the conversation.  They had learned each other’s habits back in college and had latched onto one another because so few actually understood them.

Avery laid the pencil down and glared at the radio as the static crackled across the airwaves.  “This is what I get for preferring the old school radio rather than digital delivery methods.”  She picked up the radio, tilting it as she reached for the dial.  Then startled, she heard a voice.

“I..I don’t know if anyone can hear me.  I need (static) can someone (static) please.”  That was it.  Shortly after, the radio station resumed.  Avery quickly wrote down the frequency she was on and the message.  This couldn’t wait until morning.  Grabbing her cell, she dialed the police to report the odd frequency interruption.

radio

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E is for Evidence

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Emerson arrived into Benning on a rainy Wednesday.  His mind was occupied as he walked from the bus stop to his destination.  As he looked up, he realized it was taped off by the police.  He had been out of town for several weeks but what could have happened to Beatrice?  He sternly looked about when his eyes rested on the Abandoned Artists.  Perhaps they could enlighten him on current events.

Avery and Allie were both found in the Gallery, now opened to the public.  Avery spotted him first.  “Why, Emerson!  It’s been awhile!  How have you been?”

The older gentleman’s dark velvety voice warmly greeted the young artists.  “Yes, it has.  I’m glad to see the art community is thriving.”

“Indeed,” chimed in Allie.  “We are so appreciative of investors such as you that made it possible.  We are starting a few community outreach projects, art lessons, and we even have had a couple of other local artists approach us about renting studio space.  It turns out the old fire station can hold much more than anticipated.”

Emerson nodded, appreciating the positive report.  “That’s wonderful.  I’m glad to hear of your success.”  His expression changed to one of concern.  “Now, can you tell me what is going on with Miss Bea?”

Allie and Avery exchanged looks.  “Well, her disappearance was noticed on Thursday.  However, nobody has seen her since around Monday.”

Avery jumped in, “Yes, I saw her ride off on her bike on Monday.  They found it at the bus stop.  Really, I think it’s all kind of dead ended right there.”

Emerson nodded, “Hmmm…well, Monday is the date on this letter I received from her.  Perhaps I should visit the police and see if we could figure this out.”

Emerson bowed his head towards the ladies and replaced his hat as he exited the room.  Pulling the letter out of his pocket, he knew the police would find the contents interesting…and perhaps equally bewildering.  “Bea, what have you gotten yourself into?” he said under his breath.

letters

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D is for Divulge

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If you are just joining me for this A to Z Challenge, make sure you drop back to A to get the full story.  I did not enter this intending to build an ongoing story.  However, sometimes these things happen like gossip in a small town.  Enjoy!  And stop back often, grab a cup of coffee at Debbie’s Diner and mosey on over to the Gallery.

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Debbie dashed over to the counter with a hot cup of coffee for Officer Baker.  “So, how’s it going?”

Baker lifted one corner of his mouth and his eyebrow before replying, “About the same.”

“No news yet on Bea?”

“It really bugs me, too.  She just vanished.  The ads page was missing and I’ve combed through it a dozen times to try and figure out what was on her mind when she left.”

“I heard you found her bike near the bus stop.  Maybe she is visiting family or friends out of town.”

“If that was the case, she would have likely made arrangements for Beulah.”

“Not necessarily.  She may have set out enough food and put out some extra litter.”  Debbie turned away, wiping the counter thoughtfully.  “That would let her slip away without anyone needing to know.”

Watching her tell-tale movements, Baker asked her in earnest, “Debbie, do you know something?”

Sighing, she turned to face the officer.  “I do…but I don’t know if it is important.  And I’m afraid to divulge a secret between friends on a hunch.”

Lowering his voice, he stated, “I’ll keep it out of the report if it is significant, Debbie.  What do you know?”

Leaning in so that no one would hear, she answered, “When Bea and I were teenagers, she disappeared for a few months.  Her parents weren’t concerned.  Said she was helping her aunt while she recovered from an accident.  When she came back, she wasn’t herself for a while.  We had been good friends and one day I found her crying in an empty classroom.  I asked her what was wrong and she asked if I could keep a secret – and I have until now.  She told me that she wasn’t taking care of her aunt.  Actually, the opposite was true.  She had been pregnant.  She was forced to give the child up for adoption.  The young man she was dating at the time had been drafted.  I understand that he didn’t come home.  That’s why she never married.  I don’t think she ever got over him.”

The officer considered this new information.  He would have never suspected such a story about Beatrice Bevins.  This new piece of the puzzle may prove useful.  “Thanks, Debs!”  He drained his cup, dropped a peck on her cheek and a tip on the counter.  “You will always be my favorite!”

“Just protect that secret.  I hated divulging it…but I’m worried about Bea.”

MIA

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C is for Casual Encounter

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The counter of Debbie’s Diner met with a number of encounters, friends bumping into one another sharing coffee or lunch.  Cinna climbed onto the stool and asked for the special on a warm Tuesday afternoon.  The headline on the paper next to her caught her attention:  Information Sought on Missing Local Leader.  “Odd,” she mused.  She looked up to see Allison drop onto the next stool.  “Oh, Allie…perfect timing.”

Glancing over at the paper, she answered, “That’s my next door neighbor.  Police have been in and out of her house and yard for the last few days.  They still haven’t figured anything out.”

“I know.   We often take for granted how safe things seem in a small town.”  She looked down at her scarred hands that often struggled at the simplest tasks.  Years ago, a casual encounter of a different sort had devastating consequences.  She survived by sheer force of will but her right hand had nerve damage from the stab wounds.

“By the way…have ya’ll  thought about giving art lessons at the Gallery?”  Her therapist suggested she take art classes to help rehabilitate the fine motor skills she lost from the attack and to help her start sorting through her struggles.

Allie turned her full attention on Cinna.  “What a brilliant idea!  It would help us gain interest in the community, provide some constructive outlets, and bring in a few extra dollars to help us get things started!”

“Yes…and I am a little selfish, though.  I was hoping it would help my hands.  But I’d hate to paint clumsily in front of strangers.  At least…” she paused, taking a breath.  “At least you know my story.”

Allison softened her attention.  “Of course.  I would love to teach you.”  Their conversation continued discussing plans and times while they enjoyed their lunch.  Leaving the diner, Cinna knew she had another person on her recovery team.  Allison walked away with renewed purpose.  The Gallery may meet more needs than she had anticipated.  She couldn’t wait to talk to Avery.

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B is for Beacon

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Beatrice Bevins  had been a beacon in the community for some time.  Between volunteering at the First Baptist Bazaar to chairing the hospital and library committees, she had her hand in every cookie jar from the tracks east of town to freeway.  Then suddenly, she was gone without a word.

Vie Billings made note when she didn’t show up for her bowling league.  In fact, she made certain that the gossip was shared in record time by calling up Breanna Wright.  Breanna called everyone around town and it turned out that nobody had seen her in nearly a week.  The police were involved and they drove over to her brownstone one Fifth and Broadway to investigate.

The officer on duty knocked sharply on the door before calling out, “Ms. Bevins?”  After several attempts, he walked around the house to discover the back door was ajar.  Something was definitely wrong.  Calling for backup, he proceeded to enter the residence.  Entering the kitchen, he saw no sign of foul play beyond the open door and the half eaten bagel next to half a cup of coffee.  He noted the lipstick stain on the mug.  Someone, presumably the missing Beatrice, had separated the paper into various pieces.  Officer Baker noticed the ads were missing and that the date was Monday.  “Today is Thursday,” he commented quietly under his breath.  He called again for Ms. Bevins to no avail.

Moving onto the living room, Baker realized the cushions were a bit askew on the sofa.  The TV flickered in the corner.  Her cat, Beulah, began to rub on his legs purring.  “Hungry, kitty?”  In answer, the cat stretched her claws up his pant leg kneading for attention.  “Don’t worry.  We’ll get you fixed up.”  He radioed for animal control, knowing Betty would make sure the cat was in good hands while they investigated.

He heard the other officers arrive on the scene and he began to direct them to take pictures and gather evidence.  “Baker?  Do you really think her breakfast is evidence?” argued Fitzhue.

“Benning may be a small town that doesn’t receive a lot of crime, but something is definitely awry.”

While the snapping of photos and the bagging and tagging of evidence continued in the lower rooms, Baker approached the stair.  Climbing up to the next level, he made note of the shoe left on the middle landing.  Continuing on, he checked the first bedroom, then the next.  The bathroom also revealed no additional information.

Brow furrowed, he returned downstairs to direct the crime techs to the shoe on the landing.  Stepping outside, he looked over at the garage.  The Bentley was still parked in its usual place.  Across the alley, he saw the old fire station turned art studio.  Would the girls know something?  Could they have seen something?

Baker crossed over to the next yard.  Avery answered on his third knock.  “Well, hello, Officer Baker.  It’s been awhile.  Can I help you?”

He blushed and looked flustered for a moment before clearing his throat and answering, “It’s about Ms. Bevins.  Have you seen her lately?”

Avery stared at the ceiling for a moment or two searching her memory.  “Why yes!  She rode off on that old fashioned bike of hers with the basket.  I think it was Monday.  Is she not back?”

“It appears not.  I believe something may be wrong.  She left the door open and Beulah uncared for.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound like her at all.  I do know she’s been having trouble with that back door, though.  I noticed Beulah out back yesterday rummaging in the trash.”

“Hmmm,” he responded while scratching down some more notes.  “Oh, one more thing.”

“Yes?”

“Do you happen to have Monday’s paper?  The ads?”

“Come in while I look,” she answered turning back inside.  He followed her in.  The place had changed since he had last seen the inside.  His break up with Allie had been one of mutual agreement.  Still, they had not reached that state of friendship they had hoped for.  Avery, however, seemed perfectly at ease.  He saw stacks of newspapers to the left near the painting debris.  She was digging through the stack while she chewed her lower lip.

“Ah!  Here it is!” she called out, tossing him the rolled up newspaper.  He quickly removed the band and slipped the ads from the bundle.

“Thanks.”  Turning toward the door, he waved his farewell and slipped out the back.  As he walked into the yard, he began perusing the ads, looking for what might have caught the eye of Ms. Bevins.  If she left on her own, he thought, her whereabouts may be spelled out in print.

bentley

A is for Abandoned

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Avery put the parking brake on and stepped from her old car.  The car represented her well, with its well-worn handles and knobs, paint dulled and flecked down to the undercoat, tires that should probably be replaced.  She shook out the long, blue broomstick skirt, a great find at the 6th Street Salvation Army Outlet.  Staring down at the address scrawled across the page, she knew she had made it to the right place.

She took three steps towards the old building, when Allie popped through the old doors, large and impressive.  “Can you believe this building is abandoned?”  Her excitement lifted the lilt of her voice to a high pitch.  Avery smiled at her friend’s sense of adventure.

“It is pretty amazing.”  Quickening her step, she found herself inside the old fire station.  The massive lower level would have housed at least two engines back in its heyday.  Now, the garage sat empty and wide open.

“Can you see it yet?” Allie went on, lost in the dream.  “This would be the gallery.  We can set up a sandwich café in the center.”  Sweeping around the room, she darted around pointing out one zone or the next.  Avery had to admit that it was a great plan if they could find the backing.

“Oh, wait until you see the next level!”  The spiral staircase carried them upstairs.  “We can live and work up here!  There is enough room for a shared kitchen and living area, bedrooms, and studios.”  Avery carefully walked around the rubble to look into the different nooks and crannies.  The plumbing was old, she could see.  It would need some major rehabilitation.  Still, the dream…she could not abandon the dream.  It could happen.

 Abandoned Artists:  Studios and Gallery

 “I love it, Allie.”  The look of joy, unrestrained, reminded her of why they were best friends.