Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the dinosaur ~ WoW

     Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words are supplied by Mark Koopmans and posted on Elephant Child's blog.  Some challenging words this week!

     My passenger pulled a beer from his bag and slid it into a Wisconsin Badgers soft koozie that mostly hid the fact that it was a beer.

     "Do you mind?"

     He looked at me when he asked, but I had no doubt that even if I had minded it would have made little difference.

     "It's all on you if we get pulled over.  I'm not paying the ticket or doing the time."

     He shrugged and I heard him mutter under his breath, "How the heck do I manage to get an Uber with a sweet ride of a Porsche, and the driver is a freakin' dinosaur?"

     I ignored him, "Where to?"

     "The Watergate hotel."

     I'd picked him up on Douglas Street, not exactly an area whose residents were the type to frequent the Watergate, but that was none of my business.   On a good day, the drive would be about 20 minutes, but today didn't look like it would be a good day.  Traffic inside the circle was crazy today and I hadn't had a chance to see the news to find out what was going on.  It seemed like they had been doing road construction inside the circle since the days Washington had been president, so it was always a challenge to find the best way to and from destinations that would soften the blow of the cost to my riders.  Arriving at a destination in a black sports car designed to impress didn't come cheap.
     "Detective, the autopsy report on the Douglas Street victim is back."
     "The victim was alive when he was castrated and forced to eat his ... um ... well ... his ..."
     "Testicles, officer, the word is testicles and it's okay to say it.  What is the official cause of death?  Exsanguination?"
     "Surprisingly no considering how much blood was at the scene.  Whoever did this to him cauterized the wound before that happened.  He actually died of asphyxiation from choking on his ... um ... his ..."
     "Testicles.  I get the picture, officer.  Anything else?"
     "The, um, tox screen showed that he had also been given epinephrine.  The corner thinks that it was given more than once, possibly to extend the amount of time it took for him to die."
     "So he was tortured?"
     "I guess so, but why?  He wouldn't have been able to talk with his ... um ... mouth full."
     "Maybe to give the killer some twisted pleasure.  Anything on the prints taken at the scene?"
     "Only the victim's prints, ma'am.  There were no other prints in the house at all, not even on the knife used.  In fact, it looks like the victim was forced to castrate himself."
     "No sign of any syringe or source of the epinephrine?"
     "No, ma'am."
     "Any luck finding next of kin to positively ID the body?"
     "Well, ma'am, we did go to the address on his drivers' license, however, the woman there said she was his 'soon-to-be' ex-wife and he didn't live there anymore.  When I told her that we needed her to come down and ID his body, she laughed."
     "Yes, ma'am.  A little hysterically."
     "Was she in shock?"
     "No, ma'am.  I think she was genuinely happy.  Should I bring her in for questioning?"
     "Yes, do that.  And see if you can find out how long they've been separated and why."

     There was a knock at the door.  "Yes?"
     "There's been another murder, ma'am.  A guest at the Watergate Hotel."
     I pulled up in front of the Chateau Remix on Benning Road.  This was definitely a new part of town for me and I was more than a little surprised when Mr. Watergate Hotel came out of the club and climbed into the front seat.

     "Hello, again.  To the Watergate?"
     "No, my business there is done.  This time I'm going to the Lego Store at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City."
     "Will you need me to wait?"
     "No.  I think I will catch the metro out of there.  Thanks, tho."

     The Lego Store was right next to Microsoft, and since I'd been needing to go there anyway to buy a new router I told him there wouldn't be any charge for the ride.

     "Seriously?  Sweet, thanks.  Hey, by the way, I'm thinking about a trip this winter to New Zealand to do some surfing.  Have you ever heard of Surfersskin Suncream?  A buddy of mine recommended it.  Said it was made with honey and aloe, and great for delicate skins like mine.  Gotta worry about skin cancer, you know.  Think Macy's sells it?"
     "I really don't know.  I've never heard of it, but I'm sure one of the clerks at Macy's could tell you."
     "Yeah, right.  I thought so too.  You know, you're really pretty easy to talk to.  Maybe because you remind me so much of my Dad."
     "Hmmm.  I'm sure there is something Freudian about that statement."

     He looked at me and started laughing.  He was still laughing when I parked the Porsche, and as he walked into the Lego Store.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

traditions ... WoW

     When I was younger, there were Christmas traditions my mom started when we were living in Germany.  We began to leave our shoes out on the night of December 5th for St. Nicholas to fill with candy [or coal & switches] that we would find on the morning of the 6th.

     For a while when I was a married adult, I would do variations of that tradition:  put candy and an annual tree ornament in my husband's boot or new bedroom slippers, but in recent years I have gotten away from that tradition.

     There were traditions I had always wanted to start if I had ever had children of my own.  An Advent wall hanging with 24 small fabric bags each filled with a small gift, candy or note.  Recently I saw one on Pinterest that used toddler's socks that I really would have liked to do.  Perhaps in the next life.

     Christmas Eve has always seemed to include delivery pizza for dinner for most of my adult life, but I've always lived away from immediate or extended family and most of the time have spent Christmas Eve alone [or in one particular previous marriage, wishing I was alone ~ there was always an argument during the holidays no matter what the occasion].

     But if given the opportunity in the next life to spend them with immediate or extended family, I think I would enjoy a day spent in new pajamas binge-watching Christmas comedy movies, eating take-out and of course, delivery pizza.  Nothing could possibly relieve the stress of the holiday season like laughter with loved ones.  The first to start an argument or be in a stinky mood have to wash ALL of the dishes on Christmas Day!

     David and I haven't had a large tree up or decorated in a few years, so getting ornaments that will just stay in a box seems a bit of a waste.  Instead, I've curated a selection of ornaments for a smaller, wire tree that saves space and is easier to swap out for each season.  In fact, I've been re-homing some of the ornaments I've collected over the years that I won't use again.

    Christmas stockings seem to be more of our style as we've gotten older.  If we're ever blessed with my husband's children visiting us for the holiday or our grandkids, that will be when we put up a large tree.

     This year, however, we are doing something that I would like to start as our new tradition:  helping someone in need of a hand up.  It will vary each year I'm sure, but this year it means helping someone get his old job back, connections for a possible apartment, and a gift card for clothing.  He'll also join us for Christmas dinner(s), and opening stockings.

     For me, the best part of this season is the giving, with no expectations of receiving.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Words on Wednesday ... the prompts

     Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words are supplied by me!  
     Share a tradition you have at this time of year; when, why or how it became a tradition; and how it makes you feel.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

dear diary 12/18/2029 ~ WoW

Tuesday, 10 December 2029

Dear Diary,

     You'd think after five years of cruises for the Christmas season I would be tired of them, but I think I'm more excited for this year's cruise than all the past ones.

     It is going to be a long awaited family reunion with my brother, sisters, and their families!  I've been dreaming of this kind of a trip since seeing the family on my Rhine River cruise in 2007 enjoying their Christmas together.  It took me three years to be able to book the trip far enough in advance that all sixteen of us could get on the same boat!

     I haven't ever had a Christmas with all of my siblings at the same time, so I'm super excited for this trip.  I think the last time Ken, Heather, and I had a Christmas together was in 1978 before Kat was even born.

     We're all on our way right now to New York where we're going to spend a day sightseeing before we catch a red-eye flight to The Netherlands to start a fabulous ten-day adventure!

     We'll be exploring Amsterdam for two days and nights before boarding our Viking cruise boat and traveling down the Rhine River to Basel, Switzerland!

     Fingers and toes are crossed that we'll all still be on speaking terms by the end of the trip!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Words on Wednesday ... the prompts

     Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words are supplied by me!  I'm using writing prompts from the book of 300 that I received as part of my February Scribbler box.
     Write a diary entry, dated 10 years in the future.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The 40-Day Sugar Fast [a book review]

 I requested this [free] book to review from Baker Books Bloggers shortly after I found out that I was pre-pre-diabetic.  [which according to some medical thought is not a "real" diagnosis, but whatever]  I was interested in finding a way to put a positive spin on changing my diet.
To be completely transparent[hahaha transparent] I'm really not that much into sweets or sugar.  I have my weaknesses [Skor candy bars and Almond Roca just to mention two] but the last time I had just half of a bag of gummi bears I had the worst migraine from the sugar overload in my system.
[Hmmm.  Maybe I'm less pre-pre and more pre.]
Initially, I read through this quite quickly because I wanted to post my review sooner than 40 days, and I do plan on reading it again at a slower, 40-day pace to focus on the process.
Each chapter (or day) begins with a scripture verse followed by the author's personal perspective, or a historical reference, testimonials from some of her past "clients," or information related to why giving up sugar is a good thing.  Some chapters do suggest searching your motives deeper with questioning prompts.  But the book is essentially a devotional, and I would have liked to have more journaling or writing "homework" that challenged my attention and focus.
But that's just my own desire for a season of more growth since I'm in the middle of therapy anyway.
I tend to be a multi-tasker and quiet time in my head is not always quiet.  I'm thinking of what to do next, what needs to be done.  If I truly want to focus on hearing from God, I need to do it in writing.  I'm a tactile learner, not just a reader, speaker or listener.  If I want to learn something new and form a new [healthier] habit, I need to see it, hear it, say it, and write it.

Like many 12-step programs where admitting you are powerless over XYZ, this devotional can be used for anything you substitute for a closer relationship with whomever you consider to be your "Higher Power."  Just like in a 12-step meeting, my recommendation when reading this is to take what you like and leave the rest.  Find what works best for you when you are reading the book, and if you need more [as I did] create it along the way.  The goal of the book isn't *just* to stop eating sugar.  It's to find yourself in a closer relationship with God, and to defeat whatever "enemy" is keeping you from that. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Perspective ~ WoW

     She keeps me because I remind her of her childhood and her father.  Even tho I haven't worked since 2008, she keeps me in the hope that I will work again one day.

     Her father bought me when she was just seven years old.  They were living in Wiesbaden, Germany and I hung in the kitchen.  She delighted in winding me up by pulling my rock weight to the top and listening to my calming "tick-tock" throughout the day and night.

     That was more than 50 years ago now, and even then she knew the truth.  She knew that there once was a time when I was alive, a tall tree deep in the woods.  The wind would blow through my branches, and birds would hop on them and sing.  Untold generations of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks lived among my branches, and deer fed in my shade, raising their young on the tender seedlings that would rise from the ground beneath me.

     I weathered the seasons, growing taller and taller until the day came when the woodcutter chose me to create something that would live on in her memories.

     Even the rock that hangs from me was once alive.  Molten minerals flowing on the still-forming earth, it hardened when the earth cooled, and overtime as the earth shifted and moved, it was broken off a much larger boulder to the size it is today.  Its memories locked away in the glittering crystals within it of a time when the earth was young.  When grass and moss grew around and upon it, and the tiny feet of insects and field mice ran across its face, barely visible above the dirt.

     After Germany, I hung in a kitchen in Arizona for a while when her father was in Vietnam for a year.  My comforting "tick-tock" reassuring her 11-year-old heart that he would return one day.  When he did, we went to Florida where I hung in a kitchen for the next 33 years.  When she lived there, she still delighted in winding me up and hearing my gentle reminder that even when she felt sad or lonely, I was always as close as her heartbeat.

     Her father died in March 2007, and I moved from his house to hers.  She hung me in her living room, but could never get me balanced just right so that I could comfort her in her loss.  But in January of 2008, a few days after what would have been her father's 71st birthday I was finally able to comfort her again.

      She had closed her sliding glass door on the wall where I hung, a little harder than usual to keep out the cold after letting her dogs in from her tiny yard.  The jarring woke me from my sleep, but there was something else at work in me that day.

     As she watched my tiny balancing weights move back and forth, and the familiar tick-tock began to emanate from my cogs and gears, she laughed with joy.

     "Hi Dad!" she said with a smile just as her telephone rang.

     The call was from her uncle, her father's twin brother, and as she explained what she was still laughing about they both cried.

     Their talk lasted for 45 minutes, and she did not take her tearful eyes off of me as I continued to work.  The spirit of her father was at work in my heart, wanting to reassure her once again that all was well.  As she hung up the phone after saying goodbye to her uncle, my gears slowed to a stop once again.

     I hung in her house in Texas, and back again to Florida before moving to the Michigan Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin where I now hang in her office.  She's carefully dusted me, and moisturized my wood.  Where I broke from age, she gently glued me back together, talking to me like an old friend.

     That we are.  That we are.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Words on Wednesday ... the prompts

     Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words are supplied by me!  I'm using writing prompts from the book of 300 that I received as part of my February Scribbler box.
     Look around you and choose an object in the room.  Now write something from the point of view of that object.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Idioms ~ WoW

      I flew for hours before the sun came up trying to find that darn worm, but couldn't see anything at all.  Finally, I was forced to land, and upon looking at my feet, I realized I was standing on ice.

     "Oh mon Dieu, et maintenant ? Qui a dit que l'oiseau précoce pouvait attraper quelque chose dans le noir ?"  Oh my gosh, what now? Whoever said that the early bird could catch anything in the dark?

     I saw an old dog standing on the nearby shore with snow up to his ears.

    "Verskoon asseblief my Frans, my vriend.  Ek is 'n Afrika Collared-duif en is verlore in die mis.  Ek is in Kanada, is ek nie?" Please excuse my French, my friend.  I am an African Collared-Dove and was lost in the fog.  I am in Canada, am I not?

     "Nei, þú ert ekki í Kanada.  Þú ert á Íslandi og var að vonast til að læra nýtt bragð af skauti á þunnum ís.  Þú gætir kannski sagt mér hversu þykkur ísinn er?"  No, you are not in Canada.  You are in Iceland, and I was hoping to learn a new trick of skating on thin ice.  Perhaps you could tell me how thick the ice is there?

     "Dun ys?  Oh my!  Ek moet ..." Thin ice?  Oh my!  I should ...

     ... crack, splash, flutter, sputter ...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Words on Wednesday ... the prompts

     Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new.  The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words are supplied by me!  I'm using writing prompts from the book of 300 that I received as part of my February Scribbler box.

     Rewrite some of these commonly used idioms to make them more interesting, or maybe use them to start a story:  "Pardon my French."  "My mind is in a fog."  "You are on thin ice." 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 14

Words on Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. 
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
The prompts (in bold italics) will be on the Elephant's Child's blog for the month of November.
Next week, prompts will be here on my blog.

Winter Sun ~ 13

     Chester was leaning up against a wall bunk in a solitary holding cell.  The orange jumpsuit they had given him to wear was too small and pulled at his shoulders and crotch uncomfortably.

     The past two weeks' events still left his mind dizzy trying to comprehend what had gone wrong with his plans to get to the Upper Peninsula to reunite with Bethanni.

     He had been stopped at a red light just after sunset, about two weeks after getting his car out of impound.  His court date for the charges that he was frequenting a house of prostitution was coming up, and if there hadn't been two back-to-back winter storms in northern Michigan, he would have already left town and skipped out on his court date.  As it was, he was seriously considering doing that anyway, even if it meant he had to lay low until he could head north.  Detroit was a big enough city that he didn't think it would be too hard for him to disappear.

     Chester was lost in his thoughts and didn't notice the police car that passed him on the road perpendicular to the one he was stopped on.  He also didn't notice when it made a left turn at the next block that would bring it three cars behind him.  When the light turned green, he pulled forward through the intersection.  Two blocks later, he was forced to pull over when the officer behind him turned on his lights, and another officer approaching from the opposite direction cut him off, preventing him from trying to run.

     Now he was languishing in a holding cell, waiting to find out what was going on.

     The initial officer had noticed that he only had one working headlight and after he had followed Chester through the intersection he ran the car's tags to find out if there were any outstanding tickets he could also get him for.  Instead, he had found an open out-of-state warrant for the registered owner of the car in relation to a possible homicide case.

     When he had been booked for his original charge of being in the drug house, he had argued that he was a virtuous God-fearing man who would never have knowingly gone into such a place of ill-repute if it were not for the directions given to him by a person at a gas station.  He gave his name as Montana Morgan and said that his identification had been stolen.  But when he was arrested on the open warrant, he had drivers' licenses in three different names.  Montana Morgan, Lincoln Windel, and Chester Lancaster.

     Montana Morgan's fingerprints were a match to the fingerprint card Chester Lancaster had done when he worked at the military base for his security clearance.   The DNA sample submitted by Montana Morgan was also a match to the DNA found in the molars of two children buried in cement in Mexico Beach, which confirmed the identity of the remains as the missing boys of Chester Lancaster. 

     While several of the teeth had been broken in an apparent facial attack which may have been the cause of death of the adult remains, dental records were eventually found that confirmed the identity as the missing mother of the boys, and Chester's wife, Louise.

     When all of the evidence was presented to Chester, the lead detective later told his chief that he could have been sitting in a theater, or as a pedestrian for street performances, watching an Oscar-winning actor portraying a laconic man trying to be emotionally distraught.  But for all of his efforts to convince the detective that he was a stable man being wrongly accused, it was a waste of Chester's time.

     Sitting in front of an old Olivetti typewriter that he had used since his early days as a beat cop, the detective typed up his report that would be sent with the extradition paperwork Florida had sent.  The District Attorney in the case was already seeking the death penalty and given the nature of Chester's lies during the time that his children and wife were still considered missing, it was highly possible that it would be granted.
     Bethanni had been on the verge of dashing out the door to get back to the office after her lunch when she saw the mailman drive off after leaving her mail in the box.  She pulled her car up to the mailbox and reached in to grab the stack of envelopes and tossed it into her purse to look at later.  It was her last official week at work before she left for Arizona to oversee the remodeling of her winter home.

     Over the summer she had been renovating a small house in Ashland, Wisconsin along the Chequamegon Bay to use for her summer home.  The house itself wasn't what really caught her eye when she decided to buy it, it was the acreage that it was on and the potential for flower gardens.  It was almost as if she had taken her property in the Upper Peninsula and moved it to Ashland.

     She didn't notice the postcard of the Detroit skyline that slipped out of the stack and onto the muddy ground as she hurried to get back to the office.  She had too much on her mind as she drove off, the rear tire of her car pressing the postcard deeper into the mud until the writing on it was illegible.  There was a winter storm brewing, and snow was in the forecast for Sunday evening.  She wanted to be on the road by early Saturday morning in her new motorhome, and still had a lot to do both at the office and at the house before the realtor came by on Friday to get the keys and take pictures for the listing.

     As she drove back to the district building, she glanced out the window of her car at the contrasting branches of the white birch and the darker sugar maple.  She was grateful for her time in the U.P. and the friends she had made in the Forest Service.  Bethanni knew that no matter what the future held for her in Arizona or Wisconsin, she was stronger for what she had lost in Florida, and leaving there had been the best decision she had ever made.

     Life truly was good, and 60 was the new 30 as far as she was concerned.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


I've fallen behind on my NaNoWriMo project but will continue to work on it on the blog as inspiration comes to me.  I did find an app for a Random Plot Generator which helped break some of my writer's block earlier in the month, and I will probably use it again.

I've also submitted Trooper's Run to a contest on Fresh.Ink, and if you are interested in signing up as a reader for their beta program, it offers you the opportunity to get first read on some up-and-coming authors' works and help them improve.  I'm not sure if you'll be able to specifically search for and vote on Trooper's Run, but you will at least be able to find other books to read for free.

I know there is one more Wednesday on Wednesday in November which I hope to incorporate into Winter Sun's story.
December's prompts will be here and are a little different this time around.  Some of them I won't be able to incorporate into the Winter Sun story, but they are an exercise in creativity for those who choose to participate.  They will post on Tuesdays for those in the Southern Hemisphere.  😁

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 13

Words on Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. 
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
The prompts (usually in bold italics) will be on the Elephant's Child's blog for the month of November.
This week, the prompts are the two photos used below.

Winter Sun ~ 12

     Fall and winter seemed to be having a battle.  For every few inches of snow that fell, the sun or rain would melt it away.  Not that Bethanni was in a big hurry to slog through it again, but a part of her waited with excited anticipation for the morning she would wake to find the world blanketed in white again.

     As she stood on the edge of the forest one evening in a new red coat she had just purchased, she thought of how much her life had changed since she left Florida.

     She wondered once again if Lincoln had been able to get to safety.  She didn't want to admit to herself that he may not have since she had never been able to find his name on any of the Safe-Check-In lists, but she wasn't sure which would have felt worse.  Knowing that he had died during the hurricane, or that he was now ghosting her because his feelings for her had not been the same as hers for him.

     As she walked along a deer path through the woods she hadn't noticed before, she was surprised to come upon a small cemetery.  Positive that she was still on her own property and not on the National Forest, Bethanni wandered aimlessly among the old graves and headstones that clearly had been neglected for quite some time.  There were only ten gravesites that she could see among the tall grasses, and all appeared to be from the same family with a shared last name.

     Six of the graves were for infants, all less than two years of age.  The other four were adults that appeared to be the parents of the infants and the parents of the father.  All had lived and died from the late 1700s through the early 1900s.  The last to die and be buried in the small cemetery was the mother of the infants.

     A tear fell as Bethanni thought about the grief she must have felt, first watching her babies die, then her in-laws, and finally her husband.  She had lived ten years after her husband died.  How lonely she must have felt.  How isolated.  A small sob escaped her, then another, and soon Bethanni was sitting on the ground weeping loudly with grief for Levi, and compassion for the woman who had watched her whole family pass away.

     An hour passed and the forest was becoming dark.  She pulled herself up and as she walked back to her home, she marked the path so she would be able to find it again.  Tomorrow, right after she got off work, she would come out on her riding mower and clear the path and dead grass from the graves.  The following day, she would bring something to clean the stones, and plant bulbs that would bring color to them in the spring.

     The isolation of her own life hit her, and she decided she didn't want to wait three years to retire.  She would step up her search for homes in Arizona and Wisconsin, and make a decision on a motorhome.
     A man the beginnings of a beard and mustache, wearing sweatpants and a hoodie with dark sunglasses, dropped a postcard in the blue mailbox at the rear of the post office.

I've missed you.  ~L

Monday, November 18, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 12

Words on Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. 
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
The prompts (in bold italics) will be on the Elephant's Child's blog for the month of November.

Winter Sun ~ 11

     Real police work is seldom like it is portrayed on television shows or in movies.  Because of that, most people have a mistaken belief that matching DNA results to a crime can be done within a one- or two-hour show.

     But the reality is that it can take so much longer, the suspect is often released long before results are returned, forcing detectives to go through the literal leg work of finding him or her again.  In 2010, the process took between 24 and 72 hours, and to add insult to injury, it often took weeks for the sample to get to the top of the lab's work request list.  Eventually, the process was reduced to less than five hours, but the waiting on the work request list still remained lengthy.

     In July of 2015, the DNA Identification Profiling Systems Act, the Michigan Penal Code, and the Probate Code of 1939 were amended to expand the types of crimes which require an individual to provide a DNA sample to include individuals arrested for committing or attempting to commit any felony, including any offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult.  For the purpose of that change, a felony was defined as a violation of a penal law of this state for which the offender may be punished by imprisonment for more than one year or an offense expressly designated by law to be a felony.

     Following those guidelines, there were two types of circumstances where individuals were required to provide DNA samples—upon an arrest for a felony offense and when an individual was convicted or found responsible for any misdemeanors specifically mentioning DNA sampling.  That list included a violation of the Michigan penal code by being a disorderly person by window peeping, engaging in indecent or obscene conduct in public, or loitering in a house of ill fame or prostitution.

    Chester was new to the Detroit area, and not familiar with all of the neighborhoods and areas to avoid.  He had heard of the Neighborhood Service Organization [NSO] and that it was one of the largest homeless shelters in Detroit with an extensive list of services they provided for the community.  The directions he got from several different homeless people on the street, however, were conflicting.  Deciding that nothing ventured was nothing gained,  he set out in the direction that seemed to be the common denominator for all the information he was given.

     Unfortunately for him, he arrived at an old abandoned hotel that was being used for prostitution and drug dealing just 10 minutes before a raid on the building by local police.  Chester found himself behind bars, refusing to submit a DNA sample, and demanding to speak to a public defender.

     His claim of being innocent and simply in the wrong place at the wrong time was met with laughter by the public defender, everyone else in the holding cell and every police officer within earshot.  His attorney explained that by refusing to submit DNA was almost as incriminating as refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test when being stopped for drunk driving, and it would give detectives even more of a reason to suspect him of having a crime to hide.  If he willingly gave a sample, it would be easier for him to be released on his own recognizance and back on the streets within 48 hours.  Otherwise, he would be restrained and forced to give a sample, and he might have to sit there for much longer while officers rushed his sample through CODIS looking for any matching hits.

     Reluctantly, he agreed they could take a DNA sample.  Within several hours of being photographed and his fingerprints taken, he appeared before a judge and promised not to leave the area pending a court date.  With that, he was released and armed with the correct address for NSO, he retrieved his car from the impound lot.

     If Chester had had more money in his pocket, and less of a concern for the weather, he might have just disappeared that night and continued on his journey to reunite with Bethanni.  But knowing he wouldn't get far on a quarter tank of gas, he instead decided to go to NSO and find a job, hoping that the remains of his children had not been able to provide any DNA that had been entered into CODIS.   If he could just lay low until after the holidays, he would move his plans up a month and leave for the Upper Peninsula in February.

      In a lab in Detroit, a DNA sample labeled "Morgan, Montana" was being placed in a refrigerator and his name added to a long list of names by an overworked and underpaid technician as "Montana, Morgan."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 11

Winter Sun ~10

     Bethanni and Heidi had settled into life in the Upper Peninsula.  After her third year there, she'd even adopted an older cat that she named Gretchen.  It had taken a few days for Heidi and Gretchen to become friends, but the morning Bethanni had caught the two of them curled up in front of the fireplace together she knew that the two of them would be just fine.

     With her house and car completely paid off, and her living expenses minimal, Bethanni had been investing most of her pay from the Forest Service.  She was contributing the maximum amount she could to her government 401(k) plan and had made a plan to retire in three years.  She enjoyed being a traveling nurse, seeing the world, and had kept up her nursing license even while working for the Forest Service.

     But winters were harsh in the U.P. and Bethanni knew that in spite of all her winter precautions, there would come a time when she was no longer able to do it all on her own.  She began to research motor homes and map out a route through several southern states that would keep her busy throughout the winter months.  She thought about buying a house in Florida again to use as a winter base, but there were too many painful memories for her there.  Instead, she began looking for a fixer-upper winter home in Sedona, Arizona.

     In a year, she could afford to go to part-time work during the winter months with the Forest Service and begin spending part of the winter in Arizona, working remotely if she could or out of the nearest district office in Arizona.  She would also find another fixer-upper summer home, this time in Wisconsin where winters were less likely to come as early as they sometimes did in the Upper Peninsula.  By the time she had the home in Wisconsin move-in ready, she would put her house in Kenton on the market to sell and submit all of her retirement paperwork.

     She had a plan.
     In mid-September of that year, Montana decided it was time to start heading north to the U.P. where he had found an address for a piece of property Bethanni purchased.  His money was beginning to run short, and he knew he would have to work his way north.

     He left Tennessee and worked for two weeks in Kentucky before leaving again and going to Indiana.  It had taken him almost a month to get to Michigan from there.  By then, it was the end of October, and already beginning to snow in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and the Upper Peninsula.

     As Chester, he had spent time in areas that occasionally had snow in the winter months.  But nothing like the snow that could last for five or six months and be several feet deep the entire time.  He knew he was not prepared to go any farther until spring in his old, front-wheel-drive car and found a homeless shelter in Detroit that would help him find work for the winter.  In March, he would begin to move north again.

     He had no reason to think that Bethanni might not be there when he finally arrived.  She had bought a house, after all.  A house for the two of them.

Winter Sun ~ 10

(still fighting that writing wall...)
Winter Sun ~ 9

     It wasn't that Chester was trying to hide his past from Bethanni.  He just wanted to tell her his version before she started asking too many questions that the internet and media would have put their own spin on.  He knew that some suspected he had something to do with his missing wife and children, and every so often he would see something posted in an online unsolved cases forum that would bring up their disappearance. 

     Louise hadn't had any immediate or extended family to miss her, but she had childhood friends who occasionally brought her name to the public's attention again.  Every five or ten some of her high school classmates would search for her and post pictures of her to see if they could find new leads.  Some of them had even accused him of having something to do with it, but there was never enough evidence to cause the police detectives who had originally investigated it to re-open the case.

     He didn't even know where the name Lincoln came from.  It just popped into his head.  After he said it, he realized that he would have to come up with a story eventually to explain why he didn't tell her his real name and decided that the truth, about not wanting to be unfairly judged, would work.  The more he got to know Bethanni, the more he realized she wouldn't have been the type to judge him anyway.  But she was the first woman he had really had an interest in since he had met Louise.  And he hadn't necessarily been very interested in her, she had just been convenient.

     When Hurricane Michael began to form in the Gulf of Mexico, Lincoln wasn’t concerned. He fed the cats like he promised Bethanni he would. But he also took the time to snoop through her house and find out everything he could about her.

     He found the pictures of her husband, and letters they wrote to each other in the early days of their courtship. Cards, letters and photographs sent from extended family over the years. Tax records, medical records, employment records, Chester read every single piece of paper he could find in her house.

     But when Hurricane Michael began to move in the direction of Mexico Beach, he had packed his bags, withdrawn all of his money from the bank, and left town before the evacuation had even been ordered. He wasn't risking his life for some stupid cats.

     As he watched the news, he saw the beach cottage he rented get destroyed by the storm surge, along with Bethanni's cottage. Later he saw aerial photos that clearly showed a difference in the concrete foundation where he had buried Louise and the boys. He knew there would be questions, and possibly an investigation. With Bethanni convinced that he was trying to seek shelter farther inland, he saw it as an opportunity for him to completely disappear.

     Chester Lancaster, who briefly became Lincoln Windel, now became Montana Morgan who settled into the small community of Bumpus Mills, Tennessee.  He showed up on the doorstep of the Free Will Church with a story of being abandoned at birth in Montana, raised in a foster care family named Morgan that eventually adopted him.  They also abused him and when he was 15 he ran away and had been living on the streets since then doing whatever work he could find.  He claimed to be uneducated past the 8th grade and was now a recovering alcoholic looking for a new start.  Montana would do handyman work for anyone in town in exchange for a meal and room for the night.  When he couldn't find work, he slept in his car at one of the campsites in the nearby Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

     For a while, his new life suited him.  But every so often thoughts of Bethanni would cross his mind and he would wonder where she was and what she was doing.  He would spend time at the Stewart County Public Library in Dover, about 10 miles away from Bumpus Mills, and would see the messages she had posted on Safe Check-in sites and chat forums for people looking for Mexico Beach survivors of Hurricane Michael looking for him.  Eventually, her messages stopped and he saw that her lot had been sold.  He also followed the stories that were posted about the discovery of human remains in the cottage's foundation, and how Chester had now become a Person-of-Interest in the disappearance case even though the identity of the remains had not been confirmed.

     If Bethanni had remained in Mexico Beach, he would never have tried to find her.  It would have been too risky to return to Florida.  But when he found an address for her in Wisconsin, he knew it was time for them to reunite.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 9

(apologies for the delay.  i had a serious case of writer's block over the weekend, that i'm still fighting)

Winter Sun ~ 8

     There were times in the silence of the night that Chester wondered whether or not he had gone mad.  He had read that imaginary friends were a sign of intelligence in children, but he stopped being a child a long time ago.  He had also read that it was a symptom of schizophrenia, but since he was able to work and function normally he didn't think that was what the voices were.

     When he was still a young man he found a medical book in the library that said auditory hallucinations could be a disassociative disorder or caused by a traumatic incident, abuse, or assault.  He couldn't remember anything ever happening to him.  He remembered very little of his childhood except that everyone around him always seemed to be unhappy.

     He thought that maybe the voices were just his imagination from not having many friends as a child.  He got used to voicing his thoughts out loud, and sometimes in the process, he was able to see the other side of a problem or even a possible solution.

     If Chester had looked deeper into his psyche and the medical book, he might have recognized himself in the description of a psychopath.  Not that he would have cared.
     DNA pulled from the teeth of the remains found entombed under the house on 17th Street didn't get any hits in any of the systems they ran them through.  Louise had been the only child of parents who had been only children themselves.  When she, and her boys, died so did the family line.  If Chester had been in the system at all, they might have been able to tie him to the boys.  But he wasn't, and they didn't.

     In the years following the disappearances of Chester's wife and children, he had stayed in the area, although he no longer lived in Mexico Beach.  It suited his financial needs to stay at his job, however, and he had rented a home in Port St. Joe so that he could drive past the cottage in Mexico Beach twice a day.  In a strange sense, it gave him a feeling of comfort to know where his family was even if he didn't miss them.

     One might have suggested that he was just worried about the bodies being found and his twice-daily commute past the cottage was to see whether or not they had been discovered by the presence of police tape around the house.  But Chester really wasn't worried about them being found, or what would happen to him if they were.  In fact, when he saw that someone new had moved into the cottage, it gave him a smug feeling of satisfaction knowing that he was so much smarter than them.

     Occasionally he saw Bethanni working in her front yard gardens and wondered about her.  What was she like?  Where did she come from?  Did she know there was a secret in the cottage across the street?  The more often he saw her, the more curious he was about who she was.

     When he saw that the cottage was vacant again, he decided to move back into it.  Chester didn't even try to hide his identity from the rental agency that the owners now used to manage the property.  When they asked why he wanted to move back into the property, he told them that he had a lot of good memories of his children in the home and he wanted to be closer to them.

     Little did they know how much closer he would be.

     When he introduced himself to Bethanni, he didn't even blink when he told her his name was Lincoln.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 8

Winter Sun ~ 7

     Bethanni and Levi were married in 1997. She was 35 years old. It was her first and only marriage. She had waited a long time to find her soulmate. All of her girlfriends had married right out of high school, had babies, and were now divorced or unhappily married. Bethanni didn't want that for herself. She dated off and on but had a checklist that she would refer to if her prospective suitor managed to make it to a 6th date. Not many did, and those who were so fortunate were closely compared to her list of characteristics she wanted in a lifelong companion.

     The list had been compiled over her childhood as she watched the examples her grandparents and parents set for her. At first, it was just a young girl's diary entries but as she got older and saw how her friend's parents divorced, she became more determined to not let that happen to her. And so the list began ...
  1. We have to be best friends first.
  2. He must respect me and my parents.
  3. Can't cuss.
  4. Goes to church.
  5. Has a job.
  6. Doesn't drink, smoke, or do drugs.
  7. Honest.
  8. On-time for our dates.
  9. Kind.
  10. Generous to others.
  11. Smart, but not arrogant.
  12. Loves animals. And gardening.
      While Bethanni's interests changed and matured, her list evolved as well. Her girlfriends thought she was being silly, but they also envied her determination to find a soulmate.

      She had known Levi for several years through various connections. Work. School. Church. They never talked much because they traveled in different social circles. But she knew who he was, and he knew who she was. When they were invited to the same party, they spent the evening talking about their similar likes and interests.
      When she went home that night, she wrote in her journal that she had finally found the man she would marry.

     They had a small civil wedding and settled into a home they purchased together in Mexico Beach. Every morning they would walk to the beach to watch the sunrise before going to work together. Bethanni thought that life couldn't get better.

     With the long days of summer, the F-15 pilot training program often scheduled late evening sorties - or training flights. They would fly unmanned, remote-controlled drones, and remote-controlled QF-4 aircraft for the pilots to chase and shoot down. Most of the time, these sorties would occur over the Gulf of Mexico away from civilization. But the takeoff runway for these unmanned drones took them out over Mexico Beach before they went out over the water.

     One evening as Levi and Bethanni were driving home from work, their world exploded. An unmanned drone lost control and hit the road right in front of their car. With barely any time to react, Levi managed to turn the steering wheel to the right so that the brunt of the impact was on the driver's side. His side. The collision crushed him, forcing him onto Bethanni. Her left arm and leg were broken.

     Levi died in her arms.
     The excavation of the former residence of Chester Lancaster, also known as Lincoln Windel, was going slowly.

     Evidence had to be collected, and the remains needed to be carefully removed so as not to damage them. County, state AND federal agencies were involved. Resources in the still-recovering town of Mexico Beach were stretched thin. DNA needed to be extracted from any teeth that could be recovered. White flowers, candles, and teddy bears had begun appearing at the site. The media had milked the tragic discovery for all of the rating points they could get.
     It had been a stressful week at work for Chester. He was passed over again for a promotion. Union representatives had been on site trying to convince the mechanics to organize. The manned drone pilots were pushing for it, and they stood to benefit more, so tensions were high between the pilots and mechanics. Several of the men had nearly come to blows. Chester didn't care one way or another, just as long as he got a raise.

     Louise had hinted once again about the cost of clothes for the boys and how she might need to find a part-time job just to help out. He didn't want her to work outside of the home, nor did he want the boys going to public schools. He expected her to homeschool them, and be there for them. He wanted the boys to have the kind of childhood and life that he had always wanted but never had. But Chester's expectations were quickly butting heads with reality. Even with Louise homeschooling the boys, his salary was falling short of their expenses.

     Chester didn't deal with stress well. It had been years since he had heard the voices because he had been so focused on work and learning about the QF-4 engines. While he worked, he expected Louise to handle everything at home. But now she was involving him and it was just too much.

     The whispers started one night as he lay in bed staring at the ceiling. The union was calling for a vote the next day and he had actually been threatened with physical harm if he didn't vote for them to organize. When he got home that night, there was a stack of maxed-out credit card bills for clothes she had purchased for the boys and herself. Why they needed so many clothes when they didn't go anywhere was beyond his understanding. The clothes that filled his closet and dresser drawers were at least 10 years old. It just didn't make any sense to him.

     Staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out how he was going to pay for everything, the whispers told him that she had been lying to him about what she did all day. She wasn't teaching the boys. She was cheating on him. The clothes she had bought were to impress the man who was going to be raising HIS boys as if they were his own. Chester turned his head to look at Louise, sleeping beside him, pretending to be asleep and as innocent as a newborn baby.

     He got out of bed and walked to the boys' bedroom, watching them in the dim light from the hallway. They were his boys, and he wasn't going to have some stranger raising them. The voices whispered to him that the intruder would change their names. They wouldn't be Chester Lancaster's boys. They would be the intruders. They would call HIM father when they had never even called Chester that. The voices whispered that HIS boys would forget him. Unless he did something to stop it.

     Watching them sleep, Chester contemplated his options. He could get rid of the intruder, but that might take longer because he would need to find him first. The voices told him that he needed to keep the intruder from stealing his boys. No. Matter. What. Chester watched, then knew what he had to do.
     After the boys ceased to exist in his mind, it was easier for him to take their lives. They hadn't struggled much as he held the pillows over their faces. He went back into the bedroom he shared with Louise, watching her sleep for almost an hour before he gently placed the pillow over her face.

     He got up the next morning and went to work as he did every day. On the way home, he stopped to pick up a sledgehammer and several bags of Quick Crete. Over the next several days he worked to break up the concrete slab in the garage. When he finally broke through the slap to the white beach sand below, he placed the bodies of his family in the opening and poured the cement over them.

     Chester bagged up all of their clothes, even some that still had new tags on them, and drove to the Goodwill in Tallahassee where he dropped them off in a donation box. When he returned home, he made sure that all of their other personal items were disposed of at various trash cans throughout Panama City.

     Two weeks later, he called to report his family missing after several long, worried phone calls to Elmer and Eloise to find out if they had heard anything from him.

     Chester's plan was in motion.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 7

Winter Sun ~ Intro               Winter Sun ~ 6

     “These are for you.”

     Louise looked up from her desk at the dozen yellow roses and a box of See’s candies that was being thrust her way. She couldn’t see the face behind the roses, and while the voice was slightly familiar, she hadn’t heard Chester speak enough to really recognize it.

     “For me? Why?”
     “I’d like you to go to dinner with me tonight. I’ll pick you up here after you get off work.”
     “Wouldn’t you like to pick me up at home?”
     “No, that wouldn’t be appropriate yet. I’ll pick you up here after you get off work.”
     “You’ll take me home after dinner?”
     “No. That wouldn’t be appropriate yet. I’ll drop you off here after dinner.”

     Louise looked Chester up and down, trying to decide if he was joking or not. She’d heard he was a little different, but no one had ever bought her roses AND See’s candy before.

     “But what if I don’t have a ride home after you bring me back here? I carpool, you know.”

     Chester was silent for a moment, waiting for the voices to tell him how to respond but they were silent.

     “Relax, Chester. I was just kidding. I have my own car. Why don’t I just meet you at the restaurant, then I can go home from there? Where were you going to take me to eat?”
     “The Reata Restaurant.”
     “Seriously?!? Oh my god! That place has a waitlist of a year! You have reservations?”
     “Okay. You can pick me up.”

     Louise had been swept off her feet by Chester before he even kissed her, which actually didn’t happen until after their 5th date. Most men had bedded her on their first (and frequently only) date. She had been living with her parents and was tired of their strict Pentecostal rules. She wanted out, and Chester was beginning to look like he was going to be the way.

     When they had been dating for a year, Chester asked Louise’s father for her hand in marriage. He had been thrilled that a gentleman like Chester, with such fine upbringing and education, would be willing to marry his disappointment of a daughter. She might have been their only child but Elmer knew what his daughter had done on dates before she met Chester and he was ashamed of her.

     They had a small wedding with just family and a few of Louise’s girlfriends in attendance. Chester didn’t know any of his co-workers well enough to even ask one of them to stand up with him as the best man. Elmer had cried when he put Louise's hand in Chester's. Eloise hadn't stopped crying since she and Louise picked out her dress.

     As Chester stood before the minister and looked into Louise's eyes, repeating his vows, the voices were silent.

     He missed them.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 6

Words on Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. 
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. We can use some or all of the prompts. 
The prompts (in bold italics) will be on the Elephant's Child's blog for the month of November.

Winter Sun ~ 5

     Charles had always been a choleric man, especially when he had been drinking which happened more frequently than not after Jillianne walked out on them.  The years he had spent working with her father at the gas station he had considered an investment in their future.  He fully expected to inherit the station after the old man died.  When Jilli up and sold it all before the grass had grown back or the marker had even been set at the old man's cemetery plot had come as a complete shock to him.

     Jilli, who spent all her free time in front of a mirror practicing her makeup techniques with her hair up in curlers clearly had her own agenda when it came to the so-called "family" business.  Her nose had always been in Hollywood gossip magazines, and she dreamed of being discovered sitting at a soda fountain counter just like Lana Turner had been.  Charles would laugh at her when he caught her practicing how to walk in high heels while sashaying her hips seductively.  Just as quickly though, he would accuse her of flirting with the men at the grocery store, church, or down at the gas station.  The neighbors would frequently have to call the police because of their loud fighting at all hours of the night.

     When Jilli left, however, Charles was more deeply hurt than he would ever admit out loud.  They may have fought when he drank too much and teased her, but in truth, she was his best friend and he had been lost without her.  Especially when it came to dealing with their son.  Chester was just an odd duck, and apart from talking about cars the two of them didn't have anything in common.  Jilli had her nose in gossip magazines about movie stars, and her son always had his buried in some kind of encyclopedia or dictionary. He had more curiosity about the world and universe in his little finger than Charles had in his whole body.

     One morning not long after Chester turned eighteen, Charles woke up with a headache and feeling dizzy.  Later, a customer asked him why he was lolloping around the shop.  Not wanting to sound ignorant and ask what he meant by lolloping, Charles just laughed and waved him off.

     When he had been the football star in high school, Charles would butt helmets with his teammates whenever he made a touchdown.  When they had won their homecoming game by a field goal, Charles had forgotten that he had taken his helmet off while watching the kick from the sidelines.  In a move that his friends would later call his "Hey Bubba, watch this!" move, he had butted his head to helmets resulting in a broken nose that took more than six months to completely heal.  It was several years before he realized that he had anosmia from the injury.

     Jilli had been the one to bring it to his attention when a pan on the stove she had asked him to watch while she went to the bathroom started smoking.  She had rushed out of the bathroom and yelled at him, asking why he didn't get up to turn it off when he smelled the smoke.  He claimed he didn't smell any smoke even though the kitchen and living room had already started to look smokey.  They tested several different smells to be sure:  pepper (which made him sneeze only because he inhaled it, not because he smelled it), fresh-cut apples, cigarettes, and a carton of milk which had soured.  He couldn't smell any of it.

     After she walked out on them, Charles tried to take on the cooking for the two of them whenever they could afford to get a hotel room for a week that had a kitchenette in it.  But when both of them became ill after he cooked some meat he couldn't smell that spoiled, Chester took over the cooking responsibilities.

     One afternoon Charles came back to the shop they were working in after going to the pawnbrokers with a gold Rolex watch he had "found."  The fact that he had "found" it under the back seat of a limo he was working on was a "need to know" fact that he didn't think anyone needed to know.  Chester was sitting in the small breakroom at the back of the garage, eating a bowl of fresh-cut fruit: apples, strawberries, pineapples, cherries, papaya, star fruit, and mango.

     "Hey, Pops!  Some lady came in with a fruit basket and said she got it as a housewarming gift and didn't want it.  She asked if we wanted it, so I told her yes.  I left a bowl in the frig for you if you want it."

     Charles opened the refrigerator and took out the bowl of fruit, eating the entire bowl in less than five minutes.

     "Hungry much?"
     "I was actually starving.  I wish not being able to smell stuff didn't have to affect how foods taste.  Those apples in it didn't taste like I remembered apples tasting."
     "She said some of them were exotic fruits, like papaya, mango, and something called ackee."
     "Hmmm.  Well, I wasn't impressed.  Good thing it was free."

     Twelve hours later, Charles was ill with a stomach virus and curled up on the floor of the shop's only bathroom.  When Chester checked on him later that night, he appeared to be sleeping with his head on the edge of the toilet seat.  But the next morning when the owner of the shop went to use the bathroom, he found him dead on the floor.

     Chester was alone in the world, with only the voices in his head to tell him what to do.

     They were the ones that told him his father would like to try the ackee fruit once he read about it in an encyclopedia.  He had searched all over town for it, finally, he found a small shop selling homeopathic remedies.  There was an ackee tree growing in their shop for their South American customers who used the ripe fruit for treating colds and fevers.  Ripe fruit.  Not the unripe ones that were on the tree now.  Those were toxic, and as Charles learned the hard way, also fatal.  All Chester had to do was trade a few hens for the young man working in the shop that day to look the other way while he pocketed one of the fruits from the tree.

     Chester wasn't a very articulate young man, but he did have a way of letting people know when they had crossed him.  His father's mistake was the beating he gave Chester when he got a ticket for speeding.  He had been so angry at Chester that he had broken a thick ruler on the backs of his legs before grabbing a leather strap that they used in the shop.

     As he drove the van to another city across state lines, Chester realized that he liked listening to the voices in his head.

     Over the next several years, Chester began working at small airports, learning the basics of aircraft mechanics.  He read every book on aircraft engines he could find, moving his way across the country until he was able to land an entry-level position in Fort Worth, Texas.

     Along the way, there were the occasional "accidents" where he worked.  Nothing was ever attributed to Chester though.  He had his little quirks like most people did.  He was an odd duck.  An introvert who just seemed to always be an arm's length away from whatever had happened.  If he had been a fan of Kevin Bacon, he might have found some humor in the fact that occasionally his co-workers would count how many degrees of separation he was from whatever accidental injury or death had occurred.  But he didn't own a television and had never been to a movie theater.

     Louise had been a secretary in the Fort Worth office where he picked up his paycheck every week.  She would smile and flirt with him like she did all of the guys that came into her office.  Chester never seemed to be interested in her, but he was quiet and polite.  When the voices in his head told him that it was time for him to find a wife so that people wouldn't question his activities, Louise was the first woman he ever asked out on a date.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 5

Winter Sun ~ Intro               Winter Sun ~ 1               Winter Sun ~ 2               Winter Sun ~ 3
Winter Sun ~ 4

     Chester had been listening to the voices in his head since he was a child. An only child. He was never able to make friends at school, his shyness made it difficult for him to interact with his classmates. When the voices started, and Chester talked back to them, his parents assumed he was talking to an imaginary friend and that it was a sign of his higher intelligence.

     His father, Charles, had also had an imaginary friend when he was younger. But the voices in his head faded as he got older. By the time he was in middle school, he was the most popular kid in school.  The popularity that carried him onto the football team and sleeping with the head cheerleader, Jillianne. In fact, if she hadn’t gotten pregnant with Chester during their senior year he might have been considered for a college scholarship, and his dreams of the NFL.

     Both of their parents had witnessed their civil marriage. The newlyweds slash expectant parents had moved in with Jillianne’s parents, taking up residence in a quickly constructed basement apartment. Charles had gone to work with his father-in-law at a gas station where he learned how to repair cars.

     When Chester was born, they continued to live with Jillianne’s parents until he was five. That year, Jillianne’s mother died under mysterious circumstances. She had been watching Chester while Jillianne went to enroll him in kindergarten. The men were at work at the gas station. When Jillianne came home, her mother was laying down in her bed sleeping with Chester. When Chester heard his mother, he got up and went to her. But her mother never woke.

     An autopsy was performed because she had no known health issues and was only in her early-40s. It revealed she had been suffocated, most likely by a pillow since she wasn’t strangled and her hyoid bone wasn’t crushed.

     There had been no forced entry to the house. Both Charles and Jillianne’s father had airtight alibis confirmed by multiple customers and other workers at the garage. Even Jillianne’s alibi was confirmed by the school registrar and teachers. Detectives finally closed the case, believing that somehow in her sleep, she must have rolled onto her stomach and suffocated herself before rolling back onto her side when Chester snuggled up to her as he slept.

     But no one ever suspected Chester because of his age and slight size.

     Devastated by his wife’s death, Jillianne’s father slowly began drinking himself to death, leaving the gas station in Charles’ hands. When he died five years later, Jillianne sold the gas station. She took the money, bought a one-way bus ticket to Los Angeles, packed a suitcase and never looked back. Charles and Chester were on their own.

     A car isn’t a place to raise a child, but it was where Chester spent the rest of his teen years. He and his father lived in a van in the back of whatever gas station or auto repair shop that Charles could find work at.

     Chester’s voices continued.

Winter Sun ~ 4

Winter Sun ~ Intro                Winter Sun ~1               Winter Sun ~ 2               Winter Sun ~ 3

     While the Lancaster family was moving into the cottage on 17th Street in Mexico Beach in 2005, Bethanni was still grieving the loss of her husband, Levi. The house that they shared on Hatley Drive held too many memories and after his death, she made the decision to sell it and spend a few years as a traveling nurse to be as far away from Mexico Beach as possible.

     She spent a year in Alaska, another in California, a spring in Utah, summer and fall in Vermont, and winter in Arizona. Next, she spent a summer working with a river cruise company going up and down the Mississippi on a paddleboat, followed by a year in Europe, traveling the Rhine and Danube taking care of travelers who had indulged too much. Bethanni spent all of her free time exploring the states or countries she was in at the time, leaving herself so exhausted at times that she was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

     By 2010, Bethanni was ready to stop living out of her suitcase and began looking for a house to purchase back in Mexico Beach. Finding a small fixer-upper cottage on 17th Street, she rented a vacation condo where she worked with the contractor who was overseeing the renovations.

     Bethanni read in the Panama City News Herald about the wife and two boys missing from Mexico Beach, but since she hadn’t yet moved into her house, she was never contacted by the police who were investigating the disappearances.

     The renovations were finally finished in 2013, and as the moving van was bringing her furniture from storage, it passed the one taking Chester Lancaster and his belongings away.

     If she had moved in just one week earlier, she might have seen Chester Lancaster and would have later recognized him when he moved back into the house on 17th Street as Lincoln Windel.

     Murderers often return to the scene of their crime.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Winter Sun ~ 3

Winter Sun ~ Intro               Winter Sun ~ 1               Winter Sun ~ 2

     Chester Lancaster, his wife, Louise, and six-year-old twin boys, Evan and Edward, moved into the small cottage on Mexico Beach in 2013, fifteen years before Hurricane Michael hit. He was a contractor at the nearby military base, working on the drones used for training pilots and new programs for the F-15s and F-22s.

     At work, he was hard-working, one of the guys, and funny. His jokes kept everyone laughing throughout the day. He was considered one of the most dependable employees the company had. Honest, reliable. His supervisors always had the highest praise for him. But a few of his co-workers knew that there was a side to Chester that few saw.

     There was a dark side to him, one that was frightening for those who did see it. When you crossed him, he may not say or do anything for a while, but eventually, you would feel his wrath. Never in an obvious way, but in a way you wouldn’t forget. If you survived it.

     They had relocated from Fort Worth, Texas after an incident at Chester’s work. At the time he had been working for another military contractor as a jet mechanic. One of his co-workers, a man named Leroy, had been sucked into a jet engine and killed while he and Chester were testing it after repairs. On the surface, it appeared to have an accident. But there were rumors that Chester and Leroy had a falling out at the company Christmas party the previous year. Chester had accused him of flirting with his wife, Louisa.

     Naturally, there was an investigation. Several, in fact. But all of them found that Chester had not been involved and it was nothing more than an unfortunate mistake on Leroy’s part. But the rumors persisted and the company decided that it would be best to let Chester go. When he threatened to sue for wrongful termination, the company had agreed to relocate him to one of their divisions in Florida.

     The incident in Texas hadn’t been an accident. But the only person who could prove that wasn’t alive to say anything.

     Louise had seen that dark side of Chester and it terrified her.

     When they had been dating, he had been a perfect gentleman. Kind, generous, patient. Her parents loved him, and when Chester approached her father to ask for his permission to propose to Louise, their only child, her father welcomed him to the family and hugged him. After they married, Chester got a job two hours away with a government contractor that was willing to train him and pay for his schooling. Their twins had been born a year later.

     Excited to be first-time grandparents, Elmer and Eloise, moved in with them for the first three months after the boys were born. Chester worked days at the time, going to school at night to learn how to be an aircraft mechanic. His in-laws rarely saw him, even on the weekends, since he frequently worked overtime to “feed all these mouths,” and studied at the tech school’s hangar on the weekends.

     As Louise became more confident with the twins, her parents began to spend long weekends at their own home. They told Louise it was because she was becoming such a wonderful mother that she didn’t need them getting in her way anymore, while still looking forward to times they could babysit the boys in their home to really spoil them. Louise protested, saying that they weren’t in her way at all, but her parents insisted on leaving.

     They told Chester they felt that they had overstayed their welcome, and wanted him to be able to bond with his boys, looking forward to seeing all of the family for the holidays. Chester hadn’t argued.

     Privately, they had agreed it was time for everyone to get back to their normal routine. Eloise said she missed being able to cook in her own kitchen without feeling like she was stepping on Chester’s toes. Elmer said that he missed his recliner, and being able to watch sports on the weekends without having to keep the television on mute, reading the closed-captioning. Neither one of them commented on the uneasy feeling they got around Chester.

     At the beauty salon, Eloise complained to her hairdresser about how Chester would skulk around in the dark, sneaking up on her at times when she was in the kitchen cleaning up after fixing bottles for the twins, or scaring her when she came out of the bathroom at night by standing just on the opposite side of the door.

     Elmer, after having a few beers at his Friday night poker game, simply said to his friends that there was “som’thin not right about that boy,” and never commented on him again.

     None of them would know how true that statement was.

     When the twins were a year old, Louise made a comment about wanting to go to work to help out with expenses. Chester responded by requesting a transfer to a higher-paid position another three hours away from her parents. A year later, when she mentioned it again and said that it would be good to socialize the boys in daycare, Chester said nothing but a month later he was transferred again to a position two states away. Louise never mentioned going to work again, or about putting the boys in daycare.

     Chester never once raised his hand or his voice to Louise or the boys. But several times a month, she would wake suddenly to find him standing over her. Silent and brooding, with a far off look in his eyes. The first few times it happened, she thought he had been sleepwalking and would call his name quietly until he walked back to the other side of the bed and climbed in. She never mentioned it to her parents because she didn’t really know what to think of it. His actions didn’t appear threatening in any way, just something about how he stood there made her uncomfortable.

     When the boys turned four she began finding him standing in their bedroom, watching them silently. She would quietly go back to bed, laying awake until she heard him climb back into bed. Waiting until she heard his breathing slow down to a steady rhythm, she would get up to check on the boys herself. One night she turned to go back to bed after checking on them and nearly screamed when she bumped into him standing directly behind her. She hadn’t heard him at all, and the way he stared at her without saying anything frightened her. He turned quietly and went back to bed after that without a word. Louise never got up again to check on them in the night after he did.

     Other than the one comment Elmer made at a poker game, no one ever really spoke ill of Chester. By all accounts, he was a hard-working, loyal, dedicated employee, a loving husband, and father. He didn’t drink alcohol or smoke. He had acquaintances at work but no real friends that he socialized with outside of work. He would wave to the neighbors and knew all their names, but the family never attended any of the backyard summer barbeques there were invited to, or holiday potlucks. He had his “quirks” at times, but who didn’t they all reasoned.

     Chester Lancaster was just a regular guy no one would ever suspect of having a loose wire.