Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Young Wife and an Age Old Dilemma

The Young Wife and an Age Old Dilemma
               [a short story by ~Sha’Tara~ ]

The air is warm, the wind but a gentle sigh through branches and foliage. Down-turned flowers reflect as washed water colours upon the otherwise unbroken grey surface of the slow-moving river below a shrub-covered bank. A soft grey rain falls steadily, sweeping over the river in misty sheets.  

Chinese Scene

From an observatory of heavy stones protruding over the edge of the river, a young woman holding a colourful umbrella stands perfectly still. Her patterned kimono blends easily with the near-by foliage. She looks intently over the river to a distant foot bridge. Two grey silhouettes, two people, a man and a woman, young and certainly in love, stand facing each other near the center of that bridge, their umbrellas touching, their free hands firmly clasped together. In their mutually worshipful stance they remain oblivious to anything around them.

An idyllic image.  

Certainly.

But how often on this world does beauty hide death?

The woman standing alone remains unmoving. Only her facial features reveal the powerful emotions that are running through her mind at this instant. Her lips are pulled tight together and her jaws clenched. She stares more intensely at the couple across from her. She knows they are completely unaware of her presence; unaware they are being not only observed but scrutinized.

In the distance a bell tolls the hour. The couple disengages and separates, he turning to the city offices lining the river and she, to a barely visible villa partially hidden by a small rolling hill and dark bushes on the opposite side of the river. 

The rain continues to fall unabated.

The observer now moves. She heads into the city proper, walking along the wet walkways as if in a trance until she finds what she was searching for.  She enters a small second hand store that offers practically anything for sale.  Casually taking off a fine silver bracelet, she places it on the counter to be examined by an obese man in a dirty t-shirt and wearing a drooping hat on his bald head. He slowly rolls a dead cigar between two protruding fat lips and examines the proffered item.

He names a price, the offer is accepted and the woman, taking her money, proceeds to walk through the ramshackle assortment of hardware. She scans a dusty glass shelf on which, among unrelated items, a small dagger in an imitation leather and gem case reposes.   She picks it up, brushes some dust off of its handle and pulls it out of its scabbard. She tests its blade against the unblemished skin of her left ring finger.  It leaves a thin crimson line.   She sighs, expressing a bitter smile and returns to the counter to pay for her find.

Having returned to the street, she tucks the knife in a fold of her kimono’s ample sleeves, opens her umbrella and proceeds to walk away from the lower shops near the river, pushing deeper into the city’s noisy streets. She is quickly absorbed by the hundreds of shoppers and pedestrians crowding the narrow sidewalks, disappearing among them.

Two days go by.  The storm passes and the rain ends.  The city’s ugly stain continues to mar the landscape.  Everything is the same.

It’s early morning and the sun has broken through the mist to reveal a classic landscape of flowering shrubs in a liberal avalanche of colours. From the second-floor balcony of an apartment, a door opens and a man in white shirt and pants steps out, standing to look at the scenery, listening to the excited calls of mating birds and inhaling the freshness of the morning air.  His face bears and air of satisfaction and anticipation.  A smile plays on the edge of his lips and he seems to be imagining something very attractive to him. 

He takes a towel hanging from his arm and casually wipes a small glass table and two chairs. On the now dry table he drops his morning paper and goes back into the house for his tea and toast which are in turn placed on the small table. He sits, sips his tea, eats part of a toast and proceeds to scan through his paper.

A woman in an azure kimono now steps upon the patio.  She is young, tall and very slim with almost translucent skin, a small round face and piercing black eyes.  Her thick, straight dark-brown hair hangs freely down her back past her waist.  After standing by the door for a few moments to take in some of the morning’s scenery, she in turn sits at the table. For a few moments she looks at the man reading his paper with an inscrutable Mona Lisa smile, then places her face in her hands, saying not a word. The man shakes the paper to spread the pages and continues his reading as if unaware of her presence.

The birds in surrounding trees continue their trills and bickering as the sun slowly but inexorably rises above dissipating morning mists, colouring tree tops and blushing hedgerows. Shadows shorten, the air growing humid and heavy.

As far as nature is concerned, this day is just another day.

Why shouldn’t it be?  

Only in the heart of man can the answer to that be found.

A bell tolls in the distance, announcing the hour. The man briefly looks over his paper, taking stock of his surroundings by glancing over his round-rimmed glasses.  He deftly turns a page and starts reading again. The woman sighs but does not move. It is as if she is made of polished bronze or fine marble, a graceful statue of inscrutable mien, fit for a palace drawing room.

“Ah!” The sound barely escapes the man’s lips. He folds the paper and bends his head to read. His face goes through several masks as he seeks to control his emotions. “Ah!” escapes again.

“What is troubling you, darling?” says the woman in a dulcet tone, raising her head and turning to him. “Unsavory news?”

“Oh… it’s… it’s nothing, nothing personal. Just that a woman who worked in our offices was found murdered yesterday in her villa. She had her throat slit. Excuse me, I have to get ready for work.” The man gets up obviously shaken and, bent over, enters the house and heads for the bathroom.

After another heavy sigh, the young wife stands and with a sudden turn her Mona Lisa smile vanishes.  She walks slowly to the balcony’s metal railing and grasping it firmly with both hands, she stares across the river at the line of villas and houses beyond a foot bridge.  Now her face displays pure, intense satisfaction.

 

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Voice from the Other Side: Lessons of the High Priest to Ix’tal

 

As I remembered it, and as I wrote it, another lesson from the world of the Nagual.

The following story, which is my story from past life memory work, is not a “politically correct” story according to this world’s current understanding.  Although man “sacrifices” thousands of helpless victims everyday, the willing blood sacrifice from a chosen ‘victim’ carries a powerful social stigma.  I believe that this stigma is designed to help hide all the crimes perpetrated by this society upon helpless sacrifices deemed necessary to the maintenance of “freedom and democracy” (or whatever other slogans people use to propagate their particular brand of society) and the dichotomy in this belief is never considered, its consequences never explored.  It wasn’t always so.  There was a time when understanding of the cycle of life, death and re-birth, was real and palpable.  We lived to die and rise again, and we wanted our death to mean something.  The following is my attempt, from what I re-structured of a long ago life, of what that meant to me then, and what it means now that I have re-strung that thread upon my current needle.  Please accept it in the spirit of compassionate, caring, power in which it is offered.   
{from   ~burning woman~  written by Sha’Tara}

Voice from the Other Side: Lessons of the High Priest to Ix’tal

 “And you will hear and understand the voices of the dead.” (Teaching of Aenea – Rise of Endymion, by Dan Simmons)

 It is a long time ago, in what is thought of as the days of the great South American empires; the heydays after the great Quetzalcoatl had left us a marvellous civilization.

 What I was told:  My earth parents had made many petitions to the Temple for the Sun God to grant them a son.  But my mother, it seems, was barren.  Yet late in life she became pregnant.  She had, not one child, but two: a boy and girl twins.  As befitted the occasion, the infant girl was gifted to the Temple to be trained in the mysteries of the Sun God religion.  As she grew up, she could qualify to be one of a select group of girls from whom would be chosen the yearly sacrifice to the God, to become the Chosen.

 My name is Ix’tal.  It is not my real name but my Temple name.  I have lived my entire life of fourteen years within the confines of this place.  The other girls are my friends but we are encouraged to spend much time alone in quiet introspection.  My best friend is the old High Priest who oversees our training.  I remember, near the time of the choosing, a particular conversation.  There were a half dozen girls in the room.

 “None of you have ever known hurt, pain or suffering.  These have been carefully kept from you.  The temple has provided for all of your needs and has trained you into many arts which all but one of you will soon find very useful when you leave here.  Now tell me, do you understand what I mean when I say, you do not know what pain and suffering is?

 The girls nod affirmatively.  I look into the old man’s face and say, “I am sorry master, but I do not.  How could I?  If I have never experienced a thing, how could I know what it is like to not have experienced it?  One must come from the other and vice-versa.”

 “A wise answer.  Do you miss this not knowing?” 

 “The question begs the same answer, master.  One cannot miss not knowing if one does not know of the possibility of knowing.”

 “Ah… And do you feel we have kept things from you here in the Temple?”

 “Master, within the choices given me, I chose to serve the Sun God.  To dedicate my life to his desires for me.  Whether things were kept from me or not does not matter.  What came to me, I received because I choose to believe that is what He desired for me.  The rest would have been a hindrance or superfluous.  I am His as I am.”

 “Blameless and without blemish are you in this, your fourteenth year with us.  You have made our choice easy.  You have been Chosen.”  There was a sigh in the room.  Both of relief and of sorrow.  But what I remember is the joy of revelation. 

 And the rest I will never forget.  At the equinox, I was dressed in a simple white robe.  I was escorted by the High Priest to the foot of the pyramid of sacrifice behind which burned the eternal flame linking the Temple to the Sun God’s palace in the heavens.  Carrying in my hand the knife used for the ritual, I walked the 33 steps to a narrow platform at the top.  I turned and faced the people, all chanting and bowing in the yard below.  Were my parents there?  I would never know and it did not matter, just a fleeting thought. 

 The High Priest then climbed in turn to stand two steps below me so his face was even with mine.  He was tall and I was short!

 I could still choose to live.  I could hand the knife in its heavy gold case back to the High Priest.  I would then be given some survival rations and gear and cast out into the forests to fend for myself.  I would not be harmed but would be an outcast, never able to return to this land.  Or, I could pull the knife from its golden case and holding the razor-sharp serpentine blade in my hand, pass the handle to the High Priest.

I seemed filled with a strange power I had anticipated but never known.  The choice at that  moment was so easy, so unbelievably easy!

Slipping the knife out of its case, I passed it to my friend and he took it.  He had confided in me before, “I shall endeavour to be as brave as you will be in your innocence.  But please forgive me if my hand shakes, for I love you dearly and I would rather kill myself than cut your heart open in this ritual.  Do you understand that?”

 “Yes, master, that I do understand.  And the little I know of love, I extend to you in return.  We will not fail.”

 The master was an adept.  He slipped his left hand behind my back to hold me and he cut my heart in half without hesitation.  As the blood poured out, he took some in his hand and put it on my head: this was my baptism and initiation for passage to the Sun God’s world.  As my body collapsed he pushed gently backward and I fell into the fire.  What I remember of that moment is the most intense feeling of joy any sentient being, I believe, could ever know.  Had I not already been dying, that feeling would have stopped my heart in any case.

 I remember conversations we had about life with the Sun God. 

 “Does every sacrificed Temple virgin become a bride of the Sun God?”

 “Yes.”

 “How many wives does He have, then?”

 With a broad smile:  “Only one.  It is not like here.  Time flows differently.  While you are his bride and wife, no one else will share this with you.  But you will desire to know more of life and He will give you many, many choices.  If you wish, you can return to earth.  He will make you into a ball of light and you will choose a mother and enter her womb at the moment of conception.  You can be a boy or a girl.  You won’t remember where you came from and you will have a normal life, although you may find that this “normal” life is not satisfying.  You will hunger for more, as anyone who has spent time with the God must.  Eventually, you will begin to remember. 

 As I did.  That is why I am High Priest here now.

 “What if I choose not to leave His side?”

 “Would you deny the next Chosen her rightful place in His life?”

 “No, of course not.  But if I fall ‘in love’ with Him?  What then?”

“You will be too wise and strong for such lesser feelings, my daughter.  You will know and it will be easy the choose the right path, always.  Your first real choice, to die in order to live, that is the most difficult.  Do that as impeccably as you have lived you life here with us and you will know. 

 Now let me tell you what it really means to be ‘Chosen’.  It means to become compassion.  That is what “knowing” means.  The rituals of the Ancients remind us, always, there is no higher calling.  And perhaps in some distant other life, this you will remember.  The lives we live and the deaths we die often bear strange fruit.  Many generations may pass before such seeds suddenly burst open.  Then, if it was engendered in joy, you will experience that joy once more — and it will all be yours.  You see, when we give ourselves up for others we give ourselves the greatest gift there ever was and possibly ever will be.  Life, as you will experience, is only about giving.  Whatever only feels the need to take and to hoard to itself is not truly alive.

 “I am confused.  Why does the Sun God “take” virgin sacrifices then?”

“A great mystery, child.  He does not take.  He frees.  In this world the lot of such as you is not remarkable.  Your life in the world, apart from being short, is filled with grief and sorrow interspersed with fleeting moments of happiness and even rarer joy.  The dangers to health and well-being are endless.  The God would have you by-pass that, just this time around so you may know there exists such a possibility.  The blood sacrifice is all of your life’s pains, sorrows, losses and grief’s combined into one act of selfless dedication to a communal dream of blessing — healthy children, peace from enemies and abundant crops.  One beautiful plunge to be followed by flight into the heavens to stand at the side of the God.  Having experienced this miracle, your compassion will then be forever sustained by this knowledge.  You won’t need to believe, you will know.

 [From “Lessons of the High Priest to Ix’tal”]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Keeping with… Another Dream

 

In Keeping with… Another Dream
          by   ~burning woman~
 
I had a strange dream a couple of nights ago which also fits in well with the vision of Tara the world bridger.  That it was in keeping with other things going on in my mind changes nothing for the strangeness.  This is another redemptive dream.
 
I see myself standing, floating between heaven and earth.  I look down.  I’m wearing some kind of long brownish “robe” that reaches to the ankles.  I see blood, my blood, running down over my feet and dripping upon the earth.  Wherever the drops of blood fall, there is an instantaneous reaction.  If they fall upon the sick, the destitute, the prisoners and oppressed, these are healed, helped, set free.  There is great rejoicing.  If the blood falls upon evil – this looks like creeping black sores upon the world – these curl up and shrivel, like slugs on a slab of cement in hot sun.
 
In this perfect state of complete awareness I feel nothing.  No feelings, no emotions.  Just knowing.  Being.  And when I woke up, I became aware of two things:  One, that of myself I am nothing.  What “power” I hold as a self-empowered being is of some transcendent Source other than I.  I just use it in a way that serves.  Two, that as I survey the immensity of all that is, there is nothing there  that I need. 
 
From the dream, all is complete, all is as it should be.  And the price?  My life’s blood which symbolically means, all that I am, my life.  And the payoff?  A peace that surpasses any understanding.  Completion of my purpose.
 
And on this world, that peace and purpose is called compassion.
“… and this message was for the ears of man alone, they who walk between the worlds of earth and heaven.  And unto the ears of man was whispered this message…”  (Excerpt from the Dead Sea Scrolls as quoted in “Walking between the Worlds — The Science of Compassion” by Gregg Braden)

 

World Bridger – a timeless vision

World Bridger  –  a timeless vision
from  ~Burning Woman~  as experienced by Sha’Tara 

There was nothingness.  Then there was darkness as I emerged from a deep and timeless sleep.  In the darkness, I heard a voice echoing. It said: “You are Tara the Planet Bridger…”  Thus did I re-discover my true purpose in non-time and thus was I re-awakened.  

As I peered into the dark, which was the dark of space, I saw two planets orbiting. Then the voice continued: “In the depths of space, two twin worlds move slowly towards each other through the eons of time… Soon they will come close enough to each other for a bridge to be formed.  Prepare yourself for you are that bridge…”

Then I saw these twin worlds.  One was pristine; beautiful, green, lush, full of life. Its waters were blue and clear. Everywhere it emanated a sense of pure joy. The other was the opposite: it was blighted, polluted, desecrated. Smoke swirled around it, and on its surface people ran here and there aimlessly.   There were wars being fought, and famine was rampant. There were plagues and diseases of all kinds. Pain, misery and death marked the passage of time there…

            When these two worlds approached one another, at some perfect timing, a ball of reddish/golden light appeared between the two planets. Inside this ball of light was a being, a woman, apparently sleeping.   Then, I found myself there: I was that being, Tara, the World Bridger. I awakened from my sleep and began to stretch my body. As I did so, I emerged from the ball of light as from a shell and it vanished.

In that space, I stretched my feet towards the pristine world and I saw them enter the soil to become a part of the landscape.   I stretched my head to the wrecked and wretched planet, and when it touched, my hair, which flowed in abundance, entered that soil like millions of roots, and I became a part of that world.  Joy flowed from my feet and horror squeezed my head into the ultimate headache. 

But now a bridge had been formed between two worlds.  Soon, people from the blighted world began to walk upon my flesh and to test this phenomenon.  Some, recognizing the bridge, gave thanks and quickly made their way to the waiting Edenic world.   Most, sadly, feared the consequences of trusting in this new thing, and chose to just wander around a bit, then return to their miserable subsistence. Another type of human came to explore my body: the ‘gold diggers’.   These brought the same tools they had been using to destroy their planet. They proceeded to cut up my flesh, looking for treasure. Finding nothing of value or interest that appealed to their blighted senses, they too returned to their world greatly disappointed and angry…

 In time, when the two worlds were again beginning to orbit apart, all those who were upon my body left. Most had opted to remain on their old world, afraid of the future presented to them.   They could not believe that this new world was ‘real.’ When I was completely clear of traffic, of human life, I tore myself free of the old world. My hair pulled out of my head and remained in the soil there. I wrenched my legs away from the new world, and my feet remained in that soil. I rolled myself into a ball in excruciating pain… and died… Rather, I became non-living, in the sense that it is understood here. My body then vanished in space but my agonized mind hovered for a time in its place of failure.  

Then the voice returned and said: “In time, when this cycle is complete, you will again return to bridge these two worlds, for you are infinite, you are of life and you are a provider.”

A Dream on Crap and Consumerism

 

A Dream on Crap and Consumerism
by Sha’Tara

 It’s been years since I’ve done any dream reporting.  Most people don’t care for other peoples’ dreams and I don’t blame them.  They are really a personal kind of communication.  Having said that, let me tell you a dream I had last night. 

 Did I get a smile at least?  No?  Ok, doesn’t matter.  I don’t think this dream is terribly personal as it contains a “lesson” very much applicable to today’s consumerist society.  It’s about stuff.  Or crap if you prefer.  It’s about climate change, and war, and dead sperm whales, and obesity and general discomfort.  It’s about most of us this side of the world that are buried under stuff made by most of us living on the other side of the world.  It’s about a kind of “us” versus “us” in a Seussian society.  And it’s really about Horton hearing a Who and about a Grinch who stole Christmas and thankfully did not return it.

 It goes this way:  I and a couple of “my” children (the dream is in story form so the characters, including the one I call myself, are fictional) drive back from the fields on a tractor pulling a kind of rake.  We arrive at the farm house and my partner is in the yard all worried and upset.  The reason: while no one was home thieves came in and took absolutely everything of value in the house.  So I asked if the police had been there and the answer was “Yes, and they’re opening the case.”

 I could then go into the house.  It was quite empty, but surprisingly the thieves left everything they did not want in very neat stacks on the floor.  Nothing was torn, ripped or broken.  The theft had been very orderly done.  All good stuff was gone: computers, microwave, serger, sewing machines, coffee maker, pictures, tools, cameras, TV, books, music equipment, what money and jewellery was accessible, on it went, room after room.  Everything of value: gone.

 The children watched, waiting for the parents’ reaction.  We looked at one another and suddenly it was as if a light came on.  We said, look, we can see the walls, the floors, the whole house now.  It’s neat!  We have all this space!  Let’s not rush into replacing the stuff.  Let’s see what we can live with as is.  I saw the children’s faces light up and they went racing through the house as if it was a game to see what they could find to put together and engage a new lifestyle.  They were laughing.

 Then we went outside and the same thing happened: we saw that some of the small stuff had been taken, but what we were looking at was all the stuff we had accumulated, and how easily we could do with just a fraction of it all.  We hugged each other and re-discovered a feeling of love we hadn’t known in many years.  We felt freed from shackles we had unknowingly been dragging and adding to year by year.  We both felt younger by decades.

 It was a great dream of liberation from consumerism; from “stuff.”  It was a reminder that we serve that which enslaves us.

It also reminded me of this most honest of all yard sale signs:

 Garage sale sign1

 I don’t know about you, but I say, let’s stop pushing each other’s crap on each other and let’s just stop buying stuff just because we can.  It’s insane.  And for those who insist buying crap creates jobs, that’s an even more insane argument.  That’s like saying, building prisons creates jobs, so let’s put more people in jail.

 

Spilled Wine, a murder mystery, in short.

 

Spilled Wine

A murder mystery, in short – by Sha’Tara

The wine glass was tipped over on the soft white carpet and a dark red stain had spread away from it.  Beside the bed lay a man in later years, casually dressed, his shoes off, looking for all the world as if he’d just gone to sleep.  His face was towards the window and it had a slight smile.  Half closed blue eyes seemed to stare at something outside.  Despite the fact that he was very dead, in fact that he’d been dead for several hours, perhaps as long as a day, he seemed to be in a state of complete repose.  To the police investigator staring at his prone body he seemed to say, “Please don’t disturb me; this is the most peaceful I’ve been in my entire life.”

Police detective Josh Erwin took in the scene and after consulting his procedure manual and talking with Rose Whitecliff at the station, put on his gloves and stepped into the bedroom where the dead body of John Marshall lay in his unprepossessing and very quiet way.  Forensics medical examiner, Doctor Donald Signals was on his way from Bonnerville so Cpl. Erwin’s job was to look at the scene of the incident and write a preliminary report, take some pictures and secure the scene from prying eyes, meaning from Vicky Spears from “Good Morning Hamersley TV.”  She had managed to discover the “situation” even before the cops heard anything.  Cpl. Erwin thought she was creepy, the way she always seemed to ferret out a crime before the police did, and how accurately she could re-construct a scene on her i-pad. 

“C’mon Josh, let me have a look.  I can help you figure this out before Signals gets here with his paraphernalia and head-scratching propositions.  I bet I can tell you what happened, when it happened and maybe even why it happened.”

 “Sorry Vicky but this could be a real murder here and I’ve got to protect the integrity of the scene.  I can’t let you in here.”

 “Ok, but it’s your funeral.  I’m just going to go to my car, drive down to Starbucks, get a great cappuccino, come back here, park in the driveway and write my story while you wait for someone else to tell you the facts you should be able to put together yourself.  I’ll have the story ready to air before your expert gets his stuff together and comes up with his usual platitudes and long shots.  I know what happened here, Josh.” 

He tried to sound angry but it was all exasperation.  He knew she’d guess, and he knew with even greater certainty that she’d be right… again. “Not this time Vicky.  I’m serious.  Get lost, and I don’t care if you can guess the nature of what we’re looking at here because it will still be nothing but a guess.  Enjoy your cappuccino.”

She shrugged and went to her car.  The H-RV spun around with a slight squeal of angry tires and disappeared around the curve heading to Main Street.  Cpl. Erwin glanced at the scene once more and began to scratch his head so hard his cap went flying.  While he bent down to retrieve it, he saw something dark under the only dresser in the room.  Should he reach for it, or wait?  He was smarting from Vicky Spears’ mocking and he decided then and there to break a rule.  He reached under the dresser with his gloved hand and grasped the black item.  It was a very light, very strange looking handgun that looked like a Beretta.  He looked at it in the light from the window and realized it was a clever imitation.  It was in fact a water pistol. 

 If anything, one could not call Cpl. Erwin too intelligent, let alone bright.  He was a true cop; a by-the-book kind of cop who was actually quite out of his depth in temporary charge of Hamersley’s police department consisting of himself and two well-meaning deputies who also volunteered as Hamersley’s five volunteer fire department brigade.  The sheriff was away south and on holidays, and incommunicado.

Anyway, Cpl. Erwin was looking at the water pistol and wondering how that could tie in with the death of John Marshall.  Then he smiled to himself as he carefully put the toy back where he’d found it.  Kids.  Obviously Marshall’s grandson had been around recently and had been playing with the water pistol.  Not wanting to be punished for spraying water on the furniture or the carpet he’d quickly hid the gun under the dresser when John Marshall came into the room.  That made sense.  Let Vicky Spears come up with something better. 

True to her words, Vicky returned and parked in the Marshall driveway, far enough back so she wouldn’t be forced to move when the forensics team arrived, which it did a couple of minutes later.  Vicky sipped on her coffee and watched, all the while writing her story, “John Marshall was found dead in his home this morning.  Foul play is suspected although the only sign of anything out of the ordinary is a tipped over wine glass beside the body in the bedroom.”  Let’s see what the numbnuts from Bonnerville come up with this time.  Just for a laugh she continued, “…a UFO was seen rising from the roof of Marshall’s house by old Mrs. O’Connor.  “It was shaped like a button,” she said, “and it spun like crazy.  I sure wouldn’t want to be riding in that kind of contraption, it’d make you so dizzy you’d get sick for sure.  Seems kind of retarded technology to me.  But who can tell with aliens?  Now what was I saying?  Oh yes, young John Marshall, he was always going on about aliens and UFO’s, well I’m one up on him now, aren’t I?  And right up over his own house too.” 

There was a hard tap on her window and she looked up to see Josh Erwin motioning her to roll it down.  She did.  

“Sorry but you’re in the way.  We got an ambulance coming in and more people to check over the place.  You’ll have to move out onto the street.”  

“You’re going to give yourself a heart attack being so serious Josh.  I’ll move, don’t worry.  I’ve got my story anyway, no thanks to you.  What did your expert come up with: aliens with ray guns?  Drone attack with subsonic weapons?” 

“I shouldn’t be sayin’ but they suspect poison.  Murder.  No motive, no suspect yet, but we’re moving on that.  We’ve contacted the FBI.”

 “The FBI no less.  My, my, this is becoming absolutely fascinating.  Let me get my headline here:  Retired bird watcher and dog trainer, John Marshall was murdered in his house.  Police suspect poison was used.  They have no idea what kind of poison, how it was administered, who the suspect or suspects are, nor any motive whatsoever for killing him… The scuttlebutt is that he was involved in the drug trade.  The FBI is being brought in to look for more bodies buried about the place.”

“Come on Vicky, that’s not fair.  We’ve just started here.  In a day or two we’ll have some real evidence and then I’ll let you in on it.  Hold your story for 24 hours, OK?”

 “18 hours, Josh.  Just for you.  But I already know exactly what happened to John Marshall.  I know who killed him, or maybe I should say, what killed him.”

“I’m not buying it Vicky, this is serious stuff.  Move your car back onto the street or I’m having you towed.” 

“OK, but that’s not the way to go here Josh.  I was trying to give you a leg up the chain of command.”  Again the shiny black H-RV spun around with squealing tires and parked on the street overlooking the Marshall driveway.  Vicky spoke into her phone recorder, then continued typing on her i-pad.

To make a long story short, Dr. Donald Signals insisted that John Marshall’s death was not accidental; that some sort of subtle poison had been administered causing heart failure.  Preliminary analysis of the wine revealed no foreign substance.  No evidence was found that anyone other than Marshall had been in the house for at least a week before his death.  He was last seen walking to his truck and driving back in the direction of his house.  He had been carrying a shopping bag according to a witness who’d waved at him from Marie’s Emporium.  He hadn’t waved back.  The witness said he appeared preoccupied and had a “worried” look on his face.  A day later a couple of FBI agents came to the house to investigate.  Cpl. Erwin stated he was not at liberty to reveal what the agents discovered.  Investigations are on-going.

Meanwhile Vicky Spears had been unspooling her own story and version of events, much to the chagrin of the Hamersley police squad.  Here’s the gist of the last of her TV broadcasts on the John Marshall murder.

“Good morning folks.  It’s another lovely day in Hamersley today and I hope all of you get to enjoy it.  As you all know by now, we had a death in Hamersley a few days ago.  Our very quiet and reclusive Mr. John Marshall was found dead in his house and the police and apparently the FBI all insisted, without any evidence by the way, that Mr. Marshall was murdered.  Poisoned in fact, said Dr. Donald Signals, Bonnerville’s forensic expert and coroner on loan to our investigative team.  Was any poison found?  No.  Were there any signs of anyone but Mr. Marshall having been in the house at the time of his death, or previously, as far back as a week ago?  No.  Oh, they did find a hidden weapon in the house.  Are you ready for this?  They found John Marshall’s grandson’s water pistol hidden under the dresser in the same bedroom where Mr. Marshall’s body was found.  Did the water pistol, then, contain any liquid with poison in it?  No.  It was quite dry and quite empty and all it had ever had in it was tap water. 

 Oh, but wait, that’s not all.  There was a wine glass fallen over on the floor next to the body.  Red wine had spilled into the carpet leaving a bit of a mess.  OK, was there any residue of some exotic poison in the spilled wine?  No.  After much wrangling with our own very dedicated by-the-book Cpl Erwin I was finally allowed to have a look a the bedroom where the “murder” took place.  Except for the purple stain in the carpet there really was nothing to see.  Quite an ordinary room laid out in quite an ordinary way. 

Now folks, I don’t want to come across as some know-it-all and I don’t want to make our police look silly, or the boys from the Federal Bureau of Indiscretion either… but, really, murder?  So I did my usual woman’s intuition thing and you ladies are going to enjoy this, went about looking for the obvious.  You know, the kind of evidence which generally shakes the truth out of the tree after our professional investigators have climbed all over it and seen nothing but suspicious fruit dangling from it? 

I won’t deny it, I dated John a few times.  He was a really nice guy but a bit too reclusive for the likes of lil’ ol’ me, if you know what I mean, (“wink”) so I know that John had a very serious allergy to certain types of pectin.  Usually when we went out and had a drink, John would drink beer and I, red wine.  I love a good red wine, well, who wouldn’t?  But John was careful about his drinks.  He’d drink wine only when absolutely sure of what it contained. 

 Now you’ll remember that the police witness from Marie’s Emporium, no other than our beloved librarian, Josie Archambeau, said that John had appeared preoccupied and had a worried look on his face.  Also you will remember that she said he was carrying a shopping bag.

So, let’s just thread the needle and start sewing here.  John is “worried” about something, and I’d be willing to bet it’s about a dog he’d trained that had misbehaved and he felt terribly responsible.  I knew John and I can sense this.  He walks into Harvey’s Liquor Barn and grabs a bottle of wine.  It is red wine but as I said before, John knew his brands.  So he grabbed a bottle he “knew” to be safe without asking any questions, paid for it, and took it home.  He had a glass that evening just as he was getting ready for bed.  But that wine was from a batch produced by a different winery and it happened to contain a trace of the very pectin John was allergic to.  The murderer, folks, is that bottle of wine. 

 I’ve already told our great investigators this and indeed they found the pectin in the left over wine.  They also contacted our dear Dr. Wells and he confirmed that the pectin found in the wine could cause cardiac arrest in someone like John.  And that, folks, is a case closed.  And for you girls who were hoping that our esteemed FBI agents were going to be around through the weekend and maybe invite them to the dance or your wild midnight parties at the lake, well they’re heading back to the office.  Sorry about that.

Here’s to you, friend John.  For a quiet guy you sure chose a noisy departure.  What a way to go! 

 

Encounter at Selda’s – a short story

It’s entertainment time, and if you look in the following for anything deeper  than an indoor-outdoor piece of carpet, I guarantee you, you’re wasting precious minutes of your life.
Do you remember the detective genres of the 40’s and 50’s with the corny dialogue and scenes? Here’s an attempt at mimicking one of those… enjoy…   S’T

ENCOUNTER AT SELDA’S
            by Sha’Tara

I don’t know why I noticed her. You’d think I would have had enough on my mind. But the way she stepped across that street, shaking her head, looking up and down, I knew something was wrong. I thought she looked at me, but why should I care? I told myself it was her miniskirt and halter top, but you really got to want to fool yourself to do so, and I wasn’t trying. I’d been fooled enough. Here I was, everything the same as every other day, except, as of 5:00 P.M., I was out of a job. For twelve years, I’d built my position inside Extel, and just after they promised me a management job: re-structure. Replaced by a bank of robots with flashing lights. My good friend, Carlos Rivaldi gave me the boot, just like that. Not even a sorry, just a cold stare from his piggish little black eyes and an envelope from his fat fingers bulging between an assortment of rings. “See you around, Al.” I was torqued. Yeah, I’d see him around, all right, and when I did, he wouldn’t be the one saying good-bye…

It’s not the end of the world; the weather’s hot and I can still run, though it won’t be to the shop anymore. I can still get my dinner special at Selda’s. I’ve got $3000 dollars saved up and I intend to play that for all it’s worth. I force on my T-shirt and after wiping off some sweat, slip into Selda’s greasy spoon. Place is full now, near six. I don’t worry. They always make room for me at the staff table near the back. There’s Dino coming to usher me away from the rest of the crowd: he doesn’t care for my attire, never has, but my money’s good.

“Hi, Elaine!”

“Hi back!” she says between trays and deftly stashing some tips in her glass. Elaine’s OK. We’ve been out a couple of times, but we don’t quite hit it off. My exercising, especially the water sports, scare her, and I won’t be tied down to the land for any woman, so, it’s a stand-off.

I sit at the table and try to think. Damn that Carlos. I’ll see him in hell. “Regular please, only skip dessert this time, OK?”

“Ain’t we the last of the big spenders tonight!”

“We sure are. We got the boot today.”

“You too? But I thought you were getting a promotion? Susan told me…”

“Susan was right: we both got promoted… to the street. Look, I don’t want to talk about it Jody. Do you know that woman in the black skirt just came in, the one Dino is eating raw?”

“No. Ain’t from around. Why?”

“Don’t get testy. Just asking. She was eyeballing me outside. What the hell? Dino’s pointing her this way…”

“It’s your party, big spender. Gotta look after the rest of my customers before they starve…”

The skirt swivels to my table, stops. I motion to the empty chair. She slides into it in one incredibly fluid motion. I scan the menu: shoulder length dark-blonde hair, green eyes (could have been the lighting), short finger nails, pretty mouth, not too big, long neck, medium breasts, well-exposed by skimpy black halter, backless, tanned. A swimmer. My eyes quit roving and my other senses get their chance. She smells outdoor: sunshine, moonlight, salt water and eucalyptus—definitely exotic if not intoxicating.

Me: “Hi!” How’s that for an original?

She: “I was following you when you came in here…” How’s that for a repartee? We are definitely on to something.

“Oh?” A two year old could have figured my next line: “Why?” and hers: “It’s a long story.” Do tell!

“Really…” I’m pretending no interest but she’s gaining fast. My omelet arrives. She orders soup and salad—I should have known. Oh, well, the food’s as good as usual, or as bad. I play the salt and pepper over my plate. She’s watching me, and I get nervous. She sips some water from my glass and lowers her head.

“Can we talk here?”

I look around, focusing on the din and answer caustically, “If you can make yourself heard!” Why am I being so difficult with the lady? Because I haven’t seen her before and she’s tailing me? Because she’s interrupting my dinner? Because I’m in a bitch of a mood and don’t want to talk to anyone, least of all a total stranger, female, desirable and quite likely dangerous to be seen with? Because… Oh, hell…

She sighs. No, I didn’t hear, I saw, and she opens up.

“Rivaldi dumped you, hey?”

I feel a cold shiver up my spine. Suddenly, I am all ears. “What?”

“Carlos – he gave you the boot this afternoon.”

She says it so damn matter-of-factly I nearly jump up and flip the table. “What the hell are you talking about?” She puts her nicely tanned hand on my arm and grips so hard I wince. “Hey, watch it!”

“Relax. I don’t want a scene. I need to talk.”

I know when I am beat and my curiosity is now well beyond retrieval. “Shoot. Whatever it is, it can’t be worse than what’s already happened” and sardonically: “please DO fill me in on the details!”

She sips my water again, sloshing the ice. “Want a beer or something?” I ask, trying to sound casual about it. Didn’t even fool me.

“Thanks! A Caesar, please!”

Quick at accepting freebies; have to watch that.

“I’m Sylvia Rivaldi. Carlos is my brother-in-law. My husband, Bernardo, was the main power behind Extel. Carlos, the front man. He’s been after his brother to break up the company and sell it for parts for quite some time. Bernardo refused. He said he liked computers. Bernardo, being the eldest, always had the last word, until last week, that is…” She reaches for the drink that has materialized and takes a long swallow. I watch the muscles on her extended throat contract and expand and I hold my breath. Even that part is tanned. I imagine very little of that lithe, healthy-looking body is untouched by the sun… or a man’s hands. “…so that’s when he disappeared…” I crash from my lustful reverie to land in her husky voice and my cold toast and omelet. “Disappeared?”

She looks around apprehensively and I think, “Oh, boy, what a ham. Does she think I just got off the bus?”

“Aren’t you listening to me?”

This time I detect a touch of self-pity, perhaps even fear, in her voice. “It’s been a hell of a day and you’re not helping. Sorry but you’re the only person I can trust and you’ve got a stake in this too.”

“Oh, I do?” I drawl the sarcasm out. “Well, that explains everything, don’t it!” She starts to cry and that’s when I begin to take her as the genuine article. Yeah, I’d thought someone’d put her up to this, but it was getting too good. “OK, I’ll listen, if you let me eat.”

“Thank you.” She dabs her eyes with my paper napkin. “As I said, Bernardo disappeared and I became frantic, all alone in that big house. Carlos tried so many times to get me there alone. He calls me and says, “Hey, kid. Where’s big bro? Gotta talk to him pronto.” I told him he wasn’t home and I hadn’t seen him for two days. “That so? Getting lonely? Want company? I could come over and make you comfy until Bern shows up, whadya say?” Forget it Carlos, I say, and he continues, “Well, maybe I will and again, maybe I won’t. Listen, bitch. Don’t think you can order me around. I’m gonna get what I want and you’re part of the picture, get it? Expect me at eight, and have cocktails ready. You’n me gonna party tonight, baby. We sure are gonna party…” and he hung up, laughing like a hyena.

“I was so scared! Then I realized I didn’t know where he’d called from. Maybe he was waiting down the drive for me to make a dash from the house. He knew exactly where I was and I didn’t know where he was. All I knew for sure was his ‘eight’ could mean any minute now. There was only one way out. The house is on a point across the bay and I keep a kayak down in a shelter by the rocks. I packed a few things, then remembered the safe. I found the combination, opened it and took all the cash and important looking papers; stashed the works in my waterproof belt pack and took off. I paddled across the bay and hid my boat in a place I know. I booked into a small beach-front motel and I’ve been watching developments ever since. I have a contact inside Extel and I learned what Carlos was doing. I knew about the so-called restructuring several days ago. I sent messages to Bernardo, but I knew it was useless…”

I raise my hand to stop the avalanche. “So you figure he’s dead?”

“I’m sure Carlos killed him.”

I brush a finger over my lips. She reads it like a pro and becomes absorbed by her salad. I say zip during Jody’s ritual coffee re-fill. She has big ears and a mouth to match. Once she’s absolutely out of ear-shot, I say: “You positive?”

“Yes, damn it. None of what’s happened would have if Bernardo was alive.”

“Seems like your boys like to play rough. Do they have any connections with…”

“You naive? Of course they got connections: all the way to Sicily. Don’t you know you were on the payroll of the Family, for Chrissakes? That Extel was a front for a drug channel from Columbia via Mexico and here? Bernardo was the kingpin and, get this, Carlos doesn’t know anything about the drugs, that stupid oaf!”

“OK. Let’s fast forward to the present. Why were you following me, and what do you want from me: protection from the goddam mob? Are you crazy?” She laughs. Such a beautiful, if unexpected, sound to emanate from that luscious package! For a mourning widow of a recently murdered husband, she presents a bit of a puzzle. “What the hell’s so funny?”

“You! I don’t remember the last time I met anyone as naive as you. It’s so refreshing!” She lets off another peal of laughter, and worse, some of the male customers are mentally taking out their measuring tapes. Already, I feel defensive and jealous and think, “Here we go. I’ll pop someone and never see her again. Women don’t like jealous males, don’t I know it, but I can’t help myself. “Quit that laughing, will ya?” I’m as tense as a startled rattler.

“Sorry!” She looks anything but. “I don’t need protection; I need a partner…”

“A what???” Now I’m shouting!

“Shhh. Carlos did you in like he’s trying to do me. With Bernardo dead, I own that damn Extel. I’ve got the papers. That’s what the fat slob’s after, not to mention me. I want him dead and that’s where you come in, partner.”

She’s so cool, the ice-cubes in the glass are growing! I splutter: “Are you nuts? I don’t know you. I don’t know if what you’re telling me comes from the back of a three dollar bill. D’you realize what you sound like, for Chrissakes?”

“Sure!” She purses her lips and moves in for the kill, her fingers resting lightly on my thigh. “I’ve got something you’d like, and I think we can work together.”

“What you got, I can get any time. This is LA.! And whatever else you got is trouble. I don’t need either.”

She smiles angelically. “You are naive. I love that! I’m not offering sex…” Smiling: “not yet, and as for trouble, nothing ventured, nothing gained!” She unsnaps her belt pack and slides it over her knees. Such shape, even in dimmed lighting. She unzips, pulls out an envelope, pops the end open and reveals a stack of heavy-duty bills. Must’ve been a hundred thou in there. She puts it back, pulls out a folded paper and opening it, traces some faint lines with her index. “What are those?”

“This is the route. Bernardo kept it in his safe and now I’m the only one who has the picture. We’re talking quick, easy millions, but I need a trusty sailor who knows the channels like the back of his hand to man a boat tonight. Did I make a mistake, Roger?”

Impossible! How could she know my real name? I was snared and shrugged helplessly: “No. I’ll get the boat.” She slips me several bills which add up to five thousands. I stuff them under the insole of my sweaty runners and lace up again.

“You’re fabulous!” With a feline stretch, she plants a full-lipped kiss on my mouth. I grope for more of her kelp and palm oil and whatever else she makes available in such tight if public quarters. Too late now to pause and consider a minor question like: “Who really killed Bernardo?” Good-bye Carlos! And inspector Dinsdale you dirty snake in the grass, am I going to have a nice little surprise for you, and this time won’t be me serving time for Uncle Sam.