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Excerpt for Night Demons by , available in its entirety at Smashwords












Night Demons



Carol C. Roberts











Country Writes Publishing



















Copyright © 2019 Carol C. Roberts

All rights reserved







Contents


Foodie………………………………………………….……….…………… 1

…And a bottle of Rum…………………………………….…….……16

As the Story Goes………………………………………….……………32

Bloodline…………………………………………………………………….43

Crafted Confections………………………………………….…….….68

Dreamland…………………………………………………………….……94

Mirror, Mirror…………………………………………………..……...106

Parasomnia……………………………………………………………....119

Snowfall………………………………………………………………….…133

The Amazing Kolovs…………………………………………………..144

The Curator……………………………………………………………….163

Tis The Season…………………………………………………………..182

Hell to Pay…………………………………………………………………191





Forward to Night Demons:

Welcome back my fellow insomniac. I hope you have completed my first collection, Night Terrors, and have decided to continue with me on this next nightmarish journey called Night Demons. My addiction to creating insomnia-inducing tales has led me to create yet another 13 yarns that will surely produce fear and ultimately fear of slumber as my stories pursue you in the night. A final word of caution before you begin reading: Don’t fall asleep.



Foodie


Mason arrived at the Civic Center in Savannah, Georgia, by 7:50 a.m. on Monday, July 2nd, just as the letter he received instructed. He had been chosen to participate in the local southern cooking competition along with four other amateur cooks chosen from nearly 700 applicants. He was elated to be selected as cooking was his strongest passion.

The competition was to last a full four weeks with cooking challenges three days a week. Luckily, Mason lived right outside of Savannah, so he could research recipes and practice the required dishes at home. He was confident he could win since he had been a foodie since age 13. Now at 32, he had about 20 years’ experience and had applied for the competition to add something unique to his resume. Then, he would apply for a chef’s position in Atlanta at one of the high-end restaurants. This Southeastern Georgia Chefs competition was held every year in Savannah and would provide him, if he won, with prestige in the field of food as well as $10,000 he would use to relocate to Atlanta. His circle of friends included other foodies as well as a dear friend who had competed in the SGC competition the year before and been eliminated in the fourth week; a heartbreaking blow to him as well as Mason.

He parked his car in a nearby parking garage and walked down a couple blocks to the civic center. A huge banner reading Southeastern Georgia Chefs was hung across the front of the nearly 25,000 square foot facility. He trotted up six steps at the front entrance and went in. An easel held a poster with the SGC logo of a wooden spoon with a red gingham ribbon tied around the handle reading Southeastern Georgia Chefs and a large arrow pointing to the right. Mason took the invitational letter out of his pocket and walked toward the door he saw with another easel like the one at the front entrance. A man and woman were in line already and were having their letters verified and then were handed name tags. He stopped at the admission table and handed over his letter. A smiling woman glanced at it briefly and then handed Mason his name tag before instructing him to report to the director.

The room was quite spacious and there were five kitchen stations with black marble countertops and white bases set up in two rows. Each station was equipped as a full kitchen with assorted pots and pans, casserole dishes, baking pans, mixing bowls, a hundred utensils, a large food processor and stand mixer on the counter, a sink, and an electric oven. Everything looked brand new and shiny. Mason was in his element.

There were cameramen with cameras on tall pedestals, electricians fiddling with kitchen stations and people stocking the four refrigerators and pantry shelves he saw.

He spotted a man with a clipboard who looked like the director and walked over to him. He was talking to a group of four people, and when he saw Mason’s name tag, he smiled broadly and put out his hand.

“Mason! Welcome, I’m Trevor,” he said brightly, shaking Mason’s hand firmly.

The other people in the group had on name tags with their names and the word, ‘contestant,’ beneath.

Trevor got their attention and said, “Let’s go and have orientation,” and he led them to a conference room.

The five contestants sat down at a long table, and Trevor sat at the head.

Trevor began by saying with a big smile, “Welcome to the Southeastern Georgia Chefs competition! As you all know, you were chosen from about 700 people, and your preliminary dishes qualified you to compete in this annual competition. That’s no small feat in itself, so feel free to be confident.

“You’ve all seen the kitchen we created here at the civic center. You’ll each have a kitchen area to yourself, they’re all the same. On the first competition day of each week, there will be a skill challenge, which you will perform today. On the second day of competition there will be a baking challenge, and on the third day of competition, you’ll be asked to create a chef’s entree. All the requirements will be explained at the beginning of each week so, except for the skill challenge, you’ll be able to prepare and practice at home for the baking and chef’s entree challenge.”

Mason was listening as Trevor continued with the orientation, but was remembering what his friend, Bryce, had told him about the competition. The skill challenges were just that, a challenge of one’s cooking skills with no notice as to what it would involve. Different time limits were placed on each challenge, and these were a bit short to someone with little experience. Bryce was excited through the whole experience, doing well and using his cooking skills to stay in the competition. He told Mason about careless mistakes he had seen contestants make that eliminated them, and Bryce had assured him, his professionalism prevented him from making stupid mistakes.

“I’m a natural in the kitchen,” he had said with a laugh, “this is a breeze.” Mason winced as he remembered the day Bryce was eliminated. It was the fourth week, and Bryce was one of two contestants left. The two cooks would complete the challenges for the last week, and then a winner would be chosen on the last day after the chef’s dinner challenge.

In the second day that week for the baking challenge, they had been asked to prepare four popovers with pastry from scratch and the filling of their choosing. Bryce prepared the pastry by layering pieces of butter on the pastry dough and rolling it out with a rolling pin, folding it over on itself and rolling it out again to create multiple layers. He created an apple filling with Granny Smith apples for tartness and sugar to sweeten and flavored it with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. His puff pastry was browned to perfection and flaky with a done bottom, no wetness from the filling.

The two judges had carefully examined his dessert creation for technical prowess and then cut into it. They found the filling to be just right and smelling like apple pie. Bryce was proudly smiling, just knowing he was going to ace the chef’s dinner challenge and win the whole competition, but when the judges took a bite of his popovers, their expressions turned to confusion and then a grimace.

One of them touched his finger to the powdered sugar sprinkled over them and tasted it. He looked at Bryce and said, “Ugh, this is baking soda, Bryce, not powdered sugar.”

Bryce stood there dumbfounded, not knowing how this could have happened, but then he remembered the powdered sugar canister was on the right and the baking soda on the left. At the end of the week, even though his chef’s dinner was judged impeccable, it had come down to a stupid mistake that had cost Bryce the competition. Mason consoled his friend as well as he could, but Bryce fell into depression and even refused to try competition again.

Trevor was completing his speech about the competition and said, “Let’s meet the judges!”, and the easily recognizable cooking celebrities entered the room.

They were Doug Cross, known to all from being the host of a cooking show on the Cooking Channel, and Marilyn Carrington, also a show host from the Cooking Channel. Doug was in his late 50’s with gray hair and glasses. Marilyn was in her early 40’s with chestnut hair and a slim and fit figure.

All the contestants gave a collective, “ooh,” when the TV personalities walked in. It was worth it all just to meet them. They had a bright and strong presence in the room just like they did on their cooking shows. Trevor, Doug, and Marilyn encouraged them to do their best, but also to have fun, it was just a competition, and the world of food had more to offer than just this one experience.

Trevor rose from his seat and, motioning for the group to follow him, said, “Let’s go to your stations.”

The five of them followed Trevor to the kitchen islands, and Trevor said, “They’re all the same, pick which one you want.”

Mason went to stand behind the third island in the first row, which had been Bryce’s station. Three cameramen came over and began filming short bios of each competitor at their stations, and then filmed short segments with Doug and Marilyn saying how this local competition was exciting for them to be judges for. Mason had seen last year’s competition televised on the educational channel and was surprised at how many people it took to pull off such a production. In the video, you saw the cooks and the stations, but none of the staff such as the cameramen, the sound men, the director, and the kitchen staff who supplied the stations with food supplies. It was noisy in the large room with voices and equipment noises. He was ready to begin.

Presently, Trevor announced they were ready to begin filming the first segment, and the noise began to die down rather quickly. The cameramen and sound men took their places, and Doug and Marilyn stood on their marks in front of the stations. A make-up girl came over and made the celebrity judges presentable for the camera, and then they stood up straight and prepared to begin. The lead cameraman was holding up three fingers, counting down to when to start. When he pointed silently toward Doug and Marilyn, Doug began to speak.

“Welcome cooks to the Southeastern Georgia Chefs competition. This is your first week, so enjoy yourselves. Your very first skill challenge will be a well-known, but tricky dish: eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce. We ask that your Hollandaise be smooth and silky with just the right amount of tanginess, and your poached egg is done to the point that when we cut into it, the yolk will run down the English muffin. You must have a professional presentation in the dish of your choice.”

Marilyn continued with, “You will have one hour to complete your dish. Get ready, get set, cook!”

Mason began by reviewing all the ingredients he would need for the dish. He went to the pantry and retrieved three large eggs, a slice of Canadian bacon, an English muffin, lemon juice, salted butter, and white pepper. He reminded himself not to get cocky; Hollandaise sauce could be tricky and you could end up with scrambled eggs instead of sauce. He set about making the dish using a foolproof method for the sauce by pouring hot butter into a running blender onto the egg yolks, lemon juice and white pepper instead of carefully cooking the yolks with a double boiler.

Doug and Marilyn approached him as he worked, and Doug said with a smile, “You’re not a double boiler man?”

Mason grinned and replied while he continued to work, “No, I’ve scrambled too many eggs by mistake!”

Doug and Marilyn left him and proceeded to the next contestant to survey their work.

When he was finished making the elements for the dish, Mason carefully assembled his eggs Benedict, checking the plate for fingerprints and neatness. He glanced around at his competitors and saw that they were all attempting to make Hollandaise with the double boiler method. Confident, he added a garnish of twisted lemon peel and parsley and set his dish on the end of the counter.

Marilyn stepped to the front of the stations and announced, “Time’s up cooks!”

Then, they began calling for the contestants to bring their dishes to the judging table one by one. The first one’s Hollandaise sauce was lumpy, much to the disappointment of the cook. The second one was fine, but there was a fingerprint with egg yolk on the plate.

Mason was next called, and he took his eggs Benedict up to the judging table. Doug and Marilyn could find no flaws, and Doug told him, “Good job,” with a big smile.

“Thank you,” Mason replied professionally and returned to his station.

Watching everyone’s judging carefully, Mason was sure he had done well and expected to be named cook of the week on the end of the third day. Working carefully on the second and third days, Mason’s confidence was building, and not surprisingly he was deemed cook of the week at the end of the first week. The cook who had to leave seemed to have little knowledge of cooking, and Mason wasn’t surprised they were the first to be eliminated.

Mason spent his weekend reviewing recipes and brushing up on cooking basics, so when he returned to the civic center the following Monday, his confidence was strong. He continued to work carefully, and his dishes were judged to be well done by Doug and Marilyn. He had noticed they could be a bit overly critical and opinionated, probably due to their fame and fortune he presumed. Mason knew it couldn’t be their chef skills that took them to that level in the foodie world, it must be that they were connected to the right people. He knew he would be a major icon in the cooking world, but it would be because of his skills, not rubbing elbows with the right people in the industry.

He sighed when he thought how Bryce had missed his chance over a mistake that was harshly judged by Doug and Marilyn just a year ago in the very room Mason was competing now. One day I’ll judge you, and then you’ll see what your mistakes are, he thought ruefully, recalling his outrage when Bryce had told him about being eliminated. How could they throw away such great talent over a misplaced sugar shaker, Mason wondered?

Upon completing his chef’s entree on the last competition day of the second week, Mason was thinking, it’ll feel good to be the cook of the week for the second time. When they called him up to the judging table, Mason proudly presented them with his prime rib au jus. At first, Doug and Marilyn were very approving of his elegant dish, but then, very surprisingly, Doug added, “The plating is a bit lacking,” which he said with somewhat of a frown.

Mason restrained himself from saying you obviously don’t know who I am, but instead gave a brief nod of acknowledgment and returned to his station with his flawless dish as far as he was concerned. You’ll regret saying that when you name me cook of the week, he thought with great resentment.

The next contestant was called up, and his entrée consisted of bacon-wrapped smoked salmon with butter sauce.

Marilyn commented with a smile, “You went the extra mile and sprinkled your bacon with sugar to make it crunchy.” Then she quipped, “It’s not baking soda, is it?” and Doug and everyone else in the room laughed as they remembered Bryce’s mistake all the way from a year ago.

Doug went on to say, “What was his name, Bruce?”

Mason took a deep breath, turned his head to the side and glared at the floor. At least have the decency to get his name right; what’s so funny about a simple mistake, he fumed silently.

Presently, Doug and Marilyn were ready to declare cook of the week and who was eliminated. Mason thought, even though they’re mostly actors, they can still see who the best cook here is, and he wiped his hands on a kitchen towel in preparation of accepting his small certificate, but shockingly, Doug called another contestant’s name. Stunned, Mason barely concealed his anger at their arbitrary choice, but immediately gave a smile and applauded the cook they had called. My day’s coming very soon, and I’ll show them what a cook can really do, he thought.

After making his preparations for the third week of competition, Mason arrived at the civic center, determined to show Doug and Marilyn how wrong they had been and what horrible people they were. He shook his head in silence as he thought to himself, stupidity at its worst! Eliminating Bryce when they could have overlooked it! Criticizing my plating! Not naming me cook of the week! I’ll make a dish that will put them in their place today!

Mason took his place at his station with new determination and drive. Today I win, he thought. Doug announced the skill challenge, and Mason couldn’t believe what he had heard.

“Today’s skill challenge will be popovers! It can be sweet or savory, but it must have a very flaky crust of your own creation,” Doug said.

The same dish they ruined Bryce with! I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to show them up with, Mason rejoiced. He then set about making the puff pastry with many layers for flakiness. He chose a savory filling similar to roast beef with vegetables for maximum flavor. When his popover was beautiful and browned, he removed it from the oven and plated it with a garnish of a cherry tomato and parsley sprigs.

He could barely wait for his name to be called, and when it was, he confidently strode to the judging table and carefully set down his plate, smiling proudly at Doug and Marilyn. With their celebrity smiles gleaming, they mentioned the good flakiness and good plating. Then, they both cut into the popover with their forks and commented on the audible crunch of the pastry.

“So far, so good,” said Doug, “but, how does it taste?”

He and Marilyn both took bites of pastry and filling, and Doug said to Mason, “Wonderful flavor,” to which Marilyn agreed with a nod. “Good job,” Doug added with a big smile.

“Thank you,” Mason told them with a sly grin, and then picked up his plate and began walking slowly back to his station. He took his place behind his station.

Doug called up the next contestant and gave a small cough, and then another large cough, suddenly grasping his throat.

Marilyn cried quickly, “Are you choking?” and then clutched her own throat. Doug collapsed across the table and slid off onto the floor, no longer coughing. Marilyn was making a choking noise and fell to the floor just as quickly as Doug had. Everyone in the room was shocked, and many people ran to them, trying to help as best they could, Doug and Marilyn now limp on the floor.

One of the cameramen yelled, “He’s not breathing!”, and then yelled even louder, “Marilyn’s not breathing either!” Shouts to call 911 and to start CPR rang through the room.

Everyone there had gathered around the now cyanotic judges, except for Mason who, ignoring the chaos, was calmly placing the leftover popover into a plastic bag and sealing it up. Holding the bag, he walked out of the room and exited the building to the parking lot. He reached his car, unlocked it and got in, tossing the bag onto the passenger seat.

Smiling a contented smile, he remembered how this whole scenario had come to be and how he had made a sad story end rather well. He gave a little sigh when he remembered how Bryce had come home and, in a defeated voice, had told him he had been eliminated from the competition. Mason’s heart went out to his partner of three years who was standing before him in despair.

Though Mason and many of their friends encouraged Bryce not to give up on cooking, he became profoundly depressed and fell deeper into misery. Sadly, his major setback became a tragedy as Mason came home one day to find a note Bryce left on the kitchen table that said only, ‘I’m sorry.’

Desperately needing a release from the overwhelming grief of losing the love of his life to suicide, Mason planned the scenario that would avenge his beloved Bryce.

He first planned to enter the Southeastern Georgia Chefs competition and win, and donate the $10,000 in Bryce’s name to a suicide prevention group. Then, when Doug and Marilyn made stupid jokes about Bryce’s mistake, he knew what he had to do. He called his friend in Atlanta who worked at the Atlanta Fugu Dinner Club, a posh Asian restaurant where they served fugu: puffer fish, which requires months of training to be able to prepare the extremely poisonous fish safely. With the ruse of extending his culinary skills into the preparation of fugu, he persuaded his friend to give him a tour of the restaurant kitchen. When he saw his chance, he hid a puffer fish liver (having the highest concentration of tetrodotoxin) in a freezer bag in his jacket pocket.

Returning home to Savannah, he decided to bide his time for just the right opportunity to teach Doug and Marilyn a lesson. The opportune time had presented itself that very day with the icing on the cake being the same challenge Bryce had been eliminated from. Mason cooked the beef filling and, as the last step, mixed the diced raw puffer fish liver into the mixture, preserving the full strength of the tetrodotoxin, making for rapid paralysis of the respiratory system.

Mason smiled fondly as he thought, I did it, Bryce. I beat them at their own game. Now, they’re the ones eliminated. Hearing sirens in the distance, he drove away, awarding himself cook of the week.


…And A Bottle of Rum


Steve was running through his phone as his wife, Juanita, finished her brunch of grilled chicken sliders. Stopping for brunch was a welcome break for them as their drive from Asheville to Hilton Head had already taken four hours. This was their first long weekend in several months, and the mid-60’s couple decided to go somewhere they had never gone before; Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

Traveling through the South was enjoyable to them as they had recently retired to Asheville, North Carolina, from Buffalo. The couple had retired from their jobs in Buffalo, moved to Asheville and started new careers as free-lance writers. Juanita was working on a book of suspense short stories and wanted to do some research in a southern town, and Hilton Head was perfect as it was an area rich in folklore and history. Steve was writing a fictional novel based in the area, so they decided to make it a fact-finding trip as well as a pleasure trip.

Finishing the last of her brunch, Juanita said, “You ready?” and Steve nodded as he continued scrolling.

Looking up with a smile, he told Juanita, “Let’s go to Hilton Head.” Sliding out of their booth, Steve paid the bill, and they left in their car, headed south.

The couple had been married almost 30 years and had planned their retirement for years. Retiring to Asheville was a welcome change from the bustle of Buffalo. The pace was slower and the lifestyle more relaxed, just the thing they needed for their new career as authors. They had both written things before, but never in earnest as they didn’t have the time, both working 40-hour work weeks and raising three children. Now, they had the financial stability and the time to enjoy their new life.

Steve’s novel was about a national emergency of sorts set in the Hilton Head area, and he wanted his first published novel to be as accurate as possible. Juanita had decided to write a collection of short stories, mostly suspense and some horror, set in the South around Charleston, Hilton Head, and Savannah. This would also be her first publication.

After arriving at their hotel, they went to the nearest coffee shop and caffeined up for the afternoon. The plan was to explore the area, soak in the atmosphere and have dinner at a famous restaurant called Bottle ‘O Rum where they had reservations. The next day was left open for museums, sight-seeing or tours. Steve and Juanita had learned later in life to make time to rest and pace themselves to enjoy their surroundings.

With brochures from the hotel in hand, Steve began driving on the main roads while Juanita reviewed places they could see that afternoon. Soon, they saw a pirate-themed museum and pulled in. They had a brochure on it that described it as an authentic pub from the 18th century where pirates stayed while in port.

They walked in and found the place to be an interactive museum. Steve paid the admission, and they made their way through the heavily decorated building. There were boxes made to look like cargo crates that opened with handles made of rope, revealing artifacts and paragraphs of history. They were informative if nothing else. Further in, there were glass cases of pirate ship displays, broken pottery and bottles, and hardware from the ships. Hanging from the ceiling were actual pieces of ships. Then they found a large, long room with ship figureheads displayed on both sides of the walls. They were mostly of women, but some were of dolphins and fish. They admired the intricate painting on the figureheads. This wasn’t just a tourist trap; there was some actual local history displayed here.

Steve and Juanita came to a video that played on a big screen TV, and they sat down on wooden benches to watch it. The video was about ten minutes long and gave the history of pirates and the port of Hilton Head. It described a pirate named Harris Glasden who actually had a hook replacing his left hand, and who frequented the Hilton Head port. A painting of him displayed prominently on the wall in a hand-carved antique frame showed him to be a distinguished-looking man in his 60’s, at least for a pirate, dressed in a work jacket, blousy trousers, and boots, the usual dress for a pirate. His hair was gray and thin but combed neatly. A paragraph below the portrait explained that he lost his hand in an accident with the rigging on a ship and had had the hook since his early 20’s. He obviously was the local pirate celebrity.

Not unexpectedly, the self-guided tour ended in a gift shop with pirate-themed trinkets and shot glasses and such. There were also some interesting-looking books about the area and some cookbooks.

They were just about to leave before they wasted any money when the clerk behind the counter called out, “So what didja think?”

Steve replied, “It was interesting, very nice.” Juanita smiled pleasantly. They were just about to walk out the door when the clerk continued talking.

“This is one of the more authentic museums around the island, with artifacts and things. There’s lots of tourist traps, too, but they’re not worth foolin’ with.”

Thinking the man was bored and wanted to talk, they eased back in and walked over to the counter. He was at least in his 60’s with gray hair and glasses.

“Do you get much tourism through here?” Juanita asked.

“More so on the weekends and lots of tourists in the summer,” he replied. “Hilton Head is mostly about retirement and golf,” he added with a laugh. “Rich people like to retire here and play golf.”

“We’re here trying to get an idea of the island and the area. We’re free-lance writers,” Steve said.

“And I’m writing a book of short stories set in this area,” Juanita added.

“Oh, okay,” the man answered. “I’m Bill,” he said and smiled.

“I’m Steve and this is Juanita,” Steve replied.

“What kind of short stories?” Bill asked Juanita.

“Suspense and horror. They’re all set in this area; Charleston, Savannah, Hilton Head,” she said.

Bill looked at Steve and said, “And you’re writing short stories, too?”

“No, it’s an apocalyptic-type thing with people struggling to survive. It’s a novel.”

Bill looked again at Juanita. “Suspense and horror…there’s a bit of that around here you might want to check into.” He pointed toward the Glasden portrait and said, “That’s the man you want to hear about. You read the plaque below the painting, right? Well, he’s kind of an urban legend here on top of being a local pirate.”

“Oh, really?” Juanita said, her interest peaked. Urban legends were good places to start a suspense story with.

“Yeah, Mr. Glasden has that hook, ya know. That’s real, but years and years ago a story started around here about how he killed a man with his hook over a bottle of spirits stolen from him,” Bill finished with a laugh.

“Oh, is it true do you think?” asked Steve.

There’s been stories about his history, but not all of them mention the hook murder. And some books say there was no murder, just a fight. But, course, ‘round here that story has gotten bigger and more dramatic with the years. Brings in tourism. But anyway, I think there was at least a fight, and that’s how the hook murder story started.”

“That’s good information for a horror story,” Juanita said smiling.

“Oh, well, there’s more you should go see. Down Hilton Head Boulevard out here,” Bill said pointing toward the door, “go about five miles and there’s the Bottle ‘O Rum. It’s a restaurant that was an actual inn for pirates. It’s on the water.”

“Oh, we have a reservation there tonight at 6:00,” Steve said.

“Well good, you can see for yourself. It’s mostly the original building ‘cept for repairs, but pirates would stop in there when they were in port, and it was a restaurant, pub, and hotel for ‘em.”

Steve and Juanita leaned in, excited to hear about all this local history. Juanita was hoping the murder actually happened so she could spin a yarn for her book.

“The hotel rooms are banquet rooms now upstairs, but downstairs is the regular restaurant and bar. It’s a little pricey, but the food is good and there’s a lot to look at. You can roam around and look at the building, and there’s Harris Glasden memorabilia in there. Course, they play up his urban legend for the tourist crowd. They’ve got what they claim is one of his actual bottles of liquor, maybe rum, who knows, but it’s sealed up, and it’s in a glass cabinet so you can see it.”

Steve and Juanita looked at each other in delight as Bill continued.

“There’s lots of other pirate stuff, and most of the floor and walls are authentic. It’s definitely got atmosphere. But you can walk around and see all the pirate displays just like you can here. There’s touristy stuff on the tables like skulls with candles, but that ain’t nothin,” he said with a chuckle. “You can buy those here.”

“Well thanks, Bill, for the info and the conversation,” Steve said with a smile. “We’ll check out the place later on tonight.”

“Sure. Y’all have a good weekend,” Bill replied.

After driving away, Juanita exclaimed, “I can’t wait to go tonight. I feel a story brewing.”

Steve laughed and said, “One of your murder mysteries, right?”

“I don’t think it’s a mystery, I think he did it, killed somebody.”

“That would be a better story,” Steve said, amused with Juanita’s enthusiasm.

Juanita thumbed through the brochures and found an attraction on Hilton Head Boulevard. “Here’s one called Spirits of Hilton Head. It’s on this street.”

Steve glanced at the brochure and said, “We’re not far, let’s check that out.”

Shortly, they parked at another museum-type place and went in. This one’s atmosphere was similar to Bill’s place, but there were actual actors in this one. Men dressed as pirates complete with oversize military-type jackets, swords, swooping hats, and eye patches were walking through the place. One had a live parrot on his shoulder. Every pirate they came to offered to have their picture made with them, but they declined, content to just browse. They found this place to be much more touristy with plates, salt and peppers, shot glasses and pirate toys for kids like plastic swords and eye patches. The whole place was a gift shop at best.

On their way out, they saw a poster on an easel of the Bottle ‘O Rum. Stopping to look at it, they saw it was featuring the “actual” bottle of rum belonging to Glasden.

“Oh, look,” said Juanita pointing at the bottle on the poster. “We’ll have to see that while we’re there.”

A young female employee wearing a pirate’s hat and a plastic sword on her side approached them and said, “Aargh mateys. Have you found everything you were lookin’ for?”

Steve said, “Yes, thank you,” smiling at her pirate talk.

“The Bottle ‘O Rum is a port ya don’t wanna miss. It’s an authentic pirate’s inn with good grub and is also a museum.”

“Yes, we know,” Steve said. “We have a reservation for tonight. By the way, is the bottle of his real?”

She replied in her pirate’s character, “Aye mateys, it’s one of Glasden’s own stock, but be warned, don’t take it lest he hook you with his hook,” and she made a gesture with her hand curled like a hook.

Chuckling, Steve and Juanita left and drove away. They ducked into a coffee shop for more caffeine, deciding to go straight to the Bottle ‘O Rum without going to their room.

Munching on a piece of biscotti, Juanita said, “I’d love to have met Harris Glasden, just to see what kind of man he was. I always like to make my characters authentic.”

“What would you say to a pirate?” Steve said, sipping on his latte.

Juanita giggled and answered, “I’d have a drink with him and ask him about his life on the ship, things like that.” Then, she quickly remarked, “and I’d ask about his hook and how he really got it, and if he really killed a man with it.”

Steve began cruising Google for Harris Glasden and found nothing they didn’t already know except that he had been married. There was a page for the Bottle ‘O Rum with the same image as the poster they had seen. “Nothing new,” he said.

After finishing their drinks, Steve and Juanita drove a bit further down the boulevard and found the Bottle ‘O Rum building. It was near the shore and was definitely old-looking with dark wood and a heavy wooden front door. Six-foot-tall wooden painted pirate characters stood outside the two-story building, guiding them in.

When they walked in, there was a small entry room where a hostess checked their reservations. She had on the usual pirate costume. The walls were rugged and worn wood, most of which looked original. The floor was constructed of weathered boards. The hostess took them down a short hallway which opened out into the bar area. It was a two-story room with the second-floor banquet rooms and hallway visible. Large foreign flags were draped across the bottom of the second-floor overhang. A long bar with dozens of liquor bottles was on one side of the room, and the bartenders were wearing pirate outfits. Rows and rows of skull and pirate face mugs lined the back of the bar. The atmosphere was definitely maritime and pirate-like with epic-sounding pirate music playing throughout.

A few people sat at the bar drinking from pirate mugs and other glasses. Some people sat at four-seater wooden tables with lanterns with lit candles in the center, sipping on drinks. The aroma of steak and seafood wafted in from the dining rooms.

Smiling, the hostess said they would be called when their table was ready; it was a little early. They walked up to the bar and looked at the drink menu, and each ordered a rum drink; one was named the Harris Glasden, and they both were in skull mugs.

Steve and Juanita took their drinks and wandered through the old inn, admiring the elaborate décor. They could see the entrances to numerous dining rooms, all intricately decorated. Some had rustic-looking fireplaces. Making their way back toward the bar, they saw a display in a corner with the Glasden poster they had already seen.

There was a large red arrow beside the poster pointing to a lit-up glass case sitting on an antique-looking wooden stand. Inside, positioned on a piece of red felt, was a brown bottle resembling a large bottle of beer with a cork in the top, sealed with wax. The tan-colored label was barely legible and heavily faded. The metal plaque at the bottom read, “Actual bottle of spirits belonging to Harris Glasden.”

Next to the glass case was a poster describing the urban legend of Glasden’s murdering the man who stole his rum in gothic script. Next to the poster, there was also a tall glass case lit from the top housing a life-size mannequin of Glasden which was dressed in a weathered red shirt, black pants, and worn work boots. On the left arm was attached an antique-appearing hook held up in a threatening manner, looking very authentic.

There was also a metal plaque at the bottom that read, “Actual clothes and hook belonging to Harris Glasden.” After a few people had finished looking at the display and walked away, Steve and Juanita walked up to it and examined it all closely. Steve thought even if it was all fake, it was a convincing display.

More people had come in through the bar and were ordering drinks. A group of two men and two women came in, and Steve noticed immediately one of the men appeared to be intoxicated. Both men in the group were dressed in tee shirts and faded jeans with long stringy hair. The women had on tight, low-cut tee shirts and tight leggings. The whole group was a motley crew. The drunk man was obnoxious and increasingly loud, the woman beside him telling him to quiet down, which only made him laugh louder. Some people seated at the bar turned to look. He was staggering a bit. The other man with him also seemed to be drunk, just not quite as loud.

They went to the bar and the drunk man immediately called out, “Where’s this Glasden dude?”

The bartender politely asked if she could get them anything. After they got their drinks, the foursome sat at a table in the bar, the obnoxious one not as loud, but still drawing attention. A man in a dark suit emerged from a door behind the bar, appearing to be a manager, and observed the group for a moment or two.

Steve whispered to Juanita, “We may have some trouble.”

The drunk man’s date continued to shush him, and she was getting louder by the minute. The couple with them were laughing noisily. People continued to turn and look.

Suddenly, the man slammed his pirate mug down on the table, sloshing his drink all around, and shouted, “Where’s Glasden!”

His three friends giggled crazily and weren’t concerned about his outburst. He stood up unsteadily and pointed toward the display across the room.

“I see him!” he shouted, scrambling around the table to the uproarious delight of his friends and walking quickly to the display cases.

Steve took Juanita by the arm and led her away. The man in the suit stepped into the bar and strode through it followed by what appeared to be a bouncer, a muscular man in a black shirt and black pants.

They approached the intoxicated man who was standing at the Glasden display, tottering on his feet. The man in his group rose from the table and began to walk toward him.

With everyone in the bar looking at the confrontation, the bouncer said, “Hey dude. You’re a little loud. How ‘bout you come with me?”

The drunk man turned with an angry look on his face and said, “I got a reservation. I’m eatin’ here tonight.”

His friend had stepped up to him and, eyeing the bouncer carefully, said quietly, “Let’s go somewheres else, c’mon man.”

Pointing toward the case with the bottle, the drunk shouted, “Is zat really his bottle ‘a rum!”

The manager said quietly, “Yes, it is. Now, could you leave with your friends, please.”

“Leave?!” he shouted in a slur, obviously irritated, at which point the bouncer took him by the arm and began leading him out with the manager walking behind him. The drunk was muttering continuously. The drunk’s friend was saying, “I told you man, now we gotta go.”

When they reached their table, the friend told the women, “We’re goin’”, and they flashed dirty looks to the manager, but got up and followed them out.

One of the women gulped her drink and set it down hard on the table. All the customers were looking at the scene with the drunk man complaining and slurring. Presently, the bouncer and the manager walked back in, pleasantly smiling. The manager said to everyone, “We’re sorry. It’s over. Please enjoy your evening.”

Steve heard their name called, and they walked into the dining room to be seated. They were just about to sit in their booth when the loud noise of a table being overturned and hitting the floor with a crash startled all the guests, and everyone turned to look. The sound of shocked ooh’s could be heard.

Steve and Juanita went to the entrance of the dining room to see what was happening. The inebriated man was back and had evidently turned a table over in the bar. Staggering up to the Glasden display, he grabbed the case with the bottle and violently flung it to the wooden floor where it shattered into a thousand pieces, and the bottle came rolling out across the floor.

He clumsily bent over and picked it up, shouting, “I got his bottle!” As he held up the bottle for all to see, unsteady on his feet, the bouncer and manager and a waiter ran through the bar right toward him.

Before they could reach him, the man suddenly staggered several feet backward as if someone had punched him hard in the gut, sending him crashing into the case with the mannequin. The sound of glass breaking rang out and a few women screamed. Juanita grasped Steven’s arm in fear.

The bouncer reached the case first, followed by the manager and waiter. The case was shattered and glass littered the floor. The drunk man was lying in what was left of the case, his legs hanging out. Most of the wooden frame was broken and hanging. Steve couldn’t see clearly, but it appeared the mannequin was broken and the upper part of it was sitting on top of the man’s head.

The bouncer shouted, “Oh God, look!” and the manager backed up, his face with a look of horror.

The mannequin’s arm had fallen when the drunk crashed into it, sending the hook plunging deep into his throat through his windpipe. The drunk was gasping for breath and choking on blood, the bottle still clutched in his hand. As the bouncer and the manager tried to stop the bleeding around the hook, not daring to try to remove it, the man went limp and stopped choking, his eyes open and fixed.

People had gathered around the horrific scene, and some wailed when it was obvious he was dead.

Panicky, the bouncer cried, “I never touched him! What made him sail into it that way? Nobody was anywhere near him!”

Juanita looked over at Glasden’s poster and said wistfully, “Maybe someone was.”


As the Story Goes


Mandy arrived at Fran’s house a bit early and sat in her car trying to decide how to break the news to her friend. Yesterday, Fran’s husband, Joseph, had made the suggestion to Mandy that they have an affair. Horrified at his lack of respect for his wife, Mandy had quickly rebuffed him, and he had maddeningly responded by insinuating she had invited his advance. He left her house after she screamed at him, and she had soon after decided to tell her friend what her husband was up to. So, here she was at Fran’s house trying to come up with the right words.

This predicament was not a new one to Mandy. She had known for a long time that Joseph had fancied other women and had had several affairs, but had never made a play for her. She thought it was because she and Fran had been friends for years, but for whatever reason, Joseph had crossed the line the day before. He had called her saying he wanted to go over some details for his daughter’s wedding, of which Mandy was the wedding planner. Thinking nothing of it, she agreed, but when he arrived at her house the tone quickly turned to one of desire and secrets, leading her to lose her temper and order him out. Out of shock and anger, Mandy had confronted Joseph with her knowledge of his other affairs with numerous women they both knew. Joseph wasn’t put off in the least, calling those things water under the bridge, all the more enraging Mandy. After he left, she knew what she had to do: Tell Fran everything she knew. She had tried for a very long time to ignore Joseph’s goings on, but this time he had gone too far, actually thinking he had any business coming on to his wife’s best friend.

Mandy had come to realize Joseph’s wealth had gone to his head, making him think he could treat people whatever way he wished. Joseph was a successful entrepreneur, amassing a huge fortune and power over everyone in Lakeview City. Their daughter, Rachel, was an executive in his import/export company, and their son, William, was a doctor at Lakeview City Memorial Hospital.

Yes, Joseph Jantel led a successful, influential family. Fran had enterprises of her own, and Mandy had always admired her for her fundraising skills she used for local charities. But, Fran never let her lofty status go to her head the way Joseph had. She was always planning ways to help the citizens of Lakeview City such as feeding the homeless and organizing neighborhood watch groups.

Her latest endeavor, an alcohol/drug treatment center housed in an old downtown hotel, came from Fran’s heart. Fran had had an off-and-on problem with drinking and taking prescription pills. Poor Fran had struggled for years dealing with first one thing and then another; her overbearing mother, her father’s Alzheimer’s, Rachel’s kidnapping, and William’s malpractice suit, which thankfully turned out to be a set-up.

All this led Mandy to rethink whether she should tell Fran about Joseph’s history of infidelity, and she decided certainly she should. Better she hears it from me instead of someone who’s not her friend, Mandy surmised. No, this last move on Joseph’s part was too much to keep secret. She had kept all these secrets for too long, and now she was obligated to inform her friend of what was going on right under her nose.

Mandy also considered Fran’s less than stellar history such as William not being Joseph’s son, instead of being the product of a fling in Paris three decades ago. Fran had confided in Mandy about her indiscretion in Europe, having gone on a business trip there alone for a month, and revealed to her she was not sure if Joseph was actually William’s father. Over the years, it became obvious William looked nothing like Joseph, and a few people brought it up in conversation. There had actually been a DNA test done at Joseph’s demand, but Mandy knew that William had one of his hospital colleagues switch the samples so it would appear he was Joseph’s son, allowing William to enjoy his free ride in medical school, courtesy of his so-called father. William was actually content with not being Joseph’s son.

Rachel’s kidnapping had been an ordeal for the Jantel family, or so Mandy thought until she overheard Fran on the phone talking to Rachel when she was supposedly being held hostage. When she confronted her, Fran admitted that the kidnapping was faked to get a million dollars from Joseph which she secretly put into a trust fund for Rachel. That was still not known by Joseph.

Another sneaky situation of Fran’s doing was intentionally causing her father to have Alzheimer’s symptoms by giving him drugs in his tea. Poor Fran had done this in desperation to escape her parents’ relentless attempts at controlling her life. Without her father’s influence, her mother was less able to push her wishes on Fran, and Fran had no genuine love for her father anyway. So, with William’s help, she had obtained pills that would cause confusion, and regularly crushed them and added them to her father’s tea. Her mother was so involved with his care, she left Fran alone for the most part.

Mandy also considered the secret fact that Fran had coerced a colleague of William’s to falsify medical records, making it appear William was guilty of medical malpractice, which was a ploy to force William to continue providing the pills to cause his grandfather’s confusion. With this false blackmail, William agreed to get the pills for his mother, and Fran stopped paying his colleague to fix the records; thus, there was never a trial for malpractice.

One of Joseph’s torrid affairs had been with a businesswoman who frequented Lakeview City but never lived there longterm. Whenever she breezed through town, they would meet up. This rocked on for several months until the woman threatened to blackmail Joseph with a tape she had made of him talking about their secret relationship. Shortly after that, the woman had last been heard of traveling to Brazil and suffering an unknown fate, never returning to Lakeview City. But there was the situation where she was thought to have returned, much to Joseph’s shock; however, she turned out to be her twin sister seeking large sums of money from Joseph. Sadly, she was in a car accident and had brain damage, and was now housed in a nursing home in town, unable to communicate.

After carefully thinking about all these things that had happened over the years, Mandy knew what she had to do: Put aside everything Fran had schemed and tell her about Joseph’s appalling behavior at her house the day before. She walked up to Fran’s front door and rang the bell.

As she waited for the butler to answer the door, Mandy patted the side of her purse, feeling the .38 pistol tucked into the side pocket. Her husband had been the chief of police of Lakeview City and unfortunately had left on an undercover mission assigned to him by the governor, not yet returning. Mandy didn’t know how to contact him or when or if he would ever return. Another sad story. Mandy wondered if Joseph had anything to do with it as she had received a phone call from her husband with too much static to understand what he was saying, except she thought she heard him say ‘Joseph’ indistinctly before the call completely broke up. Thus, the gun in her purse.

Mandy heard several voices in the house and wondered who was in the house with Fran. Joseph should be at work, so Fran should be here alone, she thought.

Presently, the butler opened the door and ushered her in. Fran was in the living room just off the foyer. Mandy had always loved Fran’s mansion with its elaborately and tastefully decorated rooms and massive expensive furniture.

Fran greeted her warmly and grasped both her hands in hers. “So wonderful to see you, Mandy,” she said with a huge smile.

“Fran, I’m here because we have to talk,” Mandy began.

“Certainly, let’s sit down,” and Fran sat on the couch, spreading the skirt of her stylish dress as she did.

“Who else is here?” Mandy asked, and Fran hesitated a second and replied, “What do we need to discuss?”

“Is there anyone else here in the house?” Mandy persisted, and Fran again ignored her question, seeming a bit confused.

Then, Fran began toying with one of the throw pillows on the couch. Strangely, Mandy could see a half sheet of paper with words typed on it taped to the back of the pillow that read, ‘We need to talk about Joseph.’

That’s what I was planning to say, Mandy thought, so she said to Fran, “We need to talk about Joseph.”

“Let’s have a drink, shall we,” Fran said and rang a bell on the coffee table. The butler entered the room and Fran directed him to bring them two drinks.

Drinks this early in the day? Mandy thought, but she humored her friend and decided Fran needed a drink with what she was about to tell her. When the butler brought the drinks in short glasses on a silver tray, Fran sipped hers immediately. Mandy set hers on the coffee table.

“Fran, we’ve been friends for years, and I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but…” Mandy remembered saying those words recently, and speaking them now was like déjà vu. She continued, “Something happened with Joseph yesterday, and I want you to know about it. He came to see me to talk about Rachel’s wedding, and well, he didn’t want to talk about her wedding. He told me we should have an affair. And since you’re my best friend, I wanted you to know. I told him off and told him to leave…”

Mandy trailed off when she noticed Fran looking at her again with the same confused expression, and then Fran quickly looked toward the wall in front of them. The butler had been doing things at the bar, and now turned and also looked at the wall. Mandy decided to sip her drink, and when she did she found it tasted like tea.

To Mandy’s horror, she heard Joseph‘s voice nearby and knew he must be in the house with them. She suddenly realized Joseph and Fran had planned this. That’s why Fran hadn’t answered her when she asked if anyone was in the house. With both their secret dealings, Mandy became panicky immediately.

“Where’s Joseph!” she shouted, and quickly rose from the couch, walking quickly down the short hall toward the kitchen, thrusting her hand in her purse.

After just a few steps down the hall, the hall opened into a huge room that looked like it was under construction. There was sheetrock that was unfinished and empty door frames, but no kitchen.

Snatching her gun from her purse, she strode back into the living room to find Joseph, Fran, and their butler standing and looking at her with utter confusion. Then, two more men she vaguely recognized walked in…seemingly from an area of the wall where there was no doorway. They, too, were looking at her with a question in their face.

“Virginia, what’s goin’ on?” one of the men said.

The butler put his hand on her back and said, “Virginia, you alright?”

“Virginia?” Mandy said quietly, not knowing why they were calling her Virginia.

“Is that a gun?” Joseph asked her with surprise in his voice, and Mandy immediately pointed it toward him.

Everyone in the room gasped and back away as Mandy held the gun steadily pointed at Joseph. One of the men called out, “Get security!”

“Put the gun down, Virginia. What are you doing?” exclaimed Joseph.

Now with her emotions exploding, Mandy yelled at Joseph in a ragged voice, “I came to tell Fran what you did yesterday and about all your other affairs! She deserves to know! She hasn’t done anything nearly as bad as you have! You said you wanted to talk about Rachel’s wedding, but no, that’s not what you wanted!”

Fran said firmly, “Put the gun down, Virginia. Something’s going on with you.”

“No! He needs to pay for everything he’s done to everyone in Lakeview City,” Mandy cried.

One of the men spoke up and said to Mandy, “Do you know who I am?”

Mandy shouted, “No!”

The man said, “I’m Peter, the writer. Don’t you know you’re here on the set?

Mandy tried to think and said, “The set? What set?”

Peter replied carefully, “The set where we film Lakeview Life. All this around you, the set.”

He waved his arm around to indicate the room. Fran covered part of her face and choked back tears. Peter had a very sympathetic and heartbroken expression on his face.

Two security guards in uniform approached the set. Mandy could see that instead of a wall there were bright lights on stands, tall cameras and numerous other people watching what was happening with concerned looks on their faces. The guards stepped into the room. One of the guards spoke into the mike on his shoulder to call 911.

Joseph said with a loving smile, “Give me the gun, Virginia. It’s alright. You’re just under a lot of pressure,” and he slowly reached for her gun.

Mandy shouted, “No!,” and everyone froze, not knowing what to expect. Keeping the gun pointed at Joseph, she glared at him in hatred and yelled, “You’re gonna pay!”

“Virginia, no!” Peter cried. “Remember, I’m the writer. This is a set and these are all actors. The set of Lakeview Life. You’re an actor. You play Mandy and he plays Joseph. You’re a little confused.” Peter pointed to his chest with his hands repeatedly and said firmly, “I’m the writer. I wrote all this.”


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