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Chapter 13: The Surprise Guest

“Have you all lost your minds?” This was not happening. I was not standing my grandmother’s living room watching a purple fire burning.

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“There’s no time to explain,” Grandma said. “Just take a spot around the pentagram. We have to work quickly before the other freaks and geeks your aunts have been associating with show up.”

“How do you know about Decabra?” Mart and Myrt asked in unison.

“Because I’m your mother!” Grandma released a disgusted gasp. “How many times in your life will I have to tell you there isn’t a gosh-darned thing you two can do in this house without me finding out?” Grandma walked over to Mart and extended out her hand, waiting for Mart to place something in it.

Mart stared at Grandma’s hand with a bewildered look on her face.

“Ahem,” Grandma said, snapping her fingers.

‘What?” Mart asked.

“Don’t what me!” Grandma said. “Hand it over!”

Mart reached into her pocket, removing the box.

Grandma yanked the box out of her hand and took a spot by the pentagram.

“Mom,” Myrt began, “This isn’t going to work. There are only four of us. We need five for Decabra.”

The screeching sound of a car in the driveway redirected our attention to the front of the house. A car door slammed shut and footsteps pounded up to the door. The door bell rang.

“It’s them!” Mart screamed. “Louisa! I beg you! Run!”

“Knock it off, Martha.” Grandma walked toward the door. “You’re going to give the poor girl a heart attack. It’s just Stuart.”

“Stuart?” I asked.  Oh God, I thought. Please don’t tell me Grandma called that Stuart.

I peered around the corner and watched in sheer horror as Stuart walked into the entryway. 

“Thanks so much for calling me,” he said to Grandma. “It’s not often I get invited for breakfast.”

Grandma took his coat from him and hung it up on the antique coat rack. “It was my pleasure. And my Louisa just goes on and on about you. I couldn’t wait to meet you.”

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 She didn’t, I thought. I gasped for air, horrified at this exchange of pleasantries. On what planet have I been talking about Stuart? Aside from one uncomfortable conversation with the aunts, his name has never come up. Stuart was a nice man, but I didn’t want to date him.

Stuart saw me standing down the hall. “Morning, Louisa.” He smiled.

“Morning, Stuart,” I said. Please don’t let this poor guy get his hopes up, I prayed.

Mart and Myrt beamed when they saw him walk into the room.

“Who is this tall drink of water?” Mart asked.

“Stuart, these are my aunts, Martha and Myrtle,” I pointed toward the aunts. “This is Stuart. He works for one of the local funeral homes.”

Mart and Myrt both shook his hands.

“What funeral home do you work for?” Mart asked.

“Langston’s,” he replied.

“Langston’s?” Mart turned toward Myrt. “Weren’t we just there last month?”

“Yes.” Myrt nodded. “They handled Gerry Simon’s funeral.”

“You all did such a beautiful job,” Mart said. “Especially with his makeup. Gerry never looked better a day in his life.”

The bonfire cracked, pulling Stuart’s attention from the aunts. His happy, eager face morphed into total confusion.

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“What’s going on here?” he asked.

“Are you familiar with Wicca?” Mart asked.

“Yes.”

“That’s not what this is,” Myrt said.

“Ladies, please.” Grandma clapped her hands. “We have a lot to get done and the window of opportunity is closing,” Grandma said, hinting at the impending arrival of unwanted guests. She handed the box to Myrt.

I pulled Grandma aside. “Are you friends with him? How did you get his number?”

“From your cell phone,” Grandma said. “He calls and texts you so much I assumed he was a secret lover.”

My mouth dropped open.

“Louisa, please,” Grandma began. “We really don’t have time for this.” She pushed me into the living room.

With five people now in attendance, Grandma had us each stand at a point on the pentagram. She took Stuart’s arm, leading him to his point. “I know this has to be a bit odd,” Grandma said. “But we need a little help casting out some rodents and when we’re done, I’ll fix biscuits and gravy. You like biscuits and gravy, don’t you, Stuart?”

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“Sure.” Stuart looked uneasy as he continue to stare at the purple bonfire. “You guys aren’t going to sacrifice me or turn me into a toad or something, are you?”

“Don’t be silly.” Grandma chuckled. “We’d never do something like that before breakfast.”

Stuart look panicked.

“I’m just kidding,” Grandma said, trying to reassure him. “It’s like the girls told you, we’re not witches and nothing bad is going to happen to anyone. All you have to do is stand right here, hold our hands and say what we say.”

I reached for Stuart’s hand, and then clasped hands with Myrt. Once everyone was holding hands around the bonfire, Myrt began chanting. Whatever she was saying wasn’t in any language I understood, but with as much insight as Stuart, I repeated her words, nodding toward Stuart so he would know to follow along.

Nothing happened at first, but then the flames in the fire grew, reaching the ceiling. A roaring sound filled the room and I felt my entire body freeze in place. A gust of wind shot out from the fire, blowing my hair straight back.

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 Everyone raised their voices. 

I glanced over at the aunts. Myrt and Mart were looking at each other. Myrt nodded toward Mart. I looked down. Myrt and Mart had their hands clasped around the box. Myrt nodded toward Mart and then cast the box into the fire.

There was a blast.

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A shockwave sent us all flying. 

Everything went black.

To be continued….

 

Chapter 12: Christmas Decorations Just Got Weird

I was tired. What the aunts were saying was just too weird. It had to be a farce or I had fallen asleep somewhere and this was all a bizarre dream brought on by working nights, bad pizza, and the shame of having to move in with my grandmother.

“Louisa, seriously, you have to go. You’re not safe,” said Martha.

I rose and stretched my sore back. “I’m going. I’m going to bed. I’m not falling for it.”

“Falling for what?”

“For whatever this is. This is all a little tooo unrealistic to believe. And for whatever reason you two have been trying to get me out of the house since I got here. I’ll figure out why you don’t want me here after I’ve had some sleep.” I tried to escape the room but the aunts blocked my way.

“Louisa, you can’t run from this. You have to leave to be safe.”

“Safe from what? You two make this ‘connection’ thing sound like a world-wide orgy and how it’s a big kum-ba-yah. Now, all of a sudden, it’s ‘dangerous.’ While you get your stories straight, I need to sleep.” I pushed past them and out into the hallway. I hoped I could go the three steps across the hall to my room but I was wrong.

“Ah, there you are Louisa. I’m hoping you and the twins can come downstairs and help me put out the Christmas decorations,” Grandma said. She was standing in the middle of the hallway with her hands on her hips.

“Gah, Grandma. I just need a nap first.” I tried to move past her but she stepped into my path.

“Now Louisa. Go downstairs.” She nodded her head toward the stairs, then called passed me, “Martha, Myrtle! Downstairs! Now!”

I’d never seen Grandma so forceful and I was compelled to comply. The aunts came out of the guest room with their eyes wide. We all went down the stairs – me first, the aunts, and grandma bringing up the rear.

“What the hell?” I stopped short at the bottom of the stairs. There in the middle of the living room floor was a pentagram made from tinsel garland. In the middle of it was a small cauldron with a small fire burning in it. The fire was purple!

“What the hell?” the aunts cried out loud.

“Decabra,” grandma said. 

 

To be continued….

Chapter 11: The Ritual of Decabra (Flashback)

“Howie.”

Howard was sitting at his desk, immersed in one of his books. The Occult. Metaphysical research. Teleportation.

All of these subjects fascinated him and these books cluttered his desk. Myrtle brought her book over and sat down on his lap, breaking his concentration.

“It says here,” she continued.

Howard wrapped his arms around her waist.

“That the connection can be broken.”

“Oh.” Howard took his glasses off and pinched his nose. “How’s that.”

“By destroying the box.”

“That’s it?” Howard asked. “It’s kind of scary that something so simple could destroy the connection.”

“Not exactly.” Myrtle shook her head. She brought the book up closer to read the text. “It says here that Jānna’s connection can be broken and forever destroyed within the Faction by destruction of the box during a specific ritual.”

“What’s the ritual?”

“It’s called the Ritual of Decabra. No less than five people must be in attendance.” Myrtle squinted as she tried to read the text which was written in Latin. Translating Latin wasn’t one of her strengths but most of the time she managed. Tonight, however, was the end of a very long day and her brain wasn’t cooperating. “There’s something about forming a pentagram and a…”

Her voice trailed off as she struggled to translate. “Something about a purple fire.”

“A purple fire?” Howard asked. “How in the hell does someone make a purple fire?”

“It doesn’t say.” Myrtle sighed. “But according to this once the fire is lit, there’s a prayer of some kind that all five people have to chant. Once the prayer has been said, the box is cast into the fire.”

“And then?”

“And then,” Myrtle began, setting the book down. She wrapped her arms around Howard’s neck and took a deep breath. “The Faction’s connection is broken.”

“So what happens then?”

“I’m not sure.” Myrtle sighed. “There was something about all members suffering from a temporary fatigue and possible memory loss. But that depended on how often Jānna was used. The more often it was used, the more likely memory loss would be a result.”

“Why would anyone want to break the Faction’s connection?”

“Abuse of power, maybe.” Myrtle shrugged.

To be continued…

Chapter 10: They’re Coming

“Yeah, that’s creepy,” I said as the aunts just stared at each other – occasionally shaking or nodding their heads carrying on their own silent conversation..

“It’s not simple,” said Martha. Myrtle’s eyes glistened as if she were about to cry.

“Try me.” I sat heavily on the guest bed; the springs squeaked loudly.

Myrtle closed the door. Martha sat next to me causing the springy mattress to sag nearly dumping us onto the floor.

“What we tell you could put you in jeopardy. So, we definitely don’t want mom to know. And we don’t mean that you’ll have credit issues or that you’ll have to sleep in your car for a few nights. We mean serious danger,” Martha said.

“Uh huh. Global trouble. We mean it,” Myrtle said.

I looked from one to the other. They seemed sincere which was…. unusual. “Okaaaay…. so, what are you talking about?”

Martha pulled the phone-shaped box from her pocket. “This is a baksa. Inside are the Kernels of Knowledge. By ingesting one of these, you enter into the web of global knowledge. You can call out to a single person on the web or to a multitude.”

“You call with your mind,” Myrt chimed in. “You say, in your head, ‘namaskar, maro sathi” and think of the person you want to call. The next thing you know you are talking to them.”

“It’s not talking really,” Martha said. “You feel them. Their words are your words. Their thoughts are your thoughts. Their memories are your memories. Their feelings are your feelings.”

“Sooo, you’re driving along or in the shower and suddenly someone is, what, in you?” I asked.

“No, you have to answer the call.”

“How do you know? Does the the phone box baksa thingy ring?”

“No. It gets cold. Your surroundings get cold.”

I remembered the other morning when it was frigid inside the the house. It was cold in the house all the time. “So, I’m guessing by the refrigerator-like conditions in the house, you ladies are on call all the time.”

“Some times, yes, some of it is mom is just frugal and keeps the temperature down,” Myrtle said. “More people will be calling soon.”

“Why?” I asked.

Myrtle burst into tears. Martha took her hand and said, “Because Howard died. They’ll want to give Myrt their condolences.”

My eyes grew wide. I hadn’t made the connection, but then, I don’t know if I ever paid that much attention to Myrt’s old boyfriend Howie. Or had ever met him for that matter. “Dead Howard was your Howie?”

Myrtle burst into tears again. “It’s complicated,” she blubbered. “We knew we couldn’t be together but we never wanted to be apart. So, we joined Jānna. We could have a life together without being together. We met Joannie and Howard wanted to have a life with her too so she joined us. And so many others…”

“How often do you have to take these Kernels of Knowledge?” I asked shaking the baksa.

“At first, you take one every time you want to get on the web whether you’re being called or want to make a call. But over time, you don’t need them anymore. It just happens when you think about it.”

I felt the temperature drop and a chill ran up my spine. The aunts looked at one another, wide-eyed, and then turned to me. “We shouldn’t have told you anything. You have to leave Louisa.”

“Leave? Why?”

“They know you know. You aren’t safe here anymore. They’re coming.”

To be continued…..

Chapter 9: The Aunts (Flashback)

Howard’s death wasn’t exactly a shock. For the the last two weeks of his life, the entire faction felt his energy rapidly decline. No one in the faction felt his impending demise more than Myrtle. Even though their relationship ended over a decade earlier, their official status was always best described as “It’s Complicated.”

Howard & Myrtle

It was just after 3:00 a.m. when Myrtle startled awake, believing she heard Howard whisper, “Goodbye, my darling Myrt.”

Myrtle grabbed her chest, pulling at her nightgown, trying to give herself more air.

Martha burst into the room, flipping the light switch on. “Myrt! What is it? What’s happened?” She knelt down beside her sister’s bed.

The Beach

“Howard,” Myrtle croaked. A single tear drop clung to her eyelash. “He’s gone. It was all for nothing,” she cried. “The kernels. Janna. The faction. It was all for nothing.”

Martha sat down on the bed next to her sister, holding her in her arms. “Don’t say that,” she pleaded with her twin. “It wasn’t for nothing. Look what we’ve done. Look at all the lives we’ve saved.”

Myrtle knew her sister was right but the grief she felt was too much. She was angry at Howard for dying. She was angry at the faction for not being able to save him.

Lost to her pain, Myrtle didn’t notice the change in the air at first. It was always the same right before someone from the Faction ingested a kernel. The air became stale and bitter and the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.

Martha took Myrtle’s hands into hers.  “Myrt, do you feel it? Someone’s trying call us.”

“Tell ’em they have the wrong number.” Myrtle groaned, knowing this was the kind of phone call you could not ignore. She relented, pressing her palms into her sister’s.

They closed their eyes and chanted in unison. “Namaskar, maro sathi. Namaskar, maro sathi.”

With Jānna, the voices weren’t heard so much as they were felt.

“It’s Joanie.” Myrtle’s lips trembled as she said the name of Howard’s girlfriend out loud. “Louisa’s been there. She took the baksa.”

“Oh crap,” Martha said. “That’s all we need is that little busybody interfering with this.”

The air in the room returned to normal and the temperature rose, leaving condensation on the furniture as evidence of its change.

“Where’s our baksa?” Martha asked.

“In the attic.”

While it was still dark, the sisters ascended into the attic. The room was dark but the moonlight entering in through the window in the far back provided just enough light for their safe travel through the labyrinth of their mother’s junk.

Myrtle picked up the box and held it close to her chest. It held something very different than the kernels that were once inside. Something precious to Myrtle.

“I still remember the first time Howard and I discovered Janna and all of its glory.” She lowered her head, fighting back the tears. Wiping her eyes, she looked up at her sister. “What should we do with this?”

Martha shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know. But we can’t leave it here. And Louisa cannot know any of this. It wouldn’t be safe for her if the others found out she knew.”

To Be Continued

 

 

 

 

How to Turn Off Auto Image-Cropping on Your WordPress Website

Picking the right WordPress theme/template for your website can be overwhelming. In order to command any kind of following, the website has to accommodate your business needs as well as be user friendly and visually appealing. 

Lately, I’ve been using a lot of memes for my featured images on my personal website. The problem was that the WordPress theme was auto-cropping my featured images so that when you saw their thumbnails on my landing page, the captions were cut off.

If you look at the example above you’ll see that the text on all three images is cut off.  This does not look pretty or professional and quite frankly, it was driving me nuts.

After much Internet searching, I figured out how to go into the theme and stop it from cropping the featured image. Fair warning! This will only work for self-hosted WordPress websites. It will NOT work for the free version of WordPress.

Here is what you do:

From your WordPress dashboard, select “Appearance.”

Then select “Editor.”

Once inside of the Editor, look for Theme functions (functions.php) on the right side of the screen and select it.

Once you’re in the next screen you’re going to scroll through and look for a line that reads just like the highlighted one below.

When you find it, delete “true” and replace it with “false,” just like the example below.

Then click “Update File,” located at the bottom of the screen.  After completing these steps the thumbnail featured images that were once cut off will now look like this:

If you have any questions about this, please let me know in the comments.  Join us on Friday as we begin Chapter 9 of our fiction event. So far in our story we have a death investigator, two meddling aunts, the dark web, and something known as Jānna.

Pilcrow & Dagger is now accepting submissions for its Nov/Dec issue. The theme for this issue is “The Box.” What’s in your box? Secret love letters? Dirty pictures? A severed head? Get your short stories, essays, poems, and recipes in by October 15, 2017. 

 

Chapter 8: The Offense

“Geez Grandma, you startled me. You shouldn’t sneak up on people.”

“And you shouldn’t be eavesdropping outside Martha’s door. They may open it and catch you. Come with me.” Grandma turned and lead me to the adjacent guest room. She opened the closet door and pointed to a hole in the wall between the closets. “It used to be an old flue,” she explained. “Step up on that,” she pointed to a step stool, “and you can hear plain as day what’s going on in there. That’s how I knew what they were up to when they were children.”

I was dumbfounded and just stared at her, blinking.

“What’s the matter with you Louisa? Did you go stupid on me?”

I did what grandma said and sure enough, you could hear everything that the twin Aunts were saying in the other room. Which at the moment was nothing because they had come into the room we were in!

“What are you doing, Louisa?” Myrtle asked.

I grabbed an old blanket off the top shelf and stepped off the step ladder. “Here ya go Grandma. I think it needs laundering before putting on the bed.”

“Yes, I think you’re right, dear. I’ll go put it in the wash,” Grandma gave me a quick wink and disappeared.

There was the Parting-of-the-Aunts to let Grandma pass then they reunited to block my way. I was tired and was starting to hope they weren’t going to lay into me about my unmade bed, shoes in the living room, being unmarried, helping with Christmas decorating, or some other lame thing that could wait until I’d slept. Then I remembered that I wan’t on the defensive; they were. If I could catch them off guard….

“Soooo….. I’m hoping you can help me,” I said. They blinked.

“This is missing from the attic,” I showed them a digital picture on my phone of the phone box from the crime scene. I made sure to scroll past pictures of Mr. Simon prostrate on the bed for dramatic effect. It worked.

 

“What the hell is that?” one of them asked.

“It’s a picture of a phone-shaped box.”

“No, the other picture. Is that a dead person?!” asked the other one.

“Oh, that. Yeah, he’s dead. The phone-shaped box was at the crime scene,” I stressed the word crime. Even though it’s not a crime scene – yet? – I thought it would crack their stony personalities. “I remember seeing one just like it in the attic and now it’s gone.”

“How can we help with that?” they said in unison.

“Well, for starters, you can tell me where it is. It was there, now it’s gone and I’m beginning to think that it isn’t a coincidence that Mr. Simon died the same night the box here disappeared. Let me remind you, the box, Jānna and their experiments are all part of a death investigation. If you don’t cooperate, you and grandma could get pulled into it. You don’t want that.” I tried to sound as official as I could.

The aunts turned to each other and without saying a word they carried on an entire conversation. Some sort of twin ESP I thought. Then I began to wonder…

To be continued…….

Chapter 7: Hushed Voices

Was it really the same box or was my sleep-deprived mind playing tricks on me? And if it was the same box, how could my grandmother be connected to all of this dark web stuff? These thoughts plagued me the rest of my shift and while I was driving home.

It was just after 6 a.m. when I entered Grandma’s house through the mudroom door, escaping the bitter morning air. Sleep beckoned me, but I fought off the urge to crawl into bed. I had to find that box. I had to know for sure it was the same one.  The question remained: What would I do if it was the same box?

I took my boots off and crept through the house, careful not to make any noise. The last thing I wanted was to alert the aunts I was home. If they heard me, I’d be subjected to another inquisition.

“Any celebrities die on your shift, Louisa?”

“Why do toxicology results take so long, Louisa? On television they only take ten minutes.”

“Are you married yet, Louisa?”

I made my way inside the attic, shutting the door behind me. The maze of boxes that sat in front of me was overwhelming.

“Where was it?” I sighed, trying to remember which column of boxes was hiding the small, antique table that held Grandma’s mysterious telephone-shaped pill box.

A soft glow in the back of the attic was all it took for me to remember. The table was in the back of the attic, near a small window. I wove in and out through all the stacks of boxes until I reached the back of the attic. One small step lead up to a raised platform.

 

Vintage clothes hung across the platform on an old clothes line. A plastic tree sat underneath the line and next to it was the small, antique table I was looking for. Even from a distance, I knew something was wrong.

“What the?” When I reached the table, I saw a small, rectangular-shaped void in the middle of a thick layer of dust.

 

The box was gone. Somebody else, besides me, was in this attic in the last 24 hours. But who? Grandma’s back and knees weren’t in the best shape. I couldn’t imagine her climbing up the attic ladder.

I snuck out of the attic and back down the hall. As I passed Mart’s room, I heard hushed voices coming from inside. I stood outside the door, trying to hear what was being said.

“…..Louisa……more careful…….” Mart’s voice trailed off. I couldn’t make out the rest of what she said.

“….Mart…..” It was hard to tell but I was certain Myrt was the other voice. “….the box…..She doesn’t know anything…….Jānna….”

Jānna? Did she just say Jānna? I pressed my ear against the door with more determination than ever.

“It works better if you use a glass.”

I jumped away from the door. Grandma was standing right behind me with her arms folded across her chest.

 

(To Be Continued)

Chapter 6: To Know

I completed the necessary paperwork, in triplicate, regarding Mr. Simon’s demise. All that needed to be done was the autopsy and final report by the coroner. God knows when he’d get around to it and in the meantime, Mr. Simon was chillin’ in the refrigerator. A little work place humor. The reality was, Mr. Simon had multiple morbidities – cancer, sleep apnea, hypertension – and anyone of them could have been his undoing. The results of the autopsy would undoubtedly show natural causes, so he wasn’t high on the list of examinations to be done.

Still, there was this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Why did we not get the call until 2:15 am? If he was taking a nap before dinner and he was unresponsive when his girlfriend tried to  wake him for dinner, then what time do they have dinner? There’s a whole lot of time between, what, 7:30 pm and 2:15 am. Something for the detectives to figure out, I guess. Fortunately for me, Mr. Simon was my only call of the night so I could complete my reports and do a little digging into the phone box and candy corn pills.

 

 

My search proved futile at first. Then, I tried searching images of the phone box. There I saw the very same box. Clicking on the image lead to a website called Jānna. The company is based in Nepal and although the website was very slick and professional-looking, it was vague and lacked any substance. The last page on the website was the obligatory “Contact Us” page. I filled out the registration form, not knowing for what, and set about waiting for whatever response I’d get. Out of boredom more so than curiosity, I searched the word Jānna. It is Nepali for “to know” and in Nepali it is written  जान्न. I know I’d seen that before but couldn’t put my finger on it.

An image search of the Nepali word lead to a site which sent me into the dark web. It was all impossible and fantastic. The site claimed Jānna was experimenting with a combination of mind control, the occult, and ESP. Their pills were called Kernels of Knowledge and allowed the taker to open their minds to the knowledge of the collective, to read minds, and to be able to communicate to other takers around the world. The phone box represented the connections between thoughts and minds. The Q on the phone was because a cursive capital Q looks like a 2. Jānna, to know, 2 know, 2, Q. Now how did Grandma get hooked up with these people?

To be continued…

Chapter 5: Shaped Like Candy Corn

It was just after 3 a.m. when I pulled into the driveway. Flashing lights reflected off the siding of this single family home. Howard Simon, a 47-year-old cancer survivor, told his girlfriend he was going to take a nap. A few hours later, she came into the bedroom to wake him for dinner and found him unresponsive.

Medics arrived but were unable to resuscitate him. That’s when the sheriff’s department called me. 

I approached the deputy standing outside of the residence.

“You must be the new investigator,” he said, extending his hand.

I shook it. “Louisa Tucker. Nice to meet you.”

“Deputy Stiller and likewise.” He smiled and looked at me from head to toe. “Guess they didn’t tell you about the required uniform.”

“Huh?” Required uniform? I was wearing the black dress shirt with the office seal embroidered on the upper left side; beige cargo pants with so many pockets I often forgot where I put things; and black tactical boots. I’m not a fashionista by any definition of the term but even this uniform was outside of my taste.

“Aren’t you gals supposed to wear leather pants and high-heeled shoes at these scenes?” He snickered

I rolled my eyes at the overused reference to today’s crime scene dramas where all of the female employees dress like super models when they work.

“Listen,” I began. “It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. You’re lucky I didn’t show up wearing flannel pajamas and pink, bunny slippers.”

“Fair enough.” Deputy Stiller chuckled as he lead me into the residence through the garage. “Medics reported the victim was on his stomach when they arrived. They rolled him over onto his back to work on him.”

We walked through the kitchen, into the living room and then down a hallway.

“Where is Ms. Buckman?”

“She’s with friends next door.”

“I’ll need to speak with her when we’re done,” I said.

The master bedroom was at the end of the hallway. Howard was on the queen-sized bed. The bed was centered underneath a large window. A long dresser was along the same wall as the door. A beside table covered with various pill bottles caught my attention. I took a few photographs of the room and then made my way toward the medications.

I started looking through each of the medications when something on the floor between the table and the bed caught my attention. Reaching down, I picked it up. It was a small box shaped like an old rotary telephone. A chill crawled up my spine. I saw a box exactly like this one in Grandma’s attic. It was identical in every detail right down to the letter “Q” located in the center.

“Did Grandma know this guy?” I wondered. “What are the odds of two people owning a box just like this one?” I held the box in my hands. It was small enough to fit inside the palm of my hand. It was also heavy. The seam of the box divided it in half through the “Q.” As I held the box up to examine it, I heard something rattle inside. 

I opened the box, careful not to allow its contents to spill out. Inside were two, white pills both shaped like candy corn.

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Something about this box and its contents was familiar to me but I didn’t know why. I put the box along with the other medications in an evidence bag and left an inventory sheet on the table so Ms. Buckman would know what was removed. After examining Howard and assisting the transport team with placing him inside of the body bag, I left to interview Ms. Buckman.

In addition to cancer, Ms. Buckman told me Howard also suffered from heart disease, hypertension and sleep apnea. I wrote down the information and left Ms. Buckman my card, instructing her to call if she had any questions.

To be continued….

 

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