D.I. Fischer and The Girls

Richie gave unsmiling Detective Inspector Fischer a wink. “Not me, gov. I’m just one of the girls!”

“Alright, sweet cheeks,” Detective Inspector Fischer said, “let’s move along, move along.”

The other members of the drag club laughed and clapped as Richie approached their group. Richie gave a cat walk twirl and pose, then took a bow.

Fischer shook his head. He hated calls like these. All anyone will say in their statements is that they were just out for a night of fun, nobody was behaving any differently than any other night, nobody got into a fight, nobody saw anything, etc. etc. etc. But here was a dead guy bleeding all over the floor, his gut sliced open from sternum to groin. A very personal killing. But no one knows anything.

“OK, guys…guys…OY!” Fischer yelled. The group stopped joshing and paid attention. “So, who’s the guy on the floor.”

“Stella B. Della,” a voice said from somewhere in the group.

“His real name,” Fischer barked.

“Don’t know, pet,” another said. “Only seen ‘im a few times before.”

“Do better, guys,” Fischer admonished. The group murmured and whispered to each other but said nothing to Fischer. “C’mon! Someone probably needs to know he’s dead, right? Mum, Dad, boyfriend, someone! Who is he?!”

“I met him. I mean I talked to him. The other night.”

“Who said that?” Fischer asked

“Me.” Richie stepped out from the group. Fischer’s angry gaze unnerved him. He bobbed an awkward curtsy.

“Did he tell you his real name? His regular name?”

“Francis.” Richie replied. “But I didn’t get a last name.”

“Well, it’s a start. Thanks. And, what’s your name?”

“Richie Rich, the Personification of Perfection!” Richie started to twirl but thought better of it.

“Don’t fuck with me, kid,” Fischer snarled. “Lemme see your I.D.”

Richie reached down the front of his lamé tube top and with a mock flourish, produced a small pink, glittered pouch. He unzipped it and took out his I.D. and handed it to Fischer.

“Richard Akhil Richardson.”

“Richie Rich, The Perfect” Richie said. “I am, actually, Richie Rich, The Perfect, copper-man.”

“Akhil?” Fischer asked.

“It’s Hindi for perfect, or complete. A ruler or a king,” Richie replied. His friends oo’d, ahh’d and applauded. Richie turned and took a deep Prima Donna curtain call curtsy, then turned back to Fischer.

“My mother is Hindi. Indian,” Richie explained. “She knew I would be her only child, so, to her, I am perfect. Nevertheless, my father, being every bit the wanker that he is, wanted me to have an English Christian name. They couldn’t agree what that name ought to be, so they settled on Richard.”

Fischer shook his head again. God, how he hated calls like these.

 This week’s prompts are: If it’s too perfect; move along; one of the girls




TBP fathers dayNow that I’m back to blogging, I think I will prompt ALL THREE of my followers to post something fun, based on a prompt.


Your story/photo starts with: “You came home” and ends with “low tide under a crescent moon.”

The Death of Artemis Deco

Artemis Deco lay on the ground, her face half buried in dirt and rock. A wet warmth dripped into her exposed eye, obscuring her ability to see. She lifted her free hand and attempted to wipe clear her vision, but only managed smearing a bloody mix of mud and shards of rock across her cheek.

Artemis heard a hawk screech above her. “You don’t waste time, do you?”

A dung beetle, rolling its cargo backwards with its hind legs, crossed her limited line of sight. One of the strangest of God’s creatures, Artemis thought. She forced herself to concentrate on the beetle, knowing she must not lose consciousness.  When or where did she first see a dung beetle? On Gran and Grandpa’s ranch? At school during one of Mr. McDevitt’s science lessons? Must think. Concentrate. A television documentary? In a National Geographic?

Her mind drifted into memories of school and friends. Dances, the county rodeo, the time she won a 4-H prize at age 10 for her three lambs, tedious hours in Miss Schmidt’s English class, happy hours on her grandparents’ ranch, hunting trips with her uncles and cousin Galen. Galen. Lost, and very likely buried in Iraq. Artemis hoped she would see Galen again. To apologize. He was right, and she was wrong. There had not been anyone since.

A sharp sting shot through her ankle and foot, and as she brought her leg up to investigate, a pain exploded through her limb as though a knife had been driven through her boot. She cried out. It was beyond anything she had experienced before.

With great effort, she raised up onto her elbow. She took a deep breath and forced herself to an upright position, letting out the scream of a banshee as the pain from her wounds turned into wild running rivers, coursing up and down from head to foot and back again. Her head spun and throbbed. She felt faint and nauseous.

Artemis took another swipe at the blood still streaming down her face. “One step at a time,” she coached herself. Perhaps if she sat for just a minute and maybe regained a bit of her strength, she could attempt to stand.

The prairie stretched for miles around. Artemis spotted small purple flowers the spring had brought forth seemingly floating above the tall, swaying grass. It was calm, warm and quiet with only a hint of a breeze. She looked around for her horse, but it was nowhere to be seen.

As she stared out over the prairie, a darkness crept in from the periphery of her vision, slowly closing down her view. The last thing Artemis Deco saw before falling backward was the unending expanse of a pristine blue sky.

The prompts are: Art Deco; a knife in her boot; start with baby steps


Weddings and Funerals


Seated around the dining room table were Fred and his sister Claudette, their spouses, and Fred and Claudette’s cousins Alexander, Marianne and Scott with their spouses. The last of the funeral guests had left minutes before, and the exhausted cousins sat quietly contemplating the day’s events.  The low growl of a digitized race car and the uproar from their children playing video games in the basement den were the only sounds now filling in the house.

“Weddings and funerals,” Fred said.

“Weddings and funerals,” Alexander agreed, giving his cousin a sympathetic pat on the hand.

“More coffee? Anyone?” Claudette asked. All murmured their answers of yes please no but thanks. Claudette stood up. “I’ll start a new pot. Won’t be a minute. Jeff?” she said, turning to her husband with a please-help-me look. Her husband followed her into the kitchen and the group returned to their thoughtful repose.

Scott was the first to speak. “I didn’t get to share my favorite Uncle Ted story.”

“What story is that?” his sister Marianne asked.

“The one about the monsters, and how he would tell us they were under the bed because they were there to protect us, but only if we got into bed, turned out the light, shut the door and went to sleep.”

All the cousins chuckled. “You guys were always suckers for that one,” Claudette called out from the kitchen.

Simultaneous protests rose from the table, “Except me!” “Not Alexander!”

“I never bought it,” Alexander concluded.

“You’d argue with him, I remember,” Fred said. “I was always amazed, you standing up to him, the way you did.”

“A defense attorney in the making,” Alexander’s wife joshed.

“What was the argument, again?” Marianne asked.

Alexander said, “I told Uncle Ted that monsters are mean, vicious and out to get you, otherwise they weren’t monsters. If they were protecting us, they were guardian angels, and if they were guardian angels, they wouldn’t be hiding under the bed, they’d be flying above us in plain sight.”

“Yeah, thanks for that,” Scott scoffed. “I mean, I bought it! I couldn’t see angels overhead, so I knew, because my big brother said so, there were monsters under the bed. Never could sleep in this house.”

Marianne tilted her head back and gave it a little shake. “I never thought much about it then, but looking back, especially now, as a mother, I am in awe of how he managed, with all he had going on, how he raised you two on his own.”

All nodded. “The monster story was one among many he used to keep us in line,” Fred said.

“Of course, that’s why we spent so much time at your home, Mari” Claudette called out again. “Both houses, this and your folks’, are my homes, you know? It’ll be devastating when it comes time to sell either one.”

“Which will have to be soon, ‘Dettie,” Fred admonished his sister. “We can’t afford to keep this place up.”

Alexander said, “Yeah, so, on that note, not sure if you guys know mom and dad decided to buy into that assisted living place. They’ll be selling their house end of the year.”

“No!” Claudette called out. “Wow,” Fred replied. “Yep, true,” Scott confirmed. “Time’s come,” Marianne agreed.

Scott cleared his throat, and asked, “Fred, did you guys ever find out what happened to your mom?”

“No, never did,” Claudette replied as she and her husband returned from the kitchen with coffee. Fred nodded, then added, “Actually, I did try looking for her again. A few years ago.”

His sister stopped refilling cups and stared at him. “You didn’t say.” Her tone was unmistakably scornful.

Fred shrugged, “Because nothing came of it, and if I had said I wanted to try again, you’d have been adamant I forget about it. I didn’t want to. Still don’t.”

An abrupt, loud yell from the children in the basement, followed by peals of laughter, swept away the tension.

Fred stood up and leaned over the table. “Ya know, they have the right idea. Let’s play a game.”

Amused and slightly confused, everyone looked to one another for clarification.

“Like, what? Charades?” Marianne asked.

“God, no,” Fred said, to the relief of most. “Dad’s got all these board games…”

Fred walked into the living room and opened the built-in cupboard. On the bottom shelf were stacks of board games, a poker chip carousel, a box of dominoes, decks of cards and two leather dice cups. Fred held out the dice cups.

“Didn’t we give him these?” he asked his wife.

She nodded, “Actually, they were a regift. Do they have those dice with the extra-large dots?”

Fred poured large, bright yellow dice with large black dots onto the table. “Yep! Where’d we get these?”

Fred’s wife gave him a weary smile. “From Chris and those guys? For your Over-the-Hill 50th?”

“Let’s play Yahtzee!” Scott gleefully declared. “Uncle Ted loved Yahtzee.”

The prompts in the story are in bold. UnOfficial Online Writers Guild prompt: https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/olwg-70-just-look-at-this-place/

btw…I don’t write a story in only 25 minutes. I edit and tweak over the course of the morning, but in keeping with the guidelines, I do make an effort to get the premise and 1st draft down within 25 minutes.

Fourteen Years, Here

The prompts are bolded…

Mrs. Burien! Charlotte! I’m here! God, you make me crazy. Staring out the store window the way you do, with that look on your face.

Fourteen years. That’s so weird. And they say stuff, like, “seems like yesterday.” I say it is still today! I didn’t leave, I’m here!

OK, yeah. I left. I packed what would fit in my school backpack, stopped by the store to say goodbye to my mom and dad, and bought a bus ticket to Nashville. I’ve always wanted to see Nashville, so I thought, what the heck. I’ll go to Nashville.

The bus ride was fun. I sat next to a dad and his daughter. She was about five years old and she had a doll and she told me what she and her doll like to play. I told her I used to have a doll, too. I taught her how to do cat’s cradle and her dad let me split my bag of potato chips with her.  Her name is Casey. His name is Vegas. Charlie Vegas.

The bus made several stops, but at Gulf Port, the driver said we’d be there for an hour, so I got off, like most everyone else. Casey and Charlie Vegas went one direction and I went the other. There was a little park behind the station with a couple of picnic benches. I wandered around the park just for something to do to kill the time.

A ravine, is what I remember. A thump and then another thump, and then I fell, the sky and dirt and rocks and grass and trees, all jumbled together. I opened my eyes and saw my backpack hanging off a shrub and I thought I better get it, but I couldn’t move. Something heavy was on me and then I saw Charlie Vegas looking right at me. He was yelling to little Casey he’d be right there but he was looking right at me. I knew I was hurt and was glad Charlie Vegas was going to help me. I heard another thump.

I ran in the store when I got back, right up to my mom and threw my arms around her. She didn’t move. She didn’t even look at me! I walked over to my dad and put out my arms. I’m back, I said. I told him I was sorry. He didn’t look at me or say a thing.

They keep saying it’s been years. I don’t know what that means. It’s been a long, awful day, is all I know. It wasn’t right, me going off like that. I’ve tried apologizing and I know they are pissed with me. I get it. I’m in big trouble. But I’m here, I keep telling them, and always will be here. I’ll never leave, ever again. I’ll just keep saying it until someone finally looks at me. I’m here! I’m here!

The prompt site is here: https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/olwg-69-me-to-me-and-me-to-you-only-two-versions-of-me-with-a-little-haiku-on-the-side/

These Fourteen Years, Gone

The prompts are bolded…

It’s been fourteen years since Claire Dubois left. I’ll never forget the day. She walked in the store, a big smile on that pretty face of hers, gave her father and mother a hug and a kiss, and without a single word, walked out the door. No one’s seen or heard from her since.

Now, people going off and not coming back isn’t unheard of. ‘Round here, when times are good and they open up jobs at the plant or refinery, new people move in. Times go bad and they start laying folks off, people leave. Folks get divorced and one of them moves away. Kids go to college and don’t move back. Whatever. It goes on. But, for the most part, people from here have family that goes way, way back. Generations. All I’m sayin’ is, most folks just stay put.

That’s why, in a small town like ours, things like Claire Dubois up and running off like that and never being heard from again is something everyone talks about. Even after all these years.

See, there was nothing particular about Claire. She was the second to last of the eight Dubois kids, and except for her pretty looks, you couldn’t say anything stood out about the girl. She wasn’t brash, nor was she shy. She wasn’t a happy girl, nor was she a sad girl. Always polite, I can say that about her. And did OK in school, according to her folks. She worked weekends here at the store, as did all her siblings, at one time or the other. Played clarinet in the school band. Had a nice group of girl friends, and as far as I could see, never gave her family a moment’s concern. Made the police crazy, trying to find something, anything, about Claire that they could point to and say, aha! That’s the reason she took off.

When the police finally came around, knocking on doors asking about what folks knew about Claire, the only thing I could tell them was that time she came into the store saying her mom needed a pound of sugar. This was about, oh, two, three months before she disappeared. She walked straight back to the store room, which I thought was odd. Why didn’t she just take a bag from the shelf? But then (and this is the odd part) she came out of the store room with a box of tampons and a big bag of apples, and no sugar. Next day, when her father come to work, I told him about Claire coming in for sugar and leaving with the box of feminine hygiene product and the apples. All he said was he better check to see if she marked it off the inventory.

The closest the cops ever got to figuring out what happened to Claire was a few years later when they found out who her mystery boyfriend was at the time. The Dubois’ eldest, Leo, told the police, back when Claire left, when everyone was first trying to figure out why she left and where she’d gone, that she said something about a kid she’d recently gone out with. The boy was older, Leo remembered, and worked at the refinery, doing what Leo wasn’t sure. He said he also thought Claire said something about the boy going to night school at the community college. But Claire never mentioned the boy’s name.

Nobody else remembered Claire saying anything about a boyfriend, and none of her friends ever saw her with anyone in particular. He was just as much a mystery as why she left in the first place, or where she got to. Then, one day, a detective who’d stayed on the case all that time, learned who the boy was.

His name is Lawrence Venter, Jr. Goes by L.V. He’s one of them folks who came to work in the refinery when they was hiring, back then. He still works there, and he later married Tracy Jeffers. They got two kids now.

L.V. was fishy with the cops about how he and Claire met, probably because Tracy and Claire were friends at the time. Not close, but the girls were friendly. Claire’s childhood gal pal Angela and Tracy are cousins. Anyway, Tracy was stupefied her husband had a history with Claire. She thought she knew all the girls he dated before her.

When the cops first came around town asking about Claire, L.V. didn’t mention he’d been seeing her because she disappeared not too long after he broke it off with her. He didn’t want the cops to think he had anything to do with it, which, as it turns out, he didn’t. He was just scared they wouldn’t believe him, so he kept his mouth shut.

L.V. told the cops he and Claire had only gone out a couple of times. It was more than that, of course. See, at the time, he thought Claire was older, not a high school girl.  Apparently, she let him go on thinking that. But when she admitted she was just 17, he said he called it off. Said he drove her home then and there and never saw her again. The cops kept pushing him about how they met and about the times they went out. See, they were convinced he knew someone who might know something about where Claire gone off to. But the trail went cold there. That one detective who stayed on the case for a time was sure L.V. knew something about Claire, but with nothing more to go on, the detective told the Dubois he had to let it go.

This afternoon I found myself staring out the window of the store, thinking about that day fourteen years ago when Claire came in, kissed her folks goodbye and then just walked away. It’s an odd feeling to know you are one of the last people to see a person…I was going to say, “alive,” but who knows.

Thing is, I think Claire’s alive and well in the world somewheres. I think she just wanted to get away from all of us. And nobody can say why. Me? I like it here just fine. But folks like Claire? Well, they just got to move on down the line, I suppose. Who can say, right? Some folks just gotta move on down the line.


Dragon’s Food, Part II

Continuing with the 19 prompts I randomly chose is the 2nd installment. The prompts, taken from several previous Un-OLWG prompts, are in bold.

“ ‘Nother?” Jack asked, already knowing the answer as he dropped two more ice cubes in his wife’s glass.

“Oh, my, God. We have to talk.” Alana dragged the palm of her hand across her face and then fell against the back of the couch.

Jack handed Alana her second drink, half of which she drank down in a single gulp. He lifted her feet off the floor as he sat down next to her, placing them across his lap, and began a vigorous massage of each arch. Alana lay her head back on the couch cushion and closed her eyes.

“Thanks. That, and this,” she said raising her glass, eyes still closed, “is exactly what I need right now.”

You just go easy with that,” Jack said. “That’s my good stuff.”

Alana smiled. “Now I know for sure you love me.”

“Why? Because I look out for you?”

“No. I mean…yes, of course, you do…but no. You let me drink your good stuff with ice. Must be love.” She lifted a weary hand to his shoulder and gave him a squeeze. “I am one lucky lady.”

“Speaking of which,” Alana continued, “what have you done with our children? The house is far too quiet.”

You’re not going to believe this, but I asked Beck if she wouldn’t mind keeping Jenny occupied for a while after you got home, and she offered to take Jenny and a couple of her friends to Chucky Cheese.”

“And Dalton? Wait, our Becky? Our Becky offered to babysit? You must have let her take the car.”

“Of course. Dalton asked to go to the Tysons when he got home from school and so I asked them if it was OK if he stayed for dinner. I have to pick him up at eight.” Jack checked his watch. “Anyway, Beck’s fine. Better driver than you, as a matter of fact.”

“Our Becky?” Her head still laid back on the couch and eyes still closed, Alana handed Jack her glass. “You’re right. Too much, too fast.” She sighed. “Don’t go out tonight. Becky can pick up D.”

Jack set Alana’s drink down and sent a text to his daughter to pick up her brother on the way home.

“OK. Enough child wrangling,” Jack said. “Other than going on about how we have to talk, you haven’t actually said anything about your meeting with Ellie today.”

Alana made an exaggerated effort to sit up and open her eyes. “Have you ever been out there? To Ellie’s,” she said with deliberate embellishment. Jack’s top shelf had taken quick effect.

“The Roswell place? Sure. A few times. The Blakesons never wanted an office downtown.”

“How mob boss,” Alana mumbled. Not wanting Jack to ask what she said, she quickly continued, “But not out back. The…acres…behind the house. Mansion. Whatever. Out back, behind the…The solarium, and all those exotic plants and the overgrowth.”

“No. Driven around the estate, but, no. I haven’t seen the back.”

“Well, long story short, it’s the next chapter in Roswell agri-business. No, actually, it’s not that. I mean, it is, but it’s…” Alana waved off her digression. Needing to focus, she took a deep breath and then continued.

“The next chapter for Roswell Industries, as Mrs. Blakeson, Ellie, sees it, is pharmaceuticals. By that I mean, she wants in on big pharma. No. Wrong. That’s not quite it. Not in on it.  She wants big pharma. All of it. U.S., Europe, China, India, South America…”

Jack did not reply. He sat with his back against the couch with an oddly neutral expression on his face, his fingers continuing their otherwise furious work on Alana’s feet.

“I mean, you are kiddin’ yourself, lover, if you think you can take the smell of money, and power, and influence, and highway robbery, and all the rest of it out of the…girl…but you can’t take the girl out of the…whatever. You know what I mean.”

“Nope. Really don’t.”

Alana swung her feet back on the floor.

“Jack, honey, the woman has a plan. A world domination plan. The kind of world domination plan Roswell is supposedly no longer in the business of concocting, sort of plan. As one of her attorney’s, you are kidding yourself if you can’t, or won’t see it.

“And do you know what she wants to do with this plan, starting with this little tea hybrid with leaves that look like they have dragons on them? She is thinks she is going to single-handedly own big pharma. And she doesn’t care who she’s going to have to railroad, betray, con, steal or bring down, to get it.

“It was creepy, Jack! I spent an entire afternoon being sweet-talked by this dear old woman who seems like the best honeyed-apple-pie-baking auntie you’d ever want to know, only to slowly realize she intends to run her weirdly bucolic version of a drug cartel from her grow opp behind her grand mansion and fertilize it with the dead bodies of her rivals! She plans on succeeding by building on the company’s long held reputation as don’t-mess-with-me gangster, gun-toting bootleggers. There’s a good reason she named that plant Dragon’s Food, and it’s not because the leaves …what are you looking at?

During her rant, Alana did not notice her husband’s attention had turned to their front hallway. Alana saw two shadows backlit by the entry porch light.

“Who’s that?” Alana demanded.

Out from the darkened entry came Eleanor Blakeson and a very tall, very large, very threatening looking man wearing a shoulder holster with a gun handle protruding out from under his arm.

Jack stood slowly. “How did you get into my house,” he quietly demanded.

“I thought that was a very good speech, Alana,” Eleanor Blakeson said. She then turned to Jack. “I realized this afternoon your wife would not be easily persuaded, so I thought I would come around. So I could talk to you, both. Where are the children?”

I have absolutely NO CLUE where I am going with this story! Re-wrote/edited some of the first part after writing this next part. It’s fun to just start writing and see where the story goes, but it’s also crazy to be saddled to a runaway horse! 


Dragon’s Food

4I grabbed several Un-OLWG prompts and started to write. The full list is 18 prompts, plus one from one of tnkerr’s prompt preambles. The challenge I gave myself is to weave in all 19…eventually. The ones I used below are bolded.

Alana drove slowly up the broad gravel drive, stopping at a pair of ancient, 2-story high wrought-iron gates. Mrs. Blakeson did not mention a gated entrance, though Alana thought it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the entrance to a place like this would be gated. She got out and tried the gates but they were latched. She looked for a call box but saw none. She pulled out her cell from her pants pocket and dialed the number Mrs. Blakeson gave but only got voicemail.

She decided to drive around to the other side of the estate. Perhaps she was supposed to come to the back? The thought made her laugh. Why would anyone in this day and age expect someone of meaner circumstances to use the back entrance?

As she drove along the stone wall, Alana wondered how Eleanor Blakeson, the fifth great grandniece of Ezra Williams Chesham—the estate and family business founder—was able to not only maintain the sprawling nineteenth century Roswell Heights Estate within the city limits (though many century-plus-old mansions and manor homes still stood, the advent of the income tax forced almost all with large parcels to sell off their properties generations ago) but also maintain the company in private, family holdings. And, profitably, at that.

Ezra Chesham named his business Roswell Trading to honor his maternal grandmother who raised him. He dominated the import/export industry practically from the day he started. He began with the import of tea and export of cotton, which the company still trades in to this day, but every generation after Ezra expanded the company’s reach and prestige, making the Roswell name synonymous with all manner of international commerce, both legitimate and otherwise.

It was the reputed shady side of the company that had Alana concerned, and why she agreed to meet Mrs. Blakeson. Over the decades, other than the occasional intrepid journalist looking for a way in with a national publication, or an aspiring legal eagle vying for a job with US Attorney’s office, and Jack, of course; Amanda’s husband and one of Roswell’s top attorneys, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to acknowledge the company’s questionable dealings. Too many generations of families throughout the state depend on Roswell for their livelihood.

“Hon, honestly, don’t worry about it,” Jack assured Alana whenever she brought the subject up. “The bad old days are long gone, thanks to Blakesons. She and old man Blakeson really turned things around. They honestly wanted nothing to do with how things use to be. And Eleanor’s done a great job carrying on since Dean’s death. You’ll love meeting her.”

Still, the rumors persisted, so Alana worried. She trusted Jack, and certainly hoped he was right, but she had to see for herself what sort of person he worked for.

Alana drove past another narrow dirt drive, this one almost completely shrouded by two massive rhododendrons. She stopped, backed up and turned into it. The drive lead a short distance through an overgrown field to a brick wall surrounding the entire property. Between the exterior stone wall and the interior brick wall, the field seemed like some sort of moat.

She stopped when she reached an archway with a single wooden gate too small to drive through. Alana got out of her car and tried the gate. The gate gave way with the loud, groaning creak of long undisturbed wood, then suddenly lurched forward. Its rusted metal hinges screeched to a halt, forcing the gate to forcibly reverse backward, trapping Alana against the brick wall. She gave the gate a gentle push, but only the very top corner above her head yielded against the pressure.

“Hello?” Alana called out. “Hello? Mrs. Blakeson?”

Alana waited for a reply, regardless knowing none would come. She decided to risk squeezing through. Fortunately, the gate did not further collapse. Damaging property was not the first impression she wanted to make.

Needing a moment to get her bearings, Alana took a look around. The grounds were as heavily overgrown as the field between the street-side stone wall and interior brick wall. Ivy climbed high into the branches of enormous trees. Neglected fruit trees bent completely over to the ground with the weight of pathetically small and rotting apples, peaches and plums. Blackberry vines with morning glory snaking through covered every square inch of the interior brick wall. Grass, long since gone to seed and nearly as tall as Alana, swayed in the breeze. In various discernable places Alana glimpsed giant decorative shrubs, as well as lanky and twisted rose branches with a few small blooms, patches of ancient footpaths and the roof of a dilapidated gazebo barely visible above it all. At the head of it all stood the estate house, four stories tall, proud and oblivious of the sprawling unkempt grounds behind it, like a drum major leading a large out-of-tune and out-of-step marching band.

“Hello?” Alana called out again, as she began to pick her way through the overgrowth to what looked like the back entrance to the estate house. “Mrs. Blakeson? Hello? It’s Alana Borkowski! Hello?”

Alana came upon a small, manicured clearing. The sight of it caught her by surprise; it’s obvious careful attention a stark contrast to nature’s repossession behind her. Scattered around in various places were carefully tended plant pots of all sizes. As she looked around at the wide variety, each more exotic and unfamiliar as the next, she saw a solarium in the far reach of the garden, the sun cheerfully luminous against its clean glass panes and gleaming metal frame. Inside was someone walking back and forth. Alana walked across the clearing and opened the door.

“Mrs. Blakeson?” Alana called out.

The woman inside looked up from her work, surprised. “Oh! Hello! Goodness. How did you find your way back here? How can I help, dear?”

“I’m Alana Borkowski. Jack’s wife?” The two women shook hands. “It’s such a tremendous thing to finally meet you!” Alana said to the older woman.

“Alana? Oh, I’m afraid you’re a bit early, my dear,” Mrs. Blakeson replied.

“Early? Am I? I’m so sorry Mrs. Blakeson, I…”

“Call me Ellie, dear, please.”

“Ellie, uh… I’m so sorry! I thought we said eleven.”

“Yes. On Tuesday.”

“It is Tuesday. Uh, today is Tuesday. The 22nd, yes?”

“It is? Oh dear.” Mrs. Blakeson looked obviously confused.

“I can come back next Tuesday, if you rather,” Alana quickly offered.

“No, no, of course. It’s Tuesday, already? Goodness. No, no. Now you are here, lets dive in! Now, tell me, how’d you find me back here?”

“Well, the gate was locked, so I drove around, looking for a…”

“Oh, dear. I’m so sorry. I lost track of the days, or I would have unlocked the gate, of course. And been at home!”

“At home?”

“Not back here, I mean.”

“Of course. I’m so sorry for the confusion. Can I say, though, this is amazing,” Alana said, looking around the solarium. “I’ve never seen so many different sorts of plants in all my life.”

“Grew all from seed. Well, not every plant, of course, but most. Some came to me as seedlings. A few as young plants, but all grown by me.” Mrs. Blakeson turned to her guest. “Jack says you like to garden.”

Alana let out a scoff. “Yeah, but, not like this. I’m always too much on the run with kids and well, life, to have time for more than a couple of rose bushes and a couple of beds for annuals.”

“Well, we’ll fix that, won’t we? Come. Let me show you the tea plants. Direct descendants from the first Rosewell plantation!”

As they walked to the back of the solarium, Alana confessed to damaging the wood gate. “I will pay to have it fixed, of course.”

“So that’s how you got in, eh? That was the house staff entrance, back when rich people had things like full-time house and grounds keepers. I’m not surprised the gate is in a such a horrible state. Oh, I do apologize, dear. Don’t concern yourself. Do you know, I don’t think I’ve been out to that part of the property in years. I imagine it is horribly overgrown!”

“May I ask, why are there two exterior walls?”

“Hm? Oh, you mean the stone wall and the brick wall? Yes, well, Ezra Chesham’s grandson built the outer stone wall. The nefarious one, he was. The reason for most of Roswell’s troubles, I’m afraid, but it was the depression, I suppose. And then the war. Everyone was a bit scared of one thing or the other in those days. So much uncertainty. But we prevailed!”

Just as Alana started to ask another question, Mrs. Blakeson continued, “There! You see? That’s the Camellia sinensis, from which a vast majority of tea we buy in the store comes from. A cousin of the ornamental Camellia, but you wouldn’t want to drink from its leaves, no, no. Now, the one next to it I call Dragon’s Food. If you look closely and squint a bit, you can see a serpentine pattern on the leaf with what looks like a couple of wings. Always thought that looked like a dragon.”

Alana did as instructed. A clear dark mark wound its way from the tip of the leaf along the spine with a another perpendicular splotch near the base of the leaf that looked very much like a set of wings.

“Is this also native of Asia?” Alana asked.

“No, my dear. It only grows only here,” Mrs. Blakeson cast a long, smiling glance over the expanse of the solarium. Turning her attention back to the plant, she continued, “It’s mine. I made it. That is, I grafted a hybrid, of sorts. It’s great for pain, like my arthritis. I’m developing it for market. So far, it’s not viable, but we’ll get there. None of this is viable yet,” she continued with a sweep of her arm, “but, I tell you, this whole place is a natural pharmacy.”

(Where is their story heading, you ask? Good question.)