- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
My wife, Linda, has gone off with her group of friends for a "bonding" weekend and has given me orders to have fun and not go to work-she knows me too well. Well, here it is Saturday afternoon and I am sitting in the Police Station in Annapolis, Maryland, plowing through a series of disappearance cases for Jerry Carter of the Rehoboth, Delaware, Police Department. I don't normally work on missing person cases, since I'm assigned to Homicide, but Jerry has been getting calls about several women over the past month that have failed to show up at the beach resort area. He is at a dead-end and has asked his old Air Force buddy Chas, that's me, to give him some help from the Annapolis area. I didn't realize when he called how personally involved I was going to get.
* * *
About the same time I was talking with Jerry, Lisa Shoeman, a friend of my wife and me, stopped by the McDonald's in Cape St. Claire, Maryland, to use the ladies room and get a diet cola. She needed something to drink on her trip to Bethany Beach, Delaware, where she would be meeting "the girls." Cape St. Clair is just east of Annapolis, the state capitol of Maryland, and Lisa was making the drive to Bethany Beach for her biannual get together with her best friends. Bethany Beach is a beautiful resort area on Delaware's Atlantic Coast and Lisa was looking forward to relaxing and laughing with her long-time friends. She was running late because she had been tied up at work on a high-level financial deal that could net her company millions of dollars if everything went right-she knew it would. Now she couldn't wait to be with her best friends to relax and go shopping after such a really hard month. Lisa was really busy, but she would never give up her "bonding" weekend-the work would just have to wait. Her big meeting wasn't until Wednesday and she would have all day Tuesday to set her plan in motion-or so she thought.
While sipping on her soda, Lisa decided to call ahead to let her friends know she was running late again-not that they hadn't figured it out by now. By the time she fumbled with her cell-phone and made the connection, she was heading over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-she also stopped to pay the toll.
* * *
The Chesapeake Bay is a beautiful, expansive, body of water that early explorers thought was an ocean. The Bay is fed by the Susquehanna River, which begins at Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, New York, winds its way through Pennsylvania and Maryland, and empties into the Bay near Havre de Grace, Maryland. Sailing on the Chesapeake is one of the great joys in life-I guess that's why the Navy put it's Academy there. The drive from Lisa's office to Bethany Beach normally takes about three hours-today's trip would be much longer.
* * *
"Hello," answered Melanie on the other end of the line.
"Melanie, this is Lisa and I am on the Bay Bridge heading your way. I got tied up this morning at work longer than I thought, but I'll be there about 3:00 o'clock, so have a "Blue Moon" ready for me."
Melanie laughed because she remembered the "Blue Moons" from last summer's vacation at Nag's Head, North Carolina.
"OK, but hurry up before the outlet stores close," Melanie responded, still chuckling.
* * *
"Blue Moons" are a specialty drink that Melanie's husband, Mark, is famous for among the group of friends-or F.O.L.K.S., as we call ourselves. Last summer at a F.O.L.K.S. vacation in Nag's Head, Mark had made this delicious drink of rum, Curacao, and something else-I never have figured out all the ingredients. Lisa had over-indulged and never heard the end of it from her friends, but she really did like the way the delicious, blue drink went down. We all teased Lisa for falling asleep on our way to dinner and missing the horses running along the road. We also joked that we stopped by one of the very expensive homes that had an "Open House" and did a tour. Lisa didn't quite know what to think. She could never guess whether we were telling the truth or pulling her leg-especially when Mark teased her.
Melanie Thornton and her husband, Mark Sherman, have been married about 15 years and Linda and I enjoy their company on our travels together. Melanie is a partner with the Briggs, Bass, and Thornton law firm outside Baltimore. Melanie worked hard putting herself through law school and it was a really big deal for us when she was made partner with her firm. She is married to Mark Sherman, a real "rocket scientist" with the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) in Greenbelt, Maryland. Mark enjoys many activities in life and loves to cook. He was a cook in the Army and has a hard time cutting recipes for 500 down to a measly dozen guests. Melanie and Mark both love to travel and are scheduled for a trip to Seattle next year with Linda and me. It will be a neat trip because Mark and I are going to drive across the country by ourselves and then Linda and Melanie will fly out and meet us in Seattle. It should be a wonderful vacation for all of us, and then Linda and I will get to see our grandkids. Mark has two kids from a previous marriage, but they are grown and out of the house.
* * *
"Bonding" weekend was a time for "The F.O.L.K.S" (Friends of Linda Kirkland's Society) women to go off for a weekend in late October to celebrate Lisa's, Susan's, and Melanie's birthdays and just bond together and outlet shop. This year, there was more than usual to bond about-Lisa had just separated from her husband, Mitch, and she needed the support of her friends.
* * *
Lisa Shoeman is a financial advisor at an accounting firm in Washington, D.C. and just got a big promotion-the Z-3 was her reward to herself. She just turned 40 and decided to make some changes in her life-Mitch was one of them. Mitch is a quiet guy and works as an electronic engineer in a firm that does governments contracts. They were married for 20 years and just decided a change was needed-perhaps they got married too young. He and Lisa remain friends. Their son, David, is 19 and works as a carpenter while attending night school at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland-my Alma Mater.
* * *
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and just warm enough to have the top down on her new BMW Z-3 convertible. Lisa thought this was going to be the start of a new life and there was no better way to begin than with her friends, who were waiting for her at the "Sea Colony" resort in Bethany Beach. Her next 45 minutes was pure pleasure in her new Bimmer convertible. She had time to think about life and what she really wanted to do, without the distractions of work and other people being around. Lisa loved her new car and was enjoying the cool fall breeze flowing through her hair.
As Lisa turned left and pulled away from the light at the crossroads of Routes 50 and 404, her life was about to change forever.
Lisa continued on Route 404, toward the beaches, and was enjoying the music from her CD of "Les Miserables." Not long after she turned East on Route 16, and crossed the Delaware State Line, Lisa spotted a "Yard Sale" sign in front of a large farmhouse that set back about 200-yards from the highway. There were many large trees and bushes obscuring the house from the road and not the smartest place for a lone woman to visit strangers. However, the cutest little brunette girl, about 8-year's old, was next to the sign and waved and smiled to Lisa. Lisa could never resist yard sales and especially cute little children. While this girl was a little on the dirty side, she had an angelic face, beautiful brown eyes, and an enticing smile. Lisa would never feel the same about that smile again.
Chapter Two The Sale?
The house was a two-story farmhouse, in pretty run-down condition, and was probably not the best place to enter without knowing who or what, was there. From the highway, the old house looked like something out of a spooky, Stephen King novel. The long, dirt driveway was lined by a thick row of pine trees and unkempt grass and bushes. The clapboard house and shed at the end of the driveway were in desperate need of scraping and painting. In addition to scraping and painting, the house also could use a new front porch and screens on the windows. Why would Lisa drive onto this mysterious and haunted-looking property? What a smile can do to people's senses!
Feeling somewhat like Superwoman after her fantastic accomplishments at work, Lisa thought she was invulnerable to all acts of violence-little did she know.
* * *
After she pulled onto the long, narrow driveway leading to the house, Randy Sparks leaned out of the bushes and said, "Good job Morgan, now get back to the shed til I call ya, understand?"
"Yes daddy, but can't I go to the house first and get something to eat?" said Morgan, the cute little brunette with the enticing smile.
"Not now, youngun, we got to take care of that woman and her car first. Now get," he growled, with a voice that frightened Morgan.
Randy and the girl headed off in different directions-he following the car and Morgan heading for the shed.
* * *
"Well, welcome, welcome, welcome to our humble abode," said Vera Sparks to Lisa, as the baby blue Z3 pulled into a space between the house and the shed.
Because of the dust on the dirt driveway, Lisa never noticed Randy running behind her car and was startled when the burly, snaggle-toothed, "giant" said, "Howdy Ma'am," as Lisa turned off the ignition.
From Lisa's angle of view, looking up from the convertible, Randy Sparks did look like a "giant"-standing about 6'7" and weighing about 280 pounds.
Noticing Lisa's sudden fear, Randy said, "I'm sorry to have disturbed you Ma'am. I didn't mean no harm."
"That's okay, I just wasn't expecting you coming up behind me like that," she replied, while breathing deeply and holding her chest.
"I guess I ought to be a might more careful in the future, I don't want to scare our customers to death. Not just yet, anyway," he whispered under his breath and with a slight twinkle in his eye.
"What was that?" Lisa said.
Thinking fast, Randy stated, "Oh, I said, What a nice day."
* * *
Randy is in his late forties and has been in and out of trouble all his life. He was brought up in the same farmhouse he currently shares with his wife and six children. His father was an honest and reasonably industrious farmer, but he died when Randy was twelve and there was no ambition by Randy to continue in his father's footsteps. He was kicked out of school the next year and, being the oldest of seven children, he looked for easy ways to bring money into the house. Stealing was his game and he stole anything that was not being watched. His mother died the next year and he continued supporting the rest of his siblings by stealing, running numbers or conducting con games. Randy's life of crime put him in jail about six times-only a fraction of the punishment he deserved. His siblings left home as soon as they were old enough to be on their own-they didn't want anything to do with the black sheep of the family. He had spent many years in and out of jails and prison for robbery and violence. He had been arrested for child abuse several times, but always got off because Vera would provide him with alibis and he would get released. Like many abused children, Morgan had slipped through the cracks in the system.
* * *
As Lisa slowly exited the Bimmer, Randy said, "We got some real nice items here today and even some antiques over there in the shed."
"Yes indeedy," said Vera. "You just look around and make yourself to home and I'll get you a cup of good ol' home made cider."
Lisa replied, "Thank you very much."
* * *
Vera Sparks reminded Lisa of the Kathy Bates' character in the movie version of Stephen King's "Misery"-she didn't realize how much alike they were. She was innocent looking, but if she got upset she could be very cruel, except toward Randy whom she loved and feared. Vera is only about 39, but looks much older. She doesn't take care of herself and is not much to look at. Vera is perfect for Randy because she "stands by her man" all the time. She met Randy when she was 15 and he was 24. She thought he was so handsome and fell head-over-heels in love with him. Vera was so thrilled when he asked her to marry him, because she wanted to get away from her abusive father-little did she know how abusive Randy would become. Randy goes off to be with other women all the time and she never says anything to him. No matter how badly he abuses her, or Morgan, she provides alibis every time he gets in trouble with the police.
Lisa didn't suspect that the kindly looking woman would do anything to harm her. Of course Lisa was a very trusting person and never saw the bad in anyone. She even leaves her house and car unlocked most of the time. Maybe it wasn't so much from trusting people, but because she locked herself out so many times. She may be forgetful at times, but the "FOLKS" love her just the same.
* * *
Feeling a little more relaxed, Lisa looked around the grounds and shed and noticed many nice things that seemed sort of out of place, considering the looks of the house and surrounding areas. There were many fancy-looking dresses on a rack and a number of new looking hubcaps hanging on the side of the shed. Then she spied a table with some very shiny and twinkling jewelry-Lisa's weakness.
"My, you have some beautiful jewelry here!" Lisa mentioned to Randy.
"Yes Ma'am," he replied. "We make lots of trips to way-out places where people died and they auction off stuff. Take this brooch here, we got it off a lady, I mean her estate, a couple of weeks ago. We got it for next to nothin'," he continued, with that knowing smile.
* * *
Meanwhile, back in the house.
"Have you got that sleepin' stuff in the cider yet, Robby?" asked Vera.
"It's almost done, but I can't cook dinner and get this stuff ready all by myself," Robby said.
* * *
Robby was 16 and the youngest and brightest boy of the Sparks' brood. The couple has five boys and one girl. The boy's range in age from 20 down to 16 and the girl was a surprise eight years after the last boy. The girl is named Morgan and is a sweet child but she tends to mouth off at times, which irritates her father. This has led to many beatings and lock-ups in the closet. The other boys are Scotty, 20; John is 19; Darryl is 18; and Buddy is17. They are all cut from the same branch as their father and are always in trouble. None of them has completed school and they take pride in helping with the family business! Morgan seems to be a cut above the rest.
* * *
"Where's Morgan?" Robby whined at his mother. "Why can't she be helpin?"
"She's in the shed helpin' your brother, Scott, gettin' things ready for our next guest," she said angrily as Robby dawdled.
* * *
Vera never asked Randy what he did with the women in the shed, but she was pretty sure he was having sex with them because he hadn't had sex with her since Morgan was born. She didn't really care because he just jumped on, did his business, and jumped off. Vera knew she wasn't much to look at, but she loved him and he took care of her and if he was happy, she was happy.
* * *
"Now hurry it up, we ain't got all day," she said, as she slapped Robby on his left ear.
He mumbled something to himself, rubbed his ear, and continued to stir his brew.
* * *
Robby had gotten the mixture for the sleeping potion from a friend he met in a juvenile correction facility last year where he had been locked up for selling marijuana. He didn't know what was in the mixture, but it was potent enough to knock someone out for a few hours. That's generally all the time the family needed to dispose of the cars-the clothing, jewelry and other items they could sell at the yard sale.
* * *
"Ma! It's ready," Robby yelled to Vera, who had wandered off into the living room.
* * *
Lisa walked around the table that held several baskets and could not get over the amount of fine-quality jewelry just bunched together. She selected a few pieces that caught her eye and picked them up to examine closer. As she looked over the jewelry, she had the uneasy feeling that it may have been stolen property.
"Here's your cider Ma'am! Made fresh from some Pennsylvania apples by our son, Robby-the cook in the family," Vera exclaimed as she walked up behind Lisa.
Excerpted from The Yard Sale by Cal Kirby Copyright © 2001 by Cal Kirby. Excerpted by permission.
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