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A Senior Moment Mystery
By Carla Kulka
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Carla Kulka
All rights reserved.
Today was the fifteenth day in a row it had rained. This was enough to dampen most people's spirits. However, I always try to look at the positive side. Ask anyone, and they would tell you my favorite saying: Your day is only what you make it.
I'm Cassandra Jo Cooper — Cassie. I'd been a widow for over eleven years. I'd been married to my childhood sweetheart for almost thirty-three years when he passed away. It is not easy losing a spouse, and although life never is the same as it was, it does continue. You can either continue to think about the loss or think about the happy times and the special love the two of you shared. I was lucky enough to have many good memories.
When you least expect it, love sometimes happens more than once. Sergeant John Monroe of the local police department and I had become very close friends — maybe a little more than friends. John, who was also widowed, was six feet, two inches tall. He had beautiful salt-and-pepper hair and striking, deep, blue eyes. I was just shy of five feet tall with hazel eyes. My hair color? I'll never tell.
Both John and I were fortunate to have had wonderful first marriages. Because of this, we left our hearts open to finding love again with someone with whom we could share the rest of our lives. When we were together, life was even better. Although we hadn't actually "said the words," I had fallen in love with him, and I was sure he felt the same way about me.
My friend Margo and I had known each other for a long time. We liked getting together to shop, to have lunch, or just to talk. When we didn't get together, we checked on each other often. Margo loved teasing me about John. She says the two of us are like a couple of love struck kids and more exciting than a soap opera. After John kissed me, and I said, "Tasty," Margo nicknamed him Mr. Tasty. I did hunger for his kisses because they were so passionate.
It looked as though we were getting a little break in the early morning rain, so I thought I'd take advantage of the situation by taking a stroll up to the square. I needed the exercise and maybe even a cup of coffee. I enjoyed walking in the morning when everything was quiet, before the hustle and bustle of everyday activity would start.
It sure was peaceful. There were lights on in some of the houses, with folks probably getting ready for work or getting children up for school. I lived not too far from the center of town. The walk to the town square was probably a little over a half-mile.
There was a little coffee shop on the square called The Bean Stop. The owners were Bo and Sally Bean. With that last name, it was an appropriate shop for them to own. They were a delightful couple. When I was out walking, I liked to stop by and get their delicious flavored coffee of the day.
The Bean Stop was only one of many lovely shops surrounding the square in Martinsville, which was named for Samuel Martin, the first mayor of our town. When he passed away, the town wanted to build a wishing well in his memory.
Mayor Martin's campaign promise was to make this town a place that everyone would want to live in or visit. He promised that Martinsville would be known as one of the friendliest and most prosperous towns people had ever visited. He said these were his wishes for the town. He added that if you worked hard, wishes came true.
When I was a young child, my father built a wishing well in our backyard. I still remember it. The bottom portion was made of cement poured around different shades of beige, gray, and brown rocks. The angled roof was shingled, and under the roof hung a wooden bucket held by a rope that you could actually crank. I used to pretend to throw a penny in the wishing well and make a wish.
Every time I walked to the square, I would stop by the wishing well to throw a bright new penny in. I would then close my eyes and make a wish.
Here I was at the wishing well. Here was my penny. That was odd! Usually you could hear it hit the bottom. What did it hit? What was that at the bottom of the well? It looked like fabric. Oh my heavens — I think it's a body!
"Life is better when you fill it with good memories!"CHAPTER 2
I grabbed my cell out of my coat pocket and dialed 911. It wasn't but a few minutes before I heard sirens. Police cruisers arrived at the square. The police walked over to me as I was standing at the well.
"Good morning, Miss Cassie! Did you call about a body you think is at the bottom of the wishing well?"
By now, the police in the precinct were very much aware that John and I were very fond of each other. They were all thrilled that he had found someone to share his time with instead of spending every minute at the precinct.
"Yes I did, Officer Hudson. I threw a penny down the well, and when I didn't hear it land, I looked in the well and saw what appears to be a body."
The officer leaned forward to take a look, just as I had. "It certainly does look like a body, Miss Cassie."
"I hope we're wrong. What a terrible thing to have happen in Martinsville."
Hudson called to a couple of officers standing by. "Does someone want to grab a rope so we can get down this well?" He greeted the sergeant coming up behind me. "Good morning, Sergeant John."
"So, what have we here, Officer Hudson?" John asked.
"Miss Cassie found a body in the wishing well."
John turned to me. "Cassie, what puts you here so early in the morning — besides making wishes?"
"Since the rain has slowed down, I decided to take a little walk to get some exercise. I happened to be making a wish when I noticed something in the bottom of the well. I called because I think it's a body."
John stepped forward and took a look. "Sure does look like a body. Not a very big person, though."
People were making their way to their jobs, and a few of the inquisitive were slowing down in hopes of seeing what was happening at the Martinsville well. Officer Hudson approached with a large rope while two other officers taped off the area to stop anyone from getting near it before the police could collect evidence.
Hudson fastened the rope to the well and climbed down to see if this was really a body. It didn't take long for him to yell up that it was the body of a young girl. Another officer threw a body bag down to him, and he gently placed her body in the bag to be hoisted up and placed on a gurney.
The medical examiner, Todd Linden, opened the body bag to inspect the deceased, and he recorded his first visual of the body as the sergeant observed.
"The victim is a young, blond-haired girl, probably in her teens. There is tape on her mouth. Her legs and hands are also bound with tape. There is a bone protruding through the skin of her right lower leg — signs of a complete fracture of the fibula. The body has numerous bruises, and scrapes are imbedded with what appears to be gravel. I am estimating the time of death to be about seventy-two hours. I will know more after an autopsy is done as to the cause of death."
"Thanks for the information, Todd." John responded.
The young girl's body was placed carefully into the ambulance as onlookers watched. You could hear people asking others if they knew what happened or who the person was that they were taking away in the ambulance.
Sergeant Monroe returned his attention to Cassie.
"So for the record, Cassie, what is this wish you made?"
"Oh, just the usual wish. I wished I could spend some time with a handsome man."
"Good wish! You never know; it's been said wishes do come true."
John smiled at me with his gorgeous grin and gave a little wink because he knew I was referring to him.
"I may be by later, Cassie. I need to ask you few more questions in private to get more detailed information about this wish of yours."
I blushed when the officers looked my way after hearing John's comment, and I started making my way to The Bean Stop to get that much needed cup of coffee. As I entered the shop, the owner, Bo, asked me if I knew what was going on.
"Someone murdered a young girl and threw her body in the wishing well."
"How dreadful!" Sally Bean said as she handed me a cup of today's special brew. "Do they know who she is?"
"I don't think so. At least I don't recognize her as one of the local girls."
"What does she look like, Cassie?"
"I don't really want to say too much until they find out who she is and notify the family."
"That's probably a good idea," Bo acknowledged.
"I am sure someone will report her missing soon, if they haven't already. I hate to rush off, but I better start making my way back home before it starts raining again. Here's the money for my coffee, Sally."
"Nice seeing you, Cassie. We'll see you next time!" Sally replied.
"Both of you have a good day!"
As I left the coffee shop, I noticed John walking my direction from the center of the square. I gave him a little wave, and John waved back. The walk home was uneventful, except for the fact I had to pick up the pace a little to not get caught in sprinkles that were starting to come down. I just made it in the front door when it started to pour.
There were three messages from Margo on the answering machine. She was probably calling to see how I was doing. We hadn't been out together all week, which was kind of unusual. I thought I'd better call her before she called John and had the whole police force out looking for me.
"Margo, it's ...!"
"Cassie, are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Margo. Calm down! I just took an early morning walk while the rain stopped. It took me a little longer than expected. So how are you?"
"I'm all right, Cassie, except for being out of my mind with worry."
"I told you I'm all right."
"That's not it, Cassie. I'm worried because of my niece, Jenny. She's my sister's sixteen-year-old daughter. I have been in a state of panic since she came to visit. The day after Jenny came, she wanted me to take her to see her boyfriend. I told her I wasn't going to go against her mother's instructions. She was upset with me for not taking her and went to her room pouting. It wasn't until a couple of hours later I realized she had taken off."
"Where did she go?"
"I don't know. My sister told me Jenny is always taking off to her boyfriend's or to hang with her friends and not to worry."
"When did Jenny take off, Margo?"
"It's been three days, and neither Lynn nor I have heard anything from Jenny."
"Three days ago? What does she look like?"
"She has long, blond hair and is very petite. Do you think you might have seen her?"
"What if I come over to your house to talk with you? I would rather not talk about this over the phone."
"Cassie! What is it? Why can't you tell me on the phone?"
"I took a walk to the square this morning and stopped at the wishing well. I called 911 because there was ... there was a ..."
"There was what, Cassie?"
"There was a body of a young female girl found in the Martinsville well."
"You're scaring me, Cassie. Do you know if she had blond hair?"
"Margo, it might not be Jenny."
"Please tell me if the girl had blond hair?"
"She ... was a blonde."
Margo was silent, and the next thing I heard was a horrendous scream.
"Fill your life with people you love!"CHAPTER 3
"I need to talk to Sergeant Monroe right away. It's an emergency. Tell him it's Cassie calling!"
The dispatcher transferred my call quickly to John.
"Cassie, honey, what's going on?" John asked
"John, I'm on my way over to Margo's house. Can you meet me there?"
"I'll leave right now."
Shortly after I got to Margo's, John arrived. Margo was in tears.
"Margo, what is it?"
Margo just kept sobbing. John looked at me.
"Margo's sister sent her daughter, Jenny, here to stay with Margo for a few days. She ran off to see her boyfriend about three days ago, and neither Margo nor Lynn have heard anything from Jenny. John, Margo thinks the body that was found in the well could be her niece, Jenny Thatcher."
"Margo, there is a chance that it isn't your niece." John said.
"When I called Lynn to tell her Jenny had run off, she said Jenny has a history of leaving and not telling her or her stepfather where she is going. Sometimes she goes and hangs with her friends or her boyfriend, but she always ends up coming home."
"Maybe that is exactly what she has done, Margo," John said.
"I pray that is what really has happened. Lynn and I thought it would be good if Jenny came here to stay with me for a while. I don't want you thinking Jenny is a bad girl. She is just going through a hard age, and my sister was trying to get her away from a relationship with a nineteen-year-old guy. If that young girl's body that you found in the well is Jenny ... how will I ever be able to tell Lynn that Jenny, her only child, has been murdered?"
"Let's not worry about that right now until we see if it is Jenny. Do you think in a while you would be up to identifying the body?"
"I am so afraid it's her."
"I understand, Margo. But if it is Jenny, like you think, then I will have to see if Lynn can identify her. I'm sure Cassie would come with you for moral support."
"Of course I will, Margo."
"Thanks, Cassie. I would appreciate it if you were there with me."
"So take your time and when you feel up to it, come to the precinct, and I will take you to the morgue."
"Just give me a few minutes, and we will meet you. I appreciate you coming over to tell me."
"I just wish I was here under better circumstances."
I walked John to the door. He leaned forward and gave me a tender kiss. He put his hand on the side of my face and looked at me as though he wished he didn't have to leave me. I truly loved this wonderful man, and every minute with him was special.
I went and sat back down next to Margo as she talked to me about Jenny and the hard life she had lived in such a short time.
"Jenny's father passed away when she was eight years old. She was Daddy's little girl, and she was absolutely crazy about him. She was not happy at all about her mother remarrying. It wasn't that she didn't want her mother to marry — Jenny just didn't like her mother's choice of the man who would be her stepfather. Jenny knew from the start that her new stepfather did not take kindly to having a child 'in the way,' as he would often say."
"Did Lynn know how Hal felt about Jenny?"
"My sister loved Hal, and she was so afraid of raising Jenny alone that she rushed into the relationship, thinking he would grow to love her. That's Lynn, though — always thinking positive and how people can change. In this case, Lynn was definitely wrong about Hal. Although Hal wanted Lynn, it was apparent as time passed that he didn't want to have anything to do with raising her child. He was constantly telling Jenny to go to her room. She felt unwanted, and because of this, she kept looking for a male figure in her life that loved her and wanted her around. I guess that is why she was attracted to this nineteen-year-old man."
It was sad hearing about Jenny's hard life and what she had to endure. When Margo felt up to it, we left for the morgue at the precinct.
Once we arrived at the police station, Margo and I met John, who took us to the morgue. We were both trying to keep some hope that the remains were not those of Jenny. I held onto Margo as the medical examiner pulled back the white sheet to show us the face of the young girl lying on the slab. Margo immediately started sobbing uncontrollably.
My heart was breaking for my dear friend and her sister. This was such a terrible tragedy to the end of a young girl's life.
"It's our Jenny. I can't believe this has happened. Why did she have to run off? We just wanted her to stay with me for the summer, and then she could go back home once school started. I tried to convince Jenny that her mother was only trying to do what was best for her. She was trying to protect her from a nineteen-year-old who wasn't responsible enough to take care of himself, let alone her. Now Jenny is dead. I failed at helping her. I was supposed to take care of her and keep her safe. How terrified she must have been, all alone, fighting for her life with no one there to save her from this murderous monster. Lynn will be devastated, and that creep husband of hers will probably jump for joy now that he has Lynn to himself. He didn't want Jenny there, and who knows, maybe he was the one who murdered her."
"Margo, there is no proof Hal murdered Jenny. I know he is a terrible stepfather, but it doesn't mean he killed her. Don't accuse him, because there is no proof that he might have killed her. You do want the right person to pay for this, don't you?" Cassie replied.
Excerpted from Pleasant Dreams by Carla Kulka. Copyright © 2015 Carla Kulka. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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