Copyright 2001 by Walter Ihlefield
CHAPTER ONE (Abridged, allowing for space.)
THE SALT WATER stung my eyes as the rubber raft headed for shore in the dark. Our weapons were at the ready, our orders were clear; neutralize the enemy before he could escape. The raft hit the beach hard, throwing us all forward onto the hard packed sand. My Motorola was away from my ear for a few seconds. I found the earpiece and inserted it. "Everyone okay?" I heard seven clicks through my earpiece. I keyed the mike again. "Spread and down. We wait for anyone who may have heard us come in."
-"What the hell kind of landing was that, L-T? I think a SEAL should drive from now on."
-The boat was backing away to wait for our return. The driver keyed the mike, "Sorry about that."
-"UDT drivers are the best in the business," I said.
-Hawk keyed the mike. "Bullshit."
-"Quiet," I demanded. "Driver, wait for us fifty out. When you get the word, come running. Hawk, stay here with Doc, Sugar Bear and Trumpet. The rest of you ladies, follow my lead."
-Hawk keyed the mike. "Roger, Banshee. Happy hunting."
-The knock on my front door brought my Yorky out of a sound sleep, waking me with his sharp, squealing bark. He brought me back to reality, back from Vietnam's Rung Sat Region of nearly thirty years ago. I was sweating. Always after the dream, I wonder if I could have done something different that night. Something that would have saved the lives of three good SEALs.
-I put my robe over my naked body and went downstairs. Dana was standing on the porch looking through the oval window of the door. Detective Dana Warren had transfered to Bridgeway from Richmond. I didn't think we needed a detective in our small town, but as time passes, I find her expertise a real time saver. We have become involved in a relationship not considered professional. In fact, we have spent a lot of time together, exploring each others dreams, beliefs and fantasies. It seemed natural for both of us. I'm forty-eight, she's forty-five. I've been on my own, more or less, since leavng the Navy and she has been alone since her husband died, twelve years ago.
-I opened the door, letting her and the warmth of the May morning into my house. She was dressed in jeans and an old, worn men's dress shirt, accenting her short, dark hair. Her piercing blue eyes were full of mischief this morning and I wondered what she was up to. She smiled, bringing the dimples in her cheeks to crisp pinpoints, and at the same time, bringing my blood close to the boiling point. It was, after all, early morning. I could be easily tempted.
-She bent forward with both hands on her knees and said in a voice she had picked for my Yorky, "Good morning, Fetch. How's the little one this morning?"
-Fetch swirled, jumped and squealed his greeting to her.
-She straighten and faced me, still using that voice. "Good morning, Mitch. Did I wake you up?"
-"Sort of." I yawned. "Why are you here so early? We don't have duty today."
-Ignoring my question, she asked, "How would you like a cup of tea?" She flipped a teabag out of her shirt pocket. "Earl Grey."
-"Sounds good. I'll go brush my teeth and get dressed."
-She put her hand on my chest and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. "Brushing you teeth is a good idea, but don't get dressed on my account."
-There was that smile again. This time tainted with just a hint of seduction.
-"I'll be down in a minute." I turned toward the stairs.
-"I'll have the tea ready for you." She turned toward the kitchen.
-When I entered the kitchen, more awake and fresh-mouthed, she handed me the tea and asked, "What's on for today?"
-"You're obviously here for a reason. What's on your mind?"
-"Why don't we work on your new house. What do you call it? A "Sherman" house?"
-I swallowed a mouthfull of hot tea, bringing tears to my eyes. "Thurman," I corrected. "Thurman Bridges built eight houses from the same blueprints when he started Bridgeway. This is the only one that doesn't have the extended basement."
-"Maybe it does. Let's go have a look." She walked quickly to the basement door. "Maybe it's been walled up for some reason."
-We went down to the basement with her leading the way. "Why such an interest in my basement?"
-"I have a theory. If you take down the paneling, I'll bet you find it."
-"Mark's '63 Super Hawk."
-"What makes you think his car is down here?"
-"Look at the facts." She counted off points on her fingers. "The Super Hawk sat in the showroom at Dooley's Studebaker until March of '66, then it disappeared. Mark owned this house at that time. This is a "Thurman" house, yet there is a wall where the extended part of the basement is supposed to be."
-"Item one," I said. "Mark would not have sold this house if his Hawk was here."
-She shook her head. "You're a cop. Who better to sell it to?"
-"I have some bad news for you. Mark didn't own this house in '66. It belonged to a man named Ian McCafferty."
-She stepped back. "What?"
-"It's in the paperwork. The title search indicates that Mark bought it from the town. It sat vacant for five years, so in accordance with Bridgeway Town Articles, ownership reverted to the town in 1971. Mark bought it in 1972."
-"Watch your language. There's a small dog in the room."
-Fetch's ears perked up as we heard a noise upstairs. He squeal-barked as he bounced up the stairs. When Dana and I got the the hallway, we saw Mrs. Johnson standing beside the hall tree. Fetch, at a mere seven inches tall, had Edna cornered.
-She was a small woman in her sixties, barely five feet tall. Her hair was always perfectly kept in a small bun and you never saw her in any condition except what she called "publically acceptable." She lived directly across the street in a large three story Victorian style home built in the late forties.
-"Good morning, Mrs. Johnson," I said as I picked up Fetch. "Have you met Detective Warren?"
-She didn't acknowledge either of us and seemed to be talking to herself. "I've seen her, you know."
-"You've seen who?"
-"Sara. Almost once a week she comes back."
-"Who is Sara?" I asked.
-She looked at me. "Sara McCafferty. The girl. The rest of them are gone, but she comes back. She and my young Henry were to be married. They had talked about it." Her face changed to one of sadness. "Henry died in Vietnam. Thursday, December 22, 1966."
-Dana gently put her hand on Edna's shoulder. "Where do you see Sara?"
-"In the attic." She pointed up. "Right up there in the front window."
-Mr. Johnson was coming up the walk. I wanted to ask more questions before he got to the door. "When was the last time you saw her?"
-"Last night. She was looking for my young Henry, I'm sure. Would you look at my attic window some nights and tell me if you see my son?"
-"How old is Sara?" Dana asked.
-"Sixteen. Just like when they left town."
-Mr. Johnson was at the door. "Edna? Are you bothering these people?"
-Edna looked at me wide-eyed and shook her head. "Don't say anything."
-I opened the screen door and extended my hand. "Good morning, Henry. Your wife was just telling me how nice a set of shears would look in my front windows." I winked at Edna.
-He put his arm around his wife's shoulder. "Come along, Dear. Let these young folks have their morning." He ushered her through the front door. "You go on back to the house. I'll be along."
-He watched her cross the street, then turned to face me. "Nice try, Mitchell." He hesitated, biting his lower lip. "She has it in her head that there is a ghost in your attic. Since Henry, Jr. died, she's been distant at times. Don't think too harshly of her, please. She's really as sharp as a tack. She just seems to obsess on the McCaffertys sometimes."
-"No harm done. I take it you haven't seen any ghosts?"
-He shook his head. "Not that I would believe it even if I did see one." He turned and followed Edna back to his house.
-I looked at Dana and pointed up. "Attic?"
-"You couldn't keep me down here now."
-She turned and went to the attic stairs. I wondered what she would do if the ghost of Sara appeared in front of us. For that matter, I wondered what I would do.