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1.43 Dueling Conversations

(I make rectangular scones with bacon in the batter – when I make them.)

Fortunately Wood and Beatrice didn’t require any conversational contributions from me when we left the Ranger Station.

The Pink Lady is a Woman In White.

Beatrice (holding the maps against her chest): “How did you figure out Ranger Rick followed the Pink Lady?”

I’d mislead myself by focusing on the silliness of Sam’s story and the color pink while ignoring the deeds he’d attributed to her. 

Wood (laughed): “He reminded me of Gertrude from Hamlet.”

Merging what I knew of Women In White with Sam’s tale and my first-hand encounter a chill snaked down my spine.

Beatrice: “The Ranger doth protests too much?”

I recalled what lead me to my initial conclusion of Stalker, her extreme focus, constant shadowing, and formulaic recitation.  

Wood (smiling): “Yup, his derision seemed out of proportion for an urban legend.” 

Instead of taking her claim of injuring Mr. Grindle seriously, I’d dismissed it as a sign of her descent into madness. Something which, in the end, always engulfs Stalkers.

Beatrice (nodding): “People do tend to ridicule others for things that scare the pants off them. And the leg?”

She merely stated a fact.

Wood (counting the reasons on his hand): “Speaking from experience Bee? Anyways. The leg didn’t appear to bother him until we mentioned The Pink Lady. If you noticed his boots, they showed distinctly uneven wear – so his limp’s been around for a while. However his screen saver featured pictures of him mountain climbing – so the leg hasn’t always been a problem.” 

I hadn’t place enough importance on her ability to shift focus.

Wood (continuing on, never knowing I’d interrupted him): “Then there’s his face, it lacks any kind of color – even in November a summer tan should still linger. So what would keep a ranger from working or playing outside when the weathers nice? A cast. If it were his knee or ankle he’d still managed to get some sun, but a broken femur – he’d get out very little, so six months in a cast. It takes another six to lose a limp, his was noticeable but not sever – so I placed his injury occurring sometime last winter – when there’s plenty of fog around here…”

A Woman In White pursues power and vengeance above all else.

Beatrice (summing up): “Add the bit about Hamlet in and you guessed he broke his leg following The Pink Lady.”

Knowing what she was cleared up one troubling detail, why her cairn susurrated so strongly under my hand.

Wood (smiling): “I took a shot in the dark. I suppose it isn’t nice to use my doctor powers like that – but he called Morticia stupid, roundaboutly.” 

It also asked and answered a question I hadn’t occurred to me earlier, ‘How was she able to wander so far from her genesis point?’. 

Beatrice: “What an odious little man. But he did give me some new maps…”

She’d done exactly what Sam and his friends feared, she’d stripped the vita from all those men, to fuel her vengeance.

Wood (turning to me): “Why did you wind Ranger Rick up Morticia?”

What will happen when her revenge on Mr. Grindle is complete? The vita she’s stolen makes her too powerful to merely evanesce, it will take years for her to fade. How much havoc could she wreak in the meantime?

Wood: “Morticia!”

Me (dread settling in my bones): “Salting the cairn won’t work fast enough.”

Wood (standing stalk still studying me): “Why?”

Me (meeting his eyes): “She can probably wait out the salt until it melts away then replace the leeched vita and start the cycle all over again.” 

Beatrice just stood and watched our exchange, her forehead creased in concentration.

Wood (eyes narrowing): “You know what you need to do then?”

Me (shaking myself): “Yes.” 

Beatrice: “Umm…what are you guys talking about?”

Wood (shrugging): “Morticia wool gathers out loud sometimes – I help her focus.”

Me (laughing, feeling a touch better): “Other times he completely derails me.”

Wood (rolling his eyes at me): “So why did you wind up Ranger Rick?”

Me (trying to keep things light): “An idea sparked, and I needed to grab hold of it before it went away again. I’ll figure out a correct apology; Dear Abby must cover this situation somewhere.”

Beatrice: “Does etiquette really cover the situation when strangers are simultaneously rude to each other? Honestly? I think overall you canceled each other out.”

Me (walking down the trail again, channeling my fretting into something silly): “Muffins? Cookies? Scones. Maple bacon scones – simultaneously savory and sweet, while being ever so slightly disappointing.”

Wood: “Apology thru baked goods?”

Beatrice (dissecting my answer): “Why would a scone be disappointing?”

Me: “Because it’s not a maple bacon doughnut, of course.” 

Beatrice: “And why would you not send those instead?”

Me: “Because he was rude too.”

1.42 Ranger Lade’s Pet Peeve

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Ranger Lade did not appear to appreciate the interruption (which was a bit rich since I’d bet my eye teeth he’d been eavesdropping). With an eye roll, “Urban legend.”

Beatrice looked up from her maps, cocking her head to one side, “Pink Lady? Worried about some wild woman living in the mountains attacking you Wood? Don’t worry Phoebe and I will keep you safe.”

I laughed, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

Wood, shaking his head and smiling, agreed that we were fierce indeed when riled. He then went on and gave Beatrice the shorthand version of the Pink Lady Legend. With Ranger Lade contributing his own opinions by huffing at every feature of interest.

Deciding to poke the bear I asked the grumpiest Ranger a question, “What about the two local kids who went over the cliff? They grew up here and knew the area. You don’t think they followed her?”

Ranger Lade’s lip curled up, “No I don’t. They’d been drinking, and the weather was bad. That’s all that happened.” After answering he immediately started typing again on his computer again. But the niggling feeling I’d had when Sam told us his tall tale begun bothering me.

Ignoring his hint, I pressed a bit harder, “Do you know how her legend started?”

Trying to put me off, he answered dismissively, “She’s just a story locals tell to scare tourists.”

He seriously thought a pat explanation like that would stop me? Especially when I was so close to catching hold of the idiot idea earworm? 

“But really, did a woman ever go missing up here?” 

He endeavored to ignore me for a moment, rubbing his leg, but I moved to stand directly across the counter from him (channeling my inner Morticia Addams – no one ignored her). Realizing I wouldn’t let him off the hook he opted for condescension when finally answered. Glancing between Wood and Beatrice, trying to enlist their support, he finally responded, “No female has ever been reported missing from the Pumpkin Mountain area. The Pink Lady is just an urban legend that refuses to die. Locals use it to scare the tourists. Tourists use it to look less stupid when they get lost, ‘ It’s not our fault. We were following the woman wearing the white dress.’ They don’t even recount the story correctly. That should tell you all you need to know about its validity.” Viewing my stunned silence as confirmation of his verbal victory, he aimed a celebratory sneer at me – in his crowing he forgot about his potential recruits.

“Well, isn’t it nice that you’re here to set us straight Ranger Lade,” Beatrice replied while gathering her carefully sorted stacks into a single pile in front of her, “I’ll take these off your hands.” With the entire set of old maps in hand, she turned and marched out the door leaving the Ranger gaping in her wake.

He started to say something when Wood cut him off, “Try sitting with a heating pad on your thigh, should help the aching left over from that break.” With that sensible bit of advice Wood and I headed towards the door when Ranger Lade’s suspicious voice stopped us, “How did you know, I’d broken my leg?” A small smile played over Wood’s face, “I made an educated guess.” (I’d already walked thru the door but turned back to watch)

Ranger Lade nodded, uncertainty written on his face (since Wood’s helpful tone diametrically opposed Beatrice’s), “Thanks for the advice. I’ll try it.”

Wood nodded, “No problem. But tell me exactly how far did you follow The Pink Lady last year before you broke your leg?” 

Ranger Lade turned beet red and got the word “How” out before he shut up and channeled his inner thundercloud. 

“Never mind. You followed her just far enough.” With Wood’s parting shot hanging in the air he closed the door, and we started retracing our earlier rambling route back towards the hotel.

I was grateful they’d lept into the conversational fray since Ranger Lade’s answer had sucked the breath from my lungs. Not due to the rudeness of it, though that was breathtaking (I wasn’t exactly blameless I know), it was his actual words which caused my brain to combust.

A woman in a white dress….a Woman In White….oh god. 

1.34 Competative Hiking

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(Maple Ginger Bacon Carrots with Sesame Seeds! This was one of the great side dish from this evening! And the only one which featured a sauce!)

When I finally made the lobby, after a thrilling twilight boat ride, the front desk clerk informed me that the rest of my party had assembled in the dining room. 

They saw me first.

All together they called: “Phoebe!”

I made my way over to the large round table under a rustic chandelier, made from antlers, where everyone sat.

Me (feeling corny): “Cheers everyone!”

This met with a round of laughter, clinking of plates, silverware, and glasses. With a slight sense of deja vu, I sat down to my second family-style meal in under a week. Which featured at least one entree covered in bacon sprinkles, one platter held jamón wrapped root vegetables, and we weren’t eating off paper plates. 

The bacon almost made up for the shocking lack of sauce.

Wood (in-between bites): “According to the Rangers the best hiking weather is tomorrow. So I rented a boat. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have enough time to see Pumpkin Mountain. It’s a two and a half day hike if you’re focused.”

Beatrice (helping herself to a bowl of roasted vegetables): “Boat? My map didn’t show a landing anywhere on the trail.”

Laney (taking over for Wood, who’d just took an enormous bite of steak): “Not on the official maps, but the locals made their own version, augmented with all the tricks and trivia outsiders are unaware of. Sam told me there’s a natural landing just under the trailhead we can use.” 

Beatrice (looking very interested): “Do they sell copies of these expanded maps?”

Laney: “I don’t know. They’re lending us one for tomorrow. You can take a picture of it if nothing else.”

Beatrice excused herself from the table for a moment.

Sarah (ever efficient): “How will we know what to look for?” 

Wood: “They’ve spray-painted the landing bright orange or something. They’ll show me some pictures of what I’m looking for tomorrow, we’ll be fine.” 

Talk shifted away from the trip onto more mundane matters, Laney wondered what I thought of FLYT, and Sarah asked Wood about the boys. It wasn’t until we’d practically licked the platters clean that we noticed Beatrice hadn’t returned to the table. Just about the time, we were going to mount an expedition to find her she reappeared in the dining room doorway, waving several folded sheets of paper above her head in victory.

Beatrice (her smile wide): “I got a copy of the map!”

We all started at her blankly. 

Beatrice: “The augmented map! I got a copy!”

Me (speaking for the group – hesitantly): “M’kay…and this cause for celebration?”

Beatrice: “Yes! It means I can win!”

Wood: “Win at hiking?”

Beatrice (finally realizing we were confused): “No. Geocaching. My archenemy, Horus….”

Wood: “Wait, archenemy? Seriously?”

Beatrice: “Yes. An annoying player who says my caches are pedantic and pedestrian.” 

Wood (trying and failing not to laugh): “He’s just needling you, Bee.”

Beatrice (haughtily): “I am not boring.”

Turns out Beatrice had bamboozled Sam into loaning her an augmented map, then fetched her unaugmented copy from her room. While we stacked the empty serving dished upon one end of the table, she snapped opened the two maps at the other. Then, using a wide array of colored pencils, she started transferring information from the former to the latter. We all watched her with varying amounts of humor.

Beatrice (concentrating on her task): “This isn’t funny, it’s serious.”

Laney: “Of course it is, but you can’t say you have an archenemy named Horus without us at least asking if you are driving on three wheels these days.”

Beatrice’s eyes didn’t waver from her task, but she did smile, Laney has that knack. When the waiter cleared the table, we ordered a round of drinks and continued watching Beatrice (from a distance she growled when we got too close, I mean she politely asked us to refrain from standing in her light). When she finished with a triumphant flourish, I warily approached her and studied her handiwork.

Me (tracing tomorrows trail with my finger): “That blue triangle is the authorized camping spot, but what are the blue circles just past it?”

Beatrice: “They’re the unofficial camping spots. Sam says the locals avoid them now, but they’re still on the map, I thought one might make an excellent place to hide a cache.”

Me: “I agree.” 

Those unofficial dots would indeed make excellent hiding spots – for all kinds of things.

1.32 Whiplash

Piling the leftovers back into the box (we made quite a dent, and to my supreme joy – I would have hom bow for breakfast!). Unfortunately, our cleanup gave Wood the opening he needed for his own investigations…

Wood (indignation coloring his tone): “Morticia! You drank my soda.”

Sarah: “I thought you were going to say, ‘you sunk my battleship!’”

Beatrice (laughing): “He’s mad she filched his whiskey and soda.”

Me (with an air of satisfaction): “Sure did, no guilt at all, though that might be the liquor talking.”

Wood: “You owe me a drink!”

Beatrice: “Actually, I believe you both owe me one. Since Phoebe finished off the liquor, you pilfered from my cabinet.”

Ignoring Wood’s sputtering, Beatrice pulled a bottle (and four glass) out of one of the cupboards in the front while I wiped down the table. She poured an inch into each glass and passed them around, then unfurled the map. Clustering on the southern edge, scouring the surface trying to find Pumpkin Mountain amongst all the other entertainingly named features. My favorite? Joker Mountain, everyone needs a hidaway I suppose.

Beatrice (pointing at a feature near the middle of the map): “There, Pumpkin Mountain right on the lake.”

Wood (tracing his finger over the map): “That’s right. Laney and I went the Hilltop Hotel just south of there this last summer – we played on the lake the entire time. We never hiked up that far…”

Laney chose this year’s vacation spot, a trip which did not feature any soccer or soccer adjacent events the entire week.

Wood had fun…eventually.

Me (following hiking trails with my finger): “Looks like I’ll have to hike in.” 

Wood: “Why?”

Me (the whiskey slowing my ability to think of a plausible explanation or of anything at all, so I said the first thing that popped into my head): “Thought it might be a fun fall expedition.”

Wood: “That’s a great idea! Laney’s been dying to get away. I thought we’d hit L.A. and watch an L.A. Football Club match. But this is so much better! You’ll go, Bee? And you too Sarah? We’ll stay at the Hilltop Hotel and hike up Pumpkin Mountain! I’ll get so many husband kudos! Woot! We can even take the boys!” 

Wood started doing a little dance around the shed (I say little because while spacious, we were still in a shed). His enthusiasm was infectious. 

Beatrice (laughing): “When do you want to go?”

Wood whipped out his phone and started furiously typing on it, then borrowed Beatrice’s and started talking to someone on the other end, while firing questions at the three of us. 

Me (inwardly & outwardly fretting): “Wood, I thought I’d go up by myself, camping…”

Wood: “Don’t worry Morticia, Laney and I will cover your room. It’ll be your early birthday present! You’ll have more fun with us!”

Any other time trying to get our schedules to line up was akin to herding kittens, but somehow in under thirty minutes Wood, Laney (via text), Beatrice and Sarah worked out a three-day Fall Foliage Tour. 

Fantastic. How on earth was I going to find and nullify my tag-along with all of them hiking with me?

1.30 Takeaway

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(Teriyaki Salmon, Miso and California Rolls were the first items we unpacked! So Good!)

Recalling my initial reaction to Sunny Valley Farm, I decided to wait until I got home before calling Sarah. Crashing the Princess due to distracted driving (i.e., Little Ben drives me to distraction) wouldn’t fit within my budgetary constraints at the moment. So I opted to sit on the garden wall in the Lavender Lady’s back garden and watch the squirrels and birds fight over acorns while I dialed her number.

Waiting for Sarah answer, I took stock of all the good things surrounding me – my toes felt warm and cozy in my wool socks, my crochet scarf kept the brisk air off my neck, and a handful of cookies kept my tummy full on this fine fall day. Sarah picked up on the fourth ring.

Sarah (chirping): “Hey mom! I can’t talk right now. I’m at work. Mind if I stop by for dinner tonight?”

Me: “Little Ben’s right there?”

Sarah (still chirpy): “Yup! So dinner?”

Me: “Seven sound good?”

Sarah (still channeling her inner cheerleader): “Great! See you then! Love you!”

Click.

Little Ben must have been standing right next to her. 

Which isn’t as creepy as it sounds, Sarah Armstrong is Nevermore’s Chief Funeral Director (she prefers the title mortician, but Big Ben won’t let her change it). Who often works within close proximity of Little Ben. I texted Beatrice and added an extra entree to the Chinese takeout order for this evening.  Then thought about it and added three more and a side of hom bow to my request. 

Fortunately, my earlier tasks ate up enough of the day that seven pm rolled around rather quickly. Three hours flew by while I disassembled Laundry Island, made my bed and participated in a lengthy discussion Harold S. Ellington (Beatrice’s skeleton) about my current inquiry while dusting the front room (nope not stalling at all).

At a quarter of seven, Beatrice rolled thru the front door juggling two large boxes filled with takeout containers plus her bag and briefcase. Relieving her of the boxes, I breathed in the wonderfully spicey smells of General Tso’s Chicken and Mongolian Beef. Setting the boxes down on the entryway table I perused the selections, egg rolls, yakisoba, all kinds of veggies covered in multiple sauces (I love sauce) and a variety of rice dishes. At this point, my stomach realized the pancakes and cookies left the building hours ago and threatened to attack the takeout boxes directly, Alien-style.

Beatrice (a bit out of breath): “So, why did I buy enough food to feed a small army?”

Me (wishing I could filch an egg roll): “I might have invited one?”

Beatrice: “That’s a good reason. Why?”

Me: “To help move my table and stuff into the garden shed.”

Beatrice (smiled and arched her eyebrow): “Nothing to do with not wanting to go by yourself?”

Me: “Nope.”

And with timing only Dourwood can muster, he knocked, saving my bacon from Beatrice’s follow-up funny.

Wood: “Bee! Morticia! How are the new housemates doing? Hmm…do I smell Chinese?”

Me: “Sure do. Sushi too! And you’ll get some right after you help me move some stuff into storage.”

Wood: “Morticia, I would love to, but I’m not dressed for it. My suit….”

Me (crossing my arms over my chest, trying to look stern):”…Is perfectly fine. And after you help me move my boxes, we’ll eat the takeout in the shed. Where you can pay Beatrice the ten bucks, you owe her.”

Wood (laughing, looking between Beatrice and I): “Ahh, you told her about the bet? Thick as thieves already! I knew you guys would be great together! Let me grab my sneakers out of the car and roll up my sleeves. That food smells terrific by the way, had an emergency ear infection come in, so I missed lunch.”

He gave me a quick squeeze then darted back outside again. 

Beatrice (shaking her head and laughing): “Can I change? Or should my penance extend to trying to bend and lift while wearing a pencil skirt?” 

Me (smiling): “No, go change. You bought food, that was our deal.”

Sarah walked in with Wood who’d retrieved his sneakers. Things moved quickly with three people (Sarah only carried the food down, wasn’t fair to rope her into Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum’s atonement), everyone laughed when I recounted (with Wood providing sound effects) why I disliked garden sheds. My 50’s style Formica and aluminum kitchen table fit perfectly into the middle of the shed – providing a flat and stable surface for both eating and map reading. 

Fortunately for Wood and I, tonight the former came before the latter.

1.26 “Help”

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WWNDD? Well, Nancy Drew would put on her big girl panties and follow her new friend inside the shed. Fortune favors the bold. The lights flipped on when I hit the threshold.

This garden shed did not meet any of my preconceived notions.

Missing were the overwhelmingly potent odors of fertilizers, insecticides and machine oils. Instead, the delicate bouquet of old paper, whiskey, and cedar greeted me. The aromatic infusion of these scents into my surplus seemed a much more pleasant prospect than what I’d envisioned on the walk down.

Gazing around the space, I also noted the lack of axes, saws, hoes, spades, and mowers. Taking their place on one wall was wooden floor to ceiling flat filing cabinets. Mirrored on the opposing side were traditional bookcases, crammed full of oversized, spiral bound and stapled together books. The cases, like the ones in the house, had their middle shelves dedicated to fascinating artifacts. Only, in this case, the words ‘fascinating artifacts’ should be swapped for ‘unadulterated kitsch’. Stout vases filled with mini-troll dolls, rubber ducks, compasses, plastic goldfish and the occasional dragon and that was only a fraction of her unique collection. 

Who knew a lawn separated a virtual natural history museum from a corner five-and-dime? Or that the shed shared a disturbing similarity to a mad man’s blue box? I swear Beatrice’s shed was bigger on the inside.

Spying an empty area by the back window, I reckoned my boxes would easily fit under it while my kitchen table would work beautifully in the center of the room. This place looked like it desperately needed a surface to set things on.

Beatrice (looking oddly proud): “Dourwood didn’t think you’d make it inside.”

Wood told? Beatrice knew I was freaking out on my walk down? I could not think of a bad enough word to call them. Setting my mug down on the counter to my left, I crossed my arms and pinned my housemate down with a stare.

Me (trying to control my mortification): “He told you about it?”

Beatrice (hands held up in front of her while talking fast): “No. He called while I was in Scotland and mentioned your problem locating the storage area. Trying to help you out. When I told him where it was, he laughed. I asked why but he just bet me ten bucks you’d never step foot in here, I pressed, but he never told me why.”

Me: “Harrumph. Is that why you chose to walk down here at six in the morning? In the dark?” 

Beatrice (reddening slightly): I apologize, I do need to get to work early today. But facing your fears is essential for personal growth? I just wanted to help. 

While I worked out how angry/annoyed/embarrassed I felt, my eyes stray back to the odd assortment of neat junk on her shelves. She should never let a toddler loose in here. They’d go nuts. I found the flat files just as curious, not even the main branch of the library has this many cabinets.

Me  (still trying to gauge my level mortification): “Is it to nosey to ask what’s in the drawers?” 

Beatrice (audibly exhaling): “Not at all – I collect maps. My collection grew too large for the apartment, so I moved them out here.”

I let her explanation go – it held most of the truth – the legs of the cabinets and bookcases matched the ghost of furniture past (the divots in the carpet) in my room. A room which is larger in square footage than the shed, curious thing to fib about. 

Me (looking thoughtfully at the floor to ceiling installation): “What kind of maps?”

Beatrice (walking over and pulling open a drawer): “All kinds. Local, regional, antique, obsolete. Cartography fascinates me.”

Me (wholly diverted now): “Any treasure maps?”

Beatrice (sensing the humor in the question, she closed the drawer and walked to the counter): “No. Alas, the only one I found turned out to be fraudulent.” 

Me (remembering my current conundrum): “Does your collection include an index? I’m looking for a place called Pumpkin Mountain.”

Beatrice (opening a cupboard above the counter and selecting two keys off a row of hooks, turned to me): “Never heard of it, but when I get home tonight I can see what I can find for you. Any reason?”

Me (thinking quickly): “One of my fares’ mentioned it in passing. I thought they might be pulling my leg, sounds like a place you’d find Jack Skellington hanging out in. Now I’m curious if it’s a real place.”

Beatrice (regarding me with interest): “No problem. I like a challenge. Any clue where to find it?”

Me (thinking back): “Mountains. Someplace which allows camping you need to hike to, that’s all I know.”

Beatrice (handing me the keys, her cheeks still red): “Narrows it down a bit, I’ll see what I can do. Here are the keys, if you could lock both locks when you leave I’d appreciate it and please don’t leave them lying about – some of these maps took a long time to find.”

Me (pulling out my Nevermore keys and slipping them onto ring): “No problem.”

Beatrice: “Thanks. Can you forgive me?”

Me (deliberating): “Bring home take-out from anywhere but The Fungus House and promise not to do it again and we’ll be okay.”

Beatrice: “Japanese or Chinese?”

Me: “Yes.”

My housemate peeled off when we approached the alley, I heard her car door slam and her engine turn over in the quiet of the morning (still needed to work out how annoyed I felt about her and Wood’s shenanigans). 

Our apartment windows lit the walk enough to keep me from stumbling the rest of the way to my door. With my eyes focused so intently on the house, it allowed a bit of movement to catch my eye. For a moment a curtain swayed slightly just before a soft light turned off in Ms. Hettie’s portion of the house. 

Perhaps she was more vigilant that Beatrice realized.

1.25 WWNDD

 

Irrational fears come in all flavors – beards, butterflies, spiders, clowns, rollercoasters,  darkness, snakes, mice, ghosts, death, blood, needles, dogs, public speaking, the color yellow, heights, and bathing – for instance. If a long Latin name attaches itself to your favorite, you know it is someone else’s too, like some weird and wonderful ice-cream concoction. I’ve never found a name for mine (not sure if this makes me feel like a special snowflake or freak), but I do know its point of origin.

During spring vacation just after I turned nine (munching on a cookie), my purple sneakers and I felt the need to investigate an ominous din emanating from within our garden shed. Using all the skills I’d gleaned from Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo – I crept, quiet as cat’s paws, towards the side window. Easing my way between the bushes and the wall I peered over the windowsill. Old and dusty spider webs shrouded the source of the scrapes, bumps, and groans from my eyes while keeping most of the sun out. 

I almost lost my nerve when I wondered what exactly skittered around in the corners of the shed where the light didn’t reach. 

Not wanting to chicken out (Cherry and Nancy never did), I tip-toed slowly around the corner of the shed and peaked thru the door. The semi-darkness of the interior imbued the sheers, saws, and shovels with all kinds of sinister intent. When a fresh round of scraping started my eyes flew to the epicenter of the sound, the shadows cast such an aura of menace I failed to recognize my Uncle wrestling the mower off the wall. I yipped. He turned. I beaned him with my cookie. Then channeling my inner Shaggy & Scooby, I ran pell-mell back to the house and tried to explain to my Aunt about the dangerous criminal I’d seen in the shed. 

Might not sound like much, but my nine-year-old self etched the episode in technicolor splendor in my memory (My Uncle laughed after he wiped the crumbs off his face. I never set foot in the shed again – we had seriously shaggy lawn the summer he tried to get me over my fear – but that’s another story).

So when I figured out where Beatrice was leading me at six am the next morning – in the dark – I felt trepidatious (a beautifully long word which sounds way better than ‘fraidy-cat). Little gremlins started tap dancing their way up and down my spine reminding me of that inauspicious day – which of course did nothing to curb my fears. But in fairness that’s not their job.

While I psyched myself out, Beatrice lead me unerringly down the garden path (apparently she ate a ton of carrots as a kid and now reaps the benefits of excellent night vision) towards the shed I’d found in my previous foray. On the upside, I’d fortified myself with a fantastic cup of coffee which helped dispel the chill in the air (and my heart).

Just about the time I figured I could live with Laundry Island (what I’d taken to calling my surplus possessions) and seriously debating whether I really needed the extra space in my room and unbruised shins – we arrived. 

The orange glow from the sodium streetlamp on the adjoining road lit up the front of the shed nicely – didn’t make me feel like we were stuck in a jack-o-lantern at all. In the morning quiet I could hear Beatrice’s boots scrape over the wooden steps and snick of two locks disengaging – smiling at me over her shoulder she opened the door and walked into the darkness. 

WWNDD – What Would Nancy Drew Do?

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