Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Darkening Sturgeons: Chapter Seven

The wayward voice-activated internet search inspired piece of fiction continues...


Chapter Seven

by John L. Harmon

    The widow Waterbottom sways gently on her porch swing, keeping time with the country/gospel blaring from window speakers.  It is a near-perfect summer evening in Sturgeons, in one of her many opinions.  The sun is beginning to set, a gentle breeze floats lazily around, and there is a glass of homemade iced-tea in her hand.

    She observes with mild interest the Sheriff’s SUV pulling into the neighboring driveway.  Out of the vehicle emerges Benjamin Straker, a young man she doesn’t really know, but would gladly relate her version of his biography to anyone within earshot.  Speaking of earshot, the widow Waterbottom decides to stop the young man from wasting his time.

    “He’s gone!” she hollers over the country/gospel.

    Acting Sheriff Ben Straker, barely hearing the old woman’s voice, stops and faces the music.


    “He’s gone!”

    Ben walks over to the Waterbottom front porch and asks the widow to turn down the music.

    She complies and then reiterates, “He’s gone.”

    A dark, worrisome fear creeps underneath Ben’s skin, conjuring the names of Bob Kinney and Tommy Schroder.  “Where did Sheriff Lawrence go?”

    “Don’t know.  He just packed up and left in a hurry,” Bertha Waterbottom answers vaguely.  Much like some of her neighbors, she doesn’t ask questions, she just simply observes and judges.



    Lester Lawrence obviously wasted no time in vacating not only his position but Sturgeons, as well.  This does not detour Ben from going forth with his original plan.

    “Thank you, Mrs. Waterbottom,” he gives a nod and turns away, but then stops and turns back, always an officer.  “By the way, please keep the music down.  As Lawrence always tells the teens with their rap/metal, not everyone likes your kind of music.”

    “What does aluminum foil have to do with it?”

    “Never mind, Mrs. Waterbottom.  Never mind.”

    Ben turns away again, not knowing if he should smile or scream as Mrs. Waterbottom brazenly ups the volume of her country/gospel.  The twangy reverence serenades him to the next-door porch.  Once there he reaches up, removing a spare key from the light fixture, and quickly enters the house of Lawrence, muffling the blaring music as he shuts the heavy door.

    Switching on lights, Ben is confronted with the truth.  Empty, abandoned rooms are what he finds upon a search of the familiar house.  Only one space, the living room, shows remaining evidence of the man who had lived there.

    Two items are propped up on the fireplace mantel, the smaller leaning against the larger.  Ben approaches the scene curiously, but cautiously, uncertain of anything after the events of this weekend.  He suddenly recognizes his own name written on a white envelope in Lawrence’s loose-style scrawl.

    He impulsively grabs the envelope, hastily opens it, and pulls out a letter, hoping it will provide answers.  Reading it aloud, his voice echoing in the surrounding emptiness, Ben is dismayed at its brevity.

    “Ben—You are a good man and you will make a great Sheriff.—Lester Lawrence.”

    The parentally abandoned man slips the letter, more note really, back into the envelope and the whole thing into a back pocket.  He then picks the second item off the mantel.  It is a decades-old high school yearbook.  Ben flips aimlessly through the black & white pages, shaking his head in confusion and disappointment.

    Sheriff Benjamin Straker leaves the house of Lawrence, once again serenaded by the widow Waterbottom’s country/gospel, and unilaterally decides that he could use a drink.  All the while, unbeknownst to him, binoculared eyes have been watching from behind blue velvet curtains.
Click CHAPTER EIGHT to continue.

Until next time, Readers, be well and Freak Out,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Darkening Sturgeons: Chapter Six

My piece of blog fiction, concerning a small town named Sturgeons, continues...

Chapter Six

by John L. Harmon

    Acting Sheriff Benjamin Straker, and at the moment he really feels like he is acting, sits brooding behind the desk of his quickly vacated predecessor.  It has been a long Sunday, and now, at eight o’clock in the evening, there doesn’t seem to be much to do but wait.  Wait for evidence that isn’t there.  Wait for Bob Kinney and Tommy Schroder to turn up.  Wait for answers that make sense.

    He runs his fingers over his buzzcut hair in mental frustration.  Ned Dobson and Tracy Newcastle are not known for being liars or prone to flights of fancy.  They are also not known for being murderers or abductors.  A ballcap, a lawnchair, a truck with a boat trailer, a picnic basket, and a blanket only prove that certain people were at certain places at certain times; nothing else.

    Ben’s light chestnut eyes traverse the top of the old oak desk, hoping to distract his mind from the problem twisting before him like a pretzel.  Soon they rest upon a small, silver, oval frame placed innocuously to the far right.  The photograph, a trimmed snapshot, strikes him familiar and he picks it up for thorough examination.

    There is Sheriff Lester Lawrence, his hair still showing some of its natural reddish-orange, clad in his beige uniform.  Standing next to him is a young boy wearing the Sheriff’s sturdy hat.  Ben starts a little as he recognizes the boy as himself at 12 years of age.

    It was the day they met, fifteen years ago, at a school function.  Police officers were there, along with firefighters, lawyers, and doctors, all presenting their careers to the burgeoning future.  Young Ben took to the police officers, which surprised no one since he always followed the rules in any situation, but that was not the real reason he was interested in such a profession.

    Those shiny badges were an unspoken promise.  An unspoken promise Ben had made to himself to find his father, who had left him and his mother before he was born.  He believed a badge could give him that power, but as time would prove, he didn’t need it.

    Sheriff Lester Lawrence became his mentor, his father figure, by teaching young Ben how to fish, how to play golf, how to build birdhouses, and, most importantly, how to fire a pistol.  The desire to find his biological father slowly faded away from Benjamin Straker over the years.  Any last vestiges of that dream died when his mother succumbed to cancer.

    Ben sets the memories and the photograph down and slams a defiant fist against the desk.  He is not going to allow another parental figure to slip away.  First his father, then his mother, and now Sheriff Lawrence.

    “He is not getting off the hook that easily,” Ben mutters, standing up and grabbing the beige hat off the coatrack.  Opening the Sheriff’s office door, he is surprised to find Miss Miranda Whiffle, and her blond bouffant-esque hair, hunched over the front counter.  His determined attitude temporarily softens, “Miss Whiffle, what are you doing here at this hour on a Sunday night?  The dispatcher and the officer-on-duty can handle things.”

    “I’m certain Joe and Leslie can,” Miss Whiffle chuckles sweetly, “but this weekend has been so hectic that I needed to catch up on my own paperwork.”

    “Well, okay then,” he smiles proudly at the hardest working soul in Sturgeons.  “Take it easy, Miss Whiffle.”

    “You, too, Sheriff Straker.”

    Sheriff Straker.

    Those alliterative words follow him outside and into the SUV, where the fifteen year old memories roar back to life with the engine.  The first time he met Lawrence.  The first time he wore the Sheriff’s beige hat.  The first time he was certain where his life was headed.  Now his destiny seems to have come to pass.  Just one last piece of unfinished pseudo-parental business to take care of before he can drop the acting and simply be Sheriff.

Click CHAPTER SEVEN to continue.

Until next time, Readers, be well and Freak Out,


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Darkening Sturgeons: Chapter Five

My piece of blog fiction continues…


Chapter Five

by  John L. Harmon

    The spectacled man, rims as thick and dark as his mop of hair, maneuvers slowly around a particular tree in Stickler Woods, holding a black gadget in his left hand.  A faint hum emits from the technological contraption, accompanied by an occasional flickering light.  He intensely watches the visual information until satisfied.  With a click of a button, he powers down the gadget and strolls over to his blond coworker.

    “Atmosphere complete?” the woman inquires, making certain everything is accounted for.

    “Yes,” the man answers, hunching down in tandem with his coworker to deposit black gadgets, and several vials from lab coat pockets, into the metal containers.


    Standing up together, they hover over the remnants of a quickly discarded picnic.  A soft blanket, half-unrolled, lays near a turned over basket, forgotten and dirty.  The contents of the picnic basket have spilled about, giving them something to ponder.

    “Bananas…” they say simultaneously, curiously.

    “Should we bag them?” he asks.

    “No, we should leave them for the police.”

    “If you insist.”

    A knowing glance passes between the scientific duo before heading, in unison, to their large white van.  Easy silence surrounds them as they buckle up and drive out of Stickler Woods onto paved road.  Their direction is conspicuously aiming for Sturgeons.

    “Are you on watch tonight, Christine?” the man breaks the silence from the passenger seat.

    “Yes,” she answers, not giving much thought to his question until she hears an approaching vehicle.  “There is much to see in this town, Samuel.”

    “Indeed,” he replies, flashing that becoming smile and giving his glasses a nudge up.  His blue eyes zero in on an extremely beige hat before the SUV shoots past in a black blur, cherries on.

    Acting Chief Deputy Clyde Woodhouse, he broached that subject yesterday afternoon, fiddles with the passenger side seatbelt strap, contemplating the large white van that just sped by.  Well, not the van so much as the blond woman driving it.  The glimpse was fleeting and uncertain, but enough to leave him beguiled.

    Acting Sheriff Benjamin Straker sits stoically behind the wheel.  He once again noticed the large white van and its out of county license plates.  This time, however, he also noticed the two occupants, but he barely gave it a thought, for his mind is currently in a quagmire with this new incident playing off of yesterday’s.

    Tracy Newcastle showed up at her house in such an incoherent and disheveled state that her parents rushed her to the hospital and called the police to report an assault.  After the doctors examined the young woman and medically calmed her down, it was Ben’s turn.  Her story left the Acting Sheriff perplexed and left Mr. and Mrs. Newcastle completely distraught.  Not helping their parental trauma was the fact a streak of their daughter’s perfect blond hair had turned a startling white.

    Driving into Stickler Woods, Ben wonders what information he will have for Tommy Schroder’s parents.  Is Tommy still there or has he vanished like Bob Kinney?  The dragging of Lake Pontoon turned up nada, not even a sickly-green rowboat, giving him doubts about what they will find in this preliminary search.

    “Distract me, Clyde,” the Acting Sheriff orders, pulling the SUV to a stop.

    “Huh-wha…?” Clyde inquires poetically.

    “I need to clear my head so I can focus,” Ben explains.  “How was your date last night?”

    Clyde, continuing to fiddle with the seatbelt strap, eagerly provides some details, “She was smart, sizzlin’, and direct.  We had a real good time.”

    Ben nods in silent approval.  He is glad something good happened in Sturgeons among the tragic strangeness of the last 24 hours.  It is exactly what he needed to hear.

    “Now let’s find Tommy Schroder.”
Click CHAPTER SIX to continue.

Until next time, Readers, be well and Freak Out,



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Darkening Sturgeons: Chapter Four

My continuing piece of fiction continues…


Chapter Four

by  John L. Harmon


    Young lovers, dressed in matching white shirts, khaki shorts, and brown hiking boots, stroll hand-in-hand through Stickler Woods, basking in the sweet afterglow of sharing a glorious sunrise.  The young man and young woman had spread a soft blanket on Stickler Hill and breakfasted as the dawn broke, splashing the valley below with warm, vivid color.  Each building in Sturgeons radiated with the promise of a new day, full of new experiences.  In the distance, on the opposite side of town, Lake Pontoon shimmered like liquid gold, somehow appearing more tranquil than ever, despite the crazy story that had circulated throughout town by yesterday evening.

    The strange disappearance of Bob Kinney barely registers on their youthful minds, for it was an odd tale involving old people.  All they can focus on is the sumptuous experience of their sunrise breakfast.

    “Thanks for making it with me, Tracy,” Tommy Schroder expresses his sincere gratitude, giving his girl’s hand a gentle squeeze.

    “You’re welcome, Tommy.”  Tracy Newcastle smiles warmly at her beau and adds, “Thank you for bringing the bananas.”

    “No.  Thank you, Tracy,” Tommy corrects.  “The bananas were your suggestion and they fit in perfectly.”

    A comfortable silence settles between the young soulmates as they continue their woodland stroll to their respective homes.  He swings the picnic basket, in his free hand, a little higher.  She cuddles the rolled-up blanket, tucked under her free arm, a little tighter.  The sun shining, the birds singing, and the heavy, sweet smell of Stickler Woods seem to reflect the feelings they share for one another.

    Tommy Schroder and Tracy Newcastle are, for romantics, the epitome of High School Sweethearts.  Dating since 8th grade, the inseparable lovebirds are still going strong during this summer before senior year.  For cynics, the quarterback and the cheerleader are vomit-inducing plastic dolls with perfect blond hair, empty blue eyes, and lightly sun-kissed skin.

    “I’ve gotta take a leak,” Tommy crudely interrupts their pleasant stroll.  Releasing hands and giving Tracy the picnic basket, he kisses her cheek, as if in fond farewell.

    “Hurry back,” Tracy chuckles outwardly, while grimacing inwardly at his choice of distasteful phrasing.  She loves this man to the point of firmly and foolishly believing he will lose his crasser ways after senior year, college or finally marriage.

    Tommy, having so sense of appropriate distance, chooses a tree ten feet away to eliminate behind.  The obvious sound of his zipper shooting down, proceeded by the heavy splattering of a steady stream, and his relieving sigh, reverberates through the woods.

    Tracy, slightly irritated at Tommy’s urination proximity, turns her back on the hidden scene and silently wishes he would have picked a tree farther away.  Attempting to focus on anything other than the offending noises, she notices something odd.  Something wrong.  Something missing.

    Just moments before birds were joyously singing, providing a natural soundtrack for their love.  Now there is silence, except for Tommy’s never-ending leaking and sighing.  This sudden realization invokes a physical sensation of nameless dread in Tracy Newcastle, as if all of her childhood fears were just proven true.

    “Tommy…” she begins, facing his direction, but is drowned out by a bone-chilling clamor.

    Initially it sounds like another of Tommy’s relieving sighs but it escalates into a baritone scream of horror.  Tommy charges from behind the tree in a dead run and then trips as his khaki shorts fall around his ankles.  The football player scrambles to erect himself, but his scoreboard clock has hit zero.

    Tracy watches in frozen terror as something black and formless emerges.  It’s as if the air itself has darkened, moving with purpose and thought.  The darkness grabs at her screaming and struggling beau, viciously yanking him off the ground and pulling him behind the tree.

    Tommy Schroder’s anguished screams abruptly die and this spurs her into action.  Dropping the items from their memorable sunrise breakfast, Tracy Newcastle runs silently for her life, shrieking on the inside and failing to notice the birds of Stickler Woods resume their cheerful singing.


Click CHAPTER FIVE to continue.

Until next time, Readers, be well …and Freak Out,


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Darkening Sturgeons: Chapter Three

My continuing piece of fiction continues...



Chapter Three

by  John L. Harmon

    Deputy Clyde Woodhouse, attired in a light blue uniform, sits in the passenger seat of the lead vehicle in the Sturgeons Police fleet.  The slick black SUV, easily the sweetest ride of the five vehicle force, is emblazoned with SHERIFF in bold white lettering on each side, just in case anyone misses the cherries on top.

    The 24-year-old, dishwater blond man is short, stocky and cannot stop thinking about the change in hierarchy at Headquarters.  He doesn’t know what to think of the strange tale that provoked Sheriff Lawrence’s resignation, but he now wonders if that departure elevates his position to Chief Deputy.  Clyde, fiddling with an air vent, doesn’t want to voice his thoughts, finding it an inappropriate time, so he talks about anything else he can think of to keep the creeping silence at bay.

    “I signed up for an online dating service and snagged myself a date for tonight,” Clyde states randomly.  “Her profile pic is sizzlin’ and she seems a brain to boot.”

    “Good for you, Clyde,” Benjamin Straker, clad in beige and topped with the sturdy hat of Lawrence, responds distantly.  The Acting Sheriff is far too distracted by the last several hours and the winding roads to respond in any other manner.

    “Maybe you should give online dating a whirl, Ben.  There is something for every taste out there.”  Clyde quits fiddling with the air vent and gives his superior a glance to see if there is a positive reaction.

    “Mm…” is all Ben can say, only half-listening to the mindless chatter.

    Clyde Woodhouse has known Ben Straker long enough to understand that when a case is on the other man’s brain not much else can penetrate it.  Even Sheriff Lawrence had often ordered Ben to relax and unwind from time to time.  With these facts in mind Clyde reaches for the bagged evidence situated between them.

    “Why can’t we just give Ol’ Ned Dobson his ballcap back?”

    This question, along with the harsh crinkling of plastic, forces Ben out of his confusing thoughts.  “It’s evidence, Clyde, along with Mr. Dobson’s lawn chair in back.”

    There had been no sign of Ned’s fishing rod, nor any evidence of darkening water.  As for Bob Kinney, neither he nor his sickly-green rowboat were anywhere to be seen, but his dark green truck and boat trailer were found  on the other side of Lake Pontoon.

    “What are we gonna do now, Ben?” Clyde inquires, placing the bagged ballcap back on the seat.

    A sigh older than his 27 years escapes Ben.  “Drag the lake in a recovery effort.”

    Hard reality in the strange incident completely silences the occupants of the SUV for several minutes.  During this interval a large white van drives by heading in the opposite direction.

    Clyde Woodhouse completely fails to notice the conspicuous vehicle.  Ben Straker, on the other hand, notes the out of county license plate but nothing more, at least consciously.  The law enforcement duo continue into Sturgeons, oblivious of the intention and destination of the ominous white van.

    Lake Pontoon, all calm and clear, is soon descended upon by two lab-coated individuals, each carrying identical metal containers and both blatantly ignoring the yellow police tape around the dock.  Seemingly caught up in a game of mirror image action, they simultaneously set down their gear, snap on the protective gloves, hunch down, and open the metal containers to reveal a multitude of objects and gadgets for various purposes.

    The man, 31-years-old, six feet tall, spectacled, with a  mop of dark hair like a 1960’s insect rock group, deviates from the mirror game by glancing back the way in which they came.  The woman, slightly older and taller, perfect vision, with yellow-blond hair pulled back, notices her coworker’s distraction.

    “No dilly-dallying.  The police may return shortly,” she states with a frosty air, only because their work is vital.

    “Maybe they should return,” the man suggests with a becoming smile and a gleam in his blue eyes.


    “You know how I feel about a man in uniform.”

    The woman returns his smile, with a gleam in her brown eyes, for she does know.  It is one of only a handful of aspects they have in common.

    After this personal exchange ends the scientific duo embark on what needs to be done.

Click CHAPTER FOUR to continue.

Until next time, Readers, be well and Freak Out,