Sunday, January 18, 2009

Portrait of Words #5

Hello all and welcome to the fifth installment of the Portrait of Words writing challenge. This month's photographic prompts were provided by Dr John of Dr John's Fortress. At first I thanked him for taking the time to forward these shots from his own library to me, then I began to curse him as I starred at them for nearly three weeks waiting for a story to present itself to me with no results. Now obviously John had nothing to do with my inability to formulate words onto a page, but hey, it was easier than blaming myself right?

Well, finally the other day an idea came to me and I was able to put this together. So good, bad or otherwise here goes:

FYI - You may want to grab your favorite beverage before starting in on my story this month. It's a bit loooooong.


Time To Go Home"

"Hey boss, what do you make of this?"

The freckle faced rookie crime scene investigator was holding up a whitewashed leather bound book of some sort. The bold lettering with a distinctively different style of writing stood out in stark contrast to the light colored cover it was embossed on. It caught my attention too, but more so for the fact that the hands holding it were not inside a pair of gloves.

"Put that down you moron!" I shouted back, "Didn't you learn anything from your training?"

I still couldn't believe they'd sent this snot nosed little boy to be part of my 'investigation team' as they so eloquently termed it. Hell, before junior showed up two weeks earlier, there was no team. It was just me, like it had been for the past eighteen years. I'd much preferred it would have stayed that way too, but when it was the mayor's son Arnold we were talking about, I didn't seem to have much say in the matter. He'd finished up school out west and couldn't land a job anywhere so now I was the one who got stuck with him. Of course the city counsel played it off as, "Obtaining a valuable resource that would benefit the entire community at a minimal expenditure." What a load of crap! As far as I was concerned, even an educated idiot was still just that. . . an idiot, and now he was mine to deal with. The whole thing made me feel like that old song from the Hee-Haw TV show where they'd sing, "If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me. "

"Sorry boss, I'll put it down and just snap some photos."

"That's a fine idea boy, and before you touch anything else, put some gloves on would ya. One other thing, if you call me boss one more time, I'm going to rip you lips off! The name's Greg. It's the same one my mother gave me nearly fifty years ago and the only one I've ever gone by. I suggest you start using it."

I'd considered sending him to the next county over and offering the station captain in Reedsville a years salary out of my own pocket if he'd hire this kid and get him out of my hair, but Capt. Bragg was too good of a friend of mine to subject him to that type of abuse.

While Arnold got busy snapping photographs of the Jennings' garage, I went about the business of trying to figure out what had happened here. Nothing made sense though. This quiet little house at 11247 Hydrangea Ln was the last place I expected to be called out to. Down at Jake's Tavern sure, but not here. I figured the Jennings, Miriam and Walter that is, were probably the last two people in town who'd be caught up in any sort of trouble. Still, if I'd learned anything from nearly two decades in law enforcement, it was to never assume. . . anything!

I started sifting through the mess in front of me trying to take in the big picture before I narrowed my investigation down to the smaller details, but for some reason, my attention kept getting drawn in the direction of the book that moron boy had picked up a few moments earlier. Out of all the charred wood, shattered glass and other debris littering the room, it seemed to be the only thing unscathed by the blast. "Hmmm, blast." I contemplated that word in my mind, but wasn't sure if that was the right one for it. Still, I wondered what else could have caused this type of destruction.

I'd get back to the book in a bit, but for now I could see through the openings that were once windows of this stone and brick built garage, that the neighbors were already gathering around and were craning their necks to get a glimpse of what had happened inside this twenty by twenty room.

"Hey Arny, the little grunt hated it when I called him that, you got any of that fancy yellow crime scene tape out in your truck?" I called out.

"I got a brand new roll as a matter of fact boss." he replied.

Biting my tongue for yet again referring to me as boss, I said, "I thought you might. How's about you make yourself useful and stretch it around the property so we can keep everybody out of my. . . um. . . our hair."

With all the enthusiasm of a puppy going after a rawhide chew toy he announced, "I can do that boss!"

Under my breath I muttered, "Finally, something your qualified to do ya flippin' retard."

Once deputy dufus was out from under my feet I might actually be able to get some real police work done without fear of him trampling everything in sight. No sooner had I started back on my quest for evidence than I heard a knock on what remained of the smoldering door jamb behind me. I was just about to lay into Arnold for bugging me when I heard the unmistakable raspy growl of my long time friend and colleague, Tyler Garvey. "Evening Greg, is it clear for me to come in?"

"Howdy ya old coyote. Hell yes you can come in. It'd be nice to have someone with more than half a brain to lend an eyeball."

Knowing full well what I meant Tyler chuckled and said, "Ya, I saw your new partner outside puttin' up tape and directing traffic."

I walked over, grabbed his right hand, which was more like a grizzly bear's paw, and while giving him a firm handshake said, "If you weren't such a good friend of mine, I'd kick you right square in the balls for calling that pock faced runt my partner!"

His earlier chuckle had turned into a full belly laugh by now when he replied, "Don't forget, that's the mayor's son you're talking about."

"I'd just as soon have the mayor's dog given a choice. At least that old hound dog will sit and stay when you tell it to."

With a nod of agreement Tyler asked, "So what do you have here?"

"I wish I knew buddy, I really do. This is what I've got so far: Two hours ago old man Williams from across the street was tending to his roses out front of his place when he saw Miriam and Walter come outside carrying a suitcase and walking toward the garage. He asked them if they were going on a trip somewhere to which they replied, "Something like that." Without saying anything else they walked into the garage and shut the door behind them. Now you know as well as I do those two were always a little different, if you know what I mean, but even that response seemed a bit strange to Mr Williams. Well the next thing you know, he starts hearing a series of clicks and clunks coming from over here. Said it was the damnedest thing he'd ever heard. Sounded like a giant watch being wound was the best description he could come up with. He tried to dismiss it as just two oddball eccentrics out tinkering in their garage, but their earlier response to his question piqued his interest a bit more than usual. The other thing that didn't seem right was if they were going on a trip somewhere, why did they go into the garage and start banging around on stuff for a half hour instead of putting the suitcase in the car that was parked in the driveway and hitting the road?

About this time boy wonder made his way back inside. "Okay boss, I got the whole area roped off and everybody at least fifty feet back. You think I ought to start spraying this place down with Luminol or dusting for prints or maybe I could get my light and check for bodily fluids?"

"First of all genius, I seriously doubt anyone was raped in here, so you can keep your overpriced flashlight in your pants. Secondly, if there was blood in here don't you think it would be pretty obvious? It's not like someone came in and tried to wipe everything down before we got here. Finally, if you knew anything about these two it would be this: They never let anybody, and I mean anybody, step foot inside this garage. As you can clearly see, the windows are barred and they bricked over the roll-up door long ago, leaving the only way in or out, that small man door over there, and that they religiously kept padlocked shut when they weren't in here themselves. The only fingerprints you're going to find in here are theirs, or unless you want to count your own too."

"I was just thinking bos---"

"Don't say it! Don't you dare call me that you buck toothed midget! And please don't think. It hurts MY head when you do that. Tell you what, how's about you go back outside and interview all the neighbors within five houses of this place."

"If you say so bos--- Greg."

"I say so, now go on and see what you can find out and don't even think about talking to Missy Peterson. That sweet talkin' reporter is sure to be out there and the last thing I need is for you to say something stupid that I'm going to get blamed for later."

"Yes sir." he replied and was once again out of my hair.

As soon as Arnold walked back outside, Tyler piped up, "Damn Greg, that boy's dumber than a burnt stump isn't he?"

"Four years of college and six months in the police academy and I still don't think he could find the sharp end of a pencil. Now let's see, where was I? Oh ya, old man Williams. So with curiosity getting the better of him, he decides to go across the street to see what all the noise is about. As he gets closer he notices the door isn't completely shut all the way, so he peers through it to see what's going on inside. He told me he couldn't believe it, but those two crazy old coots were each sitting on top of one of those carousel horses on that miniature merry-go-round delee-bob they kept in here. He said he heard Walter ask Miriam if she was ready to go home now. After she said yes Walter started speaking in some sort of weird gibberish that Mr Williams had never heard before. Next thing you know, that contraption they were sitting on started turning around. It started slowly at first, but then it really started picking up steam he said. Within thirty seconds it was a blur, moving so fast you couldn't tell person from wooden horse. He stood there frozen, watching and wondering what the heck he was looking at. As he went to push the door open, a flash, bigger than any lightning he'd ever seen, filled the entire room and a gust of wind knocked him flat on his ass. The poor old fart can still just barely see out of his left eye as a matter of fact."

"So what happened to Walter and Miriam?" Tyler eagerly asked.

"That my friend is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Far as I can tell they just up and vanished!"

The look in Tyler's eyes spoke volumes. I could tell he was sure the cheese had finally slipped off my cracker. "Come on Greg, you know as well as I do people don't just vanish into thin air,"

"Any other time and I'd agree with you one hundred percent. Today though, I just don't know. Look around, do you see any sign of them? There are no bodies except for you and me in this room. Hell, there isn't even any trace of a body. No blood, no guts, no nothing. All this despite the fact that Mr Williams clearly saw them in here just as what ever happened, happened."

"You sure old man Williams wasn't nipping at the vino a little early today Greg?" Tyler asked.

"Thought about that too," I replied, "but he swears straight up and down that wasn't the case. In fact I've already had another neighbor say they saw those two walk in here after Williams hollered across the street at them. No, I'm sure they were in here."

"What about those couple of windows?" Tyler offered, "Maybe they got blown out through one of them?"

"I considered that, but take a closer look at them. The metal bars are still attached on the outside, only the glass is missing. That would have been like passing them through a cheese grater. If that would have happened, there'd be little pieces of them everywhere. I looked, there aren't"

Tyler took the baseball cap off his nearly bald dome and scratched the back of his head where what little hair he had remained. "I gotta tell you, this is starting to sound more like an episode of the X-Files than any type of accident I've ever encountered. None of this makes any sense at all. There's got to be some sort of logical explanation to what happened in here."

We both started scanning the room again for something that would make heads or tails of our quandary when our eyes simultaneously locked on the leather bound book laying on the floor. Somehow we knew opening it would bring us the much needed answers we were seeking. What we didn't know is that it would create just as many questions in return.

I reached down and picked it up. Pointing to the writing on the cover I asked, "What do you make of this?"

"Good lord." I thought to myself. "That's exactly what that spit for brains kid asked me at the beginning of this whole ordeal. Might just as well put a bullet through my skull if I start taking like that idjit." I continued thinking.

Fortunately Tyler snapped me out of it when he replied, "Not sure, looks Greek to me. Open it up and let's have a look inside."

I wasn't sure if his "looks Greek" comment was sincere or not, or if he was just being a smart ass, but I opened it none the less. Immediately the smell of musty old forgotten about books wafted up into our nostrils. The pages were cracked and yellowed from what appeared to be one of the oldest books either of us had ever held before and with Tyler peering over my left shoulder we proceeded ever so carefully to pour through the pages one by one. There were countless diagrams of the carousel that once stood in this room along with numerous mathematical computations accompanying them. Throughout the margins there were also several notations indicating the importance of certain aspects of the drawings. What we were looking at seemed to be a building schematic and operating manual, but one much more complex than was necessary for something as relatively simple as a carousel. One other thing that stood out as we scanned over the plans was a series of small numbered and lettered wheels that appeared to form two separate and adjustable calendars.

From over my shoulder, Tyler asked, "So who needs a calendar while they're riding on a merry-go-round?"

"I've got a pretty good idea," I said, "but I'm certainly not ready to say it out loud just yet."

Turning over the next several pages in this strange book revealed something of a photographic journal through the ages. I could feel the blood drain from my face as the two of us viewed several dozen Polaroid pictures of some of the most unmistakable snippets in time from the past two thousand years. Strange as that may have seemed what was even more bizarre is that in every single instance, either Walter or Miriam was in the photograph!

Among the photos there was one of President Lincoln shaking hands with Walter in front of Ford Theater and another of Miriam along side of the first Queen Elizabeth! One by one we looked on with astonishment at these snapshots of history.

Tyler chimed in, "This has got to be some sort of computer generated, Photoshop style trick we're looking at here."

"There's just one problem with that theory," I returned, "These are all Polaroids, and the last time I checked, they get spit out directly by the camera, not a computer program. I don't know how you fake these, and to compound matters, I don't know how two people simply vanish."

Tyler had taken the book out of my shaking hands by this point. Turning to the last page and pointing, he said, "I think I've just found our answer."

There on the inside of the back cover was a photograph of an unassuming cobblestone street located in London, England. It appeared to be taken somewhere around the late eighteen hundreds. The caption underneath it simply said "Home".


Whew, did you make it to the end? If so thank you for taking the time to read it. Comments and constructive criticism are gladly accepted.

If you're participating in the challenge don't forget to sign in on Mr Linky below.

Dr John, I was teasing you earlier, but would like to sincerely thank you again for the photographs.

Check back this Friday for next month's writing prompts too.


Maggie May said...

Phew..... yes, I made it right to the end!
I found this month's pictures to be a challenge, for real!
You met that challenge in a completely different way! Well done!

Jeni said...

Very interesting read, Jeff. But, compared to some of my really rambling posts, I wouldn't call it a "long one." How you -and the others who participate in this writing venture pull your stories together is something that really amazes me. I enjoyed reading your piece very much.

Roan said...

I think you have found your niche. Again I was reminded of Philip Marlowe and heard Humphrey Bogart. As you advised, I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to read. Funny thing, I forgot to drink the coffee. I'm not being polite when I say, you are a very good writer of all stories, but especially the detective variety.

I wasn't aware that silly little carousel was a time machine! Perhaps that's why Mr. Lexus was perched atop one of those little horses..

Oh, and thanks to John for the challenging pics.

bettygram said...

That was a very interesting story, and I had no trouble reading to the end.

Finding Pam said...

Iwill be back to read later. In a rush to get some where. Later

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

most excellent...I just don't have the time to participate in this at this time..maybe in March when my life gets smoother...

Hear and win new music on Monday's on The Couch

Ron said...

Howdy Jeff~

The thing about your stories, is that they always pull me in quickly and keep me involved; wanting desperatly to get to the discover what's up!

Also, they way you write is direct and to the point; no words wasted.

You create the image, but also allow the reader to imagine on his/her own.

I truly am in awe how you come up with these clever stories!?!?!

At the end of this story I actually said to myself..."Holy shit!"

BRAVO, buddy!

And thanks for sharing your gift!

P.S. I also think you would be one hell of a detective!

Akelamalu said...

I always make it to the end of your stories, they're so good! What an intriguing ending, you could have carried on but you have given our imagination something to ponder on. :)

Finding Pam said...

What a interesting story! I was not sure where you were going with this. I loved the time machine carosel. Got a love that!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I sort of have my hands full right now, but I will try to make corrections.

Looks like we are moving this week.

nitebyrd said...

Another great story, Jeff. :D

Jeff B said...

Maggie May- The first time I saw these pictures I thought of a time machine. I wrestled with them for quite a while before the actual story show itself to me.

Jeni- Ha, you do now how to write a long post don't you? I often wonder how these stories come to mind too. I'll wake up at the wee hours of morning sometimes with a story that just has to be written. Whether this is a blessing or a curse I'm not sure.

BJ Roan- Why thank you schweethart. I find that I'm comfortable writing in this genera.

Bettygram- Glad it held your interest.

Bond- When the time permits we'd love to have you join in. Until then just reading along is greatly appreciated.

Ron- Thanks man! Your warm comments always lift me up.

when I write dialog I try to put myself in the characters position and think, "How would they say that?" Glad to know it's received well.

Akelamalu- I actually felt the ending was a bit hurried, but wanted to bring it to a close for the sake of the blog. I often wrestle with how long is too long on a post, and think length would be more appreciated in book form instead.

Pam- don't worry about the links. I hesitated even mentioning it, but wanted you to know how to do it for future reference.

Glad you found the time to come back and read the story.

Good luck on the upcoming move.

Nitebyrd- thanks for stopping by and reading.

Cherie said...

I've been trying, but I haven't been happy with the plot lines that I've come up with so far. I'm out of town, so I'm trying to work on it during the lulls. lol

I haven't looked at anyone else's yet as to not be unduly influenced. :) I'll take a look as soon as I get something or I collapse in failure. LOL

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Hi Jeff - loved your story, what a clever idea. Fortunately I had just made a pot of coffee!

Like you I just sat and looked at the photos, had a few ideas but couldn't seem to take them anywhere, so won't be joining in this month. Will definitely be looking out for next month's pics though. A

Dr.John said...

Well I'm glad I put off reading yours until I posted mine or I wouldn't have posted mine.
I know how you hate praise but this was as good as anything I've read in the last month and I've been reading books I paid for.
I came wanting to make you happy by being critical but you defeated me. Sorry.
It was just too good.

laughingwolf said...

nicely done, jeff :)

Sandi McBride said...

Oh yes, made it right to the end, laughing and snorting...and I needed a good laugh and that touch of magic. Thanks so much Jeffafa...I'll be submitting mine tomorrow...though it won't be nearly as entertaining as this!

Anonymous said...

I will be posting my offering for your story by the end of the day today (Hawaiian time!). I just finished composing and I am late for work! Gotta go!

david mcmahon said...

You do this so well, Jeff.

Jeff B said...

Cherie- I had a heck of a time getting going this time around too. hope you're able to join in. If not, there's always next month.

Anne- Bummer that you're passing this month, but i understand. I'll have next month's pics up on Friday.

Dr John- Wow, I'm truly humbled by your kind words. Thank you.

Laughingwolf- Glad you came by for a read.

sandi- I just got home from work and saw that you linked your story. I'll be by in a bit to have a look.

Quilly- Sounds good. Looking forward to reading what you've come up with.

David- Thank you. I was pleased with the end result, but boy oh boy did it take me a while to come up with it.

Anonymous said...

Done! Posted!

Cinnamon Girl said...

Excellent story!! Funny thing, whenever I see Hydrangeas I have this urge to read Anne Of Green Gables. And I have no clue why as I don't recall any major flower power parts of the book!

Vodka Mom said...

That was wonderful! Does it take you long to do that? How may revisions?

I am fascinated by this process, and LOVE what you have ended up with.


Mimi Lenox said...

I have something for you at my blog. The Premio Dardos Award and Seven Men Of Integrity

Anonymous said...

I don't know how it is I was able to comment here twice without saying anything about your story. I haunted me the whole time I was composing mine. I had already written an outline, and I followed it, but our story have a few points of similarity.

I like yours better.

Jeff B said...

Starrlight- I think you might have it confused with Anne of Green Thumb Gables. It's the little known sequel.


Vodka Mom- This particular story I wrote during a couple of two hour sessions. I'm kind of old school because I like to hand write everything first on yellow lined paper and then type it up after. This gives me a chance to reread it as I type and make changes as I go. thanks for asking.

Mimi- The Queen lives! I'll be by later tonight to take a look.

Quilly- I just returned from reading your story and smiled at a few similarities I found as well.

Thanks for deciding to join in this month.