Saturday, February 19, 2011

THE SIGHTING

 Awakened by a pounding noise, I shook my wife and asked her if she knew where I had put my little league baseball bat. If I was going to confront a burglar stupid enough to knock on our backdoor at twelve o’clock at night, I wanted a weapon I knew how to use.
Before she rolled over and went back to sleep, she mumbled, “I’m not responsible for keeping up with things you had before we met.”
The last time I remembered seeing that bat, I was twelve years old. No telling where my parents put it, after I left the league to start my career in the newspaper business. I made a living delivering the Whitland Daily Picayune, until I was fifteen.
Left to defend myself with a skillet, I yanked my back door open ready to let the thief have all of a nine inch Teflon pan on top of the head.
“What the hell are you cooking at this time of night?” Leon asked, staring at the frying pan in my hand.
Leon, who lives two doors down from me, is a retired bank robber turned investment counselor. At age seventy, he gets his daily walks in late at night, normally somewhere other than on my back deck.
I lowered the pan and said, “I thought you were a thief.”
He placed his hand on the door facing, leaned forward and said, “According to the federal government, I am a reformed thief.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot. Sorry about that, Leon. Come inside.” I stepped away from the doorway to let him into our cabin. “What brings you to my doorstep after midnight?”
“I saw her.”
“Who?”
“Molly.”
“Molly!” I gazed at his eyes. “Have you been drinking?’
“I’m telling you. I saw her plain as day not more than twenty minutes ago down near the water close to the bridge crossing.
Molly Cunningham, a famous singer/dancer in the 1940’s, fell in love with a male counterpart soon after he arrived in town to join the show. In a jealous rage, her former lover and manager shot her as she stood, in her wedding dress, near the altar. Although Molly survived, the bullet hit her spine. At age twenty-eight, her stage career was ended. After learning she would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, her fianc√© left town to take care of some personal business that he told her shouldn’t take too long. She wrote letter after letter inquiring about his return, but he never responded and she never heard from him again.
Three years later, in 1951, on the night of a full moon, Molly’s live-in caretaker was awoken by singing and looked out of her second story bedroom window. Molly was in her wheelchair outside on a wooden dock that extended out over the water. With a single light bulb overhead, she was inches from the edge.  The caretaker dashed downstairs and out of the house, but she was too late. Molly had already rolled herself off the dock into the water and drowned.
Over the years, residents living near the lake have claimed seeing a faint image of a woman near the water’s edge. According to newspaper articles, the sightings have always occurred on the night of a full moon. No one has reported seeing her face clearly, but every sighting was of a woman with long black hair, and dressed in a white flowing dress that drags the ground behind her.
Since my time in Hampton Lake Estates, I’ve never seen the image, but we’ve all heard the beautiful singing voice on several occasions. No one has been able to determine the source of the singing, but nearly everyone in our little community agrees it has to be the spirit of Molly Cunningham.
I followed Leon down to the bridge crossing and we looked around, but saw nothing but a lake full of water, at least five thousand brown leaves scattered around on the ground, and several shadowy tree trunks off in the distance.
“What do you think we should do?” Leon asked, as we both stood looking toward the lake.
“Go back to bed.” I replied.
“Okay, but I want to file a report first.”
We turned and started walking toward my cabin. “Who are you going to file it with at this time of night?” I asked.
“You, of course,’ he said, walking beside me. “Aren’t you supposed to be some kind of famous writer or something?”
The rumors I had started had already begun to spread, at least to Leon’s house.
We went back to my cabin where I took a half a page of detailed notes from Leon, before he left and returned to his own abode. I tossed the pen down and headed for my bedroom. The next morning I awoke with an idea and a question from my wife.
"Where did you go in the middle of the night?" she asked.
"Down by the lake hoping to see a woman," I replied.
She slung the covers back. "In that case, you can prepare your own breakfast."
I was pretty much awake by the time she stomped out of the bedroom in her slippers and robe. After getting myself out of the breakfast doghouse, with more of a complete answer, concerning my midnight adventure, I cooked scrambled eggs and toast for my wife. That was her way of forgiving me for sneaking out of the house to see another woman.
After breakfast, I started working on my idea. My two beta readers had my latest manuscript, MEET ME AT THE STATION. Until I received feedback from them on my manuscript, there was nothing further I could do. Being an ex-newspaper man, no one was better suited to write an award winning story about the spirit of Molly Cunningham.
While I sat at my desk, visions of unraveling the mystery of the lake, going on several talk shows, selling my story to a national magazine, and getting a television deal on the History Channel were a stampede of thoughts stirring up a dust cloud as they passed through my mind.
The first order of business was to solve the mystery. In order to do that, I needed help from a professional with years of experience in the spirit world.
I requested an audience with my neighbor, Zelda. She is ninety-eight years old and lives alone in a 1954 refurbished trailer with a human hand, palm out, painted on the side of it. The words Psychic Readings $1.00 are written across the palm in purple. According to her, she’s made a living out of that trailer since July 18th of 1955. Although Zelda considers herself retired, on occasion, she offers to help me, in my endeavor to become a famous romance writer. Her trailer is the only one allowed in the Hamptons Lake Estates. It happens to be next door to our cabin, which comes in handy when I need the kind of advice only a psychic is capable of providing.
( To be continued )

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