My one and only short story ever. I wrote it in February 2012 while taking a "healing retreat" at the Lake Ozark house. This is what happens when a suspense writer is in total solitude for a month. It is also my version of my generation's "Story telling picture book." In my heart of heart, I believe this is how "Bridges of Madison County" was written when a dear housewife, had some time to hersellf and imagined "what if".
LAKE OZARKS MYSTERY
Dedicated to Faolyn Elizabeth Mincey
The author hurried to have the story
written by the time she was born after
hearing she would be named Faolyn.
She was the inspiration for the story.
‘SNAP’. Metal to metal..
Mackenzie Hensler stepped out of the contractor’s SUV and the radiant smile on her face conveyed her every emotion. From the moment she saw the vast Lake Ozark and its many fingers of land peninsulas, lined with houses and multi-storied condominium buildings, she had known this was the location she had longed for. It had only been a real estate brochure she saw, but she had made a rash and uncharacteristic decision; she bought a property sight unseen except for the virtual tour video the relator sent her after her email inquiry. How could she not? The price was so right, it seemed wrong.
; she bought a property sight unseen except for the virtual tour video the relator sent her after her email inquiry. How could she not? The price was so right, it seemed wrong.
The contractor she hired in advance of her arrival had accompanied her to the first on-site inspection. She had not missed his skeptical appraisal of her when she arrived at his office and noted his cryptic statement of “You don’t look crazy, and your retainer check didn’t bounce, still …” his voice had faded to an inaudible level. Mackenzie had not pursued it; in part, because she did not want to know his thoughts. Now as they were entering the house he was handing her the key asking if she “wanted to be carried over the threshold”. The smirk on his handsome face wiped out any inclination on her part to be cordial as she gave him a withering stare.
The front door entry opened to the second level of the house where she was blinded by the light streaming in from three large windows on the far wall that revealed a landscape filled with blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Across the lake was a line of condominium buildings and houses dotting the shoreline. Fortunately, it was a long distance from her house and afforded her privacy even though the large second story windows had no shades or coverings.
A bathroom, a bedroom, and office were accessible along the hallway. A master suite with private deck, large walk-in closet and master bath, completed the second floor. She declined an immediate tour and went down the stairs leading directly from the front of the entry door of the house. There she was even more appreciative of the main floor
The contractor was thinking aloud and smiling. “Little elbow grease and some fresh paint and this will shine like new.”
Mackenzie took some devious pleasure in knowing at this moment she could one-up him with a comment of “I was right to buy this at a bargain so eat crow”; but she deferred the moment to restraint. She walked through the living area, which revealed an entire wall of glass and patio doors opening onto a large deck that overlooked the boat dock, within thirty feet of the lake's shore. Thankfully the rock and desert landscape had been professionally designed to be maintenance free.
After three years on the market without even one offer, it seemed strange that suddenly her good deal was now sending off warning bells. Why was such a stellar property undesirable in this market of high resale opportunities? She turned to the contractor whose scrutiny was obvious as he watched her reaction.
“So?” She kept her voice level and nonchalant. “What do you think of the stories about this place?” She watched with satisfaction as his eyebrows arched in surprise.
“I see. So you have heard about it then. I was beginning to think you were a lamb being led to the slaughter. Your real estate agent has been trying to unload this white elephant for a few years now and I figured you were duped. You’re either brave or a crime writer. Which is it?”
Mackenzie blanched at the reference to “crime writer” as it confirmed something bad had happened in the house. “Neither. I am a rational person with an eye for a bargain. Period.” She could have added that he had just fallen for her bluff, as she had no knowledge of any problem or stories of the property. She had run the bluff after seeing first -hand now, what a prime property it was. After all, it had to be “stuck on the market” for some reason; but it certainly was not the house and property itself.
“Well Lady, at least you don’t scare off easily. Others have a fear of ghosts, but if you’re happy, your relator is happy, then I’m happy with my advance check, so let’s get to it.” He turned and began reeling off the obvious needs; paint inside and out, a system check of the air conditioning, heat and plumbing. The septic would need to be evaluated and there was a legal window of time to find anything that had not been revealed at the time of sale; so he would start tomorrow if she could pick her paints out today.
Mackenzie’s mind had wandered as he spoke and she was staring out the patio door at the boat dock when she felt him nearby and heard him speaking almost against her ear
. “Yeah, just disappeared into thin air. They found her boat floating free on the lake. Husband never could be held accountable. Said he’d left to return to Afghanistan the night before and no one could prove any problems between them had happened before his leaving. House was locked up tight and she was never seen again. Still … people talk. Husband couldn’t stay here in the area. She was a local who married an outsider so the suspicion was on him. Couldn’t even sell the place … ‘til now.”
She turned and to see the smirk was back.
The furniture came with the house and it had been eerily close to Mackenzie’s tastes. She loved the minimalist approach to interior design and the industrial light choices of chrome and glass gave the whole house an open and airy look. She sat at her desk in the upstairs study and stared out the two large floor to ceiling windows which overlooked the lake.
The sun shimmered on the water revealing a pattern that appeared to be of sequined light reflections from the other side of the lake to her dock, a bridge of glistening lights. People could judge her as rash buying the place sight unseen, but in the next breath, they would have to judge her financially smart to have snapped up this jewel, pennies on the dollar.
Pulling a light jacket over her shoulders, she braved the cool spring air as she pulled a deck chair close to the rail and sat her steaming hot chocolate down. No TV, no music on her iPod, no phone. Just her, alone with her thoughts, and sitting at her own home. She picked up her book and read. "He who sits in solitude and is quiet, has escaped from three wars; hearing, speaking, seeing; yet against one thing shall he continually battle: that is, his own heart. St. Anthony.
Later in the evening, Mackenzie returned to the deck and her chair hoping to repeat the peaceful time of her early day experience. A movement on the boat dock caught her attention. She stared, wondering if she had imagined it, or was there a quick movement under the canopy? Maybe a bird flew under there and then out as she had seen happen earlier during the day.
The contractor had encouraged her to get rid of the dock as it was an old model of some thirty years or more, and its aluminum materials would put her at risk. He explained that the Lake Ozark zoning concerning boat docks had recently been changed due to some electrocutions and even deaths associated with the electrical wiring shorting out while people were on the dock.
There is was again. Something moving on the dock. She chided herself for hesitating to go check it out. A memory of her childhood neighbor boy flapping his arms like wings and clucking at her like a chicken, popped unbidden into her mind. It catapulted her to her feet and she opened the wooden gate of the deck to traverse the railroad tie stairs, which led in rambling fashion to the dock. Nothing appeared to be there as seen from the faint light provided by nearby dock lights and the “glitter bridge” of moonlight across the lake.
“Is that morning coffee I smell?” The contractor’s teasing inquiry called up to her from the main level, was an obvious hint he wanted some.
Mackenzie stirred from deep concentration to answer, “Help yourself. I’ll be down later, I’m busy here in my writing room.”
She returned to her computer screen and smiled. Google was not just her friend, but also her soul mate. There was nothing she could not research and find, and today it was “Lake Ozark Tragedies” and she was searching various years prior. Her eyes saw the headline and her hands shook. There it was.
“Lake Ozark authorities are still at a loss in the disappearance of Faolyn Wolfe. Her husband, Capt. Steven Wolfe is still considered a person of interest and his return from Afghanistan to answer questions concerning his wife’s disappearance is pending. The Wolfe’s boat was found floating in Lake Ozark the day after her husband returned to Afghanistan, and no sign of Mrs. Wolfe has been reported since.
The locked house was intact and her purse, cell phone and all belongings appeared undisturbed. The doors had been locked from the inside including all patio doors with their security bar locks in place. The storm door of the upstairs, outside, entry was locked, as was the entry door at the second level to the drive. All windows were secured and locked from the inside.
Police are searching for answers as to how anyone could have left the house in that scenario. A thorough search of the premises including with cadaver dogs turned up no leads.”
“What ya’ reading?” The contractor was hovering behind her shoulder already reading the monitor and answering his own question with his nosey intrusion. “Oh, so you are a writer. Gonna write this story? Hope you’re writing the ending ‘cause a lot of us have been wondering about this whole mystery thing for a long time.”
Mackenzie was irritated at his brash behavior and the stormy set of her face translated that in no uncertain terms, as she turned to face him. “I think you have a boundary issue and I am about to define some for you. I do not want you prying into my private business, and I do not want to be the object of your local gossip, so please, in the future when you are here working, have the courtesy to keep your distance and maintain a professional attitude.”
A stare down ensued.
He cleared his throat. “Uh, so I guess dinner tonight and a tour of the area as your personal guide is out?” His voice was quiet and showed no hint of sarcasm or argument. It also was not followed by an apology for his invasion of her privacy.
“I think not.” She turned back to her computer and listened as he left the room and his steps were heard on the free standing, wooden, stairs back to the living room. A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.
He was a handsome man and the temptation was there to “forgive and forget”, however, she had learned that handsome men had high expectations in relationships with women. While she could hold her own in the looks department, and she had that honest thought without any intent to inflate her own ego, she had experienced enough of the tug-a-war mentality in relationships to know that having one with ‘that man’ would be a fierce competition. She was not up for that. It was too soon; and too painful, to even consider a man in her life again.
The moon was the only thing cutting through the cloud cover and even it could not penetrate enough to restore the “glitter bridge” she had come to love. Mackenzie decided “if you can’t lick it, join it. She picked up her coffee and went downstairs and out onto the deck to enjoy the evening. No sense trying to get her mind cleared of the mocking thoughts of her contractor when she could be enjoying the breeze and distraction of the evening sight or the lake.
Her hand reached for her cup on the deck rail and completely missed its mark as she knocked it off and heard it crash to the rocks on the sloping landscape below. Her hands shook as she jerked them to her ears to cover the sound of a morbid, soulful, howl. Her mind tried to sort fact from imagination. It sounded like a wolf, or a coyote howling. Did they even have those in the Ozarks? Did she even know the difference in the howls? How would one Google that question?
There was a quick movement, subtle and silent as a dark shadow moved across the floor of the boat dock. It was quickly hidden by the night shadow underneath the dock canopy. The howl returned and she reached into her pocket pulling out her cell phone and hitting the speed dial.
The mocking answer of the contractor snapped her back into her defensive mode as she heard him brazenly saying, “Changed your mind so quickly?”
Her immediate knee jerk reaction to call him for help caused her to hang up cursing herself for even making the call. What had she thought he could do, after all?
The cell phone was ringing and she saw his number and name appear. Hesitating, and then knowing he might show up if she did not answer, she tried to steady her voice. “Hello.”
“You alright, Ms. Hensler?”
“Oh, I am sorry,” she smiled as her sardonic humor took over, “I seemed to have ‘butt-dialed’ you. Truly, I am sorry. I tried to hang up before you answered.” Privately she was thinking the use of the term ‘butt-dialed’ had a message in it, all of its own.
There was no answer on the other end and then she heard him repeat the question in a deadly serious tone. “You alright?”
Her bravado waivered, but her pride won out. “No really, I’m fine. Sorry for the ring. I’ll try to be more careful, and I’ll take you off speed dial.”
“No, don’t do that. You might … need me or something. Besides, I don’t usually get calls after business hours, so it was kinda welcome.” There was vulnerability in how he said it and the tone he used.
“I’m sure you have a very busy social calendar, but if you want to play the lonely bachelor in the boondocks …” she was laughing when the howl was heard again and she went silent.
“What the …?” he began when it was heard again.
“I’m not sure. Guess it’s a wolf or coyote taking up residence nearby,” she answered more lightly than she felt.
“In the Ozarks? Not likely, and at least not in the populated areas even if it was. It sounds like it’s near you.” His voice was rising with concern.
“On my boat dock actually. At least I thought I saw it there … but it was more of a shadow.”
“Go inside and stay, I’m coming out there.” The click on the phone indicated he was not taking no for an answer.”
Mackenzie had been surprised when the contractor arrived and was followed by a police car. He and an officer knocked on her door and when they entered, Mackenzie gave up her pretense of not being rattled by the whole event. The idea of a wolf or coyote being that close to the house was unnerving to a city girl; even one from Wisconsin who was known to hunt deer and camp out on land known to be home to bears. Her surprise however, was when the contractor had hugged her close to him and anxiously asked for the third time if she was alright.
“Mackenzie, this is my neighbor and our Deputy, Barney Farnsworth.”
At her startled look followed by a smile, the police officer also grinned at the contractor.
“Oh yeah, uh, not the Barney on Mayberry ….” He was smiling back at the officer too.
“You sure it was a coyote or wolf, Ms. Hensler?” The officer was in professional mode now.
“Call me Mackenzie. No, not at all. I am no expert on animals in the wild, but it was a howl that will bring up the goose bumps and stand your hair on end.”
“Like I said Barney, I heard it over the phone. Woulda’ sworn it was a wolf. She thought she saw something on the boat dock and that’s pretty damn close.”
The intervening hour was spent checking the boat dock, both men carrying guns at the ready. Nothing could be determined in the dark, but there was no sign of an animal in the area. The officer lamented the fact that Mackenzie’s property was on the tip of the peninsula and the only house on the end of a lane one turned down to get to the lake. It couldn’t be more isolated. He shared with her his part in the previous owner’s disappearance and investigation, and remarked how the location had contributed to the lack of witnesses, or any one hearing anything. He wondered if tomorrow anyone would even report having heard the howls of this night, although it would be something completely out of the ordinary.
After the officer left, it was obvious that the contractor was reluctant to go. Without conversation, Mackenzie had moved into the kitchen and made coffee offering him a cup when it was ready. He took it without comment, but the hint of a smirk was on the corners of his mouth at the ready.
Mackenzie ducked her head to hide the smile that escaped her control. “Guess I’ll hold off on getting a dog until this is resolved. I wouldn’t want it tangling with a wolf.” She smiled and seated herself at the end of the sofa in the sun room and looked out the patio doors to the lake.
“You mean some little scruffy thing to be eaten by the wolf?” he teased.
“If there really is a wolf,” she challenged. And no, I had already planned to adopt two greyhounds. In Wisconsin I’ve seen them hunt deer so they might not be so vulnerable.”
“You have that right. My friend hunts coyotes with them in Oklahoma.”
Mackenzie doubted he missed her look of disgust, but she chose not to embark on a liturgy of her thoughts on the unethical treatment of greyhounds. “Thank you for coming, I’m sure I’ll be fine now.”
“Is that you polite way of asking me to go?” A stare down began with him looking away first. “I’ll just rinse my cup. Thanks for the coffee.” He let himself out.
Mackenzie turned off the lights and looked once again at the dock. She wondered if Faolyn had sat staring into the night as she herself did, and what happened to her? Further efforts researching her death never gave much more in details. The husband returned and gave his story and without anything or anyone to contradict him, he was released and left the area for good. Mackenzie had relived Faolyn’s last day many times trying to imagine how one could disappear from a house locked in every way from the inside; it just was not possible. She would have had to disappear into thin air or somehow be here, inside the house still. Both options were not possible and a small chill went up her spine just considering it.
“Better come down here and take a look.” Barney Farnsworth was calling up to the deck where the contractor was scraping paint and Mackenzie had just come out of the house with cold drinks. They made their way down to the dock where Barney was kneeling near the far edge of the bottom dock floor. “Fur. Looks like it’s from a wolf.”
His frank assessment stopped Mackenzie’s hurried pace to a hesitant pause. “Come on, it’s gone now.” The voice of the contractor was quiet and encouraging.
Barney was gauging the interactions of the two of them. “Looks like your ‘singer’ was a wolf with a serenade just for you, Mackenzie.” Grinning at the contractor, he added, “Seems you have a little competition J.T.”
Mackenzie looked at the contractor and her puzzled question remained unasked, but it was obvious it was only a delay. The contractor shuffled uncomfortably and smiled at the officer. “Don’t go all Cupid on me, Barney; I’m just the contractor here.”
Barney’s grin indicated he was proud to have initiated some “fire in the hole” between the two and he continued. “I’ll get hold of the DNR and see what’s next. Not a good thing to have a hungry wolf around and displaced out of his habitat. Damn changes around here are crowding out the animals and the deer are often so damn skinny you don’t know if they are hungry or got wasting disease. If you see that wolf again, you call immediately, Mackenzie. We need to deal with that before it moves on into a more populated part of the peninsula. With a thousand fingers of land on this lake, we could have a real problem tracking it.”
They continued to discuss precautions and the “what ifs and whys” when Mackenzie stopped the conversation cold. “Once we find the wolf and deal with that, maybe we can deal with the ghost.”
Both men looked at her as though to assess whether she was trying humor to de-escalate the tension of the wolf, or if she was now being caught up in the mystique of the crime that had happened on her property. An uncomfortable silence prevailed.
“I’m not crazy …and I’m not sure. It is just that when I have watched for the wolf, a couple of times I thought I saw a figure …a human figure on the dock. It’s so fleeting and faint, I just don’t …I don’t know what I think.”
Barney shook his head slowly. “I think it’s so unusual to even be seeing a wolf, so that to be seeing the possibility of a person, is relevant. After all, those crazy people in Ohio had a zoo; maybe someone around here has a wolf. If so, I’d like to get my hands on them pretty quick.”
Mackenzie was not sure if Barney was trying to help her save face by giving her an out on her “ghost” story, but she smiled at him with genuine affection. “Barney, whatever it is, or who it might be is your department. I know you’ll solve it.”
“I might even solve the case of Faolyn in the process; who knows?” He smiled back and then smiled bigger when he saw the scowl on J.T.’s face. “I think J.T. wants you to notice the ring on my left hand.” He burst out laughing and walked up the stairs to his squad car.
The silence continued as the two finished their cold drinks on the deck and J.T. resumed work washing down the deck, prepping it for a new preservative coating. The question that hung in the air between them was apparently going to be important as both people seemed reluctant to address it. Finally, Mackenzie appeared back on the deck with her checkbook.
“I’m sure you’ve used up your advance by now so I’ll just write you another to bring us up to date on the labor, and you can get your receipts to me when you’re ready.” She squared her shoulders and looked him directly in the eye. “So what name should I put on this check? The advance check was written to Bernard Smith as I recall. That is the name you gave me, correct? And the one on the sign of your office building, correct?
J.T. was shuffling uncomfortably as he moved equipment aside so he could sit. “I just bought the business from Bernie recently so it made it easy.”
“Easy for what? What is your name?”
Before he could answer, the sound of an excited female voice was heard. “Yoo Hoo, it’s me. Came to see how you were liking the place and bring you a small house warming gift.” The relator arrived on the deck smiling with a large flowerpot filled with a small evergreen bush and a magnum of champagne. At the sight of J.T. with Mackenzie, she stopped short and her face lost all expression. “Oh,” was all she managed.
“Please join us; it would appear you’re already acquainted with J.T.” It was more of an accusation than a statement.
“Uh, I really can’t stay, duty calls you know.” There was a strain in her voice and her eyes never rested on J.T. who was leaning back in his chair staring at his hands clasped tightly on the tabletop. The flowerpot was placed on the table. “Let’s do lunch sometime, Mackenzie. Call me if you need … anything.” She quickly handed Mackenzie the champagne and turned to leave when she hesitated as she heard Mackenzie speak.
“Count on it. I’ll be calling you later today to discuss … a new development.” Mackenzie watched as the relator left as though the hounds of hell were nipping at her heels.
Moments went by with the silence unbroken until finally Mackenzie spoke in a measured tone. “When you called me after I bought this place, you said my relator had recommended you to work on the house. That was a lie, wasn’t it?
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
Mackenzie’s stare was unrelenting. “What is your name?”
“I am Jared Thomas …,” he offered.
“My patience is wearing thin. J.T. would indicate that is for a first and middle name. What is your last name?”
“Wolfe … sorta explains why she treated me like a leper and I don’t get social calls at night, so I can be home to rescue damsels in distress, doesn’t it?” There was no humor in his voice or on his face.
“And your connection to Steven Wolfe and Faolyn is …?
“Brother and brother-in-law respectively.”
“What was your end game here? Why did you want to be the contractor? You could have just bought the house if you wanted it.”
“I don’t want it. Too painful.”
“Then what?” Mackenzie kept her voice level and non-judgmental. “I believe you owe me an explanation.”
“You can figure most of it out yourself. My brother is like a walking plague to these people. The local bogeyman. I never set foot here until I bought out Bernie.”
“But why? Is your brother coming back here?”
There was an immediate shift in the chair as J.T. sat up and leaned forward. “My brother was killed in combat near Torkham in Afghanistan a month ago.” His voice quavered. “I received all of his things and went through his storage locker. In there were pictures, a journal and many letters that were Faolyn’s. I got to read all there was between them as they communicated with each other since meeting, marrying and while he was away serving in the military. I had all of those letters and I know he did not hurt her. She was an angel on earth. When he returned to Afghanistan after answering questions here, he wrote me some letters and went over and over the evidence; or lack of it. He begged me to help him find her and to find out what happened when he finished his tour. He said there had to be an explanation with the house because he knew she would not have left of her own free will; and how would she have locked down the house?”
Mackenzie sat stricken as the emotion of his revelation caused his tears to spill over and run down his cheeks. She reached to touch his hand as he resumed speaking.
“I wrote him that I would be ready when he came home and that together we’d solve it. With his death, I had to settle the estate and I’m the executor. I figured it would take some time and being alone and mobile in my profession, I decided to move here. I had no idea it would be so hard. Many people are kind, others are tolerant, and some are judgmental. All in all, if I wasn’t part of the “intrigue” I would love living here. I certainly understand why they did.”
“I am so very sorry for your loss; of your brother Steven and of Faolyn. I cannot imagine these last years for you all.”
“I’ll tell you it freaked me out when I heard that wolf. Steven always said that he’d be a wolf in the next life and he and Faolyn would just roam in the wilderness together, always together. After all, she was a wolf ‘twice over’, he used to say.”
“Sorry, I don’t’ understand.”
“It’s something the two joked about when they met. It’s her name, Faolyn. Faolyn means “little wolf” or “lone wolf”. When they met, they took it as a sign they were meant to be together. I can tell you from reading their letters; they were two people in love and deeply devoted to each other. No question about it. No doubt in my mind. They were soul mates of the most powerful, even mystical kind, and believe me I’m not given to romantic notions or new age explanations. It’s just a fact; they belonged to each other.”
“I don’t doubt you, J.T., but war changes a person. Could your brother have had PTSD or something? As a nurse I have worked with soldiers and it’s a real thing and happening more than we like to acknowledge.”
“You’re a nurse?” There was a smile on his face as though the dark discussion had just vanished, but more likely he was redirecting the conversation. “Call me Jared would you? That’s what my friends call me. I just go by J.T. here in the Ozarks. At first, because I didn’t want the quick connection to be made as my name had come up in some news articles. You know how the paparazzi are when they hound family members for comments.”
“Don’t I just.” The resentment in her voice was obvious. She looked up to see the quizzical look on his face but she did not want to get into Noble’s story and for sure, his death. “Sorry, yes, I am a nurse.”
“Fine folks, nurses. Sure did hate it when the profession and hospitals changed the policy about nurse’s giving back rubs. Best part of the hospital experience in my opinion.”
They laughed mutually, then found themselves talking easily about the house, the community, and finally back to Steven and Faolyn. Mackenzie made dinner for the two of them and then they moved to the sunroom to watch the sunset as they waited for the dark to see if the wolf came back.
Jared finally convinced Mackenzie to get rid of the boat dock, as it was more like an albatross around her neck than an asset. He made a call then said the tow barge would pick it up tomorrow if the lake was calm and that the owner of the company had some nice trade-ins for a fair price if she wanted to come and take a look at a new one.
“You know, I don’t really need a boat Jared, but if I got a new dock. I just might consider it. I am not much for lake swimming; I had a cousin die by drowning in one and he was a state champion swimmer at 16 and drowned. Me not being a strong swimmer, I’m not really tempted or confident.”
“That reminded me of something Steven mentioned in one of his letters to Faolyn. She loved the house and the location, but though growing up here she hadn’t been on the water much. She had just gotten to where she would go out on the boat with him to go places instead of using the car. Back in the fall before she died, she took a solo run but said after that, she would never go out on that boat in the winter or rough water. Too scary for her. I just can’t reconcile that with the boat being found out and loose on the water; and Steven swears it was secured up on the lift in the boat dock when he left and covered with the canopy. In fact, he planned to have it picked up and stored at a storage facility for the winter to prevent damage; that was confirmed by the manager of the storage warehouse.
“Why don’t we go over some of the evidence and files of her case? Maybe fresh eyes with no ties and prejudice might notice something. I am from out of the area and have no pre-conceptions. What do you say?”
Jared was staring at her and she had no doubt he saw her determination. She had been told by more than one man that her most telling feature was that determined look when she had made up her mind. In fact, it was the last thing Noble had said to her when he got in the car that fateful day. He had invited her along but smiled saying “I can tell by that determined look you are not coming on my little outing.” He had blown her a kiss and driven off in his new Jaguar as it reached high speeds before disappearing quickly. A moment of angst had gripped her at the sight of his leaving, but she put it aside, believing it was a feeling akin to desire, and that would have to wait. Now she knew it would be a wait that would never end.
“Mackenzie? I was just asking about motion lights. Can I pick some up tomorrow and put them up? At least on the back side of the property?”
“Sure.” She stood to shake off the distraction of Noble’s memories. “Let’s go up to my office. I need a “Google fix.” Smiling, she headed up the stairs ahead of him and already had the laptop active when he arrived. Typing quickly she entered into the Google line; WOLF HOWLS MEANING.
As the two begin to read the information, they became more subdued; each taking a portion to read that seemed to “speak to them”.
“Listen to this Jared. Wolves howl when they are separated from their pack and may return to a familiar place and howl to be rejoined with others.” This is interesting. “Wolves bark, woof, whine, whimper, yelp, growl, snarl but to be rejoined or find pack mates they howl.”
“Mackenzie, look below there.” No wolves are believed to be in the Ozarks in this modern time. The grey Timber wolf and smaller red wolf used to be plentiful and the red wolf bred with coyotes.” Damn, look at this. “The Timber wolf can weigh 80 to 120 pounds and its paw can measure 5” from front to back. Some people believe we’re seeing a resurgence of bear, deer, elk and others including wolves in areas they haven’t been due to scavenging for food” .Whew, that sounds pretty plausible for making a case for a wolf being in the area. I think we should be considering doing some security including closing off his access to this property.”
“Oh, of course, if you think that would help.”
“Actually I’m thinking what might help is not getting the new dock until we’ve resolved the wolf issue. Maybe without the dock, he’ll leave.”
“That makes sense to me Jared. No hurry on my part.” Mackenzie seemed to be choosing her words. “Do you believe in signs? After death I mean?”
“Are we talking in general, or are we back to the wolf?”
“You said Steven alluded to being a wolf in his next life. Don’t you ever wonder if it is possible? The Indians for centuries have stories of animals and birds appearing after a death that had relevance in the life of the deceased.”
“Honestly? No, I never wonder if it’s possible, because I know it isn’t. And it’s offensive to me to consider it, and that’s not for any religious reasons; I just can’t fathom we’ll “be back” like Schwarzenegger; only in fur or feathers.”
The crack of a gunshot brought them to their feet and down to the patio doors to look out to the lake. The howl of a wolf was heard, then another gunshot. The howl was changed to an indescribable torturous cry. Mackenzie was bolting out the door behind Jared shouting “no” as she slammed the patio door to follow him.
“What the hell; who is out there and who is firing that gun?” Jared was leaping onto the dock following a stream of light already flipping across the boat dock’s floor, and now resting on the wolf that lay on its side moaning.
“It’s me Jared.” They heard Barney's voice as a motorboat approached the dock. “Thought I’d check to see if it came back. Looks like he’s right on time.”
Mackenzie had arrived at Jared’s side in time to hear Barney. “You didn’t have to kill it. Couldn’t you have tranquilized d it or something?” Her voice was harsh and unforgiving; definitely not appreciative. She moved toward the wolf, now lying still on the dock. “He’s dying, Jared.”
“Circle of life, Mackenzie. Circle of life.”
More than an hour had passed when Jared was able to draw Mackenzie aside and convince her to return to the house. In her distraught state, she could not even explain to herself the sadness she felt for the wolf. In her fanciful mind, the wolf was trying to reunite with its pack, or pack mate. The other part of her fancied that it was Steven Wolfe come back to a familiar place to find his mate and solve her disappearance; maybe even be reunited with her. Mackenzie’s parting instructions had been clear to Barney. If he wanted her forgiveness, he would return the wolf’s ashes to her after the state examiner had completed the rabies test. It was obvious Jared and Barney thought her a little over wrought, but both promised compliance.
Opening the deck gate, Mackenzie watched the men load the wolf into Barney’s boat. She hesitated, waiting for Jared, and hoping for a quiet moment of reasonable conversation to prove to him that she had not gone insane in her reaction to the incident. As he approached, she walked to the patio door to start some coffee, or maybe pour herself a drink. It had been that kind of night and she did still have the magnum of champagne, though it sounded inappropriate at this time.
Mackenzie pushed the patio door to slide it open, and thought nothing happened. Actually, something had happened. It resisted, and to her surprise, it appeared to be locked. She stared at the door and saw that the security bar was in place, and she could not get into the house. A faint recollection came to her that as she was running out the door to go to the dock she heard something.. It had been a faint sound.
‘SNAP’. Metal to metal.
“Oh my lord, Jared. Its locked.”
“What’s locked?” He was just approaching the door.
“The patio door. It locked itself when I ran out and slammed it in place following you. The bar fell into place and it is locked. Is this the same patio door and security bar that was on when Faolyn was here?’
“Yes, but the police tested it. They said it couldn’t lock on its own. It was secured when in the upright position.”
“Obviously, now there is “reasonable doubt.”
“But what does that prove? Only that she may have been locked out by accident.”
“What if she got locked out and couldn’t get in. Did she have the car to use?”
Jared thought a minute then looked at her in surprise. “No, when Steven left he drove his car to the airport and left it there as he was having his buddy pick it up there to put new tires on it for her. The mechanic came forward and told the police about the car when there was a question about it being at the airport after they questioned why Steve would have left her without a car out in the boondocks.”
“Consider this Jared. The weather was bad and the lake was rough. She may have tried to take the boat somewhere to get help. She might not have had a phone; in fact didn’t they say the cell phone and things in her purse were intact?”
“Yes, and if something happened on the lake, her being inexperienced .... My God, she could have ended up there in that lake. No telling where.”
“Wouldn’t you think that her body would have turned up eventually? Washed up or something? Unless it was weighted down by something; or someone.” Mackenzie looked nervously at Jared realizing that remark was a little too cryptic to be appreciated by the brother of the suspect.
Jared seemed to ignore the comment. “Let’s solve getting back inside here for tonight, and then we’ll talk with Barney tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t be using this door with the bar up. I’ll replace it after we have Barney take a look and give the okay.”
“Jared, Mackenzie, I brought the case file pictures out and it includes all the interior shots of the house and outside as well. Thought you would like to take a look at what I found after getting your information. He handed them a picture of the patio door taken the day the police were investigating the house. “Notice the security bar is down and in place, just like it is now from last night. You haven’t touched it right?”
“No we haven’t” Mackenzie answered.
Now notice that the lock lever on the handle is in the unlocked position in this picture that was taken when Faolyn disappeared. And the bar is not secure in the holder as it would be had you pushed it from the inside. Basically the same scenario we have here. I believe there is a case for her being accidentally locked out.
Jared squeezed Mackenzie's shoulder pulling her closer in a triumphant gesture.
“Is it okay Barney, if we use this door now or do we need official pictures or something? I see the tow barge is here to haul off the old dock for Mackenzie. I just want to go down and speak to the fellas a minute.”
“Better use the other patio door in the sun room. I want to get official pictures and a sworn affidavit from the two of you.”
The smiles that were on the faces of Jared and Mackenzie as they walked down to the dock were more relaxed than at any time since their first meeting. As Mackenzie stepped on an uneven tie and her step faltered, Jared was quick to grasp hold of her arm, and even quicker to take her arm and interlock it with his the rest of the way down. When they arrived at the dockside, it seemed only natural that he would release her arm, but he slid his hand around her waist as he pulled her against him in a gentle embrace.
The workers smiled as they returned to their tasks after watching the couple who were obviously distracted from the real intent of their presence. As the worker grabbed the metal cable with its hook for the transit eye under the dock, he placed his facemask in place and being in the line of sight of the couple; he smiled as he dropped down into the cold water and went under the dock to make the attachment.
It was six weeks to the day later that Jared and Mackenzie stood on the new dock and looked out across the lake as each held a small urn in one hand, their other hand joined together with each other. “Jared, would you like to say anything before we do this?”
“No, I’m good. I guess I just want to take a moment to realize the miracle of it all. I mean, if it hadn’t been for the wolf …”
“Steven.” Her determined look was back so he continued on, with only a scowl in her direction.
“We wouldn’t have moved the old dock, and Faolyn’s body would never have been found; at least what there was left of it. I can’t imagine it being up under that dock caught up by towing eye and equipment all this time. And the remaining fabric being what Steven described in his letter and testimony as being what she was wearing when he left.”
“I’ll always choose to believe she got locked out accidentally and went for help in the boat. No matter her reason, whether she could have been trying to catch Steven at the last moment going out in a hurry, or whatever, but somehow, she had to be out on that lake and in the rough white caps and ended up in the water. A case could be made for her swimming toward home and almost making it, then going under and washing up under the dock and being snagged.”
“It’s incredible how we found her.”
“How Steven found her and howled to bring us to her.” Again with the determined look.
“Whether you are right my darling or I am, I think you were right in us having this ceremony. I think putting their ashes together into the lake is appropriate. From reading the letters and journals, I have come to believe Faolyn was as close to an angel on earth as you’re going to find, and I think if I was in love with her and she died, I would find a way to be re-joined. Who knows, maybe it is possible. Who am I to judge?”
“If my hands were not otherwise occupied, I would hug you and kiss you right now, Jared Thomas Wolfe. I am just learning about that romantic man you’ve been suppressing since we met.”
“Then let’s get this done, because restraining you is never a good idea.” Jared chuckled at her blush.
Slowly and in unison, the two removed the lids of the urns and joining the two streams of ashes together into one stream as they flowed from the urns into the lake, they stood silently for some time contemplating the questions that remained; but satisfied that somehow, fate had allowed them to bring closure to two souls separated by death.
Softly Mackenzie’s voice was heard as she spoke the words; Those who love deeply can never truly be separated.
THE END is merely an opportunity to begin again.
This Two wolve picture (artist unknown)
"Image Copyright Name of Artist, 20120
Wolf howling ID 60272062 Takiev Alexander
Two Wolves on log id 99044252 Debbie Steenhauser
Used under license from Shutterstock.com"
All other photos taken by the author: joyce godwin grubbs
Author from the Grassroots
Joyce Godwin Grubbs
AUTHOR'S PLATFORM; Biography
My experience with underground relocation and protection services for victims of rape/sexual assault and domestic violence victims was vital preparation to write my novels. I collaborated with decorated pioneer police officer and sex crime expert Trula Godwin. I am Founder and direct “The Trula Godwin Project”; an underground victim's program in her name. (www.trulagodwinproject.webs.com).
I won the Epsilon Sigma Alpha International Award in Iowa, and finished in the top five in international competition. This was in recognition of a non-profit organization I co-founded to work with; the homeless, addicts, mentally ill and special need people. My many years of work as a trained advocate on the crisis lines, shelters, and as a nurse in adult and child psychiatric residential care, have provided unending opportunities for materials and unique insights.
I am a published photo/journalist and recipient of the “Editor’s Choice Award 2009; for contributions as a freelance writer for the internet news network. (CMN).Cable Muse Network and also contribute to the Cable Box Blog. I won publication of two winning non-fiction contest essays in the Quad City Times (circulation 67, 467) in consecutive years. I have done online technical writing for private corporate companies for their products, marketing, and political contributions. As a speaker, I have also been a ghostwriter for other speakers.
My life has led me to many intriguing experiences with politicians, criminals, and being privy to the integral workings of the “shadow world” that exists around us in our cities. I am honored to be among those to whom much trust was given by the people of the streets, and was protected by the “code of the street people” as I helped those who walked on “the wild side.”
I have completed ten suspense novels (romantic/suspense and mystery/suspense). All eleven are on Amazon Kindle EBooks. My novels are stand-alone manuscripts though known collectively as the “Greyhound Lady Walking” series. Five of the eleven are in print at this time.
I have completed a World War II veteran’s biography as a ghostwriter and was honored to write of his service in all the major battles of the South Pacific and his personal life before and after, including his distinguished business career. I have just agreed to ghost write another biography for the victim of a national reported crime whose story spans 39 years. My first Y/A book is in editing now.
I write strong ensemble stories, with lead characters that are often “damaged” but they never give up. They sometimes fail, but always achieve their goal and learn more through the process. I present strong female and male perspectives. These books are “insights” into a “shadow world “most people do not even know exists yet it is “happening” all around them as they live and sleep. The integration of real life cases, fictionalized assures the reader a powerful read. I invite you to join them in experiencing a literary walk on the wild side.