Murder Most Grievous: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

30 Oct



Murder Most Grievous

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

By L. Stewart Marsden


Sheriff John Belvedere loved when the legal process was followed, and especially when a logical path led to surprising and convincing conclusions, as it did with James Ditter.

With sufficient probable cause, a district judge quickly okayed the search warrant for Ditter’s house, car and cell phone records. Investigators, on entering Ditter’s bedroom, immediately asked for more warrants, including his computer and any other digital recording device.

The department ran an extensive background check, locating every town Ditter had lived in for the past twenty years.

The albums pointed to possible multiple murders of teens in a three-state area. Murder was always bad — but Belvedere knew serial murderers could be, well, particularly heinous. Most heinous.

The local news hounds were on the scent from the beginning. When a public school teacher was arrested — particularly for some sensational reason — there was no limit to the doggedness of reporters. Seems their tenacity was definitely self-motivated. Get a story wired out by the AP. Get national coverage and recognition. A feather in everyone’s cap, all at the expense of the victim and the victim’s family and friends. But the sheriff knew that every once-in-a-while news generated leads, and solid leads were what the department did not have. Just an unfinished binder full of pictures and items of the life of Klerique Shaunasey. And the ten other binders as well.

The SBI and the FBI became involved. Slow and steady wins the race, he knew. But the public and that damn media salivated for information. Information he was reluctant to release, as well as information he couldn’t manufacture.

Klerique was assumed dead. Her body, or any evidence of foul play, could not be found.

America’s Most Hunted jumped into the foray, splashing photos of Klerique, including taped interviews with friends and what little family she had. “If you have seen Klerique, or have any information . . . “

Ditter was released on bond after his first appearance in district court on being arrested. His lawyer, a silver-haired lanky attorney whose trade accouterments were a bolo tie and white cowboy hat, managed to keep delaying proceedings. It was no secret that Lance Jeffries aspired for the job of DA for the 21st district. And he preened and prepped for every media opportunity with that end in mind.

When it turned out that the ten “victims” of James Ditter were not dead, but very much alive, Jeffries used the information like squirting lighter fluid onto live coals.

“My client has not been proved to be connected in any way to the disappearance of Klerique Shaunasey, other than a few pictures and an album he maintained on her. They were not lovers. They were not involved in any untoward way.

“The district attorney has done what he always does, and has followed the path of least resistance to solve this case by convicting an innocent man! Show me the body of Klerique Shaunasey! He can’t! He has strolled out, quote, evidence, to the media in order that my client be presumed guilty in the eyes of the public. Why, we may as well string him up right now!”

It turns out, according to information leaked by an unnamed source, that James Ditter’s ambition was not to murder Klerique or the ten other students, but to help each reach their potential. He anonymously gave $500 to each when they graduated. News bloodhounds were able to verify the donations of the most recent gifts during the last decade.

Sheriff Belvedere never believed Ditter was innocent. He knew in his guts the man was guilty.

In spite of his disappointment in each student “project”  — which he revealed later in an interview with Keith Madison, the star of the popular Murder Most Grievous television series — Ditter swore to innocent plans.

“I intended to find one person who would let me help them reach their dreams. It was never about me. It was about them.”

“Yeah, he was a little creepy back then,” said Barry, one of the so-called earlier victims, to Madison. “But he was harmless. When I found out he gave me $500 — gosh, that was a real surprise! Do I think he killed that girl? I can’t answer for sure. I guess we’ll never know for sure. But they haven’t found a body, right?”

With no body, with no forensic evidence that could tie Ditter to Klerique’s disappearane, with no previous murders in tow, with nothing other than albums containing photos and school records of eleven students, Jeffries argued before the court that charges be dropped.

“He didn’t violate any law. There were no inappropriate contacts — no complaints on the parts of those ten students. The only thing James Ditter is guilty of is caring for the futures of students he felt had great potential. Isn’t that, after all, what all teachers should be guilty of?” spewed Jeffries as news cameras caught his performance.

The judge agreed.

Klerique’s brother Jayvon, tried to shoot Ditter when he emerged in front of the courthouse after the acquittal, The event was caught by those dozens of TV and other media cameras, and made national news that night. Jayvon was eventually sentenced two years later to five years imprisonment on several felony counts after accepting a plea arrangement with the new DA, Lance Jeffries.

“And so,” concluded Keith Madison at the close of his episode on the now cold case, “as the mystery of Klerique Shaunasey’s whereabouts and what really happened to her grows colder with each passing year, we leave her with a sense of frustration. A frustration Sheriff Belvedere aptly expresses.”

“She’s out there somewhere. I believe she’s dead. I can’t prove it — yet. And her killer, be it James Ditter or somebody else, will be brought to justice. You can count on that.”

Sedgwick turned off the TV. During the three-year  prolonged process, he had moved to Raleigh and gone to work in a rural county library north of the city. He kept abreast of the case online.

Picking up his cell phone, he dialed a telephone number, referring to a scrap of paper he had stuffed in his shirt pocket.

“Hey. Is this Monica?

“Hi, Monica. This is Dawson. Yeah, the guy at the library from this afternoon? Right. I was wondering if you and me could get together and grab a bite sometime soon.

“Well, everyone likes pizza, right?

“Okay, sure. How about tomorrow? I get off around four. Is there somewhere in particular? Yeah, right — I know where that is. Want to meet me there then? Great! So I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? Yeah. Bye-bye.”

Sedgwick laid the phone on the coffee table, and opened a small wooden box that sat atop a small stack of New Yorker magazines. From it he took a lock of jet-black hair, bound at one end with a rubber band. He slowly drew the lock under his nose and breathed in deeply, smiling with content.

* * * * *

Miss the first installment of Murder Most Grievous? Click here.

Copyright © by L. Stewart Marsden, 29 October, 2014

Murder Most Grievous: Sheriff Belvedere

29 Oct



Murder Most Grievous

Sheriff Belvedere

By L. Stewart Marsden


John Belvedere shuffled through the arrest reports from the previous week. The department had squeezed through another Hallowe’en with only normal incidents: minor fender benders, and couple of B&E’s, and one parent who complained her child had come home with a small rope noose stuffed among the candy. The mom and her child were black. The noose was a continuation of a suspected hate crime that occurred two years earlier at one of the rural high schools. Intimidation of its black students by some anonymous redneck, he had surmised — though he never said it, even to his deputies. Loose lips sink ships. And Belvedere had two daughters in college. He couldn’t afford to lose his job.

The mom wanted the department to fingerprint the noose. Or at least run a DNA fiber test to run down the culprit. Wasn’t going to happen. Results would likely prove nothing. Besides, the budget was tight this year, and that kind of testing was expensive. “People must think we’re made out of money,” he thought.

Belvedere had kept the sheriff’s position for fourteen years, assuming the mantle from his predecessor, who got his hand caught in the cookie jar, and paid for it — both at election time and in the country prison for a few months. All-in-all, he had more than twenty years of his life invested in law enforcement, and he loved it. It never got old.

His desk intercom buzzed him, and broke his concentration.

“Line 2, Sheriff. Captain Cooke from HPD.”

Belvedere always grinned at the name. Captain Cooke! He pulled the receiver to his ear.

“Cooke . . . how’s the hook?”

“You know John, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t make fun of other people’s names.”

“What’s up, Steve?”

“Need your help with a possible kidnapping.”

“Go ahead.” Belvedere grabbed his notepad and a pen. Cooke was all business. He needed to get out more, thought Belvedere.

“Seventeen-year-old black female. About five feet ten, 120 pounds, last seen leaving an apartment on the day after Hallowe’en.”

“Her apartment?”

“Negative. Apartment of a new boyfriend, according to the girlfriend who reported her missing.”

“Name of the missing person?”

“Klerique M. Shaunasey. Student at Higdon. Senior. Pretty bright girl, according to the principal there. Lives with her uncle.”

“Her brother Dayshon Shaunasey, by any chance?”


“Man, that family! And her mother was shot and killed a few years back, right?”

“Stray bullet. Right.”

“Jeesh! Suspects?”

“We’re holding the boyfriend, but don’t have anything other than circumstantial stuff. He’s cooperative. Nice kid. Works at the library. Not sure there’s anything further on him.”

“Anyone else?”

“Yeah. The name James Ditter came up. English teacher at Higdon. Hasn’t been at school this week — called in sick. Some of the students — as well as the boyfriend — says the guy is a bit creepy. And he was real friendly with Shaunasey. Touchy. Anyway, he lives out in the Berger Lake area. Wonder if you’d mind sending someone out to visit him today?”

The particulars given and received, Sheriff Belvedere hung up and stood. Stretching, he decided to go himself. He needed to get out, and the administrative stuff was not what he originally signed up for. And, it could wait. Besides, on a nice fall morning with the colors at their peak, he relished a quiet drive in the country.

Along the way his two-way crackled.


“Come in.”

“Got a development on the Shaunasey case.”

“Go ahead.”

“The Higdon resource officer found a school digital camera in Mr. Ditter’s classroom, and the principal gave him permission to look at the memory card.”


“Seems the pictures are all of the missing girl.”

The front door to Ditter’s house opened, and Belvedere announced himself. Ditter invited him in.

“Coffee?” Ditter offered.

“Is it made?”

“Only take a minute.”

“That’s all right. Understand you’ve been sick?”

“When you work in a high school with twelve hundred students, you catch everything that’s out there. Please, have a seat. How can I help you? I know this isn’t a social call.”

Belvedere pulled a printed photo of Klerique from his leather folder and handed it to Ditter.

“You know this girl?”

“Klerique Shaunasey. Bright girl. She’s in my Honors English class. Is something wrong?”

“We don’t know. When was the last time you saw her?”


“And not since then?”

“I came down with the crud over the weekend. I’ve been laid up here since.”

“Anyone attest to that?

“Sheriff, what’s going on? Why these questions?”

“Um, seems nobody has seen her since Saturday.”

“And you think I might have? Why?”

“We check out all of the leads, Mr. Ditter. Part of the job.”

“And the leads point to me?”

Belvedere grinned. He loved this part. He never knew what the reactions would be, but he always expected a wide range to evidence he revealed to a suspect.

“Sgt. Johns — resource officer at Higdon?  He went into your classroom this morning and found the camera issued to you by the school.” Ditter tensed. “Your principal okayed him to look at the storage disk from the camera. You wanna tell me what he found?”

Ditter looked down, then away. He took a deep breath and sighed loudly.

“I guess it was going to come out eventually. Klerique. He found pictures of Klerique.”

“And do you mind telling me why she was the only student on that card?”

“It’s complicated. I think I’m going to stop talking now. I want to call my lawyer.”


* * * * *

Miss the first installment of Murder Most Grievous? Click here.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden

Murder Most Grievous: Night of the Phantom

29 Oct



Murder Most Grievous

Night of the Phantom

By L. Stewart Marsden


Sedgwick dashed about his apartment, hastily grabbing clothing and stuffing them into drawers and closets. He grabbed a large trash bag which he stuffed with various papers and notebooks. He squeezed the bag under his bed.

“Not bad!” he thought, scanning his apartment. He glanced in the mirror and tried to smooth his hair, just as a knock came at the front door.

It was Klerique.

“Trick or treat!” she erupted when he opened it.

“Bah! Humbug!” he growled, screwing up his face into a Dickensean pose.

“That’s Christmas — not Hallowe’en! You’ve got your holidays mixed up,” she laughed as she walked past him into his small living quarters. “Not bad for a white boy,” she teased, looking about.

“We try.”

“Okay, I’ve got the pizza, and popcorn, and beer — you drink beer, right?”

“How’d you buy it?”

“A wink and a smile, my dear. Works every time.”

She walked into his kitchen and set a plastic shopping bag on the counter and began pulling out items for their night.

“And I’ve got the original Phantom — with Lon Chaney! Oooh!”

“Wasn’t he the wolf man?”

“Junior was. This was his father. Master of make-up. You’ve never seen it?”

“Um, no!”

“And then the musical. That should keep us occupied for a few hours.”

“We don’t have to watch movies, Sedge. There are other things to keep us occupied.”

“Right. I have this great horror anthology with some really creepy short stories. My favorite all-time story is ‘They Bite.’ It’s about — “

“Down, boy! You get excited about the strangest things!”

The two spent the evening laughing and watching the films, feeding each other popcorn and pizza, and answering the doorbell when the few trick-or-treaters rang.

“So did you have a favorite Hallowe’en costume when you were a kid?” Klerique asked at one point.

“Nope — never got into it. Not trick or treating, that is. I read Poe and Henry James on Hallowe’en. Good gothic horror. No blood, no guts, no ripping or sawing and none of this!” He grabbed her and tickled her with clawed fingers.

When Christine Daae pulled the mask off the Phantom, revealing his horrid face, Klerique jumped a bit.

“What is this man’s problem?” she asked.

“Klerique — this is a classic love story.”

“Love story? Are you for real?”

“The phantom has fallen in love with Christine. He’s also a bit narcissistic — which is obvious. So he wants to develop her talent, and have her sing the lead of his opera.”

“Opera is so . . . I don’t know,” she stammered.

“Boring? Hardly! Talk about getting someone up to speed.

“But I like musicals.”

“Not dramatic enough for me. ‘Faust’ trumps ‘Annie’ every time in my book. So the phantom recognizes Christine is talented way beyond how she’s cast in the opera, and Carlotta — well, she’s an overrated diva.”

“Do you think I’m an overrated diva,” she said, batting her eyes.

“Shush. Listen and learn.”

“I’m all yours, master.”

“Exactly! Christine falls under the spell of the phantom, whom she thinks is an angel of music. ‘Slowly . . . gently . . . night unfolds its splendor,'” he sang, vibrating his voice.

“Oh, please, Mr. Phantom!” she trembled, turning her head away dramatically.

“He didn’t mean Christine any harm. It’s just his passion for her and his passion for the music were so entangled, he didn’t have any control. He did what he had to do.”

“Well, Mr. Phantom, I hope you’re gonna do what you have to do. We don’t have to finish the movies, do we?”

“Why? Gosh, you’re right!” he said, looking at his watch. “It’s getting pretty late. When do you have to leave?”

“Who said anything about leaving?”

“Well, when did you tell your uncle you’d be home?”

“Tomorrow,” she grinned. “Sometime in the afternoon.”

“What? How’d you do that?”

“Well,” she said, slipping her arms around Sedgwick, “when my friends picked me up to carry me over here, I told him I was staying the night with them. Actually, I said over at my friend’s house. And, last time I checked? You are my friend, right?”

“Yeah? Oh! Yeah!”

“Turn out the light, Sedgwick.”

* * * * *

From his car in the street below, James Ditter saw the lights in the second story apartment go out. He figured it was Sedgwick’s. It looked as though Klerique was staying the night, and Sedgwick was in for a treat. It was time for him to go home.


* “The Music of the Night,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 29 October, 2014

Miss the first installment of Murder Most Grievous? Click here.

Murder Most Grievous: Mr. Ditter

27 Oct



Murder Most Grievous

Mr. Ditter

By L. Stewart Marsden


James Ditter sipped on his cup of camomile tea and switched off the TV. News was boring. The same-old same-old: vitriolic political positioning, more global warming evidence that pointed to industry, automobiles and now — fracking.

“Who the frack cares?” he said aloud to the empty room.

It was time to prepare to leave. Five years was long enough in one place, and one couldn’t be too careful, in spite of incompetent local law enforcement. He had already mapped out his next potential locations and sent the necessary applications and paperwork to several high school principals in rural counties. Rural county schools always needed excellent educators. Only locally grown teachers provided any competition, and as it was, fewer and fewer were going into education. The state government had seen to that through its draconian cutbacks and reformation of teacher pay scales.

A large album lay on the coffee table before him, and he positioned it carefully in front of himself, opening the cover. In meticulous hand was the name Klerique M. Shaunasey. A black and white photograph was centered below the name. It was her senior portrait. As advisor to the yearbook staff, Ditter had access to all sorts of things. As an instructor, he also had access to private student information — family members, addresses, grades and test scores. All of which, in copied form, were as carefully attached to the subsequent pages of the album.

The book chronicled Klerique’s entire school records from pre-K on, with page after page of information.

Ditter marveled at her success. Here and there a slight dip in grades, as when her mother died and she went to live with her uncle. A blip when her brother was arrested and ended up in state prison. But, all-in-all, a commendable reflection of someone he thought was well above any other student at Higdon High. He had no doubt she would not only be accepted at Duke, but would be showered with scholarships and grants.

Added randomly to each page of data were photos of Klerique in other settings. A shot of her in her living room at night from the street. A photo of her strolling with friends in the local mall, ice cream cone in hand, all other shoppers slightly blurred. One of her bending to get a drink of water from the water cooler in the school hallway. Another of her at the state debate finals, arguing her point from behind the dais. Still another in the stands of a home basketball game, arms raised above her head, eyes bright and mouth fully opened, cheering for the Hornets.

“You were so complete!” Ditter whispered to the photograph.

He had hundreds more pictures on memory sticks. All taken unawares. Some at school. Most not, from secretive vantage spots he frequented, careful to be inconspicuous and unobserved by others. Only the best shots went into the album.

He had planned to let the album conclude at her graduation, after he knew she attained high accolades and was named valedictorian for her class. After she was accepted at Duke, and he could copy the school’s copy of her acceptance letter. After her accumulated scores and GPA information was available.

But there was a monkey wrench in the works. Sedgwick.

Up to this point in her life, Klerique had managed little to no involvement with boys. One of the true hopes Ditter projected on her was she would maintain that aloofness, and not get sidetracked. That hope was now dashed.

He saw it that Friday evening when she emerged from the library accompanied by Sedgwick, and drove with him to Dante’s. He watched it grow during that pre-relational pizza the two shared. He snapped the evidence when the two — now becoming more couple-ish — sat on a bench on Saturday, and when she suddenly pulled Sedgwick to herself and kissed him.

All that night he couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw them kissing — and in his dream states, even more. And he would awaken in horror, sweating.

Ditter closed the album, pushing it aside. He raked his fingers through his long hair. Also on the table was a stack of letters from various school principals. At the top of the stack were responses from schools in Chatham, Wake and Person counties, counties that bordered Durham County, where Duke University is located. All were positive to his queries regarding a teaching position. He calculated the odds to be in his favor for each — but having three options was logical. He never knew, after all. But his track record at securing a teaching position was excellent.

He also had, at the bottom of the stack, several responses from schools at the western-most part of the state. Plan B, he called it, in the unlikely event something went awry with his desired goal.

He culled those letters from the stack, and began to more seriously sift them. He reread the remarks of principals who, though he disdained them purely by reading their words, knew would not have the intelligence to investigate him to any depth.

“Dear Mr. Ditter,” one principal wrote, “I am very excited at the prospects of welcoming you to the Jeeter High School faculty! You’re resume is excellent and well-received by I and my assistance. Some has actually heard of your successes — “

Blah, blah, blah.

Ditter took out his red pen and edited the letter. Your — not “you’re.” Me, not I. Assistants, not “assistance.” Typos? He thought not. Ordinarily he would have circled the mistakes, graded the letter and returned it with a ‘No thank you’ in prominent block letters.  But this was the ideal school for his next move. He pulled it aside for a later affirmative response.

Ditter stood and cradled his teacup, then walked to his bedroom. He laid the cup on his nightstand, and fell onto his bed. His depression seemed to grow with every throb of blood that pulsed to his head. He turned his eyes on the photographs. Hundreds of them. All of Klerique.

Then, sadly, he looked at the bookshelf against the wall. Dozens of paperbacks and hardbound books. His favorites. All read many times, not just impressive dust collectors. And on the bottom shelf, eleven photo albums with the same gray vinyl cover bindings. On the spines, marked in a careful hand, were ten different names. Alyssa. Barry. Charlotte. David. Evelyn. Frederick. Gloria. Halstead. Ianna. Jeffrey. All had come oh-so-close. Some, even to the day before graduation. But, alas and alack, thought Ditter, perfection is so, so very difficult to attain. Even the most protective armor has a chink. Every Achilles, its heel. Every Goliath, vulnerability.

His eyes teared, thinking how he loved them. How he invested so much of himself, albeit unknown to each, into their futures and possibilities. How he was, in fact, their greatest fan, and wanted only to see them succeed and reach their potentials.

One by one they failed. One by one the fatal flaws revealed. And, after one by one, he had to relocate.

Six states in twenty-three years. He was becoming too old to do this. It was damaging to his health, to his constitution, to his mental well-being. It would soon show itself in his teaching, he knew. He would become like those other tenured terrors of the teaching trade, he called them. Old and shriveled. Cranky and post-menopausal. Curmudgeonly. Unable to pass on the passion of Shakespeare and Milton and Keats and Byron.

He grew more solemn, and choked back his emotions.

Klerique! he thought. I had so very much hoped for you!

And under the weight of his sadness, James Ditter finally slept.

* * * * *

Missed the first installments of Murder Most Grievous? Click here.

For the next installment of Murder Most Grevous, click here.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 27 October, 2014

Ain’t nuthun’ a fer-sure thang

27 Oct



Ain’t nuthin’ a fer-sure thang

By L. Stewart Marsden

Ain’t nuthin’ a fer-sure thang no mo’ . . .
Oh, they’s some thangs likely, I ‘gree –
like sun-ups,
an’ sun-downs –
but this all-round sartin and you kin bet your booty it’s gonna happen – ings
are jes’ not happenin’ no mo’ –
hit jes’ ain’t sum’pin one kin count on,
and they’s no ‘mount a wishin’ or hopin’ or
tryin’ to faith it to be . . .
ya can’t make what won’t be, be –
an’ that is fac-shully the way hit is:
ain’t nuthin’ a fer-sure thang no mo’.

Now, you-all ‘member that, ya hear?


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 27 October, 2014

The House Warming Gift

26 Oct

The writer at work


The photo is of my elevn-year-old daughter Lily. She is hard at work on a writing assignment for her 6th grade English class. It’s supposed to be a scary story, but without blood, guts and gore. I hope you agree she did a pretty darn good job.


The House Warming Gift

by Lily Marsden


34-year-old Emiline Waters has just gotten back from her honeymoon with her husband John Waters. She was tall with shoulder length brown hair and brown eyes. Her husband was tall with buzz-cut brown hair and brown eyes. They bought a house in the small town of Pleasantville, New York. Her mother, Suzie Lankin, and her father, Lawrence Lankin, were visiting and staying in a nearby hotel, for a week to help them unpack the new house. Her mother was average sized, had short gray hair, and was 58-years-old. Her father was tall, had short gray hair, and was 60-years-old.


It was a warm, sunny day in Pleasantville, New York. Emiline Waters was with her mother, unpacking a box downstairs when the doorbell rang. It couldn’t be dad or John, they are out she thought to herself. She walked to the tall, white door and opened it. She looked around her big porch and saw that no one was there, but beneath her was a package, covered in white wrapping paper, a big blue bow, with a small note tied to it.
She picked it up, and looked at the note, which read- Congratulations! From, Anonymous.

“Ooh, fancy.”, she said to herself.

She brought it inside and called down for her mother. Her mom came down the steps and examined the package.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Open it up!” said her mother excitedly.

Emiline opened it up and inside was a old, paint-chipped china doll.

“Well, isn’t that nice! But who do you think sent it?” said her mother.

“I have no idea! Oh, but t mom you should go, you’ve done enough.”, said Emiline, looking at the clock.

Her mom started to say something but stopped, gave her a hug, said goodbye and left.

The next day her dad, Lawrence, came to help. As they were both working, Emiline said “Hey, dad. Did mom tell you about the package we got yesterday?”.

When he didn’t answer, she called again. He still didn’t answer so she walked to the living room where he had been working and looked around.

There was no one there.

“Well, I guess he left. That’s weird of him.”, she said to herself.

Then she noticed something. In a chair in the living room sat a bug-eyed, rusted, paint-chipped, creepy china doll that looked exactly like her dad! On the back was a white string. She pulled the sting and the doll said “Lawrence, Lawrence”. She was officially creeped out so she tried to call her dad. The line rang three times and went to voicemail. She tried to calm down, decided it was probably just another trick played on her by her dad. He always liked to trick her, so she just shook off.

Later that day, her mom showed up to help her again. While they were working Emiline casually asked her mother whether she had seen her dad today. Her mother looked at her in the eyes and could tell she was a little worried.

“No, but you know your father. I’m sure he’s just fine.”, she said calmly.

So Emiline closed the subject with “Yea, I guess so,” but still kept it in the back of her head.

After about an hour of working, Emiline went to the kitchen to get her and her mom a drink. When she came back her mom was gone. She looked around and there, in a chair in the living room, was another china doll.
It was old, bug-eyed, rusted, looked just like her mom, and had a white string on the back.
Emiline’s heart started pounding in her chest as she thought to herself, This is not a prank!
She slowly, her body shaking, went and pulled he string. The doll, with a large cracking voice, said “Suzie, Suzie.”

She could not handle this. She wobbly walked to the couch, now with her head throbbing, and got her phone out.

First she dialed her mom. It rang three times and went to voicemail. Her heart started beating faster. Then she dialed her dad. It ran three times and went to voicemail. Her heart beat even faster and she thought it might pop out of her chest. Then she dialed her husband. It rang twice and he answered.

Thank goodness, she thought.

“Hello?” said John.

“It’s me! You need to come home right now!” said Emiline worriedly.

He didn’t have to ask any questions to know something was wrong, so he said “Okay, I’ll be right there,” and he was on his way.

He got there in a couple of minutes, pulled in the drive way and ran inside. Emiline hadn’t moved since she hung up, she was to shocked. John sat down next to her and got her to explain what happened. When she finished Emiline was surprised to hear that he had an answer.

“I heard from your dad this morning. He called me and said he had a cold and told me not to worry. He told me your mom wasn’t feeling well either,” he said.

“Why didn’t he answer his phone when I called him?” she asked.

“Well, he called on a number I didn’t recognize so I called him out on it and he said he dropped his phone and it broke so he had to get a new one,” said John.

“Well, okay. How did he sound?” she added anxiously

“He didn’t sound like himself, really. Oh, and he asked me how I liked the china doll. He seemed oddly interested,” he said

“Thats strange of him to say,” she said, puzzled

“Its probably nothing, I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said reassuringly.

With that the subject was closed and they soon went to sleep.

The next day she woke up to find a note on the bedside table from John saying he had to go to work early. He’d be back by noon, and she should relax and stop worrying about her parents. So she did just that. She got up and dressed, went downstairs, and soon fell asleep watching TV.

She woke up as John walked through the front door. She jumped up, welcomed him home, and hung up his coat.

“I’m going to go upstairs to finish up the bedroom,” said John.

“Great, I’ll make you something to eat,” she said happily.

He went upstairs and she headed into the kitchen. She got out all the ingredients for his B.L.T and put it all together. Then she headed up the stairs with his food in her hand.

She opened the door to the bedroom and immediately dropped the plate on the floor in shock. There in front of her was another china doll. It was bug-eyed, rusted, paint-chipped, with a white string on the back. And like always, it looked exactly like John. This time she didn’t wait to pull the string or try to call him, she just grabbed her phone and dialed 911. When someone answered she told them her name, address, and that her family was missing, then just waited.

Within minutes the police were at the door and within minutes she had told them the whole story. After she told them they gave her a couple guesses on the whole matter, including that they traced the phone that John had been talking to and it didn’t belong to her father. It was a throw away phone that people who don’t want to found use. After they had told her all they could and taken everything they needed they said the best thing she could do was calm down and wait. Then they left.

After they were gone she was ready to collapse in exhaustion. So she turned of all the lights, and wearily climbed the steps. She slowly reached the top of the stairs and opened the door of the pitch black room. In seconds she heard the large cracking voice of another china doll saying, “Emilie, Emiline . . .”


Emiline awoke to the smell of bacon. She got out of bed and went downstairs to be greeted by her husband John making breakfast.

“Good morning! How did you sleep?” he said cheerfully.

“I had the strangest dream,” said Emiline sleepily.

“Oh, I found a housewarming gift on the porch this morning. I didn’t open it, I wanted you to. It’s right there on the counter,” he said.

She walked and picked up a card tied from the white colored gift box and opened it. She read to herself the note- Congratulations! From Anonymous.

The End

Copyright © by Summer L. Marsden, 26 October, 2014

Infamous titles for books that never made it to print

25 Oct

Feel free to add your own titles in the comment box.


Scary Potty: The Secret of the Porcelin Chamber


If You Give a Louse a Wookiee


A Tail of Two Kitties




Dove Story


Malice in Thunderland


Ben’s Fur


More to be added . . .



Murder Most Grievous: Commitment

24 Oct


Murder Most Grievous


By L. Stewart Marsden



The fall weekend was crisp and cool. Autumn had finally befallen with its acrid odors of browned and gold leaves. Pleasant sneezes were plentiful.

Sedgwick and Klerique seemed bound at the hips, and continued to explore their possibilities at length, walking through neighborhoods near the library. A welcomed temporary break from her writing assignment.

“So, do you want to spend your life in the library?” she asked Sedgwick at one point, shuffling her feet through unraked leaves that covered the sidewalk.

“Oh, no! Hardly!” he quickly responded. “I have great things in mind to accomplish.”

“Like what?”

“Well – I don’t know how every part of my life will play out, of course – but writing, I think.”

“Okay. That makes sense.”

“And film. Those are my growing passions.”

“Can’t do that here – the film part, I mean.”

“Sure. But the writing part I can. Actually, I can do that anywhere I like. For film? Maybe New York.”

“New York! I’d love to go there someday.”

“Then you will.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because you aren’t just a dreamer. You are a doer.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Example: you want to go to Duke, right?”

She nodded yes.

“I’ll bet you’ve got your application completed, and all of your faculty recommendations requested. AND, I’ll also bet you’ve applied to dozens of scholarships. Am I right?”

“Not dozens. But yeah, a lot. It’s expensive.”

“See, that’s where you have an edge.”


“You are the profile colleges are hoping will apply. Smart. Minority. Poor.”

“That’s racist!”

“Why do you say that? It’s true.”

“It sounds racist. But, yeah – it isn’t like I haven’t thought that before.”

“The wise person knows to use every advantage available. Survival of the fittest, so to speak. It’s the lean and mean that outdistance the fat and content.”

“Ooh, yeah! I like that! I am definitely lean and mean. Well, maybe not so mean. And the lean part I struggle with now and again.”

They laughed. He took her hand in his and they swung their arms in large arcs.

“So, if I go to Duke, what about you?” she asked.

It was unexpected – but at some level Sedgwick hoped she would bring up the future.

“Whadaya mean? If you go to Duke, you’re pursuing your dream.”

“One of them.”

They stopped and sat on a bench nearby a bus stop. He held onto her hand and thought as he looked at her brown face.

“Well?” she persisted.

“So, less than two days ago you and I didn’t know the other existed. Each of us had – and has – dreams that did not involve the other.”

“I know that. Does having a dream exclude new dreams? Is it an either/or kind of thing?”

“What new dream are you talking about? Us?”

“Why not?”

“Seems a bit soon, don’t you think?”

“Yeah. Like Tony and Maria.”

“Okay – that was fiction. They had to fall in love quickly in order for the play to have a plot and conflict.”

“So – what? Are you telling me love at first sight is fiction?”

“Well, fiction is my forte – so, no. I’m not saying that. But you’re not even out of high school. You haven’t been accepted anywhere, right? Much less Duke. There’s a whole lot of stuff that has to play out, you know.”

“I’m sorry – I thought we were heading for something,” and she pulled her hand away.

“Hey – I’m not saying we aren’t. I’m not saying there isn’t something there – a very real and strong something.”

She stood up and started to sing, spinning in the leaves with her head tilted back and her arms spread wide.

“Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon, catch the moon – one-handed catch!”[1]

“Okay,” he said laughing. “I feel it too. I guess I’m just a bit more protective at this point. For you – not for me. You’re just saying what I’m feeling – and I don’t want you to get hurt, Klerique. Not by me. Life’s tough enough.”

“What do they say about denial?” She reached for his hand and pulled him up on his feet, wrapped her arms around him and quickly kissed him.


“Yeah, I know,” she smiled. “I know.” Then she led him back towards the library, the late afternoon sun streaming in dusty rays through the trees.


* * * * *

From his parked position in a church parking lot a block away, Ditter focused the zoom lens of his Canon digital on the pair and snapped off several shots. He put the camera on the seat beside him, and raised a bottle of blue Gatorade® to his lips to sip slowly, then turned the ignition to his car, quietly revving the engine.

Miss the first installment of Murder Most Grievous? Click here.

For the next installment of Murder Most Grievous, click here.


[1] “Something’s Coming,” Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company / Boosey & Hawkes


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 24 October, 2014

God’s Political Affiliation

24 Oct

Okay — let’s get this election controversy settled once and for all. Here’s a ballot regarding God’s Political Affiliation.

Those of you who care about the election results will reblog this. As with all other heart-rending pleas to reblog something, only about 3 percent of you will reblog it (and, yes, I can guess who you are).

Let those of you who know for sure, cast the first vote and reblog.


God's Political Affiliation

God’s Political Affiliation



Hallow’s Eve

24 Oct


Hallow’s Eve

By L. Stewart Marsden


The great horned owl has gone a-fowling

Flapping through the misted forest;

In the distance, wolves a-howling –

Baying at the ripened moon;

Soon will come the ghouls and goblins

Seeking treats, but full of tricks;

Moaning, groaning – set on frightening

All who offer scrumptious mixes;

All who open up their door

To these creatures of the moor

That want to bite and tear and chew

Those chocolate morsels filled with goo

And cram their craws with sweet and sour

Until the church bells ring the hour

That Hallow’s Eve has come to past

And ghouls and goblins do at last

Trudge back again to murky swamps

And toppled castles and other haunts

Until the owl flaps once again,

And lonely wolfish howls begin

To fill the air on risen moon,

But, not too soon –

The graved gray sleepers again arise

To frighten and perhaps surprise

When autumn once again returns

And monsters rise up from the burns.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 24 October, 2014



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