by Silver RavenWolf
When people are bored they do strange things.
It was one week after Frank attacked Marlene and then mysteriously disappeared. Marlene believed the Beboodle got him and I believed Marlene went into a fugue state, killed him, somehow disposed of the body and then blamed it on a haunted doll. So, you know, as a good friend is supposed to, I watched her behavior closely, just in case she decided to off someone else.
It was Friday morning, so close to May I was anxious to flip the calendar and be done with the cold weather. Marlene paced the floor of her kitchen like cat that can’t find its litter box. Since she was wringing her hands, I thought she was about to confess.
Nothing doing. It was something else, and I think boredom was a huge factor. Six months ago her only son moved out to California to pursue his dreams, leaving Marlene with major empty-nest-syndrome. The fact that Junior was now thirty didn’t seem to make a difference.
“I want to make a Beboodle”, announced Marlene.
“What on earth for?” I asked.
“Junior hasn’t called me in two days. I want to send him one. To protect him.”
“Junior weighs 260 pounds, Marlene, I don’t think he needs protecting by a haunted doll or anything else Besides, you don’t know how to make a Beboodle.”
“I have my grandmother’s notes. That should be enough.”
My eyes sidled over to the BeBoodle sitting quietly in the dimly lit corner of Marlene’s kitchen. I swear to you the damned thing was smiling at my discomfort. Marlene’s only child, Junior, was a bruiser and I didn’t like him much; but, Marlene was my friend, and I often kept my mouth shut or my comments non-lethal when it came to the apple of her eye, so instead, I said, “He’s a big boy. He’ll be okay.”
“He’s in Hollywood. Everyone needs protection there.”
She had a point, but spending my free time making a doll to send to six foot two inch Junior didn’t sound like much fun, either. My husband, Cornelius (I call him Corney for short) was gone for the weekend on a police consulting job in Philadelphia. I had other plans for my free time. Like power shopping. I tried to change the subject.
“They have some terrific sales this weekend in town. All the shop owners are offering a thirty percent discount. I stopped over because I thought you might like to go.”
Marlene tilted her head. “The Lavender House is on the square isn’t it?”
Ah! I thought! She was taking the bait.
She nodded to herself, “Yes, I bet I can get all the herbs I need make the Beboodle there!”
My stomach sunk and the hair on the back of my arms did a little psycho jig. “I don’t want to make a Beboodle. I want to go shopping.” Was I whining?
“Its either that,” announced Marlene as she rose from her chair, “or zip lining. Take your pick!”
I narrowed my eyes. I’m deathly afraid of heights. I can see me now, slapping duct tape on my mouth to keep my dentures in as I whizzed merrily through the air attached to a little cable over a thousand feet in the air. Nothing doing. I sighed, knowing I’d lost the battle. “Only if I can stop at the dress shop first, then we’ll go to the Lavender House.”
Marlene grabbed her purse and nearly knocked me down to get out the front door. “We’ll take the Bronco,” she said, heading for the rusted, white behemoth by the garage.
“No, we won’t,” I said firmly. Although Marlene home shines as a testament to her excellent housekeeping skills, her vehicle is another matter. “Its a gas hog,” I said. “We’ll take my car.” Besides, Marlene drives like a gerbil on crack. I, on the other hand, am an extremely sensible driver…unless you get in my way.
When we say we’re going to Town, what we really mean is we’re headed for Whiskey Springs. A little burg named after the Whiskey Rebellion back in 1791 when the government thought they’d pay off the national debt by hitting the area’s number one past time, growing grain for booze. Seems like greedy politicians haven’t changed much. Whiskey Springs would be long dead by now if not for the train line at the south end that still takes commuters to Gettysburg, York, Harrisburg and Philly. Besides the day trippers there are tourists that flock to the variety of shops that circle the rotary by the town square. Come July, seeing as how we live so close to Gettysburg, the place is buzzing with camera happy folks and sweating re-enactors itching in uniforms of blue and grey. But, today, in early spring, the traffic shouldn’t be too bad. As I entered the outskirts of town, for a moment there, I thought we were being followed by a junky red truck; but he pulled off right as I hit the rotary.
Braving the rotary is my specialty. Even tractor trailers flee at the sight of my pumpkin orange Ford Focus. As I whipped past one of those early tourists and zipped into my favorite parking spot among squawking horns and swearing drivers, I looked over at Marlene and smiled. Who says senior citizens can’t drive?
“Not that I really want to know,” I said, “but what all do we need to make this doll?”
Marlene eagerly dug in her purse and whipped out her grandmother’s old notebook. “Let’s see here,” she said, quickly flipping pages. “Yes! Got it. A standard Beboodle!”
“As opposed to substandard ones?”
“Don’t be silly! We need muslin for the doll body and appendages. Regular pillow stuffing. She says here that sometimes she weights the dolls with kitty litter…material for the clothing, paint, sandpaper…”
“What’s that for?” I asked as I watched young man exit his foreign compact, walk by the hood of my Focus and flip me the finger. Guess he didn’t care for my driving.
Marlene, nose still in notebook, replied, “She grunged the Beboodles. First it looks like she painted them all over with brown or black paint, then sanded them. Then she applied a wash of instant coffee mixed with cinnamon and vanilla, which gave them an unusual stain. Her notes say that the stain actually helps to activate the power of the doll…”
“Right,” I said, smirking to myself. Only a week after Frank’s attack and disappearance, I was not ready to acquiesce to the magickal abilities of a dirty, worn doll that may have marched out of its own grave. I still believed that Marlene had probably done something she shouldn’t have, and just didn’t fess up. I grabbed my big, quilted purse and climbed out of the car. Marlene jammed the notebook back in her purse, and followed me.
“Ouu, lookie!” she said, right there is the Lavender House, “let’s go in there first!”
“My Grandma Peg used to bring me here,” she whispered, as she opened the ornate wooden door to the converted Victorian. A little bell jingled, and we entered a world of heady aromas. Sweet teas, a lingering touch of sage, spices, perfumes…The Lavender House had a bit of everything from cooking herbs and spices to teas and essential oils. I wandered around within earshot while Marlene marched to the old wooden counter.
“I need some herbs today,” she said to the clerk.
The woman looked up from pricing little bags of dried lavender buds. “If you have a list,” she said, you can leave it with me and continue shopping. I’ll get them for you.” She was about our age, with jet black hair (must be a dye job, I thought).
“Um, well… no I don’t have one written down.”
“That’s okay,” said the clerk, picking up a pencil and a pad of paper stamped with the Lavender House logo, “just tell me and I’ll make a note of what you need.”
Marlene looked back at me, smiled hesitantly, then turned back to the clerk. “All right. Let’s see… I need White Sage…”
“How much would you like? An ounce? Six ounces?”
“Ah. I’m not sure.”
The clerk smiled again, that you-are-a-stupid-customer smile. “Perhaps if you told me what you will be using the herbs for…”
Uh-oh, I thought. Please, please don’t tell this woman why you want those herbs, I prayed silently.
Instead of answering the question, Marlene said, “Oh! You know? Six ounces should be fine.”
The clerk jotted the amount on her paper. “And what else?”
“Frankincense and Myrrh resin. Do you have those?”
“Oh yes!” exclaimed the clerk. “We have the finest resins here. I’m sure you will be most pleased!” These items dutifully added to the list, the clerk said, “Are you making an incense blend?”
“Um, no,” answered Marlene. “I also need…I also need…” she dug in her purse, furtively trying to look in the notebook without pulling it out. “Rosemary, lavender buds…”
“Our specialty!” said the clerk. “Which would you prefer, the full-bodied German bud or something less expensive?”
Marlene’s breath caught in her throat, then answered, “The German bud, of course!”
Faker, I thought.
A customer with a basket full of cooking spices walked up to the counter and stood behind Marlene, an impatient look on her face. A black woman, smartly dressed, emerged from the back of the store. She smiled sweetly at the customer, addressed her by name, and guided her to a different register.
“Actually, I have a question,” replied Marlene. “Some of the herbs I’ve been reading about on-line are known by folk names that sound scary like Bat’s Blood; but in reality are actually herbs.”
“That’s right,” said the clerk. “We mark all of our herbs with both names, if we know them. We have quite a few customers that don’t know the official names of the herbs, just the folk ones. Which one are you looking for?”
“Yes, that’s cinquefoil, we have that. Anything else?”
“Dark cemetery grave dirt. A pitcher full. I wonder how much that is?”
The sterling silver and ceramic tea spoon I was admiring clattered to the floor and the two women at the other register stopped chattering. “Oh my,” I said, glaring at Marlene and then stooping to pick up the spoon. “How could I be so clumsy?”
The clerk blinked at me, then stared at Marlene. She frowned. I wanted to grab Marlene’s arm and run from the store.
Immediately, the black woman materialized by the clerk. “I’ll take over here,” she said. “Why don’t you finish ringing up Mrs. Withers?”
Oh, no, I thought, we’ve gone and done it now. Rather than running from the store, we were probably going to get thrown out. Instead, the new clerk said, “I’m Riva Mills, the owner of Lavender House. And you are?”
I could see Marlene’s shoulders tensing. “I’m Marlene Drayer, and this is my friend, Lyddia Veil.” I stepped forward and tried to smile my nicest smile. It bounced off her face like a spit ball hitting a Kevlar vest and I made a note to self to whiten my dentures tonight.
“Nice to meet you,” Riva replied, but her smile didn’t reach her eyes. “And let’s see,” she said, looking down over the list the other woman had written. “Do you also require Kyphi oil?” She looked at me. I had absolutely no clue, so I threw Marlene under the proverbial bus, “Ask her.”
“Yes,” answered Marlene.
“I see,” she said, staring at Marlene. “Drayer?” She tapped a well-manicured nail over her lips several times. “I knew a woman once, a long time ago. But, her name wasn’t Drayer. She used a formula much like this one. Does the name Peg Vernon mean anything to you?”
“Why, yes!” exclaimed Marlene. “That was my grandmother!”
Riva stepped back, as if sizing up the two of us — tall me, super short Marlene. Two over the hill ladies with over sized purses, plenty of grey hair between us, and sensible shoes. Okay, so my shoes are sensible. Marlene wears anything from combat boots to spikes. Thank the good Lord she wore sneakers today. Maybe not, she had a hole in the toe.
Riva pursed her glossed lips, and said, “Would you two ladies care to see our tea room? In the meantime, I’ll have Ruth fill your order. Unfortunately, it will be short three ingredients, two of which you will have to get elsewhere. Right this way, ladies,” she said walking to the back of the store and extending her arm gracefully toward an ornate lavender sign with the words “Tea Room” in gold lettering. “We have a porch attached to the tea room where we grow many of our own herbs.”
Marlene trotted eagerly ahead as I dragged behind. I did not like this. Not one little bit. One minute we’re placing an order and the next we’re being ushered to the back of the building. I could hear that clerk, Ruth, and Mrs. Withers whispering behind us. Not a good thing.
The tea room was a place of opulent delight, and for the time being, empty of customers. Pink and lavender table cloths covered with brilliant white lace, exquisite china to match, decked with covered pastries that made my mouth water. The walls of the room were laden with shelves holding products as well as eye catching floral arrangements that matched the theme of Lavender House. One set of shelves contained an artful display of dolls.
“Look!” squealed Marlene as she ran to the dolls. “There’s a Beboodle!” Sure enough, seated in the center of the shelf, and in very good shape, was a primitive Beboodle, jingle bells and all.
Riva smiled and this time it was genuine. “Your grandmother gave that doll to my great grandmother many years ago. We have all treasured Peg’s gift. I thought with Peg’s passing so many years ago there would be no more Beboodles.”
“It’s just a doll,” I muttered, my stomach growling at the idea of getting my hands on some of those pastries.
Riva raised her eyebrows. “You don’t believe in their power?”
I could feel my face turning red. “The jury’s out,” I said.
“I see,” said Riva. “That Beboodle? That one right there? Five years ago someone tried to rob this store after hours. The next morning we found a lot of glass with the Beboodle sitting right smack in the center of the mess; but nothing was missing. And when we first got her? Someone tried to attack my mother after she’d just locked up the store and was on her way home. She was a teenager, way back when. Whoever it was, jumped from the bushes, she said, and hit her over the head. The next thing she knew, she heard this horrible, slurpy ripping sound, and her attacker was gone.”
I sighed. What bullshit.
We all stood quietly, staring at the Beboodle, the possible purveyor of vigilante justice and sin-eating dolly extraordinaire. This one’s clothing reflected Lavender House, complete with appropriate colors and hand-stitched lavender buds on its still-white apron. It was obvious that Peg had made quite an effort in designing that doll.
Finally, Riva said, “Do you know how to make the dolls, seeing as you are asking for the ingredients?”
“No,” said Marlene. “But, we would like to try. I had an…experience…recently…and…well…I know what a Beboodle can do.”
“Do you really?” asked Riva, cocking one sleek eyebrow. “I’m not so sure; but, the Beboodles are certainly your legacy and you have every right to pick up where your grandmother left off. You must have some guideline?”
Oh no, I thought, please, please do not show her the notebook. Marlene whipped out the notebook. Riva’s eyes glittered. Shit, I thought.
“I have all her notes,” said Marlene, “in this notebook.”
But Riva did not ask to look at it, she simply nodded and said again, “I see.”
A cold breeze tickled my ankles and I turned to catch that clerk, Ruth, standing in the doorway. She hurried off when she realized I’d seen her.
“As to the ingredients you need,” said Riva. “The Kyphi Oil is a special blend. There are several varieties and formulas. We have a lesser quality oil in the store right now; however, Peg used my Great Grandmother’s recipe which is a bit more expensive but well worth the price. I will blend it for you and have it ready Monday next, if you like.”
“That would be wonderful!” said Marlene.
“As to the Dark Cemetery grave dirt,” said Riva. “That’s not an herb.”
“Its not?” asked Marlene.
Oh, no, I thought. Dear God please do not tell us we have to go to a graveyard. I will absolutely not go to a graveyard to purloin dirt. No. Nothing doing. No way.
“You’ll have to go to the Dark Cemetery to get it,” said Riva, “preferably at midnight. ” She chuckled at Marlene’s stricken expression.
“I never heard of any graveyard around here called Dark Cemetery,” I muttered.
Riva smiled. “That’s because its a nickname. Its real name is Old Cemetery. Dirt from there is only used in the most powerful of…um…workings, collected on the Dark of the Moon — that’s why its called Dark Cemetery.”
I closed my eyes and mentally groaned. “I know that place. Smack in the center of Carlisle. In my opinion, its the worst kept cemetery in the area. For a historical landmark, its in horrible shape.”
“You mean we have to go to a real graveyard?” asked Marlene.
Riva put her hand on Marlene’s shoulder. “A real graveyard.”
“Dark Cemetery?” whispered Marlene.
“Or it won’t work,” Riva whispered back.
I know I visibly shuddered.
“And I need a pitcher full,” Marlene said. That’s what the notes say — Dark Cemetery — Pitcher.” She waved away my disgruntled expression. “It’ll be okay. I’m going to see this through,” she said loudly.
“That sounds like an awful lot of dirt for just one dolly,” I said.
“Maybe its to make lots of dolls,” answered Marlene. “I mean, who wants to go treking to the graveyard for every doll. You probably get a lot and then store it.”
Riva said nothing, but she looked like as if she was holding back laughter…at us. I was not amused.
Something crashed right outside the doorway and we all turned, but saw no one. Probably that snoopy Ruth clerk.
Riva hunched her shoulders and put her fingers to her lips. “Best not be broadcasting what you are up to,” she said in a low voice.
Marlene looked at her quizzically.
Riva turned her back to the doorway and stepped closer to us. “As you well know, a Beboodle is a sin eater, and if there is only evil in a person, it will consume the whole spirit of that person. Usually, though, you never know the Beboodle is working because life is full of small irritations and the Beboodle just ferrets the negative energy away without your ever realizing it. But…remember this…Even the most black-hearted people have relatives who love them — mothers, fathers, siblings. Not everyone is delighted that evil can be destroyed. When my mother was attacked? The mayor’s son disappeared. No one has heard from him since. That young man was through and through bad. Everyone in town was glad he was gone, except for his family. They adored him. Watch your step, ladies.”
Marlene frowned. I definitely didn’t like where this conversation was going. Making a silly doll for Junior was one thing, but the way Riva put it, this could actually put us in a spotlight glittering with trouble just over the stupid superstition of it.
“I don’t care,” said Marlene, firmly setting her jaw. The she added, “I still want to make one.”
Riva shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
I never got my hands on those luscious pastries in the tea room. Marlene paid for the herbs and promised to come back on the prescribed Monday to pick up the Kyphi Oil. She also solemnly promised Riva that she would bring the finished Beboodle to Lavender House for Riva to see before she sent it off to Junior. My stomach growled and grumbled, and I no longer felt like shopping for anything; but Marlene dragged me up and down the narrow, brick sidewalks of Whiskey Springs to buy material, paints, and jewelry for her intended Beboodle. Thanks to Riva, we also had the name and address of an old, local farmer who had just the right kind of eggs for the ground egg-shells that supposedly had to go into the Beboodle as well. By the end of the day my feet hurt and I was starving.
But, I had to admit, it was sort of fun, like a strange treasure hunt, taking us into various shops in town I’d never bothered to visit, trying to find all the ingredients and supplies to make the doll. Other than that blasted grave dirt, we had only one real hitch.
“I thought you could sew,” moaned Marlene as she vacillated over the blue calico print and the more neutral brown checks in the fabric store. She ran her hands over the bolts of cloth as if she would make her choice by touch rather than sight.
“Of course I can sew,” I snapped, “but, my sewing machine gave up the ghost twenty years ago. You’re the one making the doll, I thought you would sew it.”
“Can’t maneuver a stitch,” she said breezily. “I took shop instead of home economics, although they do it different these days. That’s why you have to help.”
I gritted my dentures. “I just said, I don’t own a machine anymore, and I’m certainly not going to sew the thing by hand.”
“I don’t own a machine, either, and I can’t hand sew.”
“Then how are we going to put the darned thing together?” I asked. Did I really use the word ‘we’? Argh!
“I guess you’ll have to buy a machine,” she replied.
“Me? Me buy the machine? Why me?”
“Because you know how to sew.”
Like I said before, I’ll do just about anything for Marlene. We left the store lugging a brand new Singer sewing machine. To be fair, Marlene went halves on it. Though if we ever get mad at each other for real I’ll be damned if I’m sawing the thing in half. I’m keeping it because I had to carry it. Besides, a dented red pickup almost killed me while I was trying to load the machine into the trunk of my Focus. If Marlene hadn’t shoved me out of the way, I’d of been jelly toast across white parking space lines.
“Holy Shit!” yelled Marlene, grabbing my arm and shoving me at the same time. We both stared at the offending pick-up careening out of the parking lot. “He almost killed you! Drunk asshole!” she screamed after the retreating truck.
I wobbled a little. This was taking shop till you drop to a whole new level. “Did you get the license plate?”
Marlene shook her head. “Covered in mud.”
“You don’t think…I mean, what Riva said? About people not wanting us to make the dolls?” asked Marlene.
“Don’t be ridiculous! Besides, who would know other than Riva that we’re even planning on making a Beboodle? She wants to see the doll you make for Junior. She wouldn’t say that if she planned on stopping us. Right?”
Marlene shivered. “Yeah, I guess so. But, you know someone was listening while we were talking to Riva.”
“Caught that, did you? So did I. Still. I really think we’re way too imaginative. Besides, I’m hungry. Let’s stop and pick up some food, then head back to your house.”
Marlene and I spent the evening at her kitchen table drawing up the design of the Beboodle and its clothing on graph paper, then transferring our patterns onto the cloth. I also spent over an hour trying to figure out how to get the sewing machine to work; but once I finally managed to thread it right we were good to go. We actually had the doll stitched and ready to stuff by the ten o’clock news when Marlene brought out the booze and settled in her living room. Whiskey for her, dark beer for me.
“What’s next?” I asked, downing my third beer. Hey, it was a thirsty day.
Marlene sat back in a recliner, propping her feet up, holy sneaker and all. “According to Peg’s book,” Marlene said, “we have to collect all the herb and resin ingredients and grind them together. They, and a special charm paper, go into the doll right before we sew it up. After everything we bought today, we’re only missing the Kyphi oil, which you rub on the paper, the egg shells from a fertile black chicken, and the cemetery dirt.”
“I say skip the grave dirt and buy the eggs at the grocery.” I took another swig of beer.
“Nothing doing,” said Marlene. “We’re going to do this the right way.”
“Then you can do the graveyard part without me,” I said. “I’m not going into any cemetery to get dirt, especially at midnight, and certainly not Old Cemetery. That place is dangerous. You’d break your neck in there. They wouldn’t even have to bury you because you’d already be in a chuck hole up to your eyeballs and covered with weeds. Place is creepy, too.”
“How do you know?”
“Because Corney and I’ve done a lot of genealogy work, and that was one of the places we went last summer. Besides, how do you know what dirt to get? From around the fence? From someone’s grave? Any grave? What if you took dirt from a really bad person’s grave, like a pedophile or a serial killer? No, I absolutely will not go there.”
Marlene pouted. I opened my fourth beer.
“I’m telling you, it just isn’t safe there. The place is strange. Many of the family plots are surrounded by wicked spike fences — you know, like you see in the horror movies — that iron stuff? The family put them there to keep the cows out back in the 1700’s when the cemetery was first opened. Other plots have concrete barriers and metal poles that are only shin high. You wander in there in the dark and you are sure to be hurt. When we were there last it was the middle of the day and it was so gloomy and overgrown that I lost track of Corney and it took me over a half hour to find him and he was only a few feet away. From the outside, because the cemetery is smack in the center of the city, it looks small. But, once you are inside? Well, its a lot bigger than you think. The only decent thing in that cemetery is the Molly Pitcher statue flanked by real cannons used in the Revolutionary War.”
“Molly Pitcher. She’s one of the few American female war heroines we have. During the Revolutionary War, she carried water for the soldiers and to cool the cannons. She also functioned somewhat as a nurse, and when her gunner husband fell, she manned his cannon. Shot the shit out of the enemy. Guts n’ grit. My kind of gal. You’d think they’d keep better care of the place, seeing as its a historical cemetery and all; but, they don’t. You’re not getting me in there, and absolutely not at midnight!” I took another hefty gulp of beer. Was I slurring?
Marlene slapped her hand on her forehead. “That’s it! Lyddia! That’s it! We get the dirt from Molly Pitcher’s grave! Pitcher! Get it? Not a pitcher of dirt! Dirt from Molly Pitcher’s grave! You are a genius. She jumped up and rushed over to a drawer on the television console.
“Whattt-rrrr-ya-doing?” I asked, eying her over the neck of my beer bottle.
“Getting my I-Pad. I want to see when the next dark moon is.” She grabbed the electronic notebook and sat back down in the recliner with a whoop.
“You have an I-Pad?”
“Just because I’m over fifty doesn’t mean I don’t surf the net,” she said, running her finger quickly over the screen.
“Whatever,” I said, and downed the rest of the beer. I looked at the offending empty bottle and headed out into the darkened kitchen for another.
“Ouuu! It’s tonight!” yelled Marlene from the living room.
I opened the refrigerator and grabbed two more beers. Might as well do ‘her up. Corney was out of town. I didn’t have to go home. I could sleep it off here. I slammed the refrigerator door shut and yelled, “What’s tonight?”
“The dark of the moon! Says right here on the moon app.”
“There’s a moon app?” I muttered, trying to navigate back to the living room. “What will they think of next?”
The next thing I knew, Marlene was bounding up the stairs to her bedroom shouting she was going to find black sweat shirts for us to wear so no one would see us snooping around in the graveyard. At that moment? I swear to God I heard a jingle-bell hit the floor and roll across the linoleum in the darkened kitchen behind me.
You know, what starts in booze?
stay in booze.
Murder and Mystery by Silver RavenWolf