Month: April 2012

Grave Night — Fiction — Part Two of The BeBoodle Mystery


Grave Night

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!”

I groaned.

“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?”

“What?”

“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.

“Anything else?”

“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?”

“Five-finger grass.”

“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.”

“Great.”

“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.”

“Who?”

“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?

Should really,

really,

stay in booze.

Murder and Mystery by Silver RavenWolf
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BeBoodle


Add a little spooky magick to your midnight reading!

BeBoodle

by Silver RavenWolf 2012

Dawn.  Birds chirping in the budding maple trees.  A light, morning mist clinging to my jacket.  The aroma of everything new and green tickling my nose.  I marched across the old wooden porch, skipping through the first rays of sun with my sensible shoes, dreaming of all the great stuff Marlene and I were going to haggle for at the local flea market.  I stepped on something that jingled and rolled; but I was in such a hurry to get to the door, I didn’t pay attention to what it was.  Three knocks and a bang on the door bell left me standing there.

I waited impatiently, shifting from foot to foot.

I knocked again.  No answer.  I assumed Marlene was in the shower, so I dug through my big quilted purse for her house key and let myself in.

After fifty years of life, I should know better.

My first warning?  Too quiet.  Marlene always moved about her day with music, television or even singing to herself.  She hated silence.  Second indicator?  Darkness.  Everything shut up, buttoned up tight.   All the shades pulled.  All the curtains drawn.  Only one valiant beam of light managed to peek through the kitchen shutters as I wandered in there, calling her name.  “Marlene?”

She sat stone silent at the kitchen table, her head bent, her fingers moving restlessly over a faded notebook with tattered pages.  She didn’t even look up when I said, “Hey ho!  Let’s go!” and slung my big quilted purse over my shoulder, my rattling keys breaking the eerie silence.  At least she was breathing, that was a plus.

I looked at the pristine countertop.  Every culinary machine known to God and man stood clean and silent.  Geeze, not even any coffee?   How was I going to march through all those flea market stalls at this unholy hour without caffeine?  “Marlene!  Are you out of coffee?”

No response.

I frowned.  “Are you sick?”

She shook her head.

“Someone die?  Are you okay?  What the hell is the matter with you?”

She glanced up and I almost tripped over one of the kitchen chairs trying to get to her.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look as bad as she did.  Hollow-eyed, sunken, greasy.  Except maybe that  homeless guy I saw as a kid on my field trip to Philadelphia back in the seventies who smiled, waved, and whizzed against a building as our bus coasted by.  You tend to remember odd moments.

Like now.  This was a really strange hiccup in my personal timeline.  “Marlene,” I said firmly, shaking her shoulders, “what on earth is going on here?”

She winced and pulled away from me, clutching that strange notebook to her chest.  “He came back,” she said without inflection of any kind.  This, from a woman who talks too loud and gestures often with her hands.

“Who came back?”

“You know.”

My brain burped and I couldn’t think of a single person that might illicit this response from my best friend.  I looked at her stupidly, slightly shaking my head.  “I have no clue.”

I could see that old, familiar anger darting in and out of her blue eyes.  If you didn’t know her like I did, you wouldn’t see it.  And even though my gut desire to slap her up side the head to get her mind back on track was an option, I thought better of it.  Instead I said, “I give up.  I have no idea who you’re talking about.  Who came back?”

“My brother.”

Uh-oh.

“How…”

“Parole.”

“You’re kidding!  What idiot would parole that creep?  Is he here now?” I asked, my eyes widening as I looked furtively from the kitchen into the dining room.  I hadn’t seen him when I came in…maybe he was waiting to spring out of the shadows.  Maybe…

She swallowed hard.  “He’s…gone.”

“Did he hurt you?”

She opened her mouth to say something, and then tightened her lips instead.

I sat down in the chair opposite her, dumping my handbag on the floor, trying to sort out what she was telling me, my keys clanking against the floor.  Frank, a good ten years older than Marlene, was bad news from the day he was born.  I always told Marlene he was a serial-something when we were growing up and I was right.  By the time Marlene and I turned fifteen, he was behind bars.  For good, we thought.

Obviously not.

Several questions whirled in my mind.  I tried to pick the most important ones first.  “What did he want?”

She signed.  “Money.”

That would figure, I thought.  “Did you give him any?”

She smiled strangely.  “No.”  She played with the pages of that notebook, ruffling them through her fingers.  I could see faded, spidery writing as the paper fluttered.

I leaned forward.  “Is…is he coming back?  Maybe I should go lock all the doors?”

She cocked her head and really stared at me, as if she saw me for the first time today.  “He’s not coming back.”

“Of course he’ll be back!” I exploded, my hands pounding against the kitchen table.  “You know what he’s like!  I’m surprised you’re not dead!  It was your testimony that locked him up for life.  He swore he’d kill you!  First he’ll milk you for all your inheritance money you got from your husband and then he’ll do you in!  You’ve got to do something!”

“He won’t be back,” she said firmly.  “Not ever.”

I turned my head sideways, sat back in my chair, crossed my arms over my chest and glared at her.  Something wasn’t right here.  I quietly looked around.  All the kitchen knives were in their wooden block on the kitchen counter.  The porcelain sink sparkled.  The linoleum floor (yes, some houses still have those) gleamed softly in the dim light.  Not a speck of blood anywhere.  No furniture overturned.  Still…, “Not ever?” I finally asked, swallowing hard.

“Never,” she whispered.

“You’re absolutely sure he’s gone?  Maybe I’d better look around.  That okay with you?”  I rose slightly with the intention of walking through the house, top to bottom.

Marlene glared at me and grabbed my hand, her touch ice cold.  “I told you, he’s absolutely, positively, never ever coming back!  You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how I know!  In fact, I think you should leave.  Go home.  Go wherever!”  She flapped a shaking hand in the air.

I will always be the junkyard dog with the proverbial bone and besides, Marlene and I have known each other since we were tots.  There was no way I would ever walk out on her.  “I’m not going anywhere,” I said, plopping my butt back in the kitchen chair, “until you tell me what happened here.  You said Frank is never coming back.  Do I have to worry about DNA evidence?”  My husband is a retired police officer.  I think about these things.

Her eyelashes fluttered.  “I don’t think so.  We’d have to cut her open, I guess, to find out.”

My stomach flopped and I think my mouth dropped open a bit.  I snapped my lips shut and took a deep breath.  Cut who open? I thought to myself.  I cleared my throat.  Get a grip.  Get a grip.  My motto is, for every problem there is a desired solution.  No matter what happened here, I would make sure Marlene got through this.  I would find the best attorney, I would stand by her even when the reporters tore her to shreds.  I would do anything to protect her.

I would.

I took a deep breath.  “Marlene,” I said softly, “did you kill Frank?”  For a moment, I thought I heard the sound of a jingle bell rolling across the floor.  I looked down at my feet, but couldn’t see anything.

She laughed, a weird, twittering sound, not the normal Marlene-guffaw at all.  “I didn’t kill Frank, ” she answered slowly, “but, I know he’s dead.”  She had a quirky smirk on her face that gave me the willies.  I shivered.

Oh, Lordy! I thought.  This was it.  A psychotic break.  Frank barging in here and whatever transpired after created a major stressor.  I tried desperately to remember the name of Marlene’s family physician.  Maybe I could commit her before I found the body and called my husband…

“You won’t find him,” said Marlene as if reading my mind.

“Find who?  Frank?”

“Right.  You won’t find him here.”

“You killed him somewhere else?” I wailed.  Oh no, that meant the crime scene was in a different place.  Someone was bound to have found Frank by now.  Oh, what a mess!

“He’s totally gone,” she said.  “They won’t find him anywhere.”

As Marlene did not own an industrial chipper-shredder and we didn’t live by a lake or ocean, I sat there, confused.  Granted, Marlene was still athletic enough at the age of fifty-two; but, I didn’t think she could lug a big man like Frank, even if he was in his sixties, for any significant distance by herself.  Perhaps the foundation of a freshly constructed building?  Did she dig a hole in basement and fill it with acid?  Where would she get the acid over night?  She didn’t own any pigs… maybe Frank was really alive and she was just making all this up trying to cope with the fact that she’d seen him out in the open when he belonged behind bars for the rest of eternity.

I propped my elbow on the table and rubbed my forehead. Okay, okay, I thought.  Let’s get back to what actually happened and maybe I could fix it.

Somehow.

“I feel so much better now that I told you,” said Marlene as she rose from the table, jamming that notebook in the big pocket of her bathrobe.  Horrible thing, that bathrobe.  Hot pink with mustard yellow polka dots the size of your fist.

“Told me what, Marlene?  You haven’t really explained anything.  What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making coffee,” she said, cinching the cloth belt tight on her robe, making the polka dot pattern balloon even larger.

Some of the color returned to her face.  Now she looked more like an animated zombie in fashion puke nightwear.  She busied herself, opening cupboards, getting cups, filling the carafe with water from the sink, dumping the coffee in the filter.  Actions that seemed so ordinary during this extraordinary conversation.  I thought of telling her to put a shot of whiskey in her coffee, but thought better of it.  It wouldn’t do to have the police smelling booze on her breath.

“Tell me exactly what happened,” I said, “I really don’t understand.”

She stopped, turned around, and leaned against the kitchen counter.  The coffee maker burbled.  “Frank came around midnight,” she said slowly, looking past me into the events playing in her own mind.  “Woke me up out of a dead sleep, pounding on the door.  I wasn’t going to let him in and tried to find my cell to call the police.  I couldn’t find it.  I think maybe I put it in the laundry basket last night when I took off my jeans.  Anyway, the next thing I knew, he’d somehow managed to get in the house.  Maybe I left the back door open, I don’t know.  He grabbed me by the shoulders.”  She moved the bathrobe collar and I saw an awful bruise, no wonder she’d winced when I touched her.

“Then what?”

She turned away and poured the coffee in the cups.  “He wanted money and said he’d kill me if I didn’t get it for him.  That I owed him.”  She shuddered, almost spilling the coffee as she brought it to the kitchen table.  She shuffled back to the kitchen counter to retrieve the sugar and spoons, then over to the refrigerator for the cream without saying more.

Then what?”  There was that annoying jingle-bell sound again.  I looked to my right.  Nothing.

She sat down, placing the items on the table.  “He was dragging me up the stairs to get what cash I had from my bedroom. I knew once he got the money, I wasn’t going to make it out of the house alive so I wasn’t making it easy for him.  He was yelling at me the entire time, telling me how horrible jail was and how I was going to pay for helping to put him away.  Then, we heard a terrible bang in the kitchen.  Like someone threw open the back door and it slammed against the wall and all the lights went out.  He let go of me and I slipped on the stairs and fell.  He kicked me aside and ran back down the stairs toward the sound.”

She plopped three spoonfuls of sugar into her coffee and stared at the swirling liquid.

“Yeah?  And?”

“Oh!  Well… I don’t know.”

I threw my hands up in the air.  “What do you mean you don’t know?”

She signed.  “I heard screaming.  Thumping.  A sloppy tearing like liquidy ripping.  I realized it was Frank doing all the hollering.  I debated on whether I should make a break for the front door, or go find out what was going on in the kitchen.”

She took a sip of coffee, then another.

I hadn’t touched my mine, girding myself for the upcoming confession I was sure to hear.  “What did you do?”  I asked to urge her on.

She cocked her head and looked over my shoulder, refusing to meet my eyes.  “Right when I was thinking I would make a break for the front door, it grew dead quiet.  So, there I was, sitting in the dark, sweating like a marathon runner, wondering if he was going to come back to the stairs to finish me off.  I sat very still, thinking that even if he did, he wouldn’t see me right away and then I could figure whether to spring right or left.  Except, he never came back.  I waited and waited.  Nothing.”  She put down her coffee cup and ran her fingers through her short, grey hair, then rested her forehead on her balled fists.

“After a while,” she said, talking into the tabletop with a muffled voice,  “I got up and tip-toed to the kitchen.”  She raised her head slowly.  “Yeah, I know, I should have gone out the front door and gone to the neighbor’s to call the police; but, something inside me told me not to.  As I stepped into the kitchen, all the lights came back on.  The whole house!  Every light!  The kitchen table was pushed to one side.  No blood, no signs of struggle.  It was as if he was never here.  Except…”

Impatient, I interrupted, “What makes you think he’s dead?”

“Because,” she said, her pale blue eyes now honing directly in on mine, “the BeBoodle got him!”

“The wha…?!”

“The BeBoodle,” she said firmly.

I closed my eyes and held them tight for a few seconds.  BeBoodle.  BeBoodle.  Where had I heard that name before?  I shook my head a bit as if to get the right memory to play on the right mental track.  BeBoodle…my eyes few open and I frowned.  “You mean your Grandmother’s BeBoodle?”

She nodded vehemently.

Memories flooded through me.  The smiling face of Peg, Marlene’s grandmother on a warm, summer day.  Homemade mint iced tea.  Yards and yards of colorful material.  The old sewing machine motor whirring.  Me laughing as Marlene and I smacked each other with bags full of cotton, pillow stuffing…a mixture of cinnamon, coffee and vanilla steaming on the stove filling the air with sweet security… Grandmother Peg setting her favorite BeBoodle on the kitchen chair before we went to market, telling it to “mind the house” in a stern voice until we got back…

I jerked myself out of my reverie.  “Don’t be ridiculous!  BeBoodles aren’t real.  They can’t protect you from anything.  They’re just a line dolls created by your Grandmother as a marketing tool for all the other things she made!”

Marlene’s expression was one of defiance.  “I tell you, the BeBoddle got him!”

“That’s absurd!” I said, remembering the hundreds of dolls her Grandmother Peg used to make.  Smiling, frowning, some beautiful, others totally creepy.  Hanging from the walls, sitting on the sofa, perched on counters, dangling from shelves…so many dolls…some half completed, others done and ready to go.  There were the favorites, too.  The ones that always stayed.  The ones that Grandma Peg claimed would protect the house, and those within, at all cost.  Of all the dolls Peg made, the BeBoodles sold the most and brought in the highest amount of cash, enough for her to survive, particularly after the tragic loss of her husband.

Absurd.

A doll got him.

Not a chance.

And what the hell was that damned jingle-bell sound?  “Marlene!  Did you get a cat?”

Marlene did not reply at first.  A sullen, “No,” finally exited her lips.  Then she said, “I always wondered why people came from all over the country to buy Grandma’s primitive dolls.  They paid good money, too.  Remember?  And do you remember how they would act when they received the dolls?  Some excited?  Some relieved?  Some so thankful they left crying?  Didn’t you think that it was at all strange that Grandma would take the clients into the doll room and close the door before she made them their doll?  How we often heard whispering?  How each BeBoodle was uniquely different?  How she wouldn’t let us help her stuff the dolls?  How some nights we weren’t allowed to sleep over because she was too busy?  Or the newspaper clippings!  Remember those?”

I nodded vaguely.  Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.  Finally, I said, “You mean her genealogy stuff?”

“Or the letters,” Marlene went on.  “Do you remember the letters we were never allowed to read?”

“I guess so,” I said slowly.  “I mean, your grandmother was a little strange; but, I always thought that was because she was the artsy kind, or maybe because she was from West Virginia and had that funny accent.  She was a depression era baby, and when those people got old they kept some pretty strange habits.  I mean, you folks were the only family in town that had a Victory Garden in the seventies when everyone else had better things to do.”

Marlene frowned at me.  To her, Grandma Peg belonged in the saint category.  To say anything less than glorious about the woman could lead to a fist fight.  I know.  But today, instead of throwing a punch, Marlene just glared and rattled on.  “And don’t you remember when Grandma passed away?  How horrid my mother was about the whole thing?  How she burned every doll  in a big bonfire out back along with all the extra material and Grandma Peg’s books?  It was because she knew the BeBoodles were real!”

I sat back and shook my head.  “Your mother, hated those dolls because she felt Grandma Peg spent too much time in her fantasy doll-making world and didn’t pay attention to the family like  she should.”

“No.  No, that’s not it.  I never told you this, but mom always blamed Grandma Peg for her father’s death.  In fact, the day she burned all those dolls?  Mom stood out back and watched until each and every one of them disintegrated to ashes.  And when not a shred of anything remained?  And the fire pit was bone cold?  Mom shoveled dirt over the whole pile, and stood back with a smile on her face when she was done.  She didn’t know I was watching from behind that old willow tree.  And she sure didn’t know I heard what she said.”

My curiosity peaked, I asked, “So…what did she say?”

Marlene leaned forward and lowered her voice.  “She said, ‘May you and your BeBoodles go to the hell you deserve, you murdering bitch!”

I could feel my eyebrows rocketing to my thinning hair line.  “What?  Wait,” I said, waving my hands in the air as if to stop the strange flow of information.  “I thought your grandfather died in a railroad accident.”

“He did.”

“I don’t get it.”

“I heard my mother tell my father one night that my grandfather was a nasty alcoholic; but that he never hurt my mother.  Just hit Peg.”

“No!  He was abusive?”

She nodded.  “My mother was only five when grandpa was killed.  I always assumed that she misinterpreted a great deal…being so little and all.  She claimed that one night Grandma Peg put a BeBoodle in grandpa’s lunch box instead of food.  That he picked the lunchbox up off the counter without looking it it, kissed the top of my mother’s head, said good-bye, and headed off for the evening shift at the rail yard.  That night, there was a terrible accident, and Grandpa never came home.  Everyone thought my mother was hysterical when she told the adults about the BeBoodle in the lunchbox.  Even my father tried to talk her out of it all those years later when she told him.  But, now I know.  She was right!”

I sighed.  “Right about what?  Your grandfather’s accident?”

“She was right about the BeBoodles!”

I stared at Marlene.  Then, I said, “Obviously we can’t ask your mother.”

“No.  And I wouldn’t anyway.  Would you?”

“Very funny,” I replied.  Marlene’s mother was in Shady Rest Nursing home, at the dying end of Alzheimer’s.  “I’m sorry,” I said.  “This is all just stuff and nonsense.  Its a way for you to cope with what happened last night.  You killed Frank in self-defense and your mind is just trying to rationalize…”

Marlene crossed her arms over her chest, a subtle fire burning in her eyes.  “I’m telling you flat out that the BeBoodle got him.  You are my best friend.  You know I never lie.  You know I haven’t got an imaginative bone in my body.  You’ve got to believe me!  The BeBoodle really did take Frank away!”  She pounded the table and my cooling coffee threatened to jump out of the cup as a spoon skittered and banged against my hand.

I sighed deeply and leaned my elbow on the table, cupping my chin in my hand.  “Okay, let’s look at this logically.  You said that all the dolls were burned.  In the fire.  Out back.  Are you trying to tell me one of those dolls crawled out of its ashy grave thirty years later just to save you from being murdered by your brother?  No.  I’m sorry.  I don’t buy it.  That’s just stuff and nonsense.  Dolls don’t walk without the help of batteries.”

“Oh really?  So what do you call that?” she asked pointing at the stool next to the pantry.

I turned my head slowly.  There, tucked in the shadows, perched a primitive doll.  I swallowed and my breath hitched a bit in my chest.  I remembered that doll very well.  It was Peg’s handiwork.  I’d know her style anywhere.  This was one of the larger dolls, maybe two and a half feet tall.  Its wool hair was matted with clumps of dirt and bits of yard debris.  Its dress rumpled, filthy, and threadbare.   Yet, the handpainted eyes looked as moist as the day they were freshly brushed.  I shivered.  This was the exact same doll that Grandma Peg always sat by the door.

“and you mind that not a soul in this house is harmed!  You hear?” echoed Grandma Peg’s voice in my head as I recalled sleeping over with Marlene so many years ago and being entranced by Peg’s make believe conversation with her BeBoodle as she placed that doll on the stool by the back door.  She checked the windows and the lock on the door to ensure we’d all be safe for the night, then turned to me and winked.  “Better than a dog.” she said, patting the BeBoodle on the top of the head, the jingle-bells attached to its clothing tinkling merrily.  “And what do we say, girls, if we are afraid?”

“BeBoodle!  BeBoodle!  BeBoodle!” we screamed in unision, laughing as we jumped up and down around the doll, who seemed to smile and enjoy it all.

Grandma Peg laughed, too.  “Always remember to call three times.  That’s the magick!” she said.  “Off with you now, you two girls.  We’ll be getting up early to go to market…”

No.

Absolutely not.

A BeBoodle is just a doll.

Really.

To this day I don’t know why I did it.  I guess I just couldn’t resist with a possible insane friend and a maybe dead body lying around somewhere.  I whispered the words three times under my breath.  The BeBoodle fell off the stool and I jumped in spite of myself.  It  laid there on that gleaming linoleum in a rumbled pile, its face turned toward me, smiling that primitive smile.  Some rusted jingle-bells still attached to the clothing.  I blinked and remembered to breathe.

“That what I’ve been trying to tell you,” said Marlene as she stood and walked over to the doll.  She picked it up gently, brushing some of the dirt from the hair, then set the doll back on the stool.  “Last night, when I came into the kitchen, I found the doll sitting in the middle of the kitchen table.  The back door wide open.”  She made a sweep with her arm as if to imitate an open door. “And this…” she pulled the faded green notebook from her oversized bathrobe pocket.

“What’s that?”

“Grandma’s recipe book.”

“A cook book?”

Marlene smiled funny.  “Not exactly.  These are instructions on how to make BeBoodles…and…other things.”  She extended the book, pulled back a bit as if contemplating whether to let me read it or not, then shoved it forward into my hands.  The cover was cracked and leathery, some pages water stained; but, amazingly mostly intact.

I took the book, the cover warm and smooth to the touch, and paged through it.  I read complete instructions on how to construct the dolls, what to put in them, what herbs to use, the proper incantations for different types of dolls.  Where to find special earth.  What time to make which doll — full moon for some, new for others.  “Why, this is a… well a…this is a book of spells!”

Marlene nodded.  “Spells specific to making dolls, mostly, although there are a few others — one for healing, one for putting out a fire, and one for stopping a mad dog.  Her coveted dill pickle recipe is in there, too.  In fact, did you know she actually did a birthing ceremony for the dolls?  After she was done, she would wrap them in a plastic bag, and bury them in a big pickle jar filled with dirt for three days.  I always wondered why she had all those huge jars filled with dirt.”

I carefully laid the notebook on the table realizing that I would never eat another pickle again without thinking of dolls looking like dead babies buried in jars in a basement.  “Although this has been a wonderful walk down magickal memory lane, it really doesn’t explain what happened to Frank.”

She opened her mouth, preparing to argue.

I put up my hand up in an effort to quiet her.  “This is all circumstantial and downright whimsical.  Where is the body?”

“I have no clue.  Maybe the doll ate him.  BeBoodles are sin eaters, consumers of negativity.  That’s what the book says.”  She walked back to the table and tapped the cover of the notebook.  “I read it from cover to cover, but it doesn’t say exactly what happens to the negativity, just        ‘Thrice the name
Thrice the power
Problem solved within the hour.’

And if the person is really bad?  And the BeBoodle eats all the negativity?  Well then, there’s nothing left.  Except the book doesn’t say what happens to the body.”

“I thought you said they found your grandfather’s body after the rail accident.”

“Why…yes, they did.  There was a big funeral at Cocklin’s.  Grandma saved the obit.”

“Then, if Frank is really dead.  There’s a body.”

“Right.  I hadn’t thought of that.”  Her eyes widened.  “And if there’s a body here somewhere, I’m the one that’s going to take the blame.  What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to look for that body!”  A thought struck me.  “Marleeeene,” I said, drawing out her name.  “You said you were struggling with Frank on the stairs, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And while you were fighting, did you…well…did you call the BeBoodle?”

“What?”

“Don’t you remember when we were kids?  How your Grandmother always told us that if we were in trouble we were to say BeBoodle three times?  To scream like we meant it?”

“Sure, but…okay, so what if I did?  I was afraid!” she wailed.

“Of course you were!” I said.  “I’m not faulting you for it.  I just wanted to know if you did, that’s all.”

Marlene sat back down at the table, her face red from embarrassment, which was actually a good thing.  It meant there was blood in that head that might help her to think.

I looked at the doll.

I looked at the book.

I looked at Marlene.  “Did you find the doll in the attic, maybe?”  I just could not let go of the thought that somehow Marlene’s mind had made up this whole mess.  That she couldn’t deal with murdering her own brother in self-defense.  From the expression on her face, for a moment there, I really thought Marlene was going to hit me.

Instead, she stood ramrod straight, almost knocking her chair over, and said, “I did not kill Frank.  I did not find the doll or the book in the attic.  I’m telling you the truth.  And you know?  You must not really be my friend because a true friend would believe me!  Get out of my house!”

Ooops.  I’d pushed her too far.  “Look at it from my side of the table,” I said calmly.  “Would you believe me if I told you the same story?”

She clamped her jaw shut and chewed on her lips, sitting down slowly.  “No.”

“Alright then.  The quality of our friendship aside, how should we proceed from here?  We have no body so we’re not sure Frank is really dead.  In fact, are we even sure it was Frank who broke in here?”

She glared at me.  “I know my own brother!  You didn’t hear that ripping slurping sound.  I’ll never forget it!”

“Okay,” I said hurriedly.  “Let’s agree then that it was Frank.”  I heard that damned jingle bell again, but when I looked over, the doll sat perfectly still.  “And you heard those horrible sounds.  Ergo, there must be a body somewhere.  Let’s check the grounds around the house to make sure his oozing cadaver isn’t outside on the back lawn waiting to frighten the first passer-by or attract the neighborhood dogs.  It wouldn’t be good if Fido presented his owner with a bloody femur belonging to Frank.”

“You’re right!”  She rushed to the back door.

“Wait!” I yelled.  “You can’t go outside in that horrid housecoat!  The neighbors will be sure to talk if we start poking around with you dressed like that!”

For the first time, Marlene laughed.  A real guffaw.  “Right.  Give me a minute and I’ll change.”

****

There was no body.

Not in the potting shed.

Not in the garden.

Not behind the willow tree nor in the burn pit (although there was a strange, small hole there — you know, like a gopher hole?).  We checked all through the house, too.  Basement to attic we found nothing but spiders, dust motes, and tons of stuff to donate to charity (hey, might as well be productive).  I worried about leaving Marlene in the house those first few nights after the attack; but, Frank never returned.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months.  Finally, in deep autumn, with the harvest moon over and the leaves falling frantically from the trees, Frank’s body turned up in a remote area over 1,000 miles away, stuck in a drain pipe.  After a brief investigation, it was determined that Marlene couldn’t have possibly had anything to do with it, particularly since neither she nor I ever talked about the attack, and not a single speck of DNA pointed to the killer.  On the day of Frank’s parole it was assumed he got on a bus, or hitched a ride, or stole a car…nobody really cared, and drove across country where he met with his unfortunate demise.  Probably a drug deal gone bad, authorities said.  Or perhaps Frank tried to bully someone once too often.

So they said.

One strange thing though…

they found rusted jingle-bells in mouth of his corpse.  The significance was never known.

Of course, by then, Marlene and I knew what really happened to Frank because we’ve made over a hundred BeBoodles, just like the book said, and we have orders for at least fifty more.

You see, our clients love us.

Sometimes, they even send us the obituaries.  Guess we’ll have to start a scrapbook.

***

Finis

beboodleone