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Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar

Lonesome EJ 31 Aug 08 - 01:30 AM
katlaughing 31 Aug 08 - 12:43 PM
Little Hawk 31 Aug 08 - 02:27 PM
Little Hawk 31 Aug 08 - 03:38 PM
John Hardly 31 Aug 08 - 03:38 PM
Peter T. 31 Aug 08 - 04:42 PM
Lonesome EJ 31 Aug 08 - 05:05 PM
Amos 31 Aug 08 - 08:09 PM
Lonesome EJ 31 Aug 08 - 11:30 PM
katlaughing 01 Sep 08 - 01:04 AM
Lonesome EJ 01 Sep 08 - 03:26 AM
Charley Noble 01 Sep 08 - 10:12 AM
Lonesome EJ 01 Sep 08 - 12:29 PM
Little Hawk 01 Sep 08 - 01:03 PM
Amos 01 Sep 08 - 01:44 PM
Lonesome EJ 01 Sep 08 - 02:43 PM
Little Hawk 01 Sep 08 - 06:53 PM
Charley Noble 01 Sep 08 - 08:29 PM
Lonesome EJ 01 Sep 08 - 08:38 PM
Amos 01 Sep 08 - 11:10 PM
katlaughing 02 Sep 08 - 12:43 AM
katlaughing 02 Sep 08 - 10:52 PM
Amos 02 Sep 08 - 11:01 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Sep 08 - 11:52 PM
katlaughing 02 Sep 08 - 11:54 PM
Amos 03 Sep 08 - 12:05 AM
Charley Noble 03 Sep 08 - 08:16 AM
Lonesome EJ 03 Sep 08 - 10:26 PM
Lonesome EJ 05 Sep 08 - 12:34 AM
Charley Noble 05 Sep 08 - 09:04 AM
Amos 06 Sep 08 - 08:32 PM
katlaughing 06 Sep 08 - 10:06 PM
Amos 07 Sep 08 - 08:28 PM
Lonesome EJ 07 Sep 08 - 08:49 PM
Lonesome EJ 11 Sep 08 - 11:54 PM
Little Hawk 13 Sep 08 - 08:24 PM
katlaughing 14 Sep 08 - 12:42 AM
JenEllen 14 Sep 08 - 01:01 AM
katlaughing 14 Sep 08 - 01:09 AM
Amos 14 Sep 08 - 02:32 AM
Lonesome EJ 14 Sep 08 - 03:24 AM
Lonesome EJ 20 Sep 08 - 12:04 AM
katlaughing 20 Sep 08 - 12:41 AM
Charley Noble 20 Sep 08 - 09:58 AM
katlaughing 20 Sep 08 - 10:01 AM
Lonesome EJ 20 Sep 08 - 12:05 PM
Charley Noble 20 Sep 08 - 12:21 PM
Little Hawk 20 Sep 08 - 02:56 PM
frogprince 26 Sep 08 - 06:14 PM
JenEllen 09 Oct 08 - 01:59 PM
Amos 10 Oct 08 - 08:35 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Oct 08 - 10:34 PM
katlaughing 10 Oct 08 - 11:33 PM
Charley Noble 11 Oct 08 - 09:42 AM
JenEllen 11 Oct 08 - 07:59 PM
katlaughing 12 Oct 08 - 12:00 AM
GUEST,Bruce Adamson, Peery Hotel Manager 13 Oct 08 - 06:22 PM
katlaughing 13 Oct 08 - 11:05 PM
Lonesome EJ 22 Oct 08 - 12:24 AM
Lonesome EJ 22 Oct 08 - 10:17 AM
katlaughing 01 Nov 08 - 12:18 AM
katlaughing 16 Sep 09 - 07:18 PM
Lonesome EJ 17 Sep 09 - 01:23 PM
Lonesome EJ 18 Sep 09 - 08:44 PM
katlaughing 18 Sep 09 - 11:22 PM
katlaughing 20 Sep 09 - 02:04 PM
Lonesome EJ 27 Oct 09 - 01:34 AM
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Subject: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 01:30 AM

It was not the kind of instrument that catches the eye of the serious practitioner. And he wasn't, not at all. A sometime strummer for fun and companionship, he had an overnight stay in a strange city.
It was late October and the weather in Denver was tasting of snow, overcast and, as the sun set, a far off lightening of the sky could be seen, as if reflecting distant explosions. The rolling vibration of the thunder was not loud, not even loud enough to obscure the hastening sound of dry leaves wandering on Larimer. It was Monday and he had a week of meetings ahead of him, close negotiations, friendly nods, and unspoken threats. It's tough out here.
But tonight, he was wandering with the leaves, his collar buttoned high against a hard breeze that came in off of peaks already in snow.
He had a drink in a lounge on 21st, sitting at a round mahogany bar surrounded by 25 year olds sporting tattoos and sipping very expensive whiskey. He had a vodka and went back out into the night. He had a brief thought about Sheila, what she might be doing. Probably watching ER, as he glanced at his watch. 8:29. Ahead a fluorescent glow turned the sidewalk blue, and he looked into the window, seeing a beautiful Martin D45, catching orange light from a row of luminous plastic pumpkins some one had strung above the showcase. That was what, he thought later, had brought him in. A great trick on the part of the Dead Man, he had to admit. Hell, he wasn't even looking to buy a guitar.
The clerk was reading a Grisham novel, narrow glasses perched low. "Can I help you" the clerk said, in a manner not interrogatory, but as if he were wondering aloud. He rubbed his hands together in a pantomime of a cold man warming them and said "getting chilly", an observation the man ignored, continuing "look around. Play them if you want. Just be careful".
And he gazed around him, in amazement at the sheer grubby, unprofessional bearing of the place. Dobros, banjoes, flutes, guitars, mandolins, a saxophone, everything had been arranged hap hazardly, on old wooden tables or hanging from nails in the wall, poorly lit. In fact, the proprietor had made a ludicrous attempt at a Halloween theme by placing cheap jack'olantern light strings all around the room. The permanent light consisted of a fluorescent tube directly under the showroom window, and two floor lamps with ancient ratty shades. He almost didn't see the classical guitar with the black body, leaning in a corner behind a ramshackle array of instrument strings. He later thought that, if it hadn't been for the gold embossing on the top, he might have just passed it by.

Held against the light of the lamp, the surface disclosed a queer image. It was a medieval scene, a castle in the background on a mountain, and in the foreground a beautiful maiden standing by a stream that seemed to flow down from the mountain. The maiden gazes in shy admiration at the figure before her, a mounted knight towering, fully armoured and fierce, yet he extends to her affixed to his lance a bouquet of roses. These she quietly accepts. A charming scene but for what she can not see that we can. He is unfastening the masque of his helmet, and his face is a memento mori, a grinning skull.
He thought he had rarely seen something as chilling. Yet the work was fantastic. He could see now that it had been finely carved into the thin top then gilded with something like goldleaf. "How much is this?" He had said. The clerk looked up and grinned, and then put his book down. "You like that one?" asked the clerk and he replied " I don't know. It's a beautiful piece." The clerk chuckled and said with scorn " piece! It's a fucking guitar. It's 155 dollars." He was somewhat surprised, but then the clerk didn't seem the brightest candle on the cake. Yes. It was a custom classical guitar, no maker's mark, well but cheaply made. But the top made it a magnificent bit of work, who cared if it ever played a note. "Is there a story?" he asked. the clerk had resumed his reading, but said "it's a dead man's guitar. His wife brought it in. She had kept it for a while but said it reminded her of him all the time. You wanna play it." He gave it a tentative un-chorded strum. The nylon strings were oddly out of tune.
Not badly, oddly. He was used to the sound of a well tuned guitar, and he certainly knew one that was sharp or flat, but this guitar was so slightly out of tune that one felt the dissonance rather than heard it. But he didn't like it, the way it sounded. He found it disturbing, but observed he would not be playing the guitar, but instead had a place on the wall by the living room fireplace for it. And so he bought it. He carried it back to the Marriott in a cheap case the clerk had donated. When he got to his room, a light sleet was falling and it made an occasional rapping on the wall. He stuck the guitar in the closet while he checked email, undressed, brushed his teeth. He had a sense of rushing excitedly through these ablutions and he knew why: He wanted to take the guitar out again and look at it.
He did this by the bed side lamp. In the silence he laughed at the grotesque humor in it. This kind of thing could never be matched by teen slasher films or halloween horror houses, or even the news on CNN. This was scary shit. This had something of Hieronymous Bosch in it. He wished Sheila was there with him. She would have a hilarious take on it. On closer examination, the roses held by the spectre-knight were a cluster of faces...demons, or ghouls, or tortured saints. Each was intricately carved and hooded in cloaks like rose petals. "This thing is worth 10 thousand fucking dollars!" He whispered. He wished he had a computer connection for his cell camera so he could take a shot and send it to Sheila.
Carefully, he sat the guitar in the far angle of the room, a pillow pushed up against it's base.
She wasn't there. After maybe 6 rings he got voice mail and left the standard message. Tomorrow he'd get a patch cable and send her a pic of what he referred to out loud and in a snarling cockney accent as "my treasure!" And as he switched out the light, he said into the dark "gollum."
He wasn't sure if he had dreamed he heard the guitar or if it had just spontaneously emitted sound, but as he lay there slightly short of breath, he was pretty sure he could still hear and feel the sound fading against his bedclothes.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 12:43 PM

Wow! GREAT start, LeeJ! I'll see what I can come up and come back to play!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 02:27 PM

Hmm. Very interesting idea, LEJ. I don't think I'm in the mood to contribute to it right now, though. I'd rather see where you want to take it next than add something myself.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 03:38 PM

What the heck? Boy, thread titles move down the page fast in the top section, don't they?

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: John Hardly
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 03:38 PM

I know I'll be reading.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Peter T.
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 04:42 PM

"Guitar strings are good, will do in a pinch," he said to no one in particular, as he went about restringing the guitar, and looking over at the no one in particular who had until a few minutes ago been Andrea, wife number two. "But fishing line, now that's the thing --". He sighed and got up. "And of course, there was a time," and his mind flashed back to the police scouring his house uselessly for the murder weapon that throttled Sandra, wife number one, "there was a time before all this new-fangled shit, when a good gut-strung tennis racket was the ticket. Now it's just serve, volley, serve, volley, serve volley."

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 05:05 PM

Dave Ruben held the menu in front of him, but he wasn't reading it. He was staring at his friend as Michael turned up his vodka and grapefruit and drained it.
"Whoah Big fella! Slow down there Mikey. It's quarter after twelve."
Mike licked his lips and said "wow. Thirsty!"
Dave inventoried the devastation in his friend's face. Baggy eyes, haggard hollow cheeks, a paleness that even made his lips a wrong shade of beige. "You alright? You look a little sick or something."
Michael ordered another drink and said "I'm not sleeping."
"You tried taking something?"
The waitress interrupted, putting Michael's drink on the table, and taking their orders. When she was out of earshot, Dave said "and what does Sheila say."
"She hasn't said anything. She sleeps like a rock. I just get up and waste time until she gets up, or it's time to head for the airport."
Dave grinned. "Just can't get away from those computer porn sites, huh?"
Michael drained his drink and stared at the ice cubes. "No. I play guitar. Or it plays me. Waitress! Could I get another the same."
"What do you mean it plays you?"
Michael laughed, a laugh that sounded like the sharp intake of breath from a knifed man. "I just mean I feel driven to play. And late at night I feel totally adrift. You know what I mean?"
Dave sipped his Heinekens and said "I guess I don't."
Michael said "it's funny. I don't even like the sound of this guitar. Never thought I'd play it. But...well, you know I'm on the road a lot. Four days in Phoenix, three days in Omaha, Holiday Inn, Texas Road House, Starbucks. Most of my life I'm really alone. Most of the time I can't even talk to my wife except to leave a fucking voice mail. Funny thing about this guitar. I don't feel alone when I play it." He stared at the turkey ciabatta sandwich on the plate in front of him. "When I play it, its as if someone was there, right at my elbow. Hell, I even take it on the road now."
Dave's phone rang. It was Sheila. She had apparently forgotten he was lunching with Mike, and Dave sent it to voice mail. Dave said "damn Kilpatrick anyway. He can't even leave me alone at lunch."
Michael was slowly cutting the sandwich into thin slices. He said "this is going to sound crazy. If I don't get up to play the doesn't matter."
Dave looked at him, at the twisted smile and the feverish eyes. "It doesn't matter?"
Michael laughed and said "it plays anyway. I know. It's absurd. Hell...I shouldn't have told you."
David felt a strange flutter in his chest, and when he reached to take a forkful of his pasta he was surprised to see his hand shaking. "Well, Mike, I'm glad you came to me to talk about this. But I think maybe you should see somebody more..qualified in this kind of thing."
"That isn't what I wanted to talk about, Dave. But I've learned some things sitting awake in the dark at 3 am playing the guitar. I don't know where the things come from, but it's as if I hear them in a whisper. You think I'm nuts."
Dave said "no" as if Michael was relating to him some commonplace undeniable fact. Michael slowly and surgically removed another slice of turkey breast and said "it's Sheila, Dave. She's having an affair."

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 08:09 PM

With her pale skin, washed-out blue eyes, and light blonde hair cut short and a bit scruffy, Tam would have passed as a waif, a runaway, looking like she would never remember her own address. A lost look, as though she wanted to find her way back to elsewhere and couldn't.

She wore a ragged cotton print dress, the same one all through the summer, and rubber flipflops. Her face was not lined or scarred, but it was not beautiful--a bit too squarely formed, the nose a bit short, the lips pale and straight. And it was haunted in some way, you would think, as though she were grasping for some lost memory or listening to a visiting muse of some kind in her fair head.

And so it was -- not trying to remember. She remembered those things that had meant something to her in her seventeen years just fine, even if they weren't always what other folks might expect her to recall. She remembered the first house she had lived in in upstate New York when her father was alive, and her mother was still sane. SHe remembered Grandfather. That she could never forget.

Those were the images that floated u[p in her mind's eye when the whisper-wind came into her mind, and the face of the old man would appear and phrases of his words and his songs would sound on her ear, inside, where no-one else could hear. "Who is gonna shoe yore purdy little foot?", he would sing, taping away on the old black guitar. "Who is gonna glove yore hand?". And he would tell her tales of his hard-scrabble life, farming, track-laying and gandy-dancing, and one time, the long and eery story of the gypsy lover who had taken the guitar away from him one night and brought it back the next, with the strange and haunting face of the maiden now living on it.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 Aug 08 - 11:30 PM

In his car on the way back to work, David called Sheila. She answered with an eager "well, what do you think?"
"I think he's got some severe problems. He thinks his guitar talks to him. Oh, and it can play by itself."
"He hasn't told me that. Are you sure?"
"That's what he said."
"He's starting to frighten me. And you should see this guitar he has. It's a horror." And she described the etching to him. "He had it hanging on the wall but I made him take it down. Thank God he travels with it, because, frankly, it gives me the willies being alone with it. I can hear him sitting downstairs in the living room playing that thing, playing this really weird music softly, so he won't wake me up. But I do wake up. Last night, I snuck to the top of the stairs, and I could hear him singing or whispering or something. It didn't even sound like him."
"That's the guitar, Sheel. It whispers to him."
"What does it whisper to him?"
"Well, for one thing it told Mikey you're having an affair."
The other end was dead air, and Dave said "Sheila?"
"Yeah. I'm here. That's scary."
"Scared the hell out of me. At least it didn't say you're having it with me."
"Oh my God. What are we going to do?"
"Are you at home? He's not around is he?"
"He's inside taking a nap. I'm sitting in the car."
"Two things, Sheel. We've got to cool our jets for a while."
"OK. That will be hard, but ok."
"And you need to get him some professional help, Sheila. He's sick."
"Do you think I'm in any danger, David?"
"No. Christ, I hope not. I've known Michael since college, and he's always been a gentle guy. But the guy I had lunch with was different. Look, just be careful and let me know if things get worse. And delete your cell phone history. We don't need him knowing we're talking."
She went into the house. Michael was asleep on the couch in the rec room, snoring softly. The black guitar was on a stand by the coffee table. She suddenly shivered as she looked at it. Quietly, she opened the closet door and picked up the guitar to place it inside. Suddenly, she felt a sharp stab in her finger. The guitar struck the floor with a sound like a bell chiming as she cried out and brought her hand up to her eyes, the blood a thick red bubble on her forefinger.
"What the goddamn hell do you think you're doing?" Michael shouted, and he rushed to the guitar, examining it, his face a grotesque scowl. "The string stuck me!" She shouted back. "I'm bleeding, if you're interested." He snapped the guitar into its case. "At least the guitar's alright," he said and gave her a cruel grin. "You got what you deserved."

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 01:04 AM

Cristobel smiled slyly to herself as she listened and watched the man and woman argue. The woman would soon learn that he belonged to her and would always be hers. The more he sang, the more she could feel the weaving of her being coming forth...he was the one, she just knew it! Soon, soon, my love... she whispered and if anyone had been looking they would have seen a sly smile echoed in the image on the guitar.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 03:26 AM

Sheila woke to the muted sounds of the guitar from somewhere in the darkness down below. The sound was eerie, out of tune, and carried a quality that never failed to bring her out of sleep with her heart pounding in her chest. Now her finger seemed to throb in sympathy.
    She had hoped he would sleep through the night. After the fight and the angry words, he had come to her and apologized, and his eyes had looked so lost and childlike that she wept and held him to her. They had lain in bed embracing for some time, and she had stroked his hair until he fell asleep. She switched on the television, no sound, and watched a Carey Grant film for an hour. He was sleeping so soundly that things felt good, peaceful for the first time in a long while, her mood disturbed only by the swollen soreness of the wound on her finger. But at last even that floated away. She snapped off the tv and was immediately asleep.
    But now she was fully awake, listening to Michael's music. There was no real pattern to the chords. Nothing that could be called a tune or melody. Instead, it was a series of arpeggios that slowly descended the scale, often with long hesitations before resuming. And he was singing. Perhaps that was not an accurate term for it. It was more like a droning intonation, between a chant and a whisper, occasionally punctuated with suppressed gasping laughter.   
    She hoped he would stop, but she also feared his soft tread on the stair that would bring him back to her bed. She took her pillow and reached over to take his, to fold them over her ears and blot it all out. That was when she touched the figure lying next to her. Michael murmured and rolled toward her in the darkness. Whatever was playing the guitar stopped in the aftermath of her scream.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 10:12 AM

This story is all too scary!

I'm shutting down this computer and removing all stringed instruments from this room.

Lonesome EJ-

You should be more careful what you write!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 12:29 PM

You know, Charley, I wrote that last segment just before going to bed last night and, despite the relative benign nature of the guitars in my den, I closed my bedroom door just so I wouldn't hear in case one of them decided to play.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 01:03 PM

I'd love to have a guitar that could play all by itself, but not if it played in the very creepy fashion described in this story, needless to say.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 01:44 PM

In the hot summer night, Tam awoke on the peeling, rusted, lumpy swing-bed which stood at a strange tilt on the ramshackle porch on the weatherbeaten house, on the flat patch on the back side of Tea Creek Mountain, looking down into Sadie Moon Holler.

The moon was high, and larger than her head, up over the treetops on the ridge above, thrilling the whole hill with silver. The skeeters had gone to bed, and she could sense the gathering of mist readying itself for sunrise to cloud up in the low spots. It was dead silent and she didn't know for a moment what it was that had interrupted her dreams. Then the picture that had crossed her dream and stiired her nerves into alrm resurfaced in her mind's eye -- a shiny black surface with a ghostly image of a lady and a knight, roses made of death's heads, and a black wind-song echoing behind it, a calling song that said "Come...I am yours..come...".

She sat up, startled and frightened by the mix in her mind of the silver light around her, and the ghastly thin silver lines etched into the black surface. Gramp's guitar, she realized. She wondered why she had thought of him again. She stood up and slipped out the screen door and down the steps into the yard, staring into the moonlight toward the piney woods that climbed the ridge, walking slowly, listening to the moonlight, and the faint susurrus of an echo from her dream -- the silvered strings and the lute-like voice whispering "Come...come...".

She stood there, long and quiet, breathing softly and staring at the silver light.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 02:43 PM

She was hysterical. Michael couldn't blame her for that. He had been in shock himself when he first learned of the guitar's unique attributes. He tried to comfort her, but she struck at him with her fists, standing in the corner farthest from the door, repeating "get rid of it, Michael! Burn it! Get it out of my house!"
"Honey, it's worth a fortune..."
"Then sell it on E Bay! But take it out of here Michael! My God!" and she broke into spasmodic weeping. He stood in front of her and was torn by two emotions. He wanted to hold her and help her. And then the darker emotion that said she was a slut and a cheat, that what she needed was a strong slap in the face. "Look Michael! Go downstairs and get rid of it now! I mean it! I won't stay here with that thing down there in the dark! Either it goes or I go!"
   Of course she wouldn't understand. She hadn't felt the real power of it, the power to reveal truth. He gripped her by the wrists and said "open your eyes, Sheila." This she did, and abject fear was in them. "I know," he said. "I know you are cheating on me." She responded too quickly "I'm not! What are you talking about!" She was a liar, and not a good one.
"No, Sheila," he said quietly. "You stay here. I'll take the guitar and leave." She stood sobbing, felt something warm in the center of her fist. When he switched the light on she saw the blood from her finger dripping down her arm, making a brown stain in the carpet. He stuffed an overnight bag with some clothes and his shaving kit. He walked to the bedroom door and said " I'll be downtown at the Peery Hotel." He went downstairs and she heard the guitar case snap shut, the door open and close, Michael's Volvo moving off.
   It was 4:15 in the morning, but she called David's cell phone, getting his voice mail. She said "call me as soon as you can." Then she lay down on the bed, the cell on Michael's pillow. In five minutes it rang with David's first words "are you alright?" She told him the story, and he said "Christ, Sheel. Could it have been a recording?"
"No, " she said. "In the middle of everything he accused me of cheating."
"Isn't he traveling out of town today?"
"I don't know, Dave, I think so."
"Look Sheel, try and get some sleep."
"Right. Good luck."
"I'll call Mike tomorrow, and let you know what's going on with him."
She put the cell phone on the nightstand, locked the bedroom door, and lay down. After an hour or so, she crept down the stairs with a nail file in her hand, went to the kitchen and filled a bucket with a sponge, hot water, and 409 Cleanser and went back to the bedroom, where she worked at the stain until the sky grew light.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 06:53 PM

I get the feeling that it only reveals truths that cause a whole lot of trouble. I betcha.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 08:29 PM

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Sheila's welcome to clean up my house any time!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 08:38 PM

She called in sick, finally taking a nap in the late morning. Michael had brought the guitar back from Denver two weeks before, proudly showing it to her. She had admired the etching, looking as it did like an illustration for a Poe story. She had commented that a girl would always get into trouble taking roses off of a guy's lance, and Michael had laughed. He showed her the receipt, bragged about how he had stolen it for the price he paid, and mounted it on the wall. But that night, he had taken it down and played it, beginning what became a compulsion.
      She looked in the dresser drawer where Michael threw all of his receipts until she eventually disposed of them. She quickly found it. Podgor's Music in Denver on Larimer Street. She dialed the number and a bored voice answered "Podgor's."
"Hi. I'm Sheila Huber calling from Salt Lake. My husband bought a guitar in your shop back on October 11th."
"Michael Huber."
"Yes ma'am. What's the problem?"
"Do you remember a black guitar with gold etching of a maiden and a knight?"
His voice lost the bored quality, and she could feel him smile as he said "Oh yeah. He bought the dead man's guitar. How's he liking it?"
She swallowed hard and felt a twinge from under the bandage on her finger. "The dead man's guitar? Why do you call it that?"
"Guy died and his wife brought it in. I thought I could make some bread on it, y'know, because of the design on it, and because of who he was."
"Who was he?"
"I ain't taking it back. There's no returns on used guitars, and it says so on the invoice."
"I'm not returning it. Just tell me about him."
"You heard of Joe Picoletti?"
The name was vaguely familiar. She'd heard it in the news. "Maybe. Who is he?"
"Was he. Paint and Body man. Had a shop in Niwot, not far from Boulder. But he ain't famous for that. When she signed the sales agreement I saw her last name and the Niwot address, and I put two and two together."
"And what was he famous for?"
"He was a serial killer. Killed three high school girls in the Boulder area a couple years ago. It was all over CNN. Killed those girls and they finally caught him. He had the nylon cord he used to strangle them hidden in his mouth, and hung himself in the holding cell with it. I figured some sick bastard would want his guitar, but for some weird reason I just couldn't get anyone interested. So I stopped mentioning his name. Then your old man came in and bought it. Got my money out of it, anyway. And I got it out of here. You know what I'm talking about."
"Do you have Mrs Picoletti's number?"
"Yeah, but it would be unethical if I gave it to you. Store policy. But she's the only Picoletti in Niwot Colorado if you look in the directory."

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 01 Sep 08 - 11:10 PM

Watching the sun go down behind the Sangre de Cristos mountains, the old woman smiled at the young sheriff and refilled his coffee cup. "But ya know, my grandmother, she was what you are calling a brujita too, and she lived to be 107, only died two years ago. So I 'speck to be around a while, ya know, Tony. All us Romani, live a very long time, because we know how to live right, I guess. My mother, she 93, my mother, so I 'speck I can do better'n that!" She laughed and roocked on her old bent-wood chair as the shadows began to point up the edges of the rock garden in front of the double-wide, charcoal smudges on the hot rust-brown sands and the carefully nurtured cacti.

"But ya know, just like with your people, the people who know the magic side, they don't say much. White people don't want to hear that stuff, gets 'em uneasy and spun up." She smiled at the full-blood Apache youth in the tan uniform of the county sheriff's office. "So if you go on like your gampa wants, learn your medicine stuff, just be careful to keep those worlds separate, young felller--you'll save yourself a mess of woe if you do that. Learn it well, and keep your powers to yourself"

"Mama, it's done me a world of good jes' talking to you. I know what gramps wants to hear. I'm gonna give him that, and do my best to make him proud of me. No reason to think the white folks are the only ones who know anything. Hell, we've been walking these hills a lot longer than any of them. You may just be a crazy Gypsy woman, but I think Gramps would like you a lot. Thanks for the coffee, too!""

"Aw, now, go on with your flattering, redskin!!" and the two of them, bonded in their mystic paths from centuries and continents apart, sat in the setting sun and laughed, and laughed.

Later, Tony Vinienctin wheeled his white pickup through the darkened, red-dust hills and over the wide arroyos of New Mexico, and hummed quietly as he maneuvered the wheel through the ruts. He could see his grandfather's hogan in his mind's eye and was already tasting the stew he knew would be waiting.

And in the drawing shadows, Gram Petala, the dark great-great-grand-daughter of Romany princesses and witches, sighed comfortably on her porch, sorting the threads that reached her from beyond, the hum of the ordinary, the pained cries of the hurting, the deep crystal thrumming of the Path, and a thousand other voices and colors her seeing within would bring her on the evening winds. As the last red traces of the sun fell off the Sangre de Cristo peaks, she stopped rocking, suddenly still, and crossed her eyes and sat rigid, fixed on the distant, vaguely familiar music of a distant silver whisper, a nebulous ghost of a lute from the other side, calling...

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Sep 08 - 12:43 AM

It was late and Christobel eagerly awaited her lover and husband, Reynard. She strummed the lute, quietly for a few minutes, then lost patience. With a forceful strum, the lute filled the room with jangled, discordant music full of petulance, anger, and longing. In a pique of real anger, she flung it from her. It hit the stone wall and fell in a heap of broken bits.

"My lady, my lord comes! He is here!" her maid came running into the room to inform her.

"Quickly, you, gather up the lute and haste away with it, " Christobel ordered her.

She strode over to her looking glass to pinch up her cheeks and check her hair. A dark visage with smouldering dark eyes stared back at her, black hair streaming down around her shoulders and trailing to the floor at her back. Her gown was tightly cinched in a crisscross which emphasised her breasts and small waist. Two of her attributes she knew Reynard cherished. She started as she heard his heavy footsteps ring out on the stone-flagged floor. Her door was flung open. She turned and raised an eyebrow, giving a slight turn up of her lips as well.

"What-ho, my darlin' wench. Come here and give me suckle for I've need of your charms tonight, my dear," a tall man with equally black hair and dark eyes called out at her.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Sep 08 - 10:52 PM

(Hope I didn't throw a ringer in here. Guys?)

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 02 Sep 08 - 11:01 PM

(not at all. Good backstory)

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Sep 08 - 11:52 PM

Once more, with the proper line spacing!

Michael was walking rapidly through the cold October sunshine that fell on the sidewalk of 2nd South. In his pocket, he felt the cell phone vibrate with another incoming call. He stared at the caller id. Kasladek again. "Shit," he shook his head, rubbed his eyes and answered "This is Michael."
"Where are you. The Omaha office says you weren't on the plane this morning."
"I'm sick, Rich. I was up all night with the stomach flu or something, finally fell asleep and missed my flight."
"Are you going to be ok?"
"No. I mean, I'm sure I'll be better soon. Maybe I can reschedule for tomorrow."
"You could have called, Mike. Did you get my messages?"
"No. I saw you called but I haven't had time to pick up my voice mails."
Michael was approached by a shabby-dressed black man with a sign saying 'LDS-Legion of Demons of Satan' who said loudly "the way to Heaven is not through Brigham's Temple. Those are no saints who go in there!" Michael clamped his hand over the mouthpiece as he heard Kesladek say "what was that? Where are you?"
"I'm outside the Doctor's office. Listen, I'm losing signal. I've got to go, Rich." He pushed the man aside, saying "back off!", and continued down the street. The man stood pointing at him and shouted "get behind me Demon!"
At West Temple, Michael turned north. He scrolled through the messages on his phone. There were two business calls, four from Sheila, and one from Dave Ruben. Temple Square was crowded with tourists and pilgrims. Michael felt the cool breeze chilling the sweat on his forehead. He found a bench and sat down, trying to pray, saying in his mind "help me in the hour of my need. My soul is troubled. I don't know where to turn." He was conscious of a deep hypocrisy. Maybe he had believed when he was a child, but not for a long time, and his prayer seemed pitiful, self-serving, and ridiculous. Laughter burst from his lips, and he opened his eyes to see the frightened stares of those who passed nearby.
He pushed Dave's number and Dave answered immediately. "Mike, what the hell? Sheila said you left in the middle of the night? You're scaring the shit out of her."
"Where are you, Dave? I feel like I'm in some real trouble. I may be having a nervous breakdown."
"Are you still in Salt Lake? Where are you?"
"I'm in Temple Square. I'm at a hotel near here."
"Listen, Mike. I've got rounds at the hospital down here in St George, and I'm flying back tomorrow. I could change my reservation..."
"No, David. I'm overstating this. I'll be fine. It's this damned insomnia is all."
"Sheila said you scared her near to death last night with the guitar. Whatever you're doing you need to stop it, man! Leave that fucking guitar alone, lock it in the trunk of your car."
"Look, can we get together and talk tomorrow?"
"Sure. I get in at 7:15. I could come over to your hotel."
"Look, Dave. I need to get in touch with something real. Let's meet at the old place in Emigrant Canyon."
"Oxbow campgound? Should I bring a twelve pack of PBR like the old days?" Mike laughed and said "sure. But I might have a hard time coming up with a joint by then."
"That's alright man. I'm a doctor now. I'll bring some prescription meds." Dave paused as Mike's laughter continued, and then he said "there you go. That's my Mikey. Meet you about 9 or so. You sure you'll be ok."
"Yeah," said Michael. "Thanks, Dave. I knew I could count on you."
"Every time, Mikey. All the time."
Michael walked back to the Peery and up the stairs to his room. He lay down on the bed, pulled a pillow under his head and turned, his eye falling on the black guitar, and he mumbled "you're going in the trunk of the car, my precious, just like Dr Dave prescribed." He tried to lift himself, but his body was heavy, his mind numb with weariness. Soon, he had fallen fast asleep. Outside in rush hour traffic, the cars were just flicking on their headlights as the gloom of the October night came on.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Sep 08 - 11:54 PM

(phew! Thanks!)

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 03 Sep 08 - 12:05 AM

As the moon was leaving for the day after a watchful tour over the New Mexico darklands, a soft breeze sprang up high in the divide between the Sangre de Cristo peaks, and tumbled down to flirt with the desert night. Unmoving, the Romany brujita sat still, her eyes crossed and her hands stirring from time to time like a small bird in a restless sleep. The dark surrounded her, filled the porch and the shadowy sands around her, and lay on the double wide behind her like a heavy black animal, somnolent and thick. And so it seemed.

But things are not all as seeming is. There is for, both light and dark, and the billion-faced sparkling energies of every instant among the forms. And there is consciousness, which bides where it will and sees as it calls to see, and travels without let both among the forms and beyond them. And even in the myriad spaces beyond form where only consciousness can dwell, there is both light and dark, indrawing and out-breathing, among the myriad streams and dances that are the stuff of Knowing to the eye that will see.

And in the travels of the Seeing of Gram Petala, the silver thin thread of that single tune of a single set of strings came curling in and out, questing, something like a crystal hound, feeling its way through the heights and the shadows of the other side. She could see it was not one strand but several--parts of it, like a wildwood weed, branched over the lands around her to the north, shaking to the shudders of a city's jungle pain; and others to the dark edges of dawning in the east, tied to some far hills.

But she could not shake off what she knew in her heart and saw with her open Eye. The main body of that silver current was questing, seeking, and finding its way to her.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Sep 08 - 08:16 AM


I have a bad feeling about where this story is heading!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Sep 08 - 10:26 PM

Sheila tried calling Michael once more, but as she picked up his answer message, a call with a Colorado area code came in on her phone.
"Yes, this is Marilyn Picoletti. You left a message I should call you."
"Thank you, Mrs Picoletti. I'm so glad you called."
"If this is about my husband or the murders I won't talk about that."
"No. I want to ask about his guitar." There was a silence of several seconds.
"Yes, I'm here. What do you want to know about it."
"My husband was on a business trip in Denver and he bought it."
More silence, then "and why are you calling me?"
"I wanted to ask you. Why did you sell it to Podgor's Music? It must have meant a lot to your husband."
Sheila thought the laugh Mrs Picoletti gave was sharp, derisive. "He made me promise I would keep it. I couldn't keep that promise."
"Listen, Mrs Picoletti. My husband seems obsessed with the guitar and, I don't know how to say this, it feels evil, cursed."
Mrs Picoletti's voice was calmer as she asked "what is the guitar doing?" and this struck Sheila as a very odd way to put things.
"The other night, Marilyn, " said Sheila, "I thought I could hear it play by itself, when Michael was no where near it."
Mrs Picoletti made a quick shocked "Oh!" then "God forgive me", almost in a whisper.
"Listen Mrs Huber. You must destroy the guitar. I will tell you as simply as I can what happened to him, to us.

We were yard-sale hopping on a Sunday afternoon in an old section of Denver and we saw the sign for an Estate Sale. We looked at all of the old furniture, silverware, paintings, and I was feeling very sad. It was if someone's life had been fragmented and scattered on the lawn for strangers to pick through. Then Joe called to me, and I went over to find him looking at that guitar. I hated it right from the start, but he smiled at me and said 'I always wanted to learn to play. Isn't it beautiful?' And so we bought it.
You must understand something about Joe, and I know people who knew murderers all say the same know, he was the nicest man. Who would have thought? But I swear to you there was never a better man. He was kind, we raised four kids together, two of them daughters. He never raised his hand to them.." and she began to sob.
"I'm sorry, Mrs Picoletti."
"No. Let me go on. He began to change. At first he treated the guitar as a novelty, strumming it on the odd occasion. It always was such a strange sound.."
"I know, Marilyn."
"Soon Joe was sitting up nights and I could hear him playing, singing in a voice that sounded nothing like him. He began to neglect his business, and our son, his partner, began to say 'Mama, I know Dad must be sick' and I couldn't tell him that Joe had hit me. Do you know what it is like to live with a man for thirty years, and have him become a stranger in a matter of weeks? We went to counselling where I talked and he sat, quiet and angry.
He began to go out and stay out at night for hours. I suppose that went on for two or three months. He must have been...the police think he was.."
"You don't have to go on, Marilyn."
"Truly, there isn't much more. He said if anything were to happen, I should take care of the guitar. The only thing of his I didn't want, Mrs Huber. But I couldn't, don't you understand? When it was in the house, it was like the only bad part of that man had been left there with me. Lord, I was frightened to even have it locked away in a trunk in the basement. And you are right....Mrs Huber, it never stops playing!"

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 05 Sep 08 - 12:34 AM

In room 313 of the Peery Hotel, Michael lay dreaming.
He was walking down a path by the side of a stream in a mountainous country. He began to hear a steady wet thumping, and as he passed a fragrant orchard, he saw ahead of him a woman dressed in a long blue gown, her beautiful hair long and plaited. She stood beside a stone watermill, whose wheel spun slowly in the passing water. "You're late Michael" she said, and he recognized by her voice that this person was Sheila.
"I was looking for David," he said, and she smiled and told him "David is at the Fair." Then she took his hand and they walked together.
The path became crowded with people dressed in rough cloaks or velvet finery, with men on horses and ladies in elegant carriages. they reached a place where you entered the Fair through a trellised archway, and a jovial, bearded, rotund man was collecting tickets from the fairgoers. The fellow looked at Sheila and said "you know who I am." She said "of course. You are Joe from Colorado." The man laughed, then to Mike he said "tickets please." Michael had left the tickets at his hotel, and told the man so. Joe laughed again and said "what key unlocks the door between life and death, and where can it be hidden?" Sheila said "I know. It is not a key, but the nylon string from a guitar. And one can hide it in one's mouth. And there are you hiding it now!"
Joe looked surprised, then discomfited, then suddenly coughed and produced from between his lips a long nylon guitar string, which he pulled hand over hand, as in the manner of a magician, until he held it before them, saying "you are a very clever girl. You both may enter".
Inside, it was like the Rennaissance Fair they had once attended in Park City. Jugglers performed for a group of children, a man in a devil costume blew plumes of fire, a puppet show featured paint-faced figures whacking each other with paddles.
Suddenly, a man if full armor approached them and said "Hi Mikey. Hi Sheel." And he lifted the visor to disclose Dave's face. "It's hotter than hell in this armor. Can you get me a brew, Mike?" Mike found a woman who sold ornate flagons of beer, but on returning, Dave and Sheila were gone. He began to seek them, and as he did, he became conscious of music playing. He had wandered to a field where three young high-school aged girls whirled in beads and tie-dyed dresses in a clearing before a bandstand. He seemed to recognize the men on stage and a long haired guy near him said "nothing beats the Dead, huh man?"
He saw, to the right of the stage, David holding Sheila, kissing her, then stalking away into the trees. Michael went to her and said
"what are you two up to?" She smiled, and said follow me. He was seething, but he followed to a place where a jousting course had been set up. He saw David vault into the saddle. At the other end of the track, a colossal knight in black armor sat his charger. "I hope he kills David" he said to Sheila. A trumpet sounded, and the riders charged toward each other, coming together in violent collision. And Michael could see that David had been impaled on the dark knight's lance. Michael ran to him as a crowd gathered. They pulled David's helmet off, and blood ran from his mouth and his eyes. "Where's Sheila?" Dave coughed. Mike said "why, David? You were by best friend." Dave gave a weak chuckle and said "because you are a fool, Mike. If it hadn't been me, it would've been somebody else." David gave his final breath, and Michael stared in anger over toward Sheila, just in time to see the black knight extend a bouquet of roses to her.

"Jesus!" Michael shouted into the silence of his room. It was pitch dark. He lay there, still shaken from the dream. The guitar was leaning on the wall by the large window. He had pulled the shade down nearly to the sill, but the small remaining gap allowed light from a street lamp to illuminate the lustrous ebony surface, to pick out the etching in its detail.
The guitar was silent, but in the hall just outside his room he heard low shuffling foot steps that approached, then paused before his room. His pulse was audible to him in the silence that followed, but his heartbeat seemed to stop in the moment when he heard the suppressed, guttural laughter through the door.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Sep 08 - 09:04 AM

Someone please PM me when it's safe to return to this thread!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 06 Sep 08 - 08:32 PM

Tam trudged through white dust and sand along the side of the tarmac double-lane road. The sun was hanging low, and the shadows were reaching out from the dense brush along the sides of   State Road 332 South winding toward Waterloo, Palermo and Perrysville. She didn't need to pay much mind to her walking, and her thoughts drifted back to the morning before last, when she had startled awake on the rusty porch swing bed, and half-entranced by the skitter of moonbeams in her eyes, had tiptoed away, leaving a note for Jesse that said "Gone. Do not try to follow me. Tam", and shifted her ratty backpack with all her stuff in it onto her shoulders, and started down the creek road. She had spent the night in a soft bed of pine needles huddled against a rock wall and started again this morning.

The blunt red and chrome nose of the Mack cut the late afternoon West Virginia air like a dull shovel the big diesel winding down an emergency alarm,   shifting and grumbling as he brought her down one more long windy hill on the western face, heading for better roads and places. He knew he could make WHeeling before he got too tired to see straight, if he took it all fast but careful. That was what Mariah always told him--"Fast, okay, but careful, you big jerk...". He dreamed up an image of her saying it, fondly, with her Buick smile and the soft shape of her neck and jaw when she tilted her head one way to look up at him. Man.

So he almost missed the waif with the big backpack trudging down the side of the winding blacktop, eyes down and thumb out listlessly. But he was struck by the halo or something, Anyway, he skidded the Mack to side, and waited for her to catch up and climb in. Who knows, a little company might keep him awake on the long road home.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Sep 08 - 10:06 PM

"Music, 'bel! Weave me some patterns in the sky to ease my soul!" Reynard demanded of her.

Christobel smiled at him and pretended to search for the lute. Her heart was tapping against her breast like a frightened bird trapped against a glass cage. She turned on all of her wiles and danced seductively over to him. Reaching up to caress his face, she said, "Oh, my Lord, may I use my voice for you, tonight? I've been working on some pretty ditties which will make you forget the ways of men."

"Nay, you saucy wench! I want to hear the strums of my mother's memory. Get thee to it, now," and he slapped her on the bum half in jest but with enough force she knew he meant it.

She began then to cry, not too loudly and looked at him coyly, but he was too angry, and uncertain, to fall for it.

"What is it?" he said. "Where is my mother's lute?"

"Oh, my Lord, my darling Reynard...I hardly know how to tell you. The lute is lost!"

His eyes narrowed as she trembled before him. Black eyes with heavy black brows..a fierce visage was what she saw just as he raised his hand and he struck her. She screamed and backed away from him. "My Lord! I remind you I am the daughter of your Liege who will not look kindly on your treatment of me thus!"

"My Liege, wench," he said with an ugly snarl, "is dead this night at the hand of myself and others who threw off his backward ways. We are a new band of bold and powerful lords and all shall know of it soon enough. As for you...I shall have my pleasure of you this night, then you will be blocked up in the tower for the rest of your very short life. Destroyer of my mother! Her very life soul was in her lute. You deserve much more but I've no time!"

With that, he grabbed Christobel, drug her over to the large canopied bed and roughly tore her clothes from her. She turned away, trying to hide her nakedness, but he was too strong for her. Holding her with one hand, he ripped off his breeches and shirt, then spread his body over her, pinning her down as he thrust...taking her unwillingly, without her consent, pouring all of his anger into a hateful act, spending himself within with a great shudder. By then Christobel was no longer there...she'd gone completely silent, willed her mind to leave, stunned. She couldn't believe what had happened; what was happening.

In disgust, he rose from the bed, taking his clothes. "Lady" he said with contempt, "make yourself ready, for as promised, you are moving to the tower. Henceforth, you will be alone, completely, as you have left me alone without my mother's voice. No one shall hear you nor come near you. You will be walled in without food or drink. I want you to suffer for a long time before you die...think on me and what you have taken from me. He opened the chamber door and shouted for the guards. Giving them his hideous orders, he left Christobel in their custody knowing without concern they would carry out his orders no matter what they thought for no one wanted to defy Lord Reynard.

That sad, sad night found the once lovely Christobel in the tower, in the highest room, sobbing quietly to herself, begging the masons not to brick over the doorway. Once in awhile, she would rouse and run to the window, looking out over the moonlit courtyard, yelling for anyone to come to her aid. Servants and men of war, alike, refused to look up and would hurry on their way. In her sorrow, she started to keen, a low, mournful sound which eventually became song. Gradually, she realised she was singing his mother's favourite song. When she did, she sobbed and began to pray to the departed one, "Oh, Lady Mother of Reynard, please forgive me. Please guide your son and help him to be merciful. I beg of you, Madam, please do not let me die here and I shall sing for you every day in prayer and reverence."

The only answer she heard was a cold, ice cold, crackle of a voice, a cursing under its breath...vowing she would die there, forever with a song of strings running through her, away from her through the ages, never to be redeemed.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 07 Sep 08 - 08:28 PM

He finished the short version of the story of his life somewhere short of Perryville, and she listened contentedly to the familiar threads--hard times, bad luck, rough romances, happier times, steady work and a better romance...they meant the world as he knew it to the driver, and Tam tried to honor his good, plainspoken heart. But in another corner of her mind she was tallying the times she had heard--or lived herself--each of the sorry subchapters. Dane's story petered out, finding its tail-end in the cab where she had found him, peering into the West Virginia night over an outsized steering wheel. He ran his hand through the shaggy brown curls that ran down to little gray tips around his collar, and smiled in her direction.

" about you? How the hail did you end up walking along that two-lane road by yerself?"

"Oh, I had a boyfriend, where I was living back up behind, but I left him yestiddy morning. Left a note and walked. Been walking most since then."

"Well, was he a drinker?"

"Jess? No, no such thing. Good man, worked hard when he could, decent."

"Run around?"

"No, neither that. HE allus said he never wanted to after we got together. Sweet talker."

"So why...?"

She sighed. "I was called."

"What's that mean?"

"I couldn't stay. Kept hearing a certain music, from somewhere far off, and I couldn't do nothing unless I went after where it came from. Dunno why."

"What kind of music could do that? I like music, ya understand, but, hell, if I get tired of it I turnt he radio off."

"No--it wasn't radio music. More like a song a ghost might play or sing. I dunno. I never heard anything like it except once before."

"What was that?"

"My Grampa played music like that on his old black shiny guitar, with the Gypsy drawing on it."

"Was he playing it then? In the house or something?"

"No, not likely. He died when I was eleven. But it sounded a lot like him, except it was telling me to come to it. So I left....".

The big Mack headlights cut through the early evening dusk, splashing light among the close-grown forests on either side, and the thrumming diesel growled behind them in a deep, regular time-keeping. But the instant seemed to stall in his mind as he tried to appreciate what the thin towheaded woman beside him was telling him. The warmth of a summer day was still seeping from the blacktop, and the cab was still warm, but he felt some trace of winter running its finger down his backbone.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 07 Sep 08 - 08:49 PM

Michael rose from his bed, for he didn't want whatever was trying to come through his door to come at him while he lay in his bed clothes. He felt his knees trembling, and then he heard the laughter again, and then a voice, in a low tone that was familiar and filled with evil intent, said "Michael?"
He had somehow grown used to the fact that the guitar played of its own volition, and it was a sound once bothersome and strange, but now warm and comforting. He was aware that when he sat playing it, that sometimes he felt his voice altering, and that strange words seemed to come from him when this happened. He had taken to writing these songs down and had a handful of them stuffed in his suitcase. The voice he sometimes adopted, consciously and for effect, was the voice he now heard from the hallway. He wiped from his eyes some sweat that had tumbled down his forehead, and again it said "Michael?"
"Who is it!" He nearly shouted. He heard a thin rattle and strained his eyes to see if the door knob might be moving. With a step, he reached the guitar, held it behind him like a club and said "you're not coming in here!"
The laughter came again, and the voice said "really? I can't come 'in there'?" and the laughter continued.
Surely, thought Michael, this is all loud enough that others will be awakened. After all, the hotel was full. He glanced at the LED display of the alarm clock. 3:36 am.
"Michael," the voice continued, catching its breath and speaking with difficulty against the urge to laugh again. "I thought you knew. I'm already in there!"
He staggered back toward the window, saw something moving against the wall, yanked the shade up and let the lamplight spill in. He was alone in the room. What he had seen had been his reflection in a mirror on the wall.
He sat down heavily into an upholstered chair, the guitar lying across his lap. He was shaking as if in a fever. The guitar felt strangely comfortable and right as he held it. Gradually, he put the voice out of his head and began to strum the guitar with his thumb. Outside, above the street lamp, the moon was near full, white behind the lamplight, the craters in it preternaturally sharp and defined. He hadn't been sleeping. The specter, or whatever it was, had bee brought on by his exhaustion, and the trauma of Sheila's affair with David. Or was that true only in the dream he'd had?
"She's with him now," he said and started, for it seemed the voice was the same he had heard in the hall.
The chords he was playing resolved into a sort of melody, and the words came to him as he sang

I'd rather go to some Dark Hollow
And meet an evil end
than to see you lying naked
in the arms of my best friend

He felt a tear start from his eye and laughed in recognition. This was not sadness. This was what he had heard described before as tears of rage.
His fingers were shaking, but he composed himself by singing the words over and over again as he sat in the dark room and wound the big E string off of the guitar.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 11 Sep 08 - 11:54 PM

Dave Ruben's flight arrived twenty five minutes late. He grabbed his bag, paid his parking fee and hit I-19 north to the Emigrant Canyon Road, stopping at the State Liquor Store for a 12 pack of PBR.As he started up the canyon, his headlights reflecting off of the cracked walls of the canyon, he dialed Sheila. She answered "Dave!" but after he said "how are you coping?" there was dead silence, the cell indicating search for signal. As he powered the Porsche up the road, he stripped his tie off with his left hand.

"Dave! Dave?" she said, but she had dropped the call. She tried repeatedly, getting David's voice mail. She had wanted badly to talk to him about what Michael had told her. Late that afternoon, Michael had finally returned her call.
"Michael, are you?" she had said.
He had finally replied "I know about you and Dave Ruben."
"What do you mean?"
"Sheila, for God's sake just tell the truth, if you ever loved me. You and Dave are having an affair, and have been for quite a while. Stop the god damned lying."
"What is it you think you know, Michael, because..."
"Sheila. He told me. David admitted it. He said he couldn't live with himself, and he had to tell me."
Sheila was stunned, silent. "Please, Sheila. Just pay me the respect of telling me the truth."
"Mike...I'm sorry. But its over with Dave."
"You got that right, " he had said, then hung up.

At the Beaver Creek Campground, David turned in, parking his car behind Michael's. Dave picked up the beer and strode down the path. He could see that Michael had already gotten a campfire going, a fire bright enough to render everything outside its orb of light into near blackness. "Michael!" he called out. "I'm here with the beer Mikey!"
From somewhere ahead he heard the muted strains of Mike's guitar, and yet, as he approached the campfire he seemed to see the guitar leaning solitary against a stack of wood near the fire.
Dave peeled a beer from the twelve pack and popped the top. He took a gulp and said "yo, Mikey!" But there was no response. He saw the design on the guitar that Sheila had described to him and he approached it. That was when he realized that the music was indeed coming from the motionless guitar. "Christ" he said aloud. Sheila had been right.
At that moment, he thought he heard a crunch of rock from behind him. But he never had the chance to turn around before a shape emerged from the darkness, and he found himself struggling for a breath, watching the campfire encompass his vision, until at last it shrank to the size of a match flame, and then winked out.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Sep 08 - 08:24 PM

Boy, this out-creeps Steven King. Much more tasteful writing style, though.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 12:42 AM

Even in death, she wandered, a wraith of sadness, anguish, always crying for pity until one day her very soul turned cold and dark. Gone was the beauty of her flashing eyes; her ebony hair hung in rags of its former splendour. Her heart was frozen in rage. She spun through the times infecting all whom she touched. Sometimes she found ease in the stray sounds of random strumming; nothing she could actually touch, but there, at felt as though she should know the player, but alas it always eluded her. Christobel was cold and so tired.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: JenEllen
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 01:01 AM

sorry it took so long, just got your message to come play

In room 315 of the Peery Hotel, Mark Arthur woke with a raging headache. He was saying headache these days, as he was getting a little too old to be claiming hang-overs. It was getting worse. He felt for the satchel at the bedside and sighed relief when he felt the worn leather under his hand. That damned guitar was taking up his daylight hours, but last night he swore he heard it playing in his sleep.

He showered and dressed before checking his messages, and at the sound of the first chirpy "Hiiiiiii, Mister Arthur." from his assistant, hit the delete button. She was probably calling with the directions and itinerary for the trip to Park City, but he didn't need the added help or aggravation today.

The drive east was uneventful, the scenery had changed little since he had driven it last. Sure, it had been nearly 20 years since he shot footage for "Zombie Mountain" in the Jordanelles State Park, but for the addition of the houses and strip malls, the area looked the same.

His mind drifted as he drove and he remembered shooting that film. By the time they finished the last scene fall had most certainly fallen, and he had a terribly time negotiating the weather. His zombies were breathing fog in the cold air, not too believable for the undead, and the only time warm enough to shoot was near noon. Zombies in daylight were just comical. He grinned at the thought, more of an homage to his youth and energy than anything else. These days it was all CGI and Skywalker Ranch rather than bugging the butcher for calf brains and mixing gallons of fake blood in your mom's best blender.   

The celebration at Park City was just as he expected. Indie film rejects and nobodies lined up for hours to see the retrospectives and "Arthur Zombie Movie Marathons". He sat on a panel and thought to himself how many members of the audience would have made perfect characters for his films. It was a favorite game of his, Name-That-Zombie, in which he nodded politely to the bozo talking to him and in his head thought: "Geritol Zombie", or "Botox Barbie Zombie". Hey, it kept him from thinking about other things, namely the battered leather messenger bag that he kept within arms reach at all times. That was what was important to him now. He graciously accepted the key to the city and the "Zombie King of the Wasatch" plaque from the mayor, and also a quick blowjob from a film groupie (The Pierced Undead would make a great title for a movie, he thought) before hitting the highway back to the city to spend a night before heading home to Phoenix. When he woke the next morning, the envelope was waiting for him at the hotel desk, addressed to him by name in a curious script.

No one in Park City had any idea about his next movie, no one had even asked. He wouldn't have told them if they had. It was going to be a documentary and it was going to cement his place in film history. The zombie movies had been great, they gave him the financial security to pursue the guitar now, but the thrill had definitely gone. He had a new passion, and silently he slid his hand across the seat to rest on the leather strap of his messenger bag.

He had gotten close once, just once, when he heard that Ms. Picoletti had sold the guitar to a pawn shop near Denver. College towns have no dearth of pawn shops, and he'd never even made it to the P's in the phone book before the guitar had left Podgor's. It was trying to outrun him, he knew it.

When he got home to Phoenix, he immediately went to his study and closed the door. Taking a deep breath he undid the clasp of the messenger bag and drew out the thick envelope. His hand rested a minute, willing the papers inside to be true. When he pulled them from the envelope he saw the drawing flutter to the floor and his heart flipped in his chest. It was the guitar.

He felt in his pockets for his reading glasses and sat down at the table to go through the papers. It fit. It all fit.

He had heard of the Picoletti murders, and the Jameson killings before that, and the warehouse murders at Heavy Industries before that. He shoved those newspaper clippings aside. The only common factor was this guitar. As he read further through the pages, going back in time to where it all began his breath came in slow rasping surges….. The little village in Haiti where the demon guitar was born….. A Voudu gift sent to France in the hands of a musician…..a treat for Napoleon as payment for imprisoning Toussaint and signing the treaties to keep the slavers alive in Haiti…..The French polish of the wood most likely a shellac of the tetrodotoxin and datura needed to induce the trance…..and after the Conspiration des poignards was destroyed the guitar was lost to history.

As Mark Arthur read on into the night, he knew the guitar was lost no longer. The only question that remained was how to stop it.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 01:09 AM

Oh, yes, oh yes, JenEllen is back. Oh Happy day!!!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 02:32 AM

Welcome back---boy, have you been missed!


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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 03:24 AM

Rulon Howell got the call about dawn on the first day off he'd had in over a week. The phone thrummed on the night stand four times, Rulon wilfully ignoring it until it went to voice mail. He heard Bob murmur, then roll over. He looked at the window and the world outside was just lightening to gray, and he could see that the gold of the aspen in the yard was almost noticeable as an amber undertone in the air. He closed his eyes, seeing the leaves, the branches spinning them noiselessly into the crisp air, roots in earth and frost, the slow closure of the loop of sleep. And then the thrumming began again.
"Shit" he muttered and stared at the screen on the phone. It was Hession, his partner at Homicide. "Yeah Sean", he said.
"Sorry, Rulon. I didn't wanna bug you on this, but I got outvoted by the Summit County Sheriff and the Captain."
He got the details and snapped on a pair of jeans and grabbed a flannel shirt and fleece. "What's wrong?" Bob asked groggily.
"Go back to sleep. I'll be home by the time you wake up."
"I'll make waffles," murmurred Bob, and immediately began to snore.

An early morning bicyclist in the canyon had smelled smoke and gone to investigate. He was still talking to Hession when Rulon arrived. Crime scene tape fluttered in a cold breeze that made the pines roar on the ridges above. The investigation team was already casting tire prints in the entrance to a small campground. A blue Boxster had been reversed into a clump of willows not far from the camp. Embers were still warm in the fire ring. Rulon greeted Sean and Sheriff Halston, then walked toward the body. The victim was being examined by Jude Vinson. Right away, Rulon noticed a twelve pack of Pabst not far from the body. "Go ahead," said Hession, "they're cold."
"It's five o'clock somewhere, right?" said Howell.
"Look in his right hand," said Jude. A beer can was crushed in the fist of the corpse.
Rulon and Hession stood near the body, and Rulon said "slashed his throat?"
"Yeah," said Jude, "that or a wire ligature. He bled out before he would have asphyxiated, but his windpipe is crushed."
Hession pointed to deep ruts that led to the Porsche and said "the killer backed out the Boxster, in a hot rush. He had to so he could get his car out."
"About what time did it happen, Jude?"
"Before midnight, I'm pretty sure," Jude said.
Sean took an evidence bag from the ground near the campfire and said "Dr David Mark Ruben. Had 245 dollars in the wallet, which the killer left."
"Have you examined the vehicle?" asked Rulon.
"Yeah. Suitcase and briefcase with a stethoscope and some other medical stuff. He had an itenerary and baggage receipt. He just got back from St George, about 7:45 PM according to the carrier. There's a receipt from the liquor store where 190 meets the Interstate at 8:42. It looks like he came straight out here, like on a mission."
"Cell phone?"
"Did we call his house?"
"Sure. Got his voice mail. Him saying 'It's Dave! Happy halloween! Mwa haha.'"
"Mwa ha ha?"
"The bicycle guy didn't see anybody else did he?"
On the main road, traffic was beginning to increase, the police tape and squad car causing curiosity slowing. The sun was breaking through, but sunlight wouldn't touch this part of the canyon for another three hours. Rulon walked out to the Porsche, where prints were being taken from blood stains on the door handle. Beneath the vehicle, a patch of willows had been toppled and mashed into a knotted mass of stalks and leaves, and these were also smeared with blood. In the gathering light, something like the glint of pocket change caught his attention. He reached into the mass of willow branches and extracted a silver Blackberry. The call record showed a call received from a West Jordan exchange that must have come while Ruben was on the plane, a call out to the same number at 9:12, then three calls from the West Jordan number in quick succession at 9:13, 9:15, and 9:32. A fourth call from the same number was entered at 3:46 am. Rulon tried the call return, but was unable to get a solid signal until he was driving out of Emigrant canyon.
At last, the West Jordan phone rang, rang 6 times before he got voice mail saying "Hi this is Sheila. I'm really sorry to have missed your call. Leave a message." He did, and then he headed toward home and some belgian waffles.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 12:04 AM

Rulon Howell waited for Sheila Huber to bring the coffee from the kitchen. It was pretty plain to the detective that her husband was the likely killer. It had taken a lot of talking and a lot of waiting for the woman to get her self back under control, but the story of the affair had come out, of her husband's discovery of it, and his accusation. She detailed his strange behavior, and told him the bizarre tale of the black guitar.
His cell phone rang.
"Yeah, Sean."
"I'm at the Peery Hotel. He's registered here, and the bell hop showed me his car in the side lot. The tread marks are a match. I tried his room, but there's no answer."
"Keep an eye on the place in case he tries to leave. Did you call for search warrant?"
"Should be here in an hour or so."
"Good. I'll meet you in the lobby after I finish up here."
Mrs Huber brought the coffee, her hands shaking as she poured him a cup.

Sean Hession sat in his sedan and watched a woman walk by shepherding a tiny ghost and Batman down 200 South. He sipped his Mountain Dew and hoped he would get home this evening in time to see his kids in their Halloween costumes. The woman turned her face away from a breeze that dashed a scatter of tiny snow flakes at her, making the kids cling tightly to their masks. He glanced at the window of room 313, pausing to stare at what seemed to be a figure in the dimness beyond the window. A hazy form seemed to be staring back at him, distorted, almost like a trick of the dim afternoon light on the furniture within the room. Just when he had decided that the figure was a carelessly hung towel, the opening that seemed to be a mouth gaped open, as if laughing.
       Hession glanced at the picture on the passenger seat. No, what he had seen did not resemble Mike Huber in the least. He looked to the window again, and the shape was gone. "What the hell?" he said aloud. Was he staking out the wrong damn room? Hession crammed the styrofoam cup into the holder and opened the door of the Pontiac.
       He rode the elevator up, and walked down the hall to the room, counting the doors. One window per room. Nope, he definitely had the right window. He was surprised to hear the sound of someone playing guitar inside. He listened for some time, the strummed chords oddly out of tune. He touched his forehead, and was surprised to feel a thin veil of sweat had formed there.
"Mr Huber?" He said. There was no response, but the sound of the guitar continued. And then he heard a low, muffled laugh. He knocked again, then tried the door knob. The room was unlocked. Hession reached down and unsnapped the holster of his revolver as he slowly opened the door. "Mr Huber?" he said again, "Police." There was again no response, but this time the guitar stopped, leaving the room completely silent. And dark. The sky outside had grown leaden with the coming snow, and the shades had been drawn so that even that stale light failed to penetrate the gloom.
Cautiously, he entered room 313.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 12:41 AM

Oh, no! Don't go in there!!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 09:58 AM


A guitar being out of tune does not rise to the level of a felony, IMHO.

There might be a reasonable explanation, and a happy ending for all coming out of this tale, or not!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 10:01 AM

(Charley, judging by the rest of the story, he shouldn't go in there!:-)

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 12:05 PM

Actually Charlie, under Statute 418B of the Utah Penal Code "to play a guitar in the presence of others in an unacceptable manner which is to include a broken or out of tune instrument, as well as obtrusive displays of poor musicianship, shall be deemed a disturbance of the peace punishable by imprisonment and/or seizure of the offending guitar." Which is why I never play guitar there. I stick to Colorado, where bad guitar playing is only immoral, not illegal.
And now, back to our story!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 12:21 PM


We were just stringing you along, but thanks for the warning about the Utah Penal Code. I wonder if Statute 418B came direct from the Mormon strictures such as "Thou shall keep thee G-string in place and in tune!"

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Little Hawk
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 02:56 PM

A broken G-string is illegal in a number of states still, is it not?

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: frogprince
Date: 26 Sep 08 - 06:14 PM

So far as I can remember at the moment, I've only seen a gal playing a guitar without (even) a G-string on one occasion...

Lonesome, JenEllen, somebody , get busy here; you got us hooked, we need our fix!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: JenEllen
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 01:59 PM

Mark had dozed off to sleep at his desk, and when the phone woke him he had the strange after-sense of plinking. Guitars sound-holes stuffed with socks and cold bones running up and down the length of his spine. He fought the urge to vomit and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"

The halls of the hospital were bathed in a cheery glow despite the hour, and a tanned nurse in squeaky Crocs showed him the way to the room. His hulking son-in-law sat crammed in the bedside chair, and his daughter Desiree (from his third wife and first love) barely made a wrinkle in the sheets on the bed.
"Hey." He spoke, and his son-in-law stood up to embrace him. His eyes quickly traveled to the bedside infusion pump and he followed with: "For god's sake tell me it's not morphine…"

"Nope," said Danny. "No calling the nurses 'chicken-fucking-astronaut-lickers' and challenging all of the short orderlies to one-on-one basketball games for us this time….She thinks everything is niiiiiiiiice."
"What is it?"
"Did you have them write it down? We may need this at home…"
Danny grinned amiably and gave up his seat to the older man.

The two sat quietly, alternately watching Desiree and the news of a grisly murder near Salt Lake on the room's tenuously hanging wall-mounted television. The only thing that broke the peace was when the woman gave a small gasp. The two turned to see her, the only change being a small furrowing of her brow. At that instant her right hand sprung to life and skittered across the bed like an albino jumping spider, pouncing on the button of the pump and clicking it several times. "Jesus Christ", whispered Mark.

Danny unfolded from his chair and walked to the bedside. He gently brushed hair off her forehead and lightly kissed the top of her head. "Hey, Diz. Your dad's here."

Desiree opened one eye slightly to look at him, and Mark was overjoyed to see none of the hardness that the pain usually brought to her face. She grinned and the jumping spider bounced on the bed beside her. "Hi, old man. Come see me." He gingerly sat on the bed beside her, trying to avoid any shift that would bring the pain back to the face that reminded him so much of her mother.

Danny took the chance to go get some coffee, and the father and daughter sat cocooned on the metal bed. "I thought we weren't doing this anymore…" he scolded.
"I know," she sighed. "Things were going really well and then…" the spider waved slowly around the room.
"What happened?"
"Don't know really, I felt fine last night, bit of a headache, and then woke up with pain in my side and spent an hour barfing like Old Faithful before we drove in here."
"That sounds attractive."
"Yeah, Danny's gonna need to get his car detailed." She giggled softly and it was music to his ears. "So you made it home in one piece?" she asked, and he spent the next few minutes telling her of his trip and the discoveries of the demon guitar's history. Her face took on a pink flush as she peppered him with questions. Any opiate available in the world, and mystery was her drug of choice.

When the morning news showed a Detective Howell standing in front of a county meat-wagon and a trashed Boxter, answering questions as brusquely as a man who knew his waffles were cooling at home, both of them knew Mark Arthur needed to go back to Salt Lake.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Amos
Date: 10 Oct 08 - 08:35 PM

She slipped out onto the bent, sloping porch just before sunrise, wearing her down jacket against the chill, her least-tattered jeans. a sturdy woolen shirt of red and black plaid, and a white bandanna covering her head and tying back her long silver hair. The moon was low, the sun still coming. It made no sense to lock anything, and she pulled the door with a sense of finality. She had done this before, when the paths opened to her on the far side, and she had never gone wrong. She turned her back on the creaky double-wide and made her way to the rusty Chevy pickup under the pepper tree, threw her single bag into it, checked her spirit pouch under her shirt on its leather thong, and fired the smoky V8 up.
She had to get a move on, she knew. It was seventy miles to the Greyhound station. She swerved out of the dirt drive onto the gravel-top county road that ran under the shadows of the mountains, and she did not look back, not once.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Oct 08 - 10:34 PM

Howell was just taking the 600 South exit from I-19 when his phone rang and the Captain's voice told him about Sean Hession. He pulled his Accord to the curb in front of the Port o' Call Tavern, stopping beneath the neon sign that read Fun! Food! Ghosts! He laughed because Sean had once pointed to the same sign and said "goddamn Mormons. Can't even use the word for spirits, gotta call them 'ghosts'." Rulon had reminded Sean that Rulon himself was a Mormon.."sure. GAY Mormon, so you don't count."
Rulon stared at the sign and considered having his first whiskey in 4 years, but instead he called the Captain back and had a patrol car sent to Sheila Huber's place. He cocked the rear view and had a look at his eyes. "I'm alright" he said aloud, as a drunken man and woman reeled out of the Port o' Call, he dressed as a Devil, she dressed as a vampire.
There was a cluster of reporters outside the main door of the Peery, and Howell ignored them as he entered. A uniformed cop was questioning the clerk, and Howell stopped and listened. "I saw the detective go upstairs, and then I guess about a half hour later I saw Mr Huber leaving. I didn't know it was him at first."
"Why not?" asked Rulon.
"He'd shaved his head bald. In fact, I recognized his duffle bag and guitar case before I recognized him. So then I thought I better check upstairs, because I knew the detective was staking him out, ya know."
To the cop, Rulon said "have they sealed the room?"
"It's closed and taped. Body's still inside. He was your partner, right?"
"Sorry. It's really bad."
Rulon mounted the stairs, turned down the hall to where he saw another uniform keeping watch. He opened the door of 313 and the light from the hall illuminated a large dark stain in the beige carpet. Near the center of the stain was Hession's service revolver. The other light in the room came from the television, on, with the sound turned down. He recognized the program; it was the Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and the cartoon Ichabod Crane was riding slowly down a darkened country lane on his goofy horse. There was more blood on the unmade bed that lay just near a recliner on which Sean Hession's body had been placed.
The eyes were open, staring, as if in horror at the animated film. Towels had been wrapped around the body, and just below the gaping wound in the throat, a half-halo of brown hair had been arranged. On the wall behind, the words Dark Hollow scrawled in blood.
Rulon squatted by the chair, laid his fingers lightly on Hession's chubby hand, and felt momentarily as though he might pass out.
His cell phone rang. "Ru? I'm sorry," said Jude Vinson.
"I know," answered Howell. "He had no business going in the room. He said he'd wait. Hell, Jude, I was a half hour away."
"I know," said Jude. "But listen, Rulon. In Sean's mouth...listen, I can talk to one of the cops and have them check."
"What? Check what?"
"Is there anything in his mouth?"
Hession's lips were slightly apart, but something, maybe his tongue, was protruding beyond his teeth. Rulon set the phone down, and switched a floor lamp on. There was something there. Using his left hand to pry the teeth slightly apart, he extracted the object with his right hand.
"Did you find something?"
"Yes. A rose bud."
"I thought so. We found the same thing on Dave Ruben."
"Jude, I'm heading over to Sheila Huber's place. Somebody needs to call Cindy Hession. I can't right now."
"I'll take care of it Ru."
He placed the rosebud on the nightstand. On the flickering tv screen, the Headless Horseman rose on his steed, brandishing his jack o lantern head.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Oct 08 - 11:33 PM

When Cora's shift started she was told not to go near the room where all of the cops were; she could "clean" it up, later. Her boss, the gum-smacking Tina, the bitch, wouldn't tell her what happened. Cora pushed her cleaning cart at the other end of the hall, stopping for a moment to ease the pain in her back. After the last baby, she just wasn't right; everything hurt. She'd told her husband, Jack, she just couldn't do it, any more, no matter what the bishop said. Jack understood, but wasn't happy about going against the church's teachings. He knew she had to work just to help support the three they already had and he knew she was tired, hell, so was he, but in the grand scheme of things, they had to provide for their ancestors in the coming days. There was something more with Cora, though, and he just couldn't put his finger on it. She'd been acting strange for several weeks, almost afraid to go to work, but compelled to in sort of a horrid fashion. He didn't know if it was just because she was newly delivered of their last child and hormones going nuts or if it was too close to Halloween. She never liked Halloween for some reason; she'd told him once she was scared to death some ghost would come and get her, not just when she was a kid, but in recent times, too.

Now, here she was, working the swing shift, on Halloween, something bad happening at work and couldn't do anything but try to work through it. She knocked on the door in front of her at the opposite end of the hall from all of the hoopla with the cops. "Room service," she called out. Getting no answer, she used her pass card and opened up the door. She flipped the light switch just inside the door, but nothing happened. Darn that Mack, he never replaces lightbulbs when he's told to! Walking into the room, she started over to the bedside table, reaching for the lamp. Suddenly, she heard her name, "C-o-r-a...C-o-r-a." Turning around, she looked at the doorway, the light from the hallway casting a faint glow inside the door. No one was there. This is it! I've got to get out of here! She ran towards the door but stopped at the end of the bed. A wall of cold air and an invisible hand seemed to stop her, the hand on her wrist as cold as she'd ever felt. Cora wanted to scream, she wanted to fight, to thrash and hit, but she was paralysed with fear. Now her name was breathed into her ear, in a slow insinuating way. She felt faint. The pressure of the hand on her wrist led her back to the bed. She slowly fell onto the bed, pushed a bit by the cold, cold hand. As she drifted in and out of consciousness, she saw the shape of a strangely dressed woman, with long, stringy dark hair, surely one of the revellers from downstairs. Surely it was all a mistake, wrong room or something. That was her last thought just as she felt a weird sensation. It felt as though someone had put her on, like a coat! It was the strangest feeling. She could feel her arms being picked up and slithered on someone else's arms; she could feel pressure on her abdomen and chest as though someone was on top of her, then instantly seeped into her. The shock was too much; Cora fell into an unconscious state, a perfect host for the one who'd called her.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Oct 08 - 09:42 AM

Too scary!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: JenEllen
Date: 11 Oct 08 - 07:59 PM

"Oh, fuck this noise…" he muttered to himself while waiting in line at the airline counter while the costumed ticketing agents chatted up the people in line and handed out candy from plastic jack-o-lanterns. He looked quickly over each shoulder and couldn't see any "Get-you-to-Salt-Lake-with-no-bullshit" airlines advertised in the lights above the counters, so he stayed put.

After the perky cowgirl handed him his ticket he walked quickly to his gate, only stopping in the men's room long enough to use the urinal between another Dracula and a gigantic clearly transvestite Tina Turner and then splash some water on his face. As he looked at his reflection in the mirror (and the back of Dracula's too…SNAP! as Desiree would have said) he wondered just how he was going to pull this off. If he were in the costume line-up for the airline, his would naturally scream hobo at this point; wrinkled shirt from his sleeping on the desk, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd used a razor—probably Park City—so how was he going to convince the police that a fucking guitar was the cause of all of their worries?

He settled into his seat and immediately began scanning the occupants of the plane for a stewardess with whom to place a drink order. Great. Today's flight attendants were announcing themselves as Stephan and Trevor, or as they were better known--Tina Turner and Cher. This was quickly becoming ridiculous, a fact that became evident to him by the way he started giggling like a schoolgirl when he saw that the pilot coming on board was dressed as a airline pilot. Cheater… he thought.

The entire flight was spent ignoring his seat-mate and trying to come up with a somewhat appropriate approach for the police: "Hi, I'm a crack-pot who saw on the news that people were getting killed and want to provide my assistance" didn't exactly scream credibility. He was no closer to anything but drunk by the time the plane landed. When he asked the cab driver to take him to the police station he had resigned himself to just doing what he could to get his hands on that guitar. He left a quick voice-mail with Des and Danny, and then settled back to enjoy the ride.

For all of the inherent weirdness he really did like this city. The straight roads and cleverly planned north-and-south of it all appealed to his sense of order. As they drove past a billboard announcing cheap bus rides to Nevada casinos, he remembered that he'd probably need a place to sleep tonight and fished the notepad he'd jacked from the Peery out of his satchel. He dialed the number on his cell and waited for someone to pick up. When the answer finally came it was that no sir, there were no rooms. Not tonight and probably not tomorrow either. He shrugged it off to Halloween revelers getting their freak on, and decided he'd just ask someone at the station for a good place to call.   

The police station was brightly lit despite the hour, and he couldn't help but be comforted by the building. The slope and curve of the entrance seemed to embrace him as he passed through with a sort of "there-there" pat on the back, like the bricks themselves knew that the good guys lived here and every lil' thing was going to be all right. It was at that moment that he knew he was probably good and drunk, and he'd better be on his best behavior before someone got the idea to give him a breathalyzer test and throw his sorry ass in the tank for the night.

He took a deep breath and walked up to a counter where a tired looking woman in uniform sat. She looked like she was exhausted from a shift of answering phones and telling kids not to eat unwrapped candy. He'd have to be careful with this one. He grabbed a piece of gum from his pocket and began chewing thoroughly—swishing spit between his teeth trying to eradicate all traces of several teeny airline bottles of Johnny Walker Red—and smiled at the woman. She wasn't smiling back.
"Excuse me, Miss. I am looking for a…" he grabbed the Peery note pad from his satchel and scanned it. "A detective named Howell. Can you help me?"

Her eyes narrowed as she spoke. "What is this in regards to?" she asked as she picked up the receiver of the phone on the desk. When he told her that he had seen about the murder in Emigrant's Canyon that morning on the television and he had information that he could share with Detective Howell she grinned a very insincere "I knew it" grin and set the phone back in its cradle. She brusquely told him to have a seat.

There he waited….and waited….and waited…watching the officer at the reception desk and thinking of all of the delightful ways one of his movie zombies could eat her brains out. The waiting area was shared with several people who knew the killer, or saw the killer, or had missing pets that were abducted by the killer….When he couldn't stand it any longer, he went outside for a smoke.

As he stood in the plaza, smoking and pacing, a tired voice said: "Hey buddy, 25 feet from the building, please…" and Mark Arthur turned to face Detective Rulon Howell, taller and broader in the shoulder than he had appeared on TV. Arthur began to mumble an apology but the detective simply waved him off on his way into the building.
"Detective!" Arthur choked. "I've been waiting to talk to you. I think I can help…" All caution and self-preservation aside, Arthur began rambling about the guitar and how he was certain it was connected to the killing in Emigrant Canyon. The detective shook his head blearily but snapped to attention when Arthur mentioned the wire garroting.
"And just how do you know this?" asked Howell
"That's what I've been waiting to show you," replied Arthur, fumbling with papers in his satchel.
"Please sir," said Howell. "Won't you come inside with me?"
As they passed the reception desk and went through the swing double doors to the innards of the station, Mark Arthur grinned and flipped the receptionist the bird.

When they had gone into the interrogation room under the guise of a quiet place to talk, Mark Arthur felt fairly good about the reception he was getting with this Detective, but the longer he sat here the more wary he felt. He'd worked in the industry for a long time, and seen a hell of a lot of reality television, enough to know that when the detective sat him down facing the one-way mirror and started asking him about where he was during the events in question that he'd probably been better off to call his lawyer ahead of time.

"Look," he started. "I only came here to help, to tell you what I have found out…"
"And your occupation, sir?"
"I make films. Write, produce, direct, just depends on the picture……See, I first heard about this…'
The detective casually cut him off: "Anything I would have seen?"
"I dunno, Beach Blanket Bloodbath? Sorority Psycho? Anyway….this is from a reputable source in Haiti.."
"And you were in the city why, exactly?" the detective interrupted again.
"Listen, you stupid bastard…." Arthur barked. He started pulling papers out his satchel and the detective sat impassive until his gaze was captured by the notepad with the Peery hotel logo on it.
The detective's voice went cold and hard as he reached for the notepad and asked Mark Arthur "Where did you get this?"

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 12 Oct 08 - 12:00 AM

Cora felt as though she were in a bottle, trapped like a fly, buzzing to get out, but nothing happened. She could feel her body, but she didn't have any control over it. Oh, god is this how it feels to be paralysed? she thought as she felt lifted up,standing by the bed, moving, one foot in front of the other, arms out to the sides for balance. What's happening to me?. She tried to scream but her mouth wouldn't open except to tell her to shut up. Oh, god, I must be going crazy!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: GUEST,Bruce Adamson, Peery Hotel Manager
Date: 13 Oct 08 - 06:22 PM

Gosh, I hope everyone's enjoying the story as much as I am! Almost makes me a little squeamish to enter my own tasteful, historic, boutique hotel, the Peery!
Seriously, while we are all amused and pleased to see our hotel on the pages of Mudcat Cafe, we hope everyone who visits the Salt Lake City area will stay with us, or at least, pop in and say hello!Walking distance from the LDS Temple and Tabernacle, the Delta Center, and numerous dining possibilities, the Peery has been welcoming guests for nearly 100 years, although you'll find our decor as fresh as a victorian lilly, while our amenities such as in-room wireless internet and the state of the art fitness center are meant to satisfy the most discriminating 21st century guest! Ghosts? Oh they say we have a few, but just enough to add a dash of mystery at Halloween time!
Hey wait a minute...what's that dark shape gesturing to me from the concierge desk? Oh my God, it couldn't be...AIEEEEEEEEE!
Just kidding, folks!!! The scariest thing you'll find here is the room service bill!
Now, back to our story!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Oct 08 - 11:05 PM

Finally! Christobel flexed the hands of her new body, looking at the worn nails and dryness of the skin. She lifted a hand to toss her hair back, then realised "her hair" was too short. Looking in the mirror (a better, bigger looking glass than she'd ever seen, full-length, as broad as it was tall) she saw a diminutive woman with large green eyes staring back at her. Her brownish hair was cut short like a man's, even shorter, Christobel remembered these several centuries later, than the men she'd known and loved. The clothing was quite revealing and mannish, too, comparatively. The breeches were odd, going all the way down each leg and being quite fitted on her rump. Altogether she supposed it would do, but it didn't come near to her own beauty. With a sly and wicked grin, she waved a hand at her reflection and said, "Keep thee still and I might free thee!"

Hearing voices in the hallway, she carefully crept over to the door. It felt so good to finally be out of that tower, to have a live body to inhabit. For years and years she'd struggled, searching everywhere for a suitable host and for the echoes of the music she once loved and played. The music she destroyed and for which she was destroyed. Her rage had grown stronger and stronger until she was able to take over a live person. Now, she would find the tune which had killed her; her very soul, gone and grown so cold, so long ago.

As the voices moved down the hallway, she took a deep breath and slowly, slowly opened the door. She could sense great evil - like attracting like - nearby somewhere. She must find it. She would destroy anything and anyone who got in her way.

As she started down the hallway, one of the men at the other end gave her a casual glance. He was slightly disturbed, wondering why the cleaning lady seemed to be slightly off-kilter. Maybe she drinks on the job, he thought with a shrug. He turned away, unconcerned, for the moment, at the approach of the small figure. Probably just coming for supplies.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 22 Oct 08 - 12:24 AM

Sheila's sister Patti answered the phone, and Sheila told her about the murder, about the possibility that the killer was Michael. Patti was holding a plastic bowl of Kraft Caramels that had an animated plastic hand protruding from the center, and she put this down on the counter. Her daughter, wearing a SpongeBob outfit, stamped her foot and said "come on, Mommy!"
"Oh my God, Sheila. Do they have any idea where Mike is?"
"He was staying at a hotel downtown, and they plan to arrest him there."
"Are you by yourself?"
"Yes. Would it be alright if I came over for a little while?"
"Get yourself over here right now. Do you still have your key?"
"Yes. Won't you be there?"
"I have to take Lucy trick-or-treating for maybe forty five minutes. You come in and take care of a few ghosts and goblins ringing the doorbell, and we'll be right back."
Sheila put a fleece jacket on, locked the house and left. On the kitchen table, her cell phone played the opening bars of the 1812 Overture, and the caller ID lit up with "SLCHomicide" on the screen, but Sheila had already turned at the stop light.

Between the cottonwoods quaking in the night wind, dark figures loped in pairs or singly, ghosts, demons, monsters, tramps, superheroes with clenched bags of loot moving from porchlight to porchlight. To Sheila, the night had a nightmarish fever cast upon it, prismed and altered by the tears in her eyes. At a stop sign, a man in a complete werewolf mask and wearing hair-covered hands paused to gaze at her as she stopped, then trotted across the road.
At last, she pulled into Patti's drive, staring momentarily at the litter of plastic tombstones in the yard, the spectre moving in the limbs of the tree. A skeleton was mounted on the door, and as she approached it said "Happy Halloween! We're all dying to see you!"
Inside, the house smelled like apple cider and pumpkin pie. Sheial closed the door and sat down heavily on the couch. She turned on the television and saw Frankenstein's Monster stumbling through a dark medieval village street. The doorbell suddenly stammered into life and she heard the sound of several childish voices saying "trick or treat!!" As she opened the door, she saw a tiny witch and ghost with plastic pumpkin candy containers, a bored teenaged boy with a drawn-on mustache and goatee, and a woman of her own age dressed in a Raggedy Ann costume.
"Happy Halloween," said Sheila, "there should be some candy..." and a glance revealed the dish on the kitchen counter. She treated the children, closed the door, and had the sudden urge to call David. She was rooting through her purse for her cell phone when the realization came that she had left her phone on the table at home, and that there was no phone on earth that could reach David. She sat on the couch as the villagers on the tv screen gathered torches and pitchforks.

Michael studied his face in the rear view mirror. Of late, he had become reluctant to look into mirrors at all, for more often than not he saw the strange hollow-cheeked goggle eyed spirit that was possessing him leering back. But this time it was his face, the worse for wear, but his face nonetheless.
Through the windshield, he saw two more silent figures approach the porch, ring the bell, then burst into "trick or treat!" and then he saw Sheila answer, candy dish in hand. Something rose up in his chest when he saw her, something like love or sentiment, but Michael knew it was too late for all of that now. He had crossed that boundary when he killed David, and left it far behind when he strangled the cop. Why had he posed the cop's body on the chair? Why did he write on the wall with the blood? Michael rolled the stem of a rose between his fingers and thought why the roses? None of those things were his. All of those actions were the Dead man's. But the killings were his. With his left hand, he touched the coil of wire in his pocket. He felt another warm surge in his chest, felt it erupt as laughter. When he looked into the mirror again, he was not surprised at all to see the Dead Man's face.

Joe and Cindy Clark were dressed as buccaneers, and Joe was finding it difficult to drive with Cindy trying to jerk the parrot off of his shoulder with her hooked hand. She was giggling and he tried to stop laughing as he shouted "cut it OUT!" and pushed her across the seat. "Careful!" she said. He looked up quickly and steered the car left to miss the gray SUV parked at the curb. As he did, the headlights picked up a man in the front seat. Joe later told the police "he was just pulling a skull mask on to his face when we passed him" and Cindy had said no, no she didn't think it was a mask at all.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 22 Oct 08 - 10:17 AM

Business takes me to Salt lake City this week, and I happen to be staying at the Peery, where I wrote the above excerpt last night. Oddly enough, when they gave me a room, it was Room 315, right next to the room where Mikey Huber was staying. I listened last night after I turned off the light, but heard no bumps, groans, laughter, or guitar music.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 12:18 AM

Further asideLeeJ, are you back, yet? Seems tonight would be a good time to wrap this puppy up, but I'm darned if I can summon up Christobel for the moment. How about it? 'course, nothing says it has to end on All Hallow's Eve...just a thought.{g}

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 07:18 PM

Aside LeeJ? I've had some requests...maybe line this up for a Grand Finale by All Hallows? Whaddaya think?

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 01:23 PM

Yes, it does need a wrap, doesn't it? Let me see what I can come up with in the next day or two.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:44 PM

Michael began to open the car door, but paused before the dome light snapped on. Two figures in sheets, holes cut for eyes, were running toward the doorway. By their size and their quick and limber movement he judged them as boys, maybe 12 years old. Behind them, he saw the tall figure of a man, their father, standing on the edge of the sidewalk beneath the elm tree from which a hanging spook, clothing stuffed with paper, swung slowly in the chill breeze. In the scattered illumination of the street lamp, the man's shadow lay in a black orb around his feet. Sheila appeared in the doorway, gave the both of them candy, and they quickly trotted off, swinging paper grocery bags, but stopped short by the garage door. When she had closed the door, one of them crept back to the porch, seized the jack o'lantern, ran past his Father and smashed it in the driveway. The man remained, stock still, as the boys dashed off down the street.
Michael stared at this figure, his impatience growing, until at last the realization hit him, sending the laughter spilling out of him. Like the specter in the tree, this was a Halloween prank, a mummy or scarecrow bought from Safeway for $19.99. Because it stood in the shadow of the tree, he hadn't seen it until the trick or treaters ran past it.
Michael pulled the door handle and stepped out into the street. The wind against his lips had the taste of snow in it. A glance in both directions revealed no children, no movement. He crossed the street, keeping to the shadows. He approached her driveway, the tall figure just 12 feet away. He crept closer to it, prepared for the motion sensor to engage, for a canned voice to cackle and greet him.
The lamplight filtering through the leaves was slow to reveal the thing, but Michael was surprised, swallowed hard, as he took in the fact that the figure was not wearing a vampire chintz tuxedo, but a Nautica sport shirt with a dark vest and pleated trousers. The dark shadow that circled its feet now shone in the light. Like liquid. As he watched, the right arm made a sudden jerky mechanical movement, raising something shiny to its face. The light was wrong for him to make out the features, but he saw that the shiny thing in its hand was a Pabst Blue Ribbon can. And now he could see that it was not a vest the thing wore. It was a wide swath of something dark that had spilled down it's chest. The hand dropped, and Michael heard the slow crackle of the can collapsing in its fist. When the thing spoke at last, it gave no comic Halloween greeting. The voice was guttural, gasping, as it croaked "did you think that Knights always wore armor?" Despite the grotesque voice that gurgled from its crushed throat, he knew who it was before the thing took the slow step toward him that brought the lamplight onto its face.
"Hello, Mikey," said the corpse of Dave Ruben.

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 11:22 PM

Uh-oh, Mikey's in for it now!

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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 02:04 PM


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Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 01:34 AM

Rulon pulled into his driveway, watched the wind feather the "Happy Halloween!"sash of the witch Bob had hung on their door. Rulon checked his watch and saw that it was almost 3:35 am. He started to push the garage door opener button, then decided that might wake up Bob, and left the car parked in the drive. He carefully eased open the door, and heard some Coltrane filtering from the stereo, noticed the fire burning to embers in the fireplace, and then saw Bob lying on the couch. Rulon took of his coat and hung it up, found a half-full glass of red wine on the coffee table and downed it, then turned off the stereo. Bob sat up, blurting "what happened anyway?" Then looking down, he rubbed his eyes and said "is there any wine left?" Rulon laughed and said "it's 3:30 in the morning." Bob gazed at him, groggy, and said "you alright?"
Rulon sat down on the couch, refilled the glass. It was a good Cabernet. "Yeah, I'm alright. You should go to bed. I won't be able to sleep unless I have another glass or two." Bob pushed a plate of iced Halloween jack o'lantern cookies in front of Rulon, who just shook his head. "Christ what a night," said Rulon. "You want to tell me?" said Bob. "Was it Michael Huber they found?"
Rulon stared into the dying fire and said "yeah it was him. Took a while to ID him." He smiled grimly at Bob. "You really want to hear this? It's nightmarish shit, Bob." Bob took a sip from the glass and said "you've probably told me worse stories." Rulon startled Bob with a sudden and slightly hysterical burst of laughter and said "I don't know about that!" His eyes were again fixed on the fire, and he said "Sheila Huber was inside the house, never heard a thing. When the lady who lived there- her sister- got home with her little girl, they saw the body right away. Thought it was a dummy or something, a Halloween gag. But there was lot of blood and that looked real to her, spooked her pretty bad. She took the kid inside, and went back out with Sheila, with a flash light. She knew it was a corpse, then, but she didn't know it was Michael."
Rulon replenished the glass, drained it. "Best guess is, he chose the tree in front of the house where Sheila was staying to off himself. He had to have climbed up in the tree. You could still see a wire tied around a branch up above the body. They were in shock when we got there, you know. And we still didn't know who it was."
Rulon sat quietly for some time, and finally Bob said "it didn't look like him?"
Rulon spoke very quietly when he said "it didn't have a head. When he hung himself with the wire, you know." Rulon inserted his finger in his mouth and made a popping noise, like a champagne cork. " We couldn't find it either. We looked in the shrubs, under cars. Maybe when the sun comes up..." Again, his voice trailed off, then he took another drink of wine. "He had ID in his pocket though. It was Mike Huber." Suddenly Michael's cell rang and he wearily looked at the caller id, the answered.
"Yeah, I'm still up. What's really weird?" He raised the glass and stopped just before he sipped. "Whose blood?" He set the glass back down, said "thanks." And lay down his cell phone on the coffee table. Then said "no wonder there was so much blood. Some of it was Dave Ruben's." It was at this moment that a pine knot in the fire place exploded, bathing the room in lurid light.

___    _____    ____

Officer Hallam leaned against Huber's car and checked his watch. 3:52 am. It was shortly after this that he heard the sound of a guitar being strummed, muffled but distinct. Hallam strolled around the Volvo, heard it again, as if it were coming from the trunk. He reached into the car, opened the glove box, and pushed the release. He walked to the back, and there lay a beautiful, black-bodied guitar with an elaborate gold etching engraved in the surface.
"What you got there, Hallam?" said the Sarge. They both looked at it in something like wonder. "It's the deadman's guitar. They'll want to hold it as evidence."
And they did, along with Michael Huber's other belongings; his clothing, wristwatch, shoes, suitcase, wallet. Other than the fact that the missing string turned out to be the instrument Huber used to decapitate himself, it was really immaterial to the events surrounding Mike Huber's crimes. His wife didn't want it back, and so it sat in the evidence room at the Salt lake City Police Headquarters. But things like that, rare, delicate, and valuable things, have a talent for finding their ways out of even wire mesh walls and bolted doors. Hallam never forgot the guitar, and Enquist even let him go in and check on it once in a while. And he found that he, who had never played a musical instrument in his life, could actually coax music from it. He even told his wife "it's like it's playing me.
Finally, after three years had passed, and he went to visit the deadman's guitar one day in mid October, old man Enquist says "Hallam, why don't you just take that damn guitar. Don't nobody even know its back there no more 'cept you and me. And I swear to God sometimes I think I can hear it playing, even though it's in a box under a pile of carpet."
And that's how Randy Hallam came to own the dead man's guitar. It lay in the back seat of his FourRunner as he drove home, excited to show his wife the guitar he had already considered his for three years. His heart was filled with joy, and he began to sing a song, a song he had never heard before, a song that seemed to be channelling through him.
I'd rather be in some Dark Hollow...



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