Monday, June 22, 2015

The Late Night Call

It was late one night when the knock at the door of the little house sitting at the edge of town came, the sound soft, but insistent. The house was shared by the town's only doctor and his young wife and when the doctor came out onto the porch, he found a man standing off to the side deep in the shadows, his hat pulled low obscuring his face. He said the emergency was to the south in the woods several miles beyond the houses at the edge of town. Little did he know, but the young doctor and his pretty wife were embarking on a most interesting house call, an enduring unsolved mystery.

It was a fine night, soft with a glowing full moon and the green scent of spring. The year was 1900, a brand new century had begun just a few months before and the little town in West Texas was growing and full of optimism. It was very late, but the doctor's wife said she would accompany him so instead of riding his horse, the buggy was hitched. The doctor turned toward the stranger to reassure him only to find he had retreated even further into the shadows, sitting on his horse impatiently waiting. As the wife came from the house and climbed into the buggy, the shadow man led them away, heading south past the last little cluster of homes marking the town's edge.

"I think there's something wrong with him?" the doctor's wife asked him. "He's very strange."

"His friend is hurt and he's worried," replied the doctor. "I could tell by his voice. If it's a big enough emergency to come get me after dark, then people are always very worried."

"But even the way he's dressed is strange, so old fashioned, " she said.

The good doctor flicked his reins, urging his horse to a faster pace in order to keep up with the horseman ahead of them in the dark. "I didn't really notice," he replied to his wife. "He stayed in the shadows."

They continued on their way, much further than the doctor expected. There were no more houses and eventually even the road turned into nothing much more than a trail that seemed seldom used. Finally, just as some clouds slipped across the moon blocking what little light it provided, the shadow rider led them down a narrow side trail leading into a dense grove of trees. 

Deep in the woods, they came upon a small cabin with a dimly-lit window. The strange rider got down from his horse in the deep shadows of the trees surrounding the somewhat foreboding little house. Although it was hard to see him, the doctor could make out that he was standing motionless and without saying a word, pointed toward the cabin. It was a struggle, but the doctor managed to quell his uneasiness enough to get his medical bag and step down from the buggy. Turning to his wife, he told her she should stay there. 

Approaching the cabin, the doctor found the front door slightly ajar. A lighted room was to the left of the entrance hall, but the rest of the cabin was so dark he could see nothing within it. He took a step into the dim room and froze at what he found there. Blood was spattered on every wall and lay in wide pools. What appeared to be pieces of torn flesh was mixed in with the blood. a chair with a leg broken off laid on its side in the corner beneath a particularly gory spatter of blood. A table was overturned next to a bed. On the bed lay a woman, naked, her eyes open, intently watching the doctor. Her right leg below the knee was covered in blood.

The doctor knew someone had just died here, a horribly violent, painful and gruesome death. He could feel it oozing from the darkness, he could smell it in the stale air of the cabin. But here in front of him was a wounded woman and she needed to be treated. He shouldn't be alone in the room with a naked woman so he called for his wife to join him, but a gruff voice from the darkness outside said, "No, she stays out here." The doctor turned to his task.

The wounded woman was fortunate. She had been shot, but the bullet had gone through the meaty part of her calf. The doctor cleaned the wound as best he could with what he had, an action that usually made even hardened men cry out with the pain, but the woman didn't flinch or make a sound, her eyes never left the doctor. He didn't look her in the face, but though he couldn't even hear her breathe, he could feel those eyes watching him. He happened to glance up once and caught a fleeting glimpse of a face in the window, but when he turned to look, it was gone. The hair on the back of his neck stood up and he hurried to finish bandaging the wound.

When he was done, he quickly stood and told the woman to come see him tomorrow and he would make sure the wound is clean and bandage it again. Without speaking, her eyes not blinking and still watching him intently, she slowly nodded. The sense of imminent violence suddenly came upon the doctor again so he plunged into the dark hall and safely out the cabin's door. With great effort, he forced himself not to run for the buggy. As he stepped up to the seat next to his wife and took the reins, a small rawhide coin purse landed on the floor next to his feet with the sound of several heavy coins inside it. As he urged the horse to a quick trot, he turned just once to look back at the cabin. The darkness had swallowed it completely, the light at the window extinguished.

His wife was shaking with fear. She told him a different man, not the one who had come to their house, had stood at the window watching. she was sure he held a gun and his face was smeared with blood. The doctor told her what he had seen in the dimly lit room. He was sure someone had been murdered there and dragged out. "You have to tell the sheriff," his wife told him.

The doctor waited two days for the wounded woman to come in, but she didn't come and somehow he knew she never would. His wife was right, he needed to let the authorities know.

When he reported what he had seen, the sheriff told him he must be mistaken as the cabin he was talking about was abandoned. Nobody had lived in that old run-down cabin for years, he said. "It was not old," the doctor insisted, "I was there." He would show them if they would just accompany him back to it.

The sheriff and a deputy agreed to go with him. He remembered the way exactly and there was no mistaking the lonely side trail. The cabin was there as he said it was, but it was an old, abandoned wreck with the windows broken out. The deputy stayed outside to look around as the sheriff and doctor went inside the structure. Carefully making their way across the rotten floor boards, they went into the little room the doctor remembered. The bed was still there as before, the table overturned next to it and the broken-legged chair in the corner. An old, moth-eaten coverlet was on the bed. It was not stained. Thick dust covered everything. It was obvious no one had been here for many years. Looking down, there were stains on the flooring that looked like they had been scrubbed many times, years ago. The doctor shook his head in confusion.

All of a sudden, the deputy called out to them. Meeting him outside, they found the deputy shaking and wide-eyed, He said he had been walking around the trees looking for anything that might seem suspicious when he looked up and saw a man watching him. "There was blood all over his face and his shirt was soaked with it!" When the deputy started toward the man, he vanished! "Not twenty feet from me, plain as day," the deputy said. "Then he simply vanished into thin air while I stood there and watched!" All three men searched through the trees all around the cabin, but nothing was there.

"You believe me, don't you?" the doctor asked when they arrived back in town. The sheriff remained noncommittal and the doctor began to have doubts as to just what he had experienced. The deputy though, he knew what he had seen - a dead man still on his feet. The sheriff said he would take more men out there the next day to look around more closely. Neither the doctor nor the deputy returned and the sheriff reported they found nothing and the cabin was still empty as it had been for so long. Shortly thereafter, the case was officially closed.

There was talk, just rumors really, that the sheriff and two other deputies had gone back to the cabin and all three had seen the bloody figure waiting in the woods. Among themselves, they decided it was best to leave that part out of their report. 

Several months later a flood took the cabin ruins away. Where the foundation had been, some people said a grave-sized hole remained. Others said the grave hole was closer to the trees, a few feet from where the cabin once stood. It was hard to tell. Floodwaters do strange things to bottom land.

And some insist, even today, that the doctor's descendants still possess three silver dollars - payment for one particular late night house call.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mary's Bridge

There’s a rural bridge in Louisiana between the little villages of St. Martinville and Broussard with a terrible story attached, a sad tale of a young girl’s horrible death.  The bridge on Bayou Tortue (Turtle Bayou Road) crosses an eerie stretch of swamp where tall cypress trees draped with Spanish moss grow in profusion and alligators and deadly water moccasins wait for their next meal in the dark shadows.  But dangerous creatures of this world are not what keep the locals away from this particular bridge when darkness falls.

In the late 1940’s, a teenage Cajun girl named Mary was, against her parent’s wishes, dating a non-Cajun boy. Not only was he not a Cajun, he had an unsavory reputation for a bad temper and had been locked up in the county jail a number of times for minor, but troubling offenses. Mary was in love with him though and like a lot of teenage girls, thought her parents didn’t understand how much he meant to her. No matter the tension it created at home, she couldn’t stay away from her bad-boy paramour.

In spite of this, Mary was a good Catholic girl and wouldn’t give in to her boyfriend’s sexual advances. No matter how much he pleaded and cajoled, she always stopped him from going beyond what good girls should allow.  One night after meeting up with him in town, she consented to go for a drive. Cruising around the local dirt roads, the boy was drinking moonshine from a quart jar he pulled from under the seat. Mary demanded she be taken home, but as they came to the little Bayou Tortue bridge, her now dead drunk boyfriend stopped the car and demanded she give him what he wanted or he would throw her in the swamp. Poor Mary, totally frightened, began crying and begging for him to just take her home, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. When he reached out and tore the front of her dress, Mary jumped out of the car and began to flee.

As Mary ran across the bridge, her boyfriend managed to catch her and when she began to struggle against him, he smashed the heavy quart jar over her head, knocking her unconscious. In his drunken mind, he thought he had killed her and in an attempt to hide all evidence of his crime, he dumped her into the swamp. The water must have shocked Mary back into wakefulness and her moans let the boyfriend know she wasn't dead after all. As he tried to think what his next move should be, he heard several splashes from the banks of the swamp and saw a glint of light from the car's headlamps reflected in 2 pairs of eyes moving low in the water. Mary's screams indicated the alligators had not gone hungry on this night.

In spite of an intense search by police and volunteers, Mary’s body was never found.  The boyfriend was brought in for questioning, but even though everyone knew he was the last person seen with her when she was alive, police were unable to gather the proof needed to arrest him. Word got out that he had confessed the awful details of his crime to a confident, but bragged he would never be convicted because the police would never find Mary’s body. Several weeks later, the boyfriend himself mysteriously vanished, leaving behind all of his belongings at his parent’s house. It was widely rumored that Mary’s father had seen to it the boyfriend suffered the same fate as his daughter, but the police never saw fit to question him and unofficially seemed to say good riddance.

The case of missing Mary has never been solved or closed and nobody expects it ever will. To this day though, if you go to the bridge at midnight, the same time poor Mary was being thrown to the alligators, turn off your car and call out, “Mary, Mary, Mary,” your car will not start and you will have to push it off the bridge before it will start running again. That’s strange enough, but the locals say if you go there at midnight on the anniversary of her terrible death, you will see poor Mary frantically running up and down the bridge, wearing the long white dress she was wearing when she died, her soul forever imprisoned on the Bayou Tortue Bridge when her life was brutally cut short by a murderous boyfriend.