THE HAUNTING OF DALTON PRIMBLE

By Martha Reed


“I really don’t think it’s a good idea, Dalton,” Susan Primble Scott hesitated. “No one’s been in the cottage for years … you don’t even know if the plumbing still works. God knows what’s been living in there.”

“ Squatters? You’re worried about squatters?” Her brother laughed. “Fear not, big sister. If there are squatters there, I’ll chase them out.”

“ Not squatters, exactly, but you might find raccoons. Or bats, how about a nest of bats? I don’t know, Dalton, why not hire a housekeeping service? The locals are certainly affordable; let them do the dirty work.”

Dalton’s exasperation echoed across the phone line. “They certainly may be affordable, Suz, but I don’t see that it’s a smart idea right now for us to spend good money on something unknown. What if we hire someone and they come back and say the place is uninhabitable? We’ve thrown that money away, and you’re the one who’s always worried about mismanaging the assets from Mother’s estate. Look, it just makes sense to run up to the lake, check on the cottage, and then we can make an informed decision about our asking price.”

“ God! You’re such an accountant. All right then, Dalt, but I’m coming with you; you shouldn’t go up there alone.”

“ You don’t have to do that…”

“ I want to; and besides, I could use a break right now. The design business is slow, and don’t forget, I could insist on it; I’m co-executor, too.”

“ Fine, but there’ll be no whining. Like you said, the cottage could be a complete horror-show.”

“ You can’t scare me with that one, pal, I’m not the one who saw the ghost.”

“ I knew you were going to bring that up! Listen – I was just a kid, sick with fever, and I had a bad dream. That’s all it was.”

“ That’s not what you said the night it happened. You were so specific, Dalton, it freaked us out. Especially Mother; you know how superstitious she was. She wouldn’t even go near the laundry room after what you said.”

“ Oh, Suz, she had you fooled. Mother just wanted you to take over doing the laundry after we lost the maid.”

“ Ha-ha. Anyway, what do you say we drive up Friday after work? That way we’ll beat the Saturday traffic – and I hate sitting in traffic when I could be sunning on the dock instead, smoking lovely unlimited cigarettes and sipping a tall, cool vodka and tonic.”

“ That sounds like a plan. I’ll swing by and pick you up on Friday. And Suz, pack lightly, and I mean it – we’re going to have to haul our luggage across the boardwalk and God knows what shape that’s in. We may end up swimming our bags through the swamp.”

“ Like The African Queen!” Suz laughed brightly. “Hey, Dalt? When’s the last time you and I had an adventure together?”

* * * * *

By lunchtime on Friday the plan fell through. Suz called Dalton on her cell, ecstatically happy. “Oh, Dalt, you won’t believe who was just in here! Elizabeth Fourtney! She’s getting divorced and she wants me to redecorate her pied-a-terre! Me, Dalt, she picked me! And she said it’s carte blanche – the sky’s the limit! She even wants to fly me to Paris this weekend to look at fabric!”

“ And of course you have to go…”

“ Well, yes, of course, I mean, if that’s alright with you … I mean, Dalt, I know we had plans, but this is once-in-a-lifetime! If I work this right I could get national coverage – maybe even a feature article in Town and Cottage!”

“ Suz, I get it, I get it; of course you have to go. I want you to go. So, go.”

“ Really, Dalt? Are you sure? Why don’t you wait on the cottage until I get back? I’ll only be gone a week, ten days at most.”

“ No, no, we had a plan and I want to stick with it. I’ll go up to the cottage by myself; you get your work done, and I’ll let you know what I’ve found when you get back.”

“ I hate feeling like you’re getting stuck with this.” Suz tapped a pencil against her desk and the sound carried across the line. “Is there someone you could take with you? A girlfriend, maybe?”

“ No. Unfortunately, I’m unattached at the moment.”

“ But what if you fall through the floorboards and get hurt? Accidents do happen, you know.”

“ Why would you wish that on me? Besides, I won’t get hurt, and if I do, I’ll call for help on my cell phone. Suz, listen, you’re right about this job; it’s a huge opportunity for you and I want you to take it. Please, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

“ Alright, but Dalt, please be careful. And don’t let the spook get you.” Suz moaned a ghostly imitation. “Whoo-hooo….”

“ Always the comedian,” Dalton said drily. “Bon voyage, ma grande soeur.”

“ No, no, say au revoir,” Suz answered. “I hate goodbye.”

***


The drive to the cottage was everything Dalton remembered, and then some. The narrow, easy-going two-lane highway had mutated into a six-lane monstrosity complete with overhead bridges built to provide pedestrian access to the gimmicky tourist traps and smoky hamburger huts built on the wrong side of the road. Dalton slowed the car at a familiar graceful curve that usually allowed him the first glimpse of the lake and found the view blocked by a row of modern townhouse condominiums. He stopped at the corner store for a tank of gas and was shocked at the display of nubile sun-burnt female flesh that met him at the door when he went in to the counter to pay.

“ Afternoon, ladies,” he saluted.

The two teenaged girls tugged on their bikinis, appraised Dalton’s stare, and giggled. “Nasty old fart,” the tasty blonde offered.

“ Complete perv,” her pert brunette friend agreed.

“ Girls these days,” the older male station attendant shook his head, commiserating. “I don’t know what their mother’s are thinking, letting them out of the house dressed like that. Will that be all, sir?”

Dalton pulled out his wallet. “Yes, as long as the SuperMart is still in town.”

“ SuperMart? Oh no, sir, they pulled that place down years ago. If you’re looking for groceries you’ll have to go to the Mighty Blue Pig over at Cope’s Landing.”

“ Cope’s Landing! But that’s the other side of the lake!”

“ Yes, I’m afraid it is, but if it’s bread and milk you want, we have some here; and frozen hamburger patties, already made up. They work great in a microwave, easy as could be. We get a lot of compliments on them.”

“ I’m sure there’s no microwave at the cottage, but the stove should still work. Alright, let me do some shopping here; I am not going to Cope’s Landing today. I’ve had enough driving.”

“ You could order a pizza, you know; they deliver now, straight to your dock.”

“ Pizza?” Dalton considered the idea. “I have been gone awhile. We certainly never ordered pizza when I was a child.”

“ I thought you looked familiar. Is your cottage nearby?”

“ Primble Minor, in Two Loon Bay.”

“ Primble! My word, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Primble up here. What brings you back?”

“ My mother passed, and my sister and I are trying to decide what to do with the cottage. I thought I’d come up and take a look at it.”

“ Best thing you could do to that cottage is burn it down,” the attendant frowned. “It’s half in the water as it is. And you won’t get any pizza delivered to your dock tonight - what with the governmental idiots raising the water level over the winter to compensate for the snow we didn’t get, your dock floated off your crib. It’s probably down Moon River by now.”

“ Well, I’m just here to take a look around,” Dalton answered weakly. “I’m not expecting much.”

“ Good thing. Primble! Sweet mother of God. Well, be prepared to sleep in your car is all I can say,” the attendant sacked Dalton’s purchase. “You couldn’t pay me to sleep in that cottage.”

***


All in all it wasn’t as bad as Dalton feared. He parked the car, loaded the bread and milk on top of his rolling suitcase and traversed the rotten boardwalk safely. There was one tricky moment when the overbalanced suitcase almost tumbled into the swamp, but in the end the boardwalk was navigated and Dalton found himself standing knee-deep in ferns and daisies looking at his family’s abandoned lakefront cottage.

The dock was gone, that much was true, but the rest of the cottage looked to be in pretty good shape. The chimney was straight and well mortared, the porch floor and the roofline were both still square; he saw no significant signs of water damage there. The place did need a coat of deep green stain, but at least from the outside the cottage looked habitable. Dalton reached into his pocket and pulled out a rusty key still bearing a paper tag labeled “P.M.” in his mother’s neat handwriting. “P.M.” for Primble Minor. Dalton was home.

He unlocked the front door and pushed his way inside. The door had swollen in its jamb, and Dalton had to use his shoulder to get it open wide enough to allow his suitcase. The house smelled musty with a nose-wrinkling undercurrent of damp wood and stale fire. That smell would dissipate soon enough, Dalton decided, once he opened the windows. He stepped into the master bedroom and saw a striped mattress rolled up for storage; from the amount of mouse droppings on the floor the mattress was going to take some cleaning before it could be used. No problem, Dalton shrugged, tonight he would sleep on the serviceable living room couch in front of the fire. Nothing could be simpler or better.

He made a poor meal of hamburger patties on white bread, swilling it down with warm beer. The electricity powered on as soon as Dalton engaged the circuit, and the stove warmed right up, but the refrigerator gave one shuddering, clanking groan, a long snaking hiss, and died. Dalton found a stack of blankets in a hall closet, safely stored in a plastic bag rolling with moth balls, and as he curled up to sleep Dalton heard the electric hot water heater kicking on; that was all right, too, he would have a hot shower in the morning and tackle the project with a fresh eye.

***


During the night the wind switched to the northeast, and Dalton half-woke to the sound of waves splashing violently against the shore. He was warm and cozy in his nest of blankets, and, after noting the disturbance, rolled over and prepared to drop off again. A faint, irregular scratching was coming from the kitchen, and Dalton opened one eye to check on it. The kitchen door was moving, slightly moving back and forth of its own volition. Dalton was ready to dismiss the movement as the wind, until his rational mind kicked in and reminded him that if the wind was blowing from the northeast, the kitchen door was on the protected side of the house.

Dalton struggled to come up with a reason for what he was seeing. He could see clearly into the side porch and there was nothing there; and yet, the door was moving. Reaching for his glasses, Dalton clambered up off the couch and slipped into his shoes. He moved silently across the linoleum and flicked on the porch light. An adult raccoon stood on the porch steps, frozen by surprise and caught in the act of trying to raid the garbage pail. The raccoon leapt off the porch and scurried into the dark brush beyond the yellow light. Catching his breath and as surprised as the raccoon had been, Dalton chuckled. He’d been an idiot, of course, he should have known better than to leave the garbage pail out on the porch. He was just lucky the greasy smell hadn’t attracted a bear. He pulled the pail into the kitchen and locked the door that with luck should prevent any further incursions from the local wildlife. Already half-asleep and dreaming of getting snugly warm again, Dalton scratched himself idly, returned to the living room and saw the woman staring in at him from the window.

Startled, Dalton jumped so severely he dropped his glasses. Blinking blindly, he dropped to his knees and groped along the dusty floorboards. His right hand grasped an earpiece and Dalton scrambled to his feet, fumbling to see out the window.

There was no one there.

Dalton’s heart hammered and he seemed to be breathing through his skin. He took one slow conscious breath and forced himself to walk over to the window. There was no one there; his imagination had played a trick on him, the vision of the dark-haired woman in the window an obvious result of exhaustion and indigestion combined. Dalton crawled back into his blankets and took a firm grip on his mind. After all, he was a grown man, and grown men don’t believe in spooks.

The only thing was, his inner voice mocked him, the spook looked just like the woman Dalton remembered from his fevered childhood dreams.

***


The next time Dalton opened his eyes someone nearby was yelling “Hullo? Hullo the house?”

It was fully daylight out and Dalton found himself absurdly embarrassed to be caught sleeping. He struggled out of his blankets and tried to finger-comb his hair into place. Tugging open the swollen front door, he found an elderly lady in rubber boots standing among the daisies. She carried a wicker hamper slung over one arm and proffered a plaid thermos with both hands.

“ I hope I’m not disturbing you, but I am your nearest neighbor.” She pointed toward a smaller cottage hidden among some birches. “I heard you come in late last night, and I thought you might want breakfast. It’s banana bread and coffee. I baked the bread myself.”

“ Thank you,” Dalton blinked blearily. “That was very thoughtful. Won’t you come in?”

“ If it’s no bother,” the lady stepped sturdily into the living room. “I’m Mrs. Riddle, by the way, in case you don’t remember me.”

“ Of course I remember you, Mrs. Riddle, please pardon my manners. My brain’s not working yet; I haven’t had my coffee.”

“ Let’s remedy that,” the lady unscrewed the thermos and poured a stream of steaming black brew into the plastic cap. “Here you go. Drink it slow now. This should cure what ails you.”

Dalton sipped carefully. The coffee was piping hot and had an oddly sweet taste.

“ It’s chicory,” Mrs. Riddle offered, noticing his expression. “I’ll always add a little chicory to my coffee, for flavor.”

“It’s marvelous, Mrs. Riddle. Thank you. It’s just what I needed.”

“ You’re very welcome,” Mrs. Riddle surveyed the room. “My, my, my, I’ve often wondered how this place was holding up. I’ve been watching it fall to wrack and ruin for years. Are you the Primble boy?”

“ Yes, I’m sorry, yes, I am,” Dalton smiled sheepishly. It had been awhile since anyone had called him a boy. “I should have mentioned that.”

“ I thought you were; you look just like your father. Now there was a handsome man. Quite a one with the ladies. I heard he died?”

“ Yes, Dad had a stroke, years back.”

“ And your mother? Is she still with us?”

“ No, Mother passed last May.”

“ I’m sorry to hear that. She was a gracious lady.” Mrs. Riddle stepped back on her heels and peeked into the bedroom. “You’re here alone?”

“ Yes, quite alone. I’m here to work this weekend, not play.”

“ So, you’re planning on coming up here more often now, then?”

“ We haven’t decided what we’re going to do, actually.”

“ Well, I just thought, you know, what with the tragedy and all, you might want to sell this cottage and let it pass.”

“ Tragedy?” Dalton felt a prickle of unease. “What tragedy?”

Mrs. Riddle squinted. “You don’t remember what happened, do you? I didn’t think so, you were so young, but I’ll never forget the day they pulled that pretty Irish maid up out of the water. Had a hard time with her body, too; she’d been in the water so long she’d gone soft. Fell to pieces trying to get her into the boat.”

“ Mrs. Riddle, I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“ I didn’t think so, why else would you have come back? That’s what I said to myself this morning. ‘That boy doesn’t remember what happened, or he wouldn’t be back here’ that’s exactly what I said.”

“ What is it I’m supposed to remember?”

“ The reason your family left this cottage! The year you took so sick with fever. Your mother was smart enough to put two and two together; she guessed about your father and that Irish girl.” Mrs. Riddle’s lips narrowed. “She locked this place up tighter than a drum and drove you and your sister straight back to the city. I remember that day perfectly; it was right after they found that poor girl’s body. Your mother left so fast I heard your father had to follow home later by train.”

“ Mrs. Riddle,” Dalton stood angrily. “You’re talking complete nonsense!”

“ There are none so blind as them that will not see,” Mrs. Riddle slowly recapped her thermos. “I came here with friendly intentions, to warn you as it were. But if you don’t want to hear what I have to say, that’s your business. I’ll wash my hands of it.”

“ Warn me about what? What is it I’m supposed to be afraid of?”

“ Her,” Mrs. Riddle answered simply. “You need to watch out for her. You’re his son, see, and she wants revenge. Your mother certainly knew all about it; that’s why she never brought you back here. But she’s still out there in that cold deep water, wanting her revenge, and since you’re his son you’re the one she wants.”

“ That is absolute crap,” Dalton sputtered.

“ Is it?” Mrs. Riddle gathered her things. “Well, I may be old, boy, but my eyes are still good. Take a look at your septic field out there – you can see plain as day something walked up out of the lake to your cottage last night, the dew’s been disturbed off the ferns. Now, I’m not guessing who it was that left that trail – that’s none of my business - but I can say for certain it wasn’t me.”

Dalton turned. Mrs. Riddle was right, he could see a line of damp crushed fern stretching up from the water’s edge to the cottage’s large picture window. The large picture window where he had seen his vision of the dark-haired woman the night before. The large picture window overlooking the couch where he’d slept.

***


“ Dalt? Are you there? Damn, this connection is abysmal. Hello?”

“ I’m here, Suz, lower your voice. Try speaking in a normal tone.”

“ How’s this?”

“ Better. You’re calling me on your cell phone from Paris?”

“ You noticed the number, eh? Smart boy. Yes, it’s easier than figuring out these damn international payphones. I’ll suck up the roaming charge when I get back. So, little brother, bonjour! How’s it going? Everything okay up at the cottage?”

“ It’s in pretty good shape, all things considered. How’s Paris?”

“ Blow Paris! Listen, Liz flew back this morning, she simply hated the weather. Said she wants to try Palm Beach instead. So, Dalt, listen, I’ll be home sooner than I thought – Liz paid for the hotel two days in advance so I thought I might as well stay put and get some use out of it. But I’ll fly home tomorrow and then come straight up to help you with the cottage. How’s that?”

“ I’d love that, Suz. I could certainly use your help.”

“ Dalt, you sound odd. Did you remember to take your meds?”

“ I didn’t sleep very well last night. Suz, while I have you, did you ever hear about an Irish maid who drowned in the lake?”

“ A what?”

“ A maid, an Irish maid who drowned in the lake.”

“ Well, sure,” Suz answered slowly. “But she didn’t have anything to do with us, Dalt, not really. She worked for one of the bigger cottages – the Spensers, I think, as a nanny or an au pair or something. Stayed with us for couple of weeks when you were so sick, on loan, you might say, to help out. Dad wanted someone to watch over you during the night because of your fever and give Mother a break. Why? What brought this up?”

“ How did she drown?”

“ Now you are digging. I think she drowned herself – at least that’s the story I remember. Found herself preggers at the end of the season and couldn’t get the baby’s father to help. Couldn’t go home and couldn’t stay there – you know, the usual thing – so she walked into the lake and finished it. Why the twenty questions?”

“ I ran into Mrs. Riddle this morning; do you remember Mrs. Riddle? She brought it up. I didn’t remember the story, so I thought I should ask you.”

“ You saw Mrs. Riddle, did you? Christ, Dalt, don’t worry about that woman! She was nuts thirty years ago and I’m sure she’s no better now. Listen, Dalt, I have to go; my limo is waiting. Okay, listen, hang on until I get there, and remember to have fun. Love you, bye!”

“ Love you, too.” Dalton snapped his cell phone shut. It was a good thing Suz would be joining him, his sister would help settle his nerves. Suz was so practical about things; she had a real gift for it. And maybe Suz was right and he shouldn’t have come up to the cottage alone; apparently his nerves weren’t what they should be. Dalton kicked aside a pyramid of broken fern and studied the narrow footprint pressed into the shallow sandy mud. No, he decided, his night time visitor had definitely not been the hungry raccoon.

***


By mid-afternoon the clouds had burned off and brought on the kind of day Dalton remembered from his childhood – sunny, bright, hot even, and marvelously clear; with his glasses he could see individual trees all the way across the lake. The temperature inched up while he worked at cleaning out the cottage, and Dalton found himself sweating heavily for the first time that year. It felt great to bring order out of chaos, to really make the dust and mouse droppings fly, and by the time he finally heaved the lumpy stained mattress out into the sun, Dalton was ready for a swim.

He slipped on his trunks, grabbed a ragged towel and made his way delicately down to the dock – or more accurately, the place where their dock had been. Dalton dropped the towel on a lichen-covered boulder, and barefoot and tender, stepped out onto the sodden timbers of the crib. He was quite aware of the spectacle he was making of himself, waving his arms around for balance, a truly funny sight if Mrs. Riddle was watching from her kitchen window. The old woman would think he was mad; well, let her! What had Suz said? Blow Mrs. Riddle, she was nuts! And blow her story, too, about the Irish maid and his father! So what if his father had liked young girls? Dalton had already known all about that, his father had admitted it – and warned him against it - when Dalton was twelve and they had talked about sex. Mrs. Riddle was a malicious gossip, nothing more, and besides, everything she had said happened thirty-five years ago, and everyone involved in it was dead! Honestly, what did any of it really matter anymore? After all this time, who even cared to know the truth?

“ Mrs. Riddle!” Dalton yelled, shucking off his swim trunks and mooning her kitchen window. “I am my father’s son!” And he dove into the dark water.

Deep down the lake was crisply cold, pure, and exhilarating. Dalton gasped when he came up for air. He swam away from the dock and then remembered a childhood trick of floating in the top-most layer of warmer water – the layer warmed by the sun. He rolled onto his back and grinned to think of the picture he was presenting to the world. His city body was so pale it was probably blinding. Dalton felt a shadow cross his face and cupped one hand against the sun. Overhead, a seagull hovered anxiously, its extended legs a ridiculous yellow.

“ Shoo, bird!” Dalton slapped both arms against the lake. “I’m not dead yet!”

The gull squawked raucously and cut its wings, heading for deeper water and better fishing. His humorous reverie broken, Dalton rolled onto his stomach and swam for shore. He was warm enough as long as he kept moving, but he was also aware of just how pleasant it would feel to stretch out on one of the flat hot rocks and toast his pale skin in the sun. Near the dock he floated vertically, treading water and considering the risks of clambering back onto the broken crib. Well aware of the danger of stepping on a loose spike or rusty nail – Dalton couldn’t recall the last time he’d had a tetanus shot - he also remembered too late his aversion to the lake’s silky clay bottom. When he thought about deliberately planting his feet into that sticky mud and feeling it squish up between his toes, Dalton felt queerly unsettled. And then something icy grabbed him by both ankles and pulled him under.

***


“ Dalt? Yes, Dalt, that’s right, follow my voice. Open your eyes, if you can…”

“ Suz?” Dalton struggled to sit up and found himself strapped to a hospital bed. “What’s going on?”

“ Dalt, Dalt! Take it easy! You’re in a clinic, a private clinic, perfectly safe.” Suz lowered her voice. “Dalt, what happened to you out there?”

Dalton fell back against a thin hard pillow. “What do you mean?”

“ I mean what happened to you up at the lake? Mrs. Riddle had to call the OPP; you were running around naked, screaming about some girl.” Suz leaned forward. “Dalt, you didn’t take a girl up to the cottage with you, did you? Maybe some girl you hired in the city?”

“ No, Suz, no, I was alone.”

“ Thank God. I’m never sure with you, you’re so much like Dad.” Suz tapped her teeth. “So, what do you remember?”

“ I must have had my fever again.” Dalton sighed. He felt so tired he could feel his pulse in his teeth. “How did I get here?”

“ Protective Services brought you in, once the OPP put out the fire.”

“ Fire?”

“ Yes,” Suz nodded grimly. “We’re going to have a hard time getting you out of this one, Dalt. You torched Primble Minor before the cops could stop you.”

“ Good,” Dalton smiled wearily. “I’m glad it’s gone.”

“ Don’t let the doctors hear you say that, Dalt; we’re trying to let out it was an accident.”

Dalton closed his eyes. “It doesn’t matter anymore, Suz. I’m okay with the way things turned out. Please don’t trouble yourself about me; everything will turn out fine, I’m sure.”

“ You rest,” Suz stood. “Maybe the doctors can help you this time, Dalt, I sincerely hope so. And please don’t give one thought about Mother’s estate; I’ll take care of that. Oh, and I’ve asked the Court to appoint me as your protective guardian since you’re in, well, here, and I’ll make sure the clinic keeps getting paid for as long as it takes.”

Dalton turned and studied what he could see of the linoleum floor. “Suz, I never noticed it before, but you have very narrow feet.”

“ I inherited that from Mother,” Suz displayed her trim ankle. “All of us Bundy women have it. Mother and I were remarkably alike, when you come to think of it.”

“ I’m beginning to see that. Suz, I’m curious. Have you ever considered changing your hair color, to say, brunette?”

“ Why would I do that, Dalt? Blondes have more fun, and it’s such an attractive color. If I need to go dark I can simply buy a wig. Then, when I’m through with whatever it was I needed the dark hair for, I throw the wig away. It’s not terribly expensive, and I consider it a short-term investment for long-term gain.”

“ Did you even go to Paris?”

“ Dalt, you know Liz cancelled that trip and went to Palm Beach instead. I told you about the change in plans, remember? Besides, I don’t think I’ll be working for Liz anymore; we’ve had words. She’s so indecisive, and, if you think about it, I don’t really need to work for anyone unless I want to, do I?”

“ It was the chicory, wasn’t it? I should have noticed it was odd. I’ve never tasted chicory before.”

“ You should always research a new herb before you sample it, Dalt. Some herbs can interfere with standard medication or cause odd side effects. Mother, for instance, was always partial to borage. She found it soothing, although it did cause impotence. Mother used to make Dad a nice cup of tea every night before bed. She was so thoughtful that way.”

“ Suz, I find myself worrying a little about Mrs. Riddle. Do you think she’ll be alright?”

“ Oh, I’m sure Mrs. Riddle is fine, for now. Actually, Dalt, I’ve started paying Mrs. Riddle a tiny amount of money out of Mother’s estate. She’s promised to keep an eye on the lake property until I can find a buyer. It’s not much, really, and the poor woman was struggling so to survive on her pension. Mrs. Riddle says she’s deeply grateful for every extra dollar I can throw her way.”

The steel door swung open and a stout nurse stood in the doorway. “I’m sorry,” she announced dully. “Visiting hours are over. You’ll have to go.”

“ That’s quite alright,” Susan Primble Scott tugged on her gloves. “I’m finished here.”


From Author Martha Reed

The hardest thing about being a writer is finding the bravery to tell the truth. Luckily, that bravery is usually linked to my twisted sense of humor, so I manage to survive.

I came to writing late in the game basically because when I was younger I had nothing important to say. I’ve been trying to figure it out ever since. But I’ve always been a storyteller, and fascinated with words. On rainy days in Ohio my mother would hand me a volume of the encyclopedia and I entertained myself for hours. My kindergarten teacher reported that I didn’t like playing with clay because I knew at the end of art class I would have to clean it up; she wrote that I preferred to gather the other children around and tell them a story. I was six at the time. I just wish my teacher had written down exactly what it was I felt compelled at that age to say.

Writing is the most important thing I do, and I struggle to approach it with honesty. Right now I’m having trouble with the traditional publishing industry because of my honesty, but I’m just not willing to sacrifice my work to the maws of the great machine. My sisters, who know me well, call me stubborn – I am a Taurus – but I prefer to label it personal integrity.

My saving grace, if I have one, is that I love to travel and meet new people, and I keep putting it out there. I’m amazed at how many great stories complete strangers have to tell. The price of admission is usually a quick nod and a friendly smile. “What do you mean?” I ask, and out it comes. A story truly is the shortest distance between two people.

So what have I written? One literary prose poem, Table for One, published in Pearl 26; a Nantucket Mystery novel, The Nature of the Grave, which won a 2006 Independent Publishing (IPPY) Honorable Mention for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction. A Muskoka ghost story told with love, The Haunting of Dalton Trimble, available in Spinetingler Magazine, and now that’s finished, I’m off to work on my second Nantucket Mystery, The Witch of Wauwinet.

Sample first chapters of both novels are available on my web site, www.marthareed.com, and I invite readers to stop by and take a look. If you like what you read, please follow the link to my Print On Demand (POD) publisher and order a copy through their secure site; they’ll mail it straight to your door. How easy is that?

If you’re curious why I chose to publish myself using POD technology, and some folks are, please visit my author page at www.cozylibrary.com; I think I’ve spelled out my reasons pretty clearly there. If you want to contact me directly, click the email link found on my site. I love hearing from other mystery enthusiasts, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


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