Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 24: Don’t Stop Looking

Sheriff Pete couldn’t drag the phrase from his mind. “Don’t Stop Looking!” Vee Burthrap had told him. “What does that even mean?” he thought, walking toward the cafe.

After the horrible dream Pete had a few nights ago, he was hesitant about going back to the Ya’ll Sit, but he needed a cup of coffee and didn’t want to make it himself.

“Hi Pete!” Hannah called from behind the counter when the sheriff walked through the front door.

“Hello, Hannah!” the sheriff answered, feeling a shadow lift from his mind. “Is the coffee any good today?”

“Always good, always ready!” Shorty Cloverton said, walking out of the kitchen with a big tray of fresh cinnamon buns. “How about a C-bun to go with that coffee, Pete?”

“I think I’ll just have coffee,” Pete answered. He caught himself staring at the table by the door where he sat in the nightmare.

“Suit yourself, Sheriff, but these are warm and the icing is running off like a spring thaw.”

“Okay, okay, you convinced me. Bring one over here,” Pete said.

Shorty scooped a cinnamon bun from the tray and put it on a plate, making sure to slather it with extra icing. “Shame about Vee Burthrap, isn’t it?” Shorty said, putting the plate on the table and pouring Pete a warm-up.

“What are you talking about?” the sheriff asked.

“Vee Burthrap was taken to the hospital last night. Her sister called the ambulance because Vee was acting strange.”

“Why wasn’t I called?” Pete asked. “I didn’t know anything about this.”

“I don’t know, Pete. I only know Ver called an ambulance and Vee is in the hospital,” Shorty answered.

Pete had a strange feeling. He wondered whether this had anything to do with Vee’s idea about the letters, DSL. “This is stupid!” Pete thought. “It’s a coincidence and nothing more.” Pete finished his breakfast and headed for the hospital.

“Don’t stop looking. Don’t stop looking for what?” Pete thought as he drove. “If it does mean ‘don’t stop looking’ for Sylvia, who wrote it? Who cut the letters into the bridge? Is Sylvia still alive? Is the person who took her toying with us?”

When the sheriff arrived at the hospital, he stepped from his car and heard a person yelling.

“Don’t stop looking!!” someone hollered.

Pete turned to see where the voice was coming from. He saw a woman in a back yard calling toward a boy who was running.

“Don’t stop looking!” she hollered louder. “You find your bicycle before you come back! Don’t stop looking!”

Pete felt stunned. “This can’t be real! What is happening to me!” he thought as he continued watching the woman yelling at her son.

The sheriff walked into the hospital and approached the front desk. A doctor stepped through a door and called back toward the hall. “Don’t stop looking for that file! I need it to see it before we can proceed,” he said to someone Pete couldn’t see.

The receptionist said, “Vee Burthrap is in room 214. Take the hall to the left and the elevator or the stairs to the second floor and turn right.”

Sheriff Pete thanked her and walked toward the elevator. The doors opened just as he reached it. Three people were inside, deep in conversation. “I told her, ‘don’t stop looking, you’ll find it if you don’t stop looking.’ I hope she took my advice,” one woman said to another. Pete stared at them and they stepped wide of him as they left the elevator.

He found room 214 and Pete knocked on the door. Hearing no answer, he knocked again.

“Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!” came a woman’s voice from inside the room. Pete pushed through the door.

Vee Burthrap seemed to be sound asleep. “Don’t stop looking!” she moaned again and again.

“Vee, Vee…” Pete said as he gently shook her arm.

Vee’s sightless eyes were wide open, looking far beyond Pete Terkinberry. With a loud voice she again said, “Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!”

The sheriff recalled the feeling he had the night he opened Sylvia Meisner’s house to Miss Wonderment, the so-called psychic. What crawled over him now was far worse.

He more firmly grasped Vee’s arm and shook, “Vee!”

Vee Burthrap sat straight up in the bed and screamed. Pete jumped back and tripped over the bedside table sending a lunch tray crashing to the floor. Pete landed on top of the mashed potatoes and gravy.

“Sheriff! What are you doing here?” Vee asked.

Pete wiped the mess from his pants as he stood up. “Vee, I just found out you were in the hospital and I came to check on you. What were you dreaming about?” he asked.

“I wasn’t dreaming about anything, why?”

“You kept saying, ‘Don’t stop looking,'” Pete answered.

“Why would I say that? Don’t stop looking for what?”

“More like ‘who?’ you mean.”

Garage Go-Karts and Revivals

Mobil Oil moved us to Saginaw. We left Freddie, Gary, Mary Janeane and the beautiful Lundeed girls in Redford. Turd was a distant memory.

Why it took twenty-four hours for the Mayflower truck to go seventy miles was a mystery. We spent the night at the Ron & Rick Motel on Hess Street. We swam in the pool and I watched two boys drive a go-kart around the yard. I assumed they were Ron and Rick.

I was nervous and jealous about school starting the next day. My older brother didn’t have to go for another week because the brand new Mackinaw Middle School wasn’t finished.

Countryside Park Subdivision, right across the street from my Weiss Elementary, was brand new. Very few houses had trees, our new home didn’t even have grass.

The two-story cape cod was the biggest house I had ever seen. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, kitchen-dining room, and a huge basement. The small garage was the site of projects, productions, and mischief.

I grew up with lots of neighborhood kids. Sometimes we were close confidants. Sometimes sworn enemies.

Every neighborhood has a focus house, the one where every kid wants to live. All the funnest stuff starts at that house. The cool kids from other neighborhoods come there. The kids next door were the luckiest. There’s was the focus house. Their built-in swimming pool guaranteed it.

Claiming cool is an important part of neighborhood kid life. Clubs are the way to include members, exclude nons. Clubs define cool.

Our garage was the headquarters of my three member go-kart club. Our plan was to build a go-kart to rule the streets. The enemy club was next door. Their go-kart might have wheels, but it couldn’t compare with ours. For secrecy, I covered the garage windows with construction paper.

When the kart was finished, it weighed two hundred pounds. The chassis was 2 x 6 boards. The frame was 2 x 3’s. The body was plywood. Behind the seat was a trunk with a hinged cover. The back wheels were from an old wagon, the front from a baby stroller. The axles were nails. The steering was a rope tied to both ends of a 2 x 4 held in place with a bolt and washers.

The day of the big race finally came. The enemy club rolled out their go-kart. We pushed our pastel blue square hot rod out into the street.

Our teams lined the karts up evenly. We jeered and taunted, dared and insulted.

“On your mark! Get set! Go!!”

Enemy club members cheered and pushed the karts.

After ten feet, my left front wheel collapsed. The four nails folded like chewed Bazooka Bubble Gum. I pulled hard on the left rope and slammed into the side of the enemy club kart. Race over. Accusations and more insults. No cussing though. We weren’t allowed to cuss in the neighboord.

Our club kart sat beside the garage until the weather took the final toll.

The garage was a great kid theatre. We created a show to present so we could raise money for our next adventure. We hung a sheet for a stage curtain and put colored paper around a heat lamp for a spot light.

After several rehearsals, we opened the doors and welcomed the public. We were excited to see all nine chairs filled.

Our spot light nearly caught fire when the heatlamp turned the paper to cinders. No problem. Every show has its challenges.

The highlight was my rendition of “Wipe Out” I played on my electric Decca guitar I bought at Yankee’s for $24.00. Our drum kit was a table turned upside down with coffee cans on the legs for cymbals.

Our final number was “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” My sister started crying because she thought we were going to have an altar call.