Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 13

It was really only a matter of time before the search for Sylvia Meisner became more serious. Oh, not that folks haven’t been serious already, they are. They’re serious about a lot of things like taking care of all the visitors to Maple Valley that arrive, literally, by the trainload every day. They’re serious about making sure no one else in Maple Valley knows more about Sylvia than they do.

In spite of our many flaws, the folks in Maple Valley do really care about Sylvia and we wish her back. But with everything that has happened in town since she disappeared, I wonder what kind of place Sylvia would return to if she walked back into town today. There have been arguments with participants almost becoming physical. Rumors became gospel. Some close friends are distant because they don’t agree on what steps should be taken to bring Sylvia home. I don’t understand how they can argue about bringing her home when they don’t know where she is!

The Burthrap twins, Ver and Vee, were at it again yesterday, but this time Sheriff Terkinberry left them alone even though Nona Merthon called him four times while the twins were screaming at each other. Nona couldn’t tell the sheriff exactly what they were arguing about, she just assumed it was about Sylvia again. For all she knew, they might have been fighting about whose turn it was to do the dishes or clean the toilet.

Things have been pretty quiet at the Ya’ll Sit Cafe. Shorty and Hannah work very hard to keep up with all the patrons who come in on the Old General. It seems the first thing folks do is head for the cafe. Maple Valley has succeeded in creating a mystical sort of feeling that makes visitors want to stay, and staying always includes eating, or maybe just drinking coffee. I happen to believe Hannah Cloverton makes the best coffee anywhere in Kertok County.

The cafe is a favorite spot for townsfolk, too. It’s not very big, but then nothing in Maple Valley is. Except for the railroad. The cafe sits in the middle of town where it was built as a saloon in 1892. The saloon closed in 1907 and the Ya’ll Sit Cafe opened the following year. Shorty’s great grandfather, Morris Cloverton, was the first owner and cook. The Cloverton family has owned it ever since. The tables are square, seating four. There are three long tables with room for eight, and, oddly enough, those are the ones preferred by customers. The walls are a light blue, the curtains are red and white checkered. The floor is the original wood boards. The kitchen is not hidden in the back but is open for everyone to see. Shorty enjoys talking to patrons as he prepares their orders. Hannah waits on customers and pours coffee. A favorite among customers is Shorty’s pancakes and eggs breakfast. He doesn’t share his recipe with anyone. I eat breakfast at the cafe every Monday morning because it’s the best way to start the week.

You probably noticed Beulah Filden and Lulane Hilvertosh in the photo. The two seem to create trouble, or at least talk about trouble, wherever they go, and it’s not surprising they showed up at Sylvia Meisner’s house. (In case you don’t know, they’re the two are standing over on the left, and you can tell just by looking at them they’re gossiping. Beulah is wearing the red hat. Lulane is filling her ear to the brim.) Beulah hasn’t been seen outside much since she tried to pass a petition to postpone the start of tourist season. Maple Valley folks were pretty upset about that. Evidently, enough time has past so Lulane and Beulah are back to their old habits.

The news of the day and the reason so many people are standing around Sylvia’s house is Sheriff Terkinberry went to court in Kertok County for a search warrant so he could enter Sylvia’s home. While he would have preferred to keep that news quiet, search warrants are routinely published in the Kertok Weekly. The sheriff’s plan was known throughout Maple Valley before he had a chance to search the house. True to every characteristic of Maple Valley, folks were outside the house waiting to get the inside story before anyone else could.

Sheriff Terkinberry wasn’t surprised to find the front door of Sylvia’s house unlocked. Folks in Maple Valley don’t often lock their doors, but in this case the sheriff felt an intense concern. If Sylvia planned to be gone for a prolonged period of time, she certainly would not have left the door open. At first glance, nothing seemed to be out of order. Everything in the living room was undisturbed. A hardcover novel on a table caught the sheriff’s attention. He carefully picked up “Death Calls at Midnight,” by Shander Noffsin, and opened the front cover. Inside was written, “To Sylvia from your Special Friend.” “Who is the special friend?” the sheriff thought, “and why was the book signed that way? Does special mean ‘secret?’ Does special mean ‘admirer?’ Does Sylvia know who this special person is, or was he or she a mystery? And why capitalize special friend?” The thoughts racing through Terkinberry’s head only made his job more difficult.

He walked into the kitchen and his concern increased. In the sink were several knives. It appeared they had been used and washed, dried, but then left in the sink. A folded towel was lying nearby. The sheriff noticed a plant on the window sill was beginning to wilt and thought it strange the plant was still alive when Sylvia has been missing for a month. He looked back into the living room and noticed another plant in the same condition. Still alive.

A feeling of dread crept over his body as the sheriff opened the refrigerator. He knew the contents would clearly reveal Sylvia’s intentions when she left home the last time. Inside was an unopened container of milk, some fruit, a small jar of jelly, and something very strange. Lying on the bottom shelf was what appeared to be a fresh rose, with a note beside it. “To Sylvia from your Special Friend.” The dread the sheriff felt was turning to full alarm.

Sheriff Terkinberry climbed the stairs to examine the bedrooms. One bed was neatly made but with no pillows. The other bed was made but several pillows were piled up. He assumed, because of other furniture in the room the first was the main bedroom. Why did Sylvia have so many pillows piled up in the second bedroom?

The bathroom produced even more questions. The medicine cabinet was completely empty, which calmed the sheriff a little because Sylvia would have taken most of the items if she was going on a planned trip. The bathtub, however, caused more questions. It was filthy. It looked as if someone bathed a dog with a terrible shedding problem. He couldn’t explain it.

The place he dreaded the most was saved for last. Swallowed by the dark and wet basement, he stumbled over something as he tried to find the light. This was the first time since becoming sheriff Pete Terkinberry wished he had chosen another job.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 12

In case you haven’t been following the news in Maple Valley on a regular basis, I will fill you in. Sylvia Meisner disappeared nearly a month ago. Several people saw and spoke to her one day, she was gone the next. In fact, figuring out who the last person to speak to Sylvia actually was became a hot item of contention, sadly enough. Folks in Maple Valley always like to find a way into the spotlight. We are bothered by not being included.

In the photo, you can see what was left of her car. It was discovered under three tower bridge by two people who happened to be jogging by. They reported the car to Sheriff Pete Terkinberry who started an investigation and quickly confirmed it was Sylvia Meisner’s car. The sheriff demanded the car be left at the site to protect all the evidence, but he soon realized there wasn’t any. The wreck was finally taken to a garage where it was dismantled. Every piece of the car was examined, and nothing of any use to the investigation was found. The car was torched completely.

Who put the car under three tower bridge? No answers. Where was the car burned? It seems obvious the fire was not under the bridge because there are no burns on the timbers. And no one saw the fire even though the bridge is very close to Maple Valley. The car was wrecked and burned somewhere else. Was the driver Sylvia? If so, where is she? Did someone steal her car, wreck then burn it to cover evidence, then move the car to the bridge? That is a lot of difficult work when they could have left the car where it was destroyed. It makes no sense, unless there is some kind of message we are supposed to figure out. I don’t know. No one else does, either. At least, that’s the way it seems.

If you walk by three tower bridge today, this is what you’ll see. Everything seems normal again. Appearances are deceiving. I don’t think anything in Maple Valley will be normal again. How can someone everybody knows disappear without a trace? Neighbors are going back to normal things and I’m afraid they’re going to forget.

Sylvia is a nice person. She was, is, or was neighborly. That’s what I mean. Even I am getting caught saying things like, “She was neighborly.” I don’t know if she is a was, or still is. It’s tough. She’s gone, but maybe she’s just gone for a while. Who knows? She made, or is making her own mark on Maple Valley. She is a talented artist, or is at least someone others might call an artist. She painted signs for businesses. They’re very colorful and attractive. The problem to some people is that the signs are for businesses that don’t exist. She painted and placed them in spots around town where they would be seen. Why would someone do that?

An odd thing happened today. People gathered where the car was found under three tower bridge, and the Reverend Shermer from Maple Valley Church said a few words. He is the one in the photo nearest the bridge tower. He asked for a time of silence so people could think about Sylvia and ask for her safe return. Then folks met at Sylvia’s house and did the same thing. Not everyone goes to church in Maple Valley, and there were people at the two gatherings who don’t attend Maple Valley Church. I suppose that’s a good thing, unless they were just there to watch.

There is still talk around town about having a psychic come in to try to find Sylvia. How would the sheriff decide which psychic to use? Would he have psychic auditions? There are lots of psychics around like palm readers, but who knows whether they could really help? Would the town council have to pay the psychic? Does the person get paid even if they can’t find Sylvia and she doesn’t return? I don’t know what to think of that idea.

On the brighter side of Maple Valley, the Annual Founder’s Day Celebration is just a week away. This is an important event in Maple Valley and has been celebrated ever since the first settlers came to the valley. At least that’s what the oldest residents of Maple Valley say.

Like the Independence Day Celebration and the start of tourist season in Maple Valley, lots of exciting attractions will keep everyone busy for the entire day. The highlight of the day will be the mincemeat pie eating contest in the middle of town, followed by the annual west side vs east side badminton game. Everyone who lives on the west side of 2nd Street is Team West, everyone living on the east side is Team East.

Plenty of first-aid supplies will be on hand with those who have volunteered to treat everyone who is injured during the badminton game. Maple Valley folks are serious about this game because of the bragging rights it gives to the winners. Everyone who wants to play is on the team, and everyone is on the court at the same time. Last year there were twenty-seven players on Team West, thirty-two on Team East. Several injuries occurred, the most serious being a gash suffered by Homer Gawlmand when Minnie Surrifin hit him in the face with her racket. Other minor injuries like welts on the head from being whacked by a racket are to be expected when close to sixty people are playing badminton on one court, all trying to keep six birdies in the air at the same time. It’s a favorite in Maple Valley!

Tourist season is off to a great start. So far, there haven’t been any issues with the Old General. Six round trips per day is a lot to ask from a steam locomotive that was built in the 1800s, but the Old General’s performance has made everyone proud. I even sneak a ride in the engine as often as I can. One of these days I’m going to sit in the engineer’s chair and take the throttle. That will be an exciting day in Maple Valley.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 10

The last train out of Maple Valley left the center of town at 9:00 p.m. Many visitors stayed all day to help us celebrate the start of tourist season. We expect all of the trains to be full today and all available tickets tomorrow are gone. Two big celebrations within three days means a tremendous amount of work, but everyone in Maple Valley joins together to make each event the best it can be.

The Independence Day Celebration is ready to go. Mayor Thrashborn will deliver his annual “We Are Maple Valley” speech at noon. Last year a record crowd of forty-seven gathered near Brindel’s Hardware to hear the speech. Unlike the year before, no one was heard to comment the speech was too long.

Brindel’s Hardware has been a fixture in Maple Valley since the late 1800s. The front window is still the original glass. The paint has faded noticeably, but Garvin Brindel wants to leave it until it’s completely unreadable. His great-great grandfather, Herschel Brindel actually painted the lettering himself. It reads, “Brindel’s Hardware – For Things You Want and Might Need.”

Herschel Brindel had quite a reputation among the old-timers of Maple Valley. He was one of the founders and quickly established himself as leader. He also established himself as a scoundrel in business and with the ladies. There was talk he was carrying on with Gladenia Wickers, who was the wife of the first reverend of Maple Valley Church. The way church ladies dressed in those days in long black dresses that swept the floor, sleeves tight at the wrist, snug collars, it’s hard to imagine how anything happened, if it did. But that’s the point of imagination, it’s always better than the real thing. It’s the old-timers in Maple Valley that keep the old stories going. In fact, the stories have become a draw for tourists because the old guys will sit on the porches and talk to anyone who will stop long enough to listen. It’s been a long time since I sat on the porch with them, but I’m sure the stories have developed a life of their own while leaving the real truth in the dust long ago.

Another scoundrel I might as well mention now to get it out of the way, is Clem Yaminder. He too has family reaching back to the founding of Maple Valley, but his reputation as a scoundrel is more recent. It’s been fourteen years since Forner’s Drugstore burned to the ground. Clem Yaminder owns “Clem’s Stuff,” next to where the drugstore used to be. It was no secret that Clem Yaminder and Gorlyn Forner didn’t like each other. In the twenty years preceeding the fire, Clem and Gorlyn were involved in court proceedings against each other five times. Each time, the cases were dismissed by the visiting circuit judge. The last time an argument happened between Clem and Gorlyn, Clem was overheard saying, “I’m going to burn his place to the ground.” Seems pretty obvious. When the store burst into flames, everyone looked at Clem but nothing ever happened. Gorlyn Forner passed away two years later. Arleta Forner still lives here in Maple Valley. She stays away from Clem Yaminder and still believes he started the fire.

In spite of our scoundrels both past and present, Maple Valley is one of those places where you want to stay if you’re ever here. It’s the kind of town where you walk around and think, “I could live here.” As you visit the little stores you think about changes you could make so it would be possible for you to move to Maple Valley. “I could work in one of these stores, or maybe I could get hired on the maintenance crew for the General.” While you’re sipping coffee in the “Ya’ll Sit Cafe,” listening to the chatter of the townsfolk talking about their grocery lists, egg-plant-zucchini bread they made, plans to visit grandparents, you think about staying. It’s just that kind of place. The coffee tastes better, the treats taste sweeter, the lunches are more delicious than anywhere else and you think, “I could live here.”

The remarkable thing about tourist season is the number of people who come year after year. As seasons pass, grandparents bring grandchildren so they can experience the wonderful place that is Maple Valley. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to grow up and live here enjoy hearing the comments visitors make about how much fun it is to be here. Sometimes I wonder if there is something we’re missing. Are visitors feeling something we don’t feel anymore? Are they sensing something we’ve grown so accustomed to we’re now unaware of it? I hope not. I try to remind myself just how special Maple Valley is and how lucky we are to live here.

No one loves the Old General more than I do, but I have to admit there are times I hear it heading for town and I don’t go running outside to see it. I remember walking hand-in-hand with my parents to see the General time after time. They always said, “Don’t forget this, dear. The Old General is part of who we are here in Maple Valley. Don’t ever forget that.” I remind myself often but I still am too busy to remember like I know my parents wanted me to.

I’m afraid we’re starting to forget about Sylvia. I don’t hear people on the streets talking about her anymore. Her car isn’t under three tower bridge anymore, and now that the car is just large and small pieces on a garage floor, it’s hard to imagine it as an actual car. Let alone a car that belonged to someone who is now gone. Maybe not gone, but just missing. I hope she’s just missing and will be back soon.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 9

Quintin O’Dillmotte has been working very hard to bring our town to complete readiness in anticipation of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration. Erasing all potential reminders of the crape paper disaster of last year is more important to him than planning for this year. So far, talk about a repeat has been minimal.

Everyone is looking forward to the parade that begins at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. One of the main attractions every year is the Maple Valley Walking Band, directed by Mileta Kottser. She is the director because the idea of creating the band was hers. Maple Valley doesn’t have a school band, so Mileta thought she could start one. Mileta doesn’t actually play an instrument but everyone else does. The nine-member walking band is always looking for new members.

The Retired Equine Services Organization had to withdraw from the parade this year because two of the remaining three riders are ill. Of course, the Happy Harmonettes, the quartet of eighty-year-old women who have been trying to sing together since high school will be moved up in the procession because of the missing horses.

Probably the most anticipated feature in the parade this year is special guest, Derwood Finster, the master bird-caller. Quintin was able to acquire a trailer and a loud-speaker so everyone along the parade route will be able to hear Derwood Finster’s bird calls. The only challenge is the noise from the generator required to give power to the loud-speaker. It should be alright.

Bird calling is very popular in Maple Valley. Unfortunately, the Winged Callers Club lost its charter last year because of dues that were left unpaid to the Regional Association of Birdcall Clubs. The club met weekly at the old trader’s barn and after a brief business meeting, the members went out into the valley to call birds. Stan Munshim was the treasurer of the club, Emil Leverdom was the president. Both still enjoy calling birds, neither of them is very good at it.

The Independence Day Celebration landing on Sunday this year has required an additional level of responsibility for O’Dillmotte and his committee. The Reverend Shermer, pastor of Maple Valley Church, expects everyone to be in attendance at service before the parade. The service is usually at 11:15, but the Reverend is sure folks will not come to service after the parade, so he moved it to 8:15, just for this special day. Maple Valley Church is the only one in town so the ones who go to church go there. The Reverend expects Quintin to persuade everyone in Maple Valley to attend services before the parade.

The parade will begin at the end of Maple Street, move along to First Street, turn left and go to the end of the street and turn left again. Finally, turning left on Railroad Street the parade will continue until it reaches Maple Street again where it will end. Once the parade has moved past people sitting along the route, they will gather at the intersection of Maple and Railroad, to congratulate everyone and tell them what a fine job they did in the parade.

The end of the parade route is also where the community vendors gather to sell their homemade baked goods and handicrafts. Marge Quaffy’s prune-banana-blueberry-nut muffins with goat-milk cream frosting is a favorite to everyone. She spends two days before the parade making the muffins with her two granddaughters, Susan and Sandy.

This is an exciting time in Maple Valley. Today is the beginning of tourist season, which almost went unnoticed except for the crowds of people who came into town on The Old General this morning. All the stores were ready and waiting for happy visitors. Many people just walk along the streets of Maple Valley and don’t buy anything at all. They enjoy seeing the old buildings and walking on the wooden porches.

In spite of the scandal swirling in Maple Valley, Anabel Wizzleby was finally able to get enough choir members together to practice her original musical score. Anabel spent the entire off-season working on her song, “My Maple Valley, You’re Really Something.” Her greatest challenge was coming up with a word that even remotely rhymes with “something.” As it turns out, the crowd was so noisy after getting off the General, no one could hear the words of the song anyway. Anabel smiled proudly and the choir took a bow. Everyone knew the song was over and they clapped.

Sheriff Terkinberry has been absent from most of the proceedings so far. He is very busy with the detectives working diligently to find something, anything, on what is left of Sylvia Meisner’s car. They took the car to Fillton’s Service Station and put it in the garage. They are in the process of taking the car completely apart in the search for clues. So far, nothing.

The sheriff’s decision to move the car away from three tower bridge couldn’t have come too soon. People were beginning to stir up even more trouble, complaining that the sheriff was not doing his job. Mayor Alvin Thrashborn paid a visit to the sheriff’s office, which is Pete Terkinberry’s kitchen, to give him an update on the overall attitude in Maple Valley. The mayor wasn’t really trying to cause trouble for the sheriff, he was just letting him know that more trouble was brewing.

It’s good to see all of our neighbors out and about after a very long and cold winter. The flowers are beautiful, the trees are covered with leaves, the birds are singing, although not as a result of any bird callers in Maple Valley. Hopefully, there will soon be some good news in the search for Sylvia Meisner.

How to Write a Good Scandal

If you’re going to include a scandal in your story, to be convincing, certain characteristics should be included. Without them you may end up with scattered details and no scandal.

How can you include just enough detail without giving away too much?

How many pages should it take to discover and resolve a good scandal?

Is the scandal damage permanent or does the resolution absolve everyone?

Here are some helpful characteristics:

  1. Surprise. For a situation to be truly scandalous, it should be a surprise. Something upsetting has happened no one was expecting. The bigger the surprise, the better.
  2. Expectation of Continued Behavior. Nothing is a scandal that does not include people everyone knows. People on the fringes will jump in and involve themselves if the scandal is juicy enough. People have unwritten expectations of others, especially those in some kind of authority. If that expected behavior is suddenly interrupted by opposite or at least divergent behavior, it becomes scandalous. A good scandal will take on a life of its own and spontaneously regenerate. Each telling of the story includes details added, perhaps unwittingly, by the person sharing it.

3. Feigned Concern for Those Involved. “I shouldn’t be telling you this…” When you hear those words, you know you’re on the edge of a scandal. If you’re writing about a scandal, be sure to give everyone an opportunity to show how concerned they are by telling the story again.

4. Reputation. The subject of a scandal should have a reputation, if nothing more than being a good neighbor. If a person is a scoundrel anyway, they only have that reputation and it is their expected behavior. No scandal here.

5. Gossip Worthy Details. People who live in a way that is the opposite of behaviors supposedly taken by those involved in a scandal love to talk about them. “Did you hear…” Include those words in your characters’ conversations and you will contribute to the growth of the scandal.

6. Exaggeration. “You know, I once met John Scandalous, and he told me…” The character says he met the central figure in the scandal when the truth is he heard him speak at a conference and never actually met him in person. Obviously, you will include this detail in the description of your exaggerating character so that he takes on a scandalous nature of his own. He is now a liar.

7. The ‘Glad It’s Not Me’ Syndrome. “There but for the grace of God…” People love to be included without being touched by the scandal. “I’m so thankful I don’t…” “One time, I was thinking about…” Characters talk with each other about their own weaknesses just enough to touch the shadow of scandal without being swallowed.

8. Threatened Values. A real scandal touches innocent bystanders by shaking the foundation of their values. When a respected individual takes an unexpected and opposite behavior, other people suddenly feel they may be capable of the same things.

9. Threatened Status Quo. Every day, people wake up, go to work, clean house, rake leaves, feed the dog, stop at all stop signs, pay bills, talk to friends, go home, eat dinner, go to bed, sleep, wake up, go to work, clean house, rake leaves… until someone doesn’t. The status quo keeps everyone moving in the same direction with a sense of well-being until someone takes a different behavior. A scandal shakes the status quo.

10. Threatened Personal Perspective. A good scandal will cause your characters to question the way they view the world. Everyone interprets the world through the lens of their own experience. Behavior labels depend on perspective. A good scandal will fall outside reasonable perspectives.

11. Scandal Life. A scandal should only last as long as it contributes to the life of your story.

12. Resolution. A good scandal may or may not be completely resolved. The details may hang over the story to keep everyone guessing, especially your characters. If someone is murdered, that’s not a scandal, it’s homicide. There is no possible resolution to a murder other than the “who did it?” question being answered.

There you have it. If you’re working on writing a scandal to disrupt your characters’ lives, include these elements and you’ll have a memorable scandal that will keep your characters talking and your fans reading.

Scandal At Maple Valley Episode 6

Even though Maple Valley is a tourist destination for thousands of people each year, it is a real town where people live and it does not escape the characteristics of small town life. People know things about their neighbors they probably shouldn’t know. Things the neighbors would rather keep quiet. Some people make it their business to involve themselves in one way or another in everything. And since a lot of folks in Maple Valley are related, they often say things like, “I’m just looking out for the interests of my family,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s often a distant family member who becomes the subject of suspicion among those who feign concern.

If it were possible to capture all of the troubling characteristics of small town life in one person, her name would be Lulane Hilvertosh. No problem, no concern, no circumstance, no question in Maple Valley escapes the probability of being made much larger, providing the capacity to pull in more innocent casualties than when Lulane Hilvertosh gets involved, which is almost always.

Lulane took it upon herself to call the State Police and WREK-TV’s award winning journalist Marty Kue (whose full name is Martin Kuezanskowitz) and asked them to meet her at three tower bridge to discuss the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. She told the State Police she had official authority to discuss the case. Not true. The fine people at WREK know Hilvertosh very well as she considers herself a gifted reporter, a total lack of any journalistic education notwithstanding. The only reason anyone gives her any attention is her ability to cause trouble. It’s more an effort to control the damage than to gain any useable information.

It’s difficult to understand why the State Police don’t arrest her for filing a false police report, or contacting the police under false pretenses. She’s definitely not trying to help.

The photos showing the actual meeting between officers from the State Police and Marty Kue were secretly taken by Mayor Thrashborn’s secretary, Wanda Cablelance. She understands what a danger someone like Lulane Hilvertosh can be.

The State Police will have to meet with Mayor Thrashborn officially, even though it is a waste of time, because a report was officially made by Hilvertosh. If the officers don’t follow through and meet with the mayor, Lulane will find out about it and the end will be far worse than the beginning.

In the process of capturing the photos of the secret meeting, Miss Cablelance happened to catch Stevie Mickletan sitting on a bridge beam. Shortly after the photo was taken, the police officers made Stevie come down and told him not to climb the tower again. That was also a waste of time. Stevie Mickletan climbs the towers every week.

Official photos of Sylvia Meisner’s house were taken by Sheriff Terkinberry’s photographer, which is his wife, Kathy. They took pictures of the front, back, and side of the house. It wasn’t until they looked at the photos, as seen above, they realized how close Sylvia’s house is to the scene where the burned car was found. In fact, if one looks closely enough, you can see three tower bridge in the background just behind Verklin’s Antique Store.

An obvious question hangs over the investigation. How was a heavily damaged burned car placed under the bridge, just beyond an active railroad line without anyone seeing it? No one saw anything. At least no one is willing to say they saw anything. That alone troubles Sheriff Terkinberry even more than the fact Sylvia is still missing. If someone did see, or worse yet, was involved in placing the car under the bridge, that means someone in Maple Valley is involved in the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. The sheriff almost cannot bear to think about it. He knows everyone in town very well. He considers most of them to be his friends.

As if the mayor and the sheriff needed something more to consider, Beulah Filden gathered her closest friends, all two of them, and started a petition to postpone the opening of tourist season. So far, they have nineteen signatures. Since there are only fifty-one official residents of Maple Valley, they are well on their way to a majority of those supporting the delay of the season. While it might be honorable to make such a gesture, practically, it’s not going to make any difference, other than blocking the necessary finances so needed by Maple Valley to survive. Once the signatures are presented to the mayor, a meeting of the town council will have to be called and a vote taken. We don’t need this!

It’s almost as if everyone in Maple Valley is holding their breath, waiting to see what happens next. There is still talk about having a psychic come in to help. Most folks think it’s a ridiculous idea.

The sheriff is still considering doing a door-to-door search. Since the thought of someone in Maple Valley being involved crowded his mind, he is thinking more seriously of opening every door, whether the residents agree or not.

Sheriff Terkinberry spoke briefly with Dr. Ham Gerlein, the medical examiner from Colmash County. Dr. Gerlein is responsible for several counties including Kertok. The sheriff gave him the details of Sylvia Meisner’s disappearance as they are known today. Since there is nothing to medically examine yet, and official meeting has not been called.

It’s hard to imagine things getting worse in Maple Valley. What we know for sure is that Sylvia Meisner is still missing. The fact that not a single person in town knows anything is becoming harder and harder for Sheriff Terkinberry to accept. While he is not really concerned about his position as sheriff, he is the kind of person who hates to stir something up if it’s not necessary. It is becoming more and more difficult to resist.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 5

It is a terrible shame the word “scandal” connects to Maple Valley in any way. The citizens of this small town, completely happy to continue in the ways we know, are now, through no fault of our own, tossed together into a chopper yearning to leave nothing recognizable in its wake.

The very name, Maple Valley, evokes thoughts of sweetness, calm, and rest. Indeed, until two weeks ago, anyone would have agreed with my assessment. Now everything is upside down. Everyone is walking an unfamiliar path. Distrust among life-long friends is beginning to dance around the edges of awareness. This kind of shadow does not belong in Maple Valley. Yet, here it is.

We’re looking over our shoulders. Security is seeping away. It’s amazing how quickly unanswered questions begin scratching at the fabric holding everything together. Sylvia Meisner has been missing sixteen days. Life will quickly return to normal when we know the facts. Maybe.

Be that as it may, today is Father’s Day. The lovely folks of Maple Valley have celebrated Father’s Day in the same manner for the last forty-seven years. Since Deaton Habley created the “Hands-On Father’s Day Project,” everyone knows what to expect year after year. Yesterday, all of Maple Valley gathered at the fire station to sign Father’s Day cards. To be sure no one is left out, each resident receives a card. Men, women, boys, girls, and fathers receive cards delivered personally by volunteers. It’s very important to citizens of Maple Valley that no one is left out of any kind of celebration. Even individual birthdays are a community project. It gets tiring, actually.

Mayor Alvin Thrashborn delivered his annual Father’s Day message to the community gathering at Verklin’s Antique Store. Verklin’s is the best place for the community to gather because Claudia Verklin has a new porch, built two years ago by Wayne and Verle Shones of Shone’s Construction. Mayor Thrashborn is quite a good public speaker. He has learned to use hand gestures since taking the “You Can Speak More Convincingly” class at Kertok County Public Library. The class is taught by Dr. Wilson Erkish, Professor Emeritus, Retired, of the Kertok County Community College, which closed due to lack of students nearly twenty years ago. The mayor has even been invited to speak to the Ladies Who Mean Well group that meets on the first Tuesday of every month.

At the conclusion of Mayor Thrashborn’s speech, the Happy Harmonettes sang, “Daddy Was a Scoundrel,” an original song written by Annimae Twisherman, who sings tenor in the group. She wrote the words and the music, which is quite an accomplishment of which all the residents of Maple Valley are quite proud.

When the ceremony at Verklin’s Antique Store was over, all the folks walked together to the basement of Maple Valley Church where we enjoyed a fine breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and kiwi. This year the breakfast was prepared by the “Golf Innovation League” which is open to men and women. The group meets every week at the Maple Valley Links. The members do not play golf, but share in discussions about how the game might be made more meaningful for those who do not participate.

The meal was enjoyed fully, then we all returned to our homes. We have a lot of work to do in preparation for the tourist season which starts next Friday. The Old General, the 1880 Vintage Steam Engine, will begin pulling fully restored passenger cars loaded with happy visitors to Maple Valley. The Old General was the locomotive derailed by the boys who piled rocks on the tracks. That was not a happy day in Maple Valley.

We are all hoping for the best for Sylvia Meisner. Sheriff Terkinberry is getting almost no rest, and that worries some of the folks who know him well. He is determined to begin his investigation again, from the beginning. He has decided to leave Sylvia’s car where it is until she is found. The thought of missing something that might lead to her return alive keeps him awake. He doesn’t know whether she’s alive or not. No one does. The sheriff is doing everything he possibly can to bring Sylvia home.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 4

O’Dillmotte Funeral Parlor “Where We Lay You Down Easy” is buzzing with activity. Quintin O’Dillmotte, the proud provider of burial services for the citizens of Maple Valley and all of Kertok County, has been on the phone for hours.

No, Sylvia Meisner’s body has not been found, dead or alive. Quintin O’Dillmotte is chair of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration Committee, which is just a few weeks away. This is O’Dillmotte’s second year as chair. He hopes to outshine the extravaganza, or disaster, depending on how you look at it, that took place last year. Quintin’s main project was to have every home and business in Maple Valley draped in red, white, and blue crape paper. The town was absolutely beautiful. WREK TV – “Your Source for the Latest”, came with their cameras and a reporter. When it started raining the results were displayed for everyone. It took weeks to remove all the soggy crape paper, and long boney purple fingers are still visible.

One might think after wreckage like that everyone would demand a change in the leadership for the Independence Day Celebration Committee. Not so. No one else wants to do it.

It’s not like O’Dillmotte’s has funerals lined up for weeks. The last services Quintin provided was four months ago. Palmer McCashtin, 98, passed peacefully, surrounded by Coozie, Twisto, Meeka, Bobo, Lealea, and Moe, three cats and three dogs, respectively. Townsfolk were helpful after the sad event. Each of the animals found a home in Maple Valley before old Palmer was laid down easy.

Tourists who visit Maple Valley often ask about O’Dillmotte’s Funeral Parlor. It’s not often one sees a funeral business decorated with bright colors and shrubs cut in the shape of dolphins and unicorns. Visitors are also curious about the slogan, “Where We Lay You Down Easy.” It’s not difficult to explain. Funeral services at O’Dillmotte’s cost $147.98, and in four easy installments, that’s just $36.99 each. You see, Quintin O’Dillmotte is also a carpenter. He makes the coffins himself, which are all identical. He also owns the cemetery, which is located just the other side of three tower bridge. The property has been in the O’Dillmotte family since the earliest settlers made a home in Maple Valley. In their time of grief, families do not have to ponder coffin styles, cemetery plots, sermons, music, or transportation. Each funeral is exactly the same as the last, all provided by Quintin O’Dillmotte. Somehow, the folks of Maple Valley are completely happy with the services he provides. Oddly enough.

The business of planning the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration keeps Quintin completely occupied. Yesterday, he contacted Master Kafflen, head of the local Young Hopefuls Club, which is a preparatory platform for those who wish to be Young High-Minded Individuals one day. Sylvia Meisner was chosen as a delegate to the National Convention of High-Minded Individuals. Master Kafflen’s real name is Able, but since the leader of the Young Hopefuls Club is known as the Master, Able prefers to be called Master Kafflen. No one argues with him, it’s not worth the trouble.

Quintin hopes to have a parade and wants the Young Hopefuls Club to lead the procession. They will be followed by the Retired Equine Services Organization, which includes three horses and their owners, the Cake-Bakers Anonymous Support Group, the Happy Harmonettes, which is a quartet of women, all in their eighties, who have been trying to sing together since high school. They hope to one day be invited to perform outside Maple Valley. This year, O’Dillmotte is working with great effort to have a trailer with a public address system and plans to invite Derwood Finster, master bird-caller, perform in the parade as the Grand Master. Finster is well known for having appeared on the WREK TV Children’s Hour with Mr. Dimples.

The Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration is obviously in very capable hands, the previous year, notwithstanding.

Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is still recovering from his dealings with the Burthrap twins. Right now, he is sitting at his desk in his office, considering how he might have handled the situation differently. The Kertok County Sheriff’s Department is in Pete’s kitchen. He doesn’t mind having his office at home, it saves having to drive the county patrol car anywhere, saving money for the county which tends to be in short supply.

The sheriff is thinking it might have been advisable to stand outside the Burthrap’s house and let the twins fight it out. Then, if either of them were hurt, arrest the other for assault. But since Ver and Vee are known around Maple Valley for their arguments, the uproar over the sheriff arresting one of them would be worse than the damage either could possibly do to the other.

Sheriff Terkinberry is still listening to discussions about what might have happened to Sylvia Meisner. At this point, the most outrageous has been the suggestion to ask a psychic where Sylvia might be. Pete laughed at the idea initially, but is actually thinking it might provide something for folks to talk about, taking their attention off themselves.

The sheriff has not decided whether to move the car from under three tower bridge. He’s fearful of destroying evidence, even though he has searched the area many times. He’s feeling the urge to search it again.

Scandal at Maple Valley Worse – Episode 3

“It was your fault!! You shoved me first!” Veronia screamed.

“Liar! You’re always lying!! You never stop lying! You pushed my hand away! Liar!” spewed Vernita.

“Ladies, ladies, please” said the sheriff.

“Oh shut up, Pete, who asked you?!” Veronia and Vernita hollered in unison.

“Actually, it was Gil and Nona Merthon next door who called and asked me to come here. They heard you fighting and thought I should come and make sure you’re okay,” the sheriff quickly added, hoping to divert the girls’ attention from each other. It didn’t work.

“You always have to be first! This time, you’re not! I’m right! I know I’m right! I don’t care what you say! screamed Veronia even louder.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re so stupid! Why do you have to be so stupid! And gullible! That’s you, gullible Ver!” ranted Vernita.

The sheriff raised his hands as if to ask a question, or to give up, but instead stepped back and folded his arms across chest. He was beginning to think he might have to call for backup. Except there is no backup. Sheriff Terkinberry is the one and only police officer in Kertock County. And since he grew up in Maple Valley, just like everyone else, they all call him by his first name, instead of “Sheriff Terkinberry,” which makes him angry but he really can’t do anything about it.

“Ladies, please, let’s all sit down and talk this through like the adults we are,” the sheriff pleaded.

The girls both turned and stared at him, then shouted, “No!”

Veronia and Vernita Burthrap, identical twins, are known to everyone in town as Ver and Vee. When the girls were toddlers they couldn’t say each other’s names, it sounded like “Ver” for Veronia, and “Vee” as Vernita. The names stuck. Except for a mole on Veronia’s left ear, it is impossible to tell them apart. They wear their brown hair long, so glimpses of the mole are hard to come by. The girls, now in their thirties, are known for their arguments. This one is another in a very long stream of screaming competitions.

“And you never believe me!!” Vernita loudly added.

“What’s to believe?! You’re always wrong! I know I was the last one to talk to Sylvia!! Not you!!” Veronia screeched.

Now the sheriff was standing at full attention.

“Wait a minute!! Stop yelling right now!!” Sheriff Terkinberry thundered so strongly it seemed to shake the house.

For a moment, Veronia and Vernita looked like frightened kittens.

“You two are arguing about who saw Sylvia Meisner last?” the sheriff hissed through his teeth.

“Yessss!!” the girls both shouted together.

“One at a time!!!” the sheriff screamed. “Ver, you first.”

Veronia gave Vernita a satisfied smerk as if the sheriff telling her to go first confirmed everything in her favor.

Veronia straightened herself as if preparing to give an important speech. “Well, Sheriff Terkinberry, I know I am the last one to have spoken with Miss Meisner before she disappeared. I saw her driving out of town,” she said, nodding at Vernita with an ‘I told you so’ look.

“What do you mean you saw her driving?” asked the sheriff.

“Well, I was on third street at the end of town, and Sylvia was driving her car and I waved at her, and she waved back,” said Veronia.

“You waved at her? Did you actually talk to her and did she talk back to you?” pried the sheriff.

Visibly uncomfortable, “Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. I waved, she waved, that is a conversation,” Veronia said.

“Hah!! I knew it!! You liar!! You lie, you lie, you lie!! Just like always! You lie about everything! You liar!! You didn’t talk to her at all! I knew it!!” Vernita shouted triumphantly before the sheriff could stop her.

The sheriff continued. “Ver, waving at each other is not exactly a conversation. Did you verbally talk with Sylvia that day?”

“Well, no,” Veronia said quietly, looking down at her feet.

Vernita quickly jumped in, “Wellll, I did!! I did ver-ba-lly talk, with my mouth forming words, words that made sense, to Miss Meisner” Vernita said, mocking her sister.

“Where and when did you talk with her, Vee?” asked the sheriff.

“I was at the market getting a few things. As I was walking out, she was walking in,” answered Vernita.

“And what did you say? What did she say?” the sheriff continued.

“I said, ‘Hi, Sylvia,’ and she said, ‘Hi.'”

Pete Terkinberry stared at them. “Let me get this right. You two are arguing so loud the neighbors called the police. You’re screaming about who talked to Sylvia last, like it’s some kind of trophy, and neither of you actually talked with her?” the sheriff asked, his volume rising with each detail.

“I am the one…” Vernita started to say.

“Stop!!” the sheriff yelled with his hand up as if halting traffic. “Stop right there! Don’t either of you say another word! You have no idea what you’re talking about! I am getting calls from all over town because everyone is arguing about who saw and talked to Sylvia last!!” the sheriff said loudly as if trying to convince himself this is actually happening.

“You two lovely ladies who are nearly inseparable, you even say the same things at the same time, for crying out loud, are just about to start punching each other! This is ridiculous!”

For the first time, Veronia and Vernita looked at each other with something other than venom, and their gaze dropped to the floor.

“Here’s the truth,” the sheriff said. “It appears that something terrible has happened to Sylvia Meisner. We don’t yet have any idea what that is, or how it happened. All we have is her smashed and burned car. And all this arguing around town isn’t helping bring her back. Everyone is acting like a bunch of brats thinking only of themselves, trying to make the story about them rather than actually trying to help Sylvia! Hannah and Shorty Cloverton were fighting over who was the last one to wait on Sylvia at the Ya’ll Sit Cafe! Shorty slammed the front door so hard the glass broke out and shattered all over the floor. Ira Thibbers was sitting near the door and a piece of glass hit him! He’s talking about suing Shorty! This is crazy!!” the sheriff hollered, visibly shaken.

I have lived in Maple Valley all my life, just like everyone else. I’ve never seen anything like this. Bad stuff has happened before, all right. Like the time a couple buddies put rocks on the railroad tracks and derailed the old steam engine that brings shoppers into town. Wow, that was bad. This is different. I live in a house three doors away from the Burthraps. Them arguing isn’t anything new, but what they’re fighting about is.

Sylvia has been missing for two weeks. Because her car is wrecked, everyone thinks she must have died. Maybe her car was stolen, whoever took it crashed and it burned. That doesn’t answer how the car ended up under three tower bridge. At this point, your guess is as good as mine.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 1

Sylvia Meisner has been missing for two weeks. She lives alone in Maple Valley. Alone, but not alone. As it is with so many small towns, everyone knows everyone in Maple Valley, and there are plenty of folks who make it their business to know the business of everyone else.

It is challenging enough living in a small town, but many of the residents are related in one way or another. Sylvia Meisner is in her mid-thirties. She’s never been married but she has enjoyed the company of several men over the years. Sylvia is the niece-in-law of Mayor Alvin Thrashborn. Alvin has been mayor since the thirty-seven full time residents of Maple Township voted to become a town and changed the name to Maple Valley. Thrashborn’s second wife, Gwendalyn, is the sister of Arleta Forner, who owned Forner’s Drugstore until it burned down fourteen years ago. Arleta is Sylvia’s mother.

There was talk around town that Alvin had a “thing” for Sylvia. Oh, no one ever saw anything, really, but Alvin did seem to brighten when Sylvia walked into a room. Everyone knows what that means. And in Maple Valley, everyone notices when someone brightens.

Sylvia is an artist of sorts. Many of the signs around Maple Valley were created by Sylvia. She has a small studio behind her house where she paints. Oddly enough, Sylvia makes signs for businesses that don’t exist. They are shops she believes should be real, so she paints signs for them. For example, “Tom’s Used Blenders & Other Interesting Items” was one of her first. There has never been a used blender store. Anywhere, ever. No one complains because the signs add color to the neighborhood.

For whatever reason, Sylvia is gone. No one has seen her for two weeks. There wasn’t any concern at first. In fact, it was several days before someone said, “Have you seen Sylvia lately?” When the answer was, “No, I haven’t, come to think of it” the phones started ringing. And, believe it or not, there is no cell service in Maple Valley, so it happens to be the only town within five hundred miles that still has telephones hanging on walls. They ring the old-fashioned way, obnoxiously loud.

Everyone continued about their daily activities but concern about Sylvia grew. Last Tuesday morning, something happened no one has been able to explain. Two people were walking along the tracks near three tower bridge and found a car. The car, or, what’s left of it, is smashed and burned. At this point, there are no answers. No one knows where it came from or how it got there. Monday night, nothing. Tuesday morning, a burned car.

It wasn’t until officials looked more closely someone said, “That looks like Sylvia Meisner’s car.”

Sure enough. After a quick search, the car was confirmed to be Sylvia’s. There was no sign of Sylvia. Nothing remained in the car except charred seats and a melted steering wheel.

The two who discovered the car, Tom Swagmon and Patty Philers were questioned almost as if they were suspects.

“How could we have moved the car there?!” Tom hollered at Sheriff Terkinberry.

“When was the last time you saw Sylvia Meisner?” asked the Sheriff.

“Pete!” (Terkinberry’s first name. He and Tom Swagmon were best friends in high school.) “It’s me! Pete! You idiot! We have no idea where Sylvia is!” That was the end of the questions.

Sylvia doesn’t have any family outside Maple Valley. She went to school here. She stayed here. The farthest distance she has ever travelled out of Maple Valley was to Hamshover, Missouri, where she attended the “Young High-Minded Individuals” national convention. No one ever thought of Sylvia as being high-minded, but evidently someone did. She was invited as a delegate.

Sheriff Terkinberry is suggesting a door-to-door search for Sylvia. Since no one has seen or heard from her in two weeks, it’s hard to imagine a search like that is going to do anything but make a lot of people uncomfortable. After all, it’s very hard to burn a vehicle in a small town without someone noticing, and no one did. The car was destroyed somewhere else and moved back to Maple Valley. But why would someone do that? Is it meant to convey a message? And where is Sylvia?

Maybe the answers are close by. Maybe not. If something happened to Sylvia, something terrible, we may never know. But that doesn’t dismiss us from the responsibility of finding out as much as we can.

The problem with Maple Valley, especially with troubling circumstances like this, is that folks are better at making things up and calling them facts than really finding the truth. These days, truth is tougher to uncover in Maple Valley.