A budding writer has just two problems that she needs to solve.
A story to write. And when to start.
Riana Marshall had been a fifth-grade teacher at Poplar Hills Elementary School. She had loved her job, in part because she liked to teach young children and see their expression when they suddenly understood something like long division. The other part was because she liked to watch her students. That always made her think about the time when she was a child. Sometimes it was obvious that one of them needed a hug. But that would be unwise in these day when everyone was overly cautious. So Riana was very careful to suppress that inclination, and had to remain satisfied talking to students and nothing more. Now she was retired, and had a plan to begin writing. “Maybe tomorrow,” she thought, smiling at an idea that might never come to fruition.
One day when she was gardening along the side of her house she heard a yellowjacket when it buzzed her. She jumped back; the last thing she wanted was to be stung by a yellowjacket! She watched it as it flew up under the eaves on the side of her house. Maybe it was that yellowjacket’s nest, the one that had just buzzed her. She watched it leave the nest and fly away.
“Goodness!” she thought. “That’s something I need to remove as soon as possible.”
The yellowjacket’s nest, nestled under the eaves, was about the size and shape of a ping-pong ball. She decided to talk to Peter, her next door neighbor, and ask his advice.
“You need to call an exterminator to come and get rid of it right away,” he said. “The yellowjackets might get into your attic through one of the vent holes; then it would be a bigger and more costly problem to eradicate them.”
Reina didn’t call an exterminator. She didn’t know any exterminators. She could have asked Peter, or looked in the Yellow Pages of her telephone book, or gone on Google to search for exterminators near where she lived. But she didn’t do any of those things. Instead she took her binoculars, went outside and, from a safe distance, watched the yellowjacket’s nest.
The nest was amazing. It was made up of a series of tiny hexagonal cells and appeared to be made of dark brown material, not unlike kraft paper but darker. She saw only one yellowjacket, busy moving from cell to cell. After a minute or so it would fly away, and later return. She watched every day, and after a week the nest had increased in size so it was about the size of a ball used for playing pool.
Riana finally decided she’d better do something about her yellowjackets. She went inside and checked on Google for “yellowjacket nest” and found that there were different kinds of nests and different kinds of yellowjackets. Some yellowjackets made their nests in the ground, some made their nests out of mud, and others made paper nests like the one under her eave.
The paper nests would usually be abandoned in cold weather, and then they could be knocked down without any possibility of being stung. In warm climates, like where she lived in Southern California, the nests were often occupied year-round and they could get much larger, even reaching the size of a football. Reina definitely didn’t want that to happen.
One of the Google articles said yellowjackets often would get into the crawl space under a house or the attic. She didn’t have a crawl space; her house was built on a concrete slab. But she did have an attic.
She wanted to avoid a major problem, so she decided to call an exterminator. They’d need to take down the nest under the eave, then go into her attic and check to see if there were any yellowjackets living there.
She phoned Peter.
“Hi, Peter. I decided to have my yellowjacket nest removed and have the attic checked to make sure none of them have gotten in there. Have you ever used an exterminator?”
“Yes, but not for yellowjackets. After I moved in I found that roof rats were living in my attic. I used Critter Eradicators to get rid of them. I think they exterminate yellowjackets and other bugs and animals, too. Would you like their phone number?”
He repeated the company name and gave her the phone number. “I hope they do as good a job on your yellowjackets as they did getting rid of my rats.”
“I’m going to call them right now. Thank you very much. Bye, Peter.”
“You’re welcome, Riana. Talk to you later. Bye.”
She phoned Critter Eradicators and explained her problem.
“Yes, ma’am, one of the things we specialize in is removing yellowjacket nests. We have one of our eradication specialists available tomorrow afternoon between one and four o’clock. The basic charge for a home visit is $75.00, and if all they have to do is remove a small yellowjacket nest from the outside of the house, then check the attic to make sure none had gotten in and started another nest, that would be covered by our basic charge.”
The next day at one o’clock in the afternoon Brian from Critter Exterminators called to confirm her appointment. He said that he would be there between one-fifteen and one-thirty. He arrived at one-fifteen on the dot. On the side of his truck, in addition to the company name, address, and phone number, there was a huge picture of a yellowjacket surrounded by a red circle that had a diagonal red line through it. Riana assumed their message was that Critter Exterminators would get rid of yellowjackets.
After Brian introduced himself, Riana thanked him for coming so promptly.
“You know, that picture of the yellowjacket on the side of your truck is so huge and detailed that it’s rather creepy,” she said.
Brian laughed. “Sort of ‘too much information,’ I guess. But it clearly shows what the flying insect division of our company does, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, I have to agree with that. So, you have different divisions based on what kind of critters you exterminate?”
“Yes, we’re the largest exterminating company in the area, and specialization, with experts in each division and handling client problems quickly and thoroughly, has made us successful.
“So, how about you show me where your yellowjacket nest is located?”
“Follow me,” she said, and she led him along the south side of her house. When she got about ten feet from where the nest was located she pointed. “It’s up there, under the eaves.”
“Okay. What I can do is spray that nest. But first I want to take a look in your attic to see if they are in there, too.”
“Why can’t you just spray this one first?” she asked.
“Yellowjackets can get in your attic through vent holes in the soffit. See up there, next to where the nest is located? There’s a group of three round vent holes. Inside the attic there’s supposed to be a wire mesh over the vent holes to keep bugs and other critters like rats or squirrels from getting into your attic. There are vent holes around your house in the soffit under the eaves. They let air circulate through your attic to help reduce heat and humidity in the house. If the mesh isn’t in place or has quarter-inch holes the yellowjackets can get through. Best is eighth-inch mesh. I’ll let you know what you have.
“Anyways, if I spray the nest outside and the poison gets into the attic and there’s a yellowjacket nest inside, some might be killed but the others’ll get real agitated and it’ll make the job getting rid of them much harder and it’ll take longer which means it will cost you more to have it removed. What I’ll do if there’s a nest inside is to figure out what to spray, and if I have a long enough hose to get it in up there. Where’s the access into your attic?”
“It’s in the laundry room which is off the kitchen, and there’s also a door from the laundry room to the backyard. There’s a ladder that comes down when you pull a rope. Then it should be easy to climb up inside. There’s a light you can turn on to see inside the attic.” Then she quickly added, “But I don’t know if the bulb is working. I’ve never gone up into the attic.”
“No problem. I won’t use the light anyways. A light like that’ll irritate the yellowjackets and let them see me. I have a special red flashlight that lets me see them but keeps them from seeing me. They can’t see in red light.”
She led him around to the backyard and to the outside door to the laundry room. It was a long way from where Brian’s truck was parked in her driveway.
“Here it is,” she said. “The rope to pull down the ladder is right there.”
The end of the rope was twisted around a large cleat on the wall. Brian untwisted the rope and pulled it downward. The ladder, which was more like a set of portable stairs hinged at the top, swung down and when the bottom of the ladder touched the floor he twisted the rope around the cleat.
Riana found it interesting that he put on a mask and gloves similar to what beekeepers wore.
“Will that keep the yellowjackets from stinging you?” she asked.
“Yeah, it does a pretty good job,” he replied. “Usually they don’t bother me. But it’s best to be careful.”
He pulled out what looked like a large lantern-style flashlight and pointed it at the wall. Riana saw a bright red glow. “This keeps them from seeing me,” he reminded her. He climbed the ladder and disappeared into the attic.
Riana heard him softly rustling around overhead. She hoped he wouldn’t find anything. After about five minutes she heard him returning to the attic access, and then he came down the ladder, feet first.
“I’ve got bad news,” he said as he lifted the bottom of the ladder and held the rope as it raised back into the ceiling, closing a built-in cover over the attic access hole. He twisted the end of the rope around the cord cleat. “The nest is three feet by two feet and is about a foot tall,” Brian explained. “That big a nest probably has over a hundred-thousand yellowjackets.”
Riana was shocked. “Oh, my! Can you remove it?”
“Yes. First we spray the nest with two different chemicals that will kill almost all of the yellowjackets. We don’t just spray the outside; we insert the nozzle into the nest and inject the chemical to make sure we kill most of them. However, I don’t have a hose long enough to reach from my truck to the inside of your attic where the nest is located. I’ll have to go back to our warehouse and get what I need and return later this afternoon. I’ll also need to bring another of our guys with me. For sure, this is a two-man job.”
“Goodness!” Riana said. “Can the yellowjackets get out of the attic and into the house? Am I in danger of being stung? How long will it take you to remove them? How much is it going to cost?”
“I don’t think they’ll be able to get into the house. We check your heating ducts to make sure they haven’t chewed their way into them. But, if they had, you’d have known about it if they came through the vents into your house. When we spray some yellowjackets may escape to the outside through some of the vent holes in the soffit. But we’ll seal those with new wire mesh so they won’t be able to get back into the attic.”
“How could those little yellowjackets eat through the wire mesh that’s over the vent holes?” she asked.
“They can’t. Most likely it was the roof rats and squirrels that chewed through the mesh and got into the attic. Then they got stung and died. There are lots of bones up there that shows that this has been going on for a long time. And then the yellowjackets could get in and out of your attic because the screen was gone from one or more of the vent holes.”
“How do you get rid of the yellowjackets that are inside the attic?” she asked.
The chemical I’ll use knocks ’em out. They sort of go to sleep. Then we spray poison in the nest in case there are some that didn’t go to sleep and to keep the ones that did from ever waking up. We wait about a half hour then go in and remove and bag the nest. Once we seal the bag we’ll take it out. You’ll need to keep the door between your kitchen and the laundry room closed. Then we’ll remove that little nest on the outside.”
“How long will all of this take?”
“Two to three hours.”
“Goodness! That sounds like a very long time.”
“We do more than just remove the nest. After we remove the nest we put new wire mesh on the inside of all of your vent holes, all the way around your attic. We’ll also clean up the bones and fur and whatever that’s left of the rats and squirrels and other critters that got into your attic. Then we’ll vacuum to clean up any dead yellowjackets and any other bugs that we find up there.”
“How much is this going to cost me?”
“It’s $45.00 per man for each hour. Figure $90.00 times three hours, and that’s $270.00, plus the $75.00 basic house call fee, than that’s gonna be $345.00. It could take a little less time, so it might cost a little less. And so on.”
Riana knew that the ‘And so on’ meant it could also take longer and cost more. “Do you bill by the hour or fraction of the hour?”
“By the half-hour, ma’am. We round down at less than fifteen minutes, so if we’re here two hours and ten minutes we charge for two hours, not two and a half.”
“Well, I certainly wasn’t planning on anything like this. But it has to be done. I certainly don’t want to be stung by yellowjackets or have them living in my attic any longer. Can I pay by credit card?”
“Yes, ma’am. We take MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express.”
Brian spent some time keying into a tablet. “Do you have an email address?” he asked. She told him and he keyed that into the tablet as well.
He put the tablet on the top of the clothes dryer, and handed her a stylus.
“Okay, if you’ll read and sign this work agreement. It has our rates and describes what we’re going to do. A copy with your signature will be emailed to you today. Let me know if you have any questions.”
Riana did read the agreement. It was straightforward and stated in written form what Brian had told her, but with a lot more detail.
“How do I sign?” she asked, looking at the stylus. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“This stylus is like a ballpoint pen. Just sign in this box here.” He pointed to the signature block. She signed, and while it was like using a ballpoint pen it wasn’t as easy because unlike paper the surface of the tablet was slippery. She handed him the tablet and stylus.
“I’m going to our warehouse to get the equipment and chemicals we need. I’ll return with another specialist to help me.”
Brian left and Riana decided to go next door and tell Peter about her yellowjacket problem. He seemed quite interested.
“I think I should have them come and check my attic,” Peter said.
“Maybe if they do it while they’re at my house, do you think they’ll give us both a discount?” Riana asked.
Peter chuckled. “I don’t think it works that way,”
“That’s what I figured,” Riana agreed.
At ten minutes after two Brian from Critter Exterminators called to tell her that he and Emilio were on their way and should arrive in about ten minutes. She watched from her living room and at twenty after two the truck backed into her driveway. Brian and an even younger looking very thin Hispanic man got out of the truck, and Brian rang her doorbell.
“Hi, Mrs. Marshall. This is Emilio Franco who will be helping me with the spraying and the yellowjacket nest removal. I recommend that you leave while we’re spraying your attic. Is there a neighbor where you can go for about an hour or so?”
“Yes, my next-door neighbor Peter is home. I can go to his house. Is this spray you’re using harmful?”
“No, but both sprays we use have a mild sweet scent that some people dislike. Others prefer to remain in their house for security reasons.”
Riana wondered about security reasons for a moment, then realized Brian meant securing her possessions.
“I can lock the door between the laundry room and the kitchen, then leave by the front door,” she said. “You won’t need access to the rest of the house, will you?”
“Will this scent dissipate quickly?” she asked.
“Yes. When you return there might be a slight scent left. You can open your windows and within a half-hour you shouldn’t notice anything. We’ll keep your outside laundry door opened and use a big fan to circulate air through the attic. That will help dispel the scent.”
She locked the door between the kitchen and laundry room and exited the house through the front door, which she then locked.
When she went out front she saw the hose they were bringing along the side of her house to the backyard. It was interesting. There were three hoses, strapped together about every foot or so. Brian explained that one hose was for the chemical that would put the yellowjackets to sleep, another was for the poison that would kill the yellowjackets in the nest, and the large hose was connected to the vacuum they would use for cleanup.
Riana and Peter sat on his porch watching the activity at the truck. Emilio was using a walkie-talkie to communicate with Brian who, she assumed, was in the attic. There was a large tank on the truck bed and Emilio adjusted a valve where one of the hoses connected to the tank. Then he stood there watching a gauge; basically, he was doing nothing.
“That guy’s job looks rather boring, doesn’t it,” Peter commented.
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Riana responded. “The exciting part is in my attic. We don’t want to go up there!” she chuckled. Then they saw Emilio walk around the house to the back. “I suppose he’s going up to help with the job,” she said. “So now there’s even less to see.”
“I agree. Let’s go inside and I’ll make some coffee and we can talk until they let you know that they’re finished.”
“That’s a good idea. I could use some coffee about now.”
They talked about what Brian had told Riana — what they would do to kill the yellowjackets and remove the nest, that they found rat and squirrel bones in her attic, and how much doing everything would cost.
“I’d sure like to see that huge yellowjacket nest,” Peter said.
“We can ask Brian to show it to us. Assuming there aren’t any yellowjackets that are waking up!”
The agreed that yellowjackets angry about having their nest removed from Riana’s attic would be something to avoid.
It actually took over two hours for the removal process to be completed and for Brian to knock on Peter’s front door.
“We’ve removed the nest,” Brian said. “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”
“Can we see it?” Peter asked.
“We bagged it, and there still could be some live yellowjackets in there now. But you can see the bag which is wrapped around the nest. That will give you a good idea about the size.”
They walked to the back of the truck. There was what looked like a large, heavy-duty fifty-gallon trash bag. Both Riana and Peter were impressed, and they commented about the size.
“I have two peach trees in my back yard,” Peter said. “I always saw yellowjackets around the fruit. I put up traps and they caught a few, but they kept eating my fruit. So I bought one of those things they advertise on late-night TV that puts out a high-pitched sound that we can’t hear but apparently the yellowjackets can, and that seemed to keep them away.”
“You won’t have to worry about them anymore,” Brian said.
“Did you remove that little nest under the eaves?” Riana asked.
“Yes, we did. Now we’re going to clean up the attic. We’ll bag the bones and any carcasses, and vacuum the area around where the nest was located. Then we’ll put new wire mesh on the inside of all vent holes. The mesh we use is very strong, is in a metal frame that’s screwed over each of the vents on the inside of the soffit, and will not only keep yellowjackets out but will also keep rats and squirrels and other small animals from getting into your attic.”
“Can a rat or a squirrel really get in through such a small hole?” Peter asked.
“Yes, they can,” Brian replied. “The holes look smaller from down here than they are when you see them up close. Squirrels get into small holes in trees by gnawing into them. They do the same thing with a vent hole. That’s why we use a premium heavy-duty mesh that they can’t chew through.”
“Oh, my, this is certainly more complicated than I ever thought it would be,” Riana said. “Can I return to my house now?”
“I suggest you wait until we finish cleaning out the attic. It’s going to be rather noisy with us crawling around up there. I’ll leave the back door to your laundry room open and our fan running, and there won’t be much of a chemical scent left by the time we’re finished.”
“Alright. You can come to Peter’s house to let me know when you’re finished. I’ll use my credit card to pay you.”
“No problem. It’ll probably be another forty-five minutes or so.”
Riana and Peter returned to his house. “I watch the four o’clock news,” he said. “That way I get most of the news of the day and I can watch movies or other programs later in the evening. Is that alright with you?”
“Yes, that’s fine. Thank you for letting me visit while they are in my attic.”
“You can reciprocate when I’m having them check my attic.”
The went into Peter’s family room and watched the news. He was a little hard of hearing, so he had the volume turned up higher than the level Riana was used to.
About an hour later they heard Peter’s doorbell followed by loud knocking at his front door.
“That must be your exterminator,” Peter told Riana. They went to the front door. It wasn’t Brian. It was two policemen.
“Are you Mrs. Riana Marshall?” one of the policemen asked her.
“Yes, that’s me. Is there a problem?”
“I’m Sargent Fred Mosley and this is Officer James Vincent. Would you please come with us to your backyard?”
“Of course,” she replied. “Can my neighbor come with me?”
“Oh!” Riana was worried. The police! Was she in trouble? Had Brian or Emilio been injured in the attic?
One policeman led her to her backyard; the other policeman followed her. When they got to the backyard there was a large tarp laid out on the lawn. On the tarp there were bones, mostly small bones, probably from rats or squirrels. But there were larger bones, too.
“Mrs. Marshall, the exterminator found these bones in your attic. These smaller bones on this side are probably from rodents that got into your attic. These other bones appear to be from the bodies of two young children. There are rib bones, pieces of spines, broken pieces of two skulls, and bones from arms and legs. There are pieces of partially decomposed cloth and two child-sized backpacks. Did you know these bodies were in your attic?”
“Oh, my, no!”
“It’s possible that these remains are from two young boys who went missing near here some years ago. Do you know anything about that?”
“Certainly not! I’ve never heard anything about two boys who went missing.”
“We may ask you to accompany us to the police station to be interviewed.”
“I’m going to call my attorney and have him present since you’re asking me questions about something I don’t know anything about. And I won’t go anywhere with you until he advises me about what to do.”
“Your house and yard are now considered a possible crime scene. You cannot enter or remove anything from your house or yard.”
“I need my purse and wallet. I need to pay the exterminator for removing a yellowjacket nest,” Riana told the officer. “I also need my cellphone so I can call my attorney.”
“Officer Knowles will accompany you when you retrieve those items. He will have to inspect the contents of your purse. Do you have any guns or other weapons in your purse or in your house?”
“I don’t have any weapons. I will need to go to the bathroom,” she said.
“Officer Knowles will check the contents of the bathroom drawers and cabinets first. Then he’ll wait for you outside the bathroom. You won’t be allowed to bring your purse into the bathroom.”
When she returned to the backyard Brian was waiting for her. He showed her his tablet with the amount, $345.00. She gave him her credit card and he entered the information. It was accepted, and she signed with the stylus where he indicated on the screen. He seemed embarrassed, and left without saying anything more than “Goodbye.”
“I’m going to call my attorney now,” she said. She stepped away from the officers and dialed Mr. Dinwiddie’s office. She was connected to him by the receptionist.
“Riana! How are you? What can I do for you today?”
“Roger, I’m in trouble. The police are here. I was having a yellowjacket nest removed from my attic. Apparently they also found the bones of two young children in the attic. They policeman said they might be from two boys that went missing years ago. They wanted to know if I knew anything about that. Of course, I said I didn’t know about any missing boys and that’s because I don’t know about anything like that. I also told them that I wanted my attorney present if they want to ask me any other questions. He also said they want to interview me at the police station.”
“Do not go with the officers to the police station. I’ll meet you at your home, and we can decide what to do. In the meantime, don’t say anything to them other than you’re waiting until I arrive. Then we’ll decide if the two of us will go to the police station for an interview where I’ll be able to tell you which questions you can answer and which you shouldn’t answer.”
“Do you think they’ll arrest me?”
“There’s no reason to do that. They’d have to issue an arrest warrant, and there’s no basis for that.”
“How do you think this is going to turn out?”
“Unfortunately, all we can do is wait until the district attorney decides what they want to do. If this is based on bones in your attic, it will take them a long time to identify them and decide if it was the boys that disappeared years ago.”
“Anyway, wait until I get there. I’ll leave in a bit and should be there by five-thirty.
“Alright, Roger. I’ll see you then. Thank you in advance.”
“You’re welcome, Riana. Stay inside your house, okay?”
“They told me I couldn’t be in my house, that it’s a crime scene. I needed to get my purse and my cellphone, and they said a policeman had to accompany me. He even searched my purse and the bathroom drawers and cabinet before they’d let me use it.”
“That search was illegal. What he said about a crime scene is nonsense. They have no evidence that there was a crime. They have no evidence you had anything to do with any bones found in your attic. Your house is over fifteen years old, and the bones could have been there for years, and must have been there when you bought the house twelve years ago. You tell them that your attorney said you can go into your house at any time and without any policeman accompanying you. You tell them that if you are wanted for an interview, they’ll have to arrange that through me. You can give them my office phone number. I’ll hold while you do that. If necessary, I’ll talk to the lead officer. What’s his name?”
“Sargent Mosley. I forgot his first name.”
“I won’t need his first name. Now, you go tell them what I told you. You cannot be prevented from going into your home at any time, and they cannot insist that you have a police escort. The search of your bathroom and purse were illegal. You’re not going to answer any other questions without your attorney being present. If they want to interview you they need to call me to arrange that. Alright?”
“Yes. I understand.”
She walked over to Sargent Mosley and waved her cellphone.
“I have my attorney, Roger Dinwiddie, on my cellphone.” She then proceeded to tell him what Roger had told her.
“I’m going to have to check with my Lieutenant,” Sargent Mosley told her. “I’ll do that from my squad car. Please wait here, Mrs. Marshall.”
“Did you hear that, Roger?”
“Yes. I’m leaving for your house now. I should be there in about a half-hour. Call me immediately if there is anything that happens counter to how I instructed you.”
“Alright. I’ll see you soon.”
It took about ten minutes, and when Sargent Mosley returned he had different information than what he’d told her before.
“We’re going to bag and mark and take all of the bones. We’re going to put a seal on the entrance to your attic. Neither you and anyone else is allowed to go into your attic until we come to remove the seal. Do you understand?”
“Yes. I have no reason to go into my attic. In fact, I’ve never been in my attic. I assume I can go anywhere else in my house?”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ll call you when we want you to come to the police station to be interviewed. I’ll need your telephone number.”
“If you want to interview me you’ll have to arrange that through my attorney so he can be there with me. He’s on his way here, now. If you want to talk to him, he should be here in about a half-hour.”
“It won’t be necessary for me to speak to him. I’d like his phone number and yours as well.”
She gave them her cellphone number and Roger’s name and office number.
“Thank you. We’ll bag the bones and leave when we’re finished.”
She went inside and sat down. This was all so awful. The bones of dead boys in her attic! Good grief!
She called Roger and left a voicemail message.
“Roger, this is Riana. The police are taking the bones and then they’re going to leave. They said I could go in the house but not in my attic. They put that police tape and a tag with writing on it on the ceiling access to the attic. He said they’d call me about going in for an interview, but I told them they’d have to arrange it through you, and I gave them your phone number and cellphone number.”
Twenty minutes later Roger arrived, and Riana let him in.
“I’m so glad you’re here. I don’t know what’s going on or what I need to do.”
“I listened to your voicemail message. You did exactly what I advised.”
“What should I do now?”
“Nothing. Just go on with your life as usual.”
“Can I explain what happened to Peter, my next-door neighbor?”
“Yes. I don’t see why not. How long has he lived there?”
“He moved here just two years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Cummings lived there before that. They were a very nice couple I think they bought the house when it was brand new.”
“Well, I’m going to call my assistant and see what she found out about the bones of two boys in your attic.”
Roger stepped into the kitchen and spent about ten minutes talking with his assistant. Riana didn’t try to overhear his side of the conversation. Then he returned to the living room where Riana sat nervously waiting for him.
“Here’s what Sharon found out. Two little second grade boys, not from your school, disappeared in 1999. A teacher at their school was accused of “improper touching” and was under suspicion of having done something to the boys. She lost her job, even though she was never charged. Of course, she denied everything. She eventually moved away; the rumor was she moved to Australia. Despite their efforts the police couldn’t find any evidence about who might have abducted the two little boys, or even that they had been abducted. There were no clues. No bodies had been found. However, the district attorney announced that the case would remain open so it wouldn’t end up in the cold case files. I was told that since the case was never closed it could end up involving you even though you had nothing to do with it. I’ll let you know if I find out anything else.”
A week and a half later Roger Dinwiddie called Riana with some interesting information.
“I did some sleuthing with the assistance of a private investigator I’ve worked with in the past and is very thorough.
“He discovered that your house had been owned by a second-grade teacher. Her name is Linda Andreasen. She was the original purchaser of the house shortly after the homes in your neighborhood were completed. Later she was accused of abducting two second-grade boys. The boys were never found. She was never charged because there was no evidence, but she lost her job anyway. She moved to Australia where she has relatives and is living there.
“When she left the house was sold to Jeffery and Karen Fletcher who sold it to you. They might or might not have known about Linda Andreasen, but if they did know they weren’t required to disclose that information.”
“Well, what I can tell you,” Riana said, “is that the house was a steal at the asking price. Karen had cancer and they moved somewhere back east for her treatments. So their reason for selling had nothing to do with the fact that Linda Andreasen lived here years ago. That she had lived here shouldn’t affect me, either.”
“No it shouldn’t, and it won’t. I’ve passed the information we discovered to John Phelps, the Assistant District Attorney assigned to this case.”
“So, what should I do?”
“Try to return to the life that you’ve been living, and just forget all of this situation.”
“I’m not sure that’s possible. But I’ll try.”
Riana tended to clean the house when she was troubled, which was seldom but, like most people her age, there were things that did trouble her. That including finding out that her grandson Ryan had just told his parents that he is gay.
“Gay!” she said when her daughter Barbara called her with the news. “Oh, my. Ryan’s only fifteen and unless things have changed dramatically since I was teaching, boys who are gay have a difficult time if their peers find out.”
As they continued to discuss what Riana felt was a significant problem, it bothered her that Barbara and Jeff, her son-in-law, didn’t seem to be concerned about Ryan’s announcement.
“Mom, things have changed in high schools these days. Ryan says he’s only heard support from his friends and there hasn’t been any anti-gay bullying,” Barbara told her.
“Well, I hope you’re right. I know you’ll be watching him carefully to make sure he doesn’t encounter any problems at school.”
“I will, Mom. You know that.”
They finished the call, and after it ended Riana realized she hadn’t told Barbara and Jeff anything about her problems with the yellowjacket nest and the boys’ bones that had been found in her attic.
“Well,” she thought, “there’s no use bothering them with my problems right now. It’s probably better if they can continue to focus on Ryan.”
So, she started cleaning. Riana was a fastidious housekeeper, and even though she’d lived in this house for twelve years it still didn’t need a deep cleaning because she cleaned it every week, even the rooms she didn’t use. The one thing that she hadn’t spent time cleaning was the garage. The only thing there, other than her car and garden tools, was a deep workbench along the back wall with cabinets underneath that had things left over from when this had been the builder’s office during construction.
“Okay,” she thought, “time to get to these cabinets and clean out the stuff the builder left behind.”
The first cabinet was one that she’d checked into before. It had extra floor tiles. That was good because if one or more of the tiles in her kitchen or bathrooms was cracked or chipped she had the replacements at hand. “Time to pull these tiles out and see how many there are,” she thought.
The boxes of tiles were very heavy. She had to be careful pulling them out of the cabinet. Fortunately, all of the cabinets were at floor level except for about a one-inch drop to the concrete garage floor. She decided to remove and stack tiles until the box was light enough for her to pull out.
After that was done, she peeked inside the cabinet to see what else was there. She saw a plastic bag that contained some sort of powder. It was heavy, but she was able to pull it out. Even though it was unlabeled, she decided it had something to do with the tile because the color was similar to the grout in her kitchen and bathrooms.
Now she’d have to get down on her hands and knees to get what was at the back of the cabinet, so she went into the house and brought out an old beach towel that she could fold up to kneel on. She also brought a flashlight so she could see what was there.
“What’s that?” she wondered. At the back of the cabinet there was a wire cage like you’d use to transport a small animal, like a kitten or a hamster or something like that. She reached in and started removing it but it caught on something. It was lightweight so she lifted it and was able to pull it out. It was empty.
She turned on the flashlight to illuminate the inside of the cabinet. There might be something left, maybe what the cage caught on that prevented it from sliding out.
“What is that?” she mumbled out loud. It was something wrapped in cloth. She grabbed the edge of the fabric and pulled it out. That action caused it to open and the contents were dumped on the garage floor. She almost fell back trying to get away from what she found.
It was a collection of large knives, a hacksaw, and a metal hammer. All of these tools looked like they were covered in dried blood. She immediately realized what she’d uncovered. These must be the weapons that the killer had used to murder those two little boys!
She shined the flashlight inside the cabinet. There was something else at the back. It looked like a man’s wallet. She decided to leave it where it was. She certainly didn’t want to touch it and leave her fingerprints on it. The same with the weapons; she hadn’t touched them, just the edge of the heavy rag they’d been wrapped in.
She got up and brushed herself off, then went into the house. She got her cellphone and called Roger Dinwiddie’s office.
“Hello, Riana. What can I do for you today?”
“Roger, I decided to clean out some stuff in the garage that had been there when I moved in. I found some things that I think could be connected to the killing of those two boys. Can you come here now, or as soon as possible?”
“What did you find?”
She described the wire cage, the tools that were covered in blood and the rag in which they were wrapped, and the wallet.
“Did you touch any of these items?”
“No, only the wire cage and the edge of the large rag the tools were in. I didn’t touch them or the wallet which seems stuck to the bottom of the cabinet.”
“Don’t touch anything. Get out of there, go into the house, leaving everything exactly as it is right now. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
She went into the living room and sat down to wait for Roger.
When Roger arrived she took him into the garage and told him why she decided to do some cleaning, and the only things that needed cleaning were the cabinets under the workbench. She described pulling out the floor tiles, stacking some on the floor; the bag of grout powder; the cage which she used her hands to pull out; and the rag containing the tools that she had grabbed by it’s edge.
He looked at everything but didn’t touch any of it. Then he nodded. “The cage won’t be a problem. It’s made of wire and there’s no chance of fingerprints being left on it by you or anyone else. The rag you grabbed won’t be an issue, either. Let’s return to your living room and I’m going to call the police, Sargent Fred Mosley to be specific.”
“I dislike him,” Riana said.
“Ignore that. This is his case, so he’s the one to talk to. When they get here we’ll take him into the garage and show him what you found. Let me answer his questions. If I need you to say something, I’ll describe what I want you to say. Don’t elaborate, just provide the information I’ve asked you to tell me and Sergeant Mosley.”
Roger Dinwiddie placed the call and was connected to Sargent Mosley.
“Sargent Mosley, Riana Marshall was cleaning out a cabinet in her garage that she’d never bothered with since she moved in because it seemed to have nothing other than additional tiles for the kitchen and bathrooms. But she decided to move them and found some other items. There’s a bag of grout powder, a wire cage for some sort of small animal, and a large heavy cloth. The cloth contains knives, a hacksaw, and a metal hammer. On all of them there is what could be dried blood. She didn’t touch any of them. There is also a wallet or something similar that’s still in the cabinet that she didn’t touch or remove.”
There was a long pause, and Sargent Mosley finally responded. “She didn’t touch any of these items?”
“Only the wire cage and the edge of the cloth that contained the tools, a box of tiles, some of the individual tiles, and a bag containing powered grout.”
“Where are you and Mrs. Marshall now?”
“In her living room.”
“Can you wait there for me? I’ll be there in about five minutes.”
“Yes, we’ll wait.”
The meeting with Sargent Mosley was very different than what Riana had experienced a couple weeks earlier. After viewing the weapons and looking in the cabinet at the wallet — but not removing it — he thanked her for her cooperation and agreed that it was possible that the tools were the weapons used to murder the two boys.
“I’m going to call the crime scene staff to come in and remove these items, including the wire cage, and find a way to remove the wallet without destroying it.”
He placed the call.
“They will be here in about a half-hour from now. I’m going to my office now and will return when they let me know they are on their way to your house. You’ll need to stay out of the garage until we arrive. Is that acceptable?”
Roger nodded, and Riana responded, “Yes, that’s fine. I’ll be here the rest of this afternoon.”
Sargent Mosley left. Roger Dinwiddie did as well, after assuring Riana that there wouldn’t be any problem with the crime scene staff.
The items were collected, bagged, and tagged by the crime scene staff, including the wallet which was stuck to the bottom of the cabinet by dried blood and had to be carefully pried loose; that alone took about a half hour. They also took pictures of the cabinet (prior to and following removal of the wallet), the wire cage, and the weapons. The box of tiles, the individual tiles, and the bag of grout powder didn’t show any blood residue. They left those items but took everything else including the wire cage.
Two weeks later Riana received a call from John Phelps, the Assistant District Attorney. He told her that he’d like to send one of his assistants to take her statement about how and why she removed the items from the cabinet. If she wanted her attorney to be present, that was fine. They would like to do it the next day, at three o’clock in the afternoon. They expected it would take less than fifteen minutes.
Roger Dinwiddie was present, and the questions were simple and straightforward. Why did she decide to remove things from that cabinet? How did she remove the items? What did she do when the rag opened and the knives, hacksaw, and hammer were visible? How did she know the wallet was in the cabinet? What did she touch? Why didn’t she touch any of the weapons? Why didn’t she try to remove the wallet from the cabinet?
That was it.
Almost six months later Riana learned, through John Phelps, that they were able to determine that the saw had been used to cut up the boys based on marks on the bones that matched the teeth on the saw. The wallet had the driver’s license, credit cards, a medical card with a social security number, and items with fingerprints of an individual. There were fingerprints on some of the bones that matched the fingerprints on items in the wallet.
Now that the murderer had been identified, he was arrested. According to news reports he didn’t have a criminal history in California but a national search using his fingerprints discovered that he had a record as a pedophile in Louisiana and Alabama in the 1980’s.
Riana was surprised and pleased to read that Linda Andreasen, the school teacher who’d been the original purchaser of the house, hadn’t been involved in the murder.
Riana sat on Peter’s front porch. They were talking about how the case of the two little boys who’d been missing for all those years had been solved.
“It was because of a yellowjacket,” Peter said. “Who would have ever guessed that!”
“I know. I’m almost sad that the yellowjackets and their nest were destroyed when they were initially responsible for solving the murder of those poor little boys. They never got any credit. And it ended up costing me $345. But it turned out to be money very well spent. I should write a story about it!”
She sat there, watching the sunset, and decided that it was about time she put her plan into action. Now she had a story to tell. A very interesting story. A murder mystery. Yes, that is definitely what she would do. Starting the next day.
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This story and the included images are Copyright © 2018 by Colin Kelly (colinian). The story and included images cannot be reproduced without express written consent.
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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise