Crime Fiction Mystery

This story contains sensitive content

Swearing and sensitive sexual subject matter.


There was only darkness on the other side of the door and my fingers felt instinctively for a light switch on a wall just inside the doorway. Panic racked my body because I sensed beforehand that the light would not work no matter how much I flipped the switch on and off.

It was a few months ago that I awoke before dawn from a nightmare that shook me to the core and was the impetus for a journey that for me was ten years in the making.

In the dream, the night was moonless, and the suffocating stillness

terrified me as I walked alone down a dirt road surrounded on each side by tall trees.

When I came to a dead-end I saw a farmhouse a few yards from where I stood.

I found myself banging frantically on the door of the house and yelling,

“Déjame entrar, déjame entrar!” (let me in, let me in) Mi hermana (my sister ) is in there!”

Before I could enter, my phone’s loud ringtone jolted me awake. By the time I stumbled still half asleep to my backpack and found my phone a banner appeared on the locked screen that read ‘Missed Call’ and another flagged my attention to a voicemail message

The morning was unusually cold for the end of September in Tucson Arizona and like my mother, I am very partial to warm weather. So I didn’t think much of it after listening to the message on the voicemail that I was shivering.

The message was short and muffled as though the caller, a woman, was afraid of being overheard.

“I know where Georgianna is,”

was all that she said.

Ten years ago I gave Georgianna a sisterly hug and whispered,

“Ve con dios,” (go with God)

before she evaporated into the dusk after having visited our parent's home in Tucson. 

A visit that felt out of sync from the start because the grandchildren were absent from their mother’s side.

Georgiana never returned to her husband Teddy and his family’s farm in Maine or their two children. 

My college finals were approaching and I was about to graduate with a four-year bachelor’s degree in crime scene investigation (CSI). 

At the time I was moonlighting as an attendant at the Tucson medical examiner’s office in the morgue. Cringe-worthy work but extremely interesting and helpful with my CSI courses

I considered myself very lucky to have a job waiting for me with the FBI field office in Tucson in their crime lab. 

My parents moved to Florida after Georgiana went missing and I’ve had little to no contact with them.

Grief either brings a family together or drives a wedge between them. In this instance, it was more like a huge boulder driving us apart. We seemed to remind one another too much of what we'd lost

A private jet that I’d chartered waited to depart at the airport.

An extravagance I would be paying off for quite a while. However, it was more seamless than taking a commercial airline because of the limited amount of time I had to be away.

The destination was Millinocket Airport, 

approximately thirty minutes from Patten, Maine, and the Martin Farm. I hoped to uncover something relevant to my sister vanishing

When I exited the plane,

“Ay dios mío,” (Oh my God)

I said—surprised.

Mountains framed the landscape, and the sunlight lit the fall foliage on fire

My feet stepped to the pavement and the scent of burning wood and cinnamon mixed with Apple cider floated around me in the crisp air while dry leaves swirled at my feet. 

It struck me that I knew very little about my sister’s life in this picturesque community. I decided to stay a couple of days and do some snooping around.

An online search on my iPad showed where the local public government center was located and I expanded the search to find a B&B in the general vicinity.

It was a mystery to me why people flocked to what I viewed as primarily old houses tucked away in small towns peppered with antique shops. Besides a place to sleep and a homemade breakfast, what was the appeal?

Since I did need a place to stay, this was an opportune time to find out what I was missing. Fortunately, there was a vacancy due to a canceled reservation at a nearby bed and breakfast not far from the county’s records office.

On its website, the Bradford House Farm and B&B’s profile described it as a charming country inn. From the road, I thought it looked like just another farm. Charming wasn't in my usual vocabulary, but there was no denying its charm as I parked the rental and went to check in.

The county records search showed that Georgianna married Theodore Martin in a civil ceremony at the courthouse sixteen years ago that the family wasn’t invited to.   

My mother in particular found anywhere north of Phoenix too cold for her delicate constitution and my dad went along with whatever she wanted.

Georgianna met Teddy at a rehab center where she worked as a licensed physical and vocational therapist. 

Their children were born a year apart and now they were teenagers.

According to articles in the online newspaper archives, Teddy was nineteen when he was severely injured in a car accident. He survived as did a middle brother but his parents and a younger brother were killed.

Teddy inherited the eight-hundred-acre farm from his father’s side of the family.

Instead of being honest about her husband's condition my sister always made up excuses for why he didn't accompany her and the children on their visits to the family in Tucson.

I remembered Georgianna telling Mom and Dad,

“It was planting season, harvest time, or the barn needs painting.”

Whatever the excuse she gave, our parents accepted it without question, and never once did they travel to Maine.

The next morning I stopped at a gas station that also served as a grocery store and restaurant.

A lady at the cash register, with a name tag that said, 'KATIE' in all capital letters smiled broadly when I greeted her,

“Buenos dias, soy Gretchen Johnson, (good morning, I’m Gretchen Johnson) Georgiana Martin’s sister.”

I could see she was a little confused. I’m 5’2 with blonde hair and hazel eyes. Georgiana was tall like my father who is a full-blooded Norwegian. However, she resembled my mother otherwise. Mom is petite and of Tejano descent with black hair and nearly black eyes that she shared with my sister. 

Katie informed me that no one had lived on the Martin farm since Georgianna disappeared.

She didn't know much about my niece Darby or her brother Zane. It had been years since she’d seen them.

Teddy’s aunt took the kids to live with her in Boston after my sister went missing.

“I’ve heard rumors that she told the little bubs that their dad died. The truth was he wasn't prepared to be a single parent.” 

Katie said sadly.

My parents considered taking their grandchildren, but it seemed best to them not to pursue it. 

Teddy moved to an assisted living residence shortly after the kids went with his aunt. The last she’d heard he wanted to sell the farm. Then two months ago he died unexpectedly.

The clerk lowered her voice,

“Annette Bennett, his aunt, resented Teddy because her mother and father, Teddy’s fraternal grandparents, left the farm to him. They disapproved of her late husband’s illegal business dealings and chose not to leave the farm to them.”

Authorities had questions in connection with his sudden death but it was ruled to be from natural causes.

The middle Martin brother and an investigator in the LA District Attorney's office were in town to attend a belated memorial service earlier in the week for Teddy. According to Katie, they had talked on several occasions regarding the farm and his family.

The middle-aged clerk disclosed that Georgianna was very lonely. Eventually, Teddy was permanently confined to a wheelchair and that didn't help matters.

As a result, Georgianna and Katie bonded over daily coffee clutches at the gas station’s restaurant—truck stop.

It was evident that there was more between them than a stale cup of coffee

The winding roads through the farmland of Northeastern Maine were blessed with the most beautiful Autumn palette that I’d seen yet.

Most of the fields were plowed under with a few dried stocks of corn here and there, left to be turned under in the spring.

The gate was chained and there was a warning sign nailed to it that said, 


The farmhouse was visible at the far end of what appeared to be a long driveway.

Shutters hung by a nail, and others were missing altogether. Strips of peeling paint fluttered in the cool breeze.

The only beauty was the backdrop of fall hues splashed against a mountain range skirted by thin, low, hanging clouds.

From my vantage point, the house seemed very familiar.

It was then that I realized it was the farmhouse in

my recent nightmare. Now, I was

seeing it in a solid form with colors and textures that are lost in dreams.

Just then a car pulled in behind me at the gate. An incredibly good-looking man got out.

When he got closer I could see 

he bore a strong resemblance to pictures of my brother-in-law, Teddy.

He removed his sunglasses and reached to shake my hand. He introduced himself as Timothy Martin. I noticed he didn’t have the New England accent I’d encountered since I arrived in Patten.

“Sí, hola, soy Gretchen Johnson.” (yes, hello, I’m Gretchen Johnson)

Your Spanish is very fluent Ms. Johnson,

Mr. Martin remarked.

“Spanish is my mother's ancestral language.”

I told him.

Timothy Martin shared with me that he was in Maine of course for the memorial and also

to find out if his brother was a victim of foul play.

Annette Bennett, his aunt, was fighting him in court for the farm that he never wanted in the first place. But it had fallen to him when Teddy died.

Later I returned to the charming B&B for another night.

With just a flashlight to light the path, my feet found every rock and rut hidden in the brown waist-high weeds that clawed at my jeans. The echo of them snapping and swishing around me broke the silence as I followed what I assumed was the road leading to the house.

There was a determination in every step I took, and short of getting stuck in quicksand I wasn't stopping.

The front door was ajar and it groaned and squeaked when I wiggled past it to enter the farmhouse. I shone the flashlight around and found there was nothing, no furniture, nothing.

Some of the windows were broken and there was no sign of curtains or drapes. I was cold and scared but I believed there was a clue about my sister

somewhere in the house.

I ended up in the kitchen, a large room with a wood floor that was covered in dirt and leaves. At one end of the room, there was a door and a stairway to the basement.

Since Teddy was limited to the use of a wheelchair the last few years he lived in the house I thought there might be something concealed there that he didn’t know about.

The first thing that caught my eye was a light green circa 1960s freezer and I wasn't surprised that it was empty.

Just then I heard a creek and then another. I dropped to the floor and turned the flashlight off. There was a small space behind the freezer and I squeezed in behind it.

With my knees pressed against my face, I listened, holding my breath until I didn't hear anything more from upstairs.

I jumped when something tickled my nose.

When I switched the flashlight on again I could see cobwebs hanging above me. 

“Asqueroso,” (foul, repulsive)

I grumbled swiping at them with my hand.

Under the far end of the freezer, there were what looked like a couple of plastic bags containing old yellowed envelopes.

Curious, I pulled one out but the other one was stuck on something. I set the light so that I could look through the letters and Polaroids. Some were too faded to make out and the ink was smeared in parts on most of the letters.

Some were pictures of Georgianna with a much younger Katie from the convenience store that were pretty tame.

The handwritten letters to my sister from Katie read like ’Mommy Porn.’

It was obvious she was very much in love with Georgianna. 

On the other hand, my sister’s letters to Katie came across as someone just wrinkling the sheets with her until the person who signed her letters AB was free.

The pictures of my sister and a beautiful older woman with long blond highlighted hair could only be described as pornographic.

I assumed she was AB and I winced at the sight of body parts that I never wanted to see so up close and personal.

The letters to and from AB conveyed a serious love affair all be it in the raunchiest of terms. 

Some of the letters were dated years before Georgianna disappeared. 

I studied the initials AB and tried a couple of different combinations of names out loud.

From the direction of the stairs, a man’s voice called out,

“Annette Bennett.”

Timothy Martin looked over the freezer shining his flashlight in my eyes.

¿Qué hace usted aquí Sr Martín? (What are you doing here Mr. Martin?)

Santa mierda, (holy shit) you scared me half to death,” I screamed. “What am I doing here you ask,“

he retorted incredulously,

as he helped me off the cement floor.

He felt warm and inviting to my cold hands and there was the smoky and spicy scent he was wearing that reminded me of the crisp Autumn air.

We retrieved the second plastic bag from underneath the freezer which revealed more of the same.

Timothy glanced briefly through the materials He didn't seem to be shocked by

the contents and handed them back to me.

“Now I have a better understanding of why Georgianna didn't want the family close. She had a secret life she didn't want us to know about. It's a shame she felt it necessary to hide her true self,”

I told Timothy, as I rubbed the back of my neck—tense from the stress of everything that transpired that night.

“Did Katie or her very limber lover, uh… your aunt, kill Georgianna,”

I asked him anxiously.

“Neither one,”

he answered, his voice barely audible. It was apparent to me that he wouldn't say more.

The next morning we arrived at Millinocket airport and boarded a plane to Boston. I was sure it wasn’t just for a late lunch. We were in the air before I finally inquired,

“Why are we going to Boston?”

“Oh right, I said, that’s where your Aunt lives:”

A tall woman answered the door of the luxurious apartment. She was obviously startled to see us at the door. Probably because we didn’t need to be buzzed in. A moving company had the main entrance open while they moved furniture.

The blond wig she wore made her features look harsh and pasty. Her eyes were a vivid blue that looked unnatural and I figured she had to be wearing contact lenses.

We introduced ourselves and her look of surprise turned to alarm. The door was quickly closing in our faces, but Timothy blocked it with his shoulder and we shoved our way into the apartment.

A woman from out of our line of sight let out a hair-curling scream,

“God Damn it, Joanna, why are you opening the door to strangers?”

All of sudden I froze why were we here, I wondered, and then the full force of what was going on hit me

“¿Dios bueno, (Good God) are you, Georgianna,”

I cried, throwing my arms around her. 

“Sí, (yes)

she replied and began to choke up.

Georgianna was thirty-eight, five, years older than me but time had not been kind and she looked much older

A sixty-something looking woman with short grey hair rushed to my sister’s side. I didn't notice the semi-automatic pistol that she held to Georgianna’s back at first.

I heard Timothy draw in a deep breath before he said,

“Hello, Aunt Annette.”

Annette looked a lot different too than she did in the risqué Polaroids we’d discovered of her and Georgianna.

It infuriated her to see that I was there with her nephew and she turned the gun on the two of us and raising

her voice, she asked,

“Why are you here Timothy?”

“I called them Annette, my sister said. I’m tired of being your la prisionera (prisoner). I thought there was something special between us but it became clear that it was the farm and not me you wanted. I never see my children, thanks to your boarding school idea. And I know you poisoned poor Teddy!”

“Shut the fuck up Joanna or I’ll shut you up!” Annette shouted, waving the Glock pistol in my sister's direction. 

“My name is not Joanna, I am Georgiana Johnson Martin, y no estoy muerta,” (and I’m not dead)

my sister yelled as she pushed her jailer against the wall.

The gun must have had a bullet in the chamber because it fired grazing my sister’s arm.

Timothy knocked the gun out of his aunt’s hand and it fell to the floor with a thud. Before she could react, he punched her in the jaw and she hit the floor next to the weapon.

Blood began to trickle from her lip and it followed a deep wrinkle down the side of her chin. She swore or uttered something I didn't catch and wiped the blood on her sleeve.

I lunged for the gun and slid the safety on. 

Georgianna, alias Joanna, had ten years of explaining to do and is facing some jail time for faking her death.

That will be the easy part. The hard part was telling her kids the truth and facing Mom and Dad.

October 02, 2023 16:51

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M.A. Grace
23:45 Oct 08, 2023

I enjoyed reading the mystery unfold into some action at the end


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Mary Bendickson
19:55 Oct 02, 2023

This is a sense - able story. Full of mystery and intrigue told through the senses. 👍 Good job.


Judith Jerdé
22:27 Oct 02, 2023

Mary, Thank you so much your opinion means a lot to me!


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