Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Parlor Game" by Linda S. Browning

Parlor Game

by Linda S. Browning

At the age of 34, I may be the only never-married female left from my graduating class at U.T. (University of Tennessee). Other than me, the only other holdout had been Angie Moulton. Alas, Angie succumbed to the dark side after meeting Brad, a three-year-widowed dentist in Knoxville with a five-year-old daughter. Although I really like Brad and his little daughter (she calls me Aunt Livvie), I miss Angie and our singleness. Even two years later, Angie appears to be blissfully happy with her married state. I was engaged for about six months when I was 27. I couldn’t take the pressure. I ran away like Superman … faster than a speeding bullet.

Olivia Jane Honeycutt is doing just fine as a single entity. I keep myself in shape and rarely allow my 5’2” frame to exceed 120 pounds. I wear my light brown hair (with honey-blonde sun and salon kissed highlights) shoulder length and men find me attractive. However, since the near-brush with marriage that I mentioned earlier, I haven’t allowed anyone close enough to become meaningful.

After graduating from U.T., I followed a boyfriend to Nashville. I didn’t keep the boyfriend, but I fell in love with the city. There is a comfortable humming energy to Nashville, and I make a good living as a journalist here.

Angie and I get together every few months for a girls’ weekend. We take turns visiting each other between Knoxville and Nashville and it was her weekend to travel to me. Angie waltzed through the door to my townhome, gave me a hug, and immediately called her husband. Annoyed to be so summarily dismissed, I congratulated myself for having remained free and untethered by marriage. Angie practically cooed into the phone, and I spitefully observed that she had gained weight since her wedding. Actually the additional weight looked really good on her tall frame. The whole thing pissed me off. I don’t like it when people flaunt happiness; it is just rude.

Angie likes to go “yard sailing”, as she calls (and spells) it. Being a wordsmith, I challenged her spelling. However, according to “” … the phrase is used to describe shopping at a large number of yard sales over the course of one day. Professionally, I think the urban phenomena of yard sailing may have the potential for an interesting article. Personally, I do not understand the allure of other people’s junk.

The day after she arrived for our weekend, I agreed to spend our Saturday “yard sailing” if she could find three yard sales in close proximity to one another. It being early June, it was not a difficult challenge … they were popping up like daffodils.

We went to the Hendersonville area of Nashville, where the moneyed folk live. I figured wealthy people’s junk may be superior to the junk of us regular people. Feigning interest, while poking through some stuff on a table, I uncovered a board game known as the “Ouija” board. This board looked just like the one my neighborhood friends and I played with during slumber parties in the late 1980’s. Generally, it was the same four girls who participated in our neighborhood sleepovers. One member of our foursome, Marilyn, usually hosted our slumber parties. Since Marilyn’s father was a fireman, we timed our sleepovers for when he would be spending the night at the firehouse. Little girls littered across a living room floor, shrieking and giggling all night is not a concept that most fathers are able to comprehend, much less tolerate. Marilyn was an only child and had a million board games, but we usually ended up conjuring ghosts through the Ouija board. All of us were around ten years old at the time and didn’t know many dead people. So, we tried to contact the usual dead suspects; Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, President Kennedy, and anyone else who we were pretty sure was dead. I remember how spooky it felt as the pointer-thingy drifted across the board at the will of the spirits. It scared us to death, and we loved it!

This particular Ouija board was in the midst of a pile of stuff with a price tag of 50 cents. I bought it on a whim. I don’t think that Angie bought anything at any of the yard sales that day. All she did was wander around, pick up stuff, examine the stuff with a critical eye, and set the stuff back down where she had found it.

Back at my townhome that evening, we were relaxing with a couple of glasses of wine (after Angie finally got off the phone with her beloved).

“You know, Angie, you aren’t fooling me by acting all happily married and all. You may as well admit to me how miserable you are.” I said half teasingly.

“You’re just jealous.” She said with a grin.

As I had ditched my contact lenses when we got home, I repositioned the glasses on my nose and struck an autocratic pose while harrumphing loudly. My strangely light blue eyes are one of my best features; yet, I am hopelessly Mr.-McGoo nearsighted. Uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, I picked up the board game and asked Angie whether she had ever played the game as a child.

“A couple of times, I think.” She answered.

“Want to play? Or, are you sc-car-ed?” I drew out the last word in dramatic challenge.

“Do you have the rules?” She asked.

“Instructions didn’t come with the box. The pointer-thingy was scotch taped on top of the board. The board is kind of scratched up, but that shouldn’t bother the ghosts. As far as I can remember, you just place a finger or two on the pointer-thingy … the … um … indicator … and tell the board that you are trying to contact a dead person or ask the board to answer a question about your future or past.”


“Because it is supposed to be sc-carrry!” I laughed and wiggled my fingers in a whoo-hoo manner. “I bought it as a lark. Come on … I dare you!”

“Okay.” She acquiesced. “I don’t want to stay up really late, though. I need to head home tomorrow. Maybe we could play a couple of hands.”

I gave a histrionic eye roll, “We aren’t playing cards, Ange.”

“Okay … okay … what do we do?”

I made room for the board on my coffee table and sitting on the floor instructed Angie to take her place opposite.

Image by dragonoak
The board looked like the one I remembered from my childhood. There was a picture of the sun in the upper left hand corner with the word, YES, stenciled next to it. In the upper right hand corner, there was a picture of the moon with the word, NO, stenciled next to it. Centered between the sun and the moon at the top of the board was the name of the game … Ouija … The Mystifying Oracle. In the middle of the board, the letters A through M were printed in an upside down smile with the letters N through Z directly beneath. In a horizontal line beneath the letters were the numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 … lined up like obedient soldiers. Centered on the bottom of the board was the word, GOODBYE. In small letters beneath was the apparent manufacturer … William Fuld, Baltimore, MD.. U.S.A. The heart-shaped indicator had a clear plastic lens near the pointy end.

“Put one finger lightly on the pointer-thingy on your side. Don’t press down hard, though. If you do, the spirits won’t come.”

Angie blew out a laugh. “Girl … you need a life so baaaad.”

I ignored the rude comment, and lightly placed my index finger on my side of the indicator.

“Are we supposed to ask, ‘Is anybody out there’?” She said in a melodramatic voice.

I quickly withdrew my finger. “No … no, you can’t ask that … if you ask a broad question like that, you risk inviting an evil ghost or a demon. We have to be more specific. I remember that much from my childhood slumber parties.”

Angie gave the matter some thought and took another swig from her wine glass. “Okay. Let’s just ask the board something about today, and see what it says.”

I agreed, and we placed our fingers on the indicator. “Where did we buy this game today?” Angie asked.

I was expecting the board to spell, “yard sale”. I was surprised when the indicator started moving from letter to letter.

P O W E L L S T R E E T.

Angie and I looked at one another with raised eyebrows.

“That doesn’t prove anything. Of course we were on Powell Street.” I said. The indicator skipped down to the numbers and then back up to the letters.

2 4 9 6 N O R T H P O W E L L S T R E E T.

Angie gave a nervous giggle. Removing her finger from the indicator, she stretched her arm long to snag her purse from beside the sofa. Pulling out the newspaper page with the circled yard sales, she peered over her reading glasses. “At which yard sale did you buy this thing?”

“The second one.” I answered.

She licked a finger and gave the air an imaginary swipe. “2496 North Powell Street. Score one for the magic board and pointer-thingy!”

I felt a small nervous twinge in my stomach. “Obviously one of us remembered the address.”

“Obviously.” She concurred.

Angie placed her finger lightly on her side of the indicator and I did the same. In a silly theatrical voice, she asked, “Arrre you dead?”

The indicator skated. Y E S.

“Did you used to live at that address?” I asked. Nothing happened.

“That doesn’t tell us …” I began, but before I could finish my observation, the indicator swayed drunkenly away from the word, and then slammed back emphatically.

Y E S.
“I guess that is a yes.” Angie whispered.

“How old were you when you died?” I asked.

The indicator moved to the 1 and the 5.

“You were fifteen?” I confirmed.

The indicator moved. YES.

“What was your name?” Angie whispered.

The indicator flew from letter to letter.

S O P H I E M A T H E W S.

I sounded it out, “Sophie Mathews”, I muttered.

“I think I want to stop playing now, Liv.” Angie said in a flat voice removing her finger from the indicator. The indicator zoomed beneath my finger.

N O.

“Okay, now, that settles it. You are controlling the pointer-thingy. I’m not even touching it now.” Angie complained.

I felt compelled to ask the next question, “How did you die?”

The indicator remained still. Gradually I began to feel odd and my breathing became fast and shallow.

Noticing, Angie ordered, “Stop clowning around, Liv.”

I wasn’t clowning. I couldn’t breathe. Someone/something had a vice-like grip on my throat.

“Liv? Liv? Oh my God, Liv, what’s wrong?” Angie jumped to her feet and ran around the coffee table. She started pounding on my back.

I couldn’t get so much as a tiny breath and little dark dots started dancing in front of my eyes. My hands went to my throat in a frantic effort to relieve the constriction. The grip on my throat eased, and I guzzled air as though it was water.

“Liv! Are you okay?” Angie asked in a terrified voice.

Coughing, I lowered my hands from my throat. Angie gasped and scuttled away from me.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” I croaked.

With a shaking hand, she pointed, “Lo-ook at your throat! Did you do that to yourself?!”

With Angie’s help I struggled to my feet and she led me into the hall bathroom. We stood side by side staring in the mirror at the horrific marks on my neck.

“My God!” I panted hoarsely. Both sides of my neck were a crimson red.

“Come on, Liv. You need to lie down. I’ll get you some water. Is your throat sore?”

I shook my head in confusion and Angie led me to my bedroom with a hand on my arm. She helped me lie down on top of my covers. “I’ll be right back.” She said shakily.

I closed my eyes and inhaled cautiously. My throat was not sore. What the Hell? Someone … something … just tried to strangle me.

Angie hustled back into the bedroom a few minutes later and handed me a glass of water. Sitting on the bed beside me, she exclaimed, “They’re gone!”

“What?” I asked after taking a tentative swallow of water and confirmed there was no pain.

“The marks on your neck, Liv. They are gone. What the Hell is going on here? I thought that stupid board was just a game!” Angie almost shrieked.

“Me, too.” I admittedly pitifully.

“Did you have a seizure or something?” Angie asked in an almost hopeful cadence.

“I don’t have seizures, Angie.”

“Well, something happened down there, and it wasn’t good! I say we toss that thing in the trash and forget the whole thing!”

Angie brought me a hand mirror. She was right. There wasn’t a mark on me.

We spent the remainder of the evening telling each other we had overreacted. We were adults, not ten-year-old kids at a slumber party. We probably just drank too much wine and allowed our collective imagination to get away from us. What had looked like angry red stains against my skin was probably just a transient redness from where I had clasped my own hands to my throat.

As Angie was preparing to get on the road back to Knoxville the next morning, she asked, “You’re sure you are okay this morning, Liv?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” I gave her a hug.

“You are going to throw that thing away … right?”

“I thought we decided that what happened last night was the result of too much wine and imagination?”

“We did … but to be on the safe side … throw the damn thing away!”

“I will.” I promised, but I didn’t. I’m not sure why I didn’t, but I didn’t.

After Angie left I went upstairs and took a long shower. Returning to my bedroom towel drying my hair, I stopped up short. The Ouija board was at the bottom of my bed with the pointer-thingy sitting atop. I was sure I had left it on my kitchen counter close to the garage door, as it had been my intention to take it out to the garbage can. Angie must have left it on my bed as a joke I assumed.

Sitting on the bed and staring down at the thing, I said out aloud, “I need to toss you in the trash right now.”

I shot to my feet as the pointer-thingy independently crawled across the board.

N O.

I hadn’t touched it. I gave a little yelp, but noted with interest that I was more perplexed than frightened. I told myself, “Come on, Liv. You are a journalist. Yes, you are creative and imaginative, but you are also logical. The first thing you do with any story is research.”

Dressing in jeans and a t-shirt, I padded downstairs in my bare feet with the accursed board tucked under my arm. I laid it on my kitchen table next to my laptop and opened up a search engine. I typed “Ouija Board” into the search line.
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Ouija board was introduced in 1890 by Elijah Bond as a harmless parlor game and was not associated with the occult until World War I. Pearl Curran, a St. Louis housewife, allegedly made contact with a spirit by the name of Patience Worth who claimed to have been killed by American Indians after coming to America in the mid 1600’s. The two remained in contact over the course of many years and Mrs. Curran published several books and thousands of poems as a result of their collaboration. Information revealed in the published works was outside of the uneducated Mrs. Curran’s scope of knowledge; therefore, the only explanation seemed to be that she had obtained her information through a supernatural link with Patience Worth.

The heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic pointer-thingy/indicator is commonly referred to as a “pointer”. I became engrossed in reviewing the data that I uncovered about the Ouija board game, Pearl Curran, and Patience Worth. I also learned that the so-called unconscious movements of the pointer have been explained by scientists as a psychophysiological phenomenon known as the “ideomotor” effect. That is, that the key person operating the pointer is actually driving the conversation without conscious awareness … just as Angie had accused me of doing the night before.

Okay, I could buy that … Angie and I had set the stage with a séance atmosphere; therefore, we (maybe I) had subconsciously driven the narrative. That didn’t explain why I almost choked to death or how the pointer had moved without my touching it in my bedroom. Still, it calmed me to discover that science could explain all.

Angie called me later in the day to let me know that she had arrived home safely, and we agreed that it was my turn to visit her in Knoxville, which I agreed to do in the fall. We talked all around the Ouija board episode until just before we concluded our conversation.

“Olivia, did you throw that board and pointer-thingy away?”

“No, Ange. I didn’t. I was intrigued so I did some internet research on the Ouija.” I told her what I had learned.

“In other words, there is a scientific explanation for the pointer-thingy …”

“The pointer-thingy is called a ‘pointer’, Angie.”

“Fine … the pointer moving around the game board and that name it spelled out doesn’t mean anything?” She asked.

“Ange, did you put the board on my bed before you left?”

“What …? No, of course not … why?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“What, Liv?”

“No, really … it’s nothing. I may do some kind of story on the Ouija board. It sounds like a story that I could sell to one of those in-flight magazines. People on long flights like to read nonsense … probably to take their mind off of crashing and burning. I could probably sell a story about the history of the Ouija and stuff. Besides, my curiosity has been aroused.”

“Well, okay. But … Liv … be careful.”

“Why, are you sc-car-ed?” I repeated my melodramatic tone of the previous evening.

“Yes. It was very scary when you started choking. I am not normally a superstitious person, but there are things that happen sometimes that cannot be easily explained by science.”

I was taken aback by her frank admission.

“Actually, I was a little bit shaken myself.” I admitted. “I’ll be careful, though. Don’t worry about me. I will work diligently to keep my imagination in check.”

I pushed all thoughts of the Ouija and SOPHIE MATHEWS from my mind. I read a nonsense/action novel by one of my favorite authors until I got sleepy.

I don’t know how long I had been asleep when I started to dream. It was summer, and I was walking beside a calm lake. I was alone but there was a low rumble of voices only a short distance away. I was meeting someone, and I was excited and scared to death at the same time. The dream sequence suddenly staggered forward. I was again walking beside the lake, but now I was returning from my rendezvous. My stomach fluttered with new and welcome sensations. After another interruption the dream again staggered forward. There was a man looming above me and I was suddenly angry and very afraid. As I opened my mouth to scream, he lifted me off my feet with two hands around my throat; successfully cutting off my cries. I struggled and clawed at his face, but he held me at arm’s length and marched into the lake with me dangling from his fists like a caught fish. He advanced with me into the lake until I was neck deep and my feet could no longer touch the lake bottom. He plunged my head beneath the water, loosened the grip on my throat and my lungs flooded. He held me under until I no longer cared that I was dying. It was a short dream; it didn’t seem as though my murder had taken long at all.
Image by JeremiahLeighton

I awoke from the dream with a cry and sat upright in bed taking in huge gulps of air; gradually my heart rate slowed to that of a more normal rhythm. Scrubbing both eyes with my fists, I realized that I was sweating. Throwing back the covers, I stood and took unsteady steps towards the bathroom. My bare feet encountered wet carpet and I jumped backwards with a small cry. After turning on the bedside lamp, I realized that I had knocked over the water glass I keep next to my bed while flailing against my nightmare assailant. The almost emptied glass lay on its side with drops of water still plopping on the carpet. It seemed like a lot of liquid from just one glass of water.

“Okay, Olivia,” I muttered aloud, “get a grip.” I don’t normally have nightmares, but I was still pretty shaken from this one. Hearing my own voice helped to calm me. I made my way across the bedroom and into the bathroom with the intention of washing my face and getting a towel to mop up the water. Turning on the bathroom light I leaned heavily against the vanity and faced myself in the mirror. I can’t explain why I wasn’t alarmed, or even surprised, to see her behind me. She was a couple of inches taller than me, but she was really skinny. She had very long dark hair, parted in the middle like the singer, Cher, when she was with Sonny. She was wearing cut-off blue jeans frayed at the hems and a pink and white striped short sleeved blouse. Her lips were rimmed with very pink shiny lip gloss, and she was staring intently at her reflection. There was a feathery whisper of movement against my hair, and her arm seemingly floated over my shoulder. Her short nails were painted to match her pink lip gloss, and she touched a finger to her mirrored self. I was reminded of Peter Pan trying to capture his shadow. I was filled with overwhelming sadness and empathy for this young woman.

There was no malevolence in this apparition … only an abundance of wanting and confusion. The promise of beauty was there in her face; yet, now unobtainable. She met my eyes for only the briefest of moments, and her lips formed a weary, weak smile.

Sophie Mathews no longer reflected in the mirror. The only face I could see now was my own. Sinking to the cool ceramic tile I hugged my knees and wept for this incomplete young woman. I knew with certainty that she was stuck … wedged in-between her death and whatever awaited her and she needed my help to bridge the gap. I am not known for fanciful imaginings, so it was curious that I accepted Sophie’s ghostly visit without question. She was just real.

When I made it back to my bed it was almost midnight and I fell into a deep sleep immediately. There were no more dreams. I woke up shortly after 6:00 a.m. and made my way to the kitchen and the coffee maker. The Ouija board was sitting on the kitchen table next to my laptop.

Fortified with coffee and a piece of toast I again settled at the table. I glanced at the Ouija. “Good morning, Sophie.” I said. Without my assist, the pointer sailed.

H I.

I smiled and powering up my laptop, entered SOPHIE MATHEWS into the search engine. Naturally, I got all kinds of stuff back, so I muttered aloud, “When did you die, Sophie?” I heard the whisper of the pointer against the board.

1 9 6 6.

I entered SOPHIE MATHEWS/NASHVILLE/1966. 15-year-old Sophie Mathews died June 14, 1966. While attending a party for a friend’s 16th birthday at Hickory Lake State Park, her boyfriend noticed her absence and went in search of her. He found her floating face down near an area of the lake known as “The Willows”. The boy screamed for help and recovered her from the water. Once on shore, he tried to revive her with all of the methods he could remember from his first aide classes, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. There was another article a few days later stating that her death had been ruled by the authorities to be a homicide with drowning as the cause of death.

There wasn’t much more to be learned from my web search efforts. Turning to the Ouija, I touched the pointer briefly and asked, “What happened, Sophie?” The pointer did not move. I removed my finger and touched the pointer again. “I’m trying to help you. What happened to you?” After a few moments the pointer (whom I now thought of as Sophie) began to move in circles, as though confused.

“Did your boyfriend kill you?” I asked.

The pointer flew … N O.

“Who, Sophie … do you know who killed you?”

She raced to the word, Y E S.

“Who, Sophie … give me a name?” The pointer began to move and Sophie spelled out a name. R O Y.

“Roy?” I asked.

Y E S.

“Do you know Roy’s last name?”

N O.

“How did you know Roy?”

The pointer (Sophie) began to move sluggishly in circles.

T I R E D.

“Okay, Sophie. I understand. It must take a lot of energy to communicate with me like this.” I spread my fingers across the pointer as though I could cup the girl in my hand. She trembled beneath my fingers, and I knew she was crying.

“I will ask YES or NO questions, Sophie. You won’t have to spell.”

Y E S.

I asked a series of questions, and she answered each one of them.

N O.

Roy had not been an ex-boyfriend or even a casual friend to her. When I asked whether he had been a family friend, she hesitated; pacing back and forth between the YES and NO destinations.

“Okay, Sophie, so Roy was somebody who was familiar with your family, or a family member, but not really a friend?”

Y E S.

“I’m going to contact the police, Sophie, and see what I can learn about your murder and this Roy guy. Is there anything else you want to tell me before I call them?”

M Y R I N G.

“Myring? Is that Roy’s last name?”

She shook beneath my finger as though with frustration.

N O.

I verbalized, “Myring … myring … my” the pointer hopped once beneath my finger and I paused, “ring?” I finished.

Y E S. I could practically hear her sigh with relief.

“You are trying to tell me something about your ring?”

Y E S.

“What about your ring?”

F A C E.

Then, I got it. “You scratched his face with your ring?!” I announced triumphantly as though I were a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. She hopped up and down beneath my hand, and I imagined her in the studio audience cheering me on.

The yard sale had been in the Nolensville area of Nashville, as is Hickory Lake. I called the Nolensville Police Department. I identified myself to the woman and explained that I needed to speak with someone about an unsolved murder case from 1966. I was placed on hold for about two minutes and was about to hang up when a man came on the line and announced he was a Detective with the Homicide Unit. I again explained what I needed and identified the case from 1966 on the murder of Sophie Mathews.

“I know that it was 47 years ago, but I may have some information on the case.” I was placed on hold for another minute when the man returned.

“One of our detectives can meet with you today at 1:00 p.m. He will pull the case from our cold case files. Can you meet with Detective Presley Warren here at the police department at 1:00?” I agreed to the appointment time and obtained directions.

I was anxious as I anticipated the appointment with the Detective and not content to sit surfing the web for bits and pieces on Sophie’s murder. I had a need for action and decided to visit Hickory Lake State Park. I wondered whether “The Willows” was still in existence. Picking up my purse, I started toward the exit through my garage. The pointer started clattering on the Ouija board. I walked over to the kitchen table and looked down at the board.

T A K E M E.

Picking up both the board and the pointer I tossed them into a plastic grocery sack and headed out to my car, taking Sophie with me.

I live in Brentwood; an area rich with townhomes and condominiums north of Nashville. It took me about one-half hour to drive to the park. As I was driving I considered what had occurred over the last couple of days and explored my reactions and feelings. I had absolutely no doubt that I was conversing with Sophie Mathews, a 15-year-old girl who had been murdered in 1966. I realized with great sadness that Sophie’s murdered soul had been locked up in the Ouija for 47 years, waiting for somebody to hear her cries for help. A rustling sound emitted from the plastic grocery sack riding in the passenger seat. “I heard you, Sophie. I’m with you now.” The noise settled.

Reaching the park, I was a little bit surprised to find there was still a picnic area and pavilion known as “The Willows”. Wending my way through the park I enjoyed the landscape. It is a very pretty park. When the lake came into view, I felt a shiver down my spine. It being a Monday, there weren’t many people around. I parked near the pavilion and opened my car door in preparation to exit. Sophie rustled the plastic sack. I reached across to the passenger seat and picking up the sack instructed, “Okay, Sophie … take me to the place it happened.” I sounded like I was instructing Lassie to direct me to where Timmy was stuck in the well.

I started walking and found my steps to be sure and unwavering. I crossed the grass down toward the lake and turning left walked along the lake side. A few minutes of walking and I rounded a bend. Looking behind me, I realized that the pavilion was no longer in sight. As I approached some trees on my left, I saw a lovely willow tree just beyond them and stopped directly beneath the tree. A frisson of fear and delight caused my stomach to flutter. The sensations lasted about five minutes and I was left a little breathless. Languidly I turned as though to retrace my steps to the pavilion. I took about ten steps until I was again passing the grouping of trees, which were now on my right … the lake on my left.

Image by Blueeyes0001
The plastic sack holding the board and Sophie started to quake in my hand. The sack shook so violently I was forced to cradle it against my breasts. A riot of sensations raced through my body in quick succession … surprise … uneasiness …… disgust …satisfaction (surprisingly) … fear, and then anger; consuming anger. Once again I felt invisible murderous hands encircle my throat. I fought against the strength of those hands until I was gasping in pain and desperation. Propelled backwards toward the lake water, my legs were running in place. In a total panic, I dropped the plastic sack … and Sophie. Instantly I was freed and fell to my knees beside the trees. Gradually my breathing slowed. This was my dream … this had been Sophie’s nightmare.

Sophie and I walked around the park for a while. That is, I walked and carried Sophie in her plastic grocery sack. Once in a while she trembled. I noticed several parking lots in the area of The Willows; one bordered the cluster of trees. I still had quite a wait until my appointment with the Detective, so I decided to swing by the house where I had bought the Ouija board. Starting to get out of the car, Sophie rustled the plastic sack, but I ignored her. I thought she was getting a bit pushy.

It was a nice house, but then this was a nice neighborhood, which is why Angie and I had selected this part of town to do our yard sailing. I rang the doorbell, and the door was answered by a plump 50-ish woman. “Yes?” She asked.

“Hi. I was here the other day at your yard sale, and I have a question about something I bought …”

She cut me off before I could finish and shook her head, “Sorry … no refunds. If whatever you bought doesn’t work, don’t blame me. Odds are if whatever you bought worked, I wouldn’t have put it in a yard sale.” She started to close the door, but my laughter stopped her.

“No … no … sorry … My name is Olivia Honeycutt. I write feature pieces for the local newspapers. I bought a game board at your sale. On the back of the board, there was a girl’s name … Sophie Mathews … I thought the name sounded familiar, so I did some digging …”

“Yes … the murdered girl who lived here before us? You are too young to know that story.” I had totally made up that part about Sophie’s name being on the game board and was pleased that the lie had paid off.

“I work on some cold cases with the police sometimes, and I recognized the name from the murder in 1966.” I totally lied again. Why stop now, I figured, I was on a roll.

The lady invited me in and introduced herself as Laura Somers. We sat in her living room and she told me what she knew. She and her husband bought the house from a local realtor in 1984. They never met Mr. or Mrs. Mathews, but neighbors soon told them the sad tale of the murdered girl. There wasn’t much she could add to the story but at least I was able to confirm that this had been Sophie’s home.

“So, where did the Ouija board come from … where has it been for all of these years?” I asked.

“There was a box of stuff in the attic when we moved in, but there wasn’t anything in there of any consequence. There wasn’t anything in there that seemed to be of any emotional significance to the Mathews’ family. If there had been, we would have asked the realtor to see that it was returned to them.” She frowned, “I don’t remember now what else was in that box. I don’t even remember whether or not the dead girl’s name was on anything. We just always assumed the box must have belonged to the Mathews family. Like I said, though, there wasn’t anything in the box to get excited about. I put out the board game with the other yard sale stuff when I cleaned out the attic.” She got a sad look on her face and asked, “Whatever happened? Was her murder ever solved? What happened to her family?”

I explained that the murder was still unsolved and that I didn’t know what had happened to the girls’ parents or brother. I thanked her for taking the time to talk with me.

Seeing me to the door, she commented, “You know … I can see where you could write a story after all of these years; like those shows about wanted criminals and then regular people step up to turn them in … who knows … maybe somebody will come forward to shed some light on what happened to Sophie Mathews. It’s been almost 50 years … that poor girl.” She had tears in her eyes. I decided that I liked Mrs. Somers. At least I could tell Sophie that nice people were living in her house.

I went to the Nolensville Police Department and identified myself to officer at the front desk. After about ten minutes a tall good looking man of about 40 or so walked into the lobby area. I suddenly wished I had worn my contact lenses, but I was still suffering from my spring allergies which made the wearing of contact lenses sheer torture. I wondered whether I should look into Lasik surgery. A girl never knew when she may come smack up against a good looking man. A smart girl would be prepared. The detective spoke briefly with the officer manning the front desk. He glanced my way, and I self-consciously adjusted the glasses on my nose. Approaching, he held out his hand to shake.

“Miss Honeycutt, I am Detective Presley Warren. I’m told you are here to give us some information on a cold case?”

“I probably have more questions for you than information.” I said standing and shook his hand. Good grip … nice eyes … tall … my internal dialogue couldn’t seem to shut up.

He gave me a brief nod and asked me to follow him. We threaded our way through the station and into the Homicide Department. After seating me at a small conference table, he offered coffee, which I declined, and then told me he would get the file for the cold case on Sophie Mathews.

He was back in a matter of minutes and closing the door, opened the file and sat across from me.

“After you called, I pulled the file. This murder occurred 47 years ago, Miss Honeycutt. What new information are you privy to?”

“As I mentioned earlier, I have more questions than information.”

“I don’t understand. I believe you are a journalist. Are you researching a story?”

I deflected, “So, I assume your mother was an Elvis fan, but couldn’t bring herself to name you ‘Elvis’. Am I right?”

He grinned a little sheepishly (and quite attractively) and admitted that I had guessed correctly.

“You are a journalist.” He did not phrase this as a question.

“Yes, I am. I cover events in and around Nashville for a variety of newspapers.”

“You always cover the Mule Day activities in Columbia. I grew up in Columbia.” He confessed.

Columbia, Tennessee is known as the “Mule Capital” of the world. What began in 1840 as an annual gathering of mule breeders has evolved into a yearly celebration over the course of four days. Along with a parade of mules and horses, there is the crowning of the “Mule Day Queen”, and events at the Maury County fairgrounds featuring traditional Appalachian food, music, dancing, and crafts. “Mule Day Weekend”, as the locals call it, is held close to the Easter holidays, and I had attended the events just last month. I always avoid writing a “fluff piece” about the events. This year I featured the Crosby family and their mules, which were the result of the cross breeding of a donkey stallion and an Arabian horse mare. They were beautiful and unique animals. Anyway …

The detective and I talked about the recent “Mule Day” activities for a bit until he finally asked,

“Why are you here, Miss Honeycutt? This is old ground you are trying to cover.”

“It is pretty simple, Detective. As you mentioned, this case is 47 years old, and still unsolved. You don’t have anything to lose by answering my questions and everything to gain. I promise I won’t write anything without it being vetted by you and your superiors.” I decided not to challenge his obvious assumption that I was on a story about a cold case. That was certainly more believable than ghosts and Ouija boards.

He sat back and looked at me for a few minutes as though to take my measure. Finally I suggested, “How about this, then? I am going to make some statements about the case and you tell me whether I am correct or not on the facts.”

“Okay.” He nodded.

I stated, “Although the cause of death was determined to be death by drowning, Sophie Mathews was brutally strangled prior to being held beneath the water of the lake.”

He glanced down at the record and with a slight widening of his eyes, said, “That is correct. How did you know that … the record states that the facts about the strangulation attempt were not revealed to the press or to the public?”

I didn’t respond, but merely continued with my recitation, “In fact, Sophie was so violently strangled that the medical examiner was able to determine that she had literally been lifted off her feet by someone of immense strength. The force of the attack suggested that the attacker was in a fury.”

He stared without commenting.

“What about evidence?” I asked. “Were there footprints? What about recovering fingerprints from her neck tissue?”

Concentrating again on the paperwork before him, he said, “The kids trampled all over any evidence at the scene after the boyfriend found her.” He furrowed his brow, “I don’t know if they could lift fingerprints from skin 47 years ago … remember, too, she had been in the water.”

“Not for very long, though.”

“No, not for very long.” He admitted and referred again to the report, “The victim was dating a boy by the name of Jake Thorne at the time. According to Thorne, age 16, he and Sophie had agreed to slip away from the party and meet at a prominent willow tree beside the lake. He said they did some necking and wrestled around a bit, but he claimed they remained vertical. The boy reported that they agreed that he would return to the party and she would follow after a few minutes. When she still hadn’t returned after 15 minutes, the boy went looking for her. He found her in the water, dragged her out, and hollered for help. Every kid in the area came running and teenage hysteria ensued; trampling all over the crime scene.”

“The boyfriend was ruled out early, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. He was questioned repeatedly, but it appears he was never a viable suspect. Are you going to tell me what this is all about, Miss Honeycutt?”

“Call me Liv, please.”

“Alright, are you going to tell me what this is all about, Liv?”

“Was there a boy or a man interviewed with the first name of Roy?”

“I think you need to tell me what is driving this meeting, Liv, before I go into any more details about this cold case.”

“Do Sophie’s parents still live in the area?” I persevered, ignoring his previous statement.

“No. They are both deceased, but there was an older brother.”

“What is his name?” I asked, although I already knew because his name was cited in Sophie’s obituary.

The plastic grocery sack containing Sophie was in the chair next to me along with my purse. The plastic rustled.

“What was that noise?” He asked.

“What noise?” I pretended ignorance and the sack rustled again.

He gave me a pointed look and then glanced in the direction from whence the noise emanated.

“Oh, sorry about that. I must have left my cell phone in the vibrate mode.” I opened the plastic sack and rested my hand on the pointer and squeezed just a bit. Sophie stilled.

“You keep your phone in a plastic sack and not in your purse?” He asked with a quirk of his eyebrow.
“Yes … well, yes I do.”

I decided to end the interview because I didn’t want Sophie going off again, and I didn’t think I was going to get much more out of the Detective.

Standing, and gathering up my purse and Sophie, I extended my hand across the table. “Thank you for your help, Detective.”

He stood and shook my hand with a frown, but all he said was, “Call me Presley, please. I might be able to provide you with more information, Liv, but I need to know what is behind these questions.”

“Yes, well, thank you … Presley.” I dropped his hand and opened the door to leave. Hesitating, I asked, “So, how did you get stuck with the cold cases?”

He shrugged, “I don’t like to give up.”

Smiling I said, “It makes sense that you would be stubborn. After all, you do come from the Mule Capital of the world.”

He grinned at that and replied, “Yeah, well you would be pissed off too if you were intentionally designed to be sterile.”

“Got any kids?” I asked.

“No … you?”

“No … nothing here but us stubborn mules I guess.” Before closing the door, I added, “Oh, by the way, Presley, Sophie was wearing a ring when she was attacked. She raked it across the face of her assailant. You may want to look into that a bit further. See if you can find that ring. They didn’t have DNA and all of that in 1966.” I left him standing beside the table.

Sophie and I stopped for Chinese take-out and then went on home. I set the food on the counter and took Sophie and the board out of the grocery sack. Sitting at the kitchen table with Sophie near my hand, I said, “Your parents are both dead, Sophie. Why are you not with them?”

H E A R T H E M.

“You hear them? Are they calling for you?”

Y E S.

“Why don’t you go to them?”

C A N T.

“Why can’t you go to them, Sophie? Just let yourself go, Honey. It has been 47 years.”

G E T R O Y.

“We will get Roy, Sophie.” I promised.

We sat quietly for a while and I poked around at my take-out food. “He is quite good looking don’t you think, Sophie? The Detective, I mean?”

Y E S.

Presley Warren must be at least six feet tall and very fit. He has a stern countenance, but the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes imply a sense of humor. His hair is buzzed so close to his scalp that I could see the map of his hairline; like a five o-clock shadow on his head. I suspect he got fed up dealing with a receding hairline and decided to buzz it off rather than do the lame comb-over thing. It was a good choice, as it looks good on him. It leaves a no-nonsense I-don’t-give-a-damn impression. Very sexily macho.

Sophie’s brother’s name is Brian Mathews, a pretty common name. Obviously I checked the phone book and found eight listings; one was in Murfreesboro, but that is only about a one hour drive from Nashville. Sophie had no idea where to find her brother. She said her supernatural radar only revealed whether somebody was alive or dead. She didn’t know how it worked; however, she was sure that both Brian and this Roy person were still alive. We were trying to zoom in on identifying the Roy person with a series of YES and NO questions, when my doorbell rang. I left Sophie and the board on the table and went to answer the door.

The peephole revealed the very good looking Detective Warren. Opening the door, I opted for levity and demanded theatrically, “Do you have a warrant?”

His eyes and mouth smiled in response. “No, but I would like to come in and talk with you in more depth about the 1966 case, if you would be willing.”

I invited him inside and he followed me to the kitchen. He saw the detritus of my Chinese carry out and his eyes swept the contents of the table. I knew he was doing his detective-thing and wished I had hidden the Ouija board. I picked up the board and set it on the counter along with the pointer (Sophie). I invited him to sit and offered something to drink, which he declined.

Without preamble, he asked, “Are you married or dating anybody currently?”

I liked that … his directness. “No. I’ve never been married and I am not currently dating anyone.” I answered just as directly.

“Never married? Do you have commitment issues?” He countered.

“No. I have boredom issues. Forevermore with one person sounds boring.”

He laughed at that, “Maybe that depends on the person.”

I raised my eyebrows and asked, “How about you?”

“I was married for a couple of years, but it didn’t work out. We didn’t have children but that wasn’t due to any mule-related abnormalities.”

“Okay … what else do we need to get out of the way? Oh yes, I’m 34.” I said.


“Do you want to have sex now or later?” I deadpanned.

He laughed again. I was right about the laugh lines around his eyes.

He pivoted to the reason for his visit (I was pleased that it wasn’t the only reason). “So, Liv, how did you know about the strangulation attempt and the ring?”

“I was right, wasn’t I? Sophie was strangled before she was drowned, and she was wearing a ring!” I announced triumphantly.

He studied me for a bit and then admitted, “Yes … it was a birthstone ring in the shape of a heart. Sophie Mathews was born in April … her birthstone was a diamond.”

“A diamond?!”

“Yes … but the ring wasn’t worth a whole lot. The gems were little bitty chips of diamonds.”

“Do you still have it in evidence?” I was getting really excited. Could they possibly get DNA off of it after all of these years, I wondered.

“No. According to the record, the ring was returned to her parents.”

“And they’re dead.”

He nodded.

“But Brian Mathews, her brother … he’s not dead is he … he still lives around here, doesn’t he? He might still have the ring! Maybe it has the killer’s DNA on it!”

Instead of commenting on the whereabouts of Sophie’s brother, he said flatly, “Roy Compton”.

Sophie fell off of the counter with a clatter and I jumped a foot. With a nervous laugh, I said, “I must have left the pointer too close to the edge of the counter.” I stood to collect Sophie but before I could take a step, the board was swept to the floor by an unseen hand.
Image by dragonoak

“Stop it, Sophie!” I yelled.

Presley’s eyes got huge and he barked, “What the hell just happened? Why do you have that Ouija board? Do you think you are some kind of psychic or something? What? You think you have been communicating with Sophie Mathews? Lady, you’re nuts!” He started to stand but stopped abruptly when the Ouija board and pointer calmly returned themselves to the kitchen counter.

“How did you do that? Magnets? Wires? We’ve shut down some phony mediums around here. I know some of their tricks.”

I decided to tell Detective Presley Warren the truth. What did I have to lose? I have to give him credit; he listened closely to everything without interrupting or calling me nuts … again.

We sat silently for a while. He started tapping his finger against the table top. “Well, I don’t believe any of this.”

“I don’t care.” I stated bluntly.


“I don’t care.” I repeated. “Whether or not you believe me is totally irrelevant. You have a 47-year-old senseless murder, and you have no clue who committed it. I’m not looking into all of this for a story … or for myself … I’m doing this for Sophie. She has waited long enough … somebody needs to care what happened to her!”

The pointer/Sophie trembled and Presley stared at the chatter of the plastic against the game board. She was crying again.

“Who is Roy Compton?” I asked.

Roy Compton was a casual friend of Sophie’s 18-year-old brother … they were both on the high school football team. In fact, Compton won a football scholarship to the University of Ohio and left for school at the end of the summer of 1966.

“Was he a suspect in Sophie’s murder?”

“Not according to the reports.”

“Was he at least interviewed?”

“The only time his name is mentioned in the report is when a list of the brother’s friends was given to the police. There is brief mention of the supposed whereabouts of the friends at the time of the murder. Most of them … including Roy Compton … had alibis.”

“Who was his alibi?”

“His mother.”

“Of course.”

“So what? You think this Compton guy killed Sophie?” He asked.

“Sophie told me that “Roy” killed her. She couldn’t remember his last name. All I have to do now is find him and prove it.”

Presley observed sarcastically, “She can’t remember the name of the guy who murdered her? Seems to me like that would be something a person would remember.”

“You said yourself that Roy Compton was just a casual friend of her brother’s. Sophie was only 15 … she probably didn’t even know a lot of her brother’s acquaintances at all … much less their last names. Do you know Brian Matthews’ phone number?”

“Why don’t you look him up in the phone book?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t be cute, Detective. I already did, and there are eight ‘Brian Mathews’ listed in the phone book. I was just about to start cold calling when you got here.”

“Can’t Sophie use some of her voodoo and give you his phone number?”

The pointer (Sophie) flew across the kitchen and whacked him upside the head with the flat end. At least she hadn’t stabbed him with the pointy end.

“Ouch!” He yelped. “What the Hell?!”

I laughed and picked Sophie up from the floor. “Now you’ve made her mad. Sophie is only able to tell whether a person is alive or dead. Dead people must be on an ethereal data base somewhere.” Sophie twitched in my hand. “Oh, Sophie, don’t be so sensitive.” I scolded.

Rubbing the side of his head, Presley said, “Let’s just say that I believe all of this and I look into her brother’s and Roy’s current whereabouts, what do you plan on doing with the information, Nancy Drew?”

“Don’t be condescending, Presley. As I have already pointed out, the authorities have had 47 years to get justice for Sophie without success … now it is my turn.” Walking over to the counter, I gently set Sophie on top of the board.

I was hoping he would want to see me again in a more personal context, but he didn’t make any overtures as I saw him to the front door. I guess my paranormal proclivities scared him off. That was a pity. The detective had non-boring potential.

Before he could get all of the way out the door, I called out a challenge, “Hey, Detective … whoever locates Brian Matthews first, has to pay for dinner?” It was a gamble and pretty forward, but … so what?

We shook hands, “Deal.” He said and then he left.

Sophie and I played YES and NO for a while until she got tired. I had an epiphany. I searched the web for obituaries on Sophie’s parents. Her father, Ronald, died at the age of 77 in 2008. Her mother, Margaret, died in 2011 at the age of 81. I decided that the funeral home listed for Margaret would likely have a contact number for Brian. I would contact the funeral home in the morning. If that wasn’t successful, I would begin to cold call the eight people in the phone book.
Source Wikipedia Commons

The next morning I decided to visit the funeral home instead of calling. I planned to tell the funeral home people pretty much the truth … just not all of it. That is, I bought a something-item at a yard sale at a residence that turned out to be Brian’s childhood home. The something-item that I had bought belonged to his murdered sister. I wanted to return the something-item to him.

The funeral home lady was very receptive to my story … especially when I went into detail about the sister who had been murdered 47 years ago. She did have a phone number for Brian; at least the one he had given at the time of his mother’s funeral. She was not comfortable giving out his number, but she offered to call him and give him my name and number. I thanked her and left. She was disappointed that I wouldn’t tell her what the something-item was that I had bought at the yard sale. I figured that maybe if I teased Brian a bit, he would be more likely to call me.

I didn’t take Sophie with me to the funeral home and when I entered my home through the garage, she was tap dancing on the Ouija board. I was surprised to see that Brian had already left a message for me on the answering machine. Sophie must have heard her brother’s voice and gotten excited. I immediately called him back and we arranged to meet at his house in one hour. I still wouldn’t tell Brian what the something-item was that I had bought at the yard sale.

Sophie and I got to Brian’s house at 3:00 p.m. He was still living in the Nolensville area. With Sophie safely inside her plastic grocery sack, I rang the doorbell. Brian Matthews was now 65 years old. He was close to six feet tall and probably 40 pounds overweight. I introduced myself and he invited me inside to sit in the front room. He told me his wife was over at their son’s house with the grandchildren; they have four grandchildren – their son having one boy and one girl and their daughter having two girls. The plastic sack rustled at the news.

Evidently he hadn’t heard the crackling sounds of the plastic because he asked, “What is in the sack? Is that what you bought at the yard sale?”

“Yes, sir,” I said, “I thought you might want it back. I know what happened to your sister.”

I pulled the Ouija board and pointer from the sack. I handed him the board but held the pointer in my hand. Sophie was trembling so I hugged her with my fingers. He turned the board over in his hands and frowned. “This was Sophie’s? How do you know it was hers? I don’t remember this game.”

“There was a piece of masking tape holding the pointer to the board, and it had your sister’s name on it.” I lied.

He gave a sad smile, “Well, I don’t remember it, but it would have been just like my little sister to play with such foolishness.” He held the board for a few moments and then handed it back to me. “Thank you for coming over, but you can keep the game. There isn’t any memory of her in there for me.” He sighed, and I was struck by the eloquence of his statement. I slid the board into the plastic sack but continued to cradle Sophie in my hand. I was relieved that he didn’t want the game. I never had any intention of giving it to him and wasn’t sure how I was going to talk my way out of it, if it had come to that.

He started to stand as though to cue my leaving, but I strove onward, “Mr. Matthews, I need a little bit more of your time to explain a few things, if I may.”

“Oh, okay, I guess.” He settled back in his chair.

I gave him pretty much the same story that I had given to Mrs. Somers; that I am a journalist (true) and sometimes work on cold cases with the police department (not altogether untrue – I was working on one now). Coming across his sister’s Ouija board had been a coincidence (maybe true – who knows?). I told him that I remembered Sophie’s name (total lie) from when I had previously reviewed cold cases and that was how I recognized her name when I saw it on the masking tape. After purchasing the game, I had been in contact with a Detective Presley Warren with the Nolensville Police Department, which is how I gained access to his sister’s case file (sort of true – Presley wouldn’t let me review the file, but we did talk about it).

“Miss Honeycutt, my sister was murdered in 1966. My parents and I were confident that the police followed every possible clue at the time, and they never found anything that would lead them to her killer. I firmly believe that my two children, my parents’ grandchildren, saved my parents from total insanity. The kids gave them something good to hold on to. The local newspapers trotted out the story in 1976 and then again in 1986, but the case still went nowhere.” He gave a weary sigh, “Since 1986, you are the first person outside of the family to approach me about Sophie’s murder.” His eyes filled with tears, “And, you wouldn’t be here now if you hadn’t gone to that stupid yard sale and bought that stupid game!”

“Hear me out, Brian. Science has come a long way in the last 20 years. For instance, Presley – that is, Detective Warren, told me that Sophie was wearing her birthstone ring on the day she was murdered. A heart shaped ring with embedded diamond chips. The police record shows that the ring was returned to your parents.”

Brian nodded with a worried expression on his face.

“Do you still have the ring, Brian?”

“Yes, I have it. Why? What does her ring have to do with anything?”

I felt a shiver of exultation course through my body like an electric current. I leaned forward in an earnest gesture, “Brian – there is a good chance that Sophie tried to defend herself and may have struck her attacker. His DNA could still be on that ring.” I awkwardly pointed at my left ring finger while still cradling Sophie. “Little bitty gemstones can collect a lot of stuff – do you understand?”
Image by by Rubyran

“Y-yes.” He admitted shakily.

“Has the ring been professionally cleaned?”

“No; that is, not that I am aware of – do you really think there could be traces of the guy’s DNA on it? God! Wouldn’t that be incredible?” He was getting animated at the prospect. Then, he slumped in his chair. “But, you would need to have specific suspects and compare the suspects’ DNA against the DNA on the ring. I think the police exhausted all suspects 47 years ago.” He ended dismally.

“I have been reviewing the police files and going through the interviews.” I lied (just a bit). There was one friend of yours who was never interviewed by the police, and I wondered about him. His mother gave him an alibi; mothers are notorious for giving phony alibis for their kids. Do you remember Roy Compton?” I held my breath. I was going way out on a limb.

“Roy Compton?” He asked. “Sure, I remember Roy. He was on the football team. We weren’t really friends exactly … more like football pals, you know. I wasn’t aware that he had even been considered a suspect at the time.”

“He wasn’t. That is why I am curious about him. All of the other men and boys even remotely acquainted with Sophie were ruled out – either because they had rock solid alibis or for other reasons. Sophie’s boyfriend, Jake, didn’t need an alibi. He was ruled out early, as he was obviously devastated by her death – in fact, he tried to resuscitate her.”

Brian was nodding, “Yes, that’s correct. Jake didn’t have anything to do with what happened to Sophie, but whoever did must have shown up right after Jake returned to the party. Jake went looking for her when she hadn’t shown up after about 15 minutes.”

“Brian – if I am right, Sophie fought against her attacker and possibly injured him …” I made a raking motion with my left ring finger … “probably in the face. Do you remember any of the guys who were around you at the time who turned up with a cut or cuts on his face after Sophie’s murder? Roy Compton, maybe?”

I could see the attempt to remember in his eyes – he stared straight for a bit – raised his eyes toward the ceiling – and then chased his eyes around the room, as though the memory lurked amongst the living room furniture. I saw it in his eyes the moment he captured it. “Roy had stitches.” His voice shook as he remembered. He motioned above his left eye.

“Was Sophie right handed?”

“Yes … yes, she was.”

“So, it would make sense that if she struck out against her attacker, she may have connected with the left side of his face?”

With a dazed look on his face, Brian nodded, “I asked Roy what had happened to him. He said he was drinking beer with a bunch of the guys at the high school football field. When he got home, he said he stumbled over something in the garage. He said …” Brian was almost apoplectic and I thought to myself, “God, Brian. Don’t stroke out on me here … now that we are so close.” I tightened my grip on Sophie so he wouldn’t notice the frenzied shaking of my hand. Brian brought himself under control and continued hoarsely, “He said his mother had to take him to the emergency room for stitches. He said his mother was really pissed at him for getting drunk and all. That bastard … that goddamn bastard! How could I not have seen it then? Sophie was pretty … all of the guys looked at her … they used to tease me about setting them up with her. Roy looked, but he never said anything to me about Sophie. Surely the police would have corroborated his story with the boys he was drinking with at the field?”

“They probably did, Brian. It would have been easy to fiddle with the timeframes, though; especially if all of the boys were drinking. Roy’s mother probably believed what she wanted to believe.”

Brian put his face in his hands and sobbed brokenly, “All of these years – Oh, my God, Sophie.”

Once I managed to get Brian calmed down, I asked him to call his wife and tell her to come home. I didn’t want to leave him there alone after what he had just remembered. He told me that Roy Compton got a scholarship with the University of Ohio (I knew that) and he played on their college team (I didn’t know that, but then I didn’t care either). He then got picked up by the NFL and played two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs as a linebacker. Brian said that Roy was a mountain of a boy/man. He got injured somehow and ended up coaching at small colleges here and there. The last time Brian had spoken to any of his old friends about Roy, they said he was semi-retired and coaching a high school team in Murfreesboro; he didn’t know which high school.

After Brian and I gave Mrs. Matthews the back story once she returned home, I told Brian that I would call Detective Warren. Brian should expect Presley to call him to make arrangements to pick up Sophie’s ring. I promised that he (Brian) would be kept informed as Presley moved forward with the case. Of course, Sophie and I had no intention of stopping now.

I called the precinct from my car and left a message on Presley’s voice mail. “I’ve spoken with Brian Matthews and he has Sophie’s ring. He said he remembers that Roy was sporting stitches above his left eye the day after Sophie’s murder. Brian said Roy Compton is working as a coach at a high school in Murfreesboro. I don’t know which one, but I’m going to find out. I’ll call you when I know more. I told Brian that you would call him to arrange for Sophie’s ring to be picked up for forensic testing. You owe me a dinner, Detective.” I gave Brian’s phone number to Presley and then disconnected my cell.

I reached into the well of the passenger seat to grab my laptop. Pushing my seat back to give myself room, I opened it up and said, “Let’s see whether we can find him, Sophie.” Sophie rustled the sack.

I found him on the website for Forest High School in Murfreesboro. He was listed as the “acting coach”. It was now a little bit after 4:00 p.m. Sophie and I had spent more than an hour with her brother. According to the navigation system, it would take us 45 minutes to get to Forest High School. Since it was summer recess, it was doubtful that Compton would be at the school. I decided we should go for it. After all, Sophie had already waited 47 years.

Arriving at the school 50 minutes later, I was in the process of tucking Sophie into her plastic traveling home when my cell phone rang. It was Presley.

“Where are you?” He barked.

“Sophie and I tracked Compton to Forest High School in Murfreesboro. We are outside of the school now.”

“I did the same tracking that you did, and I am halfway to Forest to talk with Compton. Stay in the parking lot. Wait for me.”

“No way, Presley. Sophie’s waited long enough. There aren’t many cars here. We probably can’t even get into the school.” As I was talking, I saw a man exit a side door. Without saying goodbye, I disconnected the call.

After climbing from the car while juggling both my purse and the plastic sack, I hollered, “YOO HOO!” The man stopped and looked my way.

“Can I help you?” He asked politely.

Running up to him I said breathlessly, “I had an appointment with Coach Compton at 4:30, and I’m late. Do you know if he is still here?” I was getting really good at lying and half-truths.

“Actually, I’m sure he is still here. He pointed to a blue truck. “That’s his vehicle over there.” He held the door for me and gave me directions to the gymnasium. “He’s probably in his office back there working on stuff. We are supposed to be hosting a football day camp next week for some of the middle school kids in the area.”

I thanked him for allowing me entrance.

“I’ve locked the doors, so be aware that you can get out but you won’t be able to get back in.”

“Thank you.” I said and hurried into the school.

Weaving my way through the empty school building, Sophie rustled the plastic sack.
Image by Conspirator

“Patience, Sophie,” I muttered and she settled.

When I reached the gymnasium, my sandals clacked across the paneled floor echoing like rifle shots. Pushing my way into the locker room area, I heard noises coming from an open doorway, which I assumed was Compton’s office. A very large man abruptly stuck his head around the corner of the doorway, causing me to give a startled gasp. I realized that he had heard me coming.

“Hello,” he said, “sorry if I startled you.”

I took a shaky breath, “Coach Compton?”

“Yes ma’am. How can I help you? Are you the mother of one of the camp kids?”

I flinched at the “Ma’am” reference.

Roy Compton was indeed a mountain of a man. He had to be 6’4” easily. He was still solidly built for a 65-year-old. His large head was sheared in a marine-flattop-type haircut.

“Have a seat,” he offered as he circled his desk.

“No thank you, Roy?”

Addressing him by his first name caused him to pause and he squinted from across the desk.

“Do I know you?”

“No, but you knew a good friend of mine a long time ago. In fact, you murdered her, Roy. Sophie Matthews. Do you remember Sophie, Roy? It was 47 years ago.”

My blunt delivery caused him to rock on his heels. He recovered quickly and with only a slight widening of the eyes, demanded gruffly “Who? What are you talking about, lady?”

I set my purse and the plastic sack on the desk before me. “Sophie was a pretty little thing, wasn’t she? I would guess that you had been watching her for a long time. Do you like them pretty and little, Roy?”

He blanched and I continued, “Maybe you even asked Sophie out a couple of times, but she rejected you; being rejected like that must have made you very angry.”

His face reddened and he fisted his hands at his side. “Get out of here!” He bellowed. “You’re crazy, lady. I’m calling the police.”

I shrugged, “Go ahead, Roy. Your confession is long overdue. The way I see it, you parked on the other side of that stand of trees by the lake. You figured you would sneak up on the party and spy on Sophie, but you saw Sophie and Jake by the willow didn’t you? Through the trees you watched them kiss and fondle one another. How furious you must have been that she preferred that wimpy little Jake Thorne to a big hunky football guy like you?”

He took a couple of steps and rounded the corner of the desk, and I stepped back at his approach. “After Jake left, you surprised her, you argued, and before she could scream, you grabbed her by the throat. She cut you with her ring, didn’t she? I can see the slight scar where it dissected your eyebrow. Cutting you like that brought Sophie a lot of satisfaction. She didn’t have much of a chance against your superior strength, but at least she marked you. The police have all of those new nasty DNA techniques today, Coach. Things have changed a lot since you killed Sophie. I have the ring.” I lied. “It hasn’t been cleaned. I imagine all of those nooks and crannies surrounding the diamond chips are loaded with your DNA.”

Shaking his head, he advanced, “No … no, I didn’t.”

“There was a witness that day, Roy.” That comment stopped him mid-step. “You wrapped your ham-sized hands around her puny neck, lifted her clear off the ground and carried her stiff-armed into the lake. Sophie drowned, but only after you tried to wring her neck. Afterwards you ran home to your mommy.”

Roy stood slack-jawed and finally stammered, “N-No one …”

“Sophie is here, Roy, and she is really pissed.”

God engineered the human structure to accommodate only one soul, but Sophie fought her way inside of my skin. The bones throughout my body hardened and my muscles felt taut and deep-rooted. Sophie’s rage was tremendous and glorious. “HOW DARE YOU!” She screamed. A gash appeared above Roy’s left eye and blood ran down his face. “HOW DARE YOU STEAL MY LIFE!” Her voice twisted into an anguished wail, “It was my life … mine.”

Roy Compton stared in horror for a short while and then crumpled heavily to the floor. Shielding his face, he sobbed through bloodied hands, “I’m sorry, Sophie … Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

Sophie maintained her anger for only a few seconds longer. I could feel both her relief and reluctance at letting go of the rage and injustice she had nurtured for 47 years. She did let it go, however. What had been overwhelming fury transformed into abject pity for this broken old man. Roy Compton was no longer the angry boy who had stolen Sophie’s life. That boy was gone. Hopefully, he had grown into a good man, but we had no way of knowing.

My shoulder length hair was confined to a clumsy pony tail which I had fortified with a hair tie. Sophie withdrew the hair tie and dropped it to the floor. With sensual pleasure, she slowly raked the fingers of both hands through the loosened strands. Sophie and I inhaled deeply and released a cleansing breath, savoring the corporal sensation. Tears began to fill my eyes as I realized that Sophie was leaving. I felt her soul fill with happiness over her release and mine with sadness over the loss of my friend. Sophie wiped tears away from my eyes, and I realized with a start that my glasses were in my hand, yet my vision was no longer impaired.

“Thank you.” She whispered

Sophie left; my vision blurred and my body ached with the forfeiture.

Roy lay in a sobbing, sprawling lump on the floor … blood no longer covering his hands. I heard echoing cries throughout the school, “Olivia – Olivia – Liv – and finally – Sophie!” It was Presley coming for us. I smiled through my tears and allowed my gaze to rest on the partially opened plastic grocery sack sitting on the desk. Sophie was finally on a spiritual journey to a better somewhere, and I felt a gentle sadness over the loss of my friend. The Ouija board was still in the sack … The Mystifying Oracle; an inanimate parlor game.

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