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The Haunting of Bowen Corners (standard:humor, 33995 words)
Author: JosprelAdded: Mar 01 2006Views/Reads: 3173/3035Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An only child, Swanna was tutored at home by the best teachers her parent's millions could hire. And, knowing mostly the company of snobbish adults, she acquired the demeanor of one who viewed those outside her social standing as one views a cockroach in
 



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"I'll speak as I wish, Mr. Kregs."  Swanna's searing stare would have
curdled the milk of an entire dairy herd.  Her nose wrinkled, as though 
Loren had halitosis. 

He turned to the others.  "Maybe what you saw was a dog or a . . ." 

"Don't ignore me, Mr. Kregs.  It was a ghost!  And you better do
something about it." 

Verony saw Loren's jaws clench.  Her touch checked him. "Please listen,
Swanna," she requested. 

"Owls hunt in the cemetery.” Loren continued, “They . . ." 

"I said it was a ghost, Mr. Kregs; all in white.  Do something!" 

Loren threw up his hands.  Prudence was advising him to close the
interview before he did something that might end his career. He nudged 
Butch, who was sitting on a sofa arm next to him, infatuation for 
Swanna etched on his face.  "Did you boys pull a prank?" 

Embarrassed at being caught with a puppy-dog look on his face, Butch
only shook his head. 

"Okay, girls.  Butch'll drive you home." 

"It really was a ghost, Mrs. Kregs," one of the girls whimpered. 

"The sheriff will check into it, Debbie. Won't you dear?" 

Verony's hazel eyes telegraphed the response she expected.  Her
husband's eyes were Saturnine; still, he nodded. 

"Why would you blame your own son, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna." 

"I'll walk, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna.  Now!" 

"You needn't shout. I'm getting in." 

CHAPTER TWO 

Friendly, outgoing Loren Kregs was born on his parents 200 hundred acre
farm, one-quarter mile from the intersection of Bowen and Versailles 
roads - Bowen Corners.  He loved the place; nonetheless, after earning 
an advanced degree in criminology, he entered law enforcement and then 
married Verony, his high school sweetheart.  When Loren inherited the 
farm, they moved into its rambling house and, with the outbreak of war, 
the land was rented to Dwain and Ken, the eldest sons of Loren's alter 
ego, Roger Jarvan. 

In renting the acreage, the Jarvans were complying with the federal
government's request for increased farm production.  By renting Loren's 
land, they would more than double the yield of their farm. However, the 
war had caused a farm labor shortage.  Planting the added acreage was 
tinged by the concern of finding enough workers for the harvest. So, 
like other farmers, each spring the Jarvans recruited city women with 
teen-age children to gather crops.  They trucked these city harvesters, 
together with their furnishings, to hastily built, farm shanty 
communities, where they lived while they gathered crops, until the 
beginning of the next school year. 

In addition to his law enforcement duties, Loran served as a member of
the local draft board, a position that often impacted his attitude 
toward the youth.  Throughout his long tenure as sheriff, he always was 
notably tolerant with kids, often to the exasperation of the victims of 
their high-spirited monkeyshines.  Now, the war made him more so.  The 
front windows of at least a score of Cayuga county homes displayed gold 
stars.  A lump filled his throat whenever he saw one; he knew most of 
the boys those stars represented. 

The death of Daniel Mancione, the county's first gold star casualty,
especially devastated Loren. Not waiting to be drafted, after high 
school, Mancione enlisted in the Air Force. A wiz at mathematics, he 
trained as a navigator, received his wings and an officer's commission, 
then was sent to England.  Not long after, while returning from a 
mission, badly damaged, with two engines in flames and flying too low 
for the crew to bail out, his bomber attempted a belly landing.  It 
exploded, killing the entire crew. 

Before the war, the high-spirited, prankish Mancione often served “The
Kregs Alternative,” a program of the Sheriff's Department.  Subscribed 
to by all of the county officials,  justices and the district attorney, 
it permitted kids to make restitution and perform community service, in 
lieu of the more serious consequences that could result from their 
inoffensive pranks, inadvertently gone awry. Thus, their records 
remained unblemished. 

At times, when passing the Mancione home, with it forlorn gold star,
Loren wondered whether The Kregs Alternative contributed to Danny's 
death.  Maybe a few blemishes on his record would have disqualified him 
from navigator's training.   Maybe that would have put him in a ground 
assignment.   Maybe – just maybe - if not for The Kregs Alternative, 
Danny still would be alive . . . maybe  . . .  maybe  .  .  .  maybe. 

There were other things Loren recalled about Danny Mancione: he never
was disrespectful to his elders.  Always, he accepted his punishment 
without complaining, never denying that he deserved it.  Moreover, he 
fulfilled his punishment assignments to the best of his ability.  Yes, 
Danny was a high-spirited kid who loved to play pranks, yet, they 
always were done in a spirit of innocent fun.  And, if he was caught, 
he accepted the consequences with his good-natured grin. 

Swanna, though, was a new experience for Loren: it was the first time
during his service as sheriff that any kid had ever defied him.  As he 
now watched through the screen door, he noticed that only she was 
occupying the truck's cab with Butch.  He understood the boy's 
infatuation - the girl was gorgeous. Too bad her attitude didn't match. 


Loren was sure that, most likely, it was an animal the girls had seen.
It also was possible they were victims of heightened imaginations. 
After all, what did city kids know of dim roads rimmed by swaying 
shadows, or nocturnal animals prowling dark fields in search of a meal, 
or a muted moon shadowed by wind-swayed trees? They easily could have 
been fooled. 

“Me investigate a ghost?” he almost shouted to Verony, “Can you imagine
what people will do if they find out that I went into a cemetery 
searching for a ghost? Why, I'll be the laughingstock of Collins.  For 
sure, they'll put me in a loony bin.  That Swanna;  what planet is she 
from, anyway?” 

Verony seemed amused. "I'll go with you, honey,” she offered, “That way,
you won't be alone in your loony bin.” 

“I'm glad you find it so amusing,” Loren sullenly responded, “You had to
make me promise to search the place, didn't you. We'll see just how 
amusing you think it is come election time and I'm laughed out of 
office.” 

“Tell me honey,” chided Verony, “how did we get all the way from girls
who were frightened by some boys playing a prank, to your loosing the 
election for checking out  a complaint about the old cemetery?” 

Loren assumed a hangdog look. “If rudeness was a crime, Swanna'd get
life in Alcatraz," he muttered, "Okay, let's go," 

CHAPTER THREE 

As usual on Tuesday mornings, the large, round table at the rear of
Frank's Country Kitchen was surrounded by an informal gathering of 
farmers and other locals, including Loren and the Jarvans. Word of 
Loren's graveyard investigation was the topic of the morning, and he 
was the butt of much good-natured teasing. Earlier, before Loren 
entered, Frank and Bob Stroggen, whose large dairy farm straddled 
Versailles road concocted a prank. Biding his time, the corpulent 
proprietor waited until Loren and his friends were served.  Then, 
pouring himself a cup of coffee, he joined them. 

Assuming a deadpan demeanor, he asked, “Say, sheriff what's this about a
ghost in your house? I hear your making an investigation into it.  I 
didn't know you believed in ghosts.” 

“Now, come on, Frank, I've taken enough ribbing this morning to last a
lifetime.  Besides, the whole thing has nothing to do with my house. 
Just some boys playing a prank on some girls. The girls told me they 
saw ghosts in that old graveyard at Bowens Corners.  That's all there 
is to story.” 

With a perturbed grimace, Loren paused, before emphatically adding ,
“And I don't believe in ghosts.” 

Apparently taken aback by Loren's  skepticism, Frank responded, “Well,
maybe you don't believe in ghosts, Loren, but I sure do.  My 
grandmother used to get rid of them by using holy spells.  I saw her do 
it.  And, she taught me how , too.” 

“Cut the hogwash, Frank!  All this garbage just because of some
hysterical city girls, who  don't know their rear end from a hole in 
the ground.” 

Standing, Loren sidled toward the door.  “I'm leaving; I don't want to
discuss it anymore.” 

Bob Stroggen had been listening attentively to the exchange.  Sensing
that now was the moment to spring their prank , he cast a  sidelong 
glance toward Frank and called out, “Wait a minute, Loren, I've been 
sitting  here listening to Frank tooting his horn  about knowing  all 
those magic spells to get  rid of ghosts.  I think it's just a lot of 
hot air.  Let him prove it.” 

Loren fanned the air with his hand.  “I told you I don't have time for
this garbage.” 

“Come on, sheriff, be a good sport.  Let's see what Frank can do.  If he
can do anything, that is.” 

With a graphic middle finger, Loren rejected the  challenge and left,
leaving Stroggen  and Frank disappointed by an incomplete prank. 

***** 

After leaving Frank's, Loren stopped by Jarven's office to visit with
Rogers.   Roger's son, Mark, also was there. 

"Well, Roger, I don't think the girls on your place will be seeing any
more ghosts, no matter what Swanna says,” Loren gloated, “I'm glad our 
problems with her are over.” 

"Maybe yours, not ours," Roger responded in a gloomy Gus tone.  Sporting
the logo of a farm machine company, the cap on his head, when compared 
to his studious features, was a study in contrast; a homburg would have 
better suited the accountant. Unlike Loren, Roger had enjoyed working 
the family farm. However, selecting the most prestigious scholarship 
offer his exceptional scholastic achievements had brought him, his 
parents enrolled him in a university at Boston, where he earned a summa 
cum laude masters degree in accounting.  Though the university offered 
him a full professorship, he chose instead to open an accounting 
practice in Collins, where he married Marcy.  Prominent farmers and 
agribusinesses throughout the state sought Roger's services. He 
established branch offices in numerous other towns and soon was 
recognized as the state's foremost pundit on agricultural economics. 

But nowadays, sadness hounded the Jarvans. Four years ago, Roger's
parents died in a train accident, leaving him the farm Mark had managed 
for them and now managed for his father. Then, early last year, a 
congenital cardiac had defect claimed Marcy.  Somewhat simultaneously, 
Tommy, Roger's youngest son, was severely wounded while serving as a 
naval officer in the South Pacific.  His wounds prompted the Navy to 
delay informing him of his mother's death until he was medically 
approved for a furlough.   Home on leave now, tormented by a profound 
melancholy, he blamed himself for her death. 

Loren realized that the last thing the Jarvans needed were more problems
from someone he considered to be a spoiled city brat.   His brows 
knitted. "What do you mean, your problem with Swanna isn't over? Why 
isn't it over?" 

"The mothers want us to drive the girls from town every Saturday, but
Swanna said she'd rather walk; so now all the girls want to walk.  The 
mothers are fuming," Mark explained. 

"You mean the girls won't ride without Swanna?" 

Receiving a dejected nod, Loren combed his fingers through his hair. 
Then he asked, "Tell me what you know about that spoiled 
pain-in-the-butt!” 

CHAPTER FOUR 

Given to three-piece, pin-striped suits, and always one to assume a
posture of hauteur superiority toward others, Mr. Wendler was putty in 
Swanna's hands; he doted on her. An only child, she was tutored at home 
by the best teachers his millions could hire. And, knowing mostly the 
company of snobbish adults, she had acquired the demeanor of one who 
viewed those outside her social standing as one views a cockroach in 
need extermination. Manure-smelling boots had a better chance of 
acceptance by Swanna, than someone her quirks led her to dislike. 

The girl's demeanor was that of one much older than her sixteen years;
even so, she was badly spoiled. Like those of her father, her dealings 
with the household staff were tyrannical and haughty.  Outside of the 
family's ear-shot, the staff referred to her as, “Miss 
Bully-Two-Shoes.” 

Indeed, Swanna was in defacto control of the Wendler household. Her
every whim was granted by her misguided, over-indulgent, snob of a 
father, in whose opinion Swanna could do no wrong!  So, Mrs. Wendler 
didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell when Miss Bully- Two-Shoes 
decreed that her loyalty to her country required that she and her 
mother harvest crops for the war effort. 

“Our boys are fighting for our country,” she announced to her father,
“They need food!  My tutor said that there's a shortage of harvest 
workers.  Some of his students will be spending their summer picking 
crops for the war effort! I think Mother and I must help, too.” 

Her features haunted by an inner anxiety, Mrs. Wendler gave her husband
a smile of mute appeal. “We don't have the ability for that kind of 
work. Maybe we should help  our boys by doing work for the Red Cross or 
helping out at a U.S.O. canteen.  That way . . .” 

Swanna went spastic!  Raking her mother with a keep-your-mouth-shut
glare, she stamped her feet, hysterically shrieking at the highest 
octave she could manage, “ I don't want to help the Red  Cross;  I want 
to pick crops on a farm!  Why won't you ever let me do what I want? I 
think you're a traitor to  our country.  You're helping Hitler!” 

Swanna put her arms around her father.  Modulating  Her tone to a soft,
pitiable whimper, through pouty lips, she said, “Daddy, please make 
mommy go to a farm with me this summer. Pleeease? Pleeease? I want so 
much to help the war effort.” 

Mr. Wendler stared adoringly at his daughter, then fixed cold eyes on
his wife. “See how you've upset the poor think?” he scolded,  “How can 
you be so  callous?  All she's asking is to help our  servicemen. 

“You're setting a very poor example,” he continued, “I think it's
wonderful she's willing to pick crops on a farm.” 

With a backhanded gesture of disgust, Mr. Wendler ordered,  “You're
going.  It's for a good  cause.   Anyhow, the country air will do you 
both worlds of good.  It'll be like taking a long country vacation.  
I'll visit you from time to time.   My secretary will make all the 
arrangements for Swanna and you.” 

That did it; Mrs. Wendler's summer fate was sealed! ***** 

Unaccustomed as she was to agonizing, backbreaking exertion, Mrs.
Wendler soon became overwhelmed by the grueling harvest schedule.  
After one week, she phoned her husband to inform him of her exhaustion, 
and demanded that he send a limousine to take her home. 

“Does Swanna want to leave?” he asked. 

“That makes no difference; I want to leave!” Mrs. Wendler shot back,
“I'll take no more of this nonsense.  I'm all aches and pains.  Send a 
car immediately.” 

“Let me speak with Swanna.” 

“She's not here.  She went to town.” 

“Does she want to come home?” 

“I'm her mother and I say I want to go home.” 

“If Swanna wants to come home, I'll send a car.  Have her call if she
does.  Otherwise, I want you to stay there.  Must run now.  Goodbye.”  
A telephonic hum replaced Mr. Wendler's voice. 

In the wake of that phone call, Mrs. Wendler resigned herself to her
summer in agricultural purgatory.  She knew she loved Swanna, but was 
plagued by guilt, due to an increasing sense of ambivalence toward her. 


One of the prettiest girls ever to grace Collins, Swanna was keenly
aware of her assets. When she eventually joined the teens on their 
Saturday night hikes, boys requesting dates besieged her.  She never 
accepted or refused, choosing instead to keep them dangling in limbo.  
Toward other girls she behaved as a Cleopatra among handmaidens.  And 
woe to the girl who didn't kowtow to her. 

"So you see,” Mark concluded, “she tries to control everyone, Loren;
even us." 

The High Sheriff stood to leave.  "I know the feeling." 

"Will do us a small favor, Loren?"   Roger asked. 

Loren listened dubiously and left Roger's office. "Some small favor," he
moaned softly to himself, “Why didn't he ask me something simple, like 
capture Hitler or sink the whole Japanese navy?” 

Then he headed for his office by jaywalking Main Street against the
light. “The things I do for my friends,” he muttered, inwardly berating 
himself for not having the guts to say no to Roger's favor. 

CHAPTER FIVE 

For over a century, the graveyard at Bowen Corners had huddled next to
an ancient relic, as though consoling its occupants, by embracing the 
abandoned  edifice that once was their church.  A grove butted the 
building's opposite side, edging Versailles road, and then fronting on 
Bowen.  Not even the brightness of the waxing, gibbous moon revealed 
the green and white patrol car camouflaged by the prolific vegetation.  
 The officers in the car could think of things they'd rather be doing 
than this Saturday night, graveyard surveillance. But Loren had 
promised Rodger, and he always kept his word, even when it made him 
feel as idiotic as he now did.  With him on this stakeout was Chief 
Deputy Billy Greenoak. 

Cayuga County had salvaged the cemetery from oblivion by granting
Marcy's requests that it be her final resting place.  A matching bench 
where visitors could pray and meditate, while reflecting on eternal 
mysteries flanked her white, marble monument. 

Tonight, such enigmas occupied neither man's mind.  Hunched behind the
steering wheel, Greenoak sighed wearily.  Each time his cigarette rose, 
its glow heightened his gaunt features, strikingly appropriate to the 
vicinity. Then, like a spooked firefly, it drifted downward. 

"I hear them.  What's the time?" Loren asked. 

Again, the glow braved Greenoak's features.  Retreating to his
wristwatch, it then expired between a thumb and forefinger.  "Almost 
ten." 

The officers left the car to positioned themselves behind some
shrubbery.  The moonlight revealed a troop of boys joshing their way 
across the intersection.  Loren knew the one turning onto Versailles 
road was Chris Stroggen, heading for home.  Hearing Butch shout for 
Chris to phone him in the morning made Loren uneasy.  He hoped the kids 
never learned of this lookout.  The boys passed the officers, their 
rowdiness cresting for several seconds, then waning. 

Feminine voices came into earshot.  Soon, some twenty girls approached,
their singing subsiding as they neared the Corners.  By the time they 
crossed, they were pressing away from the cemetery, to the far side of 
the road.  Not until they again were invisible, did their singing 
resume. 

Loren stood.  He was about to return to the car, when Billy leaped up,
exclaiming incredulously, "What in tarnation is that?" 

Close to where the girls had faded, a barely visible white shape
emerged.  "Where'd that thing come from?" Loren asked.  His tone 
disclosed profound bewilderment and he sensed a surge of adrenalin.   A 
cool clamminess dampened his forehead. 

Billy's lips formed a silent pucker.  Brows lifted, hands extended in a
“who knows” gesture, he slowly shook his head. The hobbling figure 
turned suddenly, seemed to drift over the near culvert and disappeared. 


Billy gasped!  "See that?" he blurted.  "It floated right over the
ditch. They're right; it is a ghost!" 

"Now don't you go yelling spooks.  Get in the car; let's get down
there." 

When they investigated the spot where the apparition had vanished, Loren
chuckled.  On either side of the road wide, heavy crossovers bridged 
the culverts.  "No crossovers at your place, Billy?  Do you float over 
the ditches?" 

Noting his buddy's mortification, he promised, "I won't tell anyone,
Billy.  Let's go.  I've got a hunch. ***** 

Flashlight darkened, Greenoak tracking close behind, Loren moved
silently past the rear of the old church.  At the edge of the 
graveyard, he scanned the headstones.  The mysterious figure was seated 
on Marcy's bench, its mournful voice wafting on the night breeze.  
Realizing that his suspicion was confirmed, Loren felt like a sinner 
profaning a benediction.  His instant about-face caused a collision 
with Greenoak, generating a loud grunt that brought the figure to its 
feet. 

"Who's there?" 

"Loren Kregs and Billy Greenoak.  Sorry we disturbed you." 

Hobbling closer, the figure stopped and leaned heavily on a cane.   It
was Tommy Jarvan, dressed in the white uniform of a naval Commander.  
This was only the second time Loren had seen him since his arrival: if 
the first time could be considered seeing him.  Tommy had retreated to 
his room, when Loren and his family had stopped by to visit him.  
Though he still seemed distant, it was he who broke the awkward 
silence. 

"Hello, Loren.  Checking out the girls' story?" 

"Yes.  For your dad." 

Tommy nodded.  "I was the one they saw." 

"Why didn't you tell your dad?" 

"You know my dad is angry with me for enlisting.   He's tries to speak
to me, but I know it's for appearances sake.  So I avoid speaking with 
him as much as I can.   I don't have to tell you I'm his black sheep.  
He hates me, especially now that mom's gone."  Tommy's deep voice 
betrayed a profound inner agony. 

Sudden anger made Loren's blood surge to his face.  He hesitated,
battling the urge to reply to the wounded, young officer in the way he 
felt he should.  He lost the battle.  “Oh, to blazes with my feeling 
sorry for him,” he thought, and plunged ahead. 

"Well, what more to do you expect him to do?  He wrote asking you to
forgive him; he showed me the letter.  You're the one who didn't answer 
it, so quit crucifying him.   Do you expect him to crawl to you on his 
hands and knees and kiss your feet?” 

Tommy's gasped, and Loren worried he'd gone too far. But Roger and he
always were like second fathers to each other's kids.  Roger and he 
were so close, Marcy once observed, that when one felt pain, the other 
winced.   Loren considered Tommy's remarks unfair to Roger. 

The exchange startled Greenoak, leaving the taciturn deputy uncertain of
how to react.  He wanted to at least greet Tommy.  "Your mom sure was 
proud of you, Tommy," he blurted. 

The words ignited a scornful explosion from the commander.  "Why?  For
killing her?" 

"That's enough!”  Loren's stern tone earned a slack jawed stare from
Tommy. 

The sheriff's tone softened. “You didn't kill your mother, Tommy.  She
had heart problems from the time we were kids together.  She knew she 
would die at an early age.  Your father knew; so did Verony and I – 
even before they were married.   At first, even though your mom was in 
love with your dad, she refused to marry him because of her heart.  She 
told him she would never get married.  And she really meant it.  It 
took a lot of persuasion for your father to get her to marry him.   He 
kept telling her illness made no difference to him because he loved her 
just the way she was. 

“You know, son, I think it was their love for each and you kids that
made her live as long as she did.   She lived a lot longer than the 
doctors predicted.  They gave her only a few years. When you kids came 
along, your folk made all their friends promise not to say anything to 
you.  You can understand why they didn't want you to know.  Your dad's 
a great guy.  Go home and talk with him, son.  Don't sell him short 
because of what he did when you joined up.” 

The moonlight reflected from the wetness flowing down the cheeks of the
young officer.  He declined Loren's offer to drive him home, noting 
that it was only a short walk to his house.   Silence prevailed between 
the two lawmen during most of their trip back to town.   Not until they 
reached the outskirts did Greenoak penetrate it with an observation.   
"Well, Loren, guess we can say the mystery's solved." 

"Seems so, Billy; still, I find no satisfaction in it.” 

CHAPTER SIX 

Tommy Jarvan inherited his father's prodigious intellect, without his
ties to Collins.  He was not yet twenty when he completed college with 
a summa cum laude, master degree in Pharmacology - his passion.  His 
parents had planned for him to enter a doctoral program; however, a 
year before Pearl Harbor, he devastated Marcy and enraged Roger by 
enlisting in the Navy. 

Roger firmly rebuffed Tommy on his first leave, so the youth's family
contact became mostly limited to correspondence with Marcy. After his 
graduation from Officers Candidate School, he received his commission 
as a pharmaceutical officer, and saw action aboard an aircraft carrier 
during the Battle of Midway.  Shortly thereafter, he slogged ashore at 
Guadalcanal in command of combat corpsmen attached to the Marines. 

Fo months Tommy endured Guadalcanal's nerve-shattering, jungle combat
conditions. Then, while crawling under heavy fire, to rescue three 
Marines who were being raked by an enemy pillbox, he sustained his near 
fatal wounds.  Only the quick action of his own corpsmen saved him; 
nonetheless, from hip to toes, his right side suffered the permanent 
loss of all sensation.  It required several months of excruciating 
therapy for him to finally be able to hobble from the hospital, using 
only a cane. 

In March of 1944, Tommy returned home on convalescent leave.  Tormented
by the belief that his rebellion had caused his mother's death, he 
rejected his father's explanation that a congenital heart defect had 
taken her.  His graveyard encounter with Loren now prompted him to read 
unopened letters he had stashed.  Trailing in the wake of his battles, 
they at last had caught up with him a few days before his leave.  In 
his grief over Marcy's death, he had refused to read them. 

Just as Loren had said, there was his father's letter asking for his
forgiveness.  It was mailed just before the landing at Guadalcanal. 
And, reading Marcy's final letters, Tommy noticed her glowing pride 
Greenoak had mentioned.  He also detected something else: the subtle 
confirmation that what he had been told about her death was true. Under 
combat conditions, it would have been easy to miss.  Yet, there it was 
– between the lines; her very subtle message, telling him of her 
chronic tiredness and her desire for a quick end to the war so that 
they could be together again.   It avoided any overt mention that an 
imperfectly formed heart  would soon claim her. 

"No mother could hope for a better son.  I've always been so proud of
you. And I'm so very, very proud of the job you're doing in the Navy, 
helping to save the lives of so many of our servicemen, so that they 
can return to their families. 

“I'll love you throughout eternity, my wonderful, darling son. And I
know that God will reunite us too, in His own time," her last letter 
concluded.  By the time Tommy finished reading it, his tears again were 
flowing, wetting the pages. 

That night, together with Roger, he revisited Marcy's grave. There by
the gravesite, father and son stood with bowed heads, as Tommy told her 
of their reconciliation.  “I love you, mom,” he concluded, “and I want 
you to know that I'm finally home.” 

CHAPTER SEVEN 

The next morning, while the workers waited at the shanties for Mark to
arrive with the truck, Tommy drove up with Roger and Loren.  Swanna 
alone rejected his explanation about the ghost. 

"Another stupid story, Mr. Kregs?" she fumed.  "It was a ghost, not this
childish Sea Scout, crying for his . . ." 

Mrs. Wendler's forceful shove sent Swanna stumbling backward, until she
solidly rear-ended the ground.  A pang of guilt plagued Loren when 
Swanna's gawking incredulity, enhanced by her blushing embarrassment, 
warmed the cockles of his heart, increasing his estimate of her mother. 


Mrs. Wendler's voice dripped with righteous anger; her eyes flashed
fire. "On your feet right now, young lady; apologize this instant!" 

The command came through lips pursed with suppressed fury; Swanna was
afraid to stand.  She just stared.  She had never seen her mother 
appear so absolutely formidable.  None of the bystanders opted for 
intervention. 

"Get on your feet!"  The order was enforced by a forward step.  Swanna
took several backward pushes with her heels, and scrambled up. 

"I told you to apologize."  The mother took another step, and Swanna
whimpered a hurried, "I'm sorry." 

"For what?  And use their names." 

"I'm sorry for what I said, Mr. Kregs." 

"He's High Sheriff Kregs." 

Swanna repeated the title, and then blubbered, "What do I call the other
one?" 

"You address him as Mister Jarvan." 

"I'm . . .  I'm sorry for what I said, Mi . . .  Mi . . . ster Jarvan." 

"Now go to the shanty, and stay there, until I say you may leave." 

The girl hurled through the crowd and rounded a row of shanties. 
Vibrating the crisp, morning air, the furious slam of a screen door 
announced her compliance with her mother's demand. 

"I'm so very sorry, gentlemen," apologized Mrs. Wendler, voice
struggling to control its quavering 

"Thank you, Mrs. Wendler," acknowledged Tommy. 

Loren nodded with a forced, insipid smile, and then headed for his car. 
He was accelerating, when a blue stake truck barreled over the crest of 
a rise in the road.  Its driver flagged him to a crawl.  "How'd it go, 
Loren?" 

"Mark, don't ask; you'd never believe it." 

CHAPTER EIGHT 

Strawberry season blended into bean picking time, with Swanna constantly
yammering to leave.  She continuously phoned her father, nagging for 
him to send a chauffeur to drive her home.   It was to no avail.  On 
learning of his daughter's conduct toward Loren, and especially toward 
a severely wounded naval officer, Mr. Wendler's belated try at 
discipline prolonged Swanna's demonstration of patriotism. 

Forbidden to associate with her by their mothers, all the girls avoided
her now, and Loren noticed an intense hatred blazed in her eyes 
whenever she saw him.  Tommy mentioned to Loran that he also had sensed 
himself fixed by that same malevolent glare.  He had returned to duty, 
having piggybacked a ride at the Niagara Falls Air Base, on an Air 
Force plane bound for Seattle.   No longer eligible for overseas duty 
because of his severe disability, he now held the post of Chief 
Pharmaceutical Officer at the Seattle Veterans Hospital, with the four 
stripes and the eagles of a naval Captain – the Navy's youngest. 

Loren knew Roger had returned from his trip.  He had driven back to
Collins in last night's soaking rainstorm. The stifling mugginess that 
followed had permeated this second Saturday of August, until the 
evening breezes conquered it. 

Enjoying the change, Loren sat with Verony on the front veranda,
listening to approaching male voices.  Bantering their way from town, 
the boys from the Jarvan farm entered the circular glow radiating from 
the driveway lights.  Not seeing his son, Loren called out, "Where's 
Butch?" 

"Still at Guggin's, sheriff." 

The group's voices receded, and Loren dozed.  The sudden silence of the
night creatures woke him.  Their calls had been replaced by another 
sound. 

Verony moved to the lawn.  "Are those screams?" 

"Yes, sounds like girls." 

Growing louder, the cries echoed from the direction of Bowen Corners. 
"Wait here." Loren ordered. 

"Oh, no; I'm going, too!" 

CHAPTER NINE 

They hadn't driven far when the headlights revealed three girls, waving
frantically.  The couple got out and more girls bolted from the 
darkness.   And  calmly moseying behind came Swanna. 

Surrounded by the nearly incoherent girls, Verony demanded to know what
had happened.  It was shy, taciturn Debbie who managed to stammer, "In 
graveyard . . . two ghosts.  Carrie . . . in ditch." 

A sickening anxiety stabbed Loren's gut. "You mean the culvert?" 

"Yes . . . near . . . church." 

A glacial freeze encased his heart.  Near the Corners, the culverts
deepened to pass under the intersection.  After a storm, even large 
animals occasionally drowned in them.  The girl could be dead. 

"Get going, Loren," hurried Verony, her voice quavering,  "I'll take the
girls home in the truck." 

"Radio Greenoak first and phone Doc.  Tell them to watch for my lights. 
Come with me, Debbie." 

The beams from Loren's spotlights skimmed the shoulder of the road. 
They were nearing the cemetery when Debbie yelled, "Stop!  She's there. 
Over there.  She didn't fall in." 

Her finger directed Loren's gaze to what appeared to be a discarded
bundle of rags.  Inching the car forward, he illuminated the place with 
the spotlights. Then, handing the keys to Debbie, he instructed her to 
bring him the medical kit from the car trunk, and hurried to Carrie. 

He found her unconscious, legs dangling over the ditch. Had she revived
alone in the dark, the waters would have claimed her - of that, he was 
sure.  Not until he drew her away from the brink did his heart thaw. 

Debbie brought the kit, and the smelling salts worked instantly.  Carrie
bolted upright with a snort and a saucer-eyed stare.  She immediately 
recognized Loren, on his heels next to her.  Clamping her arms around 
his neck, she toppled him into a sitting position, ending up seated in 
his lap.  Even with Debbie's help, he couldn't break free.   And that's 
when Greenoak arrived, followed by Doc Krastil and Glen, his assistant. 
 They found Cayuga County's High Sheriff sitting on the shoulder of 
Bowen road.  His patrol car illuminated his futile struggles to free 
himself from the firm embrace of a pretty girl cuddled in his lap.  As 
though vying for his attention, a second girl assisted his efforts. 

Seeing the three men practically doubled over from gales of convulsive
laughter, Loren bellowed, "Don't just stand there laughing through you 
galdarn teeth.  Get her off!" 

Carrie's hysteria was obvious, prompting Doc to ask what had happened. 
A string of roaring profanities spewed from the enraged High Sheriff. 
"Stop asking your stupid questions, and get me loose; she's choking 
me!" 

It required a sedative before Glen could pry loose Carrie's grip on
Loren. Doc found her relatively unharmed and ordered rest for her, 
until he prescribed otherwise.  Then Glen drove both girls home. 

Billy and Doc turned to Loren in silent expectancy. Now that his ordeal
was over, he stared back with an affected grin.  "Okay, I'll tell you." 


Somewhat sheepishly, he apologized for his anger, and then explained
what happened.  "But she really was strangling me," he rationalized. 

"You rescued her, Loren. You're her hero," teased Doc. 

Loren's hands fanned the air in disgust.  "I should of known better than
to tell you about it.” 

"Seems you're the one who needed protection, chief," quipped Billy, "Two
ghosts now, huh?" 

Loren sidled toward his car.  "More like two boys in sheets, I'd say." 

Billy left for town with Doc.  And, as Loren pulled away, he fervently
hoped that tonight's humiliating fiasco was really only a horrible 
nightmare. 

CHAPTER TEN 

Loren sat in his office, glumly drumming his fingers on his desk. Having
gotten wind of the incident at Bowen Corners, his political opponents 
had dubbed him, "Lover Boy Kregs."  Even the media were capitalizing on 
the smear. 

What had gotten into Butch and Chris?  The prank could have cost Carrie
her life, not to mention ruin theirs.  He pushed the thought away.  
What a mess. Initially, both boys denied any involvement in the prank. 
But when Verony returned home from driving the girls to the shanties, 
she noticed Butch's muddy shoes by the side steps.  He was sitting in 
the kitchen, nonchalantly munching a sandwich.  The muddy shoes and his 
forced smile had roused her suspicions. She quizzed him. He claimed his 
shoes were dirtied while he was roughhousing with Chris. 

Loren checked the cemetery the next day.  The evidence was irrefutable. 
One set of muddy tracks led from the graveyard and gradually 
disappeared in the direction of the Stroggen farm.  A second set faded 
in the direction of the Kregs's home.  Still, Butch and Chris clung to 
their story, until Bob Stroggen discovered the clincher. 

At first, Bob was amused by the prank.  However, when he learned of
Carrie's close brush with death, his amusement vanished.  His wife's 
puzzlement over two missing sheets prompted him to investigate.  He 
found them deeply buried in one of his haylofts, and the boys 
confessed. 

The possibility that Butch or Chris might someday be serving The
Alternative had never occurred to Loren.  Greenoak carefully paced 
those on the program, working them three hours a day, five days a week. 
Butch and Chris began their three months yesterday, when they washed 
windows in the county courthouse. Today they were loading a truck with 
scrap metal for the war effort.  Tomorrow it would be old newspapers. 

Hearing his stomach grumble, Loren stood to leave for Frank's, when his
secretary ushered in two visitors.  The Army officer was Major Kremple. 
 Commanding officer of the military inspectors who graded the food 
products shipped to the military from Cayuga County, he was the Chief 
Military Inspector of the county's food processing plants.  He 
regularly ate at Frank's.  The civilian with him was a stranger.  His 
summer striped suit and paisley bow tie fought vainly to overcome the 
anonymity of his nondescript features. 

"Afternoon, Major." 

"Afternoon, High Sheriff.  Meet Agent Euler of the FBI." 

Loren's eyebrows shot up. Moving around his desk, he extended his hand. 
Then, indicating a brown leather sofa, he waited until his guests were 
comfortable before folding himself into a matching chair. 

"Now, how may I help Hoover?" 

"Sheriff, there's sabotage in your county." Euler's monotone was
reminiscent of an auctioneer's chant. 

Loren almost gagged.  "What? Where?" 

Kremple took over.  "The cannery's rocks in bean sacks from the Jarvan
farm.  The conveyer system was damaged two weeks ago. You heard?" 

Receiving a nod, Kremple continued. "Before arriving, Agent Euler sent
us a code to secretly mark each worker's sacks.  The rocks come from a 
Mrs. Wendler." 

Loren blinked, and Euler's eyes narrowed.  "Know her?" 

"I met her.  But it can't be her doing it.  It must be her daughter." 

"Why?" 

Loren gave a soft, bitter snort.  "Agent Euler, if you knew Swanna,
you'd know why." 

Noticing Euler's puzzled look, he added, "If you'll play along with me,
we might pry the truth from her.  I'm sure the Jarvans'll help." 

CHAPTER ELEVEN 

The next morning, the banshee like wails of screaming sirens surprised
the Jarvan farm workers. Looking up from rows dotted by partly filled 
sacks, they saw an astonishing motorcade. Six sheriff's cars and three 
Army Jeeps, a paddy wagon and an Army sedan - all with flashing strobe 
lights - snaked their way along the dirt road that led to the bean 
field. 

Halting their Jeeps in a dusty cloud, several Military Police
dismounted, assuming a parade rest stance in front of the weighing 
area.  At the edge of the field, the deputies faced the workers in a 
similar stance. 

Fully attired in a gray, summer uniform, High Sheriff Loren Kregs now
advanced!  Dark aviator lenses shaded his eyes. And, on each shoulder, 
four gold stars indicated his rank as the High Sheriff of Cayuga 
County.  A trooper's hat adorned his head, the braided, gold cord 
around its crown matching a similar frog looped over his left shoulder. 
Beneath his badge, rows of service ribbons decorated his chest.  And 
his Jodhpur pants, trimmed with gold side stripes, were tucked into 
spit-polished, police boots.  From a wide, black belt hung a glistening 
holster.  And, while his left hand rested on his hip, the other 
fingered the pistol. Even the MPs snapped to attention at his approach. 


"Assemble your workers, Mr. Jarvan!” The High Sheriff's command carried
across the field, and Mark immediately complied. 

Now, the occupants of the sedan stepped out: an Army officer and a
civilian.  "Keep your men alert, sergeant," the officer commanded. 

"I'm Major Kremple," he shouted, "Is there a Mrs. Wendler here?" 

A murmur rippled through the crowd. Heads turned toward an eye-catching,
petite woman wearing a white, long-sleeved camise, tucked into a blue, 
ankle-length, peasant skirt. Blond hair peeked from under an enormous 
straw hat that shaded eyes already protected by sunglasses.  Her 
fidgety hands, covered by gardening gloves, signaled alarm.  Appearing 
equally dismayed, a pretty girl at her side gracefully reached for the 
woman's arm. 

"I'm Mrs. Wendler, gentlemen." 

"Please remain, Mrs. Wendler, " ordered the civilian.  "The rest of you
must leave." 

"May I stay?" the girl timidly requested. 

The High Sheriff manifested a dubious frown.  Then, with a shrug, he
nodded. 

"I'm F.B.I. Special Agent Euler," the civilian announced, showing his
credentials. 

His eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Madam, you're under federal arrest. 
Cuff her." 

Mrs. Wendler blanched. Noticing her legs gradually folding, Greenoak
reacted instantly.  Sweeping the woman into his arms, he pushed through 
the MPs, and sat her on the weighing table.  Limply, she dampened her 
face from a dipper of water offered by the sergeant. 

On seeing her mother in handcuffs, Swanna uttered a strangled cry,
ending in a frenzied series of shrieks.  Then, still saucer-eyed with 
horror, she went silent. 

When Kremple and Euler asked Swanna's identity, Loren introduced her as
Mrs. Wendler's daughter.   He lowered his voice.  "But I'm sure Swanna 
here had nothing to do with her mother's sabotage of the canning 
factory." 

Swanna's carefully cultivated tan seemed to lighten by several shades.
Indeed, Loren expected another volley of shrieks.  Instead, she numbly 
stuttered, "Sab . . . sab . . ." and again fell silent. 

"I'm so sorry you learned of your mother's sabotaged of the cannery in
this way, Miss Wendler."  Euler attempted to inject sympathy into his 
monotone, but seemed unconcerned with secrecy.  Overhearing his remark, 
Mrs. Wendler prefaced her response with by series of earsplitting 
shrieks. 

“Sabotage, yoou'rre crazy!   I neeever did anything like thaat!” 

"Oh, its you all right, Mrs. Wendler.  My inspectors found rocks in your
sacks," Kremple responded.  "Put her in the paddy wagon, sergeant." 

"Noooooooo; I did it; I did it; I did it!” 

Like a repetitious phonograph record, Swanna repeated herself until she
wound down to a whimper. 

"Swaaaaana!" Mrs. Wendler wailed, “How could you?” 

Slumping on a pile of empty sacks, the girl pressed her face into her
hands and bawled.  When she looked up, cheeks and forehead smeared by 
the soiled wetness of her palms, she blubbered, "I'm sorry, mother. I 
just wanted to get even with the Jarvans because Commander Jarvan made 
me look so stupid." 

The Jarvans were flabbergasted, especially Mark.  Seeing his jaws
tighten, Loren moved close enough to put a hand on his shoulder.  
"Thanks Loren.  I'm okay," he muttered. 

"But why the rocks?" Kremple asked. 

"So the cannery wouldn't take their beans, anymore." 

"Hogwash," scoffed Loren, casting a sidelong wink toward Euler,  "She's
just protecting her mother." 

Swanna looked dismayed. "I really did it, Sheriff Kregs," she assured
him, plaintively. "Butch and Chris helped me carry the rocks from the 
creek.  Then Chris would drive me to where I'd be working, and we'd 
leave them close by." 

"That's baloney. Butch and Chris would never hurt us." Contempt dripped
from Mark's voice. 

"They didn't know what I was doing with the rocks." 

The smoldering embers of Swanna's hauteur momentarily flared, again. 
Reverting to form, she sneered, "Anyhow, they're not angels you know.  
When I promised them a date, they scared the girls for me when Carrie 
fainted." 

"So you're responsible for that one, too," Loren's tone was harsh. 
"Carrie could've drowned.  I'd like Agent Euler to arrest you for 
sabotage.   If he doesn't, I'm going to arrest you for attempted 
manslaughter.” 

That killed the final spark of Swanna's flare-up.  Her eyes reflected
renewed terror.  "I only wanted to prove there was a ghost," she 
wailed. 

"Please, officers, don't arrest her," Mrs. Wendler pleaded. 

Euler drew Loren and Kremple aside.   Attempting an arch smile, he said,
"Well, Sheriff, we did it." 

Returning a roguish grin, Loren responded, "Yep, she confessed. And,
she's scared clean out of her wits.”  In a reflective tone, he added, 
“But she wouldn't let her mother take the blame.  I never expected that 
she'd be like that.  Maybe there's some good in everyone, after all.  
Even in Swanna.  What now?" 

"I'll take the girl's statement. After that, she'll be free to go.  That
is unless you press charges. " 

Loren sighed deeply.  "No charges.  She's scared enough.  I'm just happy
to get this whole affair over with." 

When Euler asked Greenoak to put Swanna in a patrol car, Mrs. Wendler
hastily clasped her tight.  "No!  No!”  she wailed,  “Don't put her in 
jail; she's just a baby!” 

The pitiful lament melted Loren's affectations.  Unbuckling his holster,
he handed it to Greenoak.  He removed his hat, his sunglasses and his 
tie.   To prevent his tall frame from overwhelming the anguished woman, 
he descended on his heels in front of her.  As gently as he could, he 
said, “Don't worry, Mrs. Wendler, you and Swanna will be free to go 
after you give Agent Euler a statement.  We not pressing charges.” 

Euler nodded assent.  “That's true, Mrs. Wendler, but Swanna caused
substantial damage to the canning factory.  That will have to be 
reimbursed.” 

The woman heaved a sigh of relief.  She regained her composure.  “Thank
you gentlemen.  To whom should I make the check, and for how much?  I 
wish to settle my account with the cannery immediately.  I'll be 
leaving Collins today.  Sheriff, if you'll be kind enough to have one 
of your officers drive me to the cannery, I'll reimburse it for the 
damages my daughter caused.” 

“Of course, Mrs. Wendler, whenever you're ready.” 

“I'm ready now.” 

Turning to Mark, she stated, “Please convey my sincerest apologies to
your family.   When you're in contact with Commander Jarvan, please say 
that I truly admire him for his heroism and regret the circumstances 
under which we met.” 

“I shall, Mrs. Wendler.  We're very proud of him. He's a naval Captain
now, and he's doing very well.” 

Demonstrating an insipid smile, the woman nodded, and then asked, “May
we leave now?  While we're in town, I'd like to phone my chauffeur to 
pick us up at once.” 

Roger moved out in his pickup.  Greenoak assisted Mrs. Wendler and
Swanna into his patrol car for the trip to town. Major Kremple and 
Special Agent Euler trailed behind in the Army sedan.  The MPs followed 
in their jeeps.  The paddy wagon rolled out behind them. And Loren's 
deputies brought up the rear. 

And High Sheriff Loren Kregs?  Well, he waited for the dust to settle
before navigating the long, circular road that rimmed the vast sea of 
green beans.  Arriving at an intersecting highway, he aimed his car 
toward Collins. 

He was a contented man. 

Three cases had been solved; that was good. A badly spoiled girl had
been taught an important lesson; that was even better.  Butch and Chris 
would be devastated; well, that was life.  The Jarvans' bean sacks 
would contain only beans; that was essential. 

And what of the probability of more ghosts at Bowen Corners?  Only if
the boys of Collins were willing to serve the Kregs Alternative. 

-30- © Josprel (Joseph Perrello) josprel@verizon.net 

josprel@localnet.com 

THE HAUNTING OF BOWEN CORNERS 

by 

Josprel 

CHAPTER ONE 

"We saw a ghost in the cemetery."  Swanna Wendler's calm demeanor belied
her incredible announcement, but her friends were terrified. Moments 
before, the bevy of teen-age girls had stampeded into the kitchen of 
Sheriff  Loren Kregs' farmhouse.  Verony, his wife, almost dropped the 
cake she was icing.  Its loss would have been felt by Loren. Because of 
the World War II  sugar shortage, the cake had condemned him to weeks 
of bitter coffee substitute. Tomorrow, the first Sunday of June, 1944, 
decked in thick vanilla frosting, it would grace a dessert table at the 
annual church dinner.  What a time for an intrusion. Just when Verony 
was finished with the icing bowel! 

Summer workers from the Jarvan farm, the intruders walked past Loren's
home most Saturday nights, hiking the two miles to Collins for a movie 
and soda.  Always returning in darkness, they used his veranda as a 
halfway rest stop. Some ten minutes earlier, after walking home in 
company with the boys from the farm, the couple's only child - 
sixteen-year-old Marty "Butch" Kregs - had announced his arrival with 
his customary slam of the screen door.  He then scaled the steps to his 
bedroom two at a time.  Drawn back down by the excited voices, he now 
stood on the bottom landing observing the girls mob his father's 
strapping frame. 

Retaining vestiges of the blithe, college, football hero he once was,
fortyish Loren was informal to a fault. A stickler that his deputies be 
fully uniformed and armed, he hardly ever conformed to his own code. He 
went without a tie and sidearm, wore various combinations of official 
and civilian garb, kept his sleeves rolled to above the elbows, and 
almost never observed protocol; nevertheless, his badge always was 
prominently displayed, the only visible proof of his office. 

Despite these quirks, he held the deep respect of his constituency,
especially that of his deputies. Now, however, the brawny, 
six-foot-three sheriff seemed like a befuddled giant besieged by 
Lilliputians. His perplexity at being pressed by the girls was decoded 
by his sonsy wife, who noticed his long fingers combing through his 
receding ash blond hair. Removing her apron, she sauntered to the 
group. 

"Quiet!" she shouted.  The girls turned in amazement. Even Loren's baby
blue eyes expressed shock. 

"Wait in the parlor," she commanded.   Meekly, the visitors filed from
the kitchen, followed by Butch. 

Amused, Verony teased, "You're rescued, sheriff. Grab some glasses. 
I'll get some refreshments." 

The girls flopped on an enormous oriental rug that centered the spacious
parlor.  Delegating the glasses to Butch, Loren eased himself into the 
flowery patterns of a deeply cushioned sofa.  When Verony was settled 
next to him, he asked, "What happened?" 

The response exploded from Swanna.  "Are you deaf, Mr. Kregs?  I told
you.  There's a ghost in the cemetery." 

"Whoa, there; watch your tongue." 

"I'll speak as I wish, Mr. Kregs."  Swanna's searing stare would have
curdled the milk of an entire dairy herd.  Her nose wrinkled, as though 
Loren had halitosis. 

He turned to the others.  "Maybe what you saw was a dog or a . . ." 

"Don't ignore me, Mr. Kregs.  It was a ghost!  And you better do
something about it." 

Verony saw Loren's jaws clench.  Her touch checked him. "Please listen,
Swanna," she requested. 

"Owls hunt in the cemetery.” Loren continued, “They . . ." 

"I said it was a ghost, Mr. Kregs; all in white.  Do something!" 

Loren threw up his hands.  Prudence was advising him to close the
interview before he did something that might end his career. He nudged 
Butch, who was sitting on a sofa arm next to him, infatuation for 
Swanna etched on his face.  "Did you boys pull a prank?" 

Embarrassed at being caught with a puppy-dog look on his face, Butch
only shook his head. 

"Okay, girls.  Butch'll drive you home." 

"It really was a ghost, Mrs. Kregs," one of the girls whimpered. 

"The sheriff will check into it, Debbie. Won't you dear?" 

Verony's hazel eyes telegraphed the response she expected.  Her
husband's eyes were Saturnine; still, he nodded. 

"Why would you blame your own son, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna." 

"I'll walk, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna.  Now!" 

"You needn't shout. I'm getting in." 

END OF CHAPTER ONE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER TWO 

Friendly, outgoing Loren Kregs was born on his parents 200 hundred acre
farm, one-quarter mile from the intersection of Bowen and Versailles 
roads - Bowen Corners.  He loved the place; nonetheless, after earning 
an advanced degree in criminology, he entered law enforcement and then 
married Verony, his high school sweetheart.  When Loren inherited the 
farm, they moved into its rambling house and, with the outbreak of war, 
the land was rented to Dwain and Ken, the eldest sons of Loren's alter 
ego, Roger Jarvan. 

In renting the acreage, the Jarvans were complying with the federal
government's request for increased farm production.  By renting Loren's 
land, they would more than double the yield of their farm. However, the 
war had caused a farm labor shortage.  Planting the added acreage was 
tinged by the concern of finding enough workers for the harvest. So, 
like other farmers, each spring the Jarvans recruited city women with 
teen-age children to gather crops.  They trucked these city harvesters, 
together with their furnishings, tohastily built, farm shanty 
communities, where they lived  while they gathered crops, until the 
beginning of the next school year. 

In addition to his law enforcement duties, Loran served as a member of
the local draft board, a position that often impacted his attitude 
toward the youth.  Throughout his long tenure as sheriff, he always was 
notably tolerant with kids, often to the exasperation of the victims of 
their high-spirited monkeyshines.  Now, the war made him more so.  The 
front windows of at least a score of Cayuga county homes displayed gold 
stars.  A lump filled his throat whenever he saw one; he knew most of 
the boys those stars represented. 

The death of Daniel Mancione, the county's first gold star casualty,
especially devastated Loren. Not waiting to be drafted, after high 
school, Mancione enlisted in the Air Force. A wiz at mathematics, he 
trained as a navigator, received his wings and an officer's commission, 
then was sent to England.  Not long after, while returning from a 
mission, badly damaged, with two engines in flames and flying too low 
for the crew to bail out, his bomber attempted a belly landing.  It 
exploded, killing the entire crew. 

Before the war, the high-spirited, prankish Mancione often served “The
Kregs Alternative,” a program of the Sheriff's Department.  Subscribed 
to by all of the county officials,  justices and the district attorney, 
it permitted kids to make restitution and perform community service, in 
lieu of the more serious consequences that could result from their 
inoffensive pranks, inadvertently gone awry. Thus, their records 
remained unblemished. 

At times, when passing the Mancione home, with it forlorn gold star,
Loren wondered whether The Kregs Alternative contributed to Danny's 
death.  Maybe a few blemishes on his record would have disqualified him 
from navigator's training.   Maybe that would have put him in a ground 
assignment.   Maybe – just maybe - if not for The Kregs Alternative, 
Danny still would be alive . . . maybe  . . .  maybe  .  .  .  maybe. 

There were other things Loren recalled about Danny Mancione: he never
was disrespectful to his elders.  Always, he accepted his punishment 
without complaining, never denying that he deserved it.  Moreover, he 
fulfilled his punishment assignments to the best of his ability.  Yes, 
Danny was a high-spirited kid who loved to play pranks, yet, they 
always were done in a spirit of innocent fun.  And, if he was caught, 
he accepted the consequences with his good-natured grin. 

Swanna, though, was a new experience for Loren: it was the first time
during his service as sheriff that any kid had ever defied him.  As he 
now watched through the screen door, he noticed that only she was 
occupying the truck's cab with Butch.  He understood the boy's 
infatuation - the girl was gorgeous. Too bad her attitude didn't match. 


Loren was sure that, most likely, it was an animal the girls had seen.
It also was possible they were victims of heightened imaginations. 
After all, what did city kids know of dim roads rimmed by swaying 
shadows, or nocturnal animals prowling dark fields in search of a meal, 
or a muted moon shadowed by wind-swayed trees? They easily could have 
been fooled. 

“Me investigate a ghost?” he almost shouted to Verony, “Can you imagine
what people will do if they find out that I went into a cemetery 
searching for a ghost? Why, I'll be the laughingstock of Collins.  For 
sure, they'll put me in a loony bin.  That Swanna;  what planet is she 
from, anyway?” 

Verony seemed amused. "I'll go with you, honey,” she offered, “That way,
you won't be alone in your loony bin.” 

“I'm glad you find it so amusing.”  Loren sullenly responded “You had to
make me promise to search the place, didn't you. We'll see just how 
amusing you think it is come election time and I'm laughed out of 
office.” 

“Tell me honey,” chided Verony, “how did  we get all the way from girls
who were  frightened by some boys playing a prank,  to your loosing the 
election for checking out  a complaint about the old cemetery?” 

Loren assumed a hangdog look. “If rudeness was a crime, Swanna'd get
life in Alcatraz," he muttered, "Okay, let's go," 

END OF CHAPTER TWO 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER THREE 

As usual on Tuesday mornings, the large, round table at the rear of
Frank's Country Kitchen was surrounded by an informal gathering of 
farmers and other locals, including Loren and the Jarvans. Word of 
Loren's graveyard investigation was the topic of the morning, and he 
was the butt of much good-natured teasing. Earlier, before Loren 
entered, Frank and Bob Stroggen, whose large dairy farm straddled 
Versailles road concocted a prank. Biding his time, the corpulent 
proprietor waited until Loren and his friends were served.  Then, 
pouring himself a cup of coffee, he joined them. 

Assuming a deadpan demeanor, he asked, “Say, sheriff what's this about a
ghost in your house? I hear your making an investigation into it.  I 
didn't know you believed in ghosts.” 

“Now, come on, Frank, I've taken enough ribbing this morning to last a
lifetime.  Besides, the whole thing has nothing to do with my house. 
Just some boys playing a prank on some girls. The girls told me they 
saw ghosts in that old graveyard at Bowens Corners.  That's all there 
is to story.” 

With a perturbed grimace, Loren paused, before emphatically adding ,
“And I don't believe in ghosts.” 

Apparently taken aback by Loren's  skepticism, Frank responded, “Well,
maybe you don't believe in ghosts, Loren, but I sure do.  My 
grandmother used to get rid of them by using holy spells.  I saw her do 
it.  And, she taught me how , too.” 

“Cut the hogwash, Frank!  All this garbage just because of some
hysterical city girls, who  don't know their rear end from a hole in 
the ground.” 

Standing, Loren sidled toward the door.  “I'm leaving; I don't want to
discuss it anymore.” 

Bob Stroggen had been listening attentively to the exchange.  Sensing
that now was the moment to spring their prank , he cast a  sidelong 
glance toward Frank and called out, “Wait a minute, Loren, I've been 
sitting  here listening to Frank tooting his horn  about knowing  all 
those magic spells to get  rid of ghosts.  I think it's just a lot of 
hot air.  Let him prove it.” 

Loren fanned the air with his hand.  “I told you I don't have time for
this garbage.” 

“Come on, sheriff, be a good sport.  Let's see what Frank can do.  If he
can do anything, that is.” 

With a graphic middle finger,  Loren rejected the  challenge and left,
leaving Stroggen  and Frank disappointed by an incomplete prank. 

***** 

After leaving Frank's, Loren stopped by Jarven's office to visit with
Rogers.   Roger's son, Mark, also was there. 

"Well, Roger, I don't think the girls on your place will be seeing any
more ghosts, no matter what Swanna says,” Loren gloated, “I'm glad our 
problems  with her are over.” 

"Maybe yours, not ours," Roger responded in a gloomy Gus tone.  Sporting
the logo of a farm machine company, the cap on his head, when compared 
to his studious features, was a study in contrast; a homburg would have 
better suited the  accountant. Unlike Loren, Roger had enjoyed working 
the family farm. However, selecting the most prestigious scholarship 
offer his exceptional scholastic achievements had brought him, his 
parents enrolled him in a university at Boston, where he earned a summa 
cum laude masters degree in accounting.  Though the university offered 
him a full professorship, he chose instead to open an accounting 
practice in Collins, where he married Marcy.  Prominent farmers and 
agribusinesses throughout the state sought Roger's services. He 
established branch offices in numerous other towns and soon was 
recognized as the state's foremost pundit on agricultural economics. 

But nowadays, sadness hounded the Jarvans. Four years ago, Roger's
parents died in a train accident, leaving him the farm Mark had managed 
for them and now managed for his father. Then, early last year, a 
congenital cardiac had defect claimed Marcy.  Somewhat simultaneously, 
Tommy, Roger's youngest son, was severely wounded while serving as a 
naval officer in the South Pacific.  His wounds prompted the Navy to 
delay informing him of his mother's death until he was medically 
approved for a furlough.   Home  on leave now, tormented by a profound 
melancholy,  he blamed himself for her death. 

Loren realized that the last thing the Jarvans needed were more problems
from someone he considered to be a spoiled city brat.   His brows 
knitted. "What do you mean, your problem with Swanna isn't over? Why 
isn't it over?" 

"The mothers want us to drive the girls from town every Saturday, but
Swanna said she'd rather walk; so now all the girls want to walk.  The 
mothers are fuming," Mark explained. 

"You mean the girls won't ride without Swanna?" 

Receiving a dejected nod, Loren combed his fingers through his hair. 
Then he asked, "Tell me what you know about that spoiled 
pain-in-the-butt!” 

END OF CHAPTER THREE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER FOUR 

Given to three-piece, pin-striped suits, and always one to assume a
posture of hauteur superiority toward others, Mr. Wendler was putty in 
Swanna's hands; he doted on her. An only child, she was tutored at home 
by the best teachers his millions could hire. And, knowing mostly the 
company of snobbish adults, she had acquired the demeanor of one who 
viewed those outside her social standing as one views a cockroach in 
need extermination. Manure-smelling boots had a better chance of 
acceptance by Swanna, than someone her quirks led her to dislike. 

The girl's demeanor was that of one much older than her sixteen years;
even so, she was badly spoiled. Like those of her father, her dealings 
with the household staff were tyrannical and haughty.  Outside of the 
family's ear-shot, the staff referred to her as, “Miss 
Bully-Two-Shoes.” 

Indeed, Swanna was in defacto control of the Wendler household. Her
every whim was granted by her misguided, over-indulgent, snob of a 
father, in whose opinion Swanna could do no wrong!  So, Mrs. Wendler 
didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell when Miss Bully- Two-Shoes 
decreed that her loyalty to her country required that she and her 
mother harvest crops for the war effort. 

“Our boys are fighting for our country,” she announced to her father,
“They need food!  My tutor said that there's a shortage of harvest 
workers.  Some of his students will be spending their summer picking 
crops for the war effort! I think Mother and I must help, too.” 

Her features haunted by an inner anxiety, Mrs. Wendler gave her husband
a smile of mute appeal. “We don't have the ability for that kind of 
work. Maybe we should help  our boys by doing work for the Red Cross or 
helping out at a U.S.O. canteen.  That way . . .” 

Swanna went spastic!  Raking her mother with a keep-your-mouth-shut
glare, she stamped her feet, hysterically shrieking at the highest 
octave she could manage, “ I don't want to help the Red  Cross;  I want 
to pick crops on a farm!  Why won't you ever let me do what I want? I 
think you're a traitor to  our country.  You're helping Hitler!” 

Swanna put her arms around her father.  Modulating  Her tone to a soft,
pitiable whimper, through pouty lips, she said, “Daddy, please make 
mommy go to a farm with me this summer. Pleeease? Pleeease? I want so 
much to help the war effort.” 

Mr. Wendler stared adoringly at his daughter, then fixed cold eyes on
his wife. “See how you've upset the poor think?” he scolded,  “How can 
you be so  callous?  All she's asking is to help our  servicemen. 

“You're setting a very poor example,” he continued, “I think it's
wonderful she's willing to pick crops on a farm.” 

With a backhanded gesture of disgust, Mr. Wendler ordered,  “You're
going.  It's for a good  cause.   Anyhow, the country air will do you 
both worlds of good.  It'll be like taking a long country vacation.  
I'll visit you from time to time.   My secretary will make all the 
arrangements for Swanna and you.” 

That did it; Mrs. Wendler's summer fate was sealed! 

***** 

Unaccustomed as she was to agonizing, backbreaking exertion, Mrs.
Wendler soon became overwhelmed by the grueling harvest schedule.  
After one week, she phoned her husband to inform him of her exhaustion, 
and demanded that he send a limousine to take her home. 

“Does Swanna want to leave?” he asked. 

“That makes no difference; I want to leave!” Mrs. Wendler shot back,
“I'll take no more of this nonsense.  I'm all aches and pains.  Send a 
car immediately.” 

“Let me speak with Swanna.” 

“She's not here.  She went to town.” 

“Does she want to come home?” 

“I'm her mother and I say I want to go home.” 

“If Swanna wants to come home, I'll send a car.  Have her call if she
does.  Otherwise, I want you to stay there.  Must run now.  Goodbye.”  
A telephonic hum replaced Mr. Wendler's voice. 

In the wake of that phone call, Mrs. Wendler resigned herself to her
summer in agricultural purgatory.  She knew she loved Swanna, but was 
plagued by guilt, due to an increasing sense of ambivalence toward her. 


One of the prettiest girls ever to grace Collins, Swanna was keenly
aware of her assets. When she eventually joined the teens on their 
Saturday night hikes, she was besieged by boys requesting dates.  She 
never accepted or refused, choosing instead to keep them dangling in 
limbo.  Toward other girls she behaved as a Cleopatra among 
handmaidens.  And woe to the girl who didn't kowtow to her. 

"So you see,” Mark concluded, “she tries to control everyone, Loren;
even us." 

The High Sheriff stood to leave.  "I know the  feeling." 

"Will do us a small favor, Loren?"  asked Roger. 

Loren listened dubiously and left Roger's office. "Some small favor," he
moaned softly to himself, “Why didn't he ask me something simple, like 
capture Hitler or sink the whole  Japanese navy?” 

Then he headed for his office by jaywalking Main Street against the
light. “The things I do for my friends,” he muttered, inwardly berating 
himself for not having the guts to say no to Roger's favor. 

END OF CHAPTER FOUR 

CHAPTER FIVE 

For over a century, the graveyard at Bowen Corners had huddled next to
an ancient relic, as though  consoling its occupants, by embracing the 
abandoned  edifice that once was their church.  A grove butted the 
building's opposite side, edging Versailles road, and then fronting on 
Bowen.  Not even the brightness of the waxing, gibbous moon revealed 
the green and white patrol car camouflaged by the prolific vegetation.  
 The officers in the car could think of things they'd rather be doing 
than this Saturday night, graveyard surveillance. But Loren had 
promised Rodger, and he always kept his word, even when it made him 
feel as idiotic as he now did.  With him on this stakeout was Chief 
Deputy Billy Greenoak. 

Cayuga county had salvaged the cemetery from oblivion by granting
Marcy's request that it be her final resting place.  Her white, marble 
monument was flanked by a matching bench where visitors could pray and 
meditate, while reflecting on eternal mysteries. 

Tonight, such enigmas occupied neither man's mind.  Hunched behind the
steering wheel, Greenoak sighed wearily.  Each time his cigarette rose, 
its glow heightened his gaunt features, strikingly appropriate to the 
vicinity. Then, like a spooked firefly, it drifted downward. 

"I hear them.  What's the time?" Loren asked. 

Again, the glow braved Greenoak's features.  Retreating to his wrist
watch, it then expired between a thumb and forefinger.  "Almost ten." 

The officers left the car to positioned themselves behind some
shrubbery.  The moonlight revealed a troop of boys joshing their way 
across the intersection.  Loren knew the one turning onto Versailles 
road was Chris Stroggen, heading for home.  Hearing Butch shout for 
Chris to phone him in the morning  made Loren uneasy.  He hoped the 
kids never learned of this lookout.  The boys passed the officers, 
their rowdiness cresting for several seconds, then waning. 

Feminine voices came into earshot.  Soon, some twenty girls approached,
their singing subsiding as they neared the Corners.  By the time they 
crossed, they were pressing away from the cemetery, to the far side of 
the road.  Not until they again were invisible, did their singing 
resume. 

Loren stood.  He was about to return to the car, when Billy leaped up,
exclaiming incredulously, "What in tarnation is that?" 

Close to where the girls had faded, a barely visible white shape
emerged.  "Where'd that thing come from?" Loren asked.  His tone 
disclosed profound bewilderment and he sensed a surge of adrenalin.   A 
cool clamminess dampened his forehead. 

Billy's lips formed a silent pucker.  Brows lifted, hands extended in a
“who knows” gesture, he slowly shook his head. The hobbling figure 
turned suddenly, seemed to drift over the near culvert and disappeared. 


Billy gasped!  "See that?" he blurted.  "It floated right  over the
ditch. They're right; it is a ghost!" 

"Now don't you go yelling spooks.  Get in the car; let's get down
there." 

When they investigated the spot where the apparition had vanished, Loren
chuckled.  On either side of the road wide, heavy crossovers bridged 
the culverts.  "No crossovers at your place,  Billy?  Do you float over 
the ditches?" 

Noting his buddy's mortification, he promised, "I won't tell anyone,
Billy.  Let's go.  I've got a hunch." 

***** 

Flashlight darkened, Greenoak tracking close behind, Loren moved
silently past the rear of the old church.  At the edge of the 
graveyard, he scanned the headstones.  The mysterious figure was seated 
on Marcy's bench, its mournful voice wafting on the night breeze.  
Realizing that his suspicion was confirmed, Loren felt like a sinner 
profaning a benediction.  His instant about-face caused a collision 
with Greenoak, generating a loud grunt that brought the figure to its 
feet. 

"Who's there?" 

"Loren Kregs and Billy Greenoak.  Sorry we disturbed you." 

Hobbling closer, the figure stopped and leaned heavily on a cane.   It
was Tommy Jarvan, dressed in the white uniform of a naval Commander.  
This was only the second time Loren had seen him since his arrival: if 
the first time could be considered seeing him.  Tommy had retreated to 
his room, when Loren and his family had stopped by to visit him.  
Though he still seemed distant, it was he who broke the awkward 
silence. 

"Hello, Loren.  Checking out the girls' story?" 

"Yes.  For your dad." 

Tommy nodded.  "I was the one they saw." 

"Why didn't you tell your dad?" 

"You know my dad is angry with me for enlisting.   He's tries to speak
to me, but I know its for appearances sake.  So I avoid speaking with 
him as much as I can.   I don't have to tell you I'm his black sheep.  
He hates me, especially now that mom's gone."  Tommy's deep voice 
betrayed a profound inner agony. 

Sudden anger made Loren's blood surge to his face.  He hesitated,
battling the urge to reply to the wounded, young officer in the way he 
felt he should.  He lost the battle.  “Oh, to blazes with my feeling 
sorry for him,” he thought, and plunged ahead. 

"Well, what more to do you expect him to do?  He wrote asking you to
forgive him; he showed me the letter.  You're the one who didn't answer 
it, so quit crucifying him.   Do you expect him to crawl to you on his 
hands and knees and kiss your feet?” 

Tommy's gasped, and Loren worried he'd gone too far. But Roger and he
always were like  second fathers to each other's kids.  Roger and he 
were so close, Marcy once observed, that when one felt pain, the other 
winced.   Loren considered Tommy's remarks unfair to Roger. 

The exchange startled Greenoak, leaving the taciturn deputy uncertain of
how to react.  He wanted to at least greet Tommy.  "Your mom sure was 
proud of you, Tommy," he blurted. 

The words ignited a scornful explosion from the commander.  "Why?  For
killing her?" 

"That's enough!”  Loren's stern tone caused Tommy to stare at him, slack
jawed. 

The sheriff's tone softened. “You didn't kill your mother, Tommy.  She
had heart problems from the time we were kids together.  She knew she 
would die at an early age.  Your father knew; so did Verony and I – 
even before they were married.   At first, even though your mom was in 
love with your dad, she refused to marry him because of her heart.  She 
told him she would never get married.  And she really meant it.  It 
took a lot of persuasion for your father to get her to marry him.   He 
kept telling her illness made no difference to him because he loved her 
just the way she was. 

“You know, son, I think it was their love for each and you kids that
made her live as long as she did.   She lived a lot longer than the 
doctors predicted.  They gave her only a few years. When you kids came 
along, your folk made all their friends promise not to say anything to 
you.  You can understand why they didn't want you to know.  Your dad's 
a great guy.  Go home and talk with him, son.  Don't sell him short 
because of what he did when you joined up.” 

The moonlight reflected from the wetness flowing down the cheeks of the
young officer.  He declined Loren's offer to drive him home, noting 
that it was only a short walk to his house.   Silence prevailed between 
the two lawmen during  most of their trip back to town.   Not until 
they reached the outskirts did Greenoak penetrate it with an 
observation.   "Well, Loren, guess we can say the mystery's solved." 

"Seems so, Billy; still, I find no satisfaction in it.” 

END OF CHAPTER FIVE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER SIX 

Tommy  Jarvan inherited his father's prodigious intellect, without his
ties to Collins.  He was not yet twenty when he completed college with 
a summa cum laude, master degree in pharmacology - his passion.  His 
parents had planned for him to enter a doctoral program; however, a 
year before Pearl Harbor, he devastated Marcy and enraged Roger by 
enlisting in the Navy. 

Roger firmly rebuffed Tommy on his first leave, so the youth's family
contact became mostly limited to correspondence with Marcy. After his 
graduation from Officers Candidate School, he received his commission 
as a pharmaceutical officer, and saw action aboard an aircraft carrier 
during the Battle of Midway.  Shortly thereafter, he slogged ashore at 
Guadalcanal in command of combat corpsmen attached to the Marines. 

Fo months Tommy endured Guadalcanal's nerve-shattering, jungle combat
conditions. Then, while crawling under heavy fire, to rescue three 
Marines who were being raked by an enemy pillbox, he sustained his near 
fatal wounds.  Only the quick action of his own corpsmen saved him; 
nonetheless, from hip to toes, his right side suffered the permanent 
loss of all sensation.  It required several months of excruciating 
therapy for him to finally be able to hobble from the hospital, using 
only a cane. 

In March of 1944, Tommy returned home on convalescent leave.  Tormented
by the belief that his rebellion had caused his mother's death, he 
rejected his father's explanation that a congenital heart defect had 
taken her.  His graveyard encounter with Loren now prompted him to read 
unopened letters he had stashed.  Trailing in the wake of his battles, 
they at last had caught up with him a few days before his leave.  In 
his grief over Marcy's death, he had refused to read them. 

Just as Loren had said, there was his father's letter asking for his
forgiveness.  It was mailed just before the landing at Guadalcanal. 
And, reading Marcy's final letters, Tommy noticed her glowing pride 
Greenoak had mentioned.  He also detected something else: the subtle 
confirmation that what he had been told about her death was true. Under 
combat conditions, it would have been easy to miss.  Yet, there it was 
– between the lines; her very subtle message, telling him of her 
chronic tiredness and her desire for a quick end to the war so that 
they could be together again.   It avoided any overt mention that an 
imperfectly formed heart  would soon claim her. 

"No mother could hope for a better son.  I've always been so proud of
you. And I'm so very, very proud of the job you're doing in the Navy, 
helping to save the lives of so many of our servicemen, so that they 
can return to their families. 

“I'll love you throughout eternity, my wonderful, darling son. And I
know that God will reunite us too, in His own time,"  her last letter 
concluded.  By the time Tommy finished reading it, his tears again were 
flowing, wetting the pages. 

That night, together with Roger, he revisited Marcy's grave. There by
the gravesite, father and son stood with bowed heads, as Tommy told her 
of their reconciliation.  “I love you, mom,” he concluded, “and I want 
you to know that I'm finally home.” 

END OF CHAPTER SIX 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER SEVEN 

The next morning, while the workers waited at the shanties for Mark to
arrive with the truck, Tommy drove up with Roger and Loren.  Swanna 
alone rejected his explanation about the ghost. 

"Another stupid story, Mr. Kregs?" she fumed.  "It was a ghost, not this
childish Sea Scout, crying for his . . ." 

Mrs. Wendler's forceful shove sent Swanna stumbling backward, until she
solidly rear-ended the ground.  Face flushed with anger, the mother 
glared down at her daughter.  A pang of guilt plagued Loren when 
Swanna's gawk of disbelief, enhanced by her blushing embarrassment, 
warmed the cockles of his heart, and increased his estimate of her 
mother. 

Mrs. Wendler's voice dripped with righteous anger, her eyes flashed
fire. "On your feet right now, young lady; apologize this instant!" 

The command came through lips pursed with suppressed fury; Swanna was
afraid to stand.  She just stared.  She had never seen her mother 
appear so absolutely formidable.  None of the bystanders opted for 
intervention. 

"Get on your feet!"  The order was enforced by a forward step.  Swanna
took several backward pushes with her heels, and scrambled up. 

"I told you to apologize."  The mother took another step, and Swanna
whimpered a hurried, "I'm sorry." 

"For what?  And use their names." 

"I'm sorry for what I said, Mr. Kregs." 

"He's High Sheriff Kregs." 

Swanna repeated the title, then blubbered, "What do I call the other
one?" 

"You address him as Mister Jarvan." 

"I'm . . .  I'm sorry for what I said, Mi . . .  Mi . . . ster  Jarvan."


"Now go to the shanty, and stay there, until I say you  may leave." 

The girl hurled through the crowd and rounded a row of shanties. 
Vibrating the crisp, morning air, the furious slam of a screen door 
announced her compliance with her mother's demand. 

"I'm so very sorry, gentlemen," apologized Mrs. Wendler, voice
struggling to control its quavering 

"Thank you, Mrs. Wendler," acknowledged Tommy. 

Loren nodded with a forced, insipid smile, then headed for his car.  He
was accelerating, when a blue stake truck barreled over the crest of a 
rise in the road.  Its driver flagged him to a crawl.  "How'd it go, 
Loren?" 

"Mark, don't ask; you'd never believe it." 

END OF CHAPTER SEVEN 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER EIGHT 

Strawberry season blended into bean picking time, with Swanna constantly
yammering to leave.  She continuously phoned her father, nagging for 
him to send a chauffeur to drive her home.   It was to no avail.  On 
learning of his daughter's conduct toward Loren, and especially toward 
a severely wounded naval officer,  Mr. Wendler's belated try at 
discipline prolonged Swanna's demonstration of patriotism. 

Forbidden to associate with her by their mothers, all the girls avoided
her now, and Loren noticed an intense hatred blazed in her eyes 
whenever she saw him.  Tommy mentioned to Loran that he also had sensed 
himself fixed by that same malevolent glare.  He had returned to duty, 
having piggybacked a ride at the Niagara Falls Air Base, on an Air 
Force plane bound for Seattle.   No longer eligible for overseas duty 
because of his severe disability, he now held the post of Chief 
Pharmaceutical Officer at the Seattle Veterans Hospital, with the four 
stripes and the eagles of a naval Captain –  the Navy's youngest. 

Loren knew Roger had returned from his trip.  He had driven back to
Collins in last night's soaking rainstorm. The stifling mugginess that 
followed had permeated this second Saturday of August, until it was 
conquered by the evening breezes. 

Enjoying the change, Loren sat with Verony on the front veranda,
listening to approaching male voices.  Bantering their way from town, 
the boys from the Jarvan farm entered the circular glow radiating from 
the driveway lights.  Not seeing his son, Loren called out, "Where's 
Butch?" 

"Still at Guggin's, sheriff." 

The group's voices receded, and Loren dozed.  The sudden silence of the
night creatures woke him.  Their calls had been replaced by another 
sound. 

Verony moved to the lawn.  "Are those screams?" 

"Yes, sounds like girls." 

Growing louder, the cries echoed from the direction of Bowen Corners. 
"Wait here." Loren ordered. 

"Oh, no; I'm going, too!" 

END OF CHAPTER EIGHT 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER NINE 

They hadn't driven far when the headlights revealed three girls, waving
frantically.  The couple got out and more girls bolted from the 
darkness.   And  calmly moseying behind came Swanna. 

Surrounded by the nearly incoherent girls, Verony demanded to know what
had happened.  It was shy, taciturn Debbie who managed to stammer, "In 
graveyard . . . two ghosts.  Carrie . . . in ditch." 

A sickening anxiety stabbed Loren's gut. "You mean the culvert?" 

"Yes . . . near . . . church." 

A glacial freeze encased his heart.  Near the Corners,  the culverts
deepened to pass under the intersection.  After a storm, even large 
animals occasionally drowned in them.  The girl could be dead. 

"Get going, Loren," hurried Verony, her voice quavering,  "I'll take the
girls home in the truck." 

"Radio Greenoak first and phone Doc.  Tell them to watch for my lights. 
Come with me, Debbie." 

The beams from Loren's spotlights skimmed the shoulder of the road. 
They were nearing the cemetery when Debbie yelled, "Stop!  She's there. 
Over there.  She didn't fall in." 

Her finger directed Loren's gaze to what appeared to be a discarded
bundle of rags.  Inching the car forward, he illuminated the place with 
the spotlights. Then, handing the keys to Debbie, he instructed her to 
bring him the medical kit from the car trunk, and hurried to Carrie. 

He found her unconscious, legs dangling over the ditch. Had she revived
alone in the dark, the waters would have claimed her - of that, he was 
sure.  Not until he drew her away from the brink did his heart thaw. 

Debbie brought the kit, and the smelling salts worked instantly.  Carrie
bolted upright with a snort and a saucer-eyed stare.  She immediately 
recognized Loren, on his heels next to her.  Clamping her arms around 
his neck, she toppled him into a sitting position, ending up seated in 
his lap.  Even with Debbie's help, he couldn't break free.   And that's 
when Greenoak arrived, followed by Doc Krastil and Glen, his assistant. 
 They found Cayuga County's High Sheriff sitting on the shoulder of 
Bowen road.  His patrol car illuminated his futile struggles to free 
himself from the firm embrace of a pretty girl cuddled in his lap.  As 
though vying for his attention, a second girl assisted his efforts. 

Seeing the three men practically doubled over from gales of convulsive
laughter, Loren bellowed, "Don't just stand there laughing through you 
galdarn teeth.  Get her off!" 

Carrie's hysteria was obvious, prompting Doc to ask what had happened. 
A string of roaring profanities spewed from the enraged High Sheriff. 
"Stop asking your stupid questions, and get me loose; she's choking 
me!" 

It required a sedative before Glen could pry loose Carrie's grip on
Loren. Doc found her relatively unharmed and ordered rest for her, 
until he prescribed otherwise.  Then Glen drove both girls home. 

Billy and Doc turned to Loren in silent expectancy. Now that his ordeal
was over, he stared back with an affected grin.  "Okay,  I'll tell 
you." 

Somewhat sheepishly, he apologized for his anger, then explained what
happened.  "But she really was strangling me," he rationalized. 

"You rescued her, Loren. You're her hero," teased Doc. 

Loren's hands fanned the air in disgust.  "I should of known better than
to tell you about it.” 

"Seems you're the one who needed protection, chief," quipped Billy, "Two
ghosts now, huh?" 

Loren sidled toward his car.  "More like two boys in sheets, I'd say." 

Billy left for town with Doc.  And, as Loren pulled away, he fervently
hoped that tonight's humiliating fiasco was really only a horrible 
nightmare. 

END OF CHAPTER NINE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER TEN 

Loren sat in his office, glumly drumming his fingers on his desk. Having
gotten wind of the incident at Bowen Corners, his political opponents 
had dubbed him, "Lover Boy Kregs."  Even the media were capitalizing on 
the smear. 

What had gotten into Butch and Chris?  The prank could have cost Carrie
her life, not to mention ruin their own.  He pushed the thought away.  
What a mess. Initially, both boys denied any involvement in the prank. 
But when Verony returned home from driving the girls to the shanties, 
she noticed Butch's muddy shoes by the side steps.  He was sitting in 
the kitchen, nonchalantly munching a sandwich.  The muddy shoes and his 
forced smile had roused her suspicions.   She quizzed him.  He claimed 
his shoes were dirtied while he was roughhousing with Chris. 

Loren checked the cemetery the next day.  The evidence was irrefutable. 
One set of muddy tracks led from the graveyard and  gradually 
disappeared in the direction of the Stroggen farm.  A second set faded 
in the direction of the Kregs's home.  Still, Butch and Chris clung to 
their story,  until Bob Stroggen discovered the clincher. 

At first, Bob was amused by the prank.  However, when he learned of
Carrie's close brush with death, his amusement vanished.  His wife's 
puzzlement over two missing sheets prompted him to investigate.  He 
found them deeply buried in one of his haylofts, and the boys 
confessed. 

The possibility that Butch or Chris might someday be serving The
Alternative had neveroccurred to Loren.  Greenoak carefully paced those 
on the program, working them three hours a day, five days a week. Butch 
and Chris began their three months yesterday, when they washed windows 
in the county courthouse. Today they were loading a truck with scrap 
metal for the war effort.  Tomorrow it would be old newspapers. 

Hearing his stomach grumble, Loren stood to leave for Frank's, when his
secretary ushered in two visitors.  The Army officer was Major Kremple. 
 Commanding officer of the military inspectors who graded the food 
products shipped to the military from Cayuga County, he was the Chief 
Military Inspector of the county's food processing plants.  He 
regularly ate at Frank's.  The civilian with him was a stranger.  His 
summer striped suit and paisley bow tie fought vainly to overcome the 
anonymity of his nondescript features. 

"Afternoon, Major." 

"Afternoon, High Sheriff.  Meet Agent Euler of the FBI." 

Loren's eyebrows shot up. Moving around his desk, he extended his hand. 
Then, indicating a brown leather sofa, he waited until his guests were 
comfortable before folding himself into a matching chair. 

"Now, how may I help Hoover?" 

"Sheriff, there's sabotage in your county." Euler's monotone was
reminiscent of an auctioneer's chant. 

Loren almost gagged.  "What? Where?" 

Kremple took over.  "The cannery's getting rocks in bean sacks from the
Jarvan farm.  The conveyer system was damaged two weeks ago. You 
heard?" 

Receiving a nod, Kremple continued. "Before arriving, Agent Euler sent
us a code to secretly mark each worker's sacks.  The rocks come from a 
Mrs. Wendler." 

Loren blinked, and Euler's eyes narrowed.  "Know her?" 

"I met her.  But it can't be her doing it.  It must be her daughter." 

"Why?" 

Loren gave a soft, bitter snort.  "Agent Euler, if you knew Swanna,
you'd know why." 

Noticing Euler's puzzled look, he added, "If you'll play along with me, 
we might pry the truth from her.  I'm sure the Jarvans'll help." 

END OF CHAPTER TEN 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER ELEVEN 

The next morning, the Jarvan farm workers were surprised by the banshee
like wails of screaming sirens. Looking up from rows dotted by partly 
filled sacks, they saw an astonishing motorcade. Six sheriff's cars and 
three Army Jeeps, a paddy wagon and an Army sedan - all with flashing 
strobe-lights - snaked their way along the dirt road that led to the 
bean field. 

Halting their Jeeps in a dusty cloud, several Military Police
dismounted, assuming a parade rest stance in front of the weighing 
area.  At the edge of the field, the deputies faced the workers in a 
similar stance. 

Fully attired in a gray, summer uniform, High Sheriff Loren Kregs now
advanced!  Dark aviator lenses shaded his eyes. And, on each shoulder, 
four gold stars indicated his rank as the High Sheriff of Cayuga 
county.  A trooper's hat adorned his head, the braided, gold cord 
around its crown matching a similar frog looped over his left shoulder. 
Beneath his badge, rows of service ribbons decorated his chest.  And 
his jodhpur pants, trimmed with gold side stripes, were tucked into 
spit-polished, police boots.  From a wide, black belt hung a glistening 
holster.  And, while his left hand rested on his hip, the other 
fingered the pistol. Even the MPs snapped to attention at his approach. 


"Assemble your workers, Mr. Jarvan,"  The High Sheriff's command carried
across the field, and Mark immediately complied. 

Now, the occupants of the sedan stepped out: an Army officer and a
civilian.  "Keep your men alert, sergeant," the officer commanded. 

"I'm Major Kremple," he shouted, "Is there a Mrs. Wendler here?" 

A murmur rippled through the crowd. Heads turned toward an eye-catching,
petite woman wearing a white, long-sleeved camise, tucked into a blue, 
ankle-length, peasant skirt. Blond hair peeked from under an enormous 
straw hat that shaded eyes already protected by sunglasses.  Her 
fidgety hands, covered by gardening gloves, signaled alarm.  Appearing 
equally dismayed, a pretty girl at her side gracefully reached for the 
woman's arm. 

"I'm Mrs. Wendler, gentlemen." 

"Please remain, Mrs. Wendler, " ordered the civilian.  "The rest of you
must leave." 

"May I stay?" the girl timidly requested. 

The High Sheriff manifested a dubious frown.  Then, with a shrug, he
nodded. 

"I'm F.B.I. Special Agent Euler," the civilian announced, showing his
credentials. 

His eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Madam, you're under federal arrest. 
Cuff her." 

Mrs. Wendler blanched. Noticing her legs gradually folding, Greenoak
reacted instantly.  Sweeping the woman into his arms, he pushed through 
the MPs, and sat her on the weighing table.  Limply, she dampened her 
face from a dipper of water offered by the sergeant. 

On seeing her mother in handcuffs, Swanna uttered a strangled cry,
ending in a frenzied series of shrieks.  Then, still saucer-eyed with 
horror, she went silent. 

When Kremple and Euler asked Swanna's identity, Loren introduced her as
Mrs. Wendler's daughter.   He lowered his voice.  "But I'm sure Swanna 
here had nothing to do with her mother's  sabotage of the canning 
factory." 

Swanna's carefully-cultivated tan seemed to lighten by several shades.
Indeed, Loren expected another volley of shrieks.  Instead, she numbly 
stuttered, "Sab . . . sab . . .," and again fell silent. 

"I'm so sorry you learned of your mother's sabotaged of the cannery in
this way, Miss Wendler."  Euler attempted to inject sympathy  into his 
monotone, but seemed  unconcerned with secrecy.  His remark was 
overheard by Mrs. Wendler, who also prefaced her response with by 
series of  earsplitting shrieks. 

“Sabotage, yoou'rre crazy!   I neeever did anything like thaat!” 

"Oh, its you all right, Mrs. Wendler.  My inspectors found rocks in your
sacks," Kremple responded.  "Put her in the paddy wagon, sergeant." 

"Noooooooo; I did it; I did it;  I did it!” 

Like a repetitious phonograph record, Swanna kept repeating herself 
until she wound down to a whimper. 

"Swaaaaana!" Mrs. Wendler wailed, “How could you?” 

Slumping on a pile of empty sacks, the girl pressed her face into her
hands and bawled.  When she looked up, cheeks and forehead smeared by 
the soiled wetness of her palms, she blubbered, "I'm sorry, mother.  I 
just wanted to get even with the Jarvans because Commander Jarvan made 
me look so stupid." 

The Jarvans were flabbergasted, especially Mark.  Seeing his jaws
tighten, Loren moved close enough to put a hand on his shoulder.  
"Thanks Loren;  I'm okay," he muttered. 

"But why the rocks?" Kremple asked. 

"So the cannery wouldn't take their beans, anymore." 

"Hogwash," scoffed Loren, casting a sidelong wink toward Euler,  "She's
just protecting her mother." 

Swanna looked dismayed. "I really did it, Sheriff Kregs," she assured
him, plaintively. "Butch and Chris helped me carry the rocks from the 
creek.  Then Chris would drive me to where I'd be working, and we'd 
leave them close by." 

"That's baloney. Butch and Chris would never hurt us," contempt dripped
from Mark's voice. 

"They didn't know what I was doing with the rocks." 

The smoldering embers of Swanna's hauteur momentarily flared, again. 
Reverting to form, she sneered, "Anyhow, they're not angels you know.  
When I promised them a date, they scared the girls for me when Carrie 
fainted." 

"So you're responsible for that one, too," Loren's tone was harsh. 
"Carrie could've drowned.  I'd like Agent Euler to arrest you for 
sabotage.   If he doesn't, I'm going to  arrest you for attempted 
manslaughter.” 

That killed the final spark of Swanna's flare-up.  Her eyes reflected
renewed terror.  "I only wanted to prove there was a ghost," she 
wailed. 

"Please, officers, don't arrest her," Mrs. Wendler pleaded. 

Euler drew Loren and Kremple aside.   Attempting an arch smile, he said,
"Well, Sheriff, we did it." 

Returning a roguish grin, Loren responded, "Yep,  she confessed. And,
she's scared clean out of her wits.”  In a reflective tone, he added, 
“But she wouldn't let her mother take the blame.  I never expected that 
she'd be like that.  Maybe there's some good in everyone, after all.  
Even in Swanna.  What now?" 

"I'll take the girl's statement. After that, she'll be free to go.  That
is unless you press charges. " 

Loren sighed deeply.  "No charges.  She's scared enough.  I'm just happy
to get this whole affair over with." 

When Euler asked Greenoak to put Swanna  in a patrol car, Mrs. Wendler
hastily clasped her tight.  "No!  No!”  she wailed,  “Don't put  her in 
jail; she's just a baby!” 

The pitiful lament melted Loren's affectations.  Unbuckling his holster,
he handed it to Greenoak.  He removed his hat, his sunglasses and his 
tie.   To prevent his tall frame from overwhelming the anguished woman, 
he descended on his heels in front of her.  As gently as he could, he 
comforted her, “Don't worry, Mrs. Wendler, you and Swanna  will be free 
to go after you give Agent Euler a statement.  We not pressing 
charges.” 

Euler nodded assent.   “That's true, Mrs. Wendler, but Swanna caused
substantial damage  to the canning factory.  That will have to be 
reimbursed.” 

The woman heaved a sigh of relief.  She regained her composure, saying,
“Thank you gentlemen.  To whom should I make the check, and for how 
much?  I wish to settle my account with the cannery immediately.   I'll 
be leaving Collins today.   Sheriff, if you'll be kind enough to have 
one of your officers drive me to the cannery, I'll reimburse  it for 
the damages my daughter caused.” 

“Of course, Mrs. Wendler, whenever you're ready.” 

“I'm ready now.” 

Turning to Mark, she stated, “Please convey my sincerest apologies to
your family.   And, when you're in contact with Commander Jarvan, 
please say for me that I truly admire him for his heroism and regret 
the circumstances under which we met.” 

“I shall, Mrs. Wendler.  We're very proud of him. He's a naval Captain
now, and he's doing very well.” 

Demonstrating an insipid smile, the woman nodded, then asked, “May we
leave now?  While we're in town, I'd like to phone my  head chauffeur 
to pick us up at once.” 

Roger moved out in his pickup.  Greenoak assisted Mrs. Wendler and
Swanna into his patrol car for the trip to town. Major Kremple and 
Special Agent Euler trailed behind in the Army sedan.  The MPs followed 
in their jeeps.  The paddy wagon rolled out behind them. And Loren's 
deputies brought up the rear. 

And High Sheriff Loren Kregs?  Well, he waited for the dust to settle
before navigating the long, circular road that rimmed the vast sea of 
green beans.  Arriving at an intersecting highway, he aimed his car 
toward Collins. 

He was a contented man. 

Three cases had been solved; that was good. A badly spoiled girl had
been taught an important lesson; that was even better.  Butch and Chris 
would be devastated; well, that was life.  The Jarvans' bean sacks 
would contain only beans; that was essential. 

And what of the probability of more ghosts at Bowen  Corners?  Only if
the boys of Collins were willing to serve the Kregs Alternative. 

THE END 

© Josprel (Joseph Perrello) 8,308 words josprel@localnet.com 

Given to three-piece, pin-striped suits, and always one to assume a
posture of hauteur superiority toward others, multi-millionaire Mr. 
Wendler was putty in the hands of his sixteen-year-old daughter Swanna. 
 He doted on her.  So her mother didn't stand a chance when Swanna 
decided that  patriotism decreed that she and her mother spend the 
summer on a truck farm in Collins, New York, picking crops for the 
World War II  war effort.  An only child, Swanna was tutored at home by 
the best teachers her parent's millions could hire. And, knowing mostly 
the company of snobbish adults, she acquired the demeanor of one who 
viewed those outside her social standing as one views a cockroach in 
need extermination. Manure-smelling boots had a better chance of 
acceptance by Swanna, than someone her quirks led her to dislike.  Then 
she encountered the easy going, Supreme High Sheriff of Collins County, 
Loren Kregs, and the fireworks began! 

THE HAUNTING OF BOWEN CORNERS 

by 

Josprel 

CHAPTER ONE 

"We saw a ghost in the cemetery."  Swanna Wendler's calm demeanor belied
her incredible announcement, but her friends were terrified. Moments 
before, the bevy of teen-age girls had stampeded into the kitchen of 
Sheriff  Loren Kregs' farmhouse.  Verony, his wife, almost dropped the 
cake she was icing.  Its loss would have been felt by Loren. Because of 
the World War II  sugar shortage, the cake had condemned him to weeks 
of bitter coffee substitute. Tomorrow, the first Sunday of June, 1944, 
decked in thick vanilla frosting, it would grace a dessert table at the 
annual church dinner.  What a time for an intrusion. Just when Verony 
was finished with the icing bowel! 

Summer workers from the Jarvan farm, the intruders walked past Loren's
home most Saturday nights, hiking the two miles to Collins for a movie 
and soda.  Always returning in darkness, they used his veranda as a 
halfway rest stop. Some ten minutes earlier, after walking home in 
company with the boys from the farm, the couple's only child - 
sixteen-year-old Marty "Butch" Kregs - had announced his arrival with 
his customary slam of the screen door.  He then scaled the steps to his 
bedroom two at a time.  Drawn back down by the excited voices, he now 
stood on the bottom landing observing the girls mob his father's 
strapping frame. 

Retaining vestiges of the blithe, college, football hero he once was,
fortyish Loren was informal to a fault. A stickler that his deputies be 
fully uniformed and armed, he hardly ever conformed to his own code. He 
went without a tie and sidearm, wore various combinations of official 
and civilian garb, kept his sleeves rolled to above the elbows, and 
almost never observed protocol; nevertheless, his badge always was 
prominently displayed, the only visible proof of his office. 

Despite these quirks, he held the deep respect of his constituency,
especially that of his deputies. Now, however, the brawny, 
six-foot-three sheriff seemed like a befuddled giant besieged by 
Lilliputians. His perplexity at being pressed by the girls was decoded 
by his sonsy wife, who noticed his long fingers combing through his 
receding ash blond hair. Removing her apron, she sauntered to the 
group. 

"Quiet!" she shouted.  The girls turned in amazement. Even Loren's baby
blue eyes expressed shock. 

"Wait in the parlor," she commanded.   Meekly, the visitors filed from
the kitchen, followed by Butch. 

Amused, Verony teased, "You're rescued, sheriff. Grab some glasses. 
I'll get some refreshments." 

The girls flopped on an enormous oriental rug that centered the spacious
parlor.  Delegating the glasses to Butch, Loren eased himself into the 
flowery patterns of a deeply cushioned sofa.  When Verony was settled 
next to him, he asked, "What happened?" 

The response exploded from Swanna.  "Are you deaf, Mr. Kregs?  I told
you.  There's a ghost in the cemetery." 

"Whoa, there; watch your tongue." 

"I'll speak as I wish, Mr. Kregs."  Swanna's searing stare would have
curdled the milk of an entire dairy herd.  Her nose wrinkled, as though 
Loren had halitosis. 

He turned to the others.  "Maybe what you saw was a dog or a . . ." 

"Don't ignore me, Mr. Kregs.  It was a ghost!  And you better do
something about it." 

Verony saw Loren's jaws clench.  Her touch checked him. "Please listen,
Swanna," she requested. 

"Owls hunt in the cemetery.” Loren continued, “They . . ." 

"I said it was a ghost, Mr. Kregs; all in white.  Do something!" 

Loren threw up his hands.  Prudence was advising him to close the
interview before he did something that might end his career. He nudged 
Butch, who was sitting on a sofa arm next to him, infatuation for 
Swanna etched on his face.  "Did you boys pull a prank?" 

Embarrassed at being caught with a puppy-dog look on his face, Butch
only shook his head. 

"Okay, girls.  Butch'll drive you home." 

"It really was a ghost, Mrs. Kregs," one of the girls whimpered. 

"The sheriff will check into it, Debbie. Won't you dear?" 

Verony's hazel eyes telegraphed the response she expected.  Her
husband's eyes were Saturnine; still, he nodded. 

"Why would you blame your own son, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna." 

"I'll walk, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna.  Now!" 

"You needn't shout. I'm getting in." 

END OF CHAPTER ONE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER TWO 

Friendly, outgoing Loren Kregs was born on his parents 200 hundred acre
farm, one-quarter mile from the intersection of Bowen and Versailles 
roads - Bowen Corners.  He loved the place; nonetheless, after earning 
an advanced degree in criminology, he entered law enforcement and then 
married Verony, his high school sweetheart.  When Loren inherited the 
farm, they moved into its rambling house and, with the outbreak of war, 
the land was rented to Dwain and Ken, the eldest sons of Loren's alter 
ego, Roger Jarvan. 

In renting the acreage, the Jarvans were complying with the federal
government's request for increased farm production.  By renting Loren's 
land, they would more than double the yield of their farm. However, the 
war had caused a farm labor shortage.  Planting the added acreage was 
tinged by the concern of finding enough workers for the harvest. So, 
like other farmers, each spring the Jarvans recruited city women with 
teen-age children to gather crops.  They trucked these city harvesters, 
together with their furnishings, to hastily built, farm shanty 
communities, where they lived  while they gathered crops, until the 
beginning of the next school year. 

In addition to his law enforcement duties, Loran served as a member of
the local draft board, a position that often impacted his attitude 
toward the youth.  Throughout his long tenure as sheriff, he always was 
notably tolerant with kids, often to the exasperation of the victims of 
their high-spirited monkeyshines.  Now, the war made him more so.  The 
front windows of at least a score of Cayuga county homes displayed gold 
stars.  A lump filled his throat whenever he saw one; he knew most of 
the boys those stars represented. 

The death of Daniel Mancione, the county's first gold star casualty,
especially devastated Loren. Not waiting to be drafted, after high 
school, Mancione enlisted in the Air Force. A wiz at mathematics, he 
trained as a navigator, received his wings and an officer's commission, 
then was sent to England.  Not long after, while returning from a 
mission, badly damaged, with two engines in flames and flying too low 
for the crew to bail out, his bomber attempted a belly landing.  It 
exploded, killing the entire crew. 

Before the war, the high-spirited, prankish Mancione often served “The
Kregs Alternative,” a program of the Sheriff's Department.  Subscribed 
to by all of the county officials,  justices and the district attorney, 
it permitted kids to make restitution and perform community service, in 
lieu of the more serious consequences that could result from their 
inoffensive pranks, inadvertently gone awry. Thus, their records 
remained unblemished. 

At times, when passing the Mancione home, with it forlorn gold star,
Loren wondered whether The Kregs Alternative contributed to Danny's 
death.  Maybe a few blemishes on his record would have disqualified him 
from navigator's training.   Maybe that would have put him in a ground 
assignment.   Maybe – just maybe - if not for The Kregs Alternative, 
Danny still would be alive . . . maybe  . . .  maybe  .  .  .  maybe. 

There were other things Loren recalled about Danny Mancione: he never
was disrespectful to his elders.  Always, he accepted his punishment 
without complaining, never denying that he deserved it.  Moreover, he 
fulfilled his punishment assignments to the best of his ability.  Yes, 
Danny was a high-spirited kid who loved to play pranks, yet, they 
always were done in a spirit of innocent fun.  And, if he was caught, 
he accepted the consequences with his good-natured grin. 

Swanna, though, was a new experience for Loren: it was the first time
during his service as sheriff that any kid had ever defied him.  As he 
now watched through the screen door, he noticed that only she was 
occupying the truck's cab with Butch.  He understood the boy's 
infatuation - the girl was gorgeous. Too bad her attitude didn't match. 


Loren was sure that, most likely, it was an animal the girls had seen.
It also was possible they were victims of heightened imaginations. 
After all, what did city kids know of dim roads rimmed by swaying 
shadows, or nocturnal animals prowling dark fields in search of a meal, 
or a muted moon shadowed by wind-swayed trees? They easily could have 
been fooled. 

“Me investigate a ghost?” he almost shouted to Verony, “Can you imagine
what people will do if they find out that I went into a cemetery 
searching for a ghost? Why, I'll be the laughingstock of Collins.  For 
sure, they'll put me in a loony bin.  That Swanna;  what planet is she 
from, anyway?” 

Verony seemed amused. "I'll go with you, honey,” she offered, “That way,
you won't be alone in your loony bin.” 

“I'm glad you find it so amusing.”  Loren sullenly responded “You had to
make me promise to search the place, didn't you. We'll see just how 
amusing you think it is come election time and I'm laughed out of 
office.” 

“Tell me honey,” chided Verony, “how did  we get all the way from girls
who were  frightened by some boys playing a prank,  to your loosing the 
election for checking out  a complaint about the old cemetery?” 

Loren assumed a hangdog look. “If rudeness was a crime, Swanna'd get
life in Alcatraz," he muttered, "Okay, let's go," 

END OF CHAPTER TWO 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER THREE 

As usual on Tuesday mornings, the large, round table at the rear of
Frank's Country Kitchen was surrounded by an informal gathering of 
farmers and other locals, including Loren and the Jarvans. Word of 
Loren's graveyard investigation was the topic of the morning, and he 
was the butt of much good-natured teasing. Earlier, before Loren 
entered, Frank and Bob Stroggen, whose large dairy farm straddled 
Versailles road concocted a prank. Biding his time, the corpulent 
proprietor waited until Loren and his friends were served.  Then, 
pouring himself a cup of coffee, he joined them. 

Assuming a deadpan demeanor, he asked, “Say, sheriff what's this about a
ghost in your house? I hear your making an investigation into it.  I 
didn't know you believed in ghosts.” 

“Now, come on, Frank, I've taken enough ribbing this morning to last a
lifetime.  Besides, the whole thing has nothing to do with my house. 
Just some boys playing a prank on some girls. The girls told me they 
saw ghosts in that old graveyard at Bowens Corners.  That's all there 
is to story.” 

With a perturbed grimace, Loren paused, before emphatically adding ,
“And I don't believe in ghosts.” 

Apparently taken aback by Loren's  skepticism, Frank responded, “Well,
maybe you don't believe in ghosts, Loren, but I sure do.  My 
grandmother used to get rid of them by using holy spells.  I saw her do 
it.  And, she taught me how , too.” 

“Cut the hogwash, Frank!  All this garbage just because of some
hysterical city girls, who  don't know their rear end from a hole in 
the ground.” 

Standing, Loren sidled toward the door.  “I'm leaving; I don't want to
discuss it anymore.” 

Bob Stroggen had been listening attentively to the exchange.  Sensing
that now was the moment to spring their prank , he cast a  sidelong 
glance toward Frank and called out, “Wait a minute, Loren, I've been 
sitting  here listening to Frank tooting his horn  about knowing  all 
those magic spells to get  rid of ghosts.  I think it's just a lot of 
hot air.  Let him prove it.” 

Loren fanned the air with his hand.  “I told you I don't have time for
this garbage.” 

“Come on, sheriff, be a good sport.  Let's see what Frank can do.  If he
can do anything, that is.” 

With a graphic middle finger,  Loren rejected the  challenge and left,
leaving Stroggen  and Frank disappointed by an incomplete prank. 

***** 

After leaving Frank's, Loren stopped by Jarven's office to visit with
Rogers.   Roger's son, Mark, also was there. 

"Well, Roger, I don't think the girls on your place will be seeing any
more ghosts, no matter what Swanna says,” Loren gloated, “I'm glad our 
problems  with her are over.” 

"Maybe yours, not ours," Roger responded in a gloomy Gus tone.  Sporting
the logo of a farm machine company, the cap on his head, when compared 
to his studious features, was a study in contrast; a homburg would have 
better suited the  accountant. Unlike Loren, Roger had enjoyed working 
the family farm. However, selecting the most prestigious scholarship 
offer his exceptional scholastic achievements had brought him, his 
parents enrolled him in a university at Boston, where he earned a summa 
cum laude masters degree in accounting.  Though the university offered 
him a full professorship, he chose instead to open an accounting 
practice in Collins, where he married Marcy.  Prominent farmers and 
agribusinesses throughout the state sought Roger's services. He 
established branch offices in numerous other towns and soon was 
recognized as the state's foremost pundit on agricultural economics. 

But nowadays, sadness hounded the Jarvans. Four years ago, Roger's
parents died in a train accident, leaving him the farm Mark had managed 
for them and now managed for his father. Then, early last year, a 
congenital cardiac had defect claimed Marcy.  Somewhat simultaneously, 
Tommy, Roger's youngest son, was severely wounded while serving as a 
naval officer in the South Pacific.  His wounds prompted the Navy to 
delay informing him of his mother's death until he was medically 
approved for a furlough.   Home  on leave now, tormented by a profound 
melancholy,  he blamed himself for her death. 

Loren realized that the last thing the Jarvans needed were more problems
from someone he considered to be a spoiled city brat.   His brows 
knitted. "What do you mean, your problem with Swanna isn't over? Why 
isn't it over?" 

"The mothers want us to drive the girls from town every Saturday, but
Swanna said she'd rather walk; so now all the girls want to walk.  The 
mothers are fuming," Mark explained. 

"You mean the girls won't ride without Swanna?" 

Receiving a dejected nod, Loren combed his fingers through his hair. 
Then he asked, "Tell me what you know about that spoiled 
pain-in-the-butt!” 

END OF CHAPTER THREE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER FOUR 

Given to three-piece, pin-striped suits, and always one to assume a
posture of hauteur superiority toward others, Mr. Wendler was putty in 
Swanna's hands; he doted on her. An only child, she was tutored at home 
by the best teachers his millions could hire. And, knowing mostly the 
company of snobbish adults, she had acquired the demeanor of one who 
viewed those outside her social standing as one views a cockroach in 
need extermination. Manure-smelling boots had a better chance of 
acceptance by Swanna, than someone her quirks led her to dislike. 

The girl's demeanor was that of one much older than her sixteen years;
even so, she was badly spoiled. Like those of her father, her dealings 
with the household staff were tyrannical and haughty.  Outside of the 
family's ear-shot, the staff referred to her as, “Miss 
Bully-Two-Shoes.” 

Indeed, Swanna was in defacto control of the Wendler household. Her
every whim was granted by her misguided, over-indulgent, snob of a 
father, in whose opinion Swanna could do no wrong!  So, Mrs. Wendler 
didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell when Miss Bully- Two-Shoes 
decreed that her loyalty to her country required that she and her 
mother harvest crops for the war effort. 

“Our boys are fighting for our country,” she announced to her father,
“They need food!  My tutor said that there's a shortage of harvest 
workers.  Some of his students will be spending their summer picking 
crops for the war effort! I think Mother and I must help, too.” 

Her features haunted by an inner anxiety, Mrs. Wendler gave her husband
a smile of mute appeal. “We don't have the ability for that kind of 
work. Maybe we should help  our boys by doing work for the Red Cross or 
helping out at a U.S.O. canteen.  That way . . .” 

Swanna went spastic!  Raking her mother with a keep-your-mouth-shut
glare, she stamped her feet, hysterically shrieking at the highest 
octave she could manage, “ I don't want to help the Red  Cross;  I want 
to pick crops on a farm!  Why won't you ever let me do what I want? I 
think you're a traitor to  our country.  You're helping Hitler!” 

Swanna put her arms around her father.  Modulating  Her tone to a soft,
pitiable whimper, through pouty lips, she said, “Daddy, please make 
mommy go to a farm with me this summer. Pleeease? Pleeease? I want so 
much to help the war effort.” 

Mr. Wendler stared adoringly at his daughter, then fixed cold eyes on
his wife. “See how you've upset the poor think?” he scolded,  “How can 
you be so  callous?  All she's asking is to help our  servicemen. 

“You're setting a very poor example,” he continued, “I think it's
wonderful she's willing to pick crops on a farm.” 

With a backhanded gesture of disgust, Mr. Wendler ordered,  “You're
going.  It's for a good  cause.   Anyhow, the country air will do you 
both worlds of good.  It'll be like taking a long country vacation.  
I'll visit you from time to time.   My secretary will make all the 
arrangements for Swanna and you.” 

That did it; Mrs. Wendler's summer fate was sealed! 

***** 

Unaccustomed as she was to agonizing, backbreaking exertion, Mrs.
Wendler soon became overwhelmed by the grueling harvest schedule.  
After one week, she phoned her husband to inform him of her exhaustion, 
and demanded that he send a limousine to take her home. 

“Does Swanna want to leave?” he asked. 

“That makes no difference; I want to leave!” Mrs. Wendler shot back,
“I'll take no more of this nonsense.  I'm all aches and pains.  Send a 
car immediately.” 

“Let me speak with Swanna.” 

“She's not here.  She went to town.” 

“Does she want to come home?” 

“I'm her mother and I say I want to go home.” 

“If Swanna wants to come home, I'll send a car.  Have her call if she
does.  Otherwise, I want you to stay there.  Must run now.  Goodbye.”  
A telephonic hum replaced Mr. Wendler's voice. 

In the wake of that phone call, Mrs. Wendler resigned herself to her
summer in agricultural purgatory.  She knew she loved Swanna, but was 
plagued by guilt, due to an increasing sense of ambivalence toward her. 


One of the prettiest girls ever to grace Collins, Swanna was keenly
aware of her assets. When she eventually joined the teens on their 
Saturday night hikes, she was besieged by boys requesting dates.  She 
never accepted or refused, choosing instead to keep them dangling in 
limbo.  Toward other girls she behaved as a Cleopatra among 
handmaidens.  And woe to the girl who didn't kowtow to her. 

"So you see,” Mark concluded, “she tries to control everyone, Loren;
even us." 

The High Sheriff stood to leave.  "I know the  feeling." 

"Will do us a small favor, Loren?"  asked Roger. 

Loren listened dubiously and left Roger's office. "Some small favor," he
moaned softly to himself, “Why didn't he ask me something simple, like 
capture Hitler or sink the whole  Japanese navy?” 

Then he headed for his office by jaywalking Main Street against the
light. “The things I do for my friends,” he muttered, inwardly berating 
himself for not having the guts to say no to Roger's favor. 

END OF CHAPTER FOUR ***** ***** 

CHAPTER FIVE 

For over a century, the graveyard at Bowen Corners  had huddled next to
an ancient relic, as though  consoling its occupants, by embracing the 
abandoned  edifice that once was their church.  A grove butted the 
building's opposite side, edging Versailles road, and then fronting on 
Bowen.  Not even the brightness of the waxing, gibbous moon revealed 
the green and white patrol car camouflaged by the prolific vegetation.  
 The officers in the car could think of things they'd rather be doing 
than this Saturday night, graveyard surveillance. But Loren had 
promised Rodger, and he always kept his word, even when it made him 
feel as idiotic as he now did.  With him on this stakeout was Chief 
Deputy Billy Greenoak. 

Cayuga county had salvaged the cemetery from oblivion by granting
Marcy's request that it be her final resting place.  Her white, marble 
monument was flanked by a matching bench where visitors could pray and 
meditate, while reflecting on eternal mysteries. 

Tonight, such enigmas occupied neither man's mind.  Hunched behind the
steering wheel, Greenoak sighed wearily.  Each time his cigarette rose, 
its glow heightened his gaunt features, strikingly appropriate to the 
vicinity. Then, like a spooked firefly, it drifted downward. 

"I hear them.  What's the time?" Loren asked. 

Again, the glow braved Greenoak's features.  Retreating to his wrist
watch, it then expired between a thumb and forefinger.  "Almost ten." 

The officers left the car to positioned themselves behind some
shrubbery.  The moonlight revealed a troop of boys joshing their way 
across the intersection.  Loren knew the one turning onto Versailles 
road was Chris Stroggen, heading for home.  Hearing Butch shout for 
Chris to phone him in the morning  made Loren uneasy.  He hoped the 
kids never learned of this lookout.  The boys passed the officers, 
their rowdiness cresting for several seconds, then waning. 

Feminine voices came into earshot.  Soon, some twenty girls approached,
their singing subsiding as they neared the Corners.  By the time they 
crossed, they were pressing away from the cemetery, to the far side of 
the road.  Not until they again were invisible, did their singing 
resume. 

Loren stood.  He was about to return to the car, when Billy leaped up,
exclaiming incredulously, "What in tarnation is that?" 

Close to where the girls had faded, a barely visible white shape
emerged.  "Where'd that thing come from?" Loren asked.  His tone 
disclosed profound bewilderment and he sensed a surge of adrenalin.   A 
cool clamminess dampened his forehead. 

Billy's lips formed a silent pucker.  Brows lifted, hands extended in a
“who knows” gesture, he slowly shook his head. The hobbling figure 
turned suddenly, seemed to drift over the near culvert and disappeared. 


Billy gasped!  "See that?" he blurted.  "It floated right  over the
ditch. They're right; it is a ghost!" 

"Now don't you go yelling spooks.  Get in the car; let's get down
there." 

When they investigated the spot where the apparition had vanished, Loren
chuckled.  On either side of the road wide, heavy crossovers bridged 
the culverts.  "No crossovers at your place,  Billy?  Do you float over 
the ditches?" 

Noting his buddy's mortification, he promised, "I won't tell anyone,
Billy.  Let's go.  I've got a hunch." 

***** 

Flashlight darkened, Greenoak tracking close behind, Loren moved
silently past the rear of the old church.  At the edge of the 
graveyard, he scanned the headstones.  The mysterious figure was seated 
on Marcy's bench, its mournful voice wafting on the night breeze.  
Realizing that his suspicion was confirmed, Loren felt like a sinner 
profaning a benediction.  His instant about-face caused a collision 
with Greenoak, generating a loud grunt that brought the figure to its 
feet. 

"Who's there?" 

"Loren Kregs and Billy Greenoak.  Sorry we disturbed you." 

Hobbling closer, the figure stopped and leaned heavily on a cane.   It
was Tommy Jarvan, dressed in the white uniform of a naval Commander.  
This was only the second time Loren had seen him since his arrival: if 
the first time could be considered seeing him.  Tommy had retreated to 
his room, when Loren and his family had stopped by to visit him.  
Though he still seemed distant, it was he who broke the awkward 
silence. 

"Hello, Loren.  Checking out the girls' story?" 

"Yes.  For your dad." 

Tommy nodded.  "I was the one they saw." 

"Why didn't you tell your dad?" 

"You know my dad is angry with me for enlisting.   He's tries to speak
to me, but I know its for appearances sake.  So I avoid speaking with 
him as much as I can.   I don't have to tell you I'm his black sheep.  
He hates me, especially now that mom's gone."  Tommy's deep voice 
betrayed a profound inner agony. 

Sudden anger made Loren's blood surge to his face.  He hesitated,
battling the urge to reply to the wounded, young officer in the way he 
felt he should.  He lost the battle.  “Oh, to blazes with my feeling 
sorry for him,” he thought, and plunged ahead. 

"Well, what more to do you expect him to do?  He wrote asking you to
forgive him; he showed me the letter.  You're the one who didn't answer 
it, so quit crucifying him.   Do you expect him to crawl to you on his 
hands and knees and kiss your feet?” 

Tommy's gasped, and Loren worried he'd gone too far. But Roger and he
always were like  second fathers to each other's kids.  Roger and he 
were so close, Marcy once observed, that when one felt pain, the other 
winced.   Loren considered Tommy's remarks unfair to Roger. 

The exchange startled Greenoak, leaving the taciturn deputy uncertain of
how to react.  He wanted to at least greet Tommy.  "Your mom sure was 
proud of you, Tommy," he blurted. 

The words ignited a scornful explosion from the commander.  "Why?  For
killing her?" 

"That's enough!”  Loren's stern tone caused Tommy to stare at him, slack
jawed. 

The sheriff's tone softened. “You didn't kill your mother, Tommy.  She
had heart problems from the time we were kids together.  She knew she 
would die at an early age.  Your father knew; so did Verony and I – 
even before they were married.   At first, even though your mom was in 
love with your dad, she refused to marry him because of her heart.  She 
told him she would never get married.  And she really meant it.  It 
took a lot of persuasion for your father to get her to marry him.   He 
kept telling her illness made no difference to him because he loved her 
just the way she was. 

“You know, son, I think it was their love for each and you kids that
made her live as long as she did.   She lived a lot longer than the 
doctors predicted.  They gave her only a few years. When you kids came 
along, your folk made all their friends promise not to say anything to 
you.  You can understand why they didn't want you to know.  Your dad's 
a great guy.  Go home and talk with him, son.  Don't sell him short 
because of what he did when you joined up.” 

The moonlight reflected from the wetness flowing down the cheeks of the
young officer.  He declined Loren's offer to drive him home, noting 
that it was only a short walk to his house.   Silence prevailed between 
the two lawmen during  most of their trip back to town.   Not until 
they reached the outskirts did Greenoak penetrate it with an 
observation.   "Well, Loren, guess we can say the mystery's solved." 

"Seems so, Billy; still, I find no satisfaction in it.” 

END OF CHAPTER FIVE ***** ***** 

CHAPTER SIX 

Tommy  Jarvan inherited his father's prodigious intellect, without his
ties to Collins.  He was not yet twenty when he completed college with 
a summa cum laude, master degree in pharmacology - his passion.  His 
parents had planned for him to enter a doctoral program; however, a 
year before Pearl Harbor, he devastated Marcy and enraged Roger by 
enlisting in the Navy. 

Roger firmly rebuffed Tommy on his first leave, so the youth's family
contact became mostly limited to correspondence with Marcy. After his 
graduation from Officers Candidate School, he received his commission 
as a pharmaceutical officer, and saw action aboard an aircraft carrier 
during the Battle of Midway.  Shortly thereafter, he slogged ashore at 
Guadalcanal in command of combat corpsmen attached to the Marines. 

Fo months Tommy endured Guadalcanal's nerve-shattering, jungle combat
conditions. Then, while crawling under heavy fire, to rescue three 
Marines who were being raked by an enemy pillbox, he sustained his near 
fatal wounds.  Only the quick action of his own corpsmen saved him; 
nonetheless, from hip to toes, his right side suffered the permanent 
loss of all sensation.  It required several months of excruciating 
therapy for him to finally be able to hobble from the hospital, using 
only a cane. 

In March of 1944, Tommy returned home on convalescent leave.  Tormented
by the belief that his rebellion had caused his mother's death, he 
rejected his father's explanation that a congenital heart defect had 
taken her.  His graveyard encounter with Loren now prompted him to read 
unopened letters he had stashed.  Trailing in the wake of his battles, 
they at last had caught up with him a few days before his leave.  In 
his grief over Marcy's death, he had refused to read them. 

Just as Loren had said, there was his father's letter asking for his
forgiveness.  It was mailed just before the landing at Guadalcanal. 
And, reading Marcy's final letters, Tommy noticed her glowing pride 
Greenoak had mentioned.  He also detected something else: the subtle 
confirmation that what he had been told about her death was true. Under 
combat conditions, it would have been easy to miss.  Yet, there it was 
– between the lines; her very subtle message, telling him of her 
chronic tiredness and her desire for a quick end to the war so that 
they could be together again.   It avoided any overt mention that an 
imperfectly formed heart  would soon claim her. 

"No mother could hope for a better son.  I've always been so proud of
you. And I'm so very, very proud of the job you're doing in the Navy, 
helping to save the lives of so many of our servicemen, so that they 
can return to their families. 

“I'll love you throughout eternity, my wonderful, darling son. And I
know that God will reunite us too, in His own time,"  her last letter 
concluded.  By the time Tommy finished reading it, his tears again were 
flowing, wetting the pages. 

That night, together with Roger, he revisited Marcy's grave. There by
the gravesite, father and son stood with bowed heads, as Tommy told her 
of their reconciliation.  “I love you, mom,” he concluded, “and I want 
you to know that I'm finally home.” 

END OF CHAPTER SIX 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER SEVEN 

The next morning, while the workers waited at the shanties for Mark to
arrive with the truck, Tommy drove up with Roger and Loren.  Swanna 
alone rejected his explanation about the ghost. 

"Another stupid story, Mr. Kregs?" she fumed.  "It was a ghost, not this
childish Sea Scout, crying for his . . ." 

Mrs. Wendler's forceful shove sent Swanna stumbling backward, until she
solidly rear-ended the ground.  Face flushed with anger, the mother 
glared down at her daughter.  A pang of guilt plagued Loren when 
Swanna's gawk of disbelief, enhanced by her blushing embarrassment, 
warmed the cockles of his heart, and increased his estimate of her 
mother. 

Mrs. Wendler's voice dripped with righteous anger, her eyes flashed
fire. "On your feet right now, young lady; apologize this instant!" 

The command came through lips pursed with suppressed fury; Swanna was
afraid to stand.  She just stared.  She had never seen her mother 
appear so absolutely formidable.  None of the bystanders opted for 
intervention. 

"Get on your feet!"  The order was enforced by a forward step.  Swanna
took several backward pushes with her heels, and scrambled up. 

"I told you to apologize."  The mother took another step, and Swanna
whimpered a hurried, "I'm sorry." 

"For what?  And use their names." 

"I'm sorry for what I said, Mr. Kregs." 

"He's High Sheriff Kregs." 

Swanna repeated the title, then blubbered, "What do I call the other
one?" 

"You address him as Mister Jarvan." 

"I'm . . .  I'm sorry for what I said, Mi . . .  Mi . . . ster  Jarvan."


"Now go to the shanty, and stay there, until I say you  may leave." 

The girl hurled through the crowd and rounded a row of shanties. 
Vibrating the crisp, morning air, the furious slam of a screen door 
announced her compliance with her mother's demand. 

"I'm so very sorry, gentlemen," apologized Mrs. Wendler, voice
struggling to control its quavering 

"Thank you, Mrs. Wendler," acknowledged Tommy. 

Loren nodded with a forced, insipid smile, then headed for his car.  He
was accelerating, when a blue stake truck barreled over the crest of a 
rise in the road.  Its driver flagged him to a crawl.  "How'd it go, 
Loren?" 

"Mark, don't ask; you'd never believe it." 

END OF CHAPTER SEVEN 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER EIGHT 

Strawberry season blended into bean picking time, with Swanna constantly
yammering to leave.  She continuously phoned her father, nagging for 
him to send a chauffeur to drive her home.   It was to no avail.  On 
learning of his daughter's conduct toward Loren, and especially toward 
a severely wounded naval officer,  Mr. Wendler's belated try at 
discipline prolonged Swanna's demonstration of patriotism. 

Forbidden to associate with her by their mothers, all the girls avoided
her now, and Loren noticed an intense hatred blazed in her eyes 
whenever she saw him.  Tommy mentioned to Loran that he also had sensed 
himself fixed by that same malevolent glare.  He had returned to duty, 
having piggybacked a ride at the Niagara Falls Air Base, on an Air 
Force plane bound for Seattle.   No longer eligible for overseas duty 
because of his severe disability, he now held the post of Chief 
Pharmaceutical Officer at the Seattle Veterans Hospital, with the four 
stripes and the eagles of a naval Captain –  the Navy's youngest. 

Loren knew Roger had returned from his trip.  He had driven back to
Collins in last night's soaking rainstorm. The stifling mugginess that 
followed had permeated this second Saturday of August, until it was 
conquered by the evening breezes. 

Enjoying the change, Loren sat with Verony on the front veranda,
listening to approaching male voices.  Bantering their way from town, 
the boys from the Jarvan farm entered the circular glow radiating from 
the driveway lights.  Not seeing his son, Loren called out, "Where's 
Butch?" 

"Still at Guggin's, sheriff." 

The group's voices receded, and Loren dozed.  The sudden silence of the
night creatures woke him.  Their calls had been replaced by another 
sound. 

Verony moved to the lawn.  "Are those screams?" 

"Yes, sounds like girls." 

Growing louder, the cries echoed from the direction of Bowen Corners. 
"Wait here." Loren ordered. 

"Oh, no;  I'm going, too!" 

END OF CHAPTER  EIGHT 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER NINE 

They hadn't driven far when the headlights revealed three girls, waving
frantically.  The couple got out and more girls bolted from the 
darkness.   And  calmly moseying behind came Swanna. 

Surrounded by the nearly incoherent girls, Verony demanded to know what
had happened.  It was shy, taciturn Debbie who managed to stammer, "In 
graveyard . . . two ghosts.  Carrie . . . in ditch." 

A sickening anxiety stabbed Loren's gut. "You mean the culvert?" 

"Yes . . . near . . . church." 

A glacial freeze encased his heart.  Near the Corners,  the culverts
deepened to pass under the intersection.  After a storm, even large 
animals occasionally drowned in them.  The girl could be dead. 

"Get going, Loren," hurried Verony, her voice quavering,  "I'll take the
girls home in the truck." 

"Radio Greenoak first and phone Doc.  Tell them to watch for my lights. 
Come with me, Debbie." 

The beams from Loren's spotlights skimmed the shoulder of the road. 
They were nearing the cemetery when Debbie yelled, "Stop!  She's there. 
Over there.  She didn't fall in." 

Her finger directed Loren's gaze to what appeared to be a discarded
bundle of rags.  Inching the car forward, he illuminated the place with 
the spotlights. Then, handing the keys to Debbie, he instructed her to 
bring him the medical kit from the car trunk, and hurried to Carrie. 

He found her unconscious, legs dangling over the ditch. Had she revived
alone in the dark, the waters would have claimed her - of that, he was 
sure.  Not until he drew her away from the brink did his heart thaw. 

Debbie brought the kit, and the smelling salts worked instantly.  Carrie
bolted upright with a snort and a saucer-eyed stare.  She immediately 
recognized Loren, on his heels next to her.  Clamping her arms around 
his neck, she toppled him into a sitting position, ending up seated in 
his lap.  Even with Debbie's help, he couldn't break free.   And that's 
when Greenoak arrived, followed by Doc Krastil and Glen, his assistant. 
 They found Cayuga County's High Sheriff sitting on the shoulder of 
Bowen road.  His patrol car illuminated his futile struggles to free 
himself from the firm embrace of a pretty girl cuddled in his lap.  As 
though vying for his attention, a second girl assisted his efforts. 

Seeing the three men practically doubled over from gales of convulsive
laughter, Loren bellowed, "Don't just stand there laughing through you 
galdarn teeth.  Get her off!" 

Carrie's hysteria was obvious, prompting Doc to ask what had happened. 
A string of roaring profanities spewed from the enraged High Sheriff. 
"Stop asking your stupid questions, and get me loose; she's choking 
me!" 

It required a sedative before Glen could pry loose Carrie's grip on
Loren. Doc found her relatively unharmed and ordered rest for her, 
until he prescribed otherwise.  Then Glen drove both girls home. 

Billy and Doc turned to Loren in silent expectancy. Now that his ordeal
was over, he stared back with an affected grin.  "Okay,  I'll tell 
you." 

Somewhat sheepishly, he apologized for his anger, then explained what
happened.  "But she really was strangling me," he rationalized. 

"You rescued her, Loren. You're her hero," teased Doc. 

Loren's hands fanned the air in disgust.  "I should of known better than
to tell you about it.” 

"Seems you're the one who needed protection, chief," quipped Billy, "Two
ghosts now, huh?" 

Loren sidled toward his car.  "More like two boys in sheets, I'd say." 

Billy left for town with Doc.  And, as Loren pulled away, he fervently
hoped that tonight's humiliating fiasco was really only a horrible 
nightmare. 

END OF CHAPTER NINE ***** ***** 

CHAPTER TEN 

Loren sat in his office, glumly drumming his fingers on his desk. Having
gotten wind of the incident at Bowen Corners, his political opponents 
had dubbed him, "Lover Boy Kregs."  Even the media were capitalizing on 
the smear. 

What had gotten into Butch and Chris?  The prank could have cost Carrie
her life, not to mention ruin their own.  He pushed the thought away.  
What a mess. Initially, both boys denied any involvement in the prank. 
But when Verony returned home from driving the girls to the shanties, 
she noticed Butch's muddy shoes by the side steps.  He was sitting in 
the kitchen, nonchalantly munching a sandwich.  The muddy shoes and his 
forced smile had roused her suspicions.   She quizzed him.  He claimed 
his shoes were dirtied while he was roughhousing with Chris. 

Loren checked the cemetery the next day.  The evidence was irrefutable. 
One set of muddy tracks led from the graveyard and  gradually 
disappeared in the direction of the Stroggen farm.  A second set faded 
in the direction of the Kregs's home.  Still, Butch and Chris clung to 
their story,  until Bob Stroggen discovered the clincher. 

At first, Bob was amused by the prank.  However, when he learned of
Carrie's close brush with death, his amusement vanished.  His wife's 
puzzlement over two missing sheets prompted him to investigate.  He 
found them deeply buried in one of his haylofts, and the boys 
confessed. 

The possibility that Butch or Chris might someday be serving The
Alternative had neveroccurred to Loren.  Greenoak carefully paced those 
on the program, working them three hours a day, five days a week. Butch 
and Chris began their three months yesterday, when they washed windows 
in the county courthouse. Today they were loading a truck with scrap 
metal for the war effort.  Tomorrow it would be old newspapers. 

Hearing his stomach grumble, Loren stood to leave for Frank's, when his
secretary ushered in two visitors.  The Army officer was Major Kremple. 
 Commanding officer of the military inspectors who graded the food 
products shipped to the military from Cayuga County, he was the Chief 
Military Inspector of the county's food processing plants.  He 
regularly ate at Frank's.  The civilian with him was a stranger.  His 
summer striped suit and paisley bow tie fought vainly to overcome the 
anonymity of his nondescript features. 

"Afternoon, Major." 

"Afternoon, High Sheriff.  Meet Agent Euler of the FBI." 

Loren's eyebrows shot up. Moving around his desk, he extended his hand. 
Then, indicating a brown leather sofa, he waited until his guests were 
comfortable before folding himself into a matching chair. 

"Now, how may I help Hoover?" 

"Sheriff, there's sabotage in your county." Euler's monotone was
reminiscent of an auctioneer's chant. 

Loren almost gagged.  "What? Where?" 

Kremple took over.  "The cannery's getting rocks in bean sacks from the
Jarvan farm.  The conveyer system was damaged two weeks ago. You 
heard?" 

Receiving a nod, Kremple continued. "Before arriving, Agent Euler sent
us a code to secretly mark each worker's sacks.  The rocks come from a 
Mrs. Wendler." 

Loren blinked, and Euler's eyes narrowed.  "Know her?" 

"I met her.  But it can't be her doing it.  It must be her daughter." 

"Why?" 

Loren gave a soft, bitter snort.  "Agent Euler, if you knew Swanna,
you'd know why." 

Noticing Euler's puzzled look, he added, "If you'll play along with me, 
we might pry the truth from her.  I'm sure the Jarvans'll help." 

END OF CHAPTER TEN 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER ELEVEN 

The next morning, the Jarvan farm workers were surprised by the banshee
like wails of screaming sirens. Looking up from rows dotted by partly 
filled sacks, they saw an astonishing motorcade. Six sheriff's cars and 
three Army Jeeps, a paddy wagon and an Army sedan - all with flashing 
strobe-lights - snaked their way along the dirt road that led to the 
bean field. 

Halting their Jeeps in a dusty cloud, several Military Police
dismounted, assuming a parade rest stance in front of the weighing 
area.  At the edge of the field, the deputies faced the workers in a 
similar stance. 

Fully attired in a gray, summer uniform, High Sheriff Loren Kregs now
advanced!  Dark aviator lenses shaded his eyes. And, on each shoulder, 
four gold stars indicated his rank as the High Sheriff of Cayuga 
county.  A trooper's hat adorned his head, the braided, gold cord 
around its crown matching a similar frog looped over his left shoulder. 
Beneath his badge, rows of service ribbons decorated his chest.  And 
his jodhpur pants, trimmed with gold side stripes, were tucked into 
spit-polished, police boots.  From a wide, black belt hung a glistening 
holster.  And, while his left hand rested on his hip, the other 
fingered the pistol. Even the MPs snapped to attention at his approach. 


"Assemble your workers, Mr. Jarvan,"  The High Sheriff's command carried
across the field, and Mark immediately complied. 

Now, the occupants of the sedan stepped out: an Army officer and a
civilian.  "Keep your men alert, sergeant," the officer commanded. 

"I'm Major Kremple," he shouted, "Is there a Mrs. Wendler here?" 

A murmur rippled through the crowd. Heads turned toward an eye-catching,
petite woman wearing a white, long-sleeved camise, tucked into a blue, 
ankle-length, peasant skirt. Blond hair peeked from under an enormous 
straw hat that shaded eyes already protected by sunglasses.  Her 
fidgety hands, covered by gardening gloves, signaled alarm.  Appearing 
equally dismayed, a pretty girl at her side gracefully reached for the 
woman's arm. 

"I'm Mrs. Wendler, gentlemen." 

"Please remain, Mrs. Wendler, " ordered the civilian.  "The rest of you
must leave." 

"May I stay?" the girl timidly requested. 

The High Sheriff manifested a dubious frown.  Then, with a shrug, he
nodded. 

"I'm F.B.I. Special Agent Euler," the civilian announced, showing his
credentials. 

His eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Madam, you're under federal arrest. 
Cuff her." 

Mrs. Wendler blanched. Noticing her legs gradually folding, Greenoak
reacted instantly.  Sweeping the woman into his arms, he pushed through 
the MPs, and sat her on the weighing table.  Limply, she dampened her 
face from a dipper of water offered by the sergeant. 

On seeing her mother in handcuffs, Swanna uttered a strangled cry,
ending in a frenzied series of shrieks.  Then, still saucer-eyed with 
horror, she went silent. 

When Kremple and Euler asked Swanna's identity, Loren introduced her as
Mrs. Wendler's daughter.   He lowered his voice.  "But I'm sure Swanna 
here had nothing to do with her mother's  sabotage of the canning 
factory." 

Swanna's carefully-cultivated tan seemed to lighten by several shades.
Indeed, Loren expected another volley of shrieks.  Instead, she numbly 
stuttered, "Sab . . . sab . . .," and again fell silent. 

"I'm so sorry you learned of your mother's sabotaged of the cannery in
this way, Miss Wendler."  Euler attempted to inject sympathy  into his 
monotone, but seemed  unconcerned with secrecy.  His remark was 
overheard by Mrs. Wendler, who also prefaced her response with by 
series of  earsplitting shrieks. 

“Sabotage, yoou'rre crazy!   I neeever did anything like thaat!” 

"Oh, its you all right, Mrs. Wendler.  My inspectors found rocks in your
sacks," Kremple responded.  "Put her in the paddy wagon, sergeant." 

"Noooooooo; I did it; I did it;  I did it!” 

Like a repetitious phonograph record, Swanna kept repeating herself 
until she wound down to a whimper. 

"Swaaaaana!" Mrs. Wendler wailed, “How could you?” 

Slumping on a pile of empty sacks, the girl pressed her face into her
hands and bawled.  When she looked up, cheeks and forehead smeared by 
the soiled wetness of her palms, she blubbered, "I'm sorry, mother.  I 
just wanted to get even with the Jarvans because Commander Jarvan made 
me look so stupid." 

The Jarvans were flabbergasted, especially Mark.  Seeing his jaws
tighten, Loren moved close enough to put a hand on his shoulder.  
"Thanks Loren;  I'm okay," he muttered. 

"But why the rocks?" Kremple asked. 

"So the cannery wouldn't take their beans, anymore." 

"Hogwash," scoffed Loren, casting a sidelong wink toward Euler,  "She's
just protecting her mother." 

Swanna looked dismayed. "I really did it, Sheriff Kregs," she assured
him, plaintively. "Butch and Chris helped me carry the rocks from the 
creek.  Then Chris would drive me to where I'd be working, and we'd 
leave them close by." 

"That's baloney. Butch and Chris would never hurt us," contempt dripped
from Mark's voice. 

"They didn't know what I was doing with the rocks." 

The smoldering embers of Swanna's hauteur momentarily flared, again. 
Reverting to form, she sneered, "Anyhow, they're not angels you know.  
When I promised them a date, they scared the girls for me when Carrie 
fainted." 

"So you're responsible for that one, too," Loren's tone was harsh. 
"Carrie could've drowned.  I'd like Agent Euler to arrest you for 
sabotage.   If he doesn't, I'm going to  arrest you for attempted 
manslaughter.” 

That killed the final spark of Swanna's flare-up.  Her eyes reflected
renewed terror.  "I only wanted to prove there was a ghost," she 
wailed. 

"Please, officers, don't arrest her," Mrs. Wendler pleaded. 

Euler drew Loren and Kremple aside.   Attempting an arch smile, he said,
"Well, Sheriff, we did it." 

Returning a roguish grin, Loren responded, "Yep,  she confessed. And,
she's scared clean out of her wits.”  In a reflective tone, he added, 
“But she wouldn't let her mother take the blame.  I never expected that 
she'd be like that.  Maybe there's some good in everyone, after all.  
Even in Swanna.  What now?" 

"I'll take the girl's statement. After that, she'll be free to go.  That
is unless you press charges. " 

Loren sighed deeply.  "No charges.  She's scared enough.  I'm just happy
to get this whole affair over with." 

When Euler asked Greenoak to put Swanna  in a patrol car, Mrs. Wendler
hastily clasped her tight.  "No!  No!”  she wailed,  “Don't put  her in 
jail; she's just a baby!” 

The pitiful lament melted Loren's affectations.  Unbuckling his holster,
he handed it to Greenoak.  He removed his hat, his sunglasses and his 
tie.   To prevent his tall frame from overwhelming the anguished woman, 
he descended on his heels in front of her.  As gently as he could, he 
comforted her, “Don't worry, Mrs. Wendler, you and Swanna  will be free 
to go after you give Agent Euler a statement.  We not pressing 
charges.” 

Euler nodded assent.   “That's true, Mrs. Wendler, but Swanna caused
substantial damage  to the canning factory.  That will have to be 
reimbursed.” 

The woman heaved a sigh of relief.  She regained her composure, saying,
“Thank you gentlemen.  To whom should I make the check, and for how 
much?  I wish to settle my account with the cannery immediately.   I'll 
be leaving Collins today.   Sheriff, if you'll be kind enough to have 
one of your officers drive me to the cannery, I'll reimburse  it for 
the damages my daughter caused.” 

“Of course, Mrs. Wendler, whenever you're ready.” 

“I'm ready now.” 

Turning to Mark, she stated, “Please convey my sincerest apologies to
your family.   And, when you're in contact with Commander Jarvan, 
please say for me that I truly admire him for his heroism and regret 
the circumstances under which we met.” 

“I shall, Mrs. Wendler.  We're very proud of him. He's a naval Captain
now, and he's doing very well.” 

Demonstrating an insipid smile, the woman nodded, then asked, “May we
leave now?  While we're in town, I'd like to phone my  head chauffeur 
to pick us up at once.” 

Roger moved out in his pickup.  Greenoak assisted Mrs. Wendler and
Swanna into his patrol car for the trip to town. Major Kremple and 
Special Agent Euler trailed behind in the Army sedan.  The MPs followed 
in their jeeps.  The paddy wagon rolled out behind them. And Loren's 
deputies brought up the rear. 

And High Sheriff Loren Kregs?  Well, he waited for the dust to settle
before navigating the long, circular road that rimmed the vast sea of 
green beans.  Arriving at an intersecting highway, he aimed his car 
toward Collins. 

He was a contented man. 

Three cases had been solved; that was good. A badly spoiled girl had
been taught an important lesson; that was even better.  Butch and Chris 
would be devastated; well, that was life.  The Jarvans' bean sacks 
would contain only beans; that was essential. 

And what of the probability of more ghosts at Bowen  Corners?  Only if
the boys of Collins were willing to serve the Kregs Alternative. 

-30- 

josprel@localnet.com 

THE HAUNTING OF BOWEN CORNERS 

by 

Josprel 

CHAPTER ONE 

"We saw a ghost in the cemetery."  Swanna Wendler's calm demeanor belied
her incredible announcement, but her friends were terrified. Moments 
before, the bevy of teen-age girls had stampeded into the kitchen of 
Sheriff  Loren Kregs' farmhouse.  Verony, his wife, almost dropped the 
cake she was icing.  Its loss would have been felt by Loren. Because of 
the World War II  sugar shortage, the cake had condemned him to weeks 
of bitter coffee substitute. Tomorrow, the first Sunday of June, 1944, 
decked in thick vanilla frosting, it would grace a dessert table at the 
annual church dinner.  What a time for an intrusion. Just when Verony 
was finished with the icing bowel! 

Summer workers from the Jarvan farm, the intruders walked past Loren's
home most Saturday nights, hiking the two miles to Collins for a movie 
and soda.  Always returning in darkness, they used his veranda as a 
halfway rest stop. Some ten minutes earlier, after walking home in 
company with the boys from the farm, the couple's only child - 
sixteen-year-old Marty "Butch" Kregs - had announced his arrival with 
his customary slam of the screen door.  He then scaled the steps to his 
bedroom two at a time.  Drawn back down by the excited voices, he now 
stood on the bottom landing observing the girls mob his father's 
strapping frame. 

Retaining vestiges of the blithe, college, football hero he once was,
fortyish Loren was informal to a fault. A stickler that his deputies be 
fully uniformed and armed, he hardly ever conformed to his own code. He 
went without a tie and sidearm, wore various combinations of official 
and civilian garb, kept his sleeves rolled to above the elbows, and 
almost never observed protocol; nevertheless, his badge always was 
prominently displayed, the only visible proof of his office. 

Despite these quirks, he held the deep respect of his constituency,
especially that of his deputies. Now, however, the brawny, 
six-foot-three sheriff seemed like a befuddled giant besieged by 
Lilliputians. His perplexity at being pressed by the girls was decoded 
by his sonsy wife, who noticed his long fingers combing through his 
receding ash blond hair. Removing her apron, she sauntered to the 
group. 

"Quiet!" she shouted.  The girls turned in amazement. Even Loren's baby
blue eyes expressed shock. 

"Wait in the parlor," she commanded.   Meekly, the visitors filed from
the kitchen, followed by Butch. 

Amused, Verony teased, "You're rescued, sheriff. Grab some glasses. 
I'll get some refreshments." 

The girls flopped on an enormous oriental rug that centered the spacious
parlor.  Delegating the glasses to Butch, Loren eased himself into the 
flowery patterns of a deeply cushioned sofa.  When Verony was settled 
next to him, he asked, "What happened?" 

The response exploded from Swanna.  "Are you deaf, Mr. Kregs?  I told
you.  There's a ghost in the cemetery." 

"Whoa, there; watch your tongue." 

"I'll speak as I wish, Mr. Kregs."  Swanna's searing stare would have
curdled the milk of an entire dairy herd.  Her nose wrinkled, as though 
Loren had halitosis. 

He turned to the others.  "Maybe what you saw was a dog or a . . ." 

"Don't ignore me, Mr. Kregs.  It was a ghost!  And you better do
something about it." 

Verony saw Loren's jaws clench.  Her touch checked him. "Please listen,
Swanna," she requested. 

"Owls hunt in the cemetery.” Loren continued, “They . . ." 

"I said it was a ghost, Mr. Kregs; all in white.  Do something!" 

Loren threw up his hands.  Prudence was advising him to close the
interview before he did something that might end his career. He nudged 
Butch, who was sitting on a sofa arm next to him, infatuation for 
Swanna etched on his face.  "Did you boys pull a prank?" 

Embarrassed at being caught with a puppy-dog look on his face, Butch
only shook his head. 

"Okay, girls.  Butch'll drive you home." 

"It really was a ghost, Mrs. Kregs," one of the girls whimpered. 

"The sheriff will check into it, Debbie. Won't you dear?" 

Verony's hazel eyes telegraphed the response she expected.  Her
husband's eyes were Saturnine; still, he nodded. 

"Why would you blame your own son, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna." 

"I'll walk, Mr. Kregs." 

"Into the truck, Swanna.  Now!" 

"You needn't shout. I'm getting in." 

END OF CHAPTER ONE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER TWO 

Friendly, outgoing Loren Kregs was born on his parents 200 hundred acre
farm, one-quarter mile from the intersection of Bowen and Versailles 
roads - Bowen Corners.  He loved the place; nonetheless, after earning 
an advanced degree in criminology, he entered law enforcement and then 
married Verony, his high school sweetheart.  When Loren inherited the 
farm, they moved into its rambling house and, with the outbreak of war, 
the land was rented to Dwain and Ken, the eldest sons of Loren's alter 
ego, Roger Jarvan. 

In renting the acreage, the Jarvans were complying with the federal
government's request for increased farm production.  By renting Loren's 
land, they would more than double the yield of their farm. However, the 
war had caused a farm labor shortage.  Planting the added acreage was 
tinged by the concern of finding enough workers for the harvest. So, 
like other farmers, each spring the Jarvans recruited city women with 
teen-age children to gather crops.  They trucked these city harvesters, 
together with their furnishings, tohastily built, farm shanty 
communities, where they lived  while they gathered crops, until the 
beginning of the next school year. 

In addition to his law enforcement duties, Loran served as a member of
the local draft board, a position that often impacted his attitude 
toward the youth.  Throughout his long tenure as sheriff, he always was 
notably tolerant with kids, often to the exasperation of the victims of 
their high-spirited monkeyshines.  Now, the war made him more so.  The 
front windows of at least a score of Cayuga county homes displayed gold 
stars.  A lump filled his throat whenever he saw one; he knew most of 
the boys those stars represented. 

The death of Daniel Mancione, the county's first gold star casualty,
especially devastated Loren. Not waiting to be drafted, after high 
school, Mancione enlisted in the Air Force. A wiz at mathematics, he 
trained as a navigator, received his wings and an officer's commission, 
then was sent to England.  Not long after, while returning from a 
mission, badly damaged, with two engines in flames and flying too low 
for the crew to bail out, his bomber attempted a belly landing.  It 
exploded, killing the entire crew. 

Before the war, the high-spirited, prankish Mancione often served “The
Kregs Alternative,” a program of the Sheriff's Department.  Subscribed 
to by all of the county officials,  justices and the district attorney, 
it permitted kids to make restitution and perform community service, in 
lieu of the more serious consequences that could result from their 
inoffensive pranks, inadvertently gone awry. Thus, their records 
remained unblemished. 

At times, when passing the Mancione home, with it forlorn gold star,
Loren wondered whether The Kregs Alternative contributed to Danny's 
death.  Maybe a few blemishes on his record would have disqualified him 
from navigator's training.   Maybe that would have put him in a ground 
assignment.   Maybe – just maybe - if not for The Kregs Alternative, 
Danny still would be alive . . . maybe  . . .  maybe  .  .  .  maybe. 

There were other things Loren recalled about Danny Mancione: he never
was disrespectful to his elders.  Always, he accepted his punishment 
without complaining, never denying that he deserved it.  Moreover, he 
fulfilled his punishment assignments to the best of his ability.  Yes, 
Danny was a high-spirited kid who loved to play pranks, yet, they 
always were done in a spirit of innocent fun.  And, if he was caught, 
he accepted the consequences with his good-natured grin. 

Swanna, though, was a new experience for Loren: it was the first time
during his service as sheriff that any kid had ever defied him.  As he 
now watched through the screen door, he noticed that only she was 
occupying the truck's cab with Butch.  He understood the boy's 
infatuation - the girl was gorgeous. Too bad her attitude didn't match. 


Loren was sure that, most likely, it was an animal the girls had seen.
It also was possible they were victims of heightened imaginations. 
After all, what did city kids know of dim roads rimmed by swaying 
shadows, or nocturnal animals prowling dark fields in search of a meal, 
or a muted moon shadowed by wind-swayed trees? They easily could have 
been fooled. 

“Me investigate a ghost?” he almost shouted to Verony, “Can you imagine
what people will do if they find out that I went into a cemetery 
searching for a ghost? Why, I'll be the laughingstock of Collins.  For 
sure, they'll put me in a loony bin.  That Swanna;  what planet is she 
from, anyway?” 

Verony seemed amused. "I'll go with you, honey,” she offered, “That way,
you won't be alone in your loony bin.” 

“I'm glad you find it so amusing.”  Loren sullenly responded “You had to
make me promise to search the place, didn't you. We'll see just how 
amusing you think it is come election time and I'm laughed out of 
office.” 

“Tell me honey,” chided Verony, “how did  we get all the way from girls
who were  frightened by some boys playing a prank,  to your loosing the 
election for checking out  a complaint about the old cemetery?” 

Loren assumed a hangdog look. “If rudeness was a crime, Swanna'd get
life in Alcatraz," he muttered, "Okay, let's go," 

END OF CHAPTER TWO 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER THREE 

As usual on Tuesday mornings, the large, round table at the rear of
Frank's Country Kitchen was surrounded by an informal gathering of 
farmers and other locals, including Loren and the Jarvans. Word of 
Loren's graveyard investigation was the topic of the morning, and he 
was the butt of much good-natured teasing. Earlier, before Loren 
entered, Frank and Bob Stroggen, whose large dairy farm straddled 
Versailles road concocted a prank. Biding his time, the corpulent 
proprietor waited until Loren and his friends were served.  Then, 
pouring himself a cup of coffee, he joined them. 

Assuming a deadpan demeanor, he asked, “Say, sheriff what's this about a
ghost in your house? I hear your making an investigation into it.  I 
didn't know you believed in ghosts.” 

“Now, come on, Frank, I've taken enough ribbing this morning to last a
lifetime.  Besides, the whole thing has nothing to do with my house. 
Just some boys playing a prank on some girls. The girls told me they 
saw ghosts in that old graveyard at Bowens Corners.  That's all there 
is to story.” 

With a perturbed grimace, Loren paused, before emphatically adding ,
“And I don't believe in ghosts.” 

Apparently taken aback by Loren's  skepticism, Frank responded, “Well,
maybe you don't believe in ghosts, Loren, but I sure do.  My 
grandmother used to get rid of them by using holy spells.  I saw her do 
it.  And, she taught me how , too.” 

“Cut the hogwash, Frank!  All this garbage just because of some
hysterical city girls, who  don't know their rear end from a hole in 
the ground.” 

Standing, Loren sidled toward the door.  “I'm leaving; I don't want to
discuss it anymore.” 

Bob Stroggen had been listening attentively to the exchange.  Sensing
that now was the moment to spring their prank , he cast a  sidelong 
glance toward Frank and called out, “Wait a minute, Loren, I've been 
sitting  here listening to Frank tooting his horn  about knowing  all 
those magic spells to get  rid of ghosts.  I think it's just a lot of 
hot air.  Let him prove it.” 

Loren fanned the air with his hand.  “I told you I don't have time for
this garbage.” 

“Come on, sheriff, be a good sport.  Let's see what Frank can do.  If he
can do anything, that is.” 

With a graphic middle finger,  Loren rejected the  challenge and left,
leaving Stroggen  and Frank disappointed by an incomplete prank. 

***** 

After leaving Frank's, Loren stopped by Jarven's office to visit with
Rogers.   Roger's son, Mark, also was there. 

"Well, Roger, I don't think the girls on your place will be seeing any
more ghosts, no matter what Swanna says,” Loren gloated, “I'm glad our 
problems  with her are over.” 

"Maybe yours, not ours," Roger responded in a gloomy Gus tone.  Sporting
the logo of a farm machine company, the cap on his head, when compared 
to his studious features, was a study in contrast; a homburg would have 
better suited the  accountant. Unlike Loren, Roger had enjoyed working 
the family farm. However, selecting the most prestigious scholarship 
offer his exceptional scholastic achievements had brought him, his 
parents enrolled him in a university at Boston, where he earned a summa 
cum laude masters degree in accounting.  Though the university offered 
him a full professorship, he chose instead to open an accounting 
practice in Collins, where he married Marcy.  Prominent farmers and 
agribusinesses throughout the state sought Roger's services. He 
established branch offices in numerous other towns and soon was 
recognized as the state's foremost pundit on agricultural economics. 

But nowadays, sadness hounded the Jarvans. Four years ago, Roger's
parents died in a train accident, leaving him the farm Mark had managed 
for them and now managed for his father. Then, early last year, a 
congenital cardiac had defect claimed Marcy.  Somewhat simultaneously, 
Tommy, Roger's youngest son, was severely wounded while serving as a 
naval officer in the South Pacific.  His wounds prompted the Navy to 
delay informing him of his mother's death until he was medically 
approved for a furlough.   Home  on leave now, tormented by a profound 
melancholy,  he blamed himself for her death. 

Loren realized that the last thing the Jarvans needed were more problems
from someone he considered to be a spoiled city brat.   His brows 
knitted. "What do you mean, your problem with Swanna isn't over? Why 
isn't it over?" 

"The mothers want us to drive the girls from town every Saturday, but
Swanna said she'd rather walk; so now all the girls want to walk.  The 
mothers are fuming," Mark explained. 

"You mean the girls won't ride without Swanna?" 

Receiving a dejected nod, Loren combed his fingers through his hair. 
Then he asked, "Tell me what you know about that spoiled 
pain-in-the-butt!” 

END OF CHAPTER THREE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER FOUR 

Given to three-piece, pin-striped suits, and always one to assume a
posture of hauteur superiority toward others, Mr. Wendler was putty in 
Swanna's hands; he doted on her. An only child, she was tutored at home 
by the best teachers his millions could hire. And, knowing mostly the 
company of snobbish adults, she had acquired the demeanor of one who 
viewed those outside her social standing as one views a cockroach in 
need extermination. Manure-smelling boots had a better chance of 
acceptance by Swanna, than someone her quirks led her to dislike. 

The girl's demeanor was that of one much older than her sixteen years;
even so, she was badly spoiled. Like those of her father, her dealings 
with the household staff were tyrannical and haughty.  Outside of the 
family's ear-shot, the staff referred to her as, “Miss 
Bully-Two-Shoes.” 

Indeed, Swanna was in defacto control of the Wendler household. Her
every whim was granted by her misguided, over-indulgent, snob of a 
father, in whose opinion Swanna could do no wrong!  So, Mrs. Wendler 
didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell when Miss Bully- Two-Shoes 
decreed that her loyalty to her country required that she and her 
mother harvest crops for the war effort. 

“Our boys are fighting for our country,” she announced to her father,
“They need food!  My tutor said that there's a shortage of harvest 
workers.  Some of his students will be spending their summer picking 
crops for the war effort! I think Mother and I must help, too.” 

Her features haunted by an inner anxiety, Mrs. Wendler gave her husband
a smile of mute appeal. “We don't have the ability for that kind of 
work. Maybe we should help  our boys by doing work for the Red Cross or 
helping out at a U.S.O. canteen.  That way . . .” 

Swanna went spastic!  Raking her mother with a keep-your-mouth-shut
glare, she stamped her feet, hysterically shrieking at the highest 
octave she could manage, “ I don't want to help the Red  Cross;  I want 
to pick crops on a farm!  Why won't you ever let me do what I want? I 
think you're a traitor to  our country.  You're helping Hitler!” 

Swanna put her arms around her father.  Modulating  Her tone to a soft,
pitiable whimper, through pouty lips, she said, “Daddy, please make 
mommy go to a farm with me this summer. Pleeease? Pleeease? I want so 
much to help the war effort.” 

Mr. Wendler stared adoringly at his daughter, then fixed cold eyes on
his wife. “See how you've upset the poor think?” he scolded,  “How can 
you be so  callous?  All she's asking is to help our  servicemen. 

“You're setting a very poor example,” he continued, “I think it's
wonderful she's willing to pick crops on a farm.” 

With a backhanded gesture of disgust, Mr. Wendler ordered,  “You're
going.  It's for a good  cause.   Anyhow, the country air will do you 
both worlds of good.  It'll be like taking a long country vacation.  
I'll visit you from time to time.   My secretary will make all the 
arrangements for Swanna and you.” 

That did it; Mrs. Wendler's summer fate was sealed! 

***** 

Unaccustomed as she was to agonizing, backbreaking exertion, Mrs.
Wendler soon became overwhelmed by the grueling harvest schedule.  
After one week, she phoned her husband to inform him of her exhaustion, 
and demanded that he send a limousine to take her home. 

“Does Swanna want to leave?” he asked. 

“That makes no difference; I want to leave!” Mrs. Wendler shot back,
“I'll take no more of this nonsense.  I'm all aches and pains.  Send a 
car immediately.” 

“Let me speak with Swanna.” 

“She's not here.  She went to town.” 

“Does she want to come home?” 

“I'm her mother and I say I want to go home.” 

“If Swanna wants to come home, I'll send a car.  Have her call if she
does.  Otherwise, I want you to stay there.  Must run now.  Goodbye.”  
A telephonic hum replaced Mr. Wendler's voice. 

In the wake of that phone call, Mrs. Wendler resigned herself to her
summer in agricultural purgatory.  She knew she loved Swanna, but was 
plagued by guilt, due to an increasing sense of ambivalence toward her. 


One of the prettiest girls ever to grace Collins, Swanna was keenly
aware of her assets. When she eventually joined the teens on their 
Saturday night hikes, she was besieged by boys requesting dates.  She 
never accepted or refused, choosing instead to keep them dangling in 
limbo.  Toward other girls she behaved as a Cleopatra among 
handmaidens.  And woe to the girl who didn't kowtow to her. 

"So you see,” Mark concluded, “she tries to control everyone, Loren;
even us." 

The High Sheriff stood to leave.  "I know the  feeling." 

"Will do us a small favor, Loren?"  asked Roger. 

Loren listened dubiously and left Roger's office. "Some small favor," he
moaned softly to himself, “Why didn't he ask me something simple, like 
capture Hitler or sink the whole  Japanese navy?” 

Then he headed for his office by jaywalking Main Street against the
light. “The things I do for my friends,” he muttered, inwardly berating 
himself for not having the guts to say no to Roger's favor. 

END OF CHAPTER FOUR 

CHAPTER FIVE 

For over a century, the graveyard at Bowen Corners had huddled next to
an ancient relic, as though  consoling its occupants, by embracing the 
abandoned  edifice that once was their church.  A grove butted the 
building's opposite side, edging Versailles road, and then fronting on 
Bowen.  Not even the brightness of the waxing, gibbous moon revealed 
the green and white patrol car camouflaged by the prolific vegetation.  
 The officers in the car could think of things they'd rather be doing 
than this Saturday night, graveyard surveillance. But Loren had 
promised Rodger, and he always kept his word, even when it made him 
feel as idiotic as he now did.  With him on this stakeout was Chief 
Deputy Billy Greenoak. 

Cayuga county had salvaged the cemetery from oblivion by granting
Marcy's request that it be her final resting place.  Her white, marble 
monument was flanked by a matching bench where visitors could pray and 
meditate, while reflecting on eternal mysteries. 

Tonight, such enigmas occupied neither man's mind.  Hunched behind the
steering wheel, Greenoak sighed wearily.  Each time his cigarette rose, 
its glow heightened his gaunt features, strikingly appropriate to the 
vicinity. Then, like a spooked firefly, it drifted downward. 

"I hear them.  What's the time?" Loren asked. 

Again, the glow braved Greenoak's features.  Retreating to his wrist
watch, it then expired between a thumb and forefinger.  "Almost ten." 

The officers left the car to positioned themselves behind some
shrubbery.  The moonlight revealed a troop of boys joshing their way 
across the intersection.  Loren knew the one turning onto Versailles 
road was Chris Stroggen, heading for home.  Hearing Butch shout for 
Chris to phone him in the morning  made Loren uneasy.  He hoped the 
kids never learned of this lookout.  The boys passed the officers, 
their rowdiness cresting for several seconds, then waning. 

Feminine voices came into earshot.  Soon, some twenty girls approached,
their singing subsiding as they neared the Corners.  By the time they 
crossed, they were pressing away from the cemetery, to the far side of 
the road.  Not until they again were invisible, did their singing 
resume. 

Loren stood.  He was about to return to the car, when Billy leaped up,
exclaiming incredulously, "What in tarnation is that?" 

Close to where the girls had faded, a barely visible white shape
emerged.  "Where'd that thing come from?" Loren asked.  His tone 
disclosed profound bewilderment and he sensed a surge of adrenalin.   A 
cool clamminess dampened his forehead. 

Billy's lips formed a silent pucker.  Brows lifted, hands extended in a
“who knows” gesture, he slowly shook his head. The hobbling figure 
turned suddenly, seemed to drift over the near culvert and disappeared. 


Billy gasped!  "See that?" he blurted.  "It floated right  over the
ditch. They're right; it is a ghost!" 

"Now don't you go yelling spooks.  Get in the car; let's get down
there." 

When they investigated the spot where the apparition had vanished, Loren
chuckled.  On either side of the road wide, heavy crossovers bridged 
the culverts.  "No crossovers at your place,  Billy?  Do you float over 
the ditches?" 

Noting his buddy's mortification, he promised, "I won't tell anyone,
Billy.  Let's go.  I've got a hunch." 

***** 

Flashlight darkened, Greenoak tracking close behind, Loren moved
silently past the rear of the old church.  At the edge of the 
graveyard, he scanned the headstones.  The mysterious figure was seated 
on Marcy's bench, its mournful voice wafting on the night breeze.  
Realizing that his suspicion was confirmed, Loren felt like a sinner 
profaning a benediction.  His instant about-face caused a collision 
with Greenoak, generating a loud grunt that brought the figure to its 
feet. 

"Who's there?" 

"Loren Kregs and Billy Greenoak.  Sorry we disturbed you." 

Hobbling closer, the figure stopped and leaned heavily on a cane.   It
was Tommy Jarvan, dressed in the white uniform of a naval Commander.  
This was only the second time Loren had seen him since his arrival: if 
the first time could be considered seeing him.  Tommy had retreated to 
his room, when Loren and his family had stopped by to visit him.  
Though he still seemed distant, it was he who broke the awkward 
silence. 

"Hello, Loren.  Checking out the girls' story?" 

"Yes.  For your dad." 

Tommy nodded.  "I was the one they saw." 

"Why didn't you tell your dad?" 

"You know my dad is angry with me for enlisting.   He's tries to speak
to me, but I know its for appearances sake.  So I avoid speaking with 
him as much as I can.   I don't have to tell you I'm his black sheep.  
He hates me, especially now that mom's gone."  Tommy's deep voice 
betrayed a profound inner agony. 

Sudden anger made Loren's blood surge to his face.  He hesitated,
battling the urge to reply to the wounded, young officer in the way he 
felt he should.  He lost the battle.  “Oh, to blazes with my feeling 
sorry for him,” he thought, and plunged ahead. 

"Well, what more to do you expect him to do?  He wrote asking you to
forgive him; he showed me the letter.  You're the one who didn't answer 
it, so quit crucifying him.   Do you expect him to crawl to you on his 
hands and knees and kiss your feet?” 

Tommy's gasped, and Loren worried he'd gone too far. But Roger and he
always were like  second fathers to each other's kids.  Roger and he 
were so close, Marcy once observed, that when one felt pain, the other 
winced.   Loren considered Tommy's remarks unfair to Roger. 

The exchange startled Greenoak, leaving the taciturn deputy uncertain of
how to react.  He wanted to at least greet Tommy.  "Your mom sure was 
proud of you, Tommy," he blurted. 

The words ignited a scornful explosion from the commander.  "Why?  For
killing her?" 

"That's enough!”  Loren's stern tone caused Tommy to stare at him, slack
jawed. 

The sheriff's tone softened. “You didn't kill your mother, Tommy.  She
had heart problems from the time we were kids together.  She knew she 
would die at an early age.  Your father knew; so did Verony and I – 
even before they were married.   At first, even though your mom was in 
love with your dad, she refused to marry him because of her heart.  She 
told him she would never get married.  And she really meant it.  It 
took a lot of persuasion for your father to get her to marry him.   He 
kept telling her illness made no difference to him because he loved her 
just the way she was. 

“You know, son, I think it was their love for each and you kids that
made her live as long as she did.   She lived a lot longer than the 
doctors predicted.  They gave her only a few years. When you kids came 
along, your folk made all their friends promise not to say anything to 
you.  You can understand why they didn't want you to know.  Your dad's 
a great guy.  Go home and talk with him, son.  Don't sell him short 
because of what he did when you joined up.” 

The moonlight reflected from the wetness flowing down the cheeks of the
young officer.  He declined Loren's offer to drive him home, noting 
that it was only a short walk to his house.   Silence prevailed between 
the two lawmen during  most of their trip back to town.   Not until 
they reached the outskirts did Greenoak penetrate it with an 
observation.   "Well, Loren, guess we can say the mystery's solved." 

"Seems so, Billy; still, I find no satisfaction in it.” 

END OF CHAPTER FIVE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER SIX 

Tommy  Jarvan inherited his father's prodigious intellect, without his
ties to Collins.  He was not yet twenty when he completed college with 
a summa cum laude, master degree in pharmacology - his passion.  His 
parents had planned for him to enter a doctoral program; however, a 
year before Pearl Harbor, he devastated Marcy and enraged Roger by 
enlisting in the Navy. 

Roger firmly rebuffed Tommy on his first leave, so the youth's family
contact became mostly limited to correspondence with Marcy. After his 
graduation from Officers Candidate School, he received his commission 
as a pharmaceutical officer, and saw action aboard an aircraft carrier 
during the Battle of Midway.  Shortly thereafter, he slogged ashore at 
Guadalcanal in command of combat corpsmen attached to the Marines. 

Fo months Tommy endured Guadalcanal's nerve-shattering, jungle combat
conditions. Then, while crawling under heavy fire, to rescue three 
Marines who were being raked by an enemy pillbox, he sustained his near 
fatal wounds.  Only the quick action of his own corpsmen saved him; 
nonetheless, from hip to toes, his right side suffered the permanent 
loss of all sensation.  It required several months of excruciating 
therapy for him to finally be able to hobble from the hospital, using 
only a cane. 

In March of 1944, Tommy returned home on convalescent leave.  Tormented
by the belief that his rebellion had caused his mother's death, he 
rejected his father's explanation that a congenital heart defect had 
taken her.  His graveyard encounter with Loren now prompted him to read 
unopened letters he had stashed.  Trailing in the wake of his battles, 
they at last had caught up with him a few days before his leave.  In 
his grief over Marcy's death, he had refused to read them. 

Just as Loren had said, there was his father's letter asking for his
forgiveness.  It was mailed just before the landing at Guadalcanal. 
And, reading Marcy's final letters, Tommy noticed her glowing pride 
Greenoak had mentioned.  He also detected something else: the subtle 
confirmation that what he had been told about her death was true. Under 
combat conditions, it would have been easy to miss.  Yet, there it was 
– between the lines; her very subtle message, telling him of her 
chronic tiredness and her desire for a quick end to the war so that 
they could be together again.   It avoided any overt mention that an 
imperfectly formed heart  would soon claim her. 

"No mother could hope for a better son.  I've always been so proud of
you. And I'm so very, very proud of the job you're doing in the Navy, 
helping to save the lives of so many of our servicemen, so that they 
can return to their families. 

“I'll love you throughout eternity, my wonderful, darling son. And I
know that God will reunite us too, in His own time,"  her last letter 
concluded.  By the time Tommy finished reading it, his tears again were 
flowing, wetting the pages. 

That night, together with Roger, he revisited Marcy's grave. There by
the gravesite, father and son stood with bowed heads, as Tommy told her 
of their reconciliation.  “I love you, mom,” he concluded, “and I want 
you to know that I'm finally home.” 

END OF CHAPTER SIX 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER SEVEN 

The next morning, while the workers waited at the shanties for Mark to
arrive with the truck, Tommy drove up with Roger and Loren.  Swanna 
alone rejected his explanation about the ghost. 

"Another stupid story, Mr. Kregs?" she fumed.  "It was a ghost, not this
childish Sea Scout, crying for his . . ." 

Mrs. Wendler's forceful shove sent Swanna stumbling backward, until she
solidly rear-ended the ground.  Face flushed with anger, the mother 
glared down at her daughter.  A pang of guilt plagued Loren when 
Swanna's gawk of disbelief, enhanced by her blushing embarrassment, 
warmed the cockles of his heart, and increased his estimate of her 
mother. 

Mrs. Wendler's voice dripped with righteous anger, her eyes flashed
fire. "On your feet right now, young lady; apologize this instant!" 

The command came through lips pursed with suppressed fury; Swanna was
afraid to stand.  She just stared.  She had never seen her mother 
appear so absolutely formidable.  None of the bystanders opted for 
intervention. 

"Get on your feet!"  The order was enforced by a forward step.  Swanna
took several backward pushes with her heels, and scrambled up. 

"I told you to apologize."  The mother took another step, and Swanna
whimpered a hurried, "I'm sorry." 

"For what?  And use their names." 

"I'm sorry for what I said, Mr. Kregs." 

"He's High Sheriff Kregs." 

Swanna repeated the title, then blubbered, "What do I call the other
one?" 

"You address him as Mister Jarvan." 

"I'm . . .  I'm sorry for what I said, Mi . . .  Mi . . . ster  Jarvan."


"Now go to the shanty, and stay there, until I say you  may leave." 

The girl hurled through the crowd and rounded a row of shanties. 
Vibrating the crisp, morning air, the furious slam of a screen door 
announced her compliance with her mother's demand. 

"I'm so very sorry, gentlemen," apologized Mrs. Wendler, voice
struggling to control its quavering 

"Thank you, Mrs. Wendler," acknowledged Tommy. 

Loren nodded with a forced, insipid smile, then headed for his car.  He
was accelerating, when a blue stake truck barreled over the crest of a 
rise in the road.  Its driver flagged him to a crawl.  "How'd it go, 
Loren?" 

"Mark, don't ask; you'd never believe it." 

END OF CHAPTER SEVEN 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER EIGHT 

Strawberry season blended into bean picking time, with Swanna constantly
yammering to leave.  She continuously phoned her father, nagging for 
him to send a chauffeur to drive her home.   It was to no avail.  On 
learning of his daughter's conduct toward Loren, and especially toward 
a severely wounded naval officer,  Mr. Wendler's belated try at 
discipline prolonged Swanna's demonstration of patriotism. 

Forbidden to associate with her by their mothers, all the girls avoided
her now, and Loren noticed an intense hatred blazed in her eyes 
whenever she saw him.  Tommy mentioned to Loran that he also had sensed 
himself fixed by that same malevolent glare.  He had returned to duty, 
having piggybacked a ride at the Niagara Falls Air Base, on an Air 
Force plane bound for Seattle.   No longer eligible for overseas duty 
because of his severe disability, he now held the post of Chief 
Pharmaceutical Officer at the Seattle Veterans Hospital, with the four 
stripes and the eagles of a naval Captain –  the Navy's youngest. 

Loren knew Roger had returned from his trip.  He had driven back to
Collins in last night's soaking rainstorm. The stifling mugginess that 
followed had permeated this second Saturday of August, until it was 
conquered by the evening breezes. 

Enjoying the change, Loren sat with Verony on the front veranda,
listening to approaching male voices.  Bantering their way from town, 
the boys from the Jarvan farm entered the circular glow radiating from 
the driveway lights.  Not seeing his son, Loren called out, "Where's 
Butch?" 

"Still at Guggin's, sheriff." 

The group's voices receded, and Loren dozed.  The sudden silence of the
night creatures woke him.  Their calls had been replaced by another 
sound. 

Verony moved to the lawn.  "Are those screams?" 

"Yes, sounds like girls." 

Growing louder, the cries echoed from the direction of Bowen Corners. 
"Wait here." Loren ordered. 

"Oh, no; I'm going, too!" 

END OF CHAPTER EIGHT 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER NINE 

They hadn't driven far when the headlights revealed three girls, waving
frantically.  The couple got out and more girls bolted from the 
darkness.   And  calmly moseying behind came Swanna. 

Surrounded by the nearly incoherent girls, Verony demanded to know what
had happened.  It was shy, taciturn Debbie who managed to stammer, "In 
graveyard . . . two ghosts.  Carrie . . . in ditch." 

A sickening anxiety stabbed Loren's gut. "You mean the culvert?" 

"Yes . . . near . . . church." 

A glacial freeze encased his heart.  Near the Corners,  the culverts
deepened to pass under the intersection.  After a storm, even large 
animals occasionally drowned in them.  The girl could be dead. 

"Get going, Loren," hurried Verony, her voice quavering,  "I'll take the
girls home in the truck." 

"Radio Greenoak first and phone Doc.  Tell them to watch for my lights. 
Come with me, Debbie." 

The beams from Loren's spotlights skimmed the shoulder of the road. 
They were nearing the cemetery when Debbie yelled, "Stop!  She's there. 
Over there.  She didn't fall in." 

Her finger directed Loren's gaze to what appeared to be a discarded
bundle of rags.  Inching the car forward, he illuminated the place with 
the spotlights. Then, handing the keys to Debbie, he instructed her to 
bring him the medical kit from the car trunk, and hurried to Carrie. 

He found her unconscious, legs dangling over the ditch. Had she revived
alone in the dark, the waters would have claimed her - of that, he was 
sure.  Not until he drew her away from the brink did his heart thaw. 

Debbie brought the kit, and the smelling salts worked instantly.  Carrie
bolted upright with a snort and a saucer-eyed stare.  She immediately 
recognized Loren, on his heels next to her.  Clamping her arms around 
his neck, she toppled him into a sitting position, ending up seated in 
his lap.  Even with Debbie's help, he couldn't break free.   And that's 
when Greenoak arrived, followed by Doc Krastil and Glen, his assistant. 
 They found Cayuga County's High Sheriff sitting on the shoulder of 
Bowen road.  His patrol car illuminated his futile struggles to free 
himself from the firm embrace of a pretty girl cuddled in his lap.  As 
though vying for his attention, a second girl assisted his efforts. 

Seeing the three men practically doubled over from gales of convulsive
laughter, Loren bellowed, "Don't just stand there laughing through you 
galdarn teeth.  Get her off!" 

Carrie's hysteria was obvious, prompting Doc to ask what had happened. 
A string of roaring profanities spewed from the enraged High Sheriff. 
"Stop asking your stupid questions, and get me loose; she's choking 
me!" 

It required a sedative before Glen could pry loose Carrie's grip on
Loren. Doc found her relatively unharmed and ordered rest for her, 
until he prescribed otherwise.  Then Glen drove both girls home. 

Billy and Doc turned to Loren in silent expectancy. Now that his ordeal
was over, he stared back with an affected grin.  "Okay,  I'll tell 
you." 

Somewhat sheepishly, he apologized for his anger, then explained what
happened.  "But she really was strangling me," he rationalized. 

"You rescued her, Loren. You're her hero," teased Doc. 

Loren's hands fanned the air in disgust.  "I should of known better than
to tell you about it.” 

"Seems you're the one who needed protection, chief," quipped Billy, "Two
ghosts now, huh?" 

Loren sidled toward his car.  "More like two boys in sheets, I'd say." 

Billy left for town with Doc.  And, as Loren pulled away, he fervently
hoped that tonight's humiliating fiasco was really only a horrible 
nightmare. 

END OF CHAPTER NINE 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER TEN 

Loren sat in his office, glumly drumming his fingers on his desk. Having
gotten wind of the incident at Bowen Corners, his political opponents 
had dubbed him, "Lover Boy Kregs."  Even the media were capitalizing on 
the smear. 

What had gotten into Butch and Chris?  The prank could have cost Carrie
her life, not to mention ruin their own.  He pushed the thought away.  
What a mess. Initially, both boys denied any involvement in the prank. 
But when Verony returned home from driving the girls to the shanties, 
she noticed Butch's muddy shoes by the side steps.  He was sitting in 
the kitchen, nonchalantly munching a sandwich.  The muddy shoes and his 
forced smile had roused her suspicions.   She quizzed him.  He claimed 
his shoes were dirtied while he was roughhousing with Chris. 

Loren checked the cemetery the next day.  The evidence was irrefutable. 
One set of muddy tracks led from the graveyard and  gradually 
disappeared in the direction of the Stroggen farm.  A second set faded 
in the direction of the Kregs's home.  Still, Butch and Chris clung to 
their story,  until Bob Stroggen discovered the clincher. 

At first, Bob was amused by the prank.  However, when he learned of
Carrie's close brush with death, his amusement vanished.  His wife's 
puzzlement over two missing sheets prompted him to investigate.  He 
found them deeply buried in one of his haylofts, and the boys 
confessed. 

The possibility that Butch or Chris might someday be serving The
Alternative had neveroccurred to Loren.  Greenoak carefully paced those 
on the program, working them three hours a day, five days a week. Butch 
and Chris began their three months yesterday, when they washed windows 
in the county courthouse. Today they were loading a truck with scrap 
metal for the war effort.  Tomorrow it would be old newspapers. 

Hearing his stomach grumble, Loren stood to leave for Frank's, when his
secretary ushered in two visitors.  The Army officer was Major Kremple. 
 Commanding officer of the military inspectors who graded the food 
products shipped to the military from Cayuga County, he was the Chief 
Military Inspector of the county's food processing plants.  He 
regularly ate at Frank's.  The civilian with him was a stranger.  His 
summer striped suit and paisley bow tie fought vainly to overcome the 
anonymity of his nondescript features. 

"Afternoon, Major." 

"Afternoon, High Sheriff.  Meet Agent Euler of the FBI." 

Loren's eyebrows shot up. Moving around his desk, he extended his hand. 
Then, indicating a brown leather sofa, he waited until his guests were 
comfortable before folding himself into a matching chair. 

"Now, how may I help Hoover?" 

"Sheriff, there's sabotage in your county." Euler's monotone was
reminiscent of an auctioneer's chant. 

Loren almost gagged.  "What? Where?" 

Kremple took over.  "The cannery's getting rocks in bean sacks from the
Jarvan farm.  The conveyer system was damaged two weeks ago. You 
heard?" 

Receiving a nod, Kremple continued. "Before arriving, Agent Euler sent
us a code to secretly mark each worker's sacks.  The rocks come from a 
Mrs. Wendler." 

Loren blinked, and Euler's eyes narrowed.  "Know her?" 

"I met her.  But it can't be her doing it.  It must be her daughter." 

"Why?" 

Loren gave a soft, bitter snort.  "Agent Euler, if you knew Swanna,
you'd know why." 

Noticing Euler's puzzled look, he added, "If you'll play along with me, 
we might pry the truth from her.  I'm sure the Jarvans'll help." 

END OF CHAPTER TEN 

***** ***** 

CHAPTER ELEVEN 

The next morning, the Jarvan farm workers were surprised by the banshee
like wails of screaming sirens. Looking up from rows dotted by partly 
filled sacks, they saw an astonishing motorcade. Six sheriff's cars and 
three Army Jeeps, a paddy wagon and an Army sedan - all with flashing 
strobe-lights - snaked their way along the dirt road that led to the 
bean field. 

Halting their Jeeps in a dusty cloud, several Military Police
dismounted, assuming a parade rest stance in front of the weighing 
area.  At the edge of the field, the deputies faced the workers in a 
similar stance. 

Fully attired in a gray, summer uniform, High Sheriff Loren Kregs now
advanced!  Dark aviator lenses shaded his eyes. And, on each shoulder, 
four gold stars indicated his rank as the High Sheriff of Cayuga 
county.  A trooper's hat adorned his head, the braided, gold cord 
around its crown matching a similar frog looped over his left shoulder. 
Beneath his badge, rows of service ribbons decorated his chest.  And 
his jodhpur pants, trimmed with gold side stripes, were tucked into 
spit-polished, police boots.  From a wide, black belt hung a glistening 
holster.  And, while his left hand rested on his hip, the other 
fingered the pistol. Even the MPs snapped to attention at his approach. 


"Assemble your workers, Mr. Jarvan,"  The High Sheriff's command carried
across the field, and Mark immediately complied. 

Now, the occupants of the sedan stepped out: an Army officer and a
civilian.  "Keep your men alert, sergeant," the officer commanded. 

"I'm Major Kremple," he shouted, "Is there a Mrs. Wendler here?" 

A murmur rippled through the crowd. Heads turned toward an eye-catching,
petite woman wearing a white, long-sleeved camise, tucked into a blue, 
ankle-length, peasant skirt. Blond hair peeked from under an enormous 
straw hat that shaded eyes already protected by sunglasses.  Her 
fidgety hands, covered by gardening gloves, signaled alarm.  Appearing 
equally dismayed, a pretty girl at her side gracefully reached for the 
woman's arm. 

"I'm Mrs. Wendler, gentlemen." 

"Please remain, Mrs. Wendler, " ordered the civilian.  "The rest of you
must leave." 

"May I stay?" the girl timidly requested. 

The High Sheriff manifested a dubious frown.  Then, with a shrug, he
nodded. 

"I'm F.B.I. Special Agent Euler," the civilian announced, showing his
credentials. 

His eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Madam, you're under federal arrest. 
Cuff her." 

Mrs. Wendler blanched. Noticing her legs gradually folding, Greenoak
reacted instantly.  Sweeping the woman into his arms, he pushed through 
the MPs, and sat her on the weighing table.  Limply, she dampened her 
face from a dipper of water offered by the sergeant. 

On seeing her mother in handcuffs, Swanna uttered a strangled cry,
ending in a frenzied series of shrieks.  Then, still saucer-eyed with 
horror, she went silent. 

When Kremple and Euler asked Swanna's identity, Loren introduced her as
Mrs. Wendler's daughter.   He lowered his voice.  "But I'm sure Swanna 
here had nothing to do with her mother's  sabotage of the canning 
factory." 

Swanna's carefully-cultivated tan seemed to lighten by several shades.
Indeed, Loren expected another volley of shrieks.  Instead, she numbly 
stuttered, "Sab . . . sab . . .," and again fell silent. 

"I'm so sorry you learned of your mother's sabotaged of the cannery in
this way, Miss Wendler."  Euler attempted to inject sympathy  into his 
monotone, but seemed  unconcerned with secrecy.  His remark was 
overheard by Mrs. Wendler, who also prefaced her response with by 
series of  earsplitting shrieks. 

“Sabotage, yoou'rre crazy!   I neeever did anything like thaat!” 

"Oh, its you all right, Mrs. Wendler.  My inspectors found rocks in your
sacks," Kremple responded.  "Put her in the paddy wagon, sergeant." 

"Noooooooo; I did it; I did it;  I did it!” 

Like a repetitious phonograph record, Swanna kept repeating herself 
until she wound down to a whimper. 

"Swaaaaana!" Mrs. Wendler wailed, “How could you?” 

Slumping on a pile of empty sacks, the girl pressed her face into her
hands and bawled.  When she looked up, cheeks and forehead smeared by 
the soiled wetness of her palms, she blubbered, "I'm sorry, mother.  I 
just wanted to get even with the Jarvans because Commander Jarvan made 
me look so stupid." 

The Jarvans were flabbergasted, especially Mark.  Seeing his jaws
tighten, Loren moved close enough to put a hand on his shoulder.  
"Thanks Loren;  I'm okay," he muttered. 

"But why the rocks?" Kremple asked. 

"So the cannery wouldn't take their beans, anymore." 

"Hogwash," scoffed Loren, casting a sidelong wink toward Euler,  "She's
just protecting her mother." 

Swanna looked dismayed. "I really did it, Sheriff Kregs," she assured
him, plaintively. "Butch and Chris helped me carry the rocks from the 
creek.  Then Chris would drive me to where I'd be working, and we'd 
leave them close by." 

"That's baloney. Butch and Chris would never hurt us," contempt dripped
from Mark's voice. 

"They didn't know what I was doing with the rocks." 

The smoldering embers of Swanna's hauteur momentarily flared, again. 
Reverting to form, she sneered, "Anyhow, they're not angels you know.  
When I promised them a date, they scared the girls for me when Carrie 
fainted." 

"So you're responsible for that one, too," Loren's tone was harsh. 
"Carrie could've drowned.  I'd like Agent Euler to arrest you for 
sabotage.   If he doesn't, I'm going to  arrest you for attempted 
manslaughter.” 

That killed the final spark of Swanna's flare-up.  Her eyes reflected
renewed terror.  "I only wanted to prove there was a ghost," she 
wailed. 

"Please, officers, don't arrest her," Mrs. Wendler pleaded. 

Euler drew Loren and Kremple aside.   Attempting an arch smile, he said,
"Well, Sheriff, we did it." 

Returning a roguish grin, Loren responded, "Yep,  she confessed. And,
she's scared clean out of her wits.”  In a reflective tone, he added, 
“But she wouldn't let her mother take the blame.  I never expected that 
she'd be like that.  Maybe there's some good in everyone, after all.  
Even in Swanna.  What now?" 

"I'll take the girl's statement. After that, she'll be free to go.  That
is unless you press charges. " 

Loren sighed deeply.  "No charges.  She's scared enough.  I'm just happy
to get this whole affair over with." 

When Euler asked Greenoak to put Swanna  in a patrol car, Mrs. Wendler
hastily clasped her tight.  "No!  No!”  she wailed,  “Don't put  her in 
jail; she's just a baby!” 

The pitiful lament melted Loren's affectations.  Unbuckling his holster,
he handed it to Greenoak.  He removed his hat, his sunglasses and his 
tie.   To prevent his tall frame from overwhelming the anguished woman, 
he descended on his heels in front of her.  As gently as he could, he 
comforted her, “Don't worry, Mrs. Wendler, you and Swanna  will be free 
to go after you give Agent Euler a statement.  We not pressing 
charges.” 

Euler nodded assent.   “That's true, Mrs. Wendler, but Swanna caused
substantial damage  to the canning factory.  That will have to be 
reimbursed.” 

The woman heaved a sigh of relief.  She regained her composure, saying,
“Thank you gentlemen.  To whom should I make the check, and for how 
much?  I wish to settle my account with the cannery immediately.   I'll 
be leaving Collins today.   Sheriff, if you'll be kind enough to have 
one of your officers drive me to the cannery, I'll reimburse  it for 
the damages my daughter caused.” 

“Of course, Mrs. Wendler, whenever you're ready.” 

“I'm ready now.” 

Turning to Mark, she stated, “Please convey my sincerest apologies to
your family.   And, when you're in contact with Commander Jarvan, 
please say for me that I truly admire him for his heroism and regret 
the circumstances under which we met.” 

“I shall, Mrs. Wendler.  We're very proud of him. He's a naval Captain
now, and he's doing very well.” 

Demonstrating an insipid smile, the woman nodded, then asked, “May we
leave now?  While we're in town, I'd like to phone my  head chauffeur 
to pick us up at once.” 

Roger moved out in his pickup.  Greenoak assisted Mrs. Wendler and
Swanna into his patrol car for the trip to town. Major Kremple and 
Special Agent Euler trailed behind in the Army sedan.  The MPs followed 
in their jeeps.  The paddy wagon rolled out behind them. And Loren's 
deputies brought up the rear. 

And High Sheriff Loren Kregs?  Well, he waited for the dust to settle
before navigating the long, circular road that rimmed the vast sea of 
green beans.  Arriving at an intersecting highway, he aimed his car 
toward Collins. 

He was a contented man. 

Three cases had been solved; that was good. A badly spoiled girl had
been taught an important lesson; that was even better.  Butch and Chris 
would be devastated; well, that was life.  The Jarvans' bean sacks 
would contain only beans; that was essential. 

And what of the probability of more ghosts at Bowen  Corners?  Only if
the boys of Collins were willing to serve the Kregs Alternative. 

© Joseph Perrello (Josprel 


   


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