My longtime readers should know by now that I love the mini-fiction events; a glimpse into the world, a story by a beloved side character, or an introduction to never before seen action – I love it all and can never get enough.
I’m hosting the first Rust City Book Convention here in the Metro Detroit area, and to help spotlight the authors attending, I’ve come up with a fabulous new feature series – Hidden Treasures. I’ve asked the #RustCity16 authors to write a story, featuring any or all of their characters as they discover a new bit of treasure – i.e. at a flea market, up in the attic, tomb-raiding, etc.
With that in mind, let’s see what hidden treasures Marianne Waddill Wieland’s characters from her debut novel, Mountain Mama: My Heart For Jill, have discovered.
“Now, this is the really interesting part of the whole theater”. Nick Wallace was leading some of his family and friends through a tour of the old Chicago Opera House. He and his brother -in -law, Matt Dennison, would be performing with the symphony orchestra in a few days under the direction of his old friend, Dr. Richard Dana.
“I thought Rich would have been here by now,” said Nick looking at the time on his cell phone. “He said he would meet us back stage and that was nearly an hour ago.”
“It’s kind of spooky back here,” said Jill Dennison-Wallace, Nick’s new wife. She was walking with her hand nearly squeezing the life out of Nick’s arm. Each word that was spoken echoed in the vast emptiness of the oldest part of the building.
“Yeah, man, I agrees wit’ Jill,” said Ben Carver, Gerard Wallace’s bodyguard. He was very tall and muscular, but was cowering like a mouse in the darkness. “Anybody gots a flashlight?” Ben was swatting at some cobwebs around his head.
“Oh for the love of God, Ben, quit your bellyaching.” Gerard was holding the hand of his girlfriend, Brenda Montgomery. “Just because people say it’s haunted, doesn’t mean it is. So quit your whining.”
”What was that?” Matt Dennison asked as he stopped walking to look around.
“What was what?” Brenda was grasping Gerard’s hand and he was allowing it, which was rare.
Nick used his cell phone to light the area and located a light switch. When he turned it on, they were standing in a large open area with a few ladders against a wall. There was one very tall ladder and Ben was standing right under it.”
Ben looked up and knocked the ladder over in his haste to get away. The ladder hit the floor with a resounding noise that was like the sound of a 10 guage shot gun.
“What the …” Gerard let go of Brenda and walked over to Ben. “What’s the matter with you, man?”
“It be bad luck to walk under a ladder…I done done it now!” Ben started to pace.
“There it is again,” said Matt. “Can’t anyone else hear it?”
“Oh Lawd, Lawd…I hears it too. It gotta be ghosts. I done broughts bad luck down on us all.” Ben was pacing and wringing his hands.
“Ben, Ben, calm down,” said Jill. “There is no such thing as a ghost.”
“Anika, did you…” Matt looked around but there was no sign of Anika Wallace. “Hey, did any of you see where Anika went?” Matt was franticly looking around the backstage area.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Gerard held his hands up toward the ceiling. “Everybody just stop. Don’t move.”
Everyone stopped in their place and slowly looked around. The ceiling was very high with outdated stage lighting equipment, ropes hanging everywhere, buckets, ladders, and dust. Dust everywhere. On everything, along with plenty of cobwebs. Anika was nowhere to be seen.
“Matt, when did you see her last?” Nick had a worried look on his face.
“Oh,,,Lawd!” Ben was still pacing with his arms raised to the heavens. “What I done did…Lawd!!!”
“Ben,” said Jill in a placating tone. “This is not your fault. This is where we agreed to meet Rich. You did not influence us to come back here.” She turned to Matt. “And, little brother, I saw you with Anika draped around you just less than fifteen minutes ago over in one of the corners, so you were the last to see her. What was the last thing she said to you?”
Matt had the good grace to look embarrassed. “She said she was going to look for the bathroom.”
”And you let her go?” Nick was very upset now.
“Moron,” said Gerard. “I can’t believe you are really a card carrying genius!”
Brenda jumped in. “I can’t believe Anika is a genius either right now. Who in their right mind goes off in the semi-darkness to look for a bathroom in an old Opera House?”
“Lawd…it be dem ghosts,” said Ben “Dey done took Miss Anika…Lawd help us!” Ben dropped to his knees with his head in his hands.
“No, wait,” said Jill. “There were two cries for help this time. Two different voices. They’re way too faint to tell which direction they’re coming from.”
The group stood still and Ben finally stopped his whimpering. Silence, then…
“Help!” This time there was banging and knocking along with more cries of “help”.
Nick yelled back. “Keep yelling. We can’t tell where you are!”
“We’re under the abandoned stage. There’s a trap door in the floor. Be careful!”
“Keep making noise,” yelled Nick. “We’ll find you.”
Brenda grabbed Gerard’s hand. “Maybe it’s Dr. Dana and Anika.”
“No way,” said Nick. “Rich is the ultimate genius. He teaches the geniuses. There is no way he would get himself into this kind of predicament.”
They continued forward slowly looking down at the floor as they went. Gerard grabbed Brenda and pulled her into a darker area of the backstage. He pulled out a silver flask and took a swig and handed it to Brenda.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m about sick of all the ‘so called’ geniuses around here.” Gerard took the flask back from Brenda and took another drink. Then he pulled her to him and started kissing her neck running his tongue softly up to her earlobe. She reached up and pulled him down to her, leaning against him so that she could feel his heartbeat as close as her own. She pulled his mouth to hers and began deep kissing him, pressing him into the wall. Suddenly, she pulled back, took a swig of Gerard’s liquor, and hooked her fingers in the waistband of his jeans. She looked him in the eye and smiled. He smiled back rolling his eyes. He knew what was coming next.
Matt was searching on his hands and knees for the trap door, as was Ben.
“Here it is!” Matt yelled out to the others. The open trap door was off to the side near the moth-eaten curtain edge. “Wow! That is deep!”
“Now we done up and los’ Gerard an’ Brenda. What we gon’ do now? They ain’t no steps.” Ben was lying flat on the stage trying to see how deep under the stage the opening was.
“We’re here to help,” yelled Nick into the opening.
“There is a door in here but I can’t get it open,” said the voice. “I’m not alone down here. A young woman came in the door and tripped on the steps leading down. I think she may be hurt.”
“How do we get to the door?” Nick was looking around for Gerard and Brenda while asking.
“Walk back about thirty feet and turn right. I think the door is off a small alcove in that area.
Nick, Jill, Matt, and Ben all turned toward that direction and slowly made their way back to where they had last seen Gerard and Brenda.
“That has to be Anika, down there,” said Matt. She must have found the door into the underside of the stage.”
“Gerard!” Ben was blocking the alcove area with his big body. “Get yo’ pants zipped ‘fo all these nice peoples see what I’m seein’.” He made to pull Gerard out of the area and noticed Brenda trying to hide behind the edge of a curtain. “Lawd, lawd, lawd,” was all Ben could say.
Gerard and Brenda smelled of alcohol. Jill gave them both a dirty look and said to Brenda, “we will be having a conversation about this, as soon as everyone is safe.”
“Here’s the door!” Matt jerked it open and Anika came tumbling out followed by Dr. Dana.
“Teaches the geniuses, this one,” said Gerard sarcastically.
“Great to see you, too, Gerard, and why don’t you zip your pants and your mouth,” said Dr. Dana. “I see you haven’t changed any.” He turned to Nick ignoring Gerard’s look of shock at being put in his place.
Anika was limping on one foot and Rich was wiping his head with a handkerchief. Anika limped over to Matt. Rich came over to speak privately with Nick. Rich leaned in so only Nick could hear.
“Do you see that fox? I had no idea I was in the closet with such a babe! Jail bait, that one.” Rich was eyeing Anika again. “Wow! If only I was twenty years younger!” He stopped long enough to notice the look on Nick’s face.
“What?” Rich was confused.
“Rich, I love you, man, but you go anywhere near her and I will have to kill you.” Nick had a stern manner about him. “Simple as that. That is my daughter, Anika. Your goddaughter.”
“Holy shit!” Rich was astounded at how much Anika had grown up. “She was twelve when I saw her last. Pictures, Nick. Ever heard of those?”
“Hey guys!” Brenda was calling from inside the large closet. “Look at this!”
The others came into the closet and saw that Brenda had located a light switch. Ben barely fit into the room.
“Wow,” said Jill. “Look at all these old instruments! They must have been here for a long time.”
Looking around the room they could see, a harp, a dulcimer, an old trombone, a bass clarinet, a violin, a saxophone, a trumpet, a guitar and violin and a…
“Oh, my God!” Brenda got on her knees and ran her hands over a strange looking instrument. “Do you know what this is? It’s a Hurdy Gurdy!”
“Yes! Yes, it is!” Rich came over to Brenda. “My grandfather used to play one of these! I haven’t seen one since I was about ten years old” Rich fondly ran his hand over the instrument, just as Brenda was doing. “These must have been here more than fifty years! But they look in good condition, maybe we can salvage them.”
Matt was on the floor with Rich and Brenda. He was picking up the different instruments and dusting them off. “This is quite a find,” he said. “I wonder if the theater would sell them to us? I would love to have that violin.” Anika had joined him.
“Hell, I’ll buy the whole lot if we can get out of here before bats start flying up our asses,” said Gerard already heading toward the door.
“Come on,” said Nick. “We need to go and find out who these really belong to. Then we can decide what we can do with them.”
The following morning Nick had managed to arrange for a transport truck to drive all of the instruments to New York City to the Symphony Theater. He and Rich had negotiated a deal to purchase the entire contents of the closet.
“I am excited to have such a rare collection of old instruments,” said Rich. “I like your idea, Matt, to repair and fix them up for a short concert as a lead in to our Fall Concert Series.”
“I think between the three of us, we can write some original music for this unusual group of instruments,” said Nick who was very excited about the whole thing.
“Most of the family is musical and maybe we could use them to play these instruments,” said Anika.
“Here we go,” said Gerard, rolling his eyes.
Rich took out a notepad and started to plan with Brenda looking over his notes. “Nick has got the dulcimer, Jill you’ve got the guitar, Anika you can do the violin, hmmm…” Rich looked around. “You’ll have to help me, Nick, with the rest.”
“Okay, do we know anyone who plays the harp?”
Brenda thought for a minute. “Mamie Gray, the new high school principal, plays. I don’t know how good she is, but I bet she would give it a shot.”
“Harp, Mamie,” said Rich as he wrote. “Saxophone. Anyone?”
When no one answered, Ben spoke up. “I plays the saxophone.” He was looking at the ground.
“Ben, saxophone,” Rich continued to write with Brenda correcting his spelling.
“Ain’t that just grand,” said Gerard sarcastically. “Maybe I’ll just jump right in and play the Hurdy Gurdy!”
Without missing a beat, Rich said, “Gerard, Hurdy Gurdy.”
Brenda noticed the edge of Rich’s mouth turn up, trying to keep from grinning. She swatted him on the shoulder.
Matt spoke up. “I can play the trombone.”
“Of course, you can,” said Gerard. They all ignored him.
“That just leaves the bass clarinet and the trumpet,” said Rich. “I’ll play the trumpet.”
Anika came forward. “Doesn’t Aunt Shirley play the clarinet? I bet she could play a bass clarinet.”
“Aunt Shirley, bass clarinet,” said Rich. “Of course, all of this is subject to approval by those listed. That just leaves someone to play the Hurdy Gurdy. That is going to be harder to accomplish, but I have a lot of resources.”
Gerard made an artificial coughing sound. “I said I play the Hurdy Gurdy.”
“Of course you do, baby,” said Brenda.
Everyone looked at him with open mouths. “If you’re going to look like that at me, maybe I won’t.”
The truck was pulling away, heading for New York. The group started to walk down the street with Rich and Nick still discussing this venture.
Gerard was left standing by himself. “Really, guys. I really do play the Hurdy Gurdy.” They continued to ignore him. He yelled, “I’m not kidding!”
The group stopped and looked back at him.
“I really do play it.” He looked to the side and took a deep breath. “And the bagpipes, too.”
The group just looked at Gerard and at each other. Ben broke out in a big laugh.
“Aw’right! We gots us a fam’ly band!”
Gerard joined them as they all continued down the streets of Chicago, planning as they went, the event of the year from a stash of hidden treasures.
Meet Marianne Waddill Wieland!
Have you ever wished you could have a ‘do over’? I think most of us have wished that at one time or another. As I was writing this book, I realized I was writing the life I would have chosen for myself if I had been able to do so. The character of Jill is spunky and independent as well as beautiful, even though she doesn’t realize it. I love to cook and would have loved to have run my own restaurant. However, thinking about the hard work, long hours, and time commitment this would take caused my lazy side to kick in. There was no way I could do this and work full time in my regular job. Then I thought, I won’t be able to do it, but I can write about it. And so this book began.
My real world is very different from Jill’s life. I have been a nurse for thirty- four years and more years than that singing and dancing on stage or behind it directing. My husband, Douglas, and I have taken care of my ninety- five year -old mother for the last six years. She is in the end-stage of Alzheimer’s disease and on hospice now but can still make us laugh…and cry. We have raised my two sons, Scott and Steven and a host of various animals. My son, Scott and daughter-in-law, Kirsten, have blessed me with a grandson, Liam.
Although I was born in Beckley, West Virginia, I was raised on the east coast in the tourist town of Williamsburg, Virginia. Twenty-five years ago I moved to the small town of Bellevue, Michigan, where I currently reside. None of the characters in this book are real, but they do consist of bits and pieces of my life and the lives of my family and friends. I hope you enjoy reading my ‘do over’ as much as I enjoyed writing it. See you at Mountain Mama’s!
Want to purchase Marianne’s novel?
Mountain Mama: My Heart For Jill
Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next August! Come join us in our celebration of all things genre fiction in the Motor City! Registration is now open for #RustCity16!