The Mahogany Colored Birch Tree

Over the hills and into the distance there is a valley. And in that valley there is a small and peaceful town. This unnamed town never had any problems. It was always quiet and peaceful and never changed at all. But, if this story went on and on about a boring, quiet, calm town that would be boring wouldn’t it? Also, if I did that, I would probably kill myself before the end of November or the end of my fifty thousand words. I don’t think that would be every pleasant. And so, I give you a plot, a protagonist and an antagonist. I give you Marshall Robbins.

Marshall Robbins? He must be a very bland and boring person to live in this unnamed town. Well, he is. He must be uninteresting if he is the first person to die in my novel. Oops, did I just type that. Well, I did. Marshall Robbins was killed in the unnamed town. He was stabbed in the back with a kitchen knife in the middle of the night. The killer came up from behind him but forgot to cover his mouth. And like any murder victim, he screamed like a pretty, little girl. But soon, the screaming faded away into the night as his gory body lay limp on his wooden, bedroom floor. The smiling killer gracefully escaped out of the house through the nearest window. I guess I just changed the unnamed town from boring to murderous. That’s not much of a difference.

Now that my only “real” character has been killed off, I need another character, one that won’t be killed off that easily. How about Jason Bassett? That seems like a good character to make the protagonist… maybe. Let’s see how he does before deciding that.

Our friend Jason here, also lives in the unnamed town. He had heard about the murders, but uninterested. He cared more about the game than the death of Marshall Robbins. Jason knew the guy; of course he didn’t care at all about Marshall. He was that bland and boring neighbor. The one you don’t want to talk to. But anyways, Jason saw something in the paper that sparked his interest in Marshall Robbins. Marshall knew he was going to be murdered. He put a reward for the capture of his killer in his will.

Jason needed this money. He desperately wanted a new air soft gun to add to his collection. The reward for the capture of the killer was one million dollars, one thousand euros, fifty pounds, and one hundred thousand yen. Even I, the author, don’t understand why (or how for that matter) Marshall had that kind of money. But, Jason wanted that money and he would do whatever it took to get it. Jason was going to play detective and try to find the killer.

I think Jason Bassett has proved his worth to me as a protagonist, but this would just be a typical novel if I only had one person looking for the killer. Therefore, I must make more characters. I need more and more of them to join Jason Bassett in his search to find the killer. Amelia and Melanie Basler will do. Amelia was a journalist from out of town and Melanie is a counselor. The twins came from a nearby town after hearing about the reward in Marshall’s will.

Unlike Jason, Amelia used her intellectual skills to read the will that Marshall left behind. She showed a copy of it to her sister as she read out a selected portion that she highlighted.

“’My killer,’” Amelia cleared her throat before continuing on. “’My killer will strike again after I have been disposed of.’ Do you know what this means Melanie?” Melanie, now realizing that the question was aimed at her, took a moment to think.

“If we find out who the next victim is we can find and capture the killer.” Melanie spoke carefully, thinking before she thought, unlike her sister.

“Exactly!” Amelia exclaimed. “This a serial killer, not just your run of the mill, average Joe, murderer.” On the other hand, Amelia was quite unlike her twin in the way she spoke. Amelia was enthusiastic and quick witted.

Now there is a small problem with Amelia and Melanie Basler’s reasoning. Go and reread the last page if you have no idea what the problem is. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Finished reading? What, not yet? Wow, you are a very slow reader. Whatever, I’ll start my explanation without you.

You see, to prove Marshall’s statement about the killer being a serial killer, there needs to be a second murder. Once there is a second murder, or even a third, a pattern can be deducted and the next bloody murder can be predicted. If the murder can be predicted, then the killer can be caught as the scene of the crime, red handed, and the reward money can dealt to the smart witted person who discovered the true identity of the killer and caught them.

There are only two groups of people? That’s all? What a boring novel. Let us see how our friend Jason Bassett is doing. On the other hand, let’s have Jason Bassett meet Amelia and Melanie Basler. Ooh, I think this is going to be quite interesting.

Marshall’s lawyer (and part-time awesome name maker) Jessie Erickson, was contacted by both the Basler twins and Jason Bassett about the will of Marshall Robbins. Jessie was feeling a bit lazy that day so she let the both of them come and see her at the same time since they were there for the same things.

The Erickson and associates office was on the main street in the unnamed town. It was part of a very large complex that did not stand out that much. The building’s terra cotta colored wood paneling reminded both Jason Bassett and Amelia and Melanie Basler of the last decade, the good old nineties.

The Basler twins came to the old, weird, office about half an hour before Jason, or Jessie for that matter. But the twins were excited, so excited they didn’t notice that there was no one inside of the building at all, or that it was pitch black inside. They didn’t notice when the door shut behind them mysteriously. Their excitement overcame the rest of their senses. Their excitement made them oblivious to the person creeping up behind them…

Well, I’m tired. It’s time to get up and walk around. Get that circulation going. Stretch your arms into the air, reach for the sky. Now relax. Let’s do that a few more times. Oh, I forgot. I was supposed to be writing a book. Okay then, back to the suspense.

In the darkness, the shimmer of a thin, silver, metallic string emerged. This string just happened to be an extremely sharp piano wire. The piano wire was pulled tight and stretched out at each end by a pair of black gloved hands. The wire shimmered once again. The piano wire was no longer silver; it was a wet, deep red. The piano wire was stained with blood.

It was silent but for only a minute. Melanie felt that something was wrong, very wrong. She quickly veered away from her sister’s path to see what was so suspicious. It was dark, too dark. So dark that she couldn’t see the silver, glistening piano wire pulled tight in front of her neck. Of course she couldn’t see the wire that separated her head from her body in a very clean matter. It took a moment for the blood to start flowing out of Melanie’s body like a bloody fountain. There was no noise. There was no noise.

Amelia knew that something was missing. She didn’t know that it was her sister, but Amelia kept on walking through the office that was deprived of light. A splash echoed through out the darkness. Amelia looked down to see what she had stepped on. She realized that she was unable to see the liquid due to the blackness of the room. She sifted through her purse looking for her phone. She found the phone after some searching, but the light it produced was too dim to use as a flashlight. After bending down to the ground, she tried the cell phone flashlight idea again. No luck.

THWACK!

Amelia looked up after hearing the odd noise. It was somewhat similar to a blunt knife hitting a wooden floor. I have no idea how she knew that sound in particular, but that is not my job. I’m just the author here.

Thwack.

The surviving twin hit the heel of her shoe against the floor. The distinctive sound it made sounded like a hardwood floor to Amelia.

THWACK!

The sound was heard again in the spacious office. Carefully but surely, Amelia walked towards the sound. The wooden floor creaked more and more with each and every step.

THWACK! THWACK! THWACK!

The odd sound made another odd appearance again. Then the sound stopped. Amelia took extremely small steps. He foot hit something soft and cold. Underneath her foot another splash was made and the liquid soaked into her shoe. She shook her foot a little bit assuming that the liquid was water.

The lights flicked on, then off. In the split second of light Amelia knew what she saw. The bright birch floor was stained dark mahogany with her twin’s running blood. It was sprayed in every direction from the dislocated head and the severed neck that was a little too close to Amelia’s blood soaked shoes. The whites of Melanie’s eyes were showing and her mouth formed a perfectly small “o” shape. Her body was mutilated with post mortem wounds. The sound Amelia had heard earlier was the sound of the body of Melanie Basler being scared and chopped. The blood had already stopped flowing from the wounds, but the original color of Melanie’s clothes could not be determined. They were eternally soaked red, never to be changed.

Amelia was scared stiff. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t talk. The dark space echoed with the shocked silence. Screaming did not work. The vocal cords inside of Amelia ceased to work. Her mouth slowly opened widely. Her brain told her to scream, but she could not. Amelia Basler just stood in front of the body of her cold, dead sister that lie on the blood stained birch floor. She did not want to move. Moving would remind her of Melanie’s blood in her shoes as it squished and splashed around each individual toe inside of her sock. The thought made her want to puke.

After what seemed like forever, Amelia Basler mustered up the courage to move, or more specifically, run. Run far, far away and out of harms way. She stumbled and fell over the office furniture, got lost in the sea of cubicles, and eventually found her way towards the exit. The green light of the exit sign was a sign of relief for Amelia. As she made her way towards the outside world past the black office, the sign’s glow grew brighter and brighter. The blood in Amelia’s shoes settled as she stopped to turn the door knob that led her back into a world of safety. But she knew that that world was not as safe as it once was. Now that she started to look for the killer of Marshall Robbins, she had gotten herself into something that she could not reverse. She could tell that her life would never be the same.

As Amelia pulled open the office door she was over whelmed with brightness. The light blinded her for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the light. She blinked her eyes a few times then opened her eyes again. Pushing the door open from the other side while Amelia pulled it open was Jason Bassett, and behind him, Jessie Erickson. Jessie wore a mahogany suit. Her mahogany shoes seemed to be a tad bit wet, and not with water.

“Okay,” Jessie was not in the slightest bit confused like Jason about this situation. She was unusually calm. “I won’t ask why you were in my office at all. So how about the three of us do our business over lunch?”

Both Amelia and Jason had nothing against the proposition and agreed. Not a word was said while the three walked over to Jessie’s car. Not a word was said while the three was in the car with Jessie driving. Not a word was said in till the three sat down at table number three at an undisclosed restaurant in the unnamed town. That is where the conversation began.

“So the two of you want to see the will of Marshall Robbins,” Jessie’s casual nature left her quickly and was replaced with a completely different serious personality.

“Yes,” Amelia, who was still shocked from the death of her sister, composed herself quickly so she could concentrate. “That would be correct.”

“I am guessing the both of you are searching for my client’s killer for the reward money.”

“Who wouldn’t?” Jason’s reply was snappy and laid back. It was like he did not have a single care in the world.

“That is a good point that you brought up Mr. Bassett. In fact, other people have contacted me about Mr. Robbins and the reward. I have told them exactly what I am about to tell the both of you now.”

Amelia leaned closer to Jessie over the cheaply made restaurant table. She wanted to know any information she could get her hands on.

Jessie cleared her throat before continuing on. “If you would like to find the killer of Marshall Robbins, you must leave everything behind and come with me to an undisclosed location.” She stood up. “It is now or never, no questions asked.”

In a spur of the moment decision, Amelia Basler and Jason Bassett both stood up at the same time. And together they said; “We’ll go.”

“That is great news,” Jessie was back to her usual self, cheery and hyper. “Get in the car and we’ll go. Your stuff will be delivered later.”

Amelia and Jason both shot each other a worried look. They had no idea if they could trust this person. I don’t blame them either.

The place Jessie brought the two of them was an apartment building. It was modern with brushed chrome siding and glass doors. Jessie led Amelia and Jason to the front of the big glass double doors.

“Once you go past these doors,” Jessie became serious again. “You can never return to the life you once had. And now that you are here you can not return to your homes. You have no choice but to enter these doors.” There was a moment of silence then Jessie continued. “You have no need for me now. I will visit this place occasionally so this is not a farewell. Good bye.”

Jessie waved the two good byes as she climbed into her prius and drove away. Amelia and Jason both knew that they had no choice but to enter the odd apartment building. And that is exactly what they did. Together, they entered the building.

I feel like this might be going some where. Actually, not really. Therefore, I’m going to introduce a new character. I like that idea. I shall introduce to you my two good friends, Jess and Lembi. That is a good idea indeed.

Lembi was the first one to live in the apartment building. She lived in the building before the killer of Marshall Robbins even emerged. No one knew she even existed. Lembi was a ghost, a dead sprit looking for life.

Lembi was not an ordinary ghost. She could be seen by humans such as Jess. Jess was first of many people Jessie locked up in the “empty” apartment building. Jess had settled into room 603, the only room in the highest residential floor. And that is where she met Lembi. Lembi was sitting on Jess’s bed just waiting to be found by a human. They were surprised to see each other.

“I thought this place was abandoned,” Jess was now yelling in surprise. “That’s what that weird lawyer told me.”

“Oh,” Lembi exclaimed. Apparently Lembi knew the lawyer from a past event. “Ms. Erickson. I think I have seen her around here before.” Lembi was a bit shy in her response to the overwhelming Jess.

“Okay, but who are you?”

“My name is-” I won’t bore you with the details of Lembi’s name. All you need to know is that I call her Lembi. “But you can call me Lembi.”

“Okay Lembi. My name is Jess. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person in this building.”

The two became fast friends, but each of them had secrets. Jess did not know about Lembi’s true nature that she was a ghost. And Lembi did not know the real truth about Jess. Jess was something extremely dangerous. But that doesn’t matter right now, does it? Or does it?

Soon, more people moved into the apartment building. Kelsey Pitman moved into room 203, one of the smaller apartments. Kelsey opened up a traditional Chinese restaurant of the top floor of the building, the seventh floor. I think that Kelsey was too white to own a traditionally styled Chinese restaurant. It does not work that well.

The next person to move in was Michelle Pouquette. She moved into the glorious room of 205. She opened up an organic café on the first floor. It was a great idea that was loved by Kelsey. It soon became a popular place for the occupants of the apartment building to meet. The only one who never came was Lembi. Lembi never came to the Chinese restaurant either. They just assumed that she had opsomania.

Then Amelia Basler and Jason Bassett had no choice but to move in to the apartment building. And that’s what they did. Amelia moved into room 402. One of the larger rooms, room 402 was the second out of three rooms on the floor. The other two rooms, 401 and 403, were vacant.

Jason moved in to room 301. Like Amelia, the rest of the floor that Jason now lived on was empty. His room was slightly smaller than Amelia’s, but decently sized. It was one of four rooms on the third floor. This left the fifth floor as the last vacant floor.

Lembi was making her rounds around the apartment building when she heard an extremely odd conversation down in the café.

“Something is wrong with that lady,” A quiet voice emerged from the shushed silence.

“I know!” Another quiet voice exclaimed in agreement with the first person. “I think she is the most suspicious of us all.”

“Really? I think I have an idea that might change all that.” Lembi could hear a smile crawl on to the first quiet person’s face. This was not a happy smile. It was an evil smile. A smile of torture and despair that spread from ear to ear is what was heard. Lembi was genuinely afraid of what was to be said by that person.

“Ooh, please tell.” The other quiet person was starting to get excited over all this suspicion.

“Think of it like this, when you look at the cover of six different books, what do you see?”

“Six books, what else was I supposed to see?” The second person was starting to get confused. “If there are six books, I see six books.”

“And that is where you brain lies to you. You assume that all six books are books and have words and a story inside of them, but in reality one of the books has nothing inside. It’s like one of those books with a secret compartment inside of it. There are no words, there is no story. It is an empty book.” Lembi started to get tense and scared. She knew that analogy referred to her. Who else could it refer to?

“Six books… Just like the six people currently living in this apartment building!” Lembi gulped in nervousness. They had to be referring to her.

“Yes, each of the six books is a person in this apartment building. But who is the empty book?”

“The empty book must be somebody who seems like they belong but in reality is missing something that the other five of us all have.”

“I have an idea that will be able to identify the ‘empty book’.” The quiet people talked to one another, conversing in such an inaudible volume that Lembi was glad that she couldn’t hear the conversation, yet she had a gut feeling that this wasn’t going to turn out well. A non existent shiver went up her non existent spine as she thought of what the two inaudible people were talking about.

Before the two suspicious conspirers could catch a glimpse of the person who was watching them, Lembi looked past the doorway and saw the faces of Amelia Basler and Kelsey Pitman. Shocked, Lembi quickly hid back where she was before and waited to see if she was notice. After reassuring herself that she was not seen, Lembi began the long trek back up the stairwell (there was not an elevator or escalator for the occupants to use) to the sixth floor where she lived with Jess.

“Do you like pie?” A young, childish, shrill voice came out of a wall while Lembi was climbing the stairs past the second floor.

“Do ghosts like pie?” The voice had an eerie quality to it that made Lembi shiver.

“I’m sorry wall, but I don’t think this relationship can work out that well,” Now Lembi was just rambling nonsense on and on to the wall. She just wanted to avoid the wall’s question.

“I’ll ask again, do ghosts like pie?” Lembi became nervous. How did this little girl’s voice know that she was a ghost? And where was this coming from?

“How should I know?” Lembi was trying to find a way out of this little chat with the shrill, mysterious voice. “I’m not a ghost so I wouldn’t know.”

“Of course you would know, right? Aren’t you a gh-”

“I just lost the game!” Luckily for Lembi, Jason Bassett happened to appear out of nowhere interrupting the wall.

“I hate you Jason,” Lembi did not hate him, but she was acting friendly and smiling as she said that phrase. Lembi knew the correct response to Jason’s usual greeting. Jason had taught her the game when he first moved in to the apartment building. While most people did not understand the game when they are first told about it, Lembi understood the game immediately and with no complications, she started playing instantly.

“So, who are you talking to?”

“I have no idea, but I think I was talking to a young child’s voice that was coming out of the wall.”

“Oh really?” Jason pressed his ear against the wall for a moment. Then he shook his head. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Wait a moment. Let me try this.” Lembi cleared her non existent throat. Then she started to talk with her questions aimed at the wall. “I like pie. Do you like pie?”

“So ghosts do like pie?” The wall spoke up once again in its feminine, fairly high pitched voice.

“The wall just talked?” Jason could not believe his ears. The wall just talked. That is not supposed to happen right?

“Don’t worry; I’m still surprised by it still.” Lembi was trying to reassure Jason in an unreasonable event that even Lembi herself did not understand. To Lembi, all laws of physics were being broken in one moment. Then she remembered that fact that she was a ghost and that her very existence broke all the laws of physics anyways. A talking wall should not be even a little bit unusual then. Right? Right?

After an awkward silence lasting a few minutes, Jason spoke out. “We should name her.”

Lembi took this thought in to consideration. Her thinking produced an answer. “Sure, but what do we name her?”

“Um… I just lost the game!” And that is another way that phrase can be used, to get out of a difficult situation.

“Okay, okay, I’ll think of a name for that wall.” Lembi thought and thought about the name. “Hey wall?”

“I like pie. Do you like pie?” Lembi was getting used to the way the wall talked by now.

“Wall, do you like the name Theadora?”

“Ghosts do like pie!”

“Okay Jason, I take that as a yes.” Lembi was satisfied with that name for the wall.

“You know I’ll never remember such a long name,” Jason was some what troubled b y the naming of the wall. “So how about we shorten the name down to Thea. Okay?”

“That works with me.” Now, both Lembi and Jason were contempt with the naming of the wall. They stood there, the two of them, happily staring at the wall.

Jason dug around inside of his pocket looking for some thing. He smiled as he found what he was looking for. Jason pulled a black sharpie king sized permanent chiseled tip marker out of his front pocket of his blue jeans. By holding the cap of the marker with his teeth, Jason pulled the marker out of the cap. While still holding the cap of the marker with his teeth, the male protagonist grasped the marker in his right hand as he wrote on the wall where Thea could be heard.

“’Here lies Thea, whose voice is one of a ghost’?” Lembi was not amused. There had been too many ghost references in one day for her little non existent brain. Lembi snatched the black marker out of Jason’s tight grip. And where “a ghost” was written, Lembi drew a line through it and replaced it with “mystery”. She smiled. Then Lembi shoved the king sized marker back in to the cap that Jason still clenched with his teeth. Jason gagged a little as the cap was being pushed from the force of the marker. Now she was satisfied.

The End

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