The Neighborhood Vampire?
A bloodless-looking wife raises questions amongst the townspeople in the Valley of Shadows
“... And all the houses shut against a cool wind... the town full of cold sunlight... then suddenly, the day was gone. Night came out from under each tree and spread. The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks on invisible treads like unseen cats...”
The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury
This segment concerns an obscure neighborhood story. It involves back fence gossiping, a wonderful thing. It frequently, if ever, loses little in the telling and usually picks up much embellishment along the way.
Seems that over a two-and-a-half-week period in the late 50s, a neighborhood tale was floating around at the time, that a newlywed couple had moved into the area. The husband apparently worked nights at the Hedlund Mill (before it was purchased by Louisiana Pacific), on Boyer across from the Lincoln School.
Now grocery shopping was more decentralized sixty years ago. There was no Bonner Mall nor Yokes. That area where WalMart is now was all trees and meadows. It was before “Roger’s Thrift Store,” which is where Winter Ridge is now located, and even before Harold Marley built IGA on 5th and Church for the first time.
Safeway was on the corner of Alder and Second, which is now medical offices. The aras where the current Safeway and Sandpoint Super Drug are located was residential houses. M&J built and moved into the current Super Drug, but it was originally on the corner of Boyer and Larch, across from the current Super One parking lot. Later, it became Keg’s Mexican Chow House, as related in my first “Valley” story, “The Jones House.”
Neighborhood groceries such as The Ella Avenue Grocery, and Main Street Grocery (now Common Knowledge Bookstore) were the norm.
Why the history lesson? Stage setting. It was most likely the old M&J that the young woman of our story would patronize. It seems that one of the older neighborhood ladies was waiting behind this young woman at the checkout counter when the cashier noticed the young woman looked very pale, and asked if she were all right.
The clerk, our source noticed, had glanced at the young woman’s neck several times, but tactfully remained silent. There was what appeared to be a heck of an oval, bloody bruise—a classic hickey. (No, not two puncture wounds.)
Over the course of the rest of the summer and into the fall, others in the neighborhood mentioned they had seen the young woman and that she still carried what they first interpreted to be the result of frisky marriage relations. But either the wound wouldn’t heal, or her husband was an uncaring beast with little regard for his wife.
One of the neighbors eventually introduced herself to the young woman and asked if she would mind having company one afternoon as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood thing. The young woman at first brightened and accepted, but then quickly declined, stating she didn’t want to disturb her day-sleeping husband.
During this time period several dogs had gone missing, especially the ones that would bark at the slightest provocation. Some of the area residents reported seeing what they thought may have been a prowler, though nothing ever seemed to be missing.
Then, not long before Thanksgiving, the young lady stopped appearing in the store. It was assumed that she and her huband had moved.
Being naturally curious (to use one word for it), a couple of the neighbor ladies decided to call on the young woman to make sure she was all right.
The house they assumed was hers was vacant, locked tight, a realty sign in the yard. They later discovered through the gossip grapevine that a neighbor had seen what seemed to be the pair loading a station wagon late at night, and the house had been vacant since. No one on the block could recall having seen anyone there except the young woman. No husband, no visitors... no one, ever.
Most likely, the ocuple moved, in the middle of the night, perhaps to avoid paying the rent. At least, that’s the sensible version that circulated, but one of our older neighbor ladies had other ideas.
Author’s note: I’ve been asked about this column and told that it appears more a series of accounts, not a story. Well, that’s the nature of true stories. They’re incidents with no beginning, no ending, just as they are with no explanation.
Lawrence lives within the Valley of Shadows, and is a collector of its strange tales. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org