Selections from the Vault

In well over a decade of writing, I have accumulated large quantities of scenes, scenarios and snippets that probably won’t ever amount to anything. This page features just a few. For now, since there aren’t many of them, they are all on the one page, but below I provide links to the beginning of each for convenience.

Please note that none of these have been edited and they will probably not be expanded or continued.

On this page:

Plot Bunny

Notes: This first one was inspired by a prompt from one of the very early CWEs. This plot bunny was adopted by someone, but they did not post a story during the time of the challenge. I began writing it, but did not get very far. The idea is not mine and is still available to anyone to write. (See the CWE page at Jix for more details.)

The submitted plot bunny was as follows: An increasingly social conscious Mrs. Lynch is pressuring 22-year-old Diana to continue to date and eventually marry Ben Riker so her family can establish a social tie to the Harts. Although she likes Ben as a friend, Diana is torn between her love for unconnected, poor Mart Belden, and her desire to please her mother. The ensuing pressures cause friction between the Bob-whites as the friends unconsciously take sides in reaction to Di's mixed signals and her usual dramatic coping strategies.

Diana stepped in front of the full-length mirror and surveyed her reflection with an outer calmness that she did not feel. The dress was classy, well-fitting and suitable for the occasion. The strict regime of diet and exercise she had been following for the last several years meant that her figure was enviable. Her hair was perfect – though she felt that her current style, chosen at her mother’s urging, was too short. Her make-up was flawless and understated. Her jewellery accented the dress without being overpowering. Her shoes were enough to make other women jealous.

The twenty-two year old gave a single nod and picked up the tiny handbag she intended to take with her. Head held high, she left her room and walked downstairs to the formal living room, where her parents would be waiting.

“Darling, you look wonderful,” her mother gushed, as she entered the room. “Ben won’t be able to keep his eyes off you. It will be no time at all before he proposes, if you keep this up.”

Di felt a blush creeping up her cheeks. “I wouldn’t say that,” she murmured.

“You do look beautiful,” her father assured her, kissing her cheek.

“Don’t do that, Walter,” his wife chastised. “You’ll mess up her make-up.”

“I can kiss my own little girl if I like,” Di’s father grumbled in return.

Her mother shook her head in disgust. “I am trying to improve our position. Some cooperation would be appreciated.”

Di’s father smiled at Di and gave her arm a squeeze. He offered no answer to the charge. A moment later, any chance of further comment was removed as Harrison announced Mr. Benjamin Riker.

“Ben, you look as handsome as ever,” Vanora Lynch gushed. “You’ll be the most dazzling couple in the room, I’m sure.”

“I wouldn’t go so far, Mrs. Lynch,” he replied, eyes twinkling. “From what I hear, it’s going to be a big party, but we’ll probably make the top ten.”

His hostess gave a pretty laugh and Diana cringed inwardly, while trying to keep her expression from betraying her feelings. Before anyone could embarrass her further, she turned to her boyfriend of almost two years.

“We need to be going, don’t we? It’s one thing to be fashionably late, but quite another to be even later than that.” She gave him an appealing look.

“You’re right,” he answered, taking her arm. “Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Lynch.”

After another round of compliments and well-wishes, the couple went outside to the waiting limousine. Ben handed Diana into her seat, as the driver held the door. He sat next to her, holding her hand.

“We’re not going to be so much as fashionably late,” he pointed out, his eyes on their linked hands. “If we go straight there, we’ll be so early that they won’t have opened the doors.”

Diana nodded, looking away. She felt guilty for being ashamed of her mother. When she allowed herself to think about it, she felt even more guilty about leading Ben on for almost two years. As a friend, he was wonderful. As a boyfriend, he was perfect – but not perfect for her. She was sure he was perfect for someone, but nothing she did made her feel worthy of him.

Blissfully ignorant of her jumbled thoughts, Ben pressed the button to communicate with the driver and suggested he take the scenic route, there being over an hour to reach their New York City destination. He settled back in his seat and made a comment on a movie he would like to see. With a smile, Di abandoned her thoughts and entered into the discussion.

As they talked, she almost convinced herself that everything would be okay. She really could stay with Ben and one day be a good wife to him. She could forget that there ever was another option. She could be happy spending her life with this handsome, amusing, talented man.

A few minutes before they were due to arrive at the party, her cell phone chirped as a text message arrived. Without thinking, she reached for it and read the message, which was from Honey.

‘Have a good time at the party. Call me in the morning when you’re up. BWG business to discuss.’

Diana was jolted from the happy illusion she had been building. She stared at the message with a feeling of dread building within her. The BWG business, whatever it might be, would probably be innocuous enough. Now that they were all grown up, there was seldom much to do with the group. The association of ideas, on the other hand, would mean nothing but trouble for Diana. When she spoke to or thought of her fellow club-members, she could not help but think that she was making some terrible mistakes with her life.

“Hey, is everything okay?” Ben asked in a gentle voice and with a soft touch on her arm.

In that moment, Diana remembered that she had once had an ambition to be an actress. If ever the skills she had learned on the stage were required, it was now. She switched the phone to silent, smiled at him and nodded.

“It’s fine. I’ll deal with it tomorrow and it won’t worry me any more after that,” she promised.

He nodded. The car pulled up at their destination and a uniformed attendant opened the door with a flourish. Her chin raised and she set about playing her part. On the inside, however, Diana Lynch felt the first twinges of fear.

Unidentified Object

Notes: I think this little snippet came from a CWE picture prompt. It was not long enough to qualify for the challenge and did not seem to lead anywhere. As context, Trixie, Mart and Honey are cleaning out the attic at Crabapple Farm when this occurs.

What,” Honey demanded, “is this, this thing?”

Mart looked up and drew his brows together. He took the strange object from her hands and examined it intensely. His expression cleared.

“This, my dear Madeleine, is an intensely important family artefact, dating to the earliest days of the Beldens’ inhabitation of this humble abode. It belonged to my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas M. Belden, who was a man of considerable ingenuity and resourcefulness. You will see a trace of his initials on the anterior side, if you care to look.” He pointed a finger in the general direction. “The precise purpose of this item has been lost to the mists of time, but we are assured that its invention by my esteemed ancestor was a great relief to the local population, who were suffering an undisclosed affliction, which was greatly mitigated by this device.”

“Oh,” Honey answered and put it down again, looking at it with a blank expression.

“Thomas M. Belden,” Trixie mused, grabbing the item and looking at the initials. “What did the ‘M.’ stand for?”

“That, also, is knowledge that has alas been lost in the many years since he lived,” Mart replied, shaking his head with regret.

Trixie raised an eyebrow and tossed the item into the rubbish heap. “You totally made that up.”

“I resent the accusation in the strongest terms!”

His sister shook her head. “You did! Those are my initial, almost twin, and that was one of my grade school art projects, though, even I can’t figure out what it's supposed to be.”

Mart held onto his dignity for several moments, then cracked a smile. “Okay, so maybe I did.”

The Closet

Notes: This one was, I think, an exercise to try to break writer’s block. Whether it worked or not, I can’t remember, but I thought it was interesting enough to join this collection.

Trixie banged her fist against the wall in frustration. The panel broke in half and she lost her balance trying not to plunge through it. In the wild attempt to keep herself upright, she bumped against the other side of the closet, stepped back onto a screwdriver on the floor and spun around. Finally, she fell bottom-first into the closet and thumped hard against the side wall with her shoulder.

“Oh, great,” she moaned, as she rubbed the various sore spots. “Just look at this! I’ve broken two things in as many seconds. The wall of this closet is busted, too.”

“Are you okay?” Jim asked, stepping closer. “You didn’t hurt yourself, did you?”

Trixie shook her head and made to get up. As she did so, something caught her eye and she froze.

“Give me the flashlight,” she directed, in a reverent hush. “I think I’ve just found something.”

Jim strode to the opposite side of the room and picked it up. As soon as it was laid in her hand, she switched it on and shone the light into the hole made by her shoulder. Both of them drew in a shocked breath. In the cavity next to the closet, what appeared to be a human skull was grinning at them.

“When I suggested you might find skeletons in the closet, I never meant you to find literal ones,” Jim quipped, his voice just a little shaky.

“It might not be real,” Trixie answered, while putting as great as possible a distance between herself and it. “I really hope it’s not real.”

Jim fervently agreed. “Still, I guess we’d better call someone. Do you suppose the police will believe us?”

Trixie began to giggle. “Probably not. Just imagine if Sergeant Molinson heard about it!”

“Well, maybe I’ll call for you and we’ll just have to hope for the best.”

He made the call while Trixie impatiently paced. When he had finished, she demanded, “Well?”

“They’ll come and take a look, but they’re not too worried.” He gestured to the closet. “The man I spoke to pointed out to me that skeletons don’t stay upright by themselves – which we should have remembered, if we’d been thinking more clearly.”

Trixie frowned. “Yeah, I guess you’re right; they don’t. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a real skull. There might be something on the other side of that holding it up and we just can’t see it.”

“Well, whatever it is, they want us to leave it alone, so I guess we’d better find something to do elsewhere.”

She gave the closet a longing look, but nodded agreement and followed him out of the room.

When the police finally arrived, Trixie was bouncing with anticipation. She was torn between horror and curiosity at what might be within the wall. When she found that she would not be allowed to watch as the scene was examined, her disappointment was immense.

“You didn’t really expect to be allowed to watch, did you?” Jim asked her, in a low voice.

She turned an unhappy face towards him. “A girl can hope, can’t she?”

From the next room, they heard the sound of laughter, and the pair turned sharply in that direction. A moment later, the door opened and a police officer exited, wearing a most serious expression.

“We’re going to have to wait for the expert opinion,” he told them, “but it very much looks like this is a medical teaching aid.”

“What was so funny?” Trixie wanted to know. “We heard you all laughing.”

A flicker of amusement showed. “Ahem. The specimen is in an unorthodox position.”

Trixie’s brow creased. “Can we see it?”

The officer shook his head. “As I said, we will have to wait for the expert opinion before we can rule out any crimes.”

“So, it’s an old one? A real skeleton?” Jim wondered. “Not a plastic replica?”

“You mean, I was really looking at someone’s skull from two inches away?” Trixie demanded, fascinated.

“That remains to be seen,” the officer interjected. “We will be removing the remains and sending them for examination. We will also need to check the rest of the property for anomalies.”

Diverting Entertainment

Notes: This is the longest piece in the collection. It was written over ten years ago, but for some reason I have never felt the urge to post it. It is a complete story.

[quote is from Gatehouse, p 157 of the oval paperback]

Oh, let’s do have a club,” Honey interrupted. “When I was in boarding school, I was always reading books about boys and girls who were members of secret clubs and had such fun.” She added wistfully, “I never thought the day would come when I might belong to one.”

About fifteen years later . . .

Jim stood back and admired his handiwork with a quiet sense of pride. It had been a lot of hard work, but it was now being rewarded and the new, larger premises were evidence of it. The shiny new sign which he had just put up stood out nicely, clearly showing the location of the business to all who passed by. He stepped inside the Belden-Frayne Detective Agency with a spring in his step, nodded to the young man at the front desk and went right into one of the offices.

“Sign’s up,” he said to Brian, who was sitting quietly at his desk, working steadily. “Anything else need doing, or can I get onto that new case?”

“Let’s see,” his friend replied, pushing his glasses up on his nose. A quick search of the desk revealed a neat list. “No, I think that’s it. Unless you know of anything else?”

“Not a thing,” said Jim with a smile. “Everything looks great to me.”

Meanwhile, Mart’s plane was just about to land at Heathrow Airport. He had been to London many times before, but it never failed to attract him. This time, he would be there for two days before flying back across the Atlantic.

The familiar sensation of coming in for a landing allowed him to clear his thoughts for a moment. Did he regret the choices he had made? No, he decided. There was nothing like this job. It had helped him to see the world and had broadened his horizons immeasurably.

It would be nice to spend some time at home, though, he thought wistfully. Maybe I should put in for some vacation time.

The regular routine of disembarking began and, putting all thoughts of home aside, Mart began to help the passengers off the plane.

A week or two later, on the other side of the ocean, the bustle of the new school year was in full swing at Ten Acres School. In an office overlooking the grounds, Principal Trixie Belden was in consultation with the school’s visiting doctor.

“I tell you, Honey, I’m so glad that we expanded on the original plans. Opening the school to girls as well as boys has its problems, but it’s been worth it.”

“You’re so right,” Dr. Wheeler agreed. “Girls can have it rough, too, and it’s only right that we help everyone that we can. Just look at the way that they’re responding to the outdoor programs. It’s not just something for boys.”

“We’re having great success with the school farm project, too. Di’s been telling me great stories of how the students are doing, growing things and looking after the animals.”

“You know,” Honey confided, “I would never have thought Di had it in her to run a farm.”

“Neither would I,” Trixie agreed, “but the proof is right here.”

In the fields behind the school, Diana Lynch was busy with a group of students. There was always plenty to do on the farm and she took great pride in helping her pupils be a part of everything. It gave them a new perspective, she thought.

“Is this right, Ms. Lynch?” asked one of the boys, as he clumsily tried to tie up a tomato plant.

“Yes, that’s fine, Toby,” she replied. “Not too tight, remember?”

She smiled at the boy to encourage him, but noticed that he was looking behind her. Turning, she saw someone that she had not seen in years; someone she thought that she would never see again. His dark hair was unkempt, his cheeks bristled with several days’ growth and his clothes were well worn, but not well washed. He looked rough and unfriendly, the kind of man that you did not want to meet on a dark and lonely street.

“Dan?” she asked. “Is that you? What are you doing here?”

“It’s time to settle a few things,” he said, looking sullen. “Time to set things straight.”

“As you can see, I’ve got a class,” she said, waving a nervous hand towards the small group of students. “Can it wait until later?”

“Half an hour,” he said. “Trixie’s office.”

She nodded, watching as he walked back into the preserve.

Di tapped on Trixie’s office door about half an hour later. Almost before she had finished, it opened to reveal a small crowd. Inside the office, contrary to all expectation, were the rest of their old club. Brian, Jim and Mart stood awkwardly against the walls; Trixie sat at her desk, looking defiant; Honey was sitting in one of the chairs, legs crossed. Dan was just inside the room, his hand still on the door handle.

“Come in, Di,” he said, closing the door after her.

She took a seat next to Honey, exchanging glances with the other two women. Honey shrugged, almost imperceptibly. Ever since Dan had left to go back to his old life in the city they had, by common consent, not mentioned his name again. No one had known where he had been all these years, or what he had been doing.

“We’ve had our differences,” he said, shooting a dark glance at Trixie, “but I think we’d all agree that there’s no one like an old friend to tell you when you’ve got things wrong.”

“I don’t see how you would know if we have,” said Trixie, glaring back at him with twice the heat. “You haven’t been around in more than ten years. That’s far longer than you ever knew us.”

“I know that your basic character hasn’t changed,” he countered. “I know that this isn’t your dream that you’re living.”

“It’s become my dream,” she replied. “I’m living a dream, even if it isn’t the one that I dreamed for myself.”

“It’s not the same,” said Dan. “None of you are living your dreams.”

“What about you?” asked Trixie, standing and glaring at him. “Where is your dream?”

“I don’t get dreams,” he said. “I forfeited that right long ago.”

“So, who are you to tell us whose dreams we should live by?” asked Trixie, triumphantly.

For a long time, Dan stood still, apparently lost in thought. No one spoke; no one moved. After a few minutes, even Trixie began to feel uncomfortable. The feeling of triumph faded away, only to be replaced by an uncomfortable feeling of guilt. Her failure to do anything to help Dan all those years ago filled her mind, rising above the justification that she had always used: He didn’t want to be helped.

“Do you remember how it used to be?” he asked, softly. “You were always in some sort of conflict about your plans. Every time that Trixie went off after a mystery, one of you tried to hold her back. Whenever someone else’s career plans got in the way of your own ambitions, you tried to convince them that your way was better. I told you to accept each other’s dreams. I meant that you should stop trying to change each other, that you should be supportive. I never meant for this to happen. You twisted my words and made this travesty.”

“Travesty?” asked Brian, suddenly offended. “I’ll have you know that Jim and I are very good detectives. We have a thriving business and there’s no way that you can say that we’re not successful.”

“I didn’t mean that you’re not successful,” Dan snapped. “I meant that you gave up more than you gained; you made sacrifices, but didn’t claim the benefits that should have come with them. Look at yourselves! Are you happy with your lives?”

“Yes,” said Honey, without the slightest hesitation. “I think I’m a much better doctor than I would’ve been a detective.”

“But didn’t you give up the detective goal because you wanted a relationship that would’ve been difficult to maintain?” he challenged. “Are you in that relationship? Have you been in that relationship?”

Another uncomfortable silence descended. Several people looked at their feet, or closed their eyes. No one wanted to look at Dan, or put voice to the thoughts that were running through their heads. No one wanted to admit that they had been wrong.

“Look, I’m sorry,” said Dan, heading for the door. “I should’ve left earlier. As soon as I knew, I should’ve gone. I just thought that I could help you. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out.” The door was open and he was through it before any of them moved or spoke.

“Wait!” called Honey, springing up to run after him. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t know?” he asked, incredulous. “You really don’t know what I did, why I had to leave?”

“No,” she said in a soft, gentle voice. “Please, come inside and explain it to us.”

“All right,” he reluctantly agreed, “but I’m staying near the door. You remember the time we spent the night in the clubhouse?”

“We had a meeting and it snowed so hard that we couldn’t open the door?” asked Honey, nodding. “Was I ever in trouble the next day!”

“You remember what we did while we waited for someone to come and get us out?”

“We played games, mostly,” she said, smiling in reminiscence. “I really enjoyed those sorts of things.”

“Anything else?” he prompted.

“You pretended to hypnotise us all,” she said, with a giggle. “Actually, it wasn’t long after that night that I decided that I’d rather be a doctor than a detective.”

“You don’t remember what I suggested to you, when you were hypnotised?”

“I wasn’t hypnotised,” she contradicted. “None of us were. It was just a joke. You said some stuff, we all relaxed, but nothing happened and it ended without you suggesting anything.”

Dan slowly shook his head.

“Then, we were asleep,” she suggested. “Really, Dan, you couldn’t have hypnotised us. It’s just not possible. It takes training and skill to suggest things to people and they still have the power to resist them if that’s what they want to do.”

“I don’t know how it happened,” said Dan, “but I really did hypnotise you all. Look at yourselves! You’re living each other’s dreams, but it’s like a nightmare and I’m responsible for it.”

“If that’s true,” said Brian, with a skeptical look, “you should be able to do it again and reverse the effect.”

“I think we should try it,” agreed Mart. “Is everyone else in?”

There was a chorus of agreement. Dan looked deeply worried, but agreed to conduct the experiment. He invited them all to make themselves comfortable, having locked the door.

“I want you all to relax,” he began, leaning against Trixie’s desk. “Just relax.”

The next thing that Diana remembered was Dan’s request that they all sit up. There was a strange feeling in the back of her mind. Something was different. She looked in disgust at her fingernails. How short and grubby they looked. This did not seem right at all. Around her, the others were making similar adjustments.

“I think you were right, Dan,” said Trixie, standing up. “I haven’t been living the life I was meant to live. I think I’m going to be making some changes.” She walked over to Jim, who was gazing in confusion at the contents of his wallet. “You and I have some talking to do. How about you come back to my place?”

“Sounds good,” he replied, still distracted.

Before anyone else could say a word, Trixie had guided Jim out of the office and away. Dan looked around and saw that none of the others had even noticed. They were still too caught up in their own revelations. Honey and Brian were quietly talking in one corner; Mart and Diana were passionately kissing in another.

Dan breathed a silent sigh of relief. Perhaps now his friends would go back to their own personalities. He knew that he should have dealt with this years ago, but perhaps it was not too late.

Out of the silence, Honey’s voice rang, saying, “I’m glad we had this talk, Brian. You’re so right: I have no business being a doctor. I should have been a flight attendant.”

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