“The Scared Crow”
by Steve Caresser
A small town detective mystery thriller for young adults.
There are more and more eerie things happening on the Cran farm! How long can the love between Steve and Chris Cran keep their family going with all the strange and unexplainable accidents mounting? Detective James is one of the most successful detectives on the force, and he has been assigned the case. A case that continues to elude him; the case of “The Scared Crow!”His goal: To figure out the mystery before 10-year-old Jason Cran dies. Will he be on time?
Can he solve the mystery and save the boy’s life?
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The Crans were a poor family of five. Steve, the father, was 35 years old. He was part Indian, good-looking, blond haired, blue eyed, strong, and powerful. He was a power not many cared to reckon with. Showing love and affection were more important to him than anything else. As a hobby, he had mastered the art of making homemade wine and beer. He also hunted herbs in the wild, had a vast knowledge of how to use them, and was known for being inventive.
Chris, the mother, was thirty years old, part Chinese, and very well-educated with admirable teaching abilities. She had a southern beauty that was fully developed in every way; with elegant, glistening skin that went well with her green eyes. Her world revolved around the love of her husband and children. So much so that she had chosen to home school their children in order to keep them with her while still making sure they received an education.
She had worked hard to give birth to their three children at their own home. Steve was by her side to support her the entire time.
Jason was ten years old, blond-haired, blue-eyed, just like his dad, and cute as could be. He did however, habitually—yet unintentionally—find himself in trouble!
Christy was nine years old. She was the spitting image of her father, except she was, of course, a feminine version.
Melissa was eight years old and resembled both her father and mother. She loved and followed her big brother Jason everywhere he went.
Mid-winter the Crans had spent their life savings putting a down payment on an old two-story farmhouse deep in the woods, with fifty acres. They had bought it from a distant relative of the original owner, Old Man Crawly, who, after he died, had a town named after him. Rumor had it that he had left behind maps leading to buried gold. The house was not in the best of shape. The paint and window calk was peeling. Some window panes were cracked, and some were completely out, with only plastic, held on by duct tape, covering them. They only had one breaker box with three plugs in it, which they used to run the hot water heater, refrigerator, and milk storage tank. In spite of its appearance, the Cran family kept the house neat and tidy.
They had an extensive adopted family of animals that came with the farm. Their five-year-old Australian Shepherd named Loopy had shown up one day out of nowhere, run into Jason’s bedroom, jumped on his chest, and laid down to sleep.
They also had an assortment of five cats, five horses, four milk cows, and fifty egg-laying chickens
The family used candles to light their way at night since the electricity was limited in their house. The children enjoyed the windy days and nights because the house whistled many different tunes and caused their candle lights to dance and flicker. Sometimes they even went out, and then they were allowed to use the matches in order to relight their candles.
They had an old, enormous barn 100 yards behind their home with a 2nd and 3rd story overhead hayloft, and pens and stalls on both sides that held their chickens, milk cows, and five horses. The stalls were large enough to allow the animals to go out in the sunlight anytime they chose. In the middle, between the pens and stalls, sat their buggy and farm equipment.
Along the side of their home and barn was rich river bottom land that held their large, ten-acre garden that was full of every kind of vegetable and fruit you could imagine. Their large thirty-acre cornfield sat along the side of the river. The large garden produced plenty; not only for them to eat, and can their winter supplies, but also an abundance to sell at the local farmers’ market.
While all around them, the big cities were hustling and bustling with their fast pace and modern automobiles, the Cran family lived a very simple and enjoyable life. One with horses, wagons, buggies, and their faithful 1954 Chevy pickup truck.
At the beginning of spring, Ralph, Steve’s brother, had visited them from the big city to check out his brother’s new investment. Even though he was a billionaire with an untold amount of money at his disposal, he couldn’t remember when he had had so much fun, and he enjoyed spending time with his nieces and nephew. But he had always had a special fondness for Jason.
Ralph had offered to help Steve get the house and farm up and running properly, but Steve told him that would just take the fun out of it.
One night while their family sat around a campfire playing the guitar, singing, and telling stories, Uncle Ralph started to tell the story of The Scared Crow written by Steve Caresser. He didn’t get far, though, because Steve Cran interrupted the story and took his children to bed.
While he was tucking Jason in, Jason asked, “Why did you stop Uncle Ralph’s story?”
Steve just answered, “The Scared Crow is a story I just don’t like! Go to sleep, Son, and don’t worry about it!”
* * * * *
It was almost noon on a nice summer day. Eight-year-old Melissa was hiding behind an old fallen stump watching her ten-year-old big brother, Jason, who was standing on the river bank behind an old cottonwood tree. Jason was watching a big black crow chomp on an ear of their corn. He began throwing stones at the crow, and on his third try, he hit it on the back. The majestic crow took flight right toward Jason. It flew over his head and grabbed him by the hair, pulling some of it from his head. Jason began running toward the barn slapping at the crow and hollering for his dad; the crow followed close behind pulling one hair after another from Jason’s head, until both of them disappeared into the barn out of Melissa’s sight. As soon as they disappeared, she ran for the old farmhouse.
Inside the house, Steve was feeling romantic, so he was in the kitchen slow dancing with his wife, Chris, to the music coming from their battery-powered radio. They gracefully twirled in beat with the music as Steve lifted Chris up and gave her a kiss. Then he swooped her up in his strong arms, pulling her tight against his muscular chest, and began carrying her up the stairs to their bedroom, thinking that since all the children were outside playing that maybe they could have a private moment together.
But just then, Melissa swung the front door open hysterically. Loopy ran in barking nonstop, lifted his leg, and peed on the side of the piano, then continued running around in circles barking as Melissa hollered, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Jason is in trouble, Jason is in trouble, come to the barn! Hurry, hurry, Daddy, hurry!”
Steve put Chris down on the steps as he dashed for the front door. Melissa was closer to the front door and she ran out first, closing it behind her like the well-taught girl she was. Steve was way too close to stop, so he ended up crashing right through the door like a huffing, puffing freight train, passing and leaving Melissa behind as if she were standing still.
When Steve entered the barn in full stride, he saw the shadow of what appeared to be a man disappear through the barn’s back door, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jason in the 2nd story hayloft, his head and back buried under the hay with his butt sticking up in the air. His pants were torn, and the largest black crow Steve had ever seen was pecking away at him, tearing his underwear. Without even slowing down, Steve gave a mighty leap, sailing to the sixth step. With one more jump, he cleared the rest of the steps, landed on the hayloft floor, and swiftly swatted the crow, sending it out through the open hayloft window.
By then, the rest of the family had arrived and were standing on the barn floor watching in disbelief. Even Loopy was there, running in circles barking as Steve grabbed Jason by his belt, pulling him up to his face. “What happened to your head, Son? You have a bald spot!”
“Dad, that monster crow chased me and kept pulling my hair out!”
“What did you do that made him so mad?”
“He was eating our corn, so I hit him with a stone!”
“Well, are you going to throw any more stones at him?”
“I don’t think so!”
Steve smiled at his son, dropped him into the hay, and said: “Well, come on, Son; we have to eat lunch and do some afternoon chores. Jump on my back and hold on tight!” No sooner did Jason jump on his dad’s back and wrap his arms around his neck, Steve grabbed him under both legs and jumped like a sure-footed mountain goat from the loft to the ground right into the middle of the rest of his family. He stood Jason on his feet, and Loopy was so happy that he stood on his hind legs, knocking Jason to the ground, licking him all over his lips, nose, and ears.
* * * * *
The wind had picked up and began whistling familiar tunes throughout the house as the family sat around the table eating a nice, hearty lunch. They were having the leftover mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, and green beans from supper the night before. Loopy, as usual, sank his teeth into Jason’s pant leg and kept tugging until Jason tossed some food under the table. He wasn’t satisfied long, though; as soon as he swallowed, he was back tugging again.
Chris spoke up, “Steve, I would love to have fish with our dinner tonight. Why don’t you and Jason go fishing this afternoon while the girls and I take care of the chores?”
Jason quickly blurted out, “Would we!? We sure will, Mom; we’ll go catch some big ones!”
“Well, I guess our chore for this afternoon is going fishing, Son. Let’s grab the poles and go before they change their mind!” Steve said
Jason and his dad were grinning like they had just been released from a twenty-year prison sentence as they stepped out onto their front porch holding their poles and tackle boxes. Loopy trotted along after them, but not before he lifted his leg and peed on the porch post. Steve said: “I should invent a remote-controlled shocker that we could shock him with real good every time he peed on something he’s not supposed to pee on.” Jason laughed and Steve continued, “Son, if we’re going to catch those big fish and get back before dinner, you better jump on my back and hold on tight!”
Jason jumped on his dad’s back, and as he wrapped his arms around his neck, he whopped his dad a good one right on the nose with his tackle box! “I am so sorry, Dad!” he exclaimed.
“Not to worry, Son, I don’t have to smell anything important until dinner time, and it will be okay by then!”
Then Steve ran like the wind through their ten-acre garden, dodging in and out as if each plant were a landmine. Then through their thirty-acre cornfield, with Jason bobbing up and down and hollering, “Giddy up! Go, Daddy, go!”
Loopy was right behind them barking all the way.
They stopped at the edge of the river at their favorite fishing hole. They both baited their hooks and cast their lines into the river. Then they set their poles on the edge of their tackle boxes and sat back to wait for a big fish to nibble.
“Daddy, that’s where I was, by the old cottonwood tree peeking around, when I was throwing stones at that monster crow and he about pecked my head off!” Jason said.
Steve looked over at the cottonwood tree and asked, “Was that steel arrow stuck in the tree when you were there?”
“No, Dad, that’s the first time I’ve seen that arrow.”
Steve got up and walked to the cottonwood tree. He followed the footprints his son had made when the crow was chasing him, and asked, “Son, were these two arrows stuck in the ground when you ran by here earlier?”
Jason looked and saw two arrows about twenty feet apart. Each one was stuck near one of his footprints, and he answered, “No, Dad, that’s the first time I’ve seen those arrows, too!”
“Evidently someone has been bow hunting across the river. We’ll have to keep watch and let them know they can’t shoot toward our farm,” Steve told him.
Upon returning to the river, Jason exclaimed, “Daddy, I got a bite, I got a bite!” Jason had hooked an eight-pound catfish, and he began his long, slow tug-of-war, reeling and releasing until he finally pulled him to the bank. “Yahoo, Daddy! I caught the first one!”
Suddenly, Steve’s pole jumped through the air and disappeared into the river. Well, that was his favorite pole so he dove right in behind it, and soon he came swimming back to the bank holding his pole in one hand and paddling with his other. He climbed out of the water and stood up on the bank, reeling and releasing until, suddenly, a wide mouth bass that had to be at least twenty pounds broke the water! They both watched the sun shimmering on the scales of the magnificent fish, and declared it to be the catch of the day. They looked at each other and smiled as it jumped right back into the river. Steve reeled more, and they watched as it, again, came sailing out of the water and dove right back in. Steve hollered, “Son, get the net ready, and stand on the edge of the river bank. I’ll be landing him soon!”
Jason stood on the bank with his heart pounding as Loopy jumped up and down barking away.
That twenty-pound bass broke the water again, sailing upward, and Jason watched sadly as, this time, the line broke. But Steve jumped like a bullfrog, sailing through the air, and on his way by, he grabbed the net from his son, dove into the river just under his fish, netted him, pulled the net against his chest, and slowly paddled until he made it to the bank.
Jason looked at his daddy with stars in his eyes as he put the bass on the stringer and said, “You’re the best Daddy in the whole world. I have never seen anyone who could do the things you can do! I’m going to grow up and be just like you!”
Steve looked at his son and replied, “Son, I’m just an old farmer, and not too bright at times. I’m nothing more than anyone else, but I’m very happy you like me because it is important to me to know you like me.” Then he picked his son up in a bear hug and gave him a big kiss on his cheek. A lump formed in his throat, and he coughed to clear it, saying, “We better bait our hooks again and do some more fishing!”
Jason re-baited his hook, cast his line into the river, and set his pole on top of his tackle box, leaning back against the sandy embankment and smiling as he watched his daddy reattach a hook and sinker to his line. Steve sat down next to Jason, smiled at him, and said, “Son, I just want you to know, I think you’re the best son any father could have, and I hope you grow up to be something better than I am.”
* * * * *
It was dusk before they reached the front porch, and Steve told his son, “The girls got the chores all done, so you go bathe and get ready for dinner; I’m going to the barn to dress out the fish.”
Steve stood cleaning his fish on a table in the middle of the barn floor. He was surrounded by cats hissing and meowing. While he worked, he looked up at the 2nd story loft where Jason had buried himself in the hay, and there, stuck in the floor beam, was a steel arrow. Steve stood on the buggy, pulled the arrow out of the beam, and put it in the 55-gallon drum sitting in the back corner next to the barn’s door that held all of their tools.
As Steve was walking back to the table, Mac, their blue-eyed cat, pulled a freshly cut filet from the table and began to eat it. Loopy ran over, lifted his leg, and peed on Mac’s back. Mac hissed, jumping high into the air and landing on Steve’s shoulder. The Cran’s other four cats were running around the table hissing as Steve pulled Mac’s claws loose from his shoulder. Then Steve set him down on the floor and ‘roared,’ causing the cats to scatter and disappear into different horse stalls.
Later, after they had eaten their dinner, everyone sat around the fire place chatting. Steve pulled out his guitar. He began strumming and singing one of the songs he had written for his wife. “I would walk to the end of time just for you! I would walk to the end of my line just to hold you in my arms, to feel your charms.”
After Steve finished his song, Jason began to tell one of his tall tales, “You remember that ice storm we had last year? Dad got up and poured himself a cup of coffee, and he stepped outside onto the porch barefoot, wouldn’t you know, his feet froze right to the planks! He took a drink of his coffee, turned to open the door, and his hands froze to the knob! But when I really knew he was in trouble was when his coffee cup fell to the porch and half his mustache was in it!” Everyone laughed at his silliness, and then Chris began to sing one of the songs she had written on the piano.
Soon the night caught up with them, and it was time for bed. As they did every night, Steve and Chris tucked their three children in.
When they went to leave Jason’s room, Loopy ran in, jumped on top of Jason’s chest, and licked him all over his face. Then he ran in a few circles and lay down to sleep on Jason’s chest.
Back in their own room, Chris and Steve had a candle burning on each of their nightstands. Steve lay with his chest bare, wearing boxer shorts, and Chris lay with her favorite robe tightly wrapped around her body. They were both looking at the ceiling, watching the candlelight dance.
Chris rolled over close to Steve, and with a smile that always calmed his heart, she said, “You look upset, my Steve.”
Steve smiled back and answered, “Ah, my spring blossom! No matter what the problem may be in our life, you’re my spring flower whose sweet fragrance always makes it better!”
Chris gave him a loving kiss, and Steve smiled again as he said, “My love, tonight I am in deep thought. Something isn’t right!”
Chris rolled over onto her back. “Steve, what do you think is wrong?” she asked.
Steve got up out of bed and began pacing up and down the floor. “Chris, that crow that chased Jason earlier is an abnormal size! I have never seen a crow as large as it was in my entire life,” he said.
“Sometimes things just happen; it’s just a fluke, anything could have made it grow to that abnormal size,” Chris replied.
“Well, maybe it’s not so much the crow that is bothering me.”
“What’s bothering you, then?”
The wind howled through the hallway and whistled like they had never heard it whistle before. Steve sat on the bed next to Chris and answered, “I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think someone could be trying to kill our son!”
Chris drew her breath in sharply. “Oh, no! What would make you think that!?” she exclaimed.
“Today, when Jason and I were fishing, he showed me where he was when the crow attacked him, and where he ran for the barn. There was a steel arrow stuck in the old cottonwood tree where he stood hiding from the crow, and two arrows stuck twenty feet apart near his footprints. Then, when I was dressing our fish in the barn, I looked up where Jason had buried himself in the hay, and there was another steel arrow stuck in the beam of the loft floor.”
Knowing how over-protective Steve could be when it came to the children, Chris said reassuringly, “Surely it’s just some young boy who got a new bow and some arrows, and he doesn’t have the discipline or hunting experience to know how to use them,” Chris said. Then she held Steve’s hands and whispered lovingly in his ear, “Calm your heart, drift away from your cares.” Then she gave him a kiss, and they drifted off to sleep while listening to the wind howling through the house.