Family Fiction posted January 10, 2024 Chapters:  ...20 21 -22- 23... 

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Miranda can't sleep.

A chapter in the book Miranda's Trouble In Paradise



Miranda Jessup Buckley is back to find out what happened to Dougie Wilcox.
So far, Miranda Jessup Buckley has decided to find out what happened to Dougie. Someone called, claiming to be Dougie, warning her to stop trying to find him. Then a strange little old man told her that Dougie swindled him out of his money. This has Miranda's nerves on edge.


I lie in bed unable to relax and drift off to sleep. My mind, a mix of thoughts and questions, live wires that spark and shock as they bounce around.

Carrie had given me a list of things I could do to relax and settle down, along with a prescription for Ambien. I try the deep breathing exercises, then the exercise to visualize myself floating on a river. Unfortunately, I end up floating right on into Haynes Pond and Missy is standing on the shore, waving a gun at me. So, I give up on that little exercise in futility. Instead, I sit up, dig through the top drawer in my nightstand and pull out a small notebook and pen.

Aaron seems so excited about his new calling. And, yes, he was equally excited about going to theology school. I'm going out on a limb and say that Aaron has his own style and vision. Preacher school might not have been his cup of tea.

This YouTube thing might be more up his alley. Aaron doesn't want to preach, he wants to reach.

I write down places for him to host his talks. There's the beach, of course, but there are other beautiful places as well. The fields that are scattered along route 17 are beautiful. In a few weeks, the trees will start to turn the warm oranges and scarlets of autumn. Hell, Haynes Pond is nice now.

I try my best to stay focused on Aaron's new venture, but in every location I try to visualize, Mr. Starling appears. His sad eyes boring into mine. "Tell him he broke Laura's heart."

The list morphs into a list about Dougie. How much did he take from the Starlings? Who else trusted him? He was a small town boy. Everybody knew him. What would make him rip off people he grew up with?

It doesn't make sense. I lived with him for almost three years. He wasn't that kind of person. I know I miss red flags, but character is character. It wasn't in Dougie's character to blatantly lie and steal from people.

The last time I check on the time, it's two-fifteen in the morning. I write down questions, dozens and dozens of them. Questions about his disappearance, about any potential reasons, and finally one question.

What the hell happened to Dougie Wilcox?


My head hurts, like a hangover, when my eyes finally open in the morning. I missed Waylon leaving for the bus. The trailer is flooded with light. It's almost nine. I'm supposed to meet Carrie in eight minutes.

Part of me wants to cancel. I'm not in a friendly frame of mind this morning but maybe I need to bounce my thoughts and questions off of an unbiased person.

I dial her number. "Carrie, hey, it's me, Miranda. Uh, Miranda Buckley. I was hoping we could push my session back about thirty minutes. If you get this and that's okay, I'll be at Haynes Pond again. I'm sorry for the last minute notice-," I say, then hear the answering machine click off, the rest of my pathetic apology fades away.

I brush my hair and my teeth, splash some water on my face and with my keys in hand, I head out to my car.


Two young mothers with strollers are walking around the pathway. It's nice to see this place cleaned up. To them, this is a family destination. I think of the swarm of black flies peppering me as I turned over that abandoned couch. The unnatural color of the man laying beneath it.

I look out towards the water, the marshy grasses billowing in the light breeze, their reflection dancing in the rippled water.

"I should have brought us coffee," Carrie says, coming up behind me. "Get a late start?"

"Didn't sleep much last night."

"Did you fill that prescription I gave you?"

I shake my head. "Not much on drugs."

Carrie puts her hand on my arm. "If I thought you were taking them recreationally, I wouldn't have written it. Just have it filled, and when you need a little help."

"I've just had a lot on my mind."

She waits, not pushing or asking leading questions.

"An old man showed up at work yesterday. He said Dougie stole money from him. Promised him he'd get a huge return on it. Then, poof, Dougie's gone. Vanished without a trace, and so is the old man's money."

"Do you think Dougie planned his disappearance?"

A shiver passes through me. "I didn't, now, I'm just really confused."

"You said you thought Missy had something to do with his disappearance. Do you still feel that's the case?"

"She told me he hit her up for money. She gave him some. Suppose she found out it was a scheme to defraud people. Missy didn't deal with problems like most people."

"So, Missy killed him? Is that what you think?"

I dig the toe of my boot into the dark sand. "I did."

Carrie walks around and faces me. "You say you did. What makes you feel differently now?"

I chew the inside of my lip nervously. "He called me."

A slight frown creases her brow. Her eyes search my face. I don't know, maybe she's wondering if I've totally lost my mind. "Dougie called? You? And, you're sure it was him?"

I shrug. "Pretty sure."

Carrie folds her arms in front of her. "Well, that certainly changes things, doesn't it?"

I fold my arms in front of me as well. "It certainly does."

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