The Tangent Files: Blythe Monroe

She was a pleasant woman who went to her job at the local organic foods market in Redding, California. She came home to tend her garden. She dressed well and had great makeup, but went out only occasionally with her very best friends. No permanent man was in the picture of her life.

Some of the more “limited” people in her part of Red Bluff speculated as to why she showed up with no family and no friends. One of the speculators, Karen Dieboldt, went so far as to make up a fantastical tale about being a “burned” C.I.A. agent who had been put into some form of witness protection. Karen was promptly told to “Shut up!” by Dr. Moore, who watched the same cable television show that Karen liked to watch. The show was about a “burned” spy who was dumped in a city in Florida.

After that episode, everyone knew that Karen, the big know-it-all, got her big ideas from “Burn Notice” on Wednesday nights. Karen dusted herself off, then changed her speculation to a scenario involving a serial killer who was wanted by the Minnesota State Police, but someone else had read the same John Sanford novel and busted her again.

The County Sheriff’s deputy tried to start trouble for the poor newcomer, but her employer was a very strong woman who insisted that the newcomer’s documents were legitimate.

“Knock it off, Cleland! She is exactly who she claims to be!”, the market owner shouted after the Chief of Police had one of his tantrums. She told him off while some big shots from the State Police looked on in a calculated move that stopped any more trouble from Cleland Marks.

The market owner was a fabulously wealthy and imposing woman who wielded her power like an exquisitely carved baseball bat that could leave permanent marks on a person’s psyche. She hired the newcomer to shape up operations at the Organic foods market, setting her up in one of her many rental properties. This allowed the owner to travel and to tend to her operations in various parts of the globe.

Sheriff’s Deputy Cleland Marks was rightfully twitchy about strange newcomers. He was still cleaning up the mess from that witness protection family. Well, actually, killers probably made the mess, but who else was going to clean it up while having to put up with static from every big shot investigator who decided to show up and put him in the spotlight?

The newcomer was Blythe Parker Monroe, a name that anyone would take for a fake. Blythe Parker Monroe was actually her real name. Her mother had a thing for the word “blithe”, but had trouble coming out from under the painkillers, so she misspelled the name on the birth certificate forms. That mistake was a terrible embarrassment for a wealthy and socially connected new mother to make, but no amount of pressure could get the name corrected.

Parker was the child’s great grandmother’s name. Parker was her mother’s maiden name, and the name Monroe came from her father, an African American who claimed to be a direct descendant of President James Monroe. His problem was that no one could confirm that James Monroe, a paternalistic racist, had any children with any of his slaves. Most people assumed that it was true when Dr. Monroe brought it up, though.

Blythe’s mother died in a bizarre situation that no one could get to the bottom of. Blythe’s father was also dead, a quiet, innocent man who, through no fault of his own, had gotten into the middle of someone else’s sandwich while responding to a neurological emergency room issue.

There were no other children in the Monroe clan, so Blythe was the last of her family to make it in the world. She had given birth to a daughter who would be about 10 years old by now, but Blythe put the girl up for adoption, not wanting her child to suffer the bad luck and miserable fate that her own mother had set them all up to suffer.

And now, here she was, pretending to be happy in a lovely little town, working a lovely little job and occasionally getting dressed up and going out with the occasional man and some lovely little friends. She never talked about her origins. She was very good at never talking about her past.

Cleland Marks had a thing for murders and caves. Murders and caves somehow resonated through his confused and overloaded mind. He was no one’s lunkhead, but simply had his own unique way of thinking things out. Some people thought that he possessed a sort of prescience or second sight, but whatever it was, Cleland Marks solved his cases.

On the fateful morning of August 3, Cleland Marks, a couple of detectives and an investigator from the Secret Service entered the famous Lake Shasta Caverns. The caverns were a famous treasure and tourist destination for the past two hundred years or so. Not too many spelunkers have tried to explore Lake Shasta Caverns very deeply, but recent events led the investigative team to the cave.

Apparently, the witness protection family had told everyone they knew in town that they were visiting the caves, but the visit was really set up for a forbidden meeting with some of the dad’s former crime buddies. The dad separated from the tour and slipped off to a prearranged section of the caves, where the meeting did not go well for the crime buddies. The witness protection family were not harmed. They all went home and resumed life, none the worse for wear.

The bodies should never have been discovered, but Cleland Marks got word of an unusual pattern in cave visits by “spelunkers” who looked like professionals. No one else would have made a connection, but the witness protection family’s youngest child mentioned that “real badass cave explorers” were at the site on the day of their visit.

A week after the cave debacle, the entire family was wiped out in a highly suspicious crash down the side of a mountain. The dad was driving on one of the many treacherous roads that surround Redding. (To get an idea of the landscape, look at this Google Map of the Redding area. The letter “A” is the location of Lake Shasta Caverns.)

It is understandable why Deputy Cleland Marks was not in the best of moods, stumbling around a cavern after one of the worst drives that he had ever had to make. He had a F.B.I agent in his car who had a terrible habit of giving detailed descriptions of the plots of light operas.

When he returned to Redding after two days of recovering the unrecoverable bodies, Deputy Marks had to deal with the news that Blythe Parker Monroe had disappeared, leaving a house behind that had been burned to the ground. Several witnesses described an explosion and huge balls of flame.

Two weeks after the series of disturbing events in Redding and at Lake Shasta, a woman sat in a cabana at an exclusive beach club in Santa Barbara. She gratefully accepted her champagne and chatted eagerly with her companions. Her friends were glad to see her after her six months sabbatical where she studied Bureau of Land Management activity in the Susanville Quadrangle. The woman was ready to return to her duties as a Geology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Her husband, an independent contractor for the government, was none the worse for wear. His “man cave” project went well, but was attracting far too many good looking men who favored fatty bar snacks and odd cable sports broadcasts.

The woman had completed her last freelance assignment involving a group of criminals who were known to be headed for Lake Shasta Caverns for a meeting with a very bad compatriot who had his family in a witness protection program setup in Redding.

She did a great job, wiping out five of the worst criminals in the country, but three things went wrong: The local deputy figured out some things, searched the caves, and found the bodies. Then the witness protection family was led by an idiot who thought that he could throw back three pints of beer and drive them all home safely on those mountain roads. Finally, her rental house had a bad gas connection that acted up.

It all worked out in the end. Professor Blythe Parker Monroe returned to her professorial duties and finished out the school year before her employer called with a new assignment.

“Seven weeks in Paris? That would be so much fun in the spring! Of course, I’ll take that one!” Blythe shouted as she accepted the new assignment from her mother, the globe trotting organic food market owner and special case handler for the C.I.A.

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