Monday, 20 January 2014 06:04

The Empty Store

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A woman named “Annie” once told me a story about two brothers who owned a store located in an odd location—somewhat hidden somewhere in the hills of the Española Valley. The teller of this tale was very nervous and told me the brothers owned a small and inconspicuous little store. However one could go inside, shop around in an almost bare room, and if they couldn’t find what they wanted, they would order what they needed. The next day, no matter how exotic the object, the requested item would be there. This would seem to be a very convenient thing to happen for any customer in a rural area, yet she shuddered and said, “There is no way possible that anyone can order anything and suddenly get it the next day!” She said the brothers had occupied the store for a very long time—maybe even before she was born. She remembered that her father often wondered about them—even pondering if they were agents of the devil. They never aged, were never worried about anything, and quietly went about their business—almost hidden in plain daylight.”

It was the exceptionally quick turnaround that bugged Annie.

Here in New Mexico we usually get our deliveries one or two days later than promised by businesses on either coast. We have no water transports and few railroads. Our small communities are relatively remote and it is difficult to quickly transport physical materials. Truckers must run the gamut of various road constructions, detours, rush hours, heat, snowstorms, various altitudes, etc. By the time we receive our needed objects, we are usually so happy about the delivery that the tardiness concern of the promised due date simply gets tossed away with the rest of the torn packaging.

Without fail, the two brothers always had exactly what the customers wanted—or—within 24 hours or less. No fail.

Now, how could that be?

Over the years I mulled over this story thinking it was just a perception on Annie’s part. Maybe the brothers knew their customers much better than she realized. Maybe they had a backroom full of inventory that met everyone’s needs. Sometimes people are a little lazy and may not want to look for requested items at the end of the day, but will get it out later—after the store is closed and they don’t have to watch the cash register or worry about tending to customers.

Then one day it dawned on me that I might also knew who these two brothers were. In fact, I had once been escorted deep into the bowels of their backroom storage area and attended a somewhat clandestine meeting. At least the long walk back into the meeting room had felt very secret and mysterious.

In the 1960’s I wasn’t able to vote yet, but I was a real John F. Kennedy aficionado and wanted to, “Ask not what my country could do for me but what I could do for my country.” So right after high school, I was accepted into a small government volunteer program initiated by the Kennedy family in Washington D.C. It was a sort of a domestic Peace Corps that helped people in poor communities in the U.S. My job was very minor and paid very much below minimum, but I felt privileged to offer any help I could. In conjunction, I was also working with a church group from Ohio who had also come to work along the same community service lines in the Española Valley. At the time, everyone seemed to be working on water rights and building canals and irrigation ditches for the farmers to grow their own food without water disputes with their neighbors.

During the middle of the summer, I was informed of a routine meeting but at an out-of-the-way place. It would be at a store, run by the two brothers. I had been by this place before and never saw more than one or two cars in front. I never could figure out what they sold or what service was performed. No real merchandise was really available, no gas, food, beer, and no service like gas, or car repair was offered. This little plain building sat close to some small hills directly behind it.

I suppose owners of a seemingly no-business store front could have been dealing in illegal drugs or something else illegal—but I was so naive I only picked up on how weirdly suspicious one of the brothers always looked at me. I don’t believe I ever saw any evidence of wrong doing, so I simply played stupid and did as I was told. Therefore, if this was the place where my small group wanted to have their meeting, then I would be there.

After I arrived, I wondered where we could meet inside this small building. I had to stand in the shop because there were no friendly chairs to sit on and only one or two items to look at. A few papers and documents littered the case and hung on the walls. The slightly paranoid brother eyed me suspiciously again while I waited. I tried not to notice him watching me. When my team leader “Mark” and a few other members arrived, the suspicious brother finally moved some boxes from a wall and pulled back a few wood panels to a dark corridor lined with empty boxes. I would never have suspected an opening in that wall. Mark went in first and I followed him—the suspicious brother followed behind me and ahead of the other few members of my group. The suspicious brother watched everyone and made sure everyone kept true to the narrow path, focused their eyes on the floor, and didn’t look around too much. It was messy but a narrow single had been cleared although we all had to step over a box or two. It seemed there were no windows or they had been mostly blacked-out because very little light entered the hallways and rooms full of empty boxes. There may have been stock items on shelves in the back but it was too dark to see. For some reason I didn’t really think there was any stock or merchandise. As for the untidy and unorganized condition, I suppose people who have their own business will run it their own way.

I couldn’t believe how far we had walked. I think the brothers had actually continued building into the small hills behind their store and added rooms into the soil of the small hills behind them. Finally, we saw the light of the meeting room. Small and improvised, the room seated about eight (uncomfortably) in various types of second-hand chairs around a table that appeared to be a school reject of some kind. A single lamp was hanging above the center of the table. It almost looked something like a room for interrogation.

After we all sat down, I remember we all kind of laughed at the drama of it all—even the suspicious brother. There was nothing mysterious or even very interesting about anything we talked about after we sat down. By the time the short meeting ended, I had decided these guys were just like little boys who wanted to show off the fort they had built.

So, I tried to act impressed . . . that seemed to be all it was. They probably built up the mystery only to make a dark place appear more exciting.

After the meeting, we were escorted out by the suspicious brother the same way we came in—in the semi-dark and with no one looking around too much. After we came through the secret hidey-hole in the sunlit store and the panels and boxes were back in place, the suspicious brother relaxed considerably. I left thinking that it had been a really odd experience.

Now, after remembering that experience, I am sure that these brothers did not stock everything they needed in those dark rooms. How they were so resourceful is still a real mystery. I have not driven by there in many years, so I am not sure if they are still performing such an amazing delivery system—or if it even still exists. I doubt they were really the tricky little devils others (like Annie) thought they were.

Nevertheless, paranormal or not, I am sure something very odd was happening in that store—that did no business.

 

—Raven DeVille

Read 1730 times Last modified on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 08:21
Raven Q. DeVille

Raven was born in the extreme SE corner of New Mexico, lived in the 4-corners region for 11 years, and has spent the last 50 years in Española, Santa Fe, and especially in the city of Los Alamos. She writes of her own various first-hand experiences, second-hand tales of friends, and various theories regarding ghost stories, legends and general oddness of Enchanted New Mexico.

More in this category: « White Witch Strange Wild Things »

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