yanked out a shopping cart from the one in the row ahead of it and pushed it into the small grocery store. The only cashier in the store was busy checking someone out as she pushed the wobbly-wheeled cart past her toward the produce department.
She placed potatoes, bananas, lettuce, and tomatoes into the metal framed basket. Bread and condiments were next. Deli meat and salads were too tempting to pass up as were coffee and beer.
She took her time walking down each aisle before deciding this would be the store she would frequent, especially since it was so close to her apartment.
When she got up to the checkout, she asked the cashier about the store hours. The middle-aged woman, wearing a green apron with Lenny’s Grocery written across the bib in big white letters, answered Maggie’s question and then asked, “Are you new here?”
“I haven’t lived too far from here; I’m just new to this area.”
The cashier smiled as she continued to ring up Maggie’s groceries. “You’ll love it here. I’ve lived here all my life and never plan to move.”
“It is a beautiful area,” Maggie said, pulling the wallet from her purse.
“So where do you call home now?” The cashier asked as she rang the last item and pointed to her name badge. “And, by the way, my name is Valerie, people just call me Val.”
“Nice to meet you, Val. I moved into the Sandpiper Bluff Apartments today, and I’m here picking up my first set of groceries,” Maggie said, swiping her card in the payment terminal. She put the card away and looked at the cashier who was staring at her. Maggie smiled, but the cashier did not smile back. “Is something wrong?”
The cashier turned back to the register, took the receipt, and handed it to Maggie. “Do you know about that place?”
“What do you mean? Are you talking about ghosts? I know it used to be a sanatorium for people with TB, and later it housed the mentally ill.” Maggie looked to her side as an elderly woman sat a cantaloupe and a can of prune juice on the conveyor belt.
A look of concern spread across the cashier’s face. “That old sanatorium sets way back in there. It is so deep in the woods that you can’t even see it from the road. But obviously you are already aware of that. The wind blows in there hard, and when winter comes you get stranded and the electricity can be out for days.”
Maggie put the grocery bags into her cart. “Winter is a long way off. I’m sure they have someone who keeps the road to it plowed.”
The cashier looked at the old woman, then back to Maggie. “Let me get to the point. You may think I’m crazy, but I don’t think people have been there much lately, and when they are, they come up . . . missing. To tell you the truth, I didn’t realize it had reopened for business.”
Maggie stared at the cashier, this time. She felt a sense of dread wash over her. “Mr. Carl Zimmerman lives there.”
“That old codger,” the old woman behind her said with a loud whiny voice. “He’s nothing but a stinkin’ drunk. I’m surprised he’s still alive. He used to charter fishing boats out of Lighthouse Marina.” The wrinkled woman stopped talking long enough to cough and then continued. “My daddy once said Carl killed a man out there on the water, right there in front of Lake Shore Sanatorium—all liquored up on Scotch, he was.”
Maggie could not believe what she was hearing, or seeing. An old lady’s daddy was talking about Mr. Zimmerman? Had to be Mr. Zimmerman’s father. The old woman did not know what she was talking about; she had to be senile.
“That place is cursed,” the old woman blared as Maggie pushed her cart of groceries out the door. “Don’t go back there or you’ll regret it, girly.”