By Terry L. White
Mary Elliott canít understand why her parents donít want her to work at the Vienna Pride cannery, but the place holds a dark secret. Cannery girls have poor reputations, but that isnít the worst thing Ė someone is taking the Vienna Pride girls and killing them in gruesome ways. Mary hates the cannery, but circumstances throw her into the heart of a dark mystery.
Can she survive a reality worse than her most frightening nightmare? Will she live to return to the safety of her home and family and will her abductor find justice in the end?
ISBN 978-1-59431-874-0 Mainstream Fiction / Mystery
Mary Elliottís Story
I went to work at the Vienna Pride cannery when I was sixteen, even though people far and wide were talking about Molly Tyler and how she come up missing after she went to work at the factory.
I didnít know anything about all that.
I never met Molly. I just wanted a better chance in life and a few nice things.
If I had known what I was getting into then, I never would have left home in the first place, but I was headstrong and wanted things my mother and father couldnít give me.
There were six of us, too many girls, and not any boys at all to work the familyís fields Ė a cause for both pride and disappointment in my fatherís eyes.
My father was right to try to keep me home. You never know what is going to happen in your life, and I have learned you had better have your family close by when bad things occur. I didnít listen to him, so I learned the hard way that he was a wise man. I should have listened to him.
My name is Mary Jewel Elliott and I am the granddaughter of Michael Elliott who married Jewel LeCompte, the blind woman people mention in stories about the olden days. I grew up on the farm the old folks called Baronís Hope, and I am a descendent of the first settler Mary Charles. The story goes that she came here as an indentured servant straight out of a London jail and that she married the nobleman who bought her indenture.
From the humble viewpoint of my own life, it all seems a fairy tale to me.
Grandpaís second wife Mom Jewel, as the family came to call her, was blind and never had any babies of her own; but the family all loved her to death for she was brave and loving and she could tell the most marvelous stories about the olden days. That is how I came to be named for her a few days after she passed. Mother always said I talked too much. She sometimes warmed my bottom for the stories I told as a child. It seems to me like I came by it honest if the stories about her are true.
Anyway, I was born in the year 1902, a year when the country was between wars and starting a new century.
Here on the peninsula that took in parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, life was quiet most of the time, but that changed as I grew toward what the old folks called my majority. I could not wait to grow up. Life was boring on the Eastern Shore during my childhood, dull and safe.
I had no brothers to go to war and my parents kept us girls close to home.
People here either fished or farmed back then. Some did both, and the men and boys, many of whom came down from the Indians Ė who were here when the first colonists arrived Ė trapped muskrat and coons during the winter.
They sold the skins and ate the meat. No one had much money back then, but they didnít go hungry either.
I graduated from the eighth grade at the school at Somerset Ė as did most of my friends, I think one boy went on to college in Annapolis, but I am not so sure about that.
I didnít see many of my friends after that last year in school, and it did not take long for me to lose track of my classmates. It seems to me the girls married and soon many of the young men were conscripted into the army and had to go to fight the Germans across the sea.
Father said that was the one reason he was glad he had girls, for there were organizations that ranged the country looking for men without proper identification in order to scoop them up to do their patriotic military duty.
After we got out of school, the girls in my family stayed home and learned the ways of running a good home from our mother until a young man came courting. Pa always said he looked forward to getting us girls off his hands since he had six daughters and never a son to lend a hand with the work of farm or the water, but none of us were sure he meant it.
A son-in-law to run the farm would have been welcomed by my father; but my oldest sister Hettie was promised to a doctor, and that pleased Mother no end.
Two of the middle girls had their callers, but no one came to call on me for so long they all decided I was going to be an old maid. Having reached that consensus, it was a forgone conclusion that I would be the one to stay on and care for our parents in their old age. I did not like that idea at all, although I loved my parents as much as any of my sisters.
When I turned sixteen, I thought about it for a while and decided I ought to go down to the biggest cannery in Vienna and try to get a job. It was mortal hot that summer, so it seemed like it took me all day to walk down there and back the first time, but I got the job. My folks were beside themselves when they found out where I had been and what I had done.