When The Owl Calls Your Name
I was drivin' by Mountain Cookin' Cafe and seen my friend Jake and his cousin Luther Campbell goin'
inside. I decided to stop and have a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie with whipped cream, served by
my Jessie May, of course. Seeing Jessie May will cheer me up.
I slid into the booth next ta Jake. "Hey Jake. Hey Luther, long time no see. I thought you was in Atlanta." I
Luther grinned. "Jim, you old dog you, good ta see ya. I was in Atlanta but I couldn't take all that traffic. They
drive like crazy people there. The crime was real bad. I got mugged one night outside The Hard Rock Cafe.
That was it fer me. After I visit for a spell with Ma and Pa, I'm goin' to look for work in Asheville."
Jessie May came over with a pot of coffee and three coffee cups. "What'll it be boys?" She winked at me.
She took our order and went back behind the counter. Luther was lookin' at her long brown hair and clearly
was admirin' the way her uniform fit her nice figure.
I cleared my throat and said, "Jessie May and I are datin'. She's a great gal."
Luther looked at me said, "Congrats Jim, I been lookin' fer a girl like that. Maybe I'll have better luck now
that I'm home."
Our conversation turned to Ashely's disappearance. Jake and Luther both talked about horrible it was and
stuff like this doesn't happen in Spooks Cove.
"This kind of shit happened in Atlanta all the time. I hate ta see big city crime here at home." Luther shook
I walked outside the cafe and saw a crowd gatherin' at the Grab And Dash across the street. I slowly walked
across the street. I had a feelin' what the excitement was all about. I was right, Ashley had been found.
The next day I was sittin' in Sheriff's Bob's office. "I knowed this is goin' to sound crazy, Bob, but ya know
me and ya know Aunt Sylvie." I told him about the visit from Ashley's mother and what Aunt Sylvie told her
and what she told me.
Sheriff Bob sat back in his chair. "Ya know Jim, if I was a city cop I would think you was a nutcase and I'd
also think you was somehow involved. But, I've known Sylvie all my life and know she's special. She helped
me and Lara when we was havin' problems gittin' pregnant. We owe her big time for Bob Jr." He sighed and
sat forward. "Ashley's body was found by hikers over near Hot Springs by Paint Rock. Ya heard of the
"Yep, I visited the place and other Cherokee holy places when I was young and lookin' for my Cherokee
roots. Jessie May and I went campin' there a couple of months ago. Paint Rock was a sacred place for the
Indians. When the White Man arrived in the area, they found the rock wall painted with Indian artwork. The
Indians didn't take kindly to the White men takin' their holy place and fierce battles was fought over it. The
White Men won."
"You know your history. I will tell ya something that I want ya to keep to yourself. Ashley was mutilated. Her
heart was cut out and left on a rock in front of the rock wall. The rock wall was smeared with her blood. The
crime scene folks from Asheville says it looks like a ritual killin'. I'd hoped to spend my whole law
enforcement career not havin' to see something like that." Sheriff Bob said, lookin' like he had aged 10
I swallowed hard, thinkin' about the last time I seen Ashley. I felt sick on my stomach. I know I won't be
campin' at Paint Rock again.
A week later I went to Aunt Sylvie's house one evening after visitin' Jessie May at the cafe. I don't know
why, I just felt like I had ta. She met me on the porch. "Jimmy, I've been tryin' ta call ya, the owls called
another name." She looked ta be in a panic. "They called Jessie."
"What!" I screamed.
"Ya need to go git her and don't let her outta your sight." Aunt Sylvie said.
I drove fast as I could back to the cafe. I rushed in and yelled for Jessie May. Brenda McDonald come out
and said, "Lord Jimmy, what's all the fuss?"
"Where's Jessie May?" I panted
"Why she left about 20 minutes ago. She should be home by now. What you carryin' on about?" She asked
I run out and went around to the back of the cafe. Jessie May's car was there, but she weren't. "Jessie
May!" I called. No answer.
I run to the pay phone and called Aunt Sylvie. "Aunt Sylvie, she ain't here but her car's here. What do I do?"
I was in a panic.
"Boy, listen ta me very carefully. I seen her. She's at a big rock and it's got carvin' all over it. There's a six
fingered hand on the rock. It's something to do with the Cherokee agin." She said.
I caught my breath. That sounded familiar............."Judaculla Rock! Aunt Sylvie call Sheriff Bob and tell him
what ya told me. Tell him Jessie's at Judaculla Rock. He'll hafta call the Jackson County sheriff's
"I will. Hurry Jimmy!" She said.
I dropped the phone and run for the car. I musta driven 100 to Cullowhee. Judaculla Rock is near Western
Carolina University. It's another sacred place for the Cherokee.
I pulled off onto Caney Fork Road and stopped the car. I run as quietly as I could the rest of the way. I seen
a light ahead and moved quickly toward it. I then seen a man in the lantern light standin' in front of
Judaculla Rock. He was dressed all in black and was mutterin' words I didn't understand. I noticed then
there was a bundle at his feet. "Oh my God, the bundle moved, Jessie!" He held his arms up and I saw the
light glint off a large knife. I run toward him as fast as I could. I run right into him and knocked him to the
ground. He jumped to his feet swingin' the knife at me.
"You Son of a Bitch, you ruined my gift to the great god, Judaculla. I'll kill you for that!" Howled Luther
He came forward swingin' the knife at me. I grabbed his arm, swung him around and pushed him. He fell
over Jessie May's body and hit Judaculla Rock head first. His head made a sickin' thud as it hit.
I knelt down and picked up Jessie May and hugged her. She was makin' funny noises in her throat. I
realized she had duct tape over her mouth. I pulled the duct tape off.
"Ow, that hurt! Jimmy, thank God you're here. How did you know where to find me. Please untie me."
Jessie May said.
I picked up Luther's knife and cut the rope around her hands and ankles. "You can thank Aunt Sylvie for
that, she saw where you was."
I was huggin' Jessie May and tellin' her I'll never, ever let her go. I saw blue lights comin' up Caney Fork
Road. I grinned, "well the calvary is finally here, let's walk up and meet 'em."
The next afternoon, Jessie May and me was sittin' in Sheriff Bob's office. "I can't say enough about how
happy I am to see you, Jessie May. And you too, Jim McElrath, but what you did was foolhardy and
dangerous. That said, your quick action saved Jessie's life."
"It was all Aunt Sylvie's doin'. I just did what had to be done." I squeezed Jessie May's hand.
Sheriff Bob sighed. "I'm having a devil of a time writin' up the report on this one. I need to say why you
knew to go to Judaculla Rock. I wrote that you are an expert on local Indian sacred sites and made a lucky
guess as to where the killer would strike next. Since they got him red handed, I hope they don't ask too
many questions. I called Atlanta PD and tole them about Luther. They're goin' to look at some of their
unsolved murders and see if any match Luther's handiwork. I also searched Luther's room this morin' and
found some mighty disturbin' things. He was really delusional. In his journal, Luther wrote that he thought
he was a great shaman warrior. He was worshippin' the Cherokee God, Judaculla. Luther thought that by
sacrificin' beautiful young woman to Judaculla, he would become powerful and immortal. You know
anything about Judaculla?"
"A little, Judaculla was an ancient god. He was "God Of The Hunt" and he controlled the weather. He lived
on what is now called Devil's Courthouse on the parkway. He also had six fingers on each hand, just like
the carvin' on the rock. I'm guessin' Luther was planning on doin' sacrifices at all the sacred sites 'til he
got his power. Which would mean a heap of killin'." I shuddered. "Where is Luther now?"
"He's in the hospital over in Asheville. He's got a skull fracture and is in a coma. He might not make it. Truth
be told, it won't hurt my feelin's none if he don't make it." Sheriff Bob looked me dead in the eye. "You got a
good head on your shoulders, Jim, and good instincts. You might want to think about takin' some police
science classes over at A-B Tech. When you do, come talk to me and I'll be glad to put you on as a deputy."
Jessie May grinned. "I think that's a grand idea, Jimmy. I always did like a man in uniform."
I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "What Jessie May wants, Jessie May gits."
Later that evening I was sittin' on Aunt Sylvie's porch drinkin' strawberry wine and tellin' her everthin' that
happened. She was unusually quiet.
Finally, she said "I'm shore happy that you and Jessie May is Ok. I'm glad that dog is caught and won't hurt
nobody agin. I've been doin' a lot of thinkin' lately. Ya know your Uncle Virgil and I wasn't blessed with
children. I ain't gittin' any younger and before I leave to go be with my Virgil agin, I needs to pass on what I
know. I think Jessie May has the love for these mountians and it's gifts. If'en she's willin', I want to teach
her all I know.
I felt sad for a moment at the thought of Aunt Sylvie leavin' us, but then I smiled. "I think that's a mighty fine
idea, Aunt Sylvie." I leaned back in the chair and closed my eyes.
"Grandpa, Grandpa, what happened to Luther Campbell?"
I opened my eyes and I was back in the present. I looked at Jessica. She was wide-eyed and leanin' forward
so far I thought she was goin' to fall on her nose. I glanced over at Jim 3. He was also wide-eyed. The
thingamajig was layin' forgotten in his lap.
"He lived, but he was brain damaged. He never went to trial. He spent the rest of his life in a mental
institution. Now, I know it's past yore bedtimes. I know it's past mine. You two have to git up bright and
early tomorrow to help your Grandma Jessie gather ingredients for her cold and croup remedy." I said with
For more info on Judaculla Rock and Paint Rock