Chapter One: The Coburn Mystery (Original Draft)

By June Morrall (1988)

The teenagers in the village of Pescadero thought that Mrs. Sarah Coburn–who told everybody she was 68 when she was actually 82– the kids thought she was a very rich, polite and proper lady. But sometimes they couldn’t resist looking in the windows of her house to see if they could see anything.

With her steel gray hair pulled back tightly into a bun, Sarah Coburn occasionally stood at the front gate of her wood frame ranch home on San Gregorio St and watched the schoolchildren walk by. She might say, “Good Morning,” or single out the prettiest flowers in bloom tended by the Portuguese ranchhand Joe Quilla. Sometimes her 68-year-old mentally challenged stepson, Wally, was at her side.

Sarah was frugal, rumored by the other housewives to fry potatoes, with watered-down lard and to hide money in the walls behind the wallpaper and then forget about it. Everybody knew there was a lot of cash in the house but Sarah felt safe; she always locked all the doors.

While the kids didn’t pay much attention to Sarah, the grown-ups had their own ideas about her. Through their eyes she was an old lady who loved to wear gingham dresses and boss people around and nobody likes to be bossed around. She couldn’t take her own medicine, though, and everybody knew you “couldn’t tell her to do anything.”

If there was one word to describe Sarah Coburn, locals said it was “testy.”


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