Friday, August 26, 2011
I always wondered what became of the school bully. It was one of those things that was on my mind from time to time even twenty years after the fact. I think looking back on past events, I’m glad I finally met up with the guy one night and put all my questions to rest.
In Junior High there was only one true bully. His name was Chet Dixon and he was an eighth grader with a reputation. He took being a threatening person to such a high level that it’s amazing he wasn’t kicked out of school sooner than he was. Of course, I remembered his name and I saw it on the computer at work. I had one of those call center jobs and we had records of customers all over the state of Missouri. His account came up on my screen one day and we talked. I was actually pretty excited.
Chet sure didn’t sound creepy on the phone but then again, he never spoke much back in school. I guess if he sounded like trouble, I would not have taken his invitation. Chet invited me to his apartment . He was renting a big loft in downtown St. Louis.
Of course, no one would dare show up at his house years ago. He was really the only kid I stayed away from the minute I saw him. I was the skinniest student male or female in that whole damn school building. I wasn’t about to get in anyones way and Chet made a name for himself during the first week of classes.
He attacked some kid who was, quite frankly, pretty overweight. It was in one of the hallways and a lot of people saw it but Chet pretty much got away with it. He went up to the kid, who was carrying his share of books, and just started punching him. Chet knocked the kid over after just a few swings, got him on the ground and kicked him two or three times. Of course Chet had muscles at a young age and was a pale with an expressionless face. He showed no emotion but the kid he pounded on sure did and the sounds of cries were echoing through the hallway.
That was it for me. A random beating like that convinced me to stay the hell away from him and that’s what I did. If Chet was on one side of the room, I was on the other. If he was in the hallway, I’d already be in a classroom away from his path.
It became clear later in the year that it was the heavier kids he wanted to target. If a kid was out of shape, Chet was there to taunt them. To top it off, he had all these articles on horror movies he was collecting. He’d stick them on his locker and no one messed with them. It just made the people he picked on fear him more.
At one point during the year, when winter hit, there were some unlikely rumors associated with Chet. People claimed he was a loner who hung out at a local movie theatre. He was said to have been going to horror movies by himself. Another rumor was that his parents would drop him off at Six Flags, before it closed for the season, and he’d go to the amusement park and just watch the shows alone. Someone even told me he donated to a charity nearby our school on a regular basis. This is what everyone talked about before he started wearing the mask.
Chet made a mask in art class. The whole class actually had to make them to show some unseen side of their personalities. The one Chet made was odd and may or may not have been a joke. It was the friendliest face one would could possibly create. It was some circle with a smile that didn’t look evil at all.
Soon, he started wearing the mask around. It was weird. He’d wear it between classes of after school. I never understood it and I don’t think anyone else did. Of course, everyone understood that Chet wasn’t happy once the attack happened.
I was in the locker room after a basketball game one night and it was just me and this kid Sam sitting in there. Sam was really out of shape and he ate a ton and had breathing problems. People felt sorry for him. We were in there sitting on a bench and then suddenly the lights went out. It was dark but I could see someone holding a flashlight. When he shined the light on himself, I could tell it was Chet.
Chet had his mask on and a metal bar in his hand. It was hard to even see what was happening but I know he went right after Sam, hitting the boy with the metal piece and with the flashlight, right in front of me. It was an all out beating and a one sided one at that. I ran towards one of the walls and managed to turn the lights on. Chet just looked at me, with his mask still on. He just chucked his weapon down on the ground near Sam and walked out of the room. That was the incident that got him kicked of school.
Going over to visit Chet twenty years later may have been a crazy idea with all these memories I had. It’s not as if he was actually a friend from years past. Still, as it turned out, I was happy I went.
He seemed like such a nice guy when he greeted me at the door and he wasn’t wearing a mask. He also had quite a collection of horror movie posters to look at. Dinner wasn’t bad either. It was me, Chet and his partner Mike. Mike was some chubby guy that Chet had met at a bar.
In the gloom of twilight Joseph reached towards the black metal railing. Down below him he watched what might’ve been a human trudge slowly down the sidewalk.
The overhang of thick branches and leaves added a second layer of darkness to the sidewalk that ran in-between the two buildings, but a lone lamp shined bright enough to assure Joseph it wasn’t poor lighting that twisted his view of whatever it was down below.
One arm of the misshapen form was far larger than the rest of the body and nearly dragged across the ground. Neither of the small legs that carried it looked like they would’ve been capable of holding the creature’s weight, and given its slow pace, Joseph didn’t think they were doing an adequate job.
Half of the thing’s head appeared to be absorbed into its massive, fleshy shoulder, but given the angle, Joseph couldn’t say for certain. Just as he couldn’t say what was wrong with its other arm, aware of only the fact that it had been ravaged by something, the dark, wet red of blood was visible even though the arm remained largely hidden behind the bulk of its body.
Right before it reached the small lamp jutting out of the sidewalk, the thing paused in its stride. Its entire body began to turn towards Joseph, the gleam of wet eyes just barely noticeable within deep sockets of flesh.
Joseph knocked the screen door off its track when he jerked his body back into his well-lit living room. He managed to close the sliding glass door with his foot, and swung it hard enough to send a deep bang reverberating through his mind.
Lying on the ground, the empty balcony and what lay beyond it just on the other side of a single piece of glass, Joseph did his best to avoid hyperventilating.
The first and most obvious question immediately came to him: had he actually seen that? His rattled mind couldn’t give him an adequate answer.
To his left his computer screen remained on. Just ten minutes ago he had been engrossed in his job of entering in data for the night. A five-minute break, he had told himself, to clear his head and let his eyes recover from staring at a spreadsheet for two hours.
Now he inched closer to the closed glass door to his balcony and tried to see over the edge to the ground below, but the balcony was too long. He had no way of knowing if the thing was still down there, or if he’d seen it at all.
Three months had already been spent living in that apartment, but he had moved in during the winter, and never bothered to go out onto the balcony until that moment.
Another thought attempted to break through everything else. The creature had been wearing black shorts and a black shirt. He’d been so shocked by everything else about it he hadn’t put much thought to what it wore, but now that he really considered it, unable to rid himself of that image, he could see clearly in his mind the outfit, along with who else wore an almost identical one.
Just across the little patch of grass that separated the two apartment buildings lived a man named Rick Kirkland. Joseph had only spoken to him on a few occasions, and never quite cared to speak to him anymore. At the age of twenty-three he was only one year younger than Joseph, but had managed to land a job with a salary Joseph himself could only dream about. Rick was not above making subtle references to this.
Rick also went jogging nearly every night.
On instinct Joseph pushed himself off the floor. He stepped out his front door just in time to see Rick wearing black shorts and a black shirt about to walk through his own front door. He was privy to a small wave from Rick, and then the man was gone.
Joseph stepped cautiously back into his apartment, and then up to his balcony door. There was no one below when he peered over the railing.
Across from him a light clicked on in Rick’s apartment. Joseph saw a massive shape nothing like the healthy Rick pass across the window, hidden behind drawn blinds.
Back inside the apartment Joseph locked the balcony door. He didn’t bother to pick up the fallen screen door still lying on the floor. He turned off his computer without thought and without saving anything he had done for the past half-hour.
A largely sleepless night followed by a largely unproductive day left Joseph hunched over his desk with a pencil in his hand and a notepad out in front of him. He slowly attempted to draw the image still engrained in his mind.
He had left work early using the excuse of an illness. Now he crumpled up the paper and threw it with an annoyed grunt into the trashcan.
The day was still bright right outside on the balcony that was almost calling for Joseph to come out and take a look.
Slowly he pushed himself up from his seat and made himself slide open the door. As soon as the door was open he could hear the cries and laughter of children playing, and had seen in passing the three sisters, none of them more than ten, playing in the pathway between the buildings.
But as soon as he stepped over the threshold and onto the balcony the sound of the voices changed. What had been the friendly laughter of children dipped in tone to a more guttural, yet equally energetic noise.
He didn’t want to step up to the railing and look at what lay below him, but by that point Joseph didn’t think he could stop himself.
All three of the girls ran about each other down below, their skin sunken to the point of what would’ve been starvation, but beneath the tight flesh, even from how far away Joseph was, he could still see where other shapes moved around just below the surface. Long, thick strands of brown hair completely obscured their faces. The hands they reached out to play tag with one another appeared to be little more than protrusions of jagged bone.
Joseph pulled back into the apartment before he could see anymore. He staggered to the front door and yanked it open, nearly stumbled over his own feet as he hurried out into the day and down the stairs in front of his apartment.
Three little girls stopped in their merriment to watch his white, sweaty face and deep shudders. After a few seconds they disbanded their games and started back for their apartment, the look of apprehension on their young faces evident.
They were afraid of him. He managed to stop the fit of laughter.
He didn’t go back onto the balcony that night.
Thankfully the weekend spared Joseph from work he knew he wouldn’t have been able to do anyways. Joseph practically opened the door before Owen could knock.
His colleague stepped into the apartment with a look of interest. Joseph hadn’t actually told Owen anything on the phone other than to come in, but that was out of the ordinary enough to gain Owen’s interest.
He wasn’t invited due to any particular friendship between the two men. In fact, Joseph was more inclined to dislike Owen’s attempts to analyze and explain away everyone’s behavior. After all, as Owen would readily explain, he did have a degree in psychology.
But Owen was also the only person who Joseph thought might be willing to take this situation seriously, if only out of curiosity, though Joseph was beginning to feel his lack of true friends catching up with him.
“What gives me the honor?” Owen asked.
“Come out onto the balcony with me.”
Owen followed him with an eyebrow raised and a slight smile on his face until the two men stood out on the balcony and the stretch between the two building, lit primarily by a lone lamp in the middle, glowing in the darkness of the night.
Joseph felt his breath hitch immediately when he saw the woman walking her dog just outside the radius of light from the lamp. The light from the surrounding buildings gave him a good enough view of the mutilated form, her head like a pulpy mound of flesh that had been beaten on for several hours straight.
The hairless little dog at the end of the lease seemed to be biting at itself, tearing open its own stomach. Joseph’s wide eyes flickered to Owen, who stood beside him with that same look of curiosity, glancing down at the woman and the dog, before returning his gaze to Joseph.
“What’s got you all nervous?” Owen asked.
Joseph didn’t even ask him if he saw anything because it was clear he didn’t. Only Joseph saw these creatures, and only then while standing out on the balcony.
“Everything looks normal to you?” Joseph asked.
“Why wouldn’t it?”
And so that ended Joseph’s attempts to get outside help. The next twenty minutes involved a largely pointless conversation where Joseph avoided mentioning anything about what he was seeing from the balcony, until he finally showed Owen the door, who departed with that same curious grin on his face.
It was only after Owen had turned to leave and started down the steps that Joseph noticed the shape moving underneath Owen’s collar.
From the balcony he stared over the railing at what he knew was Owen, walking down the sidewalk towards his car, stopping only briefly to look back at Joseph and smile with what looked like two mouths melting into each other, the hand he raised to wave goodbye containing three ravaged fingers.
Joseph slammed the door to the balcony hard enough to leave a long, thin crack through the glass.
He didn’t answer the phone when it rang on Monday. They tried again on Tuesday. They didn’t call again on Wednesday.
The balcony wasn’t necessary anymore. All Joseph needed to do was look out the window to see those hideous forms walking around outside, and every time he pulled back his blinds to look at them, he could see their eyes shift towards his apartment.
He hadn’t left his apartment in four days. His supply of food wouldn’t last much longer. Even outside his apartment he could almost see their other faces beneath the surface of humanity, just as he had seen a glimpse of something wrong with Owen before his former coworker walked down the steps.
What they were and why he could see them wasn’t nearly as important as figuring out what to do. The only thing he knew for certain was that this couldn’t go on for any longer.
On Friday he left his apartment for the first time. He knew Rick’s schedule. The alcove in front of Rick’s apartment was deep and the light that was meant to illuminate it was long broken.
Rick didn’t sense anything was wrong as he pulled out his keys, whistling a tune Joseph didn’t know, tremors running beneath the surface of Rick’s tanned skin. As soon as the door was unlocked and opened Joseph slammed into Rick’s back, threw him to the ground, and had the knife underneath his chin.
That took the fight right out of him. Joseph kicked the front door closed while getting the blade just close enough to draw blood.
“What are you?” Joseph growled into Rick’s ear.
Rick’s muscles loosened. The tension flowed out of him even as his skin seemed to melt into his muscles. Slowly an eye began to break through the flesh in the back of Rick’s head and stare into Joseph’s face.
“Too many for you to kill,” Rick chuckled.
Joseph dug the knife in before he jerked it to the side. Beneath him Rick’s body bucked and convulsed, but the death spasms didn’t last for very long.
From behind the blinds in his dark apartment Joseph watched the people wheeling Rick’s body out of his apartment two days after he had died. A white sheet blocked Joseph’s view of what Rick looked like. Two mutated things loaded the corpse into an ambulance, while police officers just as freakish as Joseph’s neighbors questioned the woman who lived across from Rick.
All of them were looking towards Joseph’s apartment. They were all smiling at him with wide mouths; some of them so wide they took up half the face.
He let the blinds fall back into place. No one bothered to come over and knock on his door. There was no need to. They all knew who he was and what he had done. What did it matter if he knew? There was no one else he had seen that was human.
Perhaps Joseph was the only one left?
Cynthia collapsed against her door after a single blow. Joseph stared at his next-door neighbor for only a few seconds before he pulled her into his open apartment door. She appeared almost normal, but he had seen her walking down below before, and seen the hideous face she hid away.
He tied her to a chair as fast as he could, his arms weak from lack of food, the effort of tying her nearly too much for him, but by the time she began to stir the ropes were in place.
She didn’t jerk awake in surprise. She didn’t look around in bewilderment or fear at her situation. Instead her head slowly rose, her eyes widening so far her forehead began to split open to allow her eyes to grow larger. Her nose seemed to shrivel up and pull back inside her head, mouth a gaping mess of dull teeth.
“This won’t be enough,” she sneered, before arching her head back and screaming with a voice louder than anything Joseph had heard before.
He swung out his arm to strike her, forgetting until the knife tore through her cheek that he had even been holding it.
The flesh began to knit itself back together while blood oozed slowly down the side of her face. A raspy laugh shook within her abdomen.
Outside of his apartment he could see the flashing lights of the police driving up.
“Most of them are already ours,” she laughed at him when his eyes darted towards the lights. “You have no idea what they plan on doing to you when they find you with me.”
He caught her across the face hard enough to swell up the flesh around her right eye. The blow didn’t do anything but make her start laughing again, and now the police were running up the stairs out front.
Joseph lifted up the blinds just enough to see the cars near the side of the building, and in the soft afternoon sun he could make out almost all of his neighbors, all of them so hideous he couldn’t stare at them for long.
A crack of wood shuddered through his front door. He stared at Cynthia’s smiling face and then to the knife still clutched in his hand.
As soon as the door broke open Officer Cooke was moving into the apartment with Officer Tolbert and Riley right behind him. The girl tied to the chair screamed to them to untie her. Cooke focused on the man still convulsing on the ground.
The long handle of a knife jutted out from his right eye.
Cooke glanced over his shoulder to see Riley escorting the girl out of the apartment while Tolbert knelt down beside him.
By then the man’s body had stopped. Cooke could see his good left eye rolled towards him, staring up at him. He felt a certain tension he didn’t like staring into that wide-open eye.
“Guess we know who killed the guy across the way,” Tolbert said.
“I guess we do.”
“I’ll go down and get someone to come up here and take care of him,” Tolbert said.
The air conditioner was off in the apartment, and the fierce summer heat that had started to wear Cooke down had seeped in. He slid open the balcony door, noting as he did the deep cracks running through the glass, and stepped out into the relative cool of the late afternoon, at least in comparison to the apartment.
As soon as he looked down his breath caught. On the far side of the path between the buildings he could see the creatures huddled together to watch the show.
His gaze ran slowly over the twisted shapes whispering to each other, and he suddenly realized that all of them were staring up directly at him.
He almost screamed to his fellow officers, except when he lowered his eyes to look at them, at least two of them were no different than the neighbors. Dressed in their police uniforms, these creatures walked among the others unnoticed, one of them heading up the stairs towards the apartment.
The girl who had been held hostage was down below talking to Riley, but she didn’t look like a girl anymore. Her eyes rose to meet his, the side of her face a swollen mound of purplish skin, the entire lower half of her face nothing but a mess of teeth and darkness. She stared at him with a large smile spread across his face and a knowing kind of look in her eyes.
“You in here Henry?” a voice called out from within the apartment, and was enough to make Cooke tear his eyes away from the knowing smile of the girl down below.
Fred Davies was the deformed officer he had seen walking up to the apartment. Cooke had known Fred for ten years.
“Could you come out here?” Cooke called out, his hand slowly wrapping around the handle of his gun.
He blocked Fred’s view of the gun when his friend walked out onto the balcony.
“What’s going on?” Fred asked him, certainly able to see the tension in Cooke’s body.
“Look over there,” Cooke said, pointing towards the huddled group of creatures, never taking his eyes off of his supposed friend.
“What about them?” Fred asked. He glanced back over at Cooke, a slight smile on his lips as his eyes shined with restrained amusement.
Cooke pulled out his gun and fired.
“She’s not tapping outside the window Dad,” My eleven year old boy, Tuck, shouted at me. “She’s inside the window, tapping to get out. We can’t let her escape though, or she’ll drag me away!”
“Drag you where?” I asked in confusion, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
“To the place they take scared boys,” he explained to me in a terrified whisper. “The Darkness!”
“What’s The Darkness?” I asked as I very clumsily sat up.
“I was too afraid to ask.” He explained, wiping a tear off of his cheek.
name is Alex Vettateli, and this was what I had to put up with every day at around 3:15 a.m. for the past three months. Quite frankly, I was beginning to get a little tired of it. I kept trying to explain to him that the tree on the outside of his room was rubbing against the window, but he totally caught me out in left field with this wild story about a woman caught on the inside of it. This was new, and I ignored it as a child’s wild imagination.
I got out of bed and walked toward Tuck’s room to show him one last time that this was only some branches from a tree playing tricks on his mind, and not some lady stuck inside a window taping to get out. I was very calmly explaining to him that the idea was absolutely absurd, and that all blabbing about it was going to do was get him a one way ticket into an insane asylum.
“See?” I asked him as I rolled up the blinds, pointing to the window. “Tree branches, don’t you see? You’re jumping at shadows.”
I didn’t actually look at the window, because logic told me that I could safely assume that there was no lady staring at me. When I turned around I didn’t see any tree branches, or shadows for that matter. I saw a lady with jet black hair, and pale greyish blue skin leaning against the window. She was letting out short, furious, and impatient breaths that seemed to get heavier and faster the longer I looked at her until pretty soon she let out a blood curdling shriek that broke the silence of the night.
I stood in one place, my body frozen with fear, hindering me from doing anything or going anywhere. My son was pulling at my shirt and asking if I could see the angry lady inside the window, the angry lady who was shrieking in a fit of rage, punching at the window with all
the power she could muster up. All in an attempt at what would seem to get to me, and considering I was only inches from her face I was as you could safely say scared witless.
The whole room seemed to let out a thunderous boom after every punch, and her shriek filled your head until it seemed as if it was going to explode. I felt like I had to hold my head together in order to prevent it from splattering into pieces as the sound waves bounced back and forth inside my head, dropping me to my knees. My son kept crying to me, begging me to make her stop.
Suddenly she ceased her wailing and hammering on the glass, and everything appeared as calm as before. I climbed to my feet so I could peer out the window and make sure she was gone. Just as questions filled my head, I saw her staring at me with those hate filled eyes of hers. At first she just pointed at me, a gesture that made me feel as if someone had been holding a gun at my head.
“Forsaken!” She shouted with her finger still aimed at my cranium. “I have come for you!”
I woke up that morning beside my son, both of us lying on the floor. I crawled over toward Tuck and gave him a shake, telling him we should get some breakfast as I was sure we missed the bus. Although I had no idea what time it was, my body told me it must be late in the afternoon.
“Or maybe it would be a better idea to catch some lunch,” I told him as I peered at the clock which read 2:15 p.m. “How do you feel about take out? There’s a new sandwich shop down the street?”
“Do they have subs?” He asked with a huge beam of a smile. “I want a pizza sub!”
“Pizza sub it is!” I promised.
While walking down the street, I began to remember what happened the night before. However, I shrugged it off as a bad dream, thinking if something like that did happen Tuck would probably be traumatized. Is that how Tuck see’s it? A nightmare that he has been having for the past three months that always gets slightly worse each day?
The first night that this… thing woke him up, he had only complained of a scratching noise, which I showed him was only some tree branches. After that, it slowly kept getting worse until last night when he complained of an actual lady inside of the window. Was it possible that he creeped me out to the point that we both shared the same illusion? I figured that a talk with a psychiatrist would be the best route to figure things out.
“Let’s sit over here Tuck!” I called out to my son as he politely accepted a pizza sub from the woman at the counter. “Dad had a bad dream last night, and would like to stay clear of any windows for a while.”
“It wasn’t a dream Dad,” Tuck said as he unravelled his sub and took a bite. “She told me that you would try to rationalize this, but she also said to warn you that their coming for the Forsaken One. That they would take him and for eternity punish him in The Darkness.”
“You mean there are more?” I asked.
“Yep,” He answered, taking another bite out of his sub. “If you thought the woman was scary, wait until you meet the rest!”
Sub-consciously I had known Tuck was right, however I was not ready to accept that a horde of ghosts had hand-picked me as their Forsaken, and were getting ready to take me into The Darkness to be tortured for all eternity. I had explained to Tuck, as well as to myself, that there must be some other logical explanation for the events that took place last night. That somehow our frightened minds had joined and experienced the same terrifying mirage, or night terror, or whatever you want to call it.
The walk home was a long and awkward silent moment between Tuck and I, with me trying to find any way possible to break the reticence. I thought long and hard about a topic that we could discuss, but my mind kept returning to the dead lady inside Tuck’s window. I kept thinking about the weird and eerie tingling sensation that engulfed my body after she had peered into my eyes and screamed out ‘Forsaken’.
“How’s school going?” I asked him, shaking out all other thoughts from my head.
“Not bad,” he answered, never taking his eyes from the sidewalk. “I don’t see the point though.”
“Don’t see the point in what?” I inquired.
“The point in even going to school,” he explained. “The lady told me that getting an education is a fruitless task at having a life, because once The Darkness takes us away we will be slaves to its bidding.”
“Listen to me,” I told him as I gripped both his shoulders, looking directly into his eyes. “There is no lady, and there is no Darkness. It’s just our imaginations getting the better of us, and to prove it I’m going to call in an expert.”
“An expert?” Tuck asked flustered.
“Mediums,” I began to explain. “People who can see ghosts, if there is a lady in your window this Medium can talk her into leaving.”
“Leave where?” Tuck asked in a genuine worried tone. “Where would she go?”
“Heaven,” I blurted out, failing to think of any other explanation. “Where she belongs; if she even exists, which I bet you she doesn’t. If the Medium see’s any signs that ghosts live in your window… Well I will give you a million dollars for Christmas!”
“But you don’t have a million dollars,” Tuck pointed out.
“And you don’t have ghosts living in your window,” I told myself more than to Tuck.
It was 3:45 p.m. when Tuck and I walked through the front door of our house, and sure enough the phone was ringing. I quickly threw my brown suede jacket on the bench near the entrance, and completely ignored our rule about no shoes in the house as I sprinted toward the phone.
“Hello!” I gasped.
“Alex,” A gruff voice said. “Why aren’t you at work? It’s Monday, you begin days this week!”
“Sorry Mr. Randulf sir,” I said as I tried to think of an excuse. “My son became very ill, so I had to take him to the doctors.”
“I hope he’s ok,” Mr. Randulf blurted out, clearly shocked by the news. “He’s a nice boy, and deserves a better father than the likes of you.”
“Thank you for that,” I told him as a smile hit my face. “Yes, he’s fine. Just needs to rest, anyway I have to go check on him now. I will be there tomorrow morning, I promise.”
“Make sure you are,” Mr. Randulf ordered as he hung up the phone.
As Chief of Security for the mall, Mr.Randulf’s reputation was that he could be a very strict man. However, ever since he became a grandfather ten years ago, he had developed a soft spot for anyone who had children. Which was why I worked the sick child excuse, works every time.
“Why didn’t you just tell him the truth?” Tuck asked as he finished taking off his shoes, placing them neatly under the bench. “That you slept in?”
“Because then Tuck my boy,” I told him, kicking off my own shoes carelessly. “I would be fired, and we would eventually be evicted and forced to live in the streets, eating whatever we find out of garbage cans.”
“Oh…good call,” Tuck said as he sat on the couch to watch TV.
“I thought so,” I replied as I broke open the classifieds in order to find a Medium.
As I sat down on the couch beside Tuck, I quickly stole the remote control from his hand so fast that it didn’t register in his brain at first that he no longer held what he called ‘the clicker’. I also noticed that he really didn’t care. In fact, his attention was purely focused on the television, even though we hadn’t yet turned it on. As I studied my boy closer, I had noticed that he had the appearance of a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
“That’s new,” he whispered, pointing toward the TV.
“What’s new?” I asked, looking at the television unit in curiosity. Considering Tuck told me the lady in the window was stuck, I took that as an understanding that she could only be in that one window. However, there was a small bit of information that I forgot about. As I stared at the TV it hit me like a ton of bricks, ‘She told me to warn you that they are coming for the Forsaken One’.
Here they were, all staring at me through the screen of my television unit. At first, shock and horror replaced all thought process and I could only stare at them in disbelief. It’s not that I didn’t trust that last night actually happened; I repudiated it! For the simple fact that if it did happen, that means that these individuals in my TV were here to drag me into some darkness and torture me for God knows how long and in God knows what ways.
There must have been a dozen, all staring at me through my twenty-seven inch flat screen made by Toshiba. Their grey deathly faces and lifeless eyes all trying to catch a look at us, with one elderly and scraggly gentleman shoving his way in with his face pressed against the glass. Pawing and scratching at it, clearly wanting through. Suddenly he stopped, gave me a wink and looked up, reaching for the top of the screen as he did. To my dismay, the scraggly elderly man peeled back the screen and crawled into the room. He walked over to where Tuck and I sat on the couch, bent down, and slowly reached out with his hand and rested it on my shoulder.
“Unlike Pearl my good sir,” he explained to me as he leaned in close enough that he could have given me a kiss. “We are not trapped in The Darkness, we own The Darkness! Like Pearl though, you will be trapped in The Darkness… soon, very soon…”
“What are you waiting for?” I asked in a high pitched, frightened voice.
“For you to believe,” he replied, vanishing into thin air.
“Believe what?” I asked, noticing that no one was here other than Tuck and I, with the television unit back to its original unpeeled state.
“Now would be a great time to call that Medium,” Tuck suggested, never taking his eyes off the TV.
I had talked to a man named Jaramiah Taloc, and by the sound of his raspy voice I would have guessed that he was in his sixties or seventies. At that age, it was very hard to tell how old a man was, depending on how well he treated his body he could very well be a fifty year old man that only that sounds seventy.
We went through what had happened to my son and me during the past twenty four hours, and I had told him that the scare just started as a scratch on my son’s window that got progressively worse during the past three months. Describing the events brought back the fear that had forced my heart to beat double time, and I had to take breaks during the conversation in order to reclaim myself. He had waited patiently during these periods of trepidation, and for that I was grateful. After a half hour of very thoroughly going through those terrifying occasions,
Jeremiah agreed to come see us immediately.
The wait for Jeremiah Taloc was both long and agonizing, and both Tuck and I sat at the dinner table trying to keep the television out of view. The silence was the worst as we sat their waiting for something happen, praying to every higher power we could think of that nothing would. Our nerves had been so strung out that when we heard a knock at the door, we both sprung to our feet, yelping like two scarred puppies.
“This is ridiculous!” I yelled out loud as I answered the door. “Hello Jeremiah, I’m Alex, the one who called you about the… ghost problem…”
“Yes, The Darkness.” A tiny old man wearing wire rimmed glasses, hunched over on a cane told me. “I remember the dreadful events that you described to me, and to be honest I have never heard anything like it in my long years as a Medium. May I come in and investigate?”
“Oh yes,” I said as I moved out of his way. “How rude of me, please come in.”
“Is this the television unit that the last spirit came out of?” He asked as he slowly walked over to our TV.
“Yeah,” I told him, not quite sure how to explain it. “He just sort of peeled the screen back and stepped into the room. I’m sure this sounds crazy; I mean it sure sounds crazy to me. I must have mixed medication this morning, which is resulting in me having hallucinations.”
“If that were true,” he explained as he peered at me through those wire rimmed spectacles. “Then your boy wouldn’t have been able to witness the same events. Well, unless you gave him the same meds, and you had the extremely rare occasion of experiencing the same hallucination. You must trust that this did indeed happen, it could be very dangerous for you to consider otherwise.”
“Well I don’t know what to be certain of,” I sighed as I ran my hands through my hair. “I mixed up my meds, or some ghost walked out from my TV and told me that as soon as I ‘believe’, they’re going to drag me into some darkness…”
“I’m very sorry,” Jeremiah told me with a bewildered expression. “I take back my previous comment; it’s actually safer if you don’t believe.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, knowing full well what he meant.
“If you believe in this place they call The Darkness,” Jeremiah told me as he sat on the couch, letting out a shaky sigh. “They will take you to the deepest and darkest corner where reality meets imagination.”
“Please,” I begged in a shaky voice. “Get them out of my house!”
I quickly figured out that bringing in a Medium was the worst idea possible in this kind of situation, considering the more he talked the more I began believing in this place called The Darkness. He had been very persuasive, making me worry for my own as well as my son’s life. What was to happen to us? Will we live out the night? Both questions raced through my head at a rapid rate.
“We are being watched,” Jeremiah told us, stopping at the entrance to the kitchen. “They do not like that I’m here; I am aggravating them.”
“To Hell with them,” I said as I examined the kitchen. “If they don’t like it, they can leave.”
Blood began running down the walls, making me want to take back my last comment and beg for forgiveness. I quickly kneeled down and hugged Tuck in an attempt to shield him at whatever was getting ready to come out at us, screaming for Jeremiah to make them stop. Suddenly the lights went out, leaving us in a room so dark that you couldn’t see your own hands in front of your face.
“What do we do now Mr. Taloc sir?” Tuck asked in the bravest voice that he could muster up. “How do we get rid of them? How do we send these spirits back to where they came from?”
We waited for several seconds for an answer, and when you’re in the kind of frightened state that Tuck and I found ourselves in, seconds seem like hours. We waited in the dark until we could not bear waiting anymore!
“Jeremiah!” I whispered loudly, in an attempt at hopelessly being unheard by the spirits that surely surrounded us, but still loud enough to get Mr. Taloc’s attention. “What the hell do we do now?”
“Where are you?” I heard him say from a far off distance. “Alex? Tuck? I can hear you, but I can’t find you.”
“We’re where we were before Mr. Taloc,” Tuck yelled out. “We haven’t moved from the spot since the lights went out.”
I gave Tuck a nudge and whispered softly in his ear that if he couldn’t keep it down to at least a loud whisper, then I had to strongly encourage him to shut up. We awaited Jeremiah’s return for a few more seconds, hoping that The Medium found us before the spirits did.
“The lights never went out though,” Jeremiah told us, sounding farther away than ever.
As I pondered Mr. Taloc’s last sentence, a face appeared in front of us, giving off a faint green glow. It was that same elderly man that was in my TV, breathing so furiously that for a moment I was beginning to wonder if his head would explode. Slowly, he tilted his head back and began to let out a diabolical laugh that made my skin crawl.
“We have you now Forsaken One, and I see you brought your son with you…excellent” he told me, sending a jolt of fear threw my heart that was so intense tears began streaming down my face. “Enjoy your stay in The Darkness!”
“No…” I shuddered as my legs gave out, landing me on my back. “No! NOOO!!!”
After my breakup I was looking for a miracle like the warm beach which had become my haven. One afternoon, I found my miracle on the same beach, basking in the sun. Shards of silver were scattered in his hair and on his chest. I went up to him and said hi in a voice, which I thought, was sexy charming. After a long pause, he asked me whether I was a hooker. I turned crimson and it wasn’t the sun.
The old wooden door thudded shut on the dim light of the living room. The slurred shout from his drunken mother echoing in Jimmy's ears. “Get my medicine! Smokes and some milk for your little worthless sister, I can't stand her whining!” Jimmy didn't say a word; this was a regular occurrence at his home if you could call it that. The Old house had no foundation; walls slowing sinking back into the cesspool of the earth. Boarded up windows over broken glass; curtains which never opened, no visitors, just his trips to the store. And the monthly check to pay off the debt at the 5th ST Deli. It was the only life Jimmy knew, twelve years old, looking ten. Skinny freckled a little mentally challenged, only a thread bare coat to protect him from the weather. He shivered looked both ways avoided the broken step on the porch and stepped out into the cold. He wished he had a friend to go with him, of course he didn't. People were scared of him, just like his father said his mother scornfully in a rare lucid moment. He didn't have any idea why, even the girls in school had picked on him; that is before his imaginary friend had come to visit. As of late, no school-never, mother said the principal didn't want him there. He knew it had something to do with his last day at school; it all was very fuzzy.
The street was cold and dark, there were street lights dotting the sidewalk, most worked a few didn't, that made it scary. Jimmy kept walking, fast almost a run towards the store, it was only a few blocks. The shadows held monsters from the Id, he knew it to be true, and his Dad had told him so. Dad was an almost forgotten memory. He said the monsters would come from the Id one day and his world would change. What would change he had no idea. He remembered his Dad as tall thin and freckled with red hair, he was almost a carbon copy of him said his Mother; like it was an insult. There were monsters on the street at night; the old abandoned warehouse on the corner harbored some. At the street corners the darkness contained a real threat. Night creatures dressed in baggy clothes, they scared Jimmy badly. Once they had taken his coat his and money, and made his nose bleed from a punch. He had fell to the ground and saw weird flashes of light in his eyes. He had awaked in Mr. Cowen's store lying on counter. Mrs. Cowen doctored up his bloody face. Mr. Cowen hadn't told him what happened but the big pistol in the little shopkeeper’s hand told the story. The windows of the store were barred by iron grates and the door reinforced with metal plate. He felt safe there; stories told by the mailman were great. The last person to try to rob little old Mr. Cowen had gotten a ride to the morgue for his effort.
He came to the 5th ST Deli, on the corner of the rundown neighborhood. The old wood framed building, ancient as his house. With chattering teeth he opened the old door and went in, the heat hit him hard like a blast of summer. The bell on the top jingled when the door moved, he liked that. Mr. Cowen was there as always, cold cigar permanently glued to the side of his mouth. The small olive skinned grocer with a white halo around his glistening dome; was as tough as nails. “Hi Mr. Cowen I came for some medicine for mom, cigarettes, and milk.”
The sharp nosed man of late years smiled down on little Jimmy, scratching his balding palate. Wondering why his mother would send him out late at night in this neighborhood, hell he only went out late if it was an emergency and then always with his gun. He stiffly walked over to the glass refrigerator and took out half gallon milk for the boy. He put it in a paper sack, and then added a fifth of vodka, and two packs of non-filtered cigarettes. He put the paper sack into a plastic bag to keep the sack dry. “Here ya go Jimmy; I'll put it on your mother's credit slip till the first, be careful going home.” He mentally cuffed himself for saying such a stupid thing. That was a tantamount to saying; be careful playing on the train tracks. Hell, everyone in this neighborhood feared for their life after dark. He should have given the kid his 1911 forty-five he had used in the Great War. Then told him to shoot anyone who looked threatening or hell anyone on the street at all, that was the only sure way to be careful in this neighborhood. Mr. Cowen shook his head in disgust at the thought of Jimmy's mother sending such an innocent child out into this hell at night; damn he wished Jack and Billy were still around.
The boy heard the door clang behind him; the wind had come up and buffeted his skinny body. It was dark and lonely and he was scared. He hurried down the dimly lit block, past the burned out houses and broken street lights. There were two people lurking on the corner, anyone out this late was bad news. The two young men paid him there undivided attention; he turned and quickened his pace, now going caddy corner across the street. Overflowing trash cans lined the avenue; broken picket fences decorated the sidewalk. An occasional face surfaced behind tightly drawn curtains. It was cold the wind blew harder he wanted to be home, he walked faster. He was only a block from his house now; it was on the other side of the street. He hurried as fast as his little scrawny legs would propel him. The bad men ran across the street to intercept him, he stopped cold; they were standing in his path. They loomed over him smelling badly, their faces displayed with eerie grins.
“What’s the hurry boy, what did you bring us?” said the young man, the pallor of his dark skin blending with his dark clothes, both hands, deep in his pockets. His friend dressed the same, a larger version of the first reached for the bag. Jimmy knew to give it up would result in a whipping at home.
Jimmy standing still scared but brave said, “No that's for my little sister and mom you can't have it! Mother said I could get Jack if someone bothered me. That was it Jack, Jack was why he couldn't go to school. Dimly in his shallow mind something was stirring rising up, his fear was crumbling. His voice was turning harsh, “Leave me alone or you will be sorry.” Little Jimmy stuck out his sunken chest and looked determined, eyes looking cold and serious. The two men stopped at the remark and resurveyed their surroundings; nothing. No one moved; the world around them was empty. Across the street an eyeball protruded through the thin slit of a dirty curtain.
The two tough gang bangers laughed together, “Slick! Take the bag, it’s getting cold, if he says anything stick him.” The big one called Toad stood back as the little one pulled a gleaming blade with one hand while his other reached for the sack.
“Jack!” screamed Little Jimmy, putting the sack on the ground.
The gangster froze; he looked around and still saw no one. His bigger friend Toad said, “Stick the little creep its cold out here.” Then they noticed Jimmy, he was changing, something dreadful was alive within him. The air around them grew hot; cold icy breath came from nowhere. The smell of ozone tainted their nostrils. Little Jimmy shadow grew in size, shimmering in the dim street lights.
Little Jimmy's right eye was steady, flickering with intensity, the left eye wandered without focus. “Come and get it!” said a hoarse voice where Jimmy once stood. The manifestation was glowing wildly, Jimmy barely visible in the midst of the red flickering light. Suddenly the apparition galvanized into a blood red warrior, as real as a nightmare, it picked up a heavy pipe; the shimmering opaque vision from hell attacked.
“What the!” said the smaller gangster, he looked back at his friend who nodded in terror; he turned and drove his blade towards Little Jimmy's once small belly.
Jack moved forward like lightening. He blocked the arm holding the knife with the long pipe, then reversed it direction and sliced back down. With inhuman strength it crushed the little gangsters arm blood spurt everywhere. Sticky red fluid dripped off the apparition’s ghostly form like wet fire. His massive right foot flew into the small gangster's crotch. The man screamed and fell down holding his mangled arm. Not pausing Jack attacked the bigger man. He stabbed dead center; the pipe plunged into the large gangster’s chest. He lifted the man high into the air blood splattering the scene; the man’s screams were horrid. Standing like the statue of liberty in the middle of the cold deserted street, he threw the massive form away like a sack of bloody potatoes, the sickly thud was deafening. All was quiet except the whimpering of the once tough gang banger; holding his crushed nuts with his good arm. Little Jimmy had never moved.
Little Jimmy retrieved his bag and hurried home, more scared of what had happened to him than anything in the night. Shaking violently he eased up the stairs avoiding the broken steps and gratefully entered the unlocked door. He wasn't quite sure what had happened but he had blood all over him; not his own.
The neighbors watched the scene in awe from their windows, a few smiled wickedly, no one bothered to call the police; for the moment.
Detective Clark, Homicide arrived at the scene, very broad and very Polish. He looked at the dead body of Toad, lying in a pool of his own blood. On the dark street only the flickering red and blue lights helped dissipate the gloom. His friend Slick was in the aide car, whining loudly over his damaged arm and crushed nuts. “Shut up Slick, no one is going to believe that a twelve year old kid did this, your smoking too much crack, as for Toad good riddance to human waste.”
Jones eying the victim standing next to Clark said quietly, “Reminds me of a murder we investigated about ten years ago doesn't it?” His heavy topcoat was open and blowing slightly in the wind.
“Ya, I was trying not to remember, real weird.” Clark wore a heavy leather fly jacket over his suit, a little gauche in style but functional.
Slick pleaded in pain, the drugs finally kicking in continued, “The kid did this, there were people looking out the windows!” he finished; it sounded lame even to him in his injured condition. They stood next to the aide car and watched Toads lifeless body loaded unceremoniously into a van.
The large Polish Detective fingered his unshaven jaw and said, “Emergency first, then book him for the murder of one dead Toad.”
Back in their office, Detective Clark sat at his metal desk, next to a green metal filing cabinet. The padded metal chair he had brought from home custom made especially for his wide frame. The green and white checkered linoleum bonded with faded green walls. The once white now yellow ceiling completed the picture. He rolled his metal chair back chewed on his lip and asked his partner, “Remember that guy Stevens? The nut that was sent up to the asylum for murder, the list of missing persons stretched out over ten years?”
“Ya I do, the name was Ted Stevens, very tall on the scrawny side, kept saying Jack and Billy had done it; claimed they were spirits who resided in his head. Detective Jones, Clark's partner of ten years sat opposite him drinking bad coffee out of a battered mug. Enormous black hands engulfed the cup. Jones padded metal chair had an extra tall back made by his son in metal shop. The chairs like the occupants made the floor squeak from their weight.
“Slick kept babbling the little kid had killed Toad; his name is Jimmy Stevens.” he let it hang in the air for a minute and added, “Ted Stevens is his father.” Clark looked at Jones and patiently waited for his take.
Jones chewed on the statement for a moment then said, “Remember when that crazy Stevens lived in that neighborhood, crime was down, fairly safe to walk the streets at night. People would talk about bad guys meeting appropriate ends; we would go on calls find bodies, dead of course, no motive just dead men. All with long rap sheets, who ventured into the wrong area, never had a lead. The neighbors just wouldn't cooperate; something was going on and not a peep out of anyone. We thought at first Stevens was killing muggers and rapists, but it didn't fit. The man was a wuss, six foot tall, hundred and twenty-five pounds he was so puny he couldn't mug a cat. The business about his two imaginary friends Billy and Jack didn't come out for years. He was involuntarily committed for being nuts, not enough evidence to prove murder. The word is he demanded to be locked up; so I guess he is still in the Looney bin.”
Clark said, “Jimmy lives with his mom and kid sister, home schooled, my son went to school with him. He said, get this, the kids in school were scared of him! Jimmy's mom Abigail should be dead by now, last time we picked her up for driving drunk she had been drinking vodka for breakfast lunch and dinner; hell that was maybe five years ago.”
Jones thought about this for a bit, “You think the kid is taking up where his father supposedly left off?” he took his size fifteen shoes off the desk got up and walked over to coffee pot. Debated the issue then topped off his bad coffee. Jones not waiting for an answer continued, “You know we have had two killing in that neighborhood the last two weeks, unsolved, no clues, nothing. We thought the street gangs were bumping each other off, but it doesn't fit, no motive.
“What gnawing my gut,” said Clark obviously a little confused by the direction he was taking, “is that Slick said Jimmy referred to himself as Jack in a strange voice, like he was Jack not Little Jimmy, just like one of the Spirits who lived in his father’s head.”
“That is strange alright,” said Detective Jones sitting back down putting his feet back up on his worn metal desk. “Jack is back; maybe from Jimmy's father's head?”
Clark answered, “I guess we should interview the nutcase Stevens, he's upstate in the asylum, its somewhere to start.” Clark looked at his partner got up walked his big frame towards the coat rack and said, “I think we should keep this train of thought to ourselves, we do have some reputation left to protect; a little anyway.”
Jones got up looking down at his partner, approaching seven feet, he towered a head over his wide partner. “Let’s stop by the Kids house and look around first.” They went through the door, Jones ducted from habit to avoiding hitting his head; Clark twisted a bit sideways out of habit, his frame too wide for narrow doorways; they were the Pollock’s.
They descended into the old neighborhood; never safe, only occasional shadows of its former self remained. They drove their unmarked cruiser through the once viable neighborhood. The once pristine streets were with strewn with battered trash cans, dead cars, and broken fences. Detective Jones sat uncomfortably on the passenger side with his knees touching the dash,” How about stopping at Mario's for some lunch, we might get lucky and even get some information.”
“Sounds like a plan, but as for information I doubt it.” They drove along the avenue of homeless people, overfull dumpsters, occasional hooker, and of course the small time dope dealer. Then as if by an invisible line or maybe some magic the scenery changed; at least the one block did. No trash, painted fences, yards mowed, garbage cans with lids; the street was clean. The only visible person sat on a clean painted bench outside the restaurant. He was elderly well-dressed man with a distinct bulge in his suit coat. They drove to the side parking lot of Mario's Restaurant. The lot had newly painted parking lines on black top decorated by vintage Caddy’s circa 1960. They got out not bothering to lock the car, an elderly gentleman sat on a barstool in the window observing the parking lot. A small libation sat before him.
The pair opened a narrow door off the parking lot and entered the dark bar, Jones ducted his long neck and Clark twisted his massive frame.
They heard a deep voice call out, “The Pollock’s are here.” Clark was Polish built along the lines of a Mack Truck, his friend and partner Jones was as tall as a telephone pole but darker, the name had been attached to them; they didn't mind the notoriety. They walked past the bar into the dining room. Tony sat at a table in the corner; as always. Excellent view of doors and windows, the light tastefully subdued. It also required a momentary adjustment to one’s eyesight. Of medium build, an elegant gentleman in his golden years, a picturesque retired Italian American. Looks in his case were deceiving; he sat quietly in the low light. Two other well-dressed older men sat near him, one next to the back door the other beside him. His bejeweled manicured hand rested gently on a small cup of Italian coffee. The white shirted bartender was carefully polishing already clean glasses. His arms seemed more attuned for pitching beer kegs instead pouring drinks. His eyes missing nothing, he nodded his head in a friendly manner.
“Good afternoon gentleman it’s been awhile,” greeted Tony always taciturn in communication, not getting up, nor extending his hand.
“We stopped by for lunch and maybe, information,” Clark paused then added politely, “Just about the neighborhood.”
A tall elderly waiter appeared, white jacket no order pad, proper, very dignified. Tony said,” Alfredo; Lunch for my friends, please gentlemen sit down, Coffee?” he gestured with his hands and miracles happened. Bread, silverware, and water materialized. They sat at the tabled next to Tony, it was covered with a white linen table cloth, and magically coffee appeared. “Detective's you haven't graced my establishment since last fall, I'm honored.” Tony looked straight at you the man was real, retired Boss, former inmate, now a restaurateur. This block was his Little Italy, in a broken down neighborhood. The man was enigmatic and well respected. Two other patrons sat in the restaurant drinking coffee, senior citizens of Italian decent, seated strategically by the front door. The detectives knew everyone was carrying. This street, front and back were under Tony's control. You screwed on his turf, the only thing you would get would be a cheap pine box made of non-imported local wood.
“We stopped by to visit, enjoy your good Italian food and maybe ask a question or two. Your opinion on the incident last night would be invaluable to our investigation,” interjected Jones. He was enjoying his nice hot cappuccino, like it was the first decent coffee he had ever tasted. Food arrived on small platters, delivered silently by the waiter. They ate, it was marvelous, Tony's food was authenticate, Italy at its best, just like its owner.
Tony looked into their eyes, first Jones then Clark, shrugged, turned his head to the side and stated, “You mean Toad, no big deal he got knifed. So what? He got what he asked for; we didn’t do it, only heard about it this morning.” He sipped coffee and watched them eat; he enjoyed people dining at his restaurant. “Sometimes things take care of themselves in this neighborhood, like the little boy Jimmy; he seems to be making great strides to replace his old man.”
Clark looked up holding his fork in the air, “You mean his father; the nutcase in the insane asylum?”
“Yes and no,” he paused organizing his thoughts then said, “His grandfather was the same as his father, odd but effective.” Tony looked as if he would add more instead simply shrugged and said,” That is all I will say on the subject, the rest in up to your investigation; this is a very rare and odd matter.”
They didn't ask any more questions, when Tony said he was through talking, he was; completely.
They finished the excellent meal asked for the check, Tony waved his jeweled hand, “No this is on me, I still owe you one, and Alfredo thanks you.”
“Tony this is for Alfredo the best waiter in town,” said Jones taking out his wallet dropping a twenty on the table, Tony simply nodded.
They both got up expressed their gratitude and headed for the door. Outside Jones said,” That man knows how to run a restaurant.”
Clark put in, “And a street, plus I bet you twenty dollars Alfredo is the best shot of any waiter in town,” Jones didn't answer only nodded his approval.
Tony said to his men as Alfredo carefully lit his cigar. They all knew the story but enjoyed listening. “Last year after that unfortunate incident on the sidewalk, the Pollock’s got the DA to drop the investigation. He was referring to the incident where two young thugs pistol whipped an elderly pensioner on the street. She refused to give up her purse and paid for it. A problem developed quickly because of the location of the mugging. It was in front of Mario's; early evening and Alfredo saw it. The waiter not known for his demur, calmly walked outside in full view of witness's and shot the bandits dead. Then carefully retrieved the pensioner’s purse and helped her up. Then escorted her to the restaurant for coffee, surprise no witness's came forth. The DA tried to make a case against Alfredo who denied any involvement. The Pollock’s told the DA to forget it, the punks had sheets a mile long, and they deserved what they got. Looking up at the two enormous men whose physical presence filled up his office, he did just that.
Seated in their car Jones said, “Down to business, we have a mysterious little kid, a crazy father, and now a crazy grandfather. Do we visit Jimmy and his family first or the asylum?” He stood there patting his belly, looking up at Clark waiting for his opinion, they worked as a team.
“Let’s check out the kids place first its closer,” then added, “This is getting a little weird.”
They drove through the tattered streets of the old decrepit neighborhood. The kid's house was run down to say the least. Two story wood house, no foundation, circa 1900, gray dilapidated siding new perhaps sixty years old ago. Wiring up to code; at the at least it was during prohibition. They parked in front, next to the overly flowing trash can and broken gate. The picket fence was missing most of its boards; the severely overgrown lawn in dire need of mowing. They got out Clark’s immense bulk leading the way, Jones towering form followed. The only noticeably thing not in need of repair was the satellite dish on the roof. The weeds were parted on an overgrown path leading to the broken screen door. “I bet we have cops painted somewhere on our backs judging by the activity of the neighbors curtains.”
Jones laughed, looked around and said, “I'm sure we do.” The two Pollock’s filled the porch.
Clark knocked loudly and waited, observing the neighborhood. The abandon cars and unattended yards establishing varying degrees of squalor, “I bet they can't even spell lawnmower here, let alone use one.”
The door opened Little Jimmy stood there looking at them with curiosity, less than five foot, under nourished, with all the intimidation of a marsh mellow said “Can I help you,” he squeaked in his small voice.
Looming over the pathetic figure Clark said, “I'm detective Clark and this is my partner Detective Jones, we would like to talk to you about last night; may we come in?” he didn't wait just pushed open the door and squeezed in.
The boy was pushed backwards like a feather, all his resistance to the moving door meant nothing to the Pollock’s. Graceful in defeat he said, “Please come in Gentleman, “as he retreated quickly from the scary monsters.
They were led to the living room where there stood amidst an abundance of empty vodka bottles and assorted clutter. Over flowing ashtrays added to the decor. The sofa was occupied by a small malnourished woman holding a full glass of clear liquid; her house coat looked lived in. She had a cigarette in her lips, a remote control in her left hand and a drink in her right. “What do you Cops want?” she asked with only a minimal amount of slurred speech. “I'd ask you to sit but you can see there aren’t any chairs.” What she meant to say was all the chairs were full of empty bottles and trash. The windows were so dirty all the dingy curtains did was hide more sunlight from the hovel.
“Mrs. Stevens? I presume. My name is Detective Clark and this is my partner Detective Jones. We wanted ask your son some questions about the killing last night, a witness put him at the scene.” She seemed coherent despite the vast number of empty liquor bottles arguing against it. Her attitude was indifferent, odd for someone whose son was being questioned by the police.
Jimmy was standing near her, hands in his pockets. “Jimmy did you see a man killed last night?” asked Jones towering over him like a skyscraper.
The kid didn't answer, then finally after considerable mental effort said,” No I didn't, Jack did it!” The kid was moving side to side scared shitless thought Jones; he would be too; in his shoes.
“OK son,” said Jones, “where is Jack now we need to ask him a few questions?” The boy tried to stand still, couldn't stop shaking, frozen eyes filled with dread, he said nothing. Leaning down from the heavens he said louder, “Where is Jack?”
Finally the boy cried out, “He's gone I don't know where!” He stood there eyes swelling near tears; terrified, dumb, and shaking.
His mother blurted out almost in a scream, “Go ask his crazy weird father where Jack is, we don't know!” Her breath reeked of vodka, she finished in a low tone, looking up into Jones eyes,” We have never known.” Her eyes closed and she slept.
A little voice said from behind them, “Oh, he's with Billy.” They turned in unison to find a little girl of no more than ten standing in the doorway. Hands in pockets dressed like Jimmy, dirty jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers. She seemed unaffected by having two enormous men in her living room. Her face was young and naïve, complete acceptance of the situation displayed on her face.
“Hi Darling, what’s your name?” asked Clark, kneeling down to get closer to her face. He gently took her hand looking her over for bruises, or any telltale marks of abuse, he found none.
“My name is Jane, I live here, that's my mom and big brother.” She ran her skinny little hands through her uncombed brown hair. The dull look stayed on her face, maybe she wasn't quite up to pare either. Both children were definitely a bubble off level thought Clark, the apple didn't fall to far from the tree; poor kids.
Jones took over pursing the mystery men, “Where are Billy and Jack?”
She didn't fidget, no shaking, just a blank card, she answered, “They both went away with Daddy. Momma says he's in the nut house with Grandpa.” How delicate an answer thought Jones.
“From the mouth of babes,” the slurred remark came from the voice of Mrs. Stevens, recently awakened from oblivion. “You guys better go so I can cook dinner for the kids,” her glassy eyes testified against her cooking.
“Now what?” asked Detective Jones with real concern glancing at his partner. He was standing like a judge deciding a case. He had watched Clark unobtrusively examine the kid, caught his look, no visible abuse. His official mandate was to call child welfare, which in itself was questionable, seeing the failure rate in the system.
A vast rosy presence permeated the room in the form of a plump woman. The detectives looked to the hall as she entered as if she owned the place. “They'll be fine my name is Jenny I live next door,” the woman came without volume control; she exclaimed loudly, “I came by to fix dinner for them as usual, it’s something I do every day.” The woman was short, healthy, and obviously in her right mind. The two Detectives visibly relaxed, the cavalry had come to the rescue. “I live next door and help out Mrs. Stevens when she's a little under the weather.
“That's a kind way of putting it,” said Jones sarcastically glancing at the inebriated woman.
“I was out of town last week which explains the housekeeping; I hope.” Apologizing again as if she was personally responsible for Mrs. Stevens’ condition, and then added, “I just got back this moment.”
Jones liking the woman right off said, “We will need some identification from you and a phone number, if everything checks out we will leave the kids with you and stop back later to discuss their future.” They all turned at the sudden noise from the sofa, Mrs. Stevens was out cold, snoring loudly, head on her chin and drooling.
They left; it was late afternoon so they didn't go back to the precinct. Instead they stopped at the local watering hole not too far from their own homes, both living in the same sub division. Clark called his wife for ride home she said she would be there in an hour. They walked into the bar, typical of this suburb one story Spanish stucco, high ceiling, with wide doors. Neither had to duck or twist to get in the entrance, the parking lot very well lighted, not like in Old Town where they worked.
They chit chatted to the waitress using first names, then ordered a couple of tall beers.
It was a second office at times to discuss a case, and there requisite for both stress and privacy. Leaning back in the oversized chairs in the corner, Jones asked the question, “What is going on? We have a dead gang member, an eyewitness, maybe not too reliable, and a kid with an invisible friend.” He sipped his beer and studied the frost on the glass. “Did I get it!”
Clarke fitting snugly in the wide chair extrapolated; “We have Jack a definite killer. He lives in Jimmy’s head, also has lived in his father’s head, and grandfather's head, and may, possibly be real! Is that the picture?” He sipped his beer looking at the foam and added, “This case is bad.”
“Pretty much,” answered Jones, “Jack killed a man and maimed another, No way Jimmy did it. And who is this Billy the little girl spoke of, and where is he? We need to interview the father Ted Stevens, and find out, just how weird things really are.”
“And maybe the grandfather if he's not in a strait jacket,” finished Clark eating some pretzels on the table. “I think we have another nefarious case dropped in our laps, this stinks of the occult, the devil, evil spirits, something smells very bad. Jimmy is a kid and needs our protection,” continued Clark. “I have two kids you have three, and this system will eat him alive.”
“Looks to me like the kid has more than one personality, maybe three, still he couldn't disable Slick and kill Toad by himself, he needed help. The question is who?” said Jones.
“Not who but what?” said Clark softly, “Tony knows and he isn't talking.”
“Tony's wise, he has seen this before, but what or maybe when? He didn’t appear worried? Your right Clark, this is bad!” They drank more beer in silence.
“I concur with the diagnoses,” Jones paused forming his words carefully, “and treatment. Let’s work all the angles in Jimmy’s corner, poor kid has a drunken mother, a crazy father, and a kid sister. Maybe we can do some good here; I think Tony is banking on us to fix it.” Both men worked the angles in the case, finally deciding more information was the key. The two big hearted Detectives were throwing their considerable weight into Jimmy’s corner.
Early the next morning they drove to the State Mental Health Hospital in silence. Sipping coffee Clark at the wheel, he enjoyed the rolling hills and green landscape. Jones a little too tall for the City issued unmarked, yet was enjoying the drive despite the minor discomfort.
They rolled up to the gate, metal fences and brick walls were the standard fare. It may have been called a hospital but looked more like a prison. They showed their ID and drove through the gate to the parking lot, and headed for the main office. Unlike in town at Mario's, they locked their vehicle. They were escorted to a modest office by a hospital employee who could have passed for a prison guard, uniform, equipment belt but no night stick. He had meant them inside the second gate. They checked their side arms into a lock box, had their ID’s scrutinized for the second time and were shown to the senior administrator.
Greeting them from an expansive desk, he stuck out his hand and shook with vigor, “I’m Director Norbert, I'm in charge of the hospital,” little invisible feathers puffed up at the announcement of his own status, they both ignored it. Pleasantries over they sat down. The Director was of medium height, slightly pudgy, nicely dressed, he immediately began preening his feathers, opened his mouth and Jones cut him off.
We want to interview Ted Stevens, clear up some questions that have arisen concerning his son Jimmy.” Jones studied the man; his first impression of Norbert was shallow, aiming to please; perfect bureaucrat. “And we would like to interview the grandfather as well.” Meanwhile Clark starred straight into Director Norbert's eyes, and slowly edged his massive frame forward; the Director began to sweat. Intimidation being a valuable tool; the detective used it well.
Jones read him like a book, could feel the man’s growing unease in the presence of the two Detectives. Norbert broke without a shot being fired. He had diplomatically decided to give them anything they wanted. What he wanted was the Monsters out of his office, they scared him.
Norbert said, “The elder Stevens hasn't had a visitor in years, I'll have my secretary call upstairs and see if he is lucid.” He picked up a pencil, tapped it on the desk nervously, he finished his thought and said,” I will have a guard escort you to the conference room where Stevens is waiting.” He stood up, then they stood up, they left, he shut the door behind them, only then did he wipe his forehead.
Clark and Jones walking side by side down the wide hall, still they used up a good portion. Clark said what Jones was thinking,” Odd bird isn't he? “Smiling he added, “You intimidated him.”
Jones agreed, “Shaky as a hummingbird, and I liked the way you moved closer to the desk, I thought he was going to soil himself.” The two monster Detectives smiled warmly and walked down the hall, the hospital staff avoided them.
They followed a guard to a secure interview room, reinforced viewing window, locked metal door and a conference table bolted to the floor. Pale green concrete block walls with bright florescent lights completed the picture.
A man was sitting quietly in a grey metal chair. The guard unlocked the door an ushered them in. The guard started to follow but Jones motioned him back and closed the door in his face. Stevens was hand cuffed, shackled at the waist and secured to a heavy chair. The inmate was thin almost anorexic, almost as tall as Clark with a receding hairline, the man looked like a wuss, father like son thought the detectives.
He tried to extend his hand in a greeting motion, not possible. Both Detectives ignored the gesture. “How can I help you gentleman? I was told to cooperate.”
Jones smiled at that statement and sat down across from the patient. Steven’s voice was high scratchy and irritating. He said without preliminaries in his own deep voice, “Who is Jack?”
The man smiled at the statement, didn't reply at first collecting his thoughts then said. “Jack left.”
“Answer the question,” ordered Clark looming over the table like the hood of a Mack Truck. “He asked you who is Jack, not where is Jack!”
The man intimidated, verging on fright, then said with a straight face, “He used to live in my head with his friend Billy. I don't know if they were related I just assumed they knew each other from somewhere else, maybe I should say someplace else.” The Detective's glanced at each other deciding on whose turn and what direction they would take, they read each other like knuckles in a leather glove.
“OK I'll bite,” said Clark, He took a seat next to his partner and said,” You had a two guys living inside your head, say about ten years ago?” He plowed on without waiting, “You confessed to a string of murders and were sent here for life. The gist of it is the two guys Jack and Billy actually did the murders; right?”
“Ya you got it,” he was enthused to say the least, “most people here don't get it, think I'm nuts, just want attention, I don't! I just wanted them to leave me alone!” He was almost drooling, spit flew from his lips.
Leaning forward against the restraints fighting with tenacious effort to get out of his chair, it didn’t happen. Jones leaned slightly forward and effortlessly pushed him back into his seat. Then Jones continued, “He didn't say he believed your story or thought you weren't nuts. We came because of your son Jimmy he seems to be having the same behavior problem. Why did Jack leave you?” he sat back in his chair and pushed back from the table to avoid any spittle.
“Don't you get it?” he said face radiating insanity. “I wanted them to leave me alone, stop forever, so I got myself locked up for good, there's nothing for them to do here.” He continued quickly,” At first they liked it, fighting and beating other patients. So I got myself transferred to solitary, absolutely nothing for them to do. I only get out of my cell for an hour a day and I make them hand cuff and shackle me; well actually it’s the rules; I'm helpless.” He sat back looking like a well satisfied banker smug and self-assured, “I got them I won, there is nothing for them to do!”
“Ya, you sure did,” said Clarke shaking his head, “Solitary for life what a deal.”
“Great plan Huh!” he said that with unveiled enthusiasm.
Wimpy, pale, and pathetic, what a life to choose thought Jones, they left not bothering to say goodbye.
“The man is mad as a hatter,” said Jones after they left the room. “If he believes it, maybe it comes true,” thinking out loud. “Madmen can do some horrendous things, suddenly stronger, quicker, and murderous.”
“Ya they can,” added Clark, “I've had to almost beat a few to death to subdue them. The only problem with the scenario is the Jimmy is less than hundred pounds and not even five feet tall, hell my twelve year old daughter could kick his sorry ass.”
Jones looked at his partner and said nothing. Clark's lovely little daughter was cute about the same age and built like a soviet tank, hell she could kick a lot of ass. He kept that particular line of thought to himself then said, “Lets interview the grandfather and get a bigger picture.”
“This ought to be a riot, he been locked up here for years. As they say the fruit doesn't fall too far from the tree. Let’s eat, I could use a couple donuts and some hot coffee. Maybe it will wash that interview out of my mouth.”
“Me too,” agreed Jones, “I need some time to recover from sheer disgust after interviewing that flaccid excuse for a man.”
They left getting directions to the cafeteria; it was in the main building. They took a corridor to an elevator dropped four stories and suddenly it looked like a hospital. Nurses and orderlies wearing different colored scrubs, people going about their business, it was refreshing after the security wing. They went through the serving line, came out with coffee and lots of donuts, “We don't need to tell anybody were cops,” said Jones, “Just look at what we eat.” They both sat down wearing smiles.
“I bet you a dozen donuts that grandfather is nuttier than his son,” said Clark swallowing a donut almost whole.
“Why did you hear something I didn't?” asked Jones sipping his coffee,” it was good he thought, I got to make better coffee in the office.
Clark finished his donut picked up another and took a healthy bite. “Nope the man been in here about twenty years mostly in solitary, he has to be bonkers. His son is completely nuts and has only been here ten.”
“Good point said Jones,” devouring his third donut, “But I think there is something else here we don't see, the kid and the father have the same obsession. Two invisible guys named Jack and Billy. I'll bet you a dozen donuts grandpa has the same obsession.”
“This case is getting weirder and weirder; “said Clark getting up from the table “Can't wait to meet Billy,” they both laughed.
Jones wiped his chin with a napkin got up and followed Clark out of the cafeteria, answering Clark with, “I think the whole family is a living example for advocating euthanasia.”
Back to the security wing they went. The hospital slowly turned back into a drab green prison. As they walked people stared. Nicely dressed wearing tailored suits cut loose for their girth and weapons; they looked out of place, maybe their size, maybe something else.
On the top floor of the security wing, the patients were kept in isolation. Locks and guards barred every entrance to the wing. The walked to an interview room just like the last, except the guard was already in the room with the prisoner-patient. He portrayed confidence with no signs of leaving, so they didn't ask. He introduced himself as John, the guard was big and brawny and dwarfed his prisoner; he carried a night stick. They shook hands ignoring the senior Stevens. He pointed at his chained patient and began, “Steve here isn't too bad most of the time. Once in a full moon he will start being Billy when he does that he's a damn mad man. It can be a little scary that's why they have me on this ward. ” He stood behind the prisoner-patient with noted caution; the man was prepared to act. The guard John was an ex-college tackle in good shape and confident, any of the Stevens family would be no match for him.
The Pollock’s were looking at a skinny pale man of around sixty. Prison dungarees hung loose on his thin body. Long thin greasy red hair streaked with gray adorned his face. He looked as dangerous as a miniature French poodle. He made no acknowledgement of their presence, restrained by a hand cuffs and leg irons fastened at the waist. Again the whole contraption was anchored to the chair which was bolted to the floor, what was up?
“Looks real dangerous John,” said Clark in obvious disbelief. He stood next to Jones not sure if he could squeeze into the chair, and waited for his fellow Detective to begin.
“Alright Stevens, your name is Steven Stevens?” began Jones trying not to smile, it didn't work. The guard and both detectives broke into grins, shaking his head Jones added, and “Your momma had a sense of humor anyway.”
With quiet determination the grins went away and a serious question was asked, “Stevens tell me about your friends Billy and Jack?” Jones and Clark collective eyes bored into him with serious interest.
Not a waiver in the eyes, no motion in his body, flat, a broken record, no one seemed to be home, then he spoke in a monotone. “I tried to kill myself about twenty years ago, and they brought me here.” He shut up and sat there not talking anymore, totally blank.
Here we go again thought Clark, then said roughly, “Stevens, he asked you about Jack and Billy, not why you’re here,” he leaned over the table and looked directly in his face. The man’s right eye was moving wildly independent of the left, the left eye was fastened on him, “What the hell,” said Clark involuntarily pulling back.
Stevens lurched suddenly and tried to bite him. He screamed, “My names Billy you stupid idiot. Your bothering poor Stevie here, he's mine, you’re on my turf!” he sat back into his chair, no longer meek and mild, a look of shear hate on his face. The man looked damn crazy, livid, ready to bite off your hand like an animal, what a change, thought Clark, and so sudden. A rarely felt tremor of fear passed through him.
Jones took the initiative saying, “Alright Billy who and what are you? Why are you in Stevens? And not somewhere else?” he carefully kept back not leaning over the table.
“It’s a long story; sure you want to hear it? You wouldn't believe me anyway! A blue vague shape was shimmering around his torso, distorted not clear.
“Try us? Were from Old Town and bizarre cases are our trade mark.” said Clark looking very, very interested, the guard stood behind Stevens with his club out.
The smell of ozone and death permeated the room, the temperature was up; it was getting hot. The lights dimmed and turned blue shimmering with streaks of fear. Something was drifting in the room they couldn't quite grasp, more of a feel, something scary, thought Jones. It spoke.
“That's right you’re the Pollock’s from Old Town, I saw you two in action once, you’re tough. You seem interested; here goes; I'm not a wuss like my friend Stevie here, I'm a warrior. Second I'm a spirit, I can only take control of very weak people, dumb, stupid, ignorant or young. Stevie here is feeble minded, weak in spirit and not too bright to boot.” He leaned back in chair looking comfortable, or as well as you could chained top to bottom. “I like to visit him once in a while just to keep him in solitary.”
“Why do that?” asked Jones almost leaning forwards over the table but catching himself.
“I resent stupid here, instead of using me for his own defense he tried to kill himself? Ask yourself; if you lived in a bad neighborhood threatened daily with bodily harm, wouldn’t you use a weapon to protect yourself?” The left eye was alive and intense dripping blue energy, the right eye wandered.
Jones glanced at Clark nodded his head and answered Billy cooley with, “Yes I probably would.” This Billy was smart and intelligent thought Jones and definitely not Stevie. The left eye was motionless, the right wandered. He definitely was possessed, damn weird.
What about Jack where's is he?” asked Clark, out of biting range waiting for the answer. This whole affair was fascinating.
“He's with the grandson, he turned out real good, not like this fool; Jimmy has guts.” He flicked his left eyelid and made Stevie jerk; they jumped. “We are kindred spirits Jack and I, he's a too little too nice for my taste. He sometimes doesn’t finish the job like I do. Like for instance that idiot Slick, I would have killed him as well as Toad; still will kill him if I get the chance.” The left eye was stared straight at the two, the other kept wandering around like an idiots.
The prison/hospital guard was wide eyed and opened mouth listening intensely to the conversation. He had involuntarily stepped back from Billy; just a tad.
“So why did you leave Ted down stairs, why aren't you with him anymore?” said Jones eager for an answer.
“He's too weak to sustain us both for long, we can stay for a bit, but it’s not the same, like staying at a hotel compared to being in your own home”
“The boy I join for brief periods. In time I'll move in and stay. Jacks taking care of the place till the boy gets just a little stronger.”
John the guard with a bizarre expression on his face exclaimed,” I'll be damned there is somebody in there with him.” He pulled up a chair and sat down at the table, giving himself plenty of distance from Billy/Stevens.
“Who are you actually? I would say in your past; a real man? Always a spirit, what?” said Clark, glancing at Jones for pointers, he just shrugged his shoulders and looked back at Billy.
“I'm a spirit, I was a living person once, a long time ago, can't remember much of my life. Jack and I were both warriors at different places in time. Jack said he fought hard in a bad cause and lost, betrayed and executed. I remember some of my past not much, I know I fought hard right to the end, was overwhelmed by sheer numbers and died with my sword in my hand. I too was on the wrong side took many a good man’s life. This is our penance; we were good men fighting on the wrong side for the wrong reason. Maybe were in purgatory.” Billy was winding down, becoming languid. “I have maybe ten years of my penance left; Jimmy seems to be our last. Jack and I are one and the same, warriors using weak vessels; but still fighting. I'm tired, takes a lot of energy to exist in this realm. Good bye, nice talking to you, it’s been centuries since I had a conversation with a mortal.” His eyes closed Stevens leaned forward and collapsed onto the table and snored loudly.
“I'll be damned,” said the guard John, “Billy is real! Stevens is possessed by a spirit. Who would have thought that?”
“Nobody and you don't either!” said Jones, “repeat that story and you will be joining Stevie here, the man’s nuts! Let’s get out of here Clark.”
The Pollock’s got up in unison, gave the guard the evil eye. Clark warned, “Don't ever repeat what you witnessed here. To anybody, no one, nothing, zip it. How would you prove it? You would lose your job, your creditability, and be a candidate for residency here. We know from experience some things you just leave alone, this is one.”
Outside the door Jones put his back against the wall took a deep breath and said, “I'll be damned, I believe it!”
Clark faced the wall, put out both hands and leaned forward, then with a heavy sigh said; “Me too.”
They left in a hurry wanting to put distance between them and Billy/Stevens.
The first hour of the ride back to town was silent; only the conversation with Billy filling their minds. Finally Clark spoke, “I can just see us telling the Chief that little Jimmy is possessed by evil spirits, possibly demons, the undead,” he let out a deep sigh, and then said, “now what?”
Jones was working on the scenario with as little luck as his partner. The weight of the situation hitting them like a hammer,” Clark buddy! We have a major problem!”
Jones his seat all the way back and still uncomfortable said, “Well, we sure aren't going to tell anyone the truth. We would lose our badges and be joining the Stevens in that hospital. Man; talk about picking up bad case, makes wish I was still in vice.” he finished.
“Well we are going to weigh are options, figure out what to do, and do our best,” said Clark oblivious to the traffic around him as they hit town.
“That’s right,” agreed his partner, “there isn't any right way to end this, and we will just try to do the right thing; whatever that is! And thank heaven were not little Jimmy.”
“Amen!” affirmed Clark with troubling thoughts of possession echoing in his mind. “Wow” was his finally comment.
A week later, Jimmy was out late walking to the store, his skinny little body shaking in the cold. Mom had woken up half drunk and ordered him to the store for cigarettes and medicine. He didn't need a note, the store keeper Mr. Cowen knew who they were for. He walked out of the house not bothering to lock the door, what was there to steal? Down the dark street, intermittent street lights interrupted the shadows. The cold wind blew through his thread bare jacket; dutifully he went on his mission. He made his way to the store, past a derelict drunk in a doorway. He pushed through the stores heavy door; the little bell rang as he entered. Mr. Cowen wasn't alone; a man was standing there with him. Jimmy stopped dead in his tracks; the man had a gun it was pointed at Mr. Cowen now at him, back and forth it moved with trembling hands. The man was dressed in stinky baggy sweat clothes and a ski mask. It did little to hide the junkie's identity; Jimmy knew him as Tim. Tim stayed in an old abandoned building down from his house with other homeless people, mom said they were dangerous. Jimmy didn't know, all he knew was Tim always looked scared, of what he wasn't sure.
“Good evening Mr. Cowen, good evening Tim, I came for cigarette's and mom's medicine,” squeaked the small voiced of Jimmy, the spring on the door slammed it shut behind him; sending a shudder through Tim the junkie.
Tim high drunk or just crazy screamed, “You know me, you know me, I'm gonna kill you, kill all of you,” his gun shook terribly waving sided to side. Frantic now, in total panic, all pretense of disguised vanished.
Mr. Cowen backed up saying, “Don't do anything crazy Tim just take this money and go,” he pulled a fist full of bills out of the register and threw it at Tim. Tim was not home, only the ragged remains of a junkie in a worn out body was present. He closed his eyes and started to pull the trigger on Mr. Cowen.
“Stop that! Right now!” said a gruff voice, “don't you dare hurt anyone here, you pathetic excuse for a man!”
The crazed drug addict swung to his left, stared at Jimmy. “Your eyes are going nuts,” panic turned to terror, Jimmy’s right eye was looking straight at him, the left eye was moving violently in all directions. Suddenly it straightened up. Both eyes focused on different points of Tim? The man was terrified, scared, and witless; he pulled the trigger on the big revolver again and again.
“Look out Jimmy,” screamed Mr. Cowen reaching over the counter going for the pistol. He missed and fell over the counter landing hard on the wooden floor.
Things happened. Jimmy form grew, and then split. Violent shadows alternated from blue then to red, ice formed on the windows; Jimmy was as hot as hell; steam rolled in waves from the apparitions. Jimmy barely visible in the glow became a twin set of half-naked warriors. The atmosphere was brutal. It stank of dead animals, ozone, and sweat. The split was complete, blue on the left, red to the right, they attacked. Something not of this world charged head first into the crazed junkie’s legs, the bullets flew over him. A solid red right hit the junkie's chin breaking the jaw. Jimmy blue apparition pulled the gun away with massive strength. Then turned and pointed it at the junkies head and pulled the trigger; brains and blood flew. Blue and red shadows of smoky demons dominated the room, deathly silence returned. The silence was broken by the arguing of two shadow men.
Jimmy lay still on the floor. A gruff voice said, “This is my neighborhood!”
The red shadow man said, “You didn't have to kill him Billy, he wasn’t a murderer!”
“Ya I did,” said the blue apparition, “I haven’t been back in a long time. A warrior needs action, and that little dead bastard was shooting at Jimmy; and Jimmy is what keeps us alive!”
“Your right Billy,” agreed Jack, “glad you are back.” The sandal clad warriors shook hands.
Mr. Cowen had gotten slowly up off the floor where he had fallen. He looked at the dead junkie, then back to Jimmy. Blood dripped from his forehead from the collision with the floor. Grocery shelves were down, products scattered. He smiled broadly and said,” Welcome back fellas! We missed you!” The warriors waved their red and blues hands then faded from sight.
Jimmy got to his feet in a daze. The store keeper went to the door and opened it and said, “Get out of here before the cops come! No one will bother you going home, the boys are back!” He grabbed a carton of cigarettes, a bottle of booze, put them into a sack and then roughly shoved little Jimmy out the door. “No charge!” was the last thing he heard as he stumbled home.
“Later,” said a gruff voice from nowhere. The streets were empty when Jimmy emerged. Almost invisibly ghosts of blue and red shadows flickered around his body. Eyes peered through slit drapes and dirty curtains; no one called the Police; that is; for a while.
It was early in Old Town, the sun only a couple hours old. “Do you believe this?” said Clark was standing outside the 5th St Deli. It was cold; he stared at the broken front window. The heavy wooden door showed recent venting; by large caliber bullets. Mr. Cowen and his oldest son were putting up heavy plywood where glass used to reside. A slight drizzle was falling slowing their progress. Yellow tape held up by 55 gallon drums, usually reserved for burn barrels, secured the perimeter.
“Yes I do,” answered his partner Jones tightening his overcoat. “Let’s go inside and get some coffee.” Clark opened the door and Jones went in ducking usual, Clark twisted slightly from habit, the door was plenty big. Old habits and old spirits seemed hard to break in Old Town. Mrs. Cowen poured them coffee as they unbuttoned their over coats. They waited for Mrs. Cowen to go back up the stairs to their apartment over the store.
Outside the two Cowens continued working amid the sudden gusts of cold wind. The son a mirror image of his father said, “Damn those two are so big they probably violate the load limit on that old wooden floor,” both men chuckled and continued working.
Clarke leaned against the counter and said; “OK here we are again, a dead junkie, a store keeper and no Jimmy. But we have a witness who saw Jimmy outside last night,” he stopped and blew on his hot coffee.
“Ya and the witness is a wino, who is always drunk, and sleeps in a door way; just great.” Jones pulled out a wooden stool next to the counter and sat on it. “We have a stolen revolver 44 caliber cannon that's has five spent cartridges,” he took a deep breath and continued. “A 65 year old store keeper who said he jumped the counter and wrestled the gun away from the deceased. Right! A dead drug addict named Tim, accidentally shot in the scuffle; point blank. A blown out window, big holes in the plywood, and finger prints on the gun. The one clear set are Mr. Cowen’s, very legible. The other set are Tim's, and one very small print on the trigger. I don't think we should do any comparison check on it, do you?”
Clark stirring his coffee with a straw said,” That pistol is so heavy Jimmy could barely lift it, let alone shoot it. We know the shop keeper is lying, looks like he hit his head when he fell over the counter. Only visible blood on Cowen is where he hit his head on the floor. Plus with that big gut of his he isn't going qualify for the Olympics as a high jumper.” Clark sipped his coffee and waited for his partner to respond.
Jones sipped his coffee and smiled pleasantly indicating the coffee was good. He said, “Who every pulled the trigger got a load of blood on him, the top of the man’s head was gone. The junkie’s jaw was broken, and so was his neck; that takes strength.”
Clark continued to extrapolate on his partner’s train of thought. “Ya and the call came in hours after the coroner figured it went down. Why the delay in calling the Police, lots of blood near the body. The first Officers on the scene said Cowen had some blood on him, but not enough to be the trigger man.”
“Gunshots were reported but not at the time of death, what gives, a cover up but for whom and why?” Jones said reading his partner
Finally mulling over the facts, running it through his head over and over Jones gave up and said, “Billy, Jack or both?” He wasn't smiling this wasn't funny, two homicides just outside a week, evidence pointing to a skinny, slightly stupid twelve year old boy. “
Clark looked around making sure there wasn't anyone listening. He sat down his Styrofoam cup crossed his arms and began with, “He was shot in the head, point blank. Already on the floor when he was shot; Billy would be my bet, he came back.”
Jones eye balled his partner and asked a question, “Can the kid support them both now? We have two extremely lethal spirits, without any fear of recourse, there only Achilles heel is the boy.”
Clark waited a moment and said “The spirits need the kid, screw with the kid and your toast. So what do we do, we can't tell anybody about Jack and Billy. We would be kicked off the force or wind up at the very least in parking enforcement, either way this stinks, “he unfolded his arms picked up the cup and drank. He put down his cup and said to Jones,” I think we should write it up just like Cowen said it happened, carefully erase the print on the trigger, and close the case.”
Jones was nodding in agreement, “It may not be legal but I think it the right thing to do. It would give us some breathing room anyway, let’s do it,” he got up, buttoned his overcoat and followed Clark followed outside.
“Cowen!” said Jones, “we are going to write it up just like you said it happened.”
“Well that's how it happened, honest detectives!” he lied, with a straight face, blood seeping through his bandage.
“That's Bull Shit Cowen!” said Clark plainly pissed, “we know it, you know it. You knew Ted Stevens, and you know what going on, but for Jimmy sake stick to your stupid story,” The Pollock’s got into their unmarked car and squealed out.
His wife leaning from the window above the store said, “I listened in from upstairs, they know about Jack and Billy!”
Mr. Cowen said, “So what, try to tell that to a jury!” His son smiled broadly, his wife laughed. The mood cheery they continued to repair the store front. The lethal pair of devils in Old Town were back.
The pair of pissed detectives knew they were at an impasse. “What to do? Who to tell? What not to tell? Who would believe it anyway?” said Jones to Clark, “The only person who would believe us is that guard at the hospital, and he would be a fool to tell anyone.”
Clark was driving; Jones sat scrunched up in his seat thinking. “Let’s forget about the whole thing and hope it blows itself out,” he suggested that knowing full well the pair of lethal spirits would never let go; not as long as they had Jimmy.
Not much else we can do, I don't haven't a clue how to deal with evil spirits, demonic possessions, or the undead. Let’s give this case over to the morgue;” said Clark with a smile, “they deal with the dead every day.”
“Good idea,” they wrote it up as Mr. Cowen said it happened, then dropped it, and hoped it would go away; it didn't.
Two weeks later on a slow lazy Sunday evening found little Jimmy was walking by Mario's Restaurant. A notorious local gang was admiring an old mint Cadillac parking in Mario's lot. The Caddy belonged to the waiter Alfredo, as was his custom he parked towards the back; leaving the front for paying customers. Alfredo tall and thin, a man in his golden years refused to quit working; he was a waiter and would be until he couldn't stand up; period. He was filling in for another waiter who wanted to go to his daughter christening at the church that evening. He didn't lock his car, never did. He got out stiffly and stood up for a moment letting his back straighten out. An elderly sparse haired gentleman sat quietly on a bar stool near the window. As was his custom he held a short glass of bourbon for medicinal purposes, his keen eyes observing everything from years of habit. An ancient well cared for 45 colt sat comfortably in his shoulder holster; his suit coat unfastened he sat patiently at his post.
The gang-banger’s leader said to his fellow hoodlums, “The plan is we destroy that old man. He's the one who murdered Streak and Stretch last year. Don't hesitate to shoot any those old men in suits either. They all work for Tony so you know there all packing. Ready? Let’s do it.” The gang rose up from behind an old fence in the alley, guns out they opened fired at Alfredo's back.
Jimmy startled, screamed without hesitation, “Look out,” in his high boyish voice. Alfredo hit the deck; bullets flew over his head and deposited themselves in his Caddie. The old man in the window didn't hesitate; he pulled his 45 and blasted through the glass. The old man stood solid remaining in the window. He took aim and drilled the punk nearest Alfredo three times in the chest.
Two shadows emerged shimmering blue and red in the half light of evening. The apparitions vague in the evening light galvanized into action; they became real. Billy and Jack exploded into the picture; no longer vague shadows, now explosive ancient warriors. Flying over the fence at a dead run Jimmy’s once temporal shadows were solid. They plowed into the back of the nearest gang-bangers. Necks snapped, arms broke, and stunned spectators were seeing the full might of the spirit duo. Billy rolled to his feet clutching a pistol and shot two of his wounded men where they lay; there suffering ceased. Jack deposited his red foot in a gangster chest, the crunch was sickening. Alfredo was on the ground crawling for cover by his car. The six still alive swung around to meet there new attackers. Jack leaped onto two, a foot on each chest; they hit the ground hard. He paused momentarily to break both necks. Billy flew into another pair, flipped the pistol and held the barrel like a club. The big 44 revolver crushed one skull and then another with sickening thuds. Jimmy hadn’t moved, though he stood breathless covered in blood. Possibly a minute had gone by; total eight dead, no wounded. The warm evening had turned chilly, the dead bodies vented steam, frost lay on the ground, but only in the parking lot.
The smell of ozone filled the evening air. Tony walked out the back door and surveyed the damage. Dead bodies decorated his asphalt. His gray entourages were with him; guns drawn. Unemotional and taciturn, he stood rigid for a moment then with authority issued orders, “Frankie get Jimmy out of here now!” Frankie his right hand man moved without hesitation. Blue and red flickers dominated the atmosphere around Jimmy; like a bloody fairytale. Frankie had seen it before, unperturbed he grabbed the kid who resisted. Unmovable as concrete until Tony said loud and firm, “Billy! Jack! Funs over we got to move the kid before the cops show.” The kids resistance melted, the apparitions faded to nothingness; Frankie left with the bloody child in tow.
The old gun man was named Charlie. Covered with glass from the window joined his boss. His arm wet with whiskey from his spilled drink. “Man, that was quick Tony; those punks jumped up from behind that tall fence and just started blasting. The only warning was from Jimmy, the kid saved his life. Alfredo he hit the ground fast, not bad for a worn out old waiter. I never would have believed this if I hadn’t seen it myself.”
Alfredo standing next to his longtime friend Charlie, brushing off dirt and asphalt from the parking lot said, “Who you calling old?” The men standing around smiled at that remark. “It’s good to have Billy and Jack back, toughest hombres I ever saw, and the deadliest, “said Tony.
“Sorry about the shooting out the window boss, just didn't have time to go out the door,” said Charlie with a straight face.
“That’s OK Charlie; it’s hard to find good help.”
Georgio the Chef standing with meat cleaver in hand spoke quietly, “Look at those two,” inspecting the corpses. “Billy smashed their heads like melons. I have never seen anything like it, what strength!” he seemed to be enjoying the mess. “I heard stories of those two spirits but this is more than impressive.” He smiled wickedly at the mess and said; “I’m glad they’re back, this is entertaining!” he let out a deep breath.
Tony looked around at his aging crew and said, “Good work fellas, forget about Jimmy being here. Wipe the guns, just another gang fight. Charlie he shot that big one in front, self-defense, got it; as for the spirits; no such thing. He knew no one would believe that story, hell he wouldn't believe it himself, but try to prove him wrong, the only witnesses were dead or worked for him. No one bothered to call the police; till later.
That evening a little cold but clear and very crowded for a Sunday night. The Detective's Jones and Clark arrived on the scene amid, ambulances, cop cars, yellow tape, reporters and lots of gawkers. “What a mess,” said Clark, his partner just nodded and sipped some warm coffee. They ambled over to the scene, there combined girth made people involuntarily step aside. Uniformed police were holding the crowd back; they talked to the officers in charge, looked at the preliminary findings, and didn't believe a word of it.
Finally after a conference with the other officers Jones said, “Bull shit, it’s all bull shit, it didn't happen that way. Tony and his gang of old men are full of it! Two of the victim’s faces have been beaten half off; one the recovered firearms is covered in brains and blood.”
Clark aggravated beyond belief added, “They supposedly shot each in a gang war, what a bunch of bull, no witness's, early evening, it’s Shit!” He looked exasperated then said, “Billy!”
Jones crushed his Styrofoam cup and grimaced, “Jack.” The crowd around the two detectives was visibly quiet unintentionally moving away from the enraged men.
Half an hour later Jones holding another coffee definitely more relaxed said, “Lots of witness's all working for Tony. Not one other person came forward. Everyone tells the same exact story, bad guys shoot each other. One old man with a carry permit kills the leader who was shooting at Alfredo. He paused looked around again and continued softly to Clark, “One thing I'm sure ballistics will show Charlie's 45 pumped three slug’s dead center into that big bangers chest.”
Clark added in admiration, “Not bad shooting for a 75 year old man.”
Jones went on, “Since the Steven’s demons came back, police calls in this neighborhood are down 50%. And if you don't count the criminal element, there haven’t been any homicides.”
“People actually can go out at night; Jimmy scares the hell out of criminals. Maybe we should hire him onto the force,” said Clark smiling, and then added solemnly; “I wish we could do so well.”
“Let’s go talk to Tony one more time!” said Jones knowing the answer already. Like the parting of a wave, both uniforms and gawkers were left in the Pollock’s wake; they went to Mario's.
They went through the front door, police and gawkers avoiding the pair. Tony was sitting in the restaurant which was closed for business due to the recent blood shed outside. “Good evening gentleman,” he called out in his rich warm voice, “come and sit and drink some good Italian coffee.” Acting monastic as usual, very pleasant, he could have been a priest in a monastery.
“Why not, “said Jones, taking off his overcoat and putting it on a chair, Clark followed suit. Alfredo apparently unaffected by the evening’s events served them steaming Italian coffee. “Thanks,” said Jones, “Tony, I'd ask you a lot of questions but what would be the point? Would you answer them honestly?” Tony smiled innocently, said nothing then shrugged his shoulders as if protecting a holy covenant.
“Alright no one is around, so let’s speak off the record, this is between just us,” said Clark, Tony sat patiently and waited. “We know about Jack and Billy, as farfetched as it is, we both believe it.”
Jones piped into the conversation and said adamantly, “We won't admit it in public, its pure bullshit if it leaves this room.” He looked at the old men scattered around the tables, a few simply nodded.
“What do we do? “Asked Clark; raising both hands up, palms out, “we have dead people, no suspects but a skinny little boy, no one would believe it, but it needs to stop!” No answer came; no one spoke, “Well?” asked Clark with a long drawn out sigh.
The room was darkly Italian, nice old country. Tony carefully lite a cigar while Alfredo held the match. He puffed settled back into his chair and said “Why?” he waited a minute for the suggestion to sink in then continued. “I can control only one block in the neighborhood, we are old men only the one block is safe, and not always as you can see.” He gestured around him; it’s been ten years since Ted left, crazy as he was the streets were safe. My men and I are ancient; our kids are grown and legit. We old men can't do it alone,” he raised his cigar and poked it at them. “And you,” he paused, “the police can only stop it after it happens. Either way someone is dead, usually the innocent; the only difference is here the guilty are dead.”
“What would you have us do nothing? “Said Clark clearly exasperated by the situation, “We are the Police; we are paid to uphold the law!”
Jones was contemplating what Tony had said, then looked at his partner, sipped some coffee then offered an observation, “Tony's right, we need to play this different, we have two useful individuals, maybe Angels or Something; let’s use them to our advantage. We can't do a damn thing about it except lock up Jimmy forever and I don't like that solution.”
Clark climbed aboard the band wagon, “Alright I'm in, we have to supervise the kid, just to make sure he doesn't get hurt. “How do we do it?” The elderly Italian Mob and the two huge Detectives worked out a plan, the solution was time consuming, but eased by rich coffee and excellent food.
The rough sketch of a plan took a few hours; the procedure to implement the plan took all night; the refinements worked themselves out with time. Jimmy's mom was put into a living facility for alcoholics on Tony's dime. Her large old home was renovated into a nice comfortable rooming house. The permanent guests tended to be elderly Mafioso and retired cops, and they had a lot in common. The next door neighbor Jennie proved to be very valuable to the project; she lived next door and managed the home. Jimmy stayed at the boarding house and his sister moved in with Jennie. Charlie the aging gunman moved in and became Jimmie's Godfather, joined in time by two retired Miami Detectives, everybody packed.
Tony figured in ten years the two spirits would leave Jimmy, he would be dead and buried and the Pollock’s retired, let someone else make deals with the devil.
Months later Jimmy prepared to walk to the store, it was dark and been snowing. Still small and skinny; Old Town still dirty grubby, both were cold. The street lights were still broken, dead cars and old broken fences littered the neighborhood. Charlie needed a bottle of bourbon for his arthritis, Jimmy volunteered to go. Charlie said, “Son a street gang moved in near the store and have been pestering Mr. Cowen. I think it’s time for the neighborhood watch to put an end to it.” In the sitting room two retired Detectives Bill and Bob from Miami nodded agreement. They smiled in unison having been on Tony's payroll for years. All of the old pensioners put on their heavy coats and prepared to go out and watch. They would hang back and enjoy the show; after all this was real, not Television.
It had stopped snowing, the moon was out it was crisp and clear. Jimmy had stopped in front of the store, three tough gang-bangers with violent history and bad intentions moved towards him. Mr. and Mrs. Cowen watched from the stores upper window, grocery bag packed with booze, cigars and candy for Jimmy's return home. Neighbors peeked out their windows, even in this late hour word got around. A knife came out and flashed under the moon, “Gimmie your money squirt or I'll stick ya,” said a punk towering over little Jimmy.
The little boy’s eyes were cockeyed; bluish and reddish lights danced in the cold. The smell of death and ozone blanketed the area. Jimmy’s shadow warriors developed quickly in the night. An opaque manifestation of two ancient soldiers appeared under the street lights; they materialized suddenly onto the material plane. A deep gruff voice came from the twin visions from hell, “It's our neighborhood punk, Right Jack?” The last thing they ever heard in there short rotten lives were, “That's right Billy,” Blood splattered violently; No one bothered to call the police; till much later.