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Hazy View: Souls of the Vanished

 

Hazy View: Souls of the Vanished

All Rights Reserved

Copyright©2015 Aletta M. Smith

Second Edition

Published by Ink Blood Publishing

All Rights Reserved. This Book May Not Be Reproduced, Transmitted, or Stored In Whole or Part or In Part by any Means, Including Graphic, Electronic, or Mechanical Without the Express Written Consent of the Publisher Except In The Case Of Brief Quotations Embodied In Critical Articles and Reviews

*

TOC

Chapter One

Part I

Part II

Chapter Two

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Chapter Three

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

Part IX

Chapter Four

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

Part IX

Part X

Part XI

Part XII

Chapter Five

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

Part IX

Part X

Part XI

Chapter Six

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

Part IX

Part X

Part XI

Chapter Seven

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

Chapter Eight

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Chapter Nine

Part I

Part II

About the Author

*

Chapter One

[I]

 

The water was clear, calm and the sky warm and cloudless. The rock face rose like a phantom as the moonlight shimmered off the smooth rocks from the water some distance away. A rented twin outboard cabin cruiser drifted slowly, music and laughter echoed through the silence. Earlier youngsters jumped overboard to cool off, but darkness had soon put a stop to that.

Small waves knocked the keel of the cruiser. It was dark on deck. From inside music came as a faint sound. In a distance, night creatures echoed from the rock face and the forests above. In the opposite direction the pier’s marked by lights shining brightly through the darkness.

Linda Newman stumbled on deck as the cabin door closed behind her. Clinging to the railing she saw a shaft of light across the water between the boat and the rock face. Her green eyes strained to see. She had been drinking all-night and the boat’s swaying didn’t make it any easier. The wind tapped her sarong lightly against her legs. Her brown hair, not brushed but towel and wind dried hung against her back. She was nauseous.

Suddenly the light shot across the water before disappearing again. A cold mysterious eerie wind blew in from the rock face. Something was in the water, it drew closer quickly. A soft cry followed the light. It was a desperate cry of a young child, an inhuman heart rendering high-pitched sound. The wind grew even colder, sending shivers through her body. Her two-piece swimsuit wasn’t much protection. She hugged herself firmly. She pushed her slender body away from the railing. A soft moan, a faint rustling, water splashing sound echoed from the darkness. It took her by surprise.

“Steven.”

Linda’s voice was only a breathless whisper that didn’t even carry to the door. She heard nothing, cleared her throat and tried louder.

“Is anyone still awake?”

Still there was no answer from inside the cabin.

The moaning sound came closer. Linda glared into the darkness but saw nothing. Chills ran down her spine. A sharp high-pitched moan echoed loudly but softened occasionally to admit a loud nerve wrecking, paralyzing screech.

Mist formed around the boat.

“Steven, can you hear me?” Linda called franticly.

Linda felt her skin crawl. She wanted to retreat to the cabin and her friends but the sound of the child crying’s held her on deck. Linda moved silently along the railing to the deck chairs near the rear of the boat. She found a spotlight in one of the compartments that held life jackets and a flare gun.

It was beneath the boat scratching and knocking. The water muffled the sound.

Vapor escaped her mouth.

The boat was drifting closer to the rock face.

Nervously Linda shone into the water around the boat. The water was murky and clearly disturbed.

The knocking and scratching stopped, even the cry faded.

A hiss drew her attention at the rear. She shone the light over the engines but saw nothing. She leaned over and shone into the water.

An unseen force suddenly grabbed and held the spotlight. She tried to free it. A sharp ear deafening screech and the sudden release of the spotlight sent her backward. She exploded into the deck chair, bumping her head hard. She heard something crossing the deck from the engines scratching and hissing as it moved. Paralyzed by fear she tried to move to the cabin door. She felt the danger fold around her.

“Steven!”

Horrified Linda gasped as her breath escaped her. She cleared her throat and screamed with all of her might. “Steven!”

The cabin door opened. Her friends, Beth and Steven rushed out. Whatever came on deck vanished.

Beth stumbled forward and dropped to her knees at Linda’s side. Deeply concerned she looked down at Linda.

“Linda, are you okay, what happened?”

Linda passed out.

*

[II]

 

At the distant pier, in the cool morning air another soul was at work. Robert Wilson walked joyfully between his yellow pick-up and the pier. The breeze blew playfully through his gray hair. He whistled and hummed as he walked. He packed his small rowboat with fishing gear and pushed off before he started the small engine.

He headed to his usual fishing spot but saw the cruiser and settled in the middle of the lake. He started fishing while waiting for the sun to rise.

Hours have passed and his mood remained joyful, although he didn’t pull out any fish.

Something hissed from where he couldn’t tell. The hiss became a screech, an inhuman scream. High-pitched one moment then faint the next. He was instantly nervous and weary. With shaking hands he reeled his line in and scanned the water. He saw nothing beyond the moonlight on the surface. He pulled the engine cord.

Nothing happened.

He pulled the cord harder, still nothing.

He turned around slowly. An evil, tormenting cry swept across the water and through his small timid body. He felt shaken to his core, gasping at every breath.

Mist formed on the water.

A gloomy light appeared across the water, closing in on Robert. He yanked the cord filled with fear, knowing that he needed to get out of the water fast. The boat started to move. He turned towards the pier. It seemed too far to row. He changed direction to the nearest shore.

A ghastly moan an eerie water splash echoed loudly leaving him breathless. He felt the cold breath of death on his neck. Vapor escaped his mouth. He turned slowly fearing what had come to claim him.

His hand fell off the steer.

He was speechless, motionless and defeated by what he saw behind him, human, but not human.

“No… Please. No… It’s you, but how? Dear God help us.” Robert pleaded in a panicked whisper.

Robert’s chest felt painful. He was breathless and sweat popped out on his skin. He was numb and dazed. His hearing grew dull and his mouth dry. The world became dark and cold as his lifeless body fell into the bottom of the boat still propelling forward.

*

Chapter Two

[***][*I]

 

Sheriff Martin Parker was in his forties dressed in sheriff’s uniform and dark glasses. He stood on the pier glaring across the lake. He was silent. He glanced up into the darkening sky. It was still bright enough, but he felt the strong urge to get out of the open before the darkness found him and consumed his soul. His short well-kept hair hardly moved in the breeze. He stood with his chest out ready to command his troops, if only he could tear himself away from his thoughts.

The wind was energetic and tugged on loose clothing and clouds were forming rapidly. Deputy Andrew Foster, a few years his junior walked up unnoticed.

“Sheriff Parker!” Andrew called loudly.

Dressed in a deputy uniform Andrew walked briskly to where Martin stood. From far he could see Martin was in one of his moods. Today would be another long day.

“Yes?” Martin mumbled and dragged himself away from his thoughts.

“The boat’s this way, it’s in the reeds. What’s wrong I called three times?” Andrew said.

“I heard you.” Martin responded agitated.

Martin walked back to the parking lot. He was clearly not taking note of Andrew. To some extend it seemed like Martin was trying to avoid him. Andrew followed silently.

The parking lot held several state and private vehicles. At the edge of the parking lot were a coffee shop, office and boat shed. Bystanders had gathered, waiting to find out what had happened. At one of the private vehicle Steven, Beth and Linda stood, waiting to give their statements.

“These people found the boat after spending the night on the lake.” Andrew finally informed as they passed the private vehicle.

He tried to gain Martin’s attention. Martin ignored him. Uninterested in the conversation he appeared tired and sluggish. He reached into his vehicle and took a packet of cigarettes out of the glove compartment. He glanced at the lake again. Martin’s actions confused Andrew.

“The boat’s still stuck in the reeds, it must‘ve run ashore after he died. We turned the engine off when we arrived. The corner and forensics are already on scene. You would think they’d never seen a dead body before. Do you want to speak to the witnesses in the meantime?” Andrew added quickly.

“No, there aren’t many deaths here. So they jump at any opportunity to do something skillful.” Martin took a deep breath of relief then paused. “You say a boat ran ashore?”

Andrew looked hard at Martin. He knew there was something bothering him, something more than just his wife walking out on him.

“Yes. What’s wrong? You look like you were expecting something else, or worse.”

“You’re delusional. I received a message of a body that washed up.” Martin snapped.

Martin smoked faster to hide how nervous he was. He tried to block Andrew from his mind, but every time he moved, Andrew followed.

Andrew stepped in front of Martin. His concern carried in his voice. “I don’t think there’s anything dramatic about this case although I haven’t seen it yet. I couldn’t get too close. With everyone busy it’s too crowded. Tom said that Robert Wilson went out fishing as usual and suffered a heart attack. Why don’t you head back to the office, get some rest you look exhausted? I’ll fill you in later.”

Standing a distance from the scene, Martin finished his cigarette and stomped it out on the ground. “We better show face.” Martin said and sighed deeply.

Andrew looked at Martin. “Martin…”

He stopped but didn’t turn to Andrew. He looked at the ground and interrupted in a soft voice. “I’m fine. You don’t have to worry about me.”

Andrew reached to touch Martin on the shoulder but stopped.

“Martin, you need to…”

Martin interrupted again, but this time his voice was strong and he was avoiding the subject. “I don’t want to be out the whole day, let’s do our job.” He walked off towards the reeds while Andrew followed.

“If you need to talk…” Andrew started as soft-spoken and gentle as he could manage.

“I said I’m fine let it go.” Martin was angry but his still didn’t face Andrew.

“Martin.” Andrew paused.

Martin turned to Andrew slowly. “What’s your problem? We’ve got work to do. This problem between us has nothing to do with work.”

Andrew closed the gap between them. “You need to talk to someone. This breakup is killing you. You’ve become reckless and absentminded. Half the time you’re somewhere lost in your memories and thoughts, or you’re drowning yourself in a bottle of gin.” He paused, his voice soft as he pleaded. “I’m your best friend. We’re like family. I was your best man, for God sakes I’m Christopher’s Godfather. Talk to me, we can work this out. Please … I miss them too.”

Martin was silent, just stared back at Andrew. “I’m sure you do.” He finely scolded.

“Martin talk to me, I’m right here.” Andrew realized that he had finally hit a nerve.

“If I need help you’ll be the last person I’d turn to. Mind your own business. I’m not your problem anymore. You’re not responsible for counseling, or to rescue me from the depth of despair. Just do your job.” Martin said loudly filled with anger.

Martin turned swiftly and disappeared into the reeds at the edge of the lake. Andrew followed again.

*

[***][*II]

 

The sky was like ash. The storm came in fast. The wind grew colder and more brisk by the minute.

A path of crashed reed made a sort of bridge from the shore to the stranded boat. Voices carried through the wind. It rose above the hissing of bulrushes.

Andrew followed the path to the stranded boat. The reeds weren’t too thick and the water was shallow. Water seeped into his shoes making a squeaking sound as he walked. The thought of removing his shoes had crossed his mind, but the reeds and leaves would surely draw blood.

Martin stood with his back to the path. Forensics were clearing up equipment and preparing to leave. The boat with Robert’s body was lying at Martins feet.

Martin gazed at the lake again, lost in his memories. He was always staring in one direction, the rock face. Andrew could tell by the look on Martins face that it wasn’t the death of Robert Wilson that had occupying his mind, but something deeper and darker. Something was haunting him.

“Do you see something out there?” Andrew asked behind Martin.

Martin froze but didn’t respond. He only mumbled softly. The word murder was the clearest.

“What makes you think its murder?” Andrew asked as Martin turned to him slowly.

“Sheriff…?”

“What’s it with you?”

Forensics left the scene. Martin stepped away from Andrew who followed.

‘Stay calm, keep it together. You’re taking too many chances. Don’t lose it now. You’re almost in the clear, nobody can know.’ Martin coached himself softly.

“You said its murder. How do you know, it seems like a simple heart attack.”

Martin turned pale and seemed unraveled but relieved at the same time. He looked at the boat.

“I don’t know, look at him. Something scared him to death. You don’t need a Coroner to tell you that. It just doesn’t look natural.” Martin stated while pointing at the body in the boat.

Martin turned away from Andrew before he could read any other facial expressions.

“Robert wasn’t young. Maybe the sudden heart attack frightened him.”

“It’s already too crowded. Go get statements from the witnesses. I’m sure they want to go home. I’ll speak to the Coroner and look around. We can compare notes later.” Martin ordered turning to Andrew annoyed.

Without a further word Martin walked to the coroner. Andrew left the reeds.

*

[***][*III]

 

The wind picked up leaves and cast them across the parking lot and pier. The sky was darker, the clouds hung heavier. The forensics van had left. An Ambulance lit up the area with a red and blue glow. A large group of people had gathered including a media crew. The reporter stormed closer as Andrew passed the media van with a camera operator in toe.

“Deputy Foster, can you please tell us what had happened?”

“I have no comment at this time, but I’m sure Sheriff Parker will give you a full statement as soon as he has done his investigation. Thank you.”

Leaving a disappointed reporter behind Andrew reached his vehicle and changed shoes for running shoes from his gym bag in the trunk. He walked over to the witnesses.

“Did you find the body?” Andrew asked the tired witnesses. He took out his notebook and wrote down their statements.

“Yes sir. We’ve been on the lake till about seven this morning. When we came back to the pier we saw the boat. It didn’t look right, the way it stuck out of the reeds like that, so we went to take a look.” Steven explained leaning against the passenger door.

“What were you celebrating?” Andrew asked and noticed the youngsters seemed a little worse for wear.

“We were celebrating our friends’ birthday.” Beth assured from next to Steven.

“Well it’s good that you found the boat. It could’ve been hours before someone would’ve found it.” Andrew said.

He noticed a gush on Linda’s head. She sat on the backseat. “It looks like the party got out of hand, what happened to your head?”

“She knocked it hard. She was going on about a child crying and a strange sound on the water.” Beth informed.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Andrew asked and turned his attention to Linda.

“I was on deck getting fresh air when I saw something strange. First a light shot across the water. Then I heard the child crying. Softly at first, the sound came from the rock face. The sound got louder. I thought it was on the water. Something attacked me and I fell.”

“Who attacked you?”

“Not someone. Judging the way it hissed, moaned and screeched from beneath the boat it wasn’t human. I tried to shine into the water but it grabbed the spotlight. I couldn’t see through the mist.” Linda struggled to recall.

“Mist, it’s too hot for mist.” Andrew replied shocked.

“I know what I saw. It happened just like that.”

“Can you tell me about the child you mentioned?”

“Well, it sounded lost and scared, maybe even hurt. Mostly it sounded close to the rock face. It was quiet and sound travels, I’m sure it’s a young child, too young to be out there alone that time of the night.”

“What makes you think it was alone?”

“The cry was heartbreaking and desperate, children don’t cry like that for any reason.”

Andrew turned to the others slowly. “Did any of you hear or see anything?”

“No sir. We were in the cabin, but we’re sure something happened last night.” Steven assured.

“Thanks. We’ll look into it immediately. I have your details so I don’t see any reason for you to stay around here.”

Andrew walked to the crowd of bystanders.

*

[***][*IV]

 

The coroner and three officers gathered around the boat. Robert was still in the bottom of the boat as he fell. Water filled two inches of the bottom. Robert’s eyes had turned gray and cold, his mouth was wide open.

Martin stood silently, his back to the lake. He puffed up his collar and tucked his hands into his pants pocket. He remained still only his eyes followed the Coroner.

“Looking at him you can say something scared him to death.” Martins’ voice was faint, his throat dry and scratchy.

“What’s that?” The coroner asked without stopping his work.

Martin cleared his throat and didn’t realize the coroner heard him. “All I’ve said was that if you look at him it looks like something scared him to death.”

“You might say so.” The coroner remarked quickly as he paused for just a moment.

The coroner was a short stocky man dressed in a knee length gray short and a t-shirt. His white coat seemed a size too large and gum boots didn’t fit the outfit but it was practical. His hair blew wildly in the wind. It fell into his eyes and onto his glasses. Now and then he stuck his pen into his mouth to free his hand while he clung to a clipboard in the other.

“What’s the possibility that this could’ve been murder?”

The coroner turned to Martin. “In this little sleeping hollow of a town, are you smoking something? Nothing ever happens here. You should know better. The worst crime around here’s someone running the only stoplight. This isn’t a cold blooded murder. No.”

‘Maybe he could’ve been… no that’s ridiculous.’ Martin paused deep in thought.

Martin turned paler than Robert and turned to the lake, his legs weakened by thought. ‘Your secret’s not coming out. Can’t you just be quiet? What do you want? What are you doing? You will be quiet. I’ll keep you quiet for as long as it takes.’

He turned back to the coroner. The officers lifted the body out of the boat and placed it in a black body bag but didn’t close it.

“So you’re ruling it natural causes?” Martin asked hoping that explaining this misfortune could be that easy.

The coroner paused thoughtfully. “There’s nothing natural about the way he died. Based on his facial expression, his heart attack was provoked? I don’t think he would’ve died under normal circumstances.”

“What makes you so sure? Maybe the sudden heart attack frightened him to death.”

“I’ve gone through the pick-up and his personal belongings. There’s no medication for any heart condition. No scars indicating any heart surgery. People who suffer from a heart condition never leave home without their medication.” The coroner assured.

“Some people will say that heart attacks are silent killers. You might not know it and one day it just knocks you off your feet. But that’s just some cases, right?”

“Right, although in this case I believe that he was healthy and a scare had caused him to suffer a heart attack.” The coroner added pointing to Robert. “People don’t look like that when they suffer a heart attack.”

The officer zipped the body bag and removed it from the scene.

Martin stood for a moment then turned to the lake deep in thought. ‘Something happened to Robert on the lake this morning. Is it possible that she tried reaching out to him? Was that what he saw that terrified him? It doesn’t even make any sense. No, he felt the heart attack and felt he wasn’t ready to leave. That’s what frightened him and that’s why his face held a moment of terror. Nothing else could’ve happened here.’

“I think you need to investigate events around the lake. I’ve heard rumors of strange happenings here at night.” The coroner suggested and stepped closer to Martin.

“Rumors spread by drunkards and attention seekers. There’s nothing wrong here. Probably kids playing pranks.”

The coroner collected the last items. “Besides the witnesses and Robert, I believe no one else were around the lake.”

Martin stepped away from the path to give the coroner and officers space to leave.

Tom’s pick-up and trailer backed up into the reeds while the coroner and officers left. Tom Livingston got out and joined Martin.

Tom was slender, well-tanned and always wore a baseball cap. He always dressed in baggy and sandals. A golf shirt carried the words “Hazy View Lake Caretaker”. He always walked with his head slightly downwards and often fidgeted with his hands.

Tom greeted Martin and continued to pull the boat straight.

“Tom who was on the lake last night, do you know?”

“No, I only know of Robert and the youngsters who rented my cruiser. I don’t know of anyone else. Robert regularly went out at four in the morning. It’s a shame what happened and the poor child…” Tom’s speech was a little slow. Clearly he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Martin gasped. “… What child?”

“One of the youngsters said that they heard a child crying around midnight. They said a child sounded lost and scared that’s why it was crying. What’s worse, it might’ve been in the water. Can you imagine that sheriff?” Tom added.

“Where did they hear the child crying, do you know?” Martin was weak and dazed.

“Near the rock face I believe.” Tom said and pointed in that direction.

Tom activated the winch and guided the boat straight onto the trailer. Once the winch stopped he turned to Martin fidgeting with his hands. “I’ll have the boat at your office soon sheriff.”

Tom got into his pick-up and pulled the boat to shore leaving more flattened reeds behind. Martin scanned the far side of the lake and glared at the rock face.

‘I’ll leave you here. I need to leave you behind for the sake of my sanity. Scream all you want make waves, try to escape. It’s all in vain because no one believes that you’re still here. Without me you’ll never escape this lake.’ Martin whispered again.

*

[***][*V]

 

At the base of the rock face small waves broke against the rocks. The water was dark, murky and disturbed. Ripples formed in the water. Small bubbles burst on the surface. A strange dark patch formed underwater and took a human form. It didn’t break the water surface. A thin mist started to form just above the water. The figure moved away from the rock face across the lake. The mist followed closely. It moved faster towards the reeds. A hissing moan echoed changing from a low to a high-pitched cry was soft not to attract attention. Nearing the reeds the sound faded, the water calmed, and the figure disappeared.

Something moved underwater. Reeds swayed slightly without the help from the wind. Little ripples formed on the water and a soft moan filled the air. It was trying to get the attention of one man.

Martin was facing the lake, still mumbling. Little bubbles popped at his feet. He fell silent and stared at the bubbles.

He crouched for a better look and moved broken reeds aside. Something suddenly grabbed his feet and pulled it out from under him. He fell onto his back, his head hit hard into shallow water. With force it dragged him towards deeper water.

He tried to use his arms to lift his head but failed. He grabbed reeds passing close enough. Blood started to drip into the water as the leaves cut into his flesh.

Horrified by the sudden attack and all his efforts to break loose failed. Fear paralyzed his mind and thoughts. He released a scream as his head rose above the water.

A crushing water sound echoed from behind as Tom rushed forward. He grabbed Martins hands and pulled him back to the shore. The force that had Martin’s feet released him with such force that Tom burst backward ending on his back in knee-deep water. Something splashed and dove into deeper water then vanished.

“Sheriff, are you okay, what happened?” Tom called out of breath.

“Yes I’m fine. I just lost my footing.” Martin assured coughing and spitting.

“It’s good I heard you screaming or I might’ve fished you out of the lake.”

Martin got up slowly. “Don’t worry. The slip caught me by surprise. Thanks for coming back. I’m sure I would’ve gotten up myself. Some reeds caught my foot that’s all.”

“It looked like something was dragging you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. What on earth would’ve dragged me? I slipped that’s all.” Martin remarked and felt shook as he stomped to the bank. ‘The darkness won’t catch me that easily. I better leave before…’ He mumbled.

Martin dried his clothes and took the wet cigarette pack out of his pocket and threw it down near the reeds.

“I hope you’re going to pick that up.”

“Sue me.”

Martin found some dry clothes in the trunk, among blankets and other items. Clearly he had slept in the vehicle at times.

“You can moor the boat at the pier. I doubt that it’ll give us any more clues. I don’t want it clogging up space.” Martin sounded angry.

“Are you sure sheriff?” Tom asked surprised.

“Does it look like I’m playing with you?”

“Sure whatever you say.”

Tom collected the wet cigarette pack, got into the pick-up and pulled the boat to the pier. Martin got into his vehicle and paused before starting the engine.

‘What’s happening, I need to stop this now and leave. Yesterday’s too late.’

*

[VI]

 

Beyond the far side of the lake, to the North was a large untamed forest bursting with large trees and thick vegetation. Moss and creepers grew wildly, large rock formations peaked out of the water, making a stretch inaccessible by vehicle and difficult on foot. Beyond the rock face pine, oak and yellow wood trees grew.

Andrew reached the edge of the forest, where a large group of volunteers had gathered. They checked climbing gear and ropes, issuing fresh Flashlight batteries, raincoats and flare guns.

Andrew put on a heavy jacket and checked his own gear. He noticed drag marks not too far from where he was standing. On closer inspection he noticed spots and stripes from an unusual liquid stained on roots and rocks.

Andrew whispered in thought. ‘Is this blood, maybe human blood? If it’s old enough, maybe it’ll explain events around the lake.’

Andrew pulled a cylinder out of his backpack and filled it with scrapings. He marked the label before replacing it. He photographed the drag marks with his cell phone. A few feet from him an object, halve buried under leaves and dirt drew his attention. He carefully lifted a child’s shoe and placed it into a large bag. He completed the label and placed it in his backpack.

“What’s that, evidence?” Someone asked and stepped out of the crowd.

Andrew slipped his backpack onto his back. “I don’t know. It’s too old to be evidence of the child we’re looking for. It’s possibly a lost shoe from a camper, hunting party, anything really.”

The unconvinced bystander looked hard at Andrew. “You’re collecting it for some reason, something we should know?”

“Of course not, I’m only collecting odd stuff for my personal collection. I’m studying forensics. It’s just a hobby.”

“Should you be tampering with it just in case it’s evidence?” Another bystander asked.

“I’m not. I assure you it’s collected properly and if it’s needed for evidence, then it’s well-preserved. I know what I’m doing.” Andrew insured defending himself.

Tiffany Rose noticed Andrew’s tension and walked out of the crowd. She dressed in a warm tracksuit, jacket and comfortable walking shoes. Her curly blond hair neatly tied back into a ponytail. Her blue eyes peeped out from under her jackets headpiece and her complexion was fair. She was tall and slender a body that would put some Goddesses to shame.

“People let’s concentrate on the task.” She turned to Andrew and smiled. “I agree you shouldn’t be messing with that.”

“You’re just saying that because you want to collect more than me. What have you collected?” Andrew asked, relieved the mob had dispersed before it started.

“These few items still keep me in the lead. You have a few months collecting to catch up. Just because I love you, I’ll give you tonight’s head start. Are you ready to go?”

“I bet you can’t wait to see what I dig up next.”

“Thrill me.”

“How about we have our usual race, let’s see who finds the most items, child included. You did bring your evidence bags?”

“And the looser makes dinner and breakfast. It’s about time we haven’t done this for a while. Since your boss lost his mind, it’s been playing on you, old grumpy.” Tiffany said and pulled a childish face.

“He’s just going through a tough time. It’s not easy when your wife walks out on you and takes your son with.” Andrew said defending Martin.

He still believed that Martin could snap out of his depression he was in and they would go back to being best friends.

“For some reason he’s taking it too hard. He’s carrying more guilt than heartbreak. I wonder what happened.”

“I don’t know he won’t talk to me.” Andrew’s voice faded into sadness.

“Well it’s true what they say. Behind every good man’s a great woman and in his case you can see that she’s gone.”

“You’re just mean. I hope you’re not planning to leave me like that.”

“Now where will I find another good man, and you’re so cute.” Tiffany said before hugging and kissing him. She paused. “Unlike all of these soppy people in this little town, I’m not and have never been one of his fan club members. Thanks for dinner and breakfast, you’re so sweet.”

“Not yet, we better start the search, the poor child’s priority and the sooner we find it the sooner you can make dinner. I’m starving.”

“As if you’re going to win tonight, dream on.”

Andrew and Tiffany joined the volunteers. A line of people walked shoulder to shoulder and entered the forest.

Birds settled in the treetops and echoed through the forest, flashlights started to light up sections of vegetation. Calls and chatter rose and fell in the wind.

Two hours into the search Andrew stopped and listened hard. He scanned the area and noticed searchers nearby.

“Did anyone found or seen something?”

Calls echoed through the forest. Rain started to pour making visibility difficult.

“Maybe there aren’t enough searchers. We’re not covering enough ground. I hope we’re close to finding something. The rain will make hearing the child difficult, seeing any hidden traces will be impossible. It’ll be inconceivable to end the search because of weather. How does someone abandon a child and not say something?”

“Keep faith, we’ll find something soon. The search’s going fine. Stop calling up ghosts.” Tiffany assured.

Hours into the search they’ve cleared the forest and were approaching the top of the rock face.

Around the top of the rock face wet and slippery rocks jotted out everywhere. Mud puddles covered most of the footing around large rocks and trees which were fewer and further apart. Moss coated most rocks offering little holding. At the edge of the rocks a four-hundred foot drop offered ledges and razor sharp rocks down to the lake below.

Tiffany tightened her raincoat. “You know I’ve been wondering. Maybe the witness misjudged the sound of the nightlife for a child crying. It sounds like a child crying throughout the forest.”

“I’ve been thinking about it too, but just to be sure let’s search the rock face. If we don’t find anything soon, I’ll have to call off the search. The rain, darkness and slippery ground are getting dangerous.”

“Then we start again at first light. If there’s a child here we’ll find it.”

A faint cry whistled through the wind distinct from the sounds already around. It wasn’t the searchers. It drifted in from the water around the rock face. It was a sorrowful weep, a desperate, lonely and painful cry.

“Did you hear that?” Tiffany whispered freezing in her tracks.

“It’s faint. It’s coming from the lake, is that … a child crying?”

“That’s an odd sound, a distinct sound.”

“Yes, you can’t mistake that cry. It’s a child crying.”

Andrew’s heart started to pound. He felt the urgency coming from the cry as he emptied his longs into his whistle. Tiffany shot off a flare. The searchers gathered quickly. Andrew scanned the water far below with a spotlight. Tiffany scanned the rocks and bushes around and slightly down the rock face.

Becoming louder, they heard the cry above falling rain and howling wind. It was desperate and filled with horror.

“Where’s the child?” One of the volunteers asked still trying to catch his breath from fighting through the vegetation.

Another volunteer stepped closer and pointed down the rock face. “The sounds coming from below the rock face.”

“Don’t be stupid, there’s no way a child can get down there. These rocks are treacherous on a dry day, wet it’s deadly.”

“Maybe he’s trapped on a ledge after he fell.”

Andrew anchored his rope around a large tree some distance from the edge. “Then we go down, don’t you think.”

“I’ll go down with you deputy.” The volunteer offered.

*

[VII]

 

Helen James-Leigh sat on her new porch watching rain fall. Wind swept dead leaves across short grass. She curled up into her coat, hugs a hot cup of cocoa, and sipped it occasionally.

Helen was a twenty-six year old, newly divorced mother who had just moved into her new home. Her shoulder length brown wavy hair played in the wind. She was slightly chubby. A pair of glasses rested neatly on her nose.

From a distance a sorrowful, desperate cry swept across the water. Helen took note. It wasn’t her daughter, but a young child on the lake. A high-pitch scream broke off and started again as a shriek of stark terror. Helen was down the steps making her way across the lawn to a private pier jotting out across the water.

It was dark, occasional lightning lit her way. Rain hammered her head and soaked her coat. A terrified scream came from a small rowboat close to her pier. The sound of a struggle and oars hitting water echoed in the wind. With renewed haste Helen reached the pier. Hidden behind a curtain of rain two silhouettes were barely visible. A breathless scream a fear invoked voice echoed in the wind. Helen readied her small motorboat and glanced back at the house. Darkness still overwhelmed the house. She boarded the boat.

A Ghastly high-pitch eruption of rage, a hideous cry of a different source froze her for a second. A thick mist formed on the water.

The engine started.

Nearing the rowboat a strange light shone, it vanished and appeared.

The shriek deafened her.

Then silence.

The light vanished, her heart pounded so hard that she felt slightly dizzy.

She opened the throttle and sped the rest of the way.

The scream of an entity rose as it came closer to her.

She heard a haunted moan all around her. Mist covered her boat blocking her view. The air turned a deathly cold.

A sharp blinding light burst through the night sky and darted down at her. In the center a figure stood, arms opened. Her hair was dripping wet and flowing as if in currents. Her ripped clothes were bloody and her eyes were cold and gray. She came closer humming and screeching simultaneously. She stopped so close that Helen could see the gray in her eyes.

Helen felt her horror and rage all around her. She felt fear rushing through her body. The entity turned and dove into the water with an unearthly high-pitch scream.

She vanished, calm returned to the lake.

Helen reached the rowboat.

“Hello, are you okay?” Helen asked out of breath.

“Did you see what that was?” A frightened voice echoed from the stranded boat.

Helen pulled the rowboat next to hers and looked down into the white scared face of a seventeen-year old boy. Edwin Adams curled up on the small bench. He remained still.

“Do you need help? Are you okay?”

Water was filling the boat. Some supplies drifted on the water. Edwin was staring at a bundled tucked in the bottom. He wept softly. Helen entered the boat carefully. Blood splatter and finger marks stained the wood works. She reached to touch Edwin.

He turned to her.

His eyes were bloodshot and wide from terror. His hair was wet and his hands folded so tightly into his chest the blood flow became restricted. He was trembling uncontrollably.

Edwin looked up, his voice trembling. He wept fearfully. “Is she gone?” His voice faded into the rain.

“Yes I believe so.” Helen insured.

“Thank God.”

“Do you need help?”

“No, can you help my dad?” Edwin got up and tried to lift his father from the bottom of the boat.

“We need to get him to my boat. This one’s going to sink soon.” Treading carefully she helped Edwin. “What happened?”

Edwin’s voice still trembled. “It came out of nowhere and started to attack us.”

“Isn’t it too cold and rainy for fishing? What are you doing?” Helen asked noticing no fishing gear.

Edwin paused to catch his breath. “We’re helping the deputy searching for a child. We’re searching the water around the rock face. As we fell behind, she came and hurt my dad. I tried to get her to leave but she’s too strong. Do you know who that was?”

A few deep breaths and heavy lifting got Dillon Adams on board Helen’s boat. She turned to Edwin sympathetically.

“I wish I could tell you, I don’t know.”

“What if she comes back to finish what she started?” Edwin asked scanning the water around him holding his breath with renewed fear.

“I don’t think she will.” Helen assured looking around the boat nervously.

*

Chapter Three

[I]

 

Martin stood in a quiet moonlit room. A soft breeze blew in through an open window behind him. A soft lace-curtain fell and rose from the window as the breeze played freely. Colorful cartoon curtains hung to the side of the window. Toys were clearly visible but neatly stored on shelves and in an open toy box. A small bed with bedding that matched the curtains stood in the center of the room. A small boy was peacefully asleep. He slept on his back, one arm above his head and the other draped across his chest. He smiled, eyelids moved slowly.

Martin stepped closer to the bed. The child was unaware of his presence. Martin looked down at his hands, blood dripped from them. He stumbled backward.

The small boy was no longer sleeping peacefully. The bedcover fell half off the bed. A pillow covered the boy’s face. His breathing stopped his body still.

Martin rushed forward and grabbed the pillow. His bloody hand stained the vibrant colors. The boy was staring into nothingness. His lips blue, his mouth open. The room turned icy cold.

Martin closed his eyes tightly. He buried his head into his bloody hands and sunk to his knees. Cold sweat covered his body. He felt weak and dizzy.

“Christopher… No, Christopher!” Martin cried in a hoarse whisper.

 

Martin woke up with a jerk. Cold sweat covered his body. The sun shone through a small uncovered window, burning his eyes. His body felt too heavy to lift. He sunk his head back into the pillow and closed his eyes. He sat up quickly, fearing he might fall asleep and dream again. He tried to stand up but tiredness had robbed him of energy, he stumbled back. Music came from the kitchen. Between songs a message filled the airwaves.

The radio announcer’s voice carried through the small trailer. “Last night local police undertook a search for a lost child around the lake and forest. Despite efforts from police and volunteers, the child remains missing. There’s a few injuries suffered but it’s not too serious. Deputy Foster called off the search after heavy rain posed a threat to searchers. We will keep you updated during the day as we receive more details.”

Martin got off the bed on shaky legs. He studied himself in the mirror for a brief moment. He turned away hating the man he had become fearing what might become of him if anyone discovered his darkest secret. He dressed into the uniform he once respected and lived to uphold. The cool air blew through the window. He looked out the window.

Clouds were forming slowly. He placed his sunglasses to ease the burning in his eyes and stumbled into the kitchen.

He sunk into the small cubicle in front of a plate set with bacon, eggs and toast. Vanessa McPherson poured a glass of gin on the rocks and placed it next to Martin’s plate. He lifted the glass while she joined him.

Vanessa was twenty four and she knew she was attractive. The lounge portion of the trailer held all her feather scarfs and revealing outfits to cater for most fantasies that men couldn’t get at home. Polystyrene heads held wigs and an open box stored custom jewelry among make-up and bottles. She would cater for no more than four men at a time. They could visit on regular bases as long as they kept the cupboards full, money in her pocket and the bills paid.

“Did you have another nightmare?” Vanessa asked to break the awkward silence.

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” Martin assured, but his voice betrayed his lie.

Vanessa knew different and changed the subject. “Last night was exciting.”

“Yes it sure was.” Martin took a last big swallow of gin.

Vanessa ate her food quietly and got up. She collected a bottle of painkillers from an overstocked cabinet. She filled Martin’s glass and dropped a few ice blocks into it.

Martin swallowed the painkillers hard with the gin. “Thanks I needed that.” He started after a moment of silence. “I’m leaving town this afternoon, but I need you to do me a favor. I need you to call me as usual today.” Martin added in a soft voice.

“Would you like me to call around the same time?”

“Yes.”

“Where will you go?” Vanessa asked trying to keep the conversation alive.

After a moment of silence Martin finely looked up at Vanessa. “North to where I don’t have memories.”

“Are you going to come back?” She asked hoping against meeting with him again.

“No, I’ve already sold the house and Deputy Foster’s taking over my job. There’s nothing keeping me here.” Martin said coldly and stood up.

Martin placed the empty glass on the table. Took his jacket from the backrest and headed for the door.

“Well then I wish you the best. Is it okay if you call me so I don’t worry too much?”

“Sure.” Martin lied and walked out of the trailer.

The wind was a gentle breeze. The bright sun burned down from a clear sky. Water puddles appeared smaller. The clouds were further than they appeared from the window. Martin got into his vehicle and left.

*

[II]

 

Yvonne Hooper sat behind her desk outside Martin’s office door. She was a thirty-two year old good-looking woman. Her platted hair hung neatly against her back and her blouse allowed for just the right amount of skin. A small dolphin pendant was visible. She wore very little make-up, her cheeks were naturally rosy.

Andrew was at his desk opposite Yvonne’s, making notes and occasionally engaged in conversation when Martin walked in. Yvonne got up quickly with files, the morning paper and night reports.

“No!” Martin said firmly.

Yvonne turned to Andrew as the office door slammed shut. “What have you done this time?”

Andrew smiled innocently. “You have nothing on me.”

“I don’t believe you. Anything that goes wrong’s your fault. Ask the sheriff, he’ll tell you.”

Andrew laughed softly. “You’ve got nothing on me. He’s just cranky from last night’s heavy drinking. I bet you anything.”

“Do you think I should take him a peace offering?” Yvonne offered.

“Try or else we’ll have hell again today.”

Yvonne said nothing, she only looked thoughtfully at the coffee machine and then at Martin’s door. She bit on her lower lip and got up slowly and cautiously.

“If all hell breaks loose in there I expect you the rescue me. If you don’t I’ll blame whatever on you.” Yvonne warned.

Without a further word she collected painkillers from the drawer and strong black coffee. Andrew winked and shooed her on.

Yvonne walked into Martin’s office closing the door behind her. She placed the cup of coffee on the desk and held her hand out to Martin. After a few moments of silence he extended his hand. His facial expression didn’t change. He seemed lost, worried and even scared. She dropped the painkillers into his open hand and withdrew hers without a word.

Martin’s red sagging eyes looked back from behind his sunglasses. It was clear he had too much gin last night. His hair looked ragged and uncombed. His body was heavy and sluggish. Nothing impressed him as he still seemed distant.

“Sheriff, I hope you’ll consider talking to someone. I can’t stand seeing you like this.” Yvonne started in a gentle voice.

Martin looked up dazed. “Are you part of the care gang too?”

“We’re worried about you sheriff.”

Martin looked up coldly and heartless. “You and who, Andrew, yes he’d put you up to this, didn’t he?”

“I feel like I’m witnessing a murder.”

Martin turned pale, faint and his voice scratched that you might think he was choking. “What do you mean?”

Yvonne stepped back slightly. “I mean I’m watching you killing yourself and worst, you’re torturing yourself.”

“As if you care from the bottom of your heart, spare me. Thanks for the concern, it’s noted. Tell Andrew I want to see him.”

Martin swung around in his chair with his coffee in hand. He raised the blinds mid-window. He remained still staring out of the window. People were walking up and down the sidewalk. Everyone was looking as if they were looking through him, seeing his guild. Martin didn’t hear the door opening or closing. His attention held on the street.

A woman appeared from the shop next door. She looked and walked like Janet. Her long black hair flowed in the breeze, her posture was perfect. Seconds later a little boy skipped behind her, with hands filled with party balloons, his hair shimmered in the sun. He reached his mother and grabbed her hand, both looked up at Martin, their smiles turned to a grin, fingers pointed and eyes stared cold and sharp. Martin turned icy cold and numb.

Martin mumbled harder then he would’ve liked. ‘They’re coming for me.’

“Who’s coming?” Andrew asked suddenly.

Martin glanced out of the window and saw nothing. With a deep breath he turned his attention to Andrew. “I don’t have time for guessing games. You’re not making any sense, what are you talking about?” He picked up a pile of files from the desk.

Andrew shook his head confused. “Nothing I just…Never mind you wanted to see me?”

“These are active cases, a small accident, drunken brawls and a shoplifting, nothing too serious that needs your immediate attention.”

Andrew took the files slowly. “Are you taking time off?”

“Pay attention. These closed files need filing. Did you find the child?” Martin snapped.

“No. I believe the sound came from a bird or night creature. We searched the forest and found nothing. We also heard what we thought was a child crying, but it’s impossible. It cleared the forest and traveled to the water too quickly like it was in flight too fast for any child. We had a few incidents. A team on the lake reported an attack on them while a man in my group broke his arm. This morning we heard and saw nothing, not even evidence of a child roaming the area.” Andrew reported.

“Do you think there might be some connection between Robert’s death and the missing child?”

“I don’t think a missing child and a heart attack victim has anything in common.” Andrew said wondering why the sheriff would think otherwise.

“Good then I’ll close them both.” Martin said relieved and glanced out of the window then turned back to Andrew. “Well old boy, you always wanted my job, now you’ve got it.”

“Martin…” Andrew managed shocked.

The phone on the desk rang.

Martin interrupted before Andrew could say anything else. “From now you’re the new acting sheriff, congratulations. I’ll be out of your hair in just a minute.” He snapped up the receiver and turned his back to Andrew. “Hello… Yes dear… I’m leaving in a short while… Speak to you soon.”

Andrew turned and left the office. He walked back to his desk, sunk into his chair and remained frozen. Yvonne leaned forward staring at him.

For a moment Yvonne waited, her curiosity got the better of her. “What did he do to you in there? You look like he took you to the cleaners.”

“He’s leaving.” Andrew said softly.

Yvonne looked at him not surprised. “Did he say where he’s going?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that he’s leaving and I’m taking over his job.”

“He needs to get away to clear his head. Maybe he meant that you’ll have his job till he gets back.” Yvonne said and tried to lift Andrew’s mood.

“He’s not coming back. I heard him speaking to Janet, and it sounds like he’s going home.” Andrew felt more disappointed than sad.

“I wonder what he did. His expressions are always of fear and horror. A man who recently lost his wife and son goes to the pub for a week or two. He picks a fight and gets the living daylights kicked out of him.” She paused thoughtfully. “Perhaps no one will fight him or something else’s going on. Something he did that’s so inconceivable that he struggles to live with it. Have you looked at him lately? I mean looked at him?”

“He’s broken, such a softhearted man who loves his wife more than life itself. He can’t hurt a fly, not even if he tries.” Andrew defended in Martin’s absence.

Yvonne sighed. “Well good for him, now he can snap out of this and live his life again. At least we don’t have to put up with his temper anymore.”

“That’s mean. He’s still my best friend, even if he treats me like yesterday’s garbage. I’m worried about him.” Andrew replied softly and lowered his head.

Yvonne’s voice turned gentler than Andrew had ever heard it. “Then you need to be happy for him. At least his wife’s taking him back. I’m sure they’ll come and visit, at least I hope he won’t forget you.”

Andrew sighed deeply. “You know, you’re right. I should be happy for him. I sure will miss him.”

“Did you mention the case to him?” Yvonne changed the subject as it became too soppy for her.

“He closed the case because we couldn’t find the child and it has nothing to do with Robert’s death. I can’t see any connection between the two cases. I wonder why he might have thought that they perhaps have something in common.”

Yvonne lifted her shoulders. “I don’t know, he’s in his own world most of the time, but I can tell you something for nothing. There’s more to these cases than we’re used to seeing.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing happens in this town and we’ve gotten too use to that. Maybe because we don’t want to see more, we’re overlooking something of grave importance.”

Andrew sat for moment thinking. “Something about these cases just doesn’t add up I’m giving it much thought but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“So what do you think?”

“Oh, just that I think these cases needs more attention. Now that you mention it, it’s making the most sense.”

“Then you’re keeping it open. Good for you. Do you think there’s something wrong with the lake?”

“Nothing’s wrong on it, it’s more a case of what’s wrong in the lake.” Andrew corrected.

“I haven’t been at the lake recently, the novelties worn off I’m afraid but I’m not deaf. I hear the talk and rumors flying around town.”

Andrew opened the Robert Wilson, missing child, witness statements and coroner’s report. He studied them carefully.

Yvonne’s voice overwhelmed his thoughts. “I said I heard Tom had some incidents, small but not much worth mentioning.”

“I didn’t hear anything about that.” Andrew admitted.

“I wonder maybe it has something to do with the recent events.”

“Do you believe in the power of the supernatural?” Andrew started softly.

“Not unless I’ve gone out of my mind, and I haven’t that’s for sure.” Yvonne rejected the idea.

“It’s strange because I spoke to Helen James-Leigh this morning. She just moved into sheriff’s house. She rescued the team from the lake last night. A father and son, they’re in hospital.” Andrew paused.

Yvonne seemed confused.

“Never mind, she told me that she saw a ghost in front of her.” Andrew continued.

“More than likely she was hallucinating.” Yvonne remarked and rolled her eyes in disbelieve.

“Do you think she was?”

Yvonne dropped her pen and looked hard at Andrew. “All these spooky nonsense, it’s just stories to bring trade as the hundreds of times before.”

Andrew lifted his shoulders and got up. “I’ll have to see the men in hospital. Maybe they can clear this up for me.”

Andrew collected blank statements from his cabinet and got ready to leave when Martin appeared from the office. He had changed into private clothes, and held a large brown cardboard box filled with personal effects. Yvonne stood up as Martin turned to her.

Martin took a moment before he spoke sincerely. “Thank you for your hard work and dedication that you’ve shown me. I hope Sheriff Foster keeps you on because I consider you to be a real asset to this office. I’d like to apologize for my behavior of late. I don’t even have a good excuse, but I wasn’t myself.”

“At least you’re getting out of this deadbeat town, where will you be going?” Yvonne asked almost convinced of Martin’s sincerity.

Martin forced a smile. “Up north, I’m meeting my wife and son. They’re staying at her mother’s farm.”

Yvonne shook Martin’s hand. “I’m glad everything’s working out for you. Take care.”

Martin turned to Andrew as someone who had just completed a job rather than a lifelong friend. Andrew felt Martin’s resentment, but couldn’t place the reason.

“I’ve left my service pistol and the safe keys in the top drawer of the desk. My uniform’s hanging behind my…, I mean your door. I believe you’ll be a good sheriff and wish you the best. Don’t mind these people too much. They’ll drive you insane.”

“I wish you the best too. Give us a call often and send my regards to Janet and Christopher.”

Martin looked at Andrew strangely as he turned and headed to the door. “Sure.” He called back and Andrew followed.

Martin and Andrew walked out to Martin’s private vehicle parked in front of the office like two old friends. While walking they chatted idly, but most of all Martin chatted about his son and seemed excited about seeing him again after a three-month absence.

Arriving at his vehicle Martin handed Andrew the keys to his old service vehicle.

“Here, you’re sheriff now, I believe this is yours. Now you’ll need someone else to drive your vehicle.”

“Thanks, I know you’re in a hurry to leave, but may I ask you something?”

Martin turned to Andrew, now he had the chance to find out what Andrew was thinking. “Sure.”

“Do you think there’s something wrong with the lake?”

“What do you mean? It’s a hole with water, what’s wrong with it?” Martin replied innocently.

Andrew cleared his throat. “I’m not asking about the lake’s water, I mean is there something wrong in the lake?”

Martin laughed sarcastically. “What could possibly be wrong, don’t tell me the fishes are fighting among themselves.”

“Some of the witnesses said they saw something like an entity in the lake. I can’t see any sense in that.” Andrew said softly and felt foolish.

“You’re telling me that people are making up stories about ghosts. Don’t you think this is another tactic people come up with to boost business around here? The town seems a little thin on the trade side don’t you think? It’s the same crisis year after year. Now its ghosts, last year it was aliens and then wildlife going crazy. How long can this town keep milking the lake’s reputation for mystery? Don’t you think the town folks are letting their imagination run away with them? Or are you telling me instead that you now believe in ghosts.”

Andrew lifted the case files slightly. “No, of course not, but if there’s a possibility, then…”

Martin interrupted sharply. “…Just think of it like this. Without the city’s trade and the hordes that comes monthly, this little town would dry up and soon become a ghost town.”

Andrew looked at the case files in his hands. “That’s what I thought too.”

“So follow your instincts. You’ll know something feels right, that’s what has made you such a good police officer over the years, just some friendly advice.”

Martin got into his private vehicle, started the engine and turned the window down. The breeze blew joyfully and free. The sun was still bright although clouds were growing heavier.

Andrew forced a smile to ease his bruised ego. “That’s all fare and well, what if I’m wrong and the people crucify me for it? What if I let something major go unpunished? How do I fix it without you? I hoped that you wouldn’t have to leave.”

Martin got impatient. “You’re not a baby anymore, it’s unnecessary for anyone to hold your hand. I’ve got faith in you. You’ll do the best you can. A Few people have the skills to make a good sheriff. You do have the wits for it. Just be the best you can, and if you feel you can’t cut it, then there’s someone else to take your place.”

Andrew took a deep breath. “You’re right. These people need hobbies or something.”

“To them making up these stories are hobbies. It keeps them busy until the hordes come into town from the city.”

Both laughed, Martin had to put more effort into laughing.

Martin pulled out of the parking bay and waved before driving away. Andrew stood in the middle of the road watching the red ford disappeared around the corner. He smiled as he looked down at the keys in his hand. Excited like a child he walked to the four by four service vehicle. Large letters on the door read ‘Hazy View Sheriff’. He lifted his gun belt and unlocked the door.

*

[III]

 

Tom Livingston stood on the pier. He cupped his hand over his eyes to see without the glare of the sun. He surveyed the water. He knew something was in the water, hidden and waiting to strike, he felt it.

He looked in every direction as far as he could. He paid more attention to the North. Seeing nothing he closed his eyes to give them a rest. He walked off the pier and towards the reeds and inspected that too, checking through the crushed reeds where Robert Wilson’s boat ran ashore.

Still he found nothing.

He walked into the water where something grabbed Martin the day before. He stood silently waiting for something to come out of the water and grab him.

Nothing happened.

He stood silently, thinking for a moment, it must be under the water, waiting for someone to come on the lake.

As hard as he tried, he couldn’t see anything, where was it?

Tom looked as far as he could. He even walked along the shore toward the North bank. It was a large area to cover and he walked slowly, more of a stroll.

Now and then he stopped, cupped his hand and stared out over the water. He was silent and listened hard. Maybe a jump or splash would give away its position.

He waited, no sound came to hear.

It must’ve gone under the water, deeper into the murky mud that covered the bottom. He was sure of it.

Yes. He was sure of it. Danger waited silently in the lake. Every time someone went on the water they became prey to the beast. In the North was a four-hundred foot drop rock face and it was the only possible area where this beast could hide. No one ever went there, it was too isolated. It was not just at night. Something unexplained and unexpected also happened during the day.

He stood staring with the distinct feeling that something was watching him.

*

[IV]

 

Helen noticed water puddles everywhere.

Small evenly spaced like someone walked dripping, leaving wet footprints everywhere. Water covered the tiles in the kitchen. The upstairs passages carpet showed watermarks as did the spare room. In the upstairs passage the closet door was ajar. Neatly stored Blankets, towels and sheets now lay on the floor.

“Olivia, come here and explain what you’re doing with my towels.” Helen called stepping into Olivia’s room then paused.

In the center of the room next to a heap of toys a few towels remained. Dark patches on the carpet showed more wet marks. Helen collected the wet towels and closed the door as she left. She threw the towels into the washing basket and walked downstairs, listening for Olivia.

It was silent.

She looked into the lounge and out the window but saw nothing. She heard a faint sound from outside near the pier. The kitchen door was wide open. She followed small puddles through the kitchen, out the backdoor and down the steps. Helen glanced around in bright sunlight.

She saw nothing.

The sound came from the basement, it echoed loudly as she entered the kitchen.

“Who on earth dried up the water, it can’t evaporate that fast. If I get my hands on Olivia, I’ll have to remember to thank her.” She remarked and continued to the basement door.

The basement window was a small stretched window near the ceiling. The sun shone through, showing just how much dust had collected over time. At the bottom of the stairs installed shelves provided ample space for storage. The floor was in serious need of sweeping and mopping. Fresh paint coated the walls.

The concreted floor felt cold under her bare feet. A large room branched off to the left. She found herself in a room the same size as the kitchen. She walked to the room next door. Her steps echoed in the empty space. A small room to the left housed the furnace and fuse box. A passage continued to another room. She could hear playing. She managed to make out what Olivia was saying.

Helen took a few steps and paused at the opening, eavesdropping on Olivia’s game. Olivia had found a friend.

Helen peeped around the corner.

Olivia sat on a blanket in the middle of the empty dusty room. Scattered around her were a few toys and a tea set. She sat with her back to the passage. Her attention held by an invisible friend. Dressed in a princess dress with a large pink bow she felt special and it showed in her game. Her long baby blond hair was tide back with a tiara set firmly.

The basement door slammed shut.

Helen rushed back to the first room and paused. The door was still ajar.

Although well-lit the room had some places drenched in darkness. She moved slowly closer to the shelves and noticed the painters failed to secure some to the wall after painting.

The door cracked again and slammed shut.

Helen didn’t feel a draft but an eerie cold had sent shivers through her body.

Her breathing was fast. Her heart pounded and she felt light-headed. She felt angry, filled with rage and desperate. She wanted to grab shelves and throw them. She wanted to grab a lump of her hair and yank it out in a fit of rage.

She scanned through the darkness and saw nothing.

Laughter broke through the other room where Olivia was playing.

Helen felt a strong urge to weep hard and loud.

She wanted to return to the other room and paused.

The temperature plummeted.

A moan echoed, bouncing off the walls and ceiling. A thump followed by a hissing moan filled the room.

Someone moved quickly, descending into the basement from the door behind her.

The stairs were empty, whatever descended, came down the wall behind it. A loud crash froze her. The light blinked and admitted a cracking sound.

A shelf moved.

Something was moving behind them, moving from shelf to shelf. Fear grabbed her into a numb stance. Her breathing was even faster. Her heart drummed and her ears were dull.

Vapor escaped her mouth.

An eerie, mysterious, ghastly draft passed her. Helen hurried to the other room, the hissing and scratching just ahead of her. At the door Helen paused. Olivia’s voice carried above the hissing and scratching.

Olivia was clinging to an extra blanket still offering it to her friend. Olivia wasn’t in any danger, someone was with her.

“You can come and play again. Good-bye, come back soon.” Olivia called in a gentle voice.

Olivia dropped the blanket and sat at her tea set. She was sad and lonely. Helen walked to Olivia. Warmth returned to the room. Olivia turned to Helen with teary eyes.

“Can you explain all these towels and blanket you’re dragging through the dirt?” Helen asked sympathetically.

“I was playing mommy.” Olivia admitted between sniffs.

“Yes, I can see that. Can you explain the water throughout the house?”

“It’s my friend, mommy. I’ll dry it up.” Olivia offered.

“Your friend is that why you took all the towels and blankets?”

Helen didn’t want to call Olivia a liar, not after what just happened. Something was happening, something she couldn’t explain yet.

“Yes mommy, my friend said he’s cold. I was just trying to help him. He’s so sad.” Olivia said wiping tears away.

“He, so it’s a boy? Where’s he now?”

“His mommy called him. He went home.”

Olivia’s words cut like a knife through Helens soul.

“Where does he live?” Helen asked almost breathless.

“He told me that they use to stay around here, but now he stays in the lake. He doesn’t like it there. He says it’s too dark and cold. It scares him.” Olivia admitted and jumped into Helen’s arms and wept.

“There now, I’m sure your friend would like to come and visit at least he’ll be happy.” Helen cuddled Olivia.

Olivia stopped weeping. “It’s okay if he comes to play?”

“Yes I’m sure it would do no harm, as long as your little friend stops messing water all over the house.”

Olivia grabbed a towel filled with toys and ran out of the room.

Helen collected the rest of the toys and bedding. “It’s good she’s dealing with the divorce, but a friend that lives in the lake? What’s he, a merman?” Helen followed Olivia.

*

[V]

 

The hospital was a six-floor building offering wards, emergency rooms, consulting rooms, the latest equipment, theaters and specialist departments including a rehabilitation and psychology departments. It was the largest, most equip and safest hospital in a hundred mile radius. People from nearby towns and the city came to the hospital for its standard of excellence. Besides the outstanding service the hospital also boasted large windows with a full view of the lake and large wild forests and mountains on the other side.

Andrew found Dr. Phillip Scotts at the nurses’ station. He was slender with a small mustache, deep set eyes and his drop-dead gorgeous.

Phillip noticed Andrew and stopped reading a chart. “Congratulations on your position sheriff, I hope the rumors are true this time.”

“Well news does travel fast around here. Yes it’s true this time. I was wondering if I could see the two people, they came in last night from the lake.”

“I don’t know what you’re going to get out of the father. He’s under heavy medication and is sleeping now, but his son’s in the psychiatric ward for observation. Maybe he can help you.” Phillip started and walked towards the psychiatric ward. “Walk with me. I’m on my way to see him now.” He invited.

“Are you going to keep him here long?” Andrew asked as he couldn’t recall seeing any physical injuries.

“No. The psychologist had already seen him and suggested that we keep him there to reduce any harm he could do in the normal wards. It’s just temporary.” Phillip assured.

“Do you have news on the father?” Andrew asked.

“He was unconscious when he arrived. He has a concussion and three broken ribs. At some stage he fell overboard because he has a substantial amount of water in his lungs. Then he has these cuts on his face, arms and legs.” Phillip explained.

“Cuts made by what, do you know?” Andrew asked shocked.

“It looks like they’re made by claws, or something like fingernails, but not exactly. It’s too deep for fingernails. If fingernails made those cuts they would’ve broken off and imbedded in the flesh around the wounds.”

“Do you think the son could’ve done this?”

“No, he’s too weak. It’s safe to say the person was bigger and stronger than a teenager. From the time the boy came in he’s been sitting on the bed rocking. He’s humming every waken moment, at times he would look around filled with more fear than I’ve ever seen in one human being. He’ll ask anyone who gets close if she’s coming back. I’m not sure who his referring to, but I think perhaps he’s talking about someone who might’ve been with the attacker.”

“It could possibly be, maybe he’s talking about the attacker.”

“I don’t think so, maybe if she’s armed with something sharp and maybe metal. It takes a strong force to give someone a concussion or to break a bone. But the father has three broken bones, and by the bruises left behind, a single blow caused the damage. Once he fell over the side of the boat it left his head underwater. This might explain the water in his lungs, but now I’m just guessing. I’m hoping the boy might tell you something. I need to get him talking, so he can start to work through his ordeal.” Phillip added as he walked deep in thought.

Phillip lifted his shoulder and turned right at the end of the long passage. He walked through doors with reinforced glass. Andrew followed and gave way to an empty wheelchair as an orderly pushed it past them.

“You should’ve been a police officer. You’re eye for detail’s astonishing.” Andrew remarked.

Phillip smiled, “I did several years in criminal psychology but prefer dealing with sane people rather than mentally disturbed psychopaths.”

“Thank goodness we don’t have too many of those running around town.”

“I don’t know there are a couple of strange characters that drifted through here.” Phillip laughed.

“So I’ve heard.” Andrew admitted.

They entered Edwin’s ward.

There were six beds. Blue curtains that hung from the ceiling on railings surrounded two of the beds. Three beds were empty. Edwin curled up on the bed under a large window. He folded his hands in front of him so tightly that they’ve turned white. He was mumbling what sounded like a prayer. His eyes filled with tears and he was staring into nothing. Physically he appeared unharmed.

“Here’s the son.” Phillip said picking up a chart and stepped back.

Andrew steps closer to the bed. “Edwin, Edwin its Sheriff Foster. Can you hear me?”

“You know him?” Phillip asked.

“Yes.” Andrew said turning to Phillip.

“Good luck, I need to see some of my other patients. I’ll speak to you later.” Phillip turned and left.

Andrew pulled a chair closer. He reached and touched Edwin’s hands. Edwin stopped swaying. He looked at Andrew. A large window above the bed admitted bright sunlight and a view of the lake. Although the sun was warm Edwin’s hands remained icy cold.

Edwin looked at Andrew with teary eyes and a whisper in his voice. “Did she come back?”

Andrew leaned forward and whispered. “Did who come back Edwin?”

“The woman who was in the lake last night, didn’t you hear her?”

“Can you tell me who you are referring to, the woman who helped and brought you here?”

Edwin looked around nervously. “No! I’m talking about the woman who was standing in the lights, who attacked us.” Edwin moved closer to Andrew. “The dead woman…”

Andrew pulled back sharply. “There’s a dead woman in the lake?”

Edwin turned his attention to the lake, for a moment he stared out the window. “Yes, she was like a ghost.” He added softly.

Edwin, are you sure you saw a woman?”

Edwin looked back at Andrew. “She was so angry. She wanted to know why we did it. What was she saying? We didn’t do anything, but she wouldn’t stop. She just wouldn’t stop.” He wept softly into his hands.

“What did she look like?”

Edwin relaxed. “Like a ghost. Did you find the child?”

“There’s no child, it’s a cry from a bird or something.”

“There’s a child, a small child just like her.”

“What do you mean, did you see the child?” Andrew asked shocked.

“No, but she’s looking for him too. It’s her child.” Edwin pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. “It’s her child crying at the lake at night. Where’s my dad, is he okay?”

“Yes, do you want to see him? He’s sleeping now, but I’m sure the nurse will take you to see him when he wakes up.”

“Thanks.” Edwin said and dropped his head onto his knees.

 

Andrew left the hospital confused. For a moment he sat in his vehicle. The sun was warming his chilled body. Thoughtfully he reviewed witness statements and Robert’s file. Clouds were darkening the sky from the South. The wind was a light breeze.

“What’s with these ghost stories? Are they just rumors to boost trade? Is someone trying to hide something? Two witnesses claimed ghosts? What connection do a new resident and a teenage boy have to the trade? What would they stand to gain…? Nothing, absolutely nothing…”

Andrew studied the autopsy report. “What did Robert see on the lake, ghosts? Was that what caused his heart attack? Several people heard the child crying, yet no one has seen it. I did hear it… it was a child. Who’d do this, killing a woman it happens, but killing a child? It might’ve been a camping accident or murder? Where did they come from, the city, local? Maybe they’re not missing yet, that’s why it’s not reported.” Andrew took a deep breath, starts the engine and drove to the lake.

*

[VI]

 

Andrew found Tom walking back from the pier. Tom walked up to the passenger window and leaned into the open window.

“Good morning deputy, sorry I mean sheriff.” Tom extended his hand in greeting.

“It’s okay Tom, I’m getting used to it. Do you have anything to do with what’s wrong in the lake?”

“What do you mean Sheriff? I’m just doing my job. You can’t blame this on me I’ve got nothing to do with this. There’s something else making this fuss.” Tom defended, getting a little upset.

Andrew left the vehicle. “Relax Tom. I’m only joking, but feel free to fill me in on what’s happening. What’s bugging you about the lake?” Andrew asked and lit a cigarette.

“It all started some time ago, I’d say three weeks now. It wasn’t until Robert died that I started to notice these events. It’s been around earlier, but I guess I wasn’t paying any attention.”

Tom walked to the pier, Andrew followed.

“Which incidents or events don’t I know of?”

Tom was slightly upset and took a moment to think. “It’s nothing worth mentioning at the time until I had a chance to think about it. There were small incidences that didn’t make sense. I’d hate to lose my job over this, you know. People might think I’m too incapable to take care of the lake and grounds.”

“You won’t lose your job, you didn’t do anything wrong, did you?” Andrew assured.

“There’s so many things wrong. In the last two weeks I’ve lost four boats and my cruiser’s damaged. It’ll be some time before it’s repaired. Don’t even talk about the smaller boats. At least Roberts’ boat didn’t sink. This crisis is putting me out of business.” Tom explained worried.

“There are four boats so far? I only know of the one the men took to search for the missing child.”

Andrew stopped at the trash can and dumped his cigarette bud.

“Some kids came here early one morning and hired a small rowboat. I thought they wanted to catch fish, because they had all their gear. They weren’t out too far from the pier when I saw them swimming back. I didn’t think too much of it because I didn’t see what happened. I thought they were just cooling off, strange.”

“Why did you think it’s strange?”

“I didn’t see the boat and all the kids swam back. They looked frightened and shaken up the minute they left the water. They were breathless and scared more than the swim tired them out.” Tom explained.

“What happened to them, did they say?” Andrew asked holding his breath.

“I first had to calm them down, couldn’t understand a word they were saying. They told me the boat tipped over and they didn’t even bother to safe their gear. They just needed to get out of the water fast. While they were swimming back they felt like something was chasing them.”

“And the other two boats you mentioned?”

“That’s the strangest. I lost the two moored boats because the one sank some distance away and I couldn’t recover it. The other one, well I don’t know what happened, when I found it, let’s just say it’s destroyed. This happened about three weeks ago. I reported it to Sheriff Parker, but I never heard anything about it again. I thought it might’ve been the strong winds we had around that time, or kids messing around. Well I had to write them off as lost.”

“How’s the cruiser damaged?” Andrew asked.

Tom seemed distant in thought. “What do you mean?”

“You said the youngsters brought it back damaged.”

“I normally check all my boats when they come back. When I checked the cruiser water filtered through the hull, not much about three inches. I took it out of the water and saw large scratch marks and a few dents in the keel. I can’t imagine the boat rammed a sandbank or rocks under the water. The scratches’ deep and long enough that water filters through.”

“Do we have a sandbank in the lake? I’m under the impression the lake’s deep.”

“It’s deep enough. We don’t even have large enough rocks under the water to cause that damage. There are large rocks at the rock face, but they’re too deep. I don’t think even if the youngsters were that close, they wouldn’t be able to do damage to that extent. There was nothing wrong when it left, yet the cruiser came back with knocks and scratches that I don’t know how it could’ve happened. The damage’s impossible on this lake.” Tom assured.

“What did the scratches look like? Can you describe them?”

“It looks like someone took an ice claw and a sledgehammer to do some bodywork to the keel.” Tom sounded a little angry.

Andrew looked at him hard. “A claw…?”

It looked like something metal or hard scratched in one stroke, making them even in length and in-depth. It’s too strange to understand.” Tom turned to the water. “I’m telling you sheriff, there is something here and I don’t think it’s going away soon. It’s something that wants no one else in the lake. Something’s defending its territory.”

“Claw’s used on the cruiser and Dillon. What weapon could possibly make these scratches?” Andrew whispered softly. “Thanks Tom.”

Andrew felt his skin crawled. He remained at the edge of the pier while Tom started back to his office. A few steps away Tom stopped and turned back to Andrew.

“I just remembered something else.” Tom started.

Andrew turned to Tom. “Is there some damage you forgot to mention?”

“No, yesterday after everyone left the reeds, Sheriff Parker was standing between the reeds. He was looking at the lake like he knew there’s something wrong. I was busy hooking up the boat and pulling it out when I heard Sheriff Parker screaming. It sounded like he was so scared that he could hardly breathe. I’ve never seen or heard him like that. It took me by surprise. I dropped everything and ran into the reeds to help him?” Tom recalled.

“What was he screaming at?” Andrew asked.

“It looked like someone was dragging him into the lake. I grabbed him and pulled him back to the bank before he reached deeper water. Whatever had him let go and disappeared into the lake. I couldn’t see what it was, it moved too quickly.”

“What did Sheriff Parker say?”

“He said it’s nothing. He tried to convince me that he only slipped and lost his balance, but I know it was more than that.”

“Thanks Tom.”

Andrew turned back to the lake for a brief moment and followed Tom back to the parking lot. Passing Andrew’s vehicle ahead of him, Tom turned to Andrew.

“Someone’s looking for you. Your radio’s screaming.” Tom called loudly.

Andrew lifted his hand and ran to the driver side. He unlocked the door and grabbed the radio. “Go ahead.”

Yvonne’s voice cracked to life. “Sheriff could you go to the hospital, we had a report that Dillon Adams woke up.”

*

[VII]

 

Andrew arrived at the nurses’ station. A nurse was sitting at the computer completing paperwork.

“I believe Dillon Adams’s awake.”

“I’ll page Dr. Scotts. He’d like to talk to you before you speak to Mr. Adams.” The nurse said and called over the intercom. “He’ll be with you shortly.”

Andrew thanked the nurse and walked to the vending machine and got a packet of skillets. He leaned against the wall waiting. Nothing happened in the corridors.

Phillip came from the nurses’ station. “Thanks for coming. I don’t know how long he’ll be awake. He’s slightly delirious and was mumbling about ghosts. His injuries have taken a turn for the worse. We’re trying to battle an infection, probably caused by the water from the lake or the weapon used was dirty. His fever’s slightly high, but you wanted to speak to him as soon as he woke up.”

“Thank you. I won’t be too long, I promise. I just need to clear up a point or two.”

“I wouldn’t like you to put too much pressure on him.”

“I won’t. Can I go in alone?” Andrew agreed.

“Sure. I’ve got rounds to do.”

Phillip walked away and tapped a chart against his leg.

Andrew walked into a single room. A nurse was attending to Dillon, injecting medication into his drip and reading his temperature and blood pressure.

The room was small. A single bed was next to a large window fitted with blinds. A TV mounted in the corner facing the bed. A lone chair stood against a lightly decorated wall. A table stretched over the bed holding untouched supper. Mash potatoes, vegetables and a small portion of grilled chicken. The plate covered with cling wrap collected little droplets of water on the inside. A side dish of jelly and custard completed the meal.

Andrew turned to the nurse. “How’s he doing nurse?”

“He’s doing fine.”

Clearly her shift was too long and the patients difficult. She collected her items and left.

Dillon looked up at Andrew, but it seemed he didn’t recognize him. Andrew pulled the chair closer and dumped the empty skillet packet into the bin. For a moment silence remained between the two men. After a short meaningless conversation Andrew steered the conversation to the night before.

Dillon’s face drained color and he became jittery as fear gripped him. He was about as skinny as his son. Stubble dotted his boney face.

Dillon spoke in a hoarse, cracking voice. “It’s difficult to explain. I wish I can tell you the reason, but I don’t know. Christ, if I don’t know better I’ve thought my time had come. I’ve thought I had done something unimaginable.” Dillon started.

“What happened, I spoke to Edwin but he didn’t say much, except that a ghost attacked you.”

 

“Six boats left the pier last night. We were heading for the rock face but soon we’re separated from the others, something isolated us.” Dillon fell silent.

Andrew wrote down every word. “Did you see anything unusual?”

“No, it was more like currents that held us back. We tried to catch up to the other boats, but the harder we rowed the further we fell behind.”

“Why didn’t you call out or shine your flashlights?” Andrew asked.

“We did. With the rain and wind I guess they just didn’t hear us. It didn’t take long before the other boats were too far ahead.”

“What happened next?”

“The first blow came suddenly and unexpected, knocking the oars out of my hands. The boat started to rock from side to side. There’s a hard knock under the boat that caused water to seep through.”

“Didn’t you see another boat or something? I mean whoever attacked you had to cross the water somehow.” Andrew asked confused.

“Sheriff, no one else was on the water, it’s more someone’s in the water. I’ve never felt as scared as this before, even more so I might lose my son. I was more trying to shield him because I couldn’t fight off the attack.”

“What happened then, I mean could you remember a weapon if any?’

“I’m thrown around like an old rag and beaten that I can no longer defend myself or my son. Edwin was screaming and used his oars to defend me. I’m pushed down into the bottom of the boat hard that I lost consciousness. I don’t know what happened next. The next thing I knew I woke up here.” Dillon fell silent again.

“Do you remember anything else?”

“It’s so uncalled for. I did nothing to her. I was under the impression she had left town. What happened to her?”

Andrew felt frustrated. “Who are you talking about, the person who attacked you?”

“Yes, Janet left town didn’t she?” He asked and looked at Andrew confused.

“What does this have to do with Janet? What are you telling me?”

“Well I think it was Janet. She looked like her, sounded like her. She has a child the same age as Janet’s, there’s something different?” Dillon yawned.

“You think that it’s Janet who attacked you?”

Andrew looked up at Dillon. He seemed tired but he still recalled the events.

“Yes.” Dillon admitted softly.

“There’s no way Janet could’ve done this. The last I heard she’s left town, what could’ve been different?”

“She was dead. She was so angry, I mean her ghost was. She kept asking why we did it. Because we did it, she would take us to the bottom of the lake.”

Andrew whispered. “What makes you so sure it’s Janet?”

“I know, or at least knew Janet well. I’m telling you, something happened to her and her son. They never left town, they’re in the lake.”

“What did she accuse you of doing?”

“For killing her and her son I suppose.” Dillon fell quiet and yawned again.

“It’s insane. If they’re in the lake why did Sheriff Parker think they left town? It couldn’t be Janet. She spoke to him on the phone this morning. I heard him saying he’ll be with them shortly.” Andrew admitted.

“I’m so sure it’s Janet. I can stake my son’s and my life on it.”

“Can you tell the sketch artist with she looked like?” Andrew asked after a moment of thought.

“Sure, maybe it’s not her.” Dillon said and fell asleep, the medication had taken effect.

Andrew left the hospital confused and angry. He reached his vehicle and looked around for the first time.

Birds have settled in the big trees at the edge of the parking lot. Clouds were heavy and denser. The sun headed lazily for the horizon and the wind was brisk.

Andrew stopped at his vehicle and looked around again. The day was gone and he was questioning everything he knew. He had too many questions that needed answers. He wasn’t a heavy drinker, hardly touched alcohol, but tonight he needed to settle his mind. He walked to the pub a short distance away.

*

[VIII]

 

Helen heard a noise that came from Olivia’s room. Olivia was playing at her feet. It was a muffled shoveling sound. Someone moved heavy furniture and scattered toys across the carpeted floor.

She got up fast.

Someone moved fast through the upstairs passage and darted into the bathroom.

Olivia didn’t react to the noise. Little footsteps echoed through the silence, a door slammed shut. Helen moved to the archway between the lounge and the dining area.

She stopped.

She continued to the front door and opened it midway. If there was a small quitter upstairs and she manages to chase it down the stairs, she would want it to leave the house.

“Honey, I need you to draw me the best picture with the most colors you can then I’ll look at your drawing when I get back just now.”

“Yes mommy.” Olivia called back.

Helen noticed the noise had stopped. Silently she stood at the bottom of the stairs one hand rested on the rail as she watched the top. The quitter upstairs started again. It sounded louder than a small creature that had crawled in through an open window.

Helen walked up slowly. Nervously she took them step by step, gaining her balance before shifting her weight. Her back firmly tucked in against the wall. In the bathroom to her left the sound echoed loudly. A ghostly moan she had heard on the lake and in her basement slowed her down. Something’s thrown against the wall, glass shattered and falling pieces clattered loudly.

Helen glanced through the passage, it was empty.

She heard a soft thump against a door. She swung toward the bathroom door ready to yank it open and stopped.

Her heart pounded, she felt weak and dumb founded.

The door stood wide open and nothing seemed damaged or even out of place.

The doors off the passages were wide open. All the rooms leading into the passage’s covered with a thick beige carpet that would’ve absorbed any sound from an unexpected fall or moving of furniture. The bathroom might possibly offer the sound as the floor and walls were tiles.

Helen heard sounds from Olivia’s room, something moved fast.

She peeped around the corner. Paper and crayons laid scattered across the floor. Scattered clothing from the closet and chest of drawer lay across the carpet. Toys were out of the old wooden toy box and heaped on the floor. The closed window was still intact.

She stepped into the room cautiously.

Someone pulled the bedspread from the bed and left it near the toys. It looked like someone had sat under it. The curtains pulled from the railing. The hooks still dangled on the railing. A dropped pillow fell on the side of the bed. Strange marking mapped the wall, written with colorful crayon.

Helen didn’t go further.

The room was neat when she left moments earlier. Olivia was with her downstairs since her bath. She could see that nothing was as she left it only moments ago. Someone has turned the room upside down in a rage fit.

A soft weep echoed from behind her.

She turned slowly.

A small boy stood in the doorway. He’s arms stretched out in front of him. His eyes were cold, gray and urgent. His hair and clothes were wet. A small puddle of water darkened the carpet at his feet. His skin was the color of ash. He was still weeping and he had only one shoe on his foot.

He pointed to the marking on the wall.

The word ‘help’ that marked the wall seemed written with great difficulties. Helen turned back to the boy.

He was gone.

Helen rushed into the passage. She saw nothing.

A loud thump came from her bedroom. She rushed forward and paused.

The passage grew cold.

Another thump made her jump.

She inched forward.

Something moved in her room.

“Who’s in my house? What do you want?” She called in a cracking fearful voice.

Helen reached the door as the chill worsened.

“Where’s he?” A strong angry voice called from within the room.

“I don’t know who you’re looking for.”

“Find him and make him pay.” The voice called screeching and moaning softly.

“Who must I find?”

“Find us, find us soon.”

The door flung open and something came out.

A soft weep came from the passage.

Someone was forcing their way down the passage.

Someone knocked Helen down and she’s held as she fell. Fear overwhelmed her as the image of a woman appeared in front of her.

“Find him.” She screamed angrily.

The image faded and finally disappeared. The atmosphere calmed and returned to its previous state. Helen remained still too weak to move or think.

*

[IX]

 

Ivan and William Craft had traveled from the city on the first word of a haunting. Finally they reached the lake and the small boat they had rented earlier. They cast off before rowing to the middle of the lake, their flashlights lit their way.

William mounted cameras to the outside rim so they could capture a three-hundred and eighty degree angle around the boat. Ivan set up heat-sensors and recorders on the nose cone to record sudden changes in the temperature and to record sounds the human ear couldn’t hear.

Rain started to fall. A light drizzle posed no threat to the waterproof equipment. The brisk wind was cool, cutting through any light clothing. Ivan cupped his hands and blew hot air into them before rubbing them vigorously.

After four hours on the lake they felt the cold. Ivan pulled a flask of hot cocoa from his bag and hugged it gratefully for its heat. He swept around his head a few times. He was always aware of bugs and flies around him. His brother ignored him. Ivan reached into his bag again and produced a large can of bug spray. He’s spraying started to annoy William.

“Would you stop that?” William scolded.

“I can’t, these bugs are carrying me away one drop of blood at a time.” Ivan defended and sprayed again.

William grabbed the can. “There’s no bugs, when are you going to grow up?”

Ivan tried to grab it back, but he was too slow.

“Just because you don’t hear them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”

“Please stop it. There are no bugs. It’s raining for God sake.” William shouted angry.

“How do you know?” Ivan challenged.

“Bugs can’t fly in the rain. Now please be quiet or I’ll throw you overboard myself.”

A flash of light appeared and moved in their direction flickering in the darkness. Ivan zoomed two of the cameras in on the light, without changing their cone of vision.

“What’s wrong, bugs again? Trying to record them now?” William teased sarcastically.

“I know you think you’re funny, but you’re not. I just saw some strange light on the water. Maybe it’s nothing but I would like to get it on camera.”

“Stop fiddling with the cameras. They’re set up to cover everywhere. If there’s activity the cameras will record it. Maybe the bug spray’s going to your head. Have you even given thought to the damage you do when you spray your brain cells away like this?” William asked and corrected the settings on the cameras.

Ivan returned to his seat. “Fine, I don’t want to lose anything.”

“Drink up your cocoa. Soon something’ll happen, and then you can play with the equipment. You never take anything seriously. Why were you born first?”

Ivan jumped up excited. “Towards the rocks, just above the waterline, don’t you see that?”

“What are you seeing, I can’t see anything?”

“It’s coming this way, don’t you see it?” Ivan said and pointed into the darkness.

William frowned, still not seeing what was making Ivan so excited.

The light disappeared under the water.

Irritated with his brother’s excitement William collected his flashlight from the bottom of the boat and shone into the darkness where Ivan was pointing.

“Listen.” Ivan said frozen like a statue.

“I hear that, what’s that… a child screaming?” William replied inspecting the equipment.

“Is there something recorded, please check?”

“The temperature’s dropped and something’s captured on the audio recorder. We’ll check the cameras later. Keep them recording, don’t change them, and just let them run.” William commanded getting a little excited.

“Keep your eyes open. I think something’s getting close.” Ivan said scanning the water.

“Finally, something’s happening. If we’re lucky it’ll be the tape that would make us famous.”

“I told you this wouldn’t be a waste of time.”

Ivan scanned the water for anything that moved. Without the moon to help them, he reached for his flashlight.

A moan echoed across the water, followed closely with a hiss, water splashing sound. Mist started to cover the water around the boat. Reducing visibility to arm’s length. A sudden knock from beneath, jerked the boat violently, dipping it to one side. The two men scramble for the opposite side and stabilize it before water overwhelmed it.

“We’re here to help you, who are you?” William called out.

The knocking became louder.

“Why are you attacking people on the lake?”

The drawn out moan became louder and deeper.

“Who did this to you?” Ivan called.

A loud hiss, moaning scream echoed in the air.

“Please come out and face us.” Ivan invited.

The hissing, humming, moaning and knocking stopped. A sharp light overpowered the brother’s lights and moved closer to the boat. The mist parted to allow the light a clear path to the boat. The light slowed down and stopped four feet in front of them, revealing a person in its center. She stood for a brief moment, arms stretched out in front of her.

A child’s voice echoed from behind her. She was speaking, but no sound came to hear. She stopped with the image of a young child entering the light. She stood silently staring at the two men in the boat. Suddenly she released a horrifying screech and rushed forward.

Ivan and William stood up and tried to flee. With nowhere to go they grabbed for the oars but didn’t make it. She scooped them up and pulled them overboard with a large splash and a thump. Their screams silenced as they hit the water and silence returned to the boat ones more.

The flashlight shone through the rain and the mist subsided. Cameras still recorded, echoed a soft beeping sound as their alarms warned that something’s captured.

*

Chapter Four

[I]

 

The mayors’ office was big, well furnished with a glass top desk and a lounge suite for relaxing. Large crafted oak bookshelves held a collection of law and reference books. In one corner a small bar fridge held drinks. Oil paintings decorated the walls and a large window admitted enough light. A large Persian rug covered the center of the floor while parquet tile shone in the bright sunlight.

Mayor Gibbs had a face like a potbelly pig. His looks would never win an election, but his wits and brawn always excelled. He was the type of person you would find attractive only once your vision’s impaired through heavy drinking. He arrived at the crack of dawn and let himself into the town hall with his own keys.

Gibbs looked up over his glasses as Andrew walked into his office. “Does this visit mean that you don’t want to be sheriff?”

“No it doesn’t sir. I just need to impose a few limits for a while. I believe you heard about the drama we’ve had at the lake over the last couple of days. I’d like to find out more and stop the attacks.” Andrew jumped right into the conversation.

“You want to take away the only attraction this town has to bring tourists here. That’s like taking away the air and letting the town suffocate, why?” Gibbs asked surprised.

“I feel the lake’s not safe, and I’d like to close it for further investigation, just to be safe. It won’t be for long anyway.”

“What investigation? The rumors of ghosts or the heart attack of Robert Wilson, rest his soul. He was a good friend of mine.”

Gibbs stood up and walked briskly to the oak table near the window. He poured two glasses of scotch and returned to his desk, holding one to Andrew. He scratched in the drawer and turned his attention back to him. He handed him a new sheriff’s badge.

“Martin told me a couple of days ago that he’s planning to give up the job and leave town. He suggested that you take over his job. He also said you’re the best person we’ve got. You’re eager I’ll give you that. He said that you’ve got a good nose for it, and that you always look at every possible angle in every case. We can use someone like that. Meanwhile I had this made and left it up to Martin to give you the good news.”

Andrew removed his old badge. “Thank you.”

“Tell me. Closing the lake temporarily, this one of the angles you’re looking at?”

“I’d rather look at it as a precaution, taking in to consideration the events has now become hostile. Maybe it’s nothing, just some kids playing their stupid games, but it’s better to be sure, and at the same time I’ll keep as many people safe as I can.”

Gibbs raised his eyebrows and glanced over the rim of his glasses.

“Is that what you believe, kids playing pranks?”

“I believe someone committed murder somewhere around the lake…” Andrew declared.

“What murders?” Gibbs interrupted shocked.

Andrew placed the case files on the desk, but Gibbs didn’t take them.

“It’s starting to look like someone murdered two people and dumped their bodies into the lake. I think the attacks are a result of a supernatural entity. Witnesses reported strange events and sightings of a woman and a child that’s haunting the lake.” Andrew continued studying the mayor’s reaction.

“I’m not convinced about these ghosts. I heard the stories and I believe they’re made up. Do you have any proof of these murders? Do you have an idea where the crime scene is, missing person, a suspect or witness, anything?” Gibbs asked with his palms opened on the desk.

“No sir.” Andrew admitted softly.

“Well how do you know there’s a crime?”

“I’ve been reading witness reports and all of them points to the same sighting. Something in the lake’s clawing its way out using visitors to do it.” Andrew pointed out and sipped his drink nervously.

“What attacks, a drunken hallucinating young woman or someone scaring Robert into a heart attack, its gossip. Did any of them witness a murder?”

“No sir.”

“These stories are nothing more than misdirection and the incidents pure accidental. You’re just stepping into the sheriff’s shoes. I understand that it’s overwhelming to say the least. Why don’t you take a short vacation to adjust? Nothing major, let’s say from Monday to Sunday. Rap your mind around your new duties when you get back. That leaves you with three days to get everything you need in order before you go on leave. You’re not new to this town. You’ve spent most of your life here. How many times have rumors kicked started business, especially around this time of the year?” Gibbs pointed out.

“I don’t need time off sir. I’m aware of all the rumors overtime, but nothing solid were ever proven, not like this. There’s something in the lake hurting people. Someone who knows nothing about the town is also reporting events. I’d rather like to stay here and do my job.” Andrew protested.

“Go for a short holiday. It’ll do you good. Once you get back you won’t get this chance often.” Gibbs repeated more adamant.

“But Sir I…”

“I insist. Let’s talk again when you return to duty.” Gibbs interrupted.

“Yes sir.” Andrew agreed disappointedly.

He collected the untouched case files from the desk. He left the office with a heavy heart. He was hoping that he might’ve been more successful than this. All he managed to do was to look like an amateur and that what wasn’t the image he wanted to start with as the new sheriff.

*

[II]

 

Andrew walked into the office angry. He headed to his office and stopped at Yvonne’s desk to collect the paperwork from the night past.

“I’m so sick of hearing about rumors and misdirection. Why’s everyone in this town so obsess with rumors and business? Why are they so blinded to anything that’s slapping them in the face, I will never understand?” Andrew ranted and raved.

“Did it go that bad with, Gibbs?” Yvonne remarked, and handed him the morning papers and night reports.

“Worse, he put me on leave.” He took the files but didn’t even look at them.

“Well nothing ever happens here, it’s a safe place. People around here don’t want to believe otherwise.”

Andrew headed to his office and paused. “Probably, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give up on this.”

The phone on Yvonne’s desk rang. She held her hand out to Andrew in a gesture to wait. He turned to Yvonne waiting for her to finish her call with folded arms. Yvonne replaced the receiver.

“Tom needs to see you at the lake. Some people went missing last night. He found the boat they hired floating a distance from the rock face.” She informed.

“Great, what’s it with the rock face, more trouble I’m sure.”

“There’s something else you should know about the men that went missing.” Yvonne said with a smile, teasing him.

“What, do I have to drag it out of you?”

“They had equipment mounted on the boat, cameras and stuff.” Yvonne informed lifting her eyebrows.

Andrew sighed deeply. “Ghost hunters? This might be just what I need. Before I forget, get the sketch artist to the hospital. I need him to do a sketch of whom or what attacked Dillon Adams, his claims its Janet. Can you believe it?”

“Helen James-Leigh wants to see you if you have time, she said it’s important and urgent. For years nothing happens, then one day suddenly everything happens at once. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?” Yvonne said smiling, and chowed discreetly on gum.

“Helen, I don’t recall someone with that name.” Andrew scratched his head confused.

“It’s the new people in Sheriff Parker’s house.” Yvonne informed.

“Great, I’ll make a turn there when I can, but first I need to find someone around here with a detonator.”

“I don’t follow.” Yvonne admitted confused.

“I need to stop these bombs from exploding, so I can take care of one thing at a time.”

Yvonne laughed out loud.

Andrew left the office filled with hope. He silently hoped a recording might proof that something mysterious happened on the lake.

“Did Martin go to meet his wife and son? Who phoned him if Janet’s murdered? What’s he trying to hide? Time off couldn’t be so bad, I can find Martin and ring the truth out of him.” Andrew though out loud as he left the office.

Andrew got into his vehicle and headed to the lake.

 

*

[III]

 

The sun hadn’t been this bright in days. The soft breeze blew in from the east.

A large panel van parked close to the coffee shop. The side windows were metal. Small extractor fans spun on the roof and the rear door window covered with small curtains. The van was white with wavy colored lines across the side and the words “Paranormal Investigator” appeared above a cell phone number.

Andrew approached the pier as Mr. Craft walked from the edge towards him. He was tall, dark hair with gray lines just above the ears. His face long and sharpened at the chin. His sunglasses were dark and he’s well-dressed.

“You are the Sheriff? May I please have a word?” He started as he reached Andrew.

“Good day Sir, what’s this about? Can’t it wait? I need to start a search for two missing men.”

The man looked at Andrew hard and urgent. His eyes filled with a deep sadness. He swallowed hard and his voice was hoarse.

“Sheriff, I’m just as concerned about finding the boys, but I fear it’s already too late for them.” He paused. “I promise if you need to get the search under way I’ll help you any way I can. It seems like there’s some time before you’ve got enough searchers gathered. Tom will spread the word while we talk.”

Tom nodded and started back to his office. He only greeted politely by lifting his cap, he was clearly upset and bothered by this disappearance that he would rather not speak.

“If I may ask who are you exactly?” Andrew asked confused.

“Let’s go into the coffee shop. I’m a little tired. I’ve been here the whole morning. I can do with coffee.” The man offered and headed to the coffee shop.

Andrew followed. The tall man entered the coffee shop first and sat at a table at the window overlooking the lake. The air-conditioner hummed from the back and music played softly. Eight tables each with three chairs stood spaced in the center of the room. A wooden counter with stone tops cordoned off the service area from the kitchen. Bar stools offered seating at the counter.

A waiter appeared from the kitchen with freshly brewed coffee and a tray with cups, sugar and creamer. She greeted friendly left the tray and walked back to the counter.

Andrew poured creamer into his coffee. “What can I do for you Mr…?”

“Mr. Craft, just a short conversation I believe would help.” He added creamer and sugar to his own coffee.

“What’s on your mind? Clearly you’re not a reporter. What’s so important that you drag me from a search to find two missing men to have a chat? Why couldn’t this wait and why’s it too late for the missing men?” Andrew asked sipping his coffee.

Mr. Craft looked out of the window for a moment. He searched for something, or expecting something to happen shortly. Andrew was weary of him. He didn’t know whether to trust the man or to arrest him for wasting his time. Somehow he felt like a hamster in a wheel. He needed to start the search, but something was holding him back. He decided to wait and hear the man out.

“You don’t have to worry, I won’t waste too much of your time. I’m aware that you need to be out there, but I thought it would be worthwhile if we should talk first.” Mr. Craft said and it made Andrew felt like his reading his mind. This put Andrew more on edge and he has started to suspect the man of foul play.

“What’ll be worthwhile, Mr. Craft?”

“I’ve stumbled on something that’ll be worthwhile for us both. You’ll have an answer in your case, and I’ll have the proof that there’s truth to the supernatural.”

“How do you figure that and what do you know about my case?” Andrew asked suspicious.

“Sheriff Foster, I drove all the way from the city to speak to you. I’d like to speak to my sons, but they missing. They’re supposed to call me at the crack of dawn so I could meet with them. When they didn’t call I contacted Tom.”

“You know Tom?” Andrew asked not surprised.

“I was a teacher in his school.” Mr. Craft admitted.

Mr. Craft sat silently for a moment looking out the window at the group of people who had started to gather outside. His hands trembled slightly as he poured creamer and sugar into his second cup of coffee.

“Why were you supposed to meet them here?”

“I couldn’t get here last night, so they left ahead of me. They were going to call me to let me know if they found anything. When they didn’t call I called their room at the bed and breakfast but they weren’t there. I called Tom and he checked and about twenty minutes later he called back saying he found the empty boat.”

Mr. Craft’s hands shook even more. His voice faded, he has a difficult time to utter the words.

“Found what? Do you know what they were looking for?”

Andrew signaled the waiter, he needed to give the man a moment to gather his thoughts. He could also rid himself of the burning sensation in his stomach. Hunger or fear of what’s uncovered, he couldn’t decide. Mr. Craft sipped his coffee nervously and stared out the window again. The Waiter brought menus and took Andrews order of bacon and eggs on toast. Mr. Craft didn’t order food. He was clearly too concerned to eat. He only sips his coffee.

The waiter left.

“What were they looking for, I think you know exactly way they were out there on the lake, don’t you?” Andrew repeated, bringing Mr. Craft back to the conversation.

Mr. Craft shifted in his seat.

“My sons believes in the paranormal, a quality I’m afraid they inherited from me. They’ve made it their life’s ambitions to proof that entities exists.” Mr. Craft explained in a soft gentle voice.

“Ghost hunters? What made them believe there are ghosts here?” Andrew asked between sips of coffee.

“We prefer the term paranormal investigators. They heard the rumor back home so I placed a call to Tom which was enough to spike their curiosity. They couldn’t wait to come here and look for themselves.”

“I apologize. I’m aware of how fast news travels around here, but to the city, I believe it’s a new record.”

Mr. Craft looked straight at Andrew. “So what do you think about my offer of help?”

“What exactly are you offering help with? This conversation’s not going anywhere. I have more important business to attend too as this conversation, so if you don’t mind I need to get going.” Andrew said getting annoyed with the slow progress.

Mr. Craft was hiding something and he was looking for the right moment to bring it up.

“Sheriff, perhaps I should be straight with you. I’ve looked at the video footage from the mounted cameras on the boat.”

‘Finally there it is a confession.’ Andrew though.

“So, you’re admitting to tampering with the evidence. You can’t just walk in here and do as you please, who do you think you are? You know of course that I need to confiscate all the footage.” Andrew said angrily.

“I’ve got the right equipment to analyze the data. The chance the data can damage if it’s handled wrongly is too great. This I can’t, under any circumstances allow to happen.”

Andrew met with the man’s urgent, concerned eyes. There was more to it than just a man searching for his missing sons. He pushed grief aside to deal with a matter he felt was more important.

“It’s a possibility, I can’t speak for everyone that might handle it, but for my office we take care of all evidence.” Andrew insured sympathetically.

“Everyone can lose something or damage it by accident, Sheriff. I can analyze the footage under your supervision.”

“What’s on the footage, kids playing a prank?”

Mr. Craft snapped angrily. “No.”

“They had another boat which they used to get off the lake.”

“That might’ve been the smartest move, and then they’d be here right now having breakfast with me rather me having this conversation. I’m afraid that it’s not what happened. They had this strange addiction to the thrill of the find. They’d never walk away from that.” He sighed and handed photos to Andrew. “Take a look at the photos then you’ll know what happened.”

Andrew didn’t take the photos instead he tried to read Mr. Craft’s facial expressions.

“Tom did me a favor. It’s not his fault. I asked him not to report anything until I had a chance to see what happened. He’s only to try to find the boys. I believe he had help looking for them, just in case they made it out injured. I knew going up against an entity filled with rage and bent on revenge wasn’t an easy task.” He sipped nervously at his coffee again. “You must understand. I’d never allow my sons to go on the lake had I know it’s dangerous to this extent. Besides, there’s no stopping or talking them out of it. They assured me that they’d taken every precaution and that they know what could happen. They’re my only children. The last thing I want is to have everything seized and held up with red tape before I knew what happened. I needed to know.”

“I can understand that, I don’t have children so it’s difficult for me to put myself in your shoes. Knowing what happened is closure, but you’re tampering with evidence.” Andrew felt sorry for him.

Mr. Craft spoke softly, he felt guilty and scolded like a child. “I apologize for that. It takes special equipment to analyze the evidence as you put it. The evidence is pure, nothing’s tampered with. I simply extracted a photo or two of what attacked my sons, is that so wrong?”

“Because only you can analyze the footage, you know we do have sophisticated labs that can analyze anything.”

“It’s a risk I’m not willing to take. This equipment belongs to me so the footage does too. If I need to I’ll hold this data up in a court until I run out of every penny I have, and believe me it will take longer than you might think.”

“This is evidence in a crime, therefore I can seize it anytime I want and send it to anywhere I feel fit.” Andrew got up ready to leave. He was too angry to sit one more moment in his company. ‘What gives him the right, who does he think he is?’

Andrew walked past the table heading for the door when Mr. Craft took his arm gently and held him back. His voice was as calm and gentle as a grieving father.

“Sheriff I’m not trying to withhold evidence, but I’d like to analyze it myself rather than sending it away. Whatever’s on the footage, you’re welcome to it. I just don’t want it out of my sight. I’m sure there’s more information to analyze, but it would waste too much time sending it away when I can do it right here.” He pleaded.

Andrew sat down again. “Yes sure.”

The waiter brought his order and placed the plate on the table with as much charm as she could master. She left the table with a smile and walked away. Andrew started to eat.

“Hungry?” Mr. Craft asked trying to change the mood.

Andrew swallowed a large bite of toast and egg. “Forgive me, I missed dinner and breakfast.”

Mr. Craft smiled for the first time. “Anyway I believe you’ll be glad to find that your suspect wouldn’t waste taxpayer’s money sitting in jail. I don’t know if you have answers to all your questions you might have, but I don’t think so.”

Andrew was still eating. “Why are you not looking for your sons?”

“Trust me. I’m doing everything humanly possible to find the boys. I’ve got people coming to do just that.”

“Don’t you trust in our ability?”

“Yes, and I don’t want to get in your way. I believe I’ve got more friends then you. Your town’s smaller than most, you need friends right now, if I can call favors to cover more ground, then why not? It’s not costing you anything.”

Mr. Craft looked out the window, looking for something. After a moment of silence he turned his attention to Andrew who had finished his meal.

“Look at the photos. Something pulled them under the water, if they had made it to shore they would’ve contacted me. I’m hoping that they’re out there alive, unlikely but I’m hoping against the odds.”

Holding the set of six photos, Andrew tapped them against the table. Looking at them meant he had to except Janet and Christopher Parker never left town.

The waiter noticed tension and walked over briskly to collect the plate and offer more coffee. There was silence until she left. Finally Andrew inspected the photos.

Most showed a hazy human figure in front of a night sky. Andrew flipped through two similar photos and stared at the last.

He felt sick to the pit of his stomach.

Color drained from his face, his head started to spin forcing him to lay the photos face down on the table.

The image on the postcard size photo confirmed his worst suspicions.

As clear as daylight the wet, neglected, gray eyed image of Janet was center of the photo. She was hands reach from the camera. In the background the small image of Christopher was hazy, but recognizable.

Andrew was silent, starring out the window. “Are you sure this isn’t just a hoax?

“They’re real, as real as you and I. There aren’t many documented events of this kind. The boys were here, to proof paranormal activities does exist. It’s important that I offer my help and complete the study my sons started. Please don’t push me away. There’s so much we can learn from this. I beg of you, allow me to do what I’m good at.”

Finally Andrew got his thoughts in order. “How do we stop her?”

“You need to find out what’s holding her here.”

“What happened to her you mean.”

“Exactly, give her a reason to move on. Solve the problem that she can’t.”

“First let’s find your sons.” Andrew said and stood up. He walked a few steps and turned to Mr. Craft. “Coming?”

Andrew walked to the counter, paid the bill and walked out the door. Mr. Craft followed.

*

[IV]

 

The sun was still bright and hot. Occasional clouds drifted in front of the sun blocking its brightness, and the breeze was soft and gentle. A blue pick-up parked next to the panel van and was off loading diving equipment. Seven men dressed in wet suits gathered around the pick-up. A sign on the door worded “Diving and Salvaging” and listed four numbers in the city.

Andrew turned his attention to a small group of volunteers. The divers left the parking lot and walked to the pier to start searching the water. Andrew divided the groups into teams of four to concentrate their search on land. Andrew watched as the teams scatter and walked to the rear of the panel van where Tom was standing.

“Sheriff, there’s something I’d like you to hear. It might help to identify your ghosts. The cameras recorded images and the sound recorders caught voices besides that of my sons. Do you have a moment?”

Andrew entered van and sat on an empty chair in the corner. A shelf held different computers on the one side of the van.

“This is an interesting setup you’ve got here. I’m sure it must’ve set you back a bit.”

“My life’s savings and much hard work, some of this equipment’s not easy to come by.” Mr. Craft admitted proudly.

“Can you show me the camera footage as well? I need to see what happened out there last night.”

Mr. Craft turned to one of the computers. “I’ve got it ready for you.”

Andrew watched the footage without comment. The first time it played in silence. Mr. Craft added audio and played it again.

“Do you know the woman?” Mr. Craft asked noticing Andrew had turned pale.

“It point to someone I thought had left town. The more I hear people talking and now seeing this footage. I’m convinced that she had never left.”

“You were close to her. I can see it in your eyes.”

Andrew’s deep sadness carried in his voice. “I’m … was this boy’s godfather. I would think it’s impossible for something like this to happen, and no one even suspects a crime.” He paused for a moment. “We even felt sorry for her husband. He was going through hell. We thought it was because he couldn’t deal with them leaving. Meanwhile the only reason he ran away so fast, is because Janet’s haunting him and he can’t deal with them, the bastard.” Andrew said, as sorrow turned to anger.

Mr. Craft fell silent. “I feel your loss.

“Thank you.”

“This is what I wanted you to hear.” He remarked and played the audio again.

The radio in Andrew’s hand cracked to life.

“We have reached the far shore and are splitting up.” The volunteer called.

“Fine, let me know the minute you find something.”

“We’ll do so.”

“Sorry about that.”

“Nothing more than necessary, there’s no need to apologize.” Mr. Craft assured.

On the recording William and Ivan’s voices were clear, asking questions to establish presence. Andrew’s facial expressions changed with the sound of a female voice.

“That voice.” Andrew’s voice was a breathless whisper.

“I can make it clearer so only her voice comes through.” Mr. Craft said and changed the settings on the audio and played it again.

Andrew sat on the edge of the chair hoping she would name her killer. He needed to help her, bring her peace and the rest that’s taken from her so wrongly.

Janet’s voice came through the speakers in response to the questions Ivan and William asked. “I’m the one you killed and threw away like garbage… Find us or I’ll keep taking others… You and your kind…” A soft weep echoed from behind her as a child came into focus.

Silence fell hard in the van, on one of the screens her image was in full view of the camera.

Janet continued filled with rage. “Your reign had end. I shell not fear you and you’ll come with me to the bottom of the lake to live through my pain for all eternity, just as you expected me to. You can no longer silence me. I will not be alone in this torment. You’ll pay for your crime as my son and I have suffered for some time now.”

Moments later she swept past the cameras. She appeared seconds later the other side with Ivan and William forcing them under the water. They never reappeared.

Andrew struggled to find the words. “This can’t go unpunished.”

“What do you need to make it happen?”

“Can you get your divers to search around the rock face as well? I do believe if there’s something under the water, it’ll be there.” Andrew asked and stood up.

“Sure.”

“If you want to continue your investigations go ahead. Understand the sheriff’s department can’t hire you or take responsibility for any damage or loss of any equipment, or injury to you or your staff.”

“I understand.”

“You’ll show me any evidence. No-one’s to see any of this until I give you the okay, even if the president himself comes with a court order.”

“Sure.”

“Where do I contact you?”

Mr. Craft handed him a business card.

“My cell phone’s on twenty-four-seven. Once again thank you. You don’t know what this means to me and my sons, and if they were here right now they would’ve grabbed and kissed you.”

“They sound like great men, I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet them.” Andrew left the van and turned to Tom.

“I suggest you close the lake as soon as the divers are out of the water. I don’t want to find anyone around here, especially on the water. I’ll deal with the mayor. You’re in charge of this Tom except for Mr. Craft.” Andrew commanded and walked to his vehicle and stopped midway.

*

[V]

 

A black sedan blocked the path between Andrew and his vehicle. It stopped in front of him. The rear tinted window descended and the door clip opened. Andrew slipped into the backseat with a sigh. The window closed again.

Andrew looked at the short stocky man that seemed more than comfortable in his position. Until recently he had thought of the mayor as sensitive to the needs, safety and freedom of the people who had elected him to his position. He accepted a cold drink from the driver poured from a minibar in the front and held it for a moment in his hands to feel the cold.

Andrew stared at the glass in his hand, he felt dizzy and distant.

“Janet and her son are still here.” Andrew said softly and handed Gibbs the photos.

Gibbs took them and studied them thoughtfully while giving Andrew time to talk.

“I’m sure Martin did something to them. He’s more on edge as any man I’ve ever met whose wife walked out on him. There’s something not right about his behavior, even worse every time he was near the lake. Its possible accidents occurred, but then why hide it. I mean he was the sheriff. He’s respected and seen as an upstanding member of society. At any rate, something’s not right and I believe we need to find him even just to hear his side of the story.”

“How can you be so sure that he committed this crime?” Gibbs asked looking up from the photos.

“It’s possible that his wife and child left town as he claimed and he was not aware of their disappearance. By now he should’ve relished something’s not right. On the other hand, he must’ve known, because something horrifying was haunting him for days before he left. Somehow he even received calls from someone who we believed was his wife. Even I’d heard a one-sided conversation that sounded like him speaking to her the day he left. Who would call him if not his wife?”

“Maybe he has someone pretending to be his wife or you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“I know I’m not, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach and it’s making me sick to think of it. I’d love to know that I’m wrong, but the only way to settle this is to find Martin.”

“I assume you have a way to find him.”

“Yes.” Andrew replies coldly.

“You’re planning to do this when?”

“As soon as humanly possible, I intend to start the search as soon as I get to the office.”

“What will you do if he turns out to be innocent and your ghost isn’t, Janet?” Gibbs asked handing the photos back to Andrew.

“Then I‘d have hit a brick wall.”

“Will you be leaving town as soon as you find him?”

“Yes. I’ll have to tie up some loose ends before I can leave. First we need to close the lake for the public. I’ve got a paranormal investigator that will gather information on the ghosts. Just the investigator and Tom can to go on the lake if it’s necessary.”

Gibbs looked at Andrew over the rim of his glasses. “I know that you and the Parkers have a close relationship for a long time. I don’t want it to cloud your judgment and force the sheriff’s department into an embarrassment that would harm the reputation of the town. Did she actually name him as the killer?”

“No, but if he’s guilty he belongs behind bars, broken and dishonored as much as any criminal. Everyone ought to see him destroyed after all he had done.”

“That’s fare and well, but did he do it, do you have any other prove than a ghost that didn’t name him and your gut feeling?”

“No.”

Gibbs emptied his glass and handed it to the driver. “No matter what, before you accuse him, you need good solid proof that would tie him to the crime that you don’t have proof of either. This would be difficult. Your only evidence is a ghost that doesn’t even points to him as her killer. You do have your work cut out for you.”

Andrew sat for a moment in silence thinking. He finished his drink and passed the glass to the driver.

“I don’t have to remind you that Martin’s a resourceful man. He’s not today’s child, not your average person on the street. He’s the best sheriff’s we had because of his background in the military, and his ability to get the job done. He’s thorough. He demanded a quality of life and in return gained respect most longed for even never seen. But you see, put that aside. He could also be a criminal of the likes we hadn’t seen in this community. Of all the evil he might’ve done to his wife and kid he had that great, hero stigma behind him. These qualities are more powerful and immeasurable than you’ll ever wrap your mind around. If anything goes wrong with his apprehension. Even if you can proof him guilty, you might be a punching bag for the community angered by his dismay. You must be strong and absolutely certain before bringing him down. Even if guilty and he fights the charges using the people of this town, they’ll make him innocent and you guilty. You need to know this before chasing after a legend.” Gibbs warned.

“If his guilty I’ll proof it beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Andrew admitted insistently.

“I believe you’re a capable man, better than many. Even you need to admit that you’re not in his league for instance, with great effort you can build a strong case with everything in the correct way to convict him. You might even be able to convince people outside this town of his guild. The moment you put your feet here and rumors start to build, you should brace yourself for more than a war. It could cost you more than you’d like to offer up.”

“Regardless of that, if he’s guilty I’ll seal his fate, even if it costs me everything. I owe it to Janet and Christopher.”

“Now, you didn’t forget about the festival next week, we need the lake open by then.”

Andrew opened the door and swung one leg out then paused. He turned to the mayor. “It’s in the best interest of all involved that I wrap this up long before then.”

Andrew left the sedan and heads to his own vehicle. Tom’s walked over to the driver’s side door.

“You can put up your signs to close the lake. If you find anything call me on the radio. I need to follow up a lead.”

Andrew got into his vehicle and followed the shoreline slowly to the Northern side of the lake. His mind raced with thought as he looks out for anything unusual. Silently he hoped to catch a glimpse of who he now believed to be Janet.

 

*

[VI]

 

The door to Helen’s kitchen was standing wide open. Laughter came from next to the house where a little girl played with a large dollhouse and an assortment of furniture and dolls to fit the house. Now and then she poured tea from her set. She shared the tea with an imaginary friend. Someone was fiddling in the kitchen.

Andrew parked under the large tree in front of the house and walked to the kitchen door. Helen moved back and forth in the kitchen. She noticed Andrew and invited him in before he had a chance to knock. He entered and stood next to a small table set against one of the walls. Helen finished the coffee she was busy with and invited Andrew to sit at the table. Helen called Olivia through the kitchen window to eat lunch. Olivia came skipping in, climbed onto one of the chairs and started eating. She didn’t pay attention to the conversation between Andrew and Helen.

“Sweetie, why don’t you tell the sheriff about your friend?”

“Are you going to help him? He’s so sad, but he’s scared to come to anyone. He says people will hurt him.” Olivia started.

“Why’s he so sad. What’s his name?”

“Christopher doesn’t want to talk about it much.”

Andrew’s heart skipped a beat. “That’s a pretty name. We have to make him happy again. Will you tell him that I’ll do anything to make him happy again?”

“Sure. I think he’d be glad to hear that.” Olivia said smiling.

“Will you tell him that Uncle Andrew said so?”

“Sure.” Olivia assured.

After eating, Olivia ran outside to the dollhouse. Andrew turned his attention to Helen.

“Sheriff, I asked to see you because you see, I don’t exactly know how to explain this without thrown into the mental institute, but I feel something’s wrong.” Helen said softly, her voice was trembling. She played with the cup of coffee in her hands. She didn’t look at Andrew.

“Try me, after the last few days I’ve had, I can believe just about anything.” Andrew invited.

“I don’t want to waste your time or mine.” She paused.

“What do you mean?”

Helen stood up and walked toward the window “If you feel I’m wasting your time, tell me, and then we can consider this conversation as never happened and go on with our lives.”

Andrew joined Helen at the window. “Currently there’s a search underway at the lake. Nothing of the last couple of days had been making sense until this morning. And this house could offer more to the investigation then you’re aware. So let me put you at ease, whatever you’ve got to share with me, I’m sure it’s important enough for me to waste some time.”

“She’s so happy to be playing with someone.”

Andrew turned away from the window. “Even if he’s a five-year-old brutally murdered boy murdered by the one person he had trusted, and I could do nothing to help him.”

“He’s murdered?” Helen asked shocked.

Andrew tried to hold back the tears. “Yes.”

“That might explain the strange events.”

“Like what?”

“Olivia’s friend and his mother I think need help.”

Helen looked out the window again. Olivia ran circles around her tea set, laughing and calling out for her friend to catch her. Her long blond locks bounced and flew gently through the light breeze.

Helen turned to Andrew. “She’ll be fine there. I need to show you something.”

“Lead the way.”

“Do you know what happened to them?”

“Not exactly, all we know is that they‘ve left town and suddenly they appear in the lake attacking anyone in reach.”

Helen walked upstairs. “I just don’t understand why they insist on me helping them.”

“Probably because the boy has attached himself to your daughter, because they shy away from men.”

“Maybe, but I think there’s more to it.”

“Whatever it is, we need to work it out and fast.”

Helen climbed the stairs quickly. “The woman spoke to me.”

Andrew got the feeling she didn’t want to feel trapped on the stairs.

“She spoke to you?”

Helen stopped in the passage and turned to Andrew.

“Yes, she was in my room and she blocked me in the passage, right here.”

“What did she say?”

“She wants me to find them and him and make him pay. Do you make any sense of this, because I don’t have a clue what this means.”

Andrew felt weak and dizzy. “She didn’t say anything else?”

“No, but she’s insistent that I help her.”

Helen stepped into the room, Andrew trended carefully fearing an attack from Janet. The room was empty. The curtains are wide open and the bed neatly made. The room’s neatly kept.

“How many times had she spoken to you?”

Helen turned into the passage. “Only once, but her voice was strong she didn’t need to repeat herself. I also sensed something in the basement although I think it was her.”

Andrew followed.

“And the boy, did he speak to you.”

“No, just showed me something.”

“What did he show you?”

Helen walked to Olivia’s room. “Follow me and I’ll show you. Yesterday afternoon Olivia and I were in the lounge watching TV. Olivia was playing on the carpet alone when I heard something upstairs. I came up here and found the room in a total mess. Someone pulled the clothes from the closet and scattered it around the room. The curtains hung off the rail and the toys stacked into two piles, toys that appeal to boys and the rest. The carpet had wet marks and the bedding pulled off the bad. I turned around and saw the boy.” She stopped just outside the door.

Andrew hung on her every word. “He showed himself to you?”

“He stretched his hands out to me as if he wanted me to comfort him and then he showed me.”

Andrew swallowed hard. “Showed you what?”

Helen pointed to the room. “Please, after you.”

Andrew walked into the room. Olivia’s room was a typical little girl’s room. He turned his attention to the wall, where colorful markings were out of place.

“Olivia didn’t do this herself?”

“No.” Helen replied.

“Children do strange things.”

Helen entered the room. “Do you think she could’ve reached? Besides last night after her bath, that wasn’t there and she was with me downstairs. After all, the boy showed it to me, and I believe he messed up the room to get attention.”

“Then only he could’ve done this.”

“Why they’re insisting I should help them is beyond me. I never knew them. Plus I just moved here.”

“This was his room.” Andrew admitted in a soft voice.

Helen stepped back in shock. “You must be joking?”

Andrew walked out of the room choking on the words. “You bought the house from Martin Parker, Janet and Christopher was his wife and son.”

Helen struggled to catch her breath. “What on earth would push a man to do something like this, he seemed so decent. That explains why he wanted to leave so quickly. He probably knew she was haunting and wanted to get away before someone figures out what he had done. It seems like you knew them better than I did. You know a lot about them. Where you close to them?”

Helen and Andrew returned to the kitchen.

“Too close.” Andrew admitted sadly.

Walking towards the kitchen they noticed Olivia was playing in the lounge with her friend. The heat had finally gotten to her. Distracted by her friend they continued their conversation in the kitchen.

Andrew sat at the table again his legs weakened by the thought that Christopher was so close by. Helen stood at the counter again. He remembered the counter. It was the same one Martin had burned when he came home late one night from the pub. Janet refused to make him dinner so he did it himself on a small two plate stove. He passed out before the meal cooked and burned a ring into the counter. After he got rid of the smoke he had to replace the entire counter. Janet appeared more amused than angry. That was just the person she was, she didn’t get angry much. What could he possibly do to them, why to them?

Andrew fell silent, trying to calm himself before he spoke.

“I never believed in ghosts or the supernatural.”

“Neither did I, but I believe we’re forced into something so a revealed hideous crime that would otherwise could’ve gone unnoticed. Please let me help release them, and find whoever did this. I can’t help feeling that I made a promise. That’s all I ask.”

“This is a police matter that I can’t involve civilians in.”

“I understand. Then make me your deputy for a while. It’s not just me but it’s also my daughter and the entities. They didn’t reach out to you but to us. I feel if I don’t help they might get desperate and harm Olivia or worse.”

“I don’t know. An investigation like this could be too tiresome or dangerous for a small child.”

“So far it’s easy on her, but if needed she can spend time with her father. It’ll distract her from her friend and do her and her father the world of good.”

“Would you allow a paranormal investigator to investigate the house?”

“Yes, by all means.”

Andrew fell silent again, his mind mapped out the tasks he needed to complete. ‘Good. I’ll track down Martin’s whereabouts, and then I need to go and see him and find out what he’s hiding.’

Andrew swallowed hard, tears started to collect in the corner of his eyes. His hands and voice were trembling. He cleared his throat but it worsened and took more effort to hold back the tears. His stomach twisted and knotted. He seemed pale and weak.

“Do you remember the last time you saw them, what they said, what they looked like?”

Andrew searched his mind for the most soothing memory. “They were kind and gentle, never did harm to anyone, they were willing to help where they could…”

Helen interrupted. “…Hold that memory no matter what. You can’t think of them in any other way. If you do, just for even a second, grief will take everything that’s good about them and turn it into something dark and sinister that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Andrew stood up slowly. “Can I make a few calls?”

Helen pointed to the phone on the wall.

“Sure, you can use this one I need to check on Olivia.”

“Andrew waited a moment before dialing the office. The phone rang a few times before Yvonne answered.

Yvonne was standing at her desk. Deputy Davis was struggles with a drunken man, swept items fell off a desk and a chair knocked over. Cursing and screaming echoed through the phone.

“Sheriff, we could use you help at the office. We’re struggling with a fender bender that turned into a brawl ending in a smashed shop window.” Yvonne said trying to catch her breath.

“Yvonne, please… get one of the deputies deal with it. I need you to run a search of activities on Martin’s social security number and bank cards. You’ll find all you need in his personnel file. While you’re busy with that I’d like you to do the same with Janet’s. I need it as soon as possible. Phone the phone company. I need phone records for all calls received and made from all the lines in the office. Especially get the records for the phone in Martin’s office from the last two weeks. I need you to also find a forensics lab in the city. I’ll be at the office just now, still need to make a few stops.” Andrew instructed and ended the call before dialing a new number. “Are you still at the lake? Did you find anything yet? I’ll be there shortly…” He ended the call and turned to Helen.

“I have a few stops to make. I’ll speak to the investigator in a moment. Maybe it’s best if you’re not in the house for a few days? Especially while the investigators busy. I mean it’ll be best for Olivia’s sake, just in case something goes wrong?”

Helen wrote on a piece of paper. “We’ll stay here until the investigators done set up, and then we’ll go to the guesthouse. I’m giving you this number in case you need to get hold of me.”

“I’ll call you soon.”

Andrew greeted and left the house hastily. Just outside the property he stopped suddenly, his eyes filled with tears, his hands shook and his heart was too heavy to breathe. He released a screamed so deeply and sorrowful that he broke down and sobbed.

*

[VII]

 

Martin walked through the house like a person in search of something. Outside rain hammered the old farmhouse roof, wind ripped at the large trees surrounding the house and property. Inside an imaginary heat made sweat pop out on his skin and streamed down his face. His body trembled from the cold. He lit a cigarette and smoked it hastily before he stomped it out in one of the many empty plates scattered throughout the lounge. His eyes were bloodshot from tiredness and alcohol abuse. Stubble dotted his face, his clothes creased and untidy. It seemed like he wore it for more than two days. He looked tired and his feet drag as he walked.

He bumped into the doorway as he stumbled into the kitchen. He collected a six-pack of beer cans from a shelf in the fridge which mainly held backup beers and leftovers. Martin was so drawn into himself he had stopped caring about how he lived. He’d been staying at the house only a day but it looked like he’d been there weeks.

He grabbed a box of yesterday’s leftover pizza from the center counter. He pulled a fresh pack of cigarettes out of a drawer beside the sink that held with few dishes and a burned pot. Water dripped into dishes, filling some and overflowed into others. Flies swarmed around the dirty dishes.

He stumbled into to the lounge where scattered clothing draped the furniture. The rest of the house remained dark, dusty and disused.

Martin sat down on the couch, clicked the TV on with the remote and threw it on overflowing ashtrays on the coffee table. He grabbed a slice of stale pizza after he opened the beer. He took a bite of pizza and washed it down with a few sips. After finishing two slices he opened another beer. Lazily he slumped back into the couch and waited for the darkness to exit his soul and consume him. He felt ready to die, even if it meant he had to drink himself to death. To end it quickly wasn’t an alternative. Suffering was a small way for him to redeem his soul. At least that was what he believed in the depth of his sick and twisted mind. He owed it to Janet and Christopher to suffer to the very end and suffer he would.

*

[VIII]

 

In the cold murky water of the lake the divers continued their search. They searched from where Tom found boat to the north. Bubbles popped on the surface betraying their position, halfway from the boat to the rock face. They used hand signals to communicate as they advanced. They searched an early eighteen century sunken ship, reduced to nothing more than broken and raided history. They searched an old vehicle wreck, the accident long resolved.

It wasn’t clear what they hoped to find in the dirty murky water, but it could be anything relating to the suspected ghosts. Once they found the bodies they would divide into two teams. One team would recover the bodies, the other continued north. Maybe they could end the curse on the lake and solve the mystery.

The divers continued in a line. They searched with as little movement as possible, trying not to disturb the muddy bottom any more than they needed too. Finding the boys was priority, one which Mr. Craft insisted on.

The divers pressed forward signing as they went. They checked cracks and crevices under the water. They moved forward in a line that drew closer to the infamous rock face.

In the distance something bright shone in their underwater lights, coming through the gloom like a ghost ship out of the mysterious fog. It wasn’t clear what it was, it could be anything. Yet this thing was so alluring it called out to them.

Four divers broke the formation to investigate.

Out of gloom and murky water the colorful object became brighter and larger. Other forms became noticeable, a leg, an arm and on closer inspection the lifeless bodies of Ivan and William came into focus.

Three divers continued towards the rock face. Slowly they disappeared into the darkness of the lake, in time their lights had also vanished only air bubbles popping on the surface gave away their location. They made slow progress as they got closer to the traitorous water and the lair of the beast.

*

[IX]

 

 

Andrew approached Mr. Craft as he emerged from the back of the panel van. An ambulance parked closest to the pier. A group of people had gathered. The sun was high, hot and bright. From the East small cotton-like clouds were rolling in.

Mr. Craft walked over to Andrew. “Did you hear I believe the divers had found something?”

Andrew walked to the pier, Mr. Craft followed.

“I haven’t heard anything yet. It must’ve been recent, the divers hadn’t checked in with me.”

Passing the ambulance the paramedics followed with two gurneys. At the edge of the pier the divers had returned with the bodies and laid them side by side on the pier.

Andrew walked swiftly and blocked the way. “Are you ready for this?”

Mr. Craft paused “No, but it doesn’t matter, is anyone ever ready for something like this?”

Andrew retreated slowly. “Well you go ahead, and once again, I’m sorry for your loss.”

“So am I.” Mr. Craft said and continued to the edge of the pier alone.

Andrew walked to his vehicle as Tom joined him.

“Afternoon Tom, I see they found the brothers. Where did they find them, do you know?”

“A distance from where I found the boat.” Tom said sadly.

“Did they find anything else?” Andrew asked hopeful.

“Not as far as I know but there’s still a team out there working towards the rock face. Although I think they might be returning. The boat had already left to pick them up.” Tom replied glaring at the lake before turning to Andrew “How do you like the signs? Once the divers leave the water I’ll put them up.”

Andrew noticed Tom was upset. “Thanks, it looks great.”

Andrew looked at Mr. Craft that had finally given into his grief at the sight of his lifeless sons. He turned and glanced over the lake while Andrew walked towards Mr. Craft slowly. Mr. Craft was still staring out over the water probably hiding his emotions. He gave more than his moment of silence for his sons taken so violently and suddenly that his heart felt too hurt and overwhelmed to face anyone.

Andrew laid his hand on Mr. Crafts shoulder and spoke in a soft and gentle voice. “If you need time to deal with the loss of your sons and grief I can wait for you. A day or two would make very little difference in this case.”

“Let me know when I can start with the arrangements. I’m sure that your coroner would like to see them first.” Mr. Craft replied with extreme difficulty.

“Sure I will. Are you sure you’re okay still working, take a day or two to attend to your sons.”

Mr. Craft’s eyes were red his voice trembled. “Thank you. I’ll do that as soon as the coroner’s done. Besides I’m fine. It’s better to stay busy and distracted. We still have a crime to solve and the quicker the better, before more innocent people fall prey to her rage.”

Andrew hesitated a moment.

“I have just found another hot spot for haunting. It’s definitely Janet and Christopher. I was hoping you could set up some cameras there maybe we find something.”

Mr. Craft didn’t take in anything Andrew said. His attention remained with the ambulance driving away slowly. Even the crowd dispersed toward the parking lot, leaving Tom, Andrew and Mr. Craft standing on the pier deep in thought and silence.

Tom stood close to offer sympathy and support should his old friend need it. He felt he didn’t belong and didn’t know how to deal with the situation. He didn’t want to get in anyone’s way. He remained where he stood, head dropped forward and he fiddled with his cap clenched in his fist. He was angry that something like this could’ve happened and had gone unnoticed for so long.

“Do you think you could set up some equipment at the house and get something that we could possibly use?” Andrew repeated sympathetically.

Mr. Craft turned to Tom. “Looks like I’m going to need your help, want to hunt some ghosts?”

Mr. Craft and Tom walked to the van. Andrew turned to the lake, noticing the boat was returning with the rest of the divers. He lit a cigarette and waited from them to reach the pier. The leader walked up to him.

“Did you find anything out there?”

“We couldn’t get close enough.”

“What, the water’s not dangerous it’s not the open ocean.”

“No, I mean, the closer we got the dirtier the water became. Something kicked up mud from the bottom, preventing us from getting too close.”

Andrew stood for a moment in thought. After a brief silence he continued. “It couldn’t have been that muddy, could it?”

“Well we tried and after a while we started to feel our way through. Close to the rock face we believe we had run into boulders that blocked our way. It was so dark that we couldn’t use our flashlights, because they didn’t even penetrate the mud.” The leader reported.

“How far did you get?”

“I’m not sure but I called it off after we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. I didn’t want to risk injury to any of my men. I’m sure you can understand that.”

“What do you think kicked up the mud?”

“I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was fast and large.”

“Thank you for trying.” Andrew said disappointed.

Andrew walked to the panel van and knocked on the back door.

“Sheriff, want to come in?” Mr. Craft invited.

“That’s fine. I’m heading to the office, something’s going on there, and I’ll meet you at the house in about an hour. Tom knows where it is.”

“Thank you for allowing me to do this.”

“Thank you for offering. The case would take too long if I didn’t have your help. We need results as soon as possible, and you happened to have the right equipment. Thank you.”

 

*

[X]

 

Before he headed to the office Andrew stopped off at home. He collected a cylinder of scrapings, photos printed from his cell phone and a shoe still sealed inside a bag he found in the forest. He concealed the items in a small bag and walked out.

Andrew entered the office and stopped for a moment. Deputy Davis was still struggling to get a drunken man under control.

“Thank God, finally.” Davis remarked out of breath.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Andrew asked agitated.

“You’re finally here. I don’t know what to do with him anymore. He’s been throwing up everywhere and had been giving me ten sorts of hell.”

“Put him in the holding cells, let him sleep it off and then deal with him when he’s a little more cooperative.”

“Yes sir.”

“You’re not the sheriff. You’re nothing more than a cheat.” The drunken man screamed spitting and cursing.

“What are you talking about? I’m the sheriff and you need time-out.” Andrew scolded.

The drunken man stomped towards Andrew.

“It’s your fault Martin’s wife left him and now you took his job and threw him out.” The man continued and grabbed a bottle of alcohol on the desk.

Davis pulled him back and restrained him with force.

“I do believe you had more than enough to drink.” Andrew grabbed the bottle first and emptied it in the bin.

“You’re messing with Martin’s wife and when he kicks her and your whelp out, you took his job. Shame on you, you shouldn’t be sheriff.”

“Get this man out of here, there’s no way of talking to him like this. When he wakes up make a note of this accusations. I’d like to know what he’s on about.”

Davis pushed and pulled the man past desks and chairs. They stumbled down the hall towards the holding cells. The man fought and cursed as he tried in vain to escape Davis’s grip.

Andrew walked into his office and came out ten minutes later. He stood at Yvonne’s desk.

“Did you find the information I asked for?”

Yvonne handed him a paper. “Yes. I found a lab, here’s the number and as far as the other information, Martin had activities on his credit card as well as Janet.”

Andrew examined the information. “It doesn’t look like he’s trying to hide at all. He’s probably not expecting me to be looking for him. The last activity was last night. The question’s how was Janet’s credit card used when Martin was here?”

“Wasn’t he on leave just after Janet left? I believe it’s around the same time the mayor gave him time to deal with the break up.” Yvonne said handing over another paper. “From his service record, I took the liberty of checking.”

“I can see why Martin thought you are an asset to the office, if only everyone thought on their feet like you?”

“Thanks. I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“But it still makes no sense, even if he was on leave, he was here.”

“How sure are you?” Yvonne asked.

“What do you mean?” Andrew asked confused.

“It’s the oldest trick in the book. Have you never slipped on school? Make people believe you’re one place when you’re really somewhere else. Maybe he slipped away on a little road trip.”

“He was at home, I went to see him.” Andrew insisted.

“Did you speak to him face to face?”

“Come to think about it, no. A woman was in the house saying she was helping him out with cleaning and sorts. I believe he was sleeping. I didn’t physically see him.” Andrew replied thoughtful and sat in a nearby chair. “I didn’t see him for a few days actually.”

“There you go.”

“Someone’s lying. Either the woman’s covering for Martin or he’s covering his tracks even from day one. What about the phone records I asked for?”

Yvonne handed over the records. “Do you know who the woman was?”

Andrew sat for a moment in silence scanning the records.

“I think so, but I’ll get her later. This is interesting. There were no incoming or outgoing calls from outside town. This only means one thing. The person who called Martin on the day he left called from town, by the looks of it from a phone booth. I bet you anything it’s near the trailer park.” Andrew stood up and walked toward the office then stopped.

“Wait a minute before I forget.”

Andrew turned to Yvonne. “What’s it?”

“The hospital phoned about two hours ago. Dillon Adams had developed complications because of the infection he’d picked up.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“No sorry, he died because of it.”

Andrew fell silent, and then mumbled. “That’s four deaths now, how many more people need to die? Did the sketch artist get to see him?”

“No. He was unconscious when he arrived. I believe Dillon didn’t wake up again.”

Andrew walked into the office and came out an hour later. He handed a parcel to Yvonne with strict instruction for the lab technician.

“A courier will pick up the parcel soon. Get Davis to take down this drunken man’s statement at all cost. He might forget. I want to know what I’m accused off.”

Andrew left the office and headed to Martin’s old house and met Tom, Helen and Mr. Craft.

 

*

[XI]

 

Andrew reached Helen’s house and noticed a hive of activities. Tom was helping Mr. Craft to gather equipment that he needed to installed in Helen’s house. He parked next to the house and walked to the kitchen door. The door was standing wide open. Helen was amusing Olivia in the lounge with a cartoon video about a donkey and an ogre.

A coloring book and crayons were on the coffee table where Olivia was coloring while watching the movie. The donkey and ogre were bumping heads over land. Andrew smiled wondering if Christopher was with her, but it didn’t seem like it.

“Afternoon, how are things going with the investigator?” Andrew asked as he met Helen.

“He seems nice. I don’t mind him taking over here for a while. I was thinking of staying in the guesthouse to keep Olivia away from the equipment, it looks expensive.” Helen whispered.

Andrew sat down in the lounge. “I don’t think that’s necessary. I’ve done just about everything I needed to do here. I’ve even tracked Martin to a farm, owned by Janet’s family in Ohio. I was going to leave tomorrow morning before sunrise.” Andrew informed.

“What should I do while you’re gone?”

“I was hoping you would be able to help me with a little problem.” Andrew started embarrass.

“What’s the problem?”

“I’ve called for a forensics technician to come to the house and look around, he’d probably do a few tests on the floors and walls to see if anything happened in the house. It could be the house’s the crime scene. The technician would also need my vehicle to do tests on it, seeing it’s the vehicle Martin had used last and the most.”

“Do you think he did something in the house?” Helen asked more surprised than shocked.

“It’s possible, I won’t argue that. But it’ll be better if the technician checks just to make sure. Then there’s another problem.”

“You have to leave your vehicle here for the technician to look through it while they’re busy with the house.”

“Yes, but that’s not the real problem. Martin knows my private vehicle and would recognize it long before I get to him. I can’t rent a vehicle because the town’s getting too close to election and the mayor’s tightening the budged.”

“So I get the feeling you’ve already worked out a solution.” Helen said smiling.

“Yes. How would you like to come with me? Naturally you wouldn’t be in any danger and I’d like the company, besides two heads are better than one.”

“What about Olivia? It’ll be difficult with her, especially on such a long trip.” Helen paused, and then stood up. “Give me a minute.”

Helen left the room. Andrew watched the movie and often looked at Olivia’s reaction to it. As soon as a part lost her interest she would picks up a crayon and scratch in her book. Occasionally she would glance at the TV, favoring the donkey and his smart remarks, and then she would laugh again. Helen entered the room and sat down.

“I‘ve phoned her father, he agreed to spend some time with her while we’re on the trip. We can drop her off on the way and it’s just a few miles out of the way.”

“Thank you. I’ll fill Tom in on the events to come and leave the vehicle keys here with him. I can pay for gas and meals on the trip. If we take turns driving, than we can keep moving and get there faster, if you’re okay with that?” Andrew offered.

“I’m sure it would work out better than stopping every few hours just to sleep. I’m just glad you’re taking me with.”

“I have one or two thing to sort out today. I will be here very early.”

“That’s fine. It’ll give me time to get ready. See you in the morning.”

 

*

[XII]

 

Andrew left the house and found Tom at the panel van. After a short conversation Tom promised he’ll be at the house before sunrise to collect the vehicle keys. Andrew got into his vehicle and drove to town.

He stopped at the mayor’s office and walked in without an appointment. To his surprise the mayor spoke to him and didn’t protest about him leaving so soon. He greeted and left. He passed the trailer park on his way home.

A brief search of the park revealed the woman that had been at Martin’s house wasn’t at home, according to neighbors the woman, Vanessa McPherson had left town to visit in the city. He’ll pay her a visit when I got back.

He drove himself home and packed for the trip, ate supper alone and went to bed to catch up on sleep lost the last few days.

*

Chapter Five

[I]

 

Two gas stations later they traveled on the highway toward Ohio. Olivia finally fell asleep on the backseat. She had been playing with her toys and listening to music on her headphones. At times she would sing out loud to her nursery rhymes. It’s clear she would never become a professional singer, but at least now the silence was soothing to the ears.

Four hours into the trip Helen pulled off from the highway. She continued onto a smaller road leading to a small farming community still some distance away. Just over an hour they had dropped off a very excited Olivia at her father’s farm and were soon back on the interstate. They started discussing their thoughts on the case freely. Andrew dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.

“I believe that Martin’s not a good man. From all you’ve told me he sounds too good to be true. My mother always told me, if it sounded too good to be true it usually is. If he’s a good man, why did he do this? How could he take the life of his own child? I think he’s a raving lunatic that deserves what’s coming his way.” Helen started with a strong tone of anger in her voice.

“The mayor told me that I shouldn’t let my friendship with him cloud my judgment. I think it’s because I’m trying to make too much sense of this. All I can come up with, knowing him as well as I do is that I think it’s an accident.” Andrew admitted.

“Maybe you should think about the victims, concentrate on that. Did they deserve what happened to them? I mean they were close to you too.”

“Nobody deserves something like this. No one really has the right to harm anyone no matter what the reason.” Andrew fell silent. “I’m over thinking this too much.” He admitted after a brief silence.

“Well, I think you should take this one lead at a time and see where it’s leading. If he’s guilty you’ll be able to prove it. If we don’t then the community won’t know and your reputation will stay good.” Helen advised thoughtful. “A lot of things don’t make sense to me.”

Andrew cleared his throat softly. “Like what?”

“What would make him do this? What would possibly drive a man to kill? Did the child leave the towel on the bathroom floor? Didn’t he clean his room or did he make too much noise? People don’t just fly off the handle like that and kill children. Yes they abuse children, I won’t deny that but to kill and dump the body in the lake. I don’t know that’s beyond me.”

“What’s his motive you mean?”

“Yes. Maybe it’s for money or maybe his wife really wanted to leave him. Maybe he was jealous, that’s a common one isn’t it?”

“I don’t believe that they had those serious problems. Janet would’ve told me and at any rate if he wanted to kill her for money, but then why kill Christopher? He loved that child more than most parents I’ve seen.” Andrew grew silent again and stared out of the window thoughtfully.

“Maybe it was something completely different? Could he have cheated on her or maybe Janet on him?”

Andrew remained in thought. Helen pulled into a gas station and stopped at the pump.

“If we need to make up for lost time we need to make fewer stops and travel harder. I’ll drive a while if you’re tired.” Andrew changed the subject and wiped a tear out of the corner of his eye. He needed to get his mind of Janet and Christopher for just a moment.

Helen walked into the small shop and paid for the gas. She topped up on snacks and drinks, after using the rest room. They continued their trip thoughtfully listening to the music from the radio. Andrew was driving as lazy country scenery passed by slowly.

 

*

[II]

 

Vanessa McPherson had a very strong bond with her family and returned to her mother’s home in the city for a short visit. She didn’t just visit because Martin had suggested it. He had even paid for the trip just before he left Hazy View days earlier.

She was sitting in the kitchen and sipped on coffee and snacked on a sandwich her mother had made. Her mother always had the opinion that she wasn’t eating enough. She hadn’t picked up much weight. She left home to work in Hazy View more than six years ago. Maybe her work in the department store, as Vanessa told her numerous times, had kept her slim and trim. It looked like men had no interests in a girl who was too skinny. Since she had left home she had not mentioned dating nor had she spoken about any man. This worried her mother, what if she preferred the same gender. Luckily she hadn’t mentioned that either.

Her mother was sitting with her and started with idol conversations, leading to the more pressing matters. She would like to meet her grandchildren before she died. It was always the reason to discuss men.

The kitchen had limited space but was warm and cozy. It was the average city apartment kitchen. Wooden cabinets all painted in a cream color with brass handles. A four-plate gas stove, a few appliances, a fridge and simple tiled countertops. The twin sink were different, other kitchens held just one. One large window made the kitchen cozier in the winter and cooler in the summer. The floor’s covered in cream colored stick on tiles that had a few corners missing, showing the concrete beneath. The short counter only allowed for three chairs. There was no doors and conversations traveled through the apartment with ease. A short florescent light was enough to give light to the kitchen on a dark night.

“Good heavens is that the time. Sorry mom we’ll chat later. I’m supposed to meet my friend at the mall ten minutes ago.” Vanessa started and swallowed the last of her coffee.

“Is it a boy?” Her mother asked hopefully.

“Mom…” She moaned and got up and left the kitchen.

Vanessa headed for the door and paused. She ran back to her mother and landed a warm kiss on her forehead before darting for the door again, before her mother started on the subject of men.

“A mother can hope can’t she?” She said and smiled innocently.

“Later mom, don’t wait up.”

Vanessa left the apartment hastily and darted to the elevator.

On the pavement she didn’t even bother to try to stop the taxies that rushed by. She walked briskly into the parking lot of the mall only a few blocks away. She entered the mall and skipped the steps up the escalator to the coffee shop on the second floor. She glanced through the customers. She spotted her friend and moved quickly platting through the tables and joined her.

“Sorry I’m late, but my mother’s going off her rocker again. What am I, a baby making machine?” She complained and sat down.

“She’s not letting up?” Her friend Debra asked finishing a strawberry milk shake.

“No. All she wants to do is marry me off and sit back while I pop out babies just to make her happy before she dies.”

“What about that guy you told me about?” Debra teased.

“You must be joking. Martin’s too old and bordering on crazy.”

“I thought you said he’s such a good guy.”

“You sound like my mother. By the way he was, now he’s insane. Thank God he left and went back to his wife.” Vanessa shuffled around in her chair getting her sitting when the waiter walked over.

“Would you like to place an order?”

“No thanks we’ll be leaving soon. You can bring me the bill.” Debra informed and turned her attention back to Vanessa. “Wasn’t he the sheriff or something?”

“Yes but after his wife left him he changed for the worse. It nearly broke him. He battled to deal with it shame the poor man. It was so heartbreaking to see him go through that alone. He almost drank himself to death, I mean every waken moment he would suck on a bottle or glass until he couldn’t stand anymore. He didn’t pay as much attention to his work and he hardly slept. He only slept when he passes out from all the alcohol, then he still had nightmares. I do believe that’s why he didn’t want to sleep anymore. How he’s still alive I don’t know it’s truly a miracle. Totally off his rocker, that’s why I am glad he left. I don’t think I could deal with him anymore, he started to drag me down the same road, and I can’t keep up with him anymore.” Vanessa complained again.

“I can’t believe it’s that bad. Men, whose wife’s leaves them, get a girlfriend and moves on very quickly.” Debra said she spoke out of experience.

“Whatever his problem was he needs serious help and fast. Thank God it’s not my problem anymore.”

“Maybe he did something else that he doesn’t want anyone to know about. Now that he couldn’t handle it anymore he ran away like a dog with his tail between his legs. This world is full of crazy people, more than you might think. If you look at them you’d never guess they can do terrible things until one day they crack.” Debra snapped her fingers.

The waiter brought the bill. Debra paid it and got up. As they left the coffee shop they walked towards the cinema.

“That can’t be, nuts are one thing but he wouldn’t break the law. It runs in him like blood. Besides we’re here to have fun. I’m going back tomorrow, let’s not talk about men, babies or anything depressing like that.” Vanessa said and paid for the tickets at the kiosk before getting sweets, drinks and popcorn.

“Great I’m with you on that.” Debra said walking into the cinema.

*

[III]

 

Mr. Craft still needed to check the equipment. Finally he walked out of the house to meet Tom at the coffee shop. He pulled the door closed. A light breeze played through his hair, the sun’s brightness had faded, and rain threatened. Not wanting to leave the equipment or become a victim he drove away heavy hearted.

Janet appeared in the upstairs passage moving toward the stairs. Christopher ran circles around her, disappearing and reappearing. To him the ability was fun. He couldn’t get enough of his new found speed, as long as he wasn’t in the lake, its bitter cold and too dark, it scared him. It was a small comfort to be home again, seeing his old room although it was different. But its home, it had toys, bedding and a bed. He avoided the bed. He stared at it briefly then ran around again, into the passage and around his mother. In the house he could at least move, he wasn’t cold as in the lake and he could see. He ran playfully into his old bedroom and then into the bathroom. Laughter broke the silence and fell silent before it would flair up again.

Sensors sounded as temperatures plummeted.

The sound didn’t faze Janet as she wandered around echoing a soft mournful weep. She had reached the stairs and descended slowly. Now and then she released an ear deafening screech and fell silent for just a moment, then continued with the mournful weep.

Christopher still padded through the upstairs, water squeaking from under his feet as little wet footprints remained. Cameras recorded their every move, sound and temperature change.

Janet moved through the lounge and dining room, turned and released a horrid rage filled scream. She swept at a chair standing half out from under the table and flung it across the room reducing it to firewood and splinters.

A hoarse stalker kind of breath, a more spooky taunting sound echoed through the house.

Another chair rattled as it vibrated, tilting to its hind legs and spun around before sliding across the tiled floor and stopped in the kitchen.

Silence fell hard for about a minute as she expected some kind of response, nothing happened. Laughter burst into the upstairs area and a loud thump and dragging of something heavy echoed.

Down stairs kitchen cupboards rattled and appliances switched on and off while vibrating. The kitchen taps rattled, blowing out air and splashes of water. Walls creaked. Windows cracked and shattered, the sound carried for some distance although the glass remained undamaged. A mug vibrated and shot off the dry rack and smashed into pieces against the far wall.

A sudden uneasy unearthing silence fell. The echoing moan stopped. All activities seized, temperature returned to normal.

Cameras stopped sounding and returned to a hibernated state. Janet and Christopher vanished echoing from the far corner of the lawn, heading toward the rock face.

 

*

[IV]

 

Martin was weary, unable to sleep. His eyes were red and sagging, bags hung heavy under them. He stumbled through the house, bumping into furniture and walls. His ears were dull and the bumping sounds muffled. He reached out for the light switch, clicked it on and waited for power to light his way.

Nothing happened.

The house remained dark and it made him nervous. The darkness had finally engulfed him. He stumbled to the kitchen bumping into the center counter sending dishes and pots to the floor as it fell with a loud clung and shatter of glass. He aimed for the fridge, its soft hum now silenced by the lack of power. He opened the door and fumbles inside for more beer.

The fridge was empty.

He slammed the door.

A glass fell off the top and broke. He stumbled out the kitchen into a short passage. He wondered through the dark house upstairs and down, back and forth, looking for light.

“I need to find a light. Something would find me, grab me and drag me to a pit.” Martin mumbled frightened.

He opened the back door.

There too it was dark, the moon hid behind a blanket of heavy dark clouds. The light had found him unworthy. The wind was cold and wrapped around him, he gasped for air. He was alone and his resources of alcohol had dried up. He had nothing and now he must face the demon that had come to claim him without a wall to protect him.

Martin was breathless.

“What if she finds me? She will take me. I didn’t get far enough. I had only given her time to call out for help and draw attention. What if Andrew figured it out? What if he knew what I’ve done?” Martin called out and paced nervously.

Martin returned to the lounge and sunk into the couch.

A giggle broke the silence, coming down the stairs, bare feet tapped on the bare wood.

At the bottom it skipped across the carpeted passage then stopped.

He focused on the sounds, searching for an image, hoping to could see the boy alive and well.

Martin pleaded hard, gasped and then wept.

“Please forgive me… please take me now and stop the suffering. Release me, take me into the light, reunite me with the ones I did wrong. It’s not my fault.”

Martin sat on the carpeted floor, kneeling and clutching his hands. The giggle surrounded him, above him, filling his every being.

Martin felt relieved. At least the suffering came to an end. Christopher came to take him into the light. Where was he hiding? Why wasn’t he showing himself?

The house fell silent. The giggle vanished. The lights flashed and restored the house to sound and lights.

 

*

[V]

 

Andrew awoke to the sight of city lights in his eyes. “It looks like we’re getting close to Ohio.”

He wiped the tiredness out of his eyes and watch buildings as they rushed by. He shuffled in the passenger seat. He opened the window slightly to let the early morning air into the cab. Helen was still driving and making the most of the soft music playing in the background. She was humming cheerfully although she had been driving for more than six hours straight.

“There’s a rest stop up ahead. I just need to get gas then we can hit the road again. I hope we can make it there before noon.” She informed chewing on a stick of dried meat.

She had felt the cool of the early morning past and slipped into a light green sweater. She had kicked off her slip on shoes and tied her hair into a rough ponytail. Her make-up refreshed clearly she had stopped while Andrew was sleeping.

Andrew said. “Would you like me to take the last shift? I’m sure you’re tired by now. We don’t have that far to go.” Andrew yawned and stretched the tension out of his neck and body.

Sitting and sleeping wasn’t as comfortable as he had hoped, but at least he’s not tired anymore. Hopefully he would get to Martin without falling asleep again.

“When we stop you can take over. I’m fine for now. I just had an energy drink for a boost. I think you should try one of these. They are really tasty and good.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“You’re still going to tell me why you divorced your husband.”

“I think I just had enough of taking the blame for everything. He’s more of a control freak. I married too young I think.”

“So he was you high school sweetheart?”

“Yes, talking from experience, when you’re young, you should first test the water before you jump right in.”

“Good advice I think.” Andrew said smiling.

“Well the only good thing that came from the marriage is Olivia. I don’t know what I would’ve done if he didn’t have all his money. I mean if he only had an average job. I probably would’ve stayed with him just for Olivia’s sake. If I did she still would’ve had a home and meals. I know I’m one of the very few lucky women. So many women put themselves through hell to keep their children happy.” Helen replied still chewing on the stick of meat.

“It does more damage than good. Children are never happy in an unhappy situation. If parents split up and struggled to pay bills, it would still be better than having children around constant fighting.”

“Yes, and then you split up and battle to put food on the table. You work two or maybe three jobs and the children starts acting out because they don’t get enough attention. Although you break your back because it’s better for them, you can’t win. So you stay in the marriage so the children suffer under the stress but they still get attention, or you leave and they hate you for not being home.”

“Olivia seems fine.”

“Because I don’t have to work, I am home with her all-day. I feel sorry for single parents.”

Andrew nodded at her. Clearly he was developing a liking for Olivia.

“She’s a little angel. I can see why Christopher has attached himself to her. She doesn’t like to see another child suffer. It’s not in her nature to turn a blind eye. She’d rather give the last of what she has to make someone feel better, no matter what she’s going through.”

Helen pulled into a garage with a small shop and rest rooms. Andrew grabbed his wallet out of the clove compartment and opened the door.

Helen left the vehicle and said. “Would you like some coffee for the trip ahead maybe something to eat? This one’s on me.”

“That’s great, thanks. I’m feeling a little skinny around the middle.” Andrew joked.

“I’ll have a look at what they got and let you know.”

“Its fine, get whatever you’re getting, I’m not fussy.”

Andrew walked to the pump and started to fill the tank. Moments later Helen came out of the shop and placed the food on the hood of the vehicle.

“They don’t have tables in there. I got ham and cheese, chicken and mayonnaise sandwiches, some chips and coffee.”

“Sounds like a feast.” Andrew said and replaced the nozzle of the pump.

“That energy tonic really works, I feel like I’ve slept for more than eight hours.” Andrew remarked before collecting a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich.

He opened the top of the coffee and sipped at it slowly. It was hot and sweet. Clearly Helen added sugar and creamer and stirred it. The little shop didn’t offer much but at least the bread was fresh and the lettuce still crunchy.

“I’m glad you like the tonic, there’s more in the car.” Helen offered.

“Great, it makes me all jumpy inside. I can take on the whole world at once and it wouldn’t even bring me down.”

“Ah.”

“The chicken isn’t too bad either, I expected less from it. How are you ham and cheese?” Andrew asked.

“You can try it now, I bought two of each. I hope the coffee isn’t too sweet, had to guess on the sugar.”

“Smooth like honey on the tongue.”

Andrew finished his ham and cheese sandwich and excused himself before heading to the restroom. Moments later he returned and got ready to take on the rest of the journey without any further stops. With the gas paid and a full stomach he felt less tired and refreshed. He had another three hundred and twenty miles to go. He might get Martin around midday without incident. The journey from Hazy View was long and hard, at least now the end’s in sight.

“So what do you think we should do first when we get there?” Helen asked.

Andrew pulled out of the gas station and headed for the highway leading to Dayton.

“I’d like to keep my choices open, just in case things aren’t what I expect once I get there. But most of all I’d like the sheriff or some of the law enforcement officers to escort me for the first time I see Martin. Things might get out of hand, something I don’t really want.”

“Do you expect him to put up a fight?” Helen asked nervously.

“Maybe, it would be a shock if I suddenly and unexpectedly arrive at his doorstep, don’t you think?”

“Maybe he would feel too intimidated.”

“He’ll feel intimidated only if he has something to hide. But your right, maybe I should keep the officers close but not too close. You see that’s why I thought of bringing you along. You have a sharp mind, but I’m afraid mine had been taking a beating lately.”

“Flattery won’t get you anywhere.” Helen said smiling.

“No punt intended.”

The road slipped by with music playing a little louder and small conversation revealed more about both of them. Helen has interested in forensics but not in actually doing the work. The things people found by testing the smallest of particles interested her. It amazed her more than interested her. If you considered all that a computer can do these days alone. Twenty years ago a person would never have dreamed that a small molecule could distinguish truth from fiction. It would be amazing to see what people would do next.

Buildings dwindled into nothingness and trees became closer together. Fields with long grass and untamed played in the breeze. The sun was hiding behind small cotton like clouds. The road opened into four lanes and snaked across the country heading North with fewer and fewer traffic to slowed them down. At this rate they might reach Martin long before noon.

They drove in silence, listening to the music.

Helen changed the CD in the player and waited for the music to start playing. She grew tired as the energy tonic had evidently worn off. The music started to play softly. The golden oldie brought back memories from ones youth and rebellious days. It played through the cab. It made you smile after recalling the simple things you’ve done as a child.

She yawned and tucked her head into the side of the seat, between the window and the headpiece. She adjusted a pillow they had brought with and got comfortable. She was still moments away from sleep.

The silence started to mount.

She kicked off her shoes again and pushed the blanket off her as the sun shone through the clouds, warming her through the closed window.

Andrew opened the window and lit a cigarette. She didn’t complain about the smell, her husband also smoked. She only asked that the window was open a little to allow for fresh air.

After finishing his cigarette Andrew turned to Helen. He started an idol conversation but soon realized that she had already fallen asleep and he didn’t want to wake her. He turned the music down and hummed softly to a tune.

Miles passed and his hums grew silent his mind started to wonder.

*

VI

 

Martin woke up and called for a home delivery of beer, food and painkillers. The rain had stopped and the sun started to brighten. All the doors and windows remained closed.

Martin hid under a blanket when the courier knocked. He ignored it.

“Hello, is anyone home?” The courier called through the door.

Martin stood up.

“Hello I’ve got your delivery.”

Martin’s relieved and moved cautiously and slowly to the door. “Wait just a minute. What time’s it?”

“It’s nine-twenty.” He replied.

“What do I owe you?” Martin asked.

Martin moved to the window and looked through the corner of the lace curtain.

“You can leave it right there, thank you.” He commanded.

“What about the money?” The man called, more annoyed than worried.

“Here, I’ll push it through the mail slot. I can’t find the key right now.” Martin lied.

Martin folded two notes and pushed it through the mail slot and held it. He felt the courier taking the notes and released it. He heard the courier putting down the paper bags and footsteps led off the porch. He stood for a moment and listened through the door.

“Freak…!” The man called back as his voice faded.

Martin opened the door a crack and grabbed the bags before slamming the door shut again. He grabbed a beer and emptied it into his mouth in one sip. He opened another and found the painkillers. He popped four into his mouth and swallowed it down with another warm beer. Finally he relaxed.

 

*

[VII]

 

Rain fell on the windscreen. The clouds hung heavy. Trees at the edge of the highway swayed wildly. It picked up from a light breeze to a strong wind. It looked cold and unpleasant. A signboard passed read seventy four miles to Oakwood, their destination. Andrew was still driving. Helen awoke after a two-hour nap.

“I wonder if it was deliberately or an accident?” Andrew said softly.

“I thought you’re so angry at him and you’re convinced he did this hideous crime.”

“I’m angry, and I still believe he did it, but I don’t believe it’s premeditated.”

“What made you think that?” Helen asked confused.

“He couldn’t handle what he’d done.”

“Why didn’t he say anything?”

“No. Because I think he’s scared.”

“Scared of what, going to jail?”

“No. I think he feared the people in town would judge him, or maybe he wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Do you really believe that?” Helen asked after a brief silence.

“Maybe, being the sheriff was his whole life. If he lost that it would be like he lost his whole life. Some people get weird about their jobs. I just don’t know.”

“What changed your mind?”

“I was sure he did it deliberately, but I think the trip have given me enough time to think. Martin and I had been as close as two men could get, without it being weird, there’s no way he would’ve done this in cold blood.”

“Now what, do you feel sorry for him?”

“To a degree, there’s nothing natural to the way he broke down.”

“I don’t think so.” Helen said coldly.

“Why you didn’t have a chance to know him?”

“The times I saw him he was fine, normal.”

“Your right, there was moments that he was his old self. Even on the day he left, smiling and joking.” Andrew admitted thoughtfully.

“Maybe he was pretending.” Helen suggested.

“Make us believe he’s suffering. Trying to get everyone feeling sorry for him, then when the truth comes out they’ll take pity on him.” He fell silent and kept his eyes on the road ahead.

“He could’ve done it deliberately.”

“I still can’t understand why.” Andrew paused.

“Everything he did was to keep us from wondering. He was thinking clear enough to cover his tracks. His supposable brake down, using Janet’s credit cards, making everyone believe they had left town, getting someone else call the office pretending to be Janet. People don’t go to that extend if it’s an accident. They do that when they know they did something wrong.” Helen pointed out.

“I use to be able to read his mind, look into his soul. I could’ve finished his sentences and he mine. Lately we’d grown apart. He blamed me for everything. I thought he was trying to get rid of me. Meanwhile he was trying to get away from me because I knew him so well. Everything‘s starting to make sense to me now.” Andrew said with more clarity.

“But you still don’t believe he planned it.”

“No.”

“It might’ve been an accident.”

“Maybe… Maybe not, it’s hard to say at this moment. I don’t have enough evidence to suggest otherwise.”

“Do you think he did it himself?”

“Most likely, I can’t think he would’ve hired someone to do the dirty work.”

“So what’s your theory?”

“My theory…?” Andrew asked shocked.

“Yes, police usually have one during an investigation.”

“I didn’t really think of it like that, but maybe I do.”

“So let’s hear it. I promise I won’t laugh.” Helen turned in her seat to faced Andrew.

“Let’s see. Martin sometimes went to the bar after work. He didn’t drink that much, just a couple of beers to relax after a long day. Nothing like he’s drinking now. He sat drinking and meeting with the wrong kind of people. Gossip starts to fly around and after a couple of these days, a person starts thinking.”

“That’s normally how rumors start.”

“Some people including Martin believed that drunken people don’t have the mind-set to make up a lie or to keep it up.”

“So you think someone in the bar said something stupid and Martin believed it.”

Buildings appeared on the horizon, small houses and some cornfields passed by lazily. Rain started to fall a little harder and wind ripped through the open window on the driver’s side. Andrew closed the window, the wipers swept softly across the windshield.

“It’s more than likely.”

“What do you think was it?”

“Come to think about it, there might be something I didn’t think of.” Andrew said recalling a drunken man’s accusation.

“What happened?”

“A drunken man said something in the office before we left something.”

Helen couldn’t stand the silence again. “Are you going to tell me?”

“Sorry, just thinking. A drunken man said that I’m not the sheriff.”

“So, maybe he didn’t get the memo.”

“No, it wasn’t that.”

“What else would he could he mean, he’s drunk.”

“He was very upset and drunk. He said that I was messing around with Janet and stole Martin’s job.”

“Did you?”

Andrew looked sharply at Helen in surprise.

“No, I’d never dream of it.”

“I just needed to ask.”

“Martin knew it would never happen. We weren’t close in that way. We’re more like family.”

“So if you’re not messing around and he knew that, then he wouldn’t believe it.”

“Something must’ve convinced him.”

“Maybe it’s something completely different.”

“No, I don’t think so.” Andrew insisted.

“Could it have been that Martin thought he knew something you didn’t?”

“The drunkard made it sound like he believed that Christopher’s my son.”

“That sounds to me like a motive.”

“What a drunken gossip?”

“If Martin believed that Janet cheated with you and that Christopher’s your son. That’s enough to drive a man to insanity. Every time he’d look at either one of them gossip would grow and he would start seeing things that isn’t really there. It’d be like his trust was already gone. Like a cancer infesting him until he snaps.”

Andrew slowed to the speed limit as he entered town. He pulled into a parking lot at a supermarket.

*

[VIII]

 

Martin woke up dripping from sweat. His head echoed the sound of his screaming still ringing through his ears. His mouth was dry and his throat felt raw. He looked down at his hands, examining them from all angles. He covered his face and breathed deeply. The smell of blood overwhelmed him. He tried to get up, his legs felt like they were not there. He sat down too fast and fell into the couch.

Martin wiped the sweat from his face with the bottom end of his shirt. He could smell sweat, and he could smell blood. He closed his eyes.

He stood up, steadied himself and stumbled to the kitchen. He opened the fridge door. He took the beers and a bottle of gin out and slammed the door, he was off balance. He stumbled back to the couch he fell into it. He didn’t open the beer. He placed the sealed bottle on the table after sweeping the papers, books and clothing off to the side. He stared at it but saw nothing. He saw only the child sleeping peacefully then he wasn’t. Blood stained his hands the beers and bottle of gin.

He stood up and stumbled away from the small coffee table. He fell over something. He crushed to the floor. His mind was blank and the images of his recent nightmare rushed through again, it played over and over like a broken record. More and more blood dripped from his hands.

He pulled himself to the nearest wall, sat up with his back against it and sunk his face into his hands. He wept softly at first.

The weeping echoed through the house. His body trembled more and more. Martin screamed and curled into a tighter ball.

He sobbed uncontrollably.

*

[IX]

 

“Let’s just stop here and think this through before we speak to the sheriff here.” Andrew decided and turned off the engine, and opened the window slightly. “I can’t believe that Martin would believe something like Janet cheats just from conversations in a bar, he’s not that gullible.”

“Maybe he overheard or saw something that he could’ve misinterpreted.”

“No, there was nothing like that between us. For some time before this whole thing started Janet and I didn’t see each other that much. She mostly stayed at home. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but maybe he started to see things then. To tell you the truth I think I was too busy and didn’t even notice anything’s wrong. She did phone occasionally but didn’t mention anything. When we did see each other it was just taking her home or picking her up and taking her to the office. If something was wrong, she would’ve told me.”

“What if Martin was threatening her forcing her to be quiet?”

Andrew fell silent in thought. “Even if…”

“Maybe he found something.”

Andrew felt sad, fighting to hold back the tears. “Whatever it was he made a dreadful mistake.”

“So, now he’s was angry, drunk and hurt. What did he do?”

“Stay longer and drink more than he should.” Andrew predicted.

“These thoughts in his mind and alcohol don’t mix.”

“He got drunker, angrier and thinking more that the rumors are true.”

“He went where? Home…?”

“He had to go somewhere eventually.” Andrew admitted softly.

“Evidently..?”

“He went home, to confront Janet about her alleged affair, most likely.”

“Probably the worst thing he could’ve done in his state of mind but most likely.” Helen agreed.

“So now he was home and he started confronting Janet.”

“If she was innocent she would defend herself.”

“Yes and he got angrier. One thing I’ve learned was that you can’t argue with someone who’s drunk. For some reason they don’t listen to reason.” Andrew informed.

“So the fight accelerated.”

“Christopher woke up from all the noise and looked for his mother.”

“Naturally, maybe he got in the way.”

“Janet tried to comfort him and ignored Martin. Maybe she tried to leave the house with him to give Martin time to cool off. He tried to stop her and something happened while he was in a rage fit.”

“Maybe out of anger he hit her or the child?”

“I can’t imagine that but evidently something happened. Something went terribly wrong. Before he realized what happened it was over.”

“What do you think he did next?” Helen asked.

Andrew cleared his throat. “He had to hide it, come up with the story that they left town.”

“He dumped the bodies where he knew no one will ever find them.” Helen predicted as Andrew tried to avoid the thought.

“Yes, in the worst area of the lake.” He admitted in a soft trembling voice.

“At the rock faces the perfect place. No one ever goes there because it’s so inaccessible.”

“He covered his tracks with Janet’s credit cards and blew off anything that happened at the lake as nonsense, he started falling apart because Janet was haunting him and the lake. He realized he couldn’t hide it and did what anyone would’ve done.”

“He ran away.”

“Like a coward with his tail between his legs.” Andrew added.

“Well it sounds possible, you don’t have any proof, do you?”

“I don’t have enough to proof it yet.”

“If he argues that it’s a crime of passion he might walk away. Maybe even a reduced sentence.”

“Possible, but I think we need to proof he knew what he was doing. If it was a crime of passion and he knew the law, why did he cover it up for so long? Why didn’t he report the matter instead of throwing the bodies in the lake? Even if he realized enough to do that than he had time to think, a crime of passion wouldn’t stick.”

“What about temporary insanity? That would set him free.”

Andrew was cold and detached. “I’ll do anything to prevent that from happening. He knew what he was doing when he covered his tracks and that’s not insane, not even temporary.”

The rain had stopped and people appeared walking at a lazily pace. No one paid them any attention.

Andrew placed a call from his cell phone.

“Maybe my deputy has spoken to the drunken man and found out more about what he had said.” He paused and waited for someone to answer the phone.

“Do you remember the drunken man from the other day…? Did you get a statement from him…? What’s the reason why you didn’t…? So you just released him? What happened…?

Deputy Davis, I’m not concerned about that. I asked you specifically to get him to explain the accusations he made toward me. I wanted to know what he was accusing me of… Fine I’ll get to him later. I return in a couple of days maybe sooner…” He ended the call and turned to Helen. “I’m working with an idiot.”

“Who the deputy, he seems a little young.”

“He just completed school and wants to be a police officer.”

Andrew pulled out of the parking lot a found the sheriff’s office two blocks down. He walked into the office and scanned the area for the sheriff. He saw no one except an officer behind the desk. He walked closer and waited for the officer to finish his conversation with a woman sobbing.

“Good day I need to speak to your sheriff please.” He announced as Frank walked in behind him.

“Yes, I’m Sheriff Frank Godwin, what can I do you for?”

Andrew turned sharply. “I’m Sheriff Andrew Foster from Hazy View. This is a witness Helen James-Leigh. Can we talk?”

“Is it that urgent?”

“If it wasn’t I would’ve sent you a memo or just placed a call. I’m afraid it’s very urgent and serious.”

“Let’s talk in my office.” Frank invited and pointed to a small office in the corner.

*

[X]

 

The rain stopped as sudden as it had started. It didn’t hammer the roof of the house any more. The wind calmed, the tree outside the window wasn’t scratching against the walls anymore. The sun started to shine again. Martin wanted to know nothing of that because he closed all the windows with heavy curtains.

For the first time in days Martin had showered and dressed into clean clothes. His body odor overwhelmed him that he felt robbed of air. He felt different and reenergized something he had deprived himself of. He feared the water more than he feared the darkness. Finally he realized it was enough and took the bull by the horns.

He was on the couch now, watching some movie that didn’t make much sense to him. At least he had stopped sobbing. He drowned himself in the bottle of gin which fell to half. The beer cans were empty and scattered around the table and couch. A bottle of pain killers were open and standing on the coffee table next to the bottle of gin. There was no food around, it was clear that he hadn’t eaten and was now feeling the full effect of the alcohol and painkillers.

Martin’s eye was distant and dazed. He couldn’t see, feel or think. When he’s like this, the darkness won’t think of him as dead even if it had found a way into the house. He looked dead. He couldn’t move, not even to change the channel. He stayed in the same moment. He couldn’t even lift the bottle of gin to his mouth that drooled from the corners. He could close his eyes, and he did. He heard nothing, saw nothing, and dreamed nothing. For the first time in four months he had peace.

*

[XI]

 

Frank Godwin was short and overweight. His gun belt hung low, his legs short and awkward looking, and his hair reddish and short. Andrew and Helen followed him into his small lightly furnished office.

Frank sat behind the desk with a grunt. “I’m ready to hear your story. Please take a seat.” He invited.

“Well it’s a little hard to explain and as far as proof goes, I don’t really have much of that, but I’m working on it.”

“But still you drove all the way from Hazy View to do what?”

“To find someone…”Andrew started and paused.

“What does this have to do with my office, how do you need our support?”

“We’re investigating two counts of murder.”

“And I suppose your suspect’s hiding here?”

“It’s believed that a couple of months ago our old sheriff, Martin Parker had killed his son and wife and had thrown their bodies in our lake. He would’ve gotten away with it because nobody noticed the crime. It became evident that the victims ghosts had started to haunt the lake and attacking whoever came around the water.”

“Really and no one noticed that they were missing?” Frank asked shocked but intrigued.

“Martin told everyone in the town that his family had left and was staying at her family house. His wife’s parents had a farm around here. As far as I know the house had been standing empty for some time. They passed away some time ago and his wife hadn’t sold it, not as far as I know, although she might have had someone looking after the grounds. We believe that Martin’s hiding out there.”

“Martin who…?”

“Martin Parker.” Andrew informed quickly.

Frank sat backward deep in thought. “I don’t know him.” He finally admitted.

“He would’ve arrived a little more than a week ago.”

Frank rubbed his chin still thinking. “Doesn’t ring any bells, who were the wife’s parents?”

“Holloway.”

Frank sat up again. “Yes, now I know who you’re talking about. Their farm’s about three miles from here. Wait a moment. You aren’t talking about Lisa are you?”

“No the other daughter, Janet Holloway…”

“You think he killed her and she’s haunting your lake?”

“Yes and she’s haunting my house. I just bought it from Martin before he left town.” Helen informed.

“So if you bought the house recently, how does this make you a witness?”

“Janet appeared to me with her son and insisted that I help her find the man that had killed them.”

“So you didn’t witness the actual murder?” Frank turned his attention to Andrew. “What proof do you have that this man staying on the farm had actually committed the crime?”

“He was the last person to see them. He had lied about them leaving town and he had used Janet’s credit card to establish that she had left town. There had also been dramatic changes in his behavior before he left. I’m waiting for the forensic lab to get back to me regarding test done on the house, his vehicle. There’s also evidence found where we believed he had dumped the bodies.” Andrew brought him up to speed.

“When’s forensics supposed to get back to you?”

“I need to contact them so they can send me the reports.”

“You can receive it here. This is the number.” Frank offered. He handed him his business card. “When do you want to go to the suspect?”

“As soon as I receive the fax, at least I’ll have something to wave at him.”

“To tell you the truth I’m very interested in hearing what you have. It’s not every day that we hear about ghosts pointing out their killers.”

Andrew picked up the phone and dialed the number given to him by Yvonne. After a short conversation he replaced the receiver and turned back to Frank.

“They said they would fax it through first thing in the morning. Could one of your vehicles just make a turn past the farm, just to make sure he’s still there?” Andrew asked disappointed.

“Sure. Do you have your case file here? I’d like to see it, purely out of interest if I may?” Frank asked excited. Clearly this was just another small town where nothing ever happened.

Walking out of the sheriff’s office Andrew handed Frank the case file through Helens vehicle window. With directions from the sheriff they found the bed and breakfast with ease. Helen and Andrew ordered dinner in and settle down for the night in two separate rooms. Within minutes the rooms were dark and quiet. Early in the morning a well-rested and refreshed Helen decided to wonder around town while Andrew returned to the sheriff’s office.

 

*

Chapter Six

[I]

 

Martin woke early with the sound of birds chirping in the large trees outside. A dog barked. It sounded like a vehicle passed close by the house, too close to be on the main road. His head was drumming. His ears echoed dull in the empty house. His mouth was dry and his eyes felt like sandpaper, every blink almost blinded him.

He heard something upstairs.

A hissing moan echoed from above bouncing off the walls. He turned sharply to the stairs. Something was stomping, knocking and echoed a cry so filled of rage that it made the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Martin’s body was numb and stiff by indecision. Should he hide? Should he run? Should he ready himself for the fight of his life?

“I left you behind. There’s no way you could’ve made it here. It won’t work. I will not let you do this anymore.”

Another bump, a loud stomp and scream so horrid burst through the silence it made Martin’s skin crawl.

“I will go again to where you will never find me.” He screamed and threw an overflowing ashtray toward the stairs.

The sound silenced the hissing stopped and the stomping faded.

A thick cold atmosphere hung in the air.

Martin grabbed clothing scattered around filling his hands as much as he could. “I need to leave. I’ve got to leave before they get me. I need to find somewhere far, where she can’t find me. I can’t let her find me again, not her or the darkness.” He pauses. “I need a bag.”

Martin headed for the stairs then paused.

He stood for a moment listening, staring into the upstairs shadows. Going upstairs meant he would face whatever’s up there.

“Leave it.”

He headed out the door with bundles of clothes wrapped in blankets from the couch.

 

*

[II]

 

Andrew sat scanning the forensics report. He felt a strong sensation in the pit of his stomach. Something was wrong, very wrong. For some reason he felt the need to hurry. He needed to leave now, enough time’s wasted.

“My men who went out had assured me that there’s someone there. Now what do you want us to do?”

“I have this nagging feeling that we need to go. Actually I have the feeling that we should’ve been there already. It’ll be great if you and your men could back me up.”

“What do you mean?” Frank said upset. “You drove out here to come and spitball on my residents on a hunch that’s true. You have proof right there in your hands that he did what you claimed. Now you want me to stand by and watch you have all the fun?”

“I believe he’s in a fragile state.” Andrew answered.

“Fragile my ass, he’s a murderer. We go pick him up. If he sneeze in the wrong direction or just even thinks of fighting. Well I’ve a lot of men if you catch my drift.”

It seemed like Frank had been waiting a long time for some action, and by the look of it he had been spending his time in the diner.

All Andrew could do was smile. He could never have expected this reaction. “It wouldn’t be necessary for brute force. Thank you.”

“It’s not just that we’re bored, but a man that kills his family doesn’t breathe the same air as us.” Frank’s voice was strong.

“Fine, but I still believe there will be no need for force. Can we get going now please, I have the feeling we might already be too late.” Andrew said eager to get on the road.

Frank headed for the door.

“You’re riding with me, it’s the fastest vehicle we have. My men will follow us.”

Andrew followed Frank out of the office. A group of officers were getting ready to leave.

Frank turned to his men. “Are you ready to leave? Try to keep up.”

Andrew hurried to the sheriff’s vehicle in the parking lot with the case files and forensics reports in hand. Frank started the journey slow. At first Andrew was under the impression that he didn’t want to race through town, causing a scene. Once they reached open road, the speed only increased by a few miles per hour. Andrew felt nervous and the stress mounted.

“At this pace we’ll never get there.” Andrew remarked and leaned over to view the speedometer.

“What’s the rush? He’s already been here for a week he doesn’t expect you or any of us to show up. Why would he flee?”

“I’ve got this feeling from early this morning. I need to get to Martin before it’s too late. I can’t shake it. Haven’t you ever gotten such a gut feeling that you just know something’s wrong?” Andrew steered a conversation to get his mind off the speed.

“Can’t say that I have, very little ever goes wrong here.”

“It’s the same in Hazy View, although it’s smaller than your town. I just don’t know what to make of this feeling, maybe its excitement or simply nerves. Martin and I were the closest of friends. I think it’s just that playing on me. But I’ll feel better if I get to see him.”

“My men went out there last night and this morning. They saw his vehicle parked outside the house and there were lights on in the house. He’s still there.”

Andrew shuffled nervously in his seat.

“Maybe he saw your vehicles and noticed something’s wrong, something unusual. But I can feel, no, I know something’s wrong.” Andrew continued insistently.

Andrew glared out of the windshield, his eyes burned with the sun shimmering off the tarmac. He didn’t want to miss anything should Martin came driving past.

The windscreen spotted with small insects that had met an untimely death. A thin strip appeared along the windscreen as the wipers tried to sweep them away, leaving only a clearly noticeable oily, slimy drag mark behind. Water cleared the distraction until yet another bug splat against the glass.

“What’s it with these dammed bugs?” Frank remarked and sprayed more water. Let it soak and wiped the windscreen a few times.

Andrew smiled and unwinds the window halfway letting in a cool refreshing wind. He took out his cigarette and offered one to Frank.

“Not for me thanks, but I think it would calm your nerves.”

“My nerves will calm when I’ve got Martin in custody.”

Frank turned off the interstate and continued south toward farms on the banks of a river. The vehicles following looked like a long train as they followed closely and kept up to the sheriff’s vehicle.

On the one side of the road planted fields stretched for miles. The plants were still too small to identify them. On the other side green grass fields gave lush feeding for a herd of about two hundred cattle, grazing lazily with the sun beat down on them.

Andrew expected the trip to Martin’s farm to be quicker than this, considering that the sheriff’s vehicle was the fastest as he had claimed. Now he wasn’t so sure. He recognized most of the way, but the crops soon confused him, looking different from the last time he had been here. If he had made the trip himself he would’ve taken a wrong turn. It would surely have taken more time.

On this almost deserted road the convoy of vehicle advanced with no traffic to slow them down yet they’re still moving to slow for Andrew. He glanced at the speedometer again.

They were clocking sixty-eight miles an hour. They could go faster.

The tarmac ended and a dirt road snaked through more crops and grazing fields. He was more eager, getting more nervous. Clearly the trip was taking too long. ‘Martin left and was miles away. Maybe he knows that I’ve arrived in town. He could have friends in the sheriff’s office. He could’ve seen us. It could’ve scared him and now he’s miles away.’ Thoughts started to race through Andrews mind.

Every time he tried to convince Frank to put a little pressure on the gas he blew him off. Still there was little or no traffic on the roads.

“Are you sure your men can keep up?” Andrew said sarcastically and dumped his cigarette bud out of the window.

“It’s not that I don’t want to go faster, but his bucket of bolts can’t.” Frank finally admitted.

“What if Martin’s gone?”

“His not, he has no reason to leave.”

A sudden and overwhelming thought ripped through Andrew’s mind. The thought chilled him to the bone. “It could happen eventually, when the alcohol breaks him completely or he goes insane past the point of return then he could do it.” Andrew thought out loud. “What if Martin has ended it and all we find is a body a few days old? You said there was a vehicle and lights burning, it could be he’s dead.”

“He didn’t.” Frank said.

“How would you know? Nobody will hear a gunshot so far in the middle of nowhere. Nobody goes out there. Who’s to say he didn’t hang himself or slit his wrists?”

“If he wanted to kill himself he would’ve done it way back when he started to unravel.” Frank assured.

Frank didn’t know Martin but he was right. “Martin’s not a weak man, nor is he the person to take a quick exit. He’s not a coward. However he did kill two people. He killed his own flesh and blood. Nobody thought he would do that. No one knows what he would do next. He had become completely someone else. He didn’t sound, act or behaved like the Martin I’ve know most of his life. He had become completely unpredictable. I know something’s wrong if we can just get there. How far do we still have to go?” Andrew started nagging again.

“We’re close. We’ll be there sooner than you think.” Frank assured.

*

[III]

 

By the time the large oak trees appeared Andrew’s nerves were dangling by a thread. A small dirt road snaked through deserted lands to where a house stood some distance away. The land hadn’t seen crops for some time and no cattle grazed in the weed invested overgrown fields.

The house was in serious need of maintenance and the lawn around it long, thick and overgrown. More oak trees stood watch around the house. The house seemed deserted. All the curtains, doors and windows closed. There was no vehicle in the front yard.

Andrew got out of Franks vehicle and joined the men gathered on the front lawn. Martin managed to slip through his fingers again. Andrew suggested some of the officers search the area following as many small roads as possible between the house and the town. Martin would need gas and other supplies. The sheriff had called neighboring towns and told them of the vehicle description and asked to detain and notify only. Hopefully they’d find Martin before he got too far.

“Sheriff Foster. I’m truly sorry. If we got out here sooner we could’ve captured him.” Frank apologized.

“Don’t sweat it. I think he had already left before we even received the fax.” Andrew assured deeply disappointed.

“We will find him. I can promise you that. All the sheriffs of the towns work together very closely. It’s just a matter of time.”

“Yes, oh yes we will.”

“Let’s look around, we can find a way into the house. Maybe he left something behind that might give us a clue to where he would’ve gone to. You know maybe he just gone to town. I’m sure if he’s not expecting anyone to come here he’s more at ease.”

“No. He wouldn’t chance it. He didn’t even leave the house for alcohol. He ordered everything as deliveries. No, something spooked him and he ran.”

Andrew passed by the side of the house, testing each window he passed. All of them properly secured. He tried to peep into the windows without success. At some places he fought his way through overgrown shrubs and stepped deep into dead flower beds. He looked at upstairs windows but none were even the slightest open.

He neared the corner. A soft cursing met him before he turned into the backyard. He paused, everyone paused.

Andrew turned to Frank following close on his heels. “I think your men might have found a way in. I can hear them.”

He turned the corner. Andrew froze for a moment surprise had rendered him motionless.

 

*

[IV]

 

Martin was pacing. The darkness had pinned him down. He stopped to rethink his position. He needed to repair the damage to his vehicle although he couldn’t see what the problem was. He checked everything, tested and tried again. The engine wouldn’t fire. The vehicle had purred like a kitten earlier but now hours had passed and he hadn’t made any progress.

He stepped out of the shaded comfort into the bright sunlight. The darkness didn’t scare him now, the sun was too bright. The darkness did what it could. It moved in unnoticed and snuffed the life out of the engine.

He cursed softly.

He paused, stood silent and listened hard.

He could hear something behind him. Someone was stalking him, creeping in on him.

He whirled around.

He had misjudged the direction of the sound.

A twig cracked.

Dead leaves crushed as footsteps drew near.

Martin saw nothing behind him. The noise came from next to him.

He turned, he looked, and he froze.

He could hear something, someone was talking to him. He felt dizzy, weak and deafened. He was about to pass out.

He sunk to his knees. His hearing returned slowly, blood started to circulate. He still couldn’t get up.

He heard the voice again.

“Martin Parker, you’re under arrest for the murder of Janet and Christopher Parker.”

He looked up. He couldn’t speak or think straight. The one person, that one thing he hadn’t feared now stood in front of him.

*

[V*][***]

 

The backyard to the old Holloway farm was just as overgrown as the front. It’s large and wide spread trees gave just the right amount of shade from those hot summer barbeques. In the center was a pool long dry and cracked. It was easy to imagine how beautiful this property would’ve been, if kept to a least a decent standard. There’s enough room to stretch out. Children could play ball games without breaking every window in sight. There wasn’t any fencing surrounding the property. To the one side, probably corn or wheat field, now weed infested. To the other side was a small yellow wood forest. Lots of oak trees dotted the entire property.

Andrew stepped forward placing his hand firmly on Martin’s arm. He pulled him upward, almost encouraging him to get his mind back to reality. The sun was blinding as Martin squinted to look up at Andrew, even so he got to his feet with great difficulties.

“Do you understand what I’ve told you?” Andrew repeated.

“Where did you come from?” Martin responded with a weak voice.

“Martin you’re under arrest.”

“I heard that.” Martin’s voice was hoarse.

“Do you understand that you have the right to a lawyer?”

“I know, I know.” Martin replied in submission.

“Right, now I need you to tell me what happened to Janet and Christopher.”

“They’re right there.” Martin informed pointing to the bottom of the yard without facing that direction. His arm and hand trembled with the weakness that had grabbed him so suddenly.

Andrew heard what Martin had said. He glared wide-eyed into the direction Martin was pointing but saw nothing.

Had Martin gone completely insane? There’s no one around. Andrew turned his attention back to Martin. He was distant and captivated as he was the last time he had seen him, only worse this time around. He was waiting for something to happen, he kept looking around nervously. He had lost weight and his eyes were sunken and withdrawn. His beard had grown wild and untrimmed. His hair long and his clothes stained with some food which seemed recent.

“Where are they Martin?”

“Come I will show you.” Martin said forcing the words out of his mouth.

He led Andrew through long grass to the edge of the lawn. A trail of officers followed as Andrew walked curiously next to Martin. He knew that Martin could pull a few tricks out of his sleeve, but somehow he felt like he had no intent to flee or try to fight back.

“What are you playing at Martin? You know where they really are, don’t you?”

Martin didn’t answer, just stumbled through long grass and into a small ditch. He continued through the ditch without incident. A few steps forward he stopped and turned to Andrew.

“I tried to keep at least that clean.” Martin said pointing to the ground.

It wasn’t something you would see from the backyard. It’s hidden in long grass and too low to the ground. There’s no indication that it was there. Except if you actually make the journey down the lawn you’ll notice the ground slightly elevated from the rest. It appeared recent. It was evident that he did some work around the homemade graves. He didn’t place a headstones or side not even a cross. Few flowers scattered the ground from about a week ago. It’s impossible to imagine that Martin was here more recently. There was no footprint that would suggest it.

“What is this Martin?”

“It was bad, such an unnecessary waste of life.” Martin started softly. “They had taken my son and wife. They didn’t even stand a chance. The truck’s brakes failed and ran right over them. I don’t know what the driver did, but he didn’t even try to avoid them.” Martin fell to his knees again and sobbed until his whole body trembled.

“When did this happen. Martin!” Andrew pulled him by the arm. “When did this happen?”

“I came to meet them, I was going to start over with them, but instead I had a visit from the police. They are gone and will never come back. They took them.” Martin sobbed again.

“What police?” Andrew asked and had to swallow the lump in his throat.

“Police officers from Dayton, she wanted to go to get special things for the house. They tracked me by her license.” Martin berried his hands into the rain harden soil and sobbed uncontrollable.

Andrew stepped back, almost fell but managed to stabilize.

‘This is not true. He killed them and dumped them in the lake.’ Andrew thought, trying to find reason in the developments.

Andrew looked hard at Martin. Tears build in the corners of his eyes.

‘No this is another one of his lies. This is not true.’ He continued thinking.

“I don’t believe you, this isn’t true.” Andrew repeated himself. “You’re lying Martin tell me the truth.”

Martin looked up at him. His face seemed to have age a few years.

“Martin tell me the truth, please I’m begging you. You know this isn’t the truth. What have you done? What happened in Hazy View? Please tell me so I can help you.”

Martin stopped sobbing and got to his feet.

He was silent only starred blindly at Andrew. He started walking back to the house without a word.

Andrew followed. His minds confused and raced. Is this another way from Martin to escape what he has done? He could’ve made the graves himself. He could’ve made himself believe this lie. Had he gone so far into madness that he was trying to block what happened in Hazy View from his mind?

“Where’re you going?”

“You don’t believe me, so I‘ll proof it.” Martin called coldly.

“I want to believe you, so if you can proof it I’d like to see it then we can clear your name and leave you alone.” Andrew said hopeful.

If Martin’s innocent then he would review the case and he’ll be happy to do that.

Martin walked into the house through the back door with Andrew and the officers hot on his heels. He continued to the upstairs room, and turned left at the top of the stairs. He passed two doors and opened the third. His steps creak as he stepped on the old wooden floors. All the men crowd the small room where Martin stopped at a small desk. He opened the top drawer and produced death certificates and an accident report. He handed it to Andrew without a word. His eyes were bloodshot from the sobbing and he still wiped away a lone tear.

Andrew looked down at the death certificates in his hand. The one name of the victim’s misspelled, but these things happened especially when a foreign doctor tried to write a name like Christopher. The name where added later as the ink pigment and handwriting didn’t match. The document seemed odd.

“What’s with the names, who wrote it?” Andrew asked looking suspiciously at Martin.

“The coroner, when they arrived at the hospital they were unknown. They took them to the morgue and the coroner added the names after I got there.” Martin explained.

“That makes no sense.” Andrew remarked taking a second look at the certificates with a deep frown.

“What, isn’t it good enough for you?” Martin asked.

“If they were unknown, how did they know to track you?” Andrew asked.

“The coroner probably found her license afterwards, I don’t know. Maybe you should ask him.” Martin said sarcastically with a grin on his face.

“You know that we’d have to take you in until we can verify this. I know you don’t think much of me, but had this been the other way around, you would’ve done the same. Regardless of our history and how much it pains me to do this.”

“Yet you’re still here. Standing in front of me and expecting me to have done something.” Martin said coldly.

Martin turned and walked out of the room. He paused and turned to Andrew. “Are you coming, there’s thing I’d like to do soon. I wouldn’t like this to take all day.” He turned and walked down the passage.

Outside the house Andrew suggested that Martin rode with two of the officers while he had a moment to go through the papers Martin gave him. The last thing he needed was to get into an emotional debate. He didn’t want to discuss were the case was and what evidence he had. He needed to find the police officer from Dayton, even if he made the trip there.

*

[VI]

 

In the back of the patrol vehicle, unshielded from the sun, Martin sat quietly. He wasn’t sitting watching the scenery passing by nor was his replying to any of the conversations the officers were trying to make. Instead he sat staring at his hands folded in his lap. He’s sweating but not from the heat, because he’s nervous.

His tightly wrapped hands were over each other, tightly and hot. He felt the heat in them. Sweat dampened his palms. Finally his hands turned white and cold, and they were shaking now. The darkness will come for him. It won’t be this hot and bright forever. Soon the sun would fade, leaving a space for the darkness to come through. If his home soon he would be safe from an unexpected attack from the darkness he feared more than Janet.

Martin started to shiver as the thought of him exposed ran through his mind. Maybe the darkness won’t attack him or even come close, knowing there was too many people around. This could be a hidden blessing. They have nothing on him. He would be home soon and the first chance he gets he‘ll be on the road to where ever it took him.

Martin throws his head back and closed his eyes. He remained still for a while then looked at the two officers in front of him. He forced a smile and looked down again.

“Does anyone of you have some painkillers I have a headache that’ll kill me before we get to town.”

“No sorry, would you like me to stop at the drugstore?” The driver asked.

“That’s fine I left my wallet at home. Had to leave in a rush, I’m sure you can understand that. Can’t you make a plan, what’ll you tell your boss if I die in your custody?”

“Nobody’s ever died from a headache.” The one officer corrected.

“No they didn’t, but they did because of them going crazy and ballistic from the pain.” Martin said and threw his head back.

Martin wasn’t joking. His head felt really beaten.

He needed to have a sober mind when he wanted to flee in the early hours of the morning. He heard the vehicle on the property again, just before dawn and decided to hide the vehicle behind the house. Later while having breakfast he had decided to make haste retreat and the vehicle ended in a ditch. He managed to get the vehicle out but for some reason it wouldn’t start. He was still in the backyard in the freedom of the bright light of the sun trying to fix a problem he couldn’t see.

The darkness couldn’t reach him so it did the next best thing. It had reached into the deepest parts of the country and had brought the one thing he did not fear. It brought Andrew to his doorstep.

*

[VII]

 

Andrew leaded Martin down the passage towards the holding cells at Frank’s office. He didn’t want to think too much. He felt sorry for Martin, not for what he did but for the state he was in, although he didn’t want to show it. He started to doubt himself wondering if Martin really had something to do with what happened.

Andrew shook the doubt out of his mind. He had the proof that Martin did everything he suspected him of. Soon he’ll crush his so called proof of an accident and show that it wasn’t Janet and Christopher that had perished. These deaths were just convenient for him and he had claimed it as his own. How could he proof it, if a woman and child died in the accident, if it happened? He had much to do and only forty eight hours to do it in. If he failed it meant he had to release Martin and then he’d never find again.

Andrew reached the holding cells. He stopped in front of a single cell with a bunk bed and a small basin and toilet. There was nothing else in the cell and no one shared it with Martin. At least he had time to think about the situation he was in. Maybe the next time they spoke he would be a little clear minded.

“Sorry Martin, but you know the drill. I need you to stay here while I contact Dayton Police to check out your story. I‘ll be back for you soon.” Andrew said and waited for Martin to enter before he closed the door.

Martin glanced at Andrew and smiled. He was taunting him and believed that he had the upper hand. Andrew just frowned at him. Martin wiped his fingers across the bars, showing that the cell wasn’t bothering him, but it did. More so he was now alone and cornered like the rat he felt he was.

“Please could you send someone down here with some painkillers for me? I promise I will be a good boy.” Martin smiled again.

“Sure.” Andrew said and walked away.

On the way out of the cell area Andrew met with an officer and asked him to collect tablets for Martin and something nonalcoholic to drink. He continued to Frank’s office and looked around. He was nowhere in sight.

“If the sheriff’s looking for me, please tell him I’d gone to the bed and breakfast and then to the diner.” Andrew informed the office woman sitting at one of the desks.

“I’m sure you might find him there, when he disappears out of the blue he’s usually at the diner.” She informed and continued her work.

“Thanks.”

Andrew headed for the door when he noticed Frank coming out of the men’s room and headed down the passage towards him. “Is the suspect tucked into bed?”

“Yes, as snug as a bug.”

“You’re not going to get weird on me, are you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I saw the way you’re looking at him. I can see it in your eyes even now.”

“What, I don’t have a clue what you mean?” Andrew asked lifting his shoulders.

Frank said. “You feel sorry for him. Don’t believe he did it, do you?”

“I know he did it, it’s just after all the years it’s hard just to treat him cold like he deserves. I know he wouldn’t have done this deliberately.”

“Then why is he still covering his tracks?”

“Is he?” Andrew asked unsure.

“You have forensic proof over those bogus papers he had given you. If you ask me we cut to the chase and get a court order to open those so called graves.”

“It’s not a bad idea, but that’ll take a while. And the judge would probably insist on us checking out this accident first.”

“If I were you I’d take a little drive. Just a short distance, say fifty something miles. Do it personally and check out the hospital. That’s where they took all the victims. Not that I‘m trying to tell you what to do. I’m sure you’ve already thought of that.” Frank suggested smiling.

He slapped Andrew on the shoulder that he stepped forward just to keep his balance.

“You must be good. You read my mind.”

Frank said. “You know what. I can’t help for the friends I have, even if he happens to be the town judge.” He lifted his eyebrow and took the case file out of Andrew’s hands. “Could I borrow this till you get back? My friend might be a judge but his dreadfully fare.”

“Sure I only need the accident report and the death certificates.” Andrew extracted them from the file.

“Despite all you still need to do, why don’t you and that lovely woman that came with you, join me for lunch at the diner? It’s such a lovely homely place.”

“Sure I am sure we’ll meet you there.”

*

[VIII]

 

After lunch Helen and Andrew left the small town and drove to Dayton. They had no trouble finding the police precinct mentioned in the accident report and found the police officer that had obviously called on Martin.

The officer seemed confused about who Martin was. He couldn’t recall the accident either. This didn’t sit too well with Andrew. Does an accident of this nature happen so often? Could it fade from thought and memory once the day ended? The accident happened last. Although it felt to Andrew that no one remembered it.

Andrew showed him the report in an attempt to jolt his memory. He waited while he read through it thoughtfully. The police officer told him about the accident relating to the report. The accident he remembered seemed to be different from the one Andrew described and shows him the vehicle involved.

Andrew took some snapshots of the vehicle from different angles including the license plate and left the precinct.

Arriving at the hospital he had just as a hard time as at the police precinct. The doctor thought him to be crazy but did confirm that he had signed the death certificates. He didn’t recall leaving out the name. The doctor informed him that he moved the bodies to the morgue after the husband identified them when he arrived. He recalled that he completed the names on the certificate.

The signed document Martin gave Andrew had his name on it, but he didn’t sign it. According to the doctor someone stole stationery from his desk about a week ago. He didn’t think too much of it. The completed documents where signed by who knows who trying to pass it off as legitimate papers.

Clearly someone wrote the names if at a later stage. This would explain everything. Martin had found someone to steel the papers off the doctor’s desk. With the real accident they, collected the documents with the correct information then just completed the names once Martin paid for the stolen documents. This explained why no one recalled the events that Andrew described.

Andrew was even more confused by the time he reached the morgue. The pathologist pulled the file on the already cremated bodies. His report and autopsy matched that of the accident report but it didn’t match the death certificate.

He copied the report and left the hospital. He hurried out of the hospital with renewed hope. Now he had Martin just where he wanted him. Martin could try as hard as wanted. He wouldn’t stand a chance in a court of law. He was ready to take him back to Hazy View. There he would pay for his crime.

Andrew and Helen drove back to the Sheriff’s office three and a half hours later with far less words as they had spoken on their journey to Dayton. Andrew surrendered all emotions towards Martin. He focused his mind on proving that he had murdered his family, weather he remembered it or not.

He had killed them brutally according to the forensic report and tried to conceal it. He was aware of what he did when he dumped their bodies. Now he‘ll crush him like a bug on the bottom of his shoe. He’ll walk into Hazy View with his head high and shock all the residents that might stand up for Martin.

*

[IX]

 

Andrew was angry for wasting time but more so for falling for Martin’s antics. Now he sat in the interrogation room with the case files in front of him. Frank and Helen sat in a jointing room only separated by a two-way mirror recording the interrogation. Two officers left to collect Martin from the holding cells and were on their way back.

Andrew sat at the table smoking and sipping on a cup of coffee. Martin entered and sat at the other end. Beside the table and four chairs there’s nothing in the room. The officer took a chair to the corner in view of the hidden cameras.

“Martin, why don’t we stop these games of yours and you start telling me the truth.” Andrew started.

Martin looked up at him confused.

“What games?”

“Why don’t you start by telling me what happened to Janet and Christopher?”

“I told you there was an accident.” Martin started and paused.

“Yes. I know there was an accident, terrible what happened to that poor mother and child. What made you believe that it was your wife and son?”

“The police officer told me they tracked her to me.”

“How did they manage that?” Andrew asked.

“They said that they tracked me through her vehicle registration.”

“They didn’t use her license registration?”

“No, they got the address off the vehicle’s registration.”

Andrew opened the file and removed four postcard size photos of the vehicle crushed by a runaway truck. The vehicle was too badly damaged. It was difficult to believing that anyone made it out alive.

“It was really sad about the mother and child.”

“What are you getting at?” Martin felt annoyed with the cat and mouse game.

“Did you ever go to identify the bodies?”

“Yes.” Martin started weeping softly.

“Did you see the vehicle?”

“No. I didn’t want to.” He admitted.

“When you went to identify the bodies, did you look at them?”

“Of course I did. Do you enjoy tormenting me like this?” Martin got up but the officer in the corner swiftly seated him.

“No, but this’ll continue until you tell me the truth.”

“I’m telling you the truth.” Martin protested.

“Let’s concentrate on the child for just a moment.”

“What about Christopher?” Martin looked hard at Andrew.

“Christopher is now what five years old?”

“Yes, your point is?”

“The child that had died in the accident was about eight or nine, according to the doctor’s report.”

“Well the doctor was wrong.” Martin said protesting against the information.

“Fine, then the doctor was wrong, it happens. Let’s look at the vehicle.”

Martin picked up the photos and looked at it. His hand started to shake and he wept softly again. He dropped the photos on the table and placed his hands over his face and cried louder.

Andrew waited for a few minutes after Martin failed to control himself, he and added. “That isn’t Janet’s vehicle. Hell it isn’t even close.”

Martin stopped crying but didn’t speak.

“You don’t have anything to say?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“What happened to Janet and Christopher?”

“There was an accident like I told you.” Martin insisted.

“Yes Martin there was, but Janet and Christopher wasn’t in the vehicle. They didn’t die in this accident. The people that died were Asian. What happened to them?” Andrew slammed his hands hard on the table, causing a banging sound that rang through Martins mind.

“If they didn’t die, then they must still be alive.” Martin seemed excited.

“Who did you bury in those graves on your property?”

“Janet and Christopher…” Martin said and instantly he wept again.

“A few seconds ago you told me that they were still alive, where are they?”

“Where’s who?”

Andrew was more angry then annoyed. Martin’s fixated on the idea that Janet and Christopher died in an accident. No matter how much evidence Andrew through in front of him he still seemed to weep for them. Either Martin’s truly convinced of the accident or he was playing more games to confuse Andrew. He was not going to feel sorry for him anymore. Now it was a clear case of murder and weather he remembered it or not he would continue to build a case against him. What was he trying to do proof, insanity?

Andrew was silent. He looked at Martin, reading his expression.

Finally Andrew asked. “You know what’s going to happen now?”

“What, you’re going to tickle me under the feet with a feather until I tell you what you want to know?” Martin asked smiling coldly.

“We’re all going out to your house and we’re going to open those graves and I’ll show you that whoevers buried there isn’t Janet and Christopher.”

“You’re going to disturbed them?” Martin asked surprised.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

“I will fight it in court.” Martin was angry.

“It’s already too late for that.” Andrew collected the photos and files and stood up.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I already have a court order. You can come with or stay, it means the same to me.”

Andrew headed for the door.

The officer stepped forward and handcuffs Martin before leading him out the door and down the passage to the street.

*

[X]

 

Andrew, Helen and Frank were already in the cruiser when the two officers came out with Martin. Three vehicles left and follow Frank the three miles to the old Holloway farm. Martin was in the third vehicle under police watch. Slowly the convoy of vehicles snaked along the dirt road and onto the property. The trip once again felt like it took too long for the short distance they had to travel. They continued pass the house into the backyard.

Before the group made their way through the long grass they took equipment from the trunk.

The officers stripped out of their uniform shirts to keep it clean. They shoveled ground away from the homemade graves. The sun was still hot and sweat ran freely down their skin. Helen didn’t take any offense to their appearance. She wanted to jump in and help to dig. Martin sat on the ground sobbing with the two sheriffs standing guard over him.

Hours passed and the digging was becoming tiresome. Helen refreshed the men with bottled water, bought earlier. The men was making turns digging.

The more the men dug, Martin begged for them to stop. His plea fell on deaf ears. His sobbing did nothing to help his cause. Finally he grew quiet and he mumbled softly. “Sorry honey, they don’t want to listen.”

Hours after starting the digging on the two graves the one team hit something hard inches under the ground. They buck down on their hands and knees. They swept away as much sand as they could to reveal a homemade wooden box about four feet into the grave. The box’s loosened and lifted before it’s placed on the edge of the hole. It didn’t take long to discover another small box and lift it out. Now laying side by side the two boxes’ opened and photographed, starting with the larger of the two.

The box was empty.

They open the second.

Empty.

Not bothering with formalities and niceties Andrew knelt down in front of Martin. Andrew pointed at the homemade boxes still looking at him.

“Why don’t you tell the truth now? You can now see that there’s nothing in the boxes. Why don’t you stop tormenting yourself?”

Martin said nothing.

An officer stood by with a camera recording the excavation. Martin might claim that they tampered with the boxes. He now turned the camera on Andrew as he continued the questioning.

“Do you mind if I told you what happened?”

Martin said nothing.

“You went home one night after a trip to the bar, didn’t you?”

Martin didn’t move, he said nothing.

“You and Janet were fighting. Shouting and screaming about something you must’ve heard.”

Martin looked up and said nothing.

“Christopher woke up because of all the noise didn’t he? Tell me what happened next.”

Martin seemed to think. He still said nothing.

“Something happened, didn’t it? You were so angry.”

“No, the vehicle accident…”

“There was no accident. You killed Christopher and Janet and dumped them somewhere in or near the lake.”

Martin sunk his head into his hands and wept.

“What happened, Martin?”

“She was cheating on me with you!” Martin finally admitted.

“Who was cheating, Janet…?”

“Christopher isn’t my son.” Martin trembled.

“I have a forensics report. Do you want to know what it says?” Andrew pulled the forensics report out of the folder and showed it to Martin.

Martin stopped crying.

“You know the day we were looking for the missing child in the forest. Do you know what I found?”

“Nothing you told me that you found nothing.”

“I didn’t find the child, but I did find blood, human blood according to the report. I also found a child’s slip on shoe just like those Janet loved to buy for Christopher. According to forensics they compared the blood with hair samples found in the shower drain in your old house.”

Martin grew slightly pale. He said nothing.

“You wouldn’t believe this. The blood I found and the hair sample was a match. There was also vomit inside the child shoe. After Christopher died you picked him up and that forced stomach content out. You put his shoes on after that, which transferred vomit into the shoe.”

“What does this have to do with Janet and Christopher?”

“Just listen. According to the report, they tested your hair from the drain to Christopher’s hair and guess what. Christopher was your son, I have it right here.

Martin almost fainted.

“The forensics officer sprayed the house with luminal. It’s an agent that reacts with protein in blood, even after it’s cleaned. When he put an ultraviolet light over it, it glowed up like a god dammed Christmas tree, what do you think of that?”

“What your blood sample glowed, meaning what.” Martin asked confused, forensic tactics was never something he understood.

“Not the blood sample.”

Martin felt weak and drained. Andrew did more than he could ever expect and found the truth. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t remember what happened on that night.

“If it wasn’t the blood sample then what…?”

“Blood splatter in the main bedroom, the passage and lots of splatter on the stairs, indicating that Janet fell down the stairs injured. Do you want to tell us what happened that night?”

“Someone came into the house and killed them?”

“Well why would you drive them away with your service vehicle and dump them into the lake?”

“I don’t know can’t remember.”

Andrew stood up and turned to Frank. “I think it’s time we get him back to the station and get him ready to transport him back to Hazy View. He needs to stand trial for his crime.”

The officer took Martin by the arm and led him back to the vehicle. Martin didn’t say anything. He walked without fuss.

*

[***][*XI]

 

Returning to the Sheriff’s office Andrew felt drained and tired. He could see Martin wasn’t in the state of mind to recall something that had happened three months ago. There was something about the way Martin was acting, it made Andrew feel a little uneasy.

He couldn’t recall the events and took the accident as the most logical reasoning. Perhaps he blocked it from his mind. Andrew’s convinced that Martin was no longer acting or trying to mislead the investigation.

With all the alcohol abuse the lack of sleep, he had slipped into a metal disorder. His priority was to get him back to Hazy View and get him certified fit to stand trial.

Andrew sighed deeply as he got out of the cruiser. He walked into the office with Frank and Martin in front of him. Weather it was the heat or trying to put together the mind of a madman, Andrew felt mentally and physically drained. He couldn’t drive around the corner never mind across the country.

At the counter in the reception area they separate. The officers took Martin back to the holding cells where he would spend the night, alone and in darkness. Andrew followed Frank to his office and almost fell into one of the chairs. Helen was in shock and only entered the office minutes later. It was the first time she’d seen anyone in Martin’s state.

Martin was, according to her, truly convinced that his buried wife and son was at the bottom of the yard. He believed it was them who had died in the accident. How Martin had come to hear of the accident and obtained the accident report and death certificates would perhaps always remain a mystery. It wasn’t importance anymore. It was proven that it had nothing to do with Janet and Christopher’s deaths. Even Martin had to admit that he made a mistake. Clearly he would fight it to the end or until he snapped out of this mental block. Only he could now explain the details of what happened the night Janet and Christopher disappeared. The same question ran through Andrew’s mind repeatedly. What did actually happen the night Janet and Christopher disappeared? Accept for the vomit the technician found none of Christopher’s blood or body fluids. This meant that at least he had no injuries when he died. How did he die? Janet was bleeding before she fell down the stairs.

“When will you be returning to Hazy View?” Frank asked after a long silence.

“I was thinking of leaving in the morning, I need at least a good night sleep. I don’t want him to slip out of my custody.” Andrew informed.

“I can send an officer with you. I’m sure most of them will jump at the chance for a road trip. He can help you. Make sure Martin gets to Hazy View. When you get there you can stick him on a bus and send him home.”

“I’d feel better. Thanks.”

“Go get some sleep. Martin won’t be going anywhere and in the morning I’ll have someone for you.”

“Thanks. It’s still early. Maybe if you don’t mind I think we might even leave before dark. The road should be quiet and we can cover more distance tonight.” Andrew and Helen stood up and ready themselves to leave the office.

“What time would you leave then?”

Andrew thought for a second then said. “At six o’clock.” He looked at Helen who nodded back at him in agreement.

“That’s fine. I’ll meet you back here then.” Frank said and walked them to the door.

*

Chapter Seven

[I]

 

The trip to Hazy View was quicker than the trip to Ohio. Martin sat without fuss and trouble. They alternated the driving between Andrew, Helen and the officer on loan from Frank. After long hours of conversation they discovered his name was Brat Russell. He was about twenty two and always did the small things around the office. He was still training. He had blond hair and green eyes, and a tall slender body. He’s neatly dressed and well-spoken.

Now driving around the clock only stopping for food and gas, they were making progress faster than on their trip up-country. They took restroom breaks at every stop and where they could they pushed the envelope. During the trip Martin said nothing. Clearly he was thinking long and hard about his situation and had gotten use to people’s stairs at every stop.

Helen had called her ex-husband, who had agreed to keep Olivia for an extra week. Not concerned with the reason, he welcomed the extra time. Now that Martin was in custody, he could show them where he dumped the bodies and they could find them and laid them to rest. Once the activities in the house seized and the lake was open, she would drive to collect Olivia.

Andrew was taking the last stretch to Hazy View almost two days after they left the small town near Dayton. He’s tired and felt his whole body ached, but it wasn’t that, that bothered him. He was nearing Hazy View just before ten in the morning and by this time the town was abuzz with activity. Surely someone would notice when they arrived at his office with Martin in cuffs. At the rate normal news spread, he was sure that this news would spread like a wildfire. He needed to hurry and get Martin in a cell before the town came down on him like a ton of bricks. He took a small comfort in knowing that no one, not even Yvonne or the Mayor knew that they were now drawing close.

The first thing Andrew needed to attend to when he got back to his office was to process and officially charge Martin with the murders of Janet and Christopher Parker. He needed to check in with Mr. Craft and see if there’s anything new regarding the hauntings. Once he completed that he needed to track down the woman he believed lived in the trailer park. He would also track down the drunken man that had accused him of cheating with Janet, even if he Martin confessed.

Once he had them in a corner, then he would possibly strengthen his case against Martin. With this information in hand he could take Martin to the house or to the dumpsite, so he could find Janet and her son and finally free them from the lake. Sounds easy, but so far nothing had turned out the way he had planned. All he had was luck, luck in finding the shoe and blood, luck in finding Martin behind the house and that he couldn’t flee because something was preventing the vehicle’s engine from starting. How long would his luck hold out? That was the million dollar question.

*

[II]

 

Andrew drove into Hazy View through the main road, passing busy pedestrians and shoppers. No one notices the vehicle or Martin in the backseat next to a uniformed officer. He breathed a deep sigh or relieve as his office was less than two blocks ahead. He might make it there clear without drawing attention. He was nearing a stop, the only one before he reached his office.

A vehicle pulled up next to him.

Andrew turned to look.

The driver in the vehicle hooted.

Martin turned and smiled.

The driver screamed something.

Helen was in the passenger seat. Her window’s closed and she looked at Andrew, wandering weather she needed to lower her window. He shook his head, turned his attention back to the road and continued to the office.

The vehicle changed lanes rapidly and followed.

Andrew stopped in front of his office. He sighed deeply and turned off the ignition. The vehicle that had followed from the last stop halted with screeching tires. He stopped in the middle of the road and bolted out of the vehicle. He darted out of the road and rushed to Andrew’s window. Andrew had little time to react when the man, clearly angry, knocked on his window. Andrew looked at the man and turned away from him. He glanced through the parking lot noticing… There were several vehicles filling the parking lot.

“How did they know? Nobody knew we’re on the way back?” Andrew looked at the man still standing at his window, not wanting to back off.

“Looks like you in a spot of trouble.” Martin remarked from the rear with a grin on his face.

“No thanks to you.” Andrew said and turned to Martin angry, his eyes turned hard and cold towards him.

“What do you mean? I wasn’t even here. You’ve already failed, I knew you would. I didn’t think you had the stomach for it I’m afraid.” Martin remarked.

“This is your doing. What made you think you can kill someone and then run away with your tail firmly tucked between your legs and there’ll be nothing coming from it. These people don’t know it, but they will soon know that their loved once death is the result of your actions. This thing about you being a legend will fade from memory before you can say sentenced.”

Martin fell silent.

Andrew opened the window and looked up at the man still waiting for a response.

“What’s the meaning of this?” He demanded standing half hunched over to look past Andrew to Martin in the backseat.

Martin lifted his hands in greeting and smiled, revealing the cuffs on his wrists.

“What’s the meaning of what Bob?” Andrew asked confused.

“Is Martin back to clean up your mess? Did you really have to drag him back in cuffs?” Cleary the man was angry.

“I’m afraid I’m not following, but if you could just move up a moment I’ll speak to all of you.” Andrew said and closed the window without a further word.

Andrew fished his cell phone out of his pocket and entered the number on the business card. Once again Mr. Craft answered the phone without delay. “Good day Mr. Craft. I’ve just returned to town, could you please meet me at the office?”

“Sure, how was your trip?”

“Successful, but I’m afraid that I’ve returned to a world of trouble.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Did something happen while I was gone?” Andrew asked realizing that the crowd wasn’t there for him.

“Janet attacked some children who disobeyed the restrictions on the lake. Two of the children drowned. I don’t think the residences are very happy.”

“You’re kidding. When did this happen?”

“Last night. The children wanted to go skinny-dipping. They thought they would be safe in numbers, but clearly…”

“Will it take long before you get here?”

“I’m leaving the house now.”

“I need you to set up in my office so I can see the recordings.”

“See you in a few minutes.”

Mr. Craft ended the call.

“These people aren’t here to welcome Martin back. There was another incident. This time Janet took two children.” Andrew looked at Martin. “This is still your mess.”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“Do what?”

“You’re right, this is my fault. I should never have left. I should’ve cleaned this up before it have started, I‘m truly sorry for those children.” Martin dropped his head in shame.

The burden that’s weighing on him had become too heavy to bear and it’s time to lessen the burden.

“Not just the children think of the four people that had died before them.”

“There’d been more victims?” Martin asked surprised.

“Yes, Janet’s attacking anyone who came near the water, that’s not all. Your family’s haunting you house and Christopher has attached him to her daughter Olivia. What do you think would that do to a six-year-old child to know her friend lives in a dark cold lake that scares him?”

“How do you know what Christopher thinks, he’s dead.”

“He spoke to Olivia.”

Andrew got out of the vehicle, walked to Martin’s door and opened it. Martin got out slowly with his head bent forward too ashamed to look people in the eye with Brat Russell following suit.

“I never thought this would happen.”

“No you just thought you would get away with this, spreading your lies like poison and hoping we’re all too dumb to notice. Let me tell you something, we did believe you, these people defended you. If it wasn’t for Janet, we would never think something was wrong.”

“I don’t know what I’ve done, but I know I’ve done something horrid and now it’s time to put it behind me, behind all of us and move on.” Martin whispered his voice scratchy and hoarse.

“Put this behind us and just move on, is that the way you’re thinking now. Go tell that to the people whose mourning, the same people who trusted and respected you. You are sicker than I thought.” Andrew scolded and pulled hard on Martin’s arm, dragging him into the office.

“I’m tired of always looking over my shoulder and hiding like a dog. It’s time to set things straight.” Martin said not looking up.

“What do you think these people will do when they find out what you really did? Do you think for one moment that they’d put it behind them and move? They’ll just forgive you like you’re the god they still idolize?”

“No, I just meant, it’s time I find out the truth.”

“What truth, weather you did it or not…?”

“I know I did something. I’m just confused about the details. I need to explain, make thing right again weather they forgive me or not, that’s not important. I’ve got to make it right with Janet and Christopher.”

“You can explain later, come it’s time to face the music.”

Andrew walked into the office with his head held high. Martin walked like a lamb led to the slaughter. He’s hunched over and sluggish. He’s as pale as the dead and close to weeping. Helen and Brat followed closely, ready to offer back up should Andrew need it when he faced the mob of people ready for war.

As Andrew entered the office he’s met by more people than he had expected. He walked silently through the crow holding Martin by the arm. He led him into the office area behind a small counter and sat him near Yvonne’s desk. He turned and walked back to the group of angry residents, whispering and almost excited to see Martin, but confused about the handcuffs. There whispers became louder sounding more like a beehive.

As Andrew reached the counter the crowd fell silent.

“Good afternoon.” He greeted the group.

“What is so good about it?” Someone called.

“It had come to my attention that there was another incident at the lake while I was out of town. I’m deeply sorry for the loss as I’m about the other victims.” Andrew paused. “This is the reason the lake’s closed.”

“What’s going on in the lake?”

“We have evidence that the lake’s haunted.”

“That is just a story, there’s no such thing as ghosts. Why don’t you tell us the truth for once?”

“No, I am afraid that this time it’s true. I’ve however found the person responsible an as soon as the matter’s resolved then I’ll declare the lake safe and it‘ll be open before the festival.”

“I heard rumors that the ghosts were two of our residence.” Someone called out again.

“Yes that’s true. A terrible crime’s committed that took the lives of two of our residents. There’s a very big possibility that their bodies are in the lake near the rock face. Now they’re attacking anyone that comes within reach. This’s the same reason I closed it.”

“Why didn’t you tell us about this?”

“I didn’t want more people getting hurt. The rumors have reached the city and two paranormal investigators came to investigate and so lost their lives. Would it be wise to lure more people to fall victim to the entity?”

“Why is Sheriff Parker in handcuffs?”

“I’ll explain all that soon. Please I’m asking you to stay away from the lake and be patient. I will explain everything soon.”

Martin stood up and walked to the counter.

“Sheriff Parker what’s going on?”

“Everything Sheriff Foster had said is true. I’m afraid that I’ve done something hideous and I’ve lost both my wife and son…”

“He was not your son.” A man called from the rear.

“Yes he was. DNA proofed it. I fell victim of a hateful gossip and acted on it in a way that was wrong and unlawful. I went too far and it cost lives. This I’ll pay for, but I feel sorry for the people hurt and even killed because of my actions.”

“What did you do?” A weeping mother called standing in front of the counter her voice wasn’t sympathetic.

“I can’t recall the details, but I can recall throwing their bodies into the lake.” Martin dropped his head.

Brat walked closer, took Martin by the arm and led him back to his chair. Anger grew in the crowd. Their cries for justice to the full extent of the law echoed loudly. For some reason Andrew didn’t think they could understand what was really wrong.

“Sheriff, how can we remove these things from the lake?”

“We need to find the bodies and give them a proper burial. If we can find the bodies and rebury them they could finally come to rest and the haunting will stop.”

A man in the group stepped forward. He looked hard and long at Martin his eyes filling with hate for him the longer he looked at him. He turned his attention to Andrew. “Would you need help finding them?”

“At this moment I hadn’t have the time to form a plan of action. I’ll need as many abled body and strong people as I can get. We need to work together and offer each other support. It would be dangerous because the entities are strong and very angry.”

“If it doesn’t work will the lake stay closed forever?”

“No, it’ll work.”

Mr. Craft walked into the office carrying a laptop and some other equipment, Tom followed. The crowd parted to let them through.

“Please I’m asking you now, go home and give us just a little space to complete our work so we can bring this to an end.” Andrew said and waited for the group to disperse.

*

[III]

 

Andrew sat at Yvonne’s desk as he waited for Mr. Craft to set up his equipment in his office. At least the office was quieter. Yvonne filled a large order of coffee as Andrew and Mayor Gibbs spoke. Andrew filled him in on the investigator and the report from the forensics lab.

While sipping on the coffee Andrew used the phone on Yvonne’s desk and called Doctor Phillip at the hospital. He asked to evaluate Martin to confirm that he was fit to stand trial. Dr. Phillip expressed his shock when he heard that Martin’s arrested and back in town. Something he couldn’t believe as many in town.

“I am glad things turn out the way they did, at least it looks like these close minded people won’t be too hard on you, but at least hear you out. Let’s hope they support you in bringing to justice a man they had respected for so long.” Mayor Gibbs said as he still sipped the last of his coffee.

“Are you going, don’t you want to see the footage from the house?”

“I’ll turn back later. Mr. Craft will let me know when he’s ready. He told me it’ll take a while to set it up. In the meantime you need to take Martin to the hospital? It’ll make your case stronger when people start sympathizes with Martin because he can’t remember. They’ll say because he suffered a serious shock you’re picking on him and he didn’t know what he was doing.”

“Well I did want to get the unpleasant bits out the way first, and then I’ve got time to deal with more pressing matters.”

“What do you think the motive was?”

“Jalousie I’m sure and I don’t even need his drunken buddy or that woman from the trailer park. I do believe Martin’s busy making his statement as we speak.”

“If I were you I’ll get their statements weather it’s needed or not. It won’t hurt would it?”

“No I guess not.”

“Have you already charged him with the murders?”

“As we speak the deputy’s taking care of that. I’m just waiting for him then I’ll take Martin to the hospital myself.”

“Good, then you don’t need me to stand in your way.” Mayor Gibbs said and headed for the door. He paused and turned to Andrew. “You did well.”

He left the office and into the bright sunlight beyond.

“Did you hear that, the mayor said I did well?” Andrew boasted to Yvonne.

“I also think you did.” Yvonne said.

“It was more luck then muscle or brains.”

“Whatever it was, you puzzled crimes together that we didn’t even think happened. Do you mind if I take my desk back now. Some of us have work to do you know.”

“Sure. It’s not like I don’t have anything to do myself.” Andrew said and stood up feeling better about him as he thought he would. At least the residents didn’t throw him with rotten egg, yet.

“Here you can start on this.” Yvonne said and handed him a small pile of complaints that happened while he was away.

“Never a dull moment is it.” He said.

He took the files to his old desk now used by the deputy and glanced through them. “It looks like I can go on holiday more often. You guys can cope well without me.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. The locals didn’t know you were gone until the children drowned, the case is there too.” Yvonne informed.

“Ghee thanks.” Andrew remarked and started reading statements and complaints, most already resolved.

Andrew soaked up the incident report of the attack on a group of youngsters that disobeyed the restrictions. They had dared two children, wanting to fit into a class group of wannabe popular kids. They swim in nothing more than their birthday suits. The two thirteen year olds swam to the rock face and back before they could be part of a click. Never the less it was when they had reached about halve way that they disappeared under the water, never to reappear.

Franticly the horrified bystanders were too scared to enter the water and ran away. They decided to keep it quiet. Tom and Mr. Craft found the bodies of the two children in the early hours of this morning. A girl from the group broke down because she couldn’t deal with what they did. She felt she pushed into a corner by the other children and told her parents what had really happened. The other children involved in the initiation finally confessed. The children weren’t charges yet, although their parents would deal with them they would still have to endure lots of community service.

Martin’s return from the holding cells startled Andrew. His finger still black with the ink used to take his prints. Still handcuffed he sat into one of the chairs at the desk.

Andrew, Martin and Davis left the office and drove three blocks to the hospital. Andrew’s service vehicle was still at Helen’s house so he was happy to drive with Davis. Sitting next to Martin he felt the glare from passersby. Martin also seemed to share this feeling as he always kept his head down. He was clearly feeling remorse for his deeds to the point that he could not look anyone in the eye. Weather he was weeping could only be guest.

This was about as much thought Andrew could spare him. He didn’t feel pity and was no longer saddened by Martin was appearance. He will deserve everything that comes his way. It would make the suffering that Janet and Christopher had to endure like a walk in the park.

They reach the hospital and stopped in the casualty parking.

Andrew and Davis led Martin through the casualty department’s entrance where several Hazy View residences met them. It was clear that the word had spread like a wildfire just as Andrew had thought. People congratulated Andrew on a job well done and cursed Martin. Some outraged people threw papers at him angered that a man of his standing in the community could do what he did. An elderly woman stood up and blocked Martin’s way. Andrew tried to get the woman to step aside when she suddenly spat in Martins face and cursed him.

“Is this really necessary?” Andrew asked.

“Are you standing up for him?” She asked in a quivering voice.

“No, but please.”

“He’s a murderer who took two lovely people from us. They were like angles in this community, how could you.” She said and spat again.

“That’s enough now, you might mess my uniform.” Andrew said and gently guided the woman back to her chair.

“Make sure he rots in jail, sheriff.”

Martin said nothing. He just discretely wiped his face on his shoulder his hands now bound behind his back. He never looked up, just walked as he’s led down a long passage and to the elevator. Too many people crowded the hall for his liking and he’s glad to leave. As they turned the corner leading to the elevator they could still hear the cursing and remarks from the people waiting for the doctor.

Andrew pressed the button and waited for the elevator.

“I know you don’t have any more respect for me, but is it necessary to drag me through as many people as you can?”

“To the contrary of what you might think it’s necessary.”

“Is it that necessary for your ego or for me embarrassment?”

“No, for the case of course….” Andrew said and looked hard and Martin.

Martin met his eyes.

“How would humiliating me help your case?”

“When the time comes that you feel you need to draw sympathy from these people they would’ve turned on you like a beast on its prey.”

“How would that help you, there people already hates me?”

“Just because they don’t know everything yet and later you can’t play the crime of passion card. It you do, they‘ll won’t feel sorry for you.”

The elevator bell sounded.

“That’s not my intention.”

“What’s your intention?”

The doors opened and two nurses and a patient stepped out.

“To pay for what I’ve done.”

Without a further word Andrew, Martin and Davis stepped into the elevator.

Andrew pressed the button to the fourth floor and waited till the doors close.

He turned back to Martin.

“I’ve read your so called confession. I think you’re trying to play me for a fool. There’s nothing about how you did it. Only that you came home and blanked out. You later realized that your wife and son was dead and tried to conceal it be disposing of the bodies. I know you’re aware of what you were doing the whole time. You’re just trying to get a lighter sentence.” Andrew turned away from Martin.

“No, that’s not true.”

“The doctor will soon brake through all you nonsense.”

The elevator gently jerked to a halt.

The three men stepped out and walked to the nurse’s station. A group of student doctors passed but paid no attention to Martin and his escort. They were visiting from the city and this event was a regular thing there.

Andrew reached the nurse’s station and was about to ask her to page Doctor Phillip when he exited one of the wards opposite the station. He smiled and greeted them warmly extending his hand to Andrew and Deputy Davis.

“I’ve called for the psychologist. He’s waiting for you in the ward.”

“Thank you, doctor.” Andrew said.

Andrew followed the doctor down the passage to the psychology department. Deputy Davis and Martin followed close by.

“What happened to Bobby?” Andrew asked looking at Phillips briefly.

“After hearing that his father died of the infection he had a nervous breakdown. We kept him here for a few days and then transferred him to the psychic ward. He’s still there, but I must say he’s doing a lot better. He battles to deal with the ghost. I assume it’s the ghost that attracted them.”

“Yes. I’ll have to make a turn by Bobby soon.” Andrew says in almost a whisper feeling deeply saddened for the boy’s loss.

“I think he’d like that, I don’t think he’s getting much visitors.” Phillip informs and walks through the reinforced glass doors.

“Do you know what’s going to happen to him once he leaves here?”

“He would probably go home, but I don’t think he has any other relatives. Because of his age he will go into foster care till he’s eighteen.”

“That’s so sad. He’s such a great kid.” Andrew replies softly.

“I think you’ll be here for a long time, his father’s death really hit him hard. It doesn’t look like he’ll recover overnight. I feel so sorry for him though.”

“Yes it is but I’m glad to report that we’ll soon put an end to the attacks.” Andrew assured.

“Please, we don’t want to deal with any more of her victims, it disturbs the staff and the other patients.”

They walked in silence.

“The doctor’s waiting for you. You can just go in, he’s expecting you.” Phillip said and returned the way he came.

Andrew knocked on the door and an old voice invited them in through the closed door.

Andrew entered while Davis and Martin remained outside seated in the waiting area in front of the office door.

“Good day doctor.” Andrew greeted.

“Good day sheriff. What can I do for you? Doctor Scotts just told me you wanted to have an evaluation done. Are you going to stand trial for something?” The doctor asked and seemed truly confused.

“No doctor. It’s not for me. I’d like you to evaluate one of my prisoners.”

“Thank goodness, I’d hate to think that our new sheriff is buckling under the pressure already.” The old man replied laughing.

The office was your typical small examining room, instead of a bed there was a long couch for patient to lie on and the chair nearby for taking notes. An old pine desk stood against the far wall with just enough space to move in and out. There’s no computer or any modern phones, only the type with a wheel on that you could stick your pen or finger in and then turn it to the number you required. Once you leave the wheel it ran back with a grinding clicking sound. An overlarge desk calendar decorated the desk and a penholder held a few pencils. The nameplate on the desk worded: Dr. Harris Psychologist. A small wire bin stood in the corner of the office and some files piled on the desk.

Two large pot plants stood in the corners and a few chalk drawings decorated the walls. Besides that, the room’s so outdated that it’s depressing. There wasn’t colorful and it resembled one of those clinical rooms in horror flicks. The doctor always wore long white coats and a large mirror on the forehead. The room wasn’t as clinical but closely resembled one of those torture chambers. Mad patient’s taken there to get the devil draw out of them. Martin should feel right at home.

Andrew shook his head and the cold chill that wrapped around his spine coursing him to shiver.

Dr. Harris was the kind of person who looked pleasant and welcoming. He’s elderly but still strong. He showed his age only in the gray hair with the bold patch on his crown. Pleats that mapped his face deeply. He seemed like a thinker in his youth and someone who often frowned. His expression and body language was inviting and friendly. Yet he seemed very stern and didn’t seem the person, people could walk over. He wasn’t short or skinny but well-kept firm muscles for his age. He’s dressed in a three-piece suit, something you don’t see often anymore. Neither he nor the office had changed in twenty years.

Dr. Harris stood up from behind his desk and walked around to face Andrew.

“If you want me to evaluate one of your prisoners it would take a while. I’d have to keep him here for a few hours. There are several tests and therapy that I’d have to perform to see it him is truly fit to stand trial.”

“I can imagine that.”

“I hope you have things to do I can’t rush the work.”

“I understand.”

“Good. You may bring the prisoner in.”

Andrew walked to the door and called for Davis and Martin to enter. Davis sat Martin in one of the chairs and returned to the waiting area.

“Could you please call as soon as you’re done?” Andrew asked.

“Sure. With this I take it the Deputy will be responsible for the prisoner?”

“Yes but I don’t think Martin would be any trouble.”

“I’m sure he won’t. Thank you, we’ll be fine from this point on.” The doctor said heading back behind his desk.

Andrew left feeling kicked out of the office as the door closes behind him. The doctor’s uninterested in idol chats. Andrew had other things to do and couldn’t sit in the hospital all day.

*

[IV]

 

Andrew returned to the office and found Mayor Gibbs had already returned from his office to view the footage recorder by Mr. Craft and his son’s. Mr. Craft had shown the Mayor the first set of footage including the voice recordings from the incident in which he had lost his sons. Now they took a break and waited for Andrew to arrive and engaged in idol chat in Andrew’s office. Yvonne entered the office to refresh their coffee.

The large window behind the desk’s blinds kept the sun out. Although it wasn’t hot and there were signs of rain in the later parts of the evening, it was breathable. The wind was energetic and swept through the clean streets with nothing to sweep except for some leave freshly plucked.

Mayor Gibbs left the office to make a few calls leaving Andrew and Mr. Craft to catch up.

“I hope Janet didn’t keep you too busy these last few days?”

“Luckily not, she appeared in the house twice and was tearing up the forest and lake a bit. Unfortunately I couldn’t get too close to her.”

“How are you holding up though, I mean with what happened with your sons?”

“Rather well under the circumstances. I’m leaving first thing in the morning to go back to the city for the funeral.”

“I wish I could’ve been there.” Andrew said sinking his head slightly.

“Don’t worry, if you need me after that I can always come back.”

“I was hoping to wrap this whole thing up tonight. But you’re welcome to record as much as you want a parting gift from me.” Andrew looked up again.

“Thanks, I was thinking about something. I can call for the diving team to help us. If the bodies are underwater they can recover it for you. Tom and I can work in the rowboats. I mean, I think that would give me great footage.”

“What if she attacks you, I was hoping to have a large group on the water, just in case. But you can work with them of course.” Andrew suggested.

Mr. Craft’s face lit up. “I’ll call the diving team as soon as we’re done here. If I call them soon they could make it here by six o’clock. I need to get bigger cameras and lighting, and sensor.” Mr. Craft’s jittery, more excited than Andrew had ever seen him.

He reminded him of the day Mr. Craft asked Tom to help. He was just as excited. Maybe some of Tom’s simple ways and childlike personality had rubbed off on him.

“Any footage you got, can I have copies.” Andrew asked.

“Sure, I wouldn’t dream of denying you that.” Mr. Craft agreed.

Mayor Gibbs entered the office and took the seat behind the desk. The computer’s set up against the far wall and a chair’s turned to face the computer. Mr. Craft sat on the other side of the desk nearest to the computers to control them. Andrew took the chair next to Mr. Craft. Mr. Craft told Mayor Gibbs of the earlier footage and was now eagerly awaiting the new footage from the last couple of days.

Recordings downloaded from the cameras lined up in files on the screen. As with the previous viewing the footage played on the main screen and a digital graphic bar jumped up and down on a lower panel as the audio played.

The first segment showed Janet walking through Helen’s house throwing things around and moaning. Christopher was running around the upstairs of the house and didn’t follow her down the stairs. Some places Janet vanished while only thing moved and a mug flung from the dry rack against the wall.

The second segment just showed distant lights from over the lake and passed across the water nearing the pier. After rocking a boat violently she walked along the pier and onto the lawn before vanishing without damage. There was no image or sound from Christopher.

In a third segment Janet appeared in the house again, she walked from the main bedroom down the passage. Christopher didn’t run circles around her as in the previous segment. He walked slowing calling for someone and wept softly. He wandered from room to room calling and crying, he was looking for someone and was upset because he couldn’t find them. He searched the upstairs and then ran down stairs, water still collecting on the floor where he stepped. He ran into the dining room and around the table. He stood for a moment then turned and ran into the kitchen calling with every step he took.

No answer.

He tried the basement door and wept loudly. Janet descended the stairs and joined her son in the kitchen. She took him into her arms and issued a moaning whisper, cuddling him and then disappeared.

“Isn’t there anymore audio, I mean what was that about?” Mayor Gibbs asked.

“No sorry mayor that is all I have.” Mr. Craft said.

“We do believe Christopher had attached himself to Olivia, maybe he was looking for her.” Andrew concluded.

“This is too sad. What happened with Martin at hospital?” Mayor Gibbs asked.

“Martin is still there. The Doctor wants to do tests on him, Deputy Davis is guarding him.”

“When is Martin going to show you the dump site?”

“As soon as he’s declared fit for trial.” Andrew said hopefully.

“You are planning to drag Martin out there to show you where he dumped the bodies?” Mayor Gibbs asked sarcastically.

“Yes, I also want him to face what he’s done.” Andrew shook his head.

“Good. Then I will see you there.” Mayor Gibbs said and walked out of the office.

The phone on the desk rang.

“Sheriff I’ve the hospital on the line, they phoned three times already. Can I put them through now?” Yvonne asked.

“Sure.”

A moment of silence followed before the call’s connected with Dr. Harris.

His friendly and cracking voice came over the phone.

“You can come and pick up you prisoner. I’ll have a report ready in the morning.” Dr. Harris said getting straight to the point.

“I’ll be there shortly.”

The Doctor ended the call.

“I’m going to pick up Martin from the hospital.” Andrew admitted. “I need to see some people then I’ll meet you at the lake later.”

“Sure.” Mr. Craft said and started to shut down the computers.

*

[V]

 

Andrew left the office and walked into the dull sunlight. Large cloud formations had moved in and small drops fell. He looked down at his wristwatch for the first time today and noticed it was already past one in the afternoon. The wind blew hard and ripped through his light clothing sending a chill down his spine. He hugged himself and headed back to his office to collect his jacket. He brushed his fingers through his hair as the wind ripped it from side to side.

He managed to collect his jacket from him office without any interruptions and made it back outside where rain continued to fall. Drops seemed larger and faster than the minute ago that he had stood outside. He shivered and headed to the Deputies vehicle unlocking and got into the vehicle very quickly.

Sitting in the driver seat he suddenly reminded that he had to collect his vehicle from Helen’s home. He started the vehicle and headed towards the hospital with wipers slowly wiping away the rain which was falling even faster now. This storm would be hard and quick. Hopefully it would be quick and stopped before dark.

Arriving at the hospital Andrew found Davis and Martin sitting in the waiting room outside Doctor Harris’s office. The doctor was unavailable but Andrew didn’t have much to say anyway all he could do was waiting till morning to find read the report.

Andrew returned to the office with Martin and Davis.

Davis took Martin back to the holding cells handling him a little harder than he did thought out the day. He doesn’t make small talk with him. Neither did he answer any of the questions Martin asked. He shoved him into the cell with one hand and closed the door hard. He returned to Andrew’s office. Clearly Davis had more than enough time to think about all the evidence he saw and heard. Now took a toll on him. His respect for the great man had faded to nothingness and he saw him as nothing more than the criminal he was. According to the doctor Martin wasn’t suffering from any mental disorder that he was aware of, and he knew all of them.

“Are you ready to go?” Andrew asked as he spotted Davis platting through desks and chairs.

“Where are we going?”

“I need to collect my vehicle from Martin’s old house.” Andrew insisted heading for the door.

“Sure.”

Andrew and Davis left the office and drove out towards the lake.

“What did the doctor say?”

“He didn’t want to discuss much with me, except that Martin suffered a trauma and blocked the murders out of his mind.”

“So he can really not remember what happened.” Andrew remarked.

“Apparently so I thought he was putting on a charade to lessen his sentence.”

“So did I, well it would appear that we’re still without motive. I think we should have enough time to go and see that drunken man that was accusing me of cheating on Janet. Maybe he could clear this up for us.” Andrew suggested.

“He lives on the other side of town.”

Andrew fell silent then said. “Before I go there I would like to get my vehicle from Helen’s house. I think that is the best.”

“Why don’t you do it now?”

“I want Martin to show me where he dumped the bodies and I’d need my vehicle by then.”

“Do you think this thing will be over soon, the festival is in three days and the residence would be happy if the lake’s open?” Davis wondered.

“I’m aware of that. I hope that we can end this tonight and find Janet and Christopher. Hopefully thing’s will go back to normal by morning.”

Andrew turned into the gravel driveway at Helen’s house. From a distance he saw that she wasn’t home. Maybe she rested because all was quiet and the doors and windows closed. Maybe she went into town or just making the best of her time alone. On second thought she has most properly gone to town as her vehicle was nowhere in sight.

Andrew had collected the keys from Tom earlier so he didn’t need to get into the house. He just parked behind his vehicle and jumps out. “Wait for me. I’ll follow you to the guy’s house.” Andrew instructed and inspected his vehicle through the closed windows before unlocking the cab.

There was an overwhelming smell of chemicals, most likely what the forensics technician used. In the rear of the vehicle it looked like the carpet’s vacuumed and cleaned. The most overwhelming was the strong chemical smell that would take days to disappear. The vehicle baked in the sun for a couple of days and this led to the strong smell. Besides the smell there’s trapped heat inside the vehicle. The cold wind and rain now falling did little against the rush of heat streaming out of the cab as Andrew opened the door. It forced him backwards a few steps before he got in. He started the ignition and pulled out of the parking area. The grass flattened by the tires where it stood.

Davis had already turned his vehicle and the two drove off the property and back onto the main road leading back to town.

*

[VI]

 

Martin sat in his holding cell alone, broken and humiliated. His hand started to shake his head was pounding. He tried to sleep but failed. He stood up and called the officer who sat at the desk all morning. Clearly he wasn’t there. He returned and now he was sitting on the small single stretcher bed with his head buried in his hands. His head ached too much for him to keep it up unsupported. His eyes were burning from the lack of sleep he now felt again. He felt alone even the bright sunlight had faded on him. Rain tapped the small barred window that’s too high to look through. There was no one to protect him should the darkness come for him.

A giggle filled the air.

He looked up, saw nothing.

Small water splashing footsteps echoed on the tiled floor.

He stood up, saw nothing.

Martin withdrew to a corner behind the bed. He sunk down on the ground and buried his head in his knees. He felt the cold of the rain had found him and wrapped around him.

He started to shiver.

A small childlike shrike deafened his ears.

He started to mumble and wept at the same time.

Something knocked against a cell door further down the passage.

Martin stood up slowly eyes wide and his breathing accelerated.

More footsteps echoed loudly.

“Christopher.” Martin called in a whisper.

No response.

Martin felt weak and dizzy. He could barely hold his own weight. His legs felt like rubber and the bars were moving away from him, keeping him out of reach.

A soft voice called from the end of the passage.

“What is that boy I can’t hear you?” Martin asked unable to hear what’s said.

He steadied himself against the wall. Slowly he walked towards the bars.

“Daddy…” The voice called again.

“Come here son.” Martin encouraged at the bars.

Small footsteps echoed again, walking slowly forward.

“Daddy, it’s so cold. I’m scared.”

“Come to daddy son, daddy will help you.”

Martin was at the bars now he had to stop for a moment to catch his breath before he spoke. He couldn’t see down the passage, the bar holds his vision forward. He could hear footsteps drew near. Each step stabbed like a thousand knifes into his soul.

A soft weep echoed from the cell next to him.

Martin stuck his hand through the bars in an attempt to draw Christopher near.

“Here son, come to me.” He whispered.

“Daddy I loved you.”

“I still love you son.”

Water fell in the corner of the cell in which Martin’s locked.

“Daddy I can’t find her.”

“Who’re you looking for son?”

“Mommy she loves me.”

“I love you too, son.”

“Daddy…” The small voice whispered.

“Let daddy see you son.” Martin stretched his hand out even more until his shoulder started to ache as he pressed it against the bar. He’s cornered.

“Will you hurt me again daddy.”

“No son.” Martin said with a large lump in his throat. He felt the tears running down his face but he wanted to remain calm for his son’s sake.

“Why did you then daddy…?”

Christopher stood at the corner of the cell just out of reach of Martin. He moved forward slowly just so Martin could see him.

Martin gasped. The air was so cold that vapor escaped his mouth. His fingers felt frozen to the bone. His lips turned blue and his eyes burned as ice-cold wind had blown into them. He tried to reach out further to touch Christopher.

“I am so sorry son.” Martin whispered and wept softly.

“Why did you hurt me and mommy?” Christopher asked in a saddened voice.

“It was a mistake son.”

“Why do we have to be in the lake, why can’t we come home?” Christopher asked.

“I want you home, but it’s too late for that now son.”

Christopher fell silent for a moment.

“I don’t like it there, it’s too dark and cold, please daddy. Why can’t we come home?” Christopher pleaded.

“I am so sorry my baby, please forgive me.” Martin sobbed.

“Why, why then daddy, she’s going to get you.” Christopher stood inside the cell at Martin’s side. Water collected on the ground. His small face bent out of shape as he contorts with anger.

“Christopher.” Martin reached out for him.

“She is going to get you. She is going to hurt you. She will make you suffer.”

“Please son.” Martin realized that Christopher was too anger and he couldn’t calm him simply by talking.

“Murderer, murderer, murderer…” Christopher’s voice echoed through his whole body until he shook.

Christopher faded with a weep so heartfelt and cold that it could bend your mind and soul leaving scars for the remainder of your life.

Martin fell to his knees weeping loudly and uncontrollable.

Something startled him. Has Christopher returned? Something crept down the passage towards his cell Martin stopped weeping and stood up too fast. The room started to spin and he fell backwards his back hitting the side of the bed behind him. He got up cautiously and slowly moved forward until he pressed against the bars again. He felt cold, desperately cold and depressed like he had never felt it before. It was coming down the passage with a whisper but more like a moaning whisper, hissing and scratching as it moved. It was like a snake slithering on the ground. Its anger, depression and sorrow all mixed into one emotion.

Martin stepped back from the cell bars.

It wasn’t Christopher. It’s colder and harder than a small angry boy could ever be.

It hummed softly, moaning and whispering at the same time.

It was behind him, above him.

It was close enough the Martin could feel it all around him, yet he couldn’t see anything.

The sound got louder and rang though his ears.

He tried to block his ears with his hands.

The sound won’t let him escape in any way possible.

The walls changed color on the other side of the cell, like a mist of black smoke rolled in. It took the light from the bulbs in the overhead lights. It snuffed them out with no difficulties. It crept in closer, onto the bars, the floor and ceiling of the cell, darkening them to a think oily black mass.

The sounds bounced around in the small enclosure. It was louder and more depressing, angrier and colder then when it had first entered the passage.

Martin couldn’t hide, he couldn’t run. It was here, it had finally come in and now it was choking him. He tried to breathe but almost every breath escaped him. The air felt too thick to stick in his lungs. He couldn’t move, think, he’s weakened by fear.

More light faded as the darkness surrounded him, pulling him to the ground and filling his mind and soul.

Martin saw anything. He couldn’t call out for help, not even a whisper. He closed his eyes and gave in to the darkness.

It’s over. This suffering was over at last.

*

[VII]

 

Andrew arrived at the drunken man’s house behind Davis. Andrew parked in the street in front of the house and walked up the paved footpath to the front door. A small hedge, no higher than a foot, guided the way. The grass’s neatly trimmed and two large trees stood in the front yard. To the right the driveway led passed the house to the garage further back from the front door. All the windows concealed the inside of the house with heavy curtains. At first glance it appeared that no one was home.

Andrew rang the doorbell. He shielded his face from the rain that fell fast and hard. Rain fell on his hair soaking it until it ran down his face and the back of his head, causing his hair to lay flat and dark. Andrew wiped the water out of his eyes occasionally and shook his head. Now and then he would make a sucking sound to get rid of the water collecting on his upper lip. Davis felt the same problem with the rain although it didn’t bother him as much.

Water ran down the path towards the street where it met the water already running down the side of the street to the storm drain dragging a few paper and rubbish with it. Normally the streets were clean, but the wind blew over some rubbish bins that were standing close to the sidewalk ready for collection.

Andrew rang the bell again.

No response.

Impatient by waiting and getting more annoyed with the rain, Andrew was about to call it a day and head back to the vehicle. Davis paused, perking Andrew’s curiosity. What did he hear through the rain hammering on the windows, roof and paving?

Davis started to move around the side of the house and noticed movement in the garage. “Sheriff, he’s here in the garage.” He reported.

Andrew joined him and headed into the garage.

“Good day sir, I was wondering if it’s possible to ask you a few questions.” Andrew asked as the drunken man named Len popped his head out of the hood of his old Chevy vehicle.

“What can I do for you sheriff. I believe we sorted that little incident the other days out.”

“Yes, it is. But I’m here to ask you about the accusation you were making towards me.” Andrew said stepping further into the garage to get the rain off his back.

“I’m sorry Sheriff Foster, but I can unfortunately not recall much about that day.” Len said lifting a wrench and fiddled in the engine again.

“If you could please just spare us a moment of you time.”

Len stood up and placed the wrench on the radiator. He grabbed a cloth out of his pants pocket and wiped his hands.

“I hope this won’t take too long, I‘d like this car on the road before I go to work tomorrow. I don’t have the privilege of gallivanting around for days without worrying about work.”

“It won’t take too long. The day of your arrest you told me that I didn’t deserve to be sheriff and that I had run Martin out of town after messing around with his wife. Do you remember that?”

“I don’t remember telling you that, but I do remember hearing something like that almost three month before that. Long before Martin left town, although I’m sure you had something to do with that.” Len admitted.

“Where did you hear it?”

“Some time ago I was in the bar when Sheriff Parker came in. He was upset about something he heard.”

“Did he talk to you about it?”

“A few days earlier some of the men in the bar were talking about you and Janet having a long time affaire and that Christopher was your son.”

“What did Martin say?”

“He didn’t believe it at first but the night I’d seen him he had a chain that he found in your house.”

“What chain?” Andrew asked shocked.

“Some piece of jewelry that he bought for Janet some time earlier.” Len assured.

“But it still doesn’t make sense.” Andrew looked at Davis that was only standing one side saying nothing.

“After he found the chain he started to believe the stories I think.”

“How was his mood when he left?”

“He was ranting and raving the whole night. Shouting and being loud, cursing at everyone and picking fights. Naturally no one would fight him of course. They just stayed out of his way as much as they could. It was in the early hours of the morning when he left. By the time he left he had way too much to drink. How he got home I wouldn’t know, but apparently he got home and it was that same night Janet fled with your whelp.” Len said and took oil from the shelf against the wall.

“Did you know Martin’s back?”

“I heard you arrested him for the murder of his wife and that kid.”

“Yes.”

“Well if you ask me, I don’t think he would’ve done it if you didn’t mess around with his wife.” Len was cold and angry.

“I didn’t have an affair with Janet, neither is Christopher my son. DNA tests proved that. Maybe you should find something else to gossip about when you’re drunk. If you ask me it’s your gossip that has killed Janet and Christopher.”

“Well whatever, I’ve got work to do.” Len said picking up the wrench.

“Thank you for your time.”

Andrew left the garage and instantly the rain soaked him. The sky was darkening early than he had expected. The wind’s brisk and cold. He walked fast to his vehicle and drove back towards the office while Davis followed.

Soon the divers would be here then he could start searching for Janet and Christopher’s’ bodies. He started to doubt that any of the residence would help him taking in consideration the rain, wind and cold. The last time he had dragged them out in this conditions they came up empty-handed and with two injuries, one that resulted in a death.

Andrew headed down the main road and stopped at a diner. It would be wise to eat first, considering that he had nothing to eat the whole day. Davis parked next to him and took up the opportunity himself.

*

[VIII]

 

As twice before, Janet appeared in the upstairs passage of Helen’s house. Christopher was walking behind her quietly, his head hung and he wept softly. Janet issued a spine-chilling mourning scream that sent Helen to her feet in the living room. Christopher stopped weeping and looked up excitedly. He darted down the passage and into his old room. He stopped and looked around. He walked to the toy box and flung the top off. Silently he started to play.

Janet walked into her old room and sat on the bed. She kept looking towards the door and then to the bathroom door still half opened. She stood up, pacing the room and walked out towards Christopher’s old room. She glanced down the stairs as she passed it. She looked straight at Helen who had now moves to investigate the chilling scream she had heard moments ago. She moved slowly towards Christopher and stopped at the doorpost.

Christopher called out and stood up. He dropped the toys he was playing with and walked past his mother into the passage and ran into the bathroom. He stood a moment and turned back towards his mother weeping softly. He called out loudly again. He was looking for someone, but he couldn’t understand why she was gone. He stood beside his mother for comfort.

Helen walked up the stairs slowly, she expected Janet to run down the stairs and knock her down. She stopped midway and looked up at Janet standing at the top of the stairs.

Janet issued a moaning, humming sound and looked down at Helen.

“Where is he, find him and make him pay.” She sang in a ghastly whisper.

“We did find him. He’ll pay dearly for what he has done.” Helen insured.

“Find us. Find us soon.”

“We’ll find you soon. I assure you that.”

Janet turned and walked back the way she came, Christopher wept behind her as they left and disappeared at the end of the passage.

*

Chapter Eight

[I]

 

Arriving at the office Andrew walked down the passage to the holding cells. He met with Mel who’s in charge of the cells. Andrew had shed his wet jacket but his shoes still squeaked as he walked over the tiles in the passage leading to the cells. His mind’s focused on the events to follow. With only a hand full of people to help him, he wasn’t sure how the night would end. He was walking deep in thought and didn’t see water droplets on the floor. He slipped, and grabbed for the nearest wall and paused, waiting to regain his balance. He turned to see what he’d slipped on.

It was dry. Nothing appeared out of place.

He didn’t think much of the slip. Only shook his head and headed through the door to the cells. The officer accompanied him down a long passage that houses a few cells on either side.

“Good evening Mel it’s nice and cool tonight.”

“Good evening Sheriff. Yes it is. Do you want to take Martin out now?”

“Yes. It‘s time for him to go down to the lake. Is he ready?”

“Well I’m not so sure.”

“What do you mean? It’s not a difficult question.” Andrew said started towards Martin’s cell.

“No it’s not that sheriff.” Mel said scratching his head.

“Come on spit it out. What’s the problem?”

Mel seemed unusually nervous. He was tall and skinny, in his late thirties and clean shaven. He had dark hair and overgrown eyebrows that made him look harder then he really was. He was a soft spoken kind of guy with little dimples on each cheek. Tall, dark and handsome, his uniform fitted perfectly and he always looked too neat and tidy.

“I took a walk, when I got back Martin was laying on the ground. I first thought it might’ve been withdraw symptoms for the alcohol abuse. But since I woke him up he‘s been rocking and mumbling weird kind of stuff that sends shivers down my spine.” Mel started slowly down the passage towards Martin’s cell with Andrew close behind.

Andrew stopped in front of the cell and looked hard at Martin who didn’t even notice him standing at the bars. Martin was pacing up and down in the cell mumbling something that sounds like gibberish. He seemed out of place and confused like a wild animal trapped in a cage. He was looking, waiting for a way out.

“What do you make of this?” Mel asked.

“Maybe some sort of break down.” Andrew said stepping in closer. “Martin.” He called.

Martin didn’t respond.

“Martin!” Andrew called louder.

Martin looked at him coldly and hard, he was looking right through him. He grunted and started to pace again. Andrew wondered if it’s wise to open the cell releasing something he might not be able to control. Should he get Doctor Scotts out here to check on Martin first?

“Do you think this is a trick?” Andrew asked turning to Mel.

“Do you think you should take him out?” Mel asked concerned for Martin’s state of mind.

“He’s declared fit, but I think this is just a small set back.”

“What do we do?”

“Get him out this thing’s dragging for too long. It’s now or never. Maybe he’s trying to block us from taking him to the lake. I think you’re up for baby-sitting duty, Brat Russell can help you, and he was kind enough to offer his help tonight. Before we leave, there’s a stun gun in my office just in case. You can get it on the way out. It doesn’t look like you have anything better to do, do you?”

“Sure.” Mel said.

Mel stepped in against the bar and produced a ring of keys from his belt. He unlocked the cell and stepped in. He walked up to Martin and took him by the arm. Martin snapped out of his trance with a jolt. He looked up at Mel and smiled. It’s more of a cold heartless smile like someone that was about to pull out a can of whip ass.

“You’re not going to give us a hard time now are you Martin?”

“No.” Martin said between mumbles.

Mel placed the handcuffs on his wrists and cuffs his hands behind his back just for in case. Martin was cooperating. In the back of Mel’s mind he knew Martin was planning on pulling something out of his sleeve. He might even try to make a run for freedom. Something he wouldn’t let happen.

“Are you ready to show us where you dumped Janet and Christopher?” Andrew asked.

“They’re in the lake, near the rock face.” Martin said and exited his cell with Mel holding firmly onto his arm.

They left the cell door open and walked down the passage. Andrew walked behind Mel and Martin. He stopped off at the counter and ran to his office and collected a thicker jacket and three raincoats from the storeroom. Andrew also grabbed the stung gun. He realized that if Mel had gone for it, it might take longer for him to search. Mel was bigger than Martin and the chances that he would pick a fight with Mel were smaller. They left the office and walked into a lighter rain than when Andrew arrived. He dressed quickly and handed the other raincoats to Mel and Martin. Mel dressed into his and just hung Martin’s over his shoulders.

“Let’s get this over with there’s a storm coming.” Andrew said walking out to his vehicle.

*

[II]

 

According to prior arrangement Andrew arrived at Helen’s house and the nearest access point to the rock face. Andrew met a larger group than he had expected. Six small moored rowboats were at Helen’s private pier. Amazed Andrew found the diving team did arrived and was already in the water. Mr. Craft and Tom were already in a rowboat off the pier directly above the position of the searching divers. They were slowly making their way towards the rock face. Tom and Mr. Craft stayed close by and kept a watchful eye out for Janet or anything that might complicate the search.

Andrew placed the volunteers in the rest of the boats. Andrew, Mel, Brat and Martin drove by vehicle to as close to the top of the rock face as possible. Walking the rest of the way Andrew and Brat led the way. Martin and Mel were close behind. Fighting through dense bushes and a curtain of rain Andrew kept looking back to see which way Martin was pointing. Following their flashlight they reach the rock face where Martin pointed to an area just to the side of the rock face.

The area Martin pointed to was very overgrown and hard to walk through. It led to a high drop to the water below. Andrew anchored him rope and inched forward until he got through the bushes and looked over the edge to the water far below. The wind was ripping through his ears and the rain almost blinded him. He could barely make out the boat far below and shone his spotlight down towards the water. He found a space where he could stand comfortable without the aid of the rope holding him up. Brat Russell followed the rope to where Andrew stood guiding the volunteers and Tom to the most likely place where the bodies might be. Brat anchored himself with his own rope to prevent him from slipping on the wet and slippery traitorous rocks under foot. He stood next to Andrew and shone with another spotlight into the murky water far below.

The night was dark, wet and cold. Minutes passed like hours before the first of the boats arrived at the area Andrew and Brat was indicating from above. The wind hallowed through the forest and their ears bringing conversation to a grinding halt. Occasionally Andrew would point out to Brat when he needed more light.

*

[III]

 

The diver’s inched forward slowly and with great caution. There was no need to tell them how dangerous their little venture was. Once under water the darkness and murky, muddy water was denser and just as impossible to see through. Their visibility’s reduced to feeling their way as they went. More mud’s kicked up from the bottom and between the rocks jotting through the water like sharp shards of glass. Roped attached the divers to a buoy. The ropes were long enough to move through the water without getting them entangled. If trouble brewed Tom would pull on the rope and hoisted them up to the boat. So far they were making progress without incident.

Small bubbles popped on the surface a distance away from the divers. It moved in from the area where Andrew and Brat were scanning. It came to meet the divers head on. No one noticed the bubbles as the rain dancing on the water. It’s hidden from the boats fast approaching.

The boats reaches the area first leaving Tom and Mr. Craft in their boat behind as they kept a watchful eye on the divers. Mr. Craft recorded every angle above the water with his equipment.

Boats arrived at the site where spotlights shone from above. Volunteers dumped ropes with large hooks into the water. They tried to hook anything that they could pull to the surface. They needed do this before the divers were too close to their hooks.

 

The bubbles neared the boat in which Tom and Mr. Craft was.

Two of the sensors on the boat sounded.

The temperature dropped.

Mist formed on the water, swallowing the small rowboat.

A gloomily light appeared under the water.

Water splashed and rippled as something moved through the water at a great speed.

More splashing water and a ghastly moaning sound ripped through the area.

A scream deafened their ears and water splashed into the boat.

Tom and Mr. Craft ready themselves for a fight.

The scream faded.

The water calmed.

The light faded as it dove into murky water.

Bubbles popped around the boat, something’s under it.

Something was moving fast, moving downwards deeper and deeper into the murky water.

Tom and Mr. Craft started pulling the buoys, trying to get divers to move away or get them out of the water. It felt tiring and like there was no response from the divers. The divers didn’t pull back on the ropes, neither did they surface.

 

The divers felt the pull on the ropes but it’s too little too late. Janet broke the water for just a moment and she was angry. A muffled scream echoed as she dove and her mysterious light cut through the water, shooting down in the diver’s direction. A diver yanked the rope. He started to swim upwards in a panic. No aid came from above.

It was too dark to see the surface.

He started to hyperventilate, almost spitting out the mouthpiece giving him air from the tank.

He felt something brush up against him.

Something grabbed the rope and dragged him into the wrong direction.

An underwater sort of scream reached him.

It wasn’t a normal under the water kind of scream. It was ghastly and outraged right next to him. It was hair-raising and horrid.

Janet was drawing near.

He searched for his rope, couldn’t find it.

He searched for a light. He saw some kind of a light coming his way. His friends had come to his aid.

He felt another yank on the rope.

He waited, trying to calm his breathing. His head was spinning, he felt dizzy.

The light was close, but it wasn’t a spotlight.

It was bright, misty and came out of the murky water like a phantom.

The diver tried to escape the light. He knew more than sensed its danger. He felt the anger engulfing him. He panicked again.

He couldn’t flee.

His rope’s held fast.

He reached for his knife strapped to his belt. He released the clip and pulled it from its pouch.

He’s yanked hard.

He dropped the knife.

Janet fled with the rope in hand. Cutting through the water with excessive speed, dragging the rope behind that the buoy slipped out of Tom’s reach.

The diver’s dragged and knocking against rocks and obstacles under the water. He tried to grab onto passing rocks, but it was in vain.

He’s dragged closer and closer to the rock face. He couldn’t stop Janet from dragging him. He tried to unclip the rope from his waist, but the pressure on the rope was too great. If only Janet gave him a second of slack in the rope. Just a split second would be all he needed.

Janet came out of the murky water. Janet was fast drawing near faster than he could think something large and hard.

This thing that was dragging him was heading for the rock face. Its light lit up the way like a ghost coming out of the mist. Something was ahead of it, a rock formation. Now it was in his path, but it didn’t bother Janet in the least.

Franticly he tried the rope again.

It wouldn’t slack, not even for a split second.

He tried losing his weight belt.

He never saw it fall, neither did he hear it. He just knew it fell. He was gaining altitude. He could swim over the rocks rather than Janet dragged him into it.

The rocks came closer, more visible.

It was in reach, he might go over it.

He could clear it.

No. It was too close.

He didn’t gain enough height. He swam upward.

The diver kicked harder, he needed to get higher, out of danger of the rocks. It was too late.

The rock faded from view.

He’s dragged a few feet further and dropped.

His lifeless body pulled upward by his air bottles and the loss of the weight belt. No bubbles escaped his mouth. Blood colored the water as he broke the surface. He floated aimlessly near the rock face. His bodies like the dead that lied beneath the water. Close by light fell on the wet of his colorful diving suit. Help was drawing close, but too late to save him.

The lone diver had passed in the night-light falling on the lake. The rain tapped on his back and the mouthpiece still in his mouth but no air passed through. No movement broke the calm rhythm of the rain tapped water. No sound issued for help.

*

[IV]

 

Janet shot out of the water and made a full circle heading back towards the rowboat with Tom and Mr. Craft. Water sprayed upward into a column of water. Bent forward like a large worm it looked down at the small boat filled with men. Tom and Mr. Craft were still franticly pulling divers out of the water. The divers already in the boat armed with oars, anything they could lay their hands on.

The column of water collapsed on top of the small boat, spilling over the sides and pushed the little boat under the water. Simultaneously the men dove into the water and swam to the private pier some distance away.

Janet released a muffled scream under the water. The men knew she was close by.

The water started to move faster and faster as they’re trapped in water current. The men swam hard but couldn’t escape the current that started to swirl around them.

They tried to reach the water surface but something was holding them down, trying to drown them. They interlock their arm and hung onto each other using their air bottles for air. Tom and Mr. Craft received spare mouthpieces attached to the air tanks on the closed divers.

For a moment it felt like the current were easing off, just then it would rip again, forcing the men deeper under the water. A whirlpool formed in the swirling currents center. Spreading out faster and faster the vortex grew larger. It forced current to move like someone pulled the plug out from the bathtub and the water was running into the drain too fast. Rapidly it formed a deep vortex in its center.

*

[V]

 

Andrew saw from the height of the rock face that trouble brewed in the water. The divers haven’t yet reached the rock face and through the wind screams rose loudly. Janet was clearly at work, attacking anything on the water. He must act quickly to get her attention before more injuries or deaths occurred. Andrew called to Janet, demanding her to come to him.

In the dark, muddy and murky water, the currents started slowing down. Finally the currents stopped and the men surfaces, swimming to the distant pier like ten sorts of hell were upon them. Janet stood silently just above the water and shot off towards the rock face. She issued a scream so deafening that it took Andrew and Brat by surprise.

Janet’s down there, she directed her anger at so many people that it had started to wear off. She was calm, recognizing Andrew’s voice and realized that no one was there to harm her son and was even willing to except his help.

He called out to her again.

This time she turned to the direction of his voice and advanced slowly. She was humming and moaning softly like she had done so many times when she felt less threatened.

She came in from over the water humming gently. Her appearance wasn’t as violent and out of control. She moved slower, with ease she was actually strolling into their direction. She was calm as Andrew had remembered her. Gentle and at ease, she had no care in the world.

She stopped inches from Andrew and turned to Brat, looked at him hard and then turned back to Andrew.

“Will you free me?” She asked.

“Will you leave my men to do just that, they are here to help you and Christopher.”

“Find us and free us.”

“I promise you I will.”

She looked around and then turned her attention back to Andrew. “Did you find him?” She asked almost humming.

“Yes, I’ll make him pay for everything he has done to you and Christopher.”

“Where is he, bring him to me?”

“I need to know what happened to you.” Andrew said leading the conversation away from Martin.

Janet moved in closer to Andrew, he was cold and mesmerized by her appearance. She held his attention to the point that he could no longer feel the cold or breathe and he seemed fixated on her.

She reached out and took his forearm into her ice-cold grip.

His eyes grew gray and dead like hers. Through her touch he could now see and live through her last moments. Revealing exactly what she had experienced.

*

[VI]

 

Janet laid in bed listening to the sound of brakes on the four-by-four in the driveway screeched to a halt.

She remained still with ears tweaked to every sound. She glanced at the bedside clock indicating the time at quarter past two in the morning. She waited with her breath held until her chest ached. At the front door, the key fumbled in the lock was a dead giveaway and the loud cursing from downstairs sent shivers down her spine. For a moment she wished herself to another place where she could sleep on weekends without the fear that stuck deep in her gut. For a moment she considered going to her son’s room to check on him, but that would undoubtedly set off more than she could handle. Thumping footsteps stomped clumsily up the staircase like the echoing of a beating drum, beaten carelessly. She would pretend to be asleep.

A sudden noise came from the other side of the passage and made her aware of her surroundings. Her son’s room, it was different this time. It felt cold and hard, the person making it didn’t belong in the house, its nerve wrecking to say the least, more than she had expected.

What was he doing? Maybe, should she go check?

Janet sat up in bed. She grabbed the corner of the bedding ready to toss them aside at a moment’s notice. Hearing nothing, she tilted her head and listens more intensely.

Footsteps sounded again. A loud bang made her jump and ready to spring to her feet.

Then silence.

Her accelerated breathing and pounding heart rumbled through her ears, she tried to stop breathing for long enough to hear what was going on.

She could barely hear a soft knocking and scratching sound covered by a muffled moaning.

The room held very little light. The on-suite bathroom door’s closed and the dumb light offered very little relief, the bedside clock was too loud and the wind outside echoed through her mind. She listened harder up to the point that her head started to hurt.

The passage light came on. It shone through the crack under the door. She was sure she had opened the door slightly so she could hear her son when he called. Still she couldn’t see or hear anything but the dark and deathly silence.

“Martin?” She spoke in a soft crackling voice.

He didn’t respond.

“Martin?” She called a little louder.

A door slammed.

She jumped to her feet.

Only silence echoed back.

A cold chill ran through her body, something was wrong, very wrong.

“Martin, are you alright?” She called and crept towards the door one baby step at a time.

Footsteps and soft cursing echoed from the other side of the door. Martin was arguing with himself angrily. No, more than that, he’s also drunk, a deadly combination.

He stood outside the door.

He must‘ve stumbled. Something fell and breaking glass ripped through the silence.

Janet closed her eyes and reached out for the doorknob, fearing what awaited her on the other side.

She knew something was wrong. Martin’s not the man she knew. She could hear it, felt it even sensed it. After knowing him for eight years one tends to pick up on these little things.

Her chest burned as she still tried to hold her breath without realizing it. Her heart pounded harder and harder in her chest. Should she switch on the light? No, her hand had already found the doorknob. It was cold under her sweaty palm.

She opened the door slowly. Martin was standing in front of the door, silent as the night, his face contorted with anger. Death was in his eyes.

Suddenly he issued a punch into her face, sending her stumbling backward. She fell hard. Her head hit the side of the bed.

For a moment he stood watching her, blood trickled from her mouth and nose. She wept softly. He walked forward slightly cursing softly. His rage filled the room. Stunned by the blow she couldn’t hear what he was saying.

Martin was usually loud when drunk but his stillness’s more unexpected then the punch. He was still in uniform. His gun belt removed seemed very little comfort. He was the perfect husband, now he was a demon from hell. He just stood glaring at her without a word. His silence started to unravel Janet and his stare cut through her like a knife through butter.

Janet looked up, her hearing slowly returning. She knew he blamed for something. The problem was she didn’t know what. He wasn’t saying much, which was both aggravating and unnerving. To ask would only pushed him further and made the situation more difficult. Janet wasn’t a timid, weak person. She could fight back as she did before. Tonight fear was holding her down.

He stood silent.

Finally she regained her pose and looked him dead in the eye. The light from the passage blocked by his silhouette didn’t reveal what was in his eyes. But she knew what it was. Just how much rage was there she couldn’t tell. She tried to stand up but her numb legs won’t allow it. Her weeping stopped.

“What’s wrong with you?” She shouted in pure anger.

“Now there’s something wrong with me?” His speech slightly slurred.

“You are acting insane.”

“Now I’m insane, what’s next?”

“You think this is how normal people react. You come home drunk and think you’re above all.”

“Yes, I’m far above you!” Martin screamed into her face.

“What’s this about, did I do something?”

“Cheated, you cheating bitch!”

“I never did, I didn’t.” Janet’s taken by surprise.

“What is this?” He shouted bending down towards her.

He produced a chain she had worn just last week and claimed to have lost it. It was a gift he had bought her years earlier.

“Where did you find that?” Janet asked in a whisper.

“Andrew. In Andrew’s house…!” He shouted loudly. “The truth woman, why is it in his house?”

“I probably lost it in his car when he drove me home from your office. He must’ve found it and took it in the house. I don’t know.”

“Not good enough!”

“You’re going to wake Christopher.”

“He‘ll never wake up again.”

Janet jumped to her feet.

A thousand thoughts whisked through her mind, her body cold almost frozen, his words were like sharp daggers cutting deep into her soul.

She had heard the words clearly. ‘He’ll never wake up again.’ It played through her mind repeatedly, like a record stuck on replay. Was he taunting her? Not that he’s beside himself. He was trying to intimidate her… No, not that. He won’t harm his own son. He loved him with his whole being.

It was just a … a nightmare. A real life nightmare, yes! She would wake up soon and find Christopher padding across the floor to her bedside. He would jump onto the bed and land her with the biggest kiss and hug a small boy could master.

She stood staring at him, trying to figure out what to do next. Go check on him, go check on Christopher.

She looked at Martin. His face still contorted with anger, he was ready to issue the next blow. She must get past him even if she had to fight him to do it. He was blocking half the door, enough space to squeeze through. Even if he hit her again, she must endure it. He won’t hurt his only son. He would give his life for that little boy. He would face danger head on. ‘Go check on Christopher!’ The thought like an order slammed her forward. She would push past him. She’d knock him down if the situation called for it, anything to get to her son.

Martin stepped aside, glancing at her with a grin on his face that cut worse than the words he had spoken.

Janet ran past him, but it was too late. He grabbed her by the hair and tilted her face to his.

“Going somewhere?”

“Let me go!” Janet screamed and grabbed his hands burying her nails into them.

It didn’t faze him.

“It’s too late.”

“What did you do?”

“You took him away from me, so I took him from you.” His voice was cold and sharp, there was no more care left to give.

Janet tried to turn her face away from him, but his grip was too strong. She didn’t want to know what he had done. Somewhere a voice was screaming inside of her. She was more than a hundred percent sure he was trying to intimidate her. He did this before to belittle her. He got a kick out of making her feel like a child, making her feel vulnerable. For God sake, she’s a mother and her instinct was telling her, no screaming at her to fight back. Fight back hard with everything you have, Christopher deserved it.

She couldn’t break free, as hard as she tried, it felt pointless. His grip tightened to the point where he pulled hair from the roots.

The feeling deep down in her, the voice that kept screaming that got even louder, even more desperate. It was a raspy, cold nasty voice that was telling her something was desperately wrong.

Why won’t he let go?

She glanced at him. He let go, shaving her towards the door, hard. Her head hit the post hard, blood trickled from her eyebrow.

She reached for the doorpost to balance herself and stumbled into the passage.

Janet had the aching feeling that something horrid happened in Christopher’s room earlier this morning, something more than just getting even with her, or settling a score. He was more than intimidating, not just someone who blew off steam. Something that would rip out her life and dangle it in front of her if she dared to set her eyes upon it.

Martin’s behind her again.

Biting down on the cut on her lip, determined not to lose control like a helpless person, she trusted herself forward and ran for Christopher’s door before Martin could react and stop her.

Her emotion‘s suddenly seized and held. Her hand rested coldly on the doorknob. Janet saw Martin rushing forward from the corner of her eye. She couldn’t move. She struggled with her emotions and turned the doorknob. Martin vanished around the corner as she entered the room.

Janet exploded into the dark room, only the light from outside shone dull on the bed. She couldn’t remember moving until she stumbled against the bed on her hands and knees. Slowly she pulled herself up to the head of the bed.

The little boy lays still, eyes open. His lips had turned blue his eyes cold and lifeless. The pillow he had slept on lied at his side.

She was ready to scream out loud, grab the boy and shake him, more than ready. She did scream, she did grab the boy, but his lifeless little body lied numb and cold in her arms. Softly she rocked as her cry became a desperate sob. Anger filled her with every tear that fell. Her life itself slipped away, her spirit drained from her.

“This isn’t happening. This isn’t real, wake up Christopher, and wake up boy. Please boy open your eyes for mommy, please no…” Janet sobbed loud and hard.

Janet heard a familiar creaking sound, the door, the hinges needed oil.

In the darkness the gloom surrounded her. She noticed the light from the passage breaking through the darkness. For a moment the door moved slowly, and then swung open. Now almost certain, it was standing wide open, the door now silent. She turned around with urgency. The boy clutched in her arms.

Martin‘s in the doorway, silently standing at the threshold.

Their eyes met. Deathly silence fell between them.

“Why?” Janet asked between sobs.

“He’s not mine.”

“What?” She gasped.

“It’s all over town. All about you and him, you can’t deny it anymore.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You thought I won’t find out about you and Andrew. For all this time, every time I went out of town.”

“It’s a lie, it’s not true, I never…”

“Isn’t it?”

“Christopher is your son.”

“Liar…!” Martin issued a horrid scream.

He stormed forward.

Janet went down to her knees shielding Christopher with her body.

Martin struck out.

She let go of Christopher, laying his lifeless body gently onto the floor.

Martin grabbed her by the hair again, harder and deeper than before. He dragged her to her feet.

“Get out!” He screamed loud and cold, he surrendered all emotions towards her.

Shoving her towards the door he forced her into the passage and to the top of the staircase.

“Get out, and never come back.”

He issued a blow to the back of her head with something harder than this fist.

Janet grabbed for the railing. The tip of her fingers made contact, but it wasn’t enough. The railing vanished, her balance faded. She tumbled.

*

[VII]

 

Janet’s startled as she heard a sudden noise behind her. Andrew or Brat didn’t hear the noise. It was too fine for their hearing, but sure enough Janet heard it. She pulled away from Andrew rapidly and turned to the direction of the noise. She released Andrew and moved into the bushes slowly. Her rage and anger was swelling as she sensed someone a distance away.

Andrew fell to his knees. He’s weakened by Janet’s touch and what she had revealed to him. He was bitterly cold although the heat was now returning to him slowly. He’s locked in a blind stare and shivering uncontrollable.

Once Janet disappeared into the bushes, Brat stormed forward to lend assistance to the almost dazed sheriff. Even with Brat assistance Andrew found it almost impossible to get up. He fell back speechless. Moments later Andrew managed to get to his feet.

A horrid scream sent Andrew to his feet with renewed strength. He stumble thought the bushes following his anchor rope back to where he left Mel and Martin. Brat stayed by his side, steadying him with every step that seemed too difficult to place. Brat had the look of horror and found he was deeper in the event as he thought he would be. His heart was pounding and his hands shook. His eyes were as wide as sources and he just wanted to move. He’s terrified but grateful that Janet didn’t even notice him or tried to attack him.

Rain still hammered down and echoed off the vegetation. A gust of wind still ripped through everything. It was still cold but at least Andrew felt warmer with every shaking step he took. He tried to hurry as more screams of horror and fear rose into the night, cutting through the rain and occasional thunder. Branches and shrubs grabbed him and pulled him back a few steps but he recovered quicker every time and made up for lost time as a life depends on it.

Andrew had to hurry. The screaming’s closer, just through a few more bushes and up a small hill. A sharp shard of light moved quickly from side to side. It lit up the area rapidly and blindly before dropping it into total darkness, Andrew tripped blinded by the sudden sharp light.

He fell hard.

His breath almost knocked out of him.

He recovered quickly and ran up the hill like a dog. He kicked with his feet and pulled himself upward with his arms. Brat huffed and puffed close behind him. Clearly this was more exercise than he‘s used to.

Andrew reached the top of the hill.

An ear deafening scream burst into the air.

Mist covered the top of the hill like a blanket as thick as a cloud.

Andrew screamed, calling out to Janet.

Janet turned, screamed at him and turned back to Martin.

Andrew exploded forward Mel and Martin just ahead of him. He could see Martin sitting on the ground frightened like a little rat, but where was Mel?

Brat disappeared behind him, either he was hiding from Janet or he’s drained and couldn’t keep up anymore. Brat’s too young and the chance that he’d ever experienced anything that’s the slightest weird was slim. He was out of his element and didn’t know what to expect. It was better if he stayed out of the fight then he won’t end up in hospital or worse a body bag. That’s just about the only thing Janet could do well.

Janet slashed at Andrew but missed.

Andrew threw himself between Martin and Janet.

Janet slashed at him again. This time she drew blood.

Andrew’s forced to the ground just by the blow she issued, screaming in pain.

Janet moved over him. She darted forward towards Martin. She was on top of him slashing and ripping at him. She issued a loud humming almost singing kind of noise. She threw her head backwards and her laughter ripped through the air.

Andrew pulled himself into a sitting position and called to Janet again.

She turned to him. Her face malformed but she was calming. Her eyes started to focus on him. She moved off Martin.

She stood in front of Andrew. She was silent, calm and her ghostly appearance restored.

“Look at him you have your revenge. He’s beaten and dying. A score’s settled. You got him back for what he did to you and Christopher.” Andrew said pointing to Martin’s lifeless body lying at the roots of a large yellow wood tree. “Is this what you wanted?” He asked.

“You’re the only person who stood up and fought for us even though I’m sure everyone thought you were crazy. I’m eternally grateful to you for that. Your people on the water had already found us and now we can rest.” Janet said reaching out to Andrew.

A giggle filled the air as a small face peeped from behind Janet.

“You’re free now my boy. You don’t have to fear the darkness anymore. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to protect you.”

“We’re free now. Thank you Uncle Andrew. I love you.” Christopher said and stood in front of him.

He stretched his arms out in front of him. He wanted to embrace Andrew and then smiled.

Andrew reached for him with one arm.

“We’ll see you again. We’ll be together again at another time, now we must go.” Janet said taking Christopher by the hand. “Thank you.” She echoed as their light faded and they vanished.

Nobody moved. The area fell silent as if in mourning. Finally Mel crept out from under the bush he was hiding and attended to Andrew. Brat appeared from the bottom of the hill almost crying. Andrew pulled himself up with his good arm the left injured at the shoulder showing deep lacerations where Janet had slashed him. He wasn’t angry, just glad that he had done all he had set out to do. Janet and Christopher now had moved on as Mr. Craft suggested. Martin was still alive even after used as a punching bag. It would take time to heal the physical and mental wounds that had satisfied Janet.

Andrew’s radio cracked to life. With a little effort and a lot more pain he managed to free the radio from his belt almost getting tangled in his anchor rope still tied around his waist. He could only manage a whisper.

“We had found them. We had found them, heading back to the pier.” Tom’s overexcited voice called over the radio. It wasn’t clear whether he‘s more relieved than excited.

“It’s over. We need an ambulance. Janet has attacked Martin and me. We‘ll be at Helen’s house in a few.” Andrew informed standing up with a struggle. Mel had wrapped his belt around Andrew’s arm to slow the blood flow.

Brat aided Andrew for a while and then took Martin’s arm over his shoulder with Mel taking the other. Slowly they move through the forest to where Andrew had parked. The trip back felt like hours. Martin’s swaying in and out of consciousness while Andrew moved more freely.

Once they reached the vehicle Mel drove back to Helen’s house where the two ambulances were waiting.

Tom emerged from the crowd and helped Brat and Mel to place Martin on a stretcher. Paramedics jumped to treat Andrew and stabilize Martin who has slipped into a worsened condition.

Tom walked to Andrew once Martin’s in the ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

“Is it really over?” Tom asked.

“Janet and Christopher have gone. The lake’s safe again.” Andrew said surrendering to the paramedic’s treatment.

“That’s good, what happened up there?” He asked.

“Janet attacked Martin and tried to slice and dice him, I just happened to get in the way. Don’t worry I’ll be alright, just a little scratch.” Andrew joked. “At least I’ll be getting those days off the mayor wanted me to take.” He added laughing painfully.

“Well it wasn’t so lucky for one of the divers. We had our own battles to fight, a diver’s killed.” Tom admitted and sunk his head while fidgeting with his cap in his hands.

“Jesus.” Andrew said almost going numb, his laughing ended abruptly. “Sorry Tom I was just trying to lighten the mood.” Andrew added knowing how sensitive Tom got around bad news.

“We need to get going.” The paramedics said and lifted Andrew into the ambulance.

*

Chapter Nine

[I]

 

Andrew’s wheeled into the emergency department and into a cubicle where doctors and nurses were scrambling to attend to him. Phillip walked as and the nurse carefully injected him with painkillers into his drip. Phillip lifted his arm to inspect the injuries Janet had caused.

“Well it doesn’t look that bad. Can you move your fingers?” He asked.

Andrew looked at his hand and moved his fingers without pain or difficulties. He lifted his arm on his own and bent it at the elbow.

“Well it looks good. You didn’t rip through any of the nerves or arteries. I think you just need a stich or two and you’ll be fine.”

“Thanks doctor. Where’s Martin?”

“I‘ve already sent him to the operating room. He is a little worse for wear I’m afraid. You didn’t go in the water did you?” Phillip asked already aware of the events around the lake.

“No. I was above the rock face.” Andrew assured.

“Well I’m going to put you on a course of antibiotics just to be sure, but you should be leaving in a day or two.” Phillip said smiling.

A nurse walked into the cubicle carrying a silver sterilized try with an assortment of swabs, bandages and stitching needles.

“You know, when I told you not to send more people my why I didn’t mean that you had to come personally.” Phillip said laughing.

“I didn’t mean to, but with all the time spend in this case I thought it would be nice to take some time off. Now that the people around here saw what I can do I figured they would expect it from me all the time.” Andrew said not feeling the nurse pricking the needle into his flesh.

“There’s better ways to get leave you know. This could’ve cost you your arm.” Phillip assured starting with the stitches.

“I know I was just trying to get Janet away from Martin.”

“I guess she didn’t want to hear none of it.”

“She did make that point clear.”

“Like crystal.” Phillip added. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson now?” He said looking sharply at Andrew pulling the thread through the wound and cutting off the excess.

“What lesson was that be?”

“Don’t fight with ghosts.” Phillip said and turned his attention to the nurse. “When you’re done here you can send him to the ward, I’d like to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t get any infections.” He turned back to Andrew. “Just to be sure I hope you don’t mind.” Phillip added remembering the infection Dillon had picked up because of Janet’s attack.

“No not at all.” Andrew said and felt slightly drowsy from the injection administered. He turned and looked at the nurse and smiled. “Be gentle with me I’m an injured man, I’d hate to die now.” He turned his attention back to Phillip who was deep in thought writing in his chart and adjusting the medication, that’s administered in the ward. “How is Martin doing? Will he make it I mean?”

“He should, your ghost did a real number on him, but we have the best surgeons here. I’m sure they’ll do their best. The worst of his injuries seemed mentally. The physical injuries will heal but I don’t think he would recover as quickly from the mental once. We’ll just have to wait and see.” Phillip said.

“Thanks for taking care of me.” Andrew said as a strong feeling of sleep overwhelmed him.

“You should sleep now, leave the rest to us. I’ll see you later, some more patients to see I’m afraid.” Phillip said tapping Andrew on the chest.

Andrew nodded and closed his eyes while the nurse works diligently administering disinfectant cream to the long lacerations on his shoulder. She carefully applied plasters and strapped it down with bandages.

*

[II]

 

Eleven hours after arriving at the hospital Martin’s wheeled out of surgery. The surgery’s halted after Martin suffered a stroke on the operation table. His face was covered with bandages from where Janet had slashed him. She took away his looks and leaving him scarred for life with only one eye, the surgeon couldn’t save the other. His cheekbone’s crushed and had to rebuild as well as his chin and forehead. His head’s cleaved open and the skin missing, leaving only the skull exposed. Skin’s taken from his back to fill in the gap although no hair will ever grow on the affected area. His chest and arm’s repaired but because of the stroke the surgeon couldn’t complete all the injuries. He’s bandaged until he returned to the operation room at a rescheduled time.

The first matter to attend to was to dissolve blood clots and stabilize him first. He’s wheeled to the intensive care unit where he’s kept under observation until he was fit for surgery the following day.

Eight days in intensive care and three surgeries later Martin‘s transferred to the ward to gain strength for his trail set to start as soon as he’s able. Three weeks later he’s wheeled into the courtroom cuffed to a wheelchair and able to at least hear his fate. He’s robbed of his speech and use of the left side of his body. Unable to walk it was unnecessary for the cuffs but the escorting officer felt it was a good joke.

Martin received two life sentences to run concurrently. He would remain in the physic ward at the hospital until or if he’s fit for transference to a maximum security prison. He would never be eligible for parole because of the nature of his crimes.

The orderlies at the ward didn’t take kindly to Martin. Confined to the wheelchair they left him day in and day out in front of one of the large reinforced windows overlooking the lake. When they enter the room they would make ghostly noises and joke all the time. No one had taken any pity on him. He’s denied any visitors and so he sat day in and day out looking through the window to the lake where his memories kept him in the past wondering when Janet would return.

Scarred for life he looked like the kind of person people would shield their children from. He’s unable to speak, move on his own, leaving him with only the lake in his vision and his memories to haunt him.

Time passed and Martin wasn’t improving. As a daily routine the orderly would push him into position in front of the large window and watch his reaction from time to time. Martin reacted fearfully to the window and the lake beyond. On a trip back from the office the orderly returned whispering in Martin’s ear. One of the doctors had recommended that they gave Martin speech therapy. The orderly couldn’t pass up on this chance to torment Martin even more than he did every day. He walked up to Martin and bent down to whisper into his ear.

“Janet’s here to see you.” He whispered and noticed Martin filled with fear. “You wait just here while I go and get her.” He said, stood up and walked away laughing as he knew that the speech therapist’s name wasn’t Janet.

 

Martin felt his body froze. He tried to scream but his voice escaped him. His head started to spin until the room itself spun. He was dizzy, weak and unable to move. He lifted his hand, it won’t move.

Sweat dotted his scared face.

He lifted his hand again, it moved but just barely.

He needed to escape room. His legs won’t budge.

He tried his hand again. It lifted more, but just enough to move the wheelchair.

With greater than great effort he managed to get the wheelchair turned around. He noticed that the orderly had left the door open. He didn’t see Martin moving from the spot he had left him. The door’s not far, he could reach it before anyone noticed. Freedom wasn’t that far, not that he would ever see it again. Escape from Janet wasn’t that far.

Martin inched forward, sweat started to stream down his face with ever inch he moved forward. Slowly and exhausted he reached the door. He peeped around the corner. His mind jumped.

Stairs led downwards to a wall, turned and descended again to the floor below. An obstacle he couldn’t beat.

Martin sat looking at the stairs, his mind drained of thought. Soon Janet would climb those stairs and he’d live through the torment and torture again. Why couldn’t she just leave him to die alone?

He stared at the stairs again then smiled inside.

A means to an end…

He managed to grab the doorpost and thrust himself forward, the wheelchair moved only a few inches.

He tried again.

The wheel of the chair slipped over the first step and tumbled forward over Martin as he trusted himself out of the chair down the stairs. The wheelchair fell with a loud thump against the wall and silenced. Martin lost consciousness somewhere on the stairs and landed with his neck on the chair.

He didn’t move, finally it was over.

His sorry excuse of a life had finally passed and he would be able to escape the torment that had held him in the living while his body had already died. Now his mind had left him and he felt nothing, heard nothing, and saw nothing. Peace washed over him.

Weeks had passed and he finally opened his eyes, feeling the warm sun on his face. He saw the sun but felt no breeze. His eyes started to focus and he saw nothing more than white around him, the sun filling every space of it. It was light and bright. He blinked his eyes and tried to lift his head. His body still needed to feel the sun, and then it’ll move. He blinked his eyes and tried lifting his body again. He could hear something, it sounded like there were people around talking.

Then silence.

He tried to speak but he still only made grunting sounds.

Something came into focus.

A man stood in front of him, smiling.

He waved his hand in front of Martin’s eyes.

Martin grunted again, trying desperately to talk.

“You must be the dumbest person I’ve ever dealt with. What were you trying to do, kill yourself?” The man asked but his words were almost unrecognizable. “You didn’t kill yourself. You only managed to break your neck. The reason you can’t move is because you’re paralyzed from the neck down. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” The man wasn’t a doctor, it was his favorite orderly. “Don’t worry. No one has taken you favorite place yet. As soon as I get back I’ll take you there.” He said and walked away laughing without a shame.

At the door he paused and turned to Martin. “Don’t go anywhere now.” He pointed his finger at Martin still smiling.

*

About the Author

Aletta Maria Smith was born in South Africa in 1974. Living on a farm, she didn’t grow up with the privileges as most children in school. As a child she relocated every year, meaning each year it was a new school and new friends. She was mostly alone and detached from children her age. At age twelve she started writing short stories and built up to full length novels by the age of twenty six.

Although, she never got far with her writing she wasn’t fazed. Each time it failed, she tried again. As her Grandfather always told her, “you can fail a million times, but only succeed once”. She started writing seriously at the age of twenty nine, completing three manuscripts; Earth’s Final Day, Bitter Freedom, and Hazy View: Souls of the Vanished.

The first two manuscripts paved the way for Hazy View. Currently, she is working on the sequel to this book titled Hazy View: Woods of Horror. A new manuscript Rising Fury is still in skeleton form, but something to look out for in the future.

 

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Hazy View: Souls of the Vanished

Hazy View’s old sheriff Martin Parker flees across the country. He is unraveling and sinks into a deep pit of despair. He is haunted by what he has done. He killed and now he’s hunted not only by the law but by the victims of his actions, breathing down his neck, invading his every thought. He turns to alcohol and drug abuse to still his mind. He frantically tries to drown the memories. He fears he is living on borrowed time. Soon the darkness will find him and he will not escape.

  • Author: Ink Blood
  • Published: 2015-10-10 18:35:14
  • Words: 62980
Hazy View: Souls of the Vanished Hazy View: Souls of the Vanished