Note: First post, thought I'd jump in with both feet!
I sat down to write a paragraph of an idea for a comic for friend to draw crossing an H.P. Lovecraft story with a pulp fiction detective yarn and instead banged out this last night.
I hope you enjoy it. - C.
Det. Jonathan "Jackie" McCredor felt pale and queasy as the constable led him up the stairs to the penthouse where the victim lived. A hard night of booze anchored by a greasy breakfast reminded him of his vices with every step up the new england style apartment building staircase. Every so often the smell of cologne from the young irish kid leading him upwards causes Jackie's stomach to turn over uncomfortably. This morning was going to be murder, he thought to himself.
As he stepped into the top floor penthouse of the uptown high rise, he felt what little blood left in his cheeks drain away. The gristle sight before him was enough to cause the veteran detective to utter a cry of “Dear God!”.
The floor inside the apartment was awash in blood. The upper torso of the victim seem to be missing, so just the upper abdomen, arms and legs remained. His entrails poured out of his body onto the hardwood floor as he lay face down - if he had a face to lay down - on the ground.
“What’s happened here?” Jackie croaked, finding his voice after a few moments of stunned silence. He walked over to David Gleeson, a plains clothes detective who was the first on the scene and had called it in.
“Name’s Theodore Wiltshire apparently, though we’re still unsure that the tenet's the vic. Won’t know till we get it cleaned and id the fingerprints. He suffered death due to hyper vascular something something. We’re having difficulty finding the other parts to this guy.”
“You mean his head exploded and then disappeared?”
“Pretty much. I’ve seen some gory stuff in my time but this takes the cake. Come take a look at this.” Gleeson led Jackie over to another room. Rows upon rows of paintings lined the way, all of a similar and disturbing subject.
“Seems Wiltshire was fancied himself somewhat of an artist. Came from old money and could afford the luxury of pursing his hobby, apparently with some success. I read about his work once in the newspaper.”
“Seems he had a recurrent theme, don’t you think.” Jackie studied the paintings. Each was of a hellish landscape drenched in shadows. A figure stood prominently in the foreground, cloaked in darkness. The works showed immaculate detail while remaining fantastic and otherworldly. “What does it mean?”
“No idea, Jackie. I think this is a new er project.” Gleeson thumbed through a couple paintings stacked on top of each other. “See here? Regular stuff, landscapes, portraits, whathaveyou.”
“Huh.” Jackie pressed his fists into his eyes hard so he saw stars when he blinked them open again. He was tired and sick to his stomach. The atmosphere in the apartment was hot and damp and he need some fresh air. “I’m going to take this one downtown. Send me the photos with the report when you’re finished up here.”
“Sure thing, Jackie.” Gleeson turned to speak quietly with the visibly shaken crime scene photographer.
Jackie went into the bedroom where the scene was much more domestic. Besides a pitcher of water and a glass beside a journal on the night stand, the room was bare. No photos of loved ones on his dresser, no loose clothing items cluttered in corners. Jackie stuck his head into the closet to find all the clothes were pressed and hung. The man who lived here was neat to a fault. Jackie picked up the journal from the night stand and stuck it into his pocket before turning and getting the hell out of there.
The day was clear and blue. From the haunting scene he had just emerged, Jackie paused to suck in some fresh air. He was hung over but something more. He was sick and nauseated by the gruesome death but he had been to disturbing crime scenes before. No, something nagged at Jackie. He felt unsure and uneasy about this case. He stopped in at a five and dime for a black coffee before driving back to the station to go over the reports on this case.
Theodore Wiltshire led an exemplary life. Teddy, as his friends called him, came from a wealthy upstate new york family. He had a promising career in school but decided that he was comfortable enough to pursue art and painting rather than go into business when he finished. His parents supported his creativity and he had some moderate success selling his various pieces. When he wasn’t working on his next piece, Teddy liked to go out with his friends into the city. He wasn’t described as particularly exciting or dangerous. He was just Teddy, a fun and friendly guy.
Jackie thought this man sounded dreadfully boring. Some upper class kid who fancied himself an artist gets himself killed in a particularly gruesome manner. Forensics was still writing up their report on the mode of death but Jackie saw it was pretty clear, Teddy had no head left. Why would anyone what this kid dead? He did not fit the profile of someone who owed money or a jealous husband after his head. No record of depression or mental problems. The kid was in perfect health.
Jackie took a look at a photo of the paintings. The last few were of the same image. A shadowy man standing on a hellish landscape. What was this about? No one seemed to know. Teddy had told friends that he was excited that he’d been working on a new idea but no one had seen his latest works yet. Jackie cracked open the journal from the night stand.
Most of it was pretty dry. Teddy’s impressions on his friends, his ideas for paintings, some dreams that he’s had the night before. Nothing shocking. Jackie put the book down. He was tired and he had a long night of reading reports and statements before him.
“Hey, Jackie? You got that weird head buster case from uptown?” Det. Martin Feldberg came up to Jackie’s desk.
“Hi, Marty. Yeah, just my luck to land this one. What’cha working on?” Jackie sighed and smiled weakly.
“Oh, I got a rash of B&E’s that I think are connected, nothing so glamourous as a uptown murder. Heard his head was missing. Did you talk with the people from Westerly? I heard they had a missing head case too.” Marty sat down in front of Jackie. “How’s the head?”
“Oh, I am fine... just tired. Long night ahead. Westerly, you say?” Jackie picked up the phone and asked for the police department upstate. A brief conversation confirmed that the details of the incident would be sent to his desk by tomorrow night.
Jackie was tired and wanted to go home. Rubbing his neck with his hands, he pushed back from his desk and side. A page from the Teddy Wiltshire’s journal caught his eye and he read a little of it absentmindedly.
Teddy had been recording his dreams and it seemed he suffered from a reoccurring theme. He would always have no problem falling asleep at night but when he was trying to roust himself into consciousness, he always had the same recurring images right before he opened his eyes. A man covered in shadows.
Jackie casually looked at the photos of the crime scene. The paints of the man in shadows were similar to how Teddy Wiltshire had described his dream character. The man stood tall and imposing in the foreground but his features were hidden by the lighting of the scene. It was impossible to make the character out. Jackie looked at the hellish landscape of twisting macabre and horror. It seemed so out of place from the usual water colors Wiltshire had done previously.
Jackie went back to the journal. No mention of the hellish landscapes as he flipped through the pages, only that Wiltshire was intrigued by the man’s enigmatic appearance right before Wiltshire woke every morning.
Jackie picked up the telephone and called the university to speak with their psychology department head. A woman answered the phone with a quick and impatient voice. “Jackie, what is it? I asked you not to bother me here.”
“Hiya, Maggie.” Maggie McPhearson was Jackie’s one time girlfriend who got sick of waiting for him to get around to ask her to marry her and put all her efforts getting over Jackie into her studies. She had come far in the world after she gave up hope of him coming around and now was a respected research in the world of psychology. Jackie sometimes wondered if Maggie went into that field just so she could try to figure out what was wrong with him. “Look it, I am sorry to bother you, I just have a couple questions pertaining to a case I am working on.”
“What? All right, make them snappy. I am kind of busy right now.”
“Yeah sure, Maggie... so I have a guy who we believe might be a suicide despite not having any history of depression in his medical history or in his family. I’ve been looking over his journal and it seems like he had reoccurring dreams of a shadowy figure and he’s been painting some weird pictures but besides that, there weren’t any alarms going off about this guy’s nut doing in. What do you make of it?”
“Well, I’d have to read his diary on his dreams and review his work but I can tell you this. Dream imagery is the primary method of the unconscious expressing itself. Images during dreams may be symbolic and not direct representations of what the subconscious is trying to express. Also the conscious mind sometimes has difficulty rationalizing what the subconscious is trying to express.”
“So the man in the painting?”
“He’s probably your victim’s means of trying to describe what he saw within his subconscious and rationalize it with his perception of the world. I have to study the images to give you a proper diagnosis, mind you, but if I had to take a wild stab, it would be that.”
“I see... Thanks Maggie, you’ve given me something to chew on.”
“Good. Bye Jackie.” Maggie hung up before Jackie could respond.
Jackie stared at the pictures of the paintings. What could this shadowy figure mean? Jackie put his feet up on his desk and settled back into his chair for a serious session of contemplation. After a few moments of deep thought, a faint snoring could be heard from his direction.
Jackie found himself surrounded in dark mist. Rolling waves of smokey blackness enveloped him as he waved his arms round frantically groping through the darkness. He was lost, cold and terrified. Throughout the inky blackness, a haunting sense of danger compelled Jackie to grope blindly forward away through the mist.
Help, he cried out. Help, can anyone hear me? Where am I?
The his cries were muted against the impenetrable blackness. He fell to his knees and put his hands down on the ground in desperation. Cold feeling of something similar to stone met his touch.
From the corner of his eye, he spied a figure through the fog, a tall and menacing form lording over him through the blackness. A cold sweat swept over Jackie as he froze in panic and fear as his eyes adjusted to the dark and the details of the figure became more apparent.
“Jonathan.” A horse dark whisper, guttural and bloody called out from the darkness.
Jackie awoke with a start as his feet fell off the desk.
The clock on the wall said it was six-thirty in the morning: he had slept through the night at work again. Rubbing his day growth of stubble on his chin, he stood and went to wash his face in a the office bathroom basin. He heard the night officer shuffling around in the front hall, moving papers around at the incident report desk. Jackie decided to put on a pot of coffee. At least he wouldn’t be hung over this morning.
It was close to lunchtime when the file from the other station arrived on Jackie’s desk. He was already two donuts into half a dozen and down two thirds of the coffee pot. He had spent the morning summarizing the reports and witness statements from the Wiltshire incident and now he began comparing notes to those from the incident in Westerly.
Thomas Allan Hazel was the high school music teacher and pentecostal church choir leader. He was found in a similar manner to Teddy Wiltshire, headless and face down in a pool of his own blood one morning by his sister after he failed to report to work that day. Nothing suspicious about his past, no alarming details of mental psychosis or gambling debts or family history of depressing. He just turned up dead and headless.
The crime scene photographs of Hazel were identical to those of Wiltshire. The only thing exceptional about the pics were how ordinary both victims were. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about either men, with the exception of Teddy Wiltshire’s paintings. There was no connection to either man, no evidence that either knew the other existed.
Jackie turned back to the photo of the paintings. It was uncanny. He must’ve dreamt about that figure because he stared too long at these blasted pics.
“Looks like you burned the midnight oil there, Jackie.” Marty Feldberg laughed as he pulled up a chair to Jackie’s desk. “I see you got that file. Anything that helps?”
“No, its a still riddle, Marty. Nothing obvious anyway. Same crime scene, same lack of motive.” Jackie sighed, frustrated.
“Why not call it a day for now, Jackie? Wiltshire isn’t going anywhere fast.” Marty offered Jackie his hat.
“Sure, maybe some fresh air will help me twist my brain around this.” Jackie agreed.
Jackie was prostrated on his knees, surrounded by darkness. His skin was cold and wet with sweat and he found his muscles ached. He was scrambling through the dark on his hands, trying to grope his way through the darkness.
“Jonathan.” a dark and guttural whisper beckoned him forward through blackness. “Jonathan.”
Who’s there, Jackie tired to cry out. Who’s calling me? Where are you? Where is this?
From the corner of his eye, Jackie saw a dark form of a figure emerging from the darkness. He turned, crouching on his knees to look upon the figure.
“Jonathan.” the figure called to him.
Jackie awoke with a surprised cry. He was sitting in his car at the edge of the sand dunes at the east city limits. Maggie and he would often drive out here to escape the hustle of the city and listen to the radio, eating sandwiches and laughing together at the events of the day. Now Jackie came here to alone, mainly to remember and reflect.
He thumbed on the radio and popped open his glove compartment. Wiltshire’s files were have opened on the passenger seat beside him as he dug out a bottle of bourbon and slugged a bitter swig back. These Golden Summer Nights squawked out from his car radio as he opened the door and got out of the car.
What’s going on with that dream? Jackie watched the sun burn the sky crimson and orange as it merged with the city’s horizon. A breeze swept up sand dunes blowing some dust along with it. A few particles of sand stuck to the sweat on Jackie’s forehead. The night air was becoming cool but still Jackie’s skin ran hot. What was going on with him, he thought to himself.
Maggie studied Jackie’s over her half moon glasses. They were the one feature about her face that Jackie found severe, she only wore them in conversation when she was upset or angry. Jackie met her eyes unsteadily and then quickly looked about her office.
“So what can I do for you now, Detective McCredor?” She began cooly, never taking that venomous gaze off Jackie.
“I’ve been having some issues with this case I’ve been working on, Maggie. And I’ve been having some strange dreams while working on it too.” Jackie fidgeted in his seat, reluctant to meet her viper stare. “Quit giving me the hex-eye, it’s giving me the willies.”
Maggie sighed. Jackie and her had some fun times but she had been waiting too long, too long for him to make her feel secure and now this train wreck of a relation kept pestering her after she had done something with herself. He had a charm but he was also so very tiring.
“What about the case is puzzling you, Jackie?” she softened her gaze a little.
“Well, I’ve got a victim who, for all intent and purpose, pretty much had life wrapped up in a little bow. Well off enough to pursue a career in art, no real problems in his home life, moderately popular guy. Then one day he ends up, excuse the summation, with his head popped off like a birthday balloon over his living room floor.”
Maggie sucked in some air and remained silent. Jackie continued.
“The strange thing is that as far as we can tell from the crime scene, his head is still missing.”
“You mean it’s not there?”
“Not even pieces of it are there. And now I have a file that tells me that a high school teacher in Westerly has had the same thing happen to him.”
“So you don’t think its some random and bloody suicide then?”
“No, now I think its too coincidental to have the exact same bizarre conditions with the same county. Neither seemed like the type to off themselves when the going got tough anyway and as far as I can tell, they were living pretty pink.”
“I see, so why come to me if you don’t think its a psychological issue, Jackie.” Maggie softened her gaze a little more as Jackie related her the details of Teddy Wiltshire’s paintings.
“And now I guess I’ve stared at these crime scene photos too long because I’m having a dream about that blasted figure.” Jackie concluded.
“Well Jackie, you have been known to push it too hard when frustrated on a case. I can assure you of that.” Maggie began. “I find it interesting that this Mr. Wiltshire became fixated on depicting his dream images, especially if he hadn’t been doing so through out his artistic career.”
“Me too. I get the feeling that he wasn’t so much the creative expresser of his subconscious as he was someone to paint a forest by a lake. I remember reading somewhere that art is used in therapy, do you think this could’ve been something like that?”
“Well, they use are as a form of expression, usually when people are reluctant to express their feeling verbally. He might’ve gotten the idea from that practice but I don’t know if a therapist would encourage him to fixate on his dream character to produce so many of the same image.” she told him.
“I see. Well, Maggie, you’ve giving me some food for thought tonight. I’m going to go take another look at the medical records, see if Wiltshire had seen any psychologists.” Jackie stood to leave.
“You’re going? All right, Jackie, good luck on your case. I am sorry I wasn’t more help.” Maggie rose to shake Jackie’s hand.
“Naw, Maggie, you’ve been a great help!” Jackie smiled and then shrugged as he closed the door behind him.
Maggie sat down at her desk and watched Jackie getting into his car and drive off into the night. She smiled quietly to herself. “That man.”
What do you want? What am I doing here? Why is it so black? Jackie scrambled around on the ground on his hands and knees, trying to find the figure in the darkness. “Where are you?”
Jackie felt infinitesimal, cold and wet with sweat, in awe of the shadowy form as it beckoned to him through the darkness.
He was a tiny lump of flesh and muscle, swallowed by the darkness.
Out of the corner of his eye, the figure drenched in night called for this microscopic spec of a creature.
Jackie rubbed his temples. He had been overworking and when he was sleeping he was plagued by nightmares. He splashed a little bourbon into his coffee mug before he added some hot black liquid to shake himself awake.
“Hey Jackie, you know the Wiltshire case? I was running some background on our victim and I came across a connection to the Westerly murder victim, Tom Hazel.”
“Give it to me, Gleeson! What’cha got?”
“Well it turns out, both men liked music.” Gleeson laughed.
Jackie sighed. “A lot of people like music. So?”
“Well, its just that Wiltshire liked to listen to music while he painted. And one of the songs he was known to play was a piece written and performed by our Mr. Thomas Hazel.”
“Hey, that not much, but it’s finally connection other than the cadaver conditions!” Jackie sat up and looked at Gleeson’s notes. “Seems Teddy Wiltshire liked the song These Golden Summer Nights. I’ve heard that song before, a sappy piece. Hazel wrote it?”
“Looks like it.” Gleeson stood up. “I know its not much but I also checked the forensic report of Wiltshire’s town house and guess what was on the record player?”
“Hazel’s hit single about summer time romance?” Jackie ventured a guess.
“In one!” Gleeson smiled. “What do you think it means?”
“No idea, Dave. But its a start. Get me a copy of that song and a transcript of the music. Let’s have a solid look at our only connection.”
“Will do, Jackie.” Gleeson left Jackie’s desk.
A song was the connection. Was it a coincidence? Did it have anything to do with the last batch of painting Teddy Wiltshire had done before his death? Jackie rubbed his head. The first minor break in the case, linking the two victims was even more mind boggling.
These Golden Summer Nights was co-written by Audrey Kranstien and Thomas Allen Hazel. The song was a schmaltzy tune that was supposed to invoke memories of youth spent in the throws of carefree passion. It was a moderate hit when it was picked to be featured in a silver screen passion picture film. The song that played when the hero kissed his leading lady on the sunset beach at the end of the flick.
Thomas Hazel had done all right for himself and knew he’d never write anything remotely as popular again so he retired from show biz to rest his laurels and instruct another generation of hopeful musicians on his experiences. The tune was also something Jackie expected a moderately talented artist from uptown would enjoy as he dabbled his water color landscapes.
How inconspicuous a song that linked two men who ended in a peculiar and gristly way. Jackie topped off his coffee with another generous splash of bourbon as he scoured over the medical records of both victims, listening to a copy of Hazel’s song.
“An evening breeze
blew through the trees
and swept through your hair
I leaned into kiss
a moment not to miss
sunset aflame in the evening air.
one last dance
a romance for these golden summer nights...”
“I never fancied you for that kind of music, Jackie” a woman’s voice said behind him.
Jackie looked up and smiled. ”Maggie, what can I do for you tonight?” He stood and offered her a chair. She sat down across the his desk from him and smiled politely.
“Well, Jackie, you were looking a little rougher around the edges than usual when you came to visit me the other day so I decided I’d check up on you. God knows everyone else has the brains not to worry about you over doing it, but I just wanted to make sure you were all right.” She took a wrapped sandwich out of her bag and offered it to Jackie.
“Swell, Maggie!” Jackie took a grateful mouth full of chicken salad. “You don’t need to worry though. I am all right, just a little over worked.”
“Are those dreams about the case still bothering you, Jackie?” She asked as she politely bit another sandwich from her purse. Jackie stood and went to get them both cokes from the machine against the far wall.
“Not really. Too busy with the case to dream much, ha ha!” he lied from across the room. Maggie sighed, Jackie always had to move away from her when he lied. She held her tongue and took another bite of her sandwich as he sat down again.
“I had a bit of a strange breakthrough though this afternoon. The victim from uptown liked a song written by the other victim in Westerly. A flimsy connection but we’re already grasping at straws.” Jackie said as he washed down another generous bite of his sandwich with coke.
“That Summer Night song you were listening to just now?” Maggie nodded towards the record player.
“Yeah, I’ve been listening to it all afternoon, trying to figure out if there is a connection between the two men in it but I’ve got nothing. Just a cheesy song, it seems.” Jackie smiled. “Hey, what are you doing tonight, Maggie?”
“What, I am visiting you at the station right now, aren’t I?” Maggie replied surprised at Jackie’s sudden mood change.
“Well, I am sick of this case and its not going to change over night, so why don’t you come out with me.” Jackie laughed as he closed the files and flung them into a drawer. “I’ll wager neither of us have been out in ages.”
“Jackie! Really? You want to go out on the town now in the middle of things?” Maggie laughed. It felt good to hear her laugh, it had been too long since Jackie had made her smile, he thought to himself.
“Well, obviously we’d finish our sandwiches and cokes first.” Jackie laughed and wolfed down the rest of his chicken sandwich.
A sour sound pierced the darkness that surrounded Jackie as he crawled around, lost in the mist. A screech, like a claw against a blackboard, hurt his ears as he looked about in desperation and confusion.
What is this horrible sound? Jackie cried allowed into the darkness. Where are you? What is this place?
The screeching sound grew more intense and Jackie had to shove his fists over his ears to try to block it out of his mind. He flailed in the blackness as the noise pushed painfully into his mind behind his eyes.
Out of the corner of his vision, he saw a dark figure beckoning for him to come.
Jackie awoke with a start into darkness. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the lighting and he could get his bearings.
He was at Maggie’s. She was snoring quietly beside him on her bed. He remembered going out to the pub with her like old times. He swallowed dry and tasted booze on his breath. He guessed Maggie was still sleeping it off since his start awake didn’t rouse her as well.
He swung his feet over the bed and felt the cold hardwood floor beneath them. He went to the bathroom and clicked on the light. His eyes were slightly bloodshot and he felt a little stiff around the jaws.
He listened to Maggie’s steady breathing in the next room. Despite his nightmare and the strains of this case, he felt oddly at peace. Would he feel like this every night had he put aside his silly notions and walked down that aisle with Maggie. Was it too late to do that walk with her?
He poured himself another glass of water and rubbed his temples. When this case was done, he’d have to the doctor to check his blood pressure. He crept back to bed and slid under the sheet next to Maggie.
Maggie had already dress and gone to the university when Jackie woke again. She left toast and juice on a tray beside the bed with a note. Jackie smiled as he read her message and then thoughtfully crunched on the cold toast.
By the time he got into work, the office was already buzzing. Jackie pulled out the case file he so nonchalantly tossed aside and looked at it with fresh and rested eyes. His eyes drifted over the photos of Thomas Hazel’s apartment till suddenly something caught his attention. He pulled a magnifying glass out of a drawer and examined the picture more closely. Thumbing through the photos of Teddy Wiltshire’s apartment, he found the same thing after some careful scrutinizing.
In a photo of Thomas Hazel’s body, found face down beside the piano, small object d’art was placed on a mantle. It was so unobstructed that no one had even noticed it before. A small figure, carved of black material with its arms outstretched. Possibly some foreign trinket someone had given them upon a return from a trip or safari. Tribal idol or fertility god. In the Wiltshire flat, the figure was also present propped on its side on one of his bookshelves, arms of black material raised out towards the viewer, inviting him towards it.
Small and insignificant as it was, it was still a second link between the two men. Jackie grabbed his hat and ran down to the cars to drive over to the apartments where Wiltshire lived.
The crime scene was exactly the same as it was before except the body, which by now should be processed and tanked in the city morgue. Someone had rolled up the blood stained carpet and bagged it and brought it down to the evidence locker but other than that, the place was untouched.
Rooting through the bookshelves, Jackie picked up the artifact. He couldn’t place it but it seemed something familiar to him. His first beat as a constable was down but the harbor front and he saw a dime a dozen of these tourist souvenirs out front of import/export shops. He pocketed it and went back to the station to grab a fresh notebook.
Lunch at the pier stank of dead fish water. It was a smell Jackie would never forget. Sometimes he actually missed the polluted water where the barges rusted away, hauling junk back and forth from the big shipping freighters. Ports always had an eclectic population and were a gold mine of information.
Taking to his old beat, he mingled through the crowd of longshoremen, coolies and merchants. Every so often he’d stop at a booth or storefront and ask a couple a questions. He kept the statue in his coat pocket and rummaged around in bins of similar but not quite right merchandise.
As the sun began to sink, Jackie was about to give up his search. He walked into one last store and asked to see if the owner had any wares. When it turned up that there was nothing that caught Jackie’s fancy, he shrugged and turned to leave.
“Well, what kind of thing are you looking for, sir?” the store owner asked, keen to make a sale.
Jackie, tired of walking up and down the piers, pulled out the little black statue. ”I’m looking for something like this.”
The man studied it. “I’ve seen these before, I had a pair of them come in from the pacific a few months ago. Wards against island demons or something, I forget. A friend sent them back to me cause he thought they were interesting. I thought them plain and sold them off.”
“Can you describe the man who bought it?” Jackie flashed his badge and then flipped open his notepad. The merchant gave a hazy description of a man who might’ve looked like Teddy Wiltshire or any other young man of his age.
“I think he came down here to paint the coast line sometimes, I remember seeing him poking about.” The merchant offered. Jackie jotted it down anyway.
“What happened to the other statue, do you know who bought it?”
“Oh, yes sir.” The merchant smiled. “A friend of mine who is an antique dealer. Richard Matthewson. He lives in Westerly.”
“Thanks, mister.” Jackie turned and left.
“Are you sure I can’t interest you in some artifacts from the orient?” the Merchant called out after him as he walked back towards his car.
Back at the station, Jackie telephoned Matthewson’s Fine Antiques. Matthewson was out for the evening but the polite lady on the other end of the line said a meeting at eleven o’clock the next morning would be fine. Jackie kicked off his shoes and leaned back in his chair, listening to a jazz record much more suited to his tastes than These Golden Summer Nights.
The screeching sound that permeated the darkness pushed Jackie down to his knees. He had to stop groping around to find his way and cover his ears with his fist.
What is this sound? What is happening to me? Jackie cried out to the mist.
“Jonathan.” the voice rumbled through the sound of the screeching, almost a relief.
Jackie collapsed onto his side, his hands failing to muffle the sound as it bore into his brain. He was weak and fragile within this endless black mist.
“You will soon awaken. Jonathan.” The voice informed him.
As Jackie writhed in agony on the floor, he spied a figure watching him, arms outstretched.
Jackie had Gleeson drive him out to Westerly. His sleeping habits were starting to wear on him and he didn’t want to have to force himself to drive out of the city alone. Gleeson was happy to oblige, getting out of the office meant less time pouring over paper work.
Richard Matthewson’s Fine Antiques was a ground floor shop filled to the ceiling full of dusty junk at outrageous prices. Jackie was sure that each zero behind the price added fifteen minutes explanation of where the object d’art came from. Matthewson also looked like the kind of fellow who wanted to give you the detailed history of everything and everything at length.
“Welcome. Welcome, gentlemen. Welcome to my little shop of collectibles and interests.” Matthewson beamed over a portly stomach. He looked like a cartoon character, overly rosy cheeks and almost spherical physique. “What can I do for you officers today?”
“We’re just curious about a piece found in connection to a case, Mr. Matthewson.” Jackie began.
“Oh, call me Richard. What piece would that be? I can provide documentation for all my transactions, officers.” Matthewson beamed generously at the policemen. Gleeson clucked his tongue and remained silent, his eyes wandering over Matthewson’s junk.
Jackie pulled out the figure and put it on the front desk. “What can you tell me about this piece?”
“Oh-ho, oh-ho!” Matthewson smiled a little more out of interest than salesmanship. “I was wondering how this piece made out. Polynesian, I believe. I nabbed it a while ago from an importer I know. Nice chap, good eye for pieces. This was supposed to come as a pair however. Is it available to sell again?”
“It’s evidence. What else can you tell us about it? Who did you sell it to?” Jackie continued to jot down notes. Gleeson began wandering around the store, poking here and there.
“I don’t know exactly this particular figure represents, these island tribes have a whole pantheon of deities for every occasion. I could probably find out with a phone call. I have a friend in the antiquity department of the university who might know. I sold it to a middle aged man who was in here with a young woman almost right after I acquired this piece. I have his address on the receipt some where/ let me find it for you.”
“Do you sell many of these island idols?” Jackie compared the address on the receipt to the ones in his notepad. Thomas Hazel. Who would the young woman be?
“Not really. Things like this are rare but not in high demand which keeps their value relatively low. That clock that your partner is touching, however, is a little more expensive.” Gleeson snapped his hand back from the clock face and continued on his tour. “Personally, I enjoy pieces like this. They contain a certain personality or charge about them. I always remember when something like that passes my hands.”
“You mentioned that this was supposed to be a pair. Did you know what happened to the other piece?”
“Nope, never saw it. Gone before I could acquire them as a set from my import friend.” Matthewson beamed helpfully.
“That’s for your time, Mr. Matthewson.” Jackie turned to Gleeson and nodded that it was time to leave.
“Oh anytime, anytime, officers. And call me Richard. Have a safe trip!” Matthewson shook both the officers hand and escorted them to the door. As Jackie followed Gleeson outside past Matthewson, he heard the antique dealer whisper under his breath. “You will awake soon.”
Jackie turned back in surprise. “What did you say?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Did you just say something to me?” Jackie stared hard at the round man.
“I said ‘Have a safe trip.’” The man beamed back at Jackie. “That’s all, officer.”
Jackie shook his head. He looked at Gleeson who was staring at Jackie with a mildly puzzled look on his face. Jackie felt the skin on his neck grow warm. “It’s nothing. Have a nice day, Mr. Matthewson.”
“So long officers!” Matthewson smiled and waved at them until they were well in the distance.
What do two victims of unusual deaths have in common other than a statue bought at different stores and a song one of them wrote that the other enjoyed while painting mysterious paintings? Jackie was at a complete loss and he had been warned by the captain that the press would be publishing the details of the case for the friday papers. If the police were to release a statement, he’d have to make a summary finding quickly.
He took his papers and drove out to the sand dunes. The sun was setting but the sky was a matte of orange against the blue-black heavens, the starlight dimmed by the light s of the city. He pulled out the bourbon and took a stiff swig. He looked at the photos and then closed his eyes, laying back into the car seat. Still with his eyes closed he thumbed on the radio.
Jackie stood lost, cold and wet and surrounded in black mist. A wailing scream the darkness as he shivered from the cold. He looked at his hands, barely able to make them out in front of his face. He wanted to cry out but realized his mouth was already open. He closed it and swallowed dryly.
The noise stopped.
Jackie opened his mouth again and the high pitch squeal began again. Almost instantly he clamped his jaw shut again and put his hands over his mouth. What was happening to him?
“Jonathan.” a voice called to him through the darkness. Jackie spun around to face the voice. A figure stood before him, much more defined than ever before, his hands reaching towards Jackie.
Jackie tried to speak to him but the piercing noise began again instantly, Jackie shut his mouth again and stared wildly at the figure.
“Jonathan. That way will never work. You know how to do it.” The figure approached, the darkness seemingly receding. Jackie gapped in panic at the figure as his features became more.
“Jonathan. You will awaken soon. Use it before it overtakes you.” The figure reached with his hands and touched Jackie’s temples.
Jackie woke up with a splitting headache. The sky was completely dark and the radio broadcaster had gone off the air. He rubbed his temples where the shadowy figure had touched him in his dream. He felt wetness. He drew his hands back and saw blood. He sat up and examined himself in the mirror. His ears and nose had thin trails of blood running from down them. It didn’t look too serious but he was alarmed. He wiped himself up with his handkerchief and turn the engine over. Taking a slug from his bottle, he rode back across the dunes toward the highway.
“What is this place?” Jackie asked the figure.
“It is our home now. I do not know if there is a name for it yet.”
“Why am I here? Where is the darkness and that awful sound?”
“You are here because you have been chosen to come. You have escaped the illusionary traps of the world you left behind and now can see with open eyes and hear open ears.”
“Is this heaven? Am I dead?”
“You are beyond life and death. This place will be a heaven if you want it to be or a hell if that is what you desire.”
“Who are you?”
“Do you not recognize me?”
“Theodore. Theodore Wiltshire. Why do I see you?”
“I escaped just before you did. They told me to wait for you before I came through as well.”
“Am I dead?”
“No, Jonathan. You are finally awake.”
“Sorry to put you through that, Maggie.” Gleeson pulled the cover sheet back over Jackie.
“I don’t understand what happened.” Maggie wept softly. She had dark circles under her eyes from lack of sleep and too much grief.
“Well, Jackie had been under a lot of strain from the case he was working on. I know he was tired and he probably had a couple drinks before he got behind the wheel. The other car was hidden by the bank of the dune wall.”
“Oh, Davie. I can’t bare it. Have they found Jackie’s head yet?”
- Chris W., March 17, 2009