Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 19

Bill and Angela raced up the stairs taking them two or three at a time. Without bothering to knock, he threw his shoulder into the door jamb and crashed through. Gillian’s screaming stopped when she saw her friends. Her bloody hands trembled as she rinsed them under the tap. At her feet, a bottle of White Diamonds perfume had shattered to pieces.
            “Are you okay? What happened?” Bill asked.
            “Let me see,” Angela ordered. “Hmm, I don’t think you’ll need stitches but I’ll grab the first aid kit and get you bandaged up.”
Gillian pulled her towel tighter against her body as goose bumps prickled her flesh. Bill removed a bathrobe from the hooks behind the door and draped it around Gillian’s shoulders. She offered him a weak smile and muttered, “thank you.” Angela returned a moment later with the first aid kit and proceeded to bandage up her friend’s hands.
            “So, are you going to tell us what happened?” she asked.
Gillian scowled. “It was my own fault. I slipped as I was trying to—”
            “How ‘bout the truth, instead,” interrupted Bill.
Angela nodded her agreement and placed a reassuring hand on Gillian’s shoulder. “C’mon, Jilly, we’re your friends and we’re worried about you. We can’t help if you’re not honest with us.”
            “I—I know. I just don’t want you to think I’ve gone off my rocker. As it is, I’m starting to wonder myself… ever since the morgue.”
            “That’s probably a good place to start then,” said Bill. “Why don’t you get into some warm clothes and dry your hair first? We’ll wait just outside the door in case you need us, okay?”
Gillian nodded. The instant the bathroom door closed, she raced to dress in record time. While the thought of telling her friends what was going on was less appealing than a four-hour root canal, she hurried to not be alone.  True to their word, when she opened the door, Bill and Angela were waiting for her.
     Downstairs, the three friends flopped onto Kim’s cozy sofa and settled in for Gillian’s story. Angela carried in a tray with coffee and cookies; she had a feeling they’d be talking for a while. Gillian’s first instinct was to chug the coffee.
            “It’s decaf,” Angela said, smiling. “So drink as much as you want.”
Gillian set the mug down, grumbling that decaf coffee was sacrilege.
            “It is but you do not need another drop of caffeine coursing through your system, Jilly.” Bill answered. “So, let’s get to the bottom of whatever is going on here. What happened in the bathroom?”
            I should probably start before then,” Gillian admitted with a sigh. “It all started the night we used the Ouija board at the morgue. Someone or … something, touched me when the lights were out. I felt a hand rest on my shoulder and then it gave a squeeze. It wasn’t Marie or Kenj and it wasn’t the firemen either. Believe me, I wish it was. Then, as I was driving home I kept seeing a shadowy figure following me. It crossed the road in front of me, it was lurking behind bushes; it was in my rearview mirror. Then, when I came inside, and we were all on the phone … I saw it in the yard. That night, it was in my room. At first, I thought it was Angela, playing a prank. Or, I should say I hoped it was Angela. It wasn’t. That brings us to the shower. Everything was fine. I had just turned off the water because I got a chill. Sorry, Angela, I think I used up all the hot water again. When I pulled back the curtain, it was there. I grabbed the first thing I could reach to throw at it but before I could release it, the thing’s hand enveloped mine and the bottle shattered. So, go ahead. Tell me I’m crazy.”
Gillian looked down at her bandaged hand and sighed. When she looked up, both Angela and Bill wore matching expressions of concern.
            “Listen, I don’t want to freak you out,” said Billy. “But you’re not crazy. It’s something worse.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 18

Bill draped his arm around Kim and gave her a friendly squeeze.
            “You looked like you could use a hug, my friend.” He said. “And for what it’s worth, I’m here to help. You don’t have to do this all on your own, okay?”
            “Thank you,” she whispered.
            “Don’t give it another thought. Look, I know you and Phillip have a lot of work to do so … I’m going to head over to your place to check on Angela and Gillian. Cool?”
Kim hugged him again and repeated her thanks but in typical Bill style, he gave her a playful poke in the ribs and laughed.
            “Don’t thank me yet; Phillip is going to talk your ears off. I’m simply saving myself.” he murmured before announcing his departure for Dr. Tynesdale’s benefit. “I’ll be back around lunchtime.” 
With a wink to Kim and wave to Phillip, he was out the door.
On the other side of town, Gillian and Angela huddled over a pot of coffee and nibbled at honeyed toast. Though Angela had made no mention of it, Gillian’s awkward behavior the night before left her apprehensive. Puffy, red eyes proved what her friends expected; Gillian did not sleep again that night. Instead, she downed another cup of coffee in three gulps and poured some more.
     Golden sunlight streamed through the windows sending a stab through Gillian’s retinas and into her brain. She raised a hand to shield her raw orbs and from her peripheral vision caught sight of it again. Someone was lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting. When she glanced back again, the shadowy form was gone; much like it had done the night before. You’re losing, girl. Have more coffee. She reached for the pot again only hear a voice behind her say, “Hey, save some of that for me.” With a squeal, Gillian jumped back, sending her coffee mug and Angela’s crashing to the ground. Shattered stoneware and coffee dregs swirled on the floor like a Jackson Pollock in brown.
            “Geez, Billy! You scared the crap out of me!” She exclaimed. “What are you trying to do; give me heart attack?”
            “You’re the second person to say that to me this morning.” Bill laughed, hoping a little levity would soothe her ragged nerves. “Here, I thought I was rather dashing but I seem to be traumatizing beautiful women. Hmm, I’m starting to develop a complex.”
Gillian threw a playful punch at his shoulder before pulling him into a bear hug. Angela finished cleaning up the spill before throwing her arms around her friends and giving them both a squeeze. She was relieved to see Bill, more than he would ever know.
     After a few more mugs of coffee, Gillian finally shuffled off to shower. Bill waited until he heard the water running to ply Angela with questions.
            “Kim said something happened last night and our Jilly was afraid ... like too afraid to turn off the lights. I found that hard to believe until I saw her for myself. Did she tell you what happened? There has to be more that she’s not telling us.”  
            “So far, she hasn’t told me anything. Maybe with you here, she’ll feel safer. I think she really believed I was trying to mess with her last night. She was talking as if I was in the room with her. I’ve never seen her like this and it’s freaking me out!”
Upstairs, steamy water from the showerhead caressed Gillian’s aching muscles. The heat soothed physically but inside, her nerves were raw and jagged. She allowed the water to pound into her flesh until a chill settled over her. Damn! I used all the hot water. Angela is going to kill me, she thought. A chuckle escaped her lips, just like old times. Still smiling she threw back the shower curtain and let loose a blood-curdling scream. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 17

            “You’re kidding, right?” Bill gasped. “Please tell me you only said that to get back at me for scaring you.”
            “I wish.” Kim muttered.
            “No wonder you’re jumpy.”
            “That’s not all,” she whispered. “Gillian, of all people, was afraid of the dark last night. Angela and I ran to her room because she was screaming. She tried to say she’d had a bad dream but I don’t think that was it. When I reached for the light switch she nearly had a fit. And then, Marie bit my head off earlier. She’s definitely acting weird. God, what did Seth get himself into?”
Bill’s brow furrowed as he absorbed the shock from Kim’s bombshell. He had wanted to think it was all a coincidence but the planchette in Kenj’s abdomen was creepy enough without learning that the other two at the séance were behaving abnormally. Before he could say anything, a shout from Kim’s office sent them running to check on Dr. Tynesdale. In unison, Bill and Kim asked what was wrong.
            “Wrong? No, nothing is wrong. This is extraordinary!” Phillip replied. “These photos confirm a hypothesis that I’ve held for many years but, alas, without anything concrete to back it up, I was reticent to share my theory. This, this could be a breakthrough!”
Dead silence hung in the air. Confused, Dr. Tynesdale turned to see why the other two weren’t sharing in his jubilation. Their solemn expressions reminded him of the string of deaths and the real reason he was there.
            “My apologies. I just … well, I got a little carried away. Sometimes, I get so focused on the enormity of the spiritual realm that I forget how fragile the mortal world is. The vessels, so to speak, that have the runes adorned to them were people you knew. Forgive my insensitivity.”
            “Can you tell us what they mean and why the killer is using them, Doctor?” Kim pleaded. “Is there any way to use this information to stop the murders?”  
            “Perhaps,” he sighed. “I’ll need a little more time to research and to compare the carvings between the victims. Now, did you say there were others that had no markings in the beginning?”
            “Well, that’s the thing. Prior to the police determining there was a serial killer on the loose, the first few bodies could have had markings show up after the initial autopsy. Or, if the bodies had been sitting for a while, instead of a fresh wound, the carvings would look like a tattoo or a brand. Given that some of the victims were heavily tattooed, it could have been assumed to be ink. I didn’t personally handle every victim so I can’t be certain what happened in other autopsies but I can pull the records and review the forensic photos if you think that would be useful for comparison.”
            “Yes, I think that would be an excellent idea.” Dr. Tynesdale replied. “The more data I have, the more accurate I can be.”
            “Okay, I’m just going to contact the detective in charge of the investigation and let her know we have a consultant reviewing the files first.”
Kim wondered which version of Detective McDonald would be on the other line as she dialed. The detached voice on the other end was groggy but kind. Marie sounded relieved that they had an expert for consulting.
            “Give me just a few minutes to finish up here and I’ll be over to meet your Doctor Tynesdale. Okay, Kim?”
            “Sure, take your time. He just got here and has loads of files to review.”
Bill watched as his friend hung up her phone and shook her head in puzzlement. More than anything, he wanted to grant her reassurance that everything would be okay but if even half of what Dr. Tynesdale told him on the ride from the university was true, he would be telling the biggest lie of his life.