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What followed had to be the longest inquisition I’d ever been a part of, and to remind you, I once went to jail. My previous time as an inmate of this very county didn’t help my situation, or the situation of Officer Simmons, because now a former inmate and an off duty police officer were in spitting distance of a recently deceased body, and all of us were tied together because of that damned cell. Our saving grace was CCTV. The garage had a closed circuit camera system running through their junk lot to keep intruders out. Those weren’t beat up old vehicles, after all. Those were investments. That was their stock room. Rolling back the footage, the detectives responding could clearly see we didn’t put a finger on the guy and he clearly killed himself.
What also helped us was that he had been acting “erratically” lately. He was seeing things that weren’t there. If you’ve been following this until now, you can probably guess what he was seeing. He would ramble on for long periods of time about “black eyes” before calming himself down. That’s what his co-workers said anyway.
Our cover story was pretty good too. Simmons and I were looking into an event that occurred when I was in jail and he was the jailer, and some information came up recently that indicated there was more to it than was we saw at the time. We weren’t reporting a crime, just following up on a theory before we could present evidence of a crime. The best lies aren’t lies. We were telling the 100 percent truth, just leaving a few details out. I don’t know if the detective was convinced, but there was enough corroborating evidence to support our side of it.
Simmons had a sit down with his lieutenant, which I wasn’t invited to. When he came out, he looked tired. I mean, we’d been hanging out for all of one day so in that limited experience he looked tired to me. He excused himself and went on his way, I assume home. He had a wedding ring on, and a four door sedan, so I assumed that he was married and probably had kids. I suddenly didn’t want him anywhere near me or what I was working on.
I took a stroll from the police station down back to my hotel and had just landed in the parking lot when my phone rang. It was the receptionist from the garage, Teresa. She had handed a copy of the security footage to the detective, but also looked at it herself. I hadn’t seen it yet. Since it wasn’t evidence against me, I didn’t really need to see it. She asked me to come by the garage after they closed at six. I looked at my watch, realizing I had wasted the better part of a day at the police station and it was a quarter until six now. I agreed and asked if she’d like me to bring anything to eat. No reason I couldn’t be charming.
“This isn’t a date, sir,” she said sternly. Okay, no, I’d be providing dinner for myself. I ate in my car, figuring she wouldn’t appreciate me bringing a burger and soda to the viewing of CCTV footage. Sure enough, she was there behind the counter, arms tucked in and pacing. She looked up when she saw me and quickly handed me a flash drive. “Here. I don’t want it anymore. Please just take it.”
What the hell did this girl see? She shooed me out the door and I was on my very confused way. I went back to my hotel room and fired up my lap top. It didn’t take long to bring up the video. It was a bird’s eye view of what was quickly becoming the worst thing I’d ever seen. Only it didn’t play out how I remembered it. We ran into the area with the truck, stopped in front of the truck, though, not under it. What I had seen was him under the truck and hitting the scaffolding with a pipe. What the video showed was the inmate ghost stalking him, making him walk backwards. Taylor picked up the pipe and took a swing at the ghost. The pipe passed through the ghost and struck the scaffolding. But there were other shapes there in the video—dark shapes, like unfinished pencil sketches. They had some details but not enough to be called a full-fledged image. The only one I saw clearly was the inmate ghost. Taylor hadn’t killed himself; he died defending himself against a supernatural stalker.
I stood up from the small desk and ran my fingers through my hair as I paced the room. I had gotten to a point in my life where I did not believe in coincidences. I glanced at the clock. It was 6:30, but it was getting dark fast. I threw on my jacket and snatched up my laptop.
Arriving at Elda’s house, I took the front porch steps two at a time and knocked rapidly on the door. Her husband, Joe, answered and gave me the oddest of looks.
“I need your wife’s opinion on something,” I said flatly. He let out a beleaguered sigh, the long suffering husband of a woman too close to something not of this world, and ushered me in.
“She hasn’t been… well,” he said tentatively.
I found Elda in a much different mindset than when I last saw her. She was up and pacing the floor of her living room, wringing her hands and cupping her face. “Elda?” I asked carefully. “Are you alright?”
Her head turned in my direction and she shook her head. “No… no, I’m not.” She was almost crying.
“Elda, what happened?”
“He said when you got here, he’d leave. I saw it on the news… He said he’d leave.”
“I’m going to guide you down to your chair,” I said, taking her by the arm. She was trembling. “Who said they were going to go?”
“You know damn well who. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. He promised he’d leave once I got you here. I’m sorry.”
I sat down next to her. “Elda, you’re going to need to give me more than that.”
“The smiling man with the black eyes. He’d been hanging out at my house for months. That’s when I started sending the letters Joe told you about.”
“Yeah, I was the last one you sent a letter to.”
“Yes… but not because… He… he wanted me to send a letter to you. I tried. I tried sending letters to every spiritualist and crack pot ghost hunter in the state. But he insisted from the beginning to send one to you.”
“Why didn’t you do that? Send me the first letter?”
She turned her head away from me. “Because I knew if he wanted you here, he was going to hurt you. If I could get someone else here to investigate, maybe I could drive him off, but he wanted you, so I knew I should not contact you.”
Now I’ve been stabbed in the proverbial back a lot. Professionally, personally, by my siblings, which is weirdly deeper than personally, but nothing quite stings like realizing you’ve been had by a complete stranger. I couldn’t hold a grudge against Elda, though. She did, by her own account, try to keep me out of it. I pulled up the laptop and keyed up the video. “Elda, look straight ahead and tell me what you see. Please.”
I don’t know why I thought this would work. Nothing about Elda had suggested that she’d be able to see ghosts in a video, at least nothing I knew at the time. But it was a hunch and a shot in the dark.
“I see…” she said, quivering, “the black-eyed inmate, a woman in a white dress with blood running down her arms, the woman that attacked my neighbor, and another man with the top of his head missing, blood running down his face. They… they all have black eyes.”
I closed the laptop quickly. I had all the information I needed.
“There’s something you should know,” she said.
I bit back my natural sarcasm. There was a lot of crap I needed to know but was only just finding out.
“Ghosts… when they come to me, they don’t have black eyes, not normally.”
I shut my eyes, thinking on that. Somehow that made sense. Whatever the black eyed inmate was, a ghost, a demon, something else entirely, either he was controlling the other ghosts, or he and the others were connected by something bigger.
“He promised to go away after I summoned you…” Elda went on. “But he never left. He’s still here.”
I looked up and out the window. It was starting to rain hard outside, but there he stood, looking at me, water not touching his body. His eyes were pools of darkness, not black but blacker than black, like they were absorbing light. That hideous grin was growing across his face. It felt like my heart stopped. When I saw him years ago, it was at a distance. It’s always been at a distance, but now he was outside the window looking right at me. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I could feel the pounding of my heart. Every ounce of energy in my body, every fiber of my being, was telling me to get the hell out of there right now.
Someone or something pounded on the door, sending a shudder through the whole house, rattling the windows.
End Part 3