FICTION / Horror
FICTION / Thrillers / Supernatural
FICTION / Thrillers / Suspense
FICTION / Thrillers / Crime
Irma uploaded the video they had taken at the park to YouTube and their website. There they not only posted videos but articles and pictures of the cases they had done. It was a lot of work, but Irma enjoyed maintaining it.
“I wonder if the camera picked up something that I didn’t see.” With her camera still connected to the computer, she scanned through the extra clips until she came to the one where they were in the gully on the trail and Pacie wanted her to zoom in on something. Frame by frame, she began going through it. Then something caught her attention. It was a shadow, a dark black shadow, darker than what surrounded it, near a tree trunk. She heard herself say something stunk.
“What is that?” Irma said, zooming in on the figure. It looked like a man, a tall, thin man. It would move behind the tree trunk and then poke out its head and body as if it were watching them. Irma shivered. There really was someone watching them. Was it the kidnapper or just some guy walking in the woods? Maybe someone from the search party, but why didn’t he say anything.
Irma looked at the clock. It was late enough that she thought Pacie was sleeping; she would call in the morning. She did a few screen grabs and emailed them to Pacie and Detective Wanat.
Mr. Dibble whimpered. Irma turned around and saw the Staffordshire Terrier standing at the door. “Do you need to go out, Mr. Dibble?”
Irma grabbed a flashlight, the keys, and then put the leash on the prancing dog.
“Let’s go,” Irma said, walking out of the apartment. They walked down the steps and out the door to the parking lot. She did not want to travel far from the building because what she saw on the video made her think someone could be stalking her, but she had no choice, Mr. Dibble needed grass.
Every sound made her jump—the slamming of a distant car door, something rummaging through the dumpster, even the sound of her footsteps. If that figure in the video was really that creep, then where was the little girl. Dead? That would be what the statistics say. She doubted he would want to take a wrinkled old woman like herself, but who knew how this pervert thought.
“At least I have you, Mr. Dibble, to protect me. People see your muscles and they cower in fear,” Irma said to the dog. “But I know you’re really just a cuddly little baby.”
When they reached the large strip of grass that followed the sidewalk that ran along Inky River, Mr. Dibble sniffed every tree, trying to decide where to do his business. Mr. Dibble led Irma toward the lake.
Irma stopped walking when she heard shuffling behind nearby bushes. Was it the kidnapper or someone watching her? More than likely it was a cat, or squirrels foraging for nuts or berries. Nevertheless, the sound gave her the chills, especially since Mr. Dibble was interested in it and tugged on the leash, wanting to investigate it.
“This is far enough, Mr. Dibble.” She gave a gentle tug on the leash and began walking back to the apartment. The Staffie trotted alongside her until he finally found the proper spot to urinate.
“Took you long enough.” Irma looked back at the bush from where the noise had come and saw a cat walking down the sidewalk. Relieved no one was watching her, she and Mr. Dibble rushed back to the building.
Irma tested the exterior door after she locked it. It was secure. As she and Mr. Dibble walked up the steps, she realized she had never taken her cellphone with her. What if she had needed to call for help? She would have to stop being so careless.
Mr. Dibble was first through the apartment door. Irma unhooked his leash. The pooch lapped water from his bowl and then proceeded to the couch where he curled up in a ball, ready for sleep. Irma patted his head and went back to her computer. Pacie had not replied to the pictures she emailed earlier. She yawned. “I’d better go to bed, but I don’t want to.
Irma had a sleep study scheduled at Black Water General Hospital in a couple of days. She had recently begun sleepwalking, something she had never done before. The first night she woke up in the living room, sitting in her computer chair at her desk. The computer monitor was on a strange website that cycled through images of numbers, symbols, and dead animals. It horrified her. Then another night she woke up early because her feet felt cold and wet. When she looked at them, they were muddy with pieces of grass clippings attached. Was it from having gone barefoot at the beach earlier in the day? Couldn’t be, it was too fresh. When she got out of bed to wash her feet, she saw the apartment door wide open. This was proof she had sleepwalked and had in fact left the building.
Terrified by the events, Irma made an appointment with Doctor Benson. He did a neurological exam and suggested the sleep study; he said it would help diagnose a sleep disorder. He thought it was possibly a condition where a person physically acts out vivid, unpleasant dreams. A dream-enacting behavior, the doctor said.
Irma had told Pacie none of this for two reasons. One, she did not want to concern Pacie with her problems, and two, she kept forgetting. But after more thought, she wanted Pacie to know and to go with her to the sleep study appointment. She wrote on a sticky note to call Pacie about it in the morning and stuck it on her desk calendar.
But now it was time for bed, but she did not want to fall to sleep. If she forced herself to stay awake all night, she would want to sleep during the day tomorrow and there was too much work to do on the new case. Just because it happened before does not mean it would happen again, she reasoned, but she would need to take safety measures.
Irma put on her best pajamas just in case she was found wandering around outside. It was kind of like wearing clean underpants with no holes in them so as not to be embarrassed if someone were to see them if she were in an accident. She brushed her teeth and made sure the front door and windows were latched. Then she turned the air conditioning down a couple of degrees cooler and went into her bedroom; Mr. Dibble was at her heels.
Irma closed the bedroom door and locked it. “It’s a little ridiculous to lock all this stuff, don’t you think, Mr. Dibble. After all, I know how to unlock them. I need one of those pads that they put on a confused patient’s bed in nursing homes that alert staff with an alarm if they were to try to get out of bed. That way the alarm should wake me up before I do something stupid.”
“Ready for bed, Mr. Dibble?” She turned off the bedroom light and climbed into bed. Mr. Dibble jumped up next to her. With only a light sheet over her body, she closed her eyes.
One thing that Irma did not reveal totally to the doctor was about the nightmares she had been having. She told him she had been having bad dreams, but she did not mention the man. He would speak to her and tell her awful things, and things that she should do for him. If she carried out these grievous acts, he would reward her with riches beyond imagination, and a luxurious room in his palace. Mentioning these things would make her sound crazy. Mentioning thoughts of murder would buy her a locked room on the psychiatric floor of Black Water General.