FICTION / Horror
FICTION / Thrillers / Supernatural
FICTION / Thrillers / Suspense
FICTION / Thrillers / Crime
Pacie bit into a slice of her morning toast, smothered in the homemade strawberry jam, and sat it back down on the paper plate next to her computer. She wiped her sticky fingers with a napkin and then clicked the button on the screen that sent the kidnapping article that she had finished writing earlier that morning to Irma who would then edit it before posting it to the website and sending it off to the local news, complete with images.
She turned on the television in her office and tuned to WBLA. The latest news talked about a new K9, a two-year-old German shepherd named Leo, the latest member of the Black Water Police Department, and illegal salmon fishing at a dam, the next county over. Pacie knew that just because there were no other reports of abductions did not mean the guy split town.
Pacie was about to take another bite of toast when her cellphone rang. It was Irma.
“Pacie, I know it’s early, but we have to go to a house.” Irma seemed frantic.
“What’s going on? Are you alright?”
“No, not really.” Irma’s voice trembled. “I had a nightmare. No, not a nightmare, a vision. I saw a woman being murdered and I think the kidnapper who took that little girl from the park yesterday had something to do with it.”
Pacie did not know what to think, other than Irma certainly believed what she was saying. “It sounds more like a nightmare.”
Irma huffed. “Pacie, it was real. I saw it and I also saw the house and I’m sure I’ll be able to find it. We should go over there now and call the police.”
“Ah, maybe we should see if your vision is real before we call the police. But I’ll be right over and pick you up.”
“Hurry,” Irma said, disconnecting the call.
Pacie sat there a moment, staring at the open Word document on the computer screen. What was going on? Irma saw a real-life murder in a dream? How could she know that?
“I sure hope you’re wrong, Irma,” Pacie said aloud as she retrieved her satchel from the bedroom. She slung it over her shoulder and walked out the door leading to the garage, locking it behind her.
The SUV’s clock read 5 a.m. as she backed out of the garage and drove onto the street. The sun would rise in an hour.
Pacie was the only car on the road that hazy Sunday morning. Past the car’s headlights, a gray mist obscured buildings and street signs. She felt isolated and alone as she drove cautiously down the streets; half expecting a dog, a person, or something else to run out from the fog and into her path.
When she arrived at Irma’s, she was already standing outside waiting for her, smoking a cigarette. Pacie stopped next to her. Irma dropped her cigarette into the steel outdoor ashtray before getting inside the car with her backpack.
“Head toward Sugar Sand Park,” Irma said, unzipping her fanny pack. She partially pulled out a pack of menthols, making sure she had them, and then re-zipped it. “I’m gonna need these.”
“I take it your no-smoking plan isn’t working,” Pacie said, driving out of the lot. “I thought you were going to switch to e-cigs. They have to be better than those.”
“I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I’d be doing all right if it weren’t for all this stressful stuff going on and the fact that I haven’t had much sleep lately.” Irma looked ahead. “Turn right on Walnut when you get there.”
“So what exactly did you see in your—vision?”
Irma looked at Pacie. “I haven’t told you yet, but I’ve been sleepwalking. I have a sleep study scheduled for Monday night at the hospital. Can you go with me?”
“Of course I can. How long has this been going on?”
“Not long, just the last week or so, but something is happening to me.”
Pacie stopped at a flashing red light. She looked down the damp street where a light fog obscured the streetlights. The town was so empty of life it looked like a scene out of a horror movie. She drove on. “Tell me about this vision that we’re going to check out.”
Irma paused, then said, “I was sleeping, partially sleeping like sleep paralysis, but it wasn’t. I was looking through the eyes of a young teenager. It was all fuzzy, but I saw her pick up a knife and then . . .”
Pacie glanced over at Irma. “And then what?”
“And then stab her mother to death.” Irma shook her head.
Pacie stopped the car and stared at Irma’s shaking head. “Oh my god. That’s horrible.”
Irma looked at Pacie with wide eyes. “I also saw the man. No, not a man, the thing. The tall, dark creature that seemed to tell the girl what to do. He wore a black suit like the witnesses said and was always standing near me, I mean, near her. The girl.”
Pacie pulled the car back on the road. They drove past Sugar Sand Park. It was as dismal as downtown. “I sure hope that what you saw was just a dream.”
“Me too, but it was too real. I mean,” Irma took a cigarette from the pack and held it in her hand. “I was there. How and why, I don’t know.”
“Did the entity say anything?”
Irma looked ahead at the road. “It was in the girl’s head, and in my head. Its garbled voice was hard to understand, but it talked about what must be done to gain a reward.”
“What had to be done; the murder? And what reward?”
“It’s all fuzzy, but I think the girl was partly, more like completely, under its control. And I also remember seeing her writing in a journal.”
Pacie slowed the car. “This is Walnut.”
“Drive slow. I’m hoping I’ll know what house it is.”
Houses lined the road on both sides, most of which had darkened windows.
Irma looked left and right, then blurted out. “Stop.”
Pacie stopped in the road. “Which house?”
“That one there with the lights on,” Irma said, pointing to the left.
“You mean the one with the pointed arch over the front door?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“There’s a car in the driveway, so someone’s home.”
“A dead someone.”
“Can you tell if that thing or the girl is still inside?”
“No, but I got the feeling they’re gone.”
Pacie pulled along the side of the road. “We’re going to make complete fools out of ourselves.”
“I doubt it.”
“At least since there are lights on, we won’t be waking anyone up.”
“Your right, we won’t be waking anyone up.” Irma put the cigarette back in her pouch.
They got out of the vehicle and stood there. It was so silent, not even a dog was barking. It was as though a slumber had befallen the neighborhood.
Pacie put her satchel on crossbody and took out a small flashlight. Irma removed the video camera from the backpack on the floor.
“People are going to think we’re thieves?” Pacie said as Irma walked around the front of the car and stood next to her.
The sky above them was beginning to lighten as the sun neared the point of raising its rosy head above the horizon.
Pacie took her phone from her back pocket and zoomed in on one of the lighted windows. “The curtains are closed; I can’t see inside.”
“Let’s get closer,” Irma said, walking across the street.
They walked up the driveway. Pacie shined her light inside the car; so far everything looked normal.
“We’ll need to walk around the house,” Pacie whispered. “We might be able to see in a window on the backside.”
They walked through wet grass, past hip-height evergreen hedges, stopping when they saw a kitchen window with open curtains.
“I’m feeling like such a peeping Tom,” Pacie said. “We’ll be in such trouble if your so-called vision is wrong.”
“I don’t think it is,” Irma said, walking up to the window. She stood on tiptoes and peered inside.
“What do you see?”
Pacie took her turn looking in the window. There were no signs that a disturbance had occurred—like a murder. She listened. No sounds were coming from inside.
They stumbled over a garden hose as they walked through the shadows next to the house. When they rounded the corner, they saw a backdoor that opened onto a deck. The deck light was off, leaving distant streetlamps to light the backyard. A strong breeze caused shadows, cast by tree limbs, to dance like rubbery silhouettes of people, unable to move past the picket fence.
Pacie had no problem letting Irma take the lead. She followed her up the deck steps to the backdoor. When Irma yelped and held her hands over her mouth, Pacie knew she had seen something that scared her. She rushed up and looked in the backdoor window. The dimly lit hallway had an object lying on the floor next to a room that cast a flickering light out its door.
“That’s a body,” Pacie said, not believing what she was looking at.
Irma turned on her video camera, opened the backdoor, and walked inside.
“You didn’t put your gloves on,” Pacie said, donning a pair of disposable gloves she kept in her satchel.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot.” Irma took a pair from her fanny pack.
“We should call the police before we contaminate things.”
“Wait. I need to see,” Irma said, wiping the doorknob she had touched.
“See what?” Pacie said, rushing up to the bloody body. She knelt and felt for a pulse in the wrist, avoiding the cut neck. Irma walked into the office.
“She’s not breathing and there’s no pulse. She’s dead.” Pacie stood up. “I smell that same stench from the trail.” She watched Irma walk into the office. “What are you doing?”
Still recording, Irma walked around the desk so she could see what was playing on the computer. Her eyes widened as she lowered the camera and pointed toward the monitor. “I, I . . .”
Pacie walked next to Irma. Freaky images flashed onto the screen every few seconds; images that portrayed death in its various forms. The oddest thing was that they looked like real pictures of real events that someone had taken while watching a person perform the deviant act. A young boy next to a kiddie pool holding a kitten under the water. Feminine hands strangling a woman in bed. And most disturbing, an image of the woman in the hallway being stabbed. “What the hell sick kind of shit is this?”
“I saw this?” Irma looked away from the computer.
Pacie took a picture of the URL on the screen. “In your vision?”
Irma looked reluctantly at Pacie. “It was one of my sleepwalking events. I woke up to find myself looking at these images on my computer. I didn’t remember going to my desk, let alone going to this website.”
“Did you see these exact images?”
“Similar images with strange symbols and things.”
“I’m calling the police,” Pacie said.
“Not yet,” Irma said. “There’s still the journal I saw in the vision. It’s probably upstairs in the girl’s bedroom.”
The pair walked out of the office, stepping hesitantly over the body. They moved like stealthy cats as they walked past the kitchen and living room to the staircase. They nodded at each other, then climbed the steps to the second floor. One room had a light on.
Pacie grabbed Irma’s arm, stopping her from moving any farther, and mouthed to her that the killer could be in there. Then her jaw dropped when she thought of the dead woman downstairs. Pacie whispered, “I don’t remember seeing the knife that you said was used to kill the poor woman. So where is it?”
They both looked at the room. Pacie took a jackknife from her satchel and unfolded the blade. They crept, inch by inch, toward the room, listening for the slightest of sounds.
Irma reached the doorway first. She poked her camera slowly around the doorjamb and looked inside through the viewfinder. Then she walked through the door and into the room.
Pacie pulled the ill-fitting gloves tighter on her hand and continued gripping the blade handle.
“No one’s in here,” Irma said, walking to the bed where a book lay on the covers.
Pacie knelt and shined her light under the bed; board games and a teddy bear were all she saw. Then she stood and looked at the closed closet door.
“This is the journal,” Irma said, recording its pages as she flipped them one by one.
Pacie did not want to open the closet door. If someone was hiding in there, that’s where she wanted them to stay. “Hurry up.”
“Look at this,” Irma said, holding the journal so that Pacie could see the page with a hand-drawn figure of a tall, skinny man wearing a black suit. “She drew the kidnapper.”
Pacie agreed, it looked just like the witnesses’ descriptions, and this teen, whoever she was, gave it a name—Slenderman.
“Slenderman. I think there is an actual creature called Slenderman,” Irma said, closing the journal, leaving it as she had found it. “Now it’s time to call the police and get out of here.”
“I’ll call as soon as we get back in the car, just in case the cops get here before we’re out of the house.”
They walked down the staircase and to the hallway. The body lay as it had been. They stepped over it and walked back out the door they had come in.
The morning sky had brightened, yet the fog still hung over the neighborhood. They walked at a pace that would not draw attention as they made their way back to the car. They took off their gloves before getting inside and placed them in a plastic grocery bag that Pacie used as trash.
“I’m ready to call,” Pacie said. “We didn’t leave anything inside, did we?”
“No, everything should be just as we found it. Except for the doorknob that I wiped,” Irma said, taking the cigarette from her pouch. She cracked her window. “Do you mind?”
Pacie shook her head and called 9-1-1, giving only the information needed to send the police to the house to investigate the murder.
“Are we waiting here?” Irma asked.
“Yeah, I want to talk to Haley, if she’s one of the people that respond.”
Within minutes, they heard sirens approaching.
“I’m glad they know your car,” Irma said. “That way we don’t look like suspects lurking around the murder scene.”
“Right, they probably think we’re here because you heard the call on your scanner.”
“Which could so totally be true.”
Pacie looked down at her phone and searched the term slenderman while Irma looked at the recording on her camera’s viewfinder.
“According to this,” Pacie began, “Slenderman is a fictional supernatural character that originated as a creepypasta meme. He’s described as a thin, unnaturally tall humanoid with a featureless head and face, wearing a black suit.”
“Yeah, but,” Irma said, tapping cigarette ashes out the window. “I think there are some real murder cases based on Slenderman. I’ll have to do some research on it.”
Now surrounded by police cars and officers, they could not leave if they had wanted to.
“There’s Haley,” Pacie said, waving at her as she walked toward the house. “I don’t think she saw me.”
“Look at that guy,” Irma said, pointing toward a man who was standing on the sidewalk, several houses down.
“That guy way down there. He’s really tall and is wearing black.”
Pacie saw the man watching the commotion. “Are you thinking he could be the perp?”
“We should talk to him,” Irma said, opening the car door. “I’ll keep my camera facing away, or toward the ground so that he won’t know that I’m recording him.”
“I’m coming with you.”
They got out of the car and walked down the sidewalk toward the lanky young man.
The man seemed to ignore them as they approached, but he did not walk away.
Pacie cleared her throat as she and Irma stopped near him. “We don’t get much excitement around here. Do you know what’s going on back there?”
The twenty-something wore sunglasses even though the fog had not completely lifted. “Nope.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before,” Pacie said, fishing for information. “Are you new to the neighborhood?”
Pacie could tell he did not want to talk with them. “Well, have a good day.”
He nodded and walked down the sidewalk toward the crime scene.
Irma leaned toward Pacie and whispered, “He’s acting a little suspicious.”
They stood in place, watching him. Irma raised her camera and recorded him as he walked away. “He’s over six feet tall.”
“That’s not nine or ten feet, plus he’s not wearing a suit. And he has a face.” Pacie grinned.
“His clothes are black. The kids gave a poor description.”
“I don’t know,” Pacie said.
“Killers do hang around where they committed the crime.”
“I thought you were all convinced that the perp was a Bigfoot.”
“Don’t make fun of me,” Irma said, lowering the camera. “I’m just looking at all the angles.”
Pacie laughed. “I know, I’m just giving you a hard time.”
“He’s walking past the crime scene.”
“Let’s go back to the car.”
“I’ve only scanned the girl’s journal,” Irma said, walking next to Pacie, “but it appears she was obsessed with Slenderman and that demons were tormenting her.”
“I wonder if a satanic cult found its way to Black Water.”
“It’s a possibility.”
“Look, Haley’s coming back out of the house,” Pacie said. “Let’s see if she’ll talk with us.”
Detective Wanat saw them as she walked toward her car. “May I ask you ladies, how you knew about the murder? I have a hunch that it was you two that called it in.”
“I saw it in a dream,” Irma said, walking up to the detective.
“Really?” Det. Wanat said as she opened her car door.
“It was like a vision—so real. I called Pacie, and we went looking for the house I saw in the dream.”
“If I didn’t know you two, I’d be taking you downtown for questioning because you seem to know too much.”
“Glad you know us.” Pacie smiled.
“Did you both go inside the house?” Det. Wanat waited for their answer.
“Ah,” Pacie was not sure how to answer the question without lying.
“I saw the whole thing in my dream,” Irma said again. “But we might have looked in a window . . . or something.”
“I knew it.”
“Is there anything you can tell us?” Pacie asked.
“Not currently, other than it is a murder scene. Besides, I think you guys know as much as I do right now.”
“Is the body the only person in the home?” Pacie asked.
“Yes.” Det. Wanat said.
“Did you find the knife?” Irma asked.
“You two look guilty as hell,” Det. Wanat said.
“I saw it in my vision,” Irma said.
Detective Wanat shook her head. “Not yet.”
“I know who killed her?” Irma blurted out.
Detective Wanat’s eyes widened. “Who?”
“How do you know this?”
“My vision, of course.”
“Do you think the murder has anything to do with the kidnapping at Sugar Sand Park?” Pacie asked.
“I don’t have enough information yet,” Det. Wanat said. “It’s possible, but I’m not seeing a connection.”
“I see a connection,” Irma said. “The daughter’s journal—”
Detective Wanat interrupted, “The journal? How did you see the journal?”
Irma did not answer as she looked over at Pacie.
“Irma has a sleep study on Monday because of her nightmares,” Pacie said, deflecting an answer with a truth.
“You two know I love you both and I want to help you out because the community adores and trusts you,” Det. Wanat said as she looked down at their feet. “My gut tells me you both have been inside the house. I’ll help you out, just don’t disturb the crime scenes.”
Pacie looked down at the wet grass clippings stuck to their shoes and then back up at Det. Wanat, who was staring back at her.
Neither Pacie nor Irma admitted to going inside. Instead, they stood there as if they had not heard the comment.
“You both be careful,” Det. Wanat said. She reached inside the car and took out a box of disposable gloves. “If it is the same guy, he just might come for you two next.”