I’ve become something else during these past four weeks of insane nightmares and hauntings. I’ve changed. Undergone a profound metamorphosis, induced by fear and uncertainty.
I’ve become the Harbinger of Death.
SATURDAY, December 6, 2014. 7:41 PM
I’ve been in the suffocating police station interview room for over two hours. I’m being grilled by Detectives McPherson and Lopez. The questions are repetitive and endless.
Why have you been posting information about this case? Have you ever suffered from delusions before? What was your relationship with the family next door? Why would JoAnn yell out your name? Do you know where Middy is? What aren’t you telling us?
Why do you look so afraid?
Det. McPherson, a slightly overweight woman with grey streaks in her auburn hair, has a schizophrenic style. Her persona alternates between a sympathetic mother doling out heartfelt advice and a ball-breaking jail house guard ordering me to squat and cough. Det. Lopez, a short man who hides his boyish face with a goatee, doesn’t say much – he looks more confused than I feel.
It’s clear both detectives think I’m crazy, even though I’m answering every question as calmly as I can. I know my story, my explanations, don’t make sense. I know I look like shit. My head is spinning and I have to take a break every few minutes so I can catch my breath. I’ve ingested about five glasses of water without going to the bathroom because the sweat just keeps pouring out of me. My shirt stinks. My hair stinks. I rub my face out of frustration and accidentally scratch the stitched wound on my forehead. It starts to bleed.
Det. McPherson hands me a tissue to soak up the blood and asks me again.
Why do you look so afraid?
I shake my head as an answer. She probably thinks that I’m afraid of her, her questions, the prospect of being charged with obstruction of justice or some other trumped up allegation. Or maybe she’s trying to elicit further confirmation that I deserve to be placed on a psychiatric hold, that I pose a danger to myself and others.
But I won’t answer this question. I can’t tell her that I’m afraid of the other person in the room besides me and the two detectives. When the detectives entered the room, they were followed by someone else. Someone who walked over and stood next to me and hasn’t moved an inch during the entire interrogation period.
Where is Middy?
This is the fifth time the detectives have asked me this question, each time in a slightly different way. I’ve given them the same answer. “I don’t know.”
I look over to my left where Middy is standing next to me. Her hair is matted with dried blood. Her face is partially caved in and her left eye juts out like it wants to break free and fall onto the floor. Pinkish foam drools from the hole in the side of her cheek that gives a clear view of her fractured jawbone. Middy whispers to me the same message, the only message she’s given me since she entered the room and stood next to me.
Tell them I’m right here.
I turn back to Det. McPherson and deliver my answer. “I don’t know.”
Middy finally says something different to me, relaying her words in a whining voice that sounds like any other bitterly disappointed seven-year-old kid.
You’re no fun.
I’d do anything to rid myself of this dead girl’s ghost. Because I’m starting to accept her presence as a permanent fixture in my life.
TUESDAY, December 9, 2014. 10:14 AM
I’m looking out my living room window, watching the police swarm all over the house next door. A forensics excavation team is carefully digging up the backyard, tagging pieces of evidence that should’ve been collected weeks ago. Thankfully, the police haven’t knocked on my door to drag me someplace else. They seem content to leave me alone. At least for now. Stoic men and women in business suits are milling around the police – I think they’re F.B.I. Parked on the adjacent street are the news vans. Field reporters are sneaking closer to the police line, vying for the best background shots of my neighbor’s house, looking to emphasize the latest shocking development in the “Murder, Middy and Mystery” case.
I step away from the window and flop down on my couch. I check my phone – still no message from Tina. I fear the worst about her. I turn on the TV, but quickly turn it back off because the only thing on is the news. Everyone is still talking about the fiasco with the case and Det. McPherson’s suicide. A commentator is trying to decipher the note she left behind. She had written a simple message: I’m so sorry. Is an apology really worth analyzing?
Suicide: is that the way I should go out? If I owned a gun, would I be strong enough to pull the trigger?
I hear the sound of a door shutting. I get off the couch and look down my hallway. My bedroom door is closed. I never close it completely, even when I’m sleeping. Someone is inside my room. I have a fairly good idea who it is. I head to my bedroom, walking like soldier surrendering to a trigger-happy enemy, a war-weary man resigned to his fate.
SUNDAY, December 7, 2014. 2:39 PM
The daze I’ve been in all day gets interrupted by a phone call. It’s Det. McPherson. When she finally let me out of the interview room last night, she told me that she’d be in touch. I didn’t expect she’d contact me the very next day. I answer her call, hoping that she wasn’t going to invite me to another round of questioning.
“Hey. I need your help. As you know, Middy’s mother JoAnn isn’t talking to anyone. Won’t talk to anyone. She’s changed her mind. She wants to talk to you. Only to you.”
“I thought you might know.”
“I have no idea.”
“Same story, huh? Well, I’ll pick you up at your house tomorrow. Eight AM. We’ll meet with JoAnn together.”
“I’m really in no position to do something like this.”
“You have to talk to her. We have to find out what happened to Middy.”
“I can’t do this.”
“Do you want to spend more time in the interview room? Look, I believe you – I think you got mixed up in this only because you happened to be living in the wrong place at the wrong time. But JoAnn is the only fucking lead I’ve got. That asshole Terry isn’t saying shit and he’s on death watch at the prison hospital. I need your help.”
I can’t think of a rebuttal. I can’t think much of anything lately. “Fine.”
“Good. See you at eight.”
As I hang up the phone, I hear a giggle coming from my bedroom. A desperate shout wheezes out of my lungs. “Middy! Leave me alone!”
I dart out of my house to grab some fast food to eat. Det. McPherson had told me to stay put in my house as a condition of my “person of interest” status, but I need a few moments of solace. I can’t move my car because of all the police so I decide to walk to McDonald’s.
SATURDAY, December 6, 2014. 10:22 PM
I stumble back inside my house, drained and dejected. The detectives let me go, but only because I begged them to release me. I never thought begging would actually work. I guess Det. McPherson had a heart after all. Or found me too pathetic to deal with and didn’t want the hassle of filling out additional paperwork.
I take a quick shower and get ready for bed. I check my trazodone bottle. I only have five pills left. I’m not sure I can renew my prescription. Tina might be able to get me some more medicine, but I haven’t heard from her since Friday. She said she’d have answers for me after her trip with Middy out to Burbank. Now Middy is back, haunting me. But where is Tina? I start to laugh like a madman. Am I now trying to apply logic to Tina’s whereabouts based on Middy? If only Tina would contact me. I need to know what happened to her. I need to hear from the woman I’m still in love with. Where is she?
I look at the label on my medicine. The maximum dose I’m supposed to take per day is two tablets. Fuck it. I decide to take three.
TUESDAY, December 9, 2014. 10:17 AM
I open the door to my bedroom. The window facing my backyard is open and the screen is missing. What the hell? This isn’t what I expected to find. Middy’s ghost didn’t need to break into my house to haunt me. Was it the police? Had they wandered over to my yard, widening the scope of their forensic operation, and started poking around my house without a warrant?
Before I can get closer to the window to take a peek outside, I hear someone calling my name. The voice is weak, muffled, and it appears to be coming from my half-closed closet. I hesitate to look inside. The closet was the place where the police had supposedly found Terry, Gerry’s brother, hiding and waiting to kill me. If I call the police, who would they find this time? JoAnn? I try to laugh, but it hurts to smile. I decide to take my chances. I slide open my closet door.
MONDAY, December 8, 2014. 11:47 PM
I’m getting ready for bed. I’m taking my last pill. My doctor wouldn’t renew my prescription and I’ve given up on hearing from Tina. At least I tell myself that. I still check my phone one more time before climbing into bed. No messages from Tina. I know she’s out there somewhere. I know there are things she needs to tell me.
Earlier in the evening, I saw Tina had made a post on Reddit, describing her “outing” to Burbank with her “friend” Middy. She calls her “Ginny” in the story; I’m not sure why she felt the need to change her name. It’s almost like Tina’s trying to protect Middy. It’s an insane story and it makes Middy’s ghost sound like a monster without any need of protection. If anyone needs protection it’s me. But her crazy story does help explain some of the conversation Det. McPherson and I had in the morning before we met with JoAnn and all hell starting breaking loose.
I’m worried about Tina. Can someone sound completely rational and crazy at the same time? Isn’t that the definition of psychosis? Tina can’t be worse off than me, can she?
Remorse is eating me alive. Whatever has happened to Tina is absolutely my fault.
MONDAY, December 8, 2014. 8.33 AM
Det. McPherson leads me down a wing of the hospital crawling with more police than medical staff. She hasn’t said much to me on the way down here. She looks upset. Or more precisely, unsettled. Her eyes are shifty, darting back and forth, surveying the surroundings as if she’s searching for someone. A few fellow officers nod at McPherson and say, “Good Morning.” She doesn’t acknowledge any of them.
As we near a series of private patient rooms, I see a room guarded by a burly uniformed officer. It must be JoAnn’s room, the room where she’s been housed ever since she was picked up by the police at the national forest campground. When we are twenty feet away from the guard, Det. McPherson grabs my shoulder and pulls me into another private room. It’s dark and empty. She squeezes my shoulder and speaks to me in a hushed, but strained voice.
“Before going in – be straight with me.”
“OK.” McPherson’s grip on my shoulder tightens.
“Have you seen the little girl? Have you seen Middy?”
I shake my head.
“Bullshit! Tell me what you know!”
I shake my head again.
McPherson sighs and releases her grip on my shoulder. She continues. “Shit. Maybe I don’t blame you for staying silent. No one knows how crazy you are until you open up your mouth.”
I tried to defend myself, but it didn’t sound convincing even to myself. “I’m not crazy.”
Det. McPherson nodded. “All the extra police here are making me nervous. We had to transfer Terry out of the county jail hospital – he’s also in one of these private rooms. We don’t think he’s going to make it. Chunks of skin from his face were torn off and his neck was broken.”
“Shit. How did that happen?”
“The story is that it was self-inflicted.”
Det. McPherson lets out something in between a snort and a cough. “Don’t you like stories? I know I do! God, I’ve lost my mind.”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to–”
“Tell me if any of this sounds familiar. You’ll tell me, right?” Det. McPherson’s eyes were watery. Was she about to tear up? I nodded and she continued. “I went to see Terry last night at the hospital in the county jail. Before his face was ripped apart and his neck shattered. He was in isolation and looked horrible. The doctor was ignoring him even though his body had wasted away to the point where he looked like a seventy year old man. I wanted to try one more time, to get something out of him, before we met JoAnn. I asked to see him alone because I was going to beat something out of him if I could. When I walked up to him, he smiled. I was ready to slam my elbow into his stomach, but he threw me for a loop. He asked me if I could kill him. As polite and friendly as he could be, he asked me to kill him. He said that he couldn’t take Middy’s torment any longer. I thought he was about to confess to her murder. Instead he told me that Middy visits him every night. To taunt and torture him. He said that all he ever wanted for Middy was for her to be famous. A movie star. He said it wasn’t his fault that his brother fucked up the ceremony. I stopped listening. He wasn’t making any sense. I told him to shut the hell up, but he shouted out with whatever remaining energy he had left. He screamed at me, ‘I should have eaten her!’”
“I turned away from him to leave. I thought his mind was going the same route as his body. But I saw her. I’m a normal detective doing her God damn job and I see her! Middy! Standing near the exit. I go into shock. Her face is bleeding so I tried to reach out to her. And fuck! My arms pass right through her!”
I want to reassure McPherson, but I don’t know how. So I ask a stupid question. “You saw Middy’s ghost?”
“I started running towards the exit, scared out of my damn mind. I took another glance back at Terry. Like I wanted confirmation that I was crazy. I saw Middy perched on top of his chest. Her hands were around his neck. Terry was gasping for air and his body was writhing. Middy looked at me and said, “Good day.” I ran out of there to find help. Before they brought him here, they scraped my fingernails and his. And guess what? They found nothing! I think my brain is shitting itself.”
Det. McPherson wipes her eyes. I ask her if she’s OK. She responds by grabbing my arm and growling at me. “You better get some answers out of JoAnn. Otherwise I’m taking you down with me.”
McPherson marches back into the hallway. More scared of her than her story about Middy, I follow the detective like an obedient K-9.
TUESDAY, December 9, 2014. 10:19 AM
I stare into my closet. At first I see nothing except my hanging shirts, jackets and slacks. Then I spot her hair. A tangled mess of brown hair in the corner of my closet, behind my suitcase, near the floor. Her hair moves and her exhausted, frightened face appears, uttering one word.
I stumble to the floor and throw my suitcase out of the way. I throw my arms around her and start crying. I’m overjoyed to have Tina next to me.
MONDAY, December 8, 2014. 8:55 AM
It’s been over twenty minutes and all JoAnn says to me is: “Where’s Middy? Have you seen, Middy?”
Det. McPherson is the only other person in the room with me and JoAnn. She can’t stand still and keeps pacing around the room. She’s obviously losing her patience, but I think she’s also keeping an eye out. For Middy’s ghost.
Det. McPherson elbows me and I return to the hollowed out face lying in the hospital bed. Tubes are stuck into JoAnn’s nose and monitors are stuck to her chest. Some of her hair has fallen out and a few loose strands cover her pillow. JoAnn’s skeletal body is covered by a single sheet that looks like a funeral shroud.
I bend down closer to JoAnn. Her body emits a sour odor like B.O. mixed with vinegar. Her eyes are glazed and they struggle to focus on me. I try being more direct with her.
“JoAnn, is Middy dead? Did you kill her?”
JoAnn closes her eyes. Her chapped lips part and she hisses out a reply. “I didn’t kill her.”
Det. McPherson shouts out. “What happened to her?”
JoAnn remains silent. I decide to keep pushing her. “JoAnn, what happened to Middy?”
JoAnn opens her eyes. “I didn’t know she was dead until I parked the car. After I wrote in my diary and handed it to her. She wanted to write something too. That’s when she started bleeding. From her face, blood was dripping all over. I asked her what was wrong.”
Det. McPherson walks away from us. “What the fuck is going on?”
JoAnn groans. It appears she’s having difficulty breathing. I place a hand on her bony arm. “Do you need to rest?”
JoAnn shakes her head and continues. “Middy said that her daddy hit her in the head when they were in the garage together. He was angry because he had messed something up. He smashed my poor baby in the face.”
Det. McPherson pulls out her notepad. “So Gerry killed Middy? In the garage? Where’s her body?”
I can’t tell if JoAnn is crying or struggling to breathe. “Middy said her body was buried in the backyard. That’s when I lost it. I ran out of the car, screaming. I ran and I ran and I ran.”
Det. McPherson speaks up again. “What about your husband? Did you kill him? Because of what he did to Middy?”
JoAnn’s head rolls back and forth. “No! No! That wasn’t my husband! That was his brother. The bastard is still alive! I saw him in the newspaper. You arrested him!”
Det. McPherson stumbles backward, stunned. “Oh, my God.” The detective grabs her phone and races out of the room. It takes a moment before it clicks inside my head. Terry isn’t Terry. He’s Gerry.
JoAnn’s withered hand sneaks out from under the sheet and grabs my own. Her skin is cold, but I don’t recoil. “I saw that my husband has aged badly. It’s God’s punishment. And now I’m being punished. For marrying that man.”
“Gerry tried to kill me. He hid in my room with a knife. The police thought it was Terry.”
“Gerry never liked you. Middy told me she helped save your life. She got you and your friend away from him.”
“Middy told you that?”
A tear rolls away from JoAnn’s right eye. “She’s such a helpful little girl. Once I calmed down and understood what happened. I never would’ve found that campsite if it wasn’t for her.”
“What else did Middy say?”
“You’ve been talking to her too, haven’t you?”
I nodded. “She doesn’t say much to me. She’s actually scaring the shit out of me.”
“No. No. Middy only wants to help you. She said you won’t listen to her anymore. That’s why I needed to speak to you. You need help.”
“Help with what?”
A smile forms on JoAnn’s face. “With the man who wakes everyone up.”
“You mean the voice?”
“Yes. I heard him too. Thought it was Gerry – how stupid of me.”
“Whose voice is it? The message: IS THIS HEAVEN? What does it mean?”
JoAnn’s smile grows larger. “It’s a question. You have to answer it.”
“How? What do I say?”
JoAnn doesn’t answer me. She continues to smile and stare at me.
“JoAnn! Tell me!”
I realize that JoAnn’s grip on my hand has faded. An alarm goes off on the machine next to her bed.
I walk back outside once the medical staff arrives. I linger outside the door next to the police guard who looks unsure as to what is going on. I start to walk away once I hear someone in JoAnn’s room utter, “We need to call it.” When I get close to the elevator, Det. McPherson rushes past me without any acknowledgement. She’s screaming into her phone.
“How did we fuck up the fingerprint match? It doesn’t matter now – Terry, I mean Gerry just died! Shit! This is so fucked! Everything is so fucked!”
MONDAY, December 8, 2014. 1:41 PM
I’m driving past Tina’s condo again. Her car isn’t around and I don’t bother going up to her door to knock. She hasn’t answered any of my calls or messages. Before leaving the hospital (in a cab, since Det. McPherson took off without giving me a ride back home) I ran into my doctor. I asked him about Tina and he said she hadn’t checked in with anyone. A lot of her colleagues are worried. I also asked him if I could get some more medicine. He declined. He said I didn’t look well and that in-house treatment might be a better option. Maybe he was right. Maybe I should’ve stayed at the hospital.
I decide to drive back home. I’m tired of circling Tina’s place. I have no idea where she is. I’m going to reread some of my earlier posts on Reddit. Maybe I missed something about Tina. Maybe I missed something about the Man Who Wakes Everyone Up and how to end this nightmare.
TUESDAY, December 9, 2014. 10:35 AM
I manage to get Tina over to my couch. She’s frail, but stubborn as ever. I try to comfort her and ask her if she wants something to eat. She declines. I don’t blame her. I’m not the least bit hungry either.
“Do you feel like talking?”
Tina shrugs her shoulders.
“Why did you climb through my window?”
“I didn’t. Some nosy cop pushed it open. I think I scared him away, but he scared me too. That’s why I hid in your closet. You haven’t seen Middy, have you?”
“No, but I saw your post from yesterday. What’s going on? Are you sure you’re OK?”
“I think we should wait for Middy.”
“She’s a ghost, isn’t she? Can’t she just materialize in front of us?”
“Don’t be so disrespectful.”
It upsets me to hear Tina talk about Middy as if we needed to treat her with proper etiquette! And her calm demeanor is worse. She talks like the things that were happening to us were normal, everyday occurrences. I can only come to one conclusion: Tina’s extremely mentally disturbed. More than I am. More than anyone. But I need her! I need to be able to rely on her! “Can you please stop talking about Middy as if she were still alive? Can you at least do that for me?”
“Whatever. You had no issues talking to Middy when she first told you about the voice.”
“What has she told you about the voice? Wait…Middy was alive when she first told me about the man who wakes–”
“Don’t say it. Don’t mention him.”
“Middy was dead for several days before she ever told you about him.”
I stood up from the couch. “What? Talk to me! Tell me everything you know!”
“No. We’ll wait for Middy. She wants to be the one to tell you. That’s so like her.”
“Don’t talk like she’s your best friend! Don’t you see how fucked up this is?”
Tina sneers at me. “Not any more fucked up than you talking to me.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“That’s my line.” Tina lets out a giggle. It sounds like an imitation of Middy.
A pocket of frigid air envelops me and my heart. It struggles to beat. I’m afraid of the thought that just popped into my head. “Tina, what happened to you?”
Tina stands up from the couch and faces me. The skin on her face turns as grey as a cloud infested sky. I can smell the distinct aroma of decayed flesh. “Can’t you tell? I’ve been dead for over twenty-four hours.”
Death has followed me once again.