Monday, June 16, 2014


Genre: Horror

Daniel Skye

So you want to hear a ghost story? Well, every true ghost story begins with an irreversible tragedy, a senseless death or deaths that could’ve been prevented if the necessary precautions had been taken.
            This particular story takes place in the early nineties, against the backdrop of the fleeting Gulf War. Operation Desert Storm had commenced on January 17th, 1991.
On January 18th, 1991, three bodies were discovered in the quiet Long Island suburbs of New York. Danny Miller was found floating face down in his in-ground pool. Drowning was the official cause of death as ruled by the coroner. But Miller’s chest and back were riddled with various puncture wounds and lacerations caused by a serrated hunting knife.
His wife, Kristin, was found in the upstairs bedroom. Official cause of death was blood loss. The coroner counted 39 stab wounds along her neck, back, arms, and chest.
Their only child, Davey Miller, was still in bed when the killer found him…and stabbed him to death in his sleep.
            The Fairview Police Department never apprehended the person who committed this heinous crime. As the bank possessed the house because of the Millers’ mortgage, they seized the property and sold it at auction to the highest bidder.
            The highest bidder was a defense attorney named Calvin Kinnear.
            He moved in with his wife, Helen, the next month.
* * *
            By February 28th, 1991, the Gulf War had reached its anticlimactic conclusion. A peace conference was held and a treaty had been signed by both sides. And just as that document was being inked and dated, Calvin and Helen Kinnear were settling into their new home on 743 Hemlock Drive.
            “Did you see the in-ground pool?” Helen asked, sounding like a giddy little child getting ready to start bouncing up and down like a jumping bean. “I can’t wait for summer.”
            “We had a pool at the old house,” Calvin reminded her. “And you barely used it then. What’s so different about this one?”
            “That was an aboveground pool,” Helen said, rolling her eyes as if to say her husband was the one who needed reminding. “This is an in-ground pool. I can’t tell with the tarp covering it, but I bet it’s at least eight or nine feet deep. And I bet we can get a diving board installed, too.”
            “Great, I can practice my belly flops,” Calvin joked. “And let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is starting to sound like a lot of money. It costs big bucks to keep up with a big pool like that in the summertime.”
            “So what?” Helen shrugged. “It’s not like we don’t have the money for it.”
            Calvin considered it for a moment. And it was true. They did indeed had the money to keep up with the pool and install a diving board. They had enough money to build a second pool if the town granted them the permits. Shit, Calvin had enough greenbacks sitting in his bank account that he could’ve converted his whole backyard nightclub without blinking an eye.
            But in addition to being one of the wealthiest defense attorneys in New York, Calvin was always a frugal man, pinching pennies wherever pennies could be pinched. And at that precise moment, the last things on his mind were summer or the pool.
            He was haunted by two things: The name Vito Corelli, and the history of his new home.
            Calvin was well aware of the macabre events that had transpired. Helen was the only one not clued in, and keeping this a secret from her was his top priority. But he had been off his game for days from lack of sleep, partially due to the nightmares that had assaulted him every time he drifted off to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he’d see flashes of crime scene photos. Photos of victims with white sheets draped over their bodies; the crimson red blood soaking right through the sheets.
            The victims had been placed on their knees and shot execution style, with a silenced 9MM Luger pressed to the back of their heads. Vito Corelli’s tumultuous relationship with the victims made him fall under suspicion instantly.
            But Calvin knew the evidence was all circumstantial. They were missing the three big factors that can make or break any case.
            Witnesses, they had none.
            Fingerprints, hair samples, blood samples, fiber, DNA; they had none.
            The silenced 9MM Luger; never recovered.
            They didn’t have the murder weapon. In fact, they didn’t have any solid evidence to link Corelli to the scene of the crime. All they had against him was hearsay and conjecture. But that didn’t change the fact that Corelli was guilty as sin.
            He sat in that courtroom every day with a smug grin smeared across his otherwise cold, emotionless face. His trial lasted five days and the deliberation process took less than an hour. The judge and the jury both found Corelli not guilty due to lack of evidence and he wriggled free from the hook yet again.
            He’ll never forget the day Corelli came up to him in the lobby after the trial like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, and threw his huge arm around Calvin, giving him a big sweaty bear hug. “I owe you big time,” Corelli had told him. “Anything you ever need, anything at all, you come to me. No questions asked. I’ll take care of it for you.”
            Calvin never forgot that day, and he certainly never forgot Corelli’s final remarks.
* * *
            Helen was curled up in the fetal position on her side of the bed, snoring peacefully with a sleep mask pulled over her eyes while Calvin lay restless beside her.
            Every time he tried to close his eyes, he’d get those flashes again. Flashes of crimson red blood and two bodies splayed under white sheets.
            The clock was a newer, digital model that clicked every time the numbers changed.
            2:03 AM. Click.
            2:04 AM. Click.
            2:05 AM. Click.
            It was enough to drive an insomniac insane. Not as if an insomniac needs any help in that department. Calvin knew the lack of sleep would inevitably turn his brain into mush and his body into jelly.
            At 2:06, when the clock clicked again, Calvin sat up and rolled off the bed gently so as not to disturb Helen. He walked to the door when he caught something out of the corner of his eye. He was being watched.
            A shadowy figure loomed in the corner of the bedroom. He couldn’t make out a face. All he could see were two green eyes that seemed to glow like cats eyes in the moonlight. They weren’t the eyes of a happy camper. They were the eyes of a man or woman who had suffered undeniable torture. The eyes of pain, the eyes of affliction.
            Calvin leapt back onto the bed, nearly waking Helen as he crawled underneath the covers and drew them over his head.
            He closed his eyes and didn’t see flashes of red. Instead, he saw flashes of a mysterious figure that was standing a few feet from the bed. Calvin’s mind was too fried from sleep deprivation to register the difference between apparition and hallucination.
            Though, writing it off as a hallucination would’ve made things a hell of a lot easier.
            When he pulled the sheet down from his head and opened his eyes, the apparition had faded into the night. It was just him, Helen, and the warm bathing glow of moonlight that shined through their bedroom window.
            And that’s when the voices started…
            Cries for help. Agonizing screams. Harsh whispers of the deceased. All the voices were begging for Calvin’s aid in alleviating their suffering.
            He tucked a pillow behind his head and folded the ends over his ears, holding them in place with both hands. But even that wasn’t enough to dull the voices.
            Because the voices weren’t in the room. The voices were in his head.
            At least that’s what Calvin chose to believe at first.
* * *
            Calvin had called out of work sick so he could visit the doctor at two o’clock. He lied to Helen, telling her he stayed home because he felt a slight touch of the flu.
            “I hope you’re not feeling too sick to greet the neighbors with me,” Helen had said.
            “No I think I can manage,” he said, forcing a smile. He wasn’t her husband at this moment. He was an actor struggling to constantly retain his character. He couldn’t let her catch on and know that something was amiss.
            Most of the neighbors proved to be pleasant, the one exception being Walter Greco, the cranky man who lived next-door. They presented him with a bunt cake and he squeezed out a thanks in such way that made Calvin realize he was speaking with a man who was not accustomed to saying thank you.
            They saw his wife, Emma, wheeling through the living room, but she never came to the door and Walter failed to give the proper introductions. He just accepted the cake, said thanks, welcome to the neighborhood, and then he shut the door in their face.
            “Remind me not to invite them over for pasta night,” Helen quipped, nudging Calvin in the ribs with her elbow in a teasing fashion.
* * *
The doctor’s office was newly renovated. The smell of fresh paint and newly installed pinewood was overpowering, almost nauseating. Ribbed pinewood wall panels lined the bottom half of the waiting room. The panels had been stained to give the wood a slick, glossy appearance.
He sat in the waiting room patiently, flipping through outdated celebrity gossip magazines until they called his name.
The nurse weighed him, took his blood pressure, and checked his heart rate. She assured him his blood pressure and heart rate was copasetic. And she remarked he was the perfect weight for his average height.
Then the nurse excused herself and left Calvin to wait for the doctor.
Five minutes later, Doctor Crenshaw walked through the door and introduced himself to Calvin. Crenshaw was on a first name basis with all his patients, but seeing as how Calvin was new in Fairview, he remained formal for this appointment.
“So, Mr. Kinnear, what brings you here today?”
“I don’t really know how to explain it without sounding, I’ll just say that I saw and heard things last night that I couldn’t have possibly seen or heard.”
“Psychosomatic auditory hallucinations,” Crenshaw said and chortled. “You should consider yourself lucky. Most people have to pay for such a thing. But in all seriousness, I must ask a few questions before I can give a diagnosis. Remember what I ask you and what you tell me is strictly confidential. I’m not obligated to share your information with anyone.”
“I understand,” Calvin nodded.
“Mr. Kinnear, do you use any drugs, including alcohol or tobacco?”
“I drink on occasion and I smoke one cigar for every victory in the courtroom as sort of a reward, but that’s it. I don’t use drugs.”
“You’re a defense attorney, right?”
“Would you say you’re under a lot of stress?”
“You could say that,” Calvin said, thinking of Corelli and those crime scene photos that had been submitted into evidence.
“And the voices, the visions, has this ever happened to you before?”
“No, never,” Calvin said emphatically.
            “What about sleeping? Are you getting enough rest?”
            “I toss and turn most nights, drift in and out of sleep.”
            “And what about food? Are you eating on a regular basis?”
            “I usually have breakfast and dinner, I skip lunch unless I’m meeting with a client or having lunch with a co-worker.”
            “Mr. Kinnear, it’s my personal diagnosis that you’re simply under a lot of stress. When we’re stressed out or distracted, when we’re not eating right or getting enough sleep, the mind doesn’t function properly. It can play tricks on you. And in reality, that’s probably what you experienced last night. Nothing more than mind hocus-pocus. But on the off chance I’m wrong, I’d like to schedule a series of tests, starting with a CT scan, just to make sure it’s nothing serious.”
            “Whatever you think is best,” Calvin said.
“And if this happens again, I want you to contact my office immediately. In the meantime, I’m going to write you a prescription for thirty doses of Ambien. It’s a sleep aid. It should help you get a good night’s rest.”
* * *
            But the Ambien failed to give Calvin a good night’s rest. He tossed and turned and kept cranking his neck to the side to peek at the corner of the room, expecting the shadowy figure to suddenly return the minute he let his guard down.
            Helen’s sleep mask was draped over her eyes and she was snoring away on her back as Calvin listened to the digital clock click every minute.
            SAVE ME, a voice cried out somewhere in the darkness of the room.
            “You’re not real,” Calvin said, not even aware he was speaking out loud. “You’re just in my head. Now leave me alone.”
            Help me, he’s got a knife, a second voice cried out from the dark.
            “LEAVE ME ALONE!” Calvin shouted and Helen snapped awake. She peeled the sleeping mask from her face and stared angrily at Calvin.
            “What the heck is your problem?” she asked, shaking her head.
            “Nothing, I just had a bad dream,” he lied. He was becoming an expert at lying straight to his wife’s face. “I’m sorry I woke you. Go back to sleep. I’m gonna go downstairs for some fresh air.”
            A set of clear glass sliding doors led out to the backyard, where Calvin sat by the tarp covered pool and tried to catch his breath.
            He looked up, and beyond the pool, beside a barren oak tree that had shed all its leaves, the shadowy figure loomed.
            Those dead green eyes gleamed in the pale moonlight. “What do you want?” Calvin shouted. “Name it and I’ll give it to you. You want us to move out?”
            The figure shook its head no.
            “You want me to demolish this place?”
            The figure shook its head no.
            “You just want me to help you?”
            The figure shook its head yes.
            “Help you with what?”
            The figure pointed one bony finger, devoid of all its flesh, towards the house next-door.
            Kill him, a voice commanded. Make him suffer the same fate I suffered.
            “Are you…Danny Miller?”
            The figure shook its head yes once more.
* * *
            Before he went through with it, he had to be sure. He had to know more about Walter Greco and the Miller family. He needed to understand the connection between the two, establish a motive for Greco’s heinous actions.
            When Helen had pulled Calvin’s arm to get him to go around greeting all their new neighbors with bunt cake, he had been introduced to Ms. Cobb.
            Myra Cobb had been divorced for twelve years, but she still preferred her husband’s name. Myra was thirty years his senior. Nevertheless, she was full of energy and spunk. A loquacious woman, Myra could drone on for hours if you got her started on the right topic. And like most neighbors, she did her fair share of gossiping.
            And that’s exactly what Calvin was hoping for when he paid Ms. Cobb a second visit, sans Helen on this occasion. She had offered cookies and coffee, but he declined both.
            “Water would be fine,” Calvin said.
            She fetched him a clean glass from the cupboard and poured him a glass from the tap. She had an ice bowl in the freezer that included a pair of ice tongs she used to drop three cubes into his glass.
            He sipped his water and she drank her coffee while they said in the living room. The sofa Calvin was seated on was plaid, and though it had been sealed in plastic, he could tell it had been scotch guarded from the texture. Ms. Cobb sat in old padded rocking chair. The chair had been there so long the floor was riddled with scuff marks from the wooden legs.
            She asked how they liked Fairview, and Calvin lied and said it was a pleasant place to live. Truth be told, he couldn’t wait to move back to the city.
            “What’s the deal with Walter Greco?” Calvin asked, trying to steer the conversation in Greco’s direction.
            “Whatever do you mean?” Myra asked, and right away Calvin could tell she was holding something back.
            “He seems like a bit of a grump. I hope I’m not out of line by saying that.”
            “Not at all,” Myra said, knowing she had called Greco worse in the past. “Walter is…well, he tends to keep to himself after the incident that occurred at your place. I’m sure by now you must be aware of what happened in your home.”
            “I’m aware,” Calvin said and then thought silently, more aware than you know. “But what does that have to do with Mr. Greco?”
            “Well if you met Walter, I suppose you meet Emma, too.”
            “The lady in the wheelchair? We weren’t properly introduced. He slammed the door in our faces before we had a chance to say hello to her.”
            “Well, there’s quite a story behind Emma and that wheelchair. I wouldn’t know where to start."
            “The beginning is always the best place.”
            “Danny Miller and Walter Greco never got along. But no one in the neighborhood knew why. The truth is that Greco found out Danny was sticking it to his wife while he was away on business trips. Emma confessed after he found a prophylactic wrapper under their bed. Supposedly, Walter was so overwhelmed with rage he pushed Emma down the staircase. That’s how she ended up in the chair.”
            “Do you think Walter Greco could’ve killed the Miller family?”
            “If a man could push his own wife down a flight of stairs, I suppose he’s capable of anything else he puts his sick mind to. The police certainly questioned him after the murder, but he had an alibi, and there was no evidence to link him to their house, your house, the night of the murder. Ever since then, he’s kept to himself.”
            “I really should be going,” Calvin got up to suddenly excuse himself. “Helen has a touch of the flu.” He lied again. He was becoming a real pro at this.
* * *
            March 5th was right around the corner. Every year, Helen flew from New York to San Francisco to spend her cousin’s birthday with her. All Calvin had to do was wait a few days. In the meantime, he had cashed in on Corelli’s promise and acquired his services. He needed Vito to obtain something a guy like Calvin could never get his hands on. And Vito was more than happy to oblige so long as Calvin didn’t tell him what he intended to use it for.
* * *
            March 5th, 1991. As Helen was in the air, Calvin set his plan into motion. He waited for nightfall and watched out a second floor window behind the maroon drapes Helen had him install. When the Greco’s bedroom light went out, that was his cue.
            He jimmied the backdoor open with a crowbar, which led him to the kitchen. There, he borrowed a chair from the kitchen table, careful not to drag it. He positioned the chair under the smoke detector and climbed on top, sparking a lighter and waving it back and forth in front of the detector until it started emitting a horrendously loud beep.
            He knew Emma would pose no threat with her chair. She wouldn’t be the one coming down the stairs to see what the problem was. He dropped from the chair and listened to the descending footsteps from the staircase.
            When Walter Greco entered the kitchen, the chair was back in place at the Formica table and the alarm was still beeping. His eyes darted around the kitchen, trying to find the cause of this disturbance, and the last thing he saw was the backdoor ajar.
            The needle pierced his neck as Calvin snuck up behind and jammed down on the plunger of the syringe. Hit with about fifty milligrams of liquid horse tranquillizer, Walter Greco’s world went black and he spilled to the floor, drifting off into a world of darkness.
* * *
            When Walter Greco came to, he tried to sit up, but his movements were restricted. That was when he realized he had been bound hand and foot with plastic zip-ties. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the in-ground pool.
            Calvin had removed the tarp the moment Helen had left for the airport. The pool was only half full, but Calvin figured it would do.
            The horse tranquillizer was only part one of a part two request. Calvin had also requested an unregistered firearm, preferably a 9MM Luger with a silencer.
            “What is this?” Greco asked as Calvin approached with the Luger in hand.
            “This is justice,” Calvin said. “I want you to feel exactly what Danny Miller felt. I want to see you submerged in that icy water.”
            “You’re crazy!” Walter screamed.
            “We’ll let the courts decide that. I am a defense attorney, after all. I’m a wiz when it comes to having people found mentally unfit to stand trial.”
            “You expect me to go in there willingly?”
            “Not at all,” Calvin said, giving him a hard kick and letting his body roll over the edge of the pool. His body splashed in the water, but even with his wrists and ankles bound, he was still able to keep his head above water due to the level.
            “Now let’s see how long you can hold your breath under there.”
            “Are you fucking kidding me?”
            “Do I look like I’m kidding?” he said, brandished the silenced 9MM Luger.
            Walter gasped, not at the sight of the gun, but at the sight of the shadowy figure that stood beside Calvin. It’s cold, dead green eyes were fixed on Greco.
            “God forgive me,” Walter said and took his final breath, lowering his head into the water.
            Calvin waited until the water stopping bubbling at the surface. When Greco was no longer breathing, he fished his body from the water and glanced over his shoulder. To his astonishment, the shadowy figure had vanished without a trace.
            He had given the Miller family peace. And now, like Greco, like Corelli, he was going to have to live with this on his conscious for the rest of his life.
            But Calvin didn’t think he’d have any trouble sleeping tonight. In fact, he was going to sleep like a baby.

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