I had an uncle, kind of a scumbag, but he always said to deny deny deny! It usually pertained to cheating on his wives or the petty criminal shit he got himself into all the time and the fact my mother had to help him every time. So that’s what I did; deny.
“Dana you have no idea what you are talking about!”
“You’re telling me Wade, sweet artsy Wade, murdered two people in cold blood and then killed himself?” Her arms crossed and her lips pursed.
I knew the truth, well a third of the truth. “No, he did it with fucking boiling blood! Dana, he attacked you on a goddamn talk show in front of millions!”
“OK! Many thousands? He always had depression issues, lost his parents, lost his wife and kids, his sister, and fucking John shows up and fucks his wife. Yeah I’m surprised it came to what happened but, shit, something was bound to happen. Guy snapped. And it’s always the nice quiet ones! I’m just mad at myself that I drank so much, maybe I don’t know, I could have changed the mood or whatever.”
Her face loosened, she was buying it. She took a deep breath. “At least I can buy a house now.”
I took a deep breath, too. “You really thought I...”
Her arms went up and then dropped. “I don’t know. You pulled that Facebook crap.”
“Making up a story and killing three people are pretty fucking...like more than worlds apart.”
She sat. “Speaking of Facebook, the chatter is off the charts.”
“What do you think about the offer?”
She was pensive a good minute. “I think we can get more, even start a bidding war.”
“So you really didn’t kill...?”
She sighed. “To bad.”
I sat. “What?”
“I was thinking, Dr. Barlow himself. If something happened to him...”
She nodded. “Might pad the offers.”
“He was an old man then, even if he’s still alive...how long does he have left? Couple years?”
Dana pulled a slip of paper from her purse. “I have is address, or the address he put on his information sheet from the casting. I googled it. Middle of Bumfuck Pennsylvania but...”
“If you say no, we don’t do it.”
I stared at the ceiling.
“You’re not saying no.”
And I didn’t want to, but I really couldn’t say yes. “When?”
A half an hour later we were in her car driving. It was a new BMW coupe, paid for by the proceeds of the film I assumed. I studied the posh leather and wood interior and even tried out the massaging seat. “I didn’t know this about you?” I said, full of judgment.
“That you were, or are now, so material.”
She glanced over. “A girl can’t treat herself if she can? Materialism is the belief that material things are more important than spiritual or moral values. It doesn’t mean one can’t have things.”
“Do we really want to have a discussion about spiritual or moral values here? Neither of us is an expert.”
“There’s materialism and there’s life planning.”
“Whatever!” I looked at Dana’s GPS. Harley’s place, or at least the address he originally gave, wasn’t far but it was in the middle of nowhere, some numbered road in the middle of state game lands. I know I had zero right to judge Dana on what she wanted to do, but what I did was spur of the moment, un-planned, improvised. She has been thinking about this for who knows how long. Plotting. Scheming. At least since Wade’s funeral. “It’s been a long time, Dana. How do we even know he still lives there?”
“I checked the real estate records and the property hasn’t changed hands in over thirty years, of course the owner is someone named James Rabino.”
“James Rabino? Whose that?”
“Either Harley rents, he uses a stage name, or he never even lived there.”
“Or he killed Rabino and mummified his body and lives in his place?” I said with a wry smirk.
“Could be,” Dana replied, dead serious. I was glad I left my cell at home again. I was nervous, really nervous. It was that elevator ride with John’s body times ten. I looked over and Dana seemed calm and had a look that was near whimsical.
We turned off the main road, 173 North, into a narrow one bordered by dense woods on either side and the canopy of trees nearly blot out the sky above us. I looked down at Dana’s phone, at the dot that represented her car as it slowly approached the red icon that was Harley’s supposed residence. We were minutes away. “So, what exactly are we going to do?”
Dana took a deep breath. “Well, I was thinking we just talk to him. Ostensibly we are there to check up on him as a lot of mysterious things are happening to people who worked on The Night of Dr. Barlow. We might get lucky, maybe he has cancer or something.”
“Lucky!?” I was disgusted.
Dana slammed on the brakes. “Fuck you! You murdered three people!”
“I did not!” She laughed. “I didn’t kill John.”
“Oh, so you didn’t kill your worst enemy, just your best friend!”
I looked away. “You don’t know that.”
“I can’t prove it but I know it!”
“I didn’t...Christ things just happened!”
“I’ll take care of things, just don’t stop me or help him. OK? We are each other’s alibi.”
I pointed at the GPS. “What about that?”
“We came to check up on him, I told you. And found...whatever we find.” She smiled and drove onward.
The screenwriter in me was going through the scenario. Let’s say cops buy the story that we came to check on him, so the autopsy would show he died within minutes of us arriving. How do we explain that? Or if we do it and leave and hope nobody checks Dana’s GPS, how will the outside world know he is dead and benefit us? Dana didn’t think it through. What I did just happened and I had to improvise, I was lucky in the circumstances; it was nighttime, perfect alibi on my part, perfect motive for Wade. Those guys were living in civilization and eventually someone would know something is up. Harley may have been out in the woods for years without seeing a soul. But I thought I’d be OK regardless. Dana’s idea, I’m an unwitting passenger.
We turned down a gravel road that was even more shadowed by trees. We were driving straight into the forest for what seemed like an hour, but it was only ten minutes or so. Dana drove slowly over the gravel so the rocks wouldn’t spring up and ding the paint of her new car. We finally approached a house at the end of the road, an unkept dark wood A-frame house. It seemed like a resort home that was left to rot; dead leaves covered the porch that had no shortage of exposed nail heads and broken boards. Cobwebs and old hornets nests decorated window frames and eaves. The windows were dark and dirty but intact. Shingles were rotting and falling off the side of the home. The screen on the storm door was ripped and the inner door looked faded and scratched but strong.
Dana parked and unlocked the car. We got out and just took in the scene. Birds chirped, an owl hooted somewhere, and a stream behind the home bubbled. “If the house was a bit nicer and I didn’t know who lived here I’d say this was a pretty spot,” Dana offered as she shoved her keys and phone into her coat pockets.
We made our way to the porch and I knocked. “Harley!”
“Harley! It’s Dana! From the movie? Are you here? Is Mister Rabino here?”
She looked over at me and shrugged. Only the birds and the water replied. I opened the storm door, careful to use the hem of my sleeve, and she gripped the wooden door and turned the knob with her bare hand. The door popped open. Inside was dim and dusty. It matched the outside perfectly.
“Harley? We’re just checking on you. Are you OK?” Dana was good, damn good.
We crept through the dingy living room towards the open kitchen. Dust was everywhere, a thick crust of it. As I walked towards the sink to look out the back window to the back yard I noticed a small area devoid of dust, and slightly damp. I started opening cabinets and found soup cans, bean cans, peanut butter, and a loaf of bread. The next cabinet over was one plate, one bowl, and one glass.
I heard a metallic scrape and looked over. Dana stood at the stove and held a single pan. “Minimalist minimalism,” she said and put the pan back on the stove.
A deep groan shook us. We froze and looked into each other’s fearful eyes. Then Dana started laughing. The groan repeated. “What the fuck?” she whispered.
Again, the groan.
“Basement!” I said. We started opening doors to find access to the basement. I opened a closet and mice scurried out of them. “Ahhh!”
Dana laughed until one came at her. She shrieked and lept out of the way. The mice found dark corners and cracks in the floorboards into which they fled. We finally found the correct door in the living room. Pitch darkness lived down the stairs, and we couldn’t find a light switch. Dana turned on the flashlight of her phone and looked at me. “Turn yours on.”
“I forgot it.” She rolled her eyes and descended. I followed the beam of Dana’s light.
The stairs creaked more than stairs should, mildew stink flowed up my nose, dust and cobwebs drifted into my eyes. Dana screamed and the light jumped. “Dana?”
“I’m OK. Just fell. Floor is damp.”
“Smells weird,” I said as I reached the basement floor. Mildew mixed with something. As Dana moved the light around I saw large puddles.
“Leakage from the stream?”
“Doesn’t smell like...I don’t know.” It wasn’t a bad smell, just odd.
Dana splashed the light around. All I saw was a stone foundation all around, a small furnace, water heater... other than the damp floor and smell it was a clean basement. Then I saw what looked like a balloon up by a joist. “Dana! Move the light up to the ceiling?"
She did so and we saw dozens of balloons, water balloons, hanging from the beams and joists. The film Goodfellas played in my head, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci committing arson with tons of balloons filled with gas or some other flammable liquid. “Dana we have to get out! Now!”
I rushed up the stairs. “What?” She shouted from the basement.
“Come one!” I shouted down. I heard her feet pounding up the stairs in terror, even though she didn’t know what was wrong. That smell, the puddles, I didn’t know what it was but it wasn’t water and I was sure it wasn’t gasoline.
“What’ is it?” she breathed heavily.
“I’m not sure. Something’s wrong.”
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Dana gasped.
She entered the bathroom and closed the door as my heart pounded. I just wanted to leave. I looked at the home, old wood paneling, exposed wooden timbers, all nice and dry. A tinderbox. “Dana!” I shouted.
She was taking a very long time. Finally I heard a flush and she emerged. Just then the basement door swung shut and an old man stood there holding a machete. Harley. He swung at Dana’s arm and she screamed. Her arm fell out of her shirt followed by a stream of blood.
“God!” I looked at the old man. “Harley!”
“Come to finish me off, make you fuckin money! Scum! Fuck!”
Dana leaned against the wall and slid down. She...we came here to murder, murder for money. She deserved what was happening. So did I.
Harley went into the basement stairs and pulled the door closed. I knew what that meant. I ran over to the front door but it was locked.
“Your money won’t do shit for you now!” Harley yelled from below. I ran to the kitchen and tried the back door. Locked. I heard a whooshing sound and a different smell wafted from the basement. Immolation.
I ran over to Dana and, by then on her back, eyes rolled back into her head, blood spreading around her. I don’t know if she was dead, but I knew I would be soon. Smoke wafted through the seams of the basement doors and through the cracks in the floorboards, floorboards that got hot very quickly. “Shit!”
I ran to the front window, gripped the bottom of the sash and tore two fingernails out when my arms moved up at full speed and strength but the sash did not move at all. The windows were nailed shit. I grabbed a chair and whipped it at the front window, the glass broke but the chair bounced back into the room. I picked it up again and cleared out the shards from the frame. The basement door opened again just as I started to climb through. Harley stood there, a look of extreme anger. I stepped out of the window and fell onto the front porch. I got up and stumbled to Dana’s car and got behind the wheel. Dana had the key. I looked up and flames started to erupt from the house, smoke pouring from some of the windows.
“Dana!” I shrieked.
I got out of the car and ran back up to the porch, “Dana!”
A wall of heat stopped me a good five feet from the actual fire. A tiny brave part of me contemplated running through, but logic told me if she didn’t already bleed to death fire and smoke were consuming her, and even if rescuing her was possible by then it would be worse than letting her die. Besides I was sure nobody would survive that wall of fire. Hoping beyond the possible that maybe she came to and found another way out I ran around back. Smoke flowed from all the windows now, flames erupted from the open bulkhead.
Across the stream I saw movement from the corner of my eye, it was a women on a cell phone. Ten minutes later fire trucks, police, and EMS flooded the driveway. The firefighters sprayed the house down and blackened wood and gray ash that breathed smoke was all that was left of the home. The medics checked me out, but I was fine.
“Here!” a firemen called out. A white sheet was produced and spread over something in the remains of the home.
At the police station the Detectives questioned me, the obvious ones about how I knew James Rabino, why we were there et c. I gave them the entire story of the film, the supposed cursed reputation, how we wanted to check on the man we knew as Harley, how he attacked us, and the balloons of something.
“Kerosene,” one of the Detectives said matter of fact. “Based on how you described it, not a strong odor like gasoline, slick like motor oil. A lot of people use kerosene in arson. Question is why does this guy want to torch his own house, especially if he was in it.”
“Patrol had a lot of calls to Rabino’s over the years. Guy was always...off.”
“So, you found...you found them both?”
The Detectives looked at each other. “Well,” the first began.” If he was in the basement and lit it up, all that hot weight falling on him, he might be completely ash. We'd never find him. As for the other body...”
“Sorry, yeah we’re sure it was your friend,” the other took over. “I mean we’ll DNA test the remains, but the skeleton was pretty much in tact, it had one arm, and another arm a few feet away. So...” he shrugged.
“OK, Sir” the first re-engaged. “We’re done here. We’ll have someone ride you home. So sorry for all of this.”
“Hey, my kids watched your movie, they loved it. Not my thing but...”
The hour ride back was mostly silent, the officer driving was younger than me, mid-twenties I’d say. Funny, I was roughly that age when I wrote The Night Of Doctor Barlow, now I was months out from my fortieth birthday.
“I gotta tell you man!” the young cop began. “Your movie is sick! Loved it! Fuckin loved it! Sorry! I just can’t believe Dr. Barlow is really dead, I mean the actor. This is so wild. Shit!” He looked at me sheepishly. “I’m sorry Your friend, all your friends! Dude...”
“It’s OK. Really. It’s all fucked up. I can barely make sense of it.”
“Yeah, we had a lot of action lately. Between this, and last week some girl went missing.”
“Really? Hadn’t heard.”
He shrugged. “Meth-head trailer trash, probably sellin it on a corner in Pittsburgh or Cleveland.”
The story of Harley's demise, Dr. Barlow's demise, was all over local news and pretty soon the Facebook groups picked it up and there was even an article in Entertainment Weekly: Small Budget, Big Cost. The next quarter’s statement was very large, and now there was nobody to share it with. It was all mine. I felt sick to my stomach, but I still cashed the damn checks.
After a few weeks things cooled down, the police never bothered me. I sat at home and watched every movie on every streaming service there was. I had royalties, still got Covid unemployment, I was flush...and sad. I tried to write; of course the only idea that refused to leave my mind was of a filmmaker who murdered his cast in order to raise the profile of his film. I even wrote a treatment but I wasn’t sure how to end it. Does he get away with it? Will he go insane? Will the cops find out? In a way I was afraid to end it. No, not in a way, I was fucking terrified! My mind reeled at it all still. Drinking increased, a lot. Mostly vodka, good stuff though, over ice. That shouldn’t be too bad, I told myself.
I threw the treatment away.
Bedtime got later and later, breakfast was close to noon most days. I didn’t have anything to do, and I didn’t need anything to do regarding money. I looked at my dark eyes and bad skin in the mirror; I achieved my dreams.
I puked in the sink.
Then the letter came, slipped under my door. Not so much a letter just a rambling message scribbled on a paper. The envelope had no stamp, nor address nor any writing. The message: choke on it you fuck, you’ll die alone!
One day I went to make some dinner and there was nothing in the fridge. “Shit!” I’d have to go to the store, I’d have to leave my apartment.
I put on pants, grabbed my mask, keys, wallet, and phone, and headed out. I got the basics; pasta and sauce, chicken breasts, frozen burgers and bund, cereal, milk, coffee, chips...I passed right by produce. After I bought those things I headed into the state liquor store attached to the supermarket and re-upped my vodka.
On the way out my phone dinged with a text message. I put everything in the car and then checked my phone. “What the fuck?” I said pretty loudly It was a text from Dana, or her phone anyway.: You’ll die alone, fuck!
I opened the car door when the phone dinged again, another text: That’s all your gonna buy? My heart leapt! I spun around and started looking all over the parking lot. It was past twilight and the streetlights came on. There weren’t too many cars in the lot, a few people making their way back to them or towards the store entrance. There was a pickup truck at the far end of the lot parked with the front facing the store, the driver could survey the entire lot and the entrance.
Another message: You Fuck!
I replied: Pickup truck?
I waited for a response. It never came. I tossed my bags int he car then started walking toward the pickup truck. About halfway there it started. “Mother fucker!” I raised my middle finger and continued toward the pickup.
About three car lengths away the headlights snapped on and the pickup peeled out towards me.
I sidestepped behind the concrete base of a streetlight fixture. The pickup screeched around it toward me, I simply moved to the other side. I circled the base as the pickup circled around to get me. A few people stopped what they were doing and watched. Two more revolutions and the pickup screeched out of the lot.
“Jesus!” I said and grabbed my chest, heart pounding through the bone.
I texted again: Got your plate, dickhead!
I didn’t get the plate but I thought maybe that would scare whoever had Dana’s phone that apparently did not burn in the fire, or was transferred to a new phone. Either way something very odd was happening.
About a week after the supermarket incident I turned forty. I celebrated, and by celebrated I mean I ate a microwave dinner and drank alone in my apartment. All my friends were dead or drifted apart, and my parents were in Florida. They sent a card and left a phone message. I was so lonely. The sales agent that handled the distribution contracts for The Night of Dr. Barlow called me. It wasn’t to wish me a happy birthday, I’m sure he had no idea. It was for a much better reason, a major entertainment company wanted to buy all the rights to the film at a bargain price for them, but life changing for me; a price with six zeroes.
“So that’s what their offer is. It’s a great offer but I think we can get more. We can always get a little more, they always offer less than their absolute number.”
“Uhm, yeah OK. Do what you can but don’t push too hard.”
“Not a problem. Be in touch soon.”
We hung up and I screamed with joy, the only time in my life I did that. The only time I’m sure I’ll ever do that. I drank until I didn’t remember stopping.
I woke up the next day with a dry mouth and a pounding headache. My phone had several missed calls and texts messages. The texts were from my parents, a final birthday wish and a good night. The next was from “Dana”; Fuck you fuck , Die fuck. Fuck your birthday.
The voicemails were from “Dana,” a graveled voice singing: Happy birthday dead fuck, happy birthday dead fuck, happy birthday dead fuck-ker...happy fuck day you fuck. My agent: Great news, man. Call me when you can! “Dana”again: Fuck! Fuck die fuck! Are you hot! How’s your arm? Mine’s fine! The Police: Hey there, this is Pennsylvania State Crime lab. We had a couple questions bout your incident. If you could call me when you can. Thanks!
I drank water and took three ibuprofen then called my agent.
“Hey man. So. Sit down. Sitting?”
“Yeah. Lying down actually.”
“Good. After my commission, three million two hundred and forty four thousand three hundred and nine dollars and eighty six cents. I’ll round up to three hundred ten. Well?”
“Check? Wire funds?”
I thought long and hard. It was the end of a journey, or the beginning. I could live modestly forever maybe even make a low budget film or two. So anti-climactic though, phone calls and mail. “You guys have a New York office?”
“I’ll come get the check there; big apple, nice clothes, fancy dinner, even if by myself. I need that!”
“As you wish, man! I'd treat but I'm L.A. so...call the NYC office when you are in town and they’ll print it.”
I breathed deeply and wept quietly.
The phone rang; “Hello?”
It was the State Crime Lab again. “Sorry to disturb you, Sir. We just needed to follow up on a few quick details.”
“Basically...the remains we recovered were of a missing girl. Maybe you saw the news, she’d been missing before your encounter with Mr. Rabino.”
“Wait! I thought Dana...I though what you found...there was one arm.”
“That’s true, Sir. Apparently the victim’s arm was severed at some point before the fire started.”
“No, sir. The...this was the missing girl I’m referring to. D.N.A>. analysis identified her. She was apparently kidnapped, we assume by Mr. Rabino, her arm severed, and well we don’t know if she died in the fire or prior. But those were her bones. And we haven’t recovered anything else in terms of human remains."
“What does that mean?”
“Probably that they were completely consumed in the blaze. Not unheard of. But my question is can you remember if Ms. Miles wore any kind of jewelry that day? We found some stereotypical female accessories and we want to separate those between Ms. Miles, the kidnapping victim, and anyone else.”
The kidnapped girl had her arm chopped off, just like Dana. This guy have an arm fetish? “No, I really can’t remember. I’m sorry.”
The man sighed. “I understand. Also...the Detectives had a question I thought I’d pass it on for them. Ms. Miles. Do you have any information on her family? Contact numbers?”
“No. I never met any of them. You can’t fid them?”
“Well, strictly speaking, we can’t find her. There’s no record of a Dana Miles existing, except for a woman in Montana who is sixty three and another lady in Florida who is roughly her age but looks to be at least part Asian. Nobody with that name fits her description.”
“No. What?” What the hell was he talking about. “Her car! We took her car there. Registration or whatever?”
There was a long pause. “Yeah, that’s...you’re sure?”
“Of course. She picked me up and we drove up there.”
“See, that car was a rental. Mr. Rabino rented it.” I had nothing. “Thanks for your time.” The man hung up.
The armless skeleton was not Dana. Dana was not Dana. “What the fuck?” I reeled from that information. Not only did Rabino, the guy I knew as Harley Reynolds, apparently kidnapped some girl, chop her arm off and... “What a minute?” Maybe Rabino meant to torch his place and kill the girl and/or destroy her body in the inferno and we were flies in the ointment. As for the arms...coincidence of a lifetime? “Jesus!”
I shook it all away. I didn't know and didn't want to know!
I booked a train ticket to New York for the next day, business class, baby! I drank the entire train ride and just took in Pennsylvania. I pushed away all thoughts of the past, of death, of sadness. The road ahead was clear and paved with gold, almost literally. I was a rich man, sure I didn’t have the money yet but it was legally mine. Three million dollars.
Moynihan Train Hall, the Big Apple! I had been a few times in college but not since. The vibe of the city was different, cleaner, and corporate, all around disappointing. I checked in at the Four Seasons, five hundred plus a night but I’d be able to afford it...the next day.
Room service, booze, and a view to die for. I called the office and told them I'd be in the next day. Then I passed out drunk out watching C.N.N.
The next morning room service breakfast, a shower, stylish khakis, a dark button down blazer, and new shoes followed by a lovely stroll north to the company’s offices just off Union Square. I checked in at security and strolled to the elevators. Up to the sky and into a posh lobby.
I had to keep myself from strutting up to reception. I told the lovely young lady who I was. “Oh yes. I have something for you.” She rummaged around in some drawers and pulled out an envelope with my last name scribbled. “Here you are.”
I looked at her a moment. I was waiting for the executives to pour from the back office in applause, clap me on the back, shake my hand, gaze at me like a God.
“Anything else, Sir?”
“No. Thanks.” I walked back to the elevator feeling stupid. When the doors closed I tore open the envelope and felt better; a check for over three million dollars.
On the street I took a deep breath of city air, cool with a touch of bus exhaust. I started walking south not sure what I’d do, whatever it was the price wouldn’t matter, or wouldn’t when the check cleared.
I took a right onto West 12th Street and just wandered. The traffic was lighter and it was almost quiet. Then I heard cars honking very close, then some yelling. I paid no mind, it was New York City after all. Then an engine gunned hard. I looked behind me and the pickup truck came straight at me. I couldn’t even realize what was happening when it mounted the curb and rammed into my body.
I woke up in the hospital. I couldn’t feel anything. My hands tingled, pins and needles. My fingers moved a bit and I tried to shake my hands out, but my arms weighed a thousand pounds. “Jesus!” I cried and finally got my forearms up enough to shake my hands. Pins and needles stabbed harder as sensation returned.
My fingers finally pumped open and closed and the stabbing faded, pain erupted near the pit of my elbow. There was an IV tube in my arm. My hands dropped to my stomach and hit something hard. I felt my belly and it was solid. I pulled the sheets aside and saw I was in a cast from my navel down. “The pickup truck!” I remembered it, the same one from the supermarket back home, the one coming at me on the sidewalk. The same one. “What the hell! What the hell!” I started crying.
A nurse came in and handed me some water, she had to lift it to my face like a baby and I drank until I started to breath the liquid and cough. “What happened?” I asked. “How long...”
“There’s a lot to take in, sweetie, so let’s take is slow.” She was older, sixty-ish, hence the sweetie. She had kind eyes and a great face, she could have been an actress. “You were hit by a car.”
“Pickup truck!” I snapped.
“Yes! Good. Your memory is good. The impact was pretty bad, you were slammed against the side of a building and pinned by the truck. You shattered your pelvis and a few vertebrate were broken. Truck took off.”
“Oh God!” I was terrified. Was I paralyzed?
“You had several surgeries to repair your pelvis and vertebra. The doctor will explain the details. I’ll be honest you probably won't ever be one hundred percent but all in all you were lucky. You will walk and have a normal rest of your life. The next few months will be tough but get through and then you’re OK.”
“Two weeks. We kept you in a coma for the pain and the surgeries. Your friend kept vigil the first few days. I haven’t seen her since, though. Not on my shift, anyway.”
Oh God! “Dana?”
“Yes! That was is. Very pretty! You get some rest.”
Rest. Jesus Christ! What was happening? Dana? Or someone pretending to be Dana, over me in my hospital room, while I was in a coma.
“Shit!” I looked around the room in desperation; my clothes, my wallet. My envelope! I grabbed the call button and pressed, strength finally coming back to my arms.
“You OK, hun?" She asked as she entered.
Desperately, “My stuff? My clothes?”
She looked around. “Your girlfriend must have taken them. She’ll probably come back with clean clothes. Those were covered in dirt and blood.”
“She’s not my girlfriend!”
The Nurse was at a loss for words. “Sister?”
“No! I don’t know! I have no idea! I’m visiting from Pennsylvania alone. Nobody knows I’m here! You just let anyone in? Where's my phone?”
The Nurse just looked at me. “Need something to calm down?”
“Can I borrow your phone?” She was skeptical. “What, I‘m gonna run off with it?” and started crying again.
She handed it over. “I’m gonna get you something to sleep, OK?” She left and I pulled up a web browser and logged into my banking. My balance was exactly one thousand dollars. “What the hell?” I whimpered. Without the check I still had a bit over two hundred thousand. Gone! I looked at the account history; there was a deposit of over three million dollars six days prior, in Pennsylvania. And three days after that was a wire transfer of everything but the leftover grand.
I was quietly weeping when the Nurse returned. She put a syringe into the IV. I started typing numbers into her phone and set it down. “Can you call my parents?”
“Sure, honey.” She smiled and pushed the syringe and I disappeared.
The phone woke me, I assume the next day. But it was dim out, sunrise or sunset I couldn’t tell. I looked over and it was the room’s phone. Assuming it was my Mom or Dad picked it up. “Hello?” I croaked.
“Hey!” a Woman’s voice answered.
“You forget already? Of course you left me to die in that house, I guess I am forgettable, huh?”
“Yeah! Sort of.”
“What did you do?”
“The long game, Director. Of course you gave me the idea, I just did it better.”
“What?” I couldn't think.
“Wade? John? Wade’s wife?”
“What? What? Wade killed John! I told you!”
“Fucking Rabino! He’ll kill you!”
She laughed. “He and his truck...well never mind.”
“What did you do?” I honestly couldn’t understand what was happening.
“Well, I’m dying to tell someone and doubt your room phone is tapped, even so...nobody knows who the fuck I am. I barely know. Anywho... Dana Miles is or was my professional name when I wanted to be an actress and of course that never really happened but I just liked the name. Always hated my real name. No I won’t tell you. So...the cursed film thing. So weird, and we made so much money. And what you did to Wade...”
“It just happened! I wasn’t...I didn’t mean to...”
“But you did! Didn’t you. Anyway. Harley and I, Rabino...long story short, I wanted more and so did he. He felt as the eponymous character he deserved it and was frustrated his acting career wasn’t moving...”
“The guy’s a fucking retarded hermit!"
“You see! You talk like that and you wonder why you’re in the state you’re in. You got off easy no matter how you look at it! We meant to run you down. Permanently.”
“Where’s my money?”
“Oh, I have it...very far away in a country with no treaties with the U.S. See I took your check, your wallet, your phone, and clothes. Went to the hotel and this was a pain, literally tried almost every door until I found your room. Anyway, found your house keys, headed back to Pa, deposited your check and then, pretending to be you, as I had all your info; social security, phone for the one time banking pass code. I was just hoping I didn’t need your email. You always log off you paranoid man you! By the way I'm calling from your phone.”
“I’ll find it. Find you!”
She laughed. “It was wired and wired again, and again, and taken out as cash and re-deposited. Like Liam Neeson said, good luck.”
“But I saw you...what the fuck?”
“Oh! Remember when I went to the bathroom? Odd, right? I already had a blood bag on and just put on this fake arm stashed in the bathroom. Rabino comes out swinging and I let it drop and start pumping the fake blood with my real arm in my coat. Fall down dead and you left. Rabino and I hit the basement and out the back.”
“I’ll gladly share it with you.”
“You murdered two people. Like I said, getting off easy.”
“I murdered two people?”
A pause. “Touche’,” she replied. “Still better than you.”
She hung up. I put the phone back in the cradle and looked out the window. It was darker out. Sunset. Dana, or whoever my friend for over ten years was, was right. I was getting off easy. But I would still try to find her.
I buzzed the nurse. “Hey, hun? How you feeling? Talked to your mom, they are flying up in the morning. "
I nodded. “Any chance of getting paper and pen?"
A few minutes later she returned with a few sheets of printer paper and a pen. I wrote at the top of sheet one, block letters: THE CURSED FILM.