What followed was a trip between Washington, Joyce, and myself to a storage unit her father kept in town. Opening it up, I found a time capsule to everything Joyce’s mother was. Favorite pieces of furniture, art work, clothing, and boxes of records. “My mom was a nurse…” she said.
Her mother was insanely organized. I asked where her mother was a nurse at. She pointed out that the only place she could have been a nurse in town was at the local hospital. They were actually driving her to work the night she died. Simmons had been the first responder at the accident. Her father was driving and that’s how he ended up in the wheel chair. The car caught fire and Joyce’s mother insisted that the policeman get her husband and daughter clear of danger. She died in the fire.
I offered my condolences, and pointed out that if it was easier for her, I could go through the records myself. Not that I didn’t welcome the help, but I also had plenty of experiences with dusty old storage units looking for buried information. Joyce’s answer was to pull the top off a box and start digging. Washington, to his credit, took his cue from his girlfriend and started digging as well.
I find it interesting how, in many cases, men need women to aim them, give their actions meaning, direction, and purpose. I thought about Mia, but shook the thought away. It was, after all, time to get to work.
An hour of digging later and it was Washington that came to the connection. The local hospital was not the only place a nurse could ply her trade. Sometime during Joyce’s elementary years her mother worked for a private medical agency that supplied staff to prisons and jails. Specifically, for the stretch of about a year, Joyce’s mom worked as the head nurse of the Annex.
“That’s it. That has to be the connection…” I said. Joyce found old journals her mom had kept. “Look here, this one coincides with her time at the Annex.”
There were two that met with the year she was at the annex. Joyce glanced through one, I looked through the other looking for anything that read as a paranormal sighting.
Joyce found it and started reading out loud. “June 3rd. Night shift. Another signal in B-Pod…A signal?” Joyce asked Washington.
“Officer calling for assistance.” He advised. Joyce nodded and moved on “Another signal in B-Pod. I was expecting one of the farmers to be on his back at the bottom of the stairs. It would have been the third now and I was getting tired of ‘accidents’ that kept them in the program but out of the work field. I met an officer at the door. He was there keeping peace on the first floor, and advised me to go upstairs. I could smell the blood in the air and I found the sergeant and the unit officer. They were standing outside a cell; the sergeant had his hand on his taser. What was going on? I asked and the sergeant nodded at the officer. He said the inmate just started screaming and slamming his head on the door until he split his scalp open. He tried tugging at the loose flesh on his skull and pulling it open. They took him to the floor and cuffed him to keep him from doing anything else. They wanted me to assess him. I told them to get a hold of the hospital and get an ambulance on their way. I could patch up the wound no problem but there may be a concussion. At the absolute very least he needed a mental evaluation. Whatever was going on, he did not need to be in a jail.
“They stayed by my side while I worked on him. The inmate was laughing to himself. Finally when I was done with the patch job, he looked up at me and his eyes seemed really off. I’ve never seen anything like it, like his eyes had black clouds in them. He smiled. At least, I think it was a smile. His face was pulling back hard against his mouth, like his body was trying to smile wider than his face would actually allow. He told me I was pretty. That he’d like to see me again. He told me that I didn’t get the joke. Nobody got the joke. That people who tried to help people just didn’t get the joke.
“The inmate started convulsing. By that time the medics were there. They loaded him onto a stretcher and an armed officer went with them to the hospital.
“Later that night the officer returned to the Annex. I asked him what happened with the inmate. He said that the judge PR bonded him and they released him to the hospital. He said that almost as soon as they got out of the driveway in the ambulance that he stopped seizing and looked around, confused, wondering how he got there. I asked about his eyes, and the officer said they seemed fine.”
I looked at Joyce. That seemed like a pretty solid connection between her mom and whatever this thing was. One thing bothered me: that it possessed someone. Maybe it was trying to possess the kid that night Simmons stopped it. That didn’t set well with me at all.
Joyce set down the book and opened another one, speeding through pages. “Here…she talks about nightmares about a demonic inmate. And here again.” She set that book down and went to another one “Here too, she had these nightmares for a long time.”
“Why…?” Washington asked, sitting on a table. “Why does it do all this? Torment you, Joyce, Taylor, Simmons, even Elda…why?”
“I think it’s trying to draw us all together,” I said, pulling out my phone. I dialed Simmons. “Hey, where are you? Okay, stay there, we're coming to you.” I hung up. A theory was forming in my head but I didn’t know if I had enough information, or even if it was formed right.
“What are you thinking?” Washington asked.
“Rogers…if it is in fact Rogers, wants us together. It’s drawing us in. Everything, the Elda’s letters, the disturbances, the phone calls, the visions, they’ve all been about drawing us in.
“What phone calls?” Washington asked. I looked up and could see Mia standing behind him, bloody arms outstretched, black eyes looking into my soul. I could feel my jaw lock up; the muscles in my face tighten. She was there, I knew it.
“Who’s Mia?” Joyce asked. I blinked, Mia was gone. “What do you mean?” I asked, bringing myself back to reality. “You just whispered the name ‘Mia’. Who’s Mia?”
“And what phone calls are you talking about?”
I paced, rubbing my face. “So, full disclosure, I am a recovering alcoholic.”
“I know that. I did a full background check on you,” Washington pointed out.
“Great, but why I am a recovering alcoholic is a little…hard to explain. When I was in college I was dating a girl, Mia who had troubles. She was having problems at home. I was a more than a little self-absorbed, trying to get my writing career off the ground. She…she killed herself because she didn’t think anyone cared. A few years later I was dating a new girl, and cheating on her. I was living with her and I was having late night phone calls with Mia. My girlfriend thought I was cheating on her and listened in on the calls one night but couldn’t hear anyone on the end of the line. She confronted me about it thinking I had finally cracked up. She told me to see a shrink or something. I opted to get plastered on a regular basis. Now…that stopped the phantom phone calls. It also stopped my relationship cold. I had a wreck one night, piss drunk, when Mia appeared right in front of my car. I almost hit a mother and child, but swerved at the last minute and wrapped my car around a telephone pole. That’s when I went to jail.”
“Ok, that’s a lot to take in,” Joyce said. I agreed but I was starting to understand that Rogers was using things we feel guilty about. “You feel guilty about your mom, so you see your mom. I feel guilty about Mia so I see Mia. Simmons sees his own stuff…I don’t know what, but it’s something he feels guilty about.”
“Elda?” Joyce asked.
“She can see all the faces of this thing so it wants her attention. It hasn’t picked on Washington yet, not directly because he hasn’t brought himself to it yet…shit. Get in the car!” I said running to the driver’s seat.
“What’s wrong?” Joyce asked getting in the passenger seat. “When I called Simmons he said he was at the old court house…with Elda.
We pulled up to the gate at the old court house and I punched in the code quickly. We ran across the court yard of dead grass. The rotting old buildings were no less spooky in the daylight; the only difference was that now you could see their rotting corpses better. “It’s daylight…” Joyce said. “Shouldn’t they be safer from ghosts in the daylight?”
“No…” I said getting to the side door first. “Sometimes meeting a ghost in the daylight is worse because at night your defenses are up. You subconsciously expect to see a ghost in the dark, but in the light everything should be fine. Washington, help me with this door!” I yelled. He came in and we strained against rusted hinges until the door groaned open. “The only rule is that the paranormal is something that shouldn’t happen but does happen. That’s it. Anything past that is make-up-as-you-go and run for your life.”
I ran up the stairwell until we reached the level with the catwalk to the Annex. Stopping at the broken double doors I looked out at the rotted walkway. “This could be dicey…” Washington said. “Better take it slow.”
The sounds of shuffling came from behind us. It was the burnt corpse ghosts, emerging from thick shadows. The lead one had a scratched up skull and half a face. Its good eye, a burning ember of hate, glared at me. How sweet, it remembered me.
A gunshot rang out and I jumped. Washington stood there, smoking semi-automatic in hand. They weren’t even fazed as they continued to push their way through boxes. We started backing up across the catwalk. The things closed in faster than I would have thought, one reaching out and grabbing Washington by the arm. He screamed as smoke rolled up from his arm and a hand print was burning into his flesh. He wrestled away from it even as it tried to pull him towards itself. The others reached out for the rest of us, smoldering skeletal digits swiping and catching air. “Run!” I yelled as we took off across the catwalk, I in the lead and Washington almost right next to me. I heard the cracking of stone behind us and just as we made it to the edge of the Annex the catwalk crumbled away. Joyce almost didn’t make it as she started to drop with the catwalk, but Washington and I caught her just in time and took her back over the edge.