Another night of insomnia passes as he's startled awake, screaming and sweating profusely, from a nightmare he can't overcome Afraid to close his eyes another second, he reaches for a towel to swab his drenched brow and burning eyes. Dreams of suffering and torment the likes of which only a monster could appreciate. Being hidden and alone for nearly three decades has taken its toll. He can't bear the thought that he could execute such acts of violence and horror. The thought that maybe he is inherently evil. Picking up the phone yet again, he dials a number etched in his mind so many times; he knows it by heart.
"Good morning, Dr. Skyler's office, Kerry speaking. How may we help you?" asked the person on the other end of the line.
Kerry was just like a sister to me. I'd known her many years, and when she graduated from college, I'd offered her a job, before someone else had the opportunity. She was all of four-foot-eleven-inches tall, brown hair, and 125 pounds. She studied hairdressing, but I talked her into working for me until she built up her clientele.
"I need to speak with Dr. Skyler please. It's an emergency."
Kerry hesitated for a second; she thought the man sounded distraught so she said, "Whom may I tell her is calling?"
"My name is George Chatterly."
"Yes, please hold, Mr. Chatterly."
"Dr. Skyler, there is a Mr. Chatterly "on the phone."
"Can you take a message Kerry; I'm in the middle of a session with a client."
"I know Susan, but he insists he talk to you. He says it's an emergency; and he does sound a little disturbed."
"Could you excuse me for a minute Mr. Rhymes? I need to take this call."
Mr. Rhymes nodded in agreement and sat back on the couch with a magazine in hand.
"This is Dr. Skyler. Can I help you?"
"Dr. Skyler, my name is George Chatterly. I know where those children are that the task force is looking for."
I didn't want to get my hopes up again, like the last three times we'd had false alarms. Being in the psychiatry business had toughened me a little to strangers with useless babble; and I was sick and tired of ludicrous rantings from lunatics, so I had become what seemed impatient or short, (pardon my french) ever since my daughter was taken.
"Why did you call me," I asked. "Why not the police?"
"No, I'll only talk to you. Please believe me. I will not cooperate with the cops."
"Calm down, Mr. Chatterly. Are you talking about the children that are all over the newspapers?"
"Yes. They are locked in a box, in a marsh, by Lake Okeechobee on the north side of an abandoned old cabin. Please hurry, I don't know how much longer they will live."
"Thank you, Mr. Chatterly. I will get right on it, but why did you call me?"
"I need help. I didn't do it. I just saw it happen," he chanted. Then all I heard was the infamous dial tone.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Rhymes," I said. "There's been an emergency. I will have to call our session off for the day. I'll give you an hour and a half next time."
"Thank you, Dr. Skyler. See you in one week then."
I called jared and his wife, Darlene, and they called two people and they called two people and well, you know what happens next.
By the time I'd rounded up the parents, I'd attracted more volunteers than Clinton has girlfriends. I explained to them that I had gotten an anonymous phone call about the missing children. I said it might be some lunatic trying to take the blame and sending us on a wild goose chase, but we had to try.
It was dark by the time everyone gathered together.
Jared handed us some hip boots, and while we put them on, he said, "I think the stranger was talking about an abandoned old meat cellar in the marsh. With the rainy season here, this might not be the best time to try and find a meat cellar. I'm sure the marsh is buried deep under water by this time."
"Yeah, and it's so dark out." said Darlene.
I met Jared one night at the police department. His son is missing as well. He was approximately six-foot five inches with dark hair and a dark tan. He had this great smile, with cute deep dimples on either side of his luscious lips. He worked f0r the post office.
I was way to petite - I hate the word "short" - for the wading boots. They bulged wrinkled, and drooped around my hips. I pulled my blonde hair up and pinned it out of my face. I was five-foot-five-inches tall, 110 pounds, and these wading boots were made for demonstrative, hearty fishermen.
"Ha," laughed Jared. "You look like a shrimp in those boots. Here, tie these pieces of rope around the top so the snakes can't swim in and have you for dinner." "All I could think of at this particular moment was Indiana Jones in an airplane with snakes crawling on him...(Shivers turned my arm hairs straight up and I felt that tingle of fear...as my body felt a cold wave of dread.)
The moon's reflection off the water shown like a beacon, in a mass of blinding darkness. While trying to keep the snakes at bay, we waded into the pitch-black unknown, searching for what used to be an underground locker for meat. As Jared commenced giving lessons on how to pick the snakes up by the back of their necks and throw them far enough away to discourage them from swimming back, I dredged the freezing lake on a mission.
I tripped over something and fell with a splash onto a large wooden object. After choking and spitting out the dirty water, I yelled, "I think I've found something."
I reached down under the cold, black, murky lake but could not quite wrap my hand around the rusty lock that imprisoned what I'd hoped to be the missing children. I stepped up onto the door and jumped up and down. I dove under and stopped to listen. I heard muffled, terrifying shrieks coming from the little ones inside. My breathing became sporadic and my heart was pounding so hard I could barely catch my breath.
When my head felt the brisk, fresh air, I shuddered and shouted, "Some of them are still alive." The other distressed parents fell silent and the hero's who volunteered to help rescue the children were cheering and could barely believe we'd found them.
"Did anyone think to bring any weapons?" I asked.
"I brought an axe. It's the only thing I could find at the last minute," said Nora, the town librarian. She was a chubby-bellied fifty-two-year-old. She held story-time meetings with the children on Sunday evenings, while their parents held pool tournaments down at the local Croc'n Bull Pub and Eatery. Her husband passed away two years ago of cancer, so she had a lot of time on her hands.
As I looked out from the lake toward the shore, I saw everyone congregating together as the mayor dutifully controlled the crowd.
"I'll see if I can break the lock," I yelled.
I grabbed the axe and lifted it high over my head. My arms came down with tremendous force and the axe hit the water with a resonating splash. I lost my footing, and dropped the axe on the way down.
"Would you like me to give it a try, Susan?" asked the mayor.
"No, please let me do it. I need to do this, Mayor Porter."
I had to dive into the cold black beyond to feel for the axe. Except for the moonlight shining on the crowd, it was too dark to see. I felt around and got my hands around something hard. I brought it up and realized I was holding a leg bone that was small enough to have come from a child's carcass.
I screamed and instinctively dropped it, not knowing whether it was my child's bones or one of the other parents' children standing there, feeling the same desperation as I. Tears came to my eyes, and I could feel the hair on my arms rise up again as I stood in the freezing water, in the dark, trying to save my daughter's life.
Hurry, those kids can't have much more air down there," yelled Mr. Porter, the town Mayor," a typical well rounded jolly man, standing five-foot tall with an infectious laugh. His white hair and unibrow made him look older than the sweet fifty-six that he was.
I dove back under, and the freezing water surrounded my face. Again I grabbed something resembling a handle. I hesitated bringing it up. I held my breath as I lifted it out of the water and thanked the Lord I'd found the axe. I gripped it by the very tip of the handle and used it like a jackhammer. I felt someone tugging on me. I was irritated, being as not a moment should be wasted. I came up for air and heard screaming. Focussing, I discerned an incredible amount of splashing. I turned around and realized everyone was running to shore.
"What is it, Mayor Porter?" I yelled. "What's wrong?"
The Mayor walked to the edge of the lake, and pointed at something large, dark and Jurassic like.
"Get out of the water!" yelled Darlene, a short blond haired women all of ninety-eight pounds, standing about five-feet- tall. She and Jared had six children. She worked at UPS part time, and the rest of the time she spent taking care of her children, going to school to be a teacher, and keeping her house immaculate. They too had been victims of the kidnapping.
Sirens brought us back to awareness. "The cavalry is coming," I yelled."
Same old psychiatric story, I'm sure you've heard this one a million and one times. Paul Boecker was my best friend and my lover. He introduced himself several years ago when I was taking care of a patient who tried to knife me during a session. Paul had blue eyes and brownish blond hair. He stood six-foot-four-inches tall and worked for the fire department. You have to love those firemen. Everyone needs an endless supply of heroes. That's my motto.
The fire truck drove up with its engines roaring and its lights glowing over the crowd.
I can't stop now. I was so close, I thought. I went back to banging the axe onto the rusty lock. I have to save my baby. Feverishly banging on the lock with an up-and-down motion, the head of the axe slipped off the metal lock and hit the door hard. I pulled on the axe, but it wouldn't budge. I pulled harder. the axe came loose and I realized I had punctured the door.
The now-new rush of cold water seeping into the locker must have traumatized the children into reality. I heard them screaming and panicking for someone to get them out.
I started to cry but kept hitting the lock. Now I had to work even faster; otherwise, the children would drown before I reached them.
Harold, the town clown, who owned the Croc' n Bull Pub and Eatery waded into the glossy blackness, while trying to avoid oncoming snakes. His grandson had been kidnapped a few weeks ago. "I would like to help if I could," he said.
"I think I almost have it . Just give me a few more seconds," I pleaded.
Harold backed up and helped the others keep the slithery snakes away as the firemen watched for any obtrusive lizards swimming in the water. Oddly enough, they didn't seem intimidating to me at the moment.
"I got it," I yelled.
I dove into the water once more and yanked on the door. It was too heavy. I went up top and asked for some help. Once the doors were opened, we had to move fast to keep the children from drowning.
When we finally got to them, they were weak, near death, cold, and in shock.
We pulled their naked little bodies out, one by one and handed them to the volunteers, who wrapped blankets around them, while their parents hugged them dearly.
At this point I started crying out loud...
"Where are the rest of the children?" I asked. They didn't say anything; they just stared into the darkness like they were blind and deaf.
"My Lindsey isn't here," I cried.
"Jack is missing too," said Harold.
When all the children were safe in their parents' arms, we totaled twelve children still missing.
"Don't cry, Mrs Shore," I said. "We will find them. We just have to stay strong and keep looking."
"They've been missing so long. I fear we are too late. I want to believe otherwise but look at these children we just rescued. They are weak and confused," said Mrs. Shore.
"My baby girl is missing as well. But I won't give up. I'll hunt to the ends of the earth until I know where and what happened to her. I have to believe she's still alive, or I'll have lost my will to go on," I said, choking back the tears.
"Round everyone up. I want to tell them where we go from here," said Captain Johnson, Captain of the Okeechobee Fire Department. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for lending your services. Thank the Lord for the children we've found alive. But now I humbly ask you all to go home."
"But what about the rest of the children? My baby is still missing," shouted Mrs Chatterly. "I'm not going anywhere until we find her."
"Please," I said, "my baby girl is missing too, but if we don't get some rest, none of us will be good for anything. I'm afraid we'll need to question the perpetrator one more time. Please do as the captain asks. Go home quietly, get a good nights rest, and we'll contact anyone whose children were not here tonight as soon as we can."
"Calvin, behind you!" yelled Henrietta.
Calvin worked at the one and only fitness club in Okeechobee. He had a hard body, brown hair and wore glasses. He was tall, and yeah, Hot, if you catch my drift. He'd been married and divorced, and had a three-year-old son with his second wife.
Captain Johnson pulled out his pistol and shot at the monster.
"Calvin, the monster," screamed Wanda, as the big beast widened its jaws and bared its dinosaur like teeth. Calvin leapt to safety.
"What was that?" I asked under my breath.
"That was an American crocodile. They have hundreds of them here in the swamps," the captain interjected.
"Yes, but that thing had to be at least twenty feet long. It looked like it weighed a ton."
"Probably close to it. They get to thirty-three feet and two thousand pounds," said the captain.
Crying, Wanda hugged Calvin hard.
"I'd heard stories about those big crocks," said Calvin, "but I daresay, I'd never seen one that big, until now.
To be continued...