Entry 41: A Surprise In The Cellar: Saturday AM Aug 13
I heard them come into the clearing. Peering out from my hiding place in the bushes, I saw they had their flashlights out and were shining them around. It would only be a matter of time before they spotted me.
My mind swirled with the recently imagined truth. Meagan Mitchell was alive. Mischa had been trying to get me to find the missing girl, not herself. Maybe a part of her spirit was restless, but her mission had been something far beyond herself, to save someone else from a similar fate. And for some unknown reason I had been chosen to be the one to see it done. I was the only one who could save Meagan now. I looked at her anklet in my hand. I was going to give it back to her. I wouldn’t let her die.
I stole as quiet as I could out through the other side of the brambles. The small noise alerted police to my presence, but before they could get a bead on me I was off into the woods and heading for the neighborhood on the other side. I came out of the woods and into a street. All was quiet except the buzzing of a streetlight. A sign told me I was on Higgins Lane. I dashed across the street and through some backyards without seeing if I was being pursued. I came around a house and into the next street: Geary Road. This street was silent as well, so I crossed the road, jumped a fence, and went through backyards again. A dog strained on its leash from its place on a porch, but even it too seemed sleepy and didn’t even bark. I saw a sign up on the porch that read “Happy Birthday Karen” and I wondered briefly who this Karen was and if she’d blown out all her candles. I was determined Miss Mitchell would blow out the candles on her next birthday too. I dashed across a yard where a sprinkler sprayed the grass. I ran right through the spray, paying it no mind. In front of me was the next street. A car sat parked by the curb, a small sign on its door that read: “Cleaning By Tess”. I didn’t bother to go around it, but scrambled across its hood and into the street. Mayfair Street.
I looked up at the numbers on the first house. 3111. A small wooden plaque depicting a flowered trellis read “Jackson”. Almost there, I went on down the street towards my destination. I looked behind me to see if anyone were following. No one was. Hopefully the police were lost and stumbling through the woods in the dark.
Two more houses down the street I found it, an old three-story house, the numbers 3115 on its front door. Larter’s House. I bounded up the front steps. They creaked loudly under my feet. I put my hand on the knob, but it was locked. I could hear noises coming from within the house, and a small light in the front window allowed me a peek inside. Through a gap in the curtains, I could see a television set was on. I couldn’t see any other movement, just the flickering images of the TV. For a moment, I wondered if I had the right house. Maybe I’d heard the police wrong. Maybe I was on a wild goose chase.
I climbed over the front porch railing, ducked down behind the windows, and crept alongside the house. There was something familiar about the property, and when I came around to the rear of the house, I thought of a dream from not long ago. A backyard similar to this. Kittens drowned in a kiddy pool. Could that have been the starting point of Larter’s madness all those years ago? I don’t pretend to be a psychologist, but I imagine the power that young boy felt holding the helpless animals under water and watching their lives slip away must have done something to his fragile mind. His parents had shipped him off to his uncle, a preacher, maybe hoping that influence would calm the boy and set him on the right path. But evil is evil, and when Mischa Boudreaux had come into the boy’s life, it set his twisted mind on a murderous course.
I shook these despairing thoughts from my head and approached the back door of the house. It too was locked. I was going to have to break in. Larter wasn’t here anyway, I told myself. He was back at the church, under the watchful eye of police officers.
I braced my shoulder to the door and shoved my weight against it. I felt it give just a little in its frame. I shoved again. The door shuddered, but it wasn’t budging enough to break. I pulled my shirt off. It was still wet from my baptism, but I wrapped it around my hand and made a fist.
I hit the glass in the door and it shattered with a loud noise. I looked around to see if any lights would come on in neighboring houses. Nothing. The night was still. I reached my hand carefully through the broken window and unlocked the door. It opened with a light creak on its hinges and I crept through the doorway.
This part of the house was dark. I could hear the television on in the front living room, a televangelist preaching the folly of sin and punishment of hell. I crept along a hallway towards the sound. I peeked around the corner into the dimly lit room. The picture on the TV glared in the subdued light, but no one was in the room. I thought maybe Larter had left it on to make others think someone was home, or possibly to cover up any noise from other parts of the house.
I went back down the hallway the way I’d come, opening doors and checking rooms as I went. An immaculately kept bedroom, a bathroom, a closet. I opened one and saw a set of stairs descending down into darkness. The cellar. She had to be in the cellar.
I reached around the doorframe and felt along the wall for a switch. I found it and flipped it on. A small light came on, illuminating junk and shadows. I went down the stairs two at a time. When I reached the bottom, I glanced around, but there was no one there. Shelves of canned goods lined the walls, a huge heater sat in the middle of the floor, Boxes were stacked up in one corner, while a pile of laundry sat in another by an old washing machine. I walked around the heater and saw a door in the back of the room. A light flickered from underneath it, and I moved as quietly as I could towards it. I put my hand on the knob and turned. Remarkably it was unlocked, but when I opened it I wasn’t quite prepared for what was inside.
It was a small room, concrete floor and walls. Egg cartons lined these walls, giving it more of an appearance of a beehive rather than a room. I knew this was to muffle sound and then I saw why. A bed was in one corner, bolted to the floor. On the bed, a girl in a ragged oversized nightshirt, her blonde hair tangled and matted, her eyes wild with terror, stared at me. She was handcuffed to the bed frame. She opened her mouth to say something from her dry, cracked lips, but I wasn’t paying attention to her. Instead, my eyes were fixed on the figure that huddled over her, its back to me. In one hand, the figure held a flashlight, shining it on the girl, in the other a hypodermic needle. The figure turned and glared at me balefully.
“Meddling fool,” they hissed, and in the light cast by the flashlight I saw who it was. “You just couldn’t leave it alone, could you? I told him you were going to be a problem with all your damned questions.”
It took me a moment before I could even speak her name. “Mrs. Shiflett?”
I couldn’t believe it. The old woman was standing there getting ready to inject the girl. Gone was the wheelchair or any other infirmity I may have believed about the woman. All this time had she just been putting on the act of a helpless old woman? Had Mrs. Shiflett been protecting and aiding her twisted nephew from the beginning? I wondered if Shaedra had known or found out and that was why she left town so fast.
The woman snarled like a cat and shone the flashlight in my eyes. Momentarily blinded, I held my hands up to my eyes. I felt a sharp pain in my ribs and looked down. The old woman had stabbed me with the hypodermic and was injecting whatever it was into my bloodstream. With my hand still wrapped up in my wet shirt, I punched her in the face. Normally one might consider this a cruel act to hit an old woman as if she were a man, but she had stabbed me and I was beyond caring what she or anyone else thought.
She collapsed to the floor, and I pulled the syringe from my ribcage, flinging it to the concrete. I approached the bed where the girl lay. She was trying to back as far into the corner as she could go. Her eyes told me she was afraid of me, that I might be one of them. Maybe it was the look in my eye, the desperation of this evening, that made her fear me. Either way, I had to set her at ease and get us both out of there.
“Meagan Mitchell,” I whispered in a calm voice. “I’ve come to take you home.” I held out my hand.
A look of confusion crossed her face. She hesitated for a moment and then stammered, “Are you a ghost?”
I smiled to reassure her. “No, I’m not.”
She nodded as if she understood, but there was this faraway look on her face. “A ghost comes to me sometimes,” she said quietly. “She said she was going to help. But she never did.”
“She sent me instead,” I told her. “Come on, we have to go now. Your parents miss you and we have to get out of here before she gets back up.” I looked to the floor where Mrs. Shiflett was out cold.
The Mitchell girl held up her wrist, showing me the handcuff. There were tears in her eyes. “I’m not going anywhere. He’s coming back for me.”
I knew she meant Larter. “No, he’s not. The police have him now.” I looked around the room to see if there was anything I could use to bust the handcuffs or pick the lock. There was nothing. I knelt down by Mrs. Shiflett and rummaged through her pockets. “Damn,” I muttered. She didn’t have the key on her. I picked up her flashlight and shone it along the floor. There they were. In the corner by the door. They must have fallen out when she went down for the count. I snatched them up and sat on the edge of the bed. I fumbled with Meagan’s shackles, but soon I had her free. She threw her arms around me, and cried against my shoulder, thankful for a rescue that seemed like it was never going to come. I rubbed her back and patted the back of her head as she trembled in my arms. I didn’t know what else to do but let her cry.
Finally I told her, “Meagan, we really have to go.” She wiped her tears away with the back of her hand and followed me as I got up to leave. We left the room and I closed the door shut behind me. The door had a lock on the outside, so I pushed it in. That would hold the old woman until the police could get here.
Meagan and I went up the stairs hand in hand, but when I reached the top I knew something was wrong. The TV wasn’t on anymore. All the lights were out. And my vision was getting cloudy. “Meagan,” I mumbled. The girl looked at me and her face seemed to distort. I could see the fear creeping back into her eyes. My legs gave out and I went down. She screamed and tried to catch me, but I hit the floor hard.
“Get up, please get up, mister,” she cried, trying to lift me, but I was too heavy for the teenager to contend with. The room swirled around me, and it reminded me of a child’s finger painting or some mad Picasso rendering. The drug was taking its effect. Whatever Mrs. Shiflett had intended for Meagan was now in me, delivered by the hypo she had stabbed me with. I could only imagine it was something to keep the prisoner docile and pliant. Pretty soon, I could barely lift my head from the floor.
“Go,” I told the girl in a slurred voice. “Run.”
But it was too late. A shadow fell across us. Larter was home…
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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.
Original text copyright 2007.
10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.