Author’s Note: For anyone who may be following along Chapter by chapter, I thought I would let you know to a slight change / addition to the last chapter, Chapter 12: Darnell Dean. In that chapter, it was related Cole drove / rode to the Dean Household. In previous chapters, it was always noted he took a cab everywhere, but in chapter 12 I didn’t want this to be the case. However I never spoke of his mode of transportation in the chapter, so I added a few sentences where Cole gets his car out of storage and decides to drive himself. In case you don’t want to hunt down this addition, it’s a blue Pontiac sunbird “with sunroof, special memories, and less than 100,000 miles.” So, anyway, just thought I’d let you know of the addition before we move ahead. Okay, on to chapter 13….
Chapter 13: The Caden Attic
I’d forgotten about Joel Caden. How could I have overlooked him like that? According to Summer’s brother, he had been the jilted boyfriend. Not only that, but he was jilted for a girl. That could do something to a guy’s ego, but could it send him off the deep end, wanting to kill both the girls who had hurt him? Could he be the killer I’m looking for, or is he just another victim next in line? Either way I knew I had to get to him, find this kid and get one step closer to the truth.
I stopped at a pay phone and got the address for the Caden’s. There was only one listed in the book, so it had to be Joel’s house. Lucky for me it was only twenty blocks away.
The drive gave me something to think about. I tried to put all the suspects in my head, but I kept thinking, what if there was no murder? What if Summer really jumped to her death? What if Carla really hung herself? Could all this be the after effects of the raging desires of youth? I’d seen angst and anxiety destroy a good many kids in my time, so was I really just chasing at shadows, jumping to conclusions that weren’t there? I’d gotten into something deep here and it was hard to tell which was my overworked imagination and which was the truth. Was I missing the glory days of playing detective so much that I was seeing danger everywhere? I know my desire to help the recently deceased comes from not being able to save Lacey, but is that all I’m doing, some strange penance because I failed the only woman I ever loved?
I almost didn’t see the stop sign, or the woman and her two small children crossing the street. I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt. The woman shook her finger at me as if to say “pay attention you idiot”, and ushered her children to the curb. I went on, but she was right, I needed to pay attention to things around me, to the things I could see. Not the ideas that jumped into my head but the hard facts.
I pulled to the curb and looked up to the house with trepidation. I don’t know why, but I felt uneasy about this visit. Was it because of what Darnell Dean had said? Did I really think I would find Joel Caden inside, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot?
I patted my jacket to make sure my own gun was there. Sometimes it makes me feel better just knowing I have it on me. And anyway the door to the Caden household was standing wide open. In this neighborhood that wasn’t such a good idea. The last time I’d come across an open door, my late wife had been waiting inside. I didn’t think that would be the case this time. I wasn’t going to like what was behind door number one.
I climbed up the porch steps and stopped just outside the doorway. “Hello”, I called out. “Anyone home?” I stepped over the threshold and peered into the house’s interior. The front foyer was empty. “Mr. and Mrs. Caden?”
The house was deathly quiet. I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. “My name is Cole Winter, I’m an investigator. I’d like to ask your son a few questions.” No one was there; I was talking to an empty house.
I walked into the living room. It looked like a twister had landed. Furniture was overturned; books had been thrown from the shelves, their pages loose and torn out. Paper was strewn about everywhere. Somebody had been looking for something and I don’t think it was origami instructions.
“Hello,” I called again. “If someone’s here, it’s best to come out now.” Nothing. “Before the police get here,” I added.
That did it. I heard a shuffle upstairs as if someone was darting from a hiding place and making a run for it. I took off for the stairs, pulling my gun as I went. I took the stairs two at a time and made it to the top just as the figure plowed into me. I wasn’t quite expecting it and I lost my grip on the gun. It skidded across the landing as I was knocked down. I looked back over my shoulder to catch a glimpse of my assailant heading for the attic stairs. I saw red hair, a slender shape, black tank top, jogging shorts, long legs…Damn it was a girl.
I jumped to my feet and retrieved my gun. I stuck it back in its holster; I wasn’t going to shoot a female unless she had a cannon trained on me. I took off up the attic stairs in pursuit. At the top I hesitated. I didn’t want to get side swiped again. But there was nothing.
The attic was full of junk, or at least I assumed it was. Objects were draped in sheets. From their shapes, I could tell what some of them were. A grandfather clock, a high backed chair, a rocking horse. All the things the Cadens no longer used but couldn’t bear to get rid of. I heard a noise to my right and spun towards it. A curtain billowed in front of an open window. Had she gone out the window and onto the roof? Damn, I hate heights.
I walked cautiously to the window. It could have been a trap. She could have been waiting for me to get right in front of it so she could push me right through. I trusted my instincts and turned once I got to the window. She was behind me, coming out from behind a half covered wardrobe cabinet. She was coming fast and I didn’t really have much choice. I sidestepped and grabbed her in a chokehold. It was either that or help her out the window like she wanted to do to me.
She squirmed and tried to get away. She would have been screaming but I had her windpipe. “Okay girl, playtime’s over,” I said. “In just a few minutes you are going to black out from lack of oxygen, so you better just calm down.”
Still she tried to get away. She was like a wild animal trying to claw my face. Something in her eyes told me she was beyond reason.
“Stop it!” I yelled. “This isn’t one of your flaky ass boyfriends you’re dealing with. You’re in big trouble, so you just cool it!”
Her eyes rolled up in her head and I felt her legs give out. She collapsed into my arms unconscious. “I told you so,” I mumbled and eased her slowly to the floor. She’d come to in a minute, and hopefully she would be calmer.
I sat down and put my back to the wall as I waited for her to wake.
– – – –
She awoke with a start, coughing. It was nothing more than a gag reflex; the after effects of my chokehold, but at least it had slowed her down.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
Startled, she looked at me as if seeing me for the first time. “Who are you?” she countered.
“My name is Cole, what’s yours?”
“Listen pervert, you better let me go.”
“Let you go?”
“It’s obvious you drugged and brought me here.” She looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time.
“I didn’t bring you here. I was coming here to visit someone and here you were. In fact, I’d say if we fingerprinted the front door and other things, we’d find you’d broken in and ransacked the house looking for something.”
“Are you out of your mind, mister?! I was minding my own business, talking to my boyfriend on the phone and now all of a sudden I’m here.”
One look in her eyes told me she really believed this. This was getting stranger by the minute. “Why do you think you are here?” I asked.
“Because you want to do something sick to me I guess, you freak,” she spat. I wanted to slap her but she was almost a kid. Nineteen or twenty at best. Around the same age bracket as Summer and Carla and…
“Who’s your boyfriend?”
She grinned. “He’ll come after your ass if you even try to touch me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself girlie, what’s his name?”
“Darnell,” she replied.
“Why didn’t I see that coming?” I shook my head. I didn’t like this at all. To have any of the Deans in the picture is a mistake if you ask me.
“You know Darnell?”
“Yeah, I know him,” I nodded. “So you were talking to him on the phone and then all of a sudden you wake up here, is that what you are telling me?”
“Yes. We were talking about something and he said something to me and then I’m up here with you.”
“Well, this house was broken into. The downstairs is a mess. Someone was looking for something, and then I find you up here. You even knocked me down on the landing trying to get away. You nearly pushed me out that window there.”
“I don’t believe you. What would I be doing here? I don’t even know where here is.”
“You are in the attic of Joel Caden’s house. Do you know him?”
Her jaw dropped. “Yes, I know him.” A bead of sweat formed on her forehead and she wringed her hands nervously. There was something she wasn’t telling me.
“What do you think you were looking for?”
She looked at me angry. “I wasn’t looking for anything, I told you I was talking to…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, save it for the judge, Andrea. Okay, let me put it to you this way, what do you think Darnell was looking for?”
“Darnell doesn’t need anything from Joel. I don’t know what you’re getting at, but it’s sounding stupid.”
What I was getting at was I believed she’d been hypnotized. Darnell said a keyword over the phone and then she was off to do his bidding. Sounds far fetched I know. But it is possible. And anyway, it’s the only explanation I have, short of Andrea just being insane.
“When was the last time you saw Joel?” I asked, switching tactics.
“On ouija night,” she offered a little reluctantly.
“Yeah, every Friday night we get over at Darnell’s and play on the ouija board. Joel is the score keeper.”
“Since when do you need a score keeper for ouija?”
“Well, he just writes everything down. Keeps a record of all our communications with the sprits.”
“And is there a particular one you’ve been speaking to?”
“Yeah,” she answered. “It’s a woman. She tells us things.”
“What kind of things?”
“Like what it’s like to be dead. She doesn’t like it much, I don’t think.”
“She says no one is going to watch our backs, that we have to look out for each other.”
“She told Darnell when we die it’s not really over, that we still walk around and stuff.”
“What does she want?”
“To kill someone.”
She hung her head and wouldn’t look at me. “Andrea, look at me. Who does she want to kill?”
“Some guy named Winter.”
I looked hard at her and she must have seen the shock on my face.
“That’s you, isn’t it?” she asked.
I didn’t answer her. I’d gotten a lump in my throat. To know the dead is after you is one thing; to discover the lengths they’ll go to is another.
“Does this spirit have a name?”
“Yes, I think it’s something do with fabric.”
My heart beat like a thousand drummers in my chest. My whole world was beginning to turn upside down. I didn’t want to hear this. Anything but this.
“Oh I remember now,” she said. “Her name is Lacey.”
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.