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The Case of Harold Anderson

July 4, 2012 Leave a comment

What follows is the first half of a book I began writing around 20 years ago. The only person to have read this is my wife. I am sure there are plenty of editing adjustments that need to be made but I never can seem to get myself to do it because I figure why bother. So here is the imperfect draft of The Case of Harold Anderson….. Feel free to comment….

96 pages

The Case of Harold Anderson                                                                             icubud.iCopyright.com

Prologue:

The bailiff stood before the court and asked in a loud strong voice, “In the capital murder case of the State of California versus Price Hamilton Stewart how does the suspect plea?”

   He pleads “Not guilty your honor”, said Charles Richard Brooks, Esquire – the lawyer for Price Stewart.

Chapter One Wednesday December 3:  5pm PST

The rain is falling with a cool bone-chilling breeze flowing through the air.  The surroundings do not look familiar, and while he does not fathom what has occurred, he still has a gut wrenching feeling deep inside.  All is not well.  He does not see any form of transportation around him, so how did he get here?  And where exactly was here?  Looking around he sees a house, which was undoubtedly abandoned.  As he started to walk the pain throbbed through out his body.  Looking down at his chest he could see he was drenched in blood.  His shirt and pants now a color of crimson and mud.  What had happened?  As he again attempted to move, the pain increased, however he knew he had to keep walking.  He had to make it to the house.

Step by step he drew closer to the house and could see the door was off its hinges.  The windows some either boarded up and others open for the elements and whatever else to enter the house.  As he stepped up onto the porch, he yelled out, “Anyone in here?”  He would have been surprised if he received an answer.

As he entered the doorway of the house he saw a place that had been abandoned.  Furniture was draped with white sheets.  And he mumbled to himself, “Why is it always white sheets?”  Nothing in the house seemed at all familiar to him.  He walked looking for the bathroom.  He noticed that oddly the doors to all the rooms were closed.  He opened the first door on the left in the hallway past the living room; it was the bathroom.  There he saw the reflection of himself in the mirror and it startled him.  He knew he hurt all over, and now he had more of understanding why.  What had happened to him?  His face was heavily bruised with a gash in his forehead and several cuts or scratches on his cheeks.  He started to feel even weaker and now dizziness was swirling through his head.  The pain was swallowing him whole, and he slumped down to the floor.

He tried to collect himself.  He tried to remember.  Nothing, just pain flooded his senses.  A phone he thought, could he be so lucky?  It was at the moment he heard a faint siren.  Help he thought, please come here.  He tried to pick himself off the floor.  He did not have the strength.  The siren though was louder, so he assumed help was on the way.  He pulled his pain-wrecked body along the floor.  He could hear the car pulling up and then the sounds of car doors being closed.  He started to drift into unconsciousness and mustered what strength he had left to will himself back into reality.  That was when he saw two officers with guns pulled, in the doorway.  “He…” was all he had the strength to say.

The female officer said, “Sam, in the hallway – look!”  Sam turned to see the man slump to the floor.

Sam put his revolver back in its holster and kneeled down next to the man.  He took the man’s pulse; it was there but very weak.  Looking at the man he could see he had lost a lot of blood.  Sam called out to his partner Lori, “Get an ambulance here quick!  This man is unconscious and is going to die if we don’t get him to a doctor quick.”  Lori ran out to the patrol car and called in to dispatch that they need an ambulance immediately.  She gave dispatch their location, Burris Farm out on 27.

Meanwhile Sam tried to find out who this unlucky man was.  He searched the man’s pants pockets and all he found was a torn slip of paper with a phone number on it 805-532-4010.   In the guys shirt pocket was a stack of bloodied business cards that read:

Price Stewart

Paranormal Investigator

805-969-3684

Chapter Two December 3: 7pm PST

“No sir I do not know when he will be back.  Actually I expected him back two days ago.  I know, I know, but I am telling you the truth.  Yes, as soon as I hear from Price I will tell him that you called again.  Bye.”  Janice hung up the phone, looked at the clock and sighed, it was 6 p.m.  Three years ago she answered the ad in the classifieds for the part time receptionist position, which immediately became full time.  What she did not expect is the amount of time she actually would be working.  At that, she never imagined when she answered the ad that it would be for a paranormal investigator.  When she came for the interview she learned of the type of atmosphere that she would be exposed to, but what she did not expect was the drain it took on her emotionally and physically.  She liked Price; truth is she loved him like a kid brother.  She was ten years older than he was and at times she felt more like a mother than an employee.  In fact today was one of those times.  She picked up the phone and tried his cell phone again, only to get the same annoying message that his phone was either turned off or he was out of the area.  She picked up the phone and dialed in the phone code to forward all phone calls to her cell phone.  She then picked up her purse, turned off the lights, locked then closed the door.

On her way out to her car her cell phone rang.  She answered almost questionably, “Hello.”

“Hello this is Officer Lori Henderson with the California State Police department to who am I talking to?”

“This is Janice Wright.”

“Is this Price Stewarts office?” the officer asked.

“Yes mam, can I help you?  Is Price okay?”  She asked as fear knotted her stomach.

“Actually know he is not.  He is in surgery at the moment at the UCLA Hospital.  Do you know what he was doing or where he was going the last 24 hours?” she asked.

“No, he was doing an investigation for a client in Long Beach two days ago which is the last I had heard from him.  The client has called several times upset because Price never made it there.  Pardon?  The clients name is Harold Anderson, sure I can give you the phone number,” Janice gave the office the phone number and was also furiously writing everything down the officer said.  She then closed her car door and headed back into the office.  “Yes, I will be out there as soon as possible. Please keep me informed, let me give you my cell phone number.”  She anxiously gave her the phone number and said good-bye while tears that had been filling up her eyes now began to run down her cheeks.

Janice opened the office door, grabbed the laptop, journal, and headed right back out the door.  She jumped in her car and sped home to pick up clothes and make plans.  Driving, her mind was racing with the information that the office just told her.  What had happened on the way to Long Beach she thought?  Making the turns to her house from habit when she pulled in her driveway she was a bit startled to realize she was home.  She was so entrenched in thought she did not remember the trip home.  “Scary,” she said under her breath as she closed her car door.

Looking over at her answering machine she noticed the light blinking, she pushed the messages button and listened as she threw things into a suitcase.  A couple hang up calls, her mother, her son and that was all.  Nothing important and to that she was grateful.  She set the timer on her lights to kick on earlier since she would be out of town, grabbed her suitcase and went out the door.  She locked the door and checked it because she knew later she would think to herself – did I lock the door? And then she would remember shaking it to verify that it was locked.

She loved her home and town, Santa Barbara, and she thought ahead to her hour and a half drive to LA.  She took Mission Road to Highway 101 South, set the cruise control on 75 and off she went.  At least the drive would be quiet since it was 8 p.m. on a Monday so she would not have to deal with traffic till she was about 20 miles outside of LA.

Again her minded drifted back to Price and the conversation she had with the police officer. She could not think of any reason why she had not heard from him the past two days.  He was spontaneous but he was also responsible and considerate, and those three qualities made him a wonderful catch for any woman.  Well, any woman but her.  Her Charlie died ten years ago and there was no one whom could replace him.  Her son Stephen reminded her of Charlie in his looks, voice, and how he cared for her.  Price was the little brother she never had.  Smiling she considered how lucky and fortunate she was to have had these three men in her life.  With that thought and warm feeling flowing through her she was startled back to reality with the ringing of her cell phone.

“Hello this is Janice.”

“Ms. Wright is that the way to answer a company’s phone?” hissed Harold Anders.  “Mr. Stewart has not…”

Janice interrupted with, “Sir I just heard from him.  Well, really the police, he is UCLA Hospital undergoing surgery.  I am headed that way now.”

“What happened?” said Harold with disbelief dripping from his lips.  “I paid you good money and I have been given the run around by him and you.  I have the mind to call the police on your boss.”

“Mr. Anderson,” she boldly reciprocated, “$2000 dollars is not good money to run off on.  I am insulted by such a suggestion.  In fact I will see that your money is refunded as soon as I get to hospital.  I will write the check myself and drop it in the mail.  You can continue with your problems and harassment with someone else.”

“Wait, wait a minute,” he disarmingly said.  “I apologize.  I am scared and alone.  What has been going on here has me on my last nerve.  The fact is wherever I go it seems to follow, or should I say THEY seem to follow.  Please forgive me.  You go ahead to the hospital and call me when you find out what has happened and how he is.  Use my cell phone number because I am going to try a change of scenery myself, in fact I may just meet you at the hospital.  I doubt I can lose them, but sitting here makes me feel defenseless and hopeless.  Again Ms. Janice, I am sorry,” and with that he hung up.

She hung up and while she felt a bit of victory it was quenched with the tinge of sadness she felt for him.  When he hung up he did not sound like the same man she had dealt with the past two days. It may be good if he did meet her at the hospital; she could use the company.

Chapter Three December 3 PST

Harold arose from his desk chair and looked around at his home.  This place was to be his retirement getaway to enjoy the rest of his years on earth.  His work as a printer and book collector was rewarding because he loved the printed page.  He loved reading, writing, and everything else to do with books.  He was able to save a lot of money over the years and with clientele of his shop he was able to make friends with those of similar interests.  That is how he settled on the idea of Long Beach. His upbringing and business were in San Diego but the vast majority of his clients were from Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Palm Springs.  Many convinced him moving further north would provide easier travel and milder summers.  So upon his retirement that is what he did.  Mr. and Mrs. Richard Fellows were realtors and good clients of his, which actually grew to be good friends and with their assistance he was able to locate and purchase this modest home by the ocean.

The home was quaint and what he always wanted, plenty of room for his books.  He had his fireplace, big leather chair, and a spectacular view of the ocean with a private deck.  However, since moving in to this home he had experienced very little rest or peaceful moments.

It started roughly three weeks after moving in.  First it was unexplainable noises, then objects disappearing only to reappear elsewhere.  Finally it has recently escalated to following him.  Going to a grocery store and items falling off shelves and it does not matter what type of place he goes they seem to follow him.  Just a week ago he was awakened by what appeared to be the sight of one of them standing at the foot of his bed.  A tall shadow, but he noticed something else that led him to look for help; this thing was not transparent – it was solid.

These beings had affected his dreaming also.  His dreams were that of nightmares, horror, and murder.  He had no recollection of the people that were in his nightmares or of the places.  One thing for certain, between the events of his sleep and the hell he was living through while awake; Harold is now a bundle of nerves wound extremely tight and ready to snap.  That is why he was happy to have seen Price Stewarts ad in the classifieds.  Harold was not into all the mumble jumble of the kooks; but he knew what he was experiencing and he needed help.  In fact he now was beginning to reclassify this group he considered as kooks as unorthodox.

  Price had met Harold at a diner in Ventura and to Harold’s dismay no incidents occurred.  Price told him to relax and enjoy the quiet that whatever was bothering or haunting Harold was intelligent.  Harold shivered when he heard the word haunting and was also surprised with himself in that he never considered what was occurring as a haunting.  Price explained his terms of service and that his retainer fee was $1000.00 a week and two weeks was the minimum and needed to be paid in advance.  Price continued that he would investigate as to what was occurring, why it was, and how to hopefully resolve the matter.  He was also careful to caution Harold that it may not cease, that it was impossible to guarantee such a thing but that Harold would at least have information to act with.  Harold wrote him the check and Price said he would meet him at his house on Friday, and that was the last time Harold had heard from him.

Now Harold was standing looking down at his desk contemplating what his next move was.  That was when he felt a hand on his shoulder and he heard laughing.  Harold did not dare turn around; he was scared, shaken to the core as evidenced by the fact of urine running down his leg.  The feeling of oppression weighed on him heavily and his heart felt like it was going to pound out through his chest.  He could feel the hand on his shoulder lift off of him and then oppression left.  Harold broke down in tears, shaken beyond description and dropped to his knees on the bare hardwood floor.  Why?  Why was this happening to him?  His mind raced through events in his life.  Thinking of his shortcomings, times when he was angry, times when he erred; he could not think of what he had done to bring this about.  Was it the house?  But the things happened when he went elsewhere now, so it couldn’t be the house.  Yet the problems did not start until he moved here.  He stood up slowly afraid he would feel the hand come upon him again – nothing.  He reached into his leather valet on the desk and grabbed his car keys.  He was not going for an absent minded drive; he was going to drive to the UCLA Hospital.  He wanted company, witnesses, and he wanted to be safe – he figured he could have all of this at the hospital.  Turning slowly toward the front door he observed his surroundings.  It was a beautiful home, the barrister bookshelves neatly filled with books and his overstuffed leather chair sitting under his brass reading lamp sat in the corner as an invitation to come and enjoy what he loved to do read.  With a sigh he stepped forward toward the door, passing the antique globe and the thought of all the places to live and he chose this place and that with that choice he may have committed his greatest error.  Grabbing the doorknob and turning it while looking over his shoulder at the living room and library he was again struck with simple elegance of his home.  He opened the door and stepped on to the porch and locked the door.  Anxiousness began to fill his spirit as he headed for his car.  He needed to get to the hospital, there he was sure, and he could feel some refuge.  As he pulled away out of his driveway the anxiousness was replaced with anger.  Looking at his home and thinking of it and his simple retirement plans he was angered that someone or something was ruining these supposed quiet and joyful retirement years.

Meanwhile, Janice is driving south on 101 and has come to city of Ventura.  The wind smells of the ocean and it is a little cool which is exactly how she likes it.  The radio is playing Thank You by Dido and the clock says it is 7:15 pm. It is amazing how when one is going through something some troubling how the rest of the world carries on.  Her mind is going over what the police officer said and her recent conversation with Harold.  She thought back to two days ago, was there any clue that with hindsight could now shed some light on the recent events.

Chapter Four December 1: 8am PST

“Good morning Janice and how are you after the long weekend?” Price asked while closing the office door behind him.

“Very well and looking forward to the whole Christmas season, in fact I have all my shopping pretty much completed for this year,” Janice replied as she pulled another cup of coffee.  “You know Price you could save a lot of money each year by making your own coffee instead of stopping by the Roma every morning for your morning dose of brew.”  Price grumbled something under his breath that Janice knew was a – “Whatever”.

Price walked into his office that was his home away from home.  Placing the coffee on his desk, he then walked over to window wooden shudders and opened them slightly just to let a little light seep in.  He grabbed the files and mail from the top of the filing cabinet and sat in his desk chair.  He picked up the coffee cup and popped the lid off and then inhaled slowly the wonderful aroma of espresso and frothed milk.  He took a sip of the coffee and replaced it on the desk and then turned the computer on.  Looking over at his phone he notice the light was blinking meaning that he had voicemail messages.  He loathed the phone but at least with voicemail, which was the general place all his callers went, he could delete and screen the callers.  The phone could wait he reasoned and he logged into his computer.  He looked over at the bookcases and the books he had left out from Saturday and thought of some reading he needed to complete as background for his client Harold Anderson.  He enjoyed the research part of his occupation.  How wonderful it was to be paid to read about material that you already have an interest in.

He double clicked on the Microsoft Outlook icon on the taskbar and his email pulled up with sixty five new messages. He figured there would be a fair amount since it had been Saturday evening when he last checked the email at the office.  Fifty emails were spam and easily selected and deleted.  He looked at the remaining emails for replies to some questions and advice he had sent Saturday afternoon to researchers and investigators in the Psi field.  Nothing there and he expected as much, he figured he would start receiving replies in the early afternoon today.  Undoubtedly the people had not been in working on the Thanksgiving weekend as he was.

Price was single and liked it that way.  He had been married, to his soul mate – Melanie.  She had died tragically and though it was four years ago, the pain and wound was as fresh as if it had happened yesterday.  He truly loved Melanie and she said she loved him.  Thank goodness for his mistress – work, she had been the only thing that got him through to this point.  He shook his head to restart his thinking process and took a good swig from his coffee cup.

“Price, when do you plan on heading down to Mr. Andersons place?” Janice asked.

“I will leave here around 2pm, if he calls again telling him I am at the library.”  He could here Janice laugh knowing that meant he was going to be at his desk pouring over the books in his office.  Price had learned the hard way that if he told the he was reading at his office the client tended to feel he was slacking.  Yet if he said he was at the library the client’s perception was the he was hard work on their problem.  Truth of the matter was he worked harder in his own office and usually produced better results than he could at the public or UCSB library.

Price opened the file he had started on Harold Anderson’s case.  He reread the notes he made from his initial interview with him.  Turning through the pages he also read his notes he had made since then while researching in his office.  His immediate hunch was that it was a poltergeist, and that it was disturbed by the presence of Harold living in the home he recently purchased.  His research of the county tax records online revealed that the homes only other owner was in 1969 and her name was Tabitha Rvicknik.  Her and her husband Peter had built the house in 1952.  Peter died in 1967 and she moved in 1969.  He would have to get in contact with her, but first he would have to find out where she lived.

He picked clicked the hands-free button his phone and selected the button with Janice’s extension on it.  “Yes Price, what do you need?”

“Write this name down and see if you can locate where she lives.  Her name is Tabitha Rvicknik.  She was the former owner of the house Harold Anderson owns.  I need this ASAP.”

“No problem, I will see what I can do,” Janice replied.  With her confirmation of the priority at hand, Price pushed the release button on his phone.  He was happy that there had only been one previous owner to locate.  Hopefully she was still alive.  He figured she had to be at least 69 years of age now.  He looked at the dates again and wrote a note to himself:

Why vacant for over 30 years?

He got up and walked over to the leather chair next to the table with the books he had been reading over the weekend.  Looked into his cappuccino and realized it was empty.  With empty cup in hand he walked over to the coffee maker.  Janice looked up at him and smirked, he in return hung his head like a bad boy.  “Don’t look so pathetic.  You pay for the coffee.”  This was part of his morning ritual that he enjoyed.  She laughed and said, “It’s a fresh pot.”  He then giggled like a little boy getting a new toy.  “Really Price, you are such a rotten kid.”  They both laughed and he stepped back into his office.  Truth of the matter was he could not make a good pot of coffee to save his life and on the other hand, Janice had it down pat.

Armed with a large cup of fresh coffee Price sat down in his leather chair took a deep whiff of the brews heavenly aroma and placed it on the table.  He lifted one of the books off the table and went straight to reading.

Poltergeists seemed the logical culprits in this assignment.  Truth of the matter was the word poltergeist seemed to be a “catch all” inaccurately used by many people.  Poltergeist were not harmful to people they simply would drive you crazy though with their games and methods.  The evil or harmful entities could fall into many major groups but were so hard to discern exactly what you were dealing with.  In Price’s conversations with Harold is seemed very clear that he was being harassed by poltergeists, the questions now were how many were there and why were they bothering Harold?  And of course the big question, how do you get rid of them?  Price knew he disagreed with a lot of other people about poltergeists but he did not believe one could actually get rid of them.  Someone was going to have them, just not you was the goal.

They enjoyed playing tricks on people and that is what they would do.  Price had a theory that if you quit being scared and bothered by their games that they would grow bored with you and move on.  He had wanted to try this out his theory but never had a case in which the entities were poltergeists.  They always ended up as unclean spirits, evil spirits, or what he called sad spirits.  His conversation with Harold seemed to be promising in that he might finally be able to test his theory out.  The big hurdle to overcome would be convincing Harold he was right and that Harold would be able to steel himself against them and there games so that he no longer would react like they wanted him to.

He looked again at his note about the house being vacant for thirty years.  Were there people interested in the past and when they viewed the house they changed their mind?  Was the price higher before Harold’s purchases?  He got out of the chair and peaked in on Janice, “Can you find out the realtor’ name that handled the purchase of Harold’s home?  If so get me the realtors name and contact information, I have some questions I want to ask them.”

“Sure thing,” Janice answered scribbling the request on paper.  He went back to his chair and looked at the notes he had made.  Did the neighbors have stories to share with him about the residence?  He made a note to speak with the neighbors.  Thirty years was a long time for a house to sit vacant.  Did Mrs. Rvicknik live in the house while waiting for it to sell or did the house sit vacant?  If the house sat vacant who was doing the upkeep on the house?  Maybe they would have some information to share.  Again, Price made another note to himself.

He stared out the window of his office, his mind wandering over things he had been reading and over personal experiences of his from other clients.  Harold had not been physically harmed that he knew of.  The spirit or spirits had begun following him outdoors, which was not classical poltergeist activity.  He made another note and looked at the page.  If this was an evil spirit or demonic he believed Harold would have been physically assaulted.  His mind wandered over the information again.

“Price” he heard his name come over the phone speaker and got up heading to his phone, “I got an address for Tabitha Rvicknik, she lives in Santa Paula and I am emailing it to you as I speak.”

He pushed hands-free, “Wonderful work Janice.  I’ll be leaving in a minute.”  He pushed the release button and looked at the clock.  It was 11:30 and he knew if he left now he could stop and speak with Mrs. Rvicknik on his way to meet Harold.  Gathering his notes, a couple books of special importance, he placed them in his leather bag and headed for his email.   He selected Janice’s email with Rvicknik’s address and was again appreciative of Janice’s professionalism because it also contained Rvicknik’s phone number and directions to her house via Mapquest.  He printed the email and folded it up and placed in his shirt pocket.  Stepping through the doorway of his office and the lobby he turned to Janice and said, “I’m off to Harold Andersons.  I’ll give Mrs. Rvicknik a call too.  Hold the fort down, no wild parties.”

“Ah, you take the fun out of everything,” Janice quipped and with that Price closed the door behind him.

Chapter Five Wednesday, December 3: 10:30pm PST

Janice was standing in the hospital at the emergency room check in desk.  All around were people staring at her trying to determine why she was there.  She had asked if Price was there and if she could see him.  The receptionist looked up his name on the sheets attached to the clipboard.  She then went back to the emergency section of the building, without saying a word to Janice.  After a couple minutes of waiting, two police officers came through the double doors and the receptionist then sat back in her chair.  “Janice Wright?” the officer asked.  Janice nodded and the officer said, “I am Officer Lori Henderson and this is my partner Sam Watkins, I spoke with you earlier this evening; as she extended her hand to greet her.”

Janice shook her hand, “Have you heard anything about Price?”  Lori could tell Janice was very concerned.

“He is still in surgery, Sam said as he reached out to shake Janice’s hand.  He lost a lot of blood and was in and out on the way to the hospital.  He is beat up pretty bad.  I will let them know you are here,” he then turned walking toward the emergency room doors and then entered.

“I have racked my brain on the way down here, and I can not think of anything that would explain why he was so far from Long Beach,” Janice said.  “He was to meet Harold Anderson and, well he may have arranged a meeting with Mrs. Tabitha Rvicknik.  She was the lady who owned the house Mr. Anderson now owns but even considering that, the address I found was Santa Paula.  That is so far off.  You said you found him at where again?” Janice asked.  Janice was always calm and cool, but this whole matter had her a little bit anxious.

Lori replied, “I don’t think I have told you where exactly.  We found him in a summer cabin in Ojai.  The area is sort of a campground now, it use to be a commune back in the 70s.  It is not used anymore, at least legally.  It is up in the hills and you have to take a dirt path to it, pretty rough really.  Which is something else; does Mr. Stewart own a car?”

“Why yes.  Wasn’t it there?” Janice asked.

“No vehicle was located there.  Can you tell me what he drives and I will call it in?  Maybe it was a car jacking or mugging,” Lori said.

“He owns a 2000 Jeep Cherokee, it is red and in fact,” opening her Franklin, “here is his license number and VIN number.  I handle all of his personal papers and matters, so it helps to have the information close at hand.”

“Very good, I will call this in and in the meantime I am sure someone will come out in a few minutes to talk to you.  Why not have a seat over here and well see what we can get together about this matter.”  They walked over to a couple empty seats near the doors that led to the emergency room, and she sat down while the officer turned toward the main entrance doors to the emergency room waiting area.  She was heading outside to have a smoke while calling the info on Price’s car to dispatch knowing that the sooner the call got in the better the chance there was to locate his Cherokee.

Janice was sitting still trying to put all the pieces together.  What happened to Prices car?  What happened to Price?  She had really hoped that during her trip in that he would be out of surgery and coming to.  Unfortunately that was not the case which meant it was still a couple hours before they all might start getting answers to exactly what had happened.  She did not like having anything to do.  Since the love of her life had passed away she had been doing her best to avoid being in a situation of sitting with nothing to do.  Her mind began wondering.

It was a little over ten years ago when she was doing what she was doing right now.  Waiting – with much fear because her husband Charlie had been hit by a pick up truck and was rushed to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara.  He had been walking up Milpas Street returning from the Italian Grocer on Anapamu Avenue where he and his wife loved to pick up a couple torpedoes with the works.  He enjoyed this walk, it was very much a treat he had the pleasure of enjoying each week.  However on this day a landscaping truck did not see him when he was crossing and they took a quick left turn to beat the traffic light.  Charlie did not have a chance.  Due to the speed of truck, he was dragged 30 feet before the vehicle stopped.  He had died at impact, but an EMT was able revive him.  Looking at the event and knowing the damage that was obviously caused to him, Janice caught herself wondering why they had even bothered.  The result was extending his life ten hours while she desperately clung to nothing.  The doctor told her if he pulled through he would be a vegetable.  The injuries were severe and much of the resulting damage was irreversible.  Her eyes filled with tears thinking about her knight in shining armor.  She hoped he never felt any pain.

“Blast it!”  She exclaimed and stood up shaking her head trying to remove the images and thoughts that were going through her mind at the time.  Somebody had to know something about Price, and she needed to know.  She walked up to the desk and no one was sitting there so she went up to the doors that led into the emergency room treating area and pressed the round wall panel for the doors to open.

Chapter Six Wednesday, December 1:1:00pm PST

“Freaking traffic!”  Anyone who has had the experience of driving around the Los Angeles area knows this expression.  It did not matter what time of day or night you tried to get through LA, it was always heavy traffic.  And not that was the lone source of agitation while driving; there were also the drivers who were completely rude and dangerous, no wonder there had been incidents of gun shots.  Price looked down at his notebook that was open on the seat next to him.  He was only too happy to take the Santa Paula exit to get off the highway of madness.  He needed to get gas and a bite to eat because his stomach was growling loud enough that it was embarrassing.  He could not expect Tabitha Rvicknik to take him seriously with his stomach growling so loud that they would both have to act like neither heard it.  He pulled into Chevron filled up the tank and looked around for food and a smile crept across his face when he spied a Jack in the Box restaurant a block down.  He was not a fast food fan, and in fact he was a strict follower of a good diet, but Jack in the Box was a weakness that he would allow himself to have a couple times a year.  Putting the nozzle back in its place on the pump he jumped into his car with a little bit too much joy for an adult.

 Pulling out of Chevron he zipped down to Jack in the Box and pulled up to the drive thru.  He did not have to look over the menu, he knew what he wanted.  “Welcome to Jack in the Box may I help you?”  The truth of the matter is this is what he figured the employee was saying, because as usual what came out through the speaker in a very loud and static filled audio was “Wel (garbled, pop, static) Box (crack, crack, garble) you?”  He laughed and gave the menu board his order.  “Sourdough burger, small French fries, Pepsi, and an apple pie.”  A feast that is hard to top.  After purchasing and receiving his food he pulled in to a parking spot at the restaurant grabbed a handful of fries and shoved them in his mouth, a smile that would have made the Grinch proud crept across his face.  He picked up his cell phone and dialed Tabitha Rvicknik’s phone number.  He entered her phone number in, sat the phone on his lap, opened the burger and took a big bite.  Slowly chewing making sure to enjoy and remember every bite of the burger when his first bite was finished he then pushed dial on his cell phone.

“Hello,” was the simple greeting of an elderly female voice.

“Hello my name is Price Stewart I was calling to speak to Tabitha Rvicknik, are you her?”

“I am, but I do not know a Price Stewart, and I am not interested in anything you wish to sell.”

“No mam, I am not a salesman or telemarketer.  I am calling in reference to the property and home you use to own in Long Beach on Mission Street.”

“I sold that place a year ago and have not actually lived there for a long time.  You should speak to the new owner, just a minute and I will give you his name I am sure I have it in my papers.”

“Harold Anderson,” Price interrupted.  “I know who the current owner is but I wanted to ask you about the house and property.  Is it okay if I stopped by to speak with you?  I am working for Mr. Anderson and I think you could help me by supplying some answers.”

“Um, I don’t think I should get involved.  I really don’t know the man and I, um, well am busy and I don’t think I have the time to stop and chat.”  Ms. Rvicknik was obviously leery and nervous by Prices words and she felt that horrible feeling in her stomach once again.

“Ok, may I see you tomorrow then?”  Price stopped, listened for a response.  “It will only take fifteen minutes of your time.  I just have some questions about the home.”  Again he stopped, waiting for a response.  Tabitha Rvicknik was sitting in a chair feeling guilty; she knew what must be the problem – she knew it with certainty.  She sold the house thinking it would put an end to her problems, but that was now not the case.  Her problems were coming back.

“Is Mr. Anderson okay?  Is he well?”  Tabitha asked slowly afraid to ask and more afraid to hear the answer.

“Tabitha, if I may call you by your first name, Harold is not doing so well,” Price knew that this was an understatement but he was beginning to realize Tabitha knew why he had called.

“Oh, that troubles me.  I, well, yes come over right now.  But I don’t have much time to talk and I will try to answer your questions.  Do you have my address?”

“Yes I do, I should be over in about ten minutes.  Thank you for allowing me to come over with short notice, I and Mr. Anderson greatly appreciate it.”  With that said he ended the call by pushing the red button on his phone.  She knew he was certain of it.  He devoured his burger and fries washing them down with his Pepsi.  The apple pie would have to wait till after he spoke with Tabitha.  He started the engine and backed out of his parking space and pulled on to the road.

Chapter Seven Wednesday, December 3:11:00pm PST

Janice entered the ER area and saw people bustling back and forth as well as people in wheelchairs and on beds lined against the wall.  As she walked down the hallway she was passed by doctors, nurses, and other people.  No one stopped her.  She looked around in between curtains as inconspicuously as possible.  Actual rooms that had doors she stole quick glimpses in the door windows.  All she could see around was human suffering.  What a very sad place.  She came to the where hallway ended and she had to make a decision, go left or right?  She looked at the plaques on the walls.  To the left was radiology, ultrasound, MRI, CAT scan and to the right is a waiting area, surgery, and admitting.  She went to the right figuring he was in surgery so someone there would know what is going on.  As she walked toward surgery she got a little angry, why didn’t come and take her to the waiting area back near surgery in the first place?  Why was she kept so far away from where she figured he was?  As she approached the surgery desk she looked off to her right into the waiting room area and there she saw officers Sam and Lori.  They were drinking coffee and talking when Lori looked up and saw Janice and immediately knew Janice was angry.

Janice walked straight over to the info desk where an attendant was talking on the phone.  It was apparent that it was a personal phone call because as soon as Janice approached her the lady spun to the side in her chair and began talking in almost a whisper.  After a minute Janice could hear the lady say, “I’ll call you back.  Love you too.”  She spun back over and placed the phone on the cradle.  And looked up at Janice, “May I help you?”

“What is the status of Price Stewart?” Janice asked.

“Are you family?” the attendant asked.

Janice looked at the lady, turned and looked back at the waiting area toward the police.  Lie or not?  “No, I am his secretary.  He does not have any living family.  I am the closest person to him,” Janice explained deciding to take the high road of truth.

The attendant looked at Janice and said as a matter of rote, “Sorry but I can not give out any information at this time.”  And she got up from her chair and disappeared by entering a door that was behind her.

Janice thought to herself, Chicken – speak and run.  Janice turned around and went straight to the waiting area where the two officers were sitting.  Lori had been watching Janice at the front desk and as Janice approached she gave Sam the eye nod to let him know to look behind him.  Sam looked over his shoulder at Janice and said “Your really not suppose to be back here.”

“You can not expect to leave me out in the emergency room waiting area without any idea of what is going on?  Why didn’t you invite me back here with you?  Why sit back here and leave me out there worrying?”  Janice fired off three questions in an accusatory and hurt demeanor.  “That is not how you should treat people.  Wonder why police have such a bad image.  How about showing some human decency, sympathy, or caring?”  She was on a roll now and she had tears filling up her eyes, she was not only angry but scared.  Everything that was going on did not make sense and her only connections to Price at the moment were keeping her on the outside.  “Shame on you.”

Lori stood up and Sam cowered into a ball feeling like he just got rebuked by his mother.  He thought to himself, I should have kept my mouth shut and let Lori talk to her.  Lori walked over to Janice and said, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

Janice looked at her stoically trying to process what Lori said, “Yes, fine, black.”

Lori put a quarter in the machine and after a brief moment opened the trap door to get the cup of coffee out and hand it to Janice.  “Thanks,” Janice said staring at the coffee machine.

“Why don’t you sit down with us?” Lori said and Sam pushed a chair out for Janice to sit down.  Once Janice seated Lori said, “Ms. Wright we have been sitting back here discussing what you told us and what we know from when we picked up Mr. Stewart.  It appears that there is about a two day gap.  You said that Mr. Stewart apparently never made it to Mr. Anderson’s residence.  Do you know if he made it to Ms. Rvicknik’s home?”

  Janice thought about what Lori said and she sighed, “No I don’t know if he did or not.  Just a minute, Janice opened her planner binder and thumbed back to December 1st.  Here is her phone number and address, maybe you could call her or have the police stop and check with her.  She is quite elderly so you should be very careful and respectful,” Janice said as she looked over at Sam.  Sam took the piece of paper from Janice, nodded and headed out of the waiting room as fast as he could.

Harold is a nervous wreck.  The hospital is about fifteen minutes away and his goal is to make it there in five minutes.  He swoops down onto the main drag and puts the pedal to the metal.  It is no use Murphy’s Law is against him – he catches every single traffic light.  And in route to the hospital about every other block he sees a police officer.  He punches his steering wheel and vents his spleen and a couple times the passenger in the car beside him looks over at him trying to figure out if he is “mad” or angry.  The fifteen minute trip takes thirty and when he pulls into the ER parking lot he can not find a parking space.  The fear grips his soul, he is so close to being inside the hospital where for some reason he feels he will be safe; and yet he can’t get in.  He swerves around the lot and heads toward the parking garage when he realizes “Dummy, haven’t you seen the movies?  Haven’t your read the books!?  Nothing good ever happens in a parking garage.”  He passes the garage and heads to the main entrance of the hospital to park in the visitors section of the parking lot.  He will have to walk, no he’ll run.  But at least it’s not the parking garage!  After meandering about looking for a place to park (is no one healthy!) he finds a spot.  He slams the car into park, withdraws the key, and opens his door all in one fluid motion.

As he starts running to the main door he realizes his age and the fact he just can’t make it.  He slows down to as quick of a walk as he can.  He enters the front door and then exhales – he made it.  He looks around to see if people are staring at him and wipes his face with his handkerchief and then walks up to the information desk.  There are two women seated at the desk and a security guard.  One of the women looks to be about thirty years of age, and the other about sixty.  The security guard is a fella about thirty.  The older lady is on the phone and the other two are talking.  He stands at the desk and looks at everyone. No one acknowledges that he is present. He waits a couple minutes while his blood is developing a slow boil of anger and coughs – nothing.

“Are any of you people on the clock?” Harold asks in an accusatory tone. “I would say do any of you work here but it is apparent that none of you do.”  The older lady looks over at the younger one and the security guard turns around to look at Harold.

The security guards says, “Calm down old timer, don’t get your Depends in a bunch.”

The younger lady rolls her eyes and says, “What do you need?  And as a FYI, I didn’t know you needed help since you never said anything.”

“You have got to be kidding!  Why else… never mind, where is the emergency room?” Harold asked.

“Follow the red line on the floor; it will take you straight to it.”  And with that she turned her head and continued talking to the security guard.  The older lady never got off the phone.

Chapter Eight Wednesday, December 3:11:55pm PST

“Is Price Stewart still here?”  Harold asked the lady at the ER desk.  She looked down at a list of names and other gibberish and replied, “Are you family?”

“You had to look that question up on that paper in front of you?” Harold shot back.  “Is there a Janice Wright here?  She is not a patient she works for Mr. Stewart.  Is it okay if I talk to her?” Sarcasm was legal compared to what he wanted to do.

“I don’t get paid to account for visitors’ mister.  Look around and see if you see her here.”  She then got up and went through the swinging door behind her.

“Yeah, sure look around,” he muttered under his own breath.  He had never met Janice so how could he know if she was here?  Harold was at his last nerve with everything going on.  “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen!” he bellowed in the waiting room.  “I hate to bother any of you, but I am looking for someone.  Is anyone here Janice Wright or seen her?”  Nothing, just empty stares looking back at him.  “Janice Wright are you here?” he yelled.  “Gads people it is not a trick question.  Do all of you have broken necks?  Voice box removed?  Janice Wright!” he kept looking around the visiting area making eye contact with those who were not looking away.

“Sir, please quiet down.  What is the problem?” asked officer Sam Brooks.

“Officer I don’t mean to cause a problem but I am trying to locate Janice Wright who should be here because her boss Price Stewart was brought in to the emergency room a little while ago.  I have spoken with her on the phone but I have never met her.  Mr. Stewart is working for me, uh, I mean I hired him for some consulting work,” Harold explained to the officer thinking to himself that he hoped the office did not ask him what kind of consulting work.

“Sir, what is your name?” Sam asked.

“My name officer is Harold Anderson and again I am sorry,” but the officer interrupted him.

“Mr. Anderson I happen to know where Janice Wright is at this moment and I will take you to her but you can not go into a hospital or anywhere else causing such a commotion.”  Sam looked him over and noticed that Harold looked tired, sweaty, and like he was about snap.  “You okay sir?  Have you been drinking?”

“Officer, no I have not been drinking. I just need to see Janice.  Please take me to her.”

“Follow me,” Sam instructed.  The two gentlemen walked up to the door and the officer pushed the round panel on the wall.  The door opened and they both entered.  Harold was so glad not to be in trouble, but he was also glad to be near a policeman.  He felt safer than he had in months.  As they walked, Harold looked around and saw the faces of people who as he always said when running the bookstore “ain’t havin a happy day”.  At the end of the hall he saw the emergency surgery desk and then he could hear the familiar voice of Janice.

“Ms. Wright then is Mr. Anderson.  He was kicking up a bit of a commotion in the emergency room waiting area looking for you,” Sam said as he pulled out a chair from the table and sat down.  Janice looked up Mr. Anderson and he looked exactly like she thought he would, an old coot.  Harold looked at Janice and thought to himself she must have got the job on talent, because it certainly wasn’t because of her looks.

“You gonna stare a hole through me?” Janice quipped.  “Sit down and try not cause any trouble,” as she gestured toward the other empty chair.  Harold was intimidated by her but he could not let her know that.  So he did what he always did with his wife Emma before her death, he rolled his eyes and grabbed the chair and sat down.  “Why did you come out here for Mr. Anderson?  To verify Price was actually in the hospital?”  The words stung.

“Ms. Wright I apologized before for being rude and accusatory.  You gonna hold it against me for the rest of my life?  I told you I might come down.”  Harold shifted in his seat and was actually the happiest he had been in many a day.  The safety he felt, well, people take it for granted he thought.  Heck even he did before – the house.  Never again though, he would always enjoy the feeling of security and safety from now on.  “Anybody want a cup of coffee, I’m buying?” He got up and looked around at them.

“Sure,” Sam said, “I’ll take a cup.  Make it extra white and extra sweetener makes it easier to drink that stuff.”  Lori rolled her eyes at Sam, who gave her a shrug of his shoulders that communicated “What?  What did I say?”

A few moments passed with no conversation then a doctor came out from behind the stainless steel double doors and walked over to the waiting area. “Officer Henderson, Officer Brooks may I have a word with you?”   The officers got up and so did Janice and Harold.

“You two just sit down and wait and let us talk to the doctor,” Lori said kindly but firmly.  “It is procedure that the doctor speaks with us first, so no reason to be alarmed.”  Janice looked over at the doctor and at Harold and sat down.  She was tired and considered that the officer was telling the truth.  After all, Price did not sustain life threatening injuries, he had lost a lot of blood, but the officers assured he would be okay.  Lori and Sam walked over to the doctor who then led them back through the stainless steel doors.

“Officers we are finished stitching him up and stabilizing him.  He is still unconscious, but considering the amount of blood loss and damage to his body that is not a surprise,” the doctor informed Lori and Sam.

Lori asked, “Are you able to tell what happened?”

“Going from the wounds on his body I would have to say he either fought a grizzly bear or alligator.  Or maybe he got ran over and dragged down a street for a mile.  I have no idea in other words and was wondering if you knew what led to this?  I will say if a few more moments would have passed without medical attention I believe he would be dead.  He lost a lot of blood.”

“Can we see him?” Sam asked.

“He will be in the ICU in a few moments and like I said he is unconscious.  Seeing him won’t do you any good.  Does he have family here?”

“His secretary is here,” Lori replied, “we’ll inform her of what you told us.  He does not have any living family members.  So can you make sure that the nurses and staff doesn’t give Ms. Wright any problems?”

“Sure, I will inform everyone and mark it down in his charts.  I would suggest, just as a precaution, that his lawyer be informed of the situation.  I believe he will be okay, eventually; but like I said just as a precaution.”

“Sure doc,” Sam quipped.  “We understand and thanks for talking with us.”  They all shook hands and Lori and Sam went back to talk with Janice and Harold.  “Sure was a nice fella, the doc, you know?”

Lori looked over at Sam nodded her head and said, “There are still some good doctors apparently, just not enough of them.”

Chapter Nine Thursday, December 4:2:30am PST

Lori and Sam had finished informing Janice and Harold about what the doctor had told them.  Janice was relieved and Harold was terrified.  Janice kept looking at Harold as the officers were talking, and she noticed that he seemed anxious and was perspiring.  What did he know?  Janice was also concerned by how the doctor described the injuries Price had received.  Alligators?  Bears?  To the best of her knowledge neither was know to be in Ojai.  Her thoughts were interrupted by the static of Sam’s radio.  Sam tilted his head toward the radio and listened.  “Give me a minute everyone, I need to talk to dispatch,” Sam said as he excused himself from the group.

“Well do you think we can go to the ICU and be near in case he comes to?” Janice asked.

“I certainly think that makes sense,” Lori replied.  “Mr. Anderson, you ok?  You look a little distraught.”

“I’m fine.  Uh, just the news and all, it is troubling,” he replied while wiping his face with his handkerchief.  “I haven’t been sleeping well and I am under a lot of stress, it’s a catching up to me right now I think.  And please, call me Harold; I prefer keeping things on a first name basis if that is okay with you.”

“Fine Harold, I understand, you may call me Lori and my partner’s name is Sam.  Let’s wait a couple minutes for him to get back so we can all go to the ICU together.  Is that alright with you Janice?”

“Yes that is mine with me.”  Lori walked over toward Sam and Janice looked over at Harold and said softly, “Mr. Anderson, I mean, Harold what exactly has been going on that has you so troubled?”

“Price didn’t tell you?” Harold asked.  Janice shook her head no.  Harold thought to himself for a moment as he looked at Janice and Lori.  He was embarrassed about the whole ordeal and he really did prefer to keep it a private dealing.  He was thinking of how to answer Janice’s question discreetly when Sam and Lori walked over to them.

“Seems we have found Price’s car,” Sam told the group.  “It was about a half mile from where we found him.  It was down in a ditch wrapped around a tree.  Officer Detroy said the interior was covered in blood.  Criminalistics are on the way down to locate trace evidence and blood type.  Officer Detroy also said that the car had a notebook or binder and a couple of old looking books.  They have already placed them in bags and once criminalistics gives them a once over we will be able to get them back to him, you, as long as everything is copasetic.”

Janice asked, “Do you think the car wreck is how he sustained the injuries?”

Sam looked over at Lori and Lori sensed what her partner was thinking, “Janice from what we saw we have to agree with the doctor.  He may have sustained some injuries in the wreck but they were not the source of the worst injuries he suffered.”  Janice nodded and tried to make sense of what she had just learned.

“Ojai?  Why in the world was he in Ojai?”  Janice asked aloud to no one.  “That just does not make sense.”  And the thought of him being in a wreck, apparently with no other cars involved did not make sense.  Sure she was glad no one else was injured but Price is a good driver, so then what caused the accident?  She said to the officers, “He is a good driver; none of this makes any sense.”

“Some of the roads, including the one he was on, are narrow and have a lot of curves,” Sam said.

“I understand but he drives Sycamore Canyon and up along the mountains in Santa Barbara to relax.  He loves the turns and hills, Janice said shaking her head.  He said it was just him, the car, and the road.”

Harold said, “Lets go to the ICU and see if he is awake.”  Janice nodded her head at the suggestion and the four of them walked down the hall heading to the ICU.

Chapter Ten Thursday, December 4:5:00am PST

The four had been sitting in the waiting area outside the ICU for a little over two hours.  Janice and Harold had been dosing on and off.  Harold insisted that he wanted to stay at the hospital and the truth was he had slept sound each of the half hour doses he had been taking while waiting for the others.  He missed this feeling of security and safety and he was also wondering why he had been able to enjoy it after all, he had been in stores and restaurants when these things had shown up and embarrassed and harassed him.  Why were they leaving him alone now?  Could it be they were afraid of cops?  Hospitals?  Or, dare to dream, were they gone?  Wishful thinking he knew for sure because he was certain as soon as he arrived back home the events would pick up where they had left off.  His mind wandered and then he jumped up off the couch remembering the hand that he felt on his shoulder and the oppressive weight they held him down.  He said to the others, “I’m gonna go and wash up in the bathroom.  Please don’t leave until I get back.  Okay?”  They nodded their heads and Janice turned on the television.  Sam leaned over and spoke to Lori, then got up and left the waiting area.

Harold wandered around looking for the bathroom.  He figured it had to be reasonably close to the waiting area but he had two choices of where to turn when he left the waiting area and it appeared he may have chosen the wrong way.  He felt uneasy and was not sure if the feeling was because he was lost so to speak or because of them.  He came to the end of the hall and it had a door that apparently contained steps so he was now certain he went the wrong way.  He turned around and started heading back, and he picked up the pace of his walking.  His mind, he was certain, was beginning to play tricks on him.  He heard things.  He felt things.  In a few moments he was back at the waiting area, so he continued to go the way he had not originally chosen.  Going down the hall he passed some closets and labs, and then he saw the restrooms.  He entered the men’s restroom and began putting water on his face.  He felt dirty.  He was tired.  He went to the urinal and relieved himself.  He had been holding it for five hours because he feared going away from the group but his bladder was at the bursting point.  He washed his hands and again washed his face.  The cool water felt good on his skin.  Simple pleasures, he thought to himself.  He looked at his face in the mirror and he noticed the huge bags under his eyes and the fact his eyes were bloodshot.  More cool water he splashed onto his face.

He dried his face and arms and went back to the waiting area.  The two officers and Janice and another officer were talking and it seemed by the looks on their faces that it was not good news and it was serious.  “What’s wrong?  What happened?” Harold interjected when he drew close enough.

Janice waved Harold over away from the officers and said, “It appears that the police went to Ms. Rvicknik’s home to speak with her but she was not there.  So they have been waiting for her all night and she has not come home.  Plus Lori and Sam have pulled a double shift with all this stuff going on and they need to get some sleep.  The officer that they are talking to, Ron Reynolds, is going to relieve them and his partner, Jack Abner is on the way over here.  So we are pretty much still waiting and the police are trying to figure out if Ms. Rvicknik has any family or friends that maybe she went to see and that is why she is not at home.”  Harold listened to every word she said with his undivided attention.  The news about Rvicknik was bad, he was certain of it.

“Janice, Harold, Officer Reynolds is taking over for us right now.  We will stop by later on in the afternoon and check in on you and Price.  We need to get some shut eye.  We have brought him up to speed on what has transpired so far,” Lori said as she shook Janice’s and Harold’s hands.

“You can call me Ron, and my partner Jack should be here soon,” Ron said as he shook Harold’s and Janice’s hands.  “I understand it has been a long night.”  They nodded their heads and said goodbye to the two officers.  “Well let’s hope Mr. Stewart wakes up soon so we can start putting pieces together.  If you two would like to go to the cafeteria and get some breakfast, I will wait right here for you.”

Janice spoke, “That would be good, I am hungry and I could definitely use some coffee.  Harold?”

“I am with you.  Some hot coffee would do me good right now,” Harold answered.  “Hmmm, a muffin would be wonderful also.”  The two of them thanked the officer and headed for the cafeteria.  “Don’t go left, it just leads to steps,” Harold told Janice.  “I found that earlier.”  So they went to the right and followed the signs for the cafeteria.

In the cafeteria dining room the two sat to enjoy hospital food.  Harold had a large coffee and a blueberry muffin that he warmed in the microwave.  Janice had a large coffee with scrambled eggs and bacon.  They both realized just how hungry they were.  Harold devoured his muffin and went back through the line and got another one, this time a banana nut.  Janice had wolfed down her food but she was content.

Harold sat back down slicing the muffin in half and then spread some butter and honey lightly over each cross section.  He ate with a fork, like a dessert.  Janice watched him and mused how he seemed to thoroughly enjoy every bite.  “So, what have you hired Price for?” Janice asked and as the words left her lips she watched Harold’s countenance darken and sadden.

“Ok, let me explain though I find it odd he did not tell you,” replied Harold.

Chapter Eleven Thursday, December 4:5:45am PST

“It all started about five weeks after I moved in to my new home, which I have lived in for a little over a year.   How can I put this?  First I think it is fair to say I have never believed in (as he made the imaginary quotes marks with his fingers) ghosts, demons, spooks, or paranormal kind of stuff.  Now I do.”  Janice nodded her head which let him know she did know what her boss did for a living.  “It started out with things missing and reappearing elsewhere.  Then the sounds and feelings as things began escalating from once in awhile to several times daily.  Now, when I contacted your employer, I saw it or him.  My God I never ever want to see It/him again.  Last night It touched me and laughed.  It is very powerful and It has been toying with me.  It now has permeated my dreams or I should say nightmares with absolute horror and carnage, things I have never witnessed, read about, or imagined.  Horrible things, I fear that they are next.”  He took out his handkerchief and wiped his lips and brow.  Janice noticed his hands were trembling.  He then took a sip of his coffee.  Janice did not speak a word and Harold now looked at her as if he was waiting a reply or something from her.  She took a sip of coffee and thought about Price and the last day she saw him.

“I think Price thinks it has to do with the house and events that occurred their before you bought it.  I am just a secretary or administrator if you please, but I know he had me get the info on the house and prior owners, which there was only one as you know.”  Harold nodded as he listened and then picked up his cup of coffee.  “I may be wrong, and it won’t be the first time; but considering he is unconscious and we are here talking about it that is my two cents from what little I know.  Harold, they are real.  It, he, she, or they are as real as you and me, but they are far more powerful.”  She sipped her coffee, “but as Price says they also have weaknesses you just have to learn about them.  If you don’t mind me asking, why don’t you just move?”

“Simple, I would lose a lot of money.  My retirement is in that house.  I had to finance very little but finance I did.  I can’t afford the loss; I am not a rich man.  And besides can you or Price guarantee if I move right now that they will not follow me?”

He looked straight at her, eye ball to eye ball.  She shook her head and then said, “I understand.  Hopefully at least Price will be able to tell you that, if not how to remove it from your home.”

“I would like to go home, but I am hoping not to have to go back home until I have talked with Price.  Considering everything that has occurred, it is definitely a wish more than a hope.  I hope that what has happened to him has nothing to do with my situation.  But in the pit of my stomach, I know, just like today when I left my house I knew from then forward it is going to get worse.  I just know it.  When I felt It’s hand on my shoulder and heard It laugh, I knew.  Truth of the matter is I thought that was the end for me but I think It is enjoying itself right now, It is toying with me.  I am like a defenseless mouse in the paws of a cat; it is only a matter of time till the kill.”  He looked off past her taking another sip of his coffee.  Janice looked at him and now saw this man completely different than before.  She now saw a tired and scared old man grasping at the last threads of sanity and dignity to keep composure.  Instead of talking Janice stood up gathered her stuff and gave him the head motion that communicated “Let’s go.”  He picked up his coffee and followed her.  No one spoke another word.

When they arrived at the ICU waiting room Ron and Jack were speaking with a nurse.  When Ron saw Janice and Harold he waved them over to the discussion.  As they got closer he leaned toward them and said, “It seems Price is starting to come to.”

The nurse nodded and added, “For the past fifteen minutes he has opened his eyes moved his head about to look around and then he goes back to sleep.  He has waked up three times in the last fifteen minutes.  I was telling the officers it may be good if you, Janice, went in alone right now and sat next to him so the next time he wakes up he will see a friendly familiar face.”

“Yes, definitely doctor, um, nurse” Janice eagerly replied.  “Harold just hang on here, ok?”  Harold nodded.

“Harold can sit out here with us,” Jack said.  The three went over to the chairs and sat down.  “So what line of business you in Harold?  Oh, sorry I forgot you retired.  What did you use to do?”

Janice followed the nurse back into the ICU looking around at the full beds.  Images starting flooding back into her mind about Charlie.  She sighed and then the nurse pointed to a bed with a person in it who was seemed to be bandaged head to toe.  She gasped and the nurse said, ‘It looks far worse now than it is.  The wounds will heal; the concern has been internal damages and the affects of blood loss.  Don’t be surprised if he does not remember you at first.”  Janice nodded, the nurse continued, “I will be right around the corner pointing to the direction, if you need me or if he awakens.”  Janice nodded and would have said something but she had too big of a lump in her throat.

Janice took the chair near Price’s bed and gently scooted it over closer to his bed.  Before she sat she looked him over.  His arms and hands were heavily bandaged.  He had bandages on the left side of his neck and cheek.  His eyes were swollen and blue.  She noticed that the sheets on his bed gave the illusion he was a muscular or big guy, neither of which was correct so she figured that his chest must have had bandages too.  She sat down and looked at his profile.  His hair was a mess, which would greatly upset him.  She opened her purse and rummaged through it and found a brush.  She leaned over him and gently brushed his hair, actually it was more like moved it around, to better resemble the way he kept it.  She sat back down and kept looking at him. ”What,” she thought, “happened to you Price?  What did you get yourself into?”

Chapter Twelve Thursday, December 4:7:00am PST

He knew it wasn’t Heaven and he was sure it was not Hell.  The sounds of beeps, swooshes, and hums filled his head.  He felt like a paperweight like some had taken his body and filled it with lead.  His thoughts were groggy, similar to someone diving into a deep pool of water and once they reached bottom swam to the top, surprised there was another stroke more of water till air could be breathed.  Except for him the dive to the bottom of the pool of water had an exceptionally deep bottom.  He had started to consider giving up.  He tried to move his head and he did ever so slightly but he expended a lot of energy to do so.  Janice – with tears running down her face she was looking at him and smiling.  He could feel her hands clench his hand, she was talking but right now it did not make sense to him.  He used what little energy he had left to smile at her.

“Nurse!  Nurse!  He’s awake!  He’s smiling at me!” Janice hollered excitedly at the top of her lungs.  The nurse rushed in and checked the machines grabbed his other arm and took his pulse.  She looked at him with her soft but serious eyes.

“Hello Mr. Stewart,” she said smiling.  “I will contact the doctor.”  She left the area and Janice looked down at Price who was staring at her.

“Tired”, he whispered barely audible.

“That’s okay boss we’ll make sure you get your rest.  Oh have I been worried sick about you,” Janice said looking at his eyes.

“Sorry”, he said and smiled.

“Mister we don’t have time for sorry right now,” she said in her mock big sister tone.  “You just wait till your better and then we’ll discuss sorry.”  He smiled and coughed because he tried to chuckle.  “Don’t do that, you have to be careful,” Janice said.

The doctor entered and checked Prices eyes and pulse and made some notes on his chart.  “This may sound like a ridiculous question to ask you right now but how do you feel?  I expect tired, groggy, and disoriented.  Do you hurt?  Where?”

Price said nothing and just shook his head.

“Good, if you feel any discomfort or pain, let us know immediately.  How is your sight and hearing?”  Price nodded gesturing ok.  “Can you feel this?”  And the doctor began taking his light pen and pushing on Price’s feet, hands, stomach, legs, and arms.  Price nodded again affirmative.  “Good, rest, that is about all you can handle right now and I will check on you in a few hours.”  The doctor ordered a change of Price’s medication and fluids.  “Would you like some Jell-O, water, broth, or ice cream?”

“Coffee”, he whispered and everyone laughed.

Janice said, “I’ll go down into the cafeteria and get him a cup of brewed coffee, that instant stuff in the machine is rough.”  The nurse said she would ask Harold if he would get it and also take the time to inform the group in the waiting room of Prices status.  “Thank you,” Janice said and the nurse and the doctor left the area.  Janice looked at Price and said, “Boss we need to talk.  The police are here and want to speak with you about what happened to you.”

Price looked at her curiously then it was like a light bulb was turned on in his mind – Tabitha and Elaine!  Images of them and the thing, jumping into his car, the fear, the hideous attack, not being able to control his car, and other images he could not place swirled in his mind.  “They are dead,” he said to Janice.  Janice looked at him and began to feel queasy.

“What happened?  Who is Elaine?” Janice asked in panic and fear.

“I don’t know.”  Price felt his mind lose its grasp on the moment.  He gave in to it and let his mind and body sleep.

Janice looked at him as questions raced through her mind.  In his current condition he can not muster the strength and presence of mind to tell his story.  He can not in his weakened condition handle it.  She patted his hand and Ron entered the ICU.  When he passed the curtained partition he saw Price was asleep again and Janice patting his hand.  “Did he say anything?” Ron asked.  Janice stopped patting his hand sat down and nodded.  “What?”

Quietly she said, “Tabitha and Elaine are dead.”

The officer looked at her and waved for her to follow him.  She got up and followed him as he headed to the ICU waiting area where Harold and Jack were staring at the television monitor was showing the local news.  “Jack we got a problem.”  With those words Jack and Harold both got up.  “Janice,” Ron said, tell everybody what you told me just a minute ago.

All eyes were focused on Janice as she gave the news that Tabitha and Elaine were dead.  “Who the heck is Elaine?” Jack asked.  “What the heck happened?”

“That is all Price told me before he drifted unconscious.  He seemed upset but that was all he was able to say.  I have no idea who Elaine is but I figure Tabitha is Ms. Rvicknik.  So maybe there is some type of relationship between Tabitha and Elaine, and that is how to figure out who she is and maybe have an idea what has happened.”  Jack walked away from the group while dialing his cell phone.

“You calling HQ?” Ron asked Jack.  Jack nodded in affirmation.  “Gads!  We start off wanting to know what happened to Price and before we have done that we have two dead bodies but we don’t the identity of one and we have no idea where the two bodies are.”  Rubbing his hands over his head and making noises of frustration he closes his eyes trying to think.

“Ok I’ve called in what you just said.  The officers at Tabitha’s are going to get inside her house.  Maybe that is where Ms. Rvicknik and/or Elaine are; meanwhile we need to have one of us (pointing at Ron and himself) in the room with Price at all times in the event he wakes up again.  We need to get some more information as quickly as possible.”

Ron said, “I will go in there now.  Hey I got an idea.  What about we do a name search of the properties around where Price had the accident?  See if we can get lucky and find an Elaine registered in the area.”

“Great idea,” Jack said, “I’ll call it in and have them check titles, postal, telephone, and other utilities.”  Ron nodded.

“I’m going back in and wait for Price to wake up again,” Janice said as she headed back to the ICU.  Harold stood motionless gripped in fear and dread realizing with certainty that the events did have something to do with what was going on to him.  What should he do?

He sat down.

Chapter Thirteen Thursday, December 4:10:00 am PST

Harold had not moved for three hours.  He sat staring at the television screen which his eyes had not left the entire time yet he could not tell you one thing that had been broadcasted.  Harold was thinking and his mind could only focus on what terrible things were yet to happen to him.  He had suppressed the need to go to the restroom for three hours, hoping the officer would come out of the ICU in need of going there himself.  He was afraid to go by himself, but he had no choice now.  It was that or something very humiliating.

He got up from the chair and headed down the hallway as quickly as he could.  Once in the bathroom to his relief there was another gentleman inside.  He kept thinking to himself as he stood at the urinal, “Hurry!  Hurry!  Don’t be left in here alone.”  His body was not listening or cooperating.  The gentleman washed his hands, dried them, and left.  Harold stood at the urinal gripped in fear.  His eyes constantly looking around him trying to make sure he was alone.  “Hurry!” he kept thinking.  In a movement of flushing, zipping, and stepping away he was at the sink washing his hands and was out the door before the toilet had finished its flushing and refilling cycle.  He kept up the fast pace till he made it to the ICU waiting room when he passed Ron.

“Nature calls Harold.  No news yet from Price or Jack,” Ron said as he passed Harold.  Harold shook his head, if he would have waited five more minutes he would have not been alone.  Harold entered the ICU and asked for Janice.  The nurse left and a moment later he saw Janice approaching him.

“What’s wrong Harold?” Janice said.

“Nothing except I need to go home but I am afraid to,” Harold replied.  “Any chance you would be willing to go with me to my house so I could shower and change?  If you wish you could do so as well.”

“I really want to stay here with Price,” she said looking back toward Price’s general direction.

“We won’t be gone long.  Straight there and back and I promise to pack some clothes for myself so I will be alright for awhile.  Please Janice I really need you to go with me.  You know the officer is going to sit here and wait too, so someone will be here.  We may get back before he wakes up again.  Please!”  He pleaded with her.

Ron walked in and Janice said, “Hey I’m going to go with Harold to his place so he can shower and change.  He wants company for the trip home and all,” Janice explained.  “Besides I could use some fresh air and change of scenery for a little bit too.”

“Sure, no need to check with me your not under arrest,” Ron chuckled.  “I will be here waiting for him to wake up.  Take your time and I’ll tell you what, give me your cell phone number and if he wakes up while you are gone I will give you a call.”

“Wonderful, thank you,” Janice said as she wrote her cell phone number down.  “We’ll be quick.  Harold, we’ll need to swing by my car to get my bag.”  He nodded and the two walked down the hallway heading for the parking lot.

“I am parked in the emergency area,” Janice told Harold.  “Where are you parked?”

“I am parked in the main hospital visitor parking lot.  I can walk with you to get your bag if you’d like,” Harold said.  Truth of the matter was he did not want to walk out to his car – alone.

“Harold it would just be as….” and she looked up and saw his face and knew what was going through his mind.  “I think that is a good idea.”  She knew he was afraid and from what little bit of information Price has said she figured he had every reason to be scared.  They walked out through the emergency area and when they got to Janice’s car she realized she should not be parked in emergency.  They jumped in her car and drove to where Harold was parked.  The lot was pretty much full so Harold jumped into his car and backed out and Janice pulled into his parking place.  Grabbing her bag and locking the doors she got into Harold’s’ car.

Janice drove an Impala SS convertible which fit her personality – a little sporty and classy.  Harold drove a Cadillac Seville that was fully loaded.  When she sat in his car she was at once struck by the luxury and comfort of the car.  This was definitely a car for someone who wanted luxury and to be pampered while enjoying the drive. “I could definitely get use to this,” she said aloud.  Harold smiled.

“In my line of work before retiring I spent a lot of time on the road viewing and appraising collections of books and publications.  I decided after a few years that I needed to look presentable when arriving at a potential clients address and I definitely could use the comfort while driving.  I have owned a Park Avenue and Continental, but this car while patting the dash affectionately, has been a blessing.”

They drove to Harold’s and Janice began to think about what she may have gotten herself into.  She had volunteered to go to the house of a man who has something scaring him in the house.  She obviously had answered yes with her heart before her mind was able to say “no way!”  Maybe she could come up with a reason to sit in the car while he went in.  She could say she needed to call and check messages at home and the office.  That reason could work.  But what if he said why not come inside and do that?  No reason for her to be sitting in a car.  Worse yet what if he actually said something along the lines that he was afraid to go in by himself?  She would say yes again, she knew it.  But what if she was talking on the phone when they pulled in, surely he would not interrupt her.  She smiled and then realized he probably would not interrupt her but he would also not get out of the car.  She sighed and looked out the window and became resolved to the fact she was going to be entering a haunted house or see a ghost or something in just a few minutes.  Her stomach began to feel queasy.

Harold drove and did not speak another word once they turned on to his street.  Janice, not sure if she was spooking herself, began to feel very anxious and heavy.  She wanted to hum a happy tune but none came to mind.  She looked over at Harold and noticed he was losing his color and was perspiring.  She said a quiet prayer to God for protection and would have asked for wisdom but felt that was a little late to ask for.  He turned into the driveway and Janice’s heart sank as she looked up at the house and her imagination ran wild.  “I’ll think I’ll ca…” but before she could finish the sentence Harold looked over at her.

“Please come in with me.  I will be quick.”

She dropped her head and opened the car door.  “Ok, but in and out.  I will do my changing and cleaning up at a restaurant or gas station bathroom.  You could too you know.  Just grab some clothes and head right back out.”  Harold nodded as he slid his key into the front door and heard the lock click back into his chamber.  He opened the door and now with Janice standing behind him he stepped into his home.  She looked in and thought what would she be looking for?  A hideous ghastly demon standing in a doorway like in the movie Poltergeist or a little girl doll that introduced herself as Talking Tina?  That would be all a little to easy for her to know to run to the car, heck, even run down the street screaming.  Maybe a fire to mysteriously appear in the fireplace – that would spook her.  Or, the dreaded, “Get out warning” from the Amityville Horror.  But instead she saw a charming home that was well kept and looked completely normal.  She stepped in but decided not to close the door behind her that way it was once less thing to do if she was in need of fleeing for her life.

Chapter Fourteen Thursday, December 4:11:30am PST

“Janice?”  He looked around but could not see her.  His vision was blurry and his mind was foggy.

“Mr. Stewart, I am Officer Ron Reynolds.”

“Where is Janice?”

She went with Harold Anderson to his home

“What?  No – she should not go there!”  He tried to raise himself up but his strength failed him.  “They need to keep away from there.”

“Mr. Stewart what is wrong?”

“They’ll die too.”

“Mr. Stewart –“

A nurse walked in and tried to be a buffer between Price and the officer.  “Sir you must leave, he needs rest.  His blood pressure is too high and he is too weak.”

“Nurse call Janice,” Price weakly pleaded.

“Officer I think you must leave now, he is no condition for conversations right now.”

Ron stepped away from the bed and looked at Price and saw an expression of fear he had not sent since his days in Vietnam.  He knew that expression.  It was real.

“Mr. Stewart I will call her right now, calm down.”  Ron stepped out of the ICU area and picked up the phone on the wall for families to use and dialed Janice’s cell phone number.

Janice stood in the doorway afraid to move, Harold was already out of sight hurriedly grab clothes and toiletries.  She looked around and saw the beautiful bookcases and the leather chair situated cozily in the midst of them.  The similarities between Harold and Price were obvious; both of the men loved books, leather, and handcrafted woodwork and from where she was standing there was not much else to see but the living room which seemed to be a library.  Harold seemed to be a pretty simple man but with exquisite taste.  Her wits came back to her and she remembered what Harold said about was going on in his home and she nervously looked around and behind her.  Her ears were like the surveillance of radar, just waiting for that one “Boo!” when her phone started ringing.  First it startled her – truthfully – it scared the daylights out of her and then when she realized what the sound was she panicked because she reasoned that she may have let whatever it was that was tormenting Harold and killed Tabitha and Elaine now knew she was in the house.  She rummaged through her purse to get her phone, she could hear Charlie say “Bigger purse to carry more junk around and soon you’ll be wheeling it around.”

“Hello, Janice this is Officer Ron Reynolds.”

“Is Price awake?” she said in a whisper.

“Yes, listen to me do not go into Harold’s house.”

And with those words her heart pounded as if it was going to burst through her chest.  “I am already inside,” she whispered with a hint of crying in her voice.

“Do you see Harold?”

“No he went to grab some clothes,” she replied while placing her hand on the door knob.

“Tell him to get out of the house now.  That is all Price said.”  Which was not true, but he figured it was not wise to relay the rest of what he had said.  “Janice, get out.”

“Harold!”  Janice yelled while opening the front door.  “We have to leave right now.  Harold!”  She waited a moment but heard nothing from Harold.

“Janice do you see Harold?”

“Officer, er, Ron, I don’t see him and he did not reply,” the tears that were earlier only hinted at were now rolling down her cheeks.  “Harold!”  She sobbed aloud as she stepped outside of the front door.

“I’m coming, I’m coming.”  Harold replied while appearing from around a corner.  He had a suitcase in one hand and toiletry bag in the other.  “What’s wrong?  I went as fast I could.”

“He’s here and we are leaving right now.”

“Who are you talking to?” Harold asked as he met Janice in the doorway.  He set his suitcase on the porch, reached into his pockets and pulled out his keys.  Locking the door he turned around and saw that Janice was already sitting in the car.  Harold shook his head and then thought about it a second and picked up his tempo another step.  Placing his bags in the trunk he closed the trunk lid and got into the car.  “What was that all about?  Who were you talking to?”  As he started the car engine he looked over at Janice and noticed shed been crying.  “Oh no, is Price…”

“It was Ron he said Price told him to tell us not to go into your house.”  She exhaled heavily trying to calm down.  “Why didn’t you answer me when I first called out to you?”

“Apparently I did not hear you,” he replied as they backed out of the driveway and headed up the street.  “Where to?” he asked.

“Let’s just get back to the hospital.  I’ll freshen up and change there.  I just want to get back and see Price and calm down.”  Harold nodded and stepped down on the accelerator, the car zoomed down the road but it felt like they were driving on air.

Chapter Fifteen Thursday, December 4:1:00 pm PST

When Janice and Harold arrived at the hospital they decided to first see Price and then freshen up.  Entering the ICU they saw Ron and Jack speaking with Price.  Price was still lying pretty much flat on his back but they could tell he was talking.  The nurse was about to stop them when Jack told the nurse to let Harold and Janice through.  Price seemed more alert this time to Janice and Harold’s stomach knotted further for seeing for the first time the damage Prices body had taken.  “Hi Janice and Mr. Anderson,” Price quietly said.

Janice reached over and grabbed his hand.  “How you doing boss?”

“I have definitely felt better and I have definitely felt worse,” he replied.

Jack said, “Price has told us what he told you and we have some officers checking into some things.  Ron and I are going to go to Elaine’s home.  Officers Henderson and Brooks will come to the hospital when they report to work.  I am sure we will all be running into each other again soon.” He looked over to Ron and gave the head motion for them to leave.

“Bye officers and thanks,” Janice said and Harold nodded in agreement.  Both officers shook Janice and Harold’s hands and left the ICU.

Harold watched them and then looked at Price, “What happened?  Am I in trouble?”  He sat down in the chair next to Price and then realized it was the only chair so he got up from it nervously and motioned for Janice to sit down in it which she declined.  Harold did not sit in it again because of the nervous energy flowing through his body.

“Mr. Anderson, I…”

“Call me Harold.”

“Harold, you are not any trouble with the police that I know of.  As far as what happened that will take a little while to explain but I honestly do not know what actually occurred I just know what happened.  You know what I mean?  I told the officers that Elaine and Tabitha were dead and where Elaine lived but I have not told them what occurred yet.”

Harold nodded and Janice spoke up, “Price what has the doctor said?  Are you going to be okay?”  Which was totally the way a mom would have handled a crisis, first insure the loved one is okay and then details can follow.

“The doctor said it will be a few days if not a week before I start feeling like myself due to the blood loss and the medications I am taking.  He said that considering I have not shown any memory loss that I should be fine, but he is cautious about the diagnosis and will wait and see how I am over the next few days.”

“Thank the Lord for that,” Janice said with relief.  She looked at Price and patted his hand and said, “Now what the heck happened?!”

Price tried to sit up but immediately became woozy so he lay back down.  He pointed to the pitcher of ice chips and Harold tried to pour some into a cup for Price but ended up dumping the contents onto the floor.  “I’m sorry!  I’ll clean it up, oh I just,” Harold said while trying unsuccessfully to scoop the contents back into the pitcher.

“I’ll clean it up Harold; calm down it is no big deal.  Why don’t you rinse out the pitcher and get some more ice?  The nurse will tell you where the ice machine is, it has to be reasonably close to the ICU.  No big deal,” she reassured him as she grabbed a white hand towel and began soaking up the mess.  Harold nodded and left with the pitcher.

“Janice,” Price said her name quietly and began tapping the metal bed rail with his knuckle.  She looked up at him and he said, “Don’t let Harold go home, I’ll explain later.”  He looked directly in her eyes with all the seriousness he could muster and said, “Don’t’ let anyone go into his house.”  She nodded and began to speak and he shook his head and closed his eyes because he did not want to speak to any further, he needed time to think through what happened and what he could do about it and for Harold.  All he had at the moment were events that were horrifying and no answers.  Janice finished cleaning up the ice and water on the floor and then sat down next to Price.  A few moments later Harold approached with the pitcher freshly filled with ice.  Janice put a finger to her lips and Harold slowed down.  She held out her hand to receive the pitcher from Harold.  He smiled sheepishly and she did too as he handed her the pitcher.  Price who was resting but giving the allusion he was sleeping listened to the two being as quiet as church mice.  He wanted to smile or at least grin but he really wanted to think.

A half of an hour passed when Price thought of some things Janice could do to help him.  “Janice,” he said.

“You waking up?”

“I was never asleep,” he replied with a grin he had been waiting to reveal.

“Oooh I could just, you wait till you feel better,” Janice said playfully.

“Look before the police arrive again I wanted to ask you to do a few things.”  Then he inhaled trying to gain strength and volume in his words.

“It is okay Price – take your time,” she said as she pulled out her planner and thumbed to the area of blank pages at the back of her binder.

“Find out what you can about Elaine Wystacke, I need to know not only her family history but her business professionally and socially.  Do you have your laptop and access to the internet?”  She nodded.  “Find out what you can about the following: Elementals, Djinni, Azazel, Eblis, and fallen angels.”  Harold and Janice both looked up at him wide eyed like a deer caught in the headlights.

Harold stuttering said, “You mean that my house…”

“Harold what is going on has nothing to do with anything you have done.  Unfortunately though you purchased a house where some people did, well, honestly I don’t know what they did – exactly.  But this I can tell you; I was pretty certain you were dealing with something along the lines of poltergeists or your basic bottom level evil spirits.  I can definitely say that is not the case.  I can say that what is at work here is an entity that is very powerful and very dangerous.”  He kept his eyes focused on Harold’s eyes to make sure he understood how serious the situation was.  Obviously the message was received because as he spoke he watched Harold’s eyes widen and fill with tears.  “Janice one last thing, please contact Dr. Samuel Wilhelm at University of Nevada and Dr. Rachel Moriarity at the University of Cincinnati.  Tell them what has happened and what I have requested you to do some research on and they will know what I want from them.”

“Price how can I tell them what happened when I don’t know what happened?”  Janice said.

Price sighed and then looked at Janice and at Harold, “What time is it?”

Janice looked at her watch and answered, “2:30 in the afternoon.”

“Okay I will give you the short version for now but I would ask that this not leave the room.”  He looked at both of them and they each nodded in agreement.  “When the police arrive I am going to quit talking about it.  If the police ask you what I told you say I told you nothing.  This is something that the less you know the better off you will be with the police because right now I think they think I am crazy and killed Tabitha and Elaine with my own two hands.”

Price began, “Janice as you know I went to visit Tabitha Rvicknik at her home.  She at first did not want to see me but when I shared some things with her that Harold was experiencing she invited me over.  At her house she explained to me that her and her husband Vitor dabbled in paranormal things, séances, and other esoteric studies.  When Vitor died she was grief stricken and decided to see if she could summon him via a séance so she could speak to him.  She spoke with people in the circle of friends and with the medium they had used before.  Everyone agreed that the person she needed to contact was Elaine Wystacke.

Elaine met with Tabitha and they had tea on several occasions discussing Vitor and their lives.  Elaine said it was necessary to get a full understanding of who Vitor was in order to be successful in summoning him through the séance.  I have to be honest at this point I figured she was dealing with a crook.  I had never heard of this type of introduction period except for those who would fake the presence of someone who was being summoned.  I did not say anything to Tabitha about my hunch and in hindsight I am glad I didn’t.  Elaine was anything but a crook.

Exactly nine weeks and six days from the day of Vitor’s death they held the séance.  Elaine requested that for the séance to be most effective that the circle consisted of only herself and Tabitha.  Tabitha agreed and the séance was held in the Rvicknik home and began at 9:06PM.  The séance was going as planned when from the mouth of Elaine came the voice of Vitor.  Tabitha said it was very odd because Elaine did not convulse or make any odd physical manifestations of possession she just suddenly lifted up her head and looked directly into Tabitha’s eyes and out came Vitor’s voice saying, “My little lady,” which was one of the things that Tabitha did not share with Elaine knowing that if her husband did indeed appear that is how he would greet her since it was his pet name for her.  Tabitha said she was in awe and filled with joy and told him she missed him and he said he missed her as well.  She inquired how he was and did he meet their beloved and he replied that Joey was well, healthy, and glad to spend time with his pa-pa.  Tabitha began to sob when she told me the story because she explained this was the only other bit of information that she knowingly concealed from Elaine.  Vitor and Tabitha had one child, a boy they named Benny who died at the age of four due to polio.”

“After this reply from Vitor she noticed that a smirk appeared on Elaine’s face and then went away.  She thought it was her imagination but as Vitor continued to speak and Tabitha replied and vise versa she noticed the smirk more and more.  She thought maybe Elaine was in pain or maybe Vitor was struggling to stay in possession of Elaine so the physical manifestation of the smirk was occurring.  After the two hour long session was near completion Tabitha noticed Elaine slouching in her chair and she began to feel guilty thinking she was weakened by Tabitha’s insistent conversing with her husband.  She reluctantly told Vitor goodbye which Vitor replied, “Till later my little lady.”

“As Tabitha expected Elaine was completely exhausted, she was limp as dead but she was alive for Tabitha checked her pulse.  Tabitha struggled to get Elaine out of the chair and to the sofa behind her.  Elaine did not speak a word and seemed unconscious but Tabitha was not overly concerned.  She prepared a glass of water and placed it on the coffee table next to Elaine and then went to bed. “

“Early the next morning Tabitha awakened and went to the study to check on Elaine.  It appeared that Elaine had not moved at all during the evening.  Tabitha checked Elaine’s pulse, felt it was strong and sure and then gently tapped Elaine on her shoulder calling her name.  She tried for several minutes but Elaine was still out cold and Tabitha began to worry about what she should do and how she would explain it.  She went to the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on and made some toast in her oven.  Tabitha went into the study and checked on Elaine who was still flat on her back asleep on the couch when suddenly Elaine sat upright as if she was of robotic nature and screamed.  Tabitha said it was not a simple yell but it that it was a scream that was so horrific, loud, emotional, and long that as she described it to me she had tears well up into her eyes and goose-bumps appear all over her body.  She believed that Elaine screamed for at least a solid minute as if a siren was blasting in her home and then she collapsed lying back on the couch unconscious.  Tabitha did not know what to do.  She wanted to shake Elaine awake fearing she was in a deep sleep filled with nightmares but also knew it was dangerous to wake someone from such a deep sleep.  But she feared for Elaine’s life and honestly Tabitha was scared out of her wits and decided to try and wake Elaine.’

‘She did as before lightly tapping Elaine’s shoulder and repeating her name.  When that did not work Tabitha tapped Elaine’s cheek and repeating her name but that did not awaken Elaine either.  She then grabbed Elaine’s shoulders and began to shake her but Elaine felt like a rag doll.  Tabitha checked Elaine’s pulse again and discovered it was faint.  Tabitha gently laid Elaine back on the couch and called 911.  When the paramedics arrived they asked what had happened and she said that Elaine had fallen asleep on her couch last night and this morning she was like this.  They asked her why she thought a paramedic was needed and she said she checked Elaine’s pulse and noticed it was weak.  Why had she checked Elaine’s pulse?  Tabitha explained it was because it appeared Elaine had not moved since last night.  The paramedics checked Elaine noted she was unresponsive and had a very weak pulse so they called in to the local hospital and placed her on a stretcher and took her there.”

Harold was trembling and perspiring, he kept wiping his face with his handkerchief.  Price noticed Harold’s demeanor and that he was also pale.  “Harold, you okay?”

Harold closed his eyes and wiped his face.  It was obvious that something was troubling Harold and what Price hoped was that it was not that It or Them had not decided to start harassing him in the hospital.  “Harold, are they here?”  With those words Janice jumped from her seat and looked around for a place to hide.  It was pure instinct.  The fight or flight response kicked in and she knew she was not going to fight anyone.  Harold shook his head and Price heard a sigh of relief come from Janice who embarrassingly looked away from Price’s gaze.  “What is wrong Harold?”

Stuttering, Harold said, “I know why Elaine screamed.”

Harold’s mind was full of images of things he had dreamed recently and no explanation of those things could be faithful in expressing the exact things he had witnessed.  Squeezing his eyes shut and then opening them wide as someone who is having trouble focusing on the world around them, he did this several times and continued to wipe his brow and neck.  “I don’t want to talk about it,” he plainly said while lowering his head.  Janice looked at him and back over at Price and realized that Price was scared as well.  Her stomach knotted and she had the urge to go to the bathroom because as Charlie use to say “Old people have got small and emotional bladders.”  Truth of the matter was she was not going anywhere without someone going with her and it had to be a woman because she wanted someone in the bathroom when she was in there.  She had been protected by Price through years in that he never allowed her to be intimately involved in his cases.  She wondered why his hair was not snow white from the stress or even why he wasn’t bald.

“Harold you want me to stop?  Do you want to sit out front and Ill finish this with Janice?”

Harold badly wanted to say “YES! STOP!” But he shook his head because he was too scared to be alone and too scared not to know what to look out for.  Part of him still held hope that there is someway to fight them; after all Price was still alive.  Price looked over at Janice and said, “Maybe it would be best if you had Dr. Samuel Wilhelm and Dr. Rachel Moriarity call me here if they have any questions because the events do not get happier,” looking back at Harold.  “What we are dealing with is something that…” he just shook his head.  “Matter of fact that is what we are going to do.  Janice, you do as I ask if they need more details or have questions then they should contact me here.” She nodded and was grateful because she already had heard more than she ever wanted to hear.

“Harold,” he looked up at Price, “I want you with me at all times if possible.”  Harold nodded his head and smiled.  “Good that settles the matter for now.  Remember you two, besides Dr. Wilhelm and Dr. Moriarity no one else is to know what I have told you.”

Chapter Sixteen Thursday, December 4:11:55am PST

The home of Elaine Wystacke was a simple ranch style home on an acre of land that was portioned off from the neighbors by a black gated fence.  The home and property was in good repair.  This is what officers Jackson and Hand noticed when pulling up to the home which they learned may have at least two dead bodies inside.  Officer Tom Jackson was a rookie while Officer Lou Hand had been a policeman in Ojai for twenty-three years.  “According to dispatch Ms. Wystacke has no prior run-ins with the law,” Lou said.  They pulled up to the gate and it opened making the officers look around the gate from their car.  To the left of the gate inconspicuously placed was a sensor that obviously controlled the gate.  “Apparently Ms. Wystacke was not overtly private or unfriendly considering the fact she gave cars easy access to her place.”  In the driveway was an older model blue Subaru wagon and it too was in very good shape, once again exhibiting a characteristic of Ms. Wystacke, she was someone who appreciated and took care of her possessions.

Before getting out of the car they radioed in to dispatch that they had arrived at Ms. Wystacke’s residence and saw no immediate signs of trouble.  They were informed that the sheriff was on his to way to the residence and should be there in roughly ten minutes.  They exited the car and looked around observing the surroundings.  Lou inhaled the air deeply and Tom walked over to the Subaru looking inside the windows and checking the doors.  The doors were locked and the car was in immaculate condition.  “This car looks brand new,” Tom said to Lou.  Lou walked over and looked inside as well.  Tom was right the car was in show room condition.

“Tom, you go around the back and I will check the front,” Lou offered.  Tom nodded and headed for the rear of the house while Tom walked on the sidewalk to the front door.  At the front of the house to the right of the front door was a large picture window.  Tom knocked on the door and waited a few moments but no one answered.  He stepped over the flower bed as best as he could and looked in the front window.  The living room he assumed was undisturbed and he saw no movement in the house.  He knocked again and checked the door handle but it was locked.  He radioed to Tom, “Anything back there?”

“Door is locked,” Tom answered, “but there is a barn behind the house.”

“Wait for me,” Lou replied, “we’ll check it together.”  As Lou walked around the house he heard a car approaching on the road and he noticed it was the sheriff.  He waved at him and radioed to Tom, “Bill is here, stand pat, we’ll meet you at the back door.”

“Ten-four,” was the reply.

Lou changed directions and headed to the driveway to meet the Sheriff.  Sheriff Bill Fort has been the Sheriff of Ojai for twenty-eight years.  He was a tall slender gentleman who was known for his humor, wisdom, and humbleness.  The people of the city loved and respected him and due to his age some feared and dreaded the day that the Bill would retire.  “Hello Lou, what have you noticed?”

“Bill,” everybody called him Bill because he did not like titles, “nothing of warning.  The place as you can tell is in very good shape.”  Bill looked around him and nodded.  “Tom is in the back, he said that there is barn.  I told him we would meet him at the back door to not go into the barn without us.”  Bill nodded and the two men walked around to the back of the house.  The barn was small as far as barns go.  It was more like a very large shed that looked like a barn.  It too was in good repair.  It was about a story and a half in height and roughly fifty feet wide and twenty feet deep.  The front of the barn had a large door more than likely used to move equipment out easily that was closed and had a padlock on it.

As the three approached the front of the barn Bill said, “Hold up a minute.”  He walked to the left of the barn and noticed a door ajar.  “Over here,” Bill said.  The two officers walked over to the side and Bill said, “It’s a bit dark in there.”  He pulled out his flashlight and slightly opening the door wider shined his light inside moving it about looking for movement or anything peculiar.  A moment passed and then Bill whispered, “For the love of…” and he stepped away from the door.  He radioed to dispatch, “We have two bodies, contact the coroner and LA.  It is not a pretty sight.  We will wait outside the barn of Ms. Wystacke for further instructions.”

“Ten-four.”

Lou and Tom looked at Bill who was visibly shaken, “No one is going in there until I know what LA wants,” Bill said matter of factly.  Lou and Tom nodded and shined their flashlights inside immediately Tom backed away vomiting into the grass outside the barn.

“What in the world?” Lou said to no one.

“You okay Tom?” Bill asked.  Tom nodded but looked like he would vomit again in any minute.  “You wanna take a walk to the patrol car and wait for the coroner to arrive?”  Tom nodded and without saying a word started walking back to the patrol car.  “This is Bill, any word back from LA?” he asked into his radio.

“Yes we just received word that Officers Reynolds and Abner are in route, ETA is one hour.  You have been requested to tape off the entire property.  LA is sending a criminalistics unit via helicopter, ETA is thirty minutes.”

“Ten-Four,” Bill answered.  “Guess the coroner will be joining our waiting party Lou.”

“I have never seen,” Lou said, “anything remotely close to this before.”  Bill shook his head.

Chapter Seventeen Thursday, December 4:1:40pm PST

When the CU – Criminalistics Unit – arrived the lead person of the group Samantha Ford asked to speak with the sheriff.  Bill met her on her way to the barn, “Hello Ms. Ford, I am Sheriff Bill Fort, you can call me Bill,” extending his hand to greet her.

“Hello Bill,” Samantha said while shaking his hand, “you can call me Sam.”  He nodded.  “What do we have here?”   As they continued their walk to the barn.

“Honestly I don’t know.  Were you briefed at all about why we came here?”  She nodded.  “Well suffice to say the front barn door was closed so I looked around to see if there was another way in which is when I noticed the side door was ajar.”  Now they were standing looking at the door.  “It was not open much more than it is now.  I took my flashlight and opened the door enough to shine my light in and saw, well, take a look.”  She looked inside using her flashlight and then looked at him.  “No one since we arrived to this property has been inside here or the home.  I immediately called in for them to check with LA.”

She was impressed and grateful, an officer, sheriff mind you, that knew the procedures and protocol and followed them; and he had a good attitude to boot.  “Bill, great work, and I do not mean that condescendingly – your actions will definitely help us in analysis of the scene and crime.”

“That is my job.  Oh by the way, pointing a little to the right and behind her, that was Tom’s.  You probably want to avoid that.”  She looked over at what had earlier been Tom’s stomach contents, and then smirked and nodded.

Sam walked over to the rest of her team which was comprised of Terry Waites, Alex Morse, and Rick Shield.  Terry was the newest member of the group, he was athletic and smart.  Alex had been working in CU for three years.  He was a good worker, very thorough, and his specialty was lifting finger prints.  It was said that if he could reach a cloud he could pull the fingerprint of God off of it.  Rick Shields, who had been in CU for five years, was an expert in what Sam called the zone.  He was exceptional at criminalistics but had the gift of being able to analyze the information and evidence and be able zone in on the killer’s motive and mind.  He could have easily been a profiler for any justice organization but he loved his job and life in LA at CU.  “We have to cover the barn, the property, and the house.  I figure we will do the house last,” she said as she looked at her team and then the house.  “Rick, your with me we are working the barn.  Alex and Terry process the property starting from the barn and working your way out.  If the car in the drive way is the owner’s we will need to add that to the list as well.  What occurred in the barn is not a pretty sight.  We have someone that is very strong…” and her voice trailed off as she pictured the scene.

She turned and headed for the barn and the group looked quizzically at each other.  Rick then followed her and walking quickly eventually caught up with her.  He looked over at her and then the barn as they approached the side door.  She reached into her kit and covered her feet and made sure her hair was covered and then under her hat.  Rick looked at her and then began preparing to enter the room.  She slipped her gloves on with a snapping noise and placed her glasses back over her eyes.  She looked at Rick and noticing he was just about ready she said, “I’ll take the remains on the left and you can start with the one on the right.”

He nodded and was surprised by her choice of words as she entered the barn.  Rick then followed Sam and they both stopped and stood just inside the door observing the scene before them.

Rick now understood Sam’s selection of words.  He was overwhelmed with the feelings of rage and hatred.  What occurred inside this barn was brutal.  The barn was a simple structure.  It had a riding lawnmower covered with a clear plastic tarp and some general gardening tools neatly organized on a little gardening work bench.  The majority of the barn was empty and apparently was kept that way considering the tidiness of the property.  There were no windows allowing light or sight into the barn.  The door that they entered was sturdy and windowless as well.  The floor of the barn was a concrete slab that appeared perfectly flat and smooth.  There was a small loft over the main barn door which had a ladder propped up against the wall that may have been used for climbing up into it.  No animals were in the barn and it appeared that this was not a home for them.  There were six poles evenly spaced in the middle of the barn.  They were in a two by three configuration and went from the floor to the ceiling.  They each had a hook or large nail in them used to hang rope, cord, and tools except for now.

A cursory look of the scene revealed a section of torso impaled on a large nail and on a hook on the nearest post was what appeared to be a head.  Spread across the floor between the posts was bits of flesh and hair and dried blood.  It was not obvious what was used as a weapon but first guess would have been a chainsaw and wood chipper except neither tool was present.  Sam gave Rick a copy of the photographs she was given of Elaine and Tabitha.  The head on the hook was that of Elaine and Sam confirmed that the head at the far end of the barn was indeed Tabitha.  The rest of the body would not easily be identifiable.

“The faces are left whole,” Rick said.  “The attacker or attackers wanted us to know who the victims were.”  Sam was taking photos of the scene around Tabitha’s head and the head itself.  She then looked at the head of Tabitha, looking for clues as to what was used as a weapon. She was looking for engine oil, metal spurs, fingernails, talons, teeth, and none of these did she find.  She placed the head in a labeled bag.

Rick and Sam did not speak another word as they continued their task of processing the brutal scene and thinking of what the evidence was telling them had happened in the barn.

Meanwhile Terry and Alex walked across the yard in a grid pattern covering every inch of the back yard looking for evidence, which they found none.  Terry began processing the car while Neal began processing the front yard and driveway.  Terry was impressed with the cleanliness of Elaine’s car and figured if he found anything it could be easier to help determine her recent events.  He looked in the glove box and in the storage box in the center of the car and each was neatly arranged.  The glove box had a California and United States map and a flashlight.  The center console contained a tire pressure gauge, sunglasses inside a case, and tissues.  Dusting the car for fingerprints was not a chore with the naked eye he was able to determine there was only person who used the car and he figured it was Elaine.  Stepping out of the car he knelt down to look at the carpet on the floorboards, and it was also in very good repair and clean.  He released the hood using the hood latch next to the driver’s seat.  Opening the hood he found it in the same impeccable condition.  It contained a spare tire, plastic gas can, tire rod, and a medium size canvas backpack.  Unzipping the backpack he saw Armor All, duster, window cleaner, shams, detailing brush, first aid kit, and paper towels.  He closed the trunk lid and walked over to the garbage can located at the left rear of the house, removing the lid he saw one neatly tied plastic garbage bag.  He pulled the bag out of the can and noticed that the garbage can did not smell foul in fact it had a floral scent.  He shook his head amazed that the even the lady’s garbage was neat and tidy.  He loaded the bag into his car so it can be thoroughly analyzed at the lab.  After securing the bag in air tight container and closing the door he headed over to see how Alex was doing.

Chapter Eighteen Thursday, December 4:2:15pm PST

Janice was at the local public library with her planner in hand ready to get to work on what Price had requested.  She had hoped to use the library in the hospital but since she was not an employee they would not allow her.  One thing that always bothered her about public libraries was that you could not take in a cup of coffee or beverage while researching or reading.  She had told the employees at the branch in Santa Barbara that needed to catch up with the times but they had continued to flatly deny her suggestion for three years now.

The library was not very big which surprised her but then again it was pretty much deserted.  She walked up to the desk and showed the employee her library card and drivers license and then went to make her self as comfortable as possible at the computer.

She decided it would be more efficient to do some research on her own after emailing the people Price mentioned.  Her reasoning was she would type all of the details and then provide her cell phone number and the hospitals main number.  Sending an email she figured she could tell the tale once and be reasonably confident she made certain to share all of the pertinent information.  She located the schools and then looked at each university’s instructor directory and within ten minutes she had each of their email addresses.  She then opened Word and typed the message.  She preferred to always type her emails first in Word so she could take full benefit of the spell and grammar checks plus too many times in the past in the middle of a long email the server would time out and she would lose the whole email which is one of the huge disadvantages of web-mail accounts.  However using Word she could take her time and make sure all of “I’s” were dotted and “T’s” crossed and then simply copy and paste it into the body of the email she wanted to send.

From: Janice Wright

Sent: Thursday, December 4 2003 2:33 PM

To: Samuel Wilhelm, PhD.; Rachel Moriarity, PhD.

Cc:

Subject: Price Stewart Research Request

Greetings

Price has requested that I contact you in reference to a new client.

He believes that his current situation deals with all or some of the following: Elementals, Djinni, Azazel, Eblis, and fallen angels.  Two people he has contacted about his client due to their intimate dealings in the matter have now been brutally murdered by whatever is currently disturbing/harassing his client.

Price himself was injured as well and is in the hospital in stable condition but is still weak from the matter.  The police are involved due to the killings and they were the ones who found Price badly beaten.

Please contact Price either via the hospital at 805-431-578 or my cell phone at 805-969-1001.

Regards – Janice Wright

Janice sent the email.  And then went to her favorite internet search engine IXQuick.com and entered the words Elementals, Djinni, Azazel, Eblis, and fallen angels each separately.  She had roughly one hundred references skimming the service of the internet to start from.  She was a good researcher and knew that there was more material on the internet than just the material on the surface so she then logged into her subscription service of Lexis Nexus, Bright Planet, and Bulls Eye.  Among the three services she now had five hundred references to skim through; the material that seemed most promising she checked the box next to the reference and as she left each database the ones that were selected email to her email account.  Being that many doctors used laptops she noticed that the hospital cafeteria contained many internet outlets but the issue was going to be that she did not have access to their network.  Her internet service for LAN and WiFi was Cox Cable.  She was not sure she would be able to get access to her subscriber inside the hospital.

In Santa Barbara the Starbucks locations had paid Wi-Fi but she did not know this area of town or the way they were setup.  She entered Starbucks.com into the address bar and looked on their webpage for locations in the area.  She walked over to the magazine rack and noted the zip code and then looked for locations near her.  To her relief the closest location had Wi-Fi, she smiled.  She could justifiably set up an account with them using the Corporate American Express card and things would be much easier to handle.  Price had told her to do that over a year ago but she thought it was frivolous since she pretty much had access everywhere she went in Santa Barbara, but now was a different story.  She could research the material in her email account while enjoying a cup of coffee.  At Starbucks she always enjoyed two cups of coffee from one purchase.  The coffee there was much too strong for her taste so she would a tall cup of the mild flavor of the day, a tall cup of hot water from the coffee brewing machine spicket, and an empty cup.  She would dilute it and had learned it was exactly 50/50 mixture of coffee and hot water that was enjoyable to her taste.

Despite the advertising she knew from experience that the internet page download speeds at their best were slow compared to her LAN connection.  She looked at the desktop computer she was using and saw it did contain a couple of USB ports so she decided to open her email and quickly scan the references one more time, this time looking for the fifty most promising references.  She then downloaded the full documentation that was available for each and then saved as text documents onto her one gigabyte jump drive.  Technology definitely made the life of a researcher or student much easier.  With those documents secured she signed off the computer and checked out with the employee at the front desk and said, “Can you provide me directions to the Starbucks located on ___go to Starbucks website and find a location__________________ ?”

__Record the actual directions from the library according to yellow pages and Mapquest.

“Thank you,” she said and she headed for her car.

Chapter Nineteen Thursday, December 4:3:00pm

“You have got to be kidding?” said a flabbergasted Officer Sam Brooks as he looked over at his partner Lori Henderson.  He shook his head to her mouthing the words “What?”  “Okay we will look into the matter but I really don’t know how to…” he then rolled his eyes as he was being interrupted and instructed.  He pointed to Lori and then to the exit door.  “Yes we will see him first thing – yes – we will do it as soon as I hang up the phone.”  He then hung up and Lori was staring at him.

“What is going on?” she asked Sam.  Sam kept wiping his face with his hands trying to get a grasp on what he had just heard.  He stopped after a minute and looked at her and then shook his head.

“I’ll explain in the car but we need to see that man from yesterday, Price Stewart,” he then picked up his hat and headed to the door not giving her a chance to try and pump him for more information right at that moment.  He needed the time to process what he just heard.  Lori came up behind him and appeared to have put two and two together because she kept quiet and followed Sam out to the patrol car.

They got in the car and headed out of the parking lot once they were on the road Sam looked over at Lori and spoke.  “Seems that they found the two ladies Price apparently was last with.  Well, actually, a better way to put it is that they found pieces of the two ladies.  Seems body parts were found on hooks or nails in a barn and some parts were on the ground – it was a gruesome scene.  Thing is CU says the damage or mayhem does not seem to be capable for one person to do, even if they were elderly ladies.”

“He was pretty beat up and bloody when we found him,” Lori said.  “Are we sure that the blood on him was his own?”

“CU has his clothes and is processing them.  Thing is if he was there when it happened and escaped, from what I understand, he would have their blood on him as well.”

“Sure, but he wouldn’t be covered in it – right?”

“Yep, that’s the way it sounds.”

“Was property missing or any evidence of theft?”

“Not that they could find, the CU says her house and property is immaculate.  And not that it appears someone cleaned up after but it was maintained.  For example Rick said the knick-knacks in her home were dust free.”

Lori thought about her place and thought about what CU would think of her if they checked her place.  Dust was the least of the problems in her place.  With her hours and type of work she often collapsed when she got home.  No time for dating or seeing anyone seriously and if there was shed have to do something about her cleaning and organizing habits; like first have some.

“You there?” Sam asked Lori.

“Uh yeah just thinking about what you said.”

“Price is awake so we should get some answers hopefully.  Considering his acquaintances Janice and Harold, I find it hard to believe he had anything to do with what happened in the barn.  But I won’t be surprised to find out he was there when it happened or should I say at least he was there when it – whatever it is – started.”  Lori nodded.

When the officers entered the ICU they saw Price awake and Harold sitting next to him, but they were not conversing.  Price saw them and Sam extended his hand to Price, “Nice to see you awake Mr. Stewart.”

“Thanks, nice to be awake,” Price replied now shaking Loris hand.  “I am pretty worn out though.”

Lori said, “Considering the condition we found you in that is to be expected.”

“So you are the officers who saved me?”  They nodded and he said, “How did you find me?”

“A call had come in of someone who seemed in desperate need of help.  An anonymous call but we were able to find you when we responded to the call.”  Price shook his head slowly, “Mr. Stewart…”

“Please call me Price.”

“Price, do you remember what you were doing in Ojai?” Lori asked.

Price looked at the officers and looked over at Harold and sighed.  “My client, Mr. Anderson had hired me as a consultant about his home.”  Harold liked the official way Price stated what he was doing without going into the details.  “In my research the matter led me to meet with Mrs. Tabitha Rvicknik who then suggested we discuss the matter with Ms. Elaine Wystacke.”  Officer Brooks wrote the details down and looked over at Harold for confirmation of the account Price was giving.

“What exactly was the matter that Mr. Anderson retained your services for?” Lori asked.  Price looked over at Harold and Harold nodded his acceptance for what Price was about to do.

Price said, “You must know that we know what you do for a living.”

She looked at them both again, “What does a Paranormal Investigator have to do with Mr. Anderson’s property?”  She looked at them again, “Ghosts, haunted, things moving in the night?”

Harold looked at Lori and then Sam and quietly said, “That is not doing it justice.”  The officers looked at him and then at Price.

“How did this lead to the brutal deaths of Ms. Wystacke and Mrs. Rvicknik?” Sam inquired.  “What I was told is that they have hunks of body parts on a barn floor and their heads up on hooks or nails in there too.  Now my question is this – exactly how does a bump in the night or whatever was going on in Harold’s home lead to something like what happened in the barn?  Mr. Stewart, did you lose control and hack these old ladies up?”

“No I did not do that and I honestly don’t know what ultimately played out in the barn because I ran.”

“You left two old ladies” Lori accusingly said.

“Elaine and Tabitha had to have been dead when I left.  No doubt in the matter and I barely escaped but it or something pursued me.” He looked at them and was trying to determine if they believed him or completely insane.  “They were ripped in half when I left.”  Again looking at them for a reaction or a glimpse into what they were thinking.  “There was no way they were alive and I ran.”

“How come you were not killed first?  How come you are not dead now?  How come you were allowed to run away?  Did you recognize the person or persons who did this?  Were they farm hands? Were….”

Price shook his head, “No, a person did not do this.  And why I was allowed to escape I am not exactly sure but I have been thinking about it.”

“Thinking as far as how to fill the huge hole in your alibi?” Sam said.

“No, no, why not me?  I am not absolutely sure but I have a theory.”  He looked at them for confirmation or acknowledgement to share.  “Only thing I can think of right now is that I did not have a hand in this beings presence in our plane.  I know that sounds weird or metaphysical but Elaine and Tabitha each were the reason for It’s presence.  Also I was not standing inside the barn; I was looking in from the side door.”  He stopped and looked at them.  Lori and Sam looked at each other and then at Harold.

“Is that why I am still alive – you know – not directly involved?” Harold quietly asked.

“I think so, but Harold I am not certain which is why I don’t want you to go to your house right now.”

“But It follows me sometimes.”

“Yes I know but I think it is just safer for you to avoid your house for the moment.”  Harold nodded.

“Do you have any witnesses to corroborate your story?” Sam asked.

“Right now I don’t but if I my suspicions are correct very soon you will be witnesses to this being’s presence.”

“Great,” Sam said under his breath.

Chapter Twenty Thursday, December 4:4:30pm PST

Janice sat down with her notes, laptop, and a grande cappuccino; she popped the lid off of her coffee and retrieved her jump-drive from her purse.  She liked Starbucks and coffee houses in general; the one thing though aggravated her was they all seemed to play their music way too loud.  The place was not a dance hall.  It had been marketed as a place to grab your java and meet with friends or read a book – which both were difficult to do considering the music volume.  She inhaled the aroma of her cappuccino and typed in her login id then took her first sip.  She looked up at surroundings and saw the other typical sight at a Starbucks, employees looking grungy.  In the mom and pop places this was usually not the case but she assumed that the whole Seattle grunge thing must be somehow tied to the character of Starbucks – thing is the whole look was so passé. She took another sip of her coffee.

Accessing the files she had downloaded at the library from her jump drive she started reading an article on “Eblis”, which is something she had never heard of.  The article said that he was the chief of all Djinni and was a fallen angel of Islam.  He was /is very powerful.  It also said some believed him to be the demon Azazel, which she had heard of in the movie Fallen with Denzel Washington.  She liked the movie but it spooked her.  She wrote on a pad:

Is the account of the movie Fallen accurate to the writings about him?

  He apparently hated the human race.

Opening another document it revealed that Azazel was a Djinni and his name was changed to Eblis which meant despair.  Apparently he was one of the angels involved in the events of the beginning of chapter six in the Book of Genesis.  She made another note:

What happened in Genesis 6?

According to the Book of Enoch he was responsible for teaching the human race how to create weapons and armor out of metal.  He also taught women how to use the metals to make ornaments, jewelry, and even instructed them on how to make up their eyelids in order to be more beautiful.

Opening another resource it revealed that he was created out of fire and rebelled against God.  He and others like him had populated the earth before the creation of mankind.  They were vicious and unruly and would not change their ways so God banned them.  Some refer to them as Elementals who are of the utmost power in the angelic/demonic realm.

Great, she thought, this could not be about something remotely normal, so to speak.  It had to be the worst and most powerful that they would be up against.  She then thought about Harold and the look on his face when talking about his incidents of fear.  No wonder, she said under her breath.  She took another drink of her cappuccino and looked around at the people in the cafe.  What had happened that caused Mrs. Rvicknik to sell her home?  She opened another document that pretty much said what she had read from the other two.  Would it be too much to ask that all of this stuff that was occurring was simply a coincidence?  That was impossible she knew, considering Price’s condition and what he had told her and Harold.  He was scared, and what did that mean considering the business he was in?  She could not recall him being shaken up before.  She definitely had never had to go to a hospital to see him or had the police calling with news about him.  This all could only mean one thing – they were all in trouble.  She looked around drinking from her cappuccino, she felt like everyone was watching her but no one was though.  She felt like someone was watching over her back, she turned quickly and saw a painting on the wall – that was all.

She continued to open the documents she saved on her jump drive.  She read tales of angels falling from heaven because they desired women and took it upon them to feed their appetites.  She read of a mighty nation of beings that were led by a creature or being that had wings and music came from its body when its wings moved.  She read of accounts of people who had come across these beings in the last 500 years.  The people either died or went insane.  The people often died due to either suicide or gruesome means.  Those who committed suicide seemed to have met a more pleasant end.  Those who were murdered or killed had either been found in states that ranged from appearing to have been ground with a meat grinder, turned inside out, or quartered.

  She closed the files because this was too much for her to handle.  She got up nervously turning off her computer and putting her papers in order.  She was shaking and her stomach was rolling.  She felt weak, she felt as if she was going to faint.  She could not stop shaking.  Worse though was she could not get the images out of her mind.  She jumped into her car and was determined to go straight back to the hospital.  Price needed this info and he could deal with it.  She would be there if he needed copies or make phone calls or whatever else – besides reading this stuff.  She sped off.

Harold looked and saw the being in the hospital room.  He screamed and It looked at him.  Price was in the grips of the Being and Harold saw Prices eyes rolling into the back of his head.  Blood was trickling from his nose and ears.  Harold tried to get up but felt a force shove him back into the chair.  He was to watch It punish Price.  Harold yelled at It to stop but it continued to squeeze Price much like an anaconda grips its prey.  He yelled and yelled as Prices life left his body.

“Wake up Mr. Anderson, you are dreaming,” said a woman’s voice.  He opened his eyes; he was startled his heart was pounding as if it could leap from his chest.  Was he having a heart attack?  Is this how he would die?  A heart attack in a hospital?

He looked over and saw Price was watching him, “Harold everything is okay?  Calm down you are okay here,” Price said.

“Mr. Anderson,” the nurse said while patting his hand, “here take a sip of the water it will help calm you down.”  He sipped from the cup while his eyes kept looking around him for assurance that the Being was not in the room with them.  “Here,” the nurse said as she padded his face with a damp cloth which was cool to his skin and he could feel his heart beat trying to calm down.  “You had a heck of a nightmare Mr. Anderson,” she said.  Harold tried to get to his feet but his legs were like rubber.  The nurse watched and decided to call for a wheelchair.  “Mr. Anderson,” she said as a man with a wheelchair appeared, “I think you need to be checked out.”  He wanted to say no but when he tried he did not have the energy to speak.  Another orderly came in and between the two men they were able to get him into the wheelchair.  “Take him to emergency and tell them he may have just suffered a heart attack in here.”  The orderly nodded and wheeled Harold out of the ICU.

Price looked at the nurse and said, “Do you really think so?”

She nodded, “I was not sure until he tried to get up and he had no energy at all.  Did you see him try to talk and he couldn’t gather the strength to do so?”  Price nodded.  “I think he did and if I think so, it is better safe to check than be sorry.  How well do you know him?”

“Not well at all, he is a new client.”

“Does he have any family we should contact?”

“Not that I am aware of.  I know he is not married but I am not sure of any family.”

“Ok and how are you feeling?” she asked as she held his wrist to take his pulse.

“I’m feeling a bit better just not very strong.”

She nodded, “That is to be expected.  Have you had any headaches or blurry vision?”  Price shook his no.  “Very good and by the way I think the doctor will have you moved from the ICU this evening.”

“That will be good,” Price said as she walked out of the area of his bed.  It was the first time he had been alone since this morning.  He closed his eyes to let himself drift to sleep but the images came into his mind.  The images of Tabitha being ripped in half and then saw Elaine’s head snapped off her neck like it was a pop top.  He opened his eyes quickly to stop the images.  He took a sip of water from the clear plastic cup on the nightstand.  If he would have not run for his life he would have died just like them, he knew this but he still felt guilty.

Chapter Twenty-One Thursday, December 4:5:15pm PST

Janice walked into the hospital and headed straight to the ICU.  Once in the ICU she saw Price lying in bed staring at the ceiling, she did not see Harold.  “Is Harold in the bathroom or in the cafeteria?”

“No, I believe he is in the ER,” Price said.

“Was he attacked?” she asked feeling her blood turning to ice.

“I’m not really sure what happened.  It was either the mother of all nightmares or,” he paused, “or he was attacked in his dreams.”

Janice looked at Price with her mouth wide open in astonishment.  She shook her head and sat in the chair next to Price, “Is he going to be okay?”

“I guess, for now, but he is apparently in grave danger of this Being/Spirit/Whatever it is.  His expression is probably how I looked when I was at the barn and,” his voice trailed off as his mind once again displayed in a rerun for him what he witnessed.

Janice looked him and said, “Djinni, Elemental, Azazel trying to snap his mind from whatever it was doing.  Whatever you call It – It means trouble of tremendous kind.”

“Did you find anything about how to combat It?”

She shook her head.  “No but I did email the two people told me to.  I also have here, patting her laptop, about fifty documents involving the search parameters you gave me.  If you can think of some books at the office that would be of particular assistance I can arrange for them to be here tomorrow.”

“Hmmm, good idea, can you set me up on your laptop so I can read what you found so far?”  She was already booting it up as he spoke.  “From the search you did do you happen to have…”

“Yes I saved the list of what was found and set it up that it gives a few words of description on the piece.  I figured you could review and let me know which ones you thought could be of use and I would go back to the library and download them on to my jump drive.”

“Very good Janice – thanks.  While I read the material you already downloaded would you mind going and checking on Harold?  Oh by the way the nurse said there is a good chance I will be moved out of the ICU this evening.”

“That is great news boss.  Sure, I’ll go check on Harold but you have to promise if anything happens you call me immediately on my cell phone with one hand and push the attention button for the nurse with the other.”

“Yes mam,” he said smiling.

Having Price now reading the documents on her laptop she was standing at the emergency room again.  She really hated this place.  Walking up to the desk inside the emergency room treating area she asked the gentleman, “Where is Harold Anderson?”  The guy looked down at the chart and then began typing info into the computer.

“He is the cardio lab on the second floor.”

“Thank you,” she said quickly surprised she did not get the question – “Are you family?”  She went out the emergency room doors, turned left, and followed the hallway down till she located an elevator sign.  Seeing the sign she looked as she followed it for mention of the cardiology lab.  She entered the elevator and pressed the two button and once the doors open she was greeted with a sign that told her the cardio lab was to the left.  To her dismay the sign did not convey the fact that it was to the left on the other side of the hospital complex.  She walked and after a few moments realized that they must have put the sign up because people had done as she not knowing that second floor meant a totally different area of the hospital.  She walked through the tunnel that was made of walls that were windows, walking over the cars entering another area of the hospital.  She was tired, sore, hungry, and scared; the events of the past few days had weighed on her.  She had not had much sleep or food and her stomach was bundle of knots.  Finally she saw a sign at the end of the hallway that went across the hall at the ceiling “Welcome to the Central California Cardiology Lab”.  She entered to an area that had no lights on and no one at the desk; she whimpered and plopped down on to the nearest chair.  Her legs throbbed and sweat was rolling down her neck, spine, and chest.  She picked up a magazine off the table and fanned herself trying to cool down and gather her wits because right now she was tired and not thinking very clearly.

Looking around she saw no one and then began looking for any sign of hours of operation.  It was 6pm and not seeing hours of operation available she arose from the chair and began to walk down the hall of the area.  “Anyone here?” she called out as she continued walking the cardio lab.  She reached the end of the hall and turned around and headed back to the receptionist desk.  The doors were open that led into the particular treating rooms and she saw no one in them.  Making it back to the receptionist desk she looked on the desk for an appointment book to see if Harold’s name was referenced but the desk was clean.  She picked up the phone and pressed the button marked “Information”.

“Information, can I help you?” asked the robotic male voice.

“Yes I am trying to locate which room Harold Anderson has been moved to,” Janice asked.

“Hmm, I am not showing a Harold Anderson in admission, are you sure you have the right…  Pardon me is this a hospital employee?”

  Janice hung up and headed for the long hallway that eventually would take her to the elevators again.  She was going to talk to Price and then thought against it.  Obviously the person in emergency did not have the right information as to where Harold was.  As she walked as briskly as she could muster she decided she would go to the front desk at the main entrance to the hospital and she would ask them, as long as it was not a man at the front desk.

Harold was laying flat on a bed in a bed in emergency.  He was very tired and comfortable with his mind wandering to nowhere in particular.  He had an IV drip of something that was apparently trying to calm him down.  He had overheard a nurse or a doctor saying something about his blood pressure being way too high but he did not understand what the numbers  230 over 160  meant.  He had been alone now for about twenty minutes and was startled when he realized he had drifted into sleep, he tried to keep awake but the medication washed over him and quickly his mind wandered down the corridors of sleep and darkness.

“Do you hear me?” a deep growling voice asked.  “You are nothing but flesh and I will destroy you once I am tired of you.”  Harold tried to open his eyes but was unable.  He felt as if a hand was squeezing his brain.  The pain of the pressure caused the sensation that his eyes were going to pop from their sockets.  He tried to talk, to yell but nothing happened.  “You are a miserable little man,” claimed the unseeable voice.  Again Harold tried to speak, to move, to free himself but nothing of his body worked.  The pressure on his brain increased and he was sure he was going to die now for the pain was more than he could bear – then darkness.

Chapter Twenty-Two Thursday, December 4:7:15pm PST

“Price they don’t know what happened,” Janice said after returning from speaking with the nurse in the ICU who called downstairs and spoke with her friend Amy in the ER.  Janice while looking around Price’s private room sat down and said, “The nurse said the warning siren on the monitoring meter was sounding and she rushed in and saw him shaking in the bed.  She said that she noticed blood coming from his eyes and nose.  She pressed the microphone and requested the doctor and others stat.”  Price looked at her and he tried to imagine the scene and understand what actually occurred.  The nurse says he is in a coma and the doctor will be over here soon to talk with us about it.  Right now they have rushed Harold for a CAT scan.  She did say his life signs were stable now but she also mentioned they were that way before his episode.”

“Janice I have got to get out of here.  I can not do any good being in here.”  Price sighed and was reminded again by his body that he was still weak.  His energy level was still hovering near the empty level which anyone would know just by looking at him.  In addition he had been able to digest two sources of information due to either his inability to concentrate or when he would nod off.  Truth of the matter is if someone questioned him about the material he read he probably could not come up with a completely accurate answer.

“Boss you aren’t going to be going anywhere soon,” Janice said while shaking her head.  “Do you want me to call your cousin Cecil?”  Price was shaking his head no and Janice continued, “I know you get put out with him but he could of some use now.”

“No, no, no,” Price replied, “Do not call him, write him, or anything.  I have enough on my plate I do not need to deal with him.”

“He could help.”

“Drive me freaking insane!  No!”

“Alright, don’t get your underwear in a bunch.”

“I don’t have any on!”

“TMI,” Janice quipped back smiling.  “I do not need that image in my mind,” she said while gesturing she was wiping her mind with an eraser.  “Out darn spots!”

Price rolled his eyes and chuckled, “Enough of that.”  He picked up the small clear plastic cup of ice water and took a sip.  “Ugh.  I need some coffee Janice, that’s my problem.  I know they said I lost a lot of blood but if that is true you and I know that meant my real blood left (referring to his coffee intake) is gone as well.  They are simply taking care of the human blood level, what I really need is…”

“Okay, okay I will go downstairs and locate a real cup of coffee.  You stay put,” she grinned as he rolled his eyes again, “and get to reading.”

Price replied, “Yes mother, with a salute.”

Chapter Twenty-Three Thursday, December 4:8:30pm PST

“Hold on a moment please, I want to put you on speaker phone,” Lori said.  She then pushed the hands-free option on her phone, “You there?”

“Yes,” replied Samantha Ford.  Lori then placed the handset back on the phone cradle.

“Okay, thanks – uh – Samantha can you please repeat what you were saying to me?  I have my partner Sam here at my desk.”

“Sure, so far what we have been able to determine is only four sets of fingerprints in the barn.  We have identified them as Ms. Wystacke, Ms. Rvicknik, Mr. Stewart, and Mr. Samuel Roberts.”

“Ok do you know who Sam Roberts is?” asked Lori.

“Yes, in fact he is here at the ranch, he is a hired hand for Ms. Wystacke.  He works one day a week doing general property maintenance.”

“Any priors?” Sam asked.

“No, he is clean.  The matter that is disturbing is Mr. Stewarts fingerprints have only been found on the inside and outside of the door.”

Lori and Sam looked at each other with a curious expression on their faces.  “Any fingerprints on the hooks or large nails?” Lori asked.

“None,” Samantha replied.  “In the house we have only been able to determine fingerprints that belong to Sam Roberts and Ms. Wystacke.  Her house, well really, her entire property is kept in very clean condition.  It is obvious she took very good care of her things.”

“Great,” Sam said aloud, “so we have two butchered women and no evidence.”

“We are still processing the property and bodies but so far that is correct.  I have never witnessed something as brutal as this is and in addition the complete lack of evidence.  I will contact you later after we have done more tests and research.  I’m going to call Bill, uh, Sheriff Fort in Ojai and bring him up to date.”

  “Very good, thanks Samantha,” Lori said and she hung up.  “We need to get to the hospital and talk with Mr. Stewart.”  Sam nodded and they both got up and headed for the car.

Rachel Moriarity sat at her desk and exhaled.  It had been a long day, and it seemed that there have been a lot of those lately.  Between teaching three classes today she was working on her current research project into the beliefs and rituals of the Vikings.  She was also longing for a break because she was tired and right now she was hungry on top of that.  She logged into her computer and decided she would check her email for any items that were urgent and then she would head out for the day.  Her email inbox contained 31 new messages and scanning those she determined 17 of those were spam so she deleted them.  Looking over the subject lines of the other fourteen she read reference to:

12/16 Meeting cancelled

Please help with topic!

Sorry for missing class

Airline Reservation Confirmation

Hi Hon

Price Stewart Research Input Request

  It had been awhile since she had received any contact from Price so she double clicked on the envelope icon next his name.  The first two sentences made her stop and reread them.  Before finishing the email she picked up her phone and dialed Dr. Wilhelm and as the phone rang she continued reading the email.  Her call was answered by his voicemail which at the beep she said, “Hello Samuel this is Rachel please call me on my cell phone when you receive this message and after reading Price’s email.  Don’t be concerned about the time of your call.  Bye.”  She hung up and then read the email again.  She signed off her laptop and after it was off she removed it from the docking station and placed it into her backpack.

She picked up the phone and called her husband Ted after one ring he answered, “Hi hon, where are you?”

“I am just leaving the office, have you ate dinner yet?”

“No, was hoping to have company for dinner.”

“Good, I am real hungry want to meet me at Tony Roma’s?”  She closed the door to her office.

“Sure, I will meet you there.”

  “Ok, bye – smooch.”  She pushed the red button on her phone and continued down the hall to the elevator.

Darkness so thick and heavy he could feel the weight of it pushing against him.  The sounds of roaring winds maybe echoed in his ears and mind.  He struggled to make his eyes adjust to the surroundings but it appeared useless.  The roaring made his body shake and he had the unsettling sensation that he was falling.  He opened his mouth to yell but did he?  All he could hear was the roaring.  His mind raced trying to understand what was happening.  Where was the room he was in?  Where had he been?  Oh God was he dead?  Was he hurdling into the pit of Hell?  Was this where he would be for eternity?  The roaring began to have other tones, it almost sounded like a chirping.  Birds?  The chirping was actually becoming louder than the roar, and it pierced his spirit.  He felt complete hopelessness.  The chirping got louder and louder and then he realized it was chirping he was hearing.  Tears began to stream down his cheeks as he realized the sound was of many voices – laughing.

Chapter Twenty-Four Thursday, December 4:9:15pm PST

“You need to tell us everything that happened,” Lori said to Price.

Sam pulled out a cassette recorder, “We need to record this conversation, okay?”

“Yes I understand,” Price said.  He had been waiting for this moment.  He knew after he explained what had happened one of three things would occur.  One they would believe him, which he thought was the least likely to happen.  Second, that he was crazy.  Third, that he was lying and he had killed them and unfortunately this is the result he expected.

“This is Detective Lori Henderson and present with me is my partner Detective Sam Brooks.  It is December 4:at 9:21 p.m. and we are talking with Mr. Price Stewart.  Mr. Stewart, are you aware that this conversation is being recorded?”

“Yes.”

“Also at this point I would like to read your rights.”  And as she quoted the Miranda his mind drifted in thought.  “Price do you acknowledge…”

“Yes I understand my rights,” Price said.

“Mr. Stewart for the moment will you please tell us what happened at Ms. Elaine Wystacke’s property on December 1, 2004?”  Gee he thought, cut straight to the chase.

“The truth of the matter is,” he said looking at them both, “I am not sure exactly what happened at Elaine’s.”  He looked at them both again then reached for the laptop which Sam helped him pick it up from the make shift end table.  “Thanks officer, I have been trying to understand what forces were at work in the barn and as well at the house of Mr. Anderson.  If I simply just stated what I saw in the barn you will think I am crazy or making it up.  He looked up from the laptop so I need to ask you both so as not to upset either of you, do you want me to just tell you what I witnessed that afternoon or do you want the whole story as far as I can understand it at the moment?”

Lori and Sam looked at each other and Lori said, “I think the best thing is to just tell us what you witness that afternoon.”  She then looked at Sam for his approval of her comment.

“Lori,” he said and then gave the quick tilt of the head, “can I talk to you for a moment?”  He then got up without waiting for her reply and headed outside the hospital room.  Lori looked over at Price and then got up from her seat and followed after Sam.  “Close the door,” Sam said as soon as she left the room.  Lori looked at him and was a little put out by her partner’s curtness.  “Look,” Sam started, “I need to know do you believe in the whole spooks, spirits, and stuff because I gotta tell you, I do.”  Lori looked at him surprised because she never would have thought he would have given the topic the light of day.  “I am not a very – lets say – religious man, however I am not in my personal opinion, a complete idiot.  And to be honest that kind of stuff, well, spooks the heck out of me.”

Lori smiled and shook her head, “Sam I know we have not been partners long but you surprise me.”  She grinned, “Nevertheless I believe in, how did you put it?”

“Spooks, spirits, and stuff,” he replied.

“Yeah, that’s it.  I don’t understand it all but you’d have to be ignorant or egotistical to think this whole ball of wax,” as she swung her arms around her in a gesture of the world, “is only about us.”  Sam nodded.  “But I am also skeptical, Lori added, and I don’t just believe something because it sounds, uh, other-worldly.”

“Kappish,” Sam said.  “So should we not here the whole story?”

Lori looked at him and thought for a moment, “My angle is hear what he said happen that afternoon and if it sounds like a farce we know we can’t trust him.  However if it rings a little true or lets say seems in the world of possibility, we ask for the whole…”

“Enchilada,” Sam quipped and Lori nodded.  “I gotta say Lori that I personally hope this is just…”

“I know, I agree.  Let’s get back in there and hear what he has to say,” Lori replied and she opened the door.  They walked back in the room and sat down, “Okay Price, tell us what you witnessed in the barn that afternoon.”

Chapter Twenty-Five Thursday, December 4:9:35pm PST

“I’d like a glass of ice tea with lime instead of lemon,” Rachel instructed the server.

“I’d like a Root Beer,” Ted said.  “So why did you bring your laptop in here?”

“Ted, it seems – well, do you remember Price Stewart from Santa Barbara?”

“Was that the guy who is investigator of paranormal stuff that you worked with a couple years ago about?”

“Yep, that is him.  I heard from his assistant today.  He apparently got attacked by some powerful force or forces and a couple of people are dead and he is in the hospital.”

“So does that mean your leav…?”

“Probably does, which is all well and good.”

“Thanks a lot,” Ted dead panned.

“You know what I mean putz.  I need a change of scenery, things have been intense this quarter and all,” she answered.  “Thanks,” as she received the ice tea and took a huge slurp.  “He may not need me out there, but if he does I am jumping.  Besides it will give a chance to get out of your hair for a few days.”

“Don’t even make this like it is about me,” Ted said.  “What are you going to order to eat?  The server will be back in a minute.”  They both looked over the menu.

“So do you two guys would like?” the server asked.  This always got on Rachel’s nerves – guys.  She was not a guy – she was a woman or gal – but not a guy.  “I would like the Cajun grilled chicken salad with light Raspberry Vinaigrette on the side.”  Then she looked at Ted and dead panned, “Well, guy what you want?”

Ted looked at her and rolled his eyes and said, “I would like the regular order of ribs with coleslaw and spuds.”  The server repeated the order, the whole time looking only at Ted and then went to the kitchen.  “Really Rachel, you are putting your food at the mercy of a person who is now perturbed at you.”  Rachel shrugged and he said, “Back to your story about why you were leaving me.”

Rachel laughed and shook her head and said, “Well he wants to know what research I have come across involving Djinni, Elementals, and Azazel.”

“Oh no, we are not going down that road again,” Ted said.  “These are not little playthings, and to even think that one of these or something like them is responsible for what has occurred – no way are you going over there.”  Ted kept shaking his head and repeating no way.

“First of all, boss,” Ted rolled his eyes to the dagger, “I know more about these entities than you do after all it is my field of expertise.”
“I know that, but you – um -people too often are playing around in things that they should leave alone.”

“I am aware of that Ted, but no one said anything about playing around.”

“You are already hoping he needs you out there and that is too close.”

“Calm down and listen and quit throwing the gauntlet down of what actions are allowed or not.  Just listen to me,” she took a deep breath and waited till she could see the expression on his face change to a less combative stance.  “Alright, if these entities or something like them are involved; they are in deep trouble.”  Ted gave an exaggerate laugh and nodding of his head, “Ted the issue then is how to remedy the situation.  No one can per say fight these beings.  The matter is how can we, for the lack of a better word, entice them to go home?”

“Fine,” he said, “you could do that from the safety of our home.”  She just exhaled and rolled her eyes at him and the thought he expressed.  It revealed ignorance, and she was not going to touch it.  After all, these beings or entities are not restricted by distance as far as she knew.

“I am expecting Dr. Samuel Wilhelm to contact me.  And I wanted to have my laptop near me in the event we started talking about the matter over the phone.”  The server appeared with there food and handed Ted his order then Rachel hers.  Rachel said, “Thanks guy.”  The server turned on her heels quickly and left the table.  She looked over at Ted and he had the expression of disgust on his face, “What?  What did I do?” Rachel quipped.  She looked down at her food and tried to conceal her ornery grin when her phone rang.

“Ha! Ted said, “That is what you get!”  He laughed happy with the karmic occurrence.

She looked at him and said, “Whatever.”  And then picked up her phone and said, “Hello?”

“Rachel this is Sam, I received your message and have checked my email and I’d like to talk with you is this a good time?”

“Well, honestly no, my dinner just arrived.  Can I call you back in about an hour to hour and a half?”

“Sure, take your time this will give me a chance to look up a few things.  Call me at the office when you are through.  Till later then, goodbye.”

  “Goodbye Samuel.”  She pushed the red button and laid the phone on the table, “What was your snod remark?”  Ted gave her the “what me?” look – and they both smiled.  This was one of the greatest characteristics about their marriage – when they were together it was not Dr. Rachel Moriarity and CEO Ted Moriarity  it was Ted and Rachel and they were both sixteen again and able to fully enjoy one another’s company like school kids.

Janice, armed with two venti Columbian cups of coffee, walked back to the room Price was in.  When she approached the door she noticed it was closed so she knocked.  After a moment Officer Sam Brooks opened it and gave Janice a nod.  “Uh, Janice, we are in the middle of an interview with Price so I have to ask you to wait outside here.”

“That is okay, I understand.  Can you give him this cup of coffee?” as she extended her left hand.

“Sure – no problem,” he said.

“Please let him know I am going to check on Harold and I will be back.  If the door is closed I will just sit over there,” pointing to a waiting area about fifty feet down the hall.  “Would you be so kind to check and see if I am there when you are through?”

“Sure thing”, he said and nodded again and slipped back into the room with Price and Lori.

Once the door closed Janice felt her knees starting to knock, she sighed and looked around and decided to sit for a moment before trying to locate Harold.  As she walked down the hall her mind raced through images she had based on what Price had told her about what had happened.  She was tired and while the coffee was good it did nothing for her because she was thoroughly burnt and had to get some sleep.  The waiting room was empty and was equipped with a television a small dining room set, some regular chairs, and one couch.  She headed straight for the couch and once she stretched out on it she immediately fell asleep.

  Despair is a feeling that no one should ever have to experience.  Few actually do experience true despair but those who do will never forget the moment it swallowed them, or the moment they made the choice.

“No!”  Harold screamed aloud.  The blackness that enveloped him was a vacuum and it had him in its grips.  He saw his wife, his papa and mama, his uncle Louie, the Preacher, the garden his parents worked, Billy his neighbor from elementary school.  “No!  No! This is not right!”  He saw his first car, the picnic where he asked Emma to marry him.  He cried with his whole being, yet no tears.  He sobbed and pulled and did all he could to break free.  He saw his mama kissing him on the forehead and pulling the cap over his head before sending him off to school.  Uncle Louie quizzing him about the chick he saw him with.  The smells of the ball field, the school lunchroom, mama’s cooking, Louie’s stogie, Emma’s perfume and the wonderful rolls she baked.  His heart cracked, then shattered under the pain of the journey and the memories.

“He’s flat lined!  Get the paddles!”

“Stand back!”

Wham – the jolt – the fire.  Oh the fire.  The roaring and vacuum was much stronger and the heat that coursed through him.

“Nothing!  Do it again.”

“Clear!”

Wham! “God help me!  After all this, oh God please help me!”

“Nothing!  Try it one more time.”

“Clear!”

Wham!  “God!  God!?”

Beep, beep, beep

“We have a heart beat!”

“Unbelievable – how long had he been…”

“At least three minutes total time.”

“His beat is stronger, he is stabilizing.”

The doctor wrote down the events, the nurse straightened up his sheets, and It left but no one but Harold knew that.  “Thank you.”

Chapter Twenty-Six Thursday, December 4:9:45pm PST

“Thank you Sam,” Price said as he handed him the cup of coffee.  Price popped the lid off of it and inhaled the aroma.  He took a sip of the hot brew and placed on the cart in front of him.  “Officers I can tell you what I saw in the barn but I am not sure I understand what I saw myself.”

Lori turned the cassette recorder back on and said, “Just take it from the top -when you arrived at Ms. Wystacke’s property.”

“Alright,” he said and then took another sip of coffee and started, “Ms. Rvicknik and I pulled up to the fence, the gate opened and I pulled up to the car in the driveway.  That is when Tabitha said to pull up closer toward the barn, so I did.  When we got out she said that I needed to make sure to do whatever Elaine said no matter how bizarre it may seem at the time.  As we got closer to the barn she remarked that she was sorry that Harold and I had gotten involved in her world, in her mistake.”

“I was maybe ten feet from the barn door and Elaine stepped out.  She was very serious and proper.  She reminded me of the older women I have seen that are nurses.  Very professional and sober minded  which considering what Tabitha had told me earlier in the day made me feel a little more comfortable with the situation or should I say the events that were unfolding.  Whatever, she introduced herself, we shook hands, she greeted Tabitha and then she invited us into the barn.”

“The barn was very clean, almost appearing sanitized, like what you would expect from a nurse.  Elaine explained that she believed the best chance to correct the situation for Harold and all parties was to trap the being in her barn.  She believed she could summon him and bind him there not only to the barn but to that particular piece of property.  I was skeptical but I honestly did not know exactly what we were dealing with and I definitely did not have a better suggestion.  She said she appreciated me bringing Tabitha out to her place but for the ritual to work it had to involve only Tabitha and herself.  She asked me to step outside the barn and not to enter into it no matter what I saw.”

Price took another drink of coffee swishing it around in his mouth and then drinking it and then took another large gulp of the beverage.  “I must repeat I was skeptical about the whole matter but Tabitha was certain Elaine was the answer to the problem.” He looked at the two officers who appeared to have their game faces on and he continued, “So I stayed outside the barn but I watched from the door that I held slightly ajar.”

“Elaine talked with Tabitha which appeared that she was giving instructions to.  I could not hear what Elaine was saying because she soft spoken and difficult to hear when close to her, never mind that I was now about thirty feet away.  The two women walked around the barn and Elaine was saying something as they walked.  They made two passes around the barn when Elaine began walking backwards while Tabitha continued go in forward.  Elaine walked backwards around the barn three times and when they were about to pass each other again they stopped turned into the barn and each walked slowly in a straight line to the opposite ends of the barn with their arms held out to the sides.  Elaine continued to talk and Tabitha never spoke a word.  When they got to opposite walls Elaine and Tabitha bowed their heads and lowered their arms.  For about two or three minutes near of them appeared to move then Elaine stomped her foot and they each walked toward one another to the center of the barn.  When they met they held hands in what kind of appeared like a square and then Elaine howled a horrible sound.  Tabitha immediately shut her eyes and bowed her head.”

Sam looked over at Lori and then back at Price, and noticed as Price took a drink of coffee that his hands were shaking.  Price continued, “You must remember that when we arrived at Elaine’s it was around 3 p.m. because what happened next, well, um.  They were standing facing each other and I noticed that it looked like Elaine was shaking.  She continued howling and then the barn grew dark.  No, let me put it this way have you ever been in a room that was lit and then someone turned the light off or the power went out and the room immediately became pitch black?”  He looked at Lori and Sam waiting for a response, and eventually they each nodded.  “That is exactly what happened in the barn.  Have you seen the barn?”  Each shook their head no, “Well if you have ever seen a normal barn you know that they let light in generally through the gaps between the wood planks.  In addition her barn had a loft in the back and it had a windowing opening that was open always because it did not have a shutter.  In addition I was standing in the doorway with door ajar which also let light in.  Now I am telling you that barn became darker than pitch black.  I could not make out any images in the barn.  I could not even see the floor past the doorway, that barn appeared to have been swallowed whole by something.  I heard Elaine howling but it was very faint because of a roaring noise that shook the barn and me.  If I had to compare it to something I would say the sound of maybe a tornado or a plane engine throttling up.  Then there was a flash that was bright inside the barn.  The color was like orange or yellow maybe the color of a flame but in the flash I could see Elaine and Tabitha get ripped by something that was in there with them.”

“Who was it?  What did it look alike?”  Sam asked as he was perched at the edge of his seat.

“You are not going to believe this – I did not see anyone or anything in there.  But it was clear that something was present in the barn with them.”  He was shaking more noticeably and took another drink of the coffee and swished it around in his mouth.  “I saw maybe three flashes of light or fire or whatever it was.  In those three quick glimpses they were both shredded and decapitated.  I ran for my car and did not think of anything else but getting out of there.”

Sam sat back in his chair and then looked over at Lori.  Lori was still sitting with her legs crossed and pretty much stoic in her appearance.  Sam looked back over at Price who was now resting his head in his pillow with his eyes closed with his head tilted slightly back.  No one spoke for a minute which is when Lori said to Sam after turning off the cassette recorder, “Well?”

Sam looked at her and gave her an inquisitive look but did not say anything.  He looked back over at Price who was still lying quietly in his bed with his eyes closed.  Sam reached into his front pocket and pulled his handkerchief and then wiped his face.  He thought to himself what does one say to such a story?  Especially when the person believed the story?  Would Lori think he was nuts?  Then he began to wonder about her, what did she think?  Stick to procedure was his next thought, and that said he should not say in front of Price whether he believed him or not.  Standing up he said, “I’m getting a soda, anyone want one?”

Lori looked up at him and said, “Diet.”  Price shook his head no and Sam then walked out of the room.  Lori wished she had thought of that excuse to get out of the room and would have liked to have left with Sam but thought it would not look right.  She was having a tough time reconciling what Price had said with her own beliefs of things.  She was raised to tell people she was Catholic and outside of Confirmation she had probably been to church ten times in her life, which also included funerals.  When her dad died when she was eleven she was never able to reconcile his death and her being without him to a God of love.  Over the years she had pretty much come to the conclusion that religion was man made rituals to bring comfort to the sad, strength to the weak, something to do to the lonely.

She was no longer sad, weak, or lonely because she had grown up and hardened to the world around her.  Her salvation was her career and it had proved faithful to her unlike her husband whom she was now divorced from.  She was glad she had no children because the divorce was truly final in her dealings with him.  Besides with her career she would not be able to be the mother she would want to be to children now.  Police-mom to a five year old was not wise or respectful to a kid.  She looked at Price and was a little startled to see that he was watching her.

Chapter Twenty-Seven Thursday, December 4:10:15pm PST

As Sam walked to the vending machine area he heard a noise very similar to a growling.  His stomach knotted and his blood began turning to ice.  As he approached the waiting area he placed his hand on his gun and then when he saw the source of the noise he smiled.  Janice was sleeping on the couch and sawing logs.  He shook his head and chuckled.  If she only knew he thought and then decided to be the good boy and wake her gently and tell her to get on her side or sit up which should help her from not snoring.  He tapped her gently on her shoulder and she woke up one eye at a time.  Smiling he said, “Janice you may want to get on your side.”  She looked at him curiously and after a moment it dawned on her what he was saying without saying it.

“Oh my,” she said as she sat up.  “What time is it?”

“It is quarter after ten – did you find out anything about Harold?”

“Oh no, I came out here to stretch once I handed you the coffee and I must have fell asleep.  Uh, you finished talking with Price?  How did it go?”

“How well do you nice Price?” Sam said answering a question with a question.

“Very well, he is like my little brother.  Why do you ask?”

“How can I gently say this?  Um, does he have any history of mental illness?  Does his family?  Please don’t get me wrong, this is a question that I will have been expected to ask especially considering his account of the events in the barn at Ms. Wystacke’s.”

“No there is no history of personal or family mental illness to the best of my knowledge,” Janice replied.  “Sam I am sure what he told you sounds pretty far out there, but I know that Price is an honorable man.  He is not a liar, he is honest and trustworthy.  As hard as it may to be believe what he told you, you can be certain of this one thing – he told you the truth.”

Sam said, “I was going down to get some sodas you want to come along and we can talk in the cafeteria?  I’ll treat to a Coke.”

  Janice stood up and tried to smooth the wrinkles from her skirt and blouse.  She took a sip of her coffee that was cold and decided she would drink it anyway because she needed the caffeine.  “Sure – let’s talk.”

Looking around it appeared he was in a large room that had about five beds.  He could see the curtains, and the room reminded him of where Price had been when he last saw him.  He was a little groggy and not certain if he was actually dreaming or awake.  He moved his hands and wiggled his fingers – they seemed fine.  He shifted his legs and wiggled his toes, they seemed okay as well.  He looked to his left and he saw a machine that appeared to be hooked up to him.  Above his head to the right was an IV that was connected to him as well.  He opened his mouth and it felt as though it was filled with cotton balls or gauze.  His tongue seemed thick and dry.

“Hello Mr. Anderson, you gave us all quite a scare,” said a nurse who gently lifted his hand to feel his pulse.  Harold tried to speak but his mouth was too dry and the nurse noticing this asked, “Would you like some ice chips?”  Harold nodded and she said, “Give me just a minute and I will get you fixed up.”  She picked up the small plastic pitcher and headed out of the room.

He tried to pull himself up by putting weight on his elbows but he was too weak to budge.  In fact that little bit of activity seemed to have the same impact on him as a day in the bookshop when he had a large delivery.  The nurse came back in to the room and had the pitcher and a towel in her hand.  She took the towel that was damp and wiped his lips and then folded it and wiped his face.  The towel was cool and felt wonderful to him.  She then poured a few ice chips into a small clear plastic cup and handed it to him.  “Mr. Anderson, take it easy with the ice chips taking it nice and slow – let them melt in your mouth.”  Harold nodded and she patted his hand, “I will let the doctor know you are awake.  Do you feel any pain?”  Harold tapped his chest lightly and the nurse nodded and left the room.

Chapter Twenty-Eight Thursday, December 4:10:25pm PST

Sam put the money in the soda machine and got two Cokes.  Janice sat at one of the small table and chair sets in the vending area.  Sam popped the top on his can of soda and then took a big gulp which immediately was followed with an attempt of a silent belch.  “Sorry,” he said sheepishly to Janice, “how long has Price been doing this line of work?”

“I have been working for Price for a little over three years.  He has been dabbling in this type of work for about ten years.  Three years ago he decided to turn his hobby into a full time career.”

“I would not think there is much money in something like this,” Sam replied.

“Price does not have to worry about money,” she answered.

“Oh were his parents rich?”

“Not at all, he collected on a life insurance policy and lawsuit.”

Sam looked at her and said, “Wife?”

“Yes her name was Melanie – she died in a horrible car accident on San Marcos Pass out in Santa Barbara.”

“What happened?” Sam asked and took a sip from his Coke.

“She was going north and semi was going south.  Semis are not allowed to drive on San Marcos Pass but this guy did.  Later he said he was confused and it was the first time he had driven that particular route.  A car in front of him hit his brakes and the driver did not notice immediately he then slammed his brakes to avoid rear ending the guy thus making his semi jack knife into oncoming traffic.  His trailer acted like a ball bat and hit Melanie’s car in the rear causing it to lose control and flip off the road.  It is like a seventy-five foot drop, she was killed from injuries sustained in the fall.  From what I heard from the news at the time it was very grisly.  Later the driver was imprisoned for manslaughter and received a fifteen year sentence.”

“What a shame, how long had they been married?”

“They were married six years, but had dated for another four before that,” Janice answered.  “Her death tore him up from what I understand from conversations with him and his parents.”

“When did his parents pass away?”

“His father died two years ago, and his mom died last year.  He is an only child so he feels very much alone now.  His parents were very proud of him and they were very nice to me.  I was invited to there home for Thanksgiving my first year working with Price.  They were a very loving and down to earth couple.  Price had paid off what little debts his mom and dad had with the money he received from his wife’s death.  So his dad retired and they lived very comfortably on his retirement.  Price loved them very much.”

“Well this guy has had a rough few years for sure,” Sam said.  “What led him to pursuing this work full time?”

“His wife had helped him with his hobby and part time research and investigating.  They both enjoyed it and especially working together, so when she died he decided she would expect him with financial needs covered to go about doing what they loved.  That had been there goal down the road.  They had hoped to build up a reputation in the market and develop a website and also do some writing that would be published thereby gaining a good name.”

“So now he is trying to fulfill there dream,” Sam said and Janice nodded. “I take it then that they had no children.”

“Correct.”

“I better get back upstairs with this Coke for Lori,” Sam said.  “You want to come up with me?”

Janice stood up and said, “Not yet, I need to find out what the status is on Harold.”

  “Okay, I will see you up there later,” Sam said and headed for the elevator.  Janice looked around and decided to go to the information desk.  She knew where he last was so she figured she would get directions there and see if she could see him.  When she walked up to the information desk an older woman was on the phone and middle aged woman was talking to a security guard.

Lori looked at Price while she was thinking about what he had just told Sam and her.  He seemed to be genuinely upset, scared, and sincere.  Evidence so far had shown he had not killed the two ladies, but that also could mean he was smart and they had not found the one piece or the smoking gun.  Still what he said seemed like a tale, definitely fantasy; but then again considering his occupation maybe he was telling the truth.  She was not gullible and in her opinion it was even worse if people thought you were, so she would often come across to others as being far more skeptical than she truly was.  She was a detective and a woman so she had to appear hard, don’t let a crack appear or even be considered.  But now looking at Price she had this fear that he was telling the truth and if that was the case anyone who became involved in this story was in grave personal danger; which then meant those close to them were threatened as well and at that moment of realization she saw her son Will in her mind.  “Pardon me,” she said to Price as she stood up, “I need to make a couple phone calls.”  And without waiting to hear a reply she left the room and headed to a pay phone.

Chapter Twenty-Nine Thursday, December 4:11:05pm PST

It had taken awhile to locate him but she had finally done so.  One of the nurses, Brenda, was very considerate and helpful and after checking with Harold she agreed to let Janice see him for a few moments.  When Janice entered the area where Harold was at she realized she was checking on a man she hardly knew, but despite the gruffness he had exhibited he was actually a gentle man.  “Hey you old coot,” Janice said.

Harold looked over at her and smiled, “Is that anyway to speak to a client?”  Janice laughed and pulled up a chair to sit next to him.  “Heck of a day,” he said.

“Yes and that is definitely an understatement,” Janice replied.  “So you had a heart attack?”

“I apparently have had a couple and one of the nurses said they had lost me for a couple minutes.  I remember that but not the way they do,” he answered.  “They say all my tests come back negative and that I am in good health so they want to run some more tests because they don’t why what happened,”  Janice nodded and he said, “It.”

“You mean the…”

“Yes,” he said in a frail voice.  “Evil.”

“Okay, I understand, just rest right now.  You need to regain your strength – there will be plenty of time to talk later,” Janice said.  Harold nodded but the look in his eyes was not the look of anyone who was going to be resting anytime soon.

“I’m sorry, but Mr. Anderson needs his rest,” said the nurse as she entered the area where Harold was recuperating.

  “That’s ok, I understand,” Janice said as she arose from the chair.  “You keep an eye on him – and don’t worry his bark is worse than his bite.”  She patted Harold’s hand and he smiled.  Janice left the recovery area and headed for Price’s room.  She knew Price would want to know what had happened with Harold and what his condition was.  Besides the police were in his room and that meant he had to have been talking to them, especially considering the questions Sam had been asking.  Whatever Price had shared with them it had troubled Sam, and she figured it must have bothered his partner as well.

As Sam approached Price’s room he noticed Lori sitting outside.  “Here’s your Coke,” he said handing the warm soda to her.

“I wondered what happened to you,” she said as she popped the top on the can.

“Everything ok?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, I just need to step out and go to the bathroom.  Uh, what took you so long?”

“I was talking to Janice about Price and his history.  Did he say anything more to you?”

“No, he seems to be resting,” she answered.  “So, what do you think partner?”

He looked at her and pulled up a chair and sat next to her, “I don’t think you really want to know what I think – partner.”

“Well that answers the question without saying anything,” she said snidely.

“Don’t assume, you know what they say happens when you make assumptions…”

“Yeah but you are already one, so that takes care of that,” she shot back and then grinned.  “Seriously Sam, did you think he is legit?”

“In one word, yes,” Sam said.  “And I think may be bothering you is that you think he is telling the truth too.”

“I never said anything was bothering me.  I had to go to the bathroom, and if you have the same code book – that is not a crime as long as I used a restroom appropriately.”

“Whatever, yes I believe the guy.  Do you?”

She looked at him and then looked around, “In one word, maybe.”

“Well what should be our next step?” Sam asked.  “Making a document from our interview with him?  Call LACU?  Call the Santa Barbara police and see what they have Mr. Stewart?”

“My vote is calling the LACU; maybe they will have some more information for us.  Lord knows we could use it,” Lori said.  “I am sure the sergeant is going to love this tape.”

“I’ll call LACU and where will you be?”

“I think I am going to have a discussion with Mr. Anderson.”

“Here comes Janice, let’s see what she says.  She was supposed to be checking on Harold,” Sam said.  As Janice approached closer Sam nodded to her and said, “So did you see Harold?  How is he doing?” [where last page of Carol’s text ends]

“Pretty rough, they had to revive him,” she informed them.  “Considering everything that man has been through recently he looks good though.  He is tired and they have him heavily medicated so he is drifting in and out.  It is going to be awhile before he will be able to put a couple sentences together if you know what I mean.”

“But he will pull through,” Sam asked.

“It appears, barring anything else happening,” Janice replied.

“Well that changes my plans I was going to go talk to him.”

“Not today you won’t be,” Janice replied.  “How is Price?”

“Okay, he is resting.  Look, I will check back with you later.  Here is my cell phone number,” as he hands her his card.   “If anything happens or any new information comes up please give me a call. Lori is going to be checking in with CU so as of right now I think are bases are covered.  Are you ready Lori?”  She nodded, “Why not call CU from the car?  I could go for something to eat right now.”

“Good idea,” Lori answered and they headed down the hallway to the elevator.  Janice watched them walk away and then she turned and headed for Price’s room.  At the door she inhaled and exhaled and then pushed it open.

Chapter Thirty Thursday, December 4:11:30pm PST

Rachel and Ted had been home for about a half hour.  They came in changed and then went to routine duties – Rachel set up the coffee machine for tomorrow and Ted took the garbage out and put the travel mugs in the dishwasher.  “Would you like some Honey Brush Tea?” Rachel yelled out to Ted.

“Sure, that sounds good,” he replied.  “I’ll be in our office; I’ll take your laptop upstairs and get it booted up.”

“Thanks hon’,” she said.  She put the kettle of water on the stove top and then looked over the mail that had arrived today.  Bills, dear resident, current home owner, dear citizen, and a flier which meant half the mail immediately was placed in file thirteen.  She walked over to the answering machine and saw one new message and figured it was Samuel calling back so she pushed the button and heard:

“Rachel this is Sam give me a call back when you get in.  When you call me please be logged in on your computer because I have some documents I want you to look at.  Thanks”

  The teapot started whistling so she turned off the burner and poured the hot water into the tea cups and poured the rest of it in the teapot she set up figuring she would definitely be up later than one cup of tea.  She placed it all on the tray and headed for the office turning off the kitchen light behind her.

“All systems go?” she asked Ted.

“Affirmative Captain,” Ted replied doing his best Scottie imitation.  She handed him his cup of tea, kissed him lightly on the lips to which he bellowed doing his best Kirk imitation, “I need more power!”

She rolled her eyes and said, “That’s all I can give, I can’t give you no more!” trying to do a Scottie imitation that sounded more like a drunk for England.  She blopped down into her desk chair and signed in to her computer and their home network and opened her email account.  She used picked up the phone and dialed Samuel.

“Hello Samuel sorry it is a bit later than I expected,” Rachel said.

“No worry and no apology needed, I have been looking into the matter of Mr. Stewart’s.”

“Unfortunately I have not had much time to review the matter, so please fill me in on what you have learned.”

“First, as I am certain you know there is really no way that Azazel is involved.”

“I agree but what is your reasoning for your statement?”

“According to the Book of Enoch he has been chained in darkness till his judgment at the end of time.”

“Let me play – pardon the pun – the devil’s advocate,” Rachel said.

“Fire away,” Samuel replied.

“What if we are at the time on the calendar of God called the end of time?”

“Hmmm, well personally I do not believe Azazel is released from his dark prison cell until the day of his judgment.  After all what reason would there be to release him a few days early?”

“To see if he repents of his past deeds,” Rachel quickly followed.

“Oh, well I have been hustled because it appears you have definitely been thinking about this Rachel.”

“Actually I have often wondered after studying the Book of Enoch, Genesis, and Jude if there was such an opportunity of repentance.”

“I have to say I do not believe so.  Do I have proof for my decision?  No.  But I do have this reasoning – they were in God’s presence not as we are but literally they could see Him.  They were able to witness His majesty and they turned against Him.  I believe due to our situation – our being mankind – we have the opportunity of repentance.”

“Well if your reasoning is true then I guess that means you believe Adam and Eve are in Hell after all they saw God as well and turned their back on Him.”

“Yes I realize that there is that implication in my reasoning and the only thing I can say is God, according to Genesis, did provide them with clothes by making a sacrifice.  According to Biblical doctrine that was laid down and required by God – a sacrifice that was acceptable to God is the only way of restoration in one’s relationship to Him.  And God made the sacrifice so obviously it was acceptable.”

“Very good that would make sense so the issue then is to find out why Price thinks that his situation involves Azazel.”

“Yes, I have not spoken with him,” Samuel said.

“Either have I, I wonder if we can get him on a conference call right now?”

  “Worth the shot,” Samuel said, “I will put you on hold and call the numbers in Ms. Wright’s email.  Maybe we can get lucky on the first try.”

Janice quietly opened the door into Price’s room and peaked in to see if he was awake or sleeping.  His eyes were closed but she remembered from earlier that he could be resting and not sleeping so she walked in slowly and quietly into the room and closed the door.  As she approached the bed she noticed Price opened one eye and then closed it.  She sat down in the chair closest to his bed and looked around the room.  She picked up her laptop that was on the wheeling cart – T.V. tray device and saw Price had been reading the document titled: Who is Azazel?  It was a brief four page article that seemed to touch on the vocabulary and history of the word “Azazel” and on Jewish tradition involving it.  She saved and closed the document and then turned off her laptop.

“So are they going to arrest me?’ Price asked.

Janice looked over at him and Price still had his eyes closed, “Not that I am aware of.  So did it go that bad in here talking to them?”

“It was not good – and how can it be considering I have only my word saying that I did not kill those two women.  Janice what are we going to do?”

“You have to get well and get out of here, that is the first objective.  You did not kill them and the evidence that are able to gather has to exonerate you.  Trust in that right now, you did not kill them so they will not have evidence showing otherwise.  And not to make today any darker but Harold is in bad shape but stable.”

Price opened his eyes and turned his head to look at Janice, “What happened?”

“Apparently he did have a heart attack in here, but worse than that is he had another heart attack downstairs that actually killed him.  They had to revive him and he is downstairs now in the ICU for cardiac patients.  The nurse said they were sure they had lost him.”

“Oh that poor man, this house is going to be the death of him,” Price said while placing his left arm above his head.  “Janice is he out of the woods?”

“Honestly, they are not sure.  Price he is very weak and he said it was that thing, whatever it is, that got him.”

Price just stared at her and after a few seconds asked, “Was that his exact words?”

She nodded and said, “He said something to the affect that It did it to him – and used the word Evil.  Price we gotta get a grip on what is going on here…”

“Trust me I know that – but….” just then Price was interrupted by Janice’s phone ringing.

Janice pulled the phone out of her purse and answered, “Hello?”

“Is this Janice Wright?”

“Yes it is to whom am I speaking to?”

“This is Samuel Wilhelm…”

“Oh Dr. Wilhelm I am so glad you called,” Janice said.

Price reached out his hand toward Janice, “Please let me speak to him.”

Janice said, “Sir, hold on just a moment I am giving the phone to Price.”

Price spoke eagerly, “Sam – am I glad you called.”

“Price, you apparently got yourself in a bit of an ordeal I understand.  Hold on just a second because of Rachel on the other line and if I don’t mess this up I think the three of us can have conference call.”  Price heard his phone click and then “Rachel, you there?”

“Yes Samuel, I’m here….”

“Rachel,” Price said, “good job Sam!  I am so glad you two called.”

Rachel said, “Price how are you?  The news we received from Janice sounded like you were pretty banged up.”

“I am weak but getting better.  I am definitely better than my client and the two women who were killed in front of my eyes.”

Samuel said, “Price lets get straight to the subject and in considering that – our first question.  Rachel and I have been talking about the matter and wanted to know why you specifically mentioned Azazel?”

“Actually two different reasons first being that Tabitha, Ms.Rvicknik mentioned that Elaine, Ms. Wystacke believed Azazel was the one involved in the past.  Tabitha went through some horrible ordeals herself which led her to move and put the house up for sale.  Secondly, in the barn I could not hear very well what Elaine was saying during her ritual or summoning but I am pretty sure I saw her say Azazel’s name a few times – which of course fits with what Tabitha had told me earlier in the day.  Why do you ask?”

Rachel said, “Because Samuel and I are relatively certain Azazel is not involved.”

“Come again?” Price said.

“According to the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jude the angels of Genesis 6 are bound in chains and in darkness until the Day of Judgment,” Samuel said.

“Again, we are not one hundred percent certain about that,” Rachel said.

“But I am,” Samuel interjected, “99.9% certain.”

Price thought a moment, “Well that could explain what happened in the barn.  They summoned that entity and then it destroyed them because of their error.  They were not protected and now we are stuck trying to identify exactly who this is?”

“Yes and no,” said Rachel.  “I agree that may have something to do with what happened in the barn but then again it could have happened simply because it could.  As far as having to specifically identify who is behind these actions we may have more than one entity involved now.”

“You don’t mean that what Harold, my client, is dealing with may necessarily be the same entity involved in the murders in the barn?” Price said raising the head support of the bed.

“Rachel, that is true.  We are just assuming that they are but we need evidence that definitely links the characteristics of each event,” Samuel said.

Price listened and searched his thoughts, “Okay I believe that the incidents are the same entity.  First, what Harold has described about the presence of the entity that is harassing him matched what Tabitha spoke of experiencing when she lived in the same house.  But –“

“Exactly,” said Rachel, “why does what happened in the barn have to be the same entity?”

“It doesn’t,” Price said, “so for my client I am back to square one in trying to determine what he is up against.”

“And Price for you and the attack in the barn that now involves the police, we need to identify who killed Elaine and Tabitha,” Rachel said.

“And prove it,” Samuel resignedly said.

Price looked over to Janice and said quietly, “Please make a note that we call my lawyer about this first thing tomorrow morning.  No, second thought – scratch that.”  He then spoke into the phone, Rachel and Sam can we speak tomorrow first thing?  I want to call my lawyer now and have him know what is going on and get him down here.”

“Sure thing,” Samuel said.

“Ditto,” Rachel said.

“Good I am going to hang up and can you two work out between you when you are going to call me?  You know where I will be,” Price said.

“Very well, good bye Price – and keep your chin up – everything will work out,” said Rachel.

“Yes when all is said and done,” Samuel said, “the matter will be closed and you will be back sleuthing.”

“Thanks, goodbye till tomorrow,” Price said and he pushed the red button on Janice’s phone.

Janice said, “Price I think I am going to head home considering you are doing so well.  I need a decent night sleep and a shower.”

“That’s a good idea,” Price answered.

“I will leave my laptop here for you so you can do some research.”

“Thanks, and I will try to figure out what books I have at the office that you can bring down with you when you come back down.”

“Very good – just call the office phone because I have the calls being forwarded to my cell phone right now.  When I get in the office tomorrow I will turn off the call forwarding,” she said.

“Okay, makes sense.  Hey Janice, thanks – I know this is all above the call of duty.  I will make it up to you,” Price said.

“I know, I know,” she said, “I’m looking forward to that all expense paid vacation in Europe already.”

Price laughed and Janice did as well.  “Seriously,” he said.

“I know boss, just get well and then will get this whole thing figured out.”  She gave him a soft hug and grabbed her purse and went out the door.

Price picked up the hospital phone and dialed his lawyer who answered on the third, “Hello Chas, this is Price; I know it is a bit late but I have a problem.”

Chapter Thirty-One Friday, December 4:12:45am PST

Price hung up the phone and closed his eyes going over the conversation he had just completed with his lawyer.  Charles Richard Brooks, or has Price called him – Chas – had been the family lawyer ever since the events surrounding his wife’s death.  He was an elderly gentleman who slim, silver haired, and spoke with smooth confidence no matter the subject.  Price liked him and since the death of his father he had come to Chas with matters he would have normally asked his father about.  Chas was married and had three children (two girls and a boy), all who were lawyers and doing quite well for themselves on the east coast.  His wife Charlotte was a marvelous cook who had been known to leave dinner goodies for Price at his door.  He thought the world of the couple and it troubled him to involve them in this matter but considering the circumstances he decided he really had no choice.  Chas made it clear to him not worry about the matter or them and that all will be well soon enough and that he would see him in the early afternoon.

 Price decided he needed to sleep tonight and start the new day “tomorrow” trying to get back in a regimen of coffee, research, and correspondence – it was the only way he would be able to not only get himself out of the hospital but to resolve matters of his own and Harold’s.  He turned off the light by pressing the button on the remote strapped to the railing on his bed and closed his eyes.  After letting out a deep sigh he turned his mind to something more pleasant – the time he and his parents went to the County Bowl to see Kenny Loggins.

9:10pm EST

Rachel hung up the phone and looked over her should to see her husband with his headset on and he was playing one his computer games.  She was glad he had the headset on so he could not hear much of the conversation.  She began thinking of the situation that Price was in, and knew he had his back against the wall.  He may have to prove the existence of entities that many consider as myth and others don’t believe what proof does exist.  Price’s best hope was that they did not charge him with the murders but that was not likely.  How could she help?  Should she go to California and try to find evidence of his account of the events?  Should she stay in Cincinnati and research the matter here?  What was Samuel going to do?

She respected Samuel and considered him a mentor ever since the first time they met which was in the capacity of assisting Price with a client roughly three years ago.  Samuel was about twenty years older than her and he exuded confidence and wisdom which undoubtedly came from his travels and research.  Simply put, the man knew his stuff and he was humble about it which was not common in academia.  Spinning her chair to face her husband she watched him quietly and observed him much like how psychologists observe rats run the maze.  He was playing Madden Football and he was trying to assist his running back avoid being tackled by moving and twisting his body from the hip up.  She sat still and watched him for a few minutes and noted how much of a kid he really was.

10:10pm CST

Samuel stood up and walked into his kitchen and grabbed a mug from the cabinet and poured himself a fresh cup of decaf Colombian coffee and walked back to the study.  Back in front of his computer he decided to check his calendar because he was considering flying out to California to meet Price.  Starting Monday it was finals week so he reasoned he could have a TA administer the exams and he could email the test template to the department admin to print out and delegate to the TAs.  Now the matter of expenses, should he wait till Price asked him to come out which would then obligate him to pay for Samuel’s expenses?  He could just fly out there and consider it a vacation that may down the road be reimbursed.  After a few moments he decided on that approach and pulled up Expedia.com to go about booking a flight and making room reservations.

After booking the flight and hotel reservations he emailed the details to Rachel and to the address provided on Janice’s email from earlier in the day.  He was able to secure a seat on the 3 p.m. flight on Saturday so he figured letting everyone know the itinerary would be good for their own reference.  Maybe Rachel would then go about securing travel to California as well.  Next step was to email the exams templates to Barb, the department admin.  He included instructions and thanks for the help with such short notice.  He then emailed his TAs with the exam plans and his need to be out of town.  After all the particulars were covered he signed off and shut down his computer and grabbed the materials he had been reading and sat in his overstuffed leather chair.  Within thirty minutes he is overwhelmed with sleepiness and drifts off.

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