(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
He stared at the monitor, unable to process the information. It wasn't that he saw anything necessarily strange. It was just too coincidental to be ... coincidental.
JD couldn't do anything but stare at it.
The newspaper from October 29, 1982 stared back at him, unblinking, unflinching. The headline blazed, burning itself onto his mind.
LOCAL POLICE OFFICER KILLED IN FREAK CAR ACCIDENT.
He read the brief article. It spoke of Rick Stanton, a local police officer, whose car went off the road just after 2 a.m. on the morning of October 29, 1982. It outlined how the car was found just south of the quarry, effectively wrapped around a tree trunk. Skid marks determined the car swerved at some point, and apparently left the paved surface. When it did, Stanton lost control of the otherwise mechanically sound vehicle and hit a tree at high speed. It seemed, the report speculated, that Stanton tried to avoid something in the road. He wore the seat belt, but died in the crash anyway. It also announced his service record, his accomplishments, and the decorations he'd received. He was survived by a brother in New Mexico and his family. No one else. But JD couldn't help noting the date, then flipping back to the other search results he'd found.
The next headline was from October 29, 1987.
HOME INVASION GONE WRONG CLAIMS LIFE OF LOCAL POLICE OFFICER.
The article was about Stanley Migo. He was found dead in his home while his wife was away visiting relatives downstate with their two children. The house was a wreck, as though an attempted burglary had been interrupted. Migo was shot at point-blank range in the heart ... with his own weapon. It seemed that the officer had been overpowered and the weapon he himself held was turned back on him and fired. It hit him straight through the heart and he perished, the bullet from his .45 caliber automatic lodging in a wall behind him.
JD clicked another open window.
LOCAL MAYORAL CANDIDATE, EX-COP COMMITS SUICIDE.
October 29, 1992, the date shouted at him.
He didn't bother to read the article. He knew what really happened anyway.
He sat back, trying to digest what he was seeing. He glanced at the clock ... it was nearly one a.m.
It was October 29, he remembered. He'd first gone to the house on October 26. The weekend was a blur of activity, none of which he could explain.
And now this.
He shuddered involuntarily.
The events weren't given any significance in the articles he could find. There was nothing mentioned of Robin Brown's disappearance. He would have to try and find the information again to confirm the date he was killed. But he already knew the answer, without ever having to ask.
He was certain Robin Brown died on October 29.
He book-marked the pages, and closed them, standing up to move to his bed. He realized he didn't order a drink from the drive-through before, and the salty taco meat and cheese dried his throat. Or perhaps what he'd read robbed his mouth of moisture. He stood up and stretched, then opened his bedroom door.
The house was deathly silent and as black as a tomb.
He hesitated, staring into the inky hallway that lead to the stairs. The shadows seemed to move, to shift, to whisper quietly, just out of his audible range, moving along the walls toward him.
He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. He needed to get hold of himself. He chided himself for being spooked like a child by ghost stories.
Except, something in the back of his mind whispered, this ghost story spoke to them.
He shuddered again. The light from his room seemed to be swallowed up and die before it reached down the hall. He didn't remember the house seeming so dark before, even in deep winter and in the wee hours. He shrank back just inside the door jamb, and listened.
Under that, the tiniest whisper. Just beneath the silence he would have sworn he heard a voice.
He shuddered again. He was sure there was no sound. He was straining his eyes into the blackness at the end of the hall, trying to discern familiar structures, shapes, walls ... anything. Only the depths of the dark, like a squid's ink cloud, looked back at him.
He listened. He stared.
The shadows taunted him, the silence teased him.
He shrank back again. This time he drew himself to full height and retreated into the room, fishing in his desk drawer until he found the mini-flashlight, designed for a key ring. He twisted the body barrel and the tiny beam lit up red, and he cursed himself for making filters for every light he owned. He strode confidently back to the hallway, and shone the beam down the hall.
Only the hall was revealed. There was a picture on the wall where the stairs turned left and went down to the first floor. Beneath it, a half-round table with a picture frame and a vase, silk flower propped in it carefully, leaned against the wall. Dillon's door was shut, and there was no sound from his room. The wall adjacent to JD's door was his own bathroom. Behind him, the end of the hall, and two guest rooms directly across from one another. Another picture frame hung there, a larger one, a print of an oil painting matted within it.
He saw only his house, and nothing more.
He shone the light toward the stairs again. He fully expected to see something, a figure, a form, a shadow or silhouette -- something.
But the hall was empty.
He strained his ears, trying to will them to hear above, below and beyond the range of human sensory perception, to detect the sound of a voice, a whisper, a footfall ... anything.
The silence was deafening to him.
He stepped out into the hall and began to move to the stairs.
He felt -- not really heard, or saw, but felt -- something behind him, moving in stealth, moving with him as one, trying to close the distance between them. He wheeled around sharply, heart racing, body tensed and half-crouched, expecting anything, brandishing his tiny flashlight like a sword in front of him.
Only the hall was there, the walls illuminated red by his little crimson beam. He took a long, slow breath, trying to calm himself. He wasn't sure what was wrong with him. He was halfway between his bedroom and the stairs. Not a great distance, he reminded himself. He stood up, and let his breath out slowly, trying to soothe his nerves.
And again he felt there was something just outside the circle of light he cast, hiding, evading, circling.
He whipped around fast, nearly dropping off balance and teetering in the hall, one hand groping for the wall, the other whirling the flashlight around.
Only the walls and sundries were there.
He was concerned now. His imagination was running away with him, and this was not characteristic of him. He again drew a breath, trying to force himself to relax. He walked normally, ignoring the sensation that something was about to touch his neck, to grab at his heels, to seize his shoulders, and walked down the stairs. He plodded as he always did, refusing to speed up or slow his pace, denying internally that something was there, something was right there, just within reach, just about to clutch at him ...
He turned the light on in the living room from the wall switch and the stab of light hurt his eyes with its suddenness. The red filter on the flashlight kept his eyes from adjusting while it glowed. The white light of the end table lamps flanking the sofa poked his brain mercilessly. He stopped for a moment and let his vision finally assimilate, and turned slowly to look back up the stairs.
He strained his ears into the dark, listening.
Shaking his head, still disappointed with himself, he went into the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, he noted the drink options. He took a container of cranberry juice out, and set it on the counter. He reached into the cabinet above the jug and got a tall water glass, filling it nearly to the brim. He drank long and fast, the juice crashing into the back of his parched throat and soaking it all the way to his gullet as the cold liquid slid down his insides. When he'd drained the glass, he set it down, and as he raised the jug to fill it again, the lights blinked out.
It was pitch black.
"Dillon, cut it out," he snapped into the dark. "I can't see anything and I've got a glass. Turn the lights on."
He strained, listening in the black. There was a patch of strangely pale illumination cascading in from the large picture window in the living room, but he couldn't see anything else. Dillon would normally be giggling uncontrollably at this point, as he did when he was a child. He was never able to stay hidden in hide-and-seek, and could never startle anyone because he couldn't control his laughter.
JD didn't hear anything. Nothing. Not even the house settling, or the ticking of a clock, or the sounds of the world outside.
He felt for the refrigerator, and pulled the door open. The bright whiteness of its interior blazed out. He squinted against it.
It darted out of the darkness at him, lit from below by the refrigerator light, stopping suddenly just inches from JD's wide eyes.
A face, the eyes two black, wet orbs behind the lids, the skin writhing with worms and maggots wriggling beneath, pushing through the minute holes torn through the surface. The mouth, yellow- and green- stains over the teeth, lips pulled back from them, the black-blue tongue strung with thick, ropey strands of pus and mucus.
"FIND THE NOTE! IN THE GARAGE!"
JD screamed and threw himself back, falling onto his hind quarters, skittering back until he struck against the cabinets behind him. He shut his eyes, turning his face, and suddenly the lights blazed back on.
He opened his eyes, hands out in front of him.
The kitchen was completely empty.
His felt his heart pounding, racing, his pulse thready and his body covered in sweat. He heard a sound, and only a moment later he realized he was panting, gasping for breath. He looked around, checking his surroundings.
Just the kitchen.
Slowly, slowly -- as if he'd been injured, or might be -- he stood. Listening.
Only the sound of his raking breath in the kitchen. Beneath it, the throbbing of his jittering heart thumped in his eardrums.
He walked forward, cautiously, as if looking for a dangerous animal. He approached the border between the kitchen and family room, the large picture window now a black patch beneath the wispy sheer panels covering it. He padded softly, trying not to make a sound, and then darted quickly around the corner as if to surprise whatever he saw there.
Which was nothing.
He backed into the kitchen, and pulled a stool out from beneath the counter, and lowered his weight on it. He leaned on one elbow propped on the counter, and tried to catch his breath.
It was quite some time before he did.