The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 39

Copyright 2016 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, Calfornia

“Wake up, Haley. We’re almost there,” said George. He tapped her on the shoulder. “Wake up, Haley.”

“What? Oh my gosh. We’re here.” She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair, licked her finger and dabbed under her eyes. “I’m going to be meeting Aunt Robin for the first time and seeing Eric again. I hope I look presentable.”

“You look fine, this woman will fall in love with you,” said George. “And no smudge in the world is going to keep that guy from loving you. Now, let’s go. The fire chief’s car is on the driveway.”

“I hope Aunt Robin is okay,” whispered Haley.

Haley looked around their surroundings and remembered she had driven down this side street, Lombard, in an escape from Police Officer, James Stetson who had been commanding a Taxi driver to follow them. Stetson persisted in harassing them and she, Jeanne, and Krista nicknamed him The Creep.   The front door stood opened. “This isn’t right. Stay behind me, Haley.” George pushed the door open wide. All the lights were on in the living room, dining room, and kitchen. As they approached the bottom of the stairs, Haley heard familiar voices. “Eric? Chief? It’s Haley and George.”

“Come up, and come on in,” Eric said from the first bedroom on the right side of the hall.

Robin had been rubbing her forehead and when she looked up, she said, “Oh my gosh, what a sweet looking and beautiful girl, Eric.” Haley walked into the room timidly. “And who’s the giant man behind her?”

“Hello, Aunt Robin,” said Haley as she moved forward with hands outstretched to give Robin a hug. “This is my Aunt Mattie’s special friend, George. We came to see if we could be of help, or perhaps keep you company tonight. Are you okay?”

“Why is everyone asking me if I’m okay? I just got weak in the knees just now. I’m not sick or hurt.”

Everyone in the room looked at each other. “Okay, okay, what’s the conspiracy here? Oh my, look at the clock, it’s near midnight. Tell me, someone,” she demanded. “Why are you all here so late?”

Just then, heavy footsteps rumbled up the stairs. Detective Fontino, in his beige trench coat and wide banded grey fedora, swung into the doorway. Two of his men, both also wearing hats, split down each direction of the hall checking the other rooms. FBI’s Special Agent Robert Parker appeared next. The fine threads of his vested suit announced his good taste under a darker and more detailed  rain resistant coat than Detective Fontino’s. The FBI Agent had dispersed a major portion of his team to work down by the cable car turntable, but two other agents had accompanied him and they stood as stone pillars by his side.

“What’s going on here,” asked Fontino. “Is Robin okay? Anyone hurt?” He paused, looking at each of them. “Who called this meeting of the great sleuths?”

“Well,” said Robin. “I’m okay, but everyone else here is a bit crazy. They all came over after dark, and they all think I’m hurt, sick, or in trouble.” Robin pushed back her silvery blonde hair, folded her arms across her chest, and waited for someone to answer. “Who’s going to talk first?” she asked.

“Yeah,” said Fontino. He then pointed to Haley and George. “I can imagine who you are, miss, but who is this man next to you?”

“He’s like a special uncle,” said Haley. She looked at George and saw the twinkle in his eye. He also had a big grin on his face.

“Since we’re making introductions, this man here,” said Fontino as he slapped his hand on Parker’s shoulder, “is FBI’s Special Agent Robert Parker. He’s offered me his assistance and we’re going to capture the Serial Killer.” The group eyed and nodded at Parker with respect.

“Ahem,” Chief Mullins interrupted. “Detective Fontino, Agent Parker, Eric, George, there’s something you need to see right away. Please follow me downstairs now.”

“Hey, Chief,” said Fontino. “You’re mighty serious. What’s up?”

“You’ll see. Just follow me. But maybe you’d better leave your two men upstairs with the girls.”

Fontino turned and signaled for his two detectives to stay put.

As the group of men turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs, a breeze blew down the hall. “Whoa, what a chill. The window must be open,” said Eric. “The front door closed now?” he asked one of Agent Parker’s men.

“We were the last to arrive,” said Parker. “I’ve posted two men outside to assist.”

Chief Mullins turned on the light in Robin’s studio.

“Holy smokes! What the heck happened here?” said Fontino.

“It’s like a tornado sucked everything off the shelves,” said Eric as his eyes wandered around the room.

“This is how I found the room when I came down to check if the telephone down here worked. Look at this,” said the Chief holding the telephone cord with frayed wires and threads that had wrapped it. “The wire’s been pulled out of the wall,”

“Oh Lord, in Heaven! What’s happened to my room?” Everyone turned to see Robin pushing her way in between Eric and Fontino. Haley tried to hold her back. “Oh no. No, no, no.” Robin cried as she strained forward to pick up a book from the floor. Fontino and Eric grabbed her by the arms and pulled her back.

“I’m sorry, Robin. This is a crime scene now. We can’t touch or move anything until a forensics team gets through this room first.”

“But I have to see what’s happened to my stuff,” pleaded Robin. Tears ran down her face. Eric put his arm around her shoulders and turned her toward the door.

“My drawings…my favorite paints, brushes, my work…”

Robin sobbed as she picked up the corner of a picture hanging from the easel. “What’s this? I didn’t draw this.”

George, the tallest of all the men there, reached out and held up the torn and flimsy sheet of sketching paper at the corners. He tucked them under the clips on the easel. “I didn’t draw that. Where did this picture come from?” said Robin. She pointed at the page darkened with charcoal.

Everyone in the room stared at the picture. “It looks like a portrait of a merchant marine. See, it’s the knitted cap that makes me think merchant marine,” said Eric.

“Close. But no.” said George. “See the type of jacket he’s wearing? It’s got a short collar and the style speaks to me of a light weight jacket. This is not what merchant marines wear. Take a closer look under the harsh lines slashed across the picture. It looks like someone tried to destroy the picture after it was drawn. See the darker and harder strokes across the face and chest?”

“You got that pegged right, George. You’ve got a good eye for details…well heck, Robin’s the artist, and all of us are in the detail work.” He laughed, then added, “We’re all going to do good.”

“Detective Fontino. I know this man. It’s the same person who had dinner with Officer Stetson tonight. I spoke with him as well,” said FBI’s Special Agent Parker.

“Parker, you’re saying that Stetson had dinner with his killer tonight?”

“Wait a minute. Who got killed tonight?” asked Eric.

The Chief nodded his chin at Fontino. “Yeah, what was that you were saying about Stetson?”

Detective Fontino looked around and then back again, hard, at Parker. “Did I hear you say you spoke with this man, this man in the picture? That this man might be Stetson’s killer?”

“Stetson’s dead?” asked Haley. Her voice just above a whisper.

“Where’s my two guys? Martino! Have you checked the whole house?”

“Yes, Boss. All clear. No one else is around but the neighbors across the way are playing peek-a-boo. When I see them looking at us, they pull their curtains shut. A minute later, they’re peeking out again.”

“I suggest we all settle down in the living room,” said Special Agent Parker. “It will be more comfortable there. We all have a lot to share and discuss.”

“Okay. Everyone out to the front room,” said Fontino and he waved them out of the studio. “I’m sorry Robin, I don’t know what’s happened here but we’ll get to the bottom of this. I promise you. No one’s going to do this to you and get away with it. Nope,” he said as he pensively shook his head from side to side, “I’m going to catch whoever did this.”

“Robin, would you like some tea?” asked the Chief.

“I’ll help you,” said Haley.

“No, don’t go Haley. Sit by me on the couch, won’t you?” Robin sniffed and rubbed the back of her hand over her eyes.

“Of course, but first let’s go upstairs and change your clothes. There are smudges on the sides of your tunic,” said Haley.

“Now you’ve got charcoal on your face, too,” said Fontino. “How did you get those dark smudges on your side there? You didn’t rub against the picture. I was watching you.”

“I don’t know,” said Robin as she twisted from side to side trying to see the smudges on her clothing. “I haven’t used charcoal to draw for months. I don’t know how …I don’t know how or why anything that has happened, happen.”

George stepped forward. “Aunt Robin, you have a lovely home here. I’ve heard about your beautiful view. Would you be so kind as to show it to me tonight?”

“I’d be glad to, George. But it’s foggy and it will be chilly out there. Come this way,” she said as she led Haley and George to the patio doors. “Where is it you live?”

Eric interrupted them with a kiss to his aunt’s cheek. “You okay right now?” he asked looking directly into her eyes.

“Yes, dear. I have plenty of good company. I’m sure I’ll be safe now.”

Eric smiled at Haley and turned to the others. “Who wants coffee?” asked Eric. “Is it okay to make coffee, Fontino?”

Fontino stood in the other corner of the living room talking with his men. They nodded their head in agreement while he gestured and spewed out instructions. When he was done, he joined Eric and said, “Coffee, black, sounds great. It’s going to be a longer night than I thought.”

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 38

Copyright 2016 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California

Fire Chief Greg Mullin’s red sedan with lights flashing halted with a jerk as he stepped hard on the brakes at Robin’s driveway. He and Eric dashed to the front of the ivy covered brick home on Russian Hill. The English style door lamp shone wide over the doormat and highlighted the leaded and beveled cut windowpanes of the front door. Looking through the panes, Eric said, “I don’t see a light in the living room.”

“She must have gone upstairs,” said the Chief.

Eric used his key in the Schlage lock and the door swung open smooth and quiet. The two men moved stealthily through the entry and split directions. Eric checked out the kitchen and the pantry while the Chief checked the living room. He looked out through the patio doors after making sure the locks and the windowpanes were in tack. Eric flipped the switch to turn on the overhead light. “Nothing’s out of place.” Then they heard a sound above them.

“Quick. Upstairs,” the Chief said. The loving nephew and the fire chief, whose heart had been captured that night upon his first meeting with Robin, raced up the carpeted stairs to her bedroom.

On the right side of the hallway moonlight spilled out from Robin’s bedroom doorway. Eric paused before stepping into the quiet room. The Chief, right behind him whispered, “She looks asleep.” Eric turned on the bedside lamp.

The glow from the pleated cream-colored lampshade gently filled the room, but what Eric saw confused him. His Aunt Robin lay on her back with her arms to her side, her fists scrunched the comforter between her fingers like roots of a plant clinging to the soil. Her eyebrows furrowed toward the center and her eyelids squeezed tight. “Aunt Robin?” Eric whispered. “Aunt Robin, wake up,” he repeated.

The Chief moved to the other side of the bed and picked up her right hand. He opened her fingers to release the fabric. “Robin, can you hear us?” he said as he rubbed the top and bottom sides of her hand.

Swallowing back his fright, Eric sat down on her bed, put his arms around her shoulders and lifted her close to him. “Aunt Robin, wake up. It’s Eric.”

Seeing movements under her eyelids brought on a torrent of relief. Eric kissed her forehead and held her close, “What happened, Aunt Robin? Did you have a nightmare?” She didn’t respond. The silence worried Eric.

“Robin, Sweetheart,” said the Chief. He patted her hand as he spoke again, “Wake up from your deep sleep. Eric and I are here to keep you company tonight.”

For five long seconds, Robin didn’t appear to have heard them. Then her lips parted the slightest bit and a moan slipped out. She moved her head from side to side, “I can’t wake up. I have to wake up,” she said.

“Everything is okay, Aunt Robin. It’s okay to wake up now,” said Eric.

Her eyelids opened to a slim slit. “Everything is so blurry. Eric, it is you. And Greg, you’re here, too.” A slight smile formed, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes again, and fell into a slumber.

“No, don’t sleep now, Robin. It’s time to wake up and chat,” said Greg.

Eric blurted out his questions. “I agree with the Chief, Aunt Robin. Are you okay? Were you in danger? What made you ask for help?”

“Here now,” he said as he moved her to a sitting position against the pillows. “Does that feel more comfortable?”

She opened her eyes again and took a long look at him. “Yes, but why are you here in my bedroom? And why are you taking my pulse?”

“You don’t remember what happened? You don’t remember talking to me on the telephone?” asked Eric.

“No. I came up to bed and must have conked out right away. I had such a terrible headache,” she said as she raised her hand to touch her forehead.

“You didn’t fall or anything after we left, did you?” asked the Chief.

“No, sweetie. What makes you think that?” She paused for a moment, and then said, “Oh, I do remember feeling weak at the knees while standing at the kitchen sink. But I don’t recall falling on my head.”

“Maybe you became overtired with getting ready for company today,” said the Chief.

“Aunt Robin, I called you tonight and when you were on the line you cried out for me to come help you. Then the line went dead.”

“I don’t remember talking to you on the phone tonight, dear. But I’m glad you called me,” she said with a weak smile and touched her head again.

As they spoke, the Chief moved behind Eric and bent over by the bedside table. “Your phone is on the floor here and off the hook. There’s no dial tone.”

“If it’s off the hook it should be screeching,” said Robin.

“Nope, it’s quiet, very dead,” said the Chief with a smile. “I’ll go downstairs and check out the spare phone in your studio.” He turned and left the room.

Eric covered his aunt with a light blanket from the soft chaise lounge in the corner. “Aunt Robin, I don’t understand what’s happened. When I heard your distress I became frantic with fear.” He lowered his eyes and held her hands. “I thought maybe the worse was happening.”

“Oh dear, that is a horrible experience,” Robin said. She pulled out one hand and put it on top of his. She rubbed his hand affectionately. “I’m so sorry, but I don’t remember calling for help. I’m all right now, aren’t I? See,” and she reached up to touch her hair. “Wait…what’s happened to my hair? It’s unbraided and tangled. Maybe I did have a nightmare and tossed around a lot.” Then she touched her face and the sides of her arms. “The rest of me seems okay.”

“Were you having a bad dream tonight? You’re still in your day clothes, you must’ve have been very tired when you came in here to lie down.”

“Don’t worry, the wrinkles in this outfit can be pressed out. I would’ve welcomed the sleep to get away from that terrible headache. Although it keeps coming back. I think I will go see my doctor this week and…”

“Ahem, sorry to interrupt. But Eric, I need you to come see something,” said the Chief.

“What’s there to see? I want to see, too,” said Robin.

The two men glanced at each other. The Chief said, “That’s a good idea. I don’t want you to be alone up here.”

Eric put out his hand to help Robin stand. She took one step, then her left hand covered her forehead, and her right hand grabbed Eric’s shirt, she cried, “My headache is back.” Robin’s  knees buckled and she began to fall.

Copyright 2016 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, Calfornia

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 37

Copyright 2015, MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California

Stunned by Aunt Robin’s cry for help and the telephone call from George, Eric dialed the Chief. “Chief, Robin’s in danger. Meet me outside. You drive.”

“Got’cha.”

As he grabbed his jacket, Eric instructed his assistant, “Howie, you’re in charge. It’s a personal emergency. I’ve got the walkie talkie with me.” He ran out the bay doors and into a red sedan with the gold seal of California blazing on the front passenger door.

Fire Chief Greg Mullins flipped on flashing lights as Eric climbed in. “Tell me what’s happening.”

Eric held up his hand. “In a minute.” Static buzzed from the walkie-talkie, a dispatcher answered and Eric gave him the message. “This is Captain Eric Mahoney. Make this a double urgent relay to Detective Fontino. He is to meet me at my Aunt Robin’s house on Russian Hill right away. Yes, he knows the location. Tell him Robin needs us now. Over and out.”

As their car sped down the street, Eric took a few deep breaths. “My heart’s running in a race. I don’t know why but for some reason I felt the urge to telephone my aunt. She spoke in such a low voice. Then when she cried for help, the line went dead.”

“Okay, I’ve got’cha, but now try to calm down.”

“Chief, I don’t know what’s going on, but we’ve got to get there quick.”

“Hold on,” said the Chief in an even tone. “We’ll be there soon.”

Eric hung onto the dashboard as they made a right turn onto Hyde Street. “Thank God I’ve got the key to her house.”

“And, that she’s got a driveway for us to park,” added the Chief.

“What if we can’t get to Robin’s fast enough. God, if only we could fly like birds.”

“You don’t think birds can have heart attacks? Stay calm, Eric. We’re almost there.”

Eric’s teeth bit the inside of his lower lip as he prayed for his aunt’s safety. He did not want her to be a victim of the Serial Killer. He turned toward his closest friend, “If the fiend has changed his victim location, I pray it will not be in my aunt’s neighborhood.”

His heart kept trying to break out of its muscle restraints, Eric also had wild thoughts spinning through his mind. What if it is the Serial Killer there? He might have already harmed her. But what if he’s still there? What will I do? From what I’ve seen him do, he’s strong. Can I hope to beat him, capture him, or kill him? He has a rage, big-time, and he has a non-stop lust for killing. He’ll kill everyone and everything in his way, like how he killed that little dog. Eric shifted in his seat. His whole body alert to the danger potential. If he has hurt Aunt Robin, will I have the strength through rage to kill him?

The walkie-talkie buzzed and the dispatcher relayed a message from Detective Fontino. “Detective Fontino, Special FBI Agent Parker, and their men are on their way.”

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 36

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California

“I think I know who that woman might be,” said a voice from the staircase.

Startled, George and Mattie froze. Then seeing Haley come down the stairs in her nightgown, George fired two quick questions, “Who is she? How do you know?”

“It’s only a guess from what I heard you say. Do you remember anything else?”

“Yes, although some of the details of the visions repeat themselves and blend with new details in my recall.” George paced back and forth in the living room as he spoke. “I’m in a dimly lit cavern and a dark figure is moving closer to the woman. Her eyes are opened wide with terror.”

“What do you think is happening? Is she about to die?” Mattie spoke in a panic. “George, what are we going to do?”

George jabbed one of the couch pillows with his fist. “Unlike the other visions I’ve had, tonight I’ve tapped into someone’s immediate need. Bits and pieces still come to mind but there’s not enough information to determine what to do or where to start.”

“I know what you haven’t said, George,” interjected Mattie. “You think it has to do with the Serial Killer who is terrorizing everyone on Nob Hill.”

“You’re right, Mattie. And, here’s something else I’ve just recalled. A strong wind storm is swirling things around and I hear a specific and unusual noise, too.”

“Is it like a train coming before a hurricane? What does it sound like,” said Haley. She moved over to the couch with Mattie and they sat down, clasping each other’s hands.

George snapped his fingers and rushed over to the floor radio. “I knew I’d heard that sound before.” He turned the small black knob on the right side of the smooth rosewood panel. “It sounds like this,” he said and paused. “It is the sound we hear when we turn on a radio.”

The three of them listened with intense interest. “It is static mixed with the electrical whining noises. This always happens when the radio tubes are warming up.”

“What you’ve described is chaotic,” said Mattie. “Strange noises amid turbulence, a flashing knife blade that almost gets you, a girl screaming, and a terrified woman lying on a rock in the dark. George, you’ve tapped in on the minds of the Serial Killer’s victims.”

“Whatever the reason you’ve connected with them, I believe they are still alive,” said Haley. “We’ve got to do something quick.”

“I agree, but how am I going to find her?” said George waving his arms and looking upwards toward the ceiling.

“Didn’t you say, ‘Pictures, red paint, twinkling lights, a bridge, paper chaos, and sharp knives?” asked Haley. “I think one of the two women you connected with is Eric’s aunt, Robin. Eric had said that one of the treasures of living on Russian Hill is the beautiful view of the sparkling lights on the Bay Bridge at night.”

“Oh, and she’s an artist,” added Mattie. “The red paint and paper chaos might be from that.”

“We’ve got to warn Eric and get to his aunt right away,” said George.

Haley stood and said, “I’ll get you Eric’s phone numbers and go change my clothes.”

“You’re going with me?” said George.

“Most definitely,” said Haley closing the closet door. She slapped a piece of paper in George’s hand. “I’ll be five minutes.”

When Haley disappeared from the top of the stairs, George pulled Mattie into the kitchen. He whispered, “As soon as we leave, call Joe and Norm. Tell them, Red apples. They’ll watch the house and protect you until I get back. Got that?”

“Yes,” Mattie said. “I’ll fill a thermos and pack what you’ll need.”

“I’ve got some other packing to do as well.”

“You think you need to, George?”

“Don’t worry. You haven’t forgotten my specialty, have you? I’ll be fine. And even if all is well at Robin’s house, I may decide to stay a bit longer in that city. Keep us in your prayers, will you?” George kissed Mattie’s forehead and headed for the kitchen wall telephone.

 

Eric picked up the call at the first ring. “Captain Mahoney.”

“Eric. This is George. A friend of Haley’s Aunt Mattie. Listen with care, please. You don’t know me, but I sense that your Aunt Robin is in danger. I sometimes have a psychic ability to receive visions and from what I’ve seen tonight, Haley and I were motivated to warn you. We are coming to your aunt’s house. Eric, we want to be on hand to help if needed.”

George heard a heavy sigh. “Your hunches or visions are correct,” said Eric. “I just got off the phone with my aunt. She called out for help. I’m leaving now. I’ll see you there.”

 

Standing at his gun cabinet hidden behind one of the pantry walls, George slid on his shoulder holster and tucked in his handgun. He picked out one of the five powerful rifles poised in readiness and he picked out the ammunition he needed.

George heard Haley’s quiet footsteps too late. He cursed himself for letting down his guard as he snapped the secret panel shut and turned. Haley’s eyes were wide and her hands trembled.

“Eric’s on his way to Robin’s house,” said George. “I told him we were on our way as well.” He shifted his rifle to his other hand, and patted her on the shoulder. “The unknown can make us worry more than we need to, Haley. We’re doing what we need to do now. I know it’ll be hard for you, but let’s try to stay calm.”

Mattie came into the kitchen carrying a tall thermos and two shoulder bags. “Here’s a change of clothes, for both of you. Haley, you and George might be staying there longer than you expect.”

Haley’s trembling hands took the overnight bag from Mattie. The thought of staying for more than a few hours deepened the seriousness of the situation. George saw how she tried to hide her fears in her response, “Aunt Mattie, you think of everything.” She kissed her aunt’s cheek and gave her a big squeeze. “You be careful, too.” She turned and rushed through the front door and down the porch steps, her breath making small white puffs in the darkness of the woods.

George accepted the tall thermos of coffee and his shoulder bag. When Mattie’s arms slipped under his elbows to hug him he felt her fingers touched the leather holster. He watched her as she leaned back and eyed the rifle he held in his other hand.

Then as they looked looking into each other’s eyes, Mattie said softly, “Whatever is out there signals a great danger. Be careful.”

George held Mattie with his lean and strong arms close and tight. His kiss, though short, was loving and deep. Then he let go and bounded out of the cabin to his van.

 

“Here’s the hot coffee,” he said as he handed the thermos to Haley. “The collapsible cups are in the glove box. Cream and sugar packs are there, too.” He paused when he saw her cold and scared face. To distract her, he said, “Those clothes look good you and they’ll keep you warm Haley. You know how San Francisco’s chilly at night.”

She nodded and he saw a small smile.

He backed out of his van’s cab and went to open the van’s hatch. Haley turned to watch him tuck his rifle in place and then cover it with a tarp. The hatch snapped close.

George slipped into his leather seat, locked his door, and turned the key. The roar of the powerful engine filled the cab. The van rolled forward crunching gravel like teeth grinding candy.

“Thank you for not making me stay behind. I want to be there to help in any way I can.”

“I understand what you mean, Haley.”

“How long before we get to Aunt Robin’s?”

“Thirty to forty minutes. Maybe even faster as its late now. You can catch a nap if you want.”

“I couldn’t. I’m worried and excited at the same time. I don’t want anything bad to happen to Eric’s aunt, and I’m in shock that I will be seeing Eric again so soon. I had myself psyched out for a long duration without any contact with him.”

“Aye, I can understand those feelings, too,” said George.

The next few minutes passed in silence, until Haley said, “From what you’ve described, I am afraid for his aunt. She’s all alone. Jeannie, Krista, and I were going to stay with her tonight.”

George acknowledged her concern with a nod of his head. Haley yawned, scooted down in her seat, and used the hood on her jacket as a pillow. “This thick jacket feels so comfortable, I could …”

“Fall asleep,” said George, finishing the sentence for her. The steady hum of the road and her exhaustion from the lack of sleep over the last two days had finally captured her.

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 35

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California

Deep into the thicket of the Saratoga Hills frogs and crickets sang in harmony by the creek. The soft glow from the remaining embers in the fireplace of Robin’s home created shadows all around the living room. Haley, Jeanne, and Krista had fallen asleep exhausted upstairs in their shared bedroom.

George and Mattie had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace with their arms about each other. A grunt from George broke the silence and woke Mattie. She watched in surprise as his right leg kicked out and his right arm came up in the air as if to defend himself.

“Wake up, George. You’re having a bad dream,” she whispered in his ear. As she brought down his arm with a gentle touch, she asked, “Are you fighting someone?”

He didn’t respond.

“Say something, George. Stop staring at the ceiling. Look at me.”

“I’m attempting to recapture the remnants of a dream I had.”

Mattie understood what he meant and patted his arm. “It must’ve have been a bad dream. Your brows were knit together and the furrows on your forehead were so deep, I could grow rice there.”

“You do make waking up a joy, dear. But yes, the dream was dark, scary, and frustrating. More so for the two women in it though,” he said. “Two things are bothering me. I heard a young girl screaming, and then saw a woman struggling and she seemed unable to speak.”

When he stood and offered Mattie a hand to get up, his tall figure reminded Mattie how special he was. “No one around this area is as tall, lean, and strong as you are,” she said as she stood and put her arms around him, and held him close.

“You feed me right,” said George. He tussled her hair, and kissed the top of her head. “Now, getting back to what I saw. The visions I had don’t make any sense. At times, I stood right next to the woman lying on the slab of rock, unable to move. I couldn’t make out what was causing the terror in her eyes.”

“Were you fighting against someone right before you woke up? You jerked your leg up and then your arm shot out like this,” she imitated how his arm rose up in a right angle.

“I don’t remember fighting or moving. I just watched and listened.”

“What did you see?” asked Mattie.

“It’s confusing. Because what I can remember comes back in broken parts, and not in an order as I experienced them. There’s more coming back. Strong gusts of wind blew against my back and the chill in the cavern-like place made me feel a stinging on my skin. Nothing there felt good. The woman on a slab of rock wasn’t moving but I sensed her struggle against something that seemed to be holding her arms and legs in place. She seemed terrified of something near her but no one else was around, just me.”

“I hope,” said Mattie, “she woke up from the dream when you did.”

George paced back and forth in the living room, combing his fingers through his short grey hair and then stroking his mustache. “I don’t think that’s it. Tonight, I tapped into someone’s horrible experience. Do you remember me telling you, Mattie, about tasting evil?”

“Did that happen again in this dream?”

“Yes, it did.”

“Goose bumps always rise on my arms when I’m scared. I’m scared now.” She rubbed her arms. “George, I remember how you described feeling surrounded by evil, and how you could smell a distinct odor and even taste it.”

“Yes, and when the smell of evil became stronger, the woman’s fear heightened. Tonight, I tried to escape the stench invading me through my pores. The taste of it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Not even in any war zone. I wanted out of the dream,” he said as he brushed the top of his hands. “I don’t know why I had any part of this.”

Mattie took his hands in hers. “You’re trembling, George. When you were trying to get away from the evil, is that when I woke you?”

“No, not yet – I’m recalling other things now. I see stars twinkling over a city covered with lights, a dense fog lays over the ocean like a blanket, and a partial outline of a bridge. It has no lights on it. I can’t figure out if it is the Golden Gate or Bay Bridge. What can you make of these details?”

“I think,” said Mattie, “the young girl and the woman are having a huge nightmare. And because you were up-close at times, I’d say this woman is someone you know, or, it may be someone you’re about to meet. Nonetheless, they are both in great danger, George. Both of them need your help right away.”

“I agree. But how…whoa!” Mattie watched George shy to his right. His hand covered the left side of his face.

“That felt like cold blade of fine steel that just passed my face,” said George. “Good grief. I hear the voice of the young girl calling for help again. Her arm is reaching out to me. Pieces of torn pictures, and newspaper are swirling around a room. The lamp has fallen over, and scissors are flying against a wall. I’m trying, but I can’t reach her hand.” Then George stopped talking.

“Why did you stop? You were trying to grab her hand. What happened?”

“My mind went blank. Perhaps I’ll recall more details later,” said George. He sat down on the sofa with her.

“You look tired. Lay back and close your eyes. I’ll go make some tea,” said Mattie.

George did as she suggested. But as she turned toward the kitchen, George grabbed her wrist. “No, don’t go. I see something else.”

“What is it?”

“A young girl with blonde hair has her arms tied to a post now. She’s crying, she’s scared, and struggling to get loose. She’s the one screaming for help.”

“George, you’re seeing two separate nightmares. Do we know anyone who looks like these two people?”

“About a half dozen friends in town,” George said and paused. “There’s more, Mattie. I see paint splattering and dripping everywhere. It’s all red.”

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Low, Oceanside, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 34

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, San Diego County, California

Alone, after her nephew, Eric, and his friend, Fire Chief Greg Mullins, had gone back to work, Robin stood by the television rubbing her forehead and twisting the channel selector one way, and then the other. “That’s the same stuff you told me this morning,” said Robin to no one but the television. “Well at least there have been no new murders by the Serial Killer,” she added. Plopping down on the couch, her fingers flipped through the evening newspaper. Her mind buzzed with noise, and her head began to ache again. The newspaper’s flag, The Examiner, and headlines referring to the serial killer became a blur. The television news reporter’s voice droned in the background.

Robin pinched the bridge of her nose and blinked her eyes. She wasn’t seeing what she was looking at. Tossing the paper aside, she headed toward the kitchen but moved slower than she expected. What’s wrong? It’s too early to be so tired. It must be boredom. Has the Serial Killer killed anyone else since this morning? She grabbed a glass from the kitchen cupboard and turned on the faucet, and at the same time turned the brown knob on her counter-top radio. The signal for the classical radio station KABL sizzled with static then became clear. The music of Stravinski’s “Rite of Spring” usually lifted her spirits, but tonight, the rhythm felt faster than usual. The string section played as if it were in a race, and the volume increased on its own, rising in decibels, hurting her eardrums. Robin’s hands flew to her temples and her fingers felt her head throbbing. She reached out with her right hand and snapped the radio off. The recurring visions of debris swirling like a cyclone returned. Sharp and bright bolts of lightning penetrated the scene. This time though, the background lighting changed from a deep amber to a dark and murky red. If anyone knew I have these awful visions, they might think I’m crazy. Icy cold silver flashes passed the left side of her face. Robin shuddered. Quit spooking yourself. Go paint a picture.

A quick sputtering of static sparked from the radio. “What is going on around here?” She patted the top of the radio. “Are your radio tubes about to burst?”

The quietness of no answer prompt more humor from her. She spoke aloud to herself, “Dear Lord, my favorite radio might be heading for the junkyard. Maybe you can help Ernie, the local fix-it man, to make it better?”

As she headed back to the living room, she realized the absence of pain, but when thoughts of the serial killer invaded her mind again, Has he killed again? Where is he?, the headache pain re-emerged. Robin held her temples and stomped the floor in protest, “Darn, it’s an addiction. I can’t get him off my mind.”

A blinding light flashed across Robin’s eyes and the muscles of her knees softened. As she fell, she grabbed the edge of the sink. Keep the eyes open and breathe in deep. Oh, it’s time to call the doctor about this. Robin slid to the floor. Her fingers clung to the tile edge of the sink as she waited for the fog in her mind to clear, then she pulled herself up straight again. Thanks for the help, Lord.

Taking small sips of water, she encouraged herself. There’s nothing wrong with you, Robin. You’re just exhausted from preparing for visitors. Go to bed now. “Besides,” she spoke out loud again, “if you can’t stand, then you can’t paint.”

Feeling better, Robin went around the house checking all its locks. “You know, Lord, it’s been a long and disappointing day. A full house full of female company would have been nice. Maybe sometime soon? But thanks for all those other blessings.”

Before climbing up the stairs, Robin looked into her studio and saw everything in good order. Clean paintbrushes stood in jars and holders and the sketches she drew of her neighbors lay on her desk. A blank canvas waited on the easel for her next creative touch. Then she thought of Fire Chief Greg Mullins. Why didn’t Eric bring him around  long time ago? They seemed such close friends. “The next time he comes to visit, he’ll get a tour of this studio. Maybe he’ll have an interest in my art.” That Fire Chief, has a spark of light in his eyes when he talks with me. And his wink, combined with his smile, is out of this world. “That’s what’s missing, Lord. How about another dose of the Chief’s flirtation? It would make for a better day.”

Robin held onto the handrail for steadiness as she climbed the carpeted steps. She pushed off her flats, and lay back on her down pillows. The soft hum of the overhead fan lulled her into a deep sleep.

The sky became dark and the stars, like pinpricks, populated the sky above Robin’s Russian Hill home. In her bedroom, however, a different kind of darkness crept into Robin’s consciousness. In her mind’s eye, a vision of small items swirled around.  Thin knotted yellow ribbons fluttered back and forth in the wind and then burst apart going every which way. Bright silver flashes passed by and she felt the coolness of them as they landed with a thump on her pillow. The same radio static she had heard down in the kitchen weaved non-stop through the chaos of the scene. Low moans of dread and shrieks of terror spiked through the darkness that enveloped her. Then the sweetness of quiet ebbed in like a gentle flow of water into a pond.

The serenity did not last long. Robin’s heart jumped as her bed shook. It seemed like the first jolt of an earthquake. But she knew that particular thump to be the prelude to a personal and terrifying event. She had felt this shaking before. No, no, no! No more bad dreams! Robin struggled to wake up as darkness covered the swirling scene. She tried to move her arms and found no response. Once again, she was a captive of the shadows she could not decipher. Hooded in dark robes, the faceless shadowy figures glided closer. As Robin struggled to wake, her breaths became rapid, and her heart pounded. But no matter how hard she tried, her efforts were all on the inside of her mind. Her arms, legs, and head – her whole body lay dead still. This is not insanity. This is a nightmare.

Robin tried calling for help, but her lips could not move. Once before, half way out of a nightmare she heard herself expelling guttural sounds of what she had been trying to say. “Jesus, help me!”

Even knowing that the nightmare would end in its own time, the panic continued to race through Robin’s body. What does the Devil of Darkness want? Does he want me to die of a heart attack in my sleep? Oh, God! Help me! Once again, Robin struggled to voice the name of Jesus. No sounds came out. She felt the strain on her vocal cords. Her hands tried to reach her throat to soothe the pain, but her body parts lay still. She couldn’t speak and couldn’t move. In her mind’s eye, she saw dark shadows moving toward her in the threatening murky red area where she lay. Then, cold and bony hands gripped her ankles and were dragging her toward the diagonal corner of the bed. It was a pit of darkness. She had been there before. Robin wanted to dig her fingers into the bed sheets to stop them, but she couldn’t move them either. She couldn’t save herself from the descent into the blackest parts of the darkness. Jesus, Jesus, save me…!

 

The sharp ring of Robin’s telephone broke through her nightmare. She rolled over to reach it but knocked it off the bedside table and its receiver fell off its cradle. Still frightened, she choked out the words, “Help me.”

Robin’s mind drifted between the nightmare and present time. Through a hazy vision, she stared at the telephone on the floor by her bed. Did she hear Eric’s voice? “Help me! I need you. They’re pulling me down.” She paused to catch her breath. “It’s the darkness. Oh God. Please, help me…”

Tears streaked down Robin’s face staining the satin cover of her comforter as she rolled onto her back. The Sacred Cross on the wall over her bed was the last conscious vision she remembered.

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, San Diego County, California

 

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 33

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

“Your girlfriend, she’s a beaut, eh?” asked the cab driver.

“That’s right. All 5’2″, with blonde curls, and eyes of blue,” boasted Steele.

“Well, any guy with a beautiful girl waiting for him is a lucky guy,” said the cabbie as he unknowingly drove the Serial Killer from his latest murder scene.

“You got it right. Today, my luck is definitely tops,” Steele said as his eyes combed through the people strolling by. The cab picked up speed as they moved through the mixed neighborhood of residences and shops. Through the back window of the cab, he spotted a blond hair young man who looked quite like himself. A petite blonde with bouncing blonde curls had her arm in his as they laughed and jay walked across the street. That’s what Marilyn and I would look like if…

His thoughts and the cab came to a halt when the cabbie yelled, “Holy Crap!” The cab driver jammed on his brakes and the car screeched to a halt, but not before hitting an old man in a dark overcoat. Steele saw the surprised look on the old man’s face and heard the thump when the cab hit him on the left side.

“Where the hell did this guy come from?” yelled the cabbie as he jumped out and ran to the front of his car. People who had been window-shopping or dining in the nearby restaurants and bars, came running out to see what had happened.

“Is the old man still alive?” someone asked.

“Let’s hope so. He looks pretty old,” someone in the midst of the gathering crowd said. “He went down quick though, I saw the cab hit him.”

Still seated in the back of the cab, Steele heard several people yell, “Call for an ambulance.”  Two young Chinese boys ran past Steele’s window toward the phone booth in front of the Victoria Station restaurant. They fought each other for the small space in the red wood framed telephone booth which was a replica of the one in London. He continued watching the people of various nationalities coming out of buildings, shops, and restaurants to see what happened. They were like ants drawn to honey. Then, with a start, he realized that the old man looked like Alicia’s grandfather at the barn on the night of the hurricanes. Shivers moved up Steele’s arms and then he broke himself away from the memory.

Residents in the neighborhood stuck their heads out their windows. The cab driver stood along with the others who made a ring around the man who lay still on the ground. “This isn’t a hit and run, Man. But where are the cops?” complained a short man with a thick beard and no hair on his head. Steele noticed that this guy favored turtle-neck shirts as well.

Right at that moment, Steele thought he saw the old man move his arms, “Hey, look!” a young female voice in the crowd said, “The ole guy is alive.” The crowd shifted and people moved closer for a better look. Some other person now, in a dark suit, seemed to be examining and talking to the crumpled figure.

Steele slid out of the taxicab unnoticed. Time for another quick departure. He pulled the knitted cap down over his ears just as the 30 Stockton bus pulled up to its spot. A few quick steps brought him in line with the others waiting to board the bus.

On the landing next to the bus driver, Steele dropped his coins in and turned to the back of the bus. A hand tapped his arm. “Just a moment, Sir. You need a dime to go with that nickel. Not a penny.”

“Sorry, man, guess my mind wandered elsewhere.” Steele’s fingers slid by his switchblade as he scrounged in his right pocket for a dime.”Here you go,” and he watched the thin shiny silver coin clink back and forth down the chute to join his nickel.

In the dim lighting of the bus, Steele melded with the other late night travelers. The front and back doors of the bus hissed as they closed and the bus continued on its route. Steele sat down next to a dusty and rain streaked window where he caught a broken image of himself. The simplest disguises make the best ones. His gaze shifted to the other passengers on board. Three Chinese women chatted away in their native language. One of them sat on the end of a long bench seat, and the other two sat together at a right angle of her. All three of them wore floral headscarves. Steele knew they had seen him coming down the aisle but now, they paid no attention to his presence.

An old stubbled face drunk sputtered spit and obscene words as his head bounced against his chest on the bumpy ride. His black threadbare jacket showed stains that never received a proper washing. A black woman sat down behind him and quickly realized her mistake. She held her hand over her mouth and pinched her nose. Then she gagged at the reek of old vomit and stale alcohol that permeated the air around them.

Lady, move to another seat. Steele watched her as her eyes shifted from one passenger to another. When her eyes landed on him, Steele faked a coughing fit, hoping to distract her from remembering his face, and his tactic seemed to work. The woman looked away and stared out her window. Steele watched her fidget in her seat, scrutinizing every street sign.

As soon as Steele saw the sign for Clay Street, he knew Sacramento Street was next. He pulled on the thin rope above the window to signal the driver for the next stop. The black woman had a transfer ticket in her hand, and she did the same. Several more buzzes went off. Both Chinese women who sat side by side pulled on the cord several times. “Get up now, Mae. Or we will leave you behind. Then you will not be in Chinatown anymore. You will end up in Union Square. Come on, get up! No, no, Macy’s is not open now, Mae. Hurry up,” her friends urged.

When Steele got off the bus, he turned left and headed toward the stairs leading to the top side of the tunnel. He pulled the short collar of his jacket higher and realized he missed his navy blue neck scarf. He pulled the fabric of his turtleneck up and hunched over. He knew that in this Chinese residential area, a Caucasian spotted in their neighborhood, would be suspect. Steele turned his head a bit to the left and caught sight of the black woman waiting at another corner to board the 55 Sacramento bus.

Turning left on the landing, he caught the scent of stale urine and he thought of the dirty drunk on the bus. The driver should have kicked the bum off right away. A few more steps brought him out and over to the top center of the Stockton Street tunnel. Leaning over the thick white arched edge of the tunnel, he saw how the buses trailed its trolleys for power. A few cars sped up to roar through the tunnel. When they had passed, the quiet returned and the cool air brought a soothing sense of calm.

A short hike over a deep-scored sidewalk and Steele had made it to Bush Street. He turned right, walked a few yards, then paused in the door well of a specialty shop for women. He knew from previous signs in the discreet window display, that they sold made-to-order undergarments for women with disabilities.

Steele’s eyes searched up and down the street and the tension in his body increased… I’m one block away from the Murder Building. The City might use that nickname on a street map someday. Great for the tourist industry. Nice honor for me. That’s my biggest murder site.

In contrast to the congestion on the streets this morning, the corner of Bush and Powell looked like a different place. No uniformed cops were in sight as he moved on the right side of the street. He stayed close to the windows and hid in the dark door wells.

Across from the Murder Building and his own apartment building next door, a few reporters stood in front of the grocery store. He could hear them arguing and speculating about the capture of the Serial Killer. Their voices echoed up and down the quiet streets. Steele saw a few curtains drop close as he looked up. Scared. The people here are all scared. They should be, I am dangerous.

No one seemed to notice Steele cross the street, slip his key into the front door of his building and disappear from the lobby. Maybe even the cops are too afraid to run across the Serial Killer. Maybe they rather someone else is killed than to have to confront me.

On the second floor, his next-door neighbor shuffled toward him. He carried an empty wastebasket in his arms. His slippered feet made a flopping sound on the carpeted floor. “Finally,” the old man wearing spectacles said, “The garbage chute is unstuck!” He nodded to Steele before he pushed open his door and said, “Good-night, young one.” Steele had smiled back and nodded at the old man before closing his door as well. It’s no wonder why they can’t catch me, everyone trusts me. Hey you, out there, I’m right next door to where I slit little Sweetie Pie’s neck.

The building had a flip-flop layout of the building next door where he and some other of Stetson’s men had destroyed the girls’ apartment. Steele recalled how easy it was for him to give instructions to the men helping him. He knew exactly which way to direct them.

Steele looked at his kitchen clock. It read 11:15. It is getting late, but that works for me. He took off the knitted cap and trashed it. He used a wooden hanger and held up his leather jacket under a bare light bulb. He checked it for bloodstains. Using a dampened kitchen towel, he scrubbed out some suspicious looking stains. After a few minutes, he turned the jacket over a couple of times under the light bulb again then deemed it clean of any potential evidence. Steele stripped and tossed everything else he wore into a brown paper bag and stepped into his shower. I’ll be especially clean for you, Marilyn. Are you in your nightclothes yet?

When he finished with his shower, he admired himself in the bureau mirror. I’m going to surprise you, Marilyn. And I’m going to love you until you’re out of your mind.

Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California