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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Horror Stories / Scary Stories
- Subject: Horror / Scary Stories
- Published: 09/14/2019
“He dies today,” I swore as I crouched beside the cold marble flush with the earth.
With one finger, I traced each letter of the name I once knew so well. Charlie Norman Watts, 1968–1989.
An angry northern wind pelted me with rain, reflecting my mood.
Twenty-one years ago, a monster had taken Charlie’s young life.
Doctor Daniel Demarrias was a cold blooded murderer, one clever son of a bitch, and today, no matter what, he would confess to what he’d done.
Then later today, Daniel Demarrias, noted psychiatrist, best-selling author, would die by my hand.
Slowly, I rose, turned and trudged across Cataraqui Woods Cemetery towards my car. My hands clenched and unclenched.
Hunching further into my suit jacket against the nasty weather, I thought now about Jennifer, Charlie’s wife.
Hadn’t tracked her down yet. But after this mess was settled I would find her and explain everything.
My phone beeped. An hour till I met Daniel again.
In the warmth of my Ford Focus, I glanced at the passenger seat, at the hardcover book I’d put face down there… the author's fat face smiling up at me from the glossy back cover.
I made a fist and hit him hard, imagining his nose cracking beneath my rage.
I drove carefully to my destination, streetlamps lighting my way, moments of bright between shadows. Thwack, thwack went the wiper blades. Hypnotic.
The mansion – for that was what it was – sat by Lake Ontario. A rich man's house, I thought. I sat in the car, lulled by the tick, tick of raindrops on the roof. Waves on Lake Ontario broke against the shore, sending spray onto land.
I used his book to cover my head as I ran down the sloped drive. Thunder grumbled across the sky. Felt like it shook the world.
Daniel's wife, Lauren, greeted me at the door. Quite a young thing, I thought. Early twenties, maybe.. At least twenty years Daniel's junior. Just look what money could buy.
She led me to Daniel's study near the back of the house, where when she opened the sliding doors, I saw him working at his desk, hunched over his computer, eagerly tapping away on his keyboard. Writing a new book on the human mind I supposed, or perhaps writing for one of those uppity journals he was always contributing to.
“Daniel,” she said. “The reporter from the Times is here.”
Quick, he was up and across the room. He enveloped my hand in both of his. He was in his late fifties, but still moved like a younger man.
“Howard Kaplan,” I said, introducing myself. Howard was the Times reporter's name I’d borrowed. Like Dan would know or care who I was. I was writing a story on him. He wouldn’t think to check out my credentials.
Surely, as he studied my stubbled face, he'd see through my disguise. I pushed my glasses up on my nose.
“Thank you, Lauren,” he said.
He'd obviously taken great care of himself. Though his hair had thinned out, and he now sported a goatee, and he'd definitely put on some weight, I could still see the calculating man who had so coldly murdered Charlie Watts.
Cozy room, I thought as he guided me in and Lauren slid the door closed behind us for privacy. Wall to wall carpeting. Filing cabinet in the corner, diplomas on the wall, large bookshelves overflowing with reading material. I especially loved the huge bay window that stared out at the Lake.
Jennifer and Charlie couldn't help but flood my memory as I spotted many framed pictures on his desk. I imagined they were of Lauren and him together. Naturally they'd be all smiles. How nice.
Jennifer herself hadn't smiled much in her young life. First she'd fought cancer and won. Then she'd dealt with her troubled husband, young Charlie, and then she was forced to bury him.
“Can I fix you a drink?” Daniel asked.
“No, I'm fine, thank you.”
Oblivious he was to my identity. As I took a chair across from him and he settled into his behind a massive oak desk, I felt oddly displaced. Was this finally really happening?
Yes, it was.
Respected psychiatrist, author of so many bestsellers about the human condition, books about learning about ones’ true self, about the troubled psyche, repressed memories, false memories... and he couldn't see the man in front of him.
“I'm quite honoured the Times is doing a story on my life. So, where would you like to -?”
Glock in hand, I carefully leveled it at him.
“Please, no yelling, no screaming or I'll blow your head all over that nice patio glass of yours,” I began. “Trust me, I will.”
“What are you doing? What is this about?”
He looked at me then. He sat up straighter in his chair and I could see his mind reeling. Analyzing me. Scrutinizing me.
“Is it money you want?”
It was money I'd get, but it was about revenge. I carefully said, “Twenty-five years ago, you murdered a young man in cold blood and I'm here to see that he is vindicated.”
Eyebrows knit together, he said, “Murdered!?! Twenty-five years ago. I think I'd recall...”
“Charlie Watts,” I said, between gritted teeth, wishing I could kill Daniel now.
“Charlie Watts?” he said, eyes widening. “The boy who...?”
“He was a patient of yours, wasn't he?”
He swallowed. Guilt was written on his face.
“I remember him, yes,” he said, eyes dancing to the cell phone on the edge of the desk then back. “One of my first patients, I think. Howard was it?”
“He was one of your very first patients, Daniel. Shouldn't be hard to remember him.”
“Charlie Watts was murdered, but I had nothing....”
I was on my feet, shoving the gun in his face. “You were obliged to help him, obliged to tell the police what you knew and you didn't, did you, Doctor Demarrias?! No, you had your own plan.”
I grabbed one of the framed photos off his desk and just stared at it.
“Charlie and his wife were happy, too, just like you and Miss young thing out there, and because of greed you destroyed what they had.”
I spat on the photograph, even as I studied the great doctor and wife standing arm in arm on the docks in downtown Kingston; Lauren, drink in hand, peered over her sunglasses. Both wore smiles. A blurry yacht bobbed behind them. Doctor Dan's yacht, no doubt.
“Look, you're being irrational,” he said, using that soothing voice of his. “Clearly I'm missing something.”
I whipped the picture at the far wall and watched frame and glass explode into tiny pieces. I didn't think Lauren would have heard. Harsh rain pelted the patio noisily and the house was so huge.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Daniel grab for his cell. Fool! The barrel of my gun I rammed into the centre of his forehead. The cell dropped onto the desk, and both hands were up.
“Easy, easy,” he sobbed, eyes half closed.
“You took a knife and stabbed Charlie in the heart.”
“This happened a long time ago,” he said. “You're a relative of his, is that right?”
Yes, kind of was, I supposed.
“Please, put the gun down. Let me help you. I'm a trained doctor of psychiatric medicine...”
“Tell me the story,” I said and then sat down again. Every nerve jangled with anticipation; my gun still remained fixed on my target. “Tell me how you set up your own patient, how you stole Charlie's money.”
He eyed me. Not a word. Trying to figure out how to use his clever mind to escape.
Quickly, I grabbed another framed picture up. Wedding photo, so professionally staged; married couple on a beach somewhere, taken, maybe a couple years ago. Old guy, young girl. Looked ridiculous.
But it angered me that they actually looked happy.
So, I said, turning the happy picture to him, “Lauren's in the house tonight and it would be a shame to hurt her, don't you think? You better start confessing your sins, old man.”
Mention a wife's name, get results. I could see the veins throb at his temples, could see his hands curl into fists.
“Leave her alone,” he snarled.
The face of a killer. Yes, he could kill me right now to protect his wife.
“What is it you want, Howard?”
“Tell me about Charlie.”
With a sigh. “What do you want to know? What do you think I know?”
“I want to know the case! Let me hear it, and you'll see how I know Charlie was killed by your hands. Talk.”
Clearly unsure, Daniel said, “Charlie's teenage years, he'd robbed a couple homes, and he ran with a bad crowd. Can I make a drink?”
What the hell, I thought.
“Go. Keep talking.”
He moved to the mini bar and I noted his hands shook a bit. Loved that.
“At twenty-one, roughly, he met Jen, a waitress. She changed him. Left the criminal life behind. They fell in love, married, and they settled down.”
He returned to his chair, took a sip of what was maybe Scotch. His eyes studied my face.
Keep lookin', Doc!
Continuing, he said, “Jen came to me, Howard. Saw my ad in the paper, she said. Said Charlie suddenly changed; they'd gone camping for the weekend and when they got back he suffered from insomnia, severe mood swings, and then he'd started associating with rough characters again. Jen was desperate to save her husband and I thought I could help, truly I did. So, I hypnotized him...”
Hang yourself, you monster...
He sighed. “I discovered during our sessions together that Charlie’s father beat him and his mother. This happened when he was a young boy.”
“But that wasn't all he’d blacked out, was it?”
“No,” Daniel said. A sip and then, “He'd repressed the worst part, how his dad owned this rundown cabin in the middle of nowhere. That camping trip Jen and Charlie took into the woods, reopened a very old wound. At five years old, he watched his mother and stepfather fight in this cabin. And Charlie tried to defend his mother and little as he was, he pushed his father...”
“Oh, you have such a good memory for details,” I said.
“He falls, hit his head on the table, whatever, and he's bleeding there on the floor... and his mother holds Charlie and they watched together. They watched the man bleed to death, watched the blood pump from him. Watched through the night, until his chest stopped moving.”
“They buried him in the woods, huh Doc? ” I said. “Charlie had blocked it out, about the cabin, about everything. And you unlocked the truth.”
I added, “So you reopened these memories. And how nice that Charlie died in that same cabin, too. Stabbed through the heart.”
I reached inside my jacket pocket, flung a folded up yellowed news clipping from The Whig Standard onto his desk. I'd copied it from the archives at the library. It told of Charlie robbing a jewelry store, how his car was discovered in a ditch. He was missing, having stolen what was estimated to be over a hundred thousand in precious stones.
“Look at the date on that. Two nights, two nights after you hypnotised him and found everything out,” I said. “He robbed that store and went to that cabin he suddenly remembered, thanks to you. No one knew it was there. Just him and his therapist. You Daniel, you knew and you admit you knew. When he robbed the store you went there and killed him for the jewels.”
“He had a partner,” Daniel said. “He ran with a lot of bad people. You have to consider what I'm telling you. There’s no way you can possibly think -.”
“You were his doctor. Charlie was crying for help. All you had to do was tell the police what happened and they'd have come and he'd have gotten help.”
Daniel folded both hands on his ink blotter, drink between them. He said, “Maybe he expected this to happen. Maybe in some ways he wanted to die like his father. He felt terrible guilt.”
I said, “He wanted a better life for Jennifer. He wanted a new life for them, planned to escape, maybe go to Mexico, and send for her when things died down. No matter what he wanted, you should have called the damn police, and the reason you didn't tell the police you remembered the cabin -”
“I told them.”
“Days after Charlie's murder. No, the reason you didn't tell them right away is obvious. You had to have time to find him and kill him.”
He was silent and I liked that right now. I could see the guilt in his eyes as he scanned the article. It mentioned Jennifer being questioned by the cops.
“It didn't click about the cabin,” he said. He took a last swig of his drink, ice cubes rattling. “It wasn't something I'd considered. I didn't think...”
“You didn’t think. And all the police got from you was the bad crowd angle. Now you're gonna make it up to Charlie and Jennifer, all the money you stole. Plus interest. A million dollars.”
I passed him an account number, one I'd set up in the Cayman Islands.
“Twenty five years ago, you were nothing,” I told him. “You dropped your practise pretty quickly after Charlie's murder.”
“A patient of mine robbed a store, was killed... I just needed to re-examine my life. Is that so hard to believe?”
I shook my head. “Two years later, you came out with your first book. Self-published. Who paid for that? And all the PR crap that went with it?”
I could see the title. Tomorrow's Horizon: A Positive Approach to A New Life.
“I met a woman, Howard. She had money, and she invested in my future. I married her.”
I didn’t want to hear a love story.
“If you don't want to lose her, do what I ask now. The money.”
I waited as he tapped away. I watched the computer screen, his bank's website pop up; everything appeared normal, no tricks.
Seconds after he'd finished, my phone trilled and I read the text. Confirmation number. Transfer complete.
“I killed no one,” he said.
“I was there that night,” I said. I'd witnessed it all.
“You can't have been there,” he scoffed. “See, right there, you have to be logical...”
“The murder happened twenty-one years ago and you're not any older than that.”
“You're right,” I said. “I'm exactly twenty-one years old. And know what? Today is my birthday. And today is the day Charlie died,”
I couldn't lose the smile that crept over my face as Daniel's eyes widened in realization.
“I have your latest book in my car.”
His face drained of colour. I loved it.
Each book Daniel wrote became an international bestseller. Television loved his face, radio his deep voice. He possessed the good looks, the charm, the charisma that everyone ate up. His latest book: Reincarnation: Therapy Through Past Life Regression.
All my life I'd had flashes of Daniel, a man I had, I believed, never met. When his latest book arrived in stores, I happened on his picture on the back cover, and both images and conversations from a past near forgotten flooded back. The cabin, all of it.
Now, time to put this right.
“Charlie?” he asked, staring at me. He knew the truth. “Is it really…?”
With a nod, I aimed the Glock at his chest, my finger tightened on the trigger...
The gunshot echoed in my ears.
Daniel's mouth opened in horror.
I stumbled forward and then crumpled onto the carpet. My cheek pressed the floor; shards of glass from the picture I'd smashed surrounded me. I could smell blood pumping from my body.
What had happened?
My shooter stood framed in the doorway, gun in hand. My eyes were blurry. Who was it? I struggled to move, to breathe, as I watched Daniel come around his desk.
I didn't have long. I'd failed Charlie, myself.
“Lauren!” Daniel said.
“He didn't kill you, Charlie,” she said. “I did.”
But I had seen Daniel, hadn’t I? I had seen him hanging over me.
“He believed it was me,” Dan said.
“False memories are just as real to some, dear. You told me that. He remembers you but only thinks you did it. No, Charles, I did the killing. I wore a different body.”
She crouched down so I could see her better.
My mind reeled. Jennifer, my own wife, Charlie’s wife…
Daniel said, “You murdered him?”
“So we could be together, live a better life.”
“I never once mentioned the cabin to you,” he said.
“You talked in your sleep, Daniel,” the woman said. “That's how I found out about the cabin. It was your first case and it was constantly on your mind. Even when you slept.”
Daniel's young wife looked distastefully down at me.
Alan and Lauren's photograph remained trapped in the demolished frame on the floor far below.
Hey, was I floating?
Lauren peered over those sunglasses in the photo.
What did they say about eyes being windows to the soul?
And that yacht in the background. That out of focus image in that same pic. Painted on the side was the boat's name. The Jennifer II? Clever.
Daniel looked down at my prone body. “I had no idea about this, I swear... But Charlie, it was never an affair between us...” He knelt down beside me, and I could feel his fingers on the side of my neck checking my thready pulse. “It was something more.”
I'd been so fixed on him seeing my eyes, seeing my old self. that I'd failed to notice his wife's eyes when she let me in tonight.
“Sorry,” Jennifer said. “I knew the second I saw Daniel's face in his business ad. I Knew I was destined to be with him. When you robbed that store, I knew where you'd go.”
I couldn't speak. No pain at all. I watched everything from far away, a hazy fog over the room.
“Do you remember how I fought cancer that first time around? I beat it. You were wonderful, Charlie. But after you died, after all that nastiness, the cancer came back. I died just after Daniel's first book came out,” Jennifer said. “But, I knew we would find each other again. Two years ago, we did..”
Daniel rose, took Jen in his arms. “You could have told me. I could have prepared myself for something like this!”
She slipped tighter into his embrace. “I'm sorry I never told you.”
“If he'd waited another year,” Daniel whispered. “Damn it, Jen…”
He used her old name as I watched him lovingly brush her cheek.
“…he might have read my newest book, and he might have figured this out, about people like us. He might have killed you.”
“Soul mates,” she whispered into his chest. “Bound together through lifetime and lifetime. It might be your best book yet.”
Their voices faded. Everything faded.
In my next life, I hoped I'd remember this moment.
My true killer’s face was etched there. I prayed it stayed.
I held onto memories as I fell into the light.