It was was very late, shadow cast and misty as the rain was coming down in a
light steady drizzle. It was the type of drizzle which makes the city relinquish
the steamy warmth so overly humid. The rain comes down and pools on top of the
valleys of sweat. All from the drizzle and the hue cast humidity that
The first realization that I was not alone was the stench of a smell. It came
from far away. Enough so, that it could have been said to be steadily creeping
up on me between the rain drops. It finally caught up to me and encircled itself
around so that I had to notice the stench it imposed.
At once it was a friend and a mystery. It was everything forbidden in abiding
and everything I ever seemed to want.
Quickly, I turned at a glance to find where it had come. He was leaning against
the old rusty gates that was part of a building. From which the rain splatting
against the rim of his faded dark cap and sliding down his black leather trench
I shivered for several minutes. He never looked up at me. Not then,
Time seamed to stop, as it turned suddenly from a slight drizzle to a hellish
Without looking at me, he motioned with his hand.
A shiver went up my spine as if doom was staring at me, as if time stood still.
As I slowly walked, with ever slow foot steps toward him, I tried to get a
look of his face, his hollow eyes. Both were slightly hidden.
The warning signal went off deep inside the fear I felt. I should have run as
the shivers ran up my spine. I didn't want to go toward him. As the fate I felt
When I closed in on him he lifted his hand, gloved in tattered leather, he
the icy cold finger tips over my eyes. Like a web of illusions, I closed my
His fingers slid down to my chin, then to my shoulder then my elbow. He led me
into a realm of a geometric world.
I don't remember all the twists and turns of the first trip in time, had no
meaning here. I don't remember how long it took, or how short the stride.
I don't recall anything except the sound of the pouring rain hitting the ground,
the feel of him cupping my elbow and that forbidden stench.
I do remember that he broke it suddenly, as quick as it started. Not a word he
spoke. It was not a word anybody spoke. Instead, it came from beyond the realm
of death. In the darkness. I opened my eyes, looked quickly around and saw
I was alone, standing in a small circle of light that captured my fearful soul.
He was gone. I did not understand how I could hear commands not spoken. I turned
three times, then half dizzy, mindless, stopped. I wanted to sit down, my legs
were wobbly from the world from which I came.
He emerged from the darkness, minus stench. I was entranced by his being. He
a package out to me until I took it.
Mere seconds of an over turned hourglass.
I looked at the strange package of which I held. It had my name on it. I looked
up to ask him how he knew. He was gone.
The command of a voiceless realm came. Again, I was disappointed. I wanted to
But I couldn't find the courage to do so. Instead I nodded and closed my eyes
just a minute, as time seemed to stand still.
The sound of pouring rain was louder then ever before, more intrenched.
I opened my eyes to find myself holding a package outside the old iron gates
of the building. The man was gone. I was confused. I wanted to see his face, his
I slowly opened the package beholding to me. He was gone. The contents of the
package was a scroll. A sign post to my destiny. The future. A lifes ending tale
for a mystery in a night of timeless end.
The Wedding Ring
An icy wind off Nantucket Sound blew into Smitty’s as Fred pushed through the
door in his usual angry mood. Approaching the bar, his coat smelled of fish
and his brown boots made squeaky sounds on the hardwood floor.
Rita, a busty bartender with two missing front teeth, looked up from the tap
she was working for another patron.
“God damn it, Fred—no trouble tonight—yah hear.”
“Screw you, bitch.” He took his regular seat. “Give me a beer.”
Nobody around here liked Fred much. A ruffian and a troublemaker, he was just
plain mean. Quick with a knife, his temper was just as sharp. Another grueling
day at the cannery had done nothing to lighten his demeanor. And like every
night, an awful thirst burned in his throat and he aimed to relieve it.
Scowling, Rita slid him a mug.
“You behave yourself, yah hear.”
"Creager had it comin’,” Fred spat and took a swig of beer.
“The bastard shouldn’t have stuck his fat nose into my business.”
“And you shouldn’t be beating that boy of yours,” Rita replied.
“The kid deserved it.”
Rita leaned on the bar.
“So tell me, Fred—why haven’t we seen Sarah about lately? You done the same
Fred showed Rita a fist.
“Keep talkin’, bitch. You’ll get some of this, too.”
“You don’t scare me, Fred Regar.”
“I swear you should’ve been born a man”, he cackled and went back to drinking
Suddenly, a nauseating smell assailed his nostrils. He felt a pressure, a presence,
someone’s staring eyes. Quickly glancing at the man now sitting next to him, he
realized he hadn’t seen the stranger before, a wiry old guy with thick gray hair
hanging from under a brown cowboy hat, long hair that touched the shoulders of
his dusty coat and matched his eyes. His ashen face bore prickly stubble and he
smelled like decay.
“What are you lookin’ at?”
The old man didn’t flinch, just fiddled with a gold ring that spun loosely around
his bony finger.
“I’m talkin’ to you, faggot!”
Turning on his barstool slightly, “Name’s Justin Graves—from Deckers,” the
old man said in a raspy voice.
"You can call me Justice."
Fred stiffened, looked him up and down.
“Justice Graves, huh? I knew a detective by that name once, a Texas Ranger
some twenty years ago, if I remember right.”
“You’re not goin’ to tell me you’re him?”
The homicide detective looked like a walking dead man, not at all the way Fred
“You should see a doctor—you’re not lookin’ so good.”
“Never felt better.”
“So what brings you to the cape?”
Leaning forward, the old man whispered, “Laura.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“And she’s still dead.”
“It’s not my fault she married that murderin’ bastard,” Fred growled.
“He didn’t do it.”
“Well—you sure as hell fried him for killin’ her.”
“But now I know the truth.”
"You don’t know anything, old man.”
Justice examined the ring on his finger.
“I’ve talked to her.”
“How much have you been drinkin’?”
“She told me what you said—just before you cut her throat.”
“She’s dead. You talked to nobody.”
Justice glared at Fred.
“This one’s for pinky. Isn’t that how it went?”
Fred jerked his eyes away from Graves. How could he have known that? Laura was
the only one who knew about pinky, how he’d get all excited and how she’d make
“After we’re married,” she’d say.
Pinky didn’t want to wait. Neither did Fred. Graves couldn’t have known about
their private affairs. He had to be guessing. After taking a fitful swallow
of beer, Fred said, “I don’t believe you, old man.”
“Do you believe she didn’t like you much?”
Fred showed his teeth.
“We were perfect for each other.”
“But she married another man. Must’ve made you furious.”
“I got over it.”
“Hardly. You’re still angry, Fred. You even beat your wife and kid.”
“What are you gettin’ at?”
“Laura wants justice.”
“You had nothin’ on me back then, yah got nothing now.”
“Ah—but things are different.”
“There’s still no evidence.”
Justice stretched, joints cracking.
“There are other ways.”
Fred chugged from his mug.
“What makes you so sure?”
"Laura told me what happened that night.”
“Talkin’ to dead people, Graves? You’re not well.”
“We can do that, you know.”
“Two years ago I had a run in with a gang of drug dealers. Got myself killed.”
“Now I know you’re drunk.”
“They shot me three times—right through the heart”.
Justice pulled open the dusty flap of his coat. The stench was overpowering.
Gagging, Fred looked at Graves’ chest and drew back, aghast. Three white-rimmed
bullet holes punctured gray and dried flesh. He could see inside the ghoul’s
Fred threw down the rest of his beer, hoping he wouldn’t puke.
“I ran into Laura shortly after that. She was distraught, unable to find her
husband in the afterlife. As you know, Charles was innocent, just like he’d
proclaimed right up to the time they threw the switch.”
“He got what he deserved for stealing my girl.”
“I promised her I’d get them back together.”
“Good luck.” Fred gulped beer.
“I suppose you think you got away with murder.”
“Well, didn’t I?”
“There’s no such thing.”
Removing the gold ring from his finger, Justice set it in his upturned bony
“Charles asked me to give you this.”
Fred snatched the ring and threw it across the room.
“Like hell he did.”
“Laura gave it to him when they were married.
He was wearing it when we buried him.”
“So you’re a grave robber?”
“Charles gave it to me.”
“How’s that possible?”
“He wants you to have it.”
“Well I don’t want it.”
“When the ring is back on his finger, Laura will be his for eternity.”
“You’re loony, Graves.”
A droning sound began to fill the bar, getting louder and louder. Fred covered
his ears and slowly turned his eyes to the ring, which was lying on the floor,
glowing like a hot coal. Then a sharp burning sensation shot up his arm. He quickly
checked his fingertips. They were blistering where he’d touched the ring. He grabbed
the cold beer mug for relief.
The old man was gone. And the ring, too.
“Where’d he go?” Fred asked Rita.
“The old man.”
“Why don’t you go home? You’re looking a little pale.”
Fred glanced at his fingertips again. They were fine. He must’ve imagined the
“Give me another beer.”
After several more rounds, Fred staggered out of Smitty’s, ducked against the
cold wind, and headed for home in a foul mood. Tonight he was really steamed.
His run in with Justin Graves, imagined or not, had ruined a perfectly rotten
day. Fred was angry enough to beat the crap out of his wife and kid. He never
loved Sarah, never loved Laura, either. Not really. He just wanted to have
control. But the old man was right about one thing—Fred had never gotten over
what she’d done to him, took away his control, dumped him for another man.
Laura deserved to die and he’d kill her again if he had to do it over. As he
did every night, Fred cut down the alley behind Mason Street and went past the
redbrick rectory of Saint Mary's, his shadow, cast from a streetlight, looming
across the side of the church like an apparition stalking the night.
On the corner, he noticed a lighted window in the old O’Shaughnessy place which
had been boarded up for years after the couple had died. But sometime since
yesterday, someone must’ve bought the rundown house, incredibly fixed it all
up with a new roof, new paint, a white picket fence and blooming flowerbeds
in the dead of winter. In his drunken state, he thought he was seeing things.
Then he caught a motion in the window. In spite of the wind knifing through his
coat, he stopped abruptly to watch a young woman brushing her hair, a mere silhouette,
but a striking image he’d not expected to encounter. His fingertips started tingling
and he felt suddenly dizzy. Something compelled him to take a closer look.
Staying in the shadows, he worked his way toward the house, ducking behind a
fence out of view from the street. Stooping below O’Shaughnessy’s glowing window,
he peeked over the sill. What he saw took his breath away. Laura!
She hadn’t aged a day, her long golden hair swaying to the strokes of her brush.
He could see her blue eyes in the vanity mirror, and every line of her face,
still magnificently beautiful. Under a silky negligee, her plump breasts rose and
fell with each breath. A wedding gown hung from the closet door, its veil lying on
the bedcovers as if thrown off in a hurry. He suddenly felt hot. Looking back to
the street, he saw a crowd of people gathered around the church, laughing and singing.
But it wasn’t Saint Mary's, it was a little white church with a bell chiming
in the steeple. Shiny old cars glistened under streetlights.
The cold wind became a warm breeze and the briny smell of seawater was suddenly
replaced by the familiar scent of desert sage. A dog barked and children skipped by.
Down the street, a lighted Farris wheel turned brilliantly and carnival music
filled the air. Déjà vu hit him like a board.
Looking down at his clothes, he was no longer wearing that fishy smelling coat
and those brown boots, but a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, instead.
And on his finger, he saw the gold wedding ring that Graves had tried to give
him earlier. How the hell did it get on his finger? How long had it been there?
In panic, he tried to pull it off, but it wouldn’t budge. Then a noise came from
above him. Startled, he looked up. Laura was opening the window, probably to let
in the breeze. He ducked. The sound of running water and a noisy pipe came to him
now, the shower where Charles was preparing for his wedding night with Fred’s girl.
That uncontrollable rage filled him again.
Laura sat at her vanity, brushing her hair, bright and cheery eyes glowing back
at her from the mirror. After slipping away from the wedding reception, Charles
had carried her over the threshold of their new house. Now, she was preparing to
give herself to her husband on their first night together. Her skin smelled of
lilac from the bubble bath she’d taken. In a way, she wished Charles would hurry
and finish his shower. But then again, she cherished this time she had alone with
her thoughts on this night, the most wonderful night of her life.
When she finished, she went to the window and pulled it open. Texas desert air
flowed in along with the joyous sounds of celebration. She glanced out to the small
town of Deckers. Everyone knew about her wedding to Charles. And everyone had been
relieved when she’d dumped that troublemaker, Fred Regar. Oh—he was a charmer in
the beginning. But once he had her love, he became a control freak—a raving jealous
idiot who’d embarrassed her on more than one occasion. That was six months ago.
Now she was free of him and starting a new life with Charles.
She turned off the light and lay in shadowy darkness, waiting for her husband.
A tree branch, swaying in the breeze, scratched against the side of the house
as she lay there listening for the shower to stop running and that annoying
pipe to stop rattling.
Then she heard a creak, which sounded like that loose board in the hallway
floor. Her stomach clutched. How could that be? Charles was in the shower.
Who else was in the house?
Suddenly he was on her, a big man reeking of beer. He covered her mouth with
one hand and ripped off her nightgown with the other. She couldn’t get air to
scream. Clutching his wrist, she tried to wrench his hand from her mouth as
she flexed her thigh muscles, keeping her knees together and his probing fingers
out. But he was too strong. Somehow, he had managed to force her legs apart.
He was wearing shorts. They were pulled down. She struggled, tried to cry out,
the sound of running water and that damn rattling pipe over powering her faint
appeals for help. Her mind spun in terror.
CHARLIE! HELP ME!
As the intruder penetrated her private place roughly, she caught a glimpse of his
With his vile piece of flesh inside her, he pushed harder and faster, his eyes
growing wider, his nostrils flaring. He humped her without love or kindness.
She couldn’t believe this was happening on her wedding night.
HELP! CHARLIE! HELP ME!!!
Fred’s hardness exploded inside her. She wanted to vomit. Then she felt the cold
steel of a knife on her throat.
“This one’s for pinky,” he said and slashed.
Laura tried to scream again, but air only hissed from the gash across her throat.
She knew her wedding night had been completely spoiled.
Pain and terror slowly faded away.
Fred leaped up from the blood-soaked sheets, pulled up his shorts, and set the
knife on the bed where Charlie would pick it up when he discovered Laura’s body,
just like last time. Fred was going to get away with it again. He was sure of it.
Heading toward the open window to flee, his nostrils suddenly revolted as a horrible
smell began to permeate the shadowy bedroom. He stopped dead in his tracks when
he felt a pressure, a presence, someone staring at him from the darkness.
“Ah, Fred—up to your old tricks, I see,” came a raspy voice in the dark.
“Graves! What are you doin’ here?”, Fred could hardly stand the stench of the
ghoul who was standing somewhere in the shadows.
The shower water suddenly stopped running; the pipe stopped rattling. Fred jerked
his eyes to the bathroom door. If Charles saw him, he would be able to identify
him as Laura’s killer. He had to get out—now—like last time. But this time the
window slammed closed all by itself.
“Let me out!”
“You know I can’t do that,” said Justice.
“What have you done?”
“A little belated detective work.”
Whistling came from the bathroom.
“You set me up, you bastard!”
“What’s that, dear?” Charles said.
“Are you ready?”
Fred backed up to the wall.
“He’ll see me!”
Charles seemed playful.
“I’ll be finished in a minute.”
Fred lunged for the bedroom door. It slammed shut as if by a sudden gust of wind.
He grabbed the doorknob, pulled on it frantically, his bloody hands slipping off.
He tried again but the door refused to open. Though he knew his fingerprints would
be all over the place, he didn’t care. Panic raced through his mind. He had to get
“Damn you, Graves!”
“You’re the one who’s damned,” the ghoulish detective said calmly.
Sirens wailed, flashing emergency lights outside now illuminating the bedroom
Fred dashed to the window again. He still couldn’t get it open. Fear gripped him.
He was trapped. Police busted in.
“Hands on your head.”
Several officers jumped Fred, threw him to the floor, wrenched his arms behind
him and slapped on the cuffs. Someone turned on a light. The bathroom door swung
open. Charles stepped out, towel around his waist, hair shiny and slicked back.
His eyes went wide when he saw his new bride lying limp on the bed in a bloody
“Laura! My God!”
Rushing to her side, his hand landed on the bloody knife he hadn’t seen lying
next to her. His mind in total chaos, he picked up the knife without thinking,
stared at it in horror, and then dropped it like a hot rock.
He shook her. She didn’t respond. A lamp fell over. Police were scuffling with
a man on the floor, a man that looked like Fred Regar. He was covered with blood.
Charles jumped from the bed, Laura’s blood all over him.
“God damn it Fred! What have you done?”
Fred went into a rage.
“Screw you, Charles. Now you can’t have her either.”
“Hold him down,” a police sergeant ordered his men.
The stench in the room became overwhelming. From the shadows, Justice snapped his
fingers. Charles flinched as if awakened from a trance. Laura sat up on the bed,
wide eyed, trembling as if she’d just awoke from a bad dream. Her spirit rose in
the air, leaving a body on the bed only the police could see. She floated to Charlie
and threw her arms around his neck.
“Thank God you're here. I was so afraid.”
“It’s over now,” Charles said, “I’ve finally found you.”
“Don’t ever let me go, Charlie.”
Fred started shouting, “Look at that—look at that! She’s not dead.”
“He’s drunk,” an officer said.
As they pulled Fred to his feet, paramedics attended to Laura, performing CPR
on a corpse that Fred couldn’t see. It looked like they were trying to revive thin
“What kind of joke is this?” Fred shouted.
“She better not die,” the sergeant snarled.
“She’s not on the bed. They’re not even touchin’ her!”
“Get him outta here!”
“Wait! You guys are makin’ a mistake!”
The paramedics stood, heads bowed.
“Are you all totally crazy?”, Fred yelled, “She’s not dead. She’s standing
right next to her husband. Are you blind? Don’t you see them?”
"He’s hallucinating,” an officer said.
Pulling a sheet over the corpse, a medic asked, “Who was she?”
“Laura Singleton,” the sergeant replied, “she just moved into town and bought
this old dump to fix it up.”
“What are you talkin’ about?” Fred spat, still struggling with the officers.
“This ain’t no dump.”
“This place is a mess,” the sergeant said.
“At least she installed a silent burglar alarm first.
We got here as fast as we could.”
“What do you mean…it’s…it’s a…mess?”
Panicking, Fred saw cracked and yellowed walls, a flickering ceiling light,
and a vanity covered with dust. The window was boarded up, a cold wind whistling
through broken panes of glass. He suddenly became aware of his fishy smelling coat.
The ghoul stepped out of the shadows, his gray eyes on Fred.
“Looks like Charles has found Laura—and you’re going to hell, very soon.”
“Bullshit! There’s no Laura Singleton. She’s just an illusion you concocted
to set me up.”
“You’re catching on real quick.”
“You can’t get away with this, Graves!”
“Shut up!” the police sergeant yelled at Fred.
“You guys got this all wrong!” Fred shouted to the sergeant.
“She’s not real! You only think there’s a dead body on the bed. It’s Graves,
I tell you. He’s playing with your minds. She’s a figment of your imagination!”
“Get him out of here!”
“Wait, don’t you see? Justice Graves wants you to know I killed Laura Baker
in Deckers twenty years ago. He’s staged this whole thing.”
“Hold up, men,” the sergeant said and gave Fred a quizzical look.
“Justin Graves, you say?”
“You know him?”
“He’s a Texas Ranger who got killed a couple years back.”
“That’s him. He’s standing right there—look—in the corner, for Christ’s sake.”
The sergeant glared at Fred.
“You must be nuts. There’s nobody there.”
“Of course he’s there? Are you blind? Can’t you smell him? And Laura Baker is
standing right in front of me with her arms around her husband. She’s not dead,
I tell yah! Let me go!”
“He must be crazy,” someone said.
“I’m not crazy. Look—I even have the wedding ring on my finger, the one she
gave her husband.”
The sergeant inspected Fred’s shackled hands.
“Get this lunatic outta here. What’s he take us for—idiots? Book him, Murder
There’s no ring on your finger, an there’s no Justice Graves in this bedroom.”
“Graves! What happened to the ring?”
The ghoul just shrugged.
As officers shoved Fred toward the door, the sergeant added, “And find out
what happened to Laura Baker in Deckers.
We might have a serial killer on our hands.”
“No! You can’t do this to me!”
The sergeant sneered.
“Save it for the judge.”
They dragged him outside and tossed him into a squad car, still screaming.
A cold wind whipped down Mason Street as Justice stood under the streetlight
and stared at the boarded-up and weed-infested O’Shaughnessy place. He rather
liked the briny smell of the night air. The trial was over. Fred Regar was convicted
on all counts. His wife and son never shed a tear.
Next to Graves, Laura and Charles appeared, cuddling.
“We finally got him,” she said.
"Justice got his man."
"I'm sorry I had to put you through that again—but it was the only way.”
"It was horrible. Why didn’t you tell me you were going to bring us back
to that night?”
“Would you have gone, knowing what Fred was going to do to you?”
“Justice doesn’t come easily, but thanks to you, Fred Regar was sentenced to
death. Now, the truth about Laura Baker is known to all and Charles—your name
has been cleared.”
“Thanks,” Charles said, examining the wedding ring on his finger, finally back
where it belonged.
“If not for you, Fred would have gotten away with murder.”
Justice shook his head.
“There’s no such thing.”
“Now we can rest in peace,” Laura said, hugging her husband.
“Together for eternity.”
“What are you going to do?” Charles asked the dead detective.
“There are other tormented souls seeking justice—and other Fred Regars living
on borrowed time.”
“I suppose you’ll be paying them a visit, too.”
“All in good time,” said Justice Graves.
With a gust of wind, the ghoul was gone.
- By Terry Wright -