Sheriff’s station – 9:15 p.m.
Jeremiah had been deadly still and silent since uttering his warnings. Womack made several attempts to bring the young man back from wherever his fragile mind had taken him but to no avail. In his office, on the phone, Sheriff Buckley tried desperately to contact his daughter, but wasn’t successful. In an age of fiber optics and satellite communication, when NASA can contact a probe on Mars, he couldn’t fathom why he was having so much trouble. The line was nothing but static. Yet, not long ago, his deputy had successfully called Dr. Milburn.
Buckley dialed his home. The line rang four times before going to voicemail. The problem it seemed was only with long distance calls. Picking up his cell phone from the top of his desk, he punched the speed dial for his daughter hoping the cell towers weren’t affected like the landlines. When the call was answered, it wasn’t what he had expected. Strange wailing moans, what sounded like chattering teeth and a great pounding that grew with intensity with each thump filled the line.
Worry drained all the color from his face. “What the hell?” He pulled the phone away from his ear. Disconnecting, he tried calling her again. Once more he received the same bizarre noises, but this time he said, “Audrey, are you there? Can you hear me?”
In the midst of the sounds, a deep voice that sounded far away said, “She is mine. She is mine. She is mine. She is mine…”
“Who the hell is this? Why are you on Audrey’s phone?”
“She is mine. She is mine. She is mine…”
Buckley disconnected the call and stared at the cell phone as if it held answers to whom the voice belonged to. When the phone played a musical ring tone with his daughter’s name and number on the display, he answered right away. “Audrey?”
It was the wailing noise again, but no one spoke in the background. Buckley looked at the display, Audrey’s info had been replaced with--SHE IS MINE.
He flung the phone angrily against a far wall. It disintegrated into a hundred pieces near his door. If he wanted answers it would have to find them himself. He circled his desk and stumped to his door, pulling it open so hard he almost wrenched the screws from its hinges.
Womack looked at him in surprise. “Something wrong, sheriff?”
Buckley ignored him, focusing all his attention on the motionless young man in the chair. Somewhere trapped in Jeremiah’s muddled up brain may be the some answers.
“Have you been able to get him to communicate again,” Buckley asked, switching his gaze to his deputy.”
“Nah, he’s been off to la-la land the whole time and I don’t think he’s coming back.” He scratched his head baffled. “Well, at least not anytime soon.”
The sheriff crossed the room and picked up the bottle water he had offered Jeremiah earlier from a table. He twisted off the cap and splashed some of contents into the young man’s vacant face. Jeremiah did not react, didn’t so much as even blink.
“What the hell was that, sheriff?” his deputy asked, launching up from his chair. “I thought you didn’t approve of treatment like that.”
Buckley studied Jeremiah face. His nostrils were stock-still. The young man didn’t seem to be breathing. “It’s just water,” he finally answered. “It didn’t hurt him.”
Buckley wondered what Audrey had to do with Deacon Grimes. He hoped nothing. Everything Jeremiah had said could have been a drug induced delusion. Yes, drugs, that was it, maybe cocaine or something just as bad. Buckley hated to think that such hard substances were in his town, but he wasn’t naïve. Even though Harmony County was far away from any major cities, obtaining drugs wasn’t impossible to get a hold of for those who wanted it bad enough.
He would have the doctor run some blood work later to confirm his suspicions. Staring into the young man’s eyes, he searched for signs of his being high. Not long afterwards, Buckley thought he saw movement as if something was swimming behind the whites of the Jeremiah’s eyeballs. “What the hell?”
“What is it, sheriff?” Womack had taken up a position right behind him.
“I thought I saw…” The door to the station opened. Both men stared over their shoulders to see who entered.
Dr. Milburn wiped sweat from his forehead. He was dressed in blue jean coveralls, a checkered red, white and blue shirt and work boots, looking more like a farmer than his true profession. Milburn’s wife annually hosted a Halloween party for the kids and their parents. His attire was evidently this year’s costume. In his right hand he carried a black medical bag.
The doctor wiped more sweat from his brow and then said, “Damn heat. It’s just not right being this hot in October.”
Buckley and Womack backed away from Jeremiah making room for the doctor. Milburn’s brown eyes immediately fell upon the young man’s spaced out blue ones. He approached slowly taking long sidesteps to his left and then to his right as if to see if Jeremiah’s frozen gaze would follow. Once he was directly in front of Jeremiah, he touched his face. “Why is he all wet?”
Buckley, still holding the water bottle, shrugged his shoulders. “I tried to get a response from him.”
Milburn nodded, still studying the young man. He checked him for responses and then checked for a pulse. “Well it’s no surprise he didn’t respond.”
“Why’s that?” Womack asked.
“This man is dead,” the doctor answered matter-of-factly.
Both Buckley and Womack approached.
“He was just talking to us a few minutes ago. What the hell happen, did he overdose on drugs while sitting there?” Buckley asked.
Milburn twisted his head around to look at the sheriff. “What’s that you said?”
“Did he overdose?”
“Not that part. You said something about him talking. Is this some type of sick Halloween joke, sheriff?”
“What the hell are you talking about, doc?” Womack asked.
“Best guess, poor Jeremiah here has been dead for nearly two hours now. If he’s been talking, he’s been communicating from the other side. And I don’t see any crystal balls, Ouija board or a psychic channeling the dead. Why in God’s good earth did you think this would be funny?”
Womack took a few steps back, fear on his face. “This wasn’t a joke, doc. He was talking minutes ago. He walked in here himself no more than half an hour.”
“Are you sure he’s dead?” Buckley asked, mustering calm he knew he shouldn’t have. “Could you be mistaken about the time?”
The doctor lifted one of Jeremiah’s hands and wiggled a couple of with his fingers. “No on both counts, sheriff. There are signs of rigor mortis, even his skin is discolored in some places. Two clear indicators,” Milburn answered, now showing signs of worry. “You guys really think he walked in here on his own?”
The sheriff was about to answer when music came from his office. All the men turned toward the sound.
“What’s that?” Milburn asked.
Buckley’s skin was several shades lighter. “That’s impossible.”
“What’s impossible, sheriff?” Womack asked.
Buckley slowly turned his frightened gaze to his deputy. “It’s my cell phone. I busted it into more than a dozen pieces. It can’t be ringing. It can’t be the cell phone.” The familiar ring tone was something he couldn’t deny and deep in his heart, he knew it was true, someone or something was trying to make contact.