Copyright © 2012 by Jonas Saul
Kramer Kay stood among shelves upon shelves of glass figurines. Someone was dead. She could feel it, but she couldn’t see them yet. As she walked around the display cases that held a variety of glass statues, the store clerk approached and asked if she needed any help. The store’s lights were bright, the air stale and dry. She turned, licked her lips, and judged the woman to be at least sixty years of age. Her name tag read “Beatrice”.
“I’m just looking,” Kramer responded. Beatrice probably heard that all day.
“Just holler if you need anything.”
Kramer politely nodded and turned away.
Every sort of figure was done up in glass in front of her. Dolphins, wolves, deer, even elephants. She reached out to pick up a glass rabbit and felt someone standing beside her.
I thought I told the clerk I was just looking.
Kramer glanced to her right where a teenage girl stood, holding a glass deer with its head down in the grazing position. It appeared to Kramer that the girl, roughly eighteen years of age, worked here. Her name tag read, “Kelly”.
“I’ve always liked this one. It was my favorite.”
Kramer caught the use of past tense: was my favorite. Could Kelly be dead, or did she simply have a new favorite? It could be seriously hard for Kramer to tell the difference at times. The dead appeared so real before her.
“Which one is your favorite now?” Kramer asked.
“It’s still this one.”
“But I thought you said it ‘was’ your favorite?”
The girl reached out and placed the deer in Kramer’s palm. Their eyes locked as the young girl spoke again.
“Help me. I lay where the deer play.”
Her voice sent a shiver through Kramer’s shoulders.
“What did you say?”
“I lay where the deer play. Help me, find me. Let me find peace.”
Kramer blinked and then she was standing alone. Kelly had been there one moment, gone the next.
Kramer turned and looked toward the counter.
“Are you all right ma’am?” Beatrice asked.
“Yes, yes of course.” Kramer approached the counter, the figure of the deer still clutched in her palm. “I’ll take this one,” she said, and handed the figurine to Beatrice.
“Oh my, nice choice. My former clerk, Kelly, just adored this one.”
Kramer’s head shot up at the mention of the girl she was just talking to. “Former clerk? What happened to her?”
“No one knows. She disappeared about a year ago. Not a word since. You must have heard about it. It was all over the news.”
Kramer avoided the news for this particular reason. Too many people screamed for help once she knew about them. She reached in her purse, yanked out a twenty and dropped it on the counter. “You mean that eighteen-year-old girl with long blond hair,” she said, now armed with what Kelly looked like.
“Yes. So you did hear about it. Tragic for the parents,” Beatrice said as she handed back Kramer’s change.
“I could only imagine. A tragedy.”
Kramer gathered her things up and left in a hurry, without saying another word. One question frustrated her to no end: why a riddle?
‘I lay where the deer play’.
What could it mean?
That’s the main problem with earth-bound entities who are stuck; they have access to vast amounts of information, but they forget I don’t.
She exited the mall and headed for her car, knowing she’d have to contact the lead-investigating officer to see what she could find out about Kelly. Her contacts at the police department were pretty good, given that she’d helped them many times in the past on missing persons cases.
Bruce Wellington would help. Mostly because he kept asking her to dinner, but Kramer didn’t date cops. She couldn’t romance the very people she worked with. Wouldn’t work.
From past experience, when someone from the Other Side contacted her for something, they rarely left her alone until that something was completed.
She reached Bruce with her first call into the station after she got home. He promised to tell her everything he had on the case…if she would agree to have dinner with him.
After ten minutes she finally agreed to meet him at The Keg for nine that night. What would it hurt? She could use a good meal after what she was about to do.
He looked up the case on the computer on his desk, and explained to her that the case had gone cold eight months ago. Not a single lead had turned up as to the whereabouts of Kelly Walsh, eighteen. The parents had been interviewed extensively, even threatened with being charged in the hopes they’d break down and confess, as they were prime suspects in the missing persons case. But nothing came of it. They had no one in custody and no idea where to look next.
Bruce asked Kramer why she was interested. Did she know something new? According to the file, Kramer’s call had been the first about Kelly in over eight months. All Kramer said was that she would get back to him and hung up the phone after confirming the time for dinner again.
This venture to help Kelly seemed fruitless. Maybe she could talk to the parents? After that, if nothing led her to what ‘I lay where the deer play’ meant, she’d drop it, until Kelly came back with more for her to go on.
When Kramer started looking into the archives of the local newspaper, via its website, she found excerpts about the missing girl, and interviews with the parents. Wendy Walsh and Mark Walsh still lived on Somerset Boulevard.
Two hours later, at 3:00pm, she parked down the street and walked up to knock on the Walsh’s door. The sun was hidden behind dark clouds that threatened rain. It reflected Kramer’s mood, and caused her to question why she was wasting time at the Walsh house. After losing their daughter and going through however-many sleepless nights, and grueling interviews with police and media, the last thing they needed was Kramer asking the same questions, re-opening old wounds. She had turned to step off their porch, when the door opened a crack. A single eye peeked through the gap.
“Hello, Mrs. Walsh?”
“Who wants to know?”
“My name is Kramer.” Now what was she supposed to say? She didn’t want to make up a lie or scare Mrs. Walsh by saying the wrong thing, yet she had to get her talking about Kelly. She decided to try the truth. “I came here because I saw your daughter, Kelly, today.”
There was a moment of silence. The awkwardness made Kramer feel fidgety. She adjusted her coat and stepped back on the porch a little. Then the door opened far enough for the woman’s face to be exposed.
“That’s impossible. No one has seen Kelly for over a year.”
“I know, but I’m different. Let me explain. People who have unfinished business, come to me after they pass away. Earlier today, I was shopping in the mall and met Kelly where she used to work.”
Mrs. Walsh made an audible gasp, raising her hand to her chest. “Are you playing games with me? Is this about money? What kind of person are you?”
Kramer was surprised by Mrs. Walsh’s response. Usually when she told people that she was psychic, they either asked questions of a psychic nature or stated that they didn’t believe in the Other Side. It was rare that she would be accused of trying to cheat someone out of money.
Kramer stood on the porch and described Kelly to Mrs. Walsh. “I read her name tag at the figurine store. I called the police, and found out the case had been cold for eight months. After meeting Kelly, I thought maybe we could talk. Maybe something will click for me.”
“You talked to the police?” Mrs. Walsh opened her front door all the way. “They give out information on a case so easily?”
“Ma’am, I’ve worked with the police for years on missing persons cases. My reputation is sound. I respect confidentiality. They wouldn’t work with me if I didn’t.”
Kramer wondered if it would start to rain before Kelly’s mother decided to either let her into the house, or send her on her way.
“Did the police send you?”
“No,” Kramer said.
“How about the media? Were you sent here to dig for more clues or did you come on your own?”
“I came on my own.”
Mrs. Walsh made an exaggerated attempt to step out on the porch and look both ways, up and down the street.
“Am I able to trust you? You’re saying, no one sent you? You’re here to talk about Kelly and no one knows you’re here?”
Why are we still going over that point? What is she getting at?
“It appears you’ve been hounded to the point of paranoia,” Kramer said. She raised her hands in an ‘I surrender’ gesture and said, “I just want to talk. That’s it. No one and nothing is behind my motives.”
Mrs. Walsh stepped back into her foyer and nodded at Kramer, but she didn’t step aside to allow Kramer entry.
“Maybe we could continue this conversation inside. If it’s possible, I would like to see Kelly’s bedroom.”
“Okay,” Mrs. Walsh said, as she moved to the side.
Kramer stepped in to a modest home. It appeared to be kept clean and tidy, but she started to feel that something was wrong again.
“Please understand. I’m usually pretty cautious when answering the door. We used to get reporters wanting interviews, and all sorts of weirdos, knocking at all hours.”
Oh, so now you only allow psychics into your home.
“Kelly’s bedroom is up there,” Mrs. Walsh said as she gestured at the stairs and started for them, slamming the front door hard. Kramer followed close behind.
When they entered Kelly’s bedroom, she saw that they’d turned it into a library. She also saw Kelly, sitting in a rocking chair in the corner.
“Are you okay?” Mrs. Walsh asked.
It must’ve shown on her face. “Yes, yes I’ll be fine. What happened to Kelly’s things? Aren’t you expecting her to come home?”
“Sadly, no. She wasn’t the type to run away. My husband and I decided to move on. If and when she does come home, then we would turn her old room back to the way it was.”
That’s odd. Mrs. Walsh knows more about Kelly’s disappearance than she’s letting on. Something is very wrong here.
Kramer heard a soft whisper. She looked over as Kelly was mouthing the words ‘where the deer play’.
“Was there a certain area where Kelly set up her glass deer?”
“Oh, my, you really are psychic.” Mrs. Walsh walked over to the closet and stood beside it, pointing into the corner of the room. “Before this bookcase was here, we had set up a circular rug in the corner. When she was little, Kelly would play for hours on that rug, so none of her glass figures would break. She always played with her deer right here.”
Kramer walked over, being careful now to keep a little distance from Mrs. Walsh. Every sense she had screamed to RUN. She had to leave, to come back with Bruce or never again.
To look like she was onto something, Kramer used her hands to inspect the bookcase. She ran her hand down the side of the wall and felt a slight depression in the drywall.
She heard someone coming as footsteps resounded along the outside corridor. She turned to see who it was. Mrs. Walsh’s facial expression had changed. She looked angry.
The footsteps stopped outside Kelly’s bedroom door.
“Everything okay Mrs. Walsh? Have I offended you?” Kramer asked.
She hadn’t seen the rubber mallet in Mrs. Walsh’s hand before. Now it dangled from her grip.
“You big city bitch.” Her voice had taken on a high-pitched squeal, as if this was her real voice, and she had deliberately deepened it earlier to converse at the door. “You come here and want to start shit. Who do you think you are?”
Kramer had felt it. She should have run. She regretted getting this involved in the first place.
She turned at looked at the chair where Kelly sat. Kelly was crying, her face red, tears streaming down her cheeks. She was shaking her head back and forth, and mouthing the word ‘No’.
Kramer’s stomach dropped even further. She stepped back, leaning against the bookcase.
A man stepped into the room behind Mrs. Walsh. His physical features led Kramer to believe that she was now standing in the presence of Kelly’s parents.
“I’ll leave. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
“Oh no. You won’t be leaving. Ever,” Mrs. Walsh spat the last word and lunged.
Kramer ducked out of reflex. The mallet hit the bookcase above her head, stopping its descent. Kramer looked for an escape. She felt trapped, locked in the corner of the bedroom, both Kelly’s parents blocking her in.
Before Mrs. Walsh could raise the mallet again, Kramer dove past her legs and tried to crawl through the door.
A large hand grabbed her from behind. As much as she writhed and protested, Mr. Walsh held firm and lifted her as if she was weightless.
“We got us here a pretty one,” he said, his breath smelling of onions and garlic.
“No one knows she’s here,” Mrs. Walsh added. “Take her to the basement and do what you do best. Treat her to a little Kelly treatment.”
Kramer grabbed hold of the doorframe and tried to arch herself in a quick twist to dislodge his grip, but it was too tight. The man had to be at least six and a half feet tall.
Then Mrs. Walsh dropped the mallet again, this time connecting with Kramer’s wrist where she held the doorframe, breaking it.
Kramer screamed. The pain was more intense than anything she had ever felt.
“That’ll teach you to go nosing around in other people’s business,” Mrs. Walsh shouted in Kramer’s face. “Who do you think you are? Now you’re gonna pay, you little bitch.”
Mr. Walsh dragged Kramer out of Kelly’s bedroom, but not before Kramer caught a glimpse of Kelly, still sitting on the chair in the corner, her head in her hands, crying, her body wracked with sobs. The pain became too much. Blackness covered her peripheral vision and then moved inward until Kramer slumped, completely out.
Kramer woke to a massive amount of pain. The basement was dark and smelled of oil. A little light shone out of a single bulb that dangled from the ceiling.
She looked over at the source of her pain. A rope tied her swollen wrist to a long nail protruding out of the wall. The injury looked horrid. It was a dark purple, her hand sitting at a bad angle. She looked at her other arm and then down her body. Nothing else damaged yet.
Then she tried to look around the basement as best she could in the little light she had. It was a mess. Tools scattered around different makeshift tables told her the guy wasn’t organized. Something hung from the ceiling to her right. It had chains, and a small black strip that looked like a seat.
Then it hit her. She looked back at the tools on the tables. They weren’t just any tools. They were items used in some kind of fetish. She was sure of it. The thing hanging from the ceiling was a swing of some kind. Behind a beam, barely visible in the light from the bulb, she saw a medieval stockade, with the hole for a head and two smaller holes for the hands. Black ropes could be seen dangling around the side of it.
What the hell is this place?
Footsteps started down the stairs. Mr. Walsh came into view. He was wearing shorts and a wife-beater shirt, white and stained.
They couldn’t hold her for long. Bruce would miss her at dinner and wonder what happened. He knew she wouldn’t stand him up. They’d had a deal. But would he come to the Walsh house and expect to find her tied up in the basement?
“I see you’re finally awake.”
He stepped up close and sniffed her. It was repulsive and at the same time reminded her of a dog doing the same thing.
“Good, I smell fear.”
He lifted the edge of his shirt and wiped his nose, snorting as he did it.
In all her experiences with the dead and working with the police, she had never been in such a bad place.
“What are you going to do? Whatever it is, there will be no going back. You won’t be able to undo it.” Kramer hated that her voice sounded so weak.
He looked up at her and stared for a moment before responding. “I never want to undo nothing.”
“What about Kelly? Wouldn’t you want to change that?” She had nothing to go on. She had to try to keep him talking.
“Never. Kelly was good. One of the best. I left her locked in that stockade over there for almost a week once and she still begged for me to do it to her. The more they beg, the faster I release them. You’ll learn this rule because you’re a bitch too. You’ll learn.”
Kramer’s insides twisted. She almost lost her bowels as her urine, warm and sudden, rushed down her leg.
Mr. Walsh looked over at her feet. “Good,” he smiled. “That’s a start.”
He stepped over and bent down, placing his hand, palm open in the small puddle that formed at her feet. She leaned into the wall as hard as she could to get away from him, but it was no use.
He lifted his hand and sniffed again. Then he opened his mouth and licked her urine off his fingers.
He looked up at her and smiled his evil smile again. “You taste good.”
For a large man, he stood up with ease and speed. One second he was on his knees and the next he was standing, his chin coming to her forehead.
“You’ll do fine. One or two months of being my pet and then I’ll bury you in the wall like all the others.”
Kramer couldn’t help herself: she spat at his face, the phlegm landing beside his mouth in a glob.
He stepped back, licked around his lips, caught a piece of her saliva, and dragged it into his mouth.
“Damn, do you taste good.”
Then with the quickness and deft speed of an athlete, he lunged forward, grabbed her jeans on both sides, and yanked with his vise-grip hands. They snapped and dropped, leaving her exposed to him, her panties the only thing separating her privacy from his insanity. Kramer screamed as long and as loud as she could.
“Oh, you are going to be fun. Maybe later, my wife could join us. I usually leave her out in the beginning. I love all the bodily fluids except blood.” He turned and tossed her jeans away and then looked back at her. “My wife only likes blood. When she joins us, you end up minus a finger or a toe. After a few weeks, you’ll never walk again and then, eventually she takes too many pieces and I’m left with a dead trunk, and that’s no fun. Well, maybe for a few days, but that doesn’t concern you, because you’re already gone by then.”
He laughed. Then he guffawed and slapped his knee. The laugh grated on her already raw nerves. Kramer cried. Was this it? Could it be that easy?
A loud bang from upstairs made her jump, pain rushing through her wrist.
Mr. Walsh looked up at the ceiling.
“Wait here,” he said.
Where am I going to go, asshole?
As Mr. Walsh reached the bottom of the stairs, Kramer heard a gunshot somewhere above. He heard it too, and stopped. In the dim light, she thought she could actually see doubt on his face.
He ran from the bottom of the stairs to a table that was littered with gadgets, lifted one and walked over to stand beside her.
The door opened above. Light shone down the stairs. It looked like someone was holding a flashlight.
“Kramer? You down there?”
“Help!” she yelled, but only half the word escaped her lips before Mr. Walsh clamped a hand over her mouth. Breathing became a chore she couldn’t accomplish.
The tool in his hand was a metal OBGYN-type speculum with the ends shaved down to points like knife-tips. Mr. Walsh turned the sharpened ends toward Kramer’s chest and pushed it forward with all his strength.
Between his grip and the ropes on her wrists, she had little wiggle room, but it was enough to arch her back and spin her chest away. One of the pointed ends of the speculum entered between two rib bones and punctured her right lung, which caused immediate stress in her breathing ability.
A gun went off somewhere in the basement.
Mr. Walsh’s hand came away from her mouth and nose. Breathing was even more difficult than before. It seemed like the one bulb in the basement went out for Kramer.
Kramer regained consciousness as she was being loaded onto a stretcher. An officer was standing over her.
“What happened?” she managed to ask.
“We got ‘em, thanks to you. You’re going to make. You’ll be okay.”
“Got who?” she asked, feeling slightly out of it. “You mean, Mr. Walsh?”
Bruce nodded. “You didn’t show for dinner. The great Kramer would never stand me up. I figured you’d come to the Walsh house, so I thought I’d do a drive-by tonight. I found your car parked a block down. The engine was cold when I touched the hood. It set off my internal radar. When I came to the door, Mrs. Walsh was acting weird. Then I heard someone screaming from the basement. I asked to check it out but Mrs. Walsh said no. I called for backup and explained that I had probable cause and entered the house anyway. I cuffed Mrs. Walsh and then got startled and fired my weapon by mistake. I found you in the basement.”
A paramedic stepped forward and tried to push Bruce away. “Sir, we have to get her to the hospital.”
Kramer lifted her good hand and touched Bruce’s arm. He turned back.
She tried to speak, but nothing came out.
“What? What are you trying to tell me?” Bruce asked.
“The…” she waited, breathed in, cringed with the pain, and said, “wall.”
“The wall? Is that what you’re saying?”
“What about the wall? Is there something in the wall?”
Bruce went to ask something again and then stopped, stared down the street, then looked back at her.
“Is Kelly in the wall?”
“Okay. Thank you.” He looked at the paramedic. “Take her away and bring her back in one piece. Nothing happens to this one, you hear?”
Kramer was lifted into the back of the waiting ambulance, where Kelly sat beside her all the way to the hospital, smiling and mouthing the words, ‘Thank you’.
About Jonas Saul
Jonas Saul is the author of the Sarah Roberts and The Kill series. Visit his website, www.jonassaul.com for upcoming release dates. Jonas lives in Europe with his wife, author Kate Cornwell.
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