Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Short Story

by Maureen Mullis

At first I thought the argument was a dream. The foul language and the intensity of the anger entered into my sleeping mind and turned into something distorted and strange. But as I broke out of the dream and finally woke up the voices were still there.

I reached for my husband but found his side of the bed empty. Of course, I reminded myself, the job that brought us to this town and our new home had him working the graveyard shift. What an appropriate name, I grimaced.

“You can go to hell!” the first voice shouted, followed by mumbling and some other irate sounds.

“No, that’s you. You’re the one that holds the grudges, you son of a ….” The voice trailed off but the anger felt like an actual presence in the night.

I crept out of bed to make my way to the window. My entire house was dark and felt sure that if I peered out onto the street below I would not be witnessed by the disputers below my window. Tiptoeing my way across the room I tried to make as little noise as possible. Perhaps it was the dream or my own overly active imagination, but it felt imperative to me that they not know I was eavesdropping on them.

“I don’t believe it!” The first voice again, then some scuffling noises. “No, don’t!” he said louder than it had been even in my dream. “No!”

This last was followed by a scream more distressing than any I could ever remember hearing. I froze. My entire body felt icy. Had the one man killed the other?

I couldn’t move. Tears tracked down my cheeks. I felt so afraid that I didn’t know what to do. I should call the police and let them know, but I was afraid to. I wanted to look out the window and see what was happening so I could give an account of what I had heard and seen to the authorities. Swallowing hard I willed my feet to move and made my way once again to the window and looked out.

The street was empty. And quiet. There was nothing out there, not even a cat prowling around. It was darker than probably normal. The street light nearby was out and I had yet to report it. The moon was bright enough, but in this older neighborhood the tall trees cast long shadows that tricked my eyes into thinking there might be something there when I knew there wasn’t.

The heat of the day still lingered, which was why I had my window open. Searching back and forth I scanned the street, but not even a breeze made its way down the road.

What on earth was going on? I was in no doubt about what I had heard. Obviously I’d first become aware of the fight as I dreamt, but when I woke up it was real. I had heard the loud voices; I had heard the screaming. Equally obvious was the fact that there were no other signs that any of the neighbors had heard anything at all. All signs of life were absent.

I looked at my alarm clock and saw 2:27 displayed in bright red numbers. I wondered if it was possible to keep dreaming after you awakened. Probably. It seemed that’s what I was doing. I rubbed my hands over my face and went back to bed, turning my pillow over before I lay back down. Maybe someone was up, unable to sleep and watching an old detective show on television and I’d heard a bit of it.

Satisfied I rolled over and returned to sleep.

* * *

“Come on help me, I can’t lift him on my own!”

My eyes flew open. What the … ?

“What the hell did you think you were doing carving him up like that? Look at all this blood! How are we supposed to explain this to Al?”

“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”

“Doesn’t know? What are you, nuts? You think he’s not going to notice when Buddy suddenly stops showing up?”

“Shut up, shut up! Can you hear that? Sirens!”

I listened, but didn’t hear any sirens.

“Drop him! Let’s get out of here!”

I sat up and looked at my clock again. 3:14. This time I got to the window without any hesitation and looked out.

At first I didn’t see anything and then something caught my eye. Some shadows underneath the branches of the tall spruce trees that lined the driveway in front of my house seemed to move stealthily in the early morning stillness. This time I backed away and picked up the phone dialing 9-1-1.

I decided not to be too specific in case I was continuing my dream, but told the dispatcher that I heard voices that sounded like they were up to no good on my street.

“Please stay on the line ma’am,” the woman’s pleasant voice instructed. “My supervisor will be on the line shortly.”

“Supervisor? Why do I need to speak with your supervisor? I would just like a patrol car to come by and check to be sure everything is alright.” My appeal went ignored, and a man’s voice came on.

“Thank you ma’am. Is this Miss Pettington at 2423 Ravenscourt Avenue?” he asked.

“Mrs. Pettington. My husband works nights, or he’d be making this call,” I informed him.

“Yes ma’am.” He cleared his throat. “Did you hear an argument outside around two-thirty this morning?”

That gave me pause. “Yes. How did you know that?”

“You must be the new owner Mrs. Pettington. We get a call like this every time someone new moves into that house. A small time hood named Buddy Carmichael was killed in front of that house in 1944. It was his house back then, and his killers were never found.”

“What!” I cried my hand flying to my throat.

“I guess Carmichael wants his killers caught and keeps hoping that someone will hear it and bring them to justice.”

“Are you trying to tell me I heard … what? Ghosts?” I sat down on the edge of my bed, stunned.

“Ghosts, voices from the past, whatever. I will send a patrol car to cruise by and check things out but like I said,” he paused a moment and cleared his throat, “we’ve been getting these calls for years. Nothing’s ever there.”

I slowly put the phone back in its stand and returned to the window to look out on the scene of the crime.

A man stood at the foot of my driveway wearing a suit and a hat. He saluted me and turned and retreated down the street.

Buddy Carmichael? I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I purchased a small stereo and sleep with music ever since.

And I sleep straight through the night.

1 comment:

  1. Oh how spooky!! I don't know if I would be able to sleep through the night after that, even with a radio!