Estimated reading time — 36 minutes
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Sarah Barkley. I’m a cop in a small, rural, Pennsylvania town currently stuck working the night shift. I work with a lot of older guys, so they tend to treat me like a rookie even though I’ve been on for a couple of years now. I work your normal patrol shift, driving around pulling traffic, responding to your usual domestic disputes and whatever other wonderful calls Dispatch sends my way. There have been a lot of unexplainable calls that I’ve responded to in this town. There are certain things that they just can’t prepare you for in the police academy, and this was one of those situations.
I walked out of our local 24-hour gas station with a hot cup of coffee and rushed to my cruiser, doing my best to avoid the freezing rain. The weather has been absolutely miserable here lately. You would think January meant snow, but no, instead we get freezing rain and heavy winds. I shook off the rain and held my coffee with both of my hands to warm up. It was the first time I got to sit down after I spent the first two hours of my shift directing traffic due to one of the lights at the main intersection going out. Right as I felt that I was finally warming up, Dispatch ruined my moment.
“Dispatch to 1034.”
Fuck. It’s like Dispatch has some kind of goddamn radar and can sense the worst time to send me a call. “1034, go ahead,” I moaned into the microphone.
“Please respond to [extracted] to speak with a male who called 911 saying that he witnessed a murder. The call taker believes that the male might be mentally ill.”
“1034, show me en route.”
I felt my phone almost immediately buzz. It was Tracy, the dispatcher.
Hey Sarah, I’m sorry to send you to this call. I know you just got done with the traffic detail, but you’re the only CIT officer on right now.
As much as I complain about Dispatch, I have a good relationship with each of the individual dispatchers. Plus, Tracy was right. I was the only CIT officer working last night. CIT stands for Crisis Intervention Team and I attended several weeks of training learning how to interact with individuals who have a mental illness or intellectual disability.
As I previously mentioned, this is a rural town so most people live on farms around here. I could barely see the street sign through the rain, but I found it and turned down the muddy path. After about a mile, I saw the address Dispatch told me.
I parked a little past the house and shut off my lights and engine. I watched the residence for a moment and although I couldn’t see very clearly, I saw a flash of light from the upstairs window. I expected to simultaneously hear a gunshot because it looked almost exactly like muzzle flash, but no sound followed the light. What the hell was that? It must have been just a flashlight.
I got out of the cruiser and walked up to the house. I knocked on the front door and announced myself. “Police! Please come to the front door.”
The wind was so loud I nearly had my ear against the door to listen to what was going on inside. Finally, a male opened the door.
He was lanky. His face was dusted with blonde scruff. His hair was disheveled and he was wearing a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt.
“Thank god you’re here.”
“I’m Officer Barkley. What’s going on here?”
His eyebrows raised and he combed his fingers through his hair as he thought. “Oh, uh, I’m sorry, can you please come inside so we can talk?”
I cautiously entered his home and watched as he paced across his family room floor. The old farmhouse had its original hardwood flooring that creaked with every step he took.
I started the conversation. “You told the call taker that you witnessed a murder. Do you want to go into more detail about that?”
He stopped pacing and looked right at me. His eyes were cold and grey and I felt chills down my spine as he stared. “Yeah. I don’t expect you to believe me, but please just hear me out. I swear I’m not crazy.”
Telling someone you’re not crazy doesn’t really help make them think that you aren’t crazy. I nodded my head and let him continue.
“Alright. Where to start…” He looked around the room as if he was literally looking for a place to start. “My name is Kevin. My sister is Melissa. Well, was, shit. I don’t even fucking know.” Kevin grabbed his hair and pulled it as he sat down. He was showing signs of mania. “Alright, so anyway, as I was saying. My sister was Melissa Watson. She died about 5 years ago and I know who killed her.”
I started taking notes because I knew I would need to disprove his claims with facts to explain in my report why I believed he was mentally ill. I asked, “Where was she killed?” If he says it was in our town, it would be easy for me to check.
“Here. In this house. She used to live here with her husband and she was found dead and they ruled it as a suicide saying she shot herself.” Kevin started frantically shaking his head back and forth and became visibly upset. His voice shook as he continued, “But it wasn’t a suicide. Her husband killed her.”
Holy shit. I actually remembered there being a case exactly what he described. It was before I started as a cop, but I definitely heard about it, being that it’s a pretty small town. Even the name now started to ring a bell. I cautiously thought about what to say next. “How do you know her husband killed her?”
“I saw it.”
“If you saw it all those years ago, why are you just now reporting it?”
Kevin’s eyes welled up with tears. “I didn’t see it back then. I just saw it this week. And now, I can’t stop seeing it.”
“What do you mean you just saw it this week?”
He slowly raised his pointer finger and pointed up. “In the bedroom upstairs. Every time I walk by the room, I see her standing in there, pleading for her life. Then, I see her husband pull the trigger. It’s like a memory that plays in front of my eyes. I can’t audibly hear her talking, but I can hear it in my mind. Like I just know. If you don’t find her husband, I’ll go hunt him down my goddamn self and find justice.”
“Kevin, do you understand that what you see isn’t really happening? You even told me yourself that your sister died years ago, so how can you see it happen again?”
Kevin stood up and grew louder, “I’M NOT FUCKING CRAZY!” He started pacing again. “It started with the flash of light. Every time I looked in the room, I would just see the muzzle flash. Over time, the, uh, visions—I don’t know what else to call it—grew more vivid. Then, I finally saw the face behind the gun. I know he killed her.”
The muzzle flash. My mind shot back to when I first arrived on scene and saw the flash of light in the window upstairs.
What the hell was I supposed to do with this information? How could I possibly use anything Kevin was saying as evidence? I knew this was going to become a mess of a case, but I also heard Kevin threaten to kill Melissa’s husband if I didn’t do anything about it. The only way to keep everyone safe was to commit Kevin due to the fact that he was a danger to other people. But that doesn’t mean that I actually thought he was crazy. I didn’t know what the hell I believed.
I placed Kevin in handcuffs and advised Dispatch. “1034 to Dispatch.”
“Show me en route to Psych with an involuntary 302.”
As we walked outside to my cruiser in the pouring rain, Kevin yelled over the roaring winds, “Look!”
I turned around and looked up at the second-floor window.
Then, I saw a faint image of a woman fall to the floor. I blinked and she was gone.
“You saw it. Didn’t you?”
I sat in my cruiser, staring at my steering wheel. What the hell did I just see? It was at this very moment that I realized Kevin wasn’t mentally ill. Kevin repeated from my backseat, “You saw it.”
“Yeah. I don’t know what the fuck I just saw, but I saw it. Fuck, Kevin. What the hell am I supposed to do with all of this? I can’t go and tell my department that we both saw a ghost and that’s why we need to reopen the case. I promise you that I will try to get your sister’s case reopened, but you have to understand that I can’t just go rogue cop and hunt down her husband without probable cause first. And trust me, listing a goddamn ghost as my primary witness does NOT count as probable cause.”
While I sat there deep in thought planning my next move, Kevin leaned forward until the tip of his nose was touching the cage dividing us. His tone was soft, yet filled with rage as he said, “That’s why I’m going to find justice for her and kill that son of a bitch myself.”
“FUCK, KEVIN! See, when you say that shit you put me in this position. I can either arrest you for making terroristic threats or I can take you to the mental health hospital which keeps your arrest record clean and gives you time to cool down. I can’t have someone’s blood on my hands. If you kill him, that isn’t justice—that’s revenge.”
Note: Although it doesn’t sound right, in Pennsylvania’s Criminal Code Terroristic Threats do not relate to the traditional idea of “terrorism.” It is defined as someone who communicates their intent to commit any crime of violence with intent to terrorize another. Case law has determined that a threat to hurt or kill someone constitutes terrorizing.
Kevin threw his back against his seat in protest.
“Listen. I’m going to look into this, but I can’t just let you go free after you made those threats.”
I drove Kevin to the mental health hospital with my stomach in knots the entire drive over. Nothing about this felt right, but it was the only way to keep everyone safe while I investigate this further. Surprisingly, Kevin was pretty cooperative and didn’t make a scene when we got to the hospital. Once he was checked in, I left and immediately called the one person I knew I could trust.
“Hey, Tim. Can you meet me at the gas station for coffee? I need your help with something.”
“Sure thing. See you in 15.”
We grabbed our coffees and I listened to Tim complain about the weather for a good three minutes before I told him all about Kevin.
Tim shook his head. “Jesus fucking Christ, Sarah. You’re like a goddamn shit magnet, you know that right?”
I glared at Tim. “Thanks. But what the hell am I going to do? How can I convince Chief Fox to reopen the case? I sure as hell can’t tell them the truth.”
Tim pulled out a pack of his cigarettes. He sat in his cruiser, puffing away at his cigarette while I sat in my cruiser directly next to his. I could tell he was deep in thought, so I waited.
“Alright. I think I got it.” Tim flicked his cigarette butt to the pavement.
“What? What do you got?” I eagerly sat upright.
“We need to find the smallest piece of evidence that could suggest it wasn’t a suicide. That’s it, just a tiny shred of evidence and I bet we could at least get permission to look into the case.”
I sat back into my seat with disappointment. “You think I don’t already know that? We don’t have any other evidence besides a haunted house! What the hell Tim.”
Tim pursed his lips as he thought a moment longer. “Holy shit. I got it.”
“Alright. So, about four years ago we had that pipe leak in our evidence room. It contaminated almost all of the DNA samples we had in that room. If you say that this brother is claiming he believes his sister was murdered and we have no evidence anymore to support otherwise, it’s going to make the department look bad if he decides to make a big fuss about it. You know how much Chief Fox likes keeping this quiet around here. Just tell him to let you look into it to keep this crazy brother quiet.”
“You’re a fucking genius, Tim. I could kiss you!”
Tim held up both of his hands and shielded his face. “Woah now, this pretty face ain’t free.”
I laughed and was so excited we found a way to get this case opened back up. As soon as the shift ended, I stayed an extra hour to wait until Chief Fox came into the station and paid him a visit.
“Hey Chief, you have a minute?”
“What do you want, Barkley?” Ah yes, the warm greeting I am so used to.
“Last night I got a CIT call for Kevin Watson. He was screaming about his sister’s suicide actually being a murder and wanted to see hard evidence that proved otherwise. He was threatening to take his claims to the news, but ultimately the call resulted with me taking him to the hospital. I was afraid that as soon as he was released he would call us again, so I tried to educate myself on his sister’s suicide and I looked for evidence from it but there wasn’t anything left in the evidence room. Someone told me we had a pipe burst a few years back and lost a lot of stuff in a mini-flood due to cross-contamination.”
“What the fuck is your point?”
“Right. Well, I was hoping I could temporarily reopen Melissa Watson’s death investigation to cover our tracks in case her brother tries to claim that we conducted an insufficient investigation.”
Chief Fox sighed as he swung his head up and stared at the ceiling. He covered his face with both of his hands and finally responded, “I don’t have time to deal with this bullshit. Do whatever you want, but make sure he doesn’t cause a fuss. You fucking hear me, Barkley? I don’t want to deal with the town crazy that you couldn’t handle.”
I headed home and curled into bed with Hallie, listening to her purr a lullaby as I fell asleep.
I returned to work and grabbed Tim after roll call. We paid Kevin a visit at the hospital. I told Kevin what I told Chief Fox and apologized for lying about what he said. When I told him that I was ultimately able to reopen the case though, he didn’t seem to care what excuse I used to do it. I asked his consent to allow Tim and me to search his house and he was more than happy to agree.
I was walking out the door when Kevin added, “I get it. You know, why you brought me here. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. You really are one of the good ones.”
Kevin’s compliment really got to me. I felt so guilty for sending him there to save a killer’s life, but if Kevin did go kill Melissa’s husband, he would ruin his own life. I knew I had to solve this murder and give Kevin his life back.
Tim and I got to the house and for the first time in days, the rain had let up. I got the spare key from where Kevin told me it was, and Tim and I tactically made entry. We searched the entire first floor, and then made our way to the basement. The basement was just a small cellar with several boxes stacked for storage. Then, we made our way to the top floor.
As we approached the front bedroom, Tim whispered, “I swear to god if I see a ghost I might shit myself.”
“Jesus Christ, Tim. Just follow my lead.”
I button-hooked into the bedroom and lost my breath as I saw it.
Her lifeless body fell to the floor and the man lowered his gun and began to turn around. It took every muscle in my body to stop myself from firing my gun at the figure. As I began to see a bearded face, it vanished.
I released the breath that I had held throughout the entire thing.
“Holy shit, was that the flash of light you were talking about?” Tim asked.
“Is that all you saw? Just a flash of light?”
“Uh, yeah. I don’t know what the hell it was though. You were right, it looked like a muzzle flash. Weird as hell. What the hell is wrong with you? What did you see?”
“I saw it. I… I saw her.”
Tim took a step back. “Woah, Sarah. Are you serious? What the hell did you see?”
“Tim. She was fucking murdered.”
We headed over to the elementary school and parked in the far back lot since we knew there wouldn’t be anyone around in the middle of the night.
“Hold on a second. If everyone can see some sort of fuckin’ ghost when they go to that room, you think we should bring more men on scene and show them? We don’t have to tell them beforehand, just let them experience it themselves.” Tim’s suggestion certainly wasn’t that far stretched.
I thought for a moment. “I’m not sure if that’s how this works. We need to test it with someone else. Even you didn’t see what I saw, you just saw a tiny piece of it.”
“True,” Tim admitted.
“Maybe my dad can help us?”
Tim was good friends with my dad and they worked on the force together before my dad retired a few years ago.
“I don’t think you understand what retirement means.” Tim smirked. “I know damn well he will be excited to get back into a case though. That guy doesn’t know how to relax.”
I called my dad and he answered in a half-asleep tone. “Hello? Sarah, everything alright?”
“Yeah Dad, everything is fine. I’m sorry to wake you up but do you think you could help Tim and me out with a case we’re working on right now?”
My dad’s tone immediately perked up. “Oh! Yeah, absolutely. Sounds urgent. Where can I meet you?”
“I’ll pick you up in 20 minutes if that works.”
“See you then.”
I hung up the phone and turned to Tim. “Looks like we’re about to put our theory to the test.”
Tim finished another cigarette before we made our way to my dad’s house. We picked him up and I explained everything to him. I recently discovered just how much of an open mind my dad has when it comes to this stuff after I recently discovered that he was madly in love with a woman who had psychic abilities.
I watched as my dad’s eyebrows raised and lowered, and then as he twisted his mouth while he was digesting what I was describing. Finally, we pulled down the muddy lane and my dad simply said, “Alrighty then. Let’s do this.”
I didn’t even put my car in park before I saw the flash of light through the window.
“Dad, did you see that?”
I sighed in disappointment. “Never mind. Come on.”
Tim, my dad, and I made entry into the house yet again. For safety, Tim and I did a quick search of the first floor and basement before we headed to the top floor. We walked up the stairs and I lead while Tim followed, and then my dad.
My dad nudged Tim and commented, “You always let her go first?”
“What? You want to run head-on into some ghosts?” Tim laughed as he replied.
“Shh!” I motioned for them to get closer to me. I whispered, “Alright. It’s going to be this room on the right. I want both of you to pay close attention and remember this isn’t real.”
I walked towards the door and felt a wave of cold air sweep through me. My stomach flipped upside down at the same time I saw it.
I watched as the same woman pleaded, this time I could hear her. Just like Kevin described, I couldn’t hear her out loud, but I could hear her in my mind like replaying a memory. Her body heavily dropped to the floor and I narrowed my vision on the man holding the gun. I was going to see his face this time. He slowly turned around and I started to see his beard. Then, I saw his face. His eyes were black and he stared right through me and took my breath away. I tried to yell but nothing came out. I froze.
As soon as I blinked, the bearded man was gone. The woman was gone. I stared at an empty room with nothing more than a bed and a dresser.
I spun around. “FUCK.” I caught my breath again. “Alright. What did you guys see?”
My dad ran up to me and set his hand on my shoulder. “Sarah, are you okay?”
I was still catching my breath. “Yeah, I’m fine. Dad, what did you see?”
“I, uh, I saw nothing.”
What?! How is that possible?
Tim chimed in and added, “I saw the flash of light again, but honestly, that’s all I saw.”
I looked back at my dad and asked, “Did you see the flash of light?”
My dad looked embarrassed as he shook his head. “No, I didn’t. I’m really sorry. I don’t know what you two are talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you. I just don’t see it myself.”
“DAMN IT!” I screamed. I stormed down the stairs and towards my cruiser. Tim and my dad ran after me.
Tim grabbed my elbow once we were outside. “Whoa, Sarah, why are you so pissed?”
“I’m sorry. I’m not mad at either of you. I’m pissed because how can I get anyone to believe me if I’m the only one who can see it?”
My dad gave me a hug and whispered, “You know I believe you. We’ll figure this out.” His hugs were like a blanket of comfort and somehow, I really believed him.
We all headed home and I only spent a couple of hours sleeping and woke up early enough to get some research done before work. I started Googling reliving and seeing the same events and eventually found myself on a website that discussed time loops.
The exact definition is: A time loop or temporal loop is a plot device in which periods of time are repeated and re-experienced by the characters, and there is often some hope of breaking out of the cycle of repetition.
I did some more searching and found that time loops aren’t always experienced by everyone. One theory that jumped off the page was that time loops are only experienced by those who can change or fix them.
Does this mean Kevin and I are the only ones that can fix this? Possibly with a small amount of help from Tim to explain why he only sees part of it?
My mind wandered a hundred different directions before I called Tim and told him what I found.
“Holy fucking shit. That sounds exactly like what’s going on.” Tim’s voice was still dry. I could tell he just woke up.
“Yeah, I know. Listen, I’m going to need your help again tonight. Just meet me after roll call and I’ll tell you my idea.”
After roll call ended, Tim met me outside at my cruiser. “So, what’s the plan, boss?”
“I need to see the full police report and autopsy report from the night Melissa died. Once everyone is out of the station, I want to go print off a copy. I didn’t want to do it with everyone around because you know how nosy this place can be.”
Tim laughed. “That’s for sure. This place is worse than high school.”
We went inside and I printed out everything that I needed and made an extra copy for Tim. We sat down in complete silence while we both read through the documents.
After approximately 10 minutes, I broke the silence. “Do you see this fucking autopsy report?”
“No, I’m not there yet.”
I had to wait until Tim’s slow ass caught up to me. “What the hell?” He finally responded.
“You see the comments about the bruises?”
“Yeah. Again. What the hell? How wasn’t that looked into?”
The autopsy report referenced several bruises around Melissa’s arms, torso, and legs. Some that were new, and some that were older. There was even a section that said she had a recently broken rib. I turned back through the police report and interviews. Nobody was ever asked about what caused these injuries.
Then, I checked the date stamp on the documents. The autopsy report was dated after all of the interviews were conducted. The officers noted that a gunshot residue test was conducted and although they did not find any on her hand, they found some on her sleeve and concluded that maybe she had her sleeves pulled over her hands when she pulled the trigger.
I remembered the vision. Melissa stood there with her arms in the air, directly in front of the barrel of the gun. It was entirely possible that she was close enough to get some of the gunshot residue on her clothing after her husband fired the gun.
Then, I saw that the officers interviewed the neighbors who all described Melissa and Andrew’s marriage as happy with no problems. I found it odd that they didn’t interview Kevin throughout this entire process.
I flipped through a few more pages of the officer’s notes from evidence and discussed with Tim a few of my concerns.
“Why do you think no one looked into this further given all of her bruises, showing signs of abuse?” I asked.
Tim shrugged. “I didn’t work this case, but if I had to guess, Peterson completed his interviews and investigation before he ever got back the autopsy report. Even though the medical examiner found bruises and a broken rib, since they weren’t fresh they didn’t rule this as a homicide. Peterson probably took the facts on their face and closed it.”
“Wait, what about the gun?”
Tim and I both flipped through a few more pages until Tim found the section about processing the gun as evidence. “It says the fingerprints were inconclusive on the gun.”
“Goddamnit! We can’t catch a break.”
“I know. Let’s keep thinking.”
I set the papers down. “Maybe we’re going at this the wrong way. The time loop is there to help us solve this and make it right. What do we know from it?”
Tim replied, “Flash of light… woman pleading…and then a man with a beard. Did I miss something?”
I wet my lips out of habit as I thought for another moment. “Yeah. The flash of light seems to be something important. Also, Kevin can see the time loop too.”
“Maybe we should go talk to him and see if he has something that can help us.”
Tim and I headed to our cruisers and drove down to the hospital. It was still the middle of the night, but I told the nurse I had something urgent I had to discuss with Kevin regarding his sister’s death. She woke up Kevin and he came out to the main area to meet with us.
“What’s going on?” Kevin was still in his pajamas and half awake.
“Hey, how’s it going in here?”
“I think I’m supposed to get out tomorrow as long as everything goes smoothly. What’s going on with the case? You find anything?”
Tim interrupted and asked, “We need your help. Describe to us EXACTLY what you remember seeing in that room each time.”
Kevin took a deep breath, held it in, and slowly released. “Alright. Let’s see. It starts when I see my sister plea for her life. She says, ‘Andrew, please no. Don’t do this. I love you.’ Then I see Andrew pump the shotgun and I hear a shell fall to the floor. Then, he says ‘You just fucked everything up.’ That’s when he fires the shotgun and I watch as she falls to the floor. The vision ends when he turns around and I see his face.”
Tim looked confused. “Wait, why would he pump the shotgun and a shell fell to the floor before he shoots it?”
Kevin looked surprised and shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe he either fired the gun before the vision began or maybe he forgot the gun was loaded and pumped it out of habit. I don’t know.”
“Hold on!” I dug into my side pocket and pulled out the rolled-up documents that I printed earlier. I frantically flipped through the pages. “Here!” I slap my finger against the paper. “They only recovered one empty shotgun shell on the scene.”
Tim squinted his eyes as he digested what I was trying to say. “So then where the hell is the other shell?”
“We’re about to go find out.”
Tim and I got permission to come in early and search Kevin’s house in the daylight. We arrived at his house and I was surprised to see the lights on inside. Tim and I went up to the house and knocked.
Kevin answered the door. “Hello, glad to see you guys!”
Kevin let us both inside and I asked, “Wow, you got out of there pretty fast, huh?”
“Yeah. You know, I really hated it there, but I have to admit that I think it did some good to get out of this house for a few days. I haven’t gone upstairs since I got home a couple of hours ago.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” I assured him.
“So, what’s the plan?”
Tim looked over at me and responded, “Well Sarah over here thinks we should go search for the mysteriously missing shotgun shell you saw Andrew rack and eject.”
Kevin’s eyes glistened. “I was hoping you would say that. Let’s do this.”
“Whoa there,” I interjected. “Listen, Kevin, we would love your help but in order to keep the evidence as clean as possible, it would be best if you stayed down here while we search the room.”
“Damnit. Yeah, I get that. Alright.”
I added, “And I don’t want to see you get your hopes up. For all we know, Andrew picked up the second shell after the whole thing.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know.” The hope in Kevin’s eyes began to slowly fade.
“By the way, I wanted to ask how much has changed upstairs since she passed. Is the furniture original or did you move your own stuff here?”
“The house was entirely under Melissa’s name and she left it to me in her will because she was only married a year and never updated it to change it to Andrew. I’m not sure if she just forgot and never got around to it or if she intentionally wanted it to go to me. Anyway, I was in a bad spot and living in a trailer, so I barely had any furniture. Everything here is hers except for my clothes and television basically. Andrew didn’t take much with him when he left town. He spit on this place and said he never wanted to come back.”
“Thanks, that helps.”
Tim and I made our way upstairs and we cautiously stopped before we reached the front bedroom.
“Fuck, I hate this part,” I muttered.
Tim shrugged. “I just see a flash of light. You want me to go first?”
“Wow! Look at what a gentleman you are!” I teased.
“Oh shush.” Tim walked to the doorway and looked inside. He turned his head to the side and shielded his eyes—he was seeing the flash of light. He turned back towards me. “Still just a flash of light to me. Nothing else.”
I was next. I walked up to the doorway and peered into the room.
I watched and listened as the same woman pleaded. “Andrew, please no. Don’t do this. I love you.” Andrew pumped the shotgun and I watched intently as the shotgun shell fell to the far corner and rolled under the bed. Andrew coldly growled, “You just fucked everything up.”
Melissa’s lifeless body fell to the floor. Andrew turned around and stared right through me. Then, he started walking right at me.
I jumped back, blinked, and screamed. Tim caught me. “Whoa, Sarah, you’re safe. You’re okay.”
“Everything okay?” Kevin yelled upstairs.
I took a few breaths. “Yeah, everything’s alright,” I responded.
“Tim, I saw more this time. I saw what Kevin described and I saw the shotgun shell roll under the bed. I don’t think Andrew ever picked it up.”
“Oh shit. Anything else you noticed?”
“There were two flashes. I know I saw them before but I think Andrew fired the gun before the vision starts, and that’s the first flash. But he doesn’t shoot her. That could also explain why he pumps the shotgun before shooting her.”
Tim’s eyebrows lowered while he thought. “Well, if he fired the gun before he shot her, where did he fire it?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
Tim and I started searching the room and we found no evidence of anything that was shot and we had no luck finding the extra shell. We opened all of the drawers of the dresser, checked the ceiling, and left no piece of furniture unturned.
I went over to the mattress and decided to tear all of the sheets off the bed. It wasn’t even something I thought through, it was more instinctual. Tim quickly jumped in and started helping me. Then, in the top right corner, I saw a small hole.
I took out my knife from my cargo pocket and sliced into the mattress. I got goosebumps at the feeling of accidentally making contact between my knife and the metal springs. I ripped apart the mattress until I found a tiny piece of shrapnel caught between the springs. It was a bullet.
“Jesus fucking Christ Tim, you see this?”
Tim leaned over to inspect the mangled bullet. “Yeah… but that ain’t no shotgun shell.”
“No, it’s a handgun bullet. Maybe 9mm?”
“Yeah, something close to that. Hard to tell though.”
My brain kept turning. “There must have been a second gun. That was the first flash of light.”
Tim’s face lit up like the light bulb in his head. “That would explain it. But who shot the handgun?”
“What if Melissa tried to shoot first?”
“But then what happened to the gun? Why didn’t she keep shooting?”
“I’m not sure. But I’ll tell you what, it’s our job to find out. Let’s keep looking for that shotgun shell and then let’s call CSI over here to process this bullet and take some pictures.”
We moved the bed out of the way and I saw an old air duct cover that was missing a screw and only partially covered the air duct. I wonder…
I took out my flashlight and shined it down the air duct. It shot straight down.
“Tim, I need you to walk downstairs and tell me where you hear a pinging sound in a minute.”
“Uh, alright.” Tim complied and headed downstairs.
I took a penny out of my pocket and dropped it down the air duct.
Tim hollered up, “Whatever you dropped sounded like it landed in the ceiling right above here!”
I ran downstairs and saw Tim standing in the family room pointing up at the ceiling fan.
“Ah damn. How are we going to search up there without tearing this place apart.”
“You’re thinking about this all wrong, girl.” Tim walked over to the hallway and pointed to a large air duct on the top of the wall. “This should run straight across. If we open this intake up, we should have a straight shot through the rest of the duct work on this floor.”
Kevin stared at us anxious to see what we were up to. We borrowed a step ladder and revealed the intake. I shined my light down and was overwhelmed with the amount of dust and dirt. But then, about six feet away, I saw it. A shotgun shell.
“Holy fucking shit it’s here. The shell.”
We called CSI and had them take away the shell and the bullet from the mattress. I explained everything to Kevin and to my surprise, he had his own theory.
“My sister had a small .380 that our dad gave her years ago. She called it her ‘lady gun.’ It’s only a little smaller than a 9mm, but I never found her gun again. I just assumed Andrew took it when he left, but I wonder if she tried to shoot him in self-defense. I’m not sure what happened to it then though.”
I took in Kevin’s information and realized what was next. “I guess our next step is to find that handgun.”
After an entire day spent convincing Chief Fox that we needed to find Andrew and serve a search warrant on his residence to look for the gun, we finally got him to agree.
It didn’t take long for me to find Andrew’s new hideout. About a year ago he was arrested for DUI down in Virginia Beach. After many hours of playing phone tag with the Virginia Beach Police Department, we were able to work together and obtained the search warrant we needed. I briefed them on the case (except for you know, the seeing ghosts part) and I requested that one of their primary officers live feed me throughout the search so I could see what was going on. We made all of the arrangements for the next day.
I barely slept that night I was so anxious. Poor Hallie barely got any sleep with all of my tossing and turning. She eventually jumped off my bed and finally got some sleep on my couch. I got dressed in my jeans and a t-shirt and grabbed my off-duty holster. Since all Tim and I were going to do was sit at the station today, there was no need for me to put on my full uniform. I walked into the report writing room and found Tim already stationed in front of one of the computers with two hot coffees setting on the counter.
“For me?” I asked
Tim smiled and handed me a cup.
“Awe, you shouldn’t have. You spoil me.”
“Nah. I just like it when you owe me stuff,” Tim teased.
We logged on right at 0900 hours and I did a little happy dance when we got the live feed working.
“Yes!” I yipped in excitement.
Even Tim couldn’t contain his grin. “I’m trying not to get my hopes up. We have no idea if they’re gonna find anything here.”
“I know, I know.”
“Virginia Beach Police Department! Open the door!”
Tim and I sat in our chairs, hearts racing to see what happened next. I felt like I had a front seat at a movie.
The officer’s radio mic turned on. “Suspect ran out the back! In foot pursuit!”
“Oh shit,” Tim muttered.
Our noses were nearly touching the computer monitor as we watched the bouncing image chase after Andrew. He was tackled and apprehended by one of the other officers. We heard the mic turn back on. “One in custody.”
Note: In case any of you are wondering why he was detained and in custody since there was no arrest warrant issued- there is case law in Virginia that states if there is enough reasonable suspicion surrounding headlong flight upon police arrival of criminal activity, the suspect can be detained. See Whitaker Vs. Commonwealth of VA.
Foot pursuits are rarely more than a minute long. It felt so short as I watched it, but as I thought back to my own previous foot pursuits, they all felt like I was running for over 10 minutes. I shook the loose thought from my head and focused back on the monitor.
They went into the small condo and secured the scene. They meticulously searched room by room and didn’t leave a single paper unturned. Nearly two hours went by before the excitement began.
“What the…” The officer lifted up some type of technology software. He held it directly in front of the camera strapped to his chest. “I hope you guys in PA are seeing this.”
As he held it up to the camera, I realized what it was. It was an external hard drive. More specifically, an external hard drive that was completely ripped to shreds. “There’s something on this thing that he didn’t want anyone to find. But why the hell would he keep it?” The officer thought out loud, knowing that we were unable to respond as this was a one-way live feed.
The officer bagged the hard drive as evidence and continued the search. Another hour went by before there was more excitement. Tim and I heard a mumbled commotion in the background.
“Can you hear what they’re saying?” Tim asked.
“No, I can’t.” I turned up the volume, but it didn’t help much. We moved to the edge of our chairs and held our ears against the computer speaker.
“Look what we got, boys!” It blared into the speakers and forced Tim and I to simultaneously jump back into our seats. The camera spun in a circle and then we saw it. The gun.
It matched Kevin’s description of Melissa’s .380 and a quick confirmation of the serial number proved it was the one we were looking for.
“YES!” I jumped out of my seat and wrapped my arms around Tim.
“Holy fucking shit! We found it!” Tim was in disbelief.
The officers bagged the gun as evidence and after finding a small amount of cocaine in Andrew’s condo, they arrested him for possession to help buy us time. Ballistics reports are never fast, but I was hoping Virginia Beach Police could call in their technology specialists to see if they could recover anything on the hard drive.
Patience is not my specialty. I sat on pins and needles for hours waiting on a call from the technology specialists. Tim and I had been at the station nearly 10 hours by this point. Finally, I got the call.
“Yeah, hey! What do you guys have down there?”
I could hear the voice on the other end take a long breath. “It isn’t pretty. It took us a while, but we were able to recover some images and videos off of the hard drive.”
“Well… what were they of?”
I heard another long, deep breath. “Children pornography. All of it.”
I had the call on speaker phone and I watched Tim’s face fill with anger. Nobody likes perps that are into kiddie porn, but Tim had a sore spot for it after a call from a few years back that my dad told me about.
The technology specialist continued, “I made copies and I can send them to you to review.”
“Please do, thank you. Was there anything else?”
“Oh, yes! There were fragments of an unknown metal. I know that this isn’t my job to speculate, but I think it could be fragments of a bullet like this guy shot this hard drive.”
Tim and I looked at each other. We didn’t say a word because we both knew what the other was thinking. Was this what Melissa shot?
I immediately called my police contact with the Virginia Beach Police Department and asked them if they were successful with obtaining an arrest warrant on Andrew for possession of child pornography in addition to the cocaine. They assured me everything went smoothly and that Andrew was locked in jail and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
I turned to Tim. “We got him on drugs and child porn, but we aren’t out of the clear on getting him for Melissa’s murder.”
“Yeah, but Sarah, I don’t know if we will ever get the evidence for that. You know he’s going away for years with the child pornography charge.”
“But that isn’t justice! That’s just settling. I promised Kevin we were going to get justice.”
Tim shook his head in defeat. “Alright. You’re not going to settle. How am I not surprised?”
I pulled up the files that technology sent over to see what exactly was on the hard drive. The photographs were hard to look at, but we had to look for any clues. Then, we moved on to the videos. There was one of a young girl with a pink dress in a room that looked familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on where I knew it from. We watched a few moments longer until Tim recognized the room.
“Wait, I know where that is.” Tim leaned in closer. “You see that? That’s the basement at Kevin’s house.”
He was right. What if Melissa found out what Andrew was doing in their basement and filming?
“We need to get the feds involved at this point. Look at all of this.”
Tim agreed and we both knew Chief Fox would not be happy with turning this into a federal investigation. I was tired and in desperate need for sleep. “Let’s just swing by Kevin’s to tell him what’s going on and then we can call it a night.”
Tim and I drove together to Kevin’s.
“So, what news do you have for me?” Kevin eagerly asked.
I told him about the gun and the hard drive recovered at Andrew’s. I also told him about what was on the hard drive. At the exact moment that I told Kevin about the little girl in the pink dress, I heard a little girl giggle. Shivers shot down my spine.
“Did you guys just hear that?”
“Hear what?” Tim asked. Neither Tim nor Kevin heard it.
I followed the voice into the basement and the giggling stopped. “Shh… he’s coming.” A hushed whisper spoke from directly behind me. The basement door slammed shut and I saw a bearded man walk down the stairs. It was another time loop.
“Why are you covered in blood?” The little girl asked.
“Shut the fuck up and go back to your corner!” Andrew hissed.
He walked over to the basement shower in a hurried mania and rinsed himself off.
In a blink of an eye, I was staring at an open basement door and surrounded by complete silence. I glanced over to the lone toilet and shower. In this part of Pennsylvania, they built basements with toilets and showers for coal miners and steelworkers to clean off before entering the main part of their homes.
“TIM!” I screamed. “We need to get CSI back down here and check this drain for DNA!”
CSI arrived on scene and took swabs from the basement drain. As the technician reached the cotton swab deep into the drain, she looked at me and asked, “So, why exactly did you call us back out here? We were just out here and you never mentioned swabbing this drain then, so why now?”
Oh you know, because I saw a ghost take a shower. Fuck no, I wasn’t going to say that. Instead, I settled on, “I thought I saw some stains in there when I shined my flashlight down inside.”
The technician rolled her eyes and lifted the cotton swab back out from the drain. “Well I’ll be damned,” she whispered. “We might just have some blood.” She took out her black light and the entire drain lit up like Christmas lights.
A grin formed across my face. Yes! The technician finished taking samples and I thanked her for making the trip back out. I went back upstairs and met with Tim and Kevin.
“What did they find?” Kevin asked.
“It looks like there were traces of blood in the drain, but we won’t know whose blood it is until the test results come in and those usually take a couple of weeks, if not months.”
“What are we going to do in the meantime? What’s the next step?”
I sat down and took a moment to gather my thoughts and began to walk through the case with Kevin not just for his sake, but also for my own. “Well, let’s see what we have. As far as hard evidence goes, we have Andrew on charges of child pornography. That part of our case is being shipped off to the FBI to try to track down who the little girls were in those videos and figure out where they are now. The hard drive looked like it was shot, and I would put my money on guessing that’s what Melissa shot that day that Andrew got so angry and murdered her. Sadly, I’m not sure how or if we will ever get to prove that. The shotgun shell that I found is the exact same kind as the one found on the scene of Melissa’s death. The gun we found at Andrew’s came back positive to being Melissa’s. It will take some time, but I will also guess the bullet fragments found in the mattress will match the kind used in that gun. We have enough probable cause to suggest that it wasn’t a suicide, but I’m still not convinced we have Andrew for it until these test results come back.”
“And how long did you say that will be again?” Kevin sounded nervous as he asked.
“Weeks, maybe months. I’m sorry. People always watch television and crime shows and think that these things can just be solved overnight, but they can’t. They take time.”
Kevin sat in silence for a long moment. “I understand.”
“You sure?” He didn’t look like he was alright with what I said.
Tim glanced over at me as if to say, “He’s pissed.”
“Alright, well we’re gonna get going now. Just try to get some rest and I’ll stop back with the results as soon as we have them. Kevin, we have him. I know we’re going to get him for Melissa’s murder. Just be patient.”
“Thanks for everything, Officers.” Kevin shook our hands and walked us to the front door.
We headed back to the station and started to prepare what we wanted to ask Andrew during our interview with him. Throughout this entire process, I had yet to question Andrew about any of this. After a few hours, Tim and I agreed that we had a good foundation of what we needed to ask Andrew.
We got to the jail and I requested that they brought Andrew out to the interview room. The deputy sheriff walked around the desk and typed a few things into their computer. “Um, ma’am, he isn’t here.”
Tim and I looked at each other, wide-eyed. “What do you mean he isn’t here? Where is he?”
The deputy sheriff clicked his mouse a few times. “He was released on bail.”
“WHAT?!” Tim yelled so loudly that the deputy jumped back. “This is fucking bullshit! Can’t this place keep ANYBODY in jail for god’s sake?!”
I was speechless. How is it that someone can be arrested for such a terrible crime, and immediately get released on bail? If he were in the federal system this would never happen, but since we served local arrest warrants on him, then he came to the local jail first. I finally mustered enough words together and all I could say was, “This isn’t right.”
Tim and I headed back out to our cruiser and started to track down Andrew so that we could still interview him. Even though he wasn’t in jail, that didn’t mean that we couldn’t talk to him. We got a local motel room number from his paperwork at the jail where he listed the address for where they should send the letter for his court date to.
I realized that we hadn’t eaten anything all day so we briefly stopped to grab some food before we continued to the motel.
“What room was he?” Tim asked.
3…4…5… “Here it is.” Tim motioned to the number on the door.
I glanced at the lock and saw the door was slightly ajar. I silently motioned to Tim to get ready as I pushed the door open. “Short wall,” I said.
“Holy shit…” Tim’s jaw dropped.
“What the hell do you see?!”
“Uh, long wall. Covered in blood. So much fucking blood. Enter on me.”
Tim entered the room and I immediately button-hooked and followed.
Blood. Everywhere. Laying on the bed was Andrew’s lifeless body. Despite the obvious signs of death, I checked for a pulse with negative results. “Fuck.”
We cleared the small motel room, checking in closets and the bathroom to ensure no one else was still there.
I clicked my mic. “1034 to Dispatch.”
“Dispatch, go ahead.”
“We have one deceased on scene. Send medics to pronounce. I also need additional units to secure the scene and start CSI.”
Then, I saw the motel’s notepad setting on the nightstand with something written on it.
Sometimes revenge is also justice.
Tim and I secured the scene and we called for CSI. As Tim wrapped the caution tape around the front of the apartment, I asked him if he saw the note on the nightstand.
“No, what note?”
“Come here and look.”
Tim came back into the room and I pointed across the room at the end table.
“Where’s the note?” Tim asked.
“It’s right there. That notepad.”
Tim picked up the notepad and held it in front of his face, turning to show me the front. “It’s blank. There’s nothing on it.”
“What? That isn’t right. It was just…” I trailed off as I ran up to him and started looking around for the note. It was nowhere. I held up the notepad Tim had in his hand to see if I could still see the indentation from having been written on—nothing.
“Sarah, what note are you talking about?”
I told Tim about the note and what it said. Neither one of us had an explanation for what happened to it. Before we could even speculate, CSI and detectives arrived on the scene.
Tim and I helped process evidence. First, CSI photographed the entire motel room and the body. There was a gun laying on the bed next to Andrew that I secured and logged as evidence. I ran the serial number and found that the gun was registered to Andrew.
CSI checked Andrew’s hands for any gunshot residue and it came back positive. Andrew definitely fired the gun. A short while later, forensic investigators arrived from the medical examiner’s office and began their process of collecting evidence and removing the body.
Tim and I headed to the motel’s main office to review the surveillance footage. We rewound the recording until we saw Andrew arrive at his room. I watched as he entered the room and swung the door behind him. It softly bounced back slightly, explaining why it wasn’t shut the entire way. We sat for several minutes watching the screen, but nothing moved. I played the footage at two times the speed until we saw movement again.
“Hold it! Right there!” Tim yelled.
“I know, I know.” I rewound the footage slightly and hit play. “Wait, that’s…”
“Wait, did we miss it?” Tim and I both were confused. We were watching ourselves enter Andrew’s motel room. Tim added, “We must have missed it… go back.”
We watched the footage again, and still saw nothing.
“Maybe someone was already in the room waiting for him,” I theorized.
“Smart. Keep going back then.”
Tim and I ended up spending nearly two hours watching all of the footage from the time that Andrew first checked in and his trips in and out of his room. He only left his room twice, so there wasn’t much to watch. We were perplexed as to how someone got into the room and could have shot him.
“What about through the window?” Tim suggested.
We went around back and looked at the window to the motel room. There were bars on the windows and there was no way someone could have fit through them. While we tried our hardest to grasp at ideas of how someone got into his motel room, we met back with the forensic investigators, CSI, and detectives in room 6.
“So, what’s it looking like in here? Any good leads?” I asked.
One of the detectives came over to us. “Hey, guys. This is definitely looking like a suicide. Medical Examiner should confirm it tomorrow.”
“What? What do you mean it’s a suicide?”
She looked offended, as she should. I was accusing her of not doing her job correctly. “I mean that this was a suicide. He has gunshot residue on his left hand, we confirmed he was left-handed, we could tell by the entry wound that he held the gun against his left temple and shot himself. He was the only one staying at this entire motel so no one heard the gunshot. Assuming that you guys didn’t see anyone come into this room on the video footage, then this had to have been a suicide.”
Jesus Christ this case just gets more confusing with every step. Tim and I left the scene and got into the cruiser together. “Alright. You wanna call it out or should I?” Tim asked.
“I will.” I held down my mic. “1034 to Dispatch.”
“Show myself and 1045 heading to [extracted] for a follow up with Kevin Watson.”
We got to Kevin’s and Tim nearly shook the house with his knock. Kevin came to the front door. “Whoa, you guys sound serious with that knock. What’s going on?”
“What the fuck, Kevin!” I yelled. “Why would you do that?!”
Kevin backed up and his eyebrows raised. He held up his hands in defense. “Hey hey, what are you talking about? Why did I do what?”
“Don’t fuck with us!” Tim roared. “You shot Andrew! We just found him.”
Kevin did a good job at looking surprised. “Andrew’s dead?”
I was both angry and confused by Kevin’s reaction. Tim’s anger only grew. “Don’t act stupid with us. We know what you did. Sarah here tried to help you and bent over fucking backwards to try to keep you from doing something this stupid and then you go and run behind our back and murder him!”
Kevin pleaded his innocence. “Whoa, I promise I didn’t kill Andrew! I’ve been home this entire time. Wait, wasn’t he in jail? How could I have killed him?”
Kevin really was doing a good job at acting dumb. I slowly started to believe him. “You mean to tell me you’ve been home all day?”
“Yes. I swear.” Kevin’s tone grew higher and he was getting nervous.
“Can you prove it?” I asked.
Kevin thought for a moment. “I don’t know… I don’t have any security cameras here. You could track my phone or car or whatever?”
I shook my head. “How would I know you didn’t just leave them here and get there another way?”
Kevin became concerned. “I swear I didn’t kill Andrew! I appreciate and respect you too much. I know how hard you’ve been working to seek justice for Melissa’s death.”
“Wait!” Kevin announced. “I was just playing some video games. You can talk to the guys I was playing against. I played for several hours.”
Tim didn’t know how to work the Xbox, so I logged in and had Kevin point out which users he played against. I called all of them and each one verified Kevin’s story and gave me the same description of what they played and what happened while they played and who won. All of the stories lined up.
“I don’t know who the hell killed Andrew then. Investigations are saying he committed suicide but…” I trailed off as I wasn’t sure if I should tell Kevin about the note.
“Nothing, nevermind.” I changed the topic. “Have you seen any more visions since you’ve been back?”
“No, I haven’t seen anything. I even went upstairs and nothing happened.”
I was curious to test this out myself so I decided to venture upstairs. I took a deep breath and approached the front bedroom. I turned the corner and looked inside the room. Nothing. I exhaled and closed my eyes. Oh, thank god. I opened my eyes again and saw Melissa standing in front of me. She slowly grinned, and raised her hand, palm up, in front of her. She continued to raise her hand, held it to her head, and snapped. The room spun around so fast that it felt like a tilt-a-whirl. Now I was facing Andrew, tears in his eyes as he slowly raised a gun to his temple. He pleaded, “No, I don’t want to die, please STOP! HOW IS THIS HAPPENING!” He started to sob.
The room spun around again and I thought I was going to be sick. I stood facing Melissa and watched the haunting grin return to her face. Without physically moving, her figure rushed forward and stood directly in front of me. I could feel the cold air drifting off of her and through my body. “Revenge is also justice,” she whispered. I could barely breathe, but when I tried, I could see my breath in front of me. My body was frozen. I blinked and she was gone. The room stood still—I no longer saw my breath.
Holy shit. Melissa killed Andrew.
I ran downstairs and told Tim and Kevin what I saw. Kevin had a hard time accepting it, but at the same time, he said he wasn’t surprised. Melissa was always so passive with Andrew throughout her life, it actually brought him peace in some twisted way to see her in such control in her afterlife.
Tim and I left and got dressed back into our street clothes at the station. We headed out to a bar to recap our clusterfuck of a week.
“I’m fucking done with this bullshit,” I released the words from my chest as I downed my glass of wine.
“You did a good job, kid.”
“Thanks, Tim. But what the hell did I really do? Andrew won’t ever go to trial, all the kids he hurt are going to be investigated by the FBI and they’re going to be the heroes who figure out what happened to those kids, not me. Like what was this all even for?”
“Sarah. Listen to me. You saved Kevin from himself. And you’re the reason the FBI has that case now. You saw all of those visions because Melissa didn’t want you to solve her murder, she wanted you to expose Andrew and the truth before she sought her own revenge. She wasn’t going to rest until he was exposed and dead, but she couldn’t expose him for the monster he truly was.”
I patted Tim on his shoulder. “You’re a good guy, Tim. You know that?”
“Awe shucks, you’re just saying that so I’ll pay for this round.”
“Hey, if you’re offering!”
Tim ordered us another round of drinks and we slowly drifted our minds away from this week’s chaos and started to get back to our normal life once again.
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