Polymath

I would like to tell you about an interesting case I worked on a few years ago. It’s morbid and it’s sad. It still haunts me, I’ve moved miles away and still can’t escape the thoughts that run through my mind. These two men were ordinary people to everyone they met, that is of course, until their “friends” stared going missing. One by one.

The father, Paul, was very talented. He learned every trade he possibly could and would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it. For instance, when their neighbor’s tree fell on the house during the storm, Paul was able to learn very quickly how to fix it. He even went as far as insulating and dry walling and painting their attic. They were so grateful that they created a toy room and library up there and named their second child after him. The boy I’m told will now deny that fact and pretend his mother was a huge Paul McCartney fan.

Another instance was the car crash outside of the family home. Paul offered to fix each car for free so they wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of insurance companies. Both cars looked brand new by the time he was finished with them.

The son, Karl, was very quiet. He often showed up to public events but would murk in shadows. Listening to conversations, but never chiming in. He was well liked when he did speak his mind, which I suppose is why he was continuously invited to events. He worked in the factory on the other side of town.

When I interviewed Karl’s manager, he had very few stories of him. Just said that he came to work, did the job quietly, and then went home. He never came to any of the company outings until he met Allison.

Allison was bright and bubbly and you would never see the two of them together not with smiles on their faces. She was the last to go missing.

At first me and my other police officers couldn’t find a link to the disappearances. Johnny from the factory went on a solo adventure in the forest behind the house. We just presumed he was lost in the deep expanse. Our search was centered around the tent we found with his belongings. Assumed he had just gone in search of a rabbit or fresh water and couldn’t find his way back. Johnny’s friends wouldn’t believe us. They told us that he was an experienced backpacker and wouldn’t have just gotten lost. We had nothing else to go on.

The grocer, Bill had a fight with his wife. Stormed out of the house and was last seen wandering around the highway. His wallet and everything was left at home so there was no money trail to follow him. We assumed he hitched a ride with a trucker. There were missing posters put up all along the highway in both directions. It was months before we gave up on that case. No one ever came forward.

Jesse, the only one who was frequently seen with Karl was our first clue that they might be related. But that case went cold after only 6 months. We couldn’t put the connections down on paper to really be evidence. Just speculation. But even then, had no idea that Karl and Paul would have anything to do with it. Jesse’s truck was finally found by the lake. It seemed to pop up out of nowhere. We did the best efforts to search the lake but it was winter then and no luck. Our assumption was that he had gone fishing and fell in, there was tackle and a camp chair along the bank. We’d search again when spring came.

That was until Allison never showed up after spring break. She was a kindergarten teacher, a very loved teacher. I’ve heard many of the students went on to prestigious schools. The School erected a statue of her reading on a bench so students could come sit with her. There’s also a beautiful butterfly garden surrounding the statue. A very lovely tribute to someone who died the most horrific death.

Once Allison went missing our first clue was to head to Karl’s house, naturally. It was usually a significant other when someone so loved went missing. There was speculation she was last seen at his house so that’s where we headed first. Speculation is not enough grounds for a search, and Paul seemed to be versed on the laws. We ended up just talking to him on the porch. Paul was so smart, he answered every question we had almost as if he had rehearsed it. Looking back, that was the clue we needed. It wouldn’t be until a few months later that we actually got to search the house.

Our other cold cases were reviewed. We searched the lake again for Jesse, this time bringing in professionals in scuba gear. They found a lot of interesting things, but not Jesse. He got a hold of his messages and emails and discovered the last contact he had been with Karl.

A day later we decided to search Bill and Johnny’s entire social media history and emails. The one thing they all had in common? Allison.

It seemed she felt bad for Karl, started to date him and actually fell in love. She was determined to get Karl some friends. Bill, Johnny, and Jesse were her unfortunate picks.

Going over all of the evidence we had, on the weekends of their disappearance she had planned one on one hang outs with Karl. But he declined every time. Bill’s fight with his wife was that he was supposed to be gone on a guy’s weekend with Karl but he was home. Bill walked in on her and the young and handsome bag boy from his store. Johnny was going to take him camping, when Karl backed out last-minute Johnny went on his own like he would have anyway. Jesse would have taken him fishing, but Karl was afraid of fish. It was never clear what Jesse was doing missing the few months leading up to the appearance of his truck at the lake. That is one thing that still bothers me.

Once we had enough evidence of the connection, originally thought to be Allison, we searched her apartment. Her parents hadn’t come to collect her things yet, they asked us to pack up what we didn’t need. We happily obliged, but we didn’t find much for evidence and helped them move everything back into their home. That led us back to Paul’s house. The only other connection that we had, this time we showed up with a warrant.

Paul’s smooth talking wouldn’t get him out of it this time. We needed the proof that Karl was the one taking these people. We needed the bodies. What we found was worse.

The first and second stories of the house were perfect. Prime example of a happy family. Pictures of the mother, who died early in Karl’s childhood, hung with precision. Tributes to her memory. The attic with boxes and boxes of Christmas and toys covered in dust. At first the basement seemed normal as well. Until we opened the door on the back wall. Such an odd place for a door, this would have been where the house above would have ended. There shouldn’t have been a room behind the door.

What we found was a perfect replica of the first story of the house. Paul’s craftmanship. Such an amazing recreation. I was shocked. But what shocked me more, the bodies.

Preserved. Jesse, in his fishing gear, a beer in hand and a smile on his face. He sat in a recliner that faced the door. Bill and Johnny sat on the couch their beers touching as if they had just said a toast and were cheering. Faces showed happiness. Paul had learned taxidermy and he had learned it well. The only thing missing were Karl and Allison. The thoughts running through our mind were that the lovebirds were out of the house on a vacation together. We were wrong.

More searching led to another door. Another perfect replica, this time of Karl’s room upstairs. There was Allison, preserved like the others on the bed in lingerie. Honestly, she was beautiful, a perfect angel asleep. Next to her was Karl.

Paul was upstairs being detained, interviewed, questioned over and over. He began to break and the detectives brought him into the station. My initial thought was that this father wanted a perfect world for his son. His motive being that he was just a craftsman practicing on the things closest to him.

That was until Karl startled awake. Alive. The horror on his face when he realized we were not his father.

Karl was naked, we made him put clothing on and took him to the station. Our speculations about Paul were not far off, he wanted a perfect world for his son. But Karl wanted a quiet world. They created the comfort that Karl had always wanted in the hidden hideaway basement.

The bodies were returned to their families for burial. Karl was sentenced to prison for life for conspiracy of murder. He had good lawyers that somehow proved that he never actually wanted his father to kill for him and therefore didn’t get the electric chair. Though I felt that Karl was just a very good actor, and if he didn’t want his father to kill the closest things he had to friends, he was sure grateful anyway.

Paul never saw sentencing. He was found in his holding cell awaiting trial. His death was a mystery until they did the autopsy. Anaphylactic shock the coroner said. Turns out he had requested nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for two weeks. He scraped off the peanut butter and kept it hidden in his pillow. One night he swallowed as much as he could. Killed himself by giving himself an allergic reaction.

I have never eaten a peanut butter sandwich since.

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Cedric the Time Traveler

“When’s the last time you saw Cedric?” My father asked over the dinner table. We hadn’t said a word to each other since sitting down and it came as a shock. Cedric was a dear friend but I told my father the truth.

“Not for a while.” I admitted.

“Did he finally go to the looney bin?” He never did think well of Cedric.

“No father, I just haven’t heard anything from him.” I wasn’t actually sure of that answer. He was heavily invested in his work and would often disappear into his workshop but would contact me with any brilliant ideas he had. And in theory they were all brilliant, they just never worked.

After dinner that night I considered everything I knew about Cedric the last time I talked to him. I contacted his last girl friend. He kept in touch with her even if she didn’t want it. The conversation with her didn’t get me anywhere. She clearly was over all of his antics and was glad she hadn’t heard from him in over a month. And as I thought of it, that was about the last time I had heard from him as well. What was his last invention? I pondered and pondered and went over all the emails and texts I had with him. A machine. It was some sort of machine…

I tried to contact him over the weekend and got nowhere. I called the workshop he worked part time, they told me he had put in his notice and never heard from him. It wasn’t like Cedric to just quit a job like that.

Monday night I went to his house. I found the hide-key under the purple frog statue and let myself in. The house was dark and quiet. There was actual dust on the kitchen table, which is honestly the cleanest I had ever seen it. His bed was made, the bathroom empty. His basement was damp and cold as it ever was. I walked towards the garage and crept slowly waiting for a noise. Anything at all to let me know that he was home and in his own work space tinking away.

I opened the door and darkness crept over me. I found the light switch and found a big empty space in the middle of the room. As if there was a car there and he had just taken it grocery shopping. The tables the lined the garage walls were filled with little inventions, coffee pots destined for his next telecommunication device, remote controls for various things in a stock pile, papers and drawings and clutter. I made it to his main workbench at the back wall. Blue prints for the machine he told me about, something that would change life as we knew it. A time machine.

I spent the next few months combing his research and came to the conclusion. He had finally done it! That’s why no one had seen him, he was in the future out there somewhere. I decided not to report it to the police. Cedric would return any day now with his stories about the future and show me new technologies I could yet to imagine.

 

I waited. And waited. And waited. I had been promoted in my company. I found a wife. I had two children and watched them graduate from college. Jasper went off to medical school. Julia went to the Peace Corps and is helping the rainforests. She sends a letter once a month. I still waited. Cedric’s house had gone into disrepair. I had tried to do upkeep on it but once Jasper had children of his own I went into retired grandpa mode and forgot all about it. One day there was a knock on my door.

“I can’t believe it.” There in front of me on my own door step was Cedric. Gray hair and wrinkled face, but it was him. “Cedric?”

“Did you miss me old friend?” He smiled.

“Where have you been all of these years!?” I opened the door wider to let him come in. “Come sit, tell me all about your adventures!”

We sat over coffee and he told me all about his revelation with the time machine he had built out of his Suburu Outback. He wanted something roomy and affordable so he could travel in comfort. He told me he upgraded it once he reached the future and went back and forth though time. I was amazed.  “Why did you wait so long to come back?”

He grew silent. His eyes shifted to the sides. “I’m glad you’re so enthused old friend. But some things are to be kept secret.”

I became uneasy. “What do you mean? What did you see in the future?”

“Marvelous things, cures for diseases. Pills for life longevity. Dinosaurs being brought back to life. Cultures destroyed and Cultures created. Dinosaurs at their second distinction from human greed. Marvelous things and terrible things.”

“But my friend, haven’t you been lonely all this time?” He told me more tales about the people he met and the women he had loved and how none of them believed his travels. He then told me terrible news. He was at his own end. Struck with a terrible disease he caught from visiting the year 5642. He discovered the disease after the jump forward mechanism on his time machine had broke. He was going to die with out the cure and the technology he would need to fix the machine. That was when his decision to come back home came to light.

Cedric and I had a few days together before his death. He stayed with me and my wife and told us more stories of his inventions.

After we buried him I took my wife to his home. It was miraculously tidy again, lived in almost. As if it was that week I had discovered him missing. We went into the garage. The Outback with wires and gears and odd shapes jutting from odd directions as if it had been there the whole time. My wife found a journal in the front seat labeled “Places I’ve Been.” She read a few pages as I looked at all the old blueprints.

“Honey, he…” She paused.

“What is it?” I turned to face her.

“He never went anywhere outside the United States. Your father was right. He was crazy.”

“What do you mean?”

“He didn’t time travel, darling. This journal is just a chronicle of his cross country vacation. Entries of different jobs he’s had and different people he met along the way.” She handed me the journal to the last page.

The last words had shocked me and convinced me that I must do his last wish. That night me and my wife cleared any proof that we had set foot in the house and set fire to Cedric’s home.

I’ve convinced every person I have met along the way that I am a time traveler. I think I’ll return home now. The doctors here in California are convinced there are no more treatments for me. I’m old and tired. I just hope I can destroy the evidence before anyone can discover my truths.


Kumquats

“I want kumquats.” She waddled into the store.

“Mate, have you ever had a kumquat?” He followed after her.

“No.” She was determined. Headed beeline for the produce section.

“What makes you think you want one then?” He almost lost her rounding the corner of the apple stand.

She didn’t listen and kept searching the aisles.

He grabbed her by the arm. “Why do you need these?”

She looked him in the eye. “You don’t understand. The baby needs them.”

“It can’t talk to you. You need to stop thinking that that thing growing inside of you is talking to you.” He finally released her arm. “You’re crazy!”

“The baby needs them.” She said adamantly as she reached for the package of kumquats.


Mitchell

A patient sits patiently in the conference room on the fourth floor. He didn’t wear his watch today, at the recommendation of Dr. Price, it would cause a commotion in the machine they strapped him to this morning. The conference room doesn’t have a clock. Perhaps like a casino floor, no clock means time does not exist.

He doesn’t know how long he had been waiting and was okay with this fact. The longer he waits, perhaps the better result. He considers all of the obstacles that brought him to this room. The initial alert to his medical ailment on his trip to San Bernardino. The visit to the clinic where they said they would run tests. The blood work that was done once he returned home. Scans and x-rays and more blood work. He was expecting the worst, though he didn’t know what that could be. They ruled out cancer four months ago.

He got up to pace the room. Looked out the window to the greenery below. Found his car in the parking lot. All the cars he had parked next to were replaced with different ones. He put his ear to the door the team of doctors had disappeared to and didn’t hear a sound.

“Mitchell, come here”.

The man turned around and saw a shadow figure at the end of the long conference table. A doctor had arrived he thought and obeyed the beckoning. But the shadowy stayed a blob of darkness, barely resembling human.

“Mitchell. The doctors tests have pinged our radar. In a moment they will come to explain to you that there is nothing wrong. They will send you to your dwelling. But this information is incorrect. You have been breathing this planets’ air far too long. We must get you back home.” The figure raised out it’s hand to grab the old man’s. In a moment they disappeared into thin air.

The team of doctors entered the room. No site of the old man, but that didn’t bother them. With minds erased they stood there puzzled. What had brought them here? What were they just discussing?

They will never know.


Race Day

“Alright folks, it’s a little misty out today, but that will just make the track a bit better for those of you using mud tires. Race starts in 10 so I suggest you get them engines running!” An announcement came over the speakers, I looked around most racers were in their cars already.

I hopped into the passenger side of Todd’s skyline. It was heavily modified and the seatbelts weren’t that great, I was worried about being in his way. “I’m not sure how this is going to work babe. I’ll be crashing into you for most of the curves, won’t that bother you?”

“Sweetheart we’ve been over this. I’m not going to mind it and I’ve raced this track a billion times. Some curves, with centripital force you’ll lean into me a bit since I had to put a two seater bucket seat in. We’ll be fine you just gotta roll with it.” He gave me a kiss on my head and started his engine.

The track started on an old abandoned drag strip and that was the only road bit, the rest of it wound round the back 40 of a farm. There was curves and creeks and woods all leading back to the drag strip. You could race any car, be any age, there wasn’t a while lot of qualifications. Todd was lucky enough to know the land owners and had been out here every summer before I met him. He was a little rusty since we spent the last summer with my family on the beaches of Key West. That wasn’t going to stop him though, this was going to be the first race of it’s kind and the winner walks away with $100,000.

That’ll be more than enough to open his woodworking shop and a little something for me, he’d say and give me a nudge and a wink. The race was 40 laps and from the looks of most of these cars, last man standing wins.

The race began and I did what he said, rolled with the curves and tried hard not to mess with his arm. It was a right side driving car and old. ‘Beautiful’, Todd would call it, but it was old. One of his main concerns was the gaslines, they were low to the ground since he had to move everything around to get all of the stuff in there to boost the engine. I’m sure there’s technical words for all of that, but I’m no expert.

We we’re doing good, lap 5, and managed to maintain a steady 4th place. At one point he leans into me and says “we’ve got this.” I figure it’ll be at least one of those guys’ cars won’t make it and the other will just have some issues with the hill. That’s where I’ve seen him fall back just a bit and I’m sure that’s where Todd is going to best him. The third car, first in the race is Pierre. He’s not from around here and I couldn’t quite make out his accent. The first two laps I saw him nudge his way from the middle of the line up to first place and he got oddly close to some cars. I got the impression that Pierre wasn’t a very sportsman-like team player.

Lap 25 and Todd has managed to get to second place. As we rolled on to the old wooden bridge, something didn’t feel right. It collapsed as we were just about to hit the dirt road again which sent us tail end into the creek below. Panic set in and I’m sure Todd could see it in my face.

“Sweetheart, I love you, we’re fine. I still have a chance. But I’m going to need you to do something for me.” He lifted my chin up and gave me a big kiss. “I need you to push me out of here.”

Horror stuck my gut, but I knew he could make it if I helped. I got out of the skyline as carefully as I could. Which of course was through the driver window over Todd, I didn’t want to open the door and flood the car. The water was a cloudy, muddy mess and came up to just above my knee. I waded to the back and put my whole weight into the trunk. He hit the gas pedal hard and I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline or pure luck but he was out of the muck and on to the track before the next car even had a chance to catch up to us.

It was then that I realized no one had been behind us for a while except for one kid in a little red racer. I remember seeing it in the start up line, there was stickers on it to make it look like Lightning McQueen. I must have come to my senses because I could hear him clear as day saying “help.”

Turing around I saw wheels sticking out of the creek and the bottom of that little boys car. He couldn’t have been more than 10. I imagined my worst fear of him being trapped in that car so I waded over the bridge debris to the car. “Hey!” I shouted.

“Help!” I heard from behind me, he was on the bank of the creek. At least he wasn’t trapped. “Can you help me get my car out?”

“I’m sorry hunny, I’m not that strong.” I watched tears fall from his eyes. It hit me hard, this little boy who had gotten this far and who was in third place even! His dream was ruined. We walked back to the start up avoiding the race track.

When we got back every car still in the race was gathered around the announcer booth. Many of the drivers were sitting on the hood of their car and I desperately searched for Todd. He was in the front of the line looking defeated. I sat next to him and waited for an announcement.

“They checked that bridge before the race, Nell. It was sturdy and not going anywhere.”

“So it’s…it was rigged to collapse…you think?” I was stunned, who would do such a thing?

“I don’t think Sweetheart, I know it.” He sighed. “They were telling me you were helping Peter, did you get him out?”

He was already out of the car, we couldn’t save it. I could barely get you out with the help of the car actually running, his was belly up in that creek.

The speakers cracked a little but a voice came on. “Under out investigation it seems as if there was a small stick of dynamite under the bridge rigged to go off during the race. The person responsible is now in custody. Since we can’t finish the race officials have decided it is best to split up the winners money to the top four racers.”

Everyone was shocked. It could have been worse. I think back to the bridge and imagine things going a lot different. The boy made it out alive and Todd still managed to get first place and $25,000. I was relieved and thankful. I remembered Pierre and his struggle to get to first place and looked around. Drivers were now surrounded by their followers and family. But there Pierre’s car sat, alone and pathetic. I’m sure he was taken to jail that day.

The track was finally fixed and held races with a much smaller monatary prize. Todd had to settle for a much smaller shop, but he was able to build it onto the garage of the house we bought. The little something for me was an engagement ring, with my stipulation that I never be his co-pilot again. We heard the little boy was able to by a new racing car, they counted him as the second winner. I’m glad he didn’t give up his dream.


The Phone

When I was 7 my mother taught me how to use the black phone in the foyer. It was old timey, you had to hold a little thing to your ear. She said it was special and had to keep it but she could only hear static when it rang.

It rang and I picked up just like she taught me to do expecting static. But instead I got distorted wait music you’d probably hear in an elevator.

“Hey!” I heard after a long wait. I remember answering back confused.

“You can hear me?” The voice asked.

“Yeah, it sounds funny but I can hear you.”

We talked for an hour when my mother walked in the foyer.

Her face was stunned, as if she knew I had been talking to someone and not listening to static.

“He said he was Grandpa!” I smiled at her.

With tears in her eyes she asked “What did he say?”

“He told me all about how he got locked in there! And he had a message for you!” I smiled not understanding what I was about to say.

“What was that sweetie?” She got down on here knees to meet me face to face.

“He said don’t open the door and talk to the shadowy man or you’ll end up in here like me. No matter what!”

Just then a there was a knocking on the door. “HELENA OPEN THE DOOR. ITS YOUR DAD. I NEED YOU!”


Julie: The Artist.

Julie sat down on the brown couch in the lobby area. TV’s were blasting the news, latest things the crazy president was doing, the stock market crash, the murder in some small town with enough mystery to keep the nation captivated. The magazines on the coffee table in front of her showing happy scenes of housewives decorating the perfect summer themed parties with their husbands in a ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron and grilling spatula, the latest star and their tragic on screen romance turned real life love story, and a children’s magazine.

It seemed out of place for the office setting, maybe a client brought their child or a secretary brought her son to work. Her meeting was pushed back half an hour, they were thoughtless-only telling her after she had already walked through the door. Julie picked up the children’s magazine and flipped through the simplicity. The activity pages had been scribbled in red and yellow crayon, perhaps the child was not appropriately aged yet. She kept flipping until she got to the main article, it was short but the message was powerful. A child wouldn’t understand the moral but it made Julie think.

What was she doing here? Pitching her big idea to some soul sucking corporation? Was she selling out? Was this the right decision? Her husband might have thought so-if he had stayed around long enough for her to finish the concept drawings. She took out her portfolio and stared at her drawings. She glanced back at the magazine.

Julie stuffed her drawings and the magazine back in her satchel got up and walked towards the front desk. She told the secretary to apologize to the men she was to meet with today, but she wouldn’t be coming back.

“What ever it is that you want to do, do it for yourself. Happiness comes from your own success.”