Gotta pay the rent
“Mrs. Elliott, I brought someone here I think might be able to help you,” Chief Vaughn said, as Laura Elliott’s mother open her front door.
“It’s about time,” Mrs. Elliott said, ushering the two of them into her house.
Jackson had asked Lilly, Jessica, and Allison to stay in the car this time. He didn’t want to overwhelm Laura if she was in the house, and from what Chief Vaughn had told him before knocking on the front door, it sounded like she was.
Barbara Elliott had not been doing while in life ever since her daughter had disappeared. Barbara had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, early in her twenties, but had been able to maintain her sanity through a strict regimen of medication and therapy. Laura had also been diagnosed with the same disease just prior to her moving out, and wasn’t handling it well. She had gotten into a knockdown, drag out fight with her parents, and stormed out one night, and never come back.
Her parents got a call one night from a girl named Janey, who said that Laura was living with her in Cincinnati, and thought that they should at least know that their daughter was ok. She was also the one who gave the police their phone number when Laura went missing. Barbara’s life completely changed the night the police called to tell her of her daughter’s disappearance. She stopped taking her meds. Stopped talking to her therapist. Her husband, had tried his best to get her back on track, but when she started talking to Laura, who wasn’t there, he had had enough, and left her.
The inside of the house was a mess. Dirty dishes were stacked up in the kitchen sink, and piled on top of one another on the kitchen counters. Bags of trash were piled up throughout the house, and dirty clothes covered most of the floors. “Come in, come in,” Barbara said, leading them into the living room and throwing a handful of dirty clothes from the couch, so that they could have a place to sit down. She turned on a lamp sitting on top of an end table, which sat between the couch and an old leather recliner, which was angled just right for the best viewing of the TV.
Sitting on the edge of the chair was a girl with long blonde hair, which was shaved, almost bald, on the left side of her head. Her color was still there, but was starting to become slightly tarnished. She had a small hoop nose ring, like a bull, and several tattoos on her neck and arms. She was wearing a black Ramones band shirt, a short denim shirt, and black fish net stockings. Black eyeliner was caked up around her eyes, which matched her black lip stick. Her arms were crossed across her stomach, and she was rocking back and forth slightly, mumbling to herself incoherently.
Jackson took a seat on the couch, while the Chief made his way to Barbara’s side. “What’s going on today Barbara? How are you doing?”
“It’s Laura again,” she said, looking nervously to the old recliner. “She’s upset about something, but I can’t hear her. How can I help her if I don’t know what she needs?”
Chief Vaughn gave Jackson a questioning look. “I feel something,” he mouthed silently, as Jackson nodded his head, telling him that his intuition was spot on.
“My friend Jackson here is real good at handling these kind of things. Why don’t we step out on to the porch and given him a couple of minutes?”
“Laura, why don’t you talk to me?”
The ghost of the young girl looked up and stared at her mother with distant eyes. She let out a loud scream, and the lightbulb in the lamp exploded. Barbara screamed in turn and started slapping herself on her forehead. Chief Vaughn placed his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her toward the front door.
“Laura, can you hear me?” Jackson asked, once they were alone. If she could, she didn’t act like it. She just kept rocking back and forth. “I can see you, and I know about your unfinished business.”
Laura stopped rocking for second or two, before resuming.
“I also know about Mark Karle.”
That did it. Upon hearing the name of the man who had taken her life, Laura’s rocking came to an abrupt halt. Her head turned toward Jackson, and she glared at him with pure hatred. Jackson’s breath became visible in the air in front of him, as the temperature in the room began to dramatically decrease. Frost started to form in the bottom corner of a mirror on the other side of the room, before stretching itself across the mirror’s entire reflective surface. The rest of the lights in the house began to flicker on and off.
“Hey, take it easy,” Jackson said, looking nervously around the room. “I’m here to help you.”
If Laura heard him, she didn’t respond. Her eyes continued to glare at Jackson with a hatred that seemed to only be increasing. She sprang out of the chair and let out a primal shriek. A large crack ripped through the mirror. All of the lightbulbs in the house exploded.
From out of nowhere, Jessica appeared and moved in between the two of them, and she slapped Laura hard across the face. “Snap out of it!”
Laura stopped screaming. “Ouch,” she said, placing a hand upon her cheek. “What the fuck?”
“Sit down and shut up,” Jessica said, pushing Laura back into the recliner.
The young girl flopped down like a rag doll, unsure of what was happening. “Who are you guys? Where’s my mother. I’ve been trying to talk to her for the longest time, but she can’t hear me for some reason. I think she may be off her meds again. I need to get her to her Doctor.”
“You’re dead,” Jackson told her, hoping to jog her memory. Given their sense of urgency, he hoped that taking the “ripping the band aid off” approach was the best way to proceed.
“Dead, like me,” Jessica replied.
“And me,” Lilly’s voice added.
“And me,” said Allison.
“I remember…” Laura said, her gaze dropping to the floor. “I have to…” her voice trailed off.
“Complete your unfinished business?” Jackson responded.
“Yes, but I tried, and failed. It was…”
“To hard to do by yourself,” said Lilly, walking over and placing a gently hand upon Laura’s shoulder.
“Well, you’re not alone anymore,” Jackson assured her.
“You’re not dead are you?” she asked, looking at Jackson.
“Not yet,” Jackson answered, with a quick wink.
“Back to his house,” said Allison. “We all have.”
“And we all failed,” Jessica added.
“There was another girl there,” Laura stated. “I think she said her name was Tracy.”
“Tracy Lafond,” Lilly said. “I met her too. She told me to find you. She said that together we can bring him to justice, and get the hell out of Purgatory.”
“I don’t want to go back to that house. You don’t know the things he did to me.”
“He did them to us too,” Allison said.
“It’s the only way,” Lilly assured her. “If you don’t come with us, you’ll be trapped here forever when we cross over.”
Laura nodded her head in understanding. “What about my mother?” she asked, standing up, her eyes becoming clear with focus.
“Leave that to me,” Jackson said, moving toward the front door. Chief Vaughn led Laura’s mother back into the house, and the both of them stared in disbelief at the damage.
“Laura?” her mother said, walking into the living room and seeing her daughter.
“Mom, can you hear me?” Laura asked.
“I can she her lips moving, but why can’t I hear her voice?” Barbara asked, tearing welling up in her eyes.
“Honestly ma’am, I don’t think you should even be able to see her at all,” Jackson speculated. “But who knows, I’m pretty new at this stuff too.”
“Tell her that I love her,” Laura insisted. “And that I’m sorry.”
“Laura wants you to know that she loves you with all of her heart, and that she is sorry,” Jackson relayed the message.
“She’s dead isn’t she?” her mother asked.
“Yes,” Jackson answered.
“Where is she. Her body I mean. I need to have her laid to rest.”
“And I promise that I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that that happens,” Jackson assured her. “But we really must be leaving,” he added, ushering Chief Vaughn toward the front door.
“You’re going to go and find her body, aren’t you?” the Chief asked, walking down the driveway.
“Do you remember where your buried?” Lilly asked Laura, who was staring up at the sky and watching the fast-moving dark clouds.
“Ichabod Crane,” Laura responded cryptically.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jackson asked Lilly, who could only shrug her shoulders.
“You’re buried where Ichabod Crane is?” Jessica Asked.
“Where he was,” said Laura still looking up to the sky, her lost eyes following the clouds.
“I’m sorry but I’m not following you,” Jackson confessed. “Let’s start with what state your buried in?”
Laura held her hand, palm out, up to Jackson. “Yes, hi, we’ve already met,” Jackson replied, starting to get a little irritated.
“She’s not saying hello,” Lilly said. “That means Michigan.”
“Ok, but Ichabod Crane wasn’t from Michigan, was he?”
“I don’t think so,” Lilly answered.
“He wasn’t,” Jessica said. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow took place in New York.”
“What does Ichabod Crane have to do with Michigan then?” Allison asked.
“What’s going on?” asked the Chief. “I’m feeling a bit left out over here.”
“Sorry,” replied Jackson. “Laura says that she’s buried in Michigan. Somewhere where Ichabod Crane was?”
“Sleepy Hollow State Park,” Chief Vaughn stated. “It’s off of US one twenty-seven. Helen and I honeymooned on Mackinaw Island. I remembered seeing a sign that said Sleepy Hollow State Park. Helen made such a big deal about. She even made me turn around so that she could get a picture of the damn thing,” he told them, taking out his phone. “Here it is. It’s in Laingsburg Michigan. It’ll take us about six and half hours to get there.”
“Us?” Jackson inquired. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea Chief,”
“I watched that young girl grow up here,” Chief Vaughn replied. “And the thought of her being out there like that just doesn’t sit well in my gut. So, if there’s something that I can do to help remedy that situation I’m going to do it. I could be very handy if you run into any local agencies up there. I assume you had some trouble in the past?”
Jackson shot Lilly a look, remembering his time with Detective Brandt. “You’re in charge,” she said. “But for the record, I think you should let him come along. It could help bring him some closure too.”
“Fine,” Jackson said, answering both Lilly and the Chief at the same time.
“Why don’t you come back to my house first,” the Chief offered. “It’s starting to get late, and I’m sure you could use some food, seeing how you didn’t get to finish your meal from earlier, and you can get some rest. Besides, that’ll give me time to pack some stuff.”
* * *
It had been a long time since Jackson had had a good home cooked meal. Chief Vaughn had called Agnes, and told her that he had a guest, and wondered if she would be interested in helping him out. She showed up with a large pan of homemade lasagna and garlic bread. “I was going to bring this over in the morning anyway,” she said, setting the food down on the kitchen table. “You just won’t have anything to eat tomorrow.”
“Well, then I’ll just have to take you to dinner,” the Chief replied. His words catching Agnes totally by surprise, as she gasped out loud and then held her breath in embarrassment. “If you’re interested,” the Chief added, sensing that he might have made her feel a little uncomfortable.
“I would be, yes,” Agnes replied, taking a seat at the dining room table with the Chief.
Jackson went upstairs and took a shower and then laid down on the bed in the guest bedroom, and fell asleep before his head hit the pillow. The ghosts of the girls sat in the living room for a while, listening to Chief Vaughn and Agnes talk, but they soon felt a little weird for eavesdropping on their conversation, and decided venture out to the bench in the back yard. Lilly, Jessica, and Allison each shared their stories with Laura, who still seemed like she had a major case of ADHD. Then it was her turn:
May 4th, 2017
“I don’t need to take any medication,” Laura told her mom, after they had gotten back from her Doctor’s appointment. “I feel fine.”
“But you’re not,” her mother replied. “Trust me. I’ve been there, remember.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Laura told her with a bit of anger rising up in her voice. “I remember the outbursts, and weeks on end that you spent locked away in your bedroom. I remember the fits of rage, and always getting yelled at for nothing.”
“That wasn’t me,” her mother tried to explain. “It was the sickness. It was when I was off my meds.”
“The same meds you want me to take?”
“They will help you in the long run, trust me.”
“You keep telling me that,” Laura yelled. “But you’re the crazy one, not me. The best thing for me is to get as far away from you as possible!” she ran to her bedroom and slammed the door shut behind her, making sure to lock it.
“Come pick me up!” she texted her best friend Janey, who had moved to Cincinnati about eight months ago, under similar circumstances, leaving her here to fend for herself. Laura had been so mad at her for doing it. Janey had all but begged her to go with her, but Laura had been too afraid to leave the nest then, but now was a completely different story, and with Janey’s roommate, Maria, having just moved out, it seemed like fate was finally pushing her out the door.
“On my way!” Janey texted her back. “Pack your shit!”
Janey arrived in the middle of the night. “Let’s go,” she texted.
Laura crept through her house, with the stealth of a teenager, leaving a note on the kitchen table, telling her mother not to worry. She ran out to the awaiting car, and jumped in with a scream of freedom, as Janey sped off down the street. Laura looked over her shoulder at the only home she had ever known, and began to have second thoughts about the whole thing.
She had been so mad at her mother. She was the one with schizophrenia, and she was the one who had given it to her. Passed it on through her genes. She had told her mom the truth about what she had remembered as a child, and was now fearing that she would end up the same way. The medication that the doctor had given her, rested heavily in her purse. She had thought about taking one pill earlier, but she felt that it she started taking the medication, then that would mean that she was indeed mental.
“Relax girl,” Janey told her, handing her a marijuana joint. “Take a hit and chill. You can do whatever you want now. This is gonna be epic! You and me back together again!”
Janey’s apartment had one bedroom, which meant that Laura was sleeping on a broken-down couch, and one bathroom, which meant that she had to share just about everything with Janey. Rent was a thousand dollars a month, which was something that Janey could not have been affording on her own, working as a waitress at a pizza place a couple of blocks down. When Laura asked her about it, Janey confided that the landlord was a real creep, but that he would knock a hundred dollars off for every blowjob she gave him throughout the month, which usually meant that her rent, after Maria had done her fair share, was six hundred a month instead of a thousand, which was still seemed a bit on the high side for a waitress.
Laura searched the wanted ads and found nothing to her liking for the first two weeks. The third week she had an interview at a clothing store, and got the job, the only problem was she would be working for commission, and being the new girl, she wasn’t selling as much compared to the more experienced sales people. By the time rent was due, she only had two hundred dollars to her name, which she handed over to Janey, but they were still two hundred dollars short.
“You can always go and knock on Stanley’s door,” Janey told her. “We can’t afford to get kicked out of here. Maria always did her share too.”
“Do I have to?”
“No,” Janey answered. “If you can come up with two hundred dollars another way, I’m all ears.”
“How do you always seem to have money? Tips can’t be that great at Sal’s Pizzeria.”
“The tips there are shit,” she replied. “I work a night job on the weekends.”
“I thought you were working at Sal’s on the weekends. “What’s your second job? Are they hiring?”
“I’m what you would call a…Lady of the night.”
“You’re a fucking hooker!” Laura replied.
“Call it what you want, but I make more money in two night doing that then I make waiting tables all week at Sal’s.”
“What do you do?”
“What the fuck do you think I do? I suck dick, and get fucked by lonely, married men.”
“How can you do something like that?”
“Don’t fucking judge me,” Janey argued, her voice taking a defensive tone. “Living here ain’t cheap, and there’s no fucking way I’m going back home. You remember dear old Tom, don’t you? He started molesting me, as soon as he and my mom got married. I was twelve, and didn’t have a choice. At least now, I do, and I can get paid for it.”
“Jesus has nothing to do with it, because if he did, he would never have allowed it to happen in the first place, right.”
Laura didn’t say anything, she just stared at the person she thought had been her best friend, but who was now becoming a stranger before her very eyes.
“You got one weeks to come up with two hundred bucks, or I find a new roommate,” Janey said, coldly, before walking into her room and slamming the door shut.
A week later, Laura found herself standing nervously in front of Stanley’s apartment door. Janey made her drink a half pint of blackberry brandy, in order to give her some much-needed liquid courage. She knocked softly, hoping that the landlord wouldn’t be home. Her heart sank into her stomach, when the door opened, and she found herself staring at a short, fat, balding, old white guy.
“What do we have here?” Stanley asked, taking a good, lingering look up and down Laura.
“Hi,” she said, feeling nauseas. “I live in apartment 3B with Janey.”
“And we’re a little short with our rent this month,” Laura told him.
“Your friend has been late before, so I can’t give her anymore extensions,” Stanley replied. “Did she tell you about our…special arrangement?”
Laura nodded her head, as Stanley opened his door wider. Laura took a deep breath and walked inside the apartment. When she returned to her apartment, she ran straight for the bathroom and threw up into the toilet.
“So?” asked Janey.
“Rent’s paid in full,” Laura answered between gags.
“Good job,” Janey congratulated her. “See, that wasn’t so hard, now was it? No pun intended.”
Laura started laughing. She didn’t know why. Maybe it was the alcohol, but the joke had been funny, because Stanley barley got hard, and when he did, thankfully he didn’t last very long. “What’s it like on the weekends?” she found herself asking, again, not really knowing why.
“Kind of like Stanley, but cleaner,” Janey answered. “And they’re in a car, and usually have a wife to get back to, so it’s quicker too. Why? You thinking about joining me?”
That Saturday night, Laura found herself standing on a street corner, next to Janey. They were standing under a bright street light, so the Johns could get a good look at them, as they drove by. Laura had borrowed a short denim skirt, black tee shirt, and a pair of matching fish net stockings.
“You got the rubbers in your purse?” Janey asked.
“Remember, fifty bucks for a blowjob. Seventy-five if they want to fuck, and if they do, they always wear a rubber. Got it?’
Laura nodded her head again.
A car pulled up and honked its horn. “This is one of my regulars,” Janey said. “I’ll be back in a bit. Good luck. Take another drink,” she told her. “It helps.”
Laura took the bottle of blackberry brandy out of her hand bag and took a long swig. She was putting the bottle away when an old wood panel station wagon pulled up and honked it horn. Laura nervously walked over to the car, and as she did so, the front passenger window rolled down. She bent over and looked into the car.
“Hello,” said the driver, who was a middle-aged man, with a blonde mustache and thick glasses. Seemed harmless enough Laura tried to convince herself. “Why don’t you get in so we can talk,” said the man.
Laura climbed into the passenger seat, as the car slowly drove away from the curb. “Sorry,” said the man. “I’m just a little nervous. “I’ve never done this sort of thing before.”
Makes two of us, Laura laughed to herself. “What are you looking for?” she asked.
“Someone just like you,” the driver said with a large smile. “Names Mark.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Laura. I meant what were you looking to do tonight?”
“Oh, that…um…I guess I’m looking for a blowjob. How much for one of those?”
“Sounds like a good deal,” Mark said, pulling into a dark alleyway. “Is here fine?”
“Looks like a good spot?” Laura answered. Janey hadn’t told her anything about finding a spot, or where to go, but this spot looked deserted enough that she was sure that she wouldn’t get caught by the cops.
“So, do I just pull my pants down?”
Laura nodded yes.
Mark undid his pants and pulled them down a bit, exposing his half erect penis. Laura took a good look around, making sure the coast was clear, before leaning over and putting Mark’s manhood into her mouth. She had only been sucking his dick for a few minutes, when she felt a twinge of pain in her neck.
“What the fuck!” she said sitting up. “What the hell was that?” She saw, what looked like a syringe in Mark’s right hand, as the world around her began to get fuzzy, and grow dark.