I gotta quite smoking
“What time is it?” Jackson asked, when Chief Vaughn nudged him awake.
“It’s three a.m.” the Chief answered, handing Jackson a cup of coffee. “If we leave know, we can make it there with plenty of daylight. Are we alone?”
Jackson gave him a confused look.
“Oh,” Jackson replied, taking a look around the room. “Yeah.”
“I’m guessing by the way you were talking to Laura earlier that she might not be all there?”
“Yeah,” Jackson sighed. “I don’t think being stuck in Purgatory has done her any favors.”
“If she can at least get us in the general vicinity, I can make a few phone calls, and get the state police out there with a cadaver dog.”
“Are you sure that you want to get that involved?” Jackson asked, taking a long sip of caffeine. “You know they’re going to be asking you a lot of questions that you really can’t answer. At least if you want to sound sane.”
“You let me worry about that,” the Chief replied. “Besides, figured I’d be the one calling it in anyway. I’ll just tell them that I got an anonymous tip and a vague location.”
“All right,” Jackson said, standing up and holding his hand out. “I really appreciate the help.”
“Anything to bring Barbra’s little girl home,” he replied, shaking Jackson’s hand.
They made their way outside, into the cold brisk night air. The girls quietly got into Jackson’s car, as the young man walked to the end of the Chief’s driveway.
“What are you doing?” the Chief asked.
Jackson grabbed one of the two reflective driveway markers, sticking out of the ground at the end of the Chief’s driveway. “Getting supplies,” he answered.
* * *
They drove in separate cars, with Chief Vaughn driving his police cruiser, and Jackson in his Kia. The Chief called in his part time Deputy, and told him that he was taking a few personnel days, but to call him in anything major happened, which he was sure wouldn’t.
Jackson really hadn’t said too many words during the trip, and neither had any of the girls, except for Laura, who kept mumbling to herself. Jackson tried to listen to the dead girl’s one-sided conversation, but found it giving him a head ache, so he turned his attention elsewhere.
They passed a green road sign that read, Sleepy Hollow State Park, with an arrow. Jackson turned the car in the direction of the arrow, and a short time later he turned into the park’s main entrance. From there, he followed the road up to the first picnic area.
“The bear!” Laura said out loud, giggling to herself.
Jackson stopped the car and saw a black colored, wooden bear, standing in front of a welcome center, and holding a large welcome sign. Jackson pulled the car into a parking spot. Chief Vaughn parked his cruiser next to Jackson, and the two of them, along with the girls, made their way up to the building.
“This is a pretty big place,” Chief Vaughn said, finding a map of the park on a large wooden display stand. The park consisted of over thirteen miles of hiking trails, not including the horse and multipurpose trails. A large lake, multiple camping sites, all nestled within twenty-six hundred acres.
“Ok Laura, it’s up to you now,” Jackson told her. “Can you show us where your buried?”
Laura gazed upon the map, still mumbling to herself, and shaking her head.
“What can you remember?” asked Lilly, placing a hand upon her shoulder, to reassure the ghost that she was not alone.
“The lake?” Jackson asked, looking at the size of the lake on the map, and thinking this was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. “Are you buried near the lake?”
“No,” Laura answered. “Something smaller.”
“Something smaller,” Jackson repeated softly.
“Looks like there’s two spots where a river feeds into the lake.” Chief Vaughn pointed. “In the north-west corner of the park, and in the south-west corner.”
“What else can you remember?” Jackson asked.
“There’s a boat launch,” said Allison, pointing toward the south-east side of the lake.
“It’s closer toward the southern river bend,” Jessica stated.
“You wanna fill me in?” asked the Chief.
“Sorry,” said Jackson. “I keep forgetting that you can’t… never mind. We’ve narrowed it down to being near the river, but she’s not sure on what side of the lake. She also remembers boats, but that doesn’t really help.”
“Sure it does,” replied the Chief.
“It does?” asked Jackson “How?”
“If she remembers boats, then that means that she passed the boat launch, which would suggest to me, that if she was buried up near the north end, she would have walked past the boat launch on her way back toward the main road, but I am looking at this from the vantage point of a living person, who would have had to follow the trails.”
“Chief, you’re a freaking genius,” Jackson replied. “Following the trails would have been second nature to her too, right?” he asked, looking to the trio of spirits, who all agreed with him.
Chief Vaughn grabbed a loose map, and they all rushed back to their cars and made their way over to the boat launch. Jackson pulled into a parking spot, but before he could even put his car in park, Laura jumped through the door and ran off into the woods.
“Hey!” he yelled, slamming the car into park. “Laura come back here!” he called out, trying to undo his seat belt, his voice drawing the attention of two fishermen putting their boat into water. Lilly, Jessica, and Allison took off after Mark Karle’s fourth victim, who was no longer in sight.
Chief Vaughn, hearing Jackson, jumped out of his cruiser. He grabbed a back pack from his trunk and easily caught up to Jackson, who had started down the nearest trail headed north.
“Beats the fuck out of me?” Jackson replied, holding the Chief’s driveway marker in one hand. “Laura jumped out of the car, before I could get parked and just ran off.”
“What about the others?”
“They took off after her, but I can’t see anyone of them either.”
“Why are you wearing latex gloves?” the Chief asked, noting that Jackson was carrying his driveway marker.
“Stay in your lane bro, I know what I’m doing. I just need to figure out which way she went, and then we’ll be back on track.”
“She should be heading toward the river, right?” the Chief said, taking out his map. “Looks like there’s a dam at the mouth of the river. Let’s just concentrate on making it that far first. I’m sure that the others will be waiting for us somewhere along the route.”
They had been walking for miles, at least it felt like miles to Jackson, who was breathing hard. The smell of soil and dry leaves filled his nostrils and lungs, making him cough. “Hold on,” Jackson called out, leaning heavily against a large tree, as a weird sense of deja vu played across his mind. “I really need to quit smoking,” he said, feeling a stream of sweat trickling down his back. “How much further is that dam?”
“Looks like it’s about another half mile or so,” the Chief answered, looking at the map. “Come on, we need to keep moving.”
At the mouth of the river was a man-made cement dam, that helped regulate the flow of the water entering the lake. At this point, the river was about fifty feet across, and at least waist deep. On top of the cement dam was a steel cat walk, with hand rails, that allowed hikers to get to the other side of the river.
Jackson sat down on the wet steel cat walk and tried to catch his breath. Chief Vaughn took out a water bottle and handed it to Jackson, who took a hard, long drink of the luke warm liquid. “Thanks,” he said, after taking a second drink, and placing the water bottle into his jacket pocket.
“Jackson, hurry up!” Allison’s voice called out from the other side of the river.
“This way,” Jackson told the Chief, wearily getting to his feet and starting out across the steel cat walk.
They reached the other side of the dam and continued on down the path. They found Jessica, about a mile and half later, who was waiting impatiently for them. “Jesus Christ, you guys are slow,” she said, with her arms folded across her chest. “This way,” she directed, leaving the path, and venturing into the woods.
Jackson, and Chief Vaughn, fought their way through the thicket and underbrush, taking an occasional branch to the face in the process. Chief Vaughn estimated that they had traveled about another mile into the heavy forest, when they came upon a small clearing, which was really only a small space in between and a large cluster of trees.
The first thing Jackson noticed upon entering the small space, was the absence of noise. He, like so many other people in life, had become accustom to the everyday noises of the living. The sounds of cars, and people, moving about. Even on the trek to reach this place, he had been bombarded with the constant sound of his breathing, and his bitching about his breathing, but now, all he could hear was the sound of the wind rustling the red, fall leaves, of the trees, and he found himself at awe in the moment. Then he saw Laura. She was on her knees, at the center of the clearing, crying uncontrollably.
Lilly knelt down next to her, and placed a solemn hand upon her shoulder, and tried her best to comfort the young girl.
“This is the spot,” Jackson told the Chief, taking the driveway marker and sticking it into the ground.
“What do we do now?”
Jackson took out the hand-held GPS unit and turned it on. “Once I get the coordinates, I’ll write a letter to the local sheriff, and put it in a mail box, then you can go home. Case closed.”
“I didn’t come all this way to just go home. I’m here to see this thing through to the end. You know who’s responsible for this, and you know where to find him, so let’s go get the mother fucker.”
“Can’t ask you to do that Chief,” Jackson replied.
“I’m not asking for your permission here Jackson,” the Chief told him.
“Listen, I don’t even know how we’re going to end this yet,” Jackson said honestly. “This guy is pure evil, and if something happened to you, I think Helen would probably come back and haunt my ass till the day I died. Besides, how are you going to explain yourself to the authorities up here? You gonna tell them that you were just following a guy who claims that he can see dead people? You know that won’t go over very well. And I might have to resort to committing several felonies, which is something I know you won’t want any part of.”
“Yes, but I’ve got a lot more experience in dealing with evil people than you.”
“Not arguing with you there Chief,” Jackson told him, as the GPS beeped, signaling that it had found its mark.
“Tell him you won’t be alone,” Lilly said.
“Tell him that this is something that we need to do on own,” Jessica added.
“Tell him that we won’t let anything happen to you,” Allison promised.
“Tell him that I want him to be the one to bring me home,” Laura said, getting up from the ground and wiping the tears from her face.
Jackson relayed the girls’ messages, and the Chief found the he couldn’t refuse. “I’ll make the call,” he said, with a heavy sigh. “If you need me for anything,” he said. “All you gotta do is call and I’ll bring the cavalry. Understand?”
Jackson nodded, and extended his hand toward the Chief. Chief Vaughn reached into his waistband and pulled out a black glock pistol. “Just in case,” he said.
“Got that covered,” Jackson told him, with an awkward smile.
“Ten four,” the Chief replied, returning the gun from where he got it.
Jackson gave him a surprising hug, which caught the old man off guard, before walking back toward the trail.
“Jackson!” the Chief called out to him, before he got too far away. “Thank you.”
Jackson nodded and disappeared amongst the trees.