The Monitor

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Chapter 4

Chapter 4

“I need you to listen and let me finish before you completely freak out.” Bryce said to me when he finally came back in. I stared back at him; wishing he’d just hurry up and spit it out, yet not knowing if I even wanted to hear what he had to say.

“Our neighbor, Kent…he’s dead. He shot himself in the head a few nights ago.” My jaw literally dropped open as he continued on, “Apparently a friend of his hadn’t heard from him in a few days and when he didn’t answer his phone or door, they called the cops. When they got to the house, they found his body.”

“Oh, my gosh! How awful!” I gasped. But by the look on his face, I could tell the story wasn’t over. “There’s more,” he said, taking a deep breath before continuing. “After searching the house, they also found drugs stashed everywhere…”

“-Oh, so that must be why the news crew is here then?” I interrupted.

“No, unfortunately it gets much worse. Apparently they also found some items belonging to two local missing children. They were in a box along with the news article about the missing children.”

I felt sick. I knew exactly which children he was referring to…I remembered hearing that story. I saw their mother on the news pleading for the safe return of her 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined they’d end up just feet from my own house!

“I can’t believe this!” I choked out. “So what happened to those kids? Did they find them too?!” I was trying my best to keep my voice low because the twins were still sleeping in their car seats just a few feet away, but I was on the verge of hysterics!

“They haven’t found the children yet; just some clothing and a few personal belongings. But he supposedly did leave a note confessing to abducting and killing them. According to Savannah, the police had been patrolling our street for the last week. She thinks they must have been suspicious of him and he probably realized that and decided it would be easier just to take his own life than to take responsibility for what he did.”

Without even realizing it, I’d started pacing the room; muttering to myself. “How could we not have known this was going on right under our noses?! Those poor little babies! Their poor family! What kind of monster could do something like this?!”

The sound of Hadley fussing broke through my thoughts. I had almost forgotten they were there! And I also remembered how sore I was so I quickly sat back down and told Bryce we had to somehow put it aside and focus on being new parents.

After the babies were fed and changed, my mom came over to visit and help us get settled in. I turned on the news, and sure enough, there was the live story from across the street. My mom and I sat in stunned silence as they retold every horrific detail.

“I’m live here on Camden Street; where this once-quiet neighborhood has been rocked by what first appeared to be a suicide and has now turned into a murder investigation. 43-year-old Kenton Phillips, or ‘Kent’ as he was known to friends and neighbors, was reported missing by a friend who was unable to reach him for several days. When authorities showed up to his house, they found Phillips’ body in the basement. The death was quickly ruled a suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Upon further search of the residence, police also found several bags of illegal narcotics. They haven’t released an official statement on the drugs, however, they believe Kent Phillips was buying and selling drugs as part of a large local drug ring. But the most disturbing thing police found was a box containing small clothing and other children’s items; such as a stuffed animal and pink pacifier. Also in the box was a newspaper article about two local missing children. After thorough investigation, it was confirmed that these items did, in fact, belong to the missing children from the article. 4-year-old Keegan Hollis and his 2-year-old sister, Arden, were taken from their backyard while playing last month. Their mother, Brie Hollis, who had gone into her house to answer the phone at the time of their disappearance, appeared on our news program the following day issuing a $10,000 reward for information on her children’s whereabouts. Neighbors describe Kent Phillips as a ‘quiet, but polite man; who kept to himself and enjoyed riding his motorcycles.’ In fact, we spoke to one of those neighbors earlier today.”

The next thing I knew, there was Savannah on the TV screen. “I’ve known Kent since he moved in next door about five years ago,” she was saying. “We spoke almost daily. He wasn’t married and never mentioned family. And I had only seen a handful of friends come and go the whole time I’ve known him. He was what you would call a ‘loner’, but I never saw any kind of suspicious behavior from him and I would never have thought him capable of doing something like this. My thoughts and prayers go out to those children and their family. I just wish I would have known sooner and could have done something.” And with that, they went back to the live reporter. But I turned off the TV. I had had enough for one day. My mom turned to me, pale and wide-eyed. “I can’t believe something like this could happen so close to your home, Quinn!” she said. “I am just so thankful that at least we know what kind of person he was and he’s gone now so at least you won’t have to worry about Hadley and Hayden’s safety!”

And that’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks and literally knocked the wind out of me. Tessa’s message! She had said she felt that my neighborhood may not be safe. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now it made perfect sense! I can’t believe I didn’t recall this sooner!

I think it must have struck my mom at the same time, because just as I turned to say something to her, she said, “Could this have been what Tessa meant?! Now it makes sense!” Hearing this, Bryce just rolled his eyes and took Hayden to the nursery for a diaper change. Clearly he still was not impressed by Tessa’s ‘gifts’.

That night, Bryce and I slept out on the couch next to the twins in their pack-n-play. Our bedroom was small and it was too difficult for me to get in and out of our bed. We took turns getting up when they would wake. I fed them and then Bryce would change them. The longest stretch they slept at the same time was from 4am-7am. It was nice to get a decent amount of sleep for the first time since they were born. I had even started to dream…

In my dream, we were playing out in the backyard with the kids. They were toddlers (maybe 2 or 3). It was a sunny day, and I was blowing bubbles with Hadley while Bryce and Hayden drew on the cement patio with chalk. We were all laughing and having a great time. That is, until I noticed someone standing in the shadows at the back of the yard. I watched in absolute horror as Kent stepped out into the light and walked towards us. He stopped right in front of us and looked from Hadley to Hayden. Then looking me right in the eyes, he said, “Those are beautiful kids you’ve got there.”

My eyes flew open and I sat up quickly; causing me to cringe in pain. I was drenched in sweat. I must have startled Bryce awake, because he also sat up quickly and looked at me. “Babe…what’s wrong? Is it the babies? Do you need me to do something?” I shook my head, still trying to shake off the awful nightmare. It had seemed so real…I could still hear Kent’s voice echoing in my head. “Pull it together, Quinn! It was just a dream!” I told myself as I got up quietly to go to the bathroom and take my pain meds. When I came back, the babies were starting to wake. For once, I was actually relieved, because I don’t think I could have gone back to sleep after that anyway.

The days following were rough (to say the least). Bryce and I were both exhausted. Maintaining any sort of schedule day-to-day was next to impossible. The babies rarely slept at the same time. But luckily, what little sleep I did get didn’t involve dreams of dead, homicidal neighbors. We were still having family and friends visit us daily, so we had no need to leave the house, which was fine with me. I was more than happy to avoid the media frenzy across the street anyway. By this point, everyone we knew had heard about what had happened. They would make comments about what a ‘shock’ it was, but for the most part, everyone avoided in-depth conversation or questions about it, which I greatly appreciated. The less I had to think about it, the better.

Bryce was able to take off a full two weeks for paternity leave, which was great. But it went by way too fast and I dreaded him going back to work and me being home alone with two babies.

The day before he returned to work, he got a call from his manager asking if he could come in early the next day before his shift to discuss some changes that had been made in the department and he didn’t want to do it over the phone. We just hoped it wasn’t bad news.

That night, I decided to try and finally sleep in my own bed again. My pain had lessened quite a bit, and I was able to get in and out of the bed without much trouble. We moved the pack-n-play to the foot of our bed and set up the supplies we would need for the night. Hadley fell asleep around 9:30pm, and Bryce took her to our room to lay her down, so he could also try and get some sleep for work the next day. I stayed out in the family room with Hayden until he finally fell asleep around 11pm. I quietly laid him down next to his sister and crawled into bed. I think I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow!

I was awakened a short time later, by a bright light in my eyes. When my eyes adjusted, I realized it was our video monitor we had set up before the twins arrived. We had plugged it in on the shelf in our headboard and I guess we had forgotten to turn it off. What could have set it off? Maybe it was the furnace coming on? And had it been going off every night and we just didn’t realize it? I stared at the night-vision view of the empty cribs in the nursery. For a second, I could have sworn I saw one of the stars on Hadley’s mobile moving, but I knew was just my tired eyes playing tricks on me. I reached up to turn it off, when it suddenly shut off by itself. It must have been in power save mode. I heard the babies starting to stir. I sighed and carefully got out of bed, changed them both, then fed them before they fell asleep again. I swaddled them and laid them back in their pack-n-play and tried to lay back down again. But as soon as I did, that same bright light from the monitor was shining in my eyes again. I knew it wasn’t the furnace this time, so I picked it up and panned the room. Everything seemed to be in its place. The bookshelf under the window. The drawers next to the closet. But then my eye caught sight of something in the floor. I zoomed in to see a face-down picture frame that was given to me at my shower. Bryce’s mom brought some pictures by that she had gotten developed from the hospital the day the twins were born. I had just put a picture of the four of us in that frame today and placed it on top of the bookshelf. It must have fallen and set off the monitor. Mystery solved! I reached up and turned off the monitor and drifted back to sleep (at least for a few hours).

When the kids and I got up the next morning, Bryce had already left for work. I remembered his boss wanted to talk to him, and immediately got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I took Hadley and Hayden to their room to get them changed into cute little outfits. I picked the picture frame carefully off the floor and set it back on top of the bookshelf. Luckily, it hadn’t broken. I peeked out the window above the bookshelf to see what the weather was like. It was a dreary day, but it was quieter on our street than it had been since we came home. There were no news crews or cop cars. There was still police tape around Kent’s house, but I was starting to feel like maybe we were finally going to have some peace and be able to put this whole ordeal behind us! (I really wish I had been right!)

I had just put the twins in their bouncy seats in the living room when my cell phone rang. I saw that it was Bryce calling from work and I prayed he wasn’t calling with bad news. “Hey, honey. What’s up?” I said when I picked up. “Hey.” he replied. “So I talked to my manager and you’ll never guess what he had to say.” I couldn’t tell by his voice if it was good or bad, but I was in no mood for guessing games either, so I got the obvious question out of the way. “You didn’t get fired, did you?” I asked. “Not even close,” he answered. “In fact, it’s the complete opposite. My manager called me in to tell me he has accepted a higher paying position at another hospital. And he is recommending me for his replacement!” That was definitely not the news I was expecting, but I was thrilled! “Bryce, that’s amazing!” I gushed. “Well, don’t get too excited just yet…” he told me. “I have to submit my resume to the board and interview for the position still. But Roger thinks I will be a shoo-in for the job. Now, you realize this would mean more hours and seeing more patients. But it would also mean a large pay increase. And we wouldn’t have to worry about you looking for work or us struggling financially!” Even though he was trying to disguise it, I could hear the excitement in his voice. “Wow, honey, I’m so excited for you…and for us! We’ll talk more about it when you get home. Love you!” – was what I said to him as we hung up. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking, “Tessa, you were right again!”

About a week later, things were really starting to fall into place. Bryce was offered the manager position and after a bit of training, he was set to start the week after Thanksgiving. The babies were finally getting into a routine and I was starting to get some sleep at night. The nightmares had stayed away and the neighborhood had remained fairly quiet.

One night, we had just finished watching ‘Survivor’, when the local news came on. The first headline story caption under the news anchor read: Suicide Note from the ‘Camden Street Murderer’ Goes Public.

“We begin our evening with breaking news. Police have released the suicide note written by Kent Phillips who is being dubbed the ‘Camden Street Killer’. Phillips was found dead in his home November 4th by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Also found in the home were items belonging to two local missing children. In the note, Phillips confesses to abducting and killing the two children. There has yet to be any leads or clues as to the victims’ whereabouts. We warn you that parts of this note may be disturbing to younger viewers.” said the anchorman. Then they showed a clip of the local Sheriff at a press conference in front of City Hall early that day. I listened in shock as he read from the suicide note.

“To whoever finds this,

If you’re reading this, it means I’m finally free…free from the guilt of what I’ve done…free from the darkness that has controlled me for so long and made me do terrible things.

To the parents of these two young children, I am so sorry for what I have taken from you...

I never intended for this to happen. When I passed them out playing that day, something came over me. I had only wanted to take them and raise them as my own. But once I had them, Darkness would not let me keep them. He wanted them for Himself. I knew the only way to save them was to end their lives, as I must do now to save myself from the Evil that has plagued my life for too long. I just hope eventually my friends and family can forgive what I’ve done.

Good riddance to this cruel existence and may God have mercy on whatever’s left of my soul.

-Kenton L. Phillips

The Sheriff paused and removed his reading glasses before addressing the crowd again. “Mr. Phillips’ body was found in the basement of his home on Camden Street November 4th. Next to his body, we found a painted symbol commonly used in Satanic rituals. We believe Mr. Phillips was participating in practices of the occult and this may be what he refers to as ‘darkness’. Although he has admitted to murder, he did not leave any clues as to the whereabouts of the victims’. We will be conducting a more thorough investigation of Mr. Phillips’ property in hopes of finding some answers. If you or someone you know has any information on this case, please call the Sheraton County police department or your local Crime Stoppers division. Mrs. Hollis, the mother of the missing children, is now offering the $10,000 reward for any information that leads to the location of her children. You can remain anonymous. Thanks for your time.”

And that was that. Hearing the confession made me physically sick to my stomach thinking what he had done to those poor children. And I also knew that the ‘peacefulness’ in the neighborhood was going to be short-lived. Any moment now, authorities would be back out here probably demolishing Kent’s property in hopes of finding something…anything.

Sure enough, within 24 hours, they had all taken their places again across the street. This time they had brought with them construction vehicles and a dump truck. And of course, Channel 7 News was there again; afraid to miss one second of the action! I rolled my eyes as I walked away from the bay window. I would have to find a way to drown out the commotion because I had more important things to focus on. Mainly, the fact that Thanksgiving was in THREE days. And for some stupid reason, I had volunteered our house for dinner this year. When I agreed to do it, I was thinking it was a great idea because it meant we wouldn’t have to haul the kids around all day. Bryce’s mom and my mom agreed to help clean the house and cook the food. It was just going to be immediate family; our parents, siblings, and grandparents. But now that it was right around the corner, I was starting to panic thinking about what all needed done beforehand.

While Hadley and Hayden napped in their cribs, I started tidying up and made phone calls to find out what dishes people were bringing. My mom said she’d come over Wednesday night to help me finish cleaning and she’d be there early Thursday to help start the cooking. I was starting to feel a little more at ease about it, so I decided I’d relax and put my feet up for a bit. Of course, the twins had a different idea. I fed and changed them and was turning to leave their room, when something on top of the bookshelf caught my eye. It was the picture frame again. And even though it hadn’t fallen off this time, it had somehow turned face-down on top of the bookcase. I picked it up and placed it back up-right. I must not have set it completely upright the last time, so I made sure it seemed secure before I left the room this time.

Bryce had to work late, so it was around 7pm and already dark out when he got home. He said his day went well, but he was exhausted. He stayed up for a bit and watched TV with me. When Hadley fell asleep at 8:30, Bryce put her in her crib and headed to bed himself. Hayden was asleep about a half hour later, so I laid him down and turned in for the night as well.

Sometime later, I heard the crying start. I rubbed my eyes and rolled out of bed, still half asleep. When I reached the nursery door just across the hall, I saw that it was shut. This was strange, because we made sure to leave it cracked a little. Even stranger, was that when I tried to open it, I realized it was also locked! No matter how hard I tried twisting the knob, the door wouldn’t budge. Their crying became shriller…more frantic. It was almost as if something or someone were hurting or scaring them. I started to panic and began pushing on the door with all my weight. The crying just got louder and louder. I screamed for Bryce and right as he reached me, the door flew open and I was blinded by the super bright light illuminating from the room.

My eyes flew open as I sat up in my bed, gasping for breath. I was immediately aware of two things…One being that it was all just another horrible dream. And the second was that the ‘blinding light’ I had seen in my dream was actually from the monitor coming on again. From what I could see, neither baby was actually awake or crying yet. But I did hear a faint sound coming from the monitor. I picked up it up for a closer look. This time, I knew my eyes couldn’t have been playing tricks on me. The mobile above Hadley’s crib was turning! I knew I hadn’t turned it on. And she certainly couldn't have touched it! I could hear the soft tune of “Rock-A-Bye Baby” playing as it spun. Then, it stopped suddenly. I closed my eyes tight for a second and hoped this was just another dream…even though I knew it wasn’t. With the monitor still in my hand, I threw off my blanket and started to climb out of bed, just as the music started up again. This time, it was the mobile above Hayden’s crib. I watched in disbelief as the mobile began to pick up speed. The plush stars were swinging faster and faster. I raced down the hall to the nursery and flung open the door...but it had stopped. No mysterious moving mobiles. No lullaby music. Nothing but complete silence. I walked over and looked from one crib to the other. Both babies were sleeping on their left sides. They looked so peaceful and innocent, that for a moment, I almost forgot why I had rushed in there in the first place. But the vision from my nightmare and the sound of the moving mobiles were still fresh in my mind. A chill ran down my spine and I shivered. Had the room been this cold a moment ago? I started to leave the room to check the thermostat in the hall when I heard one of the babies start to fuss. After I fed, changed, and got them both back to sleep, I spent the rest of the night sitting in the rocking chair in their room and trying to wrap my head around what had just taken place.

When I heard Bryce get up the next morning, I snuck out to tell him about my dream and seeing the mobiles moving. He said that it just sounded like I need more sleep. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) And he thought the nightmare could be because of the events surrounding Kent’s death and me being a new mom and wanting to protect my kids. I didn’t want to admit it, but that made sense. It still didn’t explain the mobiles, though. Is it possible that I imagined it? Either way, I really just wanted to try and somehow put it behind me, at least for the time being.

I went about my day as usual…taking care of the babies and trying to get some things done around the house in the few quiet moments I got between feedings, changings, etc. Occasionally, I would hear the ruckus outside on the street. I peeked out the bay window and one point, and saw a large Bobcat digging in Kent’s backyard. Besides the workers and news crews, there were quite a few other bystanders watching. They were whispering and pointing, but I couldn’t see that there was anything worth getting excited about, so I went back to finishing up the laundry before the twins got up for another feeding.

At a little after 5pm, I got a call from one of my best friends from school, Nora. She sounded frantic. “Oh, my gosh, Quinn! Turn on Channel 7 News quick!” I fumbled for the remote on the coffee table and clicked it on. Once again, the familiar view of our neighborhood appeared behind the live action news anchor, Karina Fuentes, who had been camped out in front of Kent’s house practically since this whole mess began. Nora and I sat in silence and listened.

“Only moments ago, construction crews uncovered what appears to be human remains in the backyard of Kenton Phillips’ property. I spoke with the police chief earlier today who told me they had received an anonymous tip from a neighbor who had seen Phillips hauling large landscaping items the day after the Hollis children’s disappearance. This provoked police to focus specifically on the newly-landscaped area in the back corner of the yard behind Phillips’ home. Although we do not have confirmation on the identities of the remains found, I’ve been told the police are confident that they belong to the missing children. A forensic lab is analyzing the remains as we speak and I will bring you an update as soon as we hear anything else.”

I had almost forgotten I was holding the phone up to my ear until I heard Nora speak again. “Can you believe that?! They were buried in his backyard this whole time! Seriously, how sick can a person be to do something like that? I mean, I can’t imagine what those kids’ parents must be going through, you know? But I guess at least now they’ll have some sort of closure and be able to say goodbye with a proper burial.”

She was rambling on so quickly that I could barely get a word in. This was fine with me, though, because it gave me a chance to swallow the lump that had risen in my throat. I don’t know if it was the post-partum hormones or just the fact that I was now a mom of two babies myself, but for a minute, I did try and put myself in Brie Hollis’ shoes. The grief I would feel if anything like this happened to my kids was more than I could bear to think about. I felt like I could be sick!

“Quinn? Are you still there?” I heard Nora ask. I blinked several times and swallowed hard. “Yeah…yeah, I’m still here. Uh, sorry; it’s just so unimaginable that something like this could happen in such a quiet neighborhood as this. But maybe now that it’s all over, we can finally return to normal around here.” Nora chuckled saying, “If I were you, I’d move to another neighborhood!” I chuckled too, but in the back of my mind I wondered if she didn’t have a good point there. Would it be better if we just picked up and started over somewhere else? I shook my head at the thought. Even if I wanted to, there’s no way we could uproot the twins or even be able to sell our house in this market. Especially not on this street right now!

I hung up with Nora and laid a mat out for tummy time with the twins while we waited for Bryce to get home from work. He had already heard the latest news from a coworker. He said he was just relieved that the mystery was solved. And he, too, was looking forward to some normalcy again.

The babies had taken late naps, so I stayed up with them after Bryce went to bed around 9:30. I was catching up on some episodes of the Ellen Show that we had recorded, while bouncing the twins in their bouncy seats. Around 10pm, Hayden had just fallen asleep when I heard a loud ‘crash’ sound come from down the hall where the bedrooms were. I picked up Hadley so she wouldn’t wake her brother, and headed in the direction of the noise. I passed the nursery and went to our bedroom; thinking maybe Bryce’s phone fell off the nightstand where he charges it. But when I flicked on the light, Bryce was fast asleep and the phone was still on the nightstand. I shrugged and started to head back down the hall towards the family room. As I passed the nursery again, I noticed that this time the door was standing wide open. I was fairly positive it was nearly closed when I had walked by just a minute ago.

I took a step inside to turn the light on and stepped down on something hard. I felt along the wall with my free hand for the light switch and flicked it on. I looked down, and under my foot was that same face-down picture frame! I could not believe my eyes! How was it possible that I have picked this thing up twice already and this time, not only did it fall off the bookshelf, but it had somehow landed all the way across the room?! I bent down to pick it up and noticed this time the glass had completely shattered. I didn’t hear anything break when I stepped on it, so maybe that explained the loud noise I had heard a few minutes ago. But that didn’t explain how it ended up where it did. It just wasn’t adding up. A chill ran up my back again and I realized the room was absolutely freezing cold. The thermostat seemed to be working just fine, so I made a mental note to have Bryce check the vents in the house tomorrow.

In the midst of this momentary chaos, Hadley had somehow fallen asleep in my arms. So before I left the room, I laid her down carefully in her crib then took the broken frame to the kitchen and threw it away after removing the picture from it. I was still puzzled by what happened, but I was too tired to try to make sense of it tonight. I took Hayden to his crib and crawled into bed.

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