Clocks Without Hands

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Chapter 3

Two weeks had passed, and her killer was still at large. I watched the news clip again as Detective Roberts and his partner, Detective Howell, begged anyone with any information regarding her disappearance to step forward. I was just relieved that they hadn’t thought more about the day I had spoken to Detective Roberts, and come knocking on my door to push further questions. There was a ceremony at the school to remember Justice’s life that day. Her parents had wanted to wait until her killer had been found to have a proper funeral so that the coroner would release her body to them to be buried. The public didn’t know how she had died, because the police kept that detail out of the media. I figured that they hadn’t wanted to glorify the killer by describing his methods. A knock on my door disrupted my thoughts.

“Lily is downstairs asking if you want to come to the ceremony. I totally understand if you don’t want to go though. I don’t want it to bring up bad memories for you,” my mom sympathized.

“If it’s okay, can you tell her I’m not feeling well. I didn’t really know her that well, and it would feel weird to go with them.” In all honesty, I wasn’t sure that I could look at another picture of Justice again. I still had the same vision every time I looked at her, and the man’s piercing green eyes haunted me. My mom kissed me on the forehead.

“Whatever you want, sweetie.”

Shortly after I had fallen asleep that night, I was awoken by a faint thudding sound outside my window. I padded over to my window, and peered outside. Jacob stood in my side yard in his pajamas holding a handful of tiny pebbles. He chucked another one up to my window, then motioned for me to come outside.

“I’m in my pajamas,” I mouthed to him. He pointed to himself.

“Me too. Get down here.” I sighed and slipped my converse on over my pink fuzzy socks. The house was dead silent, and I was afraid that the creaking of the stairs would wake up my parents. I shut the back door as silently as possible and went through the back gate to where Jacob stood waiting. He handed me a coffee frappucino.

“I brought blankets and chocolate covered strawberries. I figured we could drive over to that place by the lake where everyone goes to stargaze and sit in the back of my truck.” I looked back at my house. None of the lights had come on, and so I figured that my escape had gone unnoticed.

“Sure! Why not?”

The only sound was the chirping of the crickets as we gazed up at the sky.

“Did you go to Justice’s ceremony today?” I asked him.

“No, did you?”

“No.” I hesitated. “But I should have.” He sat up to look directly into my eyes. “I should have been there for her friends.” He shrugged.

“Her friends are strong people. They’ll get through this.” I didn’t respond, and I wondered what he would say if I told him the real reason why I felt so guilty. He took my hand.

“Tyler. Do you think it’s your fault? Do you feel that you should have stopped her from walking out of that party? Because there’s no way you could have known what was going to happen.” I looked away, and I felt a single tear drip down my cheek. “Look at me. No one is at fault here but the killer himself.” He was completely unaware that I knew something only Justice herself knew: what the killer looked like.

“Can we go? I don’t want my parents to wake up and see that I’m gone.”

“Sure, but first I want to hear you say that it isn’t your fault.” I just stared at him. “I’m waiting.”

“It wasn’t my fault.”

“Good. I really promise that it wasn’t, Tyler. I hope you truly believe that.”

“I do,” I lied.

The next morning, I was awoken by the sound of my parents hushed voices coming from the living room.

“Two girls missing in two weeks. This isn’t good,” I heard my dad say. I crawled out to the railing, and lay on the floor to try to hear the rest of their conversation. My mom grabbed the remote and shut off the TV, where the news was just coming back on.

“It’s just so heartbreaking,” my mom shuddered. Their voices were getting closer, and I realized that they were climbing the stairs. I hustled back into my bed, praying that they hadn’t spotted my fleeing figure.

“Tyler, are you awake?” my mom called. I pretended that the sound of her voice had awoken me, and made a big show of yawning loudly.

“Mom, I’m trying to sleep.”

“I know, honey. Your dad and I are leaving for work early, and we just wanted to let you know that another girl has gone missing. We want you home right after school just to be safe.”

“I will. Thank you.” She looked at me like she was about to say something else, but then the two left my doorway. I remained in bed until I heard both of their car doors slam, then raced downstairs to grab the remote. As soon as I clicked on the television, I was greeted by a picture of a girl just about my age. She had similar features to Justice, with blonde hair and blue eyes. My vision immediately began to darken. A tingling sensation overwhelmed my entire body, and my heart began to beat faster and faster. I struggled to move, and then I was plunged into complete darkness. Twelve roman numerals sat on the old wooden clock. The same hole sat where the hands should have been attached. Then, I saw those same piercing green eyes. We locked eyes for several moments, and I struggled to catch my breath. He faded as quickly as he had come, and soon I was looking back at the news anchor.

“Tabitha Mullins, a junior at Joseph P. Liles Preparatory Academy, vanished from her room sometime late last night. The police are regarding her as a possible runaway, but many fear that her disappearance may be linked to that of Justice Parker’s. The police are asking anyone who has possible information on either case to call the number on the screen.” I quickly took my eyes away from the television before it flashed another picture of Tabitha or Justice. I didn’t want to see that horrible man again. I felt physically nauseous, and ran to the bathroom just before throwing up. I sat on the bathroom floor, wondering why the universe had chosen me to be cursed with such a gift. My visions hadn’t done anything to help anyone, but only left me with a guilty conscience. An idea suddenly popped into my head. I couldn’t tell the police about the mysterious man myself, but maybe I could tell them anonymously. I ran down the stairs and grabbed a pair of gloves from the hall closet. My whole plan would go awry if the note could be traced back to me. With a black pen, I started writing. I tried to write very sloppy so that the detective’s couldn’t distinguish it as my handwriting. When I had finished, I placed the cap back on the pen and read over my note. It read: “The same person that killed Justice has Tabitha. I am unsure if she is still alive or not. The man is most likely in his forties, and he has brown hair and green eyes. I hope you can find him before it’s too late.” I sealed the note in an envelope, and wrote the police station’s address on the front. Digging through my dad’s desk drawer, I took a stamp off of a fresh sheet. I knew better than to lick the stamp, because the police had taken my DNA while investigating Cindy’s case and I figured my information was still in their system. Taping the stamp to the envelope would work just as well. I took the envelope and drove across the neighborhood to a random house. If the note was somehow traced back to the mailbox it originated in, I didn’t want it to be mine. I wondered who lived in that house, and hoped my actions wouldn’t place the people who resided there under suspicion. In a day or two, the note would reach the police, and I could only have faith that the police would now be able to catch the killer before another teen got hurt.

Mrs. Morris handed me back my graded quiz. A big fat zero was plastered at the top, followed by the words “Come see me after class.” I groaned, and Jacob gave me a sideways glance from across the room.

“Not good?” he mouthed. I shook my head and put my head on my desk. I could feel a headache coming on from the lack of sleep I had gotten the past two days. By now, the police should have gotten the note, but there was nothing in the news stating that the killer had been apprehended, or even that the police now knew what he looked like. I sat up at the sound of the bell, and a pit formed in my stomach when I realized I would have to come up with some excuse for my poor grade fast. Jacob walked toward me, but I kept my head on my desk. He paused as if he was about to say something, then walked out the door. When all of the lingering kids had finally left, Mrs. Morris motioned me over to her.

“I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. You seem very distant in class. Is this about Justice?” Relieved she had given me an excuse, I simply nodded. “I’m sorry, honey. I know it must be hard. I’m going to give your parents a call in a few minutes, and we’ll see what we can work out.”

“You don’t have to call my parents. I promise I’ll do better on the next quiz.”

“I really feel like they should know what’s going on. Don’t worry. I’m sure everything will work out.” I sighed and just walked out the door without saying goodbye, frustrated by the fact that she felt obligated to get involved. Jacob stood waiting outside the door. He made a face at the graded quiz in my hand.

“I guess my tutoring session didn’t really help, huh?”

’No, it did. My mind has just been all over the place lately.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No thanks. I just need to go home and tell my family about this before Mrs…” I couldn’t bring myself to say her name. “Before she calls my parents.”

“Ok, but let me know how it goes.” He took me in a tight hug, and I felt some of the tension I had been holding inside me leave.

Two squad cars sat in front of my house. For a moment, I considered driving away, and then noticed one police officer had gotten out of her car and was walking toward mine. She motioned for me to roll the window down.

“Tyler? I’m glad you’re here. Detective Roberts and Detective Howell are inside with your parents. There’s some things they need to discuss with you.” I gulped and shut off my engine, following her through my front door. My parents sat on a couch opposite the two detectives, who jumped up at the sight of me. Detective Robert’s bald head reflected light onto the ceiling, and Detective Howell had fiery red hair that matched his small mustache.

“Tyler, sit down,” my dad remarked. I immediately took a seat between the two of them, and tried to look confidently into the detectives’ faces.

“Here’s what we know,” Detective Howell started. “We received a note this morning with the description of Justice’s killer, and whoever wrote it seemed to know that Tabitha was taken by the same person. We lifted your mom’s fingerprint off of the front of the stamp on the envelope.” I tried to determine how her fingerprint had gotten onto my stamp, and figured she must have touched it when she bought it at the post office. Why hadn’t I thought to wipe it down first? I remembered back to Cindy’s investigation, and realized they had taken my parents DNA and fingerprints as well. We had been good friends with the Morris’, and so my parents had been all over that house. The police had needed to eliminate their DNA from the scene. “When your mom came up in the system, your picture showed up. What we found so interesting was that your last name came up as Lyons, and not Brown like you told my partner at the scene. Why would you give Detective Roberts a fake name?

“Ummm,” I started. He interrupted me.

“What’s even more suspicious is that at that same time, you referred to Justice as if she was already dead. This was way before her body had been found. We assumed that that was just a slip-up on your part, but now we aren’t so sure.”

“Do you have anything to add, Tyler?” my mom prompted me. I could see in her eyes that she was hoping that I had some logical explanation for this mess, and all of this would just simply go away. I was about to speak up when the phone rang.

“Is anyone going to get that?” I joked, foolishly trying to make light of the situation. The detectives’ faces were stone cold.

“Do you think this is a joke?” Detective Roberts sneered. Mrs. Morris’ voice cut through the air.

“Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Lyons. This is Mrs. Morris, your daughter’s AP Physics teacher. I was just calling to express my concerns about her grade. She has seemed very distant in class lately, and just received a zero on the first quiz of the year. Give me a call back as soon as you can so we can discuss any further action that needs to be taken. Thank you, and have a nice night.” Detective Robert’s made a small note in his notepad, and my mom put her head in her hands. I thought fast, and figured that a mental institution was paradise to the jail cell I would be placed in if the two detectives’ thought that I was somehow involved in the disappearances.

“I did write the note.” Both men leaned forward. “I saw the killer’s face in a…. vision.” Detective Roberts tapped his pen against his lips.

“What kind of vision?” My dad stood up.

“This is enough. If you want to speak to Tyler, you are going to have to talk to Dr. Draycott first.” The two men jumped up, sliding their notepads into their waistbands.

“Yes, I did remember reading that Tyler was institutionalized as a child,” Detective Howell stated. “We will certainly ask him about her visions.” He spoke as if there were quotation marks around the word visions. “We will be in touch very soon. Thank you for your time.” Before the front door had even shut behind them, my dad’s furious tone echoed throughout the entire house.

“You better start talking now!” Steam was practically coming out of his ears. “I mean, how did you even manage to get yourself back into this mess?”

“Blake, calm down. Yelling isn’t going to get us anywhere,” my mom pleaded, placing her hand gently on his shoulder. He didn’t seem to hear her.

“Tyler! I’m speaking to you! What is going on?” I could think of nothing else to tell him but the truth.

“I really did start having visions again,” I confessed. My dad threw up his hands.

“Why is it that you insist on making up these lies? Seriously Tyler, are you trying to get yourself into trouble? I don’t understand your incessant need to include yourself in every terrible situation that plagues this town!” With that, he stormed off toward his room.

“That’s not fair!” I yelled. “Cindy died right next to me while I was sleeping!” I could feel myself becoming more angry as I spoke, and hot tears spilled over onto my cheeks. “And Justice was my friend!” My dad had already locked himself in his room, and I was beyond frustrated that he wasn’t even willing to hear his own daughter out. My mom had just watched the two of us argue, suddenly at a complete loss of words.

“Ummmm….I’m going to go call Dr. Draycott right now. Hopefully he’ll answer at this time of night, and we can get to the bottom of this.” She walked toward the phone in the living room, but stopped just before exiting the doorway. “If you know any information you aren’t sharing, anything at all, you need to tell us.”

“I did!” I growled at her. “Yet no one believes me!” I left her standing at the doorway and stomped up to my room. The slamming of my bedroom door vibrated my shelves. The hourglass CIndy had given to me for Christmas one year fell to the floor. My heart wrenched as I heard the glass shatter. I bent down to pick up the broken shards, and jumped at the buzz of my phone. A piece of glass sliced a thin line across my palm, and blood appeared on the surface of my skin.

“Great,” I muttered to myself. “This is just great.” I took a tissue off of my nightstand and pressed it to my hand. My phone stopped buzzing for an instant, then started up again, indicating that someone was calling me for a second time. Thinking it must be urgent, I accepted the call, and heard Lily’s distraught voice.

“Tyler? They found Tabitha.” I finally allowed myself to feel some relief.

“That’s amazing! Where?” She didn’t answer right away, and then I took note of the tone she had spoken with. Dread began to envelop me.

“No. I mean, they found her body.” Static filled the air. Neither one of us wanted to speak of it any longer. After a short moment, I simply hung up the phone. My brain felt as if it was about to explode. I was too late! All of the risks I had taken had been in vain. I hadn’t been able to save Tabitha from an early grave, and now she would share the same fate as Justice.

I lay awake in my sleeping bag, squinting through Cindy’s dirty window. A slight rustling sounded behind me, and I slowly turned to find the source of the noise. The glint of the knife blinded me for an instant, and then I was overwhelmed with the sight of blood. It seemed to seep through the entire room, splashed up the walls and out the door. The quantity of the blood multiplied with every second, and I was afraid that the red liquid would soon overcome me. I tried to get up and run, but my limbs felt as if they were treading through water. I screamed and thrashed about in the sleeping bag, and Charlie leaned down to cover my mouth.

“Shhhhh,” he whispered. “It will all be over soon.”

Sweat poured down my face. My arms and legs were all tangled up in my bedsheets. I put my hands to my lips. They were still tingling from Charlie’s touch just seconds before.

“It was just a dream,” I told myself. Nevertheless, my entire body was still shaking in fear. Cindy’s bloody form was at the forefront at my thoughts once again. I shuddered as if I could simply shake the image from my mind. I imagined what my life would be like if Cindy was still here. Scottsdale High would probably still be my high school, and the two of us would be inseparable in the hallways. Without realizing it, I had gotten up and walked next door. Missing Cindy so much had given me the sudden urge to visit Cindy’s mom:something I hadn’t done in several years. I had waved to her from a distance sometimes while she did her yard work, but actually approaching her house had always seemed too painful. My breaths became shorter as I stepped onto the front porch and pushed the small doorbell. The house was completely dark inside, even in the light of the morning. After some time, I figured that Mrs. Morris wasn’t going to answer the door, but then the hall light slowly turned on. Her face appeared in the dirty window next to the porchlight. Dark circles were clearly evident under her lifeless eyes, and she had creases on her forehead that made her look twenty years older.

“Tyler, is that you?” she whispered through the window. I could only nod. She edged open the door a crack and ushered me inside. The interior was a complete disaster, with trash and laundry strewn all over the floor. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t expecting company,” she apologized, shoving a plethora of items off of the couch so that I could take a seat.

“I know, I’m sorry I didn’t call or anything. I just wanted to see how you were doing.”

“Oh,” she sighed. She appeared lost in thought for a second. “I guess as well as one could expect. It’s just me in this big house. My husband is off in some foreign country doing God knows what just to avoid a few years in jail. I guess he never really loved me if he was willing to put himself before our family.” I put a comforting hand on her arm.

“No,”, she exclaimed, pulling away from me. Her sudden change in mood alarmed me. “You don’t get to do that. Where have you been the past couple years? Certainly not here.”

“I really am sorry,” I sighed. “I thought entering this house was just too hard.” Her demeanor seemed to change from angry to understanding in an instant.

“Would you like to see her room?” I swallowed hard. Did I really want to go back into the room that held my worst nightmares? I nodded uneasily, and she took my arm. Maybe seeing her room would help me get to the source of my pain, and I could stop living with constant guilt and fear. We took the stairs one step at a time, as if each footfall was a little harder than the last. Her thin nails dug deep into my skin, and I realized she was just as scared as I was.

“Have you been in her room since…” I asked.

“Only once. I had a panic attack, and couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward.” We neared Cindy’s doorway, and I realized Mrs. Morris was holding back tears.

“It’s just a room,” I whispered to myself. “It’s just a room.” Mrs. Morris was making no motion to turn the doorknob, so I reached forward and creaked open the door. I shut my eyes as the door swung open, and took long slow deep breaths. I stood in my own darkness for a moment, then slowly allowed the light to shine through. I saw her same bed against the wall and her pink pillows underneath the window. The board games that we had spent hours enjoying were stacked by her toy box. Her hourglass sat atop her plain dresser completely out of time, and I guessed that it had been sitting that way for quite some time. There wasn’t a speck of red in the entire room, not on the carpet, the walls, or in the doorway. Mrs. Morris let out a big sigh of relief, and squeezed my hand. We stepped forward together, and took in the entire room. It looked just like any regular kids room, and no one could have guessed that a horrible tragedy had occurred there.

“Thank you so much for coming,” Mrs. Morris spoke. “This really means alot, Tyler. Eight years is a long time to avoid something. I never could have came in here by myself.” Now it was my turn to squeeze her hand.

“I haven’t been in here since either. This is so surreal,” I replied. “I feel like she could just come walking through that door at any minute.”

“I wish she could, honey. I’ve never wanted anything more desperately in my entire life.”

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