Dr. Draycott’s handshake was strong and firm. He seemed to be constantly scanning my face for any sign of emotion.
“I’ll wait in the lobby,” my mom resolved. He gave her a polite nod, then motioned for me to take a seat.
“I hear you’ve been having visions again.” Still unsure of whether or not being honest with him was in my best interest, I avoided his intent gaze.
“I’m not crazy.”
“No one said that you were.”
“Oh really? You didn’t think I was crazy eight years ago when you locked me up?”
“You were dealing with some intense trauma, especially for someone as young as you were. It is completely understandable to need some help sorting through your grief.”
“Whatever.” He shifted in his chair.
“Can you describe to me what you see in your visions?”
“No,” I said stubbornly. “You wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“Oh, like I tried to tell you about them eight years ago?” He frowned, realizing it was going to be a lot harder to get through to me the second time around. I wasn’t letting go of the grudge I held against him anytime soon.
“Ok, here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to think back on everything we’ve discussed and we’ll meet back here tomorrow at the same time. Sound good?”
“That sounds fantastic,” I smiled at him sarcastically. “Because you’ll be so much more willing to believe me tomorrow.”
I convinced my mom to take me directly back to school after my appointment because I wasn’t sure how many more accusing glances from my dad I could take at home. I just wanted to be lost in a sea of faces for the rest of the day. Jacob approached me in the hallway, holding a bathroom pass. He cut right to the point.
“Did you hear that another girl already went missing? Her name is Brittany Rockwell, and she also goes to Joseph P. Liles Preparatory Academy. I can’t believe another girl disappeared so fast!” I grimaced at the word killer, and my vision darkened, except this time I wasn’t having a vision. I fell to the floor, and then the world around me vanished.
“Tyler? Tyler?” He turned to shout down the empty hallway. “Can somebody help her?” I shoved my shaking hand towards his face and covered his mouth.
“No, don’t shout! I’m fine!”
“You fainted. You most certainly are not fine.” I used his shoulders to push myself off of the floor, trying to ignore how dizzy I still felt.
“I was just shocked is all. It’s really no big deal.” The concern on his face didn’t waver.
“Are you sure? I can walk you to the nurse.”
“That’s okay. You can walk me to fifth period if you want.” I was relieved when he finally followed me down the hallway. I didn’t need any more reasons for adults to pester me with more questions. Walking toward my classroom, I saw pictures of current students displayed in the trophy cases. None of them jumped out at me, and I had faith that this meant that none of these kids would fall victim to the psychopath that was roaming the streets. I allowed that to offer me a small amount of comfort, but still I couldn’t even begin to imagine what Brittany was going through at that moment.
“Do you know anything else about what happened to Brittany?” I asked. He thought for a moment. My shoes made a small clicking sound as the heel hit the tile, and I worried that a teacher would come to investigate who was wandering the halls during class.
“Only what it said on the news.” We arrived in front of my classroom, and I waited for him to leave so I could run to the bathroom and be alone for a second. I needed some time to process this information and decide what my next step was, but Jacob loyally stood by me.
“Are you sure you’re alright? You don’t feel dizzy or lightheaded or anything like that, right?
“Yes, I’m totally fine. I promise.” I made eye contact with my teacher through the glass window, and knew that there was no way I could be alone now. He approached the doorway.
“Tyler! You are like forty minutes late to class. This is completely unacceptable.” I didn’t even bother to tell him that I had a pass from the office. I would rather him think that I had just been roaming the halls than to risk him asking about the appointment I had been at. “And Mr. Woods, it is cute that you wanted to walk her to class, but I can imagine that you have been roaming the hallways now for much more time than it takes to use the restroom.”
“I’m terribly sorry sir,” Jacob replied, and I suppressed a laugh. He smiled back at me as my moody teacher ushered me through the doorway. I could have just imagined it, but I thought I saw Jacob wink at me just before the door slammed shut.
At the first sound of the bell, I raced out of my seat and into the nearest bathroom stall. I pulled out my phone and searched up the missing girl’s name. The sound of a toilet flushing echoed across the walls, but I ignored the sounds around me. The screen seemed to take forever to load. Bracing myself for another vision, I placed my backpack in my lap and sat against the door of the stall, facing the toilet. A brunette girl’s face popped up on my phone. My entire body began to tingle, stronger than ever before, and my vision went dark almost immediately. The small bright light glowed on the man’s two hands. I noticed the clock without hands still sat centered on his palms. Then, the same man I had seen in my previous visions stepped forward into the light. His dark brown hair seemed to have turned gray a little around the edges, as if the weight of his actions had finally taken a toll on him. His face was completely devoid of emotion, which emphasized his menacing demeanor. This man probably had Brittany right now, and no one but him knew whether she was dead or alive. It made me angry just to look at him, and I was grateful when my surroundings finally came down around me. My breathing was heavy, but the bathroom was eerily quiet. Not even the creaking of the stall doors interrupted my gasps. It was in that moment that I decided that this man wasn’t going to get away with his crimes for much longer. If my parents, Dr. Draycott, and even the police weren’t willing to believe me, then it was up to me to bring this mystery man to justice.
My car weaved in and out of traffic. I hoped there weren’t any cops around because getting a ticket for reckless driving wouldn’t exactly ameliorate my tainted reputation with the force. When I arrived home, I barely said two words to my parents despite their pleas for me to stay downstairs and talk with them for a minute. By now, they had probably discussed my unproductive meeting with Dr. Draycott, and I wasn’t ready to relive my hatred for him at that moment. I rushed towards my computer, then stared at the Google search menu. Where did I even begin to look for clues on the girl’s cases? Finally, I decided to search up each of their names, and spent hours poring over the contents. Each site described their family, hobbies, and school. My eyes watered as I read through the thousands of condolences offered by the community. The police made it very evident how desperate they were for information regarding the killer by their numerous press releases that all contained the same worthless details. I sighed, slamming my computer closed in frustration. How could there be no pertinent information on the Internet? With my mom’s voice calling me downstairs for dinner, I realized how foolish I had been. The police were trained professionals, and it was silly of me to think that I could piece together a puzzle they themselves couldn’t solve. I walked solemnly downstairs and slumped into my chair. My dad immediately started in on me.
“Why wouldn’t you talk to Dr. Draycott? He can help us through this mess.”
“Because just like you, he doesn’t believe me,” I said bitterly.
“Honey, it’s not that we don’t believe you. I’m sure you are experiencing something, but Dr. Draycott is just there to help you sort through your emotions,” my mom soothed.
“It’s not just emotion, Mom,” I growled. “I have actual visions.” By now I was almost screaming, and my dad had pushed his plate of food aside.
“Enough of this nonsense. You will apologize to those detectives, and Dr. Draycott will convince them that your words were merely just you acting on your grief, and nothing more. After that, I never want to hear of these stupid antics again.” My mom looked at him as if she was about to argue with him for being so rude, but my dad had already fled to his room, and she quickly followed suit without looking back. I was left alone at the table, and nibbled on the stale cornbread in my hands as the weight of his words hung on me. If my own parents didn’t believe me, then I was convinced that no one ever would. However, through their doubts I felt a new strength rise in me. I was not to be deterred from my goal of putting a stop to the bloodshed that had wreaked havoc on Scottsdale the past few weeks. I needed to find a way to gain new information on the cases. I thought about how I could go about doing this, and realized that there was only one place that held answers that the Internet couldn’t give me: the scene of the crime.
Once I was convinced that my parents had settled down for the night, I slipped out my back door without making a sound. I walked along the freshly cut grass by the light of the moon. The only audible sound was the chirping of cicadas high in the trees. I creeped around the side of my house and slid into the driver’s seat of my car, being sure to turn off my automatic headlights before starting the engine. I kept the radio off as I drove so that the only thing disturbing my ears was my own thoughts. They kept trying to talk me out of what I was about to do, but something inside my gut told me that I needed to go through with it. My car rolled to a stop a couple blocks from where Tabitha had disappeared from her room. I slung my small black duffel bag over my shoulder. My dark clothing disguised itself against the shadows of the night. I began my short trek, keeping as far away from the streets as possible, so that I wouldn’t be illuminated by the headlights of cars passing by even in the dead of night. My heart began to race as I spotted her house in the distance. It looked just like all of the other houses in the neighborhood, with a cozy porch and big windows accompanied by elegant curtains, but there was no missing the yellow crime scene tape strewn all over the edge of the lawn. I chuckled uneasily as I read the words “Do Not Cross.” A single squad car suddenly caught my eye, parked in the far corner of the street. A lump formed in my throat. Surely I couldn’t be caught yet? I dove straight into her neighbor’s bushes, and waited for the running footsteps that would label me as caught. They never came, and after a few minutes I felt assured that I had gone unnoticed. The brush scratched my skin as I slowly crept beyond the branches’ grasp. Dew had begun to form on the grass which left green stains on my jeans, and my hands quickly became covered in the soft dirt. I could feel the water seeping through the fabric as I crawled on all fours toward the crime scene. My legs were ready to bolt at any sign that the officer on patrol had spotted me. My heart began to race as I neared the yellow tape. Once I crossed that line, I knew that there was no going back. I hesitated just before the edge of the lawn, unsure of how this scenario was going to play out. This would appear much worse than just rambling on about having visions. I was committing an actual crime that would have serious consequences if I was caught. Those clueless detectives could charge me with tampering with evidence and hindering a homicide investigation. A mental hospital would seem like paradise compared to the juvie cell that would await me, but my mind kept coming back to Cindy’s mom. Eight years later, and the woman still had barely begun to mend her shattered heart. I needed to do this for her, and for the current victim’s families. Hopefully, I could prevent any more families from having to deal with such tragedy. I kept Cindy’s face in mind as I crawled underneath the forbidden line. The cop car sat in the same place, and I prayed that they weren’t on high alert tonight. I made my way to the back gate on all fours, and slinked over fence, too afraid that the squeaking of the gate would make too much noise. Now able to stand up without the fear of getting caught, I walked right up to the bag door. My duffel bag sounded with a thud when I dropped it to the concrete. I had taken my mom’s credit card out of her purse before I left, and now placed it into my shaking hands. We had learned how to open a locked door with just a simple credit card in criminology class, and I prayed that Mr. Thomas wouldn’t fail me now. I slid the card between the doorframe and tilted it toward the doorknob. In one swift motion, I bent the card back in the opposite direction, and waited for the door to swing toward me, but it stayed shut. A slight frown formed across my cheeks as I worried about what I would do if I couldn’t get the door open. The card slipped back into the crack easily and I yanked the card away from the doorknob with all the strength I could muster. The plastic snapped in half into my hand, but the click of the lock unveiled the inside of Tabitha’s house. The downstairs was eerily quiet. Tabitha’s family was staying in a nearby hotel so that they wouldn’t disturb any possible evidence present in the house. Underneath the silence, I could just make out the hum of the air conditioner. Yellow markers littered the floor where I imagined that evidence linked to her disappearance had once sat. The police had already poured over the contents of this house, and the feeling inside me that doubted that I would be able to find anything of value came crawling back. However, there was no room for doubt now because I was already deep inside the scene of the crime. I would never forgive myself if I chickened out now, and later found out that the police had originally missed an important piece to the investigation. I looked around the dark hallways. The spiral staircase seemed to be the center of the entire home, and I climbed the steps carefully. Upstairs, there were several hallways leading to multiple doorways. The location of Tabitha’s room was a mystery to me. I opened one small door to find shelves of towels and washcloths. Another held a small bed and dresser that I figured was the guest room. Then a door in the corner of the hall caught my attention. Something in my gut told me that I had found the right room. The hinges creaked as the door came open. I was immediately reminded of the day before when Mrs. Morris and I had guided each other into Cindy’s room. My body threatened to shake in panic, but I quickly composed myself. Tabitha’s room was much smaller than I had expected. There was a bed with frilly white sheets and a desk against the wall. Her textbooks sat opened on the floor, marked as evidence. Her maroon bookshelf stood out against the lightly painted walls. I reached over and picked up a stack of books. I read the titles to myself.
“Slated, Code Name Verity, Hollow Oak Estates, and The Ghost of Graylock.” This girl sure loved to read. Beside her books, the edge of one of her yearbooks poked out beyond the shelf. I picked it up, and slipped it into my duffel bag, figuring that I could look through the book later and determine through my visions if any other Preparatory School students were destined to fall victim to the man.The contents on the shelves seemed as if they would serve no other purpose to me, so I turned my attention to her dresser. Most of the drawers just held clothes, but one small drawer above the mirror held miscellaneous items. All of the objects had been shuffled around, and some had yellow evidence tags wrapped around them. There were a lot of little trinkets like rubix cubes, cute erasers, and key chains. A small tube a red lipstick caught my eye. I examined it’s glimmering case, but found nothing out the ordinary. Discouraged, I slammed the drawer shut just a little too loudly. The sound of shattering glass pierced the air. Shards of the mirror came raining down on my head, and I immediately threw my hands up to protect my face. Little specks of blood appeared on my forearms, and I felt a wave of nausea. I strained my neck to peer outside at the cop car, and it’s doors remained shut. The basic outline of the cops’ faces in the patrol car’s windows were clear even in the darkness. Both sipped on heaping cups of coffee, no doubt struggling to stay awake at this time of night. I wondered where they went when they had to go to the bathroom, and prayed that it wasn’t this house. Turning back to the wall where the mirror had been mounted moments before, I looked at the mess before me. The police would certainly know that someone had been in here now. A crack in the wall now unveiled by the shattered glass caught my eye. Upon further inspection, I realized that the crack was very deep. I took a deep breath, and reached my fingers inside. Bits of drywall crumbled onto the floor. My fingers brushed across a glossy sheet. Placing it between two fingers, I pulled out a small photograph. The picture showed two girls, one of them being Tabitha. I squinted hard at the other girl in the frame, and my heart almost stopped. Justice’s blonde hair was blowing in the wind. Both girls were laughing hard, as if they couldn’t be happier. I had never even heard of Tabitha and Justice being friends. How did they know each other if they didn’t even go to the same school? And why would Tabitha feel the need to tuck such as innocent photo away where no one could find it? The sound of an engine disrupted my thoughts. Headlights from the patrol car lit up the street. I was afraid that my movements had alerted the police officers, but they made no move to get out of their car. A shiver went down my spine, and I suddenly had no desire to stay in that house any longer. I shoved the photograph into the duffel bag, slung it over my shoulders, and tiptoed downstairs into the backyard. The back door shut quietly behind me. This time I went to hop her back fence instead of the gate, and exited out of her neighbor’s gate onto the street behind hers. I jumped at any slight movement, afraid that a car would come rolling down the street filled with people that would question why I was out walking at three in the morning. It wouldn’t take long for them to connect the strange girl to the intruder in Tabitha’s house if the police started asking them questions. The buzzing of the cicadas gave me goosebumps as I walked. The credit card in my pocket bounced against my leg with each step, but something didn’t feel quite right. I reached down and pulled out the credit card. A pit formed in the bottom of my stomach, and I stopped breathing for a moment. The credit card had broken in half after I had gotten the back door unlocked, but only one half sat in my pocket. That meant that I must have dropped the other half somewhere in Tabitha’s house. The credit card was attached to my mom’s name, and there was no way that the police would think that my involvement was just a coincidence if they were able to connect me to one of the actual crime scenes. With everything that had already happened, I would definitely become one of their top suspects if I wasn’t already. I weighed my options. Going back for the card was risky, but leaving the card was just as dangerous. Something in my gut told me that I needed to turn around. I figured it would be faster to travel without my duffel bag, so I selected a dense bush in a random person’s side yard. The green foliage covered the bag quite well. I slunk back to Tabitha’s the same way I had come, resolving to pick the bag back up on my way out. Thankfully, I found the back door to still be unlocked after wiggling the doorknob. I didn’t want to turn any of the house lights on, so I turned my phone’s flashlight on instead. The white light shone through the darkness. I used my hand to shield the light from the windows the best I could in case the police could see it through the window. My eyes scanned the hardwood floor for any sign of the credit card. I longed to come across the glint of those shiny numbers, but the card was nowhere to be seen. The stairs creaked softly as I ascended them, and I could see that the shards of glass were still spread across the carpet in Tabitha’s room. A small red square between the shards beckoned me through her doorway. I breathed a sigh of relief as I recognized my mom’s credit card. It must have fallen out when the mirror shattered. The same crack sat in the wall, now empty. A slight rustling sound came from downstairs.
“How could you be so stupid?” I scolded myself, diving for the closest cover I could find. I hid behind the clothes hanging in her closet. They didn’t provide the best cover, but it was the best I could manage in the few seconds I had. Even though it hadn’t been that long ago since Tabitha had inhabited her room, her clothes still gave off a musty smell. The rustling grew louder, and I realized that the police officers were coming upstairs. Then everything went quiet, and I imagined that they had spotted the mess on Tabitha’s floor. The sound of boots crunching told me that they were close to my hiding spot. My heart thudded so loudly in my chest that I worried they would hear it. The whoosh of a doorknob turning fast sent a bead of sweat down the side of my face, and then I was staring down the barrel of a gun.
“Freeze!” Two police officers stared wildly at me. “Put your hands where I can see them!” I looked around slowly, seeing no means for a fast getaway. Besides, even if these officers didn’t know who I was, once they gave my description the the detectives, it would be all over. I slowly raised my hands in the air. “Good, now step towards me slowly,” one male officer spoke. I tried to maintain an air of confidence as I walked, but even I could see that my hands were shaking violently. The female officer stepped forward and snapped my hands behind me in one quick motion. The cold metal of the cuffs squeezed my wrists.
“We need backup at 401 Terrace Drive,” the officer who had held the gun at me spoke into his radio. Static answered him, and then Detective Robert’s concerned voice echoed through the speaker.
“What’s going on?”
“We’ve got an intruder. I’d suggest getting over here fast.”
“We’re on our way.” The female officer directed me to the hallway and into a chair.
“I’m Officer James,” the man spoke sternly. “What’s your name?” I stared blankly at him, unsure if I wanted her answer him. I considered saying my name was Tyler Brown just to make the detectives angry later, but quickly decided against it. “What are you doing here?” He tapped his pen impatiently. “And I’m going to need one of your parent’s numbers, so I can talk to them.” I pressed my lips together. He bent down to get on my level, and tried a sweeter tone. “Honey, this is a crime scene. You being here is very serious. It would be in your best interest to start talking now.” I looked down at my feet, avoiding his gaze. He stood up. “Fine, if you really want to do it this way.” Police sirens sounded in the distance, and within moments I counted at least four cars through the hallway window parked on the street. The front door came open, and a sea of blue was visible over the railing. Within them stood two plain clothed men: Detective Roberts and Detective Howell.
“Up here,” Officer James directed. “We’re in the hallway.” Most of the officers remained downstairs, but the two detectives came our way immediately. At the top of the stairs, I saw recognition flash across their faces.
“Tyler?” Detective Howell asked. “What are you doing here?” I gulped, not able to think of a response.
“You’re Tyler Lyons?” Officer James gasped. He instantly recognized me to be the girl the entire force knew as the one who claimed to have visions. The gears in all three men’s brains seemed to turn instantly, as they pondered what my presence here would mean for the case.
“Thank you, Officer James,” Detective Roberts stated. He scribbled on a piece of paper. “Here’s her dad’s number. Why don’t you go give him a call?” He grabbed the piece of paper and went to join the other officers with the female officer following close behind. I tried to imagine what my dad’s reaction would be when he got a call from the police at three in the morning. The detectives locked eyes with me, and I did my best not to look away.
“Do you care to explain what you are doing here in the middle of the night?” I tried to think of any plausible reason why I would be in a dead girl’s house that I wasn’t even friends with, but nothing came to mind. I waited silently for them to move on to another question, but they just stared at me intently. The murmurs of the police officers downstairs filled the air.
“She has to be involved,” someone whispered. Another voice answered.
“Involved? I wouldn’t be surprised if she did it herself.” I was thrown back to CIndy’s funeral, when the hushed whispers of accusation had surrounded me in the church. My breaths became quicker, and I felt myself beginning to panic.
“Take a deep breath, Tyler.” Detective Howell demanded. “Tell us what is going on.” I pointed to the shattered glass, but I still didn’t answer them. Detective Roberts sighed, turning towards the broken glass in Tabitha’s room.
“I imagine that the specks of blood surrounding the glass will match the blood from the cuts on your arm.”
“It just shattered,” I whispered.
“How did it shatter?”
“I don’t know.”
’What were you doing when it broke?” A voice interrupted us, momentarily keeping me from having to answer his question.
“Hey, I found a piece of a credit card here on the stairs. This wasn’t here before. I imagine it probably belongs to her.”
“Bring it to me,” Detective Howell answered. A policewoman came up the stairs holding the card between her glove. Detective Roberts put on gloves of his own and took the small card. He held it up to the light, and read the name left on the broken card.
“Aliso….” He frowned. ’Alison. That’s your mom’s name, isn’t it?” I pressed my lips together in frustration, and I could feel my eyes beginning to water. There was no way that I could talk my way out of this situation. Detective Roberts closed his notepad.
“I think we need to finish the rest of this conversation at the station. Your parents can meet you there in the morning.” Detective Howell stood.
“I’ll take her.” He pulled me out of the chair by my arm, my hands still cuffed behind my back. We took the stairs slowly. I was afraid of falling forward onto my face, but the detective’s grasp steadied me. All of the officer’s parted quickly to make a path for us. I could feel all of their eyes on me as we walked through the sea of blue. Outside, neighbors peered at Tabitha’s house curiously from their porches. One would think that they wouldn’t be too happy about being awake at this time of night, but their relief that the police seemed to finally have a break in the case was overriding all of their other emotions. The blue and red police lights danced across their faces. Detective Howell opened the back door of the nearest squad car, and gently pushed me inside. The seat scratched my bare legs, and a distinct smoky aroma filled the car. The back of the seat in front of me was badly torn, as if someone who had sat here before me had deliberately ripped the cloth. He climbed into the driver’s seat and started the ignition. Silence crept over us once again. I kept expecting him to try and question me further, but his gaze remained focused on the road ahead. We pulled up to a big brick building that read police station across the top. I️ shifted in my seat uncomfortably. The engine sputtered quietly as Detective Howell shut off the ignition. I shifted in my seat uncomfortably he approached my door. He pulled open the handle and grabbed my arm. I struggled to step onto the concrete but Detective Howell pulled me up with ease. He shut the door behind us and guided me towards the wide entrance. A police officer held the door open on our approach. Detective Howell nodded at him as we passed through, but I kept my eyes low to the ground. We walked down a long hallway, and the cool draft passed over my skin. The detective stopped at a heavy door.
“You can sleep in here for a couple hours,” he spoke. I peered inside. It wasn’t anything like an actual cell like I had expected.
“What is this place?” I asked cautiously.
“We call it the crash pad. It’s where officers come to rest between shifts sometimes.” The room had a few bunk beds and a couple sinks with toothbrushes and washcloths lining the edges. A closet held extra uniforms for the officers. “It locks from the outside,” he added, as if warning me that I had better not get any ideas. The sound of keys against metal echoed across the walls as he unlocked my cuffs. I immediately rubbed my sore wrists, trying to gain some of the feeling back that I had lost in the last hour. “Someone will come to get you in the morning for questioning.” The slamming of the door indicated that I was finally alone. I took a long deep breath, and pondered how I could get myself out of the mess that I was in. While the fact that he was letting me stay in the crash pad meant that I wasn’t necessarily under arrest yet, I would certainly be soon. I walked to the small window with bars over the glass. Cars whizzed by below me. My parent’s car would soon come speeding up to the station, holding two angry and sleep deprived adults who would have more questions than I had the answers for. Watching headlights pass by made me incredibly tired, and I was surprised to find myself crawling underneath the thin covers of a bottom bunk.