Tagged: Raymond

THURSDAY: The Witnesses, Part Two

BY RAYMOND HOLMES

This is the conclusion of a two-part story. Copyright is held by the author.

AN HOUR later, city worker Dennis Boyd pulled up to the curb, stopped and stepped down from his truck. He cracked open the fire hydrant and the gush of water spilling into the gutter washed Karen’s congealed blood into the sewer grate. He turned off the flow, grabbed a broom and dustpan from the back of the vehicle and started sweeping fragments of glass off the road towards the curb. Nudging a discarded empty cigarette package in the gutter with the edge of the broom uncovered a round, gleaming object. Dennis picked up the ring with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, let it drop into his palm, and then closed his fist around it. After glancing left and right, he dropped it into his pocket.

On arriving home, he rinsed the ring with warm water and cleaned dirt from its crevices with an old toothbrush. It was beautiful. Stones that size probably weren’t real, but the band was stamped “18K.” It wasn’t just cheap costume jewellry. What did S.R. mean?

He usually fell asleep quickly, but didn’t that night. When he did, the nightmare came. Elevator doors opened in a cavernous area and an attractive blond woman walked out. A sign near the door read “LEVEL 3.” In his dream state Dennis floated in the air above her as she walked, looking down at the top of her immaculately coifed head and watching her feet move in steps. She stopped momentarily, and then continued, coming adjacent to a recess in the wall. A dark figure in the alcove raised its arm. The female turned and uttered a small sound before being struck on the head and falling to the ground. Dennis saw the blond head split open and gush blood. The figure struck her again and again, and then pulled jewellry from her body—rings, bracelet and necklace. He looked down at the figure, wiped the weapon on her clothing, and then walked away.

Next in his dream, Dennis drifted up a stair well behind the dark figure and found himself standing alone on the shore of a red ocean. The headless corpse of a woman bobbed in the blood-red waves near the shore. The hand of the cadaver moved and scratched the initials S.R. into the sand.

***

When he awoke, Dennis’s head throbbed. His eyes hurt and he felt as though he hadn’t slept at all. Sitting at the kitchen table, his right hand, holding a cup of hot, black coffee trembled. He tried steadying it with his left, but liquid slopped over the rim. Three extra strength painkillers dulled the pain in his head. He didn’t dream much when asleep, and when he did, they were silly, benign things reflecting incidents that had occurred the day before — nothing like these unsettling, horrible apparitions that seemed so immediate, real, and intense. Was it that suspense novel he read before bed that did it, or the take-out chicken paprikash he had for dinner? Where did dreams come from anyway?

***

He entered a jewellry store the next day. It would be a big surprise for Angela. They hadn’t been going together very long, but she was a wonderful woman. Why not? It was a nice ring and didn’t cost him anything. The jewels were likely synthetic, but it was a gold setting.

The young clerk at the counter smiled at him. “Yes, sir. How may I help you?”

“Will you please sell me a ring box, Miss?”

The girl laughed. “Just the box, sir? No ring to go in it?”

“I already have a nice ring for my girl — just need a box to put it in.”

“Let me guess. You’re giving her your grandmother’s ring? A family heirloom tradition thing, eh?”

“Well, kind’a.”

“A lady will take a ring any way she can get it. Engagement?”

“Uh, just a gift.”

She opened a drawer and pulled out a black felt box. “How’s this?”

Dennis opened it, took the ring from his pocket and pushed its band into the red velveteen slot. A perfect fit. The clerk craned her neck to the side. Her eyes widened, and she drew her breath in.

“Ohhhh…It’s gorgeous. Your girlfriend is so lucky. It’ll be an evening she won’t forget.”

Dennis snapped the lid closed. “Thanks. How much for the box?”

“No charge. We’ve got a ton of them. Just keep us in mind when you need other jewellry, will you? If she wants to sell that ring or trade it in, we can do that too. Would you like me to clean it for you? We have an ultrasonic bath that does a great job.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“If she wants to redesign it in a different setting we can do that too.”

“We’ll keep that in mind. Bye.”

***

Angela threw her arms around Dennis’s neck. She pulled herself up, wrapped her legs around his hips and kissed him. He moved around in a half circle, smiling and struggling not to fall over from the weight of her body.

“Ooof — my back. You’re gonna kill me, Ang. Get down.”

She dropped her legs back to the floor, stepped back, held out her left hand and looked at the ring on her finger, face beaming.

“Denny, does this mean —?”

“Uh, no, I’m not goin’ down on one knee proposing. It isn’t an engagement ring, just a gift because I love you so much.”

“Well, I just thought, y’know . . . we’ve been going together four months now.”

Dennis looked at her with a faint smile. God women were impatient. “Yeah.”

Angela decided there was no point in pursing the issue. He was a good man and commitment’s a tough word for guys. Give him time. “But it’s so beautiful. It must have cost a lot. I never imagined having anything like it.”

“Hey — I’m not saying it’s new, kiddo. Do you mind?”

She pulled it from her finger and looked at the inside of the band. “Wow — 18 carat gold. What’s S.R. mean?”

“Probably the company that made it. It’s a used ring. Does that bother you, sugar?”

Where did he get it? Had he given it to someone else and got it back when the relationship ended? Angela slipped the ring back on her finger and hugged him. “Of course not, darling, but how did you know my size. It’s a perfect fit — almost feels like it’s holding onto my finger.”

“Well, I guess it was made just for you, honey.”

***

Who could figure out women? Give her jewellry one day and the next you don’t hear from her at all. She always called when she got home from work, but didn’t. Monday’s were lousy days, anyway. Dennis dialed Angela’s number. She picked up after six rings. Her voice was weak and trembling.

“You okay, Ang?”

“No, I haven’t been well.”

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“Terrible nightmares — horrible things like you can’t imagine; then an awful migraine headache the next morning. Couldn’t get out of bed or stand the light and threw up all day. Still feel weak.”

“What kind of nightmares did you have?”

“I dreamt about a woman being murdered in some dark cellar — horribly beaten to death and robbed. I saw the killer’s face — a tall, thin, dark-haired evil looking man with a cap. He stole her purse and all her jewellry, except the earrings, put stuff in a bag and walked away. So much blood. She came to me with her head and face hideously mutilated, begging me to help her.”

Dennis’s muscles tensed and a shiver ran through him. Both of them having the same dream? A freakish coincidence. “I’ll come right over, honey.”

***

Angela was pale, crying and shaking when Dennis arrived at her apartment. He stayed with her two days, but nothing he said, or did helped. The same horrific nightmare repeated itself every time she tried to sleep. The grotesque mental images possessed and obsessed her.

“That woman’s speaking to me from the grave,” Angela said, her eyes wide and glazed like a terrified animal.

The next morning he called her at coffee break. She sounded desperate and frightened. “I can’t stand it anymore, Denny. I see her everywhere. I want her to go away. I have to make her go away.”

“Angela —”

“Goodbye. I love you.”

“Angela — don’t —”

She hung up. He dialed again, but there was no answer. A lump settled in his throat and his insides tightened.

Dennis drove over to her apartment building. He didn’t wait for the elevator and raced up the six flights of stairs. Heart pounding, he unlocked the door.

“Angela — where are you? Angela?”

No response.

A light breeze lifted the window curtains in white, lacy waves. The hum of traffic drifted up from the street. Dennis stuck his head out and looked down at the pavement below. A truck honked its horn. A single chair sat at the kitchen table. A folded piece of paper propped against a coffee cup caught his eye. In front of it, on a place mat, lay the ring he had given her. Angela was breaking up with him. He put the ring in his pocket and then read the note.

In shaky script it read: “Denny — I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m sorry. Goodbye, darling. I love you. Ang.”

An ominous feeling settled into him. Something wasn’t right. He looked around the room and his gaze stopped at the other end of the table. Where was the second chair? His eyes fell to the floor noting the disconnected telephone lying on its side in the corner. Where was the long, grey extension cord?
“Oh God — no!” he screamed and rushed to the bedroom.

Angela’s body hung from a pipe which ran between the walls of the small room near the ceiling. A kitchen chair lay overturned on the floor just below it and the noose of the telephone cord was recessed deep into the flesh of her neck. Her tongue protruded and purplish spots dotted the face. Hands fell straight and limp at the sides of her body and fuzzy bedroom slippers lay askew on the carpet where they had slipped from her feet.

“No! No! No! Angela. Angela.”

Dennis righted the chair, stood on it, grasped the cord, and tried lifting her body to remove the noose from around her neck. He couldn’t, and it was too late. Angela Grant was dead.

***

Dennis lived the next week in a haze of numb grief and anguish, made worse by a lengthy police interview. They asked so many questions, but one tormented him the most. Why would his girl, a woman so positive and cheerful, take her own life? She wasn’t prone to moods and always talked of future plans.

Those dreams did upset her but —

At the funeral, her shattered parents, Erica and Daniel kept asking why their happy, optimistic daughter would kill herself. “Angela had everything to live for. She told us how much she loved you Dennis,” Erica said through tears. “We hoped you might have a life together.”

Daniel touched the closed casket, his face twisted with agony. “Our world is gone. She was our only child. There’s nothing left for us now.”

Angela’s framed graduation picture rested on a small table next to the shiny oak casket. She resembled her mother — the same wide-set, clear green eyes, round face and light brown hair. When Dennis looked at Erica, he saw Angela’s face.

They hugged each other and wept at the graveside. The minister read a verse from Ecclesiastes. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. All we can do is trust in his plan and purpose.” After a pause he closed his bible and concluded, “God took Angela home for a reason. In our sorrow we must trust in his goodness, mercy and ultimate design.”

Sobs broke out from the gathering and hands rose up to grief-splashed faces. For Dennis there was no God and no purpose, just emptiness, questions and pain.

***

Dennis’s nightmares returned after the funeral, more vivid than before. The murdered woman in his sleep became almost tangible — a suffering, demanding night time companion; a vision of death, yet somehow alive; a paper-white face on a blood-red background. Angela and he had experienced the same nightmares. Why? How could it be possible?

One night he jerked awake, the letters “SR” echoing in his brain. He glanced at the ring on the night table. Its central stone flashed and gleamed in the moonlight like an all-seeing eye moving in a dark socket. He picked it up, looked at the inside of the band and read the letters S.R.

A bizarre thought gelled in his mind. Goose bumps rose on his arms and the flesh on his neck tingled. The idea was uncanny, yet compelling. His nightmares started when he found the ring. Angela’s began when he gave it to her. Now the ring was in his possession again, and the dreams were repeating. It was more than an incredible coincidence.

From Angela’s description, both of them had witnessed the murder of the same woman in nocturnal visions. The murderer took rings from her body. Did the ring on the night table belong to the dead woman? Were her initials S.R.? It was unbelievable, yet instinct told him it was true, and that her tormented spirit was communicating through this piece of jewellry. Dennis had touched the ring, but Angela wore it on her hand. The woman’s suffering spirit had infused Angela’s body, and when the distress became unbearable, she killed herself.

Dennis slipped on his clothes and put the ring in his pocket. He went out into the cool evening, walked to a bridge spanning the river, took out the ring, extended his hand out over the railing and opened his fist. The ring tumbled down to the dark, swirling water, its passage ending in a small splash.

Now it would be over.

***

The nightmares stopped, but Dennis’s mind remained troubled, recalling the images of a woman being viciously murdered. The vivid memories of those dreams intruded into his waking hours and the horrible mental pictures playing in his mind distracted him, almost causing accidents when he was driving. The dead woman’s spirit couldn’t rest and he understood how the experience had affected Angela so severely.

It was after one of those close calls while driving the truck that Dennis made his decision. He had an obligation to tell the police what he knew. Finding and punishing the killer would bring peace to the murdered woman’s soul. He had a responsibility to Angela as well. What happened to her was his fault. He should never have given her the ring. If only he’d taken it back when her nightmares started.

***

Dennis hesitated as he mounted the stairs leading to the front door of the precinct station. Would they believe him or laugh? Had a woman really been murdered or had he imagined it all in a dream. Was he losing his mind? No. Angela had exactly the same dream. It did happen and somehow they were witnesses to it. He was certain of that.

The cop leaned back in his chair. “What can I do for you, Mr. Boyd?”

“I have information about a murder.”

The officer straightened and the chair creaked as he came forward. “Oh? What murder is that?”

“A woman who was brutally killed in an underground parking area.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know — somewhere in the city at level three near an elevator.”

The cop’s interest piqued. “When did this take place?”

“I don’t know that either.”

“Who do you think was murdered?”

“I don’t know her name, but she was blond, early 30s, and her initials might be S.R.”

The cop’s brows lifted and the pleasant look on his face slipped to one of focused interest. “How do you know those might be her initials?”

“I saw them on a ring that I’m certain belonged to her.”

“Why do you think that?”

Dennis licked his lips and pursed his mouth. “Uh . . . I just know that’s all.”

“Indeed? Can you describe the ring?”

“It had a large, central clear stone like a diamond, two pairs of side-set smaller ones, and four surrounding bright green gems — emeralds, perhaps. An eighteen carat mark was stamped in the band with the letters S.R. beside it.

The cop started writing on a pad of paper.

“Where did you see this ring?”

“I found it on the street.”

The cop’s eyes widened. “You have it? Let me see it?”

“I don’t have it anymore. I — uh, lost it.”

“Where did you lose it?”

“I’m not sure. Uh, it must have fallen out of my pocket.”

“Where did you find this ring?”

“Near the corner of Tenth and Market Streets.”

“In the business district. You should have turned it in when you found it, Mr. Boyd.”

Dennis’s head dropped. “Yeah, I suppose so.”

“What’s your occupation?”

“I have a job with the City Works Department.”

The cop asked Dennis several other personal questions and made more notes.

“What else do you know about this murder?”

“The killer stole all her other jewellry except her earrings and wedding band.”

“You know that she was wearing other jewellry?”

“Yes, a necklace, bracelet and two other rings, I think.”

The cop stared intently at Dennis and nodded. “I see. Anything else?”

“The murderer killed her with a metal bar or pipe.”

The cop blinked. “How do you know all this Mr. Boyd?”

Dennis hesitated and took a breath. “I saw it in a dream.”

The officer didn’t laugh. “You dreamed that you saw this woman murdered. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what happened. I saw it all. It was so real.”

“Where were you on the evening of Friday, August 12, Mr. Boyd?”

Dennis squirmed. Why were they asking him that?

“With my girlfriend.”

“You remember exactly where you were on that night?”

“Yeah. She and I spent every Friday evening together.”

“What’s your girl friend’s name and address?”

“Angela Grant — but —”

The cop startled. “Grant?” He got up and removed a folder from a file cabinet. “A woman by that name was found dead three weeks ago — an apparent suicide. It says here that a man named Dennis Boyd discovered her body. That was you? She was your girl friend?”

Dennis buried his face in his hands. “Yes, I called 911 when I found her and told the police everything I knew at the time.”

The cop shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Boyd. Such a young woman — a tragic thing.” He stared at Dennis for a few moments and leaned back in his chair. “Obviously Angela Grant can’t verify you were with her on the evening of August 12, then.”

“Well . . . no. She can’t.”

The officer rose from his desk, opened the door and motioned to a plain-clothed man sitting at a desk. The two had a brief discussion outside the room. Through the glass door of the office, Dennis could see them look in his direction, but couldn’t hear what they were saying.

The men came back in and closed the door. The way they looked at Dennis made him nervous.

“Mr. Boyd this is detective Sinclair.”

Dennis nodded at the man.

“Hello Mr. Boyd,” said Sinclair.

The cop smiled. “You’ve been very helpful to us, Dennis — very helpful indeed.”

“I’m glad. Do you know who was mur — mur — m —”

Dennis stuttered, and then stopped speaking. A sudden, intense pain exploded in his head. It was the worst headache imaginable. His vision blurred and the office light hurt his eyes. Focusing his thoughts was difficult.

“Mr. Boyd?” said detective Sinclair.

Dennis tried to speak, but was incoherent. “I-I-I-ah-ah-ah-wh-wha —?”

“Mr. Boyd? Are you all right?”

Dennis’s mouth twisted and drool dripped from one corner. His left eyelid drooped. He started to shake, then went into seizure.

“Call an ambulance,” the detective ordered.

The police officer dialled 911. “Send an ambulance to Division 43 right away.”

Dennis slid to the floor. He was transported to the hospital and a police guard stationed outside his room. When cognizant, he would be arrested and charged with the murder of Sarah Richmond.
***

Dennis Boyd died two days after becoming ill in the police station without regaining consciousness. The autopsy revealed a ruptured brain aneurysm resulting in a massive, fatal cerebral hemorrhage.

The police were convinced they found their man. Dennis Boyd knew things that only Sarah’s killer would. There was media coverage of Sarah’s killing at the time of her death, but the police withheld details from the public about how she was killed and what was taken from her, except to say that robbery was the apparent motive. He had to be the murderer.

The case file regarding the murder of Sarah Richmond on August 12 at parking level three beneath the office building at 46 Market Street was closed.

Sarah’s husband, Gregory Richmond, was investigated, but detectives could discover no evidence against him. Two days after the murder, Gregory gave the police a detailed inventory of what jewellry his wife was wearing that evening. Pawnbrokers in the city and throughout the state were alerted to watch for the expensive items she was wearing at the time of her death.

The murder weapon was never found. The only evidence at the scene was microscopic rust and steel particles embedded in Sarah’s skull and a partial bloody footprint next to the curb. From the nature of the wounds, police concluded the weapon had been a metal pipe. The footprint was a common sports shoe tread pattern which was impossible to trace.

What Gregory Richmond didn’t know was that two weeks before her death, his wife Sarah had changed her insurance policy and will to make her parents the beneficiaries. She had also started to prepare divorce papers to end their marriage. Gregory contested the will, but the long drawn out legal battle with his in-laws bankrupted him. They hired top lawyers and in the end won the case. Gregory received nothing of his wife’s estate.

Three years after Sarah’s death, a car accident rendered Gregory Richmond a permanent quadriplegic, confined to a state institution.