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Chapter One

It was cold that morning, her blankets drawn up close around her mummy style, and the warmth of the dogs that slept close to her legs made her feel like a baby in the womb. Angela Douglas, half awake, half asleep, and feeling the tiny electrical impulses of her body start to make their morning connections. She didn't wish to return to sleep, but it felt so good to just lay there, she didn't make any attempt to come full awake. Why don't I enjoy this more often, she wondered. It was because the alarm clock usually woke her rudely, always too early. It hadn't done so this morning.

She turned her head and looked at her night stand. The alarm clock was facing the wall, where she always turned it at night, so she wouldn't be tempted to look at it when she couldn't sleep. She turned it towards her. It was 10:00am. The alarm had never gone off at all.

She forced herself awake now, and sat up in bed. Her legs ached from the dogs, who were still laying on top of them in perfect slumber. She pulled her legs out from under them, then stretched them straight again. Better. She turned her attention to the alarm clock again. It was set correctly, the volumn all the way up, all things as they should be. She glanced at her husband's nightstand. He always left for work at 5:00am. His clock confirmed it. She had overslept.

When she used to work, oversleeping was the worst feeling. Being late for work, having to call and stumble for an excuse, getting the dogs out and her daughter dressed, checking her into school and then rushing down the parkway, knowing the boss would share his annoyance with her as soon as she walked in the door..it would leave her stressed all day.

Now, being a happily unemployed housewife, it was only mildly inconvienent. If it weren't for the fact that the child would miss a day of school, it wouldn't have mattered to her at all. She got out of bed, dressed, and walked into Jenny's room.

Jenny lifted her head from under her covers, eyes half open. "Hi Mama" she whispered, "What time is it?" "It's 10:00", Angela smiled. Jenny rolled her eyes and layed her head back down. Fourth time this year, Angela knew. Her daughter was getting used to it. There was no point in bringing the girl to school today, as late as it was. They would have a "mother-daughter" day off. Jenny loved those. Angela loved them too when she was a child and her mother would offer an overslept day to her. "It's God's will", her mother would say, "He wanted us to have a day off".

She turned that phrase over in her mind a few times. Waking up late, having a day change it's path because of it, could very well be God's will. Who was she to argue with it.

Angela sat down on her daughters bed and shook Jenny's legs. "Come on Poochie", she said, "Get dressed and we'll go get some breakfast". Jenny nodded. She was the smartest girl in her class, and she liked going to school, but once in awhile, breakfast with her Mom was a much nicer alternative.

Angela let the dogs out and opened all the curtains. As cold as it was in the house, the sun was shining brightly outside. It had snowed a few days before, and now all that was left was a few melting patches of white. Good, a good day for being out and about, she thought. Jenny emerged from her room on a pair of stilts she had gotten for Christmas, and teetered down the hallway and into the living room. "Look, mom, I can dance on them", she exclaimed..and proceeded to step back and forth twice, before falling over onto the couch. Angela smiled. Jenny was eight years old, and filled with a magical neverending energy. Angela wished for some for herself.

They got to the diner at 10:45 and had themselves some pancakes and eggs. Jenny pointed out the window to a vacant lot next to the donut store across the street. "Look mom, they're having a circus", she shouted. Angela looked. Seven or Eight men were building some kind of tent in the lot. A huge black tent. Angela scanned the area. There wasn't any trailers or other equipment that she could see. Infact, it would be a bad area for a circus, since there wasn't any parking near the lot. "Must be some kind of temporary store sale", she guessed out loud. "Oh", Jenny moaned.

When they left the diner, they headed home across the highway and down the other side, passing the giant tent on the way. It really was large, with a big dark opening in front. "Mommy, it IS a circus", Jenny said loudly, "I saw a clown car inside of there!" "Well, maybe so", Angela mumbled, because she knew it was no such thing.

The sun was high in the sky now. The road was wet from the melting snow, and the wettness reflected the sunlight into her eyes. She had to put her hand against her forehead to see. It was really bright. Suddenly, there was something in the road, directly in front of her. Something large and dark, looming. Angela veered her car to the right to avoid it, immediately feeling thankful that no one had been in the right lane, since she hadn't even looked. Her chest hurt from the burst of adrenaline she had just received. She slowed and looked in her rearview.

"What was that?", Angela asked, laughing nervously. "It was a clown", Jenny answered in a whisper. Angela shuddered,...the rearview mirror showed nothing. There was no one there. "Well..I'm happy I didn't hit him!", she laughed again. Jenny suddenly burst into tears. "You did hit him, Mama!" she cried, "You hit the clown"!

-- Just another short story (Writer@FRL.net), January 10, 2001


Chapter Two

Angela pulled over to the shoulder of the highway, in front of the Burger King. The smell of burgers and grease floated on the frigid air. Jenny whimpered between each breath, her eyes wide with fear. "Oh Jenny, I don't think I hit anyone, honey", Angela reassured her. "We would have felt something, or heard something,..like the time when we hit that big goose", she reasoned. Jenny looked back over her shoulder, out the back window. "But I saw him Mama. You went right through him", she whispered. Angela regretted the day she had let her daughter watch "The Sixth Sense"...ever since then, when the child had any fear, her voice would become that clear slow whisper. She could picture Jenny saying "I see Dead People". It gave her the creeps.

Angela opened her door carefully, and stepped out of the car. She leaned her head back.."Just stay here while I go look, okay?" she said in her best forcefull mother voice, and closed the door. Jenny got up on her knees, turning on the seat, to get a better view.

Please God, I hope I don't see a clown under here, Angela half joked to herself, as she bent down on one knee to look under her car. The wettness of the road immediately dampened her knee, and her hand felt the gritty dirt of the asphalt. She peered underneath. Nothing. No Clown. She took a deep breath out, and shook her head, laughing. The things you're capable of thinking, she scolded to herself.

Walking along Highway 37 was something Angela could admit she had never done before in her life. She'd been up and down this road a million times, but always been in her car. Now she was like the countless teenagers she'd seen hiking along the shoulder. The road ran from the parkway to the beach, and was impossibly crowded with stores and restaurants and rows of small bungaloo houses. The lot next to the donut store was the only slice of vacant land ten miles around. It used to be a cell phone establishment, but it had burned down last year. Sometime during the summer they had knocked it down and cleared the lot, and it had sat empty since.

Angela walked only half of the way back towards the big tent, then scanned the road and shoulder carefully. There really wasn't anything there. It may very well have been a person she nearly hit, but if it was, whoever it was, they didn't stop. She returned to her car, glad to have no more reason to stay out in the cold.

Jenny had calmed down, and was sitting facing front again. "Well, looks like we're okay", Angela told her. Jenny was expressionless. "Chalk it up to adventure?", her mom tried. The child closed her eyes. "You should go to the tent and say your sorry", Jenny said sadly. "I didn't hit a clown Jenny". She's just stressed, Angela told herself. After such a close call.

At home, Angela plopped herself on the couch with a cigarette, turned on the television, and picked up a book. Why she always put on the TV, even if she wasn't going to watch it, was a matter of comfort. Angela didn't like to feel like she was alone. The voices on the TV seemed to help. Jenny had gone into her room to watch cartoons. Time to relax. The dogs jumped up on the couch and found their way on top of her legs, again.

The book she was reading was actually a cookbook. She liked to look through it from time to time, to earmark recipes she wanted to try. The one that had caught her attention now was "Carnival Chicken". The word "carnival" made her think of Jenny's "circus". And of Jenny's clown. And what did she see in the road ahead of her? Angela closed her eyes and tried to picture it again. A dark figure in the brightness. It almost wasn't real. Could it have been a shadow of something above her, rather than something infront of her? Could it have been a trick of the light. Angela wasn't even sure what how light and shadow could trick your eyes, but she knew the phrase, so there had to be something behind it. Why did Jenny think it was a clown? Because of the circus? Did she have a better view of it? Why did she say "you passed right through him"? She made a mental note to ask her daughter more about what she remembered later.

The phone rang, and Angela jumped awake. Had she fallen asleep? She put down her book and stumbled over the dogs to get to the phone. "Angela? What were you, sleeping?", the male voice asked? Her husband was always annoyed if she sounded like she had been sleeping while he was at work. "Hi Steve, no, I was reading", she said, not really sure if she had fallen asleep or not. "Ok, well, I'm going to be late tonight, we have an investigation to do out on Route 37...just came in" "37", Angela said, feeling more awake suddenly, "what happened?" Steve was only called out to investigate when there was a death involved,...usually traffic accidents, and once in a blue moon, suicides or murders.

"Hit and Run", he said in his everyday police business voice. "Someone plowed over a guy near the donut shop. Left him laying there in the middle of the road too. Got some eyewitnesses said the car that hit him slowed down a little, then kept right on going, didn't even stop."

Angela's mouth filled with a bitter taste, and her knees felt weak. I stopped, it couldn't have been me, I pulled over, she told herself quickly. It's just coincidence, that's all. I stopped. There was nothing there. I looked. I looked. Her thoughts filled her head till she felt dizzy. "ANGELA?", Steve was annoyed she hadn't answered him yet. "Sorry", she said, "I was just on 37, that's all, was just trying to think where that might have been". "I told you, it was in front of the donut shop", his voice couldn't have been more angry. He was stuck at work, and that was all that mattered to him, and she understood. "Ok, Steve, sorry you're stuck. I'll keep dinner hot for you." He mumbled a quick "bye" and was gone.

-- Just another short story (Writer@FRL.net), January 10, 2001.


-- helen (b@r.my), January 11, 2001.

Oh Boy! And a local story setting too! You are being Fruitful!!! :)

Helen, I second your emotion.

More, please!

-- (thesonofdust@yahoo.com), January 11, 2001.

Chapter Three

Steve had been an investigator for just under year. Before that, it was 17 years on the force, but he still couldn't say he had seen anything this strange. He was in no mood to deal with strange. By the time he got to the scene, the sun had disappeared behind a grey sky, and light rain was starting to fall. The county morgue had arrived about the same time he had, so he got to take a good look at the victim. The deceased was a young black male, in his early 20s probably, dressed all in black. Black shoes, black socks, the guy even had black underware, Steve learned later.

The eyewitnesses, an older couple, were still on the scene, and he read their statements back to them while they waited. He directed his questions towards the man.

"You were in the same car, behind the car that hit the man?"
"You stated you saw a Blue station wagon with a female driver and that because of the sun glare, you were only able to get a portion of the plate number. WL, the first two digits?"
"Yes, well, partly cause of the glare"
"Anything else you can remember?"
"Well, I was tellin' the officers here it was kind of strange. It was real bright on the road, I barely saw the guy myself at first, but the lady, she swerved, and then I saw him. He was laying there, middle of the road. I slammed on my brakes so I wouldn't hit him myself, ya know. Just barely made it."

The rain started coming down heavier, and Steve pointed at the Donut shop. The three of them walked inside. "Coffee", Steve called to the woman at the counter. "Continue please", he said.

The man cast his eyes down and swallowed hard.."Well, here's the kind of strange part sir. I looked back up, looked for that ladies car, and it was already down by the next light. Like it had flown or something. We tried to catch up, to get the plate number, but we could only see the one number, and Nancy, that's my wife here, she said the radio song skipped. And we both felt funny, like something had just happened. You know that feeling?"

Steve felt his anger raising. He wasn't too fond of crackpots, and now he had to deal with two of them. Maybe three..considering the all dressed in black, black victim.

"Sir", Steve's condescending tone was clearly heard by them, "Could you just stick to the facts?"

"Yes sir, that's what I was doin', I mean, there was some strange things going on"

After dismissing the couple, Steve drank his coffee and went over the notes from the paramedics who were first on the scene. The man had no visable damage to his body. They would have to wait for the coronors report. No visable damage? No broken bones, no bleeding? How could they be sure this guy wasn't already laying in the road? If the eyewitnesses hadn't seen him until he was already on the ground? The woman swerved, they said...it's possible she was swerving to avoid a man already laying dead in the road. Of course, he couldn't be sure of anything until he found her. He got on his cell phone. "Diane, give me every blue station wagon in Star River with a license plate that starts with "WL". Give me Bakerstown too. No, that's all, I'll start from there, thanks"

As he drove out of the donut hut lot and back onto 37, he noticed a big black tent in the vacant lot next door. What the hell is that now?, he mumbled to himself.

-- another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 11, 2001.

Chapter Four

The dogs announced Steve's arrival home at 6:00pm that evening. His squeaky brakes always gave him away to the alert terriers, who would begin their barking as soon as he turned down their street. Angela took a deep breath in, and held it for a second. She had been waiting three hours for him. He's not going to want to talk about it, she told herself. I'll give him some time before I ask, she thought.

Jenny was outside, even thought it was dark now. She wanted to play in what little snow was left outside, despite the rain. She had made a snowman last week in the backyard, and he was thin and frail now, his head barely staying atop a melted body. She packed in reinforcement snow around his "neck". "Don't worry Mr. Snow", she said, "I won't let you die". Two motion activated spot lights by the back door gave her her only light, and they lit the snowman up. He stood like a shining white ghost in the dark night. Jenny hugged him. "I'll stay with you"

Steve pulled up behind Angela's blue Hyundai wagon, and got out of his car. He tried to hold his coat closed against the cold night breeze. He had stopped back at the station on the way home and picked up from Diane the list of possible vehicles, but he didn't feel like looking it over right then. He tucked the papers into his pocket.

Angela was there at the door when he walked in. She could tell he was in a poor mood right away. The greeting was a mumbled "Hey", and he retreated into the bedroom to change. "Hungry?", she yelled into him. "Yeah, I can eat something", he said half-heartedly. "I've got a plate of chicken nice and hot for you", she called back. Carnival chicken, she thought to herself...Oh God, Steve, please tell me it wasn't a clown you found in the road there. Anything but a clown. "Sounds good" he said, sounding a bit more relaxed. Don't even ask, Angela told herself.

He ate everything she had made for him, and then buttered two pieces of bread, and ate them too. "Good to be home", he said, and Angela could tell from his tone that he meant it in a big way. She pictured leading him to his big comfy chair, fetching him slippers and a newspaper, and asking him about his clown..er..day, but before she had the chance, he started telling her about it.

"Ange, strangest thing I've ever seen today", he started. She tried to look like the understanding wife, but she was already frowning. "A man, dead, allegedly hit by a car, not a scratch on him...but he was dead alright." Big red nose, big funny shoes, Angela thought to herself. He looked her right in the eye, as if he were probing her for answers. "He was all in black, this fellow,..a black guy, and all in black, like he wasn't real...like he was a shadow." Angela let out a hard breath through her nose, and it came out like a huff. She closed her eyes again and tried to picture what she had seen. It had only been a large black figure...looming. It could have been this man. It was worse then, of course, to her. Angela had known there hadn't been a clown, after all. Jenny just had a great imagination. But it "could" have been this poor man. She felt her face run white.

"Only two witnesses to the whole thing. No one in the donut shop parking lot or diner parking lot saw anything. People in those buildings all the time, Ange, you know, and no one saw a thing. When are there only TWO cars on route 37..when? At any given spot on that road? Never. There's always at least a dozen cars anyplace you are"

Angela nodded in agreement, and it was true. It had been unusually quiet on the road that day. She had noticed it, without taking any particular note of it. "Steve", she asked cautiously, "are they sure the car didn't pull over?" "Another weird thing", he replied.."the eyewitnesses said they looked down at the man in the road, and then back up at the car, and it was already another light down, like it must have been going 120 miles per hour". Angela tried to figure out how it might appear to someone that she hadn't stopped. If it was even her. It probably wasn't her...but she had to knew though. "Steve, I have to tell you about something that happened today", she said, trying not to sound too excited..but before she had the chance to finish, Jenny burst through the back door.

"DADDY", Jenny yelled, and threw her arms around his neck, hanging her weight on him so hard and tight he winced. "Easy there, Miss", he cautioned her. "Daddy, mommy overslept and I took the day off!", she said, tattling as only an 8 year old could. Steve turned and looked at Angela, and she could tell her was instantly annoyed with her again. "Well dumpling, we'll have to get you an alarm clock of your own then, so you can wake up even if Mommy can't..how's that?" Jenny jumped up and down in agreement. "I want my own clock!", she shouted.

There wasn't going to be any telling him tonight, Angela was sure of that. It would have to wait till tomorrow. Maybe by then, they'll have already discovered who hit this man, and I won't even have to say a word, she assured herself.

-- another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 11, 2001.

Chapter Five

Angela didn't sleep well that night. Her dreams were filled with images of a dark man, a shadow, against a bright white light. His mouth was moving, he was talking to her, saying something she couldn't hear. His face was contorted, and it occured to Angela he was screaming. She jolted awake. It was 3am. Steve still lay beside her, snoring quietly. She wiggled her legs out from under the dogs, turned her body to his and wrapped her arm around him, and dreamt again. This time, it was a bright white figure, in the darkness. Almost a negative image of what she had just dreamed before. A tall thin man all in white. Even his hair. He said something, something she didn't understand right then. He said "Rebuild the portal".

Jenny was standing by the side of her bed, shoving her. "Mommm, wake up", she whined. Angela came awake now, and instinctively looked at the clock. It was 7:55. "Shit", Angela said under her breath, and Jenny laughed, because she loved when her mother cursed. Angela noticed Jenny was already dressed, and she was relieved, because they had 10 minutes to get her to school. "Let the dogs out, I'll throw my clothes on and met ya at the door!", Angela instructed. "OUTSIDE DOGS!", Jenny yelled, and ran down the hall..with the dogs following at her feet, as they headed for the back door.

Angela was a pro at getting dressed in under 2 minutes. She didn't bother with a bra, or even slipping off her nightshirt. Just the essentials - Jeans, Shoes, DONE. She grabbed her purse and headed for the coat closet. Jenny was screaming something inaudible. Why do little girls always have to shout everything they say? They need the worlds attention every minute, it seems. "What?", Angela called back.

"Mr.Snooow..", Jenny was frantic now, "What happened to Mr. Snow?" "Huh?", was the best Angela could reply. "My snowman, he's all gone, he's all melted!", Jenny said with a cry in her voice. Angela didn't have time for this. "The sun melted him honey, nothing lasts forever" "But Mom, he was okay last night, he couldn't have melted. You don't understand" Of course not. Parents never understand 8 year olds, from an 8 year old point of view. "We HAVE to GO, Jenny", she barked. The two minutes in the car from house to school were spent discussing why snowmen melt.

Back at home, Angela didn't bother changing out of her night shirt, but she did manage to put some socks on under her shoes. She turned on the TV for background noise, and started to do the dishes left from last nights dinner. There was a window over the sink, and she liked to look out at the yard and the dogs, who were sniffing the ground where Mr. Snow used to be. He really did melt to nothing, she thought. Completely gone. No sign of him ever having stood sentinal over the pool.

They didn't really have a pool, but the last owners of the house had. All that was left in the yard was a circle of sand, in the middle of the lawn, where the pool had been. That..was what Angela called "the pool". In the autumn, when the yard was full of leaves, Angela raked them all into "the pool", and left them there. She hoped they would decompose and start making a base for her to finally grow grass in that spot. The pool still had a thin layer of snow over it, and the entire yard was patchs of white and green. Mr. Snow had melted away to nothing. A distant memory. That part of the lawn was nothing but grass.

With the dishes done, she sat down to watch the morning news. They wouldn't mention the hit and run that happened yesterday. News from this part of the state never made it onto any of the local stations. They were expecting another snow storm though, a big one, and Angela rolled her eyes in anticipation of having Jenny stuck home with a snow day tomorrow. No matter what, she promised herself, I'm NOT going to drive anyplace tomorrow. It was a promise she was soon forced to forget.

-- just another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 12, 2001.

I'm riveted! Keep it going! Can't wait for the next installment.

-- (sis@home.zzz), January 12, 2001.

Wow... Gayla's right, this site is obviously a talent magnet for writers :-)

It's a great pleasure to return from yet another week of no netting, to a wonderful story!

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 13, 2001.

Chapter Six

When Steve arrived at the office, Diane was already there with a hot cup of coffee for him. She knew he was stressed with this latest case, and she wanted to keep him as comfortable as possible, for her own benefit. When he was in a bad mood, everyone in the office suffered. She cringed at the thought.

"Good Morning", she said. He took the coffee she offered him, and said "Where's that list I wanted?" "You picked it up last night, Mr. Douglas", she replied. He remembered now, and felt for the paper in his coat pocket. It was still there. He looked back up at her with his helpless puppy dog look. Diane smiled. "The coroner called, wants you to call him back as soon as possible." "Thanks", he said, and then added "for the coffee".

Steve's desktop was empty, except for a photo of his family. He didn't like having any clutter, so he let Diane organize things for him when he wasn't around. He picked up the photo and stared at it. It was Angela, Jenny, and his son Dougie, who was away at Rutgers University. Steve's friend, Phil, had taken the photo at one of their backyard BBQs. Phil always took pictures in black and white, because he felt it conveyed more feeling and depth. This photo surely had all that. Steve had liked it enough to frame it. His whole family had been laughing when the picture was taken, and their joy found it's way to his heart whenever he looked at it. He needed that now, desperately, because he had a feeling his call to the Jamal Jump, the coronor, wasn't going to be fun. Jump was a very technical man, and Steve knew from experience that Jump would describe in scientific detail each organ and it's contents. He took another look at the photo, and dialed.

"Mr.Douglas", Jump was already sounding technical, "I'm glad you called. I have to discuss with you some abnormalities in your hit and run victim." "Shot", Steve said. "First off, sir, the victim had no contents in his stomach. He hadn't eaten in days. Wonder why he was laying in the road? There's one possiblity. Also, we found no broken bones or even contusions on his body. Not even a "booboo", okay?. No way he was hit by a car is what I guess I'm trying to say. Not even by a really small car." Steve pictured a clown car in his head and nodded to the phone. "Have we ID'd him yet?", Steve asked, even though that really wasn't handled by Jump. "He didn't have any form of ID on him, no money, nothing in his pockets, and as of right now, we haven't matched him to any missing persons we know of, and we haven't had any new ones come in." "John Doe", Steve mumbled. "Mmm", Jump said. "One more strange thing, Detective", Jump continued. "I tried to do a fingerprint on him...but his fingertips were smooth as a babys behind. I was barely able to get more than a smudge" "Great", Steve groaned.

After he hung up with Jump, he pulled the paper out of his pocket and smoothed it out onto the desk in front of him. He was no longer looking for a hit and run driver, but for someone who might be able to give him more information about the state of the victim in the road. It was a computer printout from Trenton, listing all the blue station wagons with license plates that started with the letters WL. He had only asked for Star River and the next town over, but the list was for the entire county. He knew why now. It only had five cars on it, and only two of them were in this area.

He read the first one aloud. "Douglas, Angela"...

-- just another short story. (writer@FRL.net), January 13, 2001.


-- helen (b@r.f), January 13, 2001.

Dang! Don't leave me hangin on the edge of my seat! Is this cybertorture or what?

Will you tell us what happens next, please!!! PLEASE???

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 14, 2001.

Chapter Seven

Angela started to make a list of everything she had to pick up at the Foodtown before they got snowed in again. She'd managed to write down one word, Chicken. It immediately started her thinking about the previous days events. She had completely forgotten to ask Jenny about what she remembered, and it bothered her now. She ran the events over in her head once more. It was becoming blurred in her memory. She wasn't sure anymore exactly what she had seen, and what her imagination was now adding. Just before she had made the turn, she had been looking at the tent. Line of sight, she was sure, would have brought into view anyone who might have been crossing the highway. When she started around the turn, and out onto the highway, there was no one. Then..there was the glare, the blinding light, the dark figure. It wasn't there, and then it was, and then it wasn't, and then what?..it was again? Who was this man?

Her thoughts were abruptly halted by the telephone ringing. She shook her head to remove the vision, and stood painfully. Her knees ached. Yup, snow is definately coming, she said to herself. She picked up the phone on the third ring. It was Steve. He sounded annoyed. Again.

"Wife", he said, "I don't suppose YOU were anywhere near the Donut Hut on your little day off the other day, RIGHT?" His choice of words, "little day off" were his way of expressing his disgust with her over sleeping that day. The alarm was at fault, she knew, but it would have made no difference to him, because he was, at this moment, asking the question she had hoped he wouldn't ask. She tried to think of an answer. She didn't want to lie, but she didn't know how to tell this truth. She would have to say yes, she knew it, but she knew so much more about that "yes" than would be conveyed with the word. He wouldn't understand, not right away, and she braced herself. Which voice should I use, she wondered...the small shy "yes" or the assertive "so what?" "yes". In a millisecond, she choose the small shy one. "Yes". In another millisecond, she regretted it.

Steve let out a very audible huff, and then she heard him take a deep breath in, and waited for his next words to be ones you couldn't say in the presence of small children, not that that ever stopped Steve. "Jesus Christ, Angela, when were you gonna tell me? Huh? What do you think, this is some kind of freakin' game? Do you? You're lucky as shit this isn't a hit and run anymore. Lucky as freakin' shit. Do you know what it would look like if the person I was trying to collar was my freakin wife? Do you?"

She tried to let the hard words pass through her. She didn't like it when Steve yelled at her, and he had no idea what this had been like for her, and up until that moment, she hadn't let herself become too upset over it, but now..now it was over. Steve had just said it wasn't a hit and run anymore. She was beyond relieved, and before she knew what hit her, she was sobbing. She wanted to say something to him, to tell him what happened and how strange it had all been, but she needed a minute, and he wasn't going to give it to her.

"Christ, YOU're crying?", Steve said, "YOU, Ange? I should be the one crying here, Ange. My own wife doesn't bother to mention to me that she almost hit someone? That she almost hit someone and then kept right on driving? What the hell is that?"

He waited again. She tried to let go of pain for a second, to answer him. She couldn't hold it against him that he didn't know the truth, but she still felt anger towards him. His rage was undeserved, and if he had given her the chance to explain before he jumped on her, this would have been unneccessary. He was treating her like a child. He choose to have this explosive moment before hearing her out, rather than have it ruined by any explaination she might have to offer. He liked to have his anger, and he liked to direct it at her, and she remembered now why she didn't go out of her way to tell him in the first place.

He was waiting for her to say something now, and she wasn't even sure anymore what it was she wanted to say to him. "I did stop. Jenny was with me, she'll tell you. I stopped and I got out of the car, and I walked back up the road too. I looked, Steve. Hell, I even looked under the car". "You thought you hit him?", he asked, in a perfectly normal voice, like a different man, a police official, had come and picked up the phone mid-conversation. "No, I didn't think I had hit anyone,..but..Jenny thought I might have", she said. Now his voice raised again, and a hint of nastiness came out, "And you told Jenny not to tell me, is that it?" "Jesus, Steve, NO. How could you even say that?", Angela was furious now. "We stopped and looked but there was nothing there, and we came home and that was that. There was nothing to tell you about because there was nothing there. Ask her." "I will", he snapped, and hung up the phone.

Angela felt dizzy with anger. She had been married to Steve for eighteen years now, and while they had had their problems, she had never hated him in all that time. Until today. I swear I'll never speak to him again, she told herself, and even though she hadn't meant it, it was true.

-- just another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 14, 2001.

Chapter Eight

When Angela picked up Jenny at 2:30, the skys were already started to find that familiar grey. "We have to stop at Foodtown, get some supplies", Angela said. "What? Why?", Jenny asked. Angela just leaned her head out the window and looked up at the sky. "Snow?", Jenny guessed from the guesture. Angela said "Yup", and Jenny began the "No school No school" mantra that all children know.

After putting the groceries away, Angela watched the Weather Channel while Jenny drew. "Look at my picture, Momma", she said proudly. Angela glanced at the drawing. It was a black square in the middle of the page. "You're a regular Joan Miro", her mother said. "Who's she?", Jenny asked. Angela pointed to the painting in their living room. "HE, is a famous painter" Jenny knew her mother painted that painting, but she copied it from a picture of a painting in a book. "What's your picture called?", Angela asked.

Jenny was confused for a second. Then she remembered when her mother had taken her to the city to see the musuem, and the paintings were all things like black boxes on white canvas. Jenny had been bored with it all until her mother started to read her the names of the paintings. Even thought they were just lines and splotches of paint, the names were things like "Man's conquest of Space" and "Cows in a pasture". It was really funny, and then they both made up their own names for some of them.

"My picture is called "Mr. Snow at night", Jenny decided, and they both laughed. "What's that picture called?", Jenny asked, pointing at the Miro. "That's "La Porta"..or..the door", Angela said. She felt a strong deja vu at the mention of the word. "You've asked me this before", she said to Jenny. "Uh-uh", Jenny shook her head. Still, she was sure she had just talked about "La Porta" to someone. Where and when, she couldn't recall.

When Steve didn't come home for dinner, and hadn't called, Angela was miffed. He's playing games now, on top of everything, she thought. Then, as the hours ticked away, she began to feel a little sorry. He had so much to deal with there, and here I'm giving him a hard time. She felt compelled to call him, just to smooth things out a bit. Diane answered the phone. "No, Mrs. Douglas, he left normal time. Said he was going to check out the scene again before heading home. He's probably still there. Want me to radio him?". Angela needed to talk to him now, but she didn't want to bother him while he was on the road, so she declined.

At 11:00pm, Steve still had not returned. A light snow had started falling. The small hurried flakes that always accompany large snow storms. Is he so mad he's not even coming home, she wondered. He'd never done that before. She called the office again. Ryan, the night clerk, finally answered. Angela didn't know him very well, so she didn't feel as comfortable speaking with him. "Ryan, Detective Douglas hasn't returned home yet, and I'm a little worried about him, with the snow and all". "I'll check with someone, hold on", he answered. She could hear him asking around, and she knew what he was going to say when he got back on the phone. "No one knows, Mrs. Douglas. He went to look at the scene, and then he was gonna head home, last we heard."

Angela wasn't sure if Steve could still be at the scene so late after he had left, but she had to speak with him,..to know he was okay. She knew she also had to know for sure, right now, if he wasn't coming home tonight. If he was so angry with her, he couldn't even look at her. She needed to know where he was. She walked into Jenny's room, where her daughter lay sleeping, and turned on the light.

"Jenny, wake up, we have to go look for Daddy", she said. Jenny opened her eyes slowly, but understood her mothers alarm. "Is he okay?", Jenny asked. "I hope so,..Yes..of course, but I just want to find him, okay?", Angela said. They were dressed and in the car in 10 minutes.

"It's snowing real good! Where are we going?", Jenny asked, combining her thoughts in childlike exuberance. "Just up the road", Angela said. She was heading to "the scene". She hoped she would find Steve in the Donut Hut, sipping down his tenth coffee while he looked over his notes. The snow was starting to stick to the road, and she forced herself to drive slower. When they got to the lot of the Donut Hut, it was closed. Angela pulled in anyhow, and parked. She didn't know where else to go. "There's daddy's car", Jenny pointed. Angela's heart fluttered with relief for a second. She followed Jenny's pointing finger, to the next lot over. It was Steve's car. It was sitting in the darkness, just to the right of the big black tent. Angela felt a funny feeling inside of her now. "Steve, where are you?", she whispered.

-- Jus' another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 14, 2001.

Chapter Nine

Angela drove around the tent as best she could, and saw no one in the darkness. She came back across the highway to the diner, and hurried Jenny inside. "They're gonna think it's weird if a kid comes in here late at night", Jenny said. Angela shushed her. "I need the police", she told the waitress, "Can I use your phone?" The waitress pointed to the pay phones,..then, immediately reconsidering Angela's distressed face, led her around the counter. "Thank You", Angela said.

She was fortunate to find their friend, Captain Barr, on duty that night, and he came out with two patrol cars. "We'll go check the site and be right back. Stay here", he told her. She watched as he and the patrol men circled the giant tent, flashlights barely visable from where she sat. Jenny stared out the window too. "Jenny", Angela said, hoping to distract the nervous child, and herself. "When you said you saw a clown the other day, what kind of clown did you see? What did he look like? Like Bozo?" "Who's Bozo?", Jenny asked. I'm way too old, Angela thought, and searched her brain for any modern day clown. "Ronald McDonald, like him?", she tried. "No, not like THAT", Jenny said.

"He was like the clowns we saw in the park, when we went to New York. Remember?", Jenny said. Angela remembered when they were in Central Park, but where had they seen clowns? Her lost look showed, and Jenny continued. "Remember, one clown was in a box, and he couldn't get out, and the other one was pulling a rope that wasn't there?" "OH", Angela understood now what Jenny was talking about. "Those were Mimes", Angela said. "Yeah, like that", Jenny said. A mime, Angela thought. Dressed all in black, with white painted faces. That made more sense. She could see how Jenny might have seen the figure like that. The light would have been different from her perspective in the car. He could have appeared that way to her. They both looked back out the window.

One of the patrolmen was running out of the tent towards Captain Barr. The other came running from the other side, like he had been called. The three of them stood together, talking, for a second. They all looked towards the diner, and then away again. Then, one of the patrolmen went to his car, and Angela guessed he was going for his radio. Captain Barr got in his car, and turned right out onto the highway, going against the traffic back around the turn with his lights on. He pulled into the diner parking lot, spoke something into his radio, and came inside. His eyes only flickered to her face. He can't look at me, Angela thought. It's something bad. "Steve", was all she could say. Barr still didn't look at her, and now he spoke to Jenny. "Go sit back down over there, honey, I have to speak to your mommy alone for a second." Jenny begrudgingly complied.

"What is it?", Angela had tears in her eyes now, and despite her best attempts to calm herself, she was shaking uncontrollably. "Angela, we found Steve. He was inside the tent. He was..", his voice trailed off, and she searched his face hard, trying to read the next words from it. "He was..", he choked again, "I'm sorry, this is hard. I'm sorry. He was dead. Maybe a few hours now." Angela fell to her knees as her thoughts spun violently in her head. Dead? That wasn't right. That wasn't fair. They had been fighting. She hadn't gotten a chance to tell him. Now he never would know. She erupted into deep sobs of pain and guilt and loss. Jenny came running to her side. "What is it Momma?", she asked. Angela just grabbed her tightly and held her close. Jenny started crying too now, knowing only that her mother was so sad.

Captain Barr drove them home, and had one of his men follow them with her car. Angela held Jenny in the back seat, and tried to speak soothingly to the child about Steve's death. She invoked heaven and angels and a place where Daddy didn't have to work anymore, and could play football and basketball with other dead Daddys all day for fun. She tried to help them both with these images. They were still in shock, she knew, so she wasn't concerned when Jenny back to bed when they got home. Captain Barr would stay with them at the house while they waited for a report. Angela took out a bottle of sleeping pills. She rarely needed them. She needed them now. Sleep was much preferable to this pain. She counted out twenty pills, held them in her hand for a minute, contemplating how easy it would be to deal with if she too were dead, and then put eighteen pills back in the bottle. I have children, she thought. There will be no escape from this. Ever.

She had Captain Barr contact Dougie at school. It was 2am now, so it took awhile for them to get her son on the phone. She pitied the Captain, having to break this horrible news to her, and now to her son. Barr had always been a good friend to them. Steve was his best friend. He surely was feeling this horrible pain as well, and yet he kept up his official front, holding them all on his shoulders while continuing his duties from her house. "Dougie is on his way home", Barr said to her. The University was barely an hour from their home, and at this hour of the night, she could expect him home sooner. Seeing Dougie will help, she thought, and then she slept.

When she woke up, it was daylight. She could hear Dougies voice in the other room, speaking to someone on the phone. He was calling friends and family. He was dealing with the hard stuff for her. He sounded okay. He sounded strong. He was being strong for her. She closed her eyes and slept somemore. Sleeping was the only possible way of dealing with this.

She had nightmares now, and they were frightening visions of death. A dark man...falling towards her from a bright light. Then the white man, shouting at her. "Rebuild the portal". "What portal?", she asked in her dream. "You destroyed it..you rebuild it" he said. "I don't know what it is", she cried. The portal. La Porta. "What is it?", she cried again. "How does it feel?", the white man asked. She heard Steve's voice now. "How does it feel to be torn in half?", the voice said. And then, the dream faded, and her own sobs woke her up. Jenny had come to sleep by her side at some point, and the child stirred lightly now. "Momma?", she said. "Are you okay?"

-- another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 14, 2001.

Who are you really.....Steven King?

This is great! (although I was a little disappointed that there were no rubber noses involved)



-- Lon Frank (lgal@exp.net), January 14, 2001.

And now we are left REALLY wondering! When will the next installment be? I want it NOW, NOW I say!!

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 14, 2001.

Chapter Nine

Angela sat up and looked out the window. There was a foot of newly fallen snow on the ground, and snow was still falling. Schools were closed, but it made no difference today. Voices coming from the kitchen revealed several people were in the house now. She recognized Dougie's voice, and Captain Barr was still among them, and Steve's parents were here now. Angela sighed. She really didn't want to deal with anyone right now. She needed time alone, to think.

Jenny had left the room to announce her mother's reemergence into the world, and Dougie came now to see her. They hugged, only as long as Angela could stand to do so without breaking down again. "Are you okay?", she asked him. "We're waiting to find out the report on Dad", he said. "Someone has to do a positive ID on him. Captain Barr wanted to do it, but they said it had to be someone from the family". "I'll do it", Angela said. She needed to get out of the house, and she had things she needed to say to Steve, and she wanted to see him one last time. "Are you sure?", he asked..and then added "I'll go with you". "Okay", she said. Jenny would be able to stay with Steve's parents, and she realized she was glad to see them after all. Steve's mother looked frail and shaken, and it gave Angela the opportunity to feel strong for a change. Captain Barr called in a favor to get their road and driveway plowed, and by mid-afternoon, he, Angela and Dougie were crawling down the highway. "How did he die?", Angela asked. It was the first time she had thought to ask. He was found in that black tent. The black tent was the cause of death to her up to this point.

She had asked Captain Barr, but Dougie was the one who answered. "They don't know yet. There was no visable signs. They have to do an autopsy". "We're looking for the owners of that lot", Captain Barr volunteered, "No one knows who even put that tent up". "I saw about eight men putting that tent up the other day", Angela said. "It's only been there a few days." "Steve was just laying there, right in the middle. It was empty inside, except for him", Barr said.

At the morgue, she was brought to his body, and given time alone with him, which she was unbelievably grateful for. She knew what to expect when she saw him, but it didn't help with the shock, nor the emotions that poured out of her when she was faced with the cold reality of his dead body. "Steve", she cried, "you know I was sorry, I hope you know. I'm sorry. I wish you were here. Please come back to me, please". At this point, her grief again left her on her knees, her hands still raised above her, clinging to his arm. She leaned her head against the metal slab he lay on, and prayed it was all a dream. When they came to take her out, she quickly whispered one more thing to him. "Give me a sign, please, give me a sign that you knew", she said.

On the way home, they stopped at Steve's office so Angela could remove his belongings. She had wanted to do it. She didn't want anyone else determining what was and wasn't important to her. Diane was standing in his office when they arrived. She had gathered some things on top of his desk. "I gave him that", Diane said, pointing to his coffee mug. It had an advertisement for Prozac on it. Angela smiled, and nodded. "I'll make sure he gets it", Angela said, and she meant it. Steve would love nothing more than to be buried with a coffee mug.

Angela started filling the box they gave her with all of Steve's personal papers and items. Dougie stood just outside the office. She looked out the door, past him. They were all talking to him, and amongst themselves. They weren't watching her, and she instinctively took that second to look for something else. His files on the hit and run. They were the first thing he had in his filing cabinet. "Thanks", she whispered to him secretly. She pulled a few things out of the box, put the folder in, and then replaced the items on top of it.

She called to Dougie and Diane to help her look for the photo he had of them. She knew it used to sit on his desk. He probably threw it in the garbage after our fight, or tossed it in a file cabinet, she thought. They looked thouroughly. It didn't turn up. "It'll show up", Diane said. "I'll find it for you. Go home now. Rest. It's been a long day, and the roads are only getting worse". Angela relented. She was tired. It had been a long day. She needed to see Jenny again, and have something to eat. She need to be home.

Steve's mother was putting hot food on the table when they walked in. Angela understood it was part of her way of dealing with her son's death. She didn't protest. She sat and ate, and they talked about all the times Steve had made them laugh, and the times he had suprised them with the wonderful things he did. No one mentioned the grouchy angry Steve, though they all knew that Steve too. That Steve was dead, and would remain so. Only this Steve, the one they spoke of now, would live forever.

The phone rang, and Dougie answered it. Then, he called her over. "Mom", it's Dad's office. They want to talk to you". "Hello", Angela said. It was Diane. She was crying. "Diane, are you okay? What is it?", Angela asked. "Mrs. Douglas", she said between tears, "I just wanted you to know. In Mr. Douglas's car, they found flowers.. for you..and there was a note". Angela's eyes overflowed for the third time that day. "What did it say?", she asked. "It said, "Wife, I'm sorry. I love you." He knew, or at least, he would have known. It was his sign, and she loved him for it. "Thank you, Diane, for letting me know. It means a lot to me". "I know", Diane said, and hung up the phone.

Angela excused herself to go to her room, and took with her the file from the box. She locked the door, and sat on her bed, and opened it up. Someplace in this file, she felt, she would find an answer. An answer to what she wasn't sure yet, but the tent, and Steve, and this dead man, they were all connected somehow. She knew it in her heart. She would find that connection. It would be her gift to Steve.

-- just another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 14, 2001.

Wow! This is great! Here, can I pour you a fresh cup of joe and a plate with a couple cinnamon rolls on them to keep you going?

-- (sis@home.zzz), January 14, 2001.

Sis, here, let me warm those homemade cinnamon rolls a little! Now we can sit back, warm our bones with a hot cuppa joe, and feed our body, while we read the next chapter (hoping, hoping it is SOON!)

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 15, 2001.

I'll have some, too, Sis... and you're right... this is great!

Only problem is that I'm used to finishing books at one sitting; this cliffhanging is awful tough on my poor fingernails!

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 15, 2001.


-- helen howling and stomping her feet (b@r.my), January 15, 2001.

Chapter Ten

The first few papers Angela had found in the file were autopsy and toxology reports for the hit and run victim. She tried to understand what the reports said, but the technical wording was foreign to her. She understood "Cardiac Arrest" though. They had determined his heart had stopped, for whatever reason, and his death had been a result of that. The time of death listed on the report was estimated as 11:45am, about 20 minutes after they had left the diner. Angela tried to figure out how long it might take an officer to arrive at the scene. At the worst, ten minutes. This wasn't that big of a town, but the traffic was terrible. She wasn't even sure if the officer would be the person to call a time of death, or if it was the morgue when they arrived. How long did it take her to stop and look and leave?

She contemplated asking Dougie for his help. He was studying Criminal Science, but he was only in his Freshman year, and only in his fifth month of it. He wanted to be a Detective like his father. Angela wondered for the first time now how this might affect his studies. Is he even going to want to be an officer after this? If she asked him for his help, would he try to stop her from doing this?

She picked up the next page, and was stunned to see a photo underneath it. It was a picture of the dead man, and a copy of the artists rendering that went into the newspaper when they tried to find his next of kin. She studied the photo closely, hoping to know something just by looking at the man, but he was a complete stranger. Who are you, she wondered. Where did you come from. How did you pop out of the light? Where were you when I stopped to look for you? She wondered what kinds of questions Steve might have asked himself, looking at this file. He'd never got to hear her side of the story. "Steve, help me", she said, looking up at the ceiling to whatever might be beyond.

The next page had the eyewitness report. Seeing Steve's handwriting brought her pain for a second. He always wrote so neatly, for such an unorganized man. She ran her fingers over the letters, trying to absorb part of him back into herself. He held this paper in his hands. She noticed it had the crinkled look of paper that had gotten wet and then dried. It had rained that night, and he had been standing out there, with this piece of paper. She laughed at herself then, being so reverant towards a police report Steve had touched. He's touched everything in this house a thousand times,..hell, I'm sitting on his side of the bed, she reminded herself.

The eyewitnesses were Robert and Nancy Smith, and they lived just a few minutes from her in West Wynde Village, a retirement community. She jotted down their address in her notepad. Their report brought Angela back to thinking it might not have been her car they saw at all, except for the fact that it was a blue station wagon, license plate WL. That IS a bit incriminating, she thought. Funny Steve didn't think of her right away when he heard that, but then again, she couldn't even remember her own license plate number, let alone his. If things had been reversed, she probably wouldn't have known his car from such a report either. Still, these people claim not only didn't she stop, but that she was half a mile down the road in no time flat. It didn't make sense.

I've got to talk to these people, she decided. It made her nervous to imagine, since she wasn't very much of a people person. Talking to strangers was especially unnerving to her. "What's the worst that could happen?", her mother always said. "What?, they reject you?, they spit on you and put you in your grave and dance? What have you got to lose?" Her mother always did amuse her. Angela wished her mother could have flown out for the funeral Saturday, but she understood. Her stepfather was going in for surgery Friday, and since it was to remove a tumor, they didn't feel it should be delayed. She knew her mother would have come anyhow had she insisted, but she hadn't. She was doing okay today. She would do okay at the funeral too, she thought.

Angela heard a knock at the door, and the dogs barked so loudly, she wanted to muzzle them permenantly. She shoved all the papers back in the file and put it under her pillow. As she started down the hall, Jenny had already answered the door, and she could hear it was Captain Barr. "Mom", Jenny yelled. "Put the dogs in the yard, Jen", she said, and then welcomed Barr into her house. He looked really stressed.

"Angela, we have a little problem, I thought maybe you could help me with it", he said. She shrugged. "Sure, whatever I can do", she offered. "We're missing Steve's file on the case he was working on. I was hoping maybe it ended up in your box, accidently of course.", he said. "Oh", Angela said, trying not to look guilty. Angela assumed he was saying accidently because he had already decided she had taken it. "We need that file, I'm sure you know why. He was working on this case when we found him, and right now, we're still treating this as a homicide".

Angela's brain raced for an answer. She wasn't sure she had gotten all she could from that file yet. "Well, I could look for it, and if I find it, I'll have Dougie run it over", she tried. "I'm afraid we really need it right now, Angela. Do you mind if I take a look?", he said, a bit more forcefully. I'm busted, Angela thought.

"Hold on", she told him, and retreated to her bedroom to get the file. She neatened the papers inside, and took one more look through quickly to see if there was anything she might have missed. Then, she walked back to the door, and attempted a suprised "Hey, you were right, it was in the box". He took the file and then waved it at her. "Leave this to the professionals, please". Then he nodded his thanks to her, and handed her a slip of paper. "It's a receipt, for Steve's duty weapon", he said, "They removed it from his body and handed it in. Just to keep in your files" She frowned. She had wanted to keep that gun.

After he left, she grabbed her purse. "Be right back", she yelled to Dougie, and ran out before they could ask where she was going. She had to speak to the Smiths, and it was now or never in her mind. Barr was going to be watching her now, she just felt it.

-- just another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 15, 2001.

Chapter Eleven

Angela had to use a broom to remove the snow from her car. It was dark out already, and the street light in front of their home flickered on and off as it had done for years. It made her eyes ache. The eerie silence brought by the cushion of snow was of no comfort to her. She cleared the tailpipe and headlights too, as Steve always instructed her to do. Her eyes focused on the hood of her car. The paint had started to bubble. Little spots of raised paint. She walked around to get a better view, using what little light she had. It was the hood and the front bumper too. Some of it was even starting to chip off. Damn, she thought to herself, talk about acid in the rain.

Angela simply introduced herself as "the woman in the other car", and Mr. Smith welcomed her in immediately. He didn't even ask how she had come to find them or why. He and his wife were overly willing to talk about their experience that day. He had read it was no longer considered a hit and run in the newspaper that day, and was interested in hearing anything else she herself might know. She told them her experience, and they kept shaking their heads in agreement, like everything she said concured with them, althought she knew from their police report that it didn't.

When she was finished, the Smiths began to tell their story. She thought she knew it already, but was suprised when they started talking about "the weirdness" of the whole thing. Nancy Smith kept repeating how the song on the radio had changed from the middle of one to the middle of a completely different one right at that moment. Robert Smith kept reminding her she had said it already.

"Mrs. Douglas, I never believed in magic before, or UFO's or any of that kind of stuff, but after that day, well, me and the wife have both felt strange. Like we lost some time there, somehow. Like we were someplace else, and then back again. And we've both been having dreams", Mr. Smith said. "Why didn't you tell this to the Detective?", Angela asked. "We did", Mr.Smith said. "We told him and he said "just the facts", like he was Joe Friday". Angela envisioned Steve in her mind, hearing their story, and brushing it off like she had the snow on her car. Of course he wouldn't have added that. It was nonsense. Mumbojumbo, he would have called it.

"Mr.Smith, how much time do you think you lost?", Angela inquired. She could see a smile and look of gratitude spread across his face. Poor guy, Angela thought. He's been desperate to find someone who believed him all this time. No wonder they were so happy to see me. "I'm thinking maybe 5-10 minutes", he said.

"Mmm", Angela shook her head, "that would be just about right. Now, tell me about your dreams." "You been having them too?", he asked. "Yes, well, I think so, yes", she said. "Sometimes I see a man in white, and sometimes a man in black", Nancy offered. "It looks like they're falling or floating, and sometimes they'll speak." Angela felt an overwhelming feeling now of wanting to drop this whole thing and go home. This was something way to deep for her. She believed in such things, as long as she wasn't confronted with the reality of them. This was something far beyond what she was expecting. "What do they say to you?", she asked slowly, because she was afraid of the answers. "I've heard the white man say "No, get out" to me, and Nancy heard the man tell her to find a new portal for them. We figured maybe we drove through something strange, ya know, and messed something up"

Angela tried to picture what that something might have been. It would take some time alone. "I have to go now", she said. "Here's my phone number, if you need to talk or anything, okay?". They both looked hurt at her leaving so soon, but she couldn't let that bother her now. On the way out, she instinctively looked at the hood of their car. The paint was bubbled, and worse than hers. Their entire car was bubbling.

-- just another long story (writer@FRL.net), January 15, 2001.

Chapter Twelve

Angela allowed herself to stay home the next few days, sorting through feelings and helping Dougie and Jenny with theirs. Jenny kept repeating her mother's story of dead daddies and angels playing basketball games. She obviously liked the concept. Dougie continued to be the picture of strength. Angela hadn't expected it of him. He had matured a little since he left for college.

On the day of Steve's funeral, while they sat in the limo, Dougie announced to her he wasn't going back to school. Angela tried to be understanding. "This has been hard, Dougie, I know. You can give yourself some time, a semester, okay? And then go back" He shook his head no. "Well, maybe you want to change courses?", she asked. "No, Mom, I've thought about this. I'm not going back. Besides, you need me here now", he said. "NO", Angela replied, "Don't even try and use me as your excuse, Dougie. For your father's sake.. and mine, you WILL go back to school". He turned his head towards the window and sat silent. My whole world is falling apart, Angela thought. Everything has changed. Everything is lost.

The funeral was overwhelming for Angela, and she didn't know how to react. There were so many people there that she didn't know. Steve's family, friends, and co-workers, and whole townships of officers who had come to pay their respects. Friends of hers, friends of Dougies. Even Jenny's school teacher. She felt like everyone was watching her, watching her for signs of grief and misery, and feeding off of it. She understood now why widowers covered their faces with black veils. It was so they could hide.

Her eyes burned and stung from having cried for days, and she didn't want to cry anymore. She tried to pick out faces she knew in the crowd, but instead, she focused on a man she didn't know. He was a tall black man with dread locks, wearing an all black suit. Oh good, Angela groaned to herself, it's the dream guy, looking for his portal. I'm insane. I've lost my mind and don't even have enough sanity left to know it.

When the service ended, Dougie helped her to her feet, and she leaned on him while she let people speak to her, and she tried to be gracious. Then the black man was before her, and she took a step back. He wants a portal, she thought, for his clown. A smile spread across her face. It couldn't be helped. The very thought was so purely insane. "Mrs.Douglas", he greeted her. She was expecting him to sound like Bob Marley, but he had a british accent. "I'm Jamal Jump, the county coroner. I worked with your husband". "Oh", Angela said, and reached for his outstretched hand, but instead of shaking it, she pulled him closer. "I need to talk to you", she whispered.

"If it's about your husband, I'm not at liberty to discuss all the findings yet.", he said. "Are there..."findings"?", she asked. He reached into his pocket and handed her his business card. "We'll talk, soon", he promised. Dougie started moving her towards the Limo. "Oh, wait", she said, "I wanted to talk to Captain Barr". Dougie picked him out of the crowd, and waved him over. "I know you can't discuss everything with me Captain, but did you find out who owns that lot?". "It belongs to a Real Estate Mangement group in Monmouth, and they rented it to an individual for short term use", he answered. "Who?", she asked, hoping he would slip and tell her. "We're taking care of it, Mrs. Douglas", was his only answer. He was being cordial with her, I took that file, and now he won't trust me with anything now, she thought.

Trying to find out who was renting that lot would have to be her next plan of action, but she had no idea how to go about it. On the ride home, she kept looking at Dougie. If I get him involved in all this, maybe it will help him, she mused. Maybe if I ask him to investigate for me, it will help bring back his desire. She decided she would give it a try.

By noon the next day, Dougie Douglas was in the state archives, looking up the lot owners name. State law required that all land holders names be listed in the tax records, which was a matter of public record. It took him only twenty minutes. He jotted down the name and address, then grabbed the local phone book, and found a number. Angela watched with amazement. "Come on", he said, and they walked out to the pay phone in the lobby. She knew they would have to lie for the information they wanted, and she found it exciting. "This is like a movie", she giggled to him. He smiled. It was working, she knew. He was enjoying this. She gave herself a mental pat on the back. Smart girl, she told herself. Dougie will end up back in school. Everything will be okay. As long as we don't get caught, she reminded herself.

-- Another long short story (writer@FRL.net), January 16, 2001.


-- helen's got her blankie and her hot chocolate ... (b@r.f), January 16, 2001.

OK ok! Here's more cinnamon rolls and a steaming pot of chai. Want anything more, writer? I'll go get it if I can!

-- (sis@home.zzz), January 17, 2001.


We know how much work this must be, and we certainly appreaciate your effort. You should be proud, it is VERY good.

Now, will you get off your butt and post the next chapter - we're dyin' here!


-- Lon Frankenstien (evil@twinsR.us), January 17, 2001.

Yeah, what Lon said!

You've got us hooked, now reel us in! PLEASE!

-- TheSuspense (Is@lmost.killingme), January 18, 2001.

A little mouse told me that "writer" was very busy cleaning her house today, because her MOTHER is coming to visit her for the week. However, she has the next two chapters committed to memory, and will be posting them tomorrow..er..today...depending on what time zone you're in. She appreciates very very very much your kind coaxing and wants you to know how good it makes her feel..or so she told me. :-)

-- kritter (kritter@adelphia.net), January 18, 2001.


As long as it's *Soonest*!!!


-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 18, 2001.

Tell Purple hello for me! :)

-- helen (b@r.nnnn), January 18, 2001.

Helen, you have the most amazing memory for an old lady ;-) Thanks.

-- kritter (kritter@adelphia.net), January 18, 2001.

Chapter Thirteen

Angela had to bit her lip to keep from laughing while Dougie was on the phone. He lied so well, so perfectly.

"Hello, this is Detective Douglas from the Ocane County Special Crimes Division. Yes, that's right. We have a new girl working in the office, and she seems to have misplaced the information you gave us about the temporary renter of your lot. Yes. Sure, I'll hold" Dougie gave his mother a wink, and she broke into a grin so wide it hurt her cheeks. "Okay, yes, go ahead.", he spoke and started jotting down some information in his date book. He continued nodding, and saying "Mmmhmm", and Angela got the feeling he was getting more information than he wanted.

While Dougie continued to listen, Angela reached for the piece of paper he had written on. It was a name, Ivan Strata, and an address right in Star River. There was also another name written underneath. "Strata Circus Inc.", she read aloud. "It really is a circus tent!", she said. Dougie put his fingers to his lips to shush her. Then, he hung up, and shook his head with amusement. "That guy wanted to tell me his life story", he said. "He think I'm investigating HIM".

They stopped at the diner for lunch, and both sat staring out the window, across the highway, to the tent. Angela had mixed feelings. This entire area of town had become haunted to her. Steve's soul might still linger around that tent, she thought, and his might not be the only one. "Do you feel Dad?", Dougie asked. His ability to read people's faces, his sense of perception, was top notch.

"You're meant to be a Detective", she answered, avoiding the question. "I know", he replied, "I just don't want to end up like Dad, and I don't mean dead when I say that. I mean, the way he was while he was alive." "Stressed?", she said. He nodded. "Dougie, I think your father liked being stressed", she said. He nodded again. "What do you want to do now?", he asked, changing the subject.

Angela frowned. She had no idea what to do next. Speak to this man? She felt funny about that, because it was possible he had nothing to do with all this, and it was also possible the police had already interviewed him. What excuse could they possibly use? "Do you want me to talk to him?", Dougie asked. "Can we wait a little while first?", said Angela, "I'm not sure what it is I want to ask him". Dougie stretched his arms over his head, then clasped his hands over his head. "How about we try to find out more about him first?" he asked. "Can you do that?", she asked.

"Well, I might be able to find out how long he's lived here, if he owns that house or rents it, things like that." "Would that help?", she asked. "Wouldn't hurt", he replied. "Well, be careful", Angela said. "What's the worst that can happen?", he said, using her mother's words. Unfortunately, Angela had already seen "the worst that can happen". She gave him a long look, knowing he could read her thoughts. "I'll be careful", he said.

-- short stories are us. (writer@FRL.net), January 18, 2001.


I hope you have a wonderful, special visit from your mom! May she bring some sunshine your way-!! : )

You certainly have captured your audience with your mystery, you wordsmith, you!! We will patiently (NOT) await the next chapter, knowing you have company!!

Meanwhile, we'll keep the cocoa hot and the cookies crisp, until you return...(all the while wondering, WHEN will the next chapter come, because we are DYING to know what happens). No pressure or anything, ok?

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 18, 2001.

(panting, panting, panting, pause, long sigh) Whew! I needed that. Withdrawal is so awful. I was getting the creepy crawlies because I had gone so long without a chapter. Thanks! I feel so much better now.....

ps. if you can tell stories as well as you write stories, you're welcome at my bunker anytime......

-- (sis@home.zzz), January 18, 2001.

If'n I was a guessing person, I would say that purple somehow refers to Kritter's mom. Methinks Kritter is the writer. :-)

-- (just@guessing.person), January 18, 2001.

Oh Fruitful One, truly you are showing us all your metal :)

Keep it up, you are perspiring me - uh, I mean Inspiring me with some new ideas (to continue that silly ol' beaver sequel - and that is one of the best gifts any writer can give to another :)

-- (thesonofdust@fruitful.one), January 18, 2001.

Steve's mother held Jenny on her lap, stroking her hair and telling her stories of Steve when he was young. Jenny listened intently, with joy and sorrow intertwined. "I like to do all the same things as Daddy when he was a kid", she said. "Yes", her grandmother replied, "you are just like him." "Sometimes Daddy still talks to me when I'm sleeping", Jenny confessed. "He wants me to build a snowman for him."

Angela walked in with two bags filled with groceries, hastily picked up from the local corner store, and Jenny jumped up to dart through them, searching for anything that might have been bought just for her. She emerged from the second bag with a box of cookies. "Are these for me?", she asked. Angela just winked at her.

Jenny took off for her room with the box, not to eat them, but to hide them. She liked to find hiding spots for things, to keep them far out of reach of her big brother's appetite. She knew he wouldn't look for it anymore, like he did when he lived at home with them, but she could't resist playing her part of the game. "Where's Dougie?", she called out to her mother. "He'll be back soon, he had some things to do", Angela said. Jenny looked out her window. "His car is still here", she called out again. "That's because he has my car, honey. He just dropped me off". "Oh", replied Jenny. The same "oh" she used everytime she was disappointed with an answer.

Jenny appeared in the hallway on her stilts, and walked expertly out into the living room, stepping deftly over one of the dogs on the way. "Grandma, can you help me build a snowman?", she asked hopefully. Steve's mother shook her head no. "I'm going to have to be leaving now, Little Miss Jenny. You'll be going back to school tomorrow and I have to get back to Grandpa. He misses me." "Don't go Grandma", she whined. "Let Grandma go, Jenny. We'll go outside and build that snowman", Angela offered. Jenny gave it a few seconds thought, then said "Bye Grandma", and gave her grandmother a quick kiss on the cheek, because on her stilts, Jenny was the same height as her. Angela gave a kiss too, and led Jenny to the coat closet to bundle her up for the back yard. "We'll build the biggest snowman EVER", Jenny shouted.

The winter sun had just set, and only pink sky remained in the horizon where it had sat a few minutes earlier. The trees of their yard stood like black silhouttes in front of it. "We're going to have to work fast!", Angela said in mock alarm. "We don't want our snowman turning into a pumpkin!" Jenny looked at her questioningly. The magic of childhood allowed even the craziest of notions to POSSIBLY be true, but Jenny was finally on the borderline of knowing reality from impossibility. Still, she had to ask "Really?", with a strong hint of disbelief. Angela couldn't resist teasing her daughter. "You never know with Snowmen...", she replied.

They worked hard at rolling balls of snow around the yard, and were rewarded with big healthy snowman body parts as a result. Angela's larger snow ball on the bottom, Jenny's smaller one in the middle. Then together they rolled the smallest one for the head. Jenny found twigs for arms and Angela poked charcoal into the head for eyes. Jenny stood, a few feet away, to admire her snowman. Angela formed two more small snowballs in her hands. "What are you doing?", Jenny asked. "I'm making a snowWOMAN", Angela said. Jenny let her head fall slightly to the side, trying to get a new view at this angle. "I like her!", she shouted, and ran up to hug her mother and their new creation.

The pink sky faded to dark blue, with the first of the nights stars finding their way into view in the Eastern sky. Jenny noticed now that they were standing in the dark. Her mind drifted to the snowwoman turning into a pumpkin. She surely didn't want to see that. "Can we go inside now, Momma?", she asked nervously. Angela sensed her daughters change of mood, but wasn't sure why. She's tired, Angela told herself, whenever she wasn't sure what was behind her daughter's voice. They walked back into the warm glow of the house and exchanged their coats for pajamas.

"When will Dougie be home?", Jenny was whining again. Angela didn't even know for sure. She glanced at the clock. It was almost 8pm. "Soon", Angela answered. She was getting nervous at the time, and didn't like the way it reminded her of the night Steve didn't come home. They waited another hour before the headlights of the stationwagon pulled into the driveway. Angela looked out the window. Dougie was home. And he wasn't alone. Someone was with him.

-- short story writing fool (writer@frl.net), January 19, 2001.

Oh MAN! WHERE did you learn to write those cliffhangers? BTW, thanks for another GREAT chapter!

-- (sis@home.zzz), January 19, 2001.

Fingernails...gone...fingers...chewed to bone...elbows...at risk...

-- helen (b@a@a.aa), January 20, 2001.

LOL! But I'm in much the same condition, Helen. It's particularly annoying because I'm trying *so* hard to have fingernails that look at least a bit nice!

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 20, 2001.

Angela watched from the window as Dougie came up the walkway. Jenny opened the front door and called out to him, "There are cookies in my room and you can't have any". "I don't care", he answered her back in the same mocking voice. She went to close the door on him, but Angela pulled her away. "Who's in the car?", Angela asked him, before he even had his foot over the doorway.

"Yeah. I have to tell you some stuff first", he answered. "Who's in the car?", she asked again, not so much as a question but as a statement. "Let me tell you", he answered. Angela looked out the window again. The figure in the car was strange, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was. In the darkness of the night, he almost gave off a glow. Angela saw the orange tip of a cigarette being smoked within. It was no one she knew, and she stiffened at the thought.

"Mom, sit down a sec, let me tell you what's going on, okay?", he said. Angela slunk down on the couch sideways, pulling the curtain back with one hand so she could continue to peek outside. "Go ahead", she said.

Dougie started to tell her how he had looked through real estate transaction records for this address, and that the house belonged to someone else. He searched newspaper ads and found a rental ad with the owners phone number listed on it. He assumed from the ad that this man had been renting the house since December, just a month earlier, but he wasn't sure. Angela only half listened. This didn't answer who the stranger was in her car. She grabbed a cigarette herself now, and fumbled through her purse for a lighter. Dougie's words were droning on. She wanted desperately for him to get to the point.

"So I took a ride past the house, to just take a look at it. You know it's only a block away from the tent, if that. I parked the car behind the donut shop, and went to take a look at the tent. I haven't really seen it close up, and I wanted to see, you know, where it happened. When I came back to the car, there was a man in front of it. He was on his knees, looking at your bumper. Kinda freaked me out at first. So I just cleared my throat, and he looked up at me without any shock or surprise, just looked up at me and said "the paint is all bubbled here". I hadn't noticed it before myself, so I went to take a closer look. The he stood, and I got a really close look at him. He's one of those people, all white people." "An albino?", Angela asked. "Yes, an albino", Dougie continued. "He asked if it was my car, and what I was doing in his tent. We got to talking and all, and now he wants to talk to you".

Angela reeled at the way Dougie phrased his last sentance. "We got to talking and all"...could have been anything. What did they discuss? What does he know? What can he tell me? Why is he here now? That is him in my car, right? "Is that him?", she asked, looking back out the window. "Yes", Dougie said, "Can he come in?". Angela grabbed a pillow from the couch and curled up around it. "I'm glad you asked first", she said. "I guess so."

Dougie walked back to the car, and helped the man out. He seemed frail, almost shaky. Angela felt very tense. Whatever this man had to tell her, she was sure she wanted to know, but she felt her face drain as they entered her home. The man was white as snow, and much more fragile than she expected from such a robust name. His pale eyes were blue, but barely. Dougie helped him to the loveseat opposite Angela, and then turned to deal with Jenny, who had retreated to the coat closet upon seeing the man.

"Jenny, I'm going in your room to find those cookies!", he shouted, and ran down the hall. Jenny flew out of the closet and without glancing behind her, took off after him. Angela appreciated Dougie's quick thinking, but now she was alone with this stranger. But he was no stranger, Angela realized now. She had seen this man before.

-- just another story a yup (writer@frl.net), January 21, 2001.

EYIKES!! What next? What next??? WHEN next??? You're gonna keep us hangin' somemore, aren't ya? The albino is gonna be in my dreams tonite you know.... When can we expect some relief???? WHEN I ask??

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 21, 2001.

Angela thought she recognized Ivan Strata as being the man who had spoken to her in her dreams. She tried hard to clear her mind of that thought, and deal with the real live Mr. Strata. Angela couldn't help but study the man's face and skin, and she wasn't sure if she should talk first, or let him, but she was suddenly aware of her rudeness. "I don't know how much my son has told you, but my name is Angela Douglas, Mr. Strata. I'm glad you could come talk with me."

She knew she should stand and make some attempt to shake his hand, but the thought of touching his white skin unnerved her. She was afraid it would feel cold. She felt guilty about it, but the time to do so had passed at this point anyhow, so she continued to sit.

Her eyes continued to scan him. She sensed a look of serenity on his face, a calmness that came with kindness and wisdom. She wasn't sure if it was his true demeanor, or just the appearence of his eyes. His colorless eyes reminded her of the old blind kung fu master on the TV show "Kung Fu". He could have addressed her as "grasshopper" at that moment, and it wouldn't have surprised her.

When Dougie had helped Mr. Strata from her car, she had guessed he was an older man, but looking at him now, unless his skin deceived her eyes, she guessed him to be only in his late 20s. When he finally spoke, his voice was clear. He had an accent, Russian or something close to it, Angela guessed, more from his name than anything else. His words were occasionally disjointed, but he didn't sound as shaky as he looked.

"Call me Ivan..please", Ivan Strata spoke, "First I wish to say, Mrs. Douglas, I am very sorry the demise of your husband in my tent. I want to say I have nothing to do with such things, but I am not sure this is true. Your son, Dougie, he is most informative to me the events of the past few days, but now I learn even more"

"What did he tell you?", she asked. Mr. Strata sat silently for a second, and Angela wasn't sure he had even heard her, but she waited. It looked like he was busy sorting out his own thoughts, or that he might be trying to remember. "I'm sorry", he finally said. "I am a bit "out of sorts" as you say. I will try to answer all your questions, yes, but some answers even I don't know."

Angela had difficulty dealing with the cryptic nature of Strata's answer. Was he stalling..or confused? It sounds like he might already know most of the story, and he has more questions than I do, she thought. She heard Jenny's door close, and to her relief, Dougie emerged from the hallway. "She's okay", he said of Jenny. "I explained some stuff, and put on one of her video movies for her." Angela imagined he had to explain albinos to Jenny, for starters. Angela herself had never seen one before, except in the movies.

Dougie sat next to her on the couch, and filled her in on what had transpired between Mr. Strata and himself. "I told Mr. Strata who I was, Mom, and why I was in his tent. He understood that. He told me the police had questioned him about Dad already, and that he had told them he didn't know anything about it. He was really interested in your car though". Sure, Angela thought to herself. I hit his clown. She struggled to keep from grinning at her own continued insanity.

"Your car is the one that broke the portal", he said matter of factly. Angela leaned forward now, looking directly into the endless center of his eyes. "The portal", she repeated. "Yes, and now that I am here at your house, I see that I have been here before." Angela looked over at Dougie with utter confusion, and he shook his head and shrugged back at her.

"Mr. Strata", Angela said, trying to keep her voice level and gentle, "Can you explain to me what you're talking about?" "Ivan, please?", he asked. "I'm sorry, Ivan, can you..", she said. Ivan nodded, and his serene face looked suddenly pained. He let go a sigh and closed his eyes for a minute. "I will start at the beginning, of course", he said.

"Mrs. Douglas, when I was young, because of this," he pointed at his face, "my mother sent me to be with circus. I was to be side show attraction, freak, you know, but the magician there, he took me to be his assistant. He taught me to perform all tricks. I am a magician since my whole life. I studied all through Europe, under many great masters. This," he pointed at his face again, "worked for me as a magician. People remembered me." He stopped for a second now, to catch his breath it seemed. Angela wondered why it labored him so to even talk, let alone move about.

Ivan continued after resting a second. "I also became student of Science at that time. Science and magic, they are closely connected, you see. Much of what is magic is based in the science. Your Ziefried and Roy, for example. Their levitation astounds many, no?, and yet behind it is great electro-magnetic theory. Great science."

He stopped again and rested. "Can I get you a drink, Ivan?", Dougie asked, "or something to eat?" Ivan smiled slightly. "I heard cookies", he answered. Angela and Dougie both broke into smiles. The tension of the previous moment was broken so sweetly, Angela stood and walked to Ivan, and took his hand. It was warm. "Come into the den", she coaxed him. "I'll light a fire and we'll be more comfortable".

He stood carefully, and she led him to the next room. Dougie came in with some of Jenny's cookies and a bottle of Diet Coke. "It's all we had", he shrugged. Angela noticed Jenny now, hiding in the shadows of the kitchen. Dougie had forced her to sacrifice her cookies to this strange white man, and now she wanted to get a better look at him. "It's okay", Angela said to her. Jenny walked slowly towards the room, stopping at the threshold. "Are you Mister Snow?", she asked their guest shyly.

-- another short story (writer@frl.net), January 21, 2001.


-- a hushed helen forgets to breathe... (b@a.aaaaaaa), January 21, 2001.

AGAIN I have to beg...when? Mr Snow will be in my dreams tonight...

Thanks Writer, you are doing a magnificent job!!

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 21, 2001.

Jamal Jump had been a coronor for twenty years. Being a coronor required all the same schooling as a medical doctor, plus years of internship and residency. He felt he knew everything there was to ever know about examining a dead body to determine a cause of death. He was always meticulous in his autopsies, carefully recording each piece of data and leaving no stone unturned. Still, he was baffled. He had just had two men die within three days of each other, and within fifty feet of each other, and he wasn't sure what killed them,...either of them.

One of the men was Detective Steve Douglas. The other was a complete John Doe. One was found dead in a tent by the highway, the other found dead on the street in front of that very same tent. Neither of these men were injured in any fashion. As far as he could tell, they were both in good health preceding their deaths, and in good health afterwards, with the exception of their hearts no longer beating. It wasn't a coronary though, he could tell when it was.

"There has to be some kind of connection here", he said aloud to himself. He had allowed Steve Douglas to be buried, though it was against his better judgement at the time. It was because of his own personal relationship with Steve that he felt the need to allow the man's body be put to rest. For the John Doe, he choose to list the death as cardiac arrest, but for Steve, the cause was still listed as "unknown". It was upsetting to the Douglas family, and he knew Mrs. Douglas had wanted to talk with him further, but he also knew he had no answers for her. And he wanted answers himself.

Jamal pulled the file on Mr. John Doe back out of his draw. He'd been over it a hundred times, but he felt he had to be missing something. No one had claimed this body, or even reported him missing. He looked at the photo of the man's face again. So lifeless. Like he had never lived at all. It was almost as if this man was born of the pavement and sunlight, only to die the second he arrived. His skin was so smooth, not a blemish on it. In fact, he recalled, hardly even any lines in the skin. The man's palm was almost frighteningly devoid of lines. Jump shuddered at the rememberence.

He walked down to the basement to take another look at the corpse. They would hold it for several months if they had to, waiting for someone to claim him. They had a special area for long term "guests" as they called them, only this was the only "guest" they'd had there in over a year. Jump opened the door to John Doe's refrigerator, and went to grasp the cold metal tray on which he lay and pull it out, but he received a terrific jolt upon touching it. "Damn!", he shouted. He had gotten a shock the likes of which he's never felt before.

"Alright there, fellow", he said to the corpse. He cautiously touched the tray again, and feeling no further charge, pulled it out of the wall. "That's one unhappy cadaver", he laughed to himself. The body was inside of a thick black bag, and he slid the bag onto a transport cart. It was extremely light. Too light. Jump felt a strong feeling of alarm. He stepped back, to make sure he had the right storage unit. Number five, that's him, he thought to himself. I put him there myself. Unsure of why the bag felt so light, he started to slowly unzip the bag, it's full length, and then let it fall open.

"What the..?", Jamal said. The bag was filled with small withered ashy bits of body parts, arranged in two seperate piles, on either end of the bag. Jamal reached for an explaination. Someone's playing a joke on me, or someone moved the cadaver someplace else and put their own garbage in it's place. He closed the bag back up, slid it back into it's refrigerator, and stormed upstairs to confront his team.

Twenty minutes later he returned to the basement, along with several of his assistants and colleagues. No one could explain the disappearence of the body, or this new collection of body parts, but they all wanted to see it. "Dr. Jump, What if..this..is..the man?", someone asked him. "What kind of body decomposes like this and seperates itself into piles?", Jump snapped back. His co-workers all stood around him like rubber neckers. It angered him more.

Still, he argued with himself, here was a man, dead of strange circumstances, in a week filled with strange circumstances. If there was no other explanation for what he was seeing now, perhaps he shouldn't be so hasty in his judgement. He softened his voice, and addressed his assistants. "Test some of this..."stuff"..against the samples we took from him before", he instructed. If this is John Doe, I want to know right away. Then he retreated to his office and started searching through old medical journals and magazines for anyone who might have reported anything like this...ever.

-- jus' another short story (writter@frl.net), January 22, 2001.

Wow, writer, another great chapter! Thank you so much. I brought you some raspberry vines, thinking you might want some for your garden........

-- (sis@home.zzz), January 23, 2001.

Ivan Strata turned his head to look closely at Jenny. As he did this, she retreated back into the kitchen. "Jenny!", Angela said, "That's not nice!". "Please", Ivan said. "I am used to such things. Small children, they are naturally curious of one so unusual. It's why I made good magician. Part of magic is distracting the eye. And there was a time, in the circus, when I WAS known as Mr. Snow." Jenny's eyes widened so large, that even from the dark kitchen, Angela could still see them. Then the child darted back to her bedroom.

Dougie started a fire in the fireplace, and pulled over a chair from the computer desk for himself. "Please..continue", Angela said to Ivan. Ivan nodded to her, and closed his eyes again. She noticed Dougie leaning in closer. He was fascinated with this man. "So as I was saying", Ivan began, "I liked the science part of magic. Not long ago, I began to experiment with new science. I was interested in how light is absorbed by the color black. Like a black hole in space, no? I wondered if somehow I, being as I am, could also be absorbed into a black background, on the stage, to disappear as it were."

"A kind of magic trick", Dougie said. "Yes", Ivan replied. "It would be a great magic. It was then that I rented my home, so I could be near a place where I could set up large area to continue my experiment. I had the tent set up to give me complete darkness. I believed that if I ran a low current through my body, and then bombarded myself with high frequency photons, super intense light, ultra violet, like laser, but not so dangerous, I could force myself into the black background." He stopped then, for a second, and took some deep breaths.

Dougie tilted his head to the side, trying to absorb what Ivan was saying. "I saw the big lights in the tent, but I didn't think anything of them. So is this like some kind of reverse X-ray or photo process?", Dougie asked. Angela was glad Dougie even seemed to show the slightest comprehension of what Ivan was talking about, because she herself was lost.

"Uh,..", Strata stalled for a second. "It is somewhat like that, but no, not exactly". "So you tried it?", Angela asked. "Yes, of course", Ivan replied, "And it worked. I found myself lost in darkness, confused a few moments, and then, my mind cleared. I was someplace else, or no place perhaps, surrounded by darkness. I searched for a way to return back to where..to here..to anyplace. I had not considered how to get back. It was then, I saw a bright flash of light, and I went towards it. It turns out it was the sun hitting the pavement on a wet street in front of my tent. I jumped through this light, only to be knocked back in..unconcious." Angela moved uncomfortably in her seat. "From me?, hitting the "portal" as you call it?" "So it seems", he said. Angela was perplexed. "Then who was that man? and what happened to you then?"

Ivan leaned his head back against the back of the couch. His breath continued to be labored. "I'm sorry, I need to rest.", he said. "Please you will give me some time". "Of course", She said, "rest." Dougie and Angela left him to doze on their couch, while they spoke quietly in the living room. "Are you understanding any of this?", she asked Dougie. "Only some of it, from the chemistry class I took in school. It's Plank's quantum theory, something like that." "And it can be done?", Angela asked. Dougie shrugged. "According to Mr.Strata", he answered. Angela sighed. "What does this all have to do with Steve?", she wondered aloud.

-- storys r us (writer@frl.net), January 23, 2001.


-- helen (b@a.aa), January 24, 2001.

I'm not getting too deep here am I? Sorry. The deep stuff is over anyhow. Here comes the really cool stuff. Wait!

-- writter ;-) (kritter@adelphia.net), January 24, 2001.

I LIKE it, Kritter! Thanks so much for taking the time and energy to do this. You look hungry. Here's some more cinnamon rolls.....

-- (sis@home.zzz), January 25, 2001.

Kritter, iffn you don't hurry up and give us some more, I'm gonna need to find a seat belt, cause I keep falling off the edge of my seat! Don't you DARE hold us hostage, young lady! :-)

-- Brooke (Anticipation@Hill.top), January 25, 2001.

I knew it!

-- (just@guessing.person), January 25, 2001.

Angela tossed around the idea that perhaps Ivan Strata was insane. What he was saying seemed to work with what she had seen, to some extent, but there was still much to be learned, including what had happened to her husband. If Steve had stumbled onto Strata while he doing some kind of experiment in his tent, would Strata have killed him for it? An insane man might. Weren't scientists working with crazy experiments always insane? She wrestled with her movie mentality. Strata didn't really "seem" insane. He was very calm, but was he too calm? She hoped he would wake up soon, and finish his story, so she could send him away, even though she found she liked him.

Dougie was saying something about "The Philadelphia Experiment", and Angela brought herself back to reality to listen to him. He was in the middle of a sentance. "..the mechanism involved was the generation of an intense magnetic field around the ship, which would cause bending of light waves around the ship, like a mirage created by heated air over a road on a summer day. They say that the experiment was a complete success... except that the ship actually disappeared physically for a time, and then returned. They wanted to "cloak" the ship from view, but they got de-materialization and teleportation instead..." Angela remembered the story. Dougie was still talking ".. when they checked the ship, some of the sailors were violently sick. Some of the crew were simply "missing"..and some went crazy." There's that word again, she thought.

"Not much of a success, eh?", Ivan Strata spoke. It startled them both. Ivan was awake, and had been listening from the den. "Magnet fields of such intensity does strange things to the body." They could hear him helping himself up, and he met them half way in the kitchen. He stumbled forward, and Dougie caught him, and led him back the couch. "Are you okay?", Angela asked. Are you sane, she questioned silently. "Physically, no", he replied, as if to answer both questions.

"I am thinking that when I was halfway out of the portal, and forced back in, maybe part of me was left behind on the street." Dougie looked up at his mother, and this time it was her turn to shrug. "You mean the body, that they found, was also you?", she asked. "Perhaps", Ivan said, "a negative image of myself. Is possible that my body broke apart, negative from positive, but only partially, or I would have been destoyed right away. Maybe a 60/40 split?" "But the process was reversed", Dougie countered. "That image would have been the positive,..you would be the negative." Ivan gave a look of indifference. "Does it matter?", he asked. "The results are the same. My body is now pushing itself apart".

"So what happened, when you were back in the..fell back into the..?", Angela rushed to get to the answers she wanted most desperately. "Then, I was awake again, lost in darkness and wandering confused and I admit a small bit scared. It seemed like it must be night, to have no light anyplace. Finally I saw a faint light, and I heard someone saying my circus name,..Mr. Snow. I followed the voice, and even after it had stopped calling, I continued towards this faint light. When I jumped into it, I found myself in the back yard of this very house. This I realized only when Dougie brought me here tonight. We must be connected now, somehow, you and I, no?" Angela tried to make sense of it all. "Jenny's snowman?", she questioned to herself, aloud. "I think I melted him. The portal creates much heat. The front of your car can attest to that", Ivan said. The bubbling, she thought, and the Smith's car too.

"Mr. Strata..Ivan, what happened to Steve?", she asked, needing him to get to that answer now. "Yes, another strange thing", he replied. Then, he sat silent. Dougie got suddenly impatient then. "Tell us", Dougie said forcefully. Angela feared Strata would stop talking to them if Dougie continued in such a voice, but Ivan didn't even react to Dougie's voice. He only sat calmly, his eyes fixed in the distance, as if mesmerized by something. Angela kneeled on the floor before him, and took his white hand again. "Ivan, I need to know", she said gently.

"The second time I tried this experiment, I made some changes, so that I would have a way to return after I was absorbed.", Ivan said. "I set up a second set of bright lights, on the other side of the tent, and seperated the two areas by a long dark cloth. The light that sends me is momentary, a flash, so I cannot let that light continue. This would be another place, always light, so I could find, see?" They nodded, and whether they understood or not he couldn't tell. "I am thinking your husband walked into this light, this strong field, as I was returning. He got caught in magnetic discharge, maybe. It would have stopped his heart...but.." "But what?", Angela asked.

"Is possible that before he died, part of him also was sent into the darkness. For all I know, he may be there still". Ivan raised his eyebrows at them. Silence lingered in the room for a minute. "What are you saying?", Angela finally managed to ask. "What I said, I do not know. Is possible, that's all. I haven't returned to the darkness since.", he replied. Angela tried to imagine what it might be like, lost in darkness without a body, without a way out, knowing only that you're there, alone. Dougie started mumbling, "You've got to get him out, can you get him out?"

"I am thinking what I might do to work on this problem", Ivan said. "If you take me home now, I will get some rest. Tomorrow, we will try to explore possibilities, okay?" Angela noticed Ivan looked very very ill. She worried for the moment that he would die before the night was through, taking with him all hopes of getting Steve back. "Dougie, maybe you can stay with him?", she asked. "Yeah..that's a good idea", he answered. Dougie helped Ivan back to the car, and they pulled away. Angela watched from the window as they drove down her street, and when they were out of sight, she went straight to the phone.

She meant to call Captain Barr, but she knew he would be angry with her for getting involved in the whole investigation. He isn't all that smart anyhow, Angela thought. He wouldn't even begin to understand any of this. She needed to speak with someone though. Someone who could help them. Someone who would have to be very intelligent. She went to the coat closet, and pulled a business card from her coat pocket, and called the only person she thought might understand all this. She called Jamal Jump.

-- Just another short story (writer@FRL.net), January 25, 2001.


-- helen (wide@ey.ed), January 25, 2001.

Consistent tension isn't good for my psyche !!! Is it over ? Will the father be brought back ??? WOW !!

-- mom (tomeve@sedona.net), January 25, 2001.


More, more, encore, encore!!!

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 25, 2001.

Angela dialed Jamal Jump's home phone number. It was on his business card, so she felt he was fair game there. She knew it was late, but she didn't care. He was a doctor..he would have to know something about these things. After four rings, a groggy voice answered the phone. "Dr. Jump", Angela said, "Please, I know it's late, please don't hang up." "Who is this?", came the voice, still half asleep she could tell. "This is Angela Douglas, Dr. Jump. I have information for you, about my husband, I think you should hear it." "Huh?", the voice replied.

"It's Angela Douglas", she said again. "Oh. Mrs. Douglas, I know you're upset and having a hard time with all this, but if you could call me in the morning, I'll be happy to.." She didn't let him finish his sentance. "NO, I don't have time to wait until the morning. I have to talk to you NOW". I think I know how Steve was killed, and maybe that man on the street too, and I can't wait."

There was a gap of silence, and then Jump answered, "Did you want to talk over the phone, or.." "Can you come here?", Angela asked. The idea of being alone and awake all night, worrying over Dougie and Strata and Steve was just too much for her to think about. "I have Steve's address in my briefcase", he replied. "Give me a few minutes to wake up here, and I'll be right over." Angela looked at the clock. It was 1:30am.

She walked into the kitchen and put a tea pot on the stove. She glanced out the window into the yard. The backyard lights were on, shining brightly against a white figure that stood there. Mrs. Snow, she thought to herself. If Steve was really stuck inside some "darkness", could he come out that way too? She walked out into the yard, not bothering to put on a coat. The night air was cold but still. She walked up to the snow woman, eyeing it up and down. Would Steve hear her if she called to him from here? Angela called his name, softly. "Steve, can you hear me? Are you in there someplace. Come to my voice. Come to the light".

I'm insane, she thought matter of factly. I'm speaking to a snowman in my yard, in hopes my dead husband will come out of it. If a neighbor saw me now, they'd come for me with the straight jacket.

Then, not sure she cared, she called again for him, even louder. "Steve, follow my voice. You can come out this way." Could he even come out of there, if he had no body now? Or did he have another body, the way Strata claimed to have been split in two. How does it feel to be torn apart..that's what he had said to her. She focused on that dream now, on the voice and the frightening image that spoke it. How does it feel to be torn apart. "Oh God", Angela spoke. Was he blaming me? What did he mean? He'd been torn apart, and was dying, and she was the one who had caused that to happen, hadn't she?

Driving through this "portal" had created his distruction, she thought. I was in the portal myself then, for a second. Is this why he can speak to me in my dreams? Was any of me left in there? Was any of the Smith's left in there. He spoke to them too. He was angry in those dreams. He was menancing. He may very well have killed Steve. "And I've sent Dougie to spend the night with him, alone", she said aloud. Her head began to whirl..and she thought she heard a scream come from her house. She ran inside, to find the tea pot whistling.

Jamal arrived at 2:15, looking both tired and concerned. "I'm so sorry Dr. Jump, but I have to tell you everything while we drive". He looked at her disbelievingly. "You want to go someplace?", he asked. "Yes, and we have to hurry", she said. Grabbing her coat from the closet, they ran back out the door. As she got in his car, she felt the nagging feeling she was forgetting something. Did I take the tea pot off the stove?, she wondered. Then it hit her like a lightening bolt then. Jenny was in there, asleep in her bed. Oh good, she thought to herself. That would have been great. That would have been brilliant. "Wait!", she yelled to Jump, who looked at her like she was crazy. "My daughter, I have to get my daughter", she cried.

Jenny moaned upon being awaken in the middle of the night for the second time in so many weeks. "I don't have time to say anything, just let me get you dressed, we have to go help Dougie", Angela said soothingly. Jenny started to half cry, her confusion and fear mixing. "Don't start that now, we have to hurry", Angela tried to stay calm. She had Jenny dressed and in the car in ten minutes. She hoped it hadn't been ten minutes too long.

-- short story my ass (writer@frl.net), January 27, 2001.

Here's a pillow for your ass, now get back to work!

-- helen (oh@my.goodness), January 27, 2001.

I'm sitting here LOL Oh Fruitful One :)

Lon and I once talked about the same thing - how our 'short' stories seem to take on a life of their own after we started. It's ok! All I can say is don't worry about how long the story is - just let things take their natural (or unnatural) conclusion! Hope this helps. NOW GET BACK TO WORK. please?

-- (thesonofdust@still.perspiring), January 28, 2001.

Keep it going girl ! Your writing is sounding more and more like Dean Koontz, and he did very well for himself as an author.

-- purple mom (tomeve@sedona.net), January 28, 2001.

Kritter, you're an excellent storyteller. If you ever decide to publish and need an editor, let me know. I've done quite a few, including portions of textbooks this past semester. J

-- Gayla (privacy@please.com), January 28, 2001.

Dougie was surprised how talkative Strata was on the way back to his house. Strata rambled on about his theories and science, and the universe. He was even animated, waving his hands about while he spoke. For a man that looked so ill a moment earlier, Strata was having a second wind. When Strata started speaking again about his own experiment and the tent, Dougie became curious. "Mr. Strata, why did you choose to set up a tent, rather than use like an office building or something?"

Strata nodded to him. "I have no car, because I cannot drive. I needed home and work to be walk to each other. Was just the closest I could find to my needs." "Why can't you drive?", Dougie asked, because he was sure everyone drove a car. "Is my eyes", Strata said, "I cannot see so well. You know anything about genetics?". Dougie assumed he meant poor eyesight was a part of albinoism. He shook his head to indicate he understood.

"Now is my turn to ask you question", Strata said. "What is your real name?". Dougie looked at Strata with his head cocked to one side. "What do you mean?", Dougie asked. "No one names child Dougie Douglas, is a nickname, no?", Ivan asked. "Oh", Dougie said. "Yeah. It's just I've been called that since I was a baby. It's Steven Douglas Jr." "Ah, this I thought", Ivan said, "You have much of your father in you." "No offense, Mr. Strata, but you didn't know my father.", Dougie replied rather curtly. "I know he was detective", Ivan said. "So?", Dougie said. "So..is person who is unafraid, strong, wants to know truth, right?", Ivan said. "I guess", Dougie answered. Dougie knew he was starting to sound like the teenager he still was, but he was getting uncomfortable with Ivan talking about his father. He felt defensive suddenly, badly wanting to say "You don't know shit", but instead he just shrugged.

Ivan seemed to sense his discomfort, and he stopped talking. After a few minutes, Dougie realized the silence was worse than the conversation, and started talking again himself. "My father was a good guy", Dougie said. "If there is still a part of him in dark area", Ivan said, "would you be willing to get him out?" Dougie was stunned. "Me, go inside that thing?", Dougie questioned. "To get your father, yes.", Ivan replied. Dougie hesitated. "I..guess so.", he said.

"I have idea, maybe", Strata said to him. Dougie felt nervous at the thought of going into this darkness Strata had described to them. Why couldn't Ivan himself go back in there, Dougie wondered. It was his project. He had done it already. He knew how. Or was he too sick now to do it again, or too afraid? If a part of my father is still alive somehow, lost in that place, I should go find him, he told himself.

"If there is anything of your father there, we have to act fast. He could be in trouble. I just realize this now.", Strata said suddenly. His tone was alarming to Dougie. "You want to do this now?", Dougie said. "Well, time is of the essence..is up to you of course. Is your father, not mine.", Strata answered. As they neared the intersection by the tent, Dougie drove faster, hoping Strata wouldn't suggest they stop there.

-- story blah blah (writer@frl.net), January 29, 2001.

Angela directed Jump to drive towards Strata's home, while she started telling him her whole story, from start to finish. She rushed it as much as she could, backtracking anytime she'd forgotten something important. Her retelling of Strata's story was as close as she could remember his words, even the ones she couldn't understand.

Jump asked questions, good questions that made her feel he was listening and believed her. She felt good about having thought to call him. "I knew you were the right person to tell", she said. "I'm glad you thought to, Mrs. Douglas. I'm not sure what to make of it all, but I think it's a good idea I speak to this Ivan Strata myself."

She finished the entire story just as they arrived at Strata's house. It was dark. "I'll go to the door", she said. "I'll go, Mrs. Douglas. You wait here", he replied. Jenny was curled up in the back seat, crying. She was shivering too, with only pajamas under her coat. Angela decided to let Jump go.

She watched as he approached the dark house, and waited endlessly for someone to answer the door. No one did. He returned to the car after five minutes. "There's no one there", he said.

"The tent", she said.

Jump turned his car around, and drove back up the street to the highway. They pulled into the back of the donut hut parking lot, and got out of the car. Jenny clung close to her side, and Angela knew the child was being traumatized, having to return in the middle of the night to this very spot where her father died.

They started to walk towards the front of the tent, and Jump stopped them. "Mrs. Douglas, what is it you think this man might do?", he said. "Hurt Dougie", she replied. "He's either crazy or he's not, but either way, I think he's dangerous." "WEll, I can't pass judgement on his theory, or his story as of yet, but I've seen some things, in my lab, that might lend some credibility to him", Jump said. "Are you sure these dreams you had weren't of your own mind?", he asked. Angela wasn't sure. It was possible of course, and she knew it. "I..don't know.", was all she could reply.

-- story short another (writer@frl.net), January 29, 2001.

Jamal Jump led the way to the front of the tent, and peered inside slowly. There was a dark curtain in front of him. This wasn't what he had planned to be doing in the middle of this night, and he didn't kid himself he was any kind of real detective himself. He wasn't armed. He had never even owned a gun. He was sure he shouldn't be doing this alone, but not sure if calling the police was necessary. He looked back towards the Donut Shop, and noted there was no pay phone in front of it.

He reached into his pocket, and handed his keys to Angela. "If anything happens", he said to Angela, "I want you to go to the diner and call for help." Angela thought of the night she had done just that, and she looked down at Jenny, whose frightened and confused look broke her heart. "Hold on there Sweetie", she said to her daughter. "We'll be okay..we're just gonna get Dougie and go home, okay?" Jenny nodded, but her little tear stained face was hard for Angela to bare.

Jump put his hand on the curtain, and pulled it back gently, hoping he could see without being seen. He wasn't sure if Strata was dangerous, but he wasn't taking any chances. He felt adrenaline fill his body, and tried not to enjoy the feeling. It would be too easy to think of this as "playing detective", when he knew full well this was no game.

His eyes adjusted to the darkness, and he was barely able to make out two figures about 30 feet infront of him. Angela's hand was on his shoulder, trying to peer in from behind him. It through him off balance and he took a step in. He stopped..waiting for someone to notice him, but they didn't. They were both facing the other way, he guessed. He heard Angela shushing Jenny, even though the child hadn't spoken.

The figures were apart, one near some kind of control board, the other standing further back, near some lighting stantions. He tried to make out which was Strata by the lightness of their skin, but both figures looked somewhat white to him. He took a slow step forward, and then another. He wasn't sure at this point if he should announce himself, or risk being shot as an intruder. While he questioned himself, he heard their voices. "Can't I call my Mom first?", a nervous voice said. That's Dougie, Jump thought to himself. "No, is no time. You must go now, if he is to be saved." And that's Strata, Jump assumed.

"When I hit switch, you'll feel force a bit. Try not to panic, is not to panic for. Just keep your head and try to find him, then look for the brightest light nearest to you, and jump back through.", Strata's voice was saying. Aw shit, Jump thought. He's gonna send that boy into the darkness? He tried hard to find a quick solution in his head, praying something would come to him, but nothing did. I'm just going to have to make myself known, he thought.

Jump started forward quickly now, and spoke outloud just as a bright light filled the entire tent. He managed to yell "Stop"..and "Dougie!", and then, the light was blinding him, and he shielded his eyes and turned his back to it. He could barely make out Angela behind him, bathed in light, also covering her eyes. Behind her, he saw one small hand holding open the curtain. Jenny. The light stopped as quickly as it came, and he could hear the sound of another switch being thrown, and another set of lights came on on the other side of the tent. A hanging piece of black canvas seperated the two sides, but the lights were so bright, he could see them through it. His own eyes ached a second, trying to readjust to the darkness. Jenny was calling for her mother, loudly. She was terrified and he didn't blame her.

Jump turned around, and faced the image he could make out now. It was a man with white skin, medium height, slender. It was Strata, he knew. The man turned around and faced him. They both stood unspeaking for a second. It was Angela who broke the silence. "Where did you send him?", she screamed,.."Where is my son? What have you done?" Strata eyed Jump with contempt. "Who is this?", he asked Angela. "I'm Dr. Jump, the county coronor.", Jump answered for himself. "Where is Dougie?", Angela asked again, walking directly in front of him. Her anger made her bold, and she knew if her son didn't reappear in a minute, she could rip this man apart with her bare hands.

"He is looking for his father", Strata said calmly. His calm bothered her. "I told you could maybe be done", he said. "Then why didn't you go yourself?", Angela asked. "Me?", Strata acted surprised at her. "I am half a man, dying even now. It would kill me to return." "If he's hurt, or he doesn't come back, I'll kill you myself", Angela seethed back at him. Strata pointed to the other side of the hanging curtain. "Go wait, he'll come back there", he said, motioning her to the other side of it. "I had him wrap himself in white sheet", he added, "to be sure he would absorb correctly." The word "absorb" tied her stomach in a knot. She felt sick. Strata was by her side now, pushing her to the other side of the curtain. "Here, through here,", he said. "He will come back, you'll see." Strata kept his eyes trained on Jump.

Angela slid through an opening in the curtain, and saw the platform Strata had built, all white and covered from every angle with huge spotlight type lights. The light it gave off was painful, and she couldn't look at it directly. It reminded her of the way it felt to look at the sun on a summer's day. She felt the hair on her head and arms stand on end, and realized it was from a static type charge in the air. She turned and looked for Jenny. The child wasn't there.

-- we're almost there.. (writer@frl.net), January 29, 2001.

Oh my! Three chapters in one day!!! How do you do it?? What an entrancing writing style you have!! Of course, once again, you have left us dangling on the precipice.....arggghhhhhhhhh!! We must know, we MUST know what happens next. Won't you tell us kritter?? Please? Or must we beg? (Very nice work! You are talented!!!)

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 29, 2001.

W-w-where's Jenny???

-- helen (wide@eye.d), January 29, 2001.

Wow! Still clinging... I had to go get fake fingernails to keep mine from turning into finger stumps!

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 29, 2001.


-- helen (a@c.k), January 30, 2001.

Angela ran back to the other side of the curtain, hoping to see Jenny there. It was pitch black to her eyes again on that side, except for a slight glow where Strata near his control panal. She desperately called out for the child. Grabbing the curtain that seperated the two halves of the tent, she pulled back the flap to try and bring light into the room. Her eyes adjusted again, and she was able to make out Dr. Jump too. He was standing by the area where Dougie had been absorbed. Jump was yelling something to her. The hum of the lights behind her, and her own mind spinning made it hard for her to hear at first. She pulled the curtain as far back as she could..and the faintest glint could be seen in Strata's hand. He was holding a gun.

"Dr. Jump", she screamed. He was backing up, up towards the dark curtain behind him. Strata was standing at his control panel, which looked no different than a DJ booth. Angela dug her nails into her palms, trying to bring control to her thoughts. What was Strata doing? She prayed Jenny had run back to the car, or was standing just outside the tent. She could see much clearer now..Strata was pointing the gun at Jump. "Hey", she shouted. Strata looked back at her only a second. "Mrs. Douglas", he said, "You're about to see most amazing magic." She could hear Jump now. He was telling her to run.

Angela let go the curtain, and the room became dark once more. Strata's eyes have to adjust to the dark just like mine, she figured. She made a run for the control board, hoping to find the switch that turned it off, but found herself tripping over a power cable on the floor. She lay on the dirt. The fall staggered her. "Don't move", Strata said, but he was saying it to Jump. Then she heard another person shout "Don't move".. from behind her. She leaned up on her elbows and turned her head. Several flashlights and figures,..men,.. were coming into the tent. "Drop it", someone shouted. Angela looked back at Strata. It's the police..she realized. They would be okay.

As she pulled herself up off the floor,..Strata flipped a switch, and started running. A sudden burst of bright light and electricity filled the air. She barely could make out the image of a man...Jump, standing by the curtain, and Strata..running right at him. In a blinding flash, Strata took a diving head first leap, right at Jamal Jump. She could hear the police running by her..and then, the lights went out.

There was shouting and confusion. She saw four flashlights, and a fifth that came in from behind her. "Angela", a voice shouted. It was Captain Barr. "Cap, over here", she called to him. Then he was there beside her, helping her out of the tent..into the night air. "Dougies in there", she cried. "Okay, we'll take care of it", he said. "Jenny, I can't find Jenny", she said. "Jenny's at the Diner", Barr said. "She ran across the highway all by herself, ran to the diner, and asked them to call the police for her. She's quite the little hero", he said. Angela felt relief, and calmed enough for Barr to leave her there while he went back inside. She thought of Strata, jumping at Dr. Jump..leaping into him..into him or through him, she couldn't decide.

She watched as more police cars drove up, and an officer tried to escort her to his car, but she resisted. Dougie was still in there someplace, in the darkness. He would look for that light and come out. "Don't turn off that light..the light on the other side of the tent, don't turn that off", she cried to them.

Capt. Barr and an officer came out of the tent, holding up Dr. Jump. He could barely walk. His eyes were unfocused. They helped him sit down on the ground, and radioed for an ambulance. "I'm okay", he grumbled. "I won't need a ambulance". "You're getting one just the same", Captain Barr told him. Jump tried to make it to his feet, but fell back. Angela went to him, and knelt by his side. "What happened", she asked.

"I think..", he stammered. "I think he tried to jump into me". Angela stood, and looked down at him. His voice was his, his slightly british accent still there. "I felt him, felt him go right through me", Jump said. Angela knelt again. "I think he went right through me, into the darkness", Jump said. "Imagine that. He was dying, and he wanted to be in that place to do it." "Or he was going after Dougie", Angela said, and she ran back into the tent.

-- just another short story (writer@frl.net), January 30, 2001.


-- helen (oh@my.goodness), January 30, 2001.

How will it end? How will it end?? What is next??? Still standing on the edge, in anticipation I am!!!

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 30, 2001.

Dougie Douglas was lost in a world of darkness. He had come in looking for his father, half or in spirit, it mattered not to him, but now he only wanted to find his way back out. His skin felt clamy from the cold wet air that surrounded him, his eyes burned from whatever it was that made up the air here, and he found himself groping for anything solid infront of him. There was nothing. He called out his father's name, then screamed it. There was no sound, not even an echo of his own voice. Dougie tried hard not to panic, fighting with the child that was still within him, though it was not as strong as it used to be. He managed to keep his head and take deep breaths, trying to make out any light, anywhere.

His eyes focused on what appeared to be a slightly illuminated area in the distance, and he found himself running for it. In an instant, he felt a rush of air pass through him, and he whirled around, trying to make out what it was. He saw only darkness. Darkness like nothing he had known before. The complete absence of light. He couldn't even see his own hand in front of his face. He turned around again, trying to find the glow he had seen, and found it was still ahead of him. He continued to run. He wondered what it was his feet were running on, as he felt no floor below him. The very thought of it gave him the sensation of falling, and he forced himself to concentrate on the light ahead to keep from screaming.

Finally he saw what looked like an opening. A portal, he told himself. He hesitated a second, knowing he had failed to even look for his father, and yet, he felt sure his father was not here. He hadn't felt him, or sensed him, or heard anything when he called out his name. Why did Strata send him into this place, knowing how horrible it was. Why didn't he warn him. He said a quick prayer, and jumped into the light.

There was a jolt of pain throughout his body, and his heart skipped a beat..frightening him worse than anything he had just encountered. Please God, don't let my heart stop like Dad's did, he prayed. He was blinded by light, as he hit what felt like ground. "Dougie", a voice was saying, his mother's voice he thought, and then arms were around him, holding him. "I'm back?", he asked. "Yes, you're back, you're back. Are you okay?", his mother was asking. He tried hard to open his eyes, but the light was too much for him. He reached out with his hands, and feeling his mother's face, he fell back into her arms. "Mom, I could't find him, he wasn't there. He's not in there. He's not in there. He's dead. He's dead.", Dougie cried. His tears came hard now, and his cry became a sob, deep and heaving and full of pain. Angela knew...he had put this off for her, and it was his time to mourn now. The hopes of finding his father still alive somehow were gone now. It was time to accept what was. She held him tightly, rocking him in her arms. Jenny came walking in slowly, and put her arms around Dougie from behind. They stayed that way, left alone by the police officers around them, for almost half an hour.

Captain Barr finally escorted them to his cruiser, and handed Jenny a blanket. On the way home, Angela told Barr all she knew, all she had heard and seen and thought, and he accepted it without question. Jenny curled up against her brother, and he held onto her, for his own security. His eyes had finally adjusted, and he felt thankful for sight in a way he never had before. Seeing his mother's face, his sister's face...overwhelmed him. They were priceless to him.

When they got home, the sun was just starting to rise. Jenny asked if she still had to go to school that day. "No, of course not", Angela said. "You get to bed." "I can't sleep, it's morning.", Jenny said. She lay on the couch, covered by the blanket Capt. Barr had given her, and five minutes later, she slept. Angela and Dougie slept too. Angela awoke when the phone rang at one pm. It was Diane, from Steve's office. "I found the photo you were looking for, Mrs. Douglas", she said. "The manager of the Donut Hut turned it in to us..said the Detective who came there a lot had left it on the counter one night, along with some folders. He told them he was going to take a look around the tent, and never came back in. It must have been that night..", her voice trailed off. "I'm glad it's back", Angela sighed. "I'll run by and pick it up tomorrow", she said.

Angela smelled the aroma of fresh coffee coming from downstairs, and she went down to the kitchen to see who was making it. Steve was the only one who drank coffee in the house, and it reminded her of him in a nostalgically sweet way. "Do we have company?", she asked, seeing only Dougie in the kitchen. "No", he answered nonchalantly. "Who's having coffee?", she asked. "Me", he said. "You drink coffee??, since when?", Angela said. "Just woke up a little while ago and felt a strong urge to have some", Dougie smiled.

-- another short story (writer@frl.net), January 31, 2001.

As evening approached, Angela found Dougie in his room, packing. "Going back, huh?", she asked. "Yeah. I'm ready now.", he said. She gave him half a smile. She was glad he was going back to school, but she would miss him, and she really did need him still. Empty nest, again, she thought. "Tomorrow?", she asked. "I was thinking tonight", he said. "Oh", she said, and recognized her answer as sounding just like Jenny's disappointed "oh"'s. "I'll miss you", she said.

Jenny was clonking down the hall on her stilts, banging into walls and knocking over the hall phone stand. "I'll fix it!", she shouted. Angela helped her right it, and put the phone back on the hook. "Jenny,", she said, "I can't believe you crossed the highway all by yourself!" "I looked both ways", Jenny answered innocently. Angela gave her a hug. The police had come too late to do anything, but she had never been more happy to see them. "You're a hero!", Angela told her dauther. "COOL!", Jenny shrieked!

They saw Dougie off later that evening, and then Angela took Jenny out to the Diner to get some dinner. Jenny pointed out the window to the tent. "There's people taking it down", she said. Angela looked. There were about eight men trotting around it in all directions, and while they sat there, the tent slowly came down and was folded up and put in a truck.

Angela felt the full circle they had come, from the day they had sat in this diner just a little less than two weeks ago, when they had seen that tent go up. On the way home, Angela took a different route, so they wouldn't have to pass that spot again.

During the night, Angela dreamed she had woken in the morning, and found the snowman from the yard right at her back door, peering in. It was a nightmare that woke her from a dead sleep. She looked out her window down into the back yard. Mrs. Snow still stood, watching over the pool. When she got up that morning, she went outside and knocked Mrs. Snow down, trambling the snow into the smallest finest powder, until nothing remained of it. My husband's not in there, she said to herself. It was the last remaining shred of hope in herself, and she needed to put it to rest. She knew he was gone.

Dougie did well in school the remainder of that semester, and all the years after. He remarked how easy it had all become. He felt he knew everything he was learning already, like he had known it all his life. He enjoyed becoming an officer, and a detective like his father, and he continued to cherish his family and his life.

Jenny had trouble sleeping for a long time after, but eventually she overcame it. She talked of becoming a detective too, but that gave way to ballerina, then astronaut, then nurse. She never built another snow man, and Angela never questioned why.

Angela went back to work part-time, to cover the financial gap Steve's death had brought them. She worked with Steve's friend, Phil, at a photo store, developing photos from negatives. She joked that she had some experience in it now. She had seen real life developement. In time, she even came to understand the concepts that Strata had been using in his experiment. She never related them to anyone. She didn't want anyone else going into the darkness.

Jamal Jump left his job a few weeks after the night at the tent. Angela had thanked him for helping her, and sent him flowers and fruitbaskets, but it only embarrassed him. He had been a 50 year old coronor, running around chasing ghosts. He wanted to move on, he told his staff. He wasn't married, had no family, had been married to his job, and now he needed to "get a life." Where will you go, they asked him. He gave them a mysterious smile. Here and there, he had answered. In his pocket, his fingers slide over the ticket he had just bought. A ticket to Moscow. A ticket home.

------------------------------- The End ----------------------------

Thanks to all of you who read all the way through this story. I appreciate your kind words of encouragement, they really really do help. I'll never read through another person's story without commenting after each chapter, just so they know I was there. It's a good feeling. Hope ya enjoyed the story. My thanks to my son Keith, who let me bounce ideas off of him, and who came up with some excellent ones himself.

copywrite 2001 - kirstena ritter

-- The END! (writer@frl.net), January 31, 2001.

Absolutely wonderful, kritter. Your Medal of Fruitfullness was well given! And I wasn't kidding when I said you really helped to inspire me (Now that this is done, I'll begin posting the next sequel of the 'Beaver Saga' soon).

Uh, speaking of sequels.... :)

-- (thesonofdust@great.job), January 31, 2001.


that was WONDERFUL!!!!!!

i love your style

i really do think you should take galya up on her offer of trying to get this published somewhere


-- mebs (mebs@joymail.com), January 31, 2001.



You do have the talent my friend! And we can say we read it here first!! Perhaps we could change the name of the forum to Freelance Roundtable of Literary friends?

-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), January 31, 2001.

Hey, I like that one Bee! Thanks, glad you'all enjoyed it. I think I'll take the story now and go back over it in Word, and tweak it here and there, and put it in regular book format, something I couldn't really do on the forum. And I will contact Gayla, and maybe try some sci fi lit mags..but it definately needs some work first. Came out pretty good, if I do say so myself..even with the standard FRL clowns and geese...heh. Forgot to throw duct tape in..darn.! :-)

Thanks all.

-- kritt (kritter@adelphia.net), January 31, 2001.

Kritter, check your email. An edited version of Chapter One is on its way. :-)

-- Gayla (privacy@please.com), February 01, 2001.

Wow, Kritter!!

Any chance for an encore? ;-)

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), February 01, 2001.

My dear, you absolutely have a knack for keeping us on the edge of our seats! Oh my, yes!

Hope you share some more of your heretofore hidden talent again. . . [hint]. . .

-- Brooke (BackInHerSeat@Hill.top), February 02, 2001.

Simply amazing. Your talent kept me on the edge of my seat and I even felt tears in my eyes from time to time. Girl, you have some excellent talent. Go for it ! Get it published through a friend or friends and then start the next in a series. I loved how you developed the characters of each person and how it was a learning experience in terms of the science involved. Thanks for sharing. in the story

-- purple mom (tomeve@sedona.net), February 02, 2001.

Great job Kritter! And really great characters, too. You realize that now you have to keep it up and write again for us, don't you?

Kit and I just got back from 4 weeks, mostly on the road to find your final chapters, Robs new story, Trish's hiaku, Robert's illuminating logical exposition, and all the other home-folks just hangin' out munchin' the free popcorn. It's great to be home.


-- Lon Frank (lgal@exp.net), February 03, 2001.

Bravo, K!

Thanks for showing such courage in posting this puppy. You're a good egg. :)


-- Rich (howe9@shentel.net), February 06, 2001.

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