|I sat down at the computer, pulled up the report forms and starting filling in the basic information. Mrs. Todd, Mr. Todd, three other unexplained bodies all found in a burned down house and one strange mirror that didn’t burn down with the rest of the house. I leaned back in my chair, shook my head and started typing. This report with the one I wrote last month was going to get me thrown off the force and straight into the loony bin.
The chief walked by my desk. “Hit send, and meet me in my office.”
“Yes sir.” What else was I supposed to say? I rubbed the bump on the back of my head, and headed toward the end of my career.
The chief was at his desk, he looked up from his monitor. Oh man, he must be reading the first report. His steely gray eyes bored through me. “Shut the door.” He went back to the report.
“Why didn’t I see this report?”
I squirmed in my seat, there’s absolutely nothing that matches that going to the principal’s office feeling like sitting in the chief’s office with him glaring at you. “I figured it was something paranormal. Nothing we could do anything about. She needed the Ghost Busters not the police.” I paused, he didn’t look amused. “Sir, in all seriousness, I buried the report because it would have kept me on these crazy cases for the rest of my career. There wasn’t anything I could do. Nothing in that house was out of the ordinary, other than the mirror. I honestly felt like it was some kind of hoax,” I paused and rubbed where that first bump had been, “well, sort of.”
“Sort of?” He leaned back in his chair and waited. His eyes never left mine, he just rocked, steepling his fingers in front of him. I wasn’t volunteering. He leaned forward, “You know, I can order a psych eval.”
“But there are the other reports from yesterday’s event at the Todd place.” He flipped open the top folder on his desk. “According to the fire inspector’s report, the fire started in the kitchen. He doesn’t know why, there were no indications of anything left cooking or any appliance malfunction. No accelerants, no real reason for the fire to start that he could find. It just started there.”
“He had no explanation as to why the fire fighters couldn’t break a window, punch through a wall, or breach the building. Everything they tried failed.” The chief stood walked around the edge of his desk and sat down. He was trying really hard to look friendly, that was kind of scarier than Ida. “All they could do was to protect the neighborhood by fighting the inferno from the exterior and watch as the house burned to the ground.”
He handed me the folder. I started to skim the detailed reports.
“The captain’s report confirmed that nothing they tried seemed to have any effect on the blaze. For a small house, four battalions were called out. I really don’t understand how that many people working together couldn’t save something.”
Startled, I looked up. There was one thing that made it, that weird mirror, but I made sure it was broken before I went home.
“Then there is Jenkin’s report.” He reached over, picked up a blue file folder and glanced at the contents. “According to him, he was standing outside of the Todd’s house, where you told him to wait. The house was fine. He didn’t see anyone, or anything unusual. In fact, he said it was eerily silent one minute and then it was completely engulfed in flames and you were lying unconscious on the front lawn. His report is brief, but interviewing him,” the chief shook his head, “that poor boy has more questions than I have answers. He’s really messed up, he thinks it’s all his fault, he should have been in there with you. He and his rep are still in with IA.”
“Mrs. Green the witness next door, she’s the person that called 911 about domestic violence report and shortly after you arrived she called back about the fire. She reported that Mrs. Todd, dressed up in a Victorian style dress, helped you out of the house. Mrs. Green said that didn’t know exactly what happened but the woman’s facial expressions changed completely. It didn’t look like Mrs. Todd at all. Her hair flew around wildly, which was strange since there wasn’t any wind. The woman, supposedly Mrs. Todd started cackling like,” he looked back at the report to quote Mrs. Green’s words, “‘the wicked witch from the west’ and ran back into the house. Mrs. Green said the woman slammed the door so hard; she was surprised the antique stained glass window panel didn’t shatter.”
“This brings me to your report.”
I stood getting ready to get out of there, “Yes sir, I was just working on it.”
“Sit down Sam.”
I swallowed hard. Oh man, here it comes.
“Right now, tell me what happened. I’ve already had calls about the house, the Todds, the number of bodies found. I need answers, and I want them now.”
“Yes sir. I totally understand. I’m just not sure that what really happened will make any sense.” Geez, I bet that’s how Mrs. Todd felt when I met her.
“It was a month ago when I first went to see Mrs. Todd. She was fidgety, a real nervous Nelly. Anyway, she took me to her master bedroom and had me sit in front of her vanity mirror.Sir, this is where it gets really strange, which is why Mrs. Todd called in the first place. A scene played out in the mirror. There was Ida.”
The chief interrupted, “Whose Ida?”
“I don’t know for sure, I imagine the lady of the house when it was first built. Anyway, there was Ida, and I imagine her husband. Apparently Ida wasn’t faithful and her husband snapped and beat her.”
“And how do you know this?”
“Sir, it was all happening in the mirror, and apparently I was part of the play. I struck Mrs. Todd. She’d begged me to ‘stay’ but, apparently I was playing the part of Ida’s husband.”
Silence. Oh man, Sam just go ahead and get ready for basket weaving. The chief walked back around his desk and sat down. He steepled his fingers again and scrutinized me. I felt like I was under a microscope and he was the scientist getting ready to dissect me.
I sighed and started again. “When I left, I told Mrs. Todd that she needed help, but sir, the police weren’t going to be able to do anything about what was happening in her bedroom. I wrote the report and I guess you saw it for the first time today.”
The chief nodded. “Then I sent you in, thinking it was a ‘normal’ domestic violence call.
“Yes, sir. I went in and Mrs. Todd was crying in the living room. There had been a terrible fight, the living room was totally wrecked. It wasn’t Mrs. Todd though, it was Ida. She admitted that she killed her husband and Mr. Todd. She came at me with a butcher knife. The look in her eyes, I knew that I was in big trouble.”
“When I went into the master bedroom, I found Mr. Todd’s body. That was the only body in the room. The last thing I remember is Mrs. Todd screaming that she was Ida. I don’t remember smelling smoke. I don’t remember the fire. Everything from that point on is blank.”
“You don’t remember Mrs. Todd helping you out?”
“No sir, but the way that woman can wallop a guy…” I replied rubbing my head again.
“So you don’t know how you got outside. You don’t know about the other bodies. There are a lot of holes in your report here.”
“I know. I wish I did have some answers that made sense, but I don’t.”
“Sam, what doesn’t make sense?”
“Sir, before I left the scene, I walked around the property. That house was a 200 year old tinderbox. I can see why it went up as quickly as it did. It doesn’t make sense that the fire department with all those crews couldn’t stop the fire. It doesn’t make sense that the whole house was gone and the vanity mirror was still in one piece, propped against one part of a smoldering wall either.”
“Sam, there’s no mention of a mirror being salvaged from that place.”
“No sir, I stood looking at the mirror. I couldn’t believe it made it through all of that, then the play started again. Ida, her husband, Ida’s lover, all trapped inside that mirror. Ida’s husband caught her in the act. He snapped her lover’s neck then beat the crap out of Ida and raped her. I don’t know where Ida got the knife from. She stabbed her husband; before he bled out he strangled her.”
“Sir, I know it sounds like I’ve lost my mind. Lord knows, I don’t know if I would believe me or not. But you said there were five bodies. The only thing I can figure out, you have Mrs. and Mr. Todd, then Ida and her husband, and finally Ida’s lover. When I was in the house, the only body that was dead was Mr.Todd, that’s all.” I sat in silence as the chief pondered all of the facts.
“Sam, what happened to the mirror? There is no mention of anything surviving the fire. No mirror in any report, other than yours.”
“Sir, I broke the mirror. It was the only way to get rid of it and all of the problems it caused the Todds.”
“I see.” He continued to stare me down; only thing is there wasn’t anything to crack. It was the truth, and I still didn’t understand any of it myself.
The phone on the chief’s desk buzzed. He picked up the receiver and turned his chair toward the back wall. A couple of yeses later, a long sigh, he turned back around and faced me.
“Sam, get back to the bull pen and keep your mouth shut. I have someone I have to talk to. I’ll get back to you later.”
Well, I still have a job. I breathed a sigh of relief. But it didn’t mean that everything was fine. I walked over my desk and tried to pull up my report. It was gone. I guess the chief must have it pulled up in his office. Oh well, I clocked out and went to lunch.
The diner around the corner from the station was called Ida’s Place. Walking in had never bothered me, until after the first time I’d been to the Todd’s house. Now, every time I went in, I got a cold chill would shoot straight up my spine. I walked over to the only empty barstool in the joint.
Gina came over with a cup of coffee.
“The usual?” she smiled.
The TV was on at the end of the bar. I started watching. There on the screen, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Ida, and her husband’s pictures, then the screen flashed to Mr. and Mrs. Todd’s pictures then a final artist rendering of Ida’s lover. The words across the bottom of the screen flashed the story about the Todd’s mysterious house fire and the five bodies found trapped inside. Great, a brilliant story had already been spun to explain everything.
Gina brought my cheeseburger and fries and slung it down in front of me. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I think I have. Sad story,” I nodded toward the TV as I shoved my juicy cheeseburger in my mouth.”
Gina smiled, “You know Sam, this place was named after one of the town’s founding families. Ida had a tavern where travelers would stop, eat and travel on their way."
"You’ve got to be kidding." I looked at Gina questioningly.
“Yep, it was over by where the Todd’s lived.” She looked so sincere.
I started choking, dropping my cheeseburger on my plate.
She shook her head and laughed as she walked away. “You’re such an easy mark.”
I tried to laugh. I should be used to Gina teasing me by now.
I finished my lunch and went to pay the ticket at the cash register. I looked behind Gina, I couldn't believe my eyes. It couldn't be, I saw it shatter into thousands of pieces. But there it was, and Ida with her wild eyes was standing behind my own reflection. “Gina," I tried to steady my voice,"where did you get that mirror?”