from the Otherworld
|Beneath the silver glitter of moonlight gleaming off frost-covered trees, a scream shattered the glazed silence.
In the brisk morning air, a surreal scene of serenity greeted investigators responding to a 911 call from an alarmed citizen who was out walking his Old English sheep dog in the park. A fresh blanket of snow covered the ground bathed in dazzling sunlight as they approached the stone footbridge.
The anxious caller ran to meet them, waving excitedly and pointing to the culvert that ran under the bridge. The cause of his agitation soon became apparent. When the officers came up to the narrow bridge, they beheld a grotesque tableau in the ditch below. A hand reached out from a snow-covered mound as if trying to hail a cab. Upon uncovering the mound, they discovered the grisly remains of a woman with her head bashed in.
Police searched the area thoroughly, turning up a rock covered with blood, presumably the murder weapon. They also found a flute in a case slung around the shoulders of the contorted carcass. An inscription on the gold-plated nameplate inside the case identified the flute’s owner as one Katherine Stratford.
Detective Brock McVeigh let out a whistle as he glanced at his partner Danny Valencia. “Looks like we have a celebrity here. Kate Stratford is a renowned flutist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra who also performs solo concerts on occasion. Her mystical melodies have mesmerized audiences at the Tanglewood Music Festival and other venues around the world. Just last year, she received a special Magic Flute Award at the Grammys.”
Danny responded, “Yeah, I know. Some local legends claim she learned to play from Apollo himself.”
The detectives interviewed the musician’s distraught husband Peter, their six-year-old son Billy, their neighbors, and all her known associates in the music world. They all had airtight alibis and couldn’t give the detectives any leads to a suspect. Lab results from evidence gathered at the crime scene provided no additional clues for the investigation, and the case eventually grew cold.
Nine months later, Peter Stratford was relaxing in his luxurious brown leather Havana club chair after a sumptuous dinner of prime rib roast with buttered pearl potatoes and pumpkin pie and enjoying the full smoky flavor of his Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco, when he heard a tapping on the front door. Assuming more children decked out in their Halloween goblin costumes were seeking trick-or-treat goodies, he retrieved the basket full of bagged candy corn from the elegant mahogany bombe chest in the foyer and opened the door.
Peter gasped and dropped the basket, sending the ochre and yellow bags of candy skittering across the floor.
The specter standing in front of him struck sheer terror in his heart. The likeness to his late wife was hauntingly precise in every detail, right down to the nasal timbre of her voice. Her golden hair flowed over the left shoulder of the sequined black bolero she wore with a strapless silk evening gown, the very same outfit that had adorned her graceful frame for her last concert on that fateful night. The hair on the right side of her head was matted with what appeared to be dried blood from a clearly visible gash.
After standing awestruck in the doorway for several long moments, Peter realized that this had to be some kind of tasteless prank and snarled, “That’s not funny! Who are you?”
“You know who I am, Peter. Your loving wife. They let us cross over once a year to visit loved ones. Where is Billy? I came to see him on his birthday.”
“Jolene took him out trick or treating.”
“Jolene! It didn’t take you long to hook up with that whoring hussy you called a secretary, did it?”
“She was there to help me through the dark times. Then one thing led to another.”
“Ha! I’ll bet she was there to help you get rid of me, too.”
“That’s exactly the kind of irrational suspicion that poisoned our marriage. You know I loved you!”
“Maybe once upon a time, but your love has a way of drifting. When will Billy be back?” The phantom whisked through the door past Peter and started to survey the palatial furnishings. “You have certainly been spending my money with your usual extravagance.”
“Just giving Billy a comfortable home.”
Peter sat back down and relit his pipe. “It’s getting late. Don’t you have to get back?”
“There’s no rush. I lulled the old boatman into a stupor with my magic flute. He won’t be coming around for some time.”
“Well, you can’t let Billy see you like that. What are you planning to do here?”
“Don’t worry. I’m just a shade with no substance. He won’t see me. I just took this form because I couldn’t resist seeing that look on your face when you opened the door.” The spirit casually drifted around to the ornate polished cherry cabinet against the wall behind Peter’s chair and said, “Now that I know Billy has such a fine home and my parents to care for him, I think I’ll just take you back with me. The marriage vows said, ‘’Til death do us part,’ but true love never dies, does it, Peter?”
Peter started to turn his head as he asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”
The shade pointed the revolver he kept in the cherry cabinet at his right temple and pulled the trigger. After placing the gun in his right hand, she dialed 911 so the police could intercept Billy before he had to endure the gruesome sight of his father lying in a pool of blood.
Author's note: 950 words of Crime/Supernatural fiction.