<a name="one">Drifting</a> into the darkness,
Guided by the pale moonlight.
A teen drove down the road to nowhere;
Not another car in sight.
Dozing into the dream world,
His awareness almost gone,
Until he was woken mysteriously,
As the radio turned itself on.
Coming back to his senses,
He peered at the dial.
Reading 51.60 AM,
Static wasn't his style.
He tried to change the station,
But the dial remained the same.
Altering its soundwaves,
It quietly whispered his name.
He slammed the brakes and killed the battery,
Praying it was just a dream.
The doors had locked and the engine roared,
But all he could do was scream.
The car sped into the darkness,
Never to be seen again.
No scream was ever louder
Than the static of 51.60 AM.
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Stories Never Told
<a name="two">Tired</a> little girl,
With the burned and mangled face;
Made fun of and mistreated,
She felt so out of place.
Walking dead old man,
Once a man who had a plan,
Sat alone beside the city street,
With a bottle in his hand.
Our pride is like a blanket,
But many are still cold.
Every face hides a story,
A story never told.
Confined by metal bars,
Travels back to the days,
Gazing up upon the stars.
Defeated little boy,
Whose pride was torn apart;
Performing dirty deeds,
Blackening his heart.
Every cry is a wrinkle,
That keeps us growing old.
Every face hides a story,
A story never told.
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Shattered Little Girl
<a name="three">Four</a> men in a stolen car
Drank the stormy night away.
Laughing, and joking about the past;
Dreaming of their golden days.
Lightning flickered, and shadows appeared
Between a dark narrow alley.
A girl's voice shrieked, one man peered,
Pummeled back to reality.
He screamed to the others "Stop the car!"
Then he ran into the black.
Targeting all the hoodlums,
Bracing to attack.
Leaving a torn little girl,
They quickly scattered away.
"Are you okay, sweety?"
Was all he could bare to say.
Teary-eyed she forced a smile,
Biting through all her pain.
Slowly walking back to his friends,
Both were drenched in rain.
"I have to find her mother." he spoke,
Pleading them to go on.
The man quickly turned around,
But the little girl was gone.
After many cold hours of searching
The weary man went home.
He turned on the television
And slowly picked up the phone.
As he stood paralyzed before the screen,
Thunder rolled and lightning flashed.
Three men in a red stolen car
Had died in a fatal car crash.
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Along the Roadside
<a name="four">A</a> hitchhiker prowled along the roadside,
A man who caught my eye.
Covered in cold acid rain,
Beneath the shallow gray sky.
I slowly drove beside him,
And offered for a ride.
He looked content and relieved
As he quickly stepped inside.
Hours passed like seconds
As our stories had both been told.
And the clouds drifted away,
Revealing stars bright and bold.
It had been years since I had smiled,
And centuries since a laugh.
This man had given me life again,
Reflectings of the past
To a time when the heartbeat
Of my angel still remained
"It's okay, Rick." He spoke,
Unaware he knew my name.
He smiled as he peered
Upon the yellow crescent moon.
"She says she loves you very much,
And she'll be seeing you soon."
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<a name="five">“Hey</a> dad, get up!”
I was jolted by a pillow hurled swiftly to my face. Dazed, I staggered out of bed and tried to focus on the alarm clock hidden under a heap of notes. “What is it Lisa Pizza?”
“I missed the bus again.”
I exhaled. “You know if it weren’t for your awesome dad…”
She chuckled and kicked a racquet ball down the steps. “Hurry, you’ve got twenty minutes!”
“Okay, don’t forget that I have a business meeting at--” I turned to see just the far side of the wall. She never much cared for long conversations, but she knew what I would’ve said nonetheless. I was getting predictable in my old age.
Wind pounded relentlessly against the window. It looked like this week’s third storm was brewing true to form. I put on my suit and crammed the briefcase until shut and locked. Another infamous confrontation was scheduled in just a few hours.
I rushed down the stairs to find Lisa waiting impatiently.
She tossed me the keys. “Let’s go funny face.”
The trees hypnotically swayed back and forth beneath the shallow sky. Leaves fluttered from every side of the truck as we entered the rural school grounds. After a few minutes of scanning the remains of the previous storm, Lisa broke the silence.
She hesitated and fiddled with her back pack. “These kids in my class know who you are. But I don’t even know them. They say you’re some kind of hero.”
I cracked a smile. “Of course I’m a hero! I’m the father that raised the almighty Lisa Daniels. It’s a tough job, but some dad’s gotta do it!”
With a brief laugh her little blue eyes glanced at me.
The brakes whistled to a smooth halt. “This is your stop, kiddo.”
“Love you. And hey, don’t forget to spend the night at Aunt Maggie’s, ok?”
With a nod and a kiss, she was gone.
A couple strolled in front of the truck and onto the pavement. A mother and child. I sat there, fascinated in them, mimicking her smile. The beautiful lady tied her son’s shoes, waved, and walked back across.
“Sorry Lisa,” was all I could muster to say.
I inhaled and stared blankly at the angry skies. This was it. Showtime. I quickly picked up the cell phone. “Hi. Yeah. Tell Detective Reinhold I should be there in two hours. Thanks.”
Thunder rolled in the distance. It was going to be a hell of a storm.
I collapsed on the musty couch of the station resting my eyes until they called my name. That same jittery feeling was coming back from the grave.
“Yes, that’s me.”
The lanky officer led me through the corridors explaining the situation at hand – two children supposedly dead and serial killer taunting detectives statewide. “Mind if I’m frank, Mr. Daniels?”
“Sure, and call me Rick.”
“Well Jim is an old fashion man. Just remember that.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at that. Hell, if I were in his shoes, I’d be locking up the guy up rather than having him assist me in some investigation. But nonetheless, I was nearing his office, pondering where I would stand in about fifteen minutes from now. The officer tapped on the Plexiglas. “Mr. Daniels is here to see you.”
“Send him in.”
I took a deep breath and entered into the steaming cage. I cradled the case against my chest. A dry laugh greeted me. “Hey, Detective Reinhold! I’m …I’m Rick Daniels.”
I extended my arm briefly but realized he was making no effort to be friendly.
Sweat rolled off his round forehead, and the white dress shirt hung drenched under his arms. He kept his dark eyes locked on me, waiting for some kind of explanation.
“Um…I have my journal and reports like you’ve requested.”
“Good.” His expression remained the same.
I handed him the briefcase only to hear an exaggerated exhale. He clutched the case and leaned back. “You know Mr. Daniels, I’m an – “
“Old fashioned man?”
“Bingo, And I think that your ‘gift to see lights’ is absolute shit. But this case is running on fumes so we have no other choice but to hear you out.”
He pried open the briefcase with half a powdered donut tucked in his lips, like some gigantic cigar. “Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Lino Getsinger?”
It didn’t ring any bells.
“After he’s done with his knife, he buries his victims and sends us letters. His currently oldest victim is six.”
The chronic wave of cold sweat oozed down my spine. “Well are there any leads on him?”
“Why the hell do you think you’re here Mr. Daniels?” He finished devouring his donut and licked his hand, not bothering to swallow. “So tell me about this so called ‘gift’ of yours again.”
“Well…about ten years ago I saw a light shining in my living room window. It was almost like someone was creeping around in the middle of the night with a flashlight. At first I thought it was the beer in me, but the light wouldn’t go away. Instead it danced…it was almost like it was beckoning me. So I put on a coat, grabbed a crowbar, and prepared for a big time confrontation with the local punk. But it wasn’t a man. The light rushed furiously near the old grown-in trails. Damn, I must’ve followed that thing for miles. Finally, it stopped and slowly faded away. Then…to this day I can’t explain it, but this surge ran through me. I was thrown to the earth to find it was remarkably fresh. The weird this was, at that very moment, I knew what I was gonna find.”
I paused and glanced at Reinhold. He was scanning me, filing every single word I stuttered. I sighed and went on.
“So I started to dig with my hands. For a while there was nothing until I struck something hard. And…and that’s when I saw my first dead body.” I couldn’t stop shaking. I stammered. “I just remember cradling her and swaying in the rain. Hell, I couldn’t stop gazing at her glazed eyes. …She couldn’t have been older than five…”
Reinhold didn’t say a word. Instead he just nodded, eyes still locked on me. “And according to these documents, you’ve signed with a few police forces in Rhode Island to catch these bastards?”
“Yeah, I find the bodies and they find the clues.”
“And according to your records, you’ve helped catch quite a few.”
Reinhold slowly closed the briefcase and pulled out a few sheets of his own. “Look at these. Letters from this sicko. Get a load of this. Dear Detective Reinhold, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t my choice. It had to be done. I serve someone even higher than you. Timmy Johansson is in a better place now. Lino…”
He tossed the sheets to the desk. “These go on and on. But my bottom line is this. I need you to stay here for the next few nights. Children are disappearing, cops are searching ‘round the clock, yet there’s nothing we can pin on him. Lino just gives us the name of the victim he’s slashed and we’re supposed to do the rest. Usually the letters arrive on the doorsteps of the one’s he’s taken. So far we haven’t found any of them.”
“So you want me to find more bodies…” I shuttered. It was time to retire from this. “Listen, I don’t think I can do this anymore. I barely ever see my daughter. She’s already lost her mother.
Reinhold nodded his head showing remorse. He leaned forward crossing his arms over the battered desk. “Think of the parents, Rick. Isn’t it better to know where their children are…dead or alive?”
The lights flickered. Time stood still in the office of judgment. I didn’t know what to say.
“Get some rest. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”
The motel reeked of old hotdogs and mildew as I rested alone flicking through the six channels. A pot of coffee was steaming away. The rain was relentless against the metal roof, which could drive anyone insane, but I had reason to think I already was. All I could think of was Lino. Just think, he’s out there in the rain somewhere stalking his next innocent child. Why did the lights always have to come after it was too late? What if I could prevent a murder…Some hero, you are Rick…Some hero…Lino…
The church bells sounded. That’s when I saw him. He prowled by the rusted see-saw. The poor child was alone…in the middle of nowhere. Where was everyone? The church walls were corroding beyond recognition with a lime green tint. The bells rung louder and louder. I ran as fast as I could through the yellow knee-high field towards the see-saw. “Run! Don’t let him near you! For Christ’s sake, run!” The boy couldn’t hear me. He just sat alone, smiling at the stranger. The bells were ringing in my head now. I could feel every lingering vibration bouncing off my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath. Why couldn’t it stop? Lino crouched beside the toddler. Why couldn’t I get any closer? The faster I ran the farther they appeared. “Run! He’ll kill you!” Crows perched on the tip of the church. That’s when Lino pulled out the blade.
“NO!” I quickly rose from the sheets with sweat pouring over my eyes. It was morning. “Jesus…”
Nothing happened. No lights last night. I plopped to the side of the mattress and tried to clear my head. “I gotta stop doing this…”
The coffee canister had been shattered over the rug.
“Shit.” I quickly turned off the brewer and crouched down to the shards. A lone sheet of paper was carefully placed by the door. Bewildered, I crawled toward it. I slowly unfolded it and shuttered. Drool ran down my chin splattering onto the floor along with weary tears. The chronic wave had come again.
“Dear Mr. Daniels. I’m sorry but I’ve taken Lisa. It needs to be done. Lino…”
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Midnight Lights 2
<a name="six">I</a> waited alone for the swift wave to crash over me. Sure enough, in a matter of seconds, I dropped to my knees gasping for air. The chipped wallpaper spun around as the room started fading into a constant blur. I dropped like a wounded soldier waiting for another random bullet to finish me off, but it never came. Surprised, I found one of the shards clenched tightly in my hand. I could join her. I could hold her hand through the darkness. “Lisa!”
The door burst open, yet I couldn’t make out the individual.
“Jesus Rick, you okay?”
I knew that hoarse voice. Anyone would. Reinhold was here, kicking away the remaining glass from my reach. “Drop the glass!”
Why the hell did he care? Had he lost a child? She was my warmth. The one light I wanted to follow.
“Drop it!” He aimed a Berretta towards my fist.
“What are you going to do, shoot me? Please, I’m all yours.”
Reinhold’s expression didn’t fold one bit. “Did you see the lights last night?”
Like I cared at this point. “What?”
“The lights! Did you see them?” He was shouting now.
“No! No I didn’t. I’m so sorry!”
Reinhold lowered the gun and knelt to study the letter. After a brief moment of silence, his bald head whipped back up. “Then she’s still alive, Rick.”
My pupils quickly focused on the man as oxygen poured back in my lungs. “What?”
The detective pulled out his pliers and placed the letter into a plastic bag. “You saw no lights, right? And this letter says that ‘it has to be done.’ He’s keeping her alive. Now get your ass up. We have a killer to catch!”
I scrambled to my feet and brushed the shards from my shirt. “So what do you think he wants?”
“Hell if I--”
The yellow rotary phone beside the bed jangled. It rang three times, each louder than the next. Neither of us dared move. After getting the okay from Reinhold, I crept toward it, placing my palm on the vibrating handle.
The line remained silent, yet I knew.
“Jesus,” I said. “Why’d you do it? Why?”
“She’s not dead, Mr. Daniels. However. my patience stretches only so far.” His voice was deeply synthesized. Almost like talking to the Devil himself. “Meet me at Den’s Branch by nine tonight.”
The line faded.
“Where the hell is that?”
“And I know your chubby friend is with you. If you dare bring him, I’ll slit Lisa’s throat with a smile.”
Between the pauses, I tried to concentrate on the static in the background. The rustling sounded like an old projector on its last legs.
“This is a recording isn’t it?”
“You know, Lisa’s a very beautiful girl despite all her wounds…minor flaws, really. And these new videos might make me a penny or two. There are a lot of sick pups out there. Remember friend, Den’s Branch at nine. Alone.”
The line cut off.
Reinhold had been next to me, panting on the back of my neck. Neither of us spoke for a brief moment. The silence spoke between us.
The room was dim. The scarce rays of light seeped through the single window beside the door. Reinhold let out a deep breath and slumped into the chair. He crossed his hands and gazed at the clouds. “You know I have to come with you.”
I sat on the edge of the torn mattress, nodding away, yet not listening. “You know, I remembered something just now that I’d forgotten for years.”
Rain started to lace the window.
“One night a few years ago, I had just gotten back from another business meeting. I could hear Lisa crying, so I sprinted up the steps to her room. That’s when I saw her on the edge of the bed with her face buried in her hands.
“I remember asking her what was wrong, but she shrugged me off like I wasn’t even there. She was trembling, so I rested beside her. That’s when she told me of the man in her nightmares.”
Reinhold, still with his hands folded, glanced at the floor.
“I remember saying I would never let the bad man get her." I stared blankly into an old mirror above the oak bureau. “And that’s all…everything else is a big blur.”
The trees were swaying again. Some leaves fell, while others seemed to thrive in their new colors. I could feel every bit of the breeze crawling up and down my back—giving me strange chills.
This night could be my last. I grasped the bedpost, and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry Jim, but I have to go.”
“What? It’s already one!”
I stormed out the door, leaving the man to clean the mess.
“Hey! I need to know where you’re goin’!”
I looked back at where he stood in the doorway. “I’ll be back!” I hopped in the car and sped away.
I strolled alongside the congested streets until I saw a glimpse of hope, a cross in the gray sky. Just hang in there kiddo, I thought.
Graffiti and moss clothed the out church wall. I leapt across the fifth street and entered the warm altar. Its emptiness surprised me.
A beautiful statue hung on the far side of the building. There, the crucified Jesus stood silent and still above the scented candles as I crept to his feet. The softness in his eyes greeted me.
I knelt, forcing myself to speak. “I’m afraid.” I could feel my lip quivering but could do nothing to stop it. “A man has Lisa…and he wants me. I know you already know this. That’s why I’m here.”
I felt the Virgin Mary glaring at me, counting every sin I committed.
“Why do you do this to us?” I asked, yet his face remained the same. “We’re not your damn puppets!”
The giant doors were shoved open, echoing through the hollow sanctuary. I turned about. Automobiles whizzed by at lightning speed as a gust of wind caught me off guard. Clouds formed and dissipated in a matter of split seconds.
Suddenly, something tapped my shoulder. I turned back around. This time my left. I ran my fingers over the blades of the leather jacket to find that something was dripping. I shuddered. My conscience told me not to look up, but it was already too late.
The warm eyes of Jesus Christ were gone. Instead, an oozing red tear streamed from his lifeless face. I felt the church bells ringing again, the same empty tone from my nightmare.
“I’m sorry…oh God, I’m sorry.” I fell to my knees with cold sweat stinging my eyes.
“Excuse me. Sir?”
A priest stood bewildered in the walkway. “Are you alright, my son?”
Was I going mad? Now was not the time. “Yeah…yeah I’m okay.”
A wave of relief swept over the kind man. “So what brings you here?”
“Anger and hope.”
The man failed to respond. Instead he placed his arm on my shoulder until the doors burst open.
Reinhold barged right through, trying to catch every lost breath. “Jesus, it took me hours to find you. What the hell happened?”
I staggered to my feet. “But I just got here…”
“It’s eight p.m. Rick. We gotta’ go, now!”
I paused briefly and gazed at the son of God, and with a final breath walked on. Reinhold placed his hand on my back and guided me to the door.
We both turned about. The priest stood in the walkway.
“May God be with you both.”
“I got a team standing by. See, Den’s Branch is an old lumber factory that was shut down in the fifties. Hell, from the looks of it, it should’ve been shut down long before that. They finally got the right idea once about half of the foundation fell from under it.”
I didn’t care about history at this point. All I cared about was seeing the light of tomorrow with my daughter. “So what’s the plan?”
Reinhold held the wheel firmly with a cigar dangling from his lips. “I’m leaving you for the time being, but I want you to wear this.” He grabbed a bag from the back seat. It was a recorder of some kind with a black laced vest attached.
“Now with this, you’ll walk in alone. This picks up everything, extremely sensitive. Once we hear something that sounds fishy, we storm in. Got it?”
I nodded. Everything now felt like a big football game. The crowd was riding on my shoulders, and if I failed, the game was over. All over.
I closed my eyes, trying to slow down my racing heart. “Hey Jim, thanks for all this.”
He didn’t say a word. Instead he exhaled slowly, as if he wasn’t used to regards and compliments.
The vehicle eased to a halt in the middle of nowhere.
“We’re here.” Reinhold said under his breath. “Take the path in front of us about half a mile up and you’ll see the factory.”
I nodded once again. My head raced with questions, yet none dared surface.
“Hey Rick.” He handed me his Berretta, its cold steal numbing my sweaty palms. “Use it in good health, my friend.”
And with that, I began to trudge through the mud with dead trees surrounding me. I took short breaths, pacing myself as I inched forward against the relentless wind. Curves passed from left to right on what seemed to be an old gravel driveway. And now Reinhold was gone from sight. That’s when I saw it.
The factory stood limp as some of the foundation had been weathered away. It was a standing disaster that, at any moment, could collapse a thousand feet to its certain doom. The gray exterior walls seemed to fit perfectly with the dark skies overhead. With a single breath, I entered through the corridors. “Lisa!”
I heard a faint grunt below me. The basement! “Don’t worry Lisa, Dad’s here!” Exhilarated, I sprinted through the endless maze of old boards and sagging sheetrock until a door with rusted letters read ‘Storage’. I threw open the door, but the squeal of the hinges blew my cover. There, I charged down the steps. She sat in the center of the cinder-blocked walls, squirming between dozens of candles. “Lisa! Oh baby. I’m gonna’ get you outta’ here!”
She tried to scream through the tape. Three gasoline jugs rested beside the dying candles as I made my way through the eerie stone-aged room.
“Wow, Rick. Two minutes early.”
That voice. How…It was mine…I slowly turned from Lisa’s knees to see the man. My jaw dropped. Another Rick Daniels was standing before me.
“As you can see, Lisa is just fine. I never laid a hand on her. I apologize for the phone recording.”
“What the hell is this?”
He chuckled. “You know there’s so much to say, and so little time, my friend.”
The stench of mildew and dead rodents filled the musty air.
“You see, I’m not who you think I am. No. I’m not a cold-hearted serial killer at all.” His blue eyes studied the flames beside me. “I kill those who will kill many others.”
“Kids, Lino? You murder children!”
“I’m not a murderer! I’m a servant of God. And we’re brothers sent to this world to change it.”
I struggled to swallow and peered at the candles. There was no time for this! “Shut up! This is bullshit! I’m just a guy who wants my daughter back. And you will give her to me!” I fumbled the Berretta from my coat and aimed for his chest. “You will give her to me!”
Reinhold slowly walked down the creaking steps.
I turned. “Jim! Grab him!”
But instead he stood beside the cloaked child-slayer. This couldn’t be happening. Lisa’s muffled screams slithered behind me as the hand gun shook wildly in front of the two men. “Reinhold, don’t tell me.”
He nodded. “I’m sorry, Rick. Sad thing is… I believe this man.”
I growled at them. “To hell with you both!” I emptied the clip only to find they were blanks.
They both shook their heads.
Lino rose to the occasion. “Jim’s been a friend of mine for years, he’s seen enough to believe.”
The newspapers dangled below the shrinking candles. The game was almost over, and it seemed the home team just didn’t have enough to take it.
“So this was all one big set-up then, huh? You guys belong in hell. Jim, don’t listen to this guy. He’s gone mad.”
His expression remained the same, not bothering to even hear what I had to say. Lino pulled out a knife. “Rick…I kill to save the lives of hundreds of others. These children are innocent now; therefore they go to heaven. However, if I let them live they’ll kill tons of Ricks and Lisas. Then they go to hell. Free will is something God cannot control. Earth is a corruptive place, and I’m trying to cleanse it.”
I stood quietly. He continued. “I see the lights too, my friend. Only I see them before you. They’re killers. And I’m not the only servant. There are others. You’ve even stopped some of them, Rick. So in a way, You’ve caused more deaths than you’ve saved.”
My lips trembled in the dim cellar.
Lino crouched beside me placing his hand on my shoulder. “Haven’t figured it out yet, Rick? We’re sons of a different father. Sadly, it’s true that evil comes in the brightest colors. And I know you’ve always done what you thought was right.”
Tears streamed down my face. I didn’t want to believe him.. I swallowed my pride and listened to the man explain my tainted purpose on Earth.
“Lisa can be home tonight, sleeping in her own bed. She can grow, marry Mark, and become a famous astrologist.”
Lino rested the blade in my hand. “You can save the lives of hundreds more.”
I nodded, my head buried in my drenched shirt. “I can…”
Reinhold wiped a tear from his cheek. That was the same earnest face I had seen when I left the car.
“So what will it be, Rick?”
I gripped the knife and sobbed some more. “Just get Lisa out of here.”
Satisfied, Reinhold marched over and untied her quick. Lino rubbed my shoulder, reassuring me that I had made the right decision as Jim stripped the tape from Lisa’s mouth.
“Daddy! No! I don’t want to leave you! Please!”
She hugged and kissed me repeatedly as we swayed together in the darkness. “You’re gonna’ be great Lisa. You’re stronger than us all.”
Her lips quivered. She was my angel. I saw God in her eyes then. “Bye sweetheart.”
Time was running out.
They made their way up the steps until her cries were a distant wail. Lino remained silently by my side. I glanced over my shoulder to see that the small flames ignited the paper. This was it.
The blade rested above my wrist. I shut my eyes. “So long, brother.”
With a quick thrust, I felt everything inside me drain away. The cellar seemed darker and colder. I glimpsed at my wound then to Lino who was nearing the old steps. He was fading before my eyes.
“You’ve beaten the Devil, my brother.”
And those words echoed on as I slipped into the darkness.
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