When people think of police officers, I think there’s a disconnect between our image and the reality of who we are. A lot of people see us as the good guys. Real-life superheroes that jump in at the last moment with shining golden badges ready to stop the “bad guys” from having their way.
But that’s not the reality. We don’t have superpowers. We aren’t capable of seeing all the crime in a given area. And we certainly don’t have the ability to respond to everything as fast as we’d like. At the end of the day, we’re simply human beings reading and reacting to situations the law says we have to get involved in. When you dig a little deeper, you see the ugliness. The racism, the abuse of power, the violence. Many people see these aspects every day. Others are none the wiser.
What does this mean? That we’re monsters disguised as the good guys? To some people? Yeah. And maybe that’s fair. To me, I think it means something different. In my view, it means we’re a reflection of the good and the bad of society. And much like society at large, we’re complicated and nuanced. We can either be what you want to see or what your sight is limited to. As a cop, you struggle with that. Because at the end of the day, you never know if which way someone sees you is the truth.
It was early into my shift when the Chief called me into his office. He was casually working on some documents and chewing away at a toothpick.
I sat quietly for a solid thirty seconds while he scribbled down some notes before finally shoving the papers to the side and giving me a questionable look. “Smith…” He boomed in his usual commanding voice. “I wanted to get your advice on a situation.”
“Of course,” I replied. “So long as it’s not relationship advice because I will definitely lead you down a path to divorce in like… Two months.”
I caught the slightest glimpse of a smile before he began to recount the earlier events of the day. “A single mother, Ms. Wilson, I believe the name was. She came in here yesterday begging to talk to one of our higher-ranking officers. I was down in admin to grab some of this paperwork, so I was within earshot of her request. I go over, introduce myself as the Chief, and we get to talking. She tells me that she needs police protection ASAP and wanted to make a direct plea to someone with authority to make that happen.”
“Police protection?” I pondered out loud. “This must be something serious.”
“That’s what I assumed too.” He agreed. “But, Ms. Wilson starts spinning this tale about how her little boy is seeing a man outside his window staring at him damn near every night. And that no matter what he does, the man won’t go away. Of course, being a good mother, she always goes to check in on him. But every time, there’s no one there. The fear in her boy’s eyes is real, though. The look in his eyes says he’s seen something terrifying, and she believes her kid. To fix the situation, she wants us to keep a guy outside watching her place until we catch the bastard. So, what do you think our move should be?”
I scrunched my face into a look of confusion. “I uh… Don’t understand. I mean, do you really need my opinion on this? Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? I get that her fear of this mystery man is real, but we can’t just loan out officers as bodyguards on request. I’d love for us to help, but if she doesn’t have any proof this guy exists, there isn’t much we can do, right? I’d suggest that she set up security cameras. Maybe even invest in a gun. If she catches this guy on video, we can do a proper investigation and hopefully find him.”
The Chief chuckled, which threw me off because the guy maintains a serious demeanor 99% of the time. “I like the way you think, Detective Smith. Straightforward and logical in every situation. It’s a trait that’ll either save your life or get you killed. One way or the other, it’s gonna make all the difference in your life. But… You’re missing something big…”
He was trying to lead me somewhere, but I couldn’t pinpoint where he wanted me to go with this. All I could do is raise an eyebrow in response.
He caught onto my confusion, took the toothpick out of his mouth, and exhaled as if he was blowing out cigarette smoke. “You don’t think a single mother whose young child is telling her that a man is looking through his window at night would’ve already bought cameras? After a few nights, she had some of the most expensive cameras she could find installed outside his window.”
“And obviously, we’re still sitting here without any evidence of a man ever being there. Yet she came in here adamant that her son saw him just last night.”
It took a moment for me to put the pieces together in my head. I didn’t understand how in the hell could that be possible. “Could someone have some device that disrupts the security camera feed? Or maybe the boy is seeing things?”
The Chief put the toothpick back in his mouth and shrugged, leaning back in his chair. “Don’t know. But it’s what you’re gonna find out. I’ve already sent you an email with her address and details.”
This was the unfortunate bombshell I was hoping he wouldn’t drop. As much as I wanted to argue against being assigned to this case, I knew I wouldn’t be getting out of it. And, since my last encounter with the tall woman, I knew the Chief and I had an understanding. I had seen something that he didn’t want very many people to ever be aware of. But she wasn’t the only thing out there. If he had even a hint of a suspicion that something may be in the realm of the “unusual,” then I’d be his guy on it.
Still, neither of us could go assuming anything. I had to approach this like any other case. And that approach started with the facts. As soon as I walked out of the Chief’s office with a commitment to the case, my mind started getting to work.
I immediately made a beeline for my desk to do some background research. A mother claiming that her son is seeing a man outside his window at night, but no evidence such a man exists. At least, not on video. Not anywhere near the amount of information I’d need to figure all of this out. At least not yet.
Officer Ryan, who had only been with us for a little over a year, caught me off guard while I was lost in thought at my desk. He was a happy-go-lucky type of kid. He was in his late-twenties and always wore a large smile on his face.
“Hey there, detective!” He said after taking a swig of his diet soda. “I saw you come outta the Chief’s office, and I was wonderin’ if you were working on a…” He took a quick look around before leaning in and whispering, “Secret project.”
I gave him a blank stare, and he returned a big wink that confused me even more.
“Uh, I dunno about secret, Officer Ryan. Just a potential trespassing and harassment case. Nothing major.”
He looked disappointed at the news. “Ah, man. That sounds kinda boring… Need any help?”
“You literally just said it was boring. But you want to help? Why…?”
“Shoot, yeah!” He replied a little too excitedly. “Man, I’ve seen your work, and everyone talks about how you’ve solved some really wild cases over the years. I’ve always thought it’d be fun to see what I could learn from you!”
I have to admit, his enthusiasm was oddly charming. But aside from that, I knew that if I was going to figure this out, not only would I need to talk to the family, but I would need to do some evidence collection. And at the end of the day, two pairs of eyes and ears were better than one.
Bracing myself for his overly giddy reaction, I agreed to let him tag along so long as he did the note-taking and let me take point on everything. Within half an hour, we were out of the station and knocking on the front door of a modest-looking house.
It took a while before anyone answered. But when someone finally did, it was our first look into just how serious this situation was. The middle-aged woman before us looked absolutely exhausted. Deep bags under her eyes were accompanied by unkempt greying hairs and a posture that belied someone who just didn’t care to put much energy into anything.
“Ms. Wilson.” I began, pulling out my badge. “My name is Detective Smith, and this is Officer Ryan. We’re here to talk to you and your son about the strange person you’ve been seeing around your home. May we come in?”
She blankly scanned our badges. When it registered who we were, her mood noticeably shifted.
“Oh! Come in! I’m sorry the house is a mess.” She quickly herded us inside her living room while calling for her son, Lucas, to come over and greet us.
Everything seemed to be moving so fast that I was almost caught off guard by the sleepy-eyed young boy that seemed to materialize in front of me. He looked to be about twelve years old and physically mirrored his mother. His exhaustion was apparent by the way he was constantly rubbing his eyes and yawning.
Lucas and Ms. Wilson took the sofa while Officer Ryan and I sat across from them on chairs we borrowed from the kitchen.
“I just want to say it’s a pleasure to meet you both. I know that these aren’t the best of times, but I’m here to help in any way I can.” I said with a smile. “Ms. Wilson, I was made aware that you came to the station before to give a statement. But, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate you briefly explaining to me again what exactly is going on.”
She nodded and took a deep breath before beginning. “This all started over a week ago. Lucas ran into my room, crying about seeing something in his window. I checked it out, and I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, so I assumed he just had a bad dream. But then the same thing happened the night after. And then the night after that.” She stopped for a moment to caress Lucas’s hair as he laid next to her. “But I never saw anything… After the third night, I immediately went and installed security cameras. For two days, nothing happened. I’m thinking it’s over, but then all of a sudden, it started up again. That same night, I went to check on the cameras and saw nothing. But, I know my son. I know he wouldn’t make this up. On the nights he actually manages to sleep, he gets horrible nightmares and on the nights he doesn’t, we’re both wide awake. I’ve called in reports before to the police, but nothing’s happened, and I don’t know what to do.”
“I understand where you’re coming from,” I said softly. “And I can only imagine how rough this has been for the both of you. I just have some follow up questions.” She nodded, and I continued, “I don’t want to downplay your experiences. But is it possible that maybe your son is seeing things? Is there potentially any history of psychological disorders in your family?”
She almost sounded offended by how forcefully she gave her answer. “What? No! My son isn’t… He’s not seeing things!”
Officer Ryan cut in, “We’re not suggesting he is, ma’am. We just want to have everything straight so that we can approach this properly. There have been instances where maybe things aren’t as they appear, and we don’t wanna arrest someone over a small mistake.”
Ms. Wilson took a deep breath and nodded in approval. “He’s never had these issues before. There was a time Lucas’s father and I thought he might be suffering from ADD, so we took him to a specialist for a few weeks. As far as I know, everything is perfectly normal.”
“And what of the father?” I cut back in. “Do you two have a good relationship?”
“We do.” She answered. “Lucas stays with him over the summer, and they talk every other night on the phone. He and I actually have a better relationship divorced than we ever did together.”
“Well, still. I’d appreciate it if you sent me your ex-husband’s info. We’ll run a background check and make sure everything is okay on that end. I wanted to ask if you ever simply considered letting your son sleep in your room? Maybe removing him from the situation would help.”
“Of course, all the time. But it’s not a permanent solution. I’ve had Lucas in my room, and by the time I’m asleep, he finds his way back to his bed.”
I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but she seemed to be telling the truth. As much as you don’t want some psycho with a grudge stalking a kid, there just didn’t seem to be anyone that stood out as a candidate. But I’ve been doing this long enough to know that in many cases, kids know things their parents don’t.
When I asked if I could speak with Lucas alone, Ms. Wilson hesitated for a bit. She was understandably reluctant to leave her young boy to be grilled by a police officer.
Surprisingly, it was Officer Ryan who acted as a somewhat effective intermediary. He mentioned something about working as a children’s therapist before becoming a police officer. According to him, children often feel more comfortable talking about traumatic events when their parents aren’t listening. Counterintuitive at first, but the more you dive into it, the more it made sense.
She even seemed to flutter a bit when he said, “I’d love to discuss the matter further with you in another room.” She contemplated and eventually agreed. As the two got up to walk away, Officer Ryan gave me a wink on his way out, and I responded by rolling my eyes at the sly bastard.
Now it was just the boy and me. He seemed nervous. I tried to give him a smile and tell him it’ll be okay, but I could easily tell that he didn’t really trust me yet. Or at least, he didn’t trust that I could help him.
“Hey Lucas, before we start, I just wanna say that I know what you’re experiencing is really scary. But it’s my job to make sure that you and your mom are safe. But for me to do my job, I just need you to answer truthfully to the best of your ability. No detail is too small.” He simply nodded at my request, and we began. “Good. Did you happen to recognize the person you saw in your window? Or are you able to describe them at all?”
He thought for a moment, his eyes darting to the ceiling, trying to recall what he had seen. “I didn’t recognize him. But he had a really big head. Um, big eyes. His mouth went all the way from one side of his head to the other, and I think his face was kinda wrinkly. Oh! And he was bald.”
At first, the description didn’t make too much sense. My first thought was that maybe it was someone wearing some sort of mask. Logically, that’d fit if they didn’t want to be identified. This potentially gave some credence to the notion that it was someone Lucas knew. Maybe they felt he’d recognize them. “Did this person speak? Maybe a voice you’re familiar with?”
He shook his head.
“Hm, I see. What about when you usually see this person? Is it around the same time every night?”
He nodded. “Kinda. It only happens really late at night.”
He seemed nervous to answer. “Don’t tell my mom but… 2 or 3 AM. I’m not supposed to be up that late. If I’m not up already, then sometimes I wake up randomly, and he’s just… There”
I laughed, “Don’t worry Lucas, I won’t say anything. You can trust me. But you really should get to bed earlier.” I said with a wink. “Your mom mentioned that sometimes you’d sleep in her room, but you’d go back to your bed. If you’re seeing this scary person in the window, then why do you go back?”
He shrugged. “I dunno. I don’t even notice, really. I just wake up back in my own bed.”
“Possible sleepwalking?” I thought. After asking him some standard follow-up questions, I eventually brought his mom back to wrap up the interview. I decided to look around his room to see if I could find anything of note, but everything seemed to be in order. The only thing of interest was that Lucas’s blinds were drawn. I questioned how he could see anything outside his window with them closed at night.
This was something that his mother had already spoken to her son about. But, Lucas was adamant that they were always “already open” whenever he’d wake up in the middle of the night, even if he knew they were shut when he went to bed. Odd but potentially significant.
Out of questions, Officer Ryan and I gave them our contact info and made our way outside. I told Ms. Wilson I’d get back to her on the request for officer surveillance. But I’d rather look into this through other means first.
I couldn’t get over how little sense this all made. Nothing seemed to fit, and there wasn’t a good place to follow up a lead with. All the facts I had before me appeared meaningless. A man in a mask that shows up at 2 in the morning to scare kids? If he was a kidnapper, why just look inside his room? Maybe he was some sort of sick voyeur that liked to watch young kids sleep? If that was the case, then there was a decent chance I’d end up in jail myself for strangling him.
Unfortunately, there was only one place I knew I could get some concrete direction in this situation. I reluctantly reached into my pocket and searched through my contacts for the most dreaded name available in my phone.
“Hello? Smith, what the hell do you want?” A forceful voice came through on the other end.
“Hey, Officer Joss. Fantastic to speak with you too.” I said in a slightly irritated tone before filling her in on the situation. “Anyway… I’m here at the Wilson house. I already questioned the family, but I’m still a bit lost on where exactly to go with this. Any chance you can guide me in the right direction?”
She let out a very audible sigh. “Did you call people to do your work for you in school too, or did that start in your professional life?”
“Ah yes, being an asshole! The classic way to get shit done. If you keep at it, maybe the guy stalking this child will turn himself in out of pity for me.”
I couldn’t see it, but I knew she was rolling her eyes. “Ha-ha. Very funny.”
“I do fancy myself a comedian. It’s my second career choice if this police shit doesn’t pan out.”
“Well, funny man, if you want my advice, I’d recommend checking around the kid’s window for anything important—ideally, footprints, fingerprints on the window, etc. Also, talk to the neighbors to see if anyone has seen anything. Maybe you get lucky and hit on security cam footage. When you get back to the office, check to see if there are any guys in the area with an M.O. for peeping late with masks. If he’s doing this constantly, then he probably doesn’t live too far away.”
I have to hand it to her; she was damn good. “And if it all turns up nothing?”
“Then I’d seriously question why we’re even wasting our time. But if you think he’ll come back, in theory, you could try and see if you can catch him yourself and grant her that surveillance.”
I mulled over her suggestions and thanked her before hanging up.
Looking down the street lined with identical houses, I knew we had some work to do, but Officer Ryan and I were ready to hit the ground running.
By the end of the day, we had racked up a decent amount of overtime and exhausted all potential avenues. When it was all said and done, we had exactly as much information as we had started with. It seemed impossible. If there really was a guy running around peeping on kids, how could no one have seen anything?
I wrote up my report for the day and planned to take a fresh look at things in the morning. However, I didn’t get that comfort as I heard my phone buzz at 2 in the morning with Ms. Wilson frantic on the other end. It happened again.
Acting on instinct, I immediately threw on the first pair of clothes I could find and sped down to the house. Crookedly parking in the street, I jumped out of my car and ran around the perimeter, looking for the man.
When I didn’t see anything, I called for any available officers to be on the lookout for a man potentially wearing a mask fitting the description Lucas had given me the previous day.
I waited with Ms. Wilson and Lucas inside while a couple of officers searched the area and talked with neighbors.
The fear in the eyes of the young boy said a lot. And the way his mother hugged him tight and whispered in his ear, no doubt with words of comfort and love, made the non-verbal aspect of the situation speak that much louder. As time went on, it was the same story. We searched and came up with absolutely nothing. But even so, that moment made me believe this went beyond the lack of evidence. Something was deeply wrong.
Deep down, I knew what Lucas was seeing was real. I contemplated the fact that the way we were looking at this was off. I needed a different approach, and maybe Ms. Wilson was right the first time. Perhaps we just needed to sit and wait for the guy to show.
The next day I spoke to the Chief about my lack of progress and suggested this new strategy. I figured that if we kept arriving late to the scene, then Ms. Wilson’s request should be granted. Despite the lack of evidence, I told him I was confident that the boy’s concerns were real and that we needed to take them seriously.
Surprisingly… He went for it. But only on the condition was that I was the only guy on surveillance duty in case I caught something… extra.
We made an agreement to significantly cut back on my in-office time so that I could spend between four and six hours parked in front of the Wilson home.
The first couple of days were incredibly uneventful. Admittedly, I spent more time playing games on my phone and watching videos than I probably should have. In my defense… surveillance is god damn awful. Seriously. Try sitting and looking down a dark empty street for thirty minutes by yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.
The third day was when things took a turn for the horrible. At precisely one in the morning, the light flicked on in Lucas’s room, and my gut screamed at me that this was it.
But there was a problem. I didn’t see anyone outside Lucas’s window as it happened. The outside was just as empty as it had been the previous two nights. Either way, I rushed towards their home with a gun in hand. For the second time, I ran around the house shouting for anyone hiding in the dark to come out and surrender, checking any potential hiding place as I went. And still, nothing.
I was standing around in the cold, looking down an empty street, thinking about how dumb I must’ve looked. I was screaming in the air, waving around a pistol like a crazy person. In a lot of neighborhoods, I’m the exact guy people would’ve called the cops on.
It’s one of the many moments in my career I had to shake my head and ask myself, “What the fuck am I doing?” I didn’t know if this family was messing with me, if this was all in the kid’s head, or if it was some third option I hadn’t explored yet.
Either way, there was a deep frustration. One that was different from other cases. See, I could deal with having the puzzle pieces and not yet figuring out how to put them all together. But when you don’t know if you have any pieces at all or if you’re even completing a puzzle, it makes you question what the hell you’re even doing with your life.
I fully intended to confront the two over this. If they were messing with me, then there’d be hell to pay. But when I finally entered the house, I was quickly met by Ms. Wilson. She insisted on showing me something I never in a million years would’ve expected.
The large imprint of a hand was staring back at me from the other side of the window.
I yanked out my phone and quickly went to take a picture, but before I could even raise the phone to take a snapshot, it was gone.
A million questions flooded my mind. I had been staring directly at the window when the light was turned on. I ran around the whole damn house, and there wasn’t an iota of evidence that a person was out there.
I called in for an officer to come by and help me collect evidence in case there was some piece of DNA we could gather. Still, in waiting for them, I wanted to talk to Lucas and Ms. Wilson again.
The familiar faces of distress were present. But this time, I could pick up on something different—an expectedness. It was almost like I could hear them asking, “What are you going to do?” And frankly, I didn’t know the answer.
My conversation with them was standard. I asked the basic questions I’ve asked people a million times before. “What did you see? Did you hear anything? Was anything off today?” Etc. Nothing of note came back. The eventual searches for DNA also left me with nothing. All I could tell them was that I’d try again tomorrow, and I recommended they stay with family or in a hotel for the rest of the night.
As I was walking out of the house for the second time to re-group for the next day, Ms. Wilson stopped me at the door.
“Do you have any children, Detective Smith?” She asked.
Her question froze me for a moment. It took me to second to regain my composure before I turned around and replied with a clumsy, “I uh… Why do you ask?”
“What would you do? If it were your kid?”
My first thought was, “I’d do everything for him.” But I knew that’s wasn’t the type of response she was searching for. “Be there. I’d be there to protect him at all costs. That’s what a good parent does.”
“Yeah, it is.” She replied softly. “Please, take care of my son as if he were yours.”
I nodded in understanding and walked out without saying another word. As I got in my car and made the drive home, I tried to zone out to an instrumental playlist. I was doing my best to phase the night’s events out of my mind. But my best wasn’t good enough. My mind was buzzing. How in the hell could there have been a handprint? I was there the entire time and saw nothing. No person came up, and there certainly weren’t any cars. I needed a new and innovative way to either catch this guy or convince the family to move out of town.
By the time I got home, I had figured it out — a new angle to pivot towards. It was a solution so simple that I almost laughed at myself for not doing this the day the Chief gave me the case.
I realized I needed to take my own advice and be there for Lucas. I decided that I would sit inside Lucas’s room every damn night until I was face to face with the bastard behind all of this.
Ms. Wilson was hesitant when I brought up the idea the next morning, which was understandable. But with some pushing and a phone call with Officer Ryan, whom she really seemed to take to, I eventually got the green light.
Hopped up on energy drinks and the sheer force of will, I sat in a chair staring at that damn window as Lucas slept on the other side of the room. 10 PM. Nothing. 11. Nada. The clock struck 12, and I was still seeing the same thing as before. 1 quickly slipped into 2, and I could feel my eyes starting to get heavy.
I looked over at Lucas, who was illuminated by his nightlight, and I watched him for a bit. A small smile was on his face. The way he’d shift around ever so slightly indicated that he was having a dream. A good one. I’d seen that face many times before on a sweet sleeping child. At that moment, I couldn’t help but reflect that smile back. Something about that moment reminded me why I was going so hard to protect this kid — an inner feeling to right a wrong.
But I was so damn tired. My mind was sweet-talking me into the idea that a quick nap couldn’t hurt. As my eyes slowly closed shut, my entire being was cut off from the world...until I heard a scream.
I quickly shot up from my position and snapped my neck towards Lucas, who was cowering on the bed, staring at something. I followed his line of sight to the window and couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It was indeed a man or some kind of twisted approximation of one. His entire pale head nearly filled the window. The massive eyes and dilated pupils were locked in on the boy, and even as I reached for my gun and pointed it directly at him, he never broke his gaze. A thin, wrinkled mouth stretched from ear to ear in a neutral expression. Still, it heavily contrasted with the rest of his smooth and utterly hairless face. He also appeared to have a sizable beaklike nose that came to a point well below his thin lips. His nose almost seemed like an arrow pointing down to his rotund body and bone-thin arms, both sporting liver spots and long grey hairs.
But perhaps the most disturbing thing about him was that he appeared to be completely two dimensional. It was as though he resided within the thin walls of the window instead of being on the other side of it. It was almost as if he was being projected onto the window. But that was impossible as there was no light coming from the other side of the window and no visible projector in Lucas’s room.
“Lucas, move! Go to your mom and tell her to lock the door!” I screamed. He didn’t need to be told twice. In an instant, he was gone. After he was out of the room, I backed up towards the door, locked it behind me with one hand, and kept the gun pointed with the other.
Now the man’s massive eyes shifted towards me, and his lips went from neutral to a thin smile. He spoke slowly in a deep yet confidently calm manner. “You shouldn’t have done that, Detective Smith.”
If every single hair on my body wasn’t already on end, they most certainly were now. “I… How do you know my name?” I shot back with false confidence.
“Knowledge is critical. I know you and your mistakes. We all do.” He replied matter of factly.
“Who the hell is ‘we’?”
“A society of people. No different from the one you live in.” The way he talked down made me feel like I was a child speaking to an adult with decades more experience than I could ever dream of attaining.
Still trying to maintain my poker face, I squeezed my gun tighter and raised my voice a couple of octaves. “And why is your ‘society’ attacking this family? Why attack Lucas?”
“Attacking? No, I am simply observing. You are fascinating.”
“You’ve been scaring the bejeezus out of a twelve-year-old boy! And you’re doing it because he’s fascinating? Don’t give me that shit!”
He didn’t reply. Instead, the imprint of two hands appeared on the window. Before I could understand what was happening, they pressed forward, warping the glass as if it were a thin malleable plastic. The hands began to stretch towards me, and memories of my encounter with the tall woman flashed in my mind. I wasn’t about to let that happen again. I fired off three rounds into the window, hoping to destroy his only means of passage into this world, but the man kept on undeterred.
Every instinct told me to get the fuck out of the house, but I knew he’d surely attack Lucas and Ms. Wilson if I didn’t stand as the last line of defense. All I could do was hope that I could destroy every last bit of the window.
Before I knew it, the hands were at my face. I squeezed my eyes shut and didn’t open them again until I realized that they weren’t hurting me. Instead, they were caressing my face. He was feeling my scraggly beard and running his fingers through my fade. I didn’t know whether to feel fear or relief. But I quickly figured out which way to lean when the hands violently wrapped around my cheeks and slammed the back of my head against the wall. I dropped my pistol in the commotion. As I struggle against his grip to pick it up, he pinned me face down onto the ground.
He violently grabbed me by the arm and dragged me towards the window. I could see him looking at me, smiling in anticipation of what was to come next. His were pupils dilated and nearly filled the whites of his eyes. He forced one of my hands through the warped surface of the window, and all I could feel was this immense coldness. It was cold like I’d never felt before. It was like dunking your hand into a bucket of ice on steroids. It sent waves of pain firing through every nerve in my body. Whatever impossible level of cold this was, I knew that frostbite was mere seconds away. It took all the strength I could conjure to yank my hand from his grasp. I writhed around on the ground in agony, cursing at the man above me.
I knew he enjoyed my pain. He took a moment to watch as I struggled to scoot myself against the door before speaking again, “The boy belongs here with us. Deep down, he knows it. He wants to be with us. And maybe you do too. You’ve already seen the other side, Detective. And it’s always been...unpleasant. You all are safer with us.”
“Fuck you!” I screamed. I dove for my pistol, shot up, and unloaded another few shots into the window with my good hand. But he was still there, smiling.
In a rage, I began to bash out large holes with the butt of my gun. By the time my anger had subsided, I had taken notice of the fact that the man was gone. All I was staring at was a large hole and the woods on the other side of the home. I needed a moment to relax. My heart was beating fast in my chest. I took a moment to sit on the bed and inspect the bruise on my head and contemplate whether or not I’d need to go to the hospital to check for a concussion.
After a few minutes, I figured I was alright enough to call the Chief and tell him why the neighbors would likely call soon about multiple shots being fired. I told him to get dressed and get down here, and I’d fill him in on everything that happened.
One deep inhale later, and I turned my attention back to Ms. Wilson and Lucas. When I knocked on their door, they let me in only after I assured them that I wasn’t the intruder. The first words that came out of her mouth were ones that I admittedly wasn’t prepared for.
“What happened?” She asked with tears streaming down her face. This may have been the most challenging part of the night. Lucas had seen something truly horrible. And he knew that I had seen it too. I was someone he was supposed to trust. I was someone that was supposed to stand for truth and honor. I was someone that was supposed to be on his side. And yet, despite all of that, I was someone that lied about everything.
“It was a man in a mask and multiple others outside with him. And we had a confrontation. After going through some files at work, I actually believe him to be a guy we’ve dealt with before. He uses a device to jam security cameras, and his clothes make him incredibly difficult to see in the dark. That’s why I couldn’t see him the first time. Look, once my Chief is here, you can talk to him about everything.” Complete bullshit. I hated myself more and more with every lie that came out of my mouth.
I wanted so badly to tell them the truth, and if it were up to me, I absolutely would have. But after the last encounter, I knew it wasn’t my choice to make.
Eventually, the Chief arrived on the scene. I passed her off to him and a couple of officers accompanying him. I recognized them as the two guys that went into the farmhouse with the tall woman.
When the Chief excused me to leave, I took one look back at Lucas as I went. He was staring at me with tears in his eyes and an unmistakable look on his face. It was also one I’d seen before. Disappointment. The boy had been through so much. Sometimes, all a child needs to heal is validation. They want someone to acknowledge that they believe what they’re saying is true. And what I did took any chance of that ever happening. It hurt.
In the coming days, the two of them were relocated across the state. They were lied to about a dangerous type of mold growing under the home. They were also told a giant sinkhole was forming under the house, putting the whole property in danger. Ms. Wilson was led to believe that none of this could be fixed within a reasonable budget, so it’d make more sense to move. With the additional belief that it’d be a fresh start for Lucas, she obliged.
My Chief told me he did his best to keep up with them. From what he’s heard, there hadn’t been any reports of anything unusual. This, of course, was fantastic to hear. I even opened up a special bottle of wine with Detective Joss one night to celebrate.
In the weeks following, everything went back to normal. Everything outside of my personal life, at least. We all go through periods where we feel like we’re being watched. That feeling was coming on much more strongly than I had typically noticed it. It didn’t matter whether I was alone at home, driving in my car, or just taking a walk. I always seemed to catch myself doing a double-take as if I’d hear something that sounded awfully close to a voice or I’d see a figure just out the corner of my eye.
This came to a head when, after a shower, I was doing my facial scrub routine in the mirror when I undoubtedly saw a man behind my reflection. I nearly had a heart attack when it registered as that familiar large face. The man from Lucas’s window was staring into my soul, a broad smile plastered on his face. I avoided looking at myself in any reflective surface for a month and a half after that.
It was Nietzsche who remarked, “if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” I’m not sure if he understood how right he was. But it’s a phrase that holds more meaning to me more than almost any other. If anyone can help it, I urge them to avoid that abyss at all costs. The darkness that stares back into you is never worth satiating your curiosity. Stay safe, everyone.