I drag myself downstairs and into the kitchen. The large envelope calls to me. Instead, I turn on the hot water kettle, then drop down at the counter, face-to-face with the mystery package.
Up to now I haven’t considered if it could be a bomb. I tap the top of the packet. It doesn’t feel like a bomb, and the delivery wasn’t right for a bomb delivery. Besides, this is not real.
As the water boils, I consider my situation.
Who was that being, and why did they come to me in a dream?
I never saw them. I smelled them. I heard them. I had an envelope from them. The only evidence is my memory and this envelope, which, as I suspect, is my only clue to what my ghostly dream is saying to me.
The water boils and I open the tea cupboard to find some tea.
In dreams, in cases like this, when you open the cupboard, a rabid cat jumps out, or inside the cupboard is a random object that raises more questions about your predicament, or sucks you into a white rabbit’s hole.
I find the tea, just where it’s supposed to be. I grab a pouch of camomile tea and open it. It smells like camomile, which reminds me of my wife.
What had he said about my wife? This packet was going to kill her? But if I didn’t do what he said, Sophie would die.
So in my dream I have to choose who I love most. I love my wife most. But it’s my duty to save my Sophie. She may be dying of leukemia, but she’s the one closest to life.
Then again, my wife only needs to wake up.
Should I open the packet and kill my wife, or should I keep it closed and kill Sophie?
Open or closed doesn’t have a halfway point. I must decide.
But this is a dream, right? So all prophecies are equally true and false.
I can open it without worry.
The manilla envelope is about 20 x 16. I can feel lots of paper inside, a bulky thing, and some other heavy things.
I turn it over to unlatch the barbs and read the words.
OPEN AT 10AM TOMORROW MORNING.
I stare at those words.
The freaky guy breaks into my house. At night! Then says don’t worry, you can read this in the morning.
There is no way I’m going to wait.
I tear open the envelope and look inside.
Another manilla envelope is there. I tug on that. Everything I felt is still inside this one.
On the outside of this one is written:
TIM, DON’T BE IMPATIENT. I REMIND YOU AGAIN: FOLLOW MY DIRECTIVES TO THE LETTER OR YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF YOUR LOVED ONES. 10AM TOMORROW MORNING.
I lean back and cross my arms over my chest. Well, don’t that beat all.
I pinch at the outside of the packet, but the bulky items inside crinkle as if they’re wrapped, making identification all but impossible.
I take the envelope upstairs with me and set it on the bedside table.
My pajamas are in their place, under my pillow. I put them on, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and climb into bed.
I pull my Bible off my shelf and open it at random. I don’t recall where I’ve been reading, but I never fail to read something before bed.
My eyes catch on the phrase: “Peace. Peace. When there is no peace.”
I back up a few lines to chapter 6 verse 13 and read:
“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.”
I’m too tired to ponder the judgment. I close my Bible and reach to flip off the light. The last thing I see as I fall asleep is the envelope right there by my face and I think, At least if it’s a bomb it will kill me fast.
I wake up, not at the station, but with my Bible next to me under the covers.
I flip over to look at my nightstand.
Honestly, I knew it was a dream.
I knew it. It seemed real, but the metacognition was spot-on for a dream sequence.
The packet is right next to my face.
I stare at it, wishing it away, wishing that the whole thing had been a fantasy. Because if it wasn’t pretend, the whole spooky-action-guy was real, and that didn’t fit a whit into my understanding of this world.
Nobody is invisible. Nobody smells like that. Nobody’s feelings are transparent. And nobodies like that don’t leave packages with your name on them.
And they don’t second guess your breaking their rules. Next to the package, my alarm clock light is flashing on and off 12:00.
Sun shines through a crack in the curtains, but what time is it? I don’t even have my phone to figure it out.
I leap out of bed and run into Sophie’s room down the hall.
Her light is flashing 12:00 as well.
Where am I going to find the time?
In the office, which is the spare room next to Sophie’s, I spy my laptop and I open that up. 8:15am.
If I hurry, I can make it to the station in time.
I hasten to get dressed, but realize I can’t call Uber without a phone. I head next door to ask the neighbor.
“What do you need my phone for?”
“Mine’s broke.” I show it to him. “I gotta call Uber. I’m almost late for work.”
He clicks a few buttons. “Got ya set.”
Ten minutes later, I’m at the station. It’s 8:50. An hour and ten minutes before I can open the folder.
I check in at the investigations department and sit down at my desk to read Noah’s journal.
Fellow detective Laura Parson has sticky-noted pages with labels: suicidal, suspicious, weapon, etc. I flip through them one by one.
“No matter what I say, Ben hates me. He says he wishes I were dead and I agree,” says one line.
“I saw him at my bed last night. He thought I was asleep, but I knew he was there. I felt his hands just over my throat.”
“When Mr. Briggston left after dinner, Pop and Mama had a huge fight. I think they’re planning something with Ben. Mama begged Pop to leave me alone. I found a scimitar at the pawn shop, just in case someone tries something when I’m in bed. But what if I’m not in my room when they try? I should have got a gun.”
“Jamie won’t leave me alone. She talks and talks and it makes my head ache. I told her I’m leaving, but she won’t let me. I just want quiet. Why can’t people be quiet?”
Someone touches my shoulder. I jump a foot off my chair.
“Nervous, are we?” It’s Laura, another detective.
“Sorry. I didn’t sleep well.” I try to laugh it off.
She motions to the journal. “What do you think?”
“He sure was afraid of something.”
“I know. You aren’t even at the good stuff.” She pointed to the notes toward the end of the journal. “Noah knew something was about to happen. Too bad he didn’t go to the police.”
“Is any of this evidence, though? Suspicion needs something substantial besides a feeling, even if it is the worries of a homicide victim.”
“No. There’s enough here to get an arrest warrant on the brother, Benjamin. Have you heard anything about Nick? Is he still in the hospital?”
That reminds me, I need a warrant for Nick’s place. “I don’t know why he’d not be awake. He only got hit on the side of the head. It’s a strange case.”
“What’s this?” She touches the envelope next to me.
I don’t know how to answer.
“Is it more evidence?” She starts to pick it up.
I rest my hand on it, pressing it against the table. “No, it’s personal.”
“What else does the lab have? Results from the DNA? Last night Alice was waiting on the centrifuge battery.”
“Yes. We have a lot of evidence to go over. We have an update meeting set for 10:00.” She looks at her watch. “You’ve got ten minutes. Get your coffee and come.”
I cringe. “Oh.” I need to open the envelope, and it’s more important than our meeting starting on time. I’ll be able to catch up. “I might be a little late.”
“No, Tim. Don’t be late. Not this time. Maura has something so important she wanted to be here in person, and she only has a short window before needing to get back to the morgue. Whatever you have to do, finish it in the next ten minutes.”
“Okay. See you then.” I need her out.
The door snaps shut and I stare at the package. It’s 9:50. Should I open it early?
I cross my hands over my head with my elbows pointing to the ceiling.
Lord, what am I supposed to do?
A verse from my childhood slips in from memory: All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
I look at the clock. 10 minutes early. Can it make that much of a difference? Who is this ghost-guy that is manipulating me? What does he know about my life?
I face the envelope. Should I risk it?
10 minutes? Does it make that much of a difference?
I have to open it now. My job is to solve this crime, not to be manipulated by sulfur-smelling burglars. I will not be dominated by him.
This one is sealed, and I tear the edge off of it, shaking the contents out onto the table.
A cell phone slips out, a note, and another sealed envelope.
I grab the phone and look it over. It’s a nice phone, but I shouldn’t use it. Who knows what kind of tracking it has?
I pick up the note:
You don’t know me, but believe me when I say I’m a friend. If you do exactly what I say, you will discover the weapon that killed Noah Black, Jamie Lewis, and countless others who will never be numbered. Both your wife’s and your daughter’s life hang in the balance.
Rule 1. Do not open any envelope until the precise day and time written on the front, then follow to the letter the directives inside.
Rule 2. Do not bring anyone with you.
Rule 3. Do not fail.
1. Search online for Antikythera Mechanism
2. Be in front of Meridian Holdings at 10:23am.
3. Take William Black and his wife into custody before they go to their meeting with Briggston.
4. Return to your office at the station, close the blinds, lock the door, and open the next envelope.
There doesn’t seem to be any strange consequence for my opening the packet early. But I still wonder if everything is okay with my wife and daughter. I have three minutes now before the staff meeting.
I turn on the smartphone. It has no passcode. I open the search engine and type Antikythera Mechanism.
Antikythera is a Greek island on the southern edge of the Aegean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and the Sea of Crete.
Nothing about any Antikythera mechanism. Well, that was a big fail. What kind of wild goose chase does this guy have me on?
I need to get to the meeting, to get updated on all the evidence, including Maura’s new discovery.
But the directives say to get to the bank. I don’t have a car. To check one out at the front desk will take some time, and if I want to make it to Meridian Holdings at 10:23, I need to get an early start.
Copyright 2021, Darlene N. Böcek