Innocence lost forever that day
Cry as they did for the unkind blow
Fate driven by an unending evil
Death to the boy who all knew so well
John J. Raspanti
The street seemed quieter then normal as I ambled along eyeing the old trees that lined the sidewalks. I looked across the street where Mrs. Jorgenson lived; expecting to see her tending to her garden, but instead all I saw was a darkened house with its drapes drawn. That’s strange I thought, the woman’s like clock work. I would see her everyday messing with her garden at approximately 12:15. I pulled out my cell phone…12:15. I grunted to myself and continued my stroll feeling no real urgency. I passed the King home but saw no signs of life there either. A gray cat appeared from somewhere and sat on the sidewalk directly in front of me. As I got closer the cat began to meow. The sound escaping the feline was darker then I was used to and sicker. I stopped, I’d lived up the street for years in a dilapidated old apartment building and walked this way hundreds of times, but I had never ever seen this cat. Its eyes were locked on mine. I crouched down and said ‘It’s okay kitty…nothing to be scared of”. The cat’s ears perked up a little and the meowing stopped. Success. The black eyes continued to stare me down. Did it ever blink? I looked across the street again thinking that maybe the cat lived over there. I could always cross the street and then make my way back, there was no way the cat would follow. I liked it, good plan. I stood up and took one step and glanced over at where the cat was sitting, but there was one problem.
The cat was gone.
I walked the few steps where the cat had been, eying the nearby lawn and driveway. No feline , only the big old homes that shared space. I grunted again and shook my head, I mean cats can appear and disappear like tiny Houdinis so no big deal. It was now almost 12:25, I peeked back over at Mrs. Jorgenson’s home wanting to see the kind old lady in her garden. But instead I felt something strange as my eyes moved about her beautifully tailored lawn and porch. I glanced up at where I knew her room was, hoping to see something resembling activity, but all I could see was a window and nothing else. I pondered going over there, but another part of my brain was telling me there was no need, she could just be out somewhere – at the store, or maybe with her daughter. That must be it, I was moving again. I felt the camera in my pocket next to the cell phone. I could feel some excitement return. I was determined to get some creative pictures of the old monstrosity, or as the local kids called it, the house. I guess you could say it’s my hobby since my job was more boring then a soccer game. Yeah this was fun, these old homes have an abundance of character but none like the house.
I was close now and I scanned the house as I did every time I came by. It’s huge, at least seven thousand square feet with fourteen rooms plus a basement and attic. There are three sets of pillars that once were beautiful but now, like the house itself are decaying and crumbling. On the second floor are more pillars and numerous windows, but there are no drapes on these windows. There boarded up and enclosed as is the front door. A yellow piece of tape stretches across the front of the porch warning of danger. I fingered my camera but felt the urge to get closer. I already had enough pictures from this angle. I needed something else. I stepped up and moved in, wondering if any of the neighbors were watching me. I could feel the hairs on the back of neck standing at attention. No matter, I moved closer to the large black window with a crack running horizontally down its center. I picked up a strange smell coming from some part of the house. Even though the window was cracked and layered with dirt and dust I could see inside. A big long room with material scattered about, and sheets thrown on the ground.
The smell was getting worse, I stepped away feeling myself retch and heard something above me. It was a faint sound but familiar and grew louder by the second. I moved backward and peered up at where I thought it was coming from. A scratching drew my attention to my left and then I saw what it was.
The gray cat was near the front door on top of one of the broken pillars, his black eyes boring a hole right through me. I felt the house creak as the cat turned and disappeared again.
I stumbled towards the pillars and where the gray cat had been, and stopped in my tracks. The door to the old Franks’ home was now wide open as if it was beckoning me to enter. All I could see was darkness behind the door. I looked out at the street again, expecting cars and more people, anything living. The street was there, but it was silent and without a car on it. The sidewalks were empty. The usual sound of the city had dissipated. I looked up at the sky and the clouds weren’t rolling like they usually do. They had stopped like they were dead. I took in some air and looked back at the door. I had heard rumblings of the house being haunted. A twelve year old boy named Bobby Franks and his family had once lived there. Bobby had been murdered many years ago by two young men that he knew and liked, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. Loeb had lived almost directly across the street from Bobby and Leopold the next block over. They had followed Bobby one day after school, coaxed him into their car and the less than a block away from where I stood killed him. The crime shocked the city and for that matter the country. Leopold and Loeb were both brilliant college students, eighteen and nineteen years old with a future that could lead them anywhere they wanted. Instead they had decided to kill someone and that someone was little Bobby Franks. I continued to stare at the front door until behind me I felt a strong breeze move me a step forward. It didn’t appear that I had a choice, I stepped into the darkness feeling my heart thumping and my senses on fire.
Out of the black came noises all around me, scraping sounds and scratching. It sounded like it was coming from above me but who could tell? I tried to move but couldn’t. My eyes had adjusted but the darkness was thick like fog on a very cold night. I felt some movement very close by, and asked myself what I was doing. I wasn’t sure but I felt the urge to go and turned back towards the wide open door only to find the door was gone. I managed some more air and then jumped a few inches as something touched me. The something was standing right next to me but I still couldn’t see what it was.
I felt myself tense and knew my eyes had gone buggy. I could hear breathing next to me but still could see nothing. Something had its hand on my arm and was pulling me forward. I moved along like a drunk on stiffened legs. In front of me was some light and as I got closer it brightened which allowed me to see what had been pulling me forward.
What I saw shocked me, an old man dressed impeccably with a fedora and overcoat, button up shoes and a air of money. He wasn’t very tall and when he moved there was no sound. He had glasses on and was looking into the next room.
“My room was upstairs” he said in a raspy voice.
“Who are you?” I managed.
“Robert Franks” he said and turned and looked at me. I could see tears rolling down his pasty skin.
My insides were in knots; he took off his hat and placed it somewhere.
I swallowed “The Bobby Franks who was…murdered here?”
“Not here…young man…in a car” I could hear a slight Chicago accent.
“I’m seeing things” I muttered.
“No” his eyes had turned black like the cats. “I need you to do something for me”
I nodded because I couldn’t think of anything to say.
“I need you to kill someone”
“Kill some one” I said in a whisper.
Bobby Franks nodded…” Yes…it needs to be done”
I opened my mouth to reply but then stopped as I sensed something else in the room. A high pitched laughter bounced off the walls. The light that had been shining down moved away. I could see what was left of the stairs and noticed some kind of black hole near the center of the room. The floor began to rumble and the room changed colors, for a few seconds I saw in all it’ former glory. A beautiful oak stairway leading up to the heavens, velvet furniture placed perfectly around the room.
Long and elegant drapes hanging in the windows and whispery voices coming from the walls. There was some music in the air, soft and sweet. I could see a little boy sitting in a chair with a baseball bat in his hand. It was his prized possession signed by the great Babe Ruth. The little boy gazed at it lovingly and then placed it in a case. He closed the case and stood. He was dressed in a black and white shirt, black jacket and dark short pants. He turned and faced me. He started to walk towards the front door, I reached out to stop him but felt nothing. He stopped at the door and looked back at me. I knew where he was going.
Bobby Franks was going outside to die.
The total darkness was back. I sensed that he was waiting.
“Ok” I said to the darkness “Who do you want me to kill”
“The one who did this to me” replied a voice from the darkness. I had been expecting something raspy like before, but what I heard was a young boy’s high pitched voice filled with dread and sorrow. I thought of my cousin Sean who had been murdered thirty years ago. He was only thirteen years old and one day disappeared. His body was found a few days later in a ditch disposed of like a piece of garbage. His killer or killers have never been found. Bobby Franks needed me.
“Bobby?” I said.
I heard a sound down the hall but still couldn’t see anything. I now knew who he wanted me to kill. Richard Loeb had always said that Nathan Leopold had killed Bobby but the police, the prosecutor and all the experts who had studied the words and the killers were convinced it was most likely Loeb who had done the deed.
“You want revenge Bobby?” I asked.
The room felt as broken now as the outside of the house looked. How could the victim still be suffering? I didn’t know how but I was determined to try and help Bobby. I looked down the hallway at where the boy had been but saw nothing.
“Bobby…I want to help you…but what can I do…how do I find Richard Loeb?”
“He’s here…he’s always here”
The little boy’s voice shrieked ‘He’s standing right next to you!”
Something struck me and I was falling in slow motion landing in a soft place and then diving in and allowing the soothing darkness to take over.
I woke up suddenly wondering if I was drowning. I was coughing and choking and had a headache. The light from before was back on, tracking something in the corner. I stood and tried to clear the cobwebs, my foot kicking something. I instinctively reached down and picked it up. It was hard and cold with a sharp edge. I was pretty sure I knew what it was. It had to be the chisel that Loeb had used to strike Bobby Franks repeatedly on the head.
I was holding death in my hand.
“Bobby” I whispered
“In your pocket…use the chisel to kill him”
The house creaked and groaned again as I reached over and felt the cell phone and then something soft. It was made of wool and had faded.
“Is this the sock that they stuffed in your mouth?” I asked already knowing the answer. I felt something breeze by me. Ok I had my answer. I had to kill Loeb – the same way he had killed Bobby.
Now how do you kill a ghost? I had no answer but I would try for Bobby and Sean and all the other innocent kids who had been murdered senselessly.
But still the overriding question was.
I picked up the chisel and started to walk slowly. The light had moved near me and in front – guiding me. I was heading towards the black hole and I had a pretty good idea who was in there waiting for me. As I got closer the light darted away like a laser in high mode. Red eyes looked back at me, red like fire and bristling with hate.
before his “What prey sir do you think you’re going to do with that chisel…there’s no fire in here”
“Kill you with it” I said feeling the hatred beginning to build.
“Kill me..You? His voice sounded flabbergasted before he began to cackle.
A figure was past me in a flash as I felt some pain on my side. I could feel the blood, he had cut me. I turned back looking for his eyes, saw something to my right and lunged at it with the chisel. The same high pitched cackling laugh broke through the darkness.
“You can’t catch me” he said mockingly.
I tried to move back into the light but felt something else lash out at me. I touched my neck and could feel something on my fingers.
The something was blood. No matter I owed it to the boy. The sounds around me were building, it felt almost like a celebration. Was he already celebrating my death? Would he talk to me?
“Why’d you do it Richard?”
“What about Leopold?”
“Oh Nate likes to portray himself as some innocent victim…but…he’s as guilty as me” he snarled. I could see some kind of form to my right, I took a step forward.
I said “Leopold told everyone he was smarter than you ya know…smarter in all areas”
More cackling “Yeah…so smart he dropped his idiot glasses where we dumped Bobby”
Loeb was right, but I was playing to his ego. He was known as a narcissist. I took another step forward.
“You had everything Richard…you were rich…smart…the sky was the limit…why did you kill innocent Bobby Franks?”
“Innocent my eye…he was another one…that’s why I thought of him…a brat…and his family walking around like they owned everything…my family had a bigger house”
“So you were jealous?”
“No!” he spat out his voice going up an octave and shaking the rafters. I took another step forward.
“Yes you were…admit it…that’s why you enjoyed it so much”
Silence. I raised the chisel slowly.
“Richard” I said trying to see if the form was still there. I leaned forward and felt another slash as the blade stabbed my shoulder.
The form was close but I could feel myself growing weaker. I thought about how my day began, feeling a need to take some pictures of the old house on the corner. How many people in the neighborhood even knew of its significance? Not many. Even the post woman didn’t know, she knew the house but not the crime.
“You still alive?” his voice shook me out of my thoughts. He had to be right next to me, I lashed out with the chisel but felt nothing. I moved a little more out of fear, the light was shining above me on the ceiling. I needed it here illuminating Loeb but it stayed in one place. I heard some voices and glanced to my right expecting to see nothing but shadows. The shadows were dancing as the voices became more whispers, I thought of some children with a secret that only they knew. The pain was getting more intense, my legs were buckling; my grip on the chisel was weakening. I closed my eyes for a second and opened them slowly to another set of eyes inches away from mine, then a mouth that smiled. I could see the form had legs and arms.
It was holding something in its right hand.
I knew that face.
“Leopold” I croaked.
The eyebrows went up and the grin widened. He looked around nineteen years old. The face displayed no kindness.
“You know me” he said. His voice was deeper than Loeb’s but flat with no emotion.
“Yeah” I slumped down to the ground and felt his presence invading me again. He was studying me like you would a specimen. His round face was turned sideways as he looked into my eyes.
“He’s dying Dickie”
I blinked…scanning the darkness for Loeb. He appeared behind Leopold with a boyish grin on his face. I felt for the chisel but could only feel the cold floor where I had fallen.
“Why are you here Leopold?” I managed “thought you were innocent”
“I am to a degree” he said grinning sideways “But not entirely”
I felt something being pushed deep into my throat. I was gagging. What was it? Oh I know…a sock, yeah, a sock just like what they did to Bobby Franks. They killed him and stuck a sock down his throat. I reached up with my hands but couldn’t feel anything. I tried to move but couldn’t. Both of their faces were near me now, gazing at me like you would a priceless painting. Dang where was the chisel?
But I knew it was too late for me. I was slipping away and the boys were enjoying themselves once again.
Their laughter reverberated around the house.
A loud sound like a shrill woke me from my slumber. Leopold’s and Loeb’s eyes were wide, their smiles gone and only there teeth were showing. Some of their skin was sliding off their faces as I heard a whooshing sound. Their mouths dropped off as did their eyes as the figure above them continued to swing away. Another sound like scurrying was happening as smaller figures danced about in a frenzy of delight. I smiled hoping the murderers could see me, above the figure I saw Bobby Franks who was holding hands with a younger version of himself.
They faded away as the sound slowly stopped. The figure was above me now as the light from above appeared. I could see the face, a sweetwarm face, a face of kindness and giving.
It was Mrs. Jorgenson, my surrogate mother. I felt the last vestiges of my strength go as I tumbled down into a deep darkness. I blinked up at the light above me and wondered what it all meant.
When I awoke the light blinded me. I was on a bed. A TV was mounted on the wall. I blinked trying to focus. I heard some movement and saw a woman sitting in a chair a few feet away from me.
“Jim…you’re awake” she said and stood up, grabbing my hand. I could feel her warmth. She was over forty with short cropped hair. She was tall with a strong grip, I had seen her but…
“Am I in a hospital?” I asked weakly.
“Yes you are…you’ve been here over a week”
“A week” I said trying to grasp the reality.
“You almost died Jim”
I nodded trying to remember what had happened. The house, .Bobby Franks, Leopold and Loeb. It was fuzzy and muddled. I looked at the woman again.
She nodded “At my mother’s house”
“Oh yes…how is your mother?” I asked
She turned away for a moment and said “She died Jim”
“Died” and then I started to remember it all.
Her name was Chris and she was there to thank me for spending so much time with her mother. She then told me what had happened, how she came to visit her mother and found her upstairs in her room. She had passed away. She said she looked outside and could see me staggering across the street with blood on…well everything. I had collapsed in the middle of the street. Soon the police arrived asking questions. I was taken to the hospital. The police wanted to know why I had what looked like stab wounds on my body.
“I told them that you liked to take pictures of the old house on the corner and that maybe you had fallen or something. The place is dangerous” she squeezed my hand again and I felt myself liking it.
“I’m sorry about your mom” I said “She was a great lady”
I sat up a bit and felt the pain shoot down my side. I didn’t want to look at the damage yet.
“So what did the police say?”
She shook her head “They didn’t buy my falling down theory, they thought you were mugged only your wallet wasn’t taken”
“They around…the cops?” I tried to peer out into the hallway. I knew they would ask questions and I wasn’t in the mood to answer them.
She shook her head “No…they got tired of waiting, they left their card for you”
I gazed at Chris’s pretty face and contemplated what to say. I wanted to tell her that her mother was a hero, that she had set Bobby Franks free, and had sent Leopold and Loeb to hell. But if I did she would think I was loonier than the bin itself. I didn’t even know if I believed it. Had it all really happened? Ghosts, demons, it was crazy.
Keep it to yourself Jimbo.
I said “Good…cause I can’t remember what happened”
“Maybe that’s good”
“Maybe it is” I lied.
“Strange thing though…when I found my mother she had something in her hand” her face was crinkled a bit in the corners.
I knew I was staring at her “What?”