17

The Man Inside

By

Mr. Rick

The coroner pronounced him dead by asphyxiation at midnight Thursday the 12th of December 2012. I thought it ironic to be walking by this seemingly coincidental homicide on my to a play entitled "The Twelfth of Never," until I overheard one of the officers reading the information as he was writing it down.

"Date, 12/12/12 at midnight on 12th street, one John Doe with no identification death due to asphyxiation." stated the officer with a chuckle.

The officer evidently realized what he had just said and laughed thinking how ironic everything occurred on a twelve. Or maybe it was just me thinking it was ironic because of the play I was going to see. I was already late for the play as it was scheduled to start at midnight.

"Wait a minute" I said out loud before I realized it. Everyone looked up at me for a moment then shrugged me off. How is it that this man died at midnight, his watch broke at midnight and I am here now and it is now12:05? How could everyone be here at this point in only five minute? Did everyone get an invitation to show up here at the same time seconds after the man was killed? If he died at midnight and it is now 12:05 then someone had to see it happen! My mind was racing in every direction at once so fast that I thought I was going to pass out!

"Ok settle down your letting your imagination run away with you." I whispered to myself under my breath. One thing at a time; first I was already late for the play so a few minutes more would not hurt anything, I could always get customer reviews, next gather all the information I can before I start jumping to conclusions.

Now numbers, by themselves, are not normally a major aspect to most cases unless dealing with financial crimes, but this time there were too many variables that revolved around the number twelve. Not only was the date littered with twelve's but also the time as well as the street number. I asked the officer to check the man's watch for the time. As I expected the officer reported that the watch had stopped at precisely at midnight. I decided to look further into this murder mostly out of curiosity as to the meaning of the number twelve in this matter. I introduced myself to the detective on the scene, Detective Dozins. "My name is Christabella Konstantinos, I am a reporter for the Peoples Post" I said in a very professional manner as most cops look upon a female reporter as trouble. Detective Dozins was no exception,

"Go play with your dolls Ms. Konstantinos and leave the homicides to us!" Dozins annoyingly barked at me.

I ignored his comment and went on asking him how the man was asphyxiated out here on a bus stop bench without any signs of struggle or ligature marks. He ignored my questions and kept on talking to the coroner trying to determine the cause of the asphyxiation, but the coroner said he would not know until he did an autopsy. The coroner just determined it was asphyxiation due to the petechial hemorrhaging around the eyes. I asked Detective Dozins if robbery appeared to be a motive, but once again he made it appear as though I was not even there.

What I heard of detective Dozins is that his wife had been killed in November of the previous year and since then he has been taking out his anger on everyone, especially the women on the force, and evidently female reporters also. Dozins was a throw back from the sixties with his unkept hair and even worse looking beard. He could not run down an ax murderer even if the lives of everyone in the world were at stake. Most said he was up for retirement but from the looks of him I would say he was long overdue. His white beard and hair made him look like an alternate Santa Clause full of doom and gloom. He had some family but none around him would admit to it. His faced was pocked mark from the ravages of time and wrinkled from the stress of not only his job but also his life. His wife of eleven years had been killed the previous year nearly two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Seeing as I was not going to get any information from here I decided to go on home and see if I could get a friend of mine to look into the autopsy report for me tomorrow. As I started back on my way home I began wondering how this night came to be, what was I doing there, where was I headed? I thought back at the day's events and remembered that I had received an invitation to see a play called the "Twelfth of Never." "The play," I said out loud, I had completely forgotten the play! I looked at my watch and realized that the show was just about over. It was a special opening night showing starting at midnight. There it was again that number twelve. Now I knew that someone was orchestrating this entire event from beginning to end! There was no way possible for all of these events to have the number twelve as its common denominator! Someone sent me the invitation to the play but I was used to that as many people look for the press to promote their plays or events. But the "Twelfth of Never" on Twelfth street someone had a unique sense of humor. But how could anyone have directed detective Dozins to head up the investigation? Could that just of been a coincidence?

Back at the 12th precinct detective Dozins was writing up his report when he got a call from the coroner's office to come down there immediately. Dozins asked if it could wait it was already three in the morning and he hadn't gotten any sleep. The coroner insisted, stating it was important and he sounded as though he had just run a marathon. Upon arrival the coroner informed him that although John Doe appeared to have been asphyxiated he also appeared to have a high magnesium count which could have caused breathing difficulties as well as a heart attack. But he said what were truly bizarre, were the crystals in his veins and lungs, and he could not determine their origins.

Keep looking said the detective" in a frustrated voice, "there has to be more information John Doe can give us!"

The next morning found me with more questions than answers and without a story for tomorrow's edition of the Post. I decided I was probably making more of this than what should be and decided to just do a basic follow up and forget about the matter. I fed my two cats' Ying, the white cat and Yang the dark grey monster. I chuckled every time I called their names as I was told I had their names backwards. My response was always the same "you don't know them like I do." What should I wear to go to the precinct a skirt and blouse, a dress, or slacks and blouse? I decided on a dress not too feminine but enough to make everyone realize that I was a women. I left to go visit Dozins at the precinct and see if I would have better luck with him after he had a good night's sleep.

It didn't take long and I realized he hadn't slept which meant his charm was even more caustic than the night before. I told him about how I thought it peculiar that the number twelve was frequently used in this case. He, with the charisma of a skunk and porcupine mating, laughed at me. He told me he would throw me a bone if I would just leave him alone. I agreed seeing as I had gotten nothing from him up to this point. He told me that John Doe may also have been poisoned with magnesium. He was quick to inform me that magnesium only has nine letters and not twelve. With that he kindly, and with a smirk, pointed to the exit door and told me to go have tea with my dolls.

Dozins lived in a small flat above an old smoked filled pool hall that appeared to have been left behind from a prehistoric era, just perfect for Dozins taste and looks. The loss of his wife had sent him into a tailspin spending most of his time at the pool hall drinking his meals. It was nothing for Dozins to cash his pay check at the bar and get back only enough money to supply him with cigarettes for the week. Many were wondering if he should even be allowed to be in law enforcement in his condition. But Dozins had an excellent track record for solving even the most difficult cases. For that matter those were the only cases that were given to him. Whether it was for his case solving abilities or to simply reduce his exposure to the public, I wasn't quite sure. In either case I knew I had to gain some credibility with this grumpy old man.

Margueritta, Dozins late wife, was a successful broker and her demise was unexpected to say the least. She appeared to be the picture of health but died of a cerebral hemorrhage as she was preparing to go home after leaving her bank. There was nothing unusual about her death except that they said they had found traces of Roentgenium which had not decomposed. But seeing as it is a man made element and found to have no connection to her death it was simply dismissed. Since then Dozins has been picked up for soliciting some of the areas more flamboyant ladies of the night, as well as being brought home by his local friends in blue for intoxication. His mind had not been on any of his cases since his loss, but something seemed to bother him about this case and he did not know what.

I decided to see if his private psychologist would have any information he could share. Dozins psychologist, whose name was Joe, believe it or not, was the bartender at the bar, that Dozins, more often than not, lived in. Joe did tell me that Dozins was puzzled by Jon Doe's death and he felt something was amiss about the entire case. Just as Joe began to inform me of some of Dozins quirks, as he called them, in walks the devil himself liked someone had just kick sand in his face at the beach in front of his girl friend.

"Who invited you here Miss non-congeniality" Said Dozins, in a hard freezing tone? I told him I used to shoot pool and someone told me they had good tables here. I could not decide to make of this old man as he came closer wearing a duster and a hat that reminded me of Dick Tracy. I decide to sit with him while he drank his breakfast and waited for him to speak again, rather than my making small talk. After a couple of Southern Comfort breakfast drinks he loosened up and even tried to feign a smile. His expression in the mirror behind the bar appeared to be telegraphing his confusion and frustration about the John Doe case. Speaking out loud I said "I wonder who John Doe really is?" I hoped Dozins's breakfast drinks had mellowed him out a little. He turned his head and looked at my face and his eyes continued their downward movement over my body. He appeared to be sizing up whether I was tough enough to go the distance or cry when things got tough.

I did not consider myself a blond bombshell but I always got the once over with a smile when entering a bar. But I think the fact that I wore a dress made him feel like I needed to be home baking or something. He told me "If you plan on working with me on this you're going to have to wear pants!" "I am not going to worry about you not being able to run, jump or fight if need be because you are wearing a dress."

I had started to raise my dress when he abruptly informed me that he was not interested in what I had under my dress, just what I had in my head. I told him if he would give me a chance he would see that I was wearing shorts underneath my dress. This was not my first time on a case, and that my mind was as sharp and any when it came to solving cases. I thought for a moment did he just insult me when he said he wasn't interested in what I had under my dress? Most men I went out with were more interested in what was under the dress than who was in it. But here was a man who was just the opposite; he was more interested in the person than the body. Perhaps there was something to this Mr. Dozins besides the connection with the number twelve.

Chapter II

Information Summit

We decided to put our heads together and organize all of our information, including how we became involved in the case. Before Dozins began listing his information I told him to especially try to list everything related to the number twelve. He looked at me like he just realized that allowing me to work with him may not have been such a good idea. I told him to humor me this one time and if I was wrong I would buy him breakfast tomorrow. He took out his little black notebook and began listing all of his information first as he felt it was more important than what little I knew. He began his entry:

Date: December 12, 2012

Time: Midnight

Place: 1200 block on Twelfth street

Victim: John Doe

Cause of Death: Asphyxiation?

Physical Evidence: Crystals in the blood

Eye Witnesses: None

Possible Motives: Unknown

Dozins may have had his faults but he was meticulous about his collecting and recording of information. He looked at his list and shook his head in disbelief as if to say, how could there be so little information on this murder. For that matter he wasn't even sure at this point if it was murder! He always felt better going on the assumption that it was murder so he would lose no time gathering information. Besides he felt gathering information was like doing exercise the more he did it the better he got. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity he turned and looked at me "OK. Let's see what you got, missy." He looked at me like he was saying "do I really have to listen to you?" He appeared to have regretted ever having spoken to me the first time! Now here he was working with me, what was he thinking? Perhaps the rumors were true he had lost his mind!

During the deafening silence when he was reviewing his list I began thinking what facts do I have? After listening to him I realized I had nothing but possibly an overactive imagination. His demeanor suggested he already regretted meeting me and now I was going to have to prove him right by having nothing but conjecture to offer him! I had better do better than that if I wanted to remain on this case. What to do? "Well" he said impatiently. "Do you have anything to contribute or are you just something pretty to look at?" He said I looked pretty! That is the first time he has shown any kind of humanity towards me. And now here I was about to show him that, that what I had nothing!

"Let me see your list and a piece of paper." I said confidently as though I knew what I was doing. He tore out a page and handed me the black book and the piece of paper and his pen. "Anything else you need missy?" "Shall I get you some tea while you think about what you know?" He was starting to become his ornery old self again; I had to do something, but what?

"Hey Joe what do you have to eat?" I asked in order to change the subject and I was getting hungry it was almost lunch time. Dozins took this opportunity to order his liquid lunch, which I hoped would soften his edges up a little. Joe said he had pizza and that was all. I told him that would be fine and asked him what kind of toppings he had.

Joe laughed, "What do you think this place is Salvatore's Italian cuisine?" "I got frozen loaded pizzas." "If you don't like something just pick it off!" I said "ok" let me have one and looked at Dozins staring into his lunch like he had just fallen into a dark abyss.

"Ok. We're not having a tea party here, missy! Either you have something or you don't!" I ignored him and began writing on my piece of paper. He went on drinking and staring at his lunch. By the time the pizza came I had just about finished writing down my last note, being careful not to let him get a peek until I was finished. Fortunately he was too involved with his glass which was nearly empty again to notice me.

"Here's your pizza, missy" said Joe, with a smile on his face and a dirty white folded towel over his arm, impersonating a professional waiter. "Will there be anything else ma'am?"

I politely said "NO" "That will be all" I said with all the air and dignity I was able to muster, without laughing.

"If you two are finished with your tea party I would like to get some work done before someone lands up dead!" Dopzins was not known for having patients and it was obvious that lunch had not settled his inner turmoil as yet. I handed him my sheet along with his book and I began eating trying to avoid any conversation with him until he had read it all. My sheet contained his note and my observations on one page to get a better visualization.

Date: December 12, 2012

Time: Midnight

Place: 1200 block on Twelfth street

Victim: John Doe

Cause of Death: Asphyxiation?

Physical Evidence: Broken watch

Eye Witnesses: None

Possible Motives: Unknown

Drugs: Roentgenium (Element?)

12/12/12

12 midnight

12oo on 12th street

Dozins (Dozen=12)

Watch broke at 12 midnight

Play 12th of never

Asphyxiation: 12 letters

Joe returned to see if we needed our drinks refreshed and noticed the writing on the paper and laughed. Both Dozins and I looked up at him and wondered what was so funny about a murder? Dozins in his ever so charming way asked him "What the hell is so funny about someone getting killed?" Joe apologized but said it seems like someone was playing a practical joke on us.

I put my face forward and said "And?" "Go on explain yourself, already!"

He said "count the letters in asphyxiation," Joe was an avid crossword player and knew words by their numbers. That last bit of information seemed to have lit up a fire in Dozins as if he just got his first major clue in the case.

"Thanks Joe, you came through for me again."

My mouth opened up but nothing came out I was too astonished to speak. I had brought the number twelve into the light, and he thanks the bartender for giving him one clue, a clue I had developed? I knew if I wanted to stay on this case I had to swallow my pride as well as anything else he would do in the next few days but I did not have to enjoy it!

Dozins, with new life breathed into him, said we needed to review everything to see if there were anymore identifiers. I looked at him in amazement for his gratitude towards Joe when he turned to me and said "Well missy what do you have?" I thought someone had just sucker punched me in the stomach and all the wind had gone out of me as I slouched down in my seat. I told him I had a headache and could not concentrate at the moment. He looked at me as though he were saying what good are you then? I bit into the pizza like a starving lioness into a freshly slaughtered lamb. All my frustrations were directed at tearing that slice of pizza apart. I wanted this story but I did not know how long I could tolerate all this over blown male testosterone around me.

"Give the little lady sometime, Dozins. She'll get the hang of it." Joe said half supporting and half mocking me.

What world did I just enter? What did these two men think I was just something "pretty" to look at and then put away? It took every fiber in my body to not come back at them with sarcasm that would have made them both mutes! Breathe, I kept telling myself, breathe, and take slow deep breaths. I finally was able to speak without putting these two into their place, "We need to look at everything about this case and see how many more twelve's are in it and from different perspectives."

"Thank you for that piece of advice missy" Dozins condescendingly stated.

"Were there anymore twelve's hidden in this case that we needed to know about?" I stated more as a matter of fact then asking.

I looked at his list again and noticed the name Roentgenium with the word element next to it. I asked Dozins what it meant. He said it was some manmade element that should have decomposed in the body but instead it crystallized in his lungs and veins but it did not appear to be the cause of death. I counted the letters in the name R-o-e-n-t-g-e-n-i-u-m, twelve letters again! When I pointed it out to Dozins he turned around as though he was going to say something nice. But instead told me to go home and change into more comfortable clothes like sneakers and jeans and to meet him there at the bar at 11:30 pm.

I went home and thought about how the day had gone and was not very pleased, but at least I was still on the case, and I still had a story. I fed Ying and Yang and thought about how they fought constantly yet you could tell they were friends. I wondered if Dozins and I were going to have the same kind of relationship. I had seen a glimmer of polish under the gruff exterior when he told me I was pretty. All I knew of him were stories about how ornery he has become since his wife passed away. Although someone did tell me that he was a different person back then. Oh well I had better take a shower and change clothes so Dozins won't have any excuse to gripe about me.

I walked into the bar half expecting to find Dozins sitting there already drinking his dinner. But I was surprised, he wasn't, and I even found myself liking him a little bit, Dozins did have a home besides this bar. I sat up to the bar and told Joe I was supposed to meet Dozins here at 11:30 tonight. "Wait a minute I will go wake him up!" I looked at Joe in puzzlement until he explained "Dozins has a cot in the back room here just in case he could not make it home. That was it I was not going to have any pity for this man! How could he not make it home? He lives upstairs I shouted to myself quietly. But I think Joe noticed my frustration at this sorry piece of shit that thinks women should be seen and not heard! He said he would be right back and then disappeared behind the curtain.

I decided when Dozins showed up I was going to let know my name was not missy! The more I thought about that sorry excuse of a man the hotter I got. "Joe" I shouted a little louder than I had expected, "give me Long Island Iced Tea, and skimp on the Tea!" I smiled. Dozins was not a well kept man. His Pecs turned into pecks around the middle and his hair appeared to have fallen off his head and landed on his face. I wondered how many times he had been rousted for vagrancy and had to show his badge along with his driver's license. Finally Dozins appeared from behind the curtain in a long black duster like the cowboys used to wear on the trails.

"What are you dressed up for Halloween? If I knew we were going to a costume ball I would have dressed the part," I said, trying not to laugh. The more I tried to hold it back the more I let out little blurps of laughter until out came one good one before I regained control of the situation. He came from around the bar and once again gave me the once over. I was expecting some sarcastic remark from him and I was ready to let him know my name, letter by letter! "That's better! You gonna do a man's job you better dress like a man!"

Before he had another chance to take another breath I let him have it! "My name is Christabella Konstantinos! C-h-r-i-s-t-a-b-e-l-l-a K-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-i-n-o-s and not missy, you both understand me or do I have to spell it out for you again?" They both looked at themselves and smiled. "I think she will do'" said Joe. "Don't be so quick to judge, she made look good on the outside but what is she made of on the inside?" Dozins was not so quick to accept me and cautioned Joe to not be so quick also.

What were these two sizing me up for? I will do for what? Looks good on the outside but what about the insides? "What the hell is going on here?" "Speak up or I am walking out this door right now!" I stated defiantly.

"No you won't" Dozins gleamed over to me. He was right I was staying for the story. But what was the story? A dead man, a bunch of clues, if that's what they were, all having something to do with the number twelve. But what did it all mean! Dozins continued, "You want this story and you want to know what it is all about, right?"

"Yes" I submitted, reluctantly.

"You want to know about what is going on? Are you ready to do anything to find out?" He hesitated give me an opportunity to reflect just how far I was willing to go for this story.

"Yes!" I said in as an authoritative voice I could command.

"You promise to do everything I tell you to do, no matter how much you don't want to do it?" "You promise not to ask any questions until I tell you I will answer your questions now?" Again he waited for a response.

"What kind of things you want me to do" "I may be drinking with you but I draw the line, no story is worth that much!" He looked like the poster for the "Dirty Old Man" posters used to scare little girls.

"Don't worry" he chided, "I would rather have a man helping me with this case than a female!"

"Well are you going to do as I tell you or are you going home to your tea party?" He knew he was pushing my buttons, but I was not going to give him the satisfaction of knowing I was getting pissed!

"Yes I will do whatever "Your Lordship request!""

"Ok. Let go into the back room."

My shoulders dropped to the floor and my eyes screamed to him "Really!" "All this and you want me in the back room?"

"I knew you would be nothing but trouble," Dozins shouted angrily at me. "If you were a man you would have thought that I was going to get some guns or some sort of weapon. But a woman, oh no, your mind is not that simple. You automatically think I want to ravage your body in the back room in the secrecy of darkness. Well for your information little "M-I-S-S-Y. It just so happens that there is a back door here that leads out to my car, so do you mind? I am sorry my first thought was not making love to you on my cot, next time I will try harder!"

I felt like a fool. I was going to put him in his place, instead I allowed myself to act like a foolish woman like he accused me of.

Once in the back room he turned around looking straight into my eyes and asked, "Do you trust me?"

After suffering the last humiliation I was not about to lose it again and I said "Yes."

"Good turn around with your back to me and do not say a word!"

I was getting an unsettling feeling about this like something terrible was about to happen and I was letting it. "OK" I said with much trepidation.

"Put your arms to your side and close your eyes."

Ok breathe slowly breath I kept telling myself as I followed his directions. Then I felt his arms with the duster coming around me like some vampire bat closing its grasp on me. Still I kept my eyes closed thinking I can still get away from this dirty old man before he gets too far.

Chapter III

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Slowly I felt a breeze swirl around us as though we were in a tornado. But it was not hurting us but rather the wind made me feel like I was protected in a cocoon of air. I soon forgot about the arms that were holding me and was just trying to figure out what was happening and trying to keep my eyes closed.

He opened up his arms and told me to open my eyes. It took me a few seconds to get my eyes adjusted but soon I realized we were back at the crime scene. But how, we never got into a car! It was impossible for us to be here in a matter of seconds!

"Remember your promise." He said in a stern but assuring voice. "No questions until I tell you I am ready to answer them."

It was not easy but I managed to keep my tongue still even though I had a thousand questions that were eating me up alive! "I remember" I said quivering as I was fighting to maintain some form of composure.

He gave me a pink notebook and told me to "Look around and try and write down all the twelve's you can see." I took it without saying a word, fortunately he could not read my thoughts, or could he? I made no comment on the pink notebook and went about doing as he told me to do. I looked up into an appliance store window and saw the clock on the wall; it was 11:55, almost midnight. I tried to figure out how much time we spent at the bar and our, whatever, traveling time and none of it made any sense. I looked at the headlines of the newspaper in the newspaper box window, thinking it strange that the murder did not make the front page. "What" I shouted before realizing I had said it out loud.

"SHH" he sternly signaled me to be quiet! The date on the newspaper was December 12, 2012. How could I be so stupid they just did not restock this machine and these were old papers, I tried to tell myself reassuringly? Ok get a hold of yourself; it's not as if you time traveled or anything like that. I am sure there is a natural simple explanation for everything. I kept repeating to myself trying to appear professional and up to the task even if I was a "Female" I told myself.

Ok, I have it together now. Now I can turn around and tell him of my findings in a direct professional manner. "Dozins" I spoke in a low voice as I turned around. The word "SHIT!" popped out of my mouth all on its own. There on the bench was the dead man, alive! What the hell was going on? Did I just travel to "The Outer Limits" or enter "The Twilight zone," I asked myself? I know what happened, Joe slipped me a Mickey, and Dozins is having his way with me in the back room! Yeah, that's right he brought me into the back room and wrapped me in his arms in that black duster! That's it! Soon he will be done doing whatever he is doing to me. Then I will wake up and kill him, that's all. I felt more relaxed now that I had a simple explanation for what was happening to me. This was all a bad trip from the Mickey they slipped me. Once I realized that this was all just a bad dream I decided to go along with it until I woke up. Then I would kill Dozins, and castrate Joe and go home and get drunk!

Dozins was standing behind John Doe as though he was waiting for something to happen. He was standing far enough away that maybe he was waiting for someone else to show up? I was getting pretty good at playing this mind game. Maybe, I will just castrate Dozins instead of killing him. I'll think of some stuff I can do to him when I wake up. "Bong, bong" the clock from the Watch Tower was starting to ring out the close of day and the start of a new one. Just as the Tower stuck twelve a dark shadow flashed across my eyes and John Doe just slouched down on the bench. "Shit, Shit, Shit!" Come on I was telling myself I know what is really happening and this is not it!

Dozins turned and smiled at me. How could that bastard smile at me when he was doing all this to me. I know I am waking up and soon I will see what the hell he has been doing to me. Dozins was walking towards me with that duster open like he was going to wrapped me up again!

"Hell No!" I said in a low trembling voice, "you're not going to wrap me up in your trench coat mister!" Before I could finish what I was going to say he had his arms around me and again it was like the very air around us started spinning and I felt comfortable again.

The back room! We were back in the back room. "Hooray" I thought in relief "I am awake!" "I am awake!" This time murderous intent was the gentlest thing that crossed my mind. Dozins still had his arms around me when I raised my size seven sneaker into his groin!

"UH!" was the only sound he made as he slowly went down to his knees in slow motion. "You shit eating bastard! You piece of worthless shit!" I shouted at him. I looked down at him and kicked him in the stomach, only because he had not removed his hands from his groin area.

Joe came running in when he heard all the moans and groans coming from his back room. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked with a puzzled look on his face. When I started to take another step closer to Dozins, to kick him again, Joe jumped up, grabbed my arms and stopped me. Again "What the hell are you doing?" Joe retorted.

"What do you mean? That sick bastard raped me!" Now Joe was really puzzled and looked at me and said "Huh?" "Look at me" I said trying to make him understand. Shit I forgot, Joe is the one that made all this possible! Field goal I thought as I kicked him in the groin also. I thought my foot was going to keep right on traveling right up into his stomach. "Another one bites the dust" I said grinning as I walked away.

When I went out into the bar to call the police to report that I had just been raped, I saw my reflection in the mirror, I wasn't a mess, I still had all my clothes on, my hair, my blouse, everything appeared normal. I stopped for a second, to examining myself mentally to see if any parts of my body were showing any signs of previous activity. Everything seemed ok, but what had just happened? I hung up the phone just as Joe hobbled out of the back room signaling for me to go to the back. I had to get to the bottom of this, so I went, because I knew judging from Joe's condition, Dozins's was not going to be in any shape to mess with me again either!

I found Dozins bent over in two sitting on a couple of cases of beer, how fitting I thought to myself. Still trying to catch his breath he slowly moaned "Why did you kick me?" After looking at my reflection I almost didn't want to tell him I thought he and Joe had slipped me a Mickey and he had raped me, but I did. Trying to take a couple of deep slow breaths he asked how I came to that conclusion. I told him about how the Mickey they had slipped me had me hallucinating all kinds of weird things. When I had finished recounting what I had seen he said "It was real." "Look at yourself! Do you really think you were raped? If you were not raped then what you saw was true." Now I sat down on a couple of cases of beer.

Chapter IV

The Death Shroud

"Joe told me to tell you that if New England Patriots ever need a good field goal kicker he would highly recommend you." All the while Dozins seemed to be recalling some atrociously painful memory. "The Duster" he said "is more than what it appears to be." "It was an actual death shroud, supposedly used many centuries ago by both royalty and peasant alike; the rich and the poor, as well as the good and the bad and the ugly as well as the beautiful. With each death the shroud took on some form of energy. Whatever energy the dying person had at the time of their death, it went straight into the shroud. The shroud collected pure energy no matter what form it was, it collected good energy, bad energy, evil energy, sadistic energy, horrifying energy, but it also collected more peaceful energies also such as sympathy, empathy, sorrow, forgiveness. Every death for over 2000 years purged itself of its energy by routing it into the shroud.

Over a period of time the shroud became well known and some wanted to turn it into a weapon for their own gain. It is unknown as to who made the duster out of it, but it must have been to keep it hidden in plain sight. The duster protects the wearer as well as anything inside it, which is why I put my arms around you!" He said looking hard into my eyes.

I lowered mine this was the second time I felt foolish and did or said something I would soon regret.

"Here" "Take this knife and cut this flap off the duster." I took the knife and began a sawing action on the edge of the flap but nothing was happening. Dozins began to explain how the duster could not be cut. He said he felt like all of these different kinds of energies in the shroud were alive. "You cannot go through life without having some of these energies within you; we all do," he said, as he reflected on what he had just said.

Over the course of centuries the shroud began to take on a life of its own and with a purpose all its own. It began to develop special properties such as not only time traveling but also dimensional traveling. Where the wearer could go into another realm that coexists with this one but no one can see it unless they wear the shroud. Problem is that there are many other creatures that we do not know about that live in a realm just inside our own. As long as we are not aware of them or see them they cannot see or interact with us, supposedly."

"What do you mean supposedly?" I asked numbly trying to accept this absurd story that seemed to come out of a Stephen King movie.

"Well" he continued. There are stories of where the wearer was nearly killed by a creature from the other realm and that the wearer went insane.

I thought they were insane but then I must be insane also for listening to this gibberish. But how else could any of this happen without an unbelievable story! Unbelievable events require unbelievable stories I concluded. "OK, suppose I am crazy enough to accept all of this what happened to John Doe?" I asked as though all this had become routine.

Dozins said a creature from the other realm had leaked through, but he did not know how. "There must be a tear in the veil of reality. The veil keeps us from seeing the world as it actually is as well as keeping secret everything we could actually do with our minds, if we knew how." Dozins once again reflecting on our conversation continued "We are capable of so much more and it is shameful that we had somehow devolved into a subspecies of human. Look at technology and all of our advancement we did this using only 10% of our brains, what could we be cable of doing at 100% of our brains or even half of that!" The veil between realms prevents us from seeing all that, perhaps to protect us from ourselves.

Joe had already closed the bar when Dozins and I came out from the back room. I came out first and gave an apologetic look to him, but instead it made him cringe and bend one leg trying to protect what was left of his manhood if there was anything left. I just sheepishly whispered "sorry?" He motioned me to go sit on a stool on the other side of the bar. I don't know if it was out of self preservation or fear? Dozens slowly crept out of the room; anyone looking at the previous few moments would have some disturbing imagery. A women and two men come out of a back room, the women is fine but the two men look like they both had been secretly tortured although neither had any marks yet both suffered the same injuries and showed the same butchered look in their faces.

Dozins told me to go home he would call me if he needed me. After my two blunders I wondered if he would ever let me near this story or him for that matter, again. But I agreed and left the two men to their drinks as both of them were drinking straight glasses of Scotch like they were trying to dull the pain they both seemed to share. I told them I was sorry, but I guess that did not help the pain any.

Chapter V

The Other Realm

After taking a nice long hot shower and a nap, I put on an oversized shirt and fed Ying and Yang. They had both just finished fighting and were lying down next to each other purring like they were mates. Once they heard the can opener they both jumped up on the cupboard waiting for their food to be served. I had to make sure I served them both at the same time or each would be fighting to get to the others food, even if they each had their own! They had to be fed at exactly the same time. My editor called me asking me where my story was and I did not know what to tell him. I told him I was still in the research phase and would have something more in a couple of days. What was I supposed to tell him? That I traveled in the arms of a trenched coated man to another realm? I am sure that he would have fired me on the spot for making up such a ridiculous story.

A nock came at the door and without thinking I opened it to see Dozins standing there. Once again his gaze traveled, but this time from my face to my breast, where it seemed to remain frozen for a few seconds before traveling further down. I had forgotten all I was wearing was a light bed shirt and with the light shining behind me I am sure he had a good look, as I did not wear a bra or underwear when I slept. I invited him in and excused myself as I went to put something on. I was surprised he knew where I lived and even more so that he was hear. Why was he here? Well at least I may still have a story to write about.

"How much longer you going to be missy?" he shouted as I was getting dressed.

"Almost ready", I responded and wondering what I should be wearing jeans or a skirt? Heels or sneakers I could not decide? I decided jeans, sneakers and a blouse. He wanted me to be ready so I am. I came out of my bedroom to find him sitting on the couch with Ying and Yang on each of his laps! How could he get those two to cooperate and allow him to pet them, they were jealous of each other.

He looked up from his new friends and looked at me. I don't know if he was trying to remember what he had seen at the door or if he was trying to decide if he liked what I was wearing. It didn't take long and I got my answer "Don't you have any female clothes?" I swear this man was the most exasperating person I ever met! Nothing was ever good with him there was always something wrong with me.

"Where are we going or what are we doing so I will know what to wear?" I asked with deep frustration. This man had somehow gotten the power to decide what I should wear. Why should I listen to him, oh yeah the story, but was it worth it? I hoped the story would finally put me into a higher category as a reporter. I put on a loose fitting blue pleated skirt that came up an inch above the knee and a delicate white blouse with a camisole underneath it. I was proud of myself I thought I looked good, sexy, and yet respectable also. "Well? Where are we going?" I asked impatiently as I had to change clothes just because he didn't like what I was wearing. But I thought for a moment maybe we were going to interview people and he felt that a women's presence may help in loosing people's tongues. I knew that some people are more apt to talk to women than men so I decided that was why the change of clothes and I felt better about it.

"We are going to the bar, where do you think?" as though I should have known. He looked up and down at my clothes and did not say a word. Was that good or bad I did not know, what he was thinking. His two new friends jumped off his laps and went to their separate corners of the living room. I decided I was not going task him why I had to change clothes just to go to the bar. Because I knew whatever the reason was I was not going to like his answer.

"I will fill you in on the rest of the information I have on the shroud and the other realms."

"Wait a minute did you say other realms?" I asked as if it were possible to have multiple realms. "Yes and other dimensions also" he added as though it was nothing more than another street being added to our city.

Once back at the bar we sat in a both in the corner of the room which offered a little more privacy for our conversation. He told me realms are filled with different creatures which at one time lived among us, which is where we get most of our myths and fables from. Such as Pegasus the flying horse or a Minotaur, these creatures once lived among us until a veil somehow was placed over our eyes so we could not see them or they see us anymore. They became like ghosts to us and we ghost to them, never to interact with each other again. The great pyramids were not built by aliens they were built by us! When we used to use more than just the 10% we are now using. We were capable of many great things some good but others meant the destruction of all life on the planet.

That is why the pyramids and the patterns written on the Earth that are only visible from outer space perplex us so much. We cannot accept the fact that at one time man was very smart and was capable of great things. And now we have devolved into a lower life form. For man to admit that he screwed up somewhere would be to give him more intelligence than he has.

I sat motionless as I listened to this man expound on things that I thought would only be found in high level universities. His demeanor and character appeared to soften as I listened to him. Was this another side of Dozins that I had not seen or was it me looking at him differently? I asked him what all this had to do with John Doe. He looked up at me and said "everything."

He said what killed Christopher Massimiliano was a creature from another realm but he did not know which one. I looked at him in puzzlement "Who was Christopher Massimiliano? I asked. I just received new information on our John Doe as to who he was and what he did. His name was Christopher Massimiliano, he was 36 years old, born December 12th 1976, single, and worked as a financial consultant for a brokerage firm. "Notice his name" he said searching my eyes.

I counted the letters both his first name and last name had twelve letters in it. "What does it mean?" I asked in earnest?

"I don't know" he responded "but I know it is not over." His voice had a foreboding element to it as he made that statement making me reevaluate how badly I wanted this story.

"How does this Christopher fit in with realms, dimensions, and all of this hocus pocus?" asking as though I really was expecting the answer.

Dozins responded to my question with a sense of urgency, "I have no idea but we must find out and in a hurry! These events hardly ever occur as a single anomaly but rather more of a series of events brought about to make some great change in the balance of things. When the veil has an opening creatures from other realms are able to slip in and out causing havoc. Realms differ from dimensions in that realms can cross over from one to another given the right circumstances, whereas dimensions are not so easily transgressed. In time dimensions no two entities may occupy the same place at the same time without taking special precautions.

"Missy, I am afraid that you may not be the right person for this job as both Joe and I are still recovering from our last encounter with you over this situation."

I told him he needed to understand all this was a bit much to take in all at once, and after all I had apologized. He said he needed someone who could keep a clear head and think on their feet. Before I could say I could do that he asked me how I came up with the idea that he and Joe had slipped her a Mickey and I had raped her somehow. I told him it was because what I was seeing was too hard to accept so my mind made up an acceptable theory.

"That is what I worry about! You come up with strange ideas because you refuse to accept what you see and hear no matter how strange it appears. If you do that in another realm we could be killed in ways you have never imagined!" Dozins waited for me to say something, but I just sat there and hoped he would continue telling me of these other realms that we could go to.

"Realms are like rooms in your house, each room has a different purpose with different items in it. Unlike the rooms in your house though, these items are alive some are good and some are pure evil, which is what makes this dangerous. The Time Factor

Apparently his duster was supposed to hold mystical powers that he even now did not fully understand or know about. Supposedly it was passed down through the centuries by famous detectives some became very famous in England but not all owners of the duster had such noble attributes. Some of the world's most notorious serial killers had possession of the duster along with a few bank robbers from the old west.

The duster sent you into an ethereal nearly duplicate dimension five minutes prior to closing the duster.

Do you understand me missy?" he asked as he looked into my eyes trying to see behind them as to what I was thinking.

"Yes" I answered without showing or giving him any other emotion other than acceptance.

"You have people on this side who try and sometimes succeed in crossing over into another realm, like in séances and contacting the dead. You have all kinds of frauds out there but that does not take away from the fact that these realms do exist, contrary to popular beliefs. I am going to ask you three questions and this time I want you to think about the questions carefully before you answer. "One, will you do exactly as I say when I say it without question? Two, Do you trust me with your life? Three, will you not kick anyone in the groin anymore?""

I laughed at the last one, but I could still see the pain on his face when he recalls the event. "I am not laughing missy, this is serious!" I agreed to all three, hoping I would not live to regret it or perhaps I should hope I am alive to regret it.

"We are going back into the other realm but this time all the way! This time for two hours and I can't babysit you while trying to protect us and get the information I need!" Dozins said emphatically. "Our lives depend on you listening and doing exactly what I say and when I say, got it?"

"I promise I will not kick anyone again and I will do whatever you ask when you ask, OK?" Trying to convince myself at the same time I was trying to convince him! I still could not understand what all was going on? Was this a nightmare in the making, just a hallucination or was truly happening? I told myself I had better believe this was truly happening. Just when I accepted that this might be reality a sudden chill ran up my spine lowering my body temperature by twenty degrees, giving me the shivers. "When are we leaving?" I tried to act like a pro, but he could tell I was as scared as a cat in a dog house.

"Tonight, be at the bar at 9:30. And don't be late! First time you're late your gone! Got it missy?" I said yes again and wanted to remind him again that my name was not missy. But I decided I was treading shallow waters and I had better tread lightly if I wanted to make it through this story.

"The first time we went I stopped half-way that is why you didn't see anything but a shadow and we were there just a short time. That is the safest way to enter the first time to gather information before going any deeper." He continued his gaze on me to see if I showed any signs of weakness. I tried not to show any, but being numb I figured he could not see the fear inside me. I returned home and I guess he went back to the bar, his home away from home.

Back at the bar Dozins was giving Joe instructions for this evening, reminding him of the importance as well as the danger. Tonight was going to be the first time he was going through all the way for two hours. He was never been able to go all the way through, even with Joe helping him. For some reason Dozins figured out he needed another person to go with him as a balance of some sort. He decided that he would continue going only half way until he could find a suitable partner. He decided he had a couple of hours he would take a nap before going through with the ordeal he knew he was faced with.