Before I answer the knock at the door, I peep through the curtain. It is Chief of Police Warner Thompson. I open the door and greet him through the latched screen door.
"Grace, I need to talk with you," Warner says.
I unlatch the screen door and open it. Warner walks into the living room slowly, his eyes taking in the whole room in a glance as he notes the location of the doors. While he notes the room I notice how large he seems inside my house. He didn't seem so big before but perhaps that was because I never saw him in a room with a standard ceiling. His office in the courthouse has a high ceiling, and the dining room in the Greek Goddess Cafe has a cathedral ceiling. My library has a cathedral ceiling, so I invite him in there. It has the effect of reducing him in stature, making him a little smaller and less intimidating.
"How many books do you have?" he asks, on seeing the five bookshelves of books.
"I don't know, maybe a thousand."
"Grace, I came to talk about your roommate, Stephen."
Back to that again, I think. Why this focus on Stephen? It can't be jealousy, can it? My mind wants to entertain the idea that Warner is romantically interested in me, but I won't let it run on in that direction because it directly conflicts with my other notion that he is the local serial killer. I decide to play along with Warner.
"Ok, what about him?"
"Can we sit down?" Warner reminds me I haven't invited him to sit.
"Oh, I am sorry. Please sit down. Can I offer you some coffee or tea?" My Southern hospitality is returning.
"Iced tea is fine," he replies. I go into the kitchen to make his iced tea. When I return he is standing by one of the bookshelves, reading the titles of some of the books.
"What a collection. Have you read all these books?"
"Some of them. I might get around to reading more of them eventually. Not likely though. I want to sell them on the Internet."
'Oh, I see," he says. "They're for sale. You have a bookstore on the Internet."
"Not exactly. I have a website on the Internet with books for sale on the website but I wouldn't call it a bookstore."
"Hmmm. Here are some of your favorites, I bet -- Haunted Heartland, The Haunted, 13 Collected Ghost Stories."
"No, I don't usually read ghost stories. I have so many friends who are ghosts that I leave it up to them to tell me their stories."
"Oh," he says, smiling at me. "Which you then turn into a book."
"How is your book coming?"
Is he ever going to get to the point of his visit? What is he fishing around about, anyway? "My book is coming along just fine, I guess," I fib.
"What about Stephen. Does he read any of these books?" Warner asks, nonchalantly.
"Not really. He's interested in the conspiracy books more than the rest."
"Oh? Which ones? Does he have a favorite?"
"Well, I notice he's interested in those books on the top shelf there. Most of them are conspiracy books. I think he likes Beyond Top Secret, a conspiracy book about the worldwide UFO security threat."
Warner reaches up and pulls the book from the shelf. When he does, a knife falls from the top of the book onto the shelf, startling both of us. I don't know why, but my first instinct is to grab that knife. Without hesitation, I reach up and grab it by the handle.
"Don't touch it!" says Warner, too late. "Grace," he says, in exasperation, "why did you do that? Give me that knife."
I am not going to give Warner the knife. The instinct that I followed in grabbing the knife is also telling me not to give him the knife. I don't know why, but a part of me wants him to leave right now. But I know better than to point the blade of the knife at him, even as I know not to hand it to him. I hold it in my hand and don't relinquish it. Common sense tells you to give the chief of police the knife you are holding when he tells you too, but some other sense tells me to hang onto that knife.
"All right," he says, in frustration. "You keep the knife. But do me one small favor. Do not touch the blade."
"Why?" I ask, stepping back from him a couple of steps.
"Because it may contain vital DNA evidence." That's when I realize Warner thinks he has found the knife used to carve St. Aug onto the foreheads of those women. It simultaneously occurs to me that, because of how I am acting, he might even think that the knife belongs to me, and that I am the murderer.
The knife does belong to me. It is the paring knife my mother gave me when she was helping me stock my kitchen when I moved into the apartment on St. George Street. Now, here I am looking like the murderer in a murder movie, whose weapon has just been discovered by the police. Thank goodness it is not a gun or I would be standing there holding a gun on the chief of police. I would surely look guilty.
"Is that your knife, Grace?"
"Yes," I admit, dreading his next question. I can almost hear him say, "And did you kill those girls?" But that is not what he says next.
"Where did you get that knife?"
"My mother gave it to me. It was one of her favorite knives. She complained later on that she gave me her best knife."
"I see. And do you always keep that knife on the bookshelf?"
"No." I am beginning to feel more like a foolish child than a threatened woman. "The knife stays in a drawer in the kitchen."
"Can we go look in that drawer in the kitchen?" he asks, politely.
"Ok." I almost say, "You go first." A part of me wants to get into the drama of this situation, my one big chance to be in an Agatha Christie murder mystery as the suspect holding the knife.
I follow Warner into the kitchen. He says, "Which drawer do you keep your knives in?"
I point to the second drawer but just as I do I realize what a fool I am for showing Warner where he can get another knife. What an idiot! I told him where to get his murder weapon. Now, I might have to knife fight with him to the death. And I was crazy enough to arm him with a weapon. At that, I point the knife at him. He glances at me, noting that the knife is pointed at him. He slowly opens the drawer.
He reaches in the drawer and comes out with a paring knife. "Is this the knife your mother gave you?" The knife he holds is the exact twin of the one I hold. "Did she give you two knives like this?"
"No," I answer, in confusion. "She only gave me one knife like that. These knives are exactly the same!" I don't notice that, in my confusion, I am now holding the handle of the knife in my open palm, looking closely at it. My knife is no longer pointed at Warner.
"They are not exactly identical," he corrects me, holding his knife next to mine. "Yours has a serrated edge and a carving tip. Can you look at the blades and tell me which knife belongs to your mother?"
"Yes, it's the one you're holding."
"How can you tell?"
"When I sharpened it on the sharpening stone, it left those streaks on the blade."
"So the knife you are holding is not the knife your mother gave you."
"No," I answer, still confused. "It's not."
"Do you have a freezer bag?" Why in the world does he ask me that?
"Yes, in the pantry."
Watching me, Warner gets a freezer bag out of the pantry and opens it, saying, "Without touching the blade of your knife, drop it in here." Like a little confused child, I obey. That leaves me with no knife while Warner has the other knife. But by now, I figure I am lost anyway if he is going to kill me because he has outsmarted me to the extent that I am ready to concede I have lost the knife fight.
"Thank you," he says. "You have wiped off the fingerprints on the handle, which is really unfortunate, but you did not touch the blade, and that is good." He is talking to me like I'm a little child, so we are in agreement about that.
"Grace," he says. "I want to drink that iced tea now." We walk together into the library and sit down. I wait to hear what Warner has to say. I am beginning to realize that the knife we found is the one used to carve those horrible letters, and that if it is not my knife, which it is not, then it belongs to my roommate Stephen.
Warner takes a long sip of iced tea and says, "Earlier today I drove out to Nine Run Road. I was following a hunch. I saw a car I recognized out there that belongs to Jimmy Dobbs." Warner took another sip. "I know you don't know Jimmy Dobbs. He's a local pimp and crack dealer. I went back out there about a half-hour later, and his car was still parked there. He looked like he was asleep in it. I got out to see what he was doing sleeping in his car on Nine Run Road, and I...well, he was dead, and he had 'St. Aug' carved on his forehead.
When I first drove out there," Warner continues, "I saw another car go by with a man in it I thought I recognized. I didn't pay much attention to it but I noted the color of the car and the make. I didn't get the plate because there was no need to. When I got back to town I saw that car parked in the parking lot at the Moonlight Restaurant. I went in and talked to your roommate, Stephen, who said it was his car and that he had been out on Nine Run Road earlier taking a server home. I was about to leave to check out his story when the manager showed up and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I had been talking with his assistant manager, Stephen Allger. He said to me, 'Oh, you mean Auger. Stephen Auger.'" Warner let that sink in a minute.
I remembered how Stephen looked too long at that deposit receipt I gave him. I remembered I thought maybe I misspelled his name.
Warner takes another sip of tea and continues. "If you wanted to abbreviate Stephen Auger, you might write it as 'St. Aug.'" Neither of us spoke.
Finally I ask, thinking of my book, "What hunch were you following when you went out to Nine Run Road?
"Actually, I was following Gladys Kurtz, in case she might lead me to something. I know Gladys isn't on the up and up."
I decide I better tell Warner about my threatening phone call from Gladys and about Stephen offering to tail her to see what he could come up with. Warner is upset that I didn't report it to him immediately.
"Well," I explain, lamely, "I didn't know if you were the killer or not." Poor Warner. He sits and sips his tea, looking crestfallen and consequently a little silly in his chief of police uniform, like a little boy with a broken toy.
"I'm sorry," I apologize.
"It will certainly make a good plot for your book," he replies, gamely. Neither of us speaks for a moment.
"Ok, get packed and let's go," he says.
"Go where? I don't want to go anywhere."
"You can't stay here," he insists. "You're living with a serial killer, Grace. Get your things."
"No. What about my cat?"
"Bring the cat. I have an extra room in my house. You can stay there until we get this straightened out.
"I don't want to leave, Warner. What good will that do?"
"It will save your life probably, and you can come back once we get the DNA evidence off that knife."
"But I wiped off his fingerprints, and that knife was on my bookshelf, and it now has my fingerprints on it. What about me? I might be a suspect, too. Isn't there some way we can get his fingerprints back onto that knife?"
Warner looks at me, a little amazed. "Not without putting your life in danger."
"You know what? I don't really believe my life is in danger from Stephen. For one thing, if he kills me he has to find another place to live, and you know how tough that can be in St. Augustine." I am making a joke but Warner isn't laughing.
"It's not a joke; it's dead serious. He has now killed six people. Do you want to be number seven?"
"No, I don't want to be number seven. But let's figure something out. I feel safe with you." I smile at him and try to make up with him for thinking he is a serial killer. "And you've got a great big gun. Instead of you being so determined to get me out of here, why don't we come up with some way we can trick Stephen and get his fingerprints back on that knife."
Warner can see my mind is made up. He has to come up with a foolproof plan. "Ok," he says. "Let me think about it."
"You think about it and I'll get you some more iced tea." I get up and go into the kitchen to give him some space to work out his plan. Then, a plan occurs to me.
"I have an idea," I tell Warner. "It just might work."
"Let's hear it."
"Well, we can put my knife on the book in the bookshelf and we'll turn on the floor lamps in the library and draw the window shades. When the lamps are on and the shades are drawn, whoever is in the room casts a shadow on the shade, and from the outside the shadow makes a perfect silhouette.
You can hide outside in the backyard. When Stephen comes home I will accuse him of being the killer. I will threaten him with going the police. He'll panic and reach for the knife on the bookshelf and he won't notice that it's not the same knife. When he reaches for the knife, you'll see it on silhouette, and then you can come through the back door and grab him. His fingerprints will be on the knife, I'll be in the clear, and you'll have your killer. What do you think?"
"Might work. What if he doesn't reach for the knife?"
"If he doesn't reach for the knife then I'll tell him that I found the knife, and make like I am going to reach for it. He'll grab it to keep me from getting it, and his fingerprints will be on it. You'll come in and grab him."
"Ok, but if he doesn't fall for any of this, you agree to leave the house and stay with me until the DNA evidence is confirmed, right?" Warner has me there. I have to agree.
We put my mother's knife on the shelf and turn on the lamps and draw the shades. In about ten minutes, it will be twilight outside and the shadows in the room will become silhouettes on the window shades. Warner leaves through the back door and I am getting mentally prepared for what is to come.
Just as Warner goes through the back door, I hear a knock at the front door. I peer through the curtain and see Gladys Kurtz standing on the front porch. With Warner in the backyard, I feel safe to let her in. I lead her into the library and invite her to sit down. It isn't dark but I don't think Gladys has come to kill me just yet. She probably just wants to talk me into abandoning my book. At any rate, Warner will be happy to bag two criminals instead of just one.
But Gladys refuses to sit and I notice she is holding something in her right hand. It's a knife. Does she mean to kill me on the spot? I can feel my heart beating as fear of her rises in me. Gladys is saying something to me, something about the trouble I am causing her, but I can't really hear her. I am at the bottom of a bucket and she is talking down into it, her voice sounding hollow and distant. I only know she means to kill me.
Everything is happening too fast. How can I slow it down? It's not dark yet and Warner can't see her shadow. I close my eyes and peer into the bucket. I can't see any faces or any color. I focus inwardly, calling my guardian angels. Telepathically I call, "Praetorian Guards appear. Your Empress commands you to appear. Hurry!"
EMERGENCY STAGE CALL
"Stage call for the Shadow Breakers! Stage call, emergency stage call!" DontBugMe and MaliciousCode rotate the blue beacon rapidly to connect as quickly as possible with the Shadow Breakers. The Saint is urging them to hurry.
Almost instantly ten Shadow Breakers appear, but two more are immediately needed to bring the quota up to twelve. DontBugMe and MaliciousCode finally are getting the opportunity they have been waiting for, the moment they have been rehearsing for. At last, they will be stand-ins with the Shadow Breakers. They will go through the portal as Praetorian Guards. Quickly, they manifest their costumes, making them match as closely as possible George's costume.
"Where are Jack Tolvey and Larry Welch?" asks George. He hears the Saint say they are an advance guard who already went through the portal in the emergency of the moment. George suddenly realizes that the Saint means for DontBugMe and MaliciousCode to be stand-ins for Jack and Larry. George quickly checks out their uniforms and makes sure they have shields and swords. He gives them both a thumbs up.
"Column, advance!" George the general calls out. He leads the way through the portal, with Mavis directly behind him and with DontBugMe and MaliciousCode bringing up the rear. They enter the Physical Plane and the realm of the living through the Empress's hot water heater closet and station themselves throughout the house, especially in the corners of the library where the Empress is seated against the outer wall in one of her sage green chairs.
YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE
As I sit and listen to Gladys talking about how I am making her life a mess because of my book, I can feel my heart pounding. But I relax a little as I peer into the bucket and began to see the faces of the Shadow Breakers.
| Authentic Metaphor
"Praying?" taunts Gladys in a wicked voice. "Or just looking for the covenant in your ark? Better search for some weapons in there; you're going to need them." She is enjoying herself in the moment, as though she has lived her entire life hoping for the opportunity to terrify and kill someone. And, horribly, I am the person she means to kill. Just as she makes a move towards me, I see Stephen come into the library behind her. Neither of us heard him enter the house.
"Stephen," I gasp in relief.
"That's an old trick," says Gladys, "but it won't work on me. I'm just a little bit smarter than that."
"But not that smart," says Stephen from behind her. She wheels around in surprise, but he is one move ahead of her. He knocks the knife from her hand and puts both of his hands around her throat, strangling the life out of her. She goes down slowly and lies dead on the floor. He picks up her knife and begins to carve the words 'St. Aug' into her forehead.
I can't speak and I can't stand to look at what Stephen is doing. If I could find my voice, I wouldn't know what to say anyway. So instead I close my eyes and peer into the bucket. I see a pulsing, electric blue light, and I see the faces of the Shadow Breakers. I am beginning to feel safe but until I can put some distance between Stephen and me I am not going to be out of danger.
Finally, it's twilight outside, and our shadows will cast silhouettes on the shades, but I am sitting in a chair against the wall and Stephen is on the floor bending over Gladys. Warner in the backyard can't see anything in the room, and Stephen won't be reaching for the knife. He already has one, no thanks to Gladys. As I realize the situation I am in, I peer into the bucket. I hear Stephen's voice and it pulls me out of myself and back into the room. He is sitting beside Gladys on the floor.
"You don't know what it's like," he says to me.
"What Stephen?" I can hardly speak.
"Being a crack baby, growing up like that in foster homes, people thinking you're a walking birth defect, treating you like a freak. Oh, it's not the crack. I never wanted crack, but years and years of the stigma of being a crack baby. You can't know what it's like, Grace. No one can understand it who hasn't lived it, and no one should ever have to live that kind of a life."
I find my voice again, "And so you killed them so they wouldn't make any more babies like you."
"Yes," he says. "Exactly. Look at me. I'm the monster they always said I was."
"What about Jimmy Dobbs?" Right away I wish I hadn't said that.
"Oh, so you've talked to Warner Thompson already." He quickly looks around him in suspicion that Warner is somewhere hiding in the room. Stephen is still sitting on the floor, beneath the window and casting no shadow.
"Jimmy Dobbs deserved to die. He was addicting those girls to crack and no matter how many I killed, he went and got more. He's as much to blame as they are for the babies they make. Because of him, those babies have to grow up in homes like the ones I grew up in. The words 'crack baby' might as well be carved on their foreheads. They cannot escape it. Ever. You can't know what that's like."
"And Gladys?" My heart is pounding.
"She's one of them," he says. "Just a high class hooker, that's all. She's no better than the rest, maybe worse than the rest because she has a whole town willing to cover for her."
"Not if they know what she is," I argue. Never argue with a killer, I chide myself.
"But they will never know. She's too smart, but not anymore. She's not too smart anymore, are you, Miss Gladys?" He pokes her lifeless body with the knife.
I start to stand up. I need Warner to see me in the room.
"Sit down," commands Stephen. "I'm not done with my performance."
He looks at me intently, and with the knife in his hand pointing straight at me, he begins to stand up. He glances at the two floor lamps and then at the window where the shades are drawn, as if putting two and two together and coming up with Warner in the backyard. "Time to go," he says.
At the same time that Stephen begins to stand with his knife pointed at me, a terrible fear begins to overtake me. Maybe he knows Warner is in the backyard and maybe he doesn't. Maybe he means to kill me. He is looking so intensely at me, I think I might have a heart attack if my heart doesn't stop beating so hard. Out loud I call, "Bar Mitzvah Praetorius! Your Empress commands you to appear!"
SPINNING THE SWORD
George, standing in the right corner of the library, and the other Shadow Breakers stationed in the library and throughout the house, can feel the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius move into their bodies. As the Shadow Breakers embody the guardian angels from the Divine Plane, they feel themselves expand and they began to encompass the house, as though they become an electric blue cobalt house. Everything that happens after that happens within the arena made by the Praetorian Guards as they create a circle of shields around their Empress. They can control everything.
When the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius come in they bring with them the Divine Plane. Instantly the Shadow Breakers feel the plane spread out around them in all its indescribable glory. They might be understandably distracted by it but George the general commands them to focus on the room where the Empress sits in the green chair. He overhears the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius, on surmising the situation, tell the Saint they are calling in the Archangel Michael.
The Saint commands George, "General, spin your sword!" George holds his blue sword in the palm of his right hand, tip pointed up, and with his mind begins to make it spin. This calls in the Archangel. All of the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius and the Shadow Breakers who embody them stand at attention as the Archangel is beckoned.
A DESTINY FORETOLD
Out in the backyard, Warner goes to his patrol car parked in the alley beside the house. He turns down the speaker of his radio and gets his rifle. He returns to the backyard and sets up his post behind the Elephant Ear plant, where he waits. Night falls but he can't see any shadows on the window and he wonders where Grace is. He ought to be able to see her shadow in the room. Why is she not in the room? A little time passes and he begins to get edgy. Maybe he ought to go in. Maybe the plan isn't working.
Just as he is about to stand up, he hears the voice in his head tell him, "The time is coming." He sees the shadow of Stephen rise up from the floor beneath the window. Stephen is a long shadow holding a knife. Now, the voice says urgently, "The time has come!"
"Oh my God!" says Warner. Has Stephen already killed Grace? He takes careful aim with the rifle and whispers his prayer, "Oh, God. Please don't let me miss." Trying to stop the trembling, trying to steady the rifle, he slowly pulls the trigger.
INVOKING THE ARCHANGEL
As Stephen rises, I call the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius. I began to feel a presence inside of me combating my fear with love. As I close my eyes to peer into the bucket, I feel more love than I ever felt before deep inside me, and the fear begins to subside. My heartbeat begins to slow. I hear the voices of the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius reassure me, "He is here!"
As I peer into the bucket, the surface is awash in pulsing, cobalt blue light that suddenly springs into my eyeballs and explodes out into the room with a loud crack like lightning or a rifle shot. Time seems to stand still when appears before me in the center of the room a blue, winged archangel holding a silver shield in one hand and a spinning blue sword in the palm of his other hand. The light is so bright, I almost turn my eyes away, but our eyes meet, and in my mind I hear the resplendent archangel tell me, "Michael."
Just in that moment the room, the house, the town, everything disappears except for a circle of silver shields around me. I know the shields keep me safe. Spreading out around me and around the Archangel infinitely in all directions is the universe and all its brilliant planes of reality. As my mind grasps the entirety of Creation, I think I stop breathing. But I never take my eyes from those of the Archangel. They are so intense I cannot look away even if I want to.
The blue light of his spinning sword lights the shapes of the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius holding the shields, and I can see their outlines. They are in a circle around us, men and women, some of them 10-feet tall, but the blue archangel is taller. I see them lay their swords beside them and, as a group, go down on bended knee, their eyes fixed on the magnificent being in the center of the room. When they kneel, a stream of brilliant white lightning connects the centers of their shields, one after another, and locks them in place in a circle around Michael and me.
Then, the Archangel looks at me in sudden recognition as though he knows me from eons ago. That recognition brings me to stand at the center of a vast and suddenly comprehensible universe of colors, and I can hear the music of the angelic choir.
The Archangel goes down on bended knee before me. When he kneels down, I know in the moment what it means, that the vast Creation is a great living being, a World Soul, with all the individual souls related to each other like members of a family. The Archangel brings me to the Truth that each individual member is just as important to the Creation as the entirety of the Divine Family.
That concept expands my mind and I become superconscious because of the presence of the Archangel. As I stand at the center of the world I realize that the Creation is a symbol that stands for a simple, eternal Truth, that the individual soul matters as much as the entire Creation. But this Truth is so profound that it takes a universe to express it. We all play our parts in the dramatization of this Truth. The Creator is the Truth and so is the Creation.
I know that the Archangel is a GodSend and a Divine Messenger. The message is that the Creation can be shifted instantly to serve the needs of one individual soul. This is what is written on the Covenant in the Arc, the promise of divine intervention. The Archangel brings everything into perfect alignment, and when everything is in perfect alignment, the Archangel is fulfilled.
All over the world there is murder taking place and there always will be, but it has nothing to do with the Truth, and the Creation is never diminished by it. Just as I think I understand it all, I have the revelation that the Creator and the Creation are in service to the individual and also to something beyond itself, something so moving that it motivates the Creator to Create. Beyond the Creator, out in the vast, dark void of infinity, exists a being that the Creator loves as dearly as the Creation. That being is so complete within itself that it can exist without anyone or anything giving it expression. Its sole desire is to give of itself. That Being is Love.
I don't know how long I stood at the center of the world taking it all in. It could not have been longer than a few seconds but when the eternal concepts filled my mind I experienced eternity. Time spread out infinitely until it ceased to exist. Time stood still until I heard the Bar Mitzvah Praetorius again say, "He is here!"
Just then, Warner comes through the back door and runs into the room as the apparitions vanish. "Grace!" he calls out, but I can barely hear him. I might have stayed in that state of mind forever but for Warner shaking me and calling my name.
"Grace! Are you all right?" The relief in his voice at finding me alive brings me back to the Physical Plane.
"Yes, I'm all right," I answer, seeing for the first time the lifeless body of Stephen.
"The house smells like roses," Warner says.
"The Virgin Mary is here," I tell him.
"Where?" he asks in surprise.
Just then we hear a knock at the front door and a familiar voice call out, "Grace! Are you home?"
"Josh and Aaron," says Warner, with a smile.
Page 1 - A Ghost Tour | Light of Recognition
Page 2 - Deus Madre