I rushed out the door and was on my way to the school in minutes. The pain in my stomach had subsided to a dull ache. The man’s voice and the school bell played in my head alternately. I couldn’t think. It was just too scary to even try and figure out what had happened or what was happening in school right now. I just had to get there. I was on autopilot, not bothering with the speed limit signs, struggling to keep the voices out of my head. The insistent ring of my cell phone broke through into my senses. I picked it up, half scared that it would be the same guy.
“Hi sweetheart, what’s up? Haven’t heard from you all morning.” Franco’s voice came through.
I let the wave of relief wash over me and tried to explain what had happened. But, I must have sounded like I felt because after just a few words that I think included ‘Paige’ and ‘school’, I heard Franco saying he’ll meet me at the school in ten minutes.
I screeched to a halt in front of the building, not bothering with the ‘No Parking’ signs, and ran up the steps to the school office. As I entered the school, the school bell rang, sending shivers up my spine. I rushed to the school office and pushed the door open with such urgency that Mrs. Byrne was on her feet before I was inside.
“Paige!” I demanded breathlessly. “I have to see Paige – now!” I was screaming now and Mrs. Byrne looked like she’ll have a heart attack. The look on her face made me realize that I must look like a madwoman. Kids and teachers had started gathering outside the door. Just then, Franco rushed in, I managed to whisper “Paige” before falling into his arms.
“Honor thy father and mother!” Rinnggg…. The school bell wouldn’t stop ringing!
I woke up with a start. My head still buzzing with sounds. Franco was instantly at my side.
“Where’s Paige?!” My voice was strained.
“I’m here, Mom!” Paige cried and hugged me with same joy and relief that I was feeling. I gently pulled away from her and looked around me. I was in the nurse's office. The school nurse came and checked me before proclaiming that I was perfectly fine and that we could leave whenever we wanted to. Then, she left the room, leaving the three of us alone.
Paige knelt down beside me, her face anxious and it looked like she’d been crying for sometime. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. How are you? I’m sorry I scared everyone like that. I..I thought you’d been kidnapped.”
“But, Mom I spoke to you just a while ago! Besides, who can kidnap me from inside the school?”
“I know, but at that moment I couldn’t think rationally Paige. I’m sorry.” I felt stupid. Why did I make such a scene? And how was I going to explain exactly what had happened. And then, as if one cue, Franco asked “What happened dear? I could hardly make out what you said on the phone and you were screaming for Paige when I got here. Is everything alright?”
No. Everything was not alright, I felt like telling him everything right then. But I couldn’t. He and Paige were what made me feel my life was normal. I couldn’t tell them and make their lives miserable too.
But I had to tell them something. So, I told them about the phone call, leaving out the parts about my dreams and the possible connection to Nona’s murder.
Franco was concerned and wanted to report it to the police, but I wanted to wait for a while to figure some things out for myself. Moreover, Paige was still shaken from the entire episode and I wanted to be with her for some time and calm her. So, I convinced Franco that we should first go home, take some time to calm down, and then call the police.
After apologizing to the principal, we left for home. All of us were silent on the way back. I was trying to make sense of who that guy had been and why had he chosen to call me. If he was the killer, how did he find out that I was connected to the murders? Only Roma, my best friend knew my entire secret. At first she’d laughed it off but had, with time, been forced to acknowledge that I had a “gift”.
Then, it struck me. Nona! I was supposed to meet her today. Maybe the killer knew about that and was now trying to play a game with me. Why me? Maybe he wanted the attention. That’s what most serial sociopath killers were out for – attention. From the media, the police, any one. And this one was now playing a game with me. Trying to gain my, a professional psychologist’s, attention and prove that he was smart and brutal. That seemed to be the only logical explanation. I felt the goose bumps on my arms. I’d never treated or met anyone like this before. But, I’d read enough case studies to know that this guy could become extremely dangerous for my family. I had to do something. I decided to confide my fears in Franco and go to the police. Then, I’d send Paige away to visit my parents in Houston. I’d at least sleep a little easier knowing my Paige was safe.
It was late afternoon by the time we entered our driveway. I had a weird feeling as I turned the key in the lock and stepped into the house. Something just wasn’t right. I felt a prickle at the back of my neck and I found myself looking into someone else’s kitchen. I had never seen this house before. Where was I? A woman’s scream pierced the air and then that voice and those words “Thou Shall Honor Thy Father and Mother!” boomed in my ears. I was transfixed to the spot. Someone was shaking my shoulders… I was too scared to turn around and then Franco’s face appeared in front of mine! I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out. I blinked and realized I was back in my own home. Franco and Paige were looking at me anxiously. Somehow, I managed to laugh and make them believe I was tricking them.
As soon as I got a chance, I went upstairs and jotted down the entire day’s events before I could forget any little detail. As I wrote, I calmed down a little. I was very unnerved by what had just happened. I’d never had a vision while I was awake. I’d always only dreamt at night. I didn’t know what this meant. Did it mean my powers were increasing or did it mean the killer had got into my head? Was it someone I knew?
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Franco interrupted my thoughts. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost. And I can see that you’ve been scribbling in your journal. So, something must be up. You pick that thing up whenever something bothers you. I still don’t understand what is that you cannot share with me? Why don’t you trust me?”
“Please Franco. Let’s not fight. I’m really exhausted. It’s been a very long day. You know its not that I don’t trust you. We’ve discussed this before. I’ll tell you when I think you’re ready for it.”
“Fine. Go ahead and play mystery woman.” Franco stormed off.
I didn’t know how to handle this. I knew he was right. He had a right to know what was depriving him and me of a complete, honest relationship. I sometimes wondered why he put up with me at all. I was only worried about how he’ll react. I wasn’t sure he’ll be able to handle the truth. He’d probably think I need to a see a psychiatrist myself. It was too unrealistic for someone like him. Who knows, maybe I did need to check myself into an asylum after the way I acted today.
Wearily, I locked my journal away and went downstairs to fix us a meal. All three of us had skipped lunch and hunger pangs had started striking me. I warmed up some leftover casserole and tossed up a salad. I started setting the table and called out to Franco and Paige to come and eat. I switched on the TV and went to get the salad.
I returned, only to hear the news presenter say, “And in news that has just come in, the LAPD has found a woman murdered in her home. They refused to divulge details of the case but said that the murder is shockingly similar to the ritualistic murder of Nona Flores, the star witness in the Sanchez case, whose body was found in a mine yesterday. The police arrived on the scene after a neighbor reported screams from the house. But, in the few minutes that the police took to arrive, the killer had fled.”
As this news sank in, I realized that I'd probably witnessed or rather heard this murder a couple of hours ago as it was happening and I could do nothing! I felt the familiar pangs of guilt and regret.
The photo of a pretty, dark-haired woman came on screen as the reporter continued, “We’ve just received details of the victim, Maya Seth, another woman who was in the news recently for taking her parents to court over an inheritance issue. In what seems to be an eerie connection to the case, Maya’s body had the sign “Thou Shall Honor Thy Father and Mother” around her neck. This gruesome murder seems to point to a serial killer on the loose and we would like to advise everyone, especially single women, to be careful.”
Paige had just entered the room and was looking at the screen with horror. As the report ended, she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “Mom, that was my biology teacher!”