Detective Karl grabbed his gun and a flashlight, pulled open the trap door, and ascended the ladder to the attic. Something had been making noise up there for the last three nights. At first, he had dismissed the sound as nothing more than the house settling, but there had to be some other reason for the constant thumping.
What Karl found would have made a lesser man run, screaming in horror.
A blood-covered apparition floated above a box of old magazines. Karl noted that the translucent ghost was dressed in an old-style police uniform, something out of the ‘90s. It took all of Karl’s will to resist gagging at the sight of the gaping hole in the man’s face.
The ghost smiled and shook what was left of its head, “It’s about time you came up here. You’ve wasted quite a bit of time. We should get going as soon as possible.”
“Who are you? What are you talking about?” Karl asked with surprising calmness.
“I’m Officer Bill Newman . . . or, I used to be. I’ve come to help you solve the Blue Murders.”
In the last twenty-five years, nearly a dozen policemen had disappeared. No trace had been found of any of them. The most recent had been over a year ago. Karl had known Sandra Bates; she was a strong and accomplished officer. The two of them had met during an awards banquet where they both received commendation for exceptional service.
“I’m familiar with the files. Your disappearance was in 1997. Why haven’t you come back and helped earlier?”
The ghost shrugged. “I don’t know. I only became aware of my existence a few days ago. At first, I thought it was still 1997 but after checking out the precinct, I learned the truth. It was there that I first saw you and noticed the award on your desk. I decided you’re the right man for the job. You have a certain . . . confidence about you.”
“Why’d you make me come up here? Why didn’t you just appear in my living room?”
“It takes a great deal of energy to make myself visible. I have very limited capabilities in the living world. Light tends to drain me. I’ve been building up strength.” As if on cue, the apparition faded slightly.
Karl was too good at his job to not try to figure out as much as he could about this amazing encounter. “How were you making that noise?”
“I’m really not sure of all the rules,” explained Newman. “I can’t touch or move anything that has ever been alive. I pass through wood and paper, but I can pick up stones or metal. I’ve been dropping this tiny rock to get you to come up here.” He opened his hand revealing a pebble.
Before Karl could ask another question, the spirit held up his other hand. “We don’t have time for this. You need to go to the basement of 1125 57th Avenue as quickly as possible. It’s an abandoned apartment building. Come in quiet. No sirens. Park a few blocks away. We don’t want to scare the killer away.” The ghost faded even more.
“How do you know the killer will be there?”
Before Newman could answer, he disappeared. The pebble clattered to the floor.
Karl knew he should have called for backup but he also knew that no one would have believed his story. He would handle things by himself.
One faint beam of light filtered through a tiny window providing the only light in the basement. Karl activated the flashlight on his phone.
He had checked the files during the drive. Officer Newman had disappeared along with his wife and young child. Newman’s was the only case that involved family members or any additional victims. His disappearance was not officially part of the Blue Murders but now it appeared that it should have been.
“You need to come this way,” said Newman’s ghostly shape as it emerged through a warped wooden door that sat, slightly ajar, on the far wall. He disappeared back through the door, beckoning Karl to follow.
With great effort, Karl pulled the door open. Its rusty hinges fought and groaned against his effort, but eventually, he was able to slither through the opening. A hallway extended into the darkness.
“This way,” said Newman. “Follow my voice. I used to play here when I was a kid. These tunnels were part of an abandoned subway project.”
Karl followed Newman’s voice until they reached a dead end. A cement door with huge iron hinges blocked the path. A heavy metal bar was wedged against the door, locking it shut from this side.
“The door’s very heavy, but if we work together, we should be able to open it,” said Newman. “Since it’s made of cement, I can’t pass through it.”
“Why would the murderer be in there?”
“Not the murderer,” replied the ghost, “But everything you will need to solve the mystery.”
Karl glanced at his phone. There was no reception. “Okay,” he said as kicked the metal bar aside. He grabbed the door’s iron handle and pulled. With great difficulty, the door began to slowly slide open.
Newman appeared beside him and joined in the effort. The door opened with ease. A stale stench assaulted Karl’s nose.
“Is super-human strength part of your rules?”
“In here,” said Newman, ignoring the question. He floated through the doorway.
Karl sighed deeply and followed.
“Oh, my God.”
Scattered throughout the large chamber were over a dozen bodies in varying degrees of decomposition. Leaning against the wall to his left was the body of a young woman wearing a New York City Police uniform. The other bodies were also wearing police uniforms. Karl had found the victims of the Blue Murderer.
“I’ll go get some help. We should be able to find some clues.”
“Wait,” said Newman. “There is something else you have to see. Go to the back of the room.”
There, Karl found two more bodies, barely more than skeletons. One was a woman and the other a child.
He turned toward Newman who still hovered by the door.
“Is this your family?”
“Yes,” replied the ghost. “I didn’t mean to do it. I was under so much stress. I cracked. When I returned to my senses, I brought them here but I couldn’t take the guilt. I blew my head off.” He motioned toward another body laying a short distance from the woman and child.
“What? You did this? What about the rest of the murdered policemen?”
“It’s because I was a policeman that my family died. It’s not fair. Why should my family die while you get to go on with your arrogant, happy lives? You don’t deserve any award; you deserve the same fate as my family. They all deserved it.”
Suddenly, the ghost disappeared through the opening. Karl ran toward the doorway but Newman slammed the door shut. Karl threw his shoulder against the cement barrier but the door would not budge. Additional attempts to push the door open yielded nothing but a sore shoulder.
Karl stared at the door. His cell phone was still not getting a signal. He began searching for a way out but even as he did so, he knew he wouldn’t find one. The Blue Murderer had reached beyond the grave to take another victim.
James Rumpel is a retired high school math teacher who has greatly enjoyed spending some of his free time turning a few of the odd ideas circling his brain into stories. He lives in Wisconsin with his wonderful wife, Mary.