Tim Chandler was walking around the exterior of Sand Piper Bluff Apartments, appearing to be inspecting the foundation, when Det. John Becker drove his Ford Police Interceptor sedan into the parking lot. He got out of the black unmarked police car just as the new building manager stopped his inspection and walked across the uncut grass to meet him.
“I’m Tim Chandler, the new apartment superintendent,” the young clean cut man said, extending his hand.
Det. Becker shook his hand. “I’m Detective Becker, pleased to meet you.”
“I don’t know what you’ll find in those old records,” Tim Chandler said, turning to walk toward the sidewalk. “I’ve never gone through them, of course. Mr. Zimmerman kept them locked in the basement. I guess when they closed the hospital down they just left things that had no other place to go. Moreover, by the looks of the basement, no one has gone down there much except to use the laundry room and tend to the furnace.”
Det. Becker followed Mr. Chandler up the porch steps. He looked along its length and at the decaying floorboards. Then he looked out over the landscape where a thick fog was obscuring the forest and the morning sun. “Is it usually this foggy?”
“No, it’s not,” Mr. Chandler said as he opened the door and stepped into the vestibule. “And I apologize for the condition of the building. When our only tenant moves out, we’ll probably end up demolishing the place, for safety reasons, and then sell the vacant land as lakeshore property.”
“I can tell this used to be a grand place at one time,” Det. Becker said, following Mr. Chandler into the lobby.
Tim Chandler stopped in his tracks when he saw the broken glass, from the office door, scattered over the floor. “What happened here?”
“It looks like someone broke into your office,” Det. Becker said, walking up to the office. “Is there anything missing?”
Tim Chandler cautiously stepped over the shards of broken glass and walked to his desk. He looked at the desktop and then began going through the drawers. “The master keys are missing. Someone stole the keys.”
“Are the master keys for the apartments in this building?” Det. Becker asked, looking down the hallway toward Ethel’s apartment.
“Yeah, they open all the rooms,” Tim Chandler said, picking up the flashlight sitting on the desk. “But who would take the keys? There’s no reason to go into any of the apartments.”
“Is the building kept locked at all times?” the detective asked.
“Yes,” Tim Chandler said. “Both the front and back doors require a key to get in and the tenant, Ethel Dory, is currently the only one with a key, besides me, to unlock those doors.”
“Was the front door locked when you got here?” Det. Becker asked, looking at the front door and then at the wooden chair laying on its side on top of the glass.
“Yeah, the front door was locked when I got here,” Tim Chandler said, walking out of the office. “I’ll see if the back door is still locked.”
While Tim Chandler walked past Ethel’s apartment to check the back door, Det. Becker checked the lower level windows for any signs of breaking and entering.
“This door is locked, too,” Tim Chandler said, walking back to the lobby. “I walked around the building before you got here and didn’t notice any tampering with the basement windows, but I must say, they’re not in the greatest condition.”
“Do you mind if we check the basement?” Det. Becker said, looking toward the dark staircase.
“Sure,” Tim Chandler said, switching on his flashlight. “The building’s been having electrical problems and the basement lights work only when they want to work.”
Det. Becker took a penlight from his breast pocket. “Lead the way, Mr. Chandler.”
“You can call me, Tim,” he said, walking toward the stairs. He flipped on a light switch near the stairs before walking down the steps. The basement lights powered on. He turned to Detective Becker. “I guess they decided to work today.”
They walked down the steps and into the basement. The stench of a rotting rodent filled the air.
“I put out mouse poison,” Tim said. “I guess it’s doing its job.”
“Not a problem,” Det. Becker said, looking down the corridor as the lights flickered.
“The records are this way,” Tim said, walking down the hallway. He took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door.
“Good thing you brought the key to this room since the ones in the office are missing,” Det. Becker said.
“The key to this room wasn’t on that ring,” Tim said. “Since this room contains old medical records the key was kept with the property manager, Phil Morgan, and not with Mr. Zimmerman’s master keys.”
“I’ll speak with Ms. Dory about the office and the keys before we leave,” Det. Becker said walking in behind Tim as he fumbled for the light switch.
They brushed cobwebs away from their faces as they walked into the musty room. Metal file cabinets, boxes of papers, and old charts—still lined up in the rolling chart rack—packed the small space.
“This is my first time in here, Detective. Actually, this is the first time anyone has been in here for years, at least according to Phil.” Tim said. “Is there anything I can help you find?”
Det. Becker walked up to the first file cabinet. “I’m looking for records that date back to 1969 when the place closed.” He opened the top drawer. “Specifically, records of the murder that occurred at that time and the name of the patient Susan Knight.”
“Murder?” Tim said, snorting with surprise. “I didn’t know there was a murder here. What happened?”
Det. Becker shined his light on the files in the cabinet and said, “A psychiatric patient murdered an orderly.”
“Are you trying to solve a cold case?” Tim said, flipping through a stack of papers inside a cardboard box.
“Something like that,” Det. Becker said, pulling out folders to inspect.
While the fluorescent lights in the hallway hummed with a headache-inducing buzz, they went through the documents. They each sneezed from the dust as they found a place to set so they could look through the documents in the dank room.
“Susan Knight,” Tim said, taking a folder from the bottom of a box. Inside were off colored papers secured with fasteners. “Is that what you’re looking for?”
Det. Becker took the papers from Tim, brushed the dust from the top sheet and began flipping through the pages, each dated and signed by nurses. “These appear to be the nurses’ notes from the correct time period. Do you mind if I take these back to the station so that I can take a better look at them?”
“You can take whatever you want, Detective,” Tim said. “Like I said, as soon as Ms. Dory moves out of this place it will likely be leveled, and everything in it.”
“Thank you,” Det. Becker said, flipping through the stack.
“Here are some more papers for Susan Knight,” Tim said, picking up another stack of papers that were pinned together. He blew dust and a long dead spider from them and promptly sneezed. “A doctor must have written these because I can’t read the handwriting. Now I know why they began making doctors type their notes into a computer.”
Det. Becker laughed as Tim handed him the papers. “These are the doctors’ progress notes and orders. I think I have what I need.”
“Good luck reading that chicken scratch,” Tim said.
Then a loud bang echoed through the basement. It was so loud it felt like the whole building vibrated.
“What was that?” Det. Becker asked, walking into the hallway.
“I don’t know,” Tim said. “I’d say it could be the furnace, but the furnace is off for the summer. It could be the building shifting. I didn’t notice a flaw in the foundation, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.”
The hallway lights powered off and then back on. Tim shined his light down the hall as he walked to the next room, the room that Ethel and Claudia were in the day before. “What the heck. Someone tore this place apart, too. Looks like they took an ax and broke through the back wall.”
Det. Becker walked inside and shined his light through the opening that Ethel had made. “It looks like whoever did this knew there was another room behind the back wall.”
“A locker room,” Tim said, walking up to it. He stepped inside. “These must be lockers from when this was a working hospital.”
Det. Becker’s light caught a reflection of something on the floor. He stepped inside and knelt next to a ring of three keys. “It looks like whoever broke in here lost their keys. They’re shiny and not covered in dirt like everything else, so they were recently dropped.”
Tim bent over to get a closer look. “I know those keys. That one is an apartment key for the first floor and the other is the key to get into the building.” He stood up and looked at Det. Becker. “They have to be Ms. Dory’s keys. But why would she break in here?”
Det. Becker picked up the keys. “I may have an idea. It also explains why the master keys were taken.”
“Ms. Dory is a little eccentric,” Tim said, walking back through the opening. “But I’m surprised she did this.”
Det. Becker walked through the opening and looked at the open file cabinet drawer, just as the basement lights flickered and then went out. “She was looking for something. I’ll go speak with her.”
“Watch your step, Detective,” Tim said, walking into the dark hallway. “I’m going to check the other rooms. That bang was not normal.”
Det. Becker, with stacks of papers and Ethel’s keys in his hands, followed Tim as he checked the other rooms. When he got to the scrying room, he pushed open the door, it squeaked as if they were moving a large door in a castle dungeon.
“Detective, look at this,” Tim said. He stood at the door and shined his light into the room. “Have you ever seen a room like this before?”
Det. Becker looked into the black room and at the round table with symbols carved into its top. Symbols of the Zodiac were in the outermost perimeter circle, followed by the alphabet, numbers, more symbols, and finally ending with a pentagram in the center. A spent candle sat in the middle. Then he looked at the large mirror on the back wall. It reflected their lights and bodies, but in a muted way, as if a haze was over the glass. Remembering what Ethel had told him, he said, “I think this is a scrying room.”
“You mean they had séances in this room?” Tim said, not wanting to explore the room any further.
“Maybe,” Detective Becker said, puzzling over their abnormal reflection in the mirror.
Tim walked out of the room and backed away from the door. “That room gives me the creeps. I’m moving on to the laundry room; it has to be a little more reasonable there.”
After they had finished inspecting the laundry and furnace rooms, the old kitchen, and archaic wash area, they went back upstairs.
“I’ll speak with Ms. Dory then we’ll file a police report, if you like,” Det. Becker said.
Tim shrugged. “If she pays for the damage done, I won’t file a police report.”
Det. Becker nodded and walked to Ethel’s apartment. He knocked. Moments later Ethel opened the door.
“Oh, hi, Detective,” Ethel said, standing off kilter. “Please, come in.”
“Thank you,” Det. Becker said, walking into Ethel’s apartment. He saw Claudia walk out of the bathroom, limping with her cane.
“Detective,” Ethel said, staggering to the couch, “this is my friend Claudia. Claudia this is Detective Becker.”
“Nice to meet you, ma’am,” Det. Becker said, nodding with a smile.
Claudia looked at the papers that Detective Becker was carrying and then sat at the opposite end of the sofa as Ethel. “Looks like you’ve been in the basement.”
“Yes, I have, and it appears that someone has broken through a wall in one of the rooms, and also into the superintendent’s office. Would you happen to know anything about that?”
“Would you like a cup of coffee, Detective?” Ethel asked, sweetly.
“No, thank you.”
Ethel looked at Claudia and then at Det. Becker. “I must confess, Detective, that I did both deeds. Claudia and I were looking for information that could help save Maggie. She’s innocent and I just need some physical proof to keep her from going to prison.”
“I’m glad you admitted to the damages,” Det. Becker said. “Tim Chandler said that if you pay for the damages that he won’t press charges.”
“He’s such a kind young fellow,” Ethel said. “Of course, I’ll pay for the damages.”
Detective Becker held up the set of keys. “Do you know who these belong to.”
Ethel winced. “They’re mine. They came out of my pocket when I fell and hurt my hip. That’s why I had to break into the office; I needed to get into my apartment without having to go back down into that room.”
Det. Becker looked at the two feeble old women. He felt like explaining the law to them but he knew they already knew it, or at least knew it well enough to know what they did was not legal. He also knew that the building would be torn down soon and that her intent was to help Maggie, not vandalize. Then he wondered if they had found what they were looking for. “Did you find anything?”
Ethel looked at the papers in his arms. “I see you have.” She looked at the envelope sitting unopened on the coffee table, unsure whether to tell him she found it or not because she wanted to read it before she let it leave her possession. She would have read it already but last night the pain pills put her to sleep and this morning she only just woke up when she heard the detective knocking on her door. On the other hand, Det. Becker was being lenient with her and the mess she made of the apartment building. She groaned in pain as she reached for the letter. “I found this letter, but I haven’t read it yet.”
“Where did you find it?” Det. Becker asked.
Ethel began opening the envelope. “You may as well set down, Detective; I’d like to read this before you take it . . . if that’s all right.” She pulled the brittle piece of notepaper from the envelope. “When I fell I noticed this underneath the lockers.”
The detective walked over to the round table in the living room and sat the stack of papers on it. He sat down, and said, “Could you read it aloud, please?”
“Sure, Detective,” Ethel said, putting on her reading glasses. “The envelope is addressed to Deborah Franklin and is from Dr. Bruce Hancock.”
“What date is on the postmark?” Det. Becker asked.
Ethel looked at the envelope. “It is dated September 11, 1969.”
“Is that when the hospital closed?” Claudia asked. Her voice was so shrill; Det. Becker immediately looked at her.
“Sometime around there,” Ethel said, unfolding the paper.
“Was the envelope sealed when you found it?” Det. Becker asked.
“No, it wasn’t,” Ethel said. “It had been opened.”
“May I have the letter and envelope when you’re done reading it?” Det. Becker asked.
“Whatever you like, Detective,” Ethel said. Then with a gravelly voice, she began:
“Deborah, I am writing you this letter because I did not want to be seen speaking with you, especially about Susan Knight.
First, I know you charted that the patient used bandage scissors to kill the orderly. I just do not want you to forget and chart or say otherwise.
Second, don’t mention that you and I saw the knife that Dr. Suharto brought to the hospital. . . .”
Ethel stopped and looked up at the detective. “Doctor Suharto? That’s the same name as Maggie’s psychiatrist.”
Det. Becker nodded in agreement. “Please continue reading.”
Ethel looked back down at the paper.
“Dr. Suharto quickly hid the knife after the incident and is prepared to deny its existence. He is a good doctor and I do not want his career to end over this, he will offer much great healing and benefit to psychiatric patients wherever he ends up taking residence.
Thank you for helping the young doctor remove the knife and replace it with bandage scissors. Susan Knight would have murdered the orderly with the scissors, or whatever weapon was handy, so there is no need to speak of the knife.
The doctor’s grave error in carrying the knife in his lab coat pocket instead of replacing in his briefcase was a bad decision. However, as you know, he was responding to a medical emergency. And because he has the utmost concern for the patients, he rushed to Susan Knight’s bedside to help her, not hurt her or the orderly.
One last thing. Since the knife was bloody and people were all around, he wrapped it in a towel and hid it behind . . .”
Ethel looked up. “The page is ripped.”
“May I see it,” Det. Becker said, reaching for it.
“Could the knife be the same one that was found in Maggie’s laundry?” Ethel asked, grasping at any straw she could.
“If it’s been hidden here in this building all this time,” Claudia said, as she kicked off her slip-on shoes. “Who would know about it?”
“The spirits know about it,” Ethel said. “Deborah and Bruce would know. And that Doctor Suharto would know.”
“But why would Doctor Suharto murder Mr. Zimmerman and frame Maggie?” Claudia put her massive legs on the coffee table.
“I still say the spirits had something to do with it,” Ethel said.
“I agree with Ethel, Detective,” Claudia said. “There are spirits here. I was the medium who accidently summoned the demon into the building, into this world, back in 1969. Down in the basement, in the scrying room.”
“Ms. Dory,” Det. Becker said. “Who else has been in this building, recently, besides you, Ms. McGee, Mr. Zimmerman, and the new manager?”
“No one,” Ethel said, folding the letter and placing it back into the envelope. “It’s been only me and Mr. Zimmerman for a long time.”
“Until Ms. McGee moved in,” Det. Becker said, standing up. He picked up the stack of papers and the letter. “I’ll be in touch,” he said, walking to the door. Then he stopped and turned to Ethel. “Don’t forget to settle up with Tim Chandler. And you two ladies stay out of trouble.”
Ethel smiled and briefly fluttered her scant eyelashes as he walked out the door.
Claudia turned to Ethel. “Where do you think that doctor hid the knife?”
“I don’t know,” Ethel said. “But I’m getting the feeling it was in the scrying room.”
“You talked to him a couple days ago, didn’t you?” Claudia said. “Did you talk about the knife?”
“Yes, I did talk with him,” Ethel said. “But I don’t think we talked about the actual murder or the knife.”
“Do you think that Maggie’s doctor is the same Doctor Suharto that was in the letter?” Claudia asked.
“I don’t know. I’m sure there is more than one psychiatrist named Suharto,” Ethel said, standing and limping to the phone. “But there’s one way to find out.”
“Who are you calling?” Claudia asked.
“I’m calling Doctor Suharto,” Ethel said, taking a business card held to the face of the refrigerator by a magnet. “I’m going to bait him.”
“How?” Claudia said.
“I’m going to tell him details about the knife, or rather the karambit as the detective calls it and see if I can make him wonder if it’s the same knife as the one he hid,” Ethel said. “I’ll mention something about the DNA testing being done on it. Because if it is the same knife, his DNA may be on it and maybe he’ll take the bait and come here and see if his knife is still in its hiding place.”
“You can also mention that they’re going to be tearing down the building,” Claudia said. “He won’t want the knife being found in the building’s debris. But even if it is the same knife, it doesn’t mean that he killed Mr. Zimmerman. He probably didn’t even know Mr. Zimmerman.”
“Actually,” Ethel said. “I doubt Doctor Suharto murdered Mr. Zimmerman, it makes no sense. But what I’m curious about is the knife.”
“Why don’t you just let the detective take care of it?” Claudia said. “I’m sure he’s planning on speaking with the doctor. Plus, it would be easy enough to find out if he worked here in the past because it has to be listed in his work history.”
“I want to find the knife that Susan Knight used to kill the orderly,” Ethel said. “And I bet it’s this Doctor Suharto that hid it.”
“And what good will that do?” Claudia asked.
“It’ll show that somehow these things are connected,” Ethel said. “And more importantly, it may get us closer to finding out who actually murdered Mr. Zimmerman.”
Ethel dialed the old rotary phone. It rang to the doctor’s office.
“Doctor Suharto’s,” a female receptionist said.
“May I speak with Doctor Suharto?” Ethel said.
“May I ask whose calling?” the receptionist said.
“This is Ethel Dory, I’m the emergency contact for Margaret McGee and I have some important information for Doctor Suharto.”
“He’s with a client right now. I could have him call you back,” she said. “Oh, wait; the client just left. I’ll see if he’ll take your call. Can you hold?”
“Yes, I can wait.”
While a recording of the history and benefits of Port Glenn Psychiatric and Forensic Hospital played in the background, Ethel waited. She looked at Claudia, who was now walking toward her, wanting to hear what was being said on the phone.
“This is Doctor Suharto. How can I help you?”
Ethel held the phone’s receiver so that Claudia could hear. “Hi, Doctor Suharto. This is Ethel Dory, Maggie McGee’s emergency contact. I was wondering if you’ve had a chance to read the police report about Mr. Zimmerman’s murder.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because I’ve talked to the homicide detective in charge of the case and he mentioned a strange kind of knife, he called it a karambit,” Ethel said, winking at Claudia. “Have you heard of that kind of knife before?”
“Yes, I have. What is its significance?”
“I’m the only tenant left in Sandpiper Bluff Apartments, the building that used to be Lakeshore Sanatorium and Psychiatric Hospital, decades ago. Anyway, soon as I leave they are going to be setting the wrecking ball to this old building. The detective found old medical records from 1969 with the name Doctor Suharto on them. Do you happen to be related to that doctor?”
Claudia frowned and mouthed ‘what are you talking about?’
The doctor did not answer right away and then he said, “It sounds to me, Ms. Dory, that you’re trying to conduct your own investigation. If you have any further questions regarding this matter, you can take them to my attorney. Good day.”
“He just hung up on me,” Ethel said, dropping her jaw.
“You didn’t quite tell the doctor the truth,” Claudia said. “And you probably just ruined your chance of ever talking to him again.”
“I want him to come here and see if his knife is still in its hiding place,” Ethel said, shaking a finger because of her keen idea. “By telling him that I’m the only one in the building and that it soon will be demolished, he may come back and look for it.”
“How’s he getting in?” Claudia said, walking back to the couch.
“I’ll leave the front door unlocked,” Ethel said, walking into the spare room where Maggie’s belongings were kept. She unzipped Maggie’s backpack and took out her video camera. “I’ll hide the camera, and when he comes here and goes into the scrying room—where I think the knife is, or rather used to be kept until someone took it out and murdered poor Mr. Zimmerman—it’ll trip the motion detection sensor on the camera and record him looking for it. The scrying room is the one place people didn’t go to every day. I’m sure he didn’t want a bloody knife in the doctor’s lounge or in his car.”
“If he comes here looking for the karambit, it means he didn’t murder your superintendent,” Claudia said. “All it’ll prove is that he is the same Doctor Suharto that worked here in 1969, and the detective can figure that out rather easily.”
“And the same Doctor Suharto who covered up murder evidence and saved his career,” Ethel said. “And it will show us if the knife is still there, and if it’s gone then the karambit that was used to kill Mr. Zimmerman was the same one from 1969.”
“It still won’t tell us who killed the superintendent. So exactly how does that help Maggie?” Claudia said.
Ethel sighed. “I don’t know, but it at least shows there are more people involved than Maggie. And it’ll prove that the knife was not one Maggie owned and that more investigation will need to be done before Maggie is sent to prison.”
“Okay,” Claudia said, as she used the handle of her cane to pull a pillow toward her. “Next, and I really hate to ask this question, but when are we doing that séance? I’m only asking because I want to get it over with so that I can get the hell out of this building and go home and relax where there’s no stress.”
“Let’s reinforce our protection and then do it around noon,” Ethel said, fiddling with the camera. “I’m not looking forward to doing it either, but we need to do it to weaken the spirits and hopefully send them and the demon back to Hell.”