“Yes?” she said.
“This is Detective Becker, homicide detective from the Black Water Police Department; is this Ethel Dory?” he asked.
“Yes, Detective, please come in,” Ethel said, buzzing him in. She quickly put the book of spells back on the bookshelf and walked to the front door. She had been casting subtle white spells his way, beckoning him to open his eyes and search for the truth behind Mr. Zimmerman’s murder. She wanted to tell him she was expecting him as she opened the door and the detective approached, but decided against it. “Come in, please, Detective.”
“Thank you,” he said, walking into her cozy Victorian style apartment. “What is that smell? Marijuana?”
She closed the door. “Heavens no, it’s sage. I use it for protection. Please sit down.” She pointed toward the sofa.
He looked at the old lumpy flowered cushions and opted to stand. He took a small notepad and pen from the inside breast pocket of his suit coat. “I apologize for stopping by unexpectedly, but I had a few more questions about Margaret McGee.”
Ethel sat on the couch. “Not a problem, Detective.” She took a wood tip cigar and was about to light it, and then stopped. “Do you mind?”
He shook his head and watched her spark the thin brown cylinder of tobacco leaves. “I have a few questions about the karambit.”
“Karambit?” Ethel asked, squishing her eyebrows together.
“The knife found in Ms. McGee’s apartment,” he said. He took a photograph from his breast pocket. “Here is a picture of it. Have you seen it before?”
“I believe you’ve asked about the knife already,” Ethel said, taking the picture. She looked at the curved crescent blade, stained with what she assumed was Mr. Zimmerman’s blood. It made her think of a cat’s claw or a hook, a few inches long. “No, I’ve never seen a knife like this before. It’s a rather odd knife, where is it from?”
“Knives of this type are from Southeast Asia,” he said. “This particular one appears to be from Indonesia and dates back to the twelfth century. It probably was used to rake roots and to plant rice in fields. Later, it was found to make a good weapon because its curved blade maximized its cutting potential. It was a popular weapon of women who would tie it into their hair and use it in self-defense.”
“You’re kidding,” Ethel said, handing back the photograph. “I can tell you, I’ve never seen Maggie with it, or any weapon. She has never even talked about weapons.”
Ethel chanted a spell for the truth to be revealed, silently in her mind. With Detective Becker so close to her, it was bound to be effective.
Detective Becker looked around the room and decided to sit in a chair at Ethel’s small round table; the one where she typically cast spells. “I thought about what you said and did more research on this building.”
Ethel smiled. “Yes, please continue.”
“I found that you were a receptionist here when it was known as Lake Shore Sanatorium and Psychiatric Hospital and that there was a murder here shortly before it closed down.”
Ethel nodded. “Yes, that was terrible. I remember it well.”
“Would you mind telling me what you remember?” he asked.
Ethel puffed her cigar. “I was the receptionist on duty when they brought in the young girl; she was around ten years old, I believe. Anyway, the nurses always talked with me, when they were going off shift. Confidentiality was not as big of thing back then, in 1969. They told me about how unpredictable the young girl was, how she would be so sweet and obedient one moment, and then without warning would turn into someone possessed. I believe her name was Susie Knight. I don’t know the young girl’s family history. Anyway, I remember the day of the murder being chaotic. Patients were extra violent and the nurses were on edge, ready to quit and walk out the door.” She puffed the cigar. “The doctor on duty that day was Doctor Bruce Hancock. He was typically nonchalant, but that day he seemed on edge. I don’t know if it was because he was mentoring a young doctor who was working on becoming a psychiatrist, or just because it was one of those days.”
“Do you remember the young doctor’s name?” he asked.
“No, but he was from another country and spoke with broken English,” she said. She thought a moment and then said, “There are old documents in the basement that they never took when the place closed. Maybe his name is in there.”
He looked up from the pad. “Yes, I would like to see them. I’ll contact the owners and get permission to go through them.”
Ethel nodded in agreement, but she and Claudia were going to go through them with or without permission when they searched for Debbie and Bruce’s lockers. She tapped the cigar ashes into a glass ashtray. “Soon there were screams, blood-curdling screams. And shouts to call the police and an ambulance as people ran down the stairs, tripping over each other. It was like a stampede of cattle rushing out of the building.”
“What exactly happened with the girl and the victim?” he asked.
“The orderly had taken lunch in for the girl,” Ethel said. “The nurses were busy, and Susie was looking sad and I guess he must have felt sorry for her, so he decided to unrestrain her so that she could feed herself. Then a nurse went into the room and I guess she had a pair of bandage scissors in her pocket. Somehow, the girl was able to grab them and she began stabbing the orderly who was helping her do something and she ended up . . . killing the young man, Damian Richards. It makes me sad to think about it.”
“Do you know what happened to the scissors?” Det. Becker asked.
“No, I never saw the scissors,” Ethel said. “Come to think of it, no one ever talked about the scissors. I think I learned about them in a news story in the local paper. But that’s not the end of the little girl’s problems. After the murder she was apparently kept restrained continuously and then she was accidentally killed by suffocation, I guess, because of one of the nurses’ negligence.”
“Is there anything else you remember about that time?” he asked.
“Not really,” she said. “We were told not to talk about it, except when answering the investigators questions. And that is how it was until two more deaths occurred.”
“Two more deaths?” he said, resting an elbow on the table so that he could quickly take notes. “Tell me about them.”
Ethel now had her chance to talk about Debbie and Bruce. Hopefully, he would see how they fit into the picture. “It didn’t happen here at the hospital but out on a boat on Lake Michigan, not far from this place. Two nurses, I think their names were Deborah and Margaret, along with Doctor Hancock, and the boat’s captain were all killed. I guess the boat blew up from a gas leak.” She leaned forward. “Detective, I know you don’t believe in spirits and that these things happened a long time ago, but could you please humor me and do some research on the nurses, the doctor, the little girl, and the weapon? I just have the feeling you might find the answers you seek.”
Det. Becker did not say anything as he put the notepad and pen back into his pocket. “I will be back to go through the documents in the basement.” He stood up and looked around the room. Wallpaper with elaborate floral designs was on two walls, while red curtains, embroidered with poppies, hung from a brass rod over the front window. “Have you found another place to live?”
Ethel stood up, reaching the door before Detective Becker. “Not yet.” She paused, and then said, “There is one more thing you need to know before you go.”
He stopped at the door and looked at her. “What is that?”
“Back in 1969 my friend Claudia and I were conducting séances in the basement—all legit mind you and with the manager’s permission—but we inadvertently conjured up an evil spirit, a demon. After that had happened, things went from bad to worse here at the hospital. Staff began abusing patients and the little girl, Susie, murdered the orderly not long afterward.” She studied his reaction. She was relieved when he did not laugh or dismiss her remarks. Good, maybe there was a little bit of him that was beginning to believe her story. “That demon and the evil spirits are preying and feeding on Maggie. You have to help her, Detective.”
Detective Becker stared at her and then said, “I’ll do what I can.”
Ethel was pleasantly surprised by his answer. She opened the door and stepped aside. “I’m glad you stopped by, Detective.”
The detective walked out the door. Ethel watched him as he walked through the lobby. “We’re counting on you, Detective.”