I was a private detective in the 70's. This case ruined my life. - Chap 2
There I was, on the lawn of that fucking house: 468 Crickett St. I was still completely bewildered at what I had experienced in that house, and I knew I had to get the hell out of the area. My initial thought was that I was set up by Mrs. Willard. If that was the case, then me showing up unannounced would rouse some kind of emotion from her. She would expect something to have come of my visit to the abandoned house she pointed me toward. So the first thing I did once I left that place was to hop right back into my car and drive to the Willards to see how she would react. My plan was to feign ignorance and try to ask another question or two that I had “forgotten” during our first meeting. I made my way back to my car, parked on the street about a block away from the house. Keeping my eye over my shoulder every step of the way. Eventually, after what seemed like forever, I was standing in front of my vehicle.
I opened the door to my Maverick and got inside. Goddamn, I loved that car. It was perfect inside and out and served me for many years before and after this incident, but I digress. No one wants to listen to an old man wax poetic about his ancient car. I slid onto the leather seat and put the key into the ignition. The engine of the Maverick roared to life, and I put it in drive. I finally felt safe again, but that wouldn’t last. I turned on the radio and a familiar song was playing. It was The Doors, Break on Through, I loved this song. As I drove back toward the Willards mansion of a home, I turned the music up in an attempt to block out the paranoia of what had happened to me only minutes, seemingly hours ago.
You know the day destroys the night
What the fuck had happened in that house? It’s possible I missed the key when I initially entered, but that doesn’t explain the goddamn footsteps I know I heard after I entered the locked room and read what was on the table.
Night divides the day
Then I had realized, in my fear, I forgot to grab the slip of paper. The only piece of physical evidence afforded to me at this point in the case. I had fucked up royally, luckily, I remembered the contents of the note as if it were burned into the back of my brain and scarred into my retinas.
Try to run, try to hide
Ultra Gate program, Test subject 121, Willard, Jason. Status: Assimilated. What in the fuck did that even mean? What is Ultra Gate? Were there 120 other people involved with whatever it was? I shuddered at the thought of what “Assimilated” meant.
Break on through to the other side, break on through to the other side, break on through to the other side, yeah.
Whatever that means, it didn’t say deceased, so my theory of Jason being dead was being brought into question. For all I knew though, assimilated could be anything. He could be stitched to another poor fucker in a basement somewhere, begging to be killed. My mind drifted to darker places than even a heroin needle in the eyeball. The song continued
Made the scene week to week, day to day, hour to hour
Was it the goddamn government? I was so royally fucked if it was. I can handle myself just fine, but not against Uncle Sam.
The Gate is straight, deep, and wide. Break on through to the other side.
Eventually, I made it back to the Willards home. At this point, the sun was going down, so it was around 5 o clock? 6? I’m hazy on that detail. Regardless, what’s important here is that Ronald, the head of the Willard household was also home now, and could be questioned. I parked in their driveway, silenced my radio, and walked toward the door. I gave a swift knock, and before long, a chubby man with a beer gut and a flat top haircut greeted me at the door. I took this to be Ronald Willard.
“Who are you?” slurred Ronald, it was obvious by his tone, demeanor, and scent that he was more than a little buzzed.
“Mr. Willard, hello, evening. I’m Frank Chase, the private investigator you’ve hired to find your son. I suppose we haven’t met in person due to your busy schedule.” Ronald was a contract construction foreman for a local company. He oversaw a majority of the work done on most of the infrastructural buildings in the city. Because of this, he was very wealthy.
“Oh-hic-hello mister investigator” warbled Ronald.
“Please, sir, call me Frank,” I retorted casually.
“C-Come in, I’ll get you a drink,”
“Sure, but I would like to ask you and your wife a few more questions regarding your son’s case. There were some that I didn’t get to ask earlier today because of the mental state of your wife.”
“Fine, fine, no problem, come on in.”
I walked back into the Willards house, and before long was once again seated at their immaculate kitchen table.
“I’ll go get Beth.” Slurred Ronald as he turned on his heels and barked toward the stairs leading to the second floor.
“BETH! GET DOWN HERE, PI GUY IS BACK TO ASK YOU MORE QUESTIONS!” roared Ronald with all the eloquence of a werewolf.
“Jesus Christ” I whispered under my breath like it was pulled from me.
The pounding of feet from upstairs with a loud “OKAY COMING” came before Beth Willard was once again sitting at the kitchen table, across from me. With Ronald sitting next to her, nursing a whiskey. I declined a beverage.
“Good to see you again, detective!” Said Beth enthusiastically “Did you find anything else about Jason, did you go to Crickett st?” she was starting to rapid-fire questions like a crazy woman. “Please, did you find anything? Please?” She started to break down and cry before I could even tell her anything.
“Mrs. Willard, please, I just have a few more questions, I did go to Crickett st, but I didn’t find anything but a locked, and abandoned house that I would risk trespassing charges to enter.”
“What in the fuck are we paying you for?!” Yelled Mr. Willard, he slammed his whiskey to the table causing a small bit to fly up and hit his cheek.
“Ronald, calm the hell down!” chimed in Beth. She was now focusing her mania on her husband instead of me. Better him than me I suppose.
“Shut up, woman, this is my house, and my money is paying this shit head.”
“Mr. Willard, let’s be reasonable, I’m just trying to find your son, what good am I if I get arrested in the process, huh?”
“I don’t give a flying fuck what happens to you as long as Jason is safe! You hear me! I will pay you double, triple, just find my son, goddammit!” Mr. Willard was getting to be unhelpful, and I was starting to feel like coming back later would be my best option. However, I needed the money desperately, and triple pay would set me on easy street for quite a while.
I decided against it, I could always come back later. As it would turn out, money means nothing anymore when your reality is absolutely shaken to its core. Currency is meaningless when you know the things I know.
“Alright, Mr. Willard, then with that, I’ll be going. I will find your son, but I can’t risk my livelihood. We will talk soon. Goodnight!” I said as I moved my coat to make the view of my firearm clear. I made for the exit of their home.
At this, Ronald was left rather speechless, then he just proceeded to chug the rest of the whiskey in his glass and storm away from the kitchen table. He knew they needed me. He didn’t want an actual cop poking around his place. I knew Ronald was an abuser the minute I saw him, and the bruises on Beth’s arms. For now, I had to grin and bear it. I could fuck him up some other time.
I exited the house and entered my car again. The sun had set completely, and I was alone in the maverick, surrounded by pitch darkness until the engine roared to life and the headlights cut through the darkness. Once the lights came on, I looked forward to get my bearings as I shifted the car into reverse. I noticed a small piece of paper on the inside of my windshield wiper. I thought nothing of it at first. I stepped out, took it off of my windshield. I almost threw it away, I wish I had just pitched it and not thought anything of it. As usual, curiosity overtook me and I opened the folded paper. My blood turned to ice as I read the short, but effective note.
Hello, Frank. We are watching you
The message was followed by a small symbol that I couldn’t recognize at the time.
I froze. I was fucked, they followed me. Where were they? I had to assume they were watching me and were still around. I was only in the Willard’s home for 5, 10 minutes tops. I decided to play it cool, and get back in my car and just leave. To my surprise, there were no assailants in the darkness, no spike strip underneath my car to make me a more vulnerable target. Nothing, whoever was fucking with me was doing it for sport at this point. They had multiple chances already to take me out, so why not? That thought scared me more than a knife in the dark.
A few minutes later, I made it to my modest apartment. Opened the door to no one, as usual. I’m a loner, always have been. Never married, no kids, shit, I don’t even like animals. I prefer solitude, honestly. I just don’t prefer it when I know I’m being stalked by god knows who. I was completely exhausted from the prior day, but there was no way I was going to sleep yet. I was too on edge from all the events of the day. Eventually, after hours of drinking cheap beers with a gun trained on the door, I slipped into a deep, alcohol-induced sleep. To this day, 40 plus years later, I still remember my dream that night.
I stood in a desert. It was vast as an ocean, and I felt the heat against my skin, the sand blowing in the wind, buffeting my arms and legs like little stinging insects. In front of me, far off in the distance, I saw what looked like the figure of a person, clad in a white robe. I started moving toward the figure, inching my way through the sand as the wind picked up. Closer and closer I moved toward the figure until I noticed it was a woman. She was still far off, but I could see her beauty from where I stood, and it enticed me. I could think of nothing more than getting closer to that woman. She had a magnetizing radiance that took me to another world completely. Just as I was maybe twenty or so feet away, the sky cracked open, splitting the day to night. It was as if we were standing on a massive eyeball, and the eyelid blinked. Light cascaded into darkness for a moment, then back to the light. Every step this started to happen. Faster and faster as I approached the woman. I still couldn’t stop, I needed to be near her. I needed to touch her. The sand beneath me gave way and I fell into absolute darkness. It was like the world around me was sucked away, like an artist pulling a draft down and crumpled it up, tossing it out. Everything changed again, and the scene before me was surreal.
I was up in the sky, naked this time. Below me, a white city, I say that because it was so reflective in the light that it almost burned. I looked up, averting my eyes from the city. Once again in front of me was the beautiful woman from before. Staring at me, staring into me. I felt a pull and my body was moved toward her like a piece of iron to a magnet. I could feel my chest moving ahead of my body, and in an instant, I was before her. Splayed, naked, afraid, open, vulnerable. The feeling that I had was gone, replaced by unfathomable shame and despair, and I wanted to be rid of this place. I looked down, and the city beneath me turned from a white, shining beacon to a cold, dead place. There were bodies hanging from houses, and massive fires with more dead bodies burning. Meanwhile, there were creatures I can’t describe properly moving, writhing, shifting, through the city. They were dismantling the people, tearing their limbs apart and throwing them onto the pyres. I looked away, back to the woman who was now inches from my face. She spoke words I couldn’t understand, in a language that didn’t sound real. Then she extended her hand and touched mine. The instant it happened I woke up in my chair in a cold sweat.
“Holy fuck, I said out loud.” Before trying to stand up. When I did, I noticed a small piece of paper on the floor near my door. As if it were slipped under the doorway. My heart froze, suddenly, I remembered my situation. I rushed over to the piece of paper and picked it up. I felt like I was gonna vomit, and it wasn’t the booze. On the floor was another note…I picked it up and opened it to see a familiar document staring back at me with a new annotation.
You forgot this, Frank.
Ultra Gate program, Test subject 121, Willard, Jason. Status: Assimilated