© 2010. J. Chad Barrett, Sr. All Rights Reserved.
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John’s tears streamed down his face, and he wiped them with the backside of his hand. “I didn’t realize I was him. This is just too much for me to handle,” he said to the doctor. One of the detectives stayed behind while the other one had left for the police station an hour earlier.
“John, I want to talk to you about Katherine Cheaney,” said the doctor.
John ignored him. “I kidnapped my own wife? I am Mike Stanton—a murderer?” He said as he looked up at the doctor. His countenance was one of pure distraught.
“You mean your roommate?” asked the detective.
The doctor looked at the detective as if to say, “Let me do my job.” But John looked up, as well, and replied, “My roommate? Mike is my roommate. Yes, Mike is my roommate.” John seemed to enjoy his self-realization.
The doctor chimed in enthusiastically, “You know Mike?”
“Yes. He’s a horrible man,” said John.
“How do you know him?” asked the doctor. To him, this was quite a breakthrough.
“We talk all the time, Doc. We’re roommates. You know that.”
“Talk? You mean you—what—leave notes for each other?”
“No,” said John laughingly. He looked at the detective and the doctor. “We talk face to face.”
The doctor sat back in his chair. He was completely baffled. Face to face? Mike is not real! How could this be?
“So does this mean the little girl does not exist, either?” The other detective had joined his partner at the station. Both were trying to figure out this whole Mike/John/Katherine case.
“No. Karen Stanton is real. We have her school records, medical records—” said the partner, but he was interrupted by an associate who was handing him a document.
The detective examined it for a few seconds. “And now an official Amber Alert. Karen Stanton is the 5-year-old daughter of Mike Stanton. Her mother was mysteriously killed in a house fire three years ago. Okay, people!” He directed his voice to the entire office. “We have a real, live, missing girl. Let’s get to work!”
Within 12 hours every local news station was covering the Amber Alert for Karen Stanton, the 5-year-old missing daughter of Mike Stanton. Groups of people from various neighborhoods, churches, and clubs were setting up search-and-rescue teams to look for Karen. Flyers were being posted with her precious picture, and child’s rights activists put up a $50,000 reward for her safe return.
Soon the hunt for Karen had become a statewide phenomenon. Flyers were made into posters. Signs were transformed into t-shirts. A website was even dedicated to finding Karen. The pictures of such a precious little girl captured hearts everywhere, and many were willing to go to war and demand her safe return.
It was late at night at the Hamilton County Psychiatric Center, and an associate was administering his 3rd shift rounds to each room. He closed the door to a room after checking on the patient and walked to the next door—John Whitley’s room.
He inserted the key and slowly opened the door. The lights were off, and the associate decided that John was asleep. He walked in and saw a figure standing in front of the window on the other side of the room. The figure had a blanket over his head and was staring out the window. The moonlight shining through the window caused the associate to only see a silhouette of the figure, and the figure was gently rocking back and forth and singing softly.
“Hello, John,” said the associate. “Or is it Mike?”
The figure stopped rocking and singing. He slowly turned around and began walking toward the associate.
“I’m not John. And I’m not Mike. And I don’t like being in here anymore. I want my little girl.”
The associate froze. Suddenly, the figure charged him with a terrifying scream.
“I have formed a hypothesis that I think might work,” the doctor said on the phone to the detective. “In theory, this injection I can give Mr. Whitley should cause a severe enough change to his neurochemical levels that it would throw him into a transformed state of consciousness. It’s worth a try. Don’t you think?”
“Do it,” commanded the detective. “We’re on our way now.”
The detectives pulled into the parking lot about 15 minutes later. Upon their arrival, they were stunned to see the doctor running out to meet them. He was frantic and waving his arms at them.
“Sir! Sir! You must come quickly!” shouted the doctor.
The detectives hurriedly followed the doctor to John Whitley’s room. They noticed blood streaked across the floor—like a body had been dragged, and they followed it to a supply closet opposite the room. Both detectives pulled out their handguns and directed the doctor to stand back. One of them slowly opened the closet door.
Wide opened eyes horrifically stared directly at them as the body of the hospital associate fell face forward to the ground. And they noticed that his keys were missing.
The doctor was terrified, and the detectives grabbed him by the arms and hurried down the hall toward the main offices. Suddenly, the sound of a woman screaming brought the men to a dead halt. Then all was silent. The men stood still—the doctor was shaking.
Then they heard someone crying. A woman, as it sounded, was weeping. The sounds echoed through the empty halls of the psychiatric hospital. Then the cries grew louder and louder.
Suddenly, the woman shouted, “All I wanted was to have a daughter! A girl of my own, and now you are trying to take her away from me!”
The doctor couldn’t take anymore fright, and he took off running down the hall towards his office. The detectives yelled at him to stop, but he continued. And they began to chase after him.
Just then, the lights were turned off, and the detectives stopped. One of them tried a light switch, but nothing happened. The other pulled out a small flashlight from his inner coat pocket.
“Come on. Let’s go,” he said.
They ran down the hall and hung a left around the corner when, suddenly, they were greeted by the doctor and someone behind him. The detective shined his light in their faces. It was John. He had a blanket wrapped over the top of his head like a shawl, and his right arm was around the forehead of the doctor. The detectives noticed John’s left hand. He was holding a bloody knife to the doctor’s throat.
“Easy, now,” said the detective. “We’re not here to hurt you. We just want to talk. You can let the doctor go, and we’ll just talk. Okay?”
The detective’s attention was drawn to the doctor’s left hand as it slowly moved toward his outer coat pocket. The detective casually shook his head, trying to get the doctor to quit making moves and allow them to do their job.
Ignoring the instruction of the detectives the doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out a syringe.
“Why don’t you people just leave me alone? Why do you always have to get into my business? Can’t you see I’m just trying to raise my daughter like any proud, loving parent would want to do?” It was clear this wasn’t John.
Each detective had his gun drawn and was watching the doctor slowly maneuver his hand upwards toward his captor’s neck.
“So you must be Katherine,” said one of the detectives, trying to keep the attention away from the doctor.
“Of course, I’m Katherine! Who else would I be?” she shouted.
“And Karen—Karen is your daughter?”
“You better leave Karen alone, or I will kill you both!” she said. Her breathing became heavy. “Cross my heart—Karen…Karen…Ka—” Katherine began to lose her grip on the doctor, and her eyes started fluttering. The doctor took advantage of her switching and stabbed her in the neck with the syringe, shooting the medicine deep into her veins. Then the detectives each grabbed an arm and dragged Katherine down the hall to the offices. The doctor followed closely behind.
With their unknown enemy seated and tied securely in the chair, the doctor walked into the office, holding a medium-sized frame in his hands. The picture was facing him, and he sat down in a chair directly across from his patient.
“We don’t have much time,” said the doctor. Then he asked, “Okay. Who do we have here? John? Mike?”
The unknown enemy’s head began to shake, as if he was trying to shake something off.
“It’s working. He’s still switching,” said the doctor.
“How do you know it’s working?” asked one of the detectives.
“Because he’s still switching. Because it’s taking so long—it’s the medicine. The only problem is,” said the doctor, “I have no idea which personality he’ll land on.”
“What does this medicine do exactly?” asked one of the detectives.
“It slows the switching process. This way they should be able to actually see each other as he switches,” answered the doctor.
Then it was as if time had slowed for John. His eyes were closed, and his head still. Then he heard a voice, John. John. Everything is alright, John. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to give up your life for Karen. She’s worth it. There is nothing more important than to give your life for another, especially a child. Do not be afraid. Everything will be just fine.
The switching stopped. The unknown enemy’s head hung low—sweat dripping from his hair. Then his shoulders began to slightly bounce, and soon tears were streaming down his face.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry.” John looked up at the men in the room. “I will do whatever you need me to. Tell me what you want me to do.”
“John?” asked the doctor.
John breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. “Yes, it’s me.”
“John, I want to you look at something for me. Okay?”
“Okay. What is it? Will it hurt?” John asked.
“No. It won’t hurt.” And the doctor slowly turned the mirror around to face John.
John’s eyes suddenly grew wide, and he tilted his head back in fear. “Why is he here?” John asked with a frightened voice.
“John, we need your help. We need you to follow through with the switching, and get Mike to help you locate Karen. She’s in danger, John. You must help us.”
“I can’t! I can’t help! He’s a killer!”
“You will help us, John!” shouted the doctor. John’s eyes began fluttering. “You must get Mike to help us!” John’s head began to shake violently.
Suddenly, John was in a transitional switch and Mike swung his head back, yelled, and then threw it into the mirror, shattering it into pieces. His forehead was now bleeding, but he sat still—staring at the mirror.
“There you are,” he said. “Long time no see, Katherine.”
The men in the room were speechless. They felt a dark energy in the room, and their battered nerves were causing the hairs on their arms and backs of their neck to stand out.
“Give it up, Katherine. It’s over. You’ve lost. Give us the girl,” Mike said. There was silence for about a minute. Mike just sat bleeding and staring at the mirror. “Give us the girl, and I promise to take care of you.” Another minute of silence went by before Mike spoke again. “Cross my heart. Hope to die. I will take care of you, Katherine. John will never know about us.”
Another minute and Mike said, “Thank you, Katherine. Thank you.”
“Mike?” asked the doctor. “Mike, do you know where Karen is? Has Katherine revealed to you Karen’s whereabouts?”
“Yes. We will take you to her.”
“We?” asked the detective.
Mike looked at him and responded, “John and me.”
Lightning cracked across the black, starless sky revealing black clouds with each flash. With his hands cuffed in front, John led the detectives and four other police officers into an old, dilapidated apartment complex on the wrong side of town.
As they were about to walk through the front doors, one of the detectives paused and looked up at the shadowy, boarded windows. They gave such an eerie appearance of a face with darkened eyes. His partner spoke up. “What’s the matter,” he said as he looked up, too. “You’re not scared, are you?” Suddenly, lightning cracked again and it began to rain. The two detectives looked at each other with blank faces, and then they walked inside the building.
The inside was extremely dusty and rundown. The floor was checkered with black and white, and there was a staircase that circled upward to the second floor. It was a shame—this abandoned complex must have been so beautiful in its day.
John led the men up the stairs. “It’s this way,” he said. “Follow me.” They walked beside a balcony with doors every 12 feet on the opposite side. Finally, John stood in front of one of the doors.
“Is this it?” asked one of the officers.
“This is it,” replied John. He slowly reached for the door knob and turned it. The door squeaked as it opened. John looked at the detective, who motioned with his face for John to move in first.
As soon as they walked in, it was clear where the little girl was being kept. There was a door across the room with a padlock on it. The detectives ran over to it and inspected around.
But John noticed something unusual. His attention was drawn to a full-length mirror, and he couldn’t look away from it. His heart started to beat fast, and his breathing became heavy. Suddenly, his eyes widened with fear, and he pointed to the mirror and shouted, “No!”
As the detectives ran over to him, his eyes quickly fluttered and his head shook hard. Then, still cuffed, he punched one detective in the face and gave a strong back elbow to the other one in the throat. Mike grabbed one of their guns and aimed directly at the mirror.
“You will torture us no more, Katherine!”
Mike pulled the trigger and the mirror exploded. The blast sent shards of glass all over the room. The officers covered their faces with their arms from the flying glass. Then, as Mike’s hands recoiled upward with the handgun, something flew out of the mirror past the broken, flying pieces of glass. It blew Mike backwards at least 6 feet, and he landed hard on his back.
The police officers rushed to him, disarmed him, and held him down. Then one of the detectives shot the padlock and opened the door.
There she was—very dirty, and her clothes were torn. The frightened little girl was shaking and sitting in the far corner of the small room. She had tears streaming down from her red eyes. The detective holstered his weapon and walked carefully to her.
As he squatted down slowly he said, “Hi, Karen. My name is Charles. I’m a police officer.” He slowly reached for her, but she pulled back. “It’s okay, Karen. I’m not going to hurt you. We’re here to help you. We’re gonna take you home, honey.”
He tried to reach out again, and this time she allowed him to take her hand. Karen slowly stood to her feet. There were bruises and scrapes covering her legs. Charles carefully picked her up and walked out of the little room where Karen had been imprisoned.
The officer carried Karen right past John who was lying on the floor. John’s breathing was heavy. His eyes were wide as he stared at the ceiling. The police officers were looking back and forth—at John and at the shattered mirror.
The detective knelt down beside John and carefully raised his blood-soaked shirt. He was bleeding from a bullet wound in his upper abdomen. His breathing was slowing down, and his face was becoming pale.
The detective looked up at the officers standing around them. “He’s been shot,” he said.
“Which one of you got a shot off?” a stunned officer asked the rest of his men, but it was revealed that none of them had. They all looked at the mirror as a piece of glass fell to the floor.
“I—I don’t know what—what just—” the detective stuttered. He slowly shook his head in confusion.
“Did—did you find her?” asked John.
“Yeah,” answered the detective, still quite puzzled at the situation. “We found her. She’s gonna be okay.” Then the detective gathered his wits and said, “You did good, John. You did real good.”
“I was not afraid—to give my life—for her.”
“We need more people like you in this world, John. You did real good.”
Then John, the hero, closed his eyes and breathed his last.
A month had passed, and Karen was recovering well. Her foster parents were a terrific couple, and they had already discussed plans to adopt her.
It was about 9:00 on Saturday morning. The foster mother walked past Karen’s room and stopped. She backed up to watch Karen as she played with her new dolls. The mother leaned against the door frame and smiled. Karen stood up and, with a doll in each hand, walked directly over to her full-length mirror. She held up her dolls in front of the mirror, pretending they were talking to each other.
Suddenly, her head started twitching slightly. The foster mother’s smile slowly turned to a confused frown. Karen’s head was definitely shaking.
“Karen, are you okay?” asked the mother.
Karen’s head was down. Then she slowly lifted it and looked directly into the mirror.
“Hi,” Karen said with a smile. “What’s your name?”