Her name was Dawn and we were connected for a time, but some connections are not meant to last. My name is Jerrod Yost and believe it or not, I never met Dawn, but I know more about her than any other living human being. This is not a love story either as I throw my suitcase on the bed at the Quality Inn in Peoria, IL. I am on the run, so you can't tell anyone where I am.
My connection with Dawn Hannihan started with a dream, an innocent dream that seemed very promising.
I was sixteen when it started and I was the star quarterback for my high school, Millard Fillmore High. Its not as great as it sounds, because we usually ended up at the bottom of our conference. Still I had scouts coming to watch me play and my dad Was in charge of getting the best offer. He's a lawyer and alumni of Ohio State. He wanted me to play for them, but the program didn't seem interested, Despite his letters to the athletic department.
Hello, I'm Dawn
Hi, I'm Jerrod.
Nice to meet you, Jerrod.
Nice to meet you Dawn. I have one question.
Where are we?
We are in a dream, Jarrod.
We are here to make a connection.
I'm not really sure, but it has something to do with a message of some kind.
"Jarrod!" My mother burst into my room, "You'll be late for school!"
I did not want to wake up. Dawn had something to tell me and I wanted to know what it was. I opened my eyes and sat up. My head seemed as though it was full of cobwebs.
A message. What could it be? Who was Dawn anyway?
Dad would try to come to my practices after work and then drive me home. "Jer, What was the matter with you today? It was like you were sleepwalking." He assessed my performance at practice, "If we want Ohio State to pay attention, you've got to give them A reason to."
His voice was calm, but I knew our conversation could get edgy if I shrugged it off. The fact was, I was still thinking About my dream connection with Dawn.
"Young man, you have to decide how serious you are about your future in football." He glared over at me. It felt as if my stomach slid into my football cleats.
My little brother was Norman and he was already considered A savant. I cannot begin to imagine what is going on in his brain, but he took A battery of tests when he was six years old and scored in the top one hundredth percentile. Norman scares me for reasons that extend beyond just pure intellect. He claims he can hear voices, not just like schizophrenics, actual voices of people who are no longer alive in this world. He told me he heard Grandma Edith, mom's mother, A few weeks after her funeral. Mom told him that the dead do not communicate with the living, but he told me what she said and it sounded just like something She would say. He also told me she was with Grandpa Cy And she was happy.
"Dawn wants to talk to you." He told me in that creepy flat affect voice when I got home with dad.
“What did she want?” I asked, grabbing some Gatorade from the refrigerator.
"How should I know,." he shrugged as he continued to read his Calculus book.
I would like to say that our life was dull and normal, but a few days after that when I came home, I found mom laying face down on the carpet and when I lifted her up, I saw that most of her face was gone. The carpet was soaked with her blood. Things did not get any better when I came into the kitchen and saw my father, his head back with a single red hole in his forehead. His eyes were open and he was staring at the ceiling, but I knew that he was not really seeing anything. I had come home for lunch since I now had my license and enjoyed the new driving privileges, but this was not what I was expecting to see.
Jerrod, get out of there now. It was Dawn’s voice.
Get out of there NOW!!!
I did not hesitate. I ran for the door with the car keys in my hand. I would have to go to Prescott Elementary where my brother Norman was attending. I reasoned that if someone had killed my parents, they would be after me and Norman, too. Since Dawn had warned me, I figured it was time for us to get the heck out of there pronto.
“What do you want, Jer?” Norman asked, his face free from any human expression.
“Mom and dad are dead.” I managed to say as my heart was trying to beat its way out of my chest.
“The heck you say.” There wasn’t a hint of emotion in his voice.
It’s true, Norman.
For the first time since I had known him, the expression on his face was one of complete shock.
“I went home for lunch...they were both dead.” I felt tears roll down my cheeks.
“Mom and dad?” His voice actually went up a bit. I nodded yes and for the first time in our lives, we embraced as he sobbed into my shirt.
“Look, we gotta get the heck out of here.” I stroked his hair.
“Where are we gonna go?” He sobbed.
“Aunt Liza’s.” I answered softly.
“Oh, I do not like staying there.” He sniffed.
“We have to go somewhere they can’t find us.” I sighed feeling as though I was being crushed under the weight of the whole situation.
Jerrod, it’s me Dawn. How are you?
How do you think I am?
It’s alright. Do you have any idea who did this?
None, I’m afraid. I’d tell you if I knew.
I know. Dawn, where are you?
I can’t tell you that, Jerrod.
Some things are better if you do not know.
I wish I knew why.
In time, Jerrod, in time.
It took an hour to drive to Aunt Liza’s house since she lived in the country with her significant other, Marge who was never nice to either of us. When we got there, I told Liza what had happened since dad was her older brother. Her pale blue eyes went wide and glossed over with tears, but Marge reminded Liza that dad did not approve of their lifestyle.
“Why?” She asked, slapping her knees with her open palms, but I just shook my head, “Who?”
I just shook my head again.
“Are we gonna have tears all over the place?” Marge groused.
“Dear, I just found out my brother was murdered.” Liza patted the larger woman on the back of her hand as she walked into the kitchen, rolling her eyes as she did.
“There is this girl who has been talking to me in my dreams.” I explained to Liza.
“What girl?” She shook her head.
“I don’t know.” I shrugged.
“Lot of strange goings on...going on.” She sighed.
The next day, Liza took me over to our house, but there were police cars everywhere, even on the lawn that my father took so much pride in maintaining. Liza did not stop, she kept driving. We ate at one of those fast food places Marge always lectured about since she had turned Vegan. Norman and I had cheeseburgers, fries and a couple of chocolate shakes.
“That looked mighty serious.” Aunt Liza sighed as she slurped the last of her milkshake.
“I hope mom and dad are in Heaven.” Norman said after swallowing a mouthful of fries.
“Me too, buddy, me too.” I gulped.
“Been on the news.” Marge announced when we returned reeking of hamburger meat and grease.
“What did they say?” Liza avoided Marge’s glaring glance.
“Seems your daddy-o worked for a secret corporation.” Marge explained, “Apparently things were not on the up and up.”
Dad? Dad was one of the straightest arrows in the quiver, but now I was learning the waters around him were cloudy.
He worked for the Dark Ones. It was Dawn again.
Who are the Dark Ones, Dawn?
I don’t know. I don’t know.
Did they kill my parents?
I think so.
Where can I find them?
Jarrod, they will find you and when they do they will do the same to you.
Where can I go?
You must keep moving.
I can’t run forever.
Jerrod, do you trust me?
Dawn, I have no one left to trust.
Just do what I tell you, alright.
Alright, Dawn, I don’t have much to lose.
Stay with Liza.
Alright...what about school?
Stay away from school.
I’m asking for my brother...he’s kinda of weird about this kind of stuff.
Let him be weird, Jarrod.
I don’t think I have much say in it.
Her laughter was like listening to music.
They would come a week later, but Dawn gave us a warning and I began to drive west. I had a cousin in Colorado who had his own place in Boulder.
I got a text from Aunt Liza at the end of the day that three men dressed in dark suits came to her home. Marge got a little mouthy and one of the men pistol whipped her. I wished I could have seen that. Aunt Liza had to take her to the emergency room.
Dark Men are working on genetic engineering...Eugenics.
Are you for real, Dawn?
Yes and your father was part of it.
Dad? Now way.
Way. He was in deep. They had to shoot your mother, too.
Because she was there when they got there.
You will be safe in Illinois.
Where the heck is that?
Don’t you have GPS, Jerrod.
It’s right in the middle of a bunch of farms.
It’s where you will be safe until I call on you again.
I called my cousin in Colorado just in case.
“This is Jerrod.” I said.
“Who, dude?” He sounded as if he was stoned which I had a feeling he was most of the time up there in Boulder.
“Cousin Jerrod.” I hissed.
“Do I know you?”
“Yes, I am your Aunt Cynthia’s kid.” I rolled my eyes.
“Duuuudddddeeee.” He sounded delighted, “What are you doing?”
“If it works out, I am headed your way.” I glanced at Norman who was reading a book as he usually was. The hotel room in Cincinnati was cheap as the line of credit left on my dad’s card was getting low. I had a hunch that they were freezing his bank accounts so I would not be able to access that money.
We weren’t rich by the modern standards, but we never seemed to go without either. He talked about Ohio State as if it was just a few dollars for tuition, but as we continued our journey things were starting to look bleak.
Jerrod, it’s Dawn.
I was beginning to wonder where you were.
Right here, like I promised.
I’m getting worried…
Money. We are running dad’s credit card up a whole lot.
He used to go ballistic when mom ran up the expenses on the card.
Now is not the time to worry about that.
I really like you, Dawn.
I really like you and your brother.
Do you think after all this is over, we can get a burger together?
I wish I could.
Why can’t you?
Oh Jerrod, it would take too long to explain.
Hey, I got nothing but time.
I hope one day I will be able to explain.
I hope so...Dawn.
The day started out just like any other day as the sun sent broken glass shards across the Ohio River, making it appear beautiful just for that moment in time. Norman sat next to me playing swivel-headed tourist as we rode into Kentucky. There were hills and trees everywhere and we were in Louisville in no time. We ended up eating a late lunch at Mickey-D’s before shoving off on Interstate 64.
We hadn’t gone far when I heard the rotor blades of a helicopter. When I looked up, I saw not one but three trailing us. I felt a lump form in my throat as one of the choppers hit us with a spotlight. Norman looked up and said, “Oh man, we are in for it now.”
I pressed the gas harder and picked up some speed. When I saw the speedometer reach 70, I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror.
“Now what?” Norman looked out the back window after bending his lithe body nearly in half.
“I dunno.” I shook my head as I began to pull over.
What am I supposed to do?
I kept my foot on the gas without questioning and watched my speed rise to nearly a hundred miles an hour.
“Holy Cow!!!” Norman yelled as the car raced over the highway.
“Hold tight.” I reached over and put my hand across his small body like an extra seatbelt. The engine was whining, but we had cleared one hundred miles an hour. Still the helicopters hovered overhead.
“You are the man.” Norman cried out in delight. I could not help but smile.
They are the Dark Men, Jerrod.
Yeah, I kinda figured.
You will be fine.
I trust you, Dawn.
Gunfire, but from where? I felt the tire explode and then we were airborne. When we landed, the car began to roll until it came to rest on a tree trunk.
“Are you alright?” I managed to ask Norman fearing that he was not.
“Better than Six Flags.” He was smiling at me, but he was bleeding from his head.
Now what, Dawn?
Just play dead.
Yeah that almost came to be.
You are both fine.
Norman is bleeding.
He will be fine.
Are you sure? I’m plenty scared.
Play dead, Jerrod, the choppers are landing.
The choppers did land, but the bleeding from Norman’s head would not. I know a lot of head wounds look a lot worse than they are, but when it’s your younger brother and your parents have been murdered, it is beyond traumatic. Still I lay there as he groaned. He was being pulled from the living world to the not living world.
“Is he dead?” I heard a voice ask.
“Yeah both of them brats are probably goners.” Another voice confirmed.
“Should we put a bullet in them just to make sure?” Yet another voice asked.
“Naw, job is done. Why waste a bullet?” The first voice answered.
I heard them walk away.
“Kids are both toast.” One of them yelled out.
“Are you sure?” Someone from a distance asked.
“As sure as I was about their parents.” He laughed as if it was some joke or something.
I heard the rotor blades. I felt the wind. I heard the explosions, three, one after another. I felt the heat from the fires. Then there were sirens.
“Jer, my head hurts.” I heard Norman’s soft broken voice.
“I’m here.” I held his hand.
The two policemen approached the car.
“Do you know how fast you were going?” One of them asked as he approached the car.
“Pretty fast.” I pulled Norman from the car. His blood immediately baptized my hoodie.
“Hey, is he hurt?” Asked the other officer.
“Yes sir.” I answered.
“I’ll take him.” He removed my brother from my arms.
“I have to go with him.” I insisted.
“C’mon.” He jerked his chin toward the car
Dawn, it’s me, Jerrod.
Still no answer.
Where are you?
“Are you Jerrod?” The white coat doctor asked me in the emergency room.
“Yes…” I hesitated.
“I’ve got good news and bad news.” He patted me on the back. “Good news is, he is going to make it, but some of the bleeding may have impaired his cognitive functioning.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Means there may be some brain damage.” He sighed.
“Does he know?” I asked.
“Not yet, he’s still under anesthesia.” He put his hands on his hips, “You’ll be able to see him in about an hour.”
I did, but he seemed like the same old Norman I had come to know.
Now we came to Peoria this afternoon, Norman still has a big old bandage on his head and I was able to get a rent-a-car so I could continue on to Boulder and stay with my cousin for a while.
One thing I had not expected when we were staying in Peoria was when we visited the grave of Dawn Hannihan (1983-1997). I found out she was murdered by her father over a custody hearing. Norman and I said a prayer for her. I thanked her for helping us out and I could have sworn I heard “Your welcome.” But then I have a strong imagination sometimes. I never heard from the Dark Men again which was fine with me.
I wished my dad hadn’t got hooked up with them. I wished I could have seen what it was like to play football at Ohio State. Norman seems to get better each day. Pretty soon, I’m afraid he will be as smart as he was before the accident.
Deep down, I sure hope so.