As the alarm sounded off at 4:30 AM, Special Agent Clare Higgins lazily reached for the alarm clock to stop its incessant chirping. It was a rainy Monday morning and she had not been able to sleep very well the night before. It seemed like she had just gone to bed when the alarm clock started its obnoxious aria. After hitting the snooze button, a couple times, Clare decided to get up and start her day. As she showered, she could not get the dream out of her mind. It was so odd. She was not a fan of stories involving ghosts, visitations and the like. All of that seemed like nonsense and she was not buying it.
The strange thing about her dream was that wherever she went, she was followed by a hologram that resembled Sherry, Clare’s younger sister. Sherry had been a successful stockbroker before she was tragically killed by a drunk driver. In the dream, Clare had found herself in a series of dangerous situations. Each time when all seemed lost, the hologram would appear and sing a melody. At first, dreamworld Clare didn’t put two and two together. It was only after several near-death experiences and waking up, gasping for air, that her subconscious mind finally got it. The hologram was like a signpost that read, “Proceed with Caution”. Had she correctly assessed the situation? Had she missed any important clues that could help her escape the next predicament?
It was a weird dream and for lack of a better term, it was “haunting”. Putting aside her thoughts for the time being, she continued getting ready for work. Monday was always busy and there was a lot to catch up on and no time to waste. After Clare had left the Army, she was recruited by the FBI almost immediately. For the last few years, she had been working in the Cyber Division, investigating threats of physical harm made to business executives via the internet.
When she arrived at her office, there were five cases sitting on her desk that needed follow up. Clare could close four of them by days end but the last one, involving a manufacturing plant, was going to need some further attention. For several months she had been following the evidence chain, conducting interviews and trying to tie up loose ends. The day went on without incident and she was able to clear up the four cases as expected. When she left the office around 7pm, it was still raining. After stopping by the local grocery store for a few incidentals, she headed home. She would start again tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.
Once again, Clare’s alarm did not disappoint. At 4:30 AM, it began its chirping and she was relieved that the hologram had decided against another visit. As she padded to the bathroom, she felt fully rested and ready to start her day. She ate a quick breakfast and put some coffee in a traveler’s cup. The sun was out, the roads were clear, and Clare decided to drive over to the plant and look around. This case involved a death threat made to the company CFO. Large amounts of cash were disappearing, and no one could figure out who was doing it. Although she had carefully examined all the personnel files and had spent several days interviewing everyone, something was not adding up.
As Claire drove out to the property, she noticed there were no cars in the employee parking lot. Immediately her senses went into high alert. Where was everybody? This was a normal workday, not a holiday. She was not aware of a plant shutdown. In fact, Clare had just spoken to the human resources department the other day and no plant closures were scheduled for the rest of the month. The tires on her car made a crunching sound as she drove over some loose gravel and pulled into the main lot.
Clare beeped the alarm on her unmarked agency car and walked up to the main entrance. She tried to open the doors, but they were locked. An uneasy feeling started to churn in the pit of her stomach. As she peered into the tinted glass doors, she could see that the lights were on but there was no receptionist at the front desk. Clare decided to walk around the building to the small executive parking lot at the back of the facility. She remembered from her previous visits that managers would often use a private entrance located not far from the loading dock. As she rounded the building, she noticed that there were two cars parked next to each other in the lot. The passenger door on the car closest to her was still open.
Clare took the safety off her service weapon and slowly approached the vehicle with the open door. She half expected to see a body sprawled across the seat, but the car was empty. She reached down and placed her palm on the hood. It had been there awhile. The metal surface was stone cold. She approached the next car. It was locked but the hood was slightly warm. Interesting.
As Clare neared the private entrance, she noticed the partially opened door and the security keypad dangling by a single wire. Why hadn’t the alarm sounded? Then again, perhaps no one was around to hear it. She exhaled sharply and walked inside, her service weapon now drawn and ready. As she moved down the hallway, the only illumination was provided by afterhours egress lights. She could hear labored breathing and what appeared to be something sliding on the floor. Suddenly, all was quiet except for the sound of Clare’s heartbeat. She stopped and reached for her phone to punch in the agencies distress code but there was no service. The concrete in this area was too thick. She needed backup. The grunting and sliding sounds started up again, moving away from her current location. She cocked her head. She heard something else. A familiar tune was softly playing in the recesses of her mind. It was the same haunting melody that accompanied the hologram in her dream. She could hear it clearly now. Clare was a seasoned agent, but this was unexpected and slightly unnerving.
Clare tucked into a small kitchen area to gain some perspective and to think about her next move. The melody went silent. She pulled out her phone again and noticed she had enough bars to send out her distress code. She stepped back into the hall. As she turned the corner, she noticed some black marks on the tiles leading toward a staircase that took her down to the lower level where the machine room was. At the bottom of the stairs, the noise intensified. She also noticed what appeared to be fresh blood droplets. When she looked up, she saw the flicker of a shadow flash across the back wall. She quickly crouched down and pointed her SIG Sauer 9 mm towards the potential threat. After a few seconds, she walked quickly in the same direction, away from the racket caused by the machines. Once again, she heard the labored breathing and the sliding noise. She was getting close.
As Clare picked up the pace, she heard a door slam. She craned her head to look around the corner and she saw a rectangular room with two doors. There were a few more blood drops on the floor but no black marks. Clare had no idea which door to check first or how many people she might encounter once inside. Where was her backup? Almost on cue, the eerie melody was back. As she checked out the area, nothing seemed out of place. It was time to choose.
Instinctively, she reached to the closest door and turned the handle. It was already unlocked so she looked inside. More blood droplets were scattered on the floor. This room was even noisier than the first. There were long conveyor belts moving large boxes of wood flooring. She could also hear huge saws trimming the measured planks so they could be counted and boxed. No one was working today but the machines were still on. None of this made sense.
Clare continued, not sure what she would find. As she followed the blood drops around the corner, the noise level had decreased substantially, and she could hear voices. She could now see a tall, dark haired man dressed in a business suit. He was about 6’4, around 200 pounds and appeared to be frantic. He was standing over a large crate and pushing down on the lid trying to get it closed. He was focused on what he was doing and not paying attention to anything else. As she closed the gap between them, she took cover behind some file cabinets. She then saw what was giving the man so much difficulty. A bloodied face with lifeless eyes was wedged between the lid and the side of the crate. With one final push, the man forced the head into the crate and secured the lid.
It had been quite a while since she had texted the distress code. Clare hoped the signal was strong enough for her team to get the coordinates of her exact location from the GPS on her phone. She sent the distress code again, just to make sure. She needed to act. As she started towards the man, she felt goosebumps pop out over her entire body causing her to shiver. Before she could take another step, she detected something else in the room. Not too far from the crate, she saw the hologram from her dream looking intently at her. Immediately, the melody started up inside of her head. For a few seconds, Clare was so stunned, she just stood there and blinked. The spell was broken when the tall man turned towards a voice coming from another part of the room and she quietly stepped back behind the cabinets.
“Is he dead?”.
The tall man answered, “yeah, I think so”.
Clare was not able to make out what else they were saying but it sounded as though they were in a hurry. She quickly scanned the room, looking for the hologram, but the image and the melody were gone. She waited behind the cabinets until the men left the area and then stepped out. She continued to the far end of the room and on to the loading dock, she could see that her team had just arrived through an open roll up door. Clare was joined by Agent Torres and Agent Campbell. They had worked with Clare before and she trusted them implicitly. She met them outside and told them what she had saw, leaving out the part about the hologram and the haunting melody. Together, they formulated a plan and spread out. Slowly and methodically they worked their way around the packing room and back to the machine shop. There was only one room left to secure.
As they quietly entered the room, they saw the tall man and another heavyset man busy emptying money out of a large floor safe. The tall man’s right hand was wrapped in cloth and bleeding. He winced in pain as he worked. Clare commanded them to freeze and then she and Campbell held both men at gun point while Torres frisked them. The heavyset man was relieved of a 12-gauge sawed off shotgun that was hidden under his coat. After the men were handcuffed, they were separated for questioning.
The tall man was Brock Pendergast, the owner of the company. The heavyset man was the company treasurer, Todd Flynn. Apparently, the company had fallen on some rough times. Unable to meet payroll, they decided to close the doors. The employees had been let go the day before, with the promise that they would receive a hefty parting bonus if they kept quiet. The two men had decided to sell off the inventory and run off with the cash before the bank repossessed the property at the end of the week. Their plan seemed like a good one until Steve Boyd, one of the auditors from their bank, showed up while they were shredding company documents. Brock was so startled that he didn’t notice that his fingers were going into the shredder instead of the paper. Then, when Steve started taking photos with this cellphone for evidence, Todd had panicked and clubbed the poor guy in the back of the head with a wrench.
The local police arrived and took custody of Mr. Pendergast and Mr. Flynn. The Coroner’s Office conducted a thorough examination of the crime scene carefully documenting where Mr. Boyd’s body had been found. His personal effects were taken into custody and he was transported to the morgue for further examination.
As Clare drove to the office a few hours later, she started thinking about the hologram and the melody. It was so eerie. What in the heck had happened to her in there? Maybe it was just her mind working overtime. She worked long hours and rarely took any time off. But Clare wasn’t convinced. Something mysterious had happened to her today and she was probably alive because of it. Unfortunately, she doubted if anyone would believe her. She hardly believed it herself. Was it Sherry’s “ghost” that had warned her or was it something else? Would the same experience happen again? Clare smiled to herself and nervously giggled. Only time would tell.
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Lee, You certainly wrote a story that was a very thrilling adventure that kept my attention from start to finish. The sign that Clare experienced in her dream was introduced perfectly during her dangerous investigation and search of the plant. I never expected the bloody and deadly end, which made the story even more hair-raising. Great job! Sue
Thank you Sue! I enjoyed writing about Clare's journey! I actually really liked her hahahha. This will not be the end of her, I am inspired!
Lee It's so clear how much fun you're having writing. Looking forward to see if Clare appears in future stories. Sue