She threw her bag down beside her desk and sank into her chair while she waited for the familiar chime that let her know that her computer was ready to get started on the day’s work. It had been many years since she’d started at The Agency, but the most recent years were taking the biggest toll. It didn’t help that “it” kept sticking around, regardless of the steps she’d taken to rid herself of it’s exhausting presence.
“Andrea!” She was startled out of her thoughts by her supervisor waving a hand in front of her face. “Have you got any intel on that file yet? You’ve been on it for close to six weeks. The feds are breathing down my neck for SOMETHING that proves that the information we got wasn't completely bogus.”
“Not yet, ma’am, I’ve gone through everything dozens of times already, and I haven’t found anything. Whoever did this was good.” She sat up straighter in her chair as she defended herself.
“Or we’ve got crappy info. I need something by the end of the day to keep this file open. Get back into that building and find me literally anything to give them. We’ve got to feed the wolves or you and I will both be answering to a higher power.”
Her supervisor marched away, looking both frustrated and worried about how this case was going. Andrea knew that it was imperative that she found something today, but she didn’t know how the hell she’d find anything more. They had searched the building from top to bottom after they caught wind that a high-ranking member of well-known crime syndicate, Il Teschio Dei Morti, had been brutally murdered. The intel told them that it had happened in a small movie theater in a low-income part of town. The problems started when they began to investigate (shutting the local business down in the meantime) and absolutely nothing turned up. Not one drop of blood, not any evidence of a struggle, nothing. Andrea wasn’t sure what she was going to find going over it the umpteenth time, but she had to try.
“Let me help.” The hissing voice was loud and clear, but very unwelcome in her ear. Andrea tried to ignore it. No one could know that she could hear the voice. Just the suggestion of that kind of thing would have her ejected from The Agency immediately. “You know I can see more than you,” she shook her head towards her shoulder, wishing she could just shake the hissing right out of her ear onto the floor where she could grind it into the carpet with her boot. She chose to ignore it while she grabbed her service belt and jacket and walked out the door and into the daylight.
Upon arriving at the theater, she took a deep breath before walking through the dilapidated door. The theater was going on 60 years old and although it had changed hands time and time again, none of the owners seemed too keen on doing any kind of renovations. A bald, round, man with unappealing features greeted her sharply from behind the counter.
“What the hell do you want now? I have showings in less than 4 hours and I am NOT shutting down for you guys again. Do you know how much money I lost last time?” the owner was quite obviously displeased to see her.
“Cuff him. Lock him in the back. I’ll help you work.” The voice hissed it’s words even more loudly in her ear, but again she ignored it and pressed on with the unpleasant encounter.
“I’m aware Mr. Anderson, I don’t want to disrupt your day. I’d like to take a quick walk-through and just see if anything catches my eye.” Andrea could hear the defeat in her voice, but she tried to sound confident.
“Fine. You know where everything is by now. Be out by 12:30, we have a matinee at 1:00.” Mr. Anderson went back to his office and glared at her through the slit in the nearly closed door. Andrea started her slow walk through the building with the first of three theaters. She still wasn’t convinced that anything had happened IN the theaters themselves, as it seemed too obvious for the meticulous high-profile criminals they were looking for.
“You know better than this. I can help.”
“And how the hell are you going to help?” Andrea finally shouted, losing her patience with the entity that had entered her body a few months before. She had regretted allowing her friends to mess with the Ouija board in her house ever since the day it happened.
“They’re on my side, too.” Andrea stopped dead in her tracks, thinking about what the voice might mean. A creak of the theater door caused her to turn around, and she realized Mr. Anderson must have heard her yell.
“Sorry, I tripped and stubbed my toe,” she explained hastily. Mr. Anderson looked unconvinced, but shut the door anyways. She went back to walking the rows, thinking. Finally, she moved her way towards the door of the second theater.
“Strike two,” she heard the deep hiss again. Part of her wanted to know what this “thing” wanted from her, but she’d already engaged with it once and she hadn’t wanted that much interaction with whatever the hell it was inside her. She opened the door and made her way into the larger, but still dark and musty “Theater Two”. She sat in one of the hard seats, reflecting back on the day it became part of her. After a long week at the agency, she invited a couple of old friends over for beer and wings to unwind about a month earlier. After a couple of drinks, one of her friends pulled a Ouija board out of her bag. They all agreed that it was ridiculous and silly, but had a good laugh about seeing which “ghosties” might haunt her less-than-two-year-old apartment. At 36 she had few real regrets, but allowing that damn thing to hit her coffee table and the events that transpired afterward were definitely at the top of the list.
“Get. Up.” It was insistent this time, almost angry. She stayed seated. And while she never told her muscles to move or her legs which direction to go, suddenly she was walking and she realized it had more power over her than she thought.
Panic filled her chest as her legs led her in a direction she had gone many times before—straight towards the back door into an alleyway that ran along the back side of the theater. They’d scoured this alleyway, finding nothing but used needles and little baggies with traces of heroin from the junkies that frequented the neighbourhood.
“You stupid thing, you forgot to look up.” The voice sounded impatient. She felt her body relax and realized it had let go of her finally. She looked up and around, wondering why it had led her to this spot. She knew this alleyway. They’d combed the overgrown grass along the side of the building. Emptied the dumpsters. Nothing. Finally a strong jarring to her neck made her look skyward to a corner of the building they hadn’t spent much time on. She then realized there was a ladder leading to the roof that they had somehow overlooked. It was ancient and rusty, and looked horrifically unsafe. It’s black rusting metal seemed to blend in with the brick of the wall.
“Well, dammit.” Andrea didn’t want to go, and definitely didn’t want to think about how she’d been led to this spot. Against her better judgement, she grabbed the lowest rung and pulled herself upwards. The ladder squeaked with every heave towards the roof, but it felt secure. As she put her hand onto the roof, she felt it’s presence take over her again. She looked around as it led her towards the opposite side of the roof. There was nothing up here. It was a flat roof covered in gravel, like many around the city.
“You think it’s nothing, but you’re blind, stupid girl.” She cringed at the word “girl” and started to fight walking in the direction of the edge of the roof. She’d encountered her fair share of sexism as a woman at The Agency, and she’d be damned if she was going to let this thing talk to her like that. But, it seemed that the more she fought the more it moved her with ease. Suddenly her body lurched forward, and she found herself face-first in pea gravel. She sat up, rubbing her stinging cheek. As she moved to get up, her hand brushed against cold metal. She brushed away the gravel hesitantly, and there it was. A round, rusting handle stuck out of the disrupted gravel.
“You need to enter.” Her adrenaline kicked in, and she grabbed for her cell phone. She needed her team to get here. The owner had never mentioned roof access, but no one would have needed his help to get in through this door. Anyone could make their way in. Andrea quickly sent a ping with her location, followed by a quick text message.
“Get to my location ASAP. Roof access.” The ding of her phone let her know that the text had been sent. Suddenly, as if she had taken her too long to send the text, her arm lurched forward and yanked at the circle. She nearly fell headfirst into the dark space that was lit only by a sliver of sunlight that shone down into one corner. The way it made her body lurch pulled her back to the night it took over her. That Ouija board! Her friends asked stupid questions and all of them laughed as they asked which one was moving the pointer. Yes and No answers led them in circles around the board, until finally their fingers spelled something much longer.
“May you come in? What is this, a pizza delivery?” Andrea laughed at the silly request.
“Pepperoni please!” one of her friends began mimicking dialing her phone for a slice. Andrea laughed at her and looked at the board again.
“Sure, come on in!” No sooner had Andrea finished the last word of her sentence than she felt an icy grip make its way from the back of her neck around to the front, gripping her hard enough that she couldn’t breathe. Slowly, the icy touch made its way up her face and she felt her entire body lose control. The spirit slowly gripped her muscles and tensed her frame against the couch. She could barely hear her friend’s concerned voices as she struggled to not only stay conscious, but in control. It was then that she heard that awful voice hissing in her ear for the first time.
“And now, you’re mine.”
Realizing she was still at the top of a very long drop, Andrea snapped away from the awful memory and started to make her way into the hole. She reached onto her service belt and yanked out her flashlight, double checking that there was nothing dangerous to land on as she slipped inside. She knew as soon as her feet hit the ground that she’d found exactly what they needed. She used her flashlight to find a light switch and illuminated the room. In front of her was a door that she quickly opened, trying to figure out where she was in the theater. She was met with wood, and realized that this room had been boarded up long ago. She turned around to take in the rest of the scene. In the corner to her right was a deck of cards and an ashtray sitting in the middle of a small card table surrounded by four chairs. A small, well-stocked bar was beside that. Those were the only things in the room that weren’t sinister. To her left, she could see a table with various instruments that were clean, but obviously well used. Extracting forceps, pliers, a car battery and booster cables suggested that this was a place of torture. A chair was bolted to the floor in the middle of the room.
“Holy shit. You led me right to it.” she whispered absentmindedly to the spirit sharing her entire being. Her mind was reeling with the sudden possibilities of having this thing inside her. Murder investigations solved by talking to the deceased sounded like the plot of a cable TV show. “Okay, if he’s on your side, ask him where they put his body.” As soon as the question left her mouth, her body was forcefully turned to look at a large freezer she’d missed, resting in the corner behind her. A rusty lock held it shut.
“I’m in there.”
Andrea froze in realization. It was him. Luca Russo, a man who had worked his way up through the ranks of a gang that wished it had the notoriety of The Mafia, was controlling her. Her mind flashed to the files she’d read, the horrible things he’d done. After years of awful crimes, his conscience had gotten the best of him and he’d began the journey to become an informant. That’s when he went missing; someone snitched on the snitch. Suddenly, she heard the hatch in the roof slam shut, and she felt her arm rising with strength that didn’t come from her own hours in the gym. She felt her fist come swiftly down onto the lock, breaking both her hand and the lock in the process. She wanted to scream in pain, but Luca held her lips tight. He used her body to open the lid, and suddenly she was staring into the face of the dead gang member. She was so thankful her team would be there shortly, but wasn’t sure how to explain how she found it or how she’d broken her hand. Suddenly she felt her body moving again, this time in the direction of the chair.
“That’s good enough.” His voice was calm, no longer a hiss, but suddenly much more haunting. She felt herself sit in the chair, and watched in forced silence as the wrist and leg straps did themselves up. Her body relaxed as he let go of control, but the straps were tight enough that she couldn’t move anywhere. She could hear a vehicle pull up in the distance, and several voices talking. Her team.
“Hmmmmp!” she tried to scream for help, but he kept seal on her lips tight enough that nothing would escape. She could hear the squeaking of the ladder on the side of the building.
“I might be a rat, but you’re still a pig. I told you they’re on my side, this shouldn’t be a surprise. I deserved what I got. I’ll always be loyal to Il Teschio Tei Morti” The same icy touch she’d felt that night started creeping from the back of her neck to the front. The chill moved up to her chin and snapped her face upwards, putting her face to face with herself in a mirror she hadn’t yet noticed. She felt her head stay upright as the chill crawled away from her chin and back to her neck, squeezing tightly. She could hear slow steps in the pea gravel through the roof as she watched large, hand-shaped bruises form on her neck. Unlike the night in her apartment, the grip didn’t let go.
She could hear her team coming to the hatch, and she concentrated only on staying alive until they could rescue her. At least someone would have to believe what was going on if they could see his hand prints on her neck while she struggled to get loose from an invisible foe. She heard a loud creak as the hatch flew open and felt the light hit her face, and suddenly Luca let go. Her body slumped over as her team members Bree and Isa rushed into the room. They quickly unstrapped her and she could hear them dialing for medical help.
“It’s him...It’s Luca...” she said weakly to Bree as she rested her head in Bree’s lap.
“Yeah, that’s definitely him.” she heard Isa reply to her from beside the still-open freezer. “Well, good thing you found that ladder, at least we’ve got a body now. We’ve just got to find the assholes who got to you--you should have waited for us!” Andrea opened her mouth to protest and explain what had happened, but Luca gripped her lips shut once more.
“I’m not done with you yet, pig, you’re still mine. And now, they are too.” Luca’s voice rang in her ears. Andrea could hear the ambulance sirens getting closer, and her teammates started to discuss how to best remove her from the room. Suddenly, the hatch slammed shut and the lights went out. Dread filled her entire body as she realized that her and her team were about to meet the same fate as Luca, this time at his lifeless hands. Andrea could barely move, but Luca picked her up off of the floor and led her to the table loaded with weapons. She felt the cold handle of a baseball bat enter her grip.
“Its...him…” the words left her mouth quietly as she felt her body move blindly towards her teammates and slam the bat into them, leaving her the only one living in the room. She collapsed to the floor once more, and felt the chill creep to the front of her throat once again. The chill gripped her tighter and tighter, allowing no air into her lungs. As the last bit of life left her, she heard the voice once again.
“Now you’re on my side, too.”