The Case of Zaralyne Langster

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Start your story with a character saying “I can see it now.”... view prompt

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Fiction Mystery

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The killer sat reading a book on psychic dreams. He frowned in concentration. Then, he thought of her, and her fear. The heat rose in him. No one will believe her, he thought. He’ll taunt her first, in her dreams. “I can see it now,” he said aloud, laughing at his own cunning. 

  Years ago, he’d learned through his troubling dreams, that sometimes he could hear the thoughts of another sensitive (as he called them). He once found himself connected with someone who had dreams of possible death. He thought about warning them, by subtly entering their dream. He tried it, deciding it was up to the dreamer to obey the warning. He didn’t want to go any further.

One day he wondered what it would be like to find a “sensitive” and terrorize them. He thought of the fear of his victims. He thought of the power. He grinned.

*****

Zaralyne Langster walked along the quiet tree lined street. The light of the morning sun streamed through the blanket of leaves, and warned her, bestowing a shadow in her path. She turned, and screamed, when she saw him approach. Terror rose in her, engulfing her like a roaring tide.

The scar-faced man barred his teeth and snarled. His eyes gleamed with malice. He lifted his hand; a knife glinted in the sunlight.

Zaralyne awoke with a start, her heart pounding. She reached over for her husband. “Xavier, wake up. I’ve had the same nightmare. Please help me,” she gasped.

 Xavier Langster opened his eyes, sat up, and he held his sobbing wife. He was desperate to help her. He decided to go to the police. Even if they didn’t take them seriously, maybe they will offer her protection.

“Tell me again, Mrs. Langster, why you think someone wants to kill you.” The detective, forbearance creased on his pale drooping features, waited for her to answer.

Zaralyne Langster’s voice trembled. “I don’t expect you to believe me, Detective Williams. But the force and clarity of my dream was very real.” She turned to her husband and clasped his hand.

“Listen, Detective, we’ve come to you for help. My wife is living in fear,” said Xavier Langster, his blond hair plastered from sweat, and his eyes red from worry and lack of sleep.

Detective Williams was silent for a few minutes. Then, he opened his desk drawer and took out a business card. He handed it to Xavier. “That’s the name of a private investigator who’s good with unusual cases, and he doesn’t charge for the interview. Why don’t you call him, and tell him your story?”

Xavier Langster’s hand trembled as he read the business card, “Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger, Private Investigator.”  

*****

“I could inform the police,” said the middle-aged man to Boxer. “This evidence could put you behind bars for a long time.”

“What makes you think I won’t kill you?” Boxer growled.

“Because you can’t afford to.”

The two men were speaking in muted tones; although, no one could hear them in that remote area of the woods. It was about midnight, and they were standing in the living room of a small single-story house.

“Get me this evidence you say you have, “Boxer said. “We can make a deal agreeable to both of us.”

Leaving the room, the other man murmured, “Maybe we can.”

While he was gone, Boxer went into the kitchen and began searching the drawers of the cabinet. Soon he found what he wanted. He returned to the living room.

The middle-aged man had returned. In his hands were the articles and photographs linking Boxer to an old murder case.

“Give that to me,” Boxer snapped.

The middle-aged man gripped his prize tighter. “Not until we make that little deal.”

“No deals,” Boxer said, and he plunged a butcher knife into the man’s chest. Satisfied that his old partner was dead, he dragged the corpse out back, and he placed it in the trunk of his car.

He went back to the house and cleaned up evidence of the murder. Then, he locked the doors, climbed into his car, and he drove to the docks.

It was past midnight. The moon cast an eerie glow upon the silent dark waters, as Boxer removed the body from the trunk. Grunting, he carried the corpse onto the yacht that belonged to the murdered man. He went into the cabin and placed the body on the cot.

He went out to the deck and steered the boat toward the Caribbean Sea. When he figured he was far enough, he prepared a dinghy.

Once in the Caribbean, taking a shotgun, and leaving the body in the boat, he climbed into the dingy. He shot at the boat repeatedly until it began to sink.

He moved quietly and expertly toward the Florida coast, dropping the shotgun into the sea. 

*****

It was nine o’clock the following morning. Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger was sitting across from Xavier and Zaralyne Langster at a table in The Café Papillon in downtown Miami, where he’d agreed to meet them. They were sipping coffee. The investigator placed a recorder in front of them. “Tell me again, why you think somebody wants to kill your wife?” he enquired.

“She has repeated dreams of a man stalking her and about to stab her,” said Xavier. “And there’s been another dream lately. He looks like the same man, and it looks like he’s committed a murder.”

Huntinger turned to Zaralyne. “What did he look like?”

“He was white, black hair, receding hairline, husky, and a long bad scar on the right side of his face.”

“Tell me about this dream.”

“I dreamed that the same man was in a boat. He sank something large and bulky, shaped like a body, into the ocean.”

 Huntinger lowered his head, and appeared to be thinking intently, as he clicked off the recorder. “I’d like to explore your trouble first. Then I will get back to you with my decision. Don’t worry abut my retainer just yet. There’s no charge for the interview.”

“I didn’t expect you to listen to us,” Xavier blurted.

Huntinger looked at him, with a hint of compassion in his light blue eyes. “My mother was the daughter of a Romani. She taught me that the human heart and soul can express itself very often in the dream world,” he said gently. “Your wife has suffered, and I want to help you.” He put the recorder back into the case, and snapped it shut.

“Thank you, Mr. Huntinger,” Xavier said.

The next morning, as Huntinger sat in his recliner in his living room, he brooded over Xavier and Zaralyne Langster. He clicked on the recorder on the table beside him and played the interview he had with them over and over. 

She might have been having prophetic dreams, or dreams of warning that the subconscious has picked up in her waking hours. I wonder what Amaltheia would think. I will pursue this, if only to allay their fears. A little work with some unconventional methods won’t hurt. It might give me ideas or even help to steer me in the right direction.

Huntinger went into his office. He said a fast prayer of apology to the good God, to offset any offence of using these methods, and he dialed Amaltheia’s number, who was his friend and often helped with his files.

‘’’

“The spaghetti was as great as ever, Amaltheia. And the salad was crisp and light just the way I like it.” Huntinger burped as he sprawled his long legs on the ottoman in Amaltheia Amaranthus’ living room. 

She went over to him and kissed him lightly on his cheek. “Thank you, Edgar,” she said.

“I wonder if you could help me in a possible case. I’m not sure what to make of it. A woman is having recurring dreams. It is possible of course, that the subconscious mind has picked something up in the woman’s life and is producing a warning. Can your tarot cards tell me about a scar-faced man throwing an object into the ocean? It’s important, because I need to clarify the reality of his existence. If he is real, he is stalking an innocent woman.”

Amaltheia laughed. “I think I’ll use the crystal ball, Edgar. It’s a better means for possible images.” She left the room and returned minutes later. She placed a large crystal ball set on a silver stand on the polished wood coffee table and a candle set in a candlestick. “I can concentrate better with less light,” she said. She got up and closed the drapes. She returned and lit the candle. She sat down and stared intently into the milky depths.

 Edgar got up and stood behind her. “Can you see anything?”

“Hush, Edgar. I must concentrate. I do not see anything yet. I am hoping that the good spirits know of this man.”

For several minutes she gazed into the crystal. “I see something, Edgar. There seems to be bats.” She was quiet, her dark eyes wide and intent on something Edgar could not see. At last, she said, “There’s a beautiful blue ocean, with two or three islands linked together. And there is a sunken ship. Does that help?”

Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger, a certified diver, was familiar with various archipelagos in the world. “There’s a famous bat cave on Cayman Brac of the Cayman Islands. The island is also known for shipwrecks.” He bolted upright and stared at her. He ran over to her and kissed her on both cheeks. “Thank you, Amaltheia. Now I have a lead. You are my gift from the great God above.”

After Huntinger informed the Langsters that he accepted the case, they booked a trip to Cayman Brac. When they arrived, they leased a cruiser. Huntinger rented diving gear, and they set out to sea, guided by a map that Amaltheia had drawn.

The boat rocked gently as Huntinger studied the map. “It should be about here,” Huntinger pointed to an area on the map, near Cayman Brac in the Caribbean. After checking the tank and putting on his diving gear, he said condescendingly, “Turn around while I put on my fins. I have a prosthetic foot.” 

“I would never have known it. Your foot looks so natural, and you walk on it as if you’d been walking all your life. How did it happen?” Amaltheia said in amazement.

“My mother and I were in a hit and run accident that took her life and left me without a foot. My aunt made sure I had the best in technology. It’s made of a material that looks like a real foot. Most of the time I forget I have it on.”

The investigator handed Zaralyne the rope. “When I give you a signal, pull it tight.” He adjusted his air tank, then dived into the Caribbean Sea.

Huntinger plunged into the ocean. Hundreds of fish swirled, and coral reefs moved against him. He swam around them and descended slowly. He turned on his flashlight and looking at his watch saw he had descended thirty-five feet. Soon he saw the vague outlines of a wrecked ship. He dove toward the entrance, and entered, gliding through its ancient rooms. He moved cautiously, as silt was everywhere.

‘’’

He shone the flashlight along the silt-lined walls, and onto the floor. There seemed to be an unusual amount of sludge in the corner. He moved over to a mound and disturbed the powder-like ore with his gloved hand. There he saw a body, partially preserved. He tugged the line to signal Xavier and Zaralyne and swam from the room to prepare for ascent.

‘’’

Sitting in a booth across from his clients at the Coral Island restaurant in Cayman Brac, where they had ordered fish and fritters with water, Huntinger said, “Now that we have proof that the killer exists, from the finding of the body in the shipwreck of Zaralyne’ s dream, we must guard her, Xavier. It is important that we apprehend this killer, when he strikes,” Huntinger said Huntinger, enunciating his words. “I will report the murder when we get back, as it was committed in Miami.”

“We appreciate all that you’ve done for us, Huntinger,” Xavier said.

Huntinger saw the scar-faced man through his binoculars when he approached Zaralyne. He sprinted from his hiding place to an abandoned building across the street from the shopping mart where Zaralyne usually shopped.

‘’’

Zaralyne Langster walked along the tree-lined street. The light of the morning sun streamed through the branches, bestowing a shadow in her path. She turned, and screamed, when she saw the killer approach. Terror rose in her, engulfing her like a roaring tide.

Zaralyne opened her eyes, enfolded in the strong arms of her husband.

 Edgar Nikephoros Huntinger, who had tripped the killer from behind, punched him in his jaw, and kicked the knife that had fallen from the killer’s hand, was kneeling over him. He felt for his pulse. “He’s alive,” he said. He stood up, and taking out his cellphone, he dialed the police.

“He sure knows how to use that foot,” Xavier said to his wife; tears streaming down his face.

June 30, 2022 16:49

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7 comments

Graham Kinross
06:00 Aug 29, 2022

Your pacing is break neck, if anything you can slow down a bit fill in the blanks here and there.

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Olivia Snead
21:15 Aug 29, 2022

Thank you for reading my story, and for your critique. It is appreciated.

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Graham Kinross
21:19 Aug 29, 2022

You’re welcome Olivia.

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Richard Seven
16:08 Jul 07, 2022

Nice story. Your descriptions are great. Your story zipped along. One thing you might want to consider: Flesh out the characters and scenes more thoroughly. More detail will help the reader care more. Shorten the reach of the narrative and spend a bit more time on context. Nice imagination!

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Olivia Snead
19:26 Jul 07, 2022

Thank you for your critique. Your suggestions are invaluable.

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Carl Tengstrom
13:15 Jul 04, 2022

This is an interesting story, quite unusual. However, the plot is difficult to follow with quite a lot of charcters that were not introduced. The theme was quite refreshing though.

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Olivia Snead
16:32 Jul 05, 2022

thank you.

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