Touching Spirits: The Mayan Case by Kevin R. Hill
I was doing my nightly cop thing in one of those tall skinny houses in Amsterdam. If I wanted to sleep I had to check every access point before I went to bed. I started at the same door every time, pushed my shoulder against the warped old thing until I felt the bolt click into place, then walked to the next entry point, the bathroom window. Only another cop would understand.
As I was drifting into sleep someone sat beside me. Someone was in the room. The mattress compressed and triggered an alarm in my head. Adrenalin hit my heart like a defibrillator jolt. I snapped awake but did not move.
Gun and badge were on the bedside table. If the intruder had my weapon I was already dead. I waited for a pillow pushed against my head to silence the shot.
My head pounded. The veins throbbed in my neck as someone took hold of my arm.
I shouted and jumped out of bed, grabbed my automatic and flipped the light switch, but I was alone.
It was the third time in a week something sat on my bed and grabbed me. I moaned and laughed and wiped sweat from my face. Strange sounds escaped my mouth as I slid down the wall beside the light switch. Cops don’t go crazy. I had to hold it together. There were attorneys to deal with and divorce papers to sign.
For years marriage held together my life in Amsterdam. Friends, career, apartment and language were stuffed inside it like groceries in a paper bag. Divorce hit that bag like a stream of water. What had once seemed strong fell apart in my hands and left me juggling the contents so nothing would shatter at my feet.
I remember the day everything changed. Michelle was across the kitchen, chopping asparagus for a midnight stir-fry, her blonde hair falling over a shoulder.
She had been acting odd for a couple of weeks, as though she wanted to say something. That night she had been out and looked so sexy and sweet standing there in black pumps and flowers on a blouse that hung low around her neck, shaking with the rhythm of the chopping. As I admired her and stepped close, kissed her shoulder, pressed my hand on hers, I smelled perfume and cigarette smoke from the club.
The instant I touched her she started crying and dropped the knife.
“Cody, there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for weeks. I met a new friend, and her husband, and it just happened with the three of us. I’ve tried not to see them, but something inside me has changed and I can’t stop.”
It wasn’t so much the words that hurt as the look in her eyes, those green eyes once so full of admiration and hope and our love, now showed fear and a wanting to be somewhere else. Her simple admission cracked the foundation of our home, broke the concept of us. It was as though I had been slapped but it hurt more, a pain in my gut that sucked strength out of me because I knew what it meant. Michelle was the reason I came to Amsterdam, learned Dutch and joined the force. She was my Holland. Without her as my anchor in the Netherlands I could feel the tide of culture and language pushing me toward the beach of my home, my country, the USA.
Memories and plans danced through my mind as I sat with my back against the wall, the light switch beside me. Traffic in the street below turned silent. Laughing crowds had long since left the bars when I climbed into bed.
I was sleeping on the horrible pull-out sofa, steel bars poking me when I moved, dreaming of Michelle cozy in our apartment, when I found myself staring at a man. I thought I was dreaming and rose on an elbow. He was in his sixties, dressed as a Wild West gambler with vest, Western bow tie, silver walking stick, a strange blue glow around him. I stared for a few moments before realizing I was awake.
That pounding started in my head and I wanted to shout. I jumped out of bed and ran for the light switch once more. With light the phantom vanished, but his chair remained. Something had moved it from its place against the wall. Something real, with physical form, had moved it. What the hell was going on?
I could have imagined seeing a ghost. Maybe I imagined something touching me night after night, but there was no denying something moved the chair. That freaked me out. The rest of the night I sat in the corner, firearm in my sweaty hand. I was safe with my back against the wall. If anything touched me I would instantly see it.
I was losing sleep. It wasn’t something I could shoot or slap handcuffs on. Once or twice might have shaken me up, but could have been explained as a dream. I had to make it stop.
I was lucky I still had my career and ran from the house each morning. But sketchy sleep was making me irritable and I often snapped at Michael, my partner, during the second half of our patrol. That was when I started worrying about going home, wondering when the thing would touch me again.
I needed somewhere to go where I felt safe and welcome. I couldn’t go to the people I loved in Michelle’s family. They had chosen sides. To them I was now a foreign intruder. I was isolated and alone, a man with a giant accent that made even the flower girl on the corner look twice and hesitate to answer, never having heard Dutch spoken by an American.
One night, as I changed into my street clothes and shut my locker and walked out the back door of police headquarters, I knew I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t take something touching me again.
Instead of walking my usual streets, along busy boulevards and side streets where I hardly had to look up to know where I was, I headed into Old Town. Out here, surrounded by traffic and business signs and shoppers, nothing weird could touch me. I walked city streets for more than an hour.
Near the park, where the old bay trees blocked the street lights, fog floated over the cobblestones. Crooked little houses looked squished against each other. Here and there a window glowed with light filtered through curtains. From one of the windows jumped a cat. I turned to watch it run and saw a man following me.
He was short with brown skin and black oily hair combed straight back.
I was so concerned with what touched me when I slept that I wasn’t watching my surroundings. I was being street stupid. He might be some guy rushing home. That would be the best scenario. Or he might want to rob me. That I could deal with. But if he was connected to a case and seeking revenge, there might be several men working together.
His team could be sitting in one of the vehicles that lined the street.
If an organized group were tracking me I was in trouble.
I had to get among people.
I reached for my weapon. It was in my police locker.