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Short Stories by: Anthony Davis
last edited on Thursday, December 01, 2005, 12:59 AM, Central Standard Time

The Video Killer Mystery

Tony Franks liked going to week end garage sales and thrift stores to find unique little treasures at rock bottom prices. Today was no exception. It was a Saturday, in Mitchell, Indiana and the sun had just come up. The forecast called for fair weather and that suited him just fine.

His 1961 Valiant with push button transmission and a slant 6 engine was a bit hard to steer on some roads since he tried to find a left outer tie rod end and such a part was no longer in supply since it was 1996.

He didn't really care although many people would look and stare at his old Plymouth, painted the color of a blue sky. There was something that could be said for old things. Tony liked old things. He once picked up an 8 track recorder and had a time trying to find blank 8 tracks to record on until he got on line and found some on a website that was devoted to selling vintage 8 track tapes and blanks. It would seem that place on line had bought out several truck loads of the stuff and were selling it on line at rock bottom prices! :)

Parked across the street from a yard sale, just a few blocks from his house on 505 Brook Street, by the old rail road tracks, there was a fairly large yard sale going on around 8:AM. They were even so kind as to make coffee for the prospective customers.

Tony's wife was still in bed asleep. She didn't even know he was at the sale, but he wanted to surprise her as it was her birthday and he knew he could find something pretty nifty to wrap up and give her. He did plan on giving her a few gift cards for a local Wal Mart Super Center, actually, one down the street about 20 miles! There were rows of long fold out tables covered in odds and ends and tons of clothes on lines tied between trees across the lawn and driveway towards the back yard where the yard sale extended to. On one table with glass ornaments and wood carved statuettes, there was a box that was full of none other than unmarked VHS video tapes. Tony had struck gold!

He loved to preview other people's movies that they copied from either cable or home movies and then use them to record over his own favorite tv shows and movies and the like. Sipping on a paper cup of Folger's Coffee and rummaging through a few boxes of tapes, Tony decided he just had to buy the entire box of videos. You never know what you're gonna get, he figured. The lady took his 20, and said thanks, so Tony thought that was it, and he started towards the Valiant when at about half way, the lady called at him: "Tony! You forgot your change." He turned around and replied: "You keep it. You make the best coffee!" and he smiled and turned back towards his sky blue car and got in with his newly acquired box of mystery tapes. Then it was off to the Wal Mart Super Center to buy his wife several goodies for her birthday.

By 11:AM Tony arrived back in the drive way. Jean, I'm back home.
Sorry I took so long. I got you a few things. I hope you like this.
He had forgotten about the box of tapes and he carried the several bags of gifts and things inside. There was more coffee on ready for him and as he reached over to give her a kiss he then handed her Birthday Card and a dozen roses. She had no idea he got her a Kitchen Aid Mixer. She had wanted one of those since that last episode, years ago, of America's Test Kitchen. While she opened her gifts and enjoyed her birthday cake, he was sipping on the coffee and reading the headline news of the Mitchell Tribune.

Terrorist attack in New York City. Tony figured it was inevitable.
There were threats of terrorist attacks in America since the Mail box bomber and the theft of plastic explosives in a Southern Texas Military facility and nobody found who took them along with blasting caps. Enough plastic explosives to take out a major portion of a highly populated city, building by building. Tony put the paper down in disgust and announced: "Well, do you like it?" She replied, "Of course I do!"

Then after they had their fill of a butter cream white cake with peach roses and vanilla iced cream Tony realized he had forgotten something. "Oh yea, I forgot the box of tapes."  It was beginning to look a bit like bad weather about to come in what looked to be maybe an hour or so. Tony told Jean that the tapes were a bargain and at that point nothing else was said. The tapes set inside of the box, at least for now,  untouched.

He enjoyed his weekend with his wife. He knew that Monday would be busy back at the 2nd Precinct. His fellow detectives were probably glad they all had a few days off since their last case, the one involving a serial killer who used frozen ice in the shape of knives, as murder weapons that left no finger prints or weapons to trace back to.

It had taken the better part of 6 months to crack that case. It was solved finally when they found the perp dead, impaled by one of his own ice knives that he had supposedly accidentally fallen on while running from a dog in an alley! Nobody was sure just how many he had killed but it was somewhere around 12 or greater. The killer's brief case contained several molded spaces that were designed to refrigerate and preserve the knives for several hours after unplugging it from his home electrical outlet. Can you believe that? What a story.

Tony was not used to normal days but he was certainly hopeful this week end would be normal enough. What could go wrong on a birthday anyway right?

Well, it was getting around time for that storm to hit and he figured now was just as good a time as any to open up that mystery box and see what kind of video tapes were in it.
Jean agreed to go over them with him, so they picked one at a time out and scanned them to see what they contained. The first video tape was of a Humphrey Bogart movie called: Dark Passage. A pretty good film, Tony Thought, although it was black and white, Loren and Humphrey looked pretty good in spite of it. They seemed so much younger, of course the film was made several decades earlier, No dah!

Then there was a movie called: Things to come, also a black and white film,  very old and kind of corny,  but it was a revelation of sorts by the great H.G. Wells,  and Tony was fond of that kind of thing too. 

It was beginning to lightning and thunder and to get much darker.  How appropriate to set a mood huh?  Tony went for another piece of birthday cake and a cup of fresh Folgers. "Here,  let me pick one from the box."  said Tony,  and he dug deep into the bottom for one. 

He poked it in the VCR and pressed play.  It was in color.  It looked like a home movie of some kind.  There was this image of what seemed to be the inside of a person's home. No,   not a bondage film! (thought Tony).  There was a person tied to a bed and a hooded man with a long knife of some kind,  then there was a break in the film followed by blank screen for about a minute or so and then a television movie began to play.  It was some kind of Clint Eastwood film.  I think it was Blood Work,  anyway, Tony said,  "Hold on baby!  I need to play that back."  Jean was disturbed by it,  but Tony insisted it was probably some home grown home movie done by an amateur movie maker like some college film student dabbling in the media.  Yea, that's what it is,  some dumb crap a college student is playing around with. I'm sure there's nothing to it.

They watched the movie by Clint Eastwood and by then it was getting too late and the thunder storm was causing the lights to dim and go off and on.  Tony and Jean decided they would go through the rest of the tapes on Sunday after breakfast.

Some things made Tony worry because it was his job to worry,  since his job was dealing with lots of crazy and dangerous murderers and fleeing felons and UnSubs aka Unknown Subjects.  It was not easy to sleep during a thunder storm and  thinking about that last case and now  bondage movies made him toss and turn until he woke up in a fit of anxiety.  At around 3:AM,  Sunday morning,  Tony got up and made himself a cup of coffee and began to look out from his front porch then he returned to the dining room table and picked up the news paper and finished reading the headlines.

He fell asleep as he read.  Later the next morning Tony slipped back into bed as if he had been there all along and tried to catch just a few more z's.  Then morning came,  that is, later that morning.  "Baby,  I need to go to the store and pick up a dozen eggs and a few other things so we can have something for breakfast.  How does Sausage and eggs and hash browns sound?"  Tony replied eagerly: "That sounds okay with me baby."  Jean got dressed and headed out the door.  Immediately, Tony ran over to grab that first tape,  the one with Humphrey Bogart on it.  It looked as though he hadn't rewound the tape to the very beginning.

It turns out there were a few minutes of tape at the very first.  At the very beginning of the first tape,  once again,  there seemed to be a few minutes of some kind of amateur video. In this instance it was about 3 minutes of a hooded person,  standing over something on the floor.  It looked like a painted symbol of some type.  A circle with a star.  It was a pentagram!  What the hell?  The hooded figure was lighting candles that were placed at the four corners of that demonic symbol.  Then the Bogart movie began.

Quickly Tony removed the tape and put in a random tape and  rewound it to the beginning and immediately played it back.  Once again there were a few minutes of video like the last two he had seen.  This time it was of a woman laying on a bed,  being tied by her wrists and feet to the bed posts.  Tony couldn't believe what he was seeing.  It was beginning to sink in.  After a few more minutes of this gruesome depiction,  another vintage movie,  West Side Story.  Tony ran the video to the very end to see if at that point the macabre film might resume,  but it didn't. It seemed that so far the last 3 videos he played had a few minutes of some kind of morbid home movie on them,  as if they were all pieces of perhaps a larger movie. 

Frantically he yanked out the tape and placed yet another video in the tape player and rewound it to the very beginning.

His suspicions were laid to rest when that 4th video had another 3 minute sequence of a similar home movie on it.  It was something right out of Hitchcock or the Twilight Zone, Tony thought.

Was he looking at bits and pieces of a larger single video?,  of someone ritualistically murdering somebody?  It would seem that way, Tony thought.  What else could it be?  Why is the home video cut up into sequences only minutes long and placed deliberately at the very beginning of each tape?  Maybe it was nothing.  Maybe these videos were tape overs that for some reason the person doing the recordings of those vintage movies was not able to rewind to the very beginning due to a flaw in his video recorder.  There are times when a tape is encoded with commercial skip and perhaps every one of those tapes had been full of that type of content but recorded over by someone who themselves had bought them in some used book sale and unknown to them, had recorded over several incriminating tapes of snuff films or ritualistic or satanistic killings?

What an imagination I have,  thought Tony.  I really think I need to stop all this speculation and give this matter a rest, at least for now. After all,  breakfast was going to be great and in the mean time there was time to make a pot of fresh coffee and turn on the tv to watch a half hour of The McLaughlin Group.  Forget about making sense out of those dumb video tapes.  A few seconds from a magnetic video zapper, and they would all be fresh and blank again!  But,  you know,  some of those vintage old movies were really worth keeping, tony figured.

Looking out the front window to watch for Jean's return home with breakfast,  the clouds were getting very dark.  The wind was getting brisk.  And just across the street,  underneath the big cherry tree,  a human figure stood,  wearing cover-alls and a large irregularly shaped hat.  he looked like one of those men who do odd jobs and yard work for the locals.  Tony figured the man was thinking about putting off mowing the lawn until after this storm passes.

He turned back his attention to the television.  The McLaughlin Group was ended and he moved up the channel to CBS.  There was a live,  local ,  and late breaking report of a storm front headed towards Mitchell.  The reporter announced that wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour were expected and that the entire area was under a severe thunderstorm warning in effect until 11 PM.  There was also a tornado watch for the entire county until 11 PM.  That's just perfect!  I hope Jean gets here before the storm hits.

Just then Jean honked the horn and Tony ran out to help her unload the car.
They got in and the winds were beginning to pick up.  "I hope you like ham and eggs Tony.  Mayfield's had a special on ham and I picked up a few pounds of it.  I also got you some of your favorite doughnuts."  Tony was just glad she got home before the storm.

The man across the street was still standing there.  It was as if he was frozen or a statue.
I have a mind to just throw a brick at the guy to make him run away.  Do you know who that is Jean?  She took a look and said,  he looks like one of Mrs. Mallory's yard keepers.  How long has he been standing there?  Tony replied,  for about 20 minutes.  She replied,  He is probably mentally challenged.  Don't pay him any mind.  But he might get struck by lightning if he just keeps standing under that huge cherry tree!  You shouldn't always worry about everyone like that.  You have to sometimes just let things be and try to live your life the best way you can without everyone else's problems keeping you from enjoying your life.  Tony replied,  I hope he has the sense to go inside before the storm hits.  It's due any minute now.

The phone rang.  It was Tron Guilford from the police house.  What's the matter Tron?  Well,  we're a bit short handed.  Joe Bratsworth called in with an emergency and I need you here for a few hours to keep an eye on the prisoners until the truck comes to pick them up in an hour while I go out to check on a down power line on Madison Avenue.

Okay,  I'll be right over.  Keep the keys to the lock up on the wall by the front desk.  Okay,  It'll only take about 2 hours then you can get back with your wife for the rest of the weekend.  Okay then.  No problem.  There was a truck coming in about an hour to pick up 2 men who had been in an altercation at a local bar and they are both responsible for damage to about 2 thousand dollars worth of furniture and other things while causing a ruckus that got some people some bloody noses and a few bruised ribs and such.

Nothing more than a bar room brawl.  And I have to stand and watch while my ham and eggs get cold.  This is tough.

Babe.  I got to go to the office.  I have to stay a few hours until the wagon comes to pick up a few boys from the lockup for acting foolish last night at Baker's Bar for creating a stir. Okay Tony.  I'll be waiting for you.  I'll keep the food covered and you can re heat it when you get back.  I love you.  I love you too.  See you soon.  Hopefully the storm will wait for you to get back home.  Yea right!

While Tony was over at the precinct watching the clock for the arrival for a prisoner transport truck to arrive,  looking out the window at the approaching storm,  his wife,  Jean,  was looking at the box of VHS tapes.  She sat on the couch and popped in one of the tapes and wound it all the way back to the beginning.  She had not known what Tony knew,  that is,  that there were several minutes at the beginning of every one of these tapes,  of acts of human bondage and torture and perhaps,  even murder!

The wind was picking up even more and the first lightning struck.  She went to the window to take a look out and she saw that strange man,  just standing out there,  in spite of the apparent danger.  She called Mrs. Mallory and she answered.  Mrs.  Mallory?  Yes.  There's a man in your yard.  Don't you think he needs ot get out of the weather before the storm hits?  Oh dear.  It's one of Jake's helpers.  He's the retarded one.  He was supposed to be picked up by Jake's oldest son Matthew an hour ago.  He must have run into some kind of car troubles.  Thanks for letting me know.  I wouldn't have every known he was out there because my head was stuck in a book.  I'll get somebody to come get him.  Boy it's fixing to come a storm isn't it?  Yep.  replied Jean.  It's pretty windy and dark and all that.  I bet we get lots of rain.  Yea.  I bet.  Well then Mrs.  Mallory,  I will let you go.  Take care now.  Okay bye.  'click'

Hmm.  That poor man.  Hope a ride comes to get him before he gets struck by ............
OMG!  Just that instant a bold of lightning comes down and hits the cherry tree and Jake's yard man begins to glow like a Christmas tree!  Moments later the man is gone.  There was nobody there.  He had just vanished!


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