1968 Janice Engelhart sat quietly in an overstuffed chair in the corner of the McNally's family room, stroking the fur of their gray Persian cat named Natasha. It was darker in the corner, and she liked it for that very reason. Everyone in the house that was still awake out in the open where she could see them, and she felt somewhat protected in the shadows, with her back up against the wall.
Mr. and Mrs. McNalley were seated at the large table in the center of the room, playing a game of Monopoly with Jonathan and Eddie. Janice had opted to just sit and watch, much to the dismay of Mrs. McNalley. But she hadn't been pushed too much and for that she was grateful. All she really wanted right now was to be left alone. If nothing ever happened to her again as long as she lived, it would be fine with her. Her concept of reality had been shattered into a million pieces and she lacked both the energy and desire to put it back together again.
She knew that Eddie was bad. Real bad. He had powers no one else had. Bad powers. Beyond that, her mind would not allow her to question the reasons why she felt that way. The only ray of sunshine in her life was Mrs. McNalley, whose kind and gentle ways had given her a small piece of security to hold on to. Her father was in the hospital but she didn't trust him anymore. He hadn't been able to protect her. Her brother had tried, but he too had failed. As far as she was concerned, men in general could no longer be counted on, let alone be trusted. That included Mr. McNalley, even though he tried to be nice. No, she would never trust anyone but Mrs. McNalley from now on, and she wasn't so sure about her. That was what had so perplexed her that night.
It was obvious to her that Mrs. McNalley had taken a special interest in Eddie, but for the life of her, she couldn't figure why. True, Eddie had been on his best behavior lately, but there was something more to it than that. Didn't she see that Eddie was bad? Her mind rambled like a computer programmed to crunch all the variables, searching for answers, playing out all possible scenarios. In the end, she decided that Eddie had corrupted her too. Now she was alone, truly alone. That was more than Janice could take and she decided she would have to win Mrs. McNalley back. Not that she had ever lost her, so to speak, but as long as she was befriending Eddie, she was as good as lost. But how was the question?
First things first, she decided. She would watch Eddie like a hawk, never letting him out of her sight if possible. He would slip up sooner or later and she wanted to be right there to point it out to Mrs. McNalley. Second, she was afraid that Eddie might do harm to her, like he had to Aunt Louise. And herself, her subconscious added. She vowed to watch over Mrs. McNalley twenty-four hours a day. It would give her purpose, and in the end, Mrs. McNalley would see the truth for herself.
Janice watched as the four continued to play. Jonathan finished his turn, landing exactly on the Go square and collecting his two hundred dollars from Mr. McNalley. He stood up and excused himself, so he could go to the bathroom. He smiled hopefully at Janice as he passed her, but she ignored him, and rolled her head as if she was going to sleep. She felt a small twinge of remorse, but she had steeled herself towards the fact that all men were bad. Or at least had the potential to be that way when you least expected it.
"Your turn Eddie. Jim, I was talking to Eddie earlier today, and it seems he shares our interest in the paranormal too," said Patricia McNalley as Jonathan left the room and Eddie picked up the dice.
"Is that so?" asked Dr. McNalley.
"I didn't know it had such a fancy name, but I guess I've played around with the idea a little," said Eddie innocently.
"What field exactly, Eddie?" asked the doctor.
"Mostly in the south field, behind the barn," replied Eddie, pretending not to understand what the doctor meant. Both McNalleys laughed.
"I guess what I meant was, what area of the paranormal are you interested in, Eddie?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Moving things I guess."
"Telekinesis," said Patricia.
"Tele-what?" Eddie asked.
"Telekinesis," said Dr. McNalley, "the ability to move objects without the use of any known physical or sensory means. Simply put, to move or levitate objects using only your mind."
"That would be me," replied Eddie.
"What do you mean, Eddie?" asked Patricia, glancing over at her husband as she did.
"I can do that," Eddie said matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, though I'm not very good at it I'm afraid."
"Ninety-nine point nine nine percent of us can't do it all, Eddie. Some say one hundred percent of us can't," said Jim McNalley. "Could you show us a little sample of your handiwork?"
"I, I, I've never done it in front of anyone before," said Eddie shyly, looking down at the tabletop, knowing that he had them eating out of his hands.
"We don't want to pressure you son," said Mrs. McNalley compassionately, "but if you think it wouldn't be too much of a strain on you right now, could you try for us? Something really simple, of course."
Eddie let a few moments pass to build the suspense.
"I guess, but it will cost you."
"Cost us?" asked a surprised Patricia McNalley.
"Sometimes I find it helps if I have some kind of reward to get this to work."
"What did you have in mind, Eddie?" asked the doctor, one eyebrow raised high on his forehead.
"Oh, nothing special. You've been so good to us that I couldn't dream of asking for anything else. Let's see. How about, um, how about if I can move my piece down to the Free Parking, I get to keep the money, and we just tell Jonathan that's how my roll turned out."
"Sounds fair to me," said Patricia, "but I don't like the thought of cheating Jonathan."
"He won't mind, besides, if he lands on anything else but Go, he'll be out of the game anyway," returned Eddie quickly, looking at Jonathan's meager pile of five's and ones.
"Well, if that's what it takes, go ahead Eddie," said Patricia.
Eddie looked over to Dr. McNalley.
"When ever you're ready, Eddie."
Eddie knew this was going to be as easy as taking candy from a baby, but he wanted to make it look much harder. He closed his eyes and lowered his head down as if in prayer. He waited a few moments, but then decided to get it over with before Jonathan got back. All he had to do was envision the little silver die-cast car cruising down the game board six squares and coming to a stop in the corner. What he really wanted to do was to fly it around the room a couple of times and park it in his sister's nose, but there was no sense in giving away too much too soon. When he opened his eyes, the car was sitting in the middle of the Free Parking square, with it's front bumper pointing towards the Go to Jail corner of the board.
"That's incredible!" exclaimed Patricia, her eyes wide with amazement. "Did you see that, Jim?"
"Yes, I did, quite remarkable. Have you practiced this much Eddie?"
"A little," said Eddie, as he reached to the center of the board and gathered up the considerable amount of money on the Free Parking square.
"Could you show us?" asked Patricia enthusiastically.
"Another time, maybe. I don't really like to show off. If it's just you, or Dr. McNalley, that would be okay I guess. But only if it can be our little secret."
Dr. McNalley and his wife exchanged glances again.
"Does anyone else know about your ability to do this?" asked the doctor.
"Not exactly, and I'd like to keep it that way. This whole thing scares me a little," said Eddie shyly.
"As you wish, Eddie. It will just be our little secret," said Mrs. McNalley, nodding at her husband for support.
"Of course," agreed Jim McNalley.
"Thanks," said Eddie, hearing the toilet flush in the bathroom down the hall. "Here comes Jonathan, so not a word, okay?"
Both McNalleys nodded in agreement.
Eddie smiled to himself, and then quickly envisioned the dice changing to show a pair of threes. The sound of the dice tumbling caught the attention of both of the McNalleys, as Jonathan approached his seat.
"Did I miss anything?" asked Jonathan.
"Hey brother, must be my lucky day. Not only did I land on Free Parking, I rolled doubles. Still my turn."
"Figures. You always did have all the luck."
Dr. McNalley watched as Eddie rolled the dice again, and wondered just how much of what happened to the Engelhart family was luck, coincidence, fate, or of Eddie's doing. He turned to look at Janice, wondering what might be registering on her face, but saw that she was asleep. Just as well he thought.
Janice watched through her barely opened eyes as Dr. McNalley turned his attention to the game. Fools, she thought. They were falling for Eddie's bullshit. She would have to be extra careful from now on. Dr. McNalley could look after himself, she told herself, but she would be watching over Mrs. McNalley as if her life depended on it. For all she knew, it did.
Day to day life at the McNalley's was a piece of cake to Janice and the other Engelhart siblings. Since they were now living in town, at least for the near future, there were no chores to speak of. They had to pick up after themselves of course, but that was nothing compared to feeding all the livestock, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, getting dinner ready, milking the cows twice a day, etc., etc., etc. What Janice decided she liked most of all was the fact that there were none of the aromas that were ever present on the farm. She laughed at the thought. She not only did not have to do shit, she didn't have to eat shit, and she didn't have to smell shit. Cow shit, horse shit, pig shit, bull shit, dog shit, cat shit, and worst of all on a hot summer day, the rancid, overpowering, ammonia based chicken shit.
Mrs. McNalley had flowers planted everywhere, and there were always at least three or four fresh bouquets placed strategically around the house in beautiful antique glass vases. The mixtures of their fragrance and the smell of freshly mowed grass was intoxicating to Janice, and then and there she decided that when the time came for her to run her own life, she would do the same. She would have flowers in her house, her car, and her hair. Hell, she'd even have some roses tattooed on her butt! And she would have a real grass lawn, and no matter how small, she would mow it every day. Although subconsciously, she was only fantasizing at the time, reality turned out to be quite close to her daydreams. The tattoo would end up on her left breast where she could see it, and the grass would be smoked everyday instead of mowed.
Janice watched through the open window facing the street as a couple of boys about her age ran by with baseball mitts on their hands and a bat over each shoulder. It seemed to her that they didn't have a care in the world, except for getting to the ball field.
"Hurry up, Jerry!" yelled the tall one in the lead. "I don't want them starting without us."
"You just don't want to have to play outfield," yelled the younger brother between gasps of air.
"Why should I?" asked the older brother as he ran backwards taunting his sibling, trying to get him to hurry up. "That's what a runt like you is for!"
"Eat my shorts!" yelled his little brother.
"Make me…. runt!"
And they where off at full speed again.
Janice watched as the two disappeared from view. She hoped that the little one caught his brother and beat him over the head with his baseball bat until he was unconscious. Inside, she knew that was what she would like to do to her own younger brother.
"Hey, Janice!" came a yell from the next room. It was Eddie. "Time to load up and go and see father."
"I think I'll just stay here today, you and Jonathan can go," she replied evenly.
"No chance, sister of mine. We're all gonna be there. That's the way this thing is supposed to work."
"What in the hell is that supposed to mean?" asked Janice.
"Simply put, we get to stay here at Disneyland, free of charge, as long as we play the game. The rules of the game say that we have to act like we're worried about father, and have no other place to go. Poor, father. Poor us. Got it?"
"I got it all right, Eddie. But I'm not going."
Eddie's face quickly turned crimson, as he walked a few steps closer to his sister.
"You'll go, bitch! If I have to send you flying through that window you have your face poked in all day, you will go!"
Janice shrunk back in her chair, fearing a physical onslaught from Eddie that never came. The redness in Eddie's face began to subside, but there were still blotches on his cheeks.
"Okay. I… I'm going."
"You bet your ass you're going, and don't piss me off about this again. When the Triple E says jump, you jump. Understand?"
"Sure, I understand Eddie."
"Triple E, not Ed-die," he said with distaste for his own birth name.
Janice looked at him defiantly, wanting to draw the line at this 'Triple E' garbage. She would go and see her dad. She would do what ever it took to keep Eddie off her back. But to have to put up with his arrogance about being called 'Triple E' was to say that he had the ultimate power, and her will had not yet been broken that far.
"Look Eddie, I'll do what you say, but I'm not . . ."
"Not what?" growled Eddie, trying to keep his voice low enough not to be overheard.
"I'm not going to call you 'Triple E', that's all," said Janice, feeling temporarily brave in having done so.
"We'll see about that!" shouted Eddie, as he mentally created the thoughts needed to shove Janice's chair, with Janice in it, up against the wall with a thud. He was in a rage, and Janice definitely needed to be put in her place right now, he thought to himself as he began to levitate her chair above the floor.
"See about what, Eddie?" asked Mrs. McNalley from around the corner, startling them both.
Janice's chair was only inches above the ground when Mrs. McNalley interrupted. Eddie's concentration was smashed at the sound of her voice and gravity regained control of the situation, dropping Janice and her chair back to their original place.
Eddie didn't turn to face Mrs. McNalley at first, waiting instead for his blood pressure to go down, and hopefully most of the signs of his rage.
"Eddie?" she asked again.
"Yes?" said Eddie tamely as he turned around to meet her gaze.
"See about what, Eddie?"
"I'm sorry, Mrs. McNalley. I guess, I guess I just got upset about my father being in the hospital, and there's nothing we can do about it," lied Eddie skillfully.
Patricia McNalley was no fool, and her forte was child behavior. It didn't take her long to sum up the situation after looking at Janice's face, and then back to Eddie's.
"Eddie, I know these must be hard times for you, but you can't take them out on others, especially your sister. If you need someone to unleash on, that should be me, or Mr. McNalley. Do you understand?"
Janice watched carefully to see what Eddie's reaction would be. She couldn't help but be relieved with Mrs. McNalley's intervention, and she was in awe of her ability to recognize the circumstances for what they were. Still, she couldn't help fearing for the safety of her rescuer, knowing that Eddie was in the middle of another one of his unexplainable episodes of violence.
At first she thought Eddie was going to launch them both through the large picture window, and she imagined them tumbling together through space, falling to the ground in a heap with lacerations from head to toe. What happened next amazed her, and made her realize that Eddie was more dangerous than she had ever thought.
"Your right, Mrs. McNalley," he said, as he turned towards Janice, looking so innocent that it made Janice want to spit. "I'm sorry sis, I don't know what got into me. Can you ever forgive me?"
Patricia looked at Eddie with a look of understanding and approval, and then she turned her eyes to Janice, obviously expecting some kind of reciprocal gesture. Janice knew the situation was hopeless, and she didn't want to lose face in front of the only person in this world who might eventually understand what was really going on. On the other hand, she would never say she was sorry to Eddie, even if it meant death by shards of glass.
"No biggy," said Janice, not wanting to look either one of them in the face. "Let's just go."
That was good enough for Patricia McNalley, and she broke into a smile.
"I'm glad to see you two could work this out. I know you've been under a lot of strain lately, but it's times like these when we have to really stick together. I'll go round up Jonathan, and we'll be off. I'm sure your father will be anxious to see you again. A hospital can be a very lonely place when you're the one stuck in bed."
Mrs. McNalley turned around and walked into the other room, with Eddie following right behind her. Janice watched as the two left, then slowly brought herself to her feet. It seemed there was really no one she could trust anymore, but Patricia McNalley was the last thread tying her to sanity, and she found herself unwilling to let go. Eddie would probably win, but she had to try.
'Why?' her subconscious questioned.
'If I let go now, I may never find my way back again,' thought Janice.
‘Back to where?' asked her relentless subconscious.
'How in the hell should I know?' came the reply. 'I'm only fourteen years old, and I'm living in the Twilight Zone.'
'True,' came the voice again, 'but way back to where?'
Janice managed to get through the rest of the day, having very little to say to her father while at the hospital, and even less to anyone else on the way home. Mrs. McNalley tried to make small talk several times, obviously going out of her way to get her to speak, but Janice resisted the temptation. Part of her wanted to punish Mrs. McNalley for befriending the enemy, and the rest of her wanted to send her a message that something was desperately wrong. She knew, or at least hoped, that Mrs. McNalley would come around sooner or later and force the issue to a head. Hopefully it would be sooner, but no matter what the time frame, it would have to be when they were alone. To force the issue, she had remained alone upstairs in the room the McNalleys had given until dinner, and had gone back up right after being excused. Every second that went by seemed an eternity, but finally she heard the footsteps coming up the stairs, stopping at her door.
"Janice?" asked Patricia McNalley through the door.
"Yes," returned Janice, making every effort to sound despondent.
"Can I come in?"
Patricia slowly opened the door, let herself in, and closed it again. She leaned against the door, and waited a second before speaking. "Are you feeling all right, Janice?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," returned Janice slowly.
"You don't seem fine. You hardly ate anything for dinner, and you haven't said twenty words to anyone all day. That's out of character for a child your age, even for you. What's wrong?"
"Nothing really. I'm not very hungry, and I just don't feel much like talking to anyone. I don't mean to be rude," added Janice politely, not wanting Mrs. McNalley to think of her as a spoiled little brat.
"Well, I guess I can except that, seeing that I have days like that myself," said Patricia understandingly, hoping to draw Janice out of her shell.
"You do?" asked Janice quickly, forgetting to play the solemn teenager, and hating herself as soon as she had let the words out.
"Mind if I sit down?" asked Patricia.
"Please," said Janice, scooting over on her bed to make room for the older woman.
"Thanks," said Mrs. McNalley, as she sat down next to Janice. "You might not believe it, but ask Mr. McNalley, there's times I just don't want to say boo to anybody. Drives him nuts too. Maybe that's why I do it, I don't know. Truth is, there are times when a person just needs to be inside them self. No matter how much everyone else wants to help, there's just some things you need to figure out yourself. You know what I mean?"
Janice just nodded.
"I figured you would. You're a thinker, just like me, I can tell. Lots of kids have been through this house; let me tell you. Although they're all unique in their own ways, they basically fall into three groups," continued Mrs. McNalley, not waiting for a response.
"First, there are the sponges. Most kids that end up here are sponges. They need caring and attention so bad they suck up all they can, while they can. Kinda like throwing a dry sponge in a bucket of water. Goes in the bucket weighing a few ounces, comes out weighing three pounds. They eat like there's no tomorrow, want to always be held or catered to, and demand your total attention. Nothing wrong with that, don't get me wrong, especially considering the places that most of them come from.
"The second kind I like to call the rebels. They just want to upset the apple cart because their own world has been turned upside down. Just about every kid that comes through here has a little bit of that in them, at first anyway, even the little babies that can't even talk yet. Sometimes they're the worst. Most get over it, as soon as they realize that not everyone in this world is out to get them, neglect them, or just plain desert them. But a few hang on to that attitude for a long time. Some I would venture to say, the rest of their lives. You wont find any of them around here for too long though, because I refuse to waste my time on anyone who doesn't want to be helped. There's too many that do."
Janice looked up at Mrs. McNalley as she paused, hoping that she hadn't been put into that category. She opened her mouth to speak, when Patricia continued without giving her a chance to intervene. "Then there's the third type. I call them the thinkers. Sometimes they're a little bit sponge, a little bit the rebel, and a whole lot of something they just don't know. Other times they know exactly what they are, and are just trying to perfect what it is they feel they want to be. They're still searching. Searching for what, I don't always figure out before they have to leave. Some feel they're searching for their own special place in the world, I suspect. Others seem to be just searching for the truth. Those are the ones I feel for the most, because the truth is probably the hardest thing find sometimes.
"You'd think it would just sit out there on some kind of pedestal and pinch you on the rear end every time you passed it by without giving it some thought. But it doesn't. Don't get me wrong, it's out there for everyone to find, just as plain as the nose on your face. But it seems to be perfectly happy if you don't find it, too. That's because the truth can stand on it's own. It doesn't need your help or acknowledgment, and it don't need mine either. It's kinda like Superman. It's bulletproof. And just like Superman, when it's dressed up in tights and a cape, it's easy to see. But sometimes the truth takes off the cape, and puts on a pair of horned rim glasses, and we miss it.
"Fact is, only a blind person wouldn't be able to tell that Clark Kent was really Superman. We just don't want to believe it's true, so the story will work. It's the same with the truth. The only time you won't be able to see it is when you're not looking, looking too hard, or you don't want to believe it's true.
"You're a thinker, Janice. No doubt in my mind. Knew it the first time I laid eyes on you."
Janice had been watching Mrs. McNalley intensely, but now turned her gaze down toward her hands, clenched together tightly.
"Do you really think so?" she asked.
"Like I said, no doubt in my mind."
Patricia waited as she watched the wheels turn in the teenager's head. She felt like she had gotten through, and now all that was left was to find out what was really troubling her.
"You're right about me, you know," said Janice, choosing her words carefully, trying to make a lasting impression. "I am a thinker."
Patricia nodded in agreement, saying nothing, hoping Janice would continue. When she didn't, she prodded her on. "Would you like to share your thoughts with me?" she asked tenderly.
"You wouldn't understand," replied Janice, in a tone that was colder and more distant than Patricia had expected.
"Try me," she responded, not willing to give up.
"They're about Eddie."
"Are you two having problems again?" asked Patricia innocently.
"Like I said. You wouldn't understand."
"Did I ever tell you that I had two brothers? They were both a pain when I was growing up."
"They weren't like Eddie!" shouted Janice, temporarily losing her composure.
"Okay," said Mrs. McNalley, wanting to know what had brought on the sudden show of emotion in Janice. "I'm sure you're right. Those were simpler times back then, and come to think of it, my brothers were about as simple as two human beings could get."
She could tell her attempt at humor had fallen on deaf ears, so she decided to wait for Janice to continue. It took almost two minutes. When Janice finally spoke, there was no doubt in her mind that this was more than just normal sibling rivalry.
"Look Mrs. McNalley. I really appreciate you coming up here and talking to me. I know you mean well. But you really just don't understand. And I can't explain it to you. At least not without a lot more of that thinking you were talking about. But I can tell you this, there are basically three types of people who know Eddie."
Janice stopped at that point, and turned to face Mrs. McNalley eye to eye. Patricia McNalley had never seen a person so young look so intense, so serious. There was little she could say.
Janice continued as if on cue, still not breaking the eye contact she had with Mrs. McNalley. Still not blinking, Patricia also noticed.
"First, there's the people that don't see Eddie for what he is. Most people fall into that category," explained Janice, mimicking her adult counterpart.
"Second, there are people who realize there's something different about Eddie. You're one of those, Mrs. McNalley. At least for right now."
"And the other type?" asked Patricia, not able to resist the temptation.
"The last type is the type I feel sorry for the most. The type I don't want to see you become. They're the ones that don't see the truth, just like you said. It's there for them to see all right, but not until it's too late."
"And what type would that be, Janice?" asked the curious foster parent.
One night, after trying hard to sleep, but failing miserably, Janice decided to get out of bed and read for a while. She turned on the lamp by the side of her bed, and walked over to the desk where she had set her latest stack of books from the library. As she picked through the collection, she heard voices coming from downstairs. She wouldn't have considered this out of the ordinary, since Mr. and Mrs. McNalley often stayed up and talked after all the children had been put to bed, but she could hear another voice too. It was Eddie's.
The thought of Eddie being alone with them was too much for her to dismiss without further investigation and she quickly went back and turned off her bedroom light. The room was totally black except for the light shining under the crack of her door. She slowly walked to the door and ever so gently opened it enough to allow her to put her ear to the opening. The voices seemed to amplify themselves as they bounced off the walls and up the staircase, and she found that she could hear them quite clearly. Mr. McNalley was talking at the moment.
"That was truly amazing, Eddie. That bowl of fruit must way at least four or five pounds! Do you find that the heavier the object, the harder it is to move it?"
"Yes, unless I'm mad or something," replied Eddie shyly.
"Is it easier for you when you’re upset?" asked Patricia.
"In some ways yes, and in some ways no."
"Could you explain that, Eddie?" asked Jim McNalley.
"Are you going to write down everything I say?" asked Eddie.
'What's that about?' thought Janice.
"Well, no Eddie, not if you don't want me too. The reason I'm writing things down is to be sure I don't forget anything. When you get to be my age, your memory tends to get a little fuzzy around the edges. I wouldn't show my notes to anyone if you didn't want me too, of course. Just like with all of my patients. It's against the law."
"Am I one of your patients?" asked Eddie.
"Of course not, dear," Patricia answered quickly.
"Writing things down makes me nervous. Besides, you're the only people who know about this… this thing I can do. I'd like to keep it our little secret, for now at least. People might think I'm weird or something."
'You got that right, little brother.'
"As you wish, Eddie."
Janice could hear the shuffling of papers as Mr. McNalley put away his notes.
"Good. Now, you were going to explain how it was easier in some ways when you were upset, and harder in others."
"Well, I guess it's easier to lift big things when I'm mad, but I can't always move them where I want. Sometimes they kind of go where they want."
"What's the biggest thing you've ever tried to move, Eddie?" Jim asked.
"Oh, I don't know," replied Eddie, seemingly not willing to talk about it.
'Tell them asshole.'
"I tried to move a small calf once, but all I did was knock it over."
"What would you say it weighed Eddie, forty, maybe fifty pounds?"
"And that's the biggest thing you've ever tried to move?" asked Patricia.
"Yeah, I guess so."
'Lies again! The last time I got on a scale I weighed over a hundred.'
"I take it you were upset then?" asked the doctor.
"Yeah. He got out through a gate I forgot to shut all the way. My father yelled at me for it, and made me do some extra chores."
"I see. Was the animal hurt when he fell?"
'Sure. Now try and explain the dead steers Dad found every now and then.'
"Do you ever just practice moving things around, Eddie? You know, just for fun?" Mrs. McNalley asked, trying to be less clinical in her questions than her husband.
"A little bit I guess. When I get bored."
"Do you find that you're getting better at this the more you practice?" asked Mr. McNalley.
"Maybe a little," replied Eddie, playing about as dumb as person could get.
'Maybe a little… Why don't you ask him to lift you and your chair off the ground for a few minutes?'
Janice found that she had listened to more that she could handle. Without giving it a second thought, she flung the door open and ran down the stairs and into the dining room where they were sitting.
Jim and Patricia McNalley nearly had a simultaneously heart attack when Janice came flying around the corner and into the family room. Eddie remained nearly statuesque. Janice came to screeching halt at the table's edge, stopping from tumbling over the top and into Mrs. McNalley's lap only by putting out both her hands and grabbing the solid oak table top.
Patricia stood up first, her maternal instincts taking over.
"What's wrong Janice?"
"What's wrong?" shouted Janice, turning a dark shade of red. "What's wrong?"
"Yes dear, come over here and tell me exactly what's got you so upset. Are you all right, did you have a bad dream?"
"I'm just fine, thank-you. It's you two that need help!"
"What on earth are you talking about, Janice?" Dr. McNalley tersely asked.
He didn't really appreciate being interrupted when they were so deep into interviewing Eddie, let alone being talked to that way by a child. Janice didn't seem to notice the tone in his voice. In fact, she became even bolder.
"I'm talking about you, and Mrs. McNalley, and playing little games with Eddie, who's leading you both down a pretty little path full of bullshit and down right lies! Tell them Eddie. Tell them the truth!" she shouted at the top of her lungs.
Eddie looked at the two McNalleys as if his sister had blown a major head gasket, then turned his gaze back to Janice.
"Calm down Janice. You shouldn't be so disrespectful to Mr. and Mrs. McNalley. We're lucky they're even keeping us until father gets better."
"Go to hell, Eddie!" she shouted.
Mr. McNalley was the one to stand up this time.
"Janice, I can see you are upset, but I won't have any child running around this house using that kind of language. Now, Mrs. McNalley asked you a question, and I expect that you give her an answer. And without any of your foul mouth or nasty attitude."
"She's upset Jim, just let me talk to her," consoled Patricia as she started around the table toward Janice. "It's going to be all right Janice, you just come with me and…”
"Forget it!" screamed Janice, starting to back away from the table.
"Janice, be reasonable," pleaded Mrs. McNalley.
"Reasonable! Reasonable? What would you two know about reasonable? You're sitting here, having a nice little chat, with Adolf Hitler junior, and you want me to be reasonable? No thanks, I'd rather take my chances with Jack the Ripper!"
"That'll be enough, young lady!" shouted Jim McNalley, finding it hard to control himself at the moment.
"You wish! But it's never enough, is it Eddie? First Aunt Louise, then Lt. Taylor and that other man, then me, then Jonathan, and finally dad! Who's next Eddie? Who's next? Mr. and Mrs. McNalley?"
"I think she has really lost it this time," said Eddie, knowing that he had to ruin her credibility, and realizing that the perfect moment for it was at hand. "I mean, she had been a little bit loony before, but I think she's really gone over the edge this time."
Janice started to lunge for her brother just as Mr. McNalley wrapped both of his arms around her, pinning her arms at her sides.
"Patricia, get my bag, and be quick!" he shouted as Janice proceeded to bruise the front of his shins with her bare heels.
"Don't believe him! Don't believe him! He's evil as the devil himself! Don't believe him!"
Patricia McNalley soon appeared at her husband's side, with a syringe in one hand, out of Janice's sight. She had known exactly what he had meant by 'get my bag'. It wasn't the first time they had been in these circumstances. She looked at her husband expectantly, and he gave her a nod. She rapped the syringe along it's clear casing with her left index finger then shot a thin clear stream of fluid from the needle several feet into the air. She had been prepared to wipe down Janice's arm with an alcohol soaked cotton swab before giving her the shot, but Janice had caught the scene out of the corner of her eye. She began to kick even harder, so Patricia stabbed the needle right through the sleeve of her nightgown and into the large muscle on her upper arm, pressing the plunger down as fast as she dared.
Janice continued to struggle a few more seconds then slowly started to calm down. Before a minute had passed, Dr. McNalley was able to scoop her up in his arms and carry her to the couch.
"Well," he said, trying to place what was left of his hair back into place, "that was quite a scene. Does she get like this often, Eddie?"
"Didn't use to, but she seems to be getting worse as time goes on. She dreams up the wildest stuff sometimes. I don't know where she gets it, maybe she watches too much Outer Limits, I don't know."
"The poor thing," said Patricia. "She's been through a lot lately. Maybe a good night's sleep is just what the doctor ordered."
"Like it or not, she's got one of those coming now. I just hope her arm hurts in the morning as much as my shins do right now."
Janice woke around seven the next morning, still feeling groggy from the sedative. At first she thought she was still in her room but, as her eyes began to focus, she realized she was on the couch in the family room. She noticed she had been covered with a blanket, and a pillow was propped under her head. It took her a few moments to reconstruct what had happened, and when she did, all she wanted to do was pull the cover over her head and go back to sleep. Unfortunately, her need to use the bathroom and to get a drink of water was far too demanding to allow such an easy escape.
She sat upright on the couch, wincing at the pain in her upper left arm as she did. She remembered seeing the needle squirt out of the corner of her eye while she was trying to escape Mr. McNalley's grasp. She felt betrayed. Her only friend in the world had given her a shot in the arm to shut her up, just when she was trying to save her. Well, if that's the way they were going to play it, they could just learn the hard way. From now on, Janice Engelhart would be take care of her self.
She slowly stood on her feet, and started to make her way toward the stairs when Mrs. McNalley came out of the kitchen.
"Glad to see you're up," said Patricia brightly. "Hungry?"
"No thanks," replied Janice evenly, though now that it had been mentioned, she was starving. "I just want to go upstairs and get dressed."
"Okay, you do that. Maybe you'll change your mind after you've been awake for a little while. Everyone else has eaten. Hey, good news! Your dad called just a little while ago, and he gets to come home today. Isn't that great?"
"Yeah, terrific," Janice said in a monotone and started up the stairs.
Mrs. McNalley thought about stopping her, surprised at her reaction, or lack of it, but decided to give her a chance to wake up. She felt terrible for the child, but for the first time in a long time, didn't know quite what to do about it. She was still watching Janice slowly ascend the stairs when she heard her husband's voice behind her.
"Patricia?" he waited for his wife to turn around. "Sergeant Roland's on his way, should be here any minute."
"Honey, we don't need Ray here every time you leave the house for half an hour. Besides, this must be driving him nuts."
"We’ve already gone over this, dear. Do we have to go over it again?"
"No, I guess not. It's just that Eddie seems to be doing so well. I guess it's hard for me to believe that there's more to this than we've already seen."
"I'm not so sure about that."
"What makes you say that, Jim?"
"Come into the kitchen and I'll fill you in."
Patricia joined her husband in the kitchen as he was pouring himself another cup of coffee.
"Want one?" asked Jim.
"I'll pass, thanks. So what do you know that I don't?"
"Remember last night, you went to bed after everything happened, and I said I wanted to stay up and do a little research for a while?"
"I'm not the one that needs to write everything down so I don't forget things, or had you forgotten?" teased Patricia, recalling what Jim had said to Eddie the night before.
"Very funny. What else was I to say?"
"You never could lie worth a damn."
"Isn't that why you married me?"
"There were other reasons, but then, those were different times. We were much younger then."
"Need you remind me?"
"Every chance I get, old timer. How are your legs?"
"Hurt like hell. I'm half tempted to write myself out a prescription for some morphine."
"Anyway, as I was saying, I was doing a little research last night, and Jonathan came down to see me. Said he had heard some screaming, thought it was Janice, and he wasn't sure if it was a dream or not."
"What did you say?"
"I let him know what had happened basically, and asked him if he could shed some light on the matter."
"Good idea," said Patricia. "We really haven't gotten his side of the story yet. He always manages to avoid talking about anything but the weather."
"I've noticed that too, but he was in the mood for talking last night."
"And I think he's as worried as Janice is about Eddie, though I couldn't quite get him to open up about it. It's strange, but it was almost as if there were something keeping him from talking about Eddie. I don't know if it was fear, or what. All he would say is that we should be really careful, that Eddie isn't what he seems to be."
"Too much for coincidence?"
"Too much. I want to talk with Thomas on the way home and see if I can piece things together. He seemed at a loss the last time I talked to him, but I know he doesn't trust Eddie anymore than the kids do. I'm sure everything will be all right, but I'll feel a lot safer with Ray here. Funny thing, he said Lt. Taylor felt the same way."
"You're beginning to scare me, James McNalley."
"Good. Then there will be no more objections I take it?"
"I love you."
"I love you too," said Patricia softly, as she reached over and gave her husband a quick kiss on the lips.
"There's Ray now. I gotta go."
"See you later. Take your time with Mr. Engelhart, we'll be fine here."
Patricia watched through the window as Ray Roland got out of his car and walked up to the driver's side of Jim McNalley's Oldsmobile. They shook hands, and her husband got in his car. They talked for a few seconds, and she could see the right shoulder of her husband dip a little as he reached for the ignition. The next thing she saw was the blinding flash of light from the explosion of the gas tank, then everything went up in a giant fireball as the sound wave reached her ears. She ducked from the uncontrollable reflex actions that commanded her brain, and by the time she raised her head, pieces of her husband's car were beginning to land in the yard. The fireball had turned black and flames were reaching high into the clear blue sky. She let out a quick scream, and turned to run for the side door that went to the driveway.
"Going somewhere?" asked Eddie, who was standing in the doorway.
"Out of my way Eddie!" Patricia managed to say, as she stumbled for the door clutching at her chest.
"Why? He's quite dead you know. Just like you'll be when I'm through with you," continued Eddie, with a curious little smile on his face. "I've never seen anyone have a heart attack before. Does it hurt much?"
Patricia realized what was happening too late to get out another word and collapsed at Eddie's feet. It felt as if someone had actually reached up under her ribs and grabbed her heart, then squeezed with all their might. Her world began to go dark, and the last thought to come to her was why. Why? Her face still seemed to say that when the ambulance driver found her five minutes later.