Monday, October 31, 2011
Homicide Hussey and the Haunted House
Happy Halloween, all. Since I'm on the road, I thought I'd share one of Homicide Hussey's previous posts -- his encounter with the paranormal. I originally ran it in two posts, so it's longer than my usual posts. Hope you enjoy. (And don't forget my first giveaway deadline is tomorrow!)
Here, Detective Hussey is training a new rookie partner, Vlad. They're finishing dinner when they get a call...
“I’ve got a suspicious incident call at the Carpenter’s Home on North. 98. Meet with the security guard who heard noises upstairs.”
Vlad responded, “Fifty-one from Florida and the Boulevard.”
In training new recruits, I always try to encourage them to formulate a plan in their minds. To visualize what they might find when they get to the call. I then caution them not to get tunnel vision. In other words, to develop several scenarios in their minds just in case.
This call, for instance, could be a burglar, a prowler, kids playing where they don’t belong, or just the wind blowing against a loose shutter. It would be our job to investigate, search and locate the source of the noise, or to determine if the security guard was a little stir crazy.
When we arrived, I might have voted for the latter. Twenty-year-old security officer Luther Parton was about 5’3” tall and weighed about a hundred pounds.
His black leather belt was cinched so tightly around his waist, with the uniform shirt and trousers two sizes too large, that he looked like a tube of toothpaste, squeezed in the middle. Luther wore those black rimmed “Buddy Holly” glasses with real thick lenses. He seemed a little breathless when he ran up to the cruiser.
“I heard someone upstairs” he panted. “Then I was going up to take a look, my flashlight just quit.”
“What did you hear?” I asked.
“It sounded like voices,” the kid said. “Third floor of A wing.”
“Any other ways into this place?” my partner asked.
“No, they’re all locked and barred, just the front door, I checked them myself.”
When we entered the lobby area of the building I could see that at one time this was a grand architectural work of art. The exposed beams and huge wooden doors gave it an almost medieval look. “When's the last time the upstairs were checked?” I asked.
"This morning by the day shift,” the guard answered. “What’re you guys carryin' there?” He pointed to the gun on my right side.
“It’s a model 64 Smith, 38 special,” I replied matter-of-factly.
“Ever shoot anybody?”
Jesus I knew that question was coming. It was always easier to say no.
“Oh.” He sounded disappointed.
I let the rookie go up the stairs first, because I didn’t think we would find any bad guys and he needed the experience of searching buildings. This one would give him plenty. The interior of the building was 180,000 square feet. We checked the first floor together, tediously looking into every room. Opening the room doors first, then looking cautiously into the bathrooms and closets. The electricity was off in the building, and thus the air conditioner was off. All the windows had been boarded up. The hot, stagnant air inside the building made it difficult to breathe. Vlad and I began to sweat profusely.
"Look, this place is huge and this is going to take us forever,” I said. “I'll take the second floor and you take the third. If either of us finds anything, we’ll holler for the other.”
Vlad nodded and disappeared up the stairs. I followed, checking the stairwell and landings with my “Kell” light.
When I reached the second floor, I checked the rooms sporadically. It was getting really hot in there and I wanted to get out as quickly as possible. When I reached the end of the hallway, I yelled for Vlad. The echo in the old building was interesting. I heard no answer, so I yelled again. Still, no answer. Perhaps the rookie had finished his search too and gone back downstairs. I followed the beam of my flashlight back to the lobby and looked for Luther and Vlad. Finding neither one, I walked outside.
I found the security guard, sitting in the front seat of a golf cart, smoking a cigarette. "See anything?” he asked.
“Just a lot of empty rooms.” We made small talk for a while. He was a “Wisheye” for sure: you know, “Wish I was the police.” Eventually my young partner emerged.
“Ready?” I asked Vlad.
“Yeah. Who's staying in those rooms on the third floor?" he asked, looking at the guard.
“You saw someone, where...” The startled Luther jumped from the golf cart.
“I didn’t see anybody,” Vlad said “but there’s furniture and things in two of the rooms up there."
“I don’t know what you saw, but there ain’t no anything in any of those rooms and ain’t been anything in a couple of years.”
It was pretty dark outside, but I could see the color drain from Vlad's face. His voice raised an octave as he said, “I know I'm not crazy. Two of the rooms had beds, dressers and night tables, you know old fashioned stuff.”
“Calm down and let’s take a look,” I said. “Was the stuff stacked, or piled up, maybe it just got left when the old guys moved out.” Both men tried to answer frantically. “Let’s head up there and see.” I turned toward the door. Vlad was a little hesitant, but followed.
We climbed quickly to the third floor, and as I stepped into the hallway, I unsnapped and drew my service revolver. I wasn’t taking any chances. The rookie followed my lead.
“Which room was it?” I whispered.
The kid pointed to a door near the end of the hallway on the right. We made our way carefully down the hallway, sliding close to the wall. When we reached the door, I crouched down and motioned for Vlad to take my position. I then moved to an area in front and slightly to the left of the door. This would afford me a view of the interior of the room when the door was opened. I made note of the fact that door was hung on the right and swung inward. I nodded my head to my partner. Vlad reached up with his left hand, pointing his revolver at the door with his right. He turned the doorknob left, then right.
“Locked”, he whispered.
“I'll stay here and cover the door, while you see if the guard has a key." Vlad walked quietly down the hall to the stairwell.
He returned a short time later with the security guard, who was mumbling something about the doors not being locked and fumbling through a large ring of keys.
“It’s either this one or this one," he said, separating two keys from the large ring.
“Stand back.” I motioned with the right hand. This time, Vlad crouched down and covered the door, while I reached up and worked the keys. The doorknob was wet like it had condensation on it.
That was weird, I thought. It’s three hundred degrees in here.
The first key wasn’t it. I inserted the second. Bingo. I dropped the keys, and the door swung open, hitting the wall on the inside. As the door opened, a blast of cool air hit me like a wave. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as we worked slowly around the corner, shining the flashlights in every corner and crack. When we went inside, the temperature seemed to drop even more. It was a good forty degrees cooler at the center of that room than it was in the hallway. It wasn’t even like air conditioning. It was...damp, cold. I mean cold, not cool.
“What the hell?” I said out loud. “You sure this place ain’t air conditioned?"
The guard just shook his head. His eyes were two tiny beads at the end of glass tunnels. “No power.”
My partner had lost it. He was running frantically back and forth from one room to the other. “I know what I saw!” he screamed.
I tried to reason out the situation. It was obviously not working.
“There were beds with brown spreads and doilies on the tables and lamps and a toothbrush in the bathroom."
"Are you sure it was this room?” I asked
“Positive. I'm not crazy.”
I was starting to feel a little spooky myself. “Let’s get the hell outa here.”
I’d barely gotten the words out before Vlad and Luther were running down the hallway. When I got downstairs, the guard was on his second cigarette having inhaled the first one in one puff, and my trainee was seated in the passenger’s seat of the cruiser, staring straight ahead.
“You okay?” I asked
"Yeah,” he replied, not looking at me.
We drove the rest of the night without much conversation. Vlad finished his training time with me and moved on. He seemed to be preoccupied. Several months later, recruit Vladimir Novanavich reenlisted as a second lieutenant in the United States Army infantry, and resigned from the Lakeland Police Department. He would never discuss the Carpenter’s Home incident, and in later years he would say that I had probably played some practical joke on him.
Hey, even I wasn’t that good.
As for me, I've never seen a U.F.O. Or a ghost. Or talked to Elvis through my television set. But on a hot August night in Lakeland in the early eighties, I did work a genuine “unknown” trouble call.
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