WHISPERS THROUGH THE PINES
Artemis J Jones
Whispers through the Pines
The gentle man parked his car at the rest stop. He got out to stretch a little and call home. He was on his way back from the funeral for his beloved niece in West Palm Beach. While he was talking he waved to a state trooper, and glanced at the map on the public service bulletin board. He said “honey I will be up to Cocoa in about an hour.” She kept talking as the man walked a little more. Finally he said. “Honey I gots to use the restroom. I love you. I will see you soon.”
“Jenny Marie you get in this house, now! I am talking to the air, Robert do you know where she is at?”
“You know where she is, she always goes to Lisa's house and then they go hide in the woods.”
“I don't like this”
“Cheryl, will you just quiet down some?”
“No , no I won't it is time for her to be home. Her and Lisa joined at the hip, sometimes I would swear by it! But I am worried, please go check on them. I will call Lisa's house and talk to her mom.”
“Hi Kathleen, it's Cheryl. Do you know where the girls are?”
“I thought they were at your house. When Lisa left here this morning, she said she was going to spend the whole day at your house. She told Philip and I that ya’ll were going to the beach. I know Lisa had a towel with her. Cheryl did you and Robert go to the beach today?
“No, no we did not ! Where are our girls? I am worried.”
“I don't know, but when Lisa gets home, she will be grounded for a month”
“I am thinking a year right now for Jenny-Marie. Let me talk more with Robert and we will call you if anything comes up.”
“Thanks, we will do the same.”
“Lisa wait up. Do you think our parents are looking for us know? What did you tell your mom anyway?”
“That I was going to the beach with you”
“You're such a good liar.”
“I am! What about you? What did you tell your mom?”
“That we were spending the day together and we would find some adventure to go on”
“You always do that, tell some little white lie. Do you really think she fell for it? Do you even hint that we were going to visit your Uncle in Orlando”
“No, I kept it a nice clean white lie”
“Let's go back to the interstate and hitchhike up to Cocoa Beach then take that road that goes west to Orlando”
“Jen, how much more sunlight you think we have?”
“We have a few hours, more than we need to get to Orlando. My Uncle will be shocked when he see's us standing at his door.”
“You didn't call your Uncle? Another white lie.”
“I did call him and I said we wanted to visit him in Orlando. He said 'Well Jenny-Marie we'd love to have you come up this weekend'”
“And that's all?... just a white lie, to me and your Uncle. Why am I your fiend?”
“You know we are two free spirits, nothing but wanderlust in our feet”
“Hey Jen , I think we got a ride, that old car is slowing down for us. Do you think we should take it, the ride that is”
“Let's see who's driving first”
An old Buick Electra slows to a stop on the shoulder about 100 feet in front of the girls.
“Why you girls out here on this road- it is dangerous-do you need a ride somewhere?
“Yes Mister, we're going to Orlando. Can you give us a ride?
“Get in, I'm only going up to Cocoa at Route 520. I will drop you off there. Can I call your parents or something for you's? Let's get moving.” The man replied and continued talking to the girls.
“How old are you two anyway, don't look like much more than fourteen. Don't you know it ain't the sixties anymore. Used to be able to hitchhike any where in the U S of A back then, but times are different. If I had the time I take you to Orlando, make sure you got there safe. But I got my life too, I got me a wife, fine woman. I got's to spend time with her.”
The girls giggled in the back seat as they listened to the man driving.
“Well this is your stop. You can go over to the gas station and here is some change for the pay phone. Sure I can't help in some way?”
“My Uncle in Orlando is expecting us, we're okay thanks” Jen replied.
The old Buick Electra drove away. They watched it go east and then they turned west, noticing the sun had started to set. They were only about thirty minutes from Jen's Uncle’s house. Just enough sunlight to get there safe.
“Come on, Lisa we need to get moving.”
“Where are we?”
“We’re on Route 520 and we better start going west to Orlando.” Jen replied.
“Jen you ever think about the future? I am thinking about tomorrow, going to some water park, going down a slide, splashing, and having fun with you.” Lisa said.
“I think about the past, when I was a kid, at Christmas time. My mom and dad always had some surprise for us. My brothers always planned our attack of the presents. My older brother telling everyone what to do, ‘Jen you get the scissors, don’t let little bobby have them.’ We have good families.
Lisa what are you staring at?”
“The tree’s -it is just a never ending line of tall tree’s”
“What is?” Jen asked.
“This road, it is all Pine trees, not one palm tree like in our yard. The pines don’t sway with the wind, like palms. They just let the air pass them by and leave the sounds of whispers flowing in the breeze.”
“You’re creeping me out”
“Jen look that old pickup truck is stopping, maybe we got a ride.”
“You girls can jump in the back if you want, I am going towards Orlando. I do need to stop in Naracoosee, but only for a moment. You two should not be out here all alone.” The driver said.
“Lisa stop pulling at me, we need a ride”
“Not him - I am not getting in that truck”
“Thanks mister, we’re okay” replied both girls.
“Allen put those chains that are around the stump in the truck.”
“I will Uncle Edward. I thought we were going to pull that stump today”
“Those chains are to weak to pull a stump anymore, bad links. We will use them for something else”
“What else do I need to put in the van?
“Get some Oranges off that tree by the canal, they are always the sweetest. Look here Allen, I want
you to drive”
“I'm going to lock the shop”
Uncle Edward tossed Allan the keys to the van he got in and started the engine.
“Gas looks a little low, we will need to stop before we get on the Interstate” Said Allan
I watched Lisa stare down the road, looking at the tall pines, and began to wonder what our mothers were thinking right now. A moment ago Lisa was thinking one day into her future and telling me what a wonderful day -- tomorrow would be. She turned around a lot to watch me as I walked just a little behind her. Lisa knew I was mad because we had not accepted the ride in the old pickup truck. The truck was gone, long gone out of sight, and I knew her fears were increasing as the sun set over the tall pines- her future fading away within a mirage far up the road.
What else could I do but keep walking towards the setting sun? With each step, I thought about my past, and my family. Not talking- thinking. This was all my idea, going to visit my Uncle in Orlando, I talked Lisa into it, now we were on a deserted road, thirty miles away from my Uncle’s and we were tired and hungry.
“Jen wait up, here comes a car. It looks like the car that the old man was driving, the one who gave us a ride earlier.” Lisa said
“I don't think it is! That car was light gray, this car is darker” Jen replied.
“How can you tell with the sun going down.” Lisa asked.
“It's slowing down, we have a ride”
The car- full of partying teenagers, just slowed down. The teens inside laughed at the girls, then sped up and drove away. We watched the car go off and seemingly vanish into the never ending line of trees. Neither of us noticed the van that had been following the car, but now stopped a short distance away.
Two men got out. They began to walk towards us. They spoke in soft tones and asked us questions.
“Where do you girls need a ride to?” said the older one.
Their non-threatening words did not match the quick pace in their steps. They were coming after us and I ran out into the road screaming for help. Lisa froze. The men forced us into the open back doors of the van and told us to be quiet, and we would not get hurt. The older man was mostly bald with straggly hair down the sides of his head. His hands were callused and they felt rough on my skin, he continued to touch me and Lisa. The men did not say much and only referred to each other as ‘Cousin’. The younger man had a moustache and longer hair. He held a gun- pointing it at both of us- while placing a finger up to his lips. The older man, stopped fondling us and quickly moved to the driver seat, started the engine, and drove away. The van went about one hundred feet up the road and turned around back towards the interstate highway. The man in the back with a gun put duct tape over our mouth’s. He sat across from us- just staring at us devoid of any expression. Feeling the terror we just stared at other. Lisa began to urinate and the urine soaked right through her new Guess jeans. When the odor from the urine reached the man’s sense of smell, he grinned. We felt the van turn right and speed up as it entered the traffic on the interstate highway. Our eyes watered up. Lisa’s view of the future was full of sadness, and I could see it in her expression and feel it. She saw other people in the future but she could not see herself. She felt my presence, and I felt hers even though it was dark now, and we were unable to really see each other. The van continued south on the interstate for some time, time that the men enjoyed as our terror increased. We felt the van slow and turn to the right again. The van was off the interstate. The road we were on was bumpy and stones were hitting the bottom of the van. We had begun to feel a bond now that transcended verbal language and we began to read each other’s minds. The van stopped.
The older man got out opened the back door of the van, pulled Lisa out. He tore off the duct tape covering her mouth, then dragged her down a path. The younger man did the same with me. It was dark and we could not see each other. I heard Lisa screaming. The men took turns with us. Then one said ‘I’m done’. He left Lisa on the ground crying. I heard chains on the ground, Lisa screaming again and then, a loud flash and a bang. I had never heard a gun go off before. I heard the sounds of the chains then a splash. I knew Lisa’s life was over, but I still felt her presence. Both men grabbed me, and took me down a path. I could hear fish splashing and the croak of a gator in the water nearby. Lisa was still with me. I listened to the men argue for a minute, while tied-up – not being able to run away. My breathing became heavy then a flash.
The two men wrapped Jen in a tarp and loaded her body into the van. They went back to the interstate and drove south towards Indian Springs County. They parked the van at their shop and put Jens body in a large drum. She was there for a week, soaked in some kind of chemical. At the end of the week a man opened the lid on the drum. He called out to another man that was there.
“Detective Summers, we got another one”
Their existence was no longer of the physical world, but both remained aware of each other. A spiritual journey had begun for Jennie Marie and Lisa. Their time on this journey is unknown.
The Beauty of Green
The older man pulled off the side of the road. He spoke to the young man and the girl that was with him. The young man told the older man that his car overheated. The older man offered to give them a ride to a gas station about four miles up the road and told them to jump in the back of his pick up truck. They did and the older man drove them to the gas station. They thanked him, and went into the store at the gas station to buy some antifreeze and a jug of water. The older man waited outside. The younger man paid, went outside, jumped in the back of the truck and the older man drove them back to their car. The younger man filled the radiator, started the engine. The older man never waited to be thanked, he was gone.
Two women embraced outside the building, it was late afternoon, and the sun was still present in the day. The light shined across their faces, illuminating lines and years of stresses. One commented to the other, “Will this day bring us peace?” The other replied, “Let’s hope so.”
“Look how many people turned up for this- wow.”
“Your silly, how can you make a joke at a time like this? And it is only two dozen people, who I'm sure are getting paid.”
"What color is that?"
"Some shade of green"
"Do you think they gave him enough? I hope it is. I don't want something bad to happen. I mean I don't care if he is in pain, I just want to make sure he is dead"
“It is strange being two spirits. Knowing exactly what –you- are thinking and feeling. If we were alive we’d be joined at the hip.”
“We have always been joined somehow.”
“Look at her, the witness in the second row, third chair. She looks like she is crying. Did we know her? Maybe she knew him. There is always someone who loves a murderer.”
“We did not know her, but the guy in the first row third chair knew your uncle. Remember we saw him at your Uncles funeral. Your Uncle Bob took all this pretty hard.”
“You know, there are a lot of cars outside.”
“Yea people always get curious about this kind of thing. They didn't get to curious about us or any of the rest of the victims. If I could laugh, I would be hysterical over the people doing the candle light vigil for the killer.”
“Remember the trial? He and his cousin were convicted of killing six. I wish we could do something for the other eight that nobody knows about.”
“Someday, someone will find more bones”
“We need to help with that”
“I know, but later. We both need to go back home when this is done. We have to sit with our families, let them know it is okay, help them move on.”
“It's kinda cool that we can just imagine ourselves at home and then be there.”
“Yea our poor relatives outside, have a long ride home from Starke.”
“We had some nice family trips coming up this way of course for nicer places than here. My Dad putting his hand out the window, letting it ride the flow of air, pretending he was a pilot. Now they will all have to get in the car and ride on that highway, silently, thinking about us- it will be a long ride.”
“Yea that was so much fun riding the tubes down the river. Swimming in the spring water, ohh -that was always cold.”
“You got used to it quick. It was the best times for us. We had good families. Why did we do something so stupid?”
“It wasn’t worth it. This has hurt so many people. I know there were others, but look at what it did to our families. This has taken so long, he has been on death row for twenty-eight years.”
“How long is this going to take? Is he still breathing?”
“I think he is, trying to fight it maybe. Should we help?”
“No- and you know the rules”
“Yea you’re right. Just testing you”
“We never said that when we were young: Just testing you!”
“I am getting with the times.”
“How are we going to help the others?”
“Good question. We have to be careful- the rules- are very strict. Only show the truth. Never cause a loss of life- no revenge.”
“I know … those bones in the grove. We can have some kids ride there four-wheelers near the bones.”
“Maybe , there are some big Orange tree’s growing over some of them now.”
“What about the ones near his shop? I can’t believe the detectives didn’t find them, they were so close.”
“To late for those, his shop is gone. Bulldozer took it down faster than this creep is taking to die.”
“It is strange how society just erases things, all the bad memories, just gone so no one can see it and relive it. Just like us, we are gone. They wrote very little about us.”
“That was because of our age, and our families”
“I know, but what about us. We were just fourteen. We stopped on that day, at that moment- just ceased to exist, to dream, and to ever know the feelings of love.”
“No, we knew love, and we can still see it and feel it”
“You know what I mean- love – with a boy.”
“You were always ahead of me on that. I knew the things you thought about, even when you tried not to tell me, but I knew. Joined together always!”
“You know what I want to do? I want to go sit in school, and find some girls who think they can do stupid stuff like we did, and stop them”
“Stop them. How?”
“Like we could lock the doors of their rooms, keep them safe.”
“You know that if their truth is taking them down a bad road, we cannot stop them”
“Their truth, their truth, I am tired of that. I know of two girls right now, who are on the same path as us, I want to stop them. I am tired of this truth- this unchanging path for the living. And you know this truth is not complete: there are some who do their own will even as wandering souls”
“I know that is true, but we are not ready for that next step, maybe we will be soon.”
“Remember the guy driving the old pickup truck, the one I did not trust. He rides on Rte. 520 everyday looking for the lost and still living. He was our angel and we did not know it.”
“Yea … on that deserted road alone, every day. Nothing about him has changed”
“But he does not interfere. The truth is in the decision of those he offers to help.”
“Look I think his heart stopped”
“Oh it did”
“He’s dead. It’s 6:19 pm”
“Hi Cheryl, it's Kathleen. Would you like to go shopping this afternoon? Get something for those grand babies of yours!”
“I don't know … I'm not sure, there is so much to do.”
“How about something in violet for the little girl? You remember how much she liked that color, it was so pretty in her hair. I won't take no for an answer. I'm buyin.”
“Okay, how about at two o'clock after I eat lunch”
“See you soon.”
“You enjoyed that!”
“So did you. Your presence was almost glowing when they pushed the green fluid into his arm.”
“I accepted what happened.”
“That's a lie. Tell the truth. You enjoyed watching him die! Your thoughts were swirling with anticipation, about us, about our families, and it all centered on his death. You think we'll all be better for it.”
“Why won't we be better off? Tell me if you’re so smart. Suddenly you understand all of this, murder, revenge, judgment, and healing. You think …you understand, healing: no you don't! I only know what direction I'm being guided towards—it's not my choice, but I feel it—taking me to another place, and I'll go willingly.”
“So you don't accept all of this, and now you want another path, away from me. Well I don't, I won't forgive predators, rapists, and murderers. I want to see them all on the table soaking up the green fluid!”
“We can't continue like this. Yes I felt something at that moment — it was a strange sense of joy— but it hasn’t changed anything, and neither will interfering.”
“I can't forgive what they did.”
“Then you will remain the way you are now.”
“How can you just let it go? I heard that gun fire- the one that killed you- I still feel that bullet, as if it hit me. I constantly see—my last moment of life— that flash at the barrel of the gun.”
“It's not about that anymore.”
“What’s it about, then?”
“It's about letting the living, make their own decisions, until their time has come. We can move on from this, this stasis, from ourselves.”
“What about the ones who make a bad decision?”
“Like we did? There is nothing we can do about that. I'm going to see the kind man who gave us a ride. He's dying, and he’ll become an angel when he passes.”
“So he’ll never be a wandering spirit like us.”
“That's correct. He's calling for me now.”
“He’s calling for you … but not for me?”
“You must come with me.”
“No, I’m going to go see Mr. Fred Waters, who sits in his cell, pretending that all is forgiven.”
“You can’t do that. You must come with me”
“I’m not taking any orders. Goodbye!”
I’ve lost it all. My life, my family, and my best friend. Lisa will become an angel, I’m sure of that. All I want to do is make that man suffer —the true mastermind: Mr Fred Waters, the predator who knew he would rape and kill on that day, and how he would use those chains.
“Good evening Mr. Waters.”
“Who are you? Get out of my cell. Guards! Someone is in my cell.”
“They can’t see or hear me—Mr. Waters.”
Who are you?”
“You know who I am. I look the same, and my voice is the same as it was twenty-eight years ago. You remember me crying, pleading for my life, and begging you to ‘let us go’. I’ve been in your thoughts and nightmares for a long time. The last time you saw me, you ordered your nephew Allen to shoot me.”
“You’re the one they found in the barrel.”
“Good, now we can talk. I’m not going to ask you, why.”
“Then what are you here for … revenge?”
“I watched your nephew die. I enjoyed that moment. The changes in his respiration, taking in those last breathes of sterile air. The malfunctions with the equipment, letting him linger in that state of consciousness, watching him tremble, just before death.”
“You’re here to kill me?”
“A lot of time went by. We, I mean me and the other girl—my friend—that you killed, forgot about you. But she has moved on to be with angels, and I’m here with you.”
“Kill me or get out of my cell.”
“Nothing has changed you. Not time. Not reflection. You give orders. You bear your false witness to god every day, lying to him, telling him you didn’t kill those girls.”
“I didn’t kill them. I only had sex.”
“Liar! You choked some with your bare hands …your callused hands— that disgrace true hard working men. Men who work each day, with their bare hardened skin: bare hands like my father used to work on cars. The hands he washed every day, trying to clean his hands, his heart, and his mind. Staring into that dirty sink, scrubbing, thinking, rinsing, hoping …to be free of my memories. He could never work hard enough to forget me, to just let me be the past. You left the scrapes of your calluses in his soul, it eventually killed him too.”
“You ran away.”
“I did, but you took my life, and with my life, you stole the lives of so many. The ones who were easy prey like me, and the family members who died not knowing how to handle the grief.”
“Get it over with, do what you came here for!”
“I’ve been thinking about that—what I came here for—and how I would do it: to become like you—and enjoy the satiable pleasure of taking another person’s life. Perhaps I’ll use a guard, or maybe another inmate to help fulfill my desires.”
“You’re still a whiney little coward, just like the day you died.”
“No, I’m different now, my presence glistens with thoughts of revenge. Look into your mirror you will see my whole life— the life you took away.”
“I don’t take orders from a kid.”
“Stand up and face the mirror Mr.Waters!”
“I see you, unchanged.”
“No, that’s another lie, you took everything from me. I grew up, got married, and had kids.”
“Look for yourself, you were going to die anyway.”
“Your lies won’t save you.”
“I’m forgiven and ready for Heaven,” Mr. Waters yelled, his words echoing through the walls of the prison.
“Kathleen, it’s Cheryl. She was just here sitting on her bed. Nothing about her changed, still had the same blonde hair, same clothes. She sat on the bed and looked at me, watched me come in the room and stare at her. At first I was shocked, almost collapsed, but then she motioned to me to sit with her.
“What did you do?”
“I sat with her, she was sad about something. I could see it in the images of her eyes. She wanted to cry, but couldn’t.”
“You went to see Mr. Waters, broke the rules, and I know what happened.”
“Look at you Angelic Lisa. Knows what happened, is inside my presence, feels everything, nonsense.”
“I’m aware of what you're going through.”
“Aware? You are not me. You do not understand anguish, hate, revenge. You do not know what it is like to feel all that rage. You do not know what it is like to want to kill.”
“I told you I know what happened. And to tell the truth ...”
“Stop right there … you and your truth. Crap, BS.”
“Jenny, tell me what you felt. Why did you want to do such a horrible thing?”
“I made my presence known to Mr. Waters, we talked in his cell. While we talked rage filled me and it felt good, it was something I'd never felt— it was exciting.”
“I saw him hanging from the bars in his cell, the mattress on fire under him , the flames rising up, burning his flesh, taking him to the hell where he belongs. It all felt right to me. We continued to talk.
I asked him first to stand up and look in the mirror so he could see the life he took away from me. He refused. I demanded he face the truth in the mirror, to know the life he destroyed.”
“Jenny stop, you don't need to tell me the rest. I know who you really are. You will never be an angel, but what happened had to happen.”
“You want to know the truth let me finish. He looked in the mirror and he stood there lying to me, telling me I had no life, that I never got married, never became a mom, that it all ended. I got up and pulled the sheet off the bed. Walked over to Mr. Waters, stood behind him, and then I began to wrap the sheet around his neck.”
“Stop, Stop right now, why do you want to re-experience this?”
“As I wrapped the sheet around his neck, I noticed Mr. Waters had a sick grin on his face. It was at that moment that we were both looking into the mirror. That the truth of who we are reflected back, he was always evil. I stood there and looked at myself, and I was young, just fourteen. I never grew up. Mr. Waters— the devil himself —told the truth.”
“Make your presence visible to me, and look at me Lisa. We need to see each other for who we are now at this moment.”
“You are older. This is the life you would have had. I never grew up, but you did. Lisa you were going to live, I took it all from you, this has all been my fault, you died because of my stupid idea to run away.”
“I went with you. Nothing can ever change that. It was my decision. Really it’s all my fault, I’m the one who did not trust the angel who came to save us.”
“You trust him now, you trust that way of existence. But I ‘m not sure.”
“Trust is something that is within me. Jenny, you have always been different, you question everything, you question yourself, your existence, but I don’t. I know about the young mother in Palm Cay.”
“How? You were not an angel then, and you weren’t with me.”
“You saved them because you interfered. And I know the angels don’t like it, but for now they will let you continue.
She married the cop that came to help her, you saved his life too. Such a simple little trick, dropping nails on a road, causing a flat tire. Creating a delay to keep them all from danger—interfering!”
“Tell me about the last moment with Mr. Waters. The moment when the two of you stared into that mirror together and you both saw yourselves, you had the sheet around his neck, you began to tighten it and then you slowly tied a knot.”
“I pulled on the knot, tightening it, his breathing became erratic, he was struggling for air. I could feel his physical body reacting wanting to keep itself alive, but his mind was in a different place, he lost all the signs of humanity.”
“You pulled on the sheet and lead him over to the cell bars”
“No that is what I was feeling, but not what did. I looked into the mirror, to see myself again, hoping it was a lie, but it wasn’t. I had not changed. When I was alive, life meant so much to me, everything about it was precious. The person in the mirror was not a murderer. I am not a killer, and there would be no joy in killing, only eternal pain.”
“You didn’t kill Mr. Waters?”
“No, he is still alive. I left the cell, still seeing visions of him burning. You were only aware of my hate, and it was within me, but it was not in control of who I was. He tried to trick me and get me to be like him. He began saying horrible things about you, he confessed to me about the other victims, it was just an act of desperation to pull me back in. But I didn’t weaken. I will interfere, but not that way.”
Copyright © 2015 Artemis J Jones