Another rewrite. Enjoy. Let me know what you think!
The Coffee Haus was an eclectic bookstore and coffee shop complete with junk art and open mic night performances. Few patrons frequented the place anymore since the opening of a large coffee franchise in the historic downtown district several months back. Coffee Haus was struggling to make ends meet. The neo-pagan and goth kids who hung around just didn’t bring in enough money to make the place viable. It was bleeding out and losing out to its new competitor.
Echo sat in an ill lit booth sipping on his fourth cup of coffee. He had called Father John to update him on the strange situation he found himself in. He had told the priest he considered returning home and let the dead bury the dead. Father John promised to make some calls to see what kind of support he could muster, encouraged Echo to persevere, and “no, burning down your father’s home is not an option.”
He sat with a journal open before him going over notes from his last paranormal investigation. The case involved a family who had been plagued by the apparition of an old woman. The specter would wander into the nursery where the family’s three month old slept. The child would wake in the middle of the night screaming in terror. Often the mother found her child cowering in the corner of his crib.
During the investigation Echo had captured frightening electronic voice phenomena, EVPs, on his digital recorder. The voice, that of an aged woman, demanded the investigative team leave. She insisted the child was hers to do with as she pleased. Another member of the team had caught the wispy image of spirit’s face on her full spectrum camera. The face was contorted and locked into a horrific scream. Its eyes were hollow pits framed by leather flesh and matted hair. An angry and vengeful spirit.
With permission from the Church, Echo had lead the team in a cleansing of the home. The spirit’s hold had been relinquished. Follow up interviews with the family confirmed the success of their work.
Often he would wonder where such spirits were banished, but in that case, he didn’t care. It was one thing for adults to be harassed by the paranormal, especially if they brought it on themselves by fooling around with things beyond their understanding, it was another when the victim was an innocent child.
Generally Echo had been indifferent towards negative spirits, and sympathetic towards those which were merely lost and seeking help from beyond death. This was the first case he found an unforgiving hatred towards the entity involved. After seeing scratches and bite marks along the child’s back, he hoped the damned thing burned in Hell.
“Refill?” the barista’s soft voice drew him out of his thoughts. He looked up startled at the middle aged woman wearing a black apron and holding a pot of freshly brewed coffee.
“Um, yes. Please.” He said.
“You look familiar. From around here?”
“I used to be. Used to hang out here a long time ago. It’s quiet. What happened?”
“After Pike’s Market opened up downtown, we lost business. Barely holding on now.”
“Sorry to hear that. I remember it used be packed every time I came here. I tried to avoid the nights youth groups would hold Bible studies.”
“Yeah. They moved on. Pike’s Market is a bit more hip, I s’pose.”
“Sounds right. Those groups tend to look for validation and ways to stay relevant.”
“You’re not wrong.”
“Well,” he raising his freshly filled cup, “here’s to the health of the one true Coffee Haus.”
The barista smiled and walked back to her station.
Echo closed the journal and flipped through the contacts on his phone. He had numbers for a few local friends. His thumb hovered over Jack’s phone number a moment before setting the phone down. It had been years since he called Jack, and it didn’t feel right to call now, asking for help with a situation he didn’t fully comprehend. He needed a better understanding before seeking help. He would wait for nightfall and visit his father’s home.
The full moon bathed the cul d’ sac in a brilliant glow of light. Mark’s old Buick sat in the driveway. It had not been started up in over a year. The old man quit driving after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the late 1990’s, and no one from the church came by to take him to his medical appointments anymore. Instead he relied on public transportation and a motorized wheel chair. Before his death that is.
Echo stood before the vacant home. The lawn overgrown and plagued with weeds. Rolled up newspapers laid strewn across the sidewalk. It was as if the house had been abandoned for months instead of days. He walked the weed infested sidewalk to the front door. The doorknob stuck when he attempted to open it. The house had been locked up after his father’s body had been wheeled out of the place.
He quietly made his way to the fence leading to the backyard. With a running start he scaled the rickety wooden boards. On the other side of the fence wild grass and weeds came up to his waist. It was obvious the man had not taken a lawn mower to the yard since Echo left home.
Cautiously he waded through the grass avoiding old pits where fledgling fruit trees had once been planted. He stepped onto the filthy cement slab which served as a back porch just outside glass doors leading into the house. Both doors were locked in place with wooden dowels wedged into the inside rails. The curtains were drawn preventing him from seeing inside.
“Well. That’s not like him.” He said.
Following the edge of the house Echo found himself standing before the bathroom window. It had rarely been locked, often overlooked because of its location on the far side of the house. With a slight jostling motion he removed the screen and gave a forceful upward push on the window. After a few tries the window loosened and slid up on its railing. He scrambled through the small window bumping and scraping his chest and ribs along the way. He rubbed the sore spots with the palm of his hand.
“This was easier when I was twelve.”
Walking through the bathroom door he could smell mildew and mold heavy on the stale air. Books, clothes, couch cushions, and all manner of junk lay strewn around the house. His father had never been known for performing what he considered women’s work, but Echo suspected the house had been ransacked by someone other than his father.
Stumbling through the living room and into the kitchen, he rummaged through an open junk drawer until he found a cheap pink plastic flashlight. The electricity to the place had been cut and the only illumination inside came from the moonlight seeping through drawn curtains.
The light from flashlight was weak, but it was sufficient. Cobwebs hung in every corner. Echo paused in the hallway between his old room and the kitchen. The light hovered over a hole in the wall. He could still feel the impact, the feeling of drywall giving way to the back of his skull, the terror that gripped him as his father slammed his head repeatedly against the wall in a fury of blind rage. He was only eleven at the time and had accidentally burned the hash browns his father demanded for breakfast that morning.
He hadn’t fought back, and he hated himself for that. He just let his father repeatedly slam him into the wall. If the walls could speak, they would testify to acts of terror which still haunted him. Dropping the light from the hole he continued on.
Each room looked as if had been rummaged through. Belongings thrown about as if a frantic child had gone room to room in a frenzied search for a lost security blanket or favorite toy. He could not imagine his father spending the energy going through every nook and cranny of the house. He had been content with inhabiting a small corner in his room, hypnotized by the soft glow of a computer screen flashing various violent pornographic images or the digitized landscapes of flight simulators. Something about the scene unfolding before him didn’t sit right.
Echo stepped into his father’s room. Immediately he noticed the computer was missing. The contents of his father’s desk had been thrown all over. There were no more doubts. This had not been the result of some drug induced frenzy. The house had been ransacked. His father had always kept the desk immaculate. It was the only space he cared about in the house – an altar to lost dreams and pornography.
Dresser drawers were open, their contents scattered about the room. The bed mattress had been thrown against a wall. Clothes were ripped off their hangers and piled high on the closet floor. Echo sat down on the foot of the bed frame trying to make sense of the mess.
His father, as far back as he could remember, had been a violent rampaging child trapped in the body of a man. A homebody who kept his rage in check only when outside eyes were upon him. A small minded man who argued with the television and the World Wide Web. He was too dumb and out of touch to hold any secrets of value, so why would someone come looking for anything?
As he speculated a glint of moonlight reflecting off the floor drew his attention. He leaned down to find his father’s old Navy dog tags next to the unopened hatch at the base of the bed. He had forgotten all about the small storage nook. He had been caught numerous times as a child exploring it. His father stored various keepsakes in the nook – knives, bb guns, Halloween masks, smelling salts, uniform items, strange trinkets – a fascinating treasure trove for curious little boys. Opening the hatch Echo found only a weathered Louisville Slugger and a canvas satchel.
A thick layer of dust formed over baseball bat. The weight of the thing was familiar in his hands. Many imaginary monsters had met their fate at end of the bat, and every beating he received for stealing off with his father’s treasured Louisville Slugger had been well worth it. The canvas satchel with durable leather straps and stainless steel fittings, however, was dust free and clean.
Echo pulled it out and opened it. Inside were a number of pens and pencils along with a thick black hand sewn leather journal. His father had printed his name along with the year “1996” on the cover page. It was the year they moved into the house. Flipping through pages he found hundreds of dated entries – the last entry dated the night of his overdose; August 23, 2015.
Echo threw the journal back into the satchel, slung it over his shoulder, picked up the Louisville Slugger, and headed out of his father’s room.
The doorbell rang followed by a pounding at the door.