This post is the third installment of Mirror, Mirror. It may be the final posting since this piece is heading toward a larger self-published project. I welcome your thoughts be they good, bad, or ugly because they only make future work better. Enjoy!
* * *
Coming awake in a strange place can be unsettling; consider how much worse it could be to figure out the strange place is a county jail cell. That is precisely where Sandy found herself. In a cell, by herself, with the floodgates opening, she let in the memories of how she managed to be in the slammer. Suspicion of murder, accessory to murder, or the entire enchilada of murder in the first degree; they were not sure which charge would stick. While law enforcement attempted to sort out a best-fit fate, they decided she should spend a little time in the county lock-up and dressed in the latest fashion statement – an orange jumpsuit with PRISONER stenciled across the shoulders on the back.
Detective Hanson stopped by with a half-hearted attempt to apologize and to encourage Sandy not to go off the deep end; the stay in a jail cell would be temporary. “One day, two days at the most,” she said. “I know you’ve arranged for a public defender, and that’s probably for the best for now. My advice? Don’t say anything to anyone until he gets here.”
“She. Her name is Sarah Thompson, and I’m expecting her this morning.” Sandy explained.
Hanson nodded, “Good, That’s good. Honestly, I expect she can get you bonded out of here before the end of the day to leave under your own recognizance. The bond was set extremely low because of the confusion around the appropriate charges to put you under. It would help if you stuck around, or things could get dicey. If things get dicier, I’d recommend getting an attorney with more juice than a cookie-cutter PD.”
Sandy remained seated on her bunk and looked up, “Thanks…I guess. It helps to know what’s going on even though I have no control over it. This doesn’t seem right…so very wrong.”
Detective Hanson stood outside Sandy’s cell in silence. Sandy thought Hanson was going to say something, but she did not until she turned and started to walk away. “I’m sure we will be speaking again soon. Until then, take care.”
How sweet, thought Sandy sarcastically; you take care, yeah, right! At least her incarceration would be brief. She wanted to get home. She wanted to dive back into the book. She wanted to have a deeper conversation with Paul. Something told her Paul would play a pivotal role in saving her bacon; after all, he was the murderer, not her. Being a spiritual entity or not, he needed to be held accountable, but she had no clue how to make that happen. Paul had better have a trick or two up his sleeve…up his reflection…or up whatever…she was not going down for his criminal actions, even if they happened to protect her.
A female jailor nearly as wide as she was tall came up to her cell with a breakfast tray and slid it through the slot in the door. “Sorry, it’s the best we got ‘round here, so eat up before it gets colder than it already is sweetie pie.”
The jailor was not sorry and seemed to take delight that her breakfast was cold. To make matters worse, Sandy hated to be called sweetie pie by anyone, including her mother. “The name’s Sandy, sugar butt!” she fired back with emphasis on sugar butt.
“Sweetie pie…I mean Sandy…I guess you ARE a smart-ass little bitch, aren’t you?”
Sandy took a mouthful of cold scrambled eggs and flipped off the jailer while balancing the tray on her lap.
“Am I interrupting?” a voice came from down the hall. Sarah Thompson, Public Defender, strode toward the jailer wench squaring off in front of Sandy’s cell. “This is my client, Blanche, and I need you to set us up in the conference room…now…please.”
Blanche, is that not the perfect name for this little troll? Sandy thought to herself. “Blanche just delivered a delicious breakfast…maybe we can get one that’s hot this time and serve it in the conference room. Whaddaya say, Blanche?” Sandy smiled a dirty sweet smile at Blanche and winked.
Blanche snorted like a horse, turned on her heel, stomped away, and announced over her shoulder, “You’re in Conference 2.”
Sarah called after her, “Great job, Blanche…now…do you think you can maybe unlock this cell for us? I must have left my key at home this morning.”
Sandy smiled and thought, this cookie-cutter PD has some stones.
Blanche huffed back to the cell and fumbled with a ring of keys before unlocking the door. “Am I going to need restraints, or are you going to be a good little girl?” she snarled at Sandy.
“I’ll be the best little girl on the cell block, Blanche, so that you can relax,” replied Sandy.
After they were situated in the conference room, Sarah shook Sandy’s hand with a confident, firm grip. “Sorry about Blanche, she’s a little…how should we say…challenged. She can swing a pretty mean baton, so make sure you have room to run if you set her off. I guarantee she’ll never catch you but could do some damage if you’re cornered.”
Sandy liked this PD more every time she opened her mouth. It seems they were both smart-ass bitches. Perfect match. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“I doubt you will see breakfast delivered here…at least breakfast that has not been spit in…so let’s get down to business. Fair enough?” Sarah said.
Sandy smiled and said, “Let’s do it!”
And so they did—all of it. Sandy described the party; the near assault; the deadly energy blast; the mirror, the book, Paul (formerly known as the voice), and the fire she started trying to kill Paul for killing Phillip and Wil. They went back and forth with questions and explanations to clarify any gaps.
“I noticed McCorkle and Jameson had previous records for assault, McCorkle’s involving you some time back. Do I have that correct?” asked Sarah.
Sandy nodded, “Correct. The assault did not escalate because someone interrupted his advances in the men’s room. I got lucky to get away, only partially assaulted. He threatened me for having filed the assault charges and promised to take care of our unfinished business in the future.”
“And he was going to finish this unfinished business at the Halloween party. Am I getting where this is going, Sandy?”
“Yes, you’ve got it. Wil was there too, planning to get his turn when Phillip was finished. I had no previous experiences with Wil, but he was also a wicked little prick.”
“Sandy, did either of them touch you in any way?”
“Yes, Phillip jerked my chair around and dropped down to his knees and put both of his hands on my thighs.”
“I know this might be uncomfortable recounting this, Sandy, but bear with me. What did he do then?”
“He had me pinned in the wingback chair, and I was pushing back on the arms and digging my heels into the floor to get away, to fight him. I pleaded for help…called out, ‘Help me!’”
“And who were you calling out to, Sandy?”
“There was no one else there…I just pleaded for help…maybe for God to intervene…I don’t know…I was in complete panic mode.”
“Then what happened?” asked Sarah.
“That’s when a flash of something…energy…lightning…or something that crackled and a bolt of blue fire struck Phillip in the chest and then continued right through him, hitting Wil the same way. They both dropped to the floor like puppets with cut strings. They died immediately. I sat there in that chair, struggling to breathe, and smelled burned flesh and a little smoke that remained in the air. I’d never witnessed anything like what happened…ever.”
“How do you know they were dead? Did you feel for a pulse?”
“No, I didn’t touch either of them,” Sandy said, “they both had a hole the size of a baseball in their chest. They were most assuredly quite dead.”
“Where did this energy that struck them come from, Sandy?”
“I saw it out of the corner of my eye. It came from the mirror…right off the surface of the mirror.”
Sarah sat back in wonder, “The mirror? How did…what prompted it to…” and fell silent for a few beats. “What triggered the mirror to lash out and kill these two men?”
“I’m not sure you’re ready for this explanation, Sarah, but I…I have a relationship with a spiritual entity who resides in the mirror…and not just that mirror…any mirror I touch.”
Sarah just stared at Sandy with an open mouth. “A relationship?” she said eventually.
“Yes, there is a voice only I can hear, and it can read my….” Sandy started to explain.
“Whoa, whoa, WHOA! A talking mirror…but you are the only one who can hear it speak?”
Sandy answered, “Yes, and now the relationship has expanded to any mirror if I touch it. It’s my touch that summons the spirit so we can communicate. The mirror’s surface glows with a deep purple light…and here goes…I’m the only one who can see the light.”
“Sweet Jesus, Joseph, and Mary,” exclaimed Sarah.
“There’s more,” said Sandy. “His name is Paul. Mind you, he wasn’t known as Paul that night at the party, but he is Paul now.”
“Paul, you say, hmm, okay,” Sarah shook her head in disbelief. She continued to question, steeped in sarcasm. “And how did you two meet? Was it an online psychic dating site? Or maybe a virtual séance? Voodoo? Did you eat any little magic mushrooms? Did you see dinosaurs? What? WHAT? Level with me. Dispel the fantasy for me before you get locked up at the funny farm. C’mon, Sandy! This is beyond nuts.”
Sandy was on the verge of tears. “I swear all of this is true. Paul, through the mirror, protected me from sexual assault by those two degenerates. I didn’t ask him to do anything; he just did. He killed them, not me. When I called out ‘Help me!” I had no idea Paul would…or could…do anything to help me. It all happened so fast.”
Sarah sat still and said nothing.
“I became angry and screamed at Paul for killing them. In a blind rage, I threw the book at the mirror, and it shattered and….”
“What book?” asked Sarah.
The book titled “Mirror, Mirror” I found in the library gave me ownership and started what turned out to be a relationship.”
“Wait, wait, relationship? With whom? Ownership? Of what?” asked Sarah, furiously taking notes on her iPad.
“The book!” replied Sandy, “Whoever possessed the book had ownership of the relationship with the spirit entity that could only be reached through the mirror. The book ownership allowed me exclusive relationship rights to touch the mirror, summon the spirit, and communicate with him silently.”
“I know it’s early, but I think I need a stiff drink…or three.” Sarah sat back and dropped the lid on her iPad. “What are you leaving out?”
“Well, I then burned the house down…when I threw the book, destroying the mirror…it bounced off…shattered an oil lamp…that started the fire.”
“Why NOT?” Sarah whispered out loud, no longer taking notes. “How could this not get any weirder? And I suppose the fire burned up all the evidence, including the two degenerates, the book, and the magic mirror…and, of course, Paul, the only witness…I mean spiritual entity…witness.”
“He wasn’t Paul yet; he was just the voice in the mirror.” Now THAT makes more sense,” said Sarah with much sarcasm.
“So you’re telling me, Sandy, the book started this whole thing.”
“It did because pulling it off the bookshelf triggered the whole bookcase to swing inward to reveal a chair and the mirror in a small, secret room. That’s where Phillip tried to assault me. It’s where he and Wil were killed. It’s where the mirror got destroyed,” explained Sandy.
“And the book got destroyed in the fire. I got it. No evidence left at all. I don’t often rush to judgment with a client, but I think I can confidently say you’re pretty much fucked, Sandy. You won’t get charged with murder; they’re just going to lock you up in an asylum for life. You won’t even have to plead innocent because of insanity…tell your story…they’ll figure out you’re nutso.”
Sandy’s tears turned into audible crying and a few heavy sobs as she tried to catch her breath. She thought about how she had explained everything to Sarah and wondered if there may have been a better way to describe the bizarreness of it all despite it all being bizarre.
Sandy continued with the story, “The book did not get destroyed in the fire. I found it under some debris. The flames and water did not destroy it. I have it safely tucked away at home.
Sarah nodded, “You know, the investigators, the detectives for sure, will want that book. Do they know you have it?”
“The two detectives, Becker and Hanson, are the only ones who know about it. My roommate knows, but she’s cool with all of this.”
“They can have it. There is nothing in the book that would incriminate me. The book would only help incriminate Paul, which makes sense because Paul killed the men with a blast of energy. Let them put a spirit entity on trial. They won’t be able to communicate with him since I have the only relationship. Good luck locking up someone you can’t hear or communicate with on any level,” postured Sandy.
“Hey, makes total sense, but they need somebody to lock up, Sandy. You get the nod because you are flesh and blood, and that jumpsuit looks pretty swell on you. You may not be charged with murder, but I can see accessory-after-the-fact sticking like glue. They need a body to pay for the crime, and you’re the most likely candidate.”
Sandy slumped in her chair, defeat pushing her down into a smaller person than she was. “What am I going to do?
“You’ll be out of here in another hour or so. I’d go home and get brain hemorrhage drunk. I’m not much of a believer in ghosts and spirits, but maybe if you are…and it sounds like you and Paul have a budding relationship, figure out a way he can take you away from all this craziness short of blowing holes in anyone who tries to arrest you again. And trust me on this…you maybe have two days, three at the most, before they come knocking on your door with a warrant and designer steel bracelets. I’m confident you are going down for something.”
“Will you represent me, Sarah?”
“Are you crazy? I would NOT miss this for the world,” answered Sarah enthusiastically. “This pig show is going to be one for the ages. Win or lose, I’m thinking book deal.”
“Hey, only if we write it together. Authoring a book while in prison will help pass the time,” said Sandy
* * *
By four-thirty that afternoon, Sandy was back home. Mel pulled into the driveway at their townhouse and hugged her roommate before they got out of the car. “So…did you get any cool prison tattoos while in the joint?”
Sandy answered with a glare and flipped Mel the bird.
“I’ll take that as a no!” said Mel as they got out of the car and headed for the front door.
“Sorry, roomie, I’m not in the mood, okay? I need to dig into the book and spend some time with Paul,” explained Sandy.
“Umm, that’s going to be a problem,” said Mel. “The cops came by and confiscated the book. I hope nothing in there will point to you in any way.”
Sandy sighed, “Won’t point to me. Will point to Paul. And who’s Paul’s keeper?” she placed her index finger in the middle of her chest, “That would be yours truly. Even my attorney said I was fucked after I told her my story. I can’t see me being anything else but fucked.”
“Dang, girl! Maybe you DO need to noodle this with Paul; if anyone can help, it may be him.”
“Oh my…are you siding with Paul as a dependable partner now, Mel?”
“Well, you two have a relationship, right?” she grinned and pushed the door open.
Sandy puffed out her cheeks in a gesture of exhausted agreement, exhaled loudly, and headed for the stairs. When she entered her bedroom, quick steps took her right up to the mirror and, without hesitation, placed her palm flat on the surface. The purple glow accompanied Paul’s greeting, “Hello, Sandy!”
“I’m in big trouble, Paul, and that means YOU are in big trouble too,” she began, “I’m lucky to be here talking with you, and I expect I may have a day or two at the most to get back into the book…oh wait…the police confiscated the book…that means it’s you and me, Paul. WE have to figure something out. That means I need your help and the promise of advice you said you could give.”
“I will help you, Sandy. You will have to trust me deeper than you have ever trusted anything or anyone.”
Sandy rolled her eyes, “And what exactly defines ‘deeper’? I can either trust or not trust. How can it be deeper or more convoluted than that?”
“Deeper as in another dimension, Sandy. That is someplace you have not yet experienced beyond having these conversations with me through mirrors…and oh yes…witnessing a lethal energy discharge that killed two unrighteous aggressors.”
“Great, now we’re talking about other dimensions. Just how many dimensions are there, Paul?” she snapped with exaggerated emphasis on his name.
“Are you familiar with String Theory, Sandy?”
With sarcasm leading her response, she quipped, “Oh, absolutely, Paul! I read up on it each morning right after I review nuclear fusion. What do I know about String Theory? I know you are stringing me along with more bullshit that will eventually define a theory based on…on what…on what, Paul? What I desperately need is your help, not half-baked theories. And stop answering my questions with questions. I hoped you were more intelligent than this.”
“You are angry, Sandy,” Paul said in his even-keeled voice that tended to infuriate her instantly. And it did once again.
“Paul, I’d punch it right now in your throat…if you had a throat. Am I angry? YES! Am I getting even angrier if you don’t start helping me? That’s an even bigger YES!” Her voice approached shouts tinged with desperation.
“I apologize for contributing to your anger. I know you think I am causing your anger instead of contributing to it, but I knew your thoughts the instant you summoned me; anger’s grip was already upon you. So whatever anger I added was only a contribution, not a stimulus.”
“Stop the double-speak, Paul, and tell me something I DON’T know, okay?”
“I will, Sandy, but you must set aside your anger at me and this situation to consider what I will share with you now. Can you do that for me?”
Sandy wanted to fire off another volley at him but hesitated long enough to consider that what was coming would require learning and accepting things she knew very little about…like String Theory…God forbid. She drew a deep breath, let it out in a rush that puffed out her cheeks, and stared into the mirror. “Okay, I’ll try.”
Paul began. “Stand directly in front of the mirror, Sandy, and tell me what you see.”
She stood and stared at her reflection through the light purple glow, “I see my reflection.”
“Correct. And you can see aspects of height, width, and depth, correct?” he asked.
“Yes, I can see a 3-dimensional reflection of myself,” Sandy said, trying not to sound annoyed.
“Perfect! 3D. Now, don’t get ahead of me. 3D or three-dimensional perspective defines your physical world and the wiring in your brain. How you perceive what you see and think is grounded in those three dimensions. Because of those limitations of your 3D world and worldview, you will have to trust me deeper than ever.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. How many dimensions are there, Paul?” her annoyance began to show through again.
“Six more than you know beyond your 3D limitations that deal with space; there is a tenth dimension specific to time that spans across all the preceding nine dimensions. Some argue that an eleventh dimension embodies both the nine space dimensions and the tenth dimension of time altogether.”
He continued when Sandy said nothing. “What you see in your 3D world appears to be solid matter. What you see, you can touch. What you can touch, even if you cannot see, can be identified by touch because of your 3D memories and past experiences in the 3D world. Do you follow what I’m describing?”
“Sort of…I think,” she confessed with little evidence of conviction in her voice. “What dimension are you in? I can’t see you, but I can hear you…granted, I only hear you inside my head, so you must not be in any dimension I’m in, right?”
“You are correct, Sandy. I am in the eleventh dimension and can freely move through the other dimensions as I wish. You can hear me telepathically because I allowed you to hear me that way. My ability to move through space and time is a more precise explanation of how I reappeared in your bedroom from the destroyed mirror at the Hawthorne House. Our spiritual connection functioned as a GPS that enabled me to find you.”
“Enough details about me…for now,” Paul said. “I do not want to distract you from gaining the information you are going to need. The book would have supported much of what I will explain to you now, but since it has been seized, I will fill in and become your book.”
“Okay, thanks! Back to the mirror. What am I supposed to see? I get the sense that my reflection is only part of this little demonstration,” Sandy said, trying to refocus.
“Look into the reflection of your eyes and tell me what you see,” Paul instructed.
Sandy sighed and said, “I see a reflection of my eyes looking back at me.”
“Perfect!” he said, “Now consider what it must be like for the reflection. What does the reflection see?”
“This is nuts, Paul! My reflection is not me…it’s a reflection. It’s not real. It’s not part of me.”
“Maybe…maybe not. Consider, for this argument, that your reflection IS part of you. I’m sorry this is so hard to explain. Let me give you an easier example suitable for a 3D-wired brain.” Paul offered.
“Hey, bud, sorry I’m so deficient with my 3D brain!” she said hotly.
“Please stop degrading yourself, Sandy. I’m trying to give you an example that you can build upon. Step away from being angry and resisting my help, please. Try this example: stretch your arms straight out in front of you; now bring your hands together until your fingertips touch.”
She did as he instructed.
“Sandy, think about this question before you answer. With which hand did you feel the touching first? Wait, don’t answer yet; there is another part to this question. Which finger on which hand felt the touching first?”
Sandy had to struggle with an answer beyond what her brain said was correct, “I guess I couldn’t tell.”
Paul’s voice sounded like it smiled, “Ahh, correct, but you could have if you had a different perspective. Try it again; this time, concentrate on your left forefinger as the focal point of the touch.”
She did as he instructed and then began to grin.
“Look back into the mirror,” he told her. “Are you smiling, or is that your reflection smiling at you? Are you looking at your reflection, or is your reflection looking at you?”
He continued, “Look beyond the reflection of your eyes and concentrate; think about what those eyes see in you. Try to think outside your perspective; embrace the thought that this reflection is looking back at you…studying you…seeing you grin.
Sandy looked harder at the reflection of her eyes. She stepped outside herself and concentrated on what her reflection could be thinking about her. What were her eyes communicating? And that’s when she saw a nearly imperceptible movement of her head. Her head? Had her head moved, or did she see the head of the reflection in the mirror move? The action was so subtle, a non-verbal twitch, like the reflection she looked at had a question or maybe a thought to share.
Sandy gasped and turned away from the mirror. “Did my reflection move on its own? Did I really see that?”
“I believe you saw exactly what you think you saw,” said Paul. The other dimensions you cannot see represent parallel universes that exist in the same space and time but are not joined physically. There can be touch points just as you and I enjoy such a touch point. You also exist in a parallel universe where you live and make different choices with different outcomes. Sometimes the you in a parallel universe may make an identical choice, but there are other outcomes.”
“That’s crazy talk, Paul; it’s my reflection, not a parallel universe. I’m not starring in another version of the Matrix here. If I were not standing here, there would be no reflection.”
“Exactly,” agreed Paul, “and that’s my point about the limitations of a 3D world. It’s not a deficiency, Sandy; it’s a fact limited by perspective. You cannot see me because of the limits of your view. You cannot see me because there is nothing to see; I am energy in another dimension, not solid matter, not flesh and blood as you are. You can hear me in your mind because you already have the perspective and experiences of out-loud conversations. I am tapped into that part of your consciousness; I am synchronized with views you are already familiar with. I can do that because I’m well beyond the limited perspective of a 3D world.”
“Wow,” she said softly and paused in thought for a few seconds before her 3D brain reengaged. “I mean no disrespect, Paul, but so what? Why the diatribe about multiple dimensions? Why does my limited perspective not get it? Better yet, what was my limited perspective supposed to get that it didn’t?”
Paul did not respond immediately, so Sandy fired off another question, “If you can synchronize with my ability to hear, why can’t you use your 11th-dimension superpowers to synch with my ability to see you? I know you said you were energy and there was nothing to see, but hey…you enabled me to hear thought energy; a visual link-up should be child’s play for a talented guy like you, right?”
Paul hesitated again, the silence prompting Sandy to ask more questions, “I mean, how hard could it be to….”
He interrupted. “Sandy, I could manifest as another human being for you.”
“Okay then, what’s stopping you? Are you ugly? Bad teeth? Big nose? What?” she asked.
“I manifested as a human with an earlier possessor of the book, and it did not end well,” he explained, “and it was my fault. I promised myself I would not go there again, and it appears I have set things up to repeat the same mistake with you.”
“Hah!” she howled, “you mean the mistake other than showing up on day one when I…how’d you describe it…summoned you into my life? Wasn’t that mistake enough? It sounds more like it was MY mistake if you ask me.”
“No, not at all, Sandy. Showing up was not a mistake, but how I positioned myself and the concept of establishing a relationship was the mistake. Using the word relationship was incorrect as well as inaccurate. We did not…do not…or will have…a relationship as you would describe the characteristics of one. We are linked at a spiritual level across many dimensions. Setting the expectation that there is a relationship sets us up with expectations that it will grow into something…something that can and will go wrong because of boundaries we cannot cross.”
“Tell me what happened with your earlier relationship disaster. What lines did you cross?” Sandy requested.
“I would rather not share the particulars of that situation, Sandy.”
“Then,” she paused for a second, “maybe we’re done here.”
Paul caved and said, “He fell in love with me, Sandy.
“So you were in a gay relationship. Aren’t you the flexible one?” she scoffed.
“No, I interfaced with a man who possessed the book using my ability to sound like someone of the female gender. He demanded to see me, and when I did manifest as a person, the mistake of describing our connection as a relationship doomed us to failure; failure based on how relationships die when those things that grow and sustain them cannot be fulfilled. I did not want him to love me, and I do not want to enable another failure like that again because the hurt will be centered on your life, not mine.”
“Protecting me again, are you, Paul?”
“Protecting you, Sandy is what I do, and I will continue to do as long as you are alive.”
“Even if I wind up in prison?” she asked, not wanting to consider that eventuality a reality.
“Even then, Sandy.”
Mel yelled up the steps, “Sandy, you’d better beat feet and get out of here. The detectives are on their way. They called and asked if you were here, and I told them you’d just stepped out. I’d guess you’ve ten minutes or so before they get here, and I don’t think this will be a courtesy call.”
* * *
Paul made a quick suggestion as Sandy threw on a light jacket and grabbed her backpack. “Make sure you have a mirror. I do not want to leave you stranded with no way to communicate.”
“Okay, I will,” she said and bolted out the bedroom door and down the stairs.
Mel embraced her as she stepped off the bottom step and said, “I know you can’t go on the run and disappear. You’ll have to come back here and deal with the cops, but I thought warning you with a few minutes to get your head around what was happening would be good.”
“I love you, roomie! You’re the best.”
One final squeeze and Sandy flew out the door. Her initial destination was anywhere but home. She needed space to think. She needed to make a plan even though she knew she was doomed to wind up incarcerated again. Spending a lot of time planning would serve no viable purpose other than to distract her thoughts from the inevitable. A shopping center or strip mall with plenty of other cars seemed like as good a place as any to pull over and stop. Three stoplights and a four-way stop later, she pulled into a small strip center with a CVS pharmacy at one end of the parking lot. With the ignition switched off, she found silence and thoughts crowded in, causing stress she did not need.
Paul’s request to be sure she had a mirror prompted her to rummage through her purse and backpack coming up empty. CVS offered a convenient solution; she got out of the car and walked into the store. She found a small mirror in the cosmetics section that should cover her needs. She stopped by the beverage section, pulled a bottle of chilled water out of a wall cooler, and walked to the cashier up front.
Sandy drove home in no particular hurry, knowing there was no escaping her fate, whatever fate that might be. When she pulled into the townhouse complex, an unmarked police car sat adjacent to her driveway. At least, she thought, there were no flashing lights and armed stormtroopers in tactical gear barricading a potential getaway. There would be no getaway, and she knew it.
Walking through the front door did not trigger an all-out rush by the detectives to grab her and wrestle her to the floor. Sandy thought maybe she had over-demonized the roles of the cops. It turns out she hadn’t.
Detective Becker walked up to her and held her by the upper arm firmly, “Ms. Tillman, you are under arrest for your role in the murders of Phillip McCorkle and William Jameson.” He repeated his recitation of her rights and applied handcuffs to her wrists as she automatically offered them up behind her back.
Sandy protested, “Why are you arresting me again? I thought we cleared up that I didn’t kill anyone last time you were here. What’s changed?”
Detective Hanson spoke up, “We had the opportunity to read the book “Mirror, Mirror,” and it became apparent that there was an obvious connection between how the mirror functioned and the role you played in the murders.”
“I did NOT play any role unless being the victim of sexual assault counts for something,” she nearly shouted.
“The book gave us all we needed when it described the power of the entity that responded to your call for help by committing the murders of both men. The judge will determine the formal charges at your arraignment, but I’ll wager it will be accessory to murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter. Regardless of the charge determined, you will be spending years in prison. I’m sorry. Let’s go.”
Mel, who had been standing quietly, embraced Sandy before they got to the door and said, “I’m so sorry, roomie; I know you didn’t kill anybody. Those two assholes got what they deserved, and I know you did not have a hand in that.”
“Don’t worry about me, sweetie said Sandy; I’ll be fine. I know I’m innocent. This will take some time, but everything will be okay. I promise.”
“Oh, wait for a second; I need to get my backpack and my purse,” Sandy stated as she stopped at the front door.
Detective Becker grumbled, “You can get your purse, but leave the pack. You’re not going to need it.”
Mel said, “I’ll run up and get it for you.”
“I left it on my bed. It might be in the backpack if you don’t see it.”
Holding her purse behind her back, Sandy walked to the police car and climbed into the back seat.
“I can hold that purse for you,” Detective Hanson offered.
“That’s okay, I’ve got it,” replied Sandy. I’ve got it and the mirror, she thought to herself.
An hour later, Sandy was back in an orange jumpsuit with PRISONER stenciled on the back, some ugly slipper-like shoes, and nothing else. At that moment, the only thing that occupied her thoughts was what to do now that her purse had been locked up…including the mirror. She felt utterly helpless without a way to communicate with Paul.
* * *
“Well, that did not take them very long.” Sarah Thomson, her public defender, said, “I’d say welcome home, but this will not be home for very long. Your arraignment will be first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Not wasting any time, are they?” questioned Sandy as she plopped down into one of the chairs in the conference room.
“Are you kidding? In a small town like this, murder will trump all the shoplifting and parking violations they’d typically handle. The arraignment will either turn you loose or set a date for a trial. I anticipate they will keep you here to await trial unless they let you stay at home with an ankle bracelet. Ordinarily, a trial would take months to schedule, but I expect this will be a priority, and finding a jury should be a cinch. I mean, seriously, who would not want to serve on the jury of a trial as bizarre as this is going to be?
Sandy shook her head and muttered, “I’m not sure how much more bizarreness I can take.”
“I heard that,” said Sarah.
Sandy lapsed into silent contemplation. What kind of plan could she make without Paul’s guidance? Having the mirror impounded with her purse hamstrung any hopes of effective strategizing. She was not confident her attorney would do much good in making a plan, but the woman showed some moxie earlier when verbally sparring with Blanche. Oh no, she thought, not more of Blanche. How could she tolerate that little troll for days? They’d have to put her on suicide watch for sure.
Sarah surprised her only moments after Sandy doubted her capabilities. “I’ve been researching the paranormal aspects of this magic mirror and the mystery voice you’re hearing in anticipation of this going to trial.”
“Paul!” corrected Sandy, “the voice belongs to Paul.”
“I get that but consider this; you might be better off not referring to this voice as Paul. Think about it. You claim there is no relationship with the voice, so why create the image of there being a relationship by naming it? We must separate you as far from the voice and the mirror as possible.”
“Sandy nodded silently and then spoke, “That’s a good point, I guess.”
“We can talk more about how to do that when we find out we will need to prepare for a trial,” added Sarah. “And something else; you talked about the voice being in a different dimension. That concerns me, and that’s where we need to shake out the bizarreness of dimensions where we can and make it stupid simple for the jury. Doing they will place reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors when they have to decide if you pulled the trigger or some entity in a different dimension did the deed.”
“I don’t understand,” said Sandy.
“It’s pretty straightforward, Sandy. The prosecution is going to position you as a murderer. You, as the murderer, will be in the front of every juror’s mind. Did she, or didn’t she? You and those two men were the only people in the room, with them making poor witnesses since they are both deceased. We need to have another presence in the room…EVEN IF…that presence was in a different dimension. THAT’S why I want posture that things that happen before our eyes, in our dimension, could be triggered by actions taken in a different dimension…like from…a parallel universe. A parallel universe where the voice had some culpability in the murder. This is another way to separate you from actual events. You had one role to play…a role you did not want…you were there as the victim of an assault that would escalate into two rapes if nothing prevented them. …you weren’t there to kill anybody. You were under duress, plain and simple, and you did not have any weapon, nor did you have any way to fire off the bolt of energy that killed those guys. You did NOT kill those men.”
Sandy sat in total silence as her mind raced. It felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Sarah made sense. She had invested time in putting together a plan of attack that seemed to be well thought out and logical if there was anything logical about the bizarre nature of what this trial would turn out to be.
Blanche pushed her way into the conference room with two sharp knocks on the door, hands balled up and planted on where hips would have been had she not been mostly round, “Your supper is in your cell now…and I’ll have you know it was hot when I put it there. If you don’t want to eat it cold, you’d better get to it, missy.”
Sandy thanked Blanche with no animus and followed her back to her cell. “Sarah, I’d better go with Blanche since she’s made an extra effort to feed me a hot meal. I’d say you could join me, but….”
“Not in the cell, missy; she can stand in the hall or wait here. I’m not delivering the meal anyplace else. Eat in your cell, or don’t eat. Makes no difference to me.”
Sarah went on her way, and Sandy devoured a meat dish that may have been meatloaf. The mashed potatoes and gravy pointed toward the protein as meatloaf, but the origin of the meat itself remained in question. A dinner roll freshly baked two days earlier barely enabled her to mop up the gravy. After she finished the obligatory Jell-O pudding cup, she sat back on her bunk to reflect on the strategy Sarah outlined earlier.
The strategy made perfect sense, on paper anyway. The concept of referring to the voice as Paul inferred there was a prior relationship she swore did not exist, well at least Paul refused to see it as a relationship for his own reasons. Sandy was not so sure and had become much more comfortable with him being in her life. Wasn’t using each other’s names the kind of thing that defined a relationship? Wasn’t that why she was so upset about having her mirror impounded…losing her portal to communicate with him…being completely cut off from him?
Her thoughts drifted to how Sarah could effectively inject reasonable doubt into the heads and hearts of a jury on the complex equation whose only apparent solution was a straightforward murder conviction. Convicting Sandy would be short and sweet, representing the path of least resistance. Positioning that a foreign entity in a different dimension fired the kill shot still seemed to lack plausibility.
Blanche interrupted her thoughts to pick up her meal tray without saying anything. Sandy took a different path and thanked her for serving her a delicious meal. Maybe Blanche assumed there was a high degree of insincerity in Sandy’s gratitude, maybe not, or perhaps she merely lived in a constant state of hypocrisy. Either way, Blanche’s response was a snort as she slammed the cell door shut and twisted the lock with her key…her only real power.
With the service tray removed, Sandy stepped over to the sink to wash her face and hands. She was pleasantly surprised to find hot water and thoroughly cleansed her face and hands. As she dried off with a tiny towel, she looked into a small sheet of shiny stainless steel attached to the wall and thought about how badly she needed an honest-to-goodness real mirror to reconnect with Paul. The poor excuse of a reflection was marred with grime and who knows what, so she wiped it clean with the towel. Fibers from the towel littered the surface from her efforts to clean off the steel, so she wiped at the lint fibers with her hand. The purple glow that sprang to life brought tears instantly to her eyes and shocked her almost as much as the voice, “Hello, Sandy!”