Big, fat raindrops were beginning to fall as Dandy stepped out of his car. He cursed his luck. If he had arrived at the coroner’s office only a few minutes earlier, he would not have been caught in the rain. He pulled his suit jacked up around his head and made his way inside. Once there, he shook off the water that had fallen on him, like a wet dog, and let out a little sigh. He figured he was getting too old to be running around, getting trapped in a downpour.
“Dandy, good to see you again. Sorry to call you in this weather.” called a voice from inside the office. The coroner, Dr. Heather MacDonald, approached Dandy with her hand outstretched. The Detective accepted it.
“Heather, I hope all is going well for you.” The old man said.
“Everything’s fine for me, but there’s definitely something odd going on around here. That’s why I called you.” Heather said, motioning her head deeper inside the building. “You’ve got to come have a look at this.” She led him into the morgue where a body lay on the slab. It was a middle aged man who looked like he hadn’t been dead for long.
“At least he’s still on the table. Last time I was here, I couldn’t even get that much.” Dandy said, shaking his head. “And if the dead aren’t walking, that’s a decent start.” He concluded. Heather moved in and rested her knuckles on the table, just beside the body.
“This is Chuck Green, aged 47, they found him in bed. The assumption was he died in his sleep.”
“That seems a bit young to die in your sleep, doesn’t it?” asked Dandy, looking at the man with sympathy.
“Well, that might be the case sometimes, but that’s now why I called you.” Heather said. “There’s something…strange about this one.”
“And what might that be?” Asked Dandy.
“Get this,” the coroner began, “like I said, they found him at home in bed, in the middle of the city. But when I opened him up, his lungs were completely full of water.” Dandy paused for a moment, letting the information sink in. Then he blinked, still confused.
“So you’re telling me he drowned.”
“That’s what it looks like to me.” she concluded.
“And he lived here in the city?” Dandy asked.
“Right. In an apartment on Ninth Street, which, as you know, is completely dry. I don’t think there’s even a pool in the area.” Heather said, shaking her head. “The most water they get over there is the rain.”
“And his place, his apartment, was completely dry?” Dandy asked.
“That’s the report. Nothing was amiss. Doesn’t look like anyone broke in, nothing was disturbed, no sign of any unusual activity. And to top it all off, his body was also totally dry when they found him. Same with his bed and the surrounding area.” Dandy smoothed his white mustache at the corners.
“Well, this doesn’t make a lick of sense.” He said finally. He tapped his chin thinking about the problem, but Heather cut in.
“And that’s not the only thing. See, this guy isn’t the first one to come here under such strange circumstances lately.” She spun around and grabbed a clipboard off her desk. “Last week an Arnold Crumb came in, he was 28 and guess what? He died in his sleep.” She handed the paperwork to Dandy who studied it, his head to one side.
“But this file indicates burn wounds on the body.” Dandy said, flipping through the charts and photos.
“That’s right.” Heather said. “Much like Mr. Green here, there were no signs of anything unusual at Crumb’s house. No sign of forced entry, no burn marks on anything but his body. Not even the bed that he slept in.”
“It’s as if the man spontaneously combusted.” Dandy said with a doubtful frown.
“It’s like that exactly, only there’s no science to prove that that can actually happen.” Heather replied.
“Science can’t prove half the things I’ve seen, my friend.” Dandy said with a grin.
“Well, that’s why I called you. This kind of weird stuff, that’s your thing, right?” Heather asked.
“You could say that.” Dandy said, pursing his lips. “Are there any more cases like these two? Anything unusual I should look into?” He asked finally.
“There’s been a rash of people dying in their sleep, these two are just the most recent. The unusual circumstances of their death, they keep cropping up.” Heather said. “Frankly, it’s starting to get a little scary. Look at this.” She opened another file on her desk. “There was a woman named Irene Potters, 65, again they found her in bed. But when I examined her, it looked like she’d been shot by something by…by arrows, I would say. The wounds looked like they’d been caused by arrow heads. Of course, there was nothing there, no shafts or anything. And the angle from the wounds, it’s like she had to be standing up, but her body was rigid in the prone position.” Heather shook her head. “Here, I’ve compiled a whole list for you to look through.” She handed Dandy a stack of papers and he let out a whistle.
“This is quite a pile.” He wondered just why he hadn’t been contacted earlier, but he supposed this wasn’t the sort of case that made any sense and it took a while for a lack of dots adding up to lead to his particular experience. After all, no one really wanted to believe anything so unsettling could happen in the real world. But as he had told the coroner, he’d seen things time and time again that didn’t make any sense. He was just glad that someone had finally decided to call him, as it looked like something truly unusual was afoot.
“I’ll take a look at this list and see if I can find anything helpful to me. Thanks very much, Heather. Hopefully you won’t be seeing me too soon again. Not before I can crack this one, anyway.” He tipped his white Panama hat to her and walked back out the door. The rain had stopped now, fickle as it was. Now Dandy sat in his car examining the list that Heather had given him. In addition to the three victims they had discussed inside, there were four more.
There was Maurice Steele, 51, who upon going to sleep one night, never woke up again. But in his system there was copious amounts of poison.
Gale Acorn, 44, had gone to sleep one night, failing to wake up the next morning. But when they examined her, they found deep marks around her neck as though she had been strangled by a rope. Of course, there was nothing to suggest that anyone else had been in the house.
Then there was Peter Miller, 58, who went to sleep one night for the last time. Upon further examination it seemed as though he had been run through by a blade. Not a knife, but rather a sword. However, there was no blood anywhere, and no sign of a struggle.
Lastly there was Lucy Lackman, 23, who, like all the others, had gone to sleep only never to wake. She had suffocated and there was dirt under her fingernails, as if, the old Detective deduced, she had been buried alive, and tried desperately to get out.
Dandy scratched his head as he read the files. There seemed to be no connecting factor to all of these deaths, other than their unusual nature. The ages, the occupations, the places they lived. It all seemed completely random. There was nothing more to be gained from studying the papers before him. Nothing that he could see at the moment, anyway. So he figured that he would get practical and head to Chuck Green’s apartment. Perhaps, being the latest victim of this anomaly, there would be some sort of clue that had been overlooked. He sat the papers in the seat beside him and headed off toward the direction of Ninth Street.
The apartment was empty when Dandy arrived, though there was a general level of dishevelment that he attributed to relatives going through Chuck Green’s belongings. Items in boxes, objects askew, and the door had been left open, too. It was unusual, as he was so used to the security presence of the police at crime scenes, so unable to simply glide in and look around as he was doing now.
First, Dandy examined the bedroom, as that was where the body was found. He saw that things here were generally left untouched. Nothing too much was amiss here, there had been paramedics and relatives in here, nothing unusual. The bed had that slept in look, an indent left from where the body had been found. He touched the surface of the bed very lightly. Dry. The windows in the room were shut tight, and Dandy could remember that, besides today, it hadn’t so much as rained any time soon. He looked under the bed, there was nothing strange there, some books and magazines, but nothing of note. The wooden floor around the bed would surely have captured some footprints if they were wet. Dandy stood back up and put his hands on his hips. No matter how he looked at the situation, it didn’t seem that there was any sort of moisture in the room, let alone enough to drown a man.
Out in the little kitchen he looked around, desperate to find some kind of clue. Chuck Green was not the only person to die of suspicious circumstances in their sleep. Not only was he looking for clues on Mr. Green, but on the others and what might just connect them all. Perhaps they were part of some organization, something that brought together people of all ages, of all backgrounds. There had been seven deaths and Dandy knew it couldn’t just be random; there had to be something that connected them. There just had to be. There could not be some random occurrence that led to the death of seven people. Of course, it was possible that they had all died in their sleep, but the state in which each body was found, Dandy knew there was more going on here than met the eye.
On the center of the table sat a stack of papers. Dandy riffled through them to see if the missing piece was here, and if he could spot it. There didn’t seem anything out of the normal. Bills, letters, shopping catalogs. He dug through the pile and then came to a stop at the bottom. It was an opened letter that had been sitting on the table for weeks, and it all started to make sense to him as he scanned the letter over.
A summon for jury duty.
Dandy took off his hat. Suddenly the pieces came together. What could connect all these people, these seemingly random folks? Where Dandy had suspected some secret society or sinister social standing, there was a much simpler answer: Civic Duty.
“That means…” Dandy read the paper over again and opened his eyes wide in horror. “That means that the deaths so far won’t be the only deaths before this thing is over.” If his hunch was correct, that meant that five more people were in danger. But he didn’t know who those five people were. Not yet, anyway. But he did know that he had to act fast to find them, before another person became victim to…just what was happening here? He might have had one clue, but in the grand scheme of the case, he had none. The puzzle was far from complete. He tucked the piece of mail into his inner jacket pocket and rushed back outside of the apartment. He threw himself into his car and headed off toward the court house.
The records room was a tidy place. Tidy but crowded. Rows of filing cabinets lining the walls, stuffed in the middle and taking up all available space the eye could see. How anyone could move through there was more than Dandy could guess. And as he would come to find out, this was only one of the rooms. Luckily, there was a file clerk on hand to help him out. After flashing his credentials, he was allowed free access to the room. Though he knew he would have a hard time explaining the case to anyone else, he would just stick to the little piece of paper that he had found at the apartment.
“Good day.” He said, nodding his head to the young woman behind the desk.
“Hello, how can I help you?” She asked with a smile. Dandy laid the jury notice out on the counter and smoothed it out a little.
“I’m looking for any information you have on this case.” Here’s the date and the summoned man’s information.” He pointed to the paper. She studied the piece of paper before her.
“Hm, that was about a month ago, I remember the case.”
“What can you tell me off the top of your head?” Dandy asked, leaning in.
“They were trying a nasty customer. Jaques Dupont, oh yes he was a rough one. Accused of several murders, that one was.”
“Ah yes,” Dandy said, “Dupont, I remember the case. From the papers. He was always wearing that grin, that horrible grin, when they took photos of him.” The old man shuddered remembering that Devil’s smile that crossed Dupont’s lips. He was surely a cold blooded killer.
“Yes he was awful,” said the young woman, “luckily they put him away, though.” That was true, Dandy remembered. He had read that they found Dupont guilty and sentenced him to life in prison. And if this was the case, if he were locked away in a cage for the rest of his life, how could he be connected to this case? He couldn’t be the killer. It was clear, he had a motive, revenge for the guilty verdict and the resulting imprisonment, that much Dandy could understand. But there was no way he could have snuck out of his jail cell without city wide coverage. He was a convicted murderer, after all.
“And tell me, there’s been no news of his escape, or anything unusual?” The Detective asked.
“He’s still up there rotting away, and will be for the rest of his life,” said the file clerk. Dandy chewed over the information in his mind. He would have to drive up to the state penitentiary and see just what was going on with the infamous Dupont. But he would also need to find a way to warn all the potential victims that were left who had put away the killer. Whatever Dupont was doing, it was clear that the rest of the list were his remaining targets.
“Say, do you have the contact method for the rest of the jurors?” Dandy asked the young woman.
“There will be something on file around here somewhere, just give me a few minutes to look around.”
And so Dandy waited, wondering what he could possibly say to the remaining jurors, and possibly to the man they had convicted. There was no way that any sane person would believe what he had to tell them. That this killer, stuck behind bars, was stalking the men and women who had put him there. The answer came to Dandy, it was obvious. Dupont must have connections on the outside.
“Of course.” Dandy said to himself. That’s how the victims had been killed, someone on the outside was doing Dupont’s work for him. But then, he remembered the odd way in which each person had died, and the fact that none of the scenes looked like a murder. He punched the inside of his white panama hat in frustration. But then the file clerk came back and pulled him out of his thoughts.
“Here you go, Detective, a list of jurors and their phone numbers. It should be easy enough to contact them that way.”
“I thank you kindly.” Said the old man with a slight bow. Outside, Dandy looked at his watch, it was six o’clock and in a couple of hours the sun would start to go down, and when the sun was down, people went to sleep. And lately, when people went to sleep, they died. He knew he had to work fast.
There wasn’t a way that he could do everything he needed to, Dandy knew that. He had to see Dupont, to investigate just what was going on with the prisoner, but he also had to warn the rest of the potential victims who had been on the jury. Luckily, he had an inside at the police station that could help him with the latter task, someone who could supply manpower. Contacting his old friend Dale Perkins, he vaguely explained the situation, hoping that Dale would help him.
“Well,” Dale began, “it sounds like there is a credible reason to believe that these people are in danger, so I’ll get on it, Dandy.”
“Thanks very much Dale. There isn’t much time to explain everything but it’s our job to protect people.” Dandy hung up the phone and sat back in his chair, rubbing his eyes. He had run around all day and felt the creeping feeling of sleep coming for him. He shook it off, there was no time for that now, he was working. He cursed his old age and threw himself from his office chair.
It was passed normal visiting hours when Dandy showed up to the prison, but flashing his badge, an exception was made. Dupont marched up to the telephone and glass and sat down. He looked at the Detective blankly.
“Do I know you?” he said finally into the receiver.
“My name is John Dandy. I’m a detective working a case, and I think you’re connected.” Dupont let out a short laugh.
“Oui? And what can I do from here?” he leaned in with the same grin that he wore in all the papers.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Dandy said, “The jurors involved in your case have been dropping like flies. I know you have something to do with it.”
“Me? But I am an innocent man.” said Dupont with a chuckle. “Well, maybe not completely innocent, but I am behind bars nonetheless. So what do you propose?”
“Do you have someone working for you? On the outside?” Dandy said, pressing hard.
“Who would work for me? I have nothing to offer them.” replied Dupont. Dandy sat quietly for a moment, simply staring at the man behind the glass.
“Well, it’s no matter, I have precautions setup should you try anything again tonight.” Dandy said, standing up. “I’ll have extra security on you tonight as well, and I’ll be seeing you soon. Don’t you worry.”
“Oh Detective,” said Dupont with his Devil’s grin, “do not worry, it is I who will be seeing you.”
By the time nightfall had rolled around, most of the potential victims from the jury had been contacted. And yet, some still did not heed the warning, even in the face of evidence. This perturbed Dandy. How could it be that another living being couldn’t see the connection, sense the danger that they would be in? Sprawled out on his desk back in the office, Dandy stretched his arms and yawned, equal parts frustrated and tired. He leaned in, resting his forearms on the table and his head on his forearms. It was getting late, or he was getting old, or possibly both at the same time. With a wide yawn, he closed his eyes for a moment, just a moment.
But a moment was all it took, the old Detective had fallen asleep, he snored gently as he slumbered on the hard desk. Then suddenly he was standing in a smokey old pool hall, dimly lit and loud. He looked down and saw the pool stick in his hands.
“Franchesco’s, that old pool haul that I used to haunt back in my youth.” Dandy said to himself. Somehow he just knew where he was. The old familiar smell of smoke and beer and before him, a large green pool table. And there, opposite the pool table, was Victor, poor Victor.
“Your turn.” Said Victor with a smile. Dandy stared at the man before him, with his green eyes and jet black hair. The man who was destined to become a monster, destined to scar the detective for life with massive claws, destined to take a silver bullet to the chest. But now, now he was in the moment, he was playing pool and none of that had happened. It was like being back in time. Soon his mind faded and he was really there.
“Let me show you how it’s done,” said Dandy with a grin. He paused, leaning over the table, the sensation of hearing a voice behind him was enough to stop him in his tracks.
“Come on, Detective, you don’t want to keep your old pal waiting, do you?” he whirled his head around quickly to find the familiar voice. Sitting there in the booth, casually smoking a cigarette, was Jaques Dupont.
“Dupont!” Dandy yelled.
“That’s right. We meet again, as I told you we would. Though we find ourselves here, in this location so unfamiliar to me. Come here a lot? Back to your glory days?”
“How? How are you here? You’re nothing more than my subconscious.” Dandy said doubtfully. Dupont leaned forward in the booth, letting out a puff of smoke.
“Oh, that’s what the others thought as well, that I was just some figment of their imagination, haunting them after they put me away. But, mon ami, I assure you I am quite real.” He pulled at a string around his neck.
“Ah, this is the part where you explain your evil plan to me.” Dandy said spitefully, leaning against his pool stick.
“Why, yes, Detective, I just want you to understand. Plus, I do love the sound of my own voice. Can’t you understand that?” he tugged at the string around his neck once more, and a moment later a glowing green gem presented itself, like an emerald. “You see, it’s all about this.” he said finally after admiring the jewel for a moment.
“And just what is that?” asked Dandy.
“I call it the Dream Stone,” Dupont said, rubbing his hands together. “It allows me to walk amongst the sleepers, to infiltrate their dreams. It puts my physical presence in the unconscious world. To see a man swimming in the ocean, perhaps, or a woman at an archery range. No matter where they go, they cannot escape me.” That same Devil’s grin crept across his face as he finished his sentence.
“So, that’s how you did it.” said Dandy, smoothing his mustache at the corners.
“Oui, Detective. They put me away and with me the stone, which I smuggled into my tiny prison cell. And one by one I get my revenge. It is a simple yet perfect plan. For no one can seriously suspect me, I am locked away in a cage, like an animal.” Here Dupont stood up from his booth. “No one but you, of course.” In a split second he dashed a beer bottle against the table, shattering it, creating a jagged little weapon.
“So you’ve come to do me in, eh?” asked the Detective. But just as he finished, Dupont lunged at him, broken bottle in hand. The Detective dodged him, rolling across the green felt table, landing on the other side. Dupont stood ready to dive at him again. Then, suddenly, everything vanished. The room went dark for a moment and then Dandy sat in a hotel room. He knew this room, he had recently vacationed here. Back when the horrendous green blob monster was lurking around inside the walls of the hotel. He blinked hard.
“Was that all a dream? Have I been in bed this whole time?” Dandy asked, looking out the window. He could see the faint reflection of a man from behind him, his eyes opened wide, it was Dupont. He spun around and kicked out a leg. His kick landed square in Dupont’s stomach, causing him to double over in pain.
“I’m afraid you got me there, mon ami. But know this, no matter where you go, no matter where your little dreams take you, I’m going to get you tonight.” The killer lept on the bed and tried to wrap his hands around the Detective’s throat. Dandy shook him off and the murderer fell off the bed with a loud thud.
“Come on, Dupont, let’s finish this, then.” Dandy said, jumping up off the bed and heading toward the doorway.
“Oh no you don’t!” Dupont pulled him back by the shirt and threw him roughly against the window. “Looks like we are several stories up, old man. Would be a shame if you fell.” said Dupont.
Suddenly things went black again and the Detective found himself back in his office.
“Finally, I’m awake,” said Dandy, looking around. “But this is far too crazy to prove, I’ll never be able to.”
“You won’t have to.” said Dupont, who rushed up from behind him, locking the Detective’s head under his arm.
“Dreaming about work,” Dandy managed to choke out, “I need to get a life.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t have one to get here in a moment.” Dupont said confidently. The old Detective leaned back in his chair and managed to dislodge himself from the murderer’s grip. He stood up straight and backed up against the door. He looked around for anything he might use as a weapon.
“Looking for something?” Dupont asked. Dandy looked to the man, who was now brandishing a knife.
“Always carry that with you?” Asked Dandy.
“Here in the dream world, I am master. I can get whatever I need.” He dove at the Detective, grazing Dandy’s cheek, which began to bleed.
“Aw!” Cried Dandy as he felt the hot sting of metal on flesh.
“Just a taste of what’s to–” Dupont began, but Dandy acted quickly. While the killer was close to him, he grabbed Dupont’s arm with one hand and quickly snatched the gem from around his neck with the other. Dupont dropped the knife and backed away in terror.
“Hey you can’t–you don’t know what you’re doing.” Said Dupont, throwing up his hands, trying to grab frantically at the gem.
“Well, let’s see what happens if we do this then, huh?” Dandy said. He slammed the stone against the wall behind him causing the gem to crack. A jade light began to erupt from within, blinding the two men.
“Non!” cried Dupont. He threw his arms up to his face to shield himself but it was too late. There came a whirring noise and he began to draw closer and closer to the gem, until finally, he was sucked inside like a genie in a lamp. The gem stopped glowing and Dandy opened his eyes. Within the stone, Dupont stood, imprisoned, pounding against his new cell, a green one. He screamed but could not be heard. Dandy pondered a moment and then pocketed the item. Before he knew it, all was black again.
Dandy awoke with a start at his desk. He looked around, nothing seemed amiss, but he felt the sting on his cheek. He brought his hand up to it and came back with blood. Then he remembered it all as he awoke from his post dream haze. He checked his pocket and there it was, a little green stone with a string around it. Inside a tiny little man pounded and pounded hopelessly for his freedom. Dandy shook his head and blinked slowly. It had all been real. It had all happened.
“Let’s put you in a secure place, my friend. He stood up and walked toward the closet in his office. Opening it, there was a safe on the floor. He knelt and gingerly opened the safe, setting the stone inside.
“See, Dupont, this is where I put any truly strange items I find along the way. So make yourself comfortable.” He shut the safe and walked back toward his window, watching the sun rise. He suspected that in the day to come there would be no unusual deaths, and though infamous killer Jaques Dupont would be missing from his cell, never to be found, he knew that the sleepers and the dreamers were once again safe.