Another short based loosely on a true happening.
Have you ever had a dream that felt so real?
Back in the early 1990s, when the crime rate was at its peak; I was a cop working for the Lake County Police Department. I spent my time patrolling the streets of my hometown in Gary, IN, usually with a deputy in training; Don Haussmann. I constantly reminded him to be on his toes and look out for anything suspicious, even the smallest thing. Because everybody is capable of something. I wasn’t trying to scare the kid, but make him more alert to the hidden dangers that lurked around this dreaded place of filth. We were in a hidden patch of road, watching for speeders. I relied heavily on Haussmann to be my eyes, because I would find myself falling asleep at the wheel.
Like many in the area, I had a hard time sleeping. It was a combination of the fears of everyday violence, stress from work and my night terrors that made sleeping difficult. I’ve had the same reoccurring dream for the past eight months. In it, there’s the same beautiful woman. She’s in early 30s, with flowing chestnut hair, brown eyes and ivory skin, and she’s always walking a dog. The dream always starts and ends the same. She’s listening to her walkman, walking down the sidewalks of one busiest parts of town. A man in a dark overcoat approaches her. She seems to know him and exchanges a smile and a warm conversation. Then, the unthinkable occurs. The stranger pulls a gun from his side, and fires a shot into the woman’s chest. Then the dream ends.
It happens at least once a week, and it’s the same every time. I’ve never had dreams that felt this real before. I would wake up in cold sweats, unable to breathe, sometimes hyperventilating and screaming. I’ve always had dreams that always felt and seemed realistic, even as a child. I blame it on the violence that never seemed to go out. This became especially true during and after the race riots, that would result in the deaths of dozens of protesters and other civilians. Oh the blood. So much blood. They were all horrible, and seemed to get progressively worse. Into my adult years, they were at their all time worst. The dreams of the woman were the most frightening to me. Well, one night ago that all changed.
It was another night like usual. Coming home after a long day on the job, enjoying some television and a frozen dinner and reading a good book before bed. Then the dream happens again. The woman. The dog. The stranger. The gun. The bang. The end. Just like every other time, I woke up screaming in a cold sweat. I turned on my hall light and went to the bathroom to wash my face. I was in a sweat. My vision was far too blurry and I was still trying to adapt to the change of light to notice anything. Once my eyes fixated to the change, I saw something strange. My shirt was speckled with red. I must have gotten ink on it or something, and never noticed. Unable to go back to sleep, I went to the kitchen to fix myself a drink and turn on the TV. Maybe it would help me relax.
Like always, nothing was on. It was infomercial after infomercial, with a few channels proudly showing corrupt televangelists and politicians trying to get me to vote for them. The only thing to watch seemed to be the news. I wasn’t expecting anything interesting, but I decided to watch it anyways. Maybe something positive would be on to boost my spirits. But living in one of the most violent cities in the country, I was asking for too much. Growing bored, I was going to flip the channel back to one of the televangelists, hoping they can provide some entertainment. As I was about to, anchorman, Scott Morgan appeared with breaking news. On the screen behind him was a still of yellow crime scene tape with a white outline of a body on a blue background.
“A Gary Indiana woman has died tonight.” Morgan started “34 year-old Wendy Chaplin was found dead from a gunshot wound on Main and 2nd street. According to a witness, Chaplin was walking her pit bull terrier around 11pm when she was approached by an unidentified person in a dark overcoat. She was then shot, where police said she died instantly. There are no suspects. If you have any information that could help the investigation, please contact the Lake County Police Department.”
I grew paranoid and double checked my doors, to ensure they were locked. And thankfully I caught this, because I had forgotten to do so. This was far too creepy for me. It couldn’t be happening. Maybe it was all just a coincidence. Yes, that’s what it was. It had to be. Anything but would just be too real. I had to lay off the sugar before bed. Maybe that’s what was triggering my nightmares. A chill ran up my back, so I went to fetch my robe to keep my warm. As I went to grab it, I saw something strange by the front door. Hanging on my coat rack was a dark overcoat. I haven’t used it since the winter, so why was it out? I carefully picked it up and saw red speckles or splotches on it, just like my shirt.
“No.” I said “It can’t be.”
The news had come back, and Morgan returned. He retold the report about Chaplin’s death. This time more information resurfaced. While hair and blood DNA was not found by the perpetrator at the scene; police were able to extract the bullet, and determined it being a 9mm. Every crook and criminal in the country had one, but the cops did also. The worst possible thought came over me. I went into my bedside table and retrieved my gun and checked the magazine. I’ve yet to fire it on the job yet, so I was hoping to find nothing out of place.
Emptying out the contents, I did a check and got the shock of my life. One of the bullets was missing. I tried to think it over. There had to be a logical explanation. But nothing was coming through clearly. In a later call to my father, he would go on to tell me how severe my sleeping problem was as a child. Nightmares are one thing, but this was another. He recalled that I had a problem sleepwalking on a near daily basis. He never tried to wake me, believing the myth that the sleepwalker can die if trying to be awoken. The murderer was me.