September 16th: Mike Whitehead took conspiracy theories and pro wrestling as gospel. He was the admin of a message board for survivors of paranormal attacks. He had a huge collection of jazz albums on vinyl, which was weird because Mike Whitehead was deaf.
He was curly haired and always dressed in loose fitting clothes. He was good company even though he didn’t smile all that much. This was our fifth meeting and the first one that hadn’t taken place at a strip club.
Don’t judge us, survivors of paranormal attacks need lap dances too.
I asked him how I could get in contact with Ashley Fowler. The minute he ‘heard’ that name he tried to throw me out of his house. The more he shouted the more pronounced his deaf accent became.
For those of you not in the know Ashley Fowler thinks she’s the Devil and when she isn’t engaging in Satanism and debauchery she’s obsessively editing Wikipedia pages on the subject of angels and demonology.
I begged and demanded, I made promises. I told him I’d never ask for anything else again, and that from now on I’d pay for my own couch dances.
Finally he said, “First let me tell you a story about Ashely Fowler. I never told anyone and if you put it on your blog we’re through.”
And this is what he said...
THE NIGHT BLOGGER:
The Graveyard Game
And Other Cemetery Plots
The Red Chimes
Al Bruno III
...“Back when I could still hear I was the drummer of a six man jazz band called ‘The Fifty Fingers’. We were pretty popular among Albany’s rich and famous. We used to play at the Fort Orange Club all the time. You know, private club, big bucks, even the Governor was a member, one time Jack Nicholson was there. He tipped us a hundred bucks each.
“One night we were playing a gig at the Fort Orange for some political bigwigs. All of them had their wives there, snooty society ladies on the soft side of fifty, you know? Ashley Fowler was there too, how could you miss the gorgeous redhead wearing a man’s tuxedo?
“Everybody had heard of her, they said she was the Governor’s spiritual advisor you know? From behind my drumset I watched her making the rounds, talking to all the rich and powerful of Albany.
“So a while later I’m taking a smoke break down in the cellar near where they kept the wine and the firewood and she shows up. She starts talking to me. Now girls always go for musicians but she wasn’t talking to me like that. I never told her my name but she was all ‘Hey Mike! How’s the band doing?’
“She acted like she knew me and I didn’t like it. And the way she stared at me was just creepy. She says she has a request, she said she wants the band to play The Human Jungle’.
“Now that’s an OK tune but its the theme to an old TV show, not a good fit for this kind of crowd. I said maybe next time but she kept pushing it with me saying how much she could make it worth my while. Finally I asked her what the deal was and she says, ‘Because it will annoy the Governor and he’ll leave. When he gets home early he’ll find a surprise waiting for him but we’ve got to get the timing just right Mike.’
“I put out my smoke and told her that the Fifty Fingers don’t do requests and especially not so some screwy lady can annoy the Governor, especially not for some screwy lady that everyone says shot her Dad.
“And then she spits in my face and says, ‘You should have listened. You’ll listen now.’
“I didn’t see her again and the rest of the gig went fine.
“Next morning I wake up and I can hear windchimes and I didn’t have any windchimes. I figured it was coming from my neighbor’s apartment so I just got dressed and went on with the things I had to do that day.
“But everywhere I go I’m still hearing the sound and it’s getting louder. I thought maybe it was just water in my ears or something like that but the next day I’m still hearin’ the chimes you know? And they’re louder.
“I go to a doctor and he says I’m all right, that maybe I’ve been working too hard. Every day though the chimes are still getting louder and they’re starting to sound... bad. Like something being killed. They sounded red you know?
“Pretty soon it’s so loud I can’t think straight and I’m hearing sounds in the silences between the the chimes, voices telling me things I didn’t want to know. A week after she spit in my face the chimes were so loud I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, it was like someone had filled my brain with broken glass.
“I couldn’t take it. I flipped and stabbed out my eardrums with a steak knife..."
...then Mike told me the last part of his story, the worst part, the kicker.
What he said made me feel like I’d been splashed with cold water. Even now, days later, I’m trying to tell myself that he must be crazy. The man had mutilated himself, how could he not be? But it didn’t matter if he was insane or not, Sara was counting on me and this might be her only chance. Finally Mike gave me Ashely Fowler’s private number.
I don’t want to think about why he would still be in contact with her. In a way it makes what Mike told me all the worse.
Now I just have to work up the nerve to call the woman, hopefully she won’t go spitting in my face.
Oh and the kicker? The last part of Mike’s story?
“The chimes,” he said, “I can still hear them Brian. I can still hear them.”