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The Naked and the Dead by Bill W.

2017 Halloween Writing Contest  

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  1. 1. Does the story reflect a Halloween theme?

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  3. 3. Were you able to connect to the main characters?

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  4. 4. Did the Author develop a strong plot within the story?

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  5. 5. Would you recommend this story to others?

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The Naked and the Dead
by Bill W

Halloween has never been a very big deal for me, because my mom wouldn't let me celebrate it when I was younger.  She was a devoutly religious person and claimed that Halloween was a form of devil worship, so she never allowed me to do the same things as the other kids.  She even sent the following note to my school when I was in Kindergarten.  

"To the principal, teachers, and staff at Eastwood Elementary.  Please be advised that I do not want you to include Christopher Cordes in Halloween activities, parties, or anything else related to that vulgar holiday.  Thank you, Sarah Cordes."  

This meant that every year when the other students were getting ready to dress up, enjoy treats, and play games, I'd be sent to the principal's office.  I'd end up sitting in silence while I watched the secretary work, and I would only return to the classroom when the party ended.  

This caused me to not only feel horrible, but I would also become miserable the more I thought about missing out on doing those things with my classmates.  It also signaled to the other students that I was different, so I found myself ostracized by my peers and they would refuse to include me in other activities as well.  The predicament didn't have anything to do with me personally, such as my looks, because I had people tell me before that I was cute.  It wasn't because of the way I acted either.  It was solely due to the fact that early in the school year the other students realized that I couldn't participate in the same things they did, so they thought I was weird.  I had my mom to thank for that.  

She was convinced that she was right about Halloween being the work of the devil, because when she was growing up a series of disappearances occurred on that holiday.  Over the course of twenty-five years several young boys had gone missing on Halloween night, although no one connected their disappearances at the time.  This was due to the fact that it didn't happen every Halloween and the boys who disappeared didn't all live in the same community.  

When someone finally realized there might be a connection and looked at the cases more closely, they noticed there were several common factors, so it was likely they were connected.  The relevant factors included things such as the boys' ages, because they were all between ten and twelve-years-old at the time of their disappearance.  They also went missing on Halloween, and each one lived within a sixty mile radius around where I grew up.  Unfortunately, none of the cases were solved and none of the boys were ever seen or heard from again.  

Whenever I'd beg my mom to let me dress up and go out like all of the other kids, she would repeat the story of what happened to those boys and insist that the same thing would happen to me if I disobeyed.  Being young at the time, the thought of something similar happening scared the crap out of me, so I quit trying to get her to change her mind.  However, it didn't prevent me from wishing that I wasn't the one who was forced to be different from everyone else.  

Over the years that followed, I gradually accepted my fate and it became easier to ignore what everyone else was doing each year as we reached the end of October.  This changed, however, when I went to college and got away from my mother.  I was amazed when I saw the other college students dressing up and making a big deal out of Halloween too, although they usually celebrated in bars or at private parties.  

Not only that, but the town held a parade for the kids, and seeing them marching down the street in costumes rekindled memories of what I'd missed while growing up.  It also reminded me of the story my mother used to tell me, and that's when I began to wonder if it was true, or if she'd just made it up to keep me from begging to celebrate like the other children.  I decided to research her allegations to see if those things had actually occurred.  

In an effort to find the answers I was looking for, I went to the college library to see if I could find any information about the disappearances, but I was unable to find anything relating to those cases.  Since the disappearances had occurred before the internet came into use, I was unable to find anything online either.  When I asked the librarian what else I could try to find information about this, she suggested that I go to the public library in town and check out the microfiche copies of the local newspaper from that time period.  I thought her idea sounded as if it might be the only way I could find what I was looking for, so on Saturday I went there to see what I could discover.  

"Can you help me?" I asked the woman behind the front desk.  "I was told I should ask about any newspaper articles you might have on microfish."  

"It's pronounced microfiche, and you'll have to go to the reference section.  You'll find someone there who will be able to assist you."  

I was slightly embarrassed about her correcting my mispronunciation of the word, because I had thought the woman at the college library had mispronounced the word.  It was an older technology that I was unfamiliar with, so I assumed she either had an accent or a speech impediment, but it looks like I was wrong.  However, I listened as she directed me on how to get to that area, and I headed to the location and found the person on duty.  

After I explained what I was looking for and the approximate years involved, he explained that they used microfilm, which was stored on rolls, as opposed to microfiche, which is stored on cards.  He then led me over to a cabinet filled with various rolls, but they appeared quite different from the film that had been used to shoot a movie.  This film contained miniature copies of newspaper pages, and each roll was approximately four inches (10 cm) in diameter, and about an inch (2.5 cm) in width.  Once he scanned the labels and found the rolls I needed, he showed me how to load them onto a machine that would allow me to view the contents.  

"I think I remember something about this," he said as he was helping me get set up.  "I believe the boys were all pre-teens when they went missing, but no one connected their disappearances until it was too late.  I remember reading that the first couple of boys were thought to have run away, and it was suspected that another one might have drown in the abandoned quarry.  I vaguely remember that someone living in the area had said he'd seen a boy matching that description hanging around out there on the same day the boy vanished, but they never found a body.  No one came forward with any ideas about what might have happened to the other boys until the connection was finally made, but like I said, that was too late.  Yes, here's one of the articles now."  

We both read the information provided, which was quite detailed.  It gave the name and age of the missing boy, where this happened, his physical description, what he was wearing when last seen, and it also included his photo.  The article indicated that he had been out with a group of his friends for most of the night, but then he left them to return home.  No one saw him after that, and I guess eventually the case went cold.  

To my amazement, the man assisting me stayed the entire time and helped me look through multiple rolls of microfilm.  It took a few hours, seeing we had a period of twenty-five years to cover, but he said he had nothing else to do and stayed with me.  The good thing was that we only had to look at newspapers for the first couple of weeks of November in each of those years.  

"The boys didn't all live here, so why were these cases printed in the local newspaper?"  

"Back then there wasn't an Amber alert system to get the information out to the public, so the parents or law enforcement officials would do other things.  Besides hanging flyers close to where the boy lived, they would also send information to all of the newspapers in the surrounding area.  The newspaper would print the story hoping that someone might recognize the kid and supply a tip relating to his whereabouts, but it didn't seem to happen with these cases."

"Yes, it makes me feel awful that they were never found."

I took notes as I read each of the articles, and by the time we'd finished I had a great deal of information on the missing boys.  There had been eight in total, and each one went missing after he left his house to go trick-or-treating.  Some had been with others at some point, but the rest were merely spotted from time to time as they went from house-to-house.  I studied the photos that each boy's parents had given the newspaper to include with the article, and my initial reaction was that they were all quite handsome.  This realization gave me a bad feeling about what might have happened to them, seeing they were never seen again.  

I had done all I could for now and had a list of their names, ages, the year they went missing, and their physical descriptions.  I wanted to learn more about them now, but what was I going to do?  This all took place long before I was even born, so I doubted I could find any witnesses or much more information, other than what I'd gleaned from the newspaper articles.  I guess I had reached a dead end, so to speak.  

Seeing I couldn't think of a way to get more information, I packed up my notes in case I came up with more details or thought of another way to attack the problem at a later date.  I didn't think of it again until after I'd graduated from college and had returned to my hometown.  

I was one of the fortunate ones and landed a job with a local business, and I was also lucky that I hit it off with one of my male co-workers, a guy named Scott Halliwell.  Like me, he had been sort of an outcast when he was younger, so we had quite a bit in common.  I found that I enjoyed having someone I could relate to and confide in, and we started spending more and more time together.  

We would mostly just talk about our common interests and similar experiences while growing up, and occasionally we would go out to eat or just stop to have a few beers.  This went on for over a year, and I had just turned the calendar from September to October again when Scott asked me a question.  

"I hear a decent Haunted House has been set up at the old mall, and I was told it's pretty scary.  Do you think you might want to go there and check it out?"

"Gee, I don't know," I answered, and then I noticed the disappointed expression on Scott's face.  "I've never done anything like that before, but what the hell.  I'm willing to give it a try."  

His face suddenly broke into a smile.  "How about going with me this Saturday then?  We can go out to eat first and have a couple of beers, and that should be enough to build up our courage."  Scott laughed maniacally after saying this.

"Or it might just open us up to wetting ourselves or crapping our pants, seeing we would have just filled up."  

"Yeah, good point, so maybe you'd better wear Depends when we do this."  Once again he released another sinister laugh.  

"No matter how bad it is, it can't be any worse than this case I've been trying to solve."  

"What case is that?"  

I then explained about the disappearing boys and my inability to find any more information about what had happened to them.  

"Hey, maybe you should try using a Ouija board then."

"What the heck is that?"  

"It's a device spiritualists use to contact people who have died."  

"Really?  I didn't know there was such a thing.  Does it work?"

"My great-great-grandparents thought it did, because they used one to contact loved ones who had passed away.  I was told they made contact with my great-great-grandmother's brother who'd been killed in World War I, and they also got in touch with their son who'd died in a farm accident when he was sixteen."  

"So you think I might be able to contact some of those boys?"  

"It couldn't hurt to try, and maybe you'll make a connection."  

"But I don't have one of those things.  Hell, I wouldn't even know where to find one or how to use it."

"Don't worry.  I can help you with that, because I've got the Ouija board they used.  It's been passed down through the generations and I know how to use it too."  

"Ok, I'm willing to try anything at this point, but I doubt it will work."  

"You can't think like that or it won't work.  You've got to believe this will do what you want or the spirits won't come through."  

"Let me look up information about it online and I'll check it out first.  If I'm convinced it might do what I'm looking for, then we'll get together and give it a try.  How do you spell it?"

"Do you know how to spell the French word for yes?"

"You mean oui?  O-u-i?"  

"Yes.  Just add j-a to the end.  That's the German word for yes too, but the Germans pronounce it 'yhah', but in this case it's pronounced 'juh' or 'jee'."

"Ok, I guess I can remember that.  I'll check it out before we meet up on Saturday, and then I'll let you know what I've decided."  

I did quite a bit of research over the next couple of days, including Saturday morning.  I found articles that made fun of the Ouija board, but I also found articles from people who were convinced that they'd made contact with deceased individuals.  There were also comments about the possibility of accidentally contacting demons or evil spirits instead, and that scared me a little, but I was still willing to give it a try.  I was ready to give Scott my answer when we met up later.  

At 6:00 I drove over to the restaurant where we'd agreed to meet, and I found him sitting at the bar.  We each had a beer before going out to be seated, and then we talked while we waited for our meals to be delivered.  

"I think I've read enough to convince myself that this is going to work, so when do you want to do it?"

"Have you got any plans for tomorrow?"  

"No.  My calendar is clear."  

"Then why don't you come over to my apartment at 1:00 and we'll do it then."  

"Ok, that sounds good."  

We had a couple more beers with our meals, and then I followed Scott over to where the Haunted House had been set up.  I had no idea what to expect, other than the rough idea Scott had given me, and shortly after we entered I wished I'd followed his advice and wore Depends.  I knew he'd just been joking when he made that comment, but there were so many scary things in the Haunted House that I probably did wet myself a little.  

It all began when a scarecrow carrying a scythe attacked us as we walked through the door.  He swung the scythe at us and I thought he was either going to decapitate me or skewer my chest with the implement.  It even came into contact with my chest, and that's when I realized the blade was made of rubber, but that was only the first time I found myself badly frightened.  

As we made our way through the Haunted House, we encountered a variety of other scary characters with different weapons, and still others in incredibly frightening situations.  We also found ourselves in rooms filled with unspeakable gore, which included dismembered bodies, and there were other characters that had nothing to do with humans.  These included incredibly realistic looking monsters and space aliens, and the fact that we weren't expecting them made it even more alarming.  

There were also devices that we had to either pass through or cross over, and I was afraid I'd get killed as I moved through them or they would collapse under our weight as we made our way to the other side.  It didn't happen, but the thought that it might was what scared me.  There were also a ton of creepy critters, either real or simulated, and animated devices that came at us suddenly.  Those items would either make loud noises as they rushed in our direction, or they would suddenly light up, catching us off guard.  No matter which way they worked, those devices always caused us to jump away in fright.  I could tell that Scott was thoroughly enjoying himself, but it was going to take some time before I'd be able to look back at this with any appreciation for what I'd just experienced.

As soon as we exited the building, Scott asked a question.  "So what did you think of it?"

"I don't believe I've ever been frightened as badly or as often as I was when going through there."  

"Yeah, it was great, wasn't it?"  

"That's not exactly how I would have described it, at least not yet, but I'll give you a better evaluation after I've had a chance to consider everything, once I've calmed down."  

Since that was all we were planning to do, we got in our cars and went our separate ways.  During the drive home, and even after I got back to the apartment, images of the things I'd seen kept popping into my mind.  I have to admit that I also had trouble falling asleep later, because every time I closed my eyes a vision of one of the attractions that had scared me earlier would suddenly overtake my brain.  I even endured a couple of very unsettling dreams, or should I say nightmares?  But regardless of those problems, I somehow managed to get enough rest so I wasn't too tired to go over to meet up with Scott again the following day.  

He had everything set up when I got there, and he took time to explain it to me before we started.  "This is one of the oldest boards you'll probably ever see, so it's also very simple in its design.  Some later boards will have more decorations in the corners or around the edges, but this one has everything we'll need."  

I quickly examined the board to become familiar with it.  There was an image of the sun in the upper left hand corner, a crescent moon and a star in the right hand corner, and stars in both of the lower corners.  Next to the sun was the word 'yes', and next to the crescent moon was the word 'no'.  At the top center of the board were two arcs containing the letters of the alphabet, and the top arc went from A to M, while the lower one went from N to Z.  Below them was a small gap and then a straight line of numbers from 1 to 0, and below that was the phrase 'good bye'.

"This is what we'll use to receive answers from the spirits," Scott stated as he placed a triangular device on the Ouija board.  It had a hole about the size of a quarter at one end.  "It's called a planchette, or pointer, and we're each going to place the fingers of both hands on one side of it before you ask a question.  Please don't try to push the planchette around, because it will move on its own if we make contact with the spirits.  Just be respectful of them, or things can go terribly wrong."

"Ok, so what do we do now?"  

"We first need to put something silver on the board to repel any evil spirits."  Scott and I both reached into our pockets at this point, and I pulled out a quarter that I placed on the image of the sun.  Scott came up with a silver chain that he placed over the crescent moon.  "Ok, that should do it, so lets get started."

"What am I supposed to say?"

"Just announce who you want to make contact with, and then ask your question."  He then placed the planchette in the open area between the letters and numbers and we positioned our fingers on it.  

"I want to make contact with any of the boys who disappeared on Halloween in this area about forty or fifty years ago.  Are any of you here with us?"  

I expected the pointer to start moving but nothing happened.  "Did I do something wrong?"  

"No, it sometimes takes a few minutes before we get a response.  I think the spirits want to check us out first, to see if this is a serious contact or if we're just playing games and doing this for fun."  

"No, this is serious and I'd like to find out more about the boys who disappeared.  Are any of you here with us?"

I waited a couple of minutes and was just about ready to give up when the planchette started to move.  It slid to the top of the board and didn't stop until the hole was over the word 'yes'. I was shocked and elated at the same time.  

"Which boy are you?"  Slowly the planchette began to move again and eventually settled over the following letters: V-I-N-C-E.  

"So you're Vince Rumsey?"  The planchette moved to the word 'yes' again.  He was the fifth boy who had gone missing and one of the twelve-year-olds.  

"Would you please go to the K if you were kidnapped, or A if you had an accident?"  The pointer began to move again and settled over the K.  

"Do you know who did this?"  I thought the planchette was moving toward the word yes, but it suddenly stopped over the following letters: D-E-K-E.  It was an unusual name, so I thought it might turn out to be a really good clue.  

"Did he harm you?"  Once again, the pointer moved until it hovered over the word 'yes'.  

"Do you know where he took you?"  The pointer slid across the board and settled over the word 'no' this time.  

"Are the other boys here as well, because I'd like to talk to them too?"  The planchette moved across the board again and came to a stop over 'yes'.  

"I'd like to talk to the one of the others, so if any of you are willing, would you tell me your name?"

Over the course of the next couple of hours we heard from Mike Maynard, an eleven-year-old, Danny Coutts, who was ten at the time, Jamie Hopko, eleven, Josh Becker, ten, Tommy Hawes, eleven, and Steven James, who was also eleven.  They gave me the same answers that I'd received from Vince, but none of them knew where they'd been taken.  That all changed when we made contact with the final boy, a twelve-year-old named Peter Simek.  He was the only boy who lived in the same town as me and had gone missing, and he was the fourth boy to disappear.  

"Do you know where you were taken?"  The planchette began to move again and eventually settled over the following letters: Q-U-A-R-R-Y-R-D.  

"What kind of word is that?" Scott wondered, thinking it was all one word.  

"I believe he's telling us he was taken to Quarry Road.  That's interesting, because there was a report that he was seen in the vicinity of the old quarry before he disappeared.  I think I need to go back to the library so I can check out that article again, because I think it gave the name of the guy who'd mentioned seeing him.  Do you think it's open today?"  

"Yeah, I believe it's open until 6:00."

"Then I'll see you tomorrow at work, because I'm going there to look up the information."  

"Wait!  You can't just leave a session open.  You have to thank the spirits for their help and then say goodbye.  That's why it's written on the board to remind you."  

"Oh, ok.  I didn't know," I said taking my seat again.  "I want to thank the spirit of each boy for helping me, and I'm hoping that I can solve the mystery of what happened to you.  I'm doing this so it will bring you some peace.  Goodbye."

Scott said goodbye as well, and then I grabbed my notes and bolted out of there.  I drove directly to the library, grabbed my notes, and rushed inside.  When I got back to the reference area, I headed to the cabinet with the rolls of microfilm.  

"I see you've returned," a voice said behind me.  

"I'm surprised you're here today," I stated when I noticed it was the same guy who'd helped me before.  

"I only work on the weekend, since I'm semi-retired, and I'm here both days.  May I help you with something?"

"Yes, I need to check something out," I answered, and then I told him the dates of the newspapers I was looking for.  

He retrieved the roll for me and set it up on the machine, and then he let me scroll through it until I found what I was looking for.  I was right.  There was a name in the article of the guy who said he'd seen a boy matching Peter's description.  The man's name was Deke Johansen.  

"Thanks, I've found what I was looking for," I said as I grabbed my notes and left the library.  

This was all starting to come together.  Some of the boys had confirmed that the person who had abducted them was named Deke, and the supposed witness was named Deke Johansen.  Since Deke is such an unusual name, chances are that he's one and the same person.  

I drove over to the Sheriff's Department to see if I could get any information from them, since the newspaper article had stated they were the ones investigating the disappearance at the time.  I went up to the front desk and told the deputy on duty what I needed.  

"I'm looking into a cold case from about forty years ago.  Is there a chance that you might still have records relating to the case?"  I then gave him Peter's name and the date he went missing.  

"We might have something in storage, because back then everything would have been recorded on paper, stored in a folder, and then placed in a box with other folders from the same period.  It would probably take some time to locate it, if it's still in readable condition, but you might want to come back tomorrow and speak with the Sheriff.  He's worked for the department for nearly fifty years, so he might even remember something about this case."  

"Thanks, I'll do that."

My head was spinning as I went back to my apartment.  Could this possibly help to solve the case, or is it just a coincidence?  I doubted there would be two men named Deke living in this area, unless they were father and son, but even that would provide a connection to who might have done this.  I was excited and couldn't wait to speak with the Sheriff now.  

I was bouncing around the apartment for the rest of the day, convinced that I might have the answer to a dilemma that had baffled the authorities for more than four decades.  I was so excited that it took quite a while for me to fall asleep that evening, and then I dreamt about the boys and pictured each one vividly, since I'd basically memorized what they looked like from their photos.  

I was still fairly tired when the alarm went off, but I got ready and headed in to work.  Scott came over when he saw me enter the office.  "Man, you look awful.  Is something wrong?"  

"I just had a rough night and didn't get much sleep."

"Maybe you should take the day off then.  Go tell the boss that you're sick and need to go home."  

"Yeah, you might be right."  

Without hesitating, I walked over to the boss's office and knocked on the door.  "Come in, Chris.  Damn, you don't look good.  What's wrong?"  

"I'm not feeling well and didn't get much sleep last night.  Would you mind if I take a sick day?"  

"No, go home.  You won't be much help around here in the condition you're in now, so go home and take care of yourself.  I'll see you tomorrow."

"Ok, and thanks."  

I thought about going home, but I wouldn't be able to rest until I got some answers, so I drove directly to the Sheriff's Department.  I asked the deputy at the front desk if I could speak with the Sheriff, and he called to ask if he was available.  

"He said to send you back," he stated, and then he directed me to the appropriate office.  

"Come in.  You must be the guy who stopped by yesterday and asked about an old case of mine.  I'd only been on the force a couple of years when that kid went missing, and it still bugs me to this day.  What is it that you want to know?"  

"I've come to believe that a guy named Deke was responsible, and I saw in an old newspaper article that a Deke Johansen had reported seeing a boy near the quarry.  Is it possible they could be the same person?"  

"I've only heard of one guy in these parts named Deke, so it's very likely, but where did you get your information that he was involved?"  

"You might not believe me if I told you," I answered as the blood rushed to my face.  "My mother used to tell me about this case when I was growing up and it always fascinated me, so recently I started investigating to see if it was true.  A friend suggested that I try using a Ouija board to get answers, and we did that yesterday.  I think we actually made contact with all eight of the missing boys, and they gave me this information."  

"I'll agree your methods are quite unusual, but I won't dismiss your findings out of hand.  My grandparents were into using the Ouija board too, and they were totally convinced that it worked.  They even let me sit in on a couple of sessions with them when I was a young teen.  So what did you learn?"  

"The boys all confirmed they were kidnapped and nearly all of them said the guy's name was Deke.  When I asked if they knew where they'd been taken, only Peter Simek knew, and he spelled out Quarry Road."  

"That's very interesting, since Johansen was the one who said he'd seen a boy matching Peter's description near the old quarry, but my partner and I could never figure out what the boy would have been doing out there.  He didn't live close by and wouldn't have gone trick-or-treating in that area, since there weren't any houses around there.  Other than Deke, who owned a small farm on Quarry Road, there was only one other house that I know of, and it was at the other end of the road.  When we questioned him about what he'd been doing when he spotted the boy, Deke said he was just driving home at the time."  

"I don't think that was the case."  

"Neither did we, although we couldn't find anything to tie him to the case, other than his report of seeing the boy."  

"So you suspected him?"

"To a limited extent.  My partner and I wondered if he'd reported seeing the boy just to throw us off the scent, but like I said, we had nothing to tie him to the disappearance."  

"Did he live far from there?"

"His farm was a mile or two farther down the road, on the opposite side from the quarry.  He was sort of an oddball, even back then, because he was basically self sufficient.  He had his own garden where he grew the vegetables he ate, and he had a few apple trees and some blueberry bushes.  He also picked the strawberries that grew wild out in the fields.  

"Deke also raised animals that he slaughtered for meat," the Sheriff continued, "and he hunted.  He had a couple of cows that he milked and chickens that laid eggs, and he would occasionally eat one of them too.  He only came into town when he needed something he couldn't provide for himself, and that's another reason we were interested in what he'd been up to when he was out driving.  He merely gave us some lame excuse that he took the truck out for a spin to charge the battery, but it was good enough that we couldn't shake his alibi."

"Is he still alive?"  

"No, he died a few years after all of this happened.  In fact, it was probably about three or four years after the last boy disappeared.  He was driving his old truck over the back roads to Culver City, although we had no idea why he might have been going there, and he was killed in an accident.  It was believed it had happened around dusk, because the truck's headlights were in the 'on' position, and we assume he swerved to miss a deer or something else in the road.  From the rubber left on the pavement, it appeared that he lost control of his truck, went over the embankment, and crashed into a tree.  He wasn't wearing a seatbelt at the time and was thrown into the windshield.  It was believed he died instantly from a crushed skull and broken neck."  

"Do you know exactly when this happened?  Do you know the date?"  

"I'm not sure when the accident occurred, because no one saw it, and the truck wasn't even spotted until deer season.  A couple of hunters discovered it on their way into the woods, and after the investigating officers recovered his I.D., they called us to notify his next of kin.  The trouble was, he didn't have any."  

"So you're saying this might have happened on Halloween?"  

"I imagine that's possible, but the coroner couldn't come up with an exact time of death."  

"In that case, I'll bet he was out looking for another boy, because I'm convinced he did this.  Does anyone live on his farm now?"  

"No, the place has been abandon ever since he died.  I believe his old house and the barn might still be there, although I'm sure they're in pretty bad shape by now if they're still standing."  

"Ok, thanks for your help.  I might drive out there sometime just to see where he lived."  

"Just drive carefully, because there are numerous animals out that way.  There isn't much traffic, so they don't watch for cars when they cross.  The noise might scare them, or headlights after dark, but you should still be careful out there."  

"Ok, I'll remember that."

I thought about going out there immediately, but since I told the boss I was going home sick, I didn't want to push my luck.  I decided to do it on the weekend instead, and maybe I'd ask Scott to join me.  

I went home, got undressed, and hopped into bed.  My mind was still reeling from everything I'd just learned, and I was thinking about it as I fell asleep.  I slept for three hours and awoke much more refreshed than I was when I went to work earlier.  

I spent the rest of the day thinking about everything I had learned so far, as well as thinking about what I might do next, in order to uncover more of the truth.  I did that until I went to bed, which was later than usual because of the nap I'd taken earlier, but I still managed to get a little more sleep and was in much better shape when I went in to work the next morning.  

Scott came over to my cubicle and asked how I was feeling, and I merely told him I was doing much better today and would fill him in about it on the weekend.  My boss also told me I looked much better and that he was glad I'd taken the day off, because it seemed to have had a dramatic effect.  I didn't think he was insinuating anything and was merely grateful that I was feeling better.  

The rest of the week progressed as it normally would, and then on Friday Scott asked me to stop at the local sports bar and have a couple of beers with him before we went home for the night.  I agreed, and we chatted as we drank our beer.  

"After I left work sick the other day, I drove over to talk to the Sheriff, to see if he had any more information about the case.  Incredibly, he was just starting out as a deputy when he and his partner were assigned the case, which at the time was merely a missing person."  I then went on to explain everything I had learned.  

"So are you done trying to figure this out now?"  

"No way!  I'm not stopping until I get to the bottom of this and discover what happened to those boys.  Tomorrow I'm planning to drive out to the farm so I can see where the guy used to live.  Would you like to join me?"  

"Yeah.  Why not?  It might be interesting to see this place."  

We finished our beer and had another before we headed home.  Before we parted ways, however, I told Scott that I'd drive over and pick him up at 9:00, and then we'd head out to the farm.  

As I was going through my usual routine that night, I was very excited about driving out to Johansen's old farm the next day.  I didn't anticipate that I would find anything, but I wanted to see what those boys had seen after they were abducted, because I thought it would help me better appreciate how they felt.  I went to bed looking forward to driving out there.  

I woke up early and flew through my morning ritual, which meant I finished so quickly that I had to kill an hour before it was time to go over to pick up Scott.  I tried everything I could think of to pass the time, such as listening to music, watching a morning news program, and I even tried to read some articles online, but nothing worked.  I merely ended up pacing around the apartment until it was time to leave, and that's when I finally started to calm down, because I was finally going to do this.  

Scott had obviously been watching for me out the window, because he opened his door as I was pulling into a parking space.  He was all smiles as he hopped into the passenger's seat and asked a question.  "Do you know the way there?"  

"Yes, I've already punched in our destination, so now I just have to follow the directions to get there."  

We were off, and we talked about the things we'd learned when we'd used the Ouija board, along with discussing what I was hoping to find when we got to the farm.  I was a nervous wreck when we finally arrived at Quarry Road and I made the turn onto it.  I slowed down when we reached the old quarry, but we weren't able to see much and I didn't want to take the time to check it out now, so we drove on.  I wasn't sure how much farther we'd have to go, because the only thing I could punch into the GPS was the name of the road.  

"Keep your eyes open and see if you spot anything on your side," I told Scott.  "The Sheriff said his place was a mile or two beyond the quarry, and I'm hoping we can see something so we'll know when to stop."


"Ok, will do."

I drove slowly from that point on, but it wasn't merely because I didn't want to miss the place.  We were on a narrow, winding country road that was in desperate need of resurfacing, so I had to watch the road for potholes.  I had to depend on Scott to find the place, but after a while I thought we might have already passed it and I'd have to turn around and go back.  I felt as if we'd gone farther than we should have, but just as I was about to suggest the idea to Scott, he spoke up.  

"I see a building, so this must be the place."  

I came to a stop and looked out the windshield to see if I could spot what he saw.  I wasn't sure, but I suspected the structure was the barn the Sheriff had mentioned, so I looked for a place to pull over and park.  I didn't want to just stop along the side of the road, since it was narrow and I was worried about getting sideswiped if another vehicle were to drive by.  Eventually, I spotted what appeared to have been the original dirt driveway, and although it was somewhat overgrown, I pulled into it, stopped the car, and we got out.  

"You go wherever you want and I'll follow," Scott said once we were both standing in front of the car.  

I began to walk up the driveway, unsure as to whether it was going to lead to the house or the barn.  The area was badly overgrown with weeds, bushes, and even a few trees that had probably sprouted up since the place had been abandoned, but we plodded on.  After walking about a hundred yards (91.5 m) the driveway suddenly split.  I assumed that one fork was leading to the house and the other to the barn, so I randomly chose to go to the right, not knowing where it would lead me.  After traveling about another 30 yards (27.5 m) I found myself standing in front of a dilapidated two-story house.  

"Man, this place is creepy," Scott stated as we both stared at the building.  

Most of the paint had peeled off or faded away long before we got there, so we were looking at the bare, weathered wood that had been used to construct it.  The windows were all broken out as well, leaving only large holes in the exterior, and the front door was barely hanging on its hinges.  As I glanced through the windows on the upper floor, I noticed there appeared to holes in the roof and it looked as if it might possibly collapse at any moment.  

"Do you think we should go inside?" Scott asked.  

"Nah, it doesn't look safe.  I'm not sure if there's a cellar, so even just walking inside could be dangerous, because we might possibly fall through the floor and into the cellar, if there is one.  I wouldn't trust the stairs leading up to the second floor either, so we'll just walk around outside before going over to check out the barn."  

He was fine with my suggestion, so we carefully walked around the perimeter of the house to see if there was anything more to find.  When we got to the right side of the house, we found an old stone well, and across from it was another door leading into the house, probably going into the kitchen.  When we got around to the back, I spotted an outhouse that was barely still standing in the far corner of what used to be the yard.  It was about ten yards (9.1 m) from the back door, presumably so the smell wouldn't filter into the main structure.  

"It would appear that Johansen didn't have indoor plumbing.  Being this far out I doubt he had electricity or any of the other amenities you'd find in most homes, such as a telephone and television," I observed.  

"And you said the Sheriff told you the guy grew his own crops, raised animals, and hunted for food, so he must have lived one hell of a hard life."  

"Yes, and it makes me wonder how long the boys had to endure the same things after he'd kidnapped them?"  

Once we got back to the front of the house again, I decided to check out the barn next, so we headed down the driveway and took the other fork.  The barn was in the same basic state of disrepair as the house, so we merely looked through the openings to see as much as we could.  We walked around the outside of the barn, and when we got to the far side we found a rotting wooden box-like frame with a makeshift door fastened to the top.  There were several holes in the rotting wood, so we looked through them and noticed there were stairs leading downward.  

"I wonder what this was used for?" I mused.  

"My guess would be that it's either a root cellar or a cold cellar to store food so it would last longer," Scott answered.  "It could also be a storm shelter, meaning a place where he would go during a really bad weather disturbance."  

"I just hope it wasn't where he temporarily kept the boys."  

"Yeah, I didn't think of that, but it might have been used for that too."  

The thought that the boys could have been kept there sent chills down my spine and caused me to shudder, so I decided it was time to leave.  We'd seen everything we could safely, and now it was time to go home.  Scott and I returned to the car and I carefully backed out of the driveway and onto the road, and then we made the return trip back to our apartments.  

"Man, that place was really isolated," Scott observed as we turned off of Quarry Road.  "We didn't pass anything that appeared to be another house or farm on the way there, and it makes me wonder if we'd have found anything else if we drove past his place either."  

"I think the Sheriff said there might have been one other place, but it would have been at the far end of this road.  I can see why Deke felt it would be safe to grab those boys and take them there, because I doubt if anyone else would have ever discovered them."  

"Yeah, you're probably right."

After I dropped Scott off and thanked him for going with me, I went back to my apartment to think about everything we'd just seen.  My first thought was whether Johansen had kept the boys in the house, the barn, or in that underground cellar during the time he kept them alive.  I could only imagine what the boys had experienced and what thoughts were going through their minds.  They must have felt absolutely helpless.  

When I went to sleep later, I found myself dreaming that I was one of the boys, and I experienced many of the same things I imagined they had gone through.  From the looks of my bed when I woke up, I must have tossed and turned the entire night, because it looked as if a tornado had gone through there.  Not only were the blankets falling off the foot of the bed, but the sheets were totally drenched, because it appeared that I'd broken out in a cold sweat sometime during the night.  

After removing the bedding and leaving the mattress bare so it would dry, I stripped off what I'd been wearing and headed to the bathroom to shower.  I felt that I not only needed to clean off the sweat, but I wanted to wash off the things I'd experienced during my dreams as well.  I had watched and felt that creep removing my clothing and exploring my body.  I was also able to smell his foul breath and felt the rough calluses on his hands as they touched my bare skin, and it made me feel dirty.  I was determined to wash off as much of that filth as I could, even though it really hadn't happened.  However, I still didn't feel clean when I finished my shower, but I wasn't about to stay in there all day long, so I got out, dried off, and got dressed before heading out to the kitchen to fix something to eat.  

I spent the rest of Sunday mentally going over my dreams, along with what I'd seen during my visit to the farm, and I rehashed everything I'd discovered and had been told about this case.  It was a long and very unsettling time for me, and I wondered if I would experience more dreams when I went to sleep later.  

I had to make the bed before I could do that, and then I had trouble drifting off.  It was probably due to the fact that I was afraid I'd have more unsettling dreams, and when I eventually fell asleep, my worst fears came true.  I experienced more nightmares and most of the visions were similar to those I'd endured the night before, but this time I also experienced what Johansen did when he was through with me.  When that happened, I bolted upright in bed and screamed as my eyes shot open.  Needless to say, it took quite a while before I calmed down again and was able to go back to sleep.  I didn't want to, but I forced myself to do it because I had to go to work in the morning.  

I awoke in the same condition that I was in the previous morning, with my body and the bedding drenched in sweat and the bed in total disarray.  After I removed the sheets, I left the bed unmade again and went into the bathroom to take a shower.  I was hoping it would make me feel better, as well as improving how I looked so I wouldn't appear quite as bad as the morning when I had taken the sick day from work.  

Scott was the only one who noticed my predicament when I arrived, and he asked what was wrong.  I merely told him we could go out for lunch and I'd fill him in then.  He said that would be fine, and he went back to his cubicle and we both got to work.  I didn't see him again until it was time to eat.  

We went to a local restaurant, and after we'd placed our orders I told him about the previous couple of nights.  He didn't seem shocked, and I later found out that he'd been having some unsettling dreams as well, but not nearly as horrific as mine.  It actually helped a little to talk about it, and I felt slightly better by the time we returned to work.  

When I got home later, I made a decision.  Since the next day was Halloween, I would drive out to the Johansen farm again so I could see what it would have looked like when he brought the boys there after dark.  I packed a backpack with a few items and placed it beside the front door so I'd remember to take it with me in the morning.  I wasn't sure what I expected to happen or what I might find, although I was hoping it would give me some additional insight into those events.  

I was anxious the entire next day at work, as I thought about what I was about to do.  I didn't tell Scott, because this was something I wanted to do alone, and when the workday ended, I rushed out of the office, jumped into the driver's seat, and took off for Quarry Road.  

It was dusk as I started out, but it continued to grow darker as I made my way there.  My heart was pounding in my chest as I turned onto Quarry Road and headed toward the farm.  I put the headlights on high beam so I could see the road better, because I didn't expect to run into anyone or anything, except maybe an animal or two.  As I got closer to where I knew the farm was and where I'd find the driveway, I thought I saw movement up ahead.  I was hoping it was only a deer, as opposed to a bear, but I was totally shocked when I was able to make out what was actually there.  It was a small group of naked boys walking single file along the side of the road.  

I came to a stop, unable to breathe or believe what I was seeing.  How could this be?  Was it just my imagination, or were these the spirits of the kidnapped boys?  As I looked more closely, they appeared to be older than what the kidnapped boys would have been, so maybe this was another group that Johansen had done the same thing to.  I was still gawking at them as they continued to move on, when suddenly the last boy turned and signaled for me to follow him.  

Oh, shit!  Not only was I aware of them, but they were aware of me as well.  Since I was being summoned, I followed behind until he waved for me to pass by.  The boys had come to a stop and they were all waving me forward as they faced the road.  This meant I could see their naked fronts now too, since I had already observed their naked backsides as I followed them.  When I reached the first boy in line, he pointed toward the ground at the side of the road, and that's when I realized he was pointing out the driveway.  He was indicating that he wanted me to pull into it, so I did, and the boys walked beside the car until I came to a stop.  

I was actually trembling as I put the car in park and turned off the engine.  I wasn't sure if I should get out, because I was a little leery about what they might try to do to me.  Was this some kind of a ghostly trap, so I'd end up dying out here too?  After thinking about it briefly and watching the boys urge me to join them, I didn't feel this was the case.  Maybe they trusted me after we'd communicated via the Ouija board, so now they just wanted to give me more information that I could use.  

I grabbed my backpack as I got out of the car and slung it over my shoulder.  I also pulled the tactical flashlight out of the pocket in the front and flicked it on, because I needed to see where I was going, even if the boys didn't.  Somewhat hesitantly I acceded to their urging to follow them as they led me down the driveway.  Without hesitation, they took the left fork and headed toward the barn.  We were halfway there when I caught a rapid movement out of the corner of my eye.  As I turned to look in that direction, I saw the apparition of an older man charging in my direction.  

The boys must have become aware of what was happening at nearly the same time, because they all came charging back and placed themselves between me and this other ghostly figure.  Since the older male figure only slowed down slightly at this point, the boys reacted as a group and attacked him, virtually restraining him before he was able to reach my location.  If this was the same group of boys I had been investigating, they appeared older now than when they first disappeared, which meant they were also more capable of standing up for themselves, especially as a group.  

As I watched this scene playing out, I wondered what was happening, and then it dawned on me.  As long as the boys bodies stayed buried on the farm, they were trapped there for Deke to abuse, even after death.  That was probably why the boys were struggling against him, because they understood that this was probably their best chance to break free from his control.  It was also the reason Deke was trying to stop it from happening, because he didn't want to lose them.  

At this point, one of the boys slipped away from the others and signaled me to continue following him, so I did what he wanted.  As we were walking away from the others, I kept turning my head to make sure the remaining boys were able to keep the other apparition in check.  It appeared they were, so I felt safe to consider what had just happened.

"Was that Deke?" I wondered as I continued following the eighth boy.  "Was Deke trying to prevent the boys from communicating with me and helping me to understand what had happened to them?"

I wasn't sure, but it was my best guess as I continued following the lone naked youth.  He didn't stop when he got to the barn and merely walked through the wide open double doors.  I paused briefly as I considered if this would be safe, but he waved for me to follow him as he headed toward an identical opening at the rear of the barn.  Since I didn't feel he would put me in a situation that might harm me, seeing he and the others had collectively done their best to protect me from Deke, so I continued to follow him.  It didn't take long before we were standing on the other side of the barn.  

The boy didn't hesitate and kept on walking, and we probably went another couple hundred yards (approximately 183 m) before he eventually came to a halt.  It was also when he pointed at the ground in front of him.  

"Are you telling me this is where he buried you boys?"  

He nodded in agreement.  "Ok, let me get something to mark this place."

I looked around until I found a couple of good size stones and I used them to mark the location.  Then, I turned to speak to the boy again.  "I'll bring the Sheriff out here so he can retrieve all of your bodies, and then hopefully all of you boys will be given a decent burial by your relatives so you can rest in peace."  

He gave me a weak grin, and then suddenly disappeared.  This left me standing alone in the middle of the badly overgrown field hoping that I could find my way back to the car.  That's when I noticed there was a path of trampled grass and weeds that I'd made on the way there, so I merely followed it back to the barn.  After passing through that decaying structure again, I looked to see if the other boys and Deke were still there, but they had disappeared as well.  

Feeling slightly better, I made my way over to where I'd parked the car, hopped inside, and started the engine.  After carefully backing out of the driveway and onto the road, I headed in the direction of my apartment, eager to place as much distance as possible between me and the farm.  

My head was spinning during the ride home.  I never in my wildest dreams would have thought those boys might appear so they could lead me out to their current resting place.  I didn't expect to see Deke there either, but he obviously wanted to keep his crimes hidden.  The boys weren't about to let him do that, and it gave me a great deal to think about on the ride back.

One of the first decisions I made was that I planned on driving over to the Sheriff's Department during my lunch hour the next day so I could explain what had just occurred.  I also wanted to see if the Sheriff would go out to the farm with me on the weekend, so I could show him were the bodies were buried.  I initially thought about doing this after work later the next evening, but then I realized it would be dark out then too, just like it had been when I just went out there.  That's why I chose to do it on the weekend instead, and I just hoped that the Sheriff would believe me and agree to do this.  

I didn't tell Scott about my encounter at the farm, but I called the Sheriff's Department in the morning to see if the Sheriff would agree to meet with me during the noon hour.  He said he'd take a late lunch and would wait for me, so I was on edge for the rest of the morning and remained that way until it was time to leave.  

As soon as I got there, I announced to the deputy at the front desk that I had a meeting scheduled with the Sheriff.  He looked up, smiled, and told me to head back to his office.  It was the same deputy as the last time I came to see the Sheriff, so he understood that I knew my way there.  I knocked on the Sheriff's door and was told to enter.  

"I don't know if you're going to believe me, but this is what I've done so far and what I've seen," I began, and then I told him about my initial visit to the farm with Scott, and my trip there Halloween night on own.  The Sheriff kept nodding, although sometimes he would shake his head as well as I told him the story, so I had no idea what he was thinking.  When I finished, he looked at me and spoke.  

"As I told you previously, I believe that things like this are possible, and you've obviously made a supernatural connection with those boys."  

"But I'm not sure if it was the same group, because they looked older than what I'd expected."  

"I'm sure we'll find out once we have the remains.  In the meantime, I'll see if we can get DNA samples from any surviving relatives, and I'll also see if I can get someone with a bush hog shredder to cut down the overgrowth and remove it for us.  Since this happened so long ago, we won't be able to use the cadaver dogs, so I'll see if I can get my hands on some ground-penetrating radar.  That should help to locate the graves and narrow the amount of digging we'll have to do.  Meet me here Saturday morning at 10:00, and then you can ride out to the farm with me."  

I agreed, but I didn't say anything to Scott about this until Friday.  After asking him to stop for a couple of beers with me before going home, I filled him in about Halloween night, my meeting with the Sheriff, and our plan to go out there on Saturday to dig up the remains.  

"Man, I wish you'd have included me in on all of this," he stated, looking slightly dejected.  

"First of all, I didn't really know what I expected to find when I went out there, and I didn't know if the Sheriff would believe my story when I told him.  I don't think he wants anyone else out there when we do this, because he's hoping to be able to retrieve DNA samples so he can verify if these are the same boys.  I believe he only asked me to go, because I'm the only one who knows where that spot is."  

Scott eventually accepted my explanation, but he made me promise to call him as soon as I got back, so I could tell him what we'd discovered.  I promised I would, and eventually we left the bar and went home.  

That evening I was like a kid on the night before his birthday or on Christmas Eve.  I was excited and eager to do this, and all night long I wondered what we were going to discover.  Were these the boys I'd been tracking down, or was this another group of boys that Johansen had done something similar too?  How long would it take before we knew the answers, because I was going to be on pins and needles until I found out?

After a restless and dream filled slumber, when I awoke I had a sudden thought.  Could the boys have somehow been able to affect my dreams as well?  The dreams I had about what had happened to them, including being there myself, were all so real and included things I wouldn't have known about or even imagined.  Had I made more of a connection than just communicating with them through the Ouija board?  

As it got closer to the time I was supposed to meet the Sheriff, I got dressed, got in my car, and drove over to his office.  He told me that some farmers would be at the site when we got there, and a guy with ground-penetrating radar would show up too.  A little later we would be joined by a team of forensic archeologists, and they would be the ones who would excavate the site, once we verified there were bodies present.  

The Sheriff then led me out to his personal car and we took off for the old farm.  "I haven't been out here in years," he said as we were driving down Quarry Road.  "It looks like the D.O.T. hasn't been out here either."

He laughed after saying that, and I did too, because he was correct.  No one had been out there to work on the road for a very long time either, or else it wouldn't have been in such rough shape.  

When we reached the old farm and were pulling into the driveway, I noticed two tractors near where it forked, and each tractor had a different mechanism attached to it.  They were obviously the farmers who'd agreed to clear the land for the Sheriff, and he briefly explained to me what they were going to do.  

"Ok, you lead the way and we'll follow," the Sheriff urged once we reached the tractors.  "You've obviously gone through this mess before, so I'll just have these boys follow us out and clear the way for the others."  

I didn't have a problem with this, so I led the Sheriff toward the barn.  I heard the tractors start up behind us, but I didn't look back.  I knew the one was going to cut down the grass and weeds with the bush hog shredder, while the other one use the blade scraper to clear the debris and leave a smooth dirt finish.  I merely continued on and led the Sheriff through the barn before making my way out to where I'd marked the spot the boys had showed me.  When I reached that location, I pointed it out to the Sheriff and we removed the stones so the tractors could clear the area.  Once they finished their task, the Sheriff thanked them and said he'd have a check mailed to each one for their time and assistance.  The men merely nodded their acknowledgment and left.  

After we put the stones back where we'd found them, we were able to walk around and investigate the area as we waited for the others to arrive.  The next one to show up was a guy with a van, and I watched as he took something out of it that looked similar to a lawnmower.  He explained it was the ground-penetration radar as he followed us out to the site.  He also explained how it worked and described how he would search the area.  The Sheriff and I stood out of his way and merely observed as he walked back and forth over the patch of land that had just been cleared.  

"I've got something here," the man shouted as he signaled for us to join him.  "I wanted to make sure of it before I said anything, but there are several objects buried about two or three feet down, and they appear to be bodies."  

"That's what we were expecting to find," the Sheriff confirmed.  "Just let us know exactly where each one is and we'll mark the spot with something."  

At that point the Sheriff and I grabbed the stones I had used previously to mark the site, and we placed those over the first two graves.  After that, we scurried about looking for other objects we could use, and that's when I spotted an old fieldstone fence.  We quickly grabbed a couple of stones each and returned to mark the next four spots, and then I ran back to get two more stones.  The man with the ground-penetrating radar had pointed out eight locations, so apparently all of the boys were buried here, if it truly was them.  

After the Sheriff said goodbye to the guy and promised to send him a check too, the man packed up his equipment and took off, while we waited around for the next group to arrive.  About thirty minutes later, two SUVs pulled in and came to a stop, and I soon learned that these were the forensic archeologists.  As soon as the Sheriff explained the situation and showed them the locations we had marked, he turned to me and spoke.  

"There's no sense of us sticking around any longer, because they'll take their time digging up the remains, to make sure they don't lose any evidence.  Once they've retrieved all of the bones, they'll have them transported to the coroner's office, and he'll perform a further examination on the remains.  He'll also take DNA samples and send them to the lab, but it can take several weeks before we learn the results."  

"I see, but I'd like you to call me when you hear anything."  

"Trust me, I will, seeing you've been such a vital part of this investigation.  I owe you a world of thanks, because this will most likely close this case and give me the answers I've been seeking all these years."  

I gave the Sheriff my phone number, which he entered into his phone, and then I rode back with him to the Sheriff's Department.  Once we were there, he thanked me for my help, and I thanked him for his assistance and for including me in the process.  Then, I got in my car and drove to the apartment.  

I called Scott as soon as I got there and explained everything we'd done.  I also told him what the Sheriff had said about how long this would take, and then we said goodbye and I went about my business.  

It was several weeks before I heard from the Sheriff again.  He called one day while I was at work and asked if I would stop by his office later, so he could explain everything to me.  I immediately agreed, and I was bouncing around excitedly at my desk as I waited for the workday to come to an end.  

I was surprised I didn't get a speeding ticket as I raced over there, but I wanted to hear what he had to say as soon as possible.  I hurriedly parked my car, sprinted to the front desk, and was given permission to go back to the Sheriff's office.  He rose from his chair as soon as I knocked on the door.  

"Come in, Chris, because I want to explain what we've discovered."  

I went inside and sat down as the Sheriff closed the door behind me.  After he returned to his chair on the other side of the desk, he looked at me and began to speak.  

"When I got the coroner's preliminary report, I was afraid we'd found the wrong set of graves, because he estimated the bodies were of boys in their early teens.  That was older than the kidnapped boys, and his conclusions were based on the bone structure and dental examinations.  I was disappointed, but I decided to wait for the DNA reports before I came to any conclusions."  

"Have you got those back yet?" I blurted out, interrupting him.  

"Yes, I got a copy of that report yesterday, and I took time to study it before I called you.  The lab has confirmed that there is no doubt that the bodies are those of the missing boys."  

"But how can that be, if they are older than what they should be?"  

"It appears that Johansen must have kept each of the boys alive for two, three, or maybe even four years after he'd abducted them.  I don't want to speculate about why he might have done that, because none of the reasons I can come up with are reassuring, but you've closed the case and we're going to turn the remains over to each of the boys' next of kin."  

"If he kept them alive for all that time, where did he keep them?  In the barn, or in that hole in the ground beside it?"  

"To tell you the truth, seeing that place was so isolated, he probably just kept them chained up inside the house."  

"I guess that's better than those other two places, but those poor kids must have been scared to death.  Do you know how they died?"  

"The coroner found evidence to suggest how it happened, but just let me say that it wasn't from natural causes.  However, the fact that he kept them alive for a while explains why there was a gap between the kidnappings.  We can probably tell how long he kept each boy by looking at how long it took before he snatched up the next one."  

"I've already figured out how long it was between when each boy was taken, so that would mean he kept the younger boys the longest."  

"Yes, it appears the more they matured, the less interested he was in them.  The coroner determined that each boy was probably fourteen or fifteen when he died."  

"That's still too young."  

"Yes, it is."  

I thanked the Sheriff for the information and left his office.  I called Scott as soon as I got home and explained the same things to him.  At least now we knew for sure what had happened to those poor kids.

By early spring, the Sheriff called to inform me that the remains of each of the boys had been given a proper burial by their families.  So now the spirits of Mike Maynard, Danny Coutts, Jamie Hopko, Peter Simek, Vince Rumsey, Josh Becker, Tommy Hawes, and Steven James could rest in peace.  I just hoped they had now moved on to find peace and appreciated the extremes that I went to so it could happen.  

I got my answer the following Halloween.  Scott and I had gone to another haunted house first, and then we stopped to have a couple of beers at a local bar.  While there, we discussed our experiences from the previous year, and I mentioned that I hoped the boys were finally able to rest in peace.  Scott said he hoped so as well, and eventually we said goodnight to each other and returned to our apartments.  

As soon as I got there, I showered and got ready for bed.  I was still thinking about the boys as I crawled under the covers, and even though I was a little restless at first, I slept soundly throughout the night.  

When I awoke the next morning, to say I was shocked by what I found would have been a gross understatement.  I awoke in the center of the bed, but there were no covers on me.  They were all pulled back and neatly arranged at the foot of the bed, completely the opposite of how I had found them after experiencing horrific nightmares the year before, but that wasn't all.  There were other objects on the bed with me as well, things that had not been there when I went to sleep.  That's when I started to become scared and immediately began to wonder if someone had broken in after I went to sleep.  

On my right I discovered a Spiderman mask, a football helmet, a cowboy hat, and a baseball cap.  On my left was a Power Ranger mask, a fireman's helmet, an Indian headdress, and a Darth Vader mask.  As I looked at the various objects, I wondered where they'd come from, and that's when I noticed something else.  Next to each object there was something written on the sheet, so I got up to examine what it said.  That's when I discovered that next to each object was the signature of one of the boys who'd gone missing.  

At that point I began to choke up, because I realized this was their way of getting a message to me.  As the significance of this was slowly sinking in, I noticed something else.  Just above the folded bedding at the end of the mattress, there was something else scrawled on the sheet.  Much larger than each boy's signature was written, 'Thank you!'  

Deeply moved, I collected the various objects the boys had left me, because they were obviously part of the costumes they'd been wearing when they disappeared.  I would keep them as cherished souvenirs, along with the fitted sheet I'd just removed from the bed.  They would serve as a reminder of the time I'd spent investigating their disappearances and the brief time I'd spent with them on Halloween night.  

Happy Halloween to one and all!

The End


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