A Face in the Mirror
A Face in the Mirror
The alarm went off and Janine jumped out of bed. Time to get ready for work. The morning was perfectly normal until she began putting on her eye make-up. Janine looked in the mirror and noticed her eyes were looking a little blue instead of the deep brown she knew they were. Strange she thought but didn’t have time to dawdle. She finished dressing and returned to the bathroom to put her earrings in her ears. Again, her eyes were definitely looking blue not brown. She looked closer into the mirror but there was no change. That is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen she thought. The clock was ticking so she had no time to try and figure it out. Off to work she went. A short subway ride later she was at her desk and those blue eyes kept creeping back into her memory. Am I crazy she thought? On and off throughout the day she thought about those blue eyes, each time dismissing it as a lighting defect, or an angle of the mirror, or simply her imagination. After all she had a restless night. She couldn’t remember the nightmares but knew she had them. When she visited the ladies room she made it a point to look in the mirror…brown eyes. Of course they’re brown they were never blue. That was just silly.
Her eyes, from brown to blue
After work she took the subway home and stopped to pick up a salad for dinner. No cooking tonight she thought, not after the night and day I’ve had. She returned to her apartment and put on a pot of coffee. She really wanted to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror but she forced herself to get ready for dinner. As she sat down to eat her salad she realized she had to go and look in the mirror. She went to the bathroom slowly and turned on the light. She stood in the doorway and looked in the mirror from there. Everything was normal, she was just being silly. She walked up to the mirror and looked at her reflection. Her eyes were completely blue and her hair seemed to be getting lighter. This can’t be, she thought. She walked back into the kitchen and tried to eat her salad but those blue eyes were haunting her. Back to the bathroom. This time her eyes were still completely blue and her curly brunette hair was straight and blonde. No way this is happening. I must be losing my mind. She went back and got her purse. She took her hand mirror from her purse and looked at her reflection. Normal. No blue eyes, no blonde hair. What is going on? Someone must have messed with the mirror, but who? The only other person she had met since moving here was Jake next door. Jake didn’t seem like a prankster. She returned to the bathroom for another look. The face in the mirror had blue eyes and straight blonde hair. Now she was shook up. Her hands were shaking and her legs were getting wobbly. Am I losing my mind? She decided to call Jake before she started screaming. She dialed the phone and didn’t really remember what she said but two minutes later there was a knock on the door.
Subway platform - nearby
She opened the door and Jake stepped in. “Are you okay?” asked Jake. “You sounded a little strange on the phone.” She didn’t know what to say. How do I tell him that I’m crazy. Instead, she asked him to follow her to the bathroom and look in the mirror. Jake stood in front of the mirror and his reflection looked back. “What?” said Janine. She pushed Jake out of the way and stood in front of the mirror. They both stared at the face looking back. It looked like Janine but with blue eyes and straight blonde hair, not brown eyes and curly brunette hair. Jake looked at Janine with his mouth open. “What the…” Her mind started to ease a bit, she could tell by his reaction that he saw the same thing she did, the face in the mirror wasn’t hers. He turned the bathroom light out and pulled her into the living room. He refilled her coffee cup and poured one for himself. He asked if she had anything stronger and she gave him a bottle of whiskey she had been saving for a special occasion. He opened it and poured some in her coffee and some in his. He told her to sit down and then he sat in the chair across from her so he was facing her when he began to speak.
He said, “I don’t know how to begin to explain this.” “Let me tell you a story about your apartment. You’re the first person to live here in four years. It’s been empty all that time.” Janine replied, “I knew that but never figured out why. When I was looking for an apartment this one was close to the subway, clean and bright, and the rent was right. It didn’t make sense that it had been empty so long.” Jake went on to explain, “Since you’re from out of town you don’t know the history. Over a ten year period three young women who lived in this apartment, have disappeared without a trace. The police have searched and investigated all three disappearances with no leads. The last disappearance was a young woman named Nora Street. Nora had blue eyes and long, blonde, straight hair.” Janine’s heart stopped and she could feel the color drain from her face and the air go out of her lungs. Jake took her hand and continued, “Nora disappeared four years ago. For the first two years the police tied up the apartment and wouldn’t let the landlord rent it out. The next two years no one wanted to live in this apartment because of the disappearances. There were never any leads. All three women left work headed for home and were never heard from again despite all the police and FBI efforts to locate them or at least a lead, nothing. But, back to Nora, I don’t know how to explain it Janine but she is the face in the mirror.”
The Bathroom mirror with her face changing
Now Janine began to shake all over. How in the world? What’s going on? She looked at Jake and tried to speak. Finally she was able to say, “Why?” Jake asked in turn, “Why what?” “Why is she showing up now and why is she in my mirror?” Jake said they were very good questions and he had no answers. He said if anyone told him this was happening he would laugh and walk away but he had seen it. He had no explanation. He told Janine she could stay with him in his apartment but she said how long? She didn’t know what to do. She sure as heck didn’t want to live with the face in the mirror, but on the other hand there had to be a reason that face was there. Was this missing Nora trying to contact her? She jumped up and went back to the bathroom. She turned on the light and looked in the mirror. The face in the mirror looked nothing like her. Jake gasped from behind Janine. “I don’t know how to explain it, but the face in the mirror is now totally Nora Street,” he said. That settle it. Janine was going to stay here with the face in the mirror and try to find out exactly what was going on. Jake wanted to call his friend Adam at the FBI but new it would be impossible to explain this without Adam laughing and hanging up the phone. “Okay,” Jake said, “but I’m sleeping on the couch. Let me go back to my apartment and get something to sleep in. Will you be all right here alone? I won’t be long.” Janine told him not to worry, so far all she was dealing with was a face in the mirror. As soon as Jake left, Janine went back into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. Nora was there looking back, but now it looked like Nora was trying to write something on the mirror. Steam, Janine thought. The bathroom needs steam so Nora can write on the mirror and I can read it. She turned on the hot water and let it run until the bathroom steamed up. Nora wrote on the mirror it looked like “retrahc.” Janine ran to the table and grabbed a pen and pad and wrote it down just as it appeared on the mirror. Jake returned and she showed him the mirror. “You were right, she is trying to communicate with you but what does retrahc mean?” said Jake. “Let’s take your paper and go sit in the living room. Sorry Nora, but you’re giving me the creeps.”
They returned to the living room but decided it would be better to sit at the table so they could both study the cryptic message. Janine said, “What do you think it means? Do you think it could be something spelled backwards” and proceeded to write the letters the other way to spell “charter”. Jake took a deep breath and Janine looked at him. “What’s wrong Jake?” she asked. “Well, there is an old man whose last name is Charter living in this building. He’s lived here for over 30 years and is a bit of a recluse. He’s friendly enough, says hello to everyone, he walks around the halls, but never bothers with anyone.” “Why would Nora write his name?” Janine asked. “Good question” Jake replied. They talked about Mr. Charter for a while. Seems Mr. Charter had moved here after his wife disappeared thirty years ago. She went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back. Old man Charter was distraught. He was thirty-three years old at the time and there were no children. He sold his house and moved into this apartment and severed all ties with any family members he had, but what did this have to do with Nora? The police had questioned everyone in the building when Nora disappeared. No one had any information about her disappearance.
Writing on the mirror
Janine got up and went back to the bathroom. She erased the word “retrahc” and ran the hot water again. This time Nora wrote, “pleh.” Janine let out a gasp. Jake came running and saw the two words on the mirror. “How in the world are we going to do anything about this?” Jake said. “ I don’t know”, said Janine, “but we have to try.” “I think your Mr. Charter had something to do with Nora’s disappearance why else would she write ‘help.’ I don’t know what, and I don’t know why she’s telling me but I feel like I have to help her.” “Okay, I’ll call my FBI friend Adam and see if I can get him to listen to me without having him laugh in my face” said Jake. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed. “Hey, Adam. It’s Jake. You aren’t going to believe this but I have a lead on Nora Street. Seems someone saw her go into old man Charter’s apartment the day she disappeared.” Jake paused as Adam berated him on the other end of the line. “I just found out and yes, it is a reliable source though I can’t tell you who. I thought you would want to check it out being an unsolved case and all.” Jake paused again then thanked Adam and hung up. “What did he say” asked Janine. “Well, he was not happy with me. At first he just laughed but we’ve been friends a long time and he knows I wouldn’t even get involved unless I was positive I had something useful. He’s going to contact a judge he knows and get a search warrant for old man Charters apartment, tomorrow.”
There was nothing more Janine or Jake could do. Janine turned off the bathroom light and got out some blankets and a pillow for Jake. She got ready for bed and fell asleep in an instant. Jake was shaking her and asking if she was okay. She had the nightmare again and was screaming in her sleep. If she could just remember what It was. Jake went back to the couch and she went back to her bed. It took a little longer to fall asleep this time but there was a man standing in the hall in front of her apartment. What was he doing there? Jake had said old man Charter wandered the halls, could it be him? She looked down the hall and saw a young girl with long blonde hair headed toward the man she thought might be Charter. The blonde girl had on a navy blue business suit. She must’ve been returning from work. As the blonde girl walked nearer Janine realized it was Nora Street. Charter stepped out in front of her and greeted her. “How’re you tonight Nora” Mr. Charter said. “Okay, but tired” Nora replied. “Why don’t you come join me? I cooked a nice pot roast in the crockpot and have no one to share it with.” Nora was hesitant. She knew he lived alone and thought he was harmless. “You know what, I think I will. I really don’t feel like cooking tonight.” Nora replied. The man looked up and down the hall and suggested. No one had seen Nora enter the building and no one had seen her talking to anyone. Janine wanted to warn Nora but she wasn’t part of this scene, just a bystander watching, like she wasn’t there, like a front row seat at a movie.
The man led Nora into his apartment. It was neat though not modern or fancy. The table was set for two with candles and the radio was playing Frank Sinatra. Quaint, Nora thought. The man offered her a drink which she gladly accepted. “No” shouted Janine. Janine didn’t know why but she knew Nora shouldn’t take the drink. It seemed like only seconds after Nora took the drink that she crumpled on the floor. The man picked her up and went into his bedroom where he laid her on his bed. He removed her blouse and skirt gently but quickly and stood and just looked at her. “Oh I’ve missed you so much” the man said. He continued to undress Nora and Janine began to sweat and toss and turn. As the man began to remove his clothes Janine screamed. For a second time, Jake ran to her bedside. This time, she remembered the nightmare and told Jake. “Oh my God, do you think it’s possible old man Charter killed Nora? I had a dream about Nora Street and a man meeting her in the hall and inviting her in for dinner” Jake nearly shouted. “Could you identify the man?” “No” Nora replied, “I never got a look at his face. Neither of them was able to sleep after that. They returned to the living room and just sat and talked. They talked about Charter, they talked about Nora and then they talked about each other and how they wound up in this apartment house. Jake had been living here for ten years. He grew up not far away but always wanted to be on his own. Once he got a job he found this apartment. In spite of the horror around them they got to know each other a little that night.
At 8:00 am Jake’s cell phone rang. It was Adam. He had gotten a search warrant and was on his way to the apartment house. He told Jake the only reason he acted so fast was this was the first time Jake had ever gotten involved in these disappearances even though he had lived in that apartment house for 10 years and had dated Nora Street. Jake didn’t tell Janine about his relationship with Nora, or the other girls, he saw no reason to, after all they were just getting to know each other when Nora disappeared.
When Adam rang the bell at the apartment, Janine and Jake had already dressed and had a fresh pot of coffee ready. Jake felt it would be best to tell Adam what had happened, they could even show Adam the face in the mirror. Adam took the coffee and listened to their stories. He was more interested in Janine’s dream than the face in the mirror. He was patient and asked some questions about Nora’s suit. It seems that was what she was wearing the night she disappeared. Janine’s description of the man in her dream was a sketchy, she never really saw his face. Adam wanted to see the face in the mirror. All three went to the bathroom and Janine stepped in front of the mirror. Adam looked and saw Janine’s reflection; Jake and Janine saw Nora’s! Adam just smiled at both of them and said he was going to talk to old man Charter. Charter, like all the apartment house residents had been questioned after the disappearance of each of the girls but his apartment had never been searched. Adam explained he had two additional men waiting downstairs to assist him with the search. Jake and Janine waited patiently for Adam’s return. One hour, two hours, finally three and one half hours later Adam returned. “Sorry kids, nothing there. His apartment is as clean as a whistle. We’re going to keep a tail on him for a day or two but it doesn’t look like we’re going to find anything. Janine, I suggest you get some rest. Jake you might want to keep an eye on her for a couple of days until this blows over.”
Adam left the apartment and Jake and Janine both napped. When they woke it was dark outside. Jake suggested Janine come over to his apartment so he could cook her dinner, it would be a chance to get her out of this apartment for a while. She was hesitant but agreed. What good would it do to stay here anyway? Jake said, “I’ll run ahead so I can straighten up while you get your things together.” “Sounds like a plan” Janine said. She was beginning to like Jake and his easy manner. When Janine had her things she walked over to Jake’s apartment. When he opened the door it was neat though not modern or fancy. The table was set for two with candles and the radio was playing Frank Sinatra. Quaint….
Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved
Other Mysteries I Wrote
- The Empty Beds Mystery
Empty beds...why were there so many more than the last several months? What was going on and why were people dying?
- The Pigsty Mystery
"Man Abandons Wife and Daughter." What happened thirteen years ago? Did Mr. Van desert his family or is there another reason for his disappearance?