The Eye Of Time

By Brian C. Petroziello

Brendan Mulhearn pulled up to the frame house in Queens. His red hair was now turning to gray at the temples. His complexion was ruddy. His eyes were still a bright green. He parked his car at the curb, and got out. He walked to the back of the station wagon, and flipped up the hatch. Behind him he heard a screen door open. He looked in time to see his partner, Vince Minelli, trying to get through the door sideways. He had several duffles hanging from his shoulders. He wore a floppy hat studded with fishing lures. A wicker basket hung from a strap around his neck, and covered his stomach. He wore a back pack, which was now hung up on the door, forcing him backwards and causing him to lose his balance. In each hand he carried a cooler. Even though it was early in the morning, and he had just shaved, he sported a five o'clock shadow. A scar cut across his right cheek diagonally, a souvenir of life on the streets as a kid. His hair was jet black without a hint of gray.

Mulhearn broke into a big grin, and sprinted to the porch. He helped Minelli negotiate the door, and then steadied him down the sidewalk to the curb. He took the duffles and other items off of Minelli, and tossed them gingerly into the back of the station wagon.

"Before you say it," cautioned Minelli, "Rose told me to give you this." He reached into a pocket of the fishing vest he wore, and produced a small, white plastic object and handed it to Mulhearn. It was a tiny kitchen sink, purloined from his daughter's doll house.

Mulhearn started laughing. "Vince, we're only going for a couple of days. Do you really need all of this?" He asked.

"You have to be prepared." Replied Minelli. "You camped with your boys enough to know that. Besides, two more small loads should do it." He turned and headed back up to the house.

Mulhearn knew there was no use arguing, and followed Minelli up the walk. It only took a few minutes to get everything loaded, and soon they were pulling away from the curb.

Nearly four hours later, they were rolling down a two lane paved road in the mountains of northern Connecticut. Minelli sat in the passenger seat, map in one hand and a slip of paper in his other. "It should be right up here on the right." He said. "Yeah, here it is." He said, pointing to a cut in the tree line. Mulhearn slowed and pulled onto a gravel lane, that soon gave way to a rutted dirt road. They bounced along slowly as it wound up hill. Thick woods hemmed in the path on either side. They bounce along for a couple of miles, until they could make out the shape of a log cabin in the distance. They pulled along side of the cabin in a makeshift gravel driveway. Mulhearn exited the station wagon, and bent over by some bushes next to the cabin. He came up with a key. After unlocking the door, they proceeded to unload and store the gear they brought. Around the back of the cabin, there was a small gas generator. He topped of the gas tank, and pulled the starting rope a couple of times until it sprang to life.

He came back around to the porch, and found Minelli standing by the steps surveying their surroundings. The cabin was nestled on the west slope of a tiny valley. A stream meandered through the valley where both slopes came together. It looked like a silver thread in the distance. A small wooden bridge crossed the stream directly in line with the cabin. On the other side of the bridge there was a small shelf of land. The east slope of the valley then shot steeply upward. The east slope, as well as the area around the cabin were heavily wooded.

Minelli took a deep breath. "This was a great idea, Bren. Four days in the country with no phones, no jobs, and no spooks." he said. "Whatcha say we try out that stream."

"That's the best idea you've had all day." Replied Mulhearn. They grabbed their gear and a cooler and headed down to the water's edge. They found a shady spot by the stream, under an aging maple. They spent the next several hours casting into the water, pulling out an occasional small fish. Finally, when the sun was high over the cabin and about to begin its downward arc, they packed up and headed back to the cabin.

"Slim is coming over for supper, and to check up on us." Mulhearn said.

"Hey, it was nice of old Slim to let us use the cabin. We needed a break like this."

They climbed the trail to the cabin, and stored their fishing gear on the porch. Minelli rooted into some coolers, and produced a small package. He rummaged through the cupboards until he found a large cast iron skillet. In minutes the frying pan was sizzling.

"Smells like you had a good day at the stream." Came a voice from the porch.

"Hey, Slim. C'mon in." Yelled Mulhearn as he shredded lettuce at the table. Slim Hobert was a retired New York City cop who showed both Minelli and Mulhearn the ropes after they came out of the police academy. He owned the fishing cabin, and often let members of the police force spend some time there.

"Nah, we didn't catch anything big enough to eat." Said Minelli. "I've got bigger fish in my aquarium."

"I think they were laughing at Vince's get up. He looked like an outdoor catalog on steroids." Chided Mulhearn.

"I decided to hedge my bets." Answered Minelli. "The grocery down the street has a good sea food section. I figured we'd have fish one way or another."

When dinner was eaten, and the dishes done, Minelli grabbed a few beers from the now cold fridge, and motioned to the door. They caught up on old times as the sun set. After a few more beers and some big cigars, the moon was starting to rise over the eastern ridge of the small valley. The moon was copper colored and looked enormous as it came over the ridge. As it got higher, Minelli noticed a small rock arch in the silhouette of the ridge.

"I didn't notice the arch earlier." Observed Minelli.

"Yeah, you don't see many around here. Usually they are farther south in Kentucky, or out west. The Indian name is nearly unpronounceable, but the translation is roughly the eye of time." Said Slim.

"That's a pretty strange name." Said Mulhearn.

"There's a legend that goes along with the name." Answered Slim, as he lit a cigarette. "You see that path that leads up from the foot bridge?" Asked Slim, pointing down the valley. Minelli and Mulhearn both nodded agreement.

"If you take that path up the hill, you come to a set of stairs cut into the rock. Just below the arch there's a little ledge. When an Indian boy was on the verge of becoming a man, he would sleep on the ledge during a night when the moon was full. He would have visions. Sometimes of his future, some time of his past. The visions would guide his life, or save it." Continued Hobert. "That should be right up your alley--bein' the spook squad and all."

"We're out here trying to get away from all of the ghosts and goblins." Said Mulhearn. "You won't believe the amount of spooky things that go on in the city." He said.

"Well, tomorrow night is the full moon." Slim said. "If you want to try it, there's sleeping bags and extra pillows in the closet under the stairs. Just follow the path." He took a long drag on his cigarette. "Well you boys have a good time. Just leave me some fish in the stream, and hide the keys. I'll stop in at the precinct the next time and see ya." He flicked his cigarette but out into the night and left for his car.

The next morning Mulhearn got out of bed, pulled on his pants and a tee shirt and ambled downstairs. There was steam coming from the blue metal coffee pot on the stove. The lid was popped on a box of doughnuts that sat on the kitchen table. Minelli was no where in sight. He spooned some instant coffee into a blue metal cup, and poured in some hot water. He grabbed milk from the fridge. He heard squeaking coming from the porch. He grabbed a doughnut and opened the screen door. Minelli was leaning back in a wicker chair. In his lap were several manilla folders.

"What are you doing Vince?" He asked, not really expecting an answer. "We're supposed to be leaving that stuff behind for a few days. It's bad enough that we're here one night and we find out that the mountain is haunted."

Minelli sighed. "Ya know--back in the homicide days--there were about four or five cases I could never solve. They've been eating at me-some for almost ten years now. I thought maybe some fresh air and a different perspective, and I might be able to see something I overlooked before."

Mulhearn ate the last of his doughnut and took a sip from the mug. "Don't spend too much time on those Vince. I'm going to shower, and then go fishing. I think you owe it to those fish to let them laugh at you again."

"I'll be ready." Minelli replied, and returned his attention to the files.

They wandered up stream this time and spent the rest of the morning fishing. They trooped back up to the cabin with dinner in hand. After lunch they tried downstream of the cabin. After a slightly burnt dinner of breaded fish and potatoes served up by Mulhearn, they retired to the porch. The sun had set, and they were sipping on a couple of cold beers.

"You up for a supernatural experience, Bren?" Asked Minelli.

"Vince, you don't really believe that legend do you?"

"I don't know. I don't believe all of that other stuff either, but you can't deny that we've been hobnobbing with fairies, banshees, ghosts and all those other things that we don't believe in either." He replied. "I figure it's like having your fortune told--Indian style."

"It's up to you, Vince. Me--I'm going to grab another beer or two, and hit the hay. I may even sleep in tomorrow." Said Mulhearn.

Minelli went into the cabin, and rooted around in the closet under the stairs. He came out with a sleeping bag and a small pack. A canteen was slung over his shoulder.

"If I'm not back by noon, send a search party." With that Minelli disappeared down the path toward the stream. Mulhearn caught sight of him crossing the foot bridge, and then he disappeared into the tree line.

After a quarter mile, the path began climbing upward. It was getting steeper and steeper. He stopped and took a flashlight from the pack. Just as the climb was becoming difficult, he came to a set of stairs hewn out of the rock. The steps were worn smooth from all of the young braves who had climbed the stairs to complete their passage to manhood. He took the stairs nearly to the top of the ridge. He could clearly see the natural stone arch silhouetted by the rising moon. A few yards below it was the ledge that Slim Hobert spoke of. He spread the sleeping bag out on the ledge, and propped up the pack as a pillow. He sat back, and took a long drink from the canteen. The beer and the hike up the mountain had taken more out of him than he thought. He could clearly see through the arch. The opening was around fifteen feet in circumference. It was a slight oval--the resemblance to an eye was uncanny. In a few minutes the full moon became visible in the opening of the arch. Unlike the night before, the moon was not copper. This time it was blood red. As it centered itself in the arch, it looked angry and evil. He wondered how many times this scene had been repeated over the centuries.

A thick fog rolled in--suddenly enveloping Minelli. He felt drowsy and leaned back against the pack, as if in slow motion. His eyes closed and he drifted off into sleep. He started to dream, but they weren't like any dreams he had ever had before. They were vivid, almost like he was living them.

He could see a man in a blue baseball cap, digging a shallow grave in a stand of trees not far from a two lane highway. After digging the grave, he put down the shovel and turned behind him. The man lifted the tiny body of a little girl out of the trunk of his car, and placed her into the hole. Before he started covering up the grave he turned and looked in the direction of the road, as if he was looking straight at Minelli. He resumed his grim task.

Suddenly the scene changed. He found himself on the top of a building. To his right a man was kneeling at the edge of the building. His elbow rested on the ledge. He aimed a hunting rifle with a scope. On the street below, a woman pulled to a stop at a red light. Minelli watched in horror as a bullet shattered the window of the car. The driver slumped against the steering wheel. The assassin shot back the bolt and a shell casing went clattering across the roof and came to rest under an air conditioning unit. He twisted the stock and the barrel, and put the components in a silver metallic case. He followed the man down the building's fire escape, and into a waiting sedan. He memorized the license plate number as the car sped away.

The fog swirled around him and the scene changed again. Now he was in the kitchen of a brownstone in the upper east side. He watched as a man prepared a tray of food. He bent over and moved a piece of floor tile. He removed a small brown bottle and put a few drops into a cup of steaming tea. He placed the cup on the tray, and replaced the bottle in its hiding place. He carried the tray up a flight of narrow stairs to a second floor bedroom. He placed the tray on the bed, where a woman lay prone. She looked deathly ill, and in truth she was. Her eyes were sunken and her complexion was as white as the sheets on the bed. He fed her food from the tray, and helped her sip from the steaming mug.

Several times more the mist swirled and the scene changed to ones that were oddly familiar. He could have been asleep for minutes or hours, he was not sure. Finally the scene shifted again. This scene was unfamiliar. He and Mulhearn were walking down the narrow hallway of an apartment building. Behind them were several other officers. All of them were wearing black wind breakers with NYPD emblazoned on the back. The wallpaper was peeling off of the wall in sheets. The strong smell of urine wafted down the hall from the stairwells. They came to a door roughly in the middle of the hallway. The number 322 was on the door. Minelli pulled a warrant from his pocket, and motioned to Mulhearn to take up a position on the other side of the door.

"Police!" He yelled. "Open up, I have a warrant!" They could hear sounds coming from the other side of the door. He could hear the sound of a toilet flushing. He nodded to Mulhearn. They crashed into the door and it gave way, hurtling inward. Minelli tripped and fell to the floor. He could see down the hallway. A man came around the corner. He was dressed in a white tee shirt and blue jeans. The figure raised a gun and fired. Minelli fired back, dropping the man with one shot. He turned to see if Mulhearn was all right. He saw his partner slump to the ground, blood streaming from a gun shot wound in his forehead.

The shock, and the realism of the vision, caused him to bolt upright on the ledge. He was still groggy as he looked around. The moon was just setting over the western ridge of the valley. Finally, he understood where he was. The drowsiness overcame him again and he dropped back to the sleeping bag. He returned to his deep sleep.

A few hours later his eyes popped open. The sun was already over the ridge. He struggled to sit up. He swung his legs over the ledge and onto the ground. He felt pressure in his head. He was groggy, but not sure if it was from the beer or something else. In a few moments his head cleared. He stretched, arms out wide, and was finally awake. He felt refreshed as he rolled up the sleeping bag and cinched the straps. He made his way down the ancient steps, and finally down the path to the stream. The down hill hike was much easier on his legs.

He walked into the cabin to find Mulhearn just coming down the stairs. It was around ten. Mulhearn had slept in, as he had promised.

"Well here comes the great Italian brave fresh from his vision quest." He said.

"Actually, I feel pretty good. I was out like a light right after the fog rolled in. It was so thick on the ridge, I'm surprised it burned off already." Answered Minelli.

"What fog?" Asked Mulhearn incredulously.

"You didn't see it? How could you miss it. You almost had to cut it with a knife. It rolled in right after the moon came in through the arch." Said Minelli. "Man, I've never seen a moon so red."

"Vince, I could see the moon through the arch--it was silver--honest." He thought his partner had taken a few more beers with him.

"I guess I was more asleep than I thought."

The next two days passed easily. On Sunday morning, they had breakfast and loaded up the station wagon. They returned the cabin keys to their hiding place and made their way back to the City.

They were about a half hour from the City limits, on a two lane highway that paralleled the Hudson. All of a sudden Minelli bolted upright in his seat.

"Brendan! Stop the car! Pull over here!" He screamed at the top of his lungs.

Mulhearn pulled over to the berm, brakes squealing. The car behind him swung out into the other lane and passed him. He could make out the driver making obscene gestures in the rear view mirror.

"Did we hit something?" He screamed back.

"No!" Open the hatch. Minelli was out of the car and running to the back before Mulhearn could say anything else. He fidgeted while he waited for Mulhearn to unlock the hatch. Minelli opened a plastic bin and pulled out a small folding shovel, like the one the military issued. He jumped across the drainage ditch next to the car, and ran through the woods. Mulhearn leapt across the ditch and did his best to keep up with his partner. He had to hold his forearms in front of his face to ward off the branches springing back at him.

He was about to question Minelli's sanity when his partner stopped in front of a large tree. He bent over and prodded the ground with the shovel. He dug the shovel into the earth and threw the dirt to the side. After four or five shovelfuls of dirt, a piece of pink fabric emerged. Minelli dug some more, and the bones of a human hand protruded from the earth. He sat back, and without looking up at Mulhearn, he wearily said, "Call it in, Bren, would ya?" He covered his face with his hands.

Mulhearn already had his cell phone out.

"Rachel Simpson." Minelli said without waiting to be asked. "It was one of the files I brought with me. She was missing and presumed dead five years ago." He continued.

"Vince, how?"

"I think I dreamed it." He said. "Out on the ridge."

With in the hour, the local police and forensics had arrived. Along with the tiny body, clad in a pink dress, they found a blue baseball cap. A hunch was all he told the investigating officers.

The next morning Minelli walked into the squad room, a large book under his arm. He opened the book on his desk and pointed to a picture on the page. "I knew the face in the dream was familiar. Ritchie Lofton. He served time for child molestation and rape. I had strong feelings about this guy four years ago, but his girlfriend gave him an alibi. They found hair in the baseball cap. They think they can get DNA from it. If it matches, then maybe the family can have some justice."

Mulhearn nodded agreement. He still could not believe his partner's performance yesterday. But then, they had seen so much strangeness the last couple of years in the Special Crimes Section.

"Want to go for a ride?" He asked.

"Sure." Answered Mulhearn.

They pulled up in an alley behind a building in Manhattan. They found the super and he let them out onto the roof. Minelli went over to the air conditioner unit, and donned latex gloves. He reached under the unit and felt around. In a few seconds he pulled out a brass shell casing. He pulled a plastic bag from his pocket and placed the shell casing in it.

"I got a warrant based on the license plate that I saw in my dream." He said matter of factly.

"And a judge bought that." Asked Mulhearn, amazed at what his partner was doing.

"Well, I didn't quite mention the dream. Just that an unidentified Indian informant gave me the tip."

Later that day, Minelli got a call from Brian Peters at the crime lab. He informed Minelli that a search warrant had been issued, and a hunting rifle with a scope was found. The shell casing from the top of the building matched others found in the house. The rifling on a test shot matched that on the bullet removed from the victim's body. The sniper murder of Sara Harris had been cleared.

The next day, they served a warrant on a brownstone in the upper east side. A beautiful brunette in her mid twenties answered the door. "I think I see a motive." Said Minelli. After the usual introductions, and displaying the warrant, Minelli and Mulhearn entered the house. Minelli went into the kitchen, and looked for a certain place in the kitchen floor. He donned a pair of plastic gloves, cut a hole in the kitchen carpet with a box cutter, and pried up a floor board. He carefully pulled a small brown bottle from the space, and placed it into a small plastic bag.

Over the next few days, other warrants were served and arrests were made. Mulhearn was sitting at his desk as Minelli walked into the squad room, carrying his favorite mug. It had "KISS ME I'M ITALIAN" on one side and a swarthy looking character mooning on the other. His phone rang as he approached the desk.

"Minelli, here." He said.

"Yo, Vince, my man." Minelli recognized the voice of Brian Peters. "I've got great news for you. The bottle you sent in yesterday had poison in it. It wouldn't have shown up in normal tests. The ME might have found it if he knew what to look for. The good news is that it migrates to the marrow and settles in. It seeps into the surrounding bone. I've already got an order to exhume the body."

"That is great news." Answered Minelli. "The deceased's sister will be happy. She was sure her sister was murdered. The husband looked like a saint taking care of his sick wife. Now, we know how the bastard took care of her."

"Oh, and the blue ball cap--the hair we found--it was a perfect match for Lofton. The DA is filing his charges." Said Peters. "Man, you've been unconscious, Vince. Just plain unconscious lately. Do you have some spook giving you tips?" He asked, more than just a little bit curious.

"Yeah, something like that." Said Minelli. "It's amazing what fresh mountain air can do."

He hung up the phone to find Captain Pete Donovon standing by his desk.

"What's up, Captain?" Asked Mulhearn.

"We're shorthanded today." He handed Mulhearn a file. "We need you two to help out on a drug bust. The info's in there. O'Malley and his men are downstairs." he continued. "You've done this before, Brendan, so I am putting you in charge."

They donned bullet proof vests, and black jackets with "NYPD" in large white letters on the back. They met O'Malley downstairs, and spread maps out on the hood of an unmarked car. They set up the assignments, and moved out.

A short time later they came to a seedy tenement. Minelli, Mulhearn and several officers moved quietly up the stairwell. The smell of urine was overpowering. Taggers had covered the wall in graffiti. They reached the third floor, and made their way down the narrow hallway until they found apartment 322. Minelli had vague notions of deja vu. Mulhearn motioned to Minelli to move to the other side of the door.

"Police!" Minelli yelled. "Open up, I have a warrant!" They could hear sounds coming from the other side of the door. Minelli heard the sound of a toilet flushing. He nodded to Mulhearn. They crashed into the door and it gave way, hurtling inward. As the door broke, Minelli realized why it seemed so familiar. As he was falling to the floor he lashed out with his right foot, catching Mulhearn on the hip. The force of the blow shoved Mulhearn into the wall. Minelli could see down the hallway. A man came around the corner. He was dressed in a white tee shirt and blue jeans. He raised a gun and fired. The shot whizzed past Mulhearn's ear. Minelli fired back, dropping the man with one shot.

The other officers poured in securing the occupants and the scene.

"Dammit, Vince!" He yelled, irritated. Then the realization of the gunshot sunk in. "The Eye of Time?" He asked sheepishly.

"Yeah." Minelli said. "The Eye of Time."

"Maybe next time, we should vacation at the shore." Answered Mulhearn.

The End

Copyright © 2004 by Brian C. Petroziello

Brian is a lawyer in Dayton, Ohio.



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