Author: LuckyLadybug PM
This time the monster Kolchak is chasing is himself. More or less.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Horror - C. Kolchak & A. Vincenzo - Words: 11,429 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 4 - Published: 05-05-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6966640
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Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! It was inspired by a prompt from Kaze: This time, the monster Kolchak is chasing is himself. The 30 Losses prompt Miraculous relief; Shattered glass also assisted. Thanks to Kaze, Lisa, Ladyamberjo, and everyone who responded at Little Details for plot help!
Carl Kolchak breathed heavily as he staggered back from the object on the floor. The room was spinning. The pain shooting through his heart and spreading to every part of his body was incredible and horrible and agonizing all at once. He sank to the red carpet, slumping against the desk with his tape recorder. Shaking, he pressed Record.
"If I don't tell this story now, there's a good chance I never will," he said. "In a few minutes I may not still be alive."
He blinked, fighting against the darkness threatening to sweep over him. With a fumbling hand he tried to loosen the tie around his neck.
"We've all heard the legends about unpleasant things in connection with the mirror," he began. "Children play a game that reportedly invokes the spirit of Bloody Mary in their mirrors. Breaking a mirror is supposed to bring seven years bad luck. The ancient Romans believed that one's reflection in the mirror was part of the soul, and that to break the mirror was to distort your soul.
"Over the past few nights, I've discovered that to break a mirror—at least in a particular location in Chicago—can mean something much worse."
"The Constantine mansion was built by one of Chicago's local millionaires, Giovanni Constantine. He claimed to have been descended from a family line that could trace its roots all the way back to ancient Rome. Well, whether or not that was true, he decorated his house to be a tribute to the Roman way of life. After his death the manor was turned into a museum.
"In late August of this year the Constantine House was celebrating its 150th anniversary. Tony Vincenzo decided to send me to get a story on one of the evening tours. I got the story, but on that deceptively pleasant August 26th, I got something else as well."
Covering an old house was not really the kind of story Kolchak wanted, but he determined to make the most of it. He tried to stay interested as the tour went from room to room. He asked questions and absorbed the answers to other peoples' queries. He snapped pictures, took notes on his notepad, and made use of his tape recorder. But he was still having a hard time being very stirred. He was used to investigating serious crimes, not benign anniversaries.
As they entered what looked like a den or a study, the tour guide led them around an old desk. "This is one of Giovanni Constantine's most prized possessions," she said. "It's made of the highest quality oak. He always sat at this desk to compose his letters."
"And to look at himself?" one girl giggled. On their other side, framed in gold, was a wide, floor-length mirror attached to the wall.
"This was something Mr. Constantine had shipped from Italy," the tour guide replied. "It's meant to serve as a replica of mirrors in ancient Rome."
Kolchak stood in front of it to take a picture. Behind him, the other members of the tour group were crowding around a curio cabinet. Snatches of their conversations reached his ears, but he tuned them out.
Without warning someone stumbled on the rug, slamming hard into the man ahead of him. The second man crashed into Kolchak, sending him headlong into the glass before he could stop himself. A sickening crack resounded through the room.
The tour guide froze. "What's going on here?" she demanded, whirling around.
Kolchak was moving back from the mirror, dazed. "I'm sorry, ma'am," he said, pushing his hat up from his eyes. "Someone crashed into me and I . . ." He trailed off, staring in horror at a long crack in the glass. "Uh oh."
"It's true," stammered the guy behind him. "I accidentally pushed him into the mirror when someone crashed into me. It's not his fault."
The others in the tour spoke at once in a flurry of agreement. The guide held up her hands for silence.
"We'll sort this out one at a time," she said. "But this mirror is a priceless antique. Someone will have to pay for repairs!" She glowered at the three men, her sharp eyes clearly saying that she would not buy any excuses.
Kolchak cringed. Tony would not like this. He was not that pleased himself. They barely had enough in the cashbox as it was without having to take most of it to replace an old looking-glass.
"It was my fault," exclaimed the first man. "I caused both of these men to fall." He took out his checkbook. "I'll reimburse you for all damages."
The tour guide looked him over, then gave a curt nod. "We'll discuss the amount at the end of the tour," she said.
Kolchak breathed a sigh of relief. He stepped back from the mirror, wanting to get as far away from it as possible. "Note to self—never stand in front of a mirror if people are behind you," he muttered.
His reflection smirked at him, tipping its hat.
Kolchak's mouth fell open. "What the . . ." He leaned in again, unable to believe what he had just seen.
His reflection leaned forward, copying him as a reflection should.
Kolchak shook his head. "I must have jarred something loose when I hit the mirror," he decided. "I should have my eyes examined."
"Mr. Kolchak!" the tour guide boomed from the doorway. He jumped a mile. "Are you planning on joining us or are you going to continue scrutinizing the damage?"
The other members of the tour, standing with her, regarded him in both expectancy and impatience. One woman shifted her weight, while a man checked his watch. Most everyone looked annoyed.
Kolchak backed away, still staring at the mirror. "Uh . . . yes," he said, occupied with his thoughts. "Of course, I'm coming."
His reflection waited until he was forced to turn around. Then it slipped out of view around the side of the glass.
"August 26th, 8:22 P.M.
"It was on the tour right after mine that it happened. The oh-so-pleasant guide had not had a chance to put the den off-limits after the accident with the mirror. A few minutes after my group departed the room, the last tour of the evening entered. And moments later, one member of the group was close to departing this life."
Kolchak sighed as he turned in his tour badge at the front desk and signed out on the register. This had not been the way he had hoped to spend his evening—touring an old house and breaking an antique mirror. Hopefully Tony would appreciate the results of his efforts.
A blood-chilling scream stopped him and the other members of his tour in their tracks.
"Help! He's collapsed! Call an ambulance! Hurry—he can't breathe!"
Kolchak turned and ran down the hall towards the cry. Everyone else was hot on his heels, but he ignored them. He came to a stop at the doorway of the den, staring in shock.
A woman was kneeling on the floor, tending to a man sprawled, gasping, in front of the mirror. As she caught sight of the nearby movement she looked up with a start. Instantly she went sheet-white.
"You!" she burst out, pointing at Kolchak. "You were here; I saw you! You were in the mirror!"
The house-turned-museum was a cacophony of bewilderment and disbelief. The police had arrived not long after the ambulance—which had taken the ailing man away—but the story was impossible for anyone to make sense of.
"I tell you, I saw him!" the woman wailed, twisting a handkerchief in her distress. "So did the rest of my tour group. But he wasn't in the room; he was only in the mirror. He reached out and grabbed the reflection of Mr. Johnson, choking it. And the real Mr. Johnson clutched his throat and began to choke too! Then he just collapsed and this other man's image disappeared!"
Captain Mad Dog Siska frowned, shutting his notepad with a furious clap. "Well, Kolchak, what do you have to say to this?" he demanded. "I have to say, I'm surprised. This is a new low, even for you."
"I wasn't here!" Kolchak exclaimed. "All of these people can testify that I was with them, finishing up our tour. I had just signed out at the same time this woman screamed! Look at the register. You can see for yourself!"
"We have looked at it," Siska said. "And we've questioned these people, as you know. Your story checks out, Kolchak. What doesn't check out is how this woman and her group saw you try to strangle Mr. Johnson, from inside a mirror!"
"I didn't see him try to strangle Mr. Johnson!" the woman protested. "He tried to strangle Mr. Johnson's reflection!"
"That's impossible!" the captain screamed. "All of this is impossible! Somebody has to be lying here and I'm going to find out who!"
The room erupted, with members of both tour groups insisting their innocence. Siska yelled over them, demanding quiet. They only roared louder.
Kolchak turned to look at the cracked mirror. His reflection looked back, wearing the exact same expression.
A shiver went down Kolchak's back. It wasn't possible . . . was it?
"August 27th, 8:00 A.M.
"With everyone confirming I was with them, and my signature in the ledger, Siska didn't have any choice but to finally let me go. He made it perfectly clear, however, that he was not convinced of my guiltlessness in the crime. And he was determined to prove that I was the murderer, if it were indeed true.
"The next morning when I showed up for work, Tony Vincenzo was not in good spirits—to put it mildly. He had had a hard enough time processing the case the previous night when the police called him. Any hopes I had of him settling in after a few hours were promptly dashed. Not that I could blame him. This could very well be the worst mess I'd ended up in."
Kolchak looked over his shoulder. Tony was standing in the doorway of his office, one hand on the doorframe. From his tense stance and face, he had probably been pacing the floor, waiting for Kolchak to arrive.
Kolchak's stomach began to knot up as he walked over. He had been dreading this meeting, but he had known it would come. It was best to get it over with now and try to figure out what had happened last night. He did have a theory, but Tony was not going to want to hear it.
"Tony, before you say anything, I want to make it perfectly clear once again that I was nowhere near Mr. Johnson," he said.
Then something caught his eye. He turned to look at Ron's desk. "Hey, what's this?" he asked, going over to study a square-shaped blender resting in the center. He removed the lid, peering inside. "Is Updyke starting to take his meals at work?"
Tony sighed in exasperation. "Ron's testing one of those supposedly all-powerful blenders for his latest column," he said. "And don't try to change the subject!"
Kolchak replaced the lid and looked at the label at the front. "The Total Blender. Will it blend?" he intoned. He could not help grinning in amusement as he straightened. "I've caught some of the clips for this thing online at . . . what's the name of that website again? The one with all the . . . the user-uploaded content, that makes you get an account at some other site before it will even let you in?"
Tony regarded him in disbelief. "Carl . . . !" he cried. "This is no time for . . ."
"Oh, come on, Tony," Kolchak encouraged. "You know the name of that site, don't you? It's going to be driving me mad all day. Utterly mad, I tell you!"
Tony threw his hands in the air, conceding defeat. "YouTube?" he ventured.
"That's it!" Kolchak declared. "YouTube! One of the most absurd names I've ever heard. But anyway . . ." He studied the blender again.
"This thing is supposed to be able to grind everything but the kitchen sink to shards or dust," he said. "I wonder if they've ever tried fitting a sink in there?"
"I don't believe most of the stuff about it," Tony said. "Even if it can grind weird things up, it has to take longer than they're saying it does."
Kolchak shrugged. "Who knows, Tony. Science is becoming stranger all the time."
Tony shook his head. "Getting back to important things, the police just called," he said. "Mr. Johnson died at the hospital, from complications due to the pressure on his throat. Pressure supposedly put on it by you!"
Kolchak sobered. That was not good news at all, for several reasons.
"Do you know how this is going to make us look?" Tony went on. "We've already made every tabloid in the city!"
Kolchak grimaced. "Oh well, no one respectable reads those things anyway," he said.
"That isn't the point, Kolchak!" Tony yelled. "The point is that one tour group saw you in the mirror, strangling Mr. Johnson's reflection. And another tour group saw you with them! What happened last night?"
"I don't know!" Kolchak retorted. "I only know that I didn't kill that man! I wasn't anywhere near the room at the time!"
Tony turned away, storming back into his office. Kolchak chased after him.
"Tony, come on!" he pleaded. "After all the years we've known each other, you can't tell me you really think I'm a murderer!"
"No, I don't think that!" Tony shot back. "Although sometimes you drive me to the point where jumping out the window sounds like a good idea!" He turned, his eyes flashing in frustration. "But what does that mean? Is the entire tour group lying about seeing you in the mirror?"
"I don't think so," Kolchak said. "Miss Farnsby looked like she'd seen a ghost when I showed up."
"So what does that leave? A double, deliberately trying to frame you?" Tony threw up his hands. "Although Heaven knows why anyone would want to."
Kolchak sighed, pushing his hat back. "There's something that can't be explained by a double, Tony," he said.
Tony nodded, resigned. "The mirror, right?"
"Yes, the mirror!" Kolchak punched the air. "No one saw me or anyone else assaulting Mr. Johnson. What they saw—and all agree on—is that they saw what looked like me assaulting Mr. Johnson's reflection! What was it they saw? And how did it manage to cause the real Mr. Johnson to collapse of asphyxiation?"
"You know what, Kolchak, I don't even want to know," Tony growled. "Maybe the whole lot of them was high on drugs."
"No!" Kolchak came over to his editor. "Tony, remember how the mirror broke?"
"I remember you mentioned it," Tony said. "But you said we wouldn't have to pay for it!"
"We won't," Kolchak said. "However, I saw something very strange right after that. At the time I thought I was hallucinating. Now I'm not so sure."
Tony sank down at his desk, massaging his forehead. "Okay, Carl. I know I'm going to regret this, but what did you see?"
"I saw my reflection smirk at me and tip its hat," Kolchak told him. "When I wasn't doing that!"
Tony's hand fell away. "What?" He gawked at the other man in disbelief.
"That's what I saw!" Kolchak said. "Only after that it just acted like a normal reflection, so I didn't think any more about it. Until Miss Farnsby screamed!" He thumped his fist on Tony's desk.
"Kolchak, you can't really expect me to believe this!" Tony exclaimed. "Are you trying to tell me that your reflection came to life and killed Mr. Johnson, while you were signing out of the museum?"
"I'm trying to tell you that maybe it did!" Kolchak said. "The ancient Romans believed that if you broke a mirror, part of your soul became corrupted and trapped in it. That's probably where the idea of bad luck from a broken mirror came from!"
Tony let out a huge sigh. "Kolchak, I always think I've heard everything. I always think that and you prove me wrong. But this, this . . . ! You've outdone yourself."
"Believe me, Tony, I'm not trying to," Kolchak said. "But even you have to admit that something is really weird here. Unless that tour group is lying, they saw my image in the mirror, when I wasn't there, and it strangled Mr. Johnson's reflection, causing him to die in real life."
"Carl . . ." Tony looked at the reporter in exhausted dismay. "You can't expect me to call the police department and tell them that."
"I'll tell them," Kolchak retorted. "They probably won't listen, but I'll tell them."
"And then what?" Tony threw his hands in the air. "How do you defeat a living reflection? . . . I can't believe we're having this conversation," he muttered.
Kolchak began to pace the room. "I tried doing some research late last night, after Siska finally let me go," he said. "I couldn't find anything about reflections actually coming to life. The closest was what to do if you break a mirror and want to prevent the seven-year curse. There were several methods. One was taking a piece of the broken mirror and holding it to a tombstone. Another was burying the pieces under a full moon."
"Isn't the mirror cracked, not in pieces?" Tony interrupted.
"It is," Kolchak confirmed. "That's another problem. I can't find out much when it comes to cracked mirrors."
Tony groaned. "Maybe if we leave this whole thing alone it'll straighten itself out," he said. "Maybe it was one isolated incident and everyone will forget it in a couple of days."
"But I won't forget it!" Kolchak said. "My good name is being tarnished by some sort of phantom, quite possibly my own reflection. I want to know what and why and how to stop it from happening again!"
"Maybe it only goes psycho in that particular mirror," Tony said, "and once they fix it everything will be just fine."
"They might not get a chance to fix it," Kolchak frowned. "Maybe they'll even decide it's beyond repair."
"Then good for them," Tony said. "It's not our problem."
"Not unless I have a killer reflection living inside it!" Kolchak said.
"Kolchak, your reflection is always with you. There it is now!" Tony gestured at a faint image visible in the framed degree on the wall. "I don't see it breaking away to kill anyone!"
"The reflection that killed Mr. Johnson wasn't with me!" Kolchak protested. "Maybe instead of my soul splitting in two, my reflection itself did! Maybe part of it lingers in that mirror while the other part stays with me!"
"Oh brother." Tony gazed at the ceiling as though silently pleading for strength. "Carl, just promise me you'll wait before doing anything crazy to that mirror," he said at last, looking back to Kolchak.
"I promise!" Kolchak said. "Heck, I'd rather not have to. It'd be a relief if Mr. Johnson's death really is an isolated incident." He turned to walk out. "Although I don't know if that will help any to get Siska to stop suspecting me."
"There's nothing to connect you to that murder except a bunch of nuts claiming they saw your reflection in a mirror," Tony said. "Maybe they killed Mr. Johnson for some reason and they're lying to put you in a bad spot."
"But why?" Kolchak cried, spinning around to face Tony again. "What did I ever do to them?"
"Maybe you pestered some of them with crazy questions on another case. I don't know!" Tony stood, agitated. "Maybe they just needed a scapegoat and they picked you because you're always in trouble with the police anyway." He looked to Kolchak. "Any reason they could come up with would sound more logical than what you're trying to feed me!"
"I know!" Kolchak said in frustration. "It sounds insane. I wouldn't even think about it myself if it weren't for what I saw."
"What you think you saw," Tony said. "You admitted you were pretty dazed after smashing into that mirror. Maybe you should've been X-rayed for a concussion."
"Maybe I should have been, but I wasn't!" Kolchak said. "I haven't had any of the symptoms of a concussion." He headed for the door, casting a last glance at the Total Blender as he went. "Tony, you may have to face the idea that my reflection has become a killer!"
"And I'm going to start praying to God that I don't have to," Tony shot back as Kolchak made his exit.
"August 27th, 9:00 P.M.
"I had done some research on Mr. Johnson and the others in that tour group last night, but after my discussion with Tony I decided to dig deeper. Unfortunately, it was a complete dead end. I spent the better part of the day running around Chicago, following leads that led nowhere. Towards evening I found myself passing the Constantine mansion. I might have just driven on by if I hadn't heard the scream from inside."
Kolchak wasted no time in parking the yellow Mustang and leaping out to run to the door. It was still unlocked, despite the fact that the museum should be closing about then. Kolchak threw the door open, tearing into the lobby as it swung shut behind him.
"Hello?" he called.
Now there was only a gurgling in response. And it was not coming in the direction of the room with the cracked mirror. Kolchak dashed down the hall, following the sound to the side of the hallway across from the offending room. A woman had sunk to her knees, gripping her throat with one hand.
Kolchak dropped to his knees next to her. "Miss?" he exclaimed.
She turned to look. Her eyes widened in sheer horror and fear even as she collapsed to the floor.
Kolchak stiffened. Immediately he bent over her limp body, searching in vain for any sign of life. An attempt at artificial respiration did absolutely nothing. He leaned back, stunned and angry.
"How did this happen?" he said aloud to the corridor. "Was she strangled in that room and staggered out here?"
He stood, moving closer to the den. The mirror was still visible inside, not having been taken away yet after all. He partially wanted to go inside and examine it close-up. But the feeling that something was watching him from the other direction was too strong. He whirled, tense.
Just above the hapless woman's body was a framed photograph. A faint, all-too-familiar reflection shone on the glass. It gave Kolchak a cruel grin before stepping to the side and vanishing off the edge of the frame.
"Hey, wait!" Kolchak yelled. He ran back, staring intently at the glass. Now there was no sign of his dark counterpart. The only reflection was a normal one, just as before.
And the feeling that he was being watched was still there, now from the side. He turned. Somehow his double had made it to the next frame over. For a split-second their eyes met. Then the murderer disappeared again. This time it did not return.
Kolchak fell back. "How did it get in this glass?" he said aloud. "If it doesn't follow me around, it must stay here in the museum. But it doesn't stay put in the cracked mirror, like I thought it would." His eyes narrowed as he looked from one picture frame to the other. The answer was in there somehow; it had to be.
A click behind him sent his already-soured mood plummeting further. "Alright, Kolchak," Siska growled. "Get your hands in the air. This time there's no tour group to back you up. We're taking you in on suspicion of murder."
Kolchak and the police were at a stalemate. Kolchak repeated his story and stuck to it as the interrogation dragged into one hour, then another. The police in charge of the questioning did not believe him and were starting to lose all patience.
"Boy, has the department ever been right about you," one of them growled.
"Oh really?" Kolchak retorted. "What is it they say about me?"
"That you're impossible, always hindering investigations, and a chronic liar," said the second. "But some of them are surprised that you're a murder suspect. I'm not."
Kolchak stared. "And what have I ever done to convince you that I'm a killer?" he demanded.
"Come on, Kolchak. We know about Las Vegas and Los Angeles." The first one suddenly lunged, grabbing a handful of Kolchak's shirt. "You didn't have any qualms about killing those people you thought were vampires. You're dangerous. If you thought Mr. Johnson and this lady tonight were something weird like that, you'd kill them too."
Kolchak tried to pry the detective's hands loose. "Now just a minute!" he exclaimed in indignation. "I didn't just think they were vampires. There was proof for both of them! Since you claim to know about both of those misadventures, I assume you have read the coroner's reports. In the Los Angeles case the body was declared as being filled with tissue that had been dead for three years!"
Without warning he was thrust free to stumble backwards into the table. "Okay, so there was that," the policeman consented. "But that's not the point. The point is that you took the law into your hands. And if you'd go to those extremes those times, you'd do it again."
Kolchak grabbed for the table to steady himself. "What could I do—leave it up to the police? Ha! People would still be being killed by those vampires if I'd done that."
"You're arrogant and rebellious, just like always," the second detective said in disgust. "What excuse do you have for those people in the museum?"
"I wasn't even in the room when Mr. Johnson was killed!" Kolchak cried. "Unless you think my tour group was lying, and that my signature in the ledger was faked, you have to believe that! And as far as the woman tonight, she had already been fatally choked when I found her. She dropped dead almost as soon as I showed up!"
"There's no one to back up your story about her, Kolchak," the second policeman said. "And I've had just about enough of you."
"It might interest you to know that the feeling is perfectly mutual!" Kolchak snapped. He pushed himself away from the table and started to walk towards the door. "And where's Vincenzo? He was supposed to have been called!"
The first detective lashed out, delivering a harsh punch to Kolchak's left cheek. Kolchak fell back, stunned. Before he had a chance to recover, the second detective caught hold of his right arm, wrenching it painfully behind his back.
"Listen up, Kolchak," he growled. "Your editor isn't going to be around to bail you out every time. And he hasn't been called, not yet. We're getting to the bottom of this first!"
Kolchak grimaced. "This is police brutality," he choked out. He strained in vain against the other man's iron grip. "Don't think I won't be writing about this in my next editorial!"
"There won't be a next editorial for you, Kolchak," the first detective replied, getting in his face. "You're going to be in prison for murder, where you belong!"
The one restraining him shoved him to the floor, still holding onto his arm. "Are you ready to talk yet, Kolchak?" he said as he twisted the limb a little bit more than was possibly natural.
Kolchak had wanted to stay quiet, but this was too much. An agonized scream echoed through the bare room.
Moments later the door flew open, banging against the wall. "What's going on here?" Tony Vincenzo and Captain Siska yelled in perfect unison. Both sounded absolutely furious.
Kolchak slumped into the floor. He had never been so relieved to hear those two yelling.
The detective let go of Kolchak, guilt flooding his eyes. "Captain, sir," he stammered. "I . . . we were just trying to get a confession."
"I know what you were doing, and don't think I wouldn't like to do it too!" Siska snarled as he stormed into the room. "But we have a duty to uphold! There's no excuse for this. I'm putting both of you on report!"
"And you're both going into tomorrow's news!" Tony snapped.
They averted their eyes, shamefaced.
Tony dropped to his knees beside Kolchak, who was shakily pulling himself into a sitting position. "Kolchak, are you alright?" he demanded. "How bad did they hurt you?"
Kolchak cringed as he rubbed at his sore arm. "Well, I don't think I'll want to try climbing the monkey bars at the playground tomorrow," he said. "But other than that I'm fine."
"You're fine," Tony growled, disbelieving. "Can you get up?"
"Oh, sure, sure." Kolchak started to pull himself to his feet, grabbing the edge of the table with his left hand for balance. Tony rose with him, ready to catch him if he should suddenly lose his equilibrium.
"Say, Tony, how did you get here anyway?" Kolchak asked in surprise. "These guys said they didn't call you."
"They didn't," Tony said in disgust. He started to lead Kolchak out of the interrogation room. "Captain Siska finally found out you were in here and that I hadn't been called. He called me."
"Really?" Kolchak was genuinely amazed. "How about that."
He looked to Tony as they stepped into the main corridor. "So what's the deal with me? Am I free to go?" he asked.
Tony gave a weary nod. "They're saying there's not enough to hold you," he said. "Although that surprises me; I thought sure it sounded like an open-and-shut case from their point-of-view."
"Tony, I didn't kill that woman," Kolchak said emphatically.
Tony sighed. "I know you didn't, Carl," he said. "Come on, I'll take you home."
"Home?" Kolchak echoed. "I can't go home, Tony. I'll never be able to sleep with this on my mind. Let's go back to the office."
"August 28th, 2:05 A.M.
"Tony was less than pleased about returning to INS so late, but he complied. I was somewhat sore from my interrogation, albeit I wasn't about to let on about that. I reclined on the couch in Tony's office while we discussed the case—and while he worked on the notes of the promised editorial concerning police brutality. It wasn't long, however, before it was impossible for him to concentrate on both at once."
"Okay, Carl," Tony sighed. "So what happened this time? Take it from the top."
Kolchak placed his good arm behind his head, gazing at the ceiling. "Well, I was just driving past the Constantine mansion when I heard someone screaming," he said. "So I stopped the car and got out. When I went inside the place was deserted, except for a woman choking to death across from the room with the mirror—which, by the way, was still there. She looked at me with utter terror before falling over dead."
"And you'd never seen her before," Tony said.
"Never!" Kolchak declared. "I tried to revive her, but it didn't do any good. She was gone. So I got up to look for who could have attacked her. And my rogue reflection was looking at me from a picture frame right above her! Then it slipped away, only to pop up in the next frame over!" His eyes widened. "That's it!"
"Wait a minute!" Tony groaned. "So now it's not content to stay put in the cracked mirror? Is that what you're trying to tell me, Kolchak?"
"Yes!" Kolchak sat up, excited now. "That's exactly what I'm telling you! And I think I've just figured out how. It's been traveling around to other reflective surfaces, like they're lily pads in the water! And yet it still seems to stay only within the confines of the mansion. In the morning I'm going to try to find out if there's some kind of a curse on the place."
"By this point it might be harder than ever to get anyone to talk to you," Tony said.
"I know!" Kolchak said. "It's for the good of the whole news service that we get to the bottom of this!"
"I want to get to the bottom of it, Carl," Tony retorted. "What I don't want is to end up publishing a story about how you've been framed for murder by your own reflection! We'll both be laughed right out of Chicago!"
"And what if the evidence keeps stacking in that direction, Tony?" Kolchak argued. "What then? How much will it take before you stop denying the truth?"
"I don't know that it is the truth!" Tony said. "You can't prove to me that it is!"
"Maybe not, but it isn't just about this case!" Kolchak stood, coming over to the desk. "How can you keep disbelieving, Tony? Unless you really do think I'm out of my mind—in which case I have to wonder why you keep me on!—how can you keep thinking that absolutely everything I bring you isn't factual?"
"I have to wonder why I keep you on too!" Tony stood too, leaning forward on the desk. "And the reason why I can keep rejecting your preposterous stories is because everything you tell me could have another explanation!" he said.
Kolchak rocked back. "Another explanation?" He started to laugh. "Tony, do you know what I think?"
"No, but I bet you're going to tell me," Tony grumbled.
"You're scared!" Kolchak waved his finger through the air in emphasis.
"Scared?" Tony said in disbelief.
"Yes, scared!" Kolchak started to pace. "And I guess to some extent I can't blame you. It's a frightening thing to think that the paranormal exists, especially when it often isn't very friendly. But that doesn't mean the truth should be repressed. People have a right to know what's out there!"
"Look, Carl." Tony gestured at himself. "I have a good job here. I like it. And I'd rather not be fired from it, particularly if I'm being regarded as nuts. You've been fired so many times that by now it's probably par for the course for you. But hardly anyone will even give you a job anymore. If it wasn't for me you probably wouldn't have anything!" He came around the desk. "And unfortunately, I don't have someone who'd be willing to give me more chances like that. I'm in a respected position of authority. The moment they start thinking I'm not fit for the job, I get bounced out. Just like in Seattle! And then I can't do anyone any good, including you!"
Kolchak looked at him for a long moment. "Then I guess I'll just have to get undeniable proof that no one can put a lid on or dismiss as nuts," he said.
"Carl, you can't!" Tony exclaimed. "You know that anything you do find, they pull fast enough to make your head spin. One of these days they're not going to put up with it anymore. And you know what'll happen then? They'll set it up so you'll disappear someday and never be heard from again! Or maybe they'll give you a little 'accident' that isn't an accident at all. Is that what you want? Are you that self-destructive?"
"No, it isn't what I want!" Kolchak said.
"Then maybe you should think about leaving these things alone!" Tony yelled.
"Maybe I would, if they'd leave me alone!" Kolchak turned, heading out of the room.
Tony followed him to the doorway. "Face it, Carl, you can't ever leave anything alone!" he cried. "And I'll never understand why!"
"Then maybe you should stop trying," Kolchak said. He walked in determination to the front door, not looking back. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Where are you going?" Tony demanded.
"To get some sleep," Kolchak called back.
"August 28th, 6:45 P.M.
"After a short and fitful slumber I set out to pursue the angle of the possible curse over Constantine manor. Tony's editorial had hit the wire early that morning and had left quite a stir over Chicago. It also helped somewhat in making some people more willing to talk to me, although whether it was out of pity or from genuinely doubting my guilt I couldn't say. I didn't care that much, as long as they talked. By the end of the day I had a new wealth of information, which I took back to the INS offices to try to fit together."
The furious typing on the computer's keyboard brought Tony out of his office. The sound was carrying from across the main room, where Kolchak was hard at work and involved with whatever he was inputting.
With a sigh Tony went over to his reporter. "Kolchak, where have you been all day?" he asked.
"Working, Tony," Kolchak said without looking up. "And researching. Guess what—there is a curse over the Constantine house. Or at least, Giovanni Constantine believed it."
"And what did he think caused that? Breaking every mirror in the place?" Tony said in sarcastic resignation.
"He didn't know," Kolchak said. He sorted through the stack of notes he had made throughout the day, setting some aside in a new pile. "But he did have a theory."
"And now you're going to tell me about it," Tony surmised, crossing his arms.
"He suspected that the big mirror in the den had been made with cursed glass," Kolchak said, "and that some kind of evil force was living inside it. Several times he tried removing it from the mansion, but every time something happened to whoever was attempting to take it away."
"They died?" Tony frowned.
"That's right," Kolchak nodded. "So he wanted to destroy it completely, grinding it down to dust. He was going to see to it himself and not put anyone else at risk. But he died under mysterious circumstances before he could. And no one else believed in the curse, so the mirror remained."
"And this is what you're writing up to have printed?" Tony cried in horror.
"Relax, Tony. All I'm doing is writing a short piece on what he thought about the mirror," Kolchak said. "I'm not presenting it as fact that the curse is real, only that Mr. Constantine believed it. But it certainly goes along with what's been happening, doesn't it."
Tony shook his head. "Only if you believe in this stuff," he said.
"There comes a time when you are forced to believe it, Tony," Kolchak replied. "And I think we are heading rapidly in that direction."
"Well, you're thinking wrong." Tony walked away from the desk. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you, Carl. I really don't."
The phone rang in his office before Kolchak could answer, if he intended to do so at all. Tony hurried away, occupied with thoughts of these latest revelations. But the person on the other end of the telephone managed to push away all such musings.
Kolchak looked up after a moment when the conversation continued. Tony had left the door to his office open. His angry outburst could be easily heard from the far corner of the room. Kolchak got up, going over to the doorway.
"What happened now?" he wondered as he approached.
Tony was currently hanging up the phone with a clatter. "He hung up on me!" he ranted. "I can't believe he just hung up on me!"
"Who hung up on you?" Kolchak demanded.
"Captain Siska!" Tony shot back. "There's just been another murder."
Kolchak stiffened. "What? Where? Still in the museum?"
"Yeah. Somebody was killed near a glass case." Tony ran a hand through his hair. "The person with him identified you as an image he saw in the case. But you were here, talking to me about curses on mirrors, when it happened!"
"What did Siska say when you told him that?" Kolchak wanted to know.
"He didn't know what to think," Tony said. "He said something about hoping I wasn't just protecting you."
"Why that . . . !" Kolchak whirled, storming to the door.
"Now where are you going?" Tony exclaimed, exasperated.
"To clear my name, one way or another!" Kolchak retorted.
Tony stared after him in alarm. "Kolchak! Kolchak, wait!" He chased after the other man, who had paused by the front doors. "Now my name is at stake too. I'm coming with you!"
"Good!" Kolchak said. "Welcome aboard, Tony. And on our way out let's make sure as many people see us as possible. The murder happened ten minutes ago. I couldn't possibly have been there and got here in that amount of time."
"You're right," Tony realized. "They have to believe you this time!"
"That's the spirit, Tony!" Kolchak said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Let's go show old Mad Dog a thing or two."
Captain Mad Dog Siska, standing in the lobby of the Constantine Museum, was not in a good mood by any means. This case was trying his patience and his sanity in every way possible. And the sight of a familiar yellow convertible out the window only sent his spirits further to the floor.
"Oh no," he growled, as the car pulled up to the curb. "Here he is, back again." He gripped the notepad in his hands tight enough to bend it. Kolchak was the last person he wanted to see right now—even though he knew he needed to talk with Kolchak in connection with the new development.
"He's not alone, Captain," an officer at his side noted. "Mr. Vincenzo's with him."
"What?" Siska peered more closely out the window. It was true—both men had gotten out of the car and were coming up the walkway in determination. Siska set his teeth.
"Well, hello, Captain!" Kolchak blustered as he flung open the door. "We made good time; it hasn't even been twenty minutes since you called. That means the murder happened . . . oh, say, thirty minutes ago?"
Siska growled. "That's right, it was thirty minutes ago!" he said, barely below yelling level. "How do I know, Mr. Vincenzo, that you didn't meet him somewhere close by the museum to try to make me think he was with you all the time?"
"We've got witnesses," Tony answered. "We were together since we left the INS building. I think you'd better check around before you make accusations."
"I'll do it," the officer volunteered. The expression of eager relief was all too obvious on his face as he escaped to the curator's office to place the call. He did not want to be there when the fireworks erupted.
Siska fixed Tony with a silently blazing glare in his attempt to control his temper. "So, Mr. Vincenzo, you have the nerve to show up here after what you wrote today," he said. "You've successfully humiliated my entire precinct."
"You knew I was going to write that editorial," Tony retorted. "What your men did last night was outrageous!"
"It's just what everyone in the department would like to do," Siska said. "I already dealt with my men. Nothing else needed to be done!"
"If they'd do that to me, they could do it to other people," Kolchak spoke up.
"They wouldn't do it to other people!" Siska boomed.
"I don't believe it," Tony said. "And even if that's true, they shouldn't get away with what they did to Kolchak. Now there's going to be an investigation, just like there should be." He walked around Siska. "Where did this new murder happen?"
"It was in there." Siska grudgingly indicated the room just off the lobby to the left. "By the glass case."
"Captain, is the cracked mirror still in the den?" Kolchak asked.
"So what if it is?" Siska screamed, completely losing all threads of faux patience. "I don't know if it's there, Kolchak! And I don't care. It could be in New Orleans and I wouldn't care!"
"The mirror is the key to this whole thing!" Kolchak shot back. "You should care!"
"I'm not going to listen to your nonsense about your reflection!" Siska roared. "Both of you, get out!"
"You don't even want to question me?" Kolchak said.
The officer came to the doorway, nervousness and dread written across his features. "Sir?" he ventured.
"What is it?" Siska snapped.
"Mr. Vincenzo is right," the young policeman said meekly. "They have more than half a dozen witnesses in the building who saw them leave together after you called. Mr. Kolchak really can't be the man we're looking for."
"You shouldn't be looking for a man at all!" Kolchak said. "It's not a man doing this! Tell me, didn't the person with the murder victim say he saw my image choking his friend's reflection?"
"Yes, Mr. Kolchak," the officer admitted.
"Don't tell him anything!" Siska ranted.
"It's just like the other murders!" Kolchak insisted. "A part of my reflection has gone rogue in this house. And it's going to keep killing people until something is done about it, probably destroying the mirror! That mirror was supposed to be picked up for repair yesterday, but it was here last night. If it's still here today, why hasn't that happened yet?"
"I don't know!" Siska yelled. "I'm not going to go ask the curator why the mirror is still here. It's completely irrelevant to this case. Do you hear me? Completely irrelevant!"
"You only think that because you're approaching this case all wrong!" Kolchak said.
"Hold it!" Tony cried, stepping in between them. "Captain Siska, is the curator here?"
"So you're in with him now!" Siska accused. Kolchak would not have been surprised if he had begun foaming at the mouth. "You believe this crazy story he's been feeding everyone!"
"No, I don't!" Tony exclaimed, his own voice continuing to rise. "But if talking to the curator will get a little peace and quiet around here, is that so bad?"
Everyone whirled at the new voice. J.D. Worthington, the curator of the museum, was standing in the doorway of the murder room. He walked towards the group with purpose and indignation.
Now Siska looked embarrassed. "Mr. Worthington," he said, trying to gather his bearings. "I'm terribly sorry about this. Mr. Kolchak and his editor arrived. . . ."
"And I have a question to ask you, sir!" Kolchak said, stepping forward.
"Concerning the mirror. I know, I heard." Mr. Worthington glowered at Kolchak through his monocle. "It's going to be picked up tomorrow. There was a delay in getting the proper people here."
"Sir, you can't let it go!" Kolchak cried. "Whoever comes to get it will be killed. It happened in the past—repeatedly! Mr. Constantine wanted the mirror destroyed—ground to dust—but it was never done. When it was cracked the other night, the evil inside it manifested in the reflection visible in it at the time—mine! That's what's been killing people in the museum!"
Mr. Worthington's already-deep frown somehow managed to deepen even more. "I know about your theories, Mr. Kolchak," he said. "And I'm assuming you know that Mr. Constantine believed in a curse. But he was always eccentric. You can't believe that anything he said actually had truth to it."
"You have to believe it!" Kolchak protested. "How many people are going to have to die before you'll all stop hiding your heads in the sand and wake up to what's going on around you?" He gestured around the room at the police and back to Mr. Worthington.
"I never intend to wake up to this," Mr. Worthington retorted.
"Under the circumstances, it's a perfectly logical explanation!" Kolchak cried. "Think about it! Think about all the witnesses who have said that they saw an image in a reflecting surface, but not a corresponding person—me—in the room itself! You can't say that I'm the only one telling you this idea, because you know very well I'm not! I didn't even start talking about it until these other people brought up what they saw!"
Mr. Worthington took a step back. Uncertainty passed across his features, followed in rapid succession by fear.
"See?" Kolchak said. "You know deep down that I'm right!"
Mr. Worthington turned away. ". . . Regardless, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you and Mr. Vincenzo to leave, Mr. Kolchak," he said. "Unless they're still needed for the case, Captain Siska."
"No," Siska hurried to reply. "We've confirmed that Mr. Kolchak wasn't anywhere near the museum at the time of the murder."
This only made Mr. Worthington look sicker. "If you will excuse me, gentlemen," he said. He brushed past the officer and entered his office.
Kolchak pointed after him. "See? See? He knows!"
Tony grabbed hold of his shoulders. "Okay, he knows," he said, steering Kolchak towards the door. "Come on, let's get out of here."
"August 28th, 11:35 P.M.
"Even though the meeting with Captain Siska had not gone well, I considered it a triumph. Mr. Worthington, the curator, knew I was telling the truth. It was a bonus for me, especially considering how the rest of the night would play out. I had had quite enough of my murderous double. Once the crime scene emptied for the night, I had plans of my own."
"Kolchak, what are you doing? Why are you taking Ron's blender? Kolchak!"
Tony had followed a determined Kolchak back into the INS building, where he was promptly lifting the Total Blender, cord and all, and turning to go back outside.
"I'm going to try a little experiment of my own, Tony," Kolchak replied. "I'm going to see if mirror shards will blend into dust!"
Tony stopped short in utter shocked horror. "No. No. Oh for Heaven's sake, Kolchak!" he cried, throwing his hands in the air.
"What? You heard what I told Worthington back at the museum. It's the best way to get rid of the bad-luck curse." Kolchak marched through the door and down the hall to the building's outside doors. "When the mirror is ground up the reflection is gone."
"But it's been traveling all over the museum!" Tony protested.
"Most likely because of the cracked mirror!" Kolchak said. "The mirror is cursed in and of itself. That's why Constantine wanted to grind it up. If it's done now, the reflection will lose its home base, its 'lifeblood', so to speak. I'm positive that will destroy it for good!"
"Kolchak, do you know how much trouble you're going to get into for pulverizing the mirror?" Tony cried. "Not to mention breaking and entering!"
"Mr. Constantine would thank me for finally fulfilling his wishes," Kolchak said. "And I'm starting to suspect Mr. Worthington will as well. Tony, you worry too much!"
"Too much?" Tony wailed. "At times like this I don't think I worry enough! Kolchak, if we end up responsible for paying for that mirror . . . !"
"Then it will be worth it!" Kolchak said. "My name will be cleared and no one else will die!"
"And we'll both be admitted to the crazy house!" Tony retorted. He headed back towards the INS offices. "I don't want any part of this, Kolchak. Do you hear me?"
"Fine, fine." Kolchak waved a dismissive hand in his direction. "I was planning I'd be taking care of this myself anyway."
"Good!" Tony hauled open the door, about to disappear inside. But for some reason, something stopped him. He glanced over his shoulder at Kolchak, who also seemed to be hesitating.
At last Kolchak looked up. "Tony?" he ventured.
"What is it?" Tony grumbled.
"If I'm not back in . . . let's say an hour . . . maybe you'd better come to the museum." Now Kolchak was dead serious.
Tony let go of the door. Something about that tone of voice worried him. "What are you talking about, Kolchak?" he demanded.
"Maybe nothing," Kolchak said. "Just . . . remember what I said. Alright, Tony?"
"Alright." Tony pulled open the door again. But he lingered, watching as Kolchak hurried through the outside doors and to his car. There was an eerie feeling in the air, as though it was the last time Tony would see the stubborn reporter.
He stormed inside, letting the door swing shut behind him. "They'll probably lock him up and throw away the key," he muttered to the empty halls. He wanted to get away from that feeling, as far away as possible. But it continued to hound him, even as he passed back into his office.
He glanced at the clock. It was going to be a long hour.
The Constantine manor was silent and empty when Kolchak drove up the street and parked by a dark bush at the edge of the property. The only illumination came from the dim nightlights across various parts of the ceiling.
Kolchak exited and then reached into the backseat, pulling out the blender as well as a sledgehammer and a small sack. The latter he hung on his arm as he balanced the heavy objects on his journey away from the car and through the shadows to the backdoor of the house. He rested them against the wall while he picked the lock and eased the door open. When all was silent, he hauled the tools inside with him.
The halls were eerie in the low light. There was no telling where that thing was hiding. It could be watching him from anywhere. Every few feet he whirled, staring at glass frames and cases. But there was never any cruel reflection within them.
It was only when he reached the den that he saw it. "Holy . . ." he breathed. It was traveling through the reflective surfaces in the room, not seeming to have noticed him. First it was in one picture frame, then another.
Never taking his eyes off it Kolchak laid the blender and the hammer on the floor, then straightened and raised his camera. He snapped a picture, then a couple more. Hurriedly he set the device in the hall before advancing further into the room.
At last the reflection arrived back in the mirror. It began to pace back and forth, seeming to be in deep thought. Could it really think and reason things out? Or did it only have two goals—killing and staying alive? That was more likely. It looked like a restless wild animal.
Kolchak looked to the photographs on the wall. He would have to remove them, and quickly; he could not allow it to have any reflective surface that it could jump into for escape. And there was also a clock on the desk he would have to take away.
Continually looking over his shoulder at the mirror, he pulled the frames down one by one and balanced them in his arms. If he was spotted now, and the reflection had time to leap into one of the picture frames, it could be disastrous. He might be killed before he could even start destroying the mirror. His hands shaking, he set the pictures in the hall and went back for the clock.
As he reached for it the reflection came to attention. It looked to him, its visage twisted in rage. Then it lunged.
Kolchak yelped in fear and shock. Half out of instinct he launched the clock at the mirror. Even if the reflection passed into the clock, if the mirror shattered that might prevent it from moving any farther. At least, he was certainly praying for that.
He turned and fled for the doors, pulling them shut as the timepiece struck the mirror. The sound of breaking glass filled the room.
He spun back to the mirror, pulling on the protective goggles and thick gloves that he had prepared in the sack. As his hands still vaguely trembled, he reached for the sledgehammer.
"Alright, my evil twin," he said, "you have committed your last murder. I'm not about to allow you to keep sullying my name with your crimes!"
His reflection, visible in the part of the mirror that was still intact, stiffened. It realized what was coming. And Kolchak had trapped it in the room; it could not flee the destruction.
Kolchak ran at the mirror, his weapon held high. The hammer smashed into the reflective surface, sending pieces flying in all directions. Kolchak kept swinging it until the entire looking-glass was in shambles at his feet. Then he abandoned the weapon, letting it thump to the floor.
Gingerly he lifted the pieces of the mirror, depositing them within the blender. "And now, that eternal question—will it blend?" he asked, deadpan. He plugged it in and pressed the buttons. As it roared to life the mirror shards spun in a wild dance. Within moments they were crunching sickeningly—the death cry of his malevolent counterpart.
"Yes, it will," he noted. "Maybe I should have planned to send this footage to the guys at the website."
A sharp pain stabbed into his heart. He gasped, nearly falling forward over the blender. It was as he had feared. Gritting his teeth and holding the lid down, he forced himself to go on. He had to see that the mirror was entirely destroyed, no matter what.
No matter what. . . .
The crunching sound soon became monotonous, an endless round of noise mixed with the pounding of his heart. Only when every particle had become a pile of dust did he finally let go. He pulled off the goggles and the gloves, dropping them to the floor. He followed suit in the next moment.
He was dying.
Kolchak was now sprawled on the floor, still gripping the tape recorder like a lifeline. Around him, the red-themed room was in a complete uproar from his dismantling of it.
"And so thus brought an end to my anthropomorphic, murderous reflection," he gasped. "From now on my dear double in the mirror should be back to its normal state . . . if I'm around to see it. You see, my reflection killed by destroying the reflections of others. And now that I've destroyed it, well . . . I can't say what's going to become of me."
He blinked rapidly, fighting to ward off the darkness that was threatening to encroach upon his senses. "If these are indeed my final moments, as I'm becoming increasingly certain they are, then please, whoever finds this tape recorder, turn it over to Tony Vincenzo. He can do with it as he chooses, but if he would be willing to do his reporter one last favor, then . . ." His hand trembled. The electronic device slipped to the floor but continued to record. "Then, Tony, tell the world what really happened to me," he implored. "Publish my last story. Let them know I didn't kill those people."
Oblivion fell over him as a dark blanket. His body slackened, sinking further into the deep-red carpet.
At the same moment, the tape recorder clicked off. It had reached the end of the tape.
Footsteps echoed down the hall moments before the doors were thrown open. Tony Vincenzo burst into the room, stopping for only a moment before catching sight of the motionless body on the floor.
"Carl!" he exclaimed. "Carl!" He ran over, dropping to his knees next to the form. "Carl, come on! Answer me!" He grabbed Kolchak's shoulder, his fingers pressing against the seersucker material of the old suit coat. Kolchak's skin was chalk-white and much too deathlike.
The feeling Tony had experienced back at INS had not been mere anxiety over the case, as he had tried to believe. He had watched the clock in his office, tense and unable to concentrate. Before the full hour had even passed he had given up and left, driving in an increasing panic to the museum. And it looked like even at that he had not come soon enough.
"What happened?" he cried. "What did you do? What did that thing do to you?"
Catching the reflection of the light overhead, his watch beamed on Kolchak's face. Ever so slowly, the color started to return to the reporter's skin.
Tony did not notice. His hands shook as he loosened Kolchak's tie and undid the top buttons of his shirt. "Come on, Carl, you have to wake up!" he snarled, bending down to check for breath. "You are not going to do this to me! Aren't you even thinking about the scandal your death will cause, especially now? Everyone'll think you committed suicide because you felt so horrible about the murders! They'll still think you were responsible somehow! And where will that leave me? Are you just going to leave me holding the bag? Are you going to waltz off to Heaven, or wherever you're going, and forget all about your obligations here on Earth?" He slammed his hand on the floor. "Kolchak!"
Kolchak stirred, consciousness tugging at the edge of the darkness that had enveloped him. Was he still alive? Could he still be, even after the destruction of his bloodthirsty reflection? He must be, if he was not hearing things.
"Tony?" he mumbled. "Is that you?"
Tony snapped to attention, his panicked and grieving ranting forgotten. "Carl!" he cried, leaning forward. "You're alive! Can you hear me?"
Kolchak managed to force his eyes open. "Right now I can't hear anything but you," he said.
Tony rocked back. "He's going to be just fine," he muttered. If Carl Kolchak's sarcasm was intact, then all was right with the world.
Kolchak came further awake now. "Tony, what did you do?" he demanded as he shakily tried to push himself upright. "I thought my goose was cooked for sure."
"Do?" Tony echoed. "I didn't do anything! I came in and you were sprawled on the floor looking like death warmed over! But then you popped awake!"
The glint from the watch caught Kolchak's eye. "Of course!" he exclaimed.
Tony gawked at him. "Of course what?" he shot back.
"Your watch, Vincenzo!" Kolchak said. "In order to kill my reflection I had to remove all reflective objects in the room except for the mirror, which I shattered and ground into dust. But by killing my reflection I'd die, just like all the other victims whose reflections were killed." He clapped his hands on Tony's shoulders. "And then you came in with your wonderful, reflective watch! You saved my life, Tony!"
Tony could only continue to stare. "I saved your life," he echoed.
"You saved my life," Kolchak nodded.
"With my watch."
"With your watch." Kolchak grinned. "Since the evil reflection is gone, the watch's presence restored my good reflection. This is great!"
"Great?" Tony gestured at the room. "Look what you've done here! You broke into the museum. You demolished a priceless ancient mirror! And you realize you're still being watched by the police on suspicion of murder? They can't prove it was you, but they can't prove it wasn't, either! And with that . . . thing destroyed, there is no proof!"
"But there is, Tony!" Kolchak declared. "I took some pictures of it before leaving my camera out in the hall. The police have to believe me! It couldn't be me in the picture, because I'm taking it! The camera isn't in the picture, as it would be if it were a normal reflection, copying what I was doing! My reflection was just doing whatever it felt like in the pictures."
Tony slowly shook his head. "For your sake, Kolchak, you'd better be right," he said.
"And for my sake, I was." Kolchak smiled to himself as he leaned back in his chair at the INS offices. "The police didn't know what to make of the photographs I'd taken. And of course, they confiscated them and refused to release them to the public.
"But I've been cleared of all charges. The newspapers ran a story on me being completely dropped as a suspect and also said that the true killer had been apprehended. They claimed his identity was unknown. They know the truth as well as I do, but they'll never let it get out.
"Mr. Worthington didn't press charges about the mirror being destroyed or about me going into the museum after hours. Though he didn't approach the subject directly, he told me that the mirror had really been an eyesore and he was glad to be rid of it. I'm certain he is.
"Ron Updyke wasn't that pleased about what I did with the Total Blender. I tried to convince him that the experiment was very effective and could only help his column. I'm not sure he bought it. But oh well; those are the breaks."
He sat up straight. "I just have one bit of advice. If you are ever in the Constantine manor and you happen to break a mirror, destroy it completely as fast as you can, no matter what you have to do. I'm hoping that by pulverizing the mirror in the den I've shattered the curse in the house for good, but why take any chances? If you break a mirror in the Constantine manor and the curse still is in effect, not only will you bring bad luck to yourself, but to everyone who comes in contact with your reflection. And wouldn't paying for a completely new mirror be a much less damaging price?"
He hit the Stop button. Gathering the tape recorder and the camera, he stood and headed for the door, picking up his hat on the way.
A vague reflection shone in the window of Tony's office as he passed. He was more than pleased to note that it only did exactly as he was doing.