The Colonial Diner had long been my favorite haunt. Long, rainy nights on patrol always bring me back to that one night; a night I’ll never forget. Much like a bad dream, it still feels like it never ended.
It started innocently enough, a steaming hot cup of coffee at the bustling 24-hour diner; a night a lot like tonight. We sat at this exact table, our table. I sat across from that man, my partner, Tommy Todds.
Our usual booth was the small one closest to the kitchen entrance, so close to the counter you could almost reach the coffee pot to refill your own cup. It was specially reserved for us, and we liked it that way. It kept us off to the side, out of the limelight, and allowed us that little extra peace and quiet before the inevitable crackle and buzz of the radio.
After our second or third refill, the hiss of the radio jolted me from the day’s crossword. Alarm company call, possible burglary in progress. 214 Pike. 214 Pike? Hadn’t I heard that before? The memory was there, but too far off in the distance of my mind.
We took one last sip, threw a couple bucks down for Tilly, and hopped behind the wheel of the cruiser. I hit the gas and illuminated the night with the blue and red flashes from our patrol car. Pike street sat a few miles outside of town, beyond the comforts of the village’s friendly neighborhoods. I knew the backroads in and out, and we arrived quickly, sinking into the darkness of the rural woodlands.
A break-in at one of these remote properties wasn’t unrealistic, the truth was, it was inevitable. The local economy wasn’t what it used to be, and a segment of the lower income population was becoming more and more desperate. You almost couldn’t blame them. Even though Tommy and I understood, we knew we’d have to be careful.
Our patrol car screeched to a halt in front of the large, imposing Victorian style home, splashing a wave of water onto the overgrown grass. I instantly remembered why 214 Pike was familiar. It was the old Walker house. So many rumors, yet always unoccupied.
The half-moon avoided the clouds just enough to shine through the darkness and show us to the home’s front door. The long walk from curb to porch left our boots muddy and soaked through, a fact we quickly forgot. Whoever let themselves in hadn’t bothered to close it behind them.
Tommy drew his pistol and our years of partnership kicked in. There wasn’t a need to speak; we knew each other better than that. We only needed to listen with our eyes. He led the way in, flicking on his flashlight and scanning the room, arms raised and weapon at the ready.
The house, quiet and unadorned, showed no signs of looting or vandalism. Dust covered everything, from the small tables of ceramics to the grand piano in the corner. The only sound was the scrapping of leaves as they blew across the wood floors, dancing in the brief rushes of wind still drifting in through the open door.
We circled the main floor, finding nothing before we climbed the stairs. I cringed with every creak of the loose treads, relieved to reach the second floor. If someone was hiding up there, I had little doubt they would have heard us coming.
A long hallway greeted us, a scattering of doors on both sides. We each took a side and dipped into the rooms as we went. Nothing. Room by room we found them empty. No intruders, no furniture, no nothing.
The last door stood before us, an ominous vision after our search of the house. It was possible that the front door had been left slightly ajar, just enough to let the wind blow it open. But something in the air told us we weren’t alone. Call it a cop’s sixth sense, call it intuition; call it whatever the hell you want. We both knew it was too early to holster our weapons.
Tommy held three fingers up in front of the closed door, counting down to our rush. As he dropped his last finger, I twisted the knob and we barged in. Todds, in the heat of the moment, saw movement and the flash of a weapon pointed back at him in the dim light of the large room. He let a round loose and the gunshot echoed through the room, filling the space around us with the smell of gunpowder.
The chaos of the moment settled, and we found ourselves confronted with… ourselves. The room, empty of all furniture and decoration, was lined from floor to ceiling with mirrors.
“Holy shit, are you okay?” A blush of embarrassment colored Tommy’s face.
He nodded back, holstering his weapon.
Todds scanned left to right with his flashlight, the light bouncing around the windowless room. I shook my head and laughed. “Jesus. What a fucked-up night.”
Tommy nodded again, approaching the mirror where he had fired his weapon. I can still hear his next words in my head.
“There’s no hole.”
“There. Is. No. Fucking. Hole.”
In our years of working together I had never seen fear on that man’s face. I supposed there was a first time for everything.
He reached out, his hand nearing its own reflection when his flashlight flickered and went out. In the split second between darkness and the reemergence of light as his flashlight came back to life, Tommy let out a scream I still hear in my silence of night.
I bounded forward, grabbing him by the back of his wet raincoat and spinning him around to face me. For a split second, I saw both Tommy and his reflection looking back at me. His physical body wore a blank, confused look on its face. The reflection? It wore a look of panic and fear.
After several blinks, Tommy’s body nodded towards the door. “Well, I guess it was just the wind.”
“Todds, what the hell man. Two seconds ago, you just let out a scream. Now you’re ready to go?”
“I just got spooked. Don’t bust my balls, man. Come on.” Without another word he walked out of the room, leaving me behind.
As I left, I turned back one last time. Staring back at me from the mirror wasn’t my own reflection, but an image of Tommy. He wore the same panicked and terrified look the reflection had before.
I jumped as a hand landed on my shoulder, drawing my attention away.
“Come on. I need another cup of coffee.”
I nodded to Tommy, my stomach twisting in knots. I turned back again, but the only thing looking back was my reflection through the unmarked glass. He was right, there was no bullet hole. We took a slow walk back to the patrol car, radioed in the false alarm, and headed back to the diner to dry off and have another cup of coffee.
The supernatural was a concept that never computed for me. Years in police work taught me that there were no coincidences, no miracles, no mysteries. There was a logical explanation to everything; and for the most part, I’ve found that to be true.
But every once in a while, sitting at the diner on a stormy night, I still catch a look on Tommy’s face, a look that sends those same shivers up my spine. It’s an otherworldly grin, or a flash of red in his eyes. It’s gone a moment later, but I’m sure it was there.
I haven’t been back to 214 Pike. But I do wonder if I should drive over, let myself in, and find my way to the room at the end of the hall. Perhaps, just maybe, I’ll find the real Tommy there, still trapped behind the mirror. Banging and yelling from the prison beyond.
The logical part of my brain tells me I’m crazy, that I’m paranoid, that cracks in my sanity are beginning to show. But my gut? It tells me otherwise. I suppose, in the end, my biggest fear is finding him trapped behind that mirror. I think I’d rather not know, because if he’s stuck in there then who in the hell, or what in the hell, have I been working with since?
Copyright Ryan Meier, 2019