Say "Cheese" – Part 5

“Like the other twelve.  One of them was a picture of some old house.  A big, fancy one from a long time ago, but now it’s all run-down and ratty.  Anyway, the old guy’s wife was number thirteen.  So in she went.  Her soul, I mean.”

“What makes you think it wasn’t really a stroke, Mel?”

She sighed.  “See?  I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”

“No, no,” Tollin said, her voice soft.  “That’s not fair.  I’m a doctor, Mel, and I’ve seen a lot of stroke victims.  Her symptoms fit the description perfectly.”

Mel nodded.  “Whatever.  Can you explain why she never had any symptoms until he developed her pic?”

“Strokes don’t always have symptoms, Melody.  They can be very sudden, and very catastrophic.”

Mel huffed an exasperated sigh.  “Okay.  It was a stroke then.  Fine.”

“Look, Mel, I’m not trying to condescend to you or tell you you’re wrong, I’m just saying, the autopsy would probably verify the cause of her death.  Did you find out what the medical examiner said?”

She shrugged.  “We didn’t … you know, that’s not something any of us can do.  We’re not family or anything.  We didn’t even know her.  And only Charlie knew him.  The teacher guy, I mean.”

Tollin rubbed her forehead in thought.  “Maybe I can get the record.  I can see what the M.E. found.”

Mel’s eyes narrowed and darted to her.  “Why?  What difference does it make?  She’s dead.  Buried.  They had the funeral.  The guy showed up at school until he gave the scary-ass pictures and the camera to Charlie, told him he never wanted to see it again, gives him this horrible story and leaves.  He quit, you know … I mean, the job at the school.  I don’t know anything else about it.  What happened with him, I mean.  He’s gone.  His wife’s dead.  And I bet he wouldn’t have trouble believing this camera took her soul, and developing the film killed her.

“That’s why.  That’s why I have to get this film to someone that can help me, can get the souls out and back … back into the people it stole them from.  I don’t know how.  I don’t know what I can do, how do you untake a picture??  But there has to be a way.  There has to be.”  Tears slid down her face again, and she wiped at them with angry, rough movements.

Tollin watched her for a moment.  “Has anyone else died because their picture was developed?”

Her bleary, red-rimmed eyes turned to Tollin.  “The bus driver.”

“Bus driver?  What bus driver?”

She sobbed a moment, then turned to face Tollin more fully.  “You know the production I told you about?  Well, when it closed after the weekend, the drama club took a few days off school.  You know, got permission and all that, ‘cause Mr. Penderson figured we’d earned it.  So we tell our teachers we’re out for a couple of days.  We closed on a Sunday, and went off to stay at a motel and just have some fun.  Mr. Penderson and his wife went along, you know, as chaperones and whatever.  We got permission slips signed, the whole deal.  It cost us a little bit of money, but we were jacked.  So that Sunday we closed, and the following Thursday night we leave.  We go to this nice hotel, you know, like a Marriott Suites or something, off of route 224, about thirty or forty miles away.  But it’s all country driving and really nice, a windy road, lots of trees … you know.”

Tollin nodded.  “I’ve been that way.  I’ve seen that hotel, actually.  The big tan one back from the highway.”

“Yeah, that’s it.  Well, I guess we got discounted rooms or something, ‘cause it wasn’t that expensive.  Heck, I paid for it myself, didn’t have to borrow money from my folks.”

Tollin smiled.  “It sounds like fun.”

2 thoughts on “Say "Cheese" – Part 5

  1. Thanks, Casey! I’m so glad to hear that. I love the hanging endings, too. The last one (“Picture This”) was the best of them, though, and it was a complete accident. LOML decided I should run with it, and I did.

    I’m so grateful you’ve read these. Thank you! 🙂

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