CH. 1


Early August

Although my story is difficult to believe, I am writing it in order to make known facts involving my investigation of the disappearance of Sandra Breyer in Ravensgate, Michigan.

My name is Cole Mendoza. I own and run a private security company based in Detroit. We provide clients with personal bodyguard services and advanced operation solutions. I am documenting events from my perspective and how I have experienced them. I speak for no one else involved in the incidents that took place.

It had been months since I last saw Sandy. It was as if she disappeared right from inside the house. Things like that don’t happen, yet that’s how it appeared.

Authorities gained access to the house, inspected it, and found nothing. No evidence of struggle, breaking and entering, or foul play. Not a thing was stolen; all her clothes, money, jewelry, and valuables were still inside. Her purse sat on the dining room table containing credit cards and her driver’s license. Her car was still in the garage with a full tank, the TV and lights were still on, and a half-eaten plate of spoiled food sat on the kitchen table. All the doors and windows were locked from the inside.

The police investigated but had no leads. They concluded that she’d left of her own accord and didn’t want to be found.

I’ve known her since I was six. Sandy was a friend of the family who lived next door to us in Southwest Detroit, a vibrant and culturally diverse urban area. There exists a large Hispanic community, from which I hail, along with African-Americans, Caucasians and Middle Easterners. The neighborhood is rough but there are a lot of good people there and we embrace each other’s cultures.

Sandy was like my second mom. On Thanksgiving and Christmas she would come over for dinner because she was always alone. When I was around ten I would go to her house to play checkers with her. She would tousle my dark brown hair every time she let me win. I knew she enjoyed the company.

Years later she met a guy named Peter at bingo and they eventually got hitched. I was happy for her. At first. She managed to survive the abusive marriage which consumed much of her later years. He barely let her out of the house.

I remember walking into the hospital room after a severe beating Peter put on her. She lay there in the bed, her light brown hair hanging down, covering her swollen and bruised face.

“This has to stop, Sandy,” I said. “Press charges. Or I can take care of things for you. Just say the word.”

“No. No more violence,” she said frailly. Sandy sighed and paused before she spoke. “You’re right, Cole. This has to stop. I’ll press charges.”

Finally fed up with black eyes and bruises, she left Peter, and he went to jail for assault and battery. Sandy started brand new, using her maiden name: Breyer.

In March, a couple of months after the divorce, she moved into another house, the kind her husband would never think of living in.

“It’s a Victorian!” Sandy said over the cell. “I’ve moved to Ravensgate.”

“Ravensgate? Never heard of it. Where is it?” I asked.

“About a six-hour drive north of Detroit. It sits along a river.”

“I didn’t know you were looking to move.”

“There are too many memories in that old house. I needed to move on. I got a good land contract deal. In some way, I feel I need to be here.”

It was the first time in her life she made a big, spontaneous decision, one of the rare times I heard her sound so happy. After getting settled in Ravensgate, Sandy invited me over for a tour of the new house. I was eager to check the thing out.

I took the six-hour drive north. Ravensgate’s population was around three thousand. I drove through the small downtown area on Main Street, the atmosphere was somber with its small old-fashioned shops. Large fields, barns and roadkill were abundant along the winding dirt roads outside of town on the way to her house. I spider-webbed through the grassy rural area until I found the large red Victorian which was situated back from Arkham Road. A wide driveway came off from the road and led to the right side of the house and into the backyard up to the garage.

The house was surrounded by woods, the nearest neighbor blocks away. A tall green spruce stood on the lawn to the left, casting a pleasant shade on the grass. Oddly, jagged rocks jutted up from the ground, surrounding the edge of the lawn.

The porch was high and led directly to a dark oak front door. The banister was old and needed to be replaced. Paint peeled from the walls. The house needed work.

Sandy opened the door with a smile, waiting enthusiastically as I pulled into the driveway. With her soft features aglow and blonde hair touching her shoulders, she greeted me as I walked up the porch steps.

“Cole! Good to see you! It’s been so long!” Sandy said with a hug.

“Thanks for inviting me. Blonde, huh? Nice. I like it.”

“You know, making changes and all.”

“Working on a tan too I see. Catching a lot of rays out here?”

“I am. Lots of yard work in the sun. I’ll have your tan complexion soon, Cole.”

I hung my jacket on a hook on the wall in the foyer.

“How’s the private security business?” Sandy asked.

“It’s good. Black Wolf Security is growing. We just moved headquarters downtown.”

“I’ve always worried about you doing that kind of work, Cole. Be careful,” Sandy said as she led me into the large main hall. Bulky gold frames surrounded paintings that adorned the light beige walls.

“Don’t you just love it?” Sandy asked.

“It’s great,” I replied. Surprisingly, I was telling the truth. Somehow the old style was appealing.

In the main hall against the left wall was a long dark wood staircase with a landing at the top, steps continued to the right leading up to the second floor. To the immediate right of the hall, I was escorted into a large living room with primrose-colored walls, on which hung more paintings. Two French doors on either side of the wide doorway swung inward, resting against the walls.

A large mahogany fireplace with gold trim lay against the wall directly ahead with two gold candle holders on the mantel, each containing a long, unburned white candle. The room was long, stretching almost to the back end of the house. The old Victorian-style furniture matched the room.

“This isn’t your old furniture,” I said, touching the couch.

“I sold mine,” she replied with a smile. “All of the major furniture came with the house, even the paintings.”

I walked up to a painting that hung above the fireplace. It was an oil on canvas of the same red Victorian in which we stood. The sky was gray, and the mood of the piece gloomy, not unlike Ravensgate itself.

We stepped back into the main hall, made a sharp right, and walked down the hall passing more paintings.
We entered a room at the very back end of the house with light blue walls and decorated with large green plants. It reminded me of a small jungle, foliage sprouting

around the edge of the room. In the center was a white wicker chair, a small table next to it, and a footrest in front. A huge grandfather clock stood against the only wall not surrounded by plants.

“This is my sanctuary,” Sandy said. “My place to unwind and have tea. I’m going to buy an aquarium and put it in here.” She pointed to a bare table, next to the grandfather clock.

“A good place to de-stress,” I added, then gazed out the back window of her sanctuary into the backyard. The brick garage sat far at the back end of the yard near the edge of forest.

We exited the sanctuary back into the main hall, making another right turn. The bathroom was next to the sanctuary. The tub was old fashioned with four clawed feet. Paintings hung on the walls in there, too.

Next to the bathroom, we entered a grand kitchen. Large white cabinets with glass doors lined the sunshine-yellow walls all the way up to the ceiling. The countertop looked like an expensive marble, and the back door led to an enclosed porch.

To the immediate left was another doorway. We went through it and ended up in the dining room, which was painted a light mint color. A glass dining table was placed in the center, a crystal chandelier hung above it. Again, more paintings.

A final left took us back into the main hall in front of the staircase where we started, which separated the living and dining room. We had just traveled in the shape of a square.

“Let’s have a look at the upstairs,” Sandy suggested.

Expectedly, the steps creaked as she led me up to the landing then made a sharp right up the smaller flight of stairs. The main hall on the second floor was in the shape of a hook, the empty space of the stairwell in the center. There were five closed doors along the shape of the hall.

Sandy revealed the master bedroom, which contained a king-sized bed with a dark oak frame; the guest bedroom with a twin bed; a large bathroom with another four-legged bathtub; and a cozy study. The walls of the study were lined with shelves full of books, and an oak desk sat near the far wall, accompanied by a black leather chair.

“What’s behind the last door on the end?” I asked.

“That’s just the attic. It needs to be cleaned out. Lots of junk and clutter,” Sandy said. “You’re tall, Cole. Six feet, right?

“Yeah, six feet even.”

“Maybe you can help me change a light bulb up there later. It keeps going out. I think maybe it’s the socket.”

After the upstairs tour, we headed back down. I set a foot on the first step, and a heavy creak came from the ceiling above. We both paused and looked up toward the noise. Within seconds came another, heavier creak, then one more. Someone was walking in the attic