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Watching his wife die slowly was not easy, but it was Carson Dillon’s cross to bear.  He knew everyone had something - that one thing in their life they had to deal with.  No matter how well off or happy a person appeared to be, Carson knew there was always something lurking in the shadows.  There were always skeletons in the closet, and somehow Carson was able to pinpoint what those dark secrets were, despite not knowing the person.  It was his gift.  His neighbor across the street in their quiet upper middle class subdivision, who drove the nice sports car and the wife easily ten years his junior, had his own cross to bear.  His teenage son was addicted to pain killers and had been through rehab four different times, nearly bankrupting the family.  The young intern at his office who bragged about all the cute college girls he was having sex with every weekend – he too had an albatross swinging from his neck.  His father had a thing for young girls and was doing a 20-year-bit in state prison.  The shame it brought upon the family was devastating.  No matter who it was, they all had their cross, and for Carson, it was his dying wife.

Miriam had been dying a little bit at a time now for the past year, and he was helpless to do more than watch and hope it would be over soon.  He didn’t know what was worse:  the incessant coughing, the moaning, or the wheezing while she slept.  Those were the sounds of cancer as it slowly crept through her body, devouring everything good in its path.  She didn’t sleep much anymore, and neither did he.  Miriam slept in short naps for a half hour at a time, so she was sleep deprived and cranky much of the time.  

Carson loved to read, and despite having more free time as her medical condition kept them homebound, it was nearly impossible for him to concentrate with all the noise.  The coughing and wheezing was almost maddening, not to mention the endless hum of the oxygen concentrator she was connected to with an air hose.  There was no escaping the noise, no matter where he went in their 3,000 square foot home.  His only solace was going to work, but as his retirement loomed large in the next year or so, Carson couldn’t imagine what it would be like to watch her die around the clock.  As a busy architect, he didn’t really have any hobbies.  They never had children, as they both devoted their lives to their careers.  Miriam was a college English professor before she got sick.  Now that was a faded memory, since her home office was untouched for the past year at least.

A year ago they got the diagnosis from her oncologist.  It was lung cancer – stage four and inoperable.  Thirty plus years of smoking had finally come home to roost. The cancer had metastasized, and there were dozens of tumors throughout her now frail body – four in the brain alone. She was given the choice of an extremely aggressive chemo regimen and radiation, but that would only buy her a few more months.  Miriam didn’t want that.  She wanted to enjoy the final few months of her life at home with her husband, and not be stuck in a cancer center with an IV drip, her hair falling out in clumps, and puking into a bucket.  She didn’t even want to quit smoking.  Carson told her it was her decision to make, and he would stand by her no matter what.  Yet that was before he saw her in the current state she was in – a gaunt agonized face, coughing day and night - slipping away with the urgency of a glacier moving uphill and an ashtray heaping over with cigarette butts.

Now he stood over her while she slept.  He had a large pillow in his hands and knew that it was time to put Miriam out of her misery – and his.  The wheezing and heavy congestion in her lungs was like grating nails across a chalkboard to Carson.  He wanted to end this.  His vows for better or worse certainly didn’t pertain to this torture of watching the woman he loved die a little bit at a time.  He shoved the pillow into her face, and in her emaciated state, she barely put up a fight.  There was a little resistance, yet he pushed harder.  Tears were streaming down his face, and despite his resilience in putting her down, he turned his head to the side, so as not to watch her final death throes - bony arms swinging back and forth to no avail.  It was over in less than two minutes.  

Carson shut off the oxygen concentrator and marveled at the quiet.  No hacking or wheezing and no purring of the concentrator.  He then went back to his recliner and watched her for a few minutes, making sure she wasn’t coming back to life.  She looked peaceful – like she was sleeping - and Carson felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest.  Miriam could finally rest, and he finally had quiet.  He looked at the bookcase next to his chair in the living room and picked out a book to read, basking in the silence.

The following day Carson realized that he had to do something with Miriam.  He covered her with a blanket but knew before long she would start to smell, and he had to act quickly.  He was afraid to call the police.  Carson had seen enough of the police shows on TV where the husband was always the first one they assumed killed the wife.  That’s when he realized he really hadn’t given it enough thought.  Smothering his wife with a pillow was probably not the smartest thing.  The police would know she didn’t die naturally.  They would likely think he had a girlfriend on the side or was trying to get rid of his wife for insurance money.  It was true that he had a policy for her, as well as one on himself, through his job at Whelan and Whelan.  He knew of course there was no girlfriend.  Carson was nearing retirement age and didn’t need another woman in his life. The thought of it made his head spin.  He also knew that the insurance policy was the furthest thing on his mind right now, but the police would think that way.  It was their job to think of that sort of thing.  There was no way he could call the police.  There would be too many questions.

He also realized that today was Saturday and the cleaning woman would be by on Thursday to do her weekly top to bottom treatment of the house.  When Miriam got sick, Carson hired a cleaning lady to come by and clean to take that burden off Miriam and because he did like a clean house.  She also fixed some simple meals that Carson could freeze and re-heat later for himself.  He hired Jessa Carthage, an attractive 25-year-old college student, on a referral from a friend of theirs.  He just enjoyed the company of a vibrant young woman so full of life that provided him a convenient distraction from reality.  The fact she really did a great job cleaning the house top to bottom was a bonus.  Even the beautiful Jessa had her own cross to bear, though to look at her you would never know.  She had grown up with an alcoholic mother who ran out on her and her two younger brothers, leaving them with a father who struggled to make ends meet. 

Carson knew he had to do something with Miriam.  He decided that getting rid of her was risky business, so Carson decided the best thing to do was to hide her somewhere in the house.  He decided on the perfect place.  Carson figured stashing her somewhere obvious was probably the least likely place anyone would decide to look.


2


Almost two weeks had passed since Miriam died.  Carson survived his weekly visit from Jessa without her noticing anything was different about the house.  Carson told her that Miriam was feeling better and went to visit some family for a couple weeks.  Jessa didn’t seem to think that was strange, and so she went about her usual cleaning and cooking before leaving.  Carson felt cocky about things – like he had come up with the perfect murder and was going to get away with it.  Miriam had family all over the US and he figured that would buy him quite a bit of time before he needed to worry about what to tell people that asked about his wife.

The following day he started to hear strange noises.  The noises were faint at first, but as the days went by, they got louder.  It was difficult for him to pinpoint what the noises were, but to him it sounded almost like white noise.  It was as if someone had a radio on very low volume, and it wasn’t tuned to a station that came in.  As he sat in his recliner reading, the white noise continued.  It went on day and night, and it got to the point that he was unable to sleep at all.  As he lay in bed, the sound was coming from all directions.  It was in the ceiling.  It was in the walls and coming up from the floors.  He ran about the house with a flashlight in the small hours, desperately trying to figure out what the noise was.  He used a small hammer to tap on the walls to see if maybe he could find a mouse or some sort of animal that was making the noise, but it droned on.  

After almost a week of the noise, it changed from a soft white noise to the sound of a slurping or sucking sound.  He couldn’t place the sound, and it was driving him mad.  It didn’t make any sense.  Carson even went to the main electrical panel in the house and turned everything off, and still he heard the white noise and the strange slurping sounds.  No matter what he did, he was not able to find the source of the noises that kept him from reading or sleeping.  Something had to be done!

Carson decided the best thing to do was to go next door to talk to his neighbor who was a maintenance man at the high school in town.  Surely he would be able to figure it out.  Carson patiently waited until 4pm, when the neighbor said he would stop by after work and see if he could find the source of the noise.


3


Almost a year had passed and now Carson Dillon found himself in very different surroundings.  He was quietly sitting by a window reading a book.  He seemed very content to look at him absent his new living arrangement.  Two doctors were standing on the other side of the room, talking amongst themselves about his status.  They were both psychiatrists at the Benton Harbor Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  The wing of the hospital they were in was very secure, despite the heavily medicated patients walking around in pajamas and playing checkers, reading books, or watching TV in the day room.  There were bars on the windows and locked doors to not allow them to leave, but inside this special wing, you would really have no idea of the various disturbing reasons why these patients were now calling this home.

For Carson it was a rather sad story.  He was suffering from dementia.  He had been for the last eight years.  His wife Miriam had passed away nearly 20 years before after a battle with lung cancer, and he had a very hard time dealing with life on his own.  There were dozens of pictures of her on the walls.  When the dementia set in, family members got him housed at a special nursing home where he was able to live in an apartment, with staff checking on him often.  As the dementia got worse, the staff would check on him daily until eventually he would be placed in the medical wing of the home and be under constant care.

A year before, Carson was found pounding on the door of the elderly couple next door to his apartment, raving about something in his walls making a strange noise.  The couple was concerned and alerted the security staff who promptly showed up to try and alleviate the situation.  Upon arrival at his apartment, the security guards were taken aback by an overwhelming odor and the fact the apartment was in complete disarray.  There were dishes piled high in the sink, furniture tipped over and various other things strewn about the small one-bedroom unit.   Carson was raving about a noise he had been experiencing, but the security guards could not hear it.  When they tried to subdue Carson, he resisted – punching one of the guards in the face and then reaching for a knife on the kitchen counter before being thrown down and handcuffed.  

Police were called and took Carson into custody.  The medical staff at the home medicated him and allowed the police to take him to jail for the assault.  The smell in the apartment was overpowering and upon further investigation, the police found the source of the odor coming from inside the wall behind the recliner that Carson enjoyed sitting in.  They promptly cut into the drywall and pulled it out as a putrid smell poured from the gaping hole in the wall, causing one of the officers to run into the bathroom to throw up.

What they found in the wall was the decomposing body of Jessa Carthage, a nurse at the home that had recently gone missing.  Jessa was making daily visits to Carson and many residents at the home, and her husband filed a missing person report when she didn’t come home after work.  Her body was wedged between two studs in the wall and covered in maggots that, when the room was silent, could be heard eating at her flesh – it was a slurping and sucking noise.  Upon closer examination, the drywall had been cut away, her body set inside the wall and the drywall put back.  With all the clutter in his apartment and the recliner wedged up to the wall, it was difficult to see in low lighting.  

Now Carson’s cross to bear was not his wife, but a life sentence at the Benton Harbor Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  In an odd way he didn’t seem to mind much at all.  His advanced dementia allowed him to forget killing the young nurse and stuffing her in the wall.  He also forgot about his wife and her painful battle with cancer 20 years ago.  He kept a picture of Miriam next to his bed and gave her a kiss every night.  He wondered why she never came by to visit him.  He did have his books and plenty of time to read in the stifling silence of the