little shop was in an old turn of the century building... 'Balzac',
it said across the top, below the winged griffins of stone perched
on the roof. Old red brick walls, in need of cleaning, surrounded
the dusty show windows.
was the red blazer that had caught her eye. More a burgundy than
a scarlet, the headless mannequin wore it over a white blouse
with a froth of lace at her throat.
had been looking for a red one like that for months. She had never
noticed this little shop before. What luck that her courier delivery
had been right across the street from it. She would return here
tomorrow, on her day off, and see if it came in her size and inquire
about the price. She hoped it would be in the range of what she
back before she drove away, Annie marked the number mentally down.
It was number 17 Trinity Avenue, in the heart of the old part
of the city. These older buildings, she remembered someone telling
her, were what had been the original main street of the city.
There had been talk, recently, of tearing them down. They were
pretty much in disrepair, their alleyways jammed with junk. Some
of the places had been renovated, like the small pawn shop she
had just delivered to, but most were looking sadly in need of
on the freeway heading home, Annie daydreamed of the red blazer.
If all was in her favor, it would be the right size and a fair
price. Her exit came up and she took it, happily on her way home
now. She gave her Mustang a little more gas.
a movement to her right, Annie turned, and when she did, she slammed
the brakes on in a screech of tires and screamed in fright.
floating above the passenger seat, was a head, a head with no
body.. just a female head.
Annie stared, disbelieving, it turned slowly to face her.
red Mustang swerved to the right and came to a screeching halt
as the driver fainted dead away. The other traffic braked slightly
and continued on.
Sally opened her eyes and raised her head, the memory of what
she had seen came flooding back. Looking quickly around the inside
of her car, she saw nothing. She was alone, but alone with what?
the driver's door, she hurriedly got out and walked slowly around
her car. Peering inside, Annie saw nothing. Standing outside,
she was afraid to get back into her car, but she knew she would
have to. She couldn't stand on the shoulder of the road all night.
It was beginning to get dark, and it might be better to just grit
her teeth and drive on home.
in the world had she thought she had seen a face-- no, a whole
head-- in her car? She hadn't been thinking of anything spooky,
and she hadn't read any P.S.Gifford or Stephen King in months.
She wasn't sick. She didn't drink.. Maybe she had seen nothing..
just a glimpse of a reflection that looked like a head and for
a moment she had thought it really was... Things like that happened,
and for a moment, one thought it was real. 'Yeah, right', Annie
thought, 'so real that I fainted dead away. I could have wrecked
calmer, she got in and started the engine and headed once more
for home. The eeriness was gone. It was just one of those things
she would laugh about later in life.
supper in the microwave, Annie headed for the shower. She selected
her clothes for tomorrow and decided on some PJs for tonight.
It was then that she remembered the red blazer in the little shop
in the old Balzac building. Tomorrow, she would go and check on
hot water felt good, and Annie was really beginning to unwind
from her scare of seeing the head. Funny, she could remember it
vividly. The woman's face had been framed by wavy brown hair and
the eyes were a shade of green. It all seemed as though it had
been just a bad dream.
out of the shower and wrapping up in a large blue towel, Annie
picked up her hairbrush and made ready to untangled her hair.
Just as she brought herself around to face the mirror, she realized
there was a face in the steamy mirror, just over her left shoulder..
a face with the greenest eyes Annie had ever seen...
into those green eyes, Annie had no intention of fainting this
time, but she also could not find her voice. The head wasn't floating
as she had supposed before. It was just 'there', right in front
of her face now.
shrill ringing of the phone shook her out of her frozen state,
and just as quickly as it had appeared, the head was suddenly
down her hairbrush, Annie ran for the phone. Looking back over
her shoulder into the bathroom, she saw that was empty.
she said shakily into the receiver. "Mac?.. Mac, I'm so glad
you called. Please, can you come over here right now?.. Please?"
and Annie had been friends for years. He was a few years her senior
and was an investigator with the town police department. She knew
she could count on him for help without him thinking she was out
of her mind.
hurriedly dressed and drew her wet hair back in a holder. There
was no way she was going back in there and look into the mirror..
knocked on the door a few minutes later. Letting him in, Annie
thought about how to start this day's story of her strange apparitions.
do you need, Annie? You sounded as if something was urgent..."
Mac said as he stepped inside Annie's living room. He was looking
around as if he expected to see someone there to defend her against.
only it was that simple," Annie thought as she closed the
door. Showing him to a seat, she proceeded as simply as she could
to tell him about seeing the body-less woman twice in the past
had listened intently and sitting now on the edge of her sofa,
he asked her to repeat it all again slowly.
knew Annie was given to flights of this nature and that she was
straightforward and honest.
had heard stories like this before but they were usually from
some drunk experiencing DTS or some drugged up junkie's dream.
He fought down a desire to laugh and ask what the punchline was
as he was deterred by the serious and frightened look on her face.
Annie, there is an explanation somewhere. Did you eat something
that you are allergic to or have you taken any medications today?"
Mac, nothing different at all today except that I am seeing green-eyed
heads floating around talking to me!" Annie was starting
to have second thoughts about whether Mac would be any help or
you believe that I really saw what I saw?" standing now,
Annie was starting to become upset. 'Calm down ', she told herself,
'you will look like more of a fool.'
OK, let's take a different aapproach here. Can you remember your
frame of mind or what you were thinking about just before these
sightings occurred?" Mac had decided to take a more careful
approach to this situation now.
can't remember," Annie told him. "My day went as usual,
and I only had one delivery that was not on my normal route. It
was up in the old section of town. I was going to return there
tomorrow. I saw the perfect blazer for me. A bright red one, my
favorite co..." Her words trailed off and the color drained
from her face, causing Mac to turn and look where her gaze was
catfish! What the hell is that?" Mac leaped to his feet.
Beyond the bookcase, framed in the window, was a brown haired
woman's face.. and she was smiling at them.
quickly collected himself. In his business, he was more used to
surprises and shocks than Annie was. Stepping forward quickly,
he asked "Who are you? What do you want from us?"
smiling, the face with the green eyed mouthed, "The Balzac
building.." and slowly disappeared. Annie had fallen back
on the sofa with her eyes widely staring. "I told you! You
saw it too, didn't you, Mac? Say you did!"
Ma'am. You're not losing your mind. I couldn't believe my eyes,
but I know what I saw. Did you understand what she said? Where
is the Balzac building?"
Annie explained to him that that was where she had seen the red
blazer in the little ladies clothing shop window. In fact, it
was where she had wanted to return to tomorrow.
time like the present," Mac told her. "How quick can
you be ready? Let's go see where this leads. I need to see what's
going on at the Balzac building."
and in the car, Annie remembered the address. It was 17 Trinity
Avenue in the oldest part of the city. She explained to Mac that
she knew exactly where they were going.
traffic had thinned to almost nothing at this late hour. There
wasn't much call for people to be out and about in this part of
town because all the little shops were closed.
turned the little Mustang into Trinity and told Mac to watch for
the show window with the red jacket in it on the left. He peered
into the dark at the passing buildings.
they were at the end of the street. Mac turned to her and asked,
"Are you sure we are in the right place? These buildings
on the left are all abandoned and boarded up."
sure we're in the right place. Look-- there's the Pawn Shop where
I delivered," Annie told him. "He's still open, too.
The Balzac building is right across the street from his shop."
around, Annie pulled into a parking spot in from of the Action
Pawn and looked directly across the street at the boarded up show
windows and double doors of the little ladies shop.
is unreal',she thought. 'I was just here this afternoon, but these
buildings look like no one's been here in twenty years.'
over at Mac, she saw he was gazing skyward. Following his glance,
she saw 'Balzac' in stone lettering across the top of the building
between crumbling stone griffins.
she heard him say. There, in an upstairs window with its shutters
flapping floated the green-eyed woman's face...
below the roof where the stone griffins perched, in the second
story glassless window, the face hovered, eerie and almost glowing,
turning slightly to look behind itself and then back down at Annie
in the slight turnings was suggestive of wanting them to look
in that direction. The green eyes appeared to be pleading.
whispered, "Annie,she wants us to go up there. She's trying
to get us to come and look at something."
couldn't speak, but she weakly nodded in agreement. It was not
a place she wanted to be. It was getting darker and it would be
totally black inside in a few minutes. Some of the streetlights
were unlit and would be of no help.
a sigh of relief, she realized there was no way they could go
into this old crumbly building in the dark. It would even be dangerous
in the daylight. Why, they might even fall through the floor!
was no longer looking at the upstairs window. His gaze was directed
across the street. In front of the pawnshop was a old man in a
wheelchair, staring up with a look of terror on his face at the
window in which the green-eyed head floated.
Annie's hand, Mac pulled her along with him across to where the
man sat in front of the lighted window to the pawn shop. "I
know you can see her, too," Mac quietly said to the man.
"Who is she?"
were now rolling down the old face. "Yes," he answered
in a low voice, "yes, I can see her, as I have seen her every
day for the last thirty years.. It is Anne Balzac, dead and gone
now.. Once the very light of my life."
elderly man's voice was full of despair. He could not tear his
gaze from the upper window in the derelict building across the
gently laid his hand on the old gentleman's shoulder. "Sir,who
is she? Will you tell me about her?" Being a police detective,
he was used to urging information from all sorts of people, and
he knew he'd have to be gentle with this old fellow.
Annie watched, the face at the window faded slowly away. The longer
she looked at the building, the stranger she felt. It was not
a scary feeling, but rather, sort of comforting. How strange it
was to feel that way.
old man wasn't looking across the street anymore. Instead, he
had his head lowered and was sobbing. Mac stood silently with
his hand on the other's shoulder, looking impatient.
knelt before the wheelchair, and looking up at him, she asked.
"Will you tell us about Ann Balzac and what this all means?
I feel that you are the one to explain it all. Am I right? Please
talk to us."
pawnbroker looked at her with his tear-stained face. "Why,
Miss, you have green eyes, too, just like she did."
felt she had his attention now and decided to keep it if she could.
"And my name is Anne, too, Mr...? I didn't get your name,
the man said in a soft but proud voice. "Anne Balzac was
was now settling in this old section and the tall buildings seemed
to be growing taller and more ominous. The long shadows they cast
seemed to be reaching.. Anne shivered and looked up at Mac, who
was looking down at the man in the wheelchair in surprise.
Balzac," he asked, "may we go inside and finish our
conversation? I am most interested in learning more of your wife
and this strange apparition that you say is her." With a
nod of the head, Karl Balzac wheeled his chair around and motioned
for them to follow .
inside the little pawnshop, Annie sensed such a feeling of familiarity
that she almost reeled in her steps. Leaning against a counter,
she tried to recover. Mac stepped to her side and reached out
to steady her.
his shoulder, Annie could see Karl Balzac staring at her in the
glow of the hanging ceiling lights. He had a questioning look
on his face, almost one of recognition.
room was filled with all sorts of things, glass counters with
watches and jewelry, walls and shelves full of tools and electronics,
locked cases displaying rifles and pistols and more.
looked like the old gentleman was doing well, but then, on closer
inspection, Annie noticed some of the things were dusty and probably
had been there for awhile. Cobwebs waved here and there, giving
the things more of an appearance of an antique storage room.
her eyes moved around the shop, they came to rest on a full-length
painting on the wall in a little sitting area off to the side.
She pulled from Mac's grip to move closer to see it better.
was a painting of a woman.. the green-eyed woman whose floating
head was haunting them. She was beautiful and elegant standing
next to a young handsome man Annie recognized as Karl Balzac in
his much younger days.
closer, she unwittingly drew her hands to her long hair and swept
it up in the style of the lady in the painting.
Balzac gave a sharp intake of breath behind her, and Annie slowly
turned and faced him. She heard him say "Young lady, if your
hair were brown, you would look just like her!"
was also staring strangely at her, his head tipped to one side
Balzac," Annie whispered back, "I have to tell you.
My hair is dyed.. It is really brown under this blonde color."
wheelchair creaked around to face Annie and the painting. The
man occupying it flicked a switch, and light flooded the room.
is amazing!," he said to no one in particular. He actually
seemed unaware of anyone else in the room. His attention was riveted
on the slim girl standing gazing at the beautiful woman in the
Mac whispered from behind Mr.Balzac, "she's wearing a red
blazer.." It was true. The clothes on the green-eyed lady
consisted of a long black skirt topped with a scarlet blazer worn
over a scarlet blouse with a lace jabot at the throat. At her
feet was a small cherub-like child seemingly asleep in a spindle
glanced at Mac for a moment and then back to the painting, as
though she was hypnotized by it. "I know," she said.
Balzac, what happened to your wife? Who is the child in the painting?
We need your help. You are the only one who can explain these
happenings." Mac told him of the appearance of the head in
Annie's car and the other sightings. "She said 'Balzac building'
to me, sir.."
old man wearily spoke, "I knew it would one day come back
to haunt me." His eyes were still held by those in the painting.
He seemed unable to look away.
loved her more than life itself, and our little girl was a dream
from heaven. We were happy until he came... He wooed her
away from me and she went with him and took the child with her.
I never saw either again.. alive, but her pleading face appears
before me as you two saw it do tonight and has for years."
do you think she wants?" Mac spoke softly, in compassion,
for this sad old man.
he sought Annie and was surprised to find no one there. "Annie?
Annie!" he called, really puzzled. The pawnshop room was
quite empty except for himself and the owner, Mr.Balzac.
could not have gotten past where he had been standing without
being seen."Annie! Where are you?" Mac called.
think Anne now has what it was that she wanted," Karl Balzac
said, pointing at the painting.
no. Annie..." Mac wailed.
the painting, the green-eyed lady was now smiling, and the baby
in the cradle at her feet was now awake and looking upward, with
eyes as green and as beautiful as her happy mother's were.