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Miss Whitson’s Highest Wish

by LaVerne Zocco

The Los Angeles Occultist Society, directed by Brother Vincent Demas, was housed in a semi-gothic building tucked in its own little corner of the street. It was a windy night, and out of that night came a young woman. She walked up the steps to the front door and rang the bell.

The interior of the building was empty and quiet; only one light was showing, and it was in the office of Brother Demas. The tall, youngish brother dressed in his Friar’s simple brown outfit crossed the reception hall and opened the front door.

The hesitant woman stood for a moment and peeked around the Director to look into the dark interior. Then, smiling a small smile, she walked over the threshold and entered.

“You are Miss Whitson, I presume?”

“And you must be Brother Demas. I recognize your voice from my phone call tonight.”

“Don’t let us stand here. Come with me to my office. I have to tell you right now that I am very interested in your story, the little you told me over the phone. May I get you something to drink?”

“Thank you, no. I am just as anxious to tell you the rest of my story as you are to hear it.”

He locked the door behind them, and the two walked thorough the darkened reception area. She followed him into a large room where the drapes were drawn and only one lamp was lit; it stood on an oak desk.

Brother Demas took his seat in a black swivel chair and she sat on a dark brown suede couch along the west wall. “From what society are you a Brother?” she asked.

“It is a very ancient order of a Middle Eastern cult. It is a secret society. Don’t let that bother you: it is not a religious order in the usual sense; it’s devoted to mysticism and, some would say, the occult. I am well versed in problems of the mind, body and soul. Tell me, have you been to see any other professionals before coming here?”

“Oh, yes, I have been to see psychiatrists and psychologists but I find that none of them have ever heard of my malady and have no diagnostic procedures they could recommend.”

“And what is your malady, my dear?”

“I call it recklessness, a need to put myself in danger. And I have urges that I cannot control.”

“Can you tell me when this all started and how?”

“I know exactly when it started. It was when I read newspaper articles about the Isobel Fox and Black Dahlia murders. They fascinated me from the start, and I have a great obsession about the details of their stories.”

At that point Brother Demas brought to the top of his desk a sheaf of newspapers, three in all, and pointed out stories to bring to her attention.

“Here is a story in today’s paper of a baby being kidnapped. The police have found no clues. What do you think of it?”

“It’s a shame and a horror, but it does not strike me as being like the Fox and Black Dahlia cases.”

“What about this one?” He showed her a second newspaper. “Here is a case of the husband stabbing his wife to death. How does that strike you?”

She crossed her legs. “Again, it is brutal, but it does nothing for me.”

“And here, just one more: a sailor drowns his girlfriend. Does that prompt your so-called urges?”

“Not a bit.”

“Well, then tell me about the Fox and Black Dahlia cases and what you find so special about them.”

She started to appear nervous and undecided. “Isobel Fox was a ten-year old girl when she disappeared in Cleveland. She and a friend went to a fair at a park near her apartment. At nine o’clock at night her friend begged her to come home with her and Isobel refused. She disappeared from the park. She was never heard of again but everybody suspected she had been molested and murdered. The case has never been solved.

“The Black Dahlia lived out here and wanted to become a movie star. She was friends with a dentist, who was suspected of killing her. She was my age, 23, and she was sawed in half. Her body was dumped at the side of the road and left in a very erotic position. Both of these stories were written about all these years and still get some press.”

Brother Demas turned the light onto her face. “Then what is your malady, what are your urges? Let’s say, what is your highest wish?

She started to cry and covered her face. “Ever since I was young I’ve had a recurring dream. I’m in a park and a man is standing on the other side of a chasm. He opens his coat, and he’s naked. He motions for me to come over to him, and when I do, he’s gone.

“When I grew up I went to all the places Isobel Fox had been the night she disappeared. No man came up to me, no man offered me a ride home at midnight, no one molested me. But don’t you see...”

It was then that Brother Demas sat forward in his chair and pulled it closer to the hysterical girl. “But that’s not so hard to understand. Young girls are very impressionable and may have extreme fantasy lives. They want danger, they want to go to exciting places, and they want to be ravished — but only in their dreams. It would be abnormal to want those things in real life. What else did you do?”

The girl was crying and twisting around. “I came out here to L.A. and tried to find all the places where the Black Dahlia lived and where she died. I even went looking for the dentist. I found the building he lived in, but I could not find him.”

She looked up and sat on the edge of the couch and put her arms straight out toward the Brother. “Don’t you understand? I think I’m Isobel Fox or the Black Dahlia. And my highest wish is to fulfill my dream.”

Brother Demas locked the office door and began to unbutton his cloak.

Copyright © 2013 by LaVerne Zocco

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