You’re Only as Jung As You Feel 


Judy Barton stared at her pale reflection in the mirror. She was a plain, though not unattractive, woman in her mid-30s. Carefully, she brushed aside her overgrown bangs and rubbed her index finger lightly over the scar above her eyebrow. It was faint now, but her memory flashed back to that day so many years ago. The mind is a time machine. The slightest image and you are instantly a traveler in the past, a moment just as real as anything in the present.

Green Town was the kind of quaint and sleepy Midwestern village a movie location scout would kill for. It was a small community situated about twenty miles southeast of Brookville on US 237. It was built, you might say, on two levels. Choate Gorge sliced the city in half, separating the business district on the upper plateau from the rural areas on the other side of the Green River, hence the town’s name. To travel from your house to the shopping district, you had to cross the lone pedestrian bridge that spanned the water, and then climb the 147 steps that wind their way up the embankment.

The air was heavy and warm, as it always is in the early evening just before sunset in late May. The sound of rocking chairs, front-porch gliders, and children banging screen doors reverberated throughout the neighborhood.

Judy had stretched out on the couch watching Wheel of Fortune, unconsciously fingering the circular mark on her forehead. She would stroke it, as if the rubbing might make it disappear. Her attention was brought back when the show was interrupted by a news bulletin.

“Upton County Sheriff, Mark Cain, has just reported the discovery of what is believed to be the body of Alma Reville, age 32. She is apparently the third victim in five days of the so-called ‘Head-Hunter,’ so named because of the killer’s M.O., decapitating the victims. The sheriff said there were no signs of forced entry, which could indicate that Reville knew her murderer. Stay tuned to this station for further updates as they become available.”

Judy had known Alma practically all her life. She was a member of the “Twisted Sisters,” a name Judy dubbed them after a band that drove her mother crazy. Each had an official tag:  She was the prim and proper Spinster Sister; Alma was the gossiping, backstabbing Sis Vicious, Melanie Daniels self-named herself the Wyrd Sister, and Eve Kendall, the final member of the quartet, gained a reputation early as the Wicked Sister. They had been together since high school and now met every Thursday evening for bridge, but mostly for gossip.

The first two victims had been from nearby Denby. They had also attended J.S. Ferguson High School at about the same time as The Sisters. Judy recalled seeing them at their fifteenth reunion last year. It had brought back those old memories. Still, this seemed to be an odd synchronicity.

Judy was just reaching for the phone when it rang. She jumped back as if an electric shock had pulsed through her arm.

“Hello?” she asked, as if something inside the receiver were waiting to reach out for her.

“I guess we’ll have to find a fourth for bridge.”

“Mel? I was just about to call you. You heard what happened to Alma?”

“It was just on the television. Isn’t that just like Alma, to go and lose her head over some guy?”

“Melanie, what’s the matter with you? How can you be so insensitive?”

“She was always such a twit. Rambling on and on about what a terrible life she had since Joe took off last month. Jeez, if I’d been married to Alma, I would’ve chopped her head off long ago.”

“Mel, you don’t think her husband.…”

“Why not? Toni told me a while ago that Alma had hired a detective, and he caught Joe with another woman. She said Alma was going to take him for every cent he had.”

Toni Wolff had been victim number two.

“Did Alma know who the other woman was?” Judy asked, with some hesitancy.

“The guy had some photos he was going to give her when she came up with his fee. But I don’t think she got them yet.”

Judy paused before she dared to ask, “Do you know whom Joe was seeing?”

“I have my suspicions,” Melanie said with a hint of conviction.

“Do you think these killings are connected?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.”

Judy seemed a bit puzzled. “But why would Joe kill the other two? Toni and…what’s the first one’s name?”

“Emma something-or-other. You should know her. We went to school with her.”

The mention of the woman’s name drew the darkness closer.

“What connection could she have?”

“Maybe Emma was the other woman and Toni knew about it, so Joe killed both of them. Maybe she was just a practice kill, a red-herring to throw the police off the track.”

“But would Joe really kill anyone over a divorce?” asked Judy incredulously.

“You know people can be so deranged. Especially men. Threaten their manhood and they’ll chop your head off every time.”

“Mel, that’s so callous.”

Ignoring the admonishment, Melanie continued, “So what time are you going to pick me up?”

“Pick you up?”

“It’s Friday night, dummy. They’ve changed the picture. It’s Scream 7: The Revenge of Alan Smithee.

“Mel, there’s no way we can go to the movies after what’s just happened. It’s not safe after dark until they catch this maniac.”

“I swear, Jude, you’re afraid of your own shadow. I’m going whether you are or not.”

“Well, is Eve at least going with you?”

“I tried calling her earlier but I only got her machine. You know Miss Hot Pants. I think she’s gone to Wingo to spend the weekend with that Roger guy.”

“I don’t know, Melanie. I’d feel funny going out.…”

“Judy, Judy, Judy! Sometimes you can be so self-centered. I’m going with or without you. I saw the director on CNN and he said this Smithee flick is so bad he doesn’t want to be associated with it. This has all the promise of being one of those horrible slasher pics we love. Come on, don’t go weird on me now. You’ve always been my steady rock.  The first show starts at 8:00. Come by about 7:30.”

“I guess I can’t let you go alone. Not with that nut running loose. Somebody has to protect you from yourself.” Then Judy cautioned, “You know, if it’s not Joe, it could be anybody.”

“Yes, it could. Anyway, that’s my dependable girl. Later.”

“I’ll probably live to regret this,” Judy sighed as she cradled the phone.


Her house was approximately two blocks from the bridge. Melanie lived about three blocks from the top of the cliff on Fremont Street. It was another four blocks to the Arbogast Cinema. It was actually faster to walk those nine blocks than to drive the seven-mile 237-Bypass over the closest viaduct across the creek.

A little after 7:00, Judy stepped off her porch and headed to the bridge that crossed the water. The sun was just setting above the ridge, casting long shadows down into the gorge. When she was halfway across, she paused and her heart seemed to skip. For a moment, she thought she could discern the outline of someone lurking in the shadows on the other side. She felt the sudden urge to turn and run back to the safety of her house. She knew it was foolish to go out on a night like this. It just wasn’t typical in her character. But squinting deeper into the fading light, she realized it was just a curious image cast by the rocks at the foot of the stairs. Her immediate fears were assuaged, but it left a sense of foreboding, electric in the air.

“Judy, you are out of your mind,” she whispered to herself, afraid to utter it too loudly, lest it bring her undue attention.

She took the steps quicker than usual and was a bit out of breath when she got to Melanie’s house. Her friend was waiting for her on the porch, reading the twelfth rehash of the same lame teen vampire romance.

“What’s the matter, Jude? You look like…somebody’s been chasing you with an ax.”

“Very funny.”


The flick was as bad as they expected, so neither had been disappointed. It was as wretched as the director’s Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh, but a cut above his Ghost Fever. Neither woman was in a talkative mood as they headed back towards Melanie’s house in the oppressive heat and darkness.

“I don’t think it was an ax,” Melanie finally offered.


“The murder weapon. I don’t think the killer is using an ax. You can’t get a good, clean cut with it. You’d have to hack at the head several times to get it off. I think the police are wrong.”

“Mel, now you’re beginning to freak me out.” After a pause, she asked nonchalantly, “What would you use?”

“Something with more heft and cutting surface. Like a saber or samurai sword, like the one my dad gave me. You know, the ‘souvenir’ he took off that Jap he killed?”

“But how would you conceal such a thing?”

“You’re right. I’ll bet the killer gets into the house when the victims are away and has enough time to find a weapon there.”

They walked on in silence, one or both lost in contemplation.

“Do you think some people have a death wish?” asked Judy.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s like some people are idiots and deliberately put themselves in dangerous situations.”

“An unbalanced psyche…courting danger?”

“More like they’re just deluded about the evil that’s all around them. Like they’re blind to the dark side of things, of that aspect of themselves even. They don’t see the bizarre lurking below the façade of normalcy.”

“You mean they don’t see a threat until it’s too late to avoid it?”

“Something like that.”

Melanie thought about this for a long time, but decided it was just idle chatter on Judy’s part to cover up the awkwardness of the evening.

As they neared Melanie’s house and the point where the two would take their separate paths, Melanie quizzed her friend, “Do you think all of this is just a coincidence?”

“That we knew the three victims?”

“Yeah, and that we were all at JSF High together. You don’t think there’s some other connection, do you?”

“Like Carl or somebody else we knew in school?”

“Or something someone once did to somebody that hurt them so much that they never got over it. Think about that?”

Judy didn’t have to.


They stopped at the gate to Melanie’s house.

“Do you want me to go inside with you?” Judy inquired.

“To see if the Bogeyman is lying in wait?  Don’t be daft, Jude. I don’t have any skeletons in my closet. What about you? You’ve got to cross the gorge alone. You want me to go with you?”

“No, then I’d worry about you going back home by yourself. I’ll be okay.”

“Judy, promise you’ll call me the moment you get home.”

“I will.”

“You trust too much. That could be your downfall.”

“I understand.”

“Take care, my faithful friend.”

“I will.”

She watched as Melanie Daniels bounded up the stairs. She noticed that Mel didn’t have to use her key to get into the house.

“I’ve told her a hundred times not to leave that door unlocked,” Judy mused with an ironic smile on her face.


Later, she moved through the darkness, made her way to the gorge, past the remaining few houses, now brightly lit against the evils of the night. Soon she was there, the top of the long corridor of steps leading down to the bridge.

For years, residents of Green Town had complained about the illumination at Choate Gorge. There was but a single streetlight at the top of the stairs and one on either end of the walkway.

Judy stared down into the dimly lit ravine, trying to discern if anything malevolent might be lying in wait. When she was fairly certain her path was clear, she began the slow descent. To give herself something to occupy her mind, she began to count each step as she alighted upon it. She paused at the first landing and something deep in her subconscious thought it detected the faintest echo. Her conceit shook off the feeling and assured her, “One-fourth of the way home.”

She resumed her descent into the murky, black pit. A few more steps and she stumbled, nearly tumbling over the railing into the abyss. Catching herself, she was now certain she had heard a scraping sound from above, as if someone had shuffled their feet to a stop at the top of the steps.

Judy turned back to look at the head of the footpath. Was it her imagination or did she see the slightest movement of something in the shadows? A faint reflective specter?

Hesitantly, she preceded forward a few more paces and stopped.

“There it is again!”

Another step—another echo, just a fraction of a second later.

“Someone’s following me! Someone…or something…is right behind me.”

She took the last several steps in frantic leaps until she hit the base of the incline. This time the echo failed to pause but continued to plunge towards her.

“Don’t turn around and look,” her psyche cautioned. “If you do, you’ll be frozen and unable to run.”

She hit the edge of the bridge in full stride. She picked up her gait, but still, her pursuer kept pace.

“This can’t be!” she almost screamed. “It’s like a bad movie.”

Now her feet thundered across the wooden planks of the overpass, the echo still following…closer now…too close.

She bounded up the incline, and hurried down Maple Street.

“Just one more block,” her ego urged her on.

She wanted to scream for someone to help, but she needed all her remaining strength just to continue running.

She threw herself onto the porch, tore open the door, and tumbled inside. Somewhere in the fog of her awareness, it registered that something wasn’t quite right about this, but she was too concerned about locking the door against the phantom outside to raise this thought to consciousness.

Judy paused momentarily with her back to the door and sighed, trying to catch her breath and stop her heart from pounding so heavily. Slowly, cautiously, she crept through the darkened living room to the curtains and peered out into the yard. From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a shadow pass around the side of her house, but it made no sound.

A second passed. Then another. She kept time by the faint ticking of the kitchen clock. When a minute had passed, she inhaled deeply and straightened up.

“Why, there’s no one there at all,” she reassured herself. “It was just the sound of my own footsteps resounding in the ravine that frightened me.”

Had she bothered to consult her unconscious, it would have told her that these fears were the product of a guilty mind.

She reentered the darkened living room, located the remote, and flicked on the television—a familiar presence to scare away the demons. She caught the news bulletin in the middle:

“…who was decapitated just like the previous four victims. An ornamental sword was found near the body. A neighbor had been awakened by a scream coming from the house and alerted the Green Town Police Department. This appears to be the second such murder today. To repeat, the body of a woman has just been found, less than thirty minutes ago, in her home on Fremont Street. Authorities are withholding the name of the victim until the next of kin can be notified.”

A tear rolled down the cheek of Judy Barton for yet another of her lost friends.

Behind her in the room, she heard someone clear their throat, and a familiar voice called her name, “Juuuudy.”

She turned around and noticed a shape, dimly illuminated in the mirror by the flickering television image.

“Who’s there? Madeleine?”

Quietly, the disfigured specter of Madeleine Elster slowly emerged from the reflection.

“Poor Melanie,” her ego sighed.

“Just Eve left,” whispered her shadow.