Little Kayla Jameson disappeared on January 10th, at 4:30pm. One hour after I had passed her in the hall. One hour after her eyes met mine and I watched the concern drop from her face to be replaced with an open smile. A small gift for me, from a troubled and kindhearted child.
I was shocked when the police informed me that I had been the last person to see her. I kept repeating to myself that I had also been the first. I was assigned to her case and greeted her for the first time in the small playroom adjoining my office. The first thing I noticed were her eyes. They were… deep, and surrounded by dark circles indicating an extreme lack of sleep.
Kayla was absolutely plagued by nightmares. During our initial conference her parents reported that she could not sleep for more than twenty minutes without running, screaming from her bed. They had completed a sleep study before seeking out a psychiatric solution, and it was reported that Kayla’s cycle was extremely unusual. She typically reached REM sleep in fifteen, sometimes even ten minutes. The rest of us typically spend ninety minutes to reach our dream cycles.
The study helped to clarify the symptom, but drew no light upon the cause, or possible treatment. This is where we were supposed to come in And Kayla’s bright personality made me want to help her desperately.
The thought of her, out there. In the wilderness. With some kidnapper, God forbid I cannot bear the thought of her life becoming worse than it already was. Upon hearing the news, I offered up any possible form of assistance I could provide to the investigation. I made and posted fliers. I called her family daily to check up on their well-being. I reached out to local radio stations to setup spots. I did everything I could, regardless of the impact upon my schedule or my own sleep.
Officer Jerring called me yesterday to request that I pull the session tapes with Kayla. The force was getting desperate with every passing hour and he thought that they might assist him in finding new leads. Being that I had a meeting with the head of the search committee, and then a food delivery to Kayla’s family after that, I decided to take the tapes with me to sort and label them once I arrived home.
I fell into my couch with a glass of wine and my laptop at 11:30pm last night. I found some exceedingly disturbing content in those sessions. I am posting this here in hopes that the information behind this case will become public knowledge. Something is happening here that I do not fully comprehend. I’m afraid for Kayla. I’m also afraid for myself. For what I’ve found. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The sessions were conducted by Dr. Katz. Yes, that Dr. Katz. Somehow our little local mental health center was able to secure the celebrity status child psychiatrist this year. Regardless of the fact that they could not even seem to be able to keep the Center’s paint from chipping, and the heating system from leaking water on a monthly basis.
The first session was a fairly typical introduction and discussion about Kayla’s nightmares. She was helpful and forthcoming with information, telling Dr. Katz about how the dream was always the same. She would sit up in her bed, in her bedroom, just as it had been when she had fallen asleep. Then the room would “fall down”. Like paint, she said. The room would fall away and she would find herself in a cave with a monster.
“It’s like a huge bird.” She explained. “Except he has a funny hat. Except that it is not funny. It’s scary. His beak moves. Like he’s gonna bite me. And I know he’s gonna bite me.”
She stared down at her lap, playing with the buttons on her dress.
Dr. Katz did everything right. He got her talking about how it made her feel. He asked her questions about why she thought the monster was visiting her dreams. About what it might be trying to tell her. And basically trying to humanize the “monster” over the course of the conversation. This session ended with an agreement between the two of them. Next time Kayla had the dream, before she woke herself up, she would try to say hello and ask the monster what his name was.
The next session took a turn that I did not expect. This was three days later, and Kayla pointed out that it had been very scary but she had done it. Before waking herself she had said “Hello I’m Kayla, what’s your name?” to the manifestation that has been haunting her for months.
“And did he tell you?” Dr. Katz was drawing lazy spirals on his clipboard.
“Yup. And it’s a funny name. He kinda screamed it at me. His name is Stolas!” She raised her eyebrows and smiled. Clearly she thought the name was amusing and was waiting for the Doctor’s reaction.
His reaction was immediate and violent. He dropped his clipboard and shot to his feet, looking down over her, arms outstretched. “What did you say it was?”
“Stolas. S-t-o … umm. Stolas,”
“What else did he tell you?” He looked as if he was holding back from grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her. And just barely.
“Umm, nothing. I woke up. He still wanted to bite me.” She pleaded.
“Okay…. Okay.” The doctor felt for the couch and sat back down.
What seemed like minutes passed in silence and I watched Kayla’s figure compress, like she was folding in on herself. I wanted to scream at Dr, Katz to notice her body language, and see that they were losing all of the progress they had made.
“Kayla, do you like games?” The Doctor seemed to be back with her.
She nodded and he continued. “I want you to ask Stolas something for me. I want you to ask him who took Dr. Katz’s ring Will you do that?”
“Who took your ring?” She smiled, tilting her head.
“Yes, ask him who took my ring. You know my name is Dr. Katz right Kayla? Who took Dr. Katz’s ring. If you can do that, I think I can help you Kayla. I think I can make him go away if you can ask him. Ok?”
“Sure, ok. I can ask him. I asked his name. I can ask him about your ring. Then I’m gonna wake up. Fast.”
He assured her that it was fine. He then had her draw pictures of the monster for the rest of the session. He took each one from her little hands as she completed them, and studied each intently. Occasionally he would ask questions. He asked what color Stolas was and she told him black. He asked what was on his head and she said it was a funny hat, “gold and pointy”. Each time his questions were answered, he would clench and unclench his hands, muttering to himself.
The next session recording was the last, and it was very short.
The moment she walked in the room, he pressed her about his ring. Kayla told him that Stolas had said that his brother took it because of what “Doctor Cat” had done.
“Thank you Kayla. You did a good job. I can help you now.” He got out of his seat and put his hand warmly upon her little back. I bristled at the breach of protocol. “We need to do two things. First you need a little shot. Just a little one, I promise it won’t hurt. I just need to take some blood, you won’t feel a thing and you can keep your eyes closed. Ok?”
She gulped and looked out the window. “It will get rid of mister Stolas?”
“Yes, we will. We will get rid of him forever. Then, I need to see you tonight. I know it’s funny but I need to be there when you’re asleep to get rid of him. I can protect you, and you can get a nice long sleep, Ok?”
She nodded her head.
“And Kayla, you cannot tell anyone about this. If you tell anyone, even your Mom, I’ll never be able to get rid of him. And he will visit you forever. Do you understand?” She nodded cautiously. “Ok. Ok, let’s go get that shot, ok? Then we will get rid of him tonight. I promise.”
They stood and turned the corner, out of sight.
The video playback stopped and I spun to reach for the phone, spilling half of my remaining wine. Officer Jerring needed to know about this immediately. My fingers were an inch from my mobile when it sprang to life, startling me half to death. I answered.
“Doctor Feller, this is Dr. Katz. I seem to be missing some recent session tapes and was told that you may be able to locate them for me.” Completely deadpan.
I dropped the phone at the sound of his voice. It had suddenly felt as if he had been in the room with me the entire time I was watching the sessions and had just spoken up. After taking a breath, I bent down to retrieve it, and that’s when I saw him. Through my window, standing on the street in front of my house. Under that singular street lamp he stood, holding his phone. Staring me dead in the eyes.
I put my mobile back to me ear and listened, holding his gaze.
“You don’t know what you’ve involved yourself in, Dr. Feller. I suggest that you put those tapes in a box, put them on the porch and never think about this again. This would be for your own good. Trust me on this.” Calm and steady, his voice seemed to embrace me.
I can make all sorts of excuses about why I complied. But it all comes down to one thing. I was afraid. After all of the work I tried to do to find Kayla, in that instant I was too scared of what might happen if I stood my ground. I told myself that the police would not need the tapes. That I would just tell them what I had seen on them, and they would investigate Dr. Katz. They would find out what he had done. They would find her. And they would not need the tapes to do it.
This is what the panic sung in my ear. You don’t need them. Do as he asks, and then call the police and turn him in. And that is what I did.
In less than a minute he was gone. My house was quiet. Empty. And reinforced by the multitude of posters screaming the words “MISSING CHILD!” around me. I finally moved to call Officer Jerring, and once again I was interrupted by yet another incoming call.
“Dr. Feller, this is Mr. Epstein, one of the corporate lawyers from Recovery and Treatment Systems, International. I have Chief inspector Luke Drayton on the line with us. It has come to our attention that you have illegally removed sensitive HIPPA protected media from the Northwest Treatment Center. We ask that you do not attempt to return to work tomorrow or initiate any contact with your coworkers or supervisors. We are finalizing the restraining order against you, and once in effect you will not be permitted within six hundred feet of the Center, or any current or former patients or employees. Do you understand Dr. Feller?”
I froze, my eyes widening with realization. The realization that this is bigger than I had thought. This was not a lone sicko abducting children. There was more to what was happening here. Once more I chose to play along.
“I understand. I will comply.” I recited and ended the call.
But I will not. I will not comply. I will not go away. I will find out what is happening here. I will bring the people involved to justice. I will find Kayla.
Hail was pelting furiously upon my little two-story. It was somehow comforting, knowing that the cycles of the world continued to turn at a regular pace, even in the midst of my current emotional state. I summarized the situation to myself after forcing myself to brew a cup of chamomile. I had uncovered the perpetrator of a child abduction. I had then discovered that there was power behind this kidnapping. There was more than just this perpetrator involved, even if there was no proof that anyone was actually complicit. There was a powerful wall standing in my way if I was to locate little Kayla, and bring the responsible parties to justice.
I told this little story to myself over and over, letting it calm me with it’s cleanliness. It’s simplicity. This eventually led me to my next move.
I reached the station and asked to be connected with Officer Jerring. He had just returned from a domestic violence call on the west side. I tried to remain as calm as possible as I recited the events of the evening.
“I see. I’m going to send a cruiser over there to keep an eye on you.” Concern was evident in the undercurrent of his raspy his voice.
“And Dr. Katz? You’ll pick him up for questioning? Get a search warrant? What’s the plan?” I was far more concerned with finding Kayla, though I did appreciate his attention to my safety..
“Well, Dr. Feller, that’s where things get complicated. We’ve already questioned him and we were quite satisfied with his innocence. Among other things he has a solid alibi spanning the period where Kayla was last seen, well into that evening. And based on what you told me, I don’t see that we have any probable cause for a search warrant.”
I felt my throat close up and my chest collapse upon itself as panic set in once more. “So what? What are you going to do? The man said he was going to meet her at night. He came to my house and threatened me. He took Kayla. He did, or at least he’s involved in some way. It’s been over 48 hours, you know our chances drop by….”.
Jerring cut me off. “I understand Dr. Feller. We will do what we can. I will assign another officer to keep tabs on his movements. I will also personally revisit the Center to question the staff further about Dr. Katz. But my hands are tied. I promise you that I will do what I can in the bounds of the law. Officer Redmond will be there shortly and do a drive by each hour or so until morning. Thank you for your assistance.”
I stood there for almost a full minute listening to the dial tone and letting it sink in that nothing was going to happen. That the good doctor was going to go home to his enormous house without concern. That Kayla would remain estranged from her family, from her home, and God only knows what else.
In retrospect, there was no chance that I would get any sleep that night. I cursed myself for wasting the hour trying and pull the covers off of me. By the time Seven a.m. arrived with it’s soft grey light, I had learned quite a bit. After several background checks, some fruitless time on Ancestry.com, and hundreds searches of public records, I found something that I considered important.
Doctor Katz had a handful of homes and holdings around the world, but there we only the two in the tri-state area. One was his primary residence about thirty minutes from the Center. The other was a small cabin on twenty acres in the Pocono mountains.
This in itself would have sparked my interest. But additionally this home was not in his name. It was owned by a small real estate holding company. The business was so small that the organization did not even have a website or any other public record of their existence outside of the required tax returns and public declarations. There was only one officer listed on the company records, also not Dr. Katz himself. However, when researching the CEO of the holding company, I discovered that he was currently Ninety-Eight years old and had signed over power of attorney for his holdings to one Dr. Katz, United Kingdom.
Kayla was being held at that cabin. There could be no doubt. I was going to go see for myself. I was going to find her. But even with this fire in my belly, I knew that I could not go alone. Best case I could find and free her, at worst I could be captured, or worse. If that were to happen, someone would need to know.
I called Kayla’s house and got Robert immediately. I cut his greeting short and anxiously ran through everything that had happened, and what I had found.
“We need to go there.” He said flatly.
“Yes, thank you. I’ll be over.” I had desperately hoped that he would be on the same page.
My plan was to clean up have Sandy ready to call the police if we did not check in hourly after leaving. This, I hoped would allow the police to search the property if something happened to us. Even in the worst case, it would ensure that Kayla was rescued.
Two hours later my hands were rapping at their door. The door opened and Robert and Sandy stood in the hallway side by side, blocking my entrance.
“Good morning, are you ready?” I asked, afte a moment of silence.
Sandy looked at Robert. Robert looked at his shoes.
“I’m sorry. I’m not going. I think. We think . . .”
Sandy cut him off and spoke quickly. “We need to leave this to the authorities. There’s nothing we can do. They will take care of this.” Her eyes kept darting over my shoulder as she spoke, causing me to look over my shoulder twice before replying.
“What do you mean? Robert told you what happened right? What I found? And what Officer Jennings said? They can’t do anything! But I know she’s there. I know it.”
“Mom?” A little voice rang out behind Sandy, who spun and held her arm protectively in front of Kayla’s older sister, pushing her back into the hall.
“We’re not helping you. Leave it alone. We’re sorry.” The door closed as Robert pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers and lowered his head.
So it was left to me, and me alone. I called my sister in Phoenix to inform her of everything going on, and made her take notes. I told her that if she did not get a text from me by 2pm and every hour after that she should call Officer Jenning and inform him that I had taken it upon myself to search the Poconos property and may be in trouble. She rightfully thought I was crazy, but had little power to convince me to give up on finding Kayla.
I pulled up into the long private dirt drive, knowing that I had at least half of a mile before I had to hide the car. Thank goodness for Google Maps. I parked in a small pull-off out of sight of the house. It appeared that no one was home There were no cars in the lot and the small cabin did not have a garage.
I cautiously circled the property and spiraled inward toward the cabin and out-buildings, eventually peeking into the windows, and checking for possible access points. Everything I saw appeared perfectly normal. The cabin was empty, but well kept. There was no basement, and most if the interior was visible from the outside. I moved along to the storage barn to the east and found exactly what I was looking for.
That barn was not nearly as well kept as the house. The wood was weathered and deteriorating. There were piles of paint cans, an old refrigerator, and various other debris surrounding it. One such pile in the back caught my eye. The stack of wooden pallets on the ground appeared, well, intentional. I moved them and uncovered a metal basement door that looked almost new. It was freshly painted, unscathed and stood in complete contrast to its surroundings. This was it.
I called my sister with an update, and let her know what was happening and where the entrance was. She had at this point, completely giving up on talking any sense into me, and instead just seemed excited to be a part of the action. She always was a bit of a thrill seeker. Me, not so much. But here I was.
I was surprised to find the doors unchained and unlocked. I slowly opened both doors trying to mitigate the sound, even though it appeared that I was alone. It was pitch black down there. The daylight penetrated maybe three feet down the steps but everything below was shrouded in thick darkness. The light did illuminate a switch just beneath the entrance and I decided to take the chance and flip it, illuminating a bare white room below. Closing the door above me (I did not want someone driving up to see the doors open and reaching for the sky) I descended.
The room revealed more of itself to me as I proceeded. While it was almost completely empty, after a few steps I could see a chair. Then another. Then shoes. I was two steps away from the floor when I noticed that the shoes were connected to black pants. There was someone down here.
Buckling I spun around to fly back up the stairs when I heard the “Chck” sound above me. I knew that sound. It was confirmed when I saw the pin-pad on the wall to my right, opposite the light switch. The doors had been bolted.
“Dr. Feller, would you please have a seat so that we can talk?”
He spoke as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Like he was offering me a seat at a coffee shop. His voice sounded genuine. Calm and thoughtful. This man is an utter monster, I thought. For this twisted kidnapper to be so collected. So soothing and charming. This is how monsters get away with it.
After exploring my options, of which there were none, I did as he asked. I descended the final few steps and had a seat in one of the two chairs, set facing each other from a comfortable distance. He did the same, pressing his hands over his pant legs, straightening the fabric.
“I need to ask you a favor.” He said simply. I balked at the nerve of this man, and was equally fearful. “I have spent eight years being Dr. Katz. I rather like it. It’s taken me a lot of work to get everything situation in this particular way, and I would very much like to retain it. Just the way it is.”
He paused for a moment, meeting my defiant eyes.
“Yes. Let me change gears here. We should start simply. You, Dr. Feller, have gotten yourself involved in something that you do not, and likely cannot fully comprehend. Personally I respect you for what you think you are trying to do. In some sense, we’re very much alike.” That stung, and he must have seen it in my face.
“Yes, well. I cannot expect you to believe that I suppose.” The man slowly rubbed his cheek with his hand. “Kayla is fine. I suppose that is the most important thing that you need to know. She is unharmed, and perfectly happy. In fact she is quite a lot better off than she was before. And she will be home with her family very shortly.”
This was getting absurd, and anger welled up inside me. “What are you talking about? What have you done with her? Where is she?”
“Kayla is, right this very moment, in a town car heading home to her parents. Perfectly well, after a long and restful sleep. I don’t expect you to believe me, but in a few minutes I will open those doors and you will be able to call and confirm her safe arrival. It is also at that point, that I will get into my car, head to the airport, and fly overseas for a sabbatical. We will not meet again after that.”
I tried to stop myself from believing that this was all true. I could not let my guard down, no matter how much I hoped that Kayla was returned, and I would be let go. This had to be a sick attempt at gaining my confidence for some unknown reason.
“And this is where the favor comes in. With Kayla home safe. When you meet with her and determine that she was well cared for, and not mistreated in any way whatsoever. I ask you to not pursue any claim against me. To not inform the police about this property, this room or anything that we have spoken about.”
“Why would I agree to that?” I could not help myself. Even though every part of my was screaming to avoid confrontation with this man, it came out. “You cannot be allowed to just abduct children and then return them at will. Even if you don’t hurt them. This is chaos. How could you?”
“Doctor, I do not have much time. I’m going to try to be completely frank with you, though I do not think for a second that you will believe me. It’s the only choice I have. If you choose to pursue this after today, then Dr. Katz has to die, and I need to start constructing my life all over again. My hand will be forced. You must understand that Kayla was very ill. Infected. Perhaps infested is a better word. I know how this sounds, but as I said I am going to try to be forthcoming in hopes that you might understand. She was at the very initial stages of possession. Possession by a Demon. Stolas in particular. I’m sure you’ve heard the name after you absconded with her session tapes.”
“Yes.” I said simply. Taking in what he was telling me and rolling it around to see how it felt. My initial reaction was that the man must be schizophrenic and experiencing a break from reality. But I could not reconcile that theory into what I saw before me, or the almost undeniable honestly I heard in his voice.
“I know it is hard to believe. But it is true. Those nightmares were not mere dreams. They were communications. Communications with something that has no right to be speaking with a little girl. He wanted nothing more than to own her, to ruin her and those around her. And he would have, had I not come across them.”
“Would have?” I asked, sparked by the past tense.
“Yes, as I said she is now well. Though, I do not fully understand why or how. I brought Kayla here to rid her of that plague. To cast the demon out. But by the time the initial rituals were completed, he seemed to have left of his own accord. It’s unprecedented really. Especially for a small child like Kayla. You see these things, they feed on purity. On kindness and innocence. Children are like a delicacy to such creatures, one being enough to sustain them for decades. I do not at all understand why or how Stolas left her.”
“What if he’s just waiting? What if he comes back.” Against my own logic, I was captured but this story, and the worry about Kayla’s well-being began to shadow my doubts.
“He can not. Whatever claim he was able to make on her was severed the moment he left. I cannot get into details as this is rather complex, but suffice it to say that she has now built an immunity to him. It is over. She is safe, and well. And this brings us to my departure. I need to return to London to meet with some others and try to determine what, in fact, happened here. I don’t trust it. I’ve been doing this for some time, and these things, they hold on to their claim with every last ounce of strength. Always. I need the help of my brothers back home to figure out why this happened.”
“So a demon possessed Kayla, you tried to help her, he left on his own and now you want me to stop raising questions.”
“Correct. And I am out of time.” He pulled his mobile from his trousers and tapped it a few times until I heard the deadbolt at the top of the stairs disengage. He stood slowly (I was still frozen in my chair) and walked up the steps, opening the doors.
“You are a good person Dr. Feller. I’ve enjoyed working with you at the Center. All I can do is to ask for your help. The choice is now yours. Go ahead and give the Jameson’s a call. She arrived a moment ago.”
I did so immediately, and they confirmed that yes, Kayla was home, safe and happy. I told them that I would head over to speak with her as soon as possible with their permission, which they consented to.
It was an awkward goodbye, but we said a few measured words and parted ways. I was still processing what he had told me. Still stuck between wanting to believe that he was simply a very disturbed person, and buying into the incredible story he had fed me.
But at the end of the day, Kayla was home. She was safe. She was happy. I talked to her at length that evening regarding her experience which she had full recollection of. She was unharmed, untouched and extremely excited about being “cured”. We spent a half an hour preparing the the most welcoming bed we could, so that she could enjoy her sleep that night.
I returned home just as it was getting dark. Having not slept for almost twenty-four straight hours, I took a quick shower and got into bed, feeling relieved. I closed my eyes, and pictured Kayla’s face, home safe as I began to breathe deeply.
Instantly I knew something was wrong. I sat up in bed pulling the covers around me. I was suddenly freezing. I caught movement at the edge of my vision and turned. The wallpaper between my windows, it was drooping. More than drooping, it was melting away. Like wet paint it ran towards the floor. Like water on a shower curtain. The rest of the room followed suit. Everything around me was falling away like wet tissue paper, the blankets turned to paste in my fists, liquefying and running between my fingers, until nothing was left.
I was sitting upright in a dank cave. The only lights were the tiny sparkling reflections upon the wet craggy stones and stalactites above me. But the moist glimmers were also stars. Stars on the inside of this space.
Towering before me was a bird the size of two fully grown men. Leathery legs six inches in diameter held the bulking black feathered frame of the creature. It’s eyes were nowhere to be found, masked fully by the enormous twitching, striking beak. It turned, and yanked, and snapped at the air around it, as if it was restrained but furious to consume. Then it froze, and I saw it’s eyes. They were black holes in the darkness around me. They turned slowly to the right and it held it’s gaze upon the pedestal there. Upon the stone was a crown. It was the same color and style of the one upon his head, but this one was thinner, more delicate. More feminine.
The words rung out. Almost as if they were spoken out loud. More than if they were spoken aloud, echoing and returning from the walls of our enclosure.
“We will be wed!”
I tore myself from this reality, feeling as If I was jumping up, screaming, beating, fighting and running all at once. I found myself awake and alert in my bed.
Just a bad dream.
Just a nightmare.
Just like Kayla.