Outskirts Press
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Congenital Witness by Vickie McGillis
In the summer of 1964, eighteen-year-old Evelyn Smithson had just finished her shift at Rooney’s Diner in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her eighth month of pregnancy, the teenaged runaway was exhausted and looking forward to a relaxing evening in her apartment. But when Evelyn stepped out into the darkness and the pouring rain, she was mugged and brutally stabbed. Since Evelyn Smithson was now the fourth young woman in the downtown area to be attacked in precisely the same manner, residents feared they had a serial killer in their midst. As Evelyn lay there dying on the city sidewalk, she reflected on her life and the events that had led to this horrific scenario, praying to God to save her unborn baby. Minutes later, the young pregnant woman was discovered by her best friend, Shirley Mulrooney, who immediately summoned an ambulance. Unfortunately, as the emergency room staff worked diligently to save the life of Evelyn Smithson, they realized that was a losing battle; however, the viable fetus could be saved via emergency cesarean section. Sadly, just as her newborn daughter took her first breath of life, Evelyn Smithson exhaled her last. Since the baby’s father was purportedly killed in Vietnam, and the mother was now deceased, the orphaned child was soon adopted by a loving, affluent couple in Rochester, Minnesota. Franklin and LaVonne Barth named their newborn daughter Cassandra. At long last, their lives were full again, and Cassandra enjoyed a typical, happy childhood…until thirteen years later, on a cold December night, when everything changed, and Cassandra’s life would never be the same. With the onset of her first menses, thirteen-year-old Cassandra Barth became plagued by horrendous nightmares and daytime visions of the brutal stabbing death of a pregnant woman she had never seen or met. As a result, Cassandra’s health, disposition and schoolwork suffered tremendously, spiraling the adolescent into a dark depression. As a last resort, her parents took her to a psychiatrist, and with the aid of hypnotherapy, the Barth family’s lives were cast into an abyss of questions, worry, fear and intrigue. Through their daughter’s hypnotic sessions, Franklin and LaVonne Barth learn that the woman in Cassandra’s dreams is none other than her birth mother, Evelyn Smithson. Therefore, the time had come to reveal the truth about Cassandra’s birth and subsequent adoption. But even more frightening was the fact that Evelyn’s killer, as seen through the eyes of Cassandra while under hypnosis, doesn’t resemble the serial killer who had been convicted of her murder all those years ago. In light of Cassandra’s unique and extraordinary connection to her deceased mother, the psychiatrist and detective working the case invite a composite sketch artist to join their team. During that session, a concrete image of Evelyn Smithson’s killer soon emerges, which sends the detective in an entirely new direction on his hunt for the truth. Will Cassandra’s visions of her birth mom’s murder help find the real killer? Is it possible that this executioner had been living freely amongst them, disguised as one of their most prominent and beloved citizens, for the past thirteen years? Will Cassandra’s involvement and intuitiveness ultimately lead the authorities to this cold-blooded murderer, or has this gifted adolescent unwittingly constructed a portal, making her his next target?
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