The women who worked Dickerson heard the cat days before they saw it. The noise sounded enough like a human voice, words in the distance, not quite made out. But the working girls had, if they had been on the street any length of time, learned to ignore voices not directed at them.
It was just safer that way.
But my god, can you imagine when the one of the noises the cat started to make was “ma ma”? Women who had children they hadn’t seen in weeks would gasp and shake. Girls who had come to miss their mothers so desperately would cry.
When the cat finally showed up and started to follow the women, for some it was a relief, when you could see the cat and see its open mouth and know the noise was coming from it, they thought it seemed cute and they called it “baby.”
For others, seeing it only made it worse, made it seem more unnatural, and they called it “demon.”
The police did not know about the cat, of course. So it’s hard to know if the disappearances really started after the cat appeared. Women along Dickerson Pike have a habit of disappearing. Some go home. Some move on. And some just vanish.
The women contend that they are often preyed upon and that it’s ignored. In the time the cat would follow them as they walked and waited for men in cars to stop, seventeen of them went missing in Nashville, six who worked Dickerson, meaning six who had heard the cat.
Every time a woman was arrested, she mentioned her missing friends.
If anything was being done about it, if they were even able to raise an alarm, they didn’t know. A file was started, a detective was assigned. But he knew those women, he thought, and thought they’d probably just found something else to do with their time.
The women did what they could to keep each other safe, stood together, made sure every man who pulled over saw that someone else had seen his face. And yet, one by one, over the course of the next three months, four more women disappeared.
With tensions running high, you can hardly blame the women who, when the cat showed up to follow her, grabbed it and tossed it into the street. It was hit by a car, but managed to limp off.
Later that evening, she bent over to peer in a car window and saw the man in the car had a cast on his right wrist. At first, she didn’t think anything of it.
“Wanna date?” she asked.
“Ma ma?” he grinned so wickedly at her.
“Ma’am?” He smiled, like he was going to play it off like she misheard him.
“It was that damn cat,” she said later, “Or that damn cat was that dude. Either way, I didn’t get in that fucking car, believe me.”
Later, a different car, a different man, a different girl, still a right wrist in a cast.
“I’m looking for a place on Front Street.”
“There’s no Front Street, Mister.”
“I’ve visited a doctor on Front Street, before.”
“It’s so easy to get lost when all the roads change names.”
“Shit, you’re creepy. You go find Front Street on your own.”
What happened next is not the kind of thing any person wants to admit. They killed the cat. They killed the cat, put it in a garbage bag, and hid it in the basement of the Congress Inn, a motel they all were quite familiar with.
A week went by and no man with a cast in any car and no women went missing from Dickerson Pike. Another week, another, and then another.
Then one night, they saw four police cars go by, lights flashing. The cars stopped at the Congress Inn and a body was pulled out of the basement. It was, of course, not the cat. It was, of course, a man with his right wrist in a cast, badly decomposed.
Even still, weeks went by and no women disappeared.
Because weeks went by and no one claimed that body. And finally, it was cremated.
The women didn’t know this, but they knew, soon enough, that almost-human voice, crying “Ma ma” in the dark. And they knew, soon enough, that one of the would die.
One of them, a woman they called Krissy, said, “We should have hid that body better, put it some place where we could keep an eye on it, but no one else could find it.”
That was the problem, though, of course. Where could they put a body that would remain unfound? He knew. He knew where to put them where no one could find them. But they were not monsters.
“We have to put him someplace and then we have to keep folks away from there,” Krissy said.
“And how are we going to do that? Who’s going to stay there and keep folks away?”
And Krissy said, “I will.”
The cat was captured again, eventually. And killed, again. And its body was brought, again, to the basement of the Congress Inn, along with bricks and mortar.
I have heard it both ways, that Krissy was dead by her own hand before they put her behind the wall, guaranteeing that she would not rest, because of her unholy death and I heard that she helped brick herself up from the inside. But that’s almost too much to think about.
I just know that, when you go into the basement of the Congress Inn, and you feel like the proportions are wrong, that the basement is smaller than it should be, that the voice you hear whispering in your ear, the tap on your shoulder that sends youscurrying back up stairs, they call that Krissy.
And I asked the woman who told this to me if she thought it was true. She looked away from me for a long time and then said, quietly, “I just hope that place never burns down.”