Ryan never was afterward able to completely piece together the remaining hours that passed from the time he realized someone had moved his coffee table to the time when the police showed up at his front door the next morning. He knew that at some point he must have crawled along the wall to the corner of the living room and curled up behind his large green armchair since that was where he was when the police finally kicked in the front door.
His memories were somewhat fragmented and he was never confident that he could accurately ascertain what memories were real and what memories were dreams or fancies formulated by his mind as a result of being in a state of absolute panic. He remembered having had the vague notion of hearing someone moving around in the house with him, but wasn't sure if that was real or imagined. The only part that seemed solidly cemented in his mind was the part that seemed the most absurd of all. He remembered hearing a voice repeating the same phrase over and over again, with the voice coming from different rooms in the house, always moving. The voice never altered in tone or pitch as it moved all around him from the kitchen to the back bedrooms and back again. Always moving, never changing.
The phrase which Ryan heard being repeated was, "I guess I'll have to call the phone company first thing in the morning to straighten this out." Each time it was repeated it was followed by a chuckle.
The very last thing he could remember at all, fictional or otherwise, was the impression that someone had sat down in the chair he was hiding behind, and that that someone in the chair then repeated that same phrase one final time before breaking into sustained, maniacal laughter, which followed Ryan down into darkness as his consciousness slipped away.
When the police arrived, Ryan was in no fit state to even be aware of their knocking on the door or their ringing the doorbell. They eventually kicked in the door and made their way inside. They found Ryan fairly quickly, but found no evidence of anyone else in the house. He would eventually find out that his next door neighbor had been murdered the night before.
Someone had also killed the dog, but there was less fuss about that.
The neighbor's time of death had been estimated at shortly before 2:00 AM. No one had bothered to estimate the dog's time of death.
The following months found Ryan arrested, out on bail, charged with first degree murder, and then, finally, a free man again as a lack of any physical evidence linking him to the murder resulted in the charges being dropped. The whirlwind of activity kept him so busy that he had had very little time to process what was truly happening around him and even less to be able to make sense of the bizarre happenstances of the night in question. He had initially tried to explain to the police about the voice he had heard in his house and about the dog barking, but eventually his lawyer instructed him to kindly shut his trap as he was only making things worse.
In the end Ryan moved back to the city and was even able to get his very same apartment back. After what had happened, he wasn't sure he'd be able to sleep in the country house ever again. He had yet to have any luck selling the country house due to it's now less than stellar reputation. He tried to return to his prior life, but his heart wasn't in the editing game any more. His headaches had not come back with his return to the city, but he found he could not muster any energy for editing other people's work any more.
One day, about five months after he had given up on editing entirely, he picked up a notepad and a pen and began writing down a thought that had been running through his mind all morning long. This led to another thought. Then another thought. Before he knew it, Ryan had written sixteen pages and, upon review, found it to be excellently written and quite compelling.
He had found his voice at last.
When published the following year, "The Country Life" went straight to the top of the bestseller list. It was a story about a man with multiple personality disorder and the horrific results of his illness. It was a sort of a Jekyll and Hyde story, with one personality being an ordinary, mild mannered individual with a mundane, every day job. The other personality was a murderous fiend. The chilling narrative described a night when the alternate personality made its way to the surface and killed the next door neighbor.
In the story, the reader came to know that the man was about to shift to his other, darker side when he began to get a terrible headache. The main character in the book ended up in a mental institution at the end of the story, locked away for the rest of his life following his trial for the murder. No one failed to notice the resemblance to the author's own life, which only served to fuel book sales.
Ryan eventually moved out of his apartment for a second time, and went back to his still unsold country house. The man responsible for the murder of his neighbor had never been caught, but Ryan no longer thought too much about any of that. It all seemed ancient history. Part of another life, and one which he'd just as soon forget. Loyal readers even began to make pilgrimages to see the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of the now famous author.
It took more than a year after publishing "The Country Life" for Ryan's world to slow back down again. He then began trying to write a follow up novel, but was finding it increasingly difficult to do so. He would sit for hours with a pen and notepad, but nothing would come. He began to loathe the very sight of his notepad and its blank pages. He even began to feel nauseated whenever he passed the pad sitting on his desk and began avoiding the study, except for the one hour a day he would force himself to sit with the pad in his lap and try to write.
He began to wonder if he was getting an ulcer, as the stomachaches were getting quite bad. His doctor, however, couldn't find anything physically wrong with him and, after multiple visits, suggested that Ryan might look into calling a psychiatrist based on that working for him when he had his issues with headaches.
Ryan thought about this on his way back home and decided he had nothing to lose and might as well call Dr. Copeland again. It certainly couldn't hurt to try.