Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, adjusted by Erin Penn
“Is it suppose to be glowing like that?”
Kneeling on the stonework before rusty gate, the teenage boy asked distractedly while adjusting the flashlight imbedded in his hat “What’s glowing?
“The statue, man, it’s glowing.” His companion complained in a raising whine. “Why is it glowing green?”
Glancing over to where his friend rocked back-and-forth, the flashlight in his hand bouncing around the large room, Franklin shook his head. “Dude, calm down.”
“Is it part of the haunted house?”
“Emmet, chill. We aren’t there yet.” Franklin turned back to his task, pulling out a set of tools from his inside jacket.
“I am chill. Chilled to the bone. Why isn’t this place heated?” Emmet’s frightened voice echoed in the chamber.
Rolling his eyes, Franklin put a measure of distain into his voice only a junior in high school can manage. “It’s a catacombs. Duh.”
“Stupidest idea in the world going through a freaking cemetery to get to the haunted house.” Emmet hugged the large black bag he carried tighter and got closer to his friend and further away from the statue.
A couple of leaves brought inside with the boys tumbled in the breeze as Emmet spun to face the room. He managed to bite back a little girl scream and, in the silence, Frankie commented, “Great advertising, you got to admit it. Go past the cemetery to the abandoned farm and its House of Terror.”
As a distraction, Frankie’s comment didn’t each make third place. “Come on, come on. What’s the holdup?”
“They chained the gate. Guess they finally found the entrance.”
“Well that’s just great.” Emmet’s flashlight shakily ran over the room once more as he juggled the awkward, lumpy bag against his chest. “Why would they chain an underground gate?”
“I may have pranked them last year.”
Emmet looked over his shoulder, down at his friend. “Brilliant Einstein. Could have told me before I dragged all the equipment out here.”
“It’s one bag.”
Biting his lip, torn between exasperation and fear, Emmet’s belated response sputtered out after a moment. “….Of equipment. I’m carrying it.” He moved the heavy bag in his arms again before turning to the rusty gate built into the stonework of the room and his friend who still was fooling with a heavy metal chain and lock. “And I’ll be dead if dad finds out it’s missing.” He shuttered at how much grounded he would be between the laptop and wi-fi cameras he had “borrowed” from his dad’s private investigator business. He might be able to attend the graduation ceremonies next year.
“ssssshall … passssss”
Emmet jumped, managing a full turn without his feet touching the ground, landing to face the catacombs again. “What’s that?”
“What?” Franklin pushed with his back against where his friend was bumping him as Emmet backed up to the closest living thing in the room.
“The hiss.” Emmet paused listening.
Franklin enjoyed the silence and the light not bouncing around the room like a freshman who had drunk his first Red Bull.
“I think the statue is glowing brighter.” Emmet whispered.
Really, it was getting beyond annoying. “Emmet, the statue is not glowing.”
“Yes it is. Look!”
Franklin peered over his shoulder. “Okay, light is reflecting off of it.”
“Hello, the only light is this flashlight and it is white.” Tired of being ignored, the straight A math student brought out Logic.
“Has to be something from the haunted house.” Franklin muttered.
“Fine.” Iron replaced the whine in Emmet’s voice. “Let’s find out by getting out of here and into there.”
Franklin blew out his breath. Anger would not help. “I’m working on it.”
“Come on. You open all kind of doors with those picks you made for LARPing.” The whine returned another octave higher.
“Yeah, this one is a Master lock. Takes a bit.”
The wind sighed again and a raspy voice proclaimed. “You shall not pass.”
“Dude, don’t quote Gandalph to me. I’ll get it open.”
“I didn’t say anything,” said Emmet softly.
“Watch the squishy bit there.” Lance waved his hand toward some of the gore the scene techs has marked just to watch his partner’s face pale. Paul made things too easy sometimes. The junior partner dropped his head to concentrate on what he was doing, but Lance wasn’t through teasing. “Look around a bit. They still haven’t found the second kid’s head.”
Once the other detective finished pulling the shoe coverings offered by the Crime Scene Investigators, he raised his eyes again and they skittered over the brightly lit scene refusing to fully absorb the … the …. Closing his eyes, he breathed through his mouth getting the taste of copper and mold and diesel mixing on his tongue. Better than his nose. He concentrated on the generator noise; the catacombs had no electricity of their own so they brought in a generator to power the spots lighting scene for the investigators.
“Decapitation,” Paul stated with no inflection whatsoever, “then quartering.”
“Yep. That is what the doc said. The body parts were chopped off after the kids died but only by seconds.”
His eyes still closed, Paul continued to process the scene he couldn’t look at. “The second head is behind the statue.”
“Well, wha-da-ya know.” Lance bounded from the gate situated between the cemetery catacombs and the old moonshine hole the farmer family next door had dug during prohibition into their barn’s floor. Rounding the stone statue of a knight grasping a bare sword blade with two hands in front of his chest, Lance verified Paul’s observation. “I knew I kept you around for a reason.” The older officer waved the techs over.
They had been concentrating on the blood bath at the gate. No tracks had led to the statue nearly twenty feet from the primary scene, no blood residue at all. Deep in the shadows caused by the unnaturally bright lights they had brought, a teenage boy’s head stared up in terror.
“Lance, could you have them turn off the lights for a moment?” Life had returned to Paul’s voice but in a creepy way. Uncertainty did not become the detective who had rocketed through the city’s ranks in three years to become partner to the most decorated officer presently serving on the force.
Frowning toward Paul and the generator, Lance shook his head in wonderment. The younger detective was still swaying with his eyes closed. “Umm, can it wait until they take their pictures?”
“You know Lance, maybe not.” Paul turned toward where Lance’s voice was emanating beside the statue and opened his eyes. He immediately closed them again, taking a step back. “I think I see something.”
“And you are going to see it better in the dark?” Lance chuckled.
“I think I see a Younger thing.”
Lance stopped and blinked once. “Well, fuck.” He tapped the shoulders of the tech taking the photos of the newly found body part. “Back off boys.” He waved to everyone in the large stonework room and ordered loudly. “Way back.”
Those techs who have worked scenes where Younger had been involved moved very quickly. Younger wasn’t a police detective or even on the force. No one knew what he was involved with, but he always came out clean and it was obvious to everyone involved if Younger hadn’t done whatever it is he does things would have been much, much worse.
Once everyone but the lead CSI and the two detectives had returned to the cemetery proper above the ground, Lance nodded and the tech squelched the lights.
Both detectives stared at the scene, not needing to wait for their eyes to adjust to the blackness.
“So, Lance, is it suppose to be glowing like that?” Paul asked dryly.
Lance growled, “You got him on speed-dial. Call him.”
(Words 1,298 – first published 10/22/2017)