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Rated: 18+ · Novella · Detective · #1286357
A quiet suburb is disturbed by some bizarre happenings.Will Detective M solve the mystery?

In the small, quiet town of Krugersdorp, lay a cemetery located in the very heart of this sleepy community.  All was still, except the occasional croaking of frogs.  Row upon row of grey, cold, sad looking head-stones dotted the ground.  The cemetery was guarded by ancient trees, dark and menacing, their branches casting crooked finger-like shadows across the ground.  On the one end of the Cemetery was a large, still pond, its waters deep, and dark.  It was not teeming with life, as most ponds are.  At the edge of the pond, nestled in amongst a few sparsely growing Willows, stood a small, stone footbridge.  It almost looked quaint, and one would be forgiven for thinking the people of this town were peaceful, simple folk.  An eerie silence prevailed, except for the odd rustling of leaves in the trees as a chilly breeze blew. 

Suddenly a shrill sound pierced the thick quiet night.  It was a choked scream, high pitched, almost strangled. 

A single figure sat at one of the tombstones.  Her appearance was ghostly.  She was shrouded in a black cloak, and except for the black hair, there seemed to be no colour in her.  No warmth that would suggest life.  Her skin was pale…almost translucent.  Her black vacant eyes stared straight out in front of her, and there was no expression on her stony face.  Then, unexpectedly, she threw her head back, and another thin, feeble wail, pierced the night. 

Suddenly a loud train roared in the background just behind the cemetery.  The screeching of metal on metal seemed to have intruded on her grieving trance.  She suddenly shot to her feet and fled, cape flowing, long black hair streaming out behind her as the hood slipped off her head.  Her feet pounded the grass and dead leaves.  She was terrified.

Chapter 1

It was a bright, crisp morning.  I was a bit groggy from lack of sleep and too much Bourbon, but coping in my usual fashion.

I was on my way to the office, planning my day in my head.  I opened the front door to my second storey flat and immediately, Bingo, my Burmese companion, darted between my legs and made a beeline for the open doorway.  As I grabbed the morning paper off the step outside my door, cell phone and brief case in hand, I managed to place an obstructing foot in Bingo’s planned escape path, grabbed him and tossed him back inside the flat.  I fumbled clumsily with the lock with one free hand while holding onto my newspaper, cell phone and briefcase with the other. 

I had recently moved here from a garden cottage on a large plot on the other side of town.  I had figured that being closer to the centre of things was more convenient.  Work was a couple of blocks away and take-out restaurants conveniently surrounded my building.

As I headed down the stairs around the side of the building and rounded the corner, I slammed into someone who was tearing up the stairs.  My old, battered cell phone flew out of my hand and slid across the passage tiles.  The girl didn't look back at me, or apologise...she tried to hide her face by looking the other way and kept going.  But I did manage to get a look at her face.  Strange looking girl…I was certain I'd seen her face somewhere before.  Where had I seen her?  She was pale skinned with long, dark hair, dangerously thin.  She could have been beautiful if she got some colour and put on a few kilo's.  She must have been in her early twenties. 

It was bizarre, the way she didn’t apologise, or stop to help me retrieve my cell phone and deliberately tried to avoid eye contact with me, and it had me thinking.  To my mind, these were the actions of a guilty person…or had my old detective instinct begun working overtime again?  Paranoia.  I suffered from it a bit.  But I found it useful in my job.  It made me take notice of insignificant things, which sometimes proved significant. 

Her eyes had seemed so familiar.

I sat down to some paperwork after the first few calls were made for the day.  I placed the newspaper on my desk, intending to read it later that morning.  It was hard to keep my mind still.  Something was nagging at me…and I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  In this town there is hardly ever reason for unease.  I reminded myself of that as I tried to concentrate on the multi-coloured files in front of me.

Yet by lunch time, I had still not achieved very much.  I just couldn’t figure it out…a growing sense of unease. 

I tried to focus on the cases on my desk.  A cheating wife.  Her husband had called me the week before.  Really distraught.  The kind of man women just didn’t cheat on…well, so you would think.  Happened a lot in the bigger cities, so nothing surprised me, but in small towns, people talk.  He was the loving father, attentive husband, in church with his family every Sunday.  Got involved in kid’s school plays and did volunteer baseball coaching on the weekends. 

He wanted pictures.  I had been following her every night after her classes.  So far, she was squeaky clean, but I had a hunch this little fox was going to lead me to her den of secrets soon.

A mother checking up on her teenage son.  Willing to pay to have him followed and observed every night that he was out of the house.  Nothing major going down here, I just reported what I saw.  So far, the mother seemed happy nothing illegal was going on.

A petty theft, a runaway child who eventually turned up a week later at his fathers place in town…

...a lost child...

…what was…
…those eyes… 

Unexpectedly, the memory flooded me.  A case I’d taken just after I moved out to Krugersdorp eight years ago.  I’d almost forgotten, oddly enough, as this was probably the most frantic case I’d ever worked on in this uneventful place.  I probably blocked it out because the case had never been solved.  One more failure I’d sooner just forget.  I had to write out a ‘missing persons’ report and thankfully never heard from the mother of the missing girl again.

I remembered that mother...her face…so pale.  Ghostly, black eyes….staring out at me as if there was nothing behind them…just hollow emptiness.  Her fiery red hair pulled back into a demure bun at the nape of her neck.  She invited me inside and sat staring out with her hands neatly folded in her white apron, answering my questions directly, but without much emotion.  The only crack in the brave facade appeared when she showed me out and thanked me.  Her hand suddenly flew up to her mouth and those huge, empty eyes welled up with tears.

“Please Detective Morris….please find her.  She’s only thirteen……..she’s nowhere to go”.

They’d had a fight.  Something petty, usual ‘mother-daughter’ stuff.  She hadn’t remembered if the girl had said anything about running away, or leaving.  She had been out back, potting plants.  She hadn’t heard her go.  She kept insisting the girl had nowhere to go. 

Gone…she was just gone.  Her name was Millie…something or other; I would have to look that up so it would stop nagging at me.

Back at home that night I had another problem.  Bingo was gone.  He was not used to being cooped up in a flat, and the little bugger did this often when I worked late.  He usually escaped through the kitchen window I left open a fraction for air circulation.  Tonight I had worked very late trying to catch up on paperwork I had attempted to get done that day, which proved irritatingly unproductive.  I was not going to go looking for him this time.  Let him come back on his own when he was hungry enough.

After several shots of whatever leftover whiskey I could find in the liquour cabinet, I was warming up to the idea of going to find him.  I pulled on my threadbare, brown tweed jacket and buttoned it around my expanding waistline; there was a stiff breeze blowing with an icy chill just coming on.  I grabbed my flat keys and locked the front door.  On my way down the stairs I stopped abruptly on the first floor.  I heard a strange sound.  Strangled sobbing.  Faint music coming from behind a door of the flat directly below mine. 

I walked up to the door, straining to hear.  What was that sound…eerie.  A choked wailing coming from inside.  I leaned in and put my ear to the door.  The sound seemed to stop, the music still faintly audible.  I walked over to the window which faced the corridor.  It was news-papered up.  Odd.  I stood there for a few moments and then turned to go, shoving my hands deep into my worn pockets when…there it was again…howling this time.  Was she crying?  I noticed a hole in the news-papered window, and peered in.  The room was bare, but with my restricted vision I could just see beyond the doorway of the room which looked into the sitting room, where I could see a form.  It was that girl.  Her face had been haunting me since this morning.  It swiftly occurred to me now, as I felt the hairs on my neck began to rise while I observed the forlorn figure on the floor…this is why I had been feeling ill at ease all day.  She looked like Millie’s mother, the exact same eyes.  Could this possibly be the missing daughter?  She looked approximately the right age…that would make her about twenty one…

She sat in the middle of the bare floor of a sparsely furnished living room.  There were no lights on but she had a large, black candle on the floor in front of her.  The candle flickered and appeared to eerily glow through an intricate carving on the side of the candle, of what appeared to be skulls.  She was rocking backwards and forwards, her long black hair draped over her pale face.  Her hands were folded neatly into the lap of her ankle length black dress.  She tipped her head back and wailed…choked sobbing followed.  There was something strange about the scene…disturbing.  Like she was…possessed or something.

Then I realised there was something very disturbing about a man peering into the home of a young, obviously grieving woman.  I turned quickly to go, hoping that no-one had seen me and I braved the cold to go and look for Bingo.  But my search was in vain, as I did not find Bingo that night.  Bingo had vanished.

The next morning, dog tired, I drained the last morsels of strong, black coffee out of my super-sized mug.  The office was quiet at six thirty in the morning.  I had decided to come in early and sort through the file on the teenage kid, hoping if I could present all the paperwork from the last three months to the mother, she would finally realize she had the ideal teenage son and drop the case.  Not that I didn’t need the money, but it did waste a lot of my Friday and Saturday nights trying traipsing around after a lovesick teenager, where I could be spending time widening my network of contacts at the bar. 

I flipped through the files on my desk.  Where was that blue file on the teenage kid?

Just then I remembered something else I had to do.  I made my way over to the grey steel cabinet against the wall to pull an old file.  I spent the best part of an hour trying to find the file on the case of that missing girl from some eight years back.  Where was the confounded thing?  I never threw files away.  I never archived or stored anything.  There weren’t enough files enough to store.  The file was simply not there.

“Good morning Mr Morris”.  It was the receptionist.  A young, blonde girl, a school leaver who was hired by the Admin Manager about six months ago.

“Good morning” I retorted.  “Lydia, has anyone re-arranged the files in these cabinets?”  I asked, irritated.. 

“Not that I know of Mr Morris” she responded, cautiously.

“I need you to search through this cabinet.  There’s a file on a case I took about eight years ago, a missing girl.  Don’t remember the names.  See what you can find”.

“Yes, Mr. Morris” she replied, turning to answer a ringing phone.

I discovered my unread newspaper from the previous day, just under the blue folder on the teenage kid, unread.  I hadn’t even picked up this morning’s paper yet.  Yesterday’s news…I hated being behind on the latest happenings.  Might as well give it a glance.

Nothing much in the headlines, someone got arrested for animal abuse.  I knew them, a gay couple that owned a clothing store a few blocks from here.  That would be some fuel for the gossips talk for the next few months at least. 

Paging through the newspaper, I suddenly stopped…page three caught my eye.  The picture had my attention…I couldn’t take my eyes off it.  I read the headline:  ‘Evidence of a cult in Krugersdorp‘.  What?  A cult right under our noses, and I’d known nothing about this?  Who could possibly be involved, I wondered.  I thought about the unruly ‘gang’ at the local high school.  The ringleader was a rough sort of guy.  Came from a very bad family.  Always starting fights all over town. 

That picture had my attention again…‘The remains of ritualistic activity found under the bridge at Cemetery Pond’, the caption read.  There were all kinds of symbols and signs painted on the side of the bridge.  There was obviously evidence of a fire, around which looked like the bones of something…something small…  And black candles.  Black candles with intricate designs of skulls carved into the side of them.

Later that night, a little after seven, I was parked behind a tree across the street from Krugersdorp University, finishing off the cheeseburger I had picked up at the local drive-through.  Junk-food was my staple diet.  I occasionally ate out at one of the few restaurants Krugersdorp boasted, but fast-food was definitely my preference.  I had no reason to eat healthy anyway, and no woman in my life nagging me to watch my weight.  I shoved the burger box back into the paper bag and tossed it into the back seat, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand.  I needed a shave, the stubble on my chin was getting to that itching stage.  I glanced back up to the door of the university.  I was looking for a certain foxy lady, sure that tonight she was going to reveal her dirty little secret.  I had been watching her most nights for just over a week now.  Fate had to smile favorably on me soon. 

There she was…flipping her long blond hair over her shoulder, books in her arms.  She was locking up and apparently having some trouble holding on to those books.  She dropped a few, cursed, dropped her keys and retrieved them, and fumbled with the lock to the door.  She bent down to pick up the books and looked around, surveying the street and all the cars on it.  It was as if she’d sensed me watching her.  She looked towards the tree which was supposed to present a crude camouflage for my old Ford.  I slid down slightly in my seat, but not in time.  She looked straight at me, with piercing blue eyes.  She seemed to be…smiling?  She couldn’t know…could she? 

I sat and waited until she reached the locked gate behind which her car was parked.  At this, I hurriedly started my car and drove away, the camera I had conveniently positioned on my lap to take pictures, should the opportunity present itself, falling between my feet as I was driving.  I was a little shaken by the fact that Mrs. Evans seemed to know I was watching her, and thought it amusing to have caught me in the act.  I hated being caught off guard.

I got home a little after 8:30 and poured myself a stiff one.  Where was Bingo?  I had to get my mind off the unsettling event that had occurred earlier.  I grabbed my other jacket – the leather one.  It was the warmest jacket I owned.  The weather had really turned nasty.  It was freezing.

I stopped on the floor below mine…silence.  No lights on, apparently no-one was home.  I took a long walk up my street, heading towards the restaurant block.  Maybe Bingo would have smelled food and headed this way.  I walked past two coffee shops, the local sushi restaurant, and there she was.  The girl who lived in my building.  She looked different.  She was smiling.  Her eyes didn’t quite look lively…but they had something different about them…a sparkle maybe?  I hid myself behind a pillar and stood there and observed her for a moment.  Tonight she had substituted her long black dress for a deep blue velvet one.  This one had a plunging neckline revealing her protruding collar bones and throat.  Around her neck hung a gleaming silver pendant, a horse shoe with a black snake entwined around it.  I had seen that symbol somewhere before…where…where had I seen it?  I racked my brain.  Suddenly someone bumped into me and I nearly fell over my own feet.  I shouted “Hey watch where you’re going you crazy…”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence.  He turned and shot me a death stare.  It was the bald-headed the bouncer from a local night-club nearby, “Hellraizers”.

I quickly looked away, remembering the stories in the papers about unruly drunkards getting thrown out single handedly by this guy, an ex con.  Who gave this guy a job anyway?

I looked back at the restaurant.  I tried to catch a glimpse of the guy she was with but his back was facing me.  He had a tribal tattoo on the back of his neck, and graying hair.  What was she doing with a guy like this?  She suddenly turned and looked at me.  She had a terrified look on her face, her black, gleaming eyes which I suddenly realized looked high, widening.  She got up and stormed towards what I imagined was the ladies room.  As she stood up her sleeve rode up her arm a little, and I noticed slashes on her right arm, a little above the inside of her wrist.  Self mutilation…it was obvious.

Before the guy she was with turned to look at me, I was out of there.  I didn’t find Bingo that night either…
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