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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2203100
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Detective · #2203100
Jack and Colette Messer's search for a missing person uncovers something more sinister
Mind of Madness
A Jack and Colette Messer Mystery


“Oh God! Oh Please! Oh God! No, no, no, no.”
Barbara Peters ran down the empty alleyway, hair unkempt, clothes disheveled, and one shoe missing. She’d twisted her ankle and was having to limp as fast as she could.
Glancing behind her, her eyes widened as she picked up her pace as best she could. As best she could with the bleeding, gaping wounds in her arms.
The woman had been out for a night on the town, hopping from nightclub to nightclub and getting more and more drunk. She was celebrating her birthday, and with no one else around her, she’d decided to celebrate it alone.
That had been a mistake.
She didn’t know who the man was or who his friends were. They had just approached her and had offered to buy her a drink. Not used to getting attention like that, she’d happily acquiesced.
The woman had always been mousy, glassèd, Attention like that made her feel good, made her happy.
Barbara had taken the first drink, then the second drink, and then the third and the fourth. By the time she’d drank the fifth, it finally began to dawn on her that something was wrong.
The drinks were making her feel funny, funnier than they usually did when she got drunk. Standing up, she tried to stagger away, That was when the man had grabbed her shoulders and led her into the bathroom.
She’d been too weak to fight back, and had almost died when the man had pulled a knife on her, screaming in some foreign language. It cut into her shoulder as she tried to stumble away, falling through the bathroom door and twisting her ankle.
She’d managed to escape, and had ran, winding through alleys until she ended up where she was. Sprinting for her life from a man who had attacked her for no conceivable reason.
Still glancing back, she had completely blocked out what was in front of her. The man had disappeared, and she was beginning to feel convinced that the man had left her alone.
That was when she slammed headfirst into him.
Looking up, she saw the man, now hooded and cloaked, raising a knife over his head. A small sneer played across his features as he stared down at her before bringing the knife down, again and again.
Cthulhu Fhtagen.”

♠♠♠

“Doll? What’s wrong?”
Detective Jack Messer glanced up at his wife as she stepped into the living room, clocking the worried look on her face. Both of them had been gone all day, at their respective jobs, and both had recently returned home.
The woman sighed. “It’s Barbara, another secretary at the firm I work at. She’s never missed a day, never. No one’s seen her in a week.”
“I’m beginning to get worried.” She chewed nervously on her lower lip. “I was wondering if-first thing tomorrow-you’d go with me to her house to see if she’s okay.”
Jack nodded. “Sure thing. Does she have any family, anyone who’d check up on her in the event she went missing?”
“No. Not that I know of.” Shaking her head, Colette tapped a finger against her lower lip. “I think it was just her. Which is why no one’s checked up on her.”
“I…we aren’t really close, but something just feels…wrong.” She sighed. “I know that sounds crazy it’s just…”
Standing up, Jack walked over to her, reaching up to cup her cheek. “Your instincts have never been wrong before Doll.”
“We’ll check it out tomorrow. First thing. I promise.”
“Mom?” The sound of a teenage girls’ voice broke from the back of the house.
Grinning, colette winked at Jack before calling back. “I’m back In the living room sweetie!”
A moment later a girl emerged, padding bare-footed into the room. She walked in with a book tucked under one arm, finger still marking the place she’d stopped at.
Tilting her head to read the front of the book, Colette nodded appreciatively. “The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Excellent choice. Which one are you on?”
“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist.” Evie’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “The ‘his widow’ line is genius! I wouldn’t have expected that sort of thing out of Doyle.”
“Wouldn’t have expect4ed genius?” Jack inquire, lightly ribbing her.
Evie rolled her eyes. “No dad. I wouldn’t have expected that sort of snappy dialogue. I know better than to insinuate to mom Conan Doyle wasn’t the best author ever.”
“I thought Shakespeare was.” Another voice sounded from the doorway and Jack grinned.
“That’s my boy.”
Evie’s twin brother tromped sleepily into the room. “Or at least that’s what dad tells me to say.”
Colette stuck her tongue out at Jack as the man leaned back grinning. It was this kind of thing he was happy to come home to.
Turning to face his kids, he folded his hands in his lap. “So how’s school going?”
“The usual.” Evie answered, only the hint of a complaint in her voice. “Literature comes easy but everything else doesn’t.”
Jack shrugged. “What can I say. Messers aren’t cut out for math, we never have been. We’re literary creatures.”
His gaze shifted to Connie, studying the back of the boy’s hands. “Any more fights?”
“Not in a while.” The boy nervously rubbed his knuckles, glancing out of the corner of his eye at his sister. “I think I finally got the message across.”
“Now if only I could convince you I can handle myself.” Evie groused at him, smiling all the same.
Jack glanced at Colette, grinning. They had raised two very independent children, not afraid to fight for themselves or anybody else.
“I think Clover and Alice were talking about going to a dance next week..” Evie turned to her mother. “Do you mind if I go?”
Colette frowned. “Will there be boys there?”
“Of course.” Evie laughed. “Wouldn’t be a dance if there wasn’t.”
“Will there be boys going with you?” Colette clarified.
Shrugging, Evie ticked them off on her fingers. “Only Lewis and Warren. They’re just going because it’s our little group.”
She smiled at her mother. “Don’t worry, there won’t be any shenanigans. Lewis would have our scalps if Alice ended up in the middle of anything.”
“I don’t mind Doll.” Jack supplied helpfully. “Warren seems harmless enough. I think I put the fear of God in him enough the first few times he came over.”
His playful expression met Evie’s mortified one, grinning..
With a sigh, Colette finally relented. “All right, you can go. I’ll even help you pick out a dress and do your hair. Just promise me one thing.”
“What?” Evie’s eyes were full of worry.
Colette reached forward and put a hand on her daughter’s cheek, smiling warmly at her. “Have fun.”
“I will mom! Thank you! Thank you so much! I need to go call Alice and Clover and let them know!” the girl turned on her heel and dashed back towards her room.
“Wait until after…” Colette shook her head, chuckling softly. “Already gone.”
Standing, Connie shrugged. “Well I might as well go see about getting some friends together so I can keep an eye on her.”
With that, he was gone, leaving Colette and Jack alone. The woman allowed a long sigh to wrack her frame as she turned her eyes towards her husband.
Meeting her concerned gaze, he tried to smile reassuringly. “We’ll find out what happened to her Doll. I promise.”
“I know.” Colette began to head back towards their bedroom, turning to glance at Jack. “I’m just worried about what we’ll find when we do.”

♠♠♠

Morning came early as the Messers found themselves outside the small apartment Barbara called her home. Colette had known the address from seeing it in the address books at her office, but still they’d stopped by to check just to be sure.
The kids had been dropped off at school, and Jack was grateful they hadn’t noticed the bulge of the revolvers in her parents’ clothing. They couldn’t be too careful with whatever might be in the apartment.
In front of them, the apartment loomed, shades drawn and lights off. Beside him, Jack could feel Colette shiver.
“Something seems…off…” Only the slightest wavering flavored Colette’s voice. Her hands worked themselves in and out of fists as she stared at the front door. “Jack…do you…”
The man nodded. “I feel it too.”
The air practically sang with unease, still and damp and clammy as it was. Above them, the overcast sky didn’t help. It threatened rain, and had threatened it since the sun had risen that morning.
If the situation hadn’t been so dire, Jack might have remarked on the poetic nature of the environment. He chose not to though, as the two of them stared, standing by Jack’s car.
“We’ve got to go in sometime Doll.” He finally murmured quietly.
The woman nodded. “I know I just…”
“I know…” Jack reached out and touched her shoulder. “I’m worried too.”
Finally they began moving towards the house, Jack initially leading before Colette outpaced him. Together they reached the front door, Colette laying a hand on it.
She pulled the door open, and immediately the two of them were assaulted by the smell of death and blood, roiling from the inside of the room. Stepping away from the door, Jack covered his mouth with his hand, trying to not throw up.
Beside him, Colette did the same, coughing against the stench as she forced her way inside.
CoughBarbara?Cough.”
Colette’s voice rang out into the silent house, receiving no answer as it winged away from her into the dark. Concerned olive green eyes met worried ice blue ones, Colette cautiously stepping further into the house.
“Barbara?”
Still there was no answer as the two of them proceeded further into the room, and further into the house. There was no answer, though there was a clear path through the floor as if something had been dragged.
Deep in the back of his mind, warning bells began firing for Jack. The trail of the dust was distinctly human in width.
He worried he knew what had happened. Watching his wife’s face, and the constant stream of emotions playing behind it, he knew she was piecing together the same thing.
It was with a heavy tread that they both approached the open doorway to the living room. Each of them thought they knew what would be inside it. Each of them prepared for the worst.
Neither of them could quite be ready for what they found though, as first Colette and then Jack breached the threshold.
“Oh…oh god…oh no.” Colette couldn’t keep the tremor out of her voice, and Jack knew if he spoke he’d do the same.
Barbara was indeed dead, there was no mistaking that. The woman was stretched out in her living room, limbs pointing in all cardinal directions. Her throat had been slit, body covered in stab wounds, almost randomly driven.
That was the horrifying part. It wasn’t the disturbing one.
The disturbing nature of the murder came in the symbols carved into her flesh. Occult symbols, otherworldly symbols.
They sent a shiver up Jack’s spine.
“Oh Barbara…poor, poor thing.” Colette stepped towards the woman, looking down at her with tears in her eyes. Shifting her gaze, she glanced at Jack. “Who would do this to a person?”
“Why would they?” She asked, bending down to touch the woman’s face, tilting it one way and then the other. “Poor girl.”
Jack stood, silently eyeing the symbols. Something caught his eyes in the wall and he glanced over. “Doll…”
There were similar symbols carved on the walls, etched into them jaggedly and deeply. Matching ones were carved into the floor, in patterns connecting to the walls and seemingly starting from the body.
Whoever had done this had taken their time, hadn’t been rushed. They’d done everything on their own timing.
The utter methodicalness chilled Jack’s blood. This wasn’t the first time they’d done something like this, and if he and Colette didn’t manage to stop them, it wouldn’t be the last.
Something sitting against the wall snagged Jack’s attention and he glanced at it, beginning to walk closer. Bending down, he picked up the small statue, placed against the corner.
It was dark, mottled green, made of some stone he couldn’t identify. The figure that had been carved out of it was horrific, all eyes and wings and ropy tentacles. Staring down at it, Jack began to feel a buzzing in the back of his mind.
It was like he couldn’t look away from it.
The eyes of the figure almost seemed to burn with a kind of dull, submerged light. It seemed to draw Jack into it, drawing him deeper under the waves.
To Jack it was like he was drowning, being pulled under by whatever this thing was. He was being dragged under the waves and drowned.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

“Jack?”
Jack came back to himself, feeling a hand on his shoulder. Glancing back, he saw Colette studying him worriedly. “Jack…what is it? What’s wrong? You were muttering.”
“I…I don’t know Doll.” Jack muttered, one hand coming up to rest on his forehead.
Any further conversation was halted by knocking on the door.
Jack and Colette pulled up short as the knocking turned to pounding and the door practically rattled off its hinges. The two stared at each other, before Colette nodded at the door and Jack sighed.
Striding over to the door, he put a hand to it and opened it. “Can I help you?”
The first thing he became aware of was the pistol pointed dead at him, in the fist of the knocker. The suited and hatted man smirked, a cigarette dangling in his mouth. “Well this is unexpected. Get back in there, against the wall.”
Jack nodded, suddenly tense. “Yeah. Yeah. Message received.”
He backed into the room, calling over his shoulder. “Hey Colette. We’ve got a guest, he’s rather persuasive about coming in.”
His hand dipped into his pants pocket, stowing the statue away.
Turning around, Colette let out a small gasp, her hand going for the revolver hidden in her dress. Jack quickly shook his head, minutely jerking it from side to side.
Her hand fell away, though the hardness in her eyes never died.
“Now ain’t this interestin’?” The armed man said, chuckling. “I come here to investigate an untied loose end, and here I find you two with a dead body.”
“It makes a guy wonder.”
Jack bowed up “What does that have to do with…?”
“Shut your trap Buddy.” The intruder immediately cut him off. “I wasn’t done talking. As I was saying, It makes a guy wonder. Boss’ll wonder too.”
“Who’s your boss?” Colette asked, trying to keep herself close to Jack but far enough away that she could react if things went south.
“None of your business sweetheart.” The man slid his eyes over to her, looking her up and down. “All you need to know is that he’s a collector of antiques. Old books and statuary. The woman who lived here was supposed to have found some very interesting things.”
“My boss wanted to have a look at them.”
“So you killed her?” Jack stated, his eyes never leaving the pistol and the barrel of it trained on him. “Because your boss wanted to have a look at them.”
The intruder sighed. “Again with the accusations.”
He held up his other hand, palm forward. “I did not kill her. Scout’s honor. That being said however…”
His gun turned, menacing Colette who’d been slowly advancing on him. “…boss still wants answers, and he still wants to have a look. So you’re going to have to come with me.”
“I don’t think so.” Jack growled. Lunging forward, he made to charge the man. At the same moment, Colette threw herself to the side, avoiding the bullet meant for her that skipped into the wall.
Landing atop the man, Jack punched him once in the face, receiving a wild blow to his own cheek for his trouble. The man packed a punch, this wasn’t his first fight.
He had raised his fist for a second blow when the door swung open again, and several footsteps stormed in. Jack felt a hand seize the back of his jacket and hoist him upwards.
For just a brief moment he caught sight of a Thompson in someone’s hands before a fist was driven into his stomach. He coughed, hearing Colette cry his name from somewhere past them.
“You didn’t think I’d come here without a backup plan did you?” The man spoke from above him.
“Boss wouldn’t have appreciated that very much.”
Jack was rolled over by a foot being forcibly applied to his ribs. Head lolling, he saw two of the men with their hands roughly on Colette’s arms, holding her in place as she struggled towards him.
Several more blows to the side drove the air from his lungs and curled him up into the fetal position, trying to protect his organs. He could already feel the bruises forming.
Several more kicks did nothing to help his condition.
“All right boys that’s enough. I think he gets the message.”
Jack felt someone step up to him and glanced up, seeing the man who had started the whole thing. He shook his head. “Wrong place, wrong time buddy. My most sincere apologies.”
Raising a Thompson he’d gotten from one of the others, he brought it down, smashing it into Jack’s face and divorcing him of his consciousness.
Darkness swallowed Jack as he sank down into the abyss.

♠♠♠

Water.
Water surrounded Jack Messer as he found himself floating hundreds if not thousands of feet below the waves. He found his gaze drawn, not to the sunlight above, but to the depths below.
Huge structures rose up like fingers out of the great black pits, tall spires and massive temples. They stretched upwards, almost like they were reaching out to him.
The buildings, or whatever lived in them wanted him, he could feel it.
He floated above them, looking down into their darkness, into their deeps. Even as he floated above them it was like he could feel something brushing up against his mind.
It was large, it was alien, and it was terrifying in that otherness.
Somewhere deep beneath him a chanting began, a thousand voices, lifting up twisted words. The utterances tore at him, even as he could not cover his ears or drown them out.

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn

♠♠♠

Sitting in the backseat of one of the gangsters’ cars, Colette cradled her unconscious husband’s head in her lap. She stroked his hair, trying to quiet the uneasy mumblings he was murmuring, lest the gangster decide he had tired of him.
They’d taken his gun away, but hadn’t thought to search her. Hers was still pressed against her, and she’d managed to slip the strange little statue they’d found out of Jack’s pocket. It rested now in hers, hidden from them without their knowledge.
“You two have no idea what you’ve stumbled into, and for that I apologize.” The man who had first come through the door was saying. “But you’re involved in this now, so boss is going to want to talk to you.”
“My name is Ross Franklin, by the way. Never got around to introducing myself.” A small sardonic chuckle punctuated his words. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“It’s not mutual.” Colette growled.
Franklin shrugged. “More’s the pity. Once your husband’s…out of the picture, we might could use someone like you.”
“I’m sure you could have many uses.” Without taking his eyes off the road, he began to reach backwards towards her. Scooting away from him, Colette tried to put as much distance between the two of them as possible.
She pulled Jack away from him too, not wanting him to be able to take any sort of revenge on the man. The woman watched as he patted fruitlessly around the backseat before sighing and giving up.
“It’ll be too late for all of you soon enough anyway.” Franklin chuckled, returning his full attention to the road. “Boss still wants answers.”

♠♠♠

Jack coughed, snapping awake at the shock of cold water hitting him. Drenched, he looked up and around at the room he’d woken up in.
It was a library, shelved to bursting with old books, lit by ancient looking gas lamps and with a piano in the corner. He might have been more inclined to look around and see just what was on the shelves, if it wasn’t for the rope securing him to the chair.
The rope, or the sobering sight of the man who’d knocked him out, standing across from him with a gun to Colette’s head.
She too was tied to a chair, her worried eyes never leaving him. She didn’t seem phased by the revolver pressed against her hair, her head only tilted slightly.
For his part, the man holding the gun sported a nasty bruise on his cheek and was scowling at Jack. “Can’t hit me now wise guy.”
He raised the pistol, holding it like a club above Colette’s head. “Her, on the other hand…”
Colette drew her shoulders inward, bracing.
“That’s enough Franklin.” A voice sounded from behind Jack. “We don’t harm the guests. Particularly when we have things to discuss with them.”
The man that stepped around the corner was older than Jack, somewhere in his mid to late fifties. He was heavyset, clad in a gray suit and red shirt, the black tie standing out like a beacon. His hair was black and thinning, with a patchy beard covering his cheeks and chin.
His hands rested heavily on a cane, a bright yellow ring visible on one finger. Tapping the cane on the ground, he addressed Jack. “You’re just about the unluckiest man to ever live aren’t you?”
“Depends.” Jack grunted, spitting out water. “I’m still alive aren’t I?”
A strange smile settled on the man’s face. “By my good graces only. If it was up to my man there, you’d be dead.”
“Your woman would be kept alive though, for all the cold comfort that brings.” The strange smile turned sinister, curling at the edges.
He shook his head, chuckling. “But where are my manners? My name is Elias Altbaum. I’m what you might call an…antiques collector. The woman whose house we found you in had a piece I was looking for. A piece and a book.”
“What happened?” Jack replied snarkily. “Franklin over there get a little too…persuasive?”
The expression never changed on the man’s face. “No. She wouldn’t have been found if I’d found her first.”
“What does that have to do with us?” Colette asked. “We were just there because I was worried about Barbara. We don’t know anything about any book or piece.”
Chuckling, the man grabbed a chair, pulling it up in front of Colette and sitting down. His body blocked Jack’s view of Colette. “You don’t know anything? Maybe. You and your husband’s reputations precede you however Mrs. Messer.”
“You have a tendency to get involved in things. I’m just trying to get ahead of that curve.” Jack heard flesh patting flesh. “You’re both going to help me.”
“Why should we?” Jack inquired. “We don’t tend to work for people like you.”
The man turned his head. “Because I know all about you Mr. Messer. We wouldn’t want to see anything happen to little Miss Evie Rose would we? She’s such a beautiful girl.”
Jack felt the blood freeze in his veins. “I swear if you touch one hair on her head.”
I’ll kill you.” Colette growled from the man’s other side.
Chuckling, Altbaum shook his head. “There’s no need for such theatrics. I wouldn’t ever dream of hurting a child. I just need you to do a job for me.”
“Nothing illegal.” He held up one hand in a forestalling gesture. “Nothing like that. I just need you to go somewhere and retrieve something for me. Consider it payment for what you already stole from me.”
He stood back up, eyeing Colette a moment longer before turning to Jack. “We have a deal, Mr. Messer. I’m not phrasing that as a question because I know you’d be crazy to refuse, and yet you’ll try. So I’ll save you the trouble and just agree for you.”
“You’ll get your instructions when I feel the time is right.” He smiled. “Goodnight Mr. Messer. Pleasant dreams.”
Something heavy smashed into his head, and he felt his neck whiplash from the impact, a sharp pain spreading across his skull. He fought to keep awake, the darkness closing in around him and encroaching in his vision.
Finally he could hold himself aloft no longer and sank down deep under the numbing waves of unconsciousness.

♠♠♠

Water.
Water surrounded Jack Messer as he found himself floating hundreds if not thousands of feet below the waves. He found his gaze drawn, not to the sunlight above, but to the depths below.
Huge structures rose up like fingers out of the great black pits, tall spires and massive temples. They stretched upwards, almost like they were reaching out to him.
The buildings, or whatever lived in them wanted him, he could feel it.
He floated above them, looking down into their darkness, into their deeps. Even as he floated above them it was like he could feel something brushing up against his mind.
It was large, it was alien, and it was terrifying in that otherness.
Somewhere deep beneath him a chanting began, a thousand voices, lifting up twisted words. The utterances tore at him, even as he could not cover his ears or drown them out.

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn

♠♠♠

“Jack…Jack wake up.”
Blinking open ice blue eyes, Jack frowned at the ceiling of his bedroom and the concerned face of his wife. He sat up, still blinking as he looked around the room.
Had everything he’d just been through been a dream?
The man swung his head to glance out the window and felt a dull ache echo across it. Maybe everything hadn’t been imagined in his sleep.
“I don’t know how we made it back.” Colette was saying as he reached up to massage his skull. “I woke up here a few minutes ago. Door was locked and the key was on the counter.”
Jack shot upwards. “Evie! Connie!”
“They’re fine.” Colette grabbed his arm, slowing him down. “Found them asleep in their rooms when I realized. Evie woke up and told me Lewis had driven them home.”
The woman’s face turned grave. “Jack…what that man said about us doing a job for him…what have we gotten ourselves into?”
“I don’t know Doll.” Jack reached up and wrapped an arm her shoulders, drawing her down beside him. “But I have a feeling we won’t have to wait for long.”
Deep in the back of his mind he thought of the watery dreams, wondered what they meant. He had no doubt they were tied into the idol they’d found, and the strange cult-like killing.
Reaching into his pocket, intent on pulling the statuette out, his face paled as he came up with nothing.
“The statue…”
“It’s fine Jack.” Colette shushed him. “I have it right he…”
Her expression too turned white as she patted herself down. “It’s gone…They left me my revolver but took the statue.”
“He beat us, even in the end, he managed to outsmart us.”
No, Jack reflected as a pit of worry began to form in his gut. It certainly wasn’t the last they’d seen of Elias Altbaum.
It was only the beginning.


To be Continued
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