A Tiny Light to See By, Part 7

(Psychic horror. A long delay from the last one. Combination of factors, but mostly holiday season related. I expect to post more regularly.)

The meeting was longer than I expected, based on past experience.  Then again, I had never been involved with a mass homicide investigation before.  I took notes with as much detail as I could; there was a lot to absorb and too much to risk forgetting.  It also helped me block out the volume of sensation from the gathering.  In my seat at the back of the room, it was easy to be ignored.

               There are times when hearing the case details make me feel like my input is negligible, if not a complete waste.  This was not one of those times.

               The scene had been discovered by a game warden, looking for poachers, and locked down within hours.  Apparently, I was on the scene the next day.

               What was known, or highly likely, boiled down to a few, limited details; all of which I noted.

-The victims were a mix of adult, Caucasian males and females who had been killed at the scene roughly three days before discovery.  The exact count was somewhere between fifty-four and fifty-seven people.  (the pieces were literally being matched up by forensics)

-The majority cause of death was blood loss from dismemberment, though there was evidence some were killed by decapitation.

-The bodies were dismembered with extremely sharp, almost surgical quality blades of some kind.

-There were no signs of bruising, forceful restraint or other trauma usually associated with victims like this.  Additionally, forensics had not yet found any signs of drugging.

-No traces of clothing, jewellery, eye glasses or contacts, tattoos or anything were found.

-A few traces of footprints were found, in poor condition, but likely belonged to the victims.  Tire tracks in the area were being examined.

-No other materials were found in the way of weapons, restraints, drug paraphernalia, gang symbols, serial killer trademarks or anything suspicious.

-Finally, though some of the faces and finger prints were in reasonable condition, none of the victims had been identified.

               As they went over the details, I just kept rolling things over and over in my mind.  I scratched down a few point form questions as they started wrapping up the exposition.  If the floor opened to questions, I was dying to ask.  When they finally did open the floor, I decided to leave the opening round to the police, hoping they would ask the same questions.  A number of questions were asked regarding the condition of the bodies, foot and vehicle traffic in the area, and so forth.  The general sense I had was that they really had nothing to work with, and the prospects for more were poor.

*Ravens-gasoline-tadpoles*

               Nothing really hit on the points I wanted addressed, anyway.  I managed to catch Adam’s gaze as the questions wound down; I cocked my head, silently asking if I was good to ask anything.  He glanced up at Sergeant-Major Guranovich, the Provincial cop in charge of the overall investigation, who was running the Q and A.  He shrugged and reluctantly nodded.  Not a vote of confidence, yet better than a hard no.

               I stood amidst the early mumblings of the group, feeling self-conscious and awkward for no good reason.  A moment of instant regret passed over me.

*smell of cut grass-apple sauce-dragons-Christmas lights-the sound of a flute*

               “Sergeant-Major,” I asked as politely and confidently as I could, “I have a few questions that have not been addressed here.  Apologies if they are already under review.”

               “Go ahead, then, mister…” the Sergeant-Major said; fishing for my name and, probably, my rank or position; he clearly did not know who I was.

               “Norman Garrickson,” I said.  “The victims were killed three days before discovery.  Were there any sign the bodies had been scavenged on by animals after death?”

               Guranovich raised an eyebrow, looking to the head of the forensics team.  A shoulder shrug was his reply.  “Nothing of that nature was reported to me,” the Sergeant-Major declared.  “The area is rural, but the nearby road is reasonably busy.  We would have to look into that.”

*stacks of money-butter melting on waffles-a broken necklace*

               I decided that went well enough to keep on asking.  “Will a canine unit be sent to the site?”

               That one earned me a furrowed brow from him.  “We have made arrangements for a provincial canine unit to come in today,” he said, sounding touchy.  “The local unit has been occupied on another case.”

               “Okay,” I said, preparing to wrap up with one more.  “Who owns that land?”

               “It is crown land,” he said, “but within a few yards of a farm.  We are looking into that, too.”

               “Thank-you,” I said, taking my seat and ignoring the unmistakably derogatory muttering from the group.

*a strong, warm wind-a freckled child-a damaged, cardboard box*

               “If that is all,” Guranovich said, returning to his rigid, confident form, “I want to suggest that we have very little to go on.  Normally, we would have far more evidence at this point in an investigation, so we need some traction very soon.  We have approval for as much overtime as we need.  I am overseeing things, but expect a fair bit of time dealing with the media.  For now, Chief Carter will be heading the investigation and reporting to me.”

               There was a bit of wrap up as specific duties were assigned, none of it directly pertinent to the case.  It was a big case getting a lot of attention.  The bureaucratic machinery of the investigation was engaging.  If I was going to help, I needed to get moving before that machinery pushed me out.

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 6

(Psychic horror)

The next morning was a lot of down time.  Calling the police station only got me Adam’s voice mail or road blocked by anyone I got on the phone.  It was clear they planned to call me when and if I was needed, not before.  My appetite was shot, and I had to force down half a bagel and some apple juice.  I spent time reviewing the meaningless notes from the day before.  Only the map felt like it had any merit.  The numbers I marked out formed a vague oval, nearly matching the space of the clearing.  It meant nothing in itself, but was too symmetrical to be random.

               This was all against the backdrop of my dream, which continued to cause shivers.  I had been warned and threatened before by odd sensations or presences, if you like; but nothing like that dream.  It was entirely more intense and real than anything I had felt before.  There was no chance in a billion it was unconnected to the events of the crime scene.  Someone, or possibly something, wanted me to back off in a hurry.  My leg hurt, right above the knee, when I thought about it too hard.  Still, I wrote it all down in the pad with every detail I could recall, rubbing my leg to soothe it.  The words “stay away” were sounding like good advice.

               The department called late in the morning, telling me to be ready in fifteen minutes.  They were on time, down to the minute.  A young cop picked me up and drove me rather quickly to the station.  It seemed like he was at the end of a traffic shift and unhappy about giving me a ride.  The station wasn’t busy and still managed to give off too much information.  I focused on keeping it out with modest success.

*condoms-a painful, freshly broken forearm-butter-hallway of doors-despair-trees-a burnt island-vodka-harmonica-curling iron*

               A long, restful break would happen after this, I promised myself.

               I expected to wait and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly they ushered me upstairs to a large meeting room.  Adam stood at a table at the end of the room.  He looked tired and intense as he spoke with two other men I recognised from the day before.  My usher directed me to Adam and quickly left.  The room was modern and new; and the intensity of sensory events was much reduced from the first floor.

               Adam looked relieved to see me when I approached.

*snow capped mountains-blood-shivering in the cold-plastic bags*

               “That will be good enough for now, guys,” Adam said, dismissing the others.  “Get some lunch before this gets going.”

               We sat down behind the table and he stretched his back, looking completely burnt out.  “Tell me you have something to break this one, eh, Norman?” was all he started with.

               “Sorry to let you down, Adam,” I said.  “What I have is awfully thin.  I need to go back at least one more time.”

               “I’ll start with the thin stuff, first,” he said through a yawn.

               “Okay.  You already know how this works for me.  I was not able to get a specific read at the scene.  That same intensity I told you about was still going strong when I left.”  I showed him the map I made with little intensity level numbers, from tens to ones, circling the site, explaining what I did.

*a predatory bird-dice-glue-waffles-plum sauce-a wooden plate*

               “Does this mean anything to you?  Am I missing something?” he asked.

               “On its own, no,” I explained.  “I was hoping for some kind of clue or something.  What is curious, and possibly relevant, is I did not observe a single animal of any kind closer than the perimeter I marked.  Even those animals appeared agitated.  I was told the canine unit was occupied, but I would bet those dogs would have freaked out if they got too close.”

               “Well, that’s something, I guess,” he muttered.  “Anything else?  Please?”

               I nearly smiled, except the memory of the dream blotted it out.  I told Adam about the dream, even looking through my notes to cover everything off.  My leg positively ached as I did so.

*darkness-strong wind-heat-a dancing crowd*

               “I’m not sure what to make of that, Norman,” Adam said.  “I can tell it still hurts your leg, though.”

               “I never was a good faker,” I clenched through the words.  “Maybe I should work on that.”

               “Maybe, but for now it sounds vaguely like a cult thing, even if you’re not feeling it that way.”

               “I can’t rule anything out,” I said, massaging my leg, “but dreams are not so direct.  Dream imagery is highly abstract, in many respects.  The message, and this business with my leg, was clear enough.  Someone does not want me here.”

               “You and everyone on the case,” Adam said.  “Whoever is behind this is really bad news, you can be sure of it.  Listen, I’ve got a ton going on, including the missing Timberton kid, so if that’s all you have, I will let you go.  If you are ready for case details, you are welcome to stay.  We’re having a group briefing in about half an hour, just to go over everything.  If not, I understand.”

               “What about going back to the site?” I asked.  “If there are fewer people around, I might have a better shot.”

               “The site is being cleared up as we speak,” Adam said.  “I’m guessing that will throw you off, too.”

               I thought about it for a moment.  The briefing did not seem premature at this point.  “I’ll stay for the briefing if I can still go back to the site.  How about that?”

               “It will have to be quick,” Adam said.  “We have a press conference at five.  Then we have to be careful about what we do.”

               This was Adam’s polite way of telling me it would look bad for a contracted psychic to be openly associated with the case.  How could I blame him?

*smoke-bright lights*

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 5

(Psychic horror)

The ride back to the hotel with Kirby had mostly been in silence.  He said little, other than telling me how this was the worst thing he had seen.  I became aware that I did not have Adam’s cell number; having hoped I could text him about the animal thing.

               “Kirby,” I said to him as I was getting out, “I know how I’m perceived by people, police included, and I know Adam is probably taking a chance by bringing me in.  If I can’t help, I’ll be the first to say so.  It happens.”

               He looked at me like he was trying to read me.  “The chief mentions you, once in a while,” he said.  “Not casually, but he says you helped him solve a big case a long time ago.  He’s a loyal guy, so I don’t think it bothers him to stick his neck out.  Have a good night, Norman.”

*Lemons-a small dog-a sitting room filled with men smoking cigars and pipes-the entrance to a house*

               The hotel was rife with sensations, which I did my best to ignore.  Hotels were always a pain.  So many people coming and going left a lot of psychic energy behind.  Sleep would not come quickly, I was sure.

               I showered quickly and got to bed, trying not to over analyze the day.  I decided to forgo a review of my notes; usually a must, except that my sprawling comments had no real substance to them.  It was a vague compilation of negative feelings and emotions that had battered me every second I was there.  Not much to review.  Sleep did not come quickly.

               When I dream, it is a very odd experience; and odder still compared to how ordinary people relate dreaming.  My dreams always feel very real, and often connect with the ambient energy of the room.  I am pretty ruthless about back checking a hotel room to see if a death had happened there, and I am pretty good at sniffing out the truth when I am on site.  But even avoiding that massive, psychic thrill ride is no guarantee other nasty business has been avoided.  The best practice, I have found, is to take the newest hotel in the nicest area.  It generally works out.

               The room had an even mix of energy, leaning to the positive; so it was a win.  Dreams, however, had a way of reaching out beyond the walls of a hotel.  This was the other downside of a hotel: all new energy around me.  At home, I was so used to the surrounding vibe that it was practically background noise.  An extended stay anywhere else was an adventure.  The general impressions I was getting were balanced enough; and the upside of my day was that it left me a bit numb.

               The dream was like almost all my dreams, in that it was more of a psychic event than a dream.  In the dream, I walked to the clearing, wandering to the middle of it.  The bodies were not there and overwhelming psychic energy was absent, yet I was not alone.  I looked up to see figures enter the open space from the trees.  I had the sense they were men, though they were heavily obscured; as though someone had taken a pencil and thoroughly scratched over their image, leaving only a trace of a form.  Their suspicion and curiosity wafted into the clearing like the smell of smoke.  I was not welcome or desired, and yet they surrounded me.  There was no way past them.

               With more time I might have overcome my fear and disorientation enough to ask a question.  Instead, they began to close in, remaining obscured in their penciled out fashion.  I began to sense a bit of strain from them, and felt certain it was related to the blocking of their images.  It was clear to me they were hiding themselves deliberately, but with great effort.  A moment later they set upon me.  I resisted as best I could, but they were strong and numerous.  I was dragged to the ground and pinned there, helpless and terrified.

               “You should not have come,” one of them hissed.  “Stay away!”

               A bladed weapon appeared, perhaps a knife or dagger, but possibly a spear or sword, and I went into shock at the sight.  It pierced my leg, delivering agonizing pain and I began to scream.

               I jumped from the hotel bed to a shaky stand in one violent motion.  My leg ached where the blade had touched me, yet no mark could be found.  I was drenched in sweat and shaking like a leaf.

               “What the fuck have I gotten into?” I asked myself out loud.

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 4

(Psychic horror weirdness)

I decided on an unorthodox approach to my return.  Presuming the same feeling I got the first time, I would not try to focus.  Instead, I would try looking at the forest instead of the trees.  There was no way I could focus any harder or better than I did the first time.

               Adam told me he would probably be in touch the next day or so, unless I had a major revelation or something.  Other than this, he let me wander the carnage again.

               Deliberately not focusing was much easier, even though the general nausea and headache were there.  It was a random approach, like sticking your hand into a river and hoping to catch a fish.  I started making notes on the intensity of the energy coming through, to see if it varied from spot to spot in the clearing.  The results were inconclusive, although it was clear the feeling dropped substantially after being only a few yards from the edge.  I started wandering the perimeter, mapping this feeling on a scale similar to a pain index.  I made a rough sketch in the pad to map it out.  It was during this process that I noticed something that escaped me earlier.  I noticed a squirrel in the distance, much further from the crime scene than I.  It was agitated and nervous.  It was not a pure psychic connection I made at that moment; however, something definitely clicked.  I went looking for Adam directly.

               He was busy, an officer advised me when I returned.

               “Then maybe you can help me,” I suggested, politely, despite my sense of urgency.  “Have you had the canine unit in here?”

               “No,” he said, sounding annoyed.  “I think there was a missing kid in Timberton, so they would be on that before we called them here.  Why?”  His question was laced with suspicion.  I ignored it.

               “Have you noticed any animals in the vicinity?” I asked.  “Birds, squirrels, chipmunks, or anything like that?”

               That earned me funny look.  “I haven’t, but this is a homicide investigation.  Unless you think this was done by animals or something.”

               One of the fantastic perks of being a psychic on a police crime scene is the attitude you get.  I had heard worse from better cops than this.  You learn to roll with it, like when you get pulled over; or it only gets worse.

               “This is just an observation, and I only noticed it a few minutes ago,” I said, being as deferential as possible, “but I have not seen an animal within fifty yards of this place since I got here.”

               “Listen…” he glanced at my badge, “…Norman, I know the chief called you in and I’m sure you’re trying to help.  But we are really busy.  I’m sure the chief will get in touch with you.”

               If I had been in a better state I would have known better, but I wasn’t, so I pressed.  “It does not strike you as odd that there are no animals anywhere near here?”

               “There are a lot of people around, I’m sure the animals are just not used to that.  Now please go back to whatever you are doing.  Thank you.”  And that was that.

               I returned to mapping the range of my reading.  It was starting to get dark when I finished.  Sergeant Kirby approached me as I returned to the scene.  “We are starting to wrap up, here,” he advised me, “so if you have anything left to do, now’s the time.”

               Adam was nowhere to be seen, and I was beginning to suspect he had left.  It did not matter.  In my second round of mapping, I confirmed that no animals were within fifty yards or so of the scene.  Steering clear of human activity only held so much water for me, even accounting for the rural setting.  That none of them had got closer across a whole day was strange.  I definitely needed to chat with Adam.

               “I was hoping to speak with Adam,” I said to Kirby, keeping my voice down, “but another officer said he was too busy.  Any change in that?”

               “I haven’t kept close tabs on him,” Kirby said, “but that sounds about right.”

               “I asked about the canine unit,” I said, carefully, “and the other officer said they were tied up in Timberton.  Do you think they will be called in?”

               Kirby glanced over in the direction of the officer I spoke to earlier.  “I doubt they will be in here today, anyway,” he said.  “And don’t worry about him.  He’s part of the provincial unit.  The collars are on tight but they do good work.  Tell you what, I’m out of here in thirty, I can drive you back.  It’s been a long day for all of us.”

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 3

(Even more psychic horror)

I wandered through the scene, following whatever paths the forensics unit approved.  It was gruesome and disturbing.  The urge to back out and run was strong; I needed several breaks to regroup and try again.  It was like a nightmare that would not end; sensory overload.

               When I sense things, which is almost a constant state, they come through as tiny fragments or splinters.  If I focus, I can usually expand the fragment enough to get a bigger picture.  Results are never consistent and often get into loops, where I sense the same thing again and again.  The main thing is to stay focused so every bit I sense can be expanded as much as possible, hopefully enough to piece together into something coherent and useful.  It was all about focus; otherwise, it was like going from a view through a pin hole to a view through a key hole.

               And yet, as I wandered through a scene of carnage, the fragments I sensed came through in a torrent.  No matter how hard I tried to focus the bits flew through me before I could sense them.  It was like being in a speeding car and looking straight down from the side window; you see the ground as a blur, with details being impossible to identify.  It was all evil, hostile, aggressive and negative stuff, but nothing concrete.  I kept jotting the big picture senses into my pad until I grew frustrated at the lack of detail.  Every ounce of effort I had was put to making out something.  This was an all new experience with no familiar landmarks to guide me.  I was lost and did not know where I was or where I wanted to go.

               It was tough to say how much time passed, but I finally took a longer break.  Someone had brought me a coffee, which was nearly cold.  I had a headache and nearly overwhelming nausea.  My pad was open but I could not remember what I planned to write, or if I had planned to write.  Everything was a blank.

               “Norman,” I heard Adam call from a short distance, “you all right?”

               “Been better,” I said after a delay, shaking the haze in my head for a moment.

               Adam approached down the trail, looking tired, possibly discouraged.  “Some of the guys are worried about you, they are…you know your nose is bleeding, right?”

               I had no idea, touching my hand to my face.  I was bleeding.  Another first.  “So I am,” was all I could say, instinctively searching for a tissue, finding it, and wiping.  No gusher, but more than a spot.

               Adam stopped in front of me, looking at me more carefully than before.  “You need some time away from this,” he said.  “Grab a meal and some proper coffee, you know.”

               “I suppose,” I agreed without much thought.  “I will need to come back.  There’s something here, something really…different.  It’s hard to explain.”

               “The stuff you do is always hard to explain, Norman.  I would be worried if you told me different.  It is past supper time and I need a break and a meal, too.  How about we grab some food and talk though it, unless you just need to decompress?  I know a great take out place.”

               Stubborn instinct wanted to refuse until I realised I had been at it for several hours.  It had felt like twenty minutes.

               It was an hour before we reached Betty’s Diner, an easy to miss spot attached to a farm supply store.  Adam ran in and brought back drinks and food, remembering my aversion to public or crowded places.  He didn’t ask what I wanted, bringing back a ginger ale with burger and fries; offering to swap it for his chicken burger if I disapproved.

               My nausea had largely passed and my empty stomach agreed with the food, out of necessity rather than quality.  We were half way through before he started talking.

               “You up to talking about this yet?” he asked.

               “I suppose,” I said, “but I think you will be disappointed.”

               “I’ll take what I can get,” he said.  “Besides, I think you are going back with me, anyway, right?”

               I nodded agreement.  It had not taken long after we left the site for my mind to clear, letting me make an appraisal what had hit me.  I was not sure what I could do differently but knew what I was getting into.  I briefly explained what had happened and how bad it felt.

               “You think it might settle down, lose enough intensity for you to sift through it?” he asked.

               “Can’t say.  I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

               “Overwhelming negative evil crap, eh?” he wondered aloud.  “Are you talking freaky sociopath evil or maybe organized crime evil?  Anything?”

               I shook my head.  “It’s not like that, as best I can tell.  This is something deep and spiritual.  It’s scary.”

               “Like a cult thing?” he asked, reaching for answers now.

               “I don’t know, I really don’t,” I said, a little angry at myself for having nothing at all.  “I need to go back, maybe take a different approach.  I am flying blind, Adam.  Sorry.”

               “Don’t be sorry,” he said.  “The whole thing is a mess.  The forensics guys aren’t doing much better, either.  Just let me know when you are ready for details from my side.”

               “Just let me have one more look,” I said, feeling queasy at the though.  “Then we’ll see.”

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 2

(More psychic horror)

A handful of quick turns through farm country ended in a bumpy entrance to a wooded location.  The car only stopped when the entrance ended and the trees denied further access.  The cop put the car in park and turned to me.

               “I hope the ride was okay,” he said, sounding slightly apologetic, “and I hope your day isn’t too unpleasant.”

               “Thanks,” I said as I got out.  It was too late for that, anyway, but the mixed feelings of angst and foreboding were ascendant.

               A cop stepped from the trees and waved me as the car backed out.  He identified himself as Sergeant Kirby, checked my ID and issued me a badge.  All standard stuff.  He radioed my arrival and we waited a few moments for a response.  The usual feelings I had to fight going into this were being pushed aside by a stronger feeling; something supernatural, rather than psychological.  It was very wrong.  I nearly jumped when the radio chirped back.

               “I understand you do not want to know about the scene,” Kirby explained carefully, “but it’s important you understand this may be very shocking, even if you have seen crime scenes before.  Do you understand?”

               I nodded, more concerned about the bad feeling coming from beyond the trees.  This was going to be rough.

               A cow path through the trees led straight in where the vehicle entrance ended.  Bits of litter peppered the edge of the path, which was like any other path through any other trees.  What I was sensing ahead was only getting more intense as we advanced.  In the distance, I could just make out voices and radio chatter.

               “I need a second,” I told Kirby.  I was starting to sweat, and nausea was stepping up, too.  I bent over and threw up.  It did help much, though it was a personal comfort to know I wouldn’t get vomit on a crime scene.

               “You all right?” Kirby asked, sounding both sympathetic and judgemental at the same time.

               “I will be fine,” I said, wiping my mouth.  “Let’s go.”

*cats-lamp posts-broken glass*

               The trees opened on a clearing about forty by twenty feet, and it looked like something out of a slasher film.  Human bodies, mostly dismembered were strewn about.  The smell of human rot, which I had been exposed to a few times before, was fierce.  It looked and smelled like a slaughter house in the woods.  I could not figure how many bodies lay there; though it must have been many.

               The shock from the standard senses was minor compared to what was bombarding me from the psychic side.  A tidal wave of malicious, raging evil hit so hard I actively had to fight it.  It was like nothing I had ever experienced.  The unbridled volume of sensations coming from the place made it nearly impossible to focus, which was unusual because it was normally so important to focus.

               “Norman!” a familiar voice called out, cutting through the blare of sensation for a second.

               I looked up, squinting in the direction of the voice.  Adam Carter was walking toward me, his face turning from a grimace to a concerned frown.

               “You don’t look so hot, Norm,” he said. “I hope this isn’t too much for you.”

               “I just need a second, Adam,” I said, backing down the path a little, out of the smell and sight of that hell.  Adam stayed with me, looking quite concerned.

               “Listen, there no shame if you can’t hack this,” he began, before I raised a hand to cut him off.  I was just starting to catch my emotional breath and needed explain.

               “Yeah, it’s bad,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead despite the cool air of early autumn, “but that’s not it.  Not really.”

               “You mean you’re getting something here?  Already?” he asked.  Adam knew all about my abilities.  I had worked with him years before, when he was just a rookie detective.  He was soft believer.

               I nodded.  “But it’s not the usual stuff,” I said, working through it myself.  “This is something else, something spiritually powerful.”

               He gave me a look of patient concern.  He reached out to put his hand on my shoulder, intended to reassure or comfort, then withdrew.  He remembered that I did not like to be touched.  “We are going to be here a while,” he said.  “Take your time and do what you have to.  We still have a ton of work.  I’m glad you’re here, Norm.”

               It was cold comfort from an old associate, but better than none, perhaps.  After several minutes of centering myself, I was able to focus enough to start thinking with reasonable clarity.  I took my notebook from my coat and began recording what I could.  I noted the date and time, wrote a few points on the location and then blanked.  This was new ground for me.  What I was feeling from the clearing did not break down into tidy little sights, sounds, smells or feelings.  It was like an amalgam of these so thoroughly intertwined they were now just one thing.  Rather than focus on the sensations from the scene, my instinct was to block it out.  I wrote the gist of this in the notebook and stood to face the music.

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 1

(Back at it with a newer story idea. This is a story about a modern day psychic. It is not quite a horror, by my standard, though it should be scary enough. Fair warning, the opening is slow, and I reserve the right to go back and add the scene before this. I do not want to give anything away, so details will be revealed as I go.)

The cop driving me to the site was young, certainly new to the job.  He was clean cut and polite, and exceptionally professional.  I wondered how long it would take him to adjust to a life on the force.

*Apples-orchards-happy people with smiling faces on an autumn day*

               “So how long have you been, uh, doing this sort of thing?” he asked me, carefully, like he knew how awkward it was.

               “If you mean assisting police investigations, then it has been several years, on and off,” I said.  I had hoped to travel in silence; it helped me to focus better.

               “How do you find the work?” he asked, less awkward, now that ice had broken.

               I tried not to focus on him.  It was easier to converse, that way.

               “The work,” I said, answering the question with practiced ease, “is about as bad as anything I can imagine.”

               “Sorry to hear that,” he said after a pause.  “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.  Just curious because I’ve never met a hired psychic before.  In fact, I didn’t know we used psychics until this morning.”

               “It’s fine,” I said.  “I have a gift, so I do it to help people.  I suppose a similar sentiment motivates police officers.”

*Old century building-morning mist*

               “How does it work, if you don’t mind me asking?” he inquired.  If nothing else, this cop was direct.

               I had long since lost track of how many times the question had been posed and answered.  Almost every client, cop or not, would inevitably ask.  I never seemed to give the same reply, though I had a better reserve of metaphors built up.

               “It’s hard to explain,” I said, hoping to put it off.  I was at a loss to come with a deflection.

               “Try me,” he said, a bit of overconfidence leaking through his modest, professional shell.  I restrained a sigh.

*Lost mitten-old wallpaper pattern-smoke*

               “When you are working, and you walk into a room, you are trained to notice things,” I began, knowing we had another half hour or so.  “Some people are better than others, but you try to take in as much as you can and make quick, likely connections so you can draw probable conclusions.  Those who are especially good are almost like Sherlock Holmes’ with what they can figure out.  It that department, I am getting better but no sleuth.  I have a different skill set, though it has parallels.”

               “So you feel things you can’t see, you mean?” he asked.

               That made me smile.  “Not exactly.  The best analogy might be a dog’s sense of smell.  With all of the modern technology at our disposal, they are still used for sniffing out drugs and bombs, tracking people.  They can smell so precisely that it might as well be a sixth sense, really.”

               “True enough,” the cop agreed.  “The difference is that we smell things, too.  We just aren’t as sensitive to it as dogs.  There’s science behind that. Now, is this where you tell me that everyone is a little bit psychic?”

               I laughed.  It was nothing fake or forced.  His intention was not mean spirited or demeaning.  This young cop was bright and funny.

*a pleasant ride in the back seat of an older car-an overgrown fence in the country-a little girl with red hair*

               “No,” I explained, actually happy to for the first time in a while.  “Most people are not psychic.  One in twenty, at most; and most of those are only marginal.  People anywhere close to being like me are one in a million, maybe less.  But I didn’t answer your first question properly.  You asked how it works, so let me tell you.  Imagine there is a whole, separate layer of visible material in the world.  It almost never interacts physically with anything else, but it is connected.  Now imagine that most people in the world, nineteen out of twenty, really, can’t see this at all.  Most of the rest might only be able to see this layer occasionally, or weakly; like person who is nearly blind other than seeing shadows.”

               “And psychics can see it clear as day,” he incorrectly attempted to summarise.

               “That is where it gets murky,” I said.  “One of two things is true about this other layer.  It could be that it doesn’t follow the same rules as the solid world we live in; or it could be that even an extremely sensitive psychic can’t see it perfectly.  I don’t know which it is.”

               He grunted acknowledgement, cocking his head slightly as he processed my theories.

*slipping on ice-watching constellations*

               “So do you see things, then?  Visually, I mean?” he finally asked.

               “How I experience it is…random,” I said, surprised at myself for enjoying the conversation.  “I experience it through any of the five senses, and I also catch emotions, thoughts, memories.  In most cases it is fragmented, so I usually cannot put it all together in one moment.”

               “Interesting,” he said, still pondering.  “How do you put it all together, then?  For an investigation or crime scene, I mean?”

               “I used to wing it, go on my intuition.  Then, during a fairly long investigation, a cop I was working with suggested I borrow a law enforcement technique.  I started making notes, somewhat police style, about what I sensed.  Then, I could refer to it later and piece things together, after a fashion.  Not a perfect solution, but it often helps.”

               “That’s it?  A notepad?” he nearly blurted.

               “Oh, there are other things,” I chuckled.  “As much as possible, I want no information about the case beforehand.  It doesn’t affect my read on things, but might skew how I interpret it.”

               “That explains my gag order,” the cop said.

               “Yes, that would be about me,” I said.  “Are we nearly there?”

*a formal ceremony-classical music-cold coffee*

               “Just a few more minutes,” he said, checking his dashboard.  We had left the highway some time ago, suggesting a remote destination.  “Just one more question, if it’s all right with you?”

               “Sure,” I said, already tensing up for whatever was at the end of the ride.

               “This gift, is it on all the time, or can you shut it off?” he asked.  “I mean, a dog’s sense of smell never completely stops.  How about you?”

*a crowd of strangers-a turtle-a feeling of tension*

               “I’m a lot like the dog.”

               “So are you getting anything from, say, me?” he asked, a little uneasy for the first time.

               I smiled, mostly to myself.  This was where people got uncomfortable with me, where otherwise pleasant banter turned cold.  They either dismissed me as misguided, a charlatan; or they simply got uncomfortable with the idea I could read their minds or such.  I used to believe I would eventually meet people who would be more accepting.

               “Bits and pieces, but I’m trying to focus on other things,” was the best, truthful answer I could come up with.

               “Interesting,” was his only response.

*flat bike tire-a bee sting-a dream about a lake*

Coming Back, Part 1

(Okay. This is the biggest gap in posting yet; mostly an issue of writing too infrequently. Some of what I am working on is not for the blog, so I have not been entire idle. Nonetheless, I have some time to work on some blog-worthy items in the very near future. I expect this will keep me closer to the original posting goal. We’ll see.

I offer up a version of a story that I have started a few times, lost traction and started again. Mostly a matter of being dissatisfied with the nature of the characters and story direction. Rather than draw out my posting delay by another couple of weeks, I offer up the latest incarnation of the beginning. It likely falls under the umbrella of occult mystery horror. I am still undecided if I need to light the fuse on this start, too. Hope you enjoy.)

Gloria could not help but notice the eerie calm in Mona.  Her sister was no softy, far from it, yet it had been a tumultuous six months.  Mona was either in shock, denial or was, indeed, an emotional rock.  Gloria wondered if this was a good or bad thing.  For her own part, the strain was stretching her thin.

               Fredrik, Mona’s late husband, had died six months ago, victim of an unusual, hereditary blood disorder.  He was only fifty-two.  The condition had been in his family for several generations, and early deaths among the males of the family were common.  This was especially troubling considering he was otherwise in very good health.  Gloria and Fredrik’s only child, Lukas, had been suffering from the same family illness for a few years; and the effects had accelerated in the past year.  Now Lukas, in his mid-twenties, was on his deathbed.

               Not that it mattered in times of life and death, but Gloria now controlled the family business.  H-Stadt Corporation was a large, multinational holding company worth many billions of dollars.  A minor confidence crisis naturally arose when Fredrik passed and his son was known to be ill.  The company had numerous, highly qualified advisors that did not matter much to stockholders; all they could see was Gloria running the day-to-day operation with almost no experience, and stock prices were trending down.  The stress was real.

               Then, few days ago, a rainy day in early October, Mona called and asked for help; a rare thing.

               “It will only be for a few days,” Mona had said over the phone.  “I really just need you here.  I don’t want to get into details on the phone.”  Her voice sounded as though she had been drinking.

               “Of course,” Gloria had agreed, knowing it had to be related to Lukas.  He had been undergoing an experimental therapy that was not working out.  As she packed a quick bag and called her boss, Mona was sure she was going to say goodbye to Lukas, followed by his funeral.  Mona had insisted she take the private jet, not wanting to risk delays.

               When she arrived that afternoon, Gloria was not sure how to react.  It was not exactly what she expected.  Mona was, packed and waiting, joining her directly in the jet.

               “What is going on?” Gloria asked, noticing Mona’s dark glasses and the scent of alcohol on her breath.  “Where are we going?  Have they moved Lukas?”

               Mona stayed silent until the plane was secured and her security man was up front with the pilot.

               “Thank-you for coming,” Mona said, removing her glasses to reveal tear-reddened eyes.  “Everything is so confusing.  I just needed you with me for a while, to support me.  I hope that’s okay.”

               Gloria was certain they were going to pull the plug on Lukas, a difficult call for anyone; a back breaker for a mother.  It made sense that her sister needed her.

               “I would not have it any other way,” Gloria returned quickly.  “This must be brutal.  I am here for as long as you need me, okay?”

               “Thanks, Gloria,” Mona said, her voice catching on the emotion for just a moment.  “I don’t know if I could do this alone.”

               They sat in silence as the plane refueled.  Mona poured herself a drink and lit a cigarette; Gloria let it go.  She had a right to cope how she could. Normally, she smoked very little, and drank even less.  It would pass.

               “Where are we going?” Gloria asked, after they had both settled.  “Are they moving Lukas?”

               Mona took a moment to answer, as though she did not know what to say.  “Yes, they are moving him.  This will be the last time, one way or the other.”

               Poor Mona, Gloria thought, she has one last, experimental therapy for Lukas; a final, desperate attempt to keep him.

               “I’m with you,” she told Mona, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

               “Thanks,” Mona said with a sniffle.  “We are going to Europe, to answer your question.”

               “Really?” Gloria wondered aloud.  She had read about various therapies, surgeries, medications and other treatments for Lukas’ condition, but Europe had not been a hot spot for research.  This was new.

               “The treatment is highly unorthodox, and completely experimental.  It is not a medically sanctioned facility,” Mona said, putting her glasses back on as the plane taxied to the runway.  “I waited until the ordinary, scientific approach was out of solutions first.”

               Gloria sat back, content to have her sister talk it out; or just rest with silent support.  Her husband and son passing within a year was a suffering beyond comprehension.

               The flight was mostly spent in silence.  Mona did not say much, commenting a little on the state of the family business and her workload.  Exhaustion made her sleep for several hours, while Gloria fidgeted and worried about the entire ordeal to come.

The Gillbury Swamp Gold, Part 7

(The adventure takes whole new turns)

“Apology granted,” Leo said in shock.  “Now keep digging.”

Charles kept digging though the muck for a several minutes, announcing in whispers when he found another piece.  It was tense work with time being short; Charles became more focused on digging and less on being quiet.  Cloud cover began to thin yielding more light, encouraging Charles to dig faster.

The sound of people approaching was obscured until the last moment, when Leo heard a mix of whispers and rustling reeds.  He instantly nudged Charles and whispered a sharp warning.  The incoming party had moved right up to them with little notice.

Leo turned off the safety of the shotgun and Charles drew the thirty cal.  The moonlight was out, making it impossible to hide.

Leo gave his brother a quick look, turning his eyes to the reeds behind them; suggesting they might run for it.  A quick head shake from Charles declined the option.

Red, Tanner and Ann-Marie Gibson approached.  They were all armed, ready for a fight.  Red and Tanner had shotguns, braced for shooting, and Ann-Marie pointed a rather large revolver.  Charles and Leo had been in tight spots before; just never this tight.  The Gibsons were trouble, widely known to be mean, tough people.  It would not take much of a spark to get the shooting started.

“You motherfuckers are trespassing,” Tanner said with a measure of calm, “so drop the guns and get the fuck out.”

“Just hunting.  We got lost,” Charles replied with a hoarse voice.  Leo realised what his brother had already figure out, which was that the Gibsons had not recognised them.  They had no beef with the Gibsons but, given their profession, it would be better to stay anonymous for as long as possible.

“You look pretty nervous for hunters,” Tanner said as his companions spread out as much as the trail allowed.

“And hunters don’t carry no pistols, neither,” Ann-Marie chimed in.

“You better start talking,” Tanner growled, “or you’re fucking dead.”

“Are you cops or something?” Leo said, disguising his own voice.  Accusing them of being police was the best this he could think of to throw them off.

“You guys must be pretty stupid,” Red said.  “You think we’re fucking cops?  What are you really doing here?”

Charles continued the play for time, half hoping a swatch of cloud would put them in the dark long enough to run for it through the weeds.  “Okay, fine,” he said, keeping up the disguised voice, “we aren’t hunters.  We’re working for Rob Sreyfus.  He wanted to start growing some plants near the swamp, so we are scouting it out.  We did get lost, though.”

The Gibsons were hesitating for real.  Sreyfus was known to them; a local who was well known for being connected.  More than that, Sreyfus was rumoured to have less than legal deals with the Gibson clan.  It made the situation wonderfully complicated for the Gibsons, who were not great thinkers.

“We don’t want any trouble,” Charles added.  “Rob will be pissed enough.”  More food for thought the Gibsons would struggle to digest.

“Sounds like bullshit to me,” Ann-Marie squawked in her trashy way.  “Let’s just kill these cock suckers.”

Her words hung in the air.  A long, quiet gap would need to be filled, the brothers knew, or the Gibsons might fall back to their instincts for violence.  They were interrupted before stalling again.

“Police! Everybody stay right where they are!” a voice blared through a loud horn, deafening them after so much quiet.  Several flashlights came on in the surrounding reeds.  They threw little light and the mist dulled the illumination further.  The sounds of people moving through the reeds with some haste were clear.

“Fuck, it’s the cops!” Tanner burst out as he turned and fled.  “Get the fuck out of here.”  The other two Gibsons turned tail and followed him.

Leo and Charles set their weapons down, as slowly as they could manage.  A group of men entered the trail from both sides, guns first.  “Halt!” the loud horn belted out after the running Gibsons.

“I’ve got these two covered,” came the unmistakable voice of Police Chief Dingman.  “Get after those three.”  The cops legged it after the Gibsons, with occasional calls from the loud horn.

“Dingman, are we glad to see you,” Charles said as he raised his hands.

“Yeah, Chief,” Leo added, “we thought we were finished.”

“What the fuck?” Dingman blurted, confused.  “What are you two morons doing out here?”

“On a case,” Charles said, not dropping his hands.  “It turns out it involves you, even though we didn’t know it until just a while ago.”

Chief Dingman’s glare was obvious, even through the mist and partial moonlight.  “Keep talking, then.”

“We were looking for stolen goods,” Leo picked up the story, knowing exactly how they needed to play things.  “Sentimental items were stolen from a client, and we had some leads the Gibsons might be involved.  We have reason to believe they were dumping the goods they couldn’t sell in the swamp.  So here we are.”

“Did you find what you were looking for, then?” Dingman sneered.

“No, but I think we found what you are looking for,” Charles said with a smile.

“What would you know about that?” Dingman asked suspiciously.

“If I can put my arms down, I can show you,” Charles said.

“Keep the hands up, thanks,” Dingman said, “I don’t trust you assholes enough for that.”

Charles sighed.  “Left inside coat pocket,” he said, feigning boredom.  “And even if it’s not what you are here for, you probably know about it.  And if you don’t, then you will be even more interested.”

Dingman did not trust or like the McCoy brothers, though he did not hate them.  Mostly, they were just trouble.  He pulled the bag of blackmail pictures from Charles’ coat, not lowering his gun.  It was obvious from his glance through the bag that he had seen them before.

“How do I know you weren’t in on this?” Dingman said, taking a pace or two backward, aiming more carefully.

“Come on, Chief,” Leo argued, “you know us better than that.  That’s not our style.”  Leo knew Dingman would realise this.

The conversation was interrupted by a distant exchange of gunfire.  They all stopped as a few straggling shots rang out, dulled by the distance and walls of reeds.

“What the hell is going on?” Dingman called though his radio.  “Report.”  There was a delay of nearly a minute before a response came.

“Clear for now, Chief,” a cop reported.

“What happened?”

There was a shorter pause.  “Suspects are dead, sir.  It was the Gibsons.  They ran for the house and we pursued.  When we broke the cover of the swamp they fired on us.  We returned fire.”  Charles and Leo both mulled over the turn of events.

“Is anyone else hit?” Dingman asked.

“Del caught a bit of bird shot in the arm, but he’s ok.  We are heading to the house, now, unless you need us.”

“I’m good here,” the Chief called back.  “I’ll call this in.  Proceed to the house.”

Dingman lowered his gun, and the brothers lowered their hands.  “I don’t know exactly why you were here, and I don’t care much; other than you probably had nothing to do with the blackmail.  No one knows about these pictures or the blackmail attempt.  I kept that to myself.  This little raid is officially a drug and weapons bust.  It will only be a big deal now because three suspects were shot, but that also helps my case.  Why did you volunteer these pictures to me so fast?”

Leo cleared his throat.  “We know you don’t like us, much, but what they were trying to pull off is bad shit.  Your kid should not have got involved.  I didn’t want that on record in some evidence bag, word would have got out.”

Dingman paused, looking unhappy.  “So here is the deal.  You were never here, and you never saw these pictures.  As I was attempting to cuff you, I slipped and you managed to grab my arm and strike my face.  I was stunned and you ran through the swamp and got away.  I’ll tell them you were headed to the house, so you have a free shot out.”  Dingman pulled out his cuffs and tossed them on the ground, then struck himself in the face with the side of his pistol; a small cut opened over his eye.  He smiled, “If you don’t like that deal, the same thing will happen, only I end up shooting you dead.  So what’s it going to be?”

“Deal number one works, Chief,” Charles said, quickly, “we were never here.”

They turned and ran.  Dingman’s pistol fired twice as they ran through the reeds for cover.  They kept running.

 

Leo and Charles reached the truck in a state of near exhaustion.  The sun was on the verge of rising, and they needed to get away without being seen.  It was all back road driving until they reached the main secondary route into Gillbury.  Charles fumbled through his coat, pulling out dirty pieces of gold.

“I can’t believe we got out of that,” Leo said, checking his speed.  There was no need to be pulled over.

“Yeah,” Charles said, holding the gold in one hand, testing the weight, “we got lucky.”

“So how much did we get, after all?”

“Eight pieces,” he said, “about six or seven pounds, maybe.”

“Enough to pay the rent, at least,” Leo said, scratching at his bug-bitten hand.

“I suppose,” Charles agreed, inspecting the gold further.  “They do have some markings on them, small but distinct; might add some value if there is any rarity.”

“Whatever,” Leo said, starting to relax.  “I’m just glad we got something out of it.  Now, it’s over with.”

“Over with?  What are you talking about?” Charles said, pocketing the gold with a smile.  “There’s gold in that there swamp!”

 

(That’s it for now.  I have a number of story ideas for the McCoy brothers.  Their tales are probably best suited for a series, anyway.  If I get something together for another round, I will revisit Gillbury.  As it is, I am behind on enough writing projects to leave the brothers McCoy driving home with a pocket full of gold.)

The Gillbury Swamp Gold, Part 6

(The adventure turns strange as new, unexpected revelations are made)

Off balance and surprised, Leo did not have time to struggle.

“Relax, it’s me,” came a hoarse whisper in his ear.  It was Charles.

Leo relaxed and crouched in the reed with his brother.  Adrenaline was surging.

Whoever was on the trail ahead was brand new, and probably one of the Gibsons.  There was a bit of sound as this new person shifted around, certainly having heard the brief commotion in the near silent darkness.  A long moment of silence passed.  It was a duel of patience and senses.  If they could stay silent and undetected for long enough then the other side might simply wander off, or go the wrong way to look for the cause of the sound.  They breathed as steadily and evenly as possible, the taste of the swamp air feeling like a film over the inside of their mouths.  It felt like forever.

The mystery person blinked first.  After a bit of movement, the person made some noises like they were digging through something in the ground.  It was done quietly, clearly an attempt to be secretive.  A few minutes later, they got up and started moving on the trail in the brothers’ direction.  Both braced with guns ready.  Whoever this person was, they were up to something they wanted kept quiet.  As the person neared, the clouds parted.  Moonlight flooded the scene like a spotlight in an ancient theatre.  Red Gibson was a few feet away, slowing slightly when the light shone.  He took a quick look around, looking right past Leo and Charles, crouched in the reeds.  Seconds later, he was gone.

Leo and Charles waited several minutes in the reeds before daring to whisper.

“I lost the trail,” Leo admitted quickly.

“Yeah,” Charles said, about as impressed as expected, “no shit.  We’re bleeding time fast while you get turned around on a trail.  Good job, Trusty.”

“We have much bigger problems to consider,” Leo said, dodging further reproach.  “What the fuck was Red doing out here?”

“I doubt it was late night gardening,” Charles said.  “Either way, I am going to find out what he was doing over there.  He may have shown us the prize.”

After a bit more waiting, they half crawled to the spot Red had been.  Leo kept a lookout while Charles poked around a mound of freshly packed earth, eventually digging into it.

“What are we looking at, here?” Leo asked without turning to Charles, keeling behind him.

Charles did not respond immediately.  “Still digging through here,” he whispered back.  “The ground is just firm enough to bury something, though a bit shallow.  It is an awfully small hole, though.”

“Is this him planting pot, or what is it?” Leo asked again, growing impatient.

“Funny,” Charles muttered, digging more aggressively.  “Ah, I have something here…not what I was hoping for…”

Leo waited a few moments.  There was a rustling of plastic and paper.  “Tell me it’s thirty pounds of gold coins and we can go home.”

“This is really messed up,” Charles said, followed by more rustling plastic.  “Very, very messed up.”

“If you don’t start sharing, I am going to shoot you in the back before I walk out,” Leo declared.

“I am in possession of a freezer bag full of blackmail photos and notes,” Charles whispered after a short flash of his hand light.

“Fuck off, already,” Leo shot back.  “Be serious.”

“I’ll let you have a look when we get back to the truck,” Charles said, repacking the hole.  “These ass holes have some pretty freaky pictures of the police chief’s daughter, though it is beyond me why they included copies of blackmail notes.”

“You’re fucking serious!”

“Yes, unfortunately,” Charles said, busy repacking the hole to look as it did moments before.  “The Gibsons have moved on to blackmail as the family crime of choice.  Wonderful.”

“What are they asking for?”

“Fifty grand and the police leave the Gibson clan alone for a while,” Charles said.  “I am not even sure they have sent the notes yet, but it is pretty clear who they are for, and what is being asked.  I mean, why else would they bury this so close to the house?”

“I would guess they are the hard copies,” Leo said, trying to quickly wrap his head around the discovery, “probably scanned for an email to the chief.  How old is his daughter, anyway?”

“Not sure,” Charles said, patting down the dirt on the ground, “but I think she is still in high school.  Too young to be doing what she was in those photos, if you could ever be old enough.  I’ll give the Gibson family credit, the photos are good blackmail material.”

“So what now?” Leo said, deciding to get his head back in the game.

“Nothing has changed for us,” Charles said, marking their location in the GPS.  “We can make up a thousand ways these photos could have landed in our lap, considering our business.  Besides, the chief may be a bit of prick, but blackmail like this is…dirty business.  We can get this to him in the morning.  We are near to a point I was looking to search, so let’s get going.”

Ten minutes later, they were in a small clearing, covered with plenty of small vehicle tracks.  The ground had been packed firm from years of traffic, with swamp reeds surrounding the spot.  The faint glimmer of light from the Gibson house was just barely visible over vegetation.  Charles looked at several spots he suspected before giving up.

“What now?” Leo asked.

“Several more spots to check,” Charles said, sound a touch grumpy and discouraged, both uncharacteristic of him.  “We probably have time to check one or two more before it is time to bail.”

Their next movements took them further from the house to a dead end in the trail.  It took a moment to make out against the heavy, rotting air but the smell of human excrement came on strong.

“This gets better and better,” Leo said, looking with displeasure at a mound of filth bordered with a few rumpled pieces of paper.

“Never mind that,” Charles said, abruptly.  “It’s just their toilet when they come out drinking.  The path itself must have been here for a long time.”

“I hope the handle on that screw together shovel is long enough for you,” Leo said, stepping back, “because I volunteer for look out duty, again.”

“Eat me,” Charles said, already screwing together the pieces of the small shovel.  He moved the mound aside as delicately as possible, resisting the temptation to pitch it at Leo’s feet.  The digging was quite easy in the damp, soggy earth.  When he got about four feet down, the familiar sound of metal scraping on shovel cut the air.  Leo turned back to see Charles drop to his knees and flash his hand light into the hole.

“That better not have been a beer cap,” Leo said, trying to force himself to keep watch while Charles sifter through the damp earth in the dark.

“Doubt it,” Charles said, digging around.  “The ground here is too packed in, like it has been here for a long time.  Wait a second, wait a fucking second…”

“What? What?!” Leo was only half watching the dark trail.

“I think you owe your genius brother an apology,” Charles said, holding something up and flashing his light on it.  In the brief light, something half smeared in dirt, gave an unmistakable shine of gold.