A Tiny Light To See By, Part 9

(Psychic horror)

When I returned to the hotel, I was burnt out.

               Forensics was crowded and busy, not to mention unfriendly.  I was half expecting the maelstrom to have followed the corpses, but it did not.  Still, places like that still manage to overwhelm me.  I fought through it.  What I came away with was helpful, sort of.

               The bodies did not give me anything, in particular, other than the slightest feeling of resigned calm; a strange sensation for me to pick up, considering.  It was not universal, but highly prevalent.  I managed to confirm from overtired forensics staff that the bodies had not, as far as they could tell, been touched by scavenging animals.  The cuts had not been precise, but what did the cutting had been incredibly sharp.  The details were so unusual that most of the staff felt the RCMP would be involved soon.  After too long getting all of this, I called a cab and returned to the hotel.  I had taken enough cruisers for the day.

               Adam had not responded to my earlier text but I sent another update, anyway.

               I was still in over my head, yet I had a nagging feeling there was something familiar about it.  I might manage to find myself above water if I could pin it down.  The hotel room kept giving me a feeling of drunken joy, a strange and welcome distraction.

               Sleep beckoned.  It had been a second rough day in a row.  The forensics area was loaded with psychic energy, above and beyond the mess of recent corpses, which automatically burnt me out.

               The dream was remarkably similar to the last.  I walked into the clearing, which was empty and devoid of the overwhelming energy I first encountered.  Then, the figures appeared, the same as before.  I was surrounded before I thought to run, only having enough time to brace myself before they held me as before.  Their hands were cold and felt like they were biting into my skin.  I strained against them, trying to force my way out, but they were too strong and too many.

               “Last warning,” one of them said, more sinister than before.  The same bladed object appeared, stabbing me in the same spot, only this time the pain was much more intense; and I was not able to awaken quickly.  They were holding me for a moment, just long enough to prove they could.

               I woke with the same shock as before.  Only this time the pain in my leg was agonizing.  It was as though a hot poker had been driven in and electrified.  It felt numb from the knee down.  It was barely four in the morning, but there would be no more sleep for me.

               The pain left me slowly, certainly slower than the day before.  Sensation below the knee also returned in a similar fashion.  I shook like a leaf for a good hour before my nerves returned.  Only one positive came from nightmare number two: I remembered why the maelstrom and void from the crime scene seemed familiar to me.  It was a tainted positive, really, but better than the dead end I had been facing.

               It wasn’t until nine that I felt halfway normal.  I searched my phone contacts for what I needed.  Gary Tellmann, luckily, was still on my list.  Gaetan Boucanne was not there, but Gary would likely connect me, if we got that far.  I was getting ahead of myself, and knew it.  Adam needed to approve anyone or anything I might bring in that was out of the ordinary.  The media would be involved, and I did not need to be psychic to know that police scrutiny would be high for some time.

               I sent a quick text to Adam, stating I needed to discuss something fairly urgent.  I made a handful of internet searches on Tellmann and Boucanne to make sure no recent activity of theirs was especially odd.  Breaking anything like this to Adam meant due diligence; and I was proposing to introduce a pair who were unusual, even by my standard.

               It took me a nearly an hour to jog my memory on Tellmann.  How long ago was our last communication of any kind?  I knew it had been several years since we visited in person.  It was my best guess that our last, meaning exchange was nearly two years before.  We exchanged a few professional emails in a debate over subtleties related to language interpretation during psychic events.  Tellmann was psychic, for certain, but his real strength was academic.  He had studied all things psychic to a nearly ridiculous level.  I mostly used my abilities by feel, like an art more than science.  It could be studied, I was sure, and rules found that could be applied and honed; where I fell off with Tellmann was the degree of personal interpretation involved made that study dizzyingly complex.  He believed that over time, with enough scientific research, the human psychic nature could be fully understood and explored.

               I remember, in one of our earlier exchanges, explaining how I saw the positive application of psychic ability.  The vast majority of the world was living completely blind to an entire sense, and probably the poorer for it.  Most of those who could sense it either lived in denial, thought they were crazy or explained it away with some rational nonsense that in no way applied.  Those who could see it could only catch a glimpse, looking through a tiny keyhole into a large, cluttered, shadowy space; but we could see, at least.  I told Tellman that psychics were tiny lights to see by.  The light we caste was small, but better than nothing.

               Tellman, being on an academic mission, disagreed.

               Boucanne was the one I really wanted to get on board.  Tellman had psychic skills, but certainly weaker than mine.  Boucanne was on another level.  His abilities were extraordinary, much greater than anyone else I had ever encountered.  Unlike Tellman, Boucanne had gone in the opposite direction of science, embracing all kinds of supernatural, paranormal, mystic and occult practices.  The weirder the better was how I saw his approach to adopting new approaches and practices.  He was a brilliant psychic, through all the other nonsense, and wrote prolifically about all of it.  Even as a I skimmed his most recent blog entries (oh yes, he had a blog) it boggled my mind at the volume of information he churned out.

               Adam would be fine with Tellman, even though he was unaware of his worst quirks.  Boucanne would be harder to sell, but I needed him more.

A Tiny Light to See By, Part 8

(Psychic horror. And on we go.)

There are times when you feel like you are in over your head.  My return to the crime scene convinced me the water line was well above me.

               I had braced for a repeat experience of my previous visits.  I ate light and was well hydrated, expecting to brave the maelstrom.  It was a tense ride in another cruiser, driven by another unwilling young cop.  I kept my head clear and actively forced myself to keep from clenching my jaw or squeezing my fists.

               Before I stepped into the clearing I knew something had changed.  There was nothing.  It was almost the opposite of before.  The mad rush that had overwhelmed me was replaced by an almost equally mad void; and it had the opposite effect on me: peaceful tranquility.

               It felt as though every speck of psychic energy had been sucked out of the area.  I walked to the middle of the clearing and it felt like there was nothing there.  Only the faintest, distant traces of anything could be felt from the nearby officers.  As disconcerting as it was for my sixth sense to fade out like that, it was also joyous, peaceful.  It was like walking out of a rock concert and into a sensory deprivation tank.  I lost track of time as I simply enjoyed the moment, unprofessional or not.

               The moment was disrupted by the approach of more officers, and the void did not resist the intrusion of energy.  The canine unit arrived with two German shepherds, almost frantically sniffing at the ground.  They were as unbothered as I was.  What had changed?

               I made some notes and began moving to the perimeter I had mapped out.  The void felt like it was unstable, probably collapsing under the weight of surrounding energies, yet I managed to determine it mirrored the earlier maelstrom.  It was new territory for me, and left me feeling awkward and uncomfortable.  I was in over my head.

               I had been in over my head before, just not that far.  It was like sitting down to an exam after attending only half the lectures, doing none of the reading and no studying.  All I could think to do was walk through the area as systematically as possible, maybe to catch a trace of something.  I refocused as I trudged through the brush and cleared areas, enough to stay open to whatever I might pick up.  It was nearly supper time when I had finished, and nothing came through.  The police presence was easily discernible from the nothingness of the scene, which was eroding rapidly.  The center of the clearing remained calm, when I returned, but not as much as before.  It was slowly and surely losing ground to the surroundings, a psychic equilibrium wearing it down.

               Still, I took the time to enjoy the relative peace of the moment.  It was almost therapeutic after the earlier scorching.  As I basked, my mind started to go over the case.  The details, even factoring out my psychic observations, were going to be a challenge.  If forensics failed to get any traction with the physical evidence the investigation faced huge challenges.  Who were these victims?  How did they get here?  Who were the perpetrators and where did they go?  It meant a lot of uncheck boxes if the science came up empty.

               Adding to this, I had come up with nothing.  This was nothing new for me; sometimes there was just nothing, frustrating as it was.  The wrinkle, this time, lay in the strange, unprecedented experiences I had faced; the overwhelming sensations of the raw crime scene, the matching void that followed, and the threatening message from the dream.  I needed more time and more access to the physical evidence, even though it would be hell.  Forensics labs, cemeteries and morgues are all nightmare scenarios for me.

               I sent a quick text to Adam, whose cell number I had managed to acquire, then asked the officer in charge for a lift downtown.  I made notes while I waited for the ride, which got me to thinking about the situation and how strange it was.  The more I thought about it, the more it jogged my memory.  The experience of the void, especially, seemed to ring familiar.  The ride arrived, breaking my train of thought; doubly so because it was the same cop who had given me my initial ride to the crime scene.

               “Hey,” he greeted me.  “How are you doing?”

*steep, wooden stairs-clover-bright lights*

               “Been better,” I admitted.  “How about you?”

               “Busy,” he said with a smile.  “Things have been buzzing with all this going on, so they are running us steady.  Overtime is going to be mandatory for a while, I think.”

               I checked his name, which I had deliberately avoided before.  Melvin Farthington.  “I suppose that won’t hurt, then?”

               “I am always good for more hours,” he said, putting the car in gear and driving out.  “Have you cracked this case, yet?”

*poker chips-a poorly played violin-a paper cup-a box from a cheap chemistry set*

               I nearly laughed out loud.  “A stand still, really,” I answered.  “This has been a unique experience.  I need to cover more ground before I draw any conclusions, though.”

               He frowned at that.  “Really?”

               “Yes, really,” I said.  “Something about all this is heavily charged on a spiritual, psychic level.  Until I cover my bases, there is not much more I can determine.”

               “Well, that makes sense considering the scale of what happened,” he reasoned.  “I mean, that’s more murders than we’ve had in the last ten years.  Nothing normal about that.”

               We rode in silence for a bit, my mind rolling over things.  Awkward silence gave me time to process.

*blue paint on a wall-a feel of rough fabric-a stained coffee mug*

               “Did anything ever come from that missing person?  The kid from Timberton?” I asked.

               “I haven’t heard anything,” he said.  “You think there’s a connection?”

               “Awfully long shot,” I replied, “but I hate ruling anything out, especially when the timing is so close.”

               “Fair enough,” he said.  “I’m sure they are considering that, too.”

               “I hope so,” I said, letting the ride return to awkward silence the rest of the way.

*walking on hot pavement-a wine cork-smoke*

The Gillbury Swamp Gold, Part 5

(The adventure continues in the swamp as Leo deals with losing his way.)

A shot of adrenaline cleared his head, and quickly.  He back tracked on his last few paces, and then a few more, before giving up.  The reeds, growing in thick clumps, left too many gaps to clearly make out the way.  The ground was too sloppy to make out footprints.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Leo grumbled as he pawed through his pocket for his cell.  Charles is going to rub this one in, he thought as the screen lit up.

Lost the trail.  Will try to back track,’ he thumbed into the cell.  He waited, hoping Charles would respond quickly.  The message stalled, not going through.  A glance at the signal strength showed a depressing no signal indicator.

“This is bad,” Leo muttered to himself.  He tried holding the phone up high enough to get even a single bar, enough to get the message out, but to no effect.

There were only two choices: keep moving or stop and wait.  Waiting was usually the best approach.  His brother had the GPS and knew the geography.  It would only make sense he would come looking and be better equipped for the search.

Leo wanted to keep moving.  It was a gut feeling that drove him, despite the lack of good sense.  It occurred to him that the air felt heavy, almost suffocating.  His mind wandered to obscure ideas, maybe even facts, about swamp gases and what mild oxygen deprivation could do.  Leo shook his head and got moving.

It made sense that the trails would all be interconnected, Leo reasoned, so finding any trail would ultimately lead to the one he lost.  And odds were good that the original trail would be nearest.  The shotgun stayed in a ready carry, just the same.

The mist got thicker, somehow, making movement trickier and the hand light nearly useless.  Every step was taken with care not to slip or step into soggy ground.  It was like being blind.  Twenty minutes later, Leo checked his phone to find his text message still hanging, unsent.

“Well, in for a penny,” he muttered to himself as he pocketed the cell and started moving again.

Ten steps later he found himself on a trail.  It was hard to make it out, but the gap in the reeds was unmistakable and the ground too firm to be open swampland.  Score one for gut feelings, he thought, moving in the direction that felt right.  It was only a matter of time, and not losing the trail.

A rare break in the clouds flooded the scene with light and, instinctively, Leo took in the surroundings.  The mist limited the light, but for the first time in nearly an hour, he could make out the trail ahead of him for half a dozen yards or so.  The rest was open swamp.  The encouraging detail was a distant house, the Gibson place, off to his right, barely visible between the reeds.  This instantly gave him bearings.  The line from the house to his position was at a right angle to the trail, and the house was on the right side, making his direction north.  The clean geometry in his head, Leo knew, was not as clean in reality, but better than a moment earlier.  The gap in the clouds closed, and the light faded out.

North he continued, hoping to find a way west, presumably back to Charles.  The house had seemed close, though a distance was hard to factor out.  Charles had to be close, and had to be west of him.  The slow, blind man’s walk along the trail continued.

A branch to the left came up some thirty yards later, and Leo nearly laughed out loud.  The trail might have turned or twisted, making this a bad move, but it was more likely it would bring him west.  He moved along, carefully and slowly through the soup of mist and unsteady ground.  Some twenty yards later, he thought he heard something ahead.  It was muffled, the direction difficult to pin point, and sounded like something moving in the reeds.  There had not been puff of wind since they left the truck, so the sound could only be something or someone up ahead.

The easy math suggested it was Charles.  Bears and coyotes were not usually big swamp dwellers, and whatever made the sound was at least that big.

Step at a time, Leo thought.  He moved with more care to be silent, as much for stealth as to hear any more sounds ahead.  Staying on the trail was proving easier, with practice, and Leo was able to focus on staying low and quiet.  He heard the sound again, certain it was something moving in the reeds and directly ahead.  Each step was made with great care, and growing angst.

The clouds broke open, just for a moment, again, revealing a crouching figure ahead of him.  The details were still blurred, but it could only be Charles.  Leo took a short step forward, about to announce his return, when a hand clapped over his mouth and an arm about his waist dragging him back into the reeds.  The clouds closed and darkness smothered the swamp.

The Gillbury Swamp Gold, Part 1

(It has been quite a span since my last post.  All is well.  I have not been writing as much in the last month or so, and not really for the blog; not yet, anyway.  I hope that everyone out there is doing well in these challenging times.  I will leave the passengers and crew of the Trailblazer for now.  I have to rethink some of it before I post more.

Rather than let the blog go stale (more stale?) I am posting the first part of this story about a pair of small town, private investigators.  It’s not finished and I’m not entirely sure where it is going.  Normally, I would not post something this undeveloped; however, I am not too concerned about it.  For now, consider it a work in progress.  Better stuff is coming.

This story is a mystery, detective adventure.  There are no plans to add any geeky elements, such as ghosts, vampires, ninjas, aliens, etc. That may change, but I doubt it.  I hope you enjoy.  Stay healthy.)

***

The Gillbury Swamp Gold

               “What the hell?” Leo exclaimed.  Charles tumbled into their office, arms overstuffed with rolled maps, charts and the like.  He practically fell through the door, dumping everything on his desk.  When he managed to get everything settled, he smiled.

               “I figured it out, Leo,” Charles said, excitedly rubbing his hands together.  “This is the big one.  It’s all going to pay off.  Mark my words.”

               Leo shook his head and sighed, a poster child for exasperation.  It took him a few moments of watching his brother organise the recent haul to gather his thoughts.

               “You will have to excuse my lack of enthusiasm,” Leo grumbled, trying not to lose patience.  “You see, I am doing this thing called ‘working for money,’ which you may have heard of.  It’s an ancient custom.”

               “Still working the Wiltman case?” Charles responded, half-distracted.  “What’s to work on?  We both know the old lady is messing around.  Does he need a feature length video?  I thought you had that nailed down, already.”

               “It doesn’t really matter,” Leo chided.  “What matters is that we are getting paid to provide the proof.  You do remember that part of the business, don’t you?  The getting paid part, I mean.”

               “Oh, we’re feisty tonight!” Charles said, sounding more amused than bothered.  “We generally get paid when the cases are resolved, at the end.  This is no different.  Besides, unlike you with the Wiltman case, I have made a massive breakthrough.  Beat that, Sherlock.”

               “I don’t have the energy to fight about this,” Leo said, dismissively.  “I will mention our credit line is brutally close to being exhausted and will need to be drawn from, again, to make rent.  All that is assuming the Wiltman case is wrapped up and we get paid in full.  Our credit limit will not bail us out next month.  Will your treasure hunt be paying off in the next month or two?”

               “I’m so glad you brought that up,” Charles began, as if it were a cheery conversation.  “I am on the verge.  It’s just a matter of narrowing the location and we are laughing!”

               Leo had a hard time focusing on his brother’s responses.  He had spent the last week chasing the lovely and adulterous Mrs. Wiltman across town in a desperate effort to get conclusive evidence of her infidelity.  She was careful, bordering on paranoid, about her goings on while Mr. Wiltman was away on business.  Pictures or video were tough to get with any quality.  The proof was there, but Mr. Wiltman wanted conclusive evidence.  The desperate push over the last week had meant sixteen hour days, irregular meals and infrequent clothing changes.  Leo was overtired and irritable; his brother was just icing.

               “Have you followed up on either of our prospective new clients?” Leo asked, looking away from his own report and rubbing his eyes.  “O’Connell and Laird were the names, if I recall.”

               “Oh, that,” Charles said, after a delay focussed on organising his mound of papers.  “They were not interested.  I called, I really did.”

               “I can’t remember which one, right now,” Leo said, “but they were practically in the bag.  Open and shut harassment case.  What happened?”

               “I don’t read minds, Leo,” Charles muttered, looking carefully at a large map he unrolled.  “They just said no.  I tried to get them on board, just for you, but they weren’t biting.  If I were a better salesman, I would sell cars or something.”

               “When dad left us the business,” Leo explained, “the idea was to work together, both of us.  You know, earn money.  These goose chases don’t pay.”

               “Bringing dad into this will not help,” Charles said, scribbling something on another paper.  “If we really wanted to make serious money, we’d have moved to the city.  We didn’t, so we get to scratch by on bits and pieces in a smaller town.  Excuse my reaching for more.”

               “Screw the big city,” Leo snarled.  “Higher overhead and tons of competition is all that would get us.  We are the only private investigators in this town.  Dad made this work for most of his life, by himself.  Why can’t two of us?”

               It was Charles’ turn to sigh.  He looked up from his bird nest of papers and properly addressed Leo for the first time since he had come in.  “All right, all right,” he said, holding up a passive hand.  “I concede I’ve put too much time into this venture of mine; point taken.  I get how it looks.  The business could use some TLC from my side.  No disagreement.  That said, I can’t walk away after this latest break.  It’s too big.  If it’s too much for you, I can walk away from the business; sign it over for a dollar.  I can finish it working this from my car if I have to.”

               “What is the rush with it, anyway?” Leo asked.  “If this mother load has been there all this time, where is it going?  What’s the rush?”

               “I’m concerned my activities have stirred up interest,” Charles explained.  “I know most people who are even vaguely aware of what I’m doing think I’m certified, fair enough, but there are some who do not.  Besides, up to today, your point would be rock solid.  I have made a monster breakthrough, however.”

               “What does that mean?  What kind of breakthrough?” Leo questioned.  His brother was a good investigator, when he applied himself.  This always made it difficult when challenging his hairier ideas.

               “I finally found where the older archives went,” Charles said with a pleased smile.  “That stupid, archive bitch had me believing it was all destroyed in the 1939 library flood.  The town should fire her for being so useless.  Anyway, some tireless investigation turned up most of what I needed in Grahamton.”

               “Grahamton?  Really?” Leo asked, finding himself oddly interested.

               “Pretty much everything I needed was only an hour away, brother,” Charles said, almost dramatically.  “Turns out, our 1939 library flood did wreck a bunch of stuff.  A lot of what they salvaged was shipped out of town, to Grahamton, for temporary safe keeping.  God only knows why, maybe the war, but temporary turned into forever.  In 1971, Grahamton moved most of that stuff to a third party site for storage because of renovations or something.  Here’s where the planets align: the storage arrangement was a handshake deal that went sour.  Gordon Brown had stored the crap at his estate, after which the library people quibbled about cost.  Gordo gets pissed and refuses to give the archive stuff back.  The Grahamton library covers up their end by denying the story and the deal, all the easier because it isn’t really their material, anyway.  Gordo holds onto it for spite and dies.  Et voila, the Brown estate has an attic full of gold waiting for yours truly.”

               “And that’s what all this crap is, then?” Leo asked, trying not to get caught up his brother’s scheme.

               “Some of it,” Charles said.  “I told Gordo’s family I was doing work for the university and needed the stuff, some of which is useless.  I took it all to avoid suspicion.  I don’t think they knew much about Grandpa Gordo’s quarrel with the Grahamton Library.”

               “By ‘take,’ you mean purchased,” Leo commented.

               “A couple hundred dollars for the cause,” Charles said, sounding proud despite an obvious sense of his brother’s disapproval.  “We’ve paid more for information before.”

               “Very rarely,” Leo said.

               “No matter,” Charles went on.  “If this ‘goose chase’ doesn’t pan out, I swear I will step up for the business.  Things will get better, either way.”