Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 25

            "Doctor Tynesdale?” Kim shouted. “Can you hear me?”
Without waiting for a reply, Angela grabbed her bottle of water and doused the unconscious man’s face. Sputtering, Phillip Tynesdale blinked twice then massaged his forehead before speaking.
            “My apologies, ladies,” he muttered. “I don’t know what came over me. A sudden dizzy spell. If you would be so kind as to hand me my bag … I should check my blood sugar levels.”
Gillian retrieved the doctor’s bag and helped him dig through the papers and files to retrieve his glucometer kit. She inserted the test strip into the machine and, because Dr. Tynesdale’s hands were trembling so severely, she pressed the lancet into his finger. Taking over, Dr. Tynesdale pressed on the tiny puncture to produce a drop of blood and applied it to the test strip.
            “No wonder,” Kim gasped. “Sixty-three is way too low! How long has it been since you last had a meal?”
Embarrassed, he pulled a small snack from his bag and ate it.
            “That should hold me until I can get some lunch. In fact, I think we all need a lunch break. If one of you lovely ladies will drive, lunch is on me.”
They piled into Kim’s car and she took them to one of her favorite lunch spots.
****
On the other side of town, Bill and Detective Sanchez were pulling into the Inner Sanctum’s parking lot.
            “I’m surprised they’d pick a spot in this part of town,” Sanchez muttered. “Guess they couldn’t find a building on the nicer side.”
            “No, I’d bet this was a deliberate choice. One, they’re less likely to have anyone prying.” Bill replied. “Two, they have plenty of access to people who are down on their luck. Isn’t that what most cults do? Prey on the easiest targets?”
            “Hmm, good point.” She said, smiling. “Well, we should probably get in there. Remember, in there, I’m just Gabriella not Detective Sanchez, okay?”
She slid out of the car at the same time as her passenger. Bill waited until they fell in step next to each other.
            “Sure thing, Gabby.”
Bill grinned at the detective’s scowl. She threw a playful punch at his shoulder then shocked him by snuggling up against his body.
            “It’ll look less conspicuous if we pretend to be a couple,” Gabriella whispered in Bill’s ear.
            “Anything you say, sweetie.” He chuckled.
Hand in hand, they crossed the threshold into the Inner Sanctum. 

**** I will be spending next week with my family to celebrate Thanksgiving. Since it is highly probable that my nephews and niece will be keeping me busy, I plan to post the next installment of Specter of Death on Tuesday, December 1st. (assuming the zombies don't rise up) Happy Thanksgiving!! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 24

Blushing, Bill smoothed his hand over his buzzed scalp and offered the new detective a sly grin.
            “You don’t know me but I’d never try to manipulate an officer of the law … unless, of course, it worked. In that case, you’ve got me.”
            “You’re quite the charmer, aren’t you? Well, ordinarily, I’d say no to a civilian tagging along but those Seekers aren’t right in the head. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind having someone watching my back.” Detective Sanchez replied. “But if I tell you to leave … you’d better be out the door A-friggin’-sap. Got that?”
            “Yes, ma’am!” He said, trying to hold back a chuckle. “As you wish.”
Together, Detective Sanchez and Bill exited the morgue, leaving the others to their work. Dr. Tynesdale picked up where he left off in the deciphering of Seth’s symbols.
            “Now, those two symbols have opposite meanings which is why it is so vital to get input from the zealots who created them. On one hand, it could mean the key has unlocked the beyond. But, if it is the other, it means the key locked the gateway.”
Gillian’s weight shifted from side to side as she fidgeted with her rings. The weight of a hand that wasn’t there rested on her shoulder. The same gesture would have provided comfort if offered by Kim or Angela but the shadow figure’s presence only brought fear.
     She tried to focus on Dr. Tynesdale instead, and his tedious rambling. The doctor had moved on to another theory as he fumbled through his notes and files. Gillian’s mind wandered until Dr. Tynesdale cried out and let loose a torrent of profanities that would make a trucker blush. His files and a mountain of papers burst from his hands and fluttered to the floor.
            “Doctor? Are you okay?” Kim asked.
            “Pardon my language,” he responded, his voice wavering. He slowly lifted his hand and pointed to Gillian. “I, um, don’t mean to alarm you, dear, but are you aware that there is a, uh … spirit of sorts behind you?”
Kim and Angela whipped around to look at their friend but they saw nothing. Mutual expressions of confusion passed between the friends They glanced back at the professor and his previously rosy face had paled to the color of skim milk.
            “I’ve studied this for years but never before have I actually seen a shadow person with my own eyes. Truth be told, I always assumed those who claimed to have seen one were a little off in the head. Please, tell me you ladies see it too!” Dr. Tynesdale said, his eyes never leaving Gillian’s face.
Kim and Angela exchanged worried glances and shook their heads no. One raced to get the professor a glass of water while the other felt his head for signs of a fever. They fussed over him for a moment before Gillian broke the silence.
            “Don’t worry, Doctor Tynesdale, I see it too. It’s been following me ever since the Ouija Board s√©ance.”
            “Extraordinary,” he murmured just before fainting. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 23

          “Hang on a sec,” Kim interrupted. “Before anyone goes anywhere, we need to coordinate with Detective McDonald. The last thing we need is to interfere with her department. I’m going to call her first before anyone does anything, agreed?”
Unenthusiastic nods were the only sign of agreement but Kim ran with it. She picked up her phone and dialed Marie’s direct line. On the fifth ring, just as she was about to hang up, the detective answered.
            “Hey, Marie, it’s Kim. We think we might have uncovered something that will help decipher those symbols. Did you want us to—”
On the other end, Detective McDonald interrupted, leaving Bill, Angela and Gillian only speculation as to what was being said. With the exception of a few, “uh huhs,” Kim remained silent until she said goodbye. Her friends stared at her with wide, expectant, eyes.
            “She’s sending someone from her team over to find out what we’ve got and they’ll take it from there,” said Kim. “In the meantime, Doctor Tynesdale, why don’t you continue with your other findings?”
For twelve minutes, Dr. Tynesdale had a captive audience. He was free to prattle on about his theories and no one objected because they had no choice but to wait. On the thirteenth minute, a young woman wearing a trendy business suit entered the morgue.
            “Hello, I’m looking for an M.D.I. named Kim,” the woman said as she pulled out her credentials and flashed her badge. “Detective McDonald sent me.”
Kim stepped forward, extended her hand, and introduced herself.
            “Here I thought I’d met everyone on Marie’s team.” Kim chuckled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
            “Actually, I just transferred here. Detective Gabriella Sanchez and it is a pleasure to meet you too.”
Kim introduced the others to Gabriella and marveled that someone so young had already reached the rank of detective. Clearly, the others were surprised too but it was Dr. Tynesdale who addressed the pink elephant in the room.
            “Dear me! You look like you could be one of my students,” he exclaimed. “You must have been on the fast track to already achieve a detective’s position. If you don’t mind my asking …”
            “If she doesn’t, I do!” Bill interrupted. “That’s an inappropriate question and has nothing to do with the case, Phillip. I apologize, Detective Sanchez, on behalf of my colleague. Now, let’s just get back to the case.”
To speed things up, Kim filled in the new detective on what they’d discovered so far and their idea to check out The Seekers’ inner sanctum.
            “Sounds good. I’ll go check them out,” said Detective Sanchez.
            “Look, Detective, one of the victims was our friend and, well, I hate not being useless. Mind if I tag along?” Bill asked. “I won’t interfere or bother you. I need to do something to help even if it’s just keeping my ears open.”
            “And to keep an eye on the young detective, right? That whole bit about my age was planned, wasn’t it? You wanted to get on my good side so I’d let you come along.” 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 22

In painstakingly slow and deliberate speech, Dr. Tynesdale explained the symbols found on the victims prior to Seth.
            “Now, here’s where we find something different,” the doctor said, pointing to an autopsy photo of Seth. “Up until your friend, the victims were all 'keys to the beyond.' This time, there is a key rune intertwined with this symbol here.” Dr. Tynesdale held up his tablet with a page from Seth’s Runeation. “However, it also resembles another symbol on page eighty-three so it could mean two very different things.”
    Sensing his colleague was more accustomed to giving lectures than offering his professional opinion for a murder case; Bill discreetly glanced at the ladies to see how they were holding up. Kim’s jaw clenched, in an effort to keep from interrupting, while Angela chewed on her lower lip. Gillian’s eyes had a glazed, distant appearance. It wasn’t until he noticed her hands—balled into fists so tight that her knuckles had turned white and Bill feared her fingernails would dig into her palms and draw blood. It was time for him to intervene.
            “Since time is of the essences here, Phillip, what can we do to aid in determining which symbols are correct?” Bill asked. “You know I’m willing to do anything I can to assist. I’m sure these lovely ladies would too.”
Angela and Gillian nodded in agreement. The ringing of Dr. Tynesdale’s phone cut off Kim’s verbal acknowledgement. From the doctor’s end, he uttered “ah, yes” and “I see” multiple times before the call ended. Again, the four friends waited for answers that seemed to never come.
            “It seems we were wrong in assuming your friend Seth created these symbols. Apparently, they are part of the teachings for a group called Seekers of the Astral Beyond, also known as The Seekers. There is an acknowledgement to The Seekers on the last page of Runeation.” Dr. Tynesdale explained. “My assistant informed me that The Seekers have; what I believe they refer to as … an inner sanctum, on the other side of town.”
            “I’ll go!” Gillian blurted out before the doctor could finish his sentence.
Worry creased Angela’s forehead and knitted her eyebrows together. Both Kim and Bill wore matching expressions.
            “Now, dear,” Dr. Tynesdale answered. “Please don’t take offense but I think this might be a better job for our mutual friend, Bill. I might be old fashioned but sending a beautiful, young woman into a hive of fanatics just doesn’t sound chivalrous … or safe! They could snatch you up and we’d never see you again. Cults like The Seekers have a terrible reputation.”
            “I can take care of myself,” Gillian objected. She hated being brushed aside simply for being a woman and her scowl showed it.
            “Jilly, we know you can,” Kim said as she placed a comforting hand on Gillian’s arm. “But, we have no idea who these people are. For all we know, they might be responsible for Seth’s murder. I think I speak for everyone when I say we can’t bear losing another friend. Maybe it would be best if we found another way for you to help.”
            “So, why is okay for Bill to go alone? If they killed Seth they can kill any of us,” argued Gillian.

            “You’re right, no one should go alone,” said Angela. “That’s why I am going with Bill. If it wasn’t for that shadow spirit thing following you, I’d be behind you going, Jilly, but until we know who or what that thing is … I think you should lay low.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 21

Dr. Tynesdale flipped through his handwritten notebook until he found the information he needed. In reality it only took a few minutes but it felt like an eternity. The tension in the room was palpable. Wide, eager eyes all focused on the doctor.
            “Ah, yes,” he muttered. “It says here the coding is found in your friend Seth’s book Runeation. Ha! That’s quite clever. It sounds like ruination but spelled R-U-N-E, like ancient runes. See?”
Holding up his page, Dr. Tynesdale pointed to the book’s title and chuckled. The others stared back him with veiled agitation.   
            “Ahem … yes, I supposed this isn’t the appropriate time for an amusing play on words. What I’m sure you’ll find fascinating is—”
            “Okay,” Detective McDonald interrupted. “I’m going to pick up a bunch of those books and get my department scouring them now. Thanks.”
She had already bolted down the hall before Dr. Tynesdale could respond.
            “Oh my!” Tynesdale exclaimed. “I didn’t get to tell her the rest. Anyway, these symbols have a most dire meaning. Now, on the first photo here … this victim was found several days after the murder. Our dear Kim did not have this one but look here at the brand on his chest, just above the heart. It’s not the same as the one on your friend, Seth, because they were in progression.”
The group leaned in to get a better view of the forensic and autopsy photographs. The shape burned into the victim’s chest resembled a stylized infinity symbol. Bill accessed the e-reader app on his phone to pull up Seth’s Runeation.
            “According to Seth’s book,” Bill added. “That symbol means ‘key to unlocking the beyond’ but it doesn’t say what the beyond actually is.”
            “That’s creepy!” Kim, Angela, and Gillian replied in unison.
Gillian’s skin rippled with goose bumps; she had a feeling about what ‘the beyond’ meant and it made her stomach churn. The shadowy figure that followed me back from the morgue, she thought, that thing is from the beyond. She felt a hand touch her back, just below her shoulder blade but knew none of her friends were standing behind her. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 20

            “Okay, it’s worse than crazy but I shouldn’t freak out?” Gillian gave a nervous chuckle and rolled her eyes.
            “It might be nothing.” Billy answered. “But I’ll explain it all when we get together with Kim and the detective. One of my colleagues from the university came with me and he can help so try not to worry, Jilly.”
As if on cue, Bill’s cell phone rang. On the other end, Kim relayed a message from Detective McDonald. They were all going to meet at the morgue around noon, assuming another body wasn’t discovered.
            “We’ll be there!” said Bill.
While they waited for noon, Gillian paced. Finally, Billy caught her arm and pulled her onto the sofa.
            “Okay, maybe you can’t wait until we’re all together. The truth is, I think you made contact with a spirit and when you didn’t say ‘goodbye’ it crossed over into our realm. Now, I don’t believe it can actually hurt you but what you believe makes all the difference.”
Stern-faced and resolved, Gillian raked a trembling hand through her hair. Outwardly, she appeared to wave it off without a care but inside, she could feel the presence of a dark spirit watching her every move.  
***
At noon, everyone assembled in Kim’s morgue. Dr. Tynesdale, still giddy with the extensive data he’d received, expounded on earlier theories and hypotheses on the symbolism of the ancient runes carved/branded into the corpses after their demise. Not in the mood for chit-chat, Angela interrupted his pondering. Too many of her friends were directly impacted; there was no time to waste.
            “No offense, Doctor, but we need real answers not hypotheticals. Can you decode whatever the symbol is, or not?”
            “Why, of course, my dear.” Tynesdale replied. “I was just explaining the progression, that’s all. The fascinating part is yet to come.”
Detective McDonald rolled her eyes. A voice in the back of her mind said, this bumbling idiot wouldn’t know a rune from graffiti. The thought both delighted and angered her thought she didn’t understand why.
            “You see, we were so focused on whether the symbols were Old Norse or Anglo Saxon that we almost missed the cipher in your friend Seth’s books. It wasn’t either … it was a mark of his own design in a book prior to Specter of Death. Thank heavens one of my grad students is a complete and utter suck up. Once she found out I needed some research she picked up every one of Seth’s books and has been scouring them ever since. Now, let me see … I had it right here.”
Kim choked back the urge to scream, “Get on with it!” After spending the entire morning with Dr. Tynesdale, she knew if anyone tried to rush him, he’d get flustered. Then it would take twice as long to extract the information. It’s like pulling teeth.